Friday the Thirteen by Thomas W. Lawson - HTML preview
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He left me with his laugh still ringing in my ears. I shuddered as I passed under the old black-and-gold sign my uncle and my father had nailed over the office entrance in an age now dead, an age when Wal Street men talked of honour and gold, not gold and more gold.
In telling my wife of the day's happenings I could not refrain from giving vent to the feelings that consumed me. "Kate, Bob will surely do something awful one of these days. I can see no hope for him. He grows more and more the madman as he broods over his horrible situation. The whole thing seems incredible to me. Never was a human being in such perpetual living purgatory--unlimited, absolute power on the one hand, unfathomable, never-cool-down hell on the other."
"Jim, how does he do what he does? I cannot make out from anything I have read or you have told me, how he creates those panics and makes all that money."
"No one has ever been able to figure it out," I answered. "I understand the stock business, but I cannot for the life of me see how he does it. He has none of the money powers in league with him, that's sure, for in the mood he has been in during the past two years it would be impossible for him to work with them, even if his salvation depended on it. The mention of any of the big 'System' men drives him to a fury. He has to-day made more money than any one man ever made in a day since the world began, and he had only commenced his work when he quit to please me. As I stand in the Exchange and watch him do it, it seems commonplace and simple.
Afterward it is beyond my comprehension. At the gait he is going, the Rockefel er, Vanderbilt, and Gould fortunes combined will look tiny in comparison with the one he will have in a few years. It is beyond my power of figuring out, and it gives me a headache every time I try to see through it."
A number of times during the following year, and final y on the anniversary of the Sands tragedy, Bob carried the Exchange to the verge of panic, only to turn the market and save "the Street" in the end. His profits were fabulous. Already his fortune was estimated to be between two and three hundred millions, one of the largest in the world. His name had become one of terror wherever stocks were dealt in. Wall Street had come to regard his every deal, from the moment that he began operations, as inevitably successful. Now and again he would jump into the market when some of the plunging cliques had a bear raid under way, and would put them to rout by buying everything in sight and bidding up prices until it looked as though he intended to do as extraordinary work on the up-side as he was wont to do on the down. At such times he was the idol of the Exchange, which worships the man who puts prices up as it hates him who pul s them down. Once when war news flashed over the wires from Washington and rumour had the Cabinet members, Senators, and Congressmen sel ing the market short on advance information, when the "Standard Oil" banks had put up money rates to 150 per cent, and a crash seemed inevitable, Bob suddenly smashed the loan market by offering to lend one hundred millions at four per cent.; and by buying and bidding up prices at the same time, he put the whole Washington crowd and its New York accomplices to disastrous rout and caused them to lose millions. He continued his operations with increasing violence and increasing profits up to the fourth anniversary of the tragedy. On the intervening anniversary I had been compel ed by self-interest and fear that he would real y pull down the entire Wal Street structure, to rush in and fairly drag him off. But with his growing madness my influence was waning. Each raid it was with greater difficulty that I got his ear.
Finally, on the fourth anniversary, in a panic that seemed to be running into something more terrible than any previous, he savagely refused to accede to my appeal, telling me that he would not stop, even if Randolph
& Randolph were doomed to go down in the crash. It had become known on the floor that I was the only one who could do anything with him in his frenzies, and my pleading with him in the lobby was watched by the members of the Exchange with triple eyed suspense. When it was clear from his emphatic gestures and raised voice--for he was in a reckless mood from drink and madness and took no pains to disguise his intentions--that I could not prevail upon him, there was a frantic rush for the poles to throw over stocks in advance of him. Suddenly, after I had turned from him in despair, there flashed into my mind an idea. The situation was desperate. I was dealing with a madman, and I decided that I was justified in making this last try. I rushed back to him. "Bob, good-bye," I whispered in his ear, "good-bye. In ten minutes you will get word that Jim Randolph has cut his throat!" He stopped as though I had plunged a knife into him, struck his forehead a resounding blow, and into his wild brown eyes came a sickening look of fear.
"Stop, Jim, for God's sake, don't say that to me. My cup is ful now.
Don't tel me I am to have that crime on my soul." He thought a moment.
"I don't know whether you mean it, Jim, but I can take no chances, not for all the money in the world, not even for revenge. Wait here, Jim." He yelled for his brokers, and several rushed to him from different parts of the room. He sent them back into the crowd while he dashed for the Amalgamated-pole. The day was saved.
Presently he came back to me. "Jim, I must have a talk with you. Come over to my office." When we got there he turned the key and stood in front of me. His great eyes looked full into mine. In col ege days, gazing into their brown depths, by some magic I seemed to see the heroes and heroines of always happy-ending tales, as the child sees enchanted creatures far back in the burning Yule log flames. But there were no joyous beings in the haunted depths of Bob's eyes that day.
"Jim, you gave me an awful scare," he said brokenly. "Don't ever do it again. I have little left to live for. To be sure I have some feeling for mother, Fred, and sisters. But for you I have a love second only to that I should have felt for Beulah had I been allowed to have her. The thought, Jim, that I had wrecked your life, with al you have to live for, would have been the last straw. My life is purgatory. Beulah is only an ever-present curse to me--a ghost that rends my heart and soul, one minute with a blind frenzy to revenge her wrongs, the next with an icy remorse that I have not already done so. If I did not have her, perhaps in time I could forget; perhaps I might lay out some scheme to help poor devils whose poverty makes life unendurable, and with the millions I have taken from that main shaft of hel I might do things that would at least bring quiet to my soul; but it is impossible with the living corpse of Beulah Sands before me every minute and that devil machinery whirling in my brain all the time the song, 'Revenge her and her father, revenge yourself.' It is impossible to give it up, Jim. I must have revenge. I must stop this machinery that is smashing up more American hearts and souls each year than all the rest of earth's grinders combined. Every day I delay I become more fiendish in my desires. Jim, don't think I do not know that I have literal y turned into a fiend. Whenever of late I see myself in the mirror, I shudder. When I think of what I was when your father stood us up in his office and started us in this heart-shrivelling, soul-cal ousing business, and what I am now, I cannot keep the madness down except with rum. You know what it means for me to say this, me who started with al the pride of a Brownley; but it is so, Jim. The other night I went home with my soul frozen with thoughts of the past and with my brain ablaze with rum, intending to end it al . I got out my revolver, and woke Beulah, but as I said, 'Bob is going to kill Beulah and himself,' she laughed that sweet child's laugh and clapping her hands said, 'Bob is so good to play with Beulah,' and then I thought of that devil Reinhart and the other fiends of the 'System' being left to continue their work unhindered and I could not do it. I must have revenge; I must smash that heart-crushing machinery. Then I can go, and take Beulah with me. Now, Jim, let us have it clearly understood once and for al ."
Remorse and softness were past; he was the Indian again. "I am going to wreck that hel -annex some day, and that some day will be the next time I start in. Don't argue with me, don't misunderstand me. To-day you stopped me. I don't know whether you meant what you threatened; I don't care now.
It is just as well that I stopped, for the 'System's' machine will be there whenever I start in again. It loses nothing of its fiendishness, none of its destructive powers by grinding, but, on the contrary, as you know, it increases its speed every day it runs. Now, Jim Randolph, I want to tell you that you must get yours and the house's affairs in such shape that you won't be hurt when I go into that human rat-pit the next time, for when I come from it the New York Stock Exchange and the 'System' will have had their spines unjointed. Yes, and I'll have their hearts out, too.
Neither will ever again be able to take from the American people their savings and their manhood and womanhood and give them in exchange unadulterated torment. I am going to be fair with you, Jim; this is the last time I will discuss the subject. After this you must take your chance with the rest of those who have to do with the cursed business. When I strike again, none will be spared. I will wreck 'the Street', and the innocent will go down with the guilty, if they have any stocks on hand at that time.
"My power, Jim, is unlimited; nothing can stay it. I am not going to explain any further. You have seen me work. You must know that my power is greater than the 'System's,' and you and I and 'the Street' have always known that the 'System' is more powerful than the Government, more powerful than are the courts, legislatures, Congress, and the President of the United States combined, that it absolutely controls the foundation on which they rest--the money of the nation. But my power is greater, a thousand, yes, a million times greater than theirs. Jim, they say that I have made more money than any man in the world. They say that I have five hundred millions of dol ars, but the fools don't keep track of my movements. They only know that I have pul ed five hundred millions from my open whirls, the ones they have had an opportunity to keep tab on. But I tel you that I have made even more in my secret deals than the amount they have seen me take. I have had my agents with my capital in every deal, every steal the 'System' has rigged up. The world has been throwing up its hands in horror because Carnegie, the blacksmith of Pittsburgh, pul ed off three hundred millions of swag in the Steel hold-up--yes, swag, Jim. Don't scowl as though you wanted to read me a lecture on the coarseness of my language. I have learned to cal this game of ours by its right name. It is not business enterprise with earned profits as results, but pulled-off tricks with bags of loot--black-jack swag--for their end.
"I got away with three hundred millions when Steel slumped from 105 to 50
and from 50 to 8, and no one knew I'd made a dol ar. You and 'the Street'
read every morning last year the 'guesses' as to who could be rounding up the hundreds of millions on the slump. The papers and the market letters one morning said it was 'Standard Oil'; the next, that it was Morgan; then it was Frick, Schwab, Gates, and so on down through the list. Of course, none of them denied; it is capital to all these knights of the road to be making millions in the minds of the world, even though they never get any of the money. Dick Turpin and Jonathan Wild never were fonder of having the daring hold-ups that other highwaymen perpetrated laid to their doors, than are these modern bandits of being credited with ruthless deeds that they did not commit. But Jim, 'twas I, 'twas I who sold Pennsylvania every morning for a year, while the sel ing was explained by the press as
'Cassatt cutting down Gould's telegraph poles. Gould and old man Rockefel er selling Pennsylvania to get even.' Jim Randolph, I have to-day a billion dollars, not the Rockefel er or Carnegie kind, but a real billion. If I had no other power but the power to cal to-morrow for that billion in cash, it would be sufficient to lay in waste the financial world before to-morrow night. You are welcome, Jim, to any part of that billion, and the more you take the happier you will make me, but when I strike in again, don't attempt to stay me, for it will do no good."
Shortly after this talk Bob left for Europe with Beulah. A great German expert on brain disorders had held out hope that a six month's treatment at his sanitarium in Berlin might aid in restoring her mind. They returned the fol owing August. The trip had been fruitless. It was plain to me that Bob was the same hopelessly desperate man as when he left, more hopeless, more desperate if anything than when he warned me of his determination.
When he left for Europe "the Street" breathed more freely, and as time went by and there was no sign of his confidence-disturbing influence in the market, the "System" began to bring out its deferred deals. Times were ripe for setting up the most wildly inflated stock lamb-shearing traps. It had been advertised throughout the world that Tom Reinhart, now a two-hundred-time millionaire, was to consolidate his and many other enterprises into one gigantic trust with twelve billions of capital. His Union and Southern Pacific Railroads, his coal and Southern lines, together with his steamship company and lead, iron, and copper mines, were to be merged with the steel, traction, gas, and other enterprises he owned jointly with "Standard Oil." Some of the railroads owned by Rockefeller and his pals, in which Reinhart had no part, were to go in too, and with these was to unite that mother hog of them al , "Standard Oil" itself. The trust was to be an enormous holding company, the like of which had until then not even been dreamed of by the most daring stock manipulators. The
"System's" banks, as wel as trust and insurance companies throughout the country, had for a long time been getting into shape by concentrating the money of the country for this monster trust. It was newspaper and news bureau gossip that Reinhart and his crowd had bought millions of shares of the different stocks involved in the deal, and it was common knowledge that upon its successful completion Reinhart's fortune would be in the neighbourhood of a billion. On October 1st the certificate of the Anti-People's Trust, $12,000,000,000 capital, 120,000,000 shares, were listed upon the New York, London, and Boston Stock Exchanges, and the German and French Bourses, and trading in them started off fast and furious at 106. The claim that one billion of the twelve billions capital had been set aside to be used in protecting and manipulating the stock in the market, had been so widely advertised that even the most daring plunger did not think of selling it short.
It was evident to al in the stock-gambling world that this was to be the
"System's" grand coup, that at its completion the masses would be rudely awakened to a realisation that their savings were invested in the combined American industries at vastly inflated values, that the few had all the real money, and that any attempt upon the people's part to regulate and control the new system of robbery, would be fraught with unparalleled disaster--not to the "System," but to the people.
Since Bob's return from Europe I had seen him but a few times. Up to October 1st he had not been near the Stock Exchange or "the Street."
Shortly after the listing of the "People Be Damned," as "the Street" had dubbed the new trust, he began to show up at his office regularly. This was the condition of affairs when Fred Brownley cal ed me up on the telephone, as I related at the beginning of my story, which I did not realise I had been so long in tel ing.
My thoughts had been chasing each other with lightning-like rapidity back over the last five years and the fifteen before them, and each thought deepened the black mist over my present mental vision. In the midst of my reflections my telephone rang again.
"Mr. Randolph, for Heaven's sake have you done nothing yet?" It was Fred Brownley's voice. "Things are frightful here. Bob's brokers are selling stocks at five and ten thousand-lot clips. Barry Conant is leading Reinhart's forces. It is said he has the pool's protection order in Anti-People's and that it is unlimited, but Bob has the Reinhart crowd pretty badly scared. Swan has just finished giving Conant a hundred thousand off the reel in 10,000 lots, and he told me a moment ago he was going over to get Bob himself to face Barry Conant. They're down twenty points on the average, although they haven't let Anti-People's break an eighth yet. They have it pegged at 106, but there is an ugly rumour just in that Bob, under cover of a general attack, is unloading Anti-People's on to the Reinhart wing for Rogers and Rockefeller, and the rumour is getting in its work. Even Barry Conant is growing a bit anxious. The latest talk is that Reinhart is borrowing hundreds of millions on Anti-People's, and that his loans are being cal ed in al directions. Do you know Reinhart is at his place in Virginia and cannot get here before to-morrow night? If Bob breaks through Anti-People's peg, it will be the worst crash yet."
"Al right, Fred," I answered. "I will go over to Bob's right now. I hate to do it, but there is no other hope."
I dropped the receiver and started for Bob's office. As I went through his counting-room one of the clerks said, "They have just broken Anti-People's to 90 on a bul etin that Tom Reinhart's wife and only daughter have been killed in an automobile accident at their place in Virginia. They first had it that Reinhart himself was killed. That has been corrected, although the latest word is that he is prostrated."
I rapped on Bob's private-office door. I felt the coming struggle as I heard his hoarse bel ow, "Come in." He stood at the ticker, with the tape in one hand, while with the other he held the telephone receiver to his ear. My God, what a picture for a stage! His magnificent form was erect, his feet were as firmly planted as if he were made of bronze, his shoulders thrown back as if he were withstanding the rush of the Stock Exchange hordes, his eyes afire with a sul en, smouldering blaze, his jaw was set in a way that brought into terrible relief the new, hard lines of desperation that had recently come into his face. His great chest was rising and fal ing as though he were engaged in a physical struggle; his perfect-fitting, heavy black Melton cutaway coat, thrown back from the chest, and a low, turned-down, white col ar formed the setting for a throat and head that reminded one of a forest monarch at bay on the mountain crag awaiting the coming of the hounds and hunters.
I hesitated at the threshold to catch my breath, as I took in the terrific figure. Had Bob Brownley been an enemy of mine I should have backed out in fear, and I do not confess to more than my fair share of cowardice. Inwardly I thanked God that Bob was in his office instead of on the floor of the Exchange. His whole appearance was frightful. He showed in every line and lineament that he was a man who would hesitate at nothing, even at killing, if he should find a human obstacle in his road and his mind should suggest murder. He was the personification of the most awful madness. Even when he caught sight of me, he hardly moved, although my coming must have been a surprise.
"So it is you, Jim Randolph, is it? What brings _you_ here?" His voice was hoarse, but it had a metallic ring that went to my marrow. Bob Brownley in all the years of our friendship had never spoken to me except in kind and loving regard. I looked at him, stunned. I must have shown how hurt I was.
But if he saw it, he gave no sign. His eyes, looking straight into mine, changed no more than if he had been addressing his deadliest enemy.
Again his voice rang out, "What brings you here? Do you come to plead again for that dastard Reinhart after the warning I gave you?"
I clenched both hands until I felt the nails cut the flesh of my palms. I loved Bob Brownley. I would have done anything to make him happy, would willingly have sacrificed my own life to protect his from himself or others, but this madman, this wild brute, was no more Bob Brownley as I had known him than the howling northeast gale of December is the gentle, welcome zephyr of August; and I felt a resentment at his brutal speech that I could hardly suppress. With a mighty effort I crushed it back, trying to think of nothing but his awful misery and the Bob of our col ege days.
I said in a firm voice, "Bob, is this the way to talk to me in your own office?" At any time before, my words and tone would have touched his all-generous Southern chivalry, but now he said harshly--"To hell with sentiment. What----" He did not take his eyes from mine, but they told me that he was listening to a voice in the receiver. Only for a second; then he let loose a wild laugh, which must have penetrated to the outer office.
"Eighty and coming like a spring freshet," he said into the mouthpiece,
"and the boys want to know if I won't let up now that Reinhart is down?
Go back and smother them with all they will take down to 60. That's my answer. Tell them if Reinhart had ten more wives and daughters and they were all killed, I'd rend his bastard trust to help him dull his sorrow.
Give the word at every pole that I will have Reinhart where he will curse his luck that he was not in the automobile with the rest of his tribe----
"To hel with sentiment!" He was speaking to me again. "What do you want?
If you are here to beg for Reinhart and his pack of yel ow curs, you've got your answer. I wouldn't let up on that fiendish hyena, not if his wife and daughter and al the dead wives and daughters of every 'System' man came back in their grave clothes and begged. I wouldn't let up a share." I gasped in horror.
"When did those robbers of men and despoilers of women and children ever let up because of death? When were they ever known to wait even till the corpse stiffened to pluck out the hearts of the victims? It is my turn now, and if I let up a hair may I, yes, and Beulah, too, be damned, eternally damned."
I could not stand it. If I stayed, I, too, should become mad. I reached for the doorknob, but before I could swing the door open Bob was upon me like a wolf. He grasped me by the shoulders and with the strength of a madman hurled me half across the room. I sank into a chair.
"No, you don't, Jim Randolph, no, you don't. You came here for something and, by heaven, you will tel me what it is! You know me; you are the only human being who does. You know what I was, you see what I am. You know what they did to me to make me what I am. You know, Jim Randolph, you know whether I deserved it. You know whether in al my life up to the day those dol ar-frenzied hounds tore my soul, I had done any man, woman, or child a wrong. You know whether I had, and now you are going to sneak off and leave me as though I were a cur dog of the Reinhart-'Standard Oil' breed gone mad!"
He was standing over me, a terrible yet a magnificent figure. As he hurled these words at me, I was sure he had really lost his mind; that I was in the presence of a man truly mad. But only for an instant; then my horror, my anger turned to a great, crushing, all-consuming agony of pity for Bob, and I dropped my head on my hands and wept. It is hard to admit it, but it is true--I wept uncontrol ably. In an instant the room was quiet except for the sound of my own awful grief. I heard it, was ashamed of it, but I could not stop. The telephone rang again and again, wildly, shrilly, but there was no answer. The stillness became so oppressive that even my own sobs quieted. I gasped as the lump in my throat choked me, then I slowly raised my eyes.
Bob's towering figure was in front of me. His head had fal en forward, and his arms were folded across his breast. But that he stood erect I should have thought him dead, so still was he. I jumped to my feet and looked into his face, down which great tears were dropping silently. I touched him on the shoulder.
"Bob, my dear old chum, Bob, forgive me. For God's sake, forgive me for intruding on your misery."
I looked at him. I will never forget his face. No heartbroken woman's could have been sadder. He slowly raised his head, then staggered and grasped the ticker-stand for support.
"Don't, Jim, don't--don't ask me to forgive you. Oh, Jim, Jim, my old friend, forgive me for my madness; forget what I said to you, forget the brute you just saw and think of me as of old, when I would have plucked out my tongue if I had caught it saying a harsh word to the best and truest friend man ever had. Jim, forget it al . I was mad, I am mad, I have been mad for a long time, but it cannot last much longer. I know it can't, and, Jim, by all our past love, by the memories of the dear old days at St. Paul's and at Harvard, the dear old days of hope and happiness, when we planned for the future, try to think of me only as you knew me then, as you know that I should now be, but for the 'System's'
The clerks were pounding on the door; through the glass showed many forms.
They had been gathering for minutes while Bob talked in his low, sad tone, a tone that no one could believe came from the same mouth that a few moments before had poured forth a flood of brutal heartlessness.
Bob went to the door. The office was in an uproar. Twenty or thirty of Bob's brokers were there, aghast at not getting a reply to their cal s.
Many more were pouring in through the outer office. Bob looked at them coldly. "Wel , what is the trouble? Is it possible we are down to a point where the Stock Exchange rushes over to a man's office when his wire happens to break down?"
They saw his bluff. You cannot deceive Stock Exchange men, at least not the kind that Bob Brownley employed on panic days, but his coolness reassured them, and when they saw me it was odds-on that they guessed to a man why Bob had ignored his wires--guessed that I had been pleading for the life of "the Street."
"Well, where do you stand?"
Frank Swan answered for the crowd: "The panic is in full swing. She's a cellar-to-ridge-pole ripper. They're down 40 or over on an average.
Anti-People's is down to 35, and still coming like sawdust over a broken dam. Barry Conant's house and a dozen other of Reinhart's have gone under.
His banks and trust companies are going every minute. The whole Street will be overboard before the close. The governing committee has just called a meeting to see whether it will not be best to adjourn the Exchange over to-day and to-morrow."
Bob listened as if he had been a master at the wheel in a gale, receiving reports from his mates.
There was no trace now of the scene he had just been through. He was cool, masterful, like the seasoned sea-dog who knows that in spite of the ocean's rage and the wind's howl, the wheel will answer his hand and the craft its rudder. "Jim, come over to the Exchange." The crowd followed along. "We have but a minute and I want to have you say you forgive me,"
he said to me. "I know, Jim, you understand it all, but I must tell you how sorrowful I am that in my madness I should have so forgotten my admiration, respect, and love for you, yes, and my gratitude to you, as to say what I did. I'll do the only thing I can to atone. I will stop this panic and undo as much as possible of my work; and now that I have wrecked Reinhart I am through with this game forever, yes, through forever."
He pressed my hand in his strong, honest one and strode into the Exchange ahead of the crowd. Al was chaos, although the trading had toned down to a sullen desperation. So many houses, banks, and trust companies had failed that no man knew whether the member he had traded with early in the day would on the morrow be solvent enough to carry out his trades. The man who had been "long" in the morning, and had sold out before the crash, and who thought he now had no interest in the panic, found himself with his stock again on hand, because of the failure of the one to whom he had sold, and the price cut in two. The man who was "short" and who a few minutes before had been eagerly counting his profits now knew that they had been turned to loss, because the man from whom he had borrowed his short stocks for delivery would be in no condition to repay for them, the next day, when they should be returned to him. The "short" man was himself, therefore, "long" stocks he had bought to cover his "short" sale.
In depressing the price he had been working against his own pocket instead of against the bul s he had thought he was opposing. Al was confusion and black despair. There is, indeed, no blacker place than the floor of the Stock Exchange after a panic cyclone has swept it, and is yet lingering in its corners, while the survivors of its fury do not know whether or not it will again gather force.
The Governing Committee was holding a meeting in its room. Bob rushed in unceremoniously.
"One word, gentlemen," he cal ed. "I have more trades outstanding, both buys and sells, than any other member or house. Before deciding whether to adjourn in an attempt to save 'the Street', I ask your consideration of this proposition: If the Exchange will suspend operations for thirty minutes, and al ow me to address the members on the floor, I will agree to buy stocks al around the room, until they have regained at least half their drop--al of it, if possible. I will buy until I have exhausted to the last hundred my fortune of a billion dollars. This should make an adjournment unnecessary. I know that this is a most extraordinary request, but you are confronted with a most extraordinary situation, the most remarkable in the history of the Stock Exchange. Already, if what they say on the floor is correct, over two hundred banks and trust companies throughout the country have gone under, and new failures are being announced every minute. Half the members of this and the Boston and Philadelphia Exchanges are insolvent and have closed their doors, or will close them before three o'clock, and the shrinkage in values so far reported runs over fifteen billions. Unless something is done before the close, there will be a similar panic in every Exchange and Bourse in Europe to-morrow."
The committee instantly voted to lay the proposition before the ful board. In another minute the president's gavel sounded, and the floor was still as a tomb. All eyes were fixed on the president. Every man in that great throng knew that upon the announcement they were about to hear, might depend, at least temporarily, the welfare, not only of Wal Street, but of the nation, perhaps even of the civilised world. The president spoke:
"Members of the New York Stock Exchange:
"The Governing Committee instructs me to say that Mr. Robert Brownley has asked that operations be suspended for thirty minutes, in order that he be allowed to address you. Mr. Brownley has agreed, if this request be granted, he will upon resumption of operations purchase a sufficient amount of stock to raise the average price of al active shares at least one-half their total drop--all of it, if possible. He agrees to buy to the limit of his fortune of a billion dollars. I now put Mr. Brownley's request to a vote. All those in favour of granting it will signify the same by saying 'Yes.'"
A mighty roof-lifting "Yes" sounded through the room.
"Al those opposed, 'No.'"
There was a deathly hush.
"Mr. Brownley will please speak from this platform, and remember, in thirty minutes to the second, I will sound the gavel for the resumption of business."
Bob Brownley strode to the place just vacated by the president. The crowd was growing larger every minute. The ticker was already hissing a tape biograph of this extraordinary situation in brokerage shops, hotels, and banks throughout the country, and in a few minutes the news of it would be in the capitals of Europe. Never before in history did man have such an audience--the whole civilised world. Already arose from Wall, Broad, and New Streets, which surround the Exchange, the hoarse bellow of the gathering hordes. Before the ticker should announce the resumption of business these would number hundreds of thousands, for the financial district for more than an hour had been a surging mob.
For once at least the much-abused phrase, "He looked the part," could be used in al truthfulness. As Robert Brownley threw back his head and shoulders and faced that crowd of men, some of whom he had hurt, many of whom he had beggared, and al of whom he had tortured, he presented a picture such as a royal lion recently from the jungles and just freed from his cage might have made. Defiance, deference, contempt, and pity all blended in his mien, but over al was an I-am-the-one-you-are-the-many atmosphere of confidence that turned my spinal column into a mercury tube.
He began to speak:
"Men of Wall Street:
"You have just witnessed a record-breaking slaughter. I have asked permission to talk to you for the purpose of showing you how any member of a great Stock Exchange may at any time do what I have done to-day. Weigh wel what I am about to say to you. During the last quarter of a century there has grown up in this free and fair land of ours a system by which the few take from the many the results of their labours. The men who take have no more license, from God or man, to take, than have those from whom they filch. They are not endowed by God with superior wisdom, nor have they performed for their fel ow-men any labour or given to them anything of value that entitles them to what they take. Their only license to plunder is their knowledge of the system of trickery and fraud that they themselves have created. No man can gainsay this, for on every side is the evidence. Men come into Wal Street at sunrise without dollars; before that same sun sets they depart with millions. So al -powerful has grown the system of oppression that single men take in a single lifetime all the savings of a million of their fel ows. To-day the people, eighty millions strong, are slaving for the few, and their pay is their board and keep. I saw this robbery. I felt the robbers' scourge. I sought the secret. I found it here, here in this gambling-hel . I found that the stocks we bought and sold were mere gambling chips; that the man who had the biggest stack could beat his opponent off the board; that his opponent was the world, because all men directly or indirectly played the stock-gambling game. To win, it was but necessary to have unlimited chips.
If chips were bought and sold, on equal terms, by all, no one could buy more than he could pay for, and the game, although still a gambling one, would be fair. A few master tricksters, dollar magicians, long ago seeing this condition, invented the system by which the people are ruthlessly plundered. The system they invented was simple, so simple that for a quarter of a century it has remained undiscovered by the world at large--and even by you, who profess to be experts. No man thought that a free people who had intended to al ow all the equal use of every avenue for the attainment of wealth, and who intended to provide for the safeguarding of wealth after it was secured, could be such dolts as to allow themselves to be robbed of all their accumulated wealth by a device as simple as that by which children play at blindman's buff. The process was no more complex than that employed by the robber of old, who took the pebbles from the beach, marked them money, and with the money bought the labour of his fel ows, and by the manipulation of that labour and by turning pebbles into money he took away from the labourer the money which he had paid them for the labour until al in the land were slaves of the moneymaker. These few tricksters said: We will arbitrarily manufacture these chips--stocks. After we have manufactured them, we will sel the world what the world can pay for, and then by the use of the unlimited supply we still have we will win away from the world what it has bought, and repeat the operation, until we have all the wealth, and the people are enslaved. To do this there was one thing besides the manufacturing of the chips--stocks--that was absolutely necessary--a gambling-hel , the working of whose machinery would place a sel ing value upon such chips; a hel where, after sel ing the chips, they could be won back. I saw that if these tricksters were to be routed and their 'System' was to be destroyed, it must be through the machinery of this Stock Exchange. I studied the machinery, and presently I marvel ed that men could for so long have been asses.
"From the very nature of stock-gambling it is necessary, absolutely necessary, that it be conducted under certain rules, unchangeable, unbreakable rules, to attempt to change or break which would destroy stock-gambling. The foundation rule, the rule absolutely necessary for the existence of stock-gambling is: Any member of the Stock Exchange can buy, or sel , between the opening and the closing of the Exchange as many shares of stock as he cares to. With this rule in force his buying and selling cannot be restricted to the amount he can take and pay for, or deliver and receive pay for, because there is not money enough in the world to pay for what under this same rule can be bought and sold in a single session. This is because there have been arbitrarily created by these few tricksters many times more stocks than there is money in existence. The amount of stock that any man can sel in one session of the Exchange is limited only by the amount that he can offer for sale, and he can offer any amount his tongue can utter; and he is not compelled and cannot be compelled to show his ability to deliver what he has offered for sale until after he has finished sel ing, which is the fol owing day. You will ask as I did: Can this be possible? You will find the answer I found. It is so, and must continue to be so, or there will be no stock-gambling. Mark me, for this statement is weighted with the greatest import to you al . A member of this Exchange can sel as many shares of stock at one session as he cares to offer. If any attempt is made at the session he sel s at to compel him either before or after he offers to sel to show his ability to deliver, away goes the stock-gambling structure, because from the very nature of the whole structure of stock-gambling the same shares are sold and resold many times in each session and the sel er cannot know, much less show, that he can deliver until he first adjusts with the buyer and the buyer cannot adjust until after he has become such by buying. If a rule were made compel ing a sel er to show his responsibility before selling, every member would have every other member at his mercy and there could be no stock-gambling. When I had worked this out, I saw that while the few tricksters of the 'System' had a perfect device for taking from the people their wealth, I had discovered as perfect a means of taking away from the few the wealth they had secured from the many. With this knowledge came a conviction that my way was as honest as the 'System's,' in fact more honest than theirs. They took from the innocent, I took from the guilty what had already been dishonestly secured. I determined to put my discovery into practice.
"I might never have done so but for that Sugar panic in which I was robbed of millions by the 'System' through Barry Conant. In that panic the
'System,' with its unlimited resources, filched from the people by the arbitrary manufacture of stocks, and by their manipulation did to me what I afterward discovered I could do to them, without any resources other than my right to do business on the floor of this Exchange. You saw the outcome, in the second Sugar panic, of my first experiment. In a few minutes I cleared a profit of ten million dol ars. I could have made it fifty millions, or one hundred and fifty, but I was not then on familiar terms with my new robber-robbing device, and I had yet a heart. To make this ten millions of money, al that was necessary for me to do was to sell more Sugar than Barry Conant could buy. This was easy, because Barry Conant, not knowing of my newly invented trick, could buy only what he could pay for on the morrow, or, at least, what he believed his clients could pay for; while I, not intending to deliver what I sold--unless by smashing the price to a point where I could compel those who had bought to resell to me at millions less than I sold at--could sell unlimited amounts--literal y unlimited amounts. When Barry Conant had bought al that he thought he could pay for, he was obliged to beat a retreat in front of my offerings, and I was able to smash, and smash, until the price was so low that he could not by the use of what he had bought, as collateral, borrow sufficient to pay me for what I had sold him. Then he was compel ed to turn about and sel what he had bought from me, and when I had rebought it, for ten millions less than I had sold it for, the trick had been turned. I had sold him 100,000 shares say at 220. He had sold them back to me say at 120, and he stood where he had stood at the beginning. He had none of the 100,000 shares. Both of us stood, so far as stock was concerned, where we had stood at the beginning, but as to profits and losses there was this difference: I had ten millions of dol ars profits, while Barry Conant's clients, the 'System,' were ten millions losers--and al by a trick. The trick did not differ in principle from the one in constant practice by the 'System.' When the
'System,' after manufacturing Sugar stock, sel 100,000 shares to the people for $10,000,000, they so manipulate the market by the use of the $10,000,000 that they have taken from the people as to scare them into selling the 100,000 shares back to them for $5,000,000. After they have bought they again manipulate the market until the people buy back for $10,000,000 what they sold for $5,000,000. The 'System' commits no legal crime. I committed no legal crime. I had not even infringed any rule of the Exchange, any more than had the 'System' when they performed their trick. Since my experimental panic I have repeatedly put the trick in operation, and each time I have taken millions, until to-day I have in my control, as absolutely as though I had honestly earned them, as the labourer earns his week's wages, or the farmer the price of his crops, over $1,000,000,000, or sufficient to keep enslaved the rest of their lives a million people.
"What do you intel igent men think of this situation? You know, because you know the stock-gambling game, that the American people, with their boasted brains and courage, come year after year with their bags of gold, the result of their prosperous labours, and dump them, hundreds of millions, into this gambling-inferno of yours. You know that they are fools, these silly millions of people whom you term lambs and suckers. You chuckle as, year after year, having been sent away shorn, they return for new shearing. You marvel that the merchants, manufacturers, miners, lawyers, farmers, who have sufficient intel igence to gather such surplus legitimately, would bring it to our gambling-hell, where upon al sides is plain proof that we who conduct the gambling, and who produce nothing, are obliged to take from those who do produce, hundreds of millions each year for expenses, and hundreds of millions each year for profits--for you know that we have nothing to give them in return for what they bring to us. You know that every dol ar of the billions lost in Wal Street means higher prices for steel rails, for lumber and cars, and that this means higher passenger and freight rates to the people. You know that when the manufacturer brings his wealth to Wall Street and is robbed of it, he will add something to the price of boots and shoes, cotton and wool en clothes, and other necessities that he makes and that he sells to the people. You know that when the copper, lead, tin, and iron miners part with their surplus to the 'System,' it means higher prices to the people for their copper pots and gutters, for the water that comes through lead pipes, for their tin dippers and wash boilers, and for their rents, and all those necessities into which machinery, lumber, and other raw and finished material enters. You know that every hundred millions dropped by real producers to the brigands of our world means lower wages or less of the necessities and luxuries for al the people, and especially for the farmer. You know that it is habit with us of Wall Street to gloat over the doctrine of the 'System,' which the people parrot among themselves, the doctrine that the people at large are not affected by our gambling, because they, the people, having no surplus to gamble with, never come into Wall Street. And yet, knowing al this, you never thought, with all your wisdom and cynicism, that right here in this institution, which you own and control, was the open sesame, for each or al of you, to those great chests of gold that your clients, the 'System,' have filled to bursting from the stores of the people. What, I ask, do you wise men think of the situation as you now see it?"
There was an oppressive stillness on the floor. The great crowd, which now contained nearly all the members of the Exchange, listened with bulging eyes and open mouths to the revelations of their fel ow member. From time to time, as Bob Brownley poured forth his shot and shel of deadly logic, from the vast mob that now surrounded the Exchange rose a hoarse bel ow of impatience, for few in that dense throng outside could understand the silence of the gigantic human crusher, which between the hours of ten and three was never before known to miss a revolution except while its victims' hearts and souls were being removed from its gears and meshes.
Bob Brownley paused and looked down into the faces of the breathless gamblers with a contempt that was superb. He went on:
"Men of Wall Street, it is writ in the books of the ancients that every evil contains within itself a cure or a destroyer. I do not pretend that what I am revealing to you is to you a cure for this hideous evil, but I do say that what I am giving you is a destroyer for it, and that while it will be to the world a cure, it may leave you in a more fiery hell than the one of which you now feel the flames. I do not care if it does. When I am through, any member of the New York Stock Exchange who feels the iron in his soul can get instant revenge and unlimited wealth. You who are turning over in your minds the consideration that your great body can make new rules to render my discovery inoperative, are dealing with a shadow.
There is no rule or device that can prevent its working. There are one thousand seats in the New York Stock Exchange. They are worth to-day $95,000 apiece, or $95,000,000 in al . Their value is due to the fact that this Exchange deals in between one and three million shares a day. Were any attempt made to prevent the operation of my invention, transactions would because of such attempt drop to five or ten thousand shares per day, or to such transactions as represent stock that will be actual y delivered and actually paid for. To make my invention useless it must be made impossible to buy or sell the same share of stock more than once at one session, and short sel ing, which is now, as you know, the foundation of the modern stock-gambling structure, must likewise be made impossible. If this could be done the $95,000,000 worth of seats in the Exchange would be worth less than five millions, and, what is of far greater import to all the people, the financial world would be revolutionised. Men of Wal Street, do not fool yourselves. My invention is a sure destroyer of the greatest curse in the world, stock-gambling."
A sullen growl rose from the gamblers. Robert Brownley glared down his defiance.
"Let me show you the impossibility of preventing in the future anyone's doing what I have done to you so many times during the past five years.
Al the capital required to work my invention is nerve and desperation, or nerve without desperation. It is wel known to you that there are at al times Exchange members who will commit any crime, barring perhaps murder, to gain millions. Your members have from time to time shown nerve or desperation enough to embezzle, raise certificates, give bogus checks, counterfeit stocks and bonds, and this for gain of less than millions, and when detection was probable. Al these are criminal offences and their detection is sure to bring disgrace and State prison. Yet members of this Exchange desperate enough to take the chance, when confronted with loss of fortune and open bankruptcy, have always been found with nerve enough to attempt the crimes. I repeat that there are at al times Exchange members who will commit any crime, barring perhaps murder, to gain millions. That you may see that my successors will surely come from your midst from time to time during the future existence of the Exchange, I will enumerate the different classes of members who will follow in my footsteps:
"First, the 'In Gold We Trust' schemer who is of the 'System' type, but who is outside the magic circle. A man of this class will reason: I know scores of men, who stand high on 'the Street' and in the social world, who have tens of millions that they have filched by 'System' tricks, if not by legal crimes. If I perform this trick of Brownley's, the trick of selling short until a panic is produced, I shal make millions and none will be the wiser. For al I know, many of the multi-millionaires whom I have seen produce panics and who were applauded by 'the Street' and the press for their ability and daring, and whose standing, business and social, is now the highest, were only doing this same thing, and having been successful, they have never been detected or suspected. But even suppose I fail, which can only be through some extraordinary accident happening while I am engaged in sel ing, I shall have committed no crime, and, in fact, shall have done no one any great moral wrong, for if I fail to carry out my contract to deliver the stock I have sold in trying to produce a panic, the men to whom I have sold will be no worse off for not receiving what they bought; in fact they will stand just where they stood before I attempted to bring on a panic.
"Second, if an Exchange member for any reason should find himself overboard and should realise that he must publicly become bankrupt and lose al , he surely would be a fool not to attempt to produce a panic, when its production would enable him to recoup his losses and prevent his failure, and when if by accident he should fail in his attempt to produce a panic, the penalty would simply be his bankruptcy, which would have taken place in any event.
"The third class is that large one that always will exist while there is stock-gambling, a class of honest, square-dealing-play-the-game-fair-Exchange men who would take no unfair advantage of their fellow-members until they become awakened to the knowledge that they are about to be ruined by their fel ow-members' trickery.
"Next, let us consider further whether it is possible for our Exchange to prevent my device from being worked, now that it is known to al . Suppose the Governing Committee was informed in advance that the attempt to work the trick was to be made. If, at any session, after gong-strike, the Governing Committee, or any Exchange authority, could for any reason compel a member to cease operating, even for the purpose of showing that his transactions were legitimate, the entire structure of stock-gambling would fal . Think it through: Suppose a man like Barry Conant or myself, or any active commission broker, begins the execution of a large order for a client, one, say, who has advance information of a receivership, a fire at a mine, the death of a President, a declaration of war, or any of the hundred and one items of information that must be acted upon instantly, where a delay of a minute would ruin the broker, or his house, or its clients. If the Governing Committee could thus call the broker to account, the professional bear or the schemer, who desired to prevent him from selling, would have but to pass the word to the president of the Exchange that the broker in question was about to work Brownley's discovery and he could be taken from the crowd and before he returned his place could be taken by others and he could be ruined.
"Men of Wall Street, it is impossible to prevent the repetition of those acts by which in five years I have accumulated a billion dollars, impossible so long as a short sale or a repurchase and resale, is allowed.
When short sales, and repurchases and resales, are made impossible, stock speculation will be dead. When stock speculation is dead, the people can no longer be robbed by the 'System.' In leaving you, the Exchange, and stock-gambling forever, as I shal when I leave this platform, I will say from the depth of a heart that has been broken, from the profoundity of a soul that has been withered by the 'System's' poison, with a full sense of my responsibility to my fellow-man and to my God, that I advise every one of you to do what I have done and to do it quickly, before the doing of it by others shal have made it impossible, before the doing of it by others shall have blown up the whole stock-gambling structure. In accepting my advice you can quiet your conscience, those of you who have any, with this argument: 'If I start, I am sure of success. If I succeed, no one will be the wiser. The millions I secure I will take from men who took them from others, and who would take mine. The more I and others take, the sooner will come the day when the stock-gambling structure will fal .'
"The day on which the stock-gambling structure fal s is the day for which all honest men and women should pray."
Bob Brownley paused and let his eyes sweep his dumfounded audience. There was not a murmur. The crowd was speechless.
Again his eyes swept the room. Then he slowly raised his right hand with fist clenched, as though about to deal a blow.
"Men of Wall Street"--his voice was now deep and solemn--"to show that Robert Brownley knew what was fitting for the last day of his career, he has revealed to you the trick--and more.
"Many of you are desperate. Many of you by to-morrow will be ruined. The time of all times for such to put my trick in practice is now. The victim of victims is ready for the experiment. I am he. I have a billion dollars.
With this billion dollars I am able to buy ten million shares of the leading stocks and to pay for them, even though after I have bought they fal a hundred dol ars a share. Here is your chance to prevent your ruin, your chance to retrieve your fortune, your chance to secure revenge upon me, the one who has robbed you."
He paused only long enough for his astounding advice to connect with his listener's now keenly sensitive nerve centres; then deep and clear rang out, "Barry Conant." The wiry form of Bob's old antagonist leaped to the rostrum.
"I authorise you to buy any part of ten million shares of the leading stocks at any price up to fifty points above the present market. There is my check-book signed in blank, and I authorise you to use it up to a billion dol ars, and I agree to have in bank to-morrow sufficient funds to meet any checks you draw. You have failed to-day for seven millions, and, therefore, cannot trade, but I herewith announce that I will pay all the indebtedness of Barry Conant and his house. Therefore he is now in good standing." Bob had kept his eye on the great clock; as the last word passed his lips, the President's gavel descended.
With a mighty rush the gamblers leaped for the different poles. Barry Conant with lightning rapidity gave his orders to twenty of his assistants, who, when Bob Brownley cal ed for Conant, had gathered around their chief. In less than a minute the dollar-battle of the age was on, a battle such as no man had ever seen before. It required no supernatural wisdom for any man on the floor to see that Bob Brownley's seed had fal en in superheated soil, that his until now secret hel ite was about to be tested. It needed no expert in the mystic art of deciphering the wal hieroglyphics of Old Hag Fate to see that the hands on the clock of the
"System" were approaching twelve. It needed no ear trained to hear human heart and soul beats to detect the approaching sound of onrushing doom to the stock-gambling structure. The deafening roar of the brokers that had broken the stillness following Robert Brownley's fateful speech had awakened echoes that threatened to shake down the Exchange wal s. The surging mob on the outside was roaring like a million hungry lions in an Arbestan run at slaughter time.
The instant after the gong sounded Bob Brownley was alone on the floor at the foot of the president's desk. His form was swaying like a reed on the edge of the cyclone's path. I jumped to his side. His brother, who had during Bob's harangue been vainly endeavouring to beat his way through the crowd, was there first. "For God's sake, Bob, hear me. Word came from your house half an hour ago of the miracle: Beulah has awakened to her past.
Her mind is clear; the nurses are frantic for you to come to her."
He got no further. With a mad bellow and a bound, like a tortured bul that sees the arena walls go down, Bob rushed out through the nearest door, which, I thanked God, was a side one leading to the street where the crowd was thinnest. He cast a wild look around. His eyes lighted on an empty automobile whose chauffeur had deserted to the crowd. It was the work of a second to crank it; of another to jump into the front seat.
Quick as had been his movement, I was behind him in the rear seat. With a bound the great machine leaped through the crowd.
"In the name of Christ, Bob, be careful," I yelled, as he hurled the iron monster through the throng, scattering it to the right and left as the mower scatters the sheaves in the wheat fields. Some were crushed beneath its wheels. Bob Brownley heard not their screams, heard not the curses of those who escaped. He was on his feet, his body crouched low over the steering-wheel, which he grasped in his vise-like hands. His hatless head was thrust far out, as though it strove to get to Beulah Sands ahead of his body. His teeth were set, and as I had jumped into the machine I had noted that his eyes were those of a maniac, who saw sanity just ahead if he could but get to it in time. His ears were deaf not only to the howl of the terrified throng and the curses of the teamsters who frantical y pul ed their horses to the curb, but to my warnings as well. He swung the machine around the corner at New Street and into Wal as though it had been the broadest boulevard in the park. He took Wall Street at a bound I was sure would land us through the fence into Trinity's churchyard. But no. Again he turned the corner, throwing the Juggernaut on its outside wheels from Wal Street into Broadway as the crowds on the sidewalk held their breath in horror. I, too, was on my feet, but crouching as I hung to the sides. Thank God, that usual y crowded thoroughfare was free from vehicles as far up as I could see, on beyond the Astor House. What could it mean? Was that divinity which 'tis said protects the drunkard and the idiot about to aid the mad rush of this love-frenzied creature to his long-lost but newly returned dear one? I heard the frantic clang of gongs, and as we shot by the World Building, I saw ahead of us two plunging automobiles filled with men. 'Twas from them the gong clamour sounded. As we drew nearer. I saw that these were the cars of the fire chiefs answering a call. I thanked God again and again as I yel ed into Bob's ear, "For Beulah's sake, Bob, don't pass; if you do, we'll run into a blockade. If we keep in the rear they'll clear our way, and we may get to her alive." I do not know whether he heard, but he held the machine in the rear of the other cars and did not try to pass. Away we went on our mad rush through crowded Broadway. At Union Square we lost our way-clearers.
As our automobile jumped across Fourteenth Street into Fourth Avenue, Bob must have opened her up to the last notch, for she seemed to leap through the air. We sent two wagons crashing across the sidewalks into the buildings. Cries of rage arose above the din of the machine, and seemed to fol ow in our wake. Bob was dead to al we passed. His entire being seemed set on what was ahead. I knew he was an expert in the handling of the automobile, for since his misfortune, automobiling with Beulah Sands had been his favourite pastime, but who could expect to carry that plunging, swaying car to Forty-second Street! Bob seemed to be performing the wondrous task. We shot from curb to curb and around and in front of vehicles and foot passengers as though the driver's eyes and hands were inspired.
Across the square at last and on up Fourth Avenue to Twenty-sixth Street.
Then a dizzying whirl into Madison. Was he going to keep to it until he got to Forty-second Street and try to make Fifth Avenue along that congested block with its crush of Grand Central passengers and lines upon lines of hacks and teams? No. His head must be clear. Again he threw the great machine around the corner and into Fortieth Street. For a part of the block our wheels rode the sidewalk, and I awaited the crash. It did not come. Surely the new world Bob was speeding to must be a kind one, else why should Hag Fate, who had been at the steer-wheel of his life-car during the last five years, carry him safely through what looked a dozen sure deaths? Without slacking speed a jot we swung around the corner of Fortieth into Fifth Avenue. The road was clear to Forty-second; there a dense jam of cars, teams, and carriages blocked the crossing. Bob must have seen the solid wal for I heard his low muttered curse. Nothing else to indicate that we were blocked with his goal in sight. He never touched the speed control er, but took the two blocks as though shot from a catapult. The two? No, one, and three-quarters of the next, for when within a score of yards of the black wall he jammed down the brakes, and the iron mass ground and shook as though it would rend itself to atoms, but it stopped with its dasher and front wheels wedged in between a car and a dray. It had not stopped when Bob was off and up the avenue like a hound on the end-in-sight trail. I was after him while the astonished bystanders stared in wonder. As we neared Bob's house I could see people on the stoop. I heard Bob's secretary shout, "Thank God, Mr. Brownley, you have come. She is in the office. I found her there, quiet and recovered.
She did not ask a question. She said, 'Tel Mr. Brownley when he comes that I should like to see him.' Then she ordered me to get the afternoon paper. I handed it to her an hour ago. I think she believes herself in her old office. I shut off the floor as you instructed. I did not dare go to her for fear she would ask questions. I have"--but Bob was up the stairs two and three steps at a time.
My breath was almost gone and it took me minutes to get to the second floor. My feet touched the top stair, when, O God! that sound! For five long years I had been trying to get it out of my ears, but now more guttural, more agonised than before, it broke upon my tortured senses. I did not need to seek its direction. With a bound I was at the threshold of Beulah Sands-Brownley's office. In that brief time the groans had stilled. For one instant I closed my eyes, for the very atmosphere of that hal moaned and groaned death. I opened them. Yes, I knew it. There at the desk was the beautiful gray-clad figure of five years ago. There the two arms resting on the desk. There the two beautiful hands holding the open paper, but the eyes, those marvel ous gray-blue doors to an immortal soul--they were closed forever. The exquisitely beautiful face was cold and white and peaceful. Beulah Sands was dead. The hel -hounds of the "System" had overtaken its maimed and hunted victim; it had added her beautiful heart to the bags and barrels and hogsheads stored away in its big "business-is-business" safe-deposit vaults. My eyes in sick pity sought the form of my old schoolmate, my college chum, my partner, my friend, the man I loved. He was on his knees. His agonised face was turned to his wife. His clasped hands had been raised in an awful, heart-crushing prayer as his Maker touched the bel . Bob Brownley's great brown eyes were closed, his clasped hands had dropped against his wife's head, and in dropping had unloosed the glorious golden-brown waves until in fond abandon they had coiled around his arms and brow as though she for whom he had sacrificed al was shielding his beloved head from the chills and dark mists of the black river that laps the brink of the eternal rest. The
"System" had skewered Robert Brownley's heart too. I staggered to his side. As I touched his now fast-icing brow my eyes fel upon the great black headlines spread across the top of the paper that Beulah Sands had been reading when the al -kind God had cut her bonds: FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH
And beneath in one column:
TERRIBLE TRAGEDY IN VIRGINIA
THE RICHEST MAN IN THE STATE, THOMAS REINHART, MULTI-MILLIONAIRE, WHILE
TEMPORARILY INSANE FROM THE LOSS OF HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER, AND OF HIS
ENORMOUS FORTUNE, WHICH WAS SHATTERED IN TO-DAY'S AWFUL PANIC, CUT HIS
THROAT. HIS DEATH WAS INSTANTANEOUS.
In another column:
ROBERT BROWNLEY CREATES THE MOST AWFUL PANIC IN HISTORY, AND SPREADS
WRECK AND RUIN THROUGHOUT THE CIVILISED WORLD.
* * * * *
_The following are fac-similes of a few of the letters received by the author during the serial publication of "Friday, the Thirteenth."_
THE PAULIST FATHERS