Moonfleet eBook

J. Meade Falkner
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 292 pages of information about Moonfleet.
the Mandrive, for surely he would know his own passages better than to stumble in them in the dark.  It was more likely to be one of the hue and cry who had smelt us out, and hoped perhaps to be able to reconnoitre without being perceived on so awful a night.  Whenever Elzevir went out foraging, he carried with him that silver-butted pistol which had once been Maskew’s, but left behind the old rook-piece.  We had plenty of powder and slugs now, having obtained a store of both from Ratsey, and Elzevir had bid me keep the matchlock charged, and use it or not after my own judgement, if any came to the cave; but gave as his counsel that it was better to die fighting than to swing at Dorchester, for that we should most certainly do if taken.  We had agreed, moreover, on a pass-word, which was Prosper the Bonaventure, so that I might challenge betimes any that I heard coming, and if they gave not back this countersign might know it was not Elzevir.

So now I reached out for the piece, which lay beside me on the floor, and scrambled to my feet; lifting the deckle in the darkness, and feeling with my fingers in the pan to see ’twas full of powder.

The lull in the storm still lasted, and I heard the footsteps advancing, though with uncertain slowness, and once after a heavy stumble I thought I caught a muttereth oath, as if someone had struck his foot against a stone.

Then I shouted out clear in the darkness a ‘Who goes there?’ that rang again through the stone roofs.  The footsteps stopped, but there was no answer.  ‘Who goes there?’ I repeated.  ‘Answer, or I fire.’

Prosper the Bonaventure,’ came back out of the darkness, and I knew that I was safe.  ’The devil take thee for a hot-blooded young bantam to shoot thy best friend with powder and ball, that he was fool enough to give thee’; and by this time I had guessed ’twas Master Ratsey, and recognized his voice.  ’I would have let thee hear soon enough that ’twas I, if I had known I was so near thy lair; but ’tis more than a man’s life is worth to creep down moleholes in the dark, and on a night like this.  And why I could not get out the gibberish about the Bonaventure sooner, was because I matched my shin to break a stone, and lost the wager and my breath together.  And when my wind returned ’tis very like that I was trapped into an oath, which is sad enough for me, who am sexton, and so to say in small orders of the Church of England as by law established.’

By the time I had put down the gun and coaxed the candle again to light, Ratsey stepped into the cave.  He wore a sou’wester, and was dripping with wet, but seemed glad to see me and shook me by the hand.  He was welcome enough to me also, for he banished the dreadful loneliness, and his coming was a bit out of my old pleasant life that lay so far away, and seemed to bring me once more within reach of some that were dearest.


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Moonfleet from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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