Friday, 21 December 2012
The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 4
James was wandering across London Bridge, contemplating suicide, when his attention was attracted by a strange-looking man with wild eyes who was walking straight towards him. The fellow was deathly pale, and he looked more like a ghost than a man made of flesh and blood. But he was alive all right, for he stopped in front of James, looked him directly in the eye for what seemed like an eternity, and said gravely: "You, sir, are the man who came to me in my dreams."
James was greatly taken aback, but the pale man explained everything. It transpired that he was in the business of making straw bonnets, and that he had invented a shiny glaze which was currently all the rage, so that the business was thriving. He was making a good living, he said, but his health was declining fast and he could not see how he could carry on with running the business single-handed. He said he did not want to sell or give away the secret of his invention, for that was the source of his wealth. He decided that he should find somebody whom he could trust, to join him in the business. But who should that person be, and how might he be found? He had worried about this for days and weeks, but then he dreamed on three successive nights that a man came to him and told him that he could be trusted; the face of the man was that of James Hoole.
James did not know how to respond to this turn of events, but before he could say anything the sick man told him that on the strength of the dream he would take James into his confidence, take him into his business as a partner, and --if all worked out well -- pass the business on to the young man when he died. No investment or other commitment was required on James's part.
This was manna from Heaven as far as James was concerned, and since he had no other prospects he joined the sick man (we do not know his name) in the business enterprise. He brought his own talents to the business, including youthful enthusiasm and a good knowledge of book-keeping. The partners did very well indeed for a few years, as long as the craze for glazed straw bonnets continued. But then the sick businessman died, leaving his fortune of a few hundred pounds to James. The family was now secure, if not very wealthy. But the economy the nation was still precarious, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, with ex-soldiers and naval personnel swelling the ranks of the unemployed, and with thousands of retired officers struggling to find positions in business, particularly in London.
Then, in the year 1819, with another baby on the way and with Jane and James facing more financial insecurity, James heard that the Colonial Office was thinking about a settlement programme in South Africa. The Times trumpeted: "Our noble station at the Cape of Good Hope has the finest spoil and climate in the world; it is the centre of both hemispheres -- it commands the commerce of the globe -- it produces in unparalleled abundance all the necessities of life." It sounded like paradise. Then James saw a notice which announced that Lieutenant John Baillie RN was thinking of assembling a party of emigrants, and that a meeting would be held quite close to the place where the Hoole family was then living. James decided to go along to the meeting.........
To be continued.......