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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Nearly all that night Bertie went wandering on


Bertie took himself away, walking smartly off in the direction in which the sergeant pointed--away from the town. The policeman watched him for some time, standing with his hands in his pockets; and then, when a curve in the road took the lad out of sight, he returned within the walls.

It was already evening. The uncertain weather which had prevailed during the last few days still proved its uncertainty. The day had been fine, the evening was clouded. The wind was high, and, blowing from the north-west, blew the clouds tumultuously in scurrying masses across the sky.

The country was bare, nearly treeless. It was very flat. The scant fields of Finistere offered no protection from the weather, and but little pleasure to the eye. It was a bleak, almost barren country, with but little natural vegetation--harsh, stony, and inhospitable.

Along the wind-swept road he steadily trudged. He knew not whither he was going, not even whence he came. He was a stranger in a strange land. The captain had asked him whether he spoke French; he supposed, therefore, that this land was France. But the captain had confused him--bidden him ask for tickets for Constantinople. Even Bertie's scanty geographical knowledge told him that Constantinople was not France. On the other hand, the same scant store suggested that it needed a longer flight than they had taken to bring him into Turkey.

justify;">A very slight knowledge of French would have enabled him to solve the question. If he had only been able to ask, Where am I? The person asked might have taken him to be an English lunatic in a juvenile stage of his existence, but would probably have replied. Unfortunately this knowledge was wanting. If sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, it is also, and not seldom, very much the other way.

Nearly all that night Bertie went wandering on. The darkness gathered. The wind seemed to whistle more loudly when the darkness came, but there was no escape from it for him. Seen in the light of clustering shadows the country seemed but scantily peopled. He scarcely met a soul. A few peasants, a cart or two--these were the only moving things he saw. And when the darkness deepened he seemed to be alone in all the world.

A house or two he passed, even some villages, in which there were no signs of life except an occasional light gleaming through a wayside window. He made no attempt to ask for food, or drink, or shelter. How could he have asked? As he went further and further from the town he began to come among the Breton aborigines; and in Brittany, as in Wales, you find whole hamlets in which scarcely one of the inhabitants has a comprehensible knowledge of the language of the country which claims them as her children. Even French would have been of problematic service in the parts into which he had found, or rather lost his way, and he was not even aware that there was a place called Brittany, and a tongue called Breton. He was a stranger in a strange land indeed!

It was a horrible night, that first one he spent wandering among the wilds of Finistere. After he had gone on and on and on, and never seemed to come to anything, and the winds shrieked louder, and he was hungry and thirsty and weary and worn, and there was nothing but blackness all around and the terror-stricken clouds whirling above his head, somewhere about midnight he thought it was time he should find some shelter and rest.

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