John Caldigate had promised to go direct from Folking to the house of his friend Richard Shand, or rather, to the house in which lived Richard Shand’s father and family. The two young men had much to arrange together, and this had been thought to be expedient. When Caldigate, remembering how affairs were at his own home, had suggested that at so sad a moment he might be found to be in the way, Shand had assured him that there would be no sadness at all. ‘We are not a sentimental race,’ he had said. ’There are a dozen of us, and the sooner some of us disperse ourselves, the more room will there be in the nest for the others.’
Shand had been Caldigate’s most intimate friend at college through the whole period of their residence, and now he was to be his companion in a still more intimate alliance. And yet, though he liked the man, he did not altogether approve of him. Shand had also got into debt at Cambridge, but had not paid his debts; and had dealings also with Davis, as to which he was now quite indifferent. He had left the University without taking a degree, and had seemed to bear all these adversities with perfect equanimity. There had not been hitherto much of veneration in Caldigate’s character, but even he had, on occasions, been almost shocked at the want of respect evinced by his friend for conventional rules. All college discipline, all college authorities, all university traditions had been despised by Shand, who even in his dress had departed as far from recognised customs and fashions among the men as from the requisitions of the statutes and the milder requirements of the dignitaries of the day. Now, though he could not pay his debts,—and intended, indeed, to run away from them,—he was going to try his fortune with a certain small capital which his father had agreed to give him as his share of what there might be of the good things of the world among the Shands generally. As Shand himself said of both of them, he was about to go forth as a prodigal son, with a perfect assurance that, should he come back empty-handed, no calf would be killed for him. But he was an active man, with a dash of fun, and perhaps a sprinkling of wit, quick and brave, to whom life was apparently a joke, and who boasted of himself that, though he was very fond of beef and beer, he could live on bread and water, if put to it, without complaining. Caldigate almost feared that the man was a dangerous companion, but still there was a certain fitness about him for the thing contemplated; and, for such a venture, where could he find any other companion who would be fit?