Madame de Morcerf entered an archway of trees with her
companion. It led through a grove of lindens to a
"It was too warm in the room, was it not, count?" she asked.
"Yes, madame; and it was an excellent idea of yours to open
the doors and the blinds." As he ceased speaking, the count
felt the hand of Mercedes tremble. "But you," he said, "with
that light dress, and without anything to cover you but that
gauze scarf, perhaps you feel cold?"
"Do you know where I am leading you?" said the countess,
without replying to the question.
"No, madame," replied Monte Cristo; "but you see I make no
"We are going to the greenhouse that you see at the other
end of the grove."
The count looked at Mercedes as if to interrogate her, but
she continued to walk on in silence, and he refrained from
speaking. They reached the building, ornamented with
magnificent fruits, which ripen at the beginning of July in
the artificial temperature which takes the place of the sun,
so frequently absent in our climate. The countess left the
arm of Monte Cristo, and gathered a bunch of Muscatel
grapes. "See, count," she said, with a smile so sad in its
expression that one could almost detect the tears on her
eyelids -- "see, our French grapes are not to be compared, I
know, with yours of Sicily and Cyprus, but you will make
allowance for our northern sun." The count bowed, but
stepped back. "Do you refuse?" said Mercedes, in a tremulous
voice. "Pray excuse me, madame," replied Monte Cristo, "but
I never eat Muscatel grapes."
Mercedes let them fall, and sighed. A magnificent peach was
hanging against an adjoining wall, ripened by the same
artificial heat. Mercedes drew near, and plucked the fruit.
"Take this peach, then," she said. The count again refused.
"What, again?" she exclaimed, in so plaintive an accent that
it seemed to stifle a sob; "really, you pain me."
A long silence followed; the peach, like the grapes, fell to
the ground. "Count," added Mercedes with a supplicating
glance, "there is a beautiful Arabian custom, which makes
eternal friends of those who have together eaten bread and
salt under the same roof."
"I know it, madame," replied the count; "but we are in
France, and not in Arabia, and in France eternal friendships
are as rare as the custom of dividing bread and salt with
"But," said the countess, breathlessly, with her eyes fixed
on Monte Cristo, whose arm she convulsively pressed with
both hands, "we are friends, are we not?"
The count became pale as death, the blood rushed to his
heart, and then again rising, dyed his cheeks with crimson;
his eyes swam like those of a man suddenly dazzled.
"Certainly, we are friends," he replied; "why should we not
be?" The answer was so little like the one Mercedes desired,
that she turned away to give vent to a sigh, which sounded
more like a groan. "Thank you," she said. And they walked on
again. They went the whole length of the garden without
uttering a word. "Sir," suddenly exclaimed the countess,
after their walk had continued ten minutes in silence, "is
it true that you have seen so much, travelled so far, and
suffered so deeply?"
"I have suffered deeply, madame," answered Monte Cristo.
"But now you are happy?"
"Doubtless," replied the count, "since no one hears me
"And your present happiness, has it softened your heart?"
"My present happiness equals my past misery," said the
"Are you not married?" asked the countess. "I married?"
exclaimed Monte Cristo, shuddering; "who could have told you
"No one told me you were, but you have frequently been seen
at the opera with a young and lovely woman."
"She is a slave whom I bought at Constantinople, madame, the
daughter of a prince. I have adopted her as my daughter,
having no one else to love in the world."
"You live alone, then?"
"You have no sister -- no son -- no father?"
"I have no one."
"How can you exist thus without any one to attach you to
"It is not my fault, madame. At Malta, I loved a young girl,
was on the point of marrying her, when war came and carried
me away. I thought she loved me well enough to wait for me,
and even to remain faithful to my memory. When I returned
she was married. This is the history of most men who have
passed twenty years of age. Perhaps my heart was weaker than
the hearts of most men, and I suffered more than they would
have done in my place; that is all." The countess stopped
for a moment, as if gasping for breath. "Yes," she said,
"and you have still preserved this love in your heart -- one
can only love once -- and did you ever see her again?"
"I never returned to the country where she lived."
"She is, then, now at Malta?"
"I think so."
"And have you forgiven her for all she has made you suffer?"
"Her, -- yes."
"But only her; do you then still hate those who separated
"I hate them? Not at all; why should I?" The countess placed
herself before Monte Cristo, still holding in her hand a
portion of the perfumed grapes. "Take some," she said.
"Madame, I never eat Muscatel grapes," replied Monte Cristo,
as if the subject had not been mentioned before. The
countess dashed the grapes into the nearest thicket, with a
gesture of despair. "Inflexible man!" she murmured. Monte
Cristo remained as unmoved as if the reproach had not been
addressed to him. Albert at this moment ran in. "Oh,
mother," he exclaimed, "such a misfortune his happened!"
"What? What has happened?" asked the countess, as though
awakening from a sleep to the realities of life; "did you
say a misfortune? Indeed, I should expect misfortunes."
"M. de Villefort is here."
"He comes to fetch his wife and daughter."
"Because Madame de Saint-Meran is just arrived in Paris,
bringing the news of M. de Saint-Meran's death, which took
place on the first stage after he left Marseilles. Madame de
Villefort, who was in very good spirits, would neither
believe nor think of the misfortune, but Mademoiselle
Valentine, at the first words, guessed the whole truth,
notwithstanding all the precautions of her father; the blow
struck her like a thunderbolt, and she fell senseless."
"And how was M. de Saint-Meran related to Mademoiselle de
Villefort?" said the count.
"He was her grandfather on the mother's side. He was coming
here to hasten her marriage with Franz."
"So Franz must wait. Why was not M. de Saint-Meran also
grandfather to Mademoiselle Danglars?"
"Albert, Albert," said Madame de Morcerf, in a tone of mild
reproof, "what are you saying? Ah, count, he esteems you so
highly, tell him that he has spoken amiss." And she took two
or three steps forward. Monte Cristo watched her with an air
so thoughtful, and so full of affectionate admiration, that
she turned back and grasped his hand; at the same time she
seized that of her son, and joined them together.
"We are friends; are we not?" she asked.
"Oh, madame, I do not presume to call myself your friend,
but at all times I am your most respectful servant." The
countess left with an indescribable pang in her heart, and
before she had taken ten steps the count saw her raise her
handkerchief to her eyes. "Do not my mother and you agree?"
asked Albert, astonished.
"On the contrary," replied the count, "did you not hear her
declare that we were friends?" They re-entered the
drawing-room, which Valentine and Madame de Villefort had
just quitted. It is perhaps needless to add that Morrel
departed almost at the same time.