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"God's curse upon this darkness! Where, O where
Are my possessions? For, with fierce endeavour,
Ever we seek them, but can find them never."


NOT many years ago, being then young, ardent,
and confiding, with nothing to do, and all the
world before me, I received a letter from Mr.
Harrison, a solicitor of my acquaintance, offering
me a seat on the board of a new insurance
company. I had at that time a very exalted
idea of the importance of the office of director,
and felt highly complimented by the invitation.
I immediately waited upon Mr. Harrison at his
office, to thank him for his kind intentions, but
at the same time to make him acquainted with
circumstances in my position which I considered
inconsistent with the dignity and responsibility
of a director of a public company. I explained
that I had, as yet, no profession and no standing
in society, and, moreover, that I was minus that
great essential, money.

"My dear sir," said Mr. Harrison, "these
little matters are of no consequence whatever;
a good name is all that is required in a director,
and you have oneRalph Abercrombie, Esq.,
M.A., of Brasenose College, Oxford. What
could be better?"

"True," I said, " the name is a most honourable
one ; but I understand that a director is
required to take a large number of shares, and
I candidly tell you that I am not in a position

"Make your mind easy on that point, my
dear sir," said Mr. Harrison; "if necessary I
will qualify you."

"It's very kind of you, I'm sure," I said;
" but I scarcely like-"

"My dear sir," said Mr. Harrison, anticipating
what I was going to say, "you need have
no scruple about the matter; the thing is done
every day. I have qualified scores of directors
in my time. You know Lord Churchmouse,
Chairman of the Paramount Life and Fire ?"

I said, of course ; he was a well-known public

"Exactly; a well-known public man, a
representative man in the insurance world; but
between you and meand you will understand
this is entirely masonic," said Mr. Harrison,
laying bis finger on his nose—" I qualified him.
In fact, his lordship always makes it a rule to
be qualified; and he's worth it, for he's one of
the best directors going. If there were only
more days in the week, and more hours in the
day, Lord Churchmouse might be as rich as
Rothschild, instead of being as poor as Job."

"How do you mean?" I asked.

"Why, his lordship lives upon his director's
fees ; the more boards he attends the more he

I said I thought it rather a shabby way for a
lord to get his living.

"Shabby! my dear sir," said Mr. Harrison,
elevating his eyebrows, " how can you say so?
Did you ever consider what a director of a
public company ought to be? No; I see you
have not. I will tell you. He ought to be a
man of talent, of tact, of energy, of business
habits, shrewd, sagacious, and, above all,
enterprising. We don't want a dolt with his pockets
full of money, to sit at a board; we want a smart
man, with his head full of brains. The public
make a great mistake about this matter. They
think a director ought to be simply a man of
property, and never reflect that the real desideratum
is the man of business. Does a City firm choose
a manager of its affairs on account of his wealth?
No; but because the person is well qualified for
the work; and a well qualified man in a City
house will get from five hundred to a thousand
a year; while the director of a public company
is obliged to be content with a paltry fee of one
or two guineas for each attendance at the board.
My dear sir, if I had my way, I would do
away with the qualification altogether, choose
directors for their business qualities, and pay
them handsome salaries."

I admitted that his argument had some force.

"Very well," said Mr. Harrison ; "on this
principle I want you to be a director of the new
company I am now projecting. You have a good
name, you are a graduate of an university, and,
above all, you are a man of energy and sagacity,
with a decided turn for business."

I said I felt flattered.

"Not at all, my dear sir," said Mr. Harrison,
"I am merely doing you justice. I have observed
you. I think you will make a good director;
and, as I said before, if necessary I will qualify
you. The advantages to yourself, I need scarcely
say, will be considerable; you will be introduced
to public men and public life, you will get an
insight into a most important branch of business,
and you will be paid for your services."

Mr. Harrison's representations were alto-
gether so plausible, and I found so many worthy
people who looked upon insurance speculation
as perfectly legitimate, and so many more who
envied me my good fortune in being offered a
directorship, that I consented to become a
member of the board of the new company. On
intimating my resolution to Mr. Harrison, I
received a summons to attend the first board
meeting at that gentleman's office on the
following Wednesday. I presented myself at the
appointed hour, and found Mr. Harrison's private
office cleared of many of the books and papers
which usually encumbered it, and temporarily
set out as a board-room, with a long table
covered with a green cloth, half a dozen heavy
mahogany chairs, and as many virgin blotting-pads,
regularly ranged on the table opposite the
chairs. Mr. Harrison entered almost
immediately, accompanied by three gentlemen, to
whom he introduced me with much elaboration,
and a great flourish of our names and titular
distinctions, repeating them twice over, and
dwelling with marked emphasis on Mr. Ralph
Abercromby, M.A., of Braseuose College,
Oxford. I found that the gentlemen with whom
I was about to be associated on the board