"Gentlemen," said the Count of Monte Cristo as he entered, "I pray you excus_e for suffering my visit to be anticipated; but I feared to disturb you b_resenting myself earlier at your apartments; besides, you sent me word tha_ou would come to me, and I have held myself at your disposal."
"Franz and I have to thank you a thousand times, count," returned Albert; "yo_xtricated us from a great dilemma, and we were on the point of inventing _ery fantastic vehicle when your friendly invitation reached us."
"Indeed," returned the count, motioning the two young men to sit down. "It wa_he fault of that blockhead Pastrini, that I did not sooner assist you in you_istress. He did not mention a syllable of your embarrassment to me, when h_nows that, alone and isolated as I am, I seek every opportunity of making th_cquaintance of my neighbors. As soon as I learned I could in any way assis_ou, I most eagerly seized the opportunity of offering my services." The tw_oung men bowed. Franz had, as yet, found nothing to say; he had come to n_etermination, and as nothing in the count's manner manifested the wish tha_e should recognize him, he did not know whether to make any allusion to th_ast, or wait until he had more proof; besides, although sure it was he wh_ad been in the box the previous evening, he could not be equally positiv_hat this was the man he had seen at the Colosseum. He resolved, therefore, t_et things take their course without making any direct overture to the count.
Moreover, he had this advantage, he was master of the count's secret, whil_he count had no hold on Franz, who had nothing to conceal. However, h_esolved to lead the conversation to a subject which might possibly clear u_is doubts.
"Count," said he, "you have offered us places in your carriage, and at you_indows in the Rospoli Palace. Can you tell us where we can obtain a sight o_he Piazza del Popolo?"
"Ah," said the count negligently, looking attentively at Morcerf, "is ther_ot something like an execution upon the Piazza del Popolo?"
"Yes," returned Franz, finding that the count was coming to the point h_ished.
"Stay, I think I told my steward yesterday to attend to this; perhaps I ca_ender you this slight service also." He extended his hand, and rang the bel_hrice. "Did you ever occupy yourself," said he to Franz, "with the employmen_f time and the means of simplifying the summoning your servants? I have. Whe_ ring once, it is for my valet; twice, for my majordomo; thrice, for m_teward, — thus I do not waste a minute or a word. Here he is." A man of abou_orty-five or fifty entered, exactly resembling the smuggler who ha_ntroduced Franz into the cavern; but he did not appear to recognize him. I_as evident he had his orders. "Monsieur Bertuccio," said the count, "you hav_rocured me windows looking on the Piazza del Popolo, as I ordered yo_esterday."
"Yes, excellency," returned the steward; "but it was very late."
"Did I not tell you I wished for one?" replied the count, frowning.
"And your excellency has one, which was let to Prince Lobanieff; but I wa_bliged to pay a hundred" —
"That will do — that will do, Monsieur Bertuccio; spare these gentlemen al_uch domestic arrangements. You have the window, that is sufficient. Giv_rders to the coachman; and be in readiness on the stairs to conduct us t_t." The steward bowed, and was about to quit the room. "Ah," continued th_ount, "be good enough to ask Pastrini if he has received the tavoletta, an_f he can send us an account of the execution."
"There is no need to do that," said Franz, taking out his tablets; "for I sa_he account, and copied it down."
"Very well, you can retire, M. Bertuccio; but let us know when breakfast i_eady. These gentlemen," added he, turning to the two friends, "will, I trust, do me the honor to breakfast with me?"
"But, my dear count," said Albert, "we shall abuse your kindness."
"Not at all; on the contrary, you will give me great pleasure. You will, on_r other of you, perhaps both, return it to me at Paris. M. Bertuccio, la_overs for three." He then took Franz's tablets out of his hand. "`W_nnounce,' he read, in the same tone with which he would have read _ewspaper, `that to-day, the 23d of February, will be executed Andrea Rondolo, guilty of murder on the person of the respected and venerated Don Cesar_orlini, canon of the church of St. John Lateran, and Peppino, called Rocc_riori, convicted of complicity with the detestable bandit Luigi Vampa, an_he men of his band.' Hum! `The first will be mazzolato, the secon_ecapitato.' Yes," continued the count, "it was at first arranged in this way; but I think since yesterday some change has taken place in the order of th_eremony."
"Really?" said Franz.
"Yes, I passed the evening at the Cardinal Rospigliosi's, and there mentio_as made of something like a pardon for one of the two men."
"For Andrea Rondolo?" asked Franz.
"No," replied the count, carelessly; "for the other (he glanced at the tablet_s if to recall the name), for Peppino, called Rocca Priori. You are thu_eprived of seeing a man guillotined; but the mazzuola still remains, which i_ very curious punishment when seen for the first time, and even the second, while the other, as you must know, is very simple. The mandaia* never fails, never trembles, never strikes thirty times ineffectually, like the soldier wh_eheaded the Count of Chalais, and to whose tender mercy Richelieu ha_oubtless recommended the sufferer. Ah," added the count, in a contemptuou_one, "do not tell me of European punishments, they are in the infancy, o_ather the old age, of cruelty."
"Really, count," replied Franz, "one would think that you had studied th_ifferent tortures of all the nations of the world."
"There are, at least, few that I have not seen," said the count coldly.
"And you took pleasure in beholding these dreadful spectacles?"
"My first sentiment was horror, the second indifference, the third curiosity."
"Curiosity — that is a terrible word."
"Why so? In life, our greatest preoccupation is death; is it not then, curiou_o study the different ways by which the soul and body can part; and how, according to their different characters, temperaments, and even the differen_ustoms of their countries, different persons bear the transition from life t_eath, from existence to annihilation? As for myself, I can assure you of on_hing, — the more men you see die, the easier it becomes to die yourself; an_n my opinion, death may be a torture, but it is not an expiation."
"I do not quite understand you," replied Franz; "pray explain your meaning, for you excite my curiosity to the highest pitch."
"Listen," said the count, and deep hatred mounted to his face, as the bloo_ould to the face of any other. "If a man had by unheard-of and excruciatin_ortures destroyed your father, your mother, your betrothed, — a being who, when torn from you, left a desolation, a wound that never closes, in you_reast, — do you think the reparation that society gives you is sufficien_hen it interposes the knife of the guillotine between the base of the occipu_nd the trapezal muscles of the murderer, and allows him who has caused u_ears of moral sufferings to escape with a few moments of physical pain?"
"Yes, I know," said Franz, "that human justice is insufficient to console us; she can give blood in return for blood, that is all; but you must demand fro_er only what it is in her power to grant."
"I will put another case to you," continued the count; "that where society, attacked by the death of a person, avenges death by death. But are there not _housand tortures by which a man may be made to suffer without society takin_he least cognizance of them, or offering him even the insufficient means o_engeance, of which we have just spoken? Are there not crimes for which th_mpalement of the Turks, the augers of the Persians, the stake and the bran_f the Iroquois Indians, are inadequate tortures, and which are unpunished b_ociety? Answer me, do not these crimes exist?"
"Yes," answered Franz; "and it is to punish them that duelling is tolerated."
"Ah, duelling," cried the count; "a pleasant manner, upon my soul, of arrivin_t your end when that end is vengeance! A man has carried off your mistress, _an has seduced your wife, a man has dishonored your daughter; he has rendere_he whole life of one who had the right to expect from heaven that portion o_appiness God his promised to every one of his creatures, an existence o_isery and infamy; and you think you are avenged because you send a bal_hrough the head, or pass a sword through the breast, of that man who ha_lanted madness in your brain, and despair in your heart. And remember, moreover, that it is often he who comes off victorious from the strife, absolved of all crime in the eyes of the world. No, no," continued the count,
"had I to avenge myself, it is not thus I would take revenge."
"Then you disapprove of duelling? You would not fight a duel?" asked Albert i_is turn, astonished at this strange theory.
"Oh, yes," replied the count; "understand me, I would fight a duel for _rifle, for an insult, for a blow; and the more so that, thanks to my skill i_ll bodily exercises, and the indifference to danger I have graduall_cquired, I should be almost certain to kill my man. Oh, I would fight fo_uch a cause; but in return for a slow, profound, eternal torture, I woul_ive back the same, were it possible; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Orientalists say, — our masters in everything, — those favore_reatures who have formed for themselves a life of dreams and a paradise o_ealities."
"But," said Franz to the count, "with this theory, which renders you at onc_udge and executioner of your own cause, it would be difficult to adopt _ourse that would forever prevent your falling under the power of the law.
Hatred is blind, rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance run_he risk of tasting a bitter draught."
"Yes, if he be poor and inexperienced, not if he be rich and skilful; besides, the worst that could happen to him would be the punishment of which we hav_lready spoken, and which the philanthropic French Revolution has substitute_or being torn to pieces by horses or broken on the wheel. What matters thi_unishment, as long as he is avenged? On my word, I almost regret that in al_robability this miserable Peppino will not be beheaded, as you might have ha_n opportunity then of seeing how short a time the punishment lasts, an_hether it is worth even mentioning; but, really this is a most singula_onversation for the Carnival, gentlemen; how did it arise? Ah, I recollect, you asked for a place at my window; you shall have it; but let us first si_own to table, for here comes the servant to inform us that breakfast i_eady." As he spoke, a servant opened one of the four doors of the apartment, saying — "Al suo commodo!" The two young men arose and entered the breakfast- room.
During the meal, which was excellent, and admirably served, Franz looke_epeatedly at Albert, in order to observe the impressions which he doubted no_ad been made on him by the words of their entertainer; but whether with hi_sual carelessness he had paid but little attention to him, whether th_xplanation of the Count of Monte Cristo with regard to duelling had satisfie_im, or whether the events which Franz knew of had had their effect on hi_lone, he remarked that his companion did not pay the least regard to them, but on the contrary ate like a man who for the last four or five months ha_een condemned to partake of Italian cookery — that is, the worst in th_orld. As for the count, he just touched the dishes; he seemed to fulfil th_uties of a host by sitting down with his guests, and awaited their departur_o be served with some strange or more delicate food. This brought back t_ranz, in spite of himself, the recollection of the terror with which th_ount had inspired the Countess G—— , and her firm conviction that the man i_he opposite box was a vampire. At the end of the breakfast Franz took out hi_atch. "Well," said the count, "what are you doing?"
"You must excuse us, count," returned Franz, "but we have still much to do."
"What may that be?"
"We have no masks, and it is absolutely necessary to procure them."
"Do not concern yourself about that; we have, I think, a private room in th_iazza del Popolo; I will have whatever costumes you choose brought to us, an_ou can dress there."
"After the execution?" cried Franz.
"Before or after, whichever you please."
"Opposite the scaffold?"
"The scaffold forms part of the fete."
"Count, I have reflected on the matter," said Franz, "I thank you for you_ourtesy, but I shall content myself with accepting a place in your carriag_nd at your window at the Rospoli Palace, and I leave you at liberty t_ispose of my place at the Piazza del Popolo."
"But I warn you, you will lose a very curious sight," returned the count.
"You will describe it to me," replied Franz, "and the recital from your lip_ill make as great an impression on me as if I had witnessed it. I have mor_han once intended witnessing an execution, but I have never been able to mak_p my mind; and you, Albert?"
"I," replied the viscount, — "I saw Castaing executed, but I think I wa_ather intoxicated that day, for I had quitted college the same morning, an_e had passed the previous night at a tavern."
"Besides, it is no reason because you have not seen an execution at Paris, that you should not see one anywhere else; when you travel, it is to se_verything. Think what a figure you will make when you are asked, `How do the_xecute at Rome?' and you reply, `I do not know'! And, besides, they say tha_he culprit is an infamous scoundrel, who killed with a log of wood a worth_anon who had brought him up like his own son. Diable, when a churchman i_illed, it should be with a different weapon than a log, especially when h_as behaved like a father. If you went to Spain, would you not see the bull- fight? Well, suppose it is a bull-fight you are going to see? Recollect th_ncient Romans of the Circus, and the sports where they killed three hundre_ions and a hundred men. Think of the eighty thousand applauding spectators, the sage matrons who took their daughters, and the charming Vestals who mad_ith the thumb of their white hands the fatal sign that said, `Come, despatc_he dying.'"
"Shall you go, then, Albert?" asked Franz.
"Ma foi, yes; like you, I hesitated, but the count's eloquence decides me."
"Let us go, then," said Franz, "since you wish it; but on our way to th_iazza del Popolo, I wish to pass through the Corso. Is this possible, count?"
"On foot, yes, in a carriage, no."
"I will go on foot, then."
"Is it important that you should go that way?"
"Yes, there is something I wish to see."
"Well, we will go by the Corso. We will send the carriage to wait for us o_he Piazza del Popolo, by the Strada del Babuino, for I shall be glad to pass, myself, through the Corso, to see if some orders I have given have bee_xecuted."
"Excellency," said a servant, opening the door, "a man in the dress of _enitent wishes to speak to you."
"Ah, yes" returned the count, "I know who he is, gentlemen; will you return t_he salon? you will find good cigars on the centre table. I will be with yo_irectly." The young men rose and returned into the salon, while the count, again apologizing, left by another door. Albert, who was a great smoker, an_ho had considered it no small sacrifice to be deprived of the cigars of th_afe de Paris, approached the table, and uttered a cry of joy at perceivin_ome veritable puros.
"Well," asked Franz, "what think you of the Count of Monte Cristo?"
"What do I think?" said Albert, evidently surprised at such a question fro_is companion; "I think he is a delightful fellow, who does the honors of hi_able admirably; who has travelled much, read much, is, like Brutus, of th_toic school, and moreover," added he, sending a volume of smoke up toward_he ceiling, "that he has excellent cigars." Such was Albert's opinion of th_ount, and as Franz well knew that Albert professed never to form an opinio_xcept upon long reflection, he made no attempt to change it. "But," said he,
"did you observe one very singular thing?"
"How attentively he looked at you."
"Yes." — Albert reflected. "Ah," replied he, sighing, "that is not ver_urprising; I have been more than a year absent from Paris, and my clothes ar_f a most antiquated cut; the count takes me for a provincial. The firs_pportunity you have, undeceive him, I beg, and tell him I am nothing of th_ind." Franz smiled; an instant after the count entered.
"I am now quite at your service, gentlemen," said he. "The carriage is goin_ne way to the Piazza del Popolo, and we will go another; and, if you please, by the Corso. Take some more of these cigars, M. de Morcerf."
"With all my heart," returned Albert; "Italian cigars are horrible. When yo_ome to Paris, I will return all this."
"I will not refuse; I intend going there soon, and since you allow me, I wil_ay you a visit. Come, we have not any time to lose, it is half-past twelve — let us set off." All three descended; the coachman received his master'_rders, and drove down the Via del Babuino. While the three gentlemen walke_long the Piazza de Spagni and the Via Frattina, which led directly betwee_he Fiano and Rospoli palaces, Franz's attention was directed towards th_indows of that last palace, for he had not forgotten the signal agreed upo_etween the man in the mantle and the Transtevere peasant. "Which are you_indows?" asked he of the count, with as much indifference as he could assume.
"The three last," returned he, with a negligence evidently unaffected, for h_ould not imagine with what intention the question was put. Franz glance_apidly towards the three windows. The side windows were hung with yello_amask, and the centre one with white damask and a red cross. The man in th_antle had kept his promise to the Transteverin, and there could now be n_oubt that he was the count. The three windows were still untenanted.
Preparations were making on every side; chairs were placed, scaffolds wer_aised, and windows were hung with flags. The masks could not appear; th_arriages could not move about; but the masks were visible behind the windows, the carriages, and the doors.
Franz, Albert, and the count continued to descend the Corso. As the_pproached the Piazza del Popolo, the crowd became more dense, and above th_eads of the multitude two objects were visible: the obelisk, surmounted by _ross, which marks the centre of the square, and in front of the obelisk, a_he point where the three streets, del Babuino, del Corso, and di Ripetta, meet, the two uprights of the scaffold, between which glittered the curve_nife of the mandaia. At the corner of the street they met the count'_teward, who was awaiting his master. The window, let at an exorbitant price, which the count had doubtless wished to conceal from his guests, was on th_econd floor of the great palace, situated between the Via del Babuino and th_onte Pincio. It consisted, as we have said, of a small dressing-room, openin_nto a bedroom, and, when the door of communication was shut, the inmates wer_uite alone. On chairs were laid elegant masquerade costumes of blue and whit_atin. "As you left the choice of your costumes to me," said the count to th_wo friends, "I have had these brought, as they will be the most worn thi_ear; and they are most suitable, on account of the confetti (sweetmeats), a_hey do not show the flour."
Franz heard the words of the count but imperfectly, and he perhaps did no_ully appreciate this new attention to their wishes; for he was wholl_bsorbed by the spectacle that the Piazza del Popolo presented, and by th_errible instrument that was in the centre. It was the first time Franz ha_ver seen a guillotine, — we say guillotine, because the Roman mandaia i_ormed on almost the same model as the French instrument.* The knife, which i_haped like a crescent, that cuts with the convex side, falls from a les_eight, and that is all the difference. Two men, seated on the movable plan_n which the victim is laid, were eating their breakfasts, while waiting fo_he criminal. Their repast consisted apparently of bread and sausages. One o_hem lifted the plank, took out a flask of wine, drank some, and then passe_t to his companion. These two men were the executioner's assistants. At thi_ight Franz felt the perspiration start forth upon his brow. The prisoners, transported the previous evening from the Carcere Nuovo to the little churc_f Santa Maria del Popolo, had passed the night, each accompanied by tw_riests, in a chapel closed by a grating, before which were two sentinels, wh_ere relieved at intervals. A double line of carbineers, placed on each sid_f the door of the church, reached to the scaffold, and formed a circle aroun_t, leaving a path about ten feet wide, and around the guillotine a space o_early a hundred feet. All the rest of the square was paved with heads. Man_omen held their infants on their shoulders, and thus the children had th_est view. The Monte Pincio seemed a vast amphitheatre filled with spectators; the balconies of the two churches at the corner of the Via del Babuino and th_ia di Ripetta were crammed; the steps even seemed a parti-colored sea, tha_as impelled towards the portico; every niche in the wall held its livin_tatue. What the count said was true — the most curious spectacle in life i_hat of death. And yet, instead of the silence and the solemnity demanded b_he occasion, laughter and jests arose from the crowd. It was evident that th_xecution was, in the eyes of the people, only the commencement of th_arnival. Suddenly the tumult ceased, as if by magic, and the doors of th_hurch opened. A brotherhood of penitents, clothed from head to foot in robe_f gray sackcloth, with holes for the eyes, and holding in their hands lighte_apers, appeared first; the chief marched at the head. Behind the penitent_ame a man of vast stature and proportions. He was naked, with the exceptio_f cloth drawers at the left side of which hung a large knife in a sheath, an_e bore on his right shoulder a heavy iron sledge-hammer. This man was th_xecutioner. He had, moreover, sandals bound on his feet by cords. Behind th_xecutioner came, in the order in which they were to die, first Peppino an_hen Andrea. Each was accompanied by two priests. Neither had his eye_andaged. Peppino walked with a firm step, doubtless aware of what awaite_im. Andrea was supported by two priests. Each of them, from time to time, kissed the crucifix a confessor held out to them. At this sight alone Fran_elt his legs tremble under him. He looked at Albert — he was as white as hi_hirt, and mechanically cast away his cigar, although he had not half smoke_t. The count alone seemed unmoved — nay, more, a slight color seemed strivin_o rise in his pale cheeks. His nostrils dilated like those of a wild beas_hat scents its prey, and his lips, half opened, disclosed his white teeth, small and sharp like those of a jackal. And yet his features wore a_xpression of smiling tenderness, such as Franz had never before witnessed i_hem; his black eyes especially were full of kindness and pity. However, th_wo culprits advanced, and as they approached their faces became visible.
Peppino was a handsome young man of four or five and twenty, bronzed by th_un; he carried his head erect, and seemed on the watch to see on which sid_is liberator would appear. Andrea was short and fat; his visage, marked wit_rutal cruelty, did not indicate age; he might be thirty. In prison he ha_uffered his beard to grow; his head fell on his shoulder, his legs ben_eneath him, and his movements were apparently automatic and unconscious.
(* Dr. Guillotin got the idea of his famous machine from witnessing a_xecution in Italy.)
"I thought," said Franz to the count, "that you told me there would be but on_xecution."
"I told you true," replied he coldly.
"And yet here are two culprits."
"Yes; but only one of these two is about to die; the other has many years t_ive."
"If the pardon is to come, there is no time to lose."
"And see, here it is," said the count. At the moment when Peppino reached th_oot of the mandaia, a priest arrived in some haste, forced his way throug_he soldiers, and, advancing to the chief of the brotherhood, gave him _olded paper. The piercing eye of Peppino had noticed all. The chief took th_aper, unfolded it, and, raising his hand, "Heaven be praised, and hi_oliness also," said he in a loud voice; "here is a pardon for one of th_risoners!"
"A pardon!" cried the people with one voice — "a pardon!" At this cry Andre_aised his head. "Pardon for whom?" cried he.
Peppino remained breathless. "A pardon for Peppino, called Rocca Priori," sai_he principal friar. And he passed the paper to the officer commanding th_arbineers, who read and returned it to him.
"For Peppino!" cried Andrea, who seemed roused from the torpor in which he ha_een plunged. "Why for him and not for me? We ought to die together. I wa_romised he should die with me. You have no right to put me to death alone. _ill not die alone — I will not!" And he broke from the priests struggling an_aving like a wild beast, and striving desperately to break the cords tha_ound his hands. The executioner made a sign, and his two assistants leape_rom the scaffold and seized him. "What is going on?" asked Franz of th_ount; for, as all the talk was in the Roman dialect, he had not perfectl_nderstood it. "Do you not see?" returned the count, "that this human creatur_ho is about to die is furious that his fellow-sufferer does not perish wit_im? and, were he able, he would rather tear him to pieces with his teeth an_ails than let him enjoy the life he himself is about to be deprived of. Oh, man, man — race of crocodiles," cried the count, extending his clinched hand_owards the crowd, "how well do I recognize you there, and that at all time_ou are worthy of yourselves!" Meanwhile Andrea and the two executioners wer_truggling on the ground, and he kept exclaiming, "He ought to die! — he shal_ie! — I will not die alone!"
"Look, look," cried the count. seizing the young men's hands — "look, for o_y soul it is curious. Here is a man who had resigned himself to his fate, wh_as going to the scaffold to die — like a coward, it is true, but he was abou_o die without resistance. Do you know what gave him strength? — do you kno_hat consoled him? It was, that another partook of his punishment — tha_nother partook of his anguish — that another was to die before him. Lead tw_heep to the butcher's, two oxen to the slaughterhouse, and make one of the_nderstand that his companion will not die; the sheep will bleat for pleasure, the ox will bellow with joy. But man — man, whom God created in his own image — man, upon whom God has laid his first, his sole commandment, to love hi_eighbor — man, to whom God has given a voice to express his thoughts — wha_s his first cry when he hears his fellow-man is saved? A blasphemy. Honor t_an, this masterpiece of nature, this king of the creation!" And the coun_urst into a laugh; a terrible laugh, that showed he must have suffere_orribly to be able thus to laugh. However, the struggle still continued, an_t was dreadful to witness. The people all took part against Andrea, an_wenty thousand voices cried, "Put him to death! put him to death!" Fran_prang back, but the count seized his arm, and held him before the window.
"What are you doing?" said he. "Do you pity him? If you heard the cry of `Ma_og!' you would take your gun — you would unhesitatingly shoot the poor beast, who, after all, was only guilty of having been bitten by another dog. And ye_ou pity a man who, without being bitten by one of his race, has yet murdere_is benefactor; and who, now unable to kill any one, because his hands ar_ound, wishes to see his companion in captivity perish. No, no — look, look!"
The command was needless. Franz was fascinated by the horrible spectacle. Th_wo assistants had borne Andrea to the scaffold, and there, in spite of hi_truggles, his bites, and his cries, had forced him to his knees. During thi_ime the executioner had raised his mace, and signed to them to get out of th_ay; the criminal strove to rise, but, ere he had time, the mace fell on hi_eft temple. A dull and heavy sound was heard, and the man dropped like an o_n his face, and then turned over on his back. The executioner let fall hi_ace, drew his knife, and with one stroke opened his throat, and mounting o_is stomach, stamped violently on it with his feet. At every stroke a jet o_lood sprang from the wound.
This time Franz could contain himself no longer, but sank, half fainting, int_ seat. Albert, with his eyes closed, was standing grasping the window- curtains. The count was erect and triumphant, like the Avenging Angel!