Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The prisoner

Somewhere in the Guilleries range, 12th July 1713

–Do I kill him, Sir? –Asked the soldier, pushing the sharp blade of his knife against the prisoner’s throat.

Clad in Colonel’s red vests, the officer that was standing in front of them answered: –No Jaume, not yet. Let’s see what’s he willing to explain before –And then he carefully observed once again the man kneeling at their feet.

Colonel Francesc Macià, better known as Bac de Roda, was a real veteran of war. As a good number of Austro-Catalan military leaders of his time, he had been awarded his reputation in the 1688-1697 war against France, under command of George von Hesse-Darmstadt –who was called Príncep Jordi by his Catalan subordinates. After so many years of ceaseless fighting, always side by side with his men –so that a little more effusion of blood would hardly impress him a bit–, he was proud of having developed some kind of understanding, let's say perception, about Human nature through the observation of individuals behaviour face to extreme peril.

However, this particular prisoner wasn’t matching Bac’s aprioristic thoughts. No doubt, he was fatally aware of his more than presumable destiny but, in spite of such deadly fright, the man was consciously avoiding to fall broken, as Bac would expect to happen sooner o later. Inversely, the prisoner was clearly unwilling to beg for his life, and this was getting Bac curious about him.

The kneeling man was dressed in a French junior officer uniform –Bac couldn’t guess which regiment might he belong to. His vest was of a decent quality fabric, although deprived of unnecessary luxuries. He examined with care the blade of the prisoner’s sword –obviously used and sharpened several times. All in that guy was seemingly confirming his words.

–If you would me to believe you, Sir...

–...Loys d’Hauteville, Sire –responded in a whisper the prisoner.

–Oh true, my apologies –agreed Colonel Macià–. Monsieur d’Hauteville, I’d suggest you to give us an explanation of your desertion, a convincing enough one. Otherwise, we'd have no other chance than considering you as a spy, and therefore to accordingly act. –under the varnish of his capturer’s polite words, the prisoner perceived his cold, merciless eyes trespassing him as lances, and visibly faded.

–I’m a huguenot, Sire. I managed to escape prosecution after the Cévennes revolt, but since then...

A heretic? Are you a protestant heretic? –exclaimed abruptly one soldier. A furious glance of his Colonel made him shut up.

Bac de Roda was shocked, not by the prisoner’s revealings, but for he had not spoken French this time. He’d used some Gascon-related dialect, that was intelligible enough for them Catalans, so that his men had been able to fully understand the words. –“Mmmm... maybe he’s not lying that much, in the end” –he thought.

–...since that very moment I was forced to hide my identity, to avoid retaliation –the prisoner continued—. I’ve been pretty successful so far, but someone has been insistently inquiring about my past lately, so that I’ve had no other chance than leaving my current employment and escape...

–Your employment at...? –The prisoner hesitated, but Bac insisted again, imperative: –Your employment, Sir?

After a long silence, the man answered in a nearly inaudible voice: –...my employment at His Highness the Duke of Berwick headquarters in Perpignan, Sire.

–HA! Bingo! *

Visibly satisfied, Bac de Roda then shouted: –Captain Prat! Please take a handful of men and escort this gentleman to Barcelona. –and then to the prisoner: –General Villarroel will be extremely pleased to hear the story straight from you, Sir. Can I have your parole? –affirmative response–. Captain Prat, if the General confirms that man’s honourability, wouldn't you mind to bring this gentleman’s sword back to him? –And the officer took the sword from his superior's hands.

(*sure, quite an ahistorical expression)

1 comment:

Salvador said...

Ha! Great, Msr. d'Hauteville finally makes his deserved entrance in the grand scene! And what an entrance, I may say. Nonetheless than a huguenot fugitive! This is getting VERY interesting...
Congratulations for the story! See, you'll finally get a book from all this.