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Wilson's Border Tales
An Incident

In the following incident, there is not, perhaps, anything that may be considered either very interesting or very striking; yet, as the writer can vouch for its truth, it may not be thought altogether unworthy of engaging the reader’s attention for a moment.

About forty years ago, a young Highland lad, of the name of Cameron, came to Glasgow to push his way in the world. He was a remarkably sharp, shrewd boy; full of ambition; and determined to get on, if activity, integrity, and perseverance could accomplish it.

After a time, Cameron succeeded in getting into the counting-house of a mercantile firm in Glasgow, in the capacity of a junior clerk. His salary was very small; but, by the most rigid economy, he contrived to live on it without soliciting the assistance of any one.

The singular sharpness and activity of the lad were quickly perceived and appreciated by his employers; and had he had a little more patience—a quality which he lacked in common with most young men—there is no doubt that his circumstances would very soon have been bettered. But patience Duncan had not; and, urged on by that ambition which was the ruling passion of his nature, he began to think Glasgow too limited a field for the realisation of his hopes, and forthwith turned his eyes towards London. There, he thought, he might arrive at something worth attaining.

Filled with this notion, the restless boy, greatly against the wishes of his employers, who offered him every reasonable inducement to remain, determined on proceeding at once to the metropolis.

Accordingly, with three pounds in his pocket, and a letter of recommendation from his employers, Duncan, staff in hand, started, one fine summer morning, at an early hour, for London; intending to walk every step of the way; and this he eventually did.

Duncan, at this time, knew not a soul in the metropolis, and, therefore, could have no reasonable hopes of attaining, very speedily at any rate, the realisation of his sanguine anticipations. The circumstance, however, of his not having a single friend, or even acquaintance in London, was one that gave Duncan no concern whatever. He plunged, boldly and fearlessly, into that vast abyss of human hopes, and fears, and passions, determined to elbow his way, and to compel success to follow him, if it would not do so of its own accord.

Two years after Duncan Cameron had entered London, a venerable-looking old man, wearing the broad blue bonnet of Scotland, from beneath which streamed the snowy locks of age, was seen wandering up and down the streets, and, anon, entering shops and warehouses, from which he always came forth with a look of sorrowful disappointment.

It was evident that the old man was inquiring for some one whom he could not find—of whom he could discover no trace.

At length a passer by—a gentleman of respectable appearance—struck with his venerable look, and perceiving that he was at a loss for something or other, accosted him, and obligingly inquired if there was any particular place he wanted.

"Indeed, sir," replied the old man, "I’m almost ashamed to say what I am looking for; it seems so foolish to look for any one in this immense city, without having his address, or any clue by which to find him."

"Truly, honest man, such a thing would indeed be very absurd. Is it your case?" said the stranger.

"It is, sir," replied the old man. "I have acted, I find, very unadvisedly. I should have informed myself better before I came here; but, in truth, I could not help myself. I had no means whatever of acquiring any previous information, and was therefore compelled to trust to chance."

"You are from Scotland, honest friend?"

"I am, sir; and have walked every foot of the way on this wild-goose chase of mine."

"Who have you been seeking?" said the stranger.

"My son, sir," replied the old man. "He came to London about two years ago, and we never heard what became of him. So I took it into my head to come up to London to make some inquiry after him; but, as I ought to have known, I can discover no trace of him."

"Nor, I fear, ever will," replied the stranger, "unless you can contrive to obtain some more particular information regarding him than you seem to have. What was your son’s name, my good friend, if I may ask?"

"Cameron, sir—Duncan Cameron."

"His age?"

"He would be now about two-and-twenty. He was my youngest son—the child of my old age."

"Where came he from last?" inquired the stranger, with a look of newly-awakened interest.

"Glasgow," said the old man. "He had, before coming to London, been in the employment, there, of a firm of the name of Falkner & Pringle; but he was a restless, pushing lad, and would be to London, right or wrong."

"This is rather an odd occurrence," said the gentleman, musingly, and apparently much struck with what he had just learned. "Very odd," he repeated; "but step along with me a little way, if you please, and, probably, I may be the means of procuring you some information regarding your son."

The old man accompanied the stranger, who, after conducting him through several streets, at length stopped in front of a highly respectable-looking place of business, when, turning to his aged companion— "Step in with me here a moment, if you please." The latter did so, when the stranger, leading him through an outer office, filled with clerks, ushered him into a small private room behind. Having shut the door— "Look at the superscription of that letter, if you please," said the gentleman, pointing to a sealed letter that lay on a very handsome writing table which occupied the middle of the floor.

The old man took it up, and, to his inexpressible surprise, found it was addressed to himself.

"Now, my good friend, lay it down again, if you please, for a moment, and I will explain," said the gentleman— whose name was Hardcastle, head of the firm of Hardcastle & Co., the most extensive West India merchants in London:—"The son for whom you have been inquiring, my good friend, was in our employment, and one of the most active and intelligent young men we ever had. We had every confidence in him, every reliance on his integrity and ability. As proof of this, we sent him, about eight months since, to the West Indies, to negotiate the purchase of an estate there for us. And this business he managed so ably—so entirely to our satisfaction—in short, made so excellent a bargain for us—that we resolved on presenting him with a thousand pounds."

Here the speaker paused for a moment, then, with considerable emotion, added:—

"It pains me greatly, my good old friend, to add that your son is dead. He died on his return to England from the West Indies; and that letter you will find to contain an intimation of his death, together with notice of our having in hands a thousand pounds payable to your order; the sum with which we intended to have presented your son, had he been spared to return."

"God’s will be done!" exclaimed the old man, in a voice trembling with emotion, and throwing himself back in his chair; in which position he remained for some time, sunk in a silence which Mr Hardcastle, who was himself scarcely less effected, did not seek to disturb. "He was the child of my old age," at length said the old man, suddenly and abruptly, the tears streaming down his aged cheeks. "My affections were bound up in him. Yet, again I say, the will of God be done."

Mr Hardcastle insisted on the old man’s making his house his home while he resided in London. He did so; and ere he left, having previously obtained proofs of his identity from Scotland, received the thousand pounds which had been intended for his son.

Such, then, was the end of poor Duncan Cameron, and of all his dreams of ambition. What height of prosperity he might have attained had he been spared, it is impossible to say; but seeing the energy of his character, it is very likely it would have been one of no ordinary elevation.

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