The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 130 of 400

“And where is he now?”


“Our host.”

“Gone out in search of our equipage, by to-morrow it might be too late.”

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

“Oh, I expect him every minute.” At this instant the door opened, and the head of Signor Pastrini appeared. “Permesso?” inquired he.

“Certainly—certainly,” cried Franz. “Come in, mine host.”

“Now, then,” asked Albert eagerly, “have you found the desired cart and oxen?”

“Better than that!” replied Signor Pastrini, with the air of a man perfectly well satisfied with himself.

“Take care, my worthy host,” said Albert, “better is a sure enemy to well.”

“Let your excellencies only leave the matter to me,” returned Signor Pastrini in a tone indicative of unbounded self-confidence.

“But what have you done?” asked Franz. “Speak out, there’s a worthy fellow.”

“Your excellencies are aware,” responded the landlord, swelling with importance, “that the Count of Monte Cristo is living on the same floor with yourselves!”

“I should think we did know it,” exclaimed Albert, “since it is owing to that circumstance that we are packed into these small rooms, like two poor students in the back streets of Paris.”

“When, then, the Count of Monte Cristo, hearing of the dilemma in which you are placed, has sent to offer you seats in his carriage and two places at his windows in the Palazzo Rospoli.” The friends looked at each other with unutterable surprise.

“But do you think,” asked Albert, “that we ought to accept such offers from a perfect stranger?”

“What sort of person is this Count of Monte Cristo?” asked Franz of his host. “A very great nobleman, but whether Maltese or Sicilian I cannot exactly say; but this I know, that he is noble as a Borghese and rich as a gold-mine.”

“It seems to me,” said Franz, speaking in an undertone to Albert, “that if this person merited the high panegyrics of our landlord, he would have conveyed his invitation through another channel, and not permitted it to be brought to us in this unceremonious way. He would have written—or”—

At this instant some one knocked at the door. “Come in,” said Franz. A servant, wearing a livery of considerable style and richness, appeared at the threshold, and, placing two cards in the landlord’s hands, who forthwith presented them to the two young men, he said, “Please to deliver these, from the Count of Monte Cristo to Viscomte Albert de Morcerf and M. Franz d’Epinay. The Count of Monte Cristo,” continued the servant, “begs these gentlemen’s permission to wait upon them as their neighbor, and he will be honored by an intimation of what time they will please to receive him.”

“Faith, Franz,” whispered Albert, “there is not much to find fault with here.”

“Tell the count,” replied Franz, “that we will do ourselves the pleasure of calling on him.” The servant bowed and retired.

“That is what I call an elegant mode of attack,” said Albert, “You were quite correct in what you said, Signor Pastrini. The Count of Monte Cristo is unquestionably a man of first-rate breeding and knowledge of the world.”

“Then you accept his offer?” said the host.

“Of course we do,” replied Albert. “Still, I must own I am sorry to be obliged to give up the cart and the group of reapers—it would have produced such an effect! And were it not for the windows at the Palazzo Rospoli, by way of recompense for the loss of our beautiful scheme, I don’t know but what I should have held on by my original plan. What say you, Franz?”

“Oh, I agree with you; the windows in the Palazzo Rospoli alone decided me.” The truth was, that the mention of two places in the Palazzo Rospoli had recalled to Franz the conversation he had overheard the preceding evening in the ruins of the Colosseum between the mysterious unknown and the Transteverin, in which the stranger in the cloak had undertaken to obtain the freedom of a condemned criminal; and if this muffled-up individual proved (as Franz felt sure he would) the same as the person he had just seen in the Teatro Argentino, then he should be able to establish his identity, and also to prosecute his researches respecting him with perfect facility and freedom. Franz passed the night in confused dreams respecting the two meetings he had already had with his mysterious tormentor, and in waking speculations as to what the morrow would produce. The next day must clear up every doubt; and unless his near neighbor and would-be friend, the Count of Monte Cristo, possessed the ring of Gyges, and by its power was able to render himself invisible, it was very certain he could not escape this time. Eight o’clock found Franz up and dressed, while Albert, who had not the same motives for early rising, was still soundly asleep. The first act of Franz was to summon his landlord, who presented himself with his accustomed obsequiousness.

“Pray, Signor Pastrini,” asked Franz, “is not some execution appointed to take place to-day?”

“Yes, your excellency; but if your reason for inquiry is that you may procure a window to view it from, you are much too late.”

“Oh, no,” answered Franz, “I had no such intention; and even if I had felt a wish to witness the spectacle, I might have done so from Monte Pincio—could I not?”

“Ah!” exclaimed mine host, “I did not think it likely your excellency would have chosen to mingle with such a rabble as are always collected on that hill, which, indeed, they consider as exclusively belonging to themselves.”

“Very possibly I may not go,” answered Franz; “but in case I feel disposed, give me some particulars of to-day’s executions.”

“What particulars would your excellency like to hear?”

“Why, the number of persons condemned to suffer, their names, and description of the death they are to die.”

“That happens just lucky, your excellency! Only a few minutes ago they brought me the tavolettas.”

“What are they?”

“Sort of wooden tablets hung up at the corners of streets the evening before an execution, on which is pasted up a paper containing the names of the condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment. The reason for so publicly announcing all this is, that all good and faithful Catholics may offer up their prayers for the unfortunate culprits, and, above all, beseech of heaven to grant them a sincere repentance.”

“And these tablets are brought to you that you may add your prayers to those of the faithful, are they?” asked Franz somewhat incredulously.

“Oh, dear, no, your excellency! I have not time for anybody’s affairs but my own and those of my honorable guests; but I make an agreement with the man who pastes up the papers, and he brings them to me as he would the playbills, that in case any person staying at my hotel should like to witness an execution, he may obtain every requisite information concerning the time and place etc.”

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