I hurried down the avenue to where it joined the dusty
I stood for a few moments in indecision.
To my left, down in the hollow, the way led through
the village. To my right, it stretched far on
the level until it narrowed to a grey point piercing
a semi-circle of green; but I knew that miles beyond,
at the end of that grey line, was the busy town of
Grangeborough, with its thronging people, its railways
and its steamships. That was the direction for
I waved my hand to sleepy little Brammerton
and I swung to the right, for Grangeborough and the
Soon the internal tumult, caused by
what I had just gone through, began to subside, and
my spirits rose attune to the glories of the afternoon.
Little I cared what my lot was destined
to be a prince in a palace or a tramp under
a hedge. Although, to say truth, the tramp’s
existence held for me the greater fascination.
I was young, my lungs were sound and
my heart beat well. I was big and endowed with
greater strength than is allotted the average man.
Glad to be done with pomp, show and
convention, my life was now my very own to plan and
make, or to warp and spoil, as fancy, fortune and fate
I hankered for the undisturbed quiet
of some small village by the sea, with work enough, but
no more, to keep body nourished and covered;
with books in plenty and my pipe well filled; with
an open door to welcome the sunshine, the scented
breeze, the salted spray from the ocean and my congenial
But, if I should be led in the paths
of grubbing men, ’mid bustle, strife and quarrel,
where the strong and the crafty alone survived, where
the weaklings were thrust aside, I was ready and willing
to take my place, to take my chance, to pit brawn
against brawn, brain against brain, to strike blow
for blow, to fail or to succeed, to live or die, as
the gods might decree.
As I filled my lungs, I felt as if
I had relieved myself of some great burden in cutting
myself adrift from Brammerton, dear old
spot as it was. And I whistled and hummed as
I trudged along, trying to reach the point of grey
at the rim of the semi-circle of green. On, on
I went, on my seemingly unending endeavour.
But I knew that ultimately the road would end, although
merely to open up another and yet another path over
which I would have to travel in the long journey of
life which lay before me.
As I kept on, I saw the sun go down
in a display of blood-red pyrotechnics. I heard
the chatter of the birds in the hedgerows as they
settled to rest. Now and again, I passed a tired
toiler, with bent head and dragging feet, his
drudgery over for the day, but weighted with the knowledge
that it must begin all over again on the morrow and
on each succeeding morrow till the crash of his doom.
The night breeze came up and darkness
gathered round me. A few hours more, and the
twinkling lights of Grangeborough came into view.
They were welcome lights to me, for the pangs of
a healthy hunger were clamouring to be appeased.
As it had been with the country some
hours before, so was it now with Grangeborough.
The town was settling down for the night. It
was late. Most of the shops were closing, or
already closed. Business was over for the day.
People hurried homeward like shadows.
I looked about me for a place to dine,
but failed, at first, in my quest. Down toward
the docks there were brighter lights and correspondingly
deeper darknesses. I went along a broad thoroughfare,
turned down a narrower one until I found myself among
lanes and alleys, jostled by drunken sailors and accosted
by wanton women, as they staggered, blinking, from
the brightly lighted saloons.
My finer sensibilities rose and protested
within me, but I had no choice. If I wished
to quell my craving for food, there was nothing left
for me to do but to brave the foul air and the rough
element of one of these sawdust-floored, glass-ornamented
whisky palaces, where a snack and a glass of ale,
at least, could be purchased.
I looked about me and pushed into
what seemed the least disreputable one of its kind.
I made through the haze of foul air and tobacco smoke
to the counter, and stood idly by until the bar-tender
should find it convenient to wait upon me.
The place was crowded with sea-faring
men and the human sediment that is found in and around
the docks of all shipping cities; it resounded with
a babel of coarse, discordant voices.
The greater part of this coterie was
gathered round a huge individual, with enormous hands
and feet, a stubbly, blue chin, set, round
and aggressive; a nose with a broken bridge spoiled
the balance of his podgy face. He had beady
eyes and a big, ugly mouth with stained, irregular
teeth. From time to time, he laughed boisterously,
and his laugh had an echo of hell in it.
He and his followers appeared to be
enjoying some good joke. But whenever he spoke
every one else became silent. Each coarse jest
he mouthed was laughed at long and uproariously.
He had a hold on his fellows. Even I was fascinated;
but it was by the great similarity of some of the
mannerisms of this uncouth man to those I had observed
in the lower brute creation.
My attention was withdrawn from him,
however, by the sound of the rattling of tin cans
in another corner which was partly partitioned from
the main bar-room. I followed the new sound.
A tattered individual was seated there,
his feet among a cluster of pots and pans all strung
together. His head was in his hands and his
red-bearded face was a study of dejection and misery.
There was something strangely familiar
in the appearance of the man.
Suddenly I remembered, and I laughed.
I went over and sat down opposite
him, setting my golf clubs by my side. He ignored
my arriving. That same old trick of his!
“Donald, Donald Robertson!”
I exclaimed, laughing again.
Still he did not look across.
Suddenly he spoke, and in a voice that knew neither
hope nor gladness.
“Ye laugh, ye name
me by my Christian name, but ye don’t
say, ‘Donald, will ye taste?’”
I leaned over and pulled his hands
away from his head. He flopped forward, then
glared at me. His eyes opened wide.
you, is it? The second son come to
me in my hour o’ trial.”
“Why! Donald, what’s
the trouble?” I asked.
“Trouble, ye may
well say trouble. Have ye mind o’ the sixpence
ye gied me on the roadside this mornin’.”
“For thirteen long, unlucky
hours I saved that six-pence against my time o’
need. I tied it in the tail o’ my sark
for safety. I came in here an hour ago.
I ordered a glass o’ whisky and a tumbler o’
beer. I sat doon here for a while wi’ them
both before me, enjoying the sight o’ them and
indulgin’ in the heavenly joy o’ anteecipation.
Then I drank the speerits and was just settlin’
doon to the beer, tryin’ to make
it spin oot as long as I could; for, ye ken, it’s
comfortable in here, when an emissary o’
the deevil, wi’ hands like shovels and a leer
in his e’e, came in and picked up the tumbler
frae under my very nose and swallowed the balance
o’ your six-pence before I could say squeak.”
I laughed at Donald’s rueful
countenance and his more than rueful tale.
“Did the man have a broken nose
and a heavy jaw?” I asked.
“Ay, ay!” said Donald,
lowering his voice. “Do ye happen to ken
“No! but he is still
out there and he thinks it a fine joke that he played
“So would I,” said Donald, “if I
had drunk his beer.”
“What did you do when he swallowed off your
drink?” I asked.
“Do! what do ye think
I did? I remonstrated wi’ a’ the
vehemence that a Struan Robertson in anger is capable
o’. But the vehemence o’ the Lord
himsel’ couldna bring the beer back.”
“Why didn’t you fight,
man? Why didn’t you knock the bully down?”
I asked, pitying his wobegone appearance.
your name is, I’m a man o’ peace;
and, forby I’m auld enough to ken it’s
no’ wise to fight on an empty stomach.
I havena had a bite since I saw ye last.”
“Never mind, Donald, cheer
up. I am going to have some bread and cheese,
and a glass of ale, so you can have some with me, at
His face lit up like a Roman candle.
“Man, I’m wi’
ye. You’re a man o’ substance, and
I’m fonder o’ substantial bread and cheese
and beer than I am o’ the metapheesical drinks
I was indulgin’ in for ten minutes before ye
so providentially came.”
I could not help wondering at some
of the remarks of this wise, yet good-for-little,
old customer; but I did not press him for more enlightenment.
I thumped the hand-bell on the table,
and was successful in obtaining more prompt attention
from the bar-tender than I had been able to do across
When the food and drink were placed
between us and paid for, Donald stuffed all but one
slice of his bread and cheese inside his waistcoat,
and he sighed contentedly as he contemplated the sparkling
But, all at once, he startled me by
springing to his feet, seizing his tumbler in his
hand and emptying the contents down his gullet at two
“No, no! ye thievin’
deevil,” he shouted, as he regained his breath,
“ye canna do that twice wi’ Donald Robertson.”
I looked toward the opening in the
partition. Donald’s recent enemy, the
man whom I had been studying at the other end of the
bar-room, was shouldering himself into our
company. Behind him, in a semi-circle, a dozen
faces grinned in anticipation of some more fun at
The big bully glared down at me as I sat.
“That there is uncommon good
beer, young un,” he growled, “and that
there is most uncommon good bread and cheese.”
I glanced at him with half-shut eyelids,
then I broke off another piece of bread.
“Maybe you didn’t ’ear
me?” he shouted again, “I said that was
uncommon good beer.”
“I shall be better able to judge
of that, my man, after I have tasted it,” I
“Not that beer, little boy, you
ain’t going to taste that,” he thundered,
“because I ’appens to want it, see!
I ’appens to ’ave a most aggrawating
thirst in my gargler.”
A burst of laughter followed this
ponderous attempt at humour.
“’And it over, sonny, I wants
I merely raised my head and ran my eyes over him.
He was an ugly brute, and no mistake. A man
of tremendous girth.
Although I had no real fear of him, for,
already I had been schooled to the knowledge that
fear and its twin brother worry are man’s worst
opponents. I was a little uncertain as to
what the outcome would be if I got him thoroughly
angered. However, I was in no mind to be interfered
He thumped his heavy fist on the table.
“’And that over, quick,”
His great jaws clamped together and
his thick, discoloured lips became compressed.
my friend,” I remarked easily, rising with slow
deliberation. “Which will you have first: the
bread and cheese, or the ale?”
“‘Twere the ale I arst
and it’s th’ ale I wants, and
blamed quick about it or I’ll know the reason
“Stupid of me!” I remarked.
“I should have known you wanted the ale first.
Here you are, my good, genial, handsome fellow.”
I picked up the foaming tumbler and
offered it to him. When he stretched out his
great, grimy paw to take it, I tossed the stuff smack
into his face, sending showers of the liquid into the
gaping countenances of his supporters.
He staggered back among them, momentarily
blinded, and, as he staggered, I sent the tumbler
on the same errand as the ale. It smashed in
a hundred pieces on the side of his broken nose, opening
up an old gash there and sending a stream of blood
oozing down over his mouth.
There was no more laughter, nor grinning.
The place was as quiet as a church during prayer.
I pushed into the open saloon, with the remonstrating
Donald at my heels. Then the bull began to roar.
He pulled off his coat, while half a dozen of his
own kind endeavoured with dirty handkerchiefs and
rags to mop the blood from his face.
“Shut the door. Don’t
let ’im away from ’ere,” he shouted.
“I’ll push his windpipe into his boots,
I will. Watch me!”
As I stood with my back against the
partition, the bar-tender slipped round the end of
“Look here, guv’nor,”
he whispered with good intent, “the back door’s
open, run like the devil.”
I turned to him in mild surprise.
“Don’t be an ijit,”
he went on. “Git. Why! he’s
Tommy Flynn, the champion rib cracker and face pusher
of Harlford, here on his holidays.”
“Tommy Flynn,” I answered, “Tommy
Rot fits him better.”
“You ain’t a-going to stand up and get
hit, are you?”
“What else is there for me to do?” I asked.
He threw up his arms despairingly.
“Lor’ lumme! then
I bids you good-bye and washes my hands clean of you.”
And he went round behind the counter in disgust, spitting
among the sawdust.
By this time, Tommy Flynn, the champion
rib cracker and face pusher, was rolling up his sleeves
businesslike and thrusting off his numerous seconds
in his anxiety to get at me.
he cried to a one-eyed bosom friend of his, “’old
my watch, while I joggles the puddins out of this
kid with a left ’ander. My heye! ’e
won’t be no blooming golfing swell in another
He grinned at me a few times in order
to hypnotise me with his beauty and to instil in me
the necessary amount of frightfulness, before he got
to work in earnest. Then, by way of invitation,
he thrust forward his jaw almost into my face.
I took advantage of his offer somewhat more quickly
than he anticipated. I struck him on the chin
with my left and drew my right to his body.
But his chin was hard as flint and it bruised my knuckles;
while his great body was podgy and of an india-rubberlike
For my pains, he brushed my ear and
drew a little blood, with the grin of an ape on his
He threw up his arms to guard, feinted
at me, and rushed in.
I parried his blows successfully,
much to his surprise, for I could see his eyes widening
and a wrinkle in his brow.
“Careful, Tommy! careful,”
cautioned Splotch of the one eye. “He’s
a likely looking young bloke.”
“Likely be blowed,” said
Tommy shortly, as he toyed with me. “Watch
I saw that it would be for my own
good, the less I let my antagonist know of my ability
at his own game, and I knew also I would have to play
caution with my strength all the way, owing to the
trying ordeals I had already gone through that day.
Once, my antagonist tried to draw
me as he would draw a novice. I ignored the
body bait he opened up for me and, instead, I swung
in quickly with my right on to his bruised nose, with
all the energy I could muster. He staggered
and reeled like a drunken man. In fact, had
he not been half-besotted by dear-only-knows how many
days of debauchery, it might have gone hard with me,
but now he positively howled with pain.
I had hit on his most vulnerable part,
right at the beginning.
Something inside of me chuckled, for,
if there was one special place in any man’s
anatomy that I always had been able to reach, it was
Flynn rushed on me again and again.
I was lucky indeed in beating back his onslaughts.
Once, a spent blow got me on the cheek;
yet, spent as it was, it made me numb and dizzy for
the moment. Once, he caught me squarely on the
chest right over the wound my brother had given me.
The pain of that was like the cut of a red-hot knife,
but it passed quickly. I staggered and reeled
several times, as flashes of weakness seemed to pass
over me. I began to fear that my strength would
I pulled myself together with an effort.
Then, once, twice, thrice, in
a succession bewildering to myself, I smashed that
broken nose of Flynn’s, sending him sick and
wobbling among his following.
He became maddened with rage.
His companions commenced to voice cautions and instructions.
He swore back at them in a muddy torrent of abuse.
Already, the fight was over; I
could feel it in my bones; over, far sooner
and more satisfactory to me than I had expected.
And, more by good luck than by ability, I was, to
all intents and purposes, unscathed.
Tommy Flynn could fight. But
he was not the fighter he would have been had he been
away from drink and in strict training, as I was.
It was my good fortune to meet him when he was out
of condition. He spat out a mouthful of blood
and returned to the conflict, defending his nose with
all the ferocity of a lioness defending her whelps.
“Look out! Take care!”
a timely voice whispered on my left.
Something flashed in my opponent’s
hands in the gaslight. I backed to the partition.
We had a terrible mix-up just then. Blow and
counterblow rained. He broke down my guard once
and drove with fierce force for my face. I ducked,
just in time, for he missed me by a mere hair’s-breadth.
His fist smashed into a metal bolt in the woodwork.
Sparks flew and there was a loud ring of metal against
“You cowardly brute!”
I shouted, breaking away as it dawned on me that he
had attacked me with heavy knuckle-dusters. My
blood fairly danced with madness. I sprang in
on him in a positive frenzy. He became a child
in my hands. Never had I been roused as I was
then. I struck and struck again at his hideous
face until it sagged away from me.
He was blind with his own blood.
I followed up, raining punch upon punch, pitilessly, relentlessly.
His feet slipped in the slither of bloody sawdust.
I struck again and he crashed to the floor, striking
his head against the iron pedestal of a round table
in the corner.
He lay all limp and senseless, with
his mouth wide open and his breath coming roaring
and gurgling from his clotted throat.
As his friends endeavoured to raise
him, as I stood back against the counter, panting,
I heard a battering at the main door of the saloon
which had been closed at the commencement of the scuffle.
“Here, sir, quick!”
cried the sympathetic bartender to me. “The
cops! Out the back door like hell!”
I had no desire to be mixed up in
a police affair, especially in the company of such
scum as I was then among. I picked up my golf
bag and swung my knapsack on to my back once more.
Then I remembered about Donald. I could not
leave him. I searched in corners and under the
tables. He was nowhere in sight.
“Is it the tinker?” asked the bar-tender
“He’s gone. He slunk
out with his tin cans, through the back way, as soon
as you got started in this scrap.”
I did not wait for anything more,
for some one was unlocking the front door. I
darted out the back exit and into the lane. Down
the lane, in the darkness, I tore like a hurricane,
then along the waterfront until there was a mile between
me and the scene of my late encounter.
I slowed up at a convenient horse-trough,
splashed my hands and face in the cooling water and
adjusted my clothing as best I could, then I strolled
into the shipping shed, where stevedores and dock labourers
were busy, by electric light, completing the loading
of a smart-looking little cargo boat.
A notion seized me. It was a
coaster, so I knew I could not be going very far away.
I walked up the gang-plank, and aboard.