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TO*OAY'S SHORT STORY.] Robert Hetheridge, Nonentity. I By HAVEN HILDE. I (ALL RIGRTS RESERVED.) Bobert Hetheridge was one of the world's Bon-entities; lie knew it well. Sometimes he let it trouble him. That was when he wasn't thinking, when he was unphilosophie. He had long recognised his true position among the dwellers upon earth, and at most times seemed pretty well content. There was nothing bright about Bob—he was a just plodder. In sartorial attachments he was negligent; in manner lachrymose; in figure stunted; in position briefly little of most things, much of none; in personal appear- ante unenviable. This is speaking of him as he is on the 14th of November, 18S1. Standing leaning over the iron sides of Holoorc viaauct, and looking down on the road beneath, he owned again that all this was true. One by one he went over the category of his failings and his failures, and: told them all over again to the lions a.t hia side, who made no comment, the matter being no business of theirs. Bob's financial condition this day was very I low. He had just called at a newspaper offioe to see if there was a "turn" for him; there was nothing, and eo time was his own— "my priceless time," he muttered, with a laugh. Very few men owned to bearing Bob any friendship, although fewer still bore ill-will towards him. All laughed at him always, instinctively. Ill-luck was his evil genius, but he was well used to it all by now, being turned thirty years. Please, sir, can you tell me the way to Ludg-ate Hill Station?" Bob turned, half-startled, and faced a child of about twelve or thirteen summers, who atood, with her face all serious and her eyes wide with a vague alarm, waiting for him to answer her. It was a lovely face in its fresh youth, with the cheeks full and slightly' flushed, and crowned with a glory of light brown waving curie, beneath a hat that was prettiness also. For a moment he stood there petrified. Bob bad never had dealings with the softer sex in any size; he had no recollection of mother, sisters he had none; in h's life as yet there had come no woman, neither the want of one. Here was only a little child, yet a strangeness came over him for a moment,. and he could not answer. I have missed my way, and Then he spoke and told her falteringly t.he right direction. "I am going that way," he added, ana ihen he stopped, afraid at his own audacity. But. the child jumped eagerly at the words. "Ohl may I walk with you as far as you jo on my way?" she asked. So the two set off together, he walking awkwardly, and trying to adapt his gait to his companion's, and signally failing. She told him she had oome by herself from Cat- ford to see an uncle in Hat ton-garden, but as she had found her relative was away for some weeks, and the house all empty, she had no alternative but to return home to where she and her elder gieter lived alone. So this artless child, more fit for a rose garden than the great city in which she stood alone, was an orphan, and in her very art ess- noess and simple trust told this quiet, careless- looking man her story. Her name was Bertha. Stanley, and her sister Miilicent earned at type-writing in a City office just sufficient to keep them comfortably. "It was Uncle's birthday, you eee, said little Bertha, as they haiced ere crossing Ludgate-cireus. "And I had a present for him. It wasn't much," she added hesitat- ingly; "only a tobacco pouch. Milly bought it. and I worked the initials. Look-" The child put her hand in the little satohsl ahe carried. Then her face turned white, and she gripped her companion's arm. "It's gone," she cried; "and my purse-l stolen. All around pressed the great c-wding, ? "ushing throng of men and women, and backwards and forwards crashed the 'buses and cabs and other vehicles, but to those two in that moment there was no realisa- tion but of one thing. This world contained but two persons who were face to face with a great calamity. The little face turned whiter still-" ly ticket," she said. Hetheridge, too, had gome white. He pos- sessed but the sum of one penny in hia pocket. And what use was that in the present crisis? His brain was never too quickly get agoing, and this was a case where he was beaten cleamly. At last he spoke. W here does your si&ter work?" he said. "Oh, no, no," the child cried. Alill,, inuct not know, ehe then she stopped as she saw that Milly would ha-ve to know. "I don't remember the name; it is a had one," she added trustfully, looking up at him. It wouldn't matter if I had the ticket. would it?" she --aid, after a second's silence. It was in the purse, and-and-I haven't any money. God help you; no more have I," he blurted Itan and child were facing each other then, white face looking into white face. The child wae the first again to break the silence between them, and she laughed as ô-he spoke- How poor we are," said she. What is to be done?" '• We must walk," he eaid at once, having just dismissed the last of his list of acquaint- ances who would be gentle enough in refusing to loan him a sum of money. Gould you find the way?" she asked, with the colour in her cheeks again. Yes," Bob said, and then once more, this time hand in hand, the two set their faces southwards. Two hours later they arrived at their destination, and Bob was for turning back at once, but his little companion would not agree. You must stop and You must stop and see Milly," she urged imperatively, not knowing that that was the one reason that would drive Bob away. She sa.w him hesitating, and, leaning up, put her arms round his neck and kisaeH him. "Now will you?" she said, and he had promised before he knew it. It was nearly tea-time, and little Bertha set about laying table. Bob, too, helped, and many a laugh did she have at him, and then elumtily he dropped a saucer and broke it. "A chapiter of accidents," she cried. merrily. stooping and picking up the fragments while he stood helplessly looking on. Milly will be just wild with you." But Milly wasn't. She came in tired, yet light-hearted, abont seven o'clock, and little Bertha gravely introduced Bob to her "big sister." Bob blushed as his eyes fell upon the neatly-dressed little fig-ul-e of j Stanley. Milly was not pretty or handsome, hut she looked sweet fair enough in Bob's eyes, and he felt something flip down from his heart, and when he went home that evening he confessed that he had never spent a happier day. The story of the loot purse had been told, and all three had laughed merrily at the situation and the circumstances which had forced the two to walk home. Then Milly had very gently, and in a way in which only a woman could succeed, > broached the subject of Bob's return to town and the maiine,r of his getting there. He had shrunk from the idea of Milly lend- ing him money, but his refusal had been over-ruled, and he had compromised by accepting as a loan the exact and the lowest amount which would take him home. On the Saturday he was to come and re-pay hie great debt. Berzha decreed, and he agreed. A new zest seemed now to have come into his life. The careless habits which seemed to have taken too deep a hold upon him to be shaken off were easily uprooted. Luck was in his way next day, for he obtained first news of a big bank robbery, and put the paper for whom he did most work on the track, with the result that another good scoop was made. Bob had promised to find. Tut if possible the date of Mr. Richard Sedgwick's (little Bertha's uncle) return, and on inquiring he discovered that he was due back at his office on the Monday next. Glad at having this news to tell them on Saturday, he turned cowards the Viaduct, thinking of the strange circumstances of yesterday, and pic- turing the two bright faces in his mind. Then the darkness came upon him. sud- denly, swiftly; the sunlight was blotted out, and when his aching eyes opened once again he found himself, as be saw at a glance, in a hospital bed. He had stepped into the roadway and iancorscig-usly had crossed the track of a flying light-wheeled cab. They had picked him up insensible, and with his left arm broken. Bob's first sensation was one of maddening depression. It seemed so hard, so appalling, so heartbreaking, to be stricken just when everything appeared so bright. Then a face came up before him, little Bertha's, and it was pad and sympathetic, and his manner changed. He sent a brief message to them at Cat- ford, telling them of his accident and his whereabouts, and thus it came about that he did not keep his promise to visit them on the Saturday. Instead they came to him; nor did he pay his debt. Nearly every day they came to visit him in his imprisonment, and one day a tall, grim-faced gentleman accompanied them, whom Miilicent intro- duced as bar uncle. Mr. fMchard Sedgwicl;. His nieces had told him Bob's story, and he ha.d certain influence in various quarters, and he promised to exert it on Bob'e behalf. "I am noil-.) too soft of heart," he said gruffly and plainly. "I meddle with no one, and render cent. for cent., letting sentiment hammer at my business door in vain. In this case, however," he added, "I feel inter- ested, and I hope in a fortnight's time that you will be ready to avail yourself of what I shall doubtless have in store for yon. Is that it. little E^rtha?" And the stern-faced man of the world turned to his niece, who sprang at him and kissed him lovingly. By the middle of December Bob was well enough to leave the institution, and he found himself a member of the reportorial etaff of the "Daiiy Messenger," with a decent salary and a long agreement. On Christmas Eve little Bertha was chaff- ing her big sister unmercifully, and her withering remarks seemed chiefly directed against a new ring which Milly was wearing. "My dearest Milly," said little Bertha, cheekily, as she dropped another lump of sugar in her teacup, "Mr. Robert Hetheridge saw me home first. Yon came second. I shall kiss Bob to-night under the mistletoe." "Do so. darling, as often as you please." said Milly, quietly.


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