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= ROOT|Alexandre_Dumas|The_Count_of_Monte_Cristo-99.txt =

page 11 of 618




"Fernand," answered Mercedes, shaking her head, "a woman
becomes a bad manager, and who shall say she will remain an
honest woman, when she loves another man better than her
husband? Rest content with my friendship, for I say once
more that is all I can promise, and I will promise no more
than I can bestow."

"I understand," replied Fernand, "you can endure your own
wretchedness patiently, but you are afraid to share mine.
Well, Mercedes, beloved by you, I would tempt fortune; you
would bring me good luck, and I should become rich. I could
extend my occupation as a fisherman, might get a place as
clerk in a warehouse, and become in time a dealer myself."

"You could do no such thing, Fernand; you are a soldier, and
if you remain at the Catalans it is because there is no war;
so remain a fisherman, and contented with my friendship, as
I cannot give you more."

"Well, I will do better, Mercedes. I will be a sailor;
instead of the costume of our fathers, which you despise, I
will wear a varnished hat, a striped shirt, and a blue
jacket, with an anchor on the buttons. Would not that dress
please you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Mercedes, with an angry glance, --
"what do you mean? I do not understand you?"

"I mean, Mercedes, that you are thus harsh and cruel with
me, because you are expecting some one who is thus attired;
but perhaps he whom you await is inconstant, or if he is
not, the sea is so to him."

"Fernand," cried Mercedes, "I believed you were
good-hearted, and I was mistaken! Fernand, you are wicked to
call to your aid jealousy and the anger of God! Yes, I will
not deny it, I do await, and I do love him of whom you
speak; and, if he does not return, instead of accusing him
of the inconstancy which you insinuate, I will tell you that
he died loving me and me only." The young girl made a
gesture of rage. "I understand you, Fernand; you would be
revenged on him because I do not love you; you would cross
your Catalan knife with his dirk. What end would that
answer? To lose you my friendship if he were conquered, and
see that friendship changed into hate if you were victor.
Believe me, to seek a quarrel with a man is a bad method of
pleasing the woman who loves that man. No, Fernand, you will
not thus give way to evil thoughts. Unable to have me for
your wife, you will content yourself with having me for your
friend and sister; and besides," she added, her eyes
troubled and moistened with tears, "wait, wait, Fernand; you
said just now that the sea was treacherous, and he has been
gone four months, and during these four months there have
been some terrible storms."

Fernand made no reply, nor did he attempt to check the tears
which flowed down the cheeks of Mercedes, although for each
of these tears he would have shed his heart's blood; but
these tears flowed for another. He arose, paced a while up
and down the hut, and then, suddenly stopping before
Mercedes, with his eyes glowing and his hands clinched, --
"Say, Mercedes," he said, "once for all, is this your final
determination?"

"I love Edmond Dantes," the young girl calmly replied, "and
none but Edmond shall ever be my husband."

"And you will always love him?"

"As long as I live."

Fernand let fall his head like a defeated man, heaved a sigh
that was like a groan, and then suddenly looking her full in
the face, with clinched teeth and expanded nostrils, said,
-- "But if he is dead" --

"If he is dead, I shall die too."

"If he has forgotten you" --

"Mercedes!" called a joyous voice from without, --
"Mercedes!"

"Ah," exclaimed the young girl, blushing with delight, and
fairly leaping in excess of love, "you see he has not
forgotten me, for here he is!" And rushing towards the door,
she opened it, saying, "Here, Edmond, here I am!"

Fernand, pale and trembling, drew back, like a traveller at
the sight of a serpent, and fell into a chair beside him.
Edmond and Mercedes were clasped in each other's arms. The
burning Marseilles sun, which shot into the room through the
open door, covered them with a flood of light. At first they
saw nothing around them. Their intense happiness isolated
them from all the rest of the world, and they only spoke in
broken words, which are the tokens of a joy so extreme that
they seem rather the expression of sorrow. Suddenly Edmond
saw the gloomy, pale, and threatening countenance of
Fernand, as it was defined in the shadow. By a movement for
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