The Pursuits of Peter Pell - Aidan de Brune - ebook

The Pursuits of Peter Pell ebook

Aidan de Brune

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Opis

The Pursuits of Peter Pell” is an episodic novel in 12 parts by Aidan de Brune, set in Perth, Australia. Peter Pell is a con man. That’s essentially it. He engages in a lot of humorous adventures and situations. It’s told in sequential short story format. As the novel is rather short and quite fast-paced with a lot of scenery-changes and adventures, this nice. Aidan de Brune was a big name in Australian literature but is forgotten today. He was a prolific author who wrote in a variety of genres. In the 1920s and 1930s a number of his novels appeared in Australian newspapers as serials, and he also appears to have written serials specifically for publication in newspapers.

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Liczba stron: 250

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Contents

I. THE PURSUIT OF SIXPENCE

II. THE PURSUIT OF A FLY

III. IN PURSUIT OF LOVE

IV. IN PURSUIT OF AN OCCUPATION

V. IN PURSUIT OF CHARITY

VI. IN PURSUIT OF THE LAST CHANCE

VII. IN PURSUIT OF GLORY

VIII. THE PURSUIT OF SOCIETY

IX. THE PURSUIT OF A SPY

X. THE PURSUIT OF AN ELECTORATE

XI. THE PURSUIT OF A MONOPOLY

XII. THE PURSUIT OF PEACE

I. THE PURSUIT OF SIXPENCE

THE first beams of the morning sun wandered across the Esplanade and, penetrating a leafy screen, fell upon the closed eyelids of Mr. Peter Pell. That gentleman opened one eye slowly and then closed it quickly, but the sun was not to be denied and, at last, it dawned upon the awakening senses of Mr. Pell that it was time to be up and about.

It was not the first time that the exigencies of modern civilisation had forced Mr. Pell to seek an airy couch on the playground of the Perthites. By choice he was sybaritic, by necessity ascetic, but yesterday evening it was a choice between supper and bed and the vanities of the table proved superior to the claims of bodily repose.

Mr. Pell, rising from his hard couch, showed what ladies of a certain age and standing call “a fine figure of a man.” He was largely made with even a slight tendency to stoutness. His head was somewhat small and set on his head at an angle that gave him, when excited, a certain air of ferocity. His hair was thin, although covering nearly all the top of his head.

His voice, his principal asset, was heavy and boomed like the tenor “C” of the cathedral chimes. For preference he was clean-shaven, but on this morning his toilet had been neglected and he showed a two-day growth of beard on chin and lip.

Dispensing with ablutions, Mr. Pell carefully dusted his clothes and then considered his position. The first, and from internal reminders, the most pressing necessity was for breakfast. A search of his pockets revealed, or rather confirmed the knowledge, that the balance in hand consisted of one penny and three half pennies.

Balancing each coin on a separate finger Mr. Pell gravely considered them. Certainly breakfast commensurate with his requirements was not compassed within the ability of twopence halfpenny. Some sort of food might be obtained for sixpence, but even that, sum was not to hand and Mr. Pell’s ambition lay in the direction of a regular thoroughgoing breakfast, beginning with the usual porridge and continuing through eggs and bacon, chops, steaks, etceteras, to the grand finale of bread and butter and marmalade. At the thought of the last item Mr. Pell’s tongue gently inserted itself between his lips for he had a very sweet tooth. But, however elastic his thoughts, twopence halfpenny was but too matter of fact.

Somewhere in this gay city of Perth, thought Mr. Pell, there must be come kind friend from whom the necessary coins of the realm may be obtained to provide for the realisation of the Epicurean feast.

Leaving the Esplanade Mr. Pell made his way to Hay Street. Assuming the air of a moneyed loiterer, he carefully examined the goods in the shop windows, at the same time keeping a careful eye open for some acquaintance who might prove financial. The hurrying crowd of workers and shoppers jostled him, but nowhere did he see a familiar face.

“Hullo, old chap,” A voice, sounded in his ear and a heavy hand descended on his shoulder. Mr. Pell swung round with, hope in his heart.

“Just the man I was looking for.” The accoster was a thin nervous looking man with a vacant wandering eye and a ragged beard. His appearance was unkempt and Mr. Pell could not place him on his list of acquaintances and friends. But it was evident from the other’s manner that they were acquainted, while Mr. Pell’s memory might be defective, and breakfast loomed as a possibility.

“My dear fellow,” retorted Mr. Pell, unctuously. “I am pleased to see you.–What–”

“I’m in a little difficulty,” interrupted the stranger in a hoarse whisper. “Could you–would you–permit yourself to do me a favour?”

“Well, er–” commenced Mr. Pell.

The stranger interrupted quickly. “My dear sir, I am sure you will do your best for me. You know of old how diffident I am of speaking of intimate, I may say family matters, to an acquaintance. But you and I are, I should say have been, so intimate that I feel I may speak to you as a brother. My request is a small one, so small that you will, I am sure, have no difficulty in helping me. Can you? Will you? I am sure I have but to speak and your great heart will immediately respond, lend me half a crown for a short period. Stay! Do not speak hurriedly The loan, trifling as it is, will be repaid to you with the utmost promptitude, and perchance, when circumstances have altered, when I assume the rightful position to which I am entitled, your affairs will have my complete and sympathetic support.”

Into the thin mist of the early morning vanished Mr. Pell’s hopes of an immediate breakfast. Here was: another on the same expedition as himself. Yet never in his life had Mr. Pell failed to rise to the occasion and now his tones were urbanity itself.

“My dear sir! I am most sorry. I am deeply grieved. Owing to the fact that very unfortunately left home this morning without my purse I am–er–in somewhat similar straights to yourself. If you will do me the favour of meeting me after–er–my bank opens er–I shall be pleased to comply with your request. Until then, au revoir.”

With a graceful sweep of his hand Mr. Pell slowly faded down the street The interruption had only emphasised his need for refreshment. The morning hours were speeding fast and the opportunity of obtaining a loan from some business acquaintance would soon be lost.

Murray and Wellington. Streets proved barren hunting grounds and Mr. Pell turned the corner of Barrack street his hopes of a luxurious breakfast fast dwindling. The Town Hall clock struck the hour of nine. From the direction of the Terrace came Matt Horan driving his well-known pacer ‘Laughing Bill’. He was driving at a good speed, but on seeing Mr. Pell quickly pulled up.

“Hullo, Peter.” Now if there was anything that disturbed Mr. Pell’s equanimity, it was to be addressed as ‘Peter’. He had a very serious opinion of his own importance, and for a person of his commanding figure to be so familiarity addressed showed, in his opinion, a disregard of the due observances of life. To be addressed as “Peter” was sufficient to destroy even a man’s illusion in himself. For these reasons Mr. Pell turned a deaf ear. But Horan was not to be denied.

“Hey, Peter–Peter Pell!” Horan was a persistent person and on second thoughts Mr. Pell thought it wise to answer to the call. Besides it is not always welcome to have one’s name thundered in the streets for all and sundry to hear.

“My dear Mr. Horan,” said Mr. Pell, advancing to the jog-car with all the dignity he could assume while breakfastless.

“Come off that ‘oss, old pal,” retorted Horan. “Got anything on?”

Mr. Pell looked down at his attire. It certainly was not of the best but, in his opinion, sufficient for decency.

“At the present moment my time is not occupied, if that is what you mean,” replied Mr. Pell with great dignity.

“Jump in, then!” Horan moved up in the seat.

“Into that!” Mr. Pell’s voice had a note of anxiety. “I am afraid, my dear sir, that my–er–”

“Oh, you ain’t as heavy as all that. But please; yourself. Got a job that might suit you if you’re on; If you ain’t, so long.” Horan made a move to drive off.

Again Mr. Pell saw his breakfast fast escaping him. Leaving his dignity to be assumed when his bodily needs had been attended to, he mounted besides his friend in the frail cart.

“It’s this way, Peter,” commenced Horan, as the pacer moved suddenly into gait. “I’m at the end of my wits to know what to do. This ‘ere ‘orse is great. I’m open to acknowledge that. The question is, is ‘e great enough to win the Christmas Cup. I think he is.”

“He is a very large horse, so far as my judgement can be relied on,” replied Mr. Pell, looking critically at the quadruped under discussion.

“Oh, get off! What I wants to know is, is he going to pay me to win the Christmas Trotting Cup.”

“My dear Mr. Horan,” replied Mr. Pell with some warmth. “How should I know. He certainly is a very fine horse so far as I can judge, but I must ‘acknowledge to a very slight knowledge of horses, and especially of trotting horses. To some extent therefore my opinion must be valueless.”

“Jest so! If you knew a horse from a cow I wouldn’t have brought you into the game. The question is, are you open for an offer.”

“Of what?” For the moment Mr. Pell was startled.

“To put this ‘ere ‘orse right in the books.”

“I don’t quite understand you,” said Mr. Pell dubiously.

“This ‘ere ‘orse is the great tip,” explained Horan.

“Does he?” asked Mr. Pell, innocently.

“What?”

“Tip.”

“Good lor’!” and Mr. Horan looked at his companion with a certain amount of admiration. “Are you as innercent as all that?”

“I quite fail to understand your meaning.” Mr. Pell had again obtained a grasp on the situation, although he kept a very tight grip on the side of the cart.

“You’re the boy for my money. Keep it up, Pell, and you’ll pull off the trick.”

“Again I quite fail to gather your meaning.” A hazy impression that his companion was making fun of him floated into Mr. Pell’s mind.

“Never mind understanding, Pell. Are you on?”

“On what? Certainly not on that horse.”

“Who’s a-askin’ of yer? Look ‘ere, Pell, will you do as I ask, or will yer get down?”

Again the breakfast for which Mr. Pell was valiantly struggling faded into the distance. Bewildered with the rapid motion and the phraseology of his companion he muttered something that the other took for an assent.

“That’s the ticket! Now what I want is why can’t I get a decent price about this ‘ere ‘orse, and it’ll take someone as hinnercent as yerself to do it.”

“Will you kindly inform me how I am to start about the delicate negotiations with which you have entrusted me.”

“All in good time, old buck. Here we are, and the missus has the breakfast ready. In yer go an’ I’ll put you wise after.”

The pacer swung into the yard and Horan threw the reins to an expectant boy. From the house came a pleasant odour of cooking.

Mr. Pell was fed almost to repletion, for Mrs. Horan was a good and generous cook. Smoking one of Horan’s black cigars he followed that worthy into the yard to receive his instructions: The conference was a long one, and in spite of his absolute ignorance of the sport of trotting, Pell began to be interested in the matter. Besides, there appeared to be a possibility of a certain amount of cash finding its way into his pockets, and that was, a matter on which he had strong convictions.

Fortified with a large breakfast, and primed with, to him, a mass of somewhat vague instructions out of which the central idea stood out plainly, Pell took a dignified farewell of his host and started to walk back to the city. Half-way he stopped in self-disgusted amazement. Absorbed in the delicate negotiations entrusted to him and the wealth he would acquire if successful, he had quite forgotten to obtain a temporary loan from Hogan to provide for immediate necessities.

For the moment he had thoughts of retracing his steps, but old experience told him that Horan was a generous payer by results, while he was one of the most difficult men to extract a loan from. He decided to go on and trust to his luck.

With his fingers round the four insignificant coins in his pocket he stepped out city wards, his thoughts filled with the wealth that would be his in the near future.

Midday on the Terrace is a good time to encounter the sports of the city of Perth. There can be seen the owner, the jockey, the bookmaker and the sportsman. The latter is an indefinable specimen of modern civilization that discounts the wisdom of the ages. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these. To be particular none, of them seem to lack cash, and many indeed can produce a roll of those dirty-looking crumpled notes that do duty in Australia for the British sovereign.

Mr. Pell joined the group that is always to be found supporting the walls of the United Service Hotel. Introductions are not enforced in this branch of society, and a chance word or two, professing a knowledge he did not possess, one of the many phrases of Horan, coupled with, a clever reference to that gentleman, soon gave Mr. Pell his favourite position, the centre of the limelight.

“My friend, Mr. Horan,” he commenced.

“Oh, Horan!” someone in the crowd ejaculated disdainfully.

“My friend, Mr. Horan, the owner of ‘Laughing Bill’ repeated Mr. Pell with emphasis.

“E’s the winner of the Cup,” interrupted a short thickset man. “Per’aps ‘e will, per’aps he wont.”

“Goin’ to win it yerself?”

The conversation was gradually drifting away from Mr. Pell.

“Mr. Horan said to me this morning-’ Our worthy was determined to be heard and had raised his voice slightly.

“If Horan said ‘is prayers it’s all ‘e did say,” said the short man with emphasis, “‘E’s the closest cuss I’ve ever had to-deal with.”

Mr. Pell had another try.

–‘Mr. Horan gave me to understand at breakfast this morning that “Laughing Bill’ could not possibly lose the Cup.”

“Did he now,” the short man was openly derisive, “and what may I ask did ‘e charge for the professional advice?”

“‘Laughing Bill’ did 34 the other day. I ‘ad the watch,” interjected one of the crowd.

“Wot’s that! ‘Pretty Pride’ did 27 to the mile in the last Christmas Cup, an’ she’s on scratch this year.”

“An’ wot about ‘Saucy Sam’? Why ‘e did 18 the t’other mornin,” I timed “im meself, and ‘e’s honly 10 behind .”

And so the discussion bandied from one candidate for the big race to the other. Mr. Pell walked away well satisfied. He had carried but his instructions to the letter. Before he had gone far a grimy hand was placed on his cuff.

“‘Ave yer much on th’ ‘orse yerself, sir?”

A small wizened man with ‘hanger on’ written all over him was the enquirer.

“Only a few hundreds, my man,” replied Mr. Pell with dignity, “but my affairs cannot possibly interest you.”

“Perhaps not, sir,” replied the man humbly, “perhaps I might be able to ‘elp a gentleman who might ‘elp me.”

Mr. Pell swelled with importance. “In what manner do you suppose you could be of assistance to me, my man?”

“It’s this way, sir. It may ‘appen that I may come across some hinformation that might be useful to a gent such as yer. An’ if so, a gent such as yer might feel grateful.”

“In such an event, my friend,” Mr. Pell rattled the few coins in his pocket, “I should be extremely grateful.”

“There might he a bit a-comin’ now,” insinuated the new acquaintance.

“There will he nothing coming until the information,” said Mr. Pell emphatically.

“There ain’t no flies on yer, now, is there,” said the man with grudging admiration. “Well, so long till temorrer. I’ll tell yer what’s wot then if yer’ll meet me ‘ere.”

Fingers in his waistcoat pockets, his chest well thrown out, Mr. Pell strolled along the terrace to the William Street corner. Pausing to survey the scanty traffic, Mr. Pell retraced his steps. Outside the United Service Hotel he found as he had expected Sol Arrons, the well-known and highly respected bookmaker. While he had been talking to the ‘sports’ Mr. Pell had noticed the bookmaker listening.

This time Mr. Arrons stopped him. “Excuse me my friend,” Mr. Arrons placed a finger that sadly needed the services of a manicurist on the breast of Mr. Pell’s coat. “Excuse me, but have I not the pleasure of your acquaintance?”

“Have I?” said Mr. Pell, gently removing the finger. “Yes, I believe it is Mr. Arrons! And what can I do for my worthy friend?”

“I have heard you talking this morning of the ‘Laughing Bill’ is it not so?” said Arrons, peering up into Mr. Pell’s face. “Ah, I thought I guessed right. And, perhaps a tine gentleman like you might like to have to have a little bet with old Arrons on the fine horse. Just one little bet with old Arrons. Fine gentlemen like to bet with old Arrons.”

Mr. Pell tried to look disdainful, and failed. He had angled and caught his fish. Let Arrons swallow the bait he had nibbled at, the bait that Mr. Pell had dangled along the Terrace for the last hour, and the work was accomplished. Mr. Pell would have his pockets filled again.

“Perhaps I might like to have a pony later, Arrons,” he replied as indifferently as he could. “If so, I will not forget you.”

Arrons fairly cringed. “It is good of you to say so,” he fawned. “But why not now? I will give you a good price, an excellent price. I will–yes–I will be generous to you, my dear friend–I will give you two to one. Just think, two little sovereigns for one little sovereign bet.”

“You what?” queried Mr. Pell.

“On the ‘Laughing Bill’.” Arrons appeared slightly astonished at Mr. Pell’s tone.

“No good to me,” said Mr. Pell emphatically. “In fact I do not think I will back the horse at all.”

“But you are a friend of Mr. Horan’s. You have the knowledge of what the horse can do. You were with him this morning, and he told you to back it.”

“Perhaps that is the reason I will not bet.” Mr. Pell tried to look wise.

“You will not bet!” Arrons was excited now. “You have the information. But I forget. It is dry for a gentleman to stand and talk. You will come and have a little drink with me, and then you will tell me what it was that our friend Horan said to you when you had breakfast with him. Ach, is it not?”

Mr. Pell condescended to take a drink at the expense of Mr. Arrons, which to the amazement of the habitués of the Hotel, who strove vainly to remember a previous occasion on which Arrons had ‘shouted’ anyone a drink. After the drinks Arrons steered Mr. Pell into a vacant corner of the room and busied himself with the pump-handle.

Mr. Pell responded nobly. He leaked information while not appearing to do so. In fact, his appearance was that of a man who strove vainly to retain a valuable secret entrusted to his charge. With many expressions of goodwill Arrons parted with his friend.

Fingering five coins in his pocket Mr. Pell sauntered towards Hay Street. Stopping before his favourite restaurant he took out of his pocket a yellow coin that glittered in the noon sun.

“There is something in this racing game after all,” observed Mr. Pell to himself, with a sigh of satisfaction.

II. THE PURSUIT OF A FLY

IF a house be searched, however careful the housewife, there will be surely found in some odd nook or corner, a cobweb. So in most cities of the world there are to be found in the odd corners traps for the unwary human flies. Tangarten Chambers, on the “Terrace,” has an imposing position. Most of the chambers are inhabited by members of the legal fraternity. But there are others, and of the others is to be numbered Mr. Peter Pell.

Pell had “arrived” since the day when the sun on its daily pilgrimage had discovered him in his Esplanade bedchamber. A lucky deal with the Terrace “odds-shouters,” in which those gentlemen had not displayed their accustomed acuteness, had resulted in Mr. Pell becoming the owner of a fair banking account. Success had bred encouragement, and Mr. Pell blossomed out as a Land and Estate Agent.

It is sad to reflect that a business connected with so dignified subjects as Lands and Estates should be the mantle for so many rogues. Yet it is a fact that if a bad man sets out to fleece his fellow men commercially, it is usually under the cloak of a Land and Estate Agency.

In the case of Mr. Pell, that gentleman would have been puzzled had he been required to find a client anything in the shape of an estate, or even a small block of land. Notwithstanding this minor drawback the office was there and the door emblazoned with the titles of the business Mr. Peter Pell was willing, to undertake.

As in the case of the cobweb in the house, so the net that Mr. Pell set for the fly he was confident one day he would snare, was set in an inconspicuous part of the inscription. It was a bare and innocent web and announced quietly that on the other side of that door were the offices of the “Great Fallgall G. M. Syndicate.”

Within the office Mr. Pell had done himself well. The carpet on the floor, the large roll-top desk and the client’s chair all bore an appearance of wealth. Mr. Pell was resplendent and would have inspired confidence in the most wary of city man. With prosperity, or the semblance of it, Mr. Pell had indulged his taste in fine raiment to the fair. He affected the style of the a London business man, frock coat, and something neat and classy in the matter of waistcoats. In the case of Mr. Pell, however, the waistcoat was classy if not exactly neat. Whatever the general taste may be Mr. Pell fancied himself and grew more and more complacent as be gazed at the large expanse of waistcoat revealed by his office mirror.

The office of Mr. Peter Pell, Land and Estate Agent and Secretary to the Great Fallgall Gold Mining Syndicate had been established for more than a couple of months at the time our records open and the proprietor had begun to study his bank-book with some misgivings. True one or two small flies had walked round the web but had, in spite of the genial welcome they received, contrived to back out of the trap without more than singing their wings. In fact the total takings of the “web” had resulted in a paltry “fiver” while the expenses were large. Mr. Pell did not complain. He was prepared to “stick it out,” as he in a moment of confidence stated to a friend, until the right kind of fly (he did not use this exact expression) had become entangled. To those who can wait success will come.

One morning as Mr. Pell strolled in the direction of Tangarten Chambers he had an inspiration that that day would later be marked on the office calendar with a red circle. The sun was high in the sky and the majority of the business men of the metropolis were at their desks, but Mr. Pell did not hurry. Human flies are foolish mortals and have not the intellect of their winged confrères and if the human fly had noted the web for examination it was certain that he would buzz around until Mr. “Spider” Pell arrived. Therefore, without increasing his wonton leisurely pace, Mr. Pell entered the Tangarten Chambers and cordially, yet distantly, returned the salutation of the lift-boy. In the exigency of existence Mr. Pell had fully realised the potentialities of his fine presence and developed the art of taking full advantage, of it. But a few months on the register of the tenants of the Chambers he had become one of notabilities of the building, in the eyes of the attendants. A few cigars, a very little silver, and the trick was done. Mr. Pell, with his tips at the wrong seasons of the year was “it.”

Arriving at the third floor Mr. Pell withdrew from his trouser pocket, by a silver chain that in size might have done duty for the cable of a rather large toy man-o’-war, his office key. Directly facing the lift entrance was the office of the Great Fallgall G. M. Syndicate and standing at the door with all signs of impatience stood “The Fly.”

Too wary to frighten his prey Mr. Pell opened his door and, strode to his desk. The “Fly” meekly followed him. Without speaking Mr. Pell opened his letters and indulged in a running commentary on the contents. It might be as well to explain here that these letters had been carefully prepared by Mr. Pell some time previous and were nightly placed on the desk in preparation of the visit of the “Fly.” Here was the victim and the spoiler was ready and eager.

“Humph! Great Fallgall’s up two points! Sanders wants to know if any for sale! No none for him! Ho! So Matthews has made up his mind to buy that house at last. Well he’ll have to pay for the delay. He’ll spring another tenner if I hold off a bit. The cheapest house in the State. What’s this! Application for Great Fallgall shares. Another! Yet another! And another!!! Let me see. Five and ten are fifteen and ten hundred shares in one post are twenty-five! Twenty-five good business!”

Then thinking the ‘fly’ properly impressed, “Oh, beg pardon! Didn’t see you there. Come in, sir, make yourself comfortable. Sit there. Now, tell me what I may have the pleasure of doing for you?”

As the “fly” seated himself gingerly in the client’s chair beside the big desk Mr. Pell took careful stock of him. He was a tall thin man with a long gaunt face. His clothes were untidy and looked ready made, but his boots were the true index to the man, and, on a rapid survey, Mr. Pell ejaculated under his breath, “Farmer.”

A London spider would have profanely thought “yokel” but in Western Australia the commercial spider is not so rude and unpolished. He dignifies the “fly” from the country by the correct appellation “farmer.” It is not to be understood that “yokel” or “farmer,” there is any change in the established methods of spiders. Both London and Perth spiders treat the country visitors alike. Flatter and toady; tickle and excite. But, in the end skin them or swallow them alive.

Mr. Pell prepared to do both. The “fly” prepared for the interview by extracting from a large case a pair of the largest and roundest spectacles Mr. Pell had ever seen. Perching them on a very long thin nose he proceeded to state his requirements.

“My name is Smith, Joseph John Smith,” he commenced in a high nasal drawl. “You are the proprietor of this Great Fallgall Gold Mine.”

“Only the secretary,” replied Mr. Pell modestly. “The proprietors are umph–It is owned by a Syndicate, you know!”

“Pre-cise-l-y,” drawled Smith. “You are the secretary.” Then after a short pause came the question like’ the shot from a gun.

“You sell the shares?”

“The Syndicate sells the shares,” replied Mr. Pell smoothly, wondering all the while what on earth his visitor was driving at. “I am but the humble servant of the Syndicate.”

“Pre-cise-l-y!” drawled Smith in exactly the same tone. Then a change of voice. “You cannot deceive me.”

“My dear sir!” Mr. Pell was horrified at the suggestion. “All the dealings of this office are open to the widest, I may say the fullest, investigation.”

“That is what I intend, sir,” exclaimed Smith, ferociously. “I received one of your circulars.”

“Prospectus,” suggested Mr. Pell mildly. “It sounds so much better.”

“Bosh!” exploded Mr. Smith. “If I come from the country I am not a born fool.”

Mr. Pell tried to look hurt and really achieved a fair success. “I have come to investigate this matter to the ground, and if like it–” here Mr. Smith sank his voice to an impressive whisper, “I will buy it.”

“Buy some shares?” asked Mr. Pell, for once out of his depths.

“Buy the mine–all the shares–the–er–controlling interest, sir,” howled Mr. Smith with all the semblance of fury.

“That would be a very expensive operation,” suggested Mr. Pell, his heart sinking at the thought that his visitor was more madman than “Fly.”

“Expense, be damned,” retorted Mr. Smith, leaning forward in his chair and glaring at Mr. Pell through his large round glasses. “Do you know who I am?”

“I–er–I’m sure I don’t know.” Mr. Pell’s imposing waistcoat was visibly curving in at the waistline, and his collar appeared to be undergoing some liquefying process. “I’m Joseph John Smith, and I breed sheep.”

Mr. Pell made an effort. “You can’t buy shares like you do sheep, Mr. Smith.”

“Why not? Tell me why not? I’ve made my money in sheep. Lots of it, lots of sheep. Why can’t I buy anything I want as I buy sheep. Tell me that?”

“It will be a very expensive operation, Mr. Smith.”

“Did I ever shirk an expensive operation? Ask the people of the Gascoyne if any deal was too big for me. I’m a born Australian, and nothing’s too big for me.”

“It will take a lot of money, Mr. Smith.” Mr. Pell tried hard to discover what ground he had to stand on. Either his visitor was a clever business man, or into the web had walked one of the fattest, juiciest flies that ever spider dreamed of. What dare he put up to this glorious prey.

“I may tell you Mr. Smith,” Mr. Pell continued, “that the mine is undeveloped. We have taken out very fine specimens sufficient to show great possibilities. I don’t want this information round the town, but we have the very deepest, richest mine in the whole of the Commonwealth. It will take a lot of capital to obtain the controlling interest.”

“Name your figure!” The large horny hand of the visitor moved to his breast pocket.

“Not that, Mr. Smith.” Mr. Pell waved the thought of a cheque aside with a magnificent gesture. “Not that! We must go into the matter a lot more carefully before I can venture to accept your cheque.”

Joseph John Smith extended the hand that hovered around his breast pocket in the direction of Mr. Pell, “Shake!” he exclaimed. “You’re an honest man.”

Fortified with the good opinion of his visitor, Mr. Pell devoted himself to posting his prey in the details of the Great Fallgall G. M. Facts and figures rolled from his tongue in a manner that would, as a writer of fiction, have assured him more than a competence. As a walking delegate of a trades union he would have been an unqualified success.

“It comes to this,” concluded Mr. Pell. “It will cost you about three thousand pounds or thereabouts to take up the balance of shares in the possession of the Syndicate, and about fifteen hundred more to repurchase the balance of shares necessary to give you the control.”

“Is that all?”

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