The Count of Monte Cristo – Day 143 of 400

“Ma foi, captain,” replied the sentry, “I do not know; for the last hour I have not heard him stir.”

“Come in, your excellency,” said Vampa. The count and Franz ascended seven or eight steps after the chief, who drew back a bolt and opened a door. Then, by the gleam of a lamp, similar to that which lighted the columbarium, Albert was to be seen wrapped up in a cloak which one of the bandits had lent him, lying in a corner in profound slumber. “Come,” said the count, smiling with his own peculiar smile, “not so bad for a man who is to be shot at seven o’clock to-morrow morning.” Vampa looked at Albert with a kind of admiration; he was not insensible to such a proof of courage.

“You are right, your excellency,” he said; “this must be one of your friends.” Then going to Albert, he touched him on the shoulder, saying, “Will your excellency please to awaken?” Albert stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyelids, and opened his eyes. “Oh,” said he, “is it you, captain? You should have allowed me to sleep. I had such a delightful dream. I was dancing the galop at Torlonia’s with the Countess G——.” Then he drew his watch from his pocket, that he might see how time sped.

“Half-past one only?” said he. “Why the devil do you rouse me at this hour?”

“To tell you that you are free, your excellency.”

“My dear fellow,” replied Albert, with perfect ease of mind, “remember, for the future, Napoleon’s maxim, ‘Never awaken me but for bad news;’ if you had let me sleep on, I should have finished my galop, and have been grateful to you all my life. So, then, they have paid my ransom?”

“No, your excellency.”

“Well, then, how am I free?”

“A person to whom I can refuse nothing has come to demand you.”

“Come hither?”

“Yes, hither.”

“Really? Then that person is a most amiable person.” Albert looked around and perceived Franz. “What,” said he, “is it you, my dear Franz, whose devotion and friendship are thus displayed?”

“No, not I,” replied Franz, “but our neighbor, the Count of Monte Cristo.”

“Oh, my dear count,” said Albert gayly, arranging his cravat and wristbands, “you are really most kind, and I hope you will consider me as under eternal obligations to you, in the first place for the carriage, and in the next for this visit,” and he put out his hand to the Count, who shuddered as he gave his own, but who nevertheless did give it. The bandit gazed on this scene with amazement; he was evidently accustomed to see his prisoners tremble before him, and yet here was one whose gay temperament was not for a moment altered; as for Franz, he was enchanted at the way in which Albert had sustained the national honor in the presence of the bandit. “My dear Albert,” he said, “if you will make haste, we shall yet have time to finish the night at Torlonia’s. You may conclude your interrupted galop, so that you will owe no ill-will to Signor Luigi, who has, indeed, throughout this whole affair acted like a gentleman.”

“You are decidedly right, and we may reach the Palazzo by two o’clock. Signor Luigi,” continued Albert, “is there any formality to fulfil before I take leave of your excellency?”

“None, sir,” replied the bandit, “you are as free as air.”

“Well, then, a happy and merry life to you. Come, gentlemen, come.”

And Albert, followed by Franz and the count, descended the staircase, crossed the square chamber, where stood all the bandits, hat in hand. “Peppino,” said the brigand chief, “give me the torch.”

“What are you going to do?” inquired the count.

“I will show you the way back myself,” said the captain; “that is the least honor that I can render to your excellency.” And taking the lighted torch from the hands of the herdsman, he preceded his guests, not as a servant who performs an act of civility, but like a king who precedes ambassadors. On reaching the door, he bowed. “And now, your excellency,” added he, “allow me to repeat my apologies, and I hope you will not entertain any resentment at what has occurred.”

“No, my dear Vampa,” replied the count; “besides, you compensate for your mistakes in so gentlemanly a way, that one almost feels obliged to you for having committed them.”

“Gentlemen,” added the chief, turning towards the young men, “perhaps the offer may not appear very tempting to you; but if you should ever feel inclined to pay me a second visit, wherever I may be, you shall be welcome.” Franz and Albert bowed. The count went out first, then Albert. Franz paused for a moment. “Has your excellency anything to ask me?” said Vampa with a smile.

“Yes, I have,” replied Franz; “I am curious to know what work you were perusing with so much attention as we entered.”

“Caesar’s ‘Commentaries,'” said the bandit, “it is my favorite work.”

“Well, are you coming?” asked Albert.

“Yes,” replied Franz, “here I am,” and he, in his turn, left the caves. They advanced to the plain. “Ah, your pardon,” said Albert, turning round; “will you allow me, captain?” And he lighted his cigar at Vampa’s torch. “Now, my dear count,” he said, “let us on with all the speed we may. I am enormously anxious to finish my night at the Duke of Bracciano’s.” They found the carriage where they had left it. The count said a word in Arabic to Ali, and the horses went on at great speed. It was just two o’clock by Albert’s watch when the two friends entered into the dancing-room. Their return was quite an event, but as they entered together, all uneasiness on Albert’s account ceased instantly. “Madame,” said the Viscount of Morcerf, advancing towards the countess, “yesterday you were so condescending as to promise me a galop; I am rather late in claiming this gracious promise, but here is my friend, whose character for veracity you well know, and he will assure you the delay arose from no fault of mine.” And as at this moment the orchestra gave the signal for the waltz, Albert put his arm round the waist of the countess, and disappeared with her in the whirl of dancers. In the meanwhile Franz was considering the singular shudder that had passed over the Count of Monte Cristo at the moment when he had been, in some sort, forced to give his hand to Albert.

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