Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The Golden Dream > Chapter Three.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Chapter Three.
 Hopes and Fears—Mr Shirley receives a Visit and a Wild Proposal.  
When Edward Sinton left his chamber, an hour after the conversation related in the last chapter, his brow was unruffled and his step light. He had made up his mind that, come what might, he would not resist the wishes of his only near relative and his best friend.
There was a day in the period of early boyhood that remained as fresh on the memory of young Sinton as if it had been yesterday—the day on which his mother died. The desolation of his early home on that day was like the rising of a dark thunder-cloud on a bright sky. His young heart was crushed, his mind stunned, and the first ray of light that broke upon him—the first gush of relief—was when his uncle arrived and took him on his knee, and, seated beside the bed where that cold, still form lay, wept upon the child’s neck as if his heart would break. Mr Shirley buried the sister whom he had been too late to see alive. Then he and his little nephew left the quiet country village and went to dwell in the great city of London. From that time forward Mr Shirley was a father to Ned, who loved him more than any one else on earth, and through his influence he was early led to love and reverence his heavenly Father and his blessed Redeemer.
The subject of going abroad was the first in regard to which Ned and his uncle had seriously disagreed, and the effect on the feelings of both was very strong.
Ned’s mind wandered as he put on his hat, and buttoned his great-coat up to the chin, and drew on his gloves slowly. He was not vain of his personal appearance; neither was he reckless of it. He always struck you as being a particularly well-dressed man, and he had naturally a dashing look about him. Poor fellow! he felt anything but dashing or reckless as he hurried through the crowded streets in the direction of the city that day.
Moxton’s door was a green one, with a brass knocker and a brass plate, both of which ornaments, owing to verdigris, were anything but ornamental. The plate was almost useless, being nearly illegible, but the knocker was still fit for duty. The street was narrow—as Ned observed with a feeling of deep depression—and the house to which the green door belonged, besides being dirty, retreated a little, as if it were ashamed of itself.
On the knocker being applied, the green door was opened by a disagreeable-looking old woman, who answered to the question, “Is Mr Moxton in?” with a short “Yes,” and, without farther remark, ushered our hero into a very dingy and particularly small office, which, owing to the insufficient quantity of daylight that struggled through the dirty little windows, required to be lighted with gas. Ned felt, so to speak, like a thermometer which was falling rapidly.
“Can I see Mr Moxton?” he inquired of a small dishevelled clerk, who sat on a tall stool behind a high desk, engaged in writing his name in every imaginable form on a sheet of note paper.
The dishevelled clerk pointed to a door which opened into an inner apartment, and resumed his occupation.
Ned tapped at the door indicated.
“Come in,” cried a stern voice.
Ned, (as a thermometer), fell considerably lower. On entering, he beheld a tall, gaunt man, with a sour cast of countenance, standing with his back to the fire.
Ned advanced with a cheerful expression of face. Thermometrically speaking, he fell to the freezing-point.
“You are young Sinton, I suppose. You’ve come later than I expected.”
Ned apologised, and explained that he had had some difficulty in finding the house.
“Umph! Your uncle tells me that you’re a sharp fellow, and write a good hand. Have you ever been in an office before?”
“No, sir. Up till now I have been at college. My uncle is rather partial, I fear, and may have spoken too highly of me. I think, however, that my hand is not a bad one. At least it is legible.”
“At least!” said Mr Moxton, with a sarcastic expression that was meant for smile, perhaps for a grin. “Why, that’s the most you could say of it. No hand is good, sir, if it is not legible, and no hand can possibly be bad that is legible. Have you studied law?”
“No, sir, I have not.”
“Umph! you’re too old to begin. Have you been used to sit at the desk?”
“Yes; I have been accustomed to study the greater part of the day.”
“Well, you may come here on Monday, and I’ll speak to you again, and see what you can do. I’m too busy just now. Good-morning.”
Ned turned to go, but paused on the threshold, and stood holding the door-handle.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said, hesitatingly, “may I ask what room I shall occupy, if—if—I come to work here?”
Mr Moxton looked a little surprised at the question, but pointed to the outer office where the dishevelled clerk sat, and said, “There.” Ned fell to twenty below the freezing-point.
“And pray, sir,” he continued, “may I ask what are office-hours?”
“From nine a.m. till nine p.m., with an interval for meals,” said Mr Moxton, sharply; “but we usually continue at work till eleven at night, sometimes later. Good-morning.”
Ned fell to zero, and found himself in the street, with an indistinct impression of having heard the dishevelled clerk chuckling vociferously as he passed through the office.
It was a hard struggle, a very hard struggle, but he recalled to mind all that his uncle had ever done for him, and the love he bore him, and manfully resolved to cast California behind his back for ever, and become a lawyer.
Meanwhile Mr Shirley received a visit from a very peculiar personage. He was still seated in his arm-chair pondering his nephew’s prospects when this personage entered the room, hat in hand—the hat was a round straw one—and cried heartily, “Good day, kinsman.”
“Ha! Captain Bunting, how are ye? Glad to see you, old fellow,” exclaimed Mr Shirley, rising and seizing the sailor by the hand. “Sit down, sit down, and let’s hear your news. Why, I believe it’s six months since I saw you.”
“Longer, Shirley, longer than that,” replied the captain, seating himself in the chair which Ned Sinton had vacated a short time before. “I hope your memory is not giving way. I have been half round the world, and it’s a year and six months to-day since I sat here last.”
“Is it?” cried Mr Shirley, in surprise. “Now, that is very remarkable. But do you know, captain, I have often thought upon that subject, and wondered why it is that, as we get older, time seems to fly faster, and events which happened a month ago seem as if they only occurred yesterday. But let me hear all about it. Where have you been, and where are you going next?”
“I’ve been,” replied the captain, who was a big, broad man with a rough over-all coat, rough pilot-cloth trousers, rough red whiskers, a shaggy head of hair, and a rough-skinned face; the only part of him, in fact, which wasn’t rough was his heart; that was soft and warm—
“I’ve been, as I remarked before, half round the world, and I’m goin’ next to America. That’s a short but comprehensive answer to your question. If you have time and patience, kinsman, I’ll open the log-book of my memory and give you some details of my doings since we last met. But first tell me, how is my young friend, Ned?”
“Oh, he’s well—excellently well—besides being tall and strong. You would hardly know him, captain. He’s full six feet high, I believe, and the scamp has something like a white wreath of smoke over his upper lip already! I wish him to become an engineer or a lawyer, but the boy is in love with California just now, and dreams about nothing but wild adventures and gold-dust.”
The captain gave a grunt, and a peculiar smile crossed his rugged visage as he gazed earnestly and contemplatively into the fire.
Captain Bunting was a philosopher, and was deeply impressed with the belief that the smallest possible hint upon any subject whatever was sufficient to enable him to dive into the marrow of it, and prognosticate the probable issue of it, with much greater certainty than any one else. On the present occasion, however, the grunt above referred to was all he said.
It is not necessary to trouble the reader with the lengthened discourse that the captain delivered to his kinsman. When he concluded, Mr Shirley pushed his spectacles up on his bald head, gazed at the fire, and said, “Odd, very odd; and interesting too—very interesting.” After a short pause, he pulled his spectacles down on his nose, and looking over them at the captain, said, “And what part of America are you bound for now?”
“California,” answered the captain, slowly.
Mr Shirley started, as if some prophetic vision had been called up by the word and the tone in which it was uttered.
“And that,” continued the captain, “brings me to the point. I came here chiefly for the purpose of asking you to let your nephew go with me, as I am in want of a youth to assist me, as a sort of supercargo and Jack-of-all-trades. In fact, I like your nephew much, and have long had my eye on him. I think him the very man for my purpose. I want a companion, too, in my business—one who is good at the pen and can turn his hand to anything. In short, it would be difficult to explain all the outs and ins of why I want him. But he’s a tight, clever fellow, as I know, and I do want him, and if you’ll let him go, I promise to bring him safe back again in the course of two years—if we are all spared. From what you’ve told me, I’ve no doubt the lad will be delighted to go. And, believe me, his golden dreams will be all washed out by the time he comes back. Now, what say you!”
For the space of five minutes Mr Shirley gazed at the captain over his spectacles in amazement, and said nothing. Then he threw himself back on his chair, pushed his spectacles up on his forehead, and gazed at him from underneath these assistants to vision. The alteration did not seem to improve matters, for he still continued to gaze in silent surprise. At last his lips moved, and he said, slowly but emphatically—
“Now, that is the most remarkable coincidence I ever heard of.”
“How so?” inquired the captain.
“Why, that my nephew should be raving about going to California, and that you should be raving about getting him to go, and that these things should suddenly come to a climax on the same forenoon. It’s absolutely incredible. If I had read it in a tale, now, or a romance, I would not have been surprised, for authors are such blockheads, generally, that they always make things of this kind fit in with the exactness of a dove-tail; but that it should really come to pass in my own experience, is quite incomprehensible. And so suddenly, too!”
“As to that,” remarked the captain, with a serious, philosophical expression of countenance, “most things come to a climax suddenly, and coincidences invariably happen together; but, after all, it doesn’t seem so strange to me, for vessels are setting sail for California every other day, and—”
“Well,” interrupted Mr Shirley, starting up with energy, as if he had suddenly formed a great resolve, “I will let the boy go. Perhaps it will do him good. Besides, I have my own reasons for not caring much about his losing a year or two in regard to business. Come with me to the city, captain, and we’ll talk over it as we go along.” So saying, Mr Shirley took his kinsman by the arm, and they left the house together.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved