My dear fellow.” cried he, springing up, “is it really you? Why, I did not expect to see you before to-morrow.” “My dear Albert,” replied Franz, “I am glad of this opportunity to tell you, once and forever, that you entertain a most erroneous notion concerning Italian women. I should have thought the continual failures you have met with in all your own love affairs might have taught you better by this time.” “Upon my soul, these women would puzzle the Nike store very Devil to read them aright. Why, here–they give you their hand–they press yours in return–they keep up a whispering conversation–permit you to accompany them home. Why, if a Parisian were to indulge in a quarter of these marks of flattering attention, her reputation would be gone forever.” “And the very reason why the women of this fine country put so little restraint on their words and actions, is because they live so much in public, and have really nothing to conceal. Besides, you must have perceived that the countess was really alarmed.” “At what? At the sight of that respectable gentleman sitting opposite to us in the same box with the lovely Greek girl? Now, for my part, I met them in the lobby after the conclusion of the piece; and hang me, if I can guess where you took your notions of the other world from. I can assure you that this hobgoblin of yours is a deuced fine-looking fellow–admirably dressed. Indeed, I feel quite sure, from the cut of his clothes, they are made by a first-rate Paris tailor–probably Blin or Humann. He was rather too pale, certainly; but then, you know, paleness is always looked upon as a strong proof of aristocratic descent and distinguished breeding.” Franz smiled; for he well remembered that Albert particularly prided himself on the entire absence of color in his own complexion. “Well, that tends to confirm my own ideas,” said Franz, “that the countess’s suspicions were destitute alike of sense and reason. Did he speak in your hearing? and did you catch any of his words?” “I did; but they were uttered in the Romaic dialect. I knew that from the mixture of Greek words. I don’t know whether I ever told you that when I was at college I was rather–rather strong in Greek.” “He spoke the Romaic language, did he?” “I think so.” “That settles it,” murmured Franz. “‘Tis he, past all doubt.” “What do you say?” “Nothing, nothing. But tell me, what were you thinking about when I came in?” “Oh, I was arranging a little surprise for you.” “Indeed. Of what nature?” “Why, you know it is quite impossible to procure a carriage.” “Certainly; and I also know that we have done all that human means afforded to endeavor to get one.” “Now, then, in this difficulty a bright idea has flashed across my brain.” Franz looked at Albert as though he had not much confidence in the suggestions of his imagination. “I tell you what, Sir Franz nike air max 2003 ,” cried Albert, “you deserve to be called out for such a misgiving and incredulous glance as that you were pleased to bestow on me just now.” “And I promise to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman if your scheme turns out as ingenious as you assert.” “Well, then, hearken to me.” “I listen.” “You agree, do you not, that obtaining a carriage is out of the question?” “I do.” “Neither can we procure horses?” “True; we have offered any sum, but have failed.” “Well, now, what do you say to a cart? I dare say such a thing might be had.” “Very possibly.” “And a pair of oxen?” “As easily found as the cart.” “Then you see, my good fellow, with a cart and a couple of oxen our business can be managed. The cart must be tastefully ornamented; and if you and I dress ourselves as Neapolitan reapers, we may get up a striking tableau, after the manner of that splendid picture by Leopold Robert. It would add greatly to the effect if the countess would join us in the costume of a peasant nike air max 95 from Puzzoli or Sorrento. Our group would then be quite complete, more especially as the countess is quite beautiful enough to represent a madonna.” “Well,” said Franz, “this time, Albert, I am bound to give you credit for having hit upon a most capital idea.” “And quite a national one, too,” replied Albert with gratified pride. “A mere masque borrowed from our own festivities. Ha, ha, ye Romans! you thought to make us, unhappy strangers, trot at the heels of your processions, like so many lazzaroni, because no carriages or horses are to be had in your beggarly city. But you don’t know us; when we can’t have one thing we invent another.” “And have you communicated your triumphant idea to anybody?” “Only to our host. Upon my return home I sent for him, and I then explained to him what I wished to procure. He assured me that nothing would be easier than to furnish all I desired. One thing I was sorry for; when I bade him have the horns of Air Max 2011 the oxen gilded, he told me there would not be time, as it would require three days to do that; so you see cheap nike air max 90 we must do without this little superfluity.” “And where is he now?” “Who?” “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 nike air max turnaround 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 nike air max 90 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 nike air max 180 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.” “Upon my word, that is a most delicate attention on your part nike air max 90 , Signor Pastrini,” cried Franz. “Why, your excellency,” returned the landlord, chuckling and rubbing his hands with infinite complacency, “I think I may take upon myself to say I neglect nothing to deserve the support and patronage of the noble visitors to this poor hotel.” “I see that plainly enough, my most excellent host, and you may rely upon me to proclaim so striking a proof of your attention to your guests wherever I go. Meanwhile, oblige me by a sight of one of these tavolettas.” “Nothing can be Nike air easier than to comply with your excellency’s wish,” said the landlord, opening the door of the chamber; “I have caused one to be placed on the landing, close by your apartment.” Then, taking the tablet from the wall, he handed it to Franz, who read as follows:– “‘The public is informed that on Wednesday, February 23d, being the first day of the Carnival, executions will take place in the Piazza del Popolo, by order of the Tribunal of the Rota, of two persons, named Andrea Rondola, and Peppino, otherwise called Rocca Priori; the former Nike air max found guilty of the murder of a venerable and exemplary priest, named Don Cesare Torlini, canon of the church of St. John Lateran; and the latter convicted of being an accomplice of the atrocious and sanguinary bandit, Luigi Vampa, and his band. The first nike air max shoes -named malefactor will be mazzolato, the second culprit, decapitato. The prayers of all good Christians are entreated for these unfortunate men, that it may please God to awaken them to a sense of their guilt, and to grant them a hearty and sincere repentance for their crimes.’” This was precisely what Franz had heard the evening before in the ruins of the Colosseum. No part of the programme differed,–the names of the condemned persons, their crimes, and mode of punishment, all agreed with his previous information. In all probability, therefore, the Transteverin was no other than the bandit Luigi Vampa himself, and the man shrouded in the mantle the same he had known as “Sinbad the Sailor,” but nike air max shop who, no doubt, was still pursuing his philanthropic expedition in Rome, as he had already done at Porto-Vecchio and Tunis. Time was getting on, however, and Franz deemed it advisable to awaken Albert; but at the moment he prepared to proceed to his chamber, his friend entered the room in perfect costume for the day. The anticipated delights of the Carnival had so run in his head as to make him leave his pillow long before his usual hour. “Now, my excellent Signor Pastrini,” said Franz, addressing his landlord, “since we are both ready, do you think we may proceed at once to visit the Count of Monte Cristo?” “Most assuredly,” replied he. “The Count of Monte Cristo is always an early riser; and I can answer for his having been up these two hours.” “Then you really consider we shall not be intruding if we pay our respects to him directly?” “Oh, I am quite sure. I will take all the blame on myself if you find I have led you into an error.” “Well, then, if it be so, are you ready, Albert?” “Perfectly.” “Let us go and return our best thanks for his courtesy.” “Yes, let us do so.” The landlord preceded the friends across the landing, which was all that separated them from the apartments of the count, rang at the bell, and, upon the door being opened by a servant, said, “I signori Francesi.” The domestic bowed respectfully, and invited them to enter. They passed through two rooms, furnished in a luxurious manner they had not expected to see under the roof of Signor Pastrini, and were shown into an elegantly fitted-up drawing-room. The richest Turkey carpets covered the floor, and the softest and most inviting couches, easy-chairs, and sofas, offered their high-piled and yielding cushions to such as desired repose or refreshment. Splendid paintings by the first masters were ranged against the walls, intermingled with magnificent trophies of war, while heavy curtains of costly tapestry were suspended before the different doors of the room. “If your excellencies will please to be seated,” said the man, “I will let the count know that you are here.” And with these words he disappeared behind one of the tapestried portières. As the door opened, the sound of a guzla reached the ears of the young men, but was almost immediately lost, for the rapid closing of the door merely allowed one rich swell of harmony to enter. Franz and Albert looked inquiringly at each other, then at the gorgeous furnishings of the apartment. Everything seemed more magnificent at a second view than it had done at their first rapid survey. “Well,” said Franz to his friend, “what think you of all this?” “Why, upon my soul, my dear fellow, it strikes me that our elegant and attentive neighbor must either be some successful stock-jobber who has speculated in the fall of the Spanish funds, or some prince travelling incog.” “Hush, hush!” replied Franz; “we shall ascertain who and what he is–he comes!” As Franz spoke, he heard the sound of a door turning on its hinges, and almost immediately afterwards the tapestry was drawn aside, and the owner of all these riches stood before the two young men. Albert instantly rose to meet him, but Franz remained, in a manner, spellbound on his chair; for in the person of him who had just entered he recognized not only the mysterious visitant to the Colosseum, and the occupant of the box at the Teatro Argentino, but also his extraordinary host of Monte Cristo.