"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 and forgave me, and I would do anything for her. I would indeed, sir, and I swear that I would be always honest and truthful with you. I should like you as a master. You don't speak to me as if I were dirt under your feet, and I am sure by your voice that you would be kind. Try me, sir; my brother will tell you that I have never said as much before to anyone to whom he has taken me, for indeed I never meant to stay with them, preferring my liberty, rough though my fare may sometimes be."
"I will try you, Paolo. I believe that you are in earnest, and that I can trust you; but mind, there must be no monkey tricks here. The general must not be disturbed by the antics of a servant boy. You are likely, in my service, to have as much excitement and adventure as you can wish for, and you must behave yourself, for if you do not do so you will be lucky if you escape with a flogging and being turned out of camp. I am younger than you are, and am just as fond of a piece of fun, but I know when it is good to enjoy one's self and when one must put aside boyish pranks. I have my duties to perform, and do them to the best of my power, and shall expect you to do the same."
"I will, sir," the boy said respectfully. "I will give you no cause to complain of me, at least no wilful cause."
"Then that is settled. Here," he said to the boy's brother, "are five pistoles; see that he is decently clad so as to make a fair appearance by my side. When he is so, let him return here. It were best that he should come this evening, for it is likely that I shall be away on duty tomorrow."
"He shall be here, sir," he said, "and I thank you heartily for engaging him; and I do think that he means this time to behave himself."
"I do mean it," the boy said. "You shall have no reason to complain of me, sir."
Shortly afterwards Hector met the officer who had spoken of the boy.
"Well, have you thought anything more of young ne'er-do-well?"
"I have engaged him."
"You have, after the warning I gave you? Well, I hope you will not have reason to repent it."
"I do not think that I shall. I can quite believe that he is a mischievous young varlet, he shows it in his face; but I am sure that he is shrewd, and I believe that he will be faithful. At any rate I think that we took to each other, and that he has made up his mind to try for once to stay in a place. He really seemed in earnest about it, and if he keeps to his promises I think that he will be just the sort of lad to suit me."
"Well, we shall see," the officer said; "but if he turns out badly, please remember that I warned you against him."
"And if he turns out well," Hector said with a laugh, "I shall not fail also to remind you of your prognostications."
That evening when Hector returned to his room after he had finished his meal, he found Paolo waiting outside his door. His appearance had so changed that he would not have known him. His hair had been cut short in the front and left long behind, as was the custom of the day, hanging down on to his collar. He was neat and tidy. He wore a dark blue doublet reaching to the hips, with a buff leather belt, in which was stuck a dagger. His leggings, fitting tightly down to the ankles, were of dark maroon cloth, and he wore short boots of tanned leather. A plain white collar, some four inches deep, was worn turned down over the neck of the doublet, and a yellow cloth cap, with a dark cock's feather, was stuck on one side of his head. In his hand he held a bundle containing a leather jerkin and breeches of the same material, and a pair of buff leather riding boots that would reach to the knee.
"Your brother has laid out the money well, Paolo," Hector said, as he opened the door and led the way into his room. "I do not think that I should have known you."
"I am quite sure that I should not have known myself, master, if I had looked into a horse trough and seen my reflection. It will be a long time before I shall be able to persuade myself that these clothes are my own, and that I really am an officer's lackey. Now, master, you must teach me my duties, of which I know nought when in a house like this, though I know well enough what they are when you are in the field."
"They are few enough at present, Paolo. Monsieur de Turenne's stablemen look after the horses of his staff. When I do not dine with him, I and my two friends, M. de Lisle and M. de Chavigny, dine and sup together at an inn. There is my room to keep tidy, my bed to make, my armour and arms to be polished, and my clothes to be brushed. Hitherto, my orderly has done these things, but it will now be your duty. As I do not eat in my rooms, it is clear that there is no food for you, and when we are in towns I shall give you money to pay for your meals at a cabaret."
"I hope, master, that you will soon find something more useful for me to do, for, in truth, I fear that with so much time on my hands I shall find it sorely difficult to comport myself as is due to your lackey."
"Do not fear, I have little doubt that you will soon find work enough and to spare, and indeed you will often ride with me."