Chapters 16, 17, and 18 of Elizabeth Janet Gray's novel Adam of the Road depict several major events in the life of main character Adam Quartermayne, and he makes some critical decisions that help to solidify who he is as a person and what he wants to do in his life.
In chapter 16, Adam, who is in Winchester, climbs up a wall to watch the miracle play The Fall of Adam. He is fascinated by the characters (especially the demons) and the action on stage. He watches intently as the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve unfolds before him, and hardly even realizing what he is doing, he edges forward, closer and closer to the edge of the wall. Then, at the very climax of the play, caught up in the spectacle before him, Adam falls off the wall.
Chapter 17 picks up with Adam lying in bed, dizzy and with a sore head. He doesn't know where he is or who has taken care of him. Soon a man and woman enter his room. They are Dame Prudence and Master Walter, the parish vicar, who picked him up after his fall and have tended to him compassionately ever since. Adam stays with them for some time as he recovers, and in gratitude and real affection, he strives to please them, reviewing and reading Latin, wearing somber clothing rather than his minstrel attire, helping the clerk, and singing in the church choir. While he realizes that Dame Prudence and Master Walter treat him well and even come to love him, Adam is not happy with them. He misses his life as a minstrel. He misses performing his favorite songs and tales and playing his harp. He quickly tires of this life that doesn't suit him.
One day while out looking for Roger and Nick, Adam meets a family of minstrels: Jack de Vesey, his wife, Alison, and their sons Lawrence and Andrew. Adam decides, quite on the spur of the moment, to leave Dame Prudence and Master Walter and travel with the family. He believes that the life of a minstrel is better than anything else, and he is so eager to get back on the road that he fails to notice how thin, poor, and ragged this family is. He spends all his money on a meal for them, and then they leave Winchester. Adam, unaware that the family has just taken advantage of his generosity, feels “wildly excited and almost happy” to resume his life as a minstrel.
However, things do not go as Adam hopes in chapter 18. Instead of going up to London, the de Vesey family and Adam wander throughout the countryside, performing here and there but not telling beautiful stories or singing noble songs as Adam is used to. No one respects them; in fact, the locals are more likely to shoo them away than anything else. Adam is only rarely allowed to perform, and he is appalled at the rude tales and silly tricks in which the family specializes. He learns quickly that not every minstrel is the same, and not every performer is like Roger. Adam also realizes that the de Vesey family isn't particularly honest or kind. In fact, they are harsh and rough toward each other and toward Adam, and the whole group often goes hungry and cold. This is certainly not the minstrel life Adam had been seeking when he joined the de Veseys.
Then Lawrence steals some food. Adam, who is dreadfully hungry, eats his share gladly until he suddenly comprehends something. Lawrence doesn't have money to purchase all that food. He has stolen it! Adam is horrified and soon has to make a mad dash out of town with the family to avoid being caught. They arrive in Guildford after curfew and are stopped by a watchman. The chase begins again, and Adam only escapes because he hides under a bridge. He decides not to return to the de Veseys. They are not the kind of minstrels he wants to be. He will head out on his own once again and resume his honest life—the life of a true minstrel—and his search for Roger and Nick.