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"If it's anything dreadful," she said, quickly, "I don't want to hear it.
It - it ain't natural."

"I can warn you of dangers to keep clear of," said the other, detaining
her hand. "I can let you peep into the future and see what to do and
what to avoid. Ah!"

She bent over the girl's hand again and uttered little ejaculations of
surprise and perplexity.

"I see you moving in gay scenes surrounded by happy faces," she said,
slowly. "You are much sought after. Handsome presents and fine clothes
are showered upon you. You will cross the sea. I see a dark young man
and a fair young man. They will both influence your life. The fair
young man works in his father's shop. He will have great riches."

"What about the other?" inquired Miss Dowson, after a somewhat lengthy
pause.

The fortune-teller shook her head. "He is his own worst enemy," she
said, "and he will drag down those he loves with him. You are going to
marry one of them, but I can't see clear - I can't see which."

"Look again," said the trembling Flora.

"I can't see," was the reply, "therefore it isn't meant for me to see.
It's for you to choose. I can see them now as plain as I can see you.
You are all three standing where two roads meet. The fair young man is
beckoning to you and pointing to a big house and a motor-car and a
yacht."

"And the other?" said the surprised Miss Dowson.

"He's in knickerbockers," said the other, doubtfully. "What does that
mean? Ah, I see! They've got the broad arrow on them, and he is
pointing to a jail. It's all gone - I can see no more."

She dropped the girl's hand and, drawing her hand across her eyes, sank
back into her chair. Miss Dowson, with trembling fingers, dropped the
half crown into her lap, and, with her head in a whirl, made her way
downstairs.

After such marvels the streets seemed oddly commonplace as she walked
swiftly home. She decided as she went to keep her knowledge to herself,
but inclination on the one hand and Mrs. Dowson on the other got the
better of her resolution. With the exception of a few things in her
past, already known and therefore not worth dwelling upon, the whole of
the interview was disclosed.

"It fair takes your breath away," declared the astounded Mr. Dowson.

"The fair young man is meant for Ben Lippet," said his wife, "and the
dark one is Charlie Foss. It must be. It's no use shutting your eyes to
things."

"It's as plain as a pikestaff," agreed her husband. "And she told
Charlie five years for bigamy, and when she's telling Flora's Fortune she
sees 'im in convict's clothes. How she does it I can't think."

"It's a gift," said Mrs. Dowson, briefly, "and I do hope that Flora is
going to act sensible. Anyhow, she can let Ben Lippet come and see her,
without going upstairs with the tooth-ache."

"He can come if he likes," said Flora; "though why Charlie couldn't have
'ad the motor-car and 'im the five years, I don't know."

Mr. Lippet came in the next evening, and the evening after. In fact, so
easy is it to fall into habits of an agreeable nature that nearly every
evening saw him the happy guest of Mr. Dowson. A spirit of resignation,
fostered by a present or two and a visit to the theatre, descended upon
Miss Dowson. Fate and her mother combined were in a fair way to
overcome her inclinations, when Mr. Foss, who had been out of town on a
job, came in to hear the result of her visit to the fortune-teller, and
found Mr. Lippet installed in the seat that used to be his.

At first Mrs. Dowson turned a deaf ear to his request for information,
and it was only when his jocularity on the subject passed the bounds of
endurance that she consented to gratify his curiosity.

"I didn't want to tell you," she said, when she had finished, "but you
asked for it, and now you've got it."

"It's very amusing," said Mr. Foss. "I wonder who the dark young man in
the fancy knickers is?"

"Ah, I daresay you'll know some day," said Mrs. Dowson.

"Was the fair young man a good-looking chap?" inquired the inquisitive
Mr. Foss.

Mrs. Dowson hesitated. "Yes," she said, defiantly.

"Wonder who it can be?" muttered Mr. Foss, in perplexity.

"You'll know that too some day, no doubt," was the reply.

"I'm glad it's to be a good-looking chap," he said; "not that I think
Flora believes in such rubbish as fortune-telling. She's too sensible."

"I do," said Flora. "How should she know all the things I did when I was
a little girl? Tell me that."

"I believe in it, too," said Mrs. Dowson. "P'r'aps you'll tell me I'm
not sensible!"

Mr. Foss quailed at the challenge and relapsed into moody silence. The
talk turned on an aunt of Mr. Lippet's, rumored to possess money, and an
uncle who was "rolling" in it. He began to feel in the way, and only his
native obstinacy prevented him from going.

It was a relief to him when the front door opened and the heavy step of
Mr. Dowson was heard in the tiny passage. If anything it seemed heavier
than usual, and Mr. Dowson's manner when he entered the room and greeted
his guests was singularly lacking in its usual cheerfulness. He drew a
chair to the fire, and putting his feet on the fender gazed moodily
between the bars.

"I've been wondering as I came along," he said at last, with an obvious
attempt to speak carelessly, "whether this 'ere fortune-telling as we've
been hearing so much about lately always comes out true."

"It depends on the fortune-teller," said his wife.

"I mean," said Mr. Dowson, slowly, "I mean that gypsy woman that Charlie
and Flora went to."

"Of course it does," snapped his wife. "I'd trust what she says afore
anything."

"I know five or six that she has told," said Mr. Lippet, plucking up
courage; "and they all believe 'er. They couldn't help themselves; they
said so."

"Still, she might make a mistake sometimes," said Mr. Dowson, faintly.
"Might get mixed up, so to speak."

"Never!" said Mrs. Dowson, firmly.

"Never!" echoed Flora and Mr. Lippet.

Mr. Dowson heaved a big sigh, and his eye wandered round the room. It
lighted on Mr. Foss.

"She's an old humbug," said that gentleman. "I've a good mind to put the
police on to her."

Mr. Dowson reached over and gripped his hand. Then he sighed again.

"Of course, it suits Charlie Foss to say so," said Mrs. Dowson;
"naturally he'd say so; he's got reasons. I believe every word she says.
If she told me I was coming in for a fortune I should believe her; and if
she told me I was going to have misfortunes I should believe her."

"Don't say that," shouted Mr. Dowson, with startling energy. "Don't say
that. That's what she did say!"

"What?" cried his wife, sharply. "What are you talking about?"

"I won eighteenpence off of Bob Stevens," said her husband, staring at
the table. "Eighteenpence is 'er price for telling the future only, and,
being curious and feeling I'd like to know what's going to 'appen to me,
I went in and had eighteenpennorth."

"Well, you're upset," said Mrs. Dowson, with a quick glance at him. "You
get upstairs to bed."

"I'd sooner stay 'ere," said her husband, resuming his seat; "it seems
more cheerful and lifelike. I wish I 'adn't gorn, that's what I wish."

"What did she tell you?" inquired Mr. Foss.

Mr. Dowson thrust his hands into his trouser pockets and spoke
desperately. "She says I'm to live to ninety, and I'm to travel to
foreign parts - - "

"You get to bed," said his wife. "Come along."

Mr. Dowson shook his head doggedly. "I'm to be rich," he continued,
slowly - "rich and loved. After my pore dear wife's death I'm to marry
again; a young woman with money and stormy brown eyes."

Mrs. Dowson sprang from her chair and stood over him quivering with
passion. "How dare you?" she gasped. "You - you've been drinking."

"I've 'ad two arf-pints," said her husband, solemnly. "I shouldn't 'ave
'ad the second only I felt so miserable. I know I sha'n't be 'appy with
a young woman."

Mrs. Dowson, past speech, sank back in her chair and stared at him.

"I shouldn't worry about it if I was you, Mrs. Dowson," said Mr. Foss,
kindly. "Look what she said about me. That ought to show you she ain't
to be relied on."

"Eyes like lamps," said Mr. Dowson, musingly, "and I'm forty-nine next
month. Well, they do say every eye 'as its own idea of beauty."

A strange sound, half laugh and half cry, broke from the lips of the
over-wrought Mrs. Dowson. She controlled herself by an effort.

"If she said it," she said, doggedly, with a fierce glance at Mr. Foss,
"it'll come true. If, after my death, my 'usband is going to marry a
young woman with - with - - "

"Stormy brown eyes," interjected Mr. Foss, softly.

"It's his fate and it can't be avoided," concluded Mrs. Dowson.

"But it's so soon," said the unfortunate husband. "You're to die in
three weeks and I'm to be married three months after."

Mrs. Dowson moistened her lips and tried, but in vain, to avoid the
glittering eye of Mr. Foss. "Three!" she said, mechanically, "three!
three weeks!"

"Don't be frightened," said Mr. Foss, in a winning voice. "I don't
believe it; and, besides, we shall soon see! And if you don't die in
three weeks, perhaps I sha'n't get five years for bigamy, and perhaps
Flora won't marry a fair man with millions of money and motor-cars."

"No; perhaps she is wrong after all, mother," said Mr. Dowson, hopefully.

Mrs. Dowson gave him a singularly unkind look for one about to leave him
so soon, and, afraid to trust herself to speech, left the room and went
up-stairs. As the door closed behind her, Mr. Foss took the chair which
Mr. Lippet had thoughtlessly vacated, and offered such consolations to
Flora as he considered suitable to the occasion.


ODD MAN OUT

The night watchman pursed up his lips and shook his head. Friendship, he
said, decidedly, is a deloosion and a snare. I've 'ad more friendships
in my life than most people - owing to being took a fancy to for some
reason or other - and they nearly all came to a sudden ending.

[Illustration: "Friendship, he said, decidedly, is a deloosion and a
snare."]

I remember one man who used to think I couldn't do wrong; everything I
did was right to 'im; and now if I pass 'im in the street he makes a face
as if he'd got a hair in 'is mouth. All because I told 'im the truth one
day when he was thinking of getting married. Being a bit uneasy-like in
his mind, he asked me 'ow, supposing I was a gal, his looks would strike
me.

It was an orkard question, and I told him that he 'ad got a good 'art and
that no man could 'ave a better pal. I said he 'ad got a good temper and
was free with 'is money. O' course, that didn't satisfy 'im, and at last
he told me to take a good look at 'im and tell him wot I thought of 'is
looks. There was no getting out of it, and at last I 'ad to tell him
plain that everybody 'ad diff'rent ideas about looks; that looks wasn't
everything; and that 'andsome is as 'andsome does. Even then 'e wasn't
satisfied, and at last I told 'im, speaking as a pal to a pal, that if I
was a gal and he came along trying to court me, I should go to the police
about it.

I remember two young fellers that was shipmates with me some years ago,
and they was such out-and-out pals that everybody called 'em the Siamese
twins. They always shipped together and shared lodgings together when
they was ashore, and Ted Denver would no more 'ave thought of going out
without Charlie Brice than Charlie Brice would 'ave thought of going out
without 'im. They shared their baccy and their money and everything
else, and it's my opinion that if they 'ad only 'ad one pair o' boots
between 'em they'd 'ave hopped along in one each.

They 'ad been like it for years, and they kept it up when they left the
sea and got berths ashore. Anybody knowing them would ha' thought that
nothing but death could part 'em; but it happened otherwise.

There was a gal in it, of course. A gal that Ted Denver got into
conversation with on top of a bus, owing to her steadying 'erself by
putting her hand on 'is shoulder as she passed 'im. Bright, lively sort
o' gal she seemed, and, afore Ted knew where he was, they was talking
away as though they 'ad known each other for years.

Charlie didn't seem to care much for it at fust, but he didn't raise no
objection; and when the gal got up to go he stopped the bus for 'er by
poking the driver in the back, and they all got off together. Ted went
fust to break her fall, in case the bus started off too sudden, and
Charlie 'elped her down behind by catching hold of a lace collar she was
wearing. When she turned to speak to 'im about it, she knocked the
conductor's hat off with 'er umbrella, and there was so much
unpleasantness that by the time they 'ad got to the pavement she told
Charlie that she never wanted to see his silly fat face agin.

"It ain't fat," ses Ted, speaking up for 'im; "it's the shape of it."

"And it ain't silly," ses Charlie, speaking very quick; "mind that!"

"It's a bit o' real lace," ses the gal, twisting her 'ead round to look
at the collar; "it cost me one and two-three only last night."

"One an' _wot?_" ses Charlie, who, not being a married man, didn't
understand 'er.

"One shilling," ses the gal, "two pennies, and three farthings. D'ye
understand that?"

"Yes," ses Charlie.

"He's cleverer than he looks," ses the gal, turning to Ted. "I s'pose
you're right, and it is the shape after all."

Ted walked along one side of 'er and Charlie the other, till they came to
the corner of the road where she lived, and then Ted and 'er stood there
talking till Charlie got sick and tired of it, and kept tugging at Ted's
coat for 'im to come away.

"I'm coming," ses Ted, at last. "I s'pose you won't be this way
to-morrow night?" he ses, turning to the gal.

"I might if I thought there was no chance of seeing you," she ses,
tossing her 'ead.

"You needn't be alarmed," ses Charlie, shoving in his oar; "we're going
to a music-'all to-morrow night."

"Oh, go to your blessed music-'all," ses the gal to Ted; "I don't want
you."

She turned round and a'most ran up the road, with Ted follering 'er and
begging of 'er not to be so hasty, and afore they parted she told 'im
that 'er name was. Emma White, and promised to meet 'im there the next
night at seven.

O' course Mr. Charlie Brice turned up alongside o' Ted the next night,
and at fust Emma said she was going straight off 'ome agin. She did go
part o' the way, and then, when she found that Ted wouldn't send his mate
off, she came back and, woman-like, said as 'ow she wasn't going to go
'ome just to please Charlie Brice. She wouldn't speak a word to 'im, and
when they all went to the music-'all together she sat with her face
turned away from 'im and her elbow sticking in 'is chest. Doing that and
watching the performance at the same time gave 'er a stiff neck, and she
got in such a temper over it she wouldn't hardly speak to Ted, and when
Charlie - meaning well - told 'er to rub it with a bit o' mutton-fat she
nearly went off her 'ead.

"Who asked you to come with us?" she ses, as soon as she could speak.
"'Ow dare you force yourself where you ain't wanted?"

"Ted wants me," ses Charlie.

"We've been together for years," ses Ted. "You'll like Charlie when you
get used to 'im - everybody does."

"Not me!" ses Emma, with a shiver. "It gives me the fair creeps to look
at him. You'll 'ave to choose between us. If he comes, I sha'n't.
Which is it to be?"

Neither of 'em answered 'er, but the next night they both turned up as
usual, and Emma White stood there looking at 'em and nearly crying with
temper.

"'Ow would you like it if I brought another young lady with me?" she ses
to Ted.

"It wouldn't make no difference to me," ses Ted. "Any friend o' yours is
welcome."

Emma stood looking at 'em, and then she patted 'er eyes with a pocket-
'ankercher and began to look more cheerful.

"You ain't the only one that has got a dear friend," she says, looking.
at 'im and wiping 'er lips with the 'ankercher. "I've got one, and if
Charlie Brice don't promise to stay at 'ome to-morrow night I'll bring
her with me."

"Bring 'er, and welcome," ses Ted.

"I sha'n't stay at 'ome for fifty dear friends," ses Charlie.

"Have it your own way," ses Emma. "If you come, Sophy Jennings comes,
that's all."

She was as good as 'er word, too, and next night when they turned up they
found Emma and 'er friend waiting for them. Charlie thought it was the
friend's mother at fust, but he found out arterwards that she was a
widder-woman. She had 'ad two husbands, and both of 'em 'ad passed away
with a smile on their face. She seemed to take a fancy to Charlie the
moment she set eyes on 'im, and two or three times, they'd 'ave lost Ted
and Emma if it hadn't been for 'im.

[Illustration: "When they turned up they found Emma and 'er friend
waiting for them."]

They did lose 'em the next night, and Charlie Brice 'ad Mrs. Jennings all
alone to himself for over a couple of hours walking up and down the
Commercial Road talking about the weather; Charles saying 'ow wet and
cold it, was, and thinking p'r'aps they 'ad better go off 'ome afore she
got a chill.

He complained to Ted about it when 'e got 'ome, and Ted promised as it
shouldn't 'appen agin. He said that 'im and Emma 'ad been so busy
talking about getting married that he 'ad forgotten to keep an eye on
him.

"Married!" ses Charlie, very upset. "Married! And wot's to become o'
me?"

"Come and lodge with us," ses Ted.

They shook hands on it, but Ted said they 'ad both better keep it to
themselves a bit and wait until Emma 'ad got more used to Charlie afore
they told her. Ted let 'er get used to 'im for three days more afore he
broke the news to 'er, and the way she went on was alarming. She went on
for over ten minutes without taking breath, and she was just going to
start again when Mrs. Jennings stopped her.

"He's all right," she ses. "You leave 'im alone."

"I'm not touching 'im," ses Emma, very scornful.

"You leave 'im alone," ses Mrs. Jennings, taking hold of Charlie's arm.
"I don't say things about your young man."

Charlie Brice started as if he 'ad been shot, and twice he opened 'is
mouth to speak and show Mrs. Jennings 'er mistake; but, wot with trying
to find 'is voice in the fust place, and then finding words to use it
with in the second, he didn't say anything. He just walked along
gasping, with 'is mouth open like a fish.

"Don't take no notice of 'er, Charlie," ses Mrs. Jennings.

"I - I don't mind wot she ses," ses pore Charlie; "but you're making a
great - - "

"She's quick-tempered, is Emma," ses Mrs. Jennings. "But, there, so am
I. Wot you might call a generous temper, but quick."

Charlie went cold all over.

"Treat me well and I treat other people well," ses Mrs. Jennings. "I
can't say fairer than that, can I?"

Charlie said "Nobody could," and then 'e walked along with her hanging on
to 'is arm, arf wondering whether it would be wrong to shove 'er under a
bus that was passing, and arf wondering whether 'e could do it if it
wasn't.

"As for Emma saying she won't 'ave you for a lodger," ses Mrs. Jennings,
"let 'er wait till she's asked. She'll wait a long time if I 'ave my
say."

Charlie didn't answer her. He walked along with 'is mouth shut, his idea
being that the least said the soonest mended. Even Emma asked 'im at
last whether he 'ad lost 'is tongue, and said it was curious 'ow
different love took different people.

He talked fast enough going 'ome with Ted though, and pretty near lost
'is temper with 'im when Ted asked 'im why he didn't tell Mrs. Jennings
straight that she 'ad made a mistake.

"She knows well enough," he says, grinding 'is teeth; "she was just
trying it on. That's 'ow it is widders get married agin. You'll 'ave to
choose between going out with me or Emma, Ted. I can't face Mrs.
Jennings again. I didn't think anybody could 'ave parted us like that."

Ted said it was all nonsense, but it was no good, and the next night he
went off alone and came back very cross, saying that Mrs. Jennings 'ad
been with 'em all the time, and when 'e spoke to Emma about it she said
it was just tit for tat, and reminded 'im 'ow she had 'ad to put up with
Charlie. For four nights running 'e went out for walks, with Emma
holding one of 'is arms and Mrs. Jennings the other.

"It's miserable for you all alone 'ere by yourself; Charlie," he ses.
"Why not come? She can't marry you against your will. Besides, I miss
you."

Charlie shook 'ands with 'im, but 'e said 'e wouldn't walk out with Mrs.
Jennings for a fortune. And all that Ted could say made no difference.
He stayed indoors of an evening reading the paper, or going for little
walks by 'imseif, until at last Ted came 'ome one evening, smiling all
over his face, and told 'im they had both been making fools of themselves
for nothing.

"Mrs. Jennings is going to be married," he ses, clapping Charlie on the
back.

"_Wot?_" ses Charlie.

Ted nodded. "Her and Emma 'ad words to-night," he ses, laughing, "and it
all come out. She's been keeping company for some time. He's away at
present, and they're going to be married as soon as 'e comes back."

"Well," ses Charlie, "why did she - - "

"To oblige Emma," ses Ted, "to frighten you into staying at 'ome. I'd
'ad my suspicions for some time, from one or two things I picked up."

"Ho!" ses Charlie. "Well, it'll be my turn to laugh to-morrow night.
We'll see whether she can shake me off agin."

Ted looked at 'im a bit worried. "It's a bit orkard," he ses, speaking
very slow. "You see, they made it up arterwards, and then they both made
me promise not to tell you, and if you come, they'll know I 'ave."

Charlie did a bit o' thinking. "Not if I pretend to make love to Mrs.
Jennings?" he ses, at last, winking at 'im. "And it'll serve her right
for being deceitful. We'll see 'ow she likes it. Wot sort o' chap is
the young man - big?"

"Can't be," ses Ted; "cos Emma called 'im a little shrimp."

"I'll come," ses Charlie; "and it'll be your own fault if they find out
you told me about it."

They fell asleep talking of it, and the next evening Charlie put on a new
neck-tie he 'ad bought, and arter letting Ted have arf an hour's start
went out and met 'em accidental. The fust Mrs. Jennings knew of 'is
being there was by finding an arm put round 'er waist.

"Good-evening, Sophy," he ses.

"'Ow - 'ow dare you?" ses Mrs. Jennings, giving a scream and pushing him
away.

Charlie looked surprised.

"Why, ain't you pleased to see me?" he ses. "I've 'ad the raging
toothache for over a week; I've got it now a bit, but I couldn't stay
away from you any longer."

"You behave yourself," ses Mrs. Jennings.

"Ted didn't say anything about your toothache," ses Emma.

"I wouldn't let 'im, for fear of alarming Sophy," ses Charlie.

Mrs. Jennings gave a sort of laugh and a sniff mixed.

"Ain't you pleased to see me agin?" ses Charlie.

"I don't want to see you," ses Mrs. Jennings. "Wot d'ye think I want to
see you for?"

"Change your mind pretty quick, don't you?" ses Charlie. "It's blow 'ot
and blow cold with you seemingly. Why, I've been counting the minutes
till I should see you agin."

Mrs. Jennings told 'im not to make a fool of 'imself, and Charlie saw 'er
look at Emma in a puzzled sort of way, as if she didn't know wot to make
of it. She kept drawing away from 'im and he kept drawing close to 'er;
other people on the pavement dodging and trying to get out of their way,
and asking them which side they was going and to stick to it.

"Why don't you behave yourself?" ses Emma, at last.

"We're all right," ses Charlie; "you look arter your own young man. We
can look arter ourselves."

"Speak for yourself," ses Mrs. Jennings, very sharp.

Charlie laughed, and the more Mrs. Jennings showed 'er dislike for 'is
nonsense the more he gave way to it. Even Ted thought it was going too
far, and tried to interfere when he put his arm round Mrs. Jennings's
waist and made 'er dance to a piano-organ; but there was no stopping 'im,
and at last Mrs. Jennings said she had 'ad enough of it, and told Emma
she was going off 'ome.

[Illustration: "He put his arm round Mrs. Jennings's waist and made 'er
dance to a piano-organ."]

"Don't take no notice of 'im," ses Emma.

"I must," ses Mrs. Jennings, who was arf crying with rage.

"Well, if you go 'ome, I shall go," ses Emma. "I don't want 'is company.
I believe he's doing it on purpose.

"Behave yourself, Charlie," ses Ted.

"All right, old man," ses Charlie. "You look arter your young woman and


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