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I advise you, my dear, to be careful how you let such a

2023-12-01 21:18:17 source:A Spring Dream Netauthor: two click:624Second-rate

They disappeared; and there ended my relations with Patience. I did not come in contact with him again until long afterward.

I advise you, my dear, to be careful how you let such a

I was fifteen when my grandfather died. At Roche-Mauprat his death caused no sorrow, but infinite consternation. He was the soul of every vice that reigned therein, and it is certain that he was more cruel, though less vile, than his sons. On his death the sort of glory which his audacity had won for us grew dim. His sons, hitherto held under firm control, became more and more drunken and debauched. Moreover, each day added some new peril to their expeditions.

I advise you, my dear, to be careful how you let such a

Except for the few trusty vassals whom we treated well, and who were all devoted to us, we were becoming more and more isolated and resourceless. People had left the neighbouring country in consequence of our violent depredations. The terror that we inspired pushed back daily the bounds of the desert around us. In making our ventures we had to go farther afield, even to the borders of the plain. There we had not the upper hand; and my Uncle Laurence, the boldest of us all, was dangerously wounded in a skirmish. Other schemes had to be devised. John suggested them. One was that we should slip into the fairs under various disguises, and exercise our skill in thieving. From brigands we became pick-pockets, and our detested name sank lower and lower in infamy. We formed a fellowship with the most noisome characters our province concealed, and, by an exchange of rascally services, once again managed to avoid destitution.

I advise you, my dear, to be careful how you let such a

I say we, for I was beginning to take a place in this band of cutthroats when my grandfather died. He had yielded to my entreaties and allowed me to join in some of the last expeditions he attempted. I shall make no apologies; but here, gentlemen, you behold a man who has followed the profession of a bandit. I feel no remorse at the recollection, no more than a soldier would feel at having served a campaign under orders from his general. I thought that I was still living in the middle ages. The laws of the land, with all their strength and wisdom, were to me words devoid of meaning. I felt brave and full of vigour; fighting was a joy. Truly, the results of our victories often made me blush; but, as they in no way profited myself, I washed my hands of them. Nay, I remember with pleasure that I helped more than one victim who had been knocked down to get up and escape.

This existence, with its movement, its dangers, and its fatigues, had a numbing effect on me. It took me away from any painful reflections which might have arisen in my mind. Besides, it freed me from the immediate tyranny of John. However, after the death of my grandfather, when our band degraded itself to exploits of a different nature, I fell back under his odious sway. I was by no means fitted for lying and fraud. I displayed not only aversion but also incapacity for this new industry. Consequently my uncle looked upon me as useless, and began to maltreat me again. They would have driven me away had they not been afraid that I might make my peace with society, and become a dangerous enemy to themselves. While they were in doubt as to whether it was wiser to feed me or to live in fear of me, they often thought (as I have since learned) of picking a quarrel with me, and forcing a fight in which I might be got rid of. This was John's suggestion. Antony, however, who retained more of Tristan's energy and love of fair play at home than any of his brothers, proved clearly that I did more good than harm. I was, he declared, a brave fighter, and there was no knowing when they might need an extra hand. I might also be shaped into a swindler. I was very young and very ignorant; but John, perhaps, would endeavour to win me over by kindness, and make my lot less wretched. Above all, he might enlighten me as to my true position, by explaining that I was an outcast from society, and could not return to it without being hanged immediately. Then, perhaps, my obstinacy and pride would give way, out of regard to my own well-being on the one hand, and from necessity on the other. At all events, they should try this before getting rid of me.

"For," said Antony to round off his homily, "we were ten Mauprats last year; our father is dead, and, if we kill Bernard, we shall only be eight."

This argument gained the day. They brought me forth from the species of dungeon in which I had languished for several months; they gave me new clothes; they exchanged my old gun for a beautiful carbine that I had always coveted; they explained to me my position in the world; they honoured me with the best wine at meals. I promised to reflect, and meanwhile, became rather more brutalized by inaction and drunkenness than I had been by brigandage.

However, my captivity had made such a terrible impression on me that I took a secret oath to dare any dangers that might assail me on the territories of the King of France, rather than endure a repetition of that hideous experience. Nothing but a miserable point of honour now kept me at Roche-Mauprat. It was evident that a storm was gathering over our heads. The peasants were discontented, in spite of all our efforts to attach them to us; doctrines of independence were secretly insinuating themselves into their midst; our most faithful retainers were growing tired of merely having their fill of bread and meat; they were demanding money, and we had none. We had received more than one serious summons to pay our fiscal dues to the state, and as our private creditors had joined hands with the crown officers and the recalcitrant peasants, everything was threatening us with a catastrophe like that which had just overtaken the Seigneur de Pleumartin in our province.[*]

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