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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

He turned his face towards Cobham


He

stood, hesitating, looking up and down the road. In his anxiety to reach the Land of Golden Dreams he had not paused to consider which was the road he had to take to get there. Such a detail had not occurred to him. He had taken it for granted that the road would choose itself; now he perceived that he had to choose the road.

"I'll go to London--something's sure to turn up when I get there. It always does. In London all sorts of things happen to a fellow."

His right hand in his pocket, clasping his one and fivepence, he turned his face towards Cobham. He had a vague idea that to reach town one had to get to Kingston, and he knew that through Cobham and Esher was the road to Kingston. If he kept to the road the way was easy, he had simply to keep straight on. He had pictured himself flying across the moonlit fields; but he concluded that, for the present, at any rate, he had better confine himself to the plain broad road.

The weather was glorious. It was just about that time when the night is about to give way to the morning, and there is that peculiar chill abroad in the world which, even in the height of summer, ushers in the dawn. It was as light as day--indeed, very soon it would be day; already in the eastern heavens were premonitory gleams of the approaching sun. But at present a moon which was almost at the full held undisputed reign in the cloudless sky. So bright were

her rays that the stars were dimmed. All the world was flooded with her light. All was still, except the footsteps of the boy beating time upon the road. Not a sound was heard, nor was there any living thing in sight with the exception of the lad. Bertie Bailey had it all to himself.

Bertie strode along the Cobham road at a speed which he believed to be first rate, but which was probably under four miles an hour. Every now and then he broke into a trot, but as a rule he confined himself to walking. Conscious that he would not be missed till several hours had passed, he told himself that he would have plenty of time to place himself beyond reach of re-capture before pursuit could follow. Secure in this belief, every now and then he stopped and looked about him on the road.

He was filled with a sense of strange excitement. He did not show this in his outward bearing, for nature had formed his person in an impassive mould, and he was never able to dispossess himself of an air of phlegm. An ordinary observer would have said that this young gentleman was constitutionally heavy and dull, and impervious to strong feeling of any sort. Mr. Fletcher, for instance, had been wont to declare that Bailey was his dullest pupil, and in continual possession of the demons of obstinacy and sulkiness. Yet, on this occasion, at least, Bailey was on fire with a variety of feelings to every one of which Mr. Fletcher would have deemed him of necessity a stranger.

It seemed to him, as he walked on and on, that he walked in fairyland. He was conscious of a thousand things which were imperceptible to his outward sense. His heart seemed too light for his bosom; to soar out of it; to bear him to a land of visions. That Land of Golden Dreams towards which he travelled he had already reached with his mind's eye, and that before he had gone a mile upon the road to Cobham.

Mecklemburg House was already a thing of the past That petty poring over books, which some call study, and which Mr. George Washington Bankes had declared was such a culpable waste of time, was gone for ever. No more books for him; no more school; no more rubbish of any kind. The world was at his feet for him to pick and choose.


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