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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Whose name appeared to be Sam Slater


Bertie

half resisted the stranger's endeavour to assist him in finding his feet, but the other managed so dexterously that Bertie found himself accompanying his new friend with a fair amount of willingness. The fair was still at its height; the swings were fuller; the roundabout was driving a roaring trade; the sportsmen in the shooting gallery were popping away; but all these glories had lost their charm for Bertie. It seemed to him that it was all a hideous nightmare, from which he vainly struggled to shake himself free.

Had it not been for occasional assistance, he would more than once have lost his footing. Something ailed him, but what, he was at a loss to understand. All the hopes, and vigour, and high spirits of the morning had disappeared, and with them all his dreams had vanished too. He was the most miserable young gentleman in Kingston Fair.

He kept up an under current of grumbling all the way, now and then making feeble efforts to rid himself of his companion; but the stranger was too wide awake for Bertie to shake him off. Had he been better acquainted with the town, and in a fit state to realize his knowledge, he would have been aware that his companion was leading him, by a series of short cuts, in the direction of the apple-market. He paused before a tumbledown old house, over the door of which a lamp was burning. Bertie shrunk away, with some dim recollection of the establishment into which he had

been enticed by the Original Badger and his friends. At sight of his unwillingness the other only laughed.

"What are you afraid of? This ain't a place in which they'd rob you, even if you'd got anything worth robbing, which it seems to me you ain't. This is a doss-house, this is."

So saying he entered the house, the door of which seemed to stand permanently open. The somewhat reluctant Bertie entered with him. No one appearing to receive them, the stranger lost no time in informing the inmates of their arrival.

"Here, Mr. Jenkins, or Mrs. Jenkins, or some one, can I come up?"

In answer to this appeal, a stout lady appeared at the head of a flight of stairs, which rose almost from the threshold of the door. Hall there was none. She was not a very cleanly-looking lady, nor had she the softest of voices.

"Is that you, Sam Slater? Who's that you've got with you?"

"A friend of mine, and that's enough for you."

With this brief response, the stranger, whose name appeared to be Sam Slater, led the way up the flight of stairs.

"Anybody here?" he asked, when he reached the landing.

"Not at present there ain't; I expect they're all at the fair."

"All the better," said Sam.

He followed the lady through a door which faced the landing, pausing for a moment to see that Bertie followed too. Something in Bertie's appearance struck the lady's eye.

"What's the matter with your friend,--ain't he well?" she asked.

"Well, he's not exactly well," responded Sam, favouring Bertie with a curious glance from the corner of his eye.

A man who was seated by a roaring fire, although the night was warm and bright, got up and joined the party. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and he also was stout, and he puffed industriously at a short black clay pipe. He stood in front of Bertie, and inspected him from head to foot.

"He don't look exactly well, not by any means he don't."


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