Satisfied that I had placed the brigand coffin in a safe position, I secured the pearl and diamond pendant I had first found, to the chain round my neck. I intended this ornament as a gift for my wife. Then, once more climbing through the aperture, I closed it completely with the logs and brushwood as it was before, and examining it narrowly from the outside, I saw that it was utterly impossible to discern the smallest hint of any entrance to a subterranean passage, so well and cunningly had it been contrived. Now, nothing more remained for me to do but to make the best of my way to the city, there to declare my identity, obtain food and clothes, and then to hasten with all possible speed to my own residence.
Standing on a little hillock, I looked about me to see which direction I should take. The cemetery was situated on the outskirts of Naples—Naples itself lay on my left hand. I perceived a sloping road winding in that direction, and judged that if I followed it it would lead me to the city suburbs. Without further hesitation I commenced my walk. It was now full day. My bare feet sunk deep in the dust that was hot as desert sand—the blazing sun beat down fiercely on my uncovered head, but I felt none of these discomforts; my heart was too full of gladness. I could have sung aloud for delight as I stepped swiftly along toward home—and Nina! I was aware of a great weakness in my limbs—my eyes and head ached with the strong dazzling light; occasionally, too, an icy shiver ran through me that made my teeth chatter. But I recognized these symptoms as the after effects of my so nearly fatal illness, and I paid no heed to them. A few weeks’ rest under my wife’s loving care, and I knew I should be as well as ever. I stepped on bravely. For some time I met no one, but at last I overtook a small cart laden with freshly gathered grapes. The driver lay on his seat asleep; his pony meanwhile cropped the green herbage by the roadside, and every now and then shook the jingling bells on his harness as though expressing the satisfaction he felt at being left to his own devices. The piled-up grapes looked tempting, and I was both hungry and thirsty, I laid a hand on the sleeping man’s shoulder; he awoke with a start. Seeing me, his face assumed an expression of the wildest terror; he jumped from his cart and sunk down on his knees in the dust, imploring me by the Madonna, St. Joseph, and all the saints to spare his life. I laughed; his fears seemed to me ludicrous. Surely there was nothing alarming about me beyond my paucity of clothing.
“Get up, man!” I said. “I want nothing of you but a few grapes, and for them I will pay.” And I held out to him a couple of francs. He rose from the dust, still trembling and eying me askance with evident suspicion, took several bunches of the purple fruit, and gave them to me without saying a word. Then, pocketing the money I proffered, he sprung into his cart, and lashing