The Hand Of Misfortune
Between the two men, seated opposite each other in the large but somewhat barely
furnished office, the radical differences, both in appearance and mannerisms, perhaps,
also, in disposition, had never been more strongly evident. They were partners in business
and face to face with ruin. Stephen Laverick, senior member of the firm, although an air
of steadfast gloom had settled upon his clean-cut, powerful countenance, retained even in
despair something of that dogged composure, temperamental and wholly British, which
had served him well along the road to fortune. Arthur Morrison, the man who sat on the
other side of the table, a Jew to his finger-tips notwithstanding his altered name, sat like a
broken thing, with tears in his terrified eyes, disordered hair, and parchment-pale face.
Words had flown from his lips in a continual stream. He floundered in his misery, sobbed
about it like a child. The hand of misfortune had stripped him naked, and one man, at
least, saw him as he really was.
"I can't stand it, Laverick, - I couldn't face them all. It's too cruel - too horrible! Eighteen
thousand pounds gone in one week, forty thousand in a month! Forty thousand pounds!
Oh, my God!"
He writhed in agony. The man on the other side of the table said nothing.
"If we could only have held on a little longer! 'Unions' must turn! They will turn!
Laverick, have you tried all your friends? Think! Have you tried them all? Twenty
thousand pounds would see us through it. We should get our own money back - I am sure
of it. There's Rendell, Laverick. He'd do anything for you. You're always shooting or
playing cricket with him. Have you asked him, Laverick? He'd never miss the money."
"You and I see things differently, Morrison," Laverick answered. "Nothing would induce
me to borrow money from a friend."
"But at a time like this," Morrison pleaded passionately. "Every one does it sometimes.
He'd be glad to help you. I know he would. Have you ever thought what it will be like,
Laverick, to be hammered?"
"I have," Laverick admitted wearily. "God knows it seems as terrible a thing to me as it
can to you! But if we go down, we must go down with clean hands. I've no faith in your
infernal market, and not one penny will I borrow from a friend."
The Jew's face was almost piteous. He stretched himself across the table. There were
genuine tears in his eyes.
"Laverick," he said, "old man, you're wrong. I know you think I've been led away. I've
taken you out of our depth, but the only trouble has been that we haven't had enough
capital, and no backing. Those who stand up will win. They will make money."
"Unfortunately," Laverick remarked, "we cannot stand up. Please understand that I will
not discuss this matter with you in any way. I will not borrow money from Rendell or any