Grey-eyed, yellow-haired, broad in the chest and narrow in the loins, with the strength of a bullock and the graceful activity of a stag, it would be hard to find a finer specimen of young British manhood. The long, fine curves of the limbs, and the easy pose of the round, strong head upon the thick, muscular neck, might have served as a model to an Athenian sculptor. There was nothing in the face, however, to recall the regular beauty of the East. It was Anglo-Saxon to the last feature, with its honest breadth between the eyes and its nascent moustache, a shade lighter in colour than the sun-burned skin. Shy, and yet strong; plain, and yet pleasing; it was the face of a type of man who has little to say for himself in this world, and says that little badly, but who has done more than all the talkers and the writers to ring this planet round with a crimson girdle of British possessions.
“Wonder whether Jack Garraway is ready!” he murmured, throwing down the Scotsman, and staring up at the roof. “It’s nearly eleven o’clock.”
He rose with a yawn, picked up the poker, stood upon the chair, and banged three times upon the ceiling. Three muffled taps responded from the room above. Dimsdale stepped down and began slowly to discard his coat and his waistcoat. As he did so there was a quick, active step upon the stair, and a lean, wiry-looking, middle-sized young fellow stepped into the room. With a nod of greeting he pushed the table over to one side, threw off his two upper garments, and pulled on a pair of the boxing-gloves from the corner. Dimsdale had already done the same, and was standing, a model of manly grace and strength, in the centre of the room.
“Practice your lead, Jack. About here.” He tapped the centre of his forehead with his swollen gauntlet.
His companion poised himself for a moment, and then, lashing out with his left hand, came home with a heavy thud on the place indicated. Dimsdale smiled gently and shook his head.
“It won’t do,” he said.
“I hit my hardest,” the other answered apologetically.
“It won’t do. Try again.”
The visitor repeated the blow with all the force that he could command.
Dimsdale shook his head again despondently. “You don’t seem to catch it,” he said. “It’s like this.” He leaned forward, there was the sound of a sharp clip, and the novice shot across the room with a force that nearly sent his skull through the panel of the door.
“That’s it,” said Dimsdale mildly.
“Oh, it is, is it?” the other responded, rubbing his head.
“It’s deucedly interesting, but I think I would understand it better if
I saw you do it to some one else. It is something between the explosion
of a powder magazine and a natural convulsion.”
His instructor smiled grimly. “That’s the only way to learn,” he said. “Now we shall have three minutes of give-and-take, and so ends the morning lesson.”
While this little scene was being enacted in the lodgings of the student, a very stout little elderly man was walking slowly down Howe Street, glancing up at the numbers upon the doors. He was square and deep and broad, like a bottle of Geneva, with a large ruddy face and a pair of bright black eyes, which were shrewd and critical, and yet had a merry twinkle of eternal boyishness in their depths. Bushy side whiskers, shot with grey, flanked his rubicund visage, and he threw out his feet as he walked with the air of a man who is on good terms with himself and with every one around him.
At No.13 he stopped and rapped loudly upon the door with the head of his metal-headed stick. “Mrs. McTavish?” he asked, as a hard-lined, angular woman responded to his summons.
“That’s me, sir.”
“Mr. Dimsdale lives with you, I believe?”
“Third floor front, sir.”
“Is he in?”
Suspicion shone in the woman’s eyes. “Was it aboot a bill?” she asked.
“A bill, my good woman! No, no, nothing of the kind. Dr. Dimsdale is my name. I am the lad’s father—just come up from London to see him. I hope he has not been overworking himself?”
A ghost of a smile played about the woman’s face. “I think not, sir,” she answered.
“I almost wish I had come round in the afternoon,” said the visitor, standing with his thick legs astride upon the door-mat. “It seems a pity to break his chain of thought. The morning is his time for study.”
“Houts! I wouldna’ fash aboot that.”
“Well! well! The third floor, you say. He did not expect me so early,
I shall surprise the dear boy at his work.”
The landlady stood listening expectantly in the passage. The sturdy little man plodded heavily up the first flight of stairs. He paused on the landing.
“Dear me!” he murmured. “Some one is beating carpets. How can they expect poor Tom to read?”
At the second landing the noise was much louder. “It must be a dancing school,” conjectured the doctor.
When he reached his son’s door, however, there could no longer be any doubt as to whence the sounds proceeded. There was the stamp and shuffle of feet, the hissing of in-drawn breath, and an occasional soft thud, as if some one were butting his head against a bale of wool. “It’s epilepsy,” gasped the doctor, and turning the handle he rushed into the room.
One hurried glance showed him the struggle which was going on. There was no time to note details. Some maniac was assaulting his Tom. He sprang at the man, seized him round the waist, dragged him to the ground, and seated himself upon him. “Now tie his hands,” he said complacently, as he balanced himself upon the writhing figure.