The Broad Highway (Book One - Chapter 2 I Set Out, page 1 of 3)


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The clock of the square-towered Norman church, a mile away, was
striking the hour of four as I let myself out into the morning.
It was dark as yet, and chilly, but in the east was already a
faint glimmer of dawn. Reaching the stables, I paused with my
hand on the door-hasp, listening to the hiss, hissing that told me
Adam, the groom, was already at work within. As I entered he
looked up from the saddle he was polishing and touched his
forehead with a grimy forefinger.

"You be early abroad, Mr. Peter."

"Yes," said I. "I wish to be on Shooter's Hill at sunrise; but
first I came to say 'good-by' to 'Wings.'"

"To be sure, sir," nodded Adam, picking up his lanthorn.

Upon the ensuing interview I will not dwell; it was affecting
both to her and to myself, for we were mutually attached.

"Sir," said Adam, when at last the stable door had closed behind
us, "that there mare knows as you're a-leaving her."

"I think she does, Adam."

"'Osses be wonderful wise, sir!"

"Yes, Adam."

"This is a bad day for Wings, sir--and all of us, for that
matter."

"I hope not, Adam."

"You be a-going away, they tell me, sir?"

"Yes, going away," I nodded.

"Wonder what'll become o' the mare, sir?"

"Ah, yes, I wonder," said I.

"Everything to be sold under the will, I think, sir?"

"Everything, Adam."

"Excuse me, sir," said he, knuckling his forehead, "you won't be
wanting ever a groom, will you?"

"No, Adam," I answered, shaking my head, "I sha'n't be wanting a
groom."

"Nor yet a body servant, sir?"

"No, Adam, nor yet a body servant."

Here there ensued a silence during which Adam knuckled his right
temple again and I tightened the buckle of my knapsack.

"I think, Adam," said I, "I think it is going to be a fine day."

"Yes, sir."

"Good-by, Adam!" said I, and held out my hand.

"Good-by, sir." And, having shaken my hand, he turned and went
back into the stable.

So I set off, walking beneath an avenue of trees looming up gigantic
on either hand. At the end was the lodge and, ere I opened the
gates--for John, the lodgekeeper, was not yet astir--ere I opened
the gates, I say, I paused for one last look at the house that had
been all the home I had ever known since I could remember. As I
stood thus, with my eyes upon the indistinct mass, I presently
distinguished a figure running towards me and, as he came up,
recognized Adam.

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