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Chapter 117
The Fifth of October.

It was about six o'clock in the evening; an opal-colored
light, through which an autumnal sun shed its golden rays,
descended on the blue ocean. The heat of the day had
gradually decreased, and a light breeze arose, seeming like
the respiration of nature on awakening from the burning
siesta of the south. A delicious zephyr played along the
coasts of the Mediterranean, and wafted from shore to shore
the sweet perfume of plants, mingled with the fresh smell of
the sea.

A light yacht, chaste and elegant in its form, was gliding
amidst the first dews of night over the immense lake,
extending from Gibraltar to the Dardanelles, and from Tunis
to Venice. The vessel resembled a swan with its wings opened
towards the wind, gliding on the water. It advanced swiftly
and gracefully, leaving behind it a glittering stretch of
foam. By degrees the sun disappeared behind the western
horizon; but as though to prove the truth of the fanciful
ideas in heathen mythology, its indiscreet rays reappeared
on the summit of every wave, as if the god of fire had just
sunk upon the bosom of Amphitrite, who in vain endeavored to
hide her lover beneath her azure mantle. The yacht moved
rapidly on, though there did not appear to be sufficient
wind to ruffle the curls on the head of a young girl.
Standing on the prow was a tall man, of a dark complexion,
who saw with dilating eyes that they were approaching a dark
mass of land in the shape of a cone, which rose from the
midst of the waves like the hat of a Catalan. "Is that Monte
Cristo?" asked the traveller, to whose orders the yacht was
for the time submitted, in a melancholy voice.

"Yes, your excellency," said the captain, "we have reached
it."

"We have reached it!" repeated the traveller in an accent of
indescribable sadness. Then he added, in a low tone, "Yes;
that is the haven." And then he again plunged into a train
of thought, the character of which was better revealed by a
sad smile, than it would have been by tears. A few minutes
afterwards a flash of light, which was extinguished
instantly, was seen on the land, and the sound of firearms
reached the yacht.

"Your excellency," said the captain, "that was the land
signal, will you answer yourself?"

"What signal?" The captain pointed towards the island, up
the side of which ascended a volume of smoke, increasing as
it rose. "Ah, yes," he said, as if awaking from a dream.
"Give it to me."

The captain gave him a loaded carbine; the traveller slowly
raised it, and fired in the air. Ten minutes afterwards, the
sails were furled, and they cast anchor about a hundred
fathoms from the little harbor. The gig was already lowered,
and in it were four oarsmen and a coxswain. The traveller
descended, and instead of sitting down at the stern of the
boat, which had been decorated with a blue carpet for his
accommodation, stood up with his arms crossed. The rowers
waited, their oars half lifted out of the water, like birds
drying their wings.

"Give way," said the traveller. The eight oars fell into the
sea simultaneously without splashing a drop of water, and
the boat, yielding to the impulsion, glided forward. In an
instant they found themselves in a little harbor, formed in
a natural creek; the boat grounded on the fine sand.

"Will your excellency be so good as to mount the shoulders
of two of our men, they will carry you ashore?" The young
man answered this invitation with a gesture of indifference,
and stepped out of the boat; the sea immediately rose to his
waist. "Ah, your excellency," murmured the pilot, "you
should not have done so; our master will scold us for it."
The young man continued to advance, following the sailors,
who chose a firm footing. Thirty strides brought them to dry
land; the young man stamped on the ground to shake off the
wet, and looked around for some one to show him his road,
for it was quite dark. Just as he turned, a hand rested on
his shoulder, and a voice which made him shudder exclaimed,
-- "Good-evening, Maximilian; you are punctual, thank you!"

"Ah, is it you, count?" said the young man, in an almost
joyful accent, pressing Monte Cristo's hand with both his
own.

"Yes; you see I am as exact as you are. But you are
dripping, my dear fellow; you must change your clothes, as
Calypso said to Telemachus. Come, I have a habitation
prepared for you in which you will soon forget fatigue and
cold." Monte Cristo perceived that the young man had turned
around; indeed, Morrel saw with surprise that the men who
had brought him had left without being paid, or uttering a
word. Already the sound of their oars might be heard as they
returned to the yacht.

"Oh, yes," said the count, "you are looking for the
sailors."

"Yes, I paid them nothing, and yet they are gone."

"Never mind that, Maximilian," said Monte Cristo, smiling.
"I have made an agreement with the navy, that the access to
my island shall be free of all charge. I have made a
bargain." Morrel looked at the count with surprise. "Count,"
he said, "you are not the same here as in Paris."

"How so?"

"Here you laugh." The count's brow became clouded. "You are
right to recall me to myself, Maximilian," he said; "I was
delighted to see you again, and forgot for the moment that
all happiness is fleeting."

"Oh, no, no, count," cried Maximilian, seizing the count's
hands, "pray laugh; be happy, and prove to me, by your
indifference, that life is endurable to sufferers. Oh, how
charitable, kind, and good you are; you affect this gayety
to inspire me with courage."

"You are wrong, Morrel; I was really happy."

"Then you forget me, so much the better."

"How so?"

"Yes; for as the gladiator said to the emperor, when he
entered the arena, `He who is about to die salutes you.'"

"Then you are not consoled?" asked the count, surprised.

"Oh," exclaimed Morrel, with a glance full of bitter
reproach, "do you think it possible that I could be?"

"Listen," said the count. "Do you understand the meaning of
my words? You cannot take me for a commonplace man, a mere
rattle, emitting a vague and senseless noise. When I ask you
if you are consoled, I speak to you as a man for whom the
human heart has no secrets. Well, Morrel, let us both
examine the depths of your heart. Do you still feel the same
feverish impatience of grief which made you start like a
wounded lion? Have you still that devouring thirst which can
only be appeased in the grave? Are you still actuated by the
regret which drags the living to the pursuit of death; or
are you only suffering from the prostration of fatigue and
the weariness of hope deferred? Has the loss of memory
rendered it impossible for you to weep? Oh, my dear friend,
if this be the case, -- if you can no longer weep, if your
frozen heart be dead, if you put all your trust in God,
then, Maximilian, you are consoled -- do not complain."

"Count," said Morrel, in a firm and at the same time soft
voice, "listen to me, as to a man whose thoughts are raised
to heaven, though he remains on earth; I come to die in the
arms of a friend. Certainly, there are people whom I love. I
love my sister Julie, -- I love her husband Emmanuel; but I
require a strong mind to smile on my last moments. My sister
would be bathed in tears and fainting; I could not bear to
see her suffer. Emmanuel would tear the weapon from my hand,
and alarm the house with his cries. You, count, who are more
than mortal, will, I am sure, lead me to death by a pleasant
path, will you not?"

"My friend," said the count, "I have still one doubt, -- are
you weak enough to pride yourself upon your sufferings?"

"No, indeed, -- I am calm," said Morrel, giving his hand to
the count; "my pulse does not beat slower or faster than
usual. No, I feel that I have reached the goal, and I will
go no farther. You told me to wait and hope; do you know
what you did, unfortunate adviser? I waited a month, or
rather I suffered for a month! I did hope (man is a poor
wretched creature), I did hope. What I cannot tell, --
something wonderful, an absurdity, a miracle, -- of what
nature he alone can tell who has mingled with our reason
that folly we call hope. Yes, I did wait -- yes, I did hope,
count, and during this quarter of an hour we have been
talking together, you have unconsciously wounded, tortured
my heart, for every word you have uttered proved that there
was no hope for me. Oh, count, I shall sleep calmly,
deliciously in the arms of death." Morrel uttered these
words with an energy which made the count shudder. "My
friend," continued Morrel, "you named the fifth of October
as the end of the period of waiting, -- to-day is the fifth
of October," he took out his watch, "it is now nine o'clock,
-- I have yet three hours to live."

"Be it so," said the count, "come." Morrel mechanically
followed the count, and they had entered the grotto before
he perceived it. He felt a carpet under his feet, a door
opened, perfumes surrounded him, and a brilliant light
dazzled his eyes. Morrel hesitated to advance; he dreaded
the enervating effect of all that he saw. Monte Cristo drew
him in gently. "Why should we not spend the last three hours
remaining to us of life, like those ancient Romans, who when
condemned by Nero, their emperor and heir, sat down at a
table covered with flowers, and gently glided into death,
amid the perfume of heliotropes and roses?" Morrel smiled.
"As you please," he said; "death is always death, -- that is
forgetfulness, repose, exclusion from life, and therefore
from grief." He sat down, and Monte Cristo placed himself
opposite to him. They were in the marvellous dining-room
before described, where the statues had baskets on their
heads always filled with fruits and flowers. Morrel had
looked carelessly around, and had probably noticed nothing.

"Let us talk like men," he said, looking at the count.

"Go on!"

"Count," said Morrel, "you are the epitome of all human
knowledge, and you seem like a being descended from a wiser
and more advanced world than ours."

"There is something true in what you say," said the count,
with that smile which made him so handsome; "I have
descended from a planet called grief."

"I believe all you tell me without questioning its meaning;
for instance, you told me to live, and I did live; you told
me to hope, and I almost did so. I am almost inclined to ask
you, as though you had experienced death, `is it painful to
die?'"

Monte Cristo looked upon Morrel with indescribable
tenderness. "Yes," he said, "yes, doubtless it is painful,
if you violently break the outer covering which obstinately
begs for life. If you plunge a dagger into your flesh, if
you insinuate a bullet into your brain, which the least
shock disorders, -- then certainly, you will suffer pain,
and you will repent quitting a life for a repose you have
bought at so dear a price."

"Yes; I know that there is a secret of luxury and pain in
death, as well as in life; the only thing is to understand
it."

"You have spoken truly, Maximilian; according to the care we
bestow upon it, death is either a friend who rocks us gently
as a nurse, or an enemy who violently drags the soul from
the body. Some day, when the world is much older, and when
mankind will be masters of all the destructive powers in
nature, to serve for the general good of humanity; when
mankind, as you were just saying, have discovered the
secrets of death, then that death will become as sweet and
voluptuous as a slumber in the arms of your beloved."

"And if you wished to die, you would choose this death,
count?"

"Yes."

Morrel extended his hand. "Now I understand," he said, "why
you had me brought here to this desolate spot, in the midst
of the ocean, to this subterranean palace; it was because
you loved me, was it not, count? It was because you loved me
well enough to give me one of those sweet means of death of
which we were speaking; a death without agony, a death which
allows me to fade away while pronouncing Valentine's name
and pressing your hand."

"Yes, you have guessed rightly, Morrel," said the count,
"that is what I intended."

"Thanks; the idea that tomorrow I shall no longer suffer, is
sweet to my heart."

"Do you then regret nothing?"

"No," replied Morrel.

"Not even me?" asked the count with deep emotion. Morrel's
clear eye was for the moment clouded, then it shone with
unusual lustre, and a large tear rolled down his cheek.

"What," said the count, "do you still regret anything in the
world, and yet die?"

"Oh, I entreat you," exclaimed Morrel in a low voice, "do
not speak another word, count; do not prolong my
punishment." The count fancied that he was yielding, and
this belief revived the horrible doubt that had overwhelmed
him at the Chateau d'If. "I am endeavoring," he thought, "to
make this man happy; I look upon this restitution as a
weight thrown into the scale to balance the evil I have
wrought. Now, supposing I am deceived, supposing this man
has not been unhappy enough to merit happiness. Alas, what
would become of me who can only atone for evil by doing
good?" Then he said aloud: "Listen, Morrel, I see your grief
is great, but still you do not like to risk your soul."
Morrel smiled sadly. "Count," he said, "I swear to you my
soul is no longer my own."

"Maximilian, you know I have no relation in the world. I
have accustomed myself to regard you as my son: well, then,
to save my son, I will sacrifice my life, nay, even my
fortune."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, that you wish to quit life because you do not
understand all the enjoyments which are the fruits of a
large fortune. Morrel, I possess nearly a hundred millions
and I give them to you; with such a fortune you can attain
every wish. Are you ambitions? Every career is open to you.
Overturn the world, change its character, yield to mad
ideas, be even criminal -- but live."

"Count, I have your word," said Morrel coldly; then taking
out his watch, he added, "It is half-past eleven."

"Morrel, can you intend it in my house, under my very eyes?"

"Then let me go," said Maximilian, "or I shall think you did
not love me for my own sake, but for yours; "and he arose.

"It is well," said Monte Cristo whose countenance brightened
at these words; "you wish -- you are inflexible. Yes, as you
said, you are indeed wretched and a miracle alone can cure
you. Sit down, Morrel, and wait."

Morrel obeyed; the count arose, and unlocking a closet with
a key suspended from his gold chain, took from it a little
silver casket, beautifully carved and chased, the corners of
which represented four bending figures, similar to the
Caryatides, the forms of women, symbols of the angels
aspiring to heaven. He placed the casket on the table; then
opening it took out a little golden box, the top of which
flew open when touched by a secret spring. This box
contained an unctuous substance partly solid, of which it
was impossible to discover the color, owing to the
reflection of the polished gold, sapphires, rubies,
emeralds, which ornamented the box. It was a mixed mass of
blue, red, and gold. The count took out a small quantity of
this with a gilt spoon, and offered it to Morrel, fixing a
long steadfast glance upon him. It was then observable that
the substance was greenish.

"This is what you asked for," he said, "and what I promised
to give you."

"I thank you from the depths of my heart," said the young
man, taking the spoon from the hands of Monte Cristo. The
count took another spoon, and again dipped it into the
golden box. "What are you going to do, my friend?" asked
Morrel, arresting his hand.

"Well, the fact is, Morrel, I was thinking that I too am
weary of life, and since an opportunity presents itself" --

"Stay!" said the young man. "You who love, and are beloved;
you, who have faith and hope, -- oh, do not follow my
example. In your case it would be a crime. Adieu, my noble
and generous friend, adieu; I will go and tell Valentine
what you have done for me." And slowly, though without any
hesitation, only waiting to press the count's hand
fervently, he swallowed the mysterious substance offered by
Monte Cristo. Then they were both silent. Ali, mute and
attentive, brought the pipes and coffee, and disappeared. By
degrees, the light of the lamps gradually faded in the hands
of the marble statues which held them, and the perfumes
appeared less powerful to Morrel. Seated opposite to him,
Monte Cristo watched him in the shadow, and Morrel saw
nothing but the bright eyes of the count. An overpowering
sadness took possession of the young man, his hands relaxed
their hold, the objects in the room gradually lost their
form and color, and his disturbed vision seemed to perceive
doors and curtains open in the walls.

"Friend," he cried, "I feel that I am dying; thanks!" He
made a last effort to extend his hand, but it fell powerless
beside him. Then it appeared to him that Monte Cristo
smiled, not with the strange and fearful expression which
had sometimes revealed to him the secrets of his heart, but
with the benevolent kindness of a father for a child. At the
same time the count appeared to increase in stature, his
form, nearly double its usual height, stood out in relief
against the red tapestry, his black hair was thrown back,
and he stood in the attitude of an avenging angel. Morrel,
overpowered, turned around in the arm-chair; a delicious
torpor permeated every vein. A change of ideas presented
themselves to his brain, like a new design on the
kaleidoscope. Enervated, prostrate, and breathless, he
became unconscious of outward objects; he seemed to be
entering that vague delirium preceding death. He wished once
again to press the count's hand, but his own was immovable.
He wished to articulate a last farewell, but his tongue lay
motionless and heavy in his throat, like a stone at the
mouth of a sepulchre. Involuntarily his languid eyes closed,
and still through his eyelashes a well-known form seemed to
move amid the obscurity with which he thought himself
enveloped.

The count had just opened a door. Immediately a brilliant
light from the next room, or rather from the palace
adjoining, shone upon the room in which he was gently
gliding into his last sleep. Then he saw a woman of
marvellous beauty appear on the threshold of the door
separating the two rooms. Pale, and sweetly smiling, she
looked like an angel of mercy conjuring the angel of
vengeance. "Is it heaven that opens before me?" thought the
dying man; "that angel resembles the one I have lost." Monte
Cristo pointed out Morrel to the young woman, who advanced
towards him with clasped hands and a smile upon her lips.

"Valentine, Valentine!" he mentally ejaculated; but his lips
uttered no sound, and as though all his strength were
centred in that internal emotion, he sighed and closed his
eyes. Valentine rushed towards him; his lips again moved.

"He is calling you," said the count; "he to whom you have
confided your destiny -- he from whom death would have
separated you, calls you to him. Happily, I vanquished
death. Henceforth, Valentine, you will never again be
separated on earth, since he has rushed into death to find
you. Without me, you would both have died. May God accept my
atonement in the preservation of these two existences!"

Valentine seized the count's hand, and in her irresistible
impulse of joy carried it to her lips.

"Oh, thank me again!" said the count; "tell me till you are
weary, that I have restored you to happiness; you do not
know how much I require this assurance."

"Oh, yes, yes, I thank you with all my heart," said
Valentine; "and if you doubt the sincerity of my gratitude,
oh, then, ask Haidee! ask my beloved sister Haidee, who ever
since our departure from France, has caused me to wait
patiently for this happy day, while talking to me of you."

"You then love Haidee?" asked Monte Cristo with an emotion
he in vain endeavored to dissimulate.

"Oh, yes, with all my soul."

"Well, then, listen, Valentine," said the count; "I have a
favor to ask of you."

"Of me? Oh, am I happy enough for that?"

"Yes; you have called Haidee your sister, -- let her become
so indeed, Valentine; render her all the gratitude you fancy
that you owe to me; protect her, for" (the count's voice was
thick with emotion) "henceforth she will be alone in the
world."

"Alone in the world!" repeated a voice behind the count,
"and why?"

Monte Cristo turned around; Haidee was standing pale,
motionless, looking at the count with an expression of
fearful amazement.

"Because to-morrow, Haidee, you will be free; you will then
assume your proper position in society, for I will not allow
my destiny to overshadow yours. Daughter of a prince, I
restore to you the riches and name of your father."

Haidee became pale, and lifting her transparent hands to
heaven, exclaimed in a voice stifled with tears, "Then you
leave me, my lord?"

"Haidee, Haidee, you are young and beautiful; forget even my
name, and be happy."

"It is well," said Haidee; "your order shall be executed, my
lord; I will forget even your name, and be happy." And she
stepped back to retire.

"Oh, heavens," exclaimed Valentine, who was supporting the
head of Morrel on her shoulder, "do you not see how pale she
is? Do you not see how she suffers?"

Haidee answered with a heartrending expression, "Why should
he understand this, my sister? He is my master, and I am his
slave; he has the right to notice nothing."

The count shuddered at the tones of a voice which penetrated
the inmost recesses of his heart; his eyes met those of the
young girl and he could not bear their brilliancy. "Oh,
heavens," exclaimed Monte Cristo, "can my suspicions be
correct? Haidee, would it please you not to leave me?"

"I am young," gently replied Haidee; "I love the life you
have made so sweet to me, and I should be sorry to die."

"You mean, then, that if I leave you, Haidee" --

"I should die; yes, my lord."

"Do you then love me?"

"Oh, Valentine, he asks if I love him. Valentine, tell him
if you love Maximilian." The count felt his heart dilate and
throb; he opened his arms, and Haidee, uttering a cry,
sprang into them. "Oh, yes," she cried, "I do love you! I
love you as one loves a father, brother, husband! I love you
as my life, for you are the best, the noblest of created
beings!"

"Let it be, then, as you wish, sweet angel; God has
sustained me in my struggle with my enemies, and has given
me this reward; he will not let me end my triumph in
suffering; I wished to punish myself, but he has pardoned
me. Love me then, Haidee! Who knows? perhaps your love will
make me forget all that I do not wish to remember."

"What do you mean, my lord?"

"I mean that one word from you has enlightened me more than
twenty years of slow experience; I have but you in the
world, Haidee; through you I again take hold on life,
through you I shall suffer, through you rejoice."

"Do you hear him, Valentine?" exclaimed Haidee; "he says
that through me he will suffer -- through me, who would
yield my life for his." The count withdrew for a moment.
"Have I discovered the truth?" he said; "but whether it be
for recompense or punishment, I accept my fate. Come,
Haidee, come!" and throwing his arm around the young girl's
waist, he pressed the hand of Valentine, and disappeared.

An hour had nearly passed, during which Valentine,
breathless and motionless, watched steadfastly over Morrel.
At length she felt his heart beat, a faint breath played
upon his lips, a slight shudder, announcing the return of
life, passed through the young man's frame. At length his
eyes opened, but they were at first fixed and
expressionless; then sight returned, and with it feeling and
grief. "Oh," he cried, in an accent of despair, "the count
has deceived me; I am yet living; "and extending his hand
towards the table, he seized a knife.

"Dearest," exclaimed Valentine, with her adorable smile,
"awake, and look at me!" Morrel uttered a loud exclamation,
and frantic, doubtful, dazzled, as though by a celestial
vision, he fell upon his knees.

The next morning at daybreak, Valentine and Morrel were
walking arm-in-arm on the sea-shore, Valentine relating how
Monte Cristo had appeared in her room, explained everything,
revealed the crime, and, finally, how he had saved her life
by enabling her to simulate death. They had found the door
of the grotto opened, and gone forth; on the azure dome of
heaven still glittered a few remaining stars. Morrel soon
perceived a man standing among the rocks, apparently
awaiting a sign from them to advance, and pointed him out to
Valentine. "Ah, it is Jacopo," she said, "the captain of the
yacht; "and she beckoned him towards them.

"Do you wish to speak to us?" asked Morrel.

"I have a letter to give you from the count."

"From the count!" murmured the two young people.

"Yes; read it." Morrel opened the letter, and read: --

"My Dear Maximilian, --

"There is a felucca for you at anchor. Jacopo will carry you
to Leghorn, where Monsieur Noirtier awaits his
granddaughter, whom he wishes to bless before you lead her
to the altar. All that is in this grotto, my friend, my
house in the Champs Elysees, and my chateau at Treport, are
the marriage gifts bestowed by Edmond Dantes upon the son of
his old master, Morrel. Mademoiselle de Villefort will share
them with you; for I entreat her to give to the poor the
immense fortune reverting to her from her father, now a
madman, and her brother who died last September with his
mother. Tell the angel who will watch over your future
destiny, Morrel, to pray sometimes for a man, who like Satan
thought himself for an instant equal to God, but who now
acknowledges with Christian humility that God alone
possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom. Perhaps those
prayers may soften the remorse he feels in his heart. As for
you, Morrel, this is the secret of my conduct towards you.
There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is
only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.
He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience
supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die,
Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of living.

"Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and
never forget that until the day when God shall deign to
reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in
these two words, -- `Wait and hope.' Your friend,

"Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo."

During the perusal of this letter, which informed Valentine
for the first time of the madness of her father and the
death of her brother, she became pale, a heavy sigh escaped
from her bosom, and tears, not the less painful because they
were silent, ran down her cheeks; her happiness cost her
very dear. Morrel looked around uneasily. "But," he said,
"the count's generosity is too overwhelming; Valentine will
be satisfied with my humble fortune. Where is the count,
friend? Lead me to him." Jacopo pointed towards the horizon.
"What do you mean?" asked Valentine. "Where is the count? --
where is Haidee?"

"Look!" said Jacopo.

The eyes of both were fixed upon the spot indicated by the
sailor, and on the blue line separating the sky from the
Mediterranean Sea, they perceived a large white sail.
"Gone," said Morrel; "gone! -- adieu, my friend -- adieu, my
father!"

"Gone," murmured Valentine; "adieu, my sweet Haidee --
adieu, my sister!"

"Who can say whether we shall ever see them again?" said
Morrel with tearful eyes.

"Darling," replied Valentine, "has not the count just told
us that all human wisdom is summed up in two words? -- `Wait
and hope.'"



THE END





The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Category:
General Fiction
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