The Confessions of Sir Horace Lazenby
BRITTON B. COOKE
SYNOPSIS.-This i8 the stoig of a tiust-maher, told by him8eif. He has traced his experiences from the time that he was secretary to John J. Vandervort, New York railway magnate, through all the vicissitudes of his career in business, to the period when, having assisted in the formation of a Wholesalers' Guild, he is fighting for control with
Aiken, the president, who has tried to squeeze him. In order to throw Aiken off the track and, to give himself an opportunity to complete a plan he has worked out for the overthrow of the unscrupulous president, he pretends to sail from Montreal, for England, but leaves the boat secretly at Quebec, where he remains till Aiken has sailed.
ALL my resources had been strained by the position in which Aiken had forced me. In spite of the
successful advertising campaign put on by our mills, and in spite of the fact that we were selling the better goods, Aiken’s control of the marketing machinery of the Wholesaler’s Guild cut down the volume of our orders to a point where we could barely meet our overhead expenses. The mills were running at a loss. And now was my opportunity !
Aiken had sailed this morning for England, believing I was already there and that the Wholesalers’ Guild was therefore safe from any interference. Within a comparatively few hours he would be out of communication with Montreal—this was in the days before wireless.
When once the hull of the vessel dropped out of sight of the officials at Father Point I could set about my task of putting Aiken where I wanted
The day of waiting in Quebec was the longest I had ever spent, and yet in one respect, a most important day. Weary of the confinement of the room, afraid to take train for Montreal lest I should meet some of Aiken’s friends who might deem it necessary to advise him at Father Point, I strolled at length down into Lower Town and along one of those narrow cobble-paved streets where there is now a single track railway line, and ancient stone shops
with baled hay and other sweet-smelling articles crowding out of their shadowy interiors. Here at least, thought I, I am safe from observation by any of the Aiken crowd.
I was surprised therefore to see approaching me in the secluded street one of the two financial backers of Aiken— Sir Robert Jones. The pompous president of the steel corporation was walking down
the narrow pavement accom panied by a little dusty-looking French-Canadian-_one Percard by name, as I afterward
learned—quite an elderly man, shabbily dressed and seemingly of the habitant class. Yet I observed with what respect Sir Robert treated the little man. He was all attention and all affability. He had no eyes for anything in the street.
O make sure, however, I stepped into one of the open shops, almost stumbling over some baled hay as I did so. It was a dark little interior and apparently untidily kept. Regaining my feet again—for I had almost tripped a second time over a coil of rope, I made my way to the rear of the shop where, in the pale light from a deep-embrasured window, I saw an old man working at a desk. I felt that he expected some sort of explanation for my noisy entry and so I inquired the price of hay.
“Where do you want it delivered?” demanded the little man looking up with sharp, shrewd eyes.
“Why — here — in the city,” I said.
“How much?” he demanded.
“Oh, a—a couple of
“We don’t sell such small quantities,” he said. “Nothing but barge loads, f.o.b. Montreal, or Quebec or Chambly—or any river point.”
“Wholesale?” I exclaimed.
“Wholesale only,” he
returned, bending once more over his books, and drawing down the skull cap that was perched on the back of his head.
This man was, to begin with, the owner of a fleet of St. Lawrence hay
barges. He was also other things. It was there in his shop that I learned one of the secrets of the financial world in Canada. It had been no wonder that I met Sir Robert Jones arm-in-arm with a shabby little Frenchman in this little narrow street in lower town. That shabby man, as I learned from Blondin, the keeper of the shop, or rather the office, in which I had taken refuge, was no less than Jean Baptiste Percard — “the great Jean Baptiste Percard!”
“But who—” I demanded, “Who is Jean Baptiste Percard?”
“Who? You do not know?” My host— for he had turned host and had proffered me a thimble of wine and a seat beside his shabby walnut desk — seemed highly amused. “You mean to tell me,” he said, “that you Upper Canadians do not know? Perhaps you are not acquainted with business?”
“O, yes, I am,” I said, “slightly.”
“And you know him not?” with a sigh. “Well Well!”
, “But who is he?” I persisted.
“He is the richest man in Canada.”
“The richest man in Canada.”
“This Jean Baptiste Percard?”
I PONDERED this for some time while my host drew forth pipe and pouch and proceeded to smoke.
“Do you not know?” he said, “that you are on the richest street in the Dominion of Canada?”
“Pardon me—” I could scarcely refrain from smiling, “but it does not—it is not apparent on the surface? And besides— I thought Sir Robert Jones was the richest man in Canada?”
“Sir Robert?” with a dry chuckle. “He is the poorest of the poor.”
“Jean Baptiste Percard owns him, body and soul.”
“Lends him all the money he has in the world except the money from bond flotations. It is Percard who gives him his personal backing—and when, as now, there is no more money to be borrowed for a while in England or in Boston—it is here that Sir Robert Jones must come.”
Further details of the conversation do not matter. Suffice it that if Jean Baptiste Percard was the richest man in Canada—richest in actual gold—Henri Blondin, the hay shipper to whom I was talking, was the next richest, if not indeed as rich himself. From remarks which Blondin let drop I saw that he was not a member of the group of which Aikin and Jones were members. His interests were opposed to theirs, and he would not be the one to communicate any news of me to any friend of Aiken, even had it occurred to him to do so. I had told him casually my name and something of my business. He seemed interested and that night we dined together at his house, a bachelor affair in one of those quiet streets which one can always picture to oneself but can never find in Quebec without a guide.
Henri Blondin’s life had not been a smooth one. Here was he living out the rest of it and seeking—what I was
able to give him. He had begun life on a rocky farm north of Lac Joseph in the Laurentians behind Quebec. He had moved with his parents to a prosperous hay-farming locality alongside the shores of the St. Lawrence. Year in and year out he helped in the hay harvest and the loading of the picturesque sailing vessels that to this day dawdle up and down the river with the fragrant crops piled high above the deck line, and quaint old mended sails catching the breath of the great river as it slips out to the Gulf. By great economy the parents accumulated a considerable sum of money which the son, when he matured, husbanded. He became the local private banker for the habitants in that vicinity. All the hoardings of his fellows for miles around that prosperous country came to him for investment. And he in turn loaned them out on mortgages in the eastern part of Ontario and in the West, wherever there were French-Canadian farmers. His mortgages were always secure. He co-operated closely with his Church in the handling of funds. But one day one of the railroad group with which Aiken and Sir Robert Jones were allied, came to Blondin for a loan—a big loan ; and Blondin, being tempted, invested accordingly, only to find after some years that he had been played with. There were other claims against the assets of the railroad speculators which would have to be satisfied before the claims of Blondin’s investors. By main strength of will and clever dealing Blondin was able to liquidate most of his holdings but not without loss. This loss he held against the big railroad group. It had not only touched his purse; his reputation as an honest custodian of other people’s money had been in the balance.
When I left Quebec that night for Montreal, careless now whether the Aiken allies found I was still in Canada or not, for Aiken was now out of sight of Father Point, I had made a tentative alliance with Henri Blondin. Here in Quebec where he had embarked in the hay business on wholesale lines, owning and operating a fleet of one hundred shabby but efficient little craft, he had reaccumulated a fortune and had re-established himself as the banker for a large section of his old neighborhood. Not only that but I knew later that he was the financial agent for one of the richest religious organizations in Canada—whose property in various parts of Quebec and outside of Quebec brings in enormous revenue, all of which has to be invested and reinvested by Blondin. I had won the confidence of this financial force. Here, if ever I had a large enough enterprise and a good one, was the backing!
MY immediate business was the Wholesalers’ Guild and the ousting of President Aiken from that position. As I stepped from the train at the Place Viger Station in Montreal everything seemed immeasurably fairer than it had been for many a year. The porters, the cabmen, the morose street car conductors of Montreal—there is no city in which public servants are either so obliging or so disobliging—seemed to fit into my mood. Victory was within my grasp. Before two days were out I would
be ordering my own Guild—for it would be under my control then—to buy goods from my own mills—and Aiken’s mills would go hungry.
At the office of the John Goss Company of Montreal—the parent house of the Wholesalers’ Guild—I was met as usual by the sober old general manager who lent such an air of fair dealing and general respectability to the establishment. I had to ask him who was the secretary of the company—for this office had been disposed of by Aiken along with the orders to his own mills—and was directed to a nervous-eyed clerk in the cashier’s department. He was very obsequious. What could he do for me? A meeting? A meeting of the board! But—he really had no authority. He—.
“Look here, my lad,” I said, for I was in such good humor with myself and with everyone else that no amount of opposition could seriously disturb my rosy prospects, “Don’t let us waste any more time than is necessary. Just look up the bylaws of this corporation and you will see that Mr. Aiken inserted a clause by which a board meeting may be called without notice by the president.”
“But you are not the president?” observed the clerk shrewdly.
“Wrong again,” I said, “You will see 'by the original draft that, whenever the president is not able to attend or is detained, the vice-president is authorized to act in his stead.”
THE clerk bit his finger nails. It was apparent that he was strictly and entirely an Aiken partisan. The situation that had arisen in the absence of his chief was more than he knew how to handle. He made several small objections, then withdrew to a telephone saying he would have to ask the firm’s legal advisor but I stopped him at that. I knew the ways of lawyers. There might be means of getting out injunctions or otherwise impeding the natural course of retribution that was about to fall upon Aiken’s head.
“No you won’t,” I said. “Just come in here with me.” And I led him by the coat lapel into the room we called a board room. “You know as well as I do that as vice-president of this company I bave authority to call this meeting and call it at once. Mr. Aiken has gone to Europe. •He has taken with him his proxies—that is to say he has not issued them to anyone else—and I am for the time being in complete control of this company’s affairs.” “But—” he objected.
“Just listen: granted you can stop me from holding this meeting and doing what I want to do, you are then in a safe enough position and can rely upon Mr. Aiken to reward you handsomely when he comes back. But granted you cannot stop me except by an injunction which would be issued much too late to prevent the meeting—you may be placed in a difficult position—discharged in fact.”
He blinked and swallowed the point.
“I see,” he said. “You’ll fire me—” “Straight as a bee line.”
“Perhaps you can’t get a quorum,” he objected, weakening;
“You and I and those three stoolpigeon directors sitting at yonder desks
have hitherto been quorum enough for Mr. Aiken." "That is true," he said. "Very well-I will call the meeting." "At once." "Yes, sir."
The formalities were few. We five gathered in the board room and I took the president’s chair. The minutes were read—a childish affair—and I called for notices of motion. Failing to elicit any from the clammy-faced lot that sat round the table, I directed the best-looking specimen of the lot to take the chair while I presented a motion.
“I move,” I said, smiling despite myself, “That a general increase in the
salaries of the office staff be approved, this increase to be equivalent to five per cent, of the wages of all men who have been with the company more than a year. Who will second this motion for me?”
“I will,” chorused four voices, including that of the pro tem chairman.
“It is moved—” chanted the chairman, recovering his senses; and recited the motion.
“Contrary? None. I declare the motion carried.”
THE secretary dug his nose into the minute book and wrote feverishly for several minutes while I prepared my next motion.
“I move,” I said, “That the unissued treasury stock of the Wholesalers’
Guild, Limited, amounting to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars be now issued and allotted to purchasers approved by this board.”
“What?” shouted the dummy secretary getting to his feet with a jerk. “Is there any unissued stock?”
“I second it,” piped a wisp of a director at my
“It is moved—” began the chairman again, but he was interrupted.
“But what? What—”
The secretary was on his feet gasping bewilderment.
“Gentlemen,” I said,
“our secretary apparently has overlooked or was not aware of the fact that the
original authorized capital of this company was $300,000 of which only $150,000 was issued. By a clause in our charter and in our by-laws we are authorized to issue the remaining stock. It is now a necessary step—in order—er—that we may enlarge the—scope of the corpora-
“Any contrary?” whined the chairman. “I’m contrary,” declared the secretary. “Those in favor?”
Three hands went up.
“Declare the motion carried,” said the chairman.
HAVING finished his task I relieved him of the chair and closed the meeting after instructing the secretary, who was obviously worried, to order the new shares printed by the Gold Dollar Bank Note Company of Ottawa, and placed in trust with the Reliance Trust Company of Montreal and Toronto, for sale.
“Shall I advertise the stock?” asked the secretary.
“You will not,” I retorted, “but wire to the Bank Note Company at once!”
Three days later I bought, through the Reliance Trust Company of Toronto and
Montreal one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of the newly issued treasury stock of the Wholesalers’ Guild— the entire amount. I now owned practically three-quarters of the stock. Aiken was swamped.
When I had completed the deal I summoned the secretary and told him how matters stood. “Now,” I said, “You know where your loyalty lies.”
“I do indeed, sir,” he murmured pleasantly.
THE war with Aiken was by no means over. Far back in the scant school days I had enjoyed in bleak Garafraxa I could recall occasions when, being for the moment obsessed with extra courage, one of the smaller boys would retort to the local bully with a blow—and flight. The feeling as one took to one’s heels after having committed this sacrilege against the biggest boy, returned to me in lesser degree when, after the memorable board meeting, I went back to the hotel. I was too elated to resume the ordinary thread of existence in the ordinary way. There would be trouble after this—a big war, but for the moment I enjoyed the full taste of victory. Could I eat ordinarily?
Or sit calmly and read a paper? Or gossip idly with an acquaintance? Whatever I did it was merely my outer and habitual self that attended to. My real self was drawing pictures of Aiken, all unconscious of the mischief that had overtaken him, sitting smoking complacently on the deck of the liner as she approached Birkenhead. I had made sure that the news would not reach him there. A little judicious bribing of his former dummies had fixed that. I did not intend that he should charge up all the expenses of the trip to England against the Wholesalers’ Guild without accomplishing the errand that tock him there, a thing he would be sure not to do if he heard what had happened. Aiken would go about the country buying what he thought should be bought, interviewing mill managers and being invited to their houses and their clubs—and all the time a bomb was waiting to explode under him when he returned to Canada! Such a bomb!
OLD HANNY, his face as mild and as innocent as a sleepy tom cat, moved across the rotunda like an amiable locomotive looking for company, reached out a big paw and shook my hand in silence.
“What’s that for?” I demanded.
“What’s that for!” he
“How did you know?”
“How do I know I’m alive?”
“But who—who told you?” I persisted. “Don’t bother me,” he grunted. “Come and have a drink.”
“Can’t do it,” I said.
“A drink would pretty nearly make me drunk just now.”
“Don’t be foolish. Come on. Take mineral water if you like.”
Continued on Page 99.
Continued from Page 33.
Over our drinks we talked.
“You ought t’ celebrate now," counselled Hanny.
“Think I’ll be too busy later?”
“What will follow?”
“Try to upset the legality of the meeting?”
“Oh, no. Can’t do that. Probably sic the Government on you.”
“The same thing I was thinking of doing to him once before! But that would ruin Aiken?”
“No. Aiken might be able to build up again same as you thought of doing. Then again—Aiken has other irons in the fire.”
“Hm!” I was thinking. “I guess it’s up to me to be ready with something on Aiken? Know anything?”
“Wouldn’t tell you if I did.”
“Don’t be nasty.”
“I ain’t nasty. I just don’t know anything. But—if I were you—I’d look into Aiken’s crowd. I hear—” He spoke now with elaborate indifference and with a casual look over both shoulders to make sure no one else in the bar was listening. “I hear that Sir Robert Jones is a great friend of Aiken’s.”
“Mm! I knew that. Jones has loaned Aiken money very freely.”
“Yes—and there’s more than that between them.”
“Thanks,” I said, reading his face. “Get the rejoicing over with soon as y’ can,” growled Hanny and he strolled away with the same amiable appearance of innocence and good nature. “S’ long.” “S’ long, George.”
'T'lPS from the great man of the Canadian Trunk Railway don’t come to one every day in the week. The C.T.R. has ramifications of which outsiders never dream. It is an organization greater than that of the Government, infinitely superior. Its efficiency is higher than the best army ever known. The loyalty of the men who work in that system is more wonderful than would be credited if I merely described it in words. Young men and old men, mechanics and lawyers, salesmen of tickets or freight will, once they have learned the spirit of the road, work like slaves for it. It is inexorable and it may often be tyrannical but it is heroic and men love heroes, especially in the long, flat level of materialistic monotony of ordinary Canadian life. That George Hanny, of the C.T.R., should know what had happened at the meeting of so small a thing as the board of the Wholesalers’ Guild might at an earlier ■ date have staggered me, but I had learned things about Hanny. It was his business and the business of men under him to know what was happening in the world. ¡ He was not a spy. There are no spies in )
the system. But the three thousand employees in the head office alone are three thousand intelligent and alert men and women, each tapping a circle of acquaintanceship, in clubs, in hotels, in workshops, in the parlors of lower class people. If the head of a big wholesale grocery takes to dabbling in politics and is thinking of running for the Provincial Parliament next election—that word comes to the C.T.R., and is docketed with the rest of that man’s record in the mind of some official whose business it is to know about that wholesale grocer. If another road proposes to use lighter steel on a new bridge than has been its practice in the past—the C.T.R. knows of it. I never knew how Hanny heard about the change in the management of the Wholesalers’ Guild. I took pains not to inquire.
' I 'HIS is what I found out about Sir -*■ Robert Jones, head of the second railway financial bund of Montreal. Sir Robert’s last efforts at floating bonds in France — a market which he had been assiduously cultivating of late — had been successful but promised to yield him a bitter crop. He had floated a mere two million dollars for a street railway deal in a Quebec city and the railway had not turned out to be all that Sir Robert had promised it was or would be. Paris was likely to be a hornet’s nest. There would be trouble when the bondholders found out how the earnings of the road stood and how the overhead expenditures had been increased—without any good return. This, in itself was not useful information until öne came to consider the miracle by which Sir Robert had so long been able to keep the true state of affairs from getting out. I hired my Montreal detective once more to help me —I had dismissed Smedden. Through this newspaperman I obtained a list of the shareholders in the street railway company of which Sir Robert was the unhappy president. The chief block was held by Sir Robert in trust for a Montreal monastery. This institution was next in order of wealth to the order whose financial ventures were handled by Blondin. The agent for the order was no other than the richest man in Canada—the little Frenchman Percard, whom I had seen so obsequiously treated by Sir Robert Jones the day I escaped him by hiding in Blondin’s office. It was through Percard that Jones was able to muffle all questions and suppress the facts as to the earnings of the street railway. Here was real material of war. I could silence Aiken by making a feint—or a real thrust for that matter at his big chief Jones.
HANNY grunted and chuckled when I told him.
“Hu-hu!” he said. “I ran across that little matter once—when we were afraid Sir Bob was going to ask for more favors from the Government at Ottawa than we thought were in the interests of the country. Go to it, Lazenby. More strength to your arm.”
I went to Quebec and saw little Blondin. This time he dined with me and afterward we played billiards with friends of his in the Garrison Club. Billiards over, Blondin and I talked business. I outlined
the case of the electric railway and asked him what would happen if Percard were given a hint of the true situation.
“Ah!” sighed Blondin. “The thought is quite too unkind. I cannot imagine it. It would be very sad. Very distressing.” “Then my gun is loaded? Eh?” “Cruelly so, m’sieu’.”
SINCE my Toronto house was still closed and I had no need to be there, thanks to the efficient management of the Bradbury’s, I occupied a desk in the Wholesalers’ Guild headquarters and took an active part in the conduct of its affairs. The next lot of orders for knitted goods was already being prepared and would go to my mills—not Aiken’s. I had everything ready for Aiken. I was not afraid.
On Monday his vessel was reported at Father Point. Wednesday morning I was early at the office. Wednesday noon brought Aiken.
“Ah!” he said, espying me in the office and coming forward. “How do you do? Back early, you are?” He seemed a little anxious.
“I didn’t go.” I answered, easily. “I sailed you know—but was called back from Quebec. Had to send the family on
“Eh?” he cried.
But I did not repeat the information. He had heard it the first time. He was merely gaining time to collect his senses. And he did it, I must say, admirably. All that escaped him was:
“Ah!” And he proceeded to clear his papers out of the big desk. “So—” he said as he seemed about ready to go, “You —you have had a board meeting?”
“We decided it would be necessary to issue the balance of the authorized capital. I bought the $150,000 of treasury stock. Of course if you had wished any—” “Unissued stock!” he cried. Was there—oh!”
“Possibly you forgot that our original charter authorized a $300,000 capital?” “Phew!” He seemed dazed. “So that was the particular method?”
“It was deemed—advisable,” I said. “Hm! Well by Gad, we shall see! We shall see!”
He went out. There was fight in his eyes. I found myself rather hastily thinking over the weapons I had ready for him when he made his counter attack. They were staunch enough.
To Be Continued.