Black Bartlemys Treasure (Chapter 3, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 3

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.

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