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people good, and what you said was wicked.” “I am sixteen,” he
answered, “and I know what I am about. Mother is no help to you.
She doesn’t understand how to look after you. I wish now that I
was not going to Australia at all. I have a great mind to chuck the
whole thing up. I would, if my articles hadn’t been signed.” “Oh,
don’t be so serious, Jim. You are like one of the heroes of those silly
melodramas mother used to be so fond of acting in. I am not going
to quarrel with you. I have seen him, and oh! to see him is perfect
happiness. We won’t quarrel. I know you would never harm any
one I love, would you?” “Not as long as you love him, I suppose,”
was the sullen answer.

“I shall love him for ever!” she cried.
“And he?” “For ever, too!” “He had better.” She shrank from him.
Then she laughed and put her hand on his arm. He was merely a

At the Marble Arch they hailed an omnibus, which left them close
to their shabby home in the Euston Road. It was after five o’clock,
and Sibyl had to lie down for a couple of hours before acting. Jim
insisted that she should do so. He said that he would sooner part
with her when their mother was not present. She would be sure to
make a scene, and he detested scenes of every kind.

In Sibyl’s own room they parted. There was jealousy in the lad’s
heart, and a fierce, murderous hatred of the stranger who, as it
seemed to him, had come between them. Yet, when her arms were
flung around his neck, and her fingers strayed through his hair, he
softened, and kissed her with real affection. There were tears in his
eyes as he went downstairs.

His mother was waiting for him below. She grumbled at his
unpunctuality, as he entered. He made no answer, but sat down to
his meagre meal. The flies buzzed round the table, and crawled
over the stained cloth. Through the rumble of omnibuses, and the
clatter of street-cabs, he could hear the droning voice devouring
each minute that was left to him.

After some time, he thrust away his plate, and put his head in his
hands. He felt that he had a right to know. It should have been told
to him before, if it was as he suspected. Leaden with fear, his
mother watched him. Words dropped mechanically from her lips.
A tattered lace handkerchief twitched in her fingers. When the
clock struck six, he got up, and went to the door. When he turned
back, and looked at her. Their eyes met. In hers he saw a wild
appeal for mercy. It enraged him.

“Mother, I have something to ask you,” he said. Her eyes
wandered vaguely about the room. She made no answer. “Tell me
the truth. I have a right to know.
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