“Not you! Not you! Harry!”
He gripped me by the arm, and, ducking his head, fairly charged me past the ’longshoremen and out through the doorway into the street. As we gained it I heard the stranger in the taproom behind me break into a high, cackling laugh.
THE HUNTED AND THE HUNTER.
All the drunkenness had gone out of Captain Danny. Gripping my arm, he steered me rapidly through the knots of loafers, up Market Strand into the crowded Fore Street, across it and up the hill towards open country, taking the ascent with long strides which forced me now and again into a run. Twice or thrice I glanced up at his face, for I was scared, and badly scared. His mouth worked, and I observed small beads of sweat on his shaven upper lip; but he kept his eyes fastened straight ahead, and paid no heed to me.
At the head of the street the town melted off into a suburb of scattered houses, modest domiciles of twenty-five pounds or thirty pounds rentals, detached, each with its garden and narrow garden-door, for Falmouth in those days boasted few carriage-folk. He paused once hereabouts, in the roadway between two walls, and stood listening, while his right hand trembled on his stick; but presently gripped my arm again and hurried me forward, nor halted until we reached the summit, and the open country lay before us, with the Channel and its long horizon on our left. Here, in a cornfield on the very knap of the hill, and some two hundred yards back from the road, stood the shell of an old windmill, overlooking the sea— deserted, ruinous, without sails, a building many hundreds of years older than the oldest house in Falmouth, serving now but as a landmark for fishermen, and on Sundays a rendezvous for courting couples. At the stile leading into the cornfield, Captain Coffin released me, climbed over, hurried up the footpath to the windmill, and, having satisfied himself that the building was empty, motioned me to seat myself on the side where its long shadow pointed down across a bank of nettles, and beyond the edge of the green young barley sheeting the slope towards the harbour.
“Brooks,” he began—but his voice rattled like a dried pea in a pod, and he had to moisten his under-lip with his tongue before he could proceed—“Brooks, are you in any way a superstitious kind o’ boy?”
“That depends, sir,” said I, diplomatically.
“After all these years, too,” he groaned, “an’ agen’ all likelihood o’ natur’. But you saw him—hey? You heard what he said, an’ that cussed song, too? Sang it, he did; slapped it out at the top of his voice in a public tavern. I tell you, Brooks—knowin’ what he knows—a man must have all hell runnin’ cold in him to sing them words aloud an’ not care who heard.”
“Why, he sang but a line of it,” said I, “and that harmless enough, though dismal.”