« ForrigeFortsæt »
number, were apocryphal; not one soul of them had a "separate existence," and a brass plate with a letter-box represented the company's stock in trade. Companies such as this are not, I admit, often met with; but others, if not as daring, equally fraudulent, are brought out by dozens. It is scarcely conceivable that any one, out of Earlswood Asylum, would rise to such a bait; but hundreds do, as freely as a shark to a leg of pork. Is there no limit to the belief of a credulous public?
It was customary in olden times to keep one's money in a stocking, and no bad place either. You didn't get sixty per cent on your capital, it is true; but the capital at any rate was there when you wanted it. But now scarcely a five-pound note is kept in the house; a "comfortable balance" at the bank frees one from all the worries that flesh is heir to. Are bankers, then, above suspicion ? What was the standing of Messrs Strahan, Paul, & Bates, or Messrs Overend, Gurney, & Co., before their respective bubbles burst? Second to none. Would it have been easy for the shareholders in such firms to discover the characters of the two or three men who had practically the whole management of the bank in their own hands? Would it be easy in the present day to find out if all the partners in our private banks are saints or sinners? Business, moreover, is now conducted on very questionable lines. Even within the last ten or fifteen years the change for the worse is not
Members of the
hard to see. Stock Exchange are not allowed by the rules of "The House" to advertise. The sooner similar embargo is laid upon bankers the better. There are some who tout for custom like a Chicago fishmonger, and not content with that, pay their agents a commission on new accounts. A more perfect way of demoralising their employees it would be hard indeed to invent. Go to the Bank of England and open an account there without a properly verified introduction, if you can. Go to other banks I could name, and, introduction or no introduction, you will be welcomed with effusion.
When a branch bank is opened in a suburban district, an active young man is sent down from the head office to "work up the business." professional thief, one of a gang, not unfrequently an importation from the land of the "Stars and Stripes," is sent down also by his superiors to the district-a man who knows the inside of half a dozen jails, and would use his revolver without hesitation, pitted against a nincompoop who would play the "confidence trick" like a Suffolk bumpkin. Who is likely to win? The thief takes a small house, or rooms, close by, and pays cash regularly every Saturday night to the tradesmen with whom he is good enough to deal,remonstrates, in fact, when his accounts are not sent in promptly: conduct quite sufficient in a month's time-be his looks what they may-to earn
him the character of a "most respectable man.” This model of respectability, who is in business in the City,- so he informs the butcher or baker, and his word is sufficient,-suddenly discovers that it would be convenient for him to open an account in the district. The butcher takes him to his banker, and on the strength of a month's acquaintance, introduces him to the manager; the result being a letter addressed to the head office in the City, certifying to the character of "one of our depositors." The rest is easy. The signature of a firm of high standing is not difficult to get; a cheque-book is procured; a forgery cleverly executed; and the whole "plant" is a success. In the year '73, when the forgeries on the Bank of England for which four men, George and Austin Bidwell, George M'Donald, and Edwin Noyes, were sentenced to penal servitude for life created such a sensation, a Colonel Francis was the Agent of the Western Branch of the Bank in Burlington Gardens.
The system pursued by the elder Bidwell-for he was the leading spirit of the four, and he it was alone who carried through all the preliminaries -was exactly the system I have just sketched out. Well he knew that to commence abruptly would be fatal. He began by sending to Colonel Francis ten bills for discount, all genuine, and all paid at maturity; and after that he did what he liked with him. Bill after bill, all forgeries, were manufactured; and had
VOL. CLXXVIII.-NO. MLXXXI.
it not been for a curious slip on the part of the forger— the omission of the date on two of them-the Bank might have suffered to a very large
The unfortunate Agent had shown this respectable quartette great kindness and attention; and this, Austin Bidwell, the youngest of them, did not forget. Before sentence was passed he said he would take advantage of the only opportunity he would have to repair a wrong he had done a gentleman, and for which he was extremely sorry; and he hoped Colonel Francis, as years rolled on, would forget that wrong.
There was a certain amount of sympathy for Austin Bidwell, who was only five-andtwenty, and who doubtless was under the influence of his elder brother - as great a blackguard, hypocrite, and malingerer as ever lived. The contrition he felt - and apparently he was sincere in what he said-was a redeeming trait in his character: "the one fair drop of water at the bottom of the weedchoked well."
"The streets of London," what could they not reveal? Piccadilly in the west, under a lovely summer sunset, in the height of the season, and Dorset Street, Spitalfields, in the east, within three miles. of each other! White ties and evening dress in the one; rags, filth, and crime in the other. Hail a passing hansom at your club door, and drive to Spitalfields Church. In
seven minutes' walk of the Mansion House, the abode of the Lord Mayor of London!
Were it a night in the depth of winter, with the rain descending in torrents, and the cold, pitiless blast sweeping everything before it, you would see nothing perhaps so repulsive, but to a sensitive mind something infinitely more touching: children
have left the pavement, luxury behind. You have within six or come to squalor and vice. You have left men who, born with the silver spoon in their mouths, have hardly ever done a day's work: you have come among men who have done less-the only point of similarity between them,―men who, treacherous and carnivorous as a panther, have lived upon their fellow - creatures. If you have a guide--and a guide is necessary, a police officer recently pensioned, before drink and freedom from the accustomed discipline have started him on a downward career, is the most suitable -tell him to show you the worst of it. He will show you streets which constables never enter alone, but patrol in couples, as lawless as the streets of Omdurman; houses as foul as those abutting on the "House of Stone," from which the inmates are driven out by the vermin to sleep on
of tender years, with scarcely a rag to cover them, huddled together in doorways; children sent out nightly to beg, and afraid to return home, without a place to lay their heads, save a frowsy den with the bare boards for a pillow; children to whom, even when stricken with sickness, a warm bed and a kind word are unknown. Then, perhaps, you might realise the hopeless misery and shocking depravity of the cold, wet, shelterless, midnight "Streets of London"!
THE VROUW GROBELAAR'S
BY PERCEVAL GIBBON.
HER OWN STORY.
"BUT what are you going to live on?" asked the Vrouw Grobelaar. "You haven't got a farm."
"We're going to live in a town," answered Katje
I interrupted here, and tried to make the old lady understand that even schoolmasters received some money for their work, and that there would be enough for two, without frills.
She had no answer for the moment, but sat and looked at us both very thoughtfully. Still, there was no hostility in her aspect; she had not her warlike manner, and seemed engrossed rather with an estimate of the situation than of its consequences. I had looked for opposition and disparagement at least, volubly voiced and backed with bloody example of a failure in marriage, and I know that Katje shared my misgivings. But here was something different.
"You-you are not angry?" asked Katje after a while.
The old lady started. 'Angry! No, of course not. It is not altogether my affair, Katje. As time goes on, I grow nervous of stirring any broth but my own. If it were a matter of mere wisdom, and knowledge of life, and the cool head of an elder, I should not
be afraid to handle you to suit my ideas; but this is a graver piece of business. Wisdom has nothing to do with it those who are wise in their love are often foolish in their life. You've got your man, and if you want him you'll marry him in despite of the tongues of men and of angels. I know; I did it myself.”
"You?" cried Katje.
"Yes, me," retorted the Vrouw Grobelaar. "Why not? Do think that a person of sense has no feelings? When I was a girl I was nearly as big a fool as some others I could name, and got more out of it, in happiness and experience, than ever they will."
"Tell us about it," suggested Katje.
"I am telling you," snapped the old lady. "Don't interrupt. Sit down. Don't fidget, nor giggle. There!
"When I was a girl," she began at last, "my father's farm was at Windhoek, and beyond the nek to the south, an easy two hours from our beacons, there lived one Kornel du Plessis. I came to know him, somehow. I saw him here and there, till I had no wish to see any but him, and we understood one another very well. Ah, Katje, girls are light things; but I truly think that in those days few
Boer maids had much mind for trivial matters in their loves when once the man was found right and sound. Even at this length of time I have a thrill in remembering Kornel: a big man, and heavy, with thick shoulders, but very quick on his feet, and eyes that were grey, with pleasant little puckers at the corner. He sat far back in his saddle and lolled to the gait of the horse easily such men make horsemasters, and masters of women. That is to say, they are masters of all.
"There was no kissing behind the kraal and whispering at windows. Neither of us had a mind for these meannesses. He came to my father's house and took food with us, and told my father the tale of his sheep and cattle, and the weight of the mortgage on his farm. Though he was not rich, he was young and keen, and my father knew well that the richest are not those who begin life with riches. There would have been no hindrance to a marriage forthwith, but for some law business in the town, of which I never understood the truth. But it concerned the land and house of Kornel, and my father would not say the last word till that should be settled.
"It dragged on for a long while, that law matter, and the conversations between Kornel and my father ran mainly in guesses about it, with much talk that was very forlorn of interest. But what did it matter to me? I had the man, and knew I could keep him had I foreseen the future,
even then I would not have cared. But for all that, I was very uneasy one hot day when Kornel rode over with a grave face and eyes that looked as though he had not slept the night before.
"My father gave him a sharp look, and pulled strongly at his pipe, like a man who prepares for ticklish business.
"You have news?' he asked.
"Kornel nodded, and looked at me. It was a look as though he would ask me to spare and forgive. I smiled at him, and came and stood at his side.
"From what you have told me,' began my father, looking very wise, the water right may cut you off from the pastures. Is that so?"
"No,' said Kornel; 'all that is wrong.'
"H'm. Indeed! Then you will have to carry your north beacon farther to the east and lose the dam.'
"Wrong again,' answered Kornel patiently.
Then you have won your case,' said my father, very eager to name the truth and prove his wisdom.
"Dear me!' said Kornel; 'you have no idea at all of the matter. You are quite out in your guesses. I have not won my case: I have lost it, and the land and the house and the stock along with it. I came over on a horse that is no more mine than this chair is. For all I know, my very trousers may belong to the other man. There you have it. What do you say to that?'
"Then you have nothing at all?' asked my father.