Read CHAPTER TWENTY ONE - Going shares. of Blind Policy , free online book, by George Manville Fenn, on ReadCentral.com.

Mr Roach confessed to being an admirer of the fair sex; and consequent upon his position, not from any special attraction of mind or person, the butler’s advances were in more than one instance favourably received; but he also confessed, in the strictest personal confidence, to a feeling of jealousy against Arthur.

“He’s big, and he’s not bad-looking, but he’s very weak and young, and there’s a want of manly tone about him.  I can’t see why they should make so much fuss over the fellow.”

“They” embraced the lady members of the Clareborough household staff; and in spite of what the butler might say, Arthur was distinctly high in favour and enjoyed his popularity.

There were reasons, of course, more than the great display of affability, and one day Mr Roach took his fellow-servant seriously to task.

“Look here, Orthur, my lad,” he said confidentially; “you’re having a fine old time of it just now, but recollect this:  the sex is soft, and smooth, and pleasant, and as you may say sweet, but don’t you make a mistake and think that girls are fools.”

“I don’t,” said Arthur, complacently ­“Old boy’s a bit jealous,” he added to himself.

“Then don’t act as if you did.  They’re sharp enough, and before long they’ll begin talking.  One of ’em ’ll be jealous of you taking out another, and then out’ll come the claw from the soft paws, and there’ll be a row.”

“Well, they must settle it among themselves if there is.”

“But don’t you see that the disappointed one that you’ve made an enemy ’ll begin to talk nasty-like and she’ll know what your wages are.”

“Eh?”

“That’s it, my boy; she’ll be wanting to know how you can be treating some of ’em to music-halls, and paying for cabs and railway fares, and supper afterwards, on five pound a quarter.”

“Dash it!” cried Arthur.

“Yes, that’s it, my lad.  You and me’s doing very nicely just now; don’t spoil a good thing.  See what I mean?”

“Yes, I see what you mean, old chap,” said Arthur, who had suddenly become sobered.

“That’s right.  You see, you gave Maria Blay a gold watch.”

“Only a second-’and ’un, and I bought the pawn-ticket cheap.”

“Maybe, but there’s a big sound about a gold watch.  Then you gave cook a brooch, and Betsy Dellow a gold ring, and it ain’t wise, my lad, it ain’t wise.  We’re on the road to fortune, so don’t you get looking back for the sake of a bit of nonsense, or you and me may have to part.  Don’t do foolish things.”

“No, Mr Roach, I won’t, sir.  I’m very sorry, and I’ll be a bit more careful.”

“That’s right, Orthur,” said the butler, importantly.  “I shouldn’t like for anything to come between us two.”

“Of course not, sir.  It wouldn’t do,” cried the footman, eagerly.

“Got anything new?”

“Well, no, Mr Roach, sir.  I haven’t seen the chance of a tip lately.”

The butler smiled triumphantly.

“You don’t mean to say you have, sir?”

“But I do, Orthur,” he replied in a hoarse whisper.  “It isn’t Mr Rob’s or Mr Paddy’s this time, but a put-up thing of the guv’nor’s.”

Arthur whistled in his excitement.

“It means a big stroke, Orthur.  I’ve got the tip, and if you and me’s got the pluck to do it we’re made men.”

“Oh, we’ve got the pluck,” said the footman, huskily.  “What’s the ’ orse?”

“Not a horse at all, my lad.  It’s a company.  They’re working it to rights, and I’ve found out all about it, Orthur.  I’ve seen the letters.  They’re going to blow the thing up full of wind, and buy up all the shares they can.  Then when the thing’s at the height, they sell, and make thousands.”

“Phew!” whistled the footman.

“S’pose we make a couple o’ thou, a-piece; that’s better than backing horses.”

“Yes; but could we?”

“Don’t they, my lad?  Isn’t all this place run that way?  Why shouldn’t we do it as well as them?  They ain’t so precious clever after all.”

“Not as I see,” said the younger man, contemptuously.

“Then what do you say?  Shall we venture?”

“I’m on,” said Arthur, eagerly.  “How much does it want?”

“Two hundred a-piece.  How much have you got?”

The footman gave him a curious look, and then said drily ­

“Nothing at all.”

“Why, you don’t mean to say you’ve spent all we’ve made, Arthur?”

“Every penny.  Haven’t you?”

The butler was silent, and frowned; but his companion followed up his question.

“Well, why don’t you answer a fellow?”

“I haven’t exactly spent it, Orthur,” said the butler at last, coughing to clear his voice.

“Well, what have you done with it?”

“’Orses.”

“Without saying a word to me?”

“Well, I didn’t know I was bound to tell you everything, Orthur.”

“Well, I did; and it serves you right.  If you’d gone by my advice and taken my tips you’d ha’ won.”

“Yes, it was a mistake,” said the butler, humbly.  “I was tempted to have just one little flutter on my own account, Orthur.”

“Well, don’t you do it again.  That’s worse than giving the gals presents, old man.  Then I suppose it will have to be your uncle again?”

“Yes, Orthur; but it’s a pity we couldn’t manage about a key for that door.”

“Ah! it is; but it ain’t to be done, only with a big hammer and wedges, I’m afraid.  I’m trying still, though, to get a key made, and it may turn up trumps.  Never mind; raise something on what you can take.”

“But it won’t be enough, my boy.”

“Never mind; let’s do what we can.  A little’s more than none.  Half a loaf’s better than no bread, old man.”

“Very well, my boy; I’ll take what I can to-night.”

“I say, you’re sure this’ll turn out all right?”

“Certain.  It’s as safe as safe.  I’ll make him let me have a little more ­put something else up ­and then we’ll take all the shares we can get.”

“And about selling out at the right time?”

“You leave that to me,” said the butler, smiling confidently.  “Look here.”

He took out a letter and held it to his companion, who read it with his face lighting up, and clapped it back in the butler’s hands.

“That’s right, isn’t it?” said Roach.

“Splendid, old man.  But stop; why, that’s your writing.”

“Of course it is; I copied it.”

“Oh, I see.  Well, then, that’s all right.  Go on ahead.”

“But I wish it wasn’t that centre-piece again.  I’m always afraid of its being wanted.”

“Oh, it won’t be wanted,” said the footman, impatiently.

“If you could only have managed about that key.”

“Well, give me time.  I say, that was a narrow squeak, when the old woman nearly caught us.”

“Yes, it was horrible,” said the butler, wiping his forehead.  “Fancy her telling Jemmy, and him sending for us to come up in the lib’ry afore the lot of them!”

“Easy enough for him to send,” said the footman, with a grin, “but it would have taken a lot of pulling to get us there.”

“Yes, Orthur, my boy, the game would have been up.”

“And before we’d made our pile, old man.  There, you want a glass of wine to pull you together.  You mustn’t go and see our dear old relative looking like that.”

“No,” said Roach, brightening up; “that would not do, Orthur.  The old woman did not find us out.”

“I held the door too fast for her, and a miss is as good as a mile, eh, guv’nor?  I say, old man, don’t you think we might wet it?”

The butler smiled blandly.

“Well, just one glass wouldn’t be amiss, my boy.  What shall it be?”

“Can’t beat a glass o’ port, old man.  What do you say?”

“I say ditto, my dear boy,” and the butler, smiling, drew out his keys, unlocked a cupboard, lifted out a cobwebby bottle with a dab of whitewash on its end, and with a great deal of ceremony drew the cork, while Arthur fetched and gave a finishing touch to a couple of glasses as the cork was presented to him.

But it was only to smell, and Arthur inhaled the fragrance and sighed.  Then the rich wine came gurgling out into the glasses, and these latter were raised.

“Well, old man, here’s success to speculation,” said Arthur.

“Suck-cess to speculation,” said the butler, and the glasses were slowly drained.  Lips were smacked and the glasses refilled.  “A very fine wine, Orthur.”

“Tip-top.  How much is there of it?”

“Over six hundred dozen, my lad.”

“Well, we’ll help ’em drink it, old man.  It’s fine.  Sets a fellow thinking.  Now, look here.  We’re not going to stand still, eh?”

“Not a bit of it, dear boy.  We’ll make our hay while the sun shines.”

“Ah, yes,” said the butler, filling another glass of the port; “and some people shoot a long time before folks get hit, eh, Orthur?”

“That’s so, guv’nor; you’ve only to keep going, and the chances are that they can’t hit you at all.”

The result of the emptying of that bottle of wine was that the gold epergne and several other pieces of plate went into the charge of the none too particular descendant of the Medici, a gentleman who, having been exceedingly unfortunate in carrying on what he called a square trade, had of late gone in for the risky and round, with the result that he was making money fast, and calming his conscience by chuckling to himself and saying ­

“What harm is there, so long as you’re not found out?”

That evening Mr Roach returned with a sufficient amount to dip slightly into the new speculation in which the Clareboroughs were engaged, but he did not sleep any better for that.  He dreamed about brokers who dealt in stock, and by a steady descent of thought he went on to brokers who put executions into houses.  They suggested debtors’ prisons ­debtors’ prisons brought up Holloway, and Holloway the criminal side ­the criminal side, penal Portland, with irons, and costumes ornamented with broad arrows, shortcut hair, chain-gangs, and an awakening in a violent perspiration.

Mr Roach had no appetite next morning, but on behalf of footman Arthur and himself, a couple of hundred pounds were invested in the shares of the gaseous company which had nothing whatever to do with gas.