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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Bertie first a most uncomfortable first


All

at once he caught Bertie by the shoulders and lifted him bodily on to the floor. Then he pointed to his clothing, saying something at the same time. Bertie did not understand what he said, but the meaning of his gesture was plain enough.

Bertie was to put on his clothes and dress. So Bertie dressed. All the time the woman kept up a series of exclamations. More than once it was all that the man could do to prevent her laying hands upon the boy. He himself stood looking grimly on, every now and then seeming to grunt out a recommendation to the woman to restrain her indignation.

When the boy was dressed he unceremoniously took him by the collar of the coat and marched him from the room. The old crone brought up the rear, shrieking out reproaches as they went.

In this way they climbed down the rickety stairs, Bertie first--a most uncomfortable first; the man next, holding his coat collar, giving him little monitory jerks, in the way the policeman had done down Piccadilly; the woman last, raining abuse upon the unfortunate youngster's head. This was another stage on the journey to the Land of Golden Dreams.

Across the room below to the front door. There was a temporary pause. The old crone gave the boy two sounding smacks, one on each side of the head, given with surprising vigour considering her apparent age. Then the man raised his foot, sabot

and all, and kicked the young gentleman into the street!

Then Bertie felt sure that the captain had forgotten to pay his bill.

He stood for a moment in the narrow street, not unnaturally surprised at this peremptory method of bidding a guest farewell. But it would have been quite as well if he had stood a little less upon the order of his going; for the crone, taking advantage of his momentary pause, caught off her slipper and flung it at his head. This, too, was delivered with vigour worthy of a younger arm, and as it struck Bertie fairly on the cheek he received the full benefit of the lady's strength. The other slipper followed, but that Bertie just dodged in time. Still, he thought that under the circumstances, perhaps, he had better go. So he went.

But not unaccompanied.

A couple of urchins had witnessed his unceremonious exit, and they had also seen the slippers aimed. The whole proceeding seemed to strike them in a much more humorous light than it did Bertie, and to mark their enjoyment of the fun they danced about and shrieked with laughter.

As Bertie began to slink away the man said to them something which seemed to make them prick up their ears. They followed Bertie, pointing with their fingers.

"V'la un Anglais! C'est un larron! au voleur! au voleur!"

What it was they shrieked in their shrill voices Bertie had not the least idea, but he knew it was unpleasant to be pointed and shouted at, for their words were caught up by other urchins of their class, and soon he had a force of ragamuffins shrieking close at his heels.

"V'la un Anglais! un Anglais! C'est un lar--r--ron!"

The stress which they laid upon the _larron_ was ear-splitting.

As he went, his following gathered force. They were a ragged regiment. Some hatless, some shoeless, all stockingless; for even those who wore sabots showed an inch or two of naked flesh between the ends of their breeches and the tops of their wooden shoes.


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