“Yes,” said Mr. Pole, “and I’ve told you I’ve no pretensions to be a capitalist. We have no less than three ventures out, already.”
“It is like you English! When you have ze world to milk, you go to one point and stick. It fails, and you fail. What is zat word?”—Mr. Pericles tapped his brow—“pluck,—you want pluck. It is your decadence. Greek, and Russian, and Yankee, all zey beat you. For, it is pluck. You make a pin’s head, not a pin. It is in brain and heart you do fail. You have only your position,—an island, and ships, and some favour. You are no match in pluck. We beat you. And we live for pleasure, while you groan and sweat—mon Dieu! it is slavery.”
Mr. Pericles twinkled his white eyes over the blinking merchant, and rose from his chair, humming a bit of opera, and announcing, casually, that a certain prima-donna had obtained a divorce from her husband.
“But,” he added suddenly, “I say to you, if you cannot afford to speculate, run away from it as ze fire. Run away from it, and hold up your coat-tail. Jump ditches, and do not stop till you are safe home— hein? you say ‘cosy?’ I hear my landlady. Run till you are safe cosy. But if you are a man wis a head and a pocket, zen you know that ‘speculate’ means a dozen ventures. So, you come clear. Or, it is ruin. It is ruin, I say: you have been playing.”
“An Englishman,” returned Mr. Pole, disgusted at the shrugs he had witnessed—“an Englishman’s as good as any of you. Look at us—look at our history—look at our wealth. By Jingo! But we like plain-dealing and common sense; and as to afford, what do you mean?”
“No, no,” Mr. Pericles petitioned with uplifted hand; “my English is bad. It is—ah! bad. You shall look it over—my plan. It will strike your sense. Next week I go to Italy. I take ze little Belloni. You will manage all. I have in you, my friend, perfec’ confidence. An Englishman, he is honest. An Englishman and a Greek conjoined, zey beat ze world! It is true, ma foi. For zat, I seek you, and not a countryman. A Frenchman?—oh, no! A German?—not a bit! A Russian?— never! A Yankee?—save me! I am a Greek—I take an Englishman.”
“Well, well, you must leave me to think it over,” said Mr. Pole, pleasantly smoothed down. “As to honesty, that’s a matter of course with us: that’s the mere footing we go upon. We don’t plume ourselves upon what’s general, here. There is, I regret to say, a difference between us and other nations. I believe it’s partly their religion. They swindle us, and pay their priests for absolution with our money. If you’re a double-dyed sinner, you can easily get yourself whitewashed over there. Confound them! When that fellow sent no remittance last month, I told you I suspected him. Who was, the shrewdest then? As for pluck, I never failed in that yet. But, I will see a thing clear. The man who speculates blindfold, is a fowl who walks into market to be plucked. Between being plucked, and having pluck, you’ll see a distinction when you know the language better; but you must make use of your head, or the chances are you won’t be much of a difference,—eh? I’ll think over your scheme. I’m not a man to hesitate, if the calculations are sound. I’ll look at the papers here.”