List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
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I had eaten but once that day, I grew faint and sick.  But as I
leaned there, out of the gloom came a hand that fumbled timidly
my bowed head, my arm, my hand.

"Sir--are you hurt?" questioned a voice, and here once again I
was struck by the strange, vital quality of this voice, its bell-
like depth and sweetness.

"No whit!" says I.  Now as I spoke it chanced she touched the
knife in my grasp and I felt her shiver a little.

"Did you--O sir--did you--kill him?"

"And wherefore no?" I questioned.  "And why call me 'sir'?"

"You do speak as one of gentle birth."

"And go like the beggar I am--in rags.  I am no 'sir.'"

"How may I call you?"

"Call me rogue, thief, murderer--what ye will, 'tis all one.  But
as for you," quoth I, lifting my head, "'tis time you were gone--
see yonder!" and I pointed where a light winked through the
trees, a light that danced to and fro, coming slowly nearer until
it stopped all at once, then rose a shout answered by other
shouts and a roar of dismayed blasphemy.  At this my companion
pressed nearer so that I felt her shiver again.

"Let us be gone!" she whispered.  "Marjorie, come, child, let us
haste."  So we went on together at speed, and ever as we went
that small, soft hand was upon the hand that held the knife.  So
we sped on through the dark, these two maids and I, unseeing and
unseen, speaking little by reason of our haste.

Presently the rain ceased, the wind abated its rage and the
thunder pealed faint with distance, while ever and anon the gloom
gave place to a vague light, where, beyond the flying cloud-
wrack, a faint moon peeped.

Guided by that slender hand, so soft and yet instinct with warm
and vigorous life, I stumbled on through leafy ways, traversed a
little wood, on and ever on until, the trees thinning, showed
beyond a glimmer of the great high road.  Here I stayed.

"Madam," says I, making some ado over the unfamiliar word.  "You
should be safe now--and, as I do think, your road lieth yonder."

"Pembury is but a mile hence," says she, "and there we may get
horses.  Come, at least this night you shall find comfort and

"No," says I.  "No--I am a thing of the roads, and well enough in
hedge or rick!" and I would have turned but her hand upon my
sleeve restrained me.

"Sir," says she, "be you what you will, you are a man!  Who you
are I know and care not--but you have this night wrought that I
shall nevermore forget and now I--we--would fain express our

"Indeed and indeed!" said the maid Marjorie, speaking for the
first time.

"I want no gratitude!" says I, mighty gruff.

"Yet shall it follow thee, for the passion of gratitude is strong
and may not be denied--even by beggar so proud and arrogant!" 
And now, hearkening to this voice, so deep and soft and strangely
sweet, I knew not if she laughed at me or no; but even as I
debated this within myself, she lifted my hand, the hand that
grasped the knife, and I felt the close, firm pressure of two
warm, soft lips; then she had freed me and I fell back a step,
striving for speech yet finding none.

"God love me!" quoth I at last.  "Why must you--do so!"

And wherefore not?" she questioned proudly.

"'Tis the hand of a vagrant, an outcast, a poor creeper o'
ditches!" says I.

"But a man's hand!" she answered.

"'Tis at hand that hath slain once this night and shall slay
again ere many hours be sped."  Now here I heard her sigh as one
that is troubled.

"And yet," says she gently, "'tis no murderer's hand and you that
are vagrant and outcast are no rogue."

"How judge ye this, having never seen me?" I questioned.

"In that I am a woman.  For God hath armed our weakness with a
gift of knowledge whereby we may oft-times know truth from
falsehood, the noble from the base, 'spite all their outward
seeming.  So do I judge you no rogue--a strong man but very--aye,
very young that, belike, hath suffered unjustly, and being so
young art fierce and impatient of all things, and apt to rail
bitterly 'gainst the world.  Is't not so?"

"Aye," says I, marvelling, "truly 'tis like witchcraft--mayhap
you will speak me my name."  At this she laughed (most wonderful
to hear and vastly so to such coarse rogue as I, whose ears had
long been strangers to aught but sounds of evil and foul

"Nay," says she, "my knowledge of you goeth no further--but--"
(and here she paused to fetch a shuddering breath) "but for him
you killed--that two-legged beast!  You did but what I would have
done for--O man, had you not come I--I should have killed him,
maid though I am!  See, here is the dagger I snatched from his
girdle as he strove with me.  O, take it--take it!"  And, with a
passionate gesture, she thrust the weapon into my grasp.

"O madam--my lady!" cried her companion, "Look, yonder be lights
--lanthorns aflare on the road.  'Tis Gregory as I do think, with
folk come to seek for us.  Shall we go meet them?"

"Nay wait, child--first let us be sure!"  So side by side we
stood all three amid the dripping trees, watching the tossing
lights that grew ever nearer until we might hear the voices of
those that bare them, raised, ever and anon, in confused

"Aye, 'tis Gregory!" sighed my lady after some while.  "He hath
raised the village and we are safe--"

"Hark!" cried I, starting forward.  "What name do they cry upon?"

"Mine, sir!"

"Oho, my lady!" roared the hoarse chorus.  "Oho, my Lady Joan--my
Lady Brandon--Brandon--Brandon!"

"Brandon!" cried I, choking upon the word.

"Indeed, sir--I am the Lady Joan Brandon of Shene Manor, and so
long as life be mine needs must I bear within my grateful heart
the memory of--"

But, waiting for no more, I turned and sprang away into the
denser gloom of the wood.  And ever as I went, crashing and
stumbling through the underbrush, above the noise of my headlong
flight rang the hated name of the enemy I had journeyed so far to
kill--"Brandon!  Brandon!  Brandon!"



Headlong went I, staying for nought and heedless of all
direction, but presently, being weary and short of breath, I
halted and leaning against a tree stood thus very full of bitter
thought.  The storm was quite passed, but a chill wind was abroad
that moaned dismally, while all about me sodden trees dripped
with mournful, sobbing noises.  And hearkening to all this, what
should I be thinking but of the sweet, soft tones of a woman's
voice that had stirred within me memories of better days, a voice
that had set me to dreams of a future, to fond and foolish
imaginings.  For, though shamed and brutalised by my sufferings,
I was a man and in this past hour (strange though it do seem)
felt scorn of myself and a yearning for higher things, and all
this by no greater reason than the sound of a woman's voice in
the dark and the touch of her warm lips on my hand--and she a
Brandon!  And now as the bitter mockery of it all rushed upon me,
fierce anger swept me and I broke forth into vile oaths and
cursings, English and Spanish, foul invectives picked up from the
rogues, my fellows in misery; and feeling a new shame therefore,
did but curse the more.  So there crouched I 'gainst the tree,
shivering like the miserable wretch I was and consumed with a
ravening hunger.  At last, becoming aware that I yet grasped a
weapon in either hand, I thrust my knife in my girdle and fell to
handling this other, judging it by touch since it was yet too
dark for eyes to serve me.  And by its feel I knew it for no
honest knife; here was a thing wrought by foreign hands, a haft
cunningly shaped and wrought, a blade curiously slender and long
and three-edged, a very deadly thing I judged by the feel.  Now
since it had no sheath (and it so sharp) I twisted my neckerchief
about it from pommel to needle-point, and thrusting it into the
leathern wallet at my belt, went on some way further 'mid the
trees, seeking some place where I might be sheltered from the
cold wind.  Then, all at once, I heard that which brought me to a

A man was singing and at no great distance, a strange, merry air
and stranger words; and the voice was loud, yet tuneful and
mellow, and the words (the which I came to know all too well)
were these:

"Cheerly O and cheerly O,
Right cheerly I'll sing O,
Whiles at the mainyard to and fro
We watch a dead man swing O.
With a rumbelow and to and fro
He by the neck doth swing O!

One by the knife did part wi' life
And three the bullet took O,
But three times three died plaguily
A-wriggling on a hook O.
A hook both strong and bright and long,
They died by gash o' hook O.

So cheerly O and cheerly O,
Come shake a leg, lads, all O.
Wi' a yo-ho-ho and a rumbelow
And main-haul, shipmates, haul O.

Some swam in rum to kingdom come,
Full many a lusty fellow.
And since they're dead I'll lay my head
They're flaming now in hell O.

So cheerly O, so cheerly O"--

Waiting for no more of the vile rant I strode forward and thus
presently came on a small dell or dingle full of the light of a
fire that crackled right merrily; at the which most welcome sight
I made shift to scramble down the steepy bank forthright and
approached the blaze on eager feet.  Drawing near, I saw the fire
burned within a small cave beneath the bank, and as I came within
its radiance the song broke off suddenly and a man rose up,
facing me across the fire and with one hand hid under the flap of
his side pocket.

"Fibs off your popps, cull!" quoth in the vernacular of the
roads.  "Here's none but a pal as lacketh warmth and a bite!"

"Aha!" quoth the fellow, peering across the blaze, "And who be
you?  Stand and give a show o' your figurehead!"  Obediently I
stood with hands outspread to the flame, warming my shivering
body at its grateful heat.

"Well?" says I.

"Why," quoth he, nodding, "You're big enough and wild enough and
as likely a cut-throat as another--what's the lay?"

"The high pad!" says I.

"Where away?"

"'Tis no matter!"

"All I asks is," quoth the fellow with a quizzical look, "how
you've fobbed the nubbing-cheat so long!"

"And what I ask is," quoth I, "how a sailor-man comes to know the
patter o' the flash coves!"

"'Tis no matter," says he, "but since you're o' the Brotherhood
sit ye and welcome, 'tis dry enough here in this cave."

Staying for no second bidding I entered the little cave and sat
me down in the comforting warmth of the fire.  The man was a
comely fellow of a hectoring, swashing air, bright of eyes and
instant of gesture; close to hand lay a short cutting-sword,
pistols bulged his deep coat-pockets, while betwixt his knees was
a battered case-bottle.

"Well," says he, eyeing me over, "what's the word?"

"Food!" says I.

"Nary a bite!" he answered, shaking his head.  "But here's rum
now if you've a mind to sluice the ivories--ha?"

"Not a drop!" says I.

"Good!  The more for me!" he nodded.  "Rum--ha--

"Some swam in rum to kingdom come"--

"You sing a mighty strange song!" quoth I.

"Ha--d'ye like it?"

"No, I don't!"

"And wherefore no?"

"There seems overmuch death in it."

"Death?" cries he with a great laugh and hugging his case-bottle. 
"Death says you--aye, aye, says I and so there is, death in every
line on't.  'Tis song as was made for dead men, of dead men, by a
dead man, and there's for ye now!"  Here he lifted the bottle,
drank, and thereafter smacked his lips with great gusto.  "Made
by a dead man," he repeated, "for dead men, of dead men, and
there's for ye!"

"I like your song less and less!"

"You've a cursed queasy stomach I think!" he hiccupped.

"And an empty one!" says I.

"'Tis a song well bethought on by--by better men nor you, for all
your size!" says he, glancing at me over his bottle with a
truculent eye, and though his glance was steady, I perceived the
drink was affecting him more and more.  "Aye, many a better man!"
he nodded, frowning.

"As who?" I questioned.

"First, there's Abnegation Mings as you shall hear tell of on the
Main from Panama to St. Catherine's, aye, by the horns of Nick
there be none of all the coastwise Brotherhood quicker or readier
when there's aught i' the wind than Abnegation, and you can lay
to that, my delicate cove!"

"And who's he?"

"Myself!"  Here he took another draught and nodded at me in
drunken solemnity.  "And look'ee, my dainty cull, when you've
seen as much o' death as Abnegation Mings you'll know as Death's
none so bad a thing, so long as it leaves you alone.  And I for
one say 'tis a good song and there's for ye!"

"And who else?"

"Well, there's Montbars as do they call the Exterminator, and
there's young Harry Morgan--a likely lad, and there's Roger
Tressady and Sol Aiken and Penfeather--sink him!"

"And Abner!" said I at a venture.

"Aye for sure!" he nodded, and then, "Ha, d'ye know Abner then?"

"I've met him."

"Where away?"

"In a tavern some mile hence."

"A tavern!" quoth he, "A tavern, 'od rot 'em and here's me hove
short in this plaguy hole!  A tavern, and here's my bottle out--
dog bite me!  But a mouthful left--well, here's to a bloody shirt
and the Brotherhood o' the Coast."

"You drink to the buccaneers, I think?" says I.

"And what if I do?"

"'Tis said they be no better than pirates--"

"Would ye call me a pirate then?" cried he, scowling.

"I would."  Quick as flash he clapped hand to pocket, but the
pistol caught on the lining, and before he could free it I had
covered him with mine, whereat he grew suddenly rigid and still. 
"Up wi' your fambles!" says I.  Obediently he raised his hands
and, taking his pistols, I opened the pan of each one and, having
blown out the primings, tossed them back.

"Snake sting me!" says he, laughing ruefully as he re-pocketed
his weapons.  "This comes o' harbouring a lousy rogue as balks
good liquor.  The man as won't take good rum hath the head of a
chicken, the heart of a yellow dog, and the bowels of a w-worm,
and bone-rot him, says I.  Lord love me, but I've seen many a
better throat than yours slit ere now, my buxom lad!"

"And aided too, belike?" says I.

"Why, here's a leading question--but mum!  Here's a hand that
knoweth not what doth its fellow--mum, boy, mum!"  And tilting
back his head he brake forth anew into his villainous song:

"Two on a knife did end their life
And three the bullet took O,
But three times three died plaguily
A-wriggling on a hook O.
Sing cheerly O and cheerly O,
They died by gash o' hook O."

"And look'ee, my ben cull, if I was to offer ye all Bartlemy's
treasure--which I can't, mark me--still you'd never gather just
what manner o' hook that was.  Anan, says you--mum, boy, says I. 
Howbeit, I say, 'tis a good song," quoth he, blinking drowsily at
the fire, "here's battle in't, murder and sudden death and wha--
what more could ye expect of any song--aye, and there's women
in't too!"  Here he fell to singing certain lewd ribaldry that I
will not here set down, until what with the rum and the drowsy
heat of the fire that I had replenished, he yawned, stretched,
and laying himself down, very soon fell a-snoring, to my no small

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