In the knapsack at my back I had stowed a few clothes, the strongest and plainest I possessed, together with a shirt, some half-dozen favorite books, and my translation of Brantome; Quintilian and Petronius I had left with Mr. Grainger, who had promised to send them to a publisher, a friend of his, and in my pocket was my uncle George’s legacy,—namely, ten guineas in gold. And, as I walked, I began to compute how long such a sum might be made to last a man. By practising the strictest economy, I thought I might manage well enough on two shillings a day, and this left me some hundred odd days in which to find some means of livelihood, and if a man could not suit himself in such time, then (thought I) he must be a fool indeed.
Thus, my thoughts caught something of the glory of the bright sky above and the smiling earth about me, as I strode along that “Broad Highway” which was to lead me I knew not whither, yet where disaster was already lying in wait for me—as you shall hear.
CONCERNS ITSELF MAINLY WITH A HAT
As the day advanced, the sun beat down with an ever-increasing heat, and what with this and the dust I presently grew very thirsty; wherefore, as I went, I must needs conjure up tantalizing visions of ale—of ale that foamed gloriously in tankards, that sparkled in glasses, and gurgled deliciously from the spouts of earthen pitchers, and I began to look about me for some inn where these visions might be realized and my burning thirst nobly quenched (as such a thirst deserved to be). On I went, through this beautiful land of Kent, past tree and hedge and smiling meadow, by hill and dale and sloping upland, while ever the sun grew hotter, the winding road the dustier, and my mighty thirst the mightier.
At length, reaching the brow of a hill, I espied a small inn or hedge tavern that stood back from the glare of the road, seeming to nestle in the shade of a great tree, and joyfully I hastened toward it.
As I approached I heard loud voices, raised as though in altercation, and a hat came hurtling through the open doorway and, bounding into the road, rolled over and over to my very feet. And, looking down at it, I saw that it was a very ill-used hat, frayed and worn, dented of crown and broken of brim, yet beneath its sordid shabbiness there lurked the dim semblance of what it had once been, for, in the scratched and tarnished buckle, in the jaunty curl of the brim, it still preserved a certain pitiful air of rakishness; wherefore, I stooped, and, picking it up, began to brush the dust from it as well as I might.
I was thus engaged when there arose a sudden bull-like roar and, glancing up, I beheld a man who reeled backwards out of the inn and who, after staggering a yard or so, thudded down into the road and so lay, staring vacantly up at the sky. Before I could reach him, however, he got upon his legs and, crossing unsteadily to the tree I have mentioned, leaned there, and I saw there was much blood upon his face which he essayed to wipe away with the cuff of his coat. Now, upon his whole person, from the crown of his unkempt head down to his broken, dusty boots, there yet clung that air of jaunty, devil-may-care rakishness which I had seen, and pitied in his hat.