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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 17
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    AN INVESTMENT

    'I want your advice, Maude.'

    She was looking very sweet and fresh in the morning sunlight. She wore a flowered, French print blouse--little sprigs of roses on a white background--and a lace frill round her pretty, white, smooth throat. The buckle of her brown leather belt just gleamed over the edge of the table-cloth. In front of her were a litter of correspondence, a white cup of coffee, and two empty eggshells--for she was a perfectly healthy young animal with an excellent appetite.

    'Well, dear, what is it?'

    'I shall take the later train. Then I need not hurry, and can walk down at my ease.'

    'How nice of you!'

    'I am not sure that Dinton will think so.'

    'Only one little hour of difference--what can it matter?'

    'They don't run offices on those lines. An hour means a good deal in the City of London.'

    'Oh, I do hate the City of London! It is the only thing which ever comes between us.'

    'I suppose that it separates a good many loving couples every morning.'

    He had come across and an egg-cup had been upset. Then he had been scolded, and they sat together laughing upon the sofa. When he had finished admiring her little, shining, patent-leather, Louis shoes and the two charming curves of open-work black stocking, she reminded him that he had asked for her advice.

    'Yes, dear, what was it?' She knitted her brows and tried to look as her father did when he considered a matter of business. But then her father was not hampered by having a young man's arm round his neck. It is so hard to be business-like when any one is curling one's hair round his finger.

    'I have some money to invest.'

    'O Frank, how clever of you!'

    'It is only fifty pounds.'

    'Never mind, dear, it is a beginning.'

    'That is what I feel. It is the foundation-stone of our fortunes. And so I want Her Majesty to lay it--mustn't wrinkle your brow though--that is not allowed.'

    'But it is a great responsibility, Frank.'

    'Yes, we must not lose it.'

    'No, dear, we must not lose it. Suppose we invest it in one of those modern fifty-guinea pianos. Our dear old Broadwood was an excellent piano when I was a girl, but it is getting so squeaky in the upper notes. Perhaps they would allow us something for it.'

    He shook his head.

    'I know that we want one very badly, dear. And such a musician as you are should have the best instrument that money can buy. I promise you that when we have a little to turn round on, you shall have a beauty. But in the meantime we must not buy anything with this money--I mean nothing for ourselves--we must invest it. We cannot tell what might happen. I might fall ill. I might die.'

    'O Frank, how horrid you are this morning!'

    'Well, we have to be ready for anything. So I want to put this where we can get it on an emergency, and where in the meantime it will bring us some interest. Now what shall we buy?'

    'Papa always bought a house.'

    'But we have not enough.'

    'Not a little house?'

    'No, not the smallest.'

    'A mortgage, then?'

    'The sum is too small.'

    'Government stock, Frank--if you think it is safe.'

    'Oh, it is safe enough. But the interest is so low.'

    'How much should we get?'

    'Well, I suppose the fifty pounds would bring us in about thirty shillings a year.'

    'Thirty shillings! O Frank!'

    'Rather less than more.'

    'Fancy a great rich nation like ours taking our fifty pounds and treating us like that. How MEAN of them! Don't let them have it, Frank.'

    'No, I won't.'

    'If they want it, they can make us a fair offer for it.'

    'I think we'll try something else.'

    'Well, they have only themselves to thank. But you have some plan in your head, Frank. What is it?'

    He brought the morning paper over from the table. Then he folded it so as to bring the financial columns to the top.

    'I saw a fellow in the City yesterday who knows a great deal about gold-mining. I only had a few minutes' talk, but he strongly advised me to have some shares in the El Dorado Proprietary Gold Mine.'

    'What a nice name! I wonder if they would let us have any?'

    'Oh yes, they are to be bought in the open market. It is like this, Maude. The mine was a very good one, and paid handsome dividends. Then it had some misfortunes. First, there was no water, and then there was too much water, and the workings were flooded. So, of course, the price of the shares fell. Now they are getting the mine all right again, but the shares are still low. It certainly seems a very good chance to pick a few of them up.'

    'Are they very dear, Frank?'

    'I looked them up in the Mining Register before I came home yesterday. The original price of each share was ten shillings, but as they have had these misfortunes, one would expect to find them rather lower.'

    'Ten shillings! It does not seem much to pay for a share in a thing with a name like that.'

    'Here it is,' said he, pointing with a pencil to one name in a long printed list. 'This one, between the Royal Bonanza and the Alabaster Consols. You see--El Dorado Proprietary! Then after it you have printed, 4.75--4.875. I don't profess to know much about these things, but that of course means the price.'

    'Yes, dear, it is printed at the top of the column--"Yesterday's prices."'

    'Quito so. Well, we know that the original price of each share was ten shillings, and of course they must have dropped with a flood in the mine, so that these figures must mean that the price yesterday was four shillings and nine-pence, or thereabouts.'

    'What a clear head for business you have, dear!'

    'I think we can't do wrong in buying at that price. You see, with our fifty pounds we could buy two hundred of them, and then if they went up again we could sell, and take our profit.'

    'How delightful! But suppose they don't go up.'

    'Well, they can't go down. I should not think that a share at four shillings and ninepence COULD go down very much. There is no room. But it may go up to any extent.'

    'Besides, your friend said that they would go up.'

    'Yes, he seemed quite confident about it. Well, what do you think, Maude? Is it good enough or not?'

    'O Frank, I hardly dare advise you. Just imagine if we were to lose it all. Do you think it would be wiser to get a hundred shares, and then we could buy twenty-five pounds' worth of Royal Bonanza as well. It would be impossible for them both to go wrong.'

    'The Royal Bonanza shares are dear, and then we have had no information about it. I think we had better back our own opinion.'

    'All right, Frank.'

    'Then that is settled. I have a telegraph-form here.'

    'Could you not buy them yourself when you are in town?'

    'No, you can't buy things yourself. You have to do it through a broker.'

    'I always thought a broker was a horrid man, who came and took your furniture away.'

    'Ah, that's another kind of broker. He comes afterwards. I promised Harrison that he should have any business which I could put in his way, so here goes. How is that?' -

    'Harrison, 13a Throgmorton Street, E.C.--Buy two hundred El Dorado Proprietaries.

    'CROSSE, Woking.'

    'Doesn't it sound rather peremptory, Frank?'

    'No, no, that is mere business.'

    'I hope he won't be offended.'

    'I think I can answer for that.'

    'You have not said the price.'

    'One cannot say the price because one does not know it. You see, it is always going up and down. By this time it may be a little higher or a little lower than yesterday. There cannot be much change, that is certain. Great Scot, Maude, it is ten-fifteen. Three and a half minutes for a quarter of a mile. Good-bye, darling! I just love you in that bodice. O Lord--good-bye!'

    'Well, has anything happened?'

    'Yes, you have come back. Oh I am so glad to see you, you dear old boy!'

    'Take care of that window, darling!'

    'Oh, my goodness, I hope he didn't see. No, it's all right. He was looking the other way. We have the gold shares all right.'

    'Harrison has telegraphed?'

    'Yes, here it is.' -

    'Crosse, The Lindens, Woking.--Bought two hundred El Dorados at 4.75.

    HARRISON.'

    'That is capital. I rather expected to see Harrison in the train. I shouldn't be surprised if he calls on his way from the station. He has to pass our door, you know, on his way to Maybury.'

    'He is sure to call.'

    'What are you holding there?'

    'It's a paper.'

    'What paper?'

    'Who is it who talks about woman's curiosity?'

    'Let me see it.'

    'Well, sir, if you must know, it is the Financial Whisper.'

    'Where in the world did you get it?'

    'I knew that the Montresors took a financial paper. I remember Mrs. Montresor saying once how dreadfully dry it was. So when you were gone I sent Jemima round and borrowed it, and I have read it right through to see if there was anything about our mine in it--OUR mine, Frank; does it not sound splendid?'

    'Well, is there anything?'

    She clapped her hands with delight.

    'Yes, there is. "This prosperous mine--" that is what it says. Look here, it is under the heading of Australian Notes,' she held out the paper and pointed, but his face fell as he looked.

    'O Maude, it's preposterous.'

    'What is preposterous?'

    'The word is preposterous and not prosperous--"this preposterous mine."'

    'Frank!' She turned her face away.

    'Never mind, dear! What's the odds?'

    'O Frank, our first investment--our fifty pounds! And to think that I should have kept the paper as a surprise for you!'

    'Well, the print is a little slurred, and it was a very natural mistake. After all, the paper may be wrong. Oh don't, Maude, please don't! It's not worth it--all the gold on the earth is not worth it. There's a sweet girlie! Now, are you better? Oh, damn those open curtains!'

    A tall and brisk young man with a glossy hat was coming through the garden. An instant later Jemima had ushered him in.

    'Hullo, Harrison!'

    'How do you do, Crosse? How are you, Mrs. Crosse?'

    'How do you do? I'll just order tea if you will excuse me.'

    Ordering tea seemed to involve a good deal of splashing water. Maude came back with a merrier face.

    'Is this a good paper, Mr. Harrison?'

    'What is it? Financial Whisper! No, the most venal rag in the city.'

    'Oh, I am so glad!'

    'Why?'

    'Well, you know, we bought some shares to-day, and it calls our mine a preposterous one.'

    'Oh, is that all. Who cares what the Financial Whisper says! It would call the Bank of England a preposterous institution if it thought it could bear Consols by doing so. Its opinion is not worth a halfpenny. By the way, Crosse, it was about those shares that I called.'

    'I thought you might. I have only just got back myself, and I saw by your wire that you had bought them all right.'

    'Yes, I thought I had better let you have your contract at once. Settling day is on Monday, you know.'

    'All right. Thank you. I will let you have a cheque. What--what's this?'

    The contract had been laid face upwards upon the table. Frank Crosse's face grew whiter and his eyes larger as he stared at it. It ran in this way -

    -

    13a THROGMORTON STREET.

    Bought for Francis Crosse, Esq.

    (Subject to the Specific Rules and Regulations of the Stock Exchange.) Pounds 200 El Dorado Proprietaries at 4.75 950 0 0 Stamps and Fees 4 17 6 Commission 7 10 0 962 7 6

    For the 7th inst.

    -

    'I fancy there is some mistake here, Harrison,' said he, speaking with a very dry pair of lips.

    'A mistake!'

    'Yes, this is not at all what I expected.'

    'O Frank! Nearly a thousand pounds!' gasped Maude.

    Harrison glanced from one of them to the other. He saw that the matter was serious.

    'I am very sorry if there has been any mistake. I tried to obey your instructions. You wanted two hundred El Dorados, did you not?'

    'Yes, at four and ninepence.'

    'Four and ninepence! They are four pound fifteen each.'

    'But I read that they were only ten shillings originally, and that they had been falling.'

    'Yes, they have been falling for months. But they were as high as ten pounds once. They are down at four pound fifteen now.'

    'Why on earth could the paper not say so?'

    'When a fraction is used, it always means a fraction of a pound.'

    'Good heavens! And I have to find this sum before Monday.'

    'Monday is settling day.'

    'I can't do it, Harrison. It is impossible.'

    'Then there is the obvious alternative.'

    'No, I had rather die. I will never go bankrupt--never!'

    Harrison began to laugh, and then turned stonily solemn as he met a pair of reproachful grey eyes.

    'It strikes me that you have not done much at this game, Crosse.'

    'Never before--and by Heaven, never again!'

    'You take it much too hard. When I spoke of an alternative, I never dreamed of bankruptcy. All you have to do is to sell your stock to- morrow morning, and pay the difference.'

    'Can I do that?'

    'Rather. Why not?'

    'What would the difference be?'

    Harrison took an evening paper from his pocket. 'We deal in rails chiefly, and I don't profess to keep in touch with the mining market. We'll find the quotation here. By Jove!' He whistled between his teeth.

    'Well!' said Frank, and felt his wife's little warm palm fall upon his hand under the table.

    'The difference is in your favour.'

    'In my favour?'

    'Yes, listen to this. "The mining markets, both the South African and the Australian, opened dull, but grew more animated as the day proceeded, prices closing at the best. Out crops upon the Rand mark a general advance of one-sixteenth to one-eighth. The chief feature in the Australian section was a sharp advance of five-eighths in El Dorados, upon a telegram that the workings had been pumped dry." Crosse, I congratulate you.'

    'I can really sell them for more than I gave?'

    'I should think so. You have two hundred of them, and a profit of ten shillings on each.'

    'Maude, we'll have the whisky and the soda. Harrison, you must have a drink. Why, that's a hundred pounds.'

    'More than a hundred.'

    'Without my paying anything?'

    'Not a penny.'

    'When does the Exchange open to-morrow?'

    'The rattle goes at eleven.'

    'Well, be there at eleven, Harrison. Sell them at once.'

    'You won't hold on and watch the market?'

    'No, no--I won't have an easy moment until they are sold.'

    'All right, my boy. You can rely upon me. You will get a cheque for your balance on Tuesday or Wednesday. Good evening! I am so glad that it has all ended well.'

    'And the joke of it is, Maude,' said her husband, after they had talked over the whole adventure from the beginning. 'The joke of it is that we have still to find an investment for our original fifty pounds. I am inclined to put it into Consols after all.'

    'Well,' said Maude, 'perhaps it would be the patriotic thing to do.'

    Two days later the poor old Broadwood with the squeaky treble and the wheezy bass was banished for ever from The Lindens, and there arrived in its place a ninety-five-guinea cottage grand, all dark walnut and gilding, with notes in it so deep and rich and resonant that Maude could sit before it by the hour and find music enough in simply touching one here and one there, and listening to the soft, sweet, reverberant tones which came swelling from its depths. Her El Dorado piano, she called it, and tried to explain to lady visitors how her husband had been so clever at business that he had earned it in a single day. As she was never very clear in her own mind how the thing had occurred, she never succeeded in explaining it to any one else, but a vague and solemn impression became gradually diffused abroad that young Mr. Frank Crosse was a very remarkable man, and that he had done something exceedingly clever in the matter of an Australian mine.
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