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Friday the Thirteen


created, but something to add to its sterling reputation for honest
dealing, fearless, old-fashioned methods, and all-round integrity.
Bradstreet's and other mercantile agencies say, in reporting Randolph &
Randolph, "Worth fifty millions and upward, credit unlimited." I can take
but small praise for this, for the report was about the same the day I
left college and came to the office to "learn the business." But, as the
survivor of my great father and uncle, I can say, my Maker as my witness,
that Randolph & Randolph have never loaned a dollar of their millions at
over legal rates, 6 per cent, per annum; have never added to their hoard
by any but fair, square business methods; and that blight of blights,
frenzied finance, has yet to find a lodging-place beneath the old
black-and-gold sign that father and uncle nailed up with their own hands
over the entrance.
Nineteen years ago I was graduated from Harvard. My classmate and chum,
Bob Brownley, of Richmond, Va., was graduated with me. He was class poet,
I, yard marshal. We had been four years together at St. Paul's previous to
entering Harvard. No girl and lover were fonder than we of each other.
My people had money, and to spare, and with it a hard-headed, Northern
horse-sense. The Brownleys were poor as church mice, but they had the
brilliant, virile blood of the old Southern oligarchy and the romantic,
"salaam-to-no-one" Dixie-land pride of before-the-war days, when Southern
prodigality and hospitality were found wherever women were fair and men's
mirrors in the bottom of their julep-glasses.
Bob's father, one of the big, white pillars of Southern aristocracy, had
gone through Congress and the Senate of his country to the tune of "Spend
and not spare," which left his widow and three younger daughters and a
small son dependent upon Bob, his eldest.
Many a warm summer's afternoon, as Bob and I paddled down the Charles, and
often on a cold, crispy night as we sat in my shooting-box on the Cape Cod
shore, had we matched up for our future. I was to have the inside run of
the great banking business of Randolph & Randolph, and Bob was eventually
to represent my father's firm on the floor of the Stock Exchange. "I'd die
in an office," Bob used to say, "and the floor of the Stock Exchange is
just the chimney-place to roast my hoe-cake in." So when our college days
were over my able had saddled Bob's youth with the heavy responsibilities
of husbanding and directing his family's slim finances that he took to
business as a swallow to the air. We entered the office of Randolph &
Randolph on the same day, and on its anniversary, a year later, my father
summoned us into his office for a sort of tally-up talk. Neither of us
quite knew what was coming, and we thrilled with pleasure when he said:
"Jim, you and Bob have fairly outdone my expectations. I have had my eye
on both of you and I want you to know that the kind of industry and
business intelligence you have shown here would have won you recognition
in any banking-house on 'the Street.' I want you both in the firm--Jim to
learn his way round so he can step into my shoes; you, Bob, to take one of
the firm's seats on the Stock Exchange."
Bob's face went red and then pale with happiness as he reached for my
father's hand.
"I'm very grateful to you sir, far more so than any words can say, but I
want to talk this proposition of yours over with Jim here first. He knows
me better than any one else in the world and I've some ideas I'd like to
thrash out with him."
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