“That’s the important thing,” Preston resumed. “Binkus is a famous scout who is known to be anti-British. Such a man coming here is supposed to be carrying papers. Between ourselves they would arrest him on any pretext. You leave this matter in my hands. If he had no papers he’ll be coming on in a day or two.”
“I’d like to go with you to find him,” said Jack.
“Better not,” Preston answered with a smile.
“Because I suspect you have the papers. They’ll get you, too, if they learn you are his friend. Keep away from him. Sit quietly here in the inn until the post chaise starts for Canterbury. Don’t let any one pick a quarrel with you and remember this is all a sacred confidence between friends.”
“I thank you and my heart is in every word,” said Jack as he pressed the hand of the Captain. “After all friendship is a thing above politics—even the politics of these bitter days.”
He sat down with a sense of relief and spent the rest of the afternoon reading the London papers although he longed to go and look at the fortress of Deal Castle. He had tea at five and set out on the mail carriage, with his box and bag, an hour later. The road was rough and muddy with deep holes in it. At one point the chaise rattled and bumped over a plowed field. Before dark he saw a man hanging in a gibbet by the roadside. At ten o’clock they passed the huge gate of Canterbury and drew up at an inn called The King’s Head. The landlady and two waiters attended for orders. He had some supper and went to bed. Awakened at five A.M. by the sound of a bugle he arose and dressed hurriedly and found the post chaise waiting. They went on the King’s Road from Canterbury and a mile out they came to a big, white gate in the dim light of the early morning.
A young man clapped his mouth to the window and shouted:
“Sixpence, Yer Honor!”
It was a real turnpike and Jack stuck his head out of the window for a look at it. They stopped for breakfast at an inn far down the pike and went on through Sittingborn, Faversham, Rochester and the lovely valley of the River Medway of which Jack had read.
At every stop it amused him to hear the words “Chaise an’ pair,” flying from host to waiter and waiter to hostler and back in the wink of an eye.
Jack spent the night at The Rose in Dartford and went on next morning over Gadshill and Shootershill and Blackheath. Then the Thames and Greenwich and Deptfort from which he could see the crowds and domes and towers of the big city. A little past two o’clock he rode over London bridge and was set down at The Spread Eagle where he paid a shilling a mile for his passage and ate his dinner.
Such, those days, was the crossing and the trip up to London, as Jack describes it in his letters.