“He says well,” said the girl, slowly, and nodded to the three men. “Lift him and bring him to the camp.” She turned to me. “You will not resist?” she asked.
“I will go with my friend,” said I.
“That is good. You may walk behind me,” she said, turning on her heel. “I am glad to have met one who talks in Italian, for the rest of your friends can only chatter in English, a tongue which I do not understand. Step close behind me, please; for the way is narrow. For what are you waiting?”
“To see that my friend is tenderly handled,” I answered.
“He is past helping,” said she, carelessly. “He behaved foolishly. You did not stop for Giuseppe, did you?”
“I did not.”
“I am not blaming you,” said she, and led the way.
I BECOME HOSTAGE TO THE PRINCESS CAMILLA.
“Silvis te, Tyrrhene, feras agitare putasti?
Advenit qui vestra dies muliebribus armis
VIRGIL, Aeneid, xi.
Ahead of us, beyond the rises and hollows of the macchia, rose a bare mountain summit, not very tall, the ascent to it broken by granite ledges, so that from a distance it almost appeared to be terraced. On a heathery slope at the foot of the first terrace the Corsicans set down poor Nat and spoke a word to their mistress, who presently halted and exchanged a few sentences with them in patois; whereupon they stepped back a few paces into the macchia, and, having quickly cut a couple of ilex-staves, fell to plaiting them with lentisk, to form a litter.
While this was doing I stepped back to my friend’s side. His eyes were closed; but he breathed yet, and his pulse, though faint, was perceptible. A little blood—a very little—trickled from the corner of his mouth. I glanced at the girl, who had drawn near and stood close at my elbow.
“Have you a surgeon in your camp?” I asked. “I believe that a surgeon might save him yet.”
She shook her head. I could detect no pity in her eyes; only a touch of curiosity, half haughty and in part sullen.
“I doubt,” she answered, “if you will find a surgeon in all Corsica. I do not believe in surgeons.”
“Then,” said I, “you have not lived always in Corsica.”
Her face flushed darkly, even while the disdain in her eyes grew colder, more guarded.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“Why,” said I, “you are not one, I believe, to speak so positively in mere ignorance. But see!” I went on, pointing down upon the bay over which this higher slope gave us a clear view, “there goes the ship that brought us here.”
She gazed at it for a while, with bent brow, evidently puzzled.
“No,” said I, watching her, “I shall not tell you yet why she goes, nor where her port lies. But I have something to propose to you.”