Mr. Rae in forty years' experience had
never been so seriously disturbed. To his intense humiliation he found
himself abjectly appealing to the senior member of the firm of
Thomlinson & Shields. Not that Mr. Thomlinson was obdurate; in the
presence of mere obduracy Mr. Rae might have found relief in the
conscious possession of more generous and humane instincts than those
supposed to be characteristic of the members of his profession. Mr.
Thomlinson, however, was anything but obdurate. He was eager to oblige,
but he was helpless. The instructions he had received were simple but
imperative, and he had gone to unusual lengths in suggesting to Mr.
Sheratt, the manager of the Bank, a course of greater leniency. That
gentleman's only reply was a brief order to proceed with the case.
With Mr. Sheratt, therefore, Mr. Rae
proceeded to deal. His first move was to invite the Bank manager to
lunch, in order to discuss some rather important matters relative to one
of the great estates of which Mr. Rae was supposed to be the guardian.
Some fifty years' experience of Mr. Sheratt as boy and man had let Mr.
Rae into a somewhat intimate knowledge of the workings of that
gentleman's mind. Under the mollifying influences of the finest of old
port, Mr. Rae made the discovery that as with Mr. Thomlinson, so with
Mr. Sheratt there was every disposition to oblige, and indeed an
eagerness to yield to the lawyer's desires; it was not Mr. Sheratt, but
the Bank that was immovable. Firm-fixed it stood upon its bedrock of
tradition that in matters of fraud, crime should be punished to the full
limit of the law.
"The estate of the criminal, high or low,"
said Mr. Sheratt impressively, "matters not. The Bank stands upon the
principle, and from this it cannot be moved." Mr. Sheratt began to wax
eloquent. "Fidelity to its constituency, its shareholders, its
depositors, indeed to the general public, is the corner-stone of its
policy. The Bank of Scotland is a National Institution, with a certain
Mr. Rae quietly drew from his pocket a
pamphlet, opened it slowly, and glanced at the page. "Ay, it's as I
thought, Mr. Sheratt," he said dryly. "At times I wondered where Sir
Archibald got his style."
Mr. Sheratt blushed like a boy caught
"But now since I know who it is that
writes the speech of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, tell me,
Sheratt, as man to man, is it you or is it Sir Archibald that's at the
back of this prosecution? For if it is you, I've something to say to
you; if not, I'll just say it where it's most needed. In some way or
other I'm bound to see this thing through. That boy can't go to prison.
Now tell me, Tom? It's for auld sake's sake."
"As sure as death, Rae, it's the Chairman,
and it's God's truth I'm telling ye, though I should not." They were
back again into the speech and spirit of their boyhood days.
"Then I must see Sir Archibald. Give me
time to see him, Tom."
"It's a waste of time, I'm tellin' ye, but
two days I'll give ye, Sandy, for auld sake's sake, as you say. A
friendship of half a hundred years should mean something to us. For your
sake I'd let the lad go, God knows, and there's my han' upon it, but as
I said, that lies with Sir Archibald."
The old friends shook hands in silence.
"Thank ye, Tom, thank ye," said Mr. Rae;
"I knew it."
"But harken to me, ye'll no' move Sir
Archibald, for on this particular point he's quite mad. He'd prosecute
the Duke of Argyll, he would. But two days are yours, Sandy. And mind
with Sir Archibald ye treat his Bank with reverence! It's a National
Institution, with National obligations, ye ken?" Mr. Sheratt's wink
conveyed a volume of meaning. "And mind you, Rae," here Mr. Sheratt grew
grave, "I am trusting you to produce that lad when wanted."
"I have him in safe keeping, Tom, and
shall produce him, no fear."
And with that the two old gentlemen
parted, loyal to a lifelong friendship, but loyal first to the trust of
those they stood pledged to serve; for the friendship that gives first
place to honour is the only friendship that honourable men can hold.
Mr. Rae set off for his office through the
drizzling rain. "Now then, for the Captain," he said to himself; "and a
state he will be in! Why did I ever summon him to town? Then for Mr.
Dunn, who must keep his eye upon the young man."
In his office he found Captain Cameron in
a state of distraction that rendered him incapable of either coherent
thought or speech. "What now, Rae? Where have you been? What news have
you? My God, this thing is driving me mad! Penal servitude! Think of it,
man, for my son! Oh, the scandal of it! It will kill me and kill his
sister. What's your report? Come, out with it! Have you seen Mr.
Sheratt?" He was pacing up and down the office like a beast in a cage.
"Tut, tut, Captain Cameron," said Mr. Rae
lightly, "this is no way for a soldier to face the enemy. Sit down and
we will just lay out our campaign."
But the Captain's soldiering, which was of
the lightest, had taught him little either of the spirit or of the
tactics of warfare. "Campaign!" he exclaimed. "There's no campaign about
it. It's a complete smash, horse, foot, and artillery."
"Nonsense, Captain Cameron!" exclaimed Mr.
Rae more briskly than his wont, for the Captain irritated him. "We have
still fighting to do, and hence we must plan our campaign. But first let
us get comfortable. Here Davie," he called, opening the office door,
"here, mend this fire. It's a winter's day this," he continued to the
Captain, "and goes to the marrow."
Davie, a wizened, clean-shaven,
dark-visaged little man, appeared with a scuttle of coal. "Ay, Davie;
that's it! Is that cannel?"
"Ay, Sir, it is. What else? I aye get the
"That's right, Davie. It's a gran' coal."
"Gran' it's no'," said Davie shortly, who
was a fierce radical in politics, and who strove to preserve his sense
of independence of all semblance of authority by cultivating a habit of
disagreement. "Gran' it's no'," he repeated, "but it's the best the
Farquhars hae, though that's no' saying much. It's no' what I call
"Well, well, Davie, it blazes finely at
any rate," said Mr. Rae, determined to be cheerful, and rubbing his
hands before the blazing coal.
"Ay, it bleezes," grumbled Davie, "when
it's no' smootherin'."
"Come then, Davie, that will do. Clear
out," said Mr. Rae to the old servant, who was cleaning up the hearth
with great diligence and care.
But Davie was not to be hurried. He had
his regular routine in fire-mending, from which no power could move him.
"Ay, Sir," he muttered, brushing away with his feather besom. "I'll
clear oot when I clear up. When a thing's no' dune richt it's no dune
"True, Davie, true enough; that's a noble
sentiment. But will that no' do now?" Mr. Rae knew himself to be
helpless in Davie's hands, and he knew also that nothing short of
violence would hasten Davie from his "usual."
"Ay, that'll dae, because it's richt dune.
But that's no' what I call cannel," grumbled Davie, glowering fiercely
at the burning coal, as if meditating a fresh attack.
"Well, well," said Mr. Rae, "tell the
Farquhars about it."
"Ay, Sir, I will that," said Davie, as he
reluctantly took himself off with his scuttle and besom.
The Captain was bursting with fretful
impatience. "Impudent old rascal!" he exclaimed. "Why don't you dismiss
"Dismiss him!" echoed Mr. Rae in
consternation. "Dismiss him!" he repeated, as if pondering an entirely
new idea. "I doubt if Davie would consider that. But now let us to
work." He set two arm-chairs before the fire, and placed a box of cigars
by the Captain's elbow. "I have seen Sheratt," he began. "I'm quite
clear it is not in his hands."
"In whose then?" burst forth the Captain.
Mr. Rae lit his cigar carefully. "The
whole matter, I believe, lies now with the Chairman of the Board of
Directors, Sir Archibald Brodie."
"Brodie!" cried the Captain. "I know him.
Pompous little fool!"
"Fool, Captain Cameron! Make no mistake.
Sir Archibald may have—ah—the self-importance of a self-made man
somewhat under the average height, but he is, without doubt, the best
financier that stands at this moment in Scotland, and during the last
fifteen years he has brought up the Bank of Scotland to its present
position. Fool! He's anything but that. But he has his weak spots—I wish
I knew what they were!—and these we must seek to find out. Do you know
"Oh, yes, quite well," said the Captain;
"that is, I've met him at various functions, where he always makes
speeches. Very common, I call him. I know his father; a mere cottar. I
mean," added the Captain hurriedly, for he remembered that Mr. Rae was
of the same humble origin, "you know, he is thoroughly respectable and
all that, but of no—ah—social or family standing; that is—oh, you
"Quite," said Mr. Rae drily.
"Yes, I shall see him," continued the
Captain briskly. "I shall certainly see him. It is a good suggestion.
Sir Archibald knows my family; indeed, his father was from the Erracht
region. I shall see him personally. I am glad you thought of that, Mr.
Rae. These smaller men, Sheratt and the rest, I do not know—in fact, I
do not seem to be able to manage them,—but with Sir Archibald there will
be no difficulty, I feel quite confident. When can you arrange the
Mr. Rae sat gazing thoughtfully into the
fire, more and more convinced every moment that he had made a false move
in suggesting a meeting between the Captain and Sir Archibald Brodie.
But labour as he might he could not turn the Captain from his purpose.
He was resolved to see Sir Archibald at the earliest moment, and of the
result of the meeting he had no manner of doubt.
"He knew my family, Sir," insisted the
Captain. "Sir Archibald will undoubtedly accede to my
suggestion—ah—request to withdraw his action. Arrange it, Mr. Rae,
arrange it at once."
And ruefully enough Mr. Rae was compelled
to yield against his better judgment.
It was discovered upon inquiry that Sir
Archibald had gone for a day or two to his country estate. "Ah, much
better," said the Captain, "away from his office and away from
the—ah—commercial surroundings of the city. Much better, much better! We
shall proceed to his country home."
Of the wisdom of this proposal Mr. Rae was
doubtful. There seemed, however, no other way open. Hence, the following
morning found them on their way to Sir Archibald's country seat. Mr. Rae
felt that it was an unusual course to pursue, but the time was short,
the occasion was gravely critical, and demanded extreme measures.
During their railway journey Mr. Rae
strove to impress upon the Captain's mind the need of diplomacy. "Sir
Archibald is a man of strong prejudices," he urged; "for instance, his
Bank he regards with an affection and respect amounting to veneration.
He is a bachelor, you understand, and his Bank is to him wife and
bairns. On no account must you treat his Bank lightly."
"Oh, certainly not," replied the Captain,
who was inclined to resent Mr. Rae's attempts to school him in
"He is a great financier," continued Mr.
Rae, "and with him finance is a high art, and financial integrity a
"Oh, certainly, certainly," again replied
the Captain, quite unimpressed by this aspect of the matter, for while
he considered himself distinctly a man of affairs, yet his interests lay
more in matters of great public moment. Commercial enterprises he
regarded with a feeling akin to contempt. Money was an extremely
desirable, and indeed necessary, appendage to a gentleman's position,
but how any man of fine feeling could come to regard a financial
institution with affection or veneration he was incapable of conceiving.
However, he was prepared to deal considerately with Sir Archibald's
peculiar prejudices in this matter.
Mr. Rae's forebodings as to the outcome of
the approaching interview were of the most gloomy nature as they drove
through the finely appointed and beautifully kept grounds of Sir
Archibald Brodie's estate. The interview began inauspiciously. Sir
Archibald received them with stiff courtesy. He hated to be pursued to
his country home with business matters. Besides, at this particular
moment he was deeply engrossed in the inspection of his pigs, for which
animals he cherished what might almost be called an absorbing affection.
Mr. Rae, who was proceeding with diplomatic caution and skill to
approach the matter in hand by way of Sir Archibald's Wiltshires, was
somewhat brusquely interrupted by the Captain, who, in the firm
conviction that he knew much better than did the lawyer how to deal with
a man of his own class, plunged at once into the subject.
"Awfully sorry to introduce business
matters, Sir Archibald, to the attention of a gentleman in the privacy
of his own home, but there is a little matter in connection with the
Bank in which I am somewhat deeply interested."
Sir Archibald bowed in silence.
"Rather, I should say, it concerns my son,
and therefore, Sir Archibald, myself and my family."
Again Sir Archibald bowed.
"It is, after all, a trivial matter, which
I have no doubt can be easily arranged between us. The truth is, Sir
Archibald—," here the Captain hesitated, as if experiencing some
difficulty in stating the case.
"Perhaps Captain Cameron will allow me to
place the matter before you, Sir Archibald," suggested Mr. Rae, "as it
has a legal aspect of some gravity, indeed of very considerable gravity.
It is the case of young Mr. Cameron."
"Ah," said Sir Archibald shortly. "Forgery
case, I believe."
"Well," said Mr. Rae, "we have not been
able as yet to get at the bottom of it. I confess that the case has
certainly very grave features connected with it, but it is by no means
"There is no need for further statement,
Mr. Rae," said Sir Archibald. "I know all about it. It is a clear case
of forgery. The facts have all been laid before me, and I have given my
"And what may these be, may I inquire?"
said the Captain somewhat haughtily.
"The usual instructions, Sir, where the
Bank of Scotland is concerned, instructions to prosecute." Sir
Archibald's lips shut in a firm, thin line. As far as he was concerned
the matter was closed.
"But, Sir," exclaimed the Captain, "this
young man is my son."
"I deeply regret it," replied Sir
"Yes, Sir, he is my son, and the honour of
my family is involved."
Sir Archibald bowed.
"I am here prepared to offer the fullest
reparation, to offer the most generous terms of settlement; in short, I
am willing to do anything in reason to have this matter—this unfortunate
"Hushed up!" exclaimed Sir Archibald.
"Captain Cameron, it is impossible. I am grieved for you, but I have a
duty to the Bank in this matter."
"Do you mean to say, Sir," cried the
Captain, "that you refuse to consider any arrangement or compromise or
settlement of any kind whatever? I am willing to pay the amount ten
times over, rather than have my name dragged through legal proceedings."
"It is quite impossible," said Sir
"Come, come, Sir Archibald," said the
Captain, exercising an unusual self-control; "let us look at this thing
as two gentlemen should who respect each other, and who know what is due
It was an unfortunate remark of the
"Our class, Sir? I presume you mean the
class of gentlemen. All that is due to our class or any other class is
strict justice, and that you, Sir, or any other gentleman, shall receive
to the very fullest in this matter. The honour of the Bank, which I
regard as a great National Institution charged with National
responsibilities, is involved, as is also my own personal honour. I
sincerely trust your son may be cleared of every charge of crime, but
this case must be prosecuted to the very fullest degree."
"And do you mean to tell me, Sir
Archibald," exclaimed the Captain, now in a furious passion, "that for
the sake of a few paltry pounds you will blast my name and my family
name in this country?—a name, I venture to say, not unknown in the
history of this nation. The Camerons, Sir, have fought and bled for King
and country on many a battlefield. What matters the question of a few
pounds in comparison with the honour of an ancient and honourable name?
You cannot persist in this attitude, Sir Archibald!"
"Pounds, Sir!" cried Sir Archibald, now
thoroughly aroused by the contemptuous reference to what to him was
dearer than anything in life. "Pounds, Sir! It is no question of pounds,
but a question of the honour of a National Institution, a question of
the lives and happiness of hundreds of widows and orphans, a question of
the honour of a name which I hold as dear as you hold yours."
Mr. Rae was in despair. He laid a
restraining hand upon the Captain, and with difficulty obtained
permission to speak. "Sir Archibald, I crave your indulgence while I put
this matter to you as to a business man. In the first place, there is no
evidence that fraud has been committed by young Mr. Cameron, absolutely
none.—Pardon me a moment, Sir Archibald.—The fraud has been committed, I
grant, by someone, but by whom is as yet unknown. The young man for some
weeks has been in a state of incapacity; a most blameworthy and indeed
shameful condition, it is true, but in a state of incapacity to transact
business. He declares that he has no knowledge of this act of forgery.
He will swear this. I am prepared to defend him."
"Very well, Sir," interrupted Sir
Archibald, "and I hope, I sincerely hope, successfully."
"But while it may be difficult to
establish innocence, it will be equally difficult to establish guilt.
Meantime, the young man's life is blighted, his name dishonoured, his
family plunged into unspeakable grief. I venture to say that it is a
case in which the young man might be given, without injury to the Bank,
or without breaking through its traditional policy, the benefit of the
But Sir Archibald had been too deeply
stirred by Captain Cameron's unfortunate remarks to calmly weigh Mr.
Rae's presentation of the case. "It is quite useless, Mr. Rae," he
declared firmly. "The case is out of my hands, and must be proceeded
with. I sincerely trust you may be able to establish the young man's
innocence. I have nothing more to say."
And from this position neither Mr. Rae's
arguments nor the Captain's passionate pleadings could move him.
Throughout the return journey the Captain
raged and swore. "A contemptible cad, Sir! a base-born, low-bred cad,
Sir! What else could you expect from a fellow of his breeding? The
insolence of these lower orders is becoming insupportable. The idea! the
very idea! His bank against my family name, my family honour!
"Honour is honour, Captain Cameron,"
replied Mr. Rae firmly, "and it might have been better if you had
remembered that the honour of a cottar's son is as dear to him as yours
is to you."
And such was Mr. Rae's manner that the
Captain appeared to consider it wise to curb his rage, or at least
suppress all reference to questions of honour in as far as they might be
related to the question of birth and breeding.