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VOLUME 1, 1898-9. No 2.
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My travelling companion
A COMPLETE STORY
BY CATHERINE CHILDAR.
Illustrated by Fred. Pegram.
It was a miserable day in November—the sort of day when, according to the French, splenetic Englishmen flock in such crowds to the Thames, in order to drown themselves, that there is not standing room on the bridges. I was sitting over the fire in our dingy dining-room; for personally I find that element more cheering than water under depressing circumstances.
My eldest sister burst upon me with a letter in her hand: "Here, Tommy, is an invitation for you," she cried.
My name is Charlotte; but I am generally called Tommy by my unappreciative family, who mendaciously declare it is derived from the expression "tom-boy."
"Oh, bother invitations," was my polite answer. "I don't want to go anywhere. Why, it's a letter from Mysie Sutherland! How came you to open it?"
"If she will address it to Miss Cornwall, of course I shall open it. I've read it, too—it's very nice for you."
"Awfully jolly," put in Dick, who had followed my sister Lucy into the room.
"Oh, I don't want to go a bit."
"Well, then, you'll just have to. It's disgraceful of you, Tom; why, you may never get such a chance again. You'll meet lots of people in a big country house like that, and perhaps—who knows?—marry a rich Scotchman."
"I declare, Lucy, you are quite disgusting with your perpetual talk about marrying! Why, I shan't have the time to get fond of anyone!"
"You're asked for a month; and if that isn't time enough, I don't know what is."
"Time enough to be married and divorced again," cried Dick.
"But I shan't come to that; and besides, I have no clothes fit to be seen."
"Oh, never mind; I'll lend you my white silk for evenings." And my sister, who was always good-natured, carried me off to ransack her wardrobe.
There was no help for it; remonstrances were useless; I had to go. The invitation was from a schoolfellow of mine, Mysie Sutherland by name. She lived near Inverness, and asked me to go and stay a month with her. The idea filled me with apprehension. She was the only daughter, and lived in style in a large house: I was one of a numerous family herded together in a small house in Harley Street. Her father was a wealthy landed proprietor: mine was a struggling doctor. Altogether I was shy and nervous, and would much have preferred to remain at home; but Lucy and Dick had decided I should go, and I knew there was no appeal.
A few days afterwards I was at Euston Station, on my way to the North. My mother and sister had come to see me off, and stood at the carriage door, passing remarks upon the people.
A knot of young men standing by the bookstall attracted our attention, from their constant bursts of laughter. There was evidently a good joke amongst them, and they were enjoying it to the full. The time was up, and the train was just about to start, when one of them rushed forward and jumped into my carriage. The guard slammed the door, his friends threw some papers after him in at the window, and we were off.
For some time we sat silent, then a question about the window or the weather opened a conversation. My companion was a good-looking young man, with thick, curly brown hair. He had neither moustache, beard, nor whiskers, which gave him a boyish appearance, and made me think he might be an actor. His eyes were peculiar—they were kind eyes, honest eyes, laughing eyes, but there was something about them that I could not make out. As he sat nearly opposite to me I had every opportunity of studying them, but not till we had travelled at least a hundred miles did I discover what it was. They were not quite alike. There was no cast—not the slightest suspicion of a squint—no, nothing of that kind; only they were not a pair—one eye was hazel, the other grey; and yet the difference in colour varied so much that sometimes I thought I must be mistaken. At one moment, in the sunlight, the difference was striking; but when next I saw them, in shadow, the difference was hardly perceptible. Yet there it was, and it gave a peculiar but agreeable expression to the face.
He was extremely kind and pleasant, and I must own that when an old gentleman got in at Rugby I was sorry our tete-a-tete should be interrupted. We had been talking over all sorts of subjects, from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter, exclusive—for those two subjects had not yet been discussed. (I know it is a very vulgar expression, and I ought not to use it, only I am always with the boys and I am a "Tommy" myself.)
The old gentleman, however, did not trouble us long, for he had made a mistake and had got into the wrong train. He hobbled out much quicker than he got in, and my friend the actor was most polite in helping him and handing out his parcels.
When that was over we settled down again comfortably. By the time we got to Crewe we were like old friends, and chatted together over my sandwiches, or at least while I ate them, for he had his lunch at Preston, as Bradshaw informed us the passengers were expected to do.
I fully expected we should get an influx of companions here, for the platform was crowded, but my carriage door was locked and I noticed the guard hovering near; he seemed particularly anxious to direct people elsewhere. Perhaps he thought that as I was an unprotected female I should prefer to be quite alone, and I was busy concocting a little speech about "a gentleman coming back," in case he should refuse to let my actor come into the carriage. It was quite unnecessary, however, as directly he caught sight of him in the distance he opened the door with an obsequious bow. I began to wonder if he knew him. Perhaps he was a celebrated actor, and when actors are celebrated nowadays they are celebrated indeed. I felt quite elated at having anything to do with a member of such a fashionable profession, and looked at him with more interest than ever.
I was dreadfully sorry when we reached Carlisle, for there my journey ended—for that day at least. I was to spend the night with a maiden aunt, living near Carlisle, and go on to Inverness the next morning. The station came in sight only too soon. My companion had been telling me some mountaineering experiences which had been called to his mind by the scenery we had been passing through, and the train pulled up in the middle of a most exciting story. I had to leave him clinging to a bare wall of rock in a blinding snowstorm, while I went off to spend the night with my Aunt Maria. There was no help for it. My aunt, a thin, quaint old lady, stood waiting on the platform. She wore a huge coalscuttle bonnet, which in these days of smaller head coverings looked strange and out of proportion, a short imitation sealskin jacket, and a perfectly plain skirt, which exposed her slender build in the most uncompromising (or perhaps I ought to say compromising) fashion.
I recognised her at once, and felt secretly ashamed of my poor relation. It was horrid of me, and I hated myself for it; but at that moment I really did feel ashamed of her appearance, and actually comforted myself with the thought that my companion had seen my fashionable and befrilled sister at Euston.
I was pleased to find that he was as sorry to part as I was. He broke off his story with an exclamation of disgust. "I thought you said you were going to Scotland," he cried.
"So I am," I answered; "but not till to-morrow."
Here Aunt Maria came forward. I had to get out and be folded in the embrace of two bony arms. My companion (I had not found out his name) had, in the meantime, put my bag and my bundles upon the platform, and was standing, cap in hand, bowing a farewell.
He looked so pleasant, and Aunt Maria so forbidding, that my heart sank at the thought that he was going away, and that in all probability I should never see him again. Involuntarily I stretched out my hand to bid him a more friendly good-bye. Perhaps it was forward of me—Lucy always says I have such queer manners—but really I could not help it; I felt so sorry that our pleasant acquaintance should come to an end so soon.
Mysie Sutherland met me at Inverness. A pompous-looking footman came forward and condescended to carry my bag; one porter took my box to a cart in waiting, another put my rugs into the carriage, and Mysie and I went off at the rate of ten miles an hour. The pleasure of meeting her, the speed of the motion, the comfort of the well-stuffed cushions, quite raised my spirits. How different from trudging along with cross Aunt Maria!
We soon arrived at Strathnasheen House, and a very fine place it looked as we drove through the park. I began to get a little nervous again at the thought of meeting strangers; but Mysie comforted me, saying that her mother was just an angel, and her father very nice when you got used to him. As I had never been intimate with angels, and hardly expected to be there long enough to get used to an old man's peculiarities, I still trembled.
We had reached the porch. The pompous footman got down and executed a fantasia with elaborate "froisture" upon the knocker. The butler, who must have been waiting in the hall in a stunned condition till the performance was over, flung open the door, and I entered Strathnasheen House. The pompous one clung to my bag as a dainty trifle he could carry without loss of dignity. The butler stood motionless, content with "existing beautifully," the more so as a second footman, with powdered hair, plush breeches, and unimpeachable calves, rushed forward to our assistance. He was such a magnificent and unexpected apparition that I gazed in wonder, and eventually in horror.
It was my travelling companion of the day before!
I never knew how I got through the dreaded introduction to Sir Alexander and Lady Sutherland. I have a faint recollection of going up to a tall old man in spectacles, and answering his polite inquiries in a dazed, bewildered way. I recollect, also, that Lady Sutherland made an impression of softness and warmth, and that she said something about "changing my feet," which I looked upon as a mysterious and uncomplimentary suggestion.
Then Mysie carried me off to show me my room. There was a blazing fire, which was very inviting, and I was glad to plead fatigue and sit down till dinner.
Tired I certainly was, but that was nothing to my mental condition. My hero a footman! What would Lucy say to me? And Dick? Well, they always said I had low tastes, and they turned out to be right.
Then I tried to persuade myself that I had been mistaken—that this was another man; but I soon gave that up, for I knew all the while it was a mere subterfuge. I had recognised him at once—his eyes alone were sufficient; but, in fact, I knew all his features perfectly. Had I not sat opposite them all day in the railway carriage, and thought of them half the night, as I tossed upon Aunt Maria's hard, uncomfortable bed? I grew hot from head to foot as I remembered it.
It is all very well to say class distinctions are rubbish and that all men are equal, but I could not feel flattered to find my Admirable Crichton in plush breeches. The more I thought of it the more wonderful it appeared. When I got over the first shock my brain began to steady itself. I was sure of two things: first and foremost, that the footman was the man I had travelled with; secondly, that the man I had travelled with was a gentleman; but how to reconcile the two facts I did not know.
When I went down into the drawing-room I found a large party assembled for dinner: a number of men, mostly young, standing about in groups. These were some neighbours whom Sir Alexander had invited to shoot and dine. Lady Sutherland, Mysie, and myself were the only ladies.
After a painful indecision upstairs I had come to the conclusion that I must in some way acknowledge the existence of my travelling companion. After our friendly intercourse yesterday it would be snobbish to pretend I had never seen him before. And yet I was in agony to know how to do it. Young, shy, staying for the first time in a large country house, among people higher than myself in the social scale, it was not agreeable to flaunt an acquaintance with one of the men-servants. Still, it had to be done, if only for the sake of my own self-respect.
And this was the man before whom I had blushed for poor Aunt Maria yesterday! Only yesterday? It seemed a week ago!
So as I walked in to dinner on Sir Alexander's arm and passed close to my footman, I gave him a slight—a very slight—inclination of the head, it could hardly be called a bow.
I devoutly hoped nobody behind detected it, but I could see it was not lost upon my footman. He was equal to the occasion. The only acknowledgment he made was to put a still more respectful deference into the curve of his respectful, deferential back. I breathed more freely as I sat down in my place on Sir Alexander's right.
We were eleven to dinner, and a little discussion ensued as to who should sit near my friend Mysie. I noticed a good deal of man[oe]uvring on the part of a dark, middle-aged man to sit there. Mysie saw it too, and seemed pleased when he succeeded. As he drew in his chair to the table he gave her a glance which spoke volumes. I was quite excited. I wondered if anyone else had noticed it. I was certain there was something between those two.
This was the only interest I had. My host was absorbed in the carving and in the details of the day's sport; my other neighbour was evidently too hungry to waste his time in talking to a chit of a girl like myself. It was a dull and tedious meal. Lady Sutherland was gentle and polite, but not talkative. Mysie was too absorbed in her neighbour. As they were on the opposite side of the table I could catch a word now and then, though they spoke in an undertone.
The number of courses, the number of strangers, the number of servants, all confused and bewildered me; the only thing I had grasped was that my footman friend was called Peter. It was an ugly name and most unsuitable. Indeed, he appeared to think so himself, for he seldom answered to it. I cannot say my friend shone as a waiter; he was far more in his element relating mountaineering adventures. I suddenly recollected his story of having spent the night on a ledge of rock in a snowstorm. How did a footman get into such a predicament? One can only picture him carrying a picnic basket in the tamest of scenery.
The only other people that interested me besides my travelling companion were Mysie and her friend. I did not wish to act the spy, but a sort of fascination compelled me to look and listen. The gentleman was immensely empresse, yet nobody seemed to notice it but myself.
"Have you heard from your cousin Fred?" I heard him say.
"Oh, no, we never hear anything of him now. I'm afraid he'll never do any good. A rolling stone, you know——"
"I thought he was such a favourite of yours," said Mysie's dark admirer, with a world of meaning in his eyes and voice.
She was conscious of it, and blushed deeply as she replied, "You always made that mistake. I liked him when we were children; he was my cousin and I saw a good deal of him, but now——"
Here my attention was suddenly called to myself, and I heard no more. A pint of rich brown gravy was trickling down over my white silk dress! Mine, do I say? Far worse—Lucy's white silk dress!
My dismay was too great for words. Besides, all words were idle, and I knew the culprit was my friend the new footman, who would be scolded enough as it was. Sir Alexander glared furiously at him and rapped out an oath, while I mopped up the thick greasy fluid with my table-napkin and murmured sweetly that it did not signify in the least.
I was glad when the dinner, with its innumerable courses and interminable dessert, came at last to an end and we ladies were alone in the drawing-room.
"What do you think of the new importation, mamma?" said Mysie.
I blushed scarlet. For one brief moment I actually thought she was alluding to me, but I soon found out it was Peter she was talking about. That did not make me feel any cooler; if possible, I grew redder and redder.
Lady Sutherland considered a few minutes in a fat, comfortable sort of way. Then she said, slowly, "Well, dear, he puzzles me a good deal. I cannot think he has been well trained. He does not wait so cleverly as the last Peter. Didn't he spill something on your dress, my dear?" turning to me.
"Oh, that's nothing," I replied, eagerly, twisting my skirt still more out of shape to hide the huge brown spot. To change the conversation I went on, "Are all your footmen called Peter?"
"Yes, at least the second one is." It was Lucy who answered me. "Our first footman is always called Charles and the second one Peter. Papa made that arrangement because he got so mixed when we changed servants. After all, mamma, the new Peter may improve. He can hardly have got over his journey yet."
I racked my brain for a change of subject. I was so afraid it should come out that we had travelled together. I was too young to see the amusing side of it, and was in terror lest Peter himself should reveal it to the kitchen. With more abruptness than was polite I turned to Mysie.
"Who was that dark man who sat by you at dinner?" I asked.
She looked a little embarrassed as she replied, "A near neighbour of ours, Colonel Witherington. We have known him for years and are great friends; I always like to talk to him, he has so much to say."
"Methinks the lady doth explain too much," was my inward comment. An owl could see that she was in love with him. (It is true that the owl is the bird of wisdom.)
After a short interval the gentlemen joined us. They were all evidently anxious to get home, and ordered their dogcarts (or whatever they had) as soon as they decently could. Colonel Witherington was the last to go. He had lingered so long that the butler and the pompous Charles had retired, leaving only Peter standing in the hall.
"Now don't come out of the warm room, Sir Alexander," said Colonel Witherington; "I shall manage very well—your man is out here."
Peter now came forward with the Colonel's greatcoat in his hand; and the drawing-room door was shut.
Suddenly a peal of laughter was heard, long, loud, and irresistible. Then another voice joined in—the merriment seemed uncontrollable. The Sutherland family looked at each other in angry astonishment. Could it be the new footman indulging in this unseemly mirth? Impossible!
Sir Alexander opened the door into the hall; we followed him with one accord. What a sight met our eyes! There stood Colonel Witherington, with his hand on Peter's shoulder, the pair of them shaking with laughter.
"Go back, my dears," said Sir Alexander, with a wave of his hand towards us. With the true instinct of the British pater-familias, he was eager to send his women-kind away from anything unusual or improper; but Mysie's curiosity was too great—besides, Colonel Witherington was now dragging the footman forward.
"Come and explain yourself, you rascal. Why, Mysie"—the name slipped out unawares—"don't you see who it is? It's your cousin Fred."
An explosion of dynamite would have less upset the worthy baronet than this announcement. He stood speechless and staring; Lady Sutherland looked annoyed and incredulous. As for me, I cannot describe my feelings; I was in a perfect whirl. Mysie was the first to recover from her astonishment. She joined in the laughter of the two men.
"How like you, Fred, to do a thing like that! Do come and tell us all about it. I thought you were at the Cape. Still, that loud guffaw sounded familiar. But how different you look without your moustache—and your hair, too! Well, I should never have known you!"
"The want of a moustache made me recognise him," said Colonel Witherington. "He was just such a beardless boy when he joined the regiment. I noticed the likeness at dinner; and when I got a chance of looking into his eyes I was sure——"
"I call it most ungentlemanlike—most unpardonable," began Sir Alexander, who had now recovered his speech.
"I did it for a lark," said the supposed footman, in a hearty, cheerful voice. "I wondered what you really thought of the good-for-nothing nephew, and how you would receive him if he returned like the prodigal son in the parable."
"It was hardly fair on us, Fred," said Lady Sutherland's gentle voice.
"Perhaps not, dear Aunt Margaret; but you would never be found wanting." Mysie stepped back a few paces and took hold of my arm; her cousin went on: "Talk of Her Majesty's uniform, these togs beat all. I never was so gorgeously attired in my life."
Sir Alexander was too angry to endure this any longer. He marched off to the smoking-room, and tried to soothe his nerves with the fragrant weed. The rest of us went back into the drawing-room.
"Do lock the door," whispered Mysie to Colonel Witherington; "the servants will be coming in."
Fred Sutherland (to give him his right name) then explained his strange conduct. He had been obliged to leave his regiment, and had, as they knew, gone to the Cape. Here he fell in with an old school-fellow who was going to the diamond fields. They joined forces, bought a claim for a mere song, and set to work. To the surprise of the whole camp they were successful. In the claim, which had been abandoned months before as "no go," they came upon one of the largest stones that had ever been turned up in South Africa.
Fred Sutherland turned his share into cash directly and started for home. "I'm quite a millionaire, I assure you," cried the footman, slapping his plush breeches.
It looked so impudent and familiar of him to be sitting among us dressed like that, that his aunt could not bear it.
"Do go and take off those dreadful clothes," she said; "I can't think what made you do such a thing."
"I haven't done it in vain; I've learned what I wanted to know," he said, with a light laugh and a look at Mysie and Colonel Witherington.
A wave of depression came over me. Of course he was in love with his cousin and came to see how the land lay.
Poor fellow! Still, he seemed to bear up.
He turned towards me as if expecting an introduction. He did not show the slightest sign of ever having met me before. I never was so puzzled in my life. What ought I to do?
"This is my school-fellow—Miss Cornwall—but she will prefer to make your acquaintance in other attire; won't you, Lofty?"
"I have done so before," said I, summoning up courage and holding out my hand. "We travelled together from Euston."
Everything was so astonishing that nobody seemed surprised. I was pleased to see the expression which beamed on the footman's face, and to feel the cordial grip as we shook hands.
"Now," said Colonel Witherington, "you had better come home with me. Nobody need know anything about it. You must manage your father with regard to Fred," he whispered to Mysie, "and I will call early again to-morrow."
And so ended my little adventure—or rather it did not end here, for Fred came back with me when I returned to London. And—well, my travelling companion has promised never to leave my side.
A L10,000 TOY.
COMPLETE WORKING RAILWAY IN A ROOM.
BY ROBERT MACHRAY.
The seven beautiful illustrations which appear in this article are taken from photographs of what is without doubt one of the mechanical marvels of the day. They clearly set forth the most complete, and, at the same time, the most costly miniature model railway system in the world.
So perfect, indeed, is this line and its equipment that the first cursory glance at these pictures of it will certainly cause the beholder to imagine that he is looking at presentments of some portions of the London and North-Western Railway or of some other well-known, full-grown railway. But his eye, on gazing a little longer at these views, will take note of the curious circumstance that the entire system appears to be embraced within the four walls of a single room. Having discovered this, he will look still more closely, and then he will see other things which will immediately excite his interest, and he will forthwith "want to know" all about it.
This wonderful railway is owned, controlled, and operated by Mr. Percy H. Leigh of Brentwood, Worsley, one of the suburbs of Manchester. This gentleman has no professional connection with railroading, but for some years past he has amused himself with models of locomotives and their practical working. "Some men spend their money on racehorses, others on yachts, and so on," says Mr. Leigh, "but this railroad of mine is more to my fancy."
I am not permitted to state how much exactly this hobby of Mr. Leigh's has cost him, but I am not betraying any confidence when I say that in one way and another a sum not far short of ten thousand pounds has been spent on his Liliputian line. This large amount may be accounted for by the fact that Mr. Leigh was not to be satisfied with anything short of perfection in every detail. His instructions to the contractors who built and equipped the "road" were that there were to be no "dummies," and that everything was to be made accurately to scale. How faithfully and thoroughly Messrs Lucas and Davies, of Farringdon Road, have carried out his commands will be evident from the following statement with which they have been kind enough to supply me.
The country, if I may so term it, within which the railway runs, is a great, oblong, single-storied building, consisting of one chamber, ninety feet in length by thirty feet in breadth. It has been added on to Mr. Leigh's residence, and was specially constructed with a view to giving the line a sufficient range for its successful operation, and also to afford it protection from damp and other undesirable effects of the weather. The room is provided with a double floor—a wooden one, on which stand the trestles supporting the track itself, and, two or three feet below it, another of concrete. An even temperature all the year round is secured by means of two rows of hot-water pipes. When these precautions are considered, it will be seen that this railway system probably enjoys the most perfect climate in existence.
The line has not yet been given any comprehensive name. Perhaps it is almost too soon for that, for it is hardly more than finished; indeed, the goods-engine remains to be delivered by the builders. But it might be christened, from the names of the two stations on it, the Oakgreen and Beechvale Railway.
First of all, to describe the track. The road-bed is made of pitch pine, mounted on sixty-five trestles, three feet from the floor, and the track extends to 276 feet, of a double line of rails. Of the rails all together there are 1,200 feet; and some idea of what this means may be understood from the fact that when they came from Sheffield, where they were specially rolled for Mr. Leigh, they formed two solid heaps of metal, each as high as a man. The rails are of mild steel; they are double-headed, and about an inch in height; some of them are nearly twelve feet long. They are fastened down to 2,000 pitch pine sleepers by 4,000 malleable cast-iron chairs, held in place with hard-wood wedges and 16,000 screws. All the fish plates, bolts, and nuts used in joining the rails together are exact miniatures of those to be seen on an ordinary railway. The track is ballasted with nine hundredweight of limestone chips, and the gauge is six inches.
Details which involve a large number of figures are apt to be rather dry and tiresome; but in the present case, if frequent reference be made from the letterpress to the illustrations, it will be seen with what extreme care, and with what extraordinarily minute and even loving faithfulness, all the features of a first-class modern railway have been reproduced in miniature.
The line starts from Oakgreen, the principal station, where are located the offices of the management. In front of the buildings is a platform twenty-four feet long, provided with the usual seats and other conveniences for passengers, of whom a few may be noticed waiting for the express to convey them to their destination. The platform is sheltered from the elements by a glass roof, while the gates admitting to it are of the regular palisade type. At the further end is a passenger foot-bridge of trellis-work covered over; it stands high above the line, and is reached by two staircases, and everybody is warned not to venture to cross the railway by any other means. At the same time there are level crossings for the greatly daring.
Behind the station proper is the goods station and siding, forty feet long, the goods shed itself being four feet long.
Both of these stations, and indeed the other station and the whole line, are beautifully lighted up, when necessary, by electric lamps fitted with reflectors. There are in all fifty-eight of these soft, lovely lights; and a particularly tall one will be observed in the goods station for the purpose of affording sufficient light to that very busy portion of the company's undertakings. The lamps are supplied from storage batteries placed under the track, and their illuminating capacity is enough to light up the whole room without bringing the gas, with which it is also fitted up, into requisition.
The electric lamps also serve the purpose of lighting up both the signal cabins and the signal posts along the line. There are three of the former mounted at the side of the track, and they contain no less than twenty-six levers, from which stretch flexible wires and runners to the signal posts. The last-named, which are twelve in number, are three feet in height, and are fully equipped with semaphores, lamps showing red, green, and white, platforms and ladders. Besides these, there are also worked from the signal cabins sixteen sets of points, by means of rod connections and levers. Every particular with regard to the signalling and the shunting has been thought out and executed with the most laudable and painstaking thoroughness and accuracy. And these arrangements decidedly add a somewhat picturesque element to the line, while they also strengthen the effect of reality which is the chief impression given by this marvellous railway.
It is, of course, impossible to enumerate every matter of interest connected with the line itself, but it must be stated that there have been provided two turntables to take the locomotive and tender, and that the turntables have four levers for the points, and also that they have been furnished with spring buffers; and, further, that a tank, into which the boiler can be emptied, has been let into the track.
In the course of the length of the line, the train passes through a long cutting, forty feet in extent, and two feet deep. To heighten the illusion, the sides of the cutting are covered with grass, and on the top of both sides there is a dwarf hedge. This portion of the road supplies it with its chief scenic attraction. Some distance from the cutting there is a road bridge across the railway, three feet long by two feet wide. Before reaching the second station, Beechvale, a long and fearsome tunnel has to be negotiated—its actual length is eighteen feet. The station-house, platform, and other accessories of Beechvale are very similar to those at Oakgreen.
The locomotive, with its tender, is five feet long and about eighteen inches in height. It is of six-inch gauge, and is an exact duplicate on a small scale of an express of the London and North-Western Railway. It is a real working locomotive, most exquisitely made. The only points in which it differs from its model are such as come from its comparatively diminutive size. Thus, its boiler has not the usual number of tubes, it has no injector, and steam is got up in it by a charcoal fire, the charcoal being kept at a great heat by a "blast."
The cost of the engine and tender was L320 or a little more, and it was made entirely by Mr. Lucas, of Lucas and Davies. It took him nearly nine months to complete it, but from this period there would have to be deducted a good many hours when he was called away to attend to some other piece of business for his firm. And here I may remark that it took eighteen months to build the line, five months of which were occupied in fitting up the large room already mentioned.
The speed of the train on the straight portions of the line is six miles an hour, but it is considerably less on the curves at either end, which are twenty-six feet in diameter. The contractors experienced a great deal of difficulty in getting the curves exactly right, as the six-inch gauge of the railway, no other line being of any assistance in this particular, introduced an entirely new problem in railroad construction. The engine can travel six times round the entire length of the system without its being necessary to renew the charcoal fire.
There are both a passenger train and a goods train. The former consists of three carriages and a guard's van. One carriage is a first-class corridor, a second is a third-class corridor, and the third is a composite first-class and third-class carriage. Each of them is fitted with the usual upholstered seats found in compartments belonging to their classification; there are hat racks and blinds, mirrors and lavatories and so forth in every carriage; there are carpets, too, on the floors of the first-class. The guard's van has not been neglected, but in its dog-boxes and other appointments is a facsimile of the vans that go out daily from Euston. As a matter of fact, the whole train is panelled and painted throughout in the familiar colours of the London and North-Western Railway. The carriages are mounted on bogies, and have been completely equipped with carriage springs, grease boxes for the axles, spring buffers, draw-bars and screw couplings right and left. The two corridor carriages have the proper extending covered ways.
The goods train is quite as remarkable in its way as every other part of this railway. It is composed of ten trucks and vans, and has besides a guard's brake-van fitted with a screw-down brake of the usual sort. There are two high-side trucks, four medium, and two low; two covered-in vans and two cattle trucks, and, if a glance be taken at the illustration which exhibits the goods train most completely, it will be noticed that all of these trucks and vans are loaded with appropriate articles of freight—logs of wood, slates, casks of beer, marble, and other things, while the two bullock wagons are filled with animals.
All these trucks and vans are fitted with hand lever brakes, tarpaulins, chains, hooks, stanchions, and everything necessary for the handling of the no doubt enormous goods traffic of the road. They are all mounted on carriage springs, and have grease boxes, spring buffers, and every other device in use on the London and North-Western Railway—from which they have been copied, like everything else on this Liliputian line. The greatest railway in the world took a friendly interest in the smallest, and supplied it with the drawings and models from which it and its rolling stock have been imitated.
One tiny detail I think I must mention in conclusion, and it is that the management have thoughtfully provided fourteen hand lamps for the service of the line.
In acknowledging my indebtedness to Mr. Leigh, I should like to say that he has found in his miniature railway not only a source of continual amusement, but also a means of doing good to others, for he has on more than one occasion shown it in operation to large gatherings of people, who have flocked to see it both on account of the interest naturally excited by it, and also for the sake of "sweet charity," the proceeds realised from these exhibitions being devoted to some worthy object.
For the photographs which accompany this article we are indebted to Mr. J. Ambler, of Manchester.
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE AT THE SEASIDE
BY JOHN OXENHAM.
Illustrated by H. M. Brock.
Could it, after all, be called unique? Hardly, perhaps, in the strict sense of the word, since others shared in it. But to us it was, and I trust ever will be, a unique experience.
We have generally spent our August holiday at the seaside in apartments, and suffered many things in consequence—an uninterrupted succession of mixed odours of cooking from early morning till late at night; fleas and other insect pests, which seemed to thrive mightily on the powders put down for their extermination; landladies afflicted with spasms and inordinate thirst, and landladies' cats with unappeasable appetites; cramped quarters, of course, which did not afflict one on fine days, but on rainy ones became pandemonium; terrible attempts at amateurish cooking and service—in which the dining-room's vegetables and tarts got mixed up with the drawing-room's vegetables and pies—and slatternly maids of all work, who killed on the spot even one's seaside appetite, the moment they appeared to set the table.
And so, after mature consideration of ways and means, we decided this time to attain to the dignity of a small furnished house—or a cottage, at all events—if by any chance such could be found within the limits of a moderate purse.
Further consideration fixed on Eastnor as the place where our holiday was to be spent.
We had, in the course of twelve years' wanderings, tried most of the South and East Coast watering-places, and found most of them a-wanting. If the atmosphere was bracing, the beach was shingle. If the beach was sandy, the atmosphere was enervating.
Somewhere in our family history a strain of Israelitish blood must have got mixed with all the other strains. It probably dates right away back to the forty years' wanderers, or even, maybe, as far back as Noah—in whose family one can conceive, at one period of its history, almost as strong a craving for sand as had again out-cropped in this present rising generation of mine.
The one thing my youngsters insist on is sand—wet sand with pools, for amateur canal-engineering; dry sand for houses and forts, and Canutish, wave-repelling castles. Sand, and plenty of it, is their one demand, and no holiday is complete without it. When they were very young, Broadstairs was all right for a time, and satisfied their inordinate cravings; but it became too crowded, and to our family connoisseurs the quality of the sand has deteriorated somewhat, and has got too much mixed up with mud and buns and paper bags, and other people's babies, and so we had to try further afield.
The Great Sahara would have been just about the very thing for us, but on inquiry I found the journey to be a long and trying one, and a trifle beyond our means, and the accommodation for visitors somewhat defective.
Eastnor was named to us; we had never tried Eastnor. Was there sand?—Yes, any amount. So to Eastnor I journeyed, with a Saturday-to-Monday ticket and stringent orders from headquarters to first try the sand—as to quality, quantity, texture, depth and pools—and if up to standard measurement, I was authorised to pick up a small house for August on the most reasonable terms obtainable.
The requirements were at least one sitting-room and three bedrooms and a kitchen—if an extra room or two without extra charge, so much the better. I was to come back fully informed as to what was left in the house in the way of furnishings and utensils, and what we would be expected to take with us.
I found Eastnor all right as regards sand; the very streets were full of it, and as I stood on the Esplanade at low tide, and leaned up against a strong south-west breeze, and saw the dry sand sweeping like smoke along the flats and piling knee-deep to windward of the groins, and got my mouth and eyes and ears full of it, I decided, from the taste and smell and feel of it, that—from a sand point of view, at all events—Eastnor would do.
Now to find a lodgment for the night, and then to prowl round for a house.
I struck a neat little confectioner's for tea, and, following a plan which had acted well on previous occasions, asked, as I was paying for it, if they could accommodate me for the night.
Well, they had rooms, but they were let for the following week—being regatta week—and, yes, said the stout lady behind the counter, she thought she had better not take me; but the "Balaclava Inn," next door, put up beds—I had better try there.
Yes, at the "Balaclava" they put up beds, and they showed me to a room. "But if I should get a good let to-morrow—lots of folks come down on Sunday to stop for regatta," said the hostess—"I shall have to turn you out; but maybe I can find you a bedroom nigh handy."
This just to show the extreme independence of the aborigines.
Then I turned out to find the desirable seaside residence with the maximum of accommodation and comfort at the minimum of cost.
I rooted round till I struck the chief estate agent—who was also the chief grocer—of the town.
His shop was full, and trade was evidently booming.
I stood behind a triple row of clamorous lady visitors, who were ordering everything under the sun in the grocery line, and complaining vehemently to the badgered shop-men that their last orders had all been very inadequately fulfilled. I waited patiently till the mob, having apparently bought up the whole shop, thinned out, and a dapper London-trained young shopman smoothed down his ruffled front hair and leaned over the counter and asked, "And what can I do for you, sir?"
"I want a small furnished house," I said, meekly.
"Ah," he said, with a grin, "I'm afraid we are out of them at present; I'll ask Mr. Wilson."
"Small furnished house for August?" echoed Mr. Wilson, in aggrieved amazement. "Not such a thing to be had in Eastnor. All let a month ago. You should come in May or June to get a house for August."
I thanked him, and left depressed. I wandered through the town, and found myself back on the Esplanade. I walked the whole length of it, and then along the sea bank into the uninhabited region beyond.
Not quite uninhabited, as it proved, for, about half a mile from the Esplanade, I came suddenly on a cottage with nothing between it and the sandy beach but a tiny garden plot, with a bit of grass and some nasturtiums and pinks mixed up with cabbages and potatoes and a row of scarlet-runners. It looked very clean and inviting, and I said to myself, "Now, if only that were to let, it's just exactly what I want."
There could be no harm in asking, so I went up to the door and knocked. No one came. I knocked again. Still no answer. I waited. It seemed to me there was some movement in the side room, the sliding window of which was partly open, but was covered with a white curtain.
I knocked again, and the door opened suddenly, and disclosed the small brown face of a small lame man, looking up at me with a pair of small but very sharp brown eyes, with, as I now remember, a slightly startled look in them, as of one caught in the act.
"Yes?" he said, in a sharp voice.
"Oh, I wanted to ask if this cottage is by any chance to let any time in August."
He hesitated, and then snapped, "How long for?"
"Two, three, or four weeks."
"When d'you want it?"
"About the seventh or eighth."
He pondered the matter, and barked, "Come in."
I went in. It was charming. Nicely, though plainly, furnished, and as clean as a new pin. I went all over it. Two sitting, four bedrooms, kitchen, scullery, wire spring mattresses, wool beds, two blankets to each bed, blankets very white and almost new.
"And the rent?" I asked, wondering how much above my limit I would not go to possess all this for a month.
"Well," he said, slowly, "three guineas a week is what we generally get, but if you could wait till the twelfth I'd let it go for two and a half, if you'll buy the stuff in the garden. I reckon there's a good pound's worth between the potatoes and cabbages and beans, and they'll be just about ready by the time you come in. I've made a good let for the three weeks before you come, and they don't want to go out till the eleventh, and" (dropping his voice to a confidential whisper) "my missus, she's expecting to be laid up very soon, and she wants to go to her folks at Wilborough, else I wouldn't let it go so cheap."
Diplomatically veiling my satisfaction, I closed the bargain on the spot, and sat down then and there and wrote out a couple of agreements, by which Joseph Scorer agreed to let, and John Oxenham agreed to take, for one month, from August 12th, the cottage known as Sandybank Cottage in the town of Eastnor, with the furniture, etc., named in the inventory attached, for the sum of ten guineas, whereof the receipt of one pound was hereby acknowledged.
"What about the inventory?" I asked.
"I've got one ready for the other folks. If you like to check it I'll make you a copy and send it on."
It was a strange and wonderful document, that inventory, but with Mr. Scorer's assistance I succeeded in checking the main points of it. Many of the items were strange; the spelling was phonetic and curious, and at times stumped us both, and then Mr. Scorer would scratch his head and opine that it must mean so-and-so.
"One cundler" in the kitchen brought us to a dead-lock for full five minutes. At last Mr. Scorer pointed to a battered implement with its bottom full of holes, hanging on the wall, and said, triumphantly, "That's it."
"What in heaven's name is it?" I asked, gazing suspiciously at the shapeless object.
"Why, you squeedge your cabbages through it," he said.
"Oh, I see, a colander."
The humours of that inventory come upon me still in the dark night watches at times, and I laugh internally till my wife wakes up and advises me to get up and take a dose of camphor if I feel as bad as all that.
The larger articles, such as bedsteads and chairs and washstands, we easily identified, and these we triumphantly ticked off first, and then gradually worried out the smaller ones.
"One indimat" caused us some trouble in the best bedroom, but finally a strip of straw matting, two feet by one, was hauled out from its lurking-place under the washstand, whither it had crept for concealment, and reluctantly answered to its name.
The crockery was heterogeneous, and was slumped under colour-headings.
"Three cupps pink; one sosir pink; three cupps blew; four sosirs blew (one crack)," and so on.
That searching inventory went right to the root of things, and by its fiat-justitia-ruat-c[oe]lum candour impressed me most favourably with the stark, staring, straight-forward honesty of Mr. Joseph Scorer.
"One bird in glass case, bird's leg broke—four orments, all crack—one ormlu clock (won't go)"—could transparent honesty go further than this?
Moreover Mr. Scorer asked me casually, "Did you know Mr. William Henry Sawyer, Esquire, of the 'Ome Office?"
I did not. My acquaintance does not as a rule extend to the Home Office.
"A nice gentleman, 'e is. Been 'ere in this 'ouse every year for the last five years. 'E comes early, about May, and sometimes again in October."
"It is good to be Mr. William Henry Sawyer, Esquire, of the Home Office," I said. I am a fairly truthful man as men go, and I never spoke a truer word than that, but that knowledge only came to me later.
I was delighted with Mr. Joseph Scorer, and with his receipt in my pocket and my two pounds in his, I went home on the Monday morning triumphant, and on the Monday evening whistled myself into the bosom of my family to the tune of "See, the conquering hero comes."
I gave a detailed description of my adventures to my receptive family circle, and when my wife heard Mr. Scorer's last message, "I will come over the day before you are coming in, and have the place put in order, and will have a fire on in the kitchen for you," she labelled him "treasure," and vowed we would keep on going there every year.
"I wish I had remembered to ask you to tell him to get in some coals, and milk, and bread," she said, regretfully.
"I did," I answered, triumphantly. "He suggested we would want them, and I paid him for them, and for oil for the lamps too, so that's all right."
"You have done well," said my wife, and I thought so myself.
August 12th found us duly landed at Eastnor station, and furtively raking out our belongings from the piles of other people's. At last they were all collected, and I chartered a carriage and a porter's cart to convey us and our luggage to Sandybank Cottage.
Mr. Joseph Scorer met us at the door, and we forthwith took possession. The kitchen fire was lighted, the coal was there, and the milk, and the bread, and oil.
Everything was as nice as it could be.
The luggage was carried in, and we settled down to a month's solid enjoyment and undisputed possession of our new abode.
Mr. Scorer was solicitous of our comfort. He altered the inventory in one or two minor points, in respect of articles broken by our predecessors. He dug enough potatoes for next week's dinners, and cut two plump cabbages. He collected his L4 15s., half the balance of the rent, and departed, followed by the blessings of the entire family, save those members who were already knee deep in the ocean just the other side of the garden patch.
"This is simply splendid," said my wife, beaming at me in the way I like; "it seems almost too good to be true."
She was right.
Next morning was magnificent. My wife went out to buy up the town. All the rest of us plunged into the sea, except the servant, Amelia Blatt, who was rapidly converting herself into a negress over the intricacies of the strange little range in the kitchen.
One of the advantages of Sandybank Cottage was that from its proximity to the beach you could use your bedroom as a bathing machine, assume your marine costume therein, skip across the lawn, and be into the water with a hop and a jump.
It was simply delightful, really almost too good to be true, as my wife had said.
We all had a glorious bathe and a scamper on the sands, and then trooped up to the cottage to dress. As we came up over the lawn I was surprised to see a great heap of luggage, and two bicycles, lying around, evidently all just discharged from a couple of retreating carriages.
I am an unusually modest man, and it was rather over-facing. There were several ladies in the party and an elderly gentleman. They all turned and watched our advent. The ladies looked put out at something. I feared it might be at myself in my bathing costume. However, my foot was on my native heath, so to speak, which was more than could be said of theirs, so I put on as bold a face as could legitimately be expected of a modest man in nothing but a bathing costume, and went forward. The old gentleman also seemed disturbed, but he disguised his feelings to the best of his power, and addressed me suavely.
"Been enjoying a last bathe?" he asked.
There was just a hint of "What the deuce do you mean by it, sir?" in his tone.
"I beg your pardon?" I said.
"Couldn't refrain from one more dip, I suppose?" he said again, with a forced smile. "Might I ask what time you are leaving? We understood—"
"Leaving?" I said, with some force. "Why, we only got here yesterday."
He gazed at me in blank astonishment, the ladies also.
"Oh," he said, soothingly, "there must be some mistake."
"I am not aware of any," I answered, somewhat brusquely.
It was ludicrous, standing there in a bathing suit, discussing the matter under the gaze of three pairs of outraged female eyes, and a blazing sun.
"But, my good sir," said the old gentleman, "I have taken this cottage—it is Sandybank Cottage, is it not?" he asked.
"Mr. Joseph Scorer's?"
I was getting angry and the sun was blistering my neck.
"Well, I have taken it for four weeks from August 13, and have paid a deposit on it."
"And I have taken it for four weeks from August 12, and have paid a deposit and half the rent," I said. "We came in yesterday, and we go out September 9."
"And you have an agreement with Mr. Scorer?"
"Certainly I have, but I have not got it on me."
"Well, I'll be hanged," said the old gentleman, very red in the face, and turned to his women folk.
"My dears, there is evidently some mistake. An infernal nuisance, but this gentleman is evidently not to blame. Would you mind my seeing your agreement?" he asked, turning again to me.
"Certainly I would mind. My agreement has nothing to do with you, sir, and I am not in the habit of having my word doubted. Now perhaps you will permit me to go in and dress, before my neck is absolutely raw."
They hung around for a time, talking unpleasantly among themselves, and finally the old gentleman stalked off to the town, and came back with a cart for their belongings. They were loaded up, and the party disappeared in a cloud of dust on the way to Eastnor.
"That is rather a curious thing," said my wife, when I detailed the experiences of the morning to her on her return from her shopping. "I hope—"
"Oh, we're all right," I said, lightly. "They can't put us out. Possession, you know—"
"Yes, I know. I wasn't thinking of that," she said, with a far-away look in her eyes.
By evening the raw edge of the annoyance of the morning had worn off. We sat in the porch enjoying the evening breeze, and counted ourselves for the time being among the fortunate ones of the earth. Our charity even extended at odd moments to the disappointed would-be occupants of our shoes—and bedrooms, and we devoutly hoped they had found rooms somewhere, and were not occupying airy apartments in bathing machines.
"It was a stupid mistake of Mr. Joseph Scorer's," we said, "and he ought to be more careful."
"I shall write when I have time," I said, "and tell him so."
But I never had time. I was much too fully occupied with other things.
Next day, after a morning bathe and paddle on the sands and early dinner, we started for a long afternoon's ramble round Eastnor, to get some idea of the place, leaving the two youngest children with the servant, with strict injunctions not to get drowned, and to get their tea whenever they felt like it.
We did Eastnor thoroughly, and then, noticing that there was a concert on the pier that night, my wife suggested tea at a confectioner's, and an adjournment to the pier afterwards for the concert. This was carried with acclaim. We enjoyed the tea, the concert, and the stroll home, and arrived at Sandybank Cottage about ten o'clock, fully satisfied with our day's outing.
Amelia met us at the door. She was in a state of extreme nervous excitement.
"Thank goodness you come 'ome!" she burst out.
She was unfortunate in the place of her birth and up-bringing, was Amelia. To judge from her accent she must have been born right up in the steeple of Bow Church. Otherwise she was a sterling girl. I will tone down her vernacular: it does not spell easily.
"Sich a dye I never had. Seems to me we'd better git away 'ome's quick's we can," she began.
"Why, Amelia, what's the matter?" asked her mistress.
"Matter?" said Amelia, with rising inflection. "Well, there's been a party of three old maiden ladies, with three dawgs, and two kinaries, and a parrick in a cage, all a-settin' cryin' on their boxes outside here all day long since half an hour after you left, a-waitin' for you to come back and go out of this 'ouse and let 'em come in. They say they took it from August 14 for a month, and paid a dee-posit, and they was to come in to-day. And the kitching fire was to be ready lighted, an'—"
"And there was to be coal, and bread, and milk in the house, and oil for the lamps, and they'd paid for them," said I.
"My! Did you hear 'em?"
"No," I said, "I didn't."
"And what did you do, Amelia?" asked my wife, anxiously.
"I just told 'em straight that we was 'ere for a month, and there must be some mistake, seein' as we wasn't a-goin' out till our time was up, and then they just set down and cried, and the parrick swore awful till they covered him up. He belonged to a nevew what was a sailor man, they said, when he begun to swear, and I told the children to run inside lest they'd catch it. Then they was so misrable settin' there, dabbin' of their poor little red noses, that I made 'em some tea, and they could 'ave kissed me, and they wanted me to take pay for it, but I wouldn't."
"You're a good girl, Amelia, and you did quite right," said her mistress, and turning to me—
"This is really very trying and very uncomfortable. What do you suppose is the meaning of it?"
She looked a little bit as though she thought it was my fault.
"I don't know what's the meaning of it," I said, feeling angry. "I'm afraid Mr. Joseph Scorer has a very short memory. If I had him here I'd try if screwing his neck round would lengthen it."
Next day being Sunday we had a genuine day of rest, and enjoyed it with quite a novel sense of freedom from the cares and worries of life.
On Monday, by the morning train and the station omnibus, arrived a family much like our own—father, mother, four children, servant, and innumerable boxes.
I had had my bathe, and was sitting in the porch armed with a pipe and my stamped agreement with Mr. Scorer, prepared to repel all intruders. So, before the grinning omnibus-man had time to dump down the baggage, I took the father on one side, showed him my agreement, and explained the situation, telling him his was the third party I had had to turn empty away.
He was very wroth, and swore, I should say, as lustily as the old maids' nephew's parrot could have done. He was a lawyer, too, and wanted to go into the legal aspects of the case. I assured him that they did not interest me, unless I had some ground of action against Mr. Joseph Scorer for the disturbance of my peaceful possession of his much-let habitation.
He was a good fellow on the whole, and he left me his name and business address, and made me promise to let him know if I ever found out where Mr. Scorer had gone to, and also to refer to him any of the outraged claimants to the cottage who wished to take legal action in the matter.
His wife and the youngsters had been peering out anxiously at us from the back windows of the bus while this colloquy was taking place. The father explained the matter to them, and, with a wave of his hand to me, they drove crestfallen back to Eastnor.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, variously-composed parties arrived with their baggage, and I turned them all away, and sent them to find lodgings in Eastnor, suffering much in the doing of it from their unnatural ill-humours and chagrin.
On Saturday there arrived a rollicking reading-party of students from Oxford with a coach. I explained my painful situation and experiences, and informed them that they made the eighth party I had had to repulse.
They were merry, good-humoured fellows, and they lay flat on my patch of lawn and fairly screamed with delight at the cuteness of Mr. Joseph Scorer. "He was born an Oxford gyp," they averred.
They enjoyed the affair so much that I could hardly get rid of them. My wife gave them tea and cakes, and they sat and smoked, and laughed, and joked, till the stars were up, and then they got a carriage and drove off to the hotel, after promising to come up every day about noon to assist me in my hateful task of holding the fort against all comers.
And they did it, too, and enjoyed it immensely.
On the pier, on Sunday morning after church, we met at intervals all the families who ought to have been stopping in Sandybank Cottage.
The irate first old gentleman stopped me to ask, "Well, how are you getting on? Say, that was the nastiest trick I ever was served. If I could find Mr. Scorer I would jolly well like to wring his nasty little neck."
I said I felt that way myself, but I feared there was not much chance of laying hands on it.
I told him I had now had to send away eight different parties who all claimed the cottage, and at that he felt very much better.
My lawyer friend was just passing, and I introduced him to the old gentleman, and, catching sight of my young friends from Oxford, I introduced them all to one another, and they all had a very lively time together, and enjoyed themselves extremely.
On Monday I bethought me to go to the station, and acquaint the cabmen with the true state of matters, and beg them not to bring any more parties to Sandybank Cottage. They listened with broad grins to all I had to say, but absolutely refused to comply with my wishes. It all meant double fares for them, and all was grist that came to their mills, and it wasn't in human nature to refuse a fare when it was offered, and in fact any such refusal might invalidate their licences, and would certainly lose them their places. So, much as they regretted the annoyance it caused me, they felt in duty bound to go on dumping would-be tenants and their baggage on my front lawn as fast as they came along.
I could find no arguments to advance against all this, and so the game went merrily on.
That day two separate parties arrived within ten minutes of one another. The Oxford contingent was sitting on the lawn, and revelled in the disgust of the heads of the families when they were made acquainted with the state of affairs.
Paterfamilias number two, who I think from his manner must have been a performing Strong Man, threatened to pitch me and my belongings bodily into the sea. Young Oxford, however, came to the rescue, and Mr. Strong Man and family eventually retired amid the hootings of the crowd.
For the curious situation of matters at Sandybank Cottage could no longer be hidden under a bushel. The news had got abroad, and numbers of people came up each day now, and sat round our house to enjoy the fun. In fact we had become one of the centres of attraction of Eastnor, and the folks travelled up to Sandybank Cottage as at other places they would have gone to a switchback or a nigger minstrel show.
Perhaps the funniest thing was to see the three old maiden ladies come straggling up every day in single file, each with a wheezy waddling pug dog in a lead, which was fastened round its body lest undue pressure on its neck should induce the inevitable apoplectic fit a day sooner than was assigned for it. They came panting up, and gazed mournfully at the cottage, and reproachfully at me whenever I appeared, and they looked sadly at the gradually disappearing supply of potatoes and cabbages for which they had paid, and which I was eating. For Mr. Joseph Scorer had sold and been paid for that garden produce no less than sixteen times over. It needs a genius of that kind to run a garden profitably.
In the natural course of things the local paper gave a humorous account of the affair, which was copied into one of the London dailies, and this it was that eventually brought about the climax.
Among the would-be occupants this week was a well-known actress, who came with her maid and a companion and a white poodle. We had rejoiced in her exceedingly, at a distance, for many a year, and both my wife and myself were delighted to make her more intimate acquaintance—much more delighted, in fact, than, under the circumstances, she was to make ours. We invited her in, and gave her tea, and apologised for the annoyance she was being put to through no fault of ours, and did our best to make her comfortable.
When young Oxford saw her they were with difficulty restrained from chairing her to an hotel, and on the whole I think, when the first annoyance had passed off, she rather enjoyed herself.
By Saturday night we had repelled sixteen different attempts on our tenancy of Sandybank Cottage and, by this time, if a single day, except Sunday, had passed without the arrival of one or more claimants we would have begun to suspect something had gone wrong.
There was one thing, however, that puzzled me exceedingly, and no amount of thoughtful consideration of the subject cast any light upon it. What on earth had made Mr. Joseph Scorer act in this way? If he had let the cottage in the usual manner he could have made at least L22 or L23 all told in the two months. As it was I reckoned he had made about L37 by his monstrous duplicity, and it was the utter inadequacy of the plunder which puzzled me so much.
Why would a man want to hang sixteen indictments for fraud around his neck for such a very small reward? It seemed inconceivable, especially in such a smart and far-seeing man as Mr. Joseph Scorer. It was the action of a fool; and whatever else he was, Mr. Joseph Scorer could hardly be called a fool, except in this one point of utter inadequacy of motive.
However, my eyes were to be opened, and in a somewhat unpleasant fashion—the process is not, as a rule, an enjoyable one.
On Sunday the 29th, being the third Sunday of our visit, when we returned from church and the usual augmented Sabbath meeting of malcontents on the pier, we found a gentleman sitting on the bench in the porch awaiting our arrival.
Sunday had hitherto been an off day with us, and we rather resented this infraction of the rules of the game.
I went up to him and addressed him somewhat curtly.
"Well, sir, and what can I do for you?"
He looked at me whimsically, and said—
"Your name is Oxenham?"
"Mine is Sawyer."
"Not Mr. William Henry Sawyer, Esquire, of the Home Office?"
"Yes," he said, smiling at the evidently recognised formula.
"I understood you only came down in May and October."
"So I do generally; but, seeing that the cottage is mine, I suppose I have the privilege of coming whenever I choose."
"The cottage is yours?" I said, in surprise.
"Undoubtedly. I bought it and its contents five years ago, and I run down whenever the spirit moves me."
I sat silent, looking at him.
"But if the cottage is yours," I said, at last, "how came that little scoundrel——"
"That's just what I have come down to find out," he said. "Now, tell me, Mr. Oxenham, from whom did you take the cottage?"
"From Mr. Joseph Scorer."
"William, you mean; but that is a detail."
"Joseph," said I. "Stay! I'll show you my agreement," and I went inside and got it.
"Joseph?" he said, with knitted brow, as he perused the document; and, after a pause, "Then what the deuce has become of William? What kind of a man was he?"
"Small, sharp, brown man, with one club foot."
"Which foot?" he asked.
I had to cast back my thoughts.
"Left," I said, at last.
"No, right," said he.
"Left; I am quite sure of it."
He tapped the folded paper against his hand, and said—
"One of us is wrong. Scorer has been in my service for fifteen years, and I ought to know."
"Suppose we ask my wife if she remembers?"
I called her and put the question.
"His left foot was the lame one," she said, after a thoughtful pause. "I can see him standing there"—she said it so decidedly that we involuntarily turned to look, but he was not there, except in her memory—"and it was his right shoulder that humped up. Yes, I am quite sure of it."
"This is very curious," said Mr. Sawyer. "I am afraid there is something wrong. Besides, Scorer never could have done such a thing. He was as honest as the day."
"And yet he let this cottage sixteen times over to sixteen different parties, and I have had the privilege, such as it is, of holding the fort against them all."
"I can't believe William Scorer would do such a thing," he said, looking at us with eyes full of puzzled suspicion, as though he were not quite sure whether I had told him all I knew of the matter.
"Joseph," said I.
He tapped his foot impatiently, and we lapsed into silence. An idea struck me suddenly.
"Is there a Joseph Scorer as well as a William?" I asked.
He looked at me abstractedly.
"There was a brother," he said at last, "and, if I remember rightly, a twin brother, but I have not heard of him for years. I do not think I ever saw him. I have an idea he went to the bad." Our eyes met and held one another, and my thought crossed his.
"What do you suspect, Mr. Oxenham?" he asked.
"I suspect that I met Joseph and you know William," I said.
"But I left William in charge here."
"And I found Joseph."
"Then where is William?"
"William is the missing link. Find him, and we get to the bottom of the matter."
"Yes, that sounds common sense. Now, where is William?"
That was by no means an easy question to answer. Mr. Joseph Scorer could probably have told us, but as the discovery of William was but the first step towards the discovery of Joseph, that fact did not advance us.
The puzzle, however, solved itself in the simplest manner possible, and without any assistance from us.
As there was a spare bedroom in the cottage, the least we could do was to put it at Mr. Sawyer's disposal if he cared to make use of it. So we invited Mr. Sawyer to occupy it for a day or two, and he consented to do so, and turned out to be a very pleasant and genial companion.
The tide next morning did not serve well for bathing till about an hour after breakfast. Then Sawyer and I and some of the youngsters went in.
It was one of those absolutely still mornings when the water is as smooth as oil, and you can hear the beat of the steamers' paddles miles away, and when you shout it is like shouting inside a bell.
We were all swimming and paddling about, enjoying ourselves immensely, when I saw the three little fat pugs and the three old ladies coming along the beach path to take their regular wistful morning look at the cottage, where they ought to have been living, and were not.
Then from behind the cottage came a great tumult—the noise of many voices, mingled with groans and laughter, and there swept round the side of it a mob of people, who came to a stand on the little green plot in front.
We were still wondering what was the meaning of it, when Amelia Blatt, our servant, came tearing down the sands towards us, holding on to her square inch of cap with one hand, and to her flying skirts with the other.
"They want you up there," she panted.
"Who are they, and what do they want?"
"It's all them folks he let the house to, and they've got 'im——"
And as we made for the shore, Amelia, who was a very modest girl, fled precipitately up the slope.
"Hey, Milly!" I shouted, "bring us down a couple of those big bath towels."
Amelia made no answer, but presently the big bath-towels met us under the arms of a small boy. We twisted our ordinary towels apron-wise over our dripping bathing-suits, and draped the big bath-towels gracefully over our shoulders, and then stalked as majestically as circumstances permitted towards the noisy crowd, which resolved itself into its component elements as we drew near.
The outer fringe consisted of excited and irrepressible small boys of the town, who scampered round and round, shouting and dancing, and cuffing one another, in sheer enjoyment of living and the knowledge that something unusual was on foot. Inside them stood a number of the town loafers, all facing in towards the centre of the ring, and laughing and making jocular remarks to one another. Closer in still, came an excited circle of our friends who, like the old ladies, ought to have been living in the cottage, but were not. The irascible old gentleman was there, purple in the face and swearing frightfully; the solicitor was there, with a slightly anticipatory look in his face; the Strong Man was there, and looked as if he wanted to break something; and closer in than all these, forming a solid bodyguard of white flannels and laughing faces and briar pipes, were our young friends from Oxford.
The three little old ladies, with their pugs in their arms, crept round the revolving outskirts of the crowd, and joined my wife, who stood wondering in the doorway, and began timidly questioning her as to the meaning of the uproar.
Mr. Sawyer and I elbowed our way through the crowd, and the bodyguard opened to let us into the circle.
In the centre stood a little, trembling meek, brown-eyed, crooked man.
"Scorer!" said I, "by all that's wonderful!"
"William!" said Sawyer.
"Jos—-! No, by Jove! it is the other leg!"
"Now, William," said Mr. Sawyer, "what is the meaning of all this?"
The crooked little man's eyes brightened when he saw Mr. Sawyer.
"Mr. Sawyer, sir, I know no more than a babe unborn. I come in by the 10.30, and no sooner hadn't my foot touched the ground than these young gentlemen they gathered round me and began a arskin' what I meant by it, and then all them others came along. I dunno what's matter wi' em. Seems to me they're all gone crazy."
"Why, ain't he 'ere? I left him 'ere when I went into h—orspital; and 'e said 'e'd keep things all shipshape till I come out."
"Where did you find him? I thought he was away."
"He come to see me just when I were sickening, Mr. Sawyer, sir, and he promised to keep things all straight and shipshape till I were right again. So I sent off the wife to her folks—for her trouble—you know, and then Joe he took me along to the h—orspital, and he said he'd keep things all—"
"I see," said Mr. Sawyer; "and how's the wife?"
"She's A1, Mr. Sawyer, sir."
"And the baby?"
"He's a reg'lar little ripper, sir, and as straight as a lath."
There was more ingenuous pride packed into those last five words than any five words ever held before; but the meek brown eyes shone suddenly moist.
One of the Oxford boys started, "Three cheers for the baby! Hip, hip, hurrah!—rah!!—rah!!!" And then they fell naturally into "He's a jolly good fellow!" and yelled it at top of their voices, while they all joined hands and danced round us till their faces were all on fire, and all their pipes were out for want of breath to keep them going, and William Scorer's eyes were like to fall out of his head. They did not quite understand matters, but they saw there had been some mistake, and they were all very healthy and very happy. They could not forget Joseph, but they heartily forgave William for his brother's sins, and they vowed they would not have missed the fun for three times the amount of Joseph's little peculations.
"What's it all mean, Mr. Sawyer, sir?" asked the bewildered William.
"It means this, William, that that scamp of a brother of yours has let this house of mine some sixteen times over to sixteen different people, and all for about the same date, and that most of them have paid him a deposit. Hence——" and he waved his hand comprehensively over the throng.
"Nay,—sure—ly!" said the little man, and it seemed to me that his stricken wonder was not absolutely untinged with admiration.
There was nothing more to be said or done. Everybody recognised that fact. Joseph was not to be found, and William was not to blame.
The stout little gentleman vowed he'd be something'd if he'd ever heard of such a something'd queer business before. The Strong Man looked regretfully at William, and wished he was Joseph just for five minutes or so. The solicitor recognised the fact that a case would not lie against little "Dot-and-carry-one," as he called him, so he put it in his pipe and smoked it, and by degrees the crowd thinned away, and left us in peaceable possession. The last to go were the three little old ladies, and from their manner I should say they were by no means convinced of the existence of William's brother Joseph.
The Oxford boys, by the way, insisted on chairing little William to the "Blue Pig," down the Wilborough Road, and tried to induce him to enjoy himself, but as he declined to touch anything stronger than gingerbeer, there was no great harm done.
Mr. Sawyer stayed a couple of days with us, and offered us the cottage free for next August, to make up for the annoyances we had suffered; and, unless we hear that William Scorer has been taken ill again, and that his brother Joseph has come to nurse him, we shall accept the invitation.
THE MEDICAL DETECTIVE AND HIS WORK.
CRIMINALS CONVICTED BY THE MICROSCOPE.
BY T. F. MANNING.
Owing to the fact that they often flatly contradict one another, medical experts do not stand very high in popular repute; nevertheless, it is a positive fact that a single medical expert is worth half Scotland Yard in the detection and prevention of crime. Thousands of rivals in love, disagreeable husbands, dangerous political agitators, harsh masters and mistresses, rich uncles, and people of that sort, would be popped off with a few grains of arsenic, or a drop of prussic acid, only that it is well known the doctor has the eyes of a hawk for poison. And, on the other hand, many and many a family is saved from the suspicion attaching to the sudden death of a member, and even many an innocent man from the scaffold, by the proof of natural death which the doctor supplies.
Although great poisoning, shooting, stabbing, and other homicidal trials have a wonderful fascination for all newspaper readers, very few fully appreciate the medical evidence, which is usually the most important link in the chain. The evidence is of three kinds—that of the ordinary medical man, who sees the patient dying, perhaps, and performs the post-mortem; that of the chemist, who, in his quiet laboratory, traces the poison or identifies the blood stain; and that of the expert, who gives his inference from the facts stated by the first two. It is these experts who often differ from one another.
In a large number of cases the post-mortem examination is the first step in unravelling a mystery.
The man who performs it is not to be envied, for the smallest scratch on his hand may admit a dose of deadly poison.
Many medical men, indeed, wear rubber gloves, and those less careful generally cover their hands with a layer of sticky ointment. It takes from two to four hours to do the job thoroughly.
But it is not all cutting up, as most people think. The first thing done is to notice the position of the body, and whether there are any weapons, bottles, or glasses near.
Then it is examined from head to toe for scratches, cuts, bruises, moles, tattoo marks. Everything about the hair, eyes, teeth, nose, ears, and other parts, is written down. The height, the age, the muscular development, are all noted.
Of course, this inspection alone often reveals the cause of death. Suppose, however, that no external injury is found and no organ is diseased, the suspicion of poisoning naturally arises. In that case, the doctor looks for certain marks that the commonest poisons make, and then he places the stomach and other parts in glass jars, which are securely covered, sealed, labelled, and handed to the analyst.
Poisoning is not much favoured by the Briton as a means of killing either himself or anybody else. He generally does the deed in a more open, if more brutal, way. But it is to be feared that a great many more people get rid of undesirable contemporaries in this manner than is popularly supposed.
Probably, in most cases, the ordinary medical attendant is able to tell whether a person is dying a natural death or is being carried off by some deadly drug. His position, however, is not a pleasant one. It is impossible to be certain; and, in order to make a full investigation, he must suggest either that the victim is committing suicide, or that someone else, perhaps his wife or son, is committing murder. And, after all, the signs in the living are very obscure. Of course, if a person is foolish enough (as many are) to drink sulphuric or nitric acid, his mouth and throat are burned as if he swallowed coals of fire, the former leaving black and the latter yellow stains; but when the poison is arsenic, or opium, or strychnine, the symptoms are very like those of certain diseases.
When the cholera was last in London, a father, mother, son, and daughter dined together. Immediately after dinner, all, except the son, became suddenly ill, and died in a few hours, with the symptoms of arsenic poisoning.
The son, who was always quarrelling with the rest of the family, was arrested on the doctor's report and charged with murder. But a post-mortem examination showed that cholera was the real cause of death.
Apoplexy, in the same way, is very like opium poisoning; and hydrophobia, lock-jaw, and even some cases of hysteria, closely resemble poisoning by strychnine.
Still, when a healthy man grows suddenly ill soon after a meal, the doctor keeps his eyes open, and if death follows he has a pretty shrewd idea of what caused it.
At all events, he feels perfectly justified in assuming that the case is not a normal one. He therefore hands over to the analyst the jars and other receptacles containing the portions of the subject's body likely to bear traces of the poison, knowing full well that if any poison is there the analyst will infallibly detect it.
The analyst begins by making a series of what may be called "brews," mincing, pounding, boiling, cooling, filtering, decanting, and distilling, over and over again. In these operations various solvents are used in succession, plain water separating out one class of poisons, alcohol dissolving out another group, benzol taking up a third, naphtha a fourth, ammonia a fifth, and so on. This preliminary work takes, not hours, but days to perform. At an early stage in it the operator discovers such volatile poisons as prussic acid, chloroform, carbolic acid, and phosphorus, if any of them be present. Later on he comes across the alkaloids, such as strychnine, digitalin, cantharidin, and other terrible poisons of that class.
Finally, the residue of the animal matter with which we have supposed the medical detective to be experimenting is mixed with hydrochloric acid, and distilled once again, after which it can contain no poison except one of the metals.
Thus, in the course of his examination, the analyst has made a number of decoctions, in one of which the poison is certain to be. In each decoction there may be any one of several groups of poisons.
In which is it, and what is it? After all this patient labour the solution is still far off. It may be a ptomaine from poisonous fish or decayed meat, a deadly berry, or leaf, or root, a small quantity of morphia, or phosphorus, or lead, or arsenic, or antimony.
Each brew is tested in turn. But, as illustrating the general procedure, take the last, which contains whatever metal may have had the fatal result. First, the chemist tests with "group reagents." He knows that if he puts into the glass containing the last brew certain bodies in succession, some metals, if they are there, cannot be kept from rushing into the arms of one, others will as passionately embrace another, others still will unite with a third, while some will always repudiate any alliance. There are in all cases signs of the union, when it takes place, such as a blue or white or red colour, or a powder falling to the bottom, or a fizzing of escaping gas.
In practice the analyst puts a little of the brew in a small glass test-tube, pours in some distilled water, and carefully drops in some hydrochloric acid. Now, if there is either silver, mercury, or lead, in the brew, down goes a white powder; if none of these things is there, no change follows.
Next he adds some sulphuretted hydrogen water, a sort of aerated water smelling of rotten eggs. If tin, platinum, bismuth, cadmium, arsenic, or one of several other metals, is in the brew, a coloured powder falls to the bottom. Should nothing occur, he adds other things, until he has tested for five groups of metals.
When he finds a poison belonging to a certain group, he has still to ascertain which of five or six bodies it is.
For instance, after adding the first two test-liquors, if he sees a yellow coloration or precipitate, he knows that he has either arsenic or tin or cadmium. He then adds some strong ammonia, after boiling the liquid till the smell of rotten eggs has disappeared. If the powder dissolves, and the colour goes, he is quite sure he has found arsenic.
In this business-like way the murderer is convicted.
But now arises the necessity for making doubly sure, and another kind of test altogether is employed. Life and death hanging on the result, the test must be beyond all doubt. But arsenic is one of those self-assertive things about whose presence there cannot be the most infinitesimal doubt. Give a man a particle the size of a mustard-seed, and let him swallow it. When he dies bury him, and let him lie under the earth for a quarter of a century. Then gather the few remnants, give them to a chemist, and he will return you a considerable portion of the poison in the same state as that in which it was administered.
Probably the most famous special test for arsenic is Marsh's, the invention of a Woolwich chemist, and equally famous is Reinsch's, which is performed as follows: The suspected liquid is put in a little glass test-tube with some hydrochloric acid. Then a small bit of bright copper is dropped in, and the test-tube is held over a flame.
Now, arsenic has the wildest love for copper, and every trace of it in the tube flies to the slip of copper and covers it with a grey coat. Another metal does the same, certainly, but they can be distinguished subsequently.