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

Previous Page
Next Page

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

"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--"

Previous Page
Next Page

Rate This Book

Current Rating: 2.6/5 (149 votes cast)

Review This Book or Post a Comment