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How A Retired Provision Merchant Felt The Impulse Of
Mr. Dickson McCunn completed the polishing of his smooth cheeks with the towel,
glanced appreciatively at their reflection in the looking-glass, and then permitted his eyes
to stray out of the window. In the little garden lilacs were budding, and there was a gold
line of daffodils beside the tiny greenhouse. Beyond the sooty wall a birch flaunted its
new tassels, and the jackdaws were circling about the steeple of the Guthrie Memorial
Kirk. A blackbird whistled from a thorn-bush, and Mr. McCunn was inspired to follow its
example. He began a tolerable version of "Roy's Wife of Aldivalloch."
He felt singularly light-hearted, and the immediate cause was his safety razor. A week
ago he had bought the thing in a sudden fit of enterprise, and now he shaved in five
minutes, where before he had taken twenty, and no longer confronted his fellows, at least
one day in three, with a countenance ludicrously mottled by sticking-plaster. Calculation
revealed to him the fact that in his fifty-five years, having begun to shave at eighteen, he
had wasted three thousand three hundred and seventy hours--or one hundred and forty
days--or between four and five months--by his neglect of this admirable invention. Now
he felt that he had stolen a march on Time. He had fallen heir, thus late, to a fortune in
unpurchasable leisure.
He began to dress himself in the sombre clothes in which he had been accustomed for
thirty-five years and more to go down to the shop in Mearns Street. And then a thought
came to him which made him discard the grey-striped trousers, sit down on the edge of
his bed, and muse.
Since Saturday the shop was a thing of the past. On Saturday at half-past eleven, to the
accompaniment of a glass of dubious sherry, he had completed the arrangements by
which the provision shop in Mearns Street, which had borne so long the legend of D.
McCunn, together with the branches in Crossmyloof and the Shaws, became the property
of a company, yclept the United Supply Stores, Limited. He had received in payment
cash, debentures and preference shares, and his lawyers and his own acumen had
acclaimed the bargain. But all the week-end he had been a little sad. It was the end of so
old a song, and he knew no other tune to sing. He was comfortably off, healthy, free from
any particular cares in life, but free too from any particular duties. "Will I be going to
turn into a useless old man?" he asked himself.
But he had woke up this Monday to the sound of the blackbird, and the world, which had
seemed rather empty twelve hours before, was now brisk and alluring. His prowess in
quick shaving assured him of his youth. "I'm no' that dead old," he observed, as he sat on
the edge of he bed, to his reflection in the big looking-glass.
It was not an old face. The sandy hair was a little thin on the top and a little grey at the
temples, the figure was perhaps a little too full for youthful elegance, and an athlete
would have censured the neck as too fleshy for perfect health. But the cheeks were rosy,
the skin clear, and the pale eyes singularly childlike. They were a little weak, those eyes,
and had some difficulty in looking for long at the same object, so that Mr. McCunn did
not stare people in the face, and had, in consequence, at one time in his career acquired a