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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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Next morning, on awakening, I discovered that if an abundance of wine acts medicinally in some stages of disordered health, it will disorder health itself, in spite of fine sentiments. My head was heavy, my eyes were dull, my will was inert, so that the sun rode in his glorious noontide chariot before I could bestir myself.

From the state of my appetite, I saved myself the expense of a dinner. I could not, however, bear to be alone; and, although the irritation of my stomach interrupted and prolonged my cabala, I managed to expiscate Archimago, and—Tenebrosa appeared.

"You are late for the advertisements," said he.

I shook my head sadly, to signify that I was in no mood for them, even if it were early enough.

"But I can introduce you to another stratum," he continued. "Rouse yourself. It is two o'clock, and in a couple of hours the efflux of business will be too far spent for our purpose."

He took me to a fine building in the centre of the city; which, I had before thought, was a cenotaph of the nation's wealth. I had known it as a huge, empty, curious place, with a mighty tradition of its predecessor. But, there was a great alteration in it at present.

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It was three o'clock; and, on all sides, men were hurrying to it, as I have seen them do, with quieter demeanour, to a divine temple. The precincts were full and clamorous.

"Persons wisely meet here," said Archimago to me, "at a given hour, for an hour, to do a great deal of business, in a short time. We shall do ours."

He remarked to me, that the spaces between the pillars supporting the edifice, were called Courts, and were separately appropriated to the principal nations of the world.

"Here, we shall find news and news-seekers from every climate, country, and tongue. What they are about is somewhat of a religious rite, to a deity who has votaries among the followers of Moses, Christ, Mahomet, Menu, and Confucius,—a deity who sways them more than any of these lawgivers, as you may see from the distance they travel, or from the tribulation they undergo, to do worship at his shrine."

Tenebrosa wandered from court to court, speaking intimately with many merchants. He enjoyed this so much, that I thought he had forgotten me, and my aims.

"Come, here is an opportunity," said I to him. "Some of those your friends—"

"Not my friends, my—" answered he, looking out of the corners of his half-closed eyes, and touching his lips significantly.

"Just so. Well, they must require, some one of them, a person of my qualifications."

"Of course. I was really so busy after my own affairs, that I forgot yours. Here is the very per- page 39 son. Mr. Shuttle," continued Tenebrosa, going up to a florid gentleman, "may I trouble you a moment? Have you a vacancy for such a person as my acquaintance here?"

"Ah, you are very lucky," cried Mr. Shuttle. "It is three years since such a chance occurred. I am in want of a correspondent, &c., and I have fifty—oh, a hundred—applicants on my list; but, first come first served. I suppose he writes, fast and well; can calculate quick, and correctly as Greenwich time; knows French, Spanish, and Italian. Well, he may suit, then. I am busy just now; but call in at my office to-morrow morning. He'll serve the first year, for nothing; the second, twenty pounds; and the third—as the business increases. It's as far as telegraphs and railways have reached at present, so that he has a good prospect."

Mr. Shuttle left us in a hurry. I was delighted, and exclaimed,

"Here is the very thing I desire."

"We shall see," remarked Archimago. "Attend to his proceedings."

The merchant went to nearly every one in the place. He smiled continually; and never spoke without making an apology. I noticed that his apologies were in no instance upon indifferent matters; but either concerned his honour and interest, or the other person's honour and loss.

"Good gracious," cried he to one, "I have so many things to think about, that I forgot I offered you a thousand pounds for those goods. Well, it can't be helped now. I must make it up to you some other page 40 way."———"He bought a similar lot of goods for eight hundred pounds, after his promise—hence his forgetfulness," whispered Archimago.

"Dear me, did I detain you an hour at my office, this morning?" said the merchant to another. "You really must pardon my forgetfulness. I will see you to-morrow."———" He fastened that man with a fictitious appointment," whispered my Attendant, "whilst he concluded a contract seven miles off, which his friend, who ought to have been there, would have got,"

"You must forgive me about those bills," exclaimed the merchant to a third. "I quite forgot them, quite—thoughtless man that I am. But you have paid them, I suppose. All right, I must arrange matters with you in a day or two."———"He made his friend take some wretched bad property at double its value," confided the Cunning Spirit. "And sign bills for the amount, promising, viva voce of course, long credit, by renewing the bills every three months for two years. When they were due for the first time, a couple of days ago, he did not answer the man's letters, and was denied to him when he called at his office. He will be denied to-morrow. The man, under the pressure, has sold the property, for a fourth of what it cost him, and mortgaged a house he has, for the remainder. In a word, there is an end of the transaction. This man is ruined, the other improves."

The merchant was now engaged with a person, who questioned the time, and the circumstances, of some piece of business, and a quantity of goods concerned in it; but the merchant stated the day and the page 41 hour; the place, the persons present; the words that were uttered; the state of the market at the time; and the exact quantity named and invoiced,—so particularly and emphatically, that he quite overturned the man's assertions; and when the man found himself defeated in facts, and would question the merchant's memory, the latter said, "Sir, I forget nothing," and so settled the matter, as effectually as could the Lords of the Privy Council.

"Shall we trouble ourselves to call on this gentleman, as we intended?" I asked of Tenebrosa.

"As you choose. I should say not. He will, there is no doubt, adhere to his agreement for the two years. At the end of that time, he will induce you—oh, yes! he has sufficient words to induce you—to extend the terms for two years more, and leave the additional remuneration to his discretion. You will get nothing more. Dismiss conjecture."

"But why is he not exposed?" said I.

"Such men as he of the acceptances, will not be heard in business circles," answered Archimago; "and business men themselves overlook his pretences, in the hope of profiting from him some other way; but they will be mistaken. His maxim in all things is, 'the world is wide;' and, whilst he is apologising in every Court, we shall go to an establishment not far from here, and see an exemplification of his creed."