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= ROOT|Alexandre_Dumas|The_Count_of_Monte_Cristo-99.txt =

page 12 of 618



which he could scarcely account to himself, the young
Catalan placed his hand on the knife at his belt.

"Ah, your pardon," said Dantes, frowning in his turn; "I did
not perceive that there were three of us." Then, turning to
Mercedes, he inquired, "Who is this gentleman?"

"One who will be your best friend, Dantes, for he is my
friend, my cousin, my brother; it is Fernand -- the man
whom, after you, Edmond, I love the best in the world. Do
you not remember him?"

"Yes!" said Dantes, and without relinquishing Mercedes hand
clasped in one of his own, he extended the other to the
Catalan with a cordial air. But Fernand, instead of
responding to this amiable gesture, remained mute and
trembling. Edmond then cast his eyes scrutinizingly at the
agitated and embarrassed Mercedes, and then again on the
gloomy and menacing Fernand. This look told him all, and his
anger waxed hot.

"I did not know, when I came with such haste to you, that I
was to meet an enemy here."

"An enemy!" cried Mercedes, with an angry look at her
cousin. "An enemy in my house, do you say, Edmond! If I
believed that, I would place my arm under yours and go with
you to Marseilles, leaving the house to return to it no
more."

Fernand's eye darted lightning. "And should any misfortune
occur to you, dear Edmond," she continued with the same
calmness which proved to Fernand that the young girl had
read the very innermost depths of his sinister thought, "if
misfortune should occur to you, I would ascend the highest
point of the Cape de Morgion and cast myself headlong from
it."

Fernand became deadly pale. "But you are deceived, Edmond,"
she continued. "You have no enemy here -- there is no one
but Fernand, my brother, who will grasp your hand as a
devoted friend."

And at these words the young girl fixed her imperious look
on the Catalan, who, as if fascinated by it, came slowly
towards Edmond, and offered him his hand. His hatred, like a
powerless though furious wave, was broken against the strong
ascendancy which Mercedes exercised over him. Scarcely,
however, had he touched Edmond's hand than he felt he had
done all he could do, and rushed hastily out of the house.

"Oh," he exclaimed, running furiously and tearing his hair
-- "Oh, who will deliver me from this man? Wretched --
wretched that I am!"

"Hallo, Catalan! Hallo, Fernand! where are you running to?"
exclaimed a voice.

The young man stopped suddenly, looked around him, and
perceived Caderousse sitting at table with Danglars, under
an arbor.

"Well", said Caderousse, "why don't you come? Are you really
in such a hurry that you have no time to pass the time of
day with your friends?"

"Particularly when they have still a full bottle before
them," added Danglars. Fernand looked at them both with a
stupefied air, but did not say a word.

"He seems besotted," said Danglars, pushing Caderousse with
his knee. "Are we mistaken, and is Dantes triumphant in
spite of all we have believed?"

"Why, we must inquire into that," was Caderousse's reply;
and turning towards the young man, said, "Well, Catalan,
can't you make up your mind?"

Fernand wiped away the perspiration steaming from his brow,
and slowly entered the arbor, whose shade seemed to restore
somewhat of calmness to his senses, and whose coolness
somewhat of refreshment to his exhausted body.

"Good-day," said he. "You called me, didn't you?" And he
fell, rather than sat down, on one of the seats which
surrounded the table.

"I called you because you were running like a madman, and I
was afraid you would throw yourself into the sea," said
Caderousse, laughing. "Why, when a man has friends, they are
not only to offer him a glass of wine, but, moreover, to
prevent his swallowing three or four pints of water
unnecessarily!"

Fernand gave a groan, which resembled a sob, and dropped his
head into his hands, his elbows leaning on the table.

"Well, Fernand, I must say," said Caderousse, beginning the
conversation, with that brutality of the common people in
which curiosity destroys all diplomacy, "you look uncommonly
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