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.
"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.