IN an imposing marble hail of great dimensions, a milling mass of humans shouted and gesticulatcd wildly. At first I believed it was a riot, perhaps the beginning of the revolution in America. Later, it became evident that I was mistaken. But the purpose of this strange demonstration was a mystery to me.
I saw electrically illuminated numbers appear and disappear on signboards. Mr. Keen's explanation, that the men were engaged in buying and selling, puzzled me even more, since I could see no goods changing hands. As a matter of fact, there was nothing saleable in sight.
"Shares in all industrial enterprises, textiles, mines, electrical power, steel mills, although they may be located thousands of miles distant, are bought and sold here," Mr. Keen informed me.
"But those cannot be sold, they belong to everybody," I was about to say. But then I remembered where I was. "How honest these people must be!" I exclaimed to hide my confusion. "They trust each other. They buy what they cannot even see."
"They don't have to see anything because there is nothing to see," was Mr. Keen's reply." All they buy is a beautifully printed paper which is bought only to be sold again. All these honest people are gamblers. They are out to take the shirt off each other's back. Everyone buys in the hope of making a profit at the expense of his neighbor. Just now the bottom fell out of the market. That is what the excitement is about. Many of them will be wiped out before the end of the day."
" Wiped out?" I asked.
" Yes," Mr. Keen answered, "they will be penniless."