Continued from Part VI.
“You didn’t barter or haggle for that mule,” Mallos shouted. “You stole it. You stole! Like you stole my gold coins!”
Vinsent could not look at him. He turned his head and gazed across the field.
“Admit it!” cried Mallos.
Vinsent hung his head. “Yes,” he said. “I was desperate. My mother turned me out to seek my uncle at the rearguard. I was frightened. I wanted you to take me on, I had no other chance.”
“So you took from our own,” snarled Mallos.
“How else will I make it?” said Vinsent, tears in his eyes. “I often heard my mother talking. I know how bad things are.”
“How did we survive that encounter?” said Mallos, stabbing his finger in the direction the guardsman had ridden. “How are we not now under arrest? How are we not bound at the point of his sword? Because he know of me. He knew my reputation, he knew I am trusted. What that be so if I was a profit-taker? If I gouged the poor, took advantage of their desperation as you propose?”
Vinsent said nothing, just stared at Mallos, eyes wide.
“Take care of your community,” said Mallos. “So that they can take care of you.” He grabbed the cord to his mule and began to walk on down the road. “Community,” he repeated. “Let that be your first lesson.”
To be continued…