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The Stark Munro Letters by Arthur Conan Doyle

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The letters of my friend Mr. Stark Munro appear to
me to form so connected a whole, and to give so plain an
account of some of the troubles which a young man may be
called upon to face right away at the outset of his
career, that I have handed them over to the gentleman who
is about to edit them. There are two of them, the fifth
and the ninth, from which some excisions are necessary;
but in the main I hope that they may be reproduced as
they stand. I am sure that there is no privilege which
my friend would value more highly than the thought that
some other young man, harassed by the needs of this world
and doubts of the next, should have gotten strength by
reading how a brother had passed down the valley of
shadow before him.




HOME. 30th March, 1881.

I have missed you very much since your return to
America, my dear Bertie, for you are the one man upon
this earth to whom I have ever been able to unreservedly
open my whole mind. I don't know why it is; for, now
that I come to think of it, I have never enjoyed very
much of your confidence in return. But that may be my
fault. Perhaps you don't find me sympathetic, even
though I have every wish to be. I can only say that I
find you intensely so, and perhaps I presume too much
upon the fact. But no, every instinct in my nature tells
me that I don't bore you by my confidences.

Can you remember Cullingworth at the University? You
never were in the athletic set, and so it is possible
that you don't. Anyway, I'll take it for granted
that you don't, and explain it all from the beginning.
I'm sure that you would know his photograph, however, for
the reason that he was the ugliest and queerest-looking
man of our year.

Physically he was a fine athlete--one of the fastest
and most determined Rugby forwards that I have ever
known, though he played so savage a game that he was
never given his international cap. He was well-grown,
five foot nine perhaps, with square shoulders, an arching
chest, and a quick jerky way of walking. He had a round
strong head, bristling with short wiry black hair. His
face was wonderfully ugly, but it was the ugliness of
character, which is as attractive as beauty. His jaw and
eyebrows were scraggy and rough-hewn, his nose aggressive
and red-shot, his eyes small and near set, light blue in
colour, and capable of assuming a very genial and also an
exceedingly vindictive expression. A slight wiry
moustache covered his upper lip, and his teeth were
yellow, strong, and overlapping. Add to this that he
seldom wore collar or necktie, that his throat was the
colour and texture of the bark of a Scotch fir, and that
he had a voice and especially a laugh like a bull's
bellow. Then you have some idea (if you can piece all
these items in your mind) of the outward James Cullingworth.

But the inner man, after all, was what was most worth
noting. I don't pretend to know what genius is.
Carlyle's definition always seemed to me to be a very
crisp and clear statement of what it is NOT. Far
from its being an infinite capacity for taking pains, its
leading characteristic, as far as I have ever been able
to observe it, has been that it allows the possessor of
it to attain results by a sort of instinct which other
men could only reach by hard work. In this sense
Cullingworth was the greatest genius that I have ever
known. He never seemed to work, and yet he took the
anatomy prize over the heads of all the ten-hour-a-day
men. That might not count for much, for he was quite
capable of idling ostentatiously all day and then reading
desperately all night; but start a subject of your own
for him, and then see his originality and strength. Talk
about torpedoes, and he would catch up a pencil, and on
the back of an old envelope from his pocket he would
sketch out some novel contrivance for piercing a ship's
netting and getting at her side, which might no doubt
involve some technical impossibility, but which would at
least be quite plausible and new. Then as he drew, his
bristling eyebrows would contract, his small eyes would
gleam with excitement, his lips would be pressed
together, and he would end by banging on the paper with
his open hand, and shouting in his exultation. You would
think that his one mission in life was to invent
torpedoes. But next instant, if you were to express
surprise as to how it was that the Egyptian workmen
elevated the stones to the top of the pyramids, out would
come the pencil and envelope, and he would propound a
scheme for doing that with equal energy and conviction.
This ingenuity was joined to an extremely sanguine
nature. As he paced up and down in his jerky quick-
stepping fashion after one of these flights of invention,
he would take out patents for it, receive you as his
partner in the enterprise, have it adopted in every
civilised country, see all conceivable applications of
it, count up his probable royalties, sketch out the novel
methods in which he would invest his gains, and finally
retire with the most gigantic fortune that has ever been
amassed. And you would be swept along by his words,
and would be carried every foot of the way with him, so
that it would come as quite a shock to you when you
suddenly fell back to earth again, and found yourself
trudging the city street a poor student, with Kirk's
Physiology under your arm, and hardly the price of
your luncheon in your pocket.

I read over what I have written, but I can see that
I give you no real insight into the demoniac cleverness
of Cullingworth. His views upon medicine were most
revolutionary, but I daresay that if things fulfil their
promise I may have a good deal to say about them in the
sequel. With his brilliant and unusual gifts, his fine
athletic record, his strange way of dressing (his hat on
the back of his head and his throat bare), his thundering
voice, and his ugly, powerful face, he had quite the most
marked individuality of any man that I have ever known.

Now, you will think me rather prolix about this man;
but, as it looks as if his life might become entwined
with mine, it is a subject of immediate interest to me,
and I am writing all this for the purpose of reviving my
own half-faded impressions, as well as in the hope of
amusing and interesting you. So I must just give you
one or two other points which may make his character more
clear to you.

He had a dash of the heroic in him. On one occasion
he was placed in such a position that he must choose
between compromising a lady, or springing out of a third-
floor window. Without a moment's hesitation he hurled
himself out of the window. As luck would have it, he
fell through a large laurel bush on to a garden plot,
which was soft with rain, and so escaped with a shaking
and a bruising. If I have to say anything that gives a
bad impression of the man, put that upon the other side.

He was fond of rough horse-play; but it was better to
avoid it with him, for you could never tell what it might
lead to. His temper was nothing less than infernal. I
have seen him in the dissecting-rooms begin to skylark
with a fellow, and then in an instant the fun would go
out of his face, his little eyes would gleam with fury,
and the two would be rolling, worrying each other like
dogs, below the table. He would be dragged off, panting
and speechless with fury, with his wiry hair bristling
straight up like a fighting terrier's.

This pugnacious side of his character would be
worthily used sometimes. I remember that an address
which was being given to us by an eminent London
specialist was much interrupted by a man in the front
row, who amused himself by interjecting remarks. The
lecturer appealed to his audience at last. "These
interruptions are insufferable, gentlemen," said he;
"will no one free me from this annoyance?" "Hold your
tongue--you, sir, on the front bench," cried
Cullingworth, in his bull's bellow. "Perhaps you'll make
me," said the fellow, turning a contemptuous face over
his shoulder. Cullingworth closed his note-book, and
began to walk down on the tops of the desks to the
delight of the three hundred spectators. It was fine to
see the deliberate way in which he picked his way among
the ink bottles. As he sprang down from the last bench
on to the floor, his opponent struck him a smashing blow
full in the face. Cullingworth got his bulldog grip on
him, however, and rushed him backwards out of the class-
room. What he did with him I don't know, but there was
a noise like the delivery of a ton of coals; and the
champion of law and order returned, with the sedate
air of a man who had done his work. One of his eyes
looked like an over-ripe damson, but we gave him three
cheers as he made his way back to his seat. Then we went
on with the dangers of Placenta Praevia.

He was not a man who drank hard, but a little drink
would have a very great effect upon him. Then it was
that the ideas would surge from his brain, each more
fantastic and ingenious than the last. And if ever he
did get beyond the borderland he would do the most
amazing things. Sometimes it was the fighting instinct
that would possess him, sometimes the preaching, and
sometimes the comic, or they might come in succession,
replacing each other so rapidly as to bewilder his
companions. Intoxication brought all kinds of queer
little peculiarities with it. One of them was that he
could walk or run perfectly straight, but that there
always came a time when he unconsciously returned upon
his tracks and retraced his steps again. This had a
strange effect sometimes, as in the instance which I am
about to tell you.

Very sober to outward seeming, but in a frenzy
within, he went down to the station one night, and,
stooping to the pigeon-hole, he asked the ticket-clerk,
in the suavest voice, whether he could tell him how far
it was to London. The official put forward his face to
reply when Cullingworth drove his fist through the little
hole with the force of a piston. The clerk flew
backwards off his stool, and his yell of pain and
indignation brought some police and railway men to his
assistance. They pursued Cullingworth; but he, as active
and as fit as a greyhound, outraced them all, and
vanished into the darkness, down the long, straight
street. The pursuers had stopped, and were gathered in
a knot talking the matter over, when, looking up, they
saw, to their amazement, the man whom they were after,
running at the top of his speed in their direction. His
little peculiarity had asserted itself, you see, and he
had unconsciously turned in his flight. They tripped him
up, flung themselves upon him, and after a long and
desperate struggle dragged him to the police station. He
was charged before the magistrate next morning, but made
such a brilliant speech from the dock in his own
defence that he carried the Court with him, and escaped
with a nominal fine. At his invitation, the witnesses
and the police trooped after him to the nearest hotel,
and the affair ended in universal whisky-and-sodas.

Well, now, if, after all these illustrations, I have
failed to give you some notion of the man, able,
magnetic, unscrupulous, interesting, many-sided, I must
despair of ever doing so. I'll suppose, however, that I
have not failed; and I will proceed to tell you, my most
patient of confidants, something of my personal relations
with Cullingworth.

When I first made a casual acquaintance with him he
was a bachelor. At the end of a long vacation, however,
he met me in the street, and told me, in his loud-voiced
volcanic shoulder-slapping way, that he had just been
married. At his invitation, I went up with him then and
there to see his wife; and as we walked he told me the
history of his wedding, which was as extraordinary as
everything else he did. I won't tell it to you here, my
dear Bertie, for I feel that I have dived down too many
side streets already; but it was a most bustling
business, in which the locking of a governess into her
room and the dyeing of Cullingworth's hair played
prominent parts. Apropos of the latter he was never
quite able to get rid of its traces; and from this time
forward there was added to his other peculiarities the
fact that when the sunlight struck upon his hair at
certain angles, it turned it all iridescent and

Well, I went up to his lodgings with him, and was
introduced to Mrs. Cullingworth. She was a timid,
little, sweet-faced, grey-eyed woman, quiet-voiced and
gentle-mannered. You had only to see the way in which
she looked at him to understand that she was absolutely
under his control, and that do what he might, or say what
he might, it would always be the best thing to her. She
could be obstinate, too, in a gentle, dove-like sort of
way; but her obstinacy lay always in the direction of
backing up his sayings and doings. This, however, I was
only to find out afterwards; and at that, my first visit,
she impressed me as being one of the sweetest little
women that I had ever known.

They were living in the most singular style, in
a suite of four small rooms, over a grocer's shop. There
was a kitchen, a bedroom, a sitting-room, and a fourth
room, which Cullingworth insisted upon regarding as a
most unhealthy apartment and a focus of disease, though
I am convinced that it was nothing more than the smell of
cheeses from below which had given him the idea. At any
rate, with his usual energy he had not only locked the
room up, but had gummed varnished paper over all the
cracks of the door, to prevent the imaginary contagion
from spreading. The furniture was the sparest possible.
There were, I remember, only two chairs in the sitting-
room; so that when a guest came (and I think I was the
only one) Cullingworth used to squat upon a pile of
yearly volumes of the British Medical Journal in the
corner. I can see him now levering himself up from his
lowly seat, and striding about the room roaring and
striking with his hands, while his little wife sat mum in
the corner, listening to him with love and admiration in
her eyes. What did we care, any one of the three of us,
where we sat or how we lived, when youth throbbed hot in
our veins, and our souls were all aflame with the
possibilities of life? I still look upon those Bohemian
evenings, in the bare room amid the smell of the cheese,
as being among the happiest that I have known.

I was a frequent visitor to the Cullingworths, for
the pleasure that I got was made the sweeter by the
pleasure which I hoped that I gave. They knew no one,
and desired to know no one; so that socially I seemed to
be the only link that bound them to the world. I even
ventured to interfere in the details of their little
menage. Cullingworth had a fad at the time, that all
the diseases of civilisation were due to the abandonment
of the open-air life of our ancestors, and as a corollary
he kept his windows open day and night. As his wife was
obviously fragile, and yet would have died before she
would have uttered a word of complaint, I took it upon
myself to point out to him that the cough from which she
suffered was hardly to be cured so long as she spent her
life in a draught. He scowled savagely at me for my
interference; and I thought we were on the verge of a
quarrel, but it blew over, and he became more considerate
in the matter of ventilation.

Our evening occupations just about that time were of
a most extraordinary character. You are aware that there
is a substance, called waxy matter, which is deposited in
the tissues of the body during the course of certain
diseases. What this may be and how it is formed has been
a cause for much bickering among pathologists.
Cullingworth had strong views upon the subject, holding
that the waxy matter was really the same thing as the
glycogen which is normally secreted by the liver. But it
is one thing to have an idea, and another to be able to
prove it. Above all, we wanted some waxy matter with
which to experiment. But fortune favoured us in the most
magical way. The Professor of Pathology had come into
possession of a magnificent specimen of the condition.
With pride he exhibited the organ to us in the class-room
before ordering his assistant to remove it to the ice-
chest, preparatory to its being used for microscopical
work in the practical class. Cullingworth saw his
chance, and acted on the instant. Slipping out of the
classroom, he threw open the ice-chest, rolled his ulster
round the dreadful glistening mass, closed the chest
again, and walked quietly away. I have no doubt that to
this day the disappearance of that waxy liver is one of
the most inexplicable mysteries in the career of our

That evening, and for many evenings to come, we
worked upon our liver. For our experiments it was
necessary to subject it all to great heat in an endeavour
to separate the nitrogenous cellular substance from the
non-nitrogenous waxy matter. With our limited appliances
the only way we could think of was to cut it into fine
pieces and cook it in a frying pan. So night after night
the curious spectacle might have been seen of a beautiful
young woman and two very earnest young men busily engaged
in making these grim fricassees. Nothing came of all our
work; for though Cullingworth considered that he had
absolutely established his case, and wrote long screeds
to the medical papers upon the subject, he was never apt
at stating his views with his pen, and he left, I am
sure, a very confused idea on the minds of his readers as
to what it was that he was driving at. Again, as he was
a mere student without any letters after his name, he
got scant attention, and I never heard that he gained
over a single supporter.

At the end of the year we both passed our
examinations and became duly qualified medical men. The
Cullingworths vanished away, and I never heard any more
of them, for he was a man who prided himself upon never
writing a letter. His father had formerly a very large
and lucrative practice in the West of Scotland, but he
died some years ago. I had a vague idea, founded upon
some chance remark of his, that Cullingworth had gone to
see whether the family name might still stand him in good
stead there. As for me I began, as you will remember
that I explained in my last, by acting as assistant in my
father's practice. You know, however, that at its best
it is not worth more than L700 a year, with no room for
expansion. This is not large enough to keep two of us at
work. Then, again, there are times when I can see that
my religious opinions annoy the dear old man. On the
whole, and for every reason, I think that it would be
better if I were out of this. I applied for several
steamship lines, and for at least a dozen house
surgeonships; but there is as much competition for a
miserable post with a hundred a year as if it were the
Viceroyship of India. As a rule, I simply get my
testimonials returned without any comment, which is the
sort of thing that teaches a man humility. Of course, it
is very pleasant to live with the mater, and my little
brother Paul is a regular trump. I am teaching him
boxing; and you should see him put his tiny fists up, and
counter with his right. He got me under the jaw this
evening, and I had to ask for poached eggs for supper.

And all this brings me up to the present time and the
latest news. It is that I had a telegram from
Cullingworth this morning--after nine months' silence.
It was dated from Avonmouth, the town where I had
suspected that he had settled, and it said simply, "Come
at once. I have urgent need of you. "CULLINGWORTH." Of
course, I shall go by the first train to-morrow. It may
mean anything or nothing. In my heart of hearts I hope
and believe that old Cullingworth sees an opening for me
either as his partner or in some other way. I always
believed that he would turn up trumps, and make my
fortune as well as his own. He knows that if I am not
very quick or brilliant I am fairly steady and reliable.
So that's what I've been working up to all along, Bertie,
that to-morrow I go to join Cullingworth, and that it
looks as if there was to be an opening for me at last.
I gave you a sketch of him and his ways, so that you may
take an interest in the development of my fortune, which
you could not do if you did not know something of the man
who is holding out his hand to me.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I was two and twenty
years of age. For two and twenty years have I swung
around the sun. And in all seriousness, without a touch
of levity, and from the bottom of my soul, I assure you
that I have at the present moment the very vaguest idea
as to whence I have come from, whither I am going, or
what I am here for. It is not for want of inquiry, or
from indifference. I have mastered the principles of
several religions. They have all shocked me by the
violence which I should have to do to my reason to accept
the dogmas of any one of them. Their ethics are usually
excellent. So are the ethics of the common law of
England. But the scheme of creation upon which those
ethics are built! Well, it really is to me the most
astonishing thing that I have seen in my short earthly
pilgrimage, that so many able men, deep philosophers,
astute lawyers, and clear-headed men of the world should
accept such an explanation of the facts of life. In the
face of their apparent concurrence my own poor little
opinion would not dare to do more than lurk at the back
of my soul, were it not that I take courage when I
reflect that the equally eminent lawyers and philosophers
of Rome and Greece were all agreed that Jupiter had
numerous wives and was fond of a glass of good wine.

Mind, my dear Bertie, I do not wish to run down your
view or that of any other man. We who claim toleration
should be the first to extend it to others. I am only
indicating my own position, as I have often done before.
And I know your reply so well. Can't I hear your grave
voice saying "Have faith!" Your conscience allows you
to. Well, mine won't allow me. I see so clearly that
faith is not a virtue, but a vice. It is a goat which
has been herded with the sheep. If a man deliberately
shut his physical eyes and refused to use them, you
would be as quick as any one in seeing that it was
immoral and a treason to Nature. And yet you would
counsel a man to shut that far more precious gift, the
reason, and to refuse to use it in the most intimate
question of life.

"The reason cannot help in such a matter," you reply.
I answer that to say so is to give up a battle before it
is fought. My reason SHALL help me, and when it can
help no longer I shall do without help.

It's late, Bertie, and the fire's out, and I'm
shivering; and you, I'm very sure, are heartily weary of
my gossip and my heresies, so adieu until my next.


HOME, 10th April, 1881.

Well, my dear Bertie, here I am again in your
postbox. It's not a fortnight since I wrote you that
great long letter, and yet you see I have news enough to
make another formidable budget. They say that the art of
letter-writing has been lost; but if quantity may atone
for quality, you must confess that (for your sins) you
have a friend who has retained it.

When I wrote to you last I was on the eve of going
down to join the Cullingworths at Avonmouth, with every
hope that he had found some opening for me. I must tell
you at some length the particulars of that expedition.

I travelled down part of the way with young Leslie
Duncan, whom I think you know. He was gracious enough to
consider that a third-class carriage and my company were
to be preferred to a first class with solitude. You know
that he came into his uncle's money a little time
ago, and after a first delirious outbreak, he has now
relapsed into that dead heavy state of despair which is
caused by having everything which one can wish for. How
absurd are the ambitions of life when I think that I, who
am fairly happy and as keen as a razor edge, should be
struggling for that which I can see has brought neither
profit nor happiness to him! And yet, if I can read my
own nature, it is not the accumulation of money which is
my real aim, but only that I may acquire so much as will
relieve my mind of sordid cares and enable me to develop
any gifts which I may have, undisturbed. My tastes are
so simple that I cannot imagine any advantage which
wealth can give--save indeed the exquisite pleasure of
helping a good man or a good cause. Why should people
ever take credit for charity when they must know that
they cannot gain as much pleasure out of their guineas in
any other fashion? I gave my watch to a broken
schoolmaster the other day (having no change in my
pocket), and the mater could not quite determine whether
it was a trait of madness or of nobility. I could have
told her with absolute confidence that it was neither the
one nor the other, but a sort of epicurean
selfishness with perhaps a little dash of swagger away
down at the bottom of it. What had I ever had from my
chronometer like the quiet thrill of satisfaction when
the fellow brought me the pawn ticket and told me that
the thirty shillings had been useful?

Leslie Duncan got out at Carstairs, and I was left
alone with a hale, white-haired, old Roman Catholic
priest, who had sat quietly reading his office in the
corner. We fell into the most intimate talk, which
lasted all the way to Avonmouth--indeed, so interested
was I that I very nearly passed through the place without
knowing it. Father Logan (for that was his name) seemed
to me to be a beautiful type of what a priest should be--
self-sacrificing and pure-minded, with a kind of simple
cunning about him, and a deal of innocent fun. He had
the defects as well as the virtues of his class, for he
was absolutely reactionary in his views. We discussed
religion with fervour, and his theology was somewhere
about the Early Pliocene. He might have chattered the
matter over with a priest of Charlemagne's Court, and
they would have shaken hands after every sentence. He
would acknowledge this and claim it as a merit. It
was consistency in his eyes. If our astronomers and
inventors and law-givers had been equally consistent
where would modern civilisation be? Is religion the only
domain of thought which is non-progressive, and to be
referred for ever to a standard set two thousand years
ago? Can they not see that as the human brain evolves it
must take a wider outlook? A half-formed brain makes a
half-formed God, and who shall say that our brains are
even half-formed yet? The truly inspired priest is the
man or woman with the big brain. It is not the shaven
patch on the outside, but it is the sixty ounces within
which is the real mark of election.

You know that you are turning up your nose at me,
Bertie. I can see you do it. But I'll come off the thin
ice, and you shall have nothing but facts now. I'm
afraid that I should never do for a story-teller, for the
first stray character that comes along puts his arm in
mine and walks me off, with my poor story straggling away
to nothing behind me.

Well, then, it was night when we reached Avonmouth,
and as I popped my head out of the carriage window, the
first thing that my eyes rested upon was old
Cullingworth, standing in, the circle of light under a
gas-lamp. His frock coat was flying open, his waistcoat
unbuttoned at the top, and his hat (a top hat this time)
jammed on the back of his head, with his bristling hair
spurting out in front of it. In every way, save that he
wore a collar, he was the same Cullingworth as ever. He
gave a roar of recognition when he saw me, bustled me out
of my carriage, seized my carpet bag, or grip-sack as you
used to call it, and a minute later we were striding
along together through the streets.

I was, as you may imagine, all in a tingle to know
what it was that he wanted with me. However, as he made
no allusion to it, I did not care to ask, and, during our
longish walk, we talked about indifferent matters. It
was football first, I remember, whether Richmond had a
chance against Blackheath, and the way in which the new
passing game was shredding the old scrimmages. Then he
got on to inventions, and became so excited that he had
to give me back my bag in order that he might be able to
slap all his points home with his fist upon his palm.
I can see him now stopping, with his face leaning forward
and his yellow tusks gleaming in the lamplight.

"My dear Munro" (this was the style of the thing),
"why was armour abandoned, eh? What! I'll tell you why.
It was because the weight of metal that would protect a
man who was standing up was more than he could carry.
But battles are not fought now-a-days by men who are
standing up. Your infantry are all lying on their
stomachs, and it would take very little to protect them.
And steel has improved, Munro! Chilled steel! Bessemer!
Bessemer! Very good. How much to cover a man? Fourteen
inches by twelve, meeting at an angle so that the bullet
will glance. A notch at one side for the rifle. There
you have it, laddie--the Cullingworth patent portable
bullet-proof shield! Weight? Oh, the weight would be
sixteen pounds. I worked it out. Each company carries
its shields in go-carts, and they are served out on going
into action. Give me twenty thousand good shots, and
I'll go in at Calais and come out at Pekin. Think of it,
my boy! the moral effect. One side gets home every
time and the other plasters its bullets up against
steel plates. No troops would stand it. The nation that
gets it first will pitchfork the rest of Europe over the
edge. They're bound to have it--all of them. Let's
reckon it out. There's about eight million of them on a
war footing. Let us suppose that only half of them have
it. I say only half, because I don't want to be too
sanguine. That's four million, and I should take a
royalty of four shillings on wholesale orders. What's
that, Munro? About three-quarters of a million sterling,
eh? How's that, laddie, eh? What?"

Really, that is not unlike his style of talk, now
that I come to read it over, only you miss the queer
stops, the sudden confidential whispers, the roar with
which he triumphantly answered his own questions, the
shrugs and slaps, and gesticulations. But not a word all
the time as to what it was that made him send me that
urgent wire which brought me to Avonmouth.

I had, of course, been puzzling in my mind as to
whether he had succeeded or not, though from his cheerful
appearance and buoyant talk, it was tolerably clear
to me that all was well with him. I was, however,
surprised when, as we walked along a quiet, curving
avenue, with great houses standing in their own grounds
upon either side, he stopped and turned in through the
iron gate which led up to one of the finest of them. The
moon had broken out and shone upon the high-peaked roof,
and upon the gables at each corner. When he knocked it
was opened by a footman with red plush knee-breeches. I
began to perceive that my friend's success must have been
something colossal.

When we came down to the dining-room for supper, Mrs.
Cullingworth was waiting there to greet me. I was sorry
to see that she was pale and weary-looking. However, we
had a merry meal in the old style, and her husband's
animation reflected itself upon her face, until at last
we might have been back in the little room, where the
Medical Journals served as a chair, instead of in the
great oak-furnished, picture-hung chamber to which we had
been promoted. All the time, however, not one word as to
the object of my journey.

When the supper was finished, Cullingworth led
the way into a small sitting-room, where we both lit our
pipes, and Mrs. Cullingworth her cigarette. He sat for
some little time in silence, and then bounding up rushed
to the door and flung it open. It is always one of his
strange peculiarities to think that people are
eavesdropping or conspiring against him; for, in spite of
his superficial brusqueness and frankness, a strange vein
of suspicion runs through his singular and complex
nature. Having satisfied himself now that there were no
spies or listeners he threw himself down into his

"Munro," said he, prodding at me with his pipe, "what
I wanted to tell you is, that I am utterly, hopelessly,
and irretrievably ruined."

My chair was tilted on its back legs as he spoke, and
I assure you that I was within an ace of going over.
Down like a pack of cards came all my dreams as to the
grand results which were to spring from my journey to
Avonmouth. Yes, Bertie, I am bound to confess it: my
first thought was of my own disappointment, and my
second of the misfortune of my friends. He had the most
diabolical intuitions, or I a very tell-tale face, for he
added at once--

"Sorry to disappoint you, my boy. That's not what
you expected to hear, I can see."

"Well," I stammered, "it IS rather a surprise,
old chap. I thought from the . . . from the . . ."

"From the house, and the footman, and the furniture,"
said he. "Well, they've eaten me up among them . . .
licked me clean, bones and gravy. I'm done for, my boy,
unless . . ."--here I saw a question in his eyes--"unless
some friend were to lend me his name on a bit of stamped

"I can't do it, Cullingworth," said I." It's a
wretched thing to have to refuse a friend; and if I had
money . . ."

"Wait till you're asked, Munro," he interrupted, with
his ugliest of expressions. "Besides, as you have
nothing and no prospects, what earthly use would YOUR
name on a paper be?"

"That's what I want to know," said I, feeling a
little mortified, none the less.

"Look here, laddie," he went on; "d'you see that pile
of letters on the left of the table?"


"Those are duns. And d'you see those documents
on the right? Well, those are County Court summonses.
And, now, d'you see that;" he picked up a little ledger,
and showed me three or, four names scribbled on the first

"That's the practice," he roared, and laughed until
the great veins jumped out on his forehead. His wife
laughed heartily also, just as she would have wept, had
he been so disposed.

"It's this way, Munro," said he, when he had got over
his paroxysm. "You have probably heard--in fact, I have
told you myself--that my father had the finest practice
in Scotland. As far as I could judge he was a man of no
capacity, but still there you are--he had it."

I nodded and smoked.

"Well, he's been dead seven years, and fifty nets
dipping into his little fish-pond. However, when I
passed I thought my best move was to come down to the old
place, and see whether I couldn't piece the thing
together again. The name ought to be worth something, I
thought. But it was no use doing the thing in a half
hearted way. Not a bit of use in that, Munro. The kind
of people who came to him were wealthy, and must see a
fine house and a man in livery. What chance was
there of gathering them into a bow-windowed forty pound-
a-year house with a grubby-faced maid at the door? What
do you suppose I did? My boy, I took the governor's old
house, that was unlet--the very house that he kept up at
five thousand a year. Off I started in rare style, and
sank my last cent in furniture. But it's no use, laddie.
I can't hold on any longer. I got two accidents and an
epileptic--twenty-two pounds, eight and sixpence--that's
the lot!

"What will you do, then?"

"That's what I wanted your advice about. That's why
I wired for you. I always respected your opinion, my
boy, and I thought that now was the time to have it."

It struck me that if he had asked for it nine months
before there would have been more sense in it. What on
earth could I do when affairs were in such a tangle?
However, I could not help feeling complimented when so
independent a fellow as Cullingworth turned to me in this

"You really think," said I, "that it is no use
holding on here?"

He jumped up, and began pacing the room in his swift
jerky way.

"You take warning from it, Munro," said he. "You've
got to start yet. Take my tip, and go where no one knows
you. People will trust a stranger quick enough; but if
they can remember you as a little chap who ran about in
knickerbockers, and got spanked with a hair brush for
stealing plums, they are not going to put their lives in
your keeping. It's all very well to talk about
friendship and family connections; but when a man has a
pain in the stomach he doesn't care a toss about all
that. I'd stick it up in gold, letters in every medical
class-room--have it carved across the gate of the
University--that if a man wants friends be must go among
strangers. It's all up here, Munro; so there's no use in
advising me to hold on."

I asked him how much he owed. It came to about seven
hundred pounds. The rent alone was two hundred. He had
already raised money on the furniture, and his whole
assets came to less than a tenner. Of course, there was
only one possible thing that I could advise.

"You must call your creditors together," said I;
"they can see for themselves that you are young and
energetic--sure to succeed sooner or later. If they
push you into a corner now, they can get nothing. Make
that clear to them. But if you make a fresh start
elsewhere and succeed, you may pay them all in full. I
see no other possible way out of it."

"I knew that you'd say that, and it's just what I
thought myself. Isn't it, Hetty? Well, then, that
settles it; and I am much obliged to you for your advice,
and that's all we'll say about the matter to-night. I've
made my shot and missed. Next time I shall hit, and it
won't be long either."

His failure did not seem to weigh very heavily on his
mind, for in a few minutes he was shouting away as
lustily as ever. Whiskey and hot water were brought in,
that we might all drink luck to the second venture.

And this whiskey led us to what might have been a
troublesome affair. Cullingworth, who had drunk off a
couple of glasses, waited until his wife had left the
room, and then began to talk of the difficulty of getting
any exercise now that he had to wait in all day in the
hope of patients. This led us round to the ways in which
a man might take his exercise indoors, and that to
boxing. Cullingworth took a couple of pairs of
gloves out of a cupboard, and proposed that we should
fight a round or two then and there.

If I hadn't been a fool, Bertie, I should never have
consented. It's one of my many weaknesses, that, whether
it's a woman or a man, anything like a challenge sets me
off. But I knew Cullingworth's ways, and I told you in
my last what a lamb of a temper he has. None the less,
we pushed back the table, put the lamp on a high bracket,
and stood up to one another.

The moment I looked him in the face I smelled
mischief. He had a gleam of settled malice in his eye.
I believe it was my refusal to back his paper which was
running in his head. Anyway he looked as dangerous as he
could look, with his scowling face sunk forward a little,
his hands down near his hips (for his boxing, like
everything else about him, is unconventional), and his
jaw set like a rat-trap.

I led off, and then in he came hitting with both
hands, and grunting like a pig at every blow. From what
I could see of him he was no boxer at all, but just a
formidable rough and tumble fighter. I was guarding
with both hands for half a minute, and then was rushed
clean off my legs and banged up against the door, with my
head nearly through one of the panels. He wouldn't stop
then, though he saw that I had no space to get my elbows
back; and he let fly a right-hander which would have put
me into the hall, if I hadn't slipped it and got back to
the middle of the room.

"Look here, Cullingworth," said I; "there's not much
boxing about this game."

"Yes, I hit pretty hard, don't I?"

"If you come boring into me like that, I'm bound to
hit you out again," I said. "I want to play light if
you'll let me."

The words were not out of my mouth before he was on
me like a flash. I slipped him again; but the room was
so small, and he as active as a cat, that there was no
getting away from him. He was on me once more with a
regular football rush that knocked me off my balance.
Before I knew where I was he got his left on the mark and
his right on my ear. I tripped over a footstool, and
then before I could get my balance he had me on the same
ear again, and my head was singing like a tea-kettle.
He was as pleased as possible with himself, blowing out
his chest and slapping it with his palms as he took his
place in the middle of the room.

"Say when you've had enough, Munro," said he.

This was pretty stiff, considering that I had two
inches the better of him in height, and as many stone in
weight, besides being the better boxer. His energy and
the size of the room had been against me so far, but he
wasn't to have all the slogging to himself in the next
round if I could help it.

In he came with one of his windmill rushes. But I
was on the look-out for him this time. I landed him with
my left a regular nose-ender as he came, and then,
ducking under his left, I got him a cross-counter on the
jaw that laid him flat across his own hearthrug. He was
up in an instant, with a face like a madman.

"You swine!" he shouted. "Take those gloves off, and
put your hands up!" He was tugging at his own to get
them off.

"Go on, you silly ass!" said I. "What is there to
fight about?"

He was mad with passion, and chucked his gloves down
under the table.

"By God, Munro," he cried, "if you don't take those
gloves off, I'll go for you, whether you have them on or

"Have a glass of soda water," said I.

He made a crack at me. "You're afraid of me, Munro.
That's what's the matter with you," he snarled.

This was getting too hot, Bertie. I saw all the
folly of the thing. I believed that I might whip him;
but at the same time I knew that we were so much of a
match that we would both get pretty badly cut up without
any possible object to serve. For all that, I took my
gloves off, and I think perhaps it was the wisest course
after all. If Cullingworth once thought he had the
whiphand of you, you might be sorry for it afterwards.

But, as fate would have it, our little barney was
nipped in the bud. Mrs. Cullingworth came into the room
at that instant, and screamed out when she saw her
husband. His nose was bleeding and his chin was all
slobbered with blood, so that I don't wonder that it gave
her a turn.

"James!" she screamed; and then to me": "What is the
meaning of this, Mr. Munro?"

You should have seen the hatred in her dove's eyes.
I felt an insane impulse to pick her up and kiss her.

"We've only been having a little spar, Mrs.
Cullingworth," said I. "Your husband was complaining
that he never got any exercise."

"It's all right, Hetty," said he, pulling his coat on
again. "Don't be a little stupid. Are the servants gone
to bed? Well, you might bring some water in a basin from
the kitchen. Sit down, Munro, and light your pipe again.
I have a hundred things that I want to talk to you

So that was the end of it, and all went smoothly for
the rest of the evening. But, for all that, the little
wife will always look upon me as a brute and a bully;
while as to Cullingworth----well, it's rather difficult
to say what Cullingworth thinks about the matter.

When I woke next morning he was in my room, and
a funny-looking object he was. His dressing-gown lay on
a chair, and he was putting up a fifty-six pound dumb-
bell, without a rag to cover him. Nature didn't give him
a very symmetrical face, nor the sweetest of expressions;
but he has a figure like a Greek statue. I was amused to
see that both his eyes had a touch of shadow to them. It
was his turn to grin when I sat up and found that my ear
was about the shape and consistence of a toadstool.
However, he was all for peace that morning, and chatted
away in the most amiable manner possible.

I was to go back to my father's that day, but I had
a couple of hours with Cullingworth in his consulting
room before I left. He was in his best form, and full of
a hundred fantastic schemes, by which I was to help him.
His great object was to get his name into the newspapers.
That was the basis of all success, according to his
views. It seemed to me that he was confounding cause
with effect; but I did not argue the point. I laughed
until my sides ached over the grotesque suggestions which
poured from him. I was to lie senseless in the roadway,
and to be carried into him by a sympathising crowd,
while the footman ran with a paragraph to the newspapers.
But there was the likelihood that the crowd might carry
me in to the rival practitioner opposite. In various
disguises I was to feign fits at his very door, and so
furnish fresh copy for the local press. Then I was to
die--absolutely to expire--and all Scotland was to
resound with how Dr. Cullingworth, of Avonmouth, had
resuscitated me. His ingenious brain rang a thousand
changes out of the idea, and his own impending bankruptcy
was crowded right out of his thoughts by the flood of
half-serious devices.

But the thing that took the fun out of him, and made
him gnash his teeth, and stride cursing about the room,
was to see a patient walking up the steps which led to
the door of Scarsdale, his opposite neighbour. Scarsdale
had a fairly busy practice, and received his people at
home from ten to twelve, so that I got quite used to
seeing Cullingworth fly out of his chair, and rush raving
to the window. He would diagnose the cases, too, and
estimate their money value until he was hardly

"There you are!" he would suddenly yell; "see that
man with a limp! Every morning he goes. Displaced
semilunar cartilage, and a three months' job. The man's
worth thirty-five shillings a week. And there! I'm
hanged if the woman with the rheumatic arthritis isn't
round in her bath-chair again. She's all sealskin and
lactic acid. It's simply sickening to see how they crowd
to that man. And such a man! You haven't seen him. All
the better for you. I don't know what the devil you are
laughing at, Munro. I can't see where the fun comes in

Well, it was a short experience that visit to
Avonmouth, but I think that I shall remember it all my
life. Goodness knows, you must be sick enough of the
subject, but when I started with so much detail I was
tempted to go. It ended by my going back again in the
afternoon, Cullingworth assuring me that he would call
his creditors together as I had advised, and that he
would let me know the result in a few days. Mrs. C.
would hardly shake hands with me when I said goodbye; but
I like her the better for that. He must have a great
deal of good in him, or he could not have won her love
and confidence so completely. Perhaps there is another
Cullingworth behind the scenes--a softer, tenderer man,
who can love and invite love. If there is, I have
never got near him. And yet I may only have been tapping
at the shell. Who knows? For that matter, it is likely
enough that he has never got at the real Johnnie Munro.
But you have, Bertie; and I think that you've had a
little too much of him this time, only you encourage me
to this sort of excess by your sympathetic replies.
Well, I've done as much as the General Post Office will
carry for fivepence, so I'll conclude by merely remarking
that a fortnight has passed, and that I have had no news
from Avonmouth, which does not in the very slightest
degree surprise me. If I ever do hear anything, which is
exceedingly doubtful, you may be sure that I will put a
finish to this long story.


HOME, 15th October, 1881.

Without any figure of speech I feel quite ashamed
when I think of you, Bertie. I send you one or two
enormously long letters, burdened, as far as I can
remember them, with all sorts of useless detail. Then,
in spite of your kindly answers and your sympathy, which
I have done so little to deserve, I drop you completely
for more than six months. By this J pen I swear that it
shall not happen again; and this letter may serve to
bridge the gap and to bring you up to date in my poor
affairs, in which, of all outer mankind, you alone take
an interest.

To commence with what is of most moment, you may rest
assured that what you said in your last letter about
religion has had my most earnest attention. I am sorry
that I have not got it by me to refer to (I lent it to
Charlie), but I think I have the contents in my head. It
is notorious, as you say, that an unbeliever may
be as bigoted as any of the orthodox, and that a man may
be very dogmatic in his opposition to dogma. Such men
are the real enemies of free thought. If anything could
persuade me to turn traitor to my reason, it would, for
example, be the blasphemous and foolish pictures
displayed in some of the agnostic journals.

But every movement has its crowd of camp followers.
who straggle and scatter. We are like a comet, bright at
the head but tailing away into mere gas behind. However,
every man may speak for himself, and I do not feel that
your charge comes home to me. I am only bigoted against
bigotry, and that I hold to be as legitimate as violence
to the violent. When one considers what effect the
perversion of the religious instinct has had during the
history of the world; the bitter wars, Christian and
Mahomedan, Catholic and Protestant; the persecutions, the
torturings, the domestic hatreds, the petty spites, with
ALL creeds equally blood-guilty, one cannot but be
amazed that the concurrent voice of mankind has not
placed bigotry at the very head of the deadly sins. It
is surely a truism to say that neither smallpox nor
the plague have brought the same misery upon mankind.

I cannot be bigoted, my dear boy, when I say from the
bottom of my heart that I respect every good Catholic and
every good Protestant, and that I recognise that each of
these forms of faith has been a powerful instrument in
the hands of that inscrutable Providence which rules all
things. Just as in the course of history one finds that
the most far-reaching and admirable effects may proceed
from a crime; so in religion, although a creed be founded
upon an entirely inadequate conception of the Creator and
His ways, it may none the less be the very best practical
thing for the people and age which have adopted it. But
if it is right for those to whom it is intellectually
satisfying to adopt it, it is equally so for those to
whom it is not, to protest against it, until by this
process the whole mass of mankind gets gradually
leavened, and pushed a little further upon their slow
upward journey.

Catholicism is the more thorough. Protestantism is
the more reasonable. Protestantism adapts itself to
modern civilisation. Catholicism expects civilisation to
adapt itself to it. Folk climb from the one big
branch to the other big branch, and think they have made
a prodigious change, when the main trunk is rotten
beneath them, and both must in their present forms be
involved sooner or later in a common ruin. The movement
of human thought, though slow, is still in the direction
of truth, and the various religions which man sheds as he
advances (each admirable in its day) will serve, like
buoys dropped down from a sailing vessel, to give the
rate and direction of his progress.

But how do I know what is truth, you ask? I don't.
But I know particularly well what isn't. And surely that
is something to have gained. It isn't true that the
great central Mind that planned all things is capable of
jealousy or of revenge, or of cruelty or of injustice.
These are human attributes; and the book which ascribes
them to the Infinite must be human also. It isn't true
that the laws of Nature have been capriciously disturbed,
that snakes have talked, that women have been turned to
salt, that rods have brought water out of rocks. You
must in honesty confess that if these things were
presented to us when we were, adults for the first
time, we should smile at them. It isn't true that the
Fountain of all common sense should punish a race for a
venial offence committed by a person long since dead, and
then should add to the crass injustice by heaping the
whole retribution upon a single innocent scapegoat. Can
you not see all the want of justice and logic, to say
nothing of the want of mercy, involved in such a
conception? Can you not see it, Bertie? How can you
blind yourself to it! Take your eyes away from the
details for a moment, and look at this root idea of the
predominant Faith. Is the general conception of it
consistent with infinite wisdom and mercy? If not, what
becomes of the dogmas, the sacraments, the whole scheme
which is founded upon this sand-bank? Courage, my
friend! At the right moment all will be laid aside, as
the man whose strength increases lays down the crutch
which has been a good friend to him in his weakness. But
his changes won't be over then. His hobble will become
a walk, and his walk a run. There is no finality--
CAN be none since the question concerns the infinite.
All this, which appears too advanced to you to-day,
will seem reactionary and conservative a thousand years

Since I am upon this topic, may I say just a little
more without boring you? You say that criticism such as
mine is merely destructive, and that I have nothing to
offer in place of what I pull down. This is not quite
correct. I think that there are certain elemental truths
within our grasp which ask for no faith for their
acceptance, and which are sufficient to furnish us with
a practical religion, having so much of reason in it that
it would draw thinking men into its fold, not drive them
forth from it.

When we all get back to these elemental and provable
facts there will be some hopes of ending the petty
bickerings of creeds, and of including the whole human
family in one comprehensive system of thought.

When first I came out of the faith in which I had
been reared, I certainly did feel for a time as if my
life-belt had burst. I won't exaggerate and say that I
was miserable and plunged in utter spiritual darkness.
Youth is too full of action for that. But I was
conscious of a vague unrest, of a constant want of
repose, of an emptiness and hardness which I had not
noticed in life before. I had so identified religion
with the Bible that I could not conceive them apart.
When the foundation proved false, the whole structure
came rattling about my ears. And then good old Carlyle
came to the rescue; and partly from him, and partly from
my own broodings, I made a little hut of my own, which
has kept me snug ever since, and has even served to
shelter a friend or two besides.

The first and main thing was to get it thoroughly
soaked into one that the existence of a Creator and an
indication of His attributes does in no way depend upon
Jewish poets, nor upon human paper or printing ink. On
the contrary, all such efforts to realise Him must only
belittle Him, bringing the Infinite down to the narrow
terms of human thought, at a time when that thought was
in the main less spiritual than it is at present. Even
the most material of modern minds would flinch at
depicting the Deity as ordering wholesale executions, and
hacking kings to pieces upon the horns of altars.

Then having prepared your mind for a higher (if
perhaps a vaguer) idea of the Deity, proceed to study Him
in His works, which cannot be counterfeited or
manipulated. Nature is the true revelation of the Deity
to man. The nearest green field is the inspired page
from which you may read all that it is needful for you to

I confess that I have never been able to understand
the position of the atheist. In fact, I have come to
disbelieve in his existence, and to look upon the word as
a mere term of theological reproach. It may represent a
temporary condition, a passing mental phase, a defiant
reaction against an anthropomorphic ideal; but I cannot
conceive that any man can continue to survey Nature and
to deny that there are laws at work which display
intelligence and power. The very existence of a world
carries with it the proof of a world-maker, as the table
guarantees the pre-existence of the carpenter. Granting
this, one may form what conception one will of that
Maker, but one cannot be an atheist.

Wisdom and power and means directed to an end run all
through the scheme of Nature. What proof do we want,
then, from a book? If the man who observes the myriad
stars, and considers that they and their innumerable
satellites move in their serene dignity through the
heavens, each swinging clear of the other's orbit--if, I
say, the man who sees this cannot realise the Creator's
attributes without the help of the book of Job, then his
view of things is beyond my understanding. Nor is it
only in the large things that we see the ever present
solicitude of some intelligent force. Nothing is too
tiny for that fostering care. We see the minute
proboscis of the insect carefully adjusted to fit into
the calyx of the flower, the most microscopic hair and
gland each with its definite purposeful function to
perform. What matter whether these came by special
creation or by evolution? We know as a matter of fact
that they came by evolution, but that only defines the
law. It does not explain it.

But if this power has cared for the bee so as to
furnish it with its honey bag and its collecting forceps,
and for the lowly seed so as to have a thousand devices
by which it reaches a congenial soil, then is it
conceivable that we, the highest product of all, are
overlooked? It is NOT conceivable. The idea is
inconsistent with the scheme of creation as we see it.
I say again that no faith is needed to attain the
certainty of a most watchful Providence.

And with this certainty surely we have all that is
necessary for an elemental religion. Come what may after
death, our duties lie clearly defined before us in this
life; and the ethical standard of all creeds agrees so
far that there is not likely to be any difference of
opinion as to that. The last reformation simplified
Catholicism. The coming one will simplify Protestantism.
And when the world is ripe for it another will come and
simplify that. The ever improving brain will give us an
ever broadening creed. Is it not glorious to think that
evolution is still living and acting--that if we have an
anthropoid ape as an ancestor, we may have archangels for
our posterity?

Well, I really never intended to inflict all this
upon you, Bertie. I thought I could have made my
position clear in a page or so. But you can see how one
point has brought up another. Even now I am leaving so
much unsaid. I can see with such certainty exactly
what you will say. "If you deduce a good Providence from
the good things in nature, what do you make of the evil?"
That's what you will say. Suffice it that I am inclined
to deny the existence of evil. Not another word will I
say upon the subject; but if you come back to it
yourself, then be it on your own head.

You remember that when I wrote last I had just
returned from visiting the Cullingworths at Avonmouth,
and that he had promised to let me know what steps he
took in appeasing his creditors. As I expected, I have
not had one word from him since. But in a roundabout way
I did get some news as to what happened. From this
account, which was second-hand, and may have been
exaggerated, Cullingworth did exactly what I had
recommended, and calling all his creditors together he
made them a long statement as to his position. The good
people were so touched by the picture that he drew of a
worthy man fighting against adversity that several of
them wept, and there was not only complete unanimity as
to letting their bills stand over, but even some talk of
a collection then and there to help Cullingworth on
his way. He has, I understand, left Avonmouth, but no
one has any idea what has become of him. It is generally
supposed that he has gone to England. He is a strange
fellow, but I wish him luck wherever he goes.

When I came back I settled down once more to the
routine of my father's practice, holding on there until
something may turn up. And for six months I have had to
wait; a weary six months they have been. You see I
cannot ask my father for money--or, at least, I cannot
bring myself to take an unnecessary penny of his money--
for I know how hard a fight it is with him to keep the
roof over our heads and pay for the modest little horse
and trap which are as necessary to his trade as a goose
is to a tailor. Foul fare the grasping taxman who wrings
a couple of guineas from us on the plea that it is a
luxury! We can just hold on, and I would not have him a
pound the poorer for me. But you can understand, Bertie,
that it is humiliating for a man of my age to have to go
about without any money in my pocket. It affects me in
so many petty ways. A poor man may do me a kindness, and
I have to seem mean in his eyes. I may want a flower for
a girl, and must be content to appear ungallant. I
don't know why I should be ashamed of this, since it is
no fault of mine, and I hope that I don't show it to any
one else that I AM ashamed of it; but to you, my dear
Bertie, I don't mind confessing that it hurts my self-
respect terribly.

I have often wondered why some of those writing
fellows don't try their hands at drawing the inner life
of a young man from about the age of puberty until he
begins to find his feet a little. Men are very fond of
analysing the feelings of their heroines, which they
cannot possibly know anything about, while they have
little to say of the inner development of their heroes,
which is an experience which they have themselves
undergone. I should like to try it myself, but it would
need blending with fiction, and I never had a spark of
imagination. But I have a vivid recollection of what I
went through myself. At the time I thought (as everybody
thinks) that it was a unique experience; but since I have
heard the confidences of my father's patients I am
convinced that it is the common lot. The shrinking,
horrible shyness, alternating with occasional absurd fits
of audacity which represent the reaction against it,
the longing for close friendship, the agonies over
imaginary slights, the extraordinary sexual doubts, the
deadly fears caused by non-existent diseases, the vague
emotion produced by all women, and the half-frightened
thrill by particular ones, the aggressiveness caused by
fear of being afraid, the sudden blacknesses, the
profound self-distrust--I dare bet that you have felt
every one of them, Bertie, just as I have, and that the
first lad of eighteen whom you see out of your window is
suffering from them now.

This is all a digression, however, from the fact that
I have been six months at home and am weary of it, and
pleased at the new development of which I shall have to
tell you. The practice here, although unremunerative, is
very busy with its three-and-sixpenny visits and guinea
confinements, so that both the governor and I have had
plenty to do. You know how I admire him, and yet I fear
there is little intellectual sympathy between us. He
appears to think that those opinions of mine upon
religion and politics which come hot from my inmost soul
have been assumed either out of indifference or bravado.
So I have ceased to talk on vital subjects with him,
and, though we affect to ignore it, we both know
that there is a barrier there. Now, with my mother--ah,
but my mother must have a paragraph to herself.

You met her, Bertie! You must remember her sweet
face, her sensitive mouth, her peering, short-sighted
eyes, her general suggestion of a plump little hen, who
is still on the alert about her chickens. But you cannot
realise all that she is to me in our domestic life.
Those helpful fingers! That sympathetic brain! Ever
since I can remember her she has been the quaintest
mixture of the housewife and the woman of letters, with
the highbred spirited lady as a basis for either
character. Always a lady, whether she was bargaining
with the butcher, or breaking in a skittish charwoman, or
stirring the porridge, which I can see her doing with the
porridge-stick in one hand, and the other holding her
Revue des deux Mondes within two inches of her dear
nose. That was always her favourite reading, and I can
never think of her without the association of its browny-
yellow cover.

She is a very well-read woman is the mother; she
keeps up to date in French literature as well as in
English, and can talk by the hour about the
Goncourts, and Flaubert, and Gautier. Yet she is always
hard at work; and how she imbibes all her knowledge is a
mystery. She reads when she knits, she reads when she
scrubs, she even reads when she feeds her babies. We
have a little joke against her, that at an interesting
passage she deposited a spoonful of rusk and milk into my
little sister's car-hole, the child having turned her
head at the critical instant. Her hands are worn with
work, and yet where is the idle woman who has read as

Then, there is her family pride. That is a very
vital portion of the mother. You know how little I think
of such things. If the Esquire were to be snipped once
and for ever from the tail of my name I should be the
lighter for it. But, ma foi!--to use her own
favourite expletive--it would not do to say this to her.
On the Packenham side (she is a Packenham) the family can
boast of some fairly good men--I mean on the direct
line--but when we get on the side branches there is not
a monarch upon earth who does not roost on that huge
family tree. Not once, nor twice, but thrice did the
Plantagenets intermarry with us, the Dukes of Brittany
courted our alliance, and the Percies of
Northumberland intertwined themselves with our whole
illustrious record. So in my boyhood she would expound
the matter, with hearthbrush in one hand and a glove full
of cinders in the other, while I would sit swinging my
knickerbockered legs, swelling with pride until my
waistcoat was as tight as a sausage skin, as I
contemplated the gulf which separated me from all other
little boys who swang their legs upon tables. To this
day if I chance to do anything of which she strongly
approves, the dear heart can say no more than that I am
a thorough Packenham; while if I fall away from the
straight path, she says with a sigh that there are points
in which I take after the Munros.

She is broad-minded and intensely practical in her
ordinary moods, though open to attacks of romance. I can
recollect her coming to see me at a junction through
which my train passed, with a six months' absence on
either side of the incident. We had five minutes'
conversation, my head out of the carriage window. "Wear
flannel next your skin, my dear boy, and never believe in
eternal punishment," was her last item of advice as we
rolled out of the station. Then to finish her
portrait I need not tell you, who have seen her, that she
is young-looking and comely to be the mother of about
thirty-five feet of humanity. She was in the railway
carriage and I on the platform the other day. "Your
husband had better get in or we'll go without him," said
the guard. As we went off, the mother was fumbling
furiously in her pocket, and I know that she was looking
for a shilling.

Ah! what a gossip I have been! And all to lead up to
the one sentence that I could not have stayed at home
this six months if it had not been for the company and
the sympathy of my mother.

Well, now I want to tell you about the scrape that I
got myself into. I suppose that I ought to pull a long
face over it, but for the life of me I can't help
laughing. I have you almost up to date in my history
now, for what I am going to tell you happened only last
week. I must mention no names here even to you; for the
curse of Ernulphus, which includes eight and forty minor
imprecations, be upon the head of the man who kisses and

You must know, then, that within the boundaries
of this city there are two ladies, a mother and a
daughter, whom I shall call Mrs. and Miss Laura Andrews.
They are patients of the governor's, and have become to
some extent friends of the family. Madame is Welsh,
charming in appearance, dignified in her manners, and
High Church in her convictions. The daughter is rather
taller than the mother, but otherwise they are strikingly
alike. The mother is thirty-six and the daughter
eighteen. Both are exceedingly charming. Had I to
choose between them, I think, entre nous, that the
mother would have attracted me most, for I am thoroughly
of Balzac's opinion as to the woman of thirty. However,
fate was to will it otherwise.

It was the coming home from a dance which first
brought Laura and me together. You know how easily and
suddenly these things happen, beginning in playful
teasing and ending in something a little warmer than
friendship. You squeeze the slender arm which is passed
through yours, you venture to take the little gloved
hand, you say good night at absurd length in the shadow
of the door. It is innocent and very interesting, love
trying his wings in a first little flutter. He will
keep his sustained flight later on, the better for the
practice. There was never any question of engagements
between us, nor any suggestion of harm. She knew that I
was a poor devil with neither means nor prospects, and I
knew that her mother's will was her law, and that her
course was already marked out for her. However, we
exchanged our little confidences, and met occasionally by
appointment, and tried to make our lives brighter without
darkening those of any one else. I can see you shake
your head here and growl, like the comfortable married
man that you are, that such relations are very dangerous.
So they are, my boy: but neither of us cared, she out of
innocence and I out of recklessness, for from the
beginning all the fault in the matter was mine.

Well, matters were in this state when one day last
week a note came up to the Dad saying that Mrs. Andrews'
servant was ill, and would he come at once. The old man
had a touch of gout, so I donned my professional coat
and sallied forth, thinking that perhaps I might combine
pleasure with business, and have a few words with Laura.
Sure enough, as I passed up the gravel drive which
curves round to the door, I glanced through the drawing-
room window, and saw her sitting painting, with her back
to the light. It was clear that she had not heard me.
The hall door was ajar, and when I pushed it open, no one
was in the hall. A sudden fit of roguishness came over
me. I pushed the drawing-room door very slowly wider,
crept in on tiptoe, stole quietly across, and bending
down, I kissed the artist upon the nape of her neck. She
turned round with a squeal, and it was the mother!

I don't know whether you have ever been in a tighter
corner than that, Bertie. It was quite tight enough for
me. I remember that I smiled as I stole across the
carpet on that insane venture. I did not smile again
that evening. It makes me hot now when I think of it.

Well, I made the most dreadful fool of myself. At
first, the good lady who (as I think I told you) is very
dignified and rather reserved, could not believe her
senses. Then, as the full force of my enormity came upon
her she reared herself up until she seemed the tallest
and the coldest woman I had ever seen. It was an
interview with a refrigerator. She asked me what I had
ever observed in her conduct which had encouraged me to
subject her to such an outrage. I saw, of course, that
any excuses upon my part would put her on the right track
and give poor Laura away; so I stood with my hair
bristling and my top hat in my hand, presenting, I am
sure, a most extraordinary figure. Indeed, she looked
rather funny herself, with her palette in one hand, her
brush in the other, and the blank astonishment on her
face. I stammered out something about hoping that she
did not mind, which made her more angry than ever. "The
only possible excuse for your conduct, sir, is that you
are under the influence of drink," said she. "I need not
say that we do not require the services of a medical man
in that condition." I did not try to disabuse her of the
idea, for really I could see no better explanation; so I
beat a retreat in a very demoralised condition. She
wrote a letter to my father about it in the evening, and
the old man was very angry indeed. As to the mother, she
is as staunch as steel, and quite prepared to prove
that poor Mrs. A. was a very deep designing person, who
had laid a trap for innocent Johnnie. So there has been
a grand row; and not a soul upon earth has the least idea
of what it all means, except only yourself as you read
this letter.

You can imagine that this has not contributed to make
life here more pleasant, for my father cannot bring
himself to forgive me. Of course, I don't wonder at his
anger. I should be just the same myself. It does look
like a shocking breach of professional honour, and a sad
disregard of his interests. If he knew the truth he
would see that it was nothing worse than a silly ill-
timed boyish joke. However, he never shall know the

And now there is some chance of my getting something
to do. We had a letter to-night from Christie & Howden,
the writers to the Signet, saying that they desire an
interview with me, in view of a possible appointment. We
can't imagine what it means, but I am full of hopes. I
go to-morrow morning to see them, and I shall let you
know the result.

Good-bye, my dear Bertie! Your life flows in a
steady stream, and mine in a broken torrent. Yet I would
have every detail of what happens to you.


HOME, 1st December, 1881.

I may be doing you an injustice, Bertie, but it
seemed to me in your last that there were indications
that the free expression of my religious views had been
distasteful to you. That you should disagree with me I
am prepared for; but that you should object to free and
honest discussion of those subjects which above all
others men should be honest over, would, I confess, be a
disappointment. The Freethinker is placed at this
disadvantage in ordinary society, that whereas it would
be considered very bad taste upon his part to obtrude his
unorthodox opinion, no such consideration hampers those
with whom he disagrees. There was a time when it took a
brave man to be a Christian. Now it takes a brave man
not to be. But if we are to wear a gag, and hide our
thoughts when writing in confidence to our most
intimate----no, but I won't believe it. You and
I have put up too many thoughts together and chased them
where-ever{sic} they would double, Bertie; so just write
to me like a good fellow, and tell me that I am an ass.
Until I have that comforting assurance, I shall place a
quarantine upon everything which could conceivably be
offensive to you.

Does not lunacy strike you, Bertie, as being a very
eerie thing? It is a disease of the soul. To think that
you may have a man of noble mind, full of every lofty
aspiration, and that a gross physical cause, such as the
fall of a spicule of bone from the inner table of his
skull on to the surface of the membrane which covers his
brain, may have the ultimate effect of turning him into
an obscene creature with every bestial attribute! That
a man's individuality should swing round from pole to
pole, and yet that one life should contain these two
contradictory personalities--is it not a wondrous thing?

I ask myself, where is the man, the very, very inmost
essence of the man? See how much you may subtract from
him without touching it. It does not lie in the limbs
which serve him as tools, nor in the apparatus by which
he is to digest, nor in that by which he is to inhale
oxygen. All these are mere accessories, the slaves of
the lord within. Where, then, is he? He does not lie in
the features which are to express his emotions, nor in
the eyes and ears which can be dispensed with by the
blind and deaf. Nor is he in the bony framework which is
the rack over which nature hangs her veil of flesh. In
none of these things lies the essence of the man. And
now what is left? An arched whitish putty-like mass,
some fifty odd ounces in weight, with a number of white
filaments hanging down from it, looking not unlike the
medusae which float in our summer seas. But these
filaments only serve to conduct nerve force to muscles
and to organs which serve secondary purposes. They may
themselves therefore be disregarded. Nor can we stop
here in our elimination. This central mass of nervous
matter may be pared down on all sides before we seem to
get at the very seat of the soul. Suicides have shot
away the front lobes of the brain, and have lived to
repent it. Surgeons have cut down upon it and have
removed sections. Much of it is merely for the
purpose of furnishing the springs of motion, and much
for the reception of impressions. All this may be put
aside as we search for the physical seat of what we call
the soul--the spiritual part of the man. And what is
left then? A little blob of matter, a handful of nervous
dough, a few ounces of tissue, but there--somewhere
there--lurks that impalpable seed, to which the rest of
our frame is but the pod. The old philosophers who put
the soul in the pineal gland were not right, but after
all they were uncommonly near the mark.

You'll find my physiology even worse than my
theology, Bertie. I have a way of telling stories
backwards to you, which is natural enough when you
consider that I always sit down to write under the
influence of the last impressions which have come upon
me. All this talk about the soul and the brain arises
simply from the fact that I have been spending the last
few weeks with a lunatic. And how it came about I will
tell you as clearly as I can.

You remember that in my last I explained to you how
restive I had been getting at home, and how my idiotic
mistake had annoyed my father and had made my
position here very uncomfortable. Then I mentioned, I
think, that I had received a letter from Christie &
Howden, the lawyers. Well, I brushed up my Sunday hat,
and my mother stood on a chair and landed me twice on the
ear with a clothes brush, under the impression that she
was making the collar of my overcoat look more
presentable. With which accolade out I sallied into the
world, the dear soul standing on the steps, peering after
me and waving me success.

Well, I was in considerable trepidation when I
reached the office, for I am a much more nervous person
than any of my friends will ever credit me with being.
However, I was shown in at once to Mr. James Christie, a
wiry, sharp, thin-lipped kind of man, with an abrupt
manner, and that sort of Scotch precision of speech which
gives the impression of clearness of thought behind it.

"I understand from Professor Maxwell that you have
been looking about for an opening, Mr. Munro," said he.

Maxwell had said that he would give me a hand if he
could; but you remember that he had a reputation for
giving such promises rather easily. I speak of a man
as I find him, and to me he has been an excellent friend.

"I should be very happy to hear of any opening," said

"Of your medical qualifications there is no need to
speak," he went on, running his eyes all over me in the
most questioning way. "Your Bachelorship of Medicine
will answer for that. But Professor Maxwell thought you
peculiarly fitted for this vacancy for physical reasons.
May I ask you what your weight is?"

"Fourteen stone."

"And you stand, I should judge, about six feet high?"


"Accustomed too, as I gather, to muscular exercise of
every kind. Well, there can be no question that you are
the very man for the post, and I shall be very happy to
recommend you to Lord Saltire."

"You forget," said I, "that I have not yet heard what
the position is, or the terms which you offer."

He began to laugh at that. "It was a little
precipitate on my part," said he; "but I do not think
that we are likely to quarrel as to position or terms.
You may have heard perhaps of the sad misfortune of our
client, Lord Saltire? Not? To put it briefly then, his
son, the Hon. James Derwent, the heir to the estates and
the only child, was struck down by the sun while fishing
without his hat last July. His mind has never recovered
from the shock, and he has been ever since in a chronic
state of moody sullenness which breaks out every now and
then into violent mania. His father will not allow him
to be removed from Lochtully Castle, and it is his desire
that a medical man should stay there in constant
attendance upon his son. Your physical strength would of
course be very useful in restraining those violent
attacks of which I have spoken. The remuneration will be
twelve pounds a month, and you would be required to take
over your duties to-morrow."

I walked home, my dear Bertie, with a bounding heart,
and the pavement like cotton wool under my feet. I found
just eightpence in my pocket, and I spent the whole of it
on a really good cigar with which to celebrate the
occasion. Old Cullingworth has always had a very high
opinion of lunatics for beginners. "Get a lunatic,
my boy! Get a lunatic!" he used to say. Then it was not
only the situation, but the fine connection that it
opened up. I seemed to see exactly what would happen.
There would be illness in the family,--Lord Saltire
himself perhaps, or his wife. There would be no time to
send for advice. I would be consulted. I would gain
their confidence and become their family attendant. They
would recommend me to their wealthy friends. It was all
as clear as possible. I was debating before I reached
home whether it would be worth my while to give up a
lucrative country practice in order to take the
Professorship which might be offered me.

My father took the news philosophically enough, with
some rather sardonic remark about my patient and me being
well qualified to keep each other company. But to my
mother it was a flash of joy, followed by a thunderclap
of consternation. I had only three under-shirts, the
best of my linen had gone to Belfast to be refronted and
recuffed, the night-gowns were not marked yet--there were
a dozen of those domestic difficulties of which the mere
male never thinks. A dreadful vision of Lady Saltire
looking over my things and finding the heel out of one of
my socks obsessed my mother. Out we trudged together,
and before evening her soul was at rest, and I had
mortgaged in advance my first month's salary. She was
great, as we walked home, upon the grand people into
whose service I was to enter. "As a matter of fact, my
dear," said she, "they are in a sense relations of yours.
You are very closely allied to the Percies, and the
Saltires have Percy blood in them also. They are only a
cadet branch, and you are close upon the main line; but
still it is not for us to deny the connection." She
brought a cold sweat out upon me by suggesting that she
should make things easy by writing to Lord Saltire and
explaining our respective positions. Several times
during the evening I heard her murmur complacently that
they were only the cadet branch.

Am I not the slowest of story-tellers? But you
encourage me to it by your sympathetic interest in
details. However, I shall move along a little faster
now. Next morning I was off to Lochtully, which, as you
know, is in the north of Perthshire. It stands three
miles from the station, a great gray pinnacled house,
with two towers cocking out above the fir woods, like a
hare's ears from a tussock of grass. As we drove up to
the door I felt pretty solemn--not at all as the main
line should do when it condescends to visit the cadet
branch. Into the hall as I entered came a grave learned-
looking man, with whom in my nervousness I was about to
shake hands cordially. Fortunately he forestalled the
impending embrace by explaining that he was the butler.
He showed me into a small study, where everything stank
of varnish and morocco leather, there to await the great
man. He proved when he came to be a much less formidable
figure than his retainer--indeed, I felt thoroughly at my
ease with him from the moment he opened his mouth. He is
grizzled, red-faced, sharp-featured, with a prying and
yet benevolent expression, very human and just a trifle
vulgar. His wife, however, to whom I was afterwards
introduced, is a most depressing person,--pale, cold,
hatchet-faced, with drooping eyelids and very prominent
blue veins at her temples. She froze me up again just as
I was budding out under the influence of her husband.
However, the thing that interested me most of all was to
see my patient, to whose room I was taken by Lord
Saltire after we had had a cup of tea.

The room was a large bare one, at the end of a long
corridor. Near the door was seated a footman, placed
there to fill up the gap between two doctors, and looking
considerably relieved at my advent. Over by the window
(which was furnished with a wooden guard, like that of a
nursery) sat a tall, yellow-haired, yellow-bearded, young
man, who raised a pair of startled blue eyes as we
entered. He was turning over the pages of a bound copy
of the Illustrated London News.

"James," said Lord Saltire, "this is Dr. Stark Munro,
who has come to look after you."

My patient mumbled something in his beard, which
seemed to me suspiciously like "Damn Dr. Stark Munro!"
The peer evidently thought the same, for he led me aside
by the elbow.

"I don't know whether you have been told that James
is a little rough in his ways at present," said he; "his
whole nature has deteriorated very much since this
calamity came upon him. You must not be offended by
anything he may say or do."

"Not in the least," said I.

"There is a taint of this sort upon my wife's
side," I whispered the little lord; "her uncle's
symptoms were identical. Dr. Peterson says that the
sunstroke was only the determining cause. The
predisposition was already there. I may tell you that
the footman will always be in the next room, so that you
can call him if you need his assistance."

Well, it ended by lord and lacquey moving off, and
leaving me with my patient. I thought that I should lose
no time in establishing a kindly relation with him, so I
drew a chair over to his sofa and began to ask him a few
questions about his health and habits. Not a word could
I get out of him in reply. He sat as sullen as a mule,
with a kind of sneer about his handsome face, which
showed me very well that he had heard everything. I
tried this and tried that, but not a syllable could I get
from him; so at last I turned from him and began to look
over some illustrated papers on the table. He doesn't
read, it seems, and will do nothing but look at pictures.
Well, I was sitting like this with my back half turned,
when you can imagine my surprise to feel something
plucking gently at me, and to see a great brown hand
trying to slip its way into my coat pocket. I caught at
the wrist and turned swiftly round, but too late to
prevent my handkerchief being whisked out and concealed
behind the Hon. James Derwent, who sat grinning at me
like a mischievous monkey.

"Come, I may want that," said I, trying to treat the
matter as a joke.

He used some language which was more scriptural than
religious. I saw that he did not mean giving it up, but
I was determined not to let him get the upper hand over
me. I grabbed for the handkerchief; and he, with a
snarl, caught my hand in both of his. He had a powerful
grip, but I managed to get his wrist and to give it a
wrench round, until, with a howl, he dropped my property.

"What fun," said I, pretending to laugh. "Let us try
again. Now, you take it up, and see if I can get it

But he had had enough of that game. Yet he appeared
to be better humoured than before the incident, and I got
a few short answers to the questions which I put to him.

And here comes in the text which started me
preaching about lunacy at the beginning of this
letter. WHAT a marvellous thing it is! This man,
from all I can learn of him, has suddenly swung clean
over from one extreme of character to the other. Every
plus has in an instant become a minus. He's another
man, but in the same case. I am told that he used to be
(only a few months ago, mind you) most fastidious in
dress and speech. Now he is a foul-tongued rough! He
had a nice taste in literature. Now he stares at you if
you speak of Shakespeare. Queerest of all, he used to be
a very high-and-dry Tory in his opinions. He is fond now
of airing the most democratic views, and in a needlessly
offensive way. When I did get on terms with him at last,
I found that there was nothing on which he could be drawn
on to talk so soon as on politics. In substance, I am
bound to say that I think his new views are probably
saner than his old ones, but the insanity lies in his
sudden reasonless change and in his violent blurts of

It was some weeks, however, before I gained his
confidence, so far as to be able to hold a real
conversation with him. For a long time he was very
sullen and suspicious, resenting the constant watch which
I kept upon him. This could not be relaxed, for he was
full of the most apish tricks. One day he got hold of my
tobacco pouch, and stuffed two ounces of my tobacco into
the long barrel of an Eastern gun which hangs on the
wall. He jammed it all down with the ramrod, and I was
never able to get it up again. Another time he threw
an earthenware spittoon through the window, and would
have sent the clock after it had I not prevented him.
Every day I took him for a two hours' constitutional,
save when it rained, and then we walked religiously for
the same space up and down the room. Heh! but it was a
deadly, dreary, kind of life.

I was supposed to have my eye upon him all day, with
a two-hour interval every afternoon and an evening to
myself upon Fridays. But then what was the use of an
evening to myself when there was no town near, and I had
no friends whom I could visit? I did a fair amount of
reading, for Lord Saltire let me have the run of his
library. Gibbon gave me a couple of enchanting weeks.
You know the effect that he produces. You seem to be
serenely floating upon a cloud, and looking down on all
these pigmy armies and navies, with a wise Mentor ever at
your side to whisper to you the inner meaning of all that
majestic panorama.

Now and again young Derwent introduced some
excitement into my dull life. On one occasion when we
were walking in the grounds, he suddenly snatched up a
spade from a grass-plot, and rushed at an inoffensive
under-gardener. The man ran screaming for his life, with
my patient cursing at his very heels, and me within a few
paces of him. When I at last laid my hand on his collar,
he threw down his weapon and burst into shrieks of
laughter. It was only mischief and not ferocity; but
when that under-gardener saw us coming after that he was
off with a face like a cream cheese. At night the
attendant slept in a camp-bed at the foot of the
patient's, and my room was next door, so that I could be
called if necessary. No, it was not a very exhilarating

We used to go down to family meals when there were no
visitors; and there we made a curious quartette:
Jimmy (as he wished me to call him) glum and silent; I
with the tail of my eye always twisted round to him; Lady
Saltire with her condescending eyelids and her blue
veins; and the good-natured peer, fussy and genial, but
always rather subdued in the presence of his wife. She
looked as if a glass of good wine would do her good, and
he as if he would be the better for abstinence; and so,
in accordance with the usual lopsidedness of life, he
drank freely, and she took nothing but lime-juice and
water. You cannot imagine a more ignorant, intolerant,
narrow-minded woman than she. If she had only been
content to be silent and hidden that small brain of hers,
it would not have mattered; but there was no end to her
bitter and exasperating clacking. What was she after all
but a thin pipe for conveying disease from one generation
to another? She was bounded by insanity upon the north
and upon the south. I resolutely set myself to avoid all
argument with her; but she knew, with her woman's
instinct, that we were as far apart as the poles, and
took a pleasure in waving the red flag before me. One
day she was waxing eloquent as to the crime of a
minister of an Episcopal church performing any service
in a Presbyterian chapel. Some neighbouring minister had
done it, it seems; and if he had been marked down in a
pot house she could not have spoken with greater

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