“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 highlanders who, in scrutinizing their memory, cannot find some peccadillo, such as a gun-shot, dagger-thrust, or similar trifles. Mateo more than others had a clear conscience; for more than ten years he had not pointed his carbine at a man, but he was always prudent, and put himself into a position to make a good defense if necessary. “Wife,” said he to Giuseppa, “put down the sack and hold yourself ready.”
She obeyed at once. He gave her the gun that was slung across his shoulders, which would have bothered him, and, cocking the one he held in his hands, advanced slowly towards the house, walking among the trees that bordered the road, ready at the least hostile demonstra¬tion, to hide behind the largest, whence he could fire from under cover. His wife followed closely behind, holding his reserve weapon and his cartridge-box. The duty of a good housekeeper, in case of a fight, is to load her husband`s carbines.
On the other side the Adjutant was greatly troubled to see Mateo advance in this manner, with cautious steps, his carbine raised, and his finger on the trigger.
“If by chance,” thought he, “Mateo should be related to Gianetto, or if he should be his friend and wish to defend him, the contents of his two guns would arrive amongst us a certainly as as letter in the post; and if he should see me, notwithstanding the relationship!”
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