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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Before Bertie had perceived her design


While

the lady delivered herself of this voluble string of observations she had gradually approached the door. Before Bertie had perceived her design, she had pushed her husband through the door, and was through herself; the door was shut, the key turned in the lock, and Bertie was a prisoner.

"Now we'll see who's thieves!" the lady was heard to observe outside. "Now, Jenkins, you go and get a policeman this instant minute, and mind you bring a good big one, too!"

Very few boys would be so foolish as to, what is rather erroneously termed run away; sneak away would perhaps be the correct phrase. If in any given million we were to put it that there is one such being, we should perhaps be stating a larger average than actually exists. But we may be pretty sure, that for even that young gentleman the adventures which had befallen Bertie Bailey at the very outset would have been quite sufficient; he would have devoted the small remainder of his energies to running, _i.e_., sneaking, back again.

But Bertie Bailey was made of sterner stuff; he was of those young gentlemen who have to learn their lessons a good many times over before they can get the meaning of what they have learnt into their heads. Those who reach the end of this story will find that he did learn his lesson to the end, and that it was a terrible lesson too, but the ending was not yet.

So

soon as he understood that he was a prisoner, Bertie cast about for some method of escape. In his heart he could not but allow that the commencement of his journey had not been so successful as he had intended that it should be. But he was naturally slow to admit a failure. And to think that the ingenious Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins should make capital out of his misfortunes; that was an idea he by no means relished.

Fortunately, the lady had left his clothes behind. It occurred to Bertie that she might perceive her error and return to fetch them. To prevent any likelihood of that he put them on. Then he looked about to find a path to freedom.

The window immediately caught his eye. It was a very little one, in the fashion of a double lattice, which opened outwards. But Bertie resolved that it was large enough for him. He opened it carefully and peeped out. It was apparently a window at the side of the house, looking out upon a narrow passage-way.

Had Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins known the character of their guest, they would never have been so foolish as to think the bird was safe while he had the command of that convenient window. It was only some ten or twelve feet above the ground, and to Bertie the drop was nothing.

He lost no time in putting it to the test. First peering up and down the narrow passage, to see that no one was in sight and that no other window commanded a view of his operations, he brought the only chair the room contained up to the window and commenced to climb through it, feet foremost. The operation was a delicate one, but the size of the window precluded any other mode of egress. Even as it was, when he was about half way through he discovered that he was stuck fast. For a few disagreeable moments he feared that he would have to remain in that uncomfortable position till Mrs. Jenkins returned to secure her prey.

He wriggled and twisted, but for a time in vain. Suddenly, however, he did more than he intended; for the result of a desperate effort was to precipitate him so rapidly backwards that he was only just able to grasp the old-fashioned, narrow, wooden window sill with his right hand in time to prevent himself from falling in a heap upon the ground. He hung for a second, to give himself chance to recover from the shock, then he loosened his hold, and, dropping, alighted on his feet upon the ground; and no sooner was he on the ground than, without waiting to see if there was any one about, he dashed helter skelter down the passage at the top of his speed.


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