most we can of them; buy them cheap and sell them dear; and above
all things get a good percentage,'
'That's the game, Mr. Scott; and I will say no man understands it
better than yourself - keep the ball a-running - that's your maxim.
Are you going it deep in Mary Jane, Mr. Scott?'
'Who? I! O no - she's a cut above me now, I fear. The shares are
worth any money now, I suppose.'
'Worth any money! I think they are, Mr. Scott, but I believe - - '
and then bringing his chair close up to that of his aristocratic
friend, resting his hands, one on Mr. Scott's knee, and the other
on his elbow, and breathing brandy into his ear, he whispered to
him words of great significance.
'I'll leave you, Scott,' said Alaric, who did not enjoy the
society of Mr. Manylodes, and to whom the nature of the
conversation was, in his present position, extremely irksome; 'I
must be back at the Bedford early.'
'Early - why early? surely our honest friend can get himself to
bed without your interference. Come, you don't like the brandy
toddy, nor I either. We'll see what sort of a hand they are at
making a bowl of bishop.'
'Not for me, Scott.'
'Yes, for you, man; surely you are not tied to that fellow's
apron-strings,' he said, removing himself from the close
contiguity of Mr. Manylodes, and speaking under his voice; 'take
my advice; if you once let that man think you fear him, you'll
never get the better of him.'
Alaric allowed himself to be persuaded and stayed.
'I have just ten words of business to say to this fellow,'
continued Scott, 'and then we will be alone.'
It was a lovely autumn evening, early in September, and Alaric
sat himself at an open window, looking out from the back of the
hotel on to the Brentor, with its singular parish church, built
on its highest apex, while Undy held deep council with his friend
of the mines. But from time to time, some word of moment found
its way to Alaric's ears, and made him also unconsciously fix his
mind on the _irritamenta malorum_, which are dug from the
bowels of the earth in those western regions.
'Minting money, sir; it's just minting money. There's been no
chance like it in my days. L4 12s. 6d. paid up; and they'll be at
L25 in Truro before sun sets on Saturday, Lord love you, Mr.
Scott, now's your time. If, as I hear, they - ' and then there was
a very low whisper, and Alaric, who could not keep his eye
altogether from Mr. Manylodes' countenance, saw plainly that that
worthy gentleman was talking of himself; and in spite of his
better instincts, a desire came over him to know more of what
they were discussing, and he could not keep from thinking that
shares bought at L4 12s. 6d., and realizing L25, must be very nice
'Well, I'll manage it,' said Scott, still in a sort of whisper,
but audibly enough for Alaric to hear. 'Forty, you say? I'll take
them at L5 1s. 1d. - very well;' and he took out his pocket-book
and made a memorandum. 'Come, Tudor, here's the bishop. We have
done our business, so now we'll enjoy ourselves. What, Manylodes,
are you off?'
'Lord love you, Mr. Scott, I've a deal to do before I get to my
downy; and I don't like those doctored tipples. Good night, Mr.
Scott. I wishes you good night, sir;' and making another slight
reference to his hat, which had not been removed from his head
during the whole interview, Mr. Manylodes took himself off.
'There, now, is a specimen of a species of the _genus homo_,
class Englishman, which is, I believe, known nowhere but in
'Cornwall and Devonshire, I suppose,' said Alaric.
'No; he is out of his true element here. If you want to see him
in all the glory of his native county you should go west of
Truro. From Truro to Hayle is the land of the Manylodes. And a
singular species it is. But, Tudor, you'll be surprised, I
suppose, if I tell you that I have made a purchase for you.'
'A purchase for me!'
'Yes; I could not very well consult you before that fellow, and
yet as the chance came in my way, I did not like to lose it.
Come, the bishop ain't so bad, is it, though it is doctored
tipple?' and he refilled Alaric's glass.
'But what have you purchased for me, Scott?'
'Forty shares in the Mary Jane.'
'Then you may undo the bargain again, for I don't want them, and
shall not take them.'
'You need not be a bit uneasy, my dear fellow. I've bought them
at a little over L5, and they'll be saleable to-morrow at double
the money - or at any rate to-morrow week. But what's your
objection to them?'
'In the first place, I've got no money to buy shares.'
'That's just the reason why you should buy them; having no money,
you can't but want some; and here's your way to make it. You can
have no difficulty in raising L200.'
'And in the next place, I should not think of buying mining
shares, and more especially these, while I am engaged as I now
'Fal de ral, de ral, de ral! That's all very fine, Mr.
Commissioner; only you mistake your man; you think you are
talking to Mr. Neverbend.'
'Well, Scott, I shan't have them.'
'Just as you please, my dear fellow; there's no compulsion. Only
mark this; the ball is at your foot now, but it won't remain
there. 'There is a tide in the affairs of men' - you know the
rest; and you know also that 'tide and time wait for no man.' If
you are contented with your two or three hundred a year in the
Weights and Measures, God forbid that I should tempt you to
higher thoughts - only in that case I have mistaken my man.'
'I must be contented with it, if I can get nothing better,' said
'Exactly; you must be contented - or rather you must put up with
it - if you can get nothing better. That's the meaning of
contentment all the world over. You argue in a circle. You must
be a mere clerk if you cannot do better than other mere clerks.
But the fact of your having such an offer as that I now make you,
is proof that you can do better than others; proves, in fact,
that you need not be a mere clerk, unless you choose to remain
'Buying these shares might lose me all that I have got, and could
not do more than put a hundred pounds or so in my pocket.'
'Gammon - '
'Could I go back and tell Sir Gregory openly that I had bought
'Why, Tudor, you are the youngest fish I ever met, sent out to
swim alone in this wicked world of ours. Who the deuce talks
openly of his speculations? Will Sir Gregory tell you what shares
he buys? Is not every member of the House, every man in the
Government, every barrister, parson, and doctor, that can collect
a hundred pounds, are not all of them at the work? And do they
talk openly of the matter? Does the bishop put it into his
charge, or the parson into his sermon?'
'But they would not be ashamed to tell their friends.'
'Would not they? Oh! the Rev. Mr. Pickabit, of St. Judas Without,
would not be ashamed to tell his bishop! But the long and the
short of the thing is this; most men circumstanced as you are
have no chance of doing anything good till they are forty or
fifty, and then their energies are worn out. You have had tact
enough to push yourself up early, and yet it seems you have not
pluck enough to take the goods the gods provide you.'
'The gods! - you mean the devils rather,' said Alaric, who sat
listening and drinking, almost unconsciously, his doctored
'Call them what you will for me. Fortune has generally been
esteemed a goddess, but misfortune a very devil. But, Tudor, you
don't know the world. Here is a chance in your way. Of course
that keg of brandy who went out just now understands very well
who you are. He wants to be civil to me, and he thinks it wise to
be civil to you also. He has a hat full of these shares, and he
tells me that, knowing my weakness, and presuming that you have
the same, he bought a few extra this morning, thinking we might
like them. Now, I have no hesitation in saying there is not a
single man whom the Government could send down here, from Sir
Gregory downwards, who could refuse the chance.'
'I am quite sure that Neverbend - - '
'Oh! for Heaven's sake don't choke me with Neverbend; the fools
are fools, and will be so; they are used for their folly. I speak
of men with brains. How do you think that such men as Hardlines,
Vigil, and Mr. Estimate have got up in the world? Would they be
where they are now, had they been contented with their salaries?'
'They had private fortunes.'
'Very private they must have been - I never heard of them. No;
what fortunes they have they made. Two of them are in Parliament,
and the other has a Government situation of L2,000 a year, with
little or nothing to do. But they began life early, and never
lost a chance.'
'It is quite clear that that blackguard who was here just now
thinks that he can influence my opinion by inducing me to have an
interest in the matter.'
'He had no such idea - nor have I. Do you think I would persuade
you to such villany? Do you think I do not know you too well? Of
course the possession of these shares can have no possible effect
on your report, and is not expected to have any. But when men
like you and me become of any note in the world, others, such as
Manylodes, like to know that we are embarked in the same
speculation with themselves. Why are members of Parliament asked
to be directors, and vice-governors, and presidents, and
guardians, of all the joint-stock societies that are now set
agoing? Not because of their capital, for they generally have
none; not for their votes, because one vote can be but of little
use in any emergency. It is because the names of men of note are
worth money. Men of note understand this, and enjoy the fat of
the land accordingly. I want to see you among the number.'
'Twas thus the devil pleaded for the soul of Alaric Tudor; and,
alas! he did not plead in vain. Let him but have a fair hearing,
and he seldom does. 'Tis in this way that the truth of that awful
mystery, the fall of man, comes home to us; that we cannot hear
the devil plead, and resist the charm of his eloquence. To listen
is to be lost. 'Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
evil!' Let that petition come forth from a man's heart, a true
and earnest prayer, and he will be so led that he shall not hear
the charmer, let him charm ever so wisely.
'Twas but a thin veil that the Hon. Undecimus Scott threw over
the bait with which he fished for the honesty of Alaric Tudor,
and yet it sufficed. One would say that a young man, fortified
with such aspirations as those which glowed in Alaric's breast,
should have stood a longer siege; should have been able to look
with clearer eyesight on the landmarks which divide honour from
dishonour, integrity from fraud, and truth from falsehood. But he
had never prayed to be delivered from evil. His desire had rather
been that he might be led into temptation.
He had never so prayed - yet had he daily said his prayers at
fitting intervals. On every returning Sunday had he gone through,
with all the fitting forms, the ordinary worship of a Christian.
Nor had he done this as a hypocrite. With due attention and a
full belief he had weekly knelt at God's temple, and given, if
not his mind, at least his heart, to the service of his church.
But the inner truth of the prayer which he repeated so often had
not come home to him. Alas! how many of us from week to week call
ourselves worms and dust and miserable sinners, describe
ourselves as chaff for the winds, grass for the burning, stubble
for the plough, as dirt and filth fit only to be trodden under
foot, and yet in all our doings before the world cannot bring
home to ourselves the conviction that we require other guidance
than our own!
Alaric Tudor had sighed for permission to go forth among
worldlings and there fight the world's battle. Power, station,
rank, wealth, all the good things which men earn by tact,
diligence, and fortune combined, and which were so far from him
at his outset in life, became daily more dear to his heart. And
now his honourable friend twitted him with being a mere clerk!
No, he was not, never had been, never would be such. Had he not
already, in five or six short years, distanced his competitors,
and made himself the favourite and friend of men infinitely above
him in station? Was he not now here in Tavistock on a mission
which proved that he was no mere clerk? Was not the fact of his
drinking bishop in the familiar society of a lord's son, and an
ex-M.P., a proof of it?
It would be calumny on him to say that he had allowed Scott to
make him tipsy on this occasion. He was far from being tipsy; but
yet the mixture which he had been drinking had told upon his
'But, Undy,' said he - he had never before called his honourable
friend by his Christian name - 'but, Undy, if I take these shares,
where am I to get the money to pay for them?
'The chances are you may part with them before you leave
Tavistock. If so, you will not have to pay for them. You will
only have to pocket the difference.'
'Or pay the loss.'
'Or pay the loss. But there's no chance of that. I'll guarantee
you against that.'
'But I shan't like to sell them. I shan't choose to be
trafficking in shares. Buying a few as an investment may,
perhaps, be a different thing.'
'Oh, Alaric, Alaric, to what a pass had your conscience come,
when it could be so silenced!'
'Well, I suppose you can raise a couple of hundred - L205 will
cover the whole thing, commission and all; but, mind, I don't
advise you to keep them long - I shall take two months' dividends,
and then sell.'
'Two hundred and five pounds,' said Tudor, to whom the sum seemed
anything but trifling; 'and when must it be paid?'
'Well, I can give Manylodes a cheque for the whole, dated this
day week. You'll be back in town before that. We must allow him
L5 for the accommodation. I suppose you can pay the money in at
my banker's by that day?'
Alaric had some portion of the amount himself, and he knew that
Norman had money by him; he felt also a half-drunken conviction
that if Norman failed him, Captain Cuttwater would not let him
want such a sum; and so he said that he could, and the bargain
As he went downstairs whistling with an affected ease, and a
gaiety which, he by no means felt, Undy Scott leant back in his
chair, and began to speculate whether his new purchase was worth
the purchase-money. 'He's a sharp fellow; certainly, in some
things, and may do well yet; but he's uncommonly green. That,
however, will wear off. I should not be surprised if he told
Neverbend the whole transaction before this time to-morrow.' And
then Mr. Scott finished his cigar and went to bed.
When Alaric entered the sitting-room at the Bedford, he found
Neverbend still seated at a table covered with official books and
huge bundles of official papers. An enormous report was open
before him, from which he was culling the latent sweets, and
extracting them with a pencil. He glowered at Alaric with a
severe suspicious eye, which seemed to accuse him at once of the
deed which he had done.
'You are very late,' said Neverbend, 'but I have not been sorry
to be alone. I believe I have been able to embody in a rough
draft the various points which we have hitherto discussed. I have
just been five hours and a half at it;' and Fidus looked at his
watch; 'five hours and forty minutes. To-morrow, perhaps, that
is, if you are not going to your friend again, you'll not object
to make a fair copy - - '
'Copy!' shouted Alaric, in whose brain the open air had not
diminished the effect of the bishop, and who remembered, with all
the energy of pot valour, that he was not a mere clerk; 'copy -
bother; I'm going to bed, old fellow; and I advise you to do the
And then, taking up a candlestick and stumbling somewhat
awkwardly against a chair, Tudor went off to his room, waiting no
further reply from his colleague.
Mr. Neverbend slowly put up his papers and followed him. 'He is
decidedly the worse for drink - decidedly so,' said he to himself,
as he pulled off his clothes. 'What a disgrace to the Woods and
Works - what a disgrace!'
And he resolved in his mind that he would be very early at the
pit's mouth. He would not be kept from his duty while a
dissipated colleague collected his senses by the aid of soda-
WHEAL MARY JANE
Mr. Manylodes was, at any rate, right in this, that that
beverage, which men call bishop, is a doctored tipple; and Alaric
Tudor, when he woke in the morning, owned the truth. It had been
arranged that certain denizens of the mine should meet the two
Commissioners at the pit-mouth at eight o'clock, and it had been
settled at dinner-time that breakfast should be on the table at
seven, sharp. Half an hour's quick driving would take them to the
At seven Mr. Fidus Neverbend, who had never yet been known to be
untrue to an appointment by the fraction of a second, was
standing over the breakfast-table alone. He was alone, but not on
that account unhappy. He could hardly disguise the pleasure with
which he asked the waiter whether Mr. Tudor was yet dressed, or
the triumph which he felt when he heard that his colleague was
not _quite ready_.
'Bring the tea and the eggs at once,' said Neverbend, very
'Won't you wait for Mr. Tudor?' asked the waiter, with an air of
surprise. Now the landlord, waiter, boots, and chambermaid, the
chambermaid especially, had all, in Mr. Neverbend's estimation,
paid Tudor by far too much consideration; and he was determined
to show that he himself was first fiddle.
'Wait! no; quite out of the question - bring the hot water
immediately - and tell the ostler to have the fly at the door at
half-past seven exact.'
'Yes, sir,' said the man, and disappeared.
Neverbend waited five minutes, and then rang the bell
impetuously. 'If you don't bring me my tea immediately, I shall
send for Mr. Boteldale.' Now Mr. Boteldale was the landlord.
'Mr. Tudor will be down in ten minutes,' was the waiter's false
reply; for up to that moment poor Alaric had not yet succeeded in
lifting his throbbing head from his pillow. The boots was now
with him administering soda-water and brandy, and he was
pondering in his sickened mind whether, by a manful effort, he
could rise and dress himself; or whether he would not throw
himself backwards on his coveted bed, and allow Neverbend the
triumph of descending alone to the nether world.
Neverbend nearly threw the loaf at the waiter's head. Wait ten
minutes longer! what right had that vile Devonshire napkin-
twirler to make to him so base a proposition? 'Bring me my
breakfast, sir,' shouted Neverbend, in a voice that made the
unfortunate sinner jump out of the room, as though he had been
moved by a galvanic battery.
In five minutes, tea made with lukewarm water, and eggs that were
not half boiled were brought to the impatient Commissioner. As a
rule Mr. Neverbend, when travelling on the public service, made a
practice of enjoying his meals. It was the only solace which he
allowed himself; the only distraction from the cares of office
which he permitted either to his body or his mind. But on this
great occasion his country required that he should forget his
comforts; and he drank his tasteless tea, and ate his uncooked
eggs, threatening the waiter as he did so with sundry pains and
penalties, in the form of sixpences withheld.
'Is the fly there?' said he, as he bolted a last morsel of cold
'Coming, sir,' said the waiter, as he disappeared round a corner.
In the meantime Alaric sat lackadaisical on his bedside, all
undressed, leaning his head upon his hand, and feeling that his
struggle to dress himself was all but useless. The sympathetic
boots stood by with a cup of tea - well-drawn comfortable tea - in
his hand, and a small bit of dry toast lay near on an adjacent
'Try a bit o' toast, sir,' said boots.
'Ugh!' ejaculated poor Alaric.
'Have a leetle drop o' rum in the tea, sir, and it'll set you all
to rights in two minutes.'
The proposal made Alaric very sick, and nearly completed the
catastrophe. 'Ugh!' he said.
'There's the trap, sir, for Mr. Neverbend,' said the boots, whose
ears caught the well-known sound.
'The devil it is!' said Alaric, who was now stirred up to instant
action. 'Take my compliments to Mr. Neverbend, and tell him I'll
thank him to wait ten minutes.'
Boots, descending with the message, found Mr. Neverbend ready
coated and gloved, standing at the hotel door. The fly was there,
and the lame ostler holding the horse; but the provoking driver
had gone back for his coat.
'Please, sir, Mr. Tudor says as how you're not to go just at
present, but to wait ten minutes till he be ready.'
Neverbend looked at the man, but he would not trust himself to
speak. Wait ten minutes, and it now wanted five-and-twenty
minutes to eight! - no - not for all the Tudors that ever sat upon
the throne of England.
There he stood with his watch in his hand as the returning Jehu
hurried round from the stable yard. 'You are now seven minutes
late,' said he, 'and if you are not at the place by eight
o'clock, I shall not give you one farthing!'
'All right,' said Jehu. 'We'll be at Mary Jane in less than no
time;' and off they went, not at the quickest pace. But
Neverbend's heart beat high with triumph, as he reflected that he
had carried the point on which he had been so intent.
Alaric, when he heard the wheels roll off, shook from him his
lethargy. It was not only that Neverbend would boast that he
alone had gone through the perils of their subterranean duty, but
that doubtless he would explain in London how his colleague had
been deterred from following him. It was a grievous task, that of
dressing himself, as youthful sinners know but too well. Every
now and then a qualm would come over him, and make the work seem
all but impossible. Boots, however, stuck to him like a man,
poured cold water over his head, renewed his tea-cup, comforted
him with assurances of the bracing air, and put a paper full of
sandwiches in his pocket.
'For heaven's sake put them away,' said Alaric, to whom the very
idea of food was repulsive.
'You'll want 'em, sir, afore you are half way to Mary Jane; and
it a'n't no joke going down and up again. I know what's what,
The boots stuck to him like a man. He did not only get him
sandwiches, but he procured for him also Mr. Boteldale's own
fast-trotting pony, and just as Neverbend was rolling up to the
pit's mouth fifteen minutes after his time, greatly resolving in
his own mind to button his breeches pocket firmly against the
recreant driver, Alaric started on the chase after him.
Mr. Neverbend had a presentiment that, sick as his friend might
be, nauseous as doubtless were the qualms arising from yesterday's
intemperance, he would make an attempt to recover his lost
ground. He of the Woods and Works had begun to recognize the
energy of him of the Weights and Measures, and felt that there
was in it a force that would not easily be overcome, even by the
fumes of bishop. But yet it would be a great thing for the Woods
and Works if he, Neverbend, could descend in this perilous
journey to the deep bowels of the earth, leaving the Weights and
Measures stranded in the upper air. This descent among the hidden
riches of a lower world, this visit to the provocations of evils
not yet dug out from their durable confinement, was the keystone,
as it were, of the whole mission. Let Neverbend descend alone,
alone inspect the wonders of that dirty deep, and Tudor might
then talk and write as he pleased. In such case all the world of
the two public offices in Question, and of some others cognate to
them, would adjudge that he, Neverbend, had made himself master
of the situation.
Actuated by these correct calculations, Mr. Neverbend was rather
fussy to begin an immediate descent when he found himself on the
spot. Two native gentlemen, who were to accompany the Commissioners,
or the Commissioner, as appeared likely to be the case, were already
there, as were also the men who were to attend upon them.
It was an ugly uninviting place to look at, with but few visible
signs of wealth. The earth, which had been burrowed out by these
human rabbits in their search after tin, lay around in huge
ungainly heaps; the overground buildings of the establishment
consisted of a few ill-arranged sheds, already apparently in a
state of decadence; dirt and slush, and pods of water confined by
muddy dams, abounded on every side; muddy men, with muddy carts
and muddy horses, slowly crawled hither and thither, apparently