Chapter 62

The hostelry - Life uncertain - Open countenance - The grand point - Thank you, master - A hard mother - Poor dear! - Considerable odds - The better country - English fashion - Landlord-looking person.

AND in the old city I remained two days, passing my time as I best could - inspecting the curiosities of the place, eating and drinking when I felt so disposed, which I frequently did, the digestive organs having assumed a tone to which for many months they had been strangers - enjoying at night balmy sleep in a large bed in a dusky room, at the end of a corridor, in a certain hostelry in which I had taken up my quarters - receiving from the people of the hostelry such civility and condescension as people who travel on foot with bundle and stick, but who nevertheless are perceived to be not altogether destitute of coin, are in the habit of receiving. On the third day, on a fine sunny afternoon, I departed from the city of the spire.

As I was passing through one of the suburbs, I saw, all on a sudden, a respectable-looking female fall down in a fit; several persons hastened to her assistance. ‘She is dead,’ said one. ‘No, she is not,’ said another. ‘I am afraid she is,’ said a third. ‘Life is very uncertain,’ said a fourth. ‘It is Mrs. -,’ said a fifth; ‘let us carry her to her own house.’ Not being able to render any assistance, I left the poor female in the hands of her townsfolk, and proceeded on my way. I had chosen a road in the direction of the north- west, it led over downs where corn was growing, but where neither tree nor hedge was to be seen; two or three hours’ walking brought me to a beautiful valley, abounding with trees of various kinds, with a delightful village at its farthest extremity; passing through it, I ascended a lofty acclivity, on the top of which I sat down on a bank, and, taking off my hat, permitted a breeze, which swept coolly and refreshingly over the downs, to dry my hair, dripping from the effects of exercise and the heat of the day.

And as I sat there, gazing now at the blue heavens, now at the downs before me, a man came along the road in the direction in which I had hitherto been proceeding: just opposite to me he stopped, and, looking at me, cried - ‘Am I right for London, master?’

He was dressed like a sailor, and appeared to be between twenty- five and thirty years of age - he had an open manly countenance, and there was a bold and fearless expression in his eye.

‘Yes,’ said I, in reply to his question; ‘this is one of the ways to London. Do you come from far?’

‘From -,’ said the man, naming a well-known seaport.

‘Is this the direct road to London from that place?’ I demanded.

‘No,’ said the man; ‘but I had to visit two or three other places on certain commissions I was intrusted with; amongst others to -, where I had to take a small sum of money. I am rather tired, master; and, if you please, I will sit down beside you.’

‘You have as much right to sit down here as I have,’ said I; ‘the road is free for every one; as for sitting down beside me, you have the look of an honest man, and I have no objection to your company.’

‘Why, as for being honest, master,’ said the man, laughing and sitting down by me, ‘I haven’t much to say - many is the wild thing I have done when I was younger; however, what is done, is done. To learn, one must live, master; and I have lived long enough to learn the grand point of wisdom.’

‘What is that?’ said I.

‘That honesty is the best policy, master.’

‘You appear to be a sailor,’ said I, looking at his dress.

‘I was not bred a sailor,’ said the man, ‘though, when my foot is on the salt water, I can play the part - and play it well too. I am now from a long voyage.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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