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 dragging himself along with difficulty by the support of his gun. He had just received a wound in his thigh.
This man was an outlaw, who, having gone to the town by night to buy powder, had fallen on the way into an ambuscade of Corsican light-infantry. After a vigorous defense he was fortunate in making his retreat, closely followed and firing from rock to rock. But he was only a little in advance of the soldiers, and his wound prevented him from gaining the maquis before being overtaken.
He approached Fortunato and said: “You are the son of Mateo Falcone?”—“Yes.”
“I am Gianetto Saupiero. I am followed by the yellow-collars. Hide me, for I can go no farther.”
“And what will my father say if I hide you without his permission?”
“He will say that you have done well.”
“How do you know?”
“Hide me quickly; they are coming.”
“Wait till my father gets back.”
“How can I wait? Malediction! They will be here in five minutes. Come, hide me, or I will kill you.”
Fortunato answered him with the utmost coolness:
“Your gun is empty, and there are no more cartridges in your belt.” “I have my stiletto.”
“But can you run as fast as I can?”
He gave a leap and put himself out of reach.
“You are not the son of Mateo Falcone! Will you then let me be captured before your house?”
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