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Chapter 55
Major Cavalcanti.

Both the count and Baptistin had told the truth when they
announced to Morcerf the proposed visit of the major, which
had served Monte Cristo as a pretext for declining Albert's
invitation. Seven o'clock had just struck, and M. Bertuccio,
according to the command which had been given him, had two
hours before left for Auteuil, when a cab stopped at the
door, and after depositing its occupant at the gate,
immediately hurried away, as if ashamed of its employment.
The visitor was about fifty-two years of age, dressed in one
of the green surtouts, ornamented with black frogs, which
have so long maintained their popularity all over Europe. He
wore trousers of blue cloth, boots tolerably clean, but not
of the brightest polish, and a little too thick in the
soles, buckskin gloves, a hat somewhat resembling in shape
those usually worn by the gendarmes, and a black cravat
striped with white, which, if the proprietor had not worn it
of his own free will, might have passed for a halter, so
much did it resemble one. Such was the picturesque costume
of the person who rang at the gate, and demanded if it was
not at No. 30 in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees that the
Count of Monte Cristo lived, and who, being answered by the
porter in the affirmative, entered, closed the gate after
him, and began to ascend the steps.

The small and angular head of this man, his white hair and
thick gray mustaches, caused him to be easily recognized by
Baptistin, who had received an exact description of the
expected visitor, and who was awaiting him in the hall.
Therefore, scarcely had the stranger time to pronounce his
name before the count was apprised of his arrival. He was
ushered into a simple and elegant drawing-room, and the
count rose to meet him with a smiling air. "Ah, my dear sir,
you are most welcome; I was expecting you."

"Indeed," said the Italian, "was your excellency then aware
of my visit?"

"Yes; I had been told that I should see you to-day at seven

"Then you have received full information concerning my

"Of course."

"Ah, so much the better, I feared this little precaution
might have been forgotten."

"What precaution?"

"That of informing you beforehand of my coming."

"Oh, no, it has not."

"But you are sure you are not mistaken."

"Very sure."

"It really was I whom your excellency expected at seven
o'clock this evening?"

"I will prove it to you beyond a doubt."

"Oh, no, never mind that," said the Italian; "it is not
worth the trouble."

"Yes, yes," said Monte Cristo. His visitor appeared slightly
uneasy. "Let me see," said the count; "are you not the
Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti?"

"Bartolomeo Cavalcanti," joyfully replied the Italian; "yes,
I am really he."

"Ex-major in the Austrian service?"

"Was I a major?" timidly asked the old soldier.

"Yes," said Monte Cristo "you were a major; that is the
title the French give to the post which you filled in

"Very good," said the major, "I do not demand more, you
understand" --

"Your visit here to-day is not of your own suggestion, is
it?" said Monte Cristo.

"No, certainly not."

"You were sent by some other person?"


"By the excellent Abbe Busoni?"

"Exactly so," said the delighted major.

"And you have a letter?"

"Yes, there it is."

"Give it me, then;" and Monte Cristo took the letter, which
he opened and read. The major looked at the count with his
large staring eyes, and then took a survey of the apartment,
but his gaze almost immediately reverted to the proprietor
of the room. "Yes, yes, I see. `Major Cavalcanti, a worthy
patrician of Lucca, a descendant of the Cavalcanti of
Florence,'" continued Monte Cristo, reading aloud,
"`possessing an income of half a million.'" Monte Cristo
raised his eyes from the paper, and bowed. "Half a million,"
said he, "magnificent!"

"Half a million, is it?" said the major.

"Yes, in so many words; and it must be so, for the abbe
knows correctly the amount of all the largest fortunes in

"Be it half a million. then; but on my word of honor, I had
no idea that it was so much."

"Because you are robbed by your steward. You must make some
reformation in that quarter."

"You have opened my eyes," said the Italian gravely; "I will
show the gentlemen the door." Monte Cristo resumed the
perusal of the letter: --

"`And who only needs one thing more to make him happy.'"

"Yes, indeed but one!" said the major with a sigh.

"`Which is to recover a lost and adored son.'"

"A lost and adored son!"

"`Stolen away in his infancy, either by an enemy of his
noble family or by the gypsies.'"

"At the age of five years!" said the major with a deep sigh,
and raising his eye to heaven.

"Unhappy father," said Monte Cristo. The count continued: --

"`I have given him renewed life and hope, in the assurance
that you have the power of restoring the son whom he has
vainly sought for fifteen years.'" The major looked at the
count with an indescribable expression of anxiety. "I have
the power of so doing," said Monte Cristo. The major
recovered his self-possession. "So, then," said he, "the
letter was true to the end?"

"Did you doubt it, my dear Monsieur Bartolomeo?"

"No, indeed; certainly not; a good man, a man holding
religious office, as does the Abbe Busoni, could not
condescend to deceive or play off a joke; but your
excellency has not read all."

"Ah, true," said Monte Cristo "there is a postscript."

"Yes, yes," repeated the major, "yes -- there -- is -- a --

"`In order to save Major Cavalcanti the trouble of drawing
on his banker, I send him a draft for 2,000 francs to defray
his travelling expenses, and credit on you for the further
sum of 48,000 francs, which you still owe me.'" The major
awaited the conclusion of the postscript, apparently with
great anxiety. "Very good," said the count.

"He said `very good,'" muttered the major, "then -- sir" --
replied he.

"Then what?" asked Monte Cristo.

"Then the postscript" --

"Well; what of the postscript?"

"Then the postscript is as favorably received by you as the
rest of the letter?"

"Certainly; the Abbe Busoni and myself have a small account
open between us. I do not remember if it is exactly 48,000
francs, which I am still owing him, but I dare say we shall
not dispute the difference. You attached great importance,
then, to this postscript, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti?"

"I must explain to you," said the major, "that, fully
confiding in the signature of the Abbe Busoni, I had not
provided myself with any other funds; so that if this
resource had failed me, I should have found myself very
unpleasantly situated in Paris."

"Is it possible that a man of your standing should be
embarrassed anywhere?" said Monte Cristo.

"Why, really I know no one," said the major.

"But then you yourself are known to others?"

"Yes, I am known, so that" --

"Proceed, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti."

"So that you will remit to me these 48,000 francs?"

"Certainly, at your first request." The major's eyes dilated
with pleasing astonishment. "But sit down," said Monte
Cristo; "really I do not know what I have been thinking of
-- I have positively kept you standing for the last quarter
of an hour."

"Don't mention it." The major drew an arm-chair towards him,
and proceeded to seat himself.

"Now," said the count, "what will you take -- a glass of
port, sherry, or Alicante?"

"Alicante, if you please; it is my favorite wine."

"I have some that is very good. You will take a biscuit with
it, will you not?"

"Yes, I will take a biscuit, as you are so obliging."

Monte Cristo rang; Baptistin appeared. The count advanced to
meet him. "Well?" said he in a low voice. "The young man is
here," said the valet de chambre in the same tone.

"Into what room did you take him?"

"Into the blue drawing-room, according to your excellency's

"That's right; now bring the Alicante and some biscuits."

Baptistin left the room. "Really," said the major, "I am
quite ashamed of the trouble I am giving you."

"Pray don't mention such a thing," said the count. Baptistin
re-entered with glasses, wine, and biscuits. The count
filled one glass, but in the other he only poured a few
drops of the ruby-colored liquid. The bottle was covered
with spiders' webs, and all the other signs which indicate
the age of wine more truly than do wrinkles on a man's face.
The major made a wise choice; he took the full glass and a
biscuit. The count told Baptistin to leave the plate within
reach of his guest, who began by sipping the Alicante with
an expression of great satisfaction, and then delicately
steeped his biscuit in the wine.

"So, sir, you lived at Lucca, did you? You were rich, noble,
held in great esteem -- had all that could render a man

"All," said the major, hastily swallowing his biscuit,
"positively all."

"And yet there was one thing wanting in order to complete
your happiness?"

"Only one thing," said the Italian.

"And that one thing, your lost child."

"Ah," said the major, taking a second biscuit, "that
consummation of my happiness was indeed wanting." The worthy
major raised his eyes to heaven and sighed.

"Let me hear, then," said the count, "who this deeply
regretted son was; for I always understood you were a

"That was the general opinion, sir," said the major, "and I"

"Yes," replied the count, "and you confirmed the report. A
youthful indiscretion, I suppose, which you were anxious to
conceal from the world at large?" The major recovered
himself, and resumed his usual calm manner, at the same time
casting his eyes down, either to give himself time to
compose his countenance, or to assist his imagination, all
the while giving an under-look at the count, the protracted
smile on whose lips still announced the same polite
curiosity. "Yes," said the major, "I did wish this fault to
be hidden from every eye."

"Not on your own account, surely," replied Monte Cristo;
"for a man is above that sort of thing?"

"Oh, no, certainly not on my own account," said the major
with a smile and a shake of the head.

"But for the sake of the mother?" said the count.

"Yes, for the mother's sake -- his poor mother!" cried the
major, taking a third biscuit.

"Take some more wine, my dear Cavalcanti," said the count,
pouring out for him a second glass of Alicante; "your
emotion has quite overcome you."

"His poor mother," murmured the major, trying to get the
lachrymal gland in operation, so as to moisten the corner of
his eye with a false tear.

"She belonged to one of the first families in Italy, I
think, did she not?"

"She was of a noble family of Fiesole, count."

"And her name was" --

"Do you desire to know her name?" --

"Oh," said Monte Cristo "it would be quite superfluous for
you to tell me, for I already know it."

"The count knows everything," said the Italian, bowing.

"Oliva Corsinari, was it not?"

"Oliva Corsinari."

"A marchioness?"

"A marchioness."

"And you married her at last, notwithstanding the opposition
of her family?"

"Yes, that was the way it ended."

"And you have doubtless brought all your papers with you?"
said Monte Cristo.

"What papers?"

"The certificate of your marriage with Oliva Corsinari, and
the register of your child's birth."

"The register of my child's birth?"

"The register of the birth of Andrea Cavalcanti -- of your
son; is not his name Andrea?"

"I believe so," said the major.

"What? You believe so?"

"I dare not positively assert it, as he has been lost for so
long a time."

"Well, then," said Monte Cristo "you have all the documents
with you?"

"Your excellency, I regret to say that, not knowing it was
necessary to come provided with these papers, I neglected to
bring them."

"That is unfortunate," returned Monte Cristo.

"Were they, then, so necessary?"

"They were indispensable."

The major passed his hand across his brow. "Ah, per Bacco,
indispensable, were they?"

"Certainly they were; supposing there were to be doubts
raised as to the validity of your marriage or the legitimacy
of your child?"

"True," said the major, "there might be doubts raised."

"In that case your son would be very unpleasantly situated."

"It would be fatal to his interests."

"It might cause him to fail in some desirable matrimonial

"O peccato!"

"You must know that in France they are very particular on
these points; it is not sufficient, as in Italy, to go to
the priest and say, `We love each other, and want you to
marry us.' Marriage is a civil affair in France, and in
order to marry in an orthodox manner you must have papers
which undeniably establish your identity."

"That is the misfortune! You see I have not these necessary

"Fortunately, I have them, though," said Monte Cristo.



"You have them?"

"I have them."

"Ah, indeed?" said the major, who, seeing the object of his
journey frustrated by the absence of the papers, feared also
that his forgetfulness might give rise to some difficulty
concerning the 48,000 francs -- "ah, indeed, that is a
fortunate circumstance; yes, that really is lucky, for it
never occurred to me to bring them."

"I do not at all wonder at it -- one cannot think of
everything; but, happily, the Abbe Busoni thought for you."

"He is an excellent person."

"He is extremely prudent and thoughtful"

"He is an admirable man," said the major; "and he sent them
to you?"

"Here they are."

The major clasped his hands in token of admiration. "You
married Oliva Corsinari in the church of San Paolo del
Monte-Cattini; here is the priest's certificate."

"Yes indeed, there it is truly," said the Italian, looking
on with astonishment.

"And here is Andrea Cavalcanti's baptismal register, given
by the curate of Saravezza."

"All quite correct."

"Take these documents, then; they do not concern me. You
will give them to your son, who will, of course, take great
care of them."

"I should think so, indeed! If he were to lose them" --

"Well, and if he were to lose them?" said Monte Cristo.

"In that case," replied the major, "it would be necessary to
write to the curate for duplicates, and it would be some
time before they could be obtained."

"It would be a difficult matter to arrange," said Monte

"Almost an impossibility," replied the major.

"I am very glad to see that you understand the value of
these papers."

"I regard them as invaluable."

"Now," said Monte Cristo "as to the mother of the young man"

"As to the mother of the young man" -- repeated the Italian,
with anxiety.

"As regards the Marchesa Corsinari" --

"Really," said the major, "difficulties seem to thicken upon
us; will she be wanted in any way?"

"No, sir," replied Monte Cristo; "besides, has she not" --

"Yes, sir," said the major, "she has" --

"Paid the last debt of nature?"

"Alas, yes," returned the Italian.

"I knew that," said Monte Cristo; "she has been dead these
ten years."

"And I am still mourning her loss," exclaimed the major,
drawing from his pocket a checked handkerchief, and
alternately wiping first the left and then the right eye.

"What would you have?" said Monte Cristo; "we are all
mortal. Now, you understand, my dear Monsieur Cavalcanti,
that it is useless for you to tell people in France that you
have been separated from your son for fifteen years. Stories
of gypsies, who steal children, are not at all in vogue in
this part of the world, and would not be believed. You sent
him for his education to a college in one of the provinces,
and now you wish him to complete his education in the
Parisian world. That is the reason which has induced you to
leave Via Reggio, where you have lived since the death of
your wife. That will be sufficient."

"You think so?"


"Very well, then."

"If they should hear of the separation" --

"Ah, yes; what could I say?"

"That an unfaithful tutor, bought over by the enemies of
your family" --

"By the Corsinari?"

"Precisely. Had stolen away this child, in order that your
name might become extinct."

"That is reasonable, since he is an only son."

"Well, now that all is arranged, do not let these newly
awakened remembrances be forgotten. You have, doubtless,
already guessed that I was preparing a surprise for you?"

"An agreeable one?" asked the Italian.

"Ah, I see the eye of a father is no more to be deceived
than his heart."

"Hum!" said the major.

"Some one has told you the secret; or, perhaps, you guessed
that he was here."

"That who was here?"

"Your child -- your son -- your Andrea!"

"I did guess it," replied the major with the greatest
possible coolness. "Then he is here?"

"He is," said Monte Cristo; "when the valet de chambre came
in just now, he told me of his arrival."

"Ah, very well, very well," said the major, clutching the
buttons of his coat at each exclamation.

"My dear sir," said Monte Cristo, "I understand your
emotion; you must have time to recover yourself. I will, in
the meantime, go and prepare the young man for this
much-desired interview, for I presume that he is not less
impatient for it than yourself."

"I should quite imagine that to be the case," said

"Well, in a quarter of an hour he shall be with you."

"You will bring him, then? You carry your goodness so far as
even to present him to me yourself?"

"No; I do not wish to come between a father and son. Your
interview will be private. But do not be uneasy; even if the
powerful voice of nature should be silent, you cannot well
mistake him; he will enter by this door. He is a fine young
man, of fair complexion -- a little too fair, perhaps --
pleasing in manners; but you will see and judge for

"By the way," said the major, "you know I have only the
2,000 francs which the Abbe Busoni sent me; this sum I have
expended upon travelling expenses, and" --

"And you want money; that is a matter of course, my dear M.
Cavalcanti. Well, here are 8,000 francs on account."

The major's eyes sparkled brilliantly.

"It is 40,000 francs which I now owe you," said Monte

"Does your excellency wish for a receipt?" said the major,
at the same time slipping the money into the inner pocket of
his coat.

"For what?" said the count.

"I thought you might want it to show the Abbe Busoni."

"Well, when you receive the remaining 40,000, you shall give
me a receipt in full. Between honest men such excessive
precaution is, I think, quite unnecessary."

"Yes, so it is, between perfectly upright people."

"One word more," said Monte Cristo.

"Say on."

"You will permit me to make one remark?"

"Certainly; pray do so."

"Then I should advise you to leave off wearing that style of

"Indeed," said the major, regarding himself with an air of
complete satisfaction.

"Yes. It may be worn at Via Reggio; but that costume,
however elegant in itself, has long been out of fashion in

"That's unfortunate."

"Oh, if you really are attached to your old mode of dress;
you can easily resume it when you leave Paris."

"But what shall I wear?"

"What you find in your trunks."

"In my trunks? I have but one portmanteau."

"I dare say you have nothing else with you. What is the use
of boring one's self with so many things? Besides an old
soldier always likes to march with as little baggage as

"That is just the case -- precisely so."

"But you are a man of foresight and prudence, therefore you
sent your luggage on before you. It has arrived at the Hotel
des Princes, Rue de Richelieu. It is there you are to take
up your quarters."

"Then, in these trunks" --

"I presume you have given orders to your valet de chambre to
put in all you are likely to need, -- your plain clothes and
your uniform. On grand occasions you must wear your uniform;
that will look very well. Do not forget your crosses. They
still laugh at them in France, and yet always wear them, for
all that."

"Very well, very well," said the major, who was in ecstasy
at the attention paid him by the count.

"Now," said Monte Cristo, "that you have fortified yourself
against all painful excitement, prepare yourself, my dear M.
Cavalcanti, to meet your lost Andrea." Saying which Monte
Cristo bowed, and disappeared behind the tapestry, leaving
the major fascinated beyond expression with the delightful
reception which he had received at the hands of the count.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
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