The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 119 of 400

“Did you come to tell us you have procured a carriage?” asked Albert, lighting his cigar.

“No; and your excellencies will do well not to think of that any longer; at Rome things can or cannot be done; when you are told anything cannot be done, there is an end of it.”

“It is much more convenient at Paris,—when anything cannot be done, you pay double, and it is done directly.”

“That is what all the French say,” returned Signor Pastrini, somewhat piqued; “for that reason, I do not understand why they travel.”

“But,” said Albert, emitting a volume of smoke and balancing his chair on its hind legs, “only madmen, or blockheads like us, ever do travel. Men in their senses do not quit their hotel in the Rue du Helder, their walk on the Boulevard de Gand, and the Cafe de Paris.” It is of course understood that Albert resided in the aforesaid street, appeared every day on the fashionable walk, and dined frequently at the only restaurant where you can really dine, that is, if you are on good terms with its frequenters. Signor Pastrini remained silent a short time; it was evident that he was musing over this answer, which did not seem very clear. “But,” said Franz, in his turn interrupting his host’s meditations, “you had some motive for coming here, may I beg to know what it was?”

“Ah, yes; you have ordered your carriage at eight o’clock precisely?”

“I have.”

“You intend visiting Il Colosseo.”

“You mean the Colosseum?”

“It is the same thing. You have told your coachman to leave the city by the Porta del Popolo, to drive round the walls, and re-enter by the Porta San Giovanni?”

“These are my words exactly.”

“Well, this route is impossible.”


“Very dangerous, to say the least.”

“Dangerous!—and why?”

“On account of the famous Luigi Vampa.”

“Pray, who may this famous Luigi Vampa be?” inquired Albert; “he may be very famous at Rome, but I can assure you he is quite unknown at Paris.”

“What! do you not know him?”

“I have not that honor.”

“You have never heard his name?”


“Well, then, he is a bandit, compared to whom the Decesaris and the Gasparones were mere children.”

“Now then, Albert,” cried Franz, “here is a bandit for you at last.”

“I forewarn you, Signor Pastrini, that I shall not believe one word of what you are going to tell us; having told you this, begin.”

“Once upon a time”—

“Well, go on.” Signor Pastrini turned toward Franz, who seemed to him the more reasonable of the two; we must do him justice,—he had had a great many Frenchmen in his house, but had never been able to comprehend them. “Excellency,” said he gravely, addressing Franz, “if you look upon me as a liar, it is useless for me to say anything; it was for your interest!”—

“Albert does not say you are a liar, Signor Pastrini,” said Franz, “but that he will not believe what you are going to tell us,—but I will believe all you say; so proceed.”

“But if your excellency doubt my veracity”—

“Signor Pastrini,” returned Franz, “you are more susceptible than Cassandra, who was a prophetess, and yet no one believed her; while you, at least, are sure of the credence of half your audience. Come, sit down, and tell us all about this Signor Vampa.”

“I had told your excellency he is the most famous bandit we have had since the days of Mastrilla.”

“Well, what has this bandit to do with the order I have given the coachman to leave the city by the Porta del Popolo, and to re-enter by the Porta San Giovanni?”

“This,” replied Signor Pastrini, “that you will go out by one, but I very much doubt your returning by the other.”

“Why?” asked Franz.

“Because, after nightfall, you are not safe fifty yards from the gates.”

“On your honor is that true?” cried Albert.

“Count,” returned Signor Pastrini, hurt at Albert’s repeated doubts of the truth of his assertions, “I do not say this to you, but to your companion, who knows Rome, and knows, too, that these things are not to be laughed at.”

“My dear fellow,” said Albert, turning to Franz, “here is an admirable adventure; we will fill our carriage with pistols, blunderbusses, and double-barrelled guns. Luigi Vampa comes to take us, and we take him—we bring him back to Rome, and present him to his holiness the Pope, who asks how he can repay so great a service; then we merely ask for a carriage and a pair of horses, and we see the Carnival in the carriage, and doubtless the Roman people will crown us at the Capitol, and proclaim us, like Curtius and the veiled Horatius, the preservers of their country.” Whilst Albert proposed this scheme, Signor Pastrini’s face assumed an expression impossible to describe.

“And pray,” asked Franz, “where are these pistols, blunderbusses, and other deadly weapons with which you intend filling the carriage?”

“Not out of my armory, for at Terracina I was plundered even of my hunting-knife.”

“I shared the same fate at Aquapendente.”

“Do you know, Signor Pastrini,” said Albert, lighting a second cigar at the first, “that this practice is very convenient for bandits, and that it seems to be due to an arrangement of their own.” Doubtless Signor Pastrini found this pleasantry compromising, for he only answered half the question, and then he spoke to Franz, as the only one likely to listen with attention. “Your excellency knows that it is not customary to defend yourself when attacked by bandits.”

“What!” cried Albert, whose courage revolted at the idea of being plundered tamely, “not make any resistance!”

“No, for it would be useless. What could you do against a dozen bandits who spring out of some pit, ruin, or aqueduct, and level their pieces at you?”

“Eh, parbleu!—they should kill me.”

The inn-keeper turned to Franz with an air that seemed to say, “Your friend is decidedly mad.”

“My dear Albert,” returned Franz, “your answer is sublime, and worthy the ‘Let him die,’ of Corneille, only, when Horace made that answer, the safety of Rome was concerned; but, as for us, it is only to gratify a whim, and it would be ridiculous to risk our lives for so foolish a motive.” Albert poured himself out a glass of lacryma Christi, which he sipped at intervals, muttering some unintelligible words.

“Well, Signor Pastrini,” said Franz, “now that my companion is quieted, and you have seen how peaceful my intentions are, tell me who is this Luigi Vampa. Is he a shepherd or a nobleman?—young or old?—tall or short? Describe him, in order that, if we meet him by chance, like Bugaboo John or Lara, we may recognize him.”

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