Franz had so managed his route, that during the ride to the Colosseum the_assed not a single ancient ruin, so that no preliminary impression interfere_o mitigate the colossal proportions of the gigantic building they came t_dmire. The road selected was a continuation of the Via Sistina; then b_utting off the right angle of the street in which stands Santa Maria Maggior_nd proceeding by the Via Urbana and San Pietro in Vincoli, the traveller_ould find themselves directly opposite the Colosseum. This itinerar_ossessed another great advantage, — that of leaving Franz at full liberty t_ndulge his deep reverie upon the subject of Signor Pastrini's story, in whic_is mysterious host of Monte Cristo was so strangely mixed up. Seated wit_olded arms in a corner of the carriage, he continued to ponder over th_ingular history he had so lately listened to, and to ask himself a_nterminable number of questions touching its various circumstances without, however, arriving at a satisfactory reply to any of them. One fact more tha_he rest brought his friend "Sinbad the Sailor" back to his recollection, an_hat was the mysterious sort of intimacy that seemed to exist between th_rigands and the sailors; and Pastrini's account of Vampa's having foun_efuge on board the vessels of smugglers and fishermen, reminded Franz of th_wo Corsican bandits he had found supping so amicably with the crew of th_ittle 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 hi_ost of Monte Cristo and again repeated by the landlord of the Hotel d_ondres, abundantly proved to him that his island friend was playing hi_hilanthropic part on the shores of Piombino, Civita-Vecchio, Ostia, an_aeta, as on those of Corsica, Tuscany, and Spain; and further, Fran_ethought him of having heard his singular entertainer speak both of Tunis an_alermo, proving thereby how largely his circle of acquaintances extended.
But however the mind of the young man might be absorbed in these reflections, they were at once dispersed at the sight of the dark frowning ruins of th_tupendous Colosseum, through the various openings of which the pale moonligh_layed and flickered like the unearthly gleam from the eyes of the wanderin_ead. The carriage stopped near the Meta Sudans; the door was opened, and th_oung men, eagerly alighting, found themselves opposite a cicerone, wh_ppeared to have sprung up from the ground, so unexpected was his appearance.
The usual guide from the hotel having followed them, they had paid tw_onductors, nor is it possible, at Rome, to avoid this abundant supply o_uides; besides the ordinary cicerone, who seizes upon you directly you se_oot in your hotel, and never quits you while you remain in the city, there i_lso a special cicerone belonging to each monument — nay, almost to each par_f a monument. It may, therefore, be easily imagined there is no scarcity o_uides at the Colosseum, that wonder of all ages, which Martial thu_ulogizes: "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 th_uperiority of the gigantic labor of the Caesars, and the many voices of Fam_pread far and wide the surpassing merits of this incomparable monument."
As for Albert and Franz, they essayed not to escape from their ciceronia_yrants; and, indeed, it would have been so much the more difficult to brea_heir bondage, as the guides alone are permitted to visit these monuments wit_orches in their hands. Thus, then, the young men made no attempt a_esistance, but blindly and confidingly surrendered themselves into the car_nd custody of their conductors. Albert had already made seven or eigh_imilar excursions to the Colosseum, while his less favored companion trod fo_he first time in his life the classic ground forming the monument of Flaviu_espasian; and, to his credit be it spoken, his mind, even amid the gli_oquacity of the guides, was duly and deeply touched with awe and enthusiasti_dmiration of all he saw; and certainly no adequate notion of these stupendou_uins can be formed save by such as have visited them, and more especially b_oonlight, at which time the vast proportions of the building appear twice a_arge when viewed by the mysterious beams of a southern moonlit sky, whos_ays are sufficiently clear and vivid to light the horizon with a glow equa_o the soft twilight of an eastern clime. Scarcely, therefore, had th_eflective Franz walked a hundred steps beneath the interior porticoes of th_uin, than, abandoning Albert to the guides (who would by no means yield thei_rescriptive right of carrying their victims through the routine regularl_aid down, and as regularly followed by them, but dragged the unconsciou_isitor to the various objects with a pertinacity that admitted of no appeal, beginning, as a matter of course, with the Lions' Den, and finishing wit_aesar's "Podium,"), to escape a jargon and mechanical survey of the wonder_y which he was surrounded, Franz ascended a half-dilapidated staircase, and, leaving them to follow their monotonous round, seated himself at the foot of _olumn, and immediately opposite a large aperture, which permitted him t_njoy a full and undisturbed view of the gigantic dimensions of the majesti_uin.
Franz had remained for nearly a quarter of an hour perfectly hidden by th_hadow of the vast column at whose base he had found a resting-place, and fro_hence his eyes followed the motions of Albert and his guides, who, holdin_orches in their hands, had emerged from a vomitarium at the opposit_xtremity of the Colosseum, and then again disappeared down the step_onducting to the seats reserved for the Vestal virgins, resembling, as the_lided along, some restless shades following the flickering glare of so man_gnes-fatui. All at once his ear caught a sound resembling that of a ston_olling down the staircase opposite the one by which he had himself ascended.
There was nothing remarkable in the circumstance of a fragment of granit_iving way and falling heavily below; but it seemed to him that the substanc_hat fell gave way beneath the pressure of a foot, and also that some one, wh_ndeavored as much as possible to prevent his footsteps from being heard, wa_pproaching the spot where he sat. Conjecture soon became certainty, for th_igure of a man was distinctly visible to Franz, gradually emerging from th_taircase opposite, upon which the moon was at that moment pouring a full tid_f 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 frivolou_abble of the guides. And his appearance had nothing extraordinary in it; bu_he hesitation with which he proceeded, stopping and listening with anxiou_ttention at every step he took, convinced Franz that he expected the arriva_f some person. By a sort of instinctive impulse, Franz withdrew as much a_ossible behind his pillar. About ten feet from the spot where he and th_tranger were, the roof had given way, leaving a large round opening, throug_hich might be seen the blue vault of heaven, thickly studded with stars.
Around this opening, which had, possibly, for ages permitted a free entranc_o the brilliant moonbeams that now illumined the vast pile, grew a quantit_f creeping plants, whose delicate green branches stood out in bold relie_gainst the clear azure of the firmament, while large masses of thick, stron_ibrous shoots forced their way through the chasm, and hung floating to an_ro, like so many waving strings. The person whose mysterious arrival ha_ttracted the attention of Franz stood in a kind of half-light, that rendere_t impossible to distinguish his features, although his dress was easily mad_ut. He wore a large brown mantle, one fold of which, thrown over his lef_houlder, served likewise to mask the lower part of his countenance, while th_pper part was completely hidden by his broad-brimmed hat. The lower part o_is dress was more distinctly visible by the bright rays of the moon, which, entering through the broken ceiling, shed their refulgent beams on feet case_n elegantly made boots of polished leather, over which descended fashionabl_ut trousers of black cloth.
From the imperfect means Franz had of judging, he could only come to on_onclusion, — that the person whom he was thus watching certainly belonged t_o inferior station of life. Some few minutes had elapsed, and the strange_egan to show manifest signs of impatience, when a slight noise was hear_utside the aperture in the roof, and almost immediately a dark shadow seeme_o obstruct the flood of light that had entered it, and the figure of a ma_as 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 mas_f thickly matted boughs, and glided down by their help to within three o_our feet of the ground, and then leaped lightly on his feet. The man who ha_erformed this daring act with so much indifference wore the Transtever_ostume. "I beg your excellency's pardon for keeping you waiting," said th_an, 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 faul_f yours."
"Your excellency is perfectly right in so thinking," said the man; "I cam_ere direct from the Castle of St. Angelo, and I had an immense deal o_rouble 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 m_now 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 ma_e entrapped, like poor Peppino and may be very glad to have some littl_ibbling 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 afte_o-morrow at two o'clock, as is customary at Rome at the commencement of al_reat festivals. One of the culprits will be mazzolato;* he is an atrociou_illain, who murdered the priest who brought him up, and deserves not th_mallest 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, bu_lso the neighboring states, with such extreme fear, that they are glad of al_pportunity 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 th_istinction with which he is treated; instead of being knocked on the head a_ou would be if once they caught hold of you, he is simply sentenced to b_uillotined, 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 the_ith."
"My good friend," said the man in the cloak, "excuse me for saying that yo_eem 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 a_othing to restore a poor devil to liberty, who has got into this scrap_olely from having served me. I should hate and despise myself as a coward di_ 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 fro_e, will rush forward directly Peppino is brought for execution, and, by th_ssistance of their stilettos, drive back the guard, and carry off th_risoner."
"That seems to me as hazardous as uncertain, and convinces me that my schem_s far better than yours."
"And what is your excellency's project?"
"Just this. I will so advantageously bestow 2,000 piastres, that the perso_eceiving them shall obtain a respite till next year for Peppino; and durin_hat year, another skilfully placed 1,000 piastres will afford him the mean_f escaping from his prison."
"And do you feel sure of succeeding?"
"Pardieu!" exclaimed the man in the cloak, suddenly expressing himself i_rench.
"What did your excellency say?" inquired the other.
"I said, my good fellow, that I would do more single-handed by the means o_old than you and all your troop could effect with stilettos, pistols, carbines, and blunderbusses included. Leave me, then, to act, and have n_ears for the result."
"At least, there can be no harm in myself and party being in readiness, i_ase your excellency should fail."
"None whatever. Take what precautions you please, if it is any satisfaction t_ou to do so; but rely upon my obtaining the reprieve I seek."
"Remember, the execution is fixed for the day after tomorrow, and that yo_ave but one day to work in."
"And what of that? Is not a day divided into twenty-four hours, each hour int_ixty minutes, and every minute sub-divided into sixty seconds? Now in 86,40_econds 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 a_he Cafe Rospoli; should I have obtained the requisite pardon for Peppino, th_wo outside windows will be hung with yellow damasks, and the centre wit_hite, having a large cross in red marked on it."
"And whom will you employ to carry the reprieve to the officer directing th_xecution?"
"Send one of your men, disguised as a penitent friar, and I will give it t_im. 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, wil_and it to the executioner; in the meantime, it will be as well to acquain_eppino with what we have determined on, if it be only to prevent his dying o_ear or losing his senses, because in either case a very useless expense wil_ave been incurred."
"Your excellency," said the man, "you are fully persuaded of my entir_evotion to you, are you not?"
"Nay, I flatter myself that there can be no doubt of it," replied the cavalie_n the cloak.
"Well, then, only fulfil your promise of rescuing Peppino, and henceforwar_ou shall receive not only devotion, but the most absolute obedience fro_yself 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 yo_f 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 hav_ound you in this my heavy trouble; and if from the other end of the world yo_ut write me word to do such or such a thing, you may regard it as done, fo_one 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 bu_pies, and might possibly recognize you; and, however I may be honored by you_riendship, my worthy friend, if once the extent of our intimacy were known, _m 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, bearin_ red cross."
"And if you fail?"
"Then all three windows will have yellow draperies."
"And then, my good fellow, use your daggers in any way you please, and _urther promise you to be there as a spectator of your prowess."
"We understand each other perfectly, then. Adieu, your excellency; depend upo_e as firmly as I do upon you."
Saying these words, the Transteverin disappeared down the staircase, while hi_ompanion, muffling his features more closely than before in the folds of hi_antle, passed almost close to Franz, and descended to the arena by an outwar_light of steps. The next minute Franz heard himself called by Albert, wh_ade 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 tw_en whose conversation he had overheard were at a sufficient distance t_revent his encountering them in his descent. In ten minutes after th_trangers had departed, Franz was on the road to the Piazza de Spagni, listening with studied indifference to the learned dissertation delivered b_lbert, after the manner of Pliny and Calpurnius, touching the iron-pointe_ets used to prevent the ferocious beasts from springing on the spectators.
Franz let him proceed without interruption, and, in fact, did not hear wha_as said; he longed to be alone, and free to ponder over all that ha_ccurred. One of the two men, whose mysterious meeting in the Colosseum he ha_o unintentionally witnessed, was an entire stranger to him, but not so th_ther; and though Franz had been unable to distinguish his features, from hi_eing either wrapped in his mantle or obscured by the shadow, the tones of hi_oice had made too powerful an impression on him the first time he had hear_hem for him ever again to forget them, hear them when or where he might. I_as more especially when this man was speaking in a manner half jesting, hal_itter, 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 whic_e heard for the second time amid the darkness and ruined grandeur of th_olosseum. And the more he thought, the more entire was his conviction, tha_he person who wore the mantle was no other than his former host an_ntertainer, "Sinbad the Sailor."
Under any other circumstances, Franz would have found it impossible to resis_is extreme curiosity to know more of so singular a personage, and with tha_ntent have sought to renew their short acquaintance; but in the presen_nstance, the confidential nature of the conversation he had overheard mad_im, with propriety, judge that his appearance at such a time would b_nything but agreeable. As we have seen, therefore, he permitted his forme_ost to retire without attempting a recognition, but fully promising himself _ich indemnity for his present forbearance should chance afford him anothe_pportunity. In vain did Franz endeavor to forget the many perplexing thought_hich assailed him; in vain did he court the refreshment of sleep. Slumbe_efused to visit his eyelids and the night was passed in feveris_ontemplation of the chain of circumstances tending to prove the identity o_he mysterious visitant to the Colosseum with the inhabitant of the grotto o_onte Cristo; and the more he thought, the firmer grew his opinion on th_ubject. Worn out at length, he fell asleep at daybreak, and did not awak_ill late. Like a genuine Frenchman, Albert had employed his time in arrangin_or the evening's diversion; he had sent to engage a box at the Teatr_rgentino; and Franz, having a number of letters to write, relinquished th_arriage 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 o_ntroduction, and had received in return more invitations to balls and rout_han it would be possible for him to accept; besides this, he had seen (as h_alled it) all the remarkable sights at Rome. Yes, in a single day he ha_ccomplished what his more serious-minded companion would have taken weeks t_ffect. Neither had he neglected to ascertain the name of the piece to b_layed that night at the Teatro Argentino, and also what performers appeare_n it.
The opera of "Parisina" was announced for representation, and the principa_ctors were Coselli, Moriani, and La Specchia. The young men, therefore, ha_eason to consider themselves fortunate in having the opportunity of hearin_ne of the best works by the composer of "Lucia di Lammermoor," supported b_hree of the most renowned vocalists of Italy. Albert had never been able t_ndure the Italian theatres, with their orchestras from which it is impossibl_o see, and the absence of balconies, or open boxes; all these defects presse_ard on a man who had had his stall at the Bouffes, and had shared a lower bo_t the Opera. Still, in spite of this, Albert displayed his most dazzling an_ffective costumes each time he visited the theatres; but, alas, his elegan_oilet was wholly thrown away, and one of the most worthy representatives o_arisian fashion had to carry with him the mortifying reflection that he ha_early overrun Italy without meeting with a single adventure.
Sometimes Albert would affect to make a joke of his want of success; bu_nternally he was deeply wounded, and his self-love immensely piqued, to thin_hat Albert de Morcerf, the most admired and most sought after of any youn_erson of his day, should thus be passed over, and merely have his labor fo_is pains. And the thing was so much the more annoying, as, according to th_haracteristic modesty of a Frenchman, Albert had quitted Paris with the ful_onviction 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 th_ecital of his numerous love-affairs. Alas, poor Albert! none of thos_nteresting adventures fell in his way; the lovely Genoese, Florentines, an_eapolitans were all faithful, if not to their husbands, at least to thei_overs, and thought not of changing even for the splendid appearance of Alber_e Morcerf; and all he gained was the painful conviction that the ladies o_taly have this advantage over those of France, that they are faithful even i_heir infidelity. Yet he could not restrain a hope that in Italy, a_lsewhere, there might be an exception to the general rule. Albert, beside_eing an elegant, well-looking young man, was also possessed of considerabl_alent 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 a_oah 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 sufficien_um to render him a personage of considerable importance in Paris. It wa_herefore no small mortification to him to have visited most of the principa_ities in Italy without having excited the most trifling observation. Albert, however, hoped to indemnify himself for all these slights and indifference_uring the Carnival, knowing full well that among the different states an_ingdoms in which this festivity is celebrated, Rome is the spot where eve_he wisest and gravest throw off the usual rigidity of their lives, and deig_o mingle in the follies of this time of liberty and relaxation.
The Carnival was to commence on the morrow; therefore Albert had not a_nstant to lose in setting forth the programme of his hopes, expectations, an_laims to notice. With this design he had engaged a box in the mos_onspicuous part of the theatre, and exerted himself to set off his persona_ttractions by the aid of the most rich and elaborate toilet. The box taken b_lbert was in the first circle; although each of the three tiers of boxes i_eemed equally aristocratic, and is, for this reason, generally styled the
"nobility's boxes," and although the box engaged for the two friends wa_ufficiently capacious to contain at least a dozen persons, it had cost les_han would be paid at some of the French theatres for one admitting merel_our occupants. Another motive had influenced Albert's selection of his seat, — who knew but that, thus advantageously placed, he might not in truth attrac_he notice of some fair Roman, and an introduction might ensue that woul_rocure him the offer of a seat in a carriage, or a place in a princel_alcony, from which he might behold the gayeties of the Carnival? These unite_onsiderations made Albert more lively and anxious to please than he ha_itherto been. Totally disregarding the business of the stage, he leaned fro_is box and began attentively scrutinizing the beauty of each pretty woman, aided by a powerful opera-glass; but, alas, this attempt to attract notic_holly failed; not even curiosity had been excited, and it was but to_pparent that the lovely creatures, into whose good graces he was desirous o_tealing, were all so much engrossed with themselves, their lovers, or thei_wn thoughts, that they had not so much as noticed him or the manipulation o_is glass.
The truth was, that the anticipated pleasures of the Carnival, with the "hol_eek" that was to succeed it, so filled every fair breast, as to prevent th_east attention being bestowed even on the business of the stage. The actor_ade their entries and exits unobserved or unthought of; at certai_onventional moments, the spectators would suddenly cease their conversation, or rouse themselves from their musings, to listen to some brilliant effort o_oriani's, a well-executed recitative by Coselli, or to join in loud applaus_t the wonderful powers of La Specchia; but that momentary excitement over, they quickly relapsed into their former state of preoccupation or interestin_onversation. Towards the close of the first act, the door of a box which ha_een hitherto vacant was opened; a lady entered to whom Franz had bee_ntroduced in Paris, where indeed, he had imagined she still was. The quic_ye of Albert caught the involuntary start with which his friend beheld th_ew arrival, and, turning to him, he said hastily, "Do you know the woman wh_as 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 muc_it and cleverness as beauty. I was to have been presented to her when I me_er 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 t_ake me to her box?"
"Why, I have only had the honor of being in her society and conversing wit_er three or four times in my life; but you know that even such a_cquaintance as that might warrant my doing what you ask." At that instant, the countess perceived Franz, and graciously waved her hand to him, to whic_e replied by a respectful inclination of the head. "Upon my word," sai_lbert, "you seem to be on excellent terms with the beautiful countess."
"You are mistaken in thinking so," returned Franz calmly; "but you merely fal_nto the same error which leads so many of our countrymen to commit the mos_gregious blunders, — I mean that of judging the habits and customs of Ital_nd Spain by our Parisian notions; believe me, nothing is more fallacious tha_o form any estimate of the degree of intimacy you may suppose existing amon_ersons by the familiar terms they seem upon; there is a similarity of feelin_t 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?"
"And what did you say to her?"
"Oh, we talked of the illustrious dead of whom that magnificent ruin is _lorious monument!"
"Upon my word," cried Albert, "you must have been a very entertainin_ompanion alone, or all but alone, with a beautiful woman in such a place o_entiment as the Colosseum, and yet to find nothing better a talk about tha_he dead! All I can say is, if ever I should get such a chance, the livin_hould be my theme."
"And you will probably find your theme ill-chosen."
"But," said Albert, breaking in upon his discourse, "never mind the past; le_s only remember the present. Are you not going to keep your promise o_ntroducing 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 the_ever mean to finish it."
"Oh, yes, they will; only listen to that charming finale. How exquisitel_oselli 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 mor_erfect than her acting?"
"Why, you know, my dear fellow, when one has been accustomed to Malibran an_ontag, such singers as these don't make the same impression on you the_erhaps 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 voic_ike a woman's."
"My good friend," said Franz, turning to him, while Albert continued to poin_is 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 th_erformances, to the infinite satisfaction of the Viscount of Morcerf, wh_eized his hat, rapidly passed his fingers through his hair, arranged hi_ravat and wristbands, and signified to Franz that he was waiting for him t_ead the way. Franz, who had mutely interrogated the countess, and receive_rom her a gracious smile in token that he would be welcome, sought not t_etard the gratification of Albert's eager impatience, but began at once th_our of the house, closely followed by Albert, who availed himself of the fe_inutes required to reach the opposite side of the theatre to settle th_eight 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 wa_eated beside the countess, in obedience to the Italian custom, instantly ros_nd surrendered his place to the strangers, who, in turn, would be expected t_etire 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 h_ay more than the truth, for in Paris and the circle in which the viscoun_oved, he was looked upon and cited as a model of perfection. Franz added tha_is companion, deeply grieved at having been prevented the honor of bein_resented to the countess during her sojourn in Paris, was most anxious t_ake up for it, and had requested him (Franz) to remedy the past misfortune b_onducting him to her box, and concluded by asking pardon for his presumptio_n having taken it upon himself to do so. The countess, in reply, bowe_racefully to Albert, and extended her hand with cordial kindness to Franz; then, inviting Albert to take the vacant seat beside her, she recommende_ranz to take the next best, if he wished to view the ballet, and pointed t_he one behind her own chair. Albert was soon deeply engrossed in discoursin_pon Paris and Parisian matters, speaking to the countess of the variou_ersons they both knew there. Franz perceived how completely he was in hi_lement; 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. Sittin_lone, in the front of a box immediately opposite, but situated on the thir_ow, was a woman of exquisite beauty, dressed in a Greek costume, whic_vidently, from the ease and grace with which she wore it, was her nationa_ttire. 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 interestin_onversation passing between the countess and Albert, to inquire of the forme_f she knew who was the fair Albanian opposite, since beauty such as hers wa_ell 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 o_he season; for I saw her where she now sits the very first night of th_eason, and since then she has never missed a performance. Sometimes she i_ccompanied by the person who is now with her, and at others she is merel_ttended 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 mus_ave been."
Franz and the countess exchanged a smile, and then the latter resumed he_onversation with Albert, while Franz returned to his previous survey of th_ouse and company. The curtain rose on the ballet, which was one of thos_xcellent specimens of the Italian school, admirably arranged and put on th_tage by Henri, who has established for himself a great reputation throughou_taly for his taste and skill in the choreographic art — one of those masterl_roductions of grace, method, and elegance in which the whole corps de ballet, from the principal dancers to the humblest supernumerary, are all engaged o_he stage at the same time; and a hundred and fifty persons may be see_xhibiting the same attitude, or elevating the same arm or leg with _imultaneous movement, that would lead you to suppose that but one mind, on_ct of volition, influenced the moving mass — the ballet was called "Poliska."
However much the ballet might have claimed his attention, Franz was too deepl_ccupied with the beautiful Greek to take any note of it; while she seemed t_xperience an almost childlike delight in watching it, her eager, animate_ooks contrasting strongly with the utter indifference of her companion, who, during the whole time the piece lasted, never even moved, not even when th_urious, crashing din produced by the trumpets, cymbals, and Chinese bell_ounded their loudest from the orchestra. Of this he took no heed, but was, a_ar as appearances might be trusted, enjoying soft repose and bright celestia_reams. The ballet at length came to a close, and the curtain fell amid th_oud, unanimous plaudits of an enthusiastic and delighted audience.
Owing to the very judicious plan of dividing the two acts of the opera with _allet, the pauses between the performances are very short, the singers in th_pera having time to repose themselves and change their costume, whe_ecessary, while the dancers are executing their pirouettes and exhibitin_heir graceful steps. The overture to the second act began; and, at the firs_ound of the leader's bow across his violin, Franz observed the sleeper slowl_rise and approach the Greek girl, who turned around to say a few words t_im, and then, leaning forward again on the railing of her box, she became a_bsorbed as before in what was going on. The countenance of the person who ha_ddressed her remained so completely in the shade, that, though Franz trie_is utmost, he could not distinguish a single feature. The curtain rose, an_he attention of Franz was attracted by the actors; and his eyes turned fro_he box containing the Greek girl and her strange companion to watch th_usiness of the stage.
Most of my readers are aware that the second act of "Parisina" opens with th_elebrated and effective duet in which Parisina, while sleeping, betrays t_zzo the secret of her love for Ugo. The injured husband goes through all th_motions of jealousy, until conviction seizes on his mind, and then, in _renzy of rage and indignation, he awakens his guilty wife to tell her that h_nows her guilt and to threaten her with his vengeance. This duet is one o_he most beautiful, expressive and terrible conceptions that has ever emanate_rom the fruitful pen of Donizetti. Franz now listened to it for the thir_ime; yet its notes, so tenderly expressive and fearfully grand as th_retched husband and wife give vent to their different griefs and passions, thrilled through the soul of Franz with an effect equal to his first emotion_pon hearing it. Excited beyond his usual calm demeanor, Franz rose with th_udience, and was about to join the loud, enthusiastic applause that followed; but suddenly his purpose was arrested, his hands fell by his sides, and th_alf-uttered "bravos" expired on his lips. The occupant of the box in whic_he 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 bein_ully revealed, Franz had no difficulty in recognizing him as the mysteriou_nhabitant of Monte Cristo, and the very same person he had encountered th_receding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum, and whose voice and figur_ad 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 agitatio_ccasioned by this full confirmation of Franz's former suspicion had no doub_mparted a corresponding expression to his features; for the countess, afte_azing with a puzzled look at his face, burst into a fit of laughter, an_egged to know what had happened. "Countess," returned Franz, totall_nheeding her raillery, "I asked you a short time since if you knew an_articulars respecting the Albanian lady opposite; I must now beseech you t_nform 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 eye_nly for the man we love?"
"True," replied Franz.
"All I can say is," continued the countess, taking up the lorgnette, an_irecting it toward the box in question, "that the gentleman, whose history _m unable to furnish, seems to me as though he had just been dug up; he look_ore like a corpse permitted by some friendly grave-digger to quit his tom_or a while, and revisit this earth of ours, than anything human. How ghastl_ale 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'_ake, 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 beautifu_houlders, as though an involuntary shudder passed through her veins, "tha_hose who have once seen that man will never be likely to forget him." Th_ensation 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 he_orgnette 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." Thi_resh allusion to Byron* drew a smile to Franz's countenance; although h_ould but allow that if anything was likely to induce belief in the existenc_f vampires, it would be the presence of such a man as the mysteriou_ersonage before him.
"I must positively find out who and what he is," said Franz, rising from hi_eat.
"No, no," cried the countess; "you must not leave me. I depend upon you t_scort 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 ye_ore unfortunate family, bore in his looks that cast of inauspiciou_elancholy by which the physiognomists of that time pretended to distinguis_hose who were predestined to a violent and unhappy death." — The Abbot, ch.
"Is it possible," whispered Franz, "that you entertain any fear?"
"I'll tell you," answered the countess. "Byron had the most perfect belief i_he existence of vampires, and even assured me that he had seen them. Th_escription he gave me perfectly corresponds with the features and characte_f the man before us. Oh, he is the exact personification of what I have bee_ed to expect! The coal-black hair, large bright, glittering eyes, in which _ild, unearthly fire seems burning, — the same ghastly paleness. Then observe, too, that the woman with him is altogether unlike all others of her sex. Sh_s 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 you_esearches if you will; but to-night you neither can nor shall. For tha_urpose I mean to keep you all to myself." Franz protested he could not defe_is pursuit till the following day, for many reasons. "Listen to me," said th_ountess, "and do not be so very headstrong. I am going home. I have a part_t my house to-night, and therefore cannot possibly remain till the end of th_pera. Now, I cannot for one instant believe you so devoid of gallantry as t_efuse 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 th_oor of the box, and offer the countess his arm. It was quite evident, by he_anner, that her uneasiness was not feigned; and Franz himself could no_esist a feeling of superstitious dread — so much the stronger in him, as i_rose from a variety of corroborative recollections, while the terror of th_ountess sprang from an instinctive belief, originally created in her mind b_he wild tales she had listened to till she believed them truths. Franz coul_ven feel her arm tremble as he assisted her into the carriage. Upon arrivin_t her hotel, Franz perceived that she had deceived him when she spoke o_xpecting company; on the contrary, her own return before the appointed hou_eemed greatly to astonish the servants. "Excuse my little subterfuge," sai_he countess, in reply to her companion's half-reproachful observation on th_ubject; "but that horrid man had made me feel quite uncomfortable, and _onged to be alone, that I might compose my startled mind." Franz essayed t_mile. "Nay," said she, "do not smile; it ill accords with the expression o_our 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 findin_ut who this man is. I have more reasons than you can imagine for desiring t_now 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 i_oing 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 affinitie_etween 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 afte_im to-morrow as eagerly as you please; but never bring him near me, if yo_ould not see me die of terror. And now, good-night; go to your rooms, and tr_o sleep away all recollections of this evening. For my own part, I am quit_ure I shall not be able to close my eyes." So saying, the countess quitte_ranz, leaving him unable to decide whether she were merely amusing herself a_is expense, or whether her fears and agitations were genuine.
Upon his return to the hotel, Franz found Albert in his dressing-gown an_lippers, 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 yo_efore 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 concernin_talian women. I should have thought the continual failures you have met wit_n 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 kee_p a whispering conversation — permit you to accompany them home. Why, if _arisian 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 littl_estraint 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 th_ountess was really alarmed."
"At what? At the sight of that respectable gentleman sitting opposite to us i_he same box with the lovely Greek girl? Now, for my part, I met them in th_obby after the conclusion of the piece; and hang me, if I can guess where yo_ook your notions of the other world from. I can assure you that thi_obgoblin 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 _irst-rate Paris tailor — probably Blin or Humann. He was rather too pale, certainly; but then, you know, paleness is always looked upon as a stron_roof of aristocratic descent and distinguished breeding." Franz smiled; fo_e well remembered that Albert particularly prided himself on the entir_bsence of color in his own complexion.
"Well, that tends to confirm my own ideas," said Franz, "that the countess'_uspicions were destitute alike of sense and reason. Did he speak in you_earing? and did you catch any of his words?"
"I did; but they were uttered in the Romaic dialect. I knew that from th_ixture of Greek words. I don't know whether I ever told you that when I wa_t 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 t_ndeavor 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 suggestion_f his imagination. "I tell you what, Sir Franz," cried Albert, "you deserv_o be called out for such a misgiving and incredulous glance as that you wer_leased to bestow on me just now."
"And I promise to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman if your schem_urns out as ingenious as you assert."
"Well, then, hearken to me."
"You agree, do you not, that obtaining a carriage is out of the question?"
"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."
"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 busines_an be managed. The cart must be tastefully ornamented; and if you and I dres_urselves as Neapolitan reapers, we may get up a striking tableau, after th_anner of that splendid picture by Leopold Robert. It would add greatly to th_ffect if the countess would join us in the costume of a peasant from Puzzol_r Sorrento. Our group would then be quite complete, more especially as th_ountess is quite beautiful enough to represent a madonna."
"Well," said Franz, "this time, Albert, I am bound to give you credit fo_aving hit upon a most capital idea."
"And quite a national one, too," replied Albert with gratified pride. "A mer_asque borrowed from our own festivities. Ha, ha, ye Romans! you thought t_ake us, unhappy strangers, trot at the heels of your processions, like s_any lazzaroni, because no carriages or horses are to be had in your beggarl_ity. 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 t_im what I wished to procure. He assured me that nothing would be easier tha_o furnish all I desired. One thing I was sorry for; when I bade him have th_orns of the oxen gilded, he told me there would not be time, as it woul_equire three days to do that; so you see we must do without this littl_uperfluity."
"And where is he now?"
"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 hea_f 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 perfectl_ell 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 Pastrin_n 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 wit_mportance, "that the Count of Monte Cristo is living on the same floor wit_ourselves!"
"I should think we did know it," exclaimed Albert, "since it is owing to tha_ircumstance that we are packed into these small rooms, like two poor student_n the back streets of Paris."
"When, then, the Count of Monte Cristo, hearing of the dilemma in which yo_re placed, has sent to offer you seats in his carriage and two places at hi_indows in the Palazzo Rospoli." The friends looked at each other wit_nutterable surprise.
"But do you think," asked Albert, "that we ought to accept such offers from _erfect 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 i_his person merited the high panegyrics of our landlord, he would hav_onveyed his invitation through another channel, and not permitted it to b_rought to us in this unceremonious way. He would have written — or" —
At this instant some one knocked at the door. "Come in," said Franz. _ervant, wearing a livery of considerable style and richness, appeared at th_hreshold, and, placing two cards in the landlord's hands, who forthwit_resented them to the two young men, he said, "Please to deliver these, fro_he 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'_ermission to wait upon them as their neighbor, and he will be honored by a_ntimation 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 o_alling on him." The servant bowed and retired.
"That is what I call an elegant mode of attack," said Albert, "You were quit_orrect in what you said, Signor Pastrini. The Count of Monte Cristo i_nquestionably 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 oblige_o give up the cart and the group of reapers — it would have produced such a_ffect! And were it not for the windows at the Palazzo Rospoli, by way o_ecompense for the loss of our beautiful scheme, I don't know but what _hould 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 ha_ecalled to Franz the conversation he had overheard the preceding evening i_he ruins of the Colosseum between the mysterious unknown and th_ransteverin, in which the stranger in the cloak had undertaken to obtain th_reedom of a condemned criminal; and if this muffled-up individual proved (a_ranz felt sure he would) the same as the person he had just seen in th_eatro Argentino, then he should be able to establish his identity, and als_o prosecute his researches respecting him with perfect facility and freedom.
Franz passed the night in confused dreams respecting the two meetings he ha_lready had with his mysterious tormentor, and in waking speculations as t_hat the morrow would produce. The next day must clear up every doubt; an_nless 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 himsel_nvisible, it was very certain he could not escape this time. Eight o'cloc_ound Franz up and dressed, while Albert, who had not the same motives fo_arly rising, was still soundly asleep. The first act of Franz was to summo_is landlord, who presented himself with his accustomed obsequiousness.
"Pray, Signor Pastrini," asked Franz, "is not some execution appointed to tak_lace to-day?"
"Yes, your excellency; but if your reason for inquiry is that you may procur_ 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 _ish to witness the spectacle, I might have done so from Monte Pincio — coul_ not?"
"Ah!" exclaimed mine host, "I did not think it likely your excellency woul_ave 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 descriptio_f the death they are to die."
"That happens just lucky, your excellency! Only a few minutes ago they brough_e the tavolettas."
"What are they?"
"Sort of wooden tablets hung up at the corners of streets the evening befor_n execution, on which is pasted up a paper containing the names of th_ondemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment. The reason for s_ublicly announcing all this is, that all good and faithful Catholics ma_ffer up their prayers for the unfortunate culprits, and, above all, beseec_f heaven to grant them a sincere repentance."
"And these tablets are brought to you that you may add your prayers to thos_f the faithful, are they?" asked Franz somewhat incredulously.
"Oh, dear, no, your excellency! I have not time for anybody's affairs but m_wn and those of my honorable guests; but I make an agreement with the man wh_astes up the papers, and he brings them to me as he would the playbills, tha_n case any person staying at my hotel should like to witness an execution, h_ay obtain every requisite information concerning the time and place etc."
"Upon my word, that is a most delicate attention on your part, Signo_astrini," cried Franz.
"Why, your excellency," returned the landlord, chuckling and rubbing his hand_ith infinite complacency, "I think I may take upon myself to say I neglec_othing to deserve the support and patronage of the noble visitors to thi_oor hotel."
"I see that plainly enough, my most excellent host, and you may rely upon m_o proclaim so striking a proof of your attention to your guests wherever _o. Meanwhile, oblige me by a sight of one of these tavolettas."
"Nothing can be easier than to comply with your excellency's wish," said th_andlord, opening the door of the chamber; "I have caused one to be placed o_he 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 da_f the Carnival, executions will take place in the Piazza del Popolo, by orde_f the Tribunal of the Rota, of two persons, named Andrea Rondola, an_eppino, otherwise called Rocca Priori; the former found guilty of the murde_f a venerable and exemplary priest, named Don Cesare Torlini, canon of th_hurch of St. John Lateran; and the latter convicted of being an accomplice o_he atrocious and sanguinary bandit, Luigi Vampa, and his band. The first- named malefactor will be subjected to the mazzuola, the second culpri_eheaded. The prayers of all good Christians are entreated for thes_nfortunate men, that it may please God to awaken them to a sense of thei_uilt, 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 th_olosseum. No part of the programme differed, — the names of the condemne_ersons, their crimes, and mode of punishment, all agreed with his previou_nformation. In all probability, therefore, the Transteverin was no other tha_he bandit Luigi Vampa himself, and the man shrouded in the mantle the same h_ad known as "Sinbad the Sailor," but who, no doubt, was still pursuing hi_hilanthropic expedition in Rome, as he had already done at Porto-Vecchio an_unis. Time was getting on, however, and Franz deemed it advisable to awake_lbert; but at the moment he prepared to proceed to his chamber, his frien_ntered the room in perfect costume for the day. The anticipated delights o_he Carnival had so run in his head as to make him leave his pillow lon_efore his usual hour. "Now, my excellent Signor Pastrini," said Franz, addressing his landlord, "since we are both ready, do you think we may procee_t once to visit the Count of Monte Cristo?"
"Most assuredly," replied he. "The Count of Monte Cristo is always an earl_iser; 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 t_im directly?"
"Oh, I am quite sure. I will take all the blame on myself if you find I hav_ed you into an error."
"Well, then, if it be so, are you ready, Albert?"
"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 a_he bell, and, upon the door being opened by a servant, said, "I signor_rancesi."
The domestic bowed respectfully, and invited them to enter. They passe_hrough two rooms, furnished in a luxurious manner they had not expected t_ee under the roof of Signor Pastrini, and were shown into an elegantl_itted-up drawing-room. The richest Turkey carpets covered the floor, and th_oftest and most inviting couches, easy-chairs, and sofas, offered their high- piled and yielding cushions to such as desired repose or refreshment. Splendi_aintings by the first masters were ranged against the walls, intermingle_ith magnificent trophies of war, while heavy curtains of costly tapestry wer_uspended before the different doors of the room. "If your excellencies wil_lease to be seated," said the man, "I will let the count know that you ar_ere."
And with these words he disappeared behind one of the tapestried portieres. A_he door opened, the sound of a guzla reached the ears of the young men, bu_as almost immediately lost, for the rapid closing of the door merely allowe_ne rich swell of harmony to enter. Franz and Albert looked inquiringly a_ach other, then at the gorgeous furnishings of the apartment. Everythin_eemed more magnificent at a second view than it had done at their first rapi_urvey.
"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 an_ttentive neighbor must either be some successful stock-jobber who ha_peculated in the fall of the Spanish funds, or some prince travelling incog."
"Hush, hush!" replied Franz; "we shall ascertain who and what he is — h_omes!" 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 owne_f all these riches stood before the two young men. Albert instantly rose t_eet him, but Franz remained, in a manner, spellbound on his chair; for in th_erson of him who had just entered he recognized not only the mysteriou_isitant to the Colosseum, and the occupant of the box at the Teatr_rgentino, but also his extraordinary host of Monte Cristo.