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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Fletcher swallowed one or two mouthfuls


"Come,

eat your supper, now do. You've had nothing to eat all day, and when you've eaten a bit things will look brighter, perhaps."

Mr. Fletcher turned his care-worn face up to his wife.

"Jane, things will never look bright to me again."

The man's voice trembled, and the woman turned her face away, perhaps unwilling to let him see that in her eyes were tears. The principal got up and began to walk about the room. His stoop was more pronounced than usual, and his shuffling style of movement more ungainly.

"I'm just a failure, that's what I am, a failure. The world's moved on, and I've stood still. I'm exactly where my father was, and in schools and schoolmasters there's a difference of a hundred years between his time and this. I'm not fit for keeping school in these new times. I don't know what I am fit for. I'm fit for nothing but to die!"

"And if you die, what's to become of me?"

"And if I live, what'll happen to you then?"

"It'll happen to me that I'll have you, and do you think that's nothing?"

"Jane, it's worse than nothing! You ought to have been the man instead of me. I shall be a clog to you and a burden; you're fit for fifty things, and I'm not fit for one! I could not make a decent clerk. I'm very certain

I could not pass the examination required of a teacher in a board-school; I doubt if I ever could have reached that standard. I'm very certain I could not now. Times are changed in matters of education. People used to be satisfied with a twentieth part of what they now require. When I am turned out of the house in which I was born, and in which I have lived my whole life long, as I shall be in the course of a day or two, and you are turned out with me, wife, there will be fifty openings you will be fitted to fill, while I shall only be fit to carry circulars from house to house, or a sandwich-board through the streets."

"It's no use talking in that way, Beauclerk; it only breaks my heart to hear you, and it does no good. We must make up our minds to do something at once, and the great thing is, what? Now come and eat your supper, or you'll be ill; you know how you suffer if you go hungry to bed."

"I may as well become accustomed to it, because I shall have to go hungry very soon."

"Beauclerk!--what is the use of going on like that?--do you want to break my heart?"

"Wife, I believe mine's broken."

Mr. Fletcher leaned his face against the wall just where he was standing, his long, lean frame shaken with his sobbing.

"Beauclerk! Beauclerk! don't! don't!"

Hard-faced Mrs. Fletcher went to her husband, and took him in her arms, and soothed him as though he were a child of five. Mr. Fletcher looked up. His face was ghastly with the effort he made at self-control.

"I think I will have some supper; perhaps it will do me good,"

Husband and wife sat down to supper. There were the remains of a leg of mutton, a little glass jar half-filled with pickled cabbage, a small piece of cheese, and bread. Mrs. Fletcher put some mutton on her husband's plate, and a smaller portion on her own. Mr. Fletcher swallowed one or two mouthfuls, but apparently it went against the grain.

"I can't eat it," he said, pushing away his plate; "I'm not hungry."

"Won't you have some cheese? it's very nice cheese."


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