Young Australia has a wonderful love for the excitement of gambling--take him away from the betting ring and he goes straight to the share market to dabble in gold and silver shares. The Great Humbug Gold Mining Company is floated on the Melbourne market—a perfect fortune in itself, which influential men are floating in a kind of semi-philanthropic manner to benefit mankind at large, and themselves in particular. Report by competent geologists; rich specimens of the reef exhibited to the confiding public; company of fifty thousand shares at a pound each; two shillings on application; two shillings on allotment; the balance in calls which influential men solemnly assure confiding public will never be needed. Young Australia sees a chance of making thousands in a week; buys one thousand shares at four shillings—only two hundred pounds; shares will rise and Young Australia hopefully looks forward to pocketing two or three thousand by his modest venture of two hundred; company floated, shares rising slowly. Young Australia will not sell at a profit, still dazzled by his chimerical thousands. Calls must be made to put up machinery; shares have a downward tendency. Never mind, there will only be one or two calls, so stick to shares as parents of possible thousands. Machinery erected; now crushing; two or three ounces to ton a certainty. Shares have an upward tendency; washing up takes place—two pennyweights to ton. Despair! Shares run down to nothing, and Young Australia sees his thousands disappear like snow in the sun. The Great Humbug Reef proves itself worthy of its name, and the company collapses amid the groans of confiding public and secret joy of influential men, who have sold at the top price.
Vandeloup knew all about this sort of thing, for he had seen it occur over and over again in Ballarat and Melbourne. So many came to the web and never got out alive, yet fresh flies were always to be found. Vandeloup was of a speculative nature himself, and had he been possessed of any surplus cash would, no doubt, have risked it in the jugglery of the share market, but as he had none to spare he stood back and amused himself with looking at the ’spider and the fly’ business which was constantly going on. Sometimes, indeed, the fly got the better of spider number one, but was unable to keep away from the web, and was sure to fall into the web of spider number two.
M. Vandeloup, therefore, considered the whole affair as too risky to be gone into without unlimited cash; but now he had a chance of making money, he determined to try his hand at the business. True, he knew that he was in for a swindle, but then he was behind the scenes, and would benefit by the knowledge he had gained. If the question at issue had really been that of getting gold out of the reef and paying dividends with the profits, Gaston would have snapped