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

“Rustier, Peter?”

“Much rustier!” Very slowly a smile dawned on the wrinkled old face, and very slowly the eyes were lowered till they met mine.

“Eh, lad! but I be glad o’ that—­we be all growin’ older, Peter, an’—­though I be a wonnerful man for my age, an’ so strong as a cart-’orse, Peter, still, I du sometimes feel like I be growin’ rustier wi’ length o’ days, an’ ’tis a comfort to know as that theer stapil’s a-growin’ rustier along wi’ me.  Old I be, but t’ stapil’s old too, Peter, an’ I be waitin’ for the day when it shall rust itself away altogether; an’ when that day comes, Peter, then I’ll say, like the patriach in the Bible:  ’Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!’ Amen, Peter!”

“Amen!” said I. And so, having watched the old man totter across to “The Bull,” I turned into the smithy and, set about lighting the fire.

CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH I LEARN OF AN IMPENDING DANGER

I am at the forge, watching the deepening glow of the coals as I ply the bellows; and, listening to their hoarse, not unmusical drone, it seems like a familiar voice (or the voice of a familiar), albeit a somewhat wheezy one, speaking to me in stertorous gasps, something in this wise: 

“Charmian Brown—­desires to thank—­Mr. Smith but because thanks —­are so poor and small—­and his service so great—­needs must she remember him—­”

“Remember me!” said I aloud, and, letting go the shaft of the bellows the better to think this over, it naturally followed that the bellows grew suddenly dumb, whereupon I seized the handle and recommenced blowing with a will.

“—­remember him as a gentleman,” wheezed the familiar.

“Psha!” I exclaimed.

“—­yet oftener as a smith—­”

“Hum!” said I.

“—­and most of all—­as a man.”

“As a man!” said I, and, turning my back upon the bellows, I sat down upon the anvil and, taking my chin in my hand, stared away to where the red roof of old Amos’s oast-house peeped through the swaying green of leaves.

“As a man?” said I to myself again, and so fell a-dreaming of this Charmian.  And, in my mind, I saw her, not as she had first appeared, tall and fierce and wild, but as she had been when she stooped to bind up the hurt in my brow—­with her deep eyes brimful of tenderness, and her mouth sweet and compassionate.  Beautiful eyes she had, though whether they were blue or brown or black, I could not for the life of me remember; only I knew I could never forget the look they had held when she gave that final pat to the bandage.  And here I found that I was turning a little locket round and round in my fingers, a little, old-fashioned, heart-shaped locket with its quaint inscription: 

    “Hee who myne heart would keepe for long
     Shall be a gentil man and strong.”

I was sitting thus, plunged in a reverie, when a shadow fell across the floor, and looking up I beheld Prudence, and straightway, slipping the locket back into the bosom of my shirt, I rose to my feet, somewhat shamefaced to be caught thus idle.

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