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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER VII. Shows with what ease a man may enter into a commercial speculation, when he has the means and the inclination so to do.

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I had as yet seen nothing of the city; so after
breakfast, not being able to find my good friend Mr.
Lummucks, I ventured to take a stroll through
Broadway alone, to see the sights, and put myself
in the way of fortune. I had not rambled far,
when I caught sight of a little red flag hanging
upon a pole which was stuck out of a shop door,
and hearing a man talking very loud inside, I stepped
in, to see what was going on.

It was a little narrow place, hung round with
lithographic prints, and double barrelled rifles, and
duelling pistols, and other works of art, both instructive
and destructive. There was a counter
in the centre of the shop, and at one end of it, elevated
on a high stool, stood a little bald headed man,
with protuberant black eyes and prominent front
teeth. He had a little ivory hammer in his hand,
which he flourished about with great earnestness,
cyring out all the while, “a hof, a hof, a hof, a
hof,” till at last he struck the counter fiercely
with it, and said, “Mr. Smit takes the lot at

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eighteen and a hof.” There were two or three
gentlemen standing about the counter, but I could
not discover that they took the slightest interest in
what was going on.

“Now, gentlemen,” said the man with the hammer,
“I will give you very great pleasure; you
shall all bless your lucky stars, which has superinduced
you to enter this store at this present time.
I shall now, gentlemen, put up lot number twenty
one, and it must be sold to the highest bidder,
pos-i-tive-ly — it must indeed, upon my honor.
Here, gentlemen, is something worthy the very
highest consideration of connoisseurs, amateurs,
and epicures; it is indeed. You see, gentlemen,
it is a most magnificent rose wood casket, all inlaid
with the mother of pearls and divers other waluable
minerals, very rare to be got or obtained. But,
gentlemen, before I open this casket, and dazzle
your precious eyes with the contents thereof, let
me tell you its history.

“This casket, gentlemen, is the property of a
wirtuous young orphan lady, which lives in the upper
part of the city, who is reduced to the unfortunate
extremity of disposing of a part of her personal
effects, because she done so many charitable
acts to the poor, and therefore it must be sold.
Why don't you bid!”

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So saying, he opened the casket, and emptied
its contents on to the counter; they consisted of a
necklace, a pair of ear rings, a silver bodkin, a
needle case, a musical snuff-box, and a cameo
breast pin. They all looked bright and new, and
for aught that I could discover, were none the
worse for wear.

“Come, gentlemen,” exclaimed the little man,
flourishing his hammer, “why don't you bid! I
shan't take offence at any thing, say two hundred;
one hundred; any thing to start with; say fifty dollars;
the casket alone is worth five times the money.
Any gentleman as wants to make an operation, has
now a beautiful opportunity to make four or five
hundred dollars, by purchasing this splendid article.
Has'nt he, Mr. Isaacs?”

“You may well say that, Mr. Shooda,” said
the gentleman addressed; “any shentleman is a
fool which does'nt buy that bargain at any price.”

The demon of avarice whispered in my ear that
now was my time to turn a penny, and I resolved
to bid for the casket, and so lay the foundation of
my fortune. And then the blood rushed to my
cheek at the base thought of taking the advantage
of a poor orphan girl's necessities to enrich myself;
and then I resolved I would do no such thing.
But as the auctioneer went on setting forth the

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value of the casket, and the low price at which
he would sell it, I reasoned with myself thus: if I
do not buy the casket, another will; and if I do
buy it, and give more for it than another would, of
course I shall do a good deed, and while I enrich
myself, I shall benefit the poor orphan girl. And
then I thought it might possibly belong to the beautiful
young lady, my companion in the coach, for
whom I felt so great a regard, and if it should be
hers, with what pleasure I would restore it to her.
This last thought overcame all my scruples, and I
determined to buy the casket at all hazards.

I am ashamed to confess that, although these
thoughts did pass through my mind, still it was the
desire of gain that influenced me. So easy is it,
when we do a mean action, to flatter ourselves
that it is from good motives we do it.

“Do you think he would take a bid of fifty
dollars?” I asked of the gentleman whom the
auctioneer addressed as Mr. Isaacs.

Mr. Isaacs had a nose both high and long, and
his eyes were very black, but large and heavy;
his hair was black and crispy, and he had a stoop
in his shoulders; he wore a blue frock coat, with
a black velvet collar, and altogether his dress had
a second hand appearance. Upon my putting
this question to him, he drew me aside, and

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whispering in my ear, told me not to bid as high as fifty
at the first going off, although he didn't believe the
auctioneer would sell the casket for less than two or
three hundred dollars; and then, in a very solemn
manner, he advised me not to let the opportunity
slip of buying the casket. And he told me upon
his honor as a gentleman, that he would buy it of
me the very next day at just double the money
which I might give for it, if I should buy it, protesting
that he would bid it off himself, if he had
not left his pocket book at home.

So good an opportunity to make money, I was
fearful might not occur again very soon, and I
resolved to make the most of it. And according
to the advice of Mr. Isaacs, I bid thirty dollars for
the casket.

“For shame, for shame,” exclaimed the auctioneer,
“to bid thirty dollars for a magnificent
article like this.”

I blushed very red, and bid forty.

“Forty, forty, forty, forty, forty, and five, did
you say; five, five, five, five, five.”

I did not hear any body bid five, but as the auctioneer
had said that nods and winks would
be taken as bids, I supposed that some gentleman
had given him a sly wink.

“Forty-five, forty-five, forty-five, forty-five,

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forfive, forty-five,” he exclaimed with astonishing
rapidity, and just as he was on the point of letting
fall his hammer, I bid fifty.

“Fifty, fifty, fifty, fifty, fifty,” he exclaimed
more than fifty times, my heart all the while beating
time to the flourishes of his hammer, 'till it
descended to the counter, and I found myself the
purchaser of the valuable casket, and its contents,
for the very small sum of fifty dollars. I paid for
it immediately, and to make sure of it, wrapped it
up in my pocket handkerchief, and tucked it under
my arm.

Mr. Isaacs said I had made a great purchase,
and tried to persuade me to stop and bid for something
else; but I was too much elated, and in too
great a hurry to get to my chamber, and glut my
eyes with my treasure.

As I left the store, I heard a loud whistle, and
suddenly turning my head, I perceived Mr. Isaacs
with his cheeks distended like a bladder, and his
broad lips screwed up like the mouth of a tightly
drawn purse, whistling with all his might; but
I was so eager to get to my chamber that I did
not turn back to inquire the cause of it.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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