Mathias Sandorf/Page 17
A MEETING IN THE STRADONE.
The death made a good deal of noise in town, but no one suspected that Sarcany and Silas Toronthal were in any way concerned in it.
It was on the morrow, the 6th of July, that the marriage was to take place.
Neither Mme. Toronthal nor her daughter heard anything about the death, precautions having been taken by Toronthal and his destined son-in-law to keep it from their ears.
It had been agreed that the wedding should be a very quiet one. As an excuse it was given out that Sarcany's family were in mourning, This was hardly in accordance with Toronthal's usual love of show, but he thought it better that no more fuss than necessary should be made. The newly married couple were to remain a few days at Ragusa, and then leave for Tripoli, where Sarcany, it was said, usually lived. There would therefore be no party in the Stradone, either for the reading of the settlements or after the religious services which were to immediately follow the civil ceremony.
During the day, while the last preparations were being made at the Toronthals', two men strolled along the opposite side of the Stradone.
One was Cape Matifou, the other Point Pescade.
The doctor had brought Matifou back with him to Ragusa. His presence was no longer necessary at Cattaro, and the two friends, the “twins,” as Pescade said, were supremely happy at again seeing one another.
As soon as the doctor had reached Ragusa he had made his first appearance in the Rue Marinella, then he had retired to a quiet hotel in the suburb of Plocce, where he waited until the wedding had taken place in furtherance of his plans.
Next morning he had again visited Mme. Bathory and helped to put Pierre in his coffin. He had then returned to his hotel, having sent Pescade and Matifou to keep watch on the Stradone.
And although Pescade was all eyes and ears, that did not prevent him from talking.
“I think you are bigger, old Cape!” he said, reaching up to pat his companion's chest.
“Yes, and in better condition!”
“So I felt when you embraced me.”
“But how is the play getting on we were talking about?”
“Oh, the drama? Oh, it's going on, going on. But, yon see, the action is getting complicated.”
“Yes. It isn't a comedy; it's a drama, and there will be a big fight before the curtain drops—”
Point Pescade stopped suddenly.
A carriage drove up rapidly to Toronthal's house. The gate opened immediately, and, as it shut, Pescade recognized Sarcany in the carriage.
“Yes—lots of fighting,” he continued, “and it looks as though it was going to be a great success.”
“And the villain?” asked Matifou, who seemed to be more particularly concerned with that personage.
“Well—the villain is triumphant at the present moment, as he always is in a well-built piece! But, patience! Wait for the end!”
“At Cattaro,” said Matifou, “I thought I was coming on.”
“Coming on the scene?”
“Yes, Point Pescade, yes!”
And Matifou related what had passed at the bazaar at Cattaro, and how his two arms had been requisitioned for a kidnapping which did not take place.
“Good! That was too soon!” replied Point Pescade, who spoke for the sake of speaking, so to speak, keeping a keen lookout right and left of him. “You won't be wanted till the fourth or fifth act! Perhaps you may only have to appear in the last scene! But don't be uneasy! You will make a great success when you do begin! You can reckon on that!”
At this moment a distant murmur was heard in the Stradone where the Rue Marinella ran in.
Point Pescade broke off the conversation abruptly and hurried to the right of Toronthal's house.
A procession was coming along the road to enter the Stradone on its way to the Church of the Franciscans, where the funeral service was to be held.
There were few followers at the funeral, and nothing to attract much attention—merely a coffin carried under a black pall.
The procession slowly advanced, when suddenly Point Pescade, stifling an exclamation, seized Cape Matifou's arm.
“What is the matter?”
“Nothing! It would take too long to tell you now!”
He had just recognized Mme. Bathory, who had resolved to be present at her son's burial.
The church had not refused its ministrations, and the priest was waiting in the Franciscan chapel to lead the procession to the grave.
Mme. Bathory walked behind the coffin, looking into vacancy. She had no longer strength to cry. Her eyes were almost haggard, and sometimes wandered from side to side for a moment, to return plunged for a time beneath the pall which hid the coffin of her son.
Borik dragged himself along after her—a piteous sight to see.
Point Pescade felt the tears come into his eyes. Yes! If he had not had to remain on duty at his post he would not have hesitated to join the few friends and neighbors that were following all that was left on earth of Pierre Bathory.
Suddenly, as the procession was about to pass Toronthal's mansion, the main gates opened. In the court-yard before the steps two carriages stood ready to start. The first came through the gate and turned down the Stradone.
In this carriage Point Pescade saw Silas Toronthal, his wife and his daughter.
Mme. Toronthal, overwhelmed with grief, was seated next to Sava, who looked whiter than her nuptial veil.
Sarcany, accompanied by some relatives or friends, occupied the second carriage.
The wedding and funeral equally destitute of show! In both the same grief! It was frightful!
Suddenly, as the first carriage turned out of the gate there was a piercing shriek.
Mme. Bathory had stopped, and with her hand pointed to Sava, was cursing her.
It was Sava who had shrieked. She had seen the mother in mourning. She had understood all they had hidden from her. Pierre was dead, dead by her, and for her, and it was his funeral that was passing as they were taking her to be married.
She fell back fainting. Mme. Toronthal, distracted, tried to bring her back to consciousness. In vain! She scarcely breathed!
Toronthal could not restrain a gesture of anger. But Sarcany, who was hurried to her side, gave no sign of his annoyance.
Under these circumstances it was impossible to attend before the registrar, and the order was given to return to the house, of which the big gates shut with a clang.
Sava, carried to her room, was laid on her bed without being moved. Her mother knelt by her side, and a physician was summoned in all haste. During this time the funeral continued its progress to the Franciscan church, and then after the service it went on to the cemetery.
Point Pescade saw that the doctor ought at once to know what had happened. Saying to Matifou:
“Stop here and watch,” he ran off to the Plocce.
While Pescade told his story, the doctor remained silent.
“Have I exceeded my right?” he said to himself. “No! Have I struck one who is innocent? Yes, certainly! But she is the daughter of Silas Toronthal!”
Then he turned to Pescade.
“Where is Cape Matifou?”
“In front of Toronthal's house.”
“I want you both this evening.”
“At what time?”
“Where shall we be?”
“At the cemetery gates.”
Point Pescade instantly returned to Matifou, who had not left his post.
That evening about eight o'clock the doctor, enveloped in an ample cloak, went for a walk toward the harbor ot Ragusa. At the angle of the wall on the left he reached a small creek running up among rocks a little above the harbor.
The place was quite deserted. Neither houses nor boats were near. The fishing craft never came there to anchor for fear of the numerous reefs which lay round the creek. The doctor halted, looked round him, and uttered a peculiar cry which had doubtless been agreed upon beforehand. Almost immediately a sailor appeared and, approaching him, said:
“At your orders, sir!”
“The boat is there, Pazzer?”
“Yes, behind the rock.”
“With all the men?”
“And the ‘Electric’?”
“Further away to the northward, about three cables away outside the creek.”
And the sailor pointed to a long gray tube just visible in the gloom, but without a light of any kind to indicate its presence.
“When did she arrive from Cattaro?”
“Hardly an hour ago.”
“And she was not seen?”
“No! she came along by the reefs.”
“Pazzer, see that no one leaves his post, and wait for me here all night if necessary.”
“Ay, ay, sir!”
The seaman returned to the boat, which was indistinguishable among the rocks.
Dr. Antekirtt remained for some time on the beach waiting probably for the darkness to increase. Sometimes he would stride along for a minute. Then he would stop. And then with folded arms, silent and motionless, he would look out over the Adriatic as if telling it his secrets.
The night was moonless and starless. The land breeze that rises with the evening and lasts but an hour or two had now lulled until it could scarcely be felt. A few thick clouds almost covered the sky except in the west, where the last streaks of the sunset gave a feeble light that was swiftly fading.
“Now!” said the doctor.
And returning toward the town he kept outside the wall all the way to the cemetery.
There before the gate were Point Pescade and Cape Matifou hidden under a tree so as not to be seen, in the shadow.
The cemetery was closed at this time of night. A light had just been extinguished in the gatekeeper's lodge. No one was expected there again before the morning.
The doctor seemed to know the plan of the cemetery And it also appeared that he had no intention of entering by the gate. What he was going to do was to be done in secret.
“Follow me!” he said to Point Pescade and his companion as they came to meet him.
And the three silently crept along the slope that runs at the foot of the exterior wall.
After some ten minutes of this work the doctor stopped, and pointing to a breach caused by a recent fall of the wall, said:
He glided through the breach, Point Pescade and Matifou followed him.
The darkness was profound beneath the large trees that overshadowed the tombs, but without hesitation the doctor went down one path and then turned off into another leading to the upper part of the cemetery. Some birds of night, disturbed by his presence, flew backward and forward overhead, but not another living thing lurked round the grave-stones scattered on the turf.
Soon the three stood in front of what looked like a small chapel with the gate left unfastened.
The doctor pushed back the gate, and then pressing the button of a small electric lantern he threw on the light, but so that it could not be seen from without.
“Enter,” said he to Matifou.
Cape Matifou entered and found himself facing a wall on which were three marble tablets.
On one of these tablets, the center one, he read:
The tablet to the left bore no inscription, that to the right was soon to have one.
“Take away that slab,” said the doctor.
Cape Matifou easily removed the slab, which had not yet been fixed down. He laid it on the ground, and a bier was seen at the bottom of a cavity in the wall.
There was the coffin containing the body of Pierre Bathory.
“Bring out that coffin,” said the doctor.
Cape Matifou pulled out the coffin without any help from Point Pescade, heavy though it was, and after lifting it outside the chapel he placed it on the ground.
“Take this,” said the doctor, handing Pescade a screwdriver, “and get the lid off that coffin.”
In a few minutes it was done.
The doctor moved aside the white garments with his hand, and placing his head to the body seemed to listen for the beating of the heart.
Then he rose.
“Lift out that body,” said he to Cape Matifou.
Matifou obeyed, and neither he nor Pescade made the slightest objection, although such an exhumation was against the law.
When the body of Pierre Bathory was laid on the grass, Cape Matifou wrapped it up again in its winding-sheet and over it the doctor threw his mantle. The coffin was then screwed down and returned to the cavity, and the tablet placed over it as before.
The doctor broke the current of his electric lantern, and the darkness became profound again.
“Take up that body,” said he to Cape Matifou.
Matifou lifted it in his arms as if it had been the body of a child. Then led by the doctor, and followed by Point Pescade, he regained the cross-path leading to the breach in the wall.
Five minutes later they were through the breach and on their way to the shore.
Not a word was spoken; but if the obedient Cape Matifou thought no more than a machine, what a succession of ideas crowded through the active brain of Point Pescade!
In that journey from the cemetery to the shore they had met nobody. But as they approached the creek where the “Electric's” boat was waiting for them, they saw a coast-guardsman walking about the rocks.
They continued on their way without troubling themselves about his presence.
Again the doctor uttered his peculiar cry, and the sailor came up from the boat, which remained invisible.
At a sign Cape Matifou went down behind the rocks and was about to step into the boat.
At this moment the coast-guardsman hurried up, and just as they were entering the boat, he asked:
“Who are you?”
“People who can give you your choice between twenty florins cash down and a slap in the face from that gentleman”—pointing to Matifou—“also cash down!”
The coast-guardsman did not hesitate; he took the twenty florins.
A moment afterward the boat had vanished in the darkness. Five minutes later it was alongside “the Electric.” It was hoisted on board. The silent, engines were started, and the launch was off to sea.
Matifou bore the body below and laid it on a couch in the saloon, from which not a light-port allowed a ray to escape through the hull.
The doctor was left alone with the corpse. He bent over it, kissed the pallid forehead, and said:
“And now, Pierre, awake!”
Immediately, as if he had only been asleep, Pierre opened his eyes.
A look of aversion stole over his face when he recognized the doctor.
“You!” he murmured. “You who abandoned me!”
“But who are you then?”
“A dead man—like you!”
“A dead man?”
“I am Count Mathias Sandorf!”