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Settlers and Scouts

Posted by ploymeesin in Books & Reference | March 30, 2013 | 0 Comments

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Mr. Halliday, son of a Scots farmer who had emigrated from Ayrshire thirty years before, had been for many years agent–or “factor,” as he, being a Scotsman, preferred to call himself–on the estates of Lord Sussex, who, as everybody knows, owns half the county from which his title is derived. He had managed to save some money during his stewardship, but having entrusted the greater part of it for investment to a bland London solicitor of his acquaintance, he had the misfortune to learn one day from the newspaper that the lawyer had absconded, leaving defalcations to the tune of some £50,000. A few weeks afterwards another calamity befell Mr. Halliday. His employer, a bachelor, died; the estates passed into the hands of a distant relative; and the new peer, taking alarm at the large sums demanded of him in the shape of death duties, announced his intention of cutting down expenses, and employing a younger man to steward his estates, at a lower salary. Luckily Mr. Halliday had a thousand or two safely invested, apart from what he had lost through the lawyer’s rascality; and being disinclined, at his time of life, to seek similar employment, he cast about, during his six months’ notice of the termination of his engagement, to find some new outlet for his energies and some secure channel for the use of his little capital.

The problem was complicated by the necessity of starting his son in life. He had intended David for one of the professions, and put him to a good school; but the boy had not shown any particular aptitude for book work, except in the one subject that interested him–natural history. He was never so happy as when he was with dogs and horses; he read with avidity every book about animals on which he could lay hands; and once, when his career was being talked about, he said bluntly that he knew he couldn’t stand work at a desk in stuffy London, and implored his father to let him go out to Canada or Australia. Mr. Halliday merely grunted at the time; he was a man of few words; but he thought the matter out very carefully, and his attention having been called to the opening up of East Africa consequent upon the completion of the Uganda railway, he quietly made inquiries, obtained information about the country, its climate, soil, and prospects in regard to stock-raising, and one day startled his son with the news that he was going out in a few months to settle. Having once made up his mind he let no grass grow under his feet. One May day father and son left London in a Peninsular and Oriental Liner, transhipped at Aden into a vessel of the British India Steam Navigation Company, landed at Mombasa, and after spending a fortnight there in preliminary preparations, took tickets for Nairobi, three hundred and thirty miles down the line, whence they proposed to strike up country and select the ground for their settlement.

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