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Chapter 90

The Meeting.

After Mercedes had left Monte Cristo, he fell into profound
gloom. Around him and within him the flight of thought
seemed to have stopped; his energetic mind slumbered, as the
body does after extreme fatigue. "What?" said he to himself,
while the lamp and the wax lights were nearly burnt out, and
the servants were waiting impatiently in the anteroom;
"what? this edifice which I have been so long preparing,
which I have reared with so much care and toil, is to be
crushed by a single touch, a word, a breath! Yes, this self,
of whom I thought so much, of whom I was so proud, who had
appeared so worthless in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If,
and whom I had succeeded in making so great, will be but a
lump of clay to-morrow. Alas, it is not the death of the
body I regret; for is not the destruction of the vital
principle, the repose to which everything is tending, to
which every unhappy being aspires, -- is not this the repose
of matter after which I so long sighed, and which I was
seeking to attain by the painful process of starvation when
Faria appeared in my dungeon? What is death for me? One step
farther into rest, -- two, perhaps, into silence.

"No, it is not existence, then, that I regret, but the ruin
of projects so slowly carried out, so laboriously framed.
Providence is now opposed to them, when I most thought it
would be propitious. It is not God's will that they should
be accomplished. This burden, almost as heavy as a world,
which I had raised, and I had thought to bear to the end,
was too great for my strength, and I was compelled to lay it
down in the middle of my career. Oh, shall I then, again
become a fatalist, whom fourteen years of despair and ten of
hope had rendered a believer in providence? And all this --
all this, because my heart, which I thought dead, was only
sleeping; because it has awakened and has begun to beat
again, because I have yielded to the pain of the emotion
excited in my breast by a woman's voice. Yet," continued the
count, becoming each moment more absorbed in the
anticipation of the dreadful sacrifice for the morrow, which
Mercedes had accepted, "yet, it is impossible that so
noble-minded a woman should thus through selfishness consent
to my death when I am in the prime of life and strength; it
is impossible that she can carry to such a point maternal
love, or rather delirium. There are virtues which become
crimes by exaggeration. No, she must have conceived some
pathetic scene; she will come and throw herself between us;
and what would be sublime here will there appear
ridiculous." The blush of pride mounted to the count's
forehead as this thought passed through his mind.
"Ridiculous?" repeated he; "and the ridicule will fall on
me. I ridiculous? No, I would rather die."

By thus exaggerating to his own mind the anticipated
ill-fortune of the next day, to which he had condemned
himself by promising Mercedes to spare her son, the count at
last exclaimed, "Folly, folly, folly! -- to carry generosity
so far as to put myself up as a mark for that young man to
aim at. He will never believe that my death was suicide; and
yet it is important for the honor of my memory, -- and this
surely is not vanity, but a justifiable pride, -- it is
important the world should know that I have consented, by my
free will, to stop my arm, already raised to strike, and
that with the arm which has been so powerful against others
I have struck myself. It must be; it shall be."

Seizing a pen, he drew a paper from a secret drawer in his
desk, and wrote at the bottom of the document (which was no
other than his will, made since his arrival in Paris) a sort
of codicil, clearly explaining the nature of his death. "I
do this, O my God," said he, with his eyes raised to heaven,
"as much for thy honor as for mine. I have during ten years
considered myself the agent of thy vengeance, and other
wretches, like Morcerf, Danglars, Villefort, even Morcerf
himself, must not imagine that chance has freed them from
their enemy. Let them know, on the contrary, that their
punishment, which had been decreed by providence, is only
delayed by my present determination, and although they
escape it in this world, it awaits them in another, and that
they are only exchanging time for eternity."

While he was thus agitated by gloomy uncertainties, --
wretched waking dreams of grief, -- the first rays of
morning pierced his windows, and shone upon the pale blue
paper on which he had just inscribed his justification of
providence. It was just five o'clock in the morning when a
slight noise like a stifled sigh reached his ear. He turned
his head, looked around him, and saw no one; but the sound
was repeated distinctly enough to convince him of its

He arose, and quietly opening the door of the drawing-room,
saw Haidee, who had fallen on a chair, with her arms hanging
down and her beautiful head thrown back. She had been
standing at the door, to prevent his going out without
seeing her, until sleep, which the young cannot resist, had
overpowered her frame, wearied as she was with watching. The
noise of the door did not awaken her, and Monte Cristo gazed
at her with affectionate regret. "She remembered that she
had a son," said he; "and I forgot I had a daughter." Then,
shaking his head sorrowfully, "Poor Haidee," said he; "she
wished to see me, to speak to me; she has feared or guessed
something. Oh, I cannot go without taking leave of her; I
cannot die without confiding her to some one." He quietly
regained his seat, and wrote under the other lines: --

"I bequeath to Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, -- and
son of my former patron, Pierre Morrel, shipowner at
Marseilles, -- the sum of twenty millions, a part of which
may be offered to his sister Julia and brother-in-law
Emmanuel, if he does not fear this increase of fortune may
mar their happiness. These twenty millions are concealed in
my grotto at Monte Cristo, of which Bertuccio knows the
secret. If his heart is free, and he will marry Haidee, the
daughter of Ali Pasha of Yanina, whom I have brought up with
the love of a father, and who has shown the love and
tenderness of a daughter for me, he will thus accomplish my
last wish. This will has already constituted Haidee heiress
of the rest of my fortune, consisting of lands, funds in
England, Austria, and Holland, furniture in my different
palaces and houses, and which without the twenty millions
and the legacies to my servants, may still amount to sixty

He was finishing the last line when a cry behind him made
him start, and the pen fell from his hand. "Haidee," said
he. "did you read it?"

"Oh, my lord," said she, "why are you writing thus at such
an hour? Why are you bequeathing all your fortune to me? Are
you going to leave me?"

"I am going on a journey, dear child," said Monte Cristo,
with an expression of infinite tenderness and melancholy;
"and if any misfortune should happen to me"

The count stopped. "Well?" asked the young girl, with an
authoritative tone the count had never observed before, and
which startled him. "Well, if any misfortune happen to me,"
replied Monte Cristo, "I wish my daughter to be happy."
Haidee smiled sorrowfully, and shook her head. "Do you think
of dying, my lord?" said she.

"The wise man, my child, has said, `It is good to think of

"Well, if you die," said she, "bequeath your fortune to
others, for if you die I shall require nothing;" and, taking
the paper, she tore it in four pieces, and threw it into the
middle of the room. Then, the effort having exhausted her
strength, she fell not asleep this time, but fainting on the
floor. The count leaned over her and raised her in his arms;
and seeing that sweet pale face, those lovely eyes closed,
that beautiful form motionless and to all appearance
lifeless, the idea occurred to him for the first time, that
perhaps she loved him otherwise than as a daughter loves a

"Alas," murmured he, with intense suffering, "I might, then,
have been happy yet." Then he carried Haidee to her room,
resigned her to the care of her attendants, and returning to
his study, which he shut quickly this time, he again copied
the destroyed will. As he was finishing, the sound of a
cabriolet entering the yard was heard. Monte Cristo
approached the window, and saw Maximilian and Emmanuel
alight. "Good," said he; "it was time," -- and he sealed his
will with three seals. A moment afterwards he heard a noise
in the drawing-room, and went to open the door himself.
Morrel was there; he had come twenty minutes before the time
appointed. "I am perhaps come too soon, count," said he,
"but I frankly acknowledge that I have not closed my eyes
all night, nor has any one in my house. I need to see you
strong in your courageous assurance, to recover myself."
Monte Cristo could not resist this proof of affection; he
not only extended his hand to the young man, but flew to him
with open arms. "Morrel," said he, "it is a happy day for
me, to feel that I am beloved by such a man as you.
Good-morning, Emmanuel; you will come with me then,

"Did you doubt it?" said the young captain.

"But if I were wrong" --

"I watched you during the whole scene of that challenge
yesterday; I have been thinking of your firmness all night,
and I said to myself that justice must be on your side, or
man's countenance is no longer to be relied on."

"But, Morrel, Albert is your friend?"

"Simply an acquaintance, sir."

"You met on the same day you first saw me?"

"Yes, that is true; but I should not have recollected it if
you had not reminded me."

"Thank you, Morrel." Then ringing the bell once, "Look."
said he to Ali, who came immediately, "take that to my
solicitor. It is my will, Morrel. When I am dead, you will
go and examine it."

"What?" said Morrel, "you dead?"

"Yes; must I not be prepared for everything, dear friend?
But what did you do yesterday after you left me?"

"I went to Tortoni's, where, as I expected, I found
Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud. I own I was seeking them."

"Why, when all was arranged?"

"Listen, count; the affair is serious and unavoidable."

"Did you doubt it!"

"No; the offence was public, and every one is already
talking of it."


"Well, I hoped to get an exchange of arms, -- to substitute
the sword for the pistol; the pistol is blind."

"Have you succeeded?" asked Monte Cristo quickly, with an
imperceptible gleam of hope.

"No; for your skill with the sword is so well known."

"Ah? -- who has betrayed me?"

"The skilful swordsman whom you have conquered."

"And you failed?"

"They positively refused."

"Morrel," said the count, "have you ever seen me fire a


"Well, we have time; look." Monte Cristo took the pistols he
held in his hand when Mercedes entered, and fixing an ace of
clubs against the iron plate, with four shots he
successively shot off the four sides of the club. At each
shot Morrel turned pale. He examined the bullets with which
Monte Cristo performed this dexterous feat, and saw that
they were no larger than buckshot. "It is astonishing," said
he. "Look, Emmanuel." Then turning towards Monte Cristo,
"Count," said he, "in the name of all that is dear to you, I
entreat you not to kill Albert! -- the unhappy youth has a

"You are right," said Monte Cristo; "and I have none." These
words were uttered in a tone which made Morrel shudder. "You
are the offended party, count."

"Doubtless; what does that imply?"

"That you will fire first."

"I fire first?"

"Oh, I obtained, or rather claimed that; we had conceded
enough for them to yield us that."

"And at what distance?"

"Twenty paces." A smile of terrible import passed over the
count's lips. "Morrel," said he, "do not forget what you
have just seen."

"The only chance for Albert's safety, then, will arise from
your emotion."

"I suffer from emotion?" said Monte Cristo.

"Or from your generosity, my friend; to so good a marksman
as you are, I may say what would appear absurd to another."

"What is that?"

"Break his arm -- wound him -- but do not kill him."

"I will tell you, Morrel," said the count, "that I do not
need entreating to spare the life of M. de Morcerf; he shall
be so well spared, that he will return quietly with his two
friends, while I" --

"And you?"

"That will be another thing; I shall be brought home."

"No, no," cried Maximilian, quite unable to restrain his

"As I told you, my dear Morrel, M. de Morcerf will kill me."
Morrel looked at him in utter amazement. "But what has
happened, then, since last evening, count?"

"The same thing that happened to Brutus the night before the
battle of Philippi; I have seen a ghost."

"And that ghost" --

"Told me, Morrel, that I had lived long enough." Maximilian
and Emmanuel looked at each other. Monte Cristo drew out his
watch. "Let us go," said he; "it is five minutes past seven,
and the appointment was for eight o'clock." A carriage was
in readiness at the door. Monte Cristo stepped into it with
his two friends. He had stopped a moment in the passage to
listen at a door, and Maximilian and Emmanuel, who had
considerately passed forward a few steps, thought they heard
him answer by a sigh to a sob from within. As the clock
struck eight they drove up to the place of meeting. "We are
first," said Morrel, looking out of the window. "Excuse me,
sir," said Baptistin, who had followed his master with
indescribable terror, "but I think I see a carriage down
there under the trees."

Monte Cristo sprang lightly from the carriage, and offered
his hand to assist Emmanuel and Maximilian. The latter
retained the count's hand between his. "I like," said he,
"to feel a hand like this, when its owner relies on the
goodness of his cause."

"It seems to me," said Emmanuel, "that I see two young men
down there, who are evidently, waiting." Monte Cristo drew
Morrel a step or two behind his brother-in-law.
"Maximilian," said he, "are your affections disengaged?"
Morrel looked at Monte Cristo with astonishment. "I do not
seek your confidence, my dear friend. I only ask you a
simple question; answer it; -- that is all I require."

"I love a young girl, count."

"Do you love her much?"

"More than my life."

"Another hope defeated!" said the count. Then, with a sigh,
"Poor Haidee!" murmured he.

"To tell the truth, count, if I knew less of you, I should
think that you were less brave than you are."

"Because I sigh when thinking of some one I am leaving?
Come, Morrel, it is not like a soldier to be so bad a judge
of courage. Do I regret life? What is it to me, who have
passed twenty years between life and death? Moreover, do not
alarm yourself, Morrel; this weakness, if it is such, is
betrayed to you alone. I know the world is a drawing-room,
from which we must retire politely and honestly; that is,
with a bow, and our debts of honor paid."

"That is to the purpose. Have you brought your arms?"

"I? -- what for? I hope these gentlemen have theirs."

"I will inquire," said Morrel.

"Do; but make no treaty -- you understand me?"

"You need not fear." Morrel advanced towards Beauchamp and
Chateau-Renaud, who, seeing his intention, came to meet him.
The three young men bowed to each other courteously, if not

"Excuse me, gentlemen," said Morrel, "but I do not see M. de

"He sent us word this morning," replied Chateau-Renaud,
"that he would meet us on the ground."

"Ah," said Morrel. Beauchamp pulled out his watch. "It is
only five minutes past eight," said he to Morrel; "there is
not much time lost yet."

"Oh, I made no allusion of that kind," replied Morrel.

"There is a carriage coming," said Chateau-Renaud. It
advanced rapidly along one of the avenues leading towards
the open space where they were assembled. "You are doubtless
provided with pistols, gentlemen? M. de Monte Cristo yields
his right of using his."

"We had anticipated this kindness on the part of the count,"
said Beauchamp, "and I have brought some weapons which I
bought eight or ten days since, thinking to want them on a
similar occasion. They are quite new, and have not yet been
used. Will you examine them."

"Oh, M. Beauchamp, if you assure me that M. de Morcerf does
not know these pistols, you may readily believe that your
word will be quite sufficient."

"Gentlemen," said Chateau-Renaud, "it is not Morcerf coming
in that carriage; -- faith, it is Franz and Debray!" The two
young men he announced were indeed approaching. "What chance
brings you here, gentlemen?" said Chateau-Renaud, shaking
hands with each of them. "Because," said Debray, "Albert
sent this morning to request us to come." Beauchamp and
Chateau-Renaud exchanged looks of astonishment. "I think I
understand his reason," said Morrel.

"What is it?"

"Yesterday afternoon I received a letter from M. de Morcerf,
begging me to attend the opera."

"And I," said Debray.

"And I also," said Franz.

"And we, too," added Beauchamp and Chateau-Renaud.

"Having wished you all to witness the challenge, he now
wishes you to be present at the combat."

"Exactly so," said the young men; "you have probably guessed

"But, after all these arrangements, he does not come
himself," said Chateau-Renaud. "Albert is ten minutes after

"There he comes," said Beauchamp, "on horseback, at full
gallop, followed by a servant."

"How imprudent," said Chateau-Renaud, "to come on horseback
to fight a duel with pistols, after all the instructions I
had given him."

"And besides," said Beauchamp, "with a collar above his
cravat, an open coat and white waistcoat! Why has he not
painted a spot upon his heart? -- it would have been more
simple." Meanwhile Albert had arrived within ten paces of
the group formed by the five young men. He jumped from his
horse, threw the bridle on his servant's arms, and joined
them. He was pale, and his eyes were red and swollen; it was
evident that he had not slept. A shade of melancholy gravity
overspread his countenance, which was not natural to him. "I
thank you, gentlemen," said he, "for having complied with my
request; I feel extremely grateful for this mark of
friendship." Morrel had stepped back as Morcerf approached,
and remained at a short distance. "And to you also, M.
Morrel, my thanks are due. Come, there cannot be too many."

"Sir," said Maximilian, "you are not perhaps aware that I am
M. de Monte Cristo's friend?"

"I was not sure, but I thought it might be so. So much the
better; the more honorable men there are here the better I
shall be satisfied."

"M. Morrel," said Chateau-Renaud, "will you apprise the
Count of Monte Cristo that M. de Morcerf is arrived, and we
are at his disposal?" Morrel was preparing to fulfil his
commission. Beauchamp had meanwhile drawn the box of pistols
from the carriage. "Stop, gentlemen," said Albert; "I have
two words to say to the Count of Monte Cristo."

"In private?" asked Morrel.

"No, sir; before all who are here."

Albert's witnesses looked at each other. Franz and Debray
exchanged some words in a whisper, and Morrel, rejoiced at
this unexpected incident, went to fetch the count, who was
walking in a retired path with Emmanuel. "What does he want
with me?" said Monte Cristo.

"I do not know, but he wishes to speak to you."

"Ah?" said Monte Cristo, "I trust he is not going to tempt
me by some fresh insult!"

"I do not think that such is his intention," said Morrel.

The count advanced, accompanied by Maximilian and Emmanuel.
His calm and serene look formed a singular contrast to
Albert's grief-stricken face, who approached also, followed
by the other four young men. When at three paces distant
from each other, Albert and the count stopped.

"Approach, gentlemen," said Albert; "I wish you not to lose
one word of what I am about to have the honor of saying to
the Count of Monte Cristo, for it must be repeated by you to
all who will listen to it, strange as it may appear to you."

"Proceed, sir," said the count.

"Sir," said Albert, at first with a tremulous voice, but
which gradually because firmer, "I reproached you with
exposing the conduct of M. de Morcerf in Epirus, for guilty
as I knew he was, I thought you had no right to punish him;
but I have since learned that you had that right. It is not
Fernand Mondego's treachery towards Ali Pasha which induces
me so readily to excuse you, but the treachery of the
fisherman Fernand towards you, and the almost unheard-of
miseries which were its consequences; and I say, and
proclaim it publicly, that you were justified in revenging
yourself on my father, and I, his son, thank you for not
using greater severity."

Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of the spectators of
this unexpected scene, it would not have surprised them more
than did Albert's declaration. As for Monte Cristo, his eyes
slowly rose towards heaven with an expression of infinite
gratitude. He could not understand how Albert's fiery
nature, of which he had seen so much among the Roman
bandits, had suddenly stooped to this humiliation. He
recognized the influence of Mercedes, and saw why her noble
heart had not opposed the sacrifice she knew beforehand
would be useless. "Now, sir," said Albert, "if you think my
apology sufficient, pray give me your hand. Next to the
merit of infallibility which you appear to possess, I rank
that of candidly acknowledging a fault. But this confession
concerns me only. I acted well as a man, but you have acted
better than man. An angel alone could have saved one of us
from death -- that angel came from heaven, if not to make us
friends (which, alas, fatality renders impossible), at least
to make us esteem each other."

Monte Cristo, with moistened eye, heaving breast, and lips
half open, extended to Albert a hand which the latter
pressed with a sentiment resembling respectful fear.
"Gentlemen," said he, "M. de Monte Cristo receives my
apology. I had acted hastily towards him. Hasty actions are
generally bad ones. Now my fault is repaired. I hope the
world will not call me cowardly for acting as my conscience
dictated. But if any one should entertain a false opinion of
me," added he, drawing himself up as if he would challenge
both friends and enemies, "I shall endeavor to correct his

"What happened during the night?" asked Beauchamp of
Chateau-Renaud; "we appear to make a very sorry figure

"In truth, what Albert has just done is either very
despicable or very noble," replied the baron.

"What can it mean?" said Debray to Franz. "The Count of
Monte Cristo acts dishonorably to M. de Morcerf, and is
justified by his son! Had I ten Yaninas in my family, I
should only consider myself the more bound to fight ten
times." As for Monte Cristo, his head was bent down, his
arms were powerless. Bowing under the weight of twenty-four
years' reminiscences, he thought not of Albert, of
Beauchamp, of Chateau-Renaud, or of any of that group; but
he thought of that courageous woman who had come to plead
for her son's life, to whom he had offered his, and who had
now saved it by the revelation of a dreadful family secret,
capable of destroying forever in that young man's heart
every feeling of filial piety.

"Providence still," murmured he; "now only am I fully
convinced of being the emissary of God!"

Alexandre Dumas pere