When Doctor Walker had departed,
the Admiral packed all his possessions
back into his sea chest with
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
"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."
it may not
be so very
Had we not
until after he sees these people
"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
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.
a man read
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
"Hullo, Westmacott!" Charles
had always been a favorite of
the seaman's. "What are you doing
I have been
doing a little
business for my aunt. But I have
never seen you in London before."
hate the place.
me. There's not a breath of clean
air on this side of Greenwich.
But maybe you know your way about
pretty well in the City?"
I know something
about it. You
see I've never
very far from it, and I do a
good deal of my aunt's business."
you know Bread
is out of Cheapside."
then, how do
you steer for
it from here?
You make me
out a course and I'll keep to
to do. I'll take you there with
Well, I'd take
it very kindly
if you would.
I have business there. Smith
and Hanbury, financial agents,
The pair made their way to
the river-side, and so down the
Thames to St. Paul's landing--a
mode of travel which was much
more to the Admiral's taste than
'bus or cab. On the way, he told
his companion his mission and
the causes which had led to it.
Charles Westmacott knew little
enough of City life and the ways
of business, but at least he
had more experience in both than
the Admiral, and he made up his
mind not to leave him until the
matter was settled.
"These are the people," said
the Admiral, twisting round his
paper, and pointing to the advertisement
which had seemed to him the most
promising. "It sounds honest
and above-board, does it not?
The personal interview looks
as if there were no trickery,
and then no one could object
to five per cent."
it seems fair
is not pleasant
to have to
go hat in hand
but there are times, as you may
find before you are my age, Westmacott,
when a man must stow away his
pride. But here's their number,
and their plate is on the corner
of the door."
A narrow entrance was flanked
on either side by a row of brasses,
ranging upwards from the shipbrokers
and the solicitors who occupied
the ground floors, through a
long succession of West Indian
agents, architects, surveyors,
and brokers, to the firm of which
they were in quest. A winding
stone stair, well carpeted and
railed at first but growing shabbier
with every landing, brought them
past innumerable doors until,
at last, just under the ground-glass
roofing, the names of Smith and
Hanbury were to be seen painted
in large white letters across
a panel, with a laconic invitation
to push beneath it. Following
out the suggestion, the Admiral
and his companion found themselves
in a dingy apartment, ill lit
from a couple of glazed windows.
An ink-stained table, littered
with pens, papers, and almanacs,
an American cloth sofa, three
chairs of varying patterns, and
a much-worn carpet, constituted
all the furniture, save only
a very large and obtrusive porcelain
spittoon, and a gaudily framed
and very somber picture which
hung above the fireplace. Sitting
in front of this picture, and
staring gloomily at it, as being
the only thing which he could
stare at, was a small sallow-faced
boy with a large head, who in
the intervals of his art studies
munched sedately at an apple.
"Is Mr. Smith or Mr. Hanbury
in?" asked the Admiral.
"There ain't no such people," said
the small boy.
you have the
names on the
that is the
name of the
firm, you see. It's only a name.
It's Mr. Reuben Metaxa that you
then, is he
will he be
tell, I'm sure.
He's gone to
one hour, and sometimes two.
It'll be two to-day, I 'spect,
for he said he was hungry afore
"Then I suppose that we had
better call again, " said the
"Not a bit," cried Charles. "I
know how to manage these little
imps. See here, you young varmint,
here's a shilling for you. Run
off and fetch your master. If
you don't bring him here in five
minutes I'll clump you on the
side of the head when you get
back. Shoo! Scat!" He charged
at the youth, who bolted from
the room and clattered madly
"He'll fetch him," said Charles. "Let
us make ourselves at home. This
sofa does not feel over and above
safe. It was not meant for fifteen-stone
men. But this doesn't look quite
the sort of place where one would
expect to pick up money."
"Just what I was thinking," said
the Admiral, looking ruefully
well! I have
the best furnished
belong to the poorest firms.
Let us hope it's the opposite
here. They can't spend much on
the management anyhow. That pumpkin-headed
boy was the staff, I suppose.
Ha, by Jove, that's his voice,
and he's got our man, I think!"
As he spoke the youth appeared
in the doorway with a small,
brown, dried-up little chip of
a man at his heels. He was clean-shaven
and blue-chinned, with bristling
black hair, and keen brown eyes
which shone out very brightly
from between pouched under-lids
and drooping upper ones. He advanced,
glancing keenly from one to the
other of his visitors, and slowly
rubbing together his thin, blue-veined
hands. The small boy closed the
door behind him, and discreetly
"I am Mr. Reuben Metaxa," said
the moneylender. "Was it about
an advance you wished to see
"For you, I presume?" turning
to Charles Westmacott.
for this gentleman."
looked surprised. "How
much did you desire?"
"I thought of five thousand
pounds," said the Admiral.
on what security?"
am a retired
navy. You will
my name in the Navy List. There
is my card. I have here my pension
papers. I get L850 a year. I
thought that perhaps if you were
to hold these papers it would
be security enough that I should
pay you. You could draw my pension,
and repay yourselves at the rate,
say, of L500 a year, taking your
five per cent interest as well."
per cent per
Metaxa laughed. "Per annum!" he
said. "Five per cent a month."
would be sixty
per cent a year."
that is monstrous."
don't ask gentlemen
to come to
me. They come
of their own
free will. Those are my terms,
and they can take it or leave
"Then I shall leave it." The
Admiral rose angrily from his
sir. Just sit
down and we
matter over. Yours is a rather
unusual case and we may find
some other way of doing what
you wish. Of course the security
which you offer is no security
at all, and no sane man would
advance five thousand pennies
might die to-morrow.
You are not
a young man.
over a long
column of figures. "Here is an
actuary's table," said he. "At
your time of life the average
expectancy of life is only a
few years even in a well-preserved
you mean to
I am not a well-preserved man?"
is a trying
life at sea. Sailors in their
younger days are gay dogs, and
take it out of themselves. Then
when they grow older thy are
still hard at it, and have no
chance of rest or peace. I do
not think a sailor's life a good
"I'll tell you what, sir," said
the Admiral hotly. "If you have
two pairs of gloves I'll undertake
to knock you out under three
rounds. Or I'll race you from
here to St. Paul's, and my friend
here will see fair. I'll let
you see whether I am an old man
"This is beside the question," said
the moneylender with a deprecatory
shrug. "The point is that if
you died to-morrow where would
be the security then?"
my life, and
make the policy over to you."
such a sum,
if any office would have you,
which I very much doubt, would
come to close on five hundred
a year. That would hardly suit
"Well, sir, what do you intend
to propose?" asked the Admiral.
might, to accommodate
you, work it
way. I should
send for a medical man, and have
an opinion upon your life. Then
I might see what could be done."
is quite fair.
I have no objection
"There is a very clever doctor
in the street here. Proudie is
his name. John, go and fetch
Doctor Proudie." The youth was
dispatched upon his errand, while
Mr. Metaxa sat at his desk, trimming
his nails, and shooting out little
comments upon the weather. Presently
feet were heard upon the stairs,
the moneylender hurried out,
there was a sound of whispering,
and he returned with a large,
fat, greasy-looking man, clad
in a much worn frock-coat, and
a very dilapidated top hat.
"Doctor Proudie, gentlemen," said
off his hat, and produced his
stethoscope from its interior
with the air of a conjurer upon
the stage. "Which of these gentlemen
am I to examine?" he asked, blinking
from one to the other of them. "Ah,
it is you! Only your waistcoat!
You need not undo your collar.
Thank you! A full breath! Thank
you! Ninety-nine! Thank you!
Now hold your breath for a moment.
Oh, dear, dear, what is this
"What is it then?" asked
tut! This is
a great pity.
Have you had
have had some
you are an
have been abroad, tropics, malaria,
had a day's
to your knowledge;
but you have
and it has left its effect. You
have an organic murmur--slight
might at anytime
not take violent
me to run a
would be very
be almost certainly
there is nothing
else the matter?"
But if the
heart is weak,
then everything is weak, and
the life is not a sound one."
"You see, Admiral," remarked
Mr. Metaxa, as the doctor secreted
his stethoscope once more in
his hat, "my remarks were not
entirely uncalled for. I am sorry
that the doctor's opinion is
not more favorable, but this
is a matter of business, and
certain obvious precautions must
is at an end."
we might even
now do business.
I am most anxious
be of use to you. How long do
you think, doctor, that this
gentleman will in all probability
"Well, well, it's rather a
delicate question to answer," said
Dr. Proudie, with a show of embarrassment.
a bit, sir.
Out with it!
I have faced death too often
to flinch from it now, though
I saw it as near me as you are."
well, we must
go by averages
say two years? I should think
that you have a full two years
two years your
bring you in
I will do my very best for you,
Admiral! I will advance you L2,000,
and you can make over to me your
pension for your life. It is
pure speculation on my part.
If you die to-morrow I lose my
money. If the doctor's prophecy
is correct I shall still be out
of pocket. If you live a little
longer, then I may see my money
again. It is the very best I
can do for you."
you wish to
buy my pension?"
for two thousand
if I live for
in that case
of course my
would be more
successful. But you have heard
the doctor's opinion."
the money instantly?"
at once. The
should expect you to take in
shall do you
sum. It is the custom of my clients
to take half in furniture."
The Admiral sat in dire perplexity.
He had come out to get money,
and to go back without any, to
be powerless to help when his
boy needed every shilling to
save him from disaster, that
would be very bitter to him.
On the other hand, it was so
much that he surrendered, and
so little that he received. Little,
and yet something. Would it not
be better than going back empty-handed?
He saw the yellow backed cheque-book
upon the table. The moneylender
opened it and dipped his pen
into the ink.
"Shall I fill it up?" said
"I think, Admiral," remarked
Westmacott, "that we had better
have a little walk and some luncheon
before we settle this matter."
"Oh, we may as well do it at
once. It would be absurd to postpone
it now," Metaxa spoke with some
heat, and his eyes glinted angrily
from between his narrow lids
at the imperturbable Charles.
The Admiral was simple in money
matters, but he had seen much
of men and had learned to read
them. He saw that venomous glance,
and saw too that intense eagerness
was peeping out from beneath
the careless air which the agent
"You're quite right, Westmacott," said
he. "We'll have a little walk
before we settle it."
I may not be
here this afternoon."
we must choose
why not settle
"Because I prefer not," said
the Admiral shortly.
well. But remember
that my offer
is only for
It is off unless you take it
it be off,
"There's my fee," cried
a pound and
a shilling upon the table. "Come,
Westmacott," said he, and they
walked together from the room.
"I don't like it," said Charles,
when they found themselves in
the street once more; "I don't
profess to be a very sharp chap,
but this is a trifle too thin.
What did he want to go out and
speak to the doctor for? And
how very convenient this tale
of a weak heart was! I believe
they are a couple of rogues,
and in league with each other."
"A shark and a pilot fish," said
tell you what
a lawyer named
who does my aunt's business.
He is a very honest fellow, and
lives at the other side of Poultry.
We'll go over to him together
and have his opinion about the
far is it to
a mile at least.
We can have
we shall see
if there is any truth in what
that swab of a doctor said. Come,
my boy, and clap on all sail,
and see who can stay the longest."
Then the sober denizens of
the heart of business London
saw a singular sight as they
returned from their luncheons.
Down the roadway, dodging among
cabs and carts, ran a weather-stained
elderly man, with wide flapping
black hat, and homely suit of
tweeds. With elbows braced back,
hands clenched near his armpits,
and chest protruded, he scudded
along, while close at his heels
lumbered a large-limbed, heavy,
yellow mustached young man, who
seemed to feel the exercise a
good deal more than his senior.
On they dashed, helter-skelter,
until they pulled up panting
at the office where the lawyer
of the Westmacotts was to be
"There now!" cried the Admiral
in triumph. "What d'ye think
of that? Nothing wrong in the
seem fit enough,
if I believe
the swab was
all. He was flying false colors,
or I am mistaken."
"They keep the directories
and registers in this eating-house," said
Westmacott. "We'll go and look
They did so, but the medical
rolls contained no such name
as that of Dr. Proudie, of Bread
"Pretty villainy this!" cried
the Admiral, thumping his chest. "A
dummy doctor and a vamped up
disease. Well, we've tried the
rogues, Westmacott! Let us see
what we can do with your honest