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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Bertie met his eyes with a sullen stare


"It's

what I wants too; so which of you young gents is going to hand over that there sovereign?"

"Wheeler's got sevenpence," suggested Griffin.

"Sevenpence! what's sevenpence? It's a pound I want! Which of you is going to fork up that there pound?"

"There isn't a pound's worth of damage done," said Bertie; "nothing like. If you let us go, we'll get five shillings somehow, and bring it you in a week."

"In a week--five shillings! you catch me at it! Why, if I was once to let you outside that door, you'd put your fingers to your noses, and you'd call out, 'There goes old Huffham! yah--h--h!'" And he gave a very fair imitation of the greeting which the sight of him was apt to call forth from the very youths in front of him.

"If they was the young gentlemen they calls themselves they'd pay up, and not try to rob an old woman what's over seventy year."

"Now then, what's it going to be, your money or your life? That's the way to put it, because I'll only just let you off with your life, I'll tell you. Look sharp; I want my tea! What's it going to be, your money, or rather, my old grandmother's money over there, an old woman who finds it a pretty tight fit to keep herself out of the workhouse----"

"Yes, that she do," interpolated the grandmother in question.

style="text-align: justify;">"Or your life?" He looked in turn from one boy to the other, and finally his gaze rested on Bailey.

Bertie met his eyes with a sullen stare. "I tell you I'd nothing to do with it," he said.

"And I tell you I don't care that who had to do with it," and Mr. Huffham snapped his fingers. "You're that there pack of liars I wouldn't believe you on your oath before a judge and jury, not that I wouldn't!" and his fingers were snapped again. He and Bailey stood for a moment looking into each other's face.

"If you hit me for what I didn't do, I'll do something worth hitting for."

"Will you?" Mr. Huffham caught him by the shoulder, and held him as in a vice.

"Don't you hit me!"

Apparently Mrs. Huffham was impressed by something in his manner. "Don't you hit 'un hard! now don't you!"

"Won't I? I'll hit him so hard, I'll about do for him, that's about as hard as I'll hit him." A look came into Mr. Huffham's face which was not nice to see. Bailey never flinched; his hard-set jaw and sullen eyes made the resemblance to the bulldog more vivid still. "You pay me that pound!"

"I wouldn't if I had it!"

In an instant Mr. Huffham had swung him round, and was raining blows with his clenched fist upon the boy's back and shoulders. But he had reckoned without his host, if he had supposed the punishment would be taken quietly. The boy fought like a cat, and struggled and kicked with such unlooked-for vigour that Mr. Huffham, driven against the counter and not seeing what he was doing, struck out wildly, knocked the lamp off its nail with his fist, and in an instant the boy and the man were struggling in the darkness on the floor.

Just then a stentorian voice shouted through the glass window of the rickety door,--

"Bravo! that's the best plucked boy I've seen!"

Chapter IV


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