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- Won by the Sword - 6/68 -


"They are both asleep, general," Campbell said; "they have been thirty-six hours in the saddle."

"But you have been more than that, Campbell?"

"But I do not feel it, sir," he said. "I am perfectly fresh and ready to go on. I was a little tired when I came in, but I have taken a swim in the river, and am now at your service."

Turenne hesitated. "You see, sir," Hector went on, "being of light weight the horse does not feel it as he does that of a heavier man, his pace continues light and elastic, and his spirit good, and that makes all the difference to the fatigue of his rider. After two days' rest my horses are perfectly ready for another long day's work, while those of Chavigny and de Lisle start heavily, not having recovered from their fatigue."

"Very well, you can go then, Campbell. I am pleased with your spirit, and also with your thoughtfulness for your companions, who, although strong young men, do not seem to have your power of endurance. I find, too, that you always carry out your instructions with intelligence, and that your reports on matters touching which I have sent you to inquire are always clear and full. It may be that ere long I may find employment for you in which courage as well as intelligence is required. There is but one drawback, namely, that you do not speak Italian. I know that there are few officers in our service who do so; but it would be so much the more valuable were you able to master it."

"I had intended to study the language, general, as soon as I got here, but have had no time to begin it."

"That you certainly have not," Turenne said with a smile.

"Do you think that it would be of any use, sir, if I were to take a Savoyard servant? I find that many of them who come from places near the frontier speak French as well as their own language."

"That would be useful, certainly; but you would have to be careful in your choice, and see that you get one whose sympathies are with the duchess; not only for your own safety, but because a chance word heard here, or an order given and conveyed to the Spaniards, might involve the loss of a battle."

"I see that, general, and will be very careful."

Hector had formed the acquaintance of several young officers attached to the household of the duchess, and on the day following his return from his mission he was supping with a party of four of them when he said:

"Can one of you gentlemen recommend a servant to me? He must be able to talk French as well as Italian. He must be active and intelligent. I should like him to be handy and accustomed to camp service, though this is not so important, for I want him as an interpreter before anything else. I should like him to be a lightweight, so as to be able to ride with me. He must be accustomed to fatigue, and he must have courage, for some of the journeys on which I may be sent will not be without danger, and of course he must be of the duchess's party."

"And I suppose," one of the young men said, "that this Admirable Crichton of whom you are in search must be sober, honest, and truthful. Are you particular whether he is Huguenot or Catholic?"

"As to the last, not a bit. I should like him to be as sober as soldiers in general are, and if he confined himself to taking his wine when I did not require him, it would not be very important, provided that he is not talkative when in liquor. As to his honesty, he would have no great temptation so far as I am concerned, but I certainly should not wish to lose him by his being strung up by the provost marshal for robbing citizens. As to his truthfulness, providing he did not lie to me, it is a point on which I should not be particular."

There was a general laugh.

"And as to his age?" the officer asked.

"If I could find all the qualifications that I require, I should not be particular about that; but I think that for choice I would take a lad of from sixteen to twenty."

"In that case I fancy that I know a lad who might suit you," one of the other officers said. "He is a brother of my groom, and I may own that he has been of no little trouble to him. The boy is an orphan, and having no other friends so far as I know, he has attached himself to his brother, and for the past two years, wherever he has gone Paolo has gone too. He earns a little money by doing odd jobs -- running messages, and so on, helps his brother to clean the horses; and with an occasional crown from me, and what he earns otherwise, it cannot be said that he costs his brother anything in money; but in other respects he is always getting him into trouble, for he is a very imp of mischief. Two or three times his brother has obtained places for him, but he always comes back at the end of a week, and sometimes sooner, with bitter complaints from his master that he has set the household in a turmoil with his tricks and ill conduct. Many a thrashing has he had, but they do him no good."

The others laughed.

"There is no doubt that Paolo is a perfect young imp," one of them said, "but he is as sharp as a needle. I have no doubt that if he could be tamed he would make a most useful lad. As it is, I certainly would not recommend anyone who cares for his peace of mind to have anything to do with him."

"I will see him anyhow," Hector said. "I think that I would rather have a sharp boy than a man. Being but a boy myself, I could appreciate and put up with more in the way of mischief than a man could."

"I will tell my groom to bring him round to your quarters in the morning," the officer said; "but mind, I in no way recommend your taking him. You won't keep him a week if you do."

The next morning Hector's orderly told him that a man desired to speak to him.

"Has he a boy with him?"

"Yes, lieutenant."

"Bring them in here, then."

In a minute a man entered, followed by a boy. The former was a good looking young Savoyard of some four- or five-and-twenty years; the latter was a lad of about the same height as Hector but somewhat older. He had black hair which fell over his forehead down to his eyebrows. His face bore an expression of extreme humility, which, however, was marred by the merry twinkle of his dark eyes.

"My master has bid me bring my brother with me, Lieutenant Campbell," the man said, "and I have done so, but I fear greatly that he will hardly suit you as a servant. I have obtained a dozen places for him, but he is always sent back at the end of three or four days, and I told him last time that I would never say a word in his recommendation again, for that it only gets me into trouble with the gentlemen."

"Well, that is honest," Hector said with a smile. "However, I will ask him a few questions. Now, Paolo, in the first place, could you be faithful?"

"I could be faithful to a master I loved," he said.

"In the second place, are you honest?"

"He is honest," the man said, "I will say that for him."

"Are you truthful?"

"I am as truthful as other people," the boy said.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, sir, that if I were asked a straightforward question I would give a straightforward answer, unless it were wiser not to do so. I would tell the truth to my master, but I do not consider it necessary always to do so to others. For instance, sir, if you were my master, and questions were asked about you, there might be times when it would not be convenient for you that I should mention where you had gone, or what you were doing."

"That is so," Hector said with a laugh. "The important thing for me to know is, would you always tell me the truth?"

"I think that I could promise to do that, sir, or at least to be very near the truth."

"You understand horses?"

"I do, sir."

"And you can ride?"

"Yes, sir, I can ride and run too. In a long day's journey I should get to the end on foot nearly as fast as you would on horseback."

"He can make himself useful on a campaign," the brother said. "He has been with my master and myself in the field for the last three years, and knows his work well if he chooses to do it."

"The principal point with me is that which I first asked him about, can he be faithful? I may have to ride on dangerous missions for the general. I may have to enter an enemy's town to obtain information. There is another thing, being of the general's staff, and sometimes quartered in the same house with him and chatting freely with his other aides-de-camp, secrets might be picked up by a sharp pair of ears that if repeated would do grievous harm to the cause of the duchess, as you can well understand. Now, the question, Paolo, is, can you be absolutely trusted; can you, as to all matters you may hear, be as one who is deaf and dumb?"

"I could, sir," the boy said earnestly. "I am all for the duchess, and I hate the Spaniards. I once was found out in a bit of mischief in the palace, and should have been whipped for it and turned out of the town, but the duchess herself said that I was only a boy


Won by the Sword - 6/68

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