I had now become eager to try and reach Manchester this day, and by 4 o'clock we had made a start. My mind was set upon Glasgow by Saturday.
Our friend, the publican, saw us off, and gave us full directions (no "straight out"), and without much difficulty we got clear of the town.
Stone, 7 ½ miles, was left slightly to the right. The roads were good with the exception of those around Newcastle-under-Lyne. At this place my cyclist had some trouble to get a breakfast, but eventually he succeeded in scrambling one together.
By 8.45 we had finished our meal and were off again.
The next town of any importance passed through was Congleton. The road winds very much through this place, and we were frequently obliged to enquire our way. The natives had heard of the walk and were out in full force.
The climb out of the town is rather stiff, then the surface of the road as far as Cheadle is perfect.
It is remarkable, on a tour of this description, what a lot of champion athletes one meets. True, they have never inscribed their names on the scroll of fame, but one might be led to believe, if their own account of themselves is to be taken as correct, that they are a species of athletic flower "born to blush unseen, and waste their sweetness on the desert air." Such an one I found this day. While plodding along some two miles beyond Congleton, a clatter of clogs just behind me caused me to glance round. There I espied an over-trained looking man, whose age may have been anything between 30 and 80 years. Along he came, with his arms up and swinging, in real racing style.
With a look of contempt at me, he told me I was going slow. When I gently reminded him that I had several hundreds of miles yet before me, while possibly he was going no further than the nearest wayside inn, or home to dinner, he paused a little, and then remarked that the pace I was then going at "would wear a few out in a day."
This man interested me very much. He reminded me of two clowns I once saw at a local circus, who rejoiced in the names of August and September, therefore I gave him a little encouragement, so to speak. What he had done, and what he could do together (chiefly the latter) made me feel small indeed. Forty-five to fifty miles a day would be for him a "sweet thing" he remarked. "Could I get him a job at walking from End-to-End?"
When he found what an expensive luxury record-breaking was, his enthusiasm evaporated somewhat. By the way, I learned on closer enquiry that the farthest he had ever walked in a day was 30 miles. The self-confidence of some people is truly remarkable. Entering into the spirit of the whole thing, I suggested that he might have a try at swimming the Channel, but he did not enthuse much about this, notwithstanding my reminder, that if he only succeeded in diving in and rounding the pier he would do about as well as some of the aspirants to the honor.
By this time beads of perspiration stood upon my friend's manly brow. The fact was I had increased my speed considerably, for the purpose of testing his powers. Duty or dinner now called him, and he left me rather abruptly, just before the Devenport Arms was reached, with a hearty "good luck to you."
My dinner here awaited me, the sublime, so to speak, after the ridiculous.
The scenery of Cheshire from Congleton to Cheadle is very pretty indeed. I wonder some company has not boomed it in these days, when everything from pills to piety is exploited for financial gain.
Ten miles before reaching Manchester, enthusiastic friends began to meet us; they all seemed delighted at my fresh appearance and springy step. When they heard that about two days had 'already been cut off the record, and that I had hopes of reducing it by a few more, they were overjoyed.
Tea and a good rest at Cheadle, then the Lancashire sets were before me for forty miles.
By the time I reached Seedley, where I stayed the night with a friend, both my heels were blistered, and my feet were in a worse condition than they had been from the start.
That night I had tea to drink with my supper. It was the worst night's rest 1 had the whole of the journey. The thought of the blisters, and the Lancashire sets the next morning was anything but cheering. However, I was looked after splendidly, which counts for much on a walk like this.
That day I was 14 miles in excess of my book distance.