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   Chapter 20 No.20

Upsidonia By Archibald Marshall Characters: 5938

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


I woke up the next morning without that sense of something delightful about to happen to me to which I had grown accustomed since my arrival in Upsidonia, but soon brightened again as I laid my plans for acquiring an easy and immediate fortune. I knew that a rich man in Upsidonia would present me with twenty or thirty thousand pounds as readily as a poor man in England would allow me to present him with it, and would thank his lucky stars at finding a fool big enough to take it. I only had to find the rich man.

It seemed to me that I already knew who to apply to. I had made the acquaintance of a very rich man indeed, when I had gone district visiting with Mrs. Perry. His name was Hobson, and he had not always been as rich as he was at present. Mining speculations had ruined him. He could not touch a thing that turned out right. So sure as he bought shares in a mine that was supposed to have no gold in it, it turned out to be one of the richest ever heard of. And even silver played him false; he had come his biggest cropper over a worked-out silver mine, in which antimony or some such metal was discovered the moment the shares seemed to be worth nothing, with the consequence that they had jumped up again to unheard-of altitudes.

When the crash had come Mr. Hobson had put a bold face on it, and his wife had behaved nobly. She had given up the confined home in which she had been so happy without a murmur, and had bought every stick of furniture that she could cram into a large house. She had bought silks and laces, furs and jewels, for herself, and clothed her young children in the richest attire; and she had given up without flinching the household work in which she had taken such a delight, and engaged a large staff of servants. All Mr. Hobson's debtors had been allowed to pay him in full, and he and his family had retired to their mansion, with a name free of all reproach, it is true, but to such misery as only people of refinement could experience from such a change in their surroundings.

And that was not the worst. Mr. Hobson was a kind husband and an affectionate father. But he had the gambler's fever in his blood, and the hard lesson he had received had not sufficed to purge him of it. Since his downfall he had continued to speculate, but with no greater success than before, and it was much to be feared that unless some help came to him, not only he, but his blameless wife and his innocent young children, would sink into yet deeper depths of degradation, and be obliged at last to go to the playhouse.

Mrs. Perry had come home one afternoon from a round of her district, full of the troubles of the Hobsons. Mr. Hobson had broken out again, and had risked a small fortune, not this time in mining, but in a patent for increasing the amount of petrol to be used in motor-cars. His excuse was that he had some mechanical knowledge, and had spotted an error in the invention which he thought would make it useles

s. But, unfortunately, he had mentioned his discovery to others, the errors had been pointed out to the patentees, and they had succeeded in putting them right. Or, as was darkly hinted, there had been no error at all, and Mr. Hobson had fallen into a trap. But, in any case, he had had to realise at a high figure, and had come out of the deal more overloaded with wealth than ever.

We had all sympathised deeply over the picture of misery that Mrs. Perry had drawn. Mr. Hobson, she said, was overcome with remorse, and like a man distracted. He had sat in his overfurnished dining-room with his head in his hands, while his wife, scintillating with diamonds, though it was early in the afternoon, had tried to comfort him, her face pale but full of courage. It had been almost insupportable to hear the children crying at the table loaded with provisions, and to think that the father, the bread-loser of the family, was powerless to help them.

"Cannot we do something for them, Samuel?" Mrs. Perry cried.

But her husband shook his head sadly, and said he was afraid not. "Hobson has himself to thank for it," he said, "and I fear he is incorrigible. If we were to take the burden of this mistake on our shoulders he would only make another one. The fact is, he is unfitted for business affairs. You can lose more money in the city than anywhere else, but you have to get up very early in the morning to do it, and the men who are successful at it, and lose large fortunes, are a good deal cleverer than poor Hobson."

I had offered then and there to look into the case and see if I could do anything to help. But although everybody said that it was very generous of me, they all tried to dissuade me from risking the small number of debts I already possessed. Edward did more. He rather annoyed me by taking me aside and telling me that my duty was now towards Miriam, and that it would not be right for me to be charitable at her expense, which was what it would come to if I tried to straighten out the Hobsons' badly involved affairs.

But I had now made up my mind that nothing should stand in the way of my charitable instincts. I was not in a position to do much. I could not set the unfortunate Hobson on his feet again as a poor man. But I could go and see him, and come away leaving him a good deal poorer than he was before.

My heart glowed as I thought of the blessings I should call down upon my head from him and his sorely tried family. I should be almost in the position of a walking miracle, bringing relief that must have been despaired of. The warm gratitude of that unfortunate family would follow me wherever I went, even if I went out of Upsidonia, as I fully intended to do, after having relieved Mr. Hobson of part of his burden.

As I jumped out of bed I had already made up my mind. I would go and see him that very morning. When one has decided upon an errand of mercy one should lose no time in setting about it.

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