The Last Galley Impressions and Tales HTML version

The Silver Mirror
Jan. 3.--This affair of White and Wotherspoon's accounts proves to be a gigantic task.
There are twenty thick ledgers to be examined and checked. Who would be a junior
partner? However, it is the first big bit of business which has been left entirely in my
hands. I must justify it. But it has to be finished so that the lawyers may have the result in
time for the trial. Johnson said this morning that I should have to get the last figure out
before the twentieth of the month. Good Lord! Well, have at it, and if human brain and
nerve can stand the strain, I'll win out at the other side. It means office-work from ten to
five, and then a second sitting from about eight to one in the morning. There's drama in
an accountant's life. When I find myself in the still early hours, while all the world sleeps,
hunting through column after column for those missing figures which will turn a
respected alderman into a felon, I understand that it is not such a prosaic profession after
On Monday I came on the first trace of defalcation. No heavy game hunter ever got a
finer thrill when first he caught sight of the trail of his quarry. But I look at the twenty
ledgers and think of the jungle through which I have to follow him before I get my kill.
Hard work--but rare sport, too, in a way! I saw the fat fellow once at a City dinner, his
red face glowing above a white napkin. He looked at the little pale man at the end of the
table. He would have been pale too if he could have seen the task that would be mine.
Jan. 6.--What perfect nonsense it is for doctors to prescribe rest when rest is out of the
question! Asses! They might as well shout to a man who has a pack of wolves at his heels
that what he wants is absolute quiet. My figures must be out by a certain date; unless they
are so, I shall lose the chance of my lifetime, so how on earth am I to rest? I'll take a
week or so after the trial.
Perhaps I was myself a fool to go to the doctor at all. But I get nervous and highly-strung
when I sit alone at my work at night. It's not a pain--only a sort of fullness of the head
with an occasional mist over the eyes. I thought perhaps some bromide, or chloral, or
something of the kind might do me good. But stop work? It's absurd to ask such a thing.
It's like a long-distance race. You feel queer at first and your heart thumps and your lungs
pant, but if you have only the pluck to keep on, you get your second wind. I'll stick to my
work and wait for my second wind. If it never comes--all the same, I'll stick to my work.
Two ledgers are done, and I am well on in the third. The rascal has covered his tracks
well, but I pick them up for all that.
Jan. 9.--I had not meant to go to the doctor again. And yet I have had to. "Straining my
nerves, risking a complete breakdown, even endangering my sanity." That's a nice
sentence to have fired off at one. Well, I'll stand the strain and I'll take the risk, and so
long as I can sit in my chair and move a pen I'll follow the old sinner's slot.
By the way, I may as well set down here the queer experience which drove me this
second time to the doctor. I'll keep an exact record of my symptoms and sensations,