“Hush! My child! I have said poison and death!”
“See! are you well avenged?”
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 Eugénie 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 first 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?”
“Is your love returned?”
“I suppose so,” said Andrea with a triumphant smile, “since I am accepted. But I must not forget one grand point.”
“That I have been singularly assisted.”
“I have, indeed.”
“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 manœuvre 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 Abbé 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 reverie:
“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?”