Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Lionel G. Sear
THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTONE.
A. CONAN DOYLE
TO MY OLD FRIEND
PROFESSOR WILLIAM K. BURTON,
OF THE IMPERIAL UNIVERSITY, TOKYO,
WHO FIRST ENCOURAGED ME, YEARS AGO, TO PROCEED WITH
THIS LITTLE STORY,
I DESIRE AFFECTIONATELY TO
I cannot let this small romance go to press without prefacing it with a
word of cordial thanks to Mr. P. G. Houlgrave, of 28, Millman Street,
Bedford Row. To this gentleman I owe the accuracy of my African
chapters, and I am much indebted to him for the copious details with
which he furnished me.
A. CONAN DOYLE.
I. MR. JOHN HARSTON KEEPS AN APPOINTMENT.
II. CHARITY A LA MODE.
III. THOMAS GILRAY MAKES AN INVESTMENT.
IV. CAPTAIN HAMILTON MIGGS OF THE "BLACK EAGLE".
V. MODERN ATHENIANS.
VI. A RECTORIAL ELECTION.
VII. ENGLAND VERSUS SCOTLAND.
VIII. A FIRST PROFESSIONAL.
IX. A NASTY CROPPER.
X. DWELLERS IN BOHEMIA.
XI. SENIOR AND JUNIOR.
XII. A CORNER IN DIAMONDS.
XIII. SHADOW AND LIGHT.
XIV. A SLIGHT MISUNDERSTANDING
XV. AN ADDITION TO THE HOUSE.
XVI. THE FIRST STEP.
XVII. THE LAND OF DIAMONDS.
XVIII. MAJOR TOBIAS CLUTTERBUCK COMES IN FOR A THOUSAND POUNDS.
XIX. NEWS FROM THE URALS.
XX. MR. HECTOR O'FLAHERTY FINDS SOMETHING IN THE PAPER.
XXI. AN UNEXPECTED BLOW.
XXII. ROBBERS AND ROBBED.
XXIII. A MOMENTOUS RESOLUTION.
XXIV. A DANGEROUS PROMISE.
XXV. A CHANGE OF FRONT.
XXVI. BREAKING GROUND.
XXVII. MRS. SCULLY OF MORRISON'S.
XXVIII. BACK IN BOHEMIA.
XXIX. THE GREAT DANCE AT MORRISON'S.
XXX. AT THE "COCK AND COWSLIP".
XXXI. A CRISIS AT ECCLESTON SQUARE.
XXXII. A CONVERSATION IN THE ECCLESTON SQUARE LIBRARY.
XXXIII. THE JOURNEY TO THE PRIORY.
XXXIV. THE MAN WITH THE CAMP-STOOL.
XXXV. A TALK ON THE LAWN.
XXXVI. THE INCIDENT OF THE CORRIDOR.
XXXVII. A CHASE AND A BRAWL.
XXXVIII. GIRDLESTONE SENDS FOR THE DOCTOR.
XXXIX. A GLEAM OF LIGHT.
XL. THE MAJOR HAS A LETTER.
XLI. THE CLOUDS GROW DARKER.
XLII. THE THREE FACES AT THE WINDOW.
XLIII. THE BAIT ON THE HOOK.
XLIV. THE SHADOW OF DEATH.
XLV THE INVASION OF HAMPSHIRE.
XLVI. A MIDNIGHT CRUISE.
XLVII LAW AND ORDER.
XLVIII. CAPTAIN HAMILTON MIGGS SEES A VISION.
XLIX. A VOYAGE IN A COFFIN SHIP.
L. WINDS UP THE THREAD AND TIES TWO KNOTS AT THE END.
THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTONE.
MR. JOHN HARSTON KEEPS AN APPOINTMENT.
The approach to the offices of Girdlestone and Co. was not a very
dignified one, nor would the uninitiated who traversed it form any
conception of the commercial prosperity of the firm in question.
Close to the corner of a broad and busy street, within a couple of
hundred yards of Fenchurch Street Station, a narrow doorway opens into a
long whitewashed passage. On one side of this is a brass plate with the
inscription "Girdlestone and Co., African Merchants," and above it a
curious hieroglyphic supposed to represent a human hand in the act of
pointing. Following the guidance of this somewhat ghostly emblem, the
wayfarer finds himself in a small square yard surrounded by doors, upon
one of which the name of the firm reappears in large white letters, with
the word "Push" printed beneath it. If he follows this laconic
invitation he will make his way into a long, low apartment, which is the
counting-house of the African traders.
On the afternoon of which we speak things were quiet at the offices.
The line of pigeon-holes in the wire curtain was deserted by the public,
though the linoleum-covered floor bore abundant traces of a busy
morning. Misty London light shone hazily through the glazed windows and
cast dark shadows in the corners. On a high perch in the background a
weary-faced, elderly man, with muttering lips and tapping fingers, cast
up endless lines of figures. Beneath him, in front of two long shining
mahogany desks, half a score of young men, with bent heads and stooping
shoulders, appeared to be riding furiously, neck and neck, in the race
of life. Any _habitue_ of a London office might have deduced from their
relentless energy and incorruptible diligence that they were under the
eyes of some member of the firm.
The member in question was a broad-shouldered, bull-necked young man,
who leaned against the marble mantel-piece, turning over the pages of an
almanac, and taking from time to time a stealthy peep over the top of it
at the toilers around him. Command was imprinted in every line of his
strong, square-set face and erect, powerful frame. Above the medium
size, with a vast spread of shoulder, a broad aggressive jaw, and bright
bold glance, his whole pose and expression spoke of resolution pushed to
the verge of obstinacy. There was something classical in the regular
olive-tinted features and black, crisp, curling hair fitting tightly to
the well-rounded head. Yet, though classical, there was an absence of
spirituality. It was rather the profile of one of those Roman emperors,
splendid in its animal strength, but lacking those subtle softnesses of
eye and mouth which speak of an inner life. The heavy gold chain across
the waistcoat and the bright stone which blazed upon the finger were the
natural complement of the sensuous lip and curving chin. Such was Ezra,
only child of John Girdlestone, and heir to the whole of his vast
business. Little wonder that those who had an eye to the future bent
over their ledgers and worked with a vigour calculated to attract the
attention of the junior partner, and to impress him with a due sense of
their enthusiastic regard for the interests of the firm.
It was speedily apparent, however, that the young gentleman's estimate
of their services was not entirely based upon their present performance.
With his eyes still fixed upon the almanac and a sardonic smile upon his
dark face, he uttered a single word--
A flaxen-haired clerk, perched at the further end of the high glistening
desk, gave a violent start, and looked up with a scared face.
"Well, Parker, who won?" asked the junior partner.
"Won, sir!" the youth stammered.
"Yes, who won?" repeated his employer.
"I hardly understand you, sir," the clerk said, growing very red and
"Oh yes, you do, Parker," young Girdlestone remarked, tapping his
almanac sharply with the paper-knife. "You were playing odd man out
with Robson and Perkins when I came in from lunch. As I presume you
were at it all the time I was away, I have a natural curiosity to know
The three unhappy clerks fixed their eyes upon their ledgers to avoid
the sarcastic gaze of their employer. He went on in the same quiet
"You gentlemen draw about thirty shillings a week from the firm.
I believe I am right in my figures, Mr. Gilray?" addressing the senior
clerk seated at the high solitary desk apart from the others. "Yes, I
thought so. Now, odd man out is, no doubt, a very harmless and
fascinating game, but you can hardly expect us to encourage it so far as
to pay so much an hour for the privilege of having it played in our
counting-house. I shall therefore recommend my father to deduct five
shillings from the sum which each of you will receive upon Saturday.
That will cover the time which you have devoted to your own amusements
during the week."
He paused, and the three culprits were beginning to cool down and
congratulate themselves, when he began again.
"You will see, Mr. Gilray, that this deduction is made," he said,
"and at the same time I beg that you will deduct ten shillings from your
own salary, since, as senior clerk, the responsibility of keeping order
in this room in the absence of your employers rests with you, and you
appear to have neglected it. I trust you will look to this, Mr.
"Yes, sir," the senior clerk answered meekly. He was an elderly man
with a large family, and the lost ten shillings would make a difference
to the Sunday dinner. There was nothing for it but to bow to the
inevitable, and his little pinched face assumed an expression of gentle
resignation. How to keep his ten young subordinates in order, however,
was a problem which vexed him sorely.
The junior partner was silent, and the remaining clerks were working
uneasily, not exactly knowing whether they might not presently be
included in the indictment. Their fears were terminated, however, by
the sharp sound of a table-gong and the appearance of a boy with the
announcement that Mr. Girdlestone would like a moment's conversation
with Mr. Ezra. The latter gave a keen glance at his subjects and
withdrew into the back office, a disappearance which was hailed by ten
pens being thrown into the air and deftly caught again, while as many
derisive and triumphant young men mocked at the imploring efforts of old
Gilray in the interests of law and order.
The sanctum of Mr. John Girdlestone was approached by two doors, one of
oak with ground-glass panels, and the other covered with green baize.
The room itself was small, but lofty, and the walls were ornamented by
numerous sections of ships stuck upon long flat boards, very much as the
remains of fossil fish are exhibited in museums, together with maps,
charts, photographs, and lists of sailings innumerable. Above the
fire-place was a large water-colour painting of the barque _Belinda_ as
she appeared when on a reef to the north of Cape Palmas. An inscription
beneath this work of art announced that it had been painted by the
second officer and presented by him to the head of the firm. It was
generally rumoured that the merchants had lost heavily over this
disaster, and there were some who quoted it as an instance of
Girdlestone's habitual strength of mind that he should decorate his wall
with so melancholy a souvenir. This view of the matter did not appear
to commend itself to a flippant member of Lloyd's agency, who contrived
to intimate, by a dexterous use of his left eyelid and right forefinger,
that the vessel may not have been so much under-insured, nor the loss to
the firm so enormous as was commonly reported.
John Girdlestone, as he sat at his square office-table waiting for his
son, was undeniably a remarkable-looking man. For good or for evil no
weak character lay beneath that hard angular face, with the strongly
marked features and deep-set eyes. He was clean shaven, save for an
iron-grey fringe of ragged whisker under each ear, which blended with
the grizzled hair above. So self-contained, hard-set, and immutable was
his expression that it was impossible to read anything from it except
sternness and resolution, qualities which are as likely to be associated
with the highest natures as with the most dangerous. It may have been
on account of this ambiguity of expression that the world's estimate of
the old merchant was a very varying one. He was known to be a fanatic
in religion, a purist in morals, and a man of the strictest commercial
integrity. Yet there were some few who looked askance at him, and none,
save one, who could apply the word "friend" to him.
He rose and stood with his back to the fire-place as his son entered.
He was so tall that he towered above the younger man, but the latter's
square and compact frame made him, apart from the difference of age, the
The young man had dropped the air of sarcasm which he found was most
effective with the clerks, and had resumed his natural manner, which was
harsh and brusque.
"What's up!" he asked, dropping back into a chair, and jingling the
loose coins in his trouser pockets.
"I have had news of the _Black Eagle_," his father answered. "She is
reported from Madeira."
"Ah!" cried the junior partner eagerly. "What luck?"
"She is full, or nearly so, according to Captain Hamilton Miggs'
"I wonder Miggs was able to send a report at all, and I wonder still
more that you should put any faith in it," his son said impatiently.
"The fellow is never sober."
"Miggs is a good seaman, and popular on the coast. He may indulge at
times, but we all have our failings. Here is the list as vouched for by
our agent. 'Six hundred barrels of palm oil'--"
"Oil is down to-day," the other interrupted.
"It will rise before the _Black Eagle_ arrives," the merchant rejoined
confidently. "Then he has palm nuts in bulk, gum, ebony, skins,
cochineal, and ivory."
The young man gave a whistle of satisfaction. "Not bad for old Miggs!"
he said. "Ivory is at a fancy figure."
"We are sorely in need of a few good voyages," Girdlestone remarked,
"for things have been very slack of late. There is one very sad piece
of intelligence here which takes away the satisfaction which we might
otherwise feel. Three of the crew have died of fever. He does not
mention the names."
"The devil!" said Ezra. "We know very well what that means.
Three women, each with an armful of brats, besieging the office and
clamouring for a pension. Why are seamen such improvident dogs?"
His father held up his white hand deprecatingly. "I wish," he said,
"that you would treat these subjects with more reverence. What could be
sadder than that the bread-winner of a family should be cut off? It has
grieved me more than I can tell."
"Then you intend to pension the wives?" Ezra said, with a sly smile.
"By no means," his father returned with decision. "Girdlestone and Co.
are not an insurance office. The labourer is worthy of his hire, but
when his work in this world is over, his family must fall back upon what
has been saved by his industry and thrift. It would be a dangerous
precedent for us to allow pensions to the wives of these sailors, for it
would deprive the others of all motive for laying their money by, and
would indirectly encourage vice and dissipation."
Ezra laughed, and continued to rattle his silver and keys.
"It is not upon this matter that I desired to speak to you," Girdlestone
continued. "It has, however, always been my practice to prefer matters
of business to private affairs, however pressing. John Harston is said
to be dying, and he has sent a message to me saying that he wishes to
see me. It is inconvenient for me to leave the office, but I feel that
it is my Christian duty to obey such a summons. I wish you, therefore,
to look after things until I return."
"I can hardly believe that the news is true," Ezra said, in
astonishment. "There must be some mistake. Why, I spoke to him on
'Change last Monday."
"It is very sudden," his father answered, taking his broad-brimmed hat
from a peg. "There is no doubt about the fact, however. The doctor
says that there is very little hope that he will survive until evening.
It is a case of malignant typhoid."
"You are very old friends?" Ezra remarked, looking thoughtfully at his
"I have known him since we were boys together," the other replied, with
a slight dry cough, which was the highest note of his limited emotional
gamut. "Your mother, Ezra, died upon the very day that Harston's wife
gave birth to this daughter of his, seventeen years ago. Mrs. Harston
only survived a few days. I have heard him say that, perhaps, we should
also go together. We are in the hands of a higher Power, however, and
it seems that one shall be taken and another left."
"How will the money go if the doctors are right?" Ezra asked keenly.
"Every penny to the girl. She will be an heiress. There are no other
relations that I know of, except the Dimsdales, and they have a fair
fortune of their own. But I must go."
"By the way, malignant typhoid is very catching, is it not?"
"So they say," the merchant said quietly, and strode off through the
Ezra Girdlestone remained behind, stretching his legs In front of the
empty grate. "The governor is a hard nail," he soliloquized, as he
stared down at the shining steel bars. "Depend upon it, though, he
feels this more than he shows. Why, it's the only friend he ever had in
the world--or ever will have, in all probability. However, it's no
business of mine," with which comforting reflection he began to whistle
as he turned over the pages of the private day-book of the firm.
It is possible that his son's surmise was right, and that the gaunt,
unemotional African merchant felt an unwonted heartache as he hailed a
hansom and drove out to his friend's house at Fulham. He and Harston
had been charity schoolboys together, had roughed it together, risen
together, and prospered together. When John Girdlestone was a raw-boned
lad and Harston a chubby-faced urchin, the latter had come to look upon
the other as his champion and guide. There are some minds which are
parasitic in their nature. Alone they have little vitality, but they
love to settle upon some stronger intellect, from which they may borrow
their emotions and conclusions at second-hand. A strong, vigorous brain
collects around it in time many others, whose mental processes are a
feeble imitation of its own. Thus it came to pass that, as the years
rolled on, Harston learned to lean more and more upon his old
school-fellow, grafting many of his stern peculiarities upon his own
simple vacuous nature, until he became a strange parody of the original.
To him Girdlestone was the ideal man, Girdlestone's ways the correct
ways, and Girdlestone's opinions the weightiest of all opinions.
Forty years of this undeviating fidelity must, however he might conceal
it, have made an impression upon the feelings of the elder man.
Harston, by incessant attention to business and extreme parsimony, had
succeeded in founding an export trading concern. In this he had
followed the example of his friend. There was no fear of their
interests ever coming into collision, as his operations were confined to
the Mediterranean. The firm grew and prospered, until Harston began to
be looked upon as a warm man in the City circles. His only child was
Kate, a girl of seventeen. There were no other near relatives, save Dr.
Dimsdale, a prosperous West-end physician. No wonder that Ezra
Girdlestone's active business mind, and perhaps that of his father too,
should speculate as to the disposal of the fortune of the dying man.
Girdlestone pushed open the iron gate and strode down the gravel walk
which led to his friend's house. A bright autumn sun shining out of a
cloudless heaven bathed the green lawn and the many-coloured flower-beds
in its golden light. The air, the leaves, the birds, all spoke of life.
It was hard to think that death was closing its grip upon him who owned
them all. A plump little gentleman in black was just descending the
"Well, doctor," the merchant asked, "how is your patient?"
"You've not come with the intention of seeing him, have you?" the doctor
asked, glancing up with some curiosity at the grey face and overhanging
eyebrows of the merchant.
"Yes, I am going up to him now."
"It is a most virulent case of typhoid. He may die in an hour or he may
live until nightfall, but nothing can save him. He will hardly
recognize you, I fear, and you can do him no good. It is most
infectious, and you are incurring a needless danger. I should strongly
recommend you not to go."
"Why, you've only just come down from him yourself, doctor."
"Ah, I'm there in the way of duty."
"So am I," said the visitor decisively, and passing up the stone steps
of the entrance strode into the hall. There was a large sitting-room
upon the ground floor, through the open door of which the visitor saw a
sight which arrested him for a moment. A young girl was sitting in a
recess near the window, with her lithe, supple figure bent forward, and
her hands clasped at the back of her head, while her elbows rested upon
a small table in front of her. Her superb brown hair fell in a thick
wave on either side over her white round arms, and the graceful curve of
her beautiful neck might have furnished a sculptor with a study for a
mourning Madonna. The doctor had just broken his sad tidings to her,
and she was still in the first paroxysm of her grief--a grief too acute,
as was evident even to the unsentimental mind of the merchant, to allow
of any attempt at consolation. A greyhound appeared to think
differently, for he had placed his fore-paws upon his young mistress's
lap, and was attempting to thrust his lean muzzle between her arms and
to lick her face in token of canine sympathy. The merchant paused
irresolutely for a moment, and then ascending the broad staircase he
pushed open the door of Harston's room and entered.
The blinds were drawn down and the chamber was very dark. A pungent
whiff of disinfectants issued from it, mingled with the dank, heavy
smell of disease. The bed was in a far corner. Without seeing him,
Girdlestone could hear the fast laboured breathing of the invalid.
A trimly dressed nurse who had been sitting by the bedside rose, and,
recognizing the visitor, whispered a few words to him and left the room.
He pulled the cord of the Venetian blind so as to admit a few rays of
daylight. The great chamber looked dreary and bare, as carpet and
hangings had been removed to lessen the chance of future infection.
John Girdlestone stepped softly across to the bedside and sat down by
his dying friend.
The sufferer was lying on his back, apparently unconscious of all around
him. His glazed eyes were turned upwards towards the ceiling, and his
parched lips were parted, while the breath came in quick, spasmodic
gasps. Even the unskilled eye of the merchant could tell that the angel
of death was hovering very near him. With an ungainly attempt at
tenderness, which had something pathetic in it, he moistened a sponge
and passed it over the sick man's feverish brow. The latter turned his
restless head round, and a gleam of recognition and gratitude came into
"I knew that you would come," he said.
"Yes. I came the moment that I got your message."
"I am glad that you are here," the sufferer continued with a sigh of
relief. From the brightened expression upon his pinched face, it seemed
as if, even now in the jaws of death, he leaned upon his old
schoolfellow and looked to him for assistance. He put a wasted hand
above the counterpane and laid it upon Girdlestone's.
"I wish to speak to you, John," he said. "I am very weak. Can you hear
what I say?"
"Yes, I hear you."
"Give me a spoonful from that bottle. It clears my mind for a time.
I have been making my will, John."
"Yes," said the merchant, replacing the medicine bottle.
"The lawyer made it this morning. Stoop your head and you will hear me
better. I have less than fifty thousand. I should have done better had
I retired years ago."
"I told you so," the other broke in gruffly.
"You did--you did. But I acted for the best. Forty thousand I leave to
my dear daughter Kate."
A look of interest came over Girdlestone's face. "And the balance?" he
"I leave that to be equally divided among the various London
institutions for educating the poor. We were both poor boys ourselves,
John, and we know the value of such schools."
Girdlestone looked perhaps a trifle disappointed. The sick man went on
very slowly and painfully--
"My daughter will have forty thousand pounds. But it is so tied up that
she can neither touch it herself nor enable any one else to do so until
she is of age. She has no friends, John, and no relations, save only my
cousin, Dr. George Dimsdale. Never was a girl left more lonely and
unprotected. Take her, I beg of you, and bring her up under your own
eye. Treat her as though she were your child. Guard her above all from
those who would wreck her young life in order to share her fortune.
Do this, old friend, and make me happy on my deathbed."
The merchant made no answer. His heavy eyebrows were drawn down, and
his forehead all puckered with thought.
"You are the one man," continued the sufferer, "whom I know to be just
and upright. Give me the water, for my mouth is dry. Should, which God
forbid, my dear girl perish before she marries, then--" His breath
failed him for a moment, and he paused to recover it.
"Well, what then?"
"Then, old friend, her fortune reverts to you, for there is none who
will use it so well. Those are the terms of the will. But you will
guard her and care for her, as I would myself. She is a tender plant,
John, too weak to grow alone. Promise me that you will do right by
"I do promise it," John Girdlestone answered in a deep voice. He was
standing up now, and leaning over to catch the words of the dying man.
Harston was sinking rapidly. With a feeble motion he pointed to a
brown-backed volume upon the table.
"Take up the book," he said.
The merchant picked it up.
"Now, repeat after me, I swear and solemnly pledge myself--"
"I swear and solemnly pledge myself--
"To treasure and guard as if she were my own--" came the tremulous voice
from the bed.
"To treasure and guard as if she were my own--" in the deep bass of the
"Kate Harston, the daughter of my deceased friend--"
"Kate Harston, the daughter of my deceased friend--"
"And as I treat her, so may my own flesh and blood treat me!"
"And as I treat her, so may my own flesh and blood treat me!"
The sick man's head fell back exhausted upon his pillow. "Thank God!"
he muttered, "now I can die in peace."
"Turn your mind away from the vanities and dross of this world," John
Girdlestone said sternly, "and fix it upon that which is eternal, and
can never die."
"Are you going?" the invalid asked sadly, for he had taken up his hat
"Yes, I must go; I have an appointment in the City at six, which I must
"And I have an appointment which I must not miss," the dying man said
with a feeble smile.
"I shall send up the nurse as I go down," Girdlestone said.
"Good-bye! God bless you, John!"
The firm, strong hand of the hale man enclosed for a moment the feeble,
burning one of the sufferer. Then John Girdlestone plodded heavily down
the stair, and these friends of forty years' standing had said their
The African merchant kept his appointment in the City, but long before
he reached it John Harston had gone also to keep that last terrible
appointment of which the messenger is death.
CHARITY A LA MODE.
It was a dull October morning in Fenchurch Street, some weeks after the
events with which our story opened. The murky City air looked murkier
still through the glazed office windows. Girdlestone, grim and grey, as
though he were the very embodiment of the weather, stooped over his
mahogany table. He had a long list in front of him, on which he was
checking off, as a prelude to the day's work, the position in the market
of the various speculations in which the capital of the firm was
embarked. His son Ezra lounged in an easy chair opposite him, looking
dishevelled and dark under the eyes, for he had been up half the night,
and the Nemesis of reaction was upon him.
"Faugh!" his father ejaculated, glancing round at him with disgust.
"You have been drinking already this morning."
"I took a brandy and seltzer on the way to the office," he answered
carelessly. "I needed one to steady me."
"A young fellow of your age should not want steadying. You have a
strong constitution, but you must not play tricks with it. You must
have been very late last night. It was nearly one before I went to
"I was playing cards with Major Clutterbuck and one or two others.
We kept it up rather late."
"With Major Clutterbuck?"
"I don't care about your consorting so much with that man. He drinks
and gambles, and does you no good. What good has he ever done himself?
Take care that he does not fleece you." The merchant felt
instinctively, as he glanced at the shrewd, dark face of his son, that
the warning was a superfluous one.
"No fear, father," Ezra answered sulkily; "I am old enough to choose my
"Why such a friend as that?"
"I like to know men of that class. You are a successful man, father,
but you--well, you can't be much help to me socially. You need some one
to show you the ropes, and the major is my man. When I can stand alone,
I'll soon let him know it."
"Well, go your own way," said Girdlestone shortly. Hard to all the
world, he was soft only in this one direction. From childhood every
discussion between father and son had ended with the same words.
"It is business time," he resumed. "Let us confine ourselves to
business. I see that Illinois were at 112 yesterday."
"They are at 113 this morning."
"What! have you been on 'Change already?"
"Yes, I dropped in there on my way to the office. I would hold on to
those. They will go up for some days yet."
The senior partner made a pencil note on the margin of the list.
"We'll hold on to the cotton we have," he said.
"No, sell out at once," Ezra answered with decision, "I saw young
Featherstone, of Liverpool, last night, or rather this morning. It was
hard to make head or tail of what the fool said, but he let fall enough
to show that there was likely to be a drop."
Girdlestone made another mark upon the paper. He never questioned his
son's decisions now, for long experience had shown him that they were
never formed without solid grounds. "Take this list, Ezra," he said,
handing him the paper, "and run your eye over it. If you see anything
that wants changing, mark it."
"I'll do it in the counting-house," his son answered. "I can keep my
eye on those lazy scamps of clerks. Gilray has no idea of keeping them
As he went out he cannoned against an elderly gentleman in a white
waistcoat, who was being shown in, and who ricochetted off him into the
office, where he shook hands heartily with the elder Girdlestone.
It was evident from the laboured cordiality of the latter's greeting
that the new-comer was a man of some importance. He was, indeed, none
other than the well-known philanthropist, Mr. Jefferson Edwards, M.P.
for Middlehurst, whose name upon a bill was hardly second to that of
"How do, Girdlestone, how do?" he exclaimed, mopping his face with his
handkerchief. He was a fussy little man, with a brusque, nervous
manner. "Hard at it as usual, eh? Always pegging away. Wonderful man.
Ha, ha! Wonderful!"
"You look warm," the merchant answered, rubbing his hands. "Let me
offer you some claret. I have some in the cupboard."
"No, thank you," the visitor answered, staring across at the head of the
firm as though he were some botanical curiosity. "Extraordinary fellow.
'Iron' Girdlestone, they call you in the City. A good name, too--
ha! ha!--an excellent name. Iron-grey, you know, and hard to look at,
but soft here, my dear sir, soft here." The little man tapped him with
his walking-stick over the cardiac region and laughed boisterously,
while his grim companion smiled slightly and bowed to the compliment.
"I've come here begging," said Mr. Jefferson Edwards, producing a
portentous-looking roll of paper from an inner pocket. "Know I've come
to the right place for charity. The Aboriginal Evolution Society, my
dear boy. All it wants are a few hundreds to float it off. Noble aim,
"What _is_ the object?" the merchant asked.
"Well, the evolution of the aborigines," Edwards answered in some
confusion. "Sort of practical Darwinism. Evolve 'em into higher types,
and turn 'em all white in time. Professor Wilder gave us a lecture
about it. I'll send you round a _Times_ with the account. Spoke about
their thumbs. They can't cross them over their palms, and they have
rudimentary tails, or had until they were educated off them. They wore
all the hair off their backs by leaning against trees. Marvellous
things! All they want is a little money."
"It seems to be a praiseworthy object," the merchant said gravely.
"I knew that you would think so!" cried the little philanthropist
enthusiastically. "Of course, bartering as you do with aboriginal
races, their development and evolution is a matter of the deepest
importance to you. If a man came down to barter with you who had a
rudimentary tail and couldn't bend his thumb--well, it wouldn't be
pleasant, you know. Our idea is to elevate them in the scale of
humanity and to refine their tastes. Hewett, of the Royal Society, went
to report on the matter a year or so back, and some rather painful
incident occurred. I believe Hewett met with some mishap--in fact, they
go the length of saying that he was eaten. So you see we've had our
martyrs, my dear friend, and the least that we can do who stay at home
at ease is to support a good cause to the best of our ability."
"Whose names have you got?" asked the merchant.
"Let's see," Jefferson Edwards said, unfolding his list. "Spriggs, ten;
Morton, ten; Wigglesworth, five; Hawkins, ten; Indermann, fifteen;
Jones, five; and a good many smaller amounts."
"What is the highest as yet?"
"Indermann, the tobacco importer, has given fifteen."
"It is a good cause," Mr. Girdlestone said, dipping his pen into the
ink-bottle. "'He that giveth'--you know what the good old Book says.
Of course a list of the donations will be printed and circulated?"
"Here is my cheque for twenty-five pounds. I am proud to have had this
opportunity of contributing towards the regeneration of those poor souls
whom Providence has placed in a lower sphere than myself."
"Girdlestone," said the member of Parliament with emotion, as he
pocketed the cheque, "you are a good man. I shall not forget this, my
friend; I shall never forget it."
"Wealth has its duties, and charity is among them," Girdlestone
answered with unction, shaking the philanthropist's extended hand.
"Good-bye, my dear sir. Pray let me know if our efforts are attended
with any success. Should more money be needed, you know one who may be
There was a sardonic smile upon the hard face of the senior partner as
he closed the door behind his visitor. "It's a legitimate investment,"
he muttered to himself as he resumed his seat. "What with his
Parliamentary interest and his financial power, it's a very legitimate
investment. It looks well on the list, too, and inspires confidence.
I think the money is well spent."
Ezra had bowed politely as the great man passed through the office, and
Gilray, the wizened senior clerk, opened the outer door. Jefferson
Edwards turned as he passed him and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Lucky fellow," he said in his jerky way. "Good employer--model to
follow--great man. Watch him, mark him, imitate him--that's the way to
get on. Can't go wrong," and he trotted down the street in search of
fresh contributions towards his latest fad.
THOMAS GILRAY MAKES AN INVESTMENT.
The shambling little clerk was still standing at the door watching the
retreating figure of the millionaire, and mentally splicing together his
fragmentary remarks into a symmetrical piece of advice which might be
carried home and digested at leisure, when his attention was attracted
to a pale-faced woman, with a child in her arms, who was hanging about
the entrance. She looked up at the clerk in a wistful way, as if
anxious to address him and yet afraid to do so. Then noting, perhaps,
some gleam of kindness in his yellow wrinkled face, she came across to
"D'ye think I could see Muster Girdlestone, sir," she asked, with a
curtsey; "or, maybe, you're Mr. Girdlestone yourself?" The woman was
wretchedly dressed, and her eyelids were swollen and red as from long
"Mr. Girdlestone is in his room," said the head clerk kindly. "I have
no doubt that he will see you if you will wait for a moment." Had he
been speaking to the grandest of the be-silked and be-feathered dames
who occasionally frequented the office; he could not have spoken with
greater courtesy. Verily in these days the spirit of true chivalry has
filtered down from the surface and has found a lodgment in strange
The merchant looked with a surprised and suspicious eye at his visitor
when she was ushered in. "Take a seat, my good woman," he said.
"What can I do for you?"
"Please, Mr. Girdlestone, I'm Mrs. Hudson," she answered, seating
herself in a timid way upon the extreme edge of a chair. She was weary
and footsore, for she had carried the baby up from Stepney that morning.
"Hudson--Hudson--can't remember the name," said Girdlestone, shaking his
"Jim Hudson as was, sir, he was my husband, the bo'sun for many a year
o' your ship the _Black Eagle_. He went out to try and earn a bit for
me and the child, sir, but he's dead o' fever, poor dear, and lying in
Bonny river, wi' a cannon ball at his feet, as the carpenter himself
told me who sewed him up, and I wish I was dead and with him, so I do."
She began sobbing in her shawl and moaning, while the child, suddenly
awakened by the sound, rubbed its eyes with its wrinkled mottled hands,
and then proceeded to take stock of Mr. Girdlestone and his office with
the critical philosophy of infancy.
"Calm yourself, my good woman, calm yourself," said the senior partner.
He perceived that the evil prophesied by his son had come upon him, and
he made a mental note of this fresh instance of Ezra's powers of
"It was hard, so it was," said Mrs. Hudson, drying her eyes, but still
giving vent to an occasional tempestuous sob. "I heard as the _Black
Eagle_ was comin' up the river, so I spent all I had in my pocket in
makin' Jim a nice little supper--ham an' eggs, which was always his
favourite, an' a pint o' bitter, an' a quartern o' whiskey that he could
take hot after, bein' naturally o' a cold turn, and him comin' from a
warm country, too. Then out I goes, and down the river, until I sees
the _Black Eagle_ a-comin' up wi' a tug in front of her. Well I knowed
the two streaks o' white paint, let alone the screechin' o' the parrots
which I could hear from the bank. I could see the heads o' some of the
men peepin' over the side, so I waves my handkercher, and one o' them he
waves back. 'Trust Jim for knowin' his little wife,' says I, proud like
to myself, and I runs round to where I knew as they'd dock her.
What with me being that excited that I couldn't rightly see where I was
going, and what with the crowd, for the men was comin' from work, I
didn't get there till the ship was alongside. Then I jumps aboard, and
the first man I seed was Sandy McPherson, who I knowed when we lived in
Binnacle Lane. 'Where's Jim?' I cried, running forward, eager like, to
the forecastle, but he caught me by the arm as I passed him.
'Steady, lass, steady!' Then I looked up at him, and his face was very
grave, and my knees got kind o' weak. 'Where's Jim?' says I.
'Don't ask,' says he. 'Where is he, Sandy?' I screeches; and then,
'Don't say the word, Sandy, don't you say it.' But, Lor' bless ye, sir,
it didn't much matter what he said nor what he didn't, for I knowed all,
an' down I flops on the deck in a dead faint. The mate, he took me home
in a cab, and when I come to there was the supper lying, sir, and the
beer, and the things a-shinin', and all so cosy, an' the child askin'
where her father was, for I told her he'd bring her some things from
Africa. Then, to think of him a-lyin' dead in Bonny river, why, sir, it
nigh broke my heart."
"A sore affliction," the merchant said, shaking his grizzled head.
"A sad visitation. But these things are sent to try us, Mrs. Hudson.
They are warnings to us not to fix our thoughts too much upon the dross
of this world, but to have higher aims and more durable aspirations.
We are poor short-sighted creatures, the best of us, and often mistake
evil for good. What seems so sad to-day may, if taken in a proper
spirit, be looked back upon as a starting-point from which all the good
of your life has come."
"Bless you, sir!" said the widow, still furtively rubbing her eyes with
the corner of her little shawl. "You're a real kind gentleman. It does
me good to hear you talk."
"We have all our burdens and misfortunes," continued the senior partner.
"Some have more, some have less. To-day is your turn, to-morrow it may
be mine. But let us struggle on to the great goal, and the weight of
our burden need never cause us to sink by the wayside. And now I must
wish you a very good morning, Mrs. Hudson. Believe me, you have my
The woman rose and then stood irresolute for a moment, as though there
was something which she still wished to mention.
"When will I be able to draw Jim's back pay, sir?" she asked nervously.
"I have pawned nigh everything in the house, and the child and me is
weak from want of food."
"Your husband's back pay," the merchant said, taking down a ledger from
the shelf and turning rapidly over the leaves. "I think that you are
under a delusion, Mrs. Hudson. Let me see--Dawson, Duffield, Everard,
Francis, Gregory, Gunter, Hardy. Ah, here it is--Hudson, boatswain of
the _Black Eagle_. The wages which he received amounted, I see, to five
pounds a month. The voyage lasted eight months, but the ship had only
been out two months and a half when your husband died."
"That's true, sir," the widow said, with an anxious look at the long
line of figures in the ledger.
"Of course, the contract ended at his death, so the firm owed him twelve
pounds ten at that date. But I perceive from my books that you have
been drawing half-pay during the whole eight months. You have
accordingly had twenty pounds from the firm, and are therefore in its
debt to the amount of seven pounds ten shillings. We'll say nothing of
that at present," the senior partner concluded with a magnificent air.
"When you are a little better off you can make good the balance, but
really you can hardly expect us to assist you any further at present."
"But, sir, we have nothing," Mrs. Hudson sobbed.
"It is deplorable, most deplorable. But we are not the people to apply
to. Your own good sense will tell you that, now that I have explained
it to you. Good morning. I wish you good fortune, and hope you will
let us know from time to time how you go on. We always take a keen
interest in the families of those who serve us." Mr. Girdlestone opened
the door, and the heart-sick little woman staggered away across the
office, still bearing her heavy child.
When she got into the open air she stared around her like one dazed.
The senior clerk looked anxiously at her as he stood at the open door.
Then he glanced back into the office. Ezra Girdlestone was deep in some
accounts, and his brother clerks were all absorbed in their work. He
stole up to the woman, with an apologetic smile, slipped something into
her hand, and then hurried back into the office with an austere look
upon his face, as if his whole mind were absorbed in the affairs of the
firm. There are speculations above the ken of business men. Perhaps,
Thomas Gilray, that ill-spared half-crown of yours may bring in better
interest than the five-and-twenty pounds of your employer.
CAPTAIN HAMILTON MIGGS OF THE "BLACK EAGLE."
The head of the firm had hardly recovered his mental serenity after the
painful duty of explaining her financial position to the Widow Hudson,
when his quick ear caught the sound of a heavy footstep in the
counting-house. A gruff voice was audible at the same time, which
demanded in rather more energetic language than was usually employed in
that orderly establishment, whether the principal was to be seen or not.
The answer was evidently in the affirmative, for the lumbering tread
came rapidly nearer, and a powerful double knock announced that the
visitor was at the other side of the door.
"Come in," cried Mr. Girdlestone, laying down his pen.
This invitation was so far complied with that the handle turned, and the
door revolved slowly upon its hinges. Nothing more substantial than a
strong smell of spirituous liquors, however, entered the apartment.
"Come in," the merchant repeated impatiently.
At this second mandate a great tangled mass of black hair was slowly
protruded round the angle of the door. Then a copper-coloured forehead
appeared, with a couple of very shaggy eyebrows and eventually a pair of
eyes, which protruded from their sockets and looked yellow and
unhealthy. These took a long look, first at the senior partner and then
at his surroundings, after which, as if reassured by the inspection, the
remainder of the face appeared--a flat nose, a large mouth with a lower
lip which hung down and exposed a line of tobacco-stained teeth, and
finally a thick black beard which bristled straight out from the chin,
and bore abundant traces of an egg having formed part of its owner's
morning meal. The head having appeared, the body soon followed it,
though all in the same anaconda-like style of progression, until the
individual stood revealed. He was a stoutly-built sea-faring man,
dressed in a pea jacket and blue trousers and holding his tarpaulin hat
in his hand. With a rough scrape and a most unpleasant leer he advanced
towards the merchant, a tattoed and hairy hand outstretched in sign of
"Why, captain," said the head of the firm, rising and grasping the
other's hand with effusion, "I am glad to see you back safe and well."
"Glad to see ye, sir--glad to see ye."
His voice was thick and husky, and there was an indecision about his
gait as though he had been drinking heavily. "I came in sort o'
cautious," he continued, "'cause I didn't know who might be about.
When you and me speaks together we likes to speak alone, you bet."
The merchant raised his bushy eyebrows a little, as though he did not
relish the idea of mutual confidences suggested by his companion's
remark. "Hadn't you better take a seat?" he said.
The other took a cane-bottomed chair and carried it into the extreme
corner of the office. Then having looked steadily at the wall behind
him, and rapped it with his knuckles, he sat down, still throwing an
occasional apprehensive glance over his shoulder. "I've got a touch of
the jumps," he remarked apologetically to his employer. "I likes to
_know_ as there ain't no one behind me."
"You should give up this shocking habit of drinking," Mr. Girdlestone
said seriously. "It is a waste of the best gifts with which Providence
has endowed us. You are the worse for it both in this world and in the
Captain Hamilton Miggs did not seem to be at all impressed by this very
sensible piece of advice. On the contrary, he chuckled boisterously to
himself, and, slapping his thigh, expressed his opinion that his
employer was a "rum 'un"--a conviction which he repeated to himself
several times with various symptoms of admiration.
"Well, well," Girdlestone said, after a short pause, "boys will be boys,
and sailors, I suppose, will be sailors. After eight months of anxiety
and toil, ending in success, captain--I am proud to be able to say the
words--some little licence must be allowed. I do not judge others by
the same hard and fast lines by which I regulate my own conduct."
This admirable sentiment also failed to elicit any response from the
obdurate Miggs, except the same manifestations of mirth and the same
audible aside as to the peculiarities of his master's character.
"I must congratulate you on your cargo, and wish you the same luck for
your next voyage," the merchant continued.
"Ivory, an' gold dust, an' skins, an' resin, an' cochineal, an' gums,
an' ebony, an' rice, an' tobacco, an' fruits, an' nuts in bulk.
If there's a better cargo about, I'd like to see it," the sailor said
"An excellent cargo, captain; very good indeed. Three of your men died,
"Ay, three of the lubbers went under. Two o' fever and one o'
snake-bite. It licks me what sailors are comin' to in these days.
When I was afore the mast we'd ha' been ashamed to die o' a trifle like
that. Look at me. I've been down wi' coast fever sixteen times, and
I've had yellow jack an' dysentery, an' I've been bit by the black cobra
in the Andamans. I've had cholera, too. It broke out in a brig when I
was in the Sandwich Island trade, and I was shipmates wi' seven dead out
o' a crew o' ten. But I ain't none the worse for it--no, nor never will
be. But I say, gov'nor, hain't you got a drop of something about the
The senior partner rose, and taking a bottle from the cupboard filled
out a stiff glass of rum. The sailor drank it off eagerly, and laid
down the empty tumbler with a sigh of satisfaction.
"Say, now," he said, with an unpleasant confidential leer, "weren't you
surprised to see us come back--eh? Straight now, between man and man?"
"The old ship hangs together well, and has lots of work in her yet," the
"Lots of work! God's truth, I thought she was gone in the bay! We'd a
dirty night with a gale from the west-sou'-west, an' had been goin' by
dead reckonin' for three days, so we weren't over and above sure o'
ourselves. She wasn't much of a sea-going craft when we left England,
but the sun had fried all the pitch out o' her seams, and you might ha'
put your finger through some of them. Two days an' a night we were at
the pumps, for she leaked like a sieve. We lost the fore topsail, blown
clean out o' the ringbolts. I never thought to see Lunnon again."
"If she could weather a gale like that she could make another voyage."
"She could start on another," the sailor said gloomily, "but as like as
not she'd never see the end o't."
"Come, come, you're not quite yourself this morning, Miggs. We value
you as a dashing, fearless fellow--let me fill your glass again--who
doesn't fear a little risk where there's something to be gained.
You'll lose your good name if you go on like that."
"She's in a terrible bad way," the captain insisted. "You'll have to do
something before she can go."
"What shall we have to do?"
"Dry dock her and give her a thorough overhaul. She might sink before
she got out o' the Channel if she went as she is just now."
"Very well," the merchant said coldly. "If you insist on it, it must be
done. But, of course, it would make a great difference in your salary."
"You are at present getting fifteen pounds a month, and five per cent.
commission. These are exceptional terms in consideration of any risk
that you may run. We shall dry dock the _Black Eagle_, and your salary
is now ten pounds a month and two and a half commission."
"Belay, there, belay!" the sailor shouted. His coppery face was a shade
darker than usual, and his bilious eyes had a venomous gleam in them.
"Don't you beat me down, curse you!" he hissed, advancing to the table
and leaning his hands upon it while he pushed his angry face forward
until it was within a foot of that of the merchant. "Don't you try that
game on, mate, for I am a free-born British seaman, and I am under the
thumb of no man."
"You're drunk," said the senior partner. "Sit down!"
"You'd reduce my screw, would ye?" roared Captain Hamilton Miggs,
working himself into a fury. "Me that has worked for ye, and slaved for
ye, and risked my life for ye. You try it on, guv'nor; just you try it
on! Suppose I let out that little story o' the painting out o' the
marks--where would the firm of Girdlestone be then! I guess you'd
rather double my wage than have that yarn goin' about."
"What do you mean?"
"What do I mean? You don't know what I mean, do you? Of course not.
It wasn't you as set us on to go at night and paint out the Government
Plimsoll marks and then paint 'em in again higher up, so as to be able
to overload. That wasn't you, was it?"
"Do you mean to assert that it was?"
"In course I do," thundered the angry seaman.
The senior partner struck the gong which stood upon the table.
"Gilray," he said quietly, "go out and bring in a policeman."
Captain Hamilton Miggs seemed to be somewhat startled by this sudden
move of his antagonist. "Steady your helm, governor," he said.
"What are ye up to now?"
"I'm going to give you in charge."
"For intimidation and using threatening language, and endeavouring to
extort money under false pretences."
"There's no witnesses," the sailor said in a half-cringing, half-defiant
"Oh yes, there are," Ezra Girdlestone remarked, coming into the room.
He had been standing between the two doors which led to the
counting-house, and had overheard the latter portion of the
conversation. "Don't let me interrupt you. You were saying that you
would blacken my father's character unless he increased your salary."
"I didn't mean no harm," said Captain Hamilton Miggs, glancing nervously
from the one to the other. He had been fairly well known to the law in
his younger days, and had no desire to renew the acquaintance.
"Who painted out those Plimsoll marks?" asked the merchant.
"It was me."
"Did any one suggest it to you?"
"Shall I send in the policeman, sir?" asked Gilray, opening the door.
"Ask him to wait for a moment," Girdlestone answered.
"And now, captain, to return to the original point, shall we dry dock
the _Black Eagle_ and reduce the salary, or do you see your way to going
back in her on the same terms?"
"I'll go back and be damned to it!" said the captain recklessly,
plunging his hands into the pockets of his pea jacket and plumping back
into his chair.
"That's right," his grim employer remarked approvingly.
"But swearing is a most sinful practice. Send the policeman away,
The young man went out with an amused smile, and the two were left
"You'll not be able to pass the Government inspector unless you do
something to her," the seaman said after a long pause, during which he
brooded over his wrongs.
"Of course we shall do something. The firm is not mean, though it
avoids unnecessary expense. We'll put a coat of paint on her, and some
pitch, and do up the rigging. She's a stout old craft, and with one of
the smartest sailors afloat in command of her--for we always give you
credit for being that--she'll run many a voyage yet."
"I'm paid for the risk, guv'nor, as you said just now," the sailor
remarked. "But don't it seem kind o' hard on them as isn't--on the
mates an' the hands?"
"There is always a risk, my dear captain. There is nothing in the world
without risk. You remember what is said about those who go down to the
sea in ships. They see the wonders of the deep, and in return they
incur some little danger. My house in Eccleston Square might be shaken
down by an earthquake, or a gale might blow in the walls, but I'm not
always brooding over the chance of it. There's no use your taking it
for granted that some misfortune will happen to the _Black Eagle_."
The sailor was silenced, but not convinced by his employer's logic.
"Well, well," he said sulkily, "I am going, so there's an end of it, and
there's no good in having any more palaver about it. You have your
object in running rotten ships, and you make it worth my while to take
my chances in them. I'm suited, and you're suited, so there's no more
to be said."
"That's right. Have some more rum?"
"No, not a spot."
"Because I likes to keep my head pretty clear when I'm a-talkin' to you,
Muster Girdlestone. Out o' your office I'll drink to further orders,
but I won't do business and muddle myself at the same time. When d'ye
want me to start?"
"When she's unloaded and loaded up again. Three weeks or a month yet.
I expect that Spender will have come in with the _Maid of Athens_ by
"Unless some accident happens on the way," said Captain Hamilton Miggs,
with his old leer. "He was at Sierra Leone when we came up the coast.
I couldn't put in there, for the swabs have got a warrant out ag'in me
for putting a charge o' shot into a nigger."
"That was a wicked action--very wrong, indeed," the merchant said
gravely. "You must consider the interests of the firm, Miggs. We can't
afford to have a good port blocked against our ships in this fashion.
Did they serve this writ on you?"
"Another nigger brought it aboard."
"Did you read it?"
"No; I threw it overboard."
"And what became of the negro?"
"Well," said Miggs with a grin, "when I threw the writ overboard he
happened to be a-holdin' on to it. So, ye see, he went over, too.
Then I up anchor and scooted."
"There are sharks about there?"
"Really, Miggs," the merchant said, "you must restrain your sinful
passions. You have broken the fifth commandment, and closed the trade
of Freetown to the _Black Eagle_."
"It never was worth a rap," the sailor answered. "I wouldn't give a
cuss for any of the British settlements. Give me real niggers, chaps as
knows nothing of law or civilizing, or any rot of the sort. I can pull
along with them.
"I have often wondered how you managed it," Girdlestone said curiously.
"You succeed in picking up a cargo where the steadiest and best men
can't get as much as a bag of nuts. How do you work it?"
"There's many would like to know that," Miggs answered, with an
"It is a secret, then?"
"Well, it ain't a secret to you, 'cause you ain't a skipper, and it
don't matter if you knows it or not. I don't want to have 'em all at
the same game."
"How is it, then?"
"I'll tell ye," said Miggs. He seemed to have recovered his serenity by
this time, and his eyes twinkled as he spoke of his own exploits.
"I gets drunk with them. That's how I does it."
"Yes, that's how it's worked. Lord love ye, when these fust-class
certificated, second-cousin-to-an-earl merchant skippers comes out they
move about among the chiefs and talks down to them as if they was tin
Methuselahs on wheels. The Almighty's great coat wouldn't make a
waistcoat for some o' these blokes. Now when I gets among 'em I has 'em
all into the cabin, though they're black an' naked, an' the smell ain't
over an' above pleasant. Then I out with the rum and it's 'help
yourself an' pass the bottle.' Pretty soon, d'ye see, their tongues get
loosened, and as I lie low an' keep dark I gets a pretty good idea o'
what's in the market. Then when I knows what's to be got, it's queer if
I don't manage to get it. Besides, they like a little notice, just as
Christians does, and they remembers me because I treat them well."
"An excellent plan, Miggs--a capital plan!" said the senior partner.
"You are an invaluable servant."
"Well," the captain said, rising from his chair, "I'm getting a great
deal too dry with all this palaver. I don't mind gettin' drunk with
nigger chiefs, but I'm darned if I'll--" He paused, but the grim smile
on his companion's face showed that he appreciated the compliment.
"I say," he continued, giving his employer a confidential nudge with his
elbow, "suppose we'd gone down in the bay this last time, you'd ha' been
a bit out in your reckoning--eh, what?"
"Well, we were over-insured on our outward passage. An accident then
might ha' put thousands in your pocket, I know. Coming back, though,
the cargo was worth more than the insurance, I reckon. You'd ha' been
out o' pocket if we'd foundered. It would ha' been a case o' the
engineer hoisted on his own Peter, as Shakspere says."
"We take our chance of these things," the merchant said with dignity.
"Well, good morning, guv'nor," Captain Hamilton Miggs said brusquely.
"When you wants me you can lay your hands on me at the old crib, the
_Cock and Cowslip_, Rotherhithe."
As he passed out through the office, Ezra rejoined his father.
"He's a curious chap," he remarked, jerking his head in the direction
which Miggs had taken. "I heard him bellowing like a bull, so I thought
I had best listen to what he had to say. He's a useful servant,
"The fellow's half a savage himself," his father said. "He's in his
element among them. That's why he gets on so well with them."
"He doesn't seem much the worse for the climate, either."
"His body does not, but his soul, Ezra, his soul? However, to return to
business. I wish you to see the underwriters and pay the premium of the
_Black Eagle_. If you see your way to it, increase the policy; but do
it carefully, Ezra, and with tact. She will start about the time of the
equinoctial gales. If anything _should_ happen to her, it would be as
well that the firm should have a margin on the right side."
Edinburgh University may call herself with grim jocoseness the "alma
mater" of her students, but if she be a mother at all she is one of a
very heroic and Spartan cast, who conceals her maternal affection with
remarkable success. The only signs of interest which she ever designs
to evince towards her alumni are upon those not infrequent occasions
when guineas are to be demanded from them. Then one is surprised to
find how carefully the old hen has counted her chickens, and how
promptly the demand is conveyed to each one of the thousands throughout
the empire who, in spite of neglect, cherish a sneaking kindness for
their old college. There is symbolism in the very look of her, square
and massive, grim and grey, with never a pillar or carving to break the
dead monotony of the great stone walls. She is learned, she is
practical, and she is useful. There is little sentiment or romance in
her composition, however, and in this she does but conform to the
instincts of the nation of which she is the youngest but the most
A lad coming up to an English University finds himself In an enlarged
and enlightened public school. If he has passed through Harrow and Eton
there is no very abrupt transition between the life which he has led in
the sixth form and that which he finds awaiting him on the banks of the
Cam and the Isis. Certain rooms are found for him which have been
inhabited by generations of students in the past, and will be by as many
in the future. His religion is cared for, and he is expected to put in
an appearance at hall and at chapel. He must be within bounds at a
fixed time. If he behave indecorously he is liable to be pounced upon
and reported by special officials, and a code of punishments is hung
perpetually over his head. In return for all this his University takes
a keen interest in him. She pats him on the back if he succeeds.
Prizes and scholarships, and fine fat fellowships are thrown plentifully
in his way if he will gird up his loins and aspire to them.
There is nothing of this in a Scotch University. The young aspirant
pays his pound, and finds himself a student. After that he may do
absolutely what he will. There are certain classes going on at certain
hours, which he may attend if he choose. If not, he may stay away
without the slightest remonstrance from the college. As to religion, he
may worship the sun, or have a private fetish of his own upon the
mantelpiece of his lodgings for all that the University cares. He may
live where he likes, he may keep what hours he chooses, and he is at
liberty to break every commandment in the decalogue as long as he
behaves himself with some approach to decency within the academical
precincts. In every way he is absolutely his own master. Examinations
are periodically held, at which he may appear or not, as he chooses.
The University is a great unsympathetic machine, taking in a stream of
raw-boned cartilaginous youths at one end, and turning them out at the
other as learned divines, astute lawyers, and skilful medical men.
Of every thousand of the raw material about six hundred emerge at the
other side. The remainder are broken in the process.
The merits and faults of this Scotch system are alike evident.
Left entirely to his own devices in a far from moral city, many a lad
falls at the very starting-point of his life's race, never to rise
again. Many become idlers or take to drink, while others, after wasting
time and money which they could ill afford, leave the college with
nothing learned save vice. On the other hand, those whose manliness and
good sense keep them straight have gone through a training which lasts
them for life. They have been tried, and have not been found wanting.
They have learned self-reliance, confidence, and, in a word, have become
men of the world while their _confreres_ in England are still magnified
High up in a third flat in Howe Street one, Thomas Dimsdale, was going
through his period of probation in a little bedroom and a large
sitting-room, which latter, "more studentium," served the purpose of
dining-room, parlour, and study. A dingy sideboard, with four still
more dingy chairs and an archaeological sofa, made up the whole of the
furniture, with the exception of a circular mahogany centre-table,
littered with note-books and papers. Above the mantelpiece was a
fly-blown mirror with innumerable cards and notices projecting in a
fringe all around, and a pair of pipe racks flanking it on either side.
Along the centre of the side-board, arranged with suspicious neatness,
as though seldom disturbed, stood a line of solemn books, Holden's
_Osteology_, Quain's _Anatomy_, Kirkes' _Physiology_, and Huxley's
_Invertebrata_, together with a disarticulated human skull. On one side
of the fireplace two thigh bones were stacked; on the other a pair of
foils, two basket-hilted single-sticks, and a set of boxing-gloves.
On a shelf in a convenient niche was a small stock of general
literature, which appeared to have been considerably more thumbed than
the works upon medicine. Thackeray's _Esmond_ and Meredith's _Richard
Feveret_ rubbed covers with Irving's _Conquest of Granada_ and a
tattered line of paper-covered novels. Over the sideboard was a framed
photograph of the Edinburgh University Football Fifteen, and opposite it
a smaller one of Dimsdale himself, clad in the scantiest of garb, as he
appeared after winning the half-mile at the Inter-University Handicap.
A large silver goblet, the trophy of that occasion, stood underneath
upon a bracket. Such was the student's chamber upon the morning in
question, save that in a roomy arm-chair in the corner the young
gentleman himself was languidly reclining, with a short wooden pipe in
his mouth, and his feet perched up upon the side of the table.
Grey-eyed, yellow-haired, broad in the chest and narrow in the loins,
with the strength of a bullock and the graceful activity of a stag, it
would be hard to find a finer specimen of young British manhood.
The long, fine curves of the limbs, and the easy pose of the round,
strong head upon the thick, muscular neck, might have served as a model
to an Athenian sculptor. There was nothing in the face, however, to
recall the regular beauty of the East. It was Anglo-Saxon to the last
feature, with its honest breadth between the eyes and its nascent
moustache, a shade lighter in colour than the sun-burned skin. Shy,
and yet strong; plain, and yet pleasing; it was the face of a type of
man who has little to say for himself in this world, and says that
little badly, but who has done more than all the talkers and the writers
to ring this planet round with a crimson girdle of British possessions.
"Wonder whether Jack Garraway is ready!" he murmured, throwing down the
_Scotsman_, and staring up at the roof. "It's nearly eleven o'clock."
He rose with a yawn, picked up the poker, stood upon the chair, and
banged three times upon the ceiling. Three muffled taps responded from
the room above. Dimsdale stepped down and began slowly to discard his
coat and his waistcoat. As he did so there was a quick, active step
upon the stair, and a lean, wiry-looking, middle-sized young fellow
stepped into the room. With a nod of greeting he pushed the table over
to one side, threw off his two upper garments, and pulled on a pair of
the boxing-gloves from the corner. Dimsdale had already done the same,
and was standing, a model of manly grace and strength, in the centre of
"Practice your lead, Jack. About here." He tapped the centre of his
forehead with his swollen gauntlet.
His companion poised himself for a moment, and then, lashing out with
his left hand, came home with a heavy thud on the place indicated.
Dimsdale smiled gently and shook his head.
"It won't do," he said.
"I hit my hardest," the other answered apologetically.
"It won't do. Try again."
The visitor repeated the blow with all the force that he could command.
Dimsdale shook his head again despondently. "You don't seem to catch
it," he said. "It's like this." He leaned forward, there was the sound
of a sharp clip, and the novice shot across the room with a force that
nearly sent his skull through the panel of the door.
"That's it," said Dimsdale mildly.
"Oh, it is, is it?" the other responded, rubbing his head.
"It's deucedly interesting, but I think I would understand it better if
I saw you do it to some one else. It is something between the explosion
of a powder magazine and a natural convulsion."
His instructor smiled grimly. "That's the only way to learn," he said.
"Now we shall have three minutes of give-and-take, and so ends the
While this little scene was being enacted in the lodgings of the
student, a very stout little elderly man was walking slowly down Howe
Street, glancing up at the numbers upon the doors. He was square and
deep and broad, like a bottle of Geneva, with a large ruddy face and a
pair of bright black eyes, which were shrewd and critical, and yet had a
merry twinkle of eternal boyishness in their depths. Bushy side
whiskers, shot with grey, flanked his rubicund visage, and he threw out
his feet as he walked with the air of a man who is on good terms with
himself and with every one around him.
At No.13 he stopped and rapped loudly upon the door with the head of his
metal-headed stick. "Mrs. McTavish?" he asked, as a hard-lined, angular
woman responded to his summons.
"That's me, sir."
"Mr. Dimsdale lives with you, I believe?"
"Third floor front, sir."
"Is he in?"
Suspicion shone in the woman's eyes. "Was it aboot a bill?" she asked.
"A bill, my good woman! No, no, nothing of the kind. Dr. Dimsdale is
my name. I am the lad's father--just come up from London to see him.
I hope he has not been overworking himself?"
A ghost of a smile played about the woman's face. "I think not, sir,"
"I almost wish I had come round in the afternoon," said the visitor,
standing with his thick legs astride upon the door-mat. "It seems a
pity to break his chain of thought. The morning is his time for study."
"Houts! I wouldna' fash aboot that."
"Well! well! The third floor, you say. He did not expect me so early,
I shall surprise the dear boy at his work."
The landlady stood listening expectantly in the passage. The sturdy
little man plodded heavily up the first flight of stairs. He paused on
"Dear me!" he murmured. "Some one is beating carpets. How can they
expect poor Tom to read?"
At the second landing the noise was much louder. "It must be a dancing
school," conjectured the doctor.
When he reached his son's door, however, there could no longer be any
doubt as to whence the sounds proceeded. There was the stamp and
shuffle of feet, the hissing of in-drawn breath, and an occasional soft
thud, as if some one were butting his head against a bale of wool.
"It's epilepsy," gasped the doctor, and turning the handle he rushed
into the room.
One hurried glance showed him the struggle which was going on.
There was no time to note details. Some maniac was assaulting his Tom.
He sprang at the man, seized him round the waist, dragged him to the
ground, and seated himself upon him. "Now tie his hands," he said
complacently, as he balanced himself upon the writhing figure.
A RECTORIAL ELECTION.
It took some little time before his son, who was half-choked with
laughter, could explain to the energetic doctor that the gentleman upon
whom he was perched was not a dangerous lunatic, but, on the contrary, a
very harmless and innocent member of society. When at last it was made
clear to him, the doctor released his prisoner and was profuse in his
"This is my father, Garraway," said Dimsdale. "I hardly expected him so
"I must offer you a thousand apologies, sir. The fact is that I am
rather short-sighted, and had no time to put my glasses on. It seemed
to me to be a most dangerous scuffle."
"Don't mention it, sir," said Garraway, with great good humour.
"And you, Tom, you rogue, is this the way you spend your mornings?
I expected to find you deep in your books. I told your landlady that I
hardly liked to come up for fear of disturbing you at your work. You go
up for your first professional in a few weeks, I understand?"
"That will be all right, dad," said his son demurely. "Garraway and I
usually take a little exercise of this sort as a preliminary to the
labours of the day. Try this armchair and have a cigarette."
The doctor's eye fell upon the medical works and the disarticulated
skull, and his ill-humour departed.
"You have your tools close at hand, I see," he remarked.
"Yes, dad, all ready."
"Those bones bring back old memories to me. I am rusty in my anatomy,
but I dare say I could stump you yet. Let me see now. What are the
different foramina of the sphenoid bone, and what structures pass
through them? Eh?"
"Coming!" yelled his son. "Coming!" and dashed out of the room.
"I didn't hear any one call," observed the doctor.
"Didn't you, sir?" said Garraway, pulling on his coat. "I thought I
heard a noise."
"You read with my son, I believe?"
"Then perhaps you can tell me what the structures are which pass through
the foramina of the sphenoid?"
"Oh yes, sir. There is the--All right, Tom, all right! Excuse me, sir!
He is calling me;" and Garraway vanished as precipitately as his friend
had done. The doctor sat alone, puffing at his cigarette, and brooding
over his own dullness of hearing.
Presently the two students returned, looking just a little shame-faced,
and plunged instantly into wild talk about the weather, the town, and
the University--anything and everything except the sphenoid bone.
"You have come in good time to see something of University life," said
young Dimsdale. "To-day we elect our new Lord Rector. Garraway and I
will take you down and show you the sights."
"I have often wished to see something of it," his father answered.
"I was apprenticed to my profession, Mr. Garraway, in the old-fashioned
way, and had few opportunities of attending college."
"But I can imagine it all. What can be more charming than the sight of
a community of young men all striving after knowledge, and emulating
each other in the ardour of their studies? Not that I would grudge them
recreation. I can fancy them strolling in bands round the classic
precincts of their venerable University, and amusing themselves by
discussing the rival theories of physiologists or the latest additions
to the pharmacopoeia."
Garraway had listened with becoming gravity to the commencement of this
speech, but at the last sentence he choked and vanished for the second
time out of the room.
"Your friend seems amused," remarked Dr. Dimsdale mildly.
"Yes. He gets taken like that sometimes," said his son. "His brothers
are just the same. I have hardly had a chance yet to say how glad I am
to see you, dad."
"And I to see you, my dear boy. Your mother and Kate come up by the
night train. I have private rooms at the hotel."
"Kate Harston! I can only remember her as a little quiet girl with long
brown hair. That was six years ago. She promised to be pretty."
"Then she has fulfilled her promise. But you shall judge that for
yourself. She is the ward of John Girdlestone, the African merchant,
but we are the only relations she has upon earth. Her father was my
second cousin. She spends a good deal of her time now with us at
Phillimore Gardens--as much as her guardian will allow. He prefers to
have her under his own roof, and I don't blame him, for she is like a
ray of sunshine in the house. It was like drawing his teeth to get him
to consent to this little holiday, but I stuck at it until I wearied him
out--fairly wearied him out." The little doctor chuckled at the thought
of his victory, and stretched out his thick legs towards the fire.
"This examination will prevent me from being with you as much as I
"That's right, my boy; let nothing interfere with your work."
"Still, I think I am pretty safe. I am glad they have come now, for
next Wednesday is the international football match. Garraway and I are
the two Scotch half-backs. You must all come down and see it."
"I'll tell you what, Dimsdale," said Garraway, reappearing in the
doorway, "if we don't hurry up we shall see nothing of the election.
It is close on twelve."
"I am all ready," cried Dr. Dimsdale, jumping to his feet and buttoning
"Let us be off, then," said his son; and picking up hats and sticks they
clattered off down the lodging-house stairs.
A rectorial election is a peculiarly Scotch institution, and, however it
may strike the impartial observer, it is regarded by the students
themselves as a rite of extreme solemnity and importance from which
grave issues may depend. To hear the speeches and addresses of rival
orators one would suppose that the integrity of the constitution and the
very existence of the empire hung upon the return of their special
nominee. Two candidates are chosen from the most eminent of either
party and a day is fixed for the polling. Every undergraduate has a
vote, but the professors have no voice in the matter. As the duties are
nominal and the position honourable, there is never any lack of
distinguished aspirants for a vacancy. Occasionally some well-known
literary or scientific man is invited to become a candidate, but as a
rule the election is fought upon strictly political lines, with all the
old-fashioned accompaniments of a Parliamentary contest.
For months before the great day there is bustle and stir. Secret
committees meet, rules are formulated, and insidious agents prowl about
with an eye to the political training of those who have not yet nailed
their colours to any particular mast. Then comes a grand meeting of the
Liberal Students' Association, which is trumped by a dinner of the
Undergraduates' Conservative Society. The campaign is then in full
swing. Great boards appear at the University gates, on which pithy
satires against one or other candidate, parodies on songs, quotations
from their speeches, and gaudily painted cartoons are posted. Those who
are supposed to be able to feel the pulse of the University move about
with the weight of much knowledge upon their brows, throwing out hints
as to the probable majority one way or the other. Some profess to know
it to a nicety. Others shake their heads and remark vaguely that there
is not much to choose either way. So week after week goes by, until the
excitement reaches a climax when the date of the election comes round.
There was no need upon that day for Dr. Dimsdale or any other stranger
in the town to ask his way to the University, for the whooping and
yelling which proceeded from that usually decorous building might have
been heard from Prince's Street to Newington. In front of the gates was
a dense crowd of townspeople peering through into the quadrangle, and
deriving much entertainment from the movements of the lively young
gentlemen within. Large numbers of the more peaceable undergraduates
stood about under the arches, and these quickly made a way for the
newcomers, for both Garraway and Dimsdale as noted athletes commanded a
respect among their fellow-students which medallists and honours men
might look for in vain.
The broad open quadrangle, and all the numerous balconies and terraces
which surround it, were crowded with an excited mob of students. The
whole three thousand odd electors who stand upon the college rolls
appeared to be present, and the noise which they were making would have
reflected credit on treble their number. The dense crowd surged and
seethed without pause or rest. Now and again some orator would be
hoisted up on the shoulders of his fellows, when an oscillation of the
crowd would remove his supporters and down he would come, only to be
succeeded by another at some other part of the assembly. The name of
either candidate would produce roars of applause and equally vigorous
howls of execration. Those who were lucky enough to be in the balconies
above hurled down missiles on the crowd beneath--peas, eggs, potatoes,
and bags of flour or of sulphur; while those below, wherever they found
room to swing an arm, returned the fusillade with interest.
The doctor's views of academical serenity and the high converse of
pallid students vanished into thin air as he gazed upon the mad
tumultuous scene. Yet, in spite of his fifty years, he laughed as
heartily as any boy at the wild pranks of the young politicians, and the
ruin which was wrought upon broad-cloth coat and shooting jacket by the
hail of unsavoury projectiles.
The crowd was most dense and most noisy in front of the class-room in
which the counting of the votes was going forward. At one the result
was to be announced, and as the long hand of the great clock crept
towards the hour, a hush of expectation fell upon the assembly.
The brazen clang broke harshly out, and at the same moment the folding
doors were flung open, and a knot of men rushed out into the crowd, who
swirled and eddied round them. The centre of the throng was violently
agitated, and the whole mass of people swayed outwards and inwards.
For a minute or two the excited combatants seethed and struggled without
a clue as to the cause of the commotion. Then the corner of a large
placard was elevated above the heads of the rioters, on which was
visible the word "Liberal" in great letters, but before it could be
raised further it was torn down, and the struggle became fiercer than
ever. Up came the placard again--the other corner this time--with the
word "Majority" upon it, and then immediately vanished as before.
Enough had been seen, however, to show which way the victory had gone,
and shouts of triumph arose everywhere, with waving of hats and clatter
of sticks. Meanwhile, in the centre the two parties fought round the
placard, and the commotion began to cover a wider area, as either side
was reinforced by fresh supporters. One gigantic Liberal seized the
board, and held it aloft for a moment, so that it could be seen in its
entirety by the whole multitude:
But his triumph was short-lived. A stick descended upon his head, his
heels were tripped up, and he and his placard rolled upon the ground
together. The victors succeeded, however, in forcing their way to the
extreme end of the quadrangle, where, as every Edinburgh man knows, the
full-length statue of Sir David Brewster looks down upon the classic
ground which he loved so well. An audacious Radical swarmed up upon the
pedestal and balanced the obnoxious notice on the marble arms of the
professor. Thus converted into a political partisan, the revered
inventor of the kaleidoscope became the centre of a furious struggle,
the vanquished politicians making the most desperate efforts to destroy
the symbol of their opponents' victory, while the others offered an
equally vigorous resistance to their attacks. The struggle was still
proceeding when Dimsdale removed his father, for it was impossible to
say what form the riot might assume.
"What Goths! what barbarians!" cried the little doctor, as they walked
down the Bridges. "And this is my dream of refined quiet and studious
"They are not always like that, sir," said his son apologetically.
"They were certainly a little jolly to-day."
"A little jolly!" cried the doctor. "You rogue, Tom. I believe if I
had not been there you would have been their ringleader."
He glanced from one to the other, and it was so evident from the
expression of their faces that he had just hit the mark, that he burst
into a great guffaw of laughter, in which, after a moment's hesitation,
his two young companions heartily joined.
ENGLAND VERSUS SCOTLAND.
The rectorial election had come and had gone, but another great event
had taken its place. It was the day of the England and Scotland Rugby
Better weather could not have been desired. The morning had been hazy,
but as the sun shone out the fog had gradually risen, until now there
remained but a suspicion of it, floating like a plume, above the
frowning walls of Edinburgh Castle, and twining a fairy wreath round the
unfinished columns of the national monument upon the Calton Hill.
The broad stretch of the Prince's Street Gardens, which occupy the
valley between the old town and the new, looked green and spring-like,
and their fountains sparkled merrily in the sunshine. Their wide
expanse, well-trimmed and bepathed, formed a strange contrast to the
rugged piles of grim old houses which bounded them upon the other side
and the massive grandeur of the great hill beyond, which lies like a
crouching lion keeping watch and ward, day and night, over the ancient
capital of the Scottish kings. Travellers who have searched the whole
world round have found no fairer view.
So thought three of the genus who were ensconced that forenoon in the
bow windows of the _Royal Hotel_ and gazed across the bright green
valley at the dull historical background beyond. One we already know, a
stoutish gentleman, ruddy-faced and black-eyed, with check trousers,
light waistcoat and heavy chain, legs widely parted, his hands in his
pockets, and on his face that expression of irreverent and critical
approval with which the travelled Briton usually regards the works of
nature. By his side was a young lady in a tight-fitting travelling
dress, with trim leather belt and snow-white collar and cuffs.
There was no criticism in her sweet face, now flushed with excitement--
nothing but unqualified wonder and admiration at the beautiful scene
before her. An elderly placid-faced woman sat in a basket chair in the
recess, and looked up with quiet loving eyes at the swift play of
emotions which swept over the girl's eager features.
"Oh, Uncle George," she cried, "it is really too heavenly. I cannot
realize that we are free. I can't help fearing that it is all a dream,
and that I shall wake up to find myself pouring out Ezra Girdlestone's
coffee, or listening to Mr. Girdlestone as he reads the morning
The elder woman stroked the girl's hand caressingly with her soft,
motherly palm. "Don't think about it," she murmured.
"No, don't think about it," echoed the doctor. "My wife is quite right.
Don't think about it. But, dear me, what a job I had to persuade your
guardian to let you go. I should have given it up in despair--I really
should--if I had not known that you had set your heart upon it."
"Oh, how good you both are to me!" cried the girl, in a pretty little
gush of gratitude.
"Pooh, pooh, Kate! But as to Girdlestone, he is perfectly right. If I
had you I should keep you fast to myself, I promise you. Eh, Matilda?"
"That we would, George."
"Perfect tyrants, both of us. Eh, Matilda?"
"I am afraid that I am not very useful in a household," said the girl.
"I was too young to look after things for poor papa. Mr. Girdlestone,
of course, has a housekeeper of his own. I read the _Financial News_ to
him after dinner every day, and I know all about stock and Consols and
those American railways which are perpetually rising and falling. One
of them went wrong last week, and Ezra swore, and Mr. Girdlestone said
that the Lord chastens those whom He loves. He did not seem to like
being chastened a bit though. But how delightful this is! It is like
living in another world."
The girl was a pretty figure as she stood in the window, tall, lithe,
and graceful, with the long soft curves of budding womanhood. Her face
was sweet rather than beautiful, but an artist would have revelled in
the delicate strength of the softly rounded chin, and the quick bright
play of her expression. Her hair, of a deep rich brown, with a bronze
shimmer where a sunbeam lay athwart it, swept back in those thick
luxuriant coils which are the unfailing index of a strong womanly
nature. Her deep blue eyes danced with life and light, while her
slightly _retrousse_ nose and her sensitive smiling mouth all spoke of
gentle good humour. From her sunny face to the dainty little shoe
which peeped from under the trim black skirt, she was an eminently
pleasant object to look upon. So thought the passers-by as they glanced
up at the great bow window, and so, too, thought a young gentleman who
had driven up to the hotel door, and who now bounded up the steps and
into the room. He was enveloped in a long shaggy ulster, which
stretched down to his ankles, and he wore a velvet cap trimmed with
silver stuck carelessly on the back of his powerful yellow curled head.
"Here is the boy!" cried his mother gaily.
"How are you, mam dear?" he cried, stooping over her to kiss her.
"How are you, dad? Good morning, Cousin Kate. You must come down and
wish us luck. What a blessing that it is pretty warm. It is miserable
for the spectators when there is an east wind. What do you think of it,
"I think you are an unnatural young renegade to play against your mother
country," said the sturdy doctor.
"Oh, come, dad! I was born in Scotland, and I belong to a Scotch club.
Surely that is good enough."
"I hope you lose, then."
"We are very likely to. Atkinson, of the West of Scotland, has strained
his leg, and we shall have to play Blair, of the Institution, at full
back--not so good a man by a long way. The odds are five to four on the
English this morning. They are said to be the very strongest lot that
ever played in an International match. I have brought a cab with me, so
the moment you are ready we can start."
There were others besides the students who were excited about the coming
struggle. All Edinburgh was in a ferment. Football is, and always has
been, the national game of Scotland among those who affect violent
exercise, while golf takes its place with the more sedately inclined.
There is no game so fitted to appeal to a hardy and active people as
that composite exercise prescribed by the Rugby Union, in which fifteen
men pit strength, speed, endurance, and every manly attribute they
possess in a prolonged struggle against fifteen antagonists. There is
no room for mere knack or trickery. It is a fierce personal contest in
which the ball is the central rallying point. That ball may be kicked,
pushed, or carried; it may be forced onwards in any conceivable manner
towards the enemy's goal. The fleet of foot may seize it and by
superior speed thread their way through the ranks of their opponents.
The heavy of frame may crush down all opposition by dead weight. The
hardiest and most enduring must win.
Even matches between prominent local clubs excite much interest in
Edinburgh and attract crowds of spectators. How much more then when the
pick of the manhood of Scotland were to try their strength against the
very cream of the players from the South of the Tweed. The roads which
converged on the Raeburn Place Grounds, on which the match was to be
played, were dark with thousands all wending their way in one direction.
So thick was the moving mass that the carriage of the Dimsdale party had
to go at a walk for the latter half of the journey, In spite of the
objurgations of the driver, who, as a patriot, felt the responsibility
which rested upon him in having one of the team in his charge, and the
necessity there was for delivering him up by the appointed time.