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Книга The Black Arrow. Содержание - CHAPTER VI — ARBLASTER AGAIN

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“My lord, I make it my first suit to you to spare him also,” pleaded Dick.

“It is an old, condemned rogue, thief, and vagabond, Master Shelton,” said the earl. “He hath been gallows-ripe this score of years. And, whether for one thing or another, whether to-morrow or the day after, where is the great choice?”

“Yet, my lord, it was through love to me that he came hither,” answered Dick, “and I were churlish and thankless to desert him.”

“Master Shelton, ye are troublesome,” replied the earl, severely. “It is an evil way to prosper in this world. Howbeit, and to be quit of your importunity, I will once more humour you. Go, then, together; but go warily, and get swiftly out of Shoreby town. For this Sir Daniel (whom may the saints confound!) thirsteth most greedily to have your blood.”

“My lord, I do now offer you in words my gratitude, trusting at some brief date to pay you some of it in service,” replied Dick, as he turned from the apartment.


When Dick and Lawless were suffered to steal, by a back way, out of the house where Lord Risingham held his garrison, the evening had already come.

They paused in shelter of the garden wall to consult on their best course. The danger was extreme. If one of Sir Daniel’s men caught sight of them and raised the view-hallo, they would be run down and butchered instantly. And not only was the town of Shoreby a mere net of peril for their lives, but to make for the open country was to run the risk of the patrols.

A little way off, upon some open ground, they spied a windmill standing; and hard by that, a very large granary with open doors.

“How if we lay there until the night fall?” Dick proposed.

And Lawless having no better suggestion to offer, they made a straight push for the granary at a run, and concealed themselves behind the door among some straw. The daylight rapidly departed; and presently the moon was silvering the frozen snow. Now or never was their opportunity to gain the Goat and Bagpipes unobserved and change their tell-tale garments. Yet even then it was advisable to go round by the outskirts, and not run the gauntlet of the market-place, where, in the concourse of people, they stood the more imminent peril to be recognised and slain.

This course was a long one. It took them not far from the house by the beach, now lying dark and silent, and brought them forth at last by the margin of the harbour. Many of the ships, as they could see by the clear moonshine, had weighed anchor, and, profiting by the calm sky, proceeded for more distant parts; answerably to this, the rude alehouses along the beach (although in defiance of the curfew law, they still shone with fire and candle) were no longer thronged with customers, and no longer echoed to the chorus of sea-songs.

Hastily, half-running, with their monkish raiment kilted to the knee, they plunged through the deep snow and threaded the labyrinth of marine lumber; and they were already more than half way round the harbour when, as they were passing close before an alehouse, the door suddenly opened and let out a gush of light upon their fleeting figures.

Instantly they stopped, and made believe to be engaged in earnest conversation.

Three men, one after another, came out of the ale-house, and the last closed the door behind him. All three were unsteady upon their feet, as if they had passed the day in deep potations, and they now stood wavering in the moonlight, like men who knew not what they would be after. The tallest of the three was talking in a loud, lamentable voice.

“Seven pieces of as good Gascony as ever a tapster broached,” he was saying, “the best ship out o’ the port o’ Dartmouth, a Virgin Mary parcel-gilt, thirteen pounds of good gold money — ”

“I have bad losses, too,” interrupted one of the others. “I have had losses of mine own, gossip Arblaster. I was robbed at Martinmas of five shillings and a leather wallet well worth ninepence farthing.”

Dick’s heart smote him at what he heard. Until that moment he had not perhaps thought twice of the poor skipper who had been ruined by the loss of the Good Hope; so careless, in those days, were men who wore arms of the goods and interests of their inferiors. But this sudden encounter reminded him sharply of the high-handed manner and ill-ending of his enterprise; and both he and Lawless turned their heads the other way, to avoid the chance of recognition.

The ship’s dog had, however, made his escape from the wreck and found his way back again to Shoreby. He was now at Arblaster’s heels, and suddenly sniffing and pricking his ears, he darted forward and began to bark furiously at the two sham friars.

His master unsteadily followed him.

“Hey, shipmates!” he cried. “Have ye ever a penny pie for a poor old shipman, clean destroyed by pirates? I am a man that would have paid for you both o’ Thursday morning; and now here I be, o’ Saturday night, begging for a flagon of ale! Ask my man Tom, if ye misdoubt me. Seven pieces of good Gascon wine, a ship that was mine own, and was my father’s before me, a Blessed Mary of plane-tree wood and parcel-gilt, and thirteen pounds in gold and silver. Hey! what say ye? A man that fought the French, too; for I have fought the French; I have cut more French throats upon the high seas than ever a man that sails out of Dartmouth. Come, a penny piece.”

Neither Dick nor Lawless durst answer him a word, lest he should recognise their voices; and they stood there as helpless as a ship ashore, not knowing where to turn nor what to hope.

“Are ye dumb, boy?” inquired the skipper. “Mates,” he added, with a hiccup, “they be dumb. I like not this manner of discourtesy; for an a man be dumb, so be as he’s courteous, he will still speak when he was spoken to, methinks.”

By this time the sailor, Tom, who was a man of great personal strength, seemed to have conceived some suspicion of these two speechless figures; and being soberer than his captain, stepped suddenly before him, took Lawless roughly by the shoulder, and asked him, with an oath, what ailed him that he held his tongue. To this the outlaw, thinking all was over, made answer by a wrestling feint that stretched the sailor on the sand, and, calling upon Dick to follow him, took to his heels among the lumber.

The affair passed in a second. Before Dick could run at all, Arblaster had him in his arms; Tom, crawling on his face, had caught him by one foot, and the third man had a drawn cutlass brandishing above his head.

It was not so much the danger, it was not so much the annoyance, that now bowed down the spirits of young Shelton; it was the profound humiliation to have escaped Sir Daniel, convinced Lord Risingham, and now fall helpless in the hands of this old, drunken sailor; and not merely helpless, but, as his conscience loudly told him when it was too late, actually guilty — actually the bankrupt debtor of the man whose ship he had stolen and lost.

“Bring me him back into the alehouse, till I see his face,” said Arblaster.

“Nay, nay,” returned Tom; “but let us first unload his wallet, lest the other lads cry share.”

But though he was searched from head to foot, not a penny was found upon him; nothing but Lord Foxham’s signet, which they plucked savagely from his finger.

“Turn me him to the moon,” said the skipper; and taking Dick by the chin, he cruelly jerked his head into the air. “Blessed Virgin!” he cried, “it is the pirate!”

“Hey!” cried Tom.

“By the Virgin of Bordeaux, it is the man himself!” repeated Arblaster. “What, sea-thief, do I hold you?” he cried. “Where is my ship? Where is my wine? Hey! have I you in my hands? Tom, give me one end of a cord here; I will so truss me this sea-thief, hand and foot together, like a basting turkey — marry, I will so bind him up — and thereafter I will so beat — so beat him!”

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