Mr. James Ritchie, manager of the Bank of
Montreal, glanced from the letter in his hand to the young man who had
just given it to him. "Ah! you have just arrived from the old land," he
said, a smile of genial welcome illuminating his handsome face. "I am
pleased to hear from my old friend, Sir Archibald Brodie, and pleased to
welcome any friend of his to Canada."
So saying, with fine old-time courtesy,
the banker rose to his splendid height of six feet two, and shook his
visitor warmly by the hand.
"Your name is—?"
"Cameron, Sir," said the young man.
"Yes, I see! Mr. Allan Cameron—um, um,"
with his eyes on the letter. "Old and distinguished family—exactly so!
Now, then, Mr. Cameron, I hope we shall be able to do something for you,
both for the sake of my old friend, Sir Archibald, and, indeed, for your
own sake," said the banker, with a glance of approval at Cameron's
"Sit down, Sir! Sit down! Now, business
first is my motto. What can I do for you?"
"Well, first of all," said Cameron with a
laugh, "I wish to make a deposit. I have a draft of one hundred pounds
here which I should like to place in your care."
"Very well, Sir," said the banker,
touching a button, "my young man will attend to that."
"Now, then," when the business had been
transacted, "what are your plans, Mr. Cameron? Thirty-five years ago I
came to Montreal a young man, from Scotland, like yourself, and it was a
lonely day for me when I reached this city, the loneliest in my life,
and so my heart warms to the stranger from the old land. Yes," continued
Mr. Ritchie, in a reminiscent tone, "I remember well! I hired as errand
boy and general factotum to a small grocer down near the market.
Montreal was a small city then, with wretched streets—they're bad enough
yet—and poor buildings; everything was slow and backward; there have
been mighty changes since. But here we are! Now, what are your plans?"
"I am afraid they are of the vaguest
kind," said Cameron. "I want something to do."
"What sort of thing? I mean, what has been
the line of your training?"
"I am afraid my training has been
defective. I have passed through Edinburgh Academy, also the University,
with the exception of my last year. But I am willing to take anything."
"Ah!" said the banker thoughtfully. "No
office training, eh?"
"No, Sir. That is, if you except a brief
period of three or four months in the law office of our family
"Law, eh?—I have it! Denman's your man! I
shall give you a letter to Mr. Denman—a lawyer friend of mine. I shall
see him personally to-day, and if you call to-morrow at ten I hope to
have news for you. Meantime, I shall be pleased to have you lunch with
me to-day at the club. One o'clock is the hour. If you would kindly call
at the bank, we shall go down together."
Cameron expressed his gratitude.
"By the way!" said Mr. Ritchie, "where
have you put up?"
"At the Royal," said Cameron.
"Ah! That will do for the present," said
Mr. Ritchie. "I am sorry our circumstances do not permit of my inviting
you to our home. The truth is, Mrs. Ritchie is at present out of the
city. But we shall find some suitable lodging for you. The Royal is far
too expensive a place for a young man with his fortune to make."
Cameron spent the day making the
acquaintance of the beautiful, quaint, if somewhat squalid, old city of
Montreal; and next morning, with a letter of introduction from Mr.
Ritchie, presented himself at Mr. Denman's office. Mr. Denman was a man
in young middle life, athletic of frame, keen of eye, and energetic of
manner; his voice was loud and sharp. He welcomed Cameron with brisk
heartiness, and immediately proceeded to business.
"Let me see," he began, "what is your
idea? What kind of a job are you after?"
"Indeed," replied Cameron, "that is just
what I hardly know."
"Well, what has been your experience? You
are a University man, I believe? But have you had any practical
training? Do you know office work?"
"No, I've had little training for an
office. I was in a law office for part of a year."
"Ah! Familiar with bookkeeping, or
accounting? I suppose you can't run one of these typewriting machines?"
In regard to each of these lines of effort
Cameron was forced to confess ignorance.
"I say!" cried Mr. Denman, "those old
country people seriously annoy me with their inadequate system of
"I am afraid," replied Cameron, "the fault
is more mine than the system's."
"Don't know about that! Don't know about
that!" replied Mr. Denman quickly; "I have had scores of young men, fine
young men, too, come to me; public school men, university men, but quite
unfit for any practical line of work."
Mr. Denman considered for some moments.
"Let us see. You have done some work in a law office. Now," Mr. Denman
spoke with some hesitation; "I have a place in my own office here—not
much in it for the present, but—"
"To tell the truth," interrupted Cameron,
"I did not make much of the law; in fact, I do not think I am suited for
office work. I would prefer something in the open. I had thought of the
"Farming," exclaimed Mr. Denman. "Ah!—you
would, I suppose, be able to invest something?"
"No," said Cameron, "nothing."
Denman shook his head. "Nothing in it! You
would not earn enough to buy a farm about here in fifteen years."
"But I understood," replied Cameron, "that
further west was cheaper land."
"Oh! In the far west, yes! But it is a
God-forsaken country! I don't know much about it, I confess. I know they
are booming town lots all over the land. I believe they have gone quite
mad in the business, but from what I hear, the main work in the west
just now is jaw work; the only thing they raise is corner lots."
On Cameron's face there fell the gloom of
discouragement. One of his fondest dreams was being dispelled—his vision
of himself as a wealthy rancher, ranging over square miles of his estate
upon a "bucking broncho," garbed in the picturesque cowboy dress, began
"But there is ranching, I believe?" he
"Ranching? Oh yes! There is, up near the
Rockies, but that is out of civilization; out of reach of everything and
"That is what I want, Sir!" exclaimed
Cameron, his face once more aglow with eager hope. "I want to get away
into the open."
Mr. Denman did not, or could not,
recognise this as the instinctive cry of the primitive man for a closer
fellowship with Mother Nature. He was keenly practical, and impatient
with everything that appeared to him to be purely visionary and
"But, my dear fellow," he said, "a ranch
means cattle and horses; and cattle and horses means money, unless of
course, you mean to be simply a cowboy—cowpuncher, I believe, is the
correct term—but there is nothing in that; no future, I mean. It is all
very well for a little fun, if you have a bank account to stand it,
although some fellows stand it on someone's else bank account—not much
to their credit, however. There is a young friend of mine out there at
present, but from what I can gather his home correspondence is mainly
confined to appeals for remittances from his governor, and his chief
occupation spending these remittances as speedily as possible. All very
well, as I have said, for fun, if you can pay the shot. But to play the
role of gentleman cowboy, while somebody else pays for it, is the sort
of thing I despise."
"And so do I, Sir!" said Cameron. "There
will be no remittance in my case."
Denman glanced at the firm, closed lips
and the stiffening figure.
"That is the talk!" he exclaimed. "No,
there is no chance in ranching unless you have capital."
"As far as I can see," replied Cameron
gloomily, "everything seems closed up except to the capitalist, and yet
from what I heard at home situations were open on every hand in this
"Come here!" cried Denman, drawing Cameron
to the office window. "See those doors!" pointing to a long line of
shops. "Every last one is opened to a man who knows his business. See
those smokestacks! Every last wheel in those factories is howling for a
man who is on to his job. But don't look blue, there is a place for you,
too; the thing is to find it."
"What are those long buildings?" inquired
Cameron, pointing towards the water front.
"Those are railroad sheds; or, rather,
Transportation Company's sheds; they are practically the same thing. I
say! What is the matter with trying the Transportation Company? I know
the manager well. The very thing! Try the Transportation Company!"
"How should I go about it?" said Cameron.
"I mean to say just what position should I apply for?"
"Position!" shouted Denman. "Why, general
manager would be good!"
Then, noting the flush in Cameron's face,
he added quickly, "Pardon me! The thing is to get your foot in somehow,
and then wire in till you are general manager, by Jove! It can be done!
Fleming has done it! Went in as messenger boy, but—" Denman paused.
There flashed through his mind the story of Fleming's career; a vision
of the half-starved ragged waif who started as messenger boy in the
company's offices, and who, by dint of invincible determination and
resolute self-denial, fought his way step by step to his present
position of control. In contrast, he looked at the young man, born and
bred in circles where work is regarded as a calamity, and service wears
the badge of social disfranchisement. Fleming had done it under
compulsion of the inexorable mistress "Necessity." But what of this
"Will we try?" he said at length. "I shall
give you a letter to Mr. Fleming."
He sat down to his desk and wrote
"Take this, and see what happens."
Cameron took the letter, and, glancing at
the address, read, Wm. Fleming, Esquire, General Manager, Metropolitan
Transportation & Cartage Company.
"Is this a railroad?" asked Cameron.
"No, but next thing to it. The companies
are practically one. The transition from one to the other is easy
enough. Let me know how you get on. Good-by! And—I say!" cried Mr.
Denman, calling Cameron back again from the door, "see Mr. Fleming
himself. Remember that! And remember," he added, with a smile, "the
position of manager is not vacant just yet, but it will be. I give you
my word for it when you are ready to take it. Good-by! Buck up! Take
what he offers you! Get your teeth in, and never let go!"
"By George!" said Denman to himself as the
door closed on Cameron, "these chaps are the limit. He's got lots of
stuff in him, but he has been rendered helpless by their fool system—God
save us from it! That chap has had things done for him ever since he was
first bathed; they have washed 'em, dressed 'em, fed 'em, schooled 'em,
found 'em positions, stuck 'em in, and watched that they didn't fall
out. And yet, by George!" he added, after a pause, "they are running the
world to-day—that is, some of them." Facing which somewhat puzzling
phenomenon, Denman plunged into his work again.
Meantime Cameron was making his way
towards the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage
Company, oppressed with an unacknowledged but none the less real sense
of unfitness, and haunted by a depressing sense of the deficiency of his
own training, and of the training afforded the young men of his class at
home. As he started along he battled with his depression. True enough,
he had no skill in the various accomplishments that Mr. Denman seemed to
consider essential; he had no experience in business, he was not fit for
office work—office work he loathed; but surely there was some position
where his talents would bring him recognition and fortune at last. After
all, Mr. Denman was only a Colonial, and with a Colonial's somewhat
narrow view of life. Who was he to criticise the system of training that
for generations had been in vogue at home? Had not Wellington said "that
England's battles were first won on the football fields of Eton and
Rugby," or something like that? Of course, the training that might fit
for a distinguished career in the British army might not necessarily
insure success on the battle fields of industry and commerce. Yet
surely, an International player should be able to get somewhere!
At this point in his cogitations Cameron
was arrested by a memory that stabbed him like a knife-thrust; the awful
moment when upon the Inverleith grounds, in the face of the Welsh
forward-line, he had faltered and lost the International. Should he ever
be able to forget the agony of that moment and of the day that followed?
And yet, he need not have failed. He knew he could play his position
with any man in Scotland; he had failed because he was not fit. He set
his teeth hard. He would show these bally Colonials! He would make good!
And with his head high, he walked into the somewhat dingy offices of the
Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, of which William Fleming,
Esquire, was manager.
Opening the door, Cameron found himself
confronted by a short counter that blocked the way for the general
public into the long room, filled with desks and chairs and clicking
typewriting machines. Cameron had never seen so many of these machines
during the whole period of his life. The typewriter began to assume an
altogether new importance in his mind. Hitherto it had appeared to him
more or less of a Yankee fad, unworthy of the attention of an
able-bodied man of average intelligence. In Edinburgh a "writing
machine" was still something of a new-fangled luxury, to be apologised
for. Mr. Rae would allow no such finicky instrument in his office. Here,
however, there were a dozen, more or less, manipulated for the most part
by young ladies, and some of them actually by men; on every side they
clicked and banged. It may have been the clicking and banging of these
machines that gave to Cameron the sense of rush and hurry so different
from the calm quiet and dignified repose of the only office he had ever
known. For some moments he stood at the counter, waiting attention from
one of the many clerks sitting before him, but though one and another
occasionally glanced in his direction, his presence seemed to awaken not
even a passing curiosity in their minds, much less to suggest the
propriety of their inquiring his business.
As the moments passed Cameron became
conscious of a feeling of affront. How differently a gentleman was
treated by the clerks in the office of Messrs. Rae & Macpherson, where
prompt attention and deferential courtesy in a clerk were as essential
as a suit of clothes. Gradually Cameron's head went up, and with it his
choler. At length, in his haughtiest tone, he hailed a passing youth:
"I say, boy, is this Mr. Fleming's
The clicking and banging of the
typewriters, and the hum of voices ceased. Everywhere heads were raised
and eyes turned curiously upon the haughty stranger.
"Eh?" No letters can represent the nasal
intonation of this syllabic inquiry, and no words the supreme
indifference of the boy's tone.
"Is Mr. Fleming in? I wish to see him!"
Cameron's voice was loud and imperious.
"Say, boys," said a lanky youth, with a
long, cadaverous countenance and sallow, unhealthy complexion,
illumined, however, and redeemed to a certain extent by black eyes of
extraordinary brilliance, "it is the Prince of Wales!" The drawling,
awe-struck tones, in the silence that had fallen, were audible to all in
the immediate neighbourhood.
The titter that swept over the listeners
brought the hot blood to Cameron's face. A deliberate insult a
Highlander takes with calm. He is prepared to deal with it in a manner
affording him entire satisfaction. Ridicule rouses him to fury, for,
while it touches his pride, it leaves him no opportunity of vengeance.
"Can you tell me if Mr. Fleming is in?" he
enquired again of the boy that stood scanning him with calm
indifference. The rage that possessed him so vibrated in his tone that
the lanky lad drawled again in a warning voice:
"Slide, Jimmy, slide!"
Jimmy "slid," but towards the counter.
"Want to see him?" he enquired in a tone
of brisk impertinence, as if suddenly roused from a reverie.
"I have a letter for him."
"All right! Hand it over," said Jimmy,
fully conscious that he was the hero of more than usual interest.
Cameron hesitated, then passed his letter
over to Jimmy, who, reading the address with deliberate care, winked at
the lanky boy, and with a jaunty step made towards a door at the farther
end of the room. As he passed a desk that stood nearest the door, a man
who during the last few minutes had remained with his head down,
apparently so immersed in the papers before him as to be quite
unconscious of his surroundings, suddenly called out, "Here, boy!"
Jimmy instantly assumed an air of
"A letter for Mr. Fleming," he said.
"Here!" replied the man, stretching out
He hurriedly glanced through the letter.
"Tell him there is no vacancy at present,"
he said shortly.
The boy came back to Cameron with cheerful
politeness. The "old man's" eye was upon him.
"There is no vacancy at present," he said
briefly, and turned away as if his attention were immediately demanded
elsewhere by pressing business of the Metropolitan Transportation &
For answer, Cameron threw back the leaf of
the counter that barred his way, and started up the long room, past the
staring clerks, to the desk next the door.
"I wish to see Mr. Fleming, Sir," he said,
his voice trembling slightly, his face pale, his blue-gray eyes ablaze.
The man at the desk looked up from his
"I have just informed you there is no
vacancy at present," he said testily, and turned to his papers again, as
if dismissing the incident.
"Will you kindly tell me if Mr. Fleming is
in?" said Cameron in a voice that had grown quite steady; "I wish to see
"Mr. Fleming cannot see you, I tell you!"
almost shouted the man, rising from his desk and revealing himself a
short, pudgy figure, with flabby face and shining bald head. "Can't you
understand English?—I can't be bothered—!"
"What is it, Bates? Someone to see me?"
Cameron turned quickly towards the
speaker, who had come from the inner room.
"I have brought you a letter, Sir, from
Mr. Denman," he said quietly; "it is there," pointing to Bates' desk.
"A letter? Let me have it! Why was not
this brought to me at once, Mr. Bates?"
"It was an open letter, Sir," replied
Bates, "and I thought there was no need of troubling you, Sir. I told
the young man we had no vacancy at present."
"This is a personal letter, Mr. Bates, and
should have been brought to me at once. Why was Mr.—ah—Mr. Cameron not
brought in to me?"
Mr. Bates murmured something about not
wishing to disturb the manager on trivial business.
"I am the judge of that, Mr. Bates. In
future, when any man asks to see me, I desire him to be shown in at
Mr. Bates began to apologise.
"That is all that is necessary, Mr.
Bates," said the manager, in a voice at once quiet and decisive.
"Come in, Mr. Cameron. I am very sorry
this has happened!"
Cameron followed him into his office,
noting, as he passed, the red patches of rage on Mr. Bates' pudgy face,
and catching a look of fierce hate from his small piggy eyes. It flashed
through his mind that in Mr. Bates, at any rate, he had found no friend.
The result of the interview with Mr.
Fleming was an intimation to Mr. Bates that Mr. Cameron was to have a
position in the office of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage
Company, and to begin work the following morning.
"Very well, Sir," replied Mr. Bates—he had
apparently quite recovered his equanimity—"we shall find Mr. Cameron a
"We begin work at eight o'clock exactly,"
he added, turning to Cameron with a pleasant smile.
Mr. Fleming accompanied Cameron to the
"Now, a word with you, Mr. Cameron. You
may find Mr. Bates a little difficult—he is something of a driver—but,
remember, he is in charge of this office; I never interfere with his
"I understand, Sir," said Cameron,
resolving that, at all costs, he should obey Mr. Bates' orders, if only
to show the general manager he could recognise and appreciate a
gentleman when he saw one.
Mr. Fleming was putting it mildly when he
described Mr. Bates as "something of a driver." The whole office staff,
from Jimmy, the office boy, to Jacobs, the gentle, white-haired clerk,
whose desk was in the farthest corner of the room, felt the drive. He
was not only office manager, but office master as well. His rule was
absolute, and from his decisions there was no appeal. The general
manager went on the theory that it was waste of energy to keep a dog and
bark himself. In the policy that governed the office there were two
rules which Mr. Bates enforced with the utmost rigidity—the first,
namely, that every member of the staff must be in his or her place and
ready for work when the clock struck eight; the other, that each member
of the staff must work independently of every other member. A man must
know his business, and go through with it; if he required instructions,
he must apply to the office manager. But, as a rule, one experience of
such application sufficed for the whole period of a clerk's service in
the office of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company, for Mr.
Bates was gifted with such an exquisiteness of ironical speech that the
whole staff were wont to pause in the rush of their work to listen and
to admire when a new member was unhappy enough to require instructions,
their silent admiration acting as a spur to Mr. Bates' ingenuity in the
invention of ironical discourse.
Of the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of
Mr. Bates' system, however, Cameron was quite ignorant; nor had his
experience in the office of Messrs. Rae & Macpherson been such as to
impress upon him the necessity of a close observation of the flight of
time. It did not disturb him, therefore, to notice as he strolled into
the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company the
next morning that the hands of the clock showed six minutes past the
hour fixed for the beginning of the day's work. The office staff
shivered in an ecstasy of expectant delight. Cameron walked nonchalantly
to Mr. Bates' desk, his overcoat on his arm, his cap in his hand.
"Good morning, Sir," he said.
Mr. Bates finished writing a sentence,
looked up, and nodded a brief good morning.
"We deposit our street attire on the hooks
behind the door, yonder!" he said with emphatic politeness, pointing
across the room.
Cameron flushed, as in passing his desk he
observed the pleased smile on the lanky boy's sallow face.
"You evidently were not aware of the hours
of this office," continued Mr. Bates when Cameron had returned. "We open
at eight o'clock."
"Oh!" said Cameron, carelessly. "Eight?
Yes, I thought it was eight! Ah! I see! I believe I am five minutes
late! But I suppose I shall catch up before the day is over!"
"Mr. Cameron," replied Mr. Bates
earnestly, "if you should work for twenty years for the Metropolitan
Transportation & Cartage Company, never will you catch up those five
minutes; every minute of your office hours is pledged to the company,
and every minute has its own proper work. Your desk is the one next Mr.
Jacobs, yonder. Your work is waiting you there. It is quite simple, the
entry of freight receipts upon the ledger. If you wish further
instructions, apply to me here—you understand?"
"I think so!" replied Cameron. "I shall do
my best to—"
"Very well! That is all!" replied Mr.
Bates, plunging his head again into his papers.
The office staff sank back to work with
every expression of disappointment. A moment later, however, their hopes
"Oh! Mr. Cameron!" called out Mr. Bates.
Mr. Cameron returned to his desk. "If you should chance to be late
again, never mind going to your desk; just come here for your cheque."
Mr. Bates' tone was kindly, even
considerate, as if he were anxious to save his clerk unnecessary
"I beg your pardon!" stammered Cameron,
"That is all!" replied Mr. Bates, his nose
once more in his papers.
Cameron stood hesitating. His eye fell
upon the boy, Jimmy, whose face expressed keenest joy.
"Do you mean, Sir, that if I am late you
dismiss me forthwith?"
"What?" Mr. Bates' tone was so fiercely
explosive that it appeared to throw up his head with a violent motion.
Cameron repeated his question.
"Mr. Cameron, my time is valuable; so is
yours. I thought that I spoke quite distinctly. Apparently I did not.
Let me repeat: In case you should inadvertently be late again, you need
not take the trouble to go to your desk; just come here. Your cheque
will be immediately made out. Saves time, you know—your time and
mine—and time, you perceive, in this office represents money."
Mr. Bates' voice lost none of its kindly
interest, but it had grown somewhat in intensity; the last sentence was
uttered with his face close to his desk.
Cameron stood a moment in uncertainty,
gazing at the bald head before him; then, finding nothing to reply, he
turned about to behold Jimmy and his lanky friend executing an animated
war pantomime which they apparently deemed appropriate to the occasion.
With face ablaze and teeth set Cameron
went to his desk, to the extreme disappointment of Jimmy and the lanky
youth, who fell into each other's arms, apparently overcome with grief.
For half an hour the office hummed with
the noise of subdued voices and clicked with the rapid fire of the
typewriters. Suddenly through the hum Mr. Bates' voice was heard, clear,
calm, and coldly penetrating:
The old, white-haired clerk started up
from Cameron's desk, and began in a confused and gentle voice to explain
that he was merely giving some hints to the new clerk.
"Mr. Jacobs," said Mr. Bates, "I cannot
hear you, and you are wasting my time!"
"He was merely showing me how to make
these entries!" said Cameron.
"Ah! Indeed! Thank you, Mr. Cameron!
Though I believe Mr. Jacobs has not yet lost the power of lucid speech.
Mr. Jacobs, I believe you know the rules of this office; your fine will
be one-quarter of a day."
"Thank you!" said Mr. Jacobs, hurriedly
resuming his desk.
"And, Mr. Cameron, if you will kindly
bring your work to me, I shall do my best to enlighten you in regard to
the complex duty of entering your freight receipts."
An audible snicker ran through the
delighted staff. Cameron seized his ledger and the pile of freight
bills, and started for Mr. Bates' desk, catching out of the corner of
his eye the pantomime of Jimmy and the lanky one, which was being
rendered with vigor and due caution.
For a few moments Cameron stood at the
manager's desk till that gentleman should be disengaged, but Mr. Bates
was skilled in the fine art of reducing to abject humility an employee
who might give indications of insubordination. Cameron's rage grew with
every passing moment.
"Here is the ledger, Sir!" he said at
But Mr. Bates was so completely absorbed
in the business of saving time that he made not the slightest pause in
his writing, while the redoubled vigor and caution of the pantomime
seemed to indicate the approach of a crisis. At length Mr. Bates raised
his head. Jimmy and the lanky clerk became at once engrossed in their
"You have had no experience of this kind
of work, Mr. Cameron?" inquired Mr. Bates kindly.
"No, Sir. But if you will just explain one
or two matters, I think I can—"
"Exactly! This is not, however, a business
college! But we shall do our best!"
A rapturous smile pervaded the office. Mr.
Bates was in excellent form.
"By the way, Mr. Cameron—pardon my
neglect—but may I inquire just what department of this work you are
"Ah! The position of general manager,
however, is filled at present!" replied Mr. Bates kindly.
Cameron's flush grew deeper, while Jimmy
and his friend resigned themselves to an ecstasy of delight.
"I was going to say," said Cameron in a
tone loud and deliberate, "that I had been employed with the general
copying work in a writer's office."
"Writing? Fancy! Writing, eh? No use
here!" said Mr. Bates shortly, for time was passing.
"A writer with us means a lawyer!" replied
"Why the deuce don't they say so?"
answered Mr. Bates impatiently. "Well! Well!" getting hold of himself
again. "Here we allow our solicitors to look after our legal work.
Typewrite?" he inquired suddenly.
"I beg your pardon!" replied Cameron.
"Typewrite? Do you mean, can I use a typewriting machine?"
"Yes! Yes! For heaven's sake, yes!"
"No, I cannot!"
"Good Lord! What have I got?" inquired Mr.
Bates of himself, in a tone, however, perfectly audible to those in the
"Try him licking stamps!" suggested the
lanky youth in a voice that, while it reached the ears of Jimmy and
others near by, including Cameron, was inaudible to the manager. Mr.
Bates caught the sound, however, and glared about him through his
spectacles. Time was being wasted—the supreme offense in that office—and
Mr. Bates was fast losing his self-command.
"Here!" he cried suddenly, seizing a sheaf
of letters. "File these letters. You will be able to do that, I guess!
File's in the vault over there!"
Cameron took the letters and stood looking
helplessly from them to Mr. Bates' bald head, that gentleman's face
being already in close proximity to the papers on his desk.
"Just how do I go about this?—I mean, what
system do you—"
"Jim!" roared Mr. Bates, throwing down his
pen, "show this con—show Mr. Cameron how to file these letters! Just
like these blank old-country chumps!" added Mr. Bates, in a lower voice,
but loud enough to be distinctly heard.
Jim came up with a smile of patronising
pity on his face. It was the smile that touched to life the mass of
combustible material that had been accumulating for the last hour in
Cameron's soul. Instead of following the boy, he turned with a swift
movement back to the manager's desk, laid his sheaf of letters down on
Mr. Bates' papers, and, leaning over the desk, towards that gentleman,
"Did you mean that remark to apply to me?"
His voice was very quiet. But Mr. Bates started back with a quick
movement from the white face and burning eyes.
"Here, you get out of this!" he cried.
"Because," continued Cameron, "if you did,
I must ask you to apologise at once."
All smiles vanished from the office staff,
even Jimmy's face assumed a serious aspect. Mr. Bates pushed back his
"A-po-pologise!" he sputtered. "Get out of
this office, d'ye hear?"
"Be quick!" said Cameron, his hands
gripping Mr. Bates' desk till it shook.
"Jimmy! Call a policeman!" cried Mr.
Bates, rising from his chair.
He was too slow. Cameron reached swiftly
for his collar, and with one fierce wrench swept Mr. Bates clear over
the top of his desk, shook him till his head wobbled dangerously, and
flung him crashing across the desk and upon the prostrate form of the
lanky youth sitting behind it.
"Call a policeman! Call a policeman!"
shouted Mr. Bates, who was struggling meantime with the lanky youth to
regain an upright position.
Cameron, meanwhile, walked quietly to
where his coat and cap hung.
"Hold him, somebody! Hold him!" shouted
Mr. Bates, hurrying towards him.
Cameron turned fiercely upon him.
"Did you want me, Sir?" he inquired.
Mr. Bates arrested himself with such
violence that his feet slid from under him, and once more he came
sitting upon the floor.
"Get up!" said Cameron, "and listen to
Mr. Bates rose, and stood, white and
"I may not know much about your Canadian
ways of business, but I believe I can teach you some old-country
manners. You have treated me this morning like the despicable bully that
you are. Perhaps you will treat the next old-country man with the
decency that is coming to him, even if he has the misfortune to be your
With these words Cameron turned upon his
heel and walked deliberately towards the door. Immediately Jimmy sprang
before him, and, throwing the door wide open, bowed him out as if he
were indeed the Prince of Wales. Thus abruptly ended Cameron's
connection with the Metropolitan Transportation & Cartage Company.
Before the day was done the whole city had heard the tale, which lost
nothing in the telling.
Next morning Mr. Denman was surprised to
have Cameron walk in upon him.
"Hullo, young man!" shouted the lawyer,
"this is a pretty business! Upon my soul! Your manner of entry into our
commercial life is somewhat forceful! What the deuce do you mean by all
Cameron stood, much abashed. His passion
was all gone; in the calm light of after-thought his action of yesterday
"I'm awfully sorry, Mr. Denman," he
replied, "and I came to apologise to you."
"To me?" cried Denman. "Why to me? I
expect, if you wish to get a job anywhere in this town, you will need to
apologise to the chap you knocked down—what's his name?"
"Mr. Bates, I think his name is, Sir; but,
of course, I cannot apologise to him."
"By Jove!" roared Mr. Denman, "he ought to
have thrown you out of his office! That is what I would have done!"
Cameron glanced up and down Mr. Denman's
"I don't think so, Sir," he said, with a
"Why not?" said Mr. Denman, grasping the
arms of his office chair.
"Because you would not have insulted a
stranger in your office who was trying his best to understand his work.
And then, I should not have tried it on you."
"Well, I think I know a gentleman when I
Mr. Denman was not to be appeased.
"Well, let me tell you, young man, it
would have been a mighty unhealthy thing for you to have cut up any such
shine in this office. I have done some Rugby in my day, my boy, if you
know what that means."
"I have done a little, too," said Cameron,
with slightly heightened colour.
"You have, eh! Where?"
"The Scottish International, Sir."
"By Jove! You don't tell me!" replied Mr.
Denman, his tone expressing a new admiration and respect. "When? This
"No, last year, Sir—against Wales!"
"By Jove!" cried Mr. Denman again; "give
me your hand, boy! Any man who has made the Scottish Internationals is
not called to stand any cheek from a cad like Bates."
Mr. Denman shook Cameron warmly by the
"Tell us about it!" he cried. "It must
have been rare sport. If Bates only knew it, he ought to count it an
honour to have been knocked down by a Scottish International."
"I didn't knock him down, Sir!" said
Cameron, apologetically; "he is only a little chap; I just gave him a
bit of a shake," and Cameron proceeded to recount the proceedings of the
Mr. Denman was hugely delighted.
"Serves the little beast bloody well
right!" he cried enthusiastically. "But what's to do now? They will be
afraid to let you into their offices in this city."
"I think, Sir, I am done with offices; I
mean to try the land."
"Farm, eh?" mused Mr. Denman. "Well, so be
it! It will probably be safer for you there—possibly for some others as