Chapter 114 Peppino
THE same time that the steamer disappeared behind Cape Morgion, a man
travelling post on the road from Florence to Rome had just passed the
little town of Aquapendente. He was travelling fast enough to cover a
great deal of ground without exciting suspicion. This man was dressed in a
greatcoat, or rather a surtout, a little worse for the journey, but which
exhibited the ribbon of the Legion of Honor still fresh and brilliant, a
decoration which also ornamented the under coat. He might be recognized,
not only by these signs, but also from the accent with which he spoke to
the postilion, as a Frenchman. Another proof that he was a native of the
universal country was apparent in the fact of his knowing no other Italian
words than the terms used in music, and which like the "goddam"
of Figaro, served all possible linguistic requirements.
he called out to the postilions at every ascent. "Moderato!" he
cried as they descended. And heaven knows there are hills enough between
Rome and Florence by the way of Aquapendente! These two words greatly
amused the men to whom they were addressed. On reaching La Storta, the
point from whence Rome is first visible, the traveller evinced none of the
enthusiastic curiosity which usually leads strangers to stand up and
endeavor to catch sight of the dome of St. Peter's, which may be seen long
before any other object is distinguishable. No, he merely drew a
pocketbook from his pocket, and took from it a paper folded in four, and
after having examined it in a manner almost reverential, he
said--"Good! I have it still!"
carriage entered by the Porto del Popolo, turned to the left, and stopped
at the H?tel d'Espagne. Old Pastrini, our former acquaintance, received
the traveller at the door, hat in hand. The traveller alighted, ordered a
good dinner, and inquired the address of the house of Thomson &
French, which was immediately given to him, as it was one of the most
celebrated in Rome. It was situated 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 and the Gracchi, barefooted and out
at elbows, with one hand resting on the hip and the other gracefully
curved above the head, stared at the traveller, the post-chaise, and the
horses; to these were added about fifty little vagabonds from the Papal
States, who earned a pittance by diving into the Tiber at high water from
the bridge of St. Angelo. Now, as these street Arabs of Rome, more
fortunate than those of Paris, understand every language, more especially
the French, they heard the traveller order an apartment, a dinner, and
finally inquire the way to the house of Thomson & French. The result
was that when the new-comer left the hotel with the cicerone, a man
detached himself from the rest of the idlers, and without having been seen
by the traveller, and appearing to excite no attention from the guide,
followed the stranger with as much skill as a Parisian police agent would
Frenchman had been so impatient to reach the house of Thomson & French
that he would not wait for the horses to be harnessed, but left word for
the carriage 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 in the anteroom his guide, who immediately entered into
conversation with two or three of the industrious idlers who are always to
be found in Rome at the doors of banking-houses, churches, museums, or
theatres. With the Frenchman, the man who had followed him entered too;
the Frenchman knocked at the inner door, and entered the first room; his
shadow did the same.
Thomson & French?" inquired the stranger.
attendant arose at a sign from a confidential clerk at the first desk.
"Whom shall I announce?" said the attendant.
me," said the man. A door opened, through which the attendant and the
baron disappeared. The man who had followed Danglars sat down on a bench.
The clerk continued to write for the next five minutes; the man preserved
profound silence, and remained perfectly motionless. Then the pen of the
clerk ceased to move over the paper; he raised his head, and appearing to
be perfectly sure of privacy,--"Ah, ha," he said, "here you
was the laconic reply. "You have found out that there is something
worth having about this large gentleman?"
is no great merit due to me, for we were informed of it."
know his business here, then."
he has come to draw, but I don't know how much!"
will know presently, my friend."
well, only do not give me false information as you did the other
do you mean?--of whom do you speak? Was it the Englishman who carried off
3,000 crowns from here the other day?"
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."
must have searched badly."
Vampa himself searched."
But you must let me make my observations, or the Frenchman will transact
his business without my knowing the sum." Peppino nodded, and taking
a rosary from his pocket began to mutter a few prayers while the clerk
disappeared through the same door by which Danglars and the attendant had
gone out. At the expiration of ten minutes the clerk returned with a
beaming countenance. "Well?" asked Peppino of his friend.
joy--the sum is large!"
or six millions, is it not?"
you know the amount."
the receipt of the Count of Monte Cristo?"
how came you to be so well acquainted with all this?"
told you we were informed beforehand."
why do you apply to me?"
I may be sure I have the right man."
it is indeed he. Five millions--a pretty sum, eh, Peppino?"
is our man!" The clerk seized his pen, and Peppino his beads; one was
writing and the other praying when the door opened. Danglars looked
radiant with joy; the banker accompanied him to the door. Peppino followed
to the arrangements, the carriage was waiting at the door. The guide held
the door open. Guides are useful people, who will turn their hands to
anything. Danglars leaped into the carriage like a young man of twenty.
The cicerone reclosed the door, and sprang up by the side of the coachman.
Peppino mounted the seat behind.
your excellency visit St. Peter's?" asked the cicerone.
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, in which he had just placed a letter.
your excellency is going"--
Pastrini!" said the cicerone to the coachman, and the carriage drove
rapidly on. Ten minutes afterwards the baron entered his apartment, and
Peppino stationed himself on the bench outside the door of the hotel,
after having whispered something in the ear of one of the descendants of
Marius and the Gracchi whom we noticed at the beginning of the chapter,
who immediately ran down the road leading to the Capitol at his fullest
speed. Danglars was tired and sleepy; he therefore went to bed, placing
his pocketbook under his pillow. Peppino had a little spare time, so he
had a game of mora with the facchini, lost three crowns, and then to
console himself drank a bottle of Orvieto.
next morning Danglars awoke late, though he went to bed so early; he had
not slept well for five or six nights, even if he had slept at all. He
breakfasted heartily, and caring little, as he said, for the beauties of
the Eternal City, ordered post-horses at noon. But Danglars had not
reckoned upon the formalities of the police and the idleness of the
posting-master. The horses only arrived at two o'clock, and the cicerone
did not bring the passport till three. All these preparations had
collected a number of idlers round the door of Signor Pastrini's; the
descendants of Marius and the Gracchi were also not wanting. The baron
walked triumphantly through the crowd, who for the sake of gain styled him
"your excellency." As Danglars had hitherto contented himself
with being called a baron, he felt rather flattered at the title of
excellency, and distributed a dozen silver coins among the beggars, who
were ready, for twelve more, to call him "your highness."
road?" asked the postilion in Italian. "The Ancona road,"
replied the baron. Signor Pastrini interpreted the question and answer,
and the horses galloped off. Danglars intended travelling to Venice, where
he would receive one part of his fortune, and then proceeding to Vienna,
where he would find the rest, he meant to take up his residence in the
latter town, which he had been told was a city of pleasure.
had scarcely advanced three leagues out of Rome when daylight began to
disappear. Danglars had not intended starting so late, or he would have
remained; he put his head out and asked the postilion how long it would be
before they reached the next town.
capisco" (do not understand), was the reply.
bent his head, which he meant to imply, "Very well."
carriage again moved on.
will stop at the first posting-house," said Danglars to himself.
still felt the same self-satisfaction which he had experienced the
previous evening, and which had procured him so good a night's rest. He
was luxuriously stretched in a good English calash, with double springs;
he was drawn by four good horses, at full gallop; he knew the relay to be
at a distance of seven leagues. What subject of meditation could present
itself to the banker, so fortunately become bankrupt?
thought for ten minutes about his wife in Paris; another ten minutes about
his daughter travelling with Mademoiselle d'Armilly; the same period was
given to his creditors, and the manner in which he intended spending their
money; 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 to open his eyes; then he felt that he was still being carried
with great rapidity over the same country, thickly strewn with broken
aqueducts, which looked like granite giants petrified while running a
race. But the night was cold, dull, and rainy, and it was much more
pleasant for a traveller to remain in the warm carriage than to put his
head out of the window to make inquiries of a postilion whose only answer
was "Non capisco."
therefore continued to sleep, saying to himself that he would be sure to
awake at the posting-house. The carriage stopped. Danglars fancied that
they had reached the long-desired point; he opened his eyes and looked
through the window, expecting to find himself in the midst of some town,
or at least village; but he saw nothing except what seemed like a ruin,
where three or four men went and came like shadows. Danglars waited a
moment, expecting the postilion to come and demand payment with the
termination of his stage. He intended taking advantage of the opportunity
to make fresh inquiries of the new conductor; but the horses were
unharnessed, and others put in their places, without any one claiming
money from the traveller. Danglars, astonished, opened the door; but a
strong hand pushed him back, and the carriage rolled on. The baron was
completely roused. "Eh?" he said to the postilion, "eh, mio
was another little piece of Italian the baron had learned from hearing his
daughter sing Italian duets with Cavalcanti. But mio caro did not reply.
Danglars then opened the window.
my friend," he said, thrusting his hand through the opening,
"where are we going?"
la testa!" answered a solemn and imperious voice, accompanied by a
menacing gesture. Danglars thought dentro la testa meant, "Put in
your head!" He was making rapid progress in Italian. He obeyed, not
without some uneasiness, which, momentarily increasing, caused his mind,
instead of being as unoccupied as it was when he began his journey, to
fill with ideas which were very likely to keep a traveller awake, more
especially one in such a situation as Danglars. His eyes acquired that
quality which in the first moment of strong emotion enables them to see
distinctly, and which afterwards fails from being too much taxed. Before
we are alarmed, we see correctly; when we are alarmed, we see double; and
when we have been alarmed, we see nothing but trouble. Danglars observed a
man in a cloak galloping at the right hand of the carriage.
gendarme!" he exclaimed. "Can I have been intercepted by French
telegrams to the pontifical authorities?" He resolved to end his
anxiety. "Where are you taking me?" he asked. "Dentro la
testa," replied the same voice, with the same menacing accent.
turned to the left; another man on horseback was galloping on that side.
"Decidedly," said Danglars, with the perspiration on his
forehead, "I must be under arrest." And he threw himself back in
the calash, not this time to sleep, but to think. Directly afterwards the
moon rose. He then saw the great aqueducts, those stone phantoms which he
had before remarked, only then they were on the right hand, now they were
on the left. He understood that they had described a circle, and were
bringing him back to Rome. "Oh, unfortunate!" he cried,
"they must have obtained my arrest." The carriage continued to
roll on with frightful speed. An hour of terror elapsed, for every spot
they passed showed that they were on the road back. At length he saw 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
Danglars saw that it was one of the ramparts encircling Rome.
dieu!" cried Danglars, "we are not returning to Rome; then it is
not justice which is pursuing me! Gracious heavens; another idea presents
itself--what if they should be"--
hair stood on end. He remembered those interesting stories, so little
believed in Paris, respecting Roman bandits; he remembered the adventures
that Albert de Morcerf had related when it was intended that he should
marry Mademoiselle Eugénie. "They are robbers,
perhaps," he muttered. Just then the carriage rolled on something
harder than gravel road. Danglars hazarded a look on both sides of the
road, and perceived monuments of a singular form, and his mind now
recalled all the details Morcerf had related, and comparing them with his
own situation, he felt sure that he must be on the Appian Way. On the
left, in a sort of valley, he perceived a circular excavation. It was
Caracalla's circus. On a word from the man who rode at the side of the
carriage, it stopped. At the same time the door was opened.
exclaimed a commanding voice. Danglars instantly descended; although he
did not yet speak Italian, he understood it very well. More dead than
alive, he looked around him. Four men surrounded him, besides the
said one of the men, descending a little path leading out of the Appian
Way. Danglars followed his guide without opposition, and had no occasion
to turn around to see whether the three others were following him. Still
it appeared as though they were stationed at equal distances from one
another, like sentinels. After walking for about ten minutes, during which
Danglars did not exchange a single word with his guide, he found himself
between 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 his
tongue refused to move.
said the same sharp and imperative voice.
time Danglars had double reason to understand, for if the word and gesture
had not explained the speaker's meaning, it was clearly expressed by the
man walking behind him, who pushed him so rudely that he struck against
the guide. This guide was our friend Peppino, who dashed into the thicket
of high weeds, through a path which none but lizards or polecats could
have imagined to be an open road. Peppino stopped before a pit overhung by
thick hedges; the pit, half open, afforded a passage to the young man, who
disappeared like the evil spirits in the fairy tales. The voice and
gesture of the man who followed Danglars ordered him to do the same. There
was no longer any doubt, the bankrupt was in the hands of Roman banditti.
Danglars acquitted himself like a man placed between two dangerous
positions, and who is rendered brave by fear. Notwithstanding his large
stomach, certainly not intended to penetrate the fissures of the Campagna,
he slid down like Peppino, and closing his eyes fell upon his feet. As he
touched the ground, he opened his eyes. The path was wide, but dark.
Peppino, who cared little for being recognized now that he was in his own
territories, struck a light and lit a torch. Two other men descended after
Danglars forming the rearguard, and pushing Danglars whenever he happened
to stop, they came by a gentle declivity to the intersection of two
corridors. The walls were hollowed out in sepulchres, one above the other,
and which seemed in contrast with the white stones to open their large
dark eyes, like those which we see on the faces of the dead. A sentinel
struck the rings of his carbine against his left hand. "Who comes
there?" he cried.
friend, a friend!" said Peppino; "but where is the
said the sentinel, pointing over his shoulder to a spacious crypt,
hollowed out of the rock, the lights from which shone into the passage
through the large arched openings. "Fine spoil, captain, fine
spoil!" said Peppino in Italian, and taking Danglars by the collar of
his coat he dragged him to an opening resembling a door, through which
they entered the apartment which the captain appeared to have made his
this the man?" asked the captain, who was attentively reading
Plutarch's Life of Alexander.
well, show him to me." At this rather impertinent order, Peppino
raised his torch to the face of Danglars, who hastily withdrew that he
might not have his eyelashes burnt. His agitated features presented the
appearance of pale and hideous terror. "The man is tired," said
the captain, "conduct him to his bed."
murmured Danglars," that bed is probably one of the coffins hollowed
in the wall, and the sleep I shall enjoy will be death from one of the
poniards I see glistening in the darkness."
their beds of dried leaves or wolf-skins at the back of the chamber now
arose the companions of the man who had been found by Albert de Morcerf
reading C?sar's Commentaries, and by Danglars studying the Life of
Alexander. The banker uttered a groan and followed his guide; he neither
supplicated nor exclaimed. He no longer possessed strength, will, power,
or feeling; he followed where they led him. At length he found himself at
the foot 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 striking his 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 the earth. 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 of safety. "Oh, God be
praised," he said; "it is a real bed!"
said the guide, and pushing Danglars into the cell, he closed the door
bolt grated and Danglars was a prisoner. If there had been no bolt, it
would have been impossible for him to pass through the midst of the
garrison who held the catacombs of St. Sebastian, encamped round a master
whom our readers must have recognized as the famous Luigi Vampa. Danglars,
too, had recognized the bandit, whose existence he would not believe when
Albert de Morcerf mentioned him in Paris; and not only did he recognize
him, but the cell in which Albert had been confined, and which was
probably kept for the accommodation of strangers. These recollections were
dwelt upon with some pleasure by Danglars, and restored him to some degree
of tranquillity. Since the bandits had not despatched him at once, he felt
that they would not kill him at all. They had arrested him for the purpose
of robbery, and as he had only a few louis about him, he doubted not he
would be ransomed. He remembered that Morcerf had been taxed at 4,000
crowns, and as he considered himself of much 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 about 5,050,000 francs left.
With this sum he could manage to keep out of difficulties. Therefore,
tolerably secure in being able to extricate himself from his position,
provided he were not rated at the unreasonable sum of 5,050,000 francs, he
stretched himself on his bed, and after turning over two or three times,
fell asleep with the tranquillity of the hero whose life Luigi Vampa was