When Albert found himself alone with Monte Cristo, "My dear
count," said he, "allow me to commence my services as
cicerone by showing you a specimen of a bachelor's
apartment. You, who are accustomed to the palaces of Italy,
can amuse yourself by calculating in how many square feet a
young man who is not the worst lodged in Paris can live. As
we pass from one room to another, I will open the windows to
let you breathe." Monte Cristo had already seen the
breakfast-room and the salon on the ground-floor. Albert led
him first to his atelier, which was, as we have said, his
favorite apartment. Monte Cristo quickly appreciated all
that Albert had collected here -- old cabinets, Japanese
porcelain, Oriental stuffs, Venetian glass, arms from all
parts of the world -- everything was familiar to him; and at
the first glance he recognized their date, their country,
and their origin. Morcerf had expected he should be the
guide; on the contrary, it was he who, under the count's
guidance, followed a course of archaeology, mineralogy, and
natural history. They descended to the first floor; Albert
led his guest into the salon. The salon was filled with the
works of modern artists; there were landscapes by Dupre,
with their long reeds and tall trees, their lowing oxen and
marvellous skies; Delacroix's Arabian cavaliers, with their
long white burnouses, their shining belts, their damasked
arms, their horses, who tore each other with their teeth
while their riders contended fiercely with their maces;
aquarelles of Boulanger, representing Notre Dame de Paris
with that vigor that makes the artist the rival of the poet;
there were paintings by Diaz, who makes his flowers more
beautiful than flowers, his suns more brilliant than the
sun; designs by Decamp, as vividly colored as those of
Salvator Rosa, but more poetic; pastels by Giraud and
Muller, representing children like angels and women with the
features of a virgin; sketches torn from the album of
Dauzats' "Travels in the East," that had been made in a few
seconds on the saddle of a camel, or beneath the dome of a
mosque -- in a word, all that modern art can give in
exchange and as recompense for the art lost and gone with
ages long since past.
Albert expected to have something new this time to show to
the traveller, but, to his great surprise, the latter,
without seeking for the signatures, many of which, indeed,
were only initials, named instantly the author of every
picture in such a manner that it was easy to see that each
name was not only known to him, but that each style
associated with it had been appreciated and studied by him.
From the salon they passed into the bed-chamber; it was a
model of taste and simple elegance. A single portrait,
signed by Leopold Robert, shone in its carved and gilded
frame. This portrait attracted the Count of Monte Cristo's
attention, for he made three rapid steps in the chamber, and
stopped suddenly before it. It was the portrait of a young
woman of five or six and twenty, with a dark complexion, and
light and lustrous eyes, veiled beneath long lashes. She
wore the picturesque costume of the Catalan fisherwomen, a
red and black bodice, and golden pins in her hair. She was
looking at the sea, and her form was outlined on the blue
ocean and sky. The light was so faint in the room that
Albert did not perceive the pallor that spread itself over
the count's visage, or the nervous heaving of his chest and
shoulders. Silence prevailed for an instant, during which
Monte Cristo gazed intently on the picture.
"You have there a most charming mistress, viscount," said
the count in a perfectly calm tone; "and this costume -- a
ball costume, doubtless -- becomes her admirably."
"Ah, monsieur," returned Albert, "I would never forgive you
this mistake if you had seen another picture beside this.
You do not know my mother; she it is whom you see here. She
had her portrait painted thus six or eight years ago. This
costume is a fancy one, it appears, and the resemblance is
so great that I think I still see my mother the same as she
was in 1830. The countess had this portrait painted during
the count's absence. She doubtless intended giving him an
agreeable surprise; but, strange to say, this portrait
seemed to displease my father, and the value of the picture,
which is, as you see, one of the best works of Leopold
Robert, could not overcome his dislike to it. It is true,
between ourselves, that M. de Morcerf is one of the most
assiduous peers at the Luxembourg, a general renowned for
theory, but a most mediocre amateur of art. It is different
with my mother, who paints exceedingly well, and who,
unwilling to part with so valuable a picture, gave it to me
to put here, where it would be less likely to displease M.
de Morcerf, whose portrait, by Gros, I will also show you.
Excuse my talking of family matters, but as I shall have the
honor of introducing you to the count, I tell you this to
prevent you making any allusions to this picture. The
picture seems to have a malign influence, for my mother
rarely comes here without looking at it, and still more
rarely does she look at it without weeping. This
disagreement is the only one that has ever taken place
between the count and countess, who are still as much
united, although married more than twenty years, as on the
first day of their wedding."
Monte Cristo glanced rapidly at Albert, as if to seek a
hidden meaning in his words, but it was evident the young
man uttered them in the simplicity of his heart. "Now," said
Albert, "that you have seen all my treasures, allow me to
offer them to you, unworthy as they are. Consider yourself
as in your own house, and to put yourself still more at your
ease, pray accompany me to the apartments of M. de Morcerf,
he whom I wrote from Rome an account of the services you
rendered me, and to whom I announced your promised visit,
and I may say that both the count and countess anxiously
desire to thank you in person. You are somewhat blase I
know, and family scenes have not much effect on Sinbad the
Sailor, who has seen so many others. However, accept what I
propose to you as an initiation into Parisian life -- a life
of politeness, visiting, and introductions." Monte Cristo
bowed without making any answer; he accepted the offer
without enthusiasm and without regret, as one of those
conventions of society which every gentleman looks upon as a
duty. Albert summoned his servant, and ordered him to
acquaint M. and Madame de Morcerf of the arrival of the
Count of Monte Cristo. Albert followed him with the count.
When they arrived at the ante-chamber, above the door was
visible a shield, which, by its rich ornaments and its
harmony with the rest of the furniture, indicated the
importance the owner attached to this blazon. Monte Cristo
stopped and examined it attentively.
"Azure seven merlets, or, placed bender," said he. "These
are, doubtless, your family arms? Except the knowledge of
blazons, that enables me to decipher them, I am very
ignorant of heraldry -- I, a count of a fresh creation,
fabricated in Tuscany by the aid of a commandery of St.
Stephen, and who would not have taken the trouble had I not
been told that when you travel much it is necessary.
Besides, you must have something on the panels of your
carriage, to escape being searched by the custom-house
officers. Excuse my putting such a question to you."
"It is not indiscreet," returned Morcerf, with the
simplicity of conviction. "You have guessed rightly. These
are our arms, that is, those of my father, but they are, as
you see, joined to another shield, which has gules, a silver
tower, which are my mother's. By her side I am Spanish, but
the family of Morcerf is French, and, I have heard, one of
the oldest of the south of France."
"Yes," replied Monte Cristo "these blazons prove that.
Almost all the armed pilgrims that went to the Holy Land
took for their arms either a cross, in honor of their
mission, or birds of passage, in sign of the long voyage
they were about to undertake, and which they hoped to
accomplish on the wings of faith. One of your ancestors had
joined the Crusades, and supposing it to be only that of St.
Louis, that makes you mount to the thirteenth century, which
is tolerably ancient."
"It is possible," said Morcerf; "my father has in his study
a genealogical tree which will tell you all that, and on
which I made commentaries that would have greatly edified
Hozier and Jaucourt. At present I no longer think of it, and
yet I must tell you that we are beginning to occupy
ourselves greatly with these things under our popular
"Well, then, your government would do well to choose from
the past something better than the things that I have
noticed on your monuments, and which have no heraldic
meaning whatever. As for you, viscount," continued Monte
Cristo to Morcerf, "you are more fortunate than the
government, for your arms are really beautiful, and speak to
the imagination. Yes, you are at once from Provence and
Spain; that explains, if the portrait you showed me be like,
the dark hue I so much admired on the visage of the noble
Catalan." It would have required the penetration of Oedipus
or the Sphinx to have divined the irony the count concealed
beneath these words, apparently uttered with the greatest
politeness. Morcerf thanked him with a smile, and pushed
open the door above which were his arms, and which, as we
have said, opened into the salon. In the most conspicuous
part of the salon was another portrait. It was that of a
man, from five to eight and thirty, in the uniform of a
general officer, wearing the double epaulet of heavy
bullion, that indicates superior rank, the ribbon of the
Legion of Honor around his neck, which showed he was a
commander, and on the right breast, the star of a grand
officer of the order of the Saviour, and on the left that of
the grand cross of Charles III., which proved that the
person represented by the picture had served in the wars of
Greece and Spain, or, what was just the same thing as
regarded decorations, had fulfilled some diplomatic mission
in the two countries.
Monte Cristo was engaged in examining this portrait with no
less care than he had bestowed upon the other, when another
door opened, and he found himself opposite to the Count of
Morcerf in person. He was a man of forty to forty-five
years, but he seemed at least fifty, and his black mustache
and eyebrows contrasted strangely with his almost white
hair, which was cut short, in the military fashion. He was
dressed in plain clothes, and wore at his button-hole the
ribbons of the different orders to which he belonged. He
entered with a tolerably dignified step, and some little
haste. Monte Cristo saw him advance towards him without
making a single step. It seemed as if his feet were rooted
to the ground, and his eyes on the Count of Morcerf.
"Father," said the young man, "I have the honor of
presenting to you the Count of Monte Cristo, the generous
friend whom I had the good fortune to meet in the critical
situation of which I have told you."
"You are most welcome, monsieur," said the Count of Morcerf,
saluting Monte Cristo with a smile, "and monsieur has
rendered our house, in preserving its only heir, a service
which insures him our eternal gratitude." As he said these
words, the count of Morcerf pointed to a chair, while he
seated himself in another opposite the window.
Monte Cristo, in taking the seat Morcerf offered him, placed
himself in such a manner as to remain concealed in the
shadow of the large velvet curtains, and read on the
careworn and livid features of the count a whole history of
secret griefs written in each wrinkle time had planted
there. "The countess," said Morcerf, "was at her toilet when
she was informed of the visit she was about to receive. She
will, however, be in the salon in ten minutes."
"It is a great honor to me," returned Monte Cristo, "to be
thus, on the first day of my arrival in Paris, brought in
contact with a man whose merit equals his reputation, and to
whom fortune has for once been equitable, but has she not
still on the plains of Metidja, or in the mountains of
Atlas, a marshal's staff to offer you?"
"Oh," replied Morcerf, reddening slightly, "I have left the
service, monsieur. Made a peer at the Restoration, I served
through the first campaign under the orders of Marshal
Bourmont. I could, therefore, expect a higher rank, and who
knows what might have happened had the elder branch remained
on the throne? But the Revolution of July was, it seems,
sufficiently glorious to allow itself to be ungrateful, and
it was so for all services that did not date from the
imperial period. I tendered my resignation, for when you
have gained your epaulets on the battle-field, you do not
know how to manoeuvre on the slippery grounds of the salons.
I have hung up my sword, and cast myself into politics. I
have devoted myself to industry; I study the useful arts.
During the twenty years I served, I often wished to do so,
but I had not the time."
"These are the ideas that render your nation superior to any
other," returned Monte Cristo. "A gentleman of high birth,
possessor of an ample fortune, you have consented to gain
your promotion as an obscure soldier, step by step -- this
is uncommon; then become general, peer of France, commander
of the Legion of Honor, you consent to again commence a
second apprenticeship, without any other hope or any other
desire than that of one day becoming useful to your
fellow-creatures; this, indeed, is praiseworthy, -- nay,
more, it is sublime." Albert looked on and listened with
astonishment; he was not used to see Monte Cristo give vent
to such bursts of enthusiasm. "Alas," continued the
stranger, doubtless to dispel the slight cloud that covered
Morcerf's brow, "we do not act thus in Italy; we grow
according to our race and our species, and we pursue the
same lines, and often the same uselessness, all our lives."
"But, monsieur," said the Count of Morcerf, "for a man of
your merit, Italy is not a country, and France opens her
arms to receive you; respond to her call. France will not,
perhaps, be always ungrateful. She treats her children ill,
but she always welcomes strangers."
"Ah, father," said Albert with a smile, "it is evident you
do not know the Count of Monte Cristo; he despises all
honors, and contents himself with those written on his
"That is the most just remark," replied the stranger, "I
ever heard made concerning myself."
"You have been free to choose your career," observed the
Count of Morcerf, with a sigh; "and you have chosen the path
strewed with flowers."
"Precisely, monsieur," replied Monte Cristo with one of
those smiles that a painter could never represent or a
"If I did not fear to fatigue you," said the general,
evidently charmed with the count's manners, "I would have
taken you to the Chamber; there is a debate very curious to
those who are strangers to our modern senators."
"I shall be most grateful, monsieur, if you will, at some
future time, renew your offer, but I have been flattered
with the hope of being introduced to the countess, and I
will therefore wait."
"Ah, here is my mother," cried the viscount. Monte Cristo,
turned round hastily, and saw Madame de Morcerf at the
entrance of the salon, at the door opposite to that by which
her husband had entered, pale and motionless; when Monte
Cristo turned round, she let fall her arm, which for some
unknown reason had been resting on the gilded door-post. She
had been there some moments, and had heard the last words of
the visitor. The latter rose and bowed to the countess, who
inclined herself without speaking. "Ah, good heavens,
madame," said the count, "are you ill, or is it the heat of
the room that affects you?"
"Are you ill, mother?" cried the viscount, springing towards
She thanked them both with a smile. "No," returned she, "but
I feel some emotion on seeing, for the first time, the man
without whose intervention we should have been in tears and
desolation. Monsieur," continued the countess, advancing
with the majesty of a queen, "I owe to you the life of my
son, and for this I bless you. Now, I thank you for the
pleasure you give me in thus affording me the opportunity of
thanking you as I have blessed you, from the bottom of my
heart." The count bowed again, but lower than before; He was
even paler than Mercedes. "Madame," said he, "the count and
yourself recompense too generously a simple action. To save
a man, to spare a father's feelings, or a mother's
sensibility, is not to do a good action, but a simple deed
of humanity." At these words, uttered with the most
exquisite sweetness and politeness, Madame de Morcerf
replied. "It is very fortunate for my son, monsieur, that he
found such a friend, and I thank God that things are thus."
And Mercedes raised her fine eyes to heaven with so fervent
an expression of gratitude, that the count fancied he saw
tears in them. M. de Morcerf approached her. "Madame," said
he. "I have already made my excuses to the count for
quitting him, and I pray you to do so also. The sitting
commences at two; it is now three, and I am to speak."
"Go, then, and monsieur and I will strive our best to forget
your absence," replied the countess, with the same tone of
deep feeling. "Monsieur," continued she, turning to Monte
Cristo, "will you do us the honor of passing the rest of the
day with us?"
"Believe me, madame, I feel most grateful for your kindness,
but I got out of my travelling carriage at your door this
morning, and I am ignorant how I am installed in Paris,
which I scarcely know; this is but a trifling inquietude, I
know, but one that may be appreciated."
"We shall have the pleasure another time," said the
countess; "you promise that?" Monte Cristo inclined himself
without answering, but the gesture might pass for assent. "I
will not detain you, monsieur," continued the countess; "I
would not have our gratitude become indiscreet or
"My dear Count," said Albert, "I will endeavor to return
your politeness at Rome, and place my coupe at your disposal
until your own be ready."
"A thousand thanks for your kindness, viscount," returned
the Count of Monte Cristo "but I suppose that M. Bertuccio
has suitably employed the four hours and a half I have given
him, and that I shall find a carriage of some sort ready at
the door." Albert was used to the count's manner of
proceeding; he knew that, like Nero, he was in search of the
impossible, and nothing astonished him, but wishing to judge
with his own eyes how far the count's orders had been
executed, he accompanied him to the door of the house. Monte
Cristo was not deceived. As soon as he appeared in the Count
of Morcerf's ante-chamber, a footman, the same who at Rome
had brought the count's card to the two young men, and
announced his visit, sprang into the vestibule, and when he
arrived at the door the illustrious traveller found his
carriage awaiting him. It was a coupe of Koller's building,
and with horses and harness for which Drake had, to the
knowledge of all the lions of Paris, refused on the previous
day seven hundred guineas. "Monsieur," said the count to
Albert, "I do not ask you to accompany me to my house, as I
can only show you a habitation fitted up in a hurry, and I
have, as you know, a reputation to keep up as regards not
being taken by surprise. Give me, therefore, one more day
before I invite you; I shall then be certain not to fail in
"If you ask me for a day, count, I know what to anticipate;
it will not be a house I shall see, but a palace. You have
decidedly some genius at your control."
"Ma foi, spread that idea," replied the Count of Monte
Cristo, putting his foot on the velvet-lined steps of his
splendid carriage, "and that will be worth something to me
among the ladies." As he spoke, he sprang into the vehicle,
the door was closed, but not so rapidly that Monte Cristo
failed to perceive the almost imperceptible movement which
stirred the curtains of the apartment in which he had left
Madame de Morcerf. When Albert returned to his mother, he
found her in the boudoir reclining in a large velvet
arm-chair, the whole room so obscure that only the shining
spangle, fastened here and there to the drapery, and the
angles of the gilded frames of the pictures, showed with
some degree of brightness in the gloom. Albert could not see
the face of the countess, as it was covered with a thin veil
she had put on her head, and which fell over her features in
misty folds, but it seemed to him as though her voice had
altered. He could distinguish amid the perfumes of the roses
and heliotropes in the flower-stands, the sharp and fragrant
odor of volatile salts, and he noticed in one of the chased
cups on the mantle-piece the countess's smelling-bottle,
taken from its shagreen case, and exclaimed in a tone of
uneasiness, as he entered, -- "My dear mother, have you been
ill during my absence?"
"No, no, Albert, but you know these roses, tuberoses, and
orange-flowers throw out at first, before one is used to
them, such violent perfumes."
"Then, my dear mother," said Albert, putting his hand to the
bell, "they must be taken into the ante-chamber. You are
really ill, and just now were so pale as you came into the
"Was I pale, Albert?"
"Yes; a pallor that suits you admirably, mother, but which
did not the less alarm my father and myself."
"Did your father speak of it?" inquired Mercedes eagerly.
"No, madame; but do you not remember that he spoke of the
fact to you?"
"Yes, I do remember," replied the countess. A servant
entered, summoned by Albert's ring of the bell. "Take these
flowers into the anteroom or dressing-room," said the
viscount; "they make the countess ill." The footman obeyed
his orders. A long pause ensued, which lasted until all the
flowers were removed. "What is this name of Monte Cristo?"
inquired the countess, when the servant had taken away the
last vase of flowers, "is it a family name, or the name of
the estate, or a simple title?"
"I believe, mother, it is merely a title. The count
purchased an island in the Tuscan archipelago, and, as he
told you to-day, has founded a commandery. You know the same
thing was done for Saint Stephen of Florence, Saint George,
Constantinian of Parma, and even for the Order of Malta.
Except this, he has no pretension to nobility, and calls
himself a chance count, although the general opinion at Rome
is that the count is a man of very high distinction."
"His manners are admirable," said the countess, "at least,
as far as I could judge in the few minutes he remained
"They are perfect mother, so perfect, that they surpass by
far all I have known in the leading aristocracy of the three
proudest nobilities of Europe -- the English, the Spanish,
and the German." The countess paused a moment; then, after a
slight hesitation, she resumed, -- "You have seen, my dear
Albert -- I ask the question as a mother -- you have seen M.
de Monte Cristo in his house, you are quicksighted, have
much knowledge of the world, more tact than is usual at your
age, do you think the count is really what he appears to
"What does he appear to be?"
"Why, you have just said, -- a man of high distinction."
"I told you, my dear mother, he was esteemed such."
"But what is your own opinion, Albert?"
"I must tell you that I have not come to any decided opinion
respecting him, but I think him a Maltese."
"I do not ask you of his origin but what he is."
"Ah, what he is; that is quite another thing. I have seen so
many remarkable things in him, that if you would have me
really say what I think, I shall reply that I really do look
upon him as one of Byron's heroes, whom misery has marked
with a fatal brand; some Manfred, some Lara, some Werner,
one of those wrecks, as it were, of some ancient family,
who, disinherited of their patrimony, have achieved one by
the force of their adventurous genius, which has placed them
above the laws of society."
"You say" --
"I say that Monte Cristo is an island in the midst of the
Mediterranean, without inhabitants or garrison, the resort
of smugglers of all nations, and pirates of every flag. Who
knows whether or not these industrious worthies do not pay
to their feudal lord some dues for his protection?"
"That is possible," said the countess, reflecting.
"Never mind," continued the young man, "smuggler or not, you
must agree, mother dear, as you have seen him, that the
Count of Monte Cristo is a remarkable man, who will have the
greatest success in the salons of Paris. Why, this very
morning, in my rooms, he made his entree amongst us by
striking every man of us with amazement, not even excepting
"And what do you suppose is the count's age?" inquired
Mercedes, evidently attaching great importance to this
"Thirty-five or thirty-six, mother."
"So young, -- it is impossible," said Mercedes, replying at
the same time to what Albert said as well as to her own
"It is the truth, however. Three or four times he has said
to me, and certainly without the slightest premeditation,
`at such a period I was five years old, at another ten years
old, at another twelve,' and I, induced by curiosity, which
kept me alive to these details, have compared the dates, and
never found him inaccurate. The age of this singular man,
who is of no age, is then, I am certain, thirty-five.
Besides, mother, remark how vivid his eye, how raven-black
his hair, and his brow, though so pale, is free from
wrinkles, -- he is not only vigorous, but also young." The
countess bent her head, as if beneath a heavy wave of bitter
thoughts. "And has this man displayed a friendship for you,
Albert?" she asked with a nervous shudder.
"I am inclined to think so."
"And -- do -- you -- like -- him?"
"Why, he pleases me in spite of Franz d'Epinay, who tries to
convince me that he is a being returned from the other
world." The countess shuddered. "Albert," she said, in a
voice which was altered by emotion, "I have always put you
on your guard against new acquaintances. Now you are a man,
and are able to give me advice; yet I repeat to you, Albert,
"Why, my dear mother, it is necessary, in order to make your
advice turn to account, that I should know beforehand what I
have to distrust. The count never plays, he only drinks pure
water tinged with a little sherry, and is so rich that he
cannot, without intending to laugh at me, try to borrow
money. What, then, have I to fear from him?"
"You are right," said the countess, "and my fears are
weakness, especially when directed against a man who has
saved your life. How did your father receive him, Albert? It
is necessary that we should be more than complaisant to the
count. M. de Morcerf is sometimes occupied, his business
makes him reflective, and he might, without intending it" --
"Nothing could be in better taste than my father's demeanor,
madame," said Albert; "nay, more, he seemed greatly
flattered at two or three compliments which the count very
skilfully and agreeably paid him with as much ease as if he
had known him these thirty years. Each of these little
tickling arrows must have pleased my father," added Albert
with a laugh. "And thus they parted the best possible
friends, and M. de Morcerf even wished to take him to the
Chamber to hear the speakers." The countess made no reply.
She fell into so deep a revery that her eyes gradually
closed. The young man, standing up before her, gazed upon
her with that filial affection which is so tender and
endearing with children whose mothers are still young and
handsome. Then, after seeing her eyes closed, and hearing
her breathe gently, he believed she had dropped asleep, and
left the apartment on tiptoe, closing the door after him
with the utmost precaution. "This devil of a fellow," he
muttered, shaking his head; "I said at the time he would
create a sensation here, and I measure his effect by an
infallible thermometer. My mother has noticed him, and he
must therefore, perforce, be remarkable." He went down to
the stables, not without some slight annoyance, when he
remembered that the Count of Monte Cristo had laid his hands
on a "turnout" which sent his bays down to second place in
the opinion of connoisseurs. "Most decidedly," said he, "men
are not equal, and I must beg my father to develop this
theorem in the Chamber of Peers."