Courage, True Hearts: Sailing in Search of Fortune
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The voyage to London was a long and tedious one, for they had to struggle for days against head-winds, and tack and half tack isn't the quickest way to a port.
But long before they reached the mouth of the Thames, and were taken in tow by a tug-boat, the boys had cemented quite a friendship with Captain Talbot and his mate Morgan. They promised to correspond, and the honest skipper told them that he had a great project on, and that if it came to a head, he would be willing to take them both to sea with him as apprentices, if their father would let them go. This was real good news for our young heroes, and they parted from Talbot happy and hopeful.
Morgan, the mate, put them up to the ropes as to getting to Colonel Trelawney's residence, and a good thing it was that he did so, else assuredly they would have lost themselves. A bargain was made with a cabman, and he agreed for a certain sum to drive them all the way.
It was a damp and miserable day, the streets were inches deep in slimy mud, the houses all gray and dismal.
No wonder that the hearts of these two boys, accustomed to the green grandeur of forests and crimson-clad Highland hills, sank within them, as they gazed from the windows of their cab.
Was this the beautiful London they had heard tell of and expected to see? Nothing but discomfort and misery met their eyes at first, and when the conveyance stopped now and then, blocked by carts and wagons, they found they could scarcely understand a word of the jargon that fell on their ears from every side.
"Moaning piper!" cried a ragged urchin, shoving a newspaper right under Duncan's nose.
Duncan bought this morning paper.
"Did you notice what he said, Conal?"
"Yes; he said 'Moaning piper'. There must be something about a battle in it, and a Scotch piper must have been wounded. No wonder he moaned if he was shot through the chest or legs-eh, Duncan?"
"No indeed, that would make anybody moan."
But much to the boys' disgust there was nothing about a battle in the paper, nor about pipers, nor even about soldiers at all. So the newspaper was thrown down, and they contented themselves by looking from the windows at the crowds of people that were hurrying along the pavement, everyone intent only on his own business, and taking not the slightest notice of his neighbour. They had now got into a better part of the town. There were fewer guttersnipes and badly-dressed men and women here, less apparent poverty, in fact, with the exception of the poor, white-faced, hungry-looking girls and women who were selling flowers. During a block one of these came to the window near which Duncan sat, and he made the lassie happy by buying two button-holes, and giving her sixpence for them.
The 'buses were objects of curiosity for our heroes.
The drivers were ideal in their own way, and of a class not to be met with anywhere out of London.
The boys criticised them unmercifully.
"Oh, Duncan, did ever you see such faces, or such slow-looking men!"
"Faces just like hams, Conal-and, why, they seem to be wearing about twenty coats! So solemn too-I wonder if ever those fellows smiled except over a pint of beer!"
"And look at those huge wooden umbrellas!"
"Yes, that is for fear a drop of rain should fall upon John Guttle, and he should catch cold."
"Shouldn't I like to see one of these John Guttles trudging over a moor!"
"He wouldn't trudge far, Conal; he would tumble down and gasp like an over-fed ox."
"I say, Duncan, I haven't seen anybody with a plaid yet."
"No, and you won't.Top-coats-nothing else-and tobacco-pipes. No wonder most of those male creatures on the tops of the 'buses are watery-nebbit or red-nosed."
Now, however, private carriages began to mingle with the traffic, and the boys had more to wonder at. But inside these they caught glimpses of fashionable ladies, some young, charmingly dressed, and of a cast of beauty truly English and refined. What astonished Duncan and his brother most was the coachman and flunkeys on the dickey, so severely and stupidly aristocratic did they look.
"Oh, Duncan," cried Conal laughing, "did ever you see such frights! and they've got on ladies' fur tippets!"
"Yes, that is to keep their poor shivery bodies warm, Conal."
"And they look just as if they owned all London, don't they?"
"Yes, that is one of the peculiarities of the flunkey tribe. What's the odds, Conal, so long as they are happy?"
The cab seemed to have reached the suburbs at last. Here were many a pleasant villa, and many a lordly mansion too, with splendid balconies, which were in reality gardens in the sky. There were trees, too, though now almost bare, and green lawns and bushes and flowers.
But none of these latter appealed to our young heroes because they were all so artificial.
Hillo! the cab stops; and the driver, radiant in the expectation of a tip, throws open the door.
"'Ere we are at last, young gents. 'Appy to drink yer 'ealth. Thousand thanks! Hain't seen a 'alf-crown before for a month. Nobuddy needn't say to me as the Scots ain't liberal."
One of the handsomest villas the boys had yet seen, and in the porch thereof stood Colonel Trelawney himself to welcome his guests.
"Right welcome to the Limes," he cried heartily. "Frank is out, but he'll be home to luncheon. Why, what tall hardy chaps you are, to be sure, and I'm right glad you came in your native dress. I wonder how my boy would look in the kilt. It's a matter of legs, I believe."
"Oh, sir," said Duncan, "he'll soon get legs when he comes to the Highlands, and climbs the hills and walks the moors for a few months."
"Well, come in, boys. James, here, will show you your room. We've put you both in the same, as I know young fellows like to talk before turning in."
The room was plainly, yet comfortably, furnished, and the window gave a pleasant view of gardens, shrubberies, and a cloudland of trees to which the autumn foliage still was clinging.
"'Ot watah, young gents."
"Thank you, James."
Duncan and Conal made haste to wash and dress.
James had opened their boxes, and was acting as valet to them in every way. But they were not used to this, and so they told James. God had given them hands and arms, and so they liked to make use of them.
Hark! footsteps on the stairs. Hurried ones, too; two steps, one stride!
Next moment the door was thrown open, and Frank himself stood before them, with both hands extended to bid them welcome.
CHAPTER III. – THE BOYS' LIFE IN LONDON
"That's me. And how are you, cousins Conal and Duncan? We're only far-off cousins, but that doesn't matter, does it? I'm jolly glad to see you, anyhow. You'll bring some life into this dull old hole; and I'll find some fun for you, you bet."
"Did you ask if we betted?" said Duncan, smiling, but serious. "We wouldn't be allowed to."
"No, no. 'You bet' is just an expression; for, mind you, everybody speaks slang nowadays in town. Oh, I don't bet-as a rule, though I did have a pony on the Oxford and Cambridge last race."
"And did the pony win?" asked Conal, na?vely.
"Eh? What? Ha, ha, ha! Why, it's a boat race, and a pony is a fiver. I'd saved the cash for a year, and like a fool I blewed it at last."
Well, if Frank Trelawney was not very much to look at as regards body, he was frank and open, with a handsome English face, all too pale, however, and he seemed to have more worldly wisdom in his noddle than Duncan, Conal, and Viking all put together.
After talking a little longer to our Highland heroes Frank knelt down and threw his arms around the great dog's neck, and Viking condescended to lick his cheek.
"I'm so glad that old Vike takes to you, Frank," said Duncan. "It isn't everybody he likes."
"Of course," said Frank, "'old' is merely a term of endearment, as father would say."
"That's it. He is only a year and six months old, but already there is nothing scarcely that he does not know, in country life, I mean, though I suppose he will be rather strange in town for a time."
"Sure to be. But here comes James. Luncheon served, James, eh?"
"Luncheon all ready, Master Frank."
They found the Colonel walking up and down the well-lighted hall smoking a cigarette. He was really a most inveterate smoker. He smoked before breakfast, after breakfast, all the forenoon, and all day long. Rolled his own cigarettes, too, so that his fore and middle fingers were indelibly stained yellow with the tobacco.
"Horrid habit!" he always told boys, "but I've become a slave to it. Don't you ever smoke."
Though some years over sixty, Trelawney was as straight as a telephone pole, handsome, and soldierly in face and bearing. The only thing that detracted from his facial appearance was a slight degree of bagginess betwixt the lower eyelids and the cheek bones. This was brought on, his doctor had told him often and often, by weakness of the heart caused by tobacco and wine. But Trelawney would not punish himself by leaving either off.
The boys took to Mrs. Trelawney from the very first. She must have been fully twenty years younger than the Colonel, and had a sweet, even beautiful, face, and was altogether winning.
Well, that was a luncheon of what might be called elegant kickshaws, artistically cooked and served, but eminently unsatisfactory from a Scotch point of view.
The dinner in the evening was much the same, and really when these Highland lads got up from the table they almost longed for the honest, "sonsy" fleshpots of Glenvoie.
Walnuts and wine for dessert! But they did not drink wine, and would have preferred a cocoa-nut or two to the walnuts. There would have been some satisfaction in that.
A private box for the theatre!
"Oh," cried Duncan, "that will be nice!"
"You have often been at the theatre, dear, haven't you?"
This from Mrs. Trelawney, as she placed her very much be-ringed fingers on Conal's shoulder.
"No, auntie," replied Conal; "only just once, with Duncan there. It was in Glasgow. They were playing 'Rob Roy', and I shall never forget it. Never, never, never!"
But to-night it was a play of quite a different class, a kind of musical comedy. Plenty of action and go in it, plenty of the most ordinary and musicless singing, which pleased the gallery immensely, and frequent spells of idiotic dancing. There were no serious situations at all, however, and no thread of narrative woven into the play.
Moreover, both Scotch boys were placed at a disadvantage owing to their inability to follow the English patois, which on the whole was thoroughly Cockney, the letter "R" being dead and buried, and the "H" being silent after a "W", so that the lads did not enjoy themselves quite as much as they had expected to.
Every now and then the colonel excused himself. He told our heroes he was going to see a man. That really meant lounging into the buffet to smoke a cigarette, and moisten a constitutionally dry throat.
A few days after this, however, the colonel, who, by some means or other known only to himself, was behind the scenes (virtually speaking) of all the best theatres, managed to get a box for the Lyceum.
That truly great tragedian, Irving, was playing in "The Bells", and the young M'Vaynes were struck dumb with astonishment; they were thrilled and awed with the terrible realism of the grand actor, and when the curtain fell at last both boys thanked the colonel most heartily.
"That is real acting, a real play!" cried Duncan enthusiastically. "I'm sure neither Conal nor I want to sit and listen to Cockney buffoonery after that."
Dear Mrs. Trelawney, as both boys called her, had evidently made up her mind to give the lads as pleasant a time as possible. Every fine day, and there were now many, she took them all for a drive.
"We sha'n't be back for luncheon, Tree," she always told her husband. "You must eat in solitary state and grandeur for one day."
"Indeed," she smilingly informed Duncan, "I don't care much to lunch at home. I like to be free, and not have extreme gentility and servants pottering about behind your chair, and listening to every word you say. I hate the proprieties."
Duncan and Conal both smiled. They felt just that way themselves.
After a drive in the park, Mrs. Trelawney would go shopping, and those two brown-faced, brown-kneed Highland boys created a good deal of sensation, though they seemed quite unaware of the fact.
Ah! but after the shopping came luncheon. And the colonel's wife knew where to go to. A charming hotel, not a million of miles from the Thames embankment. And that was a luncheon, too, or, as Frank called it, a spread!
It was a square meal at all events, and Mrs. Trelawney seemed delighted at seeing the boys thoroughly enjoying it.
"Now you lads must eat, you know, because you've got to grow many, many inches yet. And this is liberty hall anyhow. Isn't it delightfully free and easy?"
It was. This the boys admitted.
The more they were with Mrs. Trelawney the more they liked her. And the young M'Vaynes might have said the same of Frank. He was a charming companion. Moreover, he had many accomplishments that his 42nd cousins could not boast of. He could sing with a sweet girl-voice, and he played the violin charmingly, his mother accompanying him on the piano.
She, too, could sing, and in the evenings she often electrified her guests by her renderings of dramatic pieces. Everybody who visited at the Trelawneys' house knew that the colonel had married a young and beautiful actress, and that here she was-far more a woman of the world, and a more perfect lady than anyone at her table.
And the boys were a great attraction. They were so outspoken, yet so innocent, that conversation with them was full of amusement. They always donned their belts and dress tartans for dinner, and were a good deal admired. Moreover, they soon got to be asked frequently out to dinners, or to dances. These they very much enjoyed.
Well, a whole month passed away, and Duncan and his brother were now able to endure London and London life, though they never could love it.
Many a long walk did Frank take them. The carriage would drive them as far as the Strand, then the journey was continued on foot citywards.
Everything here was new-I can't say fresh, for there is precious little freshness about London streets-to the Scotch lads. They could have wished, however, that the pavements had been less crowded, that the people had been less lazy-looking, and that the vendors of penny wares had not thrust their unsavoury hands so often right under their noses.
Frank seemed determined to show his 42nd cousins every phase of London life. He even took them into a corner drink-palace, and there ordered lemonade, just that they might see a little of the dark side of city life.
They were horrified to behold those gin-sodden men and women, many leaning almost helplessly against the counter; the patched and semi-dropsical faces of the females, the maudlin idiotic looks of the males, Duncan thought he never could forget.
He shuddered, and felt relieved when out once more in the crowded streets.
One day Frank thought he would give his cousins a special treat, so he took them to the Zoo.
Both were much interested in beholding the larger wild beasts, the lions of Africa, the splendid tigers of India, the sulky hippopotami, and ill-natured-looking rhinoceroses. But it was a sad sight after all, for these half-starved-looking beasts were deprived of the freedom of forest and plains, and confined here in filthy dens, all for the pleasure of a gaping crowd of ignorant Cockneys.
But when they came upon the birds of prey, and their eyes caught sight of a poor puny specimen of the Scottish eagle, chained to a post, and almost destitute of feathers, Duncan's heart melted with shame and sorrow, and he turned hurriedly away.
As far as the Zoo was concerned, Frank's best intentions had failed to give his guests pleasure. But they were too polite to say so.
Duncan and Conal had now been two months in London, and could understand even what the street boys said. On the whole they had enjoyed the wonderful sights of this wonderful city, for these really seemed unending.
Then came Christmas.
Christmas and the pantomime.
They enjoyed Drury Lane far more even than the parties or even the dances they were invited to. The scenery and scenes were exquisitely lovely. No dream of fairyland ever equalled these.
The boys gave themselves wholly up to amusement throughout all the festive season. But to their credit be it said, they did not gorge on goose, turkey, or pudding as everybody else did.
"No wonder," thought Duncan, "that the Englishman is called John Guttle in many parts of Scotland." For he had never seen such eating or drinking in his life before.
Then after the festivities of the festive week came dulness and dreariness extreme. The people had spent all their money, and wretchedness abounded on every pavement of the sleet-swept streets of the city. Yes, and the misery even overflowed into the west-end suburbs.
It was about this time that Duncan made a discovery.
Frank had told him, frankly enough, that his father was not over-well off, but it was evident to him now that Colonel Trelawney was simply struggling to keep up appearances, and that, in all probability, he was deeply in debt.
Mrs. Trelawney, or "dear Auntie", as the Scotch lads called her, was ever the same. Nothing seemed to trouble or worry her.
But the colonel at breakfast used to take up his letters, one by one, and eye them with some degree of suspicion before opening them.
The waste-paper basket was close to him, and was wonderfully handy.
"The first application," he would say with a smile as he tore up a bill and summarily disposed of the fragments.
"Second application" – that too was torn up.
Letter from a friend-put aside to be read at leisure.
A long blue letter-suspicious-disposed of without reading.
"Ha! Amy, love, here is Sweater & Co.'s fourth letter. Threatens us with-ah, you know."
"Well, dear," says Mrs. Trelawney with her sweetest smile, "just let them sweat!"
"Give 'em a bill, I suppose," the colonel says, as if speaking to himself.
And the letter is put aside.
So one way or another Trelawney got through his pile at last, and settled down to serious eating, that is, he made a hearty meal from a Londoner's point of view. Then he lit a cigarette.
Well the month of January was raw and disagreeable, and seldom was there a day without a fog either white or yellow.
Is it any wonder that, brought up in a clear transparent atmosphere among breezes that blew over heathy hills, and were laden with the balsamic odour of the pine-trees, Duncan and Conal began to languish and long for home.
With great candour they told "Auntie" they wanted to get home to enjoy skating, tobogganing, and white-hare shooting; and she promised to speak to the colonel.
"We will be so sorry to leave you, auntie, for you've been so good to us."
"And I shall miss you, boys, sadly."
"Yes, I hope so. It will give Conal and me pleasure to think that you like us. And of course Frank comes with us."
"I fear it is too cold for Frank."
"Oh no, auntie dear. One never feels cold in Scotland, the air is so bracing, you know."
So that very day it was all arranged, and Laird M'Vayne had a letter to that effect.
The parting was somewhat sorrowful, but the boys did not say "Farewell!" only "Au revoir", because both hoped to return, and by that time they declared that Frank would be as hardy as-as-well, as hardy as Highlanders usually are.
The last things that the boys bought in London were skates. Of course they could have got those in Edinburgh, but not so cheaply, and for this reason: there did not seem to be the ghost of a chance of any skating for the Londoners this season, and so they got the skates for an old song.
They went by sea to Edinburgh. The Queen was at present all but a cargo-boat, and besides the three lads and Vike, there was only one other passenger, an old minister of the Church of Scotland.
The same skipper and the same mate, and delighted they were to see the boys again, and they gave Frank a right hearty welcome on their account.
But Frank had that with him which secured him a welcome wherever he went-his fiddle, and when after dinner he played them some sad and plaintive old Scottish airs, all were delighted, and the minister got up from his chair, and, grasping the boy's hand, thanked him most effusively.
"Dear lad," he said, "you have brought the moisture to my eyes, although I had thought my fountain of tears had dried up many and many a long year ago."
Now here is something strange; although, when once fairly out of the Thames' mouth and at sea, it was blowing a head wind, with waves houses high, Frank was not even squeamish. I have seen many cases like this, though I must confess they are somewhat rare.
Nor was the minister ill; but then, like the Scotch boys, he was sea-fast, having done quite a deal of coasting.
"How goes the project you have in view?" asked Duncan that evening of the skipper.
"Well," was the reply, "it is not what the French call a fait accompli just yet, but it is bound to be so before very long."
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