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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

Before the Tinman could recover himself


now the Flaming Tinman was once more ready, much more ready than myself. I, however, rose from my second's knee as well as my weakness would permit me. On he came, striking left and right, appearing almost as fresh as to wind and spirit as when he first commenced the combat, though his eyes were considerably swelled, and his nether lip was cut in two; on he came, striking left and right, and I did not like his blows at all, or even the wind of them, which was anything but agreeable, and I gave way before him. At last he aimed a blow which, had it taken full effect, would doubtless have ended the battle, but owing to his slipping, the fist only grazed my left shoulder, and came with terrific force against a tree, close to which I had been driven; before the Tinman could recover himself, I collected all my strength, and struck him beneath the ear, and then fell to the ground completely exhausted; and it so happened that the blow which I struck the Tinker beneath the ear was a right-handed blow.

'Hurrah for Long Melford!' I heard Belle exclaim; 'there is nothing like Long Melford for shortness, all the world over.'

At these words I turned round my head as I lay, and perceived the Flaming Tinman stretched upon the ground apparently senseless. 'He is dead,' said the vulgar woman, as she vainly endeavoured to raise him up; 'he is dead; the best man in all the north country, killed in this fashion, by a boy!'

Alarmed at these words, I made shift to get on my feet; and, with the assistance of the woman, placed my fallen adversary in a sitting posture. I put my hand to his heart, and felt a slight pulsation--'He's not dead,' said I, 'only stunned; if he were let blood, he would recover presently.' I produced a penknife which I had in my pocket, and, baring the arm of the Tinman, was about to make the necessary incision, when the woman gave me a violent blow, and, pushing me aside, exclaimed, 'I'll tear the eyes out of your head if you offer to touch him. Do you want to complete your work, and murder him outright, now he's asleep? you have had enough of his blood already.' 'You are mad,' said I, 'I only seek to do him service. Well, if you won't let him be blooded, fetch some water and fling it in his face, you know where the pit is.'

'A pretty manoeuvre!' said the woman; 'leave my husband in the hands of you and that limmer, who has never been true to us--I should find him strangled or his throat cut when I came back.' 'Do you go,' said I to the tall girl; 'take the can and fetch some water from the pit.' 'You had better go yourself,' said the girl, wiping a tear as she looked on the yet senseless form of the Tinker; 'you had better go yourself, if you think water will do him good.' I had by this time somewhat recovered my exhausted powers, and, taking the can, I bent my steps as fast as I could to the pit; arriving there, I lay down on the brink, took a long draught, and then plunged my head into the water; after which I filled the can, and bent my way back to the dingle. Before I could reach the path which led down into its depths, I had to pass some way along its side; I had arrived at a part immediately over the scene of the last encounter, where the bank, overgrown with trees, sloped precipitously down. Here I heard a loud sound of voices in the dingle; I stopped, and laying hold of a tree, leaned over the bank and listened. The two women appeared to be in hot dispute in the dingle. 'It was all owing to you, you limmer,' said the vulgar woman to the other; 'had you not interfered, the old man would soon have settled the boy.'

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