We have been talking shop as usual, Mr. Bateman,” said Lady Severn. “I wonder if there’s another drawing-room in London where shop and shop only is talked!”

“To say that shop is talked in a drawing-room is only another way of saying that the people in that drawing-room never cease to be interesting,” said Amber. “So long as people talk of what they know they are interesting and shop is the shortest way of describing what people understand. So how is your shop, Mr. Bateman?”

“Flourishing,” said Mr. Bateman, with something of a Scotch accent. “Miss Amber, I bless the day when you suggested that I should take up the advertising business. I had no idea that it was a business that required the exercise of so much imagination.”

“Have you made much money to-day?” enquired Amber.

“I think I must hurry away,” said Josephine. “We have a political party to-night, and I’m tired of seeing Amber’s friends flaunting their wealth before us. If Mr. Galmyn made eight pounds in the course of the morning and he is a poet, what must Mr. Bateman have made?”

“And he is a Scotchman,” said Mr. Bateman pleasantly.

“Yes, that finish was in my mind I must confess,” said Josephine. “Do not be led into dishonesty by any one, Mr. Galmyn; you will be far happier as a humble lyric poet with the consciousness of being honest than as a great financier with an imaginary mine up your sleeve.”

“Go away, before you do any further mischief,” cried Amber. “Don’t believe her, Arthur. If you ever have a gold mine up your sleeve, we’ll float it between us.”

“And we’ll let Miss West in on the ground floor,” said Arthur. “That’s another good phrase that I’ve got hold of already. The ‘ground floor.’”

“What does it mean?” asked Lady Severn, when Josephine had left the room. “Does it mean anything in particular?”

“It means joining a thing at par,” replied Arthur sadly. “Oh, yes! I’m getting into the swing of the thing. Perhaps I may know what contango means before another week has gone by.”

“I should dearly like to know what contango means,” said Amber sympathetically. It was her sympathetic manner that made a word or two from her change the whole course of certain young lives—for a time. “I was asking you about your prospects, Mr. Bateman,” she added, turning to the latest addition to her circle. “I do hope that you are making your way.”

“Making my way?” said he gravely, and then he gave a little laugh—a cautious little laugh, as of feeling his way to ascertain how far he might safely go in the direction of hilarity. “Making my—oh, yes; I can’t complain. I see a great future for my business if it is developed on the right lines, and if too many adventurers do not take it up.”

“It requires too much imagination to turn out a success in everybody’s hands,” said Amber.

“Imagination,” said he. “My dear Miss Amber, it requires nothing but imagination. In these days advertising is the greatest power that exists. It is, counting all its branches, the most important British industry. There’s nothing that cannot be accomplished by discreet advertising.”

“You can sell a soap by it at any rate,” said Lady Severn.

“Oh, soap selling and pill selling are too easy to need any of the more delicate methods,” said Mr. Bateman. “Everybody—nearly everybody—wants soap and no one can live without medicine—some people live on nothing else. Of course I don’t trouble myself over the rough and tumble advertising of drugs. As I told you last week I intend to proceed on a higher plane. I leave posters and sandwich men and other antediluvian methods for others. I am determined never to forget that I am an artist and that I was once in a cavalry regiment.”

“Have you struck out anything new since you told us of your scheme for pushing things on by holding them up to ridicule?” asked Amber.

“Oh, you allude to what I did for the Technical School of Literature. You know, of course, that I only got that ridiculed into notice because of the interest you took in it, Miss Amber. But I’ve undertaken to see a young chap into Parliament by the same means. He is really such a foolish young man I believe that nothing could keep him out of Parliament in the long run; but he wants to get in at the next General Election, so we haven’t much time to spare. I got him to make a Vegetarian Speech a fortnight ago, and then I arranged with a number of excellent newspapers to ridicule all that he had said. They are at it to-day, all over the country.”

“His name is Thornleigh and he said that no one could wear leather boots and remain a Christian,” cried Amber.

“There, you see,” said Mr. Bateman proudly. “He has already become known to you—yes, and he shall be known to every man, woman and child in England. The Vegetarians are taking him up and he’ll become more ridiculous every day until his name is a by-word. You can’t keep a man out of Parliament whose name is a by-word throughout the length and breadth of the country. Then I’ve a young woman who simply wants to get her name into the papers. It’s marvellous how universal this aspiration is. Anyhow I think I can promise her a good move.”

“She has only to kill a baby,” suggested Mr. Galmyn in a flash of inspiration.

“No more brilliant suggestion could be made,” said Mr. Bateman. “But it does more credit to your heart than to you head, Galmyn, my friend. If you sit down and give the matter that thoughtful consideration it deserves, I think you will agree with me that the goal aimed at can be reached by equally legitimate means and with less risk. I am going to put up the young woman at the next meeting of the County Council’s Licensing Committee to oppose the renewal of any singing and dancing licenses whatsoever. That is the least expensive and most effective way of pushing forward a nonentity with aspirations. She will soon come to be looked upon as an intelligent woman, and the newspapers will publish her opinion upon the conduct of the recent campaign as well as upon the management of children.”

“You don’t think that you are too sanguine, Mr. Bateman,” suggested Lady Severn.

“I prefer to understate rather than exaggerate the possibilities of such a step as I have suggested, Lady Severn,” said Mr. Bateman. “And moreover I will do my best to prevent my client from writing a novel. Writing a novel rather gives away the show. Then another client whom I have just secured to-day is the mother of two very ordinary daughters. The mother is vulgar and wealthy, and the daughters wear birds in their toques. They know no one in Society and yet before six months have gone by you will find that no column of society gossip will be considered complete that does not contain some reference to their movements, and they will probably marry baronets—perhaps peers. I have also got on my books a young American lady, who has set her heart on a peer, poor thing!”

“Poor thing? does that refer to the lady or to the peer?” asked Amber.

“Possibly to both, Miss Amber. Anyhow I’m going to start the campaign by denying on authority that any engagement exists between the young lady and a still younger Duke. Now I need scarcely say that the desire to know more about a young lady who is not engaged to marry a Duke is practically universal. Well, I’ll take good care to let the public know more about my client, and she may be engaged to marry the Duke after all—perhaps she may even marry a member of the Stock Exchange itself. But you mustn’t suppose that my clients are exclusively ladies.”

“Ladies? ladies? oh, no, Mr. Bateman, I am sure we should never suppose that they were ladies,” said Lady Severn.

“They are not,” said Mr. Bateman. “Only a few days ago an honest but obscure tradesman placed himself in my hands. The fact is that he has laid in an absurdly large stock of High Church literature as well as ornaments, and he cannot get rid of them. The stupid man has not acumen enough to perceive that all he has got to do in order to get his name into every paper in the Kingdom, with a portrait in the Weeklies and a stereo-block in the Evening editions, is to disturb a Low Church congregation, and insist on being prosecuted as a brawler. If he succeeds in getting prosecuted into popularity he may double his already large stock and yet be certain of getting rid of it all within a week of his first appearance at the Police Court.”

“You are certainly making an art of the business, Mr. Bateman,” said Amber. “I had no idea when I suggested to you the possibilities of an advertising agency that you would develop it to such an extent.”

“Nor had I, Miss Amber. But I have really only reported progress to you in a few of the cases I have now before me. I have said nothing about the lady manicurist to whom I am giving a show by means of an action for libel; nor have I told you of the tooth paste to which I am going to give a start through the legitimate agency of a breach of promise case. The falling out between the two litigants—whom I may mention incidentally——”

“Dentally,” suggested Mr. Galmyn in a low tone.

“I beg your pardon. Oh, yes, of course. Well, dentally—to be sure, it’s a tooth paste—yes, and incidentally, are the proprietors of the article—their difference arose not upon the actual merits of the tooth paste, for every love letter that will be read in court will contain a handsome acknowledgment of the fact that the article is superior to any in the market—no, the misunderstanding arose through—as the counsel for the defence will allege—the lady’s head having been completely turned by the compliments which she received from her friends upon the marvellous change in her appearance since she was induced to use the Tivoli Toothicum, the new preparation for the teeth and gums. Oh, believe me, the ordinary system of advertising is obsolete. By the way, I wonder if you know any one who is acquainted with a young Australian lately come to London. His name is Mr. Winwood—Pierce Winwood.”

“Why, Guy Overton was talking to us to-day about this very person,” said Amber. “Is it possible that he has placed himself in your hands, Mr. Bateman?”

“Not yet—not yet. I only heard about him yesterday. I hope that he will enter his name on my books. I am very anxious to get a good Colonial Clientele. The way the chances of first-class Colonials have been frittered away in this country makes the heart of any one with the true feelings of an Imperialist to bleed. I know that I can do everything for this Mr. Winwood, but, of course, though I can advertise others, I cannot advertise myself—no, I can only trust to my friends to do that for me.”

“So that on the whole you have your hands pretty full just now?” said Amber.

“Pretty full? My dear Miss Amber, if I were engaged in no other branch of my business but the complete prospectus list, I should still have my hands full. I did not mention this list, by the way. Well, I think it will place in my hands at once the largest prospectus addressing business in the Kingdom. Good heavens! when one thinks of the thousands upon thousands of pounds at present being squandered in promiscuous prospectus posting, one is led to wonder if there is any real knowledge of this business on the part of company promoters. At present they allow their prospectuses to be thrown broadcast around; so that on an average it may be said that nine-tenths of these documents fall into the hands of intelligent—that is to say, moderately intelligent people who, of course, see at once through the schemes. Now it is clear that to let the prospectuses fall into the hands of intelligent people does positive harm.”

“Not if they decline to be drawn,” suggested Mr. Galmyn.

“I am discussing the question from the standpoint of the promoters, you forget, my dear Galmyn. It is plain that if the intelligent people who see through the schemes talk to their friends about the flotations, they will do the promoters’ position harm. Now, with the list which I am compiling it will be impossible for a prospectus to go astray, for my list will contain only the names of widows left with small means which they are anxious to increase, orphans left without trustees, small shopkeepers, governesses, half-pay officers, clerks and clergymen—in short only such people as know nothing about business, and who invariably skip all the small print in a prospectus, whereas, I need scarcely say, the small print is the only part of a prospectus that an intelligent person reads. The list that I am compiling is taking up a great deal of time; but I will guarantee that it does not contain half a dozen names of intelligent people. The only surprising thing is that such a list was not compiled long ago. Oh, you must pardon my egotism; I have bored you to a point of extinction, but I knew that you would be interested in hearing of my progress. I can never forget that it was you who told me that I should not waste my time but take up some enterprise demanding the exercise of such talents as I possess. I hope should you meet this Mr. Pierce Winwood, you will mention my name to him—casually, of course—as casually as possible. Good-afternoon, Lady Severn. Good-afternoon, Miss Amber. Are you coming my way, Galmyn—I can give you a lift?”

“No, I’m going in just the opposite direction,” said Mr. Galmyn.

Then Mr. Bateman smiled his way to the door. “What a bounder!” murmured the other man. “He has found congenial employment certainly,” said Lady Severn. “Oh, Amber, Amber, your name is Frankenstein.”

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