Mateo Falcone part 11

Giuseppa embraced her son, and bursting into tears entered the house. She threw herself on her knees before an image of the Virgin and prayed ardently. In the meanwhile Falcone walked some two hundred paces along the path and only stopped when he reached a little ravine which he descended. He tried the earth with the butt- end of his carbine, and found if soft and easy to dig. The place seemed to be convenient for his design.

“Fortunato, go close to that big rock there.”

The child did as he was commanded, then he kneeled.

“Say your prayers.”

“Oh, father, father, do not kill me!”

“Say your prayers!” repeated Mateo in a terrible voice.

Pater and the Credo

The boy, stammering and sobbing, recited the Pater and the Credo. At the end of each prayer the father loudly answered, “Amen!”

“Are those all the prayers you know?”

“Oh! father, I know the Ave Maria and the litany t

Mateo Falcone part 10

Fortunato had gone into the house when his father arrived, but now he reappeared with a bowl of milk which he handed with downcast eyes to Gianetto.

“Get away from me!” cried the outlaw, in a loud voice. Then, turn¬ing to one of the soldiers, he said:

“Comrade, give me a drink.”

The soldier placed his gourd in his hands, and the prisoner drank the water handed to him by a man with whom he had just exchanged bullets. He then asked them to tie his hands across his breast instead of behind his back.

“I like,” said he, “to lie at my ease.”

They hastened to satisfy him; then the Adjutant gave the signal to start, said adieu to Mateo, who did not respond, and descended with rapid steps towards the plain.

Nearly ten minutes elapsed before Mateo spoke. The child looked with restless eyes, now at his mother, now at his father, who was leaning on his gun and gazing at him with an expression of concentrated rage.

Mateo Falcone part 9

In this perplexity he took a bold step. It was to advance alone towards Mateo and tell him of the affair while accosting him as an old acquaintance, but the short space that separated him from Mateo seemed terribly long.

“Hello! old comrade,” cried he. “How do you do, my good fellow? It is I, Gamba, your cousin.”

Without answering a word, Mateo stopped, and in proportion as the other spoke, slowly raised the muzzle of his gun so that it was pointing upward when the Adjutant joined him.

“Good-day, brother,” said the Adjutant, holding out his hand. “It is a long time since I have seen you.”

“Good-day, brother.”

“I stopped while passing, to say good-day to you and to cousin Pepa here. We have had a long journey to-day, but have no reason to com¬plain, for we have captured a famous prize. We have just seized Gianetto Saupiero.”

“God be praised!” cried Giuseppa. “He stole a milch goat from us last

Mateo Falcone part 8

“Good,” said the prisoner. “You will also put a little straw on your litter that I may be more comfortable.”

While some of the soldiers were occupied in making a kind of stretcher out of some chestnut boughs and the rest were dressing Gianetto`s wound, Mateo Falcone and his wife suddenly appeared at a turn in the path that led to the maquis.

The woman was staggering under the weight of an enormous sack of chestnuts, while her husband was sauntering along, carrying one gun in his hands, while another was slung across his shoulders, for it is unworthy of a man to carry other burdens than his arms.

At the sight of the soldiers Mateo`s first thought was that they had come to arrest him. But why this thought? Had he then some quarrels with justice? No.

Few Corsican highlanders

He enjoyed a good reputation. He was said to have a particularly good name, but he was a Corsican and a highlander, and there are few Corsican high

Mateo Falcone part 7

“May I lose my epaulettes,” cried the Adjutant, “if I do not give you the watch on this condition. These comrades are witnesses; I can¬not deny it.”

While speaking he gradually held the watch nearer till it almost touched the child`s pale face, which plainly showed the struggle that was going on in his soul between covetousness and respect for hospital¬ity. His breast swelled with emotion; he seemed about to suffocate. Meanwhile the watch was slowly swaying and turning, sometimes brushing against his cheek.

Finally, his right hand was gradually stretched toward it; the ends of his fingers touched it; then its whole weight was in his hand, the Adjutant still keeping hold of the chain. The face was light blue; the cases newly burnished. In the sunlight it seemed to be all on fire. The temptation was too great. Fortunato raised his left hand and pointed over his shoulder with his thumb at the hay against which he was reclining.

The Adjutant u

Mateo Falcone part 6

“My little cousin,” said he, “you are a very wide-awake little fellow. You will get along. But you are playing a naughty game with me; and if I wasn`t afraid of making trouble for my cousin, Mateo, the devil take me, but I would carry you off with me.”

“Bah!”

“But when my cousin comes back I shall tell him about this, and he will whip you till the blood comes for having told such lies.”

“You don`t say so!”

“You will see. But hold on!—be a good boy and I will give you something.”

“Cousin, let me give you some advice: if you wait much longer Gianetto will be in the maquis and it will take a smarter man than you to follow him.”

The Adjutant took from his pocket a silver watch worth about ten crowns, and noticing that Fortunato`s eyes sparkled at the sight of it, said, holding the watch by the end of its steel chain:

Look at my watch

“Rascal! you would like to have su

Mateo Falcone part 5

“Then you believe, cousin, that your guns make so much noise? My father`s carbine has the advantage of them.”

“The devil take you, you cursed little scapegrace! I am certain that you have seen Gianetto. Perhaps, even, you have hidden him. Come, comrades, go into the house and see if our man is there. He could only go on one foot, and the knave has too much good sense to try to reach the maquis limping like that.

Moreover, the bloody tracks stop here.” “And what will papa say?” asked Fortunato with a sneer. “What will he say if he knows that his house has been entered while he was away?”

“You rascal,” said the Adjutant, taking him by the ear, “do you know that it only remains for me to make you change your tone? Perhaps you will speak differently after I have given you twenty blows with the flat of my sword.”

Fortunato continued to sneer.

“My father is Mateo Falcone,” said he with emphasis.

Mateo Falcone part 4

The child appeared moved.

“What will you give me if I hide you?” said he, coming nearer.

The outlaw felt in a leather pocket that hung from his belt, and took out a five-franc piece, which he had doubtless saved to buy ammuni¬tion with.

Fortunato smiled at the sight of the silver piece; he snatched it, and said to Gianetto:

“Fear nothing.”

Immediately he made a great hole in a pile of hay that was near the house. Gianetto crouched down in it and the child covered him in such a way that he could breathe without it being possible to suspect that the hay concealed a man.

He bethought himself further, and, with the subtlety of a tolerably ingenious savage, placed a cat and her kittens on the pile, that it might not appear to have been recently disturbed. Then, noticing the traces of blood on the path near the house, he covered them carefully with dust, and, that done, he again stretched himself out in the sun with th

Mateo Falcone part 3

On a certain day in autumn, Mateo set out at an early hour with his wife to visit one of his flocks in a clearing of the maquis. The little Fortunato wanted to go with them, but the clearing was too far away; moreover, it was necessary someone should stay to watch the house; therefore the father refused: it will be seen whether or not he had reason to repent.

He had been gone some hours, and the little Fortunato was tran¬quilly stretched out in the sun, looking at the blue mountains, and thinking that the next Sunday he was going to dine in the city with his uncle, the Caporal, when he was suddenly interrupted in his medita¬tions by the firing of a musket.

He got up and turned to that side of the plain whence the noise came. Other shots followed, fired at ir¬regular intervals, and each time nearer; at last, in the path which led from the plain to Mateo`s house, appeared a man wearing the pointed hat of the mountaineers, bearded, covered with rags, and dragg

Mateo Falcone part 2

When I was in Corsica in 18—, Mateo Falcone had his house half a league from this maquis. He was rich enough for that country, living in noble style—that is to say, doing nothing—on the income from his flocks, which the shepherds, who are a kind of nomads, lead to pasture here and there on the mountains. When I saw him, two years after the event that I am about to relate, he appeared to me to be about fifty years old or more. Picture to yourself a man, small but robust, with curly hair, black as jet, an aquiline nose, thin lips, large, restless eyes, and a complexion the color of tanned leather.

His skill as a marksman was considered extraordinary even in his country, where good shots are so common. For example, Mateo would never fire at a sheep with buckshot; but at a hundred and twenty paces, he would drop it with a ball in the head or shoulder, as he chose. He used his arms as easily at night as during the day. I was told this feat of his skill, which will, perhap

Mateo Falcone part 1

Prosper Merimee (1803—1870)

Born in Paris in 1803, Merimee spent the greater part of his life in the government service and in travelling. In later years he became a senator. His chief works are his stories and the novel Carmen. Me- rim^e was one of the earliest authors who were content to write for the purpose of giving aesthetic pleasure, and is considered, with Gautier, one of the chief exponents of the Art for Art`s Sake theory. His stories are written with great deliberation and care. Mateo Falcone is a masterpiece of its kind.

The present version, anonymously translated, is reprinted by per¬mission from International Short Stories, P. F. Collier`s Sons, New York. Copyright, 1910.

Mateo Falcone

On leaving Porto-Vecchio from the northwest and directing his steps towards the interior of the island, the traveler will notice that the land rises rapidly, and after three hours` walking over tortuous paths obstructed by great masses