List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
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It being yet full early for my purpose I took to the woods, and
presently chancing upon a little stream that bubbled pleasantly
'mid shady willows, I sat myself down within this greeny bower
and fell to watching the hurrying waters of this brook and
hearkening to its drowsy murmur.  And lying thus, with the good
green world around me, the sunny air blithe with the mellow
piping of birds and the soft wind rustling the leaves about me--
what must I have in mind but bloodshed and the destruction of my
enemy, insomuch that reaching a stone from the brook I drew the
knife from my girdle and set about straightening the blade

I was thus employed when all at once the leaves on the opposite
side of the brook were parted and a girl-child appeared.  For a
long moment we eyed each other across the brook, then all at once
her pretty lips curved to a smile.

"Little maid," says I, furtively thrusting the knife into my
belt, "art not afraid of me then?"

"Nay!" she answered, smiling yet and shaking her golden head.

"And why?"

"I do like your eyes, big man, kind eyes they be!"

"Are they?" says I, glancing from her smiling innocence into the

"Aye, and your voice--I do like that too--'tis low and soft--like

"And who's your father?"

"He be th' blacksmith."

"How old are you?"

"Seven, an' a big maid I be.  Will 'ee aid me 'cross t'brook,

So I lifted her over and there we sat, side by side, she laughing
and talking and I hearkening to her childish prattle with
marvellous great pleasure.  Presently I ventured to touch her
soft cheek, to stroke her curls, and finding she took this not
amiss, summoned courage to stoop and kiss her.

How long we had sat thus I know not, when I was aroused by a
shrill, harsh voice and turning, beheld a bony woman who peered
at us through the leaves.

"Susan Ann!" she cried.  "O you Susan, come away!  Come quick or
I'll run for your mother."

"The child is safe enough!" says I, frowning, but clasping the
small damsel closer within my arm.

"Safe?" cries the woman, turning on me in fury.  "Safe--aye, for
sooth, wi' a great, ill rogue the like o' you!  Loose her--loose
her or I'll scream and rouse the village on ye for a wild gipsy
wastrel that ye are!"  And here the old harridan railed at me
until the child whimpered for fear and even I blenched before the
woman's fierce aspect and shrewish tongue.  Then, while she
loaded me with abuse, a ceaseless torrent (and no lack of
breath), I kissed the little maid's tear-wetted cheek and,
setting her back across the brook, stood to watch until the child
and woman were lost to my sight.  Then I sat down, scowling at
the hurrying water, chin on fist, for my black humour, banished
awhile by the child's innocent faith in me, was returned and
therewith an added bitterness.  Scowling yet, I plucked forth my
knife and seizing my staff, set to trim and shape it to a
formidable weapon; and as I worked I cursed this woman deep and
oft, yet (even so) knew she had the right on't, for truly I was a
rogue, an outcast of unlovely look and unlovely ways, a desperate
fellow unfit for the company of decent folk, much less an
innocent child; and yet, remembering those fearless child-eyes,
the kiss of those pure child-lips I sighed amain betwixt my
muttered cursings.

At last, having trimmed my bludgeon to a nicety, I laid it by,
and sat brooding, the knife betwixt my knees; now a beam of sun
falling athwart the leaves lit upon the broad blade of the knife
and made of it a glory.  And beholding this and the hand that
grasped it, I took pleasure to heed how strong and sinewy were my
fingers and how the muscles bulged beneath the brown skin of my
forearm; and turning the glittering steel this way and that I
fell to joyous thought of my enemy and of my vengeance, now so

"To-night!" says I to myself, "Death ever cometh with more
terrors in the dark!  To-night!"  But now, little by little, my
joy gave place to anger that the night must be so long a-coming;
and, glancing up, I cursed the sun that it must needs shine and
the gladsome day that it was not grim night.  And presently to
anger was added a growing fear lest mine enemy might (by some
hap) elude me at the eleventh hour--might, even now, be slipping
from my reach.  Now at this a sweat brake out on me, and leaping
to my feet I was minded to seek him out and end the matter there
and then.  "Why wait for to-night?" I asked myself.  "Surely in
the gladsome light of day Death findeth an added bitterness.  Why
wait for night, then?"

So I stood awhile debating within myself, then, catching up my
knotted bludgeon, I set off along the stream incontinent,
following a path I had trodden many a time when but a lad; a path
that led on through mazy thickets, shady dells and green coppices
dappled with sunlight and glad with the trilling melody of birds;
but ever as I went, before my eyes was a man who twisted in my
grasp and died, over and over again, and in my ears the sounds of
his agony.  And ever as I went trees reached out arms as if to
stay me and bushes stretched forth little, thorny fingers that
caught my garments as if to hinder me from my purpose.  But I
brushed them aside with my scarred arms or beat them down with my
heavy staff, o'er-leaping hedge and ditch and fallen tree until I
reached the highway, and even as I came there a distant clock
chimed the hour of ten.  I quickened my pace, twirling my staff
as I went, so that the two or three wayfarers I chanced to meet
drew from my neighbourhood and eyed me mightily askance.  Having
gone thus some mile or so, I came to a wall that bordered the
road, a high and mossy wall, and following this, to a pair of
gates set well back from the highway, with pillars of stone each
surmounted by a couchant leopard carved in the stone.  Now these
gates were of iron, very lofty and strong and fast shut, but
besides these was a smaller gate or postern of wood hard by the
gatehouse where stood a lusty fellow in fair livery, picking his
teeth with a straw and staring at the square toes of his shoes. 
Hearing me approach he glanced up and, frowning, shook his head
and waved me away.

"Here's no road for the likes o' you!" said he while I was yet at
some distance.  "Off wi' you!"  Howbeit, seeing I still advanced
he clapped to the gate, and letting fall the bar, cursed me
roundly through the grille.

"I would see Sir Richard Brandon!" says I.

"Then ye can't--nowise.  So be off and be danged!"

"Open the gate!" says I.

"Be hanged for a murderous-looking rogue, a lousy thief, a
wastrel and a hangdog knave!" says he all in a breath.

"All true enough!" says I.  "And now, open the gate!"

"Be danged for a prigging gipsy--'A Gad!  I'll have ye clapped i'
the pillory for a black-visaged clapper-claw!"

"Unbar!" says I, "Or it shall go plaguy ill wi' you when I come

At this he spat upon me through the grille and chuckled.  Now,
glancing about, I espied a stone hard by about the bigness of a
man's head and, laying by my staff, I wrenched the stone from
where it lay and, raising it aloft, hove it with all my strength;
whereon the gate crashed open so suddenly as to catch the fellow
a buffet that laid him sprawling on his back, and as he strove to
rise I pinned him down with my staff and kicked him heartily.

"And now," says I, "up with you and bring me to your master."

But or ever he could do aught but groan and rub his hurts, I
heard the sound of approaching hoof-strokes and, turning, beheld
a lady bravely mounted who galloped furiously towards us down the
avenue.  When almost upon us she swung her powerful beast aside
and, checking him with strong wrist, sat looking down at me from
the shade of her plumed hat.

"What is this?" she demanded, and her eyes swept over me grey and
wide and fearless.  "Who--who are you?"

Now at the sound of her voice so rich and wonder-sweet, I felt
strangely abashed and, finding no word, turned from her to scowl
down at the man I had pinned beneath my broken shoe.

"Who are you?" she questioned again.  "Speak!"

"A rogue!" says I, keeping my head averted.  "A creeper o'

"Ah--is't you?" said she in softer tone.  "I saw you for a moment
by lightning-flash near the gibbet.  You are my man o' the woods,
and, sir, I owe you much--very much--indeed, sir, if--"

"I am no 'sir'!" quoth I shortly.

"Gregory," says she, looking down on the fellow 'neath my foot. 
"Gregory, get up!"

"Gregory," says I, "stir not!"

"Sir, would you hurt my servant?" says she, knitting her slender
black brows.

"I' faith!" I nodded.  "The uncivil rogue forced me to burst open
the gate."

"And why are you here?  Who are you?  What is your name?" cried
she a little breathlessly, and I wondered at the fixed intensity
of her gaze.

"Gregory," says I, taking my foot from his middle but threatening
him with my staff, "I am come for no traffic with maids, so rise
up and bring me to your master."

"Nay," groans the fellow, turning up his eyes, "'tis thing
impossible, here's only my lady--"

"And I seek your master--is he within?"

"Nay," says Gregory, flinching beneath my staff, "as my lady
shall tell 'ee--he is not here."

"Ha!" quoth I.  "That will I see for myself."  But as I turned to
stride up the avenue, my lady wheeled her horse, barring my way.

"Whither go you?" she demanded, her eyes holding mine.

"To the house for Sir Richard.  I have been at some small pains
to gain speech with him."

"To what end?"

"Why truly," I answered, leaning upon my staff and viewing her
eye to eye, "'tis a matter of vital moment, aye--in a manner of
speaking--'tis a matter of life and death betwixt us."  Now as I
stood thus I could not but be conscious of her glowing, vigorous
beauty, her body's noble shape and the easy grace of her as she
sat her fretting horse, swaying to his every movement.  And to
me, in my rags, she seemed no woman but a goddess rather, proud,
immaculate and very far removed; and yet these proud lips could
(mayhap) grow soft and tender, these clear eyes that met mine so

The staff was wrenched from my loosened grasp and Gregory,
leaping to his feet, fetched me therewith staggering blow on
blow, shouting with his every stroke:

"Ho--Peter!  Roger!  Will!  Ho--hither, lads all!  Loose the
dogs--hither to me, 'a God's name!"  But, though mused with
blows, I rushed in blindly and, closing with the fellow, got him
fairly by the throat and shook him to and fro.  And now was I
minded to choke him outright, but, even then, spied a cavalier
who spurred his horse against me.  Hereupon I dashed the
breathless Gregory aside and turned to meet my new assailant, a
spruce young gallant he, from curling lovelock to Spanish boots. 
I remember cursing savagely as his whip caught me, then, or ever
he could reach me again, I sprang in beneath the head of his
rearing horse and seizing the rein close by the bridle began to
drag and wrench at the bit.  I heard shouts and a woman's cry of
fear, but I strove only the fiercer, while up and up reared the
great roan horse, snorting in terror, his forelegs lashing
wildly; above tossing mane the eyes of his rider glared down at
me as, laughing exultant, I wrenched savagely at the bridle
until, whinnying with pain and terror, the great beast, losing
his balance, crashed over backwards into the dust.  Leaping clear
of those desperate, wild-thrashing hooves, I found myself beset
by divers fellows armed with staves, who closed upon me,
shouting; and above these, her eyes wide, her full, red lips
close-set, my lady looked down on me and I (meeting that look)
laughed, even as her fellows rushed at me:

"Go cosset your pretty springald, wench!"  But even then, dazed
and half-blinded by a hail of blows, I staggered, sank to my
knees, struggled up again, smiting with bare fists.  A flame
seemed to flash before my eyes, a taste of blood was on my
tongue, and all sounds grew faint and far away as, stumbling
blindly, I threw up my arms, tripped and plunged down and down
into an engulfing darkness, and knew no more.



I awoke with a sound in my ears like the never-ceasing surge and
hiss of waters, a sound that waxed ever louder.  Hearkening to
this, I presently sought to move and wondered, vaguely uneasy, to
find this impossible:  I strove now to lift my right hand, found
it fast held, tried my left and found it in like case, and so
became conscious of something that gripped me about the throat,
and ever my wonder and unease grew.  And now, opening my eyes,
the first thing they lighted on was a small pool of blood and
beyond this a battered turnip, and beyond this, the carcass of a
dead cat, and beyond this again, a pair of trim, buckled shoes,
cotton stockings, wide breeches and a broad belt where swung a
tuck or rapier prodigiously long of blade; in a while (my eyes
ranging higher yet) I beheld a thin face scarred from mouth to
eyebrow, a brown face with bright, very quick eyes and strange
ears, they being cut to points like a dog's ears.  Now looking at
this face, it seemed to me in hazy fashion that somewhere and at
some time I had seen such a face before.  All this while, the
noise I have likened to the sea had been growing louder, so that
I began to recognise voices and even words, and, lifting my head
as well as I might (by reason of the thing that gripped my
throat), I saw faces all about me--they hemmed me in on every
side and stretched away to the churchyard wall.

Then, all at once, the knowledge of my situation rushed upon me;
I was in the pillory.

"Huroor!  'E be a-coming' round!" cried a voice.

"Time, too!" shouted a great, strapping fellow near by.  "'Tis
sinful shame to waste good bad-eggs on rogue as knoweth not when
'e do be hit!  He be a mark as babe couldn't miss--a proper big
'un!"  So saying, the fellow let fly an egg at me, the which,
striking the board within an inch of my face, filled the air with
suffocating stench.

This was a signal for me to become a target for all the garbage
of the village.  And now, indeed, good cause had I to be thankful
for my thick mane of hair which (in some sort) saved me from
sundry cuts and bruises, howbeit my face was soon clotted with
blood and filth.

Vain were it to tell all the frenzy of rage that possessed me as
I stood thus helpless against my howling tormentors, chief of
whom was the great fellow I have mentioned, who (by reason of
height and length of arm) struck me oftenest; once indeed when
(beside myself with fury) I raised my head to curse him, he took
me a blow in the mouth with some vile missile that set my very
gums a-bleeding.

"Lord love ye, shipmate--that's the spirit!" said a voice below
me, "But keep the wind o' them--don't let 'em rake ye--douse your
figure-head.  Lie low, shipmate, lie low and trust to your
comrade Adam Penfeather--and that's me.  Patience is the word!"

Looking whence the voice came I beheld the man with whom I had
talked that morning; now as our glances met, one of his bright

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