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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

And fairly lifting Wheeler off his legs


The stranger laughed, and Mr. Huffham scowled; the look which he cast at Bertie was not exactly a look of love, but the boy met it without any sign of flinching.

"I'll be even with you yet, my lad!" Mr. Stephen said.

"If I give you a sovereign you will be even," suggested the stranger.

Mr. Stephen's eyes glistened; and his grandmother, clasping her old withered palms together, cast a look of rapture towards the ceiling.

"Oh, deary me! deary me!" she said.

"It's a swindle," muttered Bertie.

"Oh, it's a swindle, is it?" snarled Mr. Stephen. "I'd like to swindle you, my fighting cock."

"You couldn't do it," retorted Bertie.

The stranger laughed again. Unbuttoning his waterproof, and in doing so distributing a shower of water in his immediate neighbourhood, out of his trousers pocket he took a heavy purse, out of the purse he took a sovereign, and the sovereign he handed to Mr. Stephen Huffham. Mr. Stephen's palm closed on the glittering coin with a certain degree of hesitation.

"Now you're quits," said the stranger, "you and the boy."

"Quits!" said Bertie, "it's seventeen-and-sixpence in his pocket!"

Mr. Stephen smiled, not quite pleasantly; he might have been moved to speech had not the stranger interrupted him.

"You're pretty large, and that's all you are; if this boy were about your size, he'd lay it on to you. I should say you were a considerable fine sample of a--coward."

Mr. Stephen held his peace. There was something in the stranger's manner and appearance which induced him to think that perhaps he had better be content with what he had received. After having paused for a second or two, seemingly for some sort of reply from Mr. Huffham, the stranger addressed the boys.

"Get out!" They went out, rather with the air of beaten curs. The stranger followed them. "Get up into the cart; I'm going to take you home to my house to tea." They looked at each other, in doubt as to whether he was jesting. "Do you hear? Get up into the cart! You, boy," touching Bailey on the shoulder, "you ride alongside me."

Still they hesitated. It occurred to them that they had already broken their engagement with the credulous Mr. Shane, broken it in the most satisfactory manner, in each separate particular. They were not only wet and muddy, looking somewhat as though they had recently been picked out of the gutter, but that half-hour within which they had pledged themselves to return had long since gone. But if they hesitated, there was no trace of hesitation about the stranger.

"Now then, do you think I want to wait here all night? Tumble up, you boy." And fairly lifting Wheeler off his legs, he bore him bodily through the air, and planted him at the back of the trap. And not Wheeler only, but Griffin and Ellis too. Before those young gentlemen had quite realized their position, or the proposal he had made to them, they found themselves clinging to each other to prevent themselves tumbling out of the back of what was not a very large dog-cart. "You're none of you big ones! Catch hold of each other's hair or something, and don't fall out; I can't stop to pick up boys. Now then, bantam, up you go."


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