Friday the Thirteen by Thomas W. Lawson - HTML preview
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"Right again. When 26 Broadway gives the secret order to the Washington boss and he passes it out to the grafters, there will be a quiet accumulation of the stock, won't there?"
"You've got that right, Bob."
"And the man who first knows when Washington begins to take on Sugar is the man who should load up quick and rush it up to a high level. If he does it quickly, the stockholders, who now have it, will get a juicy slice of the ripening melon, a slice that otherwise would go to those greedy hypocrites at Washington, who are always publicly proclaiming that they are there to serve their fel ow countrymen, but who never tire of expressing themselves to their brokers as not being in politics for their health."
"So far, good reasoning," I commented.
"Jim, the man who first knows when the Senators and Congressmen and members of the Cabinet begin to buy Sugar, is the man who can kill four birds with one stone: Win back a part of Judge Sands's stolen fortune; increase his own pile against the first of January, when, if the little Virginian lady is short a few hundred thousand of the necessary amount, he could, if he found a way to induce her to accept it, supply the deficiency; fatten up a good friend's bank account a million or so, and do a right good turn for the stockholders who are about to be, for the hundredth time, bled out of profit rightful y theirs."
Bob was afire with enthusiasm, the first I had seen him show for three months. Seeing that I had fol owed him without objection so far, he continued:
"Well, Jim, I know the Washington buying has begun. Al I know I have dug out for myself and am free to use it any way I choose. I have gone over the deal with Beulah Sands, and we have decided to plunge. She has a balance of about four hundred thousand dollars, and I'm going to spread it thin. I am going to buy her 20,000 shares and to take on 10,000 for myself. If you went in for 20,000 more, it would give me a wide sea to sail in. I know you never speculate, Jim, for the house, but I thought you might in this case go in personal y."
"Don't say anything more, Bob," I replied. "This time the rule goes by the board. But I will do better: I'll put up a million and you can go as high as 70,000 for me. That will give you a buying power of 100,000, and I want you to use my last 50,000 shares as a lifter."
I had never speculated in a share of stock since I entered the firm of Randolph & Randolph, and on general, special, and every other principle was opposed to stock gambling, but I saw how Bob had worked it out, and that to make the deal sure it was necessary for him to have a good reserve buying power to fall back on if, after he got started, the "System"
masters, whose game he was butting in to and whose plans he might upset should try to shake down the price to drive him out of their preserves.
Bob knew how I looked at his proposed deal and ordinarily would not have allowed me to have the short end of it, but so changed had he become in his anxiety to make that money for the Virginians that he grabbed at my acceptance.
"Thank you, Jim," he said fervently, and he continued: "Of course, I see what's going through your head, but I'll accept the favour, for the deal is bound to be successful. I know your reason for coming in is just to help out, and that you won't feel badly because your last 50,000 shares will be used more as a guarantee for the deal's success than for profit.
And Miss Sands could not object to the part you play, as she did at the underwriting, for you will get a big profit anyway."
Next day Sugar was lively on the Exchange. Bob bought al in sight and handled the buying in a masterly way. When the closing gong struck, Beulah Sands had 20,000 shares, which averaged her 115; Bob and I had 30,000 at an average of 125, and the stock had closed 132 bid and in big demand.
Miss Sands's 20,000 showed $340,000 profit, while our 30,000 showed $210,000 at the closing price. Al the houses with Washington wires were wildly scrambling for Sugar as soon as it began to jump. And it certainly looked as though the shares were good for the figures set for them by Bob, $175, at which price the Sands's profits would be $1,200,000. Bob was beside himself with joy. He dined with Kate and me, and as I watched him my heart almost stopped beating at the thought--"if anything should happen to upset his plans!" His happiness was pathetic to witness. He was like a child. He threw away all the reserve of the past three months and laughed and was grave by turns. After dinner, as we sat in the library over our coffee, he leaned over to my wife and said:
"Katherine Randolph, you and Jim don't know what misery I have been in for three months, and now--will to-morrow never come, so I may get into the whirl and clean up this deal and send that girl back to her father with the money! I wanted her to telegraph the judge that things looked like she would win out and bring back the relief, but she would not hear of it. She is a marvel ous woman. She has not turned a hair to-day. I don't think her pulse is up an eighth to-night. She has not sent home a word of encouragement since she has been here, more than to tell her father she is doing wel with her stories. It seems they both agreed that the only way to work the thing out was 'whole hog or none,' and that she was to say nothing until she could herself bring the word 'saved' or 'lost.' I don't know but she is right. She says if she should raise her father's hopes, and then be compelled to dash them, the effect would be fatal."
Bob rushed the talk along, flitting from one point to another, but invariably returning to Beulah Sands and to-morrow and its saving profits. Final y, he got to a pitch where it seemed as though he must take off the lid, and before Kate or I realised what was coming he placed himself in front of us and said:
"Jim, Kate, I cannot go into to-morrow without tel ing you something that neither of you suspect. I must tel some one, now that everything is coming out right and that Beulah is to be saved; and whom can I tell but you, who have been everything to me?--I love Beulah Sands, surely, deeply, with every bit of me. I worship her, I tell you, and to-morrow, to-morrow if this deal comes out as it must come, and I can put $1,500,000 into her hands and send her home to her father, then, then, I will tel her I love her, and Jim, Kate, if she'll marry me, good-bye, good-bye to this hell of dol ar-hunting, good-bye to such misery as I have been in for three months, and home, a Virginia home, for Beulah and me." He sank into a chair and tears rol ed down his cheeks Poor, poor Bob, strong as a lion in adversity, hysterical as a woman with victory in sight.
The next day Sugar opened with a wild rush: "25,000 shares from 140 to 152." That is the way it came on the tape, which meant that the crowd around the Sugar-pole was a mob and that the transactions were so heavy, quick, and tangled that no one could tell to a certainty just what the first or opening price was; but after the first lul , after the gong, there were official y reported transactions aggregating 25,000 shares and at prices varying from 140 to 152. I was over on the floor to see the scramble, for it was noised about long before ten o'clock that Sugar would open wild, and then, too, I wanted to be handy if Bob should need any quick advice.
A minute before the gong struck, there were three hundred men jammed around the Sugar-pole; men with set, determined faces; men with their coats buttoned tight and shoulders thrown back for the rush to which, by comparison, that of a footbal team is child's play. Every man in that crowd was a picked man, picked for what was coming. Each felt that upon his individual powers to keep a clear head, to shout loudest, to forget nothing, to keep his feet, and to stay as near the centre of the crowd as possible, depended his "floor honour," perhaps his fortune, or, what was more to him, his client's fortune. Nearly every man of them was a col ege graduate who had won his spurs at athletics or a seasoned floor man whose training had been even more severe than that of the college campus. When it is known before the opening of the Exchange that there are to be
"things doing" in a certain stock, it is the rule to send only the picked floor men into the crowd. There may be a fortune to make or to lose in a minute or a sliver of a minute. For instance, the man who that morning was able to snatch the first 5,000 shares sold at 140 could have resold them a few minutes afterward at 152 and secured $60,000 profit. And the man who was sent into the crowd by his client to sel 5,000 shares at the
"opening" and who got but 140, when the price would be 152 by the time he reported to his customer, was a man to be pitied. Again, the trader who the night before had decided that Sugar had gone up too fast, and who had
"shorted" (that is, sold what he did not have, with the intention of repurchasing at a lower price than he sold it for) 5,000 shares at 140 and who, finding himself in that surging mob with Sugar selling at 152, could only get out by taking a loss of $60,000, or by taking another chance of later paying 162--such a trader was also to be pitied.
No one who scanned the crowd that morning would have believed that the calm, set face on that erect Indian figure, occupying the very centre of that horde of gamblers who were only awaiting the ringing clang of the gong to hurl themselves like madmen at each other, was the hysterical man who the night before was wildly praying for this moment. Nearly every man in that crowd was calm, but Bob Brownley was the calmest of them al . It's the Exchange code that at any cost of heart or nerve-tear a man must retain good form until the gong strikes. Then, that he must be as near the uncaged tiger as human mind and body can be made. Only I realised what volcano raged inside my chum's bosom. If any other man of the crowd had known, Bob's chances of success would have been on par with a Canadian canoeist short-cutting Niagara for Buffalo. Nine-tenths of the Stock Exchange game is not letting your left brain-lobe know what race your right is in until the winning numbers and the also-rans are on the board.
If one of those three hundred chain-lightning thinkers or any of their ten thousand alert associates knew in advance the intentions of a fel ow broker, the word would sweep through that crowd with the sureness of uncorked ether, and the other two hundred and ninty nine, at gong-strike, would be at each others' throats for his vitals, and before he knew the game had started would have his bones picked to a vulture-finish cleanness. Suddenly, as I watched the scene, there rang through the great hal the first sharp stroke of the gong. There were no echoes heard that morning. The metal ic voice was yet shaping its command to "at 'em, you fiends" when from three hundred throats burst the wild sound of the Stock Exchange yell. No other sound in any of the open or hidden places of al nature duplicates the yell of a great Stock Exchange at an exciting opening. It not only fills and refills space, for the volume is terrific, but it has an individuality al its own, coming from the incisive
"take-mine-I've-got yours," from the aggressive, almost arrogant
"you-can't-you-won't-have-your-way," the confident "by-heaven-I-will"
individual notes that enter into the whole, as they blend with the shrill scream of triumph and the die-away note of disappointment, when the floor men realise their success or their failure. I picked Bob's magnificently resonant voice from the mass--"40 for any part of 10,000 Sugar." It was this daring bid that struck terror to the bears and filled the bulls
with a frenzy of encouragement. Again it rang out--"45 for any part of 25,000"; and a third time--"50 for any part of 50,000."
The great crowd was surging al over the room. Hats were smashed and coats were being stripped from their owners' backs as though made of paper, and now and then a particularly frantic buyer or seller would be borne to the floor by the impetus of those who sought to fill his bid or grab his offer. Through all the wild whirl, straight and erect and commanding was the form of Bob, his face cold and expressionless as an iceberg. In five minutes the human mass had worked back to the Sugar-pole and there was the inevitable lull while its members "verified."
I could see by the few entries Bob was making on his pad that he had been compelled to buy but little. This meant that his campaign was working smoothly, that he was driving the market up by merely bidding, and that he had the greater part of my 50,000 yet unbought, which inturn meant he could continue to push up the price, or in the event of his opponents'
attempting to run it down, he would be under the market with big supporting orders.
Suddenly the lul was broken. Bob's voice rang out again--"153 for any part of 10,000 Sugar." Again the gamblers closed in and for another five minutes the opening scene was duplicated, with only a shade less fierceness. After ten minutes' mad trading a mighty burst of sound told that Sugar was 160 bid. Then Bob worked his way out of the crowd, and passing by me fairly hissed, "By heaven, Jim, I've got them cinched!"
I went back to the office. In a few minutes Bob without a word strode through my office and into the little room occupied by Beulah Sands. He closed the door behind him, a thing that he had never done before. It was only a minute till he opened it and called to me. In his eyes was a strange look, a look that came from the blending of two mighty passions, one joy, the other I could not make out, unless it was that soft one, which suppressed love, emerging from terrible uncertainty, generates in deep natures and which usual y finds vent in tears. Beulah Sands was a study. Her heart was evidently swaying and tugging with the news Bob had brought her. She must have seen the nearness of release from the torture that had been filling her soul during the past three months, and yet such was the remarkable self-control of the woman, such her noble courage, that she refused to show any outward sign of her feelings. She was the reserved, dignified girl I had ever seen her. "Jim, Miss Sands and I thought it best that we should have a little match up at this stage of our deal," Bob began. "I want to know if you both agree with me on adhering to the original plans to close out at 175. I never felt surer of my ground than in this deal. The stock is 163 on the tape right now." He glanced at the white paper ribbon whose every foot on certain days spel s Heaven or Hel to countless mortals, as it rol ed out of the ticker in the corner of the office. "Yes, there she goes again--33/4, 4, 41/4 and 1,200 at a half.
There is a tremendous demand from all quarters. Washington's buying is unlimited; the commission-houses are tumbling over one another to get aboard and the shorts are scared to a paralysed muteness. They don't know whether to jump in and cover or to stand their present hands, but they have no pluck to fight the rise, that is certain. The news bureaus have just published the story that I am buying for Randolph & Randolph, and they for the insiders; that the new tariff is as good as passed; and that at the directors' meeting to-morrow the Sugar dividend will be increased, and that it is agreed on al sides she won't stop going until she crosses 200. I've been obliged to take on only 18,000 of your 50,000, and at present prices there is over two hundred thousand profit in them. I think I could go back there and in thirty minutes have it to 180. Then if I rested on it until about one o'clock and threw myself at it for real fireworks up to the close, I could, under cover of them, let slip about half our purchases, and to-morrow open her with a whirl and let go the balance. If I'm in luck I'll average 180-185 for the whole bunch, but I'll be satisfied if I get an average of 175, which would al ow me to sel it on a dropping scale to 160."
I agreed that his campaign was perfect, and Beulah Sands said in her usual quiet way, "It is entirely in your hands, Mr. Brownley. I don't see how any advice from us can help."
Bob went back to the Exchange and I into my office. Bob had been right again. In ten minutes the tape began to scream Sugar. With enormous transactions it ran up in fifteen minutes to 188, in three more it dropped to 181, and then steadily mounted to 1851/2, dul ed up, and was healthy steady. Presently Bob was back and we sat down again.
"I've bought 20,000 more for you, Jim, on that bulge. I've 38,000 in al of the last 50,000, which leaves me 12,000 reserve. The average is 'way under 75, and there must be $400,000 for you in it now and a strong $1,400,000 in Miss Sands's 20,000, and $1,800,000 in our 30,000. They say it's bad business to count chickens in the shel , but ours are tapping so hard to get out I can't help doing it this once. I'm going to keep away from the floor for an hour or so, then I will go over and wind it up and--good God, Beulah--Miss Sands--are you ill?"
The girl's face was ashen gray and she seemed to be gasping for breath. I rushed for some water while Bob seized both her hands, but in an instant the blood came to her cheeks with a rush and she said, "I was dizzy for a moment. It must have been the thought of taking $1,800,000 back to father that upset me. With that amount father could make good al the trust funds, and have back enough of his own fortune to make us seem, after what we have been going through, richer than we were before. Pardon me, Mr.
Randolph, won't you, when I say--God bless you and every one whom you hold dear, God bless you? What could I or my father have done but for you and Mr. Brownley?"
She turned her big eyes ful upon Bob, filled with a light such as can come only to a woman's eyes, only to a woman before whom, as she stands on the brink of hel , suddenly looms her heaven.
Sharp and shrill rang Bob's Exchange telephone. The ring seemed shriller; it certainly was longer than usual. Bob jumped for the receiver.
He Listened a moment, then answered, "Stand on it at 80 for 12,000 shares.
I will be there in a second." He dropped the receiver. "Jim, we have struck a snag. Arthur Perkins, whom I left on guard at the pole, says Barry Conant has just jumped in and supplied al the bids. He has it down to 81 and is offering it in 5,000 blocks and is aggressive. I must get there quick," and he shot out of the office.
I sprang for Bob's telephone: "Perkins, quick!" "What are they doing, Perkins?" I asked a moment later.
"Conant has almost filled me up. He seems to have a hogshead of it on tap," he answered.
"Buy 50,000 shares, 5,000 each point down; and anything unfilled, give to Bob when he gets there. He is on the way."
I shut off, and turned to Miss Sands:
"This is no time to stand on ceremony, Miss Sands. Barry Conant is Camemeyer's and 'Standard Oil's' head broker. His being on the floor means mischief. He never goes into a big whirl personally unless they are out for blood. Bob has exhausted his buying power, and though I tel you frankly that I never speculate, don't believe in speculation and am in this deal only for Bob--and for you--I swear I don't intend to let them wipe the floor with him without at least making them swal ow some of the dust they kick up. Please don't object to my helping out, Miss Sands.
Ordinarily I would defer to your wishes, but I love Bob Brownley only second to my wife, and I have money enough to warrant a plunge in stock.
If they should turn Bob over in this deal, he--wel , they're not going to, if I can prevent it," and I started for the Exchange on the run.
When I got there the scene beggared description. That of the morning was tame in comparison. A bul market, however terrific, always is tame beside a bear crash. In the few moments it took me to get to the floor, the battle had started. The greater part of the Exchange membership was in a dense mob wedged against the rail behind the Sugar-pole. I could not have got within yards of the centre of that crowd of men, fast becoming panic-stricken, if the fate of nations had depended on my errand. I had witnessed such a scene before. It represented a certain phase of Stock-Exchange-gambling procedure, where one man apparently has every other man on the floor against him. I understood: Bob against them all--he trying to stay the onrushing current of dropping prices; they bent on keeping the sluice-gates open. He was backed up against the rail--not the Bob of the morning; not a vestige of that cold, brain-nerve-and-body-in-hand gambler remained. His hat was gone, his collar torn and hanging over his shoulder. His coat and waistcoat were ripped open, showing the full length of his white shirt-front, and his eyes were fairly mad. Bob was no longer a human being, but a monarch of the forest at bay, with the hunter in front of him, and closing in upon him, in a great half-circle, the pack of harriers, all gnashing their teeth, baring their fangs, and howling for blood. The hunter directly facing Bob, was Barry Conant--very slight, very short, a marvellously compact, handsome, miniature man, with a fascinating face, dark olive in tint, lighted by a pair of sparkling black eyes and framed in jet-black hair; a black mustache was parted over white teeth, which, when he was stalking his game, looked like those of a wolf. An interesting man at al times was this Barry Conant, and he had been on more and fiercer battle-fields than any other half-score members combined. The scene was a rare one for a student of animalised men.
While every other man in the crowd was at a high tension of excitement, Barry Conant was as calm as though standing in the centre of a ten-acre daisy-field cutting off the helpless flowers' heads with every swing of his arm. Switching stock-gamblers into eternity had grown to be a pastime to Barry Conant. Here was Bob thundering with terrific emphasis "78 for 5,000," "77 for 5,000," "75 for 5,000," "74 for 5,000," "73 for 5,000,"
"72 for 5,000," seemingly expecting through sheer power of voice to crush his opponent into silence. But with the regularity of a trip-hammer Barry Conant's right hand, raised in unhurried gesture, and his clear calm
"Sold" met Bob's every retreating bid. It was a battle royal--a king on one side, a Richelieu on the other. Though there was frantic buying and selling al around these two generals, the trading was gauged by the trend of their battle. All knew that if Bob should be beaten down by this concentrated modern finance devil, a panic would ensue and Sugar would go none could say how low. But if Bob should play him to a standstill by exhausting his sel ing power, Sugar would quickly soar to even higher figures than before. It was known that Barry Conant's usual order from his clients, the "System" masters, for such an occasion as the present was
"Break the price at any cost." On the other hand, every one knew that Randolph & Randolph were usual y behind Bob's big operations; this was evidently one of his biggest; and every man there knew that Randolph & Randolph were seldom backed down by any force.
As Bob made his bid "72 for 5,000," and got it, I saw a quick flash of pain shoot across his face, and realised that it probably meant he was nearing the end of my last order. I sized it up that there was deviltry of more than usual significance behind this selling movement; that Barry Conant must have unlimited orders to sell and smash. My final order of fifty thousand brought our total up to one hundred and fifty thousand shares, a large amount for even Randolph & Randolph to buy of a stock selling at nearly $200 a share. I then and there decided that whatever happened I would go no further. Just then Bob's wild eye caught mine, and there was in it a piteous appeal, such an appeal as one sees in the eye of the wounded doe when she gives up her attempt to swim to shore and waits the coming of the pursuing hunter's canoe. I sadly signaled that I was through. As Bob caught the sign, he threw his head back and bellowed a deep, hoarse "70 for 10,000." I knew then that he had already bought forty thousand, and that this was the last-ditch stand. Barry Conant must have caught the meaning too. Instantly, like a revolver report, came his
"Sold!" Then the compact, miniature mass of human springs and wires, which had until now been held in perfect control, suddenly burst from its clamps, and Barry Conant was the fiend his Wal Street reputation pictured him. His five feet five inches seemed to loom to the height of a giant.
His arms, with their fate-pointing fingers, rose and fell with bewildering rapidity as his piercing voice rang out--"5,000 at 69, 68, 65," "10,000 at 63," "25,000 at 60." Pandemonium reigned. Every man in the crowd seemed to have the capital stock of the Sugar Trust to sel , and at any price. A score seemed to be bent on sel ing as low as possible instead of for as much as they could get. These were the shorts who had been punished the day before by Bob's uplift.
Poor Bob, he was forgotten! An instant after he made his last effort he was the dead cock in the pit. Frenzied gamblers of the Stock Exchange have no more use for the dead cocks than have Mexicans for the real birds when they get the fatal gaff. The day after the contest, or even that same night at Delmonico's and the clubs, these men would moan for poor Bob; Barry Conant's moan would be the loudest of them al , and, what is more, it would be sincere. But on battle day away to the dump with the fallen bird, the bird that could not win! I saw a look of deep, terrible agony spread over Bob's face; and then in a flash he was the Bob Brownley who I always boasted had the courage and the brain to do the right thing in all circumstances. To the astonishment of every man in the crowd he let loose one wild yel , a cross between the war-whoop of an Indian and the bay of a deep-lunged hound regaining a lost scent. Then he began to throw over Sugar stock, right and left, in big and little amounts. He slaughtered the price, under-cutting Barry Conant's every offer and filling every bid. For twenty minutes he was a madman, then he stopped. Sugar was fal ing rapidly to the price it finally reached, 90, and the panic was in full swing, but panics seemed now to have no interest for Bob. He pushed his way through the crowd and, joining me, said: "Jim, forgive me. I have dragged you into an enormous loss, have ruined Beulah Sands, her father, and myself. I think at the last moment I did the only thing possible. I threw over the 150,000 shares and so cut off some of our loss. Let us go to the office and see where we stand." He was strangely, unnaturally calm after that heart-crushing, nerve-tearing day. I tried to tell him how I admired his cool nerve and pluck in about-facing and doing the only thing there was left to do; to tell him that required more real courage and level-headedness than al the rest of the day's doings; but he stopped me:
"Jim, don't talk to me. My conceit is gone. I have learned my lesson to-day. My plans were al right, and sound, but poor fool that I was, I did not take into consideration the loaded dice of the master thieves. I knew what they could do, have seen them scores of times, as you have, at their slaughter; seen them crush out the hearts of other men just as good as you or I; seen them take them out and skin and quarter-slice them, unmindful of the agony of those who were dear to and dependent on their owners, but it never seemed to strike me home. It was not my heart, and somehow, I looked at it as a part of the game and let it go at that.
To-day I know what it means to be put on the chopping-block of the
'System' butchers. I know what it is to see my heart and the heart of one I love--and yours, too, Jim--systematical y skewered to those of the hundreds and thousands of victims who have gone before. Jim, we must be three millions losers, and the men who have our money have so many, many millions that they can't live long enough even to thumb them over. Men who will use our money on the gambling-table, at the race-tracks, squander it on stage harlots, or in turning their wives and daughters or their neighbours' wives and daughters into worse than stage harlots. Men, Jim, who are not fit, measured by any standard of decency, to walk the same earth as you and Judge Sands. Men whose painted pets pollute the very air that such as Beulah Sands must breathe. I've learned my lesson to-day. I thought I knew the game of finance, but I'm suddenly awakened to a realisation of the dense ignorance I wal owed in. Jim, but for the loading of the dice, I should now have been taking Beulah Sands to her father with the money that the hel ish 'System' stole from him. Later I should have taken her to the altar, and after, who knows but that I should have had the happiest home and family in all the world, and lived as her people and mine have lived for generations, honest, God-fearing, law-abiding, neighbour-loving men and women, and then died as men should die? But now, Jim, I see a black, awful picture. No, I'm not morbid, I'm going to make a heroic effort to put the picture out of sight; but I'm afraid, Jim, I'm afraid."
He stopped as we pul ed up on the sidewalk in front of Randolph & Randolph's office. "Here it is on the bulletin. See what did the trick, Jim. They held the Sugar meeting last night instead of waiting till to-morrow, and cut the dividend instead of increasing it. The world won't know it until to-morrow. Then they will know it, then they will know it.
They will read it in the headlines of the papers--a few suicides, a few defaulters, a few new convicts, an unclaimed corpse or two at the morgue; a few innocent girls, whose fathers' fortunes have gone to swell Camemeyer's and 'Standard Oil's' already uncountable gold, turned into streetwalkers; a few new palaces on Fifth Avenue, and a few new libraries given to communities that formerly took pride in building them from their honestly earned savings. A report or two of record-breaking diamond sales by Tiffany to the kings and czars of dollar royalty, then front-page news stories of clawing, mauling, and hair-pulling wrangles among the stage harlots for the possession of these diamonds. They were not quite sure that the dividend cut alone would do the trick, and they were taking no chances, these mighty warriors of the 'System,' so their hireling Senate committee held a session last night and unanimously reported to put sugar on the free list. The people will read that in the morning, and probably the day after they'll be told that the committee held another session to-night and unanimously reported to take it off the free list. By that time these honourable statesmen will have loaded up with the stock that you and I and Beulah Sands sold, and that other poor devils will slaughter to-morrow after reading their morning papers."
Bob's bitterness was terrible. My heart was torn as I listened. He stalked through the office and into that of Beulah Sands. I fol owed. She was at her desk, and when she looked up, her great eyes opened in wonderment as they took in Bob, his grim, set face, the defiant, sul en desperation of the big brown eyes, the dishevel ed hair and clothes. For an instant she stood as one who had seen an apparition.
"Look me over, Beulah Sands," he said, "look me over to your heart's content, for you may never again see the fool of fools in al the world, the fool who thought himself competent to cope with men of brains, with men who really know how to play the game of dol ars as it is played in this Christian age. Don't ask me not to cal you Beulah; that what I tried to do was for you is the one streak of light in al this black hel .
Beulah, Beulah, we are ruined, you, your father, and I, ruined, and I'm the fool who did it."
She rose from her desk with al the quiet, calm dignity that we had been admiring for three months, and stood facing Bob. She did not seem to see me; she saw nothing but the man who had gone out that morning the personification of hope, who now stood before her the picture of black despair, and she must have thought, "It was al for me." Suddenly she took the lapels of his torn coat in either hand. She had to reach up to do it, this winsome little Virginia lady. With her big calm blue eyes looking straight into his, she said:
That was all, but the word seemed to change the very atmosphere in the room. The look of desperation faded from Bob's face, and as though the words had sprung the hidden catch to the doors of his storehouse of pent-up misery, his eyes filled with hot, blinding tears. His great chest was convulsed with sobs. Again--clear, calm, fearless, and tender, came the one syllable, "Bob." And at that Bob's self-control slipped the leash. With a hoarse cry, he threw his arms around her and crushed her to his breast. The sacredness of the scene made me feel like an intruder, and I started to leave the room. But in a moment Beulah Sands was her usual self and, turning to me, she said: "Mr. Randolph, please forget what you have seen. For an instant, as I saw Mr. Brownley's awful misery, I thought of nothing but what he had done for me, what he had tried to do for my father, what a penalty he has paid. From what you said when you left and the fact that I got no word from either of you, I feared the worst and did not dare look at the tape; I simply waited and hoped and--prayed. Yes, I prayed as my mother taught me I should pray whenever I was helpless and could do nothing myself. And I felt that God would not let the noble work of two such men be overthrown by those you were battling with. In the midst of a calmness that I took for a good omen, you came. Can you blame me for forgetting myself? Mr. Brownley," the voice was now calm and self-control ed, "tel me what you have done. Where do we stand?" "There is little to tel ," Bob answered. "Camemeyer and 'Standard Oil' have taken me into camp as they would take a stuck pig. They have made a monkeyfied ass out of me, and we are ruined, and I have caused Mr.
Randolph a heavy loss. Roughly, I figure that of your four hundred thousand capital and the million four hundred thousand profit you had this morning, only your capital remains."
Wishing to spare Bob, I interrupted and myself gave the girl briefly the details of what had happened. She listened intently and seemed to take in all the trickery of the "System" masters; seemed to see just what it meant to us and to her. But she made no comment, showed by no outward sign that she suffered. As soon as I was through she turned to Bob, who had stood with his eyes fastened upon her face, as though somewhere out of its soft beauty must come an assurance that this was al a bad dream.
"Mr. Brownley," she said, "let us figure up just where we stand, so that we may know what to do to recoup. You have said so many times, since I have been here, that Wall Street is magic land; that no man may tel twenty-four hours ahead what will happen to him. You have said it so many times that I believe it. We know that this morning we were at the goal, that we were millions ahead, and all from twenty-four hours' effort. We have yet almost three months left, and I do not see why we have not just as much chance as we had day before yesterday. Yes, and more, because we know more now. Next time we will include the dividend cuts and the Senate duplicity in our figuring."
We both dumbly stared in wondering admiration at this marvel ous woman.
Was it possible that a girl could have such nerve, such courage? Or had woman's hope, so persistent where her loved ones are concerned, made Beulah Sands blind to the awfulness of the situation? As I looked at her I could not doubt that she ful y realised our position, that she was real y suffering more than either of us, that she was only acting to ease Bob's anguish. Bob brought out his memoranda, and in half an hour we had the figures. The total loss was nearly three millions. As Beulah Sands's 20,000 shares had cost less than ours and Bob figured to leave her capital of $400,000 intact, we felt some comfort. Beulah Sands had watched the figuring with the keenness of an expert, and when Bob announced the final figures, which showed that she still had what she started with, she drew the sheet containing the totals to her. "I was willing to accept your assistance," she said, "when the deal promised a profit to all of us, because I appreciated your goodness and knew how much it would hurt your feelings if I were churlish about the division; but now that we all lose I must stand my fair share; I must." She said this in a way that we both knew precluded the possibility of argument. "We owned together 150,000
shares. I was to have had the profits on 20,000 shares. Our total loss is $2,775,000, of which I must bear my just proportion. Mr. Brownley, you will see that $370,000 is charged to my account. I shal have $30,000
left. If our cause is as just as we think, God in his goodness will make this ample for our purposes."
Though Bob and I were in despair at her determination to strip herself of what Bob had worked so hard to accumulate, we could not help feeling a reverence for her faith and her sturdy independence. She now showed us in her delicate way that she wished to be alone; as we went she held out her hand to Bob. "Mr. Brownley, please, for the sake of the work we have to do, look on the bright side of this calamity, for it has a bright side.
You wanted me to send word to my father that we were about to grasp victory. Think if we had sent it--then you will know that God is good, even when we think he is chastening us beyond endurance."
Bob took me into his office. "Jim, you see what a woman can do, and we are taught women are the weaker sex. Now listen to what you must do. Accept my notes for the whole loss, less one hundred thousand which I have to my credit, and which I will pay on account. I won't listen to any objection.
The deal was mine; you came in only to help us out, and I ought never to have tempted you. If I remain in my present busted condition, the notes will be blank paper. Therefore you do me no harm in taking them. If I should strike it rich, I should never feel like a man until I made up the loss."
It was no use arguing with him in his inflexible mood, so I took his demand notes for $2,405,000. I begged him to go home with me to dinner, but he insisted that he could not face my wife with his last night's break still fresh in her mind. Next day he did not turn up. Along in the afternoon I received a telegram from him, saying that he was on his way to Virginia, that he needed a rest and would be back in a week. I was worried, nervous. It takes until the next day and the day after, and the week after that, to get down to the deepest misery of an upset such as we had been through. I did not feel easy with Bob out of sight while he was sounding for a new footing. I went to Beulah Sands in hope we might talk over the affair, but when I told her that Bob was to be gone for a week and that I was uneasy, she said in her calm, confident manner: "I don't think there is anything to worry about, Mr. Randolph. Mr. Brownley is too much of a man to al ow an affair of dollars to do anything more than annoy him. He will be back all the better for his rest." She dropped her long lashes in a this-conversation-is-closed way that we had come to know meant going time.
The following week Bob returned to the office. He had not changed, and yet he had changed greatly. Rest had apparently done much for him. His colour was good, his step elastic as of old, and his head was thrown back as if he were buckled up for the fray and wanted al to know it. Yet there was something in the eye, in the setness of the jaw, in the hair-trigger calm, yet fiercely savage grip in which he closed his strong hands on the arms of his chair, that told me more plainly than words that this was not the optimistic, soft-hearted Bob Brownley I had known and loved. I could not help feeling that if I had been a leader of the Russian terrorists, and this man who now sat before me had come to my ken when I was selecting bomb-throwers, I should have seized upon him of all men as the one to stalk the Czar or his marked minions. Surely the iron that had entered Bob's soul a week before had affected his whole being. I think Beulah Sands had some such thoughts. For I saw a shadow of perplexity cross her broad, low forehead after her first meeting with him, a shadow that had not been there before.
For days after Bob's return I saw little of him. I think Beulah Sands saw less. During Stock Exchange hours he spent most of his time on the floor, but he executed few of our orders. He merely looked them over and handed them out to his assistants. As far as I could learn, he spent much of his time there yesterdaying through hope's graveyards, a not uncommon pastime for active Exchange members whose first through specials have been open-switched by the "System" towerman. So strong had become this habit of going about from pole to pole with bent head and a far-off gaze that his fel ow members began to humour and respect it. They all knew that Bob had gone up against the Sugar panic hard. No one knew how hard, but al guessed from his changed appearance and habits that it must have been a bone-smashing blow. Nothing so quickly and so deeply stirs a Stock Exchange man's feelings for his brother member as to know that "They" have ditched his El Dorado flyer--that is, if he has been a good the books showed no change in Beulah Sands's account. There was the poor little $30,000 balance; no other entries. One afternoon Beulah Sands had asked for a meeting between Bob and myself in her office. She could hardly have asked Bob to come without me, but I knew it was Bob she wanted to see, and I felt that the best thing I could do for them was to leave them alone. So I made some excuse for a moment's delay at my desk, telling Bob to go on into her office, and promising to fol ow shortly. He went in, leaving the door partly open. I think that from the moment he entered the room both of them utterly forgot my existence. From her desk Beulah could not see me, and Bob sat so that his back was half toward me. "I dislike to trouble you about my account," I heard her begin in a voice a trifle uneven, "but as I must go back to Father Christmas week, I wanted to get your advice as to the advisability of writing him that, though there is still a chance for doing wonders, I do not think we shall be able to save him. Of course I won't put it in just that blunt way, but it seems to me I should begin to prepare him for the blow. I have not talked over any more plunging with you, Mr. Brownley, since the unlucky one in Sugar, and----"
"Miss Sands, I understand what you mean," Bob broke in, "and I should apologise for not having consulted with you about your business affairs.
The fact is, I have not been quite clear as to the best thing to do. I hope you don't think I have forgotten. Never for a moment since I took charge of your affairs have I forgotten my promise to see that they were kept active. Truly I have been trying to think out some successful plunge, but--but"--there was a hoarseness in his voice--"I have not had my old confidence in myself since that day in Sugar when I killed your hopes and destroyed the chance of saving your father--no, I have not had that confidence a man must have in himself to win at this game."
There was a silence, and then I heard an indescribable fluttering rush that told as plainly as sight could have done that a woman had answered her heart's cal . Looking up involuntarily, I saw a sight that for a long moment held my eyes as if I had been fascinated. It was Bob bowed forward with his face hidden in his hands and beside him, on her knees, Beulah Sands, her arms about his neck, his head drawn down to her bosom. "Bob, Bob," she said chokingly, "I cannot stand it any longer. My heart is breaking for you. You were so happy when I came into your life, and the happiness is changed to misery and despair, and all for me, a stranger. At first I thought of nothing but father and how to save him, but since that day when those men struck at your heart, I have been filled with, oh! such a longing to tel you, to tel you, Bob----"
"What? Beulah, what? For the love of God, don't stop; tell me, Beulah, tel me." He had not lifted his head. It was buried on her breast, his arms closed around her. She bent her head and laid her beautiful, soft cheek, down which the tears were now streaming, against his brown hair.
"Bob, forgive me, but I love you, love you, Bob, as only a woman can love who has never known love before, never known anything but stern duty. Bob, night after night when all have left I have crept into your office and sat in your chair. I have laid my head on your desk and cried and cried until it seemed as though I could not live till morning without hearing you say that you loved me, and that you did not mind the ruin I had brought into your life. I have patted the back of your chair where your dear head had rested. I have covered the arms of your chair, that your strong, brave hands had gripped, with kisses. Night after night I have knelt at your desk and prayed to God to shield you, to protect you from al harm, to brush away the black cloud I brought into your life. I have asked Him to do with me, yes, with my father and mother, anything, anything if only He would bring back to you the happiness I had stolen. Bob, I have suffered, suffered, as only a woman can suffer."
She was sobbing as though her heart would break, sobbing wildly, convulsively, like the little child who in the night comes to its mother's bed to tell of the black goblins that have been pursuing it. Long before she had finished speaking--and it took only a few heart-beats for that rush of words--I had broken the power of the fascination that held me, had turned away my eyes, and tried not to listen. For fear of breaking the spel , I did not dare cross the room to close Beulah's door or to reach the outer door of my office, which was nearer hers than it was to my desk.
I waited--through a silence, broken only by Beulah's weeping, that seemed hour-long. Then in Bob's voice came one low sob of joy:
"Beulah, Beulah, my Beulah!"
I realised that he had risen. I rose too, thinking that now I could close the door. But again I saw a picture that transfixed me. Bob had taken Beulah by both shoulders and he held her off and looked into her eyes long and beseechingly. Never before nor since have I seen upon human face that glorious joy which the old masters sought to get into the faces of their worshippers who, kneeling before Christ, tried to send to Him, through their eyes, their soul's gratitude and love. I stood as one enthralled.
Slowly and as reverently as the living lover touches the brow of his dead wife, Bob bent his head and kissed her forehead. Again and again he drew her to him and implanted upon her brow and eyes and lips his kisses. I could not stand the scene any longer. I started to the corridor-door, and then, as though for the first time either had known I was within hearing, they turned and stared at me. At last Bob gave a long deep sigh, then one of those reluctant laughs of happiness yet wet with sobs.
"Well, Jim, dear old Jim, where did you come from? Like all eavesdroppers, you have heard no good of yourself. Own up, Jim, you did not hear a word good or bad about yourself, for it is just coming back to me that we have been selfish, that we have left you entirely out of our business conference."
We al laughed, and Beulah Sands, with her face a bloom of burning blushes, said: "Mr. Randolph, we have not settled what it is best to do about father's affairs."
After a little we did begin to talk business, and finally agreed that Beulah should write her father, wording her letter as carefully as possible, to avoid all direct statements, but showing him that she had made but little headway on the work she had come North to accomplish. Bob was a changed being now; so, too, was Beulah Sands. Both discussed their hopes and fears with a frankness in strange contrast to their former manner. But there was one point on which Bob showed he was holding back. I final y put it to him bluntly: "Bob, are you working out anything that looks like real relief for Miss Sands and her father?"
"I don't know how to answer you, Jim. I can only say I have some ideas, radical ones perhaps, but--wel , I am thinking along certain lines."
I saw he was not yet willing to take us into his confidence. We parted, Bob going along in the cab with Miss Sands.
Two days afterward she sent for us both as soon as we got to the office.
"I have this telegram from father--it makes me uneasy: 'Mailed to-day important letter. Answer as soon as you receive.'"
The following afternoon the letter came. It showed Judge Sands in a very nervous, uneasy state. He said he had been living a life of daily terror, as some of his friends, for whose estates he was trustee, had been receiving anonymous letters, advising them to look into the judge's trust affairs; that the Reinhart crowd had been using renewed pressure to make him let go all his Seaboard stock, which they wanted to secure at the low prices to which they had depressed it, in order that they might reorganise and carry out the scheme they had been so long planning. Judge Sands went on to say that the day he was compelled to sell his Seaboard stock he would have to make public an announcement of his condition, as there could be no sale without the court's consent. His closing was:
"My dear daughter, no one knows better than I the almost hopelessness of expecting any relief from your operations. But so hopeless have I become of late, so much am I reliant upon you, my dear child, and eternal hope so springs in al of us when confronted with great necessities, that I have hoped and still hope that you are to be the saviour of your family; that you, only a frail child, are through God's marvel ous workings to be the one to save the honour of that name we both love more than life; the one to keep the wolf of poverty from that door through which so far has come nothing but the sunshine of prosperity and happiness; the one, my dear Beulah, who is to save your old father from a dishonoured grave. Dear child, forgive me for placing upon your weak shoulders the additional burden of knowing I am now helpless and compelled to rely absolutely upon you. After you have read my letter, if there is no hope, I command you to tell me so at once, for although I am now financial y and almost mentally helpless, I am still a Sands, and there has never yet been one of the name who shirked his duty, however stern and painful it might be."
When I handed the letter back to Miss Sands, she said:
"Mr. Randolph, let me tel you and Mr. Brownley a little about my father and our home, that you may see our situation as it is. My father is one of the noblest men that ever lived. I am not the only one who says that--if you were to ask the people of our State to name the one man who had done most for the State as a State, most for her progressive betterment, most for her people high and low, white and black, they would answer, 'Judge Lee Sands.' He has been, and is, the idol of our people. After he was graduated from Harvard, he entered the law office of my grandfather, Senator Robert Lee Sands. Before he was thirty he was in Congress and was even then reputed the greatest orator of our State, where orators are so plentiful. He married my mother, his second cousin, Julia Lee, of Richmond, at twenty-five, and from then until the attack of that ruthless money-shark, led a life such as a true man would map out for himself if his Maker granted him the privilege. You would have to visit at our home to appreciate my father's character and to understand how terrible this sorrow is to him. Every morning of his life he spends an hour after breakfast with my dear mother, who is a cripple from hip disease. He takes her in his arms and brings her down from her room to the library as if she were a child. He then reads to her--and he knows good books as well as he knows his friends. After he takes mother back to her room, he gives an hour to our people, the blacks of the plantation and his white tenants throughout the county. He is a father to them al . He settles all their troubles, big and little. Then for hours he and I go over his business affairs. Every afternoon from four to five he devotes to his estates and the men and women for whom he acts as trustee. He has often said to me:
'We have a clear million of money and property, and that is all any man should have in America. It is al he is entitled to under our form of government. Any more than that an honest man should in one way or another return to the people from whom he has taken it. I never want my family to have more than a million dol ars.' When he went into the Seaboard affair, he explained to me that it was to assist the Wilsons--they were old friends, and he has acted as their solicitor for years--in building up the South. He discussed with me the right and advisability of putting in the trust funds. He said he considered it his duty to employ them as he did his own in enterprises that would aid the whole people of the South, instead of sending them to the North to be used in Wall Street as belting for the 'System' grinder. These fortunes were made in the South by men who loved their section of the country more than they did wealth, and why should they not be employed to benefit that part of the country which their makers and owners loved? I remember vividly how perplexed he was when, at the beginning, the Wilsons would show him that the investments were returning unusual y large profits.
"'It is not right, Beulah,' he said to me one morning after receiving a letter from Baltimore to the effect that Seaboard stock and bonds had advanced until his investment showed over fifty per cent, profit, 'it is not right for us to make this money. No man in America should make over legal rates of interest and a fair profit on an investment, that is, an investment of capital pure and simple, particularly in a transportation company, where every dol ar of profit comes from the people who patronise the lines. I have worked it out on every side, and it is not right; it would not be legal if the people, who make the laws for their own betterment, understood their affairs as they should.'
"He was always writing to the Wilsons to conduct the affairs of the Seaboard so that there would be remaining each year only profits enough to keep the road up and the wharves in good condition and to pay the annual interest and a fair dividend. And when the Wilsons came to our house to lay before him the offer of Reinhart and his fellow plunderers to pay enormous profits for the control of the Seaboard, he was indignant and argued with them that the offer was an insult to honest men. It was he who advised the trusteeship control of the Seaboard stock to prevent Reinhart from securing control. I sat in the library when he talked to the elder Wilson and the directors.
"He appealed directly to John Wilson to make an effort to stop the growing tendency to use the people as pawns to enslave themselves and their children. He said some man of undoubted probity, standing, and wealth, someone whom the people trusted, must start the fight against these New York fiends, whose only thought is to rol up wealth. And he told John Wilson he was the man, since he had great wealth, honestly got by his father and grandfather; no one would accuse him of being a hypocrite, seeking notoriety, and his standing in the financial world was so old and solid that it would have to listen to him. I remember-how emphatical y father said: 'I tell you, John, _even the discussion_ of such a proposition as that scoundrel Reinhart makes is degrading to an American's honour.' He said it didn't make the least difference if Reinhart counted his millions by the score, and was director in thirty or forty great institutions, and gave a fortune every year for charity and to the church--that he was a blackleg just the same. And so is any man, he said, who dares to say he will take the stock of a transportation company, which represents a certain amount of money invested, and double or multiply it by five and ten, simply because he can compel the people to pay exorbitant fares and freight-rates and so get profits on this fraudulently increased capital.
"It was the decision arrived at by father and the Wilsons at this meeting, a decision to refuse in any circumstances to allow our Southern people to be bled by the Wal Street 'System,' that started Reinhart and his dol ar-fiends on the war-path. You can see from what I tell you of my father the terrible condition he is in now. At night, when I get to thinking of him, hoping against hope, with no one to help him, no one with whom he can talk over his affairs, when I think of his nobleness in devoting his time to mother and by sheer will-power concealing from her his awful suffering, it nearly drives me mad."
"Miss Sands, why will you not let me lend you the money necessary to tide your father over for a while?" I asked.
"You are so good, Mr. Randolph, but you don't quite understand my father in spite of what I have said. He would not relieve his suffering at the expense of another, not if it were a hundred times more acute. You cannot understand the old-fashioned, deep-rooted pride of the Sands."
"But can you not, at least temporarily, disguise from him just how you have arranged the relief?"
Her big blue eyes stared at me in bewilderment.
"Mr. Randolph, I could not deceive father. I could not tell him a lie even to save his life. It would be impossible. My father abhors a lie. He believes a man or woman who would lie the lowest of the low things on earth. When I go back to my father he will say, 'Tel me what you have done.' I can just see him now, standing between the big white pillars at the end of the driveway. I can hear him say calmly, 'Beulah, my daughter, welcome. Your mother is waiting for you in her room. Do not lose a moment getting to her.' Afterward he'll take me over the plantation to show me all the familiar things, and not one word will he al ow me to say about our affairs until dinner is over, until the neighbours have left, for no Sands returns from long absence without a fitting home welcome. When I have said good night to mother and sister and he has drawn up my rocker in front of his big chair in the library alcove and I've lighted his cigar for him, he will look me in the eye and say, 'Daughter, tell me all you have done.' I would no more think of holding anything back than I would of stabbing him to the heart. No, Mr. Randolph, there is no possibility of relief except in fairly using that $30,000, and fairly winning back what Wall Street has stolen from father. Even that will cause both of us many twinges of conscience, and anything more is impossible. If this cannot be done, father must, al of us must, pay the penalty of Reinhart's ruthless act."
Bob had listened, but made no comment until she was through; then he said,
"It looks to me as though the market is shaping up so that we may be able to do something soon." It was evident to both of us that he had some plan in mind.
Later we learned that that night Beulah wrote her father a long letter, tel ing him what she had done; that she had made almost two millions profit from her operations, that they had been lost, and that the outlook was not reassuring. She begged him to prepare himself for the final calamity; promising that if there were no change for the better by December 1st, she would come home to be with him when the blow fell. She begged him to prepare to meet it like a Sands, and assured him that if worse came to worst she would earn enough to keep poverty away. Judge Sands would receive this letter the second day following, Friday, the 13th day of November. My God! how well I know the date. It is seared into my brain as though with a white-hot iron.
After our talk with Beulah Sands I begged Bob to dine with me and go over matters at length to see if we could not find a way out to relief.
"No, Jim, I have work to do to-night, worn that won't wait. That Tariff Bill was buttoned up to-day, and it has just been announced that the Sugar directors have declared a big extra stock dividend. Things have come out just about as I told you they would, and the stock is climbing to-day.
They say it will touch 200 to-morrow and 'the Street' is predicting 250
for it in ten days. Barry Conant has been a steady buyer al day and the news bureaus announced that Camemeyer and the 'Standard Oil' are twenty millions winners. They say the Washington gamblers, the Congressmen, Senators, and Cabinet members with their heelers and lobbyists have made a killing. About every one seems to have fattened up, Jim, but you and me and Beulah Sands and the public. The public gets the axe both ways as usual. They have been shaken out of their stock, and they will be compelled to pay millions more each year for their sugar than they would if this law had not been made for their benefit. Jim, there is no disguising the fact that the American people are as helpless in the hands of these thugs of the 'System' as though they lived in the realm of the Sultan, where a few cutthroat brigands are licensed to rob and oppress to their heart's content. Jim Randolph, you know this game of finance. You know how it is worked and the men who work it. Tel me if there is any consideration due Wall Street and its heart-and-soul butchers at the hands of honest men."
"I don't know what you mean, Bob. What are you driving at?"
"Never mind what I am driving at. I ask you whether, if an honest man knew how to beat Wal Street at its own game, he should hesitate to beat it--hesitate because of anything connected with conscience or morals? You saw what Barry Conant was able to do to us that day simply by standing on the floor of the Stock Exchange and outstaying me in opening and closing his mouth. You saw he was able to sell Sugar to a point so low that I was obliged to let go of our 150,000 shares at eight to ten million dol ars less than we could have got for them if we could have held them until to-day. Because of this trick his clients, the 'System,' instead of us, make five to seven millions."
"I don't fol ow you, Bob. I know that Barry Conant was able to do this because he had more money behind him than you."
"You think so, do you, Jim? That is the way it looks to you, but I tell you money had nothing to do with it. Nothing had to do with it but the fiendish system of fraud and trickery upon which the whole stock-gambling structure is reared. Nothing entered into the whole business but the trickery of stock-gambling as conducted to-day. It was only a question, Jim, of a man's opening and closing his mouth and spitting out words. From the minute Barry Conant came into that crowd until he left and we were ruined, he showed no money, no anything that I did not show. From the very nature of the business he could not. He simply said 'Sold' oftener and longer than I said 'Buy.' He may have had money back of him, or he may only have had nerve. God Almighty is the only one who can tell, for when Conant was through he was able to buy back at 90 the 50,000 shares he sold me at 175, the 50,000 that broke my back. Jim, if I had known as much that day as I do now I would have stood in that crowd and bought all the stock he sold at 180 and I would have stood there buying until hell froze over or he quit; then I would have made him rebuy it at 280 or 2,080, and I would have broken him and all his Camemeyer and 'Standard Oil' backers; broken them to their last crime-covered dol ar."
"Bob, what are you talking about? It is all Chinese to me. I cannot get head or tail of what you are driving at."
"I know you can't, Jim, neither could Wal Street if it were listening to me. But you will, and Wal Street will too, before many days go by. Now I must be off. I have work to do."
He put on his hat and left me trying to puzzle out just what he meant.
Next day the Sugar bul s had the centre of the Stock Exchange stage. Al day long they tossed Sugar from one to another as though each thousand shares had been a wisp of hay instead of $200,000--for soon after the opening it soared to 200. The "System's" cohorts were in absolute control, with Barry Conant never a minute away from the Sugar-pole, always on the alert to steer the course of prices when they threatened to run away on the up or the down side. It was evident to the expert readers of the tape that the "System" was currying its steed for an exceptional y brilliant run. Ike Bloomstein, the Average Fiend, who for forty years had kept close track of every movement on the floor, and who would bet anything, from his Fifth Avenue mansion to his overripe boardroom straw hat, that al stocks and movements were as strictly subject to the law of averages as are the tides to the moon and sun, remarked to Joe Barnes, the loan expert:
"'Cam' unt de Keroseners are pudding up egstra dop rails to dot wool-pen deh haf ben pilding since deh took Pop Prownlee and deh Rantolphs into gamp. Unless my topesheet goes pack on me, for deh first dime in forty years dere vill pe a record clip pefore a veek from to-tay."
"I am with you there, Ike," answered Joe. "If Barry Conant's knife-edged teeth ever spelt a killin', they do to-day. I just got orders from somewhere to drop cal money from four to two and a half per cent., and they have given me ten millions to drop it with and the order is to favour Sugar as 'collat.' Some one is anxious to make it easy for the bleaters to get the coin to buy all the Sugar they want. Ike, you and I might make turkey money for Thanksgiving if we only knew whether Barry and his bunch were going to shoot her up thirty or forty points before they turned the bag upside down, or whether they will bury them from 200 to 150. What do you think?"
"I gant make out, aldo I haf vatched dem sharp all day. Dey certainly haf deh lambs lined up right now for any vey dey vont to twist id. I nefer see a petter market for a deluge. From Barry's movements al day I should say dey vould keep hoistin' her until apout noon to-morrow, unt dat deh might get her up to two-tirty or even to deh two-fifty. Put dere are von or two topes on deh sheet vhat run deh uder vay. First der is dey fact you gant run out, dat dere is alreaty on deh Sugar vagon deh piggest load of chuicy suckers dat efer game in from deh suppurbs. Sharley Pates says if any von hat tapped his Vashington vire er any utter Capitol vire dis veek he vould haf tought dere vas a Senate, House, unt Kabinet rol -gall on. Deh topes say 'Cam' vill nefer led dat fat punch off grafters slite out mit real money if he gan help id unt deh game iss endirely in his hands."
"I agree with you, Ike. If I had the steering of this killing I don't think I would take any chance of tempting them to dump and grab the profits by carrying it much over 200. But you can't tel what 'Cam' and those four-eyed dentists at 26 Broadway will do."
"Yes, put der iss anudder t'ing, Cho, dat makes me sit up unt plink about her goin' ofer two hundred. To-morrow's Friday der t'irteenth."
"Of course, Ike, that is something to be reckoned with, and every man on the floor and in the Street as wel has his eye on it. Friday, the 13th, would break the best bull market ever under way. You and I know that, Ike, and the dope shows it too, but you have got to stack this up against it on this trip: no man on the floor knows what Friday the 13th, means better than Barry Conant. He has worked it to the queen's taste many a time. Why, Barry would not eat to-day for fear the food would get stuck in his windpipe. He's never left the pole for a minute; but suppose, Ike, Barry has tipped off 'Cam' that al the boys will let go their fliers, and most of them will take one on the short side over to-night for a superstition drop at the opening; and suppose 'Cam' has told him to take them al into camp and give her a rafter-scraper at the opening, where would old Friday, 13th, land on to-morrow's dope-sheets? Bring up the average, wouldn't it, for five years to come? I tell you, Ike, she's too deep for me this run, and I'm goin' to let her alone and pay for the turkey out of loan commissions or stick to plain workday food."
"Zame here, Cho. Say, Cho, haf you noticed Pop Prownlee to-tay? He has frozen to deh fringe off dat Sugar crowd ess t'ough some von hat nipped