Rare Books and Special Collections: Horatio Alger Digital Repository: Thomas Mordaunt's Investment by Rev. Horatio Alger, Jr.
Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: Thomas Mordaunt's Investment.
In: Gleason's Literary Companion. Boston : F. Gleason. Vol. 6, no. 16 (April 22, 1865)
Format: 4 columns ; 28 cm.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's Literary Companion
Location: AP 2 .L546a (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
ONE evening in October, 1850, Thomas Mordaunt, a Boston merchant, was crossing over Cambridge bridge, when his attention was drawn to a young man walking some rods in advance of him. The night was dark and it was with difficulty that he could discern his figure or his movements. An impulse seized him to hasten his steps. It was fortunate that he did so, for the young man stopping suddenly climbed the railing of the bridge, and would have flung himself into the river, had not Mr. Mordaunt hastily seized his arm and prevented him from accomplishing his purpose.
"Rash young man, what would you do?" he demanded hastily.
"Rash young man, what would you do?"
"I would terminate a life which I have wasted," said the young man bitterly.
"If you have wasted your life hitherto, you are about to throw it away utterly now. How is that going to remedy matters?" asked the merchant.
"I am tired of life," said the young man after a pause.
"Because you have not lived properly. Turn over a new leaf. Reform your life and you will soon cease to complain that you are tired of it."
"There was a time when I might have followed your advice, now I cannot."
"I have not a dollar left in the world. I once had a handsome property, now it is all gone."
"You have strength and ability still left, at least."
"Who will lend me a helping hand?"
"And yet you don't know me?" said the young man surprised.
"No, but I will take you on trust."
"You are very kind. I place myself in your hands. What shall I do?"
"First, take my arm and walk home with me. You will pass the night at my house. To-morrow we will talk of your plans."
This proposal was gratefully accepted. The next morning Mr. Mordaunt for the first time had a good view of his visitor. He was a young man, apparently about twenty-five, but his face was pallid and lacked the fresh hue of health. The marks of dissipation were easy to read in his bloodshot eyes and heavy and inflamed eyelids.
"First," said the merchant, "I should like to hear your story "
"Your kindness entitles you to my confidence," said the young man. "My name is Frederic Evans. I was left at twenty one with twenty five thousand dollars, of which I had uncontrolled possession. Instead of embarking in business, and making myself a worthy member of society, I gathered about me a set of young men, and nearly every night was consumed in carousals which were often kept up till morning. The excitement of this life was pleasurable, and I fancied myself happy. At all events I gave myself no time for thought. I need hardly say that I was very popular with the companions who feasted at my expense. My fortune seemed to me large, and I fancied it inexhaustible. A week ago I found that not a dollar of it was left. Four years of lavish expenditure had drained it to the last dollar.
However, I treated the matter lightly. I said to myself,' now it is the turn of my friends. I have lavished money upon them ; I have lent them without asking for repayment. I will go to them."
"What success did you meet with?"
"None at all."
"The first whom I addressed professed much regret at my altered circumstances, but was sorry that he was unable to help me. The second, to whom I had frequently lent money, refused me without ceremony. Another offered to lend me five dollars if I would not apply to him again. My indignation was such that I threw the money in his face. Other applications were equally unsuccessful. I then endeavored to obtain employment. But my appearance was against me. Nobody wanted to employ an intemperate man, and when I promised reformation no one would trust me. Then it was that I framed the desperate resolution which you were the means of thwarting. Now, sir, you have my story. It is for you to say whether you regret interfering with me last evening or not."
"Far from it," said the merchant encouragingly. You are yet young. Your life may be redeemed. Indeed it is your duty to expiate your past follies by a purer course of living, Now what are your plans?"
"I should like to go somewhere where I am not known. There I can start fair. Here I should be surrounded by my old temptations."
"I think your views are wise and judicious. What do you say to California?"
"The very place," said young Evans eagerly.
"Be it so. I will lend you five hundred dollars. This will pay your passage out, and defray your expenses till you can get something to do."
The light of a new born hope sparkled in the eyes of the young man.
"But this is on one condition."
"That you promise to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors."
"Draw up a pledge," said the young man promptly, "and I will sign it. It has wrought me harm enough in the past. It is my only salvation."
Ten days afterwards Frederic Evans was on his way to California, where in due time he landed.
In 1850, as it will be remembered, California was a new country. The time of its gold mines was recent. From all parts of the country eager eyes were turned toward this modern Eldorado, where riches were to be acquired on the easiest terms.
Frederic Evans at once made his way to the mines. He found that the stories which he had heard had not been exaggerated. At that early period fortunes were sometimes made in less than a year. They were sometimes lost in a day. It was a strange, unsettled condition of society. Far from the restraints of civilization, crime and dissipation were fearfully prevalent. The results of a year's hard labor were often lost at the gaming-table in an hour. Disappointment and loss often led to quarrels and bloodshed, sometimes to robbery attended with violence.
From the wild scenes around him, Frederic Evans kept himself steadily aloof. He had suffered too much already. At times, weary with his day's labor, and having no other way to occupy his time, he was tempted to indulge in the dangerous recreation. But the thought of his promise, of his obligations to Mr. Mordaunt for the life which but for him would have been sacrificed, withheld him. He listened composedly to the sneers of big companions, and held on his way.
Let us now return to Mr. Mordaunt. He was a wealthy merchant, extensively engaged in foreign trade. His career had been a singularly successful one. His prosperity had been almost uninterrupted for a period of many years. It might have been faith in his lucky star that led him to embark in a variety of enterprises too great for his capital.
In the year 1857 there came a sudden commercial crisis, which like a great tidal wave swept over the country, carrying into utter ruin many a firm long established and generally regarded as secure against any assault. There were many others which reeled before the shock, and for a time seemed wavering between life and ruin.
Among these was the firm of Mordaunt & Co. In ordinary times they would have been quite secure. But at this time the mercantile community, alarmed for their own safety, had grown cautious, and denied to Mr. Mordaunt the aid which he needed to carry him through.
One morning he sat in his counting-room in despair. Heavy bills matured that day which he had no means of meeting. Failure seemed inevitable.
"This is the end of thirty years activity," he said gloomily. "But hard as it is, there seems to be no way of escape, I must submit."
It was at this moment that a stranger entered his counting-room unannounced. Mr. Mordaunt did not recognize him. He was somewhat over thirty, with a face browned by exposure to a southern sun, compact, sinewy, and healthful. His face was prepossessing, and his whole manner frank and courteous.
"Have you business with me?" asked Mr. Mordaunt wearily.
"I wish to inquire how you are affected by this crisis."
"Do you ask as a friend or an enemy?" inquired Mr. Mordaunt suspiciously.
"As a friend, most emphatically."
"Then," said the merchant, "I have no hesitation in saying, that unless I can obtain the use of twenty thousand dollars before two o'clock, I shall be bankrupt. That would enable me to weather the storm."
"Will you give me a pen?" said the stranger.
"There, sir, take that and use it," he said after a moment's pause.
"A cheque for twenty thousand dollars!" exclaimed Mr. Mordaunt in excitement. This is salvation. But why are you so kind to me? How have I deserved it?"
"Seven years ago," said the young man, "you saved my life, and put me on the road to prosperity. I determined to repay the debt if I were ever able. To-day brings me the long hoped for opportunity."
The merchant grasped the hand of the young man cordially.
"I accept your assistance," he said, "on condition that you become a partner in the firm which you have rescued from ruin. I can promise that it will be for your advantage, since this sum is but a trifle to the amount of our assets."
My story is finished. The bread which the merchant had cast upon the waters had come back to him after many days. But it was his greatest satisfaction that he had rescued a young man from destruction, and led him back from wrong courses to a useful and honorable life.