‘Your money or your life,’ said a voice very close at hand.
‘What? What? What did you say?’
The man stepped from behind the trees, the rain glinting on his weapon. ‘I said, “Your money or your life,” ‘ he said, and coughed.
Instantly the cloak in his face. Jack had him by the shirt, worrying him, shaking him with terrible vehemence, jerking him high off the ground. The shirt gave way: he stood staggering, his arms out. Jack hit him a great left-handed blow on the ear and kicked his legs from under him as he fell.
He snatched up the cudgel and stood over him, breathing hard and waving his left hand — knuckles split: a damned unhandy blow — it had been like hitting a tree. He was filled with indignation. ‘Dog, dog, dog,’ he said, watching for a movement. But there was no movement, and after a while Jack’s teeth unclenched: he stirred the body with his foot. ‘Come, sir. Up you get. Rise and shine.’ After a few more orders of this sort, delivered pretty loud, he sat the fellow up and shook him. Head dangling, utterly limp; wet and cold; no breath, no heartbeat, very like a corpse. ‘God damn his eyes,’ said Jack, ‘he’s died on me.’
The increasing rain brought his cloak to mind; he found it, put it on, and stood over the body again. Poor wretched little brute — could not be more than seven or eight stone — and as incompetent a footpad as could be imagined — had been within a toucher of adding ‘if you please’ to his demand — no notion of attack. Was he dead? He as not: one hand scrabbled in vague, disordered motion.
Jack shivered: the heat of walking and of the brief struggle had worn off in the waiting pause, and he wrapped his cloak tighter; it was a raw night, with a frost a certainty before dawn. More vain, irritated shaking, rough attempts at revival. ‘Jesus, what a bore,’ he said. At sea there would have been no problem, but here on land it was different — he had a different sense of tidiness ashore — and after a disgusted pause he wrapped the object in his cloak (not from any notion of humanity, but to keep the mud, blood and perhaps worse off his clothes), picked it up and walked off.
Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian