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Marie Corelli
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 420 pages of information about Vendetta.

And I meditated for some minutes on this strange affair If, indeed—­ and I saw no reason to doubt it—­I had chanced to find some of the spoils of the redoubtable Neri, this great chest must have been brought over by sea from Palermo.  Probably four stout rascals had carried the supposed coffin in a mock solemn procession, under the pretense of its containing the body of a comrade.  These thieves have a high sense of humor.  Yet the question remained to be solved—­How had they gained access to my ancestral vault, unless by means of a false key?  All at once I was left in darkness, My candle went out as though blown upon by a gust of air.  I had my matches, and of course could easily light it again, but I was puzzled to imagine the cause of its sudden extinction.  I looked about me in the temporary gloom and saw, to my surprise, a ray of light proceeding from a corner of the very niche where I had fixed the candle between two stones.  I approached and put my hand to the place; a strong draught blew through a hole large enough to admit the passage of three fingers.  I quickly relighted my torch, and examining this hole and the back of the niche attentively, found that four blocks of granite in the wall had been removed and their places supplied by thick square logs cut from the trunks of trees.  These logs were quite loosely fitted.  I took them out easily one by one, and then came upon a close pile of brushwood.  As I gradually cleared this away a large aperture disclosed itself wide enough for any man to pass through without trouble.  My heart beat with the rapture of expected liberty; I clambered up—­I looked—­thank God!  I saw the landscape—­the sky!  In two minutes I stood outside the vault on the soft grass, with the high arch of heaven above me, and the broad Bay of Naples glittering deliciously before my eyes!  I clapped my hands and shouted for pure joy!  I was free!  Free to return to life, to love, to the arms of my beautiful Nina—­free to resume the pleasant course of existence on the gladsome earth—­free to forget, if I could, the gloomy horrors of my premature burial.  If Carmelo Neri had heard the blessings I heaped upon his head—­he would for once have deemed himself a saint rather than a brigand.  What did I not owe to the glorious ruffian!  Fortune and freedom! for it was evident that this secret passage into the Romani vault had been cunningly contrived by himself or his followers for their own private purposes.  Seldom has any man been more grateful to his best benefactor than I was to the famous thief upon whose grim head, as I knew, a price had been set for many months.  The poor wretch was in hiding.  Well! the authorities should get no aid from me, I resolved; even if I were to discover his whereabouts.  Why should I betray him?  He had unconsciously done more for me than my best friend.  Nay, what friends will you find at all in the world when you need substantial good?  Few, or none.  Touch the purse—­test the heart!

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