“He is not pursued by the law,” I continued, noting his hesitation. “He is simply involved in a cruel difficulty brought upon him by his own family—he seeks to escape from unjust persecution.”
Andrea’s brow cleared.
“Oh, if that is the case, eccellenza, I am at your service. But where does your friend desire to go?”
I paused for a moment and considered.
“To Civita Vecchia,” I said at last, “from that port he can obtain a ship to take him to his further destination.”
The captain’s expressive face fell—he looked very dubious.
“To Civita Vecchia is a long way, a very long way,” he said, regretfully; “and it is the bad season, and there are cross currents and contrary winds. With all the wish in the world to please you, eccellenza, I dare not run the ‘Laura’ so far; but there is another means—”
And interrupting himself he considered awhile in silence. I waited patiently for him to speak.
“Whether it would suit your friend I know not,” he said at last, laying his hand confidentially on my arm, “but there is a stout brig leaving here for Civita Vecchia on Friday morning next—”
“The day after Giovedi Grasso?” I queried, with a smile he did not understand. He nodded.
“Exactly so. She carries a cargo of Lacrima Cristi, and she is a swift sailer. I know her captain—he is a good soul; but,” and Andrea laughed lightly, “he is like the rest of us—he loves money. You do not count the francs—no, they are nothing to you—but we look to the soldi. Now, if it please you I will make him a certain offer of passage money, as large as you shall choose, also I will tell him when to expect his one passenger, and I can almost promise you that he will not say no!”
This proposal fitted in so excellently with my plans that I accepted it, and at once named an exceptionally munificent sum for the passage required. Andrea’s eyes glistened as he heard.
“It is a little fortune!” he cried, enthusiastically. “Would that I could earn as much in twenty voyages! But one should not be churlish—such luck cannot fall in all men’s way.”
“And do you think, amico, I will suffer you to go unrewarded?” I said. And placing two twenty-franc pieces in his brown palm I added, “As you rightly said, francs are nothing to me. Arrange this little matter without difficulty, and you shall not be forgotten. You can call at my hotel to-morrow or the next day, when you have settled everything—here is the address,” and I penciled it on my card and gave it to him; “but remember, this is a secret matter, and I rely upon you to explain it as such to your friend who commands the brig going to Civita Vecchia. He must ask no questions of his passenger— the more silence the more discretion—and when once he has landed him at his destination he will do well to straightway forget all about him. You understand?”