Strike, and spare not. What is your scheme?"

"To buy the wool crop--deliverable in sixty days."

"What, the whole of it?"

"The whole of it."

"No, I was not quite out of the reach of surprises, after all. Why, how you talk! Do you know what our crop is going to foot up?"

"Two and a half million sterling--maybe a little more."

"Well, you've got your statistics right, any way. Now, then, do you know what the margins would foot up, to buy it at sixty days?"

"The hundred thousand pounds I came here to get."

"Right, once more. Well, dear me, just to see what would happen, I wish you had the money. And if you had it, what would you do with it?"

"I shall make two hundred thousand pounds out of it in sixty days."

"You mean, of course, that you might make it if----"

"I said 'shall'."

"Yes, by George, you did say 'shall'! You are the most definite devil I ever saw, in the matter of language. Dear, dear, dear, look here! Definite speech means clarity of mind. Upon my word I believe you've got what you believe to be a rational reason, for venturing into this house, an entire stranger, on this wild scheme of buying the wool crop of an entire colony on speculation. Bring it out--I am prepared--acclimatized, if I may use the word. Why would you buy the crop, and why would you make that sum out of it? That is to say, what makes you think you----"

"I don't think--I know."

"Definite again. How do you know?"

"Because France has declared war against Germany, and wool has gone up fourteen per cent. in London and is still rising."

"Oh, in-deed? Now then, I've got you! Such a thunderbolt as you have just let fly ought to have made me jump out of my chair, but it didn't stir me the least little bit, you see. And for a very simple reason: I have read the morning paper. You can look at it if you want to. The fastest ship in the service arrived at eleven o'clock last night, fifty days out from London. All her news is printed here. There are no war- clouds anywhere; and as for wool, why, it is the low-spiritedest commodity in the English market. It is your turn to jump, now . . . . Well, why, don't you jump? Why do you sit there in that placid fashion, when----"

"Because I have later news."

"Later news? Oh, come--later news than fifty days, brought steaming hot from London by the----"

"My news is only ten days old."

"Oh, Mun-chausen, hear the maniac talk! Where did you get it?"

"Got it out of a shark."

"Oh, oh, oh, this is too much! Front! call the police bring the gun-- raise the town! All the asylums in Christendom have broken loose in the single person of----"

"Sit down! And collect yourself. Where is the use in getting excited? Am I excited? There is nothing to get excited about. When I make a statement which I cannot prove, it will be time enough for you to begin to offer hospitality to damaging fancies about me and my sanity."

"Oh, a thousand, thousand pardons! I ought to be ashamed of myself, and I am ashamed of myself for thinking that a little bit of a circumstance like sending a shark to England to fetch back a market report----"

"What does your middle initial stand for, sir?"

"Andrew. What are you writing?"

"Wait a moment. Proof about the shark--and another matter. Only ten lines. There--now it is done. Sign it."

"Many thanks--many. Let me see; it says--it says oh, come, this is interesting! Why--why--look here! prove what you say here, and I'll put up the money, and double as much, if necessary, and divide the winnings with you, half and half. There, now--I've signed; make your promise good if you can. Show me a copy of the London Times only ten days old."

"Here it is--and with it these buttons and a memorandum book that belonged to the man the shark swallowed. Swallowed him in the Thames, without a doubt; for you will notice that the last entry in the book is dated 'London,' and is of the same date as the Times, and says, 'Ber confequentz der Kreigeseflarun, reife ich heute nach Deutchland ab, aur bak ich mein leben auf dem Ultar meines Landes legen mag'----, as clean native German as anybody can put upon paper, and means that in consequence of the declaration of war, this loyal soul is leaving for home to-day, to fight.

Following the Equator Page 54

Mark Twain

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