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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Bertie was content to watch the proceedings


I want to stop at Kingston."

"Are you going to the fair there? I hear there's to be a fine fair this time, and a circus, and all."

Bertie had neither heard of the fair nor of the circus; but the idea was tempting.

"I shouldn't be surprised if I did go. How much will you row me for?"

The ferryman hesitated. He was probably debating within himself as to the capacity of the young gentleman's pockets, and also not improbably as to his capacity for being bled.

"I'll row you there for five shillings."

But Bertie was not quite so verdant as he looked.

"I'll give you eighteenpence."

"Well, you're a cool hand, you are, to offer a man eighteenpence for what he wants five shillings for. But I don't want to be hard upon a young gentleman what is a young gentleman. I'll row you there for four; a man's got to live, you know, and it isn't as though you wanted a boat to row yourself."

But Bertie was unable to see his way to paying four. Finally a bargain was struck for half a crown. Then a difficulty occurred as to change, and Bertie entrusted one of his precious sovereigns to the ferryman to get changed at the Swan. Then a boat was launched, a lad not very much older than Bertie was

placed in charge, the fare was paid in advance, and a start was made for Kingston.

By the time they reached that ancient town, Bertie was hungry in earnest. The walk, the drive, and now the row in the freshness of the early morning had combined to give him an appetite which, at Mecklemburg House, would have been regarded with considerable disapproval. Now, too, the short commons of the day before were remembered; and as Bertie fingered the money in his pockets he thought with no slight satisfaction of the good things in the eating and drinking line which it would buy.

He was landed at his own request on the Middlesex side of Kingston Bridge, and having generously made the lad who had rowed him richer by the sum of sixpence, he started, with renewed vigour, to cross the bridge into the town. No sooner had he crossed than a coffee-shop met his eye. It was the very thing he wanted. With the air of a capitalist he entered and ordered a sumptuous repast--coffee, bread and butter, ham and eggs. Having made a hearty meal,--and a hearty meal was a subject on which he had ideas of his own, for he followed up the ham and eggs with half a dozen open tarts and a jam puff or two, buying half a pound of sweets to eat when he got outside,--he paid the bill and sallied forth.

It was cattle-market day, and unusual business seemed to be doing. Not only was the market-place crowded with live stock, but they overflowed into the neighbouring streets. For the present, Bertie was content to watch the proceedings. In the position of a capitalist he could travel to London in state and at his leisure. Just now his mind was running on what the ferryman had said about the circus and the fair. He could go to London at any time. It was not a place which was likely to run away. But circuses and fairs were things which were quick to go, and once gone were gone for ever. Bertie resolved that he would commence his journey by seeing both the circus and the fair.

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