saw other torches kindled at some distance behind us, and others on
the marshes on the opposite bank of the river. "All right," said
the sergeant. "March."
We had not gone far when three cannon were fired ahead of us with a
sound that seemed to burst something inside my ear. "You are
expected on board," said the sergeant to my convict; "they know you
are coming. Don't straggle, my man. Close up here."
The two were kept apart, and each walked surrounded by a separate
guard. I had hold of Joe's hand now, and Joe carried one of the
torches. Mr. Wopsle had been for going back, but Joe was resolved to
see it out, so we went on with the party. There was a reasonably
good path now, mostly on the edge of the river, with a divergence
here and there where a dyke came, with a miniature windmill on it
and a muddy sluice-gate. When I looked round, I could see the other
lights coming in after us. The torches we carried, dropped great
blotches of fire upon the track, and I could see those, too, lying
smoking and flaring. I could see nothing else but black darkness.
Our lights warmed the air about us with their pitchy blaze, and the
two prisoners seemed rather to like that, as they limped along in
the midst of the muskets. We could not go fast, because of their
lameness; and they were so spent, that two or three times we had to
halt while they rested.
After an hour or so of this travelling, we came to a rough wooden
hut and a landing-place. There was a guard in the hut, and they
challenged, and the sergeant answered. Then, we went into the hut
where there was a smell of tobacco and whitewash, and a bright
fire, and a lamp, and a stand of muskets, and a drum, and a low
wooden bedstead, like an overgrown mangle without the machinery,
capable of holding about a dozen soldiers all at once. Three or
four soldiers who lay upon it in their great-coats, were not much
interested in us, but just lifted their heads and took a sleepy
stare, and then lay down again. The sergeant made some kind of
report, and some entry in a book, and then the convict whom I call
the other convict was drafted off with his guard, to go on board
My convict never looked at me, except that once. While we stood in
the hut, he stood before the fire looking thoughtfully at it, or
putting up his feet by turns upon the hob, and looking thoughtfully
at them as if he pitied them for their recent adventures. Suddenly,
he turned to the sergeant, and remarked:
"I wish to say something respecting this escape. It may prevent
some persons laying under suspicion alonger me."
"You can say what you like," returned the sergeant, standing coolly
looking at him with his arms folded, "but you have no call to say
it here. You'll have opportunity enough to say about it, and hear
about it, before it's done with, you know."
"I know, but this is another pint, a separate matter. A man can't
starve; at least I can't. I took some wittles, up at the willage
over yonder - where the church stands a'most out on the marshes."
"You mean stole," said the sergeant.
"And I'll tell you where from. From the blacksmith's."
"Halloa!" said the sergeant, staring at Joe.
"Halloa, Pip!" said Joe, staring at me.
"It was some broken wittles - that's what it was - and a dram of
liquor, and a pie."
"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?"
asked the sergeant, confidentially.
"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know,
"So," said my convict, turning his eyes on Joe in a moody manner,
and without the least glance at me; "so you're the blacksmith, are
you? Than I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."
"God knows you're welcome to it - so far as it was ever mine,"
returned Joe, with a saving remembrance of Mrs. Joe. "We don't know
what you have done, but we wouldn't have you starved to death for
it, poor miserable fellow-creatur.