FRIDAY, the 13th; I thought as much. If Bob has started, there will be hell, but I will see what I can do.”
The sound of my voice, as I dropped the receiver, seemed to part the mists of five years and usher me into the world of Then as though it had never passed on.
I had been sitting at my desk, letting the tape slide through my fingers while its every yard spelled “panic” in a constantly rising voice, when they told me that Brownley on the floor of the Exchange wanted me at the phone, and “quick.” Brownley was our junior partner and floorman. He talked with a rush. Stock Exchange floor men in panics never let their speech hobble.
“Mr. Randolph, it’s coming real hot here, and it’s getting fiercer every second. It’s Bob—that is evident to all. If he keeps up this pace for twenty minutes longer, the sulfur will overflow ‘the Street’ and get into the banks and into the country, and no man can tell how much territory will be burned over by to-morrow. The boys have begged me to ask you to throw yourself into the gap and stay him. They agree you are the only one who can do it."
“Are you sure, Fred, that this is Bob’s work?” I asked. “Have you 'seen him?”
“Yes, I have just come from his office, and glad I was to get out. He’s on the war-path, Mr. Randolph—uglier than I ever saw him. The last time he broke loose was child’s play to his mood to-day. Mother sent me word this morning that she saw last night the spell was coming. He had been up to see her to get her to run down to Florida with him, and she felt he was trying to flee the shadow. She was too ill to leave the house. Also I heard of his being about town till long after midnight. The minute I opened his den door this morning, he flew at me like a panther. I told him I had only dropped in on my rounds for an order, as they were running off pretty smart, and I didn’t know but he might like to pick up some bargains. ‘Bargains’ he yelled; ‘don’t you know the day? Don’t you know it is Friday, the 13th? Go back to that hell-pit and sell, sell, sell.’ ‘Sell what and how much?’ I asked. ‘Anything, everything. Give the thieves every share they will take and when they won’t take any more, ram as much again down their crops until they spit up all they have been taking for the last six months!’ Going out I met Jim Holliday and Frank Swan rushing in. They are evidently executing Bob’s orders, and have been pouring shares out for an hour. They will be on the floor again in a few minutes, so I thought it safer to call you before I started to sell. Mr. Randolph, they cannot take much more of anything in here, and if I begin to throw shares over it will bring the gavel inside of ten minutes; and that will be to announce a dozen failures. It’s yet twenty minutes to one and God only knows what will happen before three. It’s up to you, Mr. Randolph, to do something, and unless I am on a bad slant, you haven’t many minutes to lose.”
It was then I dropped the receiver with "I thought as much!" As I had been sliding the tape through my fingers, watching five and ten millions crumbling from price values every few minutes, I had felt this was the work of Bob Brownley. No one else in Wall street had the power, the nerve, and the devilish cruelty to rip things as had been done during the last twenty minutes. The night before I had passed Bob in the theatre lobby, and, receiving no answer to my “Good evening,” I gave him close scrutiny and saw the look of which I of all men best knew the meaning. The big brown eyes were set on space; the outer corners of the handsome mouth were drawn hard and tense as though weighted. It was then impossible to follow him, but when I got home I called up his house and his clubs, intending to ask him to run up and smoke a cigar with me, but could locate him nowhere. He had slipped my mind in the morning, but when just before noon the tape began to jump and flash and snarl, I remembered Bob’s ugly mood, and all it meant.
Fred Brownley was Bob’s youngest brother, twelve years his junior. He had been with Randolph & Randolph from the day he left college, and for over a year had been our most trusted Stock Exchange man. The elder Brownley, when himself, was as fond of his “baby brother,” as he called him, as his beautiful Southern mother was of both, but when the devil had possession of Bob—and his option during the past five years had been exercised many a time—mother and brother had to take their place with all the rest of the world, for then Bob knew no kindred no friends. All the wide world was to him during those periods a jungle peopled with savage animals and reptiles to hunt and fight and tear and kill.
It’s hardly necessary for me to explain who Randolph & Randolph are. For more than sixty years the name has spoken for itself in every part of the world where dollar-making machines are installed. No railroad is financed, no great “industrial” projected, no nation on the globe enters the market for loans without by force of habit asking a by-your-leave of Randolph & Randolph. I pride myself that at forty-two at the end of the ten years I have had the helm of Randolph & Randolph, I have done nothing to mar the great name my father and uncle created, but something to add to its sterling reputation for honest dealing, fearless, old-fashioned methods, and all-round integrity. Bradstreet’s and other mercantile agencies say, in reporting Randolph & Randolph, “Worth fifty millions and upwards, credit unlimited.” I can take but small praise for this, for the report was about the same the day I left college and came to the office to “learn the business.” But, as the survivor of my great father and uncle, I can say, my Maker as my witness, that Randolph & Randolph have never loaned a dollar of their millions at over legal rates, six per cent, per annum; have never added to their hoard by any but fair, square business methods; and that blight of blights, frenzied finance, has yet to find a lodging-place beneath the old black-and-gold sign that father and uncle tacked up with their own hands over the entrance.
Nineteen years ago I was graduated from Harvard. My classmate and chum, Bob Brownley, of Richmond, Va., was graduated with me. He was class poet, I yard marshal. We had been four years together at St. Paul previous to entering Harvard. No girl and lover were fonder than we of each other.
My people had money, and to spare, and with it a hard-headed, Northern horse-sense. The Brownleys were poor as church mice, but they had the brilliant, virile blood of the old Southern oligarchy and the romantic, “salaam-to-no-one” Dixie-land pride of before-the-war days, when Southern prodigality and hospitality were found wherever women were fair and men’s mirrors in the bottom of their julep-glasses.
Bob’s father, one of the big, white pillars of Southern aristocracy, had gone through Congress and the Senate of his country to the tune of “Spend and not spare,” which left his widow and three younger daughters and a small son dependent upon Bob, his eldest.
Many a warm summer’s afternoon, as Bob and I paddled down the Charles, and many a cold, crispy night as we sat in my shooting-box on the Cape Cod shore, had we matched up for our future. I was to have the inside run of the great banking business of Randolph & Randolph, and Bob was eventually to represent my father’s firm on the floor of the Stock Exchange. “I’d die in an office,” Bob used to say, “and the floor of the Stock Exchange is just the chimney-place to cook my hoe-cake in.” So when our college days were over my able old father stood us up against the wall in his office, and tried us by his tests, and proud we both were when dad said, “Jim, you and Bob have chosen well. You, Jim, are just the chap to step into my shoes, and Bob is cut to a thirty-second and sixty-fourth for the floor.” Proud we were, not so much because of what my father’s decision meant for our future, for we knew we should get into the business all right, but because our judgment was indorsed by one we both thought as near infallible as man could be in anything pertaining to business affairs.
Bob was then twenty-two and I was a year older—I one of your rawboned New England lads, not much for prettiness, but willing to weigh in race-day with any of them for steadiness and staying qualities; Bob as handsome as they made them; six feet tall in his gym. sandals, straight as an arrow, with the form of an Indian, and one of those clean, brave, smiling faces to which men yield willing friendliness, and women, idolatry. Bob’s eyes were as big and round and purple-brown as an English bulldog’s, unfathomable, at once mild and stern, with a childish come-and-go perplexity; his nose as straight as though chiseled by a master for a Greek medallion, with thin curved lips to correspond, and a high, broad forehead, whose whiteness was set off by a luxuriance of hair that seemed jet-black, but was of the same rare purple-brown as his eyes. But it was the poise of Bob’s head that gave his good looks their crown. Whoever has seen a bunch of two-year-old colts in a long-grass Kentucky paddock, when the darky boy lets loose his shrill whistle at “taking-up time,” is sure to remember one that threw up its head and kept it poised to make sure it had caught the call. Grace, strength, and unharnessed wayward leadership are there personified.
Some such suggestion was ever in the carriage of Bob’s shapely head and vigorous figure, and dull indeed would be the man or woman who failed to recognize the man’s rare distinction and masterfulness.
Indeed, as I said a bit back, Bob Brownley was by all odds one of the handsomest men I have ever seen, but besides that, he was a sterling, manly, unaffected fellow, as true as steel, as brave as a lion, and the best comrade friend ever had.
Perhaps it was because his father’s death had saddled Bob’s youth with the heavy responsibilities of husbanding and directing his family’s slim finances that he took to business as a swallow to the air. We entered the office of Randolph & Randolph on the same day, and on its anniversary, a year later, my father summoned us into his office for a palaver. Neither of us quite knew what was coming, and never in my life was I so pleased as when he said:
“Jim, you and Bob have fairly outdone my expectations. I’ve had my eye on both of you and I want you to know that the kind of industry and business intelligence you have shown here would have won you recognition in any banking-house on ‘the Street.’ I want you both in the firm—Jim to learn his way round so! he can step into my shoes; you, Bob, to take the firm’s seat on the Stock Exchange.”
Bob’s face went red and then pale with happiness as he reached for my father’s hand.
“I’m very grateful to you, sir, far more so than words can say, but I want to talk this proposition of yours over with Jim here first, He knows me better than any one else in the world and I’ve some ideas I’d like to thrash out with him.”
“Speak up here, Bob,” said my father.
“Well, sir, I should feel much better if I could go over there into the swirl and smash it out for myself. You see if I could win out alone and pay back the seat price, and then make a pile for myself, if you felt later like giving me another chance to come into the firm, then I should not be laying myself open to the charge of being a mere pensioner on your friendship. You know what I mean, sir, and won’t think I am filled with any low-down pride, but if yon will let me have the price of a Stock Exchange seat on my note, and will give me the chance, when I get the hang of the ropes, to handle some of the firm’s orders, I shall be just as much beholden to you and Jim, sir, and shall feel a lot better myself.”
I knew what Brownley meant; so did father, and we were glad enough to do what he asked. Four years after Bob entered the Stock Exchange he had paid back the forty thousand, with interest, and not only had a snug fifty thousand to his credit on Randolph & Randolph’s books, but was sending home six thousand a year while living up to, as he jokingly put it, “an honest man’s notch.” I may say, in passing, that a Wall Street man’s notch would make twice six thousand cast an uncertain shadow. Bob was the favorite of the Exchange, as he had been the pet at school and at college, and had his hands full of business three hundred days in the year. Besides Randolph & Randolph’s choicest commissions, he had the confidential orders of two of the heavy plunging cliques.
I had just passed my thirty-second birthday when the kind old dad suddenly died. For the previous six years I had been getting ready for such an event; that is, I had grown accustomed to hearing my father say: “Jim, don’t let any grass grow in getting the hang of every branch of our business, so that when anything happens to me there will be no disturbance in ‘the Street’ in regard to the Randolph & Randolph’s affairs. I want to let the world know as soon as possible that after I am gone our business will run as it always has. So I will work you into my directorships in those companies where we have interests and gradually put you into my different trusteeships.’’
Thus at father’s death there was not a ripple in our affairs and none of the stocks known as “The Randolph’s” fluttered a point because of that, to the financial world, momentous event. I inherited all of father’s fortune other than four millions, which he divided up among relatives and pet charities, and took command of a business that gave me an income of two millions and a half a year.
Once more I begged Bob to come into the firm.
“Not yet, Jim,” he replied. “I’ve got my seat and about a hundred thousand capital, and I want to feel that I’m free to kick my heels until I have raked together an even million all of my own making; then I’ll settle down with you, old man, and hold my section of the bag, and if some good girl happens along about that time—well, then it will be ‘An ivy-covered little cot’ for mine.’’
He laughed, and I laughed too. Bob was looked upon by all his friends as a bad case of woman-shy. I don’t think there was ever a woman, young or old, who had in any way crossed Bob’s orbit but felt the man’s strong fascination, but he never seemed to see it. As my wife—for I had been three years married and had two little Randolphs to show that both Katherine Blair and I knew what marriage was for—never tired of saying, “Poor Bob! He’s woman-blind, and it looks as though he would never get his sight in that direction.”
“Then again, Jim,” he continued in a tone of great seriousness, “there’s a little secret I have never let even you into. The truth is I am not safe yet—not safe to speak for the old house of Randolph & Randolph. Yes, you may laugh—you who are, and always have been, as staunch and steady as the old bronze John Harvard in the yard, you who know Monday mornings just what you are going to do Saturday nights and all the days and nights in between, and who always do it. Jim, I have found since I have been over on the floor that the Southern gambling blood that made my grandfather, on one of his trips back from New York, though he had more land and slaves than he could use, stake his land and slaves—yes, and grandmother’s too—on a card-game, and—lose, and change the whole face of the Brownley destiny—those same gambling microbes are in my blood, and when they begin to claw and gnaw I want to do something; and, Jim”—and the big brown eyes suddenly shot sparks—“if those microbes ever get unleashed, there’ll be hell to pay on the floor—sure there will!”
Bob’s handsome head was thrown back; his thin nostrils dilated as though there was in them the breath of conflict. The lips were drawn across the white teeth with just part enough to show their edges, and in the depths of the eyes was a dark-red blaze that somehow gave the impression one gets in looking down some long avenue of black at the instant a locomotive-headlight rounds a curve at night.
Twice before, ’way back in our college days, I had a peep at this gambling temper of Bob’s. Once in a poker game in our rooms, when a crowd of New York classmates tried to run him out of a hand by the sheer weight of coin. And again at the Pequot House at New London on the eve of a varsity boat-race, when a Yale crowd shook a big wad of money and taunts at Bob until with a yell he left his usually well-leaded feet and frightened me, whose allowance was dollars to Bob’s cents, at the sum total of the bet-cards he signed before he cleared the room of Yale money and came to with a white face streaming with cold perspiration. These events had passed out of my memory as the ordinary student breaks that any hot-blooded youth is liable to make in like circumstances. As I looked at Bob that day, while he tried to tell me that the business of Randolph & Randolph would not be safe in his keeping, I had to admit to myself that I was puzzled. I had regarded my old college chum not only as the best mentally harnessed man I had ever met, but I knew him as the soul of honor, that honor of the old storybooks, and I could not credit his being tempted to jeopardize unfairly the rights or property of another. But it was habit with me to let Bob have his way, and I did not press him to come into our firm as a full partner.
Five years later, during which time affairs, business and social, had been slipping along as well as either Bob or I could have asked, I was preparing for another sit-down to show my friend that the time had now come for him to help me in earnest, when a queer thing happened—one of those unaccountable incidents that God sometimes sees fit to drop across the life-paths of his children, paths heretofore as straight and far-ahead-visible as public highways along which one has never to look twice to see where he is traveling; one of those events that, looked at retrospectively, are beyond all human understanding.
It was a beautiful July Saturday noon and Bob and I had just “packed up” for the day preparatory to joining Mrs. Randolph on my yacht for a run down to our place at Newport. As we stepped out of his office one of the clerks announced that a lady had just come in and had particularly asked to see Mr. Brownley.
“Who the deuce can she be, coming in at this time on Saturday, just when all good men are in a rush to shake the heat and dirt of business for food and the good air of all outdoors?” growled Bob. Then he said, “Show her in.”
Another minute and he had his answer.
A lady entered.
“Mr. Brownley'?” She waited an instant to make sure he was the Virginian.
“I am Beulah Sands, of Sands Landing, Virginia. Your people know our people, Mr. Brownley, probably well enough for you to place me.”
“Of the Judge Lee Sands?” asked Bob, as he held out his hand.
“I am Judge Lee Sands’s oldest daughter,” said the sweetest voice I had ever heard, one of those mellow, rippling voices that start the imagination on a chase for a mocking-bird, only to bring it up at the pool beneath the brook-fall in quest of the harp of moss and watercresses that sends a bubbling cadence into its eddies and swirls. Perhaps it was the Southern accent that nibbled off the corners and edges of certain words and languidly let others mist themselves together, that gave it its luscious penetration—however that may be, it was the most arresting voice I had ever heard. Before I grew fully conscious of the exquisite beauty of the girl, this voice of hers spelled its way into my brain like the breath of some bewitching Oriental essence. Nature, environment, the security of a perfect marriage have ever combined to constitute me loyal to my chosen ones, yet as I stood silent, like one dumb, absorbing the details of the loveliness of this young stranger who had so suddenly swept into my office, it came over me that here was a woman intended to enlighten men who could not understand that shaft which in all ages has without warning pierced men’s hearts and souls—love at first sight. Had there not been Katherine Blair, wife and mother—Katherine Blair Randolph, who filled my loveworld as the noonday August sun fills the old-fashioned well with nestling warmth and restful shade—after this interval, looking back at the past, I dare ask the question—who knows but that I too might have drifted from the secure anchorage of my slow Yankee blood and floated into the deep waters?
Beauty, the cynic’s scoff, is in the eye of the beholder, or in an angle of vision—mere product of lime-light, point of view, desire—but Beulah Sands’s was beauty beyond cavil, superior to all analysis, as definite as the evening star against the twilight sky. In height girlish, but with a figure maturely modeled, charmingly full and rounded, yet by very perfection of proportion escaping suggestion of “plumpness.” The head, surrounded and crowned with a wealth of dark golden hair, rested on a neck that would have seemed short and had its slendor column sprung less graciously from the lovely lines of the breast and shoulders beneath. It was on the face, however, and finally on the eyes that one’s glances inevitably lingered— the face rose-tinted, with dimples in either of the full cheeks, entering laughing protest against the sad droop that drew slightly down the corners of a mouth too large perhaps for beauty, if the coral curve of the lips has been less exquisitely perfect. The straight, thin-nostriled nose, the broad forehead, the square, full jaw almost as low at the points where they come beneath the ears as at the chin, suggested dignity and high resolve coupled with a power of purpose rare in woman. The combination of forehead, jaw, and nose was one seldom seen. Had it been possessed by a man it would surely have driven him to the tented field for his profession. But the greatest glory of Beulah Sands was her eyes—large, full, very gray, very blue, vivid with all the glamor of her personality, full of smiles and tears and spirituality and passion; one instant, frankly innocent, they illuminated the face of a blonde Madonna; the next, seen through the extraordinary, long, jet-black eyelashes underneath the finely penciled black brows, they caressed, coquetted, allured. I afterwards found much of this girl’s purely physical fascination lay in this strange blending of English fairness with Andalusian tints, though the abiding quality of her charm was surely in an exaltation of spirit of which she might make the dullest conscious. As she stood looking at Bob in my office that long-ago; noon, gracefully at ease in a suit of gray, with a gray-feathered turban on her head, and tiny lace bands at neck and wrist, she was very exquisite, exceedingly dainty, and, though Southern of Southerners, very unlike the typical brunette girl who comes from Dixie land.
This girl who came into our office that July Saturday, just in time to interfere with the outing Bob Brownley and I had laid out, was destined to divert my chum’s heretofore smooth-flowing river of existence and turn it into an alternation of roaring rushes and deadly calms. She was truly the most exquisite creature one could conceive of. I know my thought must have been Bob’s too, for his eyes were riveted on her face. She dropped the black lashes like a veil as she went on:
“Mr. Brownley, I have just come from Sands Landing. I am very anxious to talk with you on a business matter. I have brought a letter to you from my father. If you have other engagements I can wait until Monday, although,” and the black, veiling lashes lifted, showing the half-laughing, half-pathetic eyes, “I wanted much to lay my business before you at the earliest minute possible.”
There was a faint touch of appeal in the charming voice as she spoke that was irresistible, and we were both willing to forget we had lunch waiting us on the Tribesman.
“Step into my office, Miss Sands, and all my time is yours,” said Bob, as he opened the door between my office and his. After I had sent a note to my wife, saying we should be delayed for an hour or two, I settled down to wait for Bob in the general office, and it was a long wait. Thirty minutes went into an hour and an hour into two before Bob and Miss Sands came out. After lie had put her in a cab for her hotel, he said in a tone curiously intent : “Jim, I have got to talk with you, got to get some of your good advice. Suppose we hustle along to the yacht and after lunch you tell Kate we have some business to go over. I don’t want to keep that girl waiting any longer than possible for an answer I cannot give until I get your ideas.” After lunch on the bow end of the upper deck Bob relieved himself. Relieved is the word, for from the minute he had put Miss Sands into the carriage until then, it was evident even to my wife that his thoughts were anywhere but upon our outing.
“Jim,” he began in a voice that shook in spite of his efforts to make it sound calm, “there is no disguising the fact that I am mightily worked up about this matter, and I want to do everything possible for this girl. No need of my telling you how sacred we have got to keep what she has just let me into. You’ll see as I go along that it is sacred, and I know you will look at it as I do. Miss Sands must be helped out of some of her trouble.
“Judge Lee Sands, her father, is the head of the old Sands family of Virginia. The Virginia Sands don’t take off their bonnets to another family in this country, or elsewhere, for that matter, for anything that really counts. They have had learning, brains, money, and fixed position since Virginia was first settled. They are the best people of our State. It is a common saying in Virginia that a Sands of Sands Landing can go to the bench, Congress, the United States Senate, or the governor’s chair for the asking, and nearly all of the men folks have held one or all of these honors 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, Benlah Sands’s father, is close on to seventy, and I have heard mother and father say is a stalwart, a Virginian 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 prominant 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 Reinheart 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 Virginian life and the kind of revered position a man like Judge Sands occupies. You would have to know that, to understand fully his present hell 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 Reinheart 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 man can keep things going for six months longer without jeopardizing any of the remaining trust funds, of which he has some two millions in other securities, and neither his wife nor his other daughter suspect the real condition, although Mrs. Sands, who is an invalid, knows the judge is in some trouble. His daughter says that when the blow came, that day of the panic, when Reinheart 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 Reinheart 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 man and this child, 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 hellish treachery practiced 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 Reinheart. Yes, and that hired cur of his, too, who prostitutes a good family name and position, and an inhereted ability God 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 by 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 crusadors, who carried the sword and the cross and the banner inscribed ‘For honor and for God.’ Old friends who every day of my boyhood would troop up and shout, ‘Bob, don’t forget, when you’re a man, that the goal is honor, and the code: Do unto your neighbor as you would have your neighbor 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 hallmark 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 agonizing 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 Reinheart left through the home of these Virginians, such trails as this girl has shown me?
Bob had worked himself into a state of frenzy. Never in my life had I 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 self 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 Reinheart 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 Sand’s story has aroused a lot of thoughts I have been a-sticking down cellar these 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 clear-headed 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 hove she puts it. She and her father have raked together their fag-ends of 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 enough to tide them over. 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 purely do all I can to help her steer this last chance into soft 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 realized 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 ardor as unaccustomed as it was impulsive, I felt a tug at my heartstrings at thought of the sudden crossroading of life's highway. But I, too, was filled with the glamour of this girl's wonderous 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 goods 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-strung as the E string on a Stradivarius, and she declares she will have no charity tips or unusual favors 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."
(To be continued.)
The Creator has bidden every man to look up, not down, has made him to climb, not to grovel. There is no providence which keeps a man in poverty, or in painful or distressing circumstances.