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
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
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,
"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
"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?"
"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
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
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.