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'Well,' said Stanley, 'the idea is certainly novel. I should really like to join them?'
I should recommend you not.' 'Why?' inquired Stanley.
'Merely because I think that it might occupy too much of your time. Besides, Thorn, when you play, it is solely for pleasure; now their sole object is profit. There is another thing: they have of late lost considerable sums of money, which they are resolved to regain, and it is moreover necessary that they should do so; but you are not in that position.'
'Perhaps not,' rejoined Stanley, whom the reason assigned urged on the more. But when we play, as you say, for pleasure, is not profit invariably the chief object we have in view? Are not the pleasures of play derived from winning, coupled with the hope of winning more? Are losses productive of pleasure?'
It certainly is not very pleasurable to lose; but that is an altogether different thing. Here we have a direct and well-organized spe culation, the object of the speculators being to regain a certain sum. That their object will be accomplished there can be but little doubt; but then look at the anxiety!-what can repay them for that ?'
'The attainment of their object alone! Now it appears to me to be the very kind of speculation into which I should like to enter.'
"Well, but that which I look at is the necessity which exists in their case, and not in yours. Of course I'll introduce you with pleasure, and I am sure that they would like you to join them exceedingly; but if you do, you must expect to be annoyed at least I know that the constant settlements, the division of the profits, and all that sort of thing, would annoy me.'
Very likely. But I have not, you know, so much to attend to as you have, which makes all the difference. When shall I see them?'
'Oh! we'll go when you please-this evening, if you like; but I should advise you before we go to think the matter over.'
'Yes; that of course I'll do. Well, shall we say this evening?'
You may as well dine with me, and then we can start from here direct.'
'Very well; be it so. I have a few little matters to attend to this morning, and while I am about them you can be turning the thing over in your mind; but still, if I were you, I should say it would be scarcely worth my while to trouble my head about it. However, it is for you to decide. We shall again see each other at seven.'
Sir William then left, and as he entered his cab-' Every man,' thought Stanley, knows his own business best. He has no idea of my real position. His advice, therefore, goes for nothing. He still thinks that I am wealthy. He has not the slightest notion that my necessities are as great as the necessities of those whom I shall join. It is hence that he con. ceives that I shall deem the constant division of the profits an annoy. ance!'
Stanley smiled at this idea, and then proceeded to calculate what the profits of such a speculation were likely to be; and while he was thus engaged-with the gain of tens of thousands floating upon the current of his rich imagination,-Sir William, who was by no means so ignorant of the matter as Stanley supposed, was conversing with the projectors of
the scheme, and representing Stanley as being a young fellow who had brilliant expectations, and who would be an unquestionable acquisition, if they could but secure him.
But is he likely to be caught?' inquired the noble Earl. Will he come in?'
That I must leave entirely to you. He is to be managed.' 'Has he much stuff in hand?'
Why, it matters but little, you know, whether he has or not.' 'His paper is good, of course?' interposed 'Captain' Filcher, who had engaged to be the nominal proprietor of the concern.
Safe as the bank,' replied Sir William.
'Then of course,' rejoined Filcher, 'it's regular.'
And so it was in his view, and also in that of the noble Earl, who expressed an anxiety to see Stanley, and begged of Sir William to bring him that evening, in order that he might at once be fixed, which Sir William promptly promised to do; and they parted.
During dinner, although no word was spoken on the subject which Amelia could understand, Sir William perceived that Stanley's views were unaltered. He was therefore in high spirits, and conversed with unusual animation, and studiously applauded every sentiment which Amelia advanced. His marked attention to her would, in the mind of a stranger, have excited suspicion; but his freedom of manner and of speech had been so cautiously, so gradually assumed, that its progress had been to them imperceptible.
'I wish your mamma were here, Stanley,' said Amelia, on the table being cleared.
'Yes,' replied Stanley, 'she would have been company for you while we are absent.'
"Then are you naughty people going to leave me?"
'Business, my love, business. I shall not be late.'
Oh! I anticipated quite a delightful evening.'
'For my part,' said the wily baronet, looking at Stanley, 'I think we had better remain where we are.'
'There's a good creature!' cried Amelia. 'You ought to be recognised generally as the champion of the ladies. Is it of importance, dear Stanley?'
It is, my love. I must go; but I shall return very early.'
Well, do not let me interfere with business. But how long shall I give you? Shall I say twelve o'clock?'
Do not name any time, because I like to be punctual; and if we say twelve o'clock, I may stop till that time, when otherwise I might be home earlier.'
Very well; but return as soon as you can-there's a dear.'
You really are an admirable wife,' said Sir William, to whom the gentle affection displayed by Amelia was wormwood.
'Now you are pleased to flatter,' she returned, with a smile. 'No, upon my honour.'
Well, I appreciate your good opinion,' rejoined Amelia, gaily. Stanley ought in due form to acknowledge the compliment, seeing that he has made me what I am. We must ascribe all the merit to him. Admirable husbands make admirable wives-is it not so ?'
'It is amiable on the part of those admirable wives to think so.'
Nay, but is it not so in reality?!'
The belief, I fear, is not universally entertained.'
'I should say not,' interposed Stanley. The most brutal husbands have the most gentle wives; and as you see in my case, the more mild and affectionate a man is, the more advantage his wife takes of that mildness and affection, the more she will tyrannise over him, and make him feel her power.'
Amelia smiled, and was about to concede that with the thoughtless and the vulgar it sometimes happened that both husbands and wives took advantage of amiability and devotion; but as Stanley at the moment gave the signal, they rose; and, on taking leave, Sir William pressed the hand of Amelia with so much warmth, that although she attributed it to nothing but the purest friendship, she felt an almost involuntary inclination to withdraw it. The effect, however, was but instantaneous; she bade him adieu with her wonted smile, and then embraced her Stanley with the fondest affection.
Having entered the cab, Stanley, being impatient, started off with so much swiftness, that Bob-who had anticipated nothing of the sort, and who had to run like lightning for five hundred yards before he could catch the cab to get up behind-very naturally conceived that there was something additional amiss.
'Another blessed screw loose!' said he very privately to himself. 'I'm glad he's got somebody with him; although, as it is, I must mind what I'm at. In this here ticklish state of transactions, masters ain't very particular about gratitude; and ther's something a little extra o'clock to-night, I know!'
The expediency of looking out with an eagle's eye having thus appeared clear to his view, he leaped from behind with such amazing alacrity when Stanley pulled up, that he was at the head of the horse in an instant.
'Another blessed four o'clock business,' said he muttering with great caution, as Stanley and Sir William entered a brilliantly illuminated clubhouse. When every individual winder's in a blaze they pints to four or half-past, safe! Won't you stand still?' he added aloud, addressing his horse, or am I to go for to make you? Don't you think I've enough to put up with? Ain't it ten times worse than listing for a soger? As true as I'm alive masters now-a-days ain't got no bowels for servants at all!'
Whereupon he stepped leisurely into the cab, and having driven a short distance from the door, he adjusted himself snugly in the off corner of the vehicle, with the view of having a few hours soft repose.
On entering one of the private rooms of the club, Stanley was formally presented to the noble Earl, Captain Filcher, and two other dashing persons, who appeared to be highly pleased to see him. They had evidently been entering into certain calculations having reference to the scheme, the result of which had put them in great spirits; but no allusion whatever was made to the project for some considerable time.
At length, having freely conversed on the various topics of the day and become thereby better acquainted with each other, the noble Earl opened the subject of the speculation, the success of which he described as being perfectly certain; and having dwelt upon the brilliant character of the anticipated profits, and proved in theory all that it was necessary to prove, Stanley became so satisfied that he entered at once into his views, and expressed himself anxious to join them.
The noble Earl of course explained how happy he should be to have him as a partner in the speculation, and as his title, independently of his gentlemanlike bearing, had great weight with Stanley, he felt highly
And what will it be necessary for us to put down?' he inquired.
"Why, according to our calculation,' replied the noble Earl, 'a capital of ten thousand will in all probability realise a hundred thousand pounds in three months. But we need not put it all down at once. Let me see; there are five of us. Of course we must expect to lose a trifle at first-it will in fact be expedient to do so. Now, I think that if we each of us put down five hundred to begin with, it will do; but, of course, it will be well, in order to make all sure, for each to be prepared with two thousand.'
This proposition was made to all concerned, and agreed to, and when the agreement had been drawn up and signed, they set aside all business, made an appointment to meet the next morning at the house which Captain Filcher had partly engaged, and spent a jovial evening together.
On the following morning they accordingly met, and were all much pleased with the house; and as Filcher had had some experience in fitting up clubs,' he undertook to prepare it with all possible expedition. But Stanley was in limine puzzled. How was he to raise his share of the sum required? He could no longer draw money of the widow. Should he mortgage his estate? As this appeared to be the only way in which it could be managed, he resolved at once to do it; but as on the day in which this resolution was formed he happened to call at the club, to see what progress had been made, and found Filcher alone, his views on the subject were changed.
Filcher, who had received certain hints from Sir William, regarded this call as auspicious. He was therefore unusually anxious to win Stanley's confidence, and after showing him the furniture he had hired, and the tables he had purchased, and explaining certain mysteries of play, he got him over a bottle of wine, and became excessively communicative and friendly.
'I don't know, of course, how you are situated,' said he, when he fancied that Stanley had been sufficiently warmed, but men who may have the power to command a mint of money are not at all times flush. I merely allude to this in order to intimate that if you should at any time happen to be short, I have already so much confidence in you-and one can always tell pretty well what a man is-that I shall be happy to lend you my acceptance. But, mind, this is strictly between ourselves. I do not wish it to go farther, because in the present state of the world there are few men indeed whom I would do it for on any account; but for you I should be proud to do it, if such a thing should ever be required, to the extent of a thousand or so.'
'Well,' said Stanley, who was struck with the friendly feeling displayed by Captain Filcher, 'I certainly feel flattered; and it strangely enough happens that I was just about to raise a sum of money by way of mortgage.'
'Bills are much more convenient. They save a world of trouble. They have but to be drawn to command the sum required, and when at maturity the thing is at an end. What sum do you want to raise ?'
'I thought of two thousand.'
Well! I shall be happy to lend you my acceptance for that amount.'
But what security shall I give ?'
'Your honour, Mr. Thorn, will be a sufficient security for me.' 'But I think that every man ought to have some more tangible security than that.'
'Oh, nonsense!—not among friends!'
'I should feel more satisfied.'
'Well, if that be the case, give me your acceptance for the same amount. I positively refuse to take any other security from you.'
This was kind, very kind, on the part of Captain Filcher. at least strongly felt it to be so, and inquired when the bills should be
'When you please,' returned the Captain.
It may as well be done now as at any other time. Let me see instead of having one bill for two thousand, you had better have four, you know, for five hundred each. You will find them more negotiable.'
'I must be guided by you,' observed Stanley, who at the same moment drew out his purse. Can we send for the stamps ?'
By the by,' cried the Captain, drawing forth his pocket book, 'it strikes me I've a lot of stamps here! And it singularly enough did happen that he found just eight of the very stamps required.
'Well," said he, 'this is extraordinary! I knew that I had some, but I had no idea of what they were. They will save us the trouble of sending out for them at all events.'
Stanley agreed with him perfectly in this, and offered to pay for them; but the Captain refused to receive a single shilling. 'No,' said he, 'I am not a dealer in stamps. They are of no use whatever to me, and may as well be filled up for this purpose as not.'
The bills were then drawn at two months. At the suggestion of the Captain, the dates were slightly varied. He drew four, and four were drawn by Stanley; and when each had accepted those which the other had drawn, they exchanged acceptances as a mere matter of mutual security.
'Have you any channel open?' inquired the Captain, when the exchange had been made. 'I mean,' he added, perceiving that he was not understood, do you know any one who will discount those bills?'
Upon my honour, I do not. I never had occasion to draw one before. But I suppose there will be no difficulty at all about that?' 'Oh! not the least in life. I'll undertake to get them cashed for you at once.'
'I don't like to trouble you,' said Stanley; but at the same time I really wish you would.'
My dear fellow, don't name the trouble!' cried the Captain. do it with infinite pleasure. You shall have the cheque in the morning.' Whereupon Stanley returned him his own acceptances for the purpose of discount, and having warmly acknowledged this additional obligation, left him in possession of the whole of the bills.
The next morning he called for the promised cheque, and found the Captain excessively busy with the workmen, who were engaged, under his superintendence, in decorating the principal drawing-room, apparently for some immediate purpose.