"Gentlemen," said the Count of Monte Cristo as he entered,
"I pray you excuse me for suffering my visit to be
anticipated; but I feared to disturb you by presenting
myself earlier at your apartments; besides, you sent me word
that you would come to me, and I have held myself at your
"Franz and I have to thank you a thousand times, count,"
returned Albert; "you extricated us from a great dilemma,
and we were on the point of inventing a very fantastic
vehicle when your friendly invitation reached us."
"Indeed," returned the count, motioning the two young men to
sit down. "It was the fault of that blockhead Pastrini, that
I did not sooner assist you in your distress. He did not
mention a syllable of your embarrassment to me, when he
knows that, alone and isolated as I am, I seek every
opportunity of making the acquaintance of my neighbors. As
soon as I learned I could in any way assist you, I most
eagerly seized the opportunity of offering my services." The
two young men bowed. Franz had, as yet, found nothing to
say; he had come to no determination, and as nothing in the
count's manner manifested the wish that he should recognize
him, he did not know whether to make any allusion to the
past, or wait until he had more proof; besides, although
sure it was he who had been in the box the previous evening,
he could not be equally positive that this was the man he
had seen at the Colosseum. He resolved, therefore, to let
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, while the count had no hold on Franz,
who had nothing to conceal. However, he resolved to lead the
conversation to a subject which might possibly clear up his
"Count," said he, "you have offered us places in your
carriage, and at your windows in the Rospoli Palace. Can you
tell us where we can obtain a sight of the Piazza del
"Ah," said the count negligently, looking attentively at
Morcerf, "is there not something like an execution upon the
Piazza del Popolo?"
"Yes," returned Franz, finding that the count was coming to
the point he wished.
"Stay, I think I told my steward yesterday to attend to
this; perhaps I can render you this slight service also." He
extended his hand, and rang the bell thrice. "Did you ever
occupy yourself," said he to Franz, "with the employment of
time and the means of simplifying the summoning your
servants? I have. When I ring once, it is for my valet;
twice, for my majordomo; thrice, for my steward, -- thus I
do not waste a minute or a word. Here he is." A man of about
forty-five or fifty entered, exactly resembling the smuggler
who had introduced Franz into the cavern; but he did not
appear to recognize him. It was evident he had his orders.
"Monsieur Bertuccio," said the count, "you have procured me
windows looking on the Piazza del Popolo, as I ordered you
"Yes, excellency," returned the steward; "but it was very
"Did I not tell you I wished for one?" replied the count,
"And your excellency has one, which was let to Prince
Lobanieff; but I was obliged to pay a hundred" --
"That will do -- that will do, Monsieur Bertuccio; spare
these gentlemen all such domestic arrangements. You have the
window, that is sufficient. Give orders to the coachman; and
be in readiness on the stairs to conduct us to it." The
steward bowed, and was about to quit the room. "Ah,"
continued the count, "be good enough to ask Pastrini if he
has received the tavoletta, and if he can send us an account
of the execution."
"There is no need to do that," said Franz, taking out his
tablets; "for I saw the account, and copied it down."
"Very well, you can retire, M. Bertuccio; but let us know
when breakfast is ready. 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
"Not at all; on the contrary, you will give me great
pleasure. You will, one or other of you, perhaps both,
return it to me at Paris. M. Bertuccio, lay covers for
three." He then took Franz's tablets out of his hand. "`We
announce,' he read, in the same tone with which he would
have read a newspaper, `that to-day, the 23d of February,
will be executed Andrea Rondolo, guilty of murder on the
person of the respected and venerated Don Cesare Torlini,
canon of the church of St. John Lateran, and Peppino, called
Rocca Priori, convicted of complicity with the detestable
bandit Luigi Vampa, and the men of his band.' Hum! `The
first will be mazzolato, the second decapitato.' 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 the ceremony."
"Really?" said Franz.
"Yes, I passed the evening at the Cardinal Rospigliosi's,
and there mention was 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 tablets as if to recall the name), for
Peppino, called Rocca Priori. You are thus deprived of
seeing a man guillotined; but the mazzuola still remains,
which is a 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 who beheaded the Count of Chalais, and to whose
tender mercy Richelieu had doubtless recommended the
sufferer. Ah," added the count, in a contemptuous tone, "do
not tell me of European punishments, they are in the
infancy, or rather the old age, of cruelty."
"Really, count," replied Franz, "one would think that you
had studied the different tortures of all the nations of the
"There are, at least, few that I have not seen," said the
"And you took pleasure in beholding these dreadful
"My first sentiment was horror, the second indifference, the
"Curiosity -- that is a terrible word."
"Why so? In life, our greatest preoccupation is death; is it
not then, curious to study the different ways by which the
soul and body can part; and how, according to their
different characters, temperaments, and even the different
customs of their countries, different persons bear the
transition from life to death, from existence to
annihilation? As for myself, I can assure you of one thing,
-- the more men you see die, the easier it becomes to die
yourself; and in 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
"Listen," said the count, and deep hatred mounted to his
face, as the blood would to the face of any other. "If a man
had by unheard-of and excruciating tortures destroyed your
father, your mother, your betrothed, -- a being who, when
torn from you, left a desolation, a wound that never closes,
in your breast, -- do you think the reparation that society
gives you is sufficient when it interposes the knife of the
guillotine between the base of the occiput and the trapezal
muscles of the murderer, and allows him who has caused us
years of moral sufferings to escape with a few moments of
"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 from her 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 a thousand tortures by
which a man may be made to suffer without society taking the
least cognizance of them, or offering him even the
insufficient means of vengeance, of which we have just
spoken? Are there not crimes for which the impalement of the
Turks, the augers of the Persians, the stake and the brand
of the Iroquois Indians, are inadequate tortures, and which
are unpunished by society? Answer me, do not these crimes
"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 arriving at your end when that end is vengeance! A
man has carried off your mistress, a man has seduced your
wife, a man has dishonored your daughter; he has rendered
the whole life of one who had the right to expect from
heaven that portion of happiness God his promised to every
one of his creatures, an existence of misery and infamy; and
you think you are avenged because you send a ball through
the head, or pass a sword through the breast, of that man
who has planted 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 in his turn, astonished at this strange
"Oh, yes," replied the count; "understand me, I would fight
a duel for a trifle, for an insult, for a blow; and the more
so that, thanks to my skill in all bodily exercises, and the
indifference to danger I have gradually acquired, I should
be almost certain to kill my man. Oh, I would fight for such
a cause; but in return for a slow, profound, eternal
torture, I would give 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 favored
creatures who have formed for themselves a life of dreams
and a paradise of realities."
"But," said Franz to the count, "with this theory, which
renders you at once judge and executioner of your own cause,
it would be difficult to adopt a course 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
runs the 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 have already spoken, and which
the philanthropic French Revolution has substituted for
being torn to pieces by horses or broken on the wheel. What
matters this punishment, as long as he is avenged? On my
word, I almost regret that in all probability this miserable
Peppino will not be beheaded, as you might have had an
opportunity then of seeing how short a time the punishment
lasts, and whether it is worth even mentioning; but, really
this is a most singular conversation 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
sit down to table, for here comes the servant to inform us
that breakfast is ready." 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
During the meal, which was excellent, and admirably served,
Franz looked repeatedly at Albert, in order to observe the
impressions which he doubted not had been made on him by the
words of their entertainer; but whether with his usual
carelessness he had paid but little attention to him,
whether the explanation of the Count of Monte Cristo with
regard to duelling had satisfied him, or whether the events
which Franz knew of had had their effect on him alone, 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 had been condemned to partake of Italian
cookery -- that is, the worst in the world. As for the
count, he just touched the dishes; he seemed to fulfil the
duties of a host by sitting down with his guests, and
awaited their departure to be served with some strange or
more delicate food. This brought back to Franz, in spite of
himself, the recollection of the terror with which the count
had inspired the Countess G---- , and her firm conviction
that the man in the opposite box was a vampire. At the end
of the breakfast Franz took out his watch. "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
"Do not concern yourself about that; we have, I think, a
private room in the Piazza del Popolo; I will have whatever
costumes you choose brought to us, and you 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 your courtesy, but I shall content myself with
accepting a place in your carriage and at your window at the
Rospoli Palace, and I leave you at liberty to dispose 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 lips will make as great an impression on
me as if I had witnessed it. I have more than once intended
witnessing an execution, but I have never been able to make
up my mind; and you, Albert?"
"I," replied the viscount, -- "I saw Castaing executed, but
I think I was rather intoxicated that day, for I had quitted
college the same morning, and we 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 see everything. Think what a
figure you will make when you are asked, `How do they
execute at Rome?' and you reply, `I do not know'! And,
besides, they say that the culprit is an infamous scoundrel,
who killed with a log of wood a worthy canon who had brought
him up like his own son. Diable, when a churchman is killed,
it should be with a different weapon than a log, especially
when he has 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 the ancient
Romans of the Circus, and the sports where they killed three
hundred lions and a hundred men. Think of the eighty
thousand applauding spectators, the sage matrons who took
their daughters, and the charming Vestals who made with the
thumb of their white hands the fatal sign that said, `Come,
despatch the 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 the Piazza 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 on the 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 been
"Excellency," said a servant, opening the door, "a man in
the dress of a penitent wishes to speak to you."
"Ah, yes" returned the count, "I know who he is, gentlemen;
will you return to the salon? you will find good cigars on
the centre table. I will be with you directly." The young
men rose and returned into the salon, while the count, again
apologizing, left by another door. Albert, who was a great
smoker, and who had considered it no small sacrifice to be
deprived of the cigars of the Cafe de Paris, approached the
table, and uttered a cry of joy at perceiving some veritable
"Well," asked Franz, "what think you of the Count of Monte
"What do I think?" said Albert, evidently surprised at such
a question from his companion; "I think he is a delightful
fellow, who does the honors of his table admirably; who has
travelled much, read much, is, like Brutus, of the Stoic
school, and moreover," added he, sending a volume of smoke
up towards the ceiling, "that he has excellent cigars." Such
was Albert's opinion of the count, and as Franz well knew
that Albert professed never to form an opinion except 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 very surprising; I have been more than a year absent
from Paris, and my clothes are of a most antiquated cut; the
count takes me for a provincial. The first opportunity you
have, undeceive him, I beg, and tell him I am nothing of the
kind." Franz smiled; an instant after the count entered.
"I am now quite at your service, gentlemen," said he. "The
carriage is going one 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 you come to Paris, I will return all this."
"I will not refuse; I intend going there soon, and since you
allow me, I will pay 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's orders,
and drove down the Via del Babuino. While the three
gentlemen walked along the Piazza de Spagni and the Via
Frattina, which led directly between the Fiano and Rospoli
palaces, Franz's attention was directed towards the windows
of that last palace, for he had not forgotten the signal
agreed upon between the man in the mantle and the
Transtevere peasant. "Which are your windows?" asked he of
the count, with as much indifference as he could assume.
"The three last," returned he, with a negligence evidently
unaffected, for he could not imagine with what intention the
question was put. Franz glanced rapidly towards the three
windows. The side windows were hung with yellow damask, and
the centre one with white damask and a red cross. The man in
the mantle had kept his promise to the Transteverin, and
there could now be no doubt that he was the count. The three
windows were still untenanted. Preparations were making on
every side; chairs were placed, scaffolds were raised, and
windows were hung with flags. The masks could not appear;
the carriages 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 they approached the Piazza del Popolo, the crowd became
more dense, and above the heads of the multitude two objects
were visible: the obelisk, surmounted by a cross, which
marks the centre of the square, and in front of the obelisk,
at the point where the three streets, del Babuino, del
Corso, and di Ripetta, meet, the two uprights of the
scaffold, between which glittered the curved knife of the
mandaia. At the corner of the street they met the count's
steward, 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 the second floor of the
great palace, situated between the Via del Babuino and the
Monte Pincio. It consisted, as we have said, of a small
dressing-room, opening into a bedroom, and, when the door of
communication was shut, the inmates were quite alone. On
chairs were laid elegant masquerade costumes of blue and
white satin. "As you left the choice of your costumes to
me," said the count to the two friends, "I have had these
brought, as they will be the most worn this year; and they
are most suitable, on account of the confetti (sweetmeats),
as they do not show the flour."
Franz heard the words of the count but imperfectly, and he
perhaps did not fully appreciate this new attention to their
wishes; for he was wholly absorbed by the spectacle that the
Piazza del Popolo presented, and by the terrible instrument
that was in the centre. It was the first time Franz had ever
seen a guillotine, -- we say guillotine, because the Roman
mandaia is formed on almost the same model as the French
instrument.* The knife, which is shaped like a crescent,
that cuts with the convex side, falls from a less height,
and that is all the difference. Two men, seated on the
movable plank on which the victim is laid, were eating their
breakfasts, while waiting for the criminal. Their repast
consisted apparently of bread and sausages. One of them
lifted the plank, took out a flask of wine, drank some, and
then passed it to his companion. These two men were the
executioner's assistants. At this sight Franz felt the
perspiration start forth upon his brow. The prisoners,
transported the previous evening from the Carcere Nuovo to
the little church of Santa Maria del Popolo, had passed the
night, each accompanied by two priests, in a chapel closed
by a grating, before which were two sentinels, who were
relieved at intervals. A double line of carbineers, placed
on each side of the door of the church, reached to the
scaffold, and formed a circle around it, leaving a path
about ten feet wide, and around the guillotine a space of
nearly a hundred feet. All the rest of the square was paved
with heads. Many women held their infants on their
shoulders, and thus the children had the best 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 the Via di Ripetta were crammed;
the steps even seemed a parti-colored sea, that was impelled
towards the portico; every niche in the wall held its living
statue. What the count said was true -- the most curious
spectacle in life is that of death. And yet, instead of the
silence and the solemnity demanded by the occasion, laughter
and jests arose from the crowd. It was evident that the
execution was, in the eyes of the people, only the
commencement of the Carnival. Suddenly the tumult ceased, as
if by magic, and the doors of the church opened. A
brotherhood of penitents, clothed from head to foot in robes
of gray sackcloth, with holes for the eyes, and holding in
their hands lighted tapers, appeared first; the chief
marched at the head. Behind the penitents came a man of vast
stature and proportions. He was naked, with the exception of
cloth drawers at the left side of which hung a large knife
in a sheath, and he bore on his right shoulder a heavy iron
sledge-hammer. This man was the executioner. He had,
moreover, sandals bound on his feet by cords. Behind the
executioner came, in the order in which they were to die,
first Peppino and then Andrea. Each was accompanied by two
priests. Neither had his eyes bandaged. Peppino walked with
a firm step, doubtless aware of what awaited him. 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 Franz felt his legs tremble under him. He looked
at Albert -- he was as white as his shirt, and mechanically
cast away his cigar, although he had not half smoked it. The
count alone seemed unmoved -- nay, more, a slight color
seemed striving to rise in his pale cheeks. His nostrils
dilated like those of a wild beast that 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 an
expression of smiling tenderness, such as Franz had never
before witnessed in them; his black eyes especially were
full of kindness and pity. However, the two culprits
advanced, and as they approached their faces became visible.
Peppino was a handsome young man of four or five and twenty,
bronzed by the sun; he carried his head erect, and seemed on
the watch to see on which side his liberator would appear.
Andrea was short and fat; his visage, marked with brutal
cruelty, did not indicate age; he might be thirty. In prison
he had suffered his beard to grow; his head fell on his
shoulder, his legs bent beneath him, and his movements were
apparently automatic and unconscious.
* Dr. Guillotin got the idea of his famous machine from
witnessing an execution in Italy.
"I thought," said Franz to the count, "that you told me
there would be but one execution."
"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 to live."
"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 the foot of the mandaia, a priest arrived in
some haste, forced his way through the soldiers, and,
advancing to the chief of the brotherhood, gave him a folded
paper. The piercing eye of Peppino had noticed all. The
chief took the paper, unfolded it, and, raising his hand,
"Heaven be praised, and his holiness also," said he in a
loud voice; "here is a pardon for one of the prisoners!"
"A pardon!" cried the people with one voice -- "a pardon!"
At this cry Andrea raised his head. "Pardon for whom?" cried
Peppino remained breathless. "A pardon for Peppino, called
Rocca Priori," said the principal friar. And he passed the
paper to the officer commanding the carbineers, who read and
returned it to him.
"For Peppino!" cried Andrea, who seemed roused from the
torpor in which he had been plunged. "Why for him and not
for me? We ought to die together. I was promised he should
die with me. You have no right to put me to death alone. I
will not die alone -- I will not!" And he broke from the
priests struggling and raving like a wild beast, and
striving desperately to break the cords that bound his
hands. The executioner made a sign, and his two assistants
leaped from the scaffold and seized him. "What is going on?"
asked Franz of the count; for, as all the talk was in the
Roman dialect, he had not perfectly understood it. "Do you
not see?" returned the count, "that this human creature who
is about to die is furious that his fellow-sufferer does not
perish with him? and, were he able, he would rather tear him
to pieces with his teeth and nails 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
hands towards the crowd, "how well do I recognize you there,
and that at all times you are worthy of yourselves!"
Meanwhile Andrea and the two executioners were struggling on
the ground, and he kept exclaiming, "He ought to die! -- he
shall die! -- I will not die alone!"
"Look, look," cried the count, seizing the young men's hands
-- "look, for on my soul it is curious. Here is a man who
had resigned himself to his fate, who was going to the
scaffold to die -- like a coward, it is true, but he was
about to die without resistance. Do you know what gave him
strength? -- do you know what consoled him? It was, that
another partook of his punishment -- that another partook of
his anguish -- that another was to die before him. Lead two
sheep to the butcher's, two oxen to the slaughterhouse, and
make one of them understand 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 his neighbor -- man, to whom God has given a voice
to express his thoughts -- what is his first cry when he
hears his fellow-man is saved? A blasphemy. Honor to man,
this masterpiece of nature, this king of the creation!" And
the count burst into a laugh; a terrible laugh, that showed
he must have suffered horribly to be able thus to laugh.
However, the struggle still continued, and it was dreadful
to witness. The people all took part against Andrea, and
twenty thousand voices cried, "Put him to death! put him to
death!" Franz sprang 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 `Mad dog!' 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 yet you pity a man who, without
being bitten by one of his race, has yet murdered his
benefactor; and who, now unable to kill any one, because his
hands are bound, wishes to see his companion in captivity
perish. No, no -- look, look!"
The command was needless. Franz was fascinated by the
horrible spectacle. The two assistants had borne Andrea to
the scaffold, and there, in spite of his struggles, his
bites, and his cries, had forced him to his knees. During
this time the executioner had raised his mace, and signed to
them to get out of the way; the criminal strove to rise,
but, ere he had time, the mace fell on his left temple. A
dull and heavy sound was heard, and the man dropped like an
ox on his face, and then turned over on his back. The
executioner let fall his mace, drew his knife, and with one
stroke opened his throat, and mounting on his stomach,
stamped violently on it with his feet. At every stroke a jet
of blood sprang from the wound.
This time Franz could contain himself no longer, but sank,
half fainting, into a seat. Albert, with his eyes closed,
was standing grasping the window-curtains. The count was
erect and triumphant, like the Avenging Angel!