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William E. Gladstone
by [?]

On going downstairs I found that Boots had gotten together five Americans who happened to be in the hotel. He introduced us to a bright little man who seemed to be the companion or secretary of the Prime Minister; he, in turn, took us into the parlor where Mr. Gladstone sat reading the morning paper, and presented us one by one to the great man. We were each greeted with a pleasant word and a firm grasp of the hand, and then the old gentleman turned and with a courtly flourish said, “Gentlemen, allow me to present you to Mrs. Gladstone.”

Mr. Gladstone was wise: he remained standing; this was sure to shorten the interview. A clergyman in our party who had an impressive cough and bushy whiskers, acted as spokesman, and said several pleasant things, closing his little speech by informing Mr. Gladstone that Americans held him in great esteem, and that we only regretted that Fate had not decreed that he should have been born in the United States.

Mr. Gladstone replied, “Fate is often unkind.” Then he asked if we were going to London. On being told that we were, he spoke for five minutes about the things we should see in the Metropolis. His style was not conversational, but after the manner of a man who was much used to speaking in public or to receiving delegations. The sentences were stately, the voice rather loud and declamatory. His closing words were: “Yes, gentlemen, the way to see London is from the top of a ‘bus–from the top of a ‘bus, gentlemen.” Then there was an almost imperceptible wave of the hand, and we knew that the interview was ended. In a moment we were outside and the door was closed.

The five Americans who made up our little company had never met before, but now we were as brothers; we adjourned to a side-room to talk it over and tell of the things we intended to say but didn’t. We all talked and talked at once, just as people do who have recently preserved an enforced silence.

“How ill-fitting was that gray suit!”

“Yes, the sleeves too long.”

“Did you notice the absence of the forefinger of his left hand–shot off in Eighteen Hundred Forty-five while hunting, they say.”

“But how strong his voice is!”

“He looks like a farmer.”

“Eighty-five years of age! Think of it, and how vigorous!”

Then the preacher spoke and his voice was sorrowful:

“Oh, but I made a botch of it–was it sarcasm or was it not?”

“Was what sarcasm?”

“When Mr. Gladstone said that Fate was unkind in not having him born in the United States!”

And we were all silent. Then Boots came in, and we put the question to Boots, who decided it was not sarcasm.

The next day, when we went away, we rewarded Boots bountifully.

* * * * *

William Gladstone is England’s glory. Yet there is no English blood in his veins; his parents were Scotch. Aside from Lord Brougham, he is the only Scotchman who has ever taken a prominent part in British statecraft. The name as we first find it is Gled-stane, “gled” being a hawk–literally, a hawk that lives among the stones. Surely the hawk is fully as respectable a bird as the eagle, and a goodly amount of granite in the clay that is used to make a man is no disadvantage. The name fits.

There are deep-rooted theories in the minds of many men (and still more women) that bad boys make good men, and that a dash of the pirate, even in a prelate, does not disqualify. But I wish to come to the defense of the Sunday-school story-books and show that their very prominent moral is right after all: it pays to be “good.”

William Ewart Gladstone was sent to Eton when twelve years of age. From the first, his conduct was a model of propriety. He attended every chapel service, and said his prayers in the morning and before going to bed at night; he could repeat the catechism backwards or forwards, and recite more verses of Scripture than any other boy in school.