“It was the little fair girl of Casa Conti who was caught with the engineer in the vaults.”
Even Toto was surprised, and opened his eyes and his mouth at the same time.
“The little Princess Sabina?” he asked in a low voice.
Gigi shrugged his shoulders with a pitying air and grinned.
“I told you that you knew nothing,” he observed in triumph. “They were together all night, and she slept in his room, and the Senator’s wife came to get her in the morning. The engineer took the porter off to the cellars before they came down, so that he should not see her pass; but he forgot me, the old carpenter of the house, and I opened the postern for the two ladies to go out. The little Princess’s skirt had been torn. I saw the pins with these eyes. It was also spotted with mud which had been brushed off. But thanks be to heaven I have still my sight. I see, and am not blind.”
“Are you sure it was she?” asked Toto, forgetting to curse anybody.
“I saw her as I see you. Have I not seen her grow up, since she used to be wheeled about in a baby carriage in Piazza Navona, like a flower in a basket? Her nurse made love with the ‘woodpecker’ who was always on duty there.”
The Romans call the municipal watchmen “woodpeckers,” because they wear little pointed cocked hats with a bunch of feathers. They have nothing to do with police soldiers, nor with the carabineers.
Toto made Gigi tell him everything he knew. At the porter’s suggestion Volterra had sent for the mason, as the only man who knew anything about the “lost water,” and Toto had agreed, with apparent reluctance, to do what he could at once, as soon as he had satisfied himself that Malipieri had really made another opening by which the statues could be reached. Toto laid down conditions, however. He pretended that he must expose himself to great danger, and insisted upon being paid fifty francs for the job. Furthermore, he obtained from Volterra, in the presence of the porter as witness, a formal promise that his grandfather’s bones should have Christian burial, with a fine hearse and feathers, and a permanent grave in the cemetery of Saint Lawrence, which latter is rather an expensive luxury, beyond the means of the working people. But the Baron made no objection. The story would look very well in a newspaper paragraph, as a fine illustration of the Senator’s liberality as well as of his desire to maintain the forms of religion. It would please everybody, and what will do that is cheap at any price, in politics.
The result of these negotiations had of course been that the water had subsided in the vaults within a few hours, and Toto even found a way of draining the outer cellars, which had been flooded to the depth of a couple of feet, because the first breach made by Malipieri had turned out to be an inch or two lower than the level of the overflow shaft.
When the two workmen had exchanged confidences, they ordered another half litre of wine, and sat in silence till the grimy host had set it down between them on the blackened table, and had retired to his den. Then they looked at each other.