Sir John Constantine eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 389 pages of information about Sir John Constantine.

“Indeed, Sir John,” answered Brother Basilio, “I fear the queen, our late liege-lady, speaks somewhat less than the truth.  She wrote to you from a poor lodging hard by Bastia, having ventured back to Corsica out of Tuscany on business of her own; and on the eve of sailing we heard that she had been taken prisoner by the Genoese.”

“What!” My father rose, clutching the arms of his chair.  Of stone they were, like the chair itself, and well mortised:  but his great grip wrenched them out of their mortises and they crashed on the dais.  “What!  You left her a prisoner of the Genoese!” He gazed around them in a wrath that slowly grew cold, freezing into contempt.  “Go, sirs; since she commands it, room shall be found for you all.  My house for the while is yours.  But go from me now.”

[1] Tilled, planted.

CHAPTER VI.

HOW MY FATHER OUT OF NOTHING BUILT AN ARMY, AND IN FIVE MINUTES PLANNED AN INVASION.

Walled Townes, stored Arcenalls and Armouries, Goodly Races of Horse, Chariots of Warre, Elephants, Ordnance, Artillery, and the like:  All this is but a Sheep in a Lion’s Skin, except the Breed and disposition be stout and warlike.  Nay, Number it selfe in Armies importeth not much where the People is of weake courage:  For (as Virgil saith) It never troubles a Wolfe, how many the sheepe be.”—­BACON.

For the rest of the day my father shut himself in his room, while my uncle spent the most of it seated on the brewhouse steps in a shaded corner of the back court, through which the monks brought in their furniture and returned to the ship for more.  The bundles they carried were prodigious, and all the morning they worked without halt or rest, ascending and descending the hill in single file and always at equal distances one behind another.  Watching from the terrace down the slope of the park as they came and went, you might have taken them for a company of ants moving camp.  But my uncle never wholly recovered from the shock of their first freight, to see man by man cross the court with a stout coffin on his back and above each coffin a pack of straw:  nor was he content with Fra Basilio’s explanation that the brethren slept in these coffins by rule and saved the expense of beds.

“For my part,” said my uncle, “considering the numbers that manage it, I should have thought death no such dexterity as to need practice.”

“Yet bethink you, sir, of St. Paul’s words.  ‘I protest,’ said he, ‘I die daily.’”

“Why, yes, sir, and so do we all,” agreed my uncle, and fell silent, though on the very point, as it seemed, of continuing the argument.  “I did not choose to be discourteous, lad,” he explained to me later:  “but I had a mind to tell him that we do daily a score of things we don’t brag about—­of which I might have added that washing is one:  and I believe ’twould have been news to him.”

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Sir John Constantine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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