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Young Mr. Barter's Repentance From "Schwartz" by David Christie Murray

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Mr Bommaney was a British merchant of the highest rectitude and the most spotless reputation. He traded still under the name of Bommaney, Waite, and Co., though Waite had been long since dead, and the Company had gone out of existence in his father's time. The old offices, cramped and inconvenient, in which the firm had begun life eighty years before, were still good enough for Mr. Bommaney, and they had an air of solid respectability which newer and flashier places lacked. The building of which they formed a part stood in Coalporter's Alley, opposite the Church of St. Mildred, and the hum of the City's traffic scarcely sounded in that retired and quiet locality.

Mr. Bommaney himself was a man of sixty, hale and hearty, with a rosy face and white whiskers. He was a broad-shouldered man, inclining to be portly, and he was currently accepted as a man of an indomitable will. There was no particular reason for the popular belief in his determination apart from the fact that it was a favourite boast of his that nothing ever got him down. On all occasions and in all companies he was wont to declare that no conceivable misfortune could really break a man of spirit. He confessed to a pitying sympathy for mealy-willed people (and everybody knew that Bommaney, in spite of his own strength of mind, was one of the kindliest creatures in the world); but, whenever he met a man in trouble, he would clip him by the shoulder, and would say, in his own hearty fashion, 'You must look the thing in the face, my boy. Look it in the face. I'd never let anything break me down.'

Since his reputation for fortitude was as solid and as old-fashioned amongst the people who knew him as his business character itself, it would have come as something of a shock upon any of his friends if he could but have been seen by them, or any credible man amongst them, on a certain afternoon in the April of 1880. He had locked himself in his own room, and, sitting there in a big chair before a businesslike desk, with a great number of docketed papers in pigeon-holes, and a disordered mass of papers strewn before him, the determined Mr. Bommaney, the decided Mr. Bommaney, the Mr. Bommaney whom no misfortune could subdue, was crying, very feebly and quietly, and was mopping his rosy cheeks, and blowing his nose in an utter and unrestraining abandonment to trouble.

There was another fact which would have come upon his friends with an equal shock of surprise if they could but have had it brought home to them. The man who sat unaffectedly crying in the big chair in helpless contemplation of the scattered papers was a hopeless bankrupt, and had seen himself sliding towards bankruptcy for years. When men who knew him wanted business advice, they went to him by preference, and nobody came away empty. He knew the City and its intricacies like a book. He knew who was safe and who was shaky, as if by a kind of instinct, and he knew where and when to invest, and where and when not to invest, as few men did. 'You can't get at me,' he would say; for, old-fashioned as he was, he used a little of the new-fashioned slang to give spice and vigour to his conversation. 'There isn't a move on the board that I don't know.' He advised his friends excellently, and there were perhaps half a score of fairly well-to-do speculative people who had to thank him, and him alone, for the comfort they lived in and the consideration they enjoyed. He had been wise for others all his life, and in his own interests he had always acted like a greenhorn. He talked loudly, he spent freely, he paid his way, he expressed the soundest business maxims, and was as shrewd in detail as he was wise in generalities, and these things made a natural reputation for him: whilst he traded for years at the expense of his capital, and went steadily and surely towards the bottomless gulf of insolvency....