Mother and Son.
The Count of Monte Cristo bowed to the five young men with a
melancholy and dignified smile, and got into his carriage
with Maximilian and Emmanuel. Albert, Beauchamp, and
Chateau-Renaud remained alone. Albert looked at his two
friends, not timidly, but in a way that appeared to ask
their opinion of what he had just done.
"Indeed, my dear friend," said Beauchamp first, who had
either the most feeling or the least dissimulation, "allow
me to congratulate you; this is a very unhoped-for
conclusion of a very disagreeable affair."
Albert remained silent and wrapped in thought.
Chateau-Renaud contented himself with tapping his boot with
his flexible cane. "Are we not going?" said he, after this
embarrassing silence. "When you please," replied Beauchamp;
"allow me only to compliment M. de Morcerf, who has given
proof to-day of rare chivalric generosity."
"Oh, yes," said Chateau-Renaud.
"It is magnificent," continued Beauchamp, "to be able to
exercise so much self-control!"
"Assuredly; as for me, I should have been incapable of it,"
said Chateau-Renaud, with most significant coolness.
"Gentlemen," interrupted Albert, "I think you did not
understand that something very serious had passed between M.
de Monte Cristo and myself."
"Possibly, possibly," said Beauchamp immediately; "but every
simpleton would not be able to understand your heroism, and
sooner or later you will find yourself compelled to explain
it to them more energetically than would be convenient to
your bodily health and the duration of your life. May I give
you a friendly counsel? Set out for Naples, the Hague, or
St. Petersburg -- calm countries, where the point of honor
is better understood than among our hot-headed Parisians.
Seek quietude and oblivion, so that you may return peaceably
to France after a few years. Am I not right, M. de
"That is quite my opinion," said the gentleman; "nothing
induces serious duels so much as a duel forsworn."
"Thank you, gentlemen," replied Albert, with a smile of
indifference; "I shall follow your advice -- not because you
give it, but because I had before intended to quit France. I
thank you equally for the service you have rendered me in
being my seconds. It is deeply engraved on my heart, and,
after what you have just said, I remember that only."
Chateau-Renaud and Beauchamp looked at each other; the
impression was the same on both of them, and the tone in
which Morcerf had just expressed his thanks was so
determined that the position would have become embarrassing
for all if the conversation had continued.
"Good-by, Albert," said Beauchamp suddenly, carelessly
extending his hand to the young man. The latter did not
appear to arouse from his lethargy; in fact, he did not
notice the offered hand. "Good-by," said Chateau-Renaud in
his turn, keeping his little cane in his left hand, and
saluting with his right. Albert's lips scarcely whispered
"Good-by," but his look was more explicit; it expressed a
whole poem of restrained anger, proud disdain, and generous
indignation. He preserved his melancholy and motionless
position for some time after his two friends had regained
their carriage; then suddenly unfastening his horse from the
little tree to which his servant had tied it, he mounted and
galloped off in the direction of Paris.
In a quarter of an hour he was entering the house in the Rue
du Helder. As he alighted, he thought he saw his father's
pale face behind the curtain of the count's bedroom. Albert
turned away his head with a sigh, and went to his own
apartments. He cast one lingering look on all the luxuries
which had rendered life so easy and so happy since his
infancy; he looked at the pictures, whose faces seemed to
smile, and the landscapes, which appeared painted in
brighter colors. Then he took away his mother's portrait,
with its oaken frame, leaving the gilt frame from which he
took it black and empty. Then he arranged all his beautiful
Turkish arms, his fine English guns, his Japanese china, his
cups mounted in silver, his artistic bronzes by Feucheres
and Barye; examined the cupboards, and placed the key in
each; threw into a drawer of his secretary, which he left
open, all the pocket-money he had about him, and with it the
thousand fancy jewels from his vases and his jewel-boxes;
then he made an exact inventory of everything, and placed it
in the most conspicuous part of the table, after putting
aside the books and papers which had collected there.
At the beginning of this work, his servant, notwithstanding
orders to the contrary, came to his room. "What do you
want?" asked he, with a more sorrowful than angry tone.
"Pardon me, sir," replied the valet; "you had forbidden me
to disturb you, but the Count of Morcerf has called me."
"Well!" said Albert.
"I did not like to go to him without first seeing you."
"Because the count is doubtless aware that I accompanied you
to the meeting this morning."
"It is probable," said Albert.
"And since he has sent for me, it is doubtless to question
me on what happened there. What must I answer?"
"Then I shall say the duel did not take place?"
"You will say I apologized to the Count of Monte Cristo.
The valet bowed and retired, and Albert returned to his
inventory. As he was finishing this work, the sound of
horses prancing in the yard, and the wheels of a carriage
shaking his window, attracted his attention. He approached
the window, and saw his father get into it, and drive away.
The door was scarcely closed when Albert bent his steps to
his mother's room; and, no one being there to announce him,
he advanced to her bed-chamber, and distressed by what he
saw and guessed, stopped for one moment at the door. As if
the same idea had animated these two beings, Mercedes was
doing the same in her apartments that he had just done in
his. Everything was in order, -- laces, dresses, jewels,
linen, money, all were arranged in the drawers, and the
countess was carefully collecting the keys. Albert saw all
these preparations and understood them, and exclaiming, "My
mother!" he threw his arms around her neck.
The artist who could have depicted the expression of these
two countenances would certainly have made of them a
beautiful picture. All these proofs of an energetic
resolution, which Albert did not fear on his own account,
alarmed him for his mother. "What are you doing?" asked he.
"What were you doing?" replied she.
"Oh, my mother!" exclaimed Albert, so overcome he could
scarcely speak; "it is not the same with you and me -- you
cannot have made the same resolution I have, for I have come
to warn you that I bid adieu to your house, and -- and to
"I also," replied Mercedes, "am going, and I acknowledge I
had depended on your accompanying me; have I deceived
"Mother," said Albert with firmness. "I cannot make you
share the fate I have planned for myself. I must live
henceforth without rank and fortune, and to begin this hard
apprenticeship I must borrow from a friend the loaf I shall
eat until I have earned one. So, my dear mother, I am going
at once to ask Franz to lend me the small sum I shall
require to supply my present wants."
"You, my poor child, suffer poverty and hunger? Oh, do not
say so; it will break my resolutions."
"But not mine, mother," replied Albert. "I am young and
strong; I believe I am courageous, and since yesterday I
have learned the power of will. Alas, my dear mother, some
have suffered so much, and yet live, and have raised a new
fortune on the ruin of all the promises of happiness which
heaven had made them -- on the fragments of all the hope
which God had given them! I have seen that, mother; I know
that from the gulf in which their enemies have plunged them
they have risen with so much vigor and glory that in their
turn they have ruled their former conquerors, and have
punished them. No. mother; from this moment I have done with
the past, and accept nothing from it -- not even a name,
because you can understand that your son cannot bear the
name of a man who ought to blush for it before another."
"Albert, my child," said Mercedes, "if I had a stronger
heart that is the counsel I would have given you; your
conscience has spoken when my voice became too weak; listen
to its dictates. You had friends, Albert; break off their
acquaintance. But do not despair; you have life before you,
my dear Albert, for you are yet scarcely twenty-two years
old; and as a pure heart like yours wants a spotless name,
take my father's -- it was Herrera. I am sure, my dear
Albert, whatever may be your career, you will soon render
that name illustrious. Then, my son, return to the world
still more brilliant because of your former sorrows; and if
I am wrong, still let me cherish these hopes, for I have no
future to look forward to. For me the grave opens when I
pass the threshold of this house."
"I will fulfil all your wishes, my dear mother," said the
young man. "Yes, I share your hopes; the anger of heaven
will not pursue us, since you are pure and I am innocent.
But, since our resolution is formed, let us act promptly. M.
de Morcerf went out about half an hour ago; the opportunity
in favorable to avoid an explanation."
"I am ready, my son," said Mercedes. Albert ran to fetch a
carriage. He recollected that there was a small furnished
house to let in the Rue de Saints Peres, where his mother
would find a humble but decent lodging, and thither he
intended conducting the countess. As the carriage stopped at
the door, and Albert was alighting, a man approached and
gave him a letter. Albert recognized the bearer. "From the
count," said Bertuccio. Albert took the letter, opened, and
read it, then looked round for Bertuccio, but he was gone.
He returned to Mercedes with tears in his eyes and heaving
breast, and without uttering a word he gave her the letter.
Mercedes read: --
Albert, -- While showing you that I have discovered your
plans, I hope also to convince you of my delicacy. You are
free, you leave the count's house, and you take your mother
to your home; but reflect, Albert, you owe her more than
your poor noble heart can pay her. Keep the struggle for
yourself, bear all the suffering, but spare her the trial of
poverty which must accompany your first efforts; for she
deserves not even the shadow of the misfortune which has
this day fallen on her, and providence is not willing that
the innocent should suffer for the guilty. I know you are
going to leave the Rue du Helder without taking anything
with you. Do not seek to know how I discovered it; I know it
-- that is sufficient.
Now, listen, Albert. Twenty-four years ago I returned, proud
and joyful, to my country. I had a betrothed, Albert, a
lovely girl whom I adored, and I was bringing to my
betrothed a hundred and fifty louis, painfully amassed by
ceaseless toil. This money was for her; I destined it for
her, and, knowing the treachery of the sea I buried our
treasure in the little garden of the house my father lived
in at Marseilles, on the Allees de Meillan. Your mother,
Albert, knows that poor house well. A short time since I
passed through Marseilles, and went to see the old place,
which revived so many painful recollections; and in the
evening I took a spade and dug in the corner of the garden
where I had concealed my treasure. The iron box was there --
no one had touched it -- under a beautiful fig-tree my
father had planted the day I was born, which overshadowed
the spot. Well, Albert, this money, which was formerly
designed to promote the comfort and tranquillity of the
woman I adored, may now, through strange and painful
circumstances, be devoted to the same purpose. Oh, feel for
me, who could offer millions to that poor woman, but who
return her only the piece of black bread forgotten under my
poor roof since the day I was torn from her I loved. You are
a generous man, Albert, but perhaps you may be blinded by
pride or resentment; if you refuse me, if you ask another
for what I have a right to offer you, I will say it is
ungenerous of you to refuse the life of your mother at the
hands of a man whose father was allowed by your father to
die in all the horrors of poverty and despair.
Albert stood pale and motionless to hear what his mother
would decide after she had finished reading this letter.
Mercedes turned her eyes with an ineffable look towards
heaven. "I accept it," said she; "he has a right to pay the
dowry, which I shall take with me to some convent!" Putting
the letter in her bosom, she took her son's arm, and with a
firmer step than she even herself expected she went