“A little, eccellenza,” he frankly confessed.
“I have suffered severe illness,” I said, quietly, “and my eyes are still weak, as you perceive,” and I touched my glasses. “But I shall get stronger in time. Can you come with me for a few moments? I want your help in a matter of importance.”
He nodded a ready assent and followed me.
We left the Molo, and paused at a retired street corner leading from the Chiaja.
“You remember Carmelo Neri?” I asked.
Andrea shrugged his shoulders with an air of infinite commiseration.
“Ah! povero diavolo! Well do I remember him! A bold fellow and brave, with a heart in him, too, if one did but know where to find it. And now he drags the chain! Well, well, no doubt it is what he deserves; but I say, and always will maintain, there are many worse men than Carmelo.”
I briefly related how I had seen the captured brigand in the square at Palermo and had spoken with him. “I mentioned you,” I added, “and he bade me tell you Teresa had killed herself.”
“Ah! that I well know,” said the little captain, who had listened to me intently, and over whose mobile face flitted a shadow of tender pity, as he sighed. “Poverinetta! So fragile and small! To think she had the force to plunge the knife in her breast! As well imagine a little bird flying down to pierce itself on an uplifted bayonet. Ay, ay! women will do strange things—and it is certain she loved Carmelo.”
“You would help him to escape again if you could, no doubt?” I inquired with a half smile.
The ready wit of the Sicilian instantly asserted itself.
“Not I, eccellenza,” he replied, with an air of dignity and most virtuous honesty. “No, no, not now. The law is the law, and I, Andrea Luziani, am not one to break it. No, Carmelo must take his punishment; it is for life they say—and hard as it seems, it is but just. When the little Teresa was in the question, look you, what could I do? but now—let the saints that choose help Carmelo, for I will not.”
I laughed as I met the audacious flash of his eyes; I knew, despite his protestations, that if Carmelo Neri ever did get clear of the galleys, it would be an excellent thing for him if Luziani’s vessel chanced to be within reach.
“You have your brig the ‘Laura’ still?” I asked him.
“Yes, eccellenza, the Madonna be praised! And she has been newly rigged and painted, and she is as trig and trim a craft as you can meet with in all the wide blue waters of the Mediterranean.”
“Now you see,” I sad, impressively, “I have a friend, a relative, who is in trouble: he wishes to get away from Naples quietly and in secret. Will you help him? You shall be paid whatever you think proper to demand.”
The Sicilian looked puzzled. He puffed meditatively at his cigar and remained silent.