The Broad Highway
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The Broad Highway, by Jeffery Farnol (1911). The scene of this story is laid in England in the early part of the eighteenth century. It gives the adventures and experiences of Peter Vibart, related in a graphic and picturesque manner by himself. An orphan, he has been brought up by a rich and eccentric uncle who dies leaving him his fortune if he marries Lady Sophia Sefton within the year, otherwise he is cut off with a legacy of ten guineas. Peter, being independent in spirit, declines to marry a person whom he does not know and taking his ten guineas starts out on “The Broad Highway” to seek his fortune. He meets with all sorts of thrilling adventures, is soon robbed of his money and left penniless. Being skilled in wrestling, Peter is victorious on many occasions when he is called upon to show his prowess, and bearing a striking resemblance to his dissolute cousin Maurice Vibart, who is a famous fighter, he is frequently taken for him. A great lover of nature, as well as a scholar, Peter thoroughly enjoys his wandering existence and decides to try his hand at the trade of blacksmith, meanwhile, taking up his habitation in a deserted hut in a hollow in the woods. One night he is awakened by the bursting in of his door and the sudden entrance of a beautiful woman who is fleeing from a pursuer. Peter at once comes to the rescue and after a fierce fight downs his adversary, who proves to be his cousin Maurice. The lady gives her name as Charmian Brown and explains that she has started to elope with Maurice Vibart but repenting her rash act has sought Peter’s hut as refuge. Finding Peter much injured by his encounter, Charmian binds up his wounds and ministers to his comfort. Wishing to hide herself and finding Peter a thorough gentleman, Charmian remains at the hut, cooks his meals, and makes an ideal home for him. Peter, of course, falls in love with his charming companion and they decide to go to the minister’s house to be married. On their return Peter is called to the bedside of a dying friend and during his absence Maurice Vibart is mysteriously shot outside of his house. Peter suspects Charmian, who tells him she only shot her pistol in the air, and lets himself be arrested for the murder. He escapes from prison and runs across the real murderer who is an old enemy of Maurice’s and who confesses to the crime. Peter overjoyed, hastens to his wife, who proves to be Lady Sophia Sefton, who has disguised herself as Charmian Brown.