“So he did, signor; and we caught three of the principals only a fortnight ago, but of the others no trace can be found. I suppose Carmelo himself dismissed them and sent them far and wide through the country. At any rate, they are disbanded, and with these sort of fellows, where there is no union there is no danger.”
“And Neri’s sentence?” I asked.
“Oh, the galleys for life of course; there is no possible alternative.”
I thanked my informant, and left the office. I was glad to have learned these few particulars, for the treasure I had discovered in my own family vault was now more mine than ever. There was not the remotest chance of any one of the Neri band venturing so close to Naples in search of it, and I thought with a grim smile that had the brigand chief himself known the story of my wrongs, he would most probably have rejoiced to think that his buried wealth was destined to aid me in carrying out so elaborate a plan of vengeance. All difficulties smoothed themselves before me—obstacles were taken out of my path—my way was made perfectly clear—each trifling incident was a new finger-post pointing out the direct road that led me to the one desired end. God himself seemed on my side, as He is surely ever on the side of justice! Let not the unfaithful think that because they say long prayers or go regularly and devoutly to church with meek faces and piously folded hands that the Eternal Wisdom is deceived thereby. My wife could pray—she could kneel like a lovely saint in the dim religious light of the sacred altars, her deep eyes upturned to the blameless, infinitely reproachful Christ—and look you! each word she uttered was a blasphemy, destined to come back upon herself as a curse. Prayer is dangerous for liars—it is like falling willfully on an upright naked sword. Used as an honorable weapon the sword defends—snatched up as the last resource of a coward it kills.
The third week of September was drawing to its close when I returned to Naples. The weather had grown cooler, and favorable reports of the gradual decrease of the cholera began to gain ground with the suffering and terrified population. Business was resumed as usual, pleasure had again her votaries, and society whirled round once more in its giddy waltz as though it had never left off dancing. I arrived in the city somewhat early in the day, and had time to make some preliminary arrangements for my plan of action. I secured the most splendid suite of apartments in the best hotel, impressing the whole establishment with a vast idea of my wealth and importance. I casually mentioned to the landlord that I desired to purchase a carriage and horses—that I needed a first-class valet, and a few other trifles of the like sort, and added that I relied on his good advice and recommendation as to the places where I should best obtain all that I sought. Needless to say, he became my slave—never was monarch better served than I—the very waiters hustled each other in a race to attend upon me, and reports of my princely fortune, generosity, and lavish expenditure, began to flit from mouth to month—which was the result I desired to obtain.