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The Heir Of The McHulishes
by [?]


The consul for the United States of America at the port of St. Kentigern was sitting alone in the settled gloom of his private office. Yet it was only high noon, of a “seasonable” winter’s day, by the face of the clock that hung like a pallid moon on the murky wall opposite to him. What else could be seen of the apartment by the faint light that struggled through the pall of fog outside the lustreless windows presented the ordinary aspect of a business sanctum. There were a shelf of fog-bound admiralty law, one or two colored prints of ocean steamships under full steam, bow on, tremendously foreshortened, and seeming to force themselves through shadowy partitions; there were engravings of Lincoln and Washington, as unsubstantial and shadowy as the dead themselves. Outside, against the window, which was almost level with the street, an occasional procession of black silhouetted figures of men and women, with prayer-books in their hands and gloom on their faces, seemed to be born of the fog, and prematurely to return to it. At which a conviction of sin overcame the consul. He remembered that it was the Sabbath day, and that he had no business to be at the consulate at all.

Unfortunately, with this shameful conviction came the sound of a bell ringing somewhere in the depths of the building, and the shuffling of feet on the outer steps. The light of his fire had evidently been seen, and like a beacon had attracted some wandering and possibly intoxicated mariner with American papers. The consul walked into the hall with a sudden righteous frigidity of manner. It was one thing to be lounging in one’s own office on the Sabbath day, and quite another to be deliberately calling there on business.

He opened the front door, and a middle-aged man entered, accompanying and partly shoving forward a more diffident and younger one. Neither appeared to be a sailor, although both were dressed in that dingy respectability and remoteness of fashion affected by second and third mates when ashore. They were already well in the hall, and making their way toward the private office, when the elder man said, with an air of casual explanation, “Lookin’ for the American consul; I reckon this yer’s the consulate?”

“It is the consulate,” said the official dryly, “and I am the consul; but”–

“That’s all right,” interrupted the stranger, pushing past him, and opening the door of the private office, into which he shoved his companion. “Thar now!” he continued to the diffident youth, pointing to a chair, and quite ignoring the presence of the consul; “thar’s a bit of America. Sit down thar. You’re under the flag now, and can do as you darn please.” Nevertheless, he looked a little disappointed as he glanced around him, as if he had expected a different environment and possibly a different climate.

“I presume,” said the consul suavely, “you wish to see me on some urgent matter; for you probably know that the consulate is closed on Sunday to ordinary business. I am here myself quite accidentally.”

“Then you don’t live here?” said the visitor disappointedly.


“I reckon that’s the reason why we didn’t see no flag a-flyin’ when we was a-huntin’ this place yesterday. We were directed here, but I says to Malcolm, says I, ‘No; it ain’t here, or you’d see the Stars and Stripes afore you’d see anythin’ else.’ But I reckon you float it over your house, eh?”

The consul here explained smilingly that he did NOT fly a flag over his lodgings, and that except on national holidays it was not customary to display the national ensign on the consulate.

“Then you can’t do here–and you a CONSUL–what any nigger can do in the States, eh? That’s about how it pans out, don’t it? But I didn’t think YOU’D tumble to it quite so quick, Jack.”