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    Chapter 96

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    Chapter 96
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    CHAPTER 96
    The Contract.

    Three days after the scene we have just described, namely
    towards five o'clock in the afternoon of the day fixed for
    the signature of the contract between Mademoiselle Eugenie
    Danglars and Andrea Cavalcanti, -- whom the banker persisted
    in calling prince, -- a fresh breeze was stirring the leaves
    in the little garden in front of the Count of Monte Cristo's
    house, and the count was preparing to go out. While his
    horses were impatiently pawing the ground, -- held in by the
    coachman, who had been seated a quarter of an hour on his
    box, -- the elegant phaeton with which we are familiar
    rapidly turned the angle of the entrance-gate, and cast out
    on the doorsteps M. Andrea Cavalcanti, as decked up and gay
    as if he were going to marry a princess. He inquired after
    the count with his usual familiarity, and ascending lightly
    to the second story met him at the top of the stairs. The
    count stopped on seeing the young man. As for Andrea, he was
    launched, and when he was once launched nothing stopped him.
    "Ah, good morning, my dear count," said he. "Ah, M. Andrea,"
    said the latter, with his half-jesting tone; "how do you
    do."

    "Charmingly, as you see. I am come to talk to you about a
    thousand things; but, first tell me, were you going out or
    just returned?"

    "I was going out, sir."

    "Then, in order not to hinder you, I will get up with you if
    you please in your carriage, and Tom shall follow with my
    phaeton in tow."

    "No," said the count, with an imperceptible smile of
    contempt, for he had no wish to be seen in the young man's
    society, -- "no; I prefer listening to you here, my dear M.
    Andrea; we can chat better in-doors, and there is no
    coachman to overhear our conversation." The count returned
    to a small drawing-room on the first floor, sat down, and
    crossing his legs motioned to the young man to take a seat
    also. Andrea assumed his gayest manner. "You know, my dear
    count," said he, "the ceremony is to take place this
    evening. At nine o'clock the contract is to be signed at my
    father-in-law's."

    "Ah, indeed?" said Monte Cristo.

    "What; is it news to you? Has not M. Danglars informed you
    of the ceremony?"

    "Oh, yes," said the count; "I received a letter from him
    yesterday, but I do not think the hour was mentioned."

    "Possibly my father-in-law trusted to its general
    notoriety."

    "Well," said Monte Cristo, "you are fortunate, M.
    Cavalcanti; it is a most suitable alliance you are
    contracting, and Mademoiselle Danglars is a handsome girl."

    "Yes, indeed she is," replied Cavalcanti, in a very modest
    tone.

    "Above all, she is very rich, -- at least, I believe so,"
    said Monte Cristo.

    "Very rich, do you think?" replied the young man.

    "Doubtless; it is said M. Danglars conceals at least half of
    his fortune."

    "And he acknowledges fifteen or twenty millions," said
    Andrea with a look sparkling with joy.

    "Without reckoning," added Monte Cristo, "that he is on the
    eve of entering into a sort of speculation already in vogue
    in the United States and in England, but quite novel in
    France."

    "Yes, yes, I know what you mean, -- the railway, of which he
    has obtained the grant, is it not?"

    "Precisely; it is generally believed he will gain ten
    millions by that affair."

    "Ten millions! Do you think so? It is magnificent!" said
    Cavalcanti, who was quite confounded at the metallic sound
    of these golden words. "Without reckoning," replied Monte
    Cristo, "that all his fortune will come to you, and justly
    too, since Mademoiselle Danglars is an only daughter.
    Besides, your own fortune, as your father assured me, is
    almost equal to that of your betrothed. But enough of money
    matters. Do you know, M. Andrea, I think you have managed
    this affair rather skilfully?"

    "Not badly, by any means," said the young man; "I was born
    for a diplomatist."

    "Well, you must become a diplomatist; diplomacy, you know,
    is something that is not to be acquired; it is instinctive.
    Have you lost your heart?"

    "Indeed, I fear it," replied Andrea, in the tone in which he
    had heard Dorante or Valere reply to Alceste* at the Theatre
    Francais.

    "Is your love returned?"

    * In Moliere's comedy, Le Misanthrope.

    "I suppose so," said Andrea with a triumphant smile, "since
    I am accepted. But I must not forget one grand point."

    "Which?"

    "That I have been singularly assisted."

    "Nonsense."

    "I have, indeed."

    "By circumstances?"

    "No; by you."

    "By me? Not at all, prince," said Monte Cristo laying a
    marked stress on the title, "what have I done for you? Are
    not your name, your social position, and your merit
    sufficient?"

    "No," said Andrea, -- "no; it is useless for you to say so,
    count. I maintain that the position of a man like you has
    done more than my name, my social position, and my merit."

    "You are completely mistaken, sir," said Monte Cristo
    coldly, who felt the perfidious manoeuvre of the young man,
    and understood the bearing of his words; "you only acquired
    my protection after the influence and fortune of your father
    had been ascertained; for, after all, who procured for me,
    who had never seen either you or your illustrious father,
    the pleasure of your acquaintance? -- two of my good
    friends, Lord Wilmore and the Abbe Busoni. What encouraged
    me not to become your surety, but to patronize you? -- your
    father's name, so well known in Italy and so highly honored.
    Personally, I do not know you." This calm tone and perfect
    ease made Andrea feel that he was, for the moment,
    restrained by a more muscular hand than his own, and that
    the restraint could not be easily broken through.

    "Oh, then my father has really a very large fortune, count?"

    "It appears so, sir," replied Monte Cristo.

    "Do you know if the marriage settlement he promised me has
    come?"

    "I have been advised of it."

    "But the three millions?"

    "The three millions are probably on the road."

    "Then I shall really have them?"

    "Oh, well," said the count, "I do not think you have yet
    known the want of money." Andrea was so surprised that he
    pondered the matter for a moment. Then, arousing from his
    revery, -- "Now, sir, I have one request to make to you,
    which you will understand, even if it should be disagreeable
    to you."

    "Proceed," said Monte Cristo.

    "I have formed an acquaintance, thanks to my good fortune,
    with many noted persons, and have, at least for the moment,
    a crowd of friends. But marrying, as I am about to do,
    before all Paris, I ought to be supported by an illustrious
    name, and in the absence of the paternal hand some powerful
    one ought to lead me to the altar; now, my father is not
    coming to Paris, is he? He is old, covered with wounds, and
    suffers dreadfully, he says, in travelling."

    "Indeed?"

    "Well, I am come to ask a favor of you."

    "Of me?"

    "Yes, of you."

    "And pray what may it be?"

    "Well, to take his part."

    "Ah, my dear sir! What? -- after the varied relations I have
    had the happiness to sustain towards you, can it be that you
    know me so little as to ask such a thing? Ask me to lend you
    half a million and, although such a loan is somewhat rare,
    on my honor, you would annoy me less! Know, then, what I
    thought I had already told you, that in participation in
    this world's affairs, more especially in their moral
    aspects, the Count of Monte Cristo has never ceased to
    entertain the scruples and even the superstitions of the
    East. I, who have a seraglio at Cairo, one at Smyrna, and
    one at Constantinople, preside at a wedding? -- never!"

    "Then you refuse me?"

    "Decidedly; and were you my son or my brother I would refuse
    you in the same way."

    "But what must be done?" said Andrea, disappointed.

    "You said just now that you had a hundred friends."

    "Very true, but you introduced me at M. Danglars'."

    "Not at all! Let us recall the exact facts. You met him at a
    dinner party at my house, and you introduced yourself at his
    house; that is a totally different affair."

    "Yes, but, by my marriage, you have forwarded that."

    "I? -- not in the least, I beg you to believe. Recollect
    what I told you when you asked me to propose you. 'Oh, I
    never make matches, my dear prince, it is my settled
    principle.'" Andrea bit his lips.

    "But, at least, you will be there?"

    "Will all Paris be there?"

    "Oh, certainly."

    "Well, like all Paris, I shall be there too," said the
    count.

    "And will you sign the contract?"

    "I see no objection to that; my scruples do not go thus
    far."

    "Well, since you will grant me no more, I must be content
    with what you give me. But one word more, count."

    "What is it?"

    "Advice."

    "Be careful; advice is worse than a service."

    "Oh, you can give me this without compromising yourself."

    "Tell me what it is."

    "Is my wife's fortune five hundred thousand livres?"

    "That is the sum M. Danglars himself announced."

    "Must I receive it, or leave it in the hands of the notary?"

    "This is the way such affairs are generally arranged when it
    is wished to do them stylishly: Your two solicitors appoint
    a meeting, when the contract is signed, for the next or the
    following day; then they exchange the two portions, for
    which they each give a receipt; then, when the marriage is
    celebrated, they place the amount at your disposal as the
    chief member of the alliance."

    "Because," said Andrea, with a certain ill-concealed
    uneasiness, "I thought I heard my father-in-law say that he
    intended embarking our property in that famous railway
    affair of which you spoke just now."

    "Well," replied Monte Cristo, "it will be the way, everybody
    says, of trebling your fortune in twelve months. Baron
    Danglars is a good father, and knows how to calculate."

    "In that case," said Andrea, "everything is all right,
    excepting your refusal, which quite grieves me."

    "You must attribute it only to natural scruples under
    similar circumstances."

    "Well," said Andrea, "let it be as you wish. This evening,
    then, at nine o'clock."

    "Adieu till then." Notwithstanding a slight resistance on
    the part of Monte Cristo, whose lips turned pale, but who
    preserved his ceremonious smile, Andrea seized the count's
    hand, pressed it, jumped into his phaeton, and disappeared.

    The four or five remaining hours before nine o'clock
    arrived, Andrea employed in riding, paying visits, --
    designed to induce those of whom he had spoken to appear at
    the banker's in their gayest equipages, -- dazzling them by
    promises of shares in schemes which have since turned every
    brain, and in which Danglars was just taking the initiative.
    In fact, at half-past eight in the evening the grand salon,
    the gallery adjoining, and the three other drawing-rooms on
    the same floor, were filled with a perfumed crowd, who
    sympathized but little in the event, but who all
    participated in that love of being present wherever there is
    anything fresh to be seen. An Academician would say that the
    entertainments of the fashionable world are collections of
    flowers which attract inconstant butterflies, famished bees,
    and buzzing drones.

    No one could deny that the rooms were splendidly
    illuminated; the light streamed forth on the gilt mouldings
    and the silk hangings; and all the bad taste of decorations,
    which had only their richness to boast of, shone in its
    splendor. Mademoiselle Eugenie was dressed with elegant
    simplicity in a figured white silk dress, and a white rose
    half concealed in her jet black hair was her only ornament,
    unaccompanied by a single jewel. Her eyes, however, betrayed
    that perfect confidence which contradicted the girlish
    simplicity of this modest attire. Madame Danglars was
    chatting at a short distance with Debray, Beauchamp, and
    Chateau-Renaud.

    Debray was admitted to the house for this grand ceremony,
    but on the same plane with every one else, and without any
    particular privilege. M. Danglars, surrounded by deputies
    and men connected with the revenue, was explaining a new
    theory of taxation which he intended to adopt when the
    course of events had compelled the government to call him
    into the ministry. Andrea, on whose arm hung one of the most
    consummate dandies of the opera, was explaining to him
    rather cleverly, since he was obliged to be bold to appear
    at ease, his future projects, and the new luxuries he meant
    to introduce to Parisian fashions with his hundred and
    seventy-five thousand livres per annum.

    The crowd moved to and fro in the rooms like an ebb and flow
    of turquoises, rubies, emeralds, opals, and diamonds. As
    usual, the oldest women were the most decorated, and the
    ugliest the most conspicuous. If there was a beautiful lily,
    or a sweet rose, you had to search for it, concealed in some
    corner behind a mother with a turban, or an aunt with a bird
    of paradise.

    At each moment, in the midst of the crowd, the buzzing, and
    the laughter, the door-keeper's voice was heard announcing
    some name well known in the financial department, respected
    in the army, or illustrious in the literary world, and which
    was acknowledged by a slight movement in the different
    groups. But for one whose privilege it was to agitate that
    ocean of human waves, how many were received with a look of
    indifference or a sneer of disdain! At the moment when the
    hand of the massive time-piece, representing Endymion
    asleep, pointed to nine on its golden face, and the hammer,
    the faithful type of mechanical thought, struck nine times,
    the name of the Count of Monte Cristo resounded in its turn,
    and as if by an electric shock all the assembly turned
    towards the door.

    The count was dressed in black and with his habitual
    simplicity; his white waistcoat displayed his expansive
    noble chest and his black stock was singularly noticeable
    because of its contrast with the deadly paleness of his
    face. His only jewellery was a chain, so fine that the
    slender gold thread was scarcely perceptible on his white
    waistcoat. A circle was immediately formed around the door.
    The count perceived at one glance Madame Danglars at one end
    of the drawing-room, M. Danglars at the other, and Eugenie
    in front of him. He first advanced towards the baroness, who
    was chatting with Madame de Villefort, who had come alone,
    Valentine being still an invalid; and without turning aside,
    so clear was the road left for him, he passed from the
    baroness to Eugenie, whom he complimented in such rapid and
    measured terms, that the proud artist was quite struck. Near
    her was Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly, who thanked the count
    for the letters of introduction he had so kindly given her
    for Italy, which she intended immediately to make use of. On
    leaving these ladies he found himself with Danglars, who had
    advanced to meet him.

    Having accomplished these three social duties, Monte Cristo
    stopped, looking around him with that expression peculiar to
    a certain class, which seems to say, "I have done my duty,
    now let others do theirs." Andrea, who was in an adjoining
    room, had shared in the sensation caused by the arrival of
    Monte Cristo, and now came forward to pay his respects to
    the count. He found him completely surrounded; all were
    eager to speak to him, as is always the case with those
    whose words are few and weighty. The solicitors arrived at
    this moment and arranged their scrawled papers on the velvet
    cloth embroidered with gold which covered the table prepared
    for the signature; it was a gilt table supported on lions'
    claws. One of the notaries sat down, the other remained
    standing. They were about to proceed to the reading of the
    contract, which half Paris assembled was to sign. All took
    their places, or rather the ladies formed a circle, while
    the gentlemen (more indifferent to the restraints of what
    Boileau calls the "energetic style") commented on the
    feverish agitation of Andrea, on M. Danglars' riveted
    attention, Eugenie's composure, and the light and sprightly
    manner in which the baroness treated this important affair.

    The contract was read during a profound silence. But as soon
    as it was finished, the buzz was redoubled through all the
    drawing-rooms; the brilliant sums, the rolling millions
    which were to be at the command of the two young people, and
    which crowned the display of the wedding presents and the
    young lady's diamonds, which had been made in a room
    entirely appropriated for that purpose, had exercised to the
    full their delusions over the envious assembly. Mademoiselle
    Danglars' charms were heightened in the opinion of the young
    men, and for the moment seemed to outvie the sun in
    splendor. As for the ladies, it is needless to say that
    while they coveted the millions, they thought they did not
    need them for themselves, as they were beautiful enough
    without them. Andrea, surrounded by his friends,
    complimented, flattered, beginning to believe in the reality
    of his dream, was almost bewildered. The notary solemnly
    took the pen, flourished it above his head, and said,
    "Gentlemen, we are about to sign the contract."

    The baron was to sign first, then the representative of M.
    Cavalcanti, senior, then the baroness, afterwards the
    "future couple," as they are styled in the abominable
    phraseology of legal documents. The baron took the pen and
    signed, then the representative. The baroness approached,
    leaning on Madame de Villefort's arm. "My dear," said she,
    as she took the pen, "is it not vexatious? An unexpected
    incident, in the affair of murder and theft at the Count of
    Monte Cristo's, in which he nearly fell a victim, deprives
    us of the pleasure of seeing M. de Villefort."

    "Indeed?" said M. Danglars, in the same tone in which he
    would have said, "Oh, well, what do I care?"

    "As a matter of fact," said Monte Cristo, approaching, "I am
    much afraid that I am the involuntary cause of his absence."

    "What, you, count?" said Madame Danglars, signing; "if you
    are, take care, for I shall never forgive you." Andrea
    pricked up his ears.

    "But it is not my fault, as I shall endeavor to prove."
    Every one listened eagerly; Monte Cristo who so rarely
    opened his lips, was about to speak. "You remember," said
    the count, during the most profound silence, "that the
    unhappy wretch who came to rob me died at my house; the
    supposition is that he was stabbed by his accomplice, on
    attempting to leave it."

    "Yes," said Danglars.

    "In order that his wounds might be examined he was
    undressed, and his clothes were thrown into a corner, where
    the police picked them up, with the exception of the
    waistcoat, which they overlooked." Andrea turned pale, and
    drew towards the door; he saw a cloud rising in the horizon,
    which appeared to forebode a coming storm.

    "Well, this waistcoat was discovered to-day, covered with
    blood, and with a hole over the heart." The ladies screamed,
    and two or three prepared to faint. "It was brought to me.
    No one could guess what the dirty rag could be; I alone
    suspected that it was the waistcoat of the murdered man. My
    valet, in examining this mournful relic, felt a paper in the
    pocket and drew it out; it was a letter addressed to you,
    baron."

    "To me?" cried Danglars.

    "Yes, indeed, to you; I succeeded in deciphering your name
    under the blood with which the letter was stained," replied
    Monte Cristo, amid the general outburst of amazement.

    "But," asked Madame Danglars, looking at her husband with
    uneasiness, "how could that prevent M. de Villefort" --

    "In this simple way, madame," replied Monte Cristo; "the
    waistcoat and the letter were both what is termed
    circumstantial evidence; I therefore sent them to the king's
    attorney. You understand, my dear baron, that legal methods
    are the safest in criminal cases; it was, perhaps, some plot
    against you." Andrea looked steadily at Monte Cristo and
    disappeared in the second drawing-room.

    "Possibly," said Danglars; "was not this murdered man an old
    galley-slave?"

    "Yes," replied the count; "a felon named Caderousse."
    Danglars turned slightly pale; Andrea reached the anteroom
    beyond the little drawing-room.

    "But go on signing," said Monte Cristo; "I perceive that my
    story has caused a general emotion, and I beg to apologize
    to you, baroness, and to Mademoiselle Danglars." The
    baroness, who had signed, returned the pen to the notary.
    "Prince Cavalcanti," said the latter; "Prince Cavalcanti,
    where are you?"

    "Andrea, Andrea," repeated several young people, who were
    already on sufficiently intimate terms with him to call him
    by his Christian name.

    "Call the prince; inform him that it is his turn to sign,"
    cried Danglars to one of the floorkeepers.

    But at the same instant the crowd of guests rushed in alarm
    into the principal salon as if some frightful monster had
    entered the apartments, quaerens quem devoret. There was,
    indeed, reason to retreat, to be alarmed, and to scream. An
    officer was placing two soldiers at the door of each
    drawing-room, and was advancing towards Danglars, preceded
    by a commissary of police, girded with his scarf. Madame
    Danglars uttered a scream and fainted. Danglars, who thought
    himself threatened (certain consciences are never calm), --
    Danglars even before his guests showed a countenance of
    abject terror.

    "What is the matter, sir?" asked Monte Cristo, advancing to
    meet the commissioner.

    "Which of you gentlemen," asked the magistrate, without
    replying to the count, "answers to the name of Andrea
    Cavalcanti?" A cry of astonishment was heard from all parts
    of the room. They searched; they questioned. "But who then
    is Andrea Cavalcanti?" asked Danglars in amazement.

    "A galley-slave, escaped from confinement at Toulon."

    "And what crime has he committed?"

    "He is accused," said the commissary with his inflexible
    voice, "of having assassinated the man named Caderousse, his
    former companion in prison, at the moment he was making his
    escape from the house of the Count of Monte Cristo." Monte
    Cristo cast a rapid glance around him. Andrea was gone.
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