Stover, the Strategist
How a Life Insurance Director, About to Resign From the Board, Interviewed a Medium and Was Told by her Many Strange Things, as a Result of the Cunning and Foresight of an Agent, who Later Insured the Director for a Large Sum, Thus Preserving the Prestige of the Company.
Archie P. McKishnie
MR. GLEASON, president and managing director of the Rock Bottom Life Insurance Company, looked up as Mr. Stover entered.
“How are you?” he said heartily, reaching a fat hand across the table.
“I got your wire, sir,” returned the young man, taking it. “What’s up?” “Have a cigar,” invited the president, shoving a box forward and striving to wipe the trouble lines from his face with one of the smiles that had helped make his reputation.
Stover took a cigar, lit it, and leaned forward in his chair expectantly.
“Windover is going over to the Dublin Life the first of the month,” said Mr. Gleason. “It is my wish that you succeed him as inspector of agencies. Do you accept the proposition?”
Mr. Stover blew a ring of smoke ceilingward.
“What’s the salary?” lie asked, with characteristic abruptness.
The president pressed the tips of his fingers together and puckered his brow.
“Is it as good as writing one hundred thousand as an agent?” asked Stover. “Yes—better.”
“All right, then. I accept.”
Once more the fat hand of the president was extended ; once more the younger man took it. Then he arose.
“Nothing else, sir, was there?” he asked, taking up his hat.
Stover, noting the hesitation in the other’s voice, sat down again.
“You met a gentleman as you were coming up, did you not, Mr. Stover, a big,
pompous looking man in a Newmarket coat?” asked the president. “Well, that was Mr. Samson, one of our directors,” he explained, as Stover nodded.
“I’ve heard of him,” said Stover. “One of R. B.’s directors?”
“Yes, and I very much fear we are going to lose him. He is a peculiar man ; consequently he has strange opinions. I might say that he is exceedingly erratic. One of the latest ideas he has formulated is that insurance is a hoax, a sham, a gold brick, offered by clever rascals to a guileless public. Egad, Stover, Samson is a pig-headed idiot, that’s what he is, sir.”
“Perhaps he would be better off the board,” ventured Stover.
Mr. Gleason gasped.
“It would be the worst thing that could possibly happen, young man,” he asserted. “Would not the public ask, Why has the great Mr. Samson withdrawn his name from the Rock Bottom board?’ And what would the great Air. Samson’s answer be, sir? Eh? Simply a shrug and a curl of his aristocratic lips, that’s what it would be. You’re no fool, young man; you know Samson, and you know the public. It can make a lot out of a shrug, a sneer, but there’s not enough about such to give us a suit for damages.”
“That’s so,” said Stover, crossing his legs and frowning.
“I wish he could be induced to remain on our board, Air. Stover,” sighed the president, “but now that he has allowed himself to believe that there is no virtue in insurance, I presume we can not expect him to do so.”
“Doesn’t he carry any insurance him-
self?" asked Stover, looking up in surprise.
"Not a red cent,” laughed the president. "Funny, isn’t it?”
“See here, Mr. Stover,” he added, lowering his voice, "the withdrawal of Samson from our board is something we don’t want to occur. Remember, he has a certain amount of influence. and there’s no telling but our opposition may bait him to use it against us. Of course, he can't say anything against a strong, clean company such as ours, but he can look wise, which is infinitely worse. No, I tell you, Stover, we must keep him with us until he has ridden his latest hobby to death ; then he’ll be all right. Now, young man, tell us what to do. I have the greatest respect for your advice. Now, how can we do it?”
"Why not sell him a couple of hundred thousand insurance?” suggested Stover. "He'd have to believe in it then.”
¥he president started.
“You’re not serious, surely?” he gasped. "Yes I am, too,” replied Stover. “He’s wealthy enough to stand two hundred thousand.”
"Of course he is, Stover, of course he is. He's wealthy enough to buy a tea plantation in Japan, too, but I guess he won’t do it.”
"You mean, that you consider him a hopeless case ?”
"Exactly. You couldn’t give him insurance. let alone sell it to him.”
' I suppose you’ve all tried him on it?” he queried, easily.
"Every man of us, Stover, myself included, and I’m pretty fair at the business, my boy, pretty fair.”
“You are, I know that,” said the young man. earnestly. “But you forget that there is one man on the R. B.’s staff who hasn’t had a fling at him yet.”
“You mean yourself, Stover? Yes, of course you do. Well, you may try him if you care to. but T tell you it will be a waste of time and energy.”
"I don't mind taking a chance,” said Stover, drawing on his gloves. “I believe I can insure him. but I must take my own way.”
“Take your own anything you want, take anything I've got, take the whole R. B. if
you wish it—and if you can insure Sam60
son, hanged if 1 won’t say you're the only man in the world could do it.”
"Good-bye !” said Stover, laughingly, as he passed out.
He went direct from the offices to High Park. The season was autumn, and there would be scarcely anybody there to interrupt his thoughts. Stover felt that he must do some quick, hard thinking now, if lie ever did. He was bound he would insure the great Mr. Samson—but how?
He sat down on a bench and pulled out his pipe. For more than an hour he smoked and thought. At the end of that time he shook his head.
“No good!” he said, finally.
A brown sparrow alighted on a sprig just above him, glancing at the agent with a cunning, bright little eye.
Stover watched him smilingly. He had heard that little birds often told people things. He wished one little bird might tell him how he could sell Samson two hundred thousand insurance.
As he knocked the ashes from his pipe, he heard the leaves • rustling and looked round. A tall young fellow in a wide felt hat and long mackintosh was coming toward him.
Pie threw himself down beside Stover on the bench, and the two gripped hands.
“ITazy,” grinned the newcomer.
“Lazy and a bump,” answered Stover. “Of all things unexpected, Peterson, old boy.” He shook the other’s hand, the corners of his mouth working. “I haven’t seen you since we left college.”
“Nope, and maybe I wasn’t glad to catch sight of you here, Stove. How’s your tobacco?”
“Lots of it,” laughed Stover, tossing the pouch to his friend.
The long fellow filled his pipe and puffed it furiously.
“What you doing, Stove?” he asked, between puffs.
“Insurance,” answered Stover. “And you, Pete?”
“Oh, I’m a kind of gentleman’s gentleman, in a way,” returned Peterson. I’m private secretary to one of the high muckey-moos here.”
“You don’t say! Like it?”
“Tolerably. You see the gent I work for is an odd one. He has taken a fancy to me, I think, but you can't tell how long it will last. His fancies wear away quickly, as a
rule. And then he takes the funniest, most outlandish notions. You can’t guess what his latest hobbv is, Stove?”
“No. What is it?”
‘T don't know as I should mention it.” laughed his companion, “but it’s all right between two old cronies like us two, I guess. You see, he’s taken a notion to have a spirit medium read him his past and future.”
“Well, I never,” said Stover, staring. “Got some deal on, likely, and wants to know how it will swing, eh?”
“That’s it, exactly. You’ve hit it, old boy. It’s insurance stocks.”
Stover’s eves opened wide.
“Yes?” he said.
“So I’m going to find out a good spirit medium for him. I'm on my way now. I’m blest if I know where to look for one. Can’t help me out, Stove, can you?”
“I believe I can,” cried Stover. “I just happen to know a medium, and she has the reputation of reading the future to a dot. She charges a hundred dollars a trance, though,” he added. “Perhaps the gentleman would’t care to go that high. He can get mediums, I presume, for less money.” “Oh, Mr. Samson doesn’t care a fig how much it costs, Stove.”
“Mr. Samson?” gasped Stover. “Did you say Samson?”
“Yes, of course I did. You know him, likely. Everybody knows Mr. Samson.” Stover crammed his hands deep in his pockets. His mind was working like lightning. By and by Peterson saw a smile dawn and grow, until it became a long, satisfied grin.
“I was just thinking of another fellow by that name,” explained Stover, with a chuckle. “I’ll tell you about him some time, but tell me.” he cried, growing serious, “does Mr. Samson wish to visit the medium, or have the medium visit him ?” “If possible, he wants the medium to ♦come to his office,” Peterson replied. “I wish you would arrange it for me. Stove,” he pleaded. “You know what to do, and it’s something out of my line.”
“Why, of course, I'll be only too glad to. I’ll call on Madame Yideabritt on my way back. Did he specify any time, Pete?” “Yes, half-past eight this evening.” “Well, I tell you what you do. You come on over to my club with me and have a game of billiards. You needn’t worry; I’ll
sec the medium gets there at die appointed time. I want to talk over the old days when we used to room together, and I’m also curious to learn more about your eccentric employer, Mr. Samson.”
“All right,” cried Peterson. “Come on. I’m with you, and I’ll tell you all about him.”
When the friends separated at 5.30, there was little about the great Mr. Samson that Stover did not know. He hailed a cab and whispered a direction to the driver.
When they pulled up at a theatrical outfitter’s establishment, Stover alighted, and, motioning the driver to wait, entered. Ere long he emerged with a bundle under his arm. Then he gave the driver the number of his house address.
“Call here at 8.15 to-night for a lady,” he said, as he alighted. “Can I count on you ?”
“Yes, sir. Eight-fifteen it is. sir.” The driver whipped up his horse and vanished.’-
That evening, as Mr. Samson paced up and down his luxurious office floor, a tall, veiled lady was ushered into his presence. He came forward, rubbing his perspiring hands together. His small blue eyes held a look of almost fear.
“Be seated, madam,” he said, bowing.
“You wish to have your past and future read,” said his visitor, in a voice that chilled him to the marrow.
“Yes,” he rejoined, his teeth chattering.
“One hundred dollars is my fee,” said the voice.
“Eh?” cried Mr. Samson, the word money bringing him back to himself. “Oh. yes, of course.”
He wrote out a cheque for a hundred dollars, and placed it on the table before the madame. Eor the life of him, he could not hand it to her. He was afraid.
The woman stood up.
“I will now commune with the spirits,” she said. “Nor must you interrupt me for five minutes. Bv then my trance will be perfected. In five minutes you may ask me what you wish to know, and by the aid of the spirits I will answer you truthfully.
I must have the lights turned low.”
Tremblinglv, Mr. Samson reached up and turned down the gas. The medium commenced to revolve slowly as on a pivot. Faster and faster did she turn, until, in the hazy light, to the man’s staring eyes, she
resembled a brown tombstone rocked by a gale. He backed slowly against the wall, his hands spread out. his mouth working.
It seemed to him an hour after that the voice came again, floating to him, as he stood there, as though coming from the bowels of the earth.
“Ask and be told O, Man," saitlthe voice.
Samson swallowed hard and tongued his dry lips.
“Who am I ?" he asked at length.
“James Samson, banker,” came the answer.
“Tell me of my past,” he commanded weakly.
“You were born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Tune the loth, 1854,” came the answer. “You were educated in England and were left a fortune by a great uncle, Spencer by name, in the year 1880. The following year you shot a man by the name of Thompson, and were arrested for murder. You were acquitted on grounds of self-defence, and shortly after you came to Canada. Here you took up the banking profession, which vocation you have followed ever since. You are a heavy speculator and a shrewd one. You have fifteen thousand of Drift-Draft gold shares, which are an excellent investment. You have copper shares, upon which you will never realize. You are a heavy stockholder in the Rock Bottom Life Insurance Co., and a director of its board. You have a wife and two daughters. Your wife's name is Annie, the eldest daughter’s name is Annie also, and the younger one you call Amy. You have lost two children
“In heaven’s name, stop,” cried Mr. Samson. He was wet with perspiration, and his breath was coming in quick gasps. “It is of the future I wish to ask you. I asked you of the past but to test you. Tell me then : would you advise me to leave mv monev in the Rock Bottom Life Company ?”
“Yes. It is the safest of all your investments.”
“Ha! And the copper stocks?”
“Sell them at once.”
“And the Drift Draft gold shares—what of them i1”
“Hold for six months; then sell.”
Mr. Samson was becoming his own man again.
“Can you tell me,” he said, smiling, and
forcing his pudgy hands with difficulty into his pockets, “can you tell me how long I as likely to live?”
“Yes,” came the answer. “But we could not advise you to ask the question, O mortal.”
“Why?” cried Samson, his short hair rising and a chill creeping up his spine.
“Do you wish to know how long you may live?”
“Yes,” he answered with difficulty.
There was silence for a moment, as though the spirits were communing together. At length came the hollow, sepulchral answer.
“Alas, you may not see another year.”
Mr. Samson staggered against the table. “Oh, ah!” he groaned, weakly.
He sank into a chair, and buried his face in his hands.
“You may never see another year.” The .words, hung before him in letters of fire.
“Would you have us advise you, O man?” came the voice.
“Yes, yes,” he answered. “Tell me what to do.”
“Insure your life,” wailed the voice, “and by so doing protect your loved ones. By doing so, you may change what the horoscope here shows us. If you would have us advise you, insure your life for no less than two hundred thousand dollars.”
“Oh, oh,” panted poor Samson. “Can I have a week to decide?” he asked, struggling to his feet.
“No, nor a moment. The spirits wish to depart. Tell them now, will you do it?”
“Yes, yes, I will do it soon.”
“It must be to-night,” warned the heavy voice.
“But the insurance offices are all closed to-night,” cried the man.
“Decide quickly,” came the voice. “The matter of which you speak can be arranged.”
“Yes, yes. T will insure, and to-night,” pleaded Samson.
“Then wait here, and—Remember—to— wait.”
The words died away slowly. Mr. Samson once more sank into his chair, and bowed his head upon the table.
When he lifted it, he was alone; The medium had vanished, also the cheque.1 *
He arose and turned on the light, just as the door opened and Mr. Stover, of the Rock Bottom Life entered.
“You are Mr. Samson?” he asked. “Ah, you were expecting me, I believe.”
“Who are you?” asked the bewildered Samson.
Stover raised his eyebrows. “I am Mr. Stover, of the Rock Bottom Life,” he said. “I understand you want insurance, and want it to-night.”
“Yes, I do. I want two hundred thousand dollars insurance, and I can’t get it too quick.”
“Which kind of insurance do you wish, sir?”
“Any kind you care to give me, young man, only be quick about it.”
“I think a short term policy would be best for you,” advised the agent, sitting down to the table.
“How much?” asked Mr. Samson, after he had signed the application.
“It will cost you $12,000 a year,” answered the agent, placing the application in his pocket.
Without a murmur, Mr. Samson wrote out a cheque. The agent took it, wrote out a company’s receipt, and arose.
“I think it would be well to finish it tonight, sir,” he said. “The doctors are out in the hall. I will send them in.”
H« thanked Mr. Samson for his business, and modestly withdrew.
An hour later Mr. Samson sat alone in hs office. He had had a strenuous two hours of it, if ever man had. He was bewildered and sad. He was thinking of what his life had been. He hated to have to leave it, it had been well worth living. He told himself that had he known sooner that he was liable not to see another year, he would have made a few changes in it. Well, it was too late now ; unless, as the
medium advised, the placing on of the insurance might alter his horoscope.
He sighed, and, rising, put on his overcoat. He turned out the light, locked the door, and walked down the hall like an old man. For the first time in years he was going home without his before-bed cigar alight. As he turned from locking the outer door, a tall, cloaked individual brushed against him and pressed a piece of paper into his hand. Astonished, he held it under a gas jet, and as he read it, his face grew cheerful, and his old expression of confidence came back.
On the paper were pencilled these words :
“Because you have accepted with willingness the advice of the spirits and acted upon it with despatch, be informed by them that you may see another year, and, for all that we can see, many of them.
Next morning Mr. Samson called upon Mr. Gleason, president of the Rock Bottom Life Company.
“I want you to leave my name on the board of directors, Jim,” he said pleasantly.
“Then you’ve changed your mind about it, Mr. Samson, eh? 1 thought you would.”
“Well, yes, I have. You see, Jim, I've put on a little insurance in the R. B. myself. Naturally, if I didn’t believe in insurance, I wouldn’t put on any, would I ? And if I didn’t think the R. B. the best, I wouldn’t put on R. B. insurance, would I?”
Then they both laughed and shook hands.
But there is only one man who knows who the spirit medium was, and that man is Stover.