Chapter 70 The Ball
WAS in the warmest days of July, when in due course of time the Saturday
arrived upon which the ball was to take place at M. de Morcerf's. It was
ten o'clock at night; the branches of the great trees in the garden of the
count's house stood out boldly against the azure canopy of heaven, which
was studded with golden stars, but where the last fleeting clouds of a
vanishing storm yet lingered. From the apartments on the ground-floor
might be heard the sound of music, with the whirl of the waltz and galop,
while brilliant streams of light shone through the openings of the
Venetian blinds. At this moment the garden was only occupied by about ten
servants, who had just received orders from their mistress to prepare the
supper, the serenity of the weather continuing to increase. Until now, it
had been undecided whether the supper should take place in the
dining-room, or under a long tent erected on the lawn, but the beautiful
blue sky, studded with stars, had settled the question in favor of the
lawn. The gardens were illuminated with colored lanterns, according to the
Italian custom, and, as is usual in countries where the luxuries of the
table--the rarest of all luxuries in their complete form--are well
understood, the supper-table was loaded with wax-lights and flowers.
the time the Countess of Morcerf returned to the rooms, after giving her
orders, many guests were arriving, more attracted by the charming
hospitality of the countess than by the distinguished position of the
count; for, owing to the good taste of Mercédès, one was sure of finding some
devices at her entertainment worthy of describing, or even copying in case
of need. Madame Danglars, in whom the events we have related had caused
deep anxiety, had hesitated about going to Madame de Morcerf's, when
during the morning her carriage happened to meet that of Villefort. The
latter made a sign, and when the carriages had drawn close together,
said,--"You are going to Madame de Morcerf's, are you not?"
replied Madame Danglars, "I am too ill."
are wrong," replied Villefort, significantly; "it is important
that you should be seen there."
you think so?" asked the baroness.
that case I will go." And the two carriages passed on towards their
different destinations. Madame Danglars therefore came, not only beautiful
in person, but radiant with splendor; she entered by one door at the time
when Mercédès appeared at the door. The
countess took Albert to meet Madame Danglars. He approached, paid her some
well merited compliments on her toilet, and offered his arm to conduct her
to a seat. Albert looked around him. "You are looking for my
daughter?" said the baroness, smiling.
confess it," replied Albert. "Could you have been so cruel as
not to bring her?"
yourself. She has met Mademoiselle de Villefort, and has taken her arm;
see, they are following us, both in white dresses, one with a bouquet of
camellias, the other with one of myosotis. But tell me"--
what do you wish to know?"
not the Count of Monte Cristo be here to-night?"
do you mean?"
only mean that the count seems the rage," replied the viscount,
smiling, "and that you are the seventeenth person that has asked me
the same question. The count is in fashion; I congratulate him upon
have you replied to every one as you have to me?"
to be sure, I have not answered you; be satisfied, we shall have this
'lion;' we are among the privileged ones."
you at the opera yesterday?"
indeed? And did the eccentric person commit any new originality?"
he be seen without doing so? Elssler was dancing in the Diable Boiteux;
the Greek princess was in ecstasies. After the cachucha he placed a
magnificent ring on the stem of a bouquet, and threw it to the charming
danseuse, who, in the third act, to do honor to the gift, reappeared with
it on her finger. And the Greek princess,--will she be here?"
you will be deprived of that pleasure; her position in the count's
establishment is not sufficiently understood."
leave me here, and go and speak to Madame de Villefort, who is trying to
attract your attention."
bowed to Madame Danglars, and advanced towards Madame de Villefort, whose
lips opened as he approached. "I wager anything," said Albert,
interrupting her, "that I know what you were about to say."
what is it?"
I guess rightly, will you confess it?"
were going to ask me if the Count of Monte Cristo had arrived, or was
at all. It is not of him that I am now thinking. I was going to ask you if
you had received any news of Monsieur Franz."
did he tell you?"
he was leaving at the same time as his letter."
now then, the count?"
count will come, of that you may be satisfied."
know that he has another name besides Monte Cristo?"
I did not know it."
Cristo in the name of an island, and he has a family name."
never heard it."
then, I am better informed than you; his name is Zaccone."
is a Maltese."
is also possible.
son of a shipowner."
you should relate all this aloud, you would have the greatest
served in India, discovered a mine in Thessaly, and comes to Paris to
establish a mineral water-cure at Auteuil."
I'm sure," said Morcerf, "this is indeed news! Am I allowed to
but cautiously, tell one thing at a time, and do not say I told you."
it is a secret just discovered."
the news originated"--
the prefect's last night. Paris, you can understand, is astonished at the
sight of such unusual splendor, and the police have made inquiries."
well! Nothing more is wanting than to arrest the count as a vagabond, on
the pretext of his being too rich."
that doubtless would have happened if his credentials had not been so
count! And is he aware of the danger he has been in?"
it will be but charitable to inform him. When he arrives, I will not fail
to do so."
then, a handsome young man, with bright eyes, black hair, and glossy
mustache, respectfully bowed to Madame de Villefort. Albert extended his
hand. "Madame," said Albert, "allow me to present to you M.
Maximilian Morrel, captain of Spahis, one of our best, and, above all, of
our bravest officers."
have already had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at Auteuil, at the
house of the Count of Monte Cristo," replied Madame de Villefort,
turning away with marked coldness of manner. This answer, and especially
the tone in which it was uttered, chilled the heart of poor Morrel. But a
recompense was in store for him; turning around, he saw near the door a
beautiful fair face, whose large blue eyes were, without any marked
expression, fixed upon him, while the bouquet of myosotis was gently
raised to her lips.
salutation was so well understood that Morrel, with the same expression in
his eyes, placed his handkerchief to his mouth; and these two living
statues, whose hearts beat so violently under their marble aspect,
separated from each other by the whole length of the room, forgot
themselves for a moment, or rather forgot the world in their mutual
contemplation. They might have remained much longer lost in one another,
without any one noticing their abstraction. The Count of Monte Cristo had
have already said that there was something in the count which attracted
universal attention wherever he appeared. It was not the coat,
unexceptional in its cut, though simple and unornamented; it was not the
plain white waistcoat; it was not the trousers, that displayed the foot so
perfectly formed--it was none of these things that attracted the
attention,--it was his pale complexion, his waving black hair, his calm
and serene expression, his dark and melancholy eye, his mouth, chiselled
with such marvellous delicacy, which so easily expressed such high
disdain,--these were what fixed the attention of all upon him. Many men
might have been handsomer, but certainly there could be none whose
appearance was more significant, if the expression may be used. Everything
about the count seemed to have its meaning, for the constant habit of
thought which he had acquired had given an ease and vigor to the
expression of his face, and even to the most trifling gesture, scarcely to
be understood. Yet the Parisian world is so strange, that even all this
might not have won attention had there not been connected with it a
mysterious story gilded by an immense fortune.
he advanced through the assemblage of guests under a battery of curious
glances towards Madame de Morcerf, who, standing before a mantle-piece
ornamented with flowers, had seen his entrance in a looking-glass placed
opposite the door, and was prepared to receive him. She turned towards him
with a serene smile just at the moment he was bowing to her. No doubt she
fancied the count would speak to her, while on his side the count thought
she was about to address him; but both remained silent, and after a mere
bow, Monte Cristo directed his steps to Albert, who received him
cordially. "Have you seen my mother?" asked Albert.
have just had the pleasure," replied the count; "but I have not
seen your father."
he is down there, talking politics with that little group of great
said Monte Cristo; "and so those gentlemen down there are men of
great talent. I should not have guessed it. And for what kind of talent
are they celebrated? You know there are different sorts."
tall, harsh-looking man is very learned, he discovered, in the
neighborhood of Rome, a kind of lizard with a vertebra more than lizards
usually have, and he immediately laid his discovery before the Institute.
The thing was discussed for a long time, but finally decided in his favor.
I can assure you the vertebra made a great noise in the learned world, and
the gentleman, who was only a knight of the Legion of Honor, was made an
said Monte Cristo, "this cross seems to me to be wisely awarded. I
suppose, had he found another additional vertebra, they would have made
him a commander."
likely," said Albert.
who can that person be who has taken it into his head to wrap himself up
in a blue coat embroidered with green?"
that coat is not his own idea; it is the Republic's, which deputed David*
to devise a uniform for the Academicians."
Louis David, a famous French painter.
said Monte Cristo; "so this gentleman is an Academician?"
the last week he has been made one of the learned assembly."
what is his especial talent?"
talent? I believe he thrusts pins through the heads of rabbits, he makes
fowls eat madder, and punches the spinal marrow out of dogs with
he is made a member of the Academy of Sciences for this?"
of the French Academy."
what has the French Academy to do with all this?"
was going to tell you. It seems"--
his experiments have very considerably advanced the cause of science,
that his style of writing is very good."
must be very flattering to the feelings of the rabbits into whose heads he
has thrust pins, to the fowls whose bones he has dyed red, and to the dogs
whose spinal marrow he has punched out?"
the other one?" demanded the count.
one in the dark blue coat?"
is a colleague of the count, and one of the most active opponents to the
idea of providing the Chamber of Peers with a uniform. He was very
successful upon that question. He stood badly with the Liberal papers, but
his noble opposition to the wishes of the court is now getting him into
favor with the journalists. They talk of making him an ambassador."
what are his claims to the peerage?"
has composed two or three comic operas, written four or five articles in
the Siecle, and voted five or six years on the ministerial side."
Viscount," said Monte Cristo, smiling; "you are a delightful
cicerone. And now you will do me a favor, will you not?"
not introduce me to any of these gentlemen; and should they wish it, you
will warn me." Just then the count felt his arm pressed. He turned
round; it was Danglars.
is it you, baron?" said he.
do you call me baron?" said Danglars; "you know that I care
nothing for my title. I am not like you, viscount; you like your title, do
replied Albert, "seeing that without my title I should be nothing;
while you, sacrificing the baron, would still remain the
seems to me the finest title under the royalty of July," replied
said Monte Cristo, "one's title to a millionaire does not last for
life, like that of baron, peer of France, or Academician; for example, the
millionaires Franck & Poulmann, of Frankfort, who have just become
said Danglars, becoming pale.
I received the news this evening by a courier. I had about a million in
their hands, but, warned in time, I withdrew it a month ago."
mon Dieu," exclaimed Danglars, "they have drawn on me for
200,000 francs!" "Well, you can throw out the draft; their
signature is worth five per cent."
but it is too late," said Danglars, "I have honored their
said Monte Cristo, "here are 200,000 francs gone after"--
do not mention these things," said Danglars; then, approaching Monte
Cristo, he added, "especially before young M. Cavalcanti;" after
which he smiled, and turned towards the young man in question. Albert had
left the count to speak to his mother, Danglars to converse with young
Cavalcanti; Monte Cristo was for an instant alone. Meanwhile the heat
became excessive. The footmen were hastening through the rooms with
waiters loaded with ices. Monte Cristo wiped the perspiration from his
forehead, but drew back when the waiter was presented to him; he took no
refreshment. Madame de Morcerf did not lose sight of Monte Cristo; she saw
that he took nothing, and even noticed his gesture of refusal.
she asked, "did you notice that?"
the count has never been willing to partake of food under the roof of M.
but then he breakfasted with me--indeed, he made his first appearance in
the world on that occasion."
your house is not M. de Morcerf's," murmured Mercédès; "and since he has been here I have watched
he has taken nothing yet."
count is very temperate." Mercédès
smiled sadly. "Approach him," said she, "and when the next
waiter passes, insist upon his taking something."
to please me, Albert," said Mercédès.
Albert kissed his mother's hand, and drew near the count. Another salver
passed, loaded like the preceding ones; she saw Albert attempt to persuade
the count, but he obstinately refused. Albert rejoined his mother; she was
said she, "you see he refuses?"
but why need this annoy you?"
know, Albert, women are singular creatures. I should like to have seen the
count take something in my house, if only an ice. Perhaps he cannot
reconcile himself to the French style of living, and might prefer
no; I have seen him eat of everything in Italy; no doubt he does not feel
inclined this evening."
besides," said the countess, "accustomed as he is to burning
climates, possibly he does not feel the heat as we do."
do not think that, for he has complained of feeling almost suffocated, and
asked why the Venetian blinds were not opened as well as the
a word," said Mercédès, "it was a way of assuring
me that his abstinence was intended." And she left the room. A minute
afterwards the blinds were thrown open, and through the jessamine and
clematis that overhung the window one could see the garden ornamented with
lanterns, and the supper laid under the tent. Dancers, players, talkers,
all uttered an exclamation of joy--every one inhaled with delight the
breeze that floated in. At the same time Mercédès
reappeared, paler than before, but with that imperturbable expression of
countenance which she sometimes wore. She went straight to the group of
which her husband formed the centre. "Do not detain those gentlemen
here, count," she said; "they would prefer, I should think, to
breathe in the garden rather than suffocate here, since they are not
said a gallant old general, who, in 1809, had sung Partant pour la Syrie!--"we
will not go alone to the garden."
said Mercédès, "I will lead the
way." Turning towards Monte Cristo, she added, "count, will you
oblige me with your arm?" The count almost staggered at these simple
words; then he fixed his eyes on Mercédès.
It was only a momentary glance, but it seemed to the countess to have
lasted for a century, so much was expressed in that one look. He offered
his arm to the countess; she took it, or rather just touched it with her
little hand, and they together descended the steps, lined with
rhododendrons and camellias. Behind them, by another outlet, a group of
about twenty persons rushed into the garden with loud exclamations of