This is a tale of a man (or two men, depending on how you look at it) and a legend. Ballads were being sung about Ruby Lambkin, highwayman, while he and Jude Rebough, the itinerant painter who so strangely resembled him, were still alive; indeed before Jude was arrested for the acts he should have liked to commit, but didn't. It is Jude's story, told by one who traveled with him up and down New England for a single glorious year. Jude was still in his twenties then. Eddy, his helper, was a boy of fourteen. Is it any wonder that to him New England was a magic land, the land of his youth?
It was, in fact, still a young country, in the early days of the last century. The railroads had not come; the stagecoach and the flatboat were in their heyday. For the lonely farm wife the excitement of the new year, the first sign of spring, was the peddler with his pack. Jude, with his wagonload of portraits, all finished except for the faces, was something special. Also he was special to look at: tall, dark, short, square chin, tously hair and hawk nose that gave him almost a foreign look: in fact, just like the posted descriptions of Ruby, with a price of $150.00 on his head.
Picareque, nostalgic, close to the earth, this novel (like the best of Jude's own paintings) shows a pagan world against a deeply Puritan background.
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