Part 2 out of 5
months or so you will read in the newspapers that some woman has
made an attempt to blackmail him. That is because he does to every
pretty girl who comes into his office just exactly what old Waterman
did to you; and those who are arrested for blackmail are simply the
ones who are so unwise as to make a disturbance."
"You see, Lucy," continued Montague, after a pause, "you must
realise the situation. This man is a god in New York. He controls
all the avenues of wealth; he can make or break any person he
chooses. It is really the truth--I believe he could ruin any man in
the city whom he chose to set out after. He can have anything that
he wants done, so far as the police are concerned. It is simply a
matter of paying them. And he is accustomed to rule in everything;
his lightest whim is law. If he wants a thing, he buys it, and that
is his attitude toward women. He is used to being treated as a
master; women seek him, and vie for his favour. If you had been able
to hold it, you might have had a million-dollar palace on Riverside
Drive, or a cottage with a million-dollar pier at Newport. You might
have had carte blanche at all the shops, and all the yachting trips
and private trains that you wanted. That is all that other women
want, and he could not understand what more you could want."
"Is that the way he spends his money?" Lucy asked.
"He buys everything he takes a fancy to," said Montague. "They say
he spends five thousand dollars a day. One of the stories they tell
in the clubs is that he loved the wife of a physician, and he gave a
million dollars to found a hospital, and one of the conditions of
the endowment was that this physician should go abroad for three
years and study all the hospitals of Europe."
Lucy sat buried in thought. "Allan," she asked suddenly, "what do
you suppose he meant by saying he would follow me? What could he
"I don't know," said Allan, "it is something which we shall have to
think over very carefully."
"He made a remark to me that I thought was very strange," she said.
"I just happened to recall it. He said, 'You have no money. You
cannot keep up the pace in New York. What you own is worth nothing.'
Do you suppose, Allan, that he can know anything about my affairs?"
Montague was staring at her in consternation. "Lucy!" he exclaimed.
"What is it?" she cried.
"Nothing," he said; and he added to himself, "No, it is absurd. It
could not be." The idea that it could have been Dan Waterman who had
set the detectives to follow him seemed too grotesque for
consideration. "It was nothing but a chance shot," he said to Lucy,
"but you must be careful. He is a dangerous man."
"And I am powerless to punish him!" whispered Lucy, after a pause.
"It seems to me," said Montague, "that you are very well out of it.
You will know better next time; and as for punishing him, I fancy
that Nature will attend to that. He is getting old, you know; and
they say he is morose and wretched."
"But, Allan!" protested Lucy. "I can't help thinking what would have
happened to me if you had not come on board! I can't help thinking
about other women who must have been caught in such a trap. Why,
Allan, I would have been equally helpless--no matter what he had
"I am afraid so," said he, gravely. "Many a woman has discovered it,
I imagine. I understand how you feel, but what can you do about it?
You can't punish men like Waterman. You can't punish them for
anything they do, whether it is monopolising a necessity of life and
starving thousands of people to death, or whether it is an attack
upon a defenceless woman. There are rich men in this city who make
it their diversion to answer advertisements and decoy young girls. A
stenographer in my office told me that she had had over twenty
positions in one year, and that she had left every one because some
man in the office had approached her."
He paused for a moment. "You see," he added, "I have been finding
out these things. You thought I was unreasonable, but I know what
your dangers are. You are a stranger here; you have no friends and
no influence, and so you will always be the one to suffer. I don't
mean merely in a case like this, where it comes to the police and
the newspapers; I mean in social matters--where it is a question of
your reputation, of the interpretation which people will place upon
your actions. They have their wealth and their prestige and their
privileges, and they stand at bay. They are perfectly willing to
give a stranger a good time, if the stranger has a pretty face and a
lively wit to entertain them; but when you come to trespass, or to
threaten their power, then you find out how they can hate you, and
how mercilessly they will slander and ruin you!"
Lucy's adventure had so taken up the attention of them both that
they had forgotten all about the matter of the stock. Afterwards,
however, Montague mentioned it, and Lucy exclaimed indignantly at
the smallness of the offer.
"That is only ten cents on the dollar!" she cried. "You surely would
not advise me to sell for that!"
"No, I should not," he answered. "I should reject the offer. It
might be well, however, to set a price for them to consider."
They had talked this matter over before, and had agreed upon a
hundred and eighty thousand dollars. "I think it will be best to
state that figure," he said, "and give them to understand that it is
final. I imagine they would expect to bargain, but I am not much of
a hand at that, and would prefer to say what I mean and stick by
"Very well!" said Lucy, "you use your own judgment."
There was a pause; then Montague, seeing the look on Lucy's face,
started to his feet. "It won't do you any good to think about
to-day's mishap," he said. "Let's start over again, and not make any
more mistakes. Come with me this evening. I have some friends who
have been begging me to bring you around ever since you came."
"Who are they?" asked Lucy.
"General Prentice and his wife. Do you know of them?"
"I have heard Mr. Ryder speak of Prentice the banker. Is that the
one you mean?"
"Yes," said Montague,--"the president of the Trust Company of the
Republic. He was an old comrade of my father's, and they were the
first people I met here in New York. I have got to know them very
well since. I told them I would bring you up to dinner sometime, and
I will telephone them, if you say so. I don't think it's a good idea
for you to sit here by yourself and think about Dan Waterman."
"Oh, I don't mind it now," said Lucy. "But I will go with you, if
* * *
They went to the Prentices'. There were the General himself, and
Mrs. Prentice, and their two daughters, one of whom was a student in
college, and the other a violinist of considerable talent. General
Prentice was now over seventy, and his beard was snow-white, but he
still had the erect carriage and the commanding presence of a
soldier. Mrs. Prentice Montague had first met one evening when he
had been their guest at the opera, and she had impressed him as a
lady with a great many diamonds, who talked to him about other
people while he was trying to listen to the music. But she was, as
Lucy phrased it afterwards, "a motherly soul, when one got
underneath her war-paint." She was always inviting Montague to her
home and introducing him to people whom she thought would be of
assistance to him.
Also there came that evening young Harry Curtiss, the General's
nephew. Montague had never met him before, but he knew him as a
junior partner in the firm of William E. Davenant, the famous
corporation lawyer--the man whom Montague had found opposed to him
in his suit against the Fidelity Insurance Company. Harry Curtiss,
whom Montague was to know quite well before long, was a handsome
fellow, with frank and winning manners. He had met Alice Montague at
an affair a week or so ago, and he sent word that he was coming to
After dinner they sat and smoked, and talked about the condition of
the market. It was a time of great agitation in Wall Street. There
had been a violent slump in stocks, and matters seemed to be going
from bad to worse.
"They say that Wyman has got caught," said Curtiss, repeating one of
the wild tales of the "Street." "I was talking with one of his
"Wyman is not an easy man to catch," said the General. "His own
brokers are often the last men to know his real situation. There is
good reason to believe that some of the big insiders are loaded up,
for the public is very uneasy, as you know; but with the situation
as it is just now in Wall Street, you can't tell anything. The men
who are really on the inside have matters so completely in their own
hands that they are practically omnipotent."
"You mean that you think this slump may be the result of
manipulation?" asked Montague, wonderingly.
"Why not?" asked the General.
"It seems to be such a widespread movement," said Montague. "It
seems incredible that any one man could cause such an upset."
"It is not one man," said the General, "it is a group of men. I
don't say that it's true, mind you. I wouldn't be at liberty to say
it even if I knew it; but there are certain things that I have seen,
and I have my suspicions of others. And you must realise that a
half-dozen men now control about ninety per cent of the banks of
"Things will get worse before they get any better, I believe," said
Curtiss, after a pause.
"Something has got to be done," replied the General. "The banking
situation in this country at the present moment is simply
unendurable; the legitimate banker is practically driven from the
field by the speculator. A man finds himself in the position where
he has either to submit to the dictation of such men, or else permit
himself to be supplanted. It is a new element that has forced itself
in. Apparently all a man needs in order to start a bank is credit
enough to put up a building with marble columns and bronze gates. I
could name you a man who at this moment owns eight banks, and when
he started in, three years ago, I don't believe he owned a million
"But how in the world could he manage it?" gasped Montague.
"Just as I stated," said the General. "You buy a piece of land, with
as big a mortgage as you can get, and you put up a million-dollar
building and mortgage that. You start a trust company, and you get
out imposing advertisements, and promise high rates of interest, and
the public comes in. Then you hypothecate your stock in company
number one, and you have your dummy directors lend you more money,
and you buy another trust company. They call that pyramiding--you
have heard the term, no doubt, with regard to stocks; it is a
fascinating game to play with banks, because the more of them you
get, the more prominent you become in the newspapers, and the more
the public trusts you."
And the General went on to tell of some of the cases of which he
knew. There was Stewart, the young Lochinvar out of the West. He had
tried to buy the Trust Company of the Republic long ago, and so the
General knew him and his methods. He had fought the Copper Trust to
a standstill in Montana; the Trust had bought up the Legislature and
both political machines, but Cummings had appealed to the public in
a series of sensational campaigns, and had got his judges into
office, and in the end the Trust had been forced to buy him out. And
now he had come to New York to play this new game of bank-gambling,
which paid even quicker profits than buying courts.--And then there
was Holt, a sporting character, a vulgar man-about-town, who was
identified with everything that was low and vile in the city; he,
too, had turned his millions into banks.--And there was Cummings,
the Ice King, who for years had financed the political machine in
the city, and, by securing a monopoly of the docking-privileges, had
forced all his rivals to the wall. He had set out to monopolise the
coastwise steamship trade of the country, and had bought line after
line of vessels by this same device of "pyramiding"; and now,
finding that he needed still more money to buy out his rivals, he
had purchased or started a dozen or so of trust companies and banks.
"Anyone ought to realise that such things cannot go on
indefinitely," said the General. "I know that the big men realise
it. I was at a directors' meeting the other day, and I heard
Waterman remark that it would have to be ended very soon. Anyone who
knows Waterman would not expect to get a second hint."
"What could he do?" asked Montague.
"Waterman!" exclaimed young Curtiss.
"He would find a way," said the General, simply. "That is the one
hope that I see in the situation--the power of a conservative man
"You trust him, then?" asked Montague.
"Yes," said the General, "I trust him.--One has to trust somebody."
"I heard a curious story," put in Harry Curtiss. "My uncle had
dinner at the old man's house the other night, and asked him what he
thought of the market. 'I can tell you in a sentence,' was the
answer. 'For the first time in my life I don't own a security.'"
The General gave an exclamation of surprise. "Did he really say
that?" he asked. "Then one can imagine that things will happen
"And one can imagine why the stock market is weak!" added the other,
At that moment the door of the dining-room was opened, and Mrs.
Prentice appeared. "Are you men going to talk business all evening?"
she asked. "If so, come into the drawing-room, and talk it to us."
They arose and followed her, and Montague seated himself upon a sofa
with Mrs. Prentice and the younger man.
"What were you saying of Dan Waterman?" she asked of the latter.
"Oh, it's a long story," said Curtiss. "You ladies don't care
anything about Waterman."
Montague had been watching Lucy out of the corner of his eye, and he
could not forbear a slight smile.
"What a wonderful man he is!" said Mrs. Prentice. "I admire him more
than any man I know of in Wall Street." Then she turned to Montague.
"Have you met him?"
"Yes," said he; and added with a mischievous smile, "I saw him
"I saw him last Sunday night," said Mrs. Prentice, guilelessly. "It
was at the Church of the Holy Virgin, where he passes the
collection-plate. Isn't it admirable that a man who has as much on
his mind as Mr. Waterman has, should still save time for the affairs
of his church?"
And Montague looked again at Lucy, and saw that she was biting her
It was a week before Montague saw Lucy again. She came in to lunch
with Alice one day, when he happened to be home early.
"I went to dinner at Mrs. Frank Landis's last night," she said. "And
who do you think was there--your friend, Mrs. Winnie Duval."
"Indeed," said Montague.
"I had quite a long talk with her," said she. "I liked her very
"She is easy to like," he replied. "What did you talk about?"
"Oh, everything in the world but one thing," said Lucy,
"What do you mean?" asked Montague.
"You, you goose," she answered. "Mrs. Winnie knew that I was your
friend, and I had a feeling that every word she was saying was a
message to you."
"Well, and what did she have to say to me?" he asked, smiling.
"She wants you to understand that she is cheerful, and not pining
away because of you," was the answer. "She told me about all the
things that she was interested in."
"Did she tell you about the Babubanana?"
"The what?" exclaimed Lucy.
"Why, when I saw her last," said Montague, "she was turning into a
Hindoo, and her talk was all about Swamis, and Gnanis, and so on."
"No, she didn't mention them," said Lucy.
"Well, probably she has given it up, then," said he. "What is it
"She has gone in for anti-vivisection."
"Yes," said the other; "didn't you see in the papers that she had
been elected an honorary vice-president of some society or other,
and had contributed several thousand dollars?"
"One cannot keep track of Mrs. Winnie in the newspapers," said
"Well," she continued, "she has heard some dreadful stories about
how surgeons maltreat poor cats and dogs, and she would insist on
telling me all about it. It was the most shocking dinner-table
"She certainly is a magnificent-looking creature," said Lucy, after
a pause. "I don't wonder the men fall in love with her. She had her
hair done up with some kind of a band across the front, and I
declare she might have been an Egyptian princess."
"She has many roles," said Montague.
"Is it really true," asked the other, "that she paid fifty thousand
dollars for a bath-tub?"
"She says she did," he answered. "The newspapers say it, too, so I
suppose it is true. I know Duval told me with his own lips that she
cost him a million dollars a year; but then that may have been
because he was angry."
"Is he so rich as all that?" asked Lucy.
"I don't know how rich he is personally," said Montague. "I know he
is one of the most powerful men in New York. They call him the
"I have heard Mr. Ryder speak of him," said she.
"Not very favourably, I imagine," said he, with a smile.
"No," said she, "they had some kind of a quarrel. What was the
"I don't know anything about it," was the answer. "But Ryder is a
free lance, and a new man, and Duval works with the big men who
don't like to have trespassers about."
Lucy was silent for a minute; her brows were knit in thought. "Is it
really true that Mr. Ryder's position is so unstable? I thought the
Gotham Trust Company was one of the largest institutions in the
country. What are those huge figures that you see in their
advertisements,--seventy millions--eighty millions--what is it?"
"Something like that," said Montague.
"And is not that true?" she asked.
"Yes, I guess that's true," he said. "I don't know anything about
Ryder's affairs, you know--I simply hear the gossip. Everyone says
he is playing a bold game. You take my advice, and keep your money
somewhere else. You have to be doubly careful because you have
"Enemies?" asked Lucy, in perplexity.
"Have you forgotten what Waterman said to you?" Montague asked.
"You don't mean to tell me," cried she, "that you think that
Waterman would interfere with Mr. Ryder on my account."
"It sounds incredible, I know," said Montague, "but such things have
happened before this. If anyone knew the inside stories of the
battles that have shaken Wall Street, he would find that many of
them had some such beginning."
Montague said this casually, and with nothing in particular in mind.
He was not watching his friend closely, and he did not see the
effect which his words had produced upon her. He led the
conversation into other channels; and he had entirely forgotten the
matter the next day, when he received a telephone call from Lucy.
It had been a week since he had written to Smith and Hanson, the
lawyers, in regard to the sale of her stock. "Allan," she asked, "no
letter from those people yet?"
"Nothing at all," he answered.
"I was talking about it with a friend this morning, and he made a
suggestion that I thought was important. Don't you think it might be
well to find out whom they are representing?"
"What good would that do?" asked Montague.
"It might help us to get an idea of the prospects," said she. "I
fancy they know who wants to sell the stock, and we ought to know
who is thinking of buying it. Suppose you write them that you don't
care to negotiate with agents."
"But I am in no position to do that," said Montague. "I have already
set the people a figure, and they have not replied. We should only
weaken our position by writing again. It would be much better to try
to interest someone else."
"But I would like to know very much who made that offer," Lucy
insisted. "I have heard rumours about the stock, and I really would
like to know."
She reiterated this statement several times, and seemed to be very
keen about it; Montague wondered a little who had been talking to
her, and what she had heard. But warned by what the Major had told
him, he did not ask these questions over the 'phone. He answered,
finally, "I think you are making a mistake, but I will do what you
So he sat down and wrote a note to Messrs. Smith and Hanson, and
said that he would like to have a consultation with a member of
their firm. He sent this note by messenger, and an hour or so later
a wiry little person, with a much-wrinkled face and a shrewd look in
his eyes, came into his office and introduced himself as Mr. Hanson.
"I have been talking with my client about the matter of the Northern
Mississippi stock," said Montague. "You know, perhaps, that this
road was organised under somewhat unusual circumstances; most of the
stockholders were personal friends of our family. For this reason my
client would prefer not to deal with an agent, if it can possibly be
arranged. I wish to find out whether your client would consent to
deal directly with the owner of the stock."
Montague finished what he had to say, although while he was speaking
he noticed that Mr. Hanson was staring at him with very evident
astonishment. Before he finished, this had changed to a slight
"What kind of a trick is this you are trying to play on me?" the man
Montague was too much taken aback to be angry. He simply stared. "I
don't understand you," he said.
"You don't, eh?" said the other, laughing in his face. "Well, it
seems I know more than you think I do."
"What do you mean?" asked Montague.
"Your client no longer has the stock that you are talking about,"
said the other.
Montague caught his breath. "No longer has the stock!" he gasped.
"Of course not," said Hanson. "She sold it three days ago." Then,
unable to deny himself the satisfaction, he added, "She sold it to
Stanley Ryder. And if you want to know any more about it, she sold
it for a hundred and sixty thousand dollars, and he gave her a six
months' note for a hundred and forty thousand."
Montague was utterly dumfounded. He could do nothing but stare.
It was evident to the other man that his emotion was genuine, and he
smiled sarcastically. "Evidently, Mr. Montague," he said, "you have
been permitting your client to take advantage of you."
Montague caught himself together, and bowed politely. "I owe you an
apology, Mr. Hanson," he said, in a low voice. "I can only assure
you that I was entirely helpless in the matter."
Then he rose and bade the man good morning.
When the door of his office was closed, he caught at the chair by
his desk to steady himself, and stood staring in front of him. "To
Stanley Ryder!" he gasped.
He turned to the 'phone, and called up his friend.
"Lucy," he said, "is it true that you have sold that stock?"
He heard her give a gasp. "Answer me!" he cried.
"Allan," she began, "you are going to be angry with me--"
"Please answer me!" he cried again. "Have you sold that stock?"
"Yes, Allan," she said, "I didn't mean--"
"I don't care to discuss the matter on the telephone," he said. "I
will stop in to see you this afternoon on my way home. Please be in,
because it is important." And then he hung up the receiver.
He called at the time he had set, and Lucy was waiting for him. She
looked pale, and very much distressed. She sat in a chair, and
neither arose to greet him nor spoke to him, but simply gazed into
It was a very sombre face. "This thing has given me a great deal of
pain," said Montague; "and I don't want to prolong it any more than
necessary. I have thought the matter over, and my mind is made up,
so there need be no discussion. It will not be possible for me to
have anything further to do with your affairs."
Lucy gave a gasp: "Oh, Allan!"
He had a valise containing all her papers. "I have brought
everything up to date," he said. "There are all the accounts, and
the correspondence. Anyone will be able to find exactly how things
"Allan," she said, "this is really cruel."
"I am very sorry," he answered, "but there is nothing else that I
"But did I not have a right to sell that stock to Stanley Ryder?"
"You had a perfect right to sell it to anyone you pleased," he said.
"But you had no right to ask me to take charge of your affairs, and
then to keep me in the dark about what you had done."
"But, Allan," she protested, "I only sold it three days ago."
"I know that perfectly well," he said; "but the moment you made up
your mind to sell it, it was your business to tell me. That,
however, is not the point. You tried to use me as a cat's-paw to
pull chestnuts out of the fire for Stanley Ryder."
He saw her wince under the words. "Is it not true?" he demanded.
"Was it not he who told you to have me try to get that information?"
"Yes, Allan, of course it was he," said Lucy. "But don't you see my
plight? I am not a business woman, and I did not realise--"
"You realised that you were not dealing frankly with me," he said.
"That is all that I care about, and that is why I am not willing to
continue to represent you. Stanley Ryder has bought your stock, and
Stanley Ryder will have to be your adviser in the future."
He had not meant to discuss the matter with her any further, but he
saw how profoundly he had hurt her, and the old bond between them
held him still.
"Can't you understand what you did to me, Lucy?" he exclaimed.
"Imagine my position, talking to Mr. Hanson, I knowing nothing and
he knowing everything. He knew what you had been paid, and he even
knew that you had taken a note."
Lucy stared at Montague with wide-open eyes. "Allan!" she gasped.
"You see what it means," he said. "I told you that you could not
keep your doings secret. Now it will only be a matter of a few days
before everybody who knows will be whispering that you have
permitted Stanley Ryder to do this for you."
There was a long silence. Lucy sat staring before her. Then suddenly
she faced Montague.
"Allan!" she cried. "Surely--you understand!"
She burst out violently, "I had a right to sell that stock! Ryder
needed it. He is going to organise a syndicate, and develop the
property. It was a simple matter of business."
"I have no doubt of it, Lucy," said Montague, in a low voice, "but
how will you persuade the world of that? I told you what would
happen if you permitted yourself to be intimate with a man like
Stanley Ryder. You will find out too late what it means. Certainly
that incident with Waterman ought to have opened your eyes to what
people are saying."
Lucy gave a start, and gazed at him with horror in her eyes.
"Allan!" she panted.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Do you mean to tell me that happened to me because Stanley Ryder is
"Of course I do," said he. "Waterman had heard the gossip, and he
thought that if Ryder was a rich man, he was a ten-times-richer
Montague could see the colour mount swiftly over Lucy's throat and
face. She stood twisting her hands together nervously. "Oh, Allan!"
she said. "That is monstrous!"
"It is not of my making. It is the way the world is. I found it out
myself, and I tried to point it out to you."
"But it is horrible!" she cried. "I will not believe it. I will not
yield to such things. I will not be coward enough to give up a
friend for such a motive!"
"I know the feeling," said Montague. "I'd stand by you, if it were
another man than Stanley Ryder. But I know him better than you, I
"You don't, Allan, you can't!" she protested. "I tell you he is a
good man! He is a man nobody understands--"
Montague shrugged his shoulders. "It is possible," he said. "I have
heard that before. Many men are better than the things they do in
this world; at any rate, they like to persuade themselves that they
are. But you have no right to wreck your life out of pity for Ryder.
He has made his own reputation, and if he had any real care for you,
he would not ask you to sacrifice yourself to it."
"He did not ask me to," said Lucy. "What I have done, I have done of
my own free will. I believe in him, and I will not believe the
horrible things that you tell me."
"Very well," said Montague, "then you will have to go your own way."
He spoke calmly, though really his heart was wrung with grief. He
knew exactly the sort of conversation by which Stanley Ryder had
brought Lucy to this state of mind. He could have shattered the
beautiful image of himself which Ryder had conjured up; but he could
not bear to do it. Perhaps it was an instinct which guided him--he
knew that Lucy was in love with the man, and that no facts that
anyone could bring would make any difference to her. All he could
say was, "You will have to find out for yourself."
And then, with one more look at her pitiful face of misery, he
turned and went away, without even touching her hand.
It was now well on in May, and most of the people of Montague's
acquaintance had moved out to their country places; and those who
were chained to their desks had yachts or automobiles or private
cars, and made the trip into the country every afternoon. Montague
was invited to spend another week at Eldridge Devon's, where Alice
had been for a week; but he could not spare the time until Saturday
afternoon, when he made the trip up the Hudson in Devon's new
three-hundred-foot steam-yacht, the Triton. Some unkind person had
described Devon to Montague as "a human yawn"; but he appeared to
have a very keen interest in life that Saturday afternoon. He had
been seized by a sudden conviction that a new and but little
advertised automobile had proven its superiority to any of the
seventeen cars which he at present maintained in his establishment.
He had got three of these new cars, and while Montague sat upon the
quarter-deck of the Triton and gazed at the magnificent scenery of
the river, he had in his ear the monotonous hum of Devon's voice,
discussing annular ball-bearings and water-jacketed cylinders.
One of the new cars met them at Devon's private pier, and swept them
over the hill to the mansion. The Devon place had never looked more
wonderful to Montague than it did just then, with fruit trees in
full blossom, and the wonder of springtime upon everything. For
miles about one might see hillsides that were one unbroken stretch
of luscious green lawn. But alas, Eldridge Devon had no interest in
these hills, except to pursue a golf-ball over them. Montague never
felt more keenly the pitiful quality of the people among whom he
found himself than when he stood upon the portico of this house--a
portico huge enough to belong to some fairy palace in a dream--and
gazed at the sweeping vista of the Hudson over the heads of Mrs.
Billy Alden and several of her cronies, playing bridge.
* * *
After luncheon, he went for a stroll with Alice, and she told him
how she had been passing the time. "Young Curtiss was here for a
couple of days," she said.
"General Prentice's nephew?" he asked.
"Yes. He told me he had met you," said she. "What do you think of
"He struck me as a sensible chap," said Montague.
"I like him very much," said Alice. "I think we shall be friends. He
is interesting to talk to; you know he was in a militia regiment
that went to Cuba, and also he's been a cowboy, and all sorts of
exciting things. We took a walk the other morning, and he told me
some of his adventures. They say he's quite a successful lawyer."
"He is in a very successful firm," said Montague. "And he'd hardly
have got there unless he had ability."
"He's a great friend of Laura Hegan's," said Alice. "She was over
here to spend the day. She doesn't approve of many people, so that
is a compliment."
Montague spoke of a visit which he had paid to Laura Hegan, at one
of the neighbouring estates.
"I had quite a talk with her," said Alice. "And she invited me to
luncheon, and took me driving. I like her better than I thought I
would. Don't you like her, Allan?"
"I couldn't say that I really know her," said Montague. "I thought I
might like her, but she did not happen to like me."
"But how could that be?" asked the girl.
Montague smiled. "Tastes are different," he said.
"But there must be some reason," protested Alice. "For she looks at
many things in the same way that you do. I told her I thought she
would be interested to talk to you."
"What did she say?" asked the other.
"She didn't say anything," answered Alice; and then suddenly she
turned to him. "I am sure you must know some reason. I wish you
would tell me."
"I don't know anything definite," Montague answered. "I have always
imagined it had to do with Mrs. Winnie."
"With Mrs. Winnie!" exclaimed Alice, in perplexing wonder.
"I suppose she heard gossip and believed it," he added.
"But that is a shame!" exclaimed the girl. "Why don't you tell her
"_I_ tell her?" laughed Montague. "I have no reason for telling her.
She doesn't care anything in particular about me."
He was silent for a moment or two. "I thought of it once or twice,"
he said. "For it made me rather angry at first. I saw myself going
up to her, and startling her with the statement, 'What you believe
about me is not true!' Then again, I thought I might write her a
letter and tell her. But of course it would be absurd; she would
never acknowledge that she had believed anything, and she would
think I was impertinent."
"I don't believe she would do anything of the sort," Alice answered.
"At least, not if she meant what she said to me. She was talking
about people one met in Society, and how tiresome and conventional
it all was. 'No one ever speaks the truth or deals frankly with
you,' she said. 'All the men spend their time in paying you
compliments about your looks. They think that is all a woman cares
about. The more I come to know them, the less I think of them.'"
"That's just it," said Montague. "One cannot feel comfortable
knowing a girl in her position. Her father is powerful, and some day
she will be enormously rich herself; and the people who gather about
her are seeking to make use of her. I was interested in her when I
first met her. But when I learned more about the world in which she
lives, I shrank from even talking to her."
"But that is rather unfair to her," said Alice. "Suppose all decent
people felt that way. And she is really quite easy to know. She told
me about some charities she is interested in. She goes down into the
slums, on the East Side, and teaches poor children. It seemed to me
a wonderfully daring sort of thing, but she laughed when I said so.
She says those people are just the same as other people, when you
come to know them; you get used to their ways, and then it does not
seem so terrible and far off."
"I imagine it would be so," said Montague, with a smile.
"Her father came over to meet her," Alice added. "She said that was
the first time he had been out of the city in six months. Just fancy
working so hard, and with all the money he has! What in the world do
you suppose he wants more for?"
"I don't suppose it is the money," said he. "It's the power. And
when you have so much money, you have to work hard to keep other
people from taking it away from you."
"He certainly looks as if he ought to be able to protect himself,"
said the girl. "His face is so grim and forbidding. You would hardly
think he could smile, to look at him."
"He is very pleasant, when you know him," said Montague.
"He remembered you, and asked about you," said she. "Wasn't it he
who was going to buy Lucy Dupree's stock?"
"I spoke to him about it," he answered, "but nothing came of it."
There was a moment's pause. "Allan," said Alice, suddenly, "what is
this I hear about Lucy?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"People are talking about her and Mr. Ryder. I overheard Mrs. Landis
yesterday. It's outrageous!"
Montague did hot know what to say. "What can I do?" he asked.
"I don't know," said Alice, "but I think that Victoria Landis is a
horrible woman. I know she herself does exactly as she pleases. And
she tells such shocking stories--"
Montague said nothing.
"Tell me," asked the other, after a pause, "because you've given up
Lucy's business affairs, are we to have nothing to do with her at
"I don't know," he answered. "I don't imagine she will care to see
me. I have told her about the mistake she's making, and she chooses
to go her own way. So what more can I do?"
* * *
That evening Montague found himself settled on a sofa next to Mrs.
Billy Alden. "What's this I hear about your friend, Mrs. Taylor?"
"I don't know," said he, abruptly.
"The fascinating widow seems to be throwing herself away," continued
"What makes you say that?" he asked.
"Vivie Patton told me," said she. "She's an old flame of Stanley
Ryder's, you know; and so I imagine it came directly from him."
Montague was dumb; he could think of nothing to say.
"It's too bad," said Mrs. Billy. "She is really a charming creature.
And it will hurt her, you know--she is a stranger, and it's a trifle
too sudden. Is that the Mississippi way?"
Montague forced himself to say, "Lucy is her own mistress." But his
feeble impulse toward conversation was checked by Mrs. Billy's
prompt response, "Vivie said she was Stanley Ryder's."
"I understand how you feel," continued the great lady, after a
pause. "Everybody will be talking about it.--Your friend Reggie Mann
heard what Vivie said, and he will see to that."
"Reggie Mann is no friend of mine," said Montague, abruptly.
There was a pause. "How in the world do you stand that man?" he
asked, by way of changing the conversation.
"Oh, Reggie fills his place," was the reply. And Mrs. Billy gazed
about the room. "You see all these women?" she said. "Take them in
the morning and put half a dozen of them together in one room; they
all hate each other like poison, and there are no men around, and
there is nothing to do; and how are you to keep them from
"Is that Reggie's role?" asked the other.
"Precisely. He sees a spark fly, and he jumps up and cracks a joke.
It doesn't make any difference what he does--I've known him to crow
like a rooster, or stumble over his own feet--anything to raise a
"Aren't you afraid these epigrams may reach your victim?" asked
Montague, with a smile.
"That is what they are intended to do," was the reply.
"I judge you have not many enemies," added Mrs. Billy, after a
"No especial ones," said he.
"Well," said she, "you should cultivate some. Enemies are the spice
of life. I mean it, really," she declared, as she saw him smile.
"I had never thought of it," said he.
"Have you never known what it is to get into a really good fight?
You see, you are conventional, and you don't like to acknowledge it.
But what is there that wakes one up more than a good, vigorous
hatred? Some day you will realise it--the chief zest in life is to
go after somebody who hates you, and to get him down and see him
"But suppose he gets you down?" interposed Montague.
"Ah!" said she, "you mustn't let him! That is what you go into the
fight for. Get after him, and do him first."
"It sounds rather barbarous," said he.
"On the contrary," was the answer, "it's the highest reach of
civilisation. That is what Society is for--the cultivation of the
art of hatred. It is the survival of the fittest in a new realm. You
study your victim, you find out his weaknesses and his foibles, and
you know just where to plant your sting. You learn what he wants,
and you take it away from him. You choose your allies carefully, and
you surround him and overwhelm him; then when you get through with
him, you go after another."
And Mrs. Billy glanced about her at the exquisite assemblage in Mrs.
Devon's Louis Seize drawing-room. "What do you suppose these people
are here for to-night?" she asked.
A weekor two had passed, when one day Oliver called his brother on
the 'phone. "Have you or Alice any engagement this evening?" he
asked. "I want to bring a friend around to dinner."
"Who is it?" inquired Montague.
"Nobody you have heard of," said Oliver. "But I want you to meet
him. You will think he's rather queer, but I will explain to you
afterwards. Tell Alice to take my word for him."
Montague delivered the message, and at seven o'clock they went
downstairs. In the reception room they met Oliver and his friend,
and it was all that Montague could do to repress a look of
The name of the personage was Mr. Gamble. He was a little man, a
trifle over five feet high, and so fat that one wondered how he
could get about alone; his chin and neck were a series of rolls of
fat. His face was round like a full moon, and out of it looked two
little eyes like those of a pig. It was only after studying them for
a while that one discovered that they twinkled shrewdly.
Mr. Gamble was altogether the vulgarest-looking personage that Alice
Montague had ever met. He put out a fat little hand to her, and she
touched it gingerly, and then gazed at Oliver and his brother in
"Good evening. Good evening," he began volubly. "I am charmed to
meet you. Mr. Montague, I have heard so much about you from your
brother that I feel as if we were old friends."
There was a moment's pause. "Shall we go into the dining-room?"
He did not much relish the stares which would follow them, but he
could see no way out of the difficulty. They went into the room and
seated themselves, Montague wondering in a flash whether Mr.
Gamble's arms would be long enough to reach to the table in front of
"A warm evening," he said, puffing slightly. "I have been on the
train all day."
"Mr. Gamble comes from Pittsburg," interposed Oliver.
"Indeed?" said Montague, striving to make conversation. "Are you in
"No, I am out of business," said Mr. Gamble, with a smile. "Made my
pile, so to speak, and got out. I want to see the world a bit before
I get too old."
The waiter came to take their orders; in the meantime Montague
darted an indignant glance at his brother, who sat and smiled
serenely. Then Montague caught Alice's eye, and he could almost hear
her saying to him, "What in the world am I going to talk about?"
But it proved not very difficult to talk with the gentleman from
Pittsburg. He appeared to know all the gossip of the Metropolis, and
he cheerfully supplied the topics of conversation. He had been to
Palm Beach and Hot Springs during the winter, and told about what he
had seen there; he was going to Newport in the summer, and he talked
about the prospects there. If he had the slightest suspicion of the
fact that all his conversation was not supremely interesting to
Montague and his cousin, he gave no hint of it.
After he had disposed of the elaborate dinner which Oliver ordered,
Mr. Gamble proposed that they visit one of the theatres. He had a
box all ready, it seemed, and Oliver accepted for Alice before
Montague could say a word for her. He spoke for himself,
however,--he had important work to do, and must be excused.
He went upstairs and shook off his annoyance and plunged into his
work. Sometime after midnight, when he had finished, he went out for
a breath of fresh air, and as he returned he found Oliver and his
friend standing in the lobby of the hotel.
"How do you do, Mr. Montague?" said Gamble. "Glad to see you again."
"Alice has just gone upstairs," said Oliver. "We were going to sit
in the cafe awhile. Will you join us?"
"Yes, do," said Mr. Gamble, cordially.
Montague went because he wanted to have a talk with Oliver before he
went to bed that night.
"Do you know Dick Ingham?" asked Mr. Gamble, as they seated
themselves at a table.
"The Steel man, you mean?" asked Montague. "No, I never met him."
"We were talking about him," said the other. "Poor chap--it really
was hard luck, you know. It wasn't his fault. Did you ever hear the
"No," said Montague, but he knew to what the other referred. Ingham
was one of the "Steel crowd," as they were called, and he had been
president of the Trust until a scandal had forced his resignation.
"He is an old friend of mine," said Gamble; "he told me all about
it. It began in Paris--some newspaper woman tried to blackmail him,
and he had her put in jail for three months. And when she got out
again, then the papers at home began to get stories about poor
Ingham's cutting up. And the public went wild, and they made him
resign--just imagine it!"
Gamble chuckled so violently that he was seized by a coughing spell,
and had to signal for a glass of water.
"They've got a new scandal on their hands now," said Oliver.
"They're a lively crowd, the Steel fellows," laughed the other.
"They want to make Davidson resign, too, but he'll fight them. He
knows too much! You should hear his story!"
"I imagine it's not a very savoury one," said Montague, for lack of
something to say.
"It's too bad," said the other, earnestly. "I have talked to them
sometimes, but it don't do any good. I remember Davidson one night:
'Jim,' says he, 'a fellow gets a whole lot of money, and he buys him
everything he wants, until at last he buys a woman, and then his
trouble begins. If you're buying pictures, there's an end to it--you
get your walls covered sooner or later. But you never can satisfy a
woman.'" And Mr. Gamble shook his head. "Too bad, too bad," he
"Were you in the steel business yourself?" asked Montague, politely.
"No, no, oil was my line. I've been fighting the Trust, and last
year they bought me out, and now I'm seeing the world."
Mr. Gamble relapsed into thought again. "I never went in for that
sort of thing myself," he said meditatively; "I am a married man, I
am, and one woman is enough for me."
"Is your family in New York?" asked Montague, in an effort to change
"No, no, they live in Pittsburg," was the answer. "I've got four
daughters--all in college. They're stunning girls, I tell you--I'd
like you to meet them, Mr. Montague."
"I should be pleased," said Montague, writhing inwardly. But a few
minutes later, to his immense relief, Mr. Gamble arose, and bade him
Montague saw him clamber laboriously into his automobile, and then
he turned to his brother.
"Oliver," he asked, "what in the devil does this mean?"
"What mean?" asked Oliver, innocently.
"That man," exclaimed the other.
"Why, I thought you would like to meet him," said Oliver; "he is an
"I am in no mood for fooling," said his brother, angrily. "Why in
the world should you insult Alice by introducing such a man to her?"
"Why, you are talking nonsense!" exclaimed Oliver; "he knows the
"Where did you meet him?" asked Montague.
"Mrs. Landis introduced him to me first. She met him through a
cousin of hers, a naval officer. He has been living in Brooklyn this
winter. He knows all the navy people."
"What is it, anyway?" demanded Montague, impatiently. "Is it some
business affair that you are interested in?"
"No, no," said Oliver, smiling cheerfully--"purely social. He wants
to be introduced about, you know."
"Are you going to put him into Society, by any chance?" asked the
"You are warm, as the children say," laughed his brother.
Montague stared at him. "Oliver, you don't mean it," he said. "That
fellow in Society!"
"Sure," said Oliver, "if he wants to. Why not?"
"But his wife and his daughters!" exclaimed the other.
"Oh, that's not it--the family stays in Pittsburg. It's only himself
this time. All the same," Oliver added, after a pause, "I'd like to
wager you that if you were to meet Jim Gamble's four prize
daughters, you'd find it hard to tell them from the real thing.
They've been to a swell boarding-school, and they've had everything
that money can buy them. My God, but I'm tired of hearing about
"But do you mean to tell me," the other protested, "that your
friends will stand for a man like that?"
"Some of them will. He's got barrels of money, you know. And he
understands the situation perfectly--he won't make many mistakes."
"But what in the world does he want?"
"Leave that to him."
"And you," demanded Montague; "you are getting money for this?"
Oliver smiled a long and inscrutable smile. "You don't imagine that
I'm in love with him, I trust. I thought you'd be interested to see
the game, that's why I introduced him."
"That's all very well," said the other. "But you have no right to
inflict such a man upon Alice."
"Oh, stuff!" said Oliver. "She'll meet him at Newport this summer,
anyway. How could I introduce him anywhere else, if I wasn't willing
to introduce him here? He won't hurt Alice. He gave her a good time
this evening, and I wager she'll like him before he gets through.
He's really a good-natured chap; the chief trouble with him is that
he gets confidential."
Montague relapsed into silence, and Oliver changed the subject. "It
seems too bad about Lucy," he said. "Is there nothing we can do
"Nothing," said the other.
"She is simply ruining herself," said Oliver. "I've been trying to
get Reggie Mann to have her introduced to Mrs. Devon, but he says he
wouldn't dare to take the risk."
"No, I presume not," said Montague.
"It's a shame," said Oliver. "I thought Mrs. Billy Alden would ask
her to Newport this summer, but now I don't believe she'll have a
thing to do with her. Lucy will find she knows nobody except Stanley
Ryder and his crowd. She has simply thrown herself away."
Montague shrugged his shoulders. "That's Lucy's way," he said.
"I suppose she'll have a good time," added the other. "Ryder is
generous, at any rate."
"I hope so," said Montague.
"They say he's making barrels of money," said Oliver; then he added,
longingly, "My God, I wish I had a trust company to play with!"
"Why a trust company particularly?" asked the other.
"It's the easiest graft that's going," said Oliver. "It's some dodge
or other by which they evade the banking laws, and the money comes
rolling in in floods. You've noticed their advertisements, I
"I have noticed them," said Montague.
"He is adding something over a million a month, I hear."
"It sounds very attractive," said the other; and added, drily, "I
suppose Ryder feels as if he owned it all."
"He might just as well own it," was the reply. "If I were going into
Wall Street to make money, I'd rather have the control of fifty
millions than the absolute ownership of ten."
"By the way," Oliver remarked after a moment, "the Prentices have
asked Alice up to Newport. Alice seems to be quite taken with that
young chap, Curtiss."
"He comes around a good deal," said Montague. "He seems a very
"No doubt," said the other. "But he hasn't enough money to take care
of a girl like Alice."
"Well," he replied, "that's a question for Alice to consider."
ONE day, a month or so later, Montague, to his great surprise,
received a letter from Stanley Ryder.
"Could you make it convenient to call at my office sometime this
afternoon?" it read. "I wish to talk over with you a business
proposition which I believe you will find of great advantage to
"I suppose he wants to buy my Northern Mississippi stock," he said
to himself, as he called up Ryder on the 'phone, and made an
It was the first time that he had ever been inside the building of
the Gotham Trust Company, and he gazed about him at the overwhelming
magnificence--huge gates of bronze and walls of exquisite marble.
Ryder's own office was elaborate and splendid, and he himself a
picture of aristocratic elegance.
He greeted Montague cordially, and talked for a few minutes about
the state of the market, and the business situation, in the meantime
twirling a pencil in his hand and watching his visitor narrowly. At
last he began, "Mr. Montague, I have for some time been working over
a plan which I think will interest you."
"I shall be very pleased to hear of it," said Montague.
"Of course, you know," said Ryder, "that I bought from Mrs. Taylor
her holdings in the Northern Mississippi Railroad. I bought them
because I was of the opinion that the road ought to be developed,
and I believed that I could induce someone to take the matter up. I
have found the right parties, I think, and the plans are now being
"Indeed," said the other, with interest.
"The idea, Mr. Montague, is to extend the railroad according to the
old plan, with which you are familiar. Before we took the matter up,
we approached the holders of the remainder of the stock, most of
whom, I suppose, are known to you. We made them, through our agents,
a proposition to buy their stock at what we considered a fair price;
and we have purchased about five thousand shares additional. The
prices quoted on the balance were more than we cared to pay, in
consideration of the very great cost of the improvements we proposed
to undertake. Our idea is now to make a new proposition to these
other shareholders. The annual stockholders' meeting takes place
next month. At this meeting will be brought up the project for the
issue of twenty thousand additional shares, with the understanding
that as much of this new stock as is not taken by the present
shareholders is to go to us. As I assume that few of them will take
their allotments, that will give us control of the road; you can
understand, of course, that our syndicate would not undertake the
venture unless it could obtain control."
Montague nodded his assent to this.
"At this meeting," said Ryder, "we shall propose a ticket of our own
for the new board of directors. We are in hopes that as our
proposition will be in the interest of every stockholder, this
ticket will be elected. We believe that the road needs a new policy,
and a new management entirely; if a majority of the stockholders can
be brought to our point of view, we shall take control, and put in a
Ryder paused for a moment, to let this information sink into his
auditor's mind; then, fixing his gaze upon him narrowly, he
continued: "What I wished to see you about, Mr. Montague, was to
make you a proposal to assist us in putting through this project. We
should like you, in the first place, to act as our representative,
in consultation with our regular attorneys. We should like you to
interview privately the stockholders of the road, and explain to
them our projects, and vouch for our good intentions. If you can see
your way to undertake this work for us, we should be glad to place
you upon the proposed board of directors; and as soon as we have
matters in our hands, we should ask you to become president of the
Montague gave an inward start; but practice had taught him to keep
from letting his surprise manifest itself very much. He sat for a
minute in thought.
"Mr. Ryder," he said, "I am a little surprised at such a proposition
from you, seeing that you know so little about me--"
"I know more than you suppose, Mr. Montague," said the other, with a
smile. "You may rest assured that I have not broached such a matter
to you without making inquiries, and satisfying myself that you were
the proper person."
"It is very pleasant to be told that," said Montague. "But I must
remind you, also, that I am not a railroad man, and have had no
experience whatever in such matters--"
"It is not necessary that you should be a railroad man," was the
answer. "One can hire talent of that kind at market prices. What we
wish is a man of careful and conservative temper, and, above all, a
man of thorough-going honesty; someone who will be capable of
winning the confidence of the stockholders, and of keeping it. It
seemed to us that you possessed these qualifications. Also, of
course, you have the advantage of being familiar with the
neighbourhood, and of knowing thoroughly the local conditions."
Montague thought for a while longer. "The offer is a very flattering
one," he said, "and I need hardly tell you that it interests me. But
before I could properly consider the matter, there is one thing I
should have to know--that is, who are the members of this
"Why would it be necessary to know that?" asked the other.
"Because I am to lend my reputation to their project, and I should
have to know the character of the men that I was dealing with."
Montague was gazing straight into the other's eyes.
"You will understand, of course," replied Ryder, "that in a matter
of this sort it is necessary to proceed with caution. We cannot
afford to talk about what we are going to do. We have enemies who
will do what they can to check us at every step."
"Whatever you tell me will, of course, be confidential," said
"I understand that perfectly well," was the reply. "But I wished
first to get some idea of your attitude toward the project--whether
or not you would be at liberty to take up this work and to devote
yourself to it."
"I can see no reason why I should not," Montague answered.
"It seems to me," said Ryder, "that the proposition can be judged
largely upon its own merits. It is a proposition to put through an
important public improvement; a road which is in a broken-down and
practically bankrupt condition is to be taken up, and thoroughly
reorganised, and put upon its feet. It is to have a vigorous and
honest administration, a new and adequate equipment, and a new
source of traffic. The business of the Mississippi Steel Company, as
you doubtless know, is growing with extraordinary rapidity. All
this, it seems to me, is a work about the advisability of which
there can be no question."
"That is very true," said Montague, "and I will meet the persons who
are interested and talk out matters with them; and if their plans
are such as I can approve, I should be very glad to join with them,
and to do everything in my power to make a success of the
enterprise. As you doubtless know, I have five hundred shares of the
stock myself, and I should be glad to become a member of the
"That is what I had in mind to propose to you," said the other. "I
anticipate no difficulty in satisfying you--the project is largely
of my own originating, and my own reputation will be behind it. The
Gotham Trust Company will lend its credit to the enterprise so far
Ryder said this with just a trifle of hauteur, and Montague felt
that perhaps he had spoken too strenuously. No one could sit in
Ryder's office and not be impressed by its atmosphere of
magnificence; after all, it was here, and its seventy or eighty
million dollars of deposits were real, and this serene and
aristocratic gentleman was the master of them. And what reason had
Montague for his hesitation, except the gossip of idle and cynical
Whatever doubts he himself might have, he needed to reflect but a
moment to realise that his friends in Mississippi would not share
them. If he went back home with the name of Stanley Ryder and the
Gotham Trust Company to back him, he would come as a conqueror with
tidings of triumph, and all the old friends of the family would rush
to follow his suggestions.
Ryder waited awhile, perhaps to let these reflections sink in.
Finally he continued: "I presume, Mr. Montague, that you know
something about the Mississippi Steel Company. The steel situation
is a peculiar one. Prices are kept at an altogether artificial
level, and there is room for large profits to competitors of the
Trust. But those who go into the business commonly find themselves
unexpectedly handicapped. They cannot get the credit they want;
orders overwhelm them in floods, but Wall Street will not put up
money to help them. They find all kinds of powerful interests
arrayed against them; there are raids upon their securities in the
market, and mysterious rumours begin to circulate. They find suits
brought against them which tend to injure their credit. And
sometimes they will find important papers missing, important
witnesses sailing for Europe, and so on. Then their most efficient
employees will be bought up; their very bookkeepers and office-boys
will be bribed, and all the secrets of their business passed on to
their enemies. They will find that the railroads do not treat them
squarely; cars will be slow in coming, and all kinds of petty
annoyances will be practised. You know what the rebate is, and you
can imagine the part which that plays. In these and a hundred other
ways, the path of the independent steel manufacturer is made
difficult. And now, Mr. Montague, this is a project to extend a
railroad which will be of vast service to the chief competitor of
the Steel Trust. I believe that you are man of the world enough to
realise that this improvement would have been made long ago, if the
Steel Trust had not been able to prevent it. And now, the time has
come when that project is to be put through in spite of every
opposition that the Trust can bring; and I have come to you because
I believe that you are a man to be counted on in such a fight."
"I understand you," said Montague, quietly; "and you are right in
"Very well," said Ryder. "Then I will tell you that the syndicate of
which I speak is composed of myself and John S. Price, who has
recently acquired control of the Mississippi Steel Company. You will
find out without difficulty what Price's reputation is; he is the
one man in the country who has made any real headway against the
Trust. The business of the Mississippi Company has almost doubled in
the past year, and there is no limit to what it can do, except the
size of the plant and the ability of the railroads to handle its
product. This new plan would have been taken up through the Company,
but for the fact that the Company's capital and credit is involved
in elaborate extensions. Price has furnished some of the capital
personally, and I have raised the balance; and what we want now is
an honest man to whom we can entrust this most important project, a
man who will take the road in hand and put it on its feet, and make
it of some service in the community. You are the man we have
selected, and if the proposition appeals to you, why, we are ready
to do business with you without delay."
For a minute or two Montague was silent; then he said: "I appreciate
your confidence, Mr. Ryder, and what you say appeals to me. But the
matter is a very important one to me, as you can readily understand,
and so I will ask you to give me until to-morrow to make up my
"Very well," said Ryder.
Montague's first thought was of General Prentice. "Come to me any
time you need advice," the General had said; so Montague went down
to his office. "Do you know anything about John S. Price?" he asked.
"I don't know him very well personally," was the reply. "I know him
by reputation. He is a daring Wall Street operator, and he's been
very successful, I am told."
"Price began life as a cowboy, I understand," continued the General,
after a pause. "Then he went in for mines. Ten or fifteen years ago
we used to know him as a silver man. Several years ago there was a
report that he had been raiding Mississippi Steel, and had got
control. That was rather startling news, for everybody knew that the
Trust was after it. He seems to have fought them to a standstill."
"That sounds interesting," said Montague.
"Price was brought up in a rough school," said the General, with a
smile. "He has a tongue like a whip-lash. I remember once I attended
a creditors' meeting of the American Stove Company, which had got
into trouble, and Price started off from the word go. 'Mr.
Chairman,' he said, 'when I come into the office of an industrial
corporation, and see a stock ticker behind the president's chair
with the carpet worn threadbare in front of it, I know what's the
matter with that corporation without asking another word.'"
"What do you want to know about him for?" asked the General, after
he had got through laughing over this recollection.
"It's a case I'm concerned in," the other answered.
"I tell you who knows about him," said the General. "Harry Curtiss.
William E. Davenant has done law business for Price."
"Is that so?" said Montague. "Then probably I shall meet Harry."
"I can tell you a better person yet," said the other, after a
moment's thought. "Ask your friend Mrs. Alden; she knows Price
intimately, I believe."
So Montague sent up a note to Mrs. Billy, and the reply came, "Come
up to dinner. I am not going out." And so, late in the afternoon, he
was ensconced in a big leather armchair in Mrs. Billy's private
drawing-room, and listening to an account of the owner of the
Mississippi Steel Company.
"Johnny Price?" said the great lady. "Yes, I know him. It all
depends whether you are going to have him for a friend or an enemy.
His mother was Irish, and he is built after her. If he happens to
take a fancy to you, he'll die for you; and if you make him hate
you, you will hear a greater variety of epithets than you ever
supposed the language contained.--I first met him in Washington,"
Mrs. Billy went on, reminiscently; "that was fifteen years ago, when
my brother was in Congress. I think I told you once how Davy paid
forty thousand dollars for the nomination, and went to Congress. It
was the year of a Democratic landslide, and they could have elected
Reggie Mann if they had felt like it. I went to Washington to live
the next winter, and Price was there with a whole army of lobbyists,
fighting for free silver. That was before the craze, you know, when
silver was respectable; and Price was the Silver King. I saw the
inside of American government that winter, I can assure you."
"Tell me about it," said Montague.
"The Democratic party had been elected on a low tariff platform,"
said Mrs. Billy; "and it sold out bag and baggage to the
corporations. Money was as free as water--my brother could have got
his forty thousand back three times over. It was the Steel crowd
that bossed the job, you know--William Roberts used to come down
from Pittsburg every two or three days, and he had a private
telephone wire the rest of the time. I have always said it was the
Steel Trust that clamped the tariff swindle on the American people,
and that's held it there ever since."
"What did Price do with his silver mines?" asked Montague.
"He sold them," said she, "and just in the nick of time. He was on
the inside in the campaign of '96, and I remember one night he came
to dinner at our house and told us that the Republican party had
raised ten or fifteen million dollars to buy the election. 'That's
the end of silver,' he said, and he sold out that very month, and
he's been freelancing it in Wall Street ever since."
"Have you met him yet?" asked Mrs. Billy, after a pause.
"Not yet," he answered.
"He's a character," said she. "I've heard Davy tell about the first
time he struck New York--as a miner, with huge wads of greenbacks in
his pockets. He spent his money like a 'coal-oil Johnny,' as the
phrase is--a hundred-dollar bill for a shine, and that sort of
thing. And he'd go on the wildest debauches; you can have no idea of
"Is he that kind of a man?" said Montague.
"He used to be," said the other. "But one day he had something the
matter with him, and he went to a doctor, and the doctor told him
something, I don't know what, and he shut down like a steel trap.
Now he never drinks a drop, and he lives on one meal a day and a cup
of coffee. But he still goes with the old crowd--I don't believe
there is a politician or a sporting-man in town that Johnny Price
does not know. He sits in their haunts and talks with them until all
sorts of hours in the morning, but I can never get him to come to my
dinner-parties. 'My people are human,' he will say; 'yours are
sawdust.' Sometime, if you want to see New York, just get Johnny
Price to take you about and introduce you to his bookmakers and
Montague meditated for a while over his friend's picture. "Somehow
or other," he said, "it doesn't sound much like the president of a
"That's all right," said Mrs. Billy, "but Price will be at his desk
bright and early the next morning, and every man in the office will
be there, too. And if you think he won't have his wits about him,
just you try to fool him on some deal, and see. Let me tell you a
little that I know about the fight he has made with the Mississippi
Steel Company." And she went on to tell. The upshot of her telling
was that Montague borrowed the use of her desk and wrote a note to
Stanley Ryder. "From my inquiries about John S. Price, I gather that
he makes steel. With the understanding that I am to make a railroad
and carry his steel, I have concluded to accept your proposition,
subject, of course, to a satisfactory arrangement as to terms."
THE next morning Montague had an interview with John S. Price in his
Wall Street office, and was retained as counsel in connection with
the new reorganisation. He accepted the offer, and in the afternoon
he called by appointment at the law-offices of William E. Davenant.
The first person Montague met there was Harry Curtiss, who greeted
him with eagerness. "I was pleased to death when I heard that you
were in on this deal," said he; "we shall have some work to do
About the table in the consultation room of Davenant's offices were
seated Ryder and Price, and Montague and Curtiss, and, finally,
William E. Davenant. Davenant was one of the half-dozen
highest-paid corporation lawyers in the Metropolis. He was a tall,
lean man, whose clothing hung upon him like rags upon a scare-crow.
One of his shoulders was a trifle higher than the other, and his
long neck invariably hung forward, so that his thin, nervous face
seemed always to be peering about. One had a sense of a pair of keen
eyes, behind which a restless brain was constantly plotting. Some
people rated Davenant as earning a quarter of a million a year, and
it was his boast that no one who made money according to plans which
he approved had ever been made to give any of it up.
In curious contrast was the figure of Price, who looked like a
well-dressed pugilist. He was verging on stoutness, and his face was
round, but underneath the superfluous flesh one could see the jaw of
a man of iron will. It was easy to believe that Price had fought his
way through life. He spoke sharply and to the point, and he laid
bare the subject with a few quick strokes, as of a surgeon's knife.
The first question was as to Montague's errand in the South. There
was no need of buying more stock of the road, for if they got the
new stock they would have control, and that was all they needed.
Montague was to see those holders of the stock whom he knew
personally, and to represent to them that he had succeeded in
interesting some Northern capitalists in the road, and that they
would undertake the improvements on condition that their board of
directors should be elected. Price produced a list of the new
directors. They consisted of Montague and Curtiss and Ryder and
himself; a cousin of the latter's, and two other men, who, as he
phrased it, were "accustomed to help me in that way." That left two
places to be filled by Montague from among the influential holders
of the stock. "That always pleases," said Price, succinctly, "and at
the same time we shall have an absolute majority."
There was to be voted an issue of a million dollars' worth of bonds,
which the Gotham Trust Company would take; also a new issue of
twenty thousand shares of stock, which was to be offered pro rata to
the present stock-holders at fifty cents on the dollar. Montague
was to state that his clients would take any which these
stockholders did not want. He was to use every effort to keep the
plan secret, and would make no attempt to obtain the stock-holders'
list of the road. The reason for this came out a little later, when
the subject of the old-time survey was broached.
"I must take steps to get hold of those plans," said Price. "In
this, as well as everything else, we proceed upon the assumption
that the present administration of the road is crooked."
The next matter to be considered was the charter. "When I get a
charter for a railroad," said Price, "I get one that lets me do
anything from building a toothpick factory to running flying-machines.
But the fools who drew the charter of the Northern Mississippi got
permission to build a railroad from Atkin to Opala. So we have to
proceed to get an extension. While you are down there, Mr. Montague,
you will see the job through with the Legislature."
Montague thought for a moment. "I don't believe that I have much
influence with the Legislature," he began.
"That's all right," said Price, grimly. "We'll furnish the
Here spoke Davenant. "It seems to me," he said, "that we can just as
well arrange this matter without mentioning the Northern Mississippi
Railroad at all. If the Steel people get wind of this, we are liable
to have all sorts of trouble; the Governor is their man, as you
know. The thing to do is to pass a blanket bill, providing that any
public-service corporation whose charter antedates a certain period
may extend its line within certain limits and under certain
conditions, and so on. I think that I can draw a bill that will go
through before anybody has an idea what it's about."
"Very good," said Price. "Do it that way."
And so they went, from point to point. Price laid down Montague's
own course of procedure in a few brief sentences. They had just two
weeks before the stockholders' meeting, and it was arranged that he
should start for Mississippi upon the following day.
When the conference was over, Montague rode up town with Harry
"What was that Davenant said about the Governor?" he asked, when
they were seated in the train.
"Governor Hannis, you mean?" said the other. "I don't know so very
much about it, but there's been some agitation down there against
the railroads, and Waterman and the Steel crowd put in Governor
Hannis to do nothing."
"It was rather staggering to me," said Montague, after a little
thought. "I didn't say anything about it, but you know Governor
Hannis is an old friend of my father's, and one of the finest men I
"Oh, yes, I don't doubt that," said Curtiss, easily. "They put up
these fine, respectable old gentlemen. Of course, he's simply a
figure-head--he probably has no idea of what he's really doing. You
understand, of course, that Senator Harmon is the real boss of your
"I have heard it said," said Montague. "But I never took much stock
in such statements--"
"Humph!" said Curtiss. "You'd take it if you'd been in my boots. I
used to do business for old Waterman's Southern railroads, and I've
had occasion to take messages to Harmon once or twice. New York is
the place where you find out about this game!"
"It's not a very pleasant game," said Montague, soberly.
"I didn't make the rules," said Curtiss. "You find you either have
to play that way or else get out altogether."
The younger man relapsed into silence for a moment, then laughed to
himself. "I know how you feel," he said. "I remember when I first
came out of college, the twinges I used to have. I had my head full
of all the beautiful maxims of the old Professor of Ethics. And they
took me on in the legal department of the New York and Hudson
Railroad, and we had a case---some kind of a damage suit; and old
Henry Corbin--their chief counsel, you know--gave me the papers, and
then took out of his desk a typewritten list of the judges of the
Supreme Court of the State. 'Some of them are marked with red,' he
said; 'you can bring the case before any of them. They are our
judges.' Just fancy, you know! And I as innocent as a spring
"I should think things like that would get out in the end," said
Curtiss shrugged his shoulders. "How could you prove it?" he asked.
"But if a certain judge always decided in favour of the railroad--"
"Oh, pshaw!" said Curtiss. "Leave that to the judge! Sometimes he'll
decide against the railroad, but he'll make some ruling that the
higher courts will be sure to upset, and by that time the other
fellow will be tired out, and ready to quit. Or else--here's another
way. I remember one case that I had that old Corbin told me I'd be
sure to win, and I took eleven different exceptions, and the judge
decided against me on every single one. I thought I was gone
sure--but, by thunder, he instructed the jury in my favour! It took
me a long time to see the shrewdness of that; you see, it goes to
the higher courts, and they see that the judge has given the losing
side every advantage, and has decided purely on the evidence. And of
course they haven't the witnesses before them, and don't feel half
so well able to judge of the evidence, and so they let the decision
stand. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, you see!"
"It doesn't seem to leave much room for justice," said Montague.
To which the other responded, "Oh, hell! If you'd been in this
business as long as I have, and seen all the different kinds of
shysters that are trying to plunder the railroads, you'd not fret
about justice. The way the public has got itself worked up just at
present, you can win almost any case you can get before a jury, and
there are men who spend all their time hunting up cases and
Montague sat for a while in thought. He muttered, half to himself,
"Governor Hannis! It takes my breath away!"
"Get Davenant to tell you about it," said Curtiss, with a laugh.
"Maybe it's not so bad as I imagine. Davenant is cynical on the
subject of governors, you know. He had an experience a few years
ago, when he went up to Albany to try to get the Governor to sign a
certain bill. The Governor went out of his office and left him, and
Davenant noticed that a drawer of his desk was open, and he looked
in, and there was an envelope with fifty brand-new one-thousand-
dollar bills in it! He didn't know what they were there for, but
this was a mighty important bill, and he concluded he'd take a
chance. He put the envelope in his pocket; and then the Governor
came back, and after some talk about the interests of the public, he
told him he'd concluded to veto that bill. 'Very well,' Mr.
Governor,' said the old man, 'I have only this to say,' and he took
out the envelope. 'I have here fifty new one-thousand-dollar bills,
which are yours if you sign that measure. On the other hand, if you
refuse to sign it, I will take the bills to the newspaper men, and
tell them what I know about how you got them.' And the Governor
turned as white as a sheet, and, by God, he signed the bill and sent
it off to the Legislature while Davenant waited! So you can see why
he is sceptical about governors."
"I suppose," said Montague, "that was what Price meant when he said
he'd furnish the influence."
"That was what he meant," said the other, promptly.
"I don't like the prospect," Montague responded.
The younger man shrugged his shoulders. "What are you going to do
about it?" he asked. "Your political machines and your offices are
in the hands of peanut-politicians and grafters who are looking for
what's coming to them. If you want anything, you have to pay them
for it, just the same as in any other business. You face the same
situation every hour--'Pay or quit.'"
"Look," Curtiss went on, after a pause, "take our own case. Here we
are, and we want to build a little railroad. It's an important work;
it's got to be done. But we might haunt the lobbies of your State
legislature for fifty years, and if we didn't put up, we wouldn't
get the charter. And, in the meantime, what do you suppose the Steel
Trust would be doing?"
"Have you ever thought what such things will lead to?" asked
"I don't know," said Curtiss. "I've had a fancy that some day the
business men of the country will have to go into politics and run it
on business lines."
The other pondered the reply. "That sounds simple," he said. "But
doesn't it mean the overthrow of Republican institutions?"
"I am afraid it would," said Curtiss. "But what's to be done?"
There was no answer.
"Do you know any remedy?" he persisted.
"No, I don't know any remedy," said Montague, "but I am looking for
one. And I can tell you of this, for a start; I value this Republic
more than I do any business I ever got into yet; and if I come to
that dilemma, it will be the business that will give way."
Curtiss was watching him narrowly. He put his hand on his shoulder.
"That's all right, old man," he said. "But take my advice, and don't
let Davenant hear you say that."
"Why not?" asked the other.
The younger man rose from his seat. "Here's my station," he said.
"The reason is--it might unsettle his ideas. He's a conservative
Democrat, you know, and he likes to make speeches at banquets!"
IN spite of his doubts, Montague returned to his old home, and put
through the programme as agreed. Just as he had anticipated, he
found that he was received as a conquering hero by the holders of
the Northern Mississippi stock. He talked with old Mr. Lee, his
cousin, and two or three others of his old friends, and he had no
difficulty in obtaining their pledges for the new ticket. They were
all interested, and eager about the future of the road.
He did not have to concern himself with the new charter. Davenant
drew up the bill, and he wrote that a nephew of Senator Harmon's
would be able to put it through without attracting any attention.
All that Montague knew was that the bill passed, and was signed by
And then came the day of the stockholders' meeting. He attended it,
presenting proxies for the stock of Ryder and Price, and nominated
his ticket, greatly to the consternation of Mr. Carter, the
president of the road, who had been a lifelong friend of his
family's. The new board of directors was elected by the votes of
nearly three-fourths of the stock, and the new stock issue was voted
by the same majority. As none of the former stockholders cared to
take the new stock, Montague subscribed for the whole issue in the
name of Ryder and Price, and presented a certified check for the
The news of these events, of course, created great excitement in the
neighbourhood; also it did not pass unobserved in New York. Northern
Mississippi was quoted for the first time on the "curb," and there
was quite a little trading; the stock went up nearly ten points in
Montague received this information in a letter from Harry Curtiss.
"You must be prepared to withstand the flatteries of the Steel
crowd," he wrote. "They will be after you before long."
Montague judged that he would not mind facing the "Steel crowd"; but
he was much troubled by an interview which he had to go through with
on the day after the meeting. Old Mr. Carter came to see him, and
gave him a feeble hand to shake, and sat and gazed at him with a
pitiful look of unhappiness.
"Allan," he said, "I have been president of the Northern Mississippi
for fifteen years, and I have served the road faithfully and
devotedly. And now--I want you to tell me--what does this mean? Am
Montague could not remember a time when Mr. Carter had not been a
visitor at his father's home, and it was painful to see him in his
helplessness. But there was nothing that could be done about it; he
set his lips together.
"I am very sorry, Mr. Garter," he said; "but I am not at liberty to
say a word to you about the plans of my clients."
"Am I to understand, then, that I am to be turned out of my
position? I am to have no consideration for all that I have done?
"I am very sorry," Montague said again, firmly,--"but the
circumstances at the present time are such that I must ask you to
excuse me from discussing the matter in any way."
A day or two later Montague received a telegram from Price,
instructing him to go to Riverton, where the works of the
Mississippi Steel Company were located, and to meet Mr. Andrews, the
president of the Company. Montague had been to Riverton several
times in his youth, and he remembered the huge mills, which were one
of the sights of the State. But he was not prepared for the enormous
development which had since taken place. The Mississippi Steel
Company had now two huge Bessemer converters, in which a volcano of
molten flame roared all day and night. It had bought up the whole
western side of the town, and cleared away half a hundred ramshackle
dwellings; and here were long rows of coke-ovens, and two huge
rail-mills, and a plate-mill from which arose sounds like the
crashing of the day of doom. Everywhere loomed rows of towering
chimneys, and pillars of rolling black smoke. Little miniature
railroad tracks ran crisscross about the yards, and engines came
puffing and clanking, carrying blazing white ingots which the eye
could not bear to face.
Opposite to the entrance of the stockaded yards, the Company had put
up a new office building, and upon the top floor of this were the
"Mr. Andrews will be in on the two o'clock train," said his
secretary, who was evidently expecting the visitor. "Will you wait
in his office?"
"I think I should like to see the works, if you can arrange it for
me," said Montague. And so he was provided with a pass and an
attendant, and made a tour of the yards.
It was interesting to Montague to see the actual property of the
Mississippi Steel Company. Sitting in comfortable offices in Wall
Street and exchanging pieces of paper, one had a tendency to lose
sight of the fact that he was dealing in material things and
disposing of the destinies of living people. But Montague was now to
build and operate a railroad--to purchase real cars and handle real
iron and steel; and the thought was in his mind that at every step
of what he did he wished to keep this reality in mind.
It was a July day, with not a cloud in the sky, and an almost
tropical sun blazed down upon the works. The sheds and railroad
tracks shimmered in the heat, and it seemed as if the cinders upon
which one trod had been newly poured from a fire. In the rooms where
the furnaces blazed, Montague could not penetrate at all; he could
only stand in the doorway, shading his eyes from the glare. In each
of these infernos toiled hundreds of grimy, smoke-stained men,
stripped to the waist and streaming with perspiration.
He gazed down the long rows of the blast furnaces, great caverns
through the cracks of which the molten steel shone like lightning.