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The Revolver
by [?]

When friends observed his occasional limp, Alderman Keats would say, with an air of false casualness, “Oh, a touch of the gout.”

And after a year or two, the limp having increased in frequency and become almost lameness, he would say, “My gout!”

He also acquired the use of the word “twinge.” A scowl of torture would pass across his face, and then he would murmur, “Twinge.”

He was proud of having the gout, “the rich man’s disease.” Alderman Keats had begun life in Hanbridge as a grocer’s assistant, a very simple person indeed. At forty-eight he was wealthy, and an alderman. It is something to be alderman of a town of sixty thousand inhabitants. It was at the age of forty-five that he had first consulted his doctor as to certain capricious pains, which the doctor had diagnosed as gout. The diagnosis had enchanted him, though he tried to hide his pleasure, pretending to be angry and depressed. It seemed to Alderman Keats a mark of distinction to be afflicted with the gout. Quite against the doctor’s orders he purchased a stock of port, and began to drink it steadily. He was determined that there should be no mistake about his gout; he was determined to have the gout properly and fully. Indulgence in port made him somewhat rubicund and “portly,”–he who had once been a pale little counter-jumper; and by means of shooting-coats, tight gaiters, and the right shape of hat he turned himself into a passable imitation of the fine old English gentleman. His tone altered, too, and instead of being uniformly diplomatic, it varied abruptly between a sort of Cheeryble philanthropy and a sort of Wellingtonian ferocity. During an attack of gout he was terrible in the house, and the oaths that he “rapped out” in the drawing-room could be heard in the kitchen and further. Nobody minded, however, for everyone shared in the glory of his gout, and cheerfully understood that a furious temper was inseparable from gout. Alderman Keats succeeded once in being genuinely laid up with gout. He then invited acquaintances to come and solace him in misfortune, and his acquaintances discovered him with one swathed leg horizontal on a chair in front of his arm-chair, and twinging and swearing like anything, in the very manner of an eighteenth-century squire. And even in that plight he would insist on a glass of port, “to cheat the doctor.”

He had two boys, aged sixteen and twelve, and he would allow both of them to drink wine in the evening, saying they must learn to “carry their liquor like gentlemen.” When the lad of twelve calmly ordered the new parlour-maid to bring him the maraschino, Alderman Keats thought that that was a great joke.

Quickly he developed into the acknowledged champion of all ancient English characteristics, customs, prejudices and ideals.

It was this habit of mind that led to the revolver.

He saw the revolver prominent in the window of Stetton’s, the pawnbroker in Crown Square, and the notion suddenly occurred to him that a fine old English gentleman could not be considered complete without a revolver. He bought the weapon, which Stetton guaranteed to be first-rate and fatal, and which was, in fact, pretty good. It seemed to the alderman bright, complex and heavy. He had imagined a revolver to be smaller and lighter; but then he had never handled an instrument more dangerous than a razor. He hesitated about going to his cousin’s, Joe Keats, the ironmonger; Joe Keats always laughed at him as if he were a farce; Joe would not be ceremonious, and could not be corrected because he was a relative and of equal age with the alderman. But he was obliged to go to Joe Keats, as Joe made a speciality of cartridges. In Hanbridge, people who wanted cartridges went as a matter of course to Joe’s. So Alderman Keats strolled with grand casualness into Joe’s, and said: