Black Bartlemys Treasure (Chapter 3, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 3

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 mouth.

"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' yours!"

"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."

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