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Book-Fires, Charles the First's. By J. A. FARRER
Extremes, Arcadian. By LANDLEY LEYBURN
From Africa. By GRANT ALLEN
King John, Under. By Alex. C. EWALD, F.S.A
Molière, The Wife of. By GERALD MORIARTY
419 nies. 527 vards 631
nership as a stock and share broker with Mr. Paul Tompkins à pompous, bustling, portly.looking personage, with a bald, domelike head, massive shirt front and general appearance of responsibility. Mr. Tompkins, who was my senior by some thirty years or more, found the clientèle and business experience, whilst I, or rather my father, a retired Army officer, provided the £5,000 capital with which we started. I may as well say at once that those £5,000 were all that I could ever expect to receive from my father, and that they were in fact more than I was strictly entitled to, regard being had to the rights of other members of our family. Having taken offices in Tokenhouse Yard, Mr. Tompkins and I commenced business in September, 1875, under the title of Tompkins and Ashley, Stock and Share Brokers.
From the moment we opened our doors we were busily and merrily at work-indeed rather uproariously so at times. The number of Mr. Tompkins's clients was legion. How or where he got them I am sure I do not know, but, comprising as they did representatives of nearly every order of gentility, they seemed to swarm the offices, or to follow him like the tail of a comet as he made his way to and fro between Tokenhouse Yard and the Stock Exchange, where, on their behalf , whole batches of orders were executed en bloc.
We had three VOL. CCLXVII, NO. 1903
rooms in our offices : a clerks' room ; a private room, where Mr. Tompkins and I sat; and a large outer room for the accommodation of our clients. In the middle of this latter apartment stood an electrical apparatus which kept ticking away from 11 a.m. till 4.30 p.m. while it rolled off on a thin endless slip of paper, called “the tape,” the current prices of stocks and shares. The effects of this instrument on the crowd that stood round it all day were at once various and incessant. Sometimes the whole throng would quiver as though from an electric shock; sometimes there would be a heaving and a swaying in the mass; some pressing forwards with eager exulting faces, others pressing back with muttered expressions of hate or fear; while sometimes, though not often, the concourse, unable to restrain itself, burst into a loud cheer, to the very great scandal, as I then suspected, and subsequently learned, of a firm of Government brokers who occupied the adjoining offices. Mr. Tompkins, if he were present on such occasions, would hold up his hands, saying in a pathetic parental way:
"Oh, gentlemen, gentlemen,"
Whereupon there was usually a stampede to a neighbouring restaurant.
We did, or at least appeared to do, as much business as any six ordinary firms, and for some time I felt very much pleased and elated at being the Mr. Ashley of Tompkins and Ashley.
Gradually, however, I began to doubt the soundness of our business; so many of Mr. Tompkins's clients had a habit of absenting themselves if they lost, without paying their “differences”; then I found that Mr. Tompkins and I were contracting a habit of speculating on our own account; presently, to my intense annoyance, I had reason to think that we were looked upon rather askant in the "House.” Finally, about the beginning of December I was forced to the conclusion that Mr. Tompkins had entirely over-estimated his knowledge of the stock markets, that he had, in fact, no special knowledge of stockbroking whatever ; that his clients were nearly all of them "punters ” ; that my money was nearly gone, and that our firm was looked upon as a “bucket-shop.”
A “punter," I may mention, means a person who speculates for small amounts. At baccarat or on the Turf he operates, generally for shillings, half-crowns, crowns, or other the smallest amount the banker or bookmaker will accept. In this way he is distinguished from the s plunger” who operates for large amounts. A “bucket-shop " is a stockbroker's office which is frequented by and kept for the convenience of “punters.” Such institutions are, I may add, almost invariably owned by what are called "outside brokers," an industrious