The Right Hand of Samuel Dodson by Ian Maclaren
Smoking, as usual, and wasting your time after luncheon, instead of
hurrying to your offices and coining time into money like old Sam Dodson,
who can give the cash value of every five minutes," and Welsby sat down
beside three other young Liverpool merchants in the club—all men who
had one eye on business and the other on the good of the city.
"Something's happened since I saw you fellows last on 'Change. Guess."
"Cotton up three points? A corn corner at Chicago? A big bear in lard?
Anything to do with fruit?"
"Nothing whatever to do with such prosaic subjects, and I am ashamed to
notice your mercenary tempers; this is a public affair, and is to be a
profound secret for exactly seventy minutes, after which it will appear in
the fourth edition of the Evening Trumpet.
"It's a pity that the early news could not be used for an operation in
cotton, but I'll take it along to the 'Flags,' and tell it under pledge of
silence to half a dozen brokers. If you are really interested in the
matter, this will give it a wider and more certain circulation than any Trumpet
"We're all ears, Welsby."
"Well, to begin at the beginning, you know how our people in Liverpool are
crowded together in courts and rookeries without room or air. It's hard on
the men and women, but it's hardest on the children, who have no place to
play in but the gutter.
"So a man wrote a letter to the papers about a month ago, pleading for a
fund to put down small playgrounds in the crowded districts, where the
little folk could come of an evening, and the mothers could sit, and the
men might smoke a pipe...
"I remember the letter," broke in Cotton; "it was signed 'Philanthropist,'
and was generally supposed to have been composed in a moment of
inspiration by some proprietor of insanitary property; it was an elegant
letter, and affected me very much—to tears, in fact,"
"It was signed 'Charles Welsby,' and you never read a word of it, because
it had no reference to polo nor the Macfarlane Institute for Working Lads,
the only subjects to which you give any attention. Four people read it,
however, and wrote to me at once. One man denounced the scheme as another
instance of the patronage of the rich. He added that it was a sop, and
that the toilers would soon find open places for themselves."
"He would mean your garden, Welsby," suggested Lard. "The Socialist has
two main principles of action: first, to give nothing to any good cause
himself; and second, to appropriate his neighbour's property on the first
opportunity. And your other correspondents?"
"I had a letter from the inventor of a nonintoxicating beer, offering £5
on condition that we advertised his beverage, which he discovered by
supernatural guidance and sold for philanthropic ends."
"All queer beverages and patent medicines are owned by high-class
religious people, as far as I can understand," remarked Com.
"A third letter warned me that such spaces would be abused by bad
characters and sap the morals of the people; the writer also wanted to
know whether they would be closed on the Sabbath."
"A publican evidently," remarked Cotton; "no man is so concerned about
Sabbath observance. And so you got sick of the whole affair?"
"Rather, till I got this letter. I'll read it, and then you can make your
guesses at the enclosure.
"'Liverpool, June 9, 189-.
"'MY DEAR Sir,—Your letter of 7th ult, in the issue of the Morning
Trumpet of May 8, caught my eye and received my most careful
attention. As you appeared to have established a primâ facie case
for what you designate "People's Playgrounds," I have occupied my leisure
time in examining the sanitary and social condition of certain parts of
our city which were more or less distinctly indicated in your letter. As
the result of my investigations, I am thoroughly convinced, in the first
place, that you have proved your case as regards the unfortunate
circumstances of the children in such parts, and, in the second place,
that your plan for their relief is practical and wisely considered,
"'It then became my duty as a citizen of Liverpool to consider what I
could do to further the ends of your scheme, and it seemed to me on the
whole most advisable to place a sum of money at your disposal, on
condition that it be spent with such other sums as may be sent you in
purchasing decaying property and creating playgrounds—said
playgrounds to be vested in the Parks and Gardens Committee of the City
Council—and I would suggest that people interested in each district
be allowed and encouraged to contribute to the furnishing and adornment of
"'I beg therefore to enclose a draft in your favour on Messrs. Goldbeater
& Co., Lombard Street, London, and I have only to add my sincere
approval of the good work you are doing among the poor of Liverpool, and
my wish, which, as a man of honour, you will doubtless carefully respect,
that you will take no steps to discover my name.—I have the honour
to be, your obedient servant,
"Satisfactory, very, although a trifle pedantic and long-winded. And the
sum, Welsby? I say £250."
"£500" said Cotton.
"£1,000," cried Lard.
"What do you say to £10,000?" and the draft was handed round.
"Congratulate you, old man." Com shook hands with Welsby, and so did they
all, for he had worked hard in many a good cause. "You deserve your luck;
think I'll take to writing letters for my pet hospital. Who can he be? Do
you suspect any one?"
"Half a dozen, but I'm bound not to inquire; and I rather think that the
trail is covered at Goldbeater's beyond finding. But I know who did not
give it—Sam Dodson.
"No, of course I did not ask him for help. One does not court refusals;
but you know his meddling, ferreting ways. If he didn't stop me in the
street and ask fifty questions till I hinted at a subscription, when he
was off in a minute."
"Nothing frightens him like a suggestion of that kind. He has raised
meanness to the height of genius. They say that he is worth £200,000, but
I wouldn't change with him," said Lard, "for a million. When he dies,
Dodson will not leave a soul to regret him, and there'll not be six people
at his funeral."
"You can't be sure, gentlemen," said a quiet voice behind; "I've overheard
you on Dodson, and I hope what you say is not true."
The speaker was one of those rare souls God sends forth at a time to
establish our faith in goodness; who are believed in by all parties, and
respected by all creeds, and loved by all classes; who sit on all the
charitable boards, and help on every good cause, and make peace in
quarrels; whom old men consult in their perplexities, and young men turn
to in trouble, and people follow with affectionate glances in the street;
who never suspect their own excellence, always take the lowest seat, and
have to be compelled to accept an honour.
"You have a good word to say for everybody, sir," said Cotton with deep
respect; "but have you, even, ever got a penny from Mr. Dodson far a
"Well, I cannot say that I remember an instance; only I'm sure that he has
his own way of doing good. Every one has, unless he be utterly bad; and
I'm seventy years old, gentle-men, and I never met that kind yet."
"Greatheart is the only man in Liverpool who would say a word for Dodson,"
said Lard a minute later, "and in this case his charity has rather
overshot the mark; but it does one good to hear the old man. He is a
walking Sermon on the Mount, and the best thing about him is that he
believes in everybody; the very sight of his white hair makes me a better
"How tired you must be, Fred, after four hours' begging in offices! I'll
bring you a cup of tea in the study at once, and then you are to have a
nice little dinner all to yourself.
"Oh, no, I've not been extravagant at all, and I've not taken any money
out of our alms-box, and I'm not a wicked parson's wife who gets into
debt; but a hamper came from the country, with lots of good things in it,
and you will have the chicken; the children and I simply rioted in plenty
to-day. Now, I'll not hear a word about your expedition until you have had
"There, I feel a perfect glutton, Ethel. I hope you have sent some of the
h-hamper to the sick."
"I've done nothing of the kind; every single bit is to be eaten in this
Vicarage of St Ambrose; you would starve yourself and your family for the
parish, and I am sure you are the hardest working man in it. Well, have
you got the money to furnish the playground of St Ambrose's?"
"Do you mean have I come home with £54 in my pocket as the result of one
r-raid by a poor, dull, s-stammering parson, who couldn't make an eloquent
appeal to save his life?"
"You don't stammer, Fred, and I wish you wouldn't say such things; you
may... hesitate at a time, and I am sure any one would give you money for
a good cause, because you are... so sincere and..."
"That will do, Ethel; it's a great h-help to an obscure parson in the
poorest of parishes to have a wife who believes in him, and makes four
hundred pounds out of two."
"And now about the money. Was the asking hard?"
"It might have been, but every one was so j-jolly. The first man I went to
was Mr. Welsby, and as soon as I came into his room he cried out, 'Was
just thinking of you: I hope you're on the w-warpath for that playground,
for I've a five-pound note ready for you.'
"He sent me on to a cotton b-broker, and he thanked me several times for
coming on such a good errand, and backed up Welsby with five pounds. Every
person had a kind word, and by five o'clock I had...
"The whole sum?"
"With six p-pounds over, which will get a little sheltered seat for old
people. How good those city fellows are when they fancy a cause."
"And when they fancy the man who pleads it, Fred. Did you not get one
"Well, I was h-hurt by one man, who treated me rather shabbily. He allowed
me to explain the whole scheme—swings, sand-heaps, seats and all—and
he asked me a hundred questions about the parish and my work, till I think
he knew as much about the place as we do ourselves, and then sent me off
without a penny—said he didn't give to subscriptions on
"What a mean, hypocritical wretch!"
"I left rather down, for I had lost h-half an hour with him, and I was
afraid I had offended him by some remark, but when I met Welsby again in
the street and told him, he declared that I ought not to have been sent
there, because D-Dodson—that's his name—was the most
inquisitive and hardest man on 'Change."
"He can't be a gentleman, at any rate, to question you for mere curiosity;
I hope you gave him something to think over."
"No, I didn't; it's no use, and only frets oneself. He had a big c-chance
and lost it What do you say to inviting the subscribers down some evening
when the playground is in full occupation? They will get full value for
their money at the sight of the girls on the swings, and the boys at ball,
and the b-babies scooping up the sand, and the old folks sunning
themselves on their seats."
"It will be splendid; but Fred, it goes to my heart that our own boys can
have no holiday, and when their schoolfellows are away in Wales, will be
sweltering in this close house."
"How much have we in the h-holiday fund?"
"Just two pounds and sixpence. Save as I would, that is all I could
manage... If we had not given so much away we might..."
"You are just as r-ready to give as I am, my little wife, and none of us
regret anything we've done for the poor souls around us; but I'm sorry for
the boys. Did you tell them?"
"No, I hadn't the heart, so I played the coward and said you were thinking
the matter over, and that you would tell them, perhaps, to-morrow
"Do you know I rather s-suspected this would be the end of it, and I was
planning how to make the best of things. I made up a series of cheap
trips, personally conducted, to New Brighton, and Cheshire, and Hale;
you'll give us our l-lunch, and we'll have a regular picnic. I have some
old knick-knacks of my schooldays at Shrewsbury, and I'll offer them as
p-prizes for the best account of the day. You'll come with us, too, and
we'll have a particularly jolly time.
"Letters? The post is late to-night That is about the c-contract for
swings, and this is a diocesan circular, and there is a new company
p-prospectus—rather an irony sending it to me—but here are two
unknown hands; let us see the news.
"Now isn't this good? £3 for the playground from a Dissenter who
c-complains I didn't call on him, and has a kind word about my hard work,
as he calls it; and I've been often annoyed at that man for the things he
said on Disestablishment. He may say anything he pleases now on a
platform; I know there is a kind heart behind the words.
"Will this be more money for the s-swings? Hurrah! here is an enclosure of
some sort But what is this...?"
"What's wrong, Fred? Is any one dead? Are you ill...?"
"Ethel, you are an excellent m-manager."' The Vicar, very white as to his
cheeks, and somewhat wet as to his eyes, stood on the hearthrug and waved
his wife to a distance. "Be g-good enough to secure a commodious farmhouse
in North Wales, somewhere between Bettws-y-Coed and Llanberis, for the
month of August—with a little f-fishing attached, if possible.
"Please sit down, Ethel, and don't interrupt. I'm sane, quite sane; much
p-playground and domestic affliction have not made me mad. Now, where was
I? Yes, and arrange quite a s-series of tours round by Festiniog, and up
Snowdon, and down to Llandudno, and another to the Menai Straits....
"You are an extravagant, d-dressy woman, Ethel, so you may get a n-natty
walking dress and three blouses, but keep a trifle for f-fishing apparatus
and special provisions... you are t-throttling me... then read it
yourself, read it aloud, and... I will p-process round the table. I wish
the boys had not gone to bed."
"'Liverpool, July 16, 189—.
"'Reverend and Dear Sir,—It has come to my knowledge from various
quarters that you and your devoted partner in life are doing a most
beneficent work, both sacred and secular, in a very necessitous district
of our great city, and that you are discharging this duty to your
fellow-creatures at severe cost to yourselves and your family.
"'My observation of life leads me to believe that none of our citizens
live harder lives, or make greater sacrifices, than clergymen of limited
means whose sphere of labour lies in poor parishes, and, without being in
any sense a good man—for my whole life is a struggle with one
besetting sin, which often getteth the victory—I have been filled
with respectful admiration, and have wished to assist, after a humble
fashion, in this Christian service.
"'As you may have some difficulty in securing a suitable holiday for your
family through your notorious charity—for such is the report
concerning you—I venture with much diffidence to enclose a draft on
London, which can be cashed at any bank, for your use, under two
conditions, which I must charge you to observe: (i) that the whole sum be
employed to the last penny in holiday expenses—including such
special outfit as may be judged fit by your wife for you all; and (2) that
you make no effort to discover the name of your unworthy friend. The
endorsement of this draft will be sufficient acknowledgment.
"'Trusting you will all have a health-giving, happy, and long holiday,
"'I have the honour to be,
"'Your humble servant,
"Your voice is a little shaky, Ethel... don't wonder... such nonsense
about me and such c-compliments to you... yes, it will be g-glorious,
another honeymoon, and those rascals of boys, why won't they... Let us
thank God, wife; it came from Him...."
"You will be pleased to hear, mater dear, that corn is up twopence a
cental, and that the market is buoyant; that's the good of new blood being
brought into corn. I would have been lost in medicine.
"I have been studying the career of a corn prince, and it has five
chapters. He begins a poor boy—from the North of Ireland by
preference, but that is not necessary—then he attracts his chiefs
attention, who sends him out to America, where even the Yankees can't hold
their own with him, and he becomes manager of his firm. His next move is
to start in partnership with some young fellow who has money and no
brains; by-and-bye he discovers by instinct that corn is going to rise, so
he buys it ahead by the cargo, and piles up a gorgeous sum—say one
hundred thousand pounds. Afterwards he buys out Emptyhead, and becomes the
chief of a big house with lots of juniors, and he ends by being a Bank
director and moving resolutions at the Town Hall.
"Please don't interrupt, mother, for I have not done yet. Long before the
Town Hall level this rising corn man has gone up by stages from the street
off Princes Road to an avenue near the Park, and then into the Park, and
perhaps into the country, whence he appears as High Sheriff.
"One minute more, you impatient mother. A certain person who will pretend
to be nearly fifty when the corn man comes into his kingdom, but will
remain always at twenty-five exactly, and grow prettier every year, will
have a better set of rooms in each new house, and, at last, will have her
own carriage, and visit whole streets of poor folk, and have all Liverpool
blessing her. This is the complete history of the corn man and his mother,
as it will be expounded to after generations of schoolboys by informing
and moral philanthropists. What do you think of it?"
"I think that you are a brave boy, Jack, and your mother is proud of you
and grateful; if it's any reward for you to know this, I can say that the
way you have taken your disappointment has been one of my chief comforts
in our great sorrow."
"Don't talk as if I were a sort of little tin hero, mater, or else I'll
have to leave the room, for I'm nothing of the sort, really. If you only
saw me at my desk, or fussing round the offices, or passing the time of
day on corn, you would see that I was simply born for business."
"Jack," said Mrs. Laycock solemnly, "you have not been without faults, I'm
thankful to say, for you've been hot-tempered, hot-headed, wilful, and
lots of things, but this is the first time you have been deliberately
"Mother, with all respect to you, I will not stand this insult," and so he
slipped down on the floor and caressed his mother's hand. "You think that
I've no commercial ability. Wait for the event It will be swagger, you
"I think everything that is good of you, Jack, as I ought, and your father
did; but I know that it was very hard that you could not go back to Rugby
this autumn and finish in the sixth, and go to Cambridge and study at
Caius, your father's college, and get your M.D., and take up your father's
profession and the one you loved, the noblest a man can live and... die
in," and there was a break in the widow's voice.
"Of course, mater, that is what I would have preferred, and it was a
bit... stiff when I knew that it would all have to be given up; but that
was nothing to... losing father. And besides, I think that I may get on in
business and... help you, mother."
"Your father had set his heart on your being a doctor, and I don't know
whether he ever spoke to you about it, but he hoped you might become a
specialist—in surgery, I think; he said you had the hands at least
for a good surgeon.
"It was his own heart's desire, you know, to be a surgeon, pure and
simple, and Mr. Holman, the great consultant, considered him to be one of
the best operators in the provinces, but he was obliged to be a general
"Why? Oh, because he had no private means, and he had you and me to
support, so he couldn't run any risks; he had to secure a regular income;
and there is something I wish you to understand, in case you should ever
think hardly of your father."
"Mother—as if I could! The very people in the street admired father;
you know what they said in the Morning Trumpet about his
self-sacrificing life, and his skill being at the disposal of the poorest,
without money and without price."
"Yes, the papers were very kind, and his patients adored your father; but
I am certain some of our neighbours criticised him because he did not make
better provision for his wife and child. As if he had been extravagant or
improvident, who never spent a farthing on himself, and was always
planning for our welfare."
"You are just torturing yourself with delusions, I am sure, mater. Did any
single person ever hint that father had not done... his duty by us? I
can't believe it."
"One man did, at any rate, Jack, and that was our neighbour, Mr. Dodson."
"What did he say, the miserable old curmudgeon? Did he dare to bring a
charge against father? I wish I had been with you."
"No, it was not that he said anything; it was rather what he implied; he
just questioned and questioned in an indirect fashion, all by way of
interest in our affairs, but left the impression on my mind that he
thought the doctor ought to have done better for his family."
"What business had Mr. Dodson to call at all and to ferret into our
affairs, who was never before in our house? If we needed help—which
we don't—he is the last man in this district to give it. Do you know
he's the hardest, meanest creature in Liverpool? He'll leave a cab thirty
yards from his house when he's coming from the station, to keep within the
shilling limit, and he goes down in the penny 'bus with the working-women
to save twopence."
"There is a certain young corn-broker," interpolated Mrs. Laycock, "who
walks all the way to save even that penny, and I don't consider him mean."
"That is economy, and indicates the beginning of a fortune, which will be
shared with a certain sarcastic mater. But Dodson is a millionaire, and
has nobody depending on him but an old housekeeper. Certainly father was
not economical by his standard."
"Your father was most careful and thrifty," said the widow eagerly, "and
that is what I want to explain. He had to borrow money to educate himself,
and that he paid back, every penny, with interest Then, you know, a doctor
cannot keep himself for the first few years of his practice—he only
made £32 10s. 6d. the year he began—and when he reached £200 he did
a... foolish thing."
"Let me guess, mater. Was it not marrying the dearest, sweetest,
"Hush, you stupid boy! And we had to keep up a certain appearance and pay
a high rent, and we were very poor—poorer than the public ever knew.
"Of course, the doctor had a large practice before he died, and people
used to think he made two and three thousand pounds a year; and Mrs.
Tattler-Jones, who knows everything, said our income was £4,000.
"His last year, your father earned £1,800 and got in £1,200; the other
£600 will never be paid; and yet he was so pleased because he had cleared
off the last penny of his debt, and thought he would begin to lay
something aside for your education."
"But why did he not get the other £600? Could the people not pay?"
"They could pay everybody else—wine merchants, jewellers, and
car-owners—but their doctor's bill was left last, and often
altogether, and your father would never prosecute."
"And didn't father attend many people for nothing?"
"No one will ever know how many, for he did not even tell me; he used to
say that if he didn't get often to church, he tried to do as people were
told to do there; his commandment was the eleventh, 'Love one another.'"
"Did father believe the same as clergymen about things, mater?"
"No, not quite, and I suppose some people would call him a heretic; but
you and I know, Jack, that if to do good and to be quite selfless, and to
be high-minded, pure, and true, is to be like Christ, then the doctor was
a Christian, the best I ever saw."
"Very likely he was the same sort of heretic as Christ Himself. I say,
mater, there will be a good lot to speak up for father some day—widows
and orphans and such like. I'm proud to be his son; it's a deal better to
have such a father, of whom every person speaks well, than to come in for
a pot of money. If old Dodson had a son, how ashamed he would be of his
"Money is not a bad thing, all the same, Jack," and Mrs. Laycock sighed.
"If we had had a little more than the insurance policy, then we would not
have had to come to this house, and you would not have been in an office."
"It's a jolly house, I think; and when the Christmas cards are stuck up
the decorations will be complete. I wonder if the advance ones will come
by this post? We'll see who remembers us."
"That's the bell; and see, six, seven, I declare, ten to begin with!
Here's one in a rare old-fashioned hand. I'll take off the envelope and
you will see the name. Why, it's a letter, and a long screed, and a...
"Have some of those thieves paid their account? You are crying, mater. Is
it about father? May I see the letter, or is it private?"
"No, it's about you, too, my son. I wish you would read it aloud; I'm
not... quite able."
"'Liverpool, December 24, 189—.
"'Along with many others in Liverpool, I experienced a feeling of keen
regret that in the inscrutable actings of Providence your respected
husband, Dr. Laycock, was, as it appears, prematurely removed from his
work and family.
"'It must be a sincere consolation for his widow to know that no man could
have rendered more arduous and salutary service to his fellows, many of
whom he relieved in pain, not a few of whom he was instrumental in
restoring to their families from the portals of death. Without curiously
inquiring into the affairs of private life, many persons were persuaded
that Dr. Laycock was in the custom of attending persons of limited means
as an act of charity, whereby he did much good, won much affection, and
doubtless has laid up for himself great riches in the world to come, if we
are to believe the good Book.
"'I have not, however, sent you this letter merely to express my sympathy,
shared with so many who have the privilege, denied to me, of your personal
friendship, or to express the admiration felt by all for the eminent
departed. My object is different, and must be its own excuse. Unless I
have been incorrectly informed—and my authority seemed excellent—the
noble life of Dr. Laycock hindered him from making that complete provision
for his family which he would have desired, and which other men in less
unselfish walks of life could have accomplished. This disability, I am
given to understand, has seriously affected the career of your son, whom
every one describes as a promising lad, so that he has been removed from a
public school, and has been obliged to abandon the hope of entering on the
study of medicine.
"'If my information be correct, it was his father's wish that your son
should follow in his steps, and it is incumbent on those who honoured Dr.
Laycock for his example of humanity, to see that his cherished wish be
fulfilled. Will you, therefore, in the light of the explanation I have
made at some length, accept the draft I have the honour to send—value
£1,000—and use the proceeds in affording to your son a complete
medical education at home and abroad? The thought that the just desire of
a good man has not fallen to the ground, and that a certain burden will be
lifted from his widow's life, will be more than sufficient recompense to
one whom you will never know, but who will, so long as he may be spared,
follow your son's career with sincere interest.—Believe me, my dear
madam, your obliged and grateful servant,
"Hold it up against the light, mater; it's the prettiest Christmas card
we'll ever see.... You ought to be laughing, and not crying.... But I feel
a little—just a tiny wee bit watery myself.
"He might as well have told us his name; but I suppose he was afraid of a
row. Zaccheus? Why, that's the man who gave the playgrounds. He must have
a pile, and he knows how to use it; he's no Dodson, you bet At any rate,
though we don't know him, we can say, 'God bless him,' mater."
"Amen," said Mrs. Laycock. "I hope the father knows."
"How do I know that there is something wrong, Bert? Because we've been
married five years last month, and I can read your face like a book, or
rather a great deal better than most books, for I'm not clever in
following deep books, but I'm quite sure about your face.
"No, I don't imagine, for you may be able to hide what you feel on the
'Flags,' but you let out the secret at home; and that is one reason why I
love you—because you are not cunning and secretive. Now tell me, is
cotton down, and have you lost?
"Oh, yes, Bert, I know your principle, that a man ought to bear the burden
outside, and the woman inside the home; but there are exceptions. You have
acted up to your principle splendidly. You have never said a word all
these years, although I know you've had anxious times, and you've helped
me many a time with my little troubles. Let me help you in yours now."
"Queenie, if you want to put me to utter shame, you have taken the right
way, for it's your thrift and good management which has given us our happy
home, and I..."
"Yes, you, Bert, you have idled your time, I suppose, and spent your money
on dress, and generally neglected your family. For shame, sir, when you
have done so well, and every one says that nobody is so much respected.
Don't look like that if you love me. What is it?"
"It is necessary that you be told, and I was going to speak this evening,
but it is very hard. Queenie, when I kissed the children and looked at you
all so happy, I felt like a... murderer."
"No, on my word of honour, I have done nothing wrong, that I can
say; neither you nor the little ones have any cause to be ashamed of me."
"If you had, I would have stood by your side, Herbert, but I knew disgrace
would never come by you; then what is it? If it's only the loss of some
money, why, I know half a dozen economies."
"It's far worse than that, wife, I fear. This will be our last Christmas
in our dear little home, and it's all my blame, and I feel... the basest
of men. As if you had trusted me when I had deceived you all.
"You are the best wife ever man had.... I feel better, and I'll explain it
all to you. It is not very difficult; it is so easy to be ruined.
"You know we are brokers, and our business is to buy or sell cotton for
other people, and we are responsible for them, so that if they cannot pay
the losses, we have to find the money.
"Two of our firms, which have been very kind to us, were sure cotton would
go up—and so it ought to have done, and will in the end—and
they bought so many bales through us.
"Well, a big house, which can do pretty much as it likes, seized the
opportunity of a fraud to rush in and upset the market, so our friends and
many others have to face declines they cannot meet So unless our poor
little firm can pay £10,000 at least on Monday, we must stop, and... all
our hard work to build up an honourable name is lost.
"We can scrape £4,000, and my partner and I have £1,000 private means to
put in, and... that's all. £5,000 short
"Yes, we have tried the Bank, but they can't do anything there.
Goldsworthy, the manager, is the nicest fellow living, and his 'No' is
almost as good as another's 'Yes'; but of course it was 'No'; we had no
security; the cotton may go lower before it turns, and he has told us we
"But surely, Herbert, if the big firms knew how you were situated, they
would help you, because things would come right in a few weeks, you say."
"Every man has to look after himself in the market But I did go to
Huddleston, because he has given me so much advice, and wanted me to take
an interest in the Church.... I wish my tongue had been burned before I
crossed his room.
"No, he wasn't rude—that's not his sin; he might be better if he
were straighter. He hoped that I was prospering in business, and reminded
me that I must not allow the world to get too much hold, and became
eloquent on money being only a stewardship. But when I opened up my
errand, he explained that he made it a principle never to lend money, and
suggested that this was a chastening because we had hasted to be rich. He
hoped that the issue would be sanctified, and... but I rose and left,
"What a canting old wretch!" Mrs. Ransome was very angry. "I always hated
that man's soft sawder; he's much too pussy to be true."
"He was not bound to help me unless he pleased. But what riled me was his
religious talk; he might have spared me that at least. And if those
operators who have knocked the market to pieces haul in £30,000, they will
likely give £1,000 to missions.
"When a man has done his level best, and been fairly prudent, and has
worked hard, and is getting a fair connection, and everything is taken
away by a big, unscrupulous, speculative firm, which sees a chance of
making a pile at the ruin of half a dozen struggling firms, it's a little
"They ought to be put in jail; but they'll catch it some day;" and it was
evident Mrs. Ransome, like many other people in her circumstances, found
much satisfaction from the belief in future punishment.
"It's apt to make one bitter, too," Ransome went on. "When I sat opposite
old Dodson in the 'bus this afternoon—come to the penny 'bus now,
you see, Queenie—looking out from below his shaggy eyebrows like a
Scotch terrier, with meanness written over his shabby clothes, and almost
heard the gold chinking in his pockets, and thought that he could save our
home and secure my future by a cheque, and never miss the money—suppose
he lost it, which he wouldn't if I lived—I declare, I could have...
well, I did not feel as Christian as Huddleston would desire."
"Bert, have you ever thought what we would do if we became rich—how
we would send flowers to people who were not well off, and let them use
our carriage, and send overworked teachers and clerks for holidays, and...
"Help lame dogs in cotton over stiles, eh wifie? Yes, I've had my dreams
too. I'd go in for the poor children's holiday fund, that would be my
extravagance. But we are no better than other people. And were you never
afraid that we would grow selfish and pompous, and mean and pharisaical,
like Huddleston, and maybe end in being Dodsons?"
"No, no, that is impossible!" cried his wife, "because, for one thing, we
have loved, and, perhaps, Mr. Dodson never was loved, poor soul; and if
things come to the worst, remember there is a good deal left."
"There is something in that, Queenie; run over the inventory, and I'll
"First of all there is you, the truest, kindest, bravest husband in
"Stop; that is your own private property, and we were to go over our
common means; besides, the valuation is ninety per cent too high."
"You be quiet And there are two children whom every one looks at in the
street, and who are the sweetest... Nobody hears us, so it doesn't matter,
and you know they are. Wouldn't it have been far worse if we had lost
Reggie when he had diphtheria? Well, we have him and Maud, and they never
"That's true, wifie; go on; capital is mounting up."
"Then there's your good name, which has never been stained. Nobody says
you are mean, or hypocritical, or unmanly, or... anything bad; and if...
you can't pay that money on Monday, every person will know that it was not
your fault, and that you will repay all you owe some day, if you can."
"Yes, please God, wife, we will... You think too much of me, but go on."
"We have half a dozen friends, and, although they're not rich, they're
true; and if we have to go into a smaller house and live very quietly,
they won't mind; they'll just come closer, won't they?"
"Right again; you are getting on. We've somewhere about £50,000 working
"We have our books and our music, and... five years of love and...
spiritual blessings one doesn't talk about...."
"One piece of property wanting, which is best of all—yourself,
Queenie, surely the cleverest, loyalest..."
"You are talking nonsense now, Bert; and are you aware that it is past
eleven o'clock? I'll turn out the gas in the dining-room if you will see
that the door is fastened."
"Here is a letter which must have come by the last post and been
forgotten; perhaps it's a Christmas card in advance. Let's see. Oh, I say,
you've left me in darkness."
"Come up to our room; we can open it there; very likely it's a bill.
"I say... Queenie... no, it can't be a hoax... nobody would be so cruel...
and here's an enclosure... letter from London bankers confirming... sit
down here beside me; we'll read it together... so, as near as you can, and
your arm round my neck... just a second before we begin... my eyes are...
all right now."
"Liverpool, December 22, 189—.
"Dear Sir,—It has been my practice, as a man engaged for many years
in commercial pursuits, to keep a watchful and, I hope, not unkindly eye
upon young firms beginning their business career in Liverpool. For the
last five years I have observed your progress with much interest, and you
will pardon my presumption and take no offence, when I express my
satisfaction, as an old merchant, with your diligence, caution, ability,
and, most of all, integrity, to which all bear witness.
"I was therefore greatly grieved to learn that your firm may be hardly
pressed next week, and may be in danger of stoppage—all the more
because I find no charge of folly can be brought against you, but that you
are the indirect victims of one firm's speculative operations. There is no
one, I am also informed, from whom you can readily obtain the temporary
assistance you require and are morally entitled to receive.
"The only satisfaction I have in life is using such means as Providence
has been pleased to put into my hands for the succour of people who are in
every way better than myself, but who are in some kind of straits. I have
therefore directed my London bankers to open an account for you and to put
£10,000 to your credit. Upon this account you will be pleased to draw such
a sum as will tide you over the present crisis, and such other sums as
will enable you to extend your business along the safe and honourable
lines you have hitherto followed. I do not doubt that you will repay the
said sum or sums to the same account as you may be able—no interest
will be accepted—and I only lay one other obligation on your honour,
that you make no endeavour to discover my name.
"Be pleased to accept my best wishes of this season for your admirable
wife, your two pleasing children, and my confident hope for your final and
large success in business.—I remain, your faithful friend,
"Let us go and kiss the children, hubbie, and then... we might say the
Lord's Prayer together."
"A respectable, elderly woman, did you say, Marshall?" said Mr. Greatheart
in his room at the office; "certainly, bring her in. Very likely a widow
wishing to get her son admitted to the Bluecoat School, or some poor
householder in trouble about her taxes." For to this man came all sorts
and conditions of people in their distresses, and to each he gave patient
audience and practical succour.
"You don't trouble me. If I can be of any use, nothing will please me
better," he said, placing a chair and making a kindly fuss to cover his
visitor's confusion. "Now sit down and tell me all about it" That was why
the respectable poor loved him, from the Catholic Irish of Scotland Road
to the Orangemen of Toxteth.
"Is it your husband or your son you are so anxious about?"—for she
was much agitated. "I notice that a woman hardly ever comes about herself!
It's we men who are selfish, not the women."
"No, it's neither, for I am an unmarried woman. It's about my master, whom
I believe you know, sir—Mr. Dodson."
"Samuel Dodson, you mean; I should think so! Have known him for fifty
years—since we served our time together in Palmer's shipping office.
What, is he ill?"
"He's dead... this morning. You'll excuse me, I was his housekeeper for
near thirty year, and... I'm a little upset."
"Good gracious! No wonder. Maria Wilkins, did you say?... You may well be
upset And thirty years with him! Tell me how this happened, for we've
heard nothing in the city. He couldn't have been ill long."
"No, sir, he was never ill at all—not what you would say proper; but
I've seen him failin' for some time—gettin' thin like and growin'
down—and last night he was that white and shaky, that I wanted him
to see a doctor. But no, he wouldn't If it had been me or the girl, he
would have had a doctor when there was nothing wrong with us, he was that
concerned about other people; but for himself..."
Mr. Greatheart nodded—indicating that Mr. Dodson's unselfish
character was well known to him.
"'No, no, Maria,' says he, 'a doctor can do no good to me. I'm a tough old
fellow*—speaking that way to me, being long with him—'I'll be
all right to-morrow.' But I made bold to put a glass of brandy in his
room, and pleaded with him to ring the bell if he was unwell—he was
not easily managed—and that was all I could do, sir."
Her hearer was of opinion that from what he knew of Mr. Dodson's native
obstinacy, Maria Wilkins had done all in the power of mortal woman, and
possibly, more, than could have been accomplished by any man.
"Twice during the night I rose and listened at his door—his face,
when he said good-night, lyin' heavy on me, so to say—and I heard
nothing; but when he didn't answer in the mornin' I took it on me to open
the door. Mr. Dodson was a-sittin' up in his bed, and at the sight of his
face I knew how it was, havin' seen death many times. My old master... was
gone," and the housekeeper yielded to her feelings.
"Dear, dear! So Sam Dodson is gone; an able and successful merchant, one
who always met his obligations, and whose word was as good as his bond; he
had a warmer heart than any person knew. I've seen a look in his face at a
time, and am sure that he did good in his own way."
"God bless you for that, sir! but it's what I could have looked for from
you, if I may say it without offence. And you never spoke a truer word,
and that I can testify as has lived with master for a lifetime, and could
tell the difference between the outside and the inside."
"Ah, yes, you saw the real man, Maria; but he was sometimes... well,
hidden from the public."
"He had his peculiarities, and 'oo hasn't, I say? Now, my wages when I
came to him was just fourteen pounds, and they're just fourteen yet; but
every Christmas, for many a year, master slipped a ten-pound note into my
hand. 'Put that into your bank, Maria,' he would say, 'and never tell
anybody you've got it.'
"As for food, he was aggravatin', for he would have nothing as was not
plain, and he would check the books to a ha'penny; but if you was ill,
why, he would bring home grapes with his own hand. We dare not for our
lives give a morsel to beggars at the door, but if he heard of a poor
family, nothin' would serve him but he would go and find out all about
"That's my Dodson, just as I imagined him," cried Mr. Greatheart; "tell me
more, Maria; it's excellent, every word."
"Do you think he would let any person know he was givin' help? Not he; and
he was artful, was master. Why, I've known him send me with money to a
clergyman, that he might give it, and his words were, 'No name, Maria, or
we part; just a citizen of Liverpool.'"
"Dodson all over! shrewd and unassuming, and full of charity. Have you
anything else to tell, Maria?"
"Well, sir, I do not know for certain, and it was not for me to spy on my
master, but I'm much mistaken if many a one in the better class was not
the better of Mr. Dodson in their troubles."
"How do you think that?" inquired Mr. Great-heart in huge delight "I've
seen him read a letter maybe six times, and he would wipe his eyes through
pleasure as I took it You wouldn't believe, maybe, as master could be like
"I do, Maria. I declare it's what I expected. And what then?"
"He would walk up and down the room, and speak to himself, and read
another bit, and rub his hands..."
"I wish I had been there, Maria."
"And he would carry a letter like that in his pocket for days, and then he
would put it carefully in the fire; but I saw him take it out,
half-burned, and read a corner again before he burned that letter."
"Maria, I cannot tell you how much obliged I am to you for coming to me,
and giving me such a touching account of your dear master. Now, is there
anything I can do for you in this loss?"
"Lord bless me, sir, that I should have been taking up your time like
this, and you a magistrate, and never told you what brought me! It's more
than a month past that master said to me, 'Maria, if anything happens to
me, go to Mr. Greatheart's office, and give him my keys, and ask him to
open my desk. He is a good man, and he's sure to come.'"
"Did he say so? That was most generous of him, and I appreciate it highly.
I will come instantly, and shall bring a lawyer with me, a kind-hearted
and able man. Good-bye for the present, Maria; you have fulfilled your
charge, as I believe you have all your duty, excellently... excellently."
"You see, Welsby," as they went up to the house, "Dodson had left his
firm, and had few friends, perhaps none—a reserved man about
himself, but a true man at the bottom."
"So you have always said, Mr. Greatheart Well know now; my experience as a
lawyer proves that, as a rule, a man's papers reveal him, and there are
some curious surprises."
"If you look through that safe, and note the contents, Welsby, I'll read
this letter addressed to me. I gather that I must be executor, and there
seems to be no lawyer; very like Dodson, very—do everything for
"Liverpool, April 15th, 188—.
"Barnabas Greatheart, Esq.
"My dear Sir,—You will peruse this letter after my death, and you
will be pleased to consider it as intended for your eyes alone, since it
is in the nature of a confession.
"My early career was a continuous struggle with narrow and arduous
circumstances, and I suffered certain disappointments at the hands of
friends which I considered undeserved. In consequence of these experiences
I grew penurious, cynical, merciless, hopeless, and, let me say it
plainly, a sour, hard man, hating my neighbours, and despised of them. May
the Almighty forgive me!
"This year in which I write, a great change has come over me, and my heart
has been softened and touched at last with human sympathy. The force which
has affected me is not any book nor sermon, but your example of goodness
and your charity towards all men. In spite of the general judgment on me,
which has been fully merited, I have seen that you do not shun me, but
rather have gone out of your way to countenance me, and I have heard that
you speak kindly of me. It is not my nature to say much; it is not yours
to receive praise; but I wish you to know you have made me a new man.
"It seemed to me, however, dangerous that I should begin to distribute my
means openly among charities, as I was inclined to do, since I might pass
from hardness to pride and be charged with ostentation, as I had been once
with miserliness, with sad justice in both cases.
"So it came to me that, still retaining and maintaining my character for
meanness—as a punishment for my past ill-doing and a check on vanity—I
would gradually use my capital in the private and anonymous aid of
respectable people who are passing through material adversity, and the
help of my native city, so that my left hand should not know what my right
was doing. This plan I have now, at this date, pursued for six months, and
hope to continue to my death, and I did not know so great joy could be
tasted by any human being as God has given to me. And now, to all the
goodness you have shown me, will you add one favour, to wind up my affairs
"(1) Provide for my housekeeper generously.
"(2) Give a liberal donation to the other servant.
"(3) Bury me quietly, without intimation to any one.
"(4) Distribute all that remains, after paying every debt, as you please,
in the help of widows, orphans, and young men.
"(5) Place a packet, marked 'gilt-edged securities,' in my coffin.
"And consider that, among all your good works, this will have a humble
place, that you saved the soul of—Your grateful friend,
"What Dodson has done with his money, Mr. Greatheart I don't know; all the
securities together don't amount to £5,000. He seems to have been living
on an annuity."
"His wealth is here, Welsby, in this packet of cancelled cheques, two
hundred and eighty-seven, which go with him to the other side; and I tell
you, Welsby, I know no man who has invested his money so securely as
Samuel Dodson. See, read that top check."
"To Goldbeater, London, £10,000. Why, the draft I got for playgrounds was
on that bank, and the date corresponds. Curious.
"Eh? What? You don't mean to say that this man we slanged and... looked
down on was...."
"Yes, Zaccheus was Sam Dodson."