The Broad Highway (Book One - Chapter 6 What Befell Me At The White Hart, page 1 of 6)


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When a man has experienced some great and totally unexpected
reverse of fortune, has been swept from one plane of existence
to another, that he should fail at once to recognize the full
magnitude of that change is but natural, for his faculties must
of necessity be numbed more or less by its very suddenness.

Yesterday I had been reduced from affluence to poverty with an
unexpectedness that had dazed me for the time being, and, from
the poverty of an hour ago, I now found myself reduced to an
utter destitution, without the wherewithal to pay for the meanest
night's lodging. And, contrasting the careless ease of a few
days since with my present lamentable situation, I fell into a
gloomy meditation; and the longer I thought it over, the more
dejected I became. To be sure, I might apply to Sir Richard
for assistance, but my pride revolted at even the thought, more
especially at such an early stage; moreover, I had determined,
beforehand, to walk my appointed road unaided from the first.

From these depressing thoughts I was presently aroused by a loud,
rough voice at no great distance, to which, though I had been dimly
conscious of it for some time, I had before paid no attention.
Now, however, I raised my eyes from the spot upon the floor where
they had rested hitherto, and fixed them upon the speaker.

He was a square-shouldered, bullet-headed fellow, evidently held
in much respect by his companions, for he occupied the head of
the table, and I noticed that when ever he spoke the others held
their peace, and hung upon the words with an appearance of much
respect.

"'Yes, sirs,' says I," he began, louder than before, and with a
flourish of his long-stemmed pipe, "'yes, sirs, Tom Cragg's my
name an' craggy's my natur,' says I. 'I be 'ard, sirs, dey-vilish
'ard an' uncommon rocky! 'Ere's a face as likes good knocks,'
I says, 'w'y, when I fought Crib Burke o' Bristol 'e broke 'is
'and again' my jaw, so 'e did, an' I scarce knowed 'e'd 'it me till
I see 'im 'oppin' wi' the pain of it. Come, sirs,' says I, 'who'll
give me a black eye; a fiver's all I ask.' Well, up comes a young
buck, ready an' willin'. 'Tom,' says 'e, 'I'll take two flaps at
that figger-head o' yourn for seven guineas, come, what d'ye say?'
I says, 'done,' says I. So my fine gentleman lays by 'is 'at an'
cane, strips off 'is right-'and glove, an' 'eavin' back lets fly at
me. Bang comes 'is fist again' my jaw, an' there's my gentleman
a-dabbin' at 'is broken knuckles wi' 'is 'ankercher. 'Come, my
lord,' says I, 'fair is fair, take your other whack.' 'Damnation!'
says 'e, 'take your money an' go to the devil!' says 'e, 'I thought
you was flesh an' blood an' not cast iron!' 'Craggy, my lord,' says
I, gathering up the rhino, 'Cragg by name an' craggy by natur', my
lord,' says I."

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