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 week.”

These words reassured Gamba.

“Poor devil!” said Mateo. “He was hungry.”

“The villain fought like a lion,” continued the Adjutant, a little mortified. “He killed one of my soldiers, and not content with that, broke Caporal Chardon`s arm; but that matters little, he is only a Frenchman. Then, too, he was so well hidden that the devil couldn`t have found him. Without my little cousin, Fortunato, I should never have discovered him.”

“Fortunato!” cried Mateo.

“Fortunato!” repeated Giuseppa.

“Yes, Gianetto was hidden under the hay-pile yonder, but my little cousin showed me the trick. I shall tell his uncle, the Caporal, that he may send him a fine present for his trouble. Both his name and yours will be in the report that I shall send to the Attorney-general.”

“Malediction!” said Mateo in a low voice.

Mateo and Gamba

They had rejoined the detachment. Gianetto was already lying on the litter ready to set out. When he saw Mateo and Gamba in company he smiled a strange smile, then, turning his head towards the door of the house, he spat on the sill, saying:

“House of a traitor.”

Only a man determined to die would dare pronounce the word trai¬tor to Falcone. A good blow with the stiletto, which there would be no need of repeating, would have immediately paid the insult. However, Mateo made no other movement than to place his hand on his fore¬head like a man who is dazed.

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