The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 139 of 400

Chapter 37. The Catacombs of Saint Sebastian.

In his whole life, perhaps, Franz had never before experienced so sudden an impression, so rapid a transition from gayety to sadness, as in this moment. It seemed as though Rome, under the magic breath of some demon of the night, had suddenly changed into a vast tomb. By a chance, which added yet more to the intensity of the darkness, the moon, which was on the wane, did not rise until eleven o’clock, and the streets which the young man traversed were plunged in the deepest obscurity. The distance was short, and at the end of ten minutes his carriage, or rather the count’s, stopped before the Hotel de Londres. Dinner was waiting, but as Albert had told him that he should not return so soon, Franz sat down without him. Signor Pastrini, who had been accustomed to see them dine together, inquired into the cause of his absence, but Franz merely replied that Albert had received on the previous evening an invitation which he had accepted. The sudden extinction of the moccoletti, the darkness which had replaced the light, and the silence which had succeeded the turmoil, had left in Franz’s mind a certain depression which was not free from uneasiness. He therefore dined very silently, in spite of the officious attention of his host, who presented himself two or three times to inquire if he wanted anything.

Franz resolved to wait for Albert as late as possible. He ordered the carriage, therefore, for eleven o’clock, desiring Signor Pastrini to inform him the moment that Albert returned to the hotel. At eleven o’clock Albert had not come back. Franz dressed himself, and went out, telling his host that he was going to pass the night at the Duke of Bracciano’s. The house of the Duke of Bracciano is one of the most delightful in Rome, the duchess, one of the last heiresses of the Colonnas, does its honors with the most consummate grace, and thus their fetes have a European celebrity. Franz and Albert had brought to Rome letters of introduction to them, and their first question on his arrival was to inquire the whereabouts of his travelling companion. Franz replied that he had left him at the moment they were about to extinguish the moccoli, and that he had lost sight of him in the Via Macello. “Then he has not returned?” said the duke.

“I waited for him until this hour,” replied Franz.

“And do you know whither he went?”

“No, not precisely; however, I think it was something very like a rendezvous.”

“Diavolo!” said the duke, “this is a bad day, or rather a bad night, to be out late; is it not, countess!” These words were addressed to the Countess G——, who had just arrived, and was leaning on the arm of Signor Torlonia, the duke’s brother.

“I think, on the contrary, that it is a charming night,” replied the countess, “and those who are here will complain of but one thing—its too rapid flight.”

“I am not speaking,” said the duke with a smile, “of the persons who are here; the men run no other danger than that of falling in love with you, and the women of falling ill of jealousy at seeing you so lovely; I meant persons who were out in the streets of Rome.”

“Ah,” asked the countess, “who is out in the streets of Rome at this hour, unless it be to go to a ball?”

“Our friend, Albert de Morcerf, countess, whom I left in pursuit of his unknown about seven o’clock this evening,” said Franz, “and whom I have not seen since.”

“And don’t you know where he is?”

“Not at all.”

“Is he armed?”

“He is in masquerade.”

“You should not have allowed him to go,” said the duke to Franz; “you, who know Rome better than he does.”

“You might as well have tried to stop number three of the barberi, who gained the prize in the race to-day,” replied Franz; “and then moreover, what could happen to him?”

“Who can tell? The night is gloomy, and the Tiber is very near the Via Macello.” Franz felt a shudder run through his veins at observing that the feeling of the duke and the countess was so much in unison with his own personal disquietude. “I informed them at the hotel that I had the honor of passing the night here, duke,” said Franz, “and desired them to come and inform me of his return.”

“Ah,” replied the duke, “here I think, is one of my servants who is seeking you.”

The duke was not mistaken; when he saw Franz, the servant came up to him. “Your excellency,” he said, “the master of the Hotel de Londres has sent to let you know that a man is waiting for you with a letter from the Viscount of Morcerf.”

“A letter from the viscount!” exclaimed Franz.


“And who is the man?”

“I do not know.”

“Why did he not bring it to me here?”

“The messenger did not say.”

“And where is the messenger?”

“He went away directly he saw me enter the ball-room to find you.”

“Oh,” said the countess to Franz, “go with all speed—poor young man! Perhaps some accident has happened to him.”

“I will hasten,” replied Franz.

“Shall we see you again to give us any information?” inquired the countess.

“Yes, if it is not any serious affair, otherwise I cannot answer as to what I may do myself.”

“Be prudent, in any event,” said the countess.

“Oh, pray be assured of that.” Franz took his hat and went away in haste. He had sent away his carriage with orders for it to fetch him at two o’clock; fortunately the Palazzo Bracciano, which is on one side in the Corso, and on the other in the Square of the Holy Apostles, is hardly ten minutes’ walk from the Hotel de Londres. As he came near the hotel, Franz saw a man in the middle of the street. He had no doubt that it was the messenger from Albert. The man was wrapped up in a large cloak. He went up to him, but, to his extreme astonishment, the stranger first addressed him. “What wants your excellency of me?” inquired the man, retreating a step or two, as if to keep on his guard.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)