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    Chapter 34

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    Chapter 34
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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
    Hotel de Londres, abundantly proved to him that his island
    friend was playing his philanthropic part on the shores of
    Piombino, Civita-Vecchio, Ostia, and Gaeta, 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 he 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 Caesars, 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. Albert 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 an eastern clime. Scarcely, therefore,
    had the reflective Franz walked a hundred steps beneath the
    interior porticoes of the ruin, than, 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, and finishing with
    Caesar'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 vomitarium 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 some one, 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 his just struck on the 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 glean?"

    "That two executions of considerable interest will take
    place the day after to-morrow at two o'clock, as is
    customary at Rome at the commencement of all great
    festivals. One of the culprits will be mazzolato;* 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;** and he, your excellency, is
    poor Peppino."

    * Knocked on the head.
    ** Beheaded.

    "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 Cafe 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 Cafe 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 de Spagni, 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 Argentino; 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 Argentino, 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 a 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 time this first act takes. 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 choregraphic 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 it's 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 call 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* 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."

    * Scott, of course: "The son of an ill-fated sire, and the
    father of a yet more unfortunate family, bore in his looks
    that cast of inauspicious melancholy by which the
    physiognomists of that time pretended to distinguish those
    who were predestined to a violent and unhappy death." -- The
    Abbot, ch. xxii.

    "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 to-night; and if to-morrow your curiosity still
    continues as great, pursue your researches if you will; but
    to-night 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
    to-night, 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 to-night. 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 to-morrow 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
    to-morrow."

    "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 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, Sir 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 Leopold 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, 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 to-morrow it might
    be too late."

    "Then he will be able to give us an answer to-night."

    "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, mine 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 some one 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 Viscomte Albert de
    Morcerf and M. Franz d'Epinay. 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 Argentino, 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 to-day?"

    "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 to-day'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 23d,
    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 Rondola, and Peppino,
    otherwise called Rocca Priori; the former found guilty of
    the murder of a venerable and exemplary priest, named Don
    Cesare 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 subjected to the mazzuola,
    the second culprit beheaded. 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 portieres. 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
    Argentino, but also his extraordinary host of Monte Cristo.
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    Chapter 34
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