Thomas William Lawson.

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these honours for generations. The present judge has held them all. I
don't know him personally, although my people and his have been thick from
away back. Sands Landing on the James is some fifty miles above our home.
The judge, Beulah Sands's father, is close on to seventy, and I have heard
mother and father say is a stalwart, a Virginia stalwart. Being rich - that
is, what we Virginians call rich, a million or so - he has been very active
in affairs, and I knew before his daughter told me, that he was the
trustee for about all the best estates in our part of the country. It
seems from what she tells, that of late he has been very active in
developing our coal-mines and railroads, and that particularly he took a
prominent hand in the Seaboard Air Line. You know the road, for your
father was a director, and I think the house has been prominent in its
banking affairs. Now, Jim, this poor girl, who, it seems, has recently
been acting as the judge's secretary, has just learned that that coup of
Reinhart and his crowd has completely ruined her father. The decline has
swamped his own fortune, and, what is worse, a million to a million and a
half of his trust funds as well, and the old judge - well, you and I can
understand his position. Yet I do not know that you just can, either, for
you do not quite understand our Virginia life and the kind of revered
position a man like Judge Sands occupies. You would have to know that to
understand fully his present purgatory and the terrible position of this
daughter, for it seems that since he began to get into deep water he has
been relying upon her for courage and ideas. From our talk I gather she
has a wonderful store of up-to-date business notions, and I am convinced
from what she lays out that the judge's affairs are hopeless, and, Jim,
when that old man goes down it will be a smash that will shake our State
in more ways than one.

"Up to now the girl has stood up to the blow like a man and has been able
to steady the judge until he presents an exterior that holds down
suspicion as to his real financial condition, although she says Reinhart
and his Baltimore lawyer, from the ruthless way they put on the screws to
shake out his holdings in the Air Line, must have a line on it that the
judge is overboard. The old gentleman can keep things going for six months
longer without jeopardising any of the remaining trust funds, of which he
has some two millions, and while his wife, who is an invalid, knows the
judge is in some trouble, she does not suspect his real position. His
daughter says that when the blow came, that day of the panic, when
Reinhart jammed the stock out of sight and scuttled her father's bankers
and partners in the road, the Wilsons of Baltimore, she had a frightful
struggle to keep her father from going insane. She told me that for three
days and nights she kept him locked in their rooms at their hotel in
Baltimore, to prevent him from hunting Reinhart and his lawyer Rettybone
and killing them both, but that at last she got him calmed down and
together they have been planning.

"Jim, it was tough to sit there and listen to the schemes to recoup that
this old gentleman and this girl, for she is only twenty-one, have tried
to hatch up. The tears actually rolled down my cheeks as I listened; I
couldn't help it; you couldn't either, Jim. But at last out of all the
plans considered, they found only one that had a tint of hope in it, and
the serious mention of even that one, Jim, in any but present
circumstances, would make you think we were dealing with lunatics. But the
girl has succeeded in making me think it worth trying. Yes, Jim, she has,
and I have told her so, and I hope to God that that hard-headed
horse-sense of yours will not make you sit down on it."

Bob Brownley had got to his feet; he was slipping the shackles of that
fiery, romantic, Southern passion that years in college and Wall Street
had taught him to keep prisoner. His eyes were flashing sparks. His
nostrils vibrated like a deer buck's in the autumn woods. He faced me with
his hands clinched.

"Jim Randolph," he went on, "as I listened to that girl's story of the
terrible cruelty and devilish treachery practised by the human hyenas you
and I associate with, human hyenas who, when in search of dirty
dollars - the only thing they know anything about - put to shame the real
beasts of the wilds - when I listened, I tell you that I felt it would not
give me a twinge of conscience to put a ball through that slick scoundrel
Reinhart. Yes, and that hired cur of his, too, who prostitutes a good
family name and position, and an inherited ability the Almighty intended
for more honest uses than the trapping of victims on whose purses his
gutter-born master has set lecherous eyes. And, Jim, as I listened, a
troop of old friends invaded my memory - friends whom I have not seen since
before I went to Harvard, friends with whom I spent many a happy hour in
my old Virginia home, friends born of my imagination, stalwart, rugged
crusaders, who carried the sword and the cross and the banner inscribed
'For Honour and for God.' Old friends who would troop into my boyhood and
trumpet, 'Bob, don't forget, when you're a man, that the goal is honour,
and the code: Do unto your neighbour as you would have your neighbour do
unto you. Don't forget that millions is the crest of the groundlings.'
And, Jim, I thought my friends looked at me with reproachful eyes, as
they said, 'You are well on the road, Bob Brownley, and in time your heart
and soul will bear the hall-mark of the snaky S on the two upright bars,
and you will be but a frenzied fellow in the Dirty Dollar army.' Jim, Jim
Randolph, as I listened to that agonising tale of the changing of that
girl's heaven to hell, I did not see that halo you and I have thought
surrounded the sign of Randolph & Randolph. I did not see it, Jim, but I
did see myself, and I didn't feel proud of the picture. My God, Jim, is it
possible you and I have joined the nobility of Dirty Dollars? Is it
possible we are leaving trails along our life's path like that Reinhart
left through the home of these Virginians, such trails as this girl has
shown me?"

Bob had worked himself into a state of frenzy. I had never seen him so
excited as when he stood in front of me and almost shouted this fierce
self-denunciation.

"For heaven's sake, Bob, pull yourself together," I urged. "The captain on
the bridge there is staring at you wild-eyed, and Katherine will be up
here to see what has happened. Now, be a good fellow, and let us talk
this thing over in a sensible way. At the gait you are going we can do
nothing to help out your friends. Besides, what is there for you and me to
take ourselves to task for? We are no wreckers and none of our dollars is
stained with Frenzied Finance. My father, as you know, despised Reinhart
and his sort as much as we do. Be yourself. What does this girl want you
to do? If it is anything in reason, call it done, for you know there is
nothing I won't do for you at the asking."

Bob's hysteria oozed. He dropped on the rail-seat at my side.

"I know it, Jim, I know it, and you must forgive me. The fact, is, Beulah
Sands's story has aroused a lot of thoughts I have been a-sticking down
cellar late years, for, to tell the truth, I have some nasty twinges of
conscience every now and then when I get to thinking of this dollar game
of ours."

I saw that the impulsive blood was fast cooling, and that it would only be
a question of minutes until Bob would be his clearheaded self.

"Now, what is it she wants you to do?" I persisted. "Is it a case of
money, of our trying to tide her father over?"

"Nothing of that kind, Jim. You don't know the proud Virginia blood.
Neither that girl nor her father would accept money help from any one.
They would go to smash and the grave first."

He paused and then continued impressively:

"This is how she puts it. She and her father have raked together her
different legacies and turned them into cash, a matter of sixty thousand
dollars, and she got him to consent to let her come up here to see if
during the next six months she might not, in a few desperate plunges in
the market, run it up to enough to at least regain the trust funds. Yes, I
know it is a wild idea. I told her so at the beginning, but there was no
need; she knew it, for she is not only bright, but she has the best idea
of business I ever knew a woman to have. But it is their only chance, Jim,
and while I listened to her argument I came around to her way of
thinking."

"But how did she happen to come to you with this extraordinary scheme?" I
interrupted.

"It's this way - her father, who knew Randolph & Randolph through your
father's handling of the Seaboard's affairs, learned of my connection
with the house, and gave her a letter, asking me to do what I could to
help his daughter carry out her plans. She wants to get a position with
us, if possible, in some sort of capacity, secretary, confidential clerk,
or, as she puts it, any sort of place that will justify her being in the
office. She tells me she is good at shorthand, on the machine, or at
correspondence, also that she has been a contributor to the magazines. If
this can be arranged, she says she will on her own responsibility select
the time and the stock, and hurl the last of the Sands fortune at the
market, and, Jim, she is game. The blow seems to have turned this child
into a wonderfully nervy creature, and, old man, I am beginning to have a
feeling that perhaps the cards may come so she will win the judge out. You
and I know where less than sixty thousand has been run up to millions more
than once, and that, too, without the aid she will have, for I'll surely
do all I can to help her steer this last chance into spongy places."

Bob in his enthusiasm had completely lost sight of the fact that he was
indorsing a project that but a moment previously he had pronounced insane,
and with a start I realised what this sudden transformation betokened.
Inevitably, if the project he outlined were carried out, Bob and the
beautiful Southern girl would be thrown into close association with each
other, and further acquaintance could only deepen the startling influence
Beulah Sands had already won over my ordinarily sane and cool-headed
comrade. As I looked at my friend, burning with an ardour as unaccustomed
as it was impulsive, I felt a tug at my heartstrings at thought of the
sudden cross-roading of his life's highway. But I, too, was filled with
the glamour of this girl's wondrous beauty, and her terrible predicament
appealed to me almost as strongly as it had to Bob. So, although I knew it
would be fatal to any chance of his weighing the matter by common sense, I
burst out:

"Bob, I don't blame you for falling in with the girl's plans. If I were in
your shoes, I should too."

Tears came to Bob's eyes as he grabbed my hand and said:

"Jim, how can I ever repay you for all the good things you have done for
me - how can I!"

It was no time to give way to emotional outbursts, and while Bob was
getting his grip on himself, I went on:

"Come along down to earth now, Bob; let us look at this thing squarely.
You and I, with our position in the market, can do lots of things to help
run that sixty thousand to higher figures, but six months is a short time
and a million or two a world of money."

"She knows that," he said, "and the time is much shorter and the road to
go much longer than you figure," he replied. "This girl is as
high-tensioned as the E string on a Stradivarius, and she declares she
will have no charity tips or unusual favours from us or any one else. But
let us not talk about that now or we'll get discouraged. Let's do as she
says and trust to God for the outcome. Are you willing, Jim, to take her
into the office as a sort of confidential secretary? If you will, I'll
take charge of her account, and together we will do all that two men can
for her and her father."


Chapter II.


The following week saw Miss Sands, of Virginia, private secretary to the
head of Randolph & Randolph, established in a little office between mine
and Bob's. She had not been there a day before we knew she was a worker.
She spent the hours going over reports and analysing financial statements,
showing a sagacity extraordinary in so young a person. She explained her
knowledge of figures by the hand-work she had done for the judge, all of
whose accounts she had kept. Bob and I saw that she was bent on smothering
her memory in that antidote for all ills of heart and soul - work. Her
office life was simplicity itself. She spoke to no one except Bob, save in
connection with such business matters of the firm's as I might send her by
one of the clerks to attend to. To the others in the banking-house she was
just an unconventional young literary woman whose high social connections
had gained her this opportunity of getting at the secrets of finance,
from actual experience, for use in forthcoming novels. It had got abroad
that she was the writer of great distinction who, under a _nom de plume_,
had recently made quite a dent in the world's literary shell - a suggestion
that I rightly guessed was one of Bob's delicate ways of smoothing out her
path. I had tried in every way to make things easy for her, but it was
impossible for me to draw her out in talk, and finally I gave it up. Had
it not been that every time I passed her office door I was compelled by
the fascination which I had first felt, and which, instead of diminishing,
had increased with her reticence, to look in at the quiet figure with the
downcast eyes, working away at her desk as though her life depended on
never missing a second, I should not have known she was in the building.
My wife, at my suggestion, had tried to induce her to visit us; in fact,
after I let her into just enough of Beulah Sands's story so that she could
see things on a true slant, she had decided to try to bring her to our
house to live. But though the girl was sweetly gentle in her appreciation
of Kate's thoughtful attentions, in her simple way she made us both feel
that our efforts would be for naught, that her position must be the same
as that of any other clerk in the office. We both finally left her to
herself. Bob explained to me, some three weeks after she came to the
office, that she received no visitors at her home, a hotel on a quiet
uptown street, and that even he had never had permission to call upon her
there.

But from the day she came to occupy her desk in our office, Bob was a
changed man, whether for better or for worse neither Kate nor I could
decide. His old bounding elasticity was gone, and with it his rollicking
laugh. He was now a man where before he had been a boy, a man with a
burden. Even if I had not heard Beulah Sands's story, I should have
guessed that Bob was staggering under a strange load. While before, from
the close of the Stock Exchange until its opening the next morning, he
was, as Kate was fond of putting it, always ready to fill in for anything
from chaperon to nurse, always open for any lark we planned, from a
Bohemian dinner to the opera, now weeks went by without our seeing him at
our house. In the office it used to be a saying that outside gong-strikes,
Bob Brownley did not know he was in the stock business. Formerly every
clerk knew when Bob came or went, for it was with a rush, a shout, a
laugh, and a bang of doors; and on the floor of the Stock Exchange no man
played so many pranks, or filled his orders with so much jolly good-nature
and hilarious boisterousness. But from the day the Virginian girl crossed
his path, Bob Brownley was a man who was thinking, thinking, thinking all
the time. It was only with an effort that he would keep his eyes on
whomever he was talking with long enough to take in what was said, and if
the saying occupied much time it would be apparent to the talker that Bob
was off in the clouds. All his friends and associates remarked the change,
but I alone, except perhaps Kate, had any idea of the cause. I knew that
two million dollars and the coming New Year were hurdling like kangaroos
over Bob's mental rails and ditches, though I did not know it from
anything he told me, for after that talk on the upper deck of the
_Tribesman_ he had shut up like a clam.

He did not exactly shun me, but showed me in many ways that he had entered
into a new world, in which he desired to be alone. That Beulah Sands's
plight had roused into intense activity all the latent romance of my
friend's nature, did not surprise me. I foresaw from the first that Bob
would fall head over heels in love with this beautiful, sorrow-laden girl,
and it was soon obvious that the long-delayed shaft had planted its point
in the innermost depths of his being. His was more than love; a fervid
idolatry now had possession of his soul, mind, and body. Yet its outward
manifestations were the opposite of what one would have looked for in this
gay and optimistic Southerner. It was rather priest-like worship, a calm
imperturbability that nothing seemed to distract or upset, at least in the
presence of the goddess who was its object. Every morning he would pass
through my office headed straight for the little room she occupied as if
it were his one objective point of the day, but once he heard his own
"Good morning, Miss Sands," he seemed to round to, and while in her
presence was the Bob Brownley of old. He would be in and out all day on
any and every pretext, always entering with an undisguised eagerness,
leaving with a slow, dreamy reluctance. That he never saw her outside the
office, I am sure, for she said good-night to him when he or she left for
the day with the same don't-come-with-me dignity that she exhibited to
all the rest of us. I had not attempted to say a word to Bob about his
feeling for Beulah Sands, nor had he ever brought up the subject to me. On
the contrary, he studiously avoided it.

Three months of the six had now passed, and with each day I thought I
noted an increasing anxiety in Bob. He had opened a special account for
Miss Sands on the books of the house in his name as agent, with a credit
of sixty thousand dollars, and we both watched it with a painful tenseness
of scrutiny. It had grown by uneven jerks, until the balance on October
1st was almost four hundred thousand dollars. On some of the trades Bob
had consulted me, and on others, two in particular where he closed up
after a few days' operations with nearly two hundred thousand dollars
profit, I did not even know what the trading was based on until the stocks
had been sold. Then he said:

"Jim, that little lady from Virginia can give us a big handicap and play
us to a standstill at our own game. She told me to buy all the Burlington
and Sugar her account would stand, and did not even ask for my opinion. In
both cases I thought the operations were more the result of a wakeful
night and an I-must-do-something decision than anything else, and I
tackled both with a shiver; but when she told me to sell them out at a
time I thought they looked like going higher and the next day they
slumped, I could not help thinking about the destiny that shapes our
ends."

On my part I tried to help. On one occasion, without consulting her, I put
her account in on a sure thing underwriting, wherein she stood to make a
profit of a quarter of a million, but when Bob told her what I had done,
she insisted with great dignity that her name be withdrawn. After that
neither of us dared help her to any short cuts. Bob was deeply impressed
by her principles, and, commenting on them, said: "Jim, if all Wall Street
had a code similar to Beulah Sands's to hew to in their gambles, ours
would be a fairer and more manly game, and many of the multi-millionaires
would be clerking, while a lot of the hand-to-mouth traders would come
downtown in a new auto every day in the week. She does not believe in
stock-gambling. She has worked it out that every dollar one man makes,
another loses; that the one who makes gives nothing in return for what he
gets away with; and that the other fellow's loss makes him and his as
miserable as would robbery to the same amount. Yet she realises that she
must get back those millions stolen from her father and is willing to
smother her conscience to attempt it, provided she takes no unfair
advantage of the other players. The other day she said to me, 'I have
decided, because of my duty to my father, to put away my prejudice against
gambling, but no duty to him or to any one can justify me in playing with
marked cards.' Jim, there is food for reflection for you and me, don't you
think so?"

I did not argue it with him, for, after that Saturday's outburst, I had
made up my mind to avoid stirring Bob up unnecessarily. Also, I had to
admit to myself that the things he had then said had raised some
uncomfortable thoughts in me, thoughts that made me glance less
confidently now and then at the old sign of Randolph & Randolph and at the
big ledger which showed that I, an ordinary citizen of a free country, was
the absolute possessor of more money than a hundred thousand of my fellow
beings together could accumulate in a lifetime, although each one had
worked harder, longer, more conscientiously, and with perhaps more ability
than I.

As to how Beulah Sands's code had affected my friend, I was ignorant. For
the first time in our association I was completely in the dark as to what
he was doing stockwise. Up to that Saturday I was the first to whom he
would rush for congratulations when he struck it rich over others on the
exchange, and he invariably sought me for consolation when the boys
"upper-cut him hard," as he would put it. Now he never said a word about
his trading. I saw that his account with the house was inactive, that his
balance was about the same as before Miss Sands's advent, and I came to
the conclusion that he was resting on his oars and giving his undivided
attention to her account and the execution of his commissions. His
handling of the business of the house showed no change. He still was the
best broker on the floor. However, knowing Bob as I did, I could not get
it out of my mind that his brain was running like a mill-race in search of
some successful solution to the tremendous problem that must be solved in
the next three months.

Shortly after the October 1st statements had been sent out, Bob dropped
in on Kate and me one night. After she had retired and we had lit our
cigars in the library he said:

"Jim, I want some of that old-fashioned advice of yours. Sugar is selling
at 110, and it is worth it; in fact it is cheap. The stock is well
distributed among investors, not much of it floating round 'the Street.' A
good, big buying movement, well handled, would jump it to 175 and keep it
there. Am I sound?"

I agreed with him.

"All right. Now what reason is there for a good, big, stiff uplift? That
tariff bill is up at Washington. If it goes through, Sugar will be cheaper
at 175 than at 110."

Again I agreed.

"'Standard Oil' and the Sugar people know whether it is going through, for
they control the Senate and the House and can induce the President to be
good. What do you say to that?"

"O.K.," I answered.

"No question about it, is there?"

"Not the slightest."

"Right again. When 26 Broadway[1] gives the secret order to the
Washington boss and he passes it out to the grafters, there will be a
quiet accumulation of the stock, won't there?"

"You've got that right, Bob."

"And the man who first knows when Washington begins to take on Sugar is
the man who should load up quick and rush it up to a high level. If he
does it quickly, the stockholders, who now have it, will get a juicy slice
of the ripening melon, a slice that otherwise would go to those greedy
hypocrites at Washington, who are always publicly proclaiming that they
are there to serve their fellow countrymen, but who never tire of
expressing themselves to their brokers as not being in politics for their
health."

"So far, good reasoning," I commented.

"Jim, the man who first knows when the Senators and Congressmen and
members of the Cabinet begin to buy Sugar, is the man who can kill four
birds with one stone: Win back a part of Judge Sands's stolen fortune;
increase his own pile against the first of January, when, if the little
Virginian lady is short a few hundred thousand of the necessary amount,
he could, if he found a way to induce her to accept it, supply the
deficiency; fatten up a good friend's bank account a million or so, and do
a right good turn for the stockholders who are about to be, for the


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Online LibraryThomas William LawsonFriday, the Thirteenth → online text (page 2 of 11)