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A Hero of Romance by Richard Marsh

Bertie hung his head still lower


"You're a fly bloke, that you are! What's your little game? You haven't got a fortune in your pocket, or a marquis for a pa? What do you do to live? I suppose you ain't reckoning to die just yet awhile."

"I wish I could do something, but I can't."

"Oh, you wish you could do something, do you, but unfortunately you can't! Well, you are a trial for the nerves! Have you got any money?"

Bertie hung his head still lower. To be despised by a thief! Was this the result of all his dreams?

"No!"

"Got any friends?"

"I've run away from them."

And here the boy broke down. Turning, and leaning against a pillar, he burst into a passion of tears. The other eyed him for a few moments, whistling beneath his breath.

"That's the time of day, is it? I thought you were something of that kind from the first, I did. What did you run away for?"

Bertie could not have told him to save his life. To have told this thief that he had started on a journey to the Land of Golden Dreams; that he had resolved to emulate the doings of his heroes, Dick Turpin, Crusoe, Jack the Giant-Killer, and Robin Hood! Oh, ye gods! and now to be crying against a post!

"Father living?"

No answer.

"Mother?"

No answer.

How well he knew that he loved his parents now! The mere mention of the word "mother" made him hysterical with woe. To have come within reach of his mother's loving arms, to have been folded to her breast! If he could only come within reach of her again!

The other stood observing him with critical eyes, whistling all the time.

"You seem to have had a considerable lot of water locked up tight. I should think you would have bust if you hadn't had a chance to let it go. What are you a-howling at? Crying for your mammy?"

For answer Bertie turned with a sudden ferocity and struck at him savagely. But the blow was struck at random, and the other had no difficulty in avoiding it by stepping aside.

"Hollo! don't you come that game again, or I'll show you how to use a bunch of fives."

But Bertie showed no further signs of fight. It had only been an almost childish display of passionate spite at the other's coarse allusion to his "mammy"--the mother whom he was now so sure he loved so well. Even the passion of his tears died away into a whimper. He had not strength enough to continue in a passion long.

"Are you hungry?" asked the other.


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