Книга Beyond The City. Содержание - Chapter 13 – In Strange Waters
"Hullo, Doctor," said the Admiral, holding out his hand, "there's foul weather set in upon us, as you may have heard, but I have ridden out many a worse squall, and, please God, we shall all three of us weather this one also, though two of us are a little more cranky than we were."
"My dear friends, I came in to tell you how deeply we sympathize with you all. My girl has only just told me about it."
"It has come so suddenly upon us, Doctor," sobbed Mrs. Hay Denver. "I thought that I had John to myself for the rest of our lives-Heaven knows that we have not seen very much of each other-but now he talks of going to sea again.
"Aye, aye, Walker, that's the only way out of it. When I first heard of it I was thrown up in the wind with all aback. I give you my word that I lost my bearings more completely than ever since I strapped a middy's dirk to my belt. You see, friend, I know something of shipwreck or battle or whatever may come upon the waters, but the shoals in the City of London on which my poor boy has struck are clean beyond me. Pearson had been my pilot there, and now I know him to be a rogue. But I've taken my bearings now, and I see my course right before me."
"What then, Admiral?"
"Oh, I have one or two little plans. I'll have some news for the boy. Why, hang it, Walker man, I may be a bit stiff in the joints, but you'll be my witness that I can do my twelve miles under the three hours. What then? My eyes are as good as ever except just for the newspaper. My head is clear. I'm three-and-sixty, but I'm as good a man as ever I was-too good a man to lie up for another ten years. I'd be the better for a smack of the salt water again, and a whiff of the breeze. Tut, mother, it's not a four years' cruise this time. I'll be back every month or two. It's no more than if I went for a visit in the country." He was talking boisterously, and heaping his sea-boots and sextants back into his chest.
"And you really think, my dear friend, of hoisting your pennant again?"
"My pennant, Walker? No, no. Her Majesty, God bless her, has too many young men to need an old hulk like me. I should be plain Mr. Hay Denver, of the merchant service. I daresay that I might find some owner who would give me a chance as second or third officer. It will be strange to me to feel the rails of the bridge under my fingers once more."
"Tut! tut! this will never do, this will never do, Admiral!" The Doctor sat down by Mrs. Hay Denver and patted her hand in token of friendly sympathy. "We must wait until your son has had it out with all these people, and then we shall know what damage is done, and how best to set it right. It will be time enough then to begin to muster our resources to meet it."
"Our resources!" The Admiral laughed. "There's the pension. I'm afraid, Walker, that our resources won't need much mustering."
"Oh, come, there are some which you may not have thought of. For example, Admiral, I had always intended that my girl should have five thousand from me when she married. Of course your boy's trouble is her trouble, and the money cannot be spent better than in helping to set it right. She has a little of her own which she wished to contribute, but I thought it best to work it this way. Will you take the cheque, Mrs. Denver, and I think it would be best if you said nothing to Harold about it, and just used it as the occasion served?"
"God bless you, Walker, you are a true friend. I won't forget this, Walker. "The Admiral sat down on his sea chest and mopped his brow with his red handkerchief.
"What is it to me whether you have it now or then? It may be more useful now. There's only one stipulation. If things should come to the worst, and if the business should prove so bad that nothing can set it right, then hold back this cheque, for there is no use in pouring water into a broken basin, and if the lad should fall, he will want something to pick himself up again with."
"He shall not fall, Walker, and you shall not have occasion to be ashamed of the family into which your daughter is about to marry. I have my own plan. But we shall hold your money, my friend, and it will strengthen us to feel that it is there."
"Well, that is all right," said Doctor Walker, rising. "And if a little more should be needed, we must not let him go wrong for the want of a thousand or two. And now, Admiral, I'm off for my morning walk. Won't you come too?"
"No, I am going into town."
"Well, good-bye. I hope to have better news, and that all will come right. Good-bye, Mrs. Denver. I feel as if the boy were my own, and I shall not be easy until all is right with him."
Chapter 13 – In Strange Waters
When Doctor Walker had departed, the Admiral packed all his possessions back into his sea chest with the exception of one little brass-bound desk. This he unlocked, and took from it a dozen or so blue sheets of paper all mottled over with stamps and seals, with very large V. R.'s printed upon the heads of them. He tied these carefully into a small bundle, and placing them in the inner pocket of his coat, he seized his stick and hat.
"Oh, John, don't do this rash thing," cried Mrs. Denver, laying her hands upon his sleeve. "I have seen so little of you, John. Only three years since you left the service. Don't leave me again. I know it is weak of me, but I cannot bear it."
"There's my own brave lass," said he, smoothing down the grey-shot hair. "We've lived in honor together, mother, and please God in honor we'll die. No matter how debts are made, they have got to be met, and what the boy owes we owe. He has not the money, and how is he to find it? He can't find it. What then? It becomes my business, and there's only one way for it."
"But it may not be so very bad, John. Had we not best wait until after he sees these people Tomorrow?"
"They may give him little time, lass. But I'll have a care that I don't go so far that I can't put back again. Now, mother, there's no use holding me. It's got to be done, and there's no sense in shirking it." He detached her fingers from his sleeve, pushed her gently back into an arm-chair, and hurried from the house.
In less than half an hour the Admiral was whirled into Victoria Station and found himself amid a dense bustling throng, who jostled and pushed in the crowded terminus. His errand, which had seemed feasible enough in his own room, began now to present difficulties in the carrying out, and he puzzled over how he should take the first steps. Amid the stream of business men, each hurrying on his definite way, the old seaman in his grey tweed suit and black soft hat strode slowly along, his head sunk and his brow wrinkled in perplexity. Suddenly an idea occurred to him. He walked back to the railway stall and bought a daily paper. This he turned and turned until a certain column met his eye, when he smoothed it out, and carrying it over to a seat, proceeded to read it at his leisure.
And, indeed, as a man read that column, it seemed strange to him that there should still remain any one in this world of ours who should be in straits for want of money. Here were whole lines of gentlemen who were burdened with a surplus in their incomes, and who were loudly calling to the poor and needy to come and take it off their hands. Here was the guileless person who was not a professional moneylender, but who would be glad to correspond, etc. Here too was the accommodating individual who advanced sums from ten to ten thousand pounds without expense, security, or delay. "The money actually paid over within a few hours," ran this fascinating advertisement, conjuring up a vision of swift messengers rushing with bags of gold to the aid of the poor struggler. A third gentleman did all business by personal application, advanced money on anything or nothing; the lightest and airiest promise was enough to content him according to his circular, and finally he never asked for more than five per cent. This struck the Admiral as far the most promising, and his wrinkles relaxed, and his frown softened away as he gazed at it. He folded up the paper rose from the seat, and found himself face to face with Charles Westmacott.