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Blood Will Tell: The Strange Story of a Son of Ham

Benjamin Rush Davenport

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Boston was shrouded in a mantle of mist that November day, the north-east wind bringing at each blast re-enforcement to the all-enveloping and obscuring mass of gloom that embraced the city in its arms of darkness. Glimmering like toy candles in the distance, electric lights, making halos of the fog, marked a pathway for the hurrying crowds that poured along the narrow, crooked streets of New England’s grand old city. In one of the oldest, narrowest and most crooked thoroughfares down near the wharfs a light burning within the window of an old-fashioned building brought to sight the name “J. Dunlap” and the words “Shipping and Banking.” No living man in Boston nor the father of any man in Boston had ever known a day when passing that old house the sign had not been there for him to gaze upon and lead him to wonder if the Dunlap line would last unbroken forever. In early days of the Republic some Dunlap had in a small way traded with the West Indian islands, especially Haiti, and later some descendant of this old trade pathfinder had established a regular line of sailing ships between Boston and those islands. Then it was that the sign “J. Dunlap, Shipping and Banking” made its appearance on the front of the old house. A maxim of the Dunlap family had been that there must always be a J. Dunlap, hence sons were ever christened John, James, Josiah and such names only as furnished the everlasting J as the initial. “J. Dunlap” had grown financially and commercially in proportion to the growth of the Republic. There was not room on a single line in the Commercial Agency books to put A’s enough to express the credit and financial resources of “J. Dunlap” on this dark November day. Absolutely beyond the shoals and shallows of the dangerous shore of trade where small crafts financially are forced to ply, “J. Dunlap” sailed ever tranquil and serene, neither jars nor shocks disturbing the calm serenity of the voyage. This dismal November day marked an unparalleled experience in the career of the present “J. Dunlap.” The customary calm was disturbed. J. Dunlap disagreed and disagreed positively with J. Dunlap concerning an important event, and that event was a family affair. The exterior of “J. Dunlap” may be dark, grimy, dingy and old, but within all is bright with electric light. Behind glass and wire screens long lines of clerks and accountants bend over desks and busy pens move across the pages of huge ledgers and account books—messengers hurry in and out of two glass partitioned offices. On the door of one is painted “Mr. Burton, Manager;” on the other “Mr. Chapman, Superintendent.” Separated by a narrow passageway from the main office is a large room, high ceiling, old-fashioned, furnished with leather and mahogany fittings of ancient make, on the door of which are the words, “J. Dunlap, Private Office.” This is the sanctum sanctorum in this temple of trade. Within “J. Dunlap’s” private office before a large grate heaped high with blazing cannel coal two old men are seated in earnest conversation. They are “J. Dunlap.” Seventy-two years before this November day that enfolded Boston with London-like fog there were born to one J. Dunlap and his wife twin boys to whom were given in due season the names of James and John. These boys had grown to manhood preserving the same likeness to each other that they had possessed as infants in the cradle. James married early and when his son was born and was promptly made a J. Dunlap, his twin brother vowed that there being a J. Dunlap to secure the perpetuation of the name, he should never marry.