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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

But at Kew Bridge he pulled up


But the chase was relinquished almost as soon as it was begun. The person who had held the shilling stopped it.

"Never mind, boys; he won the race, so let him take the prize. Perhaps he wants it more than we do. I daresay we can find another shilling, and next time we'll be a little more particular."

The crowd returned into the park again.

Bertie pursued his way. When he saw that the chase had stopped he slowed a little, soon contenting himself with rapid walking. He was very hot; the perspiration stood in great beads upon his face; his clothing had an inclination to stick to his limbs. And he was very thirsty; his throat was parched and dry. He was hungry too; his long abstinence began to tell; he felt he could not go much farther without something to eat and drink.

Along the Lower Road, past Petersham fields, past Buccleuch House, into Richmond town. The town was crowded. The afternoon was well advanced. The fine weather had brought people out into the streets. Hill Street and George Street were crowded with both pedestrians and carriages. Richmond can be both gay and lovely on a sunny afternoon. It was then. The untidy, dusty, perspiring boy looked out of place in that big bright crowd, made up as it was for the most part of well-dressed people.

Once or twice he stopped and looked into the confectioners' shops, but from their appearance they were evidently beyond his means. If he had only been still the possessor of five pounds he might have ruffled it with the best of them, but a shilling would not go far in those well-filled emporiums of confectionery and nice-looking but unsubstantial odds and ends, and he so hungry too. He was beginning to fear that Richmond was not the place for him, and that he would have to go hungry and thirsty, when he reached the coffee palace in the Kew Road.

Here he thought he might venture in; and he did. He had a bloater and some bread-and-butter, and a cup of coffee, and there was not much change left in his pocket after that. But it was a sufficiently hearty meal, and the choice of materials did credit to his judgment. He left the shop with his hunger satisfied, feeling brighter and fresher altogether, and with fivepence in his pocket clutched tightly with his right hand. Those coppers were exceeding precious in his eyes.

He set out to walk to London. He knew that Richmond was not very far from London, and had a general idea that he had to keep straight on. He had lingered over his meal, taking his time and resting, and watching the other customers enjoying theirs, so that it was about six o'clock when he rose and went. A curious spirit of adventure possessed him still. The bull-dog nature of the boy was roused, and it was with an implicit faith in the future that he went straight on.

Until he reached Kew Bridge all was easy sailing; there was a straight road, and he went straight on. But at Kew Bridge he pulled up, puzzled. He had crossed the river at Hampton Court, and again at Kingston, and apparently here was another bridge to cross. It seemed to him that things were getting mixed. Ignorant of the convolutions of the Thames, of its manifold twists and turns, he began to wonder whether he had not after all gone wrong, when he found the river in front of him again.


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