Henry John Wrixon.

Jacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) online

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all business affairs by the struggles and conflicts of a life-
time ; seated at his business desk, outwardly cool, and
impervious to any considerations beyond the principles of
the counting-house, and roused to the deep solid anger of
which he was capable by the outrage that had been done to
him morally, and even more financially ; yet he was touched
by the moving spectacle of the young mother for she had
married when quite a child pleading in such sad case to
her father, for her son. He knew that he felt for her ; but
what did she feel for the boy?

' " Father grandfather," she said, with broken voice,
"you must save my boy the little boy I used to bring to
see you ; so good he was, and looked so pretty. I can't
think of his being in prison with bad men and dreadful
things all about him."

' He would be a strange father, my friend, who would
not be moved ; and Jortin was deeply moved. He was on
the point of giving way and telling the pretty daughter to
dry her tears, as he would do everything as she wished, when
some bad spirit that must have been hovering around in the air
suggested various considerations to check him. There was
the loss of the money. He could not claim the scrip if he
admitted the transfer. Then the audacious example of the
young scamp in forging his, Robert Jortin's, signature ; and
its effect upon the clerks in the office, one of whom he had
recently prosecuted and had convicted for embezzlement.
Further, would it be right in him to admit an authority, or,
at least, a tacit sanction to the signing of his name, which, in
fact, did not exist ? Still, he was moved. He did feel for
his daughter. True, she had defied him in marrying the
man with the faultless shirt-front ; but had she not suffered,
and had he not forgiven her and received her for several
years past ? He paused for a moment before he replied ; and
then, I suppose, the evil spirit came on with a rush, for he
slowly said :

' " It is dreadful, my dear Fanny dreadful. But can I
help it now? I cannot, as they say in law, compound a


felony. It is not the money. It is I am a Justice. I
cannot be a party to a crime."

1 " Was that his answer to you ? " I asked. She only
replied with a sob.

' " Very well, madam," I continued, " you can dry your
tears. I will defend your boy. We shall win we shall
win. He will be a free boy again with you directly ! "

' " But what can you say ? He does not deny it," she
said, looking up with a sudden surprise through her tears.

' " Leave that to me, madam leave that to me. It is
enough for you that we shall win."

' " Well, do get him off some way ! " she exclaimed with
sobs. " But don't say bad things of father, either. It is the
law he thinks of, you know. He is a Justice." '

' You had not much of a case on the merits,' remarked

' Merits ! Hadn't I, though. Poor boy ; rich grand-
father ; flesh and blood more than gold ; human nature
before bank notes, and so forth. And I was in luck, my
friend I was in luck. The judge was old Flatley, who
would confuse any twelve men if he tried to explain that the
whole was equal to its parts, or that two and two didn't
make five ; and as for the jury, several of them were so well
stricken in years that they might have been the grandfather
themselves, and they could only hear now and then what
was going on. So I let them prove everything : asked only
a few questions to show the wealth of the Alderman, and that
the prisoner was his grandchild. When the Crown case
closed, the Judge asked me if I called witnesses. I did look
surprised, you may believe me.

'"Witnesses, your Honour? To answer what?" I
exclaimed. " Certainly not ! "

' " Oh, I merely wanted to know," said old Flatley, " so
as to put it on my notes. Perhaps you will address the
jury, then, Mr. Slater Scully ? "

' " Well, perhaps I may as well, your Honour," I replied.
Then, turning to the jury, I began in a subdued, indifferent
tone by saying that the case was so plain that I was quite
in doubt whether I should address them at all or not.
Obviously that innocent -looking boy before them assumed


that he had his grandfather's authority for the transaction.
What more natural when one considered Nature's crimson
thread between parent and grandchild ? When there ap-
peared to be some unexpected trouble about the authority,
the poor boy and widowed mother offered to repay all. Was
there a criminal in the transaction ? Far be it from me to
deny it. But where was he ? That was the question the
jury should ask themselves with trumpet tongues. " Not
there is the criminal," said I, pointing to the dock ; " but
there ! " I exclaimed with outstretched arm and withering
glance directed towards where old Jortin was sitting, the
very image of calm respectability. " None of them," I
continued, " were old enough to have reached grand-paternal
dignity ; but yet, as even young men, they could have some
idea of what the feelings of a natural grandfather would be.
What, then, were they to say to one who disowned his own
offspring, and whose heart could only beat hard, metallic
strokes, like the clinking of his own coin ? Good Heavens,
was it come to this ! A new sort of Shylock in their fair
young province, who claimed not only his pound of flesh,
but his pound of flesh sliced from his own offspring. The
five -and -thirty thousand a year that Alderman Jortin
enjoyed " I thought it better to mention a good sum while
I was about it, and several of the jury took a note of the
amount " was certainly an income that a plain man might
manage to live upon. But as for me, I would rather live
and die plain, penniless Slater Scully than possess money
that would freeze up the genial current of my soul." I
wound up, my friend, with a general denunciation of ill-
gotten gains, and with an expression of my confident
assurance that their verdict would be based upon the
immutable principles of truth and justice.'

' I suppose you were all right till the Judge came to sum
up?' remarked Frankfort.

' Yes, friend, and I was all right then too ; for, d'ye see,
old Flatley also thought the case too clear to call for much
comment no defence, in fact so he began just as I began,
" Plain case, gentlemen, needn't trouble you much about it " ;
read some of his notes, commenced explaining the law about
authority, and no authority, and want of previous authority


supplied by subsequent ratification, and dating back, and the
Lord knows what. All the while I kept my eye upon
several of the grand -paternal members of the jury, and
nodded assentingly to all the wise sayings of Flatley, so
that they took it all as in my favour, and directly he
stopped they acquitted the young scamp in a prompt,
decisive sort of way, as if they quite agreed with me that
it was clear that the real criminal was Jortin himself, not
Gustave Robert d'Ade, the hapless youth at the bar." '

' To be sure, why, you cannot wonder at it. Grandfather
against grandson, the pound of flesh, as you say, with a

' True for you, Professor. And then there is this more
in it. We don't feel so acutely about the rights and wrongs
of property in these latter days as men did when laws were
made and opinions formed by the propertied class. Then
the respectable indignation against the criminal would have
been so great that it would have dulled the feeling about the
harshness of the grandparent. It is just the other way round

' Still, the difference between honesty and dishonesty is
permanent. We have not got beyond that, have we ? '

1 No, we have not,' deliberately replied Slater Scully,
again gazing musingly as he lay back in his chair, this time
apparently at the end of his Habana. ' What you remark is
just, Professor. Honesty and dishonesty are still among
men as before. But, after all, may not the principle of
honesty have varying manifestations in varying ages ? In
one age, caro mio, it may centre all about meum and tnum ;
in another it may reveal itself in fair-play between man and
man man and boy, if you like.'

' Ah well, if you had ordered a case for a good speech,
you could not have had a better one. Just the thing to give
a man a fair start.'

' Yes. When the jury gave their verdict and the court
was adjourned, all the people crowded around, talking and
denouncing Jortin to one another, and congratulating the
jurors upon their just verdict. The Alderman, as he walked
away quite cool and collected with his attorney, Jimmy
Tugwell,of the big firm of Tugwell and Co. you know them


quietly said, " Mr. Tugwell, be good enough to give Mr.
Slater Scully a general retainer for me at once. He is just
the sort of man we want for our bad cases." Jimmy told
me his instructions straight when he came to give me the
retainer. We had a laugh over it. He can see a joke, can

' And did you meet him often afterwards ? Had you
opportunity to see what sort of fellow he really is, old
Jortin ? to come back to the question with which we

' Yes, I have met him about several of his bad cases.
These he honoured me with chiefly. He really is a very
fair man. He provided for the pretty daughter when she
was deserted, and after a while became quite reconciled to
her and took her to his home. The whole strange, eventful
story is now, to be sure, forgotten. But I always feel
grateful to him. I dare not blame his hard nature, my
friend. Indeed, to say the truth, I bless it. A man may
not be feeling himself, yet may be the cause of feeling in
others. He may not be eloquent, my friend, yet may be the
cause of eloquence in others in Slater Scully, to wit.'

While he and his companion are finishing their cigars
and their afternoon's conversation, the reader might like to
learn something more about this story of Alderman Jortin,
his pretty daughter, and his grandson, which was for some
years one of the most prominent social topics and, as it
was generally regarded, social scandals of Excelsior. Slater
Scully's rapid summary had given not incorrectly the general
outlines of this strange story.

Jortin had unquestionably acted a cruel part. But his
action was not so inhuman as it seemed at the time to those
who looked at it in the light of public opinion, which accepts
its own impression of men's conduct as seen from the outside,
and does not trouble itself about those mitigating considera-
tions which an inside knowledge of all the facts often
presents. At the outset of the unfortunate affair the officer
of police had taken him by surprise, seated as he was in his
business chair, cased round for the day in the inflexible
counting-house attitude, which he assumed every morning
as he left the hall door of The Anvil. The sense of wrong


and injury from the pretty daughter's hapless match also
was still alive within him, though, as far as she was con-
cerned, he had forgiven her ; and then suddenly all this
smouldering bitterness against the bad husband and the
unhappy marriage was revived by the audacious crime of
the boy who was the offspring of it. Despite his deep
self-control, for the moment this feeling carried him away,
so that he rejected all the friendly and humane suggestions
of the official. c Proceed, sir. Don't mind my feelings,' he
said. This outburst of the old sense of deep resentment at
the marriage was the determining factor in his action.

But this once entertained, there were other considera-
tions to support it, and to disguise from himself the reality
of what he was doing. When the Superintendent came to
him the fact of the forgery had been made known to the
public. As a man of business, he was well aware that no
one would believe the story that he had given the lad
authority to sign the transfer with his name. He had
before his eyes the case of the young clerk, also a mere
boy, whom he had, as Slater Scully mentioned, only lately
prosecuted for embezzlement, and who was now expiating
his crime among the other convicts in the State prison at
Miranda. That boy, he said to himself, had a fond mother
too, no doubt, and a father, and perhaps an honest, worthy

father, not like Then Jortin was a very clear-headed,

matter-of-fact man. He had an instinctive hatred of the
glossing over of facts, and presenting them in an untrue
light by any sentimental make-believe. And he certainly
considered that it was not the right thing for a Justice of
the Peace, and a man upon whose word so many depended,
to back up a sham pretence, and also to condone a felony.
This consideration had much weight with him ; or, at least,
one of the personalities bound up in him used it with great
effect on the other personality and silenced the milder
feelings which it might entertain, making it seem to be a
mere plain duty to punish crime, instead of shielding it. To
state the different proportions in which these varying impulses
contributed to the tragic result would be a task which no
man could successfully undertake, certainly not Alderman
Jortin himself.


However, the outcry against him throughout the Province
was for a while terrific, and would have quite upset a man
who was framed upon milder lines than he was. What ! a
grandfather allow the prosecution of his own grandson, break
the heart of his own daughter, about a wretched affair of a
couple of hundred pounds ! A mere boy, a little free with
his pen. ' The monster ! ' said all the women ; ' his wife
should poison him. He don't deserve to live as either
husband, father, or grandfather. Why don't these talking
Parliament men do some good and make a law to deal with
such wretches ? ' ' Leave him alone,' said the men ; ' he
can't live for ever. In due time he and all his silver, and
his iron too, will be melted down together.' Jortin faced
the world with a steady, undaunted aspect. He did not,
in fact, care much what it thought or said either. But most
wrong things done in this world do bring some retribution,
and the real trial of the unhappy man was in his own home.

In ordinary times he was undisputed master there. He
was a fond husband and, despite his outburst of anger
against the foolish marriage of the pretty daughter, a kind
parent ; but no one presumed to cross him in his home.
Mrs. Jortin as a general rule took a pride in depending
upon and being led by the strong man, her husband. But
there was one other love which was as powerful in her nature
as the love of the wife, namely, the mother's love. She
had from the first pleaded the cause of the foolish, pretty
daughter, and sought to make the best of the forbidden
marriage, urging that what was done could not be undone ;
that you could not have an old head on young shoulders ;
that boys would be boys and girls would be girls, do what
you could ; that some of the best matches made had been
runaway ones ; that her father's aunt had done the very same
thing seventy years ago, and had lived happily ever after ;
and sundry other unanswerable but unsatisfactory arguments.
When the worst came, and the faultless Shirt Front dis-
appeared, she wanted to bring the daughter and the little
son back home at once. This Jortin would not then agree
to ; but he readily provided a comfortable home for her, and
though he for a while would not meet her himself, he was
glad enough to know that the mother looked after her, and


had her and the boy quietly at The Anvil to mid-day dinner
when he was in town at the works.

At last the good mother arranged one visit of the
daughter and boy for the Saturday afternoon ; and when
Jortin walked calmly into his house, relaxing his rigid
business tone into the kindlier mode that was suitable for
his home at the close of the week's work and the prospect
of the coming day of rest, there he saw, in his little drawing-
room (it was before he had enlarged The Anvil), the pretty
young widow, Fanny d'Ade, dressed in half widow mourning,
most becoming of costumes. Standing by her was a small
boy, some five years old, bright and handsome, full of the
pleasure of his visit, with no thought of ban or shadow-
anywhere in his little world, and, oh ! the very image of the
fascinating, faultless Shirt Front. The young mother looked
prettier than ever in the slight confusion into which she was
thrown by the father's entrance, and the colour flushing
tremulously over her cheeks, gave that indescribable charm
which the glow of agitated feelings will impart to much less
comely features than those of Fanny d'Ade.

He would be a hard man indeed who could resist such a
situation ; and though one Jortin, the public one, was hard,
the other Jortin, the domestic one, had within him a fair
substratum of kindly feeling. He did not hesitate one
moment. He embraced his child fondly and greeted the
grandchild kindly, though still he could not wholly rid
himself of a feeling that was unsympathetic to anything
that was identified with the faultless Shirt Front. But the
boy looked up so cheerfully and so confidingly to his grand-
father, and, tossing back his curls cheerily, as he looked up
and held out his hand, said so prettily, having been care-
fully taught by his mother, ' How do you do, grandpa ?
I hope that you and grandma are very well,' that he quite
relented, declared that the boy did his mother credit, gave
him a present of a bright half-crown, and tried his best to
forget all about the other parent.

It was this little boy that had committed the forgery.
Mother and child were soon established in the old home.
The son grew up to be more handsome each year he lived,
and was a very affectionate son to his devoted mother. But


he early showed unmistakable proclivities that reminded
unfavourably all who observed him, except the fond mother,
of the faultless Shirt Front. He had a special turn for games
of chance, for hazarding his all of pocket-money upon some
lottery from which he was certain he would get a big cash
prize. When his mother would give him a few shillings
to buy something nice at the church bazaar, he forthwith
expended them in getting sixpenny tickets in the most pro-
mising raffles. When, at the end of the day, he found that
somehow all his numbers were blanks, he was for the moment
disappointed ; but his general faith in raffles was not in the
least shaken. At the next bazaar he was as ready as ever
to venture all again. He quite enjoyed the excitement,
being able to hug the secret hope all day that when the
drawing came in the evening he would find himself the
happy owner of the golden sovereign that the promoters of
the gamble assured the numerous holders of the sixpenny
tickets would be handed over to whoever held the right
number. When he was old enough to study the newspapers
a stage in life that the youth of Excelsior reached quite
early he read with deep interest, and not without some
amazement, the wonderful opportunities that mining ventures,
racing, and other events that depended upon chance offered
of making a fortune out of nothing. Just think of it. For
one pound and a pound was not so much you might
win five thousand pounds, and be able to set up as an
independent man at once, ride a showy horse and enjoy
life, or go to Europe and be happy there.

Still, these were only boyish freaks after all the
diversions or dissipations of a sanguine temperament He
was a distinctly gentlemanly lad in his manner, his appear-
ance, and also in his disposition. The grandfather, though
one of the Board of Overseers at the University, did not
value college training, and took him into the office at the
Anvil Works when he was only fifteen. But after giving
him a fair trial for nearly a year, the chief clerk (confidential
man), when questioned by Jortin about the lad's progress,
reported truthfully that he had better take to something else,
as he was not adapted to steady office work. He was very
slow in learning to write the proper business hand ; he was


at times late in coming to the office ; and he every now and
then got mysterious telegrams that seemed to require his im-
mediate attention and an early visit to the Mining Exchange.

' I know, sir,' the confidential man added, ' that you
expect me to tell you the facts straight, sir ; and the fact is,
sir, that he don't seem to have his heart in the work.'

' Certainly, Mr. Towers certainly. I do expect you to
tell me the facts, whatever they may be. I am much
obliged to you, Mr. Towers. I will attend to it,' replied
Jortin in his composed office manner. When Towers with-
drew he gave some minutes' consideration to the question,
what he should do with his grandson. He wished to do
what was best for him, though some bitterness still mingled
with his reflections as he recognised in the lad's character traits
plainly inherited from the faultless Shirt Front. Evidently
Gustave Robert d'Ade did not belong to the Jortin side of
the house. In deciding what to do with the boy, he thought
only of the business question what he would be best at, and
never considered the danger that was run by a speculative
youth, such as he was, being brought into close contact with
mining ventures. He asked his friend Borland to give his
grandson a place as a junior on his inspecting staff for mines ;
and he was appointed as clerk to M'lvor, Borland's managing
man, and to attend him when he went out on his visits to
the mines.

He proved to be a most agreeable companion, and
had an excellent manner in dealing with people. To
M'lvor he was quite deferential ; yet in conversation and
address he appeared to be the better man, involuntarily and
as if he could not help it. In telling a good story he was
an easy first. The homely and rather diffident M'lvor could
only listen respectfully. He had the knack of saying the
right thing at the right moment. He looked at all the
mining managers and speculators that they met in busi-
ness in an open, engaging manner, as much as to say,
' All right, let us be good friends, even though we are
trying to do one another.' But unfortunately he was now
right in the middle of a little world of gambling, venture,
chance ; where men lived on, and a few prospered by, not
work, but speculation, lucky hits, fortunes made out of


nothing, or out of the ruin of other people. He was really
not a bad youth ; but he had not ballast enough for the sail
that he carried not enough, at least, in the dangerous
latitude in which he now found himself. It was inevitable
that, with that nature of his, he should speculate, a little at
least. It was a small thing that he intended when he began.
He got two hundred shares in the newly-projected Syphon
Silver Mining Company at sevenpence-halfpenny each. In
a few months they struck the ore, and he sold the shares for
.150. He thought that his fortune was made. But it was
only his fate that was being accomplished. Naturally, he
went on from one venture to another, sanguine, cheerful,
excitable, till at last he got, by the well-worn downward
steps, into that pit from which his only possible means of
rescue was to get an immediate advance of a couple of
hundred pounds from somebody. But from whom ? Where
is the two hundred pounds to come from ? This is a
question that has been asked by thousands, before and
since, who have been in a similar perplexity, but which has
been satisfactorily solved by few. As spending money when
you are in no want of it is one of the easiest things possible,
so getting money when you must have it is one of the most
difficult things in the world. So who was to give this large
sum to young d'Ade ? In this fatal perplexity, confident
as ever of the success of the very latest speculation that he
had taken, when all could be repaid, if only he could tide
over the immediate difficulty, he had sought escape by the
means that Slater Scully's story describes, and with the
result that the reader knows.

But when this unhappy event had been completed, as far
as the public were concerned, by the acquittal of the forger,
and the storm of public indignation had broken, not upon
him, but upon Jortin, the chief trial of the unhappy Alder-
man was, as we have said, in his own home. It was in vain
that he reminded his wife, usually the meek Fanny, that he
was not only a man of business, whose word was his bond,
and who dare not compromise himself by acting a sham,
but also a Justice of the Peace for the Province of Excelsior,
and thus specially charged with maintaining the law ; or

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 39 of 45)