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He leans forward in the saddle, removing his hat as he speaks to the king. ‘We can go before our time to Basing House, let me send a fast man to warn William Paulet. Then, so as not to burden him, to Elvetham for a day?

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

What does 'before our time' mean here? It seems like 'before it gets dark'. Am I guessing it right?

  • It means simply before the time previously appointed for us: early. – StoneyB Oct 6 '15 at 20:43
  • I'd understand it as "before our scheduled or regular time", either one that makes more sense in the context. The novel may suggest something like that in the text, perhaps? – Damkerng T. Oct 6 '15 at 20:43
  • Early: They skipped the next town and instead head straight to the following location. The previous sentences show the urgent change of plans: "They are en route to Farnham, a small hunting party, when a report is galloped along the road: cases of plague have appeared in the town. Henry, brave on the battlefield, pales almost before their eyes and wrenches around his horse's head: where to? Anywhere will do, anywhere but Farnham. He leans forward in the saddle, removing his hat as he speaks to the king. ‘We can go before our time to Basing House...'" – John B Oct 7 '15 at 0:28
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We can go before our time to Basing House.
(= We can go to Basing House, to arrive there before the expected time of our arrival.)

Or in short, as StoneyB mentioned, to be there "early".

So, no, it doesn't mean "before it gets dark".
It just literally means "early"; that is, "before the expected time".

(NOTE: If "before our time" and "before the expected time" turn out to be the same time, it's just coincidental. In other words, it's possible that they're expected to arrive at Basing House before dark. But at what time this "our time" precisely is would depend on the context.)

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