The Cornerstone

The Cornerstone

The Cornerstone

The Cornerstone

Excerpt

SO NOW le Gros was to be master. Yet he was not accepted as the real lord; people still believed that the old man would come back. He had always come back; impossible to believe that this time he was gone for good. He had left three Sundays before Christmas.

He was well known in all that countryside. He was a very big man, burly as a wild boar, his face more swarthy than a farmhand's who works in the fields. He wore no hat to protect him from sun and wind, and to spare his horse he would walk a league through the marshes, leading it by the bridle. Singlehanded he would attack boar or bear. He could track his game by scent, with a nose as sensitive as a hound's.

He was a simple man, not too proud to sit on the floor of a woodman's hovel and be satisfied with a chunk of bread and cheese for his supper. Whenever, caught by bad weather, he spent the night in some peasant's cabin, he always slept on the outside so as not to occupy the whole pallet himself. And he could not see a little child without caressing its hair.

He, the old master, had suffered a great misfortune in his life: he had lost his son, a youth of twenty years, dead of a sickness in the Holy Land. True, he had other sons, but it was this one, the eldest, whom he loved best. And it was said that since his death he had had no loy in the love of his other children. But when he heard that any man of the countryside had lost a son of twenty years of age, he would have the sum of the man's poll-tax for that year returned to him, and if the man be-

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