List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
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comfort.  As for me, I sat there waiting for the dayspring; the
fire sank lower and lower, filling the little cave with a rosy
glow falling athwart the sprawling form of the sleeper and making
his red face seem purplish and suffused like the face of one I
had once seen dead of strangulation; howbeit, he slept well
enough, judging from his lusty snoring.  Now presently in the
surrounding dark beyond the smouldering fire was a glimmer, a
vague blur of sloping, trampled bank backed by misty trees; so
came the dawn, very chill and full of eddying mists that crawled
phantom-like, filling the little dingle brimful and blotting out
the surrounding trees.  In a little I arose and, coming without
the cave, shivered in the colder air, shaken with raging hunger. 
And now remembering my utter destitution, I stooped to peer down
at the sleeper, half minded to go through his pockets, but in a
while I turned away and left him sprawled in his sottish slumber.



The mist lay very thick all about me, but when I had climbed to
higher ground it thinned away somewhat, so that as the pallid
light grew I began to see something of the havoc wrought by the
storm; here and there lay trees uprooted, while everywhere was a
tangle of broken boughs and trailing branches, insomuch that I
found my going no small labour.  But presently as I forced a way
through these leafy tangles, the birds, awaking, began to fill
the dim world with blithe chirpings that grew and grew to a sweet
clamour, ever swelling until the dark woods thrilled with
gladsome music and I, beholding the first beam of sun, felt
heartened thereby 'spite my lack of sleep and the gnawing of
hunger's sharp fangs, and hastened with blither steps.  Thus in a
while I brake forth of the desolate trees and came out upon a
fair, rolling meadow with blooming hedgerows before me and,
beyond, the high road.  And now as I stayed to get my bearings,
up rose the sun in majesty, all glorious in purple and pink and
gold, whose level beams turned the world around me into a fair
garden all sweet and fresh and green, while, in the scowling
woods behind, the sullen mists crept furtive away till they were
vanished quite and those leafy solitudes became a very glory.

But my hunger was very sore, a need I purposed to satisfy soon
and at all hazards; therefore, having marked my direction, I went
at speed and, crossing the meadow, came into the highway and
struck south.  On my going through the woods I had chosen me a
cudgel in place of the one lost, shortish and knotted and very
apt for quick wrist-play, and I plucked forth my sailor's knife
meaning to trim my staff therewith; but with it poised in my
hand, I stopped all at once, for I saw that the point of the
stout blade (the which I had sharpened and whetted to an extreme
keenness), I perceived, I say, that the blade was bent somewhat
and the point turned, hook-like.  Now as I strode on again, the
early sun flashing back from the steel, I fell to wondering how
this had chanced, and bethinking me of those two deadly blows I
had struck in the dark I scrutinised my knife, blade and haft,
yet found nowhere on it any trace of blood, so that 'twas
manifest the fellow had worn some protection--chain-shirts were
common enough and many a rogue went with a steel skull to line
his hat.  So it seemed the fellow lived yet and (black rogue
though he was) I was vaguely glad 'twas not my hand had sent him
to his account.

I was yet revolving the matter in my mind when I heard a loud and
merry whistling, and glancing up, beheld a country fellow
approaching down a side lane.  He wore a wide-eaved hat and his
smock was new-washed and speckless; but that which drew and held
my eyes, that which brought me to a sudden stand, was the bundle
he bore wrapped in a fair, white clout.  So, with my gaze on this
I stood leaning on my knotted, untrimmed staff, waiting him. 
Suddenly, chancing to turn his head, he espied me, halted in his
stride, then eyeing me askance, advanced again.  A small man he
was, with rosy face, little, merry eyes, and a wide, up-curving

"Goo' marnin' to 'ee--it do have been a tur'ble bad starm las'
night, master!"

"Aye!" says I, and my heart warmed to him by reason of his good
Kentish tongue--the like of which I had not heard these many
weary years; but at sight of that white-clouted bundle my mouth
watered and hunger gnawed with sharper tooth.  "What have ye
here?" I questioned, touching this with my staff.

"Nou't but my dinner, master, 's ever was!"

"Nay," says I scowling, "I think not!"

"Aye, but it be, master!" he nodded.  "Bread and beef wi' a
mossel of cheese like, 's ever was!"

"Bread!" says I.  "Beef!  Cheese!  Liar--here is no dinner o'

"Aye, master, but it do be so, sure!" quoth he, staring.  "My
very own dinner cut by my very own darter, beef an' bread an' a
mossel o' cheese--I take my bible oath t' it, I do--bread an'
beef an' a mossel--"

"Show me!"  With notable haste he undid the wrapping, discovering
a good half-loaf, a thick slice of roast beef and a slab of
yellow cheese.

"Ha, man!" quoth I 'twixt shut teeth.  "So you lied to me then."

"Lied to 'ee, master?" says he faintly.

"You told me 'twas your dinner!"

"Aye, and so it be, so it be, I lay my oath--beef, d'ye see, an'
a mossel--"

"Nay," says I gathering up the viands, "here's my breakfast."

"Is it?" says he, gaping.

"It is!  Would ye deny it?"

"Not for a moment!" says he, eyeing my staff and the gleaming
knife in my belt.  "Lordy, no!  Only how was I to know 'twere
yourn, master--when my darter cut it for her very own feyther--"

"We live and we learn!" says I, turning away.  "What might your
name be?"

"Full-o'-j'y Tucker, master."

"Why then, Full-of-joy, though my gain be your loss take comfort
in that 'tis more blessed to give than receive.  Moreover, though
you lack a dinner you have a daughter and a roof to shelter you
and I neither one nor other--a poor, hungry rogue.  Methinks of
the two of us you have the better of life."

"Why, look'ee now, master," says he, scratching his shaven chin,
"since you've got your breakfus' surely, if you're minded t' step
along t' my cottage down t' lane, I can give ye a jug of good ale
to wash it down."  Now as he spoke thus, seeing the sturdy
manliness of him I dropped my staff and reached out my hand.

"Full-of-joy," says I, "a starving man must eat by hook or crook,
but if you'll give your honest hand to a thief--there's mine!"

The man stared from my hand to my face, his wide mouth curved,
then rubbing hand on snowy smock he grasped my fingers and wrung
them heartily--a clean and honest grip, such as I had not known
for many a long day.

"Will 'ee come, master?" he questioned.  I shook my head.  Quoth

"You have a daughter and I'm no fit company for a good, sweet
maid--nor ever shall be for that matter!"  So saying, I dropped
his hand and turning, strode away down the road, his dinner
beneath my arm; and when at last I glanced back I saw him
standing where I had left him, staring after me chin in hand. 
Presently, turning in at a gate beside the way, I sat down
beneath a hedge in the warm, level beams of the sun and fell to
eating with huge appetite and (stolen though it was) never tasted
food more sweet.  I was thus rapturously employed when I heard a
dolorous whine and, starting about, beheld a ragged creature on
the opposite side of the hedge who glared at the food with
haggard eyes and reached out claw-like hands in supplication.

"O for the love o' Christ, spare a crust!" she wailed.  "Spare a
bite to a grannam as dieth o' hunger.  O sweet Jesu--a mouthful
to a poor soul as do be pined for lack o' food--"

"Off!" cries I fiercely, "What know you of hunger?  Away, hag!"
and I reached for my staff, whereupon she wailed and wept, and
clawing her dismal rags about her, crept away moaning.

But now while my jaws champed ravenously, the food had lost its
savour; wherefore I cursed and choked and, springing to my feet,
made after her, but, seeing me follow at speed, she cried out in
fear and, striving to flee from me, sank on feeble knees.

"Old hag!" quoth I, "Be damned for spoiling a hungry man's
appetite and robbing him of what he was at pains to rob for
himself!"  Then I thrust the well-filled napkin into her
clutching fingers and hasted away, but her raptured cry followed
me as I went.

I trudged on slow and heavy through the mud, being very weary for
lack of sleep and mightily down cast, heedless of gladsome morn
and the fair, fresh world about me, conscious but of my own most
miserable estate; insomuch that I presently sank down on the
grass by the road and, with heavy head bowed between my hands,
gave myself up to black despond.

But now as I sat thus, very sick and sorrowful, I heard a sound
of wheels and plodding hoofs drawing slowly near, and lifting my
head at last, espied a great wain piled high with fragrant hay
whereon the driver sprawled asleep, a great fat fellow whose
snores rose above the jingle of harness and creak of wheels.  Now
hearkening to his snoring, beholding him so gross and full-fed
(and I starving!!) my sadness gave place to sudden, hot anger
and, as the waggon lumbered by, I swung myself up behind, and
clambering over the hay, raised my staff, minded to drub the
fellow into wakefulness; but even then I stayed the blow, for I
spied a wallet that hung to the driving-seat, a large wallet of
plump and inviting aspect.  Reaching it down I opened it
forthwith and found therein a new-baked loaf, a roast capon
delicately browned and a jar of small beer.  And now, couched
luxuriously among the hay, I fell to work (tooth and nail) and
though I ate in voracious haste, never before or since have I
tasted aught so delicate and savoury as that stolen fowl.  I was
yet busied with what remained of the carcass when the fat fellow
choked in his snoring, sighed, grunted, propped himself on lazy
elbow and, catching sight of me, fell a-gaping.  So whiles he
watched open-mouthed, I finished what remained of the capon and
tossed the bones over the hedge.

"Ecod!" quoth he faintly.  "O, ecod--my dinner!"  As for me,
having my mouth full, I spake not.  "Ad's bobs!" says he, "A
rascally, robbing thief of the roads!"

"Even so!" I nodded and took a long draught of his beer.

"A-eating and a-drinking of a honest man's dinner, by the Lord!"
says he, clenching fat fists.  "O ecod--a hell-fire rogue--a very
lousy, scurvy dog as shall be carted and whipped and set in Sir
Richard's new pillory!"  At this, being engaged with the bread, I
reached out my foot and kicked him (very featly) in the belly;
whereat he gasped and growing thoughtful, dolefully watched me
make an end.

"If there is aught left to eat," says I, "show it me!"

"As fine a capon as was ever plucked, by the Lord!" he groaned.

"Most true!" says I, stretching myself in the hay.

"O!" quoth he, as to himself, "O the pity on't--so foul an end to
so fair a bird!"

"Never whine!" says I, "but tell me how far hence lieth

"Better nor six mile!" he sighed, heaving himself into the

"Why then, do you carry me thither."

"Ad's love!" he mourned.  "'Tis manifest shame a rogue should
thieve the food of an honest man--a man like I be as do slave
morning, noon and--"

"Slave!" says I, frowning.  "What know you of slavery?  Be curst
for a great, fat fool that speaketh lies!"  Now watching him as I
lay, I saw his hand close stealthily on his heavy whip, but or
ever he could turn to strike, I rose and fetched him a buffet
'neath the ear that pitched him sprawling upon the broad backs of
his horses, whence (with much groaning and puffing) he presently
got him safely into the road; seeing the which, I took the reins,
whipping the team to faster gait, so that to keep pace he must
needs trot it in the mud.

"Hold!" cries he.  "What would ye wi' my waggon?"

"Ride in 't!"

"Hold!  Then suffer me to ride likewise, for I'm scant o'

"Good!  I've been scant o' breath ere now!"

"Show a little pity, master!" he groaned.

"None ever showed pity on me!"

"Nay, but--what harm have I--ever--done thee?"

"Begrudged food to a starving wretch!"

"'Twas my dinner and I do need a deal of feeding, I!  Lord, how I
sweat!  Prithee, master, let me up.  How have I deserved this?"

"Called me rogue and thief!"

"Aye, that I did--to my woe.  Aye, rogue I named thee and
likewise--lousy knave--and grieve for't now, I do!"

"And so needs must you sweat awhile!" says I.

And thus I (aloft and at mine ease) and the fat fellow trotting
breathless at the wheel we went awhile (and never another word)
until, what with fear of losing his goods, what with the mud and
heat and sweat, the poor gross fool looked wellnigh spent and all
foredone (as I had seen many a better man than he), whereupon I
brought the waggon to a stand and reached down to stir him where
he lent half-swooning across the wheel.

"Hark'ee, fool, dost know of one called Brandon of Shene

"Aye, truly--truly!" he gasped.  "I do know--Sir Richard--passing
well.  Ad's bobs, my innards be all shook t'pieces and I do be
parched wi' thirst."

"Why then, up with you!" says I, and giving him my hand, aided
him back to the driving-seat.  Being there, he sighed, groaned
and cast a yearning eye towards his wallet.

"Parched wi' thirst I be!" he groaned.

"I've been the like ere now!" says I, and having gulped down what
remained of the fellow's beer I tossed the jar into the road,
whereat he beat his breast.

"My beer!" he wailed, "And I a-famishing wi' thirst!  O my beer!"

"There's sweet water i' the brook yonder!" says I.

"You be a chap wi' no bowels, for sure!" he cried.  "Aye, a hard
man you be!"

"'Tis a hard world," says I, "but 'tis no matter for that, tell
me of Sir Richard Brandon."

"Why then, you must know I am Myles Trueman--"

"And truly, man, there be miles of you, but 'tis no matter for
that either--what of Sir Richard?"

"I do be coming to he," says Trueman in surly tone.  "I do farm
Sir Richard's land--a hard man, see you, though just."

"So--here's another hard man."

"Though a just--aye, and a godly!  He hath restored our church
weathercock an' all an' set up a fine, large and fair pillory on
the green.  Lunnon couldn't show a finer, wi' stocks an' cucking-
stool complete and rare to fancy--"

"And findeth he the wherewithal to fill 'em?"

"That doth he!  Aha, there be never a vagrant, gipsy nor beggar
dare come anigh in Sir Richard's time.  And witches be few
hereabouts since old Mother Mottridge was ducked, and scolds and
shrews be fewer by reason o' the brank, d'ye see?"

"Hum!" says I, "a right proper gentleman this!"

"Aye," quoth Trueman, nodding until his fat cheeks quivered, "and
one that doth abhor vagrants and such-like vermin--"

"As myself?" says I.  To this Trueman answered nothing, but fell
a-fanning himself with his hat again, eyeing me warily the while.

"Art strange in these parts?" he questioned.

"Aye and no!"

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