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."Pore little dear, 'e's tired," she said, hold-ing me tight from Mr.Hawkins." 'E shall'ave his bread and cheese without 'is dancing."40" 'E's a wilful, perverse hungratefulcreetur!" Mr.Hawkins said, but she did notseem to mind.She took me behind the barand gave me a scorching drink of somethingand a great piece of bread which I wastoo weary to eat.Afterward Mr.Hawkinstook me back to the fair, jerking me furiouslyalong by the arm.He took me to the littletent where we had dressed and put me inside."I'll tike the 'ide off you when I come back,"he said hoarsely, bending to bring his red faceclose to mine."I'll give you a caning wot isa caning, I will.I've been too gentle with you,I 'ave.You stay 'ere, and wait."With these dreadful words and a horribleoath he went away, and I could hear him shout-ing before the other tent above the sounds ofthe evening's merrymaking."'Ere! 'Ere!This way to the Lunnon clog dancers! Onlya penny!"I was left in such a state of misery andwretchedness, shaking with such fear, thatnot even my great weariness would let mesleep.I sat there in the dark for a longtime, trembling, and then, driven by terrorof Mr.Hawkins' return, I crawled beneaththe edge of the tent and set out blindly toget beyond the reach of his voice.41When I came to the edge of the crowd I ranas fast as I could.CHAPTER VIn which I have an adventure with a cow; becomea lawless filcher of brandy-snaps ; and confoundan honest farmer.I RAN for a long time in the darkness, blindly,not caring where I went, only that I escapedfrom Mr.Hawkins.The pounding of my heartshook me as I plunged across fields andscrambled under gates in my way, until at lastI came to a corner of two hedges, and had nostrength to go farther.I curled myself intoas small a space as possible, close to thehedges, and lay there.It seemed to me thatI was hidden and safe, and I was quite contentas I went to sleep.Early in the morning I was awakened by acurious swishing noise, and saw close to myface the great staring eyes of a strange animal.It was a cow, but I had never seen one, and Ithought it was one of the giants my motherhad told about.I saw its tongue, lapping upabout its nose, and as I stared it licked myface.The moist sandpapery feeling of itstartled me and I howled.43At the sound it backed away with a snort,and so we remained, staring at each other fora long time.It was a bright morning, withbirds singing in the hedgerows, and if it hadnot been for my hunger and an uneasiness lestthe cow meant to lick me again I would havebeen quite happy, so far from Mr.Hawkins.Then between me and the cow came a womanwith a big bucket on her arm, carrying a three-legged stool.Quite fearlessly she slapped thegreat animal, and it turned meekly and stood,while she sat on the stool and began to milk.It was the strangest thing I had ever seen,and I went over to her side and stood watchingthe thin white stream pattering on the bottomof the bucket.She gave a great start and criedout in surprise when she saw me."Lawk a mussy!" she said, and sat with hermouth open.I must have been a strange sightin that farmyard, a thin little child — for Iwas only ten and very small for that age —in velveteen smalls and a round jacket withtinsel braid on it.44"Where did you coom from?" she asked."I come from London.I am an actor," Isaid importantly."What are you doing?" andpointed to the bucket.She laughed at that and seeing, I suppose,that I looked hungry, she held the bucket tomy lips, and I tasted the fresh warm milk.Idrank every drop, in great delight.I hadnever tasted anything so delicious before."Are you hungry?" she asked me, and I toldher solemnly, believing it, that I had hadnothing to eat for a week.Her consternationat that was so great she dropped the bucket,but hastily picking it up, she sat down andmilked again until she had another huge draughtfor me.Then she finished the milking in ahurry and took me into the farmhouse kitchen,a bright place, with shining pans on the walland a pleasant smell of cooking.The tale I told the farmer's wife I do notremember, but she took me up in her arms, say-ing, "Poor little lad! Poor little lad!" overand over, while she felt my thin arms, and Isquirmed, for I did not like to be pitied, andbesides, I saw the breakfast on the table andwished she would let me have some.When sheset me down before it at last I could hardlywait to begin, while, to my surprise, she tieda napkin around my neck.45It was a mighty breakfast — porridge andeggs, with a rasher of bacon and marmalade,and the maid who had milked the cow was cut-ting great slices of crusty bread and butter.But before I had taken up a spoon the farmercame in.He was a big bluff man, and at sightof me he began to ask questions in a loud voice."Well, my lad, where did you come from?"he said."From the fair, sir," I answered, eager tobe at the food, and not thinking what I said."Oh, 'e's the little lad wi' the clog dancersI told you of, Mary," he said."Gi' him break-fuss, if you like, and I'll be takin' him backto his master as I go to the village."At the terrible thought of Mr.Hawkins,whom I had almost forgotten, panic took me.I sat there trembling for a second, and then,before a hand could be reached to stay me, Ileaped from my chair and fled from the kitchen,through the farmyard and out the gate, thenapkin fluttering at my neck.A long waydown the lane I stopped, panting, and lookedto see if any one was following me.No onewas.46I wandered on for some time, growing hungrierwith every step and regretting passionatelythe loss of that great breakfast before Isaw the girl with the brandy-snaps [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]