The Eton Man
Jim Silver grew up neither his father’s son nor his mother’s.
“He’s a throw-back—to his grandfather,” said old Sir Evelyn.
And in fact from the first the lad’s soul hankered after the broad lands of Leicestershire rather than the counting-house in Threadneedle Street.
His happiest days were spent as a child on his grand-dad’s farm, amid the great horses, and sweet-breathed kine, and golden stacks.
“Back to the land,” as his grandfather was fond of saying, was the child’s unspoken motto.
The old man and his sturdy grandchild were rare intimates, and never so happy as when wandering together about the yards and farm-buildings and pastures, the child, silent and absorbed, as he clutched his grand-dad’s big brown finger.
The pair did not talk much: they were too content. But there was one often-repeated conversation which took place between them as they strolled.
“What goin’ to be when you grows up, Jim?”
“What shall ye breed?”
The child came back always from those prolonged visits with the sun on his cheeks, the strength in his limbs, and Leicestershire broad upon his tongue; and he never understood why his mother cut his visits short on every imaginable pretext.
At Eton the lad’s friends were almost all drawn from the families in whose blood, after generations of possession, the land and its belongings had become a real if somewhat perverted passion. They would sit on into the twilight in each other’s studies and ramble on interminably and with the exaggerated wisdom of seventeen about the subject nearest to their youthful hearts.
Sometimes Mr. Bromhead would look in, grim and gray behind his spectacles.
“Talking horses as usual, Jim, I suppose,” he would say.
“And dog, sir,” corrected young Amersham.
“With an occasional shorthorn chucked in to tip the scale,” added old Sir Evelyn’s fair grandson.
* * * * *
When Brazil Silver died, the year his son was the heavy-weight in the Oxford boat, he left a will which was in accordance with his life.
Every penny he had—and he had a good many, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer remarked in the House of Commons—was tied up in the Bank, and to remain there.
It was all left to his son. “I can trust him to see to his mother,” ran the will, written on half a sheet of paper, “and to any dependents. Charities I loathe.”
The son was free to save anything he liked from his vast income, but the capital must stay in the Bank.
The old man made no condition that Jim should enter the Bank, and expressed no wish to that effect. His friends, therefore, speculated what Jim would do.
They might have spared themselves the trouble. He left Oxford, in spite of the protests of the Captain of the boat, who spent a vain but hectic week pointing out to the apostate the path of duty, which was also the path of glory, and went into the Bank.