Black Bartlemys Treasure (Chapter 6, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 6

"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 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.

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