"It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my heart shoot as I
identified him. I dare say I should have felt a pain in my liver,
too, if I had known where it was.
I was soon at the Battery, after that, and there was the right
man-hugging himself and limping to and fro, as if he had never all
night left off hugging and limping - waiting for me. He was awfully
cold, to be sure. I half expected to see him drop down before my
face and die of deadly cold. His eyes looked so awfully hungry,
too, that when I handed him the file and he laid it down on the
grass, it occurred to me he would have tried to eat it, if he had
not seen my bundle. He did not turn me upside down, this time, to
get at what I had, but left me right side upwards while I opened
the bundle and emptied my pockets.
"What's in the bottle, boy?" said he.
"Brandy," said I.
He was already handing mincemeat down his throat in the most
curious manner - more like a man who was putting it away somewhere
in a violent hurry, than a man who was eating it - but he left off
to take some of the liquor. He shivered all the while, so
violently, that it was quite as much as he could do to keep the
neck of the bottle between his teeth, without biting it off.
"I think you have got the ague," said I.
"I'm much of your opinion, boy," said he.
"It's bad about here," I told him. "You've been lying out on the
meshes, and they're dreadful aguish. Rheumatic too."
"I'll eat my breakfast afore they're the death of me," said he.
"I'd do that, if I was going to be strung up to that there gallows
as there is over there, directly afterwards. I'll beat the shivers
so far, I'll bet you."
He was gobbling mincemeat, meatbone, bread, cheese, and pork pie,
all at once: staring distrustfully while he did so at the mist all
round us, and often stopping - even stopping his jaws - to listen.
Some real or fancied sound, some clink upon the river or breathing
of beast upon the marsh, now gave him a start, and he said,
"You're not a deceiving imp? You brought no one with you?"
"No, sir! No!"
"Nor giv' no one the office to follow you?"
"Well," said he, "I believe you. You'd be but a fierce young hound
indeed, if at your time of life you could help to hunt a wretched
warmint, hunted as near death and dunghill as this poor wretched
Something clicked in his throat, as if he had works in him like a
clock, and was going to strike. And he smeared his ragged rough
sleeve over his eyes.
Pitying his desolation, and watching him as he gradually settled
down upon the pie, I made bold to say, "I am glad you enjoy it."
"Did you speak?"
"I said I was glad you enjoyed it."
"Thankee, my boy. I do."
I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now
noticed a decided similarity between the dog's way of eating, and
the man's. The man took strong sharp sudden bites, just like the
dog. He swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon
and too fast; and he looked sideways here and there while he ate,
as if he thought there was danger in every direction, of somebody's
coming to take the pie away. He was altogether too unsettled in his
mind over it, to appreciate it comfortably, I thought, or to have
anybody to dine with him, without making a chop with his jaws at
the visitor. In all of which particulars he was very like the dog.
"I am afraid you won't leave any of it for him," said I, timidly;
after a silence during which I had hesitated as to the politeness
of making the remark. "There's no more to be got where that came
from." It was the certainty of this fact that impelled me to offer
"Leave any for him? Who's him?" said my friend, stopping in his
crunching of pie-crust.
"The young man. That you spoke of. That was hid with you."
"Oh ah!" he returned, with something like a gruff laugh.