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from a confusion in the sound.
To this effect the sergeant and the nearest men were speaking under their
breath, when Joe and I came up. After another moment's listening, Joe (who was
a good judge) agreed, and Mr. Wopsle (who was a bad judge) agreed. The
sergeant, a decisive man, ordered that the sound should not be answered, but
that the course should be changed, and that his men should make towards it "at
the double." So we slanted to the right (where the East was), and Joe pounded
away so wonderfully, that I had to hold on tight to keep my seat.
It was a run indeed now, and what Joe called, in the only two words he
spoke all the time, "a Winder." Down banks and up banks, and over gates, and
splashing into dykes, and breaking among coarse rushes: no man cared where he
went. As we came nearer to the shouting, it became more and more apparent that
it was made by more than one voice. Sometimes, it seemed to stop altogether,
and then the soldiers stopped. When it broke out again, the soldiers made for
it at a greater rate than ever, and we after them. After a while, we had so run
it down, that we could hear one voice calling "Murder!" and another voice,
"Convicts! Runaways! Guard! This way for the runaway convicts!" Then both
voices would seem to be stifled in a struggle, and then would break out again.
And when it had come to this, the soldiers ran like deer, and Joe too.
The sergeant ran in first, when we had run the noise quite down, and two of
his men ran in close upon him. Their pieces were cocked and levelled when we
all ran in.
"Here are both men!" panted the sergeant, struggling at the bottom of a
ditch. "Surrender, you two! and confound you for two wild beasts! Come
Water was splashing, and mud was flying, and oaths were being sworn, and
blows were being struck, when some more men went down into the ditch to help the
sergeant, and dragged out, separately, my convict and the other one. Both were
bleeding and panting and execrating and struggling; but of course I knew them
"Mind!" said my convict, wiping blood from his face with his ragged
sleeves, and shaking torn hair from his fingers: "I took him! I give him up to
you! Mind that!"
"It's not much to be particular about," said the sergeant; "it'll do you
small good, my man, being in the same plight yourself. Handcuffs there!"
"I don't expect it to do me any good. I don't want it to do me more good
than it does now," said my convict, with a greedy laugh. "I took him. He knows
it. That's enough for me."
The other convict was livid to look at, and, in addition to the old bruised
left side of his face, seemed to be bruised and torn all over. He could not so
much as get his breath to speak, until they were both separately handcuffed, but
leaned upon a soldier to keep himself from falling.
"Take notice, guard - he tried to murder me," were his first words.
"Tried to murder him?" said my convict, disdainfully. "Try, and not do it?
I took him, and giv' him up; that's what I done. I not only prevented him
getting off the marshes, but I dragged him here - dragged him this far on his
way back. He's a gentleman, if you please, this villain. Now, the Hulks has
got its gentleman again, through me. Murder him? Worth my while, too, to
murder him, when I could do worse and drag him back!"
The other one still gasped, "He tried - he tried - to - murder me. Bear -
"Lookee here!" said my convict to the sergeant. "Single-handed I got clear
of the prison-ship; I made a dash and I done it. I could ha' got clear of these
death-cold flats likewise - look at my leg: you won't find much iron on it - if
I hadn't made the discovery that he was here. Let him go free? Let him profit
by the means as I found out? Let him make a tool of me afresh and again? Once
more? No, no, no. If I had died at the bottom there;" and he made an emphatic
swing at the ditch with his manacled hands; "I'd have held to him with that
grip, that you should have been safe to find him in my hold."
The other fugitive, who was evidently in extreme horror of his companion,
repeated, "He tried to murder me. I should have been a dead man if you had not
"He lies!" said my convict, with fierce energy. "He's a liar born, and
he'll die a liar. Look at his face; ain't it written there? Let him turn those
eyes of his on me. I defy him to do it."
The other, with an effort at a scornful smile - which could not, however,
collect the nervous working of his mouth into any set expression - looked at the
soldiers, and looked about at the marshes and at the sky, but certainly did not
look at the speaker.
"Do you see him?" pursued my convict. "Do you see what a villain he is?
Do you see those grovelling and wandering eyes? That's how he looked when we
were tried together. He never looked at me."
The other, always working and working his dry lips and turning his eyes
restlessly about him far and near, did at last turn them for a moment on the
speaker, with the words, "You are not much to look at," and with a half-taunting
glance at the bound hands. At that point, my convict became so frantically
exasperated, that he would have rushed upon him but for the interposition of the
soldiers. "Didn't I tell you," said the other convict then, "that he would
murder me, if he could?" And any one could see that he shook with fear, and
that there broke out upon his lips, curious white flakes, like thin snow.
"Enough of this parley," said the sergeant. "Light those torches."
As one of the soldiers, who carried a basket in lieu of a gun, went down on
his knee to open it, my convict looked round him for the first time, and saw me.
I had alighted from Joe's back on the brink of the ditch when we came up, and
had not moved since. I looked at him eagerly when he looked at me, and slightly
moved my hands and shook my head. I had been waiting for him to see me, that I
might try to assure him of my innocence. It was not at all expressed to me that
he even comprehended my intention, for he gave me a look that I did not
understand, and it all passed in a moment. But if he had looked at me for an
hour or for a day, I could not have remembered his face ever afterwards, as
having been more attentive.
The soldier with the basket soon got a light, and lighted three or four
torches, and took one himself and distributed the others. It had been almost
dark before, but now it seemed quite dark, and soon afterwards very dark.
Before we departed from that spot, four soldiers standing in a ring, fired twice
into the air. Presently we 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
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
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,
"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
"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know, Pip?"
"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.
- Would us, Pip?"
The something that I had noticed before, clicked in the man's throat again,
and he turned his back. The boat had returned, and his guard were ready, so we
followed him to the landing-place made of rough stakes and stones, and saw him
put into the boat, which was rowed by a crew of convicts like himself. No one
seemed surprised to see him, or interested in seeing him, or glad to see him, or
sorry to see him, or spoke a word, except that somebody in the boat growled as
if to dogs, "Give way, you!" which was the signal for the dip of the oars. By
the light of the torches, we saw the black Hulk lying out a little way from the
mud of the shore, like a wicked Noah's ark. Cribbed and barred and moored by
massive rusty chains, the prison-ship seemed in my young eyes to be ironed like
the prisoners. We saw the boat go alongside, and we saw him taken up the side
and disappear. Then, the ends of the torches were flung hissing into the water,
and went out, as if it were all over with him.
My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so
unexpectedly exonerated, did not impel me to frank disclosure; but I hope it had
some dregs of good at the bottom of it.
I do not recall that I felt any tenderness of conscience in reference to
Mrs. Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted off me. But I loved Joe -
perhaps for no better reason in those early days than because the dear fellow
let me love him - and, as to him, my inner self was not so easily composed. It
was much upon my mind (particularly when I first saw him looking about for his
file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not, and for the
reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me worse than I was. The
fear of losing Joe's confidence, and of thenceforth sitting in the
chimney-corner at night staring drearily at my for ever lost companion and
friend, tied up my tongue. I morbidly represented to myself that if Joe knew
it, I never afterwards could see him at the fireside feeling his fair whisker,
without thinking that he was meditating on it. That, if Joe knew it, I never
afterwards could see him glance, however casually, at yesterday's meat or
pudding when it came on to-day's table, without thinking that he was debating
whether I had been in the pantry. That, if Joe knew it, and at any subsequent
period of our joint domestic life remarked that his beer was flat or thick, the
conviction that he suspected Tar in it, would bring a rush of blood to my face.
In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too
cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong. I had had no intercourse with
the world at that time, and I imitated none of its many inhabitants who act in
this manner. Quite an untaught genius, I made the discovery of the line of
action for myself.
As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe took me
on his back again and carried me home. He must have had a tiresome journey of
it, for Mr. Wopsle, being knocked up, was in such a very bad temper that if the
Church had been thrown open, he would probably have excommunicated the whole
expedition, beginning with Joe and myself. In his lay capacity, he persisted in
sitting down in the damp to such an insane extent, that when his coat was taken