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not serve two interests. I cast in my lot, Alison, might transact the affairs of nations by means with yours.”
of guileless girls or conscientious curates. I think I have omitted to state that Alderney As for Nicolas, he utilized the presence of so had been requested by the partners to take the great a scholar for his own purposes : he read position of guardian or vice-guardian. He was, novels, in fact, while Alderney Codd wrote his in fact, promoted to that post of dignity, vice exercises for him. Stephen Hamblin, cashiered, on the strength of “Your Latin subjunctive moods," said the which he gave himself airs of importance in the boy, “are sound; but your French past particiBirch-Tree Tavern. He slept at the house: in ples are shaky. If you go on living here till the the morning, such was his zeal, he rose at six, end of the half, I shall have a shy at the Latin breakfasted early, and set off on his quest among verse prize. Now, then — exercise forty-three. the London parish-registries, both official and On the oblique narrative. Here's Balbus again ecclesiastical. He carried a big pocket-book with -no getting rid of that chap anyhow.” a pencil in readiness to make entries, should any bearing on the subject be found. But for some time nothing at all was discovered in London
CHAPTER XX. churches. He returned to Clapham about half-past six
HOW YOUNG NICK SPENT HIS HALF-HOLIor seven, and dined with the ladies. He cheered
DAY. the banquet by anecdotes of his past experiences, revealed a new world a series of new worlds, On a warm and pleasant morning in May, to Alison, by describing how he had rowed, about a week after the Hamblin case was heard played cricket, sung songs at supper, and other- in court, the boys of the Clapham Grammarwise distinguished himself at Cambridge; how, School came flocking from the class-rooms as with Stephen, he once staid for six months in the the clock struck twelve. After the nature of Quartier Latin of Paris; how he had sojourned, boys they ran, jumped, shouted, and laughed. by himself, among the students of Heidelberg; One among them all neither ran, nor jumped, nor how he had lost his little fortune and mortgaged shouted. He only walked. And he was a boy half his little income to pay off his creditors, and with white hair and pink eyes. He dug his hands how he had become a person of great distinction into his pockets, wore his hat a little tilted over in the world of finance.
his forehead, which conveys the idea of a thoughtIt was all wonderful : the contemplation, at ful nature, and calmly surveyed the mob of consecond hand, of life under so many new aspects temporaries with the eye of a philosopher. distracted Alison, and turned her thoughts from Young Nick, in fact, was not a clubbable boy. her present anxieties. Alderney, too, had a pow. He went his own way. Nobody ever saw him in erful imagination; his stories were touched with a cricket-field, nor was he ever in the "worry" that light which is neither of heaven nor of earth, of a foot-ball match. If he saw a game of of unreality desirable and beautiful, which only cricket going on upon Clapham Common, he a man with some touch of genius knows how to gave the players a wide berth: the Common was infuse : and he understood how to place himself broad enough for him and them. If he saw the as the central figure in the group.
foot-ball come bounding over the rough surface About one or two things she was uncertain. in his direction, he retired, laterally, so as to avoid It was not clear when her cousin could find the the crowd which came after it. The common time to become the profound scholar which he gauds which delight boyhood gave no joy to loved to represent himself ; nor was it quite ap- Nicolas. The silver cups, offered for competiparent to her that the real objects and aims of tion at athletics, he valued at their weight in silthe Universities of Cambridge, Heidelberg, and ver, and no more. This was not much, and so Paris were best arrived at by such a life as he he rarely entered his own name in any trial of described as common among the students. Fi- skill, strength, or speed. Yet, after the sports nally, she could not understand that it was alto- were over, he might have been observed, had he gether right to promote the establishment of been watched, going through every one of the companies whose only object seemed to be to events by himself, one after the other, and makenable their founders to sell out when the shares ing careful comparisons of his own results with were high, and then to collapse. But Alderney those obtained by the winners. If he held aloof assured her that she could not comprehend finan- from his schoolfellows out of hours, in school he cial morality. It resembled, he said, diplomacy; was still more self-contained. Nothing moved every one knew that if diplomacy were to be him, no spirit of emulation possessed him; he stripped of brag, bounce, lies, and pretense, the never cared to be high in his form, nor was he trade of diplomatists would be gone, and we depressed if his place was low. He was absolutely unmoved by any of the exhortations, in- penter, and if a statesman the best possible statescitements, or satiric remarks of his masters. He man, and so forth. It is by such men that sucneither took nor pretended to take the smallest cess is achieved: such a carpenter, Socrates interest in the routine school-work, and he valued pointed out, wins the wreath of carpentering, a prize, as he valued a silver cup, at exactly the which is made of shavings. sum it cost at the bookseller's.
In addition to these virtues of resolution and “ '
"Greek!he would say contemptuously. industry, young Nick possessed that of silence; “What is the use of Greek in the City? Who no one ever suspected him of serious intentions, wants Greek in the army? Greek is invented for except Alison, who watched him, gave him adschoolmasters to pretend to be able to read it. vice, and to whom he confided in a way his proCatch them reading Greek when no one's look- jects and his scheme for the conduct of life. ing, and for their own pleasure. Yah! They This reduction of education to its practical can't do it. Latin again. Do the partners in uses was not without effect upon the boys with the great City houses write Latin verses? Do whom young Nick worked. They were all boys they grind out exercises in the subjunctive mood? connected with the City; they all-except one Do they make their clerks say the irregular verbs every year, who took the annual scholarship and and the rules of syntax every morning ? Gam- went up to Oxford or Cambridge-looked to the mon!”
City as the scene of their future labors and triEuclid was another branch of education for umphs: they were all taught at home to regard which he entertained the most profound con- “ business” as the noblest profession, because it tempt, holding that the City required no geom- brings in most money: the clever boy who carried etry of a young man. But arithmetic, writing, off the prizes, became captain of the school, went drawing, French, German, and geography, were up to Cambridge and distinguished himself, was subjects which he plainly saw to have a solid regarded with a sort of pity, because the City commercial value, and he worked at them with would be closed to him. He might take a good zeal and vigor ; so much so, indeed, that on more degree: he might achieve greatness as a preacher than one occasion he found himself presented or a lawyer or a writer; but, poor beggar! he with a prize for proficiency in these branches. would never have any money.
There were other things, not generally taught So that young Nick's teaching fell upon rich in schools, at which this remarkable youth worked soil, and took root and flourished. Yet, as alhard, in those hours when his comrades were ways happens, there were none, except himself, running wild about the Common. He had con- who advanced beyond the grumbling stage, and ceived the very just idea that deportment, man- struck out a practical line for himself. ners, ease in society, and a good tone, were of A boy so singular in appearance, so original more use to a young man in the City than any- in his manner of regarding life and its duties, so where else. Accordingly, he had begged Alison self-contained, and with that ingeniously misto consider him as her pupil, and in these depart-chievous leaning to which attention has been alments he became voluntarily subject to her as ready drawn, was, of course, a noticeable feature his mistress. He could be, and frequently was, in the school. At prize-giving days it pleased as we have already seen, as vulgar a boy as ever the boy to overhear other boys whispering to walked. Yet the lessons had their effect, and their sisters: “That's young Nick; there he is, the boy's slang was only affected, just as other with the white hair." boys' fine manners are put on for the occasion. On this particular morning he first looked up
He was a handy boy, too, and practiced small into the sky and observed that the day was arts. He had a lathe with which he could make bright; then he felt in his pocket and found that all sorts of things; and he could carve in wood; the eighteen pence which constituted all his wealth and he could execute fretwork; and he could was safe in the corner, in three sixpences. Then take a watch to pieces, and once nearly succeeded he reflected gravely: in putting it together again. And he worked “I did tell the old lady that I might have steadily at short-hand, always with the view of business at Anthony Hamblin and Company. becoming more useful in the City. In short, he She won't mind if I don't go home for dinner. intended to present himself, at the age of six- and it's only cold roast beef, and eighteen pence teen or seventeen, as an accomplished young will get me a good deal better dinner than cold clerk, ready for any kind of work—the perfect roast beef. Then where am I to get the next clerk, whose undoubted destiny is a partnership. eighteen pence? Uncle Anthony, we all miss I believe it was Socrates who first explained how you. Eighteen pence-well, I can walk in, and useful and excellent a thing it is that a man should if the money runs to it, I can get back on a 'bus." resolve on perfection in his own line, so that if he For an active boy of thirteen, a walk from be a carpenter he will be the best possible car- Clapham to London Bridge is not far, and it is
full of interest. First the way lies along a broad down the river upon the forest of masts in the and open road, with substantial villas on either Pool, the steamers threading their way up and side as old as the great houses in the gardens down the tortuous highway of the river, which round the Common; there is a nonconformist was by no means silent, but exasperatingly noisy, church with pillars and pediment almost as mag- with the bells, the whistles, the steam escapes of nificent as anything that Athens could ever show; the boats, and the oaths of the 'longshore-men, there is the Swan, a roadside public-house with who, all of them three fourths drunk, were takits water-trough in front, and always carts of ing the empty ships down the river, from Lonhay standing about, thirsty horses drinking, driv- don Port to Leith. ers talking and passing round the frequent pew- “They bring their cargoes,” said young Nick ter, stable-boys dawdling about, so that the thoughtfully, “ to the Docks. There is indigo, place presents somewhat of the rusticity which it and cochineal, and dates, and figs, and silk, and boasted fifty years ago when first it was founded. tea, and coffee, and corn, and brandy, and palmPresently you pass what was once the village of butter, and all sorts, such as ostrich-feathers, and Stockwell, where there was a famous, but not at elephants’ tusks, and porpoise-skins, and bacon, all a fearful, ghost. Then begin shops. Then and cheese, and apples. They come from all the another stretch of road with terraces, but no corners of the world. They unload at the Docks; longer great gardens, and some of the terraces and then we, the merchants of London, begin to are dingy; then more shops; then Kennington make our money out of the cargoes. Aha! That Church, ugly, and yet venerable by reason of its is where the fun begins. The niggers toil and vast churchyard, where lie the bones of so many moil, growing the stuff, and weeding it, and thousand citizens. To young Nick, the church picking it, getting horribly licked with rattanwas a sort of half-way house. Besides, there canes all the while-ho! ho! then the sailors was a clock in the tower. Beyond the church is stow it away, and bring it home, going up aloft the park, as large as my lady's pocket-handker- in all weathers, tumbling overboard, and getting chief, ornamented with a lodge which does in- drowned-ha! ha! then the dock-laborers, at finite credit to its architect — the late Prince eighteen pence a day-ha! ha! ho ! ho !-put it Consort. After the park, the Horns Tavern, ashore in the docks; and then our turn comes. regarded by boys from Clapham as the real What a beautiful thing it is to be a British merfrontier-post of Town, and then shops, more chant, and in the City of London! We sit at shops, and yet more shops.
our ease before our desks; our travelers go about “Why," asked young Nick, “don't they knock for us among the retail traders getting orders ; them all into one mighty great shop, and then the clerks receive them; we have got just notake turns to keep it, so that they would have thing to do, except to divide the profits. Oh, six days' holiday out of the seven, at least?" what a pity, what a thousand pities, that poor
The question was asked some little time ago, Uncle Anthony got drowned before I was old but no practical answer has yet been given, and enough to go into the House !" I think there are still about as many shops as Perhaps some incident in morning school had ever.
irritated him, for he went on: Arrived at the Horns, young Nick trudged “Bah! As if the subjunctive mood would on with lighter step. He was about to enter the ever help a man to a partnership! Balbus golden ground—Tom Tidler's ground, where one feared that it was all up with the army, did he ? day he too would be enabled to stoop and Then what a white-livered, cowardly sneak Balgather the yellow nuggets. His white hair, white bus must have been! I hope he was with the eyebrows, and pink complexion made the people army, and it was all up with him! But one turn and stare at him. That he did not mind. never knows what became of Balbus, because he It was a kind of tribute to his greatness; per- always turns up again, and always pretending to sonal merit, he argued to himself, made him an smile, and always funking something. Certainly albino. He only held his head higher, and Balbus must have been a great humbug, and I walked with more assurance. The meanness of am quite sure that he got into such an Almighty the shops in Newington Causeway affected him Funk at last, that he forgot all about his tenses painfully. Trade ought to be majestic, he and moods, mixed up the subjunctive and the thought. Presently the sight of an immense indicative, and used the imperfect for the present.” block of buildings overshadowing the Tabernacle More he would have meditated, but that he cheered him. It was consecrated to the cord- looked round and perceived that he was the obwaining mystery. “There is Money,” said young ject of earnest contemplation on the part of an Nick, " in Boots.”
old lady, apparently of failing eyesight, because Presently he came to London Bridge. Here she held a pair of glasses close to her eyes. She he halted, to lean over the low parapet, and gaze was gazing on his white hair, and certainly either
did not see, or could not understand the jacket. disposed; to pay your money, exchanging the And she thought he was meditating suicide. compliments of the season with the young lady
“Aged man!” she murmured, in impassioned (of more severe aspect) who takes the money at accents, “ do not, do not, I entreat you, destroy the door, help yourself to a toothpick, and stroll
with dignity down the street in the direction of "O Lord !" cried young Nick, “here's a pre- the workshop, quickening gradually as you apcious game !"
proached the portals, and entering briskly and He was in one of those embrasures, retreats, with the appearance of zeal. All this was a very upon London Bridge, where one can sit breezily delightful change after the irresponsible meals at and contemplate the passing crowd, or the argo- home. It made young Nick feel as if he were sies of the Port.
already a clerk in the office, already had a desk “Here's a game !” he cried. Regardless of of his own, already had placed his foot on the the small crowd which gathered round in a mo- lowest rung of the ladder up which he meant to ment, he amazed the poor old lady, who was feel- climb until he stood in the dizziest heights with ing in her bag for a tract, by executing before Augustus the great and William the Silent. her a pas seul, a reminiscence of a hornpipe, with That, however, was in the far distance. For the an agility and grace surprising in one so old. present, he envied every one in the firm, from the While she was still staring aghast, he had fin- office-boy at five shillings a week, to the senior ished, and, descending from the little semicircle, clerks and managers of departments. he squared his elbows and pushed through the To-day, to the boy's disappointment, it was mob which had gathered round, with a good- already half-past one when he got to Great St. humored “ Now, then, can't you let a man pass ? ” Simon Apostle, and the young clerks, his friends,
It will be seen that young Nick already un- were dispersed, multivious, in quest of food. derstood the true art of making points. You So he resolved to dine by himself, and rammust be unexpected, brisk, confident, and brief. bled about the office, from one room to another, Before the old lady had half realized that the trying the stools, and wondering which were the snowy locks belonged to a boy and not an old most comfortable desks. When he had finished man at all, and before the crowd had half under- a hasty inspection of the clerks' room, he made stood the full humor of the situation, which they his way up stairs. These were the rooms of the would take home and gradually evolve, the hero senior clerks and of the partners : “Mr. Augusof it was gone, vanished in the crowd, never tus Hamblin" on one door; “Mr. William Hammore to be seen by the greater part.
blin ” on another door; and, alas ! on another The boy, greatly rejoicing at the discomfiture the name of Mr. Anthony Hamblin. of the old lady, proceeded on his walk. He first Young Nick sorrowfully turned the handle, repaired to the central office at Great St. Simon and peeped in. No one was there, and he enApostle. He knew all the clerks in the place, tered the room, softly closing the door behind and they all knew that his first ambition was to him. Everything was just as Anthony had left have a desk among them. His last ambition, it, except that the safe stood open, with all the Nick kept to himself. He had purposed, as part of papers taken out. The chair before the table; to-day's amusement, dining in company with some the table itself ; an office-coat hanging behind of his friends among the junior clerks. Everybody the door; the cupboard where the sherry and in the house, indeed, regarded the boy as one of biscuits were kept, with a box or two of cigars; themselves. For him it was splendid to sit among the big screen in the corner ; the grimy. winthe diners at Crosby Hall, to call grandly for what dows; the wax-candles; the great plated inkhe chose from the list, to ask for a half-pint of stand ; the massive pad of blotting-paper-all old and bitter, mixed, boiled beef, “underdone, reminded the boy of his uncle. Lizzie, and not too much fat," with carrots, pota- Oh, Uncle Anthony !” he said, for the sectoes, and new bread; to have the dinner served ond time that day, sitting in the dead man's up in hot plates, each with its tin cover, brought chair, “what a pity, what a thousand pities, that in a delightful pile ; to inquire tenderly, just like you were drowned before I was old enough to a regular clerk, after Lizzie's health and spirits come into the House ! But I will get in somethat morning, and to congratulate the young lady how; and, before all is done, I will sit in this on her looks; to consider the question of college- chair as a partner. See if I don't!” pudding or cheese, and to feel that the day must There was something uncanny about this be marked by the exhibition of the former; to empty room, full of associations; and the boy ask for the bill, to dally with the half-pint as if quickly left it, shutting the door very softly beit were a decanter of sherry, and as if you were hind him. He did not dare to visit the partners' not pressed for time, oh ! dear no, not at all
, and rooms, nor those of the chief clerks; and, after could get back to the office whenever you felt so a little exchange of facetia with the porters, he left the house, and turned his face in a south- smooth seas. We are knocked down by mate easterly direction, which led him, by way of or skipper with anything handy, a rope's end or Gracechurch Street and Eastcheap, to Tower a marline-spike. On board there is no safety, Hill. He had forgotten that he was hungry, and nor respite of work, nor any comfortable thing was making in the direction of the place he at all. On shore there is the madness of rioting loved next best to Great St. Simon Apostle, the and drink, which is the only joy we know. We Docks.
are for ever on the frying-pan or in the fire. Tower Hill always pleased him mightily. Your navy-men you watch over. For them you There are great warehouses there, with cranes, have chaplains, doctors, schools, homes, societies, wagons, and other signs of business; there is the and pensions. You forbid their officers to ill-treat Mint, always engaged in manufacturing sover- them; you provide them with good and abuneigns for the reward of successful merchants; dant food ; you train them, educate them, and you there is the Trinity House, which keeps an ever- find your ships well. But for us you do nothing ; watchful eye over the safety of the mercantile and we all reel, blind, and deaf, and careless, and marine. There are, as many people know, other uncared for, into the abyss." associations connected with Tower Hill. Young They did not speak so, however, to young Nick had read about some of these, or, rather, Nick, who regarded them with enthusiasm. had learned about them in history lessons; but "Splendid fellows !” he said. They don't they did not stick, any more than the Latin sub- mind how much hard work they do. They don't junctive. He had no leanings toward historical mind how bad the weather is, nor how cold. associations. He was not, like some among us, They like to feel that they are bringing moneyhaunted by the ghost of the past. Not at all. heaps of money-home to the partners of the He looked at the White Tower, on which the great City firms, making them richer every day. sun was shining splendidly, as it has shone for I couldn't feel like that, myself. But then I'm eight hundred years, and murmured: “What a not a sailor." beautiful place for the head offices of the House ! Then he came to the gates of St. Katharine's and plenty of room all about for our own ware- Docks. houses.” But then he would have gazed upon Cerberus, in shape of three policemen, stands the walls of the Holy City itself without emotion. at those gates: young Nick, whom the three
He went on, turning to the right, and came knew perfectly well, and all about him, always upon the usual little crowd of merchant sailors, made a point at these gates of going through a standing about on the pavement opposite the little comedy of intrigue. He pulled a leather Board of Trade Office, waiting to be hired. book from his jacket-pocket, extracted, standing They are a curious body of men, these mercan- without the gates, a couple of documents which tile Jacks. They lack the independence and care- were in reality Latin exercises, examined them less ease of their brethren of the Royal Navy. with great care, pulled his hat over his eyes, and They are not clean like them; nor do they take marched through the portals with the air of one a pride in the smartness of their dress; nor are who has important business, not to be delayed a they conspicuous for the appearance of physical moment, in connection with dock warrants. He activity. They are not spry; they have no jovi- assumed, in fact, the character of a junior clerk. ality; their cheeks are mostly bloated with bad He did not for a moment deceive the policemen, liquor; their eyes are dull; their gait is heavy; who knew that he was in some way connected their attire is a mixture of sea-going and shore- with the family of Hamblin, the great indigogoing togs; their hands are in their pockets; merchants, and that he was only here to prowl they look ashamed of themselves. They seem round and look about him. It is against the to say : “ Behold us, you who have neglected us, rules to admit any one except on business, but and left us to be the prey of greedy ship-owners this boy was an exception. Besides, on this ocand piratical crimps. See what we are, the de- casion, when he came out again they had their scendants of the gallant heroes who sailed West- revenge. ward-ho! with Raleigh, and Drake, and Haw- Once within the Docks the boy can go where kins. Around us are the land-sharks who plun- he likes undisturbed. There are the great ships der us, the black-eyed sirens—most all of them in the basin, some unloading with the aid of have one black eye at least—who destroy us, the mighty derricks and steam-cranes, and a great office where we sign articles which enslave us. "yeo heave oh!" and a running of chains and a Beyond us are the craft which take us to our dropping of ropes and a deft stowing in their doom-ill-found, ill-rigged, the cheating venture places on the wharfs of cases, casks, bags, and of a cheating shipper. On board them we are boxes, while the busy feet trample and the boatfed with rancid pork and weevily biscuit. There swains whistle, and the laden men run backward are not enough of us to navigate her even in and forward as if they were merry-making, in