Chapter 16 Summary
Crispin stops in his tracks, listening to the singing voice. He cannot imagine that anyone is alive in this dead village, so his first thought is that the owner of the voice must be a ghost. The singing continues, and Crispin realizes that the sounds are coming from a church. To Crispin, it seems highly unlikely that an evil spirit would hide in such a place. This gives him courage, and he tiptoes to the door to peek inside.
As it turns out, the singer is a traveler—an enormously fat man wearing colorful but ragged clothing. His hat has two points, each with a bell on the end. His pants are baggy, with each leg died a different bright color. Even the man’s face is strange, with a fat red nose and a shaggy red beard. Crispin has never seen someone dressed in this way before, so he gapes in surprise.
There is a big bag on the ground beside the fat man, and Crispin stares at it, wondering if there is food inside. The man looks up, sees Crispin, and stop singing. His first action is to reach for the knife he wears at his belt—but after a moment, he takes his hand away and greets Crispin in the name of God.
Studying Crispin with obvious curiosity, the fat man demands to know where the boy is from and where he is going. Crispin is evasive, saying vaguely that he is on his way to meet his father in “some large town.” The fat man sees through this lie easily. He comments that Crispin looks dirty, half-starved, and wild. “In short, you’re more cur than boy,” he says.
Crispin does not know what to make of this man. He thinks it might be best to run away, but his desire for food makes him stay. The fat man seems to sense this, and he hints that he has food to offer. Crispin inches forward, and the stranger launches into a loud, confusing lecture about how the king and his lords get fat while the people of England go hungry. This, the man concludes, is the wrong way for the world to work.
When the stranger finishes this speech, he asks what Crispin thought of it. Crispin timidly thinks it over for a moment, then says that it “sounds like...treason.” This seems to make the stranger angry. He lures Crispin closer with some bread, then grabs the boy’s arm in a tight, painful grip.