eyes closed slowly and, nodding twice, he turned and elbowed his way through the crowd. Small liking had I for this fellow, but with his departure a sense of loneliness gripped me and needs must I lift my head to stare after him, whereupon a rotten egg struck me above the eye, causing a most intolerable smart; at this moment, too, the great fellow swung a cat's carcass by the tail, but, or ever he could hurl this stinking missile, a hand clouted him heavily over the ear from behind, tumbling his hat off, whereupon he turned, bellowing with rage, and smote his nearest neighbour with the foul thing meant for me. In an instant all was uproar around these two as the crowd, forgetting me, surged about them. Thus for some while, during which the fight raged, I was left unmolested and looked hither and thither amid the swaying throng for this fellow, Adam Penfeather, but he was vanished quite. At length, the big fellow having sufficiently trounced his opponent, the crowd betook itself (and very joyously) to my further baiting and torment. Now as I hung thus in my shame and misery, faint with my hurts and parched with cruel thirst, my gaze lighted upon a small, bony man--a merry-eyed fellow with wide, up-curving mouth, who laughed and jested continually; it was as he stooped for some missile or other that his eye met mine, and in that bright eye methought I read a sudden pity. "O cull," says I hoarsely, "a mouthful o' water--" "Pal," says he, winking, "all's bowmon!" Whereupon he turned and vanished in the crowd and I, burning in a fever of thirst, panted for his return, straining my eyes for sight of him; then, as he came not, I groaned and drooped my head, and lo! even then he was before me bearing a tin pannikin full of water. This in hand, he mounted the steps of the pillory and, despite the jeers and hootings of the crowd, was lifting the life-giving water to my eager lips when forth leapt the big fellow and sent water and pannikin flying with a savage blow of his fist. "None o' that, peddler!" he roared. And now, as I groaned and licked at bleeding lips with swollen tongue, the little man turned (quick as a flash), tripped up the great fellow's heels and, staying for no more, made off through the crowd, that gave him passage, howling its acclaim. The afternoon dragged wearily on and, what with the suffocating stench of the filth that plastered me, what with heat and dust and agonising thirst, my suffering grew almost beyond endurance; a deadly nausea seized me and I came nigh to swooning. But now, in this my great extremity, of a sudden, from somewhere on the outskirts of the crowd rose a shrill cry of "Fire!" the which cry, being taken up by others, filled the air with panic, the crowd melted as if by magic until the village green and the road were quite deserted. All this I noted but dimly (being more dead than alive) when I became conscious of one that spake in my ear. "Stand by, shipmate, stand by! There's never a rogue left--all run to the fire--stand by to slip your moorings!" "Let be," I groaned, "I'm a dead man!" "Then here's that shall make ye quick," says this fellow Penfeather, dangling a great key before my swimming eyes. "Here's freedom from your devil's trap and a plaguy time I've had to come by it." "Then for the love o' God--let me out," I groaned. "Easy all, shipmate!" says he, turning the key upon his finger. "For look'ee now, here's me, (a timid man) run no small risk this last half-hour and all for you. Now a bargain's a bargain, you'll agree?" "Well?" says I, faintly. "Why then, shipmate, if I free ye of your bonds, wilt be my comrade sworn? Aye or no?" "No!" says I. "Plague take ye that bargain with dying man. No!" "Why then," sighs he, "here's a good rick ablaze, here's John Purdy the beadle wi' his head broke, and here's me in a sweat, alack--and all to no purpose, since needs must you in your bilboes bide." "Do but get me a draft of water!" I pleaded. "Nary a drop!" says he, spinning the key on his finger under my nose, "Nor yet a foaming stoup o' good Kentish ale--nut brown--" "Ha, rogue--rogue!" I panted, 'twixt parched lips. "I'll yet-- avenge this torment--an' I live!" "The legs of a man," says he, "are a vain thing and his strength likewise, and as to vengeance, shipmate, well--how goeth your vengeance as be more to ye than fortune or riches?" Here he paused, but I held my peace and he continued, "Here's you now, you that was so mighty and fierce--aye, a very hell-fire roarer-- here's that same you a-hanging here a very helpless, pitiful fool, shipmate, and thirsty 'twould seem--" Here I groaned again. "And one not over sweet!" says he, stopping his nose. Hereupon I cursed him, though faintly, and he comes a step nearer. "'Tis said my Lady Brandon and her gallant Sir Rupert Dering--him you overthrew, shipmate--do mean to come and take a look at you anon, though 'tis shame you should be made a raree show--burn me!" Hereupon, I fell into a sudden raging fury, striving so desperately against my bonds that the devilish engine wherein I stood shook and rattled again; but I strove to no purpose, and so presently hung there spent and bruised and breathless whiles Penfeather spun the key on his finger and sighed: "Shipmate," says he, "wherefore irk yourself wi' bonds? Say but the word and I'll deliver ye, bring ye to safe harbourage and cherish ye with much good ale. Be persuaded, now." "Why then," groans I, "give me but until to-morrow to do what I will--and I'm yours!" "Done!" says he, and forthwith set key to padlock; but scarce had he freed the head-board than he falls a-cursing 'neath his breath. "Easy, comrade, easy!" quoth he, softly. "Bide still awhile--hither cometh yon beefy fool back again--so will I make show of miscalling ye till he be gone." The which he did forthwith, giving me "scurvy rogue" and the like. Now, lifting my head, whom should I behold but that same tall fellow had been my chief tormenter, and who now hasted over the green towards us. "It be now't but Farmer Darrell's rick ablaze," says he to Penfeather, "so let 'un burn, says I, Farmer Darrell be no friend o' mine. So I be come to sport wi' yon big rogue awhile." Herewith he stooped for some missile to cast at me; but now I straightened my back, the head-board gave and, ere the fellow was aware, I was creeping swiftly upon him. Taken thus by surprise small chance had he, for, leaping on him, I bore him over on his back and kneeling on him, buried my fingers in his throat. And so I choked him (right joyfully) till Penfeather gripped my arm. "Lord love me!" cries he, "Will ye kill the fool?" "That will I!" "And hang for him?" "Nay--he's scarce worth it." "Then, devil burn ye--loose his windpipe!" So I loosed the fellow's throat, and, despite his feeble kicks, began to drag him over the grass. "What now, comrade?" says Penfeather. "Sink me, what now?" "Watch and see!" So I brought the fellow to the pillory wherein I set him, and plucking the key from Penfeather, locked him there in my stead; which done I kicked him once or twice, and having found the cat's carcass made shift to hang the stinking thing about his neck; then tossing the key into the pond, I took to my heels and left the fellow groaning mighty dismal. CHAPTER VII HOW I HEARD TELL OF BLACK BARTLEMY'S TREASURE Now scarce was I clear of the village than I was again seized of a deadly sickness and vertigo so that I stumbled and was like to fall, but that Penfeather propped me with his shoulder. In this fashion I made shift to drag myself along, nor would he suffer me stay or respite (maugre my weakness) until, following the brook, he had brought me into the green solitude of the woods. Here then I sank down, sucking up the cool, sweet water 'twixt parched lips, drinking until Penfeather stayed me, lest I should do myself hurt thereby. Thereafter, from strength reviving, I bathed my divers wounds (the which, though painful, were of small account) and fell to cleansing my spattered garments as well as I might. "So we're to be comrades, after all!" says Penfeather, watching me where he sat hard by. "Aye--to-morrow!" "And how goeth vengeance, shipmate?" At this I turned on him with clenched fist. "Nay, easy does it," says he, never budging, "for if 'twas the folly of vengeance brought ye in the peccadille, 'twas your comrade Adam Penfeather got ye out again-- so easy all!" "'Twas you fired the rick, then?" "None other!" "'Tis a hanging matter, I've heard!" "Why a man must needs run some small risk for his comrade d'ye see--" "Then, Adam Penfeather, I'm your debtor." "Nay," says he, "there be no debts 'twixt comrades o' the Brotherhood, 'tis give and take, share and share!" And speaking, he drew forth a purse and emptying store of money on the grass betwixt us, divided it equally and pushed a pile of silver and copper towards me. "And what's this?" I demanded. "Share and share, comrade!" "But I'm no comrade o' yours till after to-night." "Aha!" says he, pinching his long chin. "Is't more vengeance then?" "Keep your money till it be earned!" I muttered. "Sink me--and there's pride for ye!" says he. "Pride which is a vain thing and vengeance which is a vainer. Lord love me, shipmate, 'tis plain to see you're o' the quality, 'spite your rags--blue blood, high-breeding, noblesse oblige and all the rest on't." "Stint your gab!" says I, scowling. "'Tis writ large all over ye," he went on placidly enough. "As for me, I'm but a plain man wi' no time for vengeance and no whit o' pride about me anywhere. What I says to you is, get to wind'ard o' vengeance--nay, heave it overboard, shipmate, and you'll ride the easier, aye and sweeter, and seek something more useful--gold, for instance, 'tis a handy thing, I've heard say-- so ha' done wi' vengeance!" "No!" says I, frowning. "Not--nay, not for all Bartlemy's treasure!" "Aha!" quoth he softly. "So you've heard tell of it then, along the Spanish Main?" "I heard tell of it last night in a cave from a sailor-man." "How?" says he starting and with keen eyes glancing hither and thither. "A sailor-man--hereabouts?" "Damme!" says I, "the country seems thick o' sailor-men." "Ha! D'ye say so? And what like was this one?" "A comely rogue that sang strange song." "Ah!" said Penfeather, his eyes narrowing. "A song, says you-- and strange--how strange?" "'Twas all of dead men and murder!" "D'ye mind any line o't, shipmate?" "Aye, the words of it went somewhat like this: "'Some on a knife did part wi' life And some a bullet took O! But--'" Now here, as I stopped at a loss, my companion took up the rhyme almost unconsciously and below his breath: "'But three times three died plaguily A wriggling on a hook O!' "Comrade!" says he in the same low voice, "Did ye see ever among these mariners a one-handed man, a tall man wi' a hook in place of his left hand--a very bright, sharp hook?" And now as Penfeather questioned me, he seized my wrist and I was amazed at the iron grip of him. "No!" I answered. "Nay," says he, loosing his hold, "how should you--he's dead, along o' so many on 'em! He's done for--him and his hook, devil burn him!" "'A hook both long and stout and strong, They died by gash o' hook O!'" "Ah!" I cried. "So that was the kind of hook!" "Aye!" nodded Penfeather, "That was the kind. A bullet's bad, a knife's worse, but a steel hook, shipmate, very sharp d'ye see, is a death no man should die. Shipmate, I've seen divers men dead by that same hook--torn and ripped d'ye see--like a dog's fangs! I'd seen many die ere then, but that way--'twas an ill sight for queasy stomachs!" "And he--this man with the hook is dead, you say?" "And burning in hell-fire!" "Are you sure?" "I killed him, shipmate!" "You!" says I. "I, shipmate. We fought on a shelf o' rock high above the sea, my knife agin his knife and hook--'twas that same hook gave me this scar athwart my jaw--but as he struck, I struck and saw him go spinning over and over, down and down and splash into the sea. And for three days I watched that bit o' shore, living on shell- fish and watching for him, to make sure I had finished him at last." "And these other rogues?" says I. "What like were they, shipmate?" Hereupon I described (as fully as I might) the three sailor-men I had fought with in the hedge- tavern (albeit I made no mention of the maid), while Penfeather listened, nodding now and then and pinching at his long chin. "And this other fellow," says he, when I had done, "this fellow that sang--d'ye know if his name chanced to be Mings--Abnegation Mings, comrade?" "The very same!" says I. "Strange!" quoth Penfeather, and thereafter sat staring gloomily down into the rippling waters of the brook for a while. "I wonder?" says he at last. "I wonder?" "What think ye shall bring these fellows so far from the coast-- what should they be after?" "Me, shipmate!" "You!" says I for the second time, marvelling at the strange quiet of him. "And what would they have of you?" "My life, shipmate, and one other thing. What that thing is I will tell you when we have drunk the blood-brotherhood! But now it behoveth me to be a-going, so I'll away. But when you shall seek me, as seek me ye will, shipmate, shalt hear of me at the Peck-o'-Malt tavern, which is a small, quiet place 'twixt here and Bedgebury Cross. Come there at any hour, day or night, and say 'The Faithful Friend,' and you shall find safe harbourage. Remember, comrade, the word is 'The Faithful Friend,' and if so be you can choose your time--night is better." So saying, he arose. "Wait!" says I, pointing to the coins yet lying on the grass. "Take your money!" "'Tis none o' mine," says he, shaking his head. "Keep it or throw it away--'tis all one to me!" Then he went away through the wood and, as he went, I thought he walked with a new and added caution. CHAPTER VIII HOW I FELL IN WITH ONE GOD-BE-HERE, A PEDDLER Evening was at hand as I reached a little alehouse well away from the road and pleasantly secluded by trees: thither came I, fondling Penfeather's money in my pocket, for I was again mightily sharp set. But all at once I stopped, for, passing the open lattice, I heard loud laughter and a merry voice: "And there, believe me, gossips" (quoth this voice), "as sure as this be beef--aye, and good beef and cooked to a turn, mistress-- there's this great, lob-lolly, hectoring Tom Button fast i' the pillory--and by this good ale, a woeful sight, his eyes blacked, his nose a-bleeding, his jerkin torn and a dead cat about his neck, oho--aha! Tom Button--big Tom, fighting Tom so loud o' tongue and ready o' fist--Tom as have cowed so many--there is he fast by the neck and a-groaning, see ye, gossips, loud enough for six, wish I may die else! And the best o' the joke is--the key be gone, as I'm a sinner! So they needs must break the lock to get him out. Big Tom, as have thrashed every man for miles."
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