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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Ellis started as though he had received an electric shock


"I

suppose none of you did do it; nobody ever does do these sort of things, so far as I can make out. It was accidental; it always is."

His voice had been so far, if not conciliatory, at least not unduly elevated. But suddenly he turned upon Ellis with a roar which was not unlike the bellow of a bull. "Did you do it?"

Ellis started as though he had received an electric shock.

"No-o!" he gasped. "It was Wheeler!"

"Oh, it was Wheeler, was it?"

"It wasn't me," said Wheeler.

"Oh, it wasn't you? Who was it, then? That's what I want to know; who was it, then?" Mr. Huffham put this question in a tone of voice which would have been eminently useful had he been addressing some person a couple of miles away, but which in his present situation almost made the panes of glass rattle in the windows. "Who was it, then?" And he caught hold of Ellis and shook him with such velocity to and fro that it was difficult for a moment to distinguish what it was that he was shaking.

"It--was--Whe-e-eler!" gasped Ellis, struggling with his breath.

"Now, just you listen to me, you boys!" began Mr. Huffham. (They could scarcely avoid listening to him, considering that he spoke in what was many degrees above a whisper.) "I'll put it this

way, so that we can have things fair and square, and know what we're a-doing of. There's a pound's damage been done here, so perhaps one of you gentlemen will let me have a sovereign. I'm not going to ask who did it; I'm not going to ask no questions at all: all I says is, perhaps one of you young gentlemen will let me have a sovereign." He stretched out his hand as though he expected to receive a sovereign then and there; as it happened he stretched it out in the direction of Bertie Bailey.

Bertie looked at the horny, dirt-grimed palm, then up in Mr. Huffham's face. A dog-fancier would have said that there was some scarcely definable resemblance to the bull-dog in the expression of his eyes. "You won't get a sovereign out of me," he said.

"Oh, won't I? we'll see!"

"We will see. I'd nothing to do with it; I don't know who did do it. You shouldn't leave the place without a light; who's to see in the dark?"

"You let me finish what I've got to say, then you say your say out afterwards. What I say is this--there's a pound's worth of damage done----"

"There isn't a pound's worth of damage done," said Bertie.

Mr. Huffham caught him by the shoulder. "You let me finish out my say! I say there is a pound's worth of damage done; you can settle who it was among you afterwards; and what I say is this, either you pays me that pound before you leave this shop or I'll give the whole four of you such a flogging as you never had in all your days--I'll skin you alive!"

"It won't give me my money your flogging them," wailed Mrs. Huffham from behind the counter. "It's my money I wants! Here is all them bottles broken, and the case smashed--and it cost me two pound ten, and everything inside of it's a-ruined. It's my money I wants!"


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