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Chapter 114 Peppino.

  • At the same time that the steamer disappeared behind Cape Morgion, a ma_ravelling post on the road from Florence to Rome had just passed the littl_own of Aquapendente. He was travelling fast enough to cover a great deal o_round without exciting suspicion. This man was dressed in a greatcoat, o_ather a surtout, a little worse for the journey, but which exhibited th_ibbon of the Legion of Honor still fresh and brilliant, a decoration whic_lso ornamented the under coat. He might be recognized, not only by thes_igns, but also from the accent with which he spoke to the postilion, as _renchman. Another proof that he was a native of the universal country wa_pparent in the fact of his knowing no other Italian words than the terms use_n music, and which like the "goddam" of Figaro, served all possibl_inguistic requirements. "Allegro!" he called out to the postilions at ever_scent. "Moderato!" he cried as they descended. And heaven knows there ar_ills enough between Rome and Florence by the way of Aquapendente! These tw_ords greatly amused the men to whom they were addressed. On reaching L_torta, the point from whence Rome is first visible, the traveller evince_one of the enthusiastic curiosity which usually leads strangers to stand u_nd endeavor to catch sight of the dome of St. Peter's, which may be seen lon_efore any other object is distinguishable. No, he merely drew a pocketboo_rom his pocket, and took from it a paper folded in four, and after havin_xamined it in a manner almost reverential, he said — "Good! I have it still!"
  • The carriage entered by the Porto del Popolo, turned to the left, and stoppe_t the Hotel d'Espagne. Old Pastrini, our former acquaintance, received th_raveller at the door, hat in hand. The traveller alighted, ordered a goo_inner, and inquired the address of the house of Thomson & French, which wa_mmediately given to him, as it was one of the most celebrated in Rome. It wa_ituated in the Via dei Banchi, near St. Peter's. In Rome, as everywhere else, the arrival of a post-chaise is an event. Ten young descendants of Marius an_he Gracchi, barefooted and out at elbows, with one hand resting on the hi_nd the other gracefully curved above the head, stared at the traveller, th_ost-chaise, and the horses; to these were added about fifty little vagabond_rom the Papal States, who earned a pittance by diving into the Tiber at hig_ater from the bridge of St. Angelo. Now, as these street Arabs of Rome, mor_ortunate than those of Paris, understand every language, more especially th_rench, they heard the traveller order an apartment, a dinner, and finall_nquire the way to the house of Thomson & French. The result was that when th_ew-comer left the hotel with the cicerone, a man detached himself from th_est of the idlers, and without having been seen by the traveller, an_ppearing to excite no attention from the guide, followed the stranger with a_uch skill as a Parisian police agent would have used.
  • The Frenchman had been so impatient to reach the house of Thomson & Frenc_hat he would not wait for the horses to be harnessed, but left word for th_arriage to overtake him on the road, or to wait for him at the bankers' door.
  • He reached it before the carriage arrived. The Frenchman entered, leaving i_he anteroom his guide, who immediately entered into conversation with two o_hree of the industrious idlers who are always to be found in Rome at th_oors of banking-houses, churches, museums, or theatres. With the Frenchman, the man who had followed him entered too; the Frenchman knocked at the inne_oor, and entered the first room; his shadow did the same.
  • "Messrs. Thomson & French?" inquired the stranger.
  • An attendant arose at a sign from a confidential clerk at the first desk.
  • "Whom shall I announce?" said the attendant.
  • "Baron Danglars."
  • "Follow me," said the man. A door opened, through which the attendant and th_aron disappeared. The man who had followed Danglars sat down on a bench. Th_lerk continued to write for the next five minutes; the man preserved profoun_ilence, and remained perfectly motionless. Then the pen of the clerk cease_o move over the paper; he raised his head, and appearing to be perfectly sur_f privacy, — "Ah, ha," he said, "here you are, Peppino!"
  • "Yes," was the laconic reply. "You have found out that there is somethin_orth having about this large gentleman?"
  • "There is no great merit due to me, for we were informed of it."
  • "You know his business here, then."
  • "Pardieu, he has come to draw, but I don't know how much!"
  • "You will know presently, my friend."
  • "Very well, only do not give me false information as you did the other day."
  • "What do you mean? — of whom do you speak? Was it the Englishman who carrie_ff 3,000 crowns from here the other day?"
  • "No; he really had 3,000 crowns, and we found them. I mean the Russian prince, who you said had 30,000 livres, and we only found 22,000."
  • "You must have searched badly."
  • "Luigi Vampa himself searched."
  • "Indeed? But you must let me make my observations, or the Frenchman wil_ransact his business without my knowing the sum." Peppino nodded, and takin_ rosary from his pocket began to mutter a few prayers while the cler_isappeared through the same door by which Danglars and the attendant had gon_ut. At the expiration of ten minutes the clerk returned with a beamin_ountenance. "Well?" asked Peppino of his friend.
  • "Joy, joy — the sum is large!"
  • "Five or six millions, is it not?"
  • "Yes, you know the amount."
  • "On the receipt of the Count of Monte Cristo?"
  • "Why, how came you to be so well acquainted with all this?"
  • "I told you we were informed beforehand."
  • "Then why do you apply to me?"
  • "That I may be sure I have the right man."
  • "Yes, it is indeed he. Five millions — a pretty sum, eh, Peppino?"
  • "Hush — here is our man!" The clerk seized his pen, and Peppino his beads; on_as writing and the other praying when the door opened. Danglars looke_adiant with joy; the banker accompanied him to the door. Peppino followe_anglars.
  • According to the arrangements, the carriage was waiting at the door. The guid_eld the door open. Guides are useful people, who will turn their hands t_nything. Danglars leaped into the carriage like a young man of twenty. Th_icerone reclosed the door, and sprang up by the side of the coachman. Peppin_ounted the seat behind.
  • "Will your excellency visit St. Peter's?" asked the cicerone.
  • "I did not come to Rome to see," said Danglars aloud; then he added softly, with an avaricious smile, "I came to touch!" and he rapped his pocket-book, i_hich he had just placed a letter.
  • "Then your excellency is going" —
  • "To the hotel."
  • "Casa Pastrini!" said the cicerone to the coachman, and the carriage drov_apidly on. Ten minutes afterwards the baron entered his apartment, an_eppino stationed himself on the bench outside the door of the hotel, afte_aving whispered something in the ear of one of the descendants of Marius an_he Gracchi whom we noticed at the beginning of the chapter, who immediatel_an down the road leading to the Capitol at his fullest speed. Danglars wa_ired and sleepy; he therefore went to bed, placing his pocketbook under hi_illow. Peppino had a little spare time, so he had a game of mora with th_acchini, lost three crowns, and then to console himself drank a bottle o_rvieto.
  • The next morning Danglars awoke late, though he went to bed so early; he ha_ot slept well for five or six nights, even if he had slept at all. H_reakfasted heartily, and caring little, as he said, for the beauties of th_ternal City, ordered post-horses at noon. But Danglars had not reckoned upo_he formalities of the police and the idleness of the posting-master. Th_orses only arrived at two o'clock, and the cicerone did not bring th_assport till three. All these preparations had collected a number of idler_ound the door of Signor Pastrini's; the descendants of Marius and the Gracch_ere also not wanting. The baron walked triumphantly through the crowd, wh_or the sake of gain styled him "your excellency." As Danglars had hithert_ontented himself with being called a baron, he felt rather flattered at th_itle of excellency, and distributed a dozen silver coins among the beggars, who were ready, for twelve more, to call him "your highness."
  • "Which road?" asked the postilion in Italian. "The Ancona road," replied th_aron. Signor Pastrini interpreted the question and answer, and the horse_alloped off. Danglars intended travelling to Venice, where he would receiv_ne part of his fortune, and then proceeding to Vienna, where he would fin_he rest, he meant to take up his residence in the latter town, which he ha_een told was a city of pleasure.
  • He had scarcely advanced three leagues out of Rome when daylight began t_isappear. Danglars had not intended starting so late, or he would hav_emained; he put his head out and asked the postilion how long it would b_efore they reached the next town. "Non capisco" (do not understand), was th_eply. Danglars bent his head, which he meant to imply, "Very well." Th_arriage again moved on. "I will stop at the first posting-house," sai_anglars to himself.
  • He still felt the same self-satisfaction which he had experienced the previou_vening, and which had procured him so good a night's rest. He was luxuriousl_tretched in a good English calash, with double springs; he was drawn by fou_ood horses, at full gallop; he knew the relay to be at a distance of seve_eagues. What subject of meditation could present itself to the banker, s_ortunately become bankrupt?
  • Danglars thought for ten minutes about his wife in Paris; another ten minute_bout his daughter travelling with Mademoiselle d'Armilly; the same period wa_iven to his creditors, and the manner in which he intended spending thei_oney; and then, having no subject left for contemplation, he shut his eyes, and fell asleep. Now and then a jolt more violent than the rest caused him t_pen his eyes; then he felt that he was still being carried with grea_apidity over the same country, thickly strewn with broken aqueducts, whic_ooked like granite giants petrified while running a race. But the night wa_old, dull, and rainy, and it was much more pleasant for a traveller to remai_n the warm carriage than to put his head out of the window to make inquirie_f a postilion whose only answer was "Non capisco."
  • Danglars therefore continued to sleep, saying to himself that he would be sur_o awake at the posting-house. The carriage stopped. Danglars fancied tha_hey had reached the long-desired point; he opened his eyes and looked throug_he window, expecting to find himself in the midst of some town, or at leas_illage; but he saw nothing except what seemed like a ruin, where three o_our men went and came like shadows. Danglars waited a moment, expecting th_ostilion to come and demand payment with the termination of his stage. H_ntended taking advantage of the opportunity to make fresh inquiries of th_ew conductor; but the horses were unharnessed, and others put in thei_laces, without any one claiming money from the traveller. Danglars, astonished, opened the door; but a strong hand pushed him back, and th_arriage rolled on. The baron was completely roused. "Eh?" he said to th_ostilion, "eh, mio caro?"
  • This was another little piece of Italian the baron had learned from hearin_is daughter sing Italian duets with Cavalcanti. But mio caro did not reply.
  • Danglars then opened the window.
  • "Come, my friend," he said, thrusting his hand through the opening, "where ar_e going?"
  • "Dentro la testa!" answered a solemn and imperious voice, accompanied by _enacing gesture. Danglars thought dentro la testa meant, "Put in your head!"
  • He was making rapid progress in Italian. He obeyed, not without som_neasiness, which, momentarily increasing, caused his mind, instead of bein_s unoccupied as it was when he began his journey, to fill with ideas whic_ere very likely to keep a traveller awake, more especially one in such _ituation as Danglars. His eyes acquired that quality which in the firs_oment of strong emotion enables them to see distinctly, and which afterward_ails from being too much taxed. Before we are alarmed, we see correctly; whe_e are alarmed, we see double; and when we have been alarmed, we see nothin_ut trouble. Danglars observed a man in a cloak galloping at the right hand o_he carriage.
  • "Some gendarme!" he exclaimed. "Can I have been intercepted by Frenc_elegrams to the pontifical authorities?" He resolved to end his anxiety.
  • "Where are you taking me?" he asked. "Dentro la testa," replied the sam_oice, with the same menacing accent.
  • Danglars turned to the left; another man on horseback was galloping on tha_ide. "Decidedly," said Danglars, with the perspiration on his forehead, "_ust be under arrest." And he threw himself back in the calash, not this tim_o sleep, but to think. Directly afterwards the moon rose. He then saw th_reat aqueducts, those stone phantoms which he had before remarked, only the_hey were on the right hand, now they were on the left. He understood tha_hey had described a circle, and were bringing him back to Rome. "Oh, unfortunate!" he cried, "they must have obtained my arrest." The carriag_ontinued to roll on with frightful speed. An hour of terror elapsed, fo_very spot they passed showed that they were on the road back. At length h_aw a dark mass, against which it seemed as if the carriage was about to dash; but the vehicle turned to one side, leaving the barrier behind and Danglar_aw that it was one of the ramparts encircling Rome.
  • "Mon dieu!" cried Danglars, "we are not returning to Rome; then it is no_ustice which is pursuing me! Gracious heavens; another idea presents itself — what if they should be" —
  • His hair stood on end. He remembered those interesting stories, so littl_elieved in Paris, respecting Roman bandits; he remembered the adventures tha_lbert de Morcerf had related when it was intended that he should marr_ademoiselle Eugenie. "They are robbers, perhaps," he muttered. Just then th_arriage rolled on something harder than gravel road. Danglars hazarded a loo_n both sides of the road, and perceived monuments of a singular form, and hi_ind now recalled all the details Morcerf had related, and comparing them wit_is own situation, he felt sure that he must be on the Appian Way. On th_eft, in a sort of valley, he perceived a circular excavation. It wa_aracalla's circus. On a word from the man who rode at the side of th_arriage, it stopped. At the same time the door was opened. "Scendi!"
  • exclaimed a commanding voice. Danglars instantly descended; although he di_ot yet speak Italian, he understood it very well. More dead than alive, h_ooked around him. Four men surrounded him, besides the postilion.
  • "Di qua," said one of the men, descending a little path leading out of th_ppian Way. Danglars followed his guide without opposition, and had n_ccasion to turn around to see whether the three others were following him.
  • Still it appeared as though they were stationed at equal distances from on_nother, like sentinels. After walking for about ten minutes, during whic_anglars did not exchange a single word with his guide, he found himsel_etween a hillock and a clump of high weeds; three men, standing silent, formed a triangle, of which he was the centre. He wished to speak, but hi_ongue refused to move. "Avanti!" said the same sharp and imperative voice.
  • This time Danglars had double reason to understand, for if the word an_esture had not explained the speaker's meaning, it was clearly expressed b_he man walking behind him, who pushed him so rudely that he struck agains_he guide. This guide was our friend Peppino, who dashed into the thicket o_igh weeds, through a path which none but lizards or polecats could hav_magined to be an open road. Peppino stopped before a pit overhung by thic_edges; the pit, half open, afforded a passage to the young man, wh_isappeared like the evil spirits in the fairy tales. The voice and gesture o_he man who followed Danglars ordered him to do the same. There was no longe_ny doubt, the bankrupt was in the hands of Roman banditti. Danglars acquitte_imself like a man placed between two dangerous positions, and who is rendere_rave by fear. Notwithstanding his large stomach, certainly not intended t_enetrate the fissures of the Campagna, he slid down like Peppino, and closin_is eyes fell upon his feet. As he touched the ground, he opened his eyes. Th_ath was wide, but dark. Peppino, who cared little for being recognized no_hat he was in his own territories, struck a light and lit a torch. Two othe_en descended after Danglars forming the rearguard, and pushing Danglar_henever he happened to stop, they came by a gentle declivity to th_ntersection of two corridors. The walls were hollowed out in sepulchres, on_bove the other, and which seemed in contrast with the white stones to ope_heir large dark eyes, like those which we see on the faces of the dead. _entinel struck the rings of his carbine against his left hand. "Who come_here?" he cried.
  • "A friend, a friend!" said Peppino; "but where is the captain?"
  • "There," said the sentinel, pointing over his shoulder to a spacious crypt, hollowed out of the rock, the lights from which shone into the passage throug_he large arched openings. "Fine spoil, captain, fine spoil!" said Peppino i_talian, and taking Danglars by the collar of his coat he dragged him to a_pening resembling a door, through which they entered the apartment which th_aptain appeared to have made his dwelling-place.
  • "Is this the man?" asked the captain, who was attentively reading Plutarch's
  • "Life of Alexander."
  • "Himself, captain — himself."
  • "Very well, show him to me." At this rather impertinent order, Peppino raise_is torch to the face of Danglars, who hastily withdrew that he might not hav_is eyelashes burnt. His agitated features presented the appearance of pal_nd hideous terror. "The man is tired," said the captain, "conduct him to hi_ed."
  • "Oh," murmured Danglars," that bed is probably one of the coffins hollowed i_he wall, and the sleep I shall enjoy will be death from one of the poniards _ee glistening in the darkness."
  • From their beds of dried leaves or wolf-skins at the back of the chamber no_rose the companions of the man who had been found by Albert de Morcer_eading "Caesar's Commentaries," and by Danglars studying the "Life o_lexander." The banker uttered a groan and followed his guide; he neithe_upplicated nor exclaimed. He no longer possessed strength, will, power, o_eeling; he followed where they led him. At length he found himself at th_oot of a staircase, and he mechanically lifted his foot five or six times.
  • Then a low door was opened before him, and bending his head to avoid strikin_is forehead he entered a small room cut out of the rock. The cell was clean, though empty, and dry, though situated at an immeasurable distance under th_arth. A bed of dried grass covered with goat-skins was placed in one corner.
  • Danglars brightened up on beholding it, fancying that it gave some promise o_afety. "Oh, God be praised," he said; "it is a real bed!"
  • "Ecco!" said the guide, and pushing Danglars into the cell, he closed the doo_pon him. A bolt grated and Danglars was a prisoner. If there had been n_olt, it would have been impossible for him to pass through the midst of th_arrison who held the catacombs of St. Sebastian, encamped round a master who_ur readers must have recognized as the famous Luigi Vampa. Danglars, too, ha_ecognized the bandit, whose existence he would not believe when Albert d_orcerf mentioned him in Paris; and not only did he recognize him, but th_ell in which Albert had been confined, and which was probably kept for th_ccommodation of strangers. These recollections were dwelt upon with som_leasure by Danglars, and restored him to some degree of tranquillity. Sinc_he bandits had not despatched him at once, he felt that they would not kil_im at all. They had arrested him for the purpose of robbery, and as he ha_nly a few louis about him, he doubted not he would be ransomed. He remembere_hat Morcerf had been taxed at 4,000 crowns, and as he considered himself o_uch greater importance than Morcerf he fixed his own price at 8,000 crowns.
  • Eight thousand crowns amounted to 48,000 livres; he would then have abou_,050,000 francs left. With this sum he could manage to keep out o_ifficulties. Therefore, tolerably secure in being able to extricate himsel_rom his position, provided he were not rated at the unreasonable sum o_,050,000 francs, he stretched himself on his bed, and after turning over tw_r three times, fell asleep with the tranquillity of the hero whose life Luig_ampa was studying.