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The three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) online

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Undy one morning as they went out shooting,
" and out of these we can command a hundred



316 THE THREE CLERKS.

and twenty. It must be odd if yon cannot get
enough outsiders to turn them into a majority.
Indeed you may look on it as a certain seat. No
man in England or Scotland could give you one
more certain."

This was not the first occasion on which Undy
had spoken of all that he was doing for his friend,
and Alaric therefore, somewhat disgusted with
the subject, made no reply.

"I never had things made so easy for me when
I went in," continued Undy ; " nor have I ever
found them so easy since. I don't suppose it
will cost you above 500/., or at most 600/.,
altogether."

" Well, that will be a comfort," said Alaric.

''A comfort; why I should say it would. What
with the election and petition together, Tillie-
tudlem never cost me less than 2,000/. It cost
me just as much, too, when I was thrown out."

" That was a bore for you," said Alaric.

" Upon my word you take it rather coolly,"
said Undy ; " another man would thank a fellow
for putting such a nice thing in his way."

"If the obligation be so deep," said Alaric,
becoming very red in the face, " I would rather
not accept it. It is not too late for you to take
the cheaper seat to yourself, if you prefer it ; and
I will look elsewhere."

" Oil, of course ; perhaps at TiUietudlem ; but
for Heaven's sake, my dear fellow, don't let us



EASY IS THE SLOPE OF HELL. 317

quarrel about it. You are perfectly welcome to
whatever assistance we can give you at Strath-
bogy. I only meant to say that I hope it will
be efficacious. And on the score of expense I'll tell
you what we'll do — that is, if you think that fair,
we'll put the cost of the two elections together,
and share and share alike."

" Considering that the election will not take
place for at least more than twelve months, there
will be time enough to settle that," said Alaric.

" Well, that's true too," said Undy ; and then
they went on, and for some time separated on
the mountain, complaining, when they met again,
of the game being scarce and the dogs wild,
as men always do. But as they walked home
Undy, who regretted the loss of good time, again
began about money matters.

" How many of those bridge shares will you
take?" said he. This was a projected bridge
from Poplar to Eotherhithe, which had been got
up by some city gentlemen, and as to which
Undy Scott was, or pretended to be, very
sanguine.

" None," said Alaric. " Unless I can get rid of
those confounded West Cork and BaUydehobs,
I can buy nothing more of anything."

" Beheve me, my dear fellow, the BaUydehobs
are no such confounded things at all. If you
are ever a rich man it will be through the BaUy-
dehobs. But what you say about the bridge

p 2



318 THE THREE CLERKS.

shares is nonsense. Yon liave a large command
of capital, and yon cannot apply it better."

Alaric winced, and wished in his heart that
Clementina Jaqnetanape, nee Grolightly, with all
her money, was bnried deep in the bogs of Bally-
dehob. Thongli he was a rogne, he could not
yet bear his rogery with comfort to himself. It
sat, however, as easy on Undy as though he had
been to the manner born.

" I have no capital now at my disposal," said
he ; " and I doubt whether I should be doing
right to lay out a ward's money in such a



manner."



A slight smile came over Undy's gay uncon-
cerned features ; it was very slight, but never-
theless it was very eloquent and very offensive
also. Alaric understood it well ; it made him
hate the owner of it, but it made him hate him-
self still more.

"It is as well to be hung for a sheep as for a
lamb," said Undy's smile ; " and, moreover," con-
tinued the smile, "is it not ridiculous enough fo'r
you, Alaric Tudor, rogue as you are, to profess to
me, Undy Scott, rogue as I am, any solicitude as
to your ward's welfare, seeing that you have
^ready taken to yourself, for your own dishonest
purposes, a considerable slice of the fortune that
has been trusted to your keeping. You have
done this, and yet you talk to me of not having
capital at your disposal ! You have capital, and



EASY IS THE SLOPE OE HELL. 319

you will dispose of that capital for your own
purjDOses, as long as a shilling remains unin-
vested of your ward's money. We are both
rogues. God knows it, and you and I know it ;
but I am not such a hypocritical rogue as to make
mock boasts of my honesty to my brother rogue."

This was certainly a long speech to have been
made by a smile which crossed Mr. Scott's face
but for a moment, but every word of it was there
expressed, and every word of it was there read.
Alaric did not at all like being addressed so
unci^dlly. It seemed to tend but little to that
' Excelsior' for which his soul panted ; but what
could he do ? how could he help himself ? Was
it not all true ? could he contradict the smile ?
Alas ! it was true ; it was useless for him now to
attempt even to combat such smiles. Excelsior
indeed ! his future course might now probably be
called by some very different designation. Easy,
very easy, is the slope of hell.

Before they had returned to Ca'stocks Cottage
Undy had succeeded in persuading his friend that
the game must be played on — on and on, and out.
If a man intends to make a fortune in the share-
market he will never do it by being bold one day
and timid the next. No turf bettins^ book can
be made up safely, except on consistent prin-
ciples. Half-measures are always ruinous. In
matters of speculation one attempt is made safe
by another. No man, it is true, can calculate



320 THE THREE CLERKS.

accurately wliat may be the upshot of a single
venture ; but a sharp fellow may calculate with
a fair average of exactness what will be the ag-
gregate upshot of many ventures. All mercan-
tile fortunes have been made by the knowledge
and understanding of this rule. If a man specu-
lates but once and again, now and then, as it
were, he must of course be a loser. He will be
playing a game which he does not understand,
and playing it against men who do understand
it. Men who so play always lose. But he who
speculates daily puts himself exactly in the re-
versed position. He plays a game which ex-
perience teaches him to play well, and he plays
generally against men who have no such advan-
tage. Of course he wins.

All these valuable lessons did Undy Scott
teach to Alaric Tudor, and the result was, that
Alaric agreed to order — for self and partner — a
considerable number of shares in the Limehouse
Bridge Company. Easy, very easy, is the slope
of hell !

And then in the evening, on this evening and
other evenings, on all evenings, they talked over
the prospects of the West Cork and Bally de-
hob branch, and of the Limehouse Bridge, which
according to Undy's theory is destined to work
quite a revolution in the East-end circles of the
metropolis. Undy had noble ideas about this
bridge. The shares at the present moment were



EASY IS THE SLOPE OF HELL. 321

greatly at a discount — so much tlie better, for
they could he bought at a cheaper rate, and they
were sure to rise to some very respectable figure
as soon as TJndy should have played out with
reference to them the parliamentary game which
he had in view.

And so from morning to morning, and from
night to night, they talked over their unholy
trade till the price of shares and the sounds of
sums of money entered into Alaric's soul. And
this, perhaps, is one of the greatest penalties to
which men who embark in such trade are doomed,
that they can never shake off the remembrance
of their calculations ; they can never drop the
shop ; they have no leisure, no ease ; they can
never throw themselves with loose limbs and
vacant mind at large upon the world's green
sward, and call children to come and play mth
them. At the Weights and Measures Alaric's
hours of business had been from ten to five. In
Undy's office they continued from one noon to
the next, incessantly ; even in his dreams he was
working in the share market.

On his return to town Alaric found a letter
from Captain Cuttwater pressing very urgently
for the re -payment of his money. It had been
lent on the express understanding that it was to
be repaid when Parliament broke up. It was
now the end of October, and uncle Bat was be-
coming uneasy.



22 THE THREE CLERKS.



Alaric, when lie received the letter, crushed it
in his hand, and cursed the strictness of the man
who had done so much for him. On the next
day another slice was taken from the fortune of
Madame Jaquetanape ; and his money, with the
interest, was remitted to Captain Cuttwater.



END OF VOL. II.



Woodfall and Kinder, Printers, Angel Court, Skinner Street, London.



' -*



V. 2^





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Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 18)