The Broad Highway (Book One - Chapter 7 Of the Further Puzzling Behavior of Tom Cragg - the Pugilist, page 1 of 3)


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Evening had fallen, and I walked along in no very happy frame of
mind, the more so, as the rising wind and flying wrack of clouds
above (through which a watery moon had peeped at fitful intervals)
seemed to presage a wild night. It needed but this to make my
misery the more complete, for, as far as I could tell, if I slept
at all (and I was already very weary), it must, of necessity, be
beneath some hedge or tree.

As I approached the brow of the hill, I suddenly remembered that
I must once more pass the gibbet, and began to strain my eyes for
it. Presently I spied it, sure enough, its grim, gaunt outline
looming through the murk, and instinctively I quickened my stride
so as to pass it as soon as might be.

I was almost abreast of it when a figure rose from beneath it and
slouched into the road to meet me. I stopped there and then, and
grasping my heavy staff waited its approach.

"Be that you, sir?" said a voice, and I recognized the voice of
Tom Cragg.

"What are you doing--and there of all places?"

"Oh--I ain't afeared of 'im," answered Cragg, jerking his thumb
towards the gibbet, "I ain't afeard o' none as ever drawed
breath--dead or livin'--except it be 'is 'Ighness the Prince
Regent."

"And what do you want with me?"

"I 'opes as theer's no offence, my lord," said he, knuckling his
forehead, and speaking in a tone that was a strange mixture of
would-be comradeship and cringing servility. "Cragg is my name,
an' craggy's my natur', but I know when I'm beat. I knowed ye
as soon as I laid my 'peepers' on ye, an' if I said as it were a
foul, why, when a man's in 'is cups, d'ye see, 'e's apt to shoot
rayther wide o' the gospel, d'ye see, an' there was no offence,
my lord, strike me blind! I know you, an' you know me--Tom Cragg
by name an' craggy by--"

"But I don't know you," said I, "and, for that matter, neither do
you know me."

"W'y, you ain't got no whiskers, my lord--leastways, not with you
now, but--"

"And what the devil has that got to do with it?" said I angrily.

"Disguises, p'raps!" said the fellow, with a sly leer, "arter
that theer kidnappin'--an' me 'avin' laid out Sir Jarsper Trent,
in Wych Street, accordin' to your orders, my lord, the Prince
give me word to 'clear out'--cut an' run for it, till it blow'd
over; an' I thought, p'raps, knowin' as you an' 'im 'ad 'ad words,
I thought as you 'ad 'cut stick' too--"

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