going towards. He yearned after his mother and ached
to be with her and to stay by her side, to repair the lone-
liness from which she too, in his imagination, had suf-
fered. But he was soon seized with a natural young
curiosity, watching the horses, the driver, the other occu-
pants of the cart, the hills diminishing as they were ap-
proached, feeling for the whiskers which he hoped were
appearing on his cheeks, and every ten minutes pulling out
of his fob the new watch sent to him by his Uncle Shiel.
THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD
IT is time to give my readers a hint as to the period
through which they are to follow the establishment
of the illustrious family, over whose members they have
the advantage of knowing the history of the time. Such
an advantage is unfair and if they are to understand
James and his kinsfolk they must forget it and remember
only that Queen Victoria had lately ascended the throne,
that ships had recently crossed the Atlantic under steam
and that, though Napoleon Bonaparte was long since
dead, yet he was in the imaginations of all men the most
lively figure, the arrivist who had arrived, but, being only
a Frenchman, he had had to depart. Had he been an
Englishman, a la bonne heure! It was annoying to have
a chit of a girl on the throne, but Englishmen could
always smile at Fate and show themselves gentlemen.
As for the Scots, being romantic, and, thanks to John
Knox, educated, they could beat the English at their own
game, because they could regard it as a means and not
as an end. They were charged with destiny, the service
of the clan, and a shining name was of more worth to
them than riches, though these were necessary for secur-
ity's sake, a guarantee that their light would not be hid.
It was almost a tradition in the Keith family, for in-
stance, that the English were soft and slow, a blind race,
26 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
tripping their way along, and needing a dog to guide
them. James Lawrie's head was full of this tradition on
his long, uncomfortable journey by sea and land. He
was very sick on the water and very cold on the land, for
it was early spring and dirty weather and he took his first
railway journey over the thirty miles from the coast to
Thrigsby without marvelling at it. The smell of the en-
gine on the Glasgow packet-boat had given him a fierce
hatred of machinery driven by steam, and the discomfort
of the open truck called a third-class carriage made him
incapable of anything but a longing for his journey's end.
When at last he reached it and was turned out with his
chest he sat on it shivering, with his mind a blank, so
utterly was he disappointed by the aspect of the city in
which he was to seek his fortune. It was so black, so
huddled, so ungenial, with its tall chimneys and slate
roofs, dank and wet under the rain. It looked mean and
poverty-stricken, disordered and uncared for. And there
was not a soul in the station to speak to him or even to
notice him. Also for many hours he had had nothing to
eat : his stomach was protesting and he hardly cared what
became of him.
He tried once to accost a stranger in his best English
but it was not understood, nor could he make anything of
the stranger's speech. Then he was overcome with shy-
ness and could attempt no more. For half-an-hour he
sat on his chest, deciding that he would leave it there and
walk home or run away to a war.
At last he was greeted by a woman who said he was
a likely lad and had a lucky face, in itself a gift sufficient
to put heart into a creature. Doctor M'Phail had warned
him against women and he was filled with dread. How-
ever, there was so much kindness in her face and she
was so persistent in her attentions that at last he loosened
THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD 27
his tongue and told her he was a Scotsman come to be
placed in the world with his kinsman, Andrew Keith.
"Andrew Keith, is it?" said she. "Well I never! Why
Andrew Keith lives just round the corner from me."
At this point she was joined by a little undersized man
with enormous shoulders and a birth-mark over one eye.
"Eh! Mike," she said, "isn't that lucky. Here's An-
drew Keith's own nevvy come to Thrigsby and no one to
meet him. You can carry his chest home and him and
me'll go off and have summat t'eat and join you later."
She took Jamie by the arm and led him slowly out of
the station, he looking back for his chest, and not daring
to protest in his anxiety not to make a fool of himself in
his first encounter with the great world of England.
Mike had hoisted the chest onto his broad shoulders and
came lurching and staggering after them. The woman
talked all the time.
"We've heard tell you was coming," she said. "There's
always a deal o' talk about Andrew Keith and his doings.
The good-looking Keiths they're called in Thrigsby, and
it was said that the best favoured of 'em all was coming."
Mike had caught them up, passed them and disappeared
at a run round the corner. Realising that he had made a
fool of himself, Jamie started to run after him, but when
he turned the corner there was no sight of the man;
neither, on retracing his steps, could he discover trace
of the woman. He went cold with shame and dread of
the confession he would have to make to his uncle. It
was growing dusk and he determined to make his way
to Clibran Hall, where presumably he was expected, to
pretend that he had lost his luggage on the railway and
so bury the tale of his folly for ever.
Clibran Hall was a couple of miles out from the centre
of the town, half-way to the weaving village of Clure,
28 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
which young Lawrie reached before he discovered he had
passed the house he was seeking. When he asked at an
inn how far he was from Andrew Keith's house, a man
sitting in the bar parlour spat on the floor, raised his pint
pot and threw its contents in the boy's face, growling out
words in the unintelligible language of the place. How-
ever, the landlord of the inn bade the man behave him-
self and told Jamie he must go back two miles until he
came to a great yellow house with a hornbeam by the
gate. Jamie remembered the house but could not imagine
that any relative of his could live in so huge a mansion. It
was three times as big as Ardross, the home of the Keiths.
He had begun now to recover from his mortification at
the loss of his chest, feeling quite sure that he would be
able to carry it off with a lie, which he had enjoyed in-
venting down to the smallest detail. His arrival among
the English had become more interesting to him and he
was so filled with admiration for his lie as a lie that he
thought of telling Andrew Keith the truth first and the
lie afterwards, so that he too might appreciate and ad-
mire. His Uncle Shiel would certainly have done so, and
he imagined Andrew Keith to be not unlike Uncle Shiel.
Great was his disappointment then, when, on his admis-
sion to the great yellow house, he was taken in charge
by a red-faced butler, who, on hearing his name, told
him he was to wait.
"But I'm expected," said Jamie, smelling good roast
mutton and getting very hungry. "Mr. Keith's my uncle,
and I've come all the way from Scotland."
"Mr. Keith is at dinner and is not to be disturbed."
Jamie was turned into a little den of a library that
reeked of stale tobacco smoke, and was crowded from
floor to ceiling with books. On a table was a tray with
glasses, a decanter of wine and a biscuit-box. Jamie took
THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD 29
down Tom Jones and was soon deep in it, sitting near the
biscuits and nibbling at them until he realised to his dis-
may that he had eaten them all. "No luck to-day," he
thought and started out on another lie. It was not half
ready when the door opened and Andrew Keith entered.
"Hum, ha!" he said, bringing his lips close together
and blowing out his nostrils. "Hum, ha. Reading, are
Jamie jumped to his feet and stood blushing and anx-
ious. Andrew held out two fingers, which his nephew
seized and shook roughly.
"Manners, manners. Stand up and let me have a look
at you. Would we like a glass of Madeira wine after our
journey? A glass of wine and a biscuit."
His face was still shining with the good dinner he had
eaten. Jamie shook with rage as he said it and forgot
his lie about the biscuits. His uncle looked into the box,
guessed what had happened and clapped the lid on it
again without a word. Then he poured out half-a-glass
of Madeira and handed it to his nephew, sank back into
a big horsehair chair, and, placing spectacles on his jut-
ting nose, proceeded to inspection.
"A reg'lar Lawrie," he said. "Drink your wine, boy.
You won't be able to afford wine this many a year. And
now tell we what you want to do, how you left your good
mother, what kind of a journey you had and what you
saw by the way."
Andrew Keith had a large white face surrounded
with a thin fringe of grey whisker, a long chin that sank
deep into his chest as he looked up with his small keen
eyes under their puckered lids. He wore a white silk tie
filling in the aperture of his low-cut waistcoat, and seem-
ing to the alarmed boy an extension of his face. Jamie
30 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
"I I was very sick on the boat."
"Ah, hum. No steamboats when I made the journey;
no railways; glad enough we were in those days of the
Duke's Canal. Ah ! It's all made easy for you youngsters.
Though there's the same rules to be observed fear God,
honour the King and your parents and those set in au-
thority over you, apply yourself to your duty, read little
but wisely, and when you talk, keep all your words in
reason. I ah, hum am going to give you a thorough
trial, to see what stuff you are made of, for your mother's
sake. You come on her side from an honourable and an
ancient family. Keep that in your mind in all your deal-
ings and do nothing which could injure its ah 'solid
place in the world. You will begin, as I began, as every
young man should begin, at the bottom. The success you
meet will be the result of your own endeavours and my
good will when you have deserved it. Now, what is
your first duty?"
Jamie glanced nervously round the comfortable room.
The Madeira wine warming up his little clamorous stom-
ach had made him light-headed. He hazarded :
"To get rich.*' At once he knew that was wrong and
replaced it with : "To be an honour to my family."
"Tut," said Andrew. "We'll be content if you're no
disgrace. What has your schooling been ?"
"I've a prize for Latin verses."
"Oh aye, it's good to be a scholar when you have your
position, but not till then. A bit of the Latin is very
powerful with these ignorant folk here. But that'll do.
Ye've got me havering. Ye can go to your bed now and,
when you say your prayers, thank God for it and think
of the many would be glad of it."
He shifted his wine-glass from his right hand and held
THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD 31
out two fingers. Jamie remembered his chest, hesitated
and trembled out his lie.
"A've lost ma kist."
"Your chest, lad?"
"Aye, wi' a new suit, and three sarks, and a pair of
boots, some books, a box o' shortbread and a kite."
"Lost your chest?"
"Aye. It was the railway train."
Andrew brinked. "They screwed your head on for
you before they cut your apron strings."
The taunt so enraged Jamie that he burst into tears and
blurted out the truth how his chest had been stolen from
him after he had brought it safely through all his long
journey. His uncle became kinder then, rose from his
chair, patted his shoulder and told him he would see
the police in the morning. The bell was rung, the butler
appeared, received instructions to find a nightshirt and
led the unhappy James off to an enormous room, heavily
curtained, where he had a huge four-poster bed. He
shuffled out of his clothes and into his borrowed night-
shirt and lay terrifying himself with the idea that the top
of the four-poster was coming down slowly, slowly to
He felt very, very small in the soft feather mattress
which billowed up on either side of him. The linen sheets
were very cold to his body and he missed Tom, without
whom he had not slept for years. . . . The world on
the other side of the mountains was distressingly large,
black, empty, indifferent; he had made all that uncom-
fortable, tedious journey to find a great, callous world
full of thieves and big- faced uncles, who seemed not only
indifferent to the great intention with which he had come
among them, but even hostile to it. This indifference,
this hostility made the world for him as big, as stuffy, as
32 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
ominous as the four-poster bed in which he lay. It was
a cruel denial of all that he had imagined. Though he
had chafed against the small life at home, yet there had
been in it gems of liberty which were despoiled by An-
drew Keith and his big face, his big yellow house, and his
big four-poster. The Keiths of his mother's tales had
been such wonders that there was nothing for the young
Lawries to do but to emulate them, and Jamie, knowing
that he must, felt on that first contact with them that he
THE PETER LESLIES
BREAKFAST was at seven, on the stroke, and this
meal Jamie was permitted to share with his uncle.
There were a pork-pie and beer for Andrew : porridge
and milk for the boy: and honey in the comb for both.
After a decent interval they set out for the counting-
house behind Princess Street. It was a square, plain
building, among other square, plain buildings, hard by a
canal. The street was thronged with men and boys going
to their work, and already there were drays and lorries
clattering over the cobbles. Already out of some of the
square buildings came the whir and thud of engines. The
noise and the bustle awed and excited Jamie. He began
to feel important, as though it was all because of himself
and his uncle. The men on the pathway made room for
them as they approached and some of them said, "Morn-
ing, sir." Then, watching his uncle, Jamie saw that he
was taking no notice, but pursed up his lips and tucked
down his head and walked a little quicker. So Jamie
pursed up his lips and tucked down his head and walked
a little quicker, fixing his eye on the brass plate which
said Keith Bros. & Stevenson. Inside himself he cried :
"That's me, James Keith Lawrie," and indeed, as he
crossed the threshold, the building seemed to grow per-
ceptibly smaller, only to swell out enormously at once, as
34 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
he realised that he did not know his way about in it. He
shambled up behind his uncle and followed him through a
roomful of young men (a horrible ordeal), along a pass-
age and into a quiet, remote chamber with a huge desk,
a thick Turkey carpet, a loud-ticking clock, a shelf of
books, a portrait of the Duke of Bridgewater, a wooden
model of a steam-engine, and a miniature bust of Ark-
wright. Here Andrew Keith seemed to be more sure of
himself than in his big house; his manner changed; his
face grew almost animated. He took out his watch and
compared it with the big clock which he could see through
the high grimy window. It wanted two minutes to nine.
There were letters on the table. He fingered these,
pleased to have so large a pile of them. At last he
cleared his throat and addressed Jamie :
"This is where you will begin your career. Find your
way about the office and the warehouse and then we will
give you a spell at the mill. You will be given every
opportunity to learn every side of the trade because you
are my nephew, but while you are learning you must for-
get that you are my nephew."
"Yes," said Jamie.
"You may come to see me every other Sunday, but
here in the office we shall only meet as employer and
"Yes," said Jamie.
"Much will depend on your choice of friends and in
that it would be well for you to remember who you are."
Jamie was suffering from a reaction and the only echo
this saying found in him was the question : "Who am I ?"
Andrew continued :
"It only remains to warn you against the temptations
of a great city, but a young man with so good a mother
as you have had should be able to resist them."
THE PETER LESLIES 35
"Yes," said Jamie, rather pleasantly excited by the
"Above all, keep clear of politics until you have an
income and a vote to steady you."
A middle-aged man entered and wished Mr. Keith
"My kinsman, James Lawrie," said Andrew.
The middle-aged man grunted :
"In my room, sir?"
"No. He is to begin with Leslie. Tell Leslie I wish
to see him and come back yourself when he is gone."
The middle-aged man disappeared and was replaced by
a thin, gloomy man who stood glowering down at his
boots as Andrew presented his nephew.
"Leslie," he said, "has very kindly consented to take
you into his house. My nephew, Leslie, has had the mis-
fortune to lose his luggage on his journey here. You
will kindly apply to the cashier for seven pounds ten to
buy him the necessary clothes and boots."
"Yes," said the gloomy man, "my wife will see to it."
"I could do it myself," interjected Jamie, hating the
idea of being handed over to a woman.
"Mr. Leslie will see to it," said Andrew severely. "It
is time for you to begin your duties, but first could you
describe the persons who robbed you of your chest?"
"The man," replied Jamie eagerly, vividly remember-
ing, "was short and broad-shouldered, shabbily dressed,
and he wore clogs. He had a big red mark over his right
eye and the woman called him Mike. She was pleasant-
looking, with bright eyes and full lips. She was short
and had a very big bosom."
"That'll do," Andrew cut him short. "I'm sure Mr.
Leslie will be a good friend to you."
Leslie led Jamie down a long passage and up a few
36 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
stairs into a bare room along all sides of which were
desks and tall stools. At the end of this room was a
little square window and next to it a desk, at which sat
another boy who, as they approached, buried his nose in
a great ledger lying open before him.
"Bell," said Leslie, "this is Lawrie. He will take over
your work from to-morrow, when you are to go into Mr.
Clulow's room. Show him what you have to do, and in
the dinner hour you can take him over the warehouse."
Jamie and Bell eyed each other shyly. Bell grinned as
Leslie turned away. Jamie took his grin for friendliness
and warmed to him.
"Is it very difficult ?"
"Combing your hair's a sight harder."
"You'd better begin copying letters and if anybody
comes to the window you can ask them what the hell they
want and tell me."
So Jamie began by copying letters all very much alike
about bales and freights and deliveries. These letters
only interested him when they referred to payment and
were offensive. Then he rather relished copying them,
though he was always relieved when there came a tap
at the window and he was told Wyman, McClure, or Tib-
bett's, or Clomen & Co. wished to be attended to. Then
he referred to Bell and Bell referred to Mr. Wilcox,
and Mr. Wilcox referred to Mr. Leslie, who said
"Damn" and went out of the room. Though he was
interested time went slowly and he often fell to watch-
ing Bell, who would stop in the middle of a sentence with
his pen poised above the paper and stare vacantly in front
of him and suck his teeth or hum to himself, or slowly
scratch his head. Occasionally Mr. Wilcox would say
in a dreamy, empty voice "Mesopotamia, Mes-o-pot-
THE PETER LESLIES 37
am-i-a," ringing the changes on the syllables until Mr.
Leslie told him to dry up.
In the dinner hour when Jamie asked why Mr. Wilcox
said "Mesopotamia," Bell told him that old Cocks-and-
hens was a great reciter and often performed :
"Penny readings, Waterloo and that. Makes ye fair
laugh. I heard him once tell Mr. Leslie there was a man
once could say Mesopotamia so as to make thousands
of people cry."
Jamie tried it to himself and found that he could very
nearly bring tears to his eyes, and he became interested
in Mr. Wilcox : so much so that when Bell took him round
the warehouse he said very little and came away with a
confused memory of enormous piles of cloth with men
lazily moving round them. He was rather shocked by
the indolence and the quiet of it all, for his idea of the
big city had been one of fierce energy. However his in-
terest in Mr. Wilcox remedied his disappointment and
when Bell took him out into the streets he shook off the
sleepiness which had begun to overcome him, yet, not
wishing to be taken for a new-comer, he strove as much
as possible to conceal his interest and excitement. Bell
showed him the new Queen's Theatre, the Town Hall,
the Gentleman's Concert Hall, and the new station, but
Jamie merely glanced at them and said : "Ou, aye," or,
when he remembered that he was in England, "Oh! yes."
His clothes made him very unhappy. Farquharson had
made his coat very short in the back and his trousers tight
about his calves. He was glad, indeed, that he had lost
his chest and would soon be in appearance as the others.
At the coffee-house where they dined he was introduced
to a number of young men and youths, but he was afraid
of them and kept his mouth shut. They all laughed a
great deal and he understood none of their jokes.
38 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
The afternoon was like the morning, except that a
traveller came in with tales of success and adventures
on the road and an exciting account of riots in London.
Mr. Wilcox said : "What we need is a great orator.
These men don't know how to handle an audience. Eng-
land is going to the dogs." "Not," replied the traveller,
"while trade grows the way it does." "Trade!" sniffed
Mr. Wilcox. "I know all about that. What's the good
of it if it only leads to more trade?" His scorn seemed
very fine to Jamie, who had begun to be bored by the
letters he was copying.
Work stopped early in the afternoon and conversation
flowed freely : Mr. Leslie moving in and out of the room
with his hands full of papers and ledgers. Other men
came in and went out and when at last activity ceased
Mr. Wilcox asked if he might recite The Isles of Greece,
which he had prepared for that evening. Mr. Leslie
grunted and Mr. Wilcox took up his stand by the fire-
place, flung back his head and declaimed Byron's lyric.
When he had finished he said : "By Heaven, that is as
good as a taste of liberty, and I'm hanged if I wait for
the clock to strike." With that he clapped his hat on his
head, and strode magnificently from the room. Bell
laughed and said : "You've hurt his feelings by not ask-
ing him to recite something else." He laughed again
when Jamie replied : "I wish I had."
It was nearly dark when Mr. Leslie put on his hat and
coat and tucked a ledger under his arm and asked Jamie
to come with him. They walked through the streets for
some miles without a word. Mr. Leslie went so fast with
his loping steps that Jamie had to stride his hardest to
keep up with him. At last the thin man said gloomily :
"Mind children?" "I have minded my sisters," replied
Jamie. '"I mean, you don't object to them?" "No."
THE PETER LESLIES 39
The question surprised Jamie, to whom it had never hap-
pened to object coolly or on principle to anything. "No,"
he said. "No."
They came to a row of little houses that looked out over
fields from which a mist was rising. "This is where I
live," said Mr. Leslie. "Would you rather I lent you a
nightgown or send you out to-night with Mrs. Leslie to
buy your things ?"
Jamie said he would rather borrow for that night and
make his purchases the next day. The long silent walk
had depressed him and also he was anxious not to cause
his host any trouble. He had been feeling that he was
not wanted, for he knew how in his own family the pres-
ence of a stranger would have been resented. Besides
he was anxious to do the buying of his clothes himself
so that he might be certain of getting what he wanted.
Mr. Leslie entered the house first, to find his wife
waiting for them lamp in hand. She put up her face and
her solemn husband stooped and kissed her and said, as
he took his coat off :
"Well, here is Mr. Lawrie."
"But you said he was to be a lad. Why, he is nearly
as tall as you are. He-he !"
And Jamie realised that he was quite as tall as Mr.
Leslie and he fetched up as deep a voice as he could in
himself to say :
"Good-evening, Mrs. Leslie, it is very good of you
to have me."
"He-he!" she giggled. "We are only too pleased to
oblige Mr. Keith."
Mr. Leslie had already proceeded to the back of the