MoboReader > Literature > Moonfleet

   Chapter 12 A FUNERAL

Moonfleet By John Meade Falkner Characters: 32773

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03

How he lies in his rights of a man!

Death has done all death can-Browning

We stood for a moment holding one another's hands; then Ratsey spoke. 'John, these two months have changed thee from boy to man. Thou wast a child when I turned that morning as we went up Hoar Head with the pack-horses, and looked back on thee and Elzevir below, and Maskew lying on the ground. 'Twas a sorry business, and has broken up the finest gang that ever ran a cargo, besides driving thee and Elzevir to hide in caves and dens of the earth. Thou shouldst have come with us that morn; not have stayed behind. The work was too rough for boys: the skipper should have piped the reefing-hands.'

It was true enough, or seemed to me true then, for I felt much cast down; but only said, 'Nay, Master Ratsey, where Master Block stays, there I must stay too, and where he goes I follow.'

Then I sat down upon the bed in the corner, feeling my leg began to ache; and the storm, which had lulled for a few minutes, came up again all the fiercer with wilder gusts and showers of spray and rain driving into the cave from seaward. So I was scarce sat down when in came a roaring blast, filling even our corner with cold, wet air, that quenched the weakling candle flame.

'God save us, what a night!' Ratsey cried.

'God save poor souls at sea,' said I.

'Amen to that,' says he, 'and would that every Amen I have said had come as truly from my heart. There will be sea enough on Moonfleet Beach this night to lift a schooner to the top of it, and launch her down into the fields behind. I had as lief be in the Mohune vault as in this fearsome place, and liefer too, if half the tales men tell are true of faces that may meet one here. For God's sake let us light a fire, for I caught sight of a store of driftwood before that sickly candle went out.'

It was some time before we got a fire alight, and even after the flame had caught well hold, the rush of the wind would every now and again blow the smoke into our eyes, or send a shower of sparks dancing through the cave. But by degrees the logs began to glow clear white, and such a cheerful warmth came out, as was in itself a solace and remedy for man's afflictions.

'Ah!' said Ratsey, 'I was shrammed with wet and cold, and half-dead with this baffling wind. It is a blessed thing a fire,' and he unbuttoned his pilot-coat, 'and needful now, if ever. My soul is very low, lad, for this place has strange memories for me; and I recollect, forty years ago (when I was just a boy like thee), old lander Jordan's gang, and I among them, were in this very cave on such another night. I was new to the trade then, as thou might be, and could not sleep for noise of wind and sea. And in the small hours of an autumn morning, as I lay here, just where we lie now, I heard such wailing cries above the storm, ay, and such shrieks of women, as made my blood run cold and have not yet forgot them. And so I woke the gang who were all deep asleep as seasoned contrabandiers should be; but though we knew that there were fellow-creatures fighting for their lives in the seething flood beneath us, we could not stir hand or foot to save them, for nothing could be seen for rain and spray, and 'twas not till next morning that we learned the Florida had foundered just below with every soul on board. Ay, 'tis a queer life, and you and Block are in a queer strait now, and that is what I came to tell you. See here.' And he took out of his pocket an oblong strip of printed paper:

* * * * *


WHITEHALL, 15 May 1758

Whereas it hath been humbly represented to the King that on Friday, the night of the 16th of April last, THOMAS MASKEW, a Justice of the Peace, was most inhumanly murdered at Hoar Head, a lone place in the Parish of Chaldron, in the County of Dorset, by one ELZEVIR BLOCK and one JOHN TRENCHARD, both of the Parish of Moonfleet, in the aforesaid County: His Majesty, for the better discovering and bringing to Justice these Persons, is pleased to promise His Most Gracious PARDON to any of the Persons concerned therein, except the Persons who actually committed the said Murder; and, as a further Encouragement, a REWARD OF FIFTY POUNDS to any Person who shall furnish such INFORMATION as shall lead to the APPREHENSION of the said ELZEVIR BLOCK, and a REWARD of TWENTY POUNDS to any Person who shall furnish such INFORMATION as shall lead to the APPREHENSION of the said JOHN TRENCHARD. Such INFORMATION to be given to ME, or to the GOVERNOUR of His MAJESTY'S GAOL in Dorchester.


* * * * *

'There-that's the bill,' he said; 'and a vastly fine piece it is, and yet I wish that 'twas played with other actors. Now, in Moonfleet there is none that know your hiding-place, and not a man, nor woman either, that would tell if they knew it ten times over. But fifty pounds for Elzevir, and twenty pounds for an empty pumpkin-top like thine, is a fair round sum, and there are vagabonds about this countryside scurvy enough to try to earn it. And some of these have set the Excisemen on my track, with tales of how it is I that know where you lie hid, and bring you meat and drink. So it is that I cannot stir abroad now, no, not even to the church o' Sundays, without having some rogue lurking at my heels to watch my movements. And that is why I chose such a night to come hither, knowing these knaves like dry skins, but never thinking that the wind would blow like this. I am come to tell Block that 'tis not safe for me to be so much in Purbeck, and that I dare no longer bring food or what not, or these man-hounds will scent you out. Your leg is sound again, and 'tis best to be flitting while you may, and there's the éperon d'Or, and Chauvelais to give you welcome on the other side.'

I told him how Elzevir was gone this very night to Poole to settle with the Bonaventure, when she should come to take us off; and at that Ratsey seemed pleased. There were many things I wished to learn of him, and especially how Grace did, but felt a shyness, and durst not ask him. And he said no more for a minute, seeming low-hearted and crouching over the fire. So we sat huddled in the corner by the glowing logs, the red light flickering on the cave roof, and showing the lines on Ratsey's face; while the steam rose from his drying clothes. The gale blew as fiercely as ever, but the tide had fallen, and there was not so much spray coming into the cave. Then Ratsey spoke again-

'My heart is very heavy, John, tonight, to think how all the good old times are gone, and how that Master Block can never again go back to Moonfleet. It was as fine a lander's crew as ever stood together, not even excepting Captain Jordan's, and now must all be broken up; for this mess of Maskew's has made the place too hot to hold us, and 'twill be many a long day before another cargo's run on Moonfleet Beach. But how to get the liquor out of Mohune's vault I know not; and that reminds me, I have something in my pouches for Elzevir an' thee'; and with that he drew forth either lapel a great wicker-bound flask. He put one to his lips, tilting it and drinking long and deep, and then passed it to me, with a sigh of satisfaction. 'Ah, that has the right smack. Here, take it, child, and warm thy heart; 'tis the true milk of Ararat, and the last thou'lt taste this side the Channel.'

Then I drank too, but lightly, for the good liquor was no stranger to me, though it was only so few months ago that I had tasted it for the first time in the Why Not? and in a minute it tingled in my fingertips. Soon a grateful sense of warmth and comfort stole over me, and our state seemed not so desperate, nor even the night so wild. Ratsey, too, wore a more cheerful air, and the lines in his face were not so deeply marked; the golden, sparkling influence of the flask had loosed his tongue, and he was talking now of what I most wanted to hear.

'Yes, yes, it is a sad break-up, and what will happen to the old Why Not? I cannot tell. None have passed the threshold since you left, only the Duchy men came and sealed the doors, making it felony to force them. And even these lawyer chaps know not where the right stands, for Maskew never paid a rent and died before he took possession; and Master Block's term is long expired, and now he is in hiding and an outlaw.

'But I am sorriest for Maskew's girl, who grows thin and pale as any lily. For when the soldiers brought the body back, the men stood at their doors and cursed the clay, and some of the fishwives spat at it; and old Mother Veitch, who kept house for him, swore he had never paid her a penny of wages, and that she was afear'd to stop under the same roof with such an evil corpse. So out she goes from the Manor House, leaving that poor child alone in it with her dead father; and there were not wanting some to say it was all a judgement; and called to mind how Elzevir had been once left alone with his dead son at the Why Not? But in the village there was not a man that doubted that 'twas Block had sent Maskew to his account, nor did I doubt it either, till a tale got abroad that he was killed by a stray shot fired by the Posse from the cliff. And when they took the hue-and-cry papers to the Manor House for his lass, as next of kin, to sign the requisition, she would not set her name to it, saying that Block had never lifted his hand against her father when they met at Moonfleet or on the road, and that she never would believe he was the man to let his anger sleep so long and then attack an enemy in cold blood. And as for thee, she knew thee for a trusty lad, who would not do such things himself, nor yet stand by whilst others did them.'

Now what Ratsey said was sweeter than any music in my ears, and I felt myself a better man, as anyone must of whom a true woman speaks well, and that I must live uprightly to deserve such praise. Then I resolved that come what might I would make my way once more to Moonfleet, before we fled from England, and see Grace; so that I might tell her all that happened about her father's death, saving only that Elzevir had meant himself to put Maskew away; for it was no use to tell her this when she had said that he could never think to do such a thing, and besides, for all I knew, he never did mean to shoot, but only to frighten him. Though I thus resolved, I said nothing of it to Master Ratsey, but only nodded, and he went on-

'Well, seeing there was no one save this poor girl to look to putting Maskew under ground, I must needs take it in hand myself; roughing together a sound coffin and digging as fair a grave for him as could be made for any lord, except that lords have always vaults to sleep in. Then I got Mother Nutting's fish-cart to carry the body down, for there was not a man in Moonfleet would lay hand to the coffin to bear it; and off we started down the street, I leading the wall-eyed pony, and the coffin following on the trolley. There was no mourner to see him home except his daughter, and she without a bit of black upon her, for she had no time to get her crapes; and yet she needed none, having grief writ plain enough upon her face.

'When we got to the churchyard, a crowd was gathered there, men and women and children, not only from Moonfleet but from Ringstave and Monkbury. They were not come to mourn, but to make gibes to show how much they hated him, and many of the children had old pots and pans for rough music. Parson Glennie was waiting in the church, and there he waited, for the cart could not pass the gate, and we had no bearers to lift the coffin. Then I looked round to see if there was any that would help to lift, but when I tried to meet a man's eye he looked away, and all I could see was the bitter scowling faces of the women. And all the while the girl stood by the trolley looking on the ground. She had a little kerchief over her head that let the hair fall about her shoulders, and her face was very white, with eyes red and swollen through weeping. But when she knew that all that crowd was there to mock her father, and that there was not a man would raise hand to lift him, she laid her head upon the coffin, hiding her face in her hands, and sobbed bitterly.'

Ratsey stopped for a moment and drank again deep at the flask; and as for me, I still said nothing, feeling a great lump in my throat; and reflecting how hatred and passion have power to turn men to brutes.

'I am a rough man,' Ratsey resumed, 'but tender-like withal, and when I saw her weep, I ran off to the church to tell the parson how it was, and beg him to come out and try if we two could lift the coffin. So out he came just as he was, with surplice on his back and book in hand. But when the men knew what he was come for, and looked upon that tall, fair girl bowed down over her father's coffin, their hearts were moved, and first Tom Tewkesbury stepped out with a sheepish air, and then Garrett, and then four others. So now we had six fine bearers, and 'twas only women that could still look hard and scowling, and even they said no word, and not a boy beat on his pan.

'Then Mr. Glennie, seeing he was not wanted for bearer, changed to parson, and strikes up with "I am the resurrection and the life". 'Tis a great text, John, and though I've heard it scores and scores of times, it never sounded sweeter than on that day. For 'twas a fine afternoon, and what with there being no wind, but the sun bright and the sea still and blue, there was a calm on everything that seemed to say "Rest in Peace, Rest in Peace". And was not the spring with us, and the whole land preaching of resurrection, the birds singing, trees and flowers waking from their winter sleep, and cowslips yellow on the very graves? Then surely 'tis a fond thing to push our enmities beyond the grave, and perhaps even he was not so bad as we held him, but might have tricked himself into thinking he did right to hunt down the contraband. I know not how it was, but something like this came into my mind, and did perhaps to others, for we got him under without a sign or word from any that stood there. There was not one sound heard inside the church or out, except Mr. Glennie's reading and my amens, and now and then a sob from the poor child. But when 'twas all over, and the coffin safe lowered, up she walks to Tom Tewkesbury saying, through her tears, "I thank you, sir, for your kindness," and holds out her hand. So he took it, looking askew, and afterwards the five other bearers; and then she walked away by herself, and no one moved till she had left the churchyard gate, letting her pass out like a queen.'

'And so she is a queen,' I said, not being able to keep from speaking, for very pride to hear how she had borne herself, and because she had always shown kindness to me. 'So she is, and fairer than any queen to boot.'

Ratsey gave me a questioning look, and I could see a little smile upon his face in the firelight. 'Ay, she is fair enough,' said he, as though reflecting to himself, 'but white and thin. Mayhap she would make a match for thee-if ye were man and woman, and not boy and girl; if she were not rich, and thou not poor and an outlaw; and-if she would have thee.'

It vexed me to hear his banter, and to think how I had let my secret out, so I did not answer, and we sat by the embers for a while without speaking, while the wind still blew through the cave like a funnel.

Ratsey spoke first. 'John, pass me the flask; I can hear voices mounting the cliff of those poor souls of the Florida.'

With that he took another heavy pull, and flung a log on the fire, till sparks flew about as in a smithy, and the flame that had slumbered woke again and leapt out white, blue, and green from the salt wood. Now, as the light danced and flickered I saw a piece of parchment lying at Ratsey's feet: and this was none other than the writing out of Blackbeard's locket, which I had been reading when I first heard footsteps in the passage, and had dropped in my alarm of hostile visitors. Ratsey saw it too, and stretched out his hand to pick it up. I would have concealed it if I could, because I had never told him how I had rifled Blackbeard's coffin, and did not want to be questioned as to how I had come by the writing. But to try to stop him getting hold of it would only have spurred his curiosity, and so I said nothing w

hen he took it in his hands.

'What is this, son?' asked he.

'It is only Scripture verses,' I answered, 'which I got some time ago. 'Tis said they are a spell against Spirits of Evil, and I was reading them to keep off the loneliness of this place, when you came in and made me drop them.'

I was afraid lest he should ask whence I had got them, but he did not, thinking perhaps that my aunt had given them to me. The heat of the flames had curled the parchment a little, and he spread it out on his knee, conning it in the firelight.

''Tis well written,' he said, 'and good verses enough, but he who put them together for a spell knew little how to keep off evil spirits, for this would not keep a flea from a black cat. I could do ten times better myself, being not without some little understanding of such things,' and he nodded seriously; 'and though I never yet met any from the other world, they would not take me unprepared if they should come. For I have spent half my life in graveyard or church, and 'twould be as foolish to move about such places and have no words to meet an evil visitor withal, as to bear money on a lonely road without a pistol. So one day, after Parson Glennie had preached from Habakkuk, how that "the vision is for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry", I talked with him on these matters, and got from him three or four rousing texts such as spectres fear more than a burned child does the fire. I will learn them all to thee some day, but for the moment take this Latin which I got by heart: "Abite a me in ignem etenum qui paratus est diabolo at angelis ejus." Englished it means: "Depart from me into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," but hath at least double that power in Latin. So get that after me by heart, and use it freely if thou art led to think that there are evil presences near, and in such lonely places as this cave.' I humoured him by doing as he desired; and that the rather because I hoped his thoughts would thus be turned away from the writing; but as soon as I had the spell by rote he turned back to the parchment, saying, 'He was but a poor divine who wrote this, for beside choosing ill-fitting verses, he cannot even give right numbers to them. For see here, "The days of our age are three-score years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to four-score years, yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow, so soon passeth it away and we are gone", and he writes Psalm 90,21. Now I have said that Psalm with parson verse and verse about for every sleeper we have laid to rest in churchyard mould for thirty years; and know it hath not twenty verses in it, all told, and this same verse is the clerk's verse and cometh tenth, and yet he calls it twenty-first. I wish I had here a Common Prayer, and I would prove my words.'

He stopped and flung me back the parchment scornfully; but I folded it and slipped it in my pocket, brooding all the while over a strange thought that his last words had brought to me. Nor did I tell him that I had by me my aunt's prayer-book, wishing to examine for myself more closely whether he was right, after he should have gone.

'I must be away,' he said at last, 'though loath to leave this good fire and liquor. I would fain wait till Elzevir was back, and fainer till this gale was spent, but it may not be; the nights are short, and I must be out of Purbeck before sunrise. So tell Block what I say, that he and thou must flit; and pass the flask, for I have fifteen miles to walk against the wind, and must keep off these midnight chills.'

He drank again, and then rose to his feet, shaking himself like a dog; and walking briskly across the cave twice or thrice to make sure, as I thought, that the Ararat milk had not confused his steps. Then he shook my hand warmly, and disappeared in the deep shadow of the passage-mouth.

The wind was blowing more fitfully than before, and there was some sign of a lull between the gusts. I stood at the opening of the passage, and listened till the echo of Ratsey's footsteps died away, and then returning to the corner, flung more wood on the fire, and lit the candle. After that I took out again the parchment, and also my aunt's red prayer-book, and sat down to study them. First I looked out in the book that text about the 'days of our life', and found that it was indeed in the ninetieth Psalm, but the tenth verse, just as Ratsey said, and not the twenty-first as it was writ on the parchment. And then I took the second text, and here again the Psalm was given correct, but the verse was two, and not six, as my scribe had it. It was just the same with the other three-the number of the Psalm was right but the verse wrong. So here was a discovery, for all was painfully written smooth and clean without a blot, and yet in every verse an error. But if the second number did not stand for the verse, what else should it mean? I had scarce formed the question to myself before I had the answer, and knew that it must be the number of the word chosen in each text to make a secret meaning. I was in as great a fever and excitement now as when I found the locket in the Mohune vault, and could scarce count with trembling fingers as far as twenty-one, in the first verse, for hurry and amaze. It was 'fourscore' that the number fell on in the first text, 'feet' in the second, 'deep' in the third, 'well' in the fourth, 'north' in the fifth.


There was the cipher read, and what an easy trick! and yet I had not lighted on it all this while, nor ever should have, but for Sexton Ratsey and his burial verse. It was a cunning plan of Blackbeard; but other folk were quite as cunning as he, and here was all his treasure at our feet. I chuckled over that to myself, rubbing my hands, and read it through again:


'Twas all so simple, and the word in the fourth verse 'well' and not 'vale' or 'pool' as I had stuck at so often in trying to unriddle it. How was it I had not guessed as much before? and here was something to tell Elzevir when he came back, that the clue was found to the cipher, and the secret out. I would not reveal it all at once, but tease him by making him guess, and at last tell him everything, and we would set to work at once to make ourselves rich men. And then I thought once more of Grace, and how the laugh would be on my side now, for all Master Ratsey's banter about her being rich and me being poor!


I read it again, and somehow it was this time a little less clear, and I fell to thinking what it was exactly that I should tell Elzevir, and how we were to get to work to find the treasure. 'Twas hid in a well-that was plain enough, but in what well?-and what did 'north' mean? Was it the north well, or to north of the well-or, was it fourscore feet north of the deep well? I stared at the verses as if the ink would change colour and show some other sense, and then a veil seemed drawn across the writing, and the meaning to slip away, and be as far as ever from my grasp. Fourscore-feet-deep-well-north: and by degrees exulting gladness gave way to bewilderment and disquiet of spirit, and in the gusts of wind I heard Blackbeard himself laughing and mocking me for thinking I had found his treasure. Still I read and re-read it, juggling with the words and turning them about to squeeze new meaning from them.

'Fourscore feet deep in the north well,'-'fourscore feet deep in the well to north'-'fourscore feet north of the deep well,'-so the words went round and round in my head, till I was tired and giddy, and fell unawares asleep.

It was daylight when I awoke, and the wind had fallen, though I could still hear the thunder of the swell against the rock-face down below. The fire was yet burning, and by it sat Elzevir, cooking something in the pot. He looked fresh and keen, like a man risen from a long night's sleep, rather than one who had spent the hours of darkness in struggling against a gale, and must afterwards remain watching because, forsooth, the sentinel sleeps.

He spoke as soon as he saw that I was awake, laughing and saying: 'How goes the night, Watchman? This is the second time that I have caught thee napping, and didst sleep so sound it might have taken a cold pistol's lips against thy forehead to awake thee.'

I was too full of my story even to beg his pardon, but began at once to tell him what had happened; and how, by following the hint that Ratsey dropped, I had made out, as I thought, a secret meaning in these verses. Elzevir heard me patiently, and with more show of interest towards the end; and then took the parchment in his hands, reading it carefully, and checking the errors of numbering by the help of the red prayer-book.

'I believe thou art right,' he said at length; 'for why should the figures all be false if there is no hidden trickery in it? If't had been one or two were wrong, I would have said some priest had copied them in error; for priests are thriftless folk, and had as lief set a thing down wrong as right; but with all wrong there is no room for chance. So if he means it, let us see what 'tis he means. First he says 'tis in a well. But what well? and the depth he gives of fourscore feet is over-deep for any well near Moonfleet.'

I was for saying it must be the well at the Manor House, but before the words left my mouth, remembered there was no well at the manor at all, for the house was watered by a runnel brook that broke out from the woods above, and jumping down from stone to stone ran through the manor gardens, and emptied itself into the Fleet below.

'And now I come to think on it,' Elzevir went on, ''tis more likely that the well he speaks of was not in these parts at all. For see here, this Blackbeard was a spendthrift, squandering all he had, and would most surely have squandered the jewel too, could he have laid his hands on it. And yet 'tis said he did not, therefore I think he must have stowed it safe in some place where afterwards he could not get at it. For if't had been near Moonfleet, he would have had it up a hundred times. But thou hast often talked of Blackbeard and his end with Parson Glennie; so speak up, lad, and let us hear all that thou know'st of these tales. Maybe 'twill help us to come to some judgement.'

So I told him all that Mr. Glennie had told me, how that Colonel John Mohune, whom men called Blackbeard, was a wastrel from his youth, and squandered all his substance in riotous living. Thus being at his last turn, he changed from royalist to rebel, and was set to guard the king in the castle of Carisbrooke. But there he stooped to a bribe, and took from his royal prisoner a splendid diamond of the crown to let him go; then, with the jewel in his pocket, turned traitor again, and showed a file of soldiers into the room where the king was stuck between the window bars, escaping. But no one trusted Blackbeard after that, and so he lost his post, and came back in his age, a broken man, to Moonfleet. There he rusted out his life, but when he neared his end was filled with fear, and sent for a clergyman to give him consolation. And 'twas at the parson's instance that he made a will, and bequeathed the diamond, which was the only thing he had left, to the Mohune almshouses at Moonfleet. These were the very houses that he had robbed and let go to ruin, and they never benefited by his testament, for when it was opened there was the bequest plain enough, but not a word to say where was the jewel. Some said that it was all a mockery, and that Blackbeard never had the jewel; others that the jewel was in his hand when he died, but carried off by some that stood by. But most thought, and handed down the tale, that being taken suddenly, he died before he could reveal the safe place of the jewel; and that in his last throes he struggled hard to speak as if he had some secret to unburden.

All this I told Elzevir, and he listened close as though some of it was new to him. When I was speaking of Blackbeard being at Carisbrooke, he made a little quick move as though to speak, but did not, waiting till I had finished the tale. Then he broke out with: 'John, the diamond is yet at Carisbrooke. I wonder I had not thought of Carisbrooke before you spoke; and there he can get fourscore feet, and twice and thrice fourscore, if he list, and none to stop him. 'Tis Carisbrooke. I have heard of that well from childhood, and once saw it when a boy. It is dug in the Castle Keep, and goes down fifty fathoms or more into the bowels of the chalk below. It is so deep no man can draw the buckets on a winch, but they must have an ass inside a tread-wheel to hoist them up. Now, why this Colonel John Mohune, whom we call Blackbeard, should have chosen a well at all to hide his jewel in, I cannot say; but given he chose a well, 'twas odds he would choose Carisbrooke. 'Tis a known place, and I have heard that people come as far as from London to see the castle and this well.'

He spoke quick and with more fire than I had known him use before, and I felt he was right. It seemed indeed natural enough that if Blackbeard was to hide the diamond in a well, it would be in the well of that very castle where he had earned it so evilly.

'When he says the "well north",' continued Elzevir, ''tis clear he means to take a compass and mark north by needle, and at eighty feet in the well-side below that point will lie the treasure. I fixed yesterday with the Bonaventure's men that they should lie underneath this ledge tomorrow sennight, if the sea be smooth, and take us off on the spring-tide. At midnight is their hour, and I said eight days on, to give thy leg a week wherewith to strengthen. I thought to make for St. Malo, and leave thee at the éperon d'Or with old Chauvelais, where thou couldst learn to patter French until these evil times have blown by. But now, if thou art set to hunt this treasure up, and hast a mind to run thy head into a noose; why, I am not so old but that I too can play the fool, and we will let St. Malo be, and make for Carisbrooke. I know the castle; it is not two miles distant from Newport, and at Newport we can lie at the Bugle, which is an inn addicted to the contraband. The king's writ runs but lamely in the Channel Isles and Wight, and if we wear some other kit than this, maybe we shall find Newport as safe as St. Malo.'

This was just what I wanted, and so we settled there and then that we would get the Bonaventure to land us in the Isle of Wight instead of at St. Malo. Since man first walked upon this earth, a tale of buried treasure must have had a master-power to stir his blood, and mine was hotly stirred. Even Elzevir, though he did not show it, was moved, I thought, at heart; and we chafed in our cave prison, and those eight days went wearily enough. Yet 'twas not time lost, for every day my leg grew stronger; and like a wolf which I saw once in a cage at Dorchester Fair, I spent hours in marching round the cave to kill the time and put more vigour in my steps. Ratsey did not visit us again, but in spite of what he said, met Elzevir more than once, and got money for him from Dorchester and many other things he needed. It was after meeting Ratsey that Elzevir came back one night, bringing a long whip in one hand, and in the other a bundle which held clothes to mask us in the next scene. There was a carter's smock for him, white and quilted over with needlework, such as carters wear on the Down farms, and for me a smaller one, and hats and leather leggings all to match. We tried them on, and were for all the world carter and carter's boy; and I laughed long to see Elzevir stand there and practise how to crack his whip and cry 'Who-ho' as carters do to horses. And for all he was so grave, there was a smile on his face too, and he showed me how to twist a wisp of straw out of the bed to bind above my ankles at the bottom of the leggings. He had cut off his beard, and yet lost nothing of his looks; for his jaw and deep chin showed firm and powerful. And as for me, we made a broth of young walnut leaves and twigs, and tanned my hands and face with it a ruddy brown, so that I looked a different lad.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top