“How far is it to Saffron Walden?”
“Twelve miles, sir.”
“Twelve miles, indeed! Why, it is only twelve miles from Great Bardfield!”
“Well, this is Great Bardfield, sir.”
“Great Bardfield! What! How is this? What do you mean?”
She meant what she said, and it was as true as two and two make four; and she was not to be beaten out of it by a stare of astonishment, however a discomfited man might expand his eyes with wonder, or cloud his face with chagrin. It was a patent fact. There, on the opposite side of the street, was the house in which I slept the night before; and here, just coming up to the door of the inn, was the good lady of my host. Her form and voice, and other identifications dispelled the mist of the mistake; and it came out as clear as day that I had followed the direction of my host, to bear to the left, far too liberally, and that I had been walking at my best speed in a “vicious circle” for full two hours and a half, and had landed just where I commenced, at least within the breadth of a narrow street of the same point.
My good friends urged me to stop and dine with them, and then make a fair start for the end of my week’s journey. But it was still twelve miles to Saffron Walden, and I was determined to put half of them behind me before dinner. So, taking a second leave of them in the course of three hours, I set out again on my walk, a wiser man in the practical understanding of the proverb, “The longest way around is the shortest way there.” At 2 p.m. I reached Thaxted, and rectified my first notion of the town, formed when I mistook it for Bardfield. Having made six miles extra between the two points, I resumed my walk after a short delay at the latter.