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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 34. The Colosseum


Franz had so managed his route, that during the ride to the Colosseum they passed not a single ancient ruin, so that no preliminary impression interfered to mitigate the colossal proportions of the gigantic building they came to admire. The road selected was a continuation of the Via Sistina; then by cutting off the right angle of the street in which stands Santa Maria Maggiore and proceeding by the Via Urbana and San Pietro in Vincoli, the travellers would find themselves directly opposite the Colosseum.

This itinerary possessed another great advantage,—that of leaving Franz at full liberty to indulge his deep reverie upon the subject of Signor Pastrini’s story, in which his mysterious host of Monte Cristo was so strangely mixed up. Seated with folded arms in a corner of the carriage, he continued to ponder over the singular history he had so lately listened to, and to ask himself an interminable number of questions touching its various circumstances without, however, arriving at a satisfactory reply to any of them.

One fact more than the rest brought his friend “Sinbad the Sailor” back to his recollection, and that was the mysterious sort of intimacy that seemed to exist between the brigands and the sailors; and Pastrini’s account of Vampa’s having found refuge on board the vessels of smugglers and fishermen, reminded Franz of the two Corsican bandits he had found supping so amicably with the crew of the little yacht, which had even deviated from its course and touched at Porto-Vecchio for the sole purpose of landing them. The very name assumed by his host of Monte Cristo and again repeated by the landlord of the Hôtel de Londres, abundantly proved to him that his island friend was playing his philanthropic part on the shores of Piombino, Civita Vecchia, Ostia, and Gaëta, as on those of Corsica, Tuscany, and Spain; and further, Franz bethought him of having heard his singular entertainer speak both of Tunis and Palermo, proving thereby how largely his circle of acquaintances extended.

But however the mind of the young man might be absorbed in these reflections, they were at once dispersed at the sight of the dark frowning ruins of the stupendous Colosseum, through the various openings of which the pale moonlight played and flickered like the unearthly gleam from the eyes of the wandering dead. The carriage stopped near the Meta Sudans; the door was opened, and the young men, eagerly alighting, found themselves opposite a cicerone, who appeared to have sprung up from the ground, so unexpected was his appearance.

The usual guide from the hotel having followed them, they had paid two conductors, nor is it possible, at Rome, to avoid this abundant supply of guides; besides the ordinary cicerone, who seizes upon you directly you set foot in your hotel, and never quits you while you remain in the city, there is also a special cicerone belonging to each monument—nay, almost to each part of a monument. It may, therefore, be easily imagined there is no scarcity of guides at the Colosseum, that wonder of all ages, which Martial thus eulogizes:

“Let Memphis cease to boast the barbarous miracles of her pyramids, and the wonders of Babylon be talked of no more among us; all must bow to the superiority of the gigantic labor of the Cæsars, and the many voices of Fame spread far and wide the surpassing merits of this incomparable monument.”

As for Albert and Franz, they essayed not to escape from their ciceronian tyrants; and, indeed, it would have been so much the more difficult to break their bondage, as the guides alone are permitted to visit these monuments with torches in their hands. Thus, then, the young men made no attempt at resistance, but blindly and confidingly surrendered themselves into the care and custody of their conductors.

Franz had already made seven or eight similar excursions to the Colosseum, while his less favored companion trod for the first time in his life the classic ground forming the monument of Flavius Vespasian; and, to his credit be it spoken, his mind, even amid the glib loquacity of the guides, was duly and deeply touched with awe and enthusiastic admiration of all he saw; and certainly no adequate notion of these stupendous ruins can be formed save by such as have visited them, and more especially by moonlight, at which time the vast proportions of the building appear twice as large when viewed by the mysterious beams of a southern moonlit sky, whose rays are sufficiently clear and vivid to light the horizon with a glow equal to the soft twilight of a western clime.

Scarcely, therefore, had the reflective Franz walked a hundred steps beneath the interior porticoes of the ruin, when, abandoning Albert to the guides (who would by no means yield their prescriptive right of carrying their victims through the routine regularly laid down, and as regularly followed by them, but dragged the unconscious visitor to the various objects with a pertinacity that admitted of no appeal, beginning, as a matter of course, with the “Lions’ Den”, the “Hall of the Gladiators” and finishing with “Cæsar’s Podium”), to escape a jargon and mechanical survey of the wonders by which he was surrounded, Franz ascended a half-dilapidated staircase, and, leaving them to follow their monotonous round, seated himself at the foot of a column, and immediately opposite a large aperture, which permitted him to enjoy a full and undisturbed view of the gigantic dimensions of the majestic ruin.

Franz had remained for nearly a quarter of an hour perfectly hidden by the shadow of the vast column at whose base he had found a resting-place, and from whence his eyes followed the motions of Albert and his guides, who, holding torches in their hands, had emerged from a vomitorium at the opposite extremity of the Colosseum, and then again disappeared down the steps conducting to the seats reserved for the Vestal virgins, resembling, as they glided along, some restless shades following the flickering glare of so many ignes fatui. All at once his ear caught a sound resembling that of a stone rolling down the staircase opposite the one by which he had himself ascended. There was nothing remarkable in the circumstance of a fragment of granite giving way and falling heavily below; but it seemed to him that the substance that fell gave way beneath the pressure of a foot, and also that someone, who endeavored as much as possible to prevent his footsteps from being heard, was approaching the spot where he sat.

Conjecture soon became certainty, for the figure of a man was distinctly visible to Franz, gradually emerging from the staircase opposite, upon which the moon was at that moment pouring a full tide of silvery brightness.

The stranger thus presenting himself was probably a person who, like Franz, preferred the enjoyment of solitude and his own thoughts to the frivolous gabble of the guides. And his appearance had nothing extraordinary in it; but the hesitation with which he proceeded, stopping and listening with anxious attention at every step he took, convinced Franz that he expected the arrival of some person.

By a sort of instinctive impulse, Franz withdrew as much as possible behind his pillar.

About ten feet from the spot where he and the stranger were, the roof had given way, leaving a large round opening, through which might be seen the blue vault of heaven, thickly studded with stars.

Around this opening, which had, possibly, for ages permitted a free entrance to the brilliant moonbeams that now illumined the vast pile, grew a quantity of creeping plants, whose delicate green branches stood out in bold relief against the clear azure of the firmament, while large masses of thick, strong fibrous shoots forced their way through the chasm, and hung floating to and fro, like so many waving strings.

The person whose mysterious arrival had attracted the attention of Franz stood in a kind of half-light, that rendered it impossible to distinguish his features, although his dress was easily made out. He wore a large brown mantle, one fold of which, thrown over his left shoulder, served likewise to mask the lower part of his countenance, while the upper part was completely hidden by his broad-brimmed hat. The lower part of his dress was more distinctly visible by the bright rays of the moon, which, entering through the broken ceiling, shed their refulgent beams on feet cased in elegantly made boots of polished leather, over which descended fashionably cut trousers of black cloth.

From the imperfect means Franz had of judging, he could only come to one conclusion,—that the person whom he was thus watching certainly belonged to no inferior station of life.

Some few minutes had elapsed, and the stranger began to show manifest signs of impatience, when a slight noise was heard outside the aperture in the roof, and almost immediately a dark shadow seemed to obstruct the flood of light that had entered it, and the figure of a man was clearly seen gazing with eager scrutiny on the immense space beneath him; then, as his eye caught sight of him in the mantle, he grasped a floating mass of thickly matted boughs, and glided down by their help to within three or four feet of the ground, and then leaped lightly on his feet. The man who had performed this daring act with so much indifference wore the Transtevere costume.

“I beg your excellency’s pardon for keeping you waiting,” said the man, in the Roman dialect, “but I don’t think I’m many minutes after my time, ten o’clock has just struck by the clock of Saint John Lateran.”

“Say not a word about being late,” replied the stranger in purest Tuscan; “’tis I who am too soon. But even if you had caused me to wait a little while, I should have felt quite sure that the delay was not occasioned by any fault of yours.”

“Your excellency is perfectly right in so thinking,” said the man; “I came here direct from the Castle of St. Angelo, and I had an immense deal of trouble before I could get a chance to speak to Beppo.”

“And who is Beppo?”

“Oh, Beppo is employed in the prison, and I give him so much a year to let me know what is going on within his holiness’s castle.”

“Indeed! You are a provident person, I see.”

“Why, you see, no one knows what may happen. Perhaps some of these days I may be entrapped, like poor Peppino and may be very glad to have some little nibbling mouse to gnaw the meshes of my net, and so help me out of prison.”

“Briefly, what did you learn?”

“That two executions of considerable interest will take place the day after tomorrow at two o’clock, as is customary at Rome at the commencement of all great festivals. One of the culprits will be mazzolato;[3] he is an atrocious villain, who murdered the priest who brought him up, and deserves not the smallest pity. The other sufferer is sentenced to be decapitato;[4] and he, your excellency, is poor Peppino.”

“The fact is, that you have inspired not only the pontifical government, but also the neighboring states, with such extreme fear, that they are glad of all opportunity of making an example.”

“But Peppino did not even belong to my band; he was merely a poor shepherd, whose only crime consisted in furnishing us with provisions.”

“Which makes him your accomplice to all intents and purposes. But mark the distinction with which he is treated; instead of being knocked on the head as you would be if once they caught hold of you, he is simply sentenced to be guillotined, by which means, too, the amusements of the day are diversified, and there is a spectacle to please every spectator.”

“Without reckoning the wholly unexpected one I am preparing to surprise them with.”

“My good friend,” said the man in the cloak, “excuse me for saying that you seem to me precisely in the mood to commit some wild or extravagant act.”

“Perhaps I am; but one thing I have resolved on, and that is, to stop at nothing to restore a poor devil to liberty, who has got into this scrape solely from having served me. I should hate and despise myself as a coward did I desert the brave fellow in his present extremity.”

“And what do you mean to do?”

“To surround the scaffold with twenty of my best men, who, at a signal from me, will rush forward directly Peppino is brought for execution, and, by the assistance of their stilettos, drive back the guard, and carry off the prisoner.”

“That seems to me as hazardous as uncertain, and convinces me that my scheme is far better than yours.”

“And what is your excellency’s project?”

“Just this. I will so advantageously bestow 2,000 piastres, that the person receiving them shall obtain a respite till next year for Peppino; and during that year, another skilfully placed 1,000 piastres will afford him the means of escaping from his prison.”

“And do you feel sure of succeeding?”

“Pardieu!” exclaimed the man in the cloak, suddenly expressing himself in French.

“What did your excellency say?” inquired the other.

“I said, my good fellow, that I would do more single-handed by the means of gold than you and all your troop could effect with stilettos, pistols, carbines, and blunderbusses included. Leave me, then, to act, and have no fears for the result.”

“At least, there can be no harm in myself and party being in readiness, in case your excellency should fail.”

“None whatever. Take what precautions you please, if it is any satisfaction to you to do so; but rely upon my obtaining the reprieve I seek.”

“Remember, the execution is fixed for the day after tomorrow, and that you have but one day to work in.”

“And what of that? Is not a day divided into twenty-four hours, each hour into sixty minutes, and every minute sub-divided into sixty seconds? Now in 86,400 seconds very many things can be done.”

“And how shall I know whether your excellency has succeeded or not.”

“Oh, that is very easily arranged. I have engaged the three lower windows at the Café Rospoli; should I have obtained the requisite pardon for Peppino, the two outside windows will be hung with yellow damasks, and the centre with white, having a large cross in red marked on it.”

“And whom will you employ to carry the reprieve to the officer directing the execution?”

“Send one of your men, disguised as a penitent friar, and I will give it to him. His dress will procure him the means of approaching the scaffold itself, and he will deliver the official order to the officer, who, in his turn, will hand it to the executioner; in the meantime, it will be as well to acquaint Peppino with what we have determined on, if it be only to prevent his dying of fear or losing his senses, because in either case a very useless expense will have been incurred.”

“Your excellency,” said the man, “you are fully persuaded of my entire devotion to you, are you not?”

“Nay, I flatter myself that there can be no doubt of it,” replied the cavalier in the cloak.

“Well, then, only fulfil your promise of rescuing Peppino, and henceforward you shall receive not only devotion, but the most absolute obedience from myself and those under me that one human being can render to another.”

“Have a care how far you pledge yourself, my good friend, for I may remind you of your promise at some, perhaps, not very distant period, when I, in my turn, may require your aid and influence.”

“Let that day come sooner or later, your excellency will find me what I have found you in this my heavy trouble; and if from the other end of the world you but write me word to do such or such a thing, you may regard it as done, for done it shall be, on the word and faith of——”

“Hush!” interrupted the stranger; “I hear a noise.”

“’Tis some travellers, who are visiting the Colosseum by torchlight.”

“’Twere better we should not be seen together; those guides are nothing but spies, and might possibly recognize you; and, however I may be honored by your friendship, my worthy friend, if once the extent of our intimacy were known, I am sadly afraid both my reputation and credit would suffer thereby.”

“Well, then, if you obtain the reprieve?”

“The middle window at the Café Rospoli will be hung with white damask, bearing a red cross.”

“And if you fail?”

“Then all three windows will have yellow draperies.”

“And then?”

“And then, my good fellow, use your daggers in any way you please, and I further promise you to be there as a spectator of your prowess.”

“We understand each other perfectly, then. Adieu, your excellency; depend upon me as firmly as I do upon you.”

Saying these words, the Transteverin disappeared down the staircase, while his companion, muffling his features more closely than before in the folds of his mantle, passed almost close to Franz, and descended to the arena by an outward flight of steps. The next minute Franz heard himself called by Albert, who made the lofty building re-echo with the sound of his friend’s name. Franz, however, did not obey the summons till he had satisfied himself that the two men whose conversation he had overheard were at a sufficient distance to prevent his encountering them in his descent. In ten minutes after the strangers had departed, Franz was on the road to the Piazza di Spagna, listening with studied indifference to the learned dissertation delivered by Albert, after the manner of Pliny and Calpurnius, touching the iron-pointed nets used to prevent the ferocious beasts from springing on the spectators.

Franz let him proceed without interruption, and, in fact, did not hear what was said; he longed to be alone, and free to ponder over all that had occurred. One of the two men, whose mysterious meeting in the Colosseum he had so unintentionally witnessed, was an entire stranger to him, but not so the other; and though Franz had been unable to distinguish his features, from his being either wrapped in his mantle or obscured by the shadow, the tones of his voice had made too powerful an impression on him the first time he had heard them for him ever again to forget them, hear them when or where he might. It was more especially when this man was speaking in a manner half jesting, half bitter, that Franz’s ear recalled most vividly the deep sonorous, yet well-pitched voice that had addressed him in the grotto of Monte Cristo, and which he heard for the second time amid the darkness and ruined grandeur of the Colosseum. And the more he thought, the more entire was his conviction, that the person who wore the mantle was no other than his former host and entertainer, “Sinbad the Sailor.”

Under any other circumstances, Franz would have found it impossible to resist his extreme curiosity to know more of so singular a personage, and with that intent have sought to renew their short acquaintance; but in the present instance, the confidential nature of the conversation he had overheard made him, with propriety, judge that his appearance at such a time would be anything but agreeable. As we have seen, therefore, he permitted his former host to retire without attempting a recognition, but fully promising himself a rich indemnity for his present forbearance should chance afford him another opportunity.

In vain did Franz endeavor to forget the many perplexing thoughts which assailed him; in vain did he court the refreshment of sleep. Slumber refused to visit his eyelids and the night was passed in feverish contemplation of the chain of circumstances tending to prove the identity of the mysterious visitant to the Colosseum with the inhabitant of the grotto of Monte Cristo; and the more he thought, the firmer grew his opinion on the subject.

Worn out at length, he fell asleep at daybreak, and did not awake till late. Like a genuine Frenchman, Albert had employed his time in arranging for the evening’s diversion; he had sent to engage a box at the Teatro Argentina; and Franz, having a number of letters to write, relinquished the carriage to Albert for the whole of the day.

At five o’clock Albert returned, delighted with his day’s work; he had been occupied in leaving his letters of introduction, and had received in return more invitations to balls and routs than it would be possible for him to accept; besides this, he had seen (as he called it) all the remarkable sights at Rome. Yes, in a single day he had accomplished what his more serious-minded companion would have taken weeks to effect. Neither had he neglected to ascertain the name of the piece to be played that night at the Teatro Argentina, and also what performers appeared in it. The opera of Parisina was announced for representation, and the principal actors were Coselli, Moriani, and La Specchia.

The young men, therefore, had reason to consider themselves fortunate in having the opportunity of hearing one of the best works by the composer of Lucia di Lammermoor, supported by three of the most renowned vocalists of Italy.

Albert had never been able to endure the Italian theatres, with their orchestras from which it is impossible to see, and the absence of balconies, or open boxes; all these defects pressed hard on a man who had had his stall at the Bouffes, and had shared a lower box at the Opera. Still, in spite of this, Albert displayed his most dazzling and effective costumes each time he visited the theatres; but, alas, his elegant toilet was wholly thrown away, and one of the most worthy representatives of Parisian fashion had to carry with him the mortifying reflection that he had nearly overrun Italy without meeting with a single adventure.

Sometimes Albert would affect to make a joke of his want of success; but internally he was deeply wounded, and his self-love immensely piqued, to think that Albert de Morcerf, the most admired and most sought after of any young person of his day, should thus be passed over, and merely have his labor for his pains. And the thing was so much the more annoying, as, according to the characteristic modesty of a Frenchman, Albert had quitted Paris with the full conviction that he had only to show himself in Italy to carry all before him, and that upon his return he should astonish the Parisian world with the recital of his numerous love-affairs.

Alas, poor Albert! None of those interesting adventures fell in his way; the lovely Genoese, Florentines, and Neapolitans were all faithful, if not to their husbands, at least to their lovers, and thought not of changing even for the splendid appearance of Albert de Morcerf; and all he gained was the painful conviction that the ladies of Italy have this advantage over those of France, that they are faithful even in their infidelity.

Yet he could not restrain a hope that in Italy, as elsewhere, there might be an exception to the general rule.

Albert, besides being an elegant, well-looking young man, was also possessed of considerable talent and ability; moreover, he was a viscount—a recently created one, certainly, but in the present day it is not necessary to go as far back as Noah in tracing a descent, and a genealogical tree is equally estimated, whether dated from 1399 or merely 1815; but to crown all these advantages, Albert de Morcerf commanded an income of 50,000 livres, a more than sufficient sum to render him a personage of considerable importance in Paris. It was therefore no small mortification to him to have visited most of the principal cities in Italy without having excited the most trifling observation.

Albert, however, hoped to indemnify himself for all these slights and indifferences during the Carnival, knowing full well that among the different states and kingdoms in which this festivity is celebrated, Rome is the spot where even the wisest and gravest throw off the usual rigidity of their lives, and deign to mingle in the follies of this time of liberty and relaxation. The Carnival was to commence on the morrow; therefore Albert had not an instant to lose in setting forth the programme of his hopes, expectations, and claims to notice.

With this design he had engaged a box in the most conspicuous part of the theatre, and exerted himself to set off his personal attractions by the aid of the most rich and elaborate toilet. The box taken by Albert was in the first circle; although each of the three tiers of boxes is deemed equally aristocratic, and is, for this reason, generally styled the “nobility’s boxes,” and although the box engaged for the two friends was sufficiently capacious to contain at least a dozen persons, it had cost less than would be paid at some of the French theatres for one admitting merely four occupants.

Another motive had influenced Albert’s selection of his seat,—who knew but that, thus advantageously placed, he might not in truth attract the notice of some fair Roman, and an introduction might ensue that would procure him the offer of a seat in a carriage, or a place in a princely balcony, from which he might behold the gayeties of the Carnival?

These united considerations made Albert more lively and anxious to please than he had hitherto been. Totally disregarding the business of the stage, he leaned from his box and began attentively scrutinizing the beauty of each pretty woman, aided by a powerful opera-glass; but, alas, this attempt to attract notice wholly failed; not even curiosity had been excited, and it was but too apparent that the lovely creatures, into whose good graces he was desirous of stealing, were all so much engrossed with themselves, their lovers, or their own thoughts, that they had not so much as noticed him or the manipulation of his glass.

The truth was, that the anticipated pleasures of the Carnival, with the “Holy Week” that was to succeed it, so filled every fair breast, as to prevent the least attention being bestowed even on the business of the stage. The actors made their entries and exits unobserved or unthought of; at certain conventional moments, the spectators would suddenly cease their conversation, or rouse themselves from their musings, to listen to some brilliant effort of Moriani’s, a well-executed recitative by Coselli, or to join in loud applause at the wonderful powers of La Specchia; but that momentary excitement over, they quickly relapsed into their former state of preoccupation or interesting conversation.

Towards the close of the first act, the door of a box which had been hitherto vacant was opened; a lady entered to whom Franz had been introduced in Paris, where indeed, he had imagined she still was. The quick eye of Albert caught the involuntary start with which his friend beheld the new arrival, and, turning to him, he said hastily:

“Do you know the woman who has just entered that box?”

“Yes; what do you think of her?”

“Oh, she is perfectly lovely—what a complexion! And such magnificent hair! Is she French?”

“No; a Venetian.”

“And her name is——”

“Countess G——.”

“Ah, I know her by name!” exclaimed Albert; “she is said to possess as much wit and cleverness as beauty. I was to have been presented to her when I met her at Madame Villefort’s ball.”

“Shall I assist you in repairing your negligence?” asked Franz.

“My dear fellow, are you really on such good terms with her as to venture to take me to her box?”

“Why, I have only had the honor of being in her society and conversing with her three or four times in my life; but you know that even such an acquaintance as that might warrant my doing what you ask.”

At that instant, the countess perceived Franz, and graciously waved her hand to him, to which he replied by a respectful inclination of the head. “Upon my word,” said Albert, “you seem to be on excellent terms with the beautiful countess.”

“You are mistaken in thinking so,” returned Franz calmly; “but you merely fall into the same error which leads so many of our countrymen to commit the most egregious blunders,—I mean that of judging the habits and customs of Italy and Spain by our Parisian notions; believe me, nothing is more fallacious than to form any estimate of the degree of intimacy you may suppose existing among persons by the familiar terms they seem upon; there is a similarity of feeling at this instant between ourselves and the countess—nothing more.”

“Is there, indeed, my good fellow? Pray tell me, is it sympathy of heart?”

“No; of taste,” continued Franz gravely.

“And in what manner has this congeniality of mind been evinced?”

“By the countess’s visiting the Colosseum, as we did last night, by moonlight, and nearly alone.”

“You were with her, then?”

“I was.”

“And what did you say to her?”

“Oh, we talked of the illustrious dead of whom that magnificent ruin is a glorious monument!”

“Upon my word,” cried Albert, “you must have been a very entertaining companion alone, or all but alone, with a beautiful woman in such a place of sentiment as the Colosseum, and yet to find nothing better to talk about than the dead! All I can say is, if ever I should get such a chance, the living should be my theme.”

“And you will probably find your theme ill-chosen.”

“But,” said Albert, breaking in upon his discourse, “never mind the past; let us only remember the present. Are you not going to keep your promise of introducing me to the fair subject of our remarks?”

“Certainly, directly the curtain falls on the stage.”

“What a confounded long time this first act lasts. I believe, on my soul, that they never mean to finish it.”

“Oh, yes, they will; only listen to that charming finale. How exquisitely Coselli sings his part.”

“But what an awkward, inelegant fellow he is.”

“Well, then, what do you say to La Specchia? Did you ever see anything more perfect than her acting?”

“Why, you know, my dear fellow, when one has been accustomed to Malibran and Sontag, such singers as these don’t make the same impression on you they perhaps do on others.”

“At least, you must admire Moriani’s style and execution.”

“I never fancied men of his dark, ponderous appearance singing with a voice like a woman’s.”

“My good friend,” said Franz, turning to him, while Albert continued to point his glass at every box in the theatre, “you seem determined not to approve; you are really too difficult to please.”

The curtain at length fell on the performances, to the infinite satisfaction of the Viscount of Morcerf, who seized his hat, rapidly passed his fingers through his hair, arranged his cravat and wristbands, and signified to Franz that he was waiting for him to lead the way.

Franz, who had mutely interrogated the countess, and received from her a gracious smile in token that he would be welcome, sought not to retard the gratification of Albert’s eager impatience, but began at once the tour of the house, closely followed by Albert, who availed himself of the few minutes required to reach the opposite side of the theatre to settle the height and smoothness of his collar, and to arrange the lappets of his coat. This important task was just completed as they arrived at the countess’s box.

At the knock, the door was immediately opened, and the young man who was seated beside the countess, in obedience to the Italian custom, instantly rose and surrendered his place to the strangers, who, in turn, would be expected to retire upon the arrival of other visitors.

Franz presented Albert as one of the most distinguished young men of the day, both as regarded his position in society and extraordinary talents; nor did he say more than the truth, for in Paris and the circle in which the viscount moved, he was looked upon and cited as a model of perfection. Franz added that his companion, deeply grieved at having been prevented the honor of being presented to the countess during her sojourn in Paris, was most anxious to make up for it, and had requested him (Franz) to remedy the past misfortune by conducting him to her box, and concluded by asking pardon for his presumption in having taken it upon himself to do so.

The countess, in reply, bowed gracefully to Albert, and extended her hand with cordial kindness to Franz; then, inviting Albert to take the vacant seat beside her, she recommended Franz to take the next best, if he wished to view the ballet, and pointed to the one behind her own chair.

Albert was soon deeply engrossed in discoursing upon Paris and Parisian matters, speaking to the countess of the various persons they both knew there. Franz perceived how completely he was in his element; and, unwilling to interfere with the pleasure he so evidently felt, took up Albert’s glass, and began in his turn to survey the audience.

Sitting alone, in the front of a box immediately opposite, but situated on the third row, was a woman of exquisite beauty, dressed in a Greek costume, which evidently, from the ease and grace with which she wore it, was her national attire. Behind her, but in deep shadow, was the outline of a masculine figure; but the features of this latter personage it was not possible to distinguish. Franz could not forbear breaking in upon the apparently interesting conversation passing between the countess and Albert, to inquire of the former if she knew who was the fair Albanian opposite, since beauty such as hers was well worthy of being observed by either sex.

“All I can tell about her,” replied the countess, “is, that she has been at Rome since the beginning of the season; for I saw her where she now sits the very first night of the season, and since then she has never missed a performance. Sometimes she is accompanied by the person who is now with her, and at others she is merely attended by a black servant.”

“And what do you think of her personal appearance?”

“Oh, I consider her perfectly lovely—she is just my idea of what Medora must have been.”

Franz and the countess exchanged a smile, and then the latter resumed her conversation with Albert, while Franz returned to his previous survey of the house and company. The curtain rose on the ballet, which was one of those excellent specimens of the Italian school, admirably arranged and put on the stage by Henri, who has established for himself a great reputation throughout Italy for his taste and skill in the choreographic art—one of those masterly productions of grace, method, and elegance in which the whole corps de ballet, from the principal dancers to the humblest supernumerary, are all engaged on the stage at the same time; and a hundred and fifty persons may be seen exhibiting the same attitude, or elevating the same arm or leg with a simultaneous movement, that would lead you to suppose that but one mind, one act of volition, influenced the moving mass.

The ballet was called Poliska.

However much the ballet might have claimed his attention, Franz was too deeply occupied with the beautiful Greek to take any note of it; while she seemed to experience an almost childlike delight in watching it, her eager, animated looks contrasting strongly with the utter indifference of her companion, who, during the whole time the piece lasted, never even moved, not even when the furious, crashing din produced by the trumpets, cymbals, and Chinese bells sounded their loudest from the orchestra. Of this he took no heed, but was, as far as appearances might be trusted, enjoying soft repose and bright celestial dreams.

The ballet at length came to a close, and the curtain fell amid the loud, unanimous plaudits of an enthusiastic and delighted audience.

Owing to the very judicious plan of dividing the two acts of the opera with a ballet, the pauses between the performances are very short, the singers in the opera having time to repose themselves and change their costume, when necessary, while the dancers are executing their pirouettes and exhibiting their graceful steps.

The overture to the second act began; and, at the first sound of the leader’s bow across his violin, Franz observed the sleeper slowly arise and approach the Greek girl, who turned around to say a few words to him, and then, leaning forward again on the railing of her box, she became as absorbed as before in what was going on.

The countenance of the person who had addressed her remained so completely in the shade, that, though Franz tried his utmost, he could not distinguish a single feature. The curtain rose, and the attention of Franz was attracted by the actors; and his eyes turned from the box containing the Greek girl and her strange companion to watch the business of the stage.

Most of my readers are aware that the second act of Parisina opens with the celebrated and effective duet in which Parisina, while sleeping, betrays to Azzo the secret of her love for Ugo. The injured husband goes through all the emotions of jealousy, until conviction seizes on his mind, and then, in a frenzy of rage and indignation, he awakens his guilty wife to tell her that he knows her guilt and to threaten her with his vengeance.

This duet is one of the most beautiful, expressive and terrible conceptions that has ever emanated from the fruitful pen of Donizetti. Franz now listened to it for the third time; yet its notes, so tenderly expressive and fearfully grand as the wretched husband and wife give vent to their different griefs and passions, thrilled through the soul of Franz with an effect equal to his first emotions upon hearing it. Excited beyond his usual calm demeanor, Franz rose with the audience, and was about to join the loud, enthusiastic applause that followed; but suddenly his purpose was arrested, his hands fell by his sides, and the half-uttered “bravos” expired on his lips.

The occupant of the box in which the Greek girl sat appeared to share the universal admiration that prevailed; for he left his seat to stand up in front, so that, his countenance being fully revealed, Franz had no difficulty in recognizing him as the mysterious inhabitant of Monte Cristo, and the very same person he had encountered the preceding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum, and whose voice and figure had seemed so familiar to him.

All doubt of his identity was now at an end; his singular host evidently resided at Rome. The surprise and agitation occasioned by this full confirmation of Franz’s former suspicion had no doubt imparted a corresponding expression to his features; for the countess, after gazing with a puzzled look at his face, burst into a fit of laughter, and begged to know what had happened.

“Countess,” returned Franz, totally unheeding her raillery, “I asked you a short time since if you knew any particulars respecting the Albanian lady opposite; I must now beseech you to inform me who and what is her husband?”

“Nay,” answered the countess, “I know no more of him than yourself.”

“Perhaps you never before noticed him?”

“What a question—so truly French! Do you not know that we Italians have eyes only for the man we love?”

“True,” replied Franz.

“All I can say is,” continued the countess, taking up the lorgnette, and directing it toward the box in question, “that the gentleman, whose history I am unable to furnish, seems to me as though he had just been dug up; he looks more like a corpse permitted by some friendly grave-digger to quit his tomb for a while, and revisit this earth of ours, than anything human. How ghastly pale he is!”

“Oh, he is always as colorless as you now see him,” said Franz.

“Then you know him?” almost screamed the countess. “Oh, pray do, for heaven’s sake, tell us all about—is he a vampire, or a resuscitated corpse, or what?”

“I fancy I have seen him before; and I even think he recognizes me.”

“And I can well understand,” said the countess, shrugging up her beautiful shoulders, as though an involuntary shudder passed through her veins, “that those who have once seen that man will never be likely to forget him.”

The sensation experienced by Franz was evidently not peculiar to himself; another, and wholly uninterested person, felt the same unaccountable awe and misgiving.

“Well.” inquired Franz, after the countess had a second time directed her lorgnette at the box, “what do you think of our opposite neighbor?”

“Why, that he is no other than Lord Ruthven himself in a living form.”

This fresh allusion to Byron[5] drew a smile to Franz’s countenance; although he could but allow that if anything was likely to induce belief in the existence of vampires, it would be the presence of such a man as the mysterious personage before him.

“I must positively find out who and what he is,” said Franz, rising from his seat.

“No, no,” cried the countess; “you must not leave me. I depend upon you to escort me home. Oh, indeed, I cannot permit you to go.”

“Is it possible,” whispered Franz, “that you entertain any fear?”

“I’ll tell you,” answered the countess. “Byron had the most perfect belief in the existence of vampires, and even assured me that he had seen them. The description he gave me perfectly corresponds with the features and character of the man before us. Oh, he is the exact personification of what I have been led to expect! The coal-black hair, large bright, glittering eyes, in which a wild, unearthly fire seems burning,—the same ghastly paleness. Then observe, too, that the woman with him is altogether unlike all others of her sex. She is a foreigner—a stranger. Nobody knows who she is, or where she comes from. No doubt she belongs to the same horrible race he does, and is, like himself, a dealer in magical arts. I entreat of you not to go near him—at least tonight; and if tomorrow your curiosity still continues as great, pursue your researches if you will; but tonight you neither can nor shall. For that purpose I mean to keep you all to myself.”

Franz protested he could not defer his pursuit till the following day, for many reasons.

“Listen to me,” said the countess, “and do not be so very headstrong. I am going home. I have a party at my house tonight, and therefore cannot possibly remain till the end of the opera. Now, I cannot for one instant believe you so devoid of gallantry as to refuse a lady your escort when she even condescends to ask you for it.”

There was nothing else left for Franz to do but to take up his hat, open the door of the box, and offer the countess his arm. It was quite evident, by her manner, that her uneasiness was not feigned; and Franz himself could not resist a feeling of superstitious dread—so much the stronger in him, as it arose from a variety of corroborative recollections, while the terror of the countess sprang from an instinctive belief, originally created in her mind by the wild tales she had listened to till she believed them truths. Franz could even feel her arm tremble as he assisted her into the carriage. Upon arriving at her hotel, Franz perceived that she had deceived him when she spoke of expecting company; on the contrary, her own return before the appointed hour seemed greatly to astonish the servants.

“Excuse my little subterfuge,” said the countess, in reply to her companion’s half-reproachful observation on the subject; “but that horrid man had made me feel quite uncomfortable, and I longed to be alone, that I might compose my startled mind.”

Franz essayed to smile.

“Nay,” said she, “do not smile; it ill accords with the expression of your countenance, and I am sure it does not spring from your heart. However, promise me one thing.”

“What is it?”

“Promise me, I say.”

“I will do anything you desire, except relinquish my determination of finding out who this man is. I have more reasons than you can imagine for desiring to know who he is, from whence he came, and whither he is going.”

“Where he comes from I am ignorant; but I can readily tell you where he is going to, and that is down below, without the least doubt.”

“Let us only speak of the promise you wished me to make,” said Franz.

“Well, then, you must give me your word to return immediately to your hotel, and make no attempt to follow this man tonight. There are certain affinities between the persons we quit and those we meet afterwards. For heaven’s sake, do not serve as a conductor between that man and me. Pursue your chase after him tomorrow as eagerly as you please; but never bring him near me, if you would not see me die of terror. And now, good-night; go to your rooms, and try to sleep away all recollections of this evening. For my own part, I am quite sure I shall not be able to close my eyes.”

So saying, the countess quitted Franz, leaving him unable to decide whether she were merely amusing herself at his expense, or whether her fears and agitations were genuine.

Upon his return to the hotel, Franz found Albert in his dressing-gown and slippers, listlessly extended on a sofa, smoking a cigar.

“My dear fellow!” cried he, springing up, “is it really you? Why, I did not expect to see you before tomorrow.”

“My dear Albert,” replied Franz, “I am glad of this opportunity to tell you, once and forever, that you entertain a most erroneous notion concerning Italian women. I should have thought the continual failures you have met with in all your own love affairs might have taught you better by this time.”

“Upon my soul, these women would puzzle the very Devil to read them aright. Why, here—they give you their hand—they press yours in return—they keep up a whispering conversation—permit you to accompany them home. Why, if a Parisian were to indulge in a quarter of these marks of flattering attention, her reputation would be gone forever.”

“And the very reason why the women of this fine country, ‘where sounds the si,’ as Dante writes, put so little restraint on their words and actions, is because they live so much in public, and have really nothing to conceal. Besides, you must have perceived that the countess was really alarmed.”

“At what? At the sight of that respectable gentleman sitting opposite to us in the same box with the lovely Greek girl? Now, for my part, I met them in the lobby after the conclusion of the piece; and hang me, if I can guess where you took your notions of the other world from. I can assure you that this hobgoblin of yours is a deuced fine-looking fellow—admirably dressed. Indeed, I feel quite sure, from the cut of his clothes, they are made by a first-rate Paris tailor—probably Blin or Humann. He was rather too pale, certainly; but then, you know, paleness is always looked upon as a strong proof of aristocratic descent and distinguished breeding.”

Franz smiled; for he well remembered that Albert particularly prided himself on the entire absence of color in his own complexion.

“Well, that tends to confirm my own ideas,” said Franz, “that the countess’s suspicions were destitute alike of sense and reason. Did he speak in your hearing? and did you catch any of his words?”

“I did; but they were uttered in the Romaic dialect. I knew that from the mixture of Greek words. I don’t know whether I ever told you that when I was at college I was rather—rather strong in Greek.”

“He spoke the Romaic language, did he?”

“I think so.”

“That settles it,” murmured Franz. “’Tis he, past all doubt.”

“What do you say?”

“Nothing, nothing. But tell me, what were you thinking about when I came in?”

“Oh, I was arranging a little surprise for you.”

“Indeed. Of what nature?”

“Why, you know it is quite impossible to procure a carriage.”

“Certainly; and I also know that we have done all that human means afforded to endeavor to get one.”

“Now, then, in this difficulty a bright idea has flashed across my brain.”

Franz looked at Albert as though he had not much confidence in the suggestions of his imagination.

“I tell you what, M. Franz,” cried Albert, “you deserve to be called out for such a misgiving and incredulous glance as that you were pleased to bestow on me just now.”

“And I promise to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman if your scheme turns out as ingenious as you assert.”

“Well, then, hearken to me.”

“I listen.”

“You agree, do you not, that obtaining a carriage is out of the question?”

“I do.”

“Neither can we procure horses?”

“True; we have offered any sum, but have failed.”

“Well, now, what do you say to a cart? I dare say such a thing might be had.”

“Very possibly.”

“And a pair of oxen?”

“As easily found as the cart.”

“Then you see, my good fellow, with a cart and a couple of oxen our business can be managed. The cart must be tastefully ornamented; and if you and I dress ourselves as Neapolitan reapers, we may get up a striking tableau, after the manner of that splendid picture by Léopold Robert. It would add greatly to the effect if the countess would join us in the costume of a peasant from Puzzoli or Sorrento. Our group would then be quite complete, more especially as the countess is quite beautiful enough to represent a Madonna.”

“Well,” said Franz, “this time, M. Albert, I am bound to give you credit for having hit upon a most capital idea.”

“And quite a national one, too,” replied Albert with gratified pride. “A mere masque borrowed from our own festivities. Ha, ha, ye Romans! you thought to make us, unhappy strangers, trot at the heels of your processions, like so many lazzaroni, because no carriages or horses are to be had in your beggarly city. But you don’t know us; when we can’t have one thing we invent another.”

“And have you communicated your triumphant idea to anybody?”

“Only to our host. Upon my return home I sent for him, and I then explained to him what I wished to procure. He assured me that nothing would be easier than to furnish all I desired. One thing I was sorry for; when I bade him have the horns of the oxen gilded, he told me there would not be time, as it would require three days to do that; so you see we must do without this little superfluity.”

“And where is he now?”

“Who?”

“Our host.”

“Gone out in search of our equipage, by tomorrow it might be too late.”

“Then he will be able to give us an answer tonight.”

“Oh, I expect him every minute.”

At this instant the door opened, and the head of Signor Pastrini appeared. “Permesso?” inquired he.

“Certainly—certainly,” cried Franz. “Come in, my host.”

“Now, then,” asked Albert eagerly, “have you found the desired cart and oxen?”

“Better than that!” replied Signor Pastrini, with the air of a man perfectly well satisfied with himself.

“Take care, my worthy host,” said Albert, “better is a sure enemy to well.”

“Let your excellencies only leave the matter to me,” returned Signor Pastrini in a tone indicative of unbounded self-confidence.

“But what have you done?” asked Franz. “Speak out, there’s a worthy fellow.”

“Your excellencies are aware,” responded the landlord, swelling with importance, “that the Count of Monte Cristo is living on the same floor with yourselves!”

“I should think we did know it,” exclaimed Albert, “since it is owing to that circumstance that we are packed into these small rooms, like two poor students in the back streets of Paris.”

“When, then, the Count of Monte Cristo, hearing of the dilemma in which you are placed, has sent to offer you seats in his carriage and two places at his windows in the Palazzo Rospoli.” The friends looked at each other with unutterable surprise.

“But do you think,” asked Albert, “that we ought to accept such offers from a perfect stranger?”

“What sort of person is this Count of Monte Cristo?” asked Franz of his host.

“A very great nobleman, but whether Maltese or Sicilian I cannot exactly say; but this I know, that he is noble as a Borghese and rich as a gold mine.”

“It seems to me,” said Franz, speaking in an undertone to Albert, “that if this person merited the high panegyrics of our landlord, he would have conveyed his invitation through another channel, and not permitted it to be brought to us in this unceremonious way. He would have written—or——”

At this instant someone knocked at the door.

“Come in,” said Franz.

A servant, wearing a livery of considerable style and richness, appeared at the threshold, and, placing two cards in the landlord’s hands, who forthwith presented them to the two young men, he said:

“Please to deliver these, from the Count of Monte Cristo to Vicomte Albert de Morcerf and M. Franz d’Épinay. The Count of Monte Cristo,” continued the servant, “begs these gentlemen’s permission to wait upon them as their neighbor, and he will be honored by an intimation of what time they will please to receive him.”

“Faith, Franz,” whispered Albert, “there is not much to find fault with here.”

“Tell the count,” replied Franz, “that we will do ourselves the pleasure of calling on him.”

The servant bowed and retired.

“That is what I call an elegant mode of attack,” said Albert, “You were quite correct in what you said, Signor Pastrini. The Count of Monte Cristo is unquestionably a man of first-rate breeding and knowledge of the world.”

“Then you accept his offer?” said the host.

“Of course we do,” replied Albert. “Still, I must own I am sorry to be obliged to give up the cart and the group of reapers—it would have produced such an effect! And were it not for the windows at the Palazzo Rospoli, by way of recompense for the loss of our beautiful scheme, I don’t know but what I should have held on by my original plan. What say you, Franz?”

“Oh, I agree with you; the windows in the Palazzo Rospoli alone decided me.”

The truth was, that the mention of two places in the Palazzo Rospoli had recalled to Franz the conversation he had overheard the preceding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum between the mysterious unknown and the Transteverin, in which the stranger in the cloak had undertaken to obtain the freedom of a condemned criminal; and if this muffled-up individual proved (as Franz felt sure he would) the same as the person he had just seen in the Teatro Argentina, then he should be able to establish his identity, and also to prosecute his researches respecting him with perfect facility and freedom.

Franz passed the night in confused dreams respecting the two meetings he had already had with his mysterious tormentor, and in waking speculations as to what the morrow would produce. The next day must clear up every doubt; and unless his near neighbor and would-be friend, the Count of Monte Cristo, possessed the ring of Gyges, and by its power was able to render himself invisible, it was very certain he could not escape this time.

Eight o’clock found Franz up and dressed, while Albert, who had not the same motives for early rising, was still soundly asleep. The first act of Franz was to summon his landlord, who presented himself with his accustomed obsequiousness.

“Pray, Signor Pastrini,” asked Franz, “is not some execution appointed to take place today?”

“Yes, your excellency; but if your reason for inquiry is that you may procure a window to view it from, you are much too late.”

“Oh, no,” answered Franz, “I had no such intention; and even if I had felt a wish to witness the spectacle, I might have done so from Monte Pincio; could I not?”

“Ah!” exclaimed mine host, “I did not think it likely your excellency would have chosen to mingle with such a rabble as are always collected on that hill, which, indeed, they consider as exclusively belonging to themselves.”

“Very possibly I may not go,” answered Franz; “but in case I feel disposed, give me some particulars of today’s executions.”

“What particulars would your excellency like to hear?”

“Why, the number of persons condemned to suffer, their names, and description of the death they are to die.”

“That happens just lucky, your excellency! Only a few minutes ago they brought me the tavolettas.”

“What are they?”

“Sort of wooden tablets hung up at the corners of streets the evening before an execution, on which is pasted up a paper containing the names of the condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment. The reason for so publicly announcing all this is, that all good and faithful Catholics may offer up their prayers for the unfortunate culprits, and, above all, beseech of Heaven to grant them a sincere repentance.”

“And these tablets are brought to you that you may add your prayers to those of the faithful, are they?” asked Franz somewhat incredulously.

“Oh, dear, no, your excellency! I have not time for anybody’s affairs but my own and those of my honorable guests; but I make an agreement with the man who pastes up the papers, and he brings them to me as he would the playbills, that in case any person staying at my hotel should like to witness an execution, he may obtain every requisite information concerning the time and place etc.”

“Upon my word, that is a most delicate attention on your part, Signor Pastrini,” cried Franz.

“Why, your excellency,” returned the landlord, chuckling and rubbing his hands with infinite complacency, “I think I may take upon myself to say I neglect nothing to deserve the support and patronage of the noble visitors to this poor hotel.”

“I see that plainly enough, my most excellent host, and you may rely upon me to proclaim so striking a proof of your attention to your guests wherever I go. Meanwhile, oblige me by a sight of one of these tavolettas.”

“Nothing can be easier than to comply with your excellency’s wish,” said the landlord, opening the door of the chamber; “I have caused one to be placed on the landing, close by your apartment.”

Then, taking the tablet from the wall, he handed it to Franz, who read as follows:

“‘The public is informed that on Wednesday, February 23rd, being the first day of the Carnival, executions will take place in the Piazza del Popolo, by order of the Tribunal of the Rota, of two persons, named Andrea Rondolo, and Peppino, otherwise called Rocca Priori; the former found guilty of the murder of a venerable and exemplary priest, named Don César Torlini, canon of the church of St. John Lateran; and the latter convicted of being an accomplice of the atrocious and sanguinary bandit, Luigi Vampa, and his band. The first-named malefactor will be mazzolato, the second culprit decapitato.

“‘The prayers of all good Christians are entreated for these unfortunate men, that it may please God to awaken them to a sense of their guilt, and to grant them a hearty and sincere repentance for their crimes.’”

This was precisely what Franz had heard the evening before in the ruins of the Colosseum. No part of the programme differed,—the names of the condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment, all agreed with his previous information. In all probability, therefore, the Transteverin was no other than the bandit Luigi Vampa himself, and the man shrouded in the mantle the same he had known as “Sinbad the Sailor,” but who, no doubt, was still pursuing his philanthropic expedition in Rome, as he had already done at Porto-Vecchio and Tunis.

Time was getting on, however, and Franz deemed it advisable to awaken Albert; but at the moment he prepared to proceed to his chamber, his friend entered the room in perfect costume for the day. The anticipated delights of the Carnival had so run in his head as to make him leave his pillow long before his usual hour.

“Now, my excellent Signor Pastrini,” said Franz, addressing his landlord, “since we are both ready, do you think we may proceed at once to visit the Count of Monte Cristo?”

“Most assuredly,” replied he. “The Count of Monte Cristo is always an early riser; and I can answer for his having been up these two hours.”

“Then you really consider we shall not be intruding if we pay our respects to him directly?”

“Oh, I am quite sure. I will take all the blame on myself if you find I have led you into an error.”

“Well, then, if it be so, are you ready, Albert?”

“Perfectly.”

“Let us go and return our best thanks for his courtesy.”

“Yes, let us do so.”

The landlord preceded the friends across the landing, which was all that separated them from the apartments of the count, rang at the bell, and, upon the door being opened by a servant, said:

“I signori Francesi.”

The domestic bowed respectfully, and invited them to enter. They passed through two rooms, furnished in a luxurious manner they had not expected to see under the roof of Signor Pastrini, and were shown into an elegantly fitted-up drawing-room. The richest Turkey carpets covered the floor, and the softest and most inviting couches, easy-chairs, and sofas, offered their high-piled and yielding cushions to such as desired repose or refreshment. Splendid paintings by the first masters were ranged against the walls, intermingled with magnificent trophies of war, while heavy curtains of costly tapestry were suspended before the different doors of the room.

“If your excellencies will please to be seated,” said the man, “I will let the count know that you are here.”

And with these words he disappeared behind one of the tapestried portières. As the door opened, the sound of a guzla reached the ears of the young men, but was almost immediately lost, for the rapid closing of the door merely allowed one rich swell of harmony to enter. Franz and Albert looked inquiringly at each other, then at the gorgeous furnishings of the apartment. Everything seemed more magnificent at a second view than it had done at their first rapid survey.

“Well,” said Franz to his friend, “what think you of all this?”

“Why, upon my soul, my dear fellow, it strikes me that our elegant and attentive neighbor must either be some successful stock-jobber who has speculated in the fall of the Spanish funds, or some prince travelling incog.”

“Hush, hush!” replied Franz; “we shall ascertain who and what he is—he comes!”

As Franz spoke, he heard the sound of a door turning on its hinges, and almost immediately afterwards the tapestry was drawn aside, and the owner of all these riches stood before the two young men. Albert instantly rose to meet him, but Franz remained, in a manner, spellbound on his chair; for in the person of him who had just entered he recognized not only the mysterious visitant to the Colosseum, and the occupant of the box at the Teatro Argentina, but also his extraordinary host of Monte Cristo.


Chapter 35. La Mazzolata


Gentlemen,” said the Count of Monte Cristo as he entered, “I pray you excuse me for suffering my visit to be anticipated; but I feared to disturb you by presenting myself earlier at your apartments; besides, you sent me word that you would come to me, and I have held myself at your disposal.”

“Franz and I have to thank you a thousand times, count,” returned Albert; “you extricated us from a great dilemma, and we were on the point of inventing a very fantastic vehicle when your friendly invitation reached us.”

“Indeed,” returned the count, motioning the two young men to sit down. “It was the fault of that blockhead Pastrini, that I did not sooner assist you in your distress. He did not mention a syllable of your embarrassment to me, when he knows that, alone and isolated as I am, I seek every opportunity of making the acquaintance of my neighbors. As soon as I learned I could in any way assist you, I most eagerly seized the opportunity of offering my services.”

The two young men bowed. Franz had, as yet, found nothing to say; he had come to no determination, and as nothing in the count’s manner manifested the wish that he should recognize him, he did not know whether to make any allusion to the past, or wait until he had more proof; besides, although sure it was he who had been in the box the previous evening, he could not be equally positive that this was the man he had seen at the Colosseum. He resolved, therefore, to let things take their course without making any direct overture to the count. Moreover, he had this advantage, he was master of the count’s secret, while the count had no hold on Franz, who had nothing to conceal. However, he resolved to lead the conversation to a subject which might possibly clear up his doubts.

“Count,” said he, “you have offered us places in your carriage, and at your windows in the Rospoli Palace. Can you tell us where we can obtain a sight of the Piazza del Popolo?”

“Ah,” said the count negligently, looking attentively at Morcerf, “is there not something like an execution upon the Piazza del Popolo?”

“Yes,” returned Franz, finding that the count was coming to the point he wished.

“Stay, I think I told my steward yesterday to attend to this; perhaps I can render you this slight service also.”

He extended his hand, and rang the bell thrice.

“Did you ever occupy yourself,” said he to Franz, “with the employment of time and the means of simplifying the summoning your servants? I have. When I ring once, it is for my valet; twice, for my majordomo; thrice, for my steward,—thus I do not waste a minute or a word. Here he is.”

A man of about forty-five or fifty entered, exactly resembling the smuggler who had introduced Franz into the cavern; but he did not appear to recognize him. It was evident he had his orders.

“Monsieur Bertuccio,” said the count, “you have procured me windows looking on the Piazza del Popolo, as I ordered you yesterday.”

“Yes, excellency,” returned the steward; “but it was very late.”

“Did I not tell you I wished for one?” replied the count, frowning.

“And your excellency has one, which was let to Prince Lobanieff; but I was obliged to pay a hundred——”

“That will do—that will do, Monsieur Bertuccio; spare these gentlemen all such domestic arrangements. You have the window, that is sufficient. Give orders to the coachman; and be in readiness on the stairs to conduct us to it.”

The steward bowed, and was about to quit the room.

“Ah!” continued the count, “be good enough to ask Pastrini if he has received the tavoletta, and if he can send us an account of the execution.”

“There is no need to do that,” said Franz, taking out his tablets; “for I saw the account, and copied it down.”

“Very well, you can retire, M. Bertuccio; I need you no longer. Let us know when breakfast is ready. These gentlemen,” added he, turning to the two friends, “will, I trust, do me the honor to breakfast with me?”

“But, my dear count,” said Albert, “we shall abuse your kindness.”

“Not at all; on the contrary, you will give me great pleasure. You will, one or other of you, perhaps both, return it to me at Paris. M. Bertuccio, lay covers for three.”

He then took Franz’s tablets out of his hand. “‘We announce,’ he read, in the same tone with which he would have read a newspaper, ‘that today, the 23rd of February, will be executed Andrea Rondolo, guilty of murder on the person of the respected and venerated Don César Torlini, canon of the church of St. John Lateran, and Peppino, called Rocca Priori, convicted of complicity with the detestable bandit Luigi Vampa, and the men of his band.’

“Hum! ‘The first will be mazzolato, the second decapitato.’ Yes,” continued the count, “it was at first arranged in this way; but I think since yesterday some change has taken place in the order of the ceremony.”

“Really?” said Franz.

“Yes, I passed the evening at the Cardinal Rospigliosi’s, and there mention was made of something like a pardon for one of the two men.”

“For Andrea Rondolo?” asked Franz.

“No,” replied the count, carelessly; “for the other (he glanced at the tablets as if to recall the name), for Peppino, called Rocca Priori. You are thus deprived of seeing a man guillotined; but the mazzolata still remains, which is a very curious punishment when seen for the first time, and even the second, while the other, as you must know, is very simple. The mandaïa[6] never fails, never trembles, never strikes thirty times ineffectually, like the soldier who beheaded the Count of Chalais, and to whose tender mercy Richelieu had doubtless recommended the sufferer. Ah,” added the count, in a contemptuous tone, “do not tell me of European punishments, they are in the infancy, or rather the old age, of cruelty.”

“Really, count,” replied Franz, “one would think that you had studied the different tortures of all the nations of the world.”

“There are, at least, few that I have not seen,” said the count coldly.

“And you took pleasure in beholding these dreadful spectacles?”

“My first sentiment was horror, the second indifference, the third curiosity.”

“Curiosity—that is a terrible word.”

“Why so? In life, our greatest preoccupation is death; is it not then, curious to study the different ways by which the soul and body can part; and how, according to their different characters, temperaments, and even the different customs of their countries, different persons bear the transition from life to death, from existence to annihilation? As for myself, I can assure you of one thing,—the more men you see die, the easier it becomes to die yourself; and in my opinion, death may be a torture, but it is not an expiation.”

“I do not quite understand you,” replied Franz; “pray explain your meaning, for you excite my curiosity to the highest pitch.”

“Listen,” said the count, and deep hatred mounted to his face, as the blood would to the face of any other. “If a man had by unheard-of and excruciating tortures destroyed your father, your mother, your betrothed,—a being who, when torn from you, left a desolation, a wound that never closes, in your breast,—do you think the reparation that society gives you is sufficient when it interposes the knife of the guillotine between the base of the occiput and the trapezal muscles of the murderer, and allows him who has caused us years of moral sufferings to escape with a few moments of physical pain?”

“Yes, I know,” said Franz, “that human justice is insufficient to console us; she can give blood in return for blood, that is all; but you must demand from her only what it is in her power to grant.”

“I will put another case to you,” continued the count; “that where society, attacked by the death of a person, avenges death by death. But are there not a thousand tortures by which a man may be made to suffer without society taking the least cognizance of them, or offering him even the insufficient means of vengeance, of which we have just spoken? Are there not crimes for which the impalement of the Turks, the augers of the Persians, the stake and the brand of the Iroquois Indians, are inadequate tortures, and which are unpunished by society? Answer me, do not these crimes exist?”

“Yes,” answered Franz; “and it is to punish them that duelling is tolerated.”

“Ah, duelling,” cried the count; “a pleasant manner, upon my soul, of arriving at your end when that end is vengeance! A man has carried off your mistress, a man has seduced your wife, a man has dishonored your daughter; he has rendered the whole life of one who had the right to expect from Heaven that portion of happiness God has promised to everyone of his creatures, an existence of misery and infamy; and you think you are avenged because you send a ball through the head, or pass a sword through the breast, of that man who has planted madness in your brain, and despair in your heart. And remember, moreover, that it is often he who comes off victorious from the strife, absolved of all crime in the eyes of the world. No, no,” continued the count, “had I to avenge myself, it is not thus I would take revenge.”

“Then you disapprove of duelling? You would not fight a duel?” asked Albert in his turn, astonished at this strange theory.

“Oh, yes,” replied the count; “understand me, I would fight a duel for a trifle, for an insult, for a blow; and the more so that, thanks to my skill in all bodily exercises, and the indifference to danger I have gradually acquired, I should be almost certain to kill my man. Oh, I would fight for such a cause; but in return for a slow, profound, eternal torture, I would give back the same, were it possible; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Orientalists say,—our masters in everything,—those favored creatures who have formed for themselves a life of dreams and a paradise of realities.”

“But,” said Franz to the count, “with this theory, which renders you at once judge and executioner of your own cause, it would be difficult to adopt a course that would forever prevent your falling under the power of the law. Hatred is blind, rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”

“Yes, if he be poor and inexperienced, not if he be rich and skilful; besides, the worst that could happen to him would be the punishment of which we have already spoken, and which the philanthropic French Revolution has substituted for being torn to pieces by horses or broken on the wheel. What matters this punishment, as long as he is avenged? On my word, I almost regret that in all probability this miserable Peppino will not be beheaded, as you might have had an opportunity then of seeing how short a time the punishment lasts, and whether it is worth even mentioning; but, really this is a most singular conversation for the Carnival, gentlemen; how did it arise? Ah, I recollect, you asked for a place at my window; you shall have it; but let us first sit down to table, for here comes the servant to inform us that breakfast is ready.”

As he spoke, a servant opened one of the four doors of the apartment, saying:

“Al suo commodo!”

The two young men arose and entered the breakfast-room.

During the meal, which was excellent, and admirably served, Franz looked repeatedly at Albert, in order to observe the impressions which he doubted not had been made on him by the words of their entertainer; but whether with his usual carelessness he had paid but little attention to him, whether the explanation of the Count of Monte Cristo with regard to duelling had satisfied him, or whether the events which Franz knew of had had their effect on him alone, he remarked that his companion did not pay the least regard to them, but on the contrary ate like a man who for the last four or five months had been condemned to partake of Italian cookery—that is, the worst in the world.

As for the count, he just touched the dishes; he seemed to fulfil the duties of a host by sitting down with his guests, and awaited their departure to be served with some strange or more delicate food. This brought back to Franz, in spite of himself, the recollection of the terror with which the count had inspired the Countess G——, and her firm conviction that the man in the opposite box was a vampire.

At the end of the breakfast Franz took out his watch.

“Well,” said the count, “what are you doing?”

“You must excuse us, count,” returned Franz, “but we have still much to do.”

“What may that be?”

“We have no masks, and it is absolutely necessary to procure them.”

“Do not concern yourself about that; we have, I think, a private room in the Piazza del Popolo; I will have whatever costumes you choose brought to us, and you can dress there.”

“After the execution?” cried Franz.

“Before or after, whichever you please.”

“Opposite the scaffold?”

“The scaffold forms part of the fête.”

“Count, I have reflected on the matter,” said Franz, “I thank you for your courtesy, but I shall content myself with accepting a place in your carriage and at your window at the Rospoli Palace, and I leave you at liberty to dispose of my place at the Piazza del Popolo.”

“But I warn you, you will lose a very curious sight,” returned the count.

“You will describe it to me,” replied Franz, “and the recital from your lips will make as great an impression on me as if I had witnessed it. I have more than once intended witnessing an execution, but I have never been able to make up my mind; and you, Albert?”

“I,” replied the viscount,—“I saw Castaing executed, but I think I was rather intoxicated that day, for I had quitted college the same morning, and we had passed the previous night at a tavern.”

“Besides, it is no reason because you have not seen an execution at Paris, that you should not see one anywhere else; when you travel, it is to see everything. Think what a figure you will make when you are asked, ‘How do they execute at Rome?’ and you reply, ‘I do not know!’ And, besides, they say that the culprit is an infamous scoundrel, who killed with a log of wood a worthy canon who had brought him up like his own son. Diable! when a churchman is killed, it should be with a different weapon than a log, especially when he has behaved like a father. If you went to Spain, would you not see the bull-fights? Well, suppose it is a bull-fight you are going to see? Recollect the ancient Romans of the Circus, and the sports where they killed three hundred lions and a hundred men. Think of the eighty thousand applauding spectators, the sage matrons who took their daughters, and the charming Vestals who made with the thumb of their white hands the fatal sign that said, ‘Come, despatch the dying.’”

“Shall you go, then, Albert?” asked Franz.

“Ma foi, yes; like you, I hesitated, but the count’s eloquence decides me.”

“Let us go, then,” said Franz, “since you wish it; but on our way to the Piazza del Popolo, I wish to pass through the Corso. Is this possible, count?”

“On foot, yes, in a carriage, no.”

“I will go on foot, then.”

“Is it important that you should go that way?”

“Yes, there is something I wish to see.”

“Well, we will go by the Corso. We will send the carriage to wait for us on the Piazza del Popolo, by the Via del Babuino, for I shall be glad to pass, myself, through the Corso, to see if some orders I have given have been executed.”

“Excellency,” said a servant, opening the door, “a man in the dress of a penitent wishes to speak to you.”

“Ah! yes,” returned the count, “I know who he is, gentlemen; will you return to the salon? you will find good cigars on the centre table. I will be with you directly.”

The young men rose and returned into the salon, while the count, again apologizing, left by another door. Albert, who was a great smoker, and who had considered it no small sacrifice to be deprived of the cigars of the Café de Paris, approached the table, and uttered a cry of joy at perceiving some veritable puros.

“Well,” asked Franz, “what think you of the Count of Monte Cristo?”

“What do I think?” said Albert, evidently surprised at such a question from his companion; “I think he is a delightful fellow, who does the honors of his table admirably; who has travelled much, read much, is, like Brutus, of the Stoic school, and moreover,” added he, sending a volume of smoke up towards the ceiling, “that he has excellent cigars.”

Such was Albert’s opinion of the count, and as Franz well knew that Albert professed never to form an opinion except upon long reflection, he made no attempt to change it.

“But,” said he, “did you observe one very singular thing?”

“What?”

“How attentively he looked at you.”

“At me?”

“Yes.”

Albert reflected. “Ah,” replied he, sighing, “that is not very surprising; I have been more than a year absent from Paris, and my clothes are of a most antiquated cut; the count takes me for a provincial. The first opportunity you have, undeceive him, I beg, and tell him I am nothing of the kind.”

Franz smiled; an instant after the count entered.

“I am now quite at your service, gentlemen,” said he. “The carriage is going one way to the Piazza del Popolo, and we will go another; and, if you please, by the Corso. Take some more of these cigars, M. de Morcerf.”

“With all my heart,” returned Albert; “Italian cigars are horrible. When you come to Paris, I will return all this.”

“I will not refuse; I intend going there soon, and since you allow me, I will pay you a visit. Come, we have not any time to lose, it is half-past twelve—let us set off.”

All three descended; the coachman received his master’s orders, and drove down the Via del Babuino. While the three gentlemen walked along the Piazza di Spagna and the Via Frattina, which led directly between the Fiano and Rospoli palaces, Franz’s attention was directed towards the windows of that last palace, for he had not forgotten the signal agreed upon between the man in the mantle and the Transtevere peasant.

“Which are your windows?” asked he of the count, with as much indifference as he could assume.

“The three last,” returned he, with a negligence evidently unaffected, for he could not imagine with what intention the question was put.

Franz glanced rapidly towards the three windows. The side windows were hung with yellow damask, and the centre one with white damask and a red cross. The man in the mantle had kept his promise to the Transteverin, and there could now be no doubt that he was the count.

The three windows were still untenanted. Preparations were making on every side; chairs were placed, scaffolds were raised, and windows were hung with flags. The masks could not appear; the carriages could not move about; but the masks were visible behind the windows, the carriages, and the doors.

Franz, Albert, and the count continued to descend the Corso. As they approached the Piazza del Popolo, the crowd became more dense, and above the heads of the multitude two objects were visible: the obelisk, surmounted by a cross, which marks the centre of the square, and in front of the obelisk, at the point where the three streets, del Babuino, del Corso, and di Ripetta, meet, the two uprights of the scaffold, between which glittered the curved knife of the mandaïa.

At the corner of the street they met the count’s steward, who was awaiting his master. The window, let at an exorbitant price, which the count had doubtless wished to conceal from his guests, was on the second floor of the great palace, situated between the Via del Babuino and the Monte Pincio. It consisted, as we have said, of a small dressing-room, opening into a bedroom, and, when the door of communication was shut, the inmates were quite alone. On chairs were laid elegant masquerade costumes of blue and white satin.

“As you left the choice of your costumes to me,” said the count to the two friends, “I have had these brought, as they will be the most worn this year; and they are most suitable, on account of the confetti (sweetmeats), as they do not show the flour.”

Franz heard the words of the count but imperfectly, and he perhaps did not fully appreciate this new attention to their wishes; for he was wholly absorbed by the spectacle that the Piazza del Popolo presented, and by the terrible instrument that was in the centre.

It was the first time Franz had ever seen a guillotine,—we say guillotine, because the Roman mandaïa is formed on almost the same model as the French instrument.[7] The knife, which is shaped like a crescent, that cuts with the convex side, falls from a less height, and that is all the difference.

Two men, seated on the movable plank on which the victim is laid, were eating their breakfasts, while waiting for the criminal. Their repast consisted apparently of bread and sausages. One of them lifted the plank, took out a flask of wine, drank some, and then passed it to his companion. These two men were the executioner’s assistants.

At this sight Franz felt the perspiration start forth upon his brow.

The prisoners, transported the previous evening from the Carceri Nuove to the little church of Santa Maria del Popolo, had passed the night, each accompanied by two priests, in a chapel closed by a grating, before which were two sentinels, who were relieved at intervals. A double line of carbineers, placed on each side of the door of the church, reached to the scaffold, and formed a circle around it, leaving a path about ten feet wide, and around the guillotine a space of nearly a hundred feet.

All the rest of the square was paved with heads. Many women held their infants on their shoulders, and thus the children had the best view. The Monte Pincio seemed a vast amphitheatre filled with spectators; the balconies of the two churches at the corner of the Via del Babuino and the Via di Ripetta were crammed; the steps even seemed a parti-colored sea, that was impelled towards the portico; every niche in the wall held its living statue. What the count said was true—the most curious spectacle in life is that of death.

And yet, instead of the silence and the solemnity demanded by the occasion, laughter and jests arose from the crowd. It was evident that the execution was, in the eyes of the people, only the commencement of the Carnival.

Suddenly the tumult ceased, as if by magic, and the doors of the church opened. A brotherhood of penitents, clothed from head to foot in robes of gray sackcloth, with holes for the eyes, and holding in their hands lighted tapers, appeared first; the chief marched at the head.

Behind the penitents came a man of vast stature and proportions. He was naked, with the exception of cloth drawers at the left side of which hung a large knife in a sheath, and he bore on his right shoulder a heavy iron sledge-hammer.

This man was the executioner.

He had, moreover, sandals bound on his feet by cords.

Behind the executioner came, in the order in which they were to die, first Peppino and then Andrea. Each was accompanied by two priests. Neither had his eyes bandaged.

Peppino walked with a firm step, doubtless aware of what awaited him. Andrea was supported by two priests. Each of them, from time to time, kissed the crucifix a confessor held out to them.

At this sight alone Franz felt his legs tremble under him. He looked at Albert—he was as white as his shirt, and mechanically cast away his cigar, although he had not half smoked it. The count alone seemed unmoved—nay, more, a slight color seemed striving to rise in his pale cheeks. His nostrils dilated like those of a wild beast that scents its prey, and his lips, half opened, disclosed his white teeth, small and sharp like those of a jackal. And yet his features wore an expression of smiling tenderness, such as Franz had never before witnessed in them; his black eyes especially were full of kindness and pity.

However, the two culprits advanced, and as they approached their faces became visible. Peppino was a handsome young man of four or five-and-twenty, bronzed by the sun; he carried his head erect, and seemed on the watch to see on which side his liberator would appear. Andrea was short and fat; his visage, marked with brutal cruelty, did not indicate age; he might be thirty. In prison he had suffered his beard to grow; his head fell on his shoulder, his legs bent beneath him, and his movements were apparently automatic and unconscious.

“I thought,” said Franz to the count, “that you told me there would be but one execution.”

“I told you true,” replied he coldly.

“And yet here are two culprits.”

“Yes; but only one of these two is about to die; the other has many years to live.”

“If the pardon is to come, there is no time to lose.”

“And see, here it is,” said the count. At the moment when Peppino reached the foot of the mandaïa, a priest arrived in some haste, forced his way through the soldiers, and, advancing to the chief of the brotherhood, gave him a folded paper. The piercing eye of Peppino had noticed all. The chief took the paper, unfolded it, and, raising his hand, “Heaven be praised, and his Holiness also,” said he in a loud voice; “here is a pardon for one of the prisoners!”

“A pardon!” cried the people with one voice; “a pardon!”

At this cry Andrea raised his head.

“Pardon for whom?” cried he.

Peppino remained breathless.

“A pardon for Peppino, called Rocca Priori,” said the principal friar. And he passed the paper to the officer commanding the carbineers, who read and returned it to him.

“For Peppino!” cried Andrea, who seemed roused from the torpor in which he had been plunged. “Why for him and not for me? We ought to die together. I was promised he should die with me. You have no right to put me to death alone. I will not die alone—I will not!”

And he broke from the priests struggling and raving like a wild beast, and striving desperately to break the cords that bound his hands. The executioner made a sign, and his two assistants leaped from the scaffold and seized him.

“What is going on?” asked Franz of the count; for, as all the talk was in the Roman dialect, he had not perfectly understood it.

“Do you not see?” returned the count, “that this human creature who is about to die is furious that his fellow-sufferer does not perish with him? and, were he able, he would rather tear him to pieces with his teeth and nails than let him enjoy the life he himself is about to be deprived of. Oh, man, man—race of crocodiles,” cried the count, extending his clenched hands towards the crowd, “how well do I recognize you there, and that at all times you are worthy of yourselves!”

Meanwhile Andrea and the two executioners were struggling on the ground, and he kept exclaiming, “He ought to die!—he shall die!—I will not die alone!”

“Look, look,” cried the count, seizing the young men’s hands; “look, for on my soul it is curious. Here is a man who had resigned himself to his fate, who was going to the scaffold to die—like a coward, it is true, but he was about to die without resistance. Do you know what gave him strength? do you know what consoled him? It was, that another partook of his punishment—that another partook of his anguish—that another was to die before him! Lead two sheep to the butcher’s, two oxen to the slaughterhouse, and make one of them understand that his companion will not die; the sheep will bleat for pleasure, the ox will bellow with joy. But man—man, whom God created in his own image—man, upon whom God has laid his first, his sole commandment, to love his neighbor—man, to whom God has given a voice to express his thoughts—what is his first cry when he hears his fellow-man is saved? A blasphemy. Honor to man, this masterpiece of nature, this king of the creation!”

And the count burst into a laugh; a terrible laugh, that showed he must have suffered horribly to be able thus to laugh.

However, the struggle still continued, and it was dreadful to witness. The two assistants carried Andrea up to the scaffold; the people all took part against Andrea, and twenty thousand voices cried, “Put him to death! put him to death!”

Franz sprang back, but the count seized his arm, and held him before the window.

“What are you doing?” said he. “Do you pity him? If you heard the cry of ‘Mad dog!’ you would take your gun—you would unhesitatingly shoot the poor beast, who, after all, was only guilty of having been bitten by another dog. And yet you pity a man who, without being bitten by one of his race, has yet murdered his benefactor; and who, now unable to kill anyone, because his hands are bound, wishes to see his companion in captivity perish. No, no—look, look!”

The recommendation was needless. Franz was fascinated by the horrible spectacle.

The two assistants had borne Andrea to the scaffold, and there, in spite of his struggles, his bites, and his cries, had forced him to his knees. During this time the executioner had raised his mace, and signed to them to get out of the way; the criminal strove to rise, but, ere he had time, the mace fell on his left temple. A dull and heavy sound was heard, and the man dropped like an ox on his face, and then turned over on his back.

The executioner let fall his mace, drew his knife, and with one stroke opened his throat, and mounting on his stomach, stamped violently on it with his feet. At every stroke a jet of blood sprang from the wound.

This time Franz could contain himself no longer, but sank, half fainting, into a seat.

Albert, with his eyes closed, was standing grasping the window-curtains.

The count was erect and triumphant, like the Avenging Angel!


Chapter 36. The Carnival at Rome


When Franz recovered his senses, he saw Albert drinking a glass of water, of which, to judge from his pallor, he stood in great need; and the count, who was assuming his masquerade costume. He glanced mechanically towards the piazza—the scene was wholly changed; scaffold, executioners, victims, all had disappeared; only the people remained, full of noise and excitement. The bell of Monte Citorio, which only sounds on the pope’s decease and the opening of the Carnival, was ringing a joyous peal.

“Well,” asked he of the count, “what has, then, happened?”

“Nothing,” replied the count; “only, as you see, the Carnival has commenced. Make haste and dress yourself.”

“In fact,” said Franz, “this horrible scene has passed away like a dream.”

“It is but a dream, a nightmare, that has disturbed you.”

“Yes, that I have suffered; but the culprit?”

“That is a dream also; only he has remained asleep, while you have awakened; and who knows which of you is the most fortunate?”

“But Peppino—what has become of him?”

“Peppino is a lad of sense, who, unlike most men, who are happy in proportion as they are noticed, was delighted to see that the general attention was directed towards his companion. He profited by this distraction to slip away among the crowd, without even thanking the worthy priests who accompanied him. Decidedly man is an ungrateful and egotistical animal. But dress yourself; see, M. de Morcerf sets you the example.”

Albert was drawing on the satin pantaloon over his black trousers and varnished boots.

“Well, Albert,” said Franz, “do you feel much inclined to join the revels? Come, answer frankly.”

“Ma foi, no,” returned Albert. “But I am really glad to have seen such a sight; and I understand what the count said—that when you have once habituated yourself to a similar spectacle, it is the only one that causes you any emotion.”

“Without reflecting that this is the only moment in which you can study character,” said the count; “on the steps of the scaffold death tears off the mask that has been worn through life, and the real visage is disclosed. It must be allowed that Andrea was not very handsome, the hideous scoundrel! Come, dress yourselves, gentlemen, dress yourselves.”

Franz felt it would be ridiculous not to follow his two companions’ example. He assumed his costume, and fastened on the mask that scarcely equalled the pallor of his own face. Their toilet finished, they descended; the carriage awaited them at the door, filled with sweetmeats and bouquets. They fell into the line of carriages.

It is difficult to form an idea of the perfect change that had taken place. Instead of the spectacle of gloomy and silent death, the Piazza del Popolo presented a spectacle of gay and noisy mirth and revelry. A crowd of masks flowed in from all sides, emerging from the doors, descending from the windows. From every street and every corner drove carriages filled with clowns, harlequins, dominoes, mummers, pantomimists, Transteverins, knights, and peasants, screaming, fighting, gesticulating, throwing eggs filled with flour, confetti, nosegays, attacking, with their sarcasms and their missiles, friends and foes, companions and strangers, indiscriminately, and no one took offence, or did anything but laugh.

Franz and Albert were like men who, to drive away a violent sorrow, have recourse to wine, and who, as they drink and become intoxicated, feel a thick veil drawn between the past and the present. They saw, or rather continued to see, the image of what they had witnessed; but little by little the general vertigo seized them, and they felt themselves obliged to take part in the noise and confusion.

A handful of confetti that came from a neighboring carriage, and which, while it covered Morcerf and his two companions with dust, pricked his neck and that portion of his face uncovered by his mask like a hundred pins, incited him to join in the general combat, in which all the masks around him were engaged. He rose in his turn, and seizing handfuls of confetti and sweetmeats, with which the carriage was filled, cast them with all the force and skill he was master of.

The strife had fairly begun, and the recollection of what they had seen half an hour before was gradually effaced from the young men’s minds, so much were they occupied by the gay and glittering procession they now beheld.

As for the Count of Monte Cristo, he had never for an instant shown any appearance of having been moved. Imagine the large and splendid Corso, bordered from one end to the other with lofty palaces, with their balconies hung with carpets, and their windows with flags. At these balconies are three hundred thousand spectators—Romans, Italians, strangers from all parts of the world, the united aristocracy of birth, wealth, and genius. Lovely women, yielding to the influence of the scene, bend over their balconies, or lean from their windows, and shower down confetti, which are returned by bouquets; the air seems darkened with the falling confetti and flying flowers. In the streets the lively crowd is dressed in the most fantastic costumes—gigantic cabbages walk gravely about, buffaloes’ heads bellow from men’s shoulders, dogs walk on their hind legs; in the midst of all this a mask is lifted, and, as in Callot’s Temptation of St. Anthony, a lovely face is exhibited, which we would fain follow, but from which we are separated by troops of fiends. This will give a faint idea of the Carnival at Rome.

At the second turn, the count stopped the carriage, and requested permission to withdraw, leaving the vehicle at their disposal. Franz looked up—they were opposite the Rospoli Palace. At the centre window, the one hung with white damask with a red cross, was a blue domino, beneath which Franz’s imagination easily pictured the beautiful Greek of the Argentina.

“Gentlemen,” said the count, springing out, “when you are tired of being actors, and wish to become spectators of this scene, you know you have places at my windows. In the meantime, dispose of my coachman, my carriage, and my servants.”

We have forgotten to mention, that the count’s coachman was attired in a bear-skin, exactly resembling Odry’s in The Bear and the Pasha; and the two footmen behind were dressed up as green monkeys, with spring masks, with which they made grimaces at everyone who passed.

Franz thanked the count for his attention. As for Albert, he was busily occupied throwing bouquets at a carriage full of Roman peasants that was passing near him. Unfortunately for him, the line of carriages moved on again, and while he descended the Piazza del Popolo, the other ascended towards the Palazzo di Venezia.

“Ah, my dear fellow,” said he to Franz; “you did not see?”

“What?”

“There,—that calash filled with Roman peasants.”

“No.”

“Well, I am convinced they are all charming women.”

“How unfortunate that you were masked, Albert,” said Franz; “here was an opportunity of making up for past disappointments.”

“Oh,” replied he, half laughing, half serious; “I hope the Carnival will not pass without some amends in one shape or the other.”

But, in spite of Albert’s hope, the day passed unmarked by any incident, excepting two or three encounters with the carriage full of Roman peasants. At one of these encounters, accidentally or purposely, Albert’s mask fell off. He instantly rose and cast the remainder of the bouquets into the carriage. Doubtless one of the charming females Albert had detected beneath their coquettish disguise was touched by his gallantry; for, as the carriage of the two friends passed her, she threw a bunch of violets. Albert seized it, and as Franz had no reason to suppose it was meant for him, he suffered Albert to retain it. Albert placed it in his button-hole, and the carriage went triumphantly on.

“Well,” said Franz to him; “there is the beginning of an adventure.”

“Laugh if you please—I really think so. So I will not abandon this bouquet.”

“Pardieu,” returned Franz, laughing, “in token of your ingratitude.”

The jest, however, soon appeared to become earnest; for when Albert and Franz again encountered the carriage with the contadini, the one who had thrown the violets to Albert, clapped her hands when she beheld them in his button-hole.

“Bravo, bravo,” said Franz; “things go wonderfully. Shall I leave you? Perhaps you would prefer being alone?”

“No,” replied he; “I will not be caught like a fool at a first disclosure by a rendezvous under the clock, as they say at the opera-balls. If the fair peasant wishes to carry matters any further, we shall find her, or rather, she will find us tomorrow; then she will give me some sign or other, and I shall know what I have to do.”

“On my word,” said Franz, “you are as wise as Nestor and prudent as Ulysses, and your fair Circe must be very skilful or very powerful if she succeed in changing you into a beast of any kind.”

Albert was right; the fair unknown had resolved, doubtless, to carry the intrigue no farther; for although the young men made several more turns, they did not again see the calash, which had turned up one of the neighboring streets. Then they returned to the Rospoli Palace; but the count and the blue domino had also disappeared; the two windows, hung with yellow damask, were still occupied by the persons whom the count had invited.

At this moment the same bell that had proclaimed the beginning of the mascherata sounded the retreat. The file on the Corso broke the line, and in a second all the carriages had disappeared. Franz and Albert were opposite the Via delle Muratte; the coachman, without saying a word, drove up it, passed along the Piazza di Spagna and the Rospoli Palace and stopped at the door of the hotel. Signor Pastrini came to the door to receive his guests.

Franz hastened to inquire after the count, and to express regret that he had not returned in sufficient time; but Pastrini reassured him by saying that the Count of Monte Cristo had ordered a second carriage for himself, and that it had gone at four o’clock to fetch him from the Rospoli Palace.

The count had, moreover, charged him to offer the two friends the key of his box at the Argentina. Franz questioned Albert as to his intentions; but Albert had great projects to put into execution before going to the theatre; and instead of making any answer, he inquired if Signor Pastrini could procure him a tailor.

“A tailor,” said the host; “and for what?”

“To make us between now and tomorrow two Roman peasant costumes,” returned Albert.

The host shook his head.

“To make you two costumes between now and tomorrow? I ask your excellencies’ pardon, but this is quite a French demand; for the next week you will not find a single tailor who would consent to sew six buttons on a waistcoat if you paid him a crown a piece for each button.”

“Then I must give up the idea?”

“No; we have them ready-made. Leave all to me; and tomorrow, when you awake, you shall find a collection of costumes with which you will be satisfied.”

“My dear Albert,” said Franz, “leave all to our host; he has already proved himself full of resources; let us dine quietly, and afterwards go and see l’Italienne à Alger!

“Agreed,” returned Albert; “but remember, Signor Pastrini, that both my friend and myself attach the greatest importance to having tomorrow the costumes we have asked for.”

The host again assured them they might rely on him, and that their wishes should be attended to; upon which Franz and Albert mounted to their apartments, and proceeded to disencumber themselves of their costumes. Albert, as he took off his dress, carefully preserved the bunch of violets; it was his token reserved for the morrow.

The two friends sat down to table; but they could not refrain from remarking the difference between the Count of Monte Cristo’s table and that of Signor Pastrini. Truth compelled Franz, in spite of the dislike he seemed to have taken to the count, to confess that the advantage was not on Pastrini’s side. During dessert, the servant inquired at what time they wished for the carriage. Albert and Franz looked at each other, fearing really to abuse the count’s kindness. The servant understood them.

“His excellency the Count of Monte Cristo had,” he said, “given positive orders that the carriage was to remain at their lordships’ orders all day, and they could therefore dispose of it without fear of indiscretion.”

They resolved to profit by the count’s courtesy, and ordered the horses to be harnessed, while they substituted evening dress for that which they had on, and which was somewhat the worse for the numerous combats they had sustained.

This precaution taken, they went to the theatre, and installed themselves in the count’s box. During the first act, the Countess G—— entered. Her first look was at the box where she had seen the count the previous evening, so that she perceived Franz and Albert in the place of the very person concerning whom she had expressed so strange an opinion to Franz. Her opera-glass was so fixedly directed towards them, that Franz saw it would be cruel not to satisfy her curiosity; and, availing himself of one of the privileges of the spectators of the Italian theatres, who use their boxes to hold receptions, the two friends went to pay their respects to the countess. Scarcely had they entered, when she motioned to Franz to assume the seat of honor. Albert, in his turn, sat behind.

“Well,” said she, hardly giving Franz time to sit down, “it seems you have nothing better to do than to make the acquaintance of this new Lord Ruthven, and you are already the best friends in the world.”

“Without being so far advanced as that, my dear countess,” returned Franz, “I cannot deny that we have abused his good nature all day.”

“All day?”

“Yes; this morning we breakfasted with him; we rode in his carriage all day, and now we have taken possession of his box.”

“You know him, then?”

“Yes, and no.”

“How so?”

“It is a long story.”

“Tell it to me.”

“It would frighten you too much.”

“So much the more reason.”

“At least wait until the story has a conclusion.”

“Very well; I prefer complete histories; but tell me how you made his acquaintance? Did anyone introduce you to him?”

“No; it was he who introduced himself to us.”

“When?”

“Last night, after we left you.”

“Through what medium?”

“The very prosaic one of our landlord.”

“He is staying, then, at the Hôtel de Londres with you?”

“Not only in the same hotel, but on the same floor.”

“What is his name; for, of course, you know?”

“The Count of Monte Cristo.”

“That is not a family name?”

“No, it is the name of the island he has purchased.”

“And he is a count?”

“A Tuscan count.”

“Well, we must put up with that,” said the countess, who was herself from one of the oldest Venetian families. “What sort of a man is he?”

“Ask the Vicomte de Morcerf.”

“You hear, M. de Morcerf, I am referred to you,” said the countess.

“We should be very hard to please, madam,” returned Albert, “did we not think him delightful. A friend of ten years’ standing could not have done more for us, or with a more perfect courtesy.”

“Come,” observed the countess, smiling, “I see my vampire is only some millionaire, who has taken the appearance of Lara in order to avoid being confounded with M. de Rothschild; and you have seen her?”

“Her?”

“The beautiful Greek of yesterday.”

“No; we heard, I think, the sound of her guzla, but she remained perfectly invisible.”

“When you say invisible,” interrupted Albert, “it is only to keep up the mystery; for whom do you take the blue domino at the window with the white curtains?”

“Where was this window with white hangings?” asked the countess.

“At the Rospoli Palace.”

“The count had three windows at the Rospoli Palace?”

“Yes. Did you pass through the Corso?”

“Yes.”

“Well, did you notice two windows hung with yellow damask, and one with white damask with a red cross? Those were the count’s windows.”

“Why, he must be a nabob. Do you know what those three windows were worth?”

“Two or three hundred Roman crowns?”

“Two or three thousand.”

“The deuce!”

“Does his island produce him such a revenue?”

“It does not bring him a bajocco.”

“Then why did he purchase it?”

“For a whim.”

“He is an original, then?”

“In reality,” observed Albert, “he seemed to me somewhat eccentric; were he at Paris, and a frequenter of the theatres, I should say he was a poor devil literally mad. This morning he made two or three exits worthy of Didier or Anthony.”

At this moment a fresh visitor entered, and, according to custom, Franz gave up his seat to him. This circumstance had, moreover, the effect of changing the conversation; an hour afterwards the two friends returned to their hotel.

Signor Pastrini had already set about procuring their disguises for the morrow; and he assured them that they would be perfectly satisfied. The next morning, at nine o’clock, he entered Franz’s room, followed by a tailor, who had eight or ten Roman peasant costumes on his arm; they selected two exactly alike, and charged the tailor to sew on each of their hats about twenty yards of ribbon, and to procure them two of the long silk sashes of different colors with which the lower orders decorate themselves on fête days.

Albert was impatient to see how he looked in his new dress—a jacket and breeches of blue velvet, silk stockings with clocks, shoes with buckles, and a silk waistcoat. This picturesque attire set him off to great advantage; and when he had bound the scarf around his waist, and when his hat, placed coquettishly on one side, let fall on his shoulder a stream of ribbons, Franz was forced to confess that costume has much to do with the physical superiority we accord to certain nations. The Turks used to be so picturesque with their long and flowing robes, but are they not now hideous with their blue frocks buttoned up to the chin, and their red caps, which make them look like a bottle of wine with a red seal? Franz complimented Albert, who looked at himself in the glass with an unequivocal smile of satisfaction. They were thus engaged when the Count of Monte Cristo entered.

“Gentlemen,” said he, “although a companion is agreeable, perfect freedom is sometimes still more agreeable. I come to say that today, and for the remainder of the Carnival, I leave the carriage entirely at your disposal. The host will tell you I have three or four more, so that you will not inconvenience me in any way. Make use of it, I pray you, for your pleasure or your business.”

The young men wished to decline, but they could find no good reason for refusing an offer which was so agreeable to them. The Count of Monte Cristo remained a quarter of an hour with them, conversing on all subjects with the greatest ease. He was, as we have already said, perfectly well acquainted with the literature of all countries. A glance at the walls of his salon proved to Franz and Albert that he was a connoisseur of pictures. A few words he let fall showed them that he was no stranger to the sciences, and he seemed much occupied with chemistry. The two friends did not venture to return the count the breakfast he had given them; it would have been too absurd to offer him in exchange for his excellent table the very inferior one of Signor Pastrini. They told him so frankly, and he received their excuses with the air of a man who appreciated their delicacy. Albert was charmed with the count’s manners, and he was only prevented from recognizing him for a perfect gentleman by reason of his varied knowledge.

The permission to do what he liked with the carriage pleased him above all, for the fair peasants had appeared in a most elegant carriage the preceding evening, and Albert was not sorry to be upon an equal footing with them. At half-past one they descended, the coachman and footman had put on their livery over their disguises, which gave them a more ridiculous appearance than ever, and which gained them the applause of Franz and Albert. Albert had fastened the faded bunch of violets to his button-hole. At the first sound of the bell they hastened into the Corso by the Via Vittoria.

At the second turn, a bunch of fresh violets, thrown from a carriage filled with harlequins, indicated to Albert that, like himself and his friend, the peasants had changed their costume also; and whether it was the result of chance, or whether a similar feeling had possessed them both, while he had donned their costume, they had assumed his.

Albert placed the fresh bouquet in his button-hole, but he kept the faded one in his hand; and when he again met the calash, he raised it to his lips, an action which seemed greatly to amuse not only the fair lady who had thrown it, but her joyous companions also. The day was as gay as the preceding one, perhaps even more animated and noisy; the count appeared for an instant at his window, but when they again passed he had disappeared. It is almost needless to say that the flirtation between Albert and the fair peasant continued all day.

In the evening, on his return, Franz found a letter from the embassy, informing him that he would have the honor of being received by his holiness the next day. At each previous visit he had made to Rome, he had solicited and obtained the same favor; and incited as much by a religious feeling as by gratitude, he was unwilling to quit the capital of the Christian world without laying his respectful homage at the feet of one of St. Peter’s successors who has set the rare example of all the virtues. He did not then think of the Carnival, for in spite of his condescension and touching kindness, one cannot incline one’s self without awe before the venerable and noble old man called Gregory XVI.

On his return from the Vatican, Franz carefully avoided the Corso; he brought away with him a treasure of pious thoughts, to which the mad gayety of the maskers would have been profanation.

At ten minutes past five Albert entered overjoyed. The harlequin had reassumed her peasant’s costume, and as she passed she raised her mask. She was charming. Franz congratulated Albert, who received his congratulations with the air of a man conscious that they are merited. He had recognized by certain unmistakable signs, that his fair incognita belonged to the aristocracy. He had made up his mind to write to her the next day.

Franz remarked, while he gave these details, that Albert seemed to have something to ask of him, but that he was unwilling to ask it. He insisted upon it, declaring beforehand that he was willing to make any sacrifice the other wished.

Albert let himself be pressed just as long as friendship required, and then avowed to Franz that he would do him a great favor by allowing him to occupy the carriage alone the next day. Albert attributed to Franz’s absence the extreme kindness of the fair peasant in raising her mask. Franz was not sufficiently egotistical to stop Albert in the middle of an adventure that promised to prove so agreeable to his curiosity and so flattering to his vanity. He felt assured that the perfect indiscretion of his friend would duly inform him of all that happened; and as, during three years that he had travelled all over Italy, a similar piece of good fortune had never fallen to his share, Franz was by no means sorry to learn how to act on such an occasion. He therefore promised Albert that he would content himself the morrow with witnessing the Carnival from the windows of the Rospoli Palace.

The next morning he saw Albert pass and repass, holding an enormous bouquet, which he doubtless meant to make the bearer of his amorous epistle. This belief was changed into certainty when Franz saw the bouquet (conspicuous by a circle of white camellias) in the hand of a charming harlequin dressed in rose-colored satin.

The evening was no longer joy, but delirium. Albert nothing doubted but that the fair unknown would reply in the same manner. Franz anticipated his wishes by saying that the noise fatigued him, and that he should pass the next day in writing and looking over his journal. Albert was not deceived, for the next evening Franz saw him enter triumphantly shaking a folded paper which he held by one corner.

“Well,” said he, “was I mistaken?”

“She has answered you!” cried Franz.

“Read.”

This word was pronounced in a manner impossible to describe. Franz took the letter, and read:

“Tuesday evening, at seven o’clock, descend from your carriage opposite the Via dei Pontefici, and follow the Roman peasant who snatches your torch from you. When you arrive at the first step of the church of San Giacomo, be sure to fasten a knot of rose-colored ribbons to the shoulder of your harlequin costume, in order that you may be recognized. Until then you will not see me. —Constancy and Discretion.”

“Well,” asked he, when Franz had finished, “what do you think of that?”

“I think that the adventure is assuming a very agreeable appearance.”

“I think so, also,” replied Albert; “and I very much fear you will go alone to the Duke of Bracciano’s ball.”

Franz and Albert had received that morning an invitation from the celebrated Roman banker.

“Take care, Albert,” said Franz. “All the nobility of Rome will be present, and if your fair incognita belong to the higher class of society, she must go there.”

“Whether she goes there or not, my opinion is still the same,” returned Albert. “You have read the letter?”

“Yes.”

“You know how imperfectly the women of the mezzo cito are educated in Italy?” (This is the name of the lower class.)

“Yes.”

“Well, read the letter again. Look at the writing, and find if you can, any blemish in the language or orthography.” The writing was, in reality, charming, and the orthography irreproachable.

“You are born to good fortune,” said Franz, as he returned the letter.

“Laugh as much as you will,” replied Albert, “I am in love.”

“You alarm me,” cried Franz. “I see that I shall not only go alone to the Duke of Bracciano’s, but also return to Florence alone.”

“If my unknown be as amiable as she is beautiful,” said Albert, “I shall fix myself at Rome for six weeks, at least. I adore Rome, and I have always had a great taste for archæology.”

“Come, two or three more such adventures, and I do not despair of seeing you a member of the Academy.”

Doubtless Albert was about to discuss seriously his right to the academic chair when they were informed that dinner was ready. Albert’s love had not taken away his appetite. He hastened with Franz to seat himself, free to recommence the discussion after dinner. After dinner, the Count of Monte Cristo was announced. They had not seen him for two days. Signor Pastrini informed them that business had called him to Civita Vecchia. He had started the previous evening, and had only returned an hour since. He was charming. Whether he kept a watch over himself, or whether by accident he did not sound the acrimonious chords that in other circumstances had been touched, he was tonight like everybody else.

The man was an enigma to Franz. The count must feel sure that Franz recognized him; and yet he had not let fall a single word indicating any previous acquaintance between them. On his side, however great Franz’s desire was to allude to their former interview, the fear of being disagreeable to the man who had loaded him and his friend with kindness prevented him from mentioning it.

The count had learned that the two friends had sent to secure a box at the Argentina Theatre, and were told they were all let. In consequence, he brought them the key of his own—at least such was the apparent motive of his visit. Franz and Albert made some difficulty, alleging their fear of depriving him of it; but the count replied that, as he was going to the Palli Theatre, the box at the Argentina Theatre would be lost if they did not profit by it. This assurance determined the two friends to accept it.

Franz had by degrees become accustomed to the count’s pallor, which had so forcibly struck him at their first meeting. He could not refrain from admiring the severe beauty of his features, the only defect, or rather the principal quality of which was the pallor. Truly, a Byronic hero! Franz could not, we will not say see him, but even think of him without imagining his stern head upon Manfred’s shoulders, or beneath Lara’s helmet. His forehead was marked with the line that indicates the constant presence of bitter thoughts; he had the fiery eyes that seem to penetrate to the very soul, and the haughty and disdainful upper lip that gives to the words it utters a peculiar character that impresses them on the minds of those to whom they are addressed.

The count was no longer young. He was at least forty; and yet it was easy to understand that he was formed to rule the young men with whom he associated at present. And, to complete his resemblance with the fantastic heroes of the English poet, the count seemed to have the power of fascination. Albert was constantly expatiating on their good fortune in meeting such a man. Franz was less enthusiastic; but the count exercised over him also the ascendency a strong mind always acquires over a mind less domineering. He thought several times of the project the count had of visiting Paris; and he had no doubt but that, with his eccentric character, his characteristic face, and his colossal fortune, he would produce a great effect there. And yet he did not wish to be at Paris when the count was there.

The evening passed as evenings mostly pass at Italian theatres; that is, not in listening to the music, but in paying visits and conversing. The Countess G—— wished to revive the subject of the count, but Franz announced he had something far newer to tell her, and, in spite of Albert’s demonstrations of false modesty, he informed the countess of the great event which had preoccupied them for the last three days. As similar intrigues are not uncommon in Italy, if we may credit travellers, the comtess did not manifest the least incredulity, but congratulated Albert on his success. They promised, upon separating, to meet at the Duke of Bracciano’s ball, to which all Rome was invited.

The heroine of the bouquet kept her word; she gave Albert no sign of her existence the morrow or the day after.

At length Tuesday came, the last and most tumultuous day of the Carnival. On Tuesday, the theatres open at ten o’clock in the morning, as Lent begins after eight at night. On Tuesday, all those who through want of money, time, or enthusiasm, have not been to see the Carnival before, mingle in the gayety, and contribute to the noise and excitement. From two o’clock till five Franz and Albert followed in the fête, exchanging handfuls of confetti with the other carriages and the pedestrians, who crowded amongst the horses’ feet and the carriage wheels without a single accident, a single dispute, or a single fight.

The fêtes are veritable pleasure days to the Italians. The author of this history, who has resided five or six years in Italy, does not recollect to have ever seen a ceremony interrupted by one of those events so common in other countries. Albert was triumphant in his harlequin costume. A knot of rose-colored ribbons fell from his shoulder almost to the ground. In order that there might be no confusion, Franz wore his peasant’s costume.

As the day advanced, the tumult became greater. There was not on the pavement, in the carriages, at the windows, a single tongue that was silent, a single arm that did not move. It was a human storm, made up of a thunder of cries, and a hail of sweetmeats, flowers, eggs, oranges, and nosegays.

At three o’clock the sound of fireworks, let off on the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Venezia (heard with difficulty amid the din and confusion) announced that the races were about to begin.

The races, like the moccoli, are one of the episodes peculiar to the last days of the Carnival. At the sound of the fireworks the carriages instantly broke ranks, and retired by the adjacent streets. All these evolutions are executed with an inconceivable address and marvellous rapidity, without the police interfering in the matter. The pedestrians ranged themselves against the walls; then the trampling of horses and the clashing of steel were heard. A detachment of carbineers, fifteen abreast, galloped up the Corso in order to clear it for the barberi. When the detachment arrived at the Piazza di Venezia, a second volley of fireworks was discharged, to announce that the street was clear.

Almost instantly, in the midst of a tremendous and general outcry, seven or eight horses, excited by the shouts of three hundred thousand spectators, passed by like lightning. Then the Castle of Saint Angelo fired three cannon to indicate that number three had won.

Immediately, without any other signal, the carriages moved on, flowing on towards the Corso, down all the streets, like torrents pent up for a while, which again flow into the parent river; and the immense stream again continued its course between its two granite banks.

A new source of noise and movement was added to the crowd. The sellers of moccoletti entered on the scene. The moccoli, or moccoletti, are candles which vary in size from the pascal taper to the rushlight, and which give to each actor in the great final scene of the Carnival two very serious problems to grapple with,—first, how to keep his own moccoletto alight; and secondly, how to extinguish the moccoletti of others. The moccoletto is like life: man has found but one means of transmitting it, and that one comes from God. But he has discovered a thousand means of taking it away, and the devil has somewhat aided him. The moccoletto is kindled by approaching it to a light. But who can describe the thousand means of extinguishing the moccoletto?—the gigantic bellows, the monstrous extinguishers, the superhuman fans. Everyone hastened to purchase moccoletti—Franz and Albert among the rest.

The night was rapidly approaching; and already, at the cry of “Moccoletti!” repeated by the shrill voices of a thousand vendors, two or three stars began to burn among the crowd. It was a signal. At the end of ten minutes fifty thousand lights glittered, descending from the Palazzo di Venezia to the Piazza del Popolo, and mounting from the Piazza del Popolo to the Palazzo di Venezia. It seemed like the fête of Jack-o’-lanterns.

It is impossible to form any idea of it without having seen it. Suppose that all the stars had descended from the sky and mingled in a wild dance on the face of the earth; the whole accompanied by cries that were never heard in any other part of the world. The facchino follows the prince, the Transteverin the citizen, everyone blowing, extinguishing, relighting. Had old Æolus appeared at this moment, he would have been proclaimed king of the moccoli, and Aquilo the heir-presumptive to the throne.

This battle of folly and flame continued for two hours; the Corso was light as day; the features of the spectators on the third and fourth stories were visible.

Every five minutes Albert took out his watch; at length it pointed to seven. The two friends were in the Via dei Pontefici. Albert sprang out, bearing his moccoletto in his hand. Two or three masks strove to knock his moccoletto out of his hand; but Albert, a first-rate pugilist, sent them rolling in the street, one after the other, and continued his course towards the church of San Giacomo.

The steps were crowded with masks, who strove to snatch each other’s torches. Franz followed Albert with his eyes, and saw him mount the first step.

Instantly a mask, wearing the well-known costume of a peasant woman, snatched his moccoletto from him without his offering any resistance. Franz was too far off to hear what they said; but, without doubt, nothing hostile passed, for he saw Albert disappear arm-in-arm with the peasant girl. He watched them pass through the crowd for some time, but at length he lost sight of them in the Via Macello.

Suddenly the bell that gives the signal for the end of the Carnival sounded, and at the same instant all the moccoletti were extinguished as if by enchantment. It seemed as though one immense blast of the wind had extinguished everyone.

Franz found himself in utter darkness. No sound was audible save that of the carriages that were carrying the maskers home; nothing was visible save a few lights that burnt behind the windows.

The Carnival was over.