Therefore in a crisis of this kind it is madness to act on the spur of the moment, as so many thousands do. Experience would teach us that this is precisely what the dealers and the public would do, and that, as inevitable as the slump in prices would be, so would the recovery be when common-sense prevailed and when calmness was restored. The dealers themselves are merely acting in accordance with precedent; they know the public will be sure to sell, as they have always done in the past. It is to them as certain as any law of nature, and therefore, as wise men, they make provision for it. Sometimes, of course, they miscalculate, but it is very, very rarely. In the future they will miscalculate more frequently, if my advice is acted upon, and they will have to modify their notions of the sequences of cause and effect as far as they relate to speculation on the Stock Exchange.

A man who had argued in the manner I have described would have said to himself: 'Yes, this slump was bound to come; dealers were sure to put prices down, and "mugs" all over the country were sure to be frightened by it, and sell madly. But it won't last for long; it can't last for long. It will be all over in a few hours, or a day or two at the most, so I'll hold on and quietly pick up a few more shares, for they're bound to go up in time, even if I have to lock them up for a few months. We shall beat the Boers some day, and then I should be wild for not buying when I had the chance.' He would have been a far-seeing man who argued in this manner and acted upon his opinions rather than have telegraphed to his broker to sell his shares at the best price he could get. Of course, we are not likely to have any more Boer Wars in the future - I hope we shall have no wars of any kind - but crises of this kind are bound to come from time to time, needing the exercise of forethought, foresight and discrimination to enable us to go through them safely.

I have used the foregoing as an illustration of how the Stock Exchange is influenced by political and other events, quite apart from the intrinsic values of shares; and history will repeat itself in the future, and it is to help the inexperienced to prepare for this repetition, and to know how to meet it and deal with it, that is one of the principal objects with which I have written this book. It is not one department of the Stock Exchange that is affected, but all; nor even one section, but every section of the mining market. In the hypothetical instance I have mentioned, the South African market, one would naturally argue, ought to have been the only one to suffer, as the mines in the Transvaal and Rhodesia stood in the greatest jeopardy; but, strange to say, West Australian and Miscellaneous shares would also have been adversely affected - as they have been affected from time to time throughout the war - whilst Consols and industrial stocks and shares of all kinds would have shared, to a more or less appreciable extent, in the general depreciation. This happens purely and solely because everyone is anxious to sell out at the earliest possible moment, not stopping to consider that, where everybody is a seller, it is difficult to find a buyer. Each one seems to think that he alone is the seller, and trusts to find someone who is not so far-seeing as he supposes himself to be.

All want to convert their paper into solid cash, and it is this craving that they are alone conscious of for the time being, and it is this craving that compels them to make such unreasoning and astounding sacrifices. It is the craving which the dealer has to guard against, and out of which the astute and far-seeing make their fortunes. Therefore we find that the Stock Exchange and the prices of stocks and shares depend upon a vast variety of influences, all of which have to be watched and studied, and all of which it is impossible to enumerate. The mining market, perhaps, is affected by a greater variety of influences than any other, with the majority of which I hope to deal in the present work, and therefore it is a delicate element - if I may so figuratively call it - which cannot be tampered with without the gravest consequences.

The numbers of those who speculate in mining shares are vastly increasing, and the reason is not far to seek. In the first place, the opportunities of making quick and sudden fortunes greatly outnumber the opportunities to be found elsewhere; but, on the other hand, the risks to be run are numerically in proportion. If we speculate in American or Home rails the risks are not so great, and can be foreseen and guarded against more effectually; but, on the other hand, the prospects of making fortunes are much restricted. The same may be said of all kinds of industrial shares, which are dependent so greatly upon the course and prospects of trade, thus enabling the investor and speculator to make fairly reliable calculations. But in the case of a mine everything is uncertain. We never know whether a reef will pinch out to-morrow and thus make the shares worthless, or whether it will suddenly enter into a rich shute and put thousands of pounds into our pockets. It is impossible to calculate these events with anything approaching certitude or exactitude, hence the feverish excitement which speculation in such shares engenders, and which has so irresistible an attraction for certain classes of people. There are numbers of mines, of course, whose prospects we can forecast with considerable safety, especially those on the Rand, and two or three of the famous mines on the Colar gold-field; and, personally, I would rather invest my money in the shares of such companies than in many industrial ventures that may be prosperous to-day and ruined tomorrow. A good industrial company with excellent prospects may be floated to-day, and for a year or two pay good dividends; then there may come a prolonged period of trade stagnation, for which the directors may not have had the foresight to make proper provision, and there is no knowing what extraordinary things they might do in their consternation and fear. Or, even in times of prosperity, the directors might exercise little discernment and caution, be over-extravagant, and altogether be lacking in true business instinct. We have seen recent instances of something of the kind in the Welsbach Company and in Allsopp's, which certainly ought to have been managed with greater success.