The Missing Link

Edward Dyson
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The Missing Link

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Title: The Missing Link
Author: Edward Dyson
Release Date: November 22, 2005 [EBook #17129]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Peter O'Connell


HIS Christian name was Nicholas but his familiars called him Nickie
the Kid. The title did not imply that Nicholas possessed the artless
gaiety, the nimbleness, or any of the simple virtues of the young of the
common goat. Kid was short for "kidder," a term that as gone out
recently in favour of "smoodger," and which implies a quality of suave
and ingratiating cunning backed by ulterior motives.
The familiars of Mr. Nicholas Crips were a limited circle, and all
"beats," that is to say, gentlemen sitting on the rail dividing honest toil
from open crime. They were not workers, neither were they thieves,
excepting in very special circumstances, when the opportunity made
honesty almost an impertinence. The sobriquet coming from such a
source acquires peculiar significance. The god-fathers of Nickie the
Kid were all experts, and obtained bed and board mainly by exercising
the art of dissimulation. To stand out conspicuously as a specialist in
such company one needed to possess very bright and peculiar qualities.
Mr. Nicholas Crips was blonde, bony man perhaps five feet nine in
height, but looking taller because of the spareness of his limbs. This
spareness was not cultivated, as Nickie the Kid was partial to creature
comforts, but was of great assistance to him in a profession in which it
was often necessary to profess chronic sickness and touching physical
decrepitude. Mr Crips despised whiskers, but, as shaving was an
extravagant indulgence, his slightly cadaverous countenance was often
littered with a crisp, pale stubble, not unlike dry grass.
To-day Nickie wore a suit of black cloth. It had once been a very
imposing suit, and had adorned a great person, but having fallen on evil
days, was dusty and rusty, while the knees of Mr. Crips poked
familiarly through a long slit in each leg of the stained trousers. The
frock coat went badly with the damaged tan boots and the moth-eaten
rag cap Nicholas was wearing.

Mr. Crips was making back-door call, and telling housewives what the
doctors at the hospital had said about his peculiar ailment which, it
appears, was an interesting heart weakness.
"Above all, I must be careful never to over-exert myself, madam--those
are the doctor's orders," said Nickie, in his sad, calm way. "The
smallest excitement, the slightest strain, and my life goes out like that."
Nickie puffed an imaginary candle with dramatic significance.
This was the preliminary to a mild appeal for creature and medical
comforts, and it had two objects--to open the soul to compassion, and
bar all considerations of manual labour.
Our hero's manner with women was a gentle manly deference; his
begging showed no trace of servility, but he was always polite. He
accepted failure with good grace, and did not resent scorn, abuse, or
even violence from intended victims. He was rarely combative.
Fighting was not his special gift; he met misfortune with patient
passivity Resistance he found a mistake. But for all this a certain sense
of superiority was, never wanting in Nickie the Kid; the shabbiest
clothes, a deplorable hat, fragmentary boots, shirtlessness, the most
distressing situations all failed to wholly eliminate a touch of impudent
dignity, a trace of rakish self-satisfaction which as a rule escaped the
attention of his clients; but, here and there, a student of human nature
found it delightfully whimsical. Sometimes it appeared that this spice
of egotism sprang from a blackguardly sense of humour that found joy
in the abounding weaknesses and simplicity of the people he imposed
upon, but, on the other hand, it would be sufficient to show that Mr.
Crips was inspired only with gross selfishness or to comprehend that
the stability of society depends upon fair dealing and faithful labour.
Nevertheless there were occasions when Nickie the Kid deliberately
undertook to earn his daily bread. For a week he served as waiter in a
six penny restaurant. He had been a "super" in drama and a practical
crocodile in pantomime and was long in the employ of a fashionable
undertaker as second in command on the hearse. In this latter
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