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chairman remarked, severely. “We are above anything of that kind, I hope.”
They all hoped so, and Mr. Stride excused himself as best he could; and the company then sat down to regale themselves upon something more substantial than sea air.
“Well, but about that spa ?” Mr. Dodder began again, after the wine had circulated.
Nobody paid any attention to him. They were talking about the pier, the hotel, the crescent, and the baths, each one bringing forward that portion of the programme which touched his own interest or fancy most nearly. Mr. Chaffin, whose opinion was generally invoked, replied in turn to each of them. He was ready to contract for everything; there was nothing he could not do easily and quickly. Why, the whole place might be run up and occupied in a twelvemonth; before next season if they liked. Money could do anything, and he was willing to take a fair proportion of all contracts in shares at a moderate discount.
There was a difference of opinion about the pier. Mr. Chaffin thought it should be built of stone. He was in treaty with the owners of a quarry in the neighbourhood, but he did not mention that. Mr. Oram preferred iron, while Mr. Oakenshore, who had a large American and Baltic trade, said there was "nothing like timber.” The several speakers expressed their opinions so plainly and decidedly upon the disadvantages and defects of the materials advocated by each of the others that it might almost have been doubted whether any material at all could be found worth using, and consequently whether any pier would ever be built; and the debate had already begun to wax warm, when a gentleman who had hitherto been listening in silence interrupted them.
If you will allow me to make a suggestion,” he said, “I think I could mention a material which has a great future upon them.
before it, and which is capable of developments beyond anything that has yet been made public.”
“You are not going to recommend glass, to be sure?" cried Oram.
The person addressed, who was none other than Mr. Glimmers, the great glass man, as he was called, hesitated a moment, then plucked up courage, and resumed.
“No, sir,” he said; “I am not going to recommend it, if only for this reason, that I have glass works of my own, as you know. I would scorn to make a proposal of a public nature for my own personal advantage, but I will say that glass is available for many more purposes than is generally supposed, and that we are now making glass tubes of a strength and diameter that would surprise you. I believe I could manufacture pillars of glass which would carry any weight that is likely to be put
The smoothness of the material would offer no opposition to the waves; a pier built upon glass would be rigid and immovable; there would be no corrosion, as there is with iron [looking at Mr. Oram], nor decay, as there is with timber [glancing at Mr. Oakenshore), nor crumbling, as there is with stone [addressing Mr. Chaffin). The pillars, once down, would last for ever. In short, I do not hesitate to say that a more suitable material could not be found.”
The directors looked at Mr. Glimmers with curiosity, hardly knowing whether he were in jest or in earnest. At length the chairman addressed him. “It is a grand idea," he said ; "a pier founded upon glass pillars would be all that you describe it-firm, incorrodible, imperishable. There is only one thing against it, and that is, that if it were struck by a heavy sea, or by a vessel lurching against it, it would snap short off at
Glass is brittle." “I don't deny it,” said Mr. Glimmers; "glass is brittle, but that is its only fault. If you can find any material that is without fault mention it."
Having thrown out this challenge, Mr. Glimmers sat down without saying another word, and nobody knows to this day whether he was speaking seriously or not.
“Well, but about that spa,” Mr. Dodder said again, taking advantage of the silence which followed.
At every pause of the conversation he made the same remark. "I would not go anywhere myself,” he said, "without a spa. Why, Mr. Chaffin, I have heard you say there ought to be a spa. What are you going to do about a spa ?”
His persistence on this topic prevailed at last, and Mr. Chaffin said they must see about it. One of the “provisionals remarked, with a laugh, that a spa would be found somewhere, no doubt, if the contractor and Mr. Dodder put their heads together. Science could do anything !
"Just so,” said Dodder; “just so. Leave it to Mr. Chaffin and myself; we will take it into consideration and make a report on the subject. Mr. Stride will perhaps be good enough to make a note of that in his minute-book.”
The time was now approaching when the return train would be due, and the company having for the moment dismissed their differences and finished their wine, made preparations for departure. One of them, feeling very thirsty-notwithstanding the liquors he had consumed-called the waiter and bade him bring a glass of water. It was brought, but it did not look very bright or clear. He tasted it, made a wry face, tasted it again, and finally put it down. "Bring me some fresh water, waiter," he said ; "this is not
· fit to drink.”
"It is quite fresh, sir; it's the best we can get,' said the waiter. "What do you mean?”
"All the water hereabout is brackish," said Mr. Brimmer, the landlord, with a smile; "it's not fit for human beings to drink; it has to be boiled and filtered, and I don't know what, to make it wholesome; and then it isn't pleasant to the tasteleastways, I never could abear to drink any of it myself. It's very good for brewing, but for nothing else.”
There was a general excitement among the company at this unexpected remark. The directors had thought of everything else, and had arranged everything else satisfactorily-even to a "spa ;" but the question of a supply of good fresh water had entirely escaped them.
"It is a very serious point," said the chairman. “Mr. Stride, how is it that you did not think about the water ?”
“I don't know, really,” said the secretary; "I have so many other things to think about. I wonder Mr. Chaffin did not go into that question.”
“I'm not a water-drinker myself," said Chaffin.
They were none of them water-drinkers, apparently, but they all tasted the dull-looking, objectionable fluid which Mr. Brimmer, with evident gusto, handed round to them, and all agreed that there was “something particular” about it. Mr. Dodder desired that some of the empty bottles which were lying about should be well washed and then filled from the different wells in the town, that he might take them away and analyse the contents. “We shall perhaps find one or two good samples among them," he said. “I hope so, for it's a very serious point -a very serious point indeed.”
They all agreed with him, and with gloomy looks took their way towards the railway-station. A dismal silence prevailed amongst the directors as they went along, for they felt that the company from which they had anticipated such large profits was in jeopardy. Fresh water, little as they might care for it individually, was an essential that could not be dispensed with; no watering-place could thrive without water. It was a great pity they had not thought of it before. Hotels, crescents, piers, villa residences; how could they flourish without water?
“It would do for the spa,” said Mr. Dodder, as he took his bottles with him into the carriage, carefully labelled and sealed. “It would not signify much what the water was like for the spa ; and it would do for soda and potash and lithia ; there would be a great demand for these. There's some good to be got out of everything."
But even Mr. Dodder was not satisfied; for sodas and potashes and lithias are but luxuries after all, whatever they may be made of. Folks must have pure water-pure at least in its outward appearance—for common use. Without it Sandy Frith could never become popular or populous; and Mr. Dodder, with all his chemical knowledge and skill, could not manufacture so much as a teaspoonful of that pure, fresh, palatable, wholesome water which rises out of the ground almost everywhere and in abundance for our use.
Mr. Chaffin remained behind to make further inquiries, and to take such steps as might be advisable. They had never doubted that there would be "plenty of water, of course,” they said, one and all; if not, they would have begun with that, instead of walking about looking for sites. But the fact was they had never thought about it; the question had not entered their heads. We are so bountifully supplied with all things necessary to our existence that we are apt to be forgetful of them, or to receive them as if they came to us from some inevitable law of nature without any exercise of Divine Providence. Light, air, wholesome water, bread to eat, raiment to put on, are, with most of us, things of course; and it is only when, from some cause or other, they fail that we recognise their value. Common blessings, as they are the most necessary and the most abundant, ought to claim our highest thanks and praise ; and yet too frequently they are the last to be remembered and acknowledged; we take them and use them “of course.”