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The Financier
by [?]


This is how I became a West African mining magnate with a stake in the Empire.

During February I grew suddenly tired of waiting for the summer to begin. London in the summer is a pleasant place, and chiefly so because you can keep on buying evening papers to see what Kent is doing. In February life has no such excitements to offer. So I wrote to my solicitor about it.

“I want you” (I wrote) “to buy me fifty rubber shares, so that I can watch them go up and down.” And I added “Brokerage 1/8” to show that I knew what I was talking about.

He replied tersely as follows:–

“Don’t be a fool. If you have any money to invest I can get you a safe mortgage at five per cent. Let me know.”

It’s a funny thing how the minds of solicitors run upon mortgages. If they would only stop to think for a moment they would see that you couldn’t possibly watch a safe mortgage go up and down. I left my solicitor alone and consulted Henry on the subject. In the intervals between golf and golf Henry dabbles in finance.

“You don’t want anything gilt-edged, I gather?” he said. It’s wonderful how they talk.

“I want it to go up and down,” I explained patiently, and I indicated the required movement with my umbrella.

“What about a little flutter in oil?” he went on, just like a financier in a novel.

“I’ll have a little flutter in raspberry jam if you like. Anything as long as I can rush every night for the last edition of the evening papers and say now and then, ‘Good heavens, I’m ruined.'”

“Then you’d better try a gold-mine,” said Henry bitterly, in the voice of one who had tried. “Take your choice,” and he threw the paper over to me.

“I don’t want a whole mine–only a vein or two. Yes, this is very interesting,” I went on, as I got among the West Africans. “The scoring seems to be pretty low; I suppose it must have been a wet wicket. ‘H.E. Reef, 1-3/4, 2’–he did a little better in the second innings. ‘1/2, Boffin River, 5/16, 7/16’–they followed on, you see, but they saved the innings defeat. By the way, which figure do I really keep my eye on when I want to watch them go up and down?”

“Both. One eye on each. And don’t talk about Boffin River to me.”

“Is it like that, Henry? I am sorry. I suppose it’s too late now to offer you a safe mortgage at five per cent? I know a man who has some. Well, perhaps you’re right.”

On the next day I became a magnate. The Jaguar Mine was the one I fixed upon–for two reasons. First, the figure immediately after it was 1, which struck me as a good point from which to watch it go up and down. Secondly, I met a man at lunch who knew somebody who had actually seen the Jaguar Mine.

“He says that there’s no doubt about there being lots there.”

“Lots of what? Jaguars or gold?”

“Ah, he didn’t say. Perhaps he meant jaguars.”

Anyhow, it was an even chance, and I decided to risk it. In a week’s time I was the owner of what we call in the City a “block” of Jaguars–bought from one Herbert Bellingham, who, I suppose, had been got at by his solicitor and compelled to return to something safe. I was a West African magnate.

My first two months as a magnate were a great success. With my heart in my mouth I would tear open the financial editions of the evening papers, to find one day that Jaguars had soared like a rocket to 1-1/16, the next that they had dropped like a stone to 1-1/32. There was one terrible afternoon when for some reason which will never be properly explained we sank to 15/16. I think the European situation had something to do with it, though this naturally is not admitted. Lord Rothschild, I fancy, suddenly threw all his Jaguars on the market; he sold and sold and sold, and only held his hand when, in desperation, the Tsar granted the concession for his new Southend to Siberia railway. Something like that. But he never recked how the private investor would suffer; and there was I, sitting at home and sending out madly for all the papers, until my rooms were littered with copies of The Times, The Financial News, Answers, The Feathered World, and Home Chat. Next day we were up to 31/32, and I was able to breathe again.