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I believe

She studied his face. Despite his charm, she sensed a streak of cruelty. He might seduce women, she thought, but if that failed he would rape them. His skin was weathered by outdoor living, and he had the red nose of a drinker. His clothes were costly but dirty. "I know who you are," she said. "Aren't you afraid you'll be punished for your sins?"

"If I believed that, I wouldn't have committed them. Are you afraid you'll burn in Hell?"

It was a question she normally sidestepped, but she felt that this dying outlaw deserved a true answer. "I believe that what I do becomes part of me," she said. "When I'm brave and strong, and care for children and the sick and the poor, I become a better person. And when I'm cruel, or cowardly, or tell lies, or get drunk, I turn into someone less worthy, and I can't respect myself. That's the divine retribution I believe in."


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