eBooks Cube
Chapter 96
The Contract.

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 Eugenie
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 second 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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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?"

"Indeed, I fear it," replied Andrea, in the tone in which he
had heard Dorante or Valere reply to Alceste* at the Theatre

"Is your love returned?"

* In Moliere's comedy, Le Misanthrope.

"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."

"By circumstances?"

"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

"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 manoeuvre 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 Abbe 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

"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
revery, -- "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? He is old, covered with wounds, and
suffers dreadfully, he says, in travelling."


"Well, I am come to ask a favor of you."

"Of me?"

"Yes, of you."

"And pray what may it be?"

"Well, to take his part."

"Ah, my dear sir! What? -- after the varied relations I have
had the happiness to sustain towards you, can it be that you
know me so little as to ask such a thing? Ask me to lend you
half a million and, although such a loan is somewhat rare,
on my honor, you would annoy me less! Know, then, what I
thought I had already told you, that in participation in
this world's affairs, more especially in their moral
aspects, the Count of Monte Cristo has never ceased to
entertain the scruples and even the superstitions of the
East. I, who have a seraglio at Cairo, one at Smyrna, and
one at Constantinople, preside at a wedding? -- never!"

"Then you refuse me?"

"Decidedly; and were you my son or my brother I would refuse
you in the same way."

"But what must be done?" said Andrea, disappointed.

"You said just now that you had a hundred friends."

"Very true, but you introduced me at M. Danglars'."

"Not at all! Let us recall the exact facts. You met him at a
dinner party at my house, and you introduced yourself at his
house; that is a totally different affair."

"Yes, but, by my marriage, you have forwarded that."

"I? -- not in the least, I beg you to believe. Recollect
what I told you when you asked me to propose you. `Oh, I
never make matches, my dear prince, it is my settled
principle.'" Andrea bit his lips.

"But, at least, you will be there?"

"Will all Paris be there?"

"Oh, certainly."

"Well, like all Paris, I shall be there too," said the

"And will you sign the contract?"

"I see no objection to that; my scruples do not go thus

"Well, since you will grant me no more, I must be content
with what you give me. But one word more, count."

"What is it?"


"Be careful; advice is worse than a service."

"Oh, you can give me this without compromising yourself."

"Tell me what it is."

"Is my wife's fortune five hundred thousand livres?"

"That is the sum M. Danglars himself announced."

"Must I receive it, or leave it in the hands of the notary?"

"This is the way such affairs are generally arranged when it
is wished to do them stylishly: Your two solicitors appoint
a meeting, when the contract is signed, for the next or the
following day; then they exchange the two portions, for
which they each give a receipt; then, when the marriage is
celebrated, they place the amount at your disposal as the
chief member of the alliance."

"Because," said Andrea, with a certain ill-concealed
uneasiness, "I thought I heard my father-in-law say that he
intended embarking our property in that famous railway
affair of which you spoke just now."

"Well," replied Monte Cristo, "it will be the way, everybody
says, of trebling your fortune in twelve months. Baron
Danglars is a good father, and knows how to calculate."

"In that case," said Andrea, "everything is all right,
excepting your refusal, which quite grieves me."

"You must attribute it only to natural scruples under
similar circumstances."

"Well," said Andrea, "let it be as you wish. This evening,
then, at nine o'clock."

"Adieu till then." Notwithstanding a slight resistance on
the part of Monte Cristo, whose lips turned pale, but who
preserved his ceremonious smile, Andrea seized the count's
hand, pressed it, jumped into his phaeton, and disappeared.

The four or five remaining hours before nine o'clock
arrived, Andrea employed in riding, paying visits, --
designed to induce those of whom he had spoken to appear at
the banker's in their gayest equipages, -- dazzling them by
promises of shares in schemes which have since turned every
brain, and in which Danglars was just taking the initiative.
In fact, at half-past eight in the evening the grand salon,
the gallery adjoining, and the three other drawing-rooms on
the same floor, were filled with a perfumed crowd, who
sympathized but little in the event, but who all
participated in that love of being present wherever there is
anything fresh to be seen. An Academician would say that the
entertainments of the fashionable world are collections of
flowers which attract inconstant butterflies, famished bees,
and buzzing drones.

No one could deny that the rooms were splendidly
illuminated; the light streamed forth on the gilt mouldings
and the silk hangings; and all the bad taste of decorations,
which had only their richness to boast of, shone in its
splendor. Mademoiselle Eugenie was dressed with elegant
simplicity in a figured white silk dress, and a white rose
half concealed in her jet black hair was her only ornament,
unaccompanied by a single jewel. Her eyes, however, betrayed
that perfect confidence which contradicted the girlish
simplicity of this modest attire. Madame Danglars was
chatting at a short distance with Debray, Beauchamp, and

Debray was admitted to the house for this grand ceremony,
but on the same plane with every one else, and without any
particular privilege. M. Danglars, surrounded by deputies
and men connected with the revenue, was explaining a new
theory of taxation which he intended to adopt when the
course of events had compelled the government to call him
into the ministry. Andrea, on whose arm hung one of the most
consummate dandies of the opera, was explaining to him
rather cleverly, since he was obliged to be bold to appear
at ease, his future projects, and the new luxuries he meant
to introduce to Parisian fashions with his hundred and
seventy-five thousand livres per annum.

The crowd moved to and fro in the rooms like an ebb and flow
of turquoises, rubies, emeralds, opals, and diamonds. As
usual, the oldest women were the most decorated, and the
ugliest the most conspicuous. If there was a beautiful lily,
or a sweet rose, you had to search for it, concealed in some
corner behind a mother with a turban, or an aunt with a bird
of paradise.

At each moment, in the midst of the crowd, the buzzing, and
the laughter, the door-keeper's voice was heard announcing
some name well known in the financial department, respected
in the army, or illustrious in the literary world, and which
was acknowledged by a slight movement in the different
groups. But for one whose privilege it was to agitate that
ocean of human waves, how many were received with a look of
indifference or a sneer of disdain! At the moment when the
hand of the massive time-piece, representing Endymion
asleep, pointed to nine on its golden face, and the hammer,
the faithful type of mechanical thought, struck nine times,
the name of the Count of Monte Cristo resounded in its turn,
and as if by an electric shock all the assembly turned
towards the door.

The count was dressed in black and with his habitual
simplicity; his white waistcoat displayed his expansive
noble chest and his black stock was singularly noticeable
because of its contrast with the deadly paleness of his
face. His only jewellery was a chain, so fine that the
slender gold thread was scarcely perceptible on his white
waistcoat. A circle was immediately formed around the door.
The count perceived at one glance Madame Danglars at one end
of the drawing-room, M. Danglars at the other, and Eugenie
in front of him. He first advanced towards the baroness, who
was chatting with Madame de Villefort, who had come alone,
Valentine being still an invalid; and without turning aside,
so clear was the road left for him, he passed from the
baroness to Eugenie, whom he complimented in such rapid and
measured terms, that the proud artist was quite struck. Near
her was Mademoiselle Louise d'Armilly, who thanked the count
for the letters of introduction he had so kindly given her
for Italy, which she intended immediately to make use of. On
leaving these ladies he found himself with Danglars, who had
advanced to meet him.

Having accomplished these three social duties, Monte Cristo
stopped, looking around him with that expression peculiar to
a certain class, which seems to say, "I have done my duty,
now let others do theirs." Andrea, who was in an adjoining
room, had shared in the sensation caused by the arrival of
Monte Cristo, and now came forward to pay his respects to
the count. He found him completely surrounded; all were
eager to speak to him, as is always the case with those
whose words are few and weighty. The solicitors arrived at
this moment and arranged their scrawled papers on the velvet
cloth embroidered with gold which covered the table prepared
for the signature; it was a gilt table supported on lions'
claws. One of the notaries sat down, the other remained
standing. They were about to proceed to the reading of the
contract, which half Paris assembled was to sign. All took
their places, or rather the ladies formed a circle, while
the gentlemen (more indifferent to the restraints of what
Boileau calls the "energetic style") commented on the
feverish agitation of Andrea, on M. Danglars' riveted
attention, Eugenie's composure, and the light and sprightly
manner in which the baroness treated this important affair.

The contract was read during a profound silence. But as soon
as it was finished, the buzz was redoubled through all the
drawing-rooms; the brilliant sums, the rolling millions
which were to be at the command of the two young people, and
which crowned the display of the wedding presents and the
young lady's diamonds, which had been made in a room
entirely appropriated for that purpose, had exercised to the
full their delusions over the envious assembly. Mademoiselle
Danglars' charms were heightened in the opinion of the young
men, and for the moment seemed to outvie the sun in
splendor. As for the ladies, it is needless to say that
while they coveted the millions, they thought they did not
need them for themselves, as they were beautiful enough
without them. Andrea, surrounded by his friends,
complimented, flattered, beginning to believe in the reality
of his dream, was almost bewildered. The notary solemnly
took the pen, flourished it above his head, and said,
"Gentlemen, we are about to sign the contract."

The baron was to sign first, then the representative of M.
Cavalcanti, senior, then the baroness, afterwards the
"future couple," as they are styled in the abominable
phraseology of legal documents. The baron took the pen and
signed, then the representative. The baroness approached,
leaning on Madame de Villefort's arm. "My dear," said she,
as she took the pen, "is it not vexatious? An unexpected
incident, in the affair of murder and theft at the Count of
Monte Cristo's, in which he nearly fell a victim, deprives
us of the pleasure of seeing M. de Villefort."

"Indeed?" said M. Danglars, in the same tone in which he
would have said, "Oh, well, what do I care?"

"As a matter of fact," said Monte Cristo, approaching, "I am
much afraid that I am the involuntary cause of his absence."

"What, you, count?" said Madame Danglars, signing; "if you
are, take care, for I shall never forgive you." Andrea
pricked up his ears.

"But it is not my fault, as I shall endeavor to prove."
Every one listened eagerly; Monte Cristo who so rarely
opened his lips, was about to speak. "You remember," said
the count, during the most profound silence, "that the
unhappy wretch who came to rob me died at my house; the
supposition is that he was stabbed by his accomplice, on
attempting to leave it."

"Yes," said Danglars.

"In order that his wounds might be examined he was
undressed, and his clothes were thrown into a corner, where
the police picked them up, with the exception of the
waistcoat, which they overlooked." Andrea turned pale, and
drew towards the door; he saw a cloud rising in the horizon,
which appeared to forebode a coming storm.

"Well, this waistcoat was discovered to-day, covered with
blood, and with a hole over the heart." The ladies screamed,
and two or three prepared to faint. "It was brought to me.
No one could guess what the dirty rag could be; I alone
suspected that it was the waistcoat of the murdered man. My
valet, in examining this mournful relic, felt a paper in the
pocket and drew it out; it was a letter addressed to you,

"To me?" cried Danglars.

"Yes, indeed, to you; I succeeded in deciphering your name
under the blood with which the letter was stained," replied
Monte Cristo, amid the general outburst of amazement.

"But," asked Madame Danglars, looking at her husband with
uneasiness, "how could that prevent M. de Villefort" --

"In this simple way, madame," replied Monte Cristo; "the
waistcoat and the letter were both what is termed
circumstantial evidence; I therefore sent them to the king's
attorney. You understand, my dear baron, that legal methods
are the safest in criminal cases; it was, perhaps, some plot
against you." Andrea looked steadily at Monte Cristo and
disappeared in the second drawing-room.

"Possibly," said Danglars; "was not this murdered man an old

"Yes," replied the count; "a felon named Caderousse."
Danglars turned slightly pale; Andrea reached the anteroom
beyond the little drawing-room.

"But go on signing," said Monte Cristo; "I perceive that my
story has caused a general emotion, and I beg to apologize
to you, baroness, and to Mademoiselle Danglars." The
baroness, who had signed, returned the pen to the notary.
"Prince Cavalcanti," said the latter; "Prince Cavalcanti,
where are you?"

"Andrea, Andrea," repeated several young people, who were
already on sufficiently intimate terms with him to call him
by his Christian name.

"Call the prince; inform him that it is his turn to sign,"
cried Danglars to one of the floorkeepers.

But at the same instant the crowd of guests rushed in alarm
into the principal salon as if some frightful monster had
entered the apartments, quaerens quem devoret. There was,
indeed, reason to retreat, to be alarmed, and to scream. An
officer was placing two soldiers at the door of each
drawing-room, and was advancing towards Danglars, preceded
by a commissary of police, girded with his scarf. Madame
Danglars uttered a scream and fainted. Danglars, who thought
himself threatened (certain consciences are never calm), --
Danglars even before his guests showed a countenance of
abject terror.

"What is the matter, sir?" asked Monte Cristo, advancing to
meet the commissioner.

"Which of you gentlemen," asked the magistrate, without
replying to the count, "answers to the name of Andrea
Cavalcanti?" A cry of astonishment was heard from all parts
of the room. They searched; they questioned. "But who then
is Andrea Cavalcanti?" asked Danglars in amazement.

"A galley-slave, escaped from confinement at Toulon."

"And what crime has he committed?"

"He is accused," said the commissary with his inflexible
voice, "of having assassinated the man named Caderousse, his
former companion in prison, at the moment he was making his
escape from the house of the Count of Monte Cristo." Monte
Cristo cast a rapid glance around him. Andrea was gone.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
General Fiction
Nabou.com: the big site