I.16. The Hidden Hand
Wingrave glanced up as they entered. He motioned Nesbitt to a chair by his side, but the
young man remained standing.
"My secretary tells me," Wingrave said curtly, "that you cannot pay me what you owe."
"It's more than I possess in the world, sir," Nesbitt answered.
"It is not a large amount," Wingrave said. "I do not see how you can carry on business
unless you can command such a sum as this."
Nesbitt moistened his dry lips with his tongue.
"I have only been doing a very small business, sir," he answered, "but quite enough to
make a living. I don't speculate as a rule. Hardwells seemed perfectly safe, or I wouldn't
have touched them. I sold at four. They are not worth one. I could have bought thousands
last week for two dollars."
"That is beside the question," Wingrave answered. "If you do not pay this, you have
cheated me out of my profits for I should have placed the commission with brokers who
could. Why did you wish to see me again?"
"I thought that you might give me time," Nesbitt answered, raising his head and looking
Wingrave straight in the face. "It seems rather a low down thing to come begging. I'd
rather cut my right hand off than do it for myself, but I've--someone else to think about,
and if I'm hammered, I'm done for. Give me a chance, Mr. Wingrave! I'll pay you in
"What do you ask for?" Wingrave said.
"I thought that you might give me time," Nesbitt said, "and I'll pay you the rest off with
the whole of my profits every year."
"A most absurd proposal," Wingrave said coolly. "I will instruct my brokers to take
twenty thousand dollars down, and wait one week for the balance. That is the best offer I
can make you. Good day!"
The young man stood as though he were stunned.
"I--I can't find it," he faltered. "I can't indeed."