The Wrecker

Page 45

A month or two after, I perceived by the stock-list that Catamount had taken a bound; before afternoon, "thim stock" were worth a quite considerable pot of money; and I learned, upon inquiry, that a bonanza had been found in a condemned lead, and the mine was now expected to do wonders. Remarkable to philosophers how bonanzas are found in condemned leads, and how the stock is always at freezing-point immediately before! By some stroke of chance the, Speedys had held on to the right thing; they had escaped the syndicate; yet a little more, if I had not come to dun them, and Mrs. Speedy would have been buying a silk dress. I could not bear, of course, to profit by the accident, and returned to offer restitution. The house was in a bustle; the neighbours (all stock-gamblers themselves) had crowded to condole; and Mrs. Speedy sat with streaming tears, the centre of a sympathetic group. "For fifteen year I've been at ut," she was lamenting, as I entered, "and grudging the babes the very milk, more shame to me! to pay their dhirty assessments. And now, my dears, I should be a lady, and driving in my coach, if all had their rights; and a sorrow on that man Dodd! As soon as I set eyes on him, I seen the divil was in the house."

It was upon these words that I made my entrance, which was therefore dramatic enough, though nothing to what followed. For when it appeared that I was come to restore the lost fortune, and when Mrs. Speedy (after copiously weeping on my bosom) had refused the restitution, and when Mr. Speedy (summoned to that end from a camp of the Grand Army of the Republic) had added his refusal, and when I had insisted, and they had insisted, and the neighbours had applauded and supported each of us in turn; and when at last it was agreed we were to hold the stock together, and share the proceeds in three parts--one for me, one for Mr. Speedy, and one for his spouse--I will leave you to conceive the enthusiasm that reigned in that small, bare apartment, with the sewing-machine in the one corner, and the babes asleep in the other, and pictures of Garfield and the Battle of Gettysburg on the yellow walls. Port wine was had in by a sympathiser, and we drank it mingled with tears.

"And I dhrink to your health, my dear," sobbed Mrs. Speedy, especially affected by my gallantry in the matter of the third share; "and I'm sure we all dhrink to his health--Mr. Dodd of the picnics, no gentleman better known than him; and it's my prayer, dear, the good God may be long spared to see ye in health and happiness!"

In the end I was the chief gainer; for I sold my third while it was worth five thousand dollars, but the Speedys more adventurously held on until the syndicate reversed the process, when they were happy to escape with perhaps a quarter of that sum. It was just as well; for the bulk of the money was (in Pinkerton's phrase) reinvested; and when next I saw Mrs. Speedy, she was still gorgeously dressed from the proceeds of the late success, but was already moist with tears over the new catastrophe. "We're froze out, me darlin'! All the money we had, dear, and the sewing-machine, and Jim's uniform, was in the Golden West; and the vipers has put on a new assessment."

By the end of the year, therefore, this is how I stood. I had made

     By Catamount Silver Mine.......... $5,000
     By the picnics..............................   3,000
     By the lecture...............................      600
     By profit and loss on capital
         in Pinkerton's business.............   1,350
                                                              ------
                                                            $9,950

to which must be added

     What remained of my grandfather's
          donation..................................    8,500
                                                               ------
                                                          $18,450

It appears, on the other hand, that

     I had spent....................................  4,000
                                                              ------
Which thus left me to the good....... $14,450

The Wrecker Page 46

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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