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Today sees the return of our agony column. Most agony columns are run by agony aunts, people for whom emotions seem to be the only currency they can deal in. Not this agony column, which is run by a man who really knows currency - a down-to-earth, gritty investment manager, Mr Vincent Trotter.
         All yours, Trotter !

From Miss Harriet Dumaine
Dear Mr Trotter,
         Please help me !
         I am a nineteen-year-old heiress who has been locked up against her will in the top room of the old turret of Watchfield Towers, a remote ancient Victorian house! My distant Uncle Rodolphe, who is the only other occupant of the house since my distant cousin Ralph emigrated to New Zealand five years ago, has discovered that I am the rightful heir to the house unless I get married before I am twenty-one, in which case he will inherit the house! Of course, he now wishes to get me married, and just to be on the safe side, he wishes to marry me himself! Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do! Please tell me what I should do!

Vincent Trotter, City Investment Manager writes
         I shall need to know a few more details. For one thing, what sort of investment portfolio does your uncle Rodolphe have?  If he has a good spread of blue chip shares, gilts and bonds, I see no reason why he should not be a good marriage match for you, if his life insurance is in good shape.
         I am not an expert in property, but I am told by colleagues that old Victorian mansions are not very bullish at the moment. I should hang on to it if you acquire it.

Dear Mr Trotter,
         You do not understand! My uncle Rodolphe (who was married to my late aunt Chloe and is therefore not a blood relative) is becoming very pressing over the matter of my marriage to him, and says we must be wed before autumn comes. The only way I have got in touch with you is by throwing letters out of the tower room when the postman comes in the morning so that he can pick them up and post them for me! There is no-one but you I can turn to for help!

Vincent Trotter writes
Dear Miss Dumaine,
         Do you have any details of the estate of your late Aunt Chloe, and how much of it was in the shape of equity? That might help us in this matter. Meanwhile, I think you are needlessly alarmed by the prospect of marriage. Years ago the Married Women's Property Act made it very difficult for a wife to have her own portfolio, but things are very relaxed these days. Once married, you will be fully entitled to arrange your own investment spread!

Dear Mr Trotter,
         Oh, Mr Trotter, please understand! Once married, I shall commit suicide! Thank God, that may not happen, as since I last wrote to you there has been a dramatic happening! My uncle Rodolphe announced that we would be having a visitor to stay the night, and I would be allowed to join them for supper. He was a Mr Starling, who is an inspector for the National Trust and whom uncle Rodolphe wished to consult over the advantages of selling the old family home to the Trust.
         I was duly allowed down to eat in the old hall with my uncle and this Mr Starling. To my surprise, when my uncle was out of the room, Mr Starling suddenly clutched my wrist and said: ‘Listen carefully. Say nothing. My name is not Starling. I am your long-lost cousin Ralph from New Zealand. I was worried because you never answered my letters. So I have come in disguise to see how you are.’ Then my uncle returned and he went back to his guise as Mr Starling...

Vincent Trotter writes
Dear Miss Dumaine,
         A good development. There are at present some very good investment openings in the New Zealand stock market. This under-estimated corner of the global market place bears examination. Talk to your cousin carefully.

Dear Mr Trotter,
         Disaster! Last night I overheard my cousin and uncle Rodolphe talking. It appears they are in league against me, and my uncle will let him lure me into marriage with him. I am in dire peril!

Dear Miss Dumaine,
         I cannot continue this correspondence as of now, as I have a futures market seminar in ten minutes. Let me send you a representative of the firm to advise you. He is a dark tall young man called Sebastian and he can call on you tomorrow morning…
         I have just received a very generous offer to turn this agony column into a movie script, so I am afraid I must pull the plug on it right now. But keep those terrible emotional dilemmas pouring in!

The Independent Thurs Sep 19 02

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