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Bilk’s Fortune
by [?]



We had a fellow at Holmhurst School who rejoiced in the name of Alexander Magnus Bilk. But, as sometimes happens, our Alexander the Great did not in all respects resemble the hero to whom he was indebted for his name. Alexander the Great, so the school-books say, was small in stature and mighty in mind. Bilk was small in mind and lanky in stature. They called him “Lamp-post” as a pet name, and as regarded his height, his girth, and the lightness of his head, the term conveyed a very fair idea of our hero’s chief characteristics. In short, Bilk had very few brains, and such as he had he occupied by no means to the best advantage. He read trashy novels, and believed every word of them, and, like poor Don Quixote of old, he let any one who liked make a fool of him, if he only took the trouble to get at his weak side.

I need hardly say the fellows at Holmhurst were not long in discovering that weak side and getting plenty of fun out of Alexander Magnus. He could be gammoned to almost any extent, so much so that after a term or two his persecutors had run through all the tricks they knew, and the unhappy youth was let alone for sheer want of an idea.

But one winter, when things seemed at their worst, and it really appeared likely that Bilk would have to be given up as a bad job, his tormentors suddenly conceived an idea, and proceeded to put it into practice in the manner I am about to relate in this most veracious history.

The neighbourhood of Holmhurst had for some weeks past been honoured by the presence of a gang of gipsies, who during the period of their sojourn had rendered themselves conspicuous by their diligence in their triple business of chair-mending, fowl-house robbing, and fortune- telling. In the last of these three departments they perhaps succeeded best in winning the confidence of their temporary neighbours, and the private seances they held with housemaids, tradesmen’s boys, and schoolgirls had been particularly gratifying both as to attendance and pecuniary result.

It had at length been deemed to be for the general welfare that these interesting itinerants should seek a change of air in “fresh fields and pastures new,” and the police had accordingly hinted as much to the authorities of the camp, and given them two hours to pack up.

More than ever convinced that gratitude is hopeless to seek in human nature, the gipsies had shaken the dust of Holmhurst from the soles of their not very tidy feet, and had moved off, no one knew whither.

These proceedings had, among other persons, interested Alexander Magnus Bilk not a little, and no one mourned the rapid departure of the gipsies more than he. For Bilk had for some days past secretly hugged the idea of presenting himself to the oracle of these wise ones and having his fortune told. He had in fact gone so far as to make a secret observation of their quarters one afternoon, and had resolved to devote the next half-holiday to the particular pursuit of knowledge they offered, when, lo! cruel fate snatched the cup from his lips and swept the promised fruit from his reach. In other words, the gipsies had gone, and, like his great namesake, Alexander, Magnus mourned.

Among those who noticed his dejection and guessed the cause of it were two of his particular persecutors. Morgan and Dell had for some months been suffering affliction for lack of any notion how to get a rise out of their victim. But they now suddenly cheered up, as they felt the force of a mighty idea moving them once more to action.