The old man gave a convulsive shudder at this, and shrieked faintly; all started, but the Skipper laughed.
“You see, Senor Pike, and Senor Doctor, greatly respected! Who shall know how great sums this ancient fish has hidden under him? Let him keep them, these sums. I take the child, and I go my way. Is it finished, uncle of my heart? Is it finished, venerable iniquity? Can you part with the child, beloved, even as your old father was beloved, and like him caressed and tenderly entreated? Answer, thou!”
But before Mr. Scraper could speak, little John stepped forward, very pale, but clear in his mind.
“If you please,” he said, “I should like to speak. If you please, he (indicating the Skipper,) is so kind, and—and—he knows what I—he knows things I have thought about, but he does not know all. Cousin Scraper, you may be sick now, perhaps a long time, and perhaps you have gone upon your bed to die, like that king in the Bible who had figs put on; only he got well.
“And I want to stay and take care of you, and—and I will do as well as I know how, and I think I can work more than I used to, because I know more, these last days, than I did, and—and—I think that is all. But if you don’t mind—if you would try to like me a little, I think we should get on better; and if dried figs would do, we might try those, you know.”
Here he turned to the doctor, with a face of such clear brightness that the good man choked, and coughed, and finally went and looked out of the window, wondering whether he was laughing or crying.
Then John came forward, and held out both hands to the old man with an appealing gesture.
“Will you try to like me a little?” he said; and for the first time his voice quivered.
“For now my only friend is going away, and I am sending him, and I shall never see him again.”
Mr. Endymion Scraper was a man of few ideas; and only one was in his mind at this moment. Gathering himself up in the bed, he pushed the boy away from him with all his feeble strength.
“Go ’way!” he said. “Go ’way, I tell ye. If that man there will take ye, he’s welcome to ye, I guess. If he’s fool enough to take ye in exchange for property, saying the property was his, which I aint fool enough to do without a lawyer—he’s welcome to ye. I say, he’s welcome. I don’t want no brats round here. I took ye out of charity, and I’ve had enough of ye. Go ’long, I say, with that wuthless feller, if he is my sister’s son. I want to be rid of the hull lot and passel of ye!”
His voice rose to a scream, and the veins on his narrow forehead stood out like cords. The doctor motioned to the Spaniard; and the latter, without another word, took the child up in his arms as he had done once before, swung him over his shoulder, and left the room.