The Broad Highway eBook

Jeffery Farnol
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 424 pages of information about The Broad Highway.

Seizing the occasion that now presented itself, I knocked loudly upon the floor with my stick, whereupon the red-faced man, removing his eyes slowly and by degrees from the unconcerned Tom, fixed them darkly upon me.

“Supposing,” said I, “supposing you are so very obliging as to serve me with a pint of ale?”

“Then supposin’ you show me the color o’ your money?” he growled, “come, money fust; I aren’t takin’ no more risks.”

For answer I laid the coins before him.  And having pocketed the money, he filled and thrust a foaming tankard towards me, which I emptied forthwith and called upon him for another.

“Wheer’s your money?”

“Here,” said I, tossing a sixpence to him, “and you can keep the change.”

“Why, ye see, sir,” he began, somewhat mollified, “it be precious ‘ard to know who’s a gentleman, an’ who ain’t; who’s a thief, an’ who ain’t these days.”

“How so?”

“Why, only a little while ago—­just afore you—­chap comes a-walkin’ in ’ere, no account much to look at, but very ’aughty for all that—­comes a-walkin in ’ere ‘e do an’ calls for a pint o’ ale—­you ’eard ’im, all on ye?” He broke off, turning to the others; “you all ’eard ‘im call for a pint o’ ale?”

“Ah—­we ’eard ’im,” they nodded.

“Comes a-walkin’ in ’ere ’e do, bold as brass—­calls for a pint o’ ale—­drinks it off, an’—­’ands me ’is ’at; you all seen ’im ’and me ’is ’at?” he inquired, once more addressing the others.

“Every man of us,” the four chimed in with four individual nods.

“’Wot’s this ‘ere?’ says I, turnin’ it over.  ’It’s a ’at, or once was,’ says ’e.  ‘Well, I don’t want it,’ says I.  ’Since you’ve got it you’d better keep it,’ says ’e.  ‘Wot for?’ says I?  ‘Why,’ says ’e, ‘it’s only fair seein’ I’ve got your ale—­it’s a case of exchange,’ says ’e.  ‘Oh! is it?’ says I, an’ pitched the thing out into the road an’ ‘im arter it—­an’ so it ended.  An’ wot,” said the red-faced man nodding his big head at me, “wot d’ye think o’ that now?”

“Why, I think you were perhaps a trifle hasty,” said I.

“Oh, ye do, do ye?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“An’ for why?”

“Well, you will probably remember that the hat had a band round it—­”

“Ay, all wore away it were too—­”

“And that in the band was a buckle—­”

“Ay, all scratched an’ rusty it were—­well?”

“Well, that tarnished buckle was of silver—­”

“Silver!” gasped the man, his jaw falling.

“And easily worth five shillings, perhaps more, so that I think you were, upon the whole, rather hasty.”  Saying which, I finished my ale and, taking up my staff, stepped out into the sunshine.

CHAPTER IV

I MEET WITH A GREAT MISFORTUNE

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Project Gutenberg
The Broad Highway from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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