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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Bertie thought it particularly cheerless then


the "Star and Garter," along the Kew road, never a very cheerful thoroughfare. Bertie thought it particularly cheerless then. Through Gunnersbury, and Chiswick, and Turnham Green, past the green itself, past Duke's Avenue, which is already a caricature of its former self, and threatens to be an avenue no more. Past where, not so very long ago, the toll bar used to stand, though there is no memorial of its presence now. Past the carriage manufactory; past the terminus of that singular railway which boasts of a single carriage and a single engine,--said railway being two if not three miles long. Into King Street, Hammersmith, and when he had got so far upon his journey the lad began to tire.

The evening was closing in. The lamps were lighted; the shops were ablaze with gas; the streets were crowded. But Bertie did not know where he was; he was standing on strange ground. He wondered, rather wearily, if this were London; but after his recent experience with the vendor of bouquets he was afraid to ask. He was hungry again, and began to look into the shop windows with anxious eyes. Fivepence would not go far.

He tramped wearily on, right through King Street. At a costermonger's stall he bought a pennyworth of apples, and munched them as he went. His capital was now reduced to fourpence, and night was come, and he was on the threshold of the great city--that Land of Golden Dreams.

style="text-align: justify;"> Chapter XIV


Through the Broadway, along the Hammersmith Road, on, and on, and on. Every step he took made the next seem harder. He was conscious that he could hardly walk much more. The crowd, the lights, the strangeness of the place, confused him. He wondered where he was. Was this London? and was it nothing else but streets? and was this the Land of Golden Dreams?

When he reached the Cedars, where the great pile of school buildings is now standing, he saw, peering through the railings, a little arab of the streets. To him he applied for information.

"Is this London?"

The urchin withdrew his head from between the two iron rails through which he had managed to squeeze it, and eyed his questioner. He was a little lad, smaller than Bertie, hatless, shoeless, in a ragged pair of trousers which were several sizes too large for him, and which were rolled up in a bunch about his ankles to enable him to put his feet far enough through to touch the ground.

"What, this? this 'ere? no, this ain't London."

"How far is it then?"

"How far is it? what, London? It just depends what part of London might you be wanting?"

"Any part; I don't care."

The urchin whistled. His small, keen eyes had been reading his questioner all the time, and Bertie was conscious of a sense of discomfort as he observed the curious gaze. In some odd way he felt that this little lad was bigger and stronger, and older than himself; that he looked down at him, as it were, from a height.

"Say, matey, where might you be going to? You don't look as though you knowed your way about, not much, you don't."

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