Part 3 out of 5
Here the men who worked had to have buckets of water poured over
them continually, and they drank several gallons of beer each day.
He went through the rail-mills, where the flaming white ingots were
caught by huge rollers, and tossed about like pancakes, and
flattened and squeezed, emerging at the other end in the shape of
tortured red snakes of amazing length. At the far end of the mill
one could see them laid out in long rows to cool; and as Montague
stood and watched them, the thought came to him that these were some
of the rails which Wyman had ordered, and which had been the cause
of such dismay in the camp of the Steel Trust!
Then he went on to the plate-mill, where giant hammers resounded,
and steel plates of several inches' thickness were chopped and
sliced like pieces of cheese. Here the spectator stared about him in
bewilderment and clung to his guide for safety; huge travelling
cranes groaned overhead, and infernal engines made deafening clatter
upon every side. It was a source of never ending wonder that men
should be able to work in such confusion, with no sense of danger
and no consciousness of all the uproar.
Montague's eye roamed from place to place; then suddenly it was
arrested by a sight even unusually startling. Across on the other
side of the mill was a steel shaft, which turned one of the largest
of the rollers. It was high up in the air, and revolving with
unimaginable speed, and Montague saw a man with an oil-can in his
hand rest the top of a ladder upon this shaft, and proceed to climb
He touched his guide upon the arm and pointed. "Isn't that
dangerous?" he shouted.
"It's against orders," said the man. "But they will do it."
And even while the words of a reply were upon his lips, something
happened which turned the sound into a scream of horror. Montague
stood with his hand still pointing, his whole body turned to stone.
Instantaneously, as if by the act of a magician, the man upon the
ladder had disappeared; and instead there was a hazy mist about the
shaft, and the ladder tumbling to the ground.
No one else in the mill appeared to have noticed it. Montague's
guide leaped forward, dodging a white-hot plate upon its journey to
the roller, and rushed down the room to where the engineer was
standing by his machinery. For a period which could not have been
less than a minute, Montague stood staring at the horrible sight;
and then slowly he saw what had been a mist beginning to define
itself as the body of a man whirling about the shaft.
Then, as the machinery moved more slowly yet, and the din in the
mill subsided, he saw several men raise the ladder again to the
shaft and climb up. When the revolving had stopped entirely, they
proceeded to cut the body loose; but Montague did not wait to see
that. He was white and sick, and he turned and went outside.
He went away to another part of the yards and sat down in the shade
of one of the buildings, and told himself that that was the way of
life. All the while the din of the mills continued without
interruption. A while later he saw four men go past, carrying a
stretcher covered with a sheet. It dropped blood at every step, but
Montague noticed that the men who passed it gave it no more than a
casual glance. When he passed the plate-mill again, he saw that it
was busy as ever; and when he went out at the front gate, he saw a
man who had been pointed out to him as the foreman of the mill,
engaged in picking another labourer from the group which was
He returned to the president's office, and found that Mr. Andrews
had just arrived. A breeze was blowing through the office, but
Andrews, who was stout, was sitting in his chair with his coat and
vest off, vigorously wielding a palmleaf fan.
"How do you do, Mr. Montague?" he said. "Did you ever know such
heat? Sit down--you look done up."
"I have just seen an accident in the mills," said Montague.
"Oh!" said the other. "Too bad. But one finds that steel can't be
made without accidents. We had a blast-furnace explosion the other
day, and killed eight. They are mostly foreigners, though--'hunkies,'
they call them."
Then Andrews pressed a button, summoning his secretary.
"Will you please bring those plans?" he said; and to Montague's
surprise he proceeded to spread before him a complete copy of the
old reports of the Northern Mississippi survey, together with the
surveyor's original drawings.
"Did Mr. Carter let you have them?" Montague asked; and the other
smiled a dry smile.
"We have them," he said. "And now the thing for you to do is to have
your own surveyors go over the ground. I imagine that when you get
their reports, the proposition will look very different."
These were the instructions which came in a letter from Price the
next day; and with the help of Andrews Montague made the necessary
arrangements, and the next night he left for New York.
He arrived upon a Friday afternoon. He found that Alice had departed
for her visit to the Prentices', and that Oliver was in Newport,
also. There was an invitation from Mrs. Prentice to him to join
them; as Price was away, he concluded that he would treat himself to
a rest, and accordingly took an early train on Saturday morning.
Montague's initiation into Society had taken place in the
winter-time, and he had yet to witness its vacation activities. When
Society's belles and dames had completed a season's round of
dinner-parties and dances, they were more or less near to nervous
prostration, and Newport was the place which they had selected to
retire to and recuperate. It was an old-fashioned New England town,
not far from the entrance to Long Island Sound, and from a village
with several grocery shops and a tavern, it had been converted by a
magic touch of Society into the most famous and expensive resort in
the world. Estates had been sold there for as much as a dollar a
square foot, and it was nothing uncommon to pay ten thousand a month
for a "cottage."
The tradition of vacation and of the country was preserved in such
terms as "cottage." You would be invited to a "lawn-party," and you
would find a blaze of illumination, and potted plants enough to fill
a score of green-houses, and costumes and jewelled splendour
suggesting the Field of the Cloth of Gold. You would be invited to a
"picnic" at Gooseberry Point, and when you went there, you would
find gorgeous canopies spread overhead, and velvet carpets under
foot, and scores of liveried lackeys in attendance, and every luxury
one would have expected in a Fifth Avenue mansion. You would take a
cab to drive to this "picnic," and it would cost you five dollars;
yet you must on no account go without a cab. Even if the destination
was just around the corner, a stranger would commit a breach of the
proprieties if he were to approach the house on foot.
Coming to Newport as Montague did, directly from the Mississippi
Steel Mills, produced the strangest possible effect upon him. He had
seen the social splurge in the Metropolis, and had heard the
fabulous prices that people had paid for things. But these thousands
and millions had seemed mere abstractions. Now suddenly they had
become personified--he had seen where they came from, where all the
luxury and splendour were produced! And with every glance that he
cast at the magnificence about him, he thought of the men who were
toiling in the blinding heat of the blast-furnaces.
Here was the palace of the Wymans, upon the laying out of the
grounds of which a half million dollars had been spent; the stone
wall which surrounded it was famous upon two continents, because it
had cost a hundred thousand dollars. And it was to make steel rails
for the Wymans that the slaves of the mills were toiling!
Here was the palace of the Eldridge Devons, with a greenhouse which
had cost one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and which merely
supplied the daily needs of its owners. Here was the famous tulip
tree, which had been dug up and brought a distance of fifty miles,
at a cost of a thousand dollars. And Montague had seen in the making
the steel for one of the great hotels of the Eldridge Devons!
And here was the Walling establishment, the "three-million-dollar
palace on a desert," as Mrs. Billy Alden had described it. Montague
had read of the famous mantel in its entrance hall, made from
Pompeiian marble, and costing seventy-five thousand dollars. And the
Wallings were the railroad kings who transported Mississippi Steel!
And from that his thoughts roamed on to the slaves of other mills,
to the men and women and little children shut up to toil in shops
and factories and mines for these people who flaunted their luxury
about him. They had come here from every part of the country, with
their millions drawn from every kind of labour. Here was the great
white marble palace of the Johnsons--the ceilings, floors, and walls
of its state apartments had all been made in France; its fences and
gates, even its locks and hinges, had been made from special designs
by famous artists. The Johnsons were lords of railroads and coal,
and ruled the state of West Virginia with a terrible hand. The
courts and the legislature were but branches of old Johnson's
office, and Montague knew of mining villages which were owned
outright by the Company, and were like stockaded forts; the wretched
toilers could not buy so much as a pint of milk outside of the
Company store, and even the country doctor could not enter the gates
without a pass.
And beyond that was the home of the Warfields, whose fortune came
from great department stores, in which young girls worked for two
dollars and a half a week, and eked out their existence by
prostitution. And this was the summer that Warfield's youngest
daughter was launched, and for her debutante dance they built a
ballroom which cost thirty thousand dollars--and was torn down the
And beyond this, upon the cliffs, was the castle of the Mayers,
whose fortunes came from coal.--Montague thought of the young man
who had invented the device for the automatic weighing of coal as it
was loaded upon steam-ships. Major Venable had hinted to him that
the reason the Coal Trust would not consider it, was because they
were selling short weight; and since then he had investigated the
story, and learned that this was true, and that it was old Mayer
himself who had devised the system. And here was his palace, and
here were his sons and daughters--among the most haughty and
exclusive of Society's entertainers!
So you might drive down the streets and point out the mansions and
call the roll of the owners--kings of oil and steel and railroads
and mines! Here everything was beauty and splendour. Here were
velvet lawns and gardens of rare flowers, and dancing and feasting
and merriment. It seemed very far from the sordid strife of
commerce, from poverty and toil and death. But Montague carried with
him the sight that he had seen in the plate-mill, the misty blur
about the whirling shaft, and the shrouded form upon the stretcher,
* * *
He was so fortunate as to meet Alice and her friends upon the
street, and he drove with them to the bathing beach which Society
had purchased and maintained for its own exclusive use. The first
person he saw here was Reggie Mann, who came and took possession of
Alice. Reggie would not swim himself, because he did not care to
exhibit his spindle legs; he was watching with disapproving eye the
antics of Harry Percy, his dearest rival. Percy was a man about
forty years of age, a cotillion-leader by profession; and he caused
keen delight to the spectators upon the beach by wearing a monocle
in the water.
They had lunch at the Casino, and then went for a sail in the
Prentices' new racing yacht. It was estimated just at this time that
there was thirty millions' worth of steam and sailing pleasure-
craft in Newport harbour, and the bay was a wonderful sight that
They came back rather early, however, as Alice had an engagement for
a drive at six o'clock, and it was necessary for her to change her
costume before she went. It was necessary to change it again before
dinner, which was at eight o'clock; and Montague learned upon
inquiry that it was customary to make five or six such changes
during the day. The great ladies of Society were adepts in this art,
and prided themselves upon the perfect system which enabled them to
All of Montague's New York acquaintances were here in their
splendour: Miss Yvette Simpkins, with her forty trunks of new Paris
costumes; Mrs. Billy Alden, who had just launched an aristocratic
and exclusive bridge-club for ladies; Mrs. Winnie Duval, who had
created a sensation by the rumour of her intention to introduce the
simple life at Newport; and Mrs. Vivie Patton, whose husband had
committed suicide as the only means of separating her from her
It chanced to be the evening of Mrs. Landis's long-expected
dinner-dance. When you went to the Landis mansion, you drove
directly into the building, which had a court so large that a coach
and four could drive around it. The entire ground floor was occupied
by what were said to be the most elaborately equipped stables in the
world. Your horses vanished magically through sliding doors at one
side, and your carriage at the other side, and in front of you was
the entrance to the private apartments, with liveried flunkies
standing in state.
There were five tables at this dinner, each seating ten persons.
There was a huge floral umbrella for the centrepiece, and an
elaborate colour effect in flowers. During the dance, screens were
put up concealing this end of the ballroom, and when they were
removed sometime after midnight, the tables were found set for the
supper, with an entirely new scenic effect.
They danced until broad daylight; Montague was told of parties at
which the guests had adjourned in the morning to play tennis. All
these people would be up by nine or ten o'clock the next day, and he
would see them in the shops and at the bathing beach before noon.
And this was Society's idea of "resting" from the labours of the
After the supper Montague was taken in charge by Mrs. Caroline
Smythe, the lady who had once introduced him to her cats and dogs.
Mrs. Smythe had become greatly interested in Mrs. Winnie's
anti-vivisection crusade, and told him all about it while they
strolled out upon the loggia of the Landis palace, and stood and
watched the sunrise over the bay.
"Do you see that road back of us?" said Mrs. Smythe. "That is the
one the Landises have just succeeded in closing. I suppose you've
heard the story."
"No," said Montague, "I haven't heard it."
"It's the joke of Newport," said the lady. "They had to buy up the
town council to do it. There was a sight-seers' bus that used to
drive up that road every day, and the driver would rein up his
horses and stand up and point with his whip.
"'This, ladies and gentlemen,' he'd say, 'is the home of the
Landises, and just beyond there is the home of the Joneses. Once
upon a time Mr. Smith had a wife and got tired of her, and Mr. Jones
had a wife and got tired of her; so they both got divorces and
exchanged, and now Mrs. Smith is living in Mr. Jones's house, and
Mrs. Jones is living in Mr. Smith's. Giddap!'"
Alice was up early the next morning to go to church with Harry
Curtiss, but Montague, who had really come to rest, was later in
arising. Afterwards he took a stroll through the streets, watching
the people. He was met by Mrs. De Graffenried, who, after her usual
fashion, invited him to come round to lunch. He went, and met about
forty other persons who had been invited in the same casual way,
including his brother Ollie--and to his great consternation, Ollie's
friend, Mr. Gamble!
Gamble was clad in a spotless yachting costume, which produced a
most comical effect upon his expansive person. He greeted Montague
with his usual effusiveness. "How do you do, Mr. Montague--how do
you do?" he said. "I've been hearing about you since I met you
"In what way?" asked Montague.
"I understand that you have gone with the Mississippi Steel
Company," said Gamble.
"After a fashion," the other assented.
"You want to be careful--you are dealing with a smooth crowd!
Smoother even than the men in the Trust, I fancy." And the little
man added, with a twinkle in his eye: "I'm accustomed to say there
are two kinds of rascals in the oil business; there are the rascals
who found they could rely upon each other, and they are in the
Trust; and there are the rascals the devil himself couldn't rely
upon, and they're the independents. I ought to know what I'm talking
about, because I was an independent myself."
Mr. Gamble chuckled gleefully over this witticism, which was
evidently one which he relied upon for the making of conversation.
"How do you do, Captain?" he said, to a man who was passing. "Mr.
Montague, let me introduce my friend Captain Gill."
Montague turned and faced a tall and dignified-looking naval
officer. "Captain Henry Gill, of the Allegheny."
"How do you, Mr. Montague?" said the Captain.
"Oliver Montague's brother," added Gamble, by way of further
introduction. And then, espying someone else coming whom he knew, he
waddled off down the room, leaving Montague in conversation with the
Captain Gill was in command of one of the half-dozen vessels which
the government obligingly sent to assist in maintaining the gaieties
of the Newport season. He was an excellent dancer, and a favourite
with the ladies, and an old crony of Mrs. De Graffenried's. "Have
you known Mr. Gamble long?" he asked, by way of making conversation.
"I met him once before," said Montague. "My brother knows him."
"Ollie seems to be a great favourite of his," said the Captain.
Montague assented readily.
"I met him in Brooklyn," continued the other, seeming to feel that
acquaintance with Gamble called for explanation. "He was quite
chummy with the officers at the Navy Yard. Retired millionaires
don't often fall in their way."
"I should imagine not," said Montague, smiling. "But I was surprised
to meet him here."
"You'd meet him in heaven," said the other, with a laugh, "if he
made up his mind that he wanted to go there. He is a good-natured
personage; but I can tell you that anyone who thinks that Gamble
doesn't know what he's about will make a sad mistake."
Montague thought of this remark at lunch, where he sat at table on
the opposite side to Gamble. Next to him sat Vivie Fatten, who made
the little man the victim of her raillery. It was not particularly
delicate wit, but Gamble was tough, and took it all with a cheerful
He was a mystery which Montague could not solve. To be sure he was
rich, and spent his money like water; but then there was no scarcity
of money in this crowd. Montague found himself wondering whether he
was there because Mrs. De Graffenried and her friends liked to have
somebody they could snub and wipe their feet upon. His eye ran down
the row of people sitting at the table, and the contrast between
them and Gamble was an amusing one. Mrs. De Graffenried was fond of
the society of young people, and most of her guests were of the
second or even the third generation. The man from Pittsburg seemed
to be the only one there who had made his own money, and who bore
the impress of the money struggle upon him. Montague smiled at the
thought. He seemed the very incarnation of the spirit of oil; he was
gross and unpleasant, while in the others the oil had been refined
to a delicate perfume. Yet somehow he seemed the most human person
there. No doubt he was crudely egotistical; and yet, if he was
interested in himself, he was also interested in other people, while
among Mrs. De Graffenried's intimates it was a sign of vulgarity to
be interested in anything.
He seemed to have taken quite a fancy to Montague, for reasons best
known to himself. He came up to him again, after the luncheon. "This
is the first time you've been here, Oliver tells me," said he.
Montague assented, and the other added: "You'd better come and let
me show you the town. I have my car here."
Montague had no engagement, and no excuse handy. "It's very good of
you--" he began.
"All right," said Gamble. "Come on."
And he took him out and seated him in his huge red touring-car,
which had a seat expressly built for its owner, not too deep, and
very low, so that his fat little legs would reach the floor.
Gamble settled back in the cushions with a sigh. "Rum sort of a
place this, ain't it?" said he.
"It's interesting for a short visit," said Montague.
"You can count me out of it," said the other. "I like to spend my
summers in a place where I can take my coat off. And I prefer beer
to champagne in hot weather, anyhow."
Montague did not reply.
"Such an ungodly lot of snobs a fellow does meet!" remarked his
host, cheerily. "They have a fine time making fun of me--it amuses
them, and I don't mind. Sometimes it does make you mad, though; you
feel you'd like to make them swallow you, anyway. But then you
think, What's the use of going after something you don't want, just
because other people say you can't have it?"
It was on Montague's lips to ask, "Then why do you come here?" But
The car sped on down the stately driveway, and his companion
proceeded to point out the mansions and the people, and to discuss
them in his own peculiar style.
"See that yellow brick house in there," said he. "That belongs to
Allis, the railroad man. He used to live in Pittsburg, and I
remember him thirty years ago, when he had one carriage for his
three babies, and pushed them himself, by thunder. He was glad to
borrow money from me then, but now he looks the other way when I go
"Allis used to be in the steel business six or eight years ago,"
Gamble continued, reminiscently. "Then he sold out--it was the real
beginning of the forming of the Steel Trust. Did you ever hear that
"Not that I know of," said Montague.
"Well," said the other, "if you are going to match yourself against
the Steel crowd, it's a good idea to know about them. Did you ever
meet Jim Stagg?"
"The Wall Street plunger?" asked Montague. "He's a mere name to me."
"His last exploit was to pull off a prize fight in one of the swell
hotels in New York, and one nigger punched the other through a
plate-glass mirror. Stagg comes from the wild West, you know, and
he's wild as they make 'em--my God, I could tell you some stories
about him that'd make your hair stand up! Perhaps you remember some
time ago he raided Tennessee Southern in the market and captured it;
and old Waterman testified that he took it away from him because he
didn't consider he was a fit man to own it. As a matter of fact,
that was just pure bluff, for Waterman uses him in little jobs like
that all the time.--Well, six or eight years ago, Stagg owned a big
steel plant out West; and there was a mill in Indiana, belonging to
Allis, that interfered with their business. One time Stagg and some
of his crowd had been on a spree for several days, and late one
night they got to talking about Allis. 'Let's buy the----out,' said
Stagg, so they ordered a special and a load of champagne, and away
they went to the city in Indiana. They got to Allis's house about
four o'clock in the morning, and they rang the bell and banged on
the door, and after a while the butler came, half awake.
"'Is Allis in?' asked Stagg, and before the fellow could answer, the
whole crowd pushed into the hall, and Stagg stood at the foot of the
stairs and roared--he's got a voice like a bull, you know--'Allis,
Allis, come down here!'
"Allis came to the head of the stairs in his nightshirt, half
frightened to death.
"'Allis, we want to buy your steel plant,' said Stagg.
"'Buy my steel plant!' gasped Allis.
"'Sure, buy it outright! Spot cash! We'll pay you five hundred
thousand for it.'
"'But it cost me over twelve hundred thousand,' said Allis.
"'Well, then, we'll pay you twelve hundred thousand,' said
Stagg--'God damn you, we'll pay you fifteen hundred thousand!'
"'My plant isn't for sale,' said Allis.
"'We'll pay you two million!' shouted Stagg.
"'It isn't for sale, I tell you.'
"'We'll pay you two million and a half! Come on down here!'
"'Do you mean that?' gasped Allis. He could hardly credit his ears.
"'Come downstairs and I'll write you a check!' said Stagg. And so
they hauled him down, and they bought his mill. Then they opened
some more champagne, and Allis began to get good-natured, too.
"'There's only one thing the matter with my mill,' said he, 'and
that's Jones's mill over in Harristown. The railroads give him
rebates, and he undersells me.'
"'Well, damn his soul,' said Stagg, 'we'll have his mill, too.'
"And so they bundled into their special again, and about six o'clock
in the morning they got to Harristown, and they bought another mill.
And that started them, you know. They'd never had such fun in their
lives before. It seems that Stagg had just cleaned up ten or twelve
millions on a big Wall Street plunge, and they blew in every dollar,
buying steel mills--and paying two or three prices for every one,
Gamble paused and chuckled to himself. "What I'm telling you is the
story that Stagg told me," said he. "And of course you've got to
make allowances. He said he had no idea of what Dan Waterman had
been planning, but I fancy that was a lie. Harrison of Pittsburg had
been threatening to build a railroad of his own, and take away his
business from Waterman's roads, and so there was nothing for
Waterman to do but buy him out at three times what his mills were
worth. He took the mills that Stagg had bought at the same time.
Stagg had paid two or three prices, and Waterman paid him a couple
of prices more, and then he passed them on to the American people
for a couple of prices more than that."
Gamble paused. "That's where they get these fortunes," he added,
waving his fat little hand. "Sometimes it makes a fellow laugh to
think of it. Every concern they bought was overcapitalised to begin
with; I doubt if two hundred million dollars' worth of honest
dollars was ever put into the Steel Trust properties, and they
capitalised it at a billion, and now they've raised it to a billion
and a half! The men who pulled it off made hundreds of millions, and
the poor public that bought the common stock saw it go down to six!
They gave old Harrison a four-hundred-million-dollar mortgage on the
property, and he sits back and grins, and wonders why a man can't
Gamble's car was opposite one of the clubs. Suddenly he signalled
his chauffeur to stop.
"Hello, Billy!" he called; and a young naval officer who was walking
down the steps turned and came toward him.
"What have you been doing with yourself?" said Gamble. "Mr.
Montague, my friend Lieutenant Long, of the Engineers. Where are you
"Nowhere in particular," said the officer.
"Get in," said Gamble, pointing to the vacant seat between them. "I
am showing Mr. Montague the town."
The other climbed in, and they went on. "The Lieutenant has just
come up from Brooklyn," he continued. "Lively times we had in
Brooklyn, didn't we, Billy? Tell me what you have been doing
"I'm working hard," said the Lieutenant--"studying."
"Studying here in Newport?" laughed Gamble.
"That's easy enough when you belong to the Engineers," said the
other. "We are working-men, and they don't want us at their balls."
"By the way, Gamble," he added, after a moment, "I was looking for
you. I want you to help me."
"Me?" said Gamble.
"Yes," said the other. "I have just had notice from the Department
that I am one of a board of five that has been appointed to draw up
specifications for machine oil for the Navy."
"What can I do about it?" asked Gamble.
"I want you to help me draw them up."
"But I don't know anything about machine oil."
"You cannot possibly know less than I do," said the Lieutenant.
"Surely, if you have been in the oil business, you can give me some
sort of an idea about machine oil."
Gamble thought for a minute. "I might try," he said. "But would it
be the proper thing for me to do? Of course, I'm out of the business
myself; but I have friends who might bid for the contract."
"Well, your friends can take their chances with the rest," said the
Lieutenant. "I am a friend, too, hang it. And how in the world am I
to find out anything about oil?"
Gamble was silent again. "Well, I'll do what I can for you," he
said, finally. "I'll write out what I know about the qualities of
good oil, and you can use it as you think best."
"All right," said the Lieutenant, with relief.
"But you'll have to agree to say nothing about it," said Gamble.
"It's a delicate matter, you understand."
"You may trust me for that," said the other, laughing. So the
subject was dropped, and they went on with their ride.
Half an hour later Gamble set Montague down, at General Prentice's
door, and he bade them farewell and went in.
The General was coming down the stairs. "Hello, Allan," he said.
"Where have you been?"
"Seeing the place a little," said Montague.
"Come into the drawing-room," said the General. "There's a man in
there you ought to know.
"One of the brainiest newspaper men in Wall Street," he added, as he
went across the hall,--"the financial man of the Express."
Montague entered the room and was introduced to a powerfully built
and rather handsome young fellow, who had not so long ago been
centre-rush upon a famous football team. "Well, Bates," said the
General, "what are you after now?"
"I'm trying to get the inside story of the failure of Grant and
Ward," said Bates. "I supposed you'd know about it, if anyone did."
"I know about it," said the General, "but the circumstances are such
that I'm not free to tell--at least, not for publication. I'll tell
you privately, if you want to know."
"No," said Bates, "I'd rather you didn't do that; I can find it out
"Did you come all the way to Newport to see me?" asked the General.
"Oh, no, not entirely," said Bates. "I'm to get an interview with
Wyman about the new bond issue of his road. What do you think of the
"Things look bad to me," said Prentice. "It's a good time to reef
Then Bates turned to Montague. "I think I passed you a while ago in
the street," he said pleasantly. "You were with James Gamble,
"Yes," said Montague. "Do you know him?"
"Bates knows everybody," put in the General; "that's his specialty."
"I happen to know Gamble particularly well," said Bates. "I have a
brother in his office in Pittsburg. What in the world do you suppose
he is doing in Newport?"
"Just seeing the world, so he told me," said Montague. "He has
nothing to do since his company sold out."
"Sold out!" echoed Bates. "What do you mean?"
"Why, the Trust has bought him out," said Montague.
The other stared at him. "What makes you think that?" he asked.
"He told me so himself," was the answer.
"Oh!" laughed the other. "Then it's just some dodge that he's up
"You think he hasn't sold?"
"I don't think it, I know it," said Bates. "At any rate, he hadn't
sold three days ago. I had a letter from my brother saying that they
were expecting to land a big oil contract with the government that
would put them on Easy Street for the next five years!"
Montague said no more. But he did some thinking. Experience had
sharpened his wits, and by this time he knew a clew when he met it.
A while later, when Bates had gone and his brother had come in with
Alice, he got Oliver off in a corner and demanded, "How much are you
to get out of that oil contract?"
The other stared at him in consternation. "Good heavens!" he
exclaimed. "Did he tell you about it?"
"He told me some things," said Montague, "and I guessed the rest."
Oliver was watching him anxiously. "See here, Allan," he said,
"you'll keep quiet about it!"
"I imagine I will," said the other. "It's none of my business, that
I can see."
Then suddenly Oliver broke into a smile of amusement. "Say, Allan!"
he exclaimed. "He's a clever dog, isn't he!"
"Very clever," admitted the other.
"He's been after that thing for six months, you know--and just as
smooth and quiet! It's about the slickest game I ever heard of!"
"But how could he know what officers were to make out those
"Oh, that's easy," said the other. "That was the beginning of the
whole thing. They got a tip that the contract was to be let, and
they had no trouble in finding out the names of the officers. That
kind of thing is common, you know; the bureaus in Washington are
"I see," said Montague.
"Gamble's company is in a bad way," Oliver continued. "The Trust
just about had it in a corner. But Gamble saw this chance, and he
staked everything on it."
"But what's his idea?" asked the other. "What good will it do him to
write the specifications?"
"There are five officers," said Oliver, "and he's been laying siege
to every one of them. So now they are all his intimate friends, and
every one of them has come to him for help! So there will go into
Washington five sets of specifications, all different, but each
containing one essential point. You see, Gamble's company has a
peculiar kind of oil; it contains some ingredient or other--he told
me the name, but I don't remember it now. It doesn't make it any
better oil, and it doesn't make it any worse; but it's different
from any other oil in the world. And now, don't you see--whatever
other requirements are specified, this one quality will surely
appear; and there will be only one company in the world that can
bid. Of course they will name their own figure, and get a five-year
"I see," said Montague, drily. "It's a beautiful scheme. And how
much do you get out of it?"
"He paid me ten thousand at the start," said Oliver; "and I am to
get five per cent of the first year's contract, whatever that may
be. Gamble says his bid won't be less than half a million, so you
see it was worth while!"
And Oliver chuckled to himself. "He's going home to-morrow," he
added. "So my job is done. I'll probably never see him again--until
his four prize daughters get ready for the market!"
Montague returned to New York and plunged into his work. The
election at which he was scheduled to become president of the
Northern Mississippi was not to come off for a month. Meantime there
was no lack of work for him to do. It would, of course, be necessary
for him to return to Mississippi to live, and he had to close up his
affairs in New York. Also he wished to fit himself for the work of
superintending a railroad. Through the courtesy of General Prentice,
he was introduced to the president of one of the great transcontinental
lines, and made a study of that official's office system. He went South
again to inspect the work of the surveyors, and to consult with the
engineers who had been selected for the work.
Price went ahead with his arrangements to take over the control of
the road, without paying any attention to the old management. He
sent for Montague one day, and introduced him to a Mr. Haskins, who
was to be elected vice-president of the road. Haskins, he said, had
formerly been general manager of the Tennessee Southern, and was a
practical railroad man. Montague was to rely upon him for all the
details of his work.
Haskins was a wiry, nervous little man, with a bad temper and a
sarcastic tongue; he worshipped the gospel of efficiency, and in the
consultations with him Montague got many curious lights upon the
management of railroads. He learned, for instance, that a
conspicuous item in the construction account was the money to be
used in paying local government boards for right of way through
towns and villages. Apparently no one even considered the
possibility of securing the privilege by any other methods. Montague
did not like the prospect, but he said nothing. Then again, the road
was to purchase its rails and other necessaries from the Mississippi
Steel Company, and apparently it was expected to pay a fancy price
for these; it was not to ask for any of the discounts which were
customary. Also Montague was troubled to learn that the secretary
and treasurer of the road were to receive liberal salaries, and that
no questions were to be asked, because they were relatives of Price.
All that he put up with; but matters came to a head about ten days
before the election, when one day Haskins came to his office with
the engineers' estimates, and with his own figures of the probable
cost of the extension. Most of the figures were much higher than
those which Montague had worked out for himself.
"We ought to do better on those contracts," he said, pointing to
some of the items.
"I dare say we might," said Haskins; "but those contracts are to go
to the Hill Manufacturing Company."
"I don't understand you," said Montague; "I thought that we were to
advertise for bids."
"Yes," replied Haskins, "but that company is to get the contracts,
all the same."
"You mean," asked Montague, "that we are not to give them to the
"I'm afraid not," said the other.
"Has Price said anything to you to that effect?"
"But I don't understand," said Montague; "what is this Hill
And Haskins smiled. "It's a concern that Price has organised
himself," he said.
Montague stared in amazement. "Price himself!" he gasped.
"His nephew is president of the company," added the other.
"Is it a new company?" Montague asked.
"Organised especially for the purpose," smiled the other.
"And what does it manufacture?"
"It doesn't manufacture anything; it simply sells."
"In other words," said Montague, "it's a device whereby Mr. Price
proposes to rob the stockholders of the Northern Mississippi
"You can phrase it that way if you choose," said Haskins, quietly;
"but I wouldn't advise you to let Price hear you."
"I thank you," responded Montague, and brought the interview to an
He took a day to think the matter over. It was not his habit to act
upon impulse. He saw that the time had come for him to speak, but he
wished to be sure of his course of action before he began. He had
dinner at the Club that evening, and, seeing his friend Major
Venable ensconced in a big leather chair in the reading-room, he
went and sat down beside him.
"How do you do, Major?" he said. "I've got another case that I want
to ask you some questions about."
"Always at your service," said the Major.
"It has to do with a railroad," said Montague. "Did you ever hear of
such a thing as a railroad president organising a company to sell
supplies to his own road?"
The Major smiled grimly. "Yes, I have heard of it," he said.
"Is it common?" asked Montague.
"Not so common as you might suppose," answered the other. "A
railroad president is commonly not an important enough man to be
permitted to do it. If it happens to be a big road, and the
president is a power in it, why, then he may do it."
"I see," said Montague.
"That was Higgins's trick," said the Major. "Higgins used to go
around making speeches to Sunday schools; he was the kind of man
that the newspapers like to refer to as a model citizen and a leader
of enterprise. His brothers, and his brothers-in-law, and his
cousins, and all his family went into business in order to sell
things to his railroads. I heard of one story--it has never come
out, but it's very amusing. Every year the road would advertise its
contract for stationery. It used about a million dollars' worth, and
there'd be long and most elaborate specifications published--columns
and columns. But sandwiched away somewhere in the middle of a
paragraph was the provision that the paper must all bear a certain
watermark; and that watermark was patented by one of Higgins's
companies! It didn't even own so much as a mill--it sublet all the
contracts. When Higgins died, he left eighty million dollars; but
they juggled the records, and you read in all the newspapers that he
left 'a few millions.' That was in Philadelphia, where you can do
Montague sat thinking for a few moments. "But I can't see why they
should do it in this case," he said. "The men who are doing it own
nearly all of the stock of the road."
"What difference does that make?" asked the Major.
"Why, they are simply plundering their own property," said Montague.
"Tut!" was the reply. "What do they care about the value of the
property? They'll unload it before the public finds out; and in the
meantime they are probably manipulating the stock. That's the scheme
they're working with the street railroads over in Brooklyn, for
instance; the more irregular the dividends are, the more violently
the stock fluctuates, and the better they like it."
"But this is the case of a railroad that is being built," said
Montague; "and they are putting up the money to build it."
"Yes," said the Major, "of course; and then they are paying it back
to themselves by this dodge; and they'll still have the stock, and
whatever they can get for it will be profit. And if the State
Legislature comes along and asks any impertinent questions, they can
open their books and say: 'See, we have spent this much for
improvements. This is the cost of the road; and if you reduce our
freight-rates, you will cut off our dividends and confiscate our
And the Major gazed at Montague with a mischievous twinkle in his
eye. "Besides," he said, "another thing. You say they are putting up
the money. Are you sure it's their own money? Commonly the greater
part of the cost of railroad building is paid by bonds, and they
work those bonds off on banks and insurance companies and trust
companies. Have you thought of that?"
"No, I hadn't," said Montague.
"I know very few men in Wall Street who use their own money," the
Major added. "Take the case of Wyman, for instance. Wyman's railroad
keeps a cash surplus of twenty or thirty millions, and Wyman uses
that in Wall Street. And when he has made his profit, he takes it
and salts it away in village improvement bonds all over the country.
Do you see?"
"I see," said Montague. "It's a bad game for the small stockholder."
"It's a bad game for the small man of any sort," said the Major.
"When I was young, I can remember, a man would save a little money
and put it into an enterprise of some sort, and whatever the profits
were, he would get his share of them. But now, you see, the big men
have got control, and they are greedier than they used to be. There
is nothing hurts them so much as to see the little fellow get any
share of the profits, and they've all sorts of schemes for doing him
out of it. I could take a week off and tell you about them. You are
manufacturing soap, we will say. You find there are too many soap
manufacturers and too much soap, and so you propose to combine, and
put your rivals out of business, and monopolise the soap market.
Your properties are already capitalised at twice what they cost you,
because you are naturally hopeful, and that is what you expected
they would earn; but now for this new combination you issue stock to
the amount of three times this imagined value. Then you fill the
street with rumours of the wonders of your soap combination, and all
the privileges and monopolies that you've got, and you unload your
stock on the public, we'll say at eighty. You may have sold all your
stock, but you've still got control of the corporation. The public
is helpless and unorganised, and your men are in. Then the Street
begins to hear disturbing rumours about the soap trust, and your
board of directors meet and declare that it is impossible to pay any
dividends. There is great indignation among the stockholders, and an
opposition is organised, but you set the clock an hour ahead, and
elect your ticket before the other fellow comes around. Or perhaps
the troubles have already knocked the stock down sufficiently low to
satisfy you, and you buy a majority of it back. Then the public
hears that a new interest has purchased the soap trust, and that a
new and honest administration is to be elected; and once more there
is hope for soap. You buy a few more plants, and issue more stocks
and bonds, and soap begins to boom, and you sell once more. You can
work that regularly every two or three years, for there is always a
new crop of investors, and nobody but a few people in Wall Street
can possibly keep track of what you are doing."
The Major paused for a while, and sat with a happy smile on his
countenance. "You see," he said, "there are floods and floods of
wealth, pouring into Wall Street from all over the country. It comes
to me like a vision. The crops are growing, the mines and the mills
and the factories are working, and here is all the money. People
don't like to take it and hide it up their chimneys--few people have
chimneys nowadays. They want to invest it; and so you prepare
investments for them. Take the street railroads here in New York,
for instance. What could be a safer investment than the street
railroads of the Metropolis? An absolute monopoly, and traffic
growing so fast that construction can't keep up with it. Profits are
sure. So people buy street railway stocks and bonds. In this case
it's the politicians who organise the construction companies; that's
their share, in return for the franchises. The insiders have a new
scheme--the best yet; it's like a Gatling gun against bows and
arrows. They organise a syndicate, and get the franchises for
nothing, and then sell them to the company for millions. They've
even sold franchises they didn't own, and railroad lines that hadn't
been built. You'll find some improvements charged for four or five
times over, and the improvements haven't yet been made. First and
last they have paid themselves about thirty million dollars. And, in
the meantime, the poor stockholder wonders why he doesn't get his
"That's the investment market," the Major continued after a pause;
"but of course the biggest reservoirs of wealth are the insurance
companies and the banks. It's there the real fortunes are made;
you'll find you lose the greater part of your profits, unless you've
got your own banks to take your bonds. I heard an amusing story the
other day of a man who was manufacturing electrical supplies. He
prides himself on being an honest business man, and having nothing
to do with Wall Street. His company wanted to extend its business,
and it issued a couple of hundred thousand dollars' worth of bonds,
and went to the Fidelity Insurance Company and offered them at
ninety. 'We aren't buying any bonds just at present,' said they,
'but suppose you try the National Trust Company.' So the man went
there, and they offered him eighty for the bonds. That was the best
he could do, and in the end he had to take it. And then the trust
company turns the bonds over to the insurance company at par. I
could name you half a dozen trust companies in New York that are
simply syndicates of insurance people for the working of that little
The Major paused. "You see it?" he asked.
"Yes, I see," Montague replied.
"Is there a trust company by any chance back of this railroad you
are talking of?"
"There is," said Montague; and the Major shrugged his shoulders.
"There you have it," he said. "By and by they will find their first
bond issue inadequate to meet the cost of the proposed improvements.
The estimates of the engineers will be found too low, and there will
be another issue of bonds, and your president's company will get
another contract. And then the first thing you know, your president
will organise a manufacturing enterprise along the line of his road,
and the road will give him secret rebates, and practically carry his
goods free; or else he'll organise a private-car line, and make the
road pay for the privilege of hauling his cars. Or perhaps he's
already got some industrial concern, and is simply building the road
as a side issue."
The Major stopped. He saw that Montague was staring at him with an
expression of perplexity.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Good heavens, Major!" exclaimed the other. "Do you know what road
I've been talking about?"
And the Major sank back in his chair and went into a fit of
laughter. He laughed until he was purple in the face, and he could
hardly find breath to speak.
"I really thought you did!" Montague protested. "It's exactly the
"Oh, dear me!" said the Major, fishing for his pocket handkerchief
to wipe the tears from his eyes. "Dear me! It makes me think of our
district attorney's lemon story. Did you ever hear it?"
"No," said Montague, "I never did."
"It was one of the bright spots in a dreary reform campaign that we
had a few years ago. It seems that our young crusader was giving his
audience a few illustrations of how dishonest officials could make
money in this city.
"'Let us imagine a case,' he said. 'You are an inspector of fruit,
and there is a scarcity of lemons in New York. There are two ships
full of lemons on the way, and one ship gets in twenty-four hours
ahead. Now the law requires that the fruit be carefully inspected.
If you are too careful about it, it will take more than twenty-four
hours, and the owner of the cargo will lose a small fortune. So he
comes to you and offers you a thousand or two, and you don't stop to
open every crate of his lemons.'
"The district attorney told that story at a meeting, and the next
morning the newspapers published it. That afternoon he happened to
meet a fruit inspector, who was an old friend of his. 'Say, old
man,' said the inspector, 'who the devil told you about those
The next morning Montague called at Price's office.
"Mr. Price," he said, "a matter has come up in my discussions with
Mr. Haskins about which I thought it necessary to consult you
"What is it?" asked Price.
"Mr. Haskins informs me that it is understood that the Hill
Manufacturing Company is to be favoured in the matter of contracts."
Montague was watching Price narrowly, and he saw his jaw set grimly,
and a hostile look come upon his features. Price had been lounging
back in his chair; now, slowly, he straightened himself up, as if to
receive an attack.
"Well?" he asked.
"Is Mr. Haskins correct?" asked the other.
"He is correct."
"He also stated that you are interested in the company. Is that
"That is true."
"He also stated that the company did not manufacture, but simply
sold. Is that true?"
"Yes, that is true."
"Very well, Mr. Price," said Montague. "This is a matter about which
we must have an understanding without delay. In my preliminary talks
with you I was informed that it was your wish to find a man who
should run the road honestly. The situation which you have just
outlined to me does not seem to me consistent with that programme."
Montague was prepared for an angry response, but he saw the other
make an effort and control himself.
"You must realise, Mr. Montague," he said, "that you are not very
familiar with methods in the railroad world. This company of which
you speak possesses advantages; it can secure better terms--" Price
"You mean that it can purchase goods more cheaply than the railroad
itself can?" demanded Montague.
"In some cases," began the other.
"Very well, then," he answered. "In any case where it can obtain
better terms, there can be no objection to its receiving the
contract. But that does not agree with what Mr. Haskins told me; he
gave me to understand that we were to prepare to pay a much higher
price because it would be necessary to give the contracts to the
Hill Manufacturing Company; and that was my reason for coming to see
you. I wish to have a distinct understanding with you upon this
point. While I am president of the Northern Mississippi Railroad,
everything that is purchased by the road will be purchased in fair
competition, and the concern which will give us the lowest price for
the quality of goods we need will receive our order. That is a
matter about which there must be left no possible room for
misunderstanding. I trust I have made myself clear?"
"You have made yourself clear," said Price; and so the interview
Montague went back to his work, but with a heart full of misgivings.
He would have liked to persuade himself that that was the end of the
episode, but he could not do it. He foresaw that his job as
president of a railroad would not be a sinecure.
With all his forebodings, however, he was unprepared for the
development which came the next day. Young Curtiss called him up,
early in the morning, and asked him to wait at his office. A few
minutes later he came in, with evident agitation upon his
"Montague," he said, "I have something important to tell you. I
cannot leave you in ignorance about it. But before I begin, you must
understand one thing--that I am taking my future in my hands by
telling you. And you must promise me that you will never give the
slightest hint that I have spoken to you."
"I will promise," said Montague. "What is it?"
"You must not even let on that you know," added the other. "Price
would know that I told you."
"Oh, it's Price!" said Montague. "I'll promise to protect you. What
"He called up Davenant yesterday afternoon, and told him that you
were not to be elected president of the road."
Montague gazed at him in dismay.
"He says you are to be dropped entirely," said the other. "Haskins
is to be president. Davenant had to tell me, because I am one of the
"So that's it," Montague whispered to himself.
"Do you know what's the matter?" asked Curtiss.
"Yes, I do," said Montague.
"What is it?"
"It's a long story--just some graft that I wouldn't stand for."
"Oh!" cried Curtiss, with sudden light. "Is it the Hill
"It is," said Montague.
It was Curtiss's turn to stare in amazement. "My God!" he gasped.
"Do you mean that you have thrown up the sponge for that?"
"I haven't thrown up the sponge, by any means," was the answer. "But
that's why Price wants to get rid of me."
"But, man!" cried the other. "How perfectly absurd!"
Montague fixed his glance upon him.
"Would you advise me to stand for it?" he asked.
"But, my dear fellow!" said Curtiss. "I've got some stock in that
Montague sat in silence--he could think of nothing to say after
"What in the world do you suppose you have gone into?" protested the
other. "A charity enterprise?" Then he stopped, seeing the look of
pain upon his friend's face.
He put a hand upon his arm. "See here, old, man," he said, "this is
too bad, honestly. I understand how you feel, and it's a great
credit to you; but you are living in the world, and you have got to
be practical. You can't expect to take a railroad and run it as if
it were an orphan asylum. You can't expect to do business, if you're
going to have notions like that. It's really a shame, to give up a
work like this for such a reason."
Montague stiffened. "I assure you I haven't given up yet," he
"But what are you going to do?" protested the other.
"I am going to fight," said he.
"Fight?" echoed Curtiss. "But, man, you are perfectly helpless!
Price and Ryder own the road, and they will do as they please with
"You are one of the directors of the road," said Montague. "And you
know the situation. You know the pledges upon which the election of
the new board was secured. Will you vote for Haskins as president?"
"My God, Montague!" protested the other. "What a thing to ask of me!
You know perfectly well that I have no power in the road. All the
stock I own, Price gave me, and what can I do? Why, my whole career
would be ruined if I were to oppose him."
"In other words," said Montague, "you are a dummy. You are willing
to sell your name and your character for a block of stock. You take
a position of trust, and you betray it."
The other's face hardened. "Oh, well," he said, "if that's the way
you put it--"
"That's not the way I put it!" said Montague. "That is simply the
"But," cried the other, "don't you realise that they have a
majority, even without me?"
"Perhaps they have," said Montague; "but that is no reason why you
should not do what is right."
Curtiss arose. "There is nothing more to be said," he remarked. "I
am sorry you take it that way. I tried to do you a service."
"I appreciate that," said Montague, promptly. "For that I shall
always be obliged to you."
"In this fight that you propose to make," said the other, "you must
not forget that it is I who have brought you this information--"
"Do not trouble about that," said Montague; "I will protect you. No
one shall ever know that I had the information."
Montague spent a half an hour pacing up and down his office in
thought. Then he called his stenographer, and dictated a letter to
his cousin, Mr. Lee, and to each of the three other persons whom he
had approached in relation to their votes at the stockholders'
meeting. "Certain matters have developed," he wrote, "in connection
with the affairs of the Northern Mississippi Railroad, which make me
unwilling to accept the position of president. It is also my
intention to resign from the board of directors of the road, in
which I find myself powerless to prevent the things of which I
And then he went on to outline the plan which he intended to carry
out, explaining that he offered to those whom he had been the means
of influencing, the opportunity to go in with him upon equal terms.
He requested them to communicate their decisions by telegraph; and
two days later he had heard from them all, and was ready for
He called up Stanley Ryder, and made an appointment for an
"Mr. Ryder," he said, "a few weeks ago you talked with me in this
office, and asked me to assist you in electing your ticket for the
Northern Mississippi Railroad. You said that you wished me to become
president of the road, and that the reason for the request was that
you wanted a man whom you could depend upon for efficient and honest
management. I accepted your offer in good faith; and I have made all
arrangements, and put in a great deal of hard work at the task of
fitting myself for the position. Now I have learned from Mr. Price's
own lips that he has organised a company for the purpose of
exploiting the road for his own private benefit. I told him that I
was unwilling to stand for anything of the sort. Since then I have
been thinking the matter over, and I have concluded that this
situation will make it impossible for me to cooperate with Mr.
Price. I have concluded, therefore, that it would be best for me to
resign my position as a member of the board of directors, and also
to withdraw my candidacy as president."
Ryder had avoided Montague's gaze; he sat staring in front of him,
and tapping nervously with a pencil upon his desk. It was some time
before he answered.
"Mr. Montague," he said, finally, "I am very sorry indeed to hear
your decision. But taking all the circumstances into consideration,
it seems to me that perhaps it is a wise one."
Again there was a pause.
"You must permit me to thank you for what you have done," Ryder
added. "And I trust that this unfortunate episode will not alter our
"Thank you," said Montague, coldly.
He had waited to see what Ryder would say. He waited again, having
no mind to help him in his embarrassment.
"As I say," Ryder repeated, "I am very much obliged to you."
"I have no doubt of it," said Montague. "But I trust that you do not
expect to end our relationship in any such simple way as that."
He saw Ryder's expression change. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"There is a matter of grave importance which has to be settled
before we can part. As you know, I am personally the holder of five
hundred shares of Northern Mississippi stock; and to that extent I
am interested in the affairs of the road."
"Most certainly," said Ryder, quietly, "but I have nothing to do
with that. As a stockholder of the road, you look to the board of
"Besides being a stockholder myself," continued Montague, without
heeding this remark, "I have also to consider the interests of the
three persons whom I interviewed in your behalf. I was the means of
inducing these people to vote for the board which you named. I was
the means of inducing them to place themselves in the power of Mr.
Price and yourself. This being the case, I consider that my honour
is involved, and that I am responsible to them."
"What do you expect to do?" asked Ryder.
"I have written to them, informing them of my intention to withdraw.
I have not told them the circumstances, but have simply indicated
that I find myself powerless to prevent certain things to which I
object. I have told them the course I intend to take, and offered
them the opportunity to get out upon the same terms as myself. They
have accepted the offer, and to-morrow I should receive their stock
certificates, and their authorisation to dispose of them. I have my
own certificates here; and I have to say that I consider you are
under obligation to purchase this stock at the same price which you
paid for the new stock; namely, fifty dollars a share."
Ryder stared at him. "Mr. Montague, you amaze me!" he said.
"I am sorry for that," said Montague. His voice was hard, and there
was a grim look upon his face. He fixed his eyes upon Ryder.
"Nevertheless," he said, "it will be necessary for you to take the
"I am sorry to have to say it," said Ryder, "but this seems to me
"The total number of shares," said Montague, "is thirty-five
hundred, and the price of them is one hundred and seventy-five
The two gazed at each other. Ryder saw the look in Montague's eyes,
and he did not repeat his sneer.
"May I ask," he inquired, in a low voice, "what reason you have to
believe that I will comply with this extraordinary request?"
"I have a very good reason, as I believe you will perceive," said
Montague. "You and Mr. Price have purchased this railroad, and you
wish to plunder it. That is your privilege--apparently it is the
custom here in Wall Street to play tricks upon the investing public.
But you cannot play them upon me, because I know too much."
"May I know what you propose to do?" asked Ryder.
"You certainly may," said the other. "I propose to fight. Until you
have purchased my stock and the stock of my friends, I shall remain
a director in the railroad, and also a candidate for the position of
president. I shall make a contest at the next directors' meeting,
and if I fail in my purpose there, I shall carry the fight before
the public. I flatter myself that my reputation will count for
something in my old home; you will not be able to carry matters with
quite the same high hand in Mississippi as you are accustomed to in
New York. Also, I shall fight you in the courts. I don't happen to
know just what is the law in regard to the plundering of a
public-service corporation by its own directors, but I shall be very
much surprised if I cannot find some ground upon which to put a stop
to it. Also, as you know, I am in possession of facts regarding the
means whereby you got your new privileges from the State
Ryder was glaring at him in rage. "Mr. Montague," he cried, "this is
"You may call it that if you please," said the other. "I shall not
be afraid to face the charge, if you should see fit to bring it in
Ryder started to reply, then caught his breath and gasped. When he
spoke again, he had mastered himself. "It seems to me a most
extraordinary thing," he said. "Surely, Mr. Montague, you cannot
feel at liberty to make public what you learned from Mr. Price and
myself while you were acting as our confidential adviser! Surely you
cannot have forgotten the pledge of secrecy which you gave me here
in this office!"
"I have not forgotten it," answered Montague. "And I have considered
the matter with the greatest care. I consider that it is you who
have violated a pledge. I believe that your violation was a
deliberate one--that you had intended it from the very beginning.
You assured me that you wished an honest administration of the road.
I don't believe that you ever did wish it; I believe that you had no
thought whatever except to use me as your tool to secure the control
of the railroad, without buying out the remaining stockholders.
Having accomplished that purpose, you are perfectly willing to have
me retire. In fact, I have made up my mind that you never intended
that I should be president--I have all along been suspicious about
it. But I can assure you that you have struck the wrong man; you
cannot play with me in any such manner. I have no idea whatever of
retiring from the railroad and permitting you and Mr. Price to
exploit it, and to deprive me of the value of my holdings--"
Montague was going on, but the other interrupted him quickly. "I
recognise the justice of what you say there, Mr. Montague," said he.
"So far as your own shares are concerned, you are entitled to be
bought out. I am sure that that is a fair basis--"
"On the contrary," said Montague, "it's a basis the suggestion of
which I take as an insult. I have been the means of placing other
people at your mercy. My reputation and my promises were used for
that purpose, and to whatever I am entitled, they are entitled
equally. There can be no possible settlement except the one which I
have offered you."
Ryder could think of nothing more to say. He sat staring at the
other. And Montague, who had no desire to prolong the interview,
"I do not expect you to decide this matter immediately," he said. "I
presume that you will wish to consult with Mr. Price. I have made
known my terms to you, and I have nothing more to say. Either you
will accept the terms, or I shall drop everything else, and prepare
to fight you at every step. I expect to receive the stock by this
evening's mail, and I am obliged to ask you to favour me with a
decision by to-morrow noon, so that we can close the matter up
And with that he bowed formally and took his departure.
The next morning's mail brought him a letter from William E.
Davenant. "My dear Mr. Montague," it read. "It is reported to me
that you have thirty-five hundred shares of the stock of the
Northern Mississippi Railroad which you desire to sell at fifty
dollars a share. If you will bring the stock to my office to-day, I
shall be glad to purchase it."
Having received the letters from the South, Montague went
immediately. Davenant was formal; but Montague could catch a
humorous twinkle in his eye, which seemed to say, quite
confidentially, that he appreciated the joke.
"That ends the matter," he said, as he blotted the last of
Montague's signatures. "And I trust you will permit me to say, Mr.
Montague, that I consider you an exceedingly capable business man."
"I appreciate the compliment," replied Montague, drily.
Montague was now a gentleman of leisure, comparatively speaking. He
had two cases on his hands, but they did not occupy his time as had
the prospect of running a railroad. They were contingency cases, and
as they were against large corporations, Montague saw a lean year
ahead of him. He smiled bitterly to himself as he realised that the
only thing which had given him the courage to break with Price and
Ryder had been the money which he and his brother Oliver had won by
means of a Wall Street "tip."
He received a letter from Alice. "I am going to remain a couple of
weeks longer in Newport," she wrote. "Who do you think has invited
me--Laura Hegan. She has been perfectly lovely to me, and I go to
her place next week. You will be interested to know that I had a
long talk with her about you; I took occasion to tell her a few
things that she ought to know. She was very nice about it. I am
hoping that you will come up for another week end before I leave
here. Harry Curtiss is going to spend his vacation here; you might
come with him."
Montague smiled to himself as he read this letter. He did not go
with Curtiss. But the heat of the city was stifling, and the thought
of the surf and the country was alluring, and he went up by way of
the Sound one Friday night.
He was invited to dinner at the Hegans'. Jim Hegan was there
himself--for the first occasion in three years. Mrs. Hegan declared
that it was only because she had gone down to New York and fetched
It was the first time that Montague had ever been with Hegan for any
length of time. He watched him with interest, for the man was a
fascinating problem to him. He was so calm and serene--always
courteous and friendly. But what was there behind the mask, Montague
wondered. For forty years this man had toiled and fought in the
arena of Wall Street, and with only one purpose and one thought in
life, so far as Montague knew--the piling up of money. Jim Hegan
indulged himself in none of the pleasures of rich men. He had no
hobbies, and he seldom went into company. In his busy times it was
said that he would use a dozen secretaries, and wear them all out.
He was a gigantic engine which drove all day and all night--a
machine for the making of money.
Montague did not care much for money himself, and he wondered about
it. What did the man want it for? What did he expect to accomplish
by it? What was the moral code, the outlook upon life, of a man who
gave all his time to heaping up money? What reason did he give to
himself for his own career? Some reason he must have, or he could
not be so calm and cheerful. Or could it be that he had no thoughts
about it at all? Was it simply a blind instinct with him? Was he an
animal whose nature it was to make money, and who was untroubled by
any scruples? This last idea seemed rather uncanny to Montague; he
found himself watching Jim Hegan with a kind of awe; thinking of him
as some terrible elemental force, blind and unconscious, like the
lightning or the tornado.
For Jim Hegan was one of the wreckers. His fortune had been made by
the methods which Major Venable had outlined, by buying aldermen and
legislatures and governors; by getting franchises for nothing and
selling them for millions; by organising huge swindles and unloading
them upon the public. And here he sat upon the veranda of his home,
in the twilight of an August evening, smoking a cigar and telling
about an orphan asylum he had founded!
He was cheerful and kindly; he was even benevolent. And could it be
that he had no idea of the trail of ruin and distress which he had
left behind him? Montague found himself possessed by a sudden desire
to penetrate beneath that reserve; to spring at the man and surprise
him with some sudden question; to get at the reality of him, to know
him as he was. This air of power and masterfulness, surely that must
be the mask that he wore. And how was he to himself? When he was
alone with his own conscience? Surely there must come doubt and
wonder, unhappiness and loneliness! Surely, then, the lives that he
had wrecked must come back to plague him! Surely the memories of
treachery and cruelty must make him wince!
And from Hegan, Montague's thoughts went to his daughter. She, too,
was serene and stately; Montague wondered what was in her mind. How
much did she know about her father's career? Surely she could not
have persuaded herself that all that she had heard was calumny.
There might be question about this offence or that, but of the great
broad facts there could be no question. And did she justify it and
excuse it; or was she, too, secretly unhappy? And was this the
reason for her pride, and for her bitter speeches? It was a
continual topic of chatter in Society, how Laura Hegan had withdrawn
herself from all of her mother's affairs, and was interesting
herself in work in the slums. Could it be that Nemesis had overtaken
Jim Hegan in the form of his daughter? That she was the conscience
by which he was to be tormented?
Jim Hegan never talked about his affairs. In all the time that
Montague spent with him during his two days at Newport, he gave just
one hint for the other to go upon. "Money?" he remarked, that
evening. "I don't care about money. Money is just chips to me."
Life was a game, and the chips were dollars! What he had played for
was power! And suddenly Montague seemed to see the career of this
man, unrolled before him like a panorama. He had begun life as an
office-boy; and above him were all the heights of business and
finance; and the ladder by which to scale them was money. There were
rivals with whom he fought; and the overcoming of these rivals had
occupied all his time and his thought. If he had bought
legislatures, it was because his rivals were trying to buy them. And
perhaps then he did not even know that he was a wrecker; perhaps he
would not have believed it if anyone had told him! He had travelled
all the long journey of his life, trampling out opposition and
crushing everything before him, nourishing in his heart the hope
that some day, when he had attained to mastery, when there were no
more rivals to oppose and thwart him--then he would be free to do
good. Then he would no longer have to be a wrecker!
And perhaps that was the meaning of his pitiful little effort--an
orphan asylum! It seemed to Montague that the gods must shake with
Olympian laughter when they contemplated the spectacle of Jim Hegan
and his orphan asylum: Jim Hegan, who could have filled a score of
orphan asylums with the children of the men whom he had driven to
ruin and suicide!
These thoughts were seething in Montague's mind, and they would not
let him rest. Perhaps it was just as well that he did not stay too
long that evening. After all, what was the use? Jim Hegan was what
circumstances had made him. Vain was the dream of peace and well
doing--there was always another rival! There was a new battle on
just at present, if one might believe the gossip of the Street;
Hegan and Wyman were at each other's throats. They would fight out
their quarrel, and there was no way to prevent them--even though
they pulled down the pillars of the nation about each other's heads.
As to just what these men were doing in their struggles, Montague
got new information every day. The next morning, while he was
sitting on the piazza of one of the hotels watching the people, he
recognised a familiar face, and greeted the young engineer,
Lieutenant Long, who came and sat down beside him.
"Well," said Montague, "have you heard anything from our friend
"He's back in the bosom of his family again," said the young
officer. "He got tired of the splurge."
"Great fellow, Gamble," said Montague.
"I liked him very much," said the Lieutenant. "He's not beautiful to
look at, but his heart's in the right place."
Montague thought for a moment, then asked, "Did he ever send you
your oil specifications?"
"You bet he did!" said the other. "And say, they were great! The
Department will think I'm an expert."
"Indeed," said Montague.
"It was a precious lucky thing for me," said the officer. "I'd have
been in quite a predicament, you know."
He paused for a moment. "You cannot imagine," he said, "the position
that we naval officers are in. Do you know, I think some word must
have got out about that contract."
"You don't say so," said Montague, with interest.
"I do. By gad, I thought of writing to headquarters about it. I was
approached no less than three times!"
"Fancy," said the officer. "A young chap got himself introduced to
me by one of my friends here. He stuck by me the whole evening, and
afterwards, as we were strolling home, he opened up on me in this
fashion. He'd heard from a friend in Washington that I was one of
those who had been asked to write specifications for the oil
contracts of the Navy; and he had some friends who were interested
in oil, and who might be able to advise me. He hinted that it might
be a good thing for me. Just think of it!"
"I can imagine it was unpleasant."
"I tell you, it sets a man to thinking," said the Lieutenant. "You
know the men in our service are exposed to that sort of thing all
the time, and some of them are trying to live a good deal higher
than their incomes warrant. It's a thing that we've all got to look
out for; I can stand graft in politics and in business, but when it
comes to the Army and Navy--I tell you, that's where I'm ready to
Montague said nothing. He could think of nothing to say.
"Gamble said something about your being interested in a fight
against the Steel Trust," said the other. "Is that so?"
"It was so," replied Montague. "I'm out of it now."
"What we were saying made me think of the Steel Trust," said the
Lieutenant. "We get some glimpses of that concern in the Navy, you
"I hadn't thought of that," said Montague.
"Ask any man in the service about it," said the Lieutenant. "It's an
old scar that we carry around in our souls--it won't heal. I mean
the armour-plate frauds."
"Sure enough!" said Montague. He carried a long list of indictments
against the steel kings in his mind; but he had forgotten this one.
"I know about it particularly," the other continued, "because my
father was on the board of investigation fifteen years ago. I am
disposed to be a little keen on the subject, because what he found
out at that time practically caused his death."
Montague darted a keen glance at the young officer, who sat gazing
ahead in sombre thought. "Fancy how a naval man feels," he said. "We
are told that our ships are going to the Pacific, and any hour the
safety of the nation may depend upon them! And they are covered with
rotten armour plate that was made by old Harrison, and sold to the
Government for four or five times what it cost. Take one case that I
know about--the Oregon. I've got a brother on board her to-day.
During the Spanish War the whole country was watching her and
praying for her. And I could go on board that battleship and put my
finger on the spot in her conning-tower that has a series of blow-
holes straight through the middle of it--holes that old Harrison had
drilled through and plugged up with an iron bar. If ever that plate
was struck by a shell, it would splinter like so much glass."
Montague listened, half dazed. "Can one see that?" he cried.
"See it? No!" said the officer. "It's all on the inside of the
plate, of course. When they got through with their dirty work, they
would treat the surface, and who would ever know the difference?"
"But then, how can YOU know it?" asked Montague.
"I?" said the other. "Because my father had laid before him the
history of that plate from the hour it was made until it was put in:
the original copies of the doctored shop records, and the affidavits
of the man who did the work. He had the same thing in a hundred
other cases. I know the man who has the papers at this day."
"You see," continued the Lieutenant, after a pause, "the
Government's specifications required that each plate should undergo
an elaborate set of treatments; and the shop records of each plate
were kept. But, of course, it cost enormous sums to get these
treatments right, and even then hundreds of the plates would be bad.
So when the shop records came up to the office, young Ingham and
Davidson would go over them and edit them and bring them up to
standard--that's the way those brilliant young fellows made all the
money that they are spending on chorus girls and actresses to-day.
They would have these shop records recopied, but they did not always
tear up the old ones, and somebody in the office hid them, and that
was how the Government got hold of the story."
"It sounds almost incredible!" exclaimed Montague.
"Take the story of plate H619, of the Oregon," said the Lieutenant.
"That was one of a whole group of plates, which was selected for the
ballistic tests at Indian Head. After it had been selected, it was
taken back into the company's shops at night, and secretly retreated
three times. And then of course it passed the tests, and the whole
group was passed with it!"
"What was done about it?" Montague asked.
"Nothing much was ever done about it," said the other. "The
Government could not afford to let the real facts get out. But, of
course, the insiders in the Navy knew it, and the memory will last
as long as the ships last. As I say, it killed my father."
"But weren't the men punished at all?"
"There was a Board appointed to try the case, and they awarded the
Government about six hundred thousand dollars' damages. There's a
man here in this hotel now who could tell you that story straight
from the inside." And the Lieutenant paused and looked about him.
Suddenly he stood up, and went to the railing and called to a man
who was passing on the other side of the street.
"Hello, Bates," he said, "come here."
"Oh! Bates of the Express!" said Montague.
"You know him, do you?" asked the Lieutenant. "Hello, Bates! Have
they put you on the Society notes?"
"I'm hunting interviews," replied the other. "How do you do, Mr.
Montague? Glad to see you again."
"Come up," said the Lieutenant, "and have a seat."
"I was talking to Mr. Montague about the armour-plate frauds," he
added, when the other had drawn up a chair. "I told him you knew the
story of the Government's investigation. Bates comes from Pittsburg,
"Yes, I know it," Montague replied.
"That was the first newspaper story I ever worked on," said Bates.
"Of course, the Pittsburg papers didn't print the facts, but I got
them all the same. And afterwards I came to know intimately a lawyer
in Pittsburg who had charge of a secret investigation; and every
time I read in the newspapers that old Harrison has given a new
library, it sets my blood to boiling all over again."
"I sometimes think," put in the other, "that if somebody could be
found to tell that story to the American people, they would rise up
and drive the old scoundrel out of the country."
"You could never bring it home to him," said Bates; "he's too
cunning for that. He has always turned his dirty work over to other
people. You remember during the big strike how he ran away and left
the job to William Roberts; and after it was all over, he came back
"And then buying out the Government to keep himself from being
punished!" said the Lieutenant, savagely.
Montague turned and looked at him. "What is that?"
"That is the story that Bates's lawyer friend can tell," was the
reply. "The board of officers awarded six hundred thousand dollars'
damages to the Government; and the case was appealed to the
President of the United States, and he sold out the Navy!"
"Sold it out!" gasped Montague.
The officer shrugged his shoulders. "That's what I call it," he
said. "One day old Harrison startled the country by making a speech
in support of the President's policy of tariff reform; and the next
day the lawyer got word that the award was to be scaled down about
seventy-five per cent!"
"And then," added Bates, "William Roberts came down from Pittsburg,
and bought up the Democratic party in Congress; and so the country
got neither the damages nor the tariff reform. And then a few years
later old Harrison sold out to the Steel Trust, and got off with a
four-hundred-million-dollar mortgage on the American people!"
Bates sank back in his chair. "It's not a very pleasant topic for a
holiday afternoon," he said. "But I can't forget about it. It's this
kind of thing that does it, you know--this." And he waved his hand
about at the gay assemblage. "The women spending their money on
dresses and diamonds, and the men tearing the country to pieces to
get it. You'll hear people talk about it--they say these idle rich
harm nobody but themselves; but I tell you they spread a trail of
corruption wherever they go. Don't you believe that, Mr. Montague?"
"I believe it," said he.
"Take these New England towns," said Bates; "and look at the people
in them. The ones who had any energy got up and went West years ago;
and those who are left haven't any jaw-bones. Did you ever notice
it? And it's just the same, wherever this pleasure crowd comes; it
turns the men into boarding-house keepers and lackeys, and the girls
into waitresses and prostitutes."
"They learn to take tips!" put in the Lieutenant.
"Everything they've got is for sale to city people," said Bates.
"Politically, there isn't a rottener little corner in the whole
United States of America than this same Rhode Island--and how much
that's saying, you can imagine. You can buy votes on election day as
you'd buy herrings, and there's not the remotest effort at reform,
nor any hope of it."
"You speak bitterly," said Montague.
"I am bitter," said Bates. "But it doesn't often break out. I hold
my tongue, and stew in my own juice. We newspaper men see the game,
you know. We are behind the scenes, and we see the sawdust put into
the dolls. We have to work in this rottenness all the time, and some
of us don't like it, I can tell you. But what can we do?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I spend my time getting facts together,
and nine times out of ten my newspaper won't print them."
"I should think you'd quit," said the other, in a low voice.
"What better can I do?" asked the reporter. "I have the facts; and
once in a while there comes an explosion, and I get my chance. So I
stick at the job. I can't but believe that if you keep putting these
things before the people, sometime, sooner or later, they will do
something. Sometime there will come a man who has a conscience and a
voice, and who won't sell out. Don't you think so, Mr. Montague?"
"Yes," said Montague, "I think so."
The summer wore on. At the end of August Alice returned from Newport
for a couple of days, having some shopping to do before she joined
the Prentices at their camp in the Adirondacks.
Society had here a new way of enjoying itself. People built
themselves elaborate palaces in the wilderness, and lived in a
fantastic kind of rusticity, with every luxury of civilisation
included. For this life one needed an entirely separate wardrobe,
with doeskin hunting-boots and mountain-climbing skirts--all very
picturesque and expensive. It reminded Montague of a jest that he
had heard about Mrs. Vivie Patton, whose husband had complained of
the expensiveness of her costumes, and requested her to wear simpler
dresses. "Very well," she said, "I will get a lot of simple dresses
Alice spent one evening at home, and she took her cousin into her
confidence. "I've an idea, Allan, that Harry Curtiss is going to ask
me to marry him. I thought it was right to tell you about it."
"I've had a suspicion of it," said Montague, smiling.
"Harry has a feeling you don't like him," said the girl. "Is that
"No," replied Montague, "not precisely that." He hesitated.
"I don't understand about it," she continued. "Do you think I ought
not to marry him?"
Montague studied her face. "Tell me," he said, "have you made up
your mind to marry him?"
"No," she answered, "I cannot say that I have."
"If you have," he added, "of course there is no use in my talking
"I wish you would tell me just what happened between you and him,"
exclaimed the girl.
"It was simply," said Montague, "that I found that Curtiss was
doing, in a business way, something which I considered improper.
Other people are doing it, of course--he has that excuse."
"Well, he has to earn a living," said Alice.
"I know," said the other; "and if he marries, he will have to earn
still more of a living. He will only place himself still tighter in
the grip of these forces of corruption."
"But what did he do?" asked Alice, anxiously. Montague told her the
"But, Allan," she said, "I don't see what there is so very bad about
that. Don't Ryder and Price own the railroad?"
"They own some of it," said Montague. "Other people own some."
"But the other people have to take their chances," protested the
girl; "if they choose to have anything to do with men like that."
"You are not familiar with business," said the other, "and you don't
appreciate the situation. Curtiss was elected a director--he
accepted a position of trust."
"He simply did it as a favour to Price," said she. "If he hadn't
done it, Price would only have got somebody else. As you say, Allan,
I don't understand much about it, but it seems to me it isn't fair
to blame a young man who has to make his way in the world, and who
simply does what he finds everybody else doing. Of course, you know
best about your own affairs; but it always did seem to me that you
go out of your way to look for scruples."
Montague smiled sadly. "That sounds very much like what he said,
Alice. I guess you have made up your mind to marry him, after all."
Alice set out, accompanied by Oliver, who was bound for Bertie
Stuyvesant's imitation baronial castle, in another part of the
mountains. Betty Wyman was also to be there, and Oliver was to spend
a full month. But three days later Montague received a telegram,
saying that his brother would arrive in New York shortly after eight
that morning, and to wait at his home for him. Montague suspected