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confidence, which, in no instance, they have ever yet be found to make an improper or dishonest use of. They are clothed in the prince's livery, yellow and green, with silver lace; and wear likewise a badge of their honourable order, which entitles them to universal fear and respect from the people.
I have just been interrupted by an upper servant of the prince's, who, both by his looks and language, seems to be of the same worthy fraternity. He tells me, that he has ordered our muleteers, at their peril, to be ready by day-break; but that we need not go till we think proper ; for it is their business to
; attend on nostri eccellenzi. He
he has likewise ordered two of the most desperate fellows in the whole island to accompany us ; adding, in a sort of whisper, that we need be under no apprehension; for if any person should presume to impose upon us to the value of a single baiocc, * they would certainly put them to death. I gave him an ounce, + which I knew was what he expected ; on which he redoubled his bows and his excellenzis, and de. clared we were the most honorabili Signori he had ever met with, and that if we pleased, he himself should have the honour of attending us, and would chastise any person that should dare to take the wall of us, or injure us in the smallest trifle. We thanked him for his zeal, shewing him we had swords of our own. On which bowing respectfully, he retired.
* A small coin.
About elepea shillings.
I can now, with more assurance, give you some account of the conversation I had with Signior M, who, as I said, appears to be a very intelligent man, and has resided here for these
many years. He says, that in some circumstances these banditti are the most respectable people of the island ; and have by much the highest and most romantic notions of what they call their point of honour : that, however criminal they may be with regard to society in general ; yet, with respect to one another, and to every person to whom they have once professed it, they have ever maintained the most unshaken fidelity. The magistrates have often been obliged to protect them, and even pay them court, as they are known to be perfectly determined and • desperate ; and so extremely vindictive, that they will certainly put any person to death, who has ever given them just cause of provocation. On the other hand, it never was known that any person who had put himself under their protection, and shewed that he had confidence in them, had cause to repent of it, or was injured by any of them in the most minute trifle ; but, on the contrary, they will protect him from impositions of every kind, and scorn to go halves with the landlord, like most other conductors and travelling servants; and will defend him with their lives if there is occasion. That those of their number who have thus enlisted themselves in the service of society, are known and respected by the other banditti all over the island : and the persons of those they accompany are ever held sacred. For these reasons, most travellers choose to hire a couple of them from town to town ; and travel over the whole island in safety. To illustrate their character the more, he added two stories, which happened but a few days ago, and are still in every body's mouth.
A number of people were found digging in a place where some treasure was supposed to have been hid during the plague: as this had been forbid under the most severe penalties, they were immediately carried to prison, and expected to
bave been treated without mercy ; but luckily for the others, one of these heroes happened to be of the number. He wrote to the prince of Villa Franca, and made use of such powerful arguments in their favour, that they were all immediately set at liberty.
This will serve to shew their consequence with the civil power ; the other story will give you a strong idea of their barbarous ferocity, and the horrid mixture of stubborn vice and virtue (if I may call it by that name) that seems to direct their actions. I should have mentioned, that they have a practice of borrowing money from the country people, who never dare refuse them; and if they promise to pay it, they have ever been found punctual and exact, both as to the time and the sum ; and would much rather rob and murder an innocent person, than fail of payment at the day appointed ; and this they have often been obliged to do, only in order, as they say, to fulfil their engagements, and to save their honour.
It happened within this fortnight, that the brother one of these heroic banditti having occasion for money, and not knowing how to procure it, determined to make use of his broa ther's name and authority, an artifice which he
thought could not easily be discovered ; accordingly he went to a country priest, and told him his brother had occasion for twenty ducats, which he desired he would immediately lend him. The priest assured him that he had not then so large a sum, but that if he would return in a few days, it should be ready for him. The other replied, that he was afraid to return to his brother with this answer; and desired, that be would by all means take care to keep out of his way, at least till such time as he had pacified him; otherwise he could not be answerable for the consequences.As bad fortune would have it, the very next day the priest and the robber met in a narrow road ; the former fell a-trembling as the latter approached, and at last dropped on his knees to beg for mercy. The robber, astonished at his behaviour, desired to know the cause of it. The trembling priest answered, “Il denaro, il denaro, the money, the money—but send your brother to-morrow, and you shall have it.” The haughty robber assured him, that he disdained taking money of a poor priest; adding, that if any of his brothers had been low enough to make such a demand, he himself was ready to advance the sum. The priest then acquainted