A selection from
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
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running time is 16 minutes
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The woman whom the count had seen leave the ship with so
much regret entered this house; she had scarcely closed the
door after her when Monte Cristo appeared at the corner of a
street, so that he found and lost her again almost at the
same instant. The worn out steps were old acquaintances of
his; he knew better than any one else how to open that
weather-beaten door with the large headed nail which served
to raise the latch within. He entered without knocking, or
giving any other intimation of his presence, as if he had
been a friend or the master of the place. At the end of a
passage paved with bricks, was a little garden, bathed in
sunshine, and rich in warmth and light. In this garden
Mercedes had found, at the place indicated by the count, the
sum of money which he, through a sense of delicacy, had
described as having been placed there twenty-four years
previously. The trees of the garden were easily seen from
the steps of the street-door. Monte Cristo, on stepping into
the house, heard a sigh that was almost a deep sob; he
looked in the direction whence it came, and there under an
arbor of Virginia jessamine, with its thick foliage and
beautiful long purple flowers, he saw Mercedes seated, with
her head bowed, and weeping bitterly. She had raised her
veil, and with her face hidden by her hands was giving free
scope to the sighs and tears which had been so long
restrained by the presence of her son. Monte Cristo advanced
a few steps, which were heard on the gravel. Mercedes raised
her head, and uttered a cry of terror on beholding a man
"Madame," said the count, "it is no longer in my power to
restore you to happiness, but I offer you consolation; will
you deign to accept it as coming from a friend?"
"I am, indeed, most wretched," replied Mercedes. "Alone in
the world, I had but my son, and he has left me!"
"He possesses a noble heart, madame," replied the count,
"and he has acted rightly. He feels that every man owes a
tribute to his country; some contribute their talents,
others their industry; these devote their blood, those their
nightly labors, to the same cause. Had he remained with you,
his life must have become a hateful burden, nor would he
have participated in your griefs. He will increase in
strength and honor by struggling with adversity, which he
will convert into prosperity. Leave him to build up the
future for you, and I venture to say you will confide it to
"Oh," replied the wretched woman, mournfully shaking her
head, "the prosperity of which you speak, and which, from
the bottom of my heart, I pray God in his mercy to grant
him, I can never enjoy. The bitter cup of adversity has been
drained by me to the very dregs, and I feel that the grave
is not far distant. You have acted kindly, count, in
bringing me back to the place where I have enjoyed so much
bliss. I ought to meet death on the same spot where
happiness was once all my own."
"Alas," said Monte Cristo, "your words sear and embitter my
heart, the more so as you have every reason to hate me. I
have been the cause of all your misfortunes; but why do you
pity, instead of blaming me? You render me still more
"Hate you, blame you — you, Edmond! Hate, reproach, the man
that has spared my son's life! For was it not your fatal and
sanguinary intention to destroy that son of whom M. de
Morcerf was so proud? Oh, look at me closely, and discover
if you can even the semblance of a reproach in me." The
count looked up and fixed his eyes on Mercedes, who arose
partly from her seat and extended both her hands towards
him. "Oh, look at me," continued she, with a feeling of
profound melancholy, "my eyes no longer dazzle by their
brilliancy, for the time has long fled since I used to smile
on Edmond Dantes, who anxiously looked out for me from the
window of yonder garret, then inhabited by his old father.
Years of grief have created an abyss between those days and
the present. I neither reproach you nor hate you, my friend.
Oh, no, Edmond, it is myself that I blame, myself that I
hate! Oh, miserable creature that I am!" cried she, clasping
her hands, and raising her eyes to heaven. "I once possessed
piety, innocence, and love, the three ingredients of the
happiness of angels, and now what am I?" Monte Cristo
approached her, and silently took her hand. "No," said she,
withdrawing it gently — "no, my friend, touch me not. You
have spared me, yet of all those who have fallen under your
vengeance I was the most guilty. They were influenced by
hatred, by avarice, and by self-love; but I was base, and
for want of courage acted against my judgment. Nay, do not
press my hand, Edmond; you are thinking, I am sure, of some
kind speech to console me, but do not utter it to me,
reserve it for others more worthy of your kindness. See"
(and she exposed her face completely to view) — "see,
misfortune has silvered my hair, my eyes have shed so many
tears that they are encircled by a rim of purple, and my
brow is wrinkled. You, Edmond, on the contrary, — you are
still young, handsome, dignified; it is because you have had
faith; because you have had strength, because you have had
trust in God, and God has sustained you. But as for me, I
have been a coward; I have denied God and he has abandoned
Mercedes burst into tears; her woman's heart was breaking
under its load of memories. Monte Cristo took her hand and
imprinted a kiss on it; but she herself felt that it was a
kiss of no greater warmth than he would have bestowed on the
hand of some marble statue of a saint. "It often happens,"
continued she, "that a first fault destroys the prospects of
a whole life. I believed you dead; why did I survive you?
What good has it done me to mourn for you eternally in the
secret recesses of my heart? — only to make a woman of
thirty-nine look like a woman of fifty. Why, having
recognized you, and I the only one to do so — why was I
able to save my son alone? Ought I not also to have rescued
the man that I had accepted for a husband, guilty though he
were? Yet I let him die! What do I say? Oh, merciful
heavens, was I not accessory to his death by my supine
insensibility, by my contempt for him, not remembering, or
not willing to remember, that it was for my sake he had
become a traitor and a perjurer? In what am I benefited by
accompanying my son so far, since I now abandon him, and
allow him to depart alone to the baneful climate of Africa?
Oh, I have been base, cowardly, I tell you; I have abjured
my affections, and like all renegades I am of evil omen to
those who surround me!"
"No, Mercedes," said Monte Cristo, "no; you judge yourself
with too much severity. You are a noble-minded woman, and it
was your grief that disarmed me. Still I was but an agent,
led on by an invisible and offended Deity, who chose not to
withhold the fatal blow that I was destined to hurl. I take
that God to witness, at whose feet I have prostrated myself
daily for the last ten years, that I would have sacrificed
my life to you, and with my life the projects that were
indissolubly linked with it. But — and I say it with some
pride, Mercedes — God needed me, and I lived. Examine the
past and the present, and endeavor to dive into futurity,
and then say whether I am not a divine instrument. The most
dreadful misfortunes, the most frightful sufferings, the
abandonment of all those who loved me, the persecution of
those who did not know me, formed the trials of my youth;
when suddenly, from captivity, solitude, misery, I was
restored to light and liberty, and became the possessor of a
fortune so brilliant, so unbounded, so unheard-of, that I
must have been blind not to be conscious that God had
endowed me with it to work out his own great designs. From
that time I looked upon this fortune as something confided
to me for an especial purpose. Not a thought was given to a
life which you once, Mercedes, had the power to render
blissful; not one hour of peaceful calm was mine; but I felt
myself driven on like an exterminating angel. Like
adventurous captains about to embark on some enterprise full
of danger, I laid in my provisions, I loaded my weapons, I
collected every means of attack and defence; I inured my
body to the most violent exercises, my soul to the bitterest
trials; I taught my arm to slay, my eyes to behold
excruciating sufferings, and my mouth to smile at the most
horrid spectacles. Good-natured, confiding, and forgiving as
I had been, I became revengeful, cunning, and wicked, or
rather, immovable as fate. Then I launched out into the path
that was opened to me. I overcame every obstacle, and
reached the goal; but woe to those who stood in my pathway!"
"Enough," said Mercedes; "enough, Edmond! Believe me, that
she who alone recognized you has been the only one to
comprehend you; and had she crossed your path, and you had
crushed her like glass, still, Edmond, still she must have
admired you! Like the gulf between me and the past, there is
an abyss between you, Edmond, and the rest of mankind; and I
tell you freely that the comparison I draw between you and
other men will ever be one of my greatest tortures. No,
there is nothing in the world to resemble you in worth and
goodness! But we must say farewell, Edmond, and let us
"Before I leave you, Mercedes, have you no request to make?"
said the count.
"I desire but one thing in this world, Edmond, — the
happiness of my son."
"Pray to the Almighty to spare his life, and I will take
upon myself to promote his happiness."
"Thank you, Edmond."
"But have you no request to make for yourself, Mercedes?"
"For myself I want nothing. I live, as it were, between two
graves. One is that of Edmond Dantes, lost to me long, long
since. He had my love! That word ill becomes my faded lip
now, but it is a memory dear to my heart, and one that I
would not lose for all that the world contains. The other
grave is that of the man who met his death from the hand of
Edmond Dantes. I approve of the deed, but I must pray for
"Your son shall be happy, Mercedes," repeated the count.
"Then I shall enjoy as much happiness as this world can
"But what are your intentions?"
"To say that I shall live here, like the Mercedes of other
times, gaining my bread by labor, would not be true, nor
would you believe me. I have no longer the strength to do
anything but to spend my days in prayer. However, I shall
have no occasion to work, for the little sum of money buried
by you, and which I found in the place you mentioned, will
be sufficient to maintain me. Rumor will probably be busy
respecting me, my occupations, my manner of living — that
will signify but little."
"Mercedes," said the count, "I do not say it to blame you,
but you made an unnecessary sacrifice in relinquishing the
whole of the fortune amassed by M. de Morcerf; half of it at
least by right belonged to you, in virtue of your vigilance
"I perceive what you are intending to propose to me; but I
cannot accept it, Edmond — my son would not permit it."
"Nothing shall be done without the full approbation of
Albert de Morcerf. I will make myself acquainted with his
intentions and will submit to them. But if he be willing to
accept my offers, will you oppose them?"
"You well know, Edmond, that I am no longer a reasoning
creature; I have no will, unless it be the will never to
decide. I have been so overwhelmed by the many storms that
have broken over my head, that I am become passive in the
hands of the Almighty, like a sparrow in the talons of an
eagle. I live, because it is not ordained for me to die. If
succor be sent to me, I will accept it."
"Ah, madame," said Monte Cristo, "you should not talk thus!
It is not so we should evince our resignation to the will of
heaven; on the contrary, we are all free agents."
"Alas!" exclaimed Mercedes, "if it were so, if I possessed
free-will, but without the power to render that will
efficacious, it would drive me to despair." Monte Cristo
dropped his head and shrank from the vehemence of her grief.
"Will you not even say you will see me again?" he asked.
"On the contrary, we shall meet again," said Mercedes,
pointing to heaven with solemnity. "I tell you so to prove
to you that I still hope." And after pressing her own
trembling hand upon that of the count, Mercedes rushed up
the stairs and disappeared. Monte Cristo slowly left the
house and turned towards the quay. But Mercedes did not
witness his departure, although she was seated at the little
window of the room which had been occupied by old Dantes.
Her eyes were straining to see the ship which was carrying
her son over the vast sea; but still her voice involuntarily
murmured softly, "Edmond, Edmond, Edmond!"
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