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Christopher Hibbault, Roadmaker   By:

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CHRISTOPHER HIBBAULT, ROADMAKER

by

MARGUERITE BRYANT

New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers

Copyright, 1908, by Duffield and Company

Set up and electrotyped; published January, 1909 Reprinted March, August, October, December, 1909 May, August, October, 1910

To V. B. and M. B. this Book with my love 1906 1908

Your paths were two when first the tale began And now are one, and still with every year Love, the Divine Roadmaker, works His will. And of these paths he makes one perfect Road Which those who follow after shall find smooth And with more easy steps shall seek the Dawn.

Christopher Hibbault, Roadmaker

CHAPTER I

It was a hot July day, set in a sky of unruffled blue, with sharp shadows across road and field, and a wind that had little coolness in it playing languidly over the downland. The long white dusty road kept its undeviating course eastward over hill and dale, through hamlet and town, till it was swallowed up in the mesh work of ways round London, sixty three miles away according to the mile stone by which a certain small boy clad in workhouse garb was loitering. He had read the inscription many times and parcelled out the sixty three miles into various days' journeys, but never succeeded in bringing it within divisionable distance of the few pennies which found their way into his pockets. His precocious little head carried within it too bitter memories of hungry days, and too many impressions of the shifts and contrivances by which fortune's votaries bamboozle from that fickle Goddess a meagre living, to adventure on the journey unprepared. Moreover, Mr. and Mrs. Moss of the Whitmansworth Union were not unkind, and meals were regular, so he did not run away from the house that had opened its doors to him and an exhausted mother six months ago. But he still dreamt of London as the desideratum of his fondest hopes, and that, in spite of a black terror crouching there and carefully nurtured by the poor mother in the days of their wanderings. He saw it all through a haze of people and experiences, of friends and foes, and it was the Place of Liberty.

Therefore, when escape was possible from the somewhat easy rule of the Union, he hurried away to the mile stone on the "Great Road," as it was called about here. The stone with its clear distinct black lettering, seemed to bring him nearer London, and he would spend his time contentedly flinging pebbles into the river of dust at his feet, or planning out in his active little mind what he would do when old Granny Jane's prophecy came true.

There was a wide strip of turf on each side of the road bejewelled with poppies and daisies, matted with yellow and white bedstraws, carpeted with clovers, and over all lay a coating of fine chalky dust, legacy of passing cart and carriage.

The boy was very hot and very dusty, and a little sleepy. He lay on his back drumming his heels on the turf and watching an exuberant lark tower up into the sky above him. He was not unmindful of the lark's song, but he vaguely wondered if a well thrown stone could travel as far as the dark mounting speck.

"It's a year ago I am sure since that old woman told me my fortune," he said, suddenly sitting up. "I wonder if it will come true. Mother said it was nonsense."

It was a lonely stretch of road. The mile stone was on the summit of a rise and the ground sloped away on his right to a reach of green water meadow through which a chalky trout stream wandered, and the red roof of an old mill showed through a group of silvery poplars and willows. On the other side of the road were undulating fields that dwindled from sparse cultivation to bare down land... Continue reading book >>




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