‘But, my child, the place is full of gold.’
’Then why did he turn it into a company, my dear boy? And why didn’t he make you stick to it? But you know nothing of the City. Now, let us sit down and talk about what we shall do—don’t, you ridiculous boy!’
Another house just like the first. The bride stepped out of one palace into another. With their five or six thousand a year, the young couple could just manage to make both ends meet. The husband was devoted; the wife had everything that she could wish. Who could be happier than this pair in a nest so luxurious, their life so padded, their days so full of sunshine?
It was a year after marriage. The wife, contrary to her usual custom, was the first at breakfast. A few letters were waiting for her—chiefly invitations. She opened and read them. Among them lay one addressed to her husband. Not looking at the address, she opened and read that as well:
I venture to address you as an old friend of your own and school-fellow of your mother’s. I am a widow with four children. My husband was the vicar of your old parish—you remember him and me. I was left with a little income of about two hundred a year. Twelve months ago I was persuaded in order to double my income—a thing which seemed certain from the prospectus—to invest everything in a new and rich gold mine. Everything. And the mine has never paid anything. The company—it is called the Solid Gold Reef Company, is in liquidation because, though there is really the gold there, it costs too much to get it. I have no relatives anywhere to help me. Unless I can get assistance my children and I must go at once—tomorrow—into the workhouse. Yes, we are paupers. I am ruined by the cruel lies of that prospectus, and the wickedness which deluded me, and I know not how many others, out of my money. I have been foolish, and am punished; but those people, who will punish them? Help me, if you can, my dear Reginald. Oh! for GOD’S sake, help my children and me. Help your mother’s friend, your own old friend.
‘This,’ said Rosie meditatively, ’is exactly the kind of thing to make Reggie uncomfortable. Why, it might make him unhappy all day. Better burn it.’ She dropped the letter into the fire. ’He’s an impulsive, emotional nature, and he doesn’t understand the City. If people are so foolish—What a lot of fibs the poor old pater does tell, to be sure! He’s a regular novelist—Oh! here you are, you lazy boy!’
‘Kiss me, Rosie.’ He looked as handsome as Apollo, and as cheerful. ’I wish all the world were as happy as you and me. Heigho! some poor devils, I’m afraid—’
‘Tea or coffee, Reg?’
THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE
(The Soft Side, London: Methuen and Co., 1900)