The Way We Live Now
The Great Railway To Vera Cruz
'You have been a guest in his house. Then, I guess, the thing's about as good as done.'
These words were spoken with a fine, sharp, nasal twang by a brilliantly-dressed
American gentleman in one of the smartest private rooms of the great railway hotel at
Liverpool, and they were addressed to a young Englishman who was sitting opposite to
him. Between them there was a table covered with maps, schedules, and printed
programmes. The American was smoking a very large cigar, which he kept constantly
turning in his mouth, and half of which was inside his teeth. The Englishman had a short
pipe. Mr Hamilton K. Fisker, of the firm of Fisker, Montague, and Montague, was the
American, and the Englishman was our friend Paul, the junior member of that firm.
'But I didn't even speak to him,' said Paul.
'In commercial affairs that matters nothing. It quite justifies you in introducing me. We
are not going to ask your friend to do us a favour. We don't want to borrow money.'
'I thought you did.'
'If he'll go in for the thing he'd be one of us, and there would be no borrowing then. He'll
join us if he's as clever as they say, because he'll see his way to making a couple of
million of dollars out of it. If he'd take the trouble to run over and show himself in San
Francisco, he'd make double that. The moneyed men would go in with him at once,
because they know that he understands the game and has got the pluck. A man who has
done what he has by financing in Europe by George! there's no limit to what he might do
with us. We're a bigger people than any of you and have more room. We go after bigger
things, and don't stand shilly-shally on the brink as you do. But Melmotte pretty nigh
beats the best among us. Anyway he should come and try his luck, and he couldn't have a
bigger thing or a safer thing than this. He'd see it immediately if I could talk to him for
half an hour.'
'Mr Fisker,' said Paul mysteriously, 'as we are partners, I think I ought to let you know
that many people speak very badly of Mr Melmotte's honesty.'
Mr Fisker smiled gently, turned his cigar twice round in his mouth, and then closed, one
eye. 'There is always a want of charity,' he said. 'when a man is successful.'
The scheme in question was the grand proposal for a South Central Pacific and Mexican
railway, which was to run from the Salt Lake City, thus branching off from the San
Francisco and Chicago line and pass down through the fertile lands of New Mexico and
Arizona into the territory of the Mexican Republic, run by the city of Mexico, and come,
out on the gulf at the port of Vera Cruz. Mr Fisker admitted at once that it was a great
undertaking, acknowledged that the distance might be perhaps something over 2000
miles, acknowledged that no computation had or perhaps could be made as to the
probable cost of the railway; but seemed to think that questions such as these were beside