« ZurückWeiter »
Georges," he writes, "I have been in disgrace with the Bo Monde, my former entertainers, the Earls and Marquises, having fought shy of me. This year they're beginning to come back."
One more dip into the portfolio, and we shall close the budget. The neat, regular penmanship, with a certain refined elegance in the style, betrays, even in a casual note, the hand of Washington Irving. There is some pleasant skirmishing on the part of the author of the "Sketch-Book," as he wards off sundry attempts of his correspondent, Balmanno, to engage him in the presidency of a Shakespeare society; for if there was anything for which Irving had an invincible repugnance, it was to being drawn before the public in any more personal relation than was covered by the protecting shield of "Diedrich Knickerbocker," or "Geoffrey Crayon." We are confident he would have travelled a hundred miles any day to avoid a public dinner. “I have neither tact nor tastes," he writes in regard to the proposed presidency, "for posts of the kind." But he finally compromises in the acceptance of an honorary membership. "I must forewarn you, however," he adds, "that I am likely to prove a very delinquent member, as I am growing more and more recluse in my habits, and slow to respond to the claims of society. All kinds of public and society dinners I avoid. I am no longer clubable. Quiet life in the country has been the ruin of me!" This was from his suburban retirement on the Hudson, at Sunnyside, from which happy retreat he also dates, in 1850, an agreeable reminiscence of his explorations of old London, recalling the period of those early sketches of English life which introduced him, a young disappointed merchant, to his enduring career in literature. "I thank you," he writes, "for your account of the visit to Dame Honeybull, which I have read with great zest, and only regret that it is so short. It has all the flavour of old London proper about it. The accidental touch about the Tower calls up the recollection of a place which used to be one of my antiquarian haunts. Many a time have I loitered the greater part of a day about it exploring every part from the Beauchamp tower, near the mess-room of gay young officers, to the venerable stone-kitchen,' the resort of the
These things are but trifles-mere waifs and strays-broken voices of the past; but it is something to rescue from oblivion even a few chance words of the men of genius.
Nothing like Business.
BY M. LAING MEASON.
66 You may depend upon it, that the best thing you can do is to set up in business for yourself. Go into trade, take to commerce, become rich, live happy, and die wealthy."
The speaker was my friend, Carskin; his audience, myself; the place where the words were spoken, a very dirty little office in an extremely dirty little court, which turned out of a still dirtier little street behind the Mansion House; on the outer door of which office were painted the words, "MR. JAMES CARSKIN, SOLICITOR."
Mr. Carskin was an acquaintance of some few years' standing, but by no means an intimate friend. By profession he was, as he called himself, a solicitor; but I question much whether he had ever instructed counsel, or ever done business in any of Her Majesty's courts of law. He only kept one clerk, who was more of an errandboy than anything else, and who, when at his post in the outer office, seemed always to be occupied either in reading the last number of the "London Journal," or in studying the "Post-Office Directory." I never saw on Mr. Carskin's office-table anything in the shape of law papers, deeds, parchments, or law-books; nor do I believe he ever had any. As he used to say of himself, Carskin was "in the discounting line." He did not discount bills out of his own money, for, although several thousands passed weekly through his hands, he was possessed of but little of the needful. Carskin was, in fact, a poor man, always more or less hard-up, and making no pretence of a secret of his impecuniosity. He was agent, or touter, for several persons who had money to lend, and who were willing, for the sake of very high rates of interest, to run very considerable risks. He was not a satisfactory agent, or go-between in these transactions, was Carskin-at least, not for borrowers. I had often discounted bills with him, but it was a weary, weary process to go through before I could get an answer "yes" or "no," and a still more annoying delay ere a cheque could be had for the money. I have often taken a bill for £30 or £40 to Carskin, and have had to wait-going again and again, day after day to his office in the City-ten days or a fortnight before he could, or would, give me a reply, or rather before he would give me a satisfactory answer as to whether or not his principal would" do " the paper.
The first day or two he would say that he had not had time to see the party "- -names were never mentioned by Carskin in business matters, the only designation he ever used being "the party," or "the other party," or "my principal." Then there was the invariable legend about a party" being "willing to do the bill, but who was rayther short just at present; however, that if I could wait until Monday, he could most likely let me have a cheque." Of course I always was willing to wait till Monday; but when that day came round" the party' was never to be found, but "would I call on Wednesday." I did call on Wednesday-for what will a man who is hard up and dunned RIGHT AND LEFT not do on the chance of getting money? On Wednesday it was generally Mr. Carskin himself who was out of the way. I always knew that I had no chance of seeing Carskin when the boy in the outer office began to tell me a very elaborate and circumstantial untruth, such as "Mr. Carskin 'ave a gone to the West End to see Lord Jumper about a mortgage which his lordship he wants master to raise for him on his estate in Somersetshire; and master's compliments, if you please, and will you call again in a day or two ?" That "day or two" I always meted out with full measure, and did not return until the Friday, thinking, of course, that my cheque for the £30 (minus the discount) would be ready for me, but this was invariably very far from being the case. Carskin would be at home, but would give himself the airs of a man overwhelmed with himself. He had “ so very much to do to-day that I really must excuse him," and "would I call again on Monday," when the cheque should be ready for me. On Monday I was true to my day and hour, and Carskin certainly would have a cheque ready for me, but not such a cheque as maketh glad the heart of man, nor such an one as maketh him to be of a cheerful countenance. It would invariably be a post-dated, generally a crossed cheque, and always for a sum some two or three pounds less than I expected. The terms on which Carskin professed to do business were "a shilling a pound a month," or sixty per cent. per annum. At this rate a bill for £30, at three months, ought to have been discounted for ninety shillings, or £4 10s., leaving a balance of £25 10s. for me to receive; but the terms were never really anything like so good, whatever they appeared to be. In the first place my bill had been dated some ten days or a fortnight previous to my getting the cheque, and there was, in consequence, a considerable period of its time run off. Then, again, although I had received the cheque, it was not yet due, and I should have to wait perhaps four or five days before I could
get it cashed; and, allowing for all these items, there was invariablymost unfairly-a couple or three pounds short of the amount I ought to receive in the cheque. In fact, I may safely assert that, for a bill of say £30, I never actually got more than £20 or £21, so that, instead of sixty per cent., I invariably paid something like a hundred and twenty per cent. per annum in all my financial dealings with Carskin. I have mentioned these particulars by way of showing who and what this gentleman was who recommended me "to set up in business for myself." I will now say a word as to what my own antecedents and occupations were at the time I was given this advice.
It is needless to say that any person mixing much with a gentleman of Mr. Carskin's character, must necessarily be hard-up. Such, indeed, was my case. I had held for some years the Secretaryship of the "MOFUSSIL AND JUBBULPORE BANKING CORPORATION, LIMITED," a company which, although doing business in India, had its head-office at London. My salary was not a large one, being only £250 a year, and my tastes were most decidedly expensive. Still, by aid of Carskin, I used to manage somehow to keep my head above water until the periods for the half-yearly payment of the small allowance made me by my aunt, of £80 per annum, came round. Latterly, however, two heavy blows of misfortune-or rather one blow which entailed another -had fallen upon me. The "Mofussil and Jubbulpore Banking Corporation" had stopped payment, and in its fall had crushed some three or four thousand pounds which my aunt had invested in its shares. The natural consequence of this catastrophe was the immediate cessation of my salary, and the inability of my aunt to make me any further allowance-she being obliged, thenceforward, to subsist upon the dividends of a very modest sum she had invested in consols. Such, then, was my financial position, present and future, when I sought out Carskin and asked the advice he tendered to me in the words with which this paper opens-" You may depend upon it, that the best thing you can do is to set up in business for yourself."
At first I made sure that my discounting friend was making fun of me. For a man who had nothing, and who owed, here and there, some two hundred and fifty pounds, the notion of going into business seemed most absurd.
"But I have no capital-not a sixpence," I replied; "and I should like to see the man who would take me into partnership without my having anything to put into the firm."
"My dear fellow," answered Carskin, "you merely show your
ignorance of the times we live in. Who thinks about capital now-adays? Trade is conducted upon credit, not upon capital. Capital, so far from being a helpmate to a young firm, or newly-starting merchant, is very often a hindrance, for it prevents the owner from working as boldly as he might otherwise do."
'But," said I, "if a merchant has no capital, how is he to pay his way? If he is to gain he must trade; in order to trade he must buy produce or goods, or something; and how is that to be done without money ?"
"Are not bills, when properly handled, as good as money the reply. "With pen, ink, and bill-stamps, can you not make any amount of capital you require ? However," he continued, "I have no time to stay talking now. Will you sign an engagement by which you undertake to pay me twenty per cent. of your first year's net profits, ten per cent. of the second, and five per cent. of the third, and I will introduce you to a gentleman who will at once negotiate a business partnership with you; only you must be the junior partner, and obey his directions. If you promise to do this, and call here on Thursday at eleven o'clock, very few hours afterwards you will find yourself a merchant, and quite as solvent as are nine-tenths of the merchants of London."
Mr. Single's office was on the ground floor of a very silent courtyard, close to the Bank of England. It consisted of two rooms. the outer one there were two clerks-one a very respectable, greyheaded, but very shabbily-dressed man about sixty years of age; the other, a youth of eighteen or nineteen. Both these aides-de-camp appeared to have plenty to do the elder one being everlastingly copying from one huge folio into another; the younger chiefly employed in running backwards and forwards, here and there, all over the City. In this room, as well as in the inner or private sanctum, were strewed and littered about all kinds of samples, both of produce from abroad and manufactures of home and the continent. There must have been at least a dozen specimens of raw cotton, and nearly as many of raw silk, intermixed with Manchester prints, Leeds broadcloth, fancy goods from Germany, a few toys, sample bottles of wine, rum, oil, and turpentine; brown-very brown-sugar, and, to complete all, much to my astonishment, some Enfield rifles, carbines, and sundry patterns of breech-loaders. As I arrived a few minutes before Mr. Single, I could not help observing that his letters which had been laid unopened on his desk, had, by their post-marks, come from various