Regina's only fear was that Mommo might recognise her, in which case she would inevitably be questioned by the carabineers. It was characteristic of the class in which she had been brought up, that while she entertained a holy dread of being cross-questioned by them, she felt the most complete conviction that Marcello was safe in their hands.
Their presence means law and order without unnecessary violence. Mommo was surly, but respectful enough. Yes, it was his cart, and he was a regular carter on the Frascati road. Yes, this was undoubtedly a sick man, who had climbed upon the cart while Mommo was asleep.
It was a part of Regina's work to go down to the cellar and draw the wine that was wanted from the hogsheads when the host was too lazy to go down himself, and being quite unwatched she could draw a measure from the oldest and strongest if she chose. Mommo could easily be made a little sleepier than usual, after being tempted to outstay the others. And so it turned out that night.
He breathed more freely in the open air, and she had fed him again before the carters came to supper. "And you?" he asked faintly. "I shall walk," she whispered. "Now wait, and make no noise, or they will kill you. Are you comfortable?" She could see that he nodded his head. "We shall start presently," she said. She went into the kitchen, waked Mommo, and made him swallow the rest of his wine.
"You have a dead man on behind!" yelled a small boy, standing at safe distance. Mommo began to swear, but one of the inspectors stopped him. "Get down," said the man. "The carabineers are coming." Mommo finished his swearing internally, but with increased fervour. The small boy was joined by others, and they began to jeer in chorus, and perform war-dances.
It was clear dawn, and there was confusion at the Porta San Giovanni. Mommo had wakened, red-eyed and cross as usual, a little while before reaching the gate, and had uttered several strange noises to quicken the pace of his mules.
Some of them drank their employers' wine at supper, others exchanged what they brought for Paoluccio's, which they liked better. They usually got away about midnight, and Mommo was often the last to go.
But she could do nothing until Mommo was gone, and he might recognise her figure even if he could not see her face. Finding that nothing more was wanted of him, and that he was in no immediate danger of penal servitude for having been found with a sick man on his cart, Mommo started his mules up the paved hill towards the church, walking beside them, as the carters mostly do within the city.
If he had seen him, he would have pulled him off, and kicked him all the way to the hospital, where he ought to be. What right had such brigands as sick men to tamper with the carts of honest people? If the fellow had legs to jump upon the cart, he had legs to walk. Had Mommo ever done anything wrong in his life, that this should be done to him?
After that, everything had happened as usual, for a little while; he had stopped inside the walls before the guard-house of the city customs, had nodded to the octroi inspectors, and had got his money ready while the printed receipt was being filled out. Then the excitement had begun. "You have a passenger," said one, and Mommo stared at him, not understanding.