Chapter XIX: News from the Urals

“Misther Fugger,” he cried, “you’re shust the man I want to see. My Gott, vot is to become of us all? Vot is to become of de diamond trade ven one can pick them up like cockles on the sea shore?”

“We must wait for details,” the great financier said phlegmatically. His fortune was so enormous that it mattered little to him whether the report was true or false.

“Details! It is nothing but details,” cried the little Jew. “The papers is full of them. I vish to the Lord that that Langworthy had proke his neck in the Ural Mountains before he got up to any such games. Vat business had he to go examining gravel and peeping about in such places as them. Nobody that’s any good would ever go to the Ural Mountains at all.”

“It won’t hurt you,” Fugger said; “you’ll simply have to pay less for your stones and sell them cheaper after they are cut. It won’t make much difference in the long run.”

“Von’t it, by Joves! Why, man, I’ve got over a hundred shtones on my hands now. Vat am I going to do vid ’em.”

“Ah, that’s a bad job. You must make up your mind to lose on them.”

“Von’t you buy them yourself, Mr. Fugger?” asked the Hebrew, in an insinuating voice. “Maybe this here story will all turn out wrong. S’elp me bob I gave three thousand for the lot, and you shall have them for two. Let’s have a deal, my tear Mr. Fugger, do?”

“No more for me, thank you,” Fugger said with decision. “As to the story being wrong, I have telegraphed to Rotterdam, and they have sent on a trusty man. He’ll be weeks, however, before we hear from him.”

“Here’s Mr. Girdlestone, the great Mr. Girdlestone,” cried Goldschmidt, perceiving our worthy merchant of Fenchurch Street among the crowd. “Oh, Misther Girdlestone, I’ve got diamonds here what is worth three thousand pounds, and you shall have them for two—you shall, by chingo, and we’ll go together now and get them?”

“Don’t pester me!” said Girdlestone, brushing the little Jew aside with his long, bony arm. “Can I have a word with you, Fugger?”

“Certainly,” replied the diamond dealer. Girdlestone was a very well-known man upon ‘Change, and one who was universally respected and looked up to.

“What do you think about this report?” he asked, in a confidential voice. “Do you imagine that it will affect prices in Africa?”

“Affect prices! My dear sir, if it proves true it will ruin the African fields. The mere report coming in a circumstantial fashion will send prices down fifty per cent.”

“As much as that!” said the merchant, with an excellent affectation of surprise. “I am anxious about it, for my boy is out there. It was a hobby of his, and I let him go. I trust he will not be bitten.”

“He is much more likely to do the biting,” remarked Fugger bluntly. He had met Ezra Girdlestone in business more than once, and had been disagreeably impressed by the young gentleman’s sharpness.

“Poor lad!” said his father. “He is young, and has had little experience as yet. I hope all is well with him!” He shook his head despondently, and walked slowly homewards, but his heart beat triumphantly within him, for he was assured now that the report would influence prices as he had foreseen, and the African firm reap the benefit of their daring speculation.

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