Chapter 106 Dividing the Proceeds
APARTMENT on the second floor of the house in the Rue Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where Albert de Morcerf had
selected a home for his mother, was let to a very mysterious person. This
was a man whose face the concièrge
himself had never seen, for in the winter his chin was buried in one of
the large red handkerchiefs worn by gentlemen's coachmen on a cold night,
and in the summer he made a point of always blowing his nose just as he
approached the door. Contrary to custom, this gentleman had not been
watched, for as the report ran that he was a person of high rank, and one
who would allow no impertinent interference, his incognito was strictly
visits were tolerably regular, though occasionally he appeared a little
before or after his time, but generally, both in summer and winter, he
took possession of his apartment about four o'clock, though he never spent
the night there. At half-past three in the winter the fire was lighted by
the discreet servant, who had the superintendence of the little apartment,
and in the summer ices were placed on the table at the same hour. At four
o'clock, as we have already stated, the mysterious personage arrived.
Twenty minutes afterwards a carriage stopped at the house, a lady alighted
in a black or dark blue dress, and always thickly veiled; she passed like
a shadow through the lodge, and ran up-stairs without a sound escaping
under the touch of her light foot. No one ever asked her where she was
going. Her face, therefore, like that of the gentleman, was perfectly
unknown to the two concièrges, who were perhaps unequalled throughout the
capital for discretion. We need not say she stopped at the second floor.
Then she tapped in a peculiar manner at a door, which after being opened
to admit her was again fastened, and curiosity penetrated no farther. They
used the same precautions in leaving as in entering the house. The lady
always left first, and as soon as she had stepped into her carriage, it
drove away, sometimes towards the right hand, sometimes to the left; then
about twenty minutes afterwards the gentleman would also leave, buried in
his cravat or concealed by his handkerchief.
day after Monte Cristo had called upon Danglars, the mysterious lodger
entered at ten o'clock in the morning instead of four in the afternoon.
Almost directly afterwards, without the usual interval of time, a cab
arrived, and the veiled lady ran hastily up-stairs. The door opened, but
before it could be closed, the lady exclaimed: "Oh, Lucien--oh, my
friend!" The concièrge therefore heard for the first
time that the lodger's name was Lucien; still, as he was the very
perfection of a door-keeper, he made up his mind not to tell his wife.
"Well, what is the matter, my dear?" asked the gentleman whose
name the lady's agitation revealed; "tell me what is the
Lucien, can I confide in you?"
course, you know you can do so. But what can be the matter? Your note of
this morning has completely bewildered me. This precipitation--this
unusual appointment. Come, ease me of my anxiety, or else frighten me at
a great event has happened!" said the lady, glancing inquiringly at
Lucien,--"M. Danglars left last night!"
Danglars left? Where has he gone?"
do not know."
do you mean? Has he gone intending not to return?"
ten o'clock at night his horses took him to the barrier of Charenton;
there a post-chaise was waiting for him--he entered it with his valet de
chambre, saying that he was going to Fontainebleau."
what did you mean"--
left a letter for me."
read it." And the baroness took from her pocket a letter which she
gave to Debray. Debray paused a moment before reading, as if trying to
guess its contents, or perhaps while making up his mind how to act,
whatever it might contain. No doubt his ideas were arranged in a few
minutes, for he began reading the letter which caused so much uneasiness
in the heart of the baroness, and which ran as follows:--
and most faithful wife."
mechanically stopped and looked at the baroness, whose face became covered
with blushes. "Read," she said.
you receive this, you will no longer have a husband. Oh, you need not be
alarmed, you will only have lost him as you have lost your daughter; I
mean that I shall be travelling on one of the thirty or forty roads
leading out of France. I owe you some explanations for my conduct, and as
you are a woman that can perfectly understand me, I will give them.
Listen, then. I received this morning five millions which I paid away;
almost directly afterwards another demand for the same sum was presented
to me; I put this creditor off till to-morrow and I intend leaving to-day,
to escape that to-morrow, which would be rather too unpleasant for me to
endure. You understand this, do you not, my most precious wife? I say you
understand this, because you are as conversant with my affairs as I am;
indeed, I think you understand them better, since I am ignorant of what
has become of a considerable portion of my fortune, once very tolerable,
while I am sure, madame, that you know perfectly well. For women have
infallible instincts; they can even explain the marvellous by an algebraic
calculation they have invented; but I, who only understand my own figures,
know nothing more than that one day these figures deceived me. Have you
admired the rapidity of my fall? Have you been slightly dazzled at the
sudden fusion of my ingots? I confess I have seen nothing but the fire;
let us hope you have found some gold among the ashes. With this consoling
idea, I leave you, madame, and most prudent wife, without any
conscientious reproach for abandoning you; you have friends left, and the
ashes I have already mentioned, and above all the liberty I hasten to
restore to you. And here, madame, I must add another word of explanation.
So long as I hoped you were working for the good of our house and for the
fortune of our daughter, I philosophically closed my eyes; but as you have
transformed that house into a vast ruin I will not be the foundation of
another man's fortune. You were rich when I married you, but little
respected. Excuse me for speaking so very candidly, but as this is
intended only for ourselves, I do not see why I should weigh my words. I
have augmented our fortune, and it has continued to increase during the
last fifteen years, till extraordinary and unexpected catastrophes have
suddenly overturned it,--without any fault of mine, I can honestly
declare. You, madame, have only sought to increase your own, and I am
convinced that you have succeeded. I leave you, therefore, as I took
you,--rich, but little respected. Adieu! I also intend from this time to
work on my own account. Accept my acknowledgments for the example you have
set me, and which I intend following.
very devoted husband,
baroness had watched Debray while he read this long and painful letter,
and saw him, notwithstanding his self-control, change color once or twice.
When he had ended the perusal, he folded the letter and resumed his
pensive attitude. "Well?" asked Madame Danglars, with an anxiety
easy to be understood.
madame?" unhesitatingly repeated Debray.
what ideas does that letter inspire you?"
it is simple enough, madame; it inspires me with the idea that M. Danglars
has left suspiciously."
but is this all you have to say to me?"
do not understand you," said Debray with freezing coldness.
is gone! Gone, never to return!"
madame, do not think that!"
tell you he will never return. I know his character; he is inflexible in
any resolutions formed for his own interests. If he could have made any
use of me, he would have taken me with him; he leaves me in Paris, as our
separation will conduce to his benefit;--therefore he has gone, and I am
free forever," added Madame Danglars, in the same supplicating tone.
Debray, instead of answering, allowed her to remain in an attitude of
nervous inquiry. "Well?" she said at length, "do you not
have but one question to ask you,--what do you intend to do?"
was going to ask you," replied the baroness with a beating heart.
then, you wish to ask advice of me?"
I do wish to ask your advice," said Madame Danglars with anxious
if you wish to take my advice," said the young man coldly, "I
would recommend you to travel."
travel!" she murmured.
as M. Danglars says, you are rich, and perfectly free. In my opinion, a
withdrawal from Paris is absolutely necessary after the double catastrophe
of Mademoiselle Danglars' broken contract and M. Danglars' disappearance.
The world will think you abandoned and poor, for the wife of a bankrupt
would never be forgiven, were she to keep up an appearance of opulence.
You have only to remain in Paris for about a fortnight, telling the world
you are abandoned, and relating the details of this desertion to your best
friends, who will soon spread the report. Then you can quit your house,
leaving your jewels and giving up your jointure, and every one's mouth
will be filled with praises of your disinterestedness. They will know you
are deserted, and think you also poor, for I alone know your real
financial position, and am quite ready to give up my accounts as an honest
partner." The dread with which the pale and motionless baroness
listened to this, was equalled by the calm indifference with which Debray
had spoken. "Deserted?" she repeated; "ah, yes, I am,
indeed, deserted! You are right, sir, and no one can doubt my
position." These were the only words that this proud and violently
enamoured woman could utter in response to Debray.
then you are rich,--very rich, indeed," continued Debray, taking out
some papers from his pocket-book, which he spread upon the table. Madame
Danglars did not see them; she was engaged in stilling the beatings of her
heart, and restraining the tears which were ready to gush forth. At length
a sense of dignity prevailed, and if she did not entirely master her
agitation, she at least succeeded in preventing the fall of a single tear.
"Madame," said Debray, "it is nearly six months since we
have been associated. You furnished a principal of 100,000 francs. Our
partnership began in the month of April. In May we commenced operations,
and in the course of the month gained 450,000 francs. In June the profit
amounted to 900,000. In July we added 1,700,000 francs,--it was, you know,
the month of the Spanish bonds. In August we lost 300,000 francs at the
beginning of the month, but on the 13th we made up for it, and we now find
that our accounts, reckoning from the first day of partnership up to
yesterday, when I closed them, showed a capital of 2,400,000 francs, that
is, 1,200,000 for each of us. Now, madame," said Debray, delivering
up his accounts in the methodical manner of a stockbroker, "there are
still 80,000 francs, the interest of this money, in my hands."
said the baroness, "I thought you never put the money out to
me, madame," said Debray coldly, "I had your permission to do
so, and I have made use of it. There are, then, 40,000 francs for your
share, besides the 100,000 you furnished me to begin with, making in all
1,340,000 francs for your portion. Now, madame, I took the precaution of
drawing out your money the day before yesterday; it is not long ago, you
see, and I was in continual expectation of being called on to deliver up
my accounts. There is your money,--half in bank-notes, the other half in
checks payable to bearer. I say there, for as I did not consider my house
safe enough, or lawyers sufficiently discreet, and as landed property
carries evidence with it, and moreover since you have no right to possess
anything independent of your husband, I have kept this sum, now your whole
fortune, in a chest concealed under that closet, and for greater security
I myself concealed it there.
madame," continued Debray, first opening the closet, then the
chest;--"now, madame, here are 800 notes of 1,000 francs each,
resembling, as you see, a large book bound in iron; to this I add a
certificate in the funds of 25,000 francs; then, for the odd cash, making
I think about 110,000 francs, here is a check upon my banker, who, not
being M. Danglars, will pay you the amount, you may rest assured."
Madame Danglars mechanically took the check, the bond, and the heap of
bank-notes. This enormous fortune made no great appearance on the table.
Madame Danglars, with tearless eyes, but with her breast heaving with
concealed emotion, placed the bank-notes in her bag, put the certificate
and check into her pocket-book, and then, standing pale and mute, awaited
one kind word of consolation. But she waited in vain.
madame," said Debray, "you have a splendid fortune, an income of
about 60,000 livres a year, which is enormous for a woman who cannot keep
an establishment here for a year, at least. You will be able to indulge
all your fancies; besides, should you find your income insufficient, you
can, for the sake of the past, madame, make use of mine; and I am ready to
offer you all I possess, on loan."
you, sir--thank you," replied the baroness; "you forget that
what you have just paid me is much more than a poor woman requires, who
intends for some time, at least, to retire from the world."
was, for a moment, surprised, but immediately recovering himself, he bowed
with an air which seemed to say, "As you please, madame."
Danglars had until then, perhaps, hoped for something; but when she saw
the careless bow of Debray, and the glance by which it was accompanied,
together with his significant silence, she raised her head, and without
passion or violence or even hesitation, ran down-stairs, disdaining to
address a last farewell to one who could thus part from her.
"Bah," said Debray, when she had left, "these are fine
projects! She will remain at home, read novels, and speculate at cards,
since she can no longer do so on the Bourse." Then taking up his
account book, he cancelled with the greatest care all the entries of the
amounts he had just paid away. "I have 1,060,000 francs
remaining," he said. "What a pity Mademoiselle de Villefort is
dead! She suited me in every respect, and I would have married her."
And he calmly waited until the twenty minutes had elapsed after Madame
Danglars' departure before he left the house. During this time he occupied
himself in making figures, with his watch by his side.
diabolical personage, who would have been created by every fertile
imagination if Le Sage had not acquired the priority in his great
masterpiece--would have enjoyed a singular spectacle, if he had lifted up
the roof of the little house in the Rue Saint-Germain-des-Prés,
while Debray was casting up his figures. Above the room in which Debray
had been dividing two millions and a half with Madame Danglars was
another, inhabited by persons who have played too prominent a part in the
incidents we have related for their appearance not to create some
interest. Mercédès and Albert were in that room. Mercédès was much changed within the last few days; not
that even in her days of fortune she had ever dressed with the magnificent
display which makes us no longer able to recognize a woman when she
appears in a plain and simple attire; nor indeed, had she fallen into that
state of depression where it is impossible to conceal the garb of misery;
no, the change in Mercédès was that her eye no longer
sparkled, her lips no longer smiled, and there was now a hesitation in
uttering the words which formerly sprang so fluently from her ready wit.
was not poverty which had broken her spirit; it was not a want of courage
which rendered her poverty burdensome. Mercédès,
although deposed from the exalted position she had occupied, lost in the
sphere she had now chosen, like a person passing from a room splendidly
lighted into utter darkness, appeared like a queen, fallen from her palace
to a hovel, and who, reduced to strict necessity, could neither become
reconciled to the earthen vessels she was herself forced to place upon the
table, nor to the humble pallet which had become her bed. The beautiful
Catalane and noble countess had lost both her proud glance and charming
smile, because she saw nothing but misery around her; the walls were hung
with one of the gray papers which economical landlords choose as not
likely to show the dirt; the floor was uncarpeted; the furniture attracted
the attention to the poor attempt at luxury; indeed, everything offended
eyes accustomed to refinement and elegance.
de Morcerf had lived there since leaving her house; the continual silence
of the spot oppressed her; still, seeing that Albert continually watched
her countenance to judge the state of her feelings, she constrained
herself to assume a monotonous smile of the lips alone, which, contrasted
with the sweet and beaming expression that usually shone from her eyes,
seemed like "moonlight on a statue,"--yielding light without
warmth. Albert, too, was ill at ease; the remains of luxury prevented him
from sinking into his actual position. If he wished to go out without
gloves, his hands appeared too white; if he wished to walk through the
town, his boots seemed too highly polished. Yet these two noble and
intelligent creatures, united by the indissoluble ties of maternal and
filial love, had succeeded in tacitly understanding one another, and
economizing their stores, and Albert had been able to tell his mother
without extorting a change of countenance,--"Mother, we have no more
Mercédès had never known misery; she had often, in her
youth, spoken of poverty, but between want and necessity, those synonymous
words, there is a wide difference. Amongst the Catalans, Mercédès wished for a thousand things, but still she never
really wanted any. So long as the nets were good, they caught fish; and so
long as they sold their fish, they were able to buy twine for new nets.
And then, shut out from friendship, having but one affection, which could
not be mixed up with her ordinary pursuits, she thought of herself--of no
one but herself. Upon the little she earned she lived as well as she
could; now there were two to be supported, and nothing to live upon.
approached. Mercédès had no fire in that cold and
naked room--she, who was accustomed to stoves which heated the house from
the hall to the boudoir; she had not even one little flower--she whose
apartment had been a conservatory of costly exotics. But she had her son.
Hitherto the excitement of fulfilling a duty had sustained them.
Excitement, like enthusiasm, sometimes renders us unconscious to the
things of earth. But the excitement had calmed down, and they felt
themselves obliged to descend from dreams to reality; after having
exhausted the ideal, they found they must talk of the actual.
exclaimed Albert, just as Madame Danglars was descending the stairs,
"let us reckon our riches, if you please; I want capital to build my
replied Mercédès with a mournful smile.
mother,--capital 3,000 francs. And I have an idea of our leading a
delightful life upon this 3,000 francs."
dear mother," said the young man, "I have unhappily spent too
much of your money not to know the value of it. These 3,000 francs are
enormous, and I intend building upon this foundation a miraculous
certainty for the future."
say this, my dear boy; but do you think we ought to accept these 3,000
francs?" said Mercédès, coloring.
think so," answered Albert in a firm tone. "We will accept them
the more readily, since we have them not here; you know they are buried in
the garden of the little house in the Allées de Meillan, at Marseilles. With 200 francs we can
200 francs?--are you sure, Albert?"
as for that, I have made inquiries respecting the diligences and
steamboats, and my calculations are made. You will take your place in the
coupé to Chalons. You see, mother, I
treat you handsomely for thirty-five francs." Albert then took a pen,
Coupé, thirty-five francs
............................ 35 Frs.
Chalons to Lyons you will go on by the steamboat--six francs
Lyons to Avignon (still by steamboat), sixteen francs ........ 16
Avignon to Marseilles, seven franc............................ 7
on the road, about fifty francs .......................... 50
us put down 120," added Albert, smiling. "You see I am generous,
am I not, mother?"
you, my poor child?"
do you not see that I reserve eighty francs for myself? A young man does
not require luxuries; besides, I know what travelling is."
a post-chaise and valet de chambre?"
be it so. But these 200 francs?"
they are, and 200 more besides. See, I have sold my watch for 100 francs,
and the guard and seals for 300. How fortunate that the ornaments were
worth more than the watch. Still the same story of superfluities! Now I
think we are rich, since instead of the 114 francs we require for the
journey we find ourselves in possession of 250."
we owe something in this house?"
francs; but I pay that out of my 150 francs,--that is understood,--and as
I require only eighty francs for my journey, you see I am overwhelmed with
luxury. But that is not all. What do you say to this, mother?"
Albert took out of a little pocket-book with golden clasps, a remnant of
his old fancies, or perhaps a tender souvenir from one of the mysterious
and veiled ladies who used to knock at his little door,--Albert took out
of this pocket-book a note of 1,000 francs.
is this?" asked Mercédès.
whence have you obtained them?" "Listen to me, mother, and do
not yield too much to agitation." And Albert, rising, kissed his
mother on both cheeks, then stood looking at her. "You cannot
imagine, mother, how beautiful I think you!" said the young man,
impressed with a profound feeling of filial love. "You are, indeed,
the most beautiful and most noble woman I ever saw!"
child!" said Mercédès, endeavoring in vain to
restrain a tear which glistened in the corner of her eye. "Indeed,
you only wanted misfortune to change my love for you to admiration. I am
not unhappy while I possess my son!"
just so," said Albert; "here begins the trial. Do you know the
decision we have come to, mother?"
we come to any?"
it is decided that you are to live at Marseilles, and that I am to leave
for Africa, where I will earn for myself the right to use the name I now
bear, instead of the one I have thrown aside." Mercédès sighed. "Well, mother, I yesterday engaged
myself as substitute in the Spahis,"* added the young man, lowering
his eyes with a certain feeling of shame, for even he was unconscious of
the sublimity of his self-abasement. "I thought my body was my own,
and that I might sell it. I yesterday took the place of another. I sold
myself for more than I thought I was worth," he added, attempting to
smile; "I fetched 2,000 francs."
The Spahis are French cavalry reserved for service in Africa.
these 1,000 francs"--said Mercédès,
the half of the sum, mother; the other will be paid in a year."
Mercédès raised her eyes to heaven with an expression it
would be impossible to describe, and tears, which had hitherto been
restrained, now yielded to her emotion, and ran down her cheeks.
price of his blood!" she murmured.
if I am killed," said Albert, laughing. "But I assure you,
mother, I have a strong intention of defending my person, and I never felt
half so strong an inclination to live as I do now."
mother, why should you make up your mind that I am to be killed? Has
Lamoricière, that Ney of the South, been
killed? Has Changarnier been killed? Has Bedeau been killed? Has Morrel,
whom we know, been killed? Think of your joy, mother, when you see me
return with an embroidered uniform! I declare, I expect to look
magnificent in it, and chose that regiment only from vanity." Mercédès
sighed while endeavoring to smile; the devoted mother felt that she ought
not to allow the whole weight of the sacrifice to fall upon her son.
"Well, now you understand, mother!" continued Albert; "here
are more than 4,000 francs settled on you; upon these you can live at
least two years."
you think so?" said Mercédès. These words were uttered in so
mournful a tone that their real meaning did not escape Albert; he felt his
heart beat, and taking his mother's hand within his own he said,
you will live!"
shall live!--then you will not leave me, Albert?"
I must go," said Albert in a firm, calm voice; "you love me too
well to wish me to remain useless and idle with you; besides, I have
will obey your own wish and the will of heaven!"
my own wish, mother, but reason--necessity. Are we not two despairing
creatures? What is life to you?--Nothing. What is life to me?--Very little
without you, mother; for believe me, but for you I should have ceased to
live on the day I doubted my father and renounced his name. Well, I will
live, if you promise me still to hope; and if you grant me the care of
your future prospects, you will redouble my strength. Then I will go to
the governor of Algeria; he has a royal heart, and is essentially a
soldier; I will tell him my gloomy story. I will beg him to turn his eyes
now and then towards me, and if he keep his word and interest himself for
me, in six months I shall be an officer, or dead. If I am an officer, your
fortune is certain, for I shall have money enough for both, and, moreover,
a name we shall both be proud of, since it will be our own. If I am
killed--well then mother, you can also die, and there will be an end of
is well," replied Mercédès, with her eloquent glance;
"you are right, my love; let us prove to those who are watching our
actions that we are worthy of compassion."
let us not yield to gloomy apprehensions," said the young man;
"I assure you we are, or rather we shall be, very happy. You are a
woman at once full of spirit and resignation; I have become simple in my
tastes, and am without passion, I hope. Once in service, I shall be
rich--once in M. Dantès' house, you will be at rest.
Let us strive, I beseech you,--let us strive to be cheerful."
let us strive, for you ought to live, and to be happy, Albert."
so our division is made, mother," said the young man, affecting ease
of mind. "We can now part; come, I shall engage your passage."
you, my dear boy?"
shall stay here for a few days longer; we must accustom ourselves to
parting. I want recommendations and some information relative to Africa. I
will join you again at Marseilles."
be it so--let us part," said Mercédès,
folding around her shoulders the only shawl she had taken away, and which
accidentally happened to be a valuable black cashmere. Albert gathered up
his papers hastily, rang the bell to pay the thirty francs he owed to the
landlord, and offering his arm to his mother, they descended the stairs.
Some one was walking down before them, and this person, hearing the
rustling of a silk dress, turned around. "Debray!" muttered
Morcerf?" replied the secretary, resting on the stairs. Curiosity had
vanquished the desire of preserving his incognito, and he was recognized.
It was, indeed, strange in this unknown spot to find the young man whose
misfortunes had made so much noise in Paris.
repeated Debray. Then noticing in the dim light the still youthful and
veiled figure of Madame de Morcerf:--"Pardon me," he added with
a smile, "I leave you, Albert." Albert understood his thoughts.
"Mother," he said, turning towards Mercédès,
"this is M. Debray, secretary of the minister for the interior, once
a friend of mine."
once?" stammered Debray; "what do you mean?"
say so, M. Debray, because I have no friends now, and I ought not to have
any. I thank you for having recognized me, sir." Debray stepped
forward, and cordially pressed the hand of his interlocutor. "Believe
me, dear Albert," he said, with all the emotion he was capable of
feeling,--"believe me, I feel deeply for your misfortunes, and if in
any way I can serve you, I am yours."
you, sir," said Albert, smiling. "In the midst of our
misfortunes, we are still rich enough not to require assistance from any
one. We are leaving Paris, and when our journey is paid, we shall have
5,000 francs left." The blood mounted to the temples of Debray, who
held a million in his pocket-book, and unimaginative as he was he could
not help reflecting that the same house had contained two women, one of
whom, justly dishonored, had left it poor with 1,500,000 francs under her
cloak, while the other, unjustly stricken, but sublime in her misfortune,
was yet rich with a few deniers. This parallel disturbed his usual
politeness, the philosophy he witnessed appalled him, he muttered a few
words of general civility and ran down-stairs.
day the minister's clerks and the subordinates had a great deal to put up
with from his ill-humor. But that same night, he found himself the
possessor of a fine house, situated on the Boulevard de la Madeleine, and
an income of 50,000 livres. The next day, just as Debray was signing the
deed, that is about five o'clock in the afternoon, Madame de Morcerf,
after having affectionately embraced her son, entered the coupé of the diligence, which closed upon her. A man was
hidden in Lafitte's banking-house, behind one of the little arched windows
which are placed above each desk; he saw Mercédès
enter the diligence, and he also saw Albert withdraw. Then he passed his
hand across his forehead, which was clouded with doubt. "Alas,"
he exclaimed, "how can I restore the happiness I have taken away from
these poor innocent creatures? God help me!"