“Is that you, Bill?” ses old Sam, in a shaky voice, and standing ready to dash downstairs agin.
There was no answer except for the bed, and Sam didn’t know whether Bill was dying or whether ’e ’ad got delirium trimmings. All ’e did know was that ’e wasn’t going to sleep in that room. He shut the door gently and went downstairs agin, feeling in ’is pocket for a match, and, not finding one, ’e picked out the softest stair ’e could find and, leaning his ’ead agin the banisters, went to sleep.
[Illustration: “Picked out the softest stair ’e could find.”]
It was about six o’clock when ’e woke up, and broad daylight. He was stiff and sore all over, and feeling braver in the light ’e stepped softly upstairs and opened the door. Peter and Ginger was waiting for ’im, and as he peeped in ’e saw two things sitting up in bed with their ’air standing up all over like mops and their faces tied up with bandages. He was that startled ’e nearly screamed, and then ’e stepped into the room and stared at ’em as if he couldn’t believe ’is eyes.
“Is that you, Ginger?” he ses. “Wot d’ye mean by making sights of yourselves like that? ’Ave you took leave of your senses?”
Ginger and Peter shook their ’eads and rolled their eyes, and then Sam see wot was the matter with ’em. Fust thing ’e did was to pull out ’is knife and cut Ginger’s gag off, and the fust thing Ginger did was to call ’im every name ’e could lay his tongue to.
“You wait a moment,” he screams, ’arf crying with rage. “You wait till I get my ‘ands loose and I’ll pull you to pieces. The idea o’ leaving us like this all night, you old crocodile. I ’eard you come in. I’ll pay you.”
Sam didn’t answer ’im. He cut off Peter Russet’s gag, and Peter Russet called ’im ‘arf a score o’ names without taking breath.
“And when Ginger’s finished I’ll ’ave a go at you,” he ses. “Cut off these lines.”
“At once, d’ye hear?” ses Ginger. “Oh, you wait till I get my ’ands on you.”
Sam didn’t answer ’em; he shut up ’is knife with a click and then ’e sat at the foot o’ the bed on Ginger’s feet and looked at ’em. It wasn’t the fust time they’d been rude to ’im, but as a rule he’d ’ad to put up with it. He sat and listened while Ginger swore ’imself faint.
“That’ll do,” he ses, at last; “another word and I shall put the bedclothes over your ’ead. Afore I do anything more I want to know wot it’s all about.”
Peter told ’im, arter fust calling ’im some more names, because Ginger was past it, and when ’e’d finished old Sam said ’ow surprised he was at them for letting Bill do it, and told ’em how they ought to ’ave prevented it. He sat there talking as though ’e enjoyed the sound of ’is own voice, and he told Peter and Ginger all their faults and said wot sorrow it caused their friends. Twice he ’ad to throw the bedclothes over their ‘eads because o’ the noise they was making.