Corilla had kept her word. She had sent to Alexis Orloff, Carlo’s brother, Joseph Ribas, the galley-slave, and with a malicious smile she had said to the latter, “You will avenge me on your treacherous brother?”
Count Orloff warmly welcomed Corilla’s protege.
“If you give me satisfaction,” said he, “you may expect a royal recompense, and the favor of the exalted Empress of Russia. First of all, tell me what you can do?”
“Not much,” said Joseph Ribas, laughing, “and the little I can will yet be condemned as too much. I can very dexterously wield the dagger, and reach the heart through the back! Because I did that to a successful rival at Palermo, I was compelled by the police to flee to Naples. There a good friend taught me how to make counterfeit money, an art which I brought to some perfection, and which I successfully practised for some years. But the police, thinking my skill too great, finally relieved me from my employment, and gave me free board and lodging for ten years in the galley. Ah, that was a happy time, your excellency. I learned much in the galleys, and something which I can now turn to account in your service. I learned to speak the Russian language like a native of Moscow. Such a one was for seven years my inseparable friend and chain-companion, and as he was too stupid or too lazy to learn my language, I was forced to learn his, that I might be able to converse with him a little. That, your excellency, is about all I know; to wield the dagger, make counterfeit money, speak the Russian language, and some other trifling tricks, which, however, may be of service to your excellency.”
“Who knows?” said Orloff, laughing. “Do you understand, for example, how to break into a house and steal gold and diamonds, without being caught in the act?”
“That,” said Joseph, thoughtfully, “I should hope to be able to accomplish. I have, indeed, as yet, had no experience in that line, but in the galleys I have listened to the soundest instructions, and heard the experiences of the greatest master of that art, with the curiosity of an emulous student!”
Orloff laughed. “You are a sly fellow,” said he, “and please me much. If you act as well as you talk, we shall soon be good friends! Well, to-morrow night you make your first essay. The business is an invasion.”
“And that shall be my masterpiece!” responded Joseph Ribas.
“If you succeed, I will, in the name of my illustrious empress, immediately take you into her service, and you become an officer of the Russian marine.”
Joseph Ribas stared at him with astonishment. “That is certainly an immense honor and a great good fortune,” said he, “only I should like to know if the Russian marine engages in sea-fights, and if the officers are obliged to stand under fire?”
“Yes, indeed,” cried Orloff, laughing, “but in such cases you can conceal yourself behind the cannon until the fight is over!”