It is a delicate, complicated business, look at it how you like, and requires almost superhuman insight and foresight to see into all the intricacies of it. But, assuming that the honest, courageous journalist does not make the discovery with which we hypothetically credit him, and assuming the entire press is silent, we are still far from safe. We see the shares advance day by day, we read excellent reports concerning it in the financial press - which may have options on the shares, and may be working the oracle in consequence - whilst Mr. Rogue himself raises our hopes by his eloquent speeches at the meetings of the company. Then, from time to time, letters appear in the financial papers, purporting to be written by independent people, speaking enthusiastically of the company's prospects, and computing that the shares ought to stand at such and such a price, that that price will be sure to be reached in time, and that shareholders, therefore, would be well advised to hold on. We experienced speculators may know precisely how this thing is done, that the letters are written by the 'shop,' or even by the editorial staff of the financial paper itself, but we only smile, because they serve our purpose admirably. There may certainly be a fall in the price the following day, either because the 'shop' has been selling or options have been exercised, but we are told that it is merely the usual profit-taking, and that the shares are bound further to advance in consequence of the strong and influential support behind them. They do advance, but we still hold on, not yet satisfied with the profit we could make. At last they actually go up 100 per cent., and we are strongly tempted to sell out at last. But no! Our cupidity restrains us, especially as we see another 1/8 put on the next day. They are talked to 2 1/2. That means, of course, that the 'shop' will not sell until the price reaches that figure, and, therefore, if we sell at 2 3/8 we shall be safe.
The next day, however, the bears have made an attack upon the shares, have invented and circulated the most alarming rumours and sold freely. The shares consequently drop to 1 7/8. Shall we sell? No. The bears are only up to their own tricks again, the rumours will be contradicted officially to-morrow; this will increase the demand, the bears will rush to cover, and the price will likely go higher than ever. In fact, the bears may probably be the 'shop' people themselves. Indeed, it seems most likely that they are. They know they will eventually 'rig' the price to 2 1/2, so that a scare would enable them to buy at lower prices. This seems so probable that we hold on, and rejoice at our decision, when we see the shares go at a bound to 2 1/4. Only another 1/8 and we have made up our mind to sell out at an enormous profit. That price will be reached the following day, or, if not, for a certainty the day after, and we are safe.
Instead, however, we are alarmed to find the quotation the following morning at only £2. What has happened? The market report tells us that there has been a 'tap' on; that there are a number of weak bulls in the market; that it is these people who have been selling; that it is rather a good sign than otherwise, as the position of the shares will be strengthened by getting rid of this weak element; that they are a great source of weakness to the market, and that once get the shares into strong hands, they will be sure to go to a higher figure. So that we are safe, after all, and we do not sell. The next day it is apparent that these weak holders have not been entirely eliminated, for the price falls to 1 3/4. No, we cannot sell at that. We have made so certain of a higher profit that we cannot bring ourselves to make so great a sacrifice, for it looks like a great sacrifice. We are disappointed, and we curse these weak 'bulls,' but, strange to say, our disappointment only makes us the more grimly determined to hold on. Surely to goodness it cannot last much longer? What is Mr. Rogue doing? He cannot regard this serious depreciation with indifference and equanimity. He is not the man to see his own profits dwindle in this way without making a great effort to stay the slump. It does not enter into our heads that Mr. Rogue is himself the weak holder, and, therefore, we still retain our confidence in the man in whose cleverness we have placed our hopes too long. No, he will move in time, when he thinks it prudent to do so, and, therefore, hope still sustains us to look forward to some definite and effective action on his part.
The slump, however, continues, and then suddenly the whole secret is revealed. Some enterprising journalist finds out that Mr. Rogue and the 'shop' have been selling, and as they would not sell unless they had some powerful reason for it, the whole concern must be another swindle of his. Everybody is now anxious to sell, and no buyers are to be found. The shares fall to a discount, and we ourselves sell out at last at the best price we can get, resolving impetuously to have nothing further to do with this scoundrel and swindler.
Therefore, we can now see clearly that there is only half a truth in my statement that rogues will serve our turn in speculation as well as the honest men, and probably more effectively. But they have not alone been responsible for our misfortune. We cannot lay the entire blame upon them. We speculated with our eyes open and our intelligences alert. We knew the characters by whose help we expected to benefit ourselves, and we have simply been the victims of our own cleverness and acute-ness. The obvious inference from the illustration I have given is that we should always be content with small profits, no matter what disappointment we may suffer i£ we subsequently see that we could have made greater profits if we had run the risk of holding on longer. Therefore, a golden rule of speculation is: Be content with small profits. Though they may not make our fortunes rapidly, they undoubtedly greatly diminish our risks, and make our ultimate fortunes all the surer. We may be lucky in bringing off a great coup, but a subsequent effort to repeat it may ruin us, and where, therefore, is our gain? In fact, it is this rule upon which professionals and the most successful speculators invariably act.