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The Son of Monte-Cristo

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Esperance, the son of Monte-Cristo, lay sleeping in the comfortable bed provided for him in the house of Fanfar, the French colonist, as related at the close of the preceding volume, "The Wife of Monte-Cristo." The prostration and exhaustion brought on by the excitement and fatigue of his terrible adventure with the remorseless Khouans rendered his sleep as leaden as the sleep of death; indeed, had it not been for his heavy respiration, he might have been mistaken for a corpse. But ordinary difficulties were not to conquer the heroic son of Monte-Cristo, who seemed to have inherited all the marvelous power and energy of his noble father, and as he lay there in the hot Algerian night, amid the balmy perfume of the luxuriant tropical flowers, a mysterious smile hovered about the corners of his sharply cut lips that told unmistakably of a fearless nature and a firm desire to promote the success of the good and the true. Esperance slept, and the lion in him was dormant; it was, however, destined soon to be aroused.

In another room, around the family table, Fanfar and his guests were seated, the Count of Monte-Cristo occupying the place of honor. The colonist, at the urgent solicitation of those with whom he had so strangely been brought in contact, was about to relate the story of his life, when suddenly Monte-Cristo's quick ear caught a sound.

"What was that?" he said in a startled whisper, instantly springing to his feet.

"I heard nothing," said Fanfar.

"It was, perhaps, the cry of some wild beast," suggested Captain Joliette.

Monte-Cristo hastened to his son's apartment, followed by Fanfar, Captain Joliette and Coucon, the Zouave.

The boy was still sleeping soundly, and the apartment was altogether undisturbed.

Monte-Cristo uttered a sigh of relief; he bent over the beautiful child and gently kissed him on the forehead.

The party returned to the adjoining room and resumed their seats. Scarcely had they done so when a dark form, shrouded in a green bournous, appeared stealthily at the open window of Esperance's chamber, and, gazing furtively around, lightly sprang into the room.

"Dog of a Frenchman!" hissed the intruder in a low tone between his teeth. "When you flung me over the battlements of Ouargla, you fancied you had killed me; but Maldar bears a charmed life and will have a bitter revenge!"

The intruder was indeed Maldar, the Sultan, who by some miracle had escaped Monte-Cristo's vengeance.

As he spoke he shook his fist in the direction of the Count, who was sitting at the table with the rest of Fanfar's guests, though his sombre air and clouded brow told that, while preserving his outward calmness, he yet suspected the presence of a deadly foe.

Maldar had removed his sandals, and his footsteps were noiseless. He went to the bed and stood for an instant gloating over the slumbering boy.

"I failed before, but I shall not fail again. Allah is great! I will strike this giaour of a Frenchman in his tenderest spot—his heart! The son shall pay the father's debt!"

Half-crouching and gathering his green bournous closely about him, he crept cautiously back to the window and made the sign of the crescent in the air....