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The Count of Monte Cristo

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Chapter 37. The Catacombs of Saint Sebastian


In his whole life, perhaps, Franz had never before experienced so sudden an impression, so rapid a transition from gayety to sadness, as in this moment. It seemed as though Rome, under the magic breath of some demon of the night, had suddenly changed into a vast tomb. By a chance, which added yet more to the intensity of the darkness, the moon, which was on the wane, did not rise until eleven o’clock, and the streets which the young man traversed were plunged in the deepest obscurity.

The distance was short, and at the end of ten minutes his carriage, or rather the count’s, stopped before the Hôtel de Londres.

Dinner was waiting, but as Albert had told him that he should not return so soon, Franz sat down without him. Signor Pastrini, who had been accustomed to see them dine together, inquired into the cause of his absence, but Franz merely replied that Albert had received on the previous evening an invitation which he had accepted.

The sudden extinction of the moccoletti, the darkness which had replaced the light, and the silence which had succeeded the turmoil, had left in Franz’s mind a certain depression which was not free from uneasiness. He therefore dined very silently, in spite of the officious attention of his host, who presented himself two or three times to inquire if he wanted anything.

Franz resolved to wait for Albert as late as possible. He ordered the carriage, therefore, for eleven o’clock, desiring Signor Pastrini to inform him the moment that Albert returned to the hotel.

At eleven o’clock Albert had not come back. Franz dressed himself, and went out, telling his host that he was going to pass the night at the Duke of Bracciano’s. The house of the Duke of Bracciano is one of the most delightful in Rome, the duchess, one of the last heiresses of the Colonnas, does its honors with the most consummate grace, and thus their fêtes have a European celebrity.

Franz and Albert had brought to Rome letters of introduction to them, and their first question on his arrival was to inquire the whereabouts of his travelling companion. Franz replied that he had left him at the moment they were about to extinguish the moccoli, and that he had lost sight of him in the Via Macello.

“Then he has not returned?” said the duke.

“I waited for him until this hour,” replied Franz.

“And do you know whither he went?”

“No, not precisely; however, I think it was something very like a rendezvous.”

“Diavolo!” said the duke, “this is a bad day, or rather a bad night, to be out late; is it not, countess?”

These words were addressed to the Countess G——, who had just arrived, and was leaning on the arm of Signor Torlonia, the duke’s brother.

“I think, on the contrary, that it is a charming night,” replied the countess, “and those who are here will complain of but one thing, that of its too rapid flight.”

“I am not speaking,” said the duke with a smile, “of the persons who are here; the men run no other danger than that of falling in love with you, and the women of falling ill of jealousy at seeing you so lovely; I meant persons who were out in the streets of Rome.”

“Ah,” asked the countess, “who is out in the streets of Rome at this hour, unless it be to go to a ball?”

“Our friend, Albert de Morcerf, countess, whom I left in pursuit of his unknown about seven o’clock this evening,” said Franz, “and whom I have not seen since.”

“And don’t you know where he is?”

“Not at all.”

“Is he armed?”

“He is in masquerade.”

“You should not have allowed him to go,” said the duke to Franz; “you, who know Rome better than he does.”

“You might as well have tried to stop number three of the barberi, who gained the prize in the race today,” replied Franz; “and then moreover, what could happen to him?”

“Who can tell? The night is gloomy, and the Tiber is very near the Via Macello.” Franz felt a shudder run through his veins at observing that the feeling of the duke and the countess was so much in unison with his own personal disquietude.

“I informed them at the hotel that I had the honor of passing the night here, duke,” said Franz, “and desired them to come and inform me of his return.”

“Ah,” replied the duke, “here I think, is one of my servants who is seeking you.”

The duke was not mistaken; when he saw Franz, the servant came up to him.

“Your excellency,” he said, “the master of the Hôtel de Londres has sent to let you know that a man is waiting for you with a letter from the Viscount of Morcerf.”

“A letter from the viscount!” exclaimed Franz.

“Yes.”

“And who is the man?”

“I do not know.”

“Why did he not bring it to me here?”

“The messenger did not say.”

“And where is the messenger?”

“He went away directly he saw me enter the ball-room to find you.”

“Oh,” said the countess to Franz, “go with all speed—poor young man! Perhaps some accident has happened to him.”

“I will hasten,” replied Franz.

“Shall we see you again to give us any information?” inquired the countess.

“Yes, if it is not any serious affair, otherwise I cannot answer as to what I may do myself.”

“Be prudent, in any event,” said the countess.

“Oh! pray be assured of that.”

Franz took his hat and went away in haste. He had sent away his carriage with orders for it to fetch him at two o’clock; fortunately the Palazzo Bracciano, which is on one side in the Corso, and on the other in the Square of the Holy Apostles, is hardly ten minutes’ walk from the Hôtel de Londres.

As he came near the hotel, Franz saw a man in the middle of the street. He had no doubt that it was the messenger from Albert. The man was wrapped up in a large cloak. He went up to him, but, to his extreme astonishment, the stranger first addressed him.

“What wants your excellency of me?” inquired the man, retreating a step or two, as if to keep on his guard.

“Are not you the person who brought me a letter,” inquired Franz, “from the Viscount of Morcerf?”

“Your excellency lodges at Pastrini’s hotel?”

“I do.”

“Your excellency is the travelling companion of the viscount?”

“I am.”

“Your excellency’s name——”

“Is the Baron Franz d’Épinay.”

“Then it is to your excellency that this letter is addressed.”

“Is there any answer?” inquired Franz, taking the letter from him.

“Yes—your friend at least hopes so.”

“Come upstairs with me, and I will give it to you.”

“I prefer waiting here,” said the messenger, with a smile.

“And why?”

“Your excellency will know when you have read the letter.”

“Shall I find you here, then?”

“Certainly.”

Franz entered the hotel. On the staircase he met Signor Pastrini. “Well?” said the landlord.

“Well—what?” responded Franz.

“You have seen the man who desired to speak with you from your friend?” he asked of Franz.

“Yes, I have seen him,” he replied, “and he has handed this letter to me. Light the candles in my apartment, if you please.”

The innkeeper gave orders to a servant to go before Franz with a light. The young man had found Signor Pastrini looking very much alarmed, and this had only made him the more anxious to read Albert’s letter; and so he went instantly towards the waxlight, and unfolded it. It was written and signed by Albert. Franz read it twice before he could comprehend what it contained. It was thus worded:

“My dear Fellow,

“The moment you have received this, have the kindness to take the letter of credit from my pocket-book, which you will find in the square drawer of the secrétaire; add your own to it, if it be not sufficient. Run to Torlonia, draw from him instantly four thousand piastres, and give them to the bearer. It is urgent that I should have this money without delay. I do not say more, relying on you as you may rely on me.

“Your friend,

“Albert de Morcerf.

“P.S.—I now believe in Italian banditti.”

Below these lines were written, in a strange hand, the following in Italian:

“Se alle sei della mattina le quattro mille piastre non sono nelle mie mani, alla sette il Conte Alberto avrà cessato di vivere.

“Luigi Vampa.”

“If by six in the morning the four thousand piastres are not in my hands, by seven o’clock the Count Albert will have ceased to live.”

This second signature explained everything to Franz, who now understood the objection of the messenger to coming up into the apartment; the street was safer for him. Albert, then, had fallen into the hands of the famous bandit chief, in whose existence he had for so long a time refused to believe.

There was no time to lose. He hastened to open the secrétaire, and found the pocket-book in the drawer, and in it the letter of credit. There were in all six thousand piastres, but of these six thousand Albert had already expended three thousand.

As to Franz, he had no letter of credit, as he lived at Florence, and had only come to Rome to pass seven or eight days; he had brought but a hundred louis, and of these he had not more than fifty left. Thus seven or eight hundred piastres were wanting to them both to make up the sum that Albert required. True, he might in such a case rely on the kindness of Signor Torlonia. He was, therefore, about to return to the Palazzo Bracciano without loss of time, when suddenly a luminous idea crossed his mind.

He remembered the Count of Monte Cristo. Franz was about to ring for Signor Pastrini, when that worthy presented himself.

“My dear sir,” he said, hastily, “do you know if the count is within?”

“Yes, your excellency; he has this moment returned.”

“Is he in bed?”

“I should say no.”

“Then ring at his door, if you please, and request him to be so kind as to give me an audience.”

Signor Pastrini did as he was desired, and returning five minutes after, he said:

“The count awaits your excellency.”

Franz went along the corridor, and a servant introduced him to the count. He was in a small room which Franz had not yet seen, and which was surrounded with divans. The count came towards him.

“Well, what good wind blows you hither at this hour?” said he; “have you come to sup with me? It would be very kind of you.”

“No; I have come to speak to you of a very serious matter.”

“A serious matter,” said the count, looking at Franz with the earnestness usual to him; “and what may it be?”

“Are we alone?”

“Yes,” replied the count, going to the door, and returning. Franz gave him Albert’s letter.

“Read that,” he said.

The count read it.

“Well, well!” said he.

“Did you see the postscript?”

“I did, indeed.

“‘Se alle sei della mattina le quattro mille piastre non sono nelle mie mani, alla sette il conte Alberto avrà cessato di vivere.

“‘Luigi Vampa.’”

“What think you of that?” inquired Franz.

“Have you the money he demands?”

“Yes, all but eight hundred piastres.”

The count went to his secrétaire, opened it, and pulling out a drawer filled with gold, said to Franz, “I hope you will not offend me by applying to anyone but myself.”

“You see, on the contrary, I come to you first and instantly,” replied Franz.

“And I thank you; have what you will;” and he made a sign to Franz to take what he pleased.

“Is it absolutely necessary, then, to send the money to Luigi Vampa?” asked the young man, looking fixedly in his turn at the count.

“Judge for yourself,” replied he. “The postscript is explicit.”

“I think that if you would take the trouble of reflecting, you could find a way of simplifying the negotiation,” said Franz.

“How so?” returned the count, with surprise.

“If we were to go together to Luigi Vampa, I am sure he would not refuse you Albert’s freedom.”

“What influence can I possibly have over a bandit?”

“Have you not just rendered him a service that can never be forgotten?”

“What is that?”

“Have you not saved Peppino’s life?”

“Well, well,” said the count, “who told you that?”

“No matter; I know it.” The count knit his brows, and remained silent an instant.

“And if I went to seek Vampa, would you accompany me?”

“If my society would not be disagreeable.”

“Be it so. It is a lovely night, and a walk without Rome will do us both good.”

“Shall I take any arms?”

“For what purpose?”

“Any money?”

“It is useless. Where is the man who brought the letter?”

“In the street.”

“He awaits the answer?”

“Yes.”

“I must learn where we are going. I will summon him hither.”

“It is useless; he would not come up.”

“To your apartments, perhaps; but he will not make any difficulty at entering mine.”

The count went to the window of the apartment that looked on to the street, and whistled in a peculiar manner. The man in the mantle quitted the wall, and advanced into the middle of the street. “Salite!” said the count, in the same tone in which he would have given an order to his servant. The messenger obeyed without the least hesitation, but rather with alacrity, and, mounting the steps at a bound, entered the hotel; five seconds afterwards he was at the door of the room.

“Ah, it is you, Peppino,” said the count. But Peppino, instead of answering, threw himself on his knees, seized the count’s hand, and covered it with kisses. “Ah,” said the count, “you have, then, not forgotten that I saved your life; that is strange, for it is a week ago.”

“No, excellency; and never shall I forget it,” returned Peppino, with an accent of profound gratitude.

“Never? That is a long time; but it is something that you believe so. Rise and answer.”

Peppino glanced anxiously at Franz.

“Oh, you may speak before his excellency,” said he; “he is one of my friends. You allow me to give you this title?” continued the count in French, “it is necessary to excite this man’s confidence.”

“You can speak before me,” said Franz; “I am a friend of the count’s.”

“Good!” returned Peppino. “I am ready to answer any questions your excellency may address to me.”

“How did the Viscount Albert fall into Luigi’s hands?”

“Excellency, the Frenchman’s carriage passed several times the one in which was Teresa.”

“The chief’s mistress?”

“Yes. The Frenchman threw her a bouquet; Teresa returned it—all this with the consent of the chief, who was in the carriage.”

“What?” cried Franz, “was Luigi Vampa in the carriage with the Roman peasants?”

“It was he who drove, disguised as the coachman,” replied Peppino.

“Well?” said the count.

“Well, then, the Frenchman took off his mask; Teresa, with the chief’s consent, did the same. The Frenchman asked for a rendezvous; Teresa gave him one—only, instead of Teresa, it was Beppo who was on the steps of the church of San Giacomo.”

“What!” exclaimed Franz, “the peasant girl who snatched his mocoletto from him——”

“Was a lad of fifteen,” replied Peppino. “But it was no disgrace to your friend to have been deceived; Beppo has taken in plenty of others.”

“And Beppo led him outside the walls?” said the count.

“Exactly so; a carriage was waiting at the end of the Via Macello. Beppo got in, inviting the Frenchman to follow him, and he did not wait to be asked twice. He gallantly offered the right-hand seat to Beppo, and sat by him. Beppo told him he was going to take him to a villa a league from Rome; the Frenchman assured him he would follow him to the end of the world. The coachman went up the Via di Ripetta and the Porta San Paolo; and when they were two hundred yards outside, as the Frenchman became somewhat too forward, Beppo put a brace of pistols to his head, the coachman pulled up and did the same. At the same time, four of the band, who were concealed on the banks of the Almo, surrounded the carriage. The Frenchman made some resistance, and nearly strangled Beppo; but he could not resist five armed men, and was forced to yield. They made him get out, walk along the banks of the river, and then brought him to Teresa and Luigi, who were waiting for him in the catacombs of St. Sebastian.”

“Well,” said the count, turning towards Franz, “it seems to me that this is a very likely story. What do you say to it?”

“Why, that I should think it very amusing,” replied Franz, “if it had happened to anyone but poor Albert.”

“And, in truth, if you had not found me here,” said the count, “it might have proved a gallant adventure which would have cost your friend dear; but now, be assured, his alarm will be the only serious consequence.”

“And shall we go and find him?” inquired Franz.

“Oh, decidedly, sir. He is in a very picturesque place—do you know the catacombs of St. Sebastian?”

“I was never in them; but I have often resolved to visit them.”

“Well, here is an opportunity made to your hand, and it would be difficult to contrive a better. Have you a carriage?”

“No.”

“That is of no consequence; I always have one ready, day and night.”

“Always ready?”

“Yes. I am a very capricious being, and I should tell you that sometimes when I rise, or after my dinner, or in the middle of the night, I resolve on starting for some particular point, and away I go.”

The count rang, and a footman appeared.

“Order out the carriage,” he said, “and remove the pistols which are in the holsters. You need not awaken the coachman; Ali will drive.”

In a very short time the noise of wheels was heard, and the carriage stopped at the door. The count took out his watch.

“Half-past twelve,” he said. “We might start at five o’clock and be in time, but the delay may cause your friend to pass an uneasy night, and therefore we had better go with all speed to extricate him from the hands of the infidels. Are you still resolved to accompany me?”

“More determined than ever.”

“Well, then, come along.”

Franz and the count went downstairs, accompanied by Peppino. At the door they found the carriage. Ali was on the box, in whom Franz recognized the dumb slave of the grotto of Monte Cristo. Franz and the count got into the carriage. Peppino placed himself beside Ali, and they set off at a rapid pace. Ali had received his instructions, and went down the Corso, crossed the Campo Vaccino, went up the Strada San Gregorio, and reached the gates of St. Sebastian. Then the porter raised some difficulties, but the Count of Monte Cristo produced a permit from the governor of Rome, allowing him to leave or enter the city at any hour of the day or night; the portcullis was therefore raised, the porter had a louis for his trouble, and they went on their way.

The road which the carriage now traversed was the ancient Appian Way, and bordered with tombs. From time to time, by the light of the moon, which began to rise, Franz imagined that he saw something like a sentinel appear at various points among the ruins, and suddenly retreat into the darkness on a signal from Peppino.

A short time before they reached the Baths of Caracalla the carriage stopped, Peppino opened the door, and the count and Franz alighted.

“In ten minutes,” said the count to his companion, “we shall be there.”

He then took Peppino aside, gave him an order in a low voice, and Peppino went away, taking with him a torch, brought with them in the carriage. Five minutes elapsed, during which Franz saw the shepherd going along a narrow path that led over the irregular and broken surface of the Campagna; and finally he disappeared in the midst of the tall red herbage, which seemed like the bristling mane of an enormous lion.

“Now,” said the count, “let us follow him.”

Franz and the count in their turn then advanced along the same path, which, at the distance of a hundred paces, led them over a declivity to the bottom of a small valley. They then perceived two men conversing in the obscurity.

“Ought we to go on?” asked Franz of the count; “or should we pause?”

“Let us go on; Peppino will have warned the sentry of our coming.”

One of the two men was Peppino, and the other a bandit on the lookout. Franz and the count advanced, and the bandit saluted them.

“Your excellency,” said Peppino, addressing the count, “if you will follow me, the opening of the catacombs is close at hand.”

“Go on, then,” replied the count. They came to an opening behind a clump of bushes and in the midst of a pile of rocks, by which a man could scarcely pass. Peppino glided first into this crevice; after they got along a few paces the passage widened. Peppino passed, lighted his torch, and turned to see if they came after him. The count first reached an open space and Franz followed him closely. The passageway sloped in a gentle descent, enlarging as they proceeded; still Franz and the count were compelled to advance in a stooping posture, and were scarcely able to proceed abreast of one another. They went on a hundred and fifty paces in this way, and then were stopped by, “Who comes there?” At the same time they saw the reflection of a torch on a carbine barrel.

“A friend!” responded Peppino; and, advancing alone towards the sentry, he said a few words to him in a low tone; and then he, like the first, saluted the nocturnal visitors, making a sign that they might proceed.

Behind the sentinel was a staircase with twenty steps. Franz and the count descended these, and found themselves in a mortuary chamber. Five corridors diverged like the rays of a star, and the walls, dug into niches, which were arranged one above the other in the shape of coffins, showed that they were at last in the catacombs. Down one of the corridors, whose extent it was impossible to determine, rays of light were visible. The count laid his hand on Franz’s shoulder.

“Would you like to see a camp of bandits in repose?” he inquired.

“Exceedingly,” replied Franz.

“Come with me, then. Peppino, put out the torch.” Peppino obeyed, and Franz and the count were in utter darkness, except that fifty paces in advance of them a reddish glare, more evident since Peppino had put out his torch, was visible along the wall.

They advanced silently, the count guiding Franz as if he had the singular faculty of seeing in the dark. Franz himself, however, saw his way more plainly in proportion as he went on towards the light, which served in some manner as a guide. Three arcades were before them, and the middle one was used as a door. These arcades opened on one side into the corridor where the count and Franz were, and on the other into a large square chamber, entirely surrounded by niches similar to those of which we have spoken.

In the midst of this chamber were four stones, which had formerly served as an altar, as was evident from the cross which still surmounted them. A lamp, placed at the base of a pillar, lighted up with its pale and flickering flame the singular scene which presented itself to the eyes of the two visitors concealed in the shadow.

A man was seated with his elbow leaning on the column, and was reading with his back turned to the arcades, through the openings of which the new-comers contemplated him. This was the chief of the band, Luigi Vampa. Around him, and in groups, according to their fancy, lying in their mantles, or with their backs against a sort of stone bench, which went all round the columbarium, were to be seen twenty brigands or more, each having his carbine within reach. At the other end, silent, scarcely visible, and like a shadow, was a sentinel, who was walking up and down before a grotto, which was only distinguishable because in that spot the darkness seemed more dense than elsewhere.

When the count thought Franz had gazed sufficiently on this picturesque tableau, he raised his finger to his lips, to warn him to be silent, and, ascending the three steps which led to the corridor of the columbarium, entered the chamber by the middle arcade, and advanced towards Vampa, who was so intent on the book before him that he did not hear the noise of his footsteps.

“Who comes there?” cried the sentinel, who was less abstracted, and who saw by the lamp-light a shadow approaching his chief. At this challenge, Vampa rose quickly, drawing at the same moment a pistol from his girdle. In a moment all the bandits were on their feet, and twenty carbines were levelled at the count.

“Well,” said he in a voice perfectly calm, and no muscle of his countenance disturbed, “well, my dear Vampa, it appears to me that you receive a friend with a great deal of ceremony.”

“Ground arms,” exclaimed the chief, with an imperative sign of the hand, while with the other he took off his hat respectfully; then, turning to the singular personage who had caused this scene, he said, “Your pardon, your excellency, but I was so far from expecting the honor of a visit, that I did not really recognize you.”

“It seems that your memory is equally short in everything, Vampa,” said the count, “and that not only do you forget people’s faces, but also the conditions you make with them.”

“What conditions have I forgotten, your excellency?” inquired the bandit, with the air of a man who, having committed an error, is anxious to repair it.

“Was it not agreed,” asked the count, “that not only my person, but also that of my friends, should be respected by you?”

“And how have I broken that treaty, your excellency?”

“You have this evening carried off and conveyed hither the Viscount Albert de Morcerf. Well,” continued the count, in a tone that made Franz shudder, “this young gentleman is one of my friends—this young gentleman lodges in the same hotel as myself—this young gentleman has been up and down the Corso for eight hours in my private carriage, and yet, I repeat to you, you have carried him off, and conveyed him hither, and,” added the count, taking the letter from his pocket, “you have set a ransom on him, as if he were an utter stranger.”

“Why did you not tell me all this—you?” inquired the brigand chief, turning towards his men, who all retreated before his look. “Why have you caused me thus to fail in my word towards a gentleman like the count, who has all our lives in his hands? By heavens! if I thought one of you knew that the young gentleman was the friend of his excellency, I would blow his brains out with my own hand!”

“Well,” said the count, turning towards Franz, “I told you there was some mistake in this.”

“Are you not alone?” asked Vampa with uneasiness.

“I am with the person to whom this letter was addressed, and to whom I desired to prove that Luigi Vampa was a man of his word. Come, your excellency,” the count added, turning to Franz, “here is Luigi Vampa, who will himself express to you his deep regret at the mistake he has committed.”

Franz approached, the chief advancing several steps to meet him.

“Welcome among us, your excellency,” he said to him; “you heard what the count just said, and also my reply; let me add that I would not for the four thousand piastres at which I had fixed your friend’s ransom, that this had happened.”

“But,” said Franz, looking round him uneasily, “where is the viscount?—I do not see him.”

“Nothing has happened to him, I hope,” said the count frowningly.

“The prisoner is there,” replied Vampa, pointing to the hollow space in front of which the bandit was on guard, “and I will go myself and tell him he is free.”

The chief went towards the place he had pointed out as Albert’s prison, and Franz and the count followed him.

“What is the prisoner doing?” inquired Vampa of the sentinel.

“Ma foi, captain,” replied the sentry, “I do not know; for the last hour I have not heard him stir.”

“Come in, your excellency,” said Vampa. The count and Franz ascended seven or eight steps after the chief, who drew back a bolt and opened a door. Then, by the gleam of a lamp, similar to that which lighted the columbarium, Albert was to be seen wrapped up in a cloak which one of the bandits had lent him, lying in a corner in profound slumber.

“Come,” said the count, smiling with his own peculiar smile, “not so bad for a man who is to be shot at seven o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Vampa looked at Albert with a kind of admiration; he was not insensible to such a proof of courage.

“You are right, your excellency,” he said; “this must be one of your friends.”

Then going to Albert, he touched him on the shoulder, saying, “Will your excellency please to awaken?”

Albert stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyelids, and opened his eyes.

“Oh,” said he, “is it you, captain? You should have allowed me to sleep. I had such a delightful dream. I was dancing the galop at Torlonia’s with the Countess G——.” Then he drew his watch from his pocket, that he might see how time sped.

“Half-past one only?” said he. “Why the devil do you rouse me at this hour?”

“To tell you that you are free, your excellency.”

“My dear fellow,” replied Albert, with perfect ease of mind, “remember, for the future, Napoleon’s maxim, ‘Never awaken me but for bad news;’ if you had let me sleep on, I should have finished my galop, and have been grateful to you all my life. So, then, they have paid my ransom?”

“No, your excellency.”

“Well, then, how am I free?”

“A person to whom I can refuse nothing has come to demand you.”

“Come hither?”

“Yes, hither.”

“Really? Then that person is a most amiable person.”

Albert looked around and perceived Franz. “What,” said he, “is it you, my dear Franz, whose devotion and friendship are thus displayed?”

“No, not I,” replied Franz, “but our neighbor, the Count of Monte Cristo.”

“Oh, my dear count,” said Albert gayly, arranging his cravat and wristbands, “you are really most kind, and I hope you will consider me as under eternal obligations to you, in the first place for the carriage, and in the next for this visit,” and he put out his hand to the count, who shuddered as he gave his own, but who nevertheless did give it.

The bandit gazed on this scene with amazement; he was evidently accustomed to see his prisoners tremble before him, and yet here was one whose gay temperament was not for a moment altered; as for Franz, he was enchanted at the way in which Albert had sustained the national honor in the presence of the bandit.

“My dear Albert,” he said, “if you will make haste, we shall yet have time to finish the night at Torlonia’s. You may conclude your interrupted galop, so that you will owe no ill-will to Signor Luigi, who has, indeed, throughout this whole affair acted like a gentleman.”

“You are decidedly right, and we may reach the Palazzo by two o’clock. Signor Luigi,” continued Albert, “is there any formality to fulfil before I take leave of your excellency?”

“None, sir,” replied the bandit, “you are as free as air.”

“Well, then, a happy and merry life to you. Come, gentlemen, come.”

And Albert, followed by Franz and the count, descended the staircase, crossed the square chamber, where stood all the bandits, hat in hand.

“Peppino,” said the brigand chief, “give me the torch.”

“What are you going to do?” inquired the count.

“I will show you the way back myself,” said the captain; “that is the least honor that I can render to your excellency.”

And taking the lighted torch from the hands of the herdsman, he preceded his guests, not as a servant who performs an act of civility, but like a king who precedes ambassadors. On reaching the door, he bowed.

“And now, your excellency,” added he, “allow me to repeat my apologies, and I hope you will not entertain any resentment at what has occurred.”

“No, my dear Vampa,” replied the count; “besides, you compensate for your mistakes in so gentlemanly a way, that one almost feels obliged to you for having committed them.”

“Gentlemen,” added the chief, turning towards the young men, “perhaps the offer may not appear very tempting to you; but if you should ever feel inclined to pay me a second visit, wherever I may be, you shall be welcome.”

Franz and Albert bowed. The count went out first, then Albert. Franz paused for a moment.

“Has your excellency anything to ask me?” said Vampa with a smile.

“Yes, I have,” replied Franz; “I am curious to know what work you were perusing with so much attention as we entered.”

“Cæsar’s Commentaries,” said the bandit, “it is my favorite work.”

“Well, are you coming?” asked Albert.

“Yes,” replied Franz, “here I am,” and he, in his turn, left the caves. They advanced to the plain.

“Ah, your pardon,” said Albert, turning round; “will you allow me, captain?”

And he lighted his cigar at Vampa’s torch.

“Now, my dear count,” he said, “let us on with all the speed we may. I am enormously anxious to finish my night at the Duke of Bracciano’s.”

They found the carriage where they had left it. The count said a word in Arabic to Ali, and the horses went on at great speed.

It was just two o’clock by Albert’s watch when the two friends entered into the dancing-room. Their return was quite an event, but as they entered together, all uneasiness on Albert’s account ceased instantly.

“Madame,” said the Viscount of Morcerf, advancing towards the countess, “yesterday you were so condescending as to promise me a galop; I am rather late in claiming this gracious promise, but here is my friend, whose character for veracity you well know, and he will assure you the delay arose from no fault of mine.”

And as at this moment the orchestra gave the signal for the waltz, Albert put his arm round the waist of the countess, and disappeared with her in the whirl of dancers.

In the meanwhile Franz was considering the singular shudder that had passed over the Count of Monte Cristo at the moment when he had been, in some sort, forced to give his hand to Albert.


Chapter 38. The Rendezvous


The first words that Albert uttered to his friend, on the following morning, contained a request that Franz would accompany him on a visit to the count; true, the young man had warmly and energetically thanked the count on the previous evening; but services such as he had rendered could never be too often acknowledged. Franz, who seemed attracted by some invisible influence towards the count, in which terror was strangely mingled, felt an extreme reluctance to permit his friend to be exposed alone to the singular fascination that this mysterious personage seemed to exercise over him, and therefore made no objection to Albert’s request, but at once accompanied him to the desired spot, and, after a short delay, the count joined them in the salon.

“My dear count,” said Albert, advancing to meet him, “permit me to repeat the poor thanks I offered last night, and to assure you that the remembrance of all I owe to you will never be effaced from my memory; believe me, as long as I live, I shall never cease to dwell with grateful recollection on the prompt and important service you rendered me; and also to remember that to you I am indebted even for my life.”

“My very good friend and excellent neighbor,” replied the count, with a smile, “you really exaggerate my trifling exertions. You owe me nothing but some trifle of 20,000 francs, which you have been saved out of your travelling expenses, so that there is not much of a score between us;—but you must really permit me to congratulate you on the ease and unconcern with which you resigned yourself to your fate, and the perfect indifference you manifested as to the turn events might take.”

“Upon my word,” said Albert, “I deserve no credit for what I could not help, namely, a determination to take everything as I found it, and to let those bandits see, that although men get into troublesome scrapes all over the world, there is no nation but the French that can smile even in the face of grim Death himself. All that, however, has nothing to do with my obligations to you, and I now come to ask you whether, in my own person, my family, or connections, I can in any way serve you? My father, the Comte de Morcerf, although of Spanish origin, possesses considerable influence, both at the court of France and Madrid, and I unhesitatingly place the best services of myself, and all to whom my life is dear, at your disposal.”

“Monsieur de Morcerf,” replied the count, “your offer, far from surprising me, is precisely what I expected from you, and I accept it in the same spirit of hearty sincerity with which it is made;—nay, I will go still further, and say that I had previously made up my mind to ask a great favor at your hands.”

“Oh, pray name it.”

“I am wholly a stranger to Paris—it is a city I have never yet seen.”

“Is it possible,” exclaimed Albert, “that you have reached your present age without visiting the finest capital in the world? I can scarcely credit it.”

“Nevertheless, it is quite true; still, I agree with you in thinking that my present ignorance of the first city in Europe is a reproach to me in every way, and calls for immediate correction; but, in all probability, I should have performed so important, so necessary a duty, as that of making myself acquainted with the wonders and beauties of your justly celebrated capital, had I known any person who would have introduced me into the fashionable world, but unfortunately I possessed no acquaintance there, and, of necessity, was compelled to abandon the idea.”

“So distinguished an individual as yourself,” cried Albert, “could scarcely have required an introduction.”

“You are most kind; but as regards myself, I can find no merit I possess, save that, as a millionaire, I might have become a partner in the speculations of M. Aguado and M. Rothschild; but as my motive in travelling to your capital would not have been for the pleasure of dabbling in stocks, I stayed away till some favorable chance should present itself of carrying my wish into execution. Your offer, however, smooths all difficulties, and I have only to ask you, my dear M. de Morcerf” (these words were accompanied by a most peculiar smile), “whether you undertake, upon my arrival in France, to open to me the doors of that fashionable world of which I know no more than a Huron or a native of Cochin-China?”

“Oh, that I do, and with infinite pleasure,” answered Albert; “and so much the more readily as a letter received this morning from my father summons me to Paris, in consequence of a treaty of marriage (my dear Franz, do not smile, I beg of you) with a family of high standing, and connected with the very cream of Parisian society.”

“Connected by marriage, you mean,” said Franz, laughingly.

“Well, never mind how it is,” answered Albert, “it comes to the same thing in the end. Perhaps by the time you return to Paris, I shall be quite a sober, staid father of a family! A most edifying representative I shall make of all the domestic virtues—don’t you think so? But as regards your wish to visit our fine city, my dear count, I can only say that you may command me and mine to any extent you please.”

“Then it is settled,” said the count, “and I give you my solemn assurance that I only waited an opportunity like the present to realize plans that I have long meditated.”

Franz did not doubt that these plans were the same concerning which the count had dropped a few words in the grotto of Monte Cristo, and while the count was speaking the young man watched him closely, hoping to read something of his purpose in his face, but his countenance was inscrutable especially when, as in the present case, it was veiled in a sphinx-like smile.

“But tell me now, count,” exclaimed Albert, delighted at the idea of having to chaperon so distinguished a person as Monte Cristo; “tell me truly whether you are in earnest, or if this project of visiting Paris is merely one of the chimerical and uncertain air castles of which we make so many in the course of our lives, but which, like a house built on the sand, is liable to be blown over by the first puff of wind?”

“I pledge you my honor,” returned the count, “that I mean to do as I have said; both inclination and positive necessity compel me to visit Paris.”

“When do you propose going thither?”

“Have you made up your mind when you shall be there yourself?”

“Certainly I have; in a fortnight or three weeks’ time, that is to say, as fast as I can get there!”

“Nay,” said the Count; “I will give you three months ere I join you; you see I make an ample allowance for all delays and difficulties.

“And in three months’ time,” said Albert, “you will be at my house?”

“Shall we make a positive appointment for a particular day and hour?” inquired the count; “only let me warn you that I am proverbial for my punctilious exactitude in keeping my engagements.”

“Day for day, hour for hour,” said Albert; “that will suit me to a dot.”

“So be it, then,” replied the count, and extending his hand towards a calendar, suspended near the chimney-piece, he said, “today is the 21st of February;” and drawing out his watch, added, “it is exactly half-past ten o’clock. Now promise me to remember this, and expect me the 21st of May at the same hour in the forenoon.”

“Capital!” exclaimed Albert; “your breakfast shall be waiting.”

“Where do you live?”

“No. 27, Rue du Helder.”

“Have you bachelor’s apartments there? I hope my coming will not put you to any inconvenience.”

“I reside in my father’s house, but occupy a pavilion at the farther side of the courtyard, entirely separated from the main building.”

“Quite sufficient,” replied the count, as, taking out his tablets, he wrote down “No. 27, Rue du Helder, 21st May, half-past ten in the morning.”

“Now then,” said the count, returning his tablets to his pocket, “make yourself perfectly easy; the hand of your time-piece will not be more accurate in marking the time than myself.”

“Shall I see you again ere my departure?” asked Albert.

“That depends; when do you leave?”

“Tomorrow evening, at five o’clock.”

“In that case I must say adieu to you, as I am compelled to go to Naples, and shall not return hither before Saturday evening or Sunday morning. And you, baron,” pursued the count, addressing Franz, “do you also depart tomorrow?”

“Yes.”

“For France?”

“No, for Venice; I shall remain in Italy for another year or two.”

“Then we shall not meet in Paris?”

“I fear I shall not have that honor.”

“Well, since we must part,” said the count, holding out a hand to each of the young men, “allow me to wish you both a safe and pleasant journey.”

It was the first time the hand of Franz had come in contact with that of the mysterious individual before him, and unconsciously he shuddered at its touch, for it felt cold and icy as that of a corpse.

“Let us understand each other,” said Albert; “it is agreed—is it not?—that you are to be at No. 27, in the Rue du Helder, on the 21st of May, at half-past ten in the morning, and your word of honor passed for your punctuality?”

“The 21st of May, at half-past ten in the morning, Rue du Helder, No. 27,” replied the count.

The young men then rose, and bowing to the count, quitted the room.

“What is the matter?” asked Albert of Franz, when they had returned to their own apartments; “you seem more than commonly thoughtful.”

“I will confess to you, Albert,” replied Franz, “the count is a very singular person, and the appointment you have made to meet him in Paris fills me with a thousand apprehensions.”

“My dear fellow,” exclaimed Albert, “what can there possibly be in that to excite uneasiness? Why, you must have lost your senses.”

“Whether I am in my senses or not,” answered Franz, “that is the way I feel.”

“Listen to me, Franz,” said Albert; “I am glad that the occasion has presented itself for saying this to you, for I have noticed how cold you are in your bearing towards the count, while he, on the other hand, has always been courtesy itself to us. Have you anything particular against him?”

“Possibly.”

“Did you ever meet him previously to coming hither?”

“I have.”

“And where?”

“Will you promise me not to repeat a single word of what I am about to tell you?”

“I promise.”

“Upon your honor?”

“Upon my honor.”

“Then listen to me.”

Franz then related to his friend the history of his excursion to the Island of Monte Cristo and of his finding a party of smugglers there, and the two Corsican bandits with them. He dwelt with considerable force and energy on the almost magical hospitality he had received from the count, and the magnificence of his entertainment in the grotto of the Thousand and One Nights.

He recounted, with circumstantial exactitude, all the particulars of the supper, the hashish, the statues, the dream, and how, at his awakening, there remained no proof or trace of all these events, save the small yacht, seen in the distant horizon driving under full sail toward Porto-Vecchio.

Then he detailed the conversation overheard by him at the Colosseum, between the count and Vampa, in which the count had promised to obtain the release of the bandit Peppino,—an engagement which, as our readers are aware, he most faithfully fulfilled.

At last he arrived at the adventure of the preceding night, and the embarrassment in which he found himself placed by not having sufficient cash by six or seven hundred piastres to make up the sum required, and finally of his application to the count and the picturesque and satisfactory result that followed. Albert listened with the most profound attention.

“Well,” said he, when Franz had concluded, “what do you find to object to in all you have related? The count is fond of travelling, and, being rich, possesses a vessel of his own. Go but to Portsmouth or Southampton, and you will find the harbors crowded with the yachts belonging to such of the English as can afford the expense, and have the same liking for this amusement. Now, by way of having a resting-place during his excursions, avoiding the wretched cookery—which has been trying its best to poison me during the last four months, while you have manfully resisted its effects for as many years,—and obtaining a bed on which it is possible to slumber, Monte Cristo has furnished for himself a temporary abode where you first found him; but, to prevent the possibility of the Tuscan government taking a fancy to his enchanted palace, and thereby depriving him of the advantages naturally expected from so large an outlay of capital, he has wisely enough purchased the island, and taken its name. Just ask yourself, my good fellow, whether there are not many persons of our acquaintance who assume the names of lands and properties they never in their lives were masters of?”

“But,” said Franz, “the Corsican bandits that were among the crew of his vessel?”

“Why, really the thing seems to me simple enough. Nobody knows better than yourself that the bandits of Corsica are not rogues or thieves, but purely and simply fugitives, driven by some sinister motive from their native town or village, and that their fellowship involves no disgrace or stigma; for my own part, I protest that, should I ever go to Corsica, my first visit, ere even I presented myself to the mayor or prefect, should be to the bandits of Colomba, if I could only manage to find them; for, on my conscience, they are a race of men I admire greatly.”

“Still,” persisted Franz, “I suppose you will allow that such men as Vampa and his band are regular villains, who have no other motive than plunder when they seize your person. How do you explain the influence the count evidently possessed over those ruffians?”

“My good friend, as in all probability I own my present safety to that influence, it would ill become me to search too closely into its source; therefore, instead of condemning him for his intimacy with outlaws, you must give me leave to excuse any little irregularity there may be in such a connection; not altogether for preserving my life, for my own idea was that it never was in much danger, but certainly for saving me 4,000 piastres, which, being translated, means neither more nor less than 24,000 livres of our money—a sum at which, most assuredly, I should never have been estimated in France, proving most indisputably,” added Albert with a laugh, “that no prophet is honored in his own country.”

“Talking of countries,” replied Franz, “of what country is the count, what is his native tongue, whence does he derive his immense fortune, and what were those events of his early life—a life as marvellous as unknown—that have tinctured his succeeding years with so dark and gloomy a misanthropy? Certainly these are questions that, in your place, I should like to have answered.”

“My dear Franz,” replied Albert, “when, upon receipt of my letter, you found the necessity of asking the count’s assistance, you promptly went to him, saying, ‘My friend Albert de Morcerf is in danger; help me to deliver him.’ Was not that nearly what you said?”

“It was.”

“Well, then, did he ask you, ‘Who is M. Albert de Morcerf? how does he come by his name—his fortune? what are his means of existence? what is his birthplace? of what country is he a native?’ Tell me, did he put all these questions to you?”

“I confess he asked me none.”

“No; he merely came and freed me from the hands of Signor Vampa, where, I can assure you, in spite of all my outward appearance of ease and unconcern, I did not very particularly care to remain. Now, then, Franz, when, for services so promptly and unhesitatingly rendered, he but asks me in return to do for him what is done daily for any Russian prince or Italian nobleman who may pass through Paris—merely to introduce him into society—would you have me refuse? My good fellow, you must have lost your senses to think it possible I could act with such cold-blooded policy.”

And this time it must be confessed that, contrary to the usual state of affairs in discussions between the young men, the effective arguments were all on Albert’s side.

“Well,” said Franz with a sigh, “do as you please my dear viscount, for your arguments are beyond my powers of refutation. Still, in spite of all, you must admit that this Count of Monte Cristo is a most singular personage.”

“He is a philanthropist,” answered the other; “and no doubt his motive in visiting Paris is to compete for the Monthyon prize, given, as you are aware, to whoever shall be proved to have most materially advanced the interests of virtue and humanity. If my vote and interest can obtain it for him, I will readily give him the one and promise the other. And now, my dear Franz, let us talk of something else. Come, shall we take our luncheon, and then pay a last visit to St. Peter’s?”

Franz silently assented; and the following afternoon, at half-past five o’clock, the young men parted. Albert de Morcerf to return to Paris, and Franz d’Épinay to pass a fortnight at Venice.

But, ere he entered his travelling carriage, Albert, fearing that his expected guest might forget the engagement he had entered into, placed in the care of a waiter at the hotel a card to be delivered to the Count of Monte Cristo, on which, beneath the name of Viscount Albert de Morcerf, he had written in pencil:

“27, Rue du Helder, on the 21st May, half-past ten A.M.”


Chapter 39. The Guests


In the house in the Rue du Helder, where Albert had invited the Count of Monte Cristo, everything was being prepared on the morning of the 21st of May to do honor to the occasion. Albert de Morcerf inhabited a pavilion situated at the corner of a large court, and directly opposite another building, in which were the servants’ apartments. Two windows only of the pavilion faced the street; three other windows looked into the court, and two at the back into the garden.

Between the court and the garden, built in the heavy style of the imperial architecture, was the large and fashionable dwelling of the Count and Countess of Morcerf.

A high wall surrounded the whole of the property, surmounted at intervals by vases filled with flowers, and broken in the centre by a large gate of gilded iron, which served as the carriage entrance. A small door, close to the lodge of the concierge, gave ingress and egress to the servants and masters when they were on foot.

It was easy to discover that the delicate care of a mother, unwilling to part from her son, and yet aware that a young man of the viscount’s age required the full exercise of his liberty, had chosen this habitation for Albert. There were not lacking, however, evidences of what we may call the intelligent egoism of a youth who is charmed with the indolent, careless life of an only son, and who lives as it were in a gilded cage. By means of the two windows looking into the street, Albert could see all that passed; the sight of what is going on is necessary to young men, who always want to see the world traverse their horizon, even if that horizon is only a public thoroughfare. Then, should anything appear to merit a more minute examination, Albert de Morcerf could follow up his researches by means of a small gate, similar to that close to the concierge’s door, and which merits a particular description.

It was a little entrance that seemed never to have been opened since the house was built, so entirely was it covered with dust and dirt; but the well-oiled hinges and locks told quite another story. This door was a mockery to the concierge, from whose vigilance and jurisdiction it was free, and, like that famous portal in the Arabian Nights, opening at the “Sesame” of Ali Baba, it was wont to swing backward at a cabalistic word or a concerted tap from without from the sweetest voices or whitest fingers in the world.

At the end of a long corridor, with which the door communicated, and which formed the antechamber, was, on the right, Albert’s breakfast-room, looking into the court, and on the left the salon, looking into the garden. Shrubs and creeping plants covered the windows, and hid from the garden and court these two apartments, the only rooms into which, as they were on the ground floor, the prying eyes of the curious could penetrate.

On the floor above were similar rooms, with the addition of a third, formed out of the antechamber; these three rooms were a salon, a boudoir, and a bedroom. The salon downstairs was only an Algerian divan, for the use of smokers. The boudoir upstairs communicated with the bedchamber by an invisible door on the staircase; it was evident that every precaution had been taken. Above this floor was a large atelier, which had been increased in size by pulling down the partitions—a pandemonium, in which the artist and the dandy strove for pre-eminence.

There were collected and piled up all Albert’s successive caprices, hunting-horns, bass-viols, flutes—a whole orchestra, for Albert had had not a taste but a fancy for music; easels, palettes, brushes, pencils—for music had been succeeded by painting; foils, boxing-gloves, broadswords, and single-sticks—for, following the example of the fashionable young men of the time, Albert de Morcerf cultivated, with far more perseverance than music and drawing, the three arts that complete a dandy’s education, i.e., fencing, boxing, and single-stick; and it was here that he received Grisier, Cooks, and Charles Leboucher.

The rest of the furniture of this privileged apartment consisted of old cabinets, filled with Chinese porcelain and Japanese vases, Lucca della Robbia faïences, and Palissy platters; of old armchairs, in which perhaps had sat Henry IV. or Sully, Louis XIII. or Richelieu—for two of these armchairs, adorned with a carved shield, on which were engraved the fleur-de-lis of France on an azure field, evidently came from the Louvre, or, at least, some royal residence.

Over these dark and sombre chairs were thrown splendid stuffs, dyed beneath Persia’s sun, or woven by the fingers of the women of Calcutta or of Chandernagor. What these stuffs did there, it was impossible to say; they awaited, while gratifying the eyes, a destination unknown to their owner himself; in the meantime they filled the place with their golden and silky reflections.

In the centre of the room was a Roller and Blanchet “baby grand” piano in rosewood, but holding the potentialities of an orchestra in its narrow and sonorous cavity, and groaning beneath the weight of the chefs-d’œuvre of Beethoven, Weber, Mozart, Haydn, Grétry, and Porpora.

On the walls, over the doors, on the ceiling, were swords, daggers, Malay creeses, maces, battle-axes; gilded, damasked, and inlaid suits of armor; dried plants, minerals, and stuffed birds, their flame-colored wings outspread in motionless flight, and their beaks forever open. This was Albert’s favorite lounging place.

However, the morning of the appointment, the young man had established himself in the small salon downstairs. There, on a table, surrounded at some distance by a large and luxurious divan, every species of tobacco known,—from the yellow tobacco of Petersburg to the black of Sinai, and so on along the scale from Maryland and Porto Rico, to Latakia,—was exposed in pots of crackled earthenware of which the Dutch are so fond; beside them, in boxes of fragrant wood, were ranged, according to their size and quality, puros, regalias, havanas, and manillas; and, in an open cabinet, a collection of German pipes, of chibouques, with their amber mouth-pieces ornamented with coral, and of narghiles, with their long tubes of morocco, awaiting the caprice or the sympathy of the smokers.

Albert had himself presided at the arrangement, or, rather, the symmetrical derangement, which, after coffee, the guests at a breakfast of modern days love to contemplate through the vapor that escapes from their mouths, and ascends in long and fanciful wreaths to the ceiling.

At a quarter to ten, a valet entered; he composed, with a little groom named John, and who only spoke English, all Albert’s establishment, although the cook of the hotel was always at his service, and on great occasions the count’s chasseur also. This valet, whose name was Germain, and who enjoyed the entire confidence of his young master, held in one hand a number of papers, and in the other a packet of letters, which he gave to Albert. Albert glanced carelessly at the different missives, selected two written in a small and delicate hand, and enclosed in scented envelopes, opened them and perused their contents with some attention.

“How did these letters come?” said he.

“One by the post, Madame Danglars’ footman left the other.”

“Let Madame Danglars know that I accept the place she offers me in her box. Wait; then, during the day, tell Rosa that when I leave the Opera I will sup with her as she wishes. Take her six bottles of different wine—Cyprus, sherry, and Malaga, and a barrel of Ostend oysters; get them at Borel’s, and be sure you say they are for me.”

“At what o’clock, sir, do you breakfast?”

“What time is it now?”

“A quarter to ten.”

“Very well, at half past ten. Debray will, perhaps, be obliged to go to the minister—and besides” (Albert looked at his tablets), “it is the hour I told the count, 21st May, at half past ten; and though I do not much rely upon his promise, I wish to be punctual. Is the countess up yet?”

“If you wish, I will inquire.”

“Yes, ask her for one of her liqueur cellarets, mine is incomplete; and tell her I shall have the honor of seeing her about three o’clock, and that I request permission to introduce someone to her.”

The valet left the room. Albert threw himself on the divan, tore off the cover of two or three of the papers, looked at the theatre announcements, made a face seeing they gave an opera, and not a ballet; hunted vainly amongst the advertisements for a new tooth-powder of which he had heard, and threw down, one after the other, the three leading papers of Paris, muttering,

“These papers become more and more stupid every day.”

A moment after, a carriage stopped before the door, and the servant announced M. Lucien Debray. A tall young man, with light hair, clear gray eyes, and thin and compressed lips, dressed in a blue coat with beautifully carved gold buttons, a white neckcloth, and a tortoiseshell eye-glass suspended by a silken thread, and which, by an effort of the superciliary and zygomatic muscles, he fixed in his eye, entered, with a half-official air, without smiling or speaking.

“Good-morning, Lucien, good-morning,” said Albert; “your punctuality really alarms me. What do I say? punctuality! You, whom I expected last, you arrive at five minutes to ten, when the time fixed was half-past! Has the ministry resigned?”

“No, my dear fellow,” returned the young man, seating himself on the divan; “reassure yourself; we are tottering always, but we never fall, and I begin to believe that we shall pass into a state of immobility, and then the affairs of the Peninsula will completely consolidate us.”

“Ah, true; you drive Don Carlos out of Spain.”

“No, no, my dear fellow, do not confound our plans. We take him to the other side of the French frontier, and offer him hospitality at Bourges.”

“At Bourges?”

“Yes, he has not much to complain of; Bourges is the capital of Charles VII. Do you not know that all Paris knew it yesterday, and the day before it had already transpired on the Bourse, and M. Danglars (I do not know by what means that man contrives to obtain intelligence as soon as we do) made a million!”

“And you another order, for I see you have a blue ribbon at your button-hole.”

“Yes; they sent me the order of Charles III.,” returned Debray carelessly.

“Come, do not affect indifference, but confess you were pleased to have it.”

“Oh, it is very well as a finish to the toilet. It looks very neat on a black coat buttoned up.”

“And makes you resemble the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Reichstadt.”

“It is for that reason you see me so early.”

“Because you have the order of Charles III., and you wish to announce the good news to me?”

“No, because I passed the night writing letters,—five-and-twenty despatches. I returned home at daybreak, and strove to sleep; but my head ached and I got up to have a ride for an hour. At the Bois de Boulogne, ennui and hunger attacked me at once,—two enemies who rarely accompany each other, and who are yet leagued against me, a sort of Carlo-republican alliance. I then recollected you gave a breakfast this morning, and here I am. I am hungry, feed me; I am bored, amuse me.”

“It is my duty as your host,” returned Albert, ringing the bell, while Lucien turned over, with his gold-mounted cane, the papers that lay on the table. “Germain, a glass of sherry and a biscuit. In the meantime, my dear Lucien, here are cigars—contraband, of course—try them, and persuade the minister to sell us such instead of poisoning us with cabbage leaves.”

“Peste! I will do nothing of the kind; the moment they come from government you would find them execrable. Besides, that does not concern the home but the financial department. Address yourself to M. Humann, section of the indirect contributions, corridor A., No. 26.”

“On my word,” said Albert, “you astonish me by the extent of your knowledge. Take a cigar.”

“Really, my dear Albert,” replied Lucien, lighting a manilla at a rose-colored taper that burnt in a beautifully enamelled stand—“how happy you are to have nothing to do. You do not know your own good fortune!”

“And what would you do, my dear diplomatist,” replied Morcerf, with a slight degree of irony in his voice, “if you did nothing? What? private secretary to a minister, plunged at once into European cabals and Parisian intrigues; having kings, and, better still, queens, to protect, parties to unite, elections to direct; making more use of your cabinet with your pen and your telegraph than Napoleon did of his battle-fields with his sword and his victories; possessing five-and-twenty thousand francs a year, besides your place; a horse, for which Château-Renaud offered you four hundred louis, and which you would not part with; a tailor who never disappoints you; with the opera, the jockey-club, and other diversions, can you not amuse yourself? Well, I will amuse you.”

“How?”

“By introducing to you a new acquaintance.”

“A man or a woman?”

“A man.”

“I know so many men already.”

“But you do not know this man.”

“Where does he come from—the end of the world?”

“Farther still, perhaps.”

“The deuce! I hope he does not bring our breakfast with him.”

“Oh, no; our breakfast comes from my father’s kitchen. Are you hungry?”

“Humiliating as such a confession is, I am. But I dined at M. de Villefort’s, and lawyers always give you very bad dinners. You would think they felt some remorse; did you ever remark that?”

“Ah, depreciate other persons’ dinners; you ministers give such splendid ones.”

“Yes; but we do not invite people of fashion. If we were not forced to entertain a parcel of country boobies because they think and vote with us, we should never dream of dining at home, I assure you.”

“Well, take another glass of sherry and another biscuit.”

“Willingly. Your Spanish wine is excellent. You see we were quite right to pacify that country.”

“Yes; but Don Carlos?”

“Well, Don Carlos will drink Bordeaux, and in ten years we will marry his son to the little queen.”

“You will then obtain the Golden Fleece, if you are still in the ministry.”

“I think, Albert, you have adopted the system of feeding me on smoke this morning.”

“Well, you must allow it is the best thing for the stomach; but I hear Beauchamp in the next room; you can dispute together, and that will pass away the time.”

“About what?”

“About the papers.”

“My dear friend,” said Lucien with an air of sovereign contempt, “do I ever read the papers?”

“Then you will dispute the more.”

“M. Beauchamp,” announced the servant. “Come in, come in,” said Albert, rising and advancing to meet the young man. “Here is Debray, who detests you without reading you, so he says.”

“He is quite right,” returned Beauchamp; “for I criticise him without knowing what he does. Good-day, commander!”

“Ah, you know that already,” said the private secretary, smiling and shaking hands with him.

“Pardieu!”

“And what do they say of it in the world?”

“In which world? we have so many worlds in the year of grace 1838.”

“In the entire political world, of which you are one of the leaders.”

“They say that it is quite fair, and that sowing so much red, you ought to reap a little blue.”

“Come, come, that is not bad!” said Lucien. “Why do you not join our party, my dear Beauchamp? With your talents you would make your fortune in three or four years.”

“I only await one thing before following your advice; that is, a minister who will hold office for six months. My dear Albert, one word, for I must give poor Lucien a respite. Do we breakfast or dine? I must go to the Chamber, for our life is not an idle one.”

“You only breakfast; I await two persons, and the instant they arrive we shall sit down to table.”