The Broad Highway (Book One - Chapter 3 Concerns Itself Mainly With a Hat, page 1 of 4)


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As the day advanced, the sun beat down with an ever-increasing
heat, and what with this and the dust I presently grew very
thirsty; wherefore, as I went, I must needs conjure up tantalizing
visions of ale--of ale that foamed gloriously in tankards, that
sparkled in glasses, and gurgled deliciously from the spouts of
earthen pitchers, and I began to look about me for some inn where
these visions might be realized and my burning thirst nobly
quenched (as such a thirst deserved to be). On I went, through
this beautiful land of Kent, past tree and hedge and smiling
meadow, by hill and dale and sloping upland, while ever the sun
grew hotter, the winding road the dustier, and my mighty thirst
the mightier.

At length, reaching the brow of a hill, I espied a small inn or
hedge tavern that stood back from the glare of the road, seeming
to nestle in the shade of a great tree, and joyfully I hastened
toward it.

As I approached I heard loud voices, raised as though in
altercation, and a hat came hurtling through the open doorway
and, bounding into the road, rolled over and over to my very
feet. And, looking down at it, I saw that it was a very ill-used
hat, frayed and worn, dented of crown and broken of brim, yet
beneath its sordid shabbiness there lurked the dim semblance of
what it had once been, for, in the scratched and tarnished
buckle, in the jaunty curl of the brim, it still preserved a
certain pitiful air of rakishness; wherefore, I stooped, and,
picking it up, began to brush the dust from it as well as I
might.

I was thus engaged when there arose a sudden bull-like roar and,
glancing up, I beheld a man who reeled backwards out of the inn
and who, after staggering a yard or so, thudded down into the
road and so lay, staring vacantly up at the sky. Before I could
reach him, however, he got upon his legs and, crossing unsteadily
to the tree I have mentioned, leaned there, and I saw there was
much blood upon his face which he essayed to wipe away with the
cuff of his coat. Now, upon his whole person, from the crown of
his unkempt head down to his broken, dusty boots, there yet clung
that air of jaunty, devil-may-care rakishness which I had seen,
and pitied in his hat.

Observing, as I came up, how heavily he leaned against the tree,
and noting the extreme pallor of his face and the blank gaze of
his sunken eyes, I touched him upon the shoulder.

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