Short summary - Mateo Falcone - Prosper Mérimée

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Mateo Falcone
Prosper Mérimée

If you walk from Porto Vecchio into the interior of Corsica, you can go to the vast thickets of poppies - the homeland of shepherds and all who are at odds with justice. Corsican farmers burn part of the forest and harvest from this land. The roots of trees left in the ground start to sprout again. This dense confused growth several meters high is called poppies. If you have killed a person, run to the poppies, and you will live there safely, with a weapon with you. The shepherds will feed you, and you will not be afraid of justice or revenge, unless you go down to the city to replenish the supply of gunpowder.
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Matteo Falcone lived half a mile from the poppy. He was a wealthy man and lived off the income from his many herds. At that time he was no more than fifty years old. He was a short, strong and dark-skinned man with curly black hair, an aquiline nose, thin lips, and large lively eyes. His accuracy was unusual even for this land of good shooters. This extraordinarily high art made Matteo famous. He was considered as good a friend as he was a dangerous enemy; however, he lived in peace with everyone around him. It was said that he once shot his rival, but that story was hushed up, and Matteo married Giuseppe. She bore him three daughters and a son, whom he named Fortunato. The daughters were successfully married. The son was ten years old, and he already showed great promise.
Early one morning, Matteo and his wife went to the poppies to look at their flocks. Fortunato was left alone at home. He was basking in the sun, dreaming of coming Sunday, when suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a rifle shot from the side of the plain. The boy jumped up. On the path leading to Matteo's house, a bearded man appeared, in rags and a hat like the mountaineers. He was wounded in the thigh, and he could hardly move his legs, leaning on a gun. It was Gianetto Sanpiero, a bandit who, having gone to the city for gunpowder, was ambushed by Corsican soldiers. He fired back fiercely and eventually managed to get away.
Gianetto recognized Matteo Falcone's son in Fortunato and asked to hide him. Fortunato hesitated, and Gianetto threatened the boy with his gun. But the gun could not scare Matteo Falcone's son. Gianetto rebuked him, recalling whose son he was. Doubting, the boy demanded payment for his help. Gianetto handed him a silver coin. Fortunato took the coin and hid Gianetto in a haystack near the house. Then the cunning boy brought the cat with the kittens and laid them on the hay, so that it seemed that he had not been stirred for a long time. After that, he, as if nothing had happened, stretched out in the sun.
A few minutes later, six soldiers, under the command of a sergeant, were already standing in front of Matteo's house. The sergeant, Theodore Gamba, the thunderstorm of bandits, was a distant relative of Falcone, and in Corsica, more than anywhere else, is considered a kinship. The sergeant approached Fortunato and began asking if anyone had passed by. But the boy answered Gamba so boldly and mockingly that he, boiling over, ordered a search of the house and began to threaten Fortunato with punishment. The boy, on the other hand, sat and calmly stroked the cat, not showing himself in any way even when one of the soldiers approached and casually jabbed into the hay with a bayonet. The sergeant, convinced that the threats did not make any impression, decided to test the power of bribery. He pulled a silver watch out of his pocket and promised to give it to Fortunatto if he betrayed the culprit.
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Fortunatto's eyes lit up, but still he did not reach out for the clock. The sergeant brought the watch closer and closer to Fortunato. Struggle broke out in Fortunato's soul, and the clock swayed in front of him, brushing the tip of his nose. Finally Fortunato hesitantly reached for the watch, and it lay in his palm, although the sergeant still did not let go of the chain. Fortunato raised his left hand and pointed his thumb at the haystack. The sergeant let go of the end of the chain, and Fortunato realized that the watch was now his. And the soldiers immediately began to scatter the hay. Gianetto was found, grabbed and bound hand and foot. When Gianetto was already lying on the ground, Fortunato threw his silver coin back to him - he realized that he no longer had a right to it.
While the soldiers were constructing a stretcher on which the criminal could be carried to the city, Matteo Falcone and his wife suddenly appeared on the road. At the sight of the soldiers, Matteo became wary, although for ten years he had not directed the muzzle of his gun at a person. He took aim at the rifle and began to slowly approach the house. The sergeant also felt a little uneasy when he saw Matteo with a gun at the ready. But Gamba boldly went out to meet Falcone and called out to him. Recognizing his relative, Matteo stopped and slowly drew the muzzle of the gun. The sergeant reported that they had just covered Giannetto Sanpiero and praised Fortunatto for his help. Matteo whispered a curse.
Seeing Falcone with his wife, Gianetto spat on the threshold of their house and called Matteo a traitor. Matteo raised his hand to his forehead like a grief-stricken man. Fortunato brought a bowl of milk and, looking down, handed it to Janetto, but the arrested man angrily rejected the offering and asked the soldier for water. The soldier handed the flask, and the bandit drank the water brought up by the enemy's hand. The sergeant signaled and the party moved towards the plain.
Several minutes passed, and Matteo was still silent. The boy looked anxiously now at his mother, now at his father. Finally Matteo spoke to his son in a calm, but terrible voice for those who knew this man. Fortunato was about to rush to his father and fall to his knees, but Matteo screamed terribly, and he, sobbing, stopped a few steps away. Giuseppa saw the watch chain and asked sternly who gave it to Fortunato. “Uncle Sergeant,” the boy replied. Matteo realized that Fortunatto had become a traitor, the first in the Falcone family.
Fortunato sobbed, Falcone did not take his lynx eyes off him. Finally, he threw the gun over his shoulder and walked down the road to the poppies, ordering Fortunato to follow him. Giuseppa rushed to Matteo, glaring at him, as if trying to read what was in his soul, but in vain. She kissed her son and, crying, returned to the house. Meanwhile Falcone descended into a small ravine. He ordered his son to pray, and Fortunato fell to his knees. Haltingly and crying, the boy read all the prayers he knew. He begged for mercy, but Matteo raised his gun and, taking aim, said: "God forgive you!" He fired. The boy fell down dead.
Without even looking at the corpse, Matteo went to the house for a shovel to bury his son. He saw Giuseppa, alarmed by the shot. "What did you do?" - she exclaimed. “Has done justice. He died a Christian. I will order a requiem for it. I have to tell my son-in-law, Theodore Bianchi, to come and live with us, ”Matteo replied calmly.