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The Moneychangers by Upton Sinclair

Part 5 out of 5

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Montague went on ahead, and found his brother, with only about a
score of people ahead of him. Apparently not many of the depositors
of the Trust Company read their newspapers before eight o'clock in
the morning.

"Do you want a chair, too?" asked Montague. "I just got one for the

"Is he here, too?" exclaimed Oliver. "Good Heavens! No, I don't want
a chair," he added, "I'll get through early. But, Allan, tell me--
what in the world is the matter? Do you really mean that your money
is still in here?"

"It's here," the other answered. "There's no use arguing about
it--come over to the office when you get your money."

"I got the train just by half a minute," said Oliver. "Poor Bertie
Stuyvesant didn't get up in time, and he's coming on a special--he's
got about three hundred thousand in here. It was to pay for his new

"I guess some of the yacht-makers won't be quite so busy from now
on," remarked the other, as he moved away.

That afternoon he heard the story of how General Prentice, as a
director of the Gotham Trust, had voted that the institution should
not close its doors, and then, as president of the Trust Company of
the Republic, had sent over and cashed a check for a million
dollars. None of the newspapers printed that story, but it ran from
mouth to mouth, and was soon the jest of the whole city. Men said
that it was this act of treachery which had taken the heart out of
the Gotham Trust Company directors, and led to the closing of its

Such was the beginning of the panic as Montague saw it. It had all
worked out beautifully, according to the schedule. The stock market
was falling to pieces--some of the leading stocks were falling
several points between transactions, and Wyman and Hegan and the Oil
and Steel people were hammering the market and getting ready for the
killing. And at the same time, representatives of Waterman in
Washington were interviewing the President, and setting before him
the desperate plight of the Mississippi Steel Company. Already the
structure of the country's finances was tottering; and here was one
more big failure threatening. Realising the desperate situation, the
Steel Trust was willing to do its part to save the country--it would
take over the Mississippi Steel Company, provided only that the
Government would not interfere. The desired promise was given; and
so that last of Waterman's purposes was accomplished.

But there was one factor in the problem upon which few had reckoned,
and that was the vast public which furnished all the money for the
game--the people to whom dollars were not simply gamblers' chips,
but to whom they stood for the necessities of life; business men who
must have them to pay their clerks on Saturday afternoon;
working-men who needed them for rent and food; helpless widows and
orphans to whom they meant safety from starvation. These unhappy
people had no means of knowing that financial institutions, which
were perfectly sound and able to pay their depositors, might be
wrecked deliberately in a gamblers' game. When they heard that banks
were tottering, and were being besieged for money, they concluded
that there must be real danger--that the long-predicted crash must
be at hand. They descended upon Wall Street in hordes--the whole
financial district was packed with terrified crowds, and squads of
policemen rode through upon horseback in order to keep open the

"Somebody asked for a dollar," was the way one banker phrased it.
Wall Street had been doing business with pieces of paper; and now
someone asked for a dollar, and it was discovered that the dollar
had been mislaid.

It was an experience for which the captains of finance were not
entirely prepared; they had forgotten the public. It was like some
great convulsion of nature, which made mockery of all the powers of
men, and left the beholder dazed and terrified. In Wall Street men
stood as if in a valley, and saw far up above them the starting of
an avalanche; they stood fascinated with horror, and watched it
gathering headway; saw the clouds of dust rising up, and heard the
roar of it swelling, and realised that it was a matter of only a
second or two before it would be upon them and sweep them to

The lines of people before the Gotham Trust and the Trust Company of
the Republic were now blocks in length; and every hour one heard of
runs upon new institutions. There were women wringing their hands
and crying in nervous excitement; there were old people, scarcely
able to totter; there were people who had risen from sick-beds, and
who stood all through the day and night, shivering in the keen
October winds.

Runs had begun on the savings banks also; over on the East Side the
alarm had reached the ignorant foreign population. It had spread
with the speed of lightning all over the country; already there were
reports of runs in other cities, and from thousands and tens of
thousands of banks in East and South and West came demands upon the
Metropolis for money. And there was no money anywhere.

And so the masters of the Banking Trust realised to their annoyance
that the monster which they had turned loose might get beyond their
control. Runs were beginning upon institutions in which they
themselves were concerned. In the face of madness such as this, even
the twenty-five per cent reserves of the national banks would not be
sufficient. The moving of the cotton and grain crops had taken
hundreds of millions from New York; and there was no money to be got
by any chance from abroad. Everywhere they turned, they faced this
appalling scarcity of money; nothing could be sold, no money could
be borrowed. The few who had succeeded in getting their cash were
renting safe-deposit boxes and hiding the actual coin.

And so, all their purposes having been accomplished, the bankers set
to work to stem the tide. Frantic telegrams were sent to Washington,
and the Secretary of the Treasury deposited six million dollars in
the national banks of the Metropolis, and then came on himself to

Men turned to Dan Waterman, who was everywhere recognised as the
master of the banking world. The rivalry of the different factions
ceased in the presence of this peril; and Waterman became suddenly a
king, with practically absolute control of the resources of every
bank in the city. Even the Government placed itself in his hands;
the Secretary of the Treasury became one of his clerks, and bank
presidents and financiers came crowding into his office like
panic-stricken children. Even the proudest and most defiant men,
like Wyman and Hegan, took his orders and listened humbly to his

All these events were public history, and one might follow them day
by day in the newspapers. Waterman's earlier acts had been planned
and carried out in darkness. No one knew, no one had the faintest
suspicion. But now newspaper reporters attended the conferences and
trailed Waterman about wherever he went, and the public was invited
to the wonderful spectacle of this battle-worn veteran, rousing
himself for one last desperate campaign and saving the honour and
credit of the country.

The public hung upon his lightest word, praying for his success. The
Secretary of the Treasury sat in the Sub-Treasury building near his
office, and poured out the funds of the Government under his
direction. Thirty-two million dollars in all were thus placed with
the national banks; and from all these institutions Waterman drew
the funds which he poured into the vaults of the imperilled banks
and trust companies. It was a time when one man's peril was every
man's, and none might stand alone. And Waterman was a despot,
imperious and terrible. "I have taken care of my bank," said one
president; "and I intend to shut myself up in it and wait until the
storm is over." "If you do," Waterman retorted, "I will build a wall
around you, and you will never get out of it again!" And so the
banker contributed the necessary number of millions.

The fight centred around the imperilled Trust Company of the
Republic. It was recognised by everyone that if Prentice's
institution went down, it would mean defeat. Longer and longer grew
the line of waiting depositors; the vaults were nearly empty. The
cashiers adopted the expedient of paying very slowly--they would
take half an hour or more to investigate a single check; and thus
they kept going until more money arrived. The savings banks of the
city agreed unanimously to close their doors, availing themselves of
their legal right to demand sixty days before paying. The national
banks resorted to the expedient of paying with clearing-house
certificates. The newspapers preached confidence and cheered the
public--even the newsboys were silenced, so that their shrill cries
might no longer increase the public excitement. Groups of mounted
policemen swept up and down the streets, keeping the crowds upon the

And so at last came the fateful Thursday, the climax of the panic. A
pall seemed to have fallen upon Wall Street. Men ran here and there,
bareheaded and pale with fright. Upon the floor of the Stock
Exchange men held their breath. The market was falling to pieces.
All sales had stopped; one might quote any price one chose, for it
was impossible to borrow a dollar. Interest rates had gone to one
hundred and fifty per cent to two hundred per cent; a man might have
offered a thousand per cent for a large sum and not obtained it. The
brokers stood about, gazing at each other in utter despair. Such an
hour had never before been known.

All this time the funds of the Government had been withheld from the
Exchange. The Government must not help the gamblers, everyone
insisted. But now had come the moment when it seemed that the
Exchange must be closed. Thousands of firms would be ruined, the
business of the country would be paralysed. There came word that the
Pittsburg Exchange had closed. So once more the terrified magnates
crowded into Waterman's office. Once more the funds of the
Government were poured into the banks; and from the banks they came
to Waterman; and within a few minutes after the crisis had
developed, the announcement was made that Dan Waterman would lend
twenty-five million dollars at ten per cent.

So the peril was averted. Brokers upon the floor wept for joy, and
cheers rang through all the Street. A mob of men gathered in front
of Waterman's office, singing a chorus of adulation.

All these events Montague followed day by day. He was passing
through Wall Street that Thursday afternoon, and he heard the crowds
singing. He turned away, bitter and sick at heart. Could a more
tragic piece of irony have been imagined than this--that the man,
who of all men had been responsible for this terrible calamity,
should be heralded before the whole country as the one who averted
it! Could there have been a more appalling illustration of the way
in which the masters of the Metropolis were wont to hoodwink its
blind and helpless population?

There was only one man to whom Montague could vent his feelings;
only one man besides himself who knew the real truth. Montague got
the habit, when he left his work, of stopping at the Express
building, and listening for a few minutes to the grumbling of Bates.

Bates would have each day's news fresh from the inside; not only the
things which would be printed on the morrow, but the things which
would never be printed anywhere. And he and Montague would feed the
fires of each other's rage. One day it would be one of the Express's
own editorials, in which it was pointed out that the intemperate
speeches and reckless policies of the President were now bearing
their natural fruit; another day it would be a letter from a
prominent clergyman, naming Waterman as the President's successor.

Men were beside themselves with wonder at the generosity of Waterman
in lending twenty-five millions at ten per cent. But it was not his
own money--it was the money of the national banks which he was
lending; and this was money which the national banks had got from
the Government, and for which they paid the Government no interest
at all. There was never any graft in the world so easy as the
national bank graft, declared Bates. These smooth gentlemen got the
people's money to build their institutions. They got the Government
to deposit money with them, and they paid the Government nothing,
and charged the people interest for it. They had the privilege of
issuing a few hundred millions of bank-notes, and they charged
interest for these and paid the Government nothing. And then, to cap
the climax, they used their profits to buy up the Government! They
filled the Treasury Department with their people, and when they got
into trouble, the Sub-Treasury was emptied into their vaults. And in
the face of all this, the people agitated for postal savings banks,
and couldn't get them. In other countries the people had banks where
they could put their money with absolute certainty; for no one had
ever known such a thing as a run upon a postal bank.

"Sometimes," said Bates, "it seems almost as if our people were
hypnotised. You saw all this life insurance scandal, Mr. Montague;
and there's one simple and obvious remedy for all the evils--if we
had Government life insurance, it could never fail, and there'd be
no surplus for Wall Street gamblers. It sounds almost incredible--
but do you know, I followed that agitation as I don't believe any
other man in this country followed it--and from first to last I
don't believe that one single suggestion of that remedy was ever
made in print!"

A startled look had come upon Montague's face as he listened. "I
don't believe I ever thought of it myself!" he exclaimed.

And Bates shrugged his shoulders. "You see!" he said. "So it goes."


Montague had taken a couple of days to think over Lucy's last
request. It was a difficult commission; but he made up his mind at
last that he would make the attempt. He went up to Ryder's home and
presented his card.

"Mr. Ryder is very much occupied, sir--" began the butler,

"This is important," said Montague. "Take him the card, please." He
waited in the palatial entrance-hall, decorated with ceilings which
had been imported intact from old Italian palaces.

At last the butler returned. "Mr. Ryder says will you please see him
upstairs, sir?"

Montague entered the elevator, and was taken to Ryder's private
apartments. In the midst of the drawing-room was a great library
table, covered with a mass of papers; and in a chair in front of it
sat Ryder.

Montague had never seen such dreadful suffering upon a human
countenance. The exquisite man of fashion had grown old in a week.

"Mr. Ryder," he began, when they were alone, "I received a letter
from Mrs. Taylor, asking me to come to see you."

"I know," said Ryder. "It was like her; and it is very good of you."

"If there is any way that I can be of assistance," the other began.

But Ryder shook his head. "No," he said; "there is nothing."

"If I could give you my help in straightening out your own

"They are beyond all help," said Ryder. "I have nothing to begin
on--I have not a dollar in the world."

"That is hardly possible," objected Montague.

"It is literally true!" he exclaimed. "I have tried every plan--I
have been over the thing and over it, until I am almost out of my
mind." And he glanced about him at the confusion of papers, and
leaned his forehead in his hands in despair.

"Perhaps if a fresh mind were to take it up," suggested Montague.
"It is difficult to see how a man of your resources could be left
without anything--"

"Everything I have is mortgaged," said the other. "I have been
borrowing money right and left. I was counting on profits--I was
counting on increases in value. And now see--everything is wiped
out! There is not value enough left in anything to cover the loans."

"But surely, Mr. Ryder, this slump is merely temporary. Values must
be restored--"

"It will be years, it will be years! And in the meantime I shall be
forced to sell. They have wiped me out--they have destroyed me! I
have not even money to live on."

Montague sat for a few moments in thought. "Mrs. Taylor wrote me
that Waterman--" he began.

"I know, I know!" cried the other. "He had to tell her something, to
get what he wanted."

Montague said nothing.

"And suppose he does what he promised?" continued the other. "He has
done it before--but am I to be one of Dan Waterman's lackeys?"

There was a silence. "Like John Lawrence," continued Ryder, in a low
voice. "Have you heard of Lawrence? He was a banker--one of the
oldest in the city. And Waterman gave him an order, and he defied
him. Then he broke him; took away every dollar he owned. And the man
came to him on his knees. 'I've taught you who is your master,' said
Waterman. 'Now here's your money.' And now Lawrence fawns on him,
and he's got rich and fat. But all his bank exists for is to lend
money when Waterman is floating a merger, and call it in when he is

Montague could think of nothing to reply to that.

"Mr. Ryder," he began at last, "I cannot be of much use to you now,
because I haven't the facts. All I can tell you is that I am at your
disposal. I will give you my best efforts, if you will let me. That
is all I can say."

And Ryder looked up, the light shining on his white, wan face.
"Thank you, Mr. Montague, he said. "It is very good of you. It is a
help, at least, to hear a word of sympathy. I--I will let you

"All right," said Montague, rising. He put out his hand, and Ryder
took it tremblingly. "Thank you," he said again.

And the other turned and went out. He went down the great staircase
by himself. At the foot he passed the butler, carrying a tray with
some coffee.

He stopped the man. "Mr. Ryder ought not to be left alone," he said.
"He should have his physician."

"Yes, sir," began the other, and then stopped short. From the floor
above a pistol shot rang out and echoed through the house.

"Oh, my God!" gasped the butler, staggering backward.

He half dropped and half set the tray upon a chair, and ran wildly
up the steps. Montague stood for a moment or two as if turned to
stone. He saw another servant run out of the dining-room and up the
stairs. Then, with a sudden impulse, he turned and went to the door.

"I can be of no use," he thought to himself; "I should only drag
Lucy's name into it." And he opened the door, and went quietly down
the steps.

In the newspapers the next morning he read that Stanley Ryder had
shot himself in the body, and was dying.

And that same morning the newspapers in Denver, Colorado, told of
the suicide of a mysterious woman, a stranger, who had gone to a
room in one of the hotels and taken poison. She was very beautiful;
it was surmised that she must be an actress. But she had left not a
scrap of paper or a clew of any sort by which she could be
identified. The newspapers printed her photograph; but Montague did
not see the Denver newspapers, and so to the day of his death he
never knew what had been the fate of Lucy Dupree.

The panic was stopped, but the business of the country lay in ruins.
For a week its financial heart had ceased to beat, and through all
the arteries of commerce, and every smallest capillary, there was
stagnation. Hundreds of firms had failed, and the mills and
factories by the thousands were closing down. There were millions of
men out of work. Throughout the summer the railroads had been
congested with traffic, and now there were a quarter of a million
freight cars laid by. Everywhere were poverty and suffering; it was
as if a gigantic tidal wave of distress had started from the
Metropolis and rolled over the continent. Even the oceans had not
stopped it; it had gone on to England and Germany--it had been felt
even in South America and Japan.

One day, while Montague was still trembling with the pain of his
experience, he was walking up the Avenue, and he met Laura Hegan
coming from a shop to her carriage.

"Mr. Montague," she exclaimed, and stopped with a frank smile of
greeting. "How are you?"

"I am well," he answered.

"I suppose," she added, "you have been very busy these terrible

"I have been more busy observing than doing," he replied.

"And how is Alice?"

"She is well. I suppose you have heard that she is engaged."

"Yes," said Miss Hegan. "Harry told me the first thing. I was
perfectly delighted."

"Are you going up town?" she added. "Get in and drive with me."

He entered the carriage, and they joined the procession up the
Avenue. They talked for a few minutes, then suddenly Miss Hegan
said, "Won't you and Alice come to dinner with us some evening this

Montague did not answer for a moment.

"Father is home now," Miss Hegan continued. "We should like so much
to have you."

He sat staring in front of him. "No," he said at last, in a low
voice. "I would rather not come."

His manner, even more than his words, struck his companion. She
glanced at him in surprise.

"Why?" she began, and stopped. There was a silence.

"Miss Hegan," he said at last, "I might make conventional excuses. I
might say that I have engagements; that I am very busy. Ordinarily
one does not find it worth while to tell the truth in this social
world of ours. But somehow I feel impelled to deal frankly with

He did not look at her. Her eyes were fixed upon him in wonder.
"What is it?" she asked.

And he replied, "I would rather not meet your father again."

"Why! Has anything happened between you and father?" she exclaimed
in dismay.

"No," he answered; "I have not seen your father since I had lunch
with you in Newport."

"Then what is it?"

He paused a moment. "Miss Hegan," he began, "I have had a painful
experience in this panic. I have lived through it in a very dreadful
way. I cannot get over it--I cannot get the images of suffering out
of my mind. It is a very real and a very awful thing to me--this
wrecking of the lives of tens of thousands of people. And so I am
hardly fitted for the amenities of social life just at present."

"But my father!" gasped she. "What has he to do with it?"

"Your father," he answered, "is one of the men who were responsible
for that panic. He helped to make it; and he profited by it."

She started forward, clenching her hands and staring at him wildly.
"Mr. Montague!" she exclaimed.

He did not reply.

There was a long pause. He could hear her breath coming quickly.

"Are you sure?" she whispered.

"Quite sure," said he.

Again there was silence.

"I do not know very much about my father's affairs," she began, at
last. "I cannot reply to what you say. It is very dreadful."

"Please understand me, Miss Hegan," said he. "I have no right to
force such thoughts upon you; and perhaps I have made a mistake--"

"I should have preferred that you should tell me the truth," she
said quickly.

"I believed that you would," he answered. "That was why I spoke."

"Was what he did so very dreadful?" asked the girl, in a low voice.

"I would prefer not to answer," said he. "I cannot judge your
father. I am simply trying to protect myself. I'm afraid of the grip
of this world upon me. I have followed the careers of so many men,
one after another. They come into it, and it lays hold of them, and
before they know it, they become corrupt. What I have seen here in
the Metropolis has filled me with dismay, almost with terror. Every
fibre of me cries out against it; and I mean to fight it--to fight
it all my life. And so I do not care to make terms with it socially.
When I have seen a man doing what I believe to be a dreadful wrong,
I cannot go to his home, and shake his hand, and smile, and exchange
the commonplaces of life with him."

It was a long time before Miss Hegan replied. Her voice was

"Mr. Montague," she said, "you must not think that I have not been
troubled by these things. But what can one do? What is the remedy?"

"I do not know," he answered. "I wish that I did know. I can only
tell you this, that I do not intend to rest until I have found out."

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

He replied: "I am going into politics. I am going to try to teach
the people."

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