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LOT & COMPANY

MANUFACTURERS



OF CALIF. LIBRARY. LOS ANGELES



LOT & COMPANY



BY WILL LEVINGTON COMFORT



LOT & COMPANY
RED FLEECE
MIDSTREAM
DOWN AMONG MEN
FATHERLAND



GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
NEW YORK




BY



AUTHOR OF "RED FLEECE," "MIDSTREAM," "DOWN AMONG

MEN," "ROUTLEDGE RIDES ALONE,"

ETC., ETC.




NEW YORK

GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



UNIV. OF CALIF. LIBRARY. LOS ANGELES



Copyright, 1915,
BY GEORGE H. DOKAN COMPANY



TO

JANE



2125820



CONTENTS

PART ONE
THE JADE: I n

PART TWO
LOT & COMPANY: I , . . . . 21

PART THREE
THE JADE: II , . . . . 67

PART FOUR
THE OPEN BOAT 107

PART FIVE
THE STONE HOUSE: I 197

PART SIX
LOT & COMPANY : II 241

PART SEVEN
THE STONE HOUSE: II 321



PART ONE: THE JADE: I



PART ONE
THE JADE: I



ALL would have happened differently for
Bellair had he been drowsy as usual
on this particular Sunday afternoon.
The boarding-house was preparing for
its nap; indeed already half enveloped, but there
came to Bellair s nostrils a smell of carpets that
brought back his first passage up stairs five years
before. The halls were filled with greys dull
tones that drove him forth at last. It was No
vember, and the day didn t know what to do
next. Gusts of seasonable wind, wisps of sun
shine, threats of rain, and everywhere Bellair s
old enemy the terrifying Sabbath calm, with
out which the naked granite soul of New York
would remain decently hid. Sundays had tor
tured him from the beginning. It was not so
bad when the garment was on the weave of
millions.

[11]



LOT & COMPANY



He walked east with an umbrella, thinking
more than observing, crossed to Brooklyn and
followed the water-front as closely as the com
plication of ferries, pier-systems and general ship
ping would permit. Finally he came to a wooden
arch, marked Hatmos & Company, the gate of
which was open. Entering, he heard the water
slapping the piles beneath, his eyes held in fasci
nation to an activity ahead. In the wonder of
a dream, he realised that this was a sailing-ship
putting forth. On her black stern, he read

Jade of Adelaide

printed in blue of worn pigment.

A barkentine, her clipper-built hull of steel,
her lines satisfying like the return of a friend
after years. Along the water-line shone the bright
edge of her copper sheathing; then a soft black
line smooth as modelled clay where she muscled
out for sea-worth, and covered her displacement
in the daring beauty of contour. Still above was
the shining brass of her row of ports on a ground
of weathered grey, and the dull red of her rail.
Over all, and that which quickened the ardour of
Bell air s soul, was the mystery of her wire rig
ging and folded cloths against the smoky horizon,
exquisite as the frame of a butterfly to his fancy.

His emotion is not to be explained ; nor another
high moment of his life which had to do with a
flashing merchantman seen from the water-front

[12]



THE JADE: i

at San Francisco square-rigged throughout, a
cloud of sail-cloth, her royals yet to be lifted, as
she got underweigh. He knew that considerable
canvas was still spread between California,
Australia and the Islands, but what a well-kept
if ancient maiden of the Jade s species was doing
here in New York harbour, A. D. Nineteen hun
dred and odd, was not disclosed to Bellair until
afterward, and not clearly then.

He knew her for a barkentine, and in the in
tensely personal appeal of the moment he was a
bit sorry for the blend. To his eyes the schooner-
rig of mizzen and main masts was not to be
compared for beauty to the trisected fore. Still
he reflected that square-rigged throughout, she
would be crowded with crew to care for her, and
that her concession to trade was at least not out
right. Schooner, bark and brig he seemed to
know them first hand, not only from pictures and
pages of print, though there had been many long
evenings of half-dream with books before him
books that always pushed back impatiently
through the years of upstart Steam into Nature s
own navigation, where Romance has put on her
brave true form in the long perspective. Ships
that really sailed were one of Bellair s passions,
like orchards and vined stone-work all far from
him apparently and out of the question loved
the more because of it. ... He watched with
rapt eyes now, estimated the Jade s length at

[13]



LOT & COMPANY



one-seventy-five and was debating her tonnage
when a huge ox of a man appeared from the
cabin (while the Jade slid farther out), wad
dled aft as if bare-footed, spoke to an officer
there, and then held up two brown hairy, thick-
fingered hands, palms extended to the pier as if
to push Brooklyn from him forever. . . . The
officer s voice just reached shore, but not his
words. A Japanese woman appeared on the
receding deck.

"Jade of Adelaide" muttered Bellair, moments
afterward.

A tug was towing her straight toward Staten.
He thought of her lying off the glistening white
beach of a coral island two months hence, sur
rounded by native craft, all hands helping the
big man get ashore. ... At this moment a young
man emerged from the harbour-front door of the
Hatmos office, locking it after him. Bellair came
up from his dream. Such realities of the city man
are mainly secret. It was the worn surface that
Bellair presented to the stranger, a sophisticated
and imperturbable surface, and one employed so
often that its novelty was gone.

"Where s she going*?" he asked.

"Who?

Bellair smiled at the facetiousness.

"The Jade" he said gently.

"Just as far from here as she can get."

"Round the world?"

[14]



THE JADE: i

"I doubt if she ll come back."

"You don t see many of them any more "

"No," replied the other agreeably enough, "this
old dame and two or three sisters are about all
that call here. Hatmos & Co. get em all."

"Will you have a little drink? Bellair in
quired. "That is, if you know a place around
here. I m from across."

The other was not unwilling. They walked
up the pier together. A place was found.

"Does the Jade belong to the Hatmos people?"
Bellair asked.

"No. We re agents for Stackhouse. By the
way, he s aboard the Jade just left the office a
half hour ago. The Hatmos son and heir went
home in a cab, like his father used to, when
Stackhouse blew in from the South Seas "

"The big man who stood aft as the ship
cleared?" Bellair suggested.

"Hairy neck clothes look like pajamas?"

"Yes."

"That must have been Stackhouse. He s the
biggest man in Peloponasia "

Bellair wondered if he meant Polynesia. "You
mean in size?"

"Possibly that, but I meant interests. Owns
whole islands and steam-fleets, but hates steam.
Does his pleasure riding under canvas. Comes
up to New York every third year with a new
Japanese wife. Used to spend his time drinking

[15]



LOT & COMPANY



with old Hatmos now he s trying to kill off
the younger generation. Lives at the Florimel
while in New York, and teaches the dago bar-
boys how to make tropical drinks. If he had
stayed longer, he would have got to me. Young
Hatmos is about finished."

Bellair breathed deeply, strangely alive.
"Where does the Jade call first after leaving
here?"

"Savannah then one or two South American
ports then around the Horn and the long up
beat to the Islands."

"Why, that might mean four months." Bellair
spoke with a touch of wistfulness.

They emerged to the street at length, and the
New Yorker started shyly back to the pier. The
Hatmos man laughed.

"You fall for the sailing-stuff, don t you?"

"Yes, it s got me. Do they take passengers?"

"Sure, if you re in no hurry. Here and there,
some one like you just for the voyage. Two
or three on board from here. . . . One a preacher.
He d better look out. Stackhouse hates to drink
alone."

"Thanks. Good-bye."

The Jade, far and very little among the liners,
had turned south to the Narrows and was spread
ing her wings. . . . The world began to shut
Bellair in, as he crossed the river again. Sunday
night supper at the boarding-house was always a
[16]



THE JADE: i

dismal affair; by every manner and means it was
so to-night. The chorus woman of the Hippo
drome was bolting ahead of the bell, to hurry
away to rehearsal. Nightly she came up out
of the water. . . . He tried three sea-books that
night "Lady Letty," "Lord Jim" and "The
Phantom," but couldn t get caught in their old
spell. A new and personal dimension was upon
him from the afternoon. He fell to dreaming
again and again of the Jade the last misty
glimpse of her at the Narrows, and the huge
brown hands pushing Brooklyn away. . . .
There is pathos in the city man s love and need
for fresh air. Bellair pulled his bed to the win
dow at last, surveying the room without regard.
Long afterward he dreamed that he was out on
the heaving floor of the sea, and that a man-
monster came down from the deck in pajamas, and
pressing his hands against the walls of the cabin,
made respiration next to impossible for the in
mate. There was a key to this suffocation, for
the air in his room was still as a pool. A lull
had fallen upon the city before a gusty storm of
wind and rain.



PART TWO: LOT & COMPANY: I



PART TWO
LOT & COMPANY: I



BELLAIR regarded himself as an average
man; and after all perhaps this was the
most significant thing about him. He
was not average to look at the face
of a student and profoundly kind and yet, he
had moved in binding routine for five years
that they knew of at Lot & Company s. His
acquaintances were of the average type. He did
not criticise them ; you would not have known that
he saw them with something of the same sorrow
that he regarded himself.

Back of this five years was an Unknowable.
Had you possessed exactly the perception you
might have caught a glimpse of some extraordinary
culture that comes from life in the older lands, and
personal contacts with deeper evils the culture
of the great drifters, the inimitable polish of roll
ing stones. As a usual thing he would not have

[21]



LOT & COMPANY



shown you any of this. At Lot & Company s
offices, men had moved and talked and lunched
near and with him for years without uncovering
a gleam of a certain superb equipment for life
which really existed in a darkened room of his
being.

Perhaps he was still in preparation. We have
not really completed the circle of any accomplish
ment until we have put it in action. Certainly
Bellair had not done that, since the Unknowable
ended. He had made no great friends among men
or women; though almost thirty, he had met no
stirring love affair, at least in this period. He
had done the most common duties of trade, for
a common reward in cash; lived in a common
house moved in crowds of common men and
affairs. It was as if he were a spy, trained from
a child, but commanded at the very beginning
of his manhood, not only to toil and serve in
an insignificant post but to be insignificant as
well. It was by accident, for instance, that they
discovered at Lot & Company s that Bellair was
schooled in the Sanscrit.

Before usual he was astir that Monday morn
ing, but late at the office for all that. A drop
of consciousness somewhere between shoe-buttons,
and a similar trance between collar and tie. In
these lapses a half hour was lost, and queerly
enough afterward the old purports of his life
did not hold together as before. A new breath

[22]



LOT & COMPANY: i

from somewhere, a difference in vitality, and the
hum-drum, worn-sore consciousness given to his
work with Lot & Company, had become like an
obscene relative, to be rid of, even at the price
of dollars and the established order of things.
It had been very clear as he drank his coffee that
he must give quit-notice at the office, yet when
he reached there, this was not so easy, and he
was presently at work as usual in his cage with
Mr. Sproxley, the cashier.

The Quaker firm of Lot & Company was essen
tially a printing establishment. During the first
half of the period in which Bellair had been con
nected, though he was not stupider than usual, he
had not realised the crooked weave of the entire
inner fabric of the house. Lot & Company had
been established for seventy-five years and through
three generations. Its conduct was ordered now
like a process of nature, a systematised tone to
each surface manner and expression. All the de
partments were strained and deformed to meet
and adjust in the larger current of profit which the
cashier had somehow bridged without scandal for
twenty-seven years. Personally, so far as Bellair
knew, Mr. Sproxley was an honest man, though
not exactly of the manner, and underpaid.

The cashier s eyes were black, a black that
would burn you, and unquestionably furtive, al
though Bellair sat for two years at a little dis
tance from the cashier s desk before he accepted

[23]



LOT & COMPANY



the furtiveness, so deeply laid and set and hard
ened were his first impressions. They were
hard eyes as well, like that anthracite which
retains its gleaming black edge, though the side to
the draft is red to the core.

Mr. Sproxley s home was in Brooklyn, an
hour s ride from the office a little flat in a street
of little flats, all with the same porches, brick
work and rusty numerals. An apartment for two,
and yet Mr. and Mrs. Sproxley had not moved,
though five black-eyed children had come to them.
The cashier of Lot & Company was a stationary
man that was his first asset. ... A hundred
times Bellair had heard the old formula, delivered
by firm members to some caller at the office:

"This is our cashier, Mr. Sproxley. He has
been with us twenty-seven years. We have found
him the soul of honour" the last trailing off into
a whisper a hundred times in almost the same
words, for the Lots and the Wetherbees bred true.
The visitor would be drawn off and confidently
informed that Mr. Sproxley would die rather than
leave a penny unaccounted; indeed, that his zeal
on the small as well as large affairs was frequently
a disturbance to the office generally, since every
thing stopped until the balance swung free. Bel-
lair knew of this confidential supplement to the
main form, because he had taken it into his own
pores on an early day of his employment. The
lift of that first talk (in Bellair s case it was from

[24]



LOT & COMPANY: r



the elder Wetherbee, an occasional Thee and
Thou escaping with unworldly felicity) was for
Bellair sometime to attain a similar rock-bound
austerity of honour. . . . Always the stranger
glanced a second time at Mr. Sproxley during the
firm-member s low-voiced affirmation of his pas
sionate integrity.

Passing to the second floor, the visitor would
meet Mr. Hardburg, head of the manuscript and
periodical department, for Lot & Company had
found a good business in publishing books of story
and poetry at the author s expense. Here eye
and judgment reigned, Mr. Hardburg s, on all
matters of book-dress and criticism; yet within
six or seven minutes, the formula would break
through for the attention of the caller, thus :

"Lot & Company is a conservative House :
that s why it stands a House, sir (one felt the
Capital), that has stood for seventy-five years
on a basis of honour and fair dealing, if on a con
servative basis. Lot & Company stands by its
agents and employes first and last. Lot & Com
pany does not plunge, but over any given period
of time, its progress is apparent and its policy
significantly successful."

Mr. Hardburg s eyes kindled as he spoke grey
tired eyes, not at all like Mr. Sproxley s but the
light waned, and Mr. Hardburg quickly relapsed
into ennui and complaint, for he was a living
sick man. The impression one drew from his

[25]



LOT & COMPANY

earlier years, was that he had overstrained as an
athlete, and been a bit loose and undone ever
since. . . , Now Mr. Hardburg would be called
away for a moment, leaving the stranger in the
office with Miss Rinderley, his assistant. With
fluent and well directed sentences, this lady would
outline the triumphs of Mr. Hardburg from col
lege to the mastery of criticism which he was now
granted professionally.

"But what we love best about him," Miss
Rinderley would say, glancing at the enlarged
photograph above his desk, "is the tireless way
he helps young men. Always he is at that. I
have seen him talk here for an hour when the
most pressing matters of criticism and editorial
responsibility called literally giving himself to
some one needing help. Very likely he would
miss his train for the country. Poor Mr. Hard
burg, he needs his rest so "

The caller would cry in his heart, "What a
superb old institution this is !" and cover his own
weaknesses and shortcomings in a further sheath
of mannerism and appreciation the entire atmos
phere strangely prevailing to help one to stifle
rather than to ventilate his real points of view.

So the establishment moved. The groups of
girls going up and down the back stairs to count
or tie or paste through all their interesting days
counted the heads of their respective departments
as their greatest men; spoke of them in awed

[26]



LOT & COMPANY: i



whispers, in certain cases with maternal affection,
and on occasion even with playful intimacy on
the part of a few but always as a master-
workman, the best man in the business, who ex
pressed the poorest part of himself in words, and
had to be lived with for years adequately to be
appreciated and understood.

Mr. Nathan Lot, the present head of the firm,
was a dreamer. It was Mr. Sproxley who had
first told Bellair this, but he heard it frequently
afterward, came to recognise it as the accepted
initial saying as regarded the Head, just as his
impeccable honour was Mr. Sproxley s and un
erring critical instinct Mr. Hardburg s titular
association. Mr. Nathan was the least quarrel
some man anywhere, the quietest and the gentlest
a small bloodless man of fifty, aloof from busi
ness; a man who had worn and tested himself so
little that you would imagine him destined to live
as long again, except for the lugubrious atmos
pheres around his desk, in the morning especially,
the sense of imperfect ventilation, though the par
titions were but half-high to the lower floor and
there was a thousand feet to draw from. The
same was beginning in Jabez, the son, something
pent, non-assimilation somewhere. However
Jabez wasn t a dreamer; at least, dreaming had
not become his identifying proclivity. He was
a head taller than his father with a wide limp
mouth and small expressionless brown eyes

[27]



LOT & COMPANY



twenty-seven, and almost as many times a mil
lionaire.

Jabez was richer than his father, who was the
direct heir of the House of Lot, but his father s
dreaming had complicated the flow of another
huge fortune in the familiar domestic fashion -
iJabez being the symbol and centre of the com
bination; also the future head of the House of
Lot and Company up and down town.

Bellair wondered a long time what the per
vading dream of the father was. He had been
in the office many months, had never heard the
senior-mind give vent to authoritative saying in
finance, literature, science or prints; and while this
did not lower his estimate at all he was sin
cerely eager to get at the sleeping force of this
giant. Mr. Sproxley spoke long on the subject,
but did not know. Mr. Hardburg said :

"I have been associated with Mr. Nathan for
eleven years now. The appeal of his worth is
not eager and insinuating, but I have this to say
that in eleven years I have found myself slip
ping, slipping into a mysterious, a different re
gard, a profounder friendliness if one might put
it that way for Mr. Nathan, than any I have
known in my whole career. The fact is I love
Mr. Nathan. He is one of the sweetest spirits
I ever knew."

Bellair was interested in dreamers ; had a theory
that dreaming was important. When he heard
[28]



LOT & COMPANY: i

that a certain child was inclined to dreaming, he
was apt to promise a significant future off-hand.
He reflected that even Mr. Hardburg had for
gotten to tell him of the tendency in Mr. Nathan s
case, but determined not to give up. . . . Once
in the lower part of the city, he passed the firm-
head a studious little man making his way along
at the edge of the walk. Bellair spoke before he
thought. Mr. Nathan started up in a dazed way,
appeared to recognise him with difficulty, as if
there was something in the face that the hat made
different. He cleared his voice and inquired with
embarrassment :

"Are you going to the store?"

After Bellair had ceased to regret speaking, he
reflected upon the word "store." The president
of a great manufacturing plant, content to be
known as a tradesman an excellent, a Quaker
simplicity about that.

Bellair s particular friend in the establishment
was Broadwell of the advertising-desk, a young
man of his own age who was improving himself
evenings and who aspired to be a publisher. But
even closer to his heart was Davy Acton, one of
the office-boys, who had been tested out and was
not a liar. A sincere sad-faced lad of fifteen, who
lived with his mother somewhere away down
town. He looked up to Bellair as to a man among
men, one who had achieved. This was hard to
bear on the man s part, but he was fond of the

[29]



LOT & COMPANY

youngster and often had him over Sundays, fur
nishing books of his own and recommending
others. Davy believed in him. This was the
sensation.

The only voices that were ever raised in the
establishment were those of the travelling sales
men. The chief of this department, Mr. Rawter,
was loud-voiced in his joviality. That was his
word "Mr. Rawter is so jovial."

When the roaring joviality of Mr. Rawter
boomed through the lower floor, old Mr. Wether-
bee, the vice-president, would look up from his
desk, and remark quietly to any one who happened
near, "Mr. Rawter is forced to meet the trade,
you know." It was doubtless his gentle Quaker
conception that wine-lists, back-slapping and
whole-souled abandonment of to-morrow, were
essentials of the road and trade affiliation. From
the rear of the main floor, back among the piles
of stock, reverberating among great square monu
ments of ledgers and pamphlets were the jovial
voices of the other salesmen, Mr. Rawter s sec
onds, the Middle-west man, and the Coast-and-
South man voices slightly muffled, as became
their station, but regular in joviality, and doubt
less as boom-compelling afield as their chief s,
considering their years.

Otherwise the elder Mr. Wetherbee Mr. Seth
presided over a distinguished silence for the
main. His desk was open to the floor at large.

[30]



LOT & COMPANY: i



He was seventy, and one of the first to arrive in
the morning a vice-president who opened the
mail, and had in expert scrutiny such matters as
employment, salaries, orders and expenses of the
travelling men on the road. Mr. Seth was not a
dreamer; at least not on week-days a million
aire, who gave you the impression that he was
constantly on his guard lest his heart-quality
should suddenly ruin all. The love, the very
ardour of his soul was to give away to dissipate
the fortunes of his own and the firm-members, but
so successfully had he fought all his life on the
basis of considering the justice to his family and
his firm, that Lot & Company now relied upon
him, undoubting. Thus often a man born
with weakness develops it into his particular
strength. . . .

The son, Eben Wetherbee, was harder for Bel-
lair to designate. He seemed a different force,
and called forth secret regard. A religious young
man, who always occurred to Bellair s mind as he
had once seen him, crossing the Square a summer
evening, a book under his arm, his short steps
lifted and queerly rounded, as if treading a low-
geared sprocket; toes straight out the whole gait
mincing a little. Eben was smileless and a great
worker. He had no more to do or say with his
father during working hours than any of the
others.

Such was the firm: Mr. Nathan Lot and his

[31]



LOT & COMPANY

son Jabez ; Mr. Seth Wetherbee and his son Eben,
and Mr. Rawter who had been given a nominal
quantity of stock after thirty-five years service.
In due course Mr. Sproxley would qualify for
this illumination. . . . And yet not all. Staring
down from the arch over the president s door
was a dour, white, big-chinned face, done in oils
long ago almost yellow- white, the black shoul
der deadening away into the background; small


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