Charles went home more angry than I have ever beheld him. I couldn’t imagine why. He seemed as deeply hipped as if he had lost his thousands. I endeavoured to console him. “After all,” I said, “though Golcondas have suffered a temporary loss, it’s a comfort to think that you should have stood so firm, and not only stemmed the tide, but also prevented yourself from losing anything at all of your own through panic. I’m sorry, of course, for the widows and orphans; but if Colonel Clay has rigged the market, at least it isn’t YOU who lose by it this time.”
Charles withered me with a fierce scowl of undisguised contempt. “Wentworth,” he said once more, “you are a fool!” Then he relapsed into silence.
“But you declined to sell out,” I said.
He gazed at me fixedly. “Is it likely,” he asked at last, “I would tell you if I meant to sell out? or that I’d sell out openly through Finglemore, my usual broker? Why, all the world would have known, and Golcondas would have been finished. As it is, I don’t desire to tell an ass like you exactly how much I’ve lost. But I did sell out, and some unknown operator bought in at once, and closed for ready money, and has sold again this morning; and after all that has happened, it will be impossible to track him. He didn’t wait for the account: he settled up instantly. And he sold in like manner. I know now what has been done, and how cleverly it has all been disguised and covered; but the most I’m going to tell you to-day is just this—it’s by far the biggest haul Colonel Clay has made out of me. He could retire on it if he liked. My one hope is, it may satisfy him for life; but, then, no man has ever had enough of making money.”
“You sold out!” I exclaimed. “You, the Chairman of the company! You deserted the ship! And how about your trust? How about the widows and orphans confided to you?”
Charles rose and faced me. “Seymour Wentworth,” he said, in his most solemn voice, “you have lived with me for years and had every advantage. You have seen high finance. Yet you ask me that question! It’s my belief you will never, never understand business!”
THE EPISODE OF THE ARREST OF THE COLONEL
How much precisely Charles dropped over the slump in Cloetedorps I never quite knew. But the incident left him dejected, limp, and dispirited.
“Hang it all, Sey,” he said to me in the smoking-room, a few evenings later. “This Colonel Clay is enough to vex the patience of Job—and Job had large losses, too, if I recollect aright, from the Chaldeans and other big operators of the period.”
“Three thousand camels,” I murmured, recalling my dear mother’s lessons; “all at one fell swoop; not to mention five hundred yoke of oxen, carried off by the Sabeans, then a leading firm of speculative cattle-dealers!”