CORPORAL CAMERON OF THE NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE
A TALE OF THE MACLEOD TRAIL
By Ralph Connor
I THE QUITTER
II THE GLEN OF THE CUP OF GOLD
III THE FAMILY SOLICITOR
IV A QUESTION OF HONOUR
V A LADY AND THE LAW
VI THE WASTER'S REFUGE
VII FAREWELL TO CUAGH OIR
VIII WILL HE COME BACK?
I HO FOR THE OPEN!
II A MAN'S JOB
III A DAY'S WORK
IV A RAINY DAY
V HOW THEY SAVED THE DAY
VI A SABBATH DAY IN LATE AUGUST
VII THE CHIVAREE
VIII IN APPLE TIME
I THE CAMP BY THE GAP
II ON THE WINGS OF THE STORM
III THE STONIES
IV THE DULL RED STAIN
V SERGEANT CRISP
VI A DAY IN THE MACLEOD BARRACKS
VII THE MAKING OF BRAVES
VIII NURSE HALEY
IX "CORPORAL" CAMERON
"Oh-h-h-h, Cam-er-on!" Agony, reproach, entreaty, vibrated in the clear young voice that rang out over the Inverleith grounds. The Scottish line was sagging!—that line invincible in two years of International conflict, the line upon which Ireland and England had broken their pride. Sagging! And because Cameron was weakening! Cameron, the brilliant half-back, the fierce-fighting, erratic young Highlander, disciplined, steadied by the great Dunn into an instrument of Scotland's glory! Cameron going back! A hush fell on the thronged seats and packed inner-circle,—a breathless, dreadful hush of foreboding. High over the hushed silence that vibrant cry rang; and Cameron heard it. The voice he knew. It was young Rob Dunn's, the captain's young brother, whose soul knew but two passions, one for the captain and one for the half-back of the Scottish International.
And Cameron responded. The enemy's next high punt found him rock-like in steadiness. And rock-like he tossed high over his shoulders the tow-headed Welshman rushing joyously at him, and delivered his ball far down the line safe into touch. But after his kick he was observed to limp back into his place. The fierce pace of the Welsh forwards was drinking the life of the Scottish backline.
An hour; then a half; then another half, without a score. And now the final quarter was searching, searching the weak spots in their line. The final quarter it is that finds a man's history and habits; the clean of blood and of life defy its pitiless probe, but the rotten fibre yields and snaps. That momentary weakness of Cameron's like a subtle poison runs through the Scottish line; and like fluid lightning through the Welsh. It is the touch upon the trembling balance. With cries exultant with triumph, the Welsh forwards fling themselves upon the steady Scots now fighting for life rather than for victory. And under their captain's directions these fierce, victory-sniffing Welsh are delivering their attack upon the spot where he fancies he has found a yielding. In vain Cameron rallies his powers; his nerve is failing him, his strength is done. Only five minutes to play, but one minute is enough. Down upon him through a broken field, dribbling the ball and following hard like hounds on a hare, come the Welsh, the tow-head raging in front, bloody and fearsome. There is but one thing for Cameron to do; grip that tumbling ball, and, committing body and soul to fate, plunge into that line. Alas, his doom is upon him! He grips the ball, pauses a moment—only a fatal moment,—but it is enough. His plunge is too late. He loses the ball. A surge of Welshmen overwhelm him in the mud and carry the ball across. The game is won—and lost. What though the Scots, like demons suddenly released from hell, the half-back Cameron most demon-like of all, rage over the field, driving the Welshmen hither and thither at will, the gods deny them victory; it is for Wales that day!
In the retreat of their rubbing-room the gay, gallant humour which the Scots have carried with them off the field of their defeat, vanishes into gloom. Through the steaming silence a groan breaks now and then. At length a voice:
"Oh, wasn't it rotten! The rank quitter that he is!"
"Quitter? Who is? Who says so?" It was the captain's voice, sharp with passion.
"I do, Dunn. It was Cameron lost us the game. You know it, too. I know it's rotten to say this, but I can't help it. Cameron lost the game, and I say he's a rank 'quitter,' as Martin would say."
"Look here, Nesbitt," the captain's voice was quiet, but every man paused in his rubbing. "I know how sore you are and I forgive you that; but I don't want to hear from you or from any man on the team that word again. Cameron is no quitter; he made—he made an error,—he wasn't fit,—but I say to you Cameron is no quitter."
While he was speaking the door opened and into the room came a player, tall, lanky, with a pale, gaunt face, plastered over the forehead with damp wisps of straight, black hair. His deep-set, blue-grey eyes swept the room.
"Thanks, Dunn," he said hoarsely. "Let them curse me! I deserve it all. It's tough for them, but God knows I've got the worst of it. I've played my last game." His voice broke huskily.
"Oh, rot it, Cameron," cried Dunn. "Don't be an ass! Your first big game—every fellow makes his mistake—"
"Mistake! Mistake! You can't lie easily, Dunn. I was a fool and worse than a fool. I let myself down and I wasn't fit. Anyway, I'm through with it." His voice was wild and punctuated with unaccustomed oaths; his breath came in great sobs.
"Oh, rot it, Cameron!" again cried Dunn. "Next year you'll be twice the man. You're just getting into your game."
Right loyally his men rallied to their captain:
"Right you are!"
"Why, certainly; no man gets into the game first year!"
"We'll give 'em beans next year, Cameron, old man!"
They were all eager to atone for the criticism which all had held in their hearts and which one of them had spoken. But this business was serious. To lose a game was bad enough, but to round on a comrade was unpardonable; while to lose from the game a half-back of Cameron's calibre was unthinkable.
Meanwhile Cameron was tearing off his football togs and hustling on his clothes with fierce haste. Dunn kept his eye on him, hurrying his own dressing and chatting quietly the while. But long before he was ready for the street, Cameron had crushed his things into a bag and was looking for his hat.
"Hold on! I'm with you; I'm with you in a jiffy," said Dunn.
"My hat," muttered Cameron, searching wildly among the jumble.
"Oh, hang the hat; let it go! Wait for me, Cameron. Where are you going?" cried Dunn.
"To the devil," cried the lad, slamming the door behind him.
"And, by Jove, he'll go, too!" said Nesbitt. "Say, I'm awfully sorry I made that break, Dunn. It was beastly low-down to round on a chap like that. I'll go after him."
"Do, old chap! He's frightfully cut up. And get him for to-night. He may fight shy of the dinner. But he's down for the pipes, you know, and—well, he's just got to be there. Good-bye, you chaps; I'm off! And—I say, men!" When Dunn said "men" they all knew it was their captain that was speaking. Everybody stood listening. Dunn hesitated a moment or two, as if searching for words. "About the dinner to-night: I'd like you to remember—I mean—I don't want any man to—oh, hang it, you know what I mean! There will be lots of fellows there who will want to fill you up. I'd hate to see any of our team—" The captain paused embarrassed.
"We tumble, Captain," said Martin, a medical student from Canada, who played quarter. "I'll keep an eye on 'em, you bet!"
Everybody roared; for not only on the quarter-line but also at the dinner table the little quarter-back was a marvel of endurance.
"Hear the blooming Colonist!" said Linklater, Martin's comrade on the quarter-line, and his greatest friend. "We know who'll want the watching, but we'll see to him, Captain."
"All right, old chap! Sorry I'll have to cut the van. I'm afraid my governor's got the carriage here for me."
But the men all made outcry. There were other plans for him.
"But, Captain; hold on!"
"Aw, now, Captain! Don't forsake us!"
"But I say, Dunn, see us through; we're shy!"
"Don't leave us, Captain, or you'll be sorry," sang out Martin. "Come on, fellows, let's keep next him! We'll give him 'Old Grimes!'"
Already a mighty roar was heard outside. The green, the drive, the gateways, and the street were blocked with the wildest football fanatics that Edinburgh, and all Scotland could produce. They were waiting for the International players, and were bent on carrying their great captain down the street, shoulder high; for the enthusiasm of the Scot reaches the point of madness only in the hour of glorious defeat. But before they were aware, Dunn had shouldered his mighty form through the opposing crowds and had got safely into the carriage beside his father and his young brother. But the crowd were bound to have him.
"We want him, Docthor," said a young giant in a tam-o'-shanter. "In fac', Docthor," he argued with a humourous smile, "we maun hae him."
"Ye'll no' get him, Jock Murchison," shouted young Rob, standing in front of his big brother. "We want him wi' us."
The crowd laughed gleefully.
"Go for him, Jock! You can easy lick him," said a voice encouragingly.
"Pit him oot, Docthor," said Jock, who was a great friend of the family, and who had a profound respect for the doctor.
"It's beyond me, Jock, I fear. See yon bantam cock! I doubt ye'll hae to be content," said the doctor, dropping into Jock's kindly Doric.
"Oh, get on there, Murchison," said Dunn impatiently. "You're not going to make an ass of me; make up your mind to that!"
Jock hesitated, meditating a sudden charge, but checked by his respect for Doctor Dunn.
"Here, you fellows!" shouted a voice. "Fall in; the band is going to play! Get into line there, you Tam-o'-shanter; you're stopping the procesh! Now then, wait for the line, everybody!" It was Little Martin on top of the van in which were the Scottish players. "Tune, 'Old Grimes'; words as follows. Catch on, everybody!"
"Old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn, Old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn, Old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn, Old Dunn, old Dunn, old Dunn."
With a delighted cheer the crowd formed in line, and, led by the little quarter-back on top of the van, they set off down the street, two men at the heads of the doctor's carriage horses, holding them in place behind the van. On went the swaying crowd and on went the swaying chant, with Martin, director of ceremonies and Dunn hurling unavailing objurgations and entreaties at Jock's head.
Through the uproar a girl's voice reached the doctor's ear:
"Aren't they lovely, Sir?"
The doctor turned to greet a young lady, tall, strong, and with the beauty of perfect health rather than of classic feature in her face. There was withal a careless disregard of the feminine niceties of dress.
"Oh, Miss Brodie! Will you not come up? We can easily make room."
"I'd just love to," cried the girl, "but I'm only a humble member of the procession, following the band and the chariot wheels of the conqueror." Her strong brown face was all aglow with ardour.
"Conqueror!" growled Dunn. "Not much of a conqueror!"
"Why not? Oh fudge! The game? What matters the game? It's the play we care about."
"Well spoken, lassie," said the doctor. "That's the true sport."
"Aren't they awful?" cried Dunn. "Look at that young Canadian idiot up there."
"Well, if you ask me, I think he's a perfect dear," said Miss Brodie, deliberately. "I'm sure I know him; anyway I'm going to encourage him with my approval." And she waved her hand at Martin.
The master of ceremonies responded by taking off his hat and making a sweeping bow, still keeping up the beat. The crowd, following his eyes, turned their attention to the young lady, much to Dunn's delight.
"Oh," she gasped, "they'll be chanting me next! Good-bye! I'm off!" And she darted back to the company of her friends marching on the pavement.
At this point Martin held up both arms and called for silence.
"Second verse," he shouted, "second verse! Get the words now!"
"Old Dunn ain't done, old Dunn ain't done, Old Dunn, old Dunn ain't done, Old Dunn ain't done, old Dunn ain't done, Old Dunn, old Dunn ain't done."
But the crowd rejected the Colonial version, and rendered in their own good Doric:
"Old Dunn's no' done, old Dunn's no' done, Old Dunn, old Dunn's no' done, Old Dunn's no' done, old Dunn's no' done, Old Dunn, old Dunn's no' done."
And so they sang and swayed, following the van till they neared Queen Street, down which lay the doctor's course.
"For heaven's sake, can't they be choked off?" groaned Dunn.
The doctor signalled Jock to him.
"Jock," he said, "we'll just slip through at Queen Street."
"We'd like awfully to do Princes Street, Sir," pleaded Jock.
"Princes Street, you born ass!" cried Dunn wrathfully.
"Oh, yes, let them!" cried young Rob, whose delight in the glory of his hero had been beyond all measure. "Let them do Princes Street, just once!"
But the doctor would not have it. "Jock," he said quietly, "just get us through at Queen Street."
"All right, Sir," replied Jock with great regret. "It will be as you say."
Under Jock's orders, when Queen Street was reached, the men at the horses' heads suddenly swung the pair from the crowd, and after some struggling, got them safely into the clear space, leaving the procession to follow the van, loudly cheering their great International captain, whose prowess on the field was equalled only by his modesty and his hatred of a demonstration.
"Listen to the idiots," said Dunn in disgust, as the carriage bore them away from the cheering crowd.
"Man, they're just fine! Aren't they, Father?" said young Rob in an ecstasy of joy.
"They're generous lads, generous lads, boy," said Doctor Dunn, his old eyes shining, for his son's triumph touched him deeply. "That's the only way to take defeat."
"That's all right, Sir," said Dunn quickly, "but it's rather embarrassing, though it's awfully decent of them."
The doctor's words suggested fresh thoughts to young Rob. "But it was terrible; and you were just on the win, too, I know."
"I'm not so sure at all," said his brother.
"Oh, it is terrible," said Bob again.
"Tut, tut, lad! What's so terrible?" said his father. "One side has to lose."
"Oh, it's not that," said Rob, his lip trembling. "I don't care a sniff for the game."
"What, then?" said his big brother in a voice sharpened by his own thoughts.
"Oh, Jack," said Rob, nervously wreathing his hands, "he—it looked as if he—" the lad could not bring himself to say the awful word. Nor was there need to ask who it was the boy had in mind.
"What do you mean, Rob?" the captain's voice was impatient, almost angry.
Then Rob lost his control. "Oh, Jack, I can't help it; I saw it. Do you think—did he really funk it?" His voice broke. He clutched his brother's knee and stood with face white and quivering. He had given utterance to the terrible suspicion that was torturing his heroic young soul. Of his two household gods one was tottering on its pedestal. That a football man should funk—the suspicion was too dreadful.
The captain glanced at his father's face. There was gloom there, too, and the same terrible suspicion. "No, Sir," said Dunn, with impressive deliberation, answering the look on his father's face, "Cameron is no quitter. He didn't funk. I think," he continued, while Rob's tear-stained face lifted eagerly, "I know he was out of condition; he had let himself run down last week, since the last match, indeed, got out of hand a bit, you know, and that last quarter—you know, Sir, that last quarter was pretty stiff—his nerve gave just for a moment."
"Oh," said the doctor in a voice of relief, "that explains it. But," he added quickly in a severe tone, "it was very reprehensible for a man on the International to let himself get out of shape, very reprehensible indeed. An International, mind you!"
"It was my fault, Sir, I'm afraid," said Dunn, regretfully. "I ought to have—"
"Nonsense! A man must be responsible for himself. Control, to be of any value, must be ultroneous, as our old professor used to say."
"That's true, Sir, but I had kept pretty close to him up to the last week, you see, and—"
"Bad training, bad training. A trainer's business is to school his men to do without him."
"That is quite right, Sir. I believe I've been making a mistake," said Dunn thoughtfully. "Poor chap, he's awfully cut up!"
"So he should be," said the doctor sternly. "He had no business to get out of condition. The International, mind you!"
"Oh, Father, perhaps he couldn't help it," cried Rob, whose loyal, tender heart was beating hard against his little ribs, "and he looks awful. I saw him come out and when I called to him he never looked at me once."
There is no finer loyalty in this world than that of a boy below his teens. It is so without calculation, without qualification, and without reserve. Dr. Dunn let his eyes rest kindly upon his little flushed face.
"Perhaps so, perhaps so, my boy," he said, "and I have no doubt he regrets it now more than any of us. Where has he gone?"
"Nesbitt's after him, Sir. He'll get him for to-night."
But as Dunn, fresh from his bath, but still sore and stiff, was indulging in a long-banished pipe, Nesbitt came in to say that Cameron could not be found.
"And have you not had your tub yet?" said his captain.
"Oh, that's all right! You know I feel awfully about that beastly remark of mine."
"Oh, let it go," said Dunn. "That'll be all right. You get right away home for your tub and get freshened up for to-night. I'll look after Cameron. You know he is down for the pipes. He's simply got to be there and I'll get him if I have to bring him in a crate, pipes, kilt and all."
And Nesbitt, knowing that Dunn never promised what he could not fulfil, went off to his tub in fair content. He knew his captain.
As Dunn was putting on his coat Rob came in, distress written on his face.
"Are you going to get Cameron, Jack?" he asked timidly. "I asked Nesbitt, and he said—"
"Now look here, youngster," said his big brother, then paused. The distress in the lad's face checked his words. "Now, Rob," he said kindly, "you needn't fret about this. Cameron is all right."
The kind tone broke down the lad's control. He caught his brother's arm. "Say, Jack, are you sure—he didn't—funk?" His voice dropped to a whisper.
Then his big brother sat down and drew the lad to his side, "Now listen, Rob; I'm going to tell you the exact truth. CAMERON DID NOT FUNK. The truth is, he wasn't fit,—he ought to have been, but he wasn't,—and because he wasn't fit he came mighty near quitting—for a moment, I'm sure, he felt like it, because his nerve was gone,—but he didn't. Remember, he felt like quitting and didn't, And that's the finest thing a chap can do,—never to quit, even when he feels like it. Do you see?"
The lad's head went up. "I see," he said, his eyes glowing. "It was fine! I'm awfully glad he didn't quit, 'specially when he felt like it. You tell him for me." His idol was firm again on his pedestal.
"All right, old chap," said his big brother. "You'll never quit, I bet!"
"Not if I'm fit, will I?"
"Right you are! Keep fit—that's the word!"
And with that the big brother passed out to find the man who was writhing in an agony of self-contempt; for in the face of all Scotland and in the hour of her need he had failed because he wasn't fit.
After an hour Dunn found his man, fixed in the resolve to there and then abandon the game with all the appurtenances thereof, and among these the dinner. Mightily his captain laboured with him, plying him with varying motives,—the honour of the team was at stake; the honour of the country was at stake; his own honour, for was he not down on the programme for the pipes? It was all in vain. In dogged gloom the half-back listened unmoved.
At length Dunn, knowing well the Highlander's tender heart, cunningly touched another string and told of Rob's distress and subsequent relief, and then gave his half-back the boy's message. "I promised to tell you, and I almost forgot. The little beggar was terribly worked up, and as I remember it, this is what he said: 'I'm awfully glad he didn't quit, 'specially when he felt like it.' Those were his very words."
Then Cameron buried his face in his hands and groaned aloud, while Dunn, knowing that he had reached his utmost, stood silent, waiting. Suddenly Cameron flung up his head:
"Did he say I didn't quit? Good little soul! I'll go; I'd go through hell for that!"
And so it came that not in a crate, but in the gallant garb of a Highland gentleman, pipes and all, Cameron was that night in his place, fighting out through the long hilarious night the fiercest fight of his life, chiefly because of the words that lay like a balm to his lacerated heart:
"He didn't quit, 'specially when he felt like it."
THE GLEN OF THE CUP OF GOLD
Just over the line of the Grampians, near the head-waters of the Spey, a glen, small and secluded, lies bedded deep among the hills,—a glen that when filled with sunlight on a summer day lies like a cup of gold; the gold all liquid and flowing over the cup's rim. And hence they call the glen "The Cuagh Oir," The Glen of the Cup of Gold.
At the bottom of the Cuagh, far down, a little loch gleams, an oval of emerald or of sapphire, according to the sky above that smiles into its depths. On dark days the loch can gloom, and in storm it can rage, white-lipped, just like the people of the Glen.
Around the emerald or sapphire loch farmlands lie sunny and warm, set about their steadings, and are on this spring day vivid with green, or rich in their red-browns where the soil lies waiting for the seed. Beyond the sunny fields the muirs of brown heather and bracken climb abruptly up to the dark-massed firs, and they to the Cuagh's rim. But from loch to rim, over field and muir and forest, the golden, liquid light ever flows on a sunny day and fills the Cuagh Oir till it runs over.
On the east side of the loch, among some ragged firs, a rambling Manor House, ivy-covered and ancient, stood; and behind it, some distance away, the red tiling of a farm-cottage, with its steading clustering near, could be seen. About the old Manor House the lawn and garden told of neglect and decay, but at the farmhouse order reigned. The trim little garden plot, the trim lawn, the trim walks and hedges, the trim thatch of the roof, the trim do'-cote above it, the trim stables, byres, barns and yard of the steading, proclaimed the prudent, thrifty care of a prudent, thrifty soul.
And there in the steading quadrangle, amidst the feathered creatures, hens, cocks and chicks, ducks, geese, turkeys and bubbly-jocks, stood the mistress of the Manor and prudent, thrifty manager of the farm,—a girl of nineteen, small, well-made, and trim as the farmhouse and its surroundings, with sunny locks and sunny face and sunny brown eyes. Her shapely hands were tanned and coarsened by the weather; her little feet were laced in stout country-made brogues; her dress was a plain brown winsey, kilted and belted open at the full round neck; the kerchief that had fallen from her sunny, tangled hair was of simple lawn, spotless and fresh; among her fowls she stood, a country lass in habit and occupation, but in face and form, in look and poise, a lady every inch of her. Dainty and daunty, sweet and strong, she stood, "the bonny like o' her bonny mither," as said the South Country nurse, Nannie, who had always lived at the Glen Cuagh House from the time that that mother was a baby; "but no' sae fine like," the nurse would add with a sigh. For she remembered ever the gentle airs and the high-bred, stately grace of Mary Robertson,—for though married to Captain Cameron of Erracht, Mary Robertson she continued to be to the Glen folk,—the lady of her ancestral manor, now for five years lain under the birch trees yonder by the church tower that looked out from its clustering firs and birches on the slope beyond the loch. Five years ago the gentle lady had passed from them, but like the liquid, golden sunlight, and like the perfume of the heather and the firs, the aroma of her saintly life still filled the Glen.
A year after that grief had fallen, Moira, her one daughter, "the bonny like o' her bonny mither, though no' sae fine," had somehow slipped into command of the House Farm, the only remaining portion of the wide demesne of farmlands once tributary to the House. And by the thrift which she learned from her South Country nurse in the care of her poultry and her pigs, and by her shrewd oversight of the thriftless, doddling Highland farmer and his more thriftless and more doddling womenfolk, she brought the farm to order and to a basis of profitable returns. And this, too, with so little "clash and claver" that her father only knew that somehow things were more comfortable about the place, and that there were fewer calls than formerly upon his purse for the upkeep of the House and home. Indeed, the less appeared Moira's management, both in the routine of the House and in the care of the farm, the more peacefully flowed the current of their life. It seriously annoyed the Captain at intervals when he came upon his daughter directing operations in barnyard or byre. That her directing meant anything more than a girlish meddling in matters that were his entire concern and about which he had already given or was about to give orders, the Captain never dreamed. That things about the House were somehow prospering in late years he set down to his own skill and management and his own knowledge of scientific farming; a knowledge which, moreover, he delighted to display at the annual dinners of the Society for the Improvement of Agriculture in the Glen, of which he was honourary secretary; a knowledge which he aired in lengthy articles in local agricultural and other periodicals; a knowledge which, however, at times became the occasion of dismay to his thrifty daughter and her Highland farmer, and not seldom the occasion of much useless expenditure of guineas hard won from pigs and poultry. True, more serious loss was often averted by the facility with which the Captain turned from one scheme to another, happily forgetful of orders he had given and which were never carried out; and by the invincible fabianism of the Highland farmer, who, listening with gravest attention to the Captain's orders delivered in the most definite and impressive terms, would make reply, "Yess, yess indeed, I know; she will be attending to it immediately—tomorrow, or fery soon whateffer." It cannot be said that this capacity for indefinite procrastination rendered the Highlander any less valuable to his "tear young leddy."
The days on which Postie appeared with a large bundle of mail were accounted good days by the young mistress, for on these and succeeding days her father would be "busy with his correspondence." And these days were not few, for the Captain held many honourary offices in county and other associations for the promotion and encouragement of various activities, industrial, social, and philanthropic. Of the importance of these activities to the county and national welfare, the Captain had no manner of doubt, as his voluminous correspondence testified. As to the worth of his correspondence his daughter, too, held the highest opinion, estimating her father, as do all dutiful daughters, at his own valuation. For the Captain held himself in high esteem; not simply for his breeding, which was of the Camerons of Erracht; nor for his manners, which were of the most courtly, if occasionally marred by fretfulness; nor for his dress, which was that of a Highland gentleman, perfect in detail and immaculate, but for his many and public services rendered to the people, the county, and the nation. Indeed his mere membership dues to the various associations, societies and committees with which he was connected, and his dining expenses contingent upon their annual meetings, together with the amounts expended upon the equipment and adornment of his person proper to such festive occasions, cut so deep into the slender resources of the family as to give his prudent daughter some considerable concern; though it is safe to say that such concern her father would have regarded not only as unnecessary but almost as impertinent.
The Captain's correspondence, however extensive, was on the whole regarded by his daughter as a good rather than an evil, in that it secured her domestic and farm activities from disturbing incursions. This spring morning Moira's apprehensions awakened by an extremely light mail, were realized, as she beheld her father bearing down upon her with an open letter in his hand. His handsome face was set in a fretful frown.
"Moira, my daughter!" he exclaimed, "how often have I spoke to you about this—this—unseemly—ah—mussing and meddling in the servants' duties!"
"But, Papa," cried his daughter, "look at these dear things! I love them and they all know me, and they behave so much better when I feed them myself. Do they not, Janet?" she added, turning to the stout and sonsy farmer's daughter standing by.
"Indeed, then, they are clever at knowing you," replied the maid, whose particular duty was to hold a reserve supply of food for the fowls that clamoured and scrambled about her young mistress.
"Look at that vain bubbly-jock there, Papa," cried Moira, "he loves to have me notice him. Conceited creature! Look out, Papa, he does not like your kilts!" The bubbly-jock, drumming and scraping and sidling ever nearer to the Captain's naked knees, finally with great outcry flew straight at the affronting kilts.
"Get off with you, you beast!" cried the Captain, kicking vainly at the wrathful bird, and at the same time beating a wise retreat before his onset.
Moira rushed to his rescue. "Hoot, Jock! Shame on ye!" she cried. "There now, you proud thing, be off! He's just jealous of your fine appearance, Papa." With her kerchief she flipped into submission the haughty bubbly-jock and drew her father out of the steading. "Come away, Papa, and see my pigs."
But the Captain was in no humour for pigs. "Nonsense, child," he cried, "let us get out of this mess! Besides, I wish to speak to you on a matter of importance." They passed through the gate. "It is about Allan," he continued, "and I'm really vexed. Something terrible has happened."
"Allan!" the girl's voice was faint and her sunny cheek grew white. "About Allan!" she said again. "And what is wrong with Allan, Papa?"
"That's what I do not know," replied her father fretfully; "but I must away to Edinburgh this very day, so you'll need to hasten with my packing. And bid Donald bring round the cart at once."
But Moira stood dazed. "But, Papa, you have not told me what is wrong with Allan." Her voice was quiet, but with a certain insistence in it that at once irritated her father and compelled his attention.
"Tut, tut, Moira, I have just said I do not know."
"Is he ill, Papa?" Again the girl's voice grew faint.
"No, no, not ill. I wish he were! I mean it is some business matter you cannot understand. But it must be serious if Mr. Rae asks my presence immediately. So you must hasten, child."
In less than half an hour Donald and the cart were waiting at the door, and Moira stood in the hall with her father's bag ready packed. "Oh, I am glad," she said, as she helped her father with his coat, "that Allan is not ill. There can't be much wrong."
"Wrong! Read that, child!" cried the father impatiently.
She took the letter and read, her face reflecting her changing emotions, perplexity, surprise, finally indignation. "'A matter for the police,'" she quoted, scornfully, handing her father the letter. "'A matter for the police' indeed! My but that Mr. Rae is the clever man! The police! Does he think my brother Allan would cheat?—or steal, perhaps!" she panted, in her indignant scorn.
"Mr. Rae is a careful man and a very able lawyer," replied her father.
"Able! Careful! He's an auld wife, and that's what he is! You can tell him so for me." She was trembling and white with a wrath her father had never before seen in her. He stood gazing at her in silent surprise.
"Papa," cried Moira passionately, answering his look, "do you think what he is saying? I know my brother Allan clean through to the heart. He is wild at times, and might rage perhaps and—and—break things, but he will not lie nor cheat. He will die first, and that I warrant you."
Still her father stood gazing upon her as she stood proudly erect, her pale face alight with lofty faith in her brother and scorn of his traducer. "My child, my child," he said, huskily, "how like you are to your mother! Thank God! Indeed it may be you're right! God grant it!" He drew her closely to him.
"Papa, Papa," she whispered, clinging to him, while her voice broke in a sob, "you know Allan will not lie. You know it, don't you, Papa?"
"I hope not, dear child, I hope not," he replied, still holding her to him.
"Papa," she cried wildly, "say you believe me."
"Yes, yes, I do believe you. Thank God, I do believe you. The boy is straight."
At that word she let him go. That her father should not believe in Allan was to her loyal heart an intolerable pain. Now Allan would have someone to stand for him against "that lawyer" and all others who might seek to do him harm. At the House door she stood watching her father drive down through the ragged firs to the highroad, and long after he had passed out of sight she still stood gazing. Upon the church tower rising out of its birches and its firs her eyes were resting, but her heart was with the little mound at the tower's foot, and as she gazed, the tears gathered and fell.
"Oh, Mother!" she whispered. "Mother, Mother! You know Allan would not lie!"
A sudden storm was gathering. In a brief moment the world and the Glen had changed. But half an hour ago and the Cuagh Oir was lying glorious with its flowing gold. Now, from the Cuagh as from her world, the flowing gold was gone.
THE FAMILY SOLICITOR
The senior member of the legal firm of Rae & Macpherson was perplexed and annoyed, indeed angry, and angry chiefly because he was perplexed. He resented such a condition of mind as reflecting upon his legal and other acumen. Angry, too, he was because he had been forced to accept, the previous day, a favour from a firm—Mr. Rae would not condescend to say a rival firm—with which he for thirty years had maintained only the most distant and formal relations, to wit, the firm of Thomlinson & Shields. Messrs. Rae & Macpherson were family solicitors and for three generations had been such; hence there gathered about the firm a fine flavour of assured respectability which only the combination of solid integrity and undoubted antiquity can give. Messrs. Rae & Macpherson had not yielded in the slightest degree to that commercialising spirit which would transform a respectable and self-respecting firm of family solicitors into a mere financial agency; a transformation which Mr. Rae would consider a degradation of an ancient and honourable profession. This uncompromising attitude toward the commercialising spirit of the age had doubtless something to do with their losing the solicitorship for the Bank of Scotland, which went to the firm of Thomlinson & Shields, to Mr. Rae's keen, though unacknowledged, disappointment; a disappointment that arose not so much from the loss of the very honourable and lucrative appointment, and more from the fact that the appointment should go to such a firm as that of Thomlinson & Shields. For the firm of Thomlinson & Shields were of recent origin, without ancestry, boasting an existence of only some thirty-five years, and, as one might expect of a firm of such recent origin, characterised by the commercialising modern spirit in its most pronounced and objectionable form. Mr. Rae, of course, would never condescend to hostile criticism, dismissing Messrs. Thomlinson & Shields from the conversation with the single remark, "Pushing, Sir, very pushing, indeed."
It was, then, no small humiliation for Mr. Rae to be forced to accept a favour from Mr. Thomlinson. "Had it been any other than Cameron," he said to himself, as he sat in his somewhat dingy and dusty office, "I would let him swither. But Cameron! I must see to it and at once." Behind the name there rose before Mr. Rae's imagination a long line of brave men and fair women for whose name and fame and for whose good estate it had been his duty and the duty of those who had preceded him in office to assume responsibility.
"Young fool! Much he cares for the honour of his family! I wonder what's at the bottom of this business! Looks ugly! Decidedly ugly! The first thing is to find him." A messenger had failed to discover young Cameron at his lodgings, and had brought back the word that for a week he had not been seen there. "He must be found. They have given me till to-morrow. I cannot ask a further stay of proceedings; I cannot and I will not." It made Mr. Rae more deeply angry that he knew quite well if necessity arose he would do just that very thing. "Then there's his father coming in this evening. We simply must find him. But how and where?"
Mr. Rae was not unskilled in such a matter. "Find a man, find his friends," he muttered. "Let's see. What does the young fool do? What are his games? Ah! Football! I have it! Young Dunn is my man." Hence to young Dunn forthwith Mr. Rae betook himself.
It was still early in the day when Mr. Rae's mild, round, jolly, clean-shaven face beamed in upon Mr. Dunn, who sat with dictionaries, texts, and class notebooks piled high about him, burrowing in that mound of hidden treasure which it behooves all prudent aspirants for university honours to diligently mine as the fateful day approaches. With Mr. Dunn time had now come to be measured by moments, and every moment golden. But the wrathful impatience that had gathered in his face at the approach of an intruder was overwhelmed in astonishment at recognising so distinguished a visitor as Mr. Rae the Writer.
"Ah, Mr. Dunn," said Mr. Rae briskly, "a moment only, one moment, I assure you. Well do I know the rage which boils behind that genial smile of yours. Don't deny it, Sir. Have I not suffered all the pangs, with just a week before the final ordeal? This is your final, I believe?"
"I hope so," said Mr. Dunn somewhat ruefully.
"Yes, yes, and a very fine career, a career befitting your father's son. And I sincerely trust, Sir, that as your career has been marked by honour, your exit shall be with distinction; and all the more that I am not unaware of your achievements in another department of—ah—shall I say endeavour. I have seen your name, Sir, mentioned more than once, to the honour of our university, in athletic events." At this point Mr. Rae's face broke into a smile.
An amazing smile was Mr. Rae's; amazing both in the suddenness of its appearing and in the suddenness of its vanishing. Upon a face of supernatural gravity, without warning, without beginning, the smile, broad, full and effulgent, was instantaneously present. Then equally without warning and without fading the smile ceased to be. Under its effulgence the observer unfamiliar with Mr. Rae's smile was moved, to a responsive geniality of expression, but in the full tide of this emotion he found himself suddenly regarding a face of such preternatural gravity as rebuked the very possibility or suggestion of geniality. Before the smile Mr. Rae's face was like a house, with the shutters up and the family plunged in gloom. When the smile broke forth every shutter was flung wide to the pouring sunlight, and every window full of flowers and laughing children. Then instantly and without warning the house was blank, lifeless, and shuttered once more, leaving you helplessly apologetic that you had ever been guilty of the fatuity of associating anything but death and gloom with its appearance.
To young Mr. Dunn it was extremely disconcerting to discover himself smiling genially into a face of the severest gravity, and eyes that rebuked him for his untimely levity. "Oh, I beg pardon," exclaimed Mr. Dunn hastily, "I thought—"
"Not at all, Sir," replied Mr. Rae. "As I was saying, I have observed from time to time the distinctions you have achieved in the realm of athletics. And that reminds me of my business with you to-day,—a sad business, a serious business, I fear." The solemn impressiveness of Mr. Rae's manner awakened in Mr. Dunn an awe amounting to dread. "It is young Cameron, a friend of yours, I believe, Sir."
"Cameron, Sir!" echoed Dunn.
"Yes, Cameron. Does he, or did he not have a place on your team?"
Dunn sat upright and alert. "Yes, Sir. What's the matter, Sir?"
"First of all, do you know where he is? I have tried his lodgings. He is not there. It is important that I find him to-day, extremely important; in fact, it is necessary; in short, Mr. Dunn,—I believe I can confide in your discretion,—if I do not find him to-day, the police will to-morrow."
"The police, Sir!" Dunn's face expressed an awful fear. In the heart of the respectable Briton the very mention of the police in connection with the private life of any of his friends awakens a feeling of gravest apprehension. No wonder Mr. Dunn's face went pale! "The police!" he said a second time. "What for?"
Mr. Rae remained silent.
"If it is a case of debts, Sir," suggested Mr. Dunn, "why, I would gladly—"
Mr. Rae waved him aside. "It is sufficient to say, Mr. Dunn, that we are the family solicitors, as we have been for his father, his grandfather and great-grandfather before him."
"Oh, certainly, Sir. I beg pardon," said Mr. Dunn hastily.
"Not at all; quite proper; does you credit. But it is not a case of debts, though it is a case of money; in fact, Sir,—I feel sure I may venture to confide in you,—he is in trouble with his bank, the Bank of Scotland. The young man, or someone using his name, has been guilty of—ah—well, an irregularity, a decided irregularity, an irregularity which the bank seems inclined to—to—follow up; indeed, I may say, instructions have been issued through their solicitors to that effect. Mr. Thomlinson was good enough to bring this to my attention, and to offer a stay of proceedings for a day."
"Can I do anything, Sir?" said Dunn. "I'm afraid I've neglected him. The truth is, I've been in an awful funk about my exams, and I haven't kept in touch as I should."
"Find him, Mr. Dunn, find him. His father is coming to town this evening, which makes it doubly imperative. Find him; that is, if you can spare the time."
"Of course I can. I'm awfully sorry I've lost touch with him. He's been rather down all this winter; in fact, ever since the International he seems to have lost his grip of himself."
"Ah, indeed!" said Mr. Rae. "I remember that occasion; in fact, I was present myself," he admitted. "I occasionally seek to renew my youth." Mr. Rae's smile broke forth, but anxiety for his friend saved Mr. Dunn from being caught again in any responsive smile. "Bring him to my office, if you can, any time to-day. Good-bye, Sir. Your spirit does you credit. But it is the spirit which I should expect in a man who plays the forward line as you play it."
Mr. Dunn blushed crimson. "Is there anything else I could do? Anyone I could see? I mean, for instance, could my father serve in any way?"
"Ah, a good suggestion!" Mr. Rae seized his right ear,—a characteristic action of his when in deep thought,—twisted it into a horn, and pulled it quite severely as if to assure himself that that important feature of his face was firmly fixed in its place. "A very good suggestion! Your father knows Mr. Sheratt, the manager of the bank, I believe."
"Very well, Sir, I think," answered Mr. Dunn. "I am sure he would see him. Shall I call him in, Sir?"
"Nothing of the sort, nothing of the sort; don't think of it! I mean, let there be nothing formal in this matter. If Mr. Dunn should chance to meet Mr. Sheratt, that is, casually, so to speak, and if young Cameron's name should come up, and if Mr. Dunn should use his influence, his very great influence, with Mr. Sheratt, the bank might be induced to take a more lenient view of the case. I think I can trust you with this." Mr. Rae shook the young man warmly by the hand, beamed on him for one brief moment with his amazing smile, presented to his answering smile a face of unspeakable gravity, and left him extremely uncertain as to the proper appearance for his face, under the circumstances.
Before Mr. Rae had gained the street Dunn was planning his campaign; for no matter what business he had in hand, Dunn always worked by plan. By the time he himself had reached the street his plan was formed. "No use trying his digs. Shouldn't be surprised if that beast Potts has got him. Rotten bounder, Potts, and worse! Better go round his way." And oscillating in his emotions between disgust and rage at Cameron for his weakness and his folly, and disgust and rage at himself for his neglect of his friend, Dunn took his way to the office of the Insurance Company which was honoured by the services of Mr. Potts.
The Insurance Company knew nothing of the whereabouts of Mr. Potts. Indeed, the young man who assumed responsibility for the information appeared to treat the very existence of Mr. Potts as a matter of slight importance to his company; so slight, indeed, that the company had not found it necessary either to the stability of its business or to the protection of its policy holders—a prime consideration with Insurance Companies—to keep in touch with Mr. Potts. That gentleman had left for the East coast a week ago, and that was the end of the matter as far as the clerk of the Insurance Company was concerned.
At his lodgings Mr. Dunn discovered an even more callous indifference to Mr. Potts and his interests. The landlady, under the impression that in Mr. Dunn she beheld a prospective lodger, at first received him with that deferential reserve which is the characteristic of respectable lodging-house keepers in that city of respectable lodgers and respectable lodging-house keepers. When, however, she learned the real nature of Mr. Dunn's errand, she became immediately transformed. In a voice shrill with indignation she repudiated Mr. Potts and his affairs, and seemed chiefly concerned to re-establish her own reputation for respectability, which she seemed to consider as being somewhat shattered by that of her lodger. Mr. Dunn was embarrassed both by her volubility and by her obvious determination to fasten upon him a certain amount of responsibility for the character and conduct of Mr. Potts.
"Do you know where Mr. Potts is now, and have you any idea when he may return?" inquired Mr. Dunn, seizing a fortunate pause.
"Am I no' juist tellin' ye," cried the landlady, in her excitement reverting to her native South Country dialect, "that I keep nae coont o' Mr. Potts' stravagins? An' as to his return, I ken naething aboot that an' care less. He's paid what he's been owing me these three months an' that's all I care aboot him."
"I am glad to hear that," said Mr. Dunn heartily.
"An' glad I am tae, for it's feared I was for my pay a month back."
"When did he pay up?" inquired Mr. Dunn, scenting a clue.
"A week come Saturday,—or was it Friday?—the day he came in with a young man, a friend of his. And a night they made of it, I remember," replied the landlady, recovering command of herself and of her speech under the influence of Mr. Dunn's quiet courtesy.
"Did you know the young man that was with him?"
"Yes, it was young Cameron. He had been coming about a good deal."
"Oh, indeed! And have you seen Mr. Cameron since?"
"No; he never came except in company with Mr. Potts."
And with this faint clue Mr. Dunn was forced to content himself, and to begin a systematic search of Cameron's haunts in the various parts of the town. It was Martin, his little quarter-back, that finally put him on the right track. He had heard Cameron's pipes not more than an hour ago at his lodgings in Morningside Road.
"But what do you want of Cameron these days?" inquired the young Canadian. "There's nothing on just now, is there, except this infernal grind?"
Dunn hesitated. "Oh, I just want him. In fact, he has got into some trouble."
"There you are!" exclaimed Martin in disgust. "Why in thunder should you waste time on him? You've taken enough trouble with him this winter already. It's his own funeral, ain't it?"
Dunn looked at him a half moment in surprise. "Well, you can't go back on a fellow when he's down, can you?"
"Look here, Dunn, I've often thought I'd give you a little wise advice. This sounds bad, I know, but there's a lot of blamed rot going around this old town just on this point. When a fellow gets on the bum and gets into a hole he knows well that there'll be a lot of people tumbling over each other to get him out, hence he deliberately and cheerfully slides in. If he knew he'd have to scramble out himself he wouldn't be so blamed keen to get in. If he's in a hole let him frog it for awhile, by Jingo! He's hitting the pace, let him take his bumps! He's got to take 'em sooner or later, and better sooner than later, for the sooner he takes 'em the quicker he'll learn. Bye-bye! I know you think I'm a semi-civilised Colonial. I ain't; I'm giving you some wisdom gained from experience. You can't swim by hanging on to a root, you bet!"
Dunn listened in silence, then replied slowly, "I say, old chap, there's something in that. My governor said something like that some time ago: 'A trainer's business is to train his men to do without him.'"
"There you are!" cried Martin. "That's philosophy! Mine's just horse sense."
"Still," said Dunn thoughtfully, "when a chap's in you've got to lend a hand; you simply can't stand and look on." Dunn's words, tone, and manner revealed the great, honest heart of human sympathy which he carried in his big frame.
"Oh, hang it," cried Martin, "I suppose so! Guess I'll go along with you. I can't forget you pulled me out, too."
"Thanks, old chap," cried Dunn, brightening up, "but you're busy, and—"
"Busy! By Jingo, you'd think so if you'd watch me over night and hear my brain sizzle. But come along, I'm going to stay with you!"
But Dunn's business was private, and could be shared with no one. It was difficult to check his friend's newly-aroused ardour. "I say, old chap," he said, "you really don't need to come along. I can do—"
"Oh, go to blazes! I know you too well! Don't you worry about me! You've got me going, and I'm in on this thing; so come along!"
Then Dunn grew firm. "Thanks, awfully, old man," he said, "but it's a thing I'd rather do alone, if you don't mind."
"Oh!" said Martin. "All right! But say, if you need me I'm on. You're a great old brick, though! Tra-la!"
As Martin had surmised, Dunn found Cameron in his rooms. He was lying upon his bed enjoying the luxury of a cigarette. "Hello! Come right in, old chap!" he cried, in gay welcome. "Have a—no, you won't have a cigarette—have a pipe?"
Dunn gazed at him, conscious of a rising tide of mingled emotions, relief, wrath, pity, disgust. "Well, I'll be hanged!" at last he said slowly. "But you've given us a chase! Where in the world have you been?"
"Been? Oh, here and there, enjoying my emancipation from the thralldom in which doubtless you are still sweating."
"And what does that mean exactly?"
"Mean? It means that I've cut the thing,—notebooks, lectures, professors, exams, 'the hale hypothick,' as our Nannie would say at home."
"Oh rot, Cameron! You don't mean it?"
"Circumspice. Do you behold any suggestion of knotted towels and the midnight oil?"
Dunn gazed about the room. It was in a whirl of confusion. Pipes and pouches, a large box of cigarettes, a glass and a half-empty decanter, were upon the table; boots, caps, golf-clubs, coats, lay piled in various corners. "Pardon the confusion, dear sir," cried Cameron cheerfully, "and lay it not to the charge of my landlady. That estimable woman was determined to make entry this afternoon, but was denied." Cameron's manner one of gay and nervous bravado.
"Come, Cameron," said Dunn sadly, "what does this mean? You're not serious; you're not chucking your year?"
"Just that, dear fellow, and nothing less. Might as well as be ploughed."
"And what then are you going to do?" Dunn's voice was full of a great pity. "What about your people? What about your father? And, by Jove, that reminds me, he's coming to town this evening. You know they've been trying to find you everywhere this last day or two."
"And who are 'they,' pray?"
"Who? The police," said Dunn bluntly, determined to shock his friend into seriousness.
Cameron sat up quickly. "The police? What do you mean, Dunn?"
"What it means I do not know, Cameron, I assure you. Don't you?"
"The police!" said Cameron again. "It's a joke, Dunn."
"I wish to Heaven it were, Cameron, old man! But I have it straight from Mr. Rae, your family solicitor. They want you."
"Old Rae?" exclaimed Cameron. "Now what the deuce does this all mean?"
"Don't you really know, old chap?" said Dunn kindly, anxiety and relief struggling in his face.
"No more than you. What did the old chap say, anyway?"
"Something about a Bank; an irregularity, he called it, a serious irregularity. He's had it staved off for a day."
"The Bank? What in Heaven's name have I got to do with the Bank? Let's see; I was there a week or ten days ago with—" he paused. "Hang it, I can't remember!" He ran his hands through his long black locks, and began to pace the room.
Dunn sat watching him, hope and fear, doubt and faith filling his heart in succession.
Cameron sat down with his face in his hands. "What is it, old man? Can't I help you?" said Dunn, putting his hand on his shoulder.
"I can't remember," muttered Cameron. "I've been going it some, you know. I had been falling behind and getting money off Potts. Two weeks ago I got my monthly five-pound cheque, and about ten days ago the usual fifty-pound cheque to square things up for the year, fees, etc. Seems to me I cashed those. Or did Potts? Anyway I paid Potts. The deuce take it, I can't remember! You know I can carry a lot of Scotch and never show it, but it plays the devil with my memory." Cameron was growing more and more excited.
"Well, old chap, we must go right along to Mr. Rae's office. You don't mind?"
"Mind? Not a bit. Old Rae has no love for me,—I get him into too much trouble,—but he's a straight old boy. Just wait till I brush up a bit." He poured out from a decanter half a glass of whiskey.
"I'd cut that out if I were you," said Dunn.
"Later, perhaps," replied Cameron, "but not to-day."
Within twenty minutes they were ushered into Mr. Rae's private office. That gentleman received them with a gravity that was portentous in its solemnity. "Well, Sir, you have succeeded in your task," he said to Mr. Dunn. "I wish to thank you for this service, a most valuable service to me, to this young gentleman, and to his family; though whether much may come of it remains to be seen."
"Oh, thanks," said Dunn hurriedly. "I hope everything will be all right." He rose to go. Cameron looked at him quickly. There was no mistaking the entreaty in his face.
Mr. Rae spoke somewhat more hurriedly than his wont. "If it is not asking too much, and if you can still spare time, your presence might be helpful, Mr. Dunn."
"Stay if you can, old chap," said Cameron. "I don't know what this thing is, but I'll do better if you're in the game, too." It was an appeal to his captain, and after that nothing on earth could have driven Dunn from his side.
At this point the door opened and the clerk announced, "Captain Cameron, Sir."
Mr. Rae rose hastily. "Tell him," he said quickly, "to wait—"
He was too late. The Captain had followed close upon the heels of the clerk, and came in with a rush. "Now, what does all this mean?" he cried, hardly waiting to shake hands with his solicitor. "What mischief—?"
"I beg your pardon, Captain," said Mr. Rae calmly, "let me present Mr. Dunn, Captain Dunn, I might say, of International fame." The solicitor's smile broke forth with its accustomed unexpectedness, but had vanished long before Mr. Dunn in his embarrassment had finished shaking hands with Captain Cameron.
The Captain then turned to his son. "Well, Sir, and what is this affair of yours that calls me to town at a most inconvenient time?" His tone was cold, fretful, and suspicious.
Young Cameron's face, which had lighted up with a certain eagerness and appeal as he had turned toward his father, as if in expectation of sympathy and help, froze at this greeting into sullen reserve. "I don't know any more than yourself, Sir," he answered. "I have just come into this office this minute."
"Well, then, what is it, Mr. Rae?" The Captain's voice and manner were distinctly imperious, if not overbearing.
Mr. Rae, however, was king of his own castle. "Will you not be seated, Sir?" he said, pointing to a chair. "Sit down, young gentlemen."
His quiet dignity, his perfect courtesy, recalled the Captain to himself. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Rae, but I am really much disturbed. Can we begin at once?" He glanced as he spoke at Mr. Dunn, who immediately rose.
"Sit down, Mr. Dunn," said Mr. Rae quietly. "I have asked this young gentleman," he continued, turning to the Captain, "to remain. He has already given me valuable assistance. I fancy he may be able to serve us still further, if he will be so good."
Mr. Dunn bowed in silence.
"Now let us proceed with what must be an exceedingly painful matter for us all, and out of which nothing but extreme candour on the part of Mr. Allan here, and great wisdom on the part of us all, can possibly extract us." Mr. Rae's glance rested upon the Captain, who bowed, and upon his son, who made no sign whatever, but remained with his face set in the same sullen gloom with which he had greeted his father.
Mr. Rae opened a drawer and brought forth a slip of paper. "Mr. Allan," he said, with a certain sharpness in his tone, "please look at this."
Cameron came to the desk, picked up the paper, glanced at it. "It is my father's cheque," he said, "which I received about a week ago."
"Look at the endorsement, please," said Mr. Rae.
Cameron turned it over. A slight flush came to his pale face. "It is mine to—" he hesitated, "Mr. Potts."
"Mr. Potts cashed it then?"
"I suppose so. I believe so. I owed him money, and he gave me back some."
"How much did you owe him?"
"A considerable amount. I had been borrowing of him for some time."
"As much as fifty pounds?"
"I cannot tell. I did not keep count, particularly; Potts did that."
The Captain snorted contemptuously. "Do you mean to say—?" he began.
"Pardon me, Captain Cameron. Allow me," said Mr. Rae.
"Now, Mr. Allan, do you think you owed him as much as the amount of that cheque?"
"I do not know, but I think so."
"Had you any other money?"
"No," said Allan shortly; "at least I may have had a little remaining from the five pounds I had received from my father a few days before."
"You are quite sure you had no other money?"
"Quite certain," replied Allan.
Again Mr. Rae opened his desk and drew forth a slip and handed it to young Cameron. "What is that?" he said.
Cameron glanced at it hurriedly, and turned it over. "That is my father's cheque for five pounds, which I cashed."
Mr. Rae stretched out his hand and took the cheque. "Mr. Allan," he said, "I want you to consider most carefully your answer." He leaned across the desk and for some moments—they seemed like minutes to Dunn—his eyes searched young Cameron's face. "Mr. Allan," he said, with a swift change of tone, his voice trembling slightly, "will you look at the amount of that cheque again?"
Cameron once more took the cheque, glanced at it. "Good Lord!" he cried. "It is fifty!" His face showed blank amazement.
Quick, low, and stern came Mr. Rae's voice. "Yes," he said, "it is for fifty pounds. Do you know that that is a forgery, the punishment for which is penal servitude, and that the order for your arrest is already given?"
The Captain sprang to his feet. Young Cameron's face became ghastly pale. His hand clutched the top of Mr. Rae's desk. Twice or thrice he moistened his lips preparing to speak, but uttered not a word. "Good God, my boy!" said the Captain hoarsely. "Don't stand like that. Tell him you are innocent."
"One moment, Sir," said Mr. Rae to the Captain. "Permit me." Mr. Rae's voice, while perfectly courteous, was calmly authoritative.
"Mr. Allan," he continued, turning to the wretched young man, "what money have you at present in your pockets?"
With shaking hands young Cameron emptied upon the desk the contents of his pocketbook, from which the lawyer counted out ten one-pound notes, a half-sovereign and some silver. "Where did you get this money, Mr. Allan?"
The young man, still silent, drew his handkerchief from his pocket, touched his lips, and wiped the sweat from his white face.
"Mr. Allan," continued the lawyer, dropping again into a kindly voice, "a frank explanation will help us all."
"Mr. Rae," said Cameron, his words coming with painful indistinctness, "I don't understand this. I can't think clearly. I can't remember. That money I got from Potts; at least I must have—I have had money from no one else."
"My God!" cried the Captain again. "To think that a son of mine should—!"
"Pardon me, Captain Cameron," interrupted Mr. Rae quickly and somewhat sharply. "We must not prejudge this case. We must first understand it."
At this point Dunn stepped swiftly to Cameron's side. "Brace up, old chap," he said in a low tone. Then turning towards the Captain he said, "I beg your pardon, Sir, but I do think it's only fair to give a man a chance to explain."
"Allow me, gentlemen," said Mr. Rae in a firm, quiet voice, as the Captain was about to break forth. "Allow me to conduct this examination."
Cameron turned his face toward Dunn. "Thank you, old man," he said, his white lips quivering. "I will do my best, but before God, I don't understand this."
"Now, Mr. Allan," continued the lawyer, tapping the desk sharply, "here are two cheques for fifty pounds, both drawn by your father, both endorsed by you, one apparently cashed by Mr. Potts, one by yourself. What do you know about this?"
"Mr. Rae," replied the young man, his voice trembling and husky, "I tell you I can't understand this. I ought to say that for the last two weeks I haven't been quite myself, and whiskey always makes me forget. I can walk around steadily enough, but I don't always know what I am doing—"
"That's so, Sir," said Dunn quickly, "I've seen him."
"—And just what happened with these cheques I do not know. This cheque," picking up the one endorsed to Potts, "I remember giving to Potts. The only other cheque I remember is a five-pound one."
"Do you remember cashing that five-pound cheque?" inquired Mr. Rae.
"I carried it about for some days. I remember that, because I once offered it to Potts in part payment, and he said—" the white face suddenly flushed a deep red.
"Well, Mr. Allan, what did he say?"
"It doesn't matter," said Cameron.
"It may and it may not," said Mr. Rae sharply. "It is your duty to tell us."
"Out with it," said his father angrily. "You surely owe it to me, to us all, to let us have every assistance."
Cameron paid no attention to his father's words. "It has really no bearing, Sir, but I remember saying as I offered a five-pound cheque, 'I wish it was fifty.'"
"And what reply did Mr. Potts make?" said Mr. Rae, with quiet indifference, as if he had lost interest in this particular feature of the case.
Again Cameron hesitated.
"Come, out with it!" said his father impatiently.
His son closed his lips as if in a firm resolve. "It really has nothing whatever to do with the case."
"Play the game, old man," said Dunn quietly.
"Oh, all right!" said Cameron. "It makes no difference anyway. He said in a joke, 'You could easily make this fifty; it is such mighty poor writing.'"
Still Mr. Rae showed no sign of interest. "He suggested in a joke, I understand, that the five-pound cheque could easily be changed into fifty pounds. That was a mere pleasantry of Mr. Potts', doubtless. How did the suggestion strike you, Mr. Allan?"
Allan looked at him in silence.
"I mean, did the suggestion strike you unpleasantly, or how?"
"I don't think it made any impression, Sir. I knew it was a joke."
"A joke!" groaned his father. "Good Heavens! What do you think—?"
"Once more permit me," said Mr. Rae quietly, with a wave of his hand toward the Captain. "This cheque of five pounds has evidently been altered to fifty pounds. The question is, by whom, Mr. Allan? Can you answer that?" Again Mr. Rae's eyes were searching the young man's face.
"I have told you I remember nothing about this cheque."
"Is it possible, Mr. Allan, that you could have raised this cheque yourself without your knowing—?"
"Oh, nonsense!" said his father hotly, "why make the boy lie?"
His son started as if his father had struck him. "I tell you once more, Mr. Rae, and I tell you all, I know nothing about this cheque, and that is my last word." And from that position nothing could move him.
"Well," said Mr. Rae, closing the interview, "we have done our best. The law must take its course."
"Great Heavens!" cried the Captain, springing to his feet. "Do you mean to tell me, Allan, that you persist in this cursed folly and will give us no further light? Have you no regard for my name, if not for your own?" He grasped his son fiercely by the arm.
But his son angrily shook off his grasp. "You," he said, looking his father full in the face, "you condemned me before you heard a word from me, and now for my name or for yours I care not a tinker's curse." And with this he flung himself from the room.
"Follow him," said Mr. Rae to Dunn, quietly; "he will need you. And keep him in sight; it is important."
"All right, Sir!" said Dunn. "I'll stay with him." And he did.
A QUESTION OF HONOUR
Mr. Rae in forty years' experience had never been so seriously disturbed. To his intense humiliation he found himself abjectly appealing to the senior member of the firm of Thomlinson & Shields. Not that Mr. Thomlinson was obdurate; in the presence of mere obduracy Mr. Rae might have found relief in the conscious possession of more generous and humane instincts than those supposed to be characteristic of the members of his profession. Mr. Thomlinson, however, was anything but obdurate. He was eager to oblige, but he was helpless. The instructions he had received were simple but imperative, and he had gone to unusual lengths in suggesting to Mr. Sheratt, the manager of the Bank, a course of greater leniency. That gentleman's only reply was a brief order to proceed with the case.
With Mr. Sheratt, therefore, Mr. Rae proceeded to deal. His first move was to invite the Bank manager to lunch, in order to discuss some rather important matters relative to one of the great estates of which Mr. Rae was supposed to be the guardian. Some fifty years' experience of Mr. Sheratt as boy and man had let Mr. Rae into a somewhat intimate knowledge of the workings of that gentleman's mind. Under the mollifying influences of the finest of old port, Mr. Rae made the discovery that as with Mr. Thomlinson, so with Mr. Sheratt there was every disposition to oblige, and indeed an eagerness to yield to the lawyer's desires; it was not Mr. Sheratt, but the Bank that was immovable. Firm-fixed it stood upon its bedrock of tradition that in matters of fraud, crime should be punished to the full limit of the law.
"The estate of the criminal, high or low," said Mr. Sheratt impressively, "matters not. The Bank stands upon the principle, and from this it cannot be moved." Mr. Sheratt began to wax eloquent. "Fidelity to its constituency, its shareholders, its depositors, indeed to the general public, is the corner-stone of its policy. The Bank of Scotland is a National Institution, with a certain National obligation."
Mr. Rae quietly drew from his pocket a pamphlet, opened it slowly, and glanced at the page. "Ay, it's as I thought, Mr. Sheratt," he said dryly. "At times I wondered where Sir Archibald got his style."
Mr. Sheratt blushed like a boy caught copying.
"But now since I know who it is that writes the speech of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, tell me, Sheratt, as man to man, is it you or is it Sir Archibald that's at the back of this prosecution? For if it is you, I've something to say to you; if not, I'll just say it where it's most needed. In some way or other I'm bound to see this thing through. That boy can't go to prison. Now tell me, Tom? It's for auld sake's sake."
"As sure as death, Rae, it's the Chairman, and it's God's truth I'm telling ye, though I should not." They were back again into the speech and spirit of their boyhood days.
"Then I must see Sir Archibald. Give me time to see him, Tom."
"It's a waste of time, I'm tellin' ye, but two days I'll give ye, Sandy, for auld sake's sake, as you say. A friendship of half a hundred years should mean something to us. For your sake I'd let the lad go, God knows, and there's my han' upon it, but as I said, that lies with Sir Archibald."
The old friends shook hands in silence.
"Thank ye, Tom, thank ye," said Mr. Rae; "I knew it."
"But harken to me, ye'll no' move Sir Archibald, for on this particular point he's quite mad. He'd prosecute the Duke of Argyll, he would. But two days are yours, Sandy. And mind with Sir Archibald ye treat his Bank with reverence! It's a National Institution, with National obligations, ye ken?" Mr. Sheratt's wink conveyed a volume of meaning. "And mind you, Rae," here Mr. Sheratt grew grave, "I am trusting you to produce that lad when wanted."
"I have him in safe keeping, Tom, and shall produce him, no fear."
And with that the two old gentlemen parted, loyal to a lifelong friendship, but loyal first to the trust of those they stood pledged to serve; for the friendship that gives first place to honour is the only friendship that honourable men can hold.
Mr. Rae set off for his office through the drizzling rain. "Now then, for the Captain," he said to himself; "and a state he will be in! Why did I ever summon him to town? Then for Mr. Dunn, who must keep his eye upon the young man."
In his office he found Captain Cameron in a state of distraction that rendered him incapable of either coherent thought or speech. "What now, Rae? Where have you been? What news have you? My God, this thing is driving me mad! Penal servitude! Think of it, man, for my son! Oh, the scandal of it! It will kill me and kill his sister. What's your report? Come, out with it! Have you seen Mr. Sheratt?" He was pacing up and down the office like a beast in a cage.
"Tut, tut, Captain Cameron," said Mr. Rae lightly, "this is no way for a soldier to face the enemy. Sit down and we will just lay out our campaign."
But the Captain's soldiering, which was of the lightest, had taught him little either of the spirit or of the tactics of warfare. "Campaign!" he exclaimed. "There's no campaign about it. It's a complete smash, horse, foot, and artillery."
"Nonsense, Captain Cameron!" exclaimed Mr. Rae more briskly than his wont, for the Captain irritated him. "We have still fighting to do, and hence we must plan our campaign. But first let us get comfortable. Here Davie," he called, opening the office door, "here, mend this fire. It's a winter's day this," he continued to the Captain, "and goes to the marrow."
Davie, a wizened, clean-shaven, dark-visaged little man, appeared with a scuttle of coal. "Ay, Davie; that's it! Is that cannel?"
"Ay, Sir, it is. What else? I aye get the cannel."
"That's right, Davie. It's a gran' coal."
"Gran' it's no'," said Davie shortly, who was a fierce radical in politics, and who strove to preserve his sense of independence of all semblance of authority by cultivating a habit of disagreement. "Gran' it's no'," he repeated, "but it's the best the Farquhars hae, though that's no' saying much. It's no' what I call cannel."
"Well, well, Davie, it blazes finely at any rate," said Mr. Rae, determined to be cheerful, and rubbing his hands before the blazing coal.
"Ay, it bleezes," grumbled Davie, "when it's no' smootherin'."
"Come then, Davie, that will do. Clear out," said Mr. Rae to the old servant, who was cleaning up the hearth with great diligence and care.
But Davie was not to be hurried. He had his regular routine in fire-mending, from which no power could move him. "Ay, Sir," he muttered, brushing away with his feather besom. "I'll clear oot when I clear up. When a thing's no' dune richt it's no dune ava."
"True, Davie, true enough; that's a noble sentiment. But will that no' do now?" Mr. Rae knew himself to be helpless in Davie's hands, and he knew also that nothing short of violence would hasten Davie from his "usual."
"Ay, that'll dae, because it's richt dune. But that's no' what I call cannel," grumbled Davie, glowering fiercely at the burning coal, as if meditating a fresh attack.
"Well, well," said Mr. Rae, "tell the Farquhars about it."
"Ay, Sir, I will that," said Davie, as he reluctantly took himself off with his scuttle and besom.
The Captain was bursting with fretful impatience. "Impudent old rascal!" he exclaimed. "Why don't you dismiss him?"
"Dismiss him!" echoed Mr. Rae in consternation. "Dismiss him!" he repeated, as if pondering an entirely new idea. "I doubt if Davie would consider that. But now let us to work." He set two arm-chairs before the fire, and placed a box of cigars by the Captain's elbow. "I have seen Sheratt," he began. "I'm quite clear it is not in his hands."
"In whose then?" burst forth the Captain.
Mr. Rae lit his cigar carefully. "The whole matter, I believe, lies now with the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Sir Archibald Brodie."
"Brodie!" cried the Captain. "I know him. Pompous little fool!"
"Fool, Captain Cameron! Make no mistake. Sir Archibald may have—ah—the self-importance of a self-made man somewhat under the average height, but he is, without doubt, the best financier that stands at this moment in Scotland, and during the last fifteen years he has brought up the Bank of Scotland to its present position. Fool! He's anything but that. But he has his weak spots—I wish I knew what they were!—and these we must seek to find out. Do you know him well?"
"Oh, yes, quite well," said the Captain; "that is, I've met him at various functions, where he always makes speeches. Very common, I call him. I know his father; a mere cottar. I mean," added the Captain hurriedly, for he remembered that Mr. Rae was of the same humble origin, "you know, he is thoroughly respectable and all that, but of no—ah—social or family standing; that is—oh, you understand."
"Quite," said Mr. Rae drily.
"Yes, I shall see him," continued the Captain briskly. "I shall certainly see him. It is a good suggestion. Sir Archibald knows my family; indeed, his father was from the Erracht region. I shall see him personally. I am glad you thought of that, Mr. Rae. These smaller men, Sheratt and the rest, I do not know—in fact, I do not seem to be able to manage them,—but with Sir Archibald there will be no difficulty, I feel quite confident. When can you arrange the interview?"
Mr. Rae sat gazing thoughtfully into the fire, more and more convinced every moment that he had made a false move in suggesting a meeting between the Captain and Sir Archibald Brodie. But labour as he might he could not turn the Captain from his purpose. He was resolved to see Sir Archibald at the earliest moment, and of the result of the meeting he had no manner of doubt.
"He knew my family, Sir," insisted the Captain. "Sir Archibald will undoubtedly accede to my suggestion—ah—request to withdraw his action. Arrange it, Mr. Rae, arrange it at once."
And ruefully enough Mr. Rae was compelled to yield against his better judgment.
It was discovered upon inquiry that Sir Archibald had gone for a day or two to his country estate. "Ah, much better," said the Captain, "away from his office and away from the—ah—commercial surroundings of the city. Much better, much better! We shall proceed to his country home."
Of the wisdom of this proposal Mr. Rae was doubtful. There seemed, however, no other way open. Hence, the following morning found them on their way to Sir Archibald's country seat. Mr. Rae felt that it was an unusual course to pursue, but the time was short, the occasion was gravely critical, and demanded extreme measures.
During their railway journey Mr. Rae strove to impress upon the Captain's mind the need of diplomacy. "Sir Archibald is a man of strong prejudices," he urged; "for instance, his Bank he regards with an affection and respect amounting to veneration. He is a bachelor, you understand, and his Bank is to him wife and bairns. On no account must you treat his Bank lightly."
"Oh, certainly not," replied the Captain, who was inclined to resent Mr. Rae's attempts to school him in diplomacy.
"He is a great financier," continued Mr. Rae, "and with him finance is a high art, and financial integrity a sacred obligation."
"Oh, certainly, certainly," again replied the Captain, quite unimpressed by this aspect of the matter, for while he considered himself distinctly a man of affairs, yet his interests lay more in matters of great public moment. Commercial enterprises he regarded with a feeling akin to contempt. Money was an extremely desirable, and indeed necessary, appendage to a gentleman's position, but how any man of fine feeling could come to regard a financial institution with affection or veneration he was incapable of conceiving. However, he was prepared to deal considerately with Sir Archibald's peculiar prejudices in this matter.
Mr. Rae's forebodings as to the outcome of the approaching interview were of the most gloomy nature as they drove through the finely appointed and beautifully kept grounds of Sir Archibald Brodie's estate. The interview began inauspiciously. Sir Archibald received them with stiff courtesy. He hated to be pursued to his country home with business matters. Besides, at this particular moment he was deeply engrossed in the inspection of his pigs, for which animals he cherished what might almost be called an absorbing affection. Mr. Rae, who was proceeding with diplomatic caution and skill to approach the matter in hand by way of Sir Archibald's Wiltshires, was somewhat brusquely interrupted by the Captain, who, in the firm conviction that he knew much better than did the lawyer how to deal with a man of his own class, plunged at once into the subject.
"Awfully sorry to introduce business matters, Sir Archibald, to the attention of a gentleman in the privacy of his own home, but there is a little matter in connection with the Bank in which I am somewhat deeply interested."
Sir Archibald bowed in silence.
"Rather, I should say, it concerns my son, and therefore, Sir Archibald, myself and my family."
Again Sir Archibald bowed.
"It is, after all, a trivial matter, which I have no doubt can be easily arranged between us. The truth is, Sir Archibald—," here the Captain hesitated, as if experiencing some difficulty in stating the case.
"Perhaps Captain Cameron will allow me to place the matter before you, Sir Archibald," suggested Mr. Rae, "as it has a legal aspect of some gravity, indeed of very considerable gravity. It is the case of young Mr. Cameron."
"Ah," said Sir Archibald shortly. "Forgery case, I believe."
"Well," said Mr. Rae, "we have not been able as yet to get at the bottom of it. I confess that the case has certainly very grave features connected with it, but it is by no means clear that—"
"There is no need for further statement, Mr. Rae," said Sir Archibald. "I know all about it. It is a clear case of forgery. The facts have all been laid before me, and I have given my instructions."
"And what may these be, may I inquire?" said the Captain somewhat haughtily.
"The usual instructions, Sir, where the Bank of Scotland is concerned, instructions to prosecute." Sir Archibald's lips shut in a firm, thin line. As far as he was concerned the matter was closed.
"But, Sir," exclaimed the Captain, "this young man is my son."
"I deeply regret it," replied Sir Archibald.
"Yes, Sir, he is my son, and the honour of my family is involved."
Sir Archibald bowed.
"I am here prepared to offer the fullest reparation, to offer the most generous terms of settlement; in short, I am willing to do anything in reason to have this matter—this unfortunate matter—hushed up."
"Hushed up!" exclaimed Sir Archibald. "Captain Cameron, it is impossible. I am grieved for you, but I have a duty to the Bank in this matter."
"Do you mean to say, Sir," cried the Captain, "that you refuse to consider any arrangement or compromise or settlement of any kind whatever? I am willing to pay the amount ten times over, rather than have my name dragged through legal proceedings."
"It is quite impossible," said Sir Archibald.
"Come, come, Sir Archibald," said the Captain, exercising an unusual self-control; "let us look at this thing as two gentlemen should who respect each other, and who know what is due to our—ah—class."
It was an unfortunate remark of the Captain's.
"Our class, Sir? I presume you mean the class of gentlemen. All that is due to our class or any other class is strict justice, and that you, Sir, or any other gentleman, shall receive to the very fullest in this matter. The honour of the Bank, which I regard as a great National Institution charged with National responsibilities, is involved, as is also my own personal honour. I sincerely trust your son may be cleared of every charge of crime, but this case must be prosecuted to the very fullest degree."
"And do you mean to tell me, Sir Archibald," exclaimed the Captain, now in a furious passion, "that for the sake of a few paltry pounds you will blast my name and my family name in this country?—a name, I venture to say, not unknown in the history of this nation. The Camerons, Sir, have fought and bled for King and country on many a battlefield. What matters the question of a few pounds in comparison with the honour of an ancient and honourable name? You cannot persist in this attitude, Sir Archibald!"
"Pounds, Sir!" cried Sir Archibald, now thoroughly aroused by the contemptuous reference to what to him was dearer than anything in life. "Pounds, Sir! It is no question of pounds, but a question of the honour of a National Institution, a question of the lives and happiness of hundreds of widows and orphans, a question of the honour of a name which I hold as dear as you hold yours."
Mr. Rae was in despair. He laid a restraining hand upon the Captain, and with difficulty obtained permission to speak. "Sir Archibald, I crave your indulgence while I put this matter to you as to a business man. In the first place, there is no evidence that fraud has been committed by young Mr. Cameron, absolutely none.—Pardon me a moment, Sir Archibald.—The fraud has been committed, I grant, by someone, but by whom is as yet unknown. The young man for some weeks has been in a state of incapacity; a most blameworthy and indeed shameful condition, it is true, but in a state of incapacity to transact business. He declares that he has no knowledge of this act of forgery. He will swear this. I am prepared to defend him."
"Very well, Sir," interrupted Sir Archibald, "and I hope, I sincerely hope, successfully."
"But while it may be difficult to establish innocence, it will be equally difficult to establish guilt. Meantime, the young man's life is blighted, his name dishonoured, his family plunged into unspeakable grief. I venture to say that it is a case in which the young man might be given, without injury to the Bank, or without breaking through its traditional policy, the benefit of the doubt."
But Sir Archibald had been too deeply stirred by Captain Cameron's unfortunate remarks to calmly weigh Mr. Rae's presentation of the case. "It is quite useless, Mr. Rae," he declared firmly. "The case is out of my hands, and must be proceeded with. I sincerely trust you may be able to establish the young man's innocence. I have nothing more to say."
And from this position neither Mr. Rae's arguments nor the Captain's passionate pleadings could move him.
Throughout the return journey the Captain raged and swore. "A contemptible cad, Sir! a base-born, low-bred cad, Sir! What else could you expect from a fellow of his breeding? The insolence of these lower orders is becoming insupportable. The idea! the very idea! His bank against my family name, my family honour! Preposterous!"
"Honour is honour, Captain Cameron," replied Mr. Rae firmly, "and it might have been better if you had remembered that the honour of a cottar's son is as dear to him as yours is to you."
And such was Mr. Rae's manner that the Captain appeared to consider it wise to curb his rage, or at least suppress all reference to questions of honour in as far as they might be related to the question of birth and breeding.
A LADY AND THE LAW
Mr. Rae's first care was to see Mr. Dunn. This case was getting rather more trying to Mr. Rae's nerves than he cared to acknowledge. For a second time he had been humiliated, and humiliation was an experience to which Mr. Rae was not accustomed. It was in a distinctly wrathful frame of mind that he called upon Mr. Dunn, and the first quarter of an hour of his interview he spent in dilating upon his own folly in having allowed Captain Cameron to accompany him on his visit to Sir Archibald.
"In forty years I never remember having made such an error, Sir. This was an occasion for diplomacy. We should have taken time. We should have discovered his weak spots; every man has them. Now it is too late. The only thing left for us is fight, and the best we can hope for is a verdict of NOT PROVEN, and that leaves a stigma."
"It is terrible," said Mr. Dunn, "and I believe he is innocent. Have you thought of Potts, Sir?"
"I have had Potts before me," said Mr. Rae, "and I may safely say that though he strikes me as being a man of unusual cleverness, we can do nothing with Mr. Potts. Of course," added Mr. Rae hastily, "this is not to say we shall not make use of Mr. Potts in the trial, but Mr. Potts can show from his books debts amounting to nearly sixty pounds. He frankly acknowledges the pleasantry in suggesting the raising of the five-pound cheque to fifty pounds, but of the act itself he professes entire ignorance. I frankly own to you, Sir," continued Mr. Rae, folding his ear into a horn after his manner when in perplexity, "that this case puzzles me. I must not take your time," he said, shaking Mr. Dunn warmly by the hand. "One thing more I must ask you, however, and that is, keep in touch with young Cameron. I have pledged my honour to produce him when wanted. Furthermore, keep him—ah—in good condition; cheer him up; nerve him up; much depends upon his manner."
Gravely Mr. Dunn accepted the trust, though whether he could fulfil it he doubted. "Keep him cheerful," said Mr. Dunn to himself, as the door closed upon Mr. Rae. "Nice easy job, too, under the circumstances. Let's see, what is there on? By Jove, if I could only bring him!" There flashed into Mr. Dunn's mind the fact that he was due that evening at a party for students, given by one of the professors, belated beyond the period proper to such functions by one of those domestic felicities which claim right of way over all other human events. At this party Cameron was also due. It was hardly likely, however, that he would attend. But to Dunn's amazement he found Cameron, with a desperate jollity such as a man might feel the night before his execution, eager to go.
"I'm going," he cried, in answer to Dunn's somewhat timid suggestion. "They'll all be there, old man, and I shall make my exit with much eclat, with pipe and dance and all the rest of it."
"Exit, be blowed!" said Dunn impatiently. "Let's cut all this nonsense out. We're going into a fight for all there's in us. Why should a fellow throw up the sponge after the first round?"
"Fight!" said Cameron gloomily. "Did old Rae say so?"
"And what defence does he suggest?"
"Defence? Innocence, of course."
"Would to God I could back him up!" groaned Cameron.
Dunn gazed at him in dismay. "And can you not? You do not mean to tell me you are guilty?"
"Oh, I wish to heaven I knew!" cried Cameron wildly. "But there, let it go. Let the lawyers and the judge puzzle it out. 'Guilty or not guilty?' 'Hanged if I know, my lord. Looks like guilty, but don't see very well how I can be.' That will bother old Rae some; it would bother Old Nick himself. 'Did you forge this note?' 'My lord, my present ego recognizes no intent to forge; my alter ego in vino may have done so. Of that, however, I know nothing; it lies in that mysterious region of the subconscious.' 'Are you, then, guilty?' 'Guilt, my lord, lies in intent. Intent is the soul of crime.' It will be an interesting point for Mr. Rae and his lordship."