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Dolly Hardcastle's Rosebuds, A City Idyll by Charles E. Pearce

 

Jack Cameron's office was a handsome apartment. It was approached by a broad staircase, the balusters of which were impressive from their solidity and design. The office door had a species of ornamental pediment over it, and the room itself had panelled walls of a pale green, a chimneypiece of portentous size, and a highly ornamental ceiling.

Up the staircase tripped a little lady—a pleasant vision of a silk blouse, butter-coloured lace, golden hair, fawn gloves, and tan bottines, leaving behind her an atmosphere redolent of the latest fashionable perfume mingled with the more delicate scent of the Marechal Niel roses in her corsage.

She knocked at the door, and, as there was no response from within, turned the handle.

“May I come in, please?” she said laughingly.

A young man was standing in a corner of the room opposite the telegraphic machine, from which the “tape” was issuing with a monotonous click. On this “tape”—a narrow strip of paper seemingly endless, which fell on the floor in serpentine coils—were inscribed at regular intervals some cabalistic characters unintelligible to the general public, but full of meaning to the initiated.

He turned at the sound of the voice. “What! Dolly?” he exclaimed.

“Yes, Jack; didn't you expect me?”

“Of course—of course,” answered Jack Cameron, rather confusedly.

The girl crossed the room, and, taking both the hands of the young man, looked into his eyes.

“You are worried,” said she softly.

“Oh, only a little. One is bound to have worries in business, especially when the market's feverish. But I'm awfully glad you've come. I shall forget all my bothers now you are here.”

His tone brightened, and the shadow that was beginning to steal over the girl's face disappeared.

They were engaged. The wedding-day was fixed for the following week; naturally there was much to do in the way of house furnishing, and the bride elect was happy. Shopping before marriage has a distinct charm of its own. The feminine mind attaches to each purchase an ideal pleasure. Then there is the special joy of being entrusted by her future husband with money, and the pride of showing him how well she can bargain.

Jack Cameron was a stockbroker, and had done fairly well in South Africans. But like a good many others he had kept his “Narbatos” too long, and he saw his way to lose some money; not enough to seriously damage his stability, but enough to inconvenience him at this especial time when he was thinking of taking a wife.

Dolly Hardcastle knew nothing at all about this. Indeed, she knew nothing about stockbroking. It seemed to her simply a pleasant, light, gentlemanly profession, consisting principally in standing in Throgmorton Street, with one's hat tilted backwards, smoking cigarettes, eating oranges or strawberries according to the season, and talking about cricket or football.

This was the first time she had been to Jack's office, and she was prettily curious about everything—especially the telephone. She was not satisfied until Jack had shown her how to work the apparatus.

The “ticker” was also an all-absorbing object of attention The continuous “click, click,” and the issuing of the tape without any apparent motive power, had something of the supernatural about it. Dolly looked at the white strips with wonder.

“What does this say, Jack? N-a-r-Narbatos, 2 ½. What does it mean?”

Alas! Jack Cameron knew too well what it meant. Narbatos had gone down with a “slump.” When Miss Hardcastle called he was debating whether he should sell. This quotation decided him.

“Dolly,” said he hurriedly, “do you mind me leaving you for five minutes alone while I run into the 'House'?”

No, Dolly did not mind. Business, of course, must be attended to. Jack seized his hat, snatched a kiss, and vanished.

“Dear old Jack,” said Dolly, seating herself at the office table and staring at the ticker. “I wonder whether he has many callers? Whatever shall I do if anybody comes?”

She was considering this matter, with the assistance of the paper-knife, pressed against her pretty lips, when the sharp ting, ting, ting, of the telephone startled her.

Somebody wanted to speak to Jack. It might be important. Hadn't she better go to the telephone? It was so nice to be able to help her future husband.

“I wonder whether I could imitate Jack's voice?”

She went to the telephone and did exactly as Jack had instructed her to do. She heard a sepulchral voice say, “Are you there?”

“Yes,” said Dolly boldly.

“I have an offer of 5,000 Rosebuds. Will you take the lot, as you said you would when we were talking about them the other day? Wire just come.”

“Five thousand rosebuds!” cried Dolly, with flashing eyes and cheeks like the flowers just mentioned. “Then Jack is going to have the church decorated after all. Darling fellow; he hasn't even forgotten the wire for fastening them.”

The man at the other end was evidently impatient, for he shouted that Jack must decide at once. As the matter was one which concerned Dolly, she had no hesitation what answer to give.

“Yes,” she declared, in as bass a tone as she could assume.

She felt half inclined to waltz round the room, but she was afraid of disturbing the occupant of the office below. Gradually she sobered down, and by the time Jack Cameron returned she was quite sedate.

Jack had sold his Narbatos, and had lost £500 over the deal. But it was no use crying over spilt milk. The immediate effect was that he would have to be very economical over his honeymoon expenses. However, he wouldn't say anything about the matter to Dolly that day. He would carry out his promise—give her a nice luncheon at Birch's.

And so, putting on a mask of gaiety to conceal his real feelings, he piloted his fiancée across Broad Street and Cornhill.

That luncheon took a long time. Basking in the smiles of his Dolly, he gradually forgot stocks, shares, backwardations, and contangoes. Then, when they came from Birch's, Dolly wanted to see the new frescoes at the Royal Exchange, and she had to be obeyed.

It was quite three o'clock when he bethought himself that, though wooing was very pleasant, he had several important letters to write, and must return to his office.

“Thank you, Jack, dear, for being so nice to me to-day,” whispered Dolly, as they strolled towards the entrance of the Exchange; “and thank you especially for letting me have the church decorated. The roses will make the dear old place look sweetly pretty.”

Jack stared. Had his Dolly taken leave of her senses?

“Decorations—roses!” he exclaimed, mechanically. “I don't understand.”

“Ah, that's very clever of you,” laughed Dolly, “pretending you know nothing about it. You wanted to surprise me.”

“Upon my word I had no intention of having the church decorated. I should like to please you, of course, but——”

Well, he had already decided that the church decoration was one of the expenses he would do without.

“Come now, confess. Haven't you ordered a quantity of rosebuds? You must have forgotten. Anyway, it's all right, for while you were away from your office there came a message through the telephone asking whether you'd take 5,000 rosebuds you were talking to somebody about the other day and of course I said yes. Gracious! Jack, dear, what is the matter?”

“Rosebuds—telephone. Of course, I see what has happened,” faltered the young stockbroker. “Oh, Dolly—Dolly.”

“What have I done? Nothing very serious, I hope. If you don't want to have the church decorated, why, I—I—shan't mind very—very much.”

“It isn't that at all,” said Jack, looking very queer. “Of course you didn't know. Unluckily the message didn't mean flowers, but shares in the 'Rosebud Gold Mining Company.'”

“Oh!”

It was quite true that Jack had contemplated speculating in “Rosebud” shares, but he had heard some disquieting rumours about the mine, and had decided not to touch them. And here he was the prospective owner of 5,000! Only two days before the quotation was 10s., with a tendency to drop. To take them up was impossible, to sell would mean a loss.

“Dolly,” said he hurriedly, “let me see you into an omnibus.” And, after a hasty farewell, he packed the young lady into a Kensington 'bus, and rushed to the Mining door of the Stock Exchange in Broad Street.

“What are Rosebuds?” he inquired excitedly of a well-known stockbroker.

“15_s. 6_d., buyers, 14_s. 6_d., sellers.”

And they were 7_s. 6_d., 7_s., when the market opened that morning. What did it mean, and at what price had he, or rather, had Dolly, bought them?

He knew from whom the telephonic message had come. He dashed into his office and rang up the man, a member of a West End firm of brokers.

“Eight shillings,” was the reply. “Congratulate you. Your profit already will pay for your honeymoon and a little more besides. Of course you'll sell. It's a market rig, and I happen to be in the know.”

Sell? Of course he would. A profit of over £1,800 would recoup him for his loss of that morning, and leave him a handsome balance in the bargain.

“Dolly, dearest,” he whispered that night, “the rosebuds are all right. The old church shall be smothered in them from end to end.”

And so it was, but like a prudent man he never explained that but for Dolly's unconscious assistance there might have been no roses and perhaps very little honeymoon. He was afraid Dolly might want to help him again!

 
 
 

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