Part 4 out of 9
"There is no attachment; there is nothing but civility, and the
affability of a well-bred superior to an inferior. Attachment! why,
there is not a girl in Europe less capable of marrying beneath her;
and she is too cold to flirt---but with a view to matrimonial
position. The worst of it is, that, while you fear an imaginary
danger, you are running into a real one. If we are defeated it will
not be by Dodd, but by that Mrs. Bazalgette. Why, now I think of it,
whence does Lucy's coldness date? From that viper's visit to my house.
Rely on it, if we are suffering from any rival influence, it is that
woman's. She is a dangerous woman--she is a character I detest--she is
"Am I to understand that Mrs. Bazalgette has views of her own for Miss
Fountain?" inquired Talboys, his jealousy half inclined to follow the
"In all probability."
"Oh, then it is mere surmise."
"No, it is not mere surmise; it is the reasonable conjecture of a man
who knows her sex, and human nature, and life. Since I have my views,
what more likely than that she has hers, if only to spite me? Add to
this her strange visit to Font Abbey, and the somber influence she has
left behind. And to this woman Lucy is going unprotected by any
positive pledge to you. Here is the true cause for anxiety. And if you
do not share it with me, it must be that you do not care about our
Mr. Talboys was hurt. "Not care for the alliance? It was dear to
him--all the dearer for the difficulties. He was attached to Miss
Fountain--warmly attached; would do anything for her except run the
risk of an affront--a refusal." Then followed a long discussion, the
result of which was that he would not propose in form now, but
_would_ give proofs of his attachment such as no lady could
mistake; _inter alia,_ he would be sure to spend the last evening
with her, and would ride the first stage with her next day, squeeze
her hand at parting, and look unutterable. And as for the formal
proposal, that was only postponed a week or two. Mr. Fountain was to
pay his visit to Mrs. Bazalgette, and secretly prepare Miss Fountain;
then Talboys would suddenly pounce--and pop. The grandeur and boldness
of this strategy staggered, rather than displeased, Mr. Fountain.
"What! under her own roof?" and he could not help rubbing his hands
with glee and spite--"under her own eye, and _malgre_ her
personal influence? Why, you are Nap. I."
"She will be quite out of the way of the Dodds there," said Talboys,
The senior groaned. (" 'Mule I.' I should have said.")
And so they cut and dried it all.
The last evening came, and with it, just before dinner, a line by
special messenger from Mr. Talboys. "He could not come that evening.
His brother had just arrived from India; they had not met for seven
years. He could not set him to dine alone."
After dinner, in the middle of her uncle's nap, in came Lucy, and,
unheard-of occurrence--deed of dreadful note--woke him. She was
radiant, and held a note from Eve. "Good news, uncle; those good, kind
Dodds! they are coming to tea."
"What?" and he wore a look of consternation. Recollecting, however,
that Talboys was not to be there, he was indifferent again. But when
he read the note he longed for his self-invited visitors. It ran thus:
"DEAR MISS FOUNTAIN--David has found out the genealogy. He says there
is no doubt you came from the Fountains of Melton, and he can prove
it. He has proved it to me, and I am none the wiser. So, as David is
obliged to go away to-morrow, I think the best way is for me to bring
him over with the papers to-night. We will come at eight, unless you
"He is a worthy young man," shouted Mr. Fountain. "What o'clock is
"Very nearly eight. Oh, uncle, I am so glad. How pleased you will be!"
The Dodds arrived soon after, and while tea was going on David spread
his parchments on the table and submitted his proofs. He had eked out
the other evidence by means of a series of leases. The three fields
that went with Font Abbey had been let a great many times, and the
landlord's name, Fountain in the latter leases, was Fontaine in those
of remoter date. David even showed his host the exact date at which
the change of orthography took place. "You are a shrewd young
gentleman," cried Mr. Fountain, gleefully.
David then asked him what were the names of his three meadows. The
names of them? He didn't know they had any.
"No names? Why, there isn't a field in England that hasn't its own
name, sir. I noticed that before I went to sea." He then told Mr.
Fountain the names of his three meadows, and curious names they were.
Two of them were a good deal older than William the Conqueror. David
wrote them on a slip of paper. He then produced a chart. "What is
that, Mr. David?"
"A map of the Melton estate, sir."
"Why, how on earth did you get that?"
"An old shipmate of mine lives in that quarter--got him to make it for
me. Overhaul it, sir; you will find the Melton estate has got all your
three names within a furlong of the mansion house."
"From this you infer--"
"That one of that house came here, and brought the E along with him
that has got dropped somehow since, and, being so far from his
birthplace, he thought he would have one or two of the old names about
him. What will you bet me he hasn't shot more than one brace of
partridges on those fields about Melton when he was a boy? So he
christened your three fields afresh, and the new names took; likely he
made a point of it with the people in the village. For all that, I
have found one old fellow who stands out against them to this day. His
name is Newel. He will persist in calling the field next to your house
Snap Witcheloe. 'That is what my grandfather allus named it,' says he,
'and that is the name it went by afore there was ever a Fountain in
this ere parish.' I have looked in the Parish Register, and I see
Newel's grandfather was born in 1690. Now, sir, all this is not
mathematical proof; but, when you come to add it to your own direct
proofs, that carry you within a cable's length of Port Fontaine, it is
very convincing; and, not to pay out too much yarn, I'll bet--my
head--to a China orange--"
"David, don't be vulgar."
"Never mind, Mr. Dodd--be yourself."
"Well, then, to serve Eve out, I'll bet her head (and that is a better
one than mine) to a China orange that Fontaine and Fountain are one,
and that the first Fontaine came over here from Melton more than one
hundred and thirty years ago, and less than one hundred and forty,
when Newel's grandfather was a young man."
_"Probatum est,"_ shouted old Fountain, his eyes sparkling, his
voice trembling with emotion. "Miss Fontaine," said he, turning to
Lucy, throwing a sort of pompous respect into his voice and manner,
"you shall never marry any man that cannot give you as good a home as
Melton, and quarter as good a coat of arms with you as your own, the
Founteyns'." David's heart took a chill as if an ice-arrow had gone
through it. "So join me to thank our young friend here."
Mr. Fountain held out his hand. David gave his mechanically in return,
scarcely knowing what he did. "You are a worthy and most intelligent
young man, and you have made an old man as happy as a lord," said the
old gentleman, shaking him warmly.
"And there is my hand, too," said Lucy, putting out hers with a blush,
"to show you I bear you no malice for being more unselfish and more
sagacious than us all." Instantly David's cold chill fled
unreasonably. His cheeks burned with blushes, his eyes glowed, his
heart thumped, and the delicate white, supple, warm, velvet hand that
nestled in his shot electric tremors through his whole frame, when
glided, with well-bred noiselessness, through the open door, Mr.
Talboys, and stood looking yellow at that ardent group, and the
massive yet graceful bare arm stretched across the table, and the
white hand melting into the brown one.
While he stood staring, David looked up, and caught that strange, that
yellow look. Instantly a light broke in on him. "So I should look,"
felt David, "if I saw her hand in his." He held Lucy's hand tight (she
was just beginning to withdraw it), and glared from his seat on the
newcomer like a lion ready to spring. Eve read and turned pale; she
knew what was in the man's blood.
Lucy now quietly withdrew her hand, and turned with smiling composure
toward the newcomer, and Mr. Fountain thrust a minor anxiety between
the passions of the rivals. He rose hastily, and went to Talboys, and,
under cover of a warm welcome, took care to let him know Miss Dodd had
been kind enough to invite herself and David. He then explained with
uneasy animation what David had done for him.
Talboys received all this with marked coldness; but it gave him time
to recover his self-possession. He shook hands with Lucy, all but
ignored David and Eve, and quietly assumed the part of principal
personage. He then spoke to Lucy in a voice tuned for the occasion, to
give the impression that confidential communication was not unusual
between him and her. He apologized, scarce above a whisper, for not
having come to dinner on her last day.
"But after dinner," said he, "my brother seemed fatigued. I
treacherously recommended bed. You forgive me? The nabob instantly
acted on my selfish hint. I mounted my horse, and _me voila."_ In
short, in two minutes he had retaliated tenfold on David. As for Lucy,
she was a good deal amused at this sudden public assumption of a
tenderness the gentleman had never exhibited in private, but a little
mortified at his parade of mysterious familiarity; still, for a
certain female reason, she allowed neither to appear, but wore an air
of calm cordiality, and gave Talboys his full swing.
David, seated sore against his will at another table, whither Mr.
Fountain removed him and parchments on pretense of inspecting the
leases, listened with hearing preternaturally keen--listened and
His back was toward them. At last he heard Talboys propose in
murmuring accents to accompany her the first stage of her journey. She
did not answer directly, and that second was an age of anguish to poor
When she did answer, as if to compensate for her hesitation, she said,
with alacrity: "I shall be delighted; it will vary the journey most
agreeably; I will ride the pony you were so kind as to give me."
The letters swam before David's eyes.
Lucy came to the table, and, standing close behind David--so close
that he felt her pure cool breath mingle with his hair, said to her
uncle: "Mr. Talboys proposes to me to ride the first stage to-morrow;
if I do, you must be of the party."
"Oh, must I? Well, I'll roll after you in my phaeton."
At this moment Eve could bear no longer the anguish on David's beloved
face. It made her hysterical. She could hardly command herself. She
rose hastily, and saying, "We must not keep you up the night before a
journey," took leave with David. As he shook hands with Lucy, his
imploring eye turned full on hers, and sought to dive into her heart.
But that soft sapphire eye was unfathomable. It was like those dark
blue southern waters that seem to reveal all, yet hide all, so deep
they are, though clear.
Eve. "Thank Heaven, we are safe out of the house."
David. "I have got a rival."
Eve. "A pretty rival; she doesn't care a button for him."
David. "He rides the first stage with her."
Eve. "Well, what of that?"
David. "I have got a rival."
David was none of your lie-a-beds. He rose at five in summer, six in
winter, and studied hard till breakfast time; after that he was at
every fool's service. This morning he did not appear at the breakfast
table, and the servant had not seen him about. Eve ran upstairs full
of anxiety. He was not in his room. The bed had not been slept in; the
impress of his body outside showed, however, that he had flung himself
down on it to snatch an uneasy slumber.
Eve sent the girl into the village to see if she could find him or
hear tidings of him. The girl ran out without her bonnet, partaking
her mistress's anxiety, but did not return for nearly half an hour,
that seemed an age to Eve. The girl had lost some time by going to
Josh Grace for information. Grace's house stood in an orchard; so he
was the unlikeliest man in the village to have seen David. She set
against this trivial circumstance the weighty one that he was her
sweetheart, and went to him first.
"I hain't a-sin him, Sue; thee hadst better ask at the blacksmith's
shop," said Joshua Grace.
Susan profited by this hint, and learned at the blacksmith's shop that
David had gone by up the road about six in the morning, walking very
fast. She brought the news to Eve.
"Yes, miss; but, la! he won't ever think to go all the way to
Royston--without his breakfast."
"That will do, Susan. I think I know what he is gone for."
On the servant retiring, her assumed firmness left her.
"On the road _she_ is to travel! and his rival with her. What mad
act is he going to do? Heaven have mercy on him, and me, and her!"
Eve knew what was in the man's blood. She sat trembling at home till
she could bear it no longer. She put on her bonnet, and sallied out on
the road to Royston, determined to stop the carriage, profess to have
business at Royston, and take a seat beside Mr. Fountain. She felt
that the very sight of her might prevent David from committing any
great rashness or folly. On reaching the high road, she observed a
fresh track of narrow wheels, that her rustic experience told her
could only be those of a four-wheeled carriage, and, making inquiries,
she found she was too late; carriage and riders had gone on before.
Her heart sank. Too late by a few minutes; but somehow she could not
turn back. She walked as fast as she could after the gay cavalcade, a
prey to one of those female anxieties we have all laughed at as
extravagant, proved unreasonable, and sometimes found prophetic.
Meantime Lucy and Mr. Talboys cantered gayly along; Mr. Fountain
rolled after in a phaeton; the traveling carriage came last. Lucy was
in spirits; motion enlivens us all, but especially such of us as are
women. She had also another cause for cheerfulness, that may perhaps
transpire. Her two companions and unconscious dependents were governed
by her mood. She made them larks to-day, as she had owls for some
weeks past, last night excepted. She would fall back every now and
then, and let Uncle Fountain pass her; then come dashing up to him,
and either pull up short with a piece of solemn information like an
_aid-de-camp_ from headquarters, or pass him shooting a shaft of
raillery back into his chariot, whereat he would rise with mock fury
and yell a repartee after her. Fountain found himself good
company--Talboys himself. It was not the lady; oh dear no! it never
At last all seemed so bright, and Mr. Talboys found himself so
agreeable, that he suddenly recalled his high resolve not to pop in a
county desecrated by Dodds. "I'll risk it now," said he; and he rode
back to Fountain and imparted his intention, and the senior nearly
bounded off his seat. He sounded the charge in a stage whisper,
because of the coachman, "At her at once!"
"Secret conference? hum!" said Lucy, twisting her pony, and looking
Mr. Talboys rejoined her, and, after a while, began in strange,
melodious accents, "You will leave a blank--"
"Shall we canter?" said Lucy, gayly, and off went the pony. Talboys
followed, and at the next hill resumed the sentimental cadence.
"You will leave a sad blank here, Miss Fountain."
"No greater than I found," replied the lady, innocently (?). "Oh,
dear!" she cried, with sudden interest, "I am afraid I have dropped my
comb." She felt under her hat. [No, viper, you have not dropped your
comb, but you are feeling for a large black pin with a head to it.
There, you have found it, and taken it out of your hair, and got it
hid in your hand. What is that for?]
"Ten times greater," moaned the honeyed Talboys; "for then we had not
seen you. Ah! my dear Miss Fountain-- The devil! wo-ho, Goliah!"
For the pony spilled the treacle. He lashed out both heels with a
squeak of amazement within an inch of Mr. Talboys' horse, which
instantly began to rear, and plunge, and snort. While Talboys, an
excellent horseman, was calming his steed, Lucy was condoling with
hers. "Dear little naughty fellow!" said she, patting him ["I did it
"As I was saying, the blessing we have never enjoyed we do not miss;
but, now that you have shone upon us, what can reconcile us to lose
you, unless it be the hope that-- Hallo!"
The pony was off with a bound like a buck. She had found out the right
depth of pin this time. "Ah! where is my whip? I have dropped it; how
careless!" Then they had to ride back for the whip, and by this means
joined Mr. Fountain. Lucy rode by his side, and got the carriage
between her and her beau. By this plan she not only evaded sentiment,
but matured by a series of secret trials her skill with her weapon.
Armed with this new science, she issued forth, and, whenever Mr.
Talboys left off indifferent remarks and sounded her affections, she
probed the pony, and he kicked or bolted as the case might require.
"Confound that pony!" cried Talboys; "he used to be quiet enough."
"Oh, don't scold him, dear, playful little love. He carries me like a
At this simple sentence Talboys' dormant jealousy contrived to revive.
He turned sulky, and would not waste any more tenderness, and
presently they rattled over the stones of Royston. Lucy commended her
pony with peculiar earnestness to the ostler. "Pray groom him well,
and feed him well, sir; he is a love." The ostler swore he would not
wrong her ladyship's nag for the world.
Lucy then expressed her desire to go forward without delay: "Aunt will
expect me." She took her seat in the carriage, bade a kind farewell to
both the gentlemen now that no tender answer was possible, and was
Thus the coy virgin eluded the pair.
Now her manner in taking leave of Talboys was so kind, so smiling (in
the sweet consciousness of having baffled him), that Fountain felt
sure it all had gone smoothly. They were engaged.
"Well?" he cried, with great animation.
"No," was the despondent reply.
"Refused?" screeched the other; "impossible!"
"No, thank you," was the haughty reply.
"What then? Did you change your mind? Didn't you propose after all?"
"I _couldn't._ That d--d pony wouldn't keep still."
Lucy, left to herself, gave a little sigh of relief. She had been
playing a part for the last twenty-four hours. Her cordiality with Mr.
Talboys naturally misled Eve and David, and perhaps a male reader or
two. Shall I give the clue? It may be useful to you, young gentlemen.
Well, then, her sex are compounders. Accustomed from childhood never
to have anything entirely their own way, they are content to give and
take; and, these terms once accepted, it is a point of honor and tact
with them not to let a creature see the irksome part of the bargain is
not as delicious as the other. One coat of their own varnish goes over
the smooth and the rough, the bitter and the sweet.
Now Lucy, besides being singularly polite and kind, was _femme
jusqu' au bout des ongles._ If her instincts had been reasons, and
her vague thoughts could have been represented by anything so definite
as words, the result might have appeared thus:
"A few hours, and you can bore me no more, Mr. Talboys. Now what must
I do for you in return? _Seem not to be bored to-day? Mais c'est la
moindre des choses. Seem to be pleased with your society?_ Why not?
it is only for an hour or two, and my seeming to like it will not
prolong it. My heart swells with happiness at the thought of escaping
from you, good bore; you shall share my happiness, good bore. It is so
kind of you not to bore me to all eternity."
This was why the last night she sat like Patience on an ottoman
smiling on Talboys and racking David's heart; and this was why she
made the ride so pleasant to those she was at heart glad to leave,
till they tried sentiment on, and then she was an eel directly, pony
Lucy (sola). "That is over. Poor Mr. Talboys! Does he fancy he
has an attachment? No; I please and I am courted wherever I go, but I
have never been loved. If a man loved me I should see it in his face,
I should feel it without a word spoken. Once or twice I fancied I saw
it in one man's eyes: they seemed like a lion's that turned to a
dove's as they looked at me." Lucy closed her own eyes and recalled
her impression: "It must have been fancy. Ought I to wish to inspire
such a passion as others have inspired? No, for I could never return
it. The very language of passion in romances seems so extravagant to
me, yet so beautiful. It is hard I should not be loved, merely because
I cannot love. Many such natures have been adored. I could not bear to
die and not be loved as deeply as ever woman was loved. I must be
loved, adored and worshiped: it would be so sweet--sweet!" She slowly
closed her eyes, and the long lovely lashes drooped, and a celestial
smile parted her lips as she fell into a vague, delicious reverie.
Suddenly the carriage stopped at the foot of a hill. She opened her
eyes, and there stood David Dodd at the carriage window.
Lucy put her head out. "Why, it is Mr. Dodd! Oh, Mr. Dodd, is there
anything the matter?"
"You look so pale."
"Do I?" and he flushed faintly.
"Which way are you going?"
"I am going home again now," said David, sorrowfully.
"You came all this way to bid me good-by," and she arched her eyebrows
and laughed--a little uneasily.
"It didn't seem a step. It will seem longer going back."
"No, no, you shall ride back. My pony is at the White Horse; will you
not ride my pony back for me? then I shall know he will be kindly
used; a stranger would whip him."
"I should think my arm would wither if I ill-used him."
"You are very good. I suppose it is because you are so brave."
"Me brave? I don't feel so. Am I to tell him to drive on?" and he
looked at her with haggard and imploring eyes.
Her eyes fell before his.
"Good-by, then," said she.
He cried with a choking voice to the postilion, "Go ahead."
The carriage went on and left him standing in the road, his head upon
At the steepest part of the hill a trace broke, and the driver drew
the carriage across the hill and shouted to David. He came running up,
and put a large stone behind each wheel.
Lucy was alarmed. "Mr. Dodd! let me out."
He handed her out. The postboy was at a _nonplus;_ but David
whipped a piece of cord and a knife out of his pocket, and began, with
great rapidity and dexterity, to splice the trace.
"Ah! now you are pleased, Mr. Dodd; our misfortune will elicit your
skill in emergencies."
"Oh, no, it isn't that; it is--I never hoped to see you again so
Lucy colored, and her eyes sought the ground; the splice was soon
"There!" said David; "I could have spent an hour over it; but you
would have been vexed, and the bitter moment must have come at last."
"God bless you, Miss Fountain--oh! mayn't I say Miss Lucy to-day?" he
"Of course you may," said Lucy, the tears rising in her eyes at his
sad face and beseeching look. "Oh, Mr. Dodd, parting with those we
esteem is always sad enough; I got away from the door without
crying--for once; don't _you_ make me cry."
"Make you cry?" cried David, as it he had been suspected of
sacrilege; "God forbid!" He muttered in a choking voice, "You give the
word of command, for I can't."
"You can go on," said her soft, clear voice; but first she gave David
her hand with a gentle look--"Good-by."
But David could not speak to her. He held her hand tight in both his
powerful hands. They seemed iron to her--shaking, trembling, grasping
iron. The carriage went slowly on, and drew her hand away. She shrank
into a corner of the carriage; he frightened her.
He followed the carriage to the brow of the hill, then sat down upon a
heap of stones, and looked despairingly after it.
Meantime Lucy put her head in her hands and blushed, though she was
all alone. "How dare he forget the distance between us? Poor fellow!
have not I at times forgotten it? I am worse than he. I lost my
self-possession; I should have checked his folly; he knows nothing of
_les convenances._ He has hurt my hand, he is so rough; I feel
his clutch now; there, I thought so, it is all red--poor fellow!
Nonsense! he is a sailor; he knows nothing of the world and its
customs. Parting with a pleasant acquaintance forever made him a
"He is all nature; he is like nobody else; he shows every feeling
instead of concealing it, that is all. He has gone home, I hope." She
glanced hastily back. He was sitting on the stones, his arms drooping,
his head bowed, a picture of despondency. She put her face in her
hands again and pondered, blushing higher and higher. Then the pale
face that had always been ruddy before, the simple grief and
agitation, the manly eye that did not know how to weep, but was so
clouded and troubled, and wildly sad; the shaking hands, that had
clutched hers like a drowning man's (she felt them still), the
quivering features, choked voice, and trembling lip, all these
recoiled with double force upon her mind: they touched her far more
than sobs and tears would have done, her sex's ready signs of shallow
Two tears stole down her cheeks.
"If he would but go home and forget me!" She glanced hastily back.
David was climbing up a tree, active as a cat. "He is like nobody
else--he! he! Stay! is that to see the last of me--the very last? Poor
soul! Madman, how will this end? What can come of it but misery to
him, remorse to me?
"This is love." She half closed her eyes and smiled, repeating, "This
"Oh how I despise all the others and their feeble flatteries!"
"Heaven forgive me my mad, my wicked wish!
"I _am_ beloved.
"I am adored.
"I am miserable!"
As soon as the carriage was out of sight, David came down and hurried
from the place. He found the pony at the inn. The ostler had not even
removed his saddle.
"Methought that ostler did protest too much."
David kissed the saddle and the pommels, and the bridle her hand had
held, and led the pony out. After walking a mile or two he mounted the
pony, to sit in her seat, not for ease. Walking thirty miles was
nothing to this athlete; sticking on and holding on with his chin on
his knee was rather fatiguing.
Meantime, Eve walked on till she was four miles from home. No David.
She sat down and cried a little space, then on again. She had just
reached an angle in the road, when--clatter, clatter--David came
cantering around with his knee in his mouth. Eve gave a joyful scream,
and up went both her hands with sudden delight. At the double shock to
his senses the pony thought his end was come, and perhaps the world's.
He shied slap into the hedge and stuck there--alone; for, his rider
swaying violently the reverse way, the girths burst, the saddle peeled
off the pony's back, and David sat griping the pommel of the saddle in
the middle of the road at Eve's feet, looking up in her face with an
uneasy grin, while dust rose around him in a little column. Eve
screeched, and screeched, and screeched; then fell to, with a face as
red as a turkey-cock's, and beat David furiously, and hurt--her little
David laughed. This incident did him good--shook him up a bit. The
pony groveled out of the ditch and cantered home, squeaking at
intervals and throwing his heels.
David got up, hoisted the side saddle on to his square shoulders, and,
keeping it there by holding the girths, walked with Eve toward Font
Abbey. She was now a little ashamed of her apprehensions; and,
besides, when she leathered David, she was, in her own mind, serving
him out for both frights. At all events, she did not scold him, but
kindly inquired his adventures, and he told her what he had done and
said, and what Miss Fountain had said.
The account disappointed Eve. "All this is just a pack of nothing,"
said she. "It is two lovers parting, or it is two common friendly
acquaintances; all depends on how it was done, and that you don't tell
me." Then she put several subtle questions as to the looks, and tones
and manner of the young lady. David could not answer them. On this she
informed him he was a fool.
"So I begin to think," said he.
"There! be quiet," said she, "and let me think it over."
"Ay! ay!" said he.
While he was being quiet and letting her think a carriage came rapidly
up behind them, with a horseman riding beside it; and, as the
pedestrians drew aside, an ironical voice fell upon them, and the
carriage and horseman stopped, and floured, them with dust.
Messrs. Talboys and Fountain took a stroll to look at the new jail
that was building in Royston, and, as they returned, Talboys, whose
wounded pride had now fermented, told Mr. Fountain plainly that he saw
nothing for it but to withdraw his pretensions to Miss Fountain.
"My own feelings are not sufficiently engaged for me to play the
up-hill game of overcoming her disinclination."
"Disinclination? The mere shyness of a modest girl. If she was to be
'won unsought,' she would not be worthy to be Mrs. Talboys."
"Her worth is indisputable," said Mr. Talboys, "but that is no reason
why I should force upon her my humble claims."
The moment his friend's pride began to ape humility, Fountain saw the
wound it had received was incurable. He sighed and was silent.
Opposition would only have set fire to opposition.
They went home together in silence. On the road Talboys caught sight
of a tall gentleman carrying a side-saddle, and a little lady walking
beside him. He recognized his _bete noir_ with a grim smile. Here
at least was one he had defeated and banished from the fair. What on
earth was the man doing? Oh, he had been giving his sister a ride on a
donkey, and they had met with an accident. Mr. Talboys was in a humor
for revenge, so he pulled up, and in a somewhat bantering voice
inquired where was the steed.
"Oh, he is in port by now," said David.
"Do you usually ease the animal of that part of his burden, sir?"
"No," said David, sullenly.
Eve, who hated Mr. Talboys, and saw through his sneers, bit her lip
and colored, but kept silence.
But Mr. Talboys, unwarned by her flashing eye, proceeded with his
ironical interrogatory, and then it was that Eve, reflecting that both
these gentlemen had done their worst against David, and that
henceforth the battlefield could never again be Font Abbey, decided
for revenge. She stepped forward like an airy sylph, between David and
his persecutor, and said, with a charming smile, "I will explain,
Mr. Talboys bowed and smiled.
"The reason my brother carries this side-saddle is that it belongs to
a charming young lady--you have some little acquaintance with
"Miss Fountain!" cried Talboys, in a tone from which all the irony was
driven out by Eve's coup.
"She begged David to ride her pony home; she would not trust him to
"Oh!" said Talboys, stupefied.
"Well, sir, owing to--to--an accident, the saddle came off, and the
pony ran home; so then David had only her saddle to take care of for
"Why, we escorted Miss Fountain to Royston, and we never saw Mr.
"Ay, but you did not go beyond Royston," said Eve, with a cunning air.
"Beyond Royston? where? and what was he doing there? Did he go all
that way to take her orders about her pony?" said Talboys, bitterly.
"Oh, as to that you must excuse me, sir," cried Eve, with a scornful
laugh; "that is being too inquisitive. Good-morning"; and she carried
David off in triumph.
The next moment Mr. Talboys spurred on, followed by the phaeton.
Talboys' face was yellow.
_"La langue d'une femme est son epee."_
"Sheer off and repair damages, you lubber," said David, dryly, "and
don't come under our guns again, or we shall blow you out of the
water. Hum! Eve, wasn't your tongue a little too long for your teeth
"Not an inch."
"She might be vexed; it is not for me to boast of her kindness."
"Temper won't let a body see everything. I'll tell you what I have
done, too--I've declared war."
"Have you? Then run the Jack up to the mizzen-top, and let us fight it
"That is the way to look at it, David. Now don't you speak to me till
we get home; let me think."
At the gate of Font Abbey, they parted, and Eve went home. David came
to the stable yard and hailed, "Stable ahoy!" Out ran a little
bandy-legged groom. "The craft has gone adrift," cried David, "but
I've got the gear safe. Stow it away"; and as he spoke he chucked the
saddle a distance of some six yards on to the bandy-legged groom, who
instantly staggered back and sank on a little dunghill, and there sat,
saddled, with two eyes like saucers, looking stupefied surprise
between the pommels.
"It is you for capsizing in a calm," remarked David, with some
surprise, and went his way.
"Well, Eve, have you thought?"
"Yes, David, I was a little hasty; that puppy would provoke a saint.
After all there is no harm done; they can't hurt us much now. It is
not here the game will be played out. Now tell me, when does your ship
"It wants just five weeks to a day."
"Does she take up her passengers at ---- as usual?"
"Yes, Eve, yes."
"And Mrs. Bazalgette lives within a mile or two of ----. You have a
good excuse for accepting her invitation. Stay your last week in her
house. There will be no Talboys to come between you. Do all a man can
do to win her in that week."
"And if she says 'No,' be man enough to tear her out of your heart."
"I can't tear her out of my heart, but I will win her. I must win her.
I can't live without her. A month to wait!"
Mr. Talboys. "Well, sir, what do you say now?"
Mr. Fountain (hypocritically). "I say that your sagacity was
superior to mine; forgive me if I have brought you into a mortifying
collision. To be defeated by a merchant sailor!" He paused to see the
effect of his poisoned shaft.
Talboys. "But I am not defeated. I will not be defeated. It is
no longer a personal question. For your sake, for her sake, I must
save her from a degrading connection. I will accompany you to Mrs.
Bazalgette's. When shall we go?"
"Well, not immediately; it would look so odd. The old one would smell
a rat directly. Suppose we say in a month's time."
"Very well; I shall have a clear stage."
"Yes, and I shall then use all my influence with her. Hitherto I have
"Thank you. Mr. Dodd cannot penetrate there, I conclude."
"Of course not."
"Then she will be Mrs. Talboys."
"Of course she will."
Lucy sighed a little over David's ardent, despairing passion, and his
pale and drawn face. Her woman's instinct enabled her to comprehend in
part a passion she was at this period of her life incapable of
feeling, and she pitied him. He was the first of her admirers she had
ever pitied. She sighed a little, then fretted a little, then
reproached herself vaguely. "I must have been guilty of some
imprudence--given some encouragement. Have I failed in womanly
reserve, or is it all his fault? He is a sailor. Sailors are like
nobody else. He is so simple-minded. He sees, no doubt, that he is my
superior in all sterling qualities, and that makes him forget the
social distance between him and me. And yet why suspect him of
audacity? Poor fellow, he had not the courage to _say_ anything
to me, after all. No; he will go to sea, and forget his folly before
he comes back." Then she had a gust of egotism. It was nice to be
loved ardently and by a hero, even though that hero was not a
gentleman of distinction, scarcely a gentleman at all. The next moment
she blushed at her own vanity. Next she was seized with a sense of the
great indelicacy and unpardonable impropriety of letting her mind run
at all upon a person of the other sex; and shaking her lovely
shoulders, as much as to say, "Away idle thoughts," she nestled and
fitted with marvelous suppleness into a corner of the carriage, and
sank into a sweet sleep, with a red cheek, two wet eyelashes, and a
half-smile of the most heavenly character imaginable. And so she
glided along till, at five in the afternoon, the carriage turned in at
Mr. Bazalgette's gates. Lucy lifted her eyes, and there was quite a
little group standing on the steps to receive her, and waving welcome
to the universal pet. There was Mr. Bazalgette, Mrs. Bazalgette, and
two servants, and a little in the rear a tall stranger of
The two ladies embraced one another so rapidly yet so smoothly, and so
dovetailed and blended, that they might be said to flow together, and
make one in all but color, like the Saone and the Rhone. After half a
dozen kisses given and returned with a spirit and rapidity from which,
if we male spectators of these ardent encounters were wise, we might
slyly learn a lesson, Aunt Bazalgette suddenly darted her mouth at
Lucy's ear, and whispered a few words with an animation that struck
everybody present. Lucy smiled in reply. After "the meeting of the
muslins," Mr. Bazalgette shook hands warmly, and at last Lucy was
introduced to his friend Mr. Hardie, who expressed in courteous terms
his hopes that her journey had been a pleasant one.
The animated words Mrs. Bazalgette whispered into Lucy's ear at that
moment of burning affection were as follows:
"You have had it washed!"
Lucy (unpacking her things in her bedroom). "Who is Mr. Hardie,
"What! don't you know? Mr. Hardie is the great banker."
"Only a banker? I should have taken him for something far more
distinguished. His manner is good. There is a suavity without
feebleness or smallness."
Mrs. Bazalgette's eye flashed, but she answered with apparent
nonchalance: "I am glad you like him; you will take him off my hands
now and then. He must not be neglected; Bazalgette would murder us.
_Apropos,_ remind me to ask him to tell you Mr. Hardie's story,
and how he comes to be looked up to like a prince in this part of the
world, though he is only a banker, with only ten thousand a year."
"You make me quite curious, aunt. Cannot you tell me?"
"Me? Oh, dear, no! Paper currency, foreign loans, government
securities, gold mines, ten per cents, Mr. Peel, and why _one_
breaks and _another_ doesn't! all that is quite beyond me.
Bazalgette is your man. I had no idea your mousseline-delame would
have washed so well. Why, it looks just out of the shop; it--" Come
away, reader, for Heaven's sake!
THE man whom Mr. Bazalgette introduced so smoothly and off-hand to
Lucy Fountain exercised a terrible influence over her life, as you
will see by and by. This alone would make it proper to lay his
antecedents before the reader. But he has independent claims to this
notice, for he is a principal figure in my work. The history of this
remarkable man's fortune is a study. The progress of his mind is
another, and its past as well as its future are the very corner-stone
of that capacious story which I am now building brick by brick, after
my fashion where the theme is large. I invite my reader, therefore, to
resist the natural repugnance which delicate minds feel to the ring of
the precious metals, and for the sake of the coming story to accompany
AN OLD BANK.
The Hardies were goldsmiths in the seventeenth century; and when that
business split, and the deposit and bill-of-exchange business went one
way, and the plate and jewels another, they became bankers from father
to son. A peculiarity attended them; they never broke, nor even
cracked. Jew James Hardie conducted for many years a smooth,
unostentatious and lucrative business. It professed to be a bank of
deposit only, and not of discount. This was not strictly true. There
never was a bank in creation that did not discount under the rose,
when the paper represented commercial effects, and the indorsers were
customers and favorites. But Mr. Hardie's main business was in
deposits bearing no interest. It was of that nature known as "the
legitimate banking business," a title not, I think, invented by the
customers, since it is a system destitute of that reciprocity which is
the soul of all just and legitimate commercial relations.
You shall lend me your money gratis, and I will lend it out at
interest: such is legitimate banking--in the opinion of bankers.
This system, whose decay we have seen, and whose death my young
readers are like to see, flourished under old Hardie, green--as the
public in whose pockets its roots were buried.
Country gentlemen and noblemen, and tradesmen well-to-do, left
floating balances varying from seven, five, three thousand pounds,
down to a hundred or two, in his hands. His art consisted in keeping
his countenance, receiving them with the air of a person conferring a
favor, and investing the bulk of them in government securities, which
in that day returned four and five per cent. As he did not pay one
shilling for the use of the capital, he pocketed the whole interest. A
small part of the aggregate balance was not invested, but remained in
the bank coffers as a reserve to meet any accidental drain. It was a
point of honor with the squires and rectors, who shared their incomes
with him in a grateful spirit, never to draw their balances down too
low; and more than once in this banker's career a gentleman has
actually borrowed money for a month or two of the bank at four per
cent, rather than exhaust his deposit, or, in other words, paid his
debtor interest for the temporary use of his own everlasting property.
Such capitalists are not to be found in our day; they may reappear at
The banker had three clerks; one a youth and very subordinate, the
other two steady old men, at good salaries, who knew the affairs of
the bank, but did not chatter them out of doors, because they were
allowed to talk about them to their employer; and this was a vent. The
tongue must have a regular vent or random explosions--choose! Besides
the above compliment paid to years of probity and experience, the
ancient _regime_ bound these men to the interest and person of
their chief by other simple customs now no more.
At each of the four great festivals of the Church they dined with Mr.
and Mrs. Hardie, and were feasted and cordially addressed as equals,
though they could not be got to reply in quite the same tone. They
were never scorned, but a peculiar warmth of esteem and friendship was
shown them on these occasions. One reason was, the old-fangled banker
himself aspired to no higher character than that of a man of business,
and were not these clerks men of business good and true? his staff,
not his menials?
And since I sneered just now at a vital simplicity, let me hasten to
own that here, at least, it was wise, as well as just and worthy.
Where men are forever handling heaps of money, it is prudent to
fortify them doubly against temptation--with self-respect, and a
It is one thing not to be led into temptation (accident on which half
the virtue in the world depends), another to live in it and overcome
it; and in a bank it is not the conscience only that is tempted, but
the senses. Piles of glittering gold, amiable as Hesperian fruit;
heaps of silver paper, that seem to whisper as they rustle, "Think how
great we are, yet see how little; we are fifteen thousand pounds, yet
we can go into your pocket; whip us up, and westward ho! If you have
not the courage for that, at all events wet your finger; a dozen of us
will stick to it. That pen in your hand has but to scratch that book
there, and who will know? Besides, you can always put us back, you
Hundreds and thousands of men take a share in the country's public
morality, legislate, build churches, and live and die respectable, who
would be jail-birds sooner or later if their sole income was the pay
of a banker's clerk, and their eyes, and hands, and souls rubbed daily
against hundred-pound notes as his do. I tell you it is a temptation
of forty-devil power.
Not without reason, then, did this ancient banker bestow some respect
and friendship on those who, tempted daily, brought their hands pure,
Christmas after Christmas, to their master's table. Not without reason
did Mrs. Hardie pet them like princes at the great festivals, and
always send them home in the carriage as persons their entertainers
delighted to honor. Herein I suspect she looked also, woman-like, to
their security; for they were always expected to be solemnly, not
improperly, intoxicated by the end of supper; no wise fuddled, but
muddled; for the graceful superstition of the day suspected severe
sobriety at solemnities as churlish and ungracious.
The bank itself was small and grave, and a trifle dingy, and bustle
there was none in it; but if the stream of business looked sluggish
and narrow, it was deep and quietly incessant, and tended all one
way--to enrich the proprietor without a farthing risked.
Old Hardie had sat there forty years with other people's money
overflowing into his lap as it rolled deep and steady through that
little counting-house, when there occurred, or rather recurred, a
certain phenomenon, which comes, with some little change of features,
in a certain cycle of commercial changes as regularly as the month of
March in the year, or the neap-tides, or the harvest moon, but,
strange to say, at each visit takes the country by surprise.
THE nation had passed through the years of exhaustion and depression
that follow a long war; its health had returned, and its elastic vigor
was already reviving, when two remarkable harvests in succession, and
an increased trade with the American continent, raised it to
prosperity. One sign of vigor, the roll of capital, was wanting;
speculation was fast asleep. The government of the day seems to have
observed this with regret. A writer of authority on the subject says
that, to stir stagnant enterprise, they directed "the Bank of England
to issue about four millions in advances to the state and in enlarged
discounts." I give you the man's words; they doubtless carry a
signification to you, though they are jargon in a fog to me. Some
months later the government took a step upon very different motives,
which incidentally had a powerful effect in loosening capital and
setting it in agitation. They reduced to four per cent the Navy Five
per Cents, a favorite national investment, which represented a capital
of two hundred millions. Now, when men have got used to five per cent
from a certain quarter, they cannot be content with four, particularly
the small holders; so this reduction of the Navy Five per Cents
unsettled several thousand capitalists, and disposed them to search
for an investment. A flattering one offered itself in the nick of
time. Considerable attention had been drawn of late to the mineral
wealth of South America, and one or two mining companies existed, but
languished in the hands of professed speculators. The public now broke
like a sudden flood into these hitherto sluggish channels of
enterprise, and up went the shares to a high premium.
Almost contemporaneously, numerous joint-stock companies were formed,
and directed toward schemes of internal industry. The small
capitalists that had sold out of the Navy Five per Cents threw
themselves into them all, and being bona fide speculators, drew
hundreds in their train. Adventure, however, was at first restrained
in some degree by the state of the currency. It was low, and rested on
a singularly sound basis. Mr. Peel's Currency Bill had been some
months in operation; by its principal provision the Bank of England
was compelled on and after a certain date to pay gold for its notes on
demand. The bank, anticipating a consequent rush for gold, had
collected vast quantities of sovereigns, the new coin; but the rush
never came, for a mighty simple reason. Gold is convenient in small
sums, but a burden and a nuisance in large ones. It betrays its
presence and invites robbers; it is a bore to lug it about, and a
fearful waste of golden time to count it. Men run upon gold only when
they have reason to distrust paper. But Mr. Peel's Bill, instead of
damaging Bank of England paper, solidified it, and gave the nation a
just and novel confidence in it. Thus, then, the large hoard of gold,
fourteen to twenty millions, that the caution of the bank directors
had accumulated in their coffers, remained uncalled for. But so large
an abstraction from the specie of the realm contracted the provincial
circulation. The small business of the country moved in fetters, so
low was the metal currency. The country bankers petitioned government
for relief, and government, listening to representations that were no
doubt supported by facts, and backed by other interests, tampered with
the principle of Mr. Peel's Bill, and allowed the country bankers to
issue 1 pound and 2 pound notes for eleven years to come.
To this step there were but six dissentients in the House of Commons,
so little was its importance seen or its consequences foreseen. This
piece of inconsistent legislation removed one restraint, irksome but
salutary, from commercial enterprise at a moment when capital was
showing some signs of a feverish agitation. Its immediate consequences
were very encouraging to the legislator; the country bankers sowed the
land broadcast with their small paper, and this, for the cause above
adverted to, took _pro tem._ the place of gold, and was seldom
cashed at all except where silver was wanted. On this enlargement of
the currency the arms of the nation seemed freed, enterprise shot
ahead unshackled, and unwonted energy and activity thrilled in the
veins of the kingdom. The rise in the prices of all commodities which
followed, inevitable consequence of every increase in the currency,
whether real or fictitious, was in itself adverse to the working
classes; but the vast and numerous enterprises that were undertaken,
some in the country itself, some in foreign parts, to which English
workmen were conveyed, raised the price of labor higher still in
proportion; so no class was out of the sun.
Men's faces shone with excitement and hope. The dormant hordes of
misers crept out of their napkins and sepulchral strong-boxes into the
warm air of the golden time. The mason's chisel chirped all over the
kingdom, and the shipbuilders'* hammers rang all round the coast; corn
was plenty, money became a drug, labor wealth, and poverty and
discontent vanished from the face of the land. Adventure seemed all
wings, and no lumbering carcass to clog it. New joint-stock companies
were started in crowds as larks rise and darken the air in winter;**
hundreds came to nothing, but hundreds stood, and of these nearly all
reached a premium, small in some cases, high in most, fabulous in
some; and the ease with which the first calls for cash on the
multitudinous shares were met argued the vast resources that had
hitherto slumbered in the nation for want of promising investments
suited to the variety of human likings and judgments. The mind can
hardly conceive any species of earthly enterprise that was not fitted
with a company, oftener with a dozen, and with fifty or sixty where
the proposed road to metal was direct. Of these the mines of Mexico
still kept the front rank, but not to the exclusion of European,
Australian and African ore.
* Two hundred new vessels are said to have been laid on the stocks in
** In two years 624 new companies were projected.
That masterpiece of fiction, "the Prospectus,"* diffused its gorgeous
light far and near, lit up the dark mine, and showed the minerals
shining and the jewels peeping; shone broad over the smiling fields,
soon to be plowed, reaped, and mowed by machinery; and even illumined
the depths of the sea, whence the buried treasures of ancient and
modern times were about to be recovered by the Diving-bell Company.
* There is a little unlicked anonymuncule going scribbling about,
whose creed seems to be that a little camel, to be known, must be
examined and compared with other quadrupeds, but that the great arts
can be judged out of the depths of a penny-a-liner's inner
consciousness, and to be rated and ranked need not be compared
_inter se._ Applying the microscope to the method of the
novelist, but diverting the glass from the learned judge's method in
Biography, the learned historian's method in History, and the daily
chronicler's method in dressing _res gestoe_ for a journal, this
little addle-pate has jumped to a comparative estimate, not based on
comparison, so that all his blindfold vituperation of a noble art is
chimera, not reasoning; it is, in fact, a retrograde step in science
and logic. This is to evade the Baconian method, humble and wise, and
crawl back to the lazy and self-confident system of the ancients, that
kept the world dark so many centuries. It is [Greek] versus
Induction. "[Greek]," ladies, is "divination by means of an ass's
skull." A pettifogger's skull, however, will serve the turn, provided
that pettifogger has been bitten with an insane itch for scribbling
about things so infinitely above his capacity as the fine arts. Avoid
this sordid dreamer, and follow, in letters as in science, the
Baconian method! Then you will find that all uninspired narratives are
more or less inexact, and that one, and one only, Fiction proper, has
the honesty to antidote its errors by professing inexactitude. You
will find that the Historian, Biographer, Novelist, and Chronicler are
all obliged _to paint upon their data_ with colors the
imagination alone can supply, and all do it--alive or dead. You will
find that Fiction, as distinguished from neat mendacity, has not one
form upon earth, but a dozen. You will find the most habitually,
willfully, and inexcusably inaccurate, with the means of accuracy
under its nose, that form of fiction called "anonymous criticism,"
political and literary; the most equivocating, perhaps, is the
"imaginavit," better known at Lincoln's Inn as the "affidavit." In the
article of exaggeration, the mildest and tamest are perhaps History
and the Novel, the boldest and most sparkling is the Advertisement,
but the grandest, ablest, most gorgeous and plausibly exaggerating is
surely the grave commercial prospectus, drawn up and signed by potent,
grave and reverend seniors, who fear God, worship Mammon, revere big
wigs right or wrong, and never read romances.
One mine was announced with a "vein of ore as pure and solid as a tin
In another the prospectus offered mixed advantages. The ore lay in so
romantic a situation, and so thick, that the eye could be regaled with
a heavenly landscape, while the foot struck against neglected lumps of
gold weighing from two pounds to fifty.
This put the Bolanos mine on its mettle, and it announced, "not mines,
but mountains of silver." Here, then, men might chip metal instead of
painfully digging it. With this, up went the shares till they reached
Tialpuxahua was done at 199 premium.
Anglo Mexican 10 pounds paid, went to 158 pounds premium.
United Mexican 10 " " , " 155 pounds "
Columbian 10 " " , " 82 pounds "
But the Real del Monte, a mine of longer standing, on which 70 pounds
was paid up, went to 550 premium, and at a later period, for I am not
following the actual sequence of events, reached the enormous height
of 1350 premium.
The Prospectus of the Equitable Loan Company lamented in paragraph one
the imposition practiced on the poor, and denounced the pawnbrokers'
15 per cent. In paragraph four it promised 40 per cent to its
Philanthropy smiled in the heading, and Avarice stung in the tail. No
wonder a royal duke and other good names figured in this concern.
Another eloquent sheet appealed to the national dignity. Should a
nation that was just now being intersected by forty canal companies,
and lighted by thirty gas companies, and every life in it worth a
button insured by a score of insurance companies, dwell in hovels?
Here was a country that, after long ruling the sea, was now mining the
earth, and employing her spoils nobly, lending money to every nation
and tribe that would fight for constitutional liberty. Should the
principal city of so sovereign a nation be a collection of dingy
dwellings made with burned clay? No; let these perishable and ignoble,
materials give way, and London be granite, or at least wear a granite
front--with which up went the Red Granite Company.
A railway was projected from Dover to Calais, but the shares never
came into the market.
The Rhine Navigation shares were snapped up directly. The original
holders, having no faith in their own paper, sold large quantities
directly for the account. But they had underrated the ardor of the
public. At settling day the shares were at 28 premium, and the sellers
found they had made a most original hedge; for "the hedge" is not a
daring operation that grasps at large gains; it is a timid and
cautious maneuver, whose humble aim is to lower the figures of
possible loss or gain. To be ruined by a stroke of caution so shocked
the directors' sense of justice that they forged new coupons in
imitation of the old, and tried to pass them off. The fraud was
discovered; a committee sat on it. Respectables quaked. Finally, a
scapegoat was put forward and expelled the Stock Exchange, and with
that the inquiry was hushed. It would have let too much daylight in on
a host of "good names" in the City and on 'Change.
At the same time, the country threw itself with ardor into
Transatlantic loans. This, however, was an existing speculation vastly
dilated at the period we are treating, but created about five years
earlier. Its antecedent history can be dispatched in a few words.
England is said to be governed by a limited monarchy; but in case of a
struggle between the two, her heart goes more with unlimited republic
than with genuine monarchy. The Spanish colonies in South America
found this out, and in their long battle for independence came to us
for sympathy and cash. They often obtained both, and in one case
something more; we lent Chili a million at six per cent, but we lent
her ships, bayonets, and Cochrane gratis. This last, a gallant and
amphibious dragoon, went to work in a style the slow Spaniard was
unprepared for; blockaded the coast, overawed the Royalist party, and
wrenched the state from the mother country, and settled it a republic.
One of the first public acts of this Chilian republic was to borrow a
million of us to go on with. Peru took only half a million at this
period. Colombia, during the protracted struggle her independence cost
her, obtained a sort of _carte blanche_ loan from us at ten per
cent. We were to deliver the stock in munitions of war, as called for,
which, you will 'observe, was selling our loan; for at the bottom of
all our romance lies business, business, business. Her freedom
secured, the new state accommodated us by taking two millions of 5 per
cent stock at 84. In all, about ten millions nominal capital, eight
millions cash, crossed the Atlantic while we were cool; but now that
we were heated by three hundred joint-stock companies, and the fire
fanned by seven hundred prospectuses, fresh loans were effected with a
wider range of territory and on a more important scale.
Brazil now got . . . 3,200,000 l. in two loans;
Colombia . . . . . . 4,750,000 l.;
Peru . . . . . . . . 1,366,000 l. in two loans;
Mexico . . . . . . . 6,400,000 l. in two loans;
Buenos Ayres . . . . 1,000,000 l.;
and Guatemala, a state we never heard of till she wanted money, took a
million and a half. Besides these there were smaller loans, lent, not
to nations, but to tribes. So hot was our money in our pockets that we
tried 200,000 pounds on Patagonia. But the savages could not be got to
nail us, which was the more to be regretted, as we might have done a
good stroke with them; could have sent the stock out in fisherman's
boots, cocked hats, beads, Bibles, and army misfits.
Europe found out there existed an island overflowing with faith and
overburdened with money; she ran at us for a slice of the latter. We
lent Naples two millions and a half at 5 per cent stock 92 1/2.
Portugal a million and a half at 87. Austria three millions and a half
at 82 1/2. Denmark three millions and a half at 3 per cent stock 75
1/2. Then came a _bonne bouche._ The subtle Greek had gathered
from his western visitors a notion of the contents of Thucydides, and
he came to us for sympathy and money to help him shake off the
barbarians and their yoke, and save the wreck of the ancient temples.
The appeal was shrewdly planned. England reads Thucydides, and skims
Demosthenes, though Greece, it is presumed, does not. The impressions
of our boyhood fasten upon our hearts, and our mature reason judges
them like a father, not like a judge. To sweep the Tartar out of the
Peloponnese, and put in his place a free press that should recall from
the tomb that soul of freedom, and revive by degrees that tongue of
music--who can play Solomon when such a proposal comes up for
"Give yourself no further concern about the matter," said the lofty
Burdett, with a gentlemanlike wave of the hand; "your country shall be
"In a few weeks," said another statesman, "Cochrane will be at
Constantinople, and burn the port and its vessels. Having thus
disarmed invasion, he will land in the Morea and clear it of
Greece borrowed in two loans 2,800,000 pounds at 5 per cent. Russia
(droll juxtaposition!) drew up the rear. She borrowed three millions
and a half, but upon far more favorable terms than, with all our
romance, we accorded to "Graeculus esuriens." The Greek stock ruled *
from 56 1/2 to 59.
* A corruption from the French verb "rouler."
Into these loans, and the multitudinous mines and miscellaneous
enterprises, gas, railroad, canal, steam, dock, provision, insurance,
milk, water, building, washing, money-lending, fishing, lottery,
annuities, herring-curing, poppy-oil, cattle, weaving, bog draining,
street-cleaning, house-roofing, old clothes exporting, steel-making,
starch, silk-worm, etc., etc., etc., companies, all classes of the
community threw themselves, either for investment or temporary
speculation, on the fluctuations of the share-market. One venture was
ennobled by a prince of the blood figuring as a director; another was
sanctified by an archbishop; hundreds were solidified by the best
mercantile names in the cities of London, Liverpool, and Manchester.
Princes, dukes, duchesses, stags, footmen, poets, philosophers,
divines, lawyers, physicians, maids, wives, widows, tore into the
market, and choked the Exchange up so tight that the brokers could not
get in nor out, and a bare passage had to be cleared by force and
fines through a mass of velvet, fustian, plush, silk, rags, lace, and
broadcloth, that jostled and squeezed each other in the struggle for
gain. The shop-keeper flung down his scales and off to the
share-market; the merchant embarked his funds and his credit; the
clerk risked his place and his humble respectability. High and low,
rich and poor, all hurried round the Exchange, like midges round a
flaring gas-light, and all were to be rich in a day.
And, strange to say, all seemed to win and none to lose; for nothing
was at a discount except toil and self-denial, and the patient
industry that makes men rich, but not in a day.
One cold misgiving fell. The vast quantities of gold and silver that
Mexico, mined by English capital and machinery, was about to pour into
our ports, would so lower the price of those metals that a heavy loss
must fall on all who held them on a considerable scale at their
present values in relation to corn, land, labor and other properties
"We must convert our gold," was the cry. Others more rash said: "This
is premature caution--timidity. There is no gold come over yet; wait
till you learn the actual bulk of the first metallic imports." "No,
thank you," replied the prudent ones, "it will be too late then; when
once they have touched our shores, the fall will be rapid." So they
turned their gold, whose value was so precarious, into that
unfluctuating material, paper. This solitary fear was soon swallowed
up in the general confidence. The king congratulated Parliament, and
Parliament the king. Both houses rang with trumpet notes of triumph, a
few of which still linger in the memories of living men.
1. "The cotton trade and iron trade were never so flourishing."
2. "The exports surpassed by millions the highest figure recorded in'
3. "The hum of industry was heard throughout the fields."
4. "Joy beamed in every face."
5. "The country now reaped in honor and repose all it had sown in
courage, constancy and wisdom."
6. "Our prosperity extended to all ranks of men, enhanced by those
arts which minister to human comfort, and those inventions by which
man seems to have obtained a mastery over Nature through the
application of her own powers."
But one honorable gentleman informed the Commons that "distress had
vanished from the land,"* and in addressing the throne acknowledged a
novel embarrassment: "Such," said he, "is the general prosperity of
the country, that I feel at a loss how to proceed; whether to give
precedence to our agriculture, which is the main support of the
country, to our manufactures, which have increased to an unexampled
extent, or to our commerce, which distributes them to the ends of the
earth, finds daily new outlets for their distribution, and new sources
of national wealth and prosperity."
* "The poor ye shall have always with you."--Chimerical
Our old bank did not profit by the golden shower. Mr. Hardie was old,
too, and the cautious and steady habits of forty years were not to be
shaken readily. He declined shares, refused innumerable discounts, and
loans upon scrip and invoices, and, in short, was behind the time. His
bank came to be denounced as a clog on commerce. Two new banks were
set up in the town to oil the wheels of adventure, on which he was a
drag, and Hardie fell out of the game.
He was not so old or cold as to be beyond the reach of mortification,
and these things stung him. One day he said fretfully to old Skinner,
"It is hardly worth our while to take down the shutters now, for
anything we do."
One afternoon two of his best customers, who were now up to their
chins in shares, came and solicited a heavy loan on their joint
personal security. Hardie declined. The gentlemen went out. Young
Skinner watched them, and told his father they went into the new bank,
stayed there a considerable time, and came out looking joyous. Old
Skinner told Mr. Hardie. The old gentleman began at last to doubt
himself and his system.
"The bank would last my time," said he, "but I must think of my son. I
have seen many a good business die out because the merchant could not
keep up with the times; and here they are inviting me to be director
in two of their companies--good mercantile names below me. It is very
flattering. I'll write to Dick. It is just he should have a voice;
but, dear heart! at his age we know beforehand he will be for
galloping faster than the rest. Well, his old father is alive to curb
It was always the ambition of Mr. Richard Hardie to be an accomplished
financier. For some years past he had studied money at home and
abroad--scientifically. His father's connection had gained him a
footing in several large establishments abroad, and there he sat and
worked _en amateur_ as hard as a clerk. This zeal and diligence
in a young man of independent means soon established him in the
confidence of the chiefs, who told him many a secret. He was now in a
great London bank, pursuing similar studies, practical and
He received his father's letters sketching the rapid decline of the
bank, and finally a short missive inviting him down to consider an
enlarged plan of business. During the four days that preceded the
young man's visit, more than one application came to Hardie senior for
advances on scrip, cargoes coming from Mexico, and joint personal
securities of good merchants that were in the current ventures. Old
Hardie now, instead of refusing, detained the proposals for
consideration. Meantime, he ordered five journals daily instead of
one, sought information from every quarter, and looked into passing
events with a favorable eye. The result was that he blamed himself,
and called his past caution timidity. Mr. Richard Hardie arrived and
was ushered into the bank parlor. After the first affectionate
greetings old Skinner was called in, and, in a little pompous,
good-hearted speech, invited to make one in a solemn conference. The
compliment brought the tears into the old man's eyes. Mr. Hardie
senior opened, showed by the books the rapid decline of business,
pointed to the rise of two new banks owing to the tight hand he had
held unseasonably, then invited the other two to say whether an
enlarged system was not necessary to meet the times, and submitted the
last, proposals for loans and discounts. "Now, sir, let me have your
"After my betters, sir," was old Skinner's reply.
"Well, Dick, have you formed any opinion on this matter?"
"I have, sir."
"I am extremely glad of it," said the old gentleman, very sincerely,
but with a shade of surprise; "out with it, Dick."
The young man thus addressed by his father would not have conveyed to
us the idea of "Dick." His hair was brown; there were no wrinkles
under his eyes or lines in his cheek, but in his manner there was no
youth whatever. He was tall, commanding, grave, quiet, cold, and even
at that age almost majestic. His first sentence, slow and firm,
removed the paternal notion that a cipher or a juvenile had come to
"First, sir, let me return to you my filial thanks for that caution
which you seem to think has been excessive. There I beg respectfully
to differ with you."
"I am glad of it, Dick; but now you see it is time to relax, eh?"
The two old men stared at one another. The senile youth proceeded:
"That some day or other our system will have to be relaxed is
probable, but just now all it wants is--tightening."
"Why, Dick? Skinner, the boy is mad. You can't have watched the signs
of the times."
"I have, sir; and looked below the varnish."
"To the point, then, Dick. There is a general proposal 'to relax our
system.' The boy uses good words, Skinner, don't he? and here are six
particulars over which you can cast your eye. Hand them to him,
"I will take things in that order," said Richard, quietly running his
eye over the papers. There was a moment's silence. "It is proposed to
connect the bank with the speculations of the day."
"That is not fairly stated, Dick; it is too broad. We shall make a
selection; we won't go in the stream above ankle deep."
"That is a resolution, sir, that has been often made but never
kept--for this reason: you can't sit on dry land and calculate the
force of the stream. It carries those who paddle in it off their feet,
and then they must swim with it or--sink."
"Dick, for Heaven's sake, no poetry here."
"Nay, sir," said old Skinner, "remember, 'twas you brought the stream
"More fool I. 'Flow on, thou shining Dick'; only the more figures of
arithmetic, and the fewer figures of speech, you can give old Skinner
and me, the more weight you will carry with us."
The young man colored a moment, but never lost his ponderous calmness.
"I will give you figures in their turn, But we were to begin with the
general view. Half-measures, then, are no measures; they imply a
vacillating judgment; they are a vain attempt to make a pound of
rashness and a pound of timidity into two pounds of prudence. You
permit me that figure, sir; it comes from the summing-book. The able
man of business fidgets. He keeps quiet, or carries something out."
Old Skinner rubbed his hands. "These are wise words, sir."
"No, only clever ones. This is book-learning. It is the sort of wisdom
you and I have outgrown these forty years. Why, at his age I was
choke-full of maxims. They are good things to read; but act proverbs,
and into the Gazette you go. My faith in any general position has
melted away with the snow of my seventy winters."
"What, then, if it was established that all adders bite, would you
refuse to believe his adder would bite you, sir?"
"Dick, if a single adder bit me, it would go farther to convince me
that the next adder would bite me too than if fifty young Buffons told
me all adders bite."
The senile youth was disconcerted for a single moment. He hesitated.
The keys that the old man had himself said would unlock his judgment
lay beside him on the table. He could not help glancing slyly at them,
but he would not use them before their turn. His mind was methodical.
His will was strong in all things. He put his hand in his side-pocket,
and drew out a quantity of papers neatly arranged, tied, and indorsed.
The old men instantly bestowed a more watchful sort of attention on
"This, gentlemen, is a list of the joint-stock companies created last
year. What do you suppose is their number?"
"Fifty, I'll be bound, Mr. Richard."
"More than that, Skinner. Say eighty."
"Two hundred and forty-three, gentlemen. Of these some were
stillborn, but the majority hold the market. The capital proposed to
be subscribed on the sum total is two hundred and forty-eight
"The amount actually paid at present (chiefly in bank-notes) is stated
at 43,062,608 pounds, and the balance due at the end of the year on
this set of ventures will be 204,937,392 pounds or thereabouts. The
projects of _this year_ have not been collected, but they are on
a similar scale. Full a third of the general sum total is destined to
foreign countries, either in loans or to work mines, etc., the return
for which is uncertain and future. All these must come to nothing, and
ruin the shareholders that way, or else must sooner or later be paid
in specie, since no foreign nation can use our paper, but must sell it
to the Bank of England. We stand, then, pledged to burst like a
bladder, or to _export_ in a few months thrice as much specie as
we possess. To sum up, if the country could be sold to-morrow, with
every brick that stands upon it, the proceeds would not meet the
engagements into which these joint-stock companies have inveigled her
in the course of twenty months. Viewed then, in gross, under the test,
not of poetry and prospectus, but of arithmetic, the whole thing is a
"A bubble?" uttered both the seniors in one breath, and almost in a
"But I am ready to test it in detail. Let us take three main
features--the share-market, the foreign loans, and the inflated
circulation caused by the provincial banks. Why do the public run
after shares? Is it in the exercise of a healthy judgment? No; a
cunning bait has been laid for human weakness. Transferable shares
valued at 100 pounds can be secured and paid for by small instalments
of 5 pounds or less. If, then, his 100 pound shares rise to 130 pounds
each, the adventurer can sell at a nominal profit of 30 per cent, but
a real profit of 600 per cent on his actual investment. This
intoxicates rich and poor alike. It enables the small capitalist to
operate on the scale that belongs, in healthy times, to the large
capitalist; a beggar can now gamble like a prince; his farthings are
accepted as counters for sovereigns; but this is a distinct feature of
all the more gigantic bubbles recorded. Here, too, you see, is
illusory credit on a vast scale, with its sure consequence, inflated
and fictitious values; another bit of soap that goes to every bubble
in history. Now for the Transatlantic loans. I submit them to a simple
test. Judge nations like individuals. If you knew nothing of a man but
that he had set up a new shop, would you lend him money? Then why lend
money to new republics of whom you know nothing but that, born
yesterday, they may die to-morrow, and that they are exhausted by
recent wars, and that, where responsibility is divided, conscience is
"Well said, Richard, well said."
"If a stranger offered you thirty per cent, would you lend him your
"No; for I should know he didn't mean to pay."
"Well, these foreign negotiators offer nominally five per cent, but,
looking at the price of the stock, thirty, forty, and even fifty per
cent. Yet they are not so liberal as they appear; they could afford
ninety per cent. You understand me, gentlemen. Would you lend to a man
that came to you under an alias like a Newgate thief? Cast your eye
over this prospectus. It is the Poyais loan. There is no such place as
"It is a loan to an anonymous swamp by the Mosquito River. But
Mosquito suggests a bite. So the vagabonds that brought the proposal
over put their heads together as they crossed the Atlantic, and
christened the place Poyais; and now fools that are not fools enough
to lend sixpence to Zahara, are going to lend 200,000 pounds to rushes
"Why, Richard, what are you talking about? 'The air is soft and balmy;
the climate fructifying; the soil is spontaneous'--what does that
mean? mum! mum! 'The water runs over sands of gold.' Why, it is a
description of Paradise. And, now I think of it, is not all this taken
from John Milton?"
"Very likely. It is written by thieves."
"It seems there are tortoise-shell, diamonds, pearls--"
"In the prospectus, but not in the morass. It is a good,
straightforward morass, with no pretensions but to great damp. But
don't be alarmed, gentlemen, our countrymen's money will not be
swamped there. It will all be sponged up in Threadneedle Street by the
poetic swindlers whose names, or aliases, you hold in your hand. The
Greek, Mexican, and Brazilian loans may be translated from Prospectish
into English thus: At a date when every sovereign will be worth five
to us in sustaining shriveling paper and collapsing credit, we are
going to chuck a million sovereigns into the Hellespont, five million
sovereigns into the Gulf of Mexico, and two millions into the Pacific
Ocean. Against the loans to the old monarchies there is only this
objection, that they are unreasonable; will drain out gold when gold
will be life-blood; which brings me, by connection, to my third
item--the provincial circulation. Pray, gentlemen, do you remember the
For some minutes past a dead silence and a deep, absorbed attention
had received the young man's words; but that quiet question was like a
great stone descending suddenly on a silent stream. Such a noise,
agitation, and flutter. The old banker and his clerk both began to
speak at once.
"Oh, Lord, Mr. Richard, don't talk of 1793."
"What do you know about 1793? You weren't born."
"Oh, Mr. Richard, such a to-do, sir! 1800 firms in the Gazette.
Seventy banks stopped."
"Nearer a hundred, Mr. Skinner. Seventy-one stopped in the provinces,
and a score in London."
"Why, sir, Mr. Richard knows everything, whether he was born or not."
"No, he doesn't, you old goose; he doesn't know how you and I sat
looking at one another, and pretending to fumble, and counting out
slowly, waiting sick at heart for the sack of guineas that was to come
down by coach. If it had not come we should not have broken, but we
should have suspended payment for twenty-four hours, and I was young
enough then to have cut my throat in the interval."
"But it came, sir--it came, and you cried, 'Keep the bank open till
midnight!' and when the blackguards heard that, and saw the sackful of
gold, they crept away; they were afraid of offending us. Nobody came
anigh us next day. Banks smashed all round us like glass bottles, but
Hardie & Co. stood, and shall stand for ever and ever. Amen."
"Who showed the white feather, Mr. Skinner? Who came creeping and
sniveling, and took my hand under the counter, and pressed it to give
me courage, and then was absurd enough to make apologies, as if
sympathy was as common as dirt? Give me your hand directly, you
"God bless you, sir! God bless you! It is all right, sir. The bank is
safe for another fifty years. We have got Master Richard, and he has
got a head. O Gemini, what a head he has got, and the other day
"Yes, and we are interrupting him with our nonsense. Go on, Richard."
Richard had secretly but fully appreciated the folly of the
interruption. His was a great mind, and moved in a sort of pecuniary
ether high above the little weaknesses my reader has observed in
Hardie senior and old Skinner. Being, however, equally above the other
little infirmities of fretfulness and fussiness, he waited calmly and
"What was the cause of the distress in 1793?"
"Ah! that was the puzzle--wasn't it, Skinner? We were never so
prosperous as that year. The distress came over us like a
thunder-storm all in a moment. Nobody knows the exact cause."
"I beg your pardon, sir, it is as well known as any point of history
whatever. Some years of prosperity had created a spawn of country
banks, most of them resting on no basis; these had inflated the
circulation with their paper. A panic and a collapse of this
fictitious currency was as inevitable as the fall of a stone forced
against nature into the air."
"There _were_ a great many petty banks, Richard, and, of course,
plenty of bad paper. I believe you are right. The causes of things
were not studied in those days as they are now."
"All that we know now, sir, is to be found in books written long
"Yes, sir; a book is not dead paper except to sleepy minds. A book is
a man giving you his best thoughts in his very best words. It is only
the shallow reader that can't learn life from genuine books. I'll back
him who studies them against the man who skims his fellow-creatures,
and vice versa. A single page of Adam Smith, studied,
understood, and acted on by the statesmen of your day, would have
averted the panic of 1793. I have the paragraph in my note-book. He
was a great man, sir; oblige me, Mr. Skinner."
"Certainly, sir, certainly. 'Should the circulation of paper exceed
the value of the gold and silver of which it supplies the place, many
people would immediately perceive they had more of this paper than was
necessary for transacting their business at home; and, as they could
not send it abroad, bank paper only passing current where it is
issued, there would be a run upon the banks to the extent of this
Richard Hardie resumed. "We were never so overrun with rotten banks as
now. Shoemakers, cheesemongers, grocers, write up 'Bank' over one of
their windows, and deal their rotten paper by the foolscap ream. The
issue of their larger notes is colossal, and renders a panic
inevitable soon or late; but, to make it doubly sure, they have been
allowed to utter 1 pound and 2 pound notes. They have done it, and on
a frightful scale. Then, to make it trebly sure, the just balance
between paper and specie is disturbed in the other scale as well as by
foreign loans to be paid in gold. In 1793 the candle was left
unsnufled, but we have lighted it at both ends and put it down to
roast. Before the year ends, every sovereign in the banks of this
country may be called on to cash 30 pounds of paper--bank-paper,
share-paper, foolscap-paper, waste-paper. In 1793, a small excess of
paper over specie had the power to cause a panic and break some ninety
banks; but our excess of paper is far larger, and with that fatal
error we have combined foreign loans and three hundred bubble
companies. Here, then, meet three bubbles, each of which, unaided,
secures a panic. Events revolve, gentlemen, and reappear at intervals.
The great French bubble of 1719 is here to-day with the addition of
two English tom-fooleries, foreign loans and 1 pound notes. Mr. Law
was a great financier. Mr. Law was the first banker and the greatest.
All mortal bankers are his pupils, though they don't know it. Mr. Law
was not a fool; his critics are. Mr. Law did not commit one error out
of six that are attributed to him by those who judge him without
reading, far less studying, his written works. He was too sound and
sober a banker to admit small notes. They were excluded from his
system. He found France on the eve of bankruptcy; in fact, the state
had committed acts of virtual bankruptcy. He saved her with his bank.
"Then came his two errors, one remedial, the other fatal. No. 1, he
created a paper company and blew it up to a bubble. When the shares
had reached the skies, they began to come down, like stones, by an
inevitable law. No. 2, to save them from their coming fate, he propped
them with his bank. Overrating the power of governments, and
underrating Nature's, he married the Mississippi shares (at forty
times their value) to his banknotes by edict. What was the
consequence? The bank paper, sound in itself, became rotten by
marriage. Nothing could save the share-paper. The bank paper, making
common cause with it, shared its fate. Had John Law let his two tubs
each stand on its own bottom, the shares would have gone back to what
they came from--nothing; the bank, based as it was on specie, backed
stoutly by the government, and respected by the people for great
national services, would have weathered the storm and lasted to this
day. But he tied his rickety child to his healthy child, and flung
them into a stormy sea, and told them to swim together: they sank
together. Now observe, sir, the fatal error that ruined the great
financier in 1720 is this day proposed to us. We are to connect our
bank with bubble companies by the double tie of loans and liability.
John Law was sore tempted. The Mississippi Company was his own child
as well as the bank. Love of that popularity he had drunk so deeply,
egotism, and parental partiality, combined to obscure that great man's
judgment. But, with us, folly stands naked on one side, bubbles in
hand--common sense and printed experience on the other. These six
specimen bubbles here are not _our_ children. Let me see whose
they are, aliases excepted."
"Very good, young gentleman, very good. Now it is my turn. I have got
a word or two to say on the other side. The journals, which are so
seldom agreed, are all of one mind about these glorious times. Account
"How can you know their minds, sir?"
"By their leading columns."
"Those are no clue."
"What! Do they think one thing and print another? Why should the
independent press do that? Nonsense."
"Why, sir? Because they are bribed to print it, but they are not
bribed to think it."
"Bribed? The English press bribed?"
"Oh, not directly, like the English freeman. Oblige me with a journal
or two, no matter which; they are all tarred with the same stick in
time of bubble. Here, sir, are 50 pounds worth of bubble
advertisements, yielding a profit of say 25 pounds on this single
issue. In this one are nearer 100 pounds worth of such advertisements.
Now is it in nature that a newspaper, which is a trade speculation,
should say the word that would blight its own harvest? This is the
oblique road by which the English press is bribed. These leaders are
mere echoes of to-day's advertisement sheet, and bidders for
"The world gets worse every day, Skinner."
"It gets no better," replied Richard, philosophically.
"But, Richard, here is our county member, and ----, staid, sober men
both, and both have pledged their honor on the floor of the House of
Commons to the sound character of some of these companies."
"They have, sir; but they will never redeem the said honor, for they
are known to be bribed, and not obliquely, by those very companies."
(The price current of M. P. honor, in time of bubble, ought to be
added to the works of arithmetic.) "Those two Brutuses get 500 pounds
apiece per annum for touting those companies down at Stephen's. ----
goes cheaper and more oblique. He touts, in the same place, for a gas
company, and his house in the square flares from cellar to garret,
"Good gracious! and he talked of the light of conscience in his very
last speech. But this cannot apply to all. There is the archbishop; he
can't have sold his name to that company."
"Who knows? He is over head and ears in debt."
"But the duke, _he_ can't have."
"Why not? He is over head and ears in debt. Princes deep in debt by
misconduct, and bishops deep in ditto by ditto, are half-honest, needy
men; and half-honest, needy men are all to be bought and sold like
hogs in Smithfield, especially in time of bubble."
"What is the world come to!"
"What it was a hundred years ago."
"I have got one pill left for him, Skinner. Here is the Chancellor of
the Exchequer, a man whose name stands for caution, has pronounced a
panegyric on our situation. Here are his words quoted in this leader;
now listen: 'We may safely venture to contemplate with instructive
admiration the harmony of its proportions and the solidity of its
basis.' What do you say to that?"
"I say it is one man's opinion versus the experience of a century.
Besides, that is a quotation, and may be a fraudulent one."
"No, no. The speech was only delivered last Wednesday: we will refer
to it. Mum! mum! Ah, here it is. 'The Chancellor of the Exchequer rose
and--' mum! mum! ah--'I am of--o-pinion that--if, upon a fair review
of our situation, there shall appear to be nothing hollow in its
foundation, artificial in its superstructure, or flimsy in its general
results, we may safely venture to contemplate with instructive
admiration the harmony of its proportions and the solidity of its
"Ha! ha! ha! I quite agree with cautious Bobby. If it is not hollow,
it may be solid; if it is not a gigantic paper balloon, it may be a
very fine globe, and vice versa, which vice versa he in
his heart suspects to be the truth. You see, sir, the mangled
quotation was a swindle, like the flimsy superstructures it was
intended to prop. The genuine paragraph is a fair sample of Robinson,
and of the art of withholding opinion by means of expression. But as
quoted, by a fraudulent suppression of one half, the unbalanced half
is palmed off as a whole, and an indecision perverted into a decision.
I might just as fairly cite him as describing our situation to be
'hollow in its basis, artificial in its superstructure, flimsy in its
general result.' Since you value names, I will cite you one man that
has commented on the situation; not, like Mr. Robinson, by misty
sentences, each neutralizing the other, but by consistent acts: a man,
gentlemen, whose operations have always been numerous and courageous
in less _prosperous_ times, yet now he is _out of
everything_ but a single insurance company."
"Who is the gentleman?"
"It is not a gentleman; it is a blackguard," said the exact youth.
"You excite my curiosity. Who is the capitalist, then, that stands
"Nathan Meyer Rothschild."
Old Skinner started sitting. "Rothschild hanging back. Oh, master, for
Heavens sake don't let us try to be wiser than those devils of Jews.
Mr. Richard, I bore up pretty well against your book-learning, but now
you've hit me with a thunderbolt. Let us get in gold, and keep as snug
as mice, and not lend one of them a farthing to save them from the
gallows. Those Jews smell farther than a Christian can see. Don't
let's have any more 1793's, sir, for Heaven's sake. Listen to Mr.
Richard; he has been abroad, and come back with a head."
"Be quiet, Skinner. You seem to possess private information, Richard."
"I employ three myrmidons to hunt it; it will be useful by and by."
"It may be now. Remark on these proposals."
"Well, sir, two of them are based on gold mines, shares at a fabulous
premium. Now no gold mine can be worked to a profit by a company.
_Primo:_ Gold is not found in veins like other metals. It is an
abundant metal made scarce to man by distribution over a wide surface.
The very phrase gold mine is delusive. _Secundo:_ Gold is a metal
that cannot be worked to a profit by a company for this reason:
workmen will hunt it for others so long as the daily wages average
higher than the amount of metal they find per diem; but, that Rubicon
once passed, away they run to find gold for themselves in some spot
with similar signs; if they stay, it is to murder your overseers and
seize your mine. Gold digging is essentially an individual
speculation. These shares sell at 700 pounds apiece; a dozen of them
are not worth one Dutch tulip-root. Ah! here is a company of another
class, in which you have been invited to be director; they would have
given you shares and made you liable." Mr. Richard consulted his
note-book. "This company, which 'commands the wealth of both
Indies'--in perspective--dissolved yesterday afternoon for want of
eight guineas. They had rented offices at eight guineas a week, and
could not pay the first week. 'Turn out or pay,' said the landlord, a
brute absorbed in the present, and with no faith in the glorious
future. They offered him 1,500 pounds worth of shares instead of his
paltry eight guineas cash. On this he swept his premises of them. What
a godsend you would have been to these Jeremy Diddlers, you and the
ten thousand they would have bled you of."
The old banker turned pale.
"Oh, that is nothing new, sir. _'To-morrow_ the first lord of the
treasury calls at my house, and brings me 11,261 pounds 14s. 11 3/4d.,
which is due to me from the nation at twelve of the clock on that day;
you couldn't lend me a shilling till then, could ye?' Now for the
loans. Baynes upon Haggart want 2,000 pounds at 5 per cent."
"Good names, Richard, surely," said old Hardie, faintly.
"They were; but there are no good names in time of bubble. The
operations are so enormous that in a few weeks a man is hollowed out
and his frame left standing. In such times capitalists are like
filberts; they look all nut, but half of them are dust inside the
shell, and only known by breaking. Baynes upon Haggart, and Haggart
upon Baynes, the city is full of their paper. I have brought some down
to show it to you. A discounter, who is a friend of mine, did it for
them on a considerable scale at thirty per cent discount (cast your
eye over these bills, Haggart on Baynes). But he has burned his
fingers even at that, and knows it. So I am authorized to offer all
these to you at fifty per cent discount."
"Good heavens! Richard!"
"If, therefore, you think of doing rotten apple upon rotten pear,
otherwise Haggart upon Baynes, why do it at five per cent when it is
to be had by the quire at fifty?"
"Take them out of my sight," said old Hardie, starting up--"take them
all out of my sight. Thank God I sent for you. No more discussion, no
more doubt. Give me your hand, my son; you have saved the bank!"
The conference broke up with these eager words, and young Skinner
retired swiftly from the keyhole.
The next day Mr. Hardie senior came to a resolution which saddened
poor old Skinner. He called the clerks in and introduced them to Mr.
Richard as his managing partner.
"Every dog has his day," said the old gentleman. "Mine has been a long
one. Richard has saved the bank from a fatal error; Richard shall
conduct it as Hardie & Son. Don't be disconsolate, Skinner; I'll look
in on you now and then."
Hardie junior sent back all the proposals with a polite negative. He
then proceeded on a two-headed plan. Not to lose a shilling when the
panic he expected should come, and to make 20,000 pounds upon its
subsiding. Hardie & Son held Exchequer bills on rather a large scale.
They were at half a crown premium. He sold every one and put gold in
his coffers. He converted in the same way all his other securities
except consols. These were low, and he calculated they would rise in
any general depreciation of more pretentious investments. He drew out
his balance, a large one, from his London correspondent, and put his
gold in his coffers. He drew a large deposit from the Bank of England.
Whenever his own notes came into the bank, he withdrew them from
circulation. "They may hop upon Hardie & Son," said he, "but they
shan't run upon us, for I'll cut off their legs and keep them in my
One day he invited several large tradesmen in the town to dine with
him at the bank. They came full of curiosity. He gave them a luxurious
dinner, which pleased them. After dinner he exposed the real state of
the nation, as he understood it. They listened politely, and sneered
silently, but visibly. He then produced six large packets of his
banknotes; each packet contained 3,000 pounds. Skinner, then present,
enveloped these packets in cartridge-paper, and the guests were
requested to seal them up. This was soon done. In those days a bunch
of gigantic seals dangled and danced on the pit of every man's