The Broad Highway (Book One - Chapter 5 The Bagman, page 1 of 3)


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I was yet standing there, half stunned by my loss and the
suddenness of it all, when a tilbury came slowly round a bend in
the road, the driver of which nodded lazily in his seat while his
horse, a sorry, jaded animal, plodded wearily up the steep slope
of the hill. As he approached I hailed him loudly, upon which he
suddenly dived down between his knees and produced a brass-bound
blunderbuss.

"What's to do?" cried he, a thick-set, round-faced fellow,
"what's to do, eh?" and he covered me with the wide mouth of the
blunderbuss.

"Thieves!" said I, "I've been robbed, and not three minutes since."

"Ah!" he exclaimed, in a tone of great relief, and with the color
returning to his plump cheeks, "is that the way of it?"

"It is," said I, "and a very bad way; the fellow has left me but
twopence in the world."

"Twopence--ah?"

"Come," I went on, "you are armed, I see; the thief took to the
brushwood, here, not three minutes ago; we may catch him yet--"

"Catch him?" repeated the fellow, staring.

"Yes, don't I tell you he has stolen all the money I possess?"

"Except twopence," said the fellow.

"Yes--"

"Well, twopence ain't to be sneezed at, and if I was you--"

"Come, we're losing time," said I, cutting him short.

"But--my mare, what about my mare?"

"She'll stand," I answered; "she's tired enough."

The Bagman, for such I took him to be, sighed, and, blunderbuss
in hand, prepared to alight, but, in the act of doing so, paused: "Was the rascal armed?" he inquired, over his shoulder "To be sure he was," said I.

The Bagman got back into his seat and took up the reins.

"What now?" I inquired.

"It's this accursed mare of mine," he answered; "she'll bolt
again, d'ye see--twice yesterday and once the day before, she
bolted, sir, and on a road like this--"

"Then lend me your blunderbuss."

"I can't do that," he replied, shaking his head.

"But why not?" said I impatiently.

"Because this is a dangerous road, and I don't intend to be left
unarmed on a dangerous road; I never have been and I never will,
and there's an end of it, d'ye see!"

"Then do you mean to say that you refuse your aid to a
fellow-traveler--that you will sit there and let the rogue get away
with all the money I possess in the world--"

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