Chapter 69

Effects of corn - One night longer - The hoofs - A stumble - Are you hurt? - What a difference - Drowsy - Maze of bushes - Housekeeping - Sticks and furze - The driftway - Account of stock - Anvil and bellows - Twenty years.

IT was two or three hours past noon when I took my departure from the place of the last adventure, walking by the side of my little cart; the pony, invigorated by the corn, to which he was probably not much accustomed, proceeded right gallantly; so far from having to hasten him forward by the particular application which the tinker had pointed out to me, I had rather to repress his eagerness, being, though an excellent pedestrian, not unfrequently left behind. The country through which I passed was beautiful and interesting, but solitary; few habitations appeared. As it was quite a matter of indifference to me in what direction I went, the whole world being before me, I allowed the pony to decide upon the matter; it was not long before he left the high-road, being probably no friend to public places. I followed him I knew not whither, but, from subsequent observation, have reason to suppose that our course was in a north-west direction. At length night came upon us, and a cold wind sprang up, which was succeeded by a drizzling rain.

I had originally intended to pass the night in the cart, or to pitch my little tent on some convenient spot by the road’s side; but, owing to the alteration in the weather, I thought that it would be advisable to take up my quarters in any hedge alehouse at which I might arrive. To tell the truth, I was not very sorry to have an excuse to pass the night once more beneath a roof. I had determined to live quite independent, but I had never before passed a night by myself abroad, and felt a little apprehensive at the idea; I hoped, however, on the morrow, to be a little more prepared for the step, so I determined for one night - only for one night longer - to sleep like a Christian; but human determinations are not always put into effect, such a thing as opportunity is frequently wanting, such was the case here. I went on for a considerable time, in expectation of coming to some rustic hostelry, but nothing of the kind presented itself to my eyes; the country in which I now was seemed almost uninhabited, not a house of any kind was to be seen - at least I saw none - though it is true houses might be near without my seeing them, owing to the darkness of the night, for neither moon nor star was abroad. I heard, occasionally, the bark of dogs; but the sound appeared to come from an immense distance. The rain still fell, and the ground beneath my feet was wet and miry; in short, it was a night in which even a tramper by profession would feel more comfortable in being housed than abroad. I followed in the rear of the cart, the pony still proceeding at a sturdy pace, till methought I heard other hoofs than those of my own nag; I listened for a moment, and distinctly heard the sound of hoofs approaching at a great rate, and evidently from the quarter towards which I and my little caravan were moving. We were in a dark lane - so dark that it was impossible for me to see my own hand. Apprehensive that some accident might occur, I ran forward, and, seizing the pony by the bridle, drew him as near as I could to the hedge. On came the hoofs - trot, trot, trot; and evidently more than those of one horse; their speed as they advanced appeared to slacken - it was only, however, for a moment. I heard a voice cry, ‘Push on, - this is a desperate robbing place, - never mind the dark’; and the hoofs came on quicker than before. ‘Stop!’ said I, at the top of my voice; ‘stop! or - ‘ Before I could finish what I was about to say there was a stumble, a heavy fall, a cry, and a groan, and putting out my foot I felt what I conjectured to be the head of a horse stretched upon the road. ‘Lord have mercy upon us! what’s the matter?’ exclaimed a voice. ‘Spare my life,’ cried another voice, apparently from the ground; ‘only spare my life, and take all I have.’ ‘Where are you, Master Wise?’ cried the other voice. ‘Help! here, Master Bat,’ cried the voice from the ground; ‘help me up or I shall be murdered.’ ‘Why, what’s the matter?’ said Bat. ‘Some one has knocked me down, and is robbing me,’ said the voice from the ground. ‘Help! murder!’ cried Bat; and, regardless of the entreaties of the man on the ground that he would stay and help him up, he urged his horse forward and galloped away as fast as he could. I remained for some time quiet, listening to various groans and exclamations uttered by the person on the ground; at length I said, ‘Holloa! are you hurt?’ ‘Spare my life, and take all I have!’ said the voice from the ground. ‘Have they not done robbing you yet?’ said I; ‘when they have finished let me know, and I will come and help you.’ ‘Who is that?’ said the voice; ‘pray come and help me, and do me no mischief.’ ‘You were saying that some one was robbing you,’ said I; ‘don’t think I shall come till he is gone away.’ ‘Then you ben’t he?’ said the voice. ‘Aren’t you robbed?’ said I. ‘Can’t say I be,’ said the voice; ‘not yet at any rate; but who are you? I don’t know you.’ ‘A traveller whom you and your partner were going to run over in this dark lane; you almost frightened me out of my senses.’ ‘Frightened!’ said the voice, in

  By PanEris using Melati.

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