The Leopard's Spotsby Fred M White
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To all outward appearances Montagu Stagg was in what financial detectives call "easy circumstances." He had a charming little bungalow, which was supposed to be his own property (and wasn't), on the edge of Minchin Common, where he indulged every morning in a round of golf and devoted the rest of the day indifferently to financial pursuits and philanthropic objects. He was not a great golfer, but, because he knew his limitations and never allowed vaulting ambition to overleap itself, he won more matches than he lost, though he was always willing enough to liquidate the minatory half-crown in sustaining refreshment for the defeated foe. It was a fairly cheap way of earning a reputation for generosity, but it sufficed. A popular man, on the whole, a man of uncertain age by reason of a fine crop of patriarchal grey hair allied to a face round and innocent as that of a child, and, with no suggestion of evil on a complexion that many a woman might have envied. He looked like something between a man and boy, he had a constant flow of humorous small talk, and a joyous outlook on life that would have been a tonic to any liver-haunted pessimist.
A man, apparently, in the possession of an easy conscience and a comfortable balance in his bank, achieved either by his own efforts or by inheritance, it did not matter which. A man respected by his tradesmen, who never had to wait a day for their money, and who never deemed it necessary to make inquiries into those little slips of arithmetic which do happen occasionally, even in the books of the most highly respected shopkeeper.
People who knew Stagg best—and they were exceedingly few—declared that he was a philanthropist who lived down on the before mentioned common in his modest way so that he might have plenty of scope for his expeditions into the field of his efforts. But that was hardly correct. As a matter of fact, Montague Stagg was no philanthropist, and, in reality, lived up to every penny of a hardly-earned income, though occasions when he had to ask favours of his banker were few and far between. He lived in a neat little bungalow with its trim lawns and flower-beds with his niece, Stella Henson, and a small household staff. Stella had lived with her uncle as long as she could recollect. She was a typical bright and wholesome English girl, quite good-looking in a boyish sort of way, and eminently good-natured. Exceedingly popular with the Minchin lady golfers, and on the best of terms with most of the men. She was emphatically what might be called a good sort, open-hearted and generous, and, like so many girls of her type, utterly transformed on those rare occasions in which she condescended to get into evening dress. For the rest she acted as secretary to her uncle who dictated those brilliant journalistic articles to her; she typed his letters and saw that they were posted. In Stella's eyes Stagg was undoubtedly a great man, a publicist who devoted most of his spare time and that fine financial mind of his to giving advice to all and sundry who had money to invest. In other words, Stagg wrote articles for one or two obscure financial papers, and in the aforesaid papers he kept a standing advertisement to the effect that he was a gentleman well versed in city matters—a retired stockbroker, in fact—who gave gratis advice to would-be investors desirous of laying out their savings to the best advantage, which, no doubt, was very noble on Stagg's part, for, at any rate, those advertisements brought letters to Minchin Lodge in a constantly flowing stream and in every case they were most scrupulously answered.
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