THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 36: AN ENCOUNTER IN THE DARK
But he didn't approach. He stopped, gazed absently toward our
dusky mass a minute, evidently thinking about something else;
then set down his light, moved musingly toward the door, and before
a body could imagine what he was going to do, he was out of the
door and had closed it behind him.
"Quick!" said the king. "Fetch him back!"
Of course, it was the thing to do, and I was up and out in a
moment. But, dear me, there were no lamps in those days, and
it was a dark night. But I glimpsed a dim figure a few steps
away. I darted for it, threw myself upon it, and then there was
a state of things and lively! We fought and scuffled and struggled,
and drew a crowd in no time. They took an immense interest in
the fight and encouraged us all they could, and, in fact, couldn't
have been pleasanter or more cordial if it had been their own
fight. Then a tremendous row broke out behind us, and as much
as half of our audience left us, with a rush, to invest some
sympathy in that. Lanterns began to swing in all directions;
it was the watch gathering from far and near. Presently a halberd
fell across my back, as a reminder, and I knew what it meant.
I was in custody. So was my adversary. We were marched off toward
prison, one on each side of the watchman. Here was disaster,
here was a fine scheme gone to sudden destruction! I tried to
imagine what would happen when the master should discover that
it was I who had been fighting him; and what would happen if they
jailed us together in the general apartment for brawlers and petty
law-breakers, as was the custom; and what might--
Just then my antagonist turned his face around in my direction,
the freckled light from the watchman's tin lantern fell on it,
and, by George, he was the wrong man!