It was in the warmest days of July, when in due course of
time the Saturday arrived upon which the ball was to take
place at M. de Morcerf's. It was ten o'clock at night; the
branches of the great trees in the garden of the count's
house stood out boldly against the azure canopy of heaven,
which was studded with golden stars, but where the last
fleeting clouds of a vanishing storm yet lingered. From the
apartments on the ground-floor might be heard the sound of
music, with the whirl of the waltz and galop, while
brilliant streams of light shone through the openings of the
Venetian blinds. At this moment the garden was only occupied
by about ten servants, who had just received orders from
their mistress to prepare the supper, the serenity of the
weather continuing to increase. Until now, it had been
undecided whether the supper should take place in the
dining-room, or under a long tent erected on the lawn, but
the beautiful blue sky, studded with stars, had settled the
question in favor of the lawn. The gardens were illuminated
with colored lanterns, according to the Italian custom, and,
as is usual in countries where the luxuries of the table --
the rarest of all luxuries in their complete form -- are
well understood, the supper-table was loaded with wax-lights
At the time the Countess of Morcerf returned to the rooms,
after giving her orders, many guests were arriving, more
attracted by the charming hospitality of the countess than
by the distinguished position of the count; for, owing to
the good taste of Mercedes, one was sure of finding some
devices at her entertainment worthy of describing, or even
copying in case of need. Madame Danglars, in whom the events
we have related had caused deep anxiety, had hesitated about
going to Madame de Morcerf's, when during the morning her
carriage happened to meet that of Villefort. The latter made
a sign, and when the carriages had drawn close together,
said, -- "You are going to Madame de Morcerf's, are you
"No," replied Madame Danglars, "I am too ill."
"You are wrong," replied Villefort, significantly; "it is
important that you should be seen there."
"Do you think so?" asked the baroness.
"In that case I will go." And the two carriages passed on
towards their different destinations. Madame Danglars
therefore came, not only beautiful in person, but radiant
with splendor; she entered by one door at the time when
Mercedes appeared at the door. The countess took Albert to
meet Madame Danglars. He approached, paid her some well
merited compliments on her toilet, and offered his arm to
conduct her to a seat. Albert looked around him. "You are
looking for my daughter?" said the baroness, smiling.
"I confess it," replied Albert. "Could you have been so
cruel as not to bring her?"
"Calm yourself. She has met Mademoiselle de Villefort, and
has taken her arm; see, they are following us, both in white
dresses, one with a bouquet of camellias, the other with one
of myosotis. But tell me" --
"Well, what do you wish to know?"
"Will not the Count of Monte Cristo be here to-night?"
"Seventeen!" replied Albert.
"What do you mean?"
"I only mean that the count seems the rage," replied the
viscount, smiling, "and that you are the seventeenth person
that has asked me the same question. The count is in
fashion; I congratulate him upon it."
"And have you replied to every one as you have to me?"
"Ah, to be sure, I have not answered you; be satisfied, we
shall have this `lion;' we are among the privileged ones."
"Were you at the opera yesterday?"
"He was there."
"Ah, indeed? And did the eccentric person commit any new
"Can he be seen without doing so? Elssler was dancing in the
`Diable Boiteux;' the Greek princess was in ecstasies. After
the cachucha he placed a magnificent ring on the stem of a
bouquet, and threw it to the charming danseuse, who, in the
third act, to do honor to the gift, reappeared with it on
her finger. And the Greek princess, -- will she be here?"
"No, you will be deprived of that pleasure; her position in
the count's establishment is not sufficiently understood."
"Wait; leave me here, and go and speak to Madame de
Villefort, who is trying to attract your attention."
Albert bowed to Madame Danglars, and advanced towards Madame
de Villefort, whose lips opened as he approached. "I wager
anything," said Albert, interrupting her, "that I know what
you were about to say."
"Well, what is it?"
"If I guess rightly, will you confess it?"
"On your honor?"
"On my honor."
"You were going to ask me if the Count of Monte Cristo had
arrived, or was expected."
"Not at all. It is not of him that I am now thinking. I was
going to ask you if you had received any news of Monsieur
"Yes, -- yesterday."
"What did he tell you?"
"That he was leaving at the same time as his letter."
"Well, now then, the count?"
"The count will come, of that you may be satisfied."
"You know that he has another name besides Monte Cristo?"
"No, I did not know it."
"Monte Cristo is the name of an island, and he has a family name."
"I never heard it."
"Well, then, I am better informed than you; his name is Zaccone."
"It is possible."
"He is a Maltese."
"That is also possible.
"The son of a shipowner."
"Really, you should relate all this aloud, you would have
the greatest success."
"He served in India, discovered a mine in Thessaly, and
comes to Paris to establish a mineral water-cure at
"Well, I'm sure," said Morcerf, "this is indeed news! Am I
allowed to repeat it?"
"Yes, but cautiously, tell one thing at a time, and do not
say I told you."
"Because it is a secret just discovered."
"Then the news originated" --
"At the prefect's last night. Paris, you can understand, is
astonished at the sight of such unusual splendor, and the
police have made inquiries."
"Well, well! Nothing more is wanting than to arrest the
count as a vagabond, on the pretext of his being too rich."
"Indeed, that doubtless would have happened if his
credentials had not been so favorable."
"Poor count! And is he aware of the danger he has been in?"
"I think not."
"Then it will be but charitable to inform him. When he
arrives, I will not fail to do so."
Just then, a handsome young man, with bright eyes, black
hair, and glossy mustache, respectfully bowed to Madame de
Villefort. Albert extended his hand. "Madame," said Albert,
"allow me to present to you M. Maximilian Morrel, captain of
Spahis, one of our best, and, above all, of our bravest
"I have already had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman
at Auteuil, at the house of the Count of Monte Cristo,"
replied Madame de Villefort, turning away with marked
coldness of manner. This answer, and especially the tone in
which it was uttered, chilled the heart of poor Morrel. But
a recompense was in store for him; turning around, he saw
near the door a beautiful fair face, whose large blue eyes
were, without any marked expression, fixed upon him, while
the bouquet of myosotis was gently raised to her lips.
The salutation was so well understood that Morrel, with the
same expression in his eyes, placed his handkerchief to his
mouth; and these two living statues, whose hearts beat so
violently under their marble aspect, separated from each
other by the whole length of the room, forgot themselves for
a moment, or rather forgot the world in their mutual
contemplation. They might have remained much longer lost in
one another, without any one noticing their abstraction. The
Count of Monte Cristo had just entered.
We have already said that there was something in the count
which attracted universal attention wherever he appeared. It
was not the coat, unexceptional in its cut, though simple
and unornamented; it was not the plain white waistcoat; it
was not the trousers, that displayed the foot so perfectly
formed -- it was none of these things that attracted the
attention, -- it was his pale complexion, his waving black
hair, his calm and serene expression, his dark and
melancholy eye, his mouth, chiselled with such marvellous
delicacy, which so easily expressed such high disdain, --
these were what fixed the attention of all upon him. Many
men might have been handsomer, but certainly there could be
none whose appearance was more significant, if the
expression may be used. Everything about the count seemed to
have its meaning, for the constant habit of thought which he
had acquired had given an ease and vigor to the expression
of his face, and even to the most trifling gesture, scarcely
to be understood. Yet the Parisian world is so strange, that
even all this might not have won attention had there not
been connected with it a mysterious story gilded by an
Meanwhile he advanced through the assemblage of guests under
a battery of curious glances towards Madame de Morcerf, who,
standing before a mantle-piece ornamented with flowers, had
seen his entrance in a looking-glass placed opposite the
door, and was prepared to receive him. She turned towards
him with a serene smile just at the moment he was bowing to
her. No doubt she fancied the count would speak to her,
while on his side the count thought she was about to address
him; but both remained silent, and after a mere bow, Monte
Cristo directed his steps to Albert, who received him
cordially. "Have you seen my mother?" asked Albert.
"I have just had the pleasure," replied the count; "but I
have not seen your father."
"See, he is down there, talking politics with that little
group of great geniuses."
"Indeed?" said Monte Cristo; "and so those gentlemen down
there are men of great talent. I should not have guessed it.
And for what kind of talent are they celebrated? You know
there are different sorts."
"That tall, harsh-looking man is very learned, he
discovered, in the neighborhood of Rome, a kind of lizard
with a vertebra more than lizards usually have, and he
immediately laid his discovery before the Institute. The
thing was discussed for a long time, but finally decided in
his favor. I can assure you the vertebra made a great noise
in the learned world, and the gentleman, who was only a
knight of the Legion of Honor, was made an officer."
"Come," said Monte Cristo, "this cross seems to me to be
wisely awarded. I suppose, had he found another additional
vertebra, they would have made him a commander."
"Very likely," said Albert.
"And who can that person be who has taken it into his head
to wrap himself up in a blue coat embroidered with green?"
"Oh, that coat is not his own idea; it is the Republic's,
which deputed David* to devise a uniform for the
* Louis David, a famous French painter.
"Indeed?" said Monte Cristo; "so this gentleman is an
"Within the last week he has been made one of the learned
"And what is his especial talent?"
"His talent? I believe he thrusts pins through the heads of
rabbits, he makes fowls eat madder, and punches the spinal
marrow out of dogs with whalebone."
"And he is made a member of the Academy of Sciences for
"No; of the French Academy."
"But what has the French Academy to do with all this?"
"I was going to tell you. It seems" --
"That his experiments have very considerably advanced the
cause of science, doubtless?"
"No; that his style of writing is very good."
"This must be very flattering to the feelings of the rabbits
into whose heads he has thrust pins, to the fowls whose
bones he has dyed red, and to the dogs whose spinal marrow
he has punched out?"
"And the other one?" demanded the count.
"Yes, the third."
"The one in the dark blue coat?"
"He is a colleague of the count, and one of the most active
opponents to the idea of providing the Chamber of Peers with
a uniform. He was very successful upon that question. He
stood badly with the Liberal papers, but his noble
opposition to the wishes of the court is now getting him
into favor with the journalists. They talk of making him an
"And what are his claims to the peerage?"
"He has composed two or three comic operas, written four or
five articles in the Siecle, and voted five or six years on
the ministerial side."
"Bravo, Viscount," said Monte Cristo, smiling; "you are a
delightful cicerone. And now you will do me a favor, will
"What is it?"
"Do not introduce me to any of these gentlemen; and should
they wish it, you will warn me." Just then the count felt
his arm pressed. He turned round; it was Danglars.
"Ah, is it you, baron?" said he.
"Why do you call me baron?" said Danglars; "you know that I
care nothing for my title. I am not like you, viscount; you
like your title, do you not?"
"Certainly," replied Albert, "seeing that without my title I
should be nothing; while you, sacrificing the baron, would
still remain the millionaire."
"Which seems to me the finest title under the royalty of
July," replied Danglars.
"Unfortunately," said Monte Cristo, "one's title to a
millionaire does not last for life, like that of baron, peer
of France, or Academician; for example, the millionaires
Franck & Poulmann, of Frankfort, who have just become
"Indeed?" said Danglars, becoming pale.
"Yes; I received the news this evening by a courier. I had
about a million in their hands, but, warned in time, I
withdrew it a month ago."
"Ah, mon Dieu," exclaimed Danglars, "they have drawn on me
for 200,000 francs!"
"Well, you can throw out the draft; their signature is worth
five per cent."
"Yes, but it is too late," said Danglars, "I have honored
"Then," said Monte Cristo, "here are 200,000 francs gone
"Hush, do not mention these things," said Danglars; then,
approaching Monte Cristo, he added, "especially before young
M. Cavalcanti;" after which he smiled, and turned towards
the young man in question. Albert had left the count to
speak to his mother, Danglars to converse with young
Cavalcanti; Monte Cristo was for an instant alone. Meanwhile
the heat became excessive. The footmen were hastening
through the rooms with waiters loaded with ices. Monte
Cristo wiped the perspiration from his forehead, but drew
back when the waiter was presented to him; he took no
refreshment. Madame de Morcerf did not lose sight of Monte
Cristo; she saw that he took nothing, and even noticed his
gesture of refusal.
"Albert," she asked, "did you notice that?"
"That the count has never been willing to partake of food
under the roof of M. de Morcerf."
"Yes; but then he breakfasted with me -- indeed, he made his
first appearance in the world on that occasion."
"But your house is not M. de Morcerf's," murmured Mercedes;
"and since he has been here I have watched him."
"Well, he has taken nothing yet."
"The count is very temperate." Mercedes smiled sadly.
"Approach him," said she, "and when the next waiter passes,
insist upon his taking something."
"But why, mother?"
"Just to please me, Albert," said Mercedes. Albert kissed
his mother's hand, and drew near the count. Another salver
passed, loaded like the preceding ones; she saw Albert
attempt to persuade the count, but he obstinately refused.
Albert rejoined his mother; she was very pale.
"Well," said she, "you see he refuses?"
"Yes; but why need this annoy you?"
"You know, Albert, women are singular creatures. I should
like to have seen the count take something in my house, if
only an ice. Perhaps he cannot reconcile himself to the
French style of living, and might prefer something else."
"Oh, no; I have seen him eat of everything in Italy; no
doubt he does not feel inclined this evening."
"And besides," said the countess, "accustomed as he is to
burning climates, possibly he does not feel the heat as we
"I do not think that, for he has complained of feeling
almost suffocated, and asked why the Venetian blinds were
not opened as well as the windows."
"In a word," said Mercedes, "it was a way of assuring me
that his abstinence was intended." And she left the room. A
minute afterwards the blinds were thrown open, and through
the jessamine and clematis that overhung the window one
could see the garden ornamented with lanterns, and the
supper laid under the tent. Dancers, players, talkers, all
uttered an exclamation of joy -- every one inhaled with
delight the breeze that floated in. At the same time
Mercedes reappeared, paler than before, but with that
imperturbable expression of countenance which she sometimes
wore. She went straight to the group of which her husband
formed the centre. "Do not detain those gentlemen here,
count," she said; "they would prefer, I should think, to
breathe in the garden rather than suffocate here, since they
are not playing."
"Ah," said a gallant old general, who, in 1809, had sung
"Partant pour la Syrie," -- "we will not go alone to the
"Then," said Mercedes, "I will lead the way." Turning
towards Monte Cristo, she added, "count, will you oblige me
with your arm?" The count almost staggered at these simple
words; then he fixed his eyes on Mercedes. It was only a
momentary glance, but it seemed to the countess to have
lasted for a century, so much was expressed in that one
look. He offered his arm to the countess; she took it, or
rather just touched it with her little hand, and they
together descended the steps, lined with rhododendrons and
camellias. Behind them, by another outlet, a group of about
twenty persons rushed into the garden with loud exclamations