The lieutenant, steering his course as near the line of direction in which Trunnion went off, as the coach-road would permit, got intelligence of his track from one farm-house to another; for such an apparition could not fail of attracting particular notice; and one of the horsemen having picked up his hat and wig in a by-path, the whole troop entered the village where he was lodged, about four o'clock in the afternoon.
But later on that same night Reub Clyma, up to Taphouse, saw it too; and this time 'twas moving fast and making towards Polperro." "Fits like a puzzle. Is Polperro a seaport town?" he asked the farmer. "A sort of fishing town, sir." "Your nearest? Good. And you reach it by a road running north and south across the coach-road? Good.
It was on a Friday evening, near the middle of September and just before dusk, that they reached the summit of a hill within a mile of the place they sought. There were high banked hedges to the coach-road here, and they mounted upon the green turf within, and sat down. The spot commanded a full view of the town and its environs.
We turned down the valley, along the coast-track, splashing through the little stream that makes it so boggy by the gate, and soon we were on the coach-road galloping along the straight two miles towards Tor Cross. Our horses were beginning to give way, for we had done four miles at good speed, and now the preventives began to gain upon us.
The speaker and his companion softly moved on, passed through the wicket, and into the coach-road. Arrived at the clerk's house at the further boundary of the park, they paused to part. 'Now for your half o' the bargain, said Clerk Crickett. 'What's your line o' life, and what d'ye come here for? 'I'm the reporter to the Casterbridge Chronicle, and I come to pick up the news. Good-night.
The rambler who, for old association or other reasons, should trace the forsaken coach-road running almost in a meridional line from Bristol to the south shore of England, would find himself during the latter half of his journey in the vicinity of some extensive woodlands, interspersed with apple-orchards.
The road was more like a stone-quarry than a carriageable public highway, so encumbered was it with granite fragments, heaped ready for top-dressing and finishing; and the bridge led on to a raised embankment, coming to a sudden fissure, where the old coach-road crossed it.
As for the coach, it was a necessity, if we would continue our journey, for the railroad was still in the future in 1858. The coach-road was not only as rugged and uneasy as it had been any time during the past three hundred years, but it was outrageously infested by banditti; and, indeed, a robbery had taken place on it only a week or two before.
The rest of the village is scattered round a large triangular green, and extends down to the railway, where there is a station named after the village. The rolling masses of Sleights Moor rise up steeply towards the east, and from the coach-road to Whitby that we deserted at the Saltersgate Inn there is an enormous panorama over Eskdale, Whitby, and the sea.
This ordeal appeared so dreadful to me in prospect that I began to cast about among all manner of impracticable plans for escaping it. Of these the most promising although I had no money was to give the Stimcoes leg-bail and run home; the most alluring, too, since it offered to deaden the torment of uncertainty by keeping me employed, mind and body. I must follow the coach-road.
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