In the house in the Rue du Helder, where Albert had invited
the Count of Monte Cristo, everything was being prepared on
the morning of the 21st of May to do honor to the occasion.
Albert de Morcerf inhabited a pavilion situated at the
corner of a large court, and directly opposite another
building, in which were the servants' apartments. Two
windows only of the pavilion faced the street; three other
windows looked into the court, and two at the back into the
garden. Between the court and the garden, built in the heavy
style of the imperial architecture, was the large and
fashionable dwelling of the Count and Countess of Morcerf. A
high wall surrounded the whole of the hotel, surmounted at
intervals by vases filled with flowers, and broken in the
centre by a large gate of gilded iron, which served as the
carriage entrance. A small door, close to the lodge of the
concierge, gave ingress and egress to the servants and
masters when they were on foot.
It was easy to discover that the delicate care of a mother,
unwilling to part from her son, and yet aware that a young
man of the viscount's age required the full exercise of his
liberty, had chosen this habitation for Albert. There were
not lacking, however, evidences of what we may call the
intelligent egoism of a youth who is charmed with the
indolent, careless life of an only son, and who lives as it
were in a gilded cage. By means of the two windows looking
into the street, Albert could see all that passed; the sight
of what is going on is necessary to young men, who always
want to see the world traverse their horizon, even if that
horizon is only a public thoroughfare. Then, should anything
appear to merit a more minute examination, Albert de Morcerf
could follow up his researches by means of a small gate,
similar to that close to the concierge's door, and which
merits a particular description. It was a little entrance
that seemed never to have been opened since the house was
built, so entirely was it covered with dust and dirt; but
the well-oiled hinges and locks told quite another story.
This door was a mockery to the concierge, from whose
vigilance and jurisdiction it was free, and, like that
famous portal in the "Arabian Nights," opening at the
"Sesame" of Ali Baba, it was wont to swing backward at a
cabalistic word or a concerted tap from without from the
sweetest voices or whitest fingers in the world. At the end
of a long corridor, with which the door communicated, and
which formed the ante-chamber, was, on the right, Albert's
breakfast-room, looking into the court, and on the left the
salon, looking into the garden. Shrubs and creeping plants
covered the windows, and hid from the garden and court these
two apartments, the only rooms into which, as they were on
the ground-floor, the prying eyes of the curious could
penetrate. On the floor above were similar rooms, with the
addition of a third, formed out of the ante-chamber; these
three rooms were a salon, a boudoir, and a bedroom. The
salon down-stairs was only an Algerian divan, for the use of
smokers. The boudoir up-stairs communicated with the
bed-chamber by an invisible door on the staircase; it was
evident that every precaution had been taken. Above this
floor was a large atelier, which had been increased in size
by pulling down the partitions -- a pandemonium, in which
the artist and the dandy strove for preeminence. There were
collected and piled up all Albert's successive caprices,
hunting-horns, bass-viols, flutes -- a whole orchestra, for
Albert had had not a taste but a fancy for music; easels,
palettes, brushes, pencils -- for music had been succeeded
by painting; foils, boxing-gloves, broadswords, and
single-sticks -- for, following the example of the
fashionable young men of the time, Albert de Morcerf
cultivated, with far more perseverance than music and
drawing, the three arts that complete a dandy's education,
i.e., fencing, boxing, and single-stick; and it was here
that he received Grisier, Cook, and Charles Leboucher. The
rest of the furniture of this privileged apartment consisted
of old cabinets, filled with Chinese porcelain and Japanese
vases, Lucca della Robbia faience, and Palissy platters; of
old arm-chairs, in which perhaps had sat Henry IV. or Sully,
Louis XIII. or Richelieu -- for two of these arm-chairs,
adorned with a carved shield, on which were engraved the
fleur-de-lis of France on an azure field evidently came from
the Louvre, or, at least, some royal residence. Over these
dark and sombre chairs were thrown splendid stuffs, dyed
beneath Persia's sun, or woven by the fingers of the women
of Calcutta or of Chandernagor. What these stuffs did there,
it was impossible to say; they awaited, while gratifying the
eyes, a destination unknown to their owner himself; in the
meantime they filled the place with their golden and silky
reflections. In the centre of the room was a Roller and
Blanchet "baby grand" piano in rosewood, but holding the
potentialities of an orchestra in its narrow and sonorous
cavity, and groaning beneath the weight of the
chefs-d'oeuvre of Beethoven, Weber, Mozart, Haydn, Gretry,
and Porpora. On the walls, over the doors, on the ceiling,
were swords, daggers, Malay creeses, maces, battle-axes;
gilded, damasked, and inlaid suits of armor; dried plants,
minerals, and stuffed birds, their flame-colored wings
outspread in motionless flight, and their beaks forever
open. This was Albert's favorite lounging place.
However, the morning of the appointment, the young man had
established himself in the small salon down-stairs. There,
on a table, surrounded at some distance by a large and
luxurious divan, every species of tobacco known, -- from the
yellow tobacco of Petersburg to the black of Sinai, and so
on along the scale from Maryland and Porto-Rico, to Latakia,
-- was exposed in pots of crackled earthenware of which the
Dutch are so fond; beside them, in boxes of fragrant wood,
were ranged, according to their size and quality, pueros,
regalias, havanas, and manillas; and, in an open cabinet, a
collection of German pipes, of chibouques, with their amber
mouth-pieces ornamented with coral, and of narghiles, with
their long tubes of morocco, awaiting the caprice or the
sympathy of the smokers. Albert had himself presided at the
arrangement, or, rather, the symmetrical derangement, which,
after coffee, the guests at a breakfast of modern days love
to contemplate through the vapor that escapes from their
mouths, and ascends in long and fanciful wreaths to the
ceiling. At a quarter to ten, a valet entered; he composed,
with a little groom named John, and who only spoke English,
all Albert's establishment, although the cook of the hotel
was always at his service, and on great occasions the
count's chasseur also. This valet, whose name was Germain,
and who enjoyed the entire confidence of his young master,
held in one hand a number of papers, and in the other a
packet of letters, which he gave to Albert. Albert glanced
carelessly at the different missives, selected two written
in a small and delicate hand, and enclosed in scented
envelopes, opened them and perused their contents with some
attention. "How did these letters come?" said he.
"One by the post, Madame Danglars' footman left the other."
"Let Madame Danglars know that I accept the place she offers
me in her box. Wait; then, during the day, tell Rosa that
when I leave the Opera I will sup with her as she wishes.
Take her six bottles of different wine -- Cyprus, sherry,
and Malaga, and a barrel of Ostend oysters; get them at
Borel's, and be sure you say they are for me."
"At what o'clock, sir, do you breakfast?"
"What time is it now?"
"A quarter to ten."
"Very well, at half past ten. Debray will, perhaps, be
obliged to go to the minister -- and besides" (Albert looked
at his tablets), "it is the hour I told the count, 21st May,
at half past ten; and though I do not much rely upon his
promise, I wish to be punctual. Is the countess up yet?"
"If you wish, I will inquire."
"Yes, ask her for one of her liqueur cellarets, mine is
incomplete; and tell her I shall have the honor of seeing
her about three o'clock, and that I request permission to
introduce some one to her." The valet left the room. Albert
threw himself on the divan, tore off the cover of two or
three of the papers, looked at the theatre announcements,
made a face seeing they gave an opera, and not a ballet;
hunted vainly amongst the advertisements for a new
tooth-powder of which he had heard, and threw down, one
after the other, the three leading papers of Paris,
muttering, "These papers become more and more stupid every
day." A moment after, a carriage stopped before the door,
and the servant announced M. Lucien Debray. A tall young
man, with light hair, clear gray eyes, and thin and
compressed lips, dressed in a blue coat with beautifully
carved gold buttons, a white neckcloth, and a tortoiseshell
eye-glass suspended by a silken thread, and which, by an
effort of the superciliary and zygomatic muscles, he fixed
in his eye, entered, with a half-official air, without
smiling or speaking. "Good-morning, Lucien, good-morning,"
said Albert; "your punctuality really alarms me. What do I
say? punctuality! You, whom I expected last, you arrive at
five minutes to ten, when the time fixed was half-past! Has
the ministry resigned?"
"No, my dear fellow," returned the young man, seating
himself on the divan; "reassure yourself; we are tottering
always, but we never fall, and I begin to believe that we
shall pass into a state of immobility, and then the affairs
of the Peninsula will completely consolidate us."
"Ah, true; you drive Don Carlos out of Spain."
"No, no, my dear fellow, do not confound our plans. We take
him to the other side of the French frontier, and offer him
hospitality at Bourges."
"Yes, he has not much to complain of; Bourges is the capital
of Charles VII. Do you not know that all Paris knew it
yesterday, and the day before it had already transpired on
the Bourse, and M. Danglars (I do not know by what means
that man contrives to obtain intelligence as soon as we do)
made a million!"
"And you another order, for I see you have a blue ribbon at
"Yes; they sent me the order of Charles III.," returned
"Come, do not affect indifference, but confess you were
pleased to have it."
"Oh, it is very well as a finish to the toilet. It looks
very neat on a black coat buttoned up."
"And makes you resemble the Prince of Wales or the Duke of
"It is for that reason you see me so early."
"Because you have the order of Charles III., and you wish to
announce the good news to me?"
"No, because I passed the night writing letters, -- five and
twenty despatches. I returned home at daybreak, and strove
to sleep; but my head ached and I got up to have a ride for
an hour. At the Bois de Boulogne, ennui and hunger attacked
me at once, -- two enemies who rarely accompany each other,
and who are yet leagued against me, a sort of
Carlo-republican alliance. I then recollected you gave a
breakfast this morning, and here I am. I am hungry, feed me;
I am bored, amuse me."
"It is my duty as your host," returned Albert, ringing the
bell, while Lucien turned over, with his gold-mounted cane,
the papers that lay on the table. "Germain, a glass of
sherry and a biscuit. In the meantime. my dear Lucien, here
are cigars -- contraband, of course -- try them, and
persuade the minister to sell us such instead of poisoning
us with cabbage leaves."
"Peste, I will do nothing of the kind; the moment they come
from government you would find them execrable. Besides, that
does not concern the home but the financial department.
Address yourself to M. Humann, section of the indirect
contributions, corridor A., No. 26."
"On my word," said Albert, "you astonish me by the extent of
your knowledge. Take a cigar."
"Really, my dear Albert," replied Lucien, lighting a manilla
at a rose-colored taper that burnt in a be beautifully
enamelled stand -- "how happy you are to have nothing to do.
You do not know your own good fortune!"
"And what would you do, my dear diplomatist," replied
Morcerf, with a slight degree of irony in his voice, "if you
did nothing? What? private secretary to a minister, plunged
at once into European cabals and Parisian intrigues; having
kings, and, better still, queens, to protect, parties to
unite, elections to direct; making more use of your cabinet
with your pen and your telegraph than Napoleon did of his
battle-fields with his sword and his victories; possessing
five and twenty thousand francs a year, besides your place;
a horse, for which Chateau-Renaud offered you four hundred
louis, and which you would not part with; a tailor who never
disappoints you; with the opera, the jockey-club, and other
diversions, can you not amuse yourself? Well, I will amuse
"By introducing to you a new acquaintance."
"A man or a woman?"
"I know so many men already."
"But you do not know this man."
"Where does he come from -- the end of the world?"
"Farther still, perhaps."
"The deuce! I hope he does not bring our breakfast with
"Oh, no; our breakfast comes from my father's kitchen. Are
"Humiliating as such a confession is, I am. But I dined at
M. de Villefort's, and lawyers always give you very bad
dinners. You would think they felt some remorse; did you
ever remark that?"
"Ah, depreciate other persons' dinners; you ministers give
such splendid ones."
"Yes; but we do not invite people of fashion. If we were not
forced to entertain a parcel of country boobies because they
think and vote with us, we should never dream of dining at
home, I assure you."
"Well, take another glass of sherry and another biscuit."
"Willingly. Your Spanish wine is excellent. You see we were
quite right to pacify that country."
"Yes; but Don Carlos?"
"Well, Don Carlos will drink Bordeaux, and in ten years we
will marry his son to the little queen."
"You will then obtain the Golden Fleece, if you are still in
"I think, Albert, you have adopted the system of feeding me
on smoke this morning."
"Well, you must allow it is the best thing for the stomach;
but I hear Beauchamp in the next room; you can dispute
together, and that will pass away the time."
"About the papers."
"My dear friend," said Lucien with an air of sovereign
contempt, "do I ever read the papers?"
"Then you will dispute the more."
"M. Beauchamp," announced the servant. "Come in, come in,"
said Albert, rising and advancing to meet the young man.
"Here is Debray, who detests you without reading you, so he
"He is quite right," returned Beauchamp; "for I criticise
him without knowing what he does. Good-day, commander!"
"Ah, you know that already," said the private secretary,
smiling and shaking hands with him.
"And what do they say of it in the world?"
"In which world? we have so many worlds in the year of grace
"In the entire political world, of which you are one of the
"They say that it is quite fair, and that sowing so much
red, you ought to reap a little blue."
"Come, come, that is not bad!" said Lucien. "Why do you not
join our party, my dear Beauchamp? With your talents you
would make your fortune in three or four years."
"I only await one thing before following your advice; that
is, a minister who will hold office for six months. My dear
Albert, one word, for I must give poor Lucien a respite. Do
we breakfast or dine? I must go to the Chamber, for our life
is not an idle one."
"You only breakfast; I await two persons, and the instant
they arrive we shall sit down to table."