The Carnival at Rome.
When Franz recovered his senses, he saw Albert drinking a
glass of water, of which, to judge from his pallor, he stood
in great need; and the count, who was assuming his
masquerade costume. He glanced mechanically towards the
square -- the scene was wholly changed; scaffold,
executioners, victims, all had disappeared; only the people
remained, full of noise and excitement. The bell of Monte
Citorio, which only sounds on the pope's decease and the
opening of the Carnival, was ringing a joyous peal. "Well,"
asked he of the count, "what has, then, happened?"
"Nothing," replied the count; "only, as you see, the
Carnival his commenced. Make haste and dress yourself."
"In fact," said Franz, "this horrible scene has passed away
like a dream."
"It is but a dream, a nightmare, that has disturbed you."
"Yes, that I have suffered; but the culprit?"
"That is a dream also; only he has remained asleep, while
you have awakened; and who knows which of you is the most
"But Peppino -- what has become of him?"
"Peppino is a lad of sense, who, unlike most men, who are
happy in proportion as they are noticed, was delighted to
see that the general attention was directed towards his
companion. He profited by this distraction to slip away
among the crowd, without even thanking the worthy priests
who accompanied him. Decidedly man is an ungrateful and
egotistical animal. But dress yourself; see, M. de Morcerf
sets you the example." Albert was drawing on the satin
pantaloon over his black trousers and varnished boots.
"Well, Albert," said Franz, "do you feel much inclined to
join the revels? Come, answer frankly."
"Ma foi, no," returned Albert. "But I am really glad to have
seen such a sight; and I understand what the count said --
that when you have once habituated yourself to a similar
spectacle, it is the only one that causes you any emotion."
"Without reflecting that this is the only moment in which
you can study character," said the count; "on the steps of
the scaffold death tears off the mask that has been worn
through life, and the real visage is disclosed. It must be
allowed that Andrea was not very handsome, the hideous
scoundrel! Come, dress yourselves, gentlemen, dress
yourselves." Franz felt it would be ridiculous not to follow
his two companions' example. He assumed his costume, and
fastened on the mask that scarcely equalled the pallor of
his own face. Their toilet finished, they descended; the
carriage awaited them at the door, filled with sweetmeats
and bouquets. They fell into the line of carriages. It is
difficult to form an idea of the perfect change that had
taken place. Instead of the spectacle of gloomy and silent
death, the Piazza del Popolo presented a spectacle of gay
and noisy mirth and revelry. A crowd of masks flowed in from
all sides, emerging from the doors, descending from the
windows. From every street and every corner drove carriages
filled with clowns, harlequins, dominoes, mummers,
pantomimists, Transteverins, knights, and peasants,
screaming, fighting, gesticulating, throwing eggs filled
with flour, confetti, nosegays, attacking, with their
sarcasms and their missiles, friends and foes, companions
and strangers, indiscriminately, and no one took offence, or
did anything but laugh. Franz and Albert were like men who,
to drive away a violent sorrow, have recourse to wine, and
who, as they drink and become intoxicated, feel a thick veil
drawn between the past and the present. They saw, or rather
continued to see, the image of what they had witnessed; but
little by little the general vertigo seized them, and they
felt themselves obliged to take part in the noise and
confusion. A handful of confetti that came from a
neighboring carriage, and which, while it covered Morcerf
and his two companions with dust, pricked his neck and that
portion of his face uncovered by his mask like a hundred
pins, incited him to join in the general combat, in which
all the masks around him were engaged. He rose in his turn,
and seizing handfuls of confetti and sweetmeats, with which
the carriage was filled, cast them with all the force and
skill he was master of.
The strife had fairly begun, and the recollection of what
they had seen half an hour before was gradually effaced from
the young men's minds, so much were they occupied by the gay
and glittering procession they now beheld. As for the Count
of Monte Cristo, he had never for an instant shown any
appearance of having been moved. Imagine the large and
splendid Corso, bordered from one end to the other with
lofty palaces, with their balconies hung with carpets, and
their windows with flags. At these balconies are three
hundred thousand spectators -- Romans, Italians, strangers
from all parts of the world, the united aristocracy of
birth, wealth, and genius. Lovely women, yielding to the
influence of the scene, bend over their balconies, or lean
from their windows, and shower down confetti, which are
returned by bouquets; the air seems darkened with the
falling confetti and flying flowers. In the streets the
lively crowd is dressed in the most fantastic costumes --
gigantic cabbages walk gravely about, buffaloes' heads below
from men's shoulders, dogs walk on their hind legs; in the
midst of all this a mask is lifted, and, as in Callot's
Temptation of St. Anthony, a lovely face is exhibited, which
we would fain follow, but from which we are separated by
troops of fiends. This will give a faint idea of the
Carnival at Rome. At the second turn the Count stopped the
carriage, and requested permission to withdraw, leaving the
vehicle at their disposal. Franz looked up -- they were
opposite the Rospoli Palace. At the centre window, the one
hung with white damask with a red cross, was a blue domino,
beneath which Franz's imagination easily pictured the
beautiful Greek of the Argentina. "Gentlemen," said the
count, springing out, "when you are tired of being actors,
and wish to become spectators of this scene, you know you
have places at my windows. In the meantime, dispose of my
coachman, my carriage, and my servants." We have forgotten
to mention, that the count's coachman was attired in a
bear-skin, exactly resembling Odry's in "The Bear and the
Pasha;" and the two footmen behind were dressed up as green
monkeys, with spring masks, with which they made grimaces at
every one who passed. Franz thanked the count for his
attention. As for Albert, he was busily occupied throwing
bouquets at a carriage full of Roman peasants that was
passing near him. Unfortunately for him, the line of
carriages moved on again, and while he descended the Piazza
del Popolo, the other ascended towards the Palazzo di
Venezia. "Ah, my dear fellow," said he to Franz; "you did
"There, -- that calash filled with Roman peasants."
"Well, I am convinced they are all charming women."
"How unfortunate that you were masked, Albert," said Franz;
"here was an opportunity of making up for past
"Oh," replied he, half laughing, half serious; "I hope the
Carnival will not pass without some amends in one shape or
But, in spite of Albert's hope, the day passed unmarked by
any incident, excepting two or three encounters with the
carriage full of Roman peasants. At one of these encounters,
accidentally or purposely, Albert's mask fell off. He
instantly rose and cast the remainder of the bouquets into
the carriage. Doubtless one of the charming females Albert
had detected beneath their coquettish disguise was touched
by his gallantry; for, as the carriage of the two friends
passed her, she threw a bunch of violets. Albert seized it,
and as Franz had no reason to suppose it was meant for him,
he suffered Albert to retain it. Albert placed it in his
button-hole, and the carriage went triumphantly on.
"Well," said Franz to him; "there is the beginning of an
"Laugh if you please -- I really think so. So I will not
abandon this bouquet."
"Pardieu," returned Franz, laughing, "in token of your
ingratitude." The jest, however, soon appeared to become
earnest; for when Albert and Franz again encountered the
carriage with the contadini, the one who had thrown the
violets to Albert, clapped her hands when she beheld them in
his button-hole. "Bravo, bravo," said Franz; "things go
wonderfully. Shall I leave you? Perhaps you would prefer
"No," replied he; "I will not be caught like a fool at a
first disclosure by a rendezvous under the clock, as they
say at the opera-balls. If the fair peasant wishes to carry
matters any further, we shall find her, or rather, she will
find us to-morrow; then she will give me some sign or other,
and I shall know what I have to do."
"On my word," said Franz, "you are wise as Nestor and
prudent as Ulysses, and your fair Circe must be very skilful
or very powerful if she succeed in changing you into a beast
of any kind." Albert was right; the fair unknown had
resolved, doubtless, to carry the intrigue no farther; for
although the young men made several more turns, they did not
again see the calash, which had turned up one of the
neighboring streets. Then they returned to the Rospoli
Palace; but the count and the blue domino had also
disappeared; the two windows, hung with yellow damask, were
still occupied by the persons whom the count had invited. At
this moment the same bell that had proclaimed the beginning
of the mascherata sounded the retreat. The file on the Corso
broke the line, and in a second all the carriages had
disappeared. Franz and Albert were opposite the Via delle
Maratte; the coachman, without saying a word, drove up it,
passed along the Piazza di Spagni and the Rospoli Palace and
stopped at the door of the hotel. Signor Pastrini came to
the door to receive his guests. Franz hastened to inquire
after the count, and to express regret that he had not
returned in sufficient time; but Pastrini reassured him by
saying that the Count of Monte Cristo had ordered a second
carriage for himself, and that it had gone at four o'clock
to fetch him from the Rospoli Palace. The count had,
moreover, charged him to offer the two friends the key of
his box at the Argentina. Franz questioned Albert as to his
intentions; but Albert had great projects to put into
execution before going to the theatre; and instead of making
any answer, he inquired if Signor Pastrini could procure him
a tailor. "A tailor," said the host; "and for what?"
"To make us between now and to-morrow two Roman peasant
costumes," returned Albert. The host shook his head. "To
make you two costumes between now and to-morrow? I ask your
excellencies' pardon, but this is quite a French demand; for
the next week you will not find a single tailor who would
consent to sew six buttons on a waistcoat if you paid him a
crown a piece for each button."
"Then I must give up the idea?"
"No; we have them ready-made. Leave all to me; and
to-morrow, when you awake, you shall find a collection of
costumes with which you will be satisfied."
"My dear Albert," said Franz, "leave all to our host; he has
already proved himself full of resources; let us dine
quietly, and afterwards go and see `The Algerian Captive.'"
"Agreed," returned Albert; "but remember, Signor Pastrini,
that both my friend and myself attach the greatest
importance to having to-morrow the costumes we have asked
for." The host again assured them they might rely on him,
and that their wishes should be attended to; upon which
Franz and Albert mounted to their apartments, and proceeded
to disencumber themselves of their costumes. Albert, as he
took off his dress, carefully preserved the bunch of
violets; it was his token reserved for the morrow. The two
friends sat down to table; but they could not refrain from
remarking the difference between the Count of Monte Cristo's
table and that of Signor Pastrini. Truth compelled Franz, in
spite of the dislike he seemed to have taken to the count,
to confess that the advantage was not on Pastrini's side.
During dessert, the servant inquired at what time they
wished for the carriage. Albert and Franz looked at each
other, fearing really to abuse the count's kindness. The
servant understood them. "His excellency the Count of Monte
Cristo had," he said, "given positive orders that the
carriage was to remain at their lordships' orders all day,
and they could therefore dispose of it without fear of
They resolved to profit by the count's courtesy, and ordered
the horses to be harnessed, while they substituted evening
dress for that which they had on, and which was somewhat the
worse for the numerous combats they had sustained. This
precaution taken, they went to the theatre, and installed
themselves in the count's box. During the first act, the
Countess G---- entered. Her first look was at the box where
she had seen the count the previous evening, so that she
perceived Franz and Albert in the place of the very person
concerning whom she had expressed so strange an opinion to
Franz. Her opera-glass was so fixedly directed towards them,
that Franz saw it would be cruel not to satisfy her
curiosity; and, availing himself of one of the privileges of
the spectators of the Italian theatres, who use their boxes
to hold receptions, the two friends went to pay their
respects to the countess. Scarcely had they entered, when
she motioned to Franz to assume the seat of honor. Albert,
in his turn, sat behind.
"Well," said she, hardly giving Franz time to sit down, "it
seems you have nothing better to do than to make the
acquaintance of this new Lord Ruthven, and you are already
the best friends in the world."
"Without being so far advanced as that, my dear countess,"
returned Franz, "I cannot deny that we have abused his good
nature all day."
"Yes; this morning we breakfasted with him; we rode in his
carriage all day, and now we have taken possession of his
"You know him, then?"
"Yes, and no."
"It is a long story."
'Tell it to me."
"It would frighten you too much."
"So much the more reason."
"At least wait until the story has a conclusion."
"Very well; I prefer complete histories; but tell me how you
made his acquaintance? Did any one introduce you to him?"
"No; it was he who introduced himself to us."
"Last night, after we left you."
"Through what medium?"
"The very prosaic one of our landlord."
"He is staying, then, at the Hotel de Londres with you?"
"Not only in the same hotel, but on the same floor."
"What is his name -- for, of course, you know?"
"The Count of Monte Cristo."
"That is not a family name?"
"No, it is the name of the island he has purchased."
"And he is a count?"
"A Tuscan count."
"Well, we must put up with that," said the countess, who was
herself from one of the oldest Venetian families. "What sort
of a man is he?"
"Ask the Vicomte de Morcerf."
"You hear, M. de Morcerf, I am referred to you," said the
"We should be very hard to please, madam," returned Albert,
"did we not think him delightful. A friend of ten years'
standing could not have done more for us, or with a more
"Come," observed the countess, smiling, "I see my vampire is
only some millionaire, who has taken the appearance of Lara
in order to avoid being confounded with M. de Rothschild;
and you have seen her?"
"The beautiful Greek of yesterday."
"No; we heard, I think, the sound of her guzla, but she
remained perfectly invisible."
"When you say invisible," interrupted Albert, "it is only to
keep up the mystery; for whom do you take the blue domino at
the window with the white curtains?"
"Where was this window with white hangings?" asked the
"At the Rospoli Palace."
"The count had three windows at the Rospoli Palace?"
"Yes. Did you pass through the Corso?"
"Well, did you notice two windows hung with yellow damask,
and one with white damask with a red cross? Those were the
"Why, he must be a nabob. Do you know what those three
windows were worth?"
"Two or three hundred Roman crowns?"
"Two or three thousand."
"Does his island produce him such a revenue?"
"It does not bring him a baiocco."
"Then why did he purchase it?"
"For a whim."
"He is an original, then?"
"In reality," observed Albert, "he seemed to me somewhat
eccentric; were he at Paris, and a frequenter of the
theatres, I should say he was a poor devil literally mad.
This morning he made two or three exits worthy of Didier or
Anthony." At this moment a fresh visitor entered, and,
according to custom, Franz gave up his seat to him. This
circumstance had, moreover, the effect of changing the
conversation; an hour afterwards the two friends returned to
their hotel. Signor Pastrini had already set about procuring
their disguises for the morrow; and he assured them that
they would be perfectly satisfied. The next morning, at nine
o'clock, he entered Franz's room, followed by a tailor, who
had eight or ten Roman peasant costumes on his arm; they
selected two exactly alike, and charged the tailor to sew on
each of their hats about twenty yards of ribbon, and to
procure them two of the long silk sashes of different colors
with which the lower orders decorate themselves on
fete-days. Albert was impatient to see how he looked in his
new dress -- a jacket and breeches of blue velvet, silk
stockings with clocks, shoes with buckles, and a silk
waistcoat. This picturesque attire set him off to great
advantage; and when he had bound the scarf around his waist,
and when his hat, placed coquettishly on one side, let fall
on his shoulder a stream of ribbons, Franz was forced to
confess that costume has much to do with the physical
superiority we accord to certain nations. The Turks used to
be so picturesque with their long and flowing robes, but are
they not now hideous with their blue frocks buttoned up to
the chin, and their red caps, which make them look like a
bottle of wine with a red seal? Franz complimented Albert,
who looked at himself in the glass with an unequivocal smile
of satisfaction. They were thus engaged when the Count of
Monte Cristo entered.
"Gentlemen," said he, "although a companion is agreeable,
perfect freedom is sometimes still more agreeable. I come to
say that to-day, and for the remainder of the Carnival, I
leave the carriage entirely at your disposal. The host will
tell you I have three or four more, so that you will not
inconvenience me in any way. Make use of it, I pray you, for
your pleasure or your business."
The young men wished to decline, but they could find no good
reason for refusing an offer which was so agreeable to them.
The Count of Monte Cristo remained a quarter of an hour with
them, conversing on all subjects with the greatest ease. He
was, as we have already said, perfectly well acquainted with
the literature of all countries. A glance at the walls of
his salon proved to Franz and Albert that he was a
connoisseur of pictures. A few words he let fall showed them
that he was no stranger to the sciences, and he seemed much
occupied with chemistry. The two friends did not venture to
return the count the breakfast he had given them; it would
have been too absurd to offer him in exchange for his
excellent table the very inferior one of Signor Pastrini.
They told him so frankly, and he received their excuses with
the air of a man who appreciated their delicacy. Albert was
charmed with the count's manners, and he was only prevented
from recognizing him for a perfect gentleman by reason of
his varied knowledge. The permission to do what he liked
with the carriage pleased him above all, for the fair
peasants had appeared in a most elegant carriage the
preceding evening, and Albert was not sorry to be upon an
equal footing with them. At half-past one they descended,
the coachman and footman had put on their livery over their
disguises, which gave them a more ridiculous appearance than
ever, and which gained them the applause of Franz and
Albert. Albert had fastened the faded bunch of violets to
his button-hole. At the first sound of the bell they
hastened into the Corso by the Via Vittoria. At the second
turn, a bunch of fresh violets, thrown from a carriage
filled with harlequins, indicated to Albert that, like
himself and his friend, the peasants had changed their
costume, also; and whether it was the result of chance, or
whether a similar feeling had possessed them both, while he
had changed his costume they had assumed his.
Albert placed the fresh bouquet in his button-hole, but he
kept the faded one in his hand; and when he again met the
calash, he raised it to his lips, an action which seemed
greatly to amuse not only the fair lady who had thrown it,
but her joyous companions also. The day was as gay as the
preceding one, perhaps even more animated and noisy; the
count appeared for an instant at his window. but when they
again passed he had disappeared. It is almost needless to
say that the flirtation between Albert and the fair peasant
continued all day. In the evening, on his return, Franz
found a letter from the embassy, informing him that he would
have the honor of being received by his holiness the next
day. At each previous visit he had made to Rome, he had
solicited and obtained the same favor; and incited as much
by a religious feeling as by gratitude, he was unwilling to
quit the capital of the Christian world without laying his
respectful homage at the feet of one of St. Peter's
successors who has set the rare example of all the virtues.
He did not then think of the Carnival, for in spite of his
condescension and touching kindness, one cannot incline
one's self without awe before the venerable and noble old
man called Gregory XVI. On his return from the Vatican,
Franz carefully avoided the Corso; he brought away with him
a treasure of pious thoughts, to which the mad gayety of the
maskers would have been profanation. At ten minutes past
five Albert entered overjoyed. The harlequin had reassumed
her peasant's costume, and as she passed she raised her
mask. She was charming. Franz congratulated Albert, who
received his congratulations with the air of a man conscious
that they are merited. He had recognized by certain
unmistakable signs, that his fair incognita belonged to the
aristocracy. He had made up his mind to write to her the
next day. Franz remarked, while he gave these details, that
Albert seemed to have something to ask of him, but that he
was unwilling to ask it. He insisted upon it, declaring
beforehand that he was willing to make any sacrifice the
other wished. Albert let himself be pressed just as long as
friendship required, and then avowed to Franz that he would
do him a great favor by allowing him to occupy the carriage
alone the next day. Albert attributed to Franz's absence the
extreme kindness of the fair peasant in raising her mask.
Franz was not sufficiently egotistical to stop Albert in the
middle of an adventure that promised to prove so agreeable
to his curiosity and so flattering to his vanity. He felt
assured that the perfect indiscretion of his friend would
duly inform him of all that happened; and as, during three
years that he had travelled all over Italy, a similar piece
of good fortune had never fallen to his share, Franz was by
no means sorry to learn how to act on such an occasion. He
therefore promised Albert that he would content himself the
morrow with witnessing the Carnival from the windows of the
The next morning he saw Albert pass and repass, holding an
enormous bouquet, which he doubtless meant to make the
bearer of his amorous epistle. This belief was changed into
certainty when Franz saw the bouquet (conspicuous by a
circle of white camellias) in the hand of a charming
harlequin dressed in rose-colored satin. The evening was no
longer joy, but delirium. Albert nothing doubted but that
the fair unknown would reply in the same manner. Franz
anticipated his wishes by saying that the noise fatigued
him, and that he should pass the next day in writing and
looking over his journal. Albert was not deceived, for the
next evening Franz saw him enter triumphantly shaking a
folded paper which he held by one corner. "Well," said he,
"was I mistaken?"
"She has answered you!" cried Franz.
"Read." This word was pronounced in a manner impossible to
describe. Franz took the letter, and read: --
Tuesday evening, at seven o'clock, descend from your
carriage opposite the Via dei Pontefici, and follow the
Roman peasant who snatches your torch from you. When you
arrive at the first step of the church of San Giacomo, be
sure to fasten a knot of rose-colored ribbons to the
shoulder of your harlequin costume, in order that you may be
recognized. Until then you will not see me.
Constancy and Discretion.
"Well," asked he, when Franz had finished, "what do you
think of that?"
"I think that the adventure is assuming a very agreeable
"I think so, also," replied Albert; "and I very much fear
you will go alone to the Duke of Bracciano's ball." Franz
and Albert had received that morning an invitation from the
celebrated Roman banker. "Take care, Albert," said Franz.
"All the nobility of Rome will be present, and if your fair
incognita belong to the higher class of society, she must go
"Whether she goes there or not, my opinion is still the
same," returned Albert. "You have read the letter?"
"You know how imperfectly the women of the mezzo cito are
educated in Italy?" (This is the name of the lower class.)
"Well, read the letter again. Look at the writing, and find
if you can, any blemish in the language or orthography."
(The writing was, in reality, charming, and the orthography
irreproachable.) "You are born to good fortune," said Franz,
as he returned the letter.
"Laugh as much as you will," replied Albert, "I am in love."
"You alarm me," cried Franz. "I see that I shall not only go
alone to the Duke of Bracciano's, but also return to
"If my unknown be as amiable as she is beautiful," said
Albert, "I shall fix myself at Rome for six weeks, at least.
I adore Rome, and I have always had a great taste for
"Come, two or three more such adventures, and I do not
despair of seeing you a member of the Academy." Doubtless
Albert was about to discuss seriously his right to the
academic chair when they were informed that dinner was
ready. Albert's love had not taken away his appetite. He
hastened with Franz to seat himself, free to recommence the
discussion after dinner. After dinner, the Count of Monte
Cristo was announced. They had not seen him for two days.
Signor Pastrini informed them that business had called him
to Civita Vecchia. He had started the previous evening, and
had only returned an hour since. He was charming. Whether he
kept a watch over himself, or whether by accident he did not
sound the acrimonious chords that in other circumstances had
been touched, he was to-night like everybody else. The man
was an enigma to Franz. The count must feel sure that Franz
recognized him; and yet he had not let fall a single word
indicating any previous acquaintance between them. On his
side, however great Franz's desire was to allude to their
former interview, the fear of being disagreeable to the man
who had loaded him and his friend with kindness prevented
him from mentioning it. The count had learned that the two
friends had sent to secure a box at the Argentina Theatre,
and were told they were all let. In consequence, he brought
them the key of his own -- at least such was the apparent
motive of his visit. Franz and Albert made some difficulty,
alleging their fear of depriving him of it; but the count
replied that, as he was going to the Palli Theatre, the box
at the Argentina Theatre would he lost if they did not
profit by it. This assurance determined the two friends to
Franz had by degrees become accustomed to the count's
pallor, which had so forcibly struck him at their first
meeting. He could not refrain from admiring the severe
beauty of his features, the only defect, or rather the
principal quality of which was the pallor. Truly, a Byronic
hero! Franz could not, we will not say see him, but even
think of him without imagining his stern head upon Manfred's
shoulders, or beneath Lara's helmet. His forehead was marked
with the line that indicates the constant presence of bitter
thoughts; he had the fiery eyes that seem to penetrate to
the very soul, and the haughty and disdainful upper lip that
gives to the words it utters a peculiar character that
impresses them on the minds of those to whom they are
addressed. The count was no longer young. He was at least
forty; and yet it was easy to understand that he was formed
to rule the young men with whom he associated at present.
And, to complete his resemblance with the fantastic heroes
of the English poet, the count seemed to have the power of
fascination. Albert was constantly expatiating on their good
fortune in meeting such a man. Franz was less enthusiastic;
but the count exercised over him also the ascendency a
strong mind always acquires over a mind less domineering. He
thought several times of the project the count had of
visiting Paris; and he had no doubt but that, with his
eccentric character, his characteristic face, and his
colossal fortune, he would produce a great effect there. And
yet he did not wish to be at Paris when the count was there.
The evening passed as evenings mostly pass at Italian
theatres; that is, not in listening to the music, but in
paying visits and conversing. The Countess G---- wished to
revive the subject of the count, but Franz announced he had
something far newer to tell her, and, in spite of Albert's
demonstrations of false modesty, he informed the countess of
the great event which had preoccupied them for the last
three days. As similar intrigues are not uncommon in Italy,
if we may credit travellers, the comtess did not manifest
the least incredulity, but congratulated Albert on his
success. They promised, upon separating, to meet at the Duke
of Bracciano's ball, to which all Rome was invited. The
heroine of the bouquet kept her word; she gave Albert no
sign of her existence the morrow or the day after.
At length Tuesday came, the last and most tumultuous day of
the Carnival. On Tuesday, the theatres open at ten o'clock
in the morning, as Lent begins after eight at night. On
Tuesday, all those who through want of money, time, or
enthusiasm, have not been to see the Carnival before, mingle
in the gayety, and contribute to the noise and excitement.
From two o'clock till five Franz and Albert followed in the
fete, exchanging handfuls of confetti with the other
carriages and the pedestrians, who crowded amongst the
horses' feet and the carriage wheels without a single
accident, a single dispute, or a single fight. The fetes are
veritable pleasure days to the Italians. The author of this
history, who has resided five or six years in Italy, does
not recollect to have ever seen a ceremony interrupted by
one of those events so common in other countries. Albert was
triumphant in his harlequin costume. A knot of rose-colored
ribbons fell from his shoulder almost to the ground. In
order that there might be no confusion, Franz wore his
As the day advanced, the tumult became greater. There was
not on the pavement, in the carriages, at the windows, a
single tongue that was silent, a single arm that did not
move. It was a human storm, made up of a thunder of cries,
and a hail of sweetmeats, flowers, eggs, oranges, and
nosegays. At three o'clock the sound of fireworks, let off
on the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Venezia (heard
with difficulty amid the din and confusion) announced that
the races were about to begin. The races, like the moccoli,
are one of the episodes peculiar to the last days of the
Carnival. At the sound of the fireworks the carriages
instantly broke ranks, and retired by the adjacent streets.
All these evolutions are executed with an inconceivable
address and marvellous rapidity, without the police
interfering in the matter. The pedestrians ranged themselves
against the walls; then the trampling of horses and the
clashing of steel were heard. A detachment of carbineers,
fifteen abreast, galloped up the Corso in order to clear it
for the barberi. When the detachment arrived at the Piazza
di Venezia, a second volley of fireworks was discharged, to
announce that the street was clear. Almost instantly, in the
midst of a tremendous and general outcry, seven or eight
horses, excited by the shouts of three hundred thousand
spectators, passed by like lightning. Then the Castle of
Saint Angelo fired three cannon to indicate that number
three had won. Immediately, without any other signal, the
carriages moved on, flowing on towards the Corso, down all
the streets, like torrents pent up for a while, which again
flow into the parent river; and the immense stream again
continued its course between its two granite banks.
A new source of noise and movement was added to the crowd.
The sellers of moccoletti entered on the scene. The moccoli,
or moccoletti, are candles which vary in size from the
pascal taper to the rushlight, and which give to each actor
in the great final scene of the Carnival two very serious
problems to grapple with, -- first, how to keep his own
moccoletto alight; and secondly, how to extinguish the
moccoletti of others. The moccoletto is like life: man has
found but one means of transmitting it, and that one comes
from God. But he has discovered a thousand means of taking
it away, and the devil has somewhat aided him. The
moccoletto is kindled by approaching it to a light. But who
can describe the thousand means of extinguishing the
moccoletto? -- the gigantic bellows, the monstrous
extinguishers, the superhuman fans. Every one hastened to
purchase moccoletti -- Franz and Albert among the rest.
The night was rapidly approaching; and already, at the cry
of "Moccoletti!" repeated by the shrill voices of a thousand
vendors, two or three stars began to burn among the crowd.
It was a signal. At the end of ten minutes fifty thousand
lights glittered, descending from the Palazzo di Venezia to
the Piazza del Popolo, and mounting from the Piazzo del
Popolo to the Palazzo di Venezia. It seemed like the fete of
jack-o'-lanterns. It is impossible to form any idea of it
without having seen it. Suppose that all the stars had
descended from the sky and mingled in a wild dance on the
face of the earth; the whole accompanied by cries that were
never heard in any other part of the world. The facchino
follows the prince, the Transteverin the citizen, every one
blowing, extinguishing, relighting. Had old AEolus appeared
at this moment, he would have been proclaimed king of the
moccoli, and Aquilo the heir-presumptive to the throne. This
battle of folly and flame continued for two hours; the Corso
was light as day; the features of the spectators on the
third and fourth stories were visible. Every five minutes
Albert took out his watch; at length it pointed to seven.
The two friends were in the Via dei Pontefici. Albert sprang
out, bearing his moccoletto in his hand. Two or three masks
strove to knock his moccoletto out of his hand; but Albert,
a first-rate pugilist, sent them rolling in the street, one
after the other, and continued his course towards the church
of San Giacomo. The steps were crowded with masks, who
strove to snatch each other's torches. Franz followed Albert
with his eyes, and saw him mount the first step. Instantly a
mask, wearing the well-known costume of a peasant woman,
snatched his moccoletto from him without his offering any
resistance. Franz was too far off to hear what they said;
but, without doubt, nothing hostile passed, for he saw
Albert disappear arm-in-arm with the peasant girl. He
watched them pass through the crowd for some time, but at
length he lost sight of them in the Via Macello. Suddenly
the bell that gives the signal for the end of the carnival
sounded, and at the same instant all the moccoletti were
extinguished as if by enchantment. It seemed as though one
immense blast of the wind had extinguished every one. Franz
found himself in utter darkness. No sound was audible save
that of the carriages that were carrying the maskers home;
nothing was visible save a few lights that burnt behind the
windows. The Carnival was over.