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[-155-]

CHAPTER CLXXXV.

ANOTHER NEW YEAR'S DAY.

IT was the 1st of January, 1841.
    If there be any hour in the life of man when he ought to commune with his own heart, that proper interval of serious reflection is to be found on New Year's Day.
    Then, to the rightly constituted mind, the regrets for the past will serve as finger-posts and guides to the hopes of the future.
    The heathen mythology depicted Janus with two faces, looking different ways:  so let the human heart, when on the first day of January, it stands between two years, retrospect carefully over the one that has gone, and combine all its solemn warnings for use and example in the new one which has just commenced.
    This also is the day that recalls, with additional impressiveness, the memory of those dear relatives and friends whose mortal forms have been swept away by the viewless and voiceless stream of Time.
    Nor less do fond parents think, amidst tears and prayers, of their sons who are absent in the far-off places of the earth,  fighting the battles of their country on the burning plains of India, or steering their way across the pathless solitudes of the ocean.
    But, alas! little reck the wealthy and great for those whose arms defend them, or whose enterprise procures them all the bounties of the earth.
    An oligarchy has cramped the privileges and monopolised the rights of a mighty nation.
    Behold the effects of its infamous Poor-Laws contemplate the results of the more atrocious Game-Laws;  mark the consequences of the Corn Laws.
    THE POOR-LAWS! Not even did the ingenuity of the Spanish or Italian Inquisitions conceive more effectual method of deliberate torture and slow death, than the fearful system of mental-abasement and gradient starvation invented by England's legislators. When the labourer can toil for the rich no longer, away with him to the workhouse! When the old man, who has contributed for half a century to the revenue of the country, is overtaken by sudden adversity at an age which paralyses his energies, away with him to the workhouse! When the poor widow, whose sons have fallen in the ranks of battle or in defence of the wooden walls of England, is deprived of her natural supporters, away with her to the workhouse! The workhouse is a social dung-heap on which the wealthy and great fling those members of the community whose services they can no longer render available to their selfish purposes.
    THE GAME-LAWS! Never was a more atrocious monopoly than that which reserves the use of certain birds of the air or animals of the earth to a small and exclusive class. The Almighty gave man "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth;" and those who dare to monopolise any of these, to the prejudice of their fellow creatures, fly in the face of the Lord of all! The Game-Laws have fabricated an offence which fills our prisons  as if there were not already crimes enough to separate men from their families and plunge them into loathsome dungeons. That offence is one of human construction, and exists only in certain countries: it is not a crime against God  nor is it deemed such in many enlightened states. The selfish plea-[-156-]sures of a miserably small minority demand the protection of a statute which is a fertilising source of oppression, wretchedness, ruin, and demoralization The Game-Laws are a rack whereon the aristocracy loves to behold its victims writhing in tortures and where the sufferers are compelled to acknowledge as a heinous crime a deed which has in reality no moral turpitude associated with it.
    THE CORN-LAWS! Were the Russian to boast of his freedom, Common Sense would point to Siberia and to the knout, and laugh in his face. When the Englishman vaunts the glory of his country s institutions, that same Common Sense comes forward and throws the Corn Laws in his teeth What! liberty in connexion with the vilest monopoly that ever mortal policy conceived? Impossible! England manufactures articles which all the civilised world requires; and other states yield corn in an abundance that defies the possibility of home consumption. And yet an inhuman selfishness has declared that England shall not exchange her manufactures for that superfluous produce. No  the manufactures may decay in the warehouses here, and the grain abroad may be thrown to the swine, sooner than a miserable oligarchy will consent to abandon one single principle of its shameless monopoly. The Corn-Laws are a broom which sweeps all the grain on the threshing-floor into one corner for the use of the rich, but which leaves the chaff scattered everywhere about for the millions of poor to use as best they may.
    The aristocracy of England regards the patience of the masses as a bow whose powers of tension are unlimited: but the day must come, sooner or later, when those who thus dare to trifle with this generous elasticity will be struck down by the violence of the recoil.
    Although our legislators  trembling at what they affect to sneer at under the denomination of "the march of intellect"  obstinately refuse to imitate enlightened France by instituting a system of national education,  nevertheless, the millions of this country are now instructing themselves!
    Honour to the English mechanic  honour to the English operative: each alike seeks to taste of the tree of learning, "whose root is bitter, but whose fruits are sweet!"
    Thank God, no despotism  no tyranny can arrest the progress of that mighty intellectual movement which is now perceptible amongst the industrious millions of these realms.
    And how excellent are the principles of that self instruction which now tends to elevate the moral condition of the country. It is not confined within the narrow limits which churchmen would impose: it embraces the sciences  the arts  all subjects of practical utility.  its aim being to model the mind on the solid basis of Common Sense.
    To the millions thus enlightened, Religion will appear in all its purity, and the objects of Government in all their simplicity. The holy Christian worship will cease to be regarded as an apology for endowing a Church with enormous revenues, and political administration must no longer be considered as a means of rendering a small portion of the community happy and prosperous to the utter prejudice of the vast remainder.
    There breathes not a finer specimen of the human race than a really enlightened and liberal minded Englishman. But if he be deserving of admiration and applause, who has received his knowledge from the lips of a paid preceptor  how much more worthy of praise and respect is the self-instructed mechanic!
    But to resume our narrative.
    It was the 1st of January, 1841.
    The time-piece on the mantel in Mr. Greenwood's study had just struck two in the afternoon.
    That gentleman himself was pacing the apartment in an agitated manner.
    His handsome dressing-gown of oriental pattern was not arranged, with the usual contrived air of negligence, to display the beautiful shirt-front, over which hung the gold chain of his Breguet-watch:  on the contrary, it had evidently been hurried on without the least regard to effect.
    The writing-table was heaped with a confused pile of letters and accounts  not thrown together for show, but lying in the actual disorder in which they had been tossed aside after a minute investigation.
    Though not absolutely slovenly in his present appearance, Mr. Greenwood had certainly neglected his toilet on that day; and the state of his room moreover proved that he was too much absorbed in serious affairs to devote time to the minor considerations of neatness and the strict propriety of order.
    There was a cloud upon his brow; and his manner was restless and unsettled.
    "Curses  eternal curses upon that Lafleur!" he exclaimed aloud, as he walked up and down with uneven steps. "To think that I should have lost so much at one blow! Oh! it nearly drives me mad  mad! If it had only been the twenty thousand pounds of which the black-hearted French villain and his confederates plundered me, I might have snapped my fingers at Fortune who thus vented her temporary spite upon me! But the enormous amount I lost in addition, by failing to pour that sum of English notes and gold into circulation in the French capital,  the almost immediate fall in the rates of exchange, and the fluctuation of the French funds,  Oh! there it was that I was so seriously injured. Fifty thousand pounds snatched from me as it were in a moment,  fifty thousand pounds of hard money  my own money! And the thirty thousand pounds that I had first sent over to Paris were so judiciously laid out! My combinations were admirable: I should have been a clear gainer of five-and-twenty thousand, had not that accursed robbery taken place! May the villain Lafleur die in a charnel-house  may he perish the most miserable of deaths!"
    Mr. Greenwood ground his teeth with rage as he uttered these horrible maledictions.
    He did not, however, recall to mind that Lafleur was an honest man when he entered his service;  he did not pause to reflect upon all the intrigues, machinations, plots, duplicities, and villanies, in which he had employed his late valet,  thus gradually initiating him in those paths which could scarcely have led to any other result than the point in which they had actually terminated  the robbery of the master by the servant whom he had thus tutored.
    "The villain!" continued Greenwood. "And I was so kind to him  constantly increasing his wages and making him presents! Such confidence as I put in him, too! Filippo, whom I did not trust to half the same extent  save in my intrigues with women  is stanch and faithful to me!
    [-157-] He paused and glanced towards the time-piece.
    "Half-past two; and Tomlinson does not come! What can detain him! Surely that affair cannot have gone wrong also? if so  "
    And Greenwood's countenance became as dark and lowering as the sky ere the explosion of the storm.
    In a few moments a double-knock at the door echoed through the house.
    "Here's Tomlinson!" ejaculated Greenwood; and with sovereign command over himself, he composed his features and assumed his wonted ease of manner.
    The stock-broker now entered the room.
    "You are an hour behind your time, Tomlinson," said Greenwood, shaking him by the hand.
    "I could not come before," was the answer: "I was detained on your business."
    "What news?" asked Greenwood, scarcely able to conceal his profound anxiety.
    "Bad," replied Tomlinson. "You have sent sixteen thousand pounds to look after the fifty you have already lost. Fortunately you are a rich man, and can stand reverses of this kind. Besides, one who speculates so enormously as you have done of late, must meet with occasional losses. For my part, I should advise you to leave Spanish alone. It seems that you are doomed to fail in your ventures in the foreign securities:  first, your French scheme was totally ruined by the villany of your servant; and now your Spanish one, so far from enabling you to retrieve your losses, has increased them."
    This long speech enabled Greenwood to recover from the shock which the announcement of a new reverse had produced.
    "My dear Tomlinson," he said, "I am resolved to follow up my speculations in Spanish. The private information I received from an intimate friend of the Spanish Ambassador is correct  I am convinced it is; and I am sure that Queen Christina, by the advice of Espartero, will appropriate a sum to pay the Interest on the passives. The announcement must be made in a few days. Of this I am certain. But my resources are locked up for the present:  in fact, I do not hesitate to tell you, Tomlinson, that I have over-speculated of late. Still  remember  I have plenty of means remaining; but they are not instantly available."
    "What, then, do you propose to do?" inquired the stock-broker.
    "You have raised yourself during the past year to a confidential position in the City, Tomlinson," continued Greenwood: "and people no longer remember your bankruptcy."
    "But I do," observed the stock-broker bitterly.
    "Oh I that Is nothing," exclaimed Greenwood.
    "I was about to say that you could probably borrow me fifteen or twenty thousand on my bond  say for three months."
    "I doubt it," returned Tomlinson. "You have no mercantile establishment  you are known as a great speculator  "
    "And as a great capitalist, I flatter myself," added Greenwood, playing with his watch-chain in the easy complacent manner which had so characterised him until lately.
    "That you were a capitalist, there can be no doubt," said Tomlinson, in his usual quiet way; but ill news fly fast  and your losses  "
    "Are already known in the City, you mean?" exclaimed Greenwood, with difficulty concealing his vexation. "I care not a fig for that, Tomlinson I have ample resources left; but, as I ere now observed, they are not immediately available."
    "I understand you. It is well known that you accommodate the members of the aristocracy and heirs-expectant with loans; I presume that you have a mass of their bills, bonds, and acknowledgments! Now if you were to deposit them as collateral security, I know where I could obtain you an equivalent loan in twelve hours."
    "Indeed!" ejaculated Greenwood: then, after a moment's pause, he said, "And you think there can be no difficulty in managing the business in that way?"
    "None," answered the stock-broker.
    Again Greenwood appeared to reflect.
    "And yet," he observed, "all these pecuniary accommodations of which you spoke, are strictly confidential; and I dare not violate  "
    "You know best, Greenwood," said Tomlinson coolly. "At the same time, I can assure you that my friend will not betray you. The whole thing lies in a nut-shell: you deposit, say twenty thousand pounds' worth of securities, for a loan of that amount, to be repaid in three months; you redeem the documents by the day appointed, and none of your aristocratic debtors will be one whit the wiser. The transaction could only become known to them if you failed to refund the money, in which case the holder of the documents would send them into the market."
    "I comprehend," said Greenwood. "Well  I have no objection to the arrangement. When will you ascertain whether your friend will advance the money?"
    "This afternoon," returned Tomlinson; "and should the reply be in the affirmative  of which I have no doubt  I will make an appointment for four to-morrow."
    "Be it so," cried Greenwood. " You will, perhaps, send me word between five and six this evening."
    I will not fail," said the stock-broker. "Any thing new in the City?"
    "Nothing particular."
    "And your late cashier  what has become of him?" inquired Greenwood.
    "He is still living in an obscure street in Bethnal Green," was the answer. "The poor old man never stirs abroad; and his health is failing fast."
    "Ah! it. will be a good thing when he is gone altogether," said Greenwood. "If he had had to do with me, I should have shipped him to New Zealand or Van Diemen's Land long ago."
    Tomlinson turned away in disgust, and took his leave.
    Greenwood never moved from his seat until he heard the front door close behind the stock-broker.
    Then he started from his chair, and all his apparent composure vanished.
    "Sixteen thousand pounds more gone!" he exclaimed, in a hoarse, hollow tone, while he clenched his fists with rage. "Loss upon loss! All this is enough to ruin any man! And I  who have been even far more unfortunate of late than I chose to admit to Tomlinson! Nothing short of one bold and successful hit can now retrieve my tottering fortunes. Securities for twenty thousand pounds, in[-158-]deed! Ha! ha! I have not bills nor bonds in my possession to the amount of three thousand!"  and he laughed wildly. "But I will have them, though  aye, and such ones as shall fully serve my purposes."
    Then he paced the room in a singularly agitated manner.
    "Yes  one more bold stroke, and I shall retrieve myself," he continued. "My good star cannot have altogether deserted me. No  no! These vicissitudes are only temporary. Accursed Lafleur! To think that he should have served me thus! Instead of proceeding to Paris  with the means of following up those schemes which I had combined so well, and in which I had already risked so much  but with such absolute certainties of immense gain,  instead of pursuing my career of success,  to be plundered  robbed at the last moment  and compelled to return to London to raise fresh funds! Then, when in four days I was prepared with the necessary sum once more  with another twenty thousand pounds  to receive letters which convinced me that the delay was fatal, and that all was lost!  Yes  Fortune did indeed persecute me then! But I will be even with her yet. My information concerning the Spanish debt is accurate; and on that ground I can build a fortune far more colossal than the one I have lost. Shall I hesitate, then, in obtaining this money through Tomlinson's agency No  no!"
    Having thus buoyed himself up with those hopes which invariably urge on the gambler  whether at the actual gaming-table or in the public funds (for there is little difference in a moral light between the two modes of speculation),  to put down fresh stakes on the chance aimed at, Greenwood recovered his wonted calmness.
    He busied himself in arranging his papers, and restoring neatness to his writing-table.
    Thus passed the time until six o'clock, when  Filippo entered the room with a letter.
    It was from Tomlinson.
    Greenwood tore it open: the contents were favourable. The stock-broker's friend had agreed to advance any sum up to twenty-five thousand pounds on the terms proposed, and had premised to observe the strictest secrecy in the transaction.
    "The rest now depends upon myself!" ejaculated Greenwood. "Fortune has not altogether deserted me."

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