FICTION

Plunder

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE July 1 1932
FICTION

Plunder

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE July 1 1932

Plunder

A conspiracy marches forward; Beauty accepts the rôle of decoy; the blind see a golden vision

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE

The Story: At his palatial lodge on Burnt Island in the Province of Huron. John Rockingham, the great Canadian financier, is entertaining Sir Peter Tarne and Lord Moundell, international financiers. Together they make plans to control the mineral wealth not only of the province, but of all Canada.

Rockingham's manager, LeGresley, arrives by air. LeGresley states that his prospector at Black Lake has sent him word that a big gold strike has been made there and that all the best claims have been slaked by a man named Paulson, acting for the Queen's Town firm of Street and Richmond.

The conspirators outline a plan whereby this firm will be fleeced in the stock market and forced to part with their Black Lake properly, possession of which is necessary for the carrying out of Rockingham's gigantic scheme for the control of the Canadian mining industry.

After Rockingham and his fellow conspirators have left

Burnt Island for Queen’s Town by airplane, Richard Armstrong, junior partner of Street and Richmond, is forced by a storm to land in his airplane at Burnt Island. He has been visiting the company's man, Paulson, and is carrying ore samples.

Alyce Weldon, Rockingham's niece and confidential secretary, is on the island and Armstrong meets her. She is young and attractive. Armstrong invites her to accompany him back to Queen’s Town and she does so. They become quite friendly, but after Armstrong parts from her at their destination he recollects that he left his ore samples behind at Burnt Island.

I

T WAS typical of John Rockingham that he gave his full confidence to very few people.

Apart from himself, only two persons were ever permitted to explore all the farther ranges of his diversified interests. Henri LeGresley, of all his business associates, was the only man he trusted completely. Long since he had learned to rely on LeGresley’s shrewd judgment and keen perception, and it was to him that he entrusted the execution of perfected plans whenever they demanded skilled and hidden handling.

The other person whom he trusted was his niece. Alyce Weldon had been taken into Rockingham’s home when she was but twelve years old. Her coming into Rockingham’s bachelor existence had been, at the outset, something of a problem. Later, she had found a definite place in his affections, till now., at the age of twenty, she was practically the keeper of her uncle’s conscience and the guardian of his confidence. Her quick intuition and the intensity of her desire to forward his interests and to advance his ambitions had served him well upon occasion. In due time he believed she might even become his active partner, and to this end he purposely discussed with her, on many occasions, some of the more confidential aspects of his many-sided business affiliations. His niece, for her part, was eager to become more than merely his hostess änd'his heiress.

' ~ Alyce and her uncle were sitting after lunch at the table in Rockingham’s dining room.

His city residence, a beautiful copy of an old English manor house, gabled and halftimbered, stood upon high ground beyond the outskirts of Queen’s Town. Before it spread a wonderful valley view of calm countryside, fresh and glowing in the noontide sun. Meadow and hedgerow, pasture and stream, thicket and maple tree—it was a perfect picture of pastoral peace.

Rockingham, facing the window from his seat at the table, pointed to the outspread view.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” He put the question almost academically. “Yet ten years from now it will be part of the city. I suppose.”

His niece swung round to the window. “Figuring on increased land values?” she asked bluntly.

“Why not? But I’m no iconoclast.”

"No?” She was faintly ironical.

“As a matter of fact. I’m a creator. I like taking things as they are and turning them into things as they should be.”

“At a profit to yourself, of course.”

“Naturally.” He pointed again to the prospect beyond the window. “There’s a fortune there, as well as the chance to transform it—”

“Into the thing it should be?”

He grinned. “Sure. Here’s what I see out there. Beautiful homes half-hidden in trees, curving lanes, a little lake where the stream runs now. a well-planned golf course—wouldn’t there be beauty there?”

Alyce sighed. “I suppose so, but there are plenty of other ways to make money. It’s too much like cold-blooded murder to me; but I suppose it’s inevitable.”

"Progress is always ruthless,” he remarked sententiously, and changed the subject abruptly. “When is your next party?”

“Next Monday. Costello’s playing.” She looked at him questioningly. “Had you forgotten?”

“Invitations out?”

“Not yet. It’s informal, as usual. Anybody you want specially other than the usual crowd?”

T-JTE SMILED at her across the table, and she laughed aloud.

“The conspirator’s look,” she said. “Tell Alyce.”

“That young fellow who brought you down from the island—remember his name?” ^

“Of course. Armstrong. What about him? Want'him invited? So soon?” ■*:&*'

“Yes. I don’t know if he likes music or not. Anyway it doesn’t matter. Better go after him, Alyce.”

His niece smiled enigmatically. A level look challenged him. He leaned forward, smiling.

“He’s Street’s confidential man, and I want to use hiijî; Understand?”

"In connection with their gold, find?”

“Primarily, yes; but he’ll be useful in other ways later. You like him fairly well, don’t you?”

She pursed her lips. “He’s all right, I suppose. He’s good-looking, anyway. I’ll write him.”

“Fascinate him,” Rockingham amended bluntly. “He may prove entertaining.”

She rose and curtsied mockingly. “You flatter me, my dear uncle,” she protested, “but I’ll do my best.” Lightly she blew him a kiss. “I’m off shopping this afternoon. Have you got any one coming out?”

He looked at his watch. “I expect LeGresley soon. He should be here now.”

“Another conspirators’ party; I can tell it by your very look.” She vanished through the door.

Alone, Rockingham walked slowly to the window and stood there looking out. He did not even hear LeGresley enter some minutes later.

“Thinking or merely seeing things?” LeGresley’s voice brought him round with a jerk.

"Come into the library; we can talk quietly there. I expect Chester Lane out, too.”

They walked across to the other room, a chamber of solid comfort, where from every wall books blazoned a colorful challenge to idle moments. Deep-seated leather chairs were grouped before a recessed fireplace. By the big leaded window stood Rockingham’s massive mahogany desk.

Rockingham pulled a chair back for LeGresley. “Any news?” he asked abruptly.

“Saw Street yesterday.”

“What did he have to say?”

LeGresley shrugged his shoulders, expressively. “Full of the Black Lake find, of course. Can’t see anything but millions coming his way.”

“He’s an optimistic devil; he thinks the sun is always shining. At that, he’s a likeable fellow."

"Oh. quite. But he never ought to have a lot of money. I don’t think he would know how to handle it.”

Rockingham laughed. "So it’s an act of charity to remove temptation from his path?”

It was LeGresley’s turn to smile. “I think we want that gold mine, if that’s what you mean.” he said grimly.

“Look. LeGresley,” Rockingham said earnestly, “the problem we’re up against is to keep him from selling it till we can take it away from him.”

“He won’t sell; I’ve fixed that. Got him to agree to give me first option of purchase if any sale is proposed. Said he’d like to play the game with us, since you were so friendly to him.”

He smiled as he spoke, but Rockingham’s eyes narrowed. “Have you got any one in their office who is able to keep you posted?” he asked LeGresley.

THE latter hesitated. “No, that is. no one close enough to Street to know anything worth while.”

“We must have some one. How about this fellow Armstrong? Alyce, by the way, is bringing him out here on Monday.”

“He’s Street’s confidential man. What do you know about, him?"

“He brought Alyce down from the island the other day in his plane. He’s quite a pilot, she tells me.”

“Can Alyce handle him? He’s a cagey young man, from what I hear.”

“Oh, she can do it. He’ll probably fall hard.”

“Maybe he’s our best bet. I giveyou credit for the thought.”

They sat silently for a space. Suddenly Rockingham got to his feet and paced up and down the room.

“We’ve got to get busy right away.” he urged, pausing in his stride by LeGresley’s chair. “Street must be kept satisfied. We don’t want him parting even with one of those claims.”

“We’ll have no trouble with him,”

LeGresley asserted confidently. “If you like. I’ll get Lane to start some law move. He ought to be able to tie things up for six months or more.”

“That’s a thought," declared Rockingham approvingly. “Have a talk to Lane about it; he’ll find some way to fix it.”

“There’s another thing we could do, too,” suggested LeGresley. "We could tell Street about this new loan idea; give him advance information, as it were, in confidence. It would be welcome news to him. He’s anxious about the expansion of his business.”

“Why not offer him loaning facilities at once?” Rockingham asked.

“Or would that upset your plans,

Henri?”

LeGresley considered the point.

“I’ll think it over,” he said reflectively. “It might possibly work out all right.”

Rockingham resumed his steady walk up and down the room. He stopped suddenly by the window and swung round to LeGresley. “How many houses will you deal with?” he enquired abruptly.

LeGresley was thoughtful for a few moments. “All the important ones, of course,” he declared at length, “as well as one or two of the others. The two we particularly want are Street and Richmond and Grafton Yarde.”

“Can you say anything to Street about the loan without telling the others?”

“I think so; it would be to his own advantage.” A cynical smile twisted his thin lips.

"How about Voisin’s?”

“Let them alone.” LeGresley was most emphatic. “We must keep one of the old firms alive, and they will play ball with us.”

"Voisin’s all right, of course, but we can start up a dozen firms if we

want to afterward." Rockingham thumped his list on the back of a chair. “You had better get the ball rolling, Henri. This Black Lake news forces our hand.”

“All right, don't worry.”

He rose to go. but Rockingham waved him back to his chair. "Here's Lane, now.” He went to the door to greet the newcomer, and the three made themselves comfortable for their conference.

CHESTER LANE was, in his way. a remarkable man.

At a comparatively early age he had attained a recognized position at the bar. Not by any means an orator he nevertheless possessed a singular faculty for measuring facts with merciless logic and of presenting a case with a forceful and fluent persuasiveness. He could be at times dryly humorous, and invariably he brought a human note into his court addresses that, more often than not. won a sympathetic consideration for his clients. But it was in his office, rather than in the courts, that his intellectual brilliance shone at its best. He had a lightning-speed mind; the gift of swift and accurate analysis. An inherent inclination for financial problems, and a critical study of market procedure and practice, had brought to him many financial houses as clients. In this capacity of special adviser, he had become associated with the Rockingham interests, for whom he now acted in many confidential matters. Politically, too. he was an important figure. His party, recognizing his genius for organization and suave diplomacy, had made him manager in all their recent campaigns within the province. Consequently, he exercised a power apart from his profession which extended far beyond the limits of the city.

He was tall, thin, almost ascetic looking. The high forehead and the deep-set, almost sunken, eyes indicated the high intellectuality of the man; the firm lips and square chin marked him as a ]x?rson of decision, resolution and action. While in his professional capacity he was hard and pitiless, he was at heart a kindly man, glad to render a •service to a friend when that service did not conflict with his own plans or his party’s interests.

Rockingham bent to poke the fire into a cheery blaze. “You’ve told Lane about the Black Lake business?” he

questioned LeGresley just by way of opening the discussion.

“He knows about it.” The reply was laconic, and Lane nodded in acquiescence.

"Then you realize, of course," Rockingham continued, “that our plans have to be speeded up. We must get hold of that property."

Again Lane nodded. “I assumed naturally that that was essential.”

"It’s more than that; it’s a critical factor. It forces our hand, and we cannot afford to wait now. Street won’t sell at any reasonable figure; wants to make millions out of it." “So?" There was a delicate inflexion in Lane’s voice. “He’s got to be forced, squeezed, smashed, till he’s ready to hand it over."

“At our price.” This from LeGresley.

"Or no price at all.” Rockingham chuckled as he spoke. “When we’ve finished with him. he'll be glad to give it to us.” “And he won’t sell?” Lane seemed surprised.

“Apparently not; at least not for any figure we would offer. Henri felt him out, and he definitely refused.” LeGresley interrupted. “Let us say side-stepped.”

“It’s the same thing.” Rockingham was vicious. “A man like Street can only l)e handled one way.”

"The strong arm?” Lane was gently ironical.

"Absolutely. Listen, Lane; the scheme we settler! on is airtight. I take it, as far as legal points are concerned?”

“As I suggested it in the first place,” Lane smiled. "You can take that as read.”

“Good.” Rockingham relaxed in his chair. “You know. Lane, that Moundell and Tarne have come in with us?”

“I gathered as much. Did you have much trouble interesting them?”

“Not half as much as I had getting them up to the lodge. Heavens. Lane, they’re great men! They’ll be in control of the empire soon; lock, stock and barrel.”

“Trust them?”

“Not by a darned sight. But I can take care of our end. I’ll know if they play any tricks.”

“Thev’ll put up their money?”

“Oh/yes. That part of it is all right. The credit’s arranged.”

“Well, what’s bothering you?” Lane asked.

Rockingham hesitated a moment before answering.

“About these brokers,” he said, apparently on a definite line of thought. “I suppose they are all short?”

1ANE looked at him through J narrowed lids. “If by that you mean that they have sold for their own purposes stock they should be carrying for clients who bought it on margin, they are short.”

“Roughly, taking the big mining houses only, how much, in dollars, are they short?"

“Eh?" Lane’s voice registered alarm. “That’s impossible to say. but it will run into a good many millions.”

“It will? Well, so much the better.” “Of course." Lane interrupted smoothly, "within certain limits, it is a universal custom. In this province the authorities have more or less acquiesced in it. Remember Barker’s speech at the Exchange dinner?"

Rockingham smiled. "I should; I told him what to say. But that was before we evolved our new plan of operations.”

“I know that the brokers are relying on what he said then.’’ Lane suggested. “And some of them are getting away with murder.”

“Well, he’s got to change his tune s(x>n.” Rockingham said emphatically. "Those brokers have got to cover, and cover within a given time, too. We want all those stocks in our vaults.”

“Have you talked to Barker about it?” Lane enquired.

“He knows what we’re doing, of course.” Rockingham was disdainful but emphatic. "lie likes to be on the inside of things, and he’s useful."

Lane was thoughtful for a time, and the others waited for him to speak.

“His position, officially, would be sound enough even if he had to face about.” he declared at length. “Here a the best way to handle it. Somebody gets all hot and bothered about the brokers short selling. Have a newspaper article or two appear, calling

attention to certain conditions and demanding that Parker take action. He can investigate—if he wants to—and find the complaints more or less justified. He tells the brokers they must cover, or any alternative you like. They scramble to cover, and they’ll want money to do it with. See?”

Rockingham was listening keenly. He had a great respect for Lane's snvxith reasoning power. He smiled as he reached for the telephone on his desk.

"We had better get that ixiint settled now. even if we don’t want it enforced immediately.” He dialed. "This is John Rockingham speaking. Put me on to the Minister of Public Order. Yes, I want to speak to Mr. Parker personally.”

MARKET STREET was not one of Queen’s Town's w'ide arteries of commerce; rather, it was a business tributary. Its traffic fed two of the city’s main thoroughfares, Lake Street and Okie Street. On its north side, extending the entire distance between the two more important streets, the well-known departmental store of Tinsley’s lifted its ten stories. On the other side, buildings of the early eighties huddled together like old men seeking companionship; and one by one, like old men, they were disappearing. Market Street might be a tributary, but it was not any longer in the backwash of business. A modem Market Street, rising upon the memory of the old, was being carried forward by a floodtide of progress.

The firm of Street and Richmond was of the new era. The grey stone face of their office building rose in dignified and simple contrast to its age-worn companions.

At ten o’clock of this mid-August morning, the boardroom there was comfortably full; ten minutes later it was most uncomfortably crowded.

Already the nimble of thronged voices and the click and clatter of the tickers indicated another day of heavy trading. On the long green board, chalk hieroglyphics suddenlyappeared, multiplying fast as the scurrying board-markers strove to keep pace with the market. Telegraph keys chattered incessantly as orders w'ere flashed to market floor or fills relayed to outside offices. Telephone bells jangled continually. Behind the counter, harassed clerks strained to keep abreast of the flooding trades. Busy floormen, pushing through the press to order desk or phone booth, were besieged by clamorous clients.

Signal lights flashed. Deft operators at the phones tirelessly combatted the frenzied flurries of outside calls.

"McTavish? Eighty-three, up two on the opening.”

"Delia? 0|x*ned at eleven.”

"Bolando? Forty-two and a half—wait.

Now forty-three, market strong.”

"Water Side is unchanged at twenty-five and three-quarters.”

"Mr. Street? Hold the line, please.”

Upstairs, in his private office, Matthew Street picked up the receiver.

"Hello yes hello, LeGresley.” A pause.

"Sure, w'e’ll be glad to see you. That will be fine. Good-by.” He smiled at his partner,

Richmond, as he hung up.

"LeGresley is corning over," he announced cheerily. "Wants to have a confidential talk.”

Richmond walked impatiently to the window. "The same story, I suppose. Trying to force us to sell at a ridiculous price.”

"Well, he knows we won’t sell, so why worry?”

"I’m afraid of that crowd."

"Nonsense. John Rockingham is a good friend of mine. He’s been pretty decent to me. personally."

"None the less, watch your step. LeGresley is pretty sm;x)th, and Black Lake means a mighty lot to us." He tapi>ed the window-sill reflectively. "We’ve spent over a million in the past three years, and haven’t had much to show for it.”

"Sure, and now we sjxrnd five or six thousand at most, and find a fortune.”

"If we cash in on it, Matt. We’ll lx* getting other offers for that property soon. If we get a real one—take it, 1 say.” "Not by a dam sight.” Street was definite. "We’ll handle this proposition ourselves, Alan, and make the most of it.”

"Well, if we can make a clean-up on a sale without any further bother, why not do it?”

STREET'S eyes twinkled. “Still want to become a millionaire in a minute.” he chided, smiling. "Even gold ore d(X?sn't change into dollars over night.”

“It does if you sell it."

"Alan, we’ll make millions more by keeping it. Are you afraid we can’t handle it?”

"It’s a mighty big proposition.”

"Of course it is. That’s the very reason I want to see it through. Why shouldn't we own the biggest gold mine in Canada?”

“Sounds fine, but I’d rather have a million in cold cash right now. There’s a lot of trouble ahead of us yet.”

"You are a pessimist. Alan; what’s got into you?” Street looked at his partner anxiously. "Here’s a vast fortune at our command, man. and, lxdieve me, we’re going to handle the thing with care.”

"You'll need to if you want to keep it.”

"Keep it? I should like to see anybody try to get it.” Street thumped the desk defiantly. “No, Alan, we’ll not let a fortune like this slip through our fingers without a fight.” "Well, I fancy we'll have plenty of fights on our hands before we’re through with it.”

Street kx>ked up. surprised. "We’ll run into snags, of course, but I can’t see why w'c should have to fight. It’s our property.”

“Sure it is.” Richmond’s voice almost had a sneer in it. "Sure it is, as long as we can hold on to it.”

“What do you mean. Alan?”

"I mean this. With millions at stake, do you suppose the big crowds are not going to try every game in their bag to take it away from us? Of course they are. We’ll run into every kind of crooked work.” He spoke very assuredly. "Wait till the New York crowd gets busy.”

In spite of his partner’s earnestness. Street smiled. “I’m not so worried about that. Alan, as about other things. We’ll fight, if we have to—but possession is nine points of the law.”

“What other things do you mean?” Richmond asked with some concern.

Street waved a hand toward the outer office. “The

How to Keep Tour Husband 1

Huh ! What About Holding Tour Wife l

A WOMAN rises in rebellion against all the advice on what she must do to retain her husband’s affections and addresses some pointed remarks to males around the forty mark.

SAUCE for the GANDER

By FLORENCE WEBB

IN MACLEAN’S NEXT ISSUE

Also fiction by Emma'Lindsay Squiers,

Cecil Lean, Leslie McFarlane and others

A BUSINESS MAN TELLS WHAT HE THINKS IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD. A common-sense review of conditions by C. H. Carlisle, President and General Manager of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, as told to A. Raymond Mullens,

And a dozen other features of interest to Tou

market, and the business. What’s going to happen to it all?” “What can hapix*n? We’re sitting pretty now.”

“Are we? I’m a bit worried, Alan. This market is jumping up too fast.”

“Surely so much the better.” Richmond was not unduly alarmed about that. “We stand to make the more when we cover.”

"That’s just the point.” Street came back quickly. “The longer this market continues, the bigger our short position grows. We can’t do any covering at these prices. And we’re up to our limit at the bank.”

Richmond gazed at his partner rather blankly. “In the meantime we are making money.”

"Yes, but if we could get our loans increased we would be able to keep a better percentage of stock at call. But we can’t if there are no loaning facilities—”

"Have you six>ken to the banks again?” Richmond interrupted.

“Yes; all of them. Nothing doing on brokers’ loans. We can’t get a dollar more than our present limit.”

“Well, if the public insists on trading on margin, what can we do but sell short? It’s the public that’s forcing that issue.”

“I know it. Alan, but can you convince the public, now or any other time, that it is our short interest that helps to stabilize prices? I’m all for a short position of some character. but I want a limit to it.”

“Why? The Government certainly isn’t worrying about it. Parker himself says it is not illegitimate. And he ought to know what he’s talking about.”

“He should, certainly.” Street agreed, a little more cheerfully; "and there’s never been the. slightest suggestion from him that we ought to cover. None the less. I wish we could get the bank to increase our loan limit.”

RICHMOND dismissed the matter with a shrug of his shoulders. “If we can’t, we’ve just got to carry on as we are doing. That’s all there is to that.”

“I guess you’re right, Alan,” Street agreed, his smile returning once more. “Anyhow, we’re doing our best, and we have certainly made progress these last few years.” He sat for a moment, deep in thought. “LeGresley will be here any minute. I think Dick ought to hear what he has to say.” He pressed a button on the dictograph beside him, and a muffled voice answered from the open mouth of the instrument.

“Armstrong speaking.”

"Can you come in for a minute, Dick?” Street asked.

He leaned back comfortably in the swivel chair. His partner stood at the window, hands in trouser pockets, looking down on the traffic in the street. At that moment similar thoughts were passing through the minds of both men.

Not so many years before, they had started in business together—a little office on the outer fringe of the city’s financial district. For a time, it had been a grim struggle. Clients were scarce and traders were few. To own a seat upon the exchange had then been a distant dream. But from the first day they had maintained their standard—the law of the square deal. It was upon the foundation of this reputation that the house of Street and Richmond had been builded. Soon success had crowded them. And the most active market in years swept them on to new heights of fortune.

To Street, prosperity had brought its own reward in achievement. Success had not confined his friendships, nor had wealth cabined his instinctive generosity. Genial, with a ready sense of humor, Street possessed an attracting personality. His smile was renowned; it was an infectious expression of daily delight in living. If his friends were many, his acquaintances were multitudinous. His staff frankly idolized him.

Richmond was a different and distinct type. To him success had meant only acquisition. His generous and friendly spirit had been somewhat handicapped by increasing good fortune. He was reserved in manner; often he seemed to be inherently lonely at heart. A keen student of the economics of the mining industry, a man of practical experience, he had, curiously enough, an aesthetic side, loving good books and old silver and the company of poets. He desired wealth, not only for its own sake but for the freedom it brought him; freedom to satisfy the bohemianism which, he believed, cried within him for the right of expression.

From the earliest days of their association in business, both Matthew Street and Alan Richmond had held a mighty faith in the mining possibilities of Huron. They, like many others, believed that the north country of the province was destined to be the great mineral centre of the empire. As their house had flourished and wealth had come to them they had spent money lavishly, perhaps at times not altogether wisely, in developing many areas of gold possibility. Many a prospector with promising claims had come to them for money help, and few had been turned away.

But up to the present, all the work they had financed had produced but little return.

Now, it seemed, they had found the Eldorado of their dreams. At all events, it looked that way. The lure of unlimited wealth rose before them and beckoned them to a fabulous future. Even their business, country-wide and successful as it was, appeared dwarfed by the glamor of the prospect now before them.

The entrance of Armstrong brought them both back to current realities.

“Come in. Dick,” Street said, smiling. “LeGresley is on his way over, and you might as well hear what he has to

Continued on page 41

Plunder

Continued from page 18

say.” He looked quizzingly at Armstrong. "Heard from your lady friend yet?”

Dick colored and essayed a casual smile. “I—of course, I haven’t.”

“Well, there’s lots of time, Dick,” Street said assuringly, and laughed at Armstrong’s sudden frown.

“She has probably forgotten all about you by now,” remarked Richmond cynically. “I know the type.”

Armstrong flushed. “That’s a rotten remark to make, Alan,” he said angrily. "Miss Weldon is—”

Street interposed. “She’s all right, Dick.” he said soothingly. “I’ve met her and I like her. Even,” he added with a twinkle, “if she did make you forget Paulson’s ore samples.”

But Dick wouldn’t stand for that jest. “I’m sorry about that, as you know, but she had nothing to do with it. I took the bag out of the plane when we were fixing the engine.”

“I know, lad.” Street was smiling. “I was only pulling your leg.”

Richmond turned from the window. “None the less,” he remarked somewhat acidly, “it was unfortunate, even if you did get them next day. How do we know they are all here now?”

Armstrong bridled. “The bag hadn’t been touched. There was no one there save Andrews, the mechanic, and he kept it safely.” He was getting angry, and showed it. Street was quick to intervene.

“Look, Dick,” he said quietly, “don’t get upset. Alan’s only baiting you a bit. He does it to me sometimes. Miss Weldon’s a fine girl.” He stopped as if some new thought had struck him. “Listen, lad, you follow your star. She’s Rockingham’s niece, and Rockingham’s friendly enough with us. It would help us tremendously if you two were good friends. Yes, I think it’s up to you to cultivate that acquaintance, Dick.” “It should be a pleasant enough duty,” added Richmond, saying the wrong thing in the wrong way at the wrong time.

His remark irritated Dick. Sure, he wanted to see Alyce Weldon again—who wouldn’t?—but to try to develop a friendship like that for purely business reasons as a duty was quite another matter. Dash it, it wasn’t even romantic. Yet Street was right enough. There might be an advantage to the firm in so doing.

Before his thoughts could progress farther there was a knock at the door, and the three turned to greet LeGresley. Curiously, Dick had never met the man before, though he had talked to him over the phone on sundry matters of everyday business. He knew LeGresley, of course, as managing director of the Anglo-Cambrian Corporation, a Rockingham enterprise and an important one at that. He knew him also as the recognized aide and confidential colleague of John Rockingham. He, with every one else in the financial circles of Queen’s Town, had heard of him as the hard-headed, diplomatic, suave and ruthless lieutenant of the big man.

Meeting him now for the first time personally, Dick could well understand that that reputation was based on good grounds. He was "smooth,” in Armstrong’s instant judgment, and therefore to be watched. Yet, strangely, Dick felt that he was a man whose power and influence did not altogether depend upon his connection with Rockingham. He possessed, unless every appearance was the essence of deceit, a personality that implied a consciousness of high ability and a resolute belief in himself.

T-TE ACKNOWLEDGED Street’s introA duction of his junior partner with a flattering smile. Street had intimated that Dick was to be included in the conference.

“I’m glad to meet you, Mr. Armstrong,” he said, shaking hands warmly. "Mr. Street has told me, before now, how much he relies on your judgment. And,” he added, smiling, “I hear you are a highly competent pilot also.”

He turned to Street again without appear¡ ing to notice Dick’s quick confusion. ‘Tm j not here today to talk about Black Lake,” j he announced somewhat brusquely, “though 1 we may resume our conversations on that subject some time in the future.”

“The result will be the same.” Street j interposed with a smile.

LeGresley glanced at him queerly. “Maybe. Time will tell. However, there’s something more immediately important. I think; that is, important to you.” He waited for a moment before resuming. “What I have to say is confidential, but I want to ask you a question or two first. If you’ll answer them frankly, I think you will j benefit very materially.”

The other three were regarding him intently. There was something in his voice j and attitude that indicated a real objective ! in this visit.

“In the first place, I know your business is growing, but is it growing fast enough? j By that, I mean, wouldn't you do a lot more business if you opened other offices— i in the West, for instance?”

Street answered for his partners. “There’s j little doubt about that. We're considering ! that expansion now. We can afford it.” !

“Yes, you can afford it,” LeGresley agreed, “if you can get the necessary additional bank accommodation—I mean, in the way of loans for carrying stocks. Isn’t j that the only obstacle?”

Again Street answered him. "That is ! important. of course, but we are hoping to secure them.”

“Hoping is as near as you’ll get to them,” LeGresley retorted bluntly. “The banks won’t extend their brokers’ loans on this inflated market, and I guess you’re up to your limit now, eh?”

Both the senior partners looked across to ! Armstrong, who nodded. “Right up to the limit,” he assented, almost ruefully.

LeGresley smiled. “I thought so, but all you brokers are in the same position. You're j no exception, even if you are one of the big houses. It’s not a satisfactory position from our point of view either. As you know, we have a pretty big interest in the mining market, and this restriction doesn't exactly suit our plans in a market like this. Incidentally, how long do you men think the present condition will last—I mean, the present bull market?”

Street cocked an eye at Armstrong. “Dick, there, is our market economist.” he said, speaking to LeGresley.

Armstrong hesitated. He did not feel like expressing any opinion he might hold on the matter before an authority like LeGresley.

“I wouldn’t like to express too definite an opinion,” he said finally, "but it cannot possibly last very much longer.” He felt lie was on safe ground here.

“You’re a pessimist, young man,’’ declared LeGresley with some emphasis. “With the support it’s got, it won’t break yet; and if it does, it will likely recover. That’s our view anyhow.”

Both Street and Richmond were keenly interested, for LeGresley's renown as a judge of the market was almost proverbial. Armstrong felt impressed, too, though the view was not in accord with his own opinions.

A curious feeling of doubt suddenly possessed him, and he looked at LeGresley wonderingly. Yet he seemed to be earnest enough as he went on speaking.

“We’ve got to protect our interests; and we may need you. We want one of the big i firms—you, possibly—through whom we can { operate when the time comes. We would prefer to see that firm extend its field of business. We don’t want any of our trades identified on the floor, you understand, so the bigger you grow, the better for us.” ¡ “I get you.” It was Street who s|x>ke, j impulsively. “What do you suggest we should do?”

LEGRESLEY laughed quietly. “It’s I J really what I suggest we do.” he replied, j “We want a house which we can implicitly i

trust, and we want that house to be the biggest institution of its kind. We might even be prepared to offer that house a credit, on the same conditions as the banks, of one million, two million, or whatever is necessary for their business.”

He spoke almost casually, but both Street and Richmond were bending forward with glistening eyes. That would mean unlimited expansion, unlimited resources, unlimited power. Armstrong felt the emotion of the moment, but he was puzzled too. He spoke almost before he realized it.

“Any strings attached to that offer?”

LeGresley shot a keen glance at Dick before replying. “None, except such as the bank imposes now,” he answered; yet somehow Dick did not feel reassured even by the definite nature of his reply.

But Street was instant in his acceptance of the proposal. When a very large proportion of the business was carried by clients on margin a wide line of credit was necessary, and it was true that the banks were not extending their loans. This plan would enable them to pledge stock held for clients’ accounts on the same terms as they did at the banks, but there would be practically no limit as to the amount they could borrow. It made possible the immediate extension of the business, and Street could see a future for the firm greater than he had even thought of. Street and Richmond could become the great financial house of the mining world; even internationally famous. His imagination rioted at the very prospect. His star was surely in the ascendant. And the proposal was new proof of Rockingham’s friendship and his desire for co-operation.

“That’s a really wonderful idea,” he cried huskily.“It will help us both. It would mean a lot to us, of course—”

“And to us,” LeGresley broke in agreeably. “We have the money, and we might as well use it. Besides, we want to play with you. I think you are going far, Street.” He rose and picked up his hat. "I’ll let you know as soon as we are ready to go into details.”

Armstrong asked another question before he could go. “When does this credit go into effect?”

“I can’t say yet,” was LeGresley’s smiling reply, “but we’ll fix it up as quickly as possible, so you can get ahead with your plans for new offices. And I wish you the best of luck.”

“Wait a minute, LeGresley,” said Street suddenly; “I want to show you something.” He bent down to a drawer of his desk and lifted out a couple of small ore samples. Almost reverently, he laid them on the desk in front of LeGresley.

“Look at those,” he cried proudly. “I don’t mind showing them to you now that we are going to be affiliated, so to speak. They’re samples from Black Lake.”

IEGRESLEY picked up one of the pieces.

J He was a trained mineralogist; knew value when he saw it. His eyes gleamed as he examined the little piece of rock.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” he declared sincerely. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen ore like that. It should assay some hundreds of dollars to the ton.” He looked at Street as if for confirmation of his opinion.

“All of that.” Street bent down and handed him yet another specimen. “There’s a real sample. Found twelve inches from the vein surface, and it’s as near pure gold as you’ll get this side of heaven.”

LeGresley carefully examined the specimen. Even to an untrained eye, it was obvious that it was gold ore of phenomenal value. To him, as an expert, it betokened a marvellous find. If the ore body were of any size and anything like the sample, then literally fortune stared at him from his own fist. He spoke softly.

“Bring this over tomorrow to the office, Street, will you? I think Rockingham would like to see it.”

“Sure, I’ll be glad to.” Street was flattered at the suggestion. "But why not take it with you? I can get it afterward.”

“All right, if you don’t mind. I would like to show this to the chief. He’ll be mighty interested.”

He dropped the ore sample in his pocket casually, and bade them all good day.

Street, gratified and proud, walked to the office door with him.

Armstrong sat silent. Somehow he sensed some undisclosed motive, some hidden reason for the sudden proposal that LeGresley had made. Yet he couldn’t define it. The thing was obviously a business deal, with advantages to both sides. Street clapped him on the shoulder as he came back to his desk. The man was in high spirits.

“That’s a great scheme,” he said joyously, “and it’s a compliment to us, too. I always thought John Rockingham had a liking for me. He’s always been so decent, personally. What do you think, Alan?”

Richmond was smiling at his partner’s exuberance, but he had to agree with him. “It looks very good to me,” he said.

Suddenly, Street turned to Armstrong. “Dick, you’re not saying much. What’s the matter with you?”

Dick rose from his seat thoughtfully. “I don’t see through it,” he said almost apologetically. “There must be some reason for this sudden move of theirs—”

He got no farther. Street clapped him on the back, laughing. “You, too, Dick? I thought Alan here was our official pessimist.”

“Well,” insisted Dick quietly, “it’s like this: ‘I fear the Greeks bearing gifts.’ ”

And, with Richmond, he left the room.

Alone, Street sat for awhile, dreaming. An intoxicating vision of unlimited power rose before him. He seemed to be gradually enveloped in some miasmic mist, through which a monstrous golden finger gleamed, beckoning to him.

TN HIS own office close by, Richard Armstrong sat alone, reading for the second time a letter which he had found on his return from the conference with LeGresley. As soon as he had seen the bold, well-formed writing on the envelope he knew who had written it, and an unaccountable feeling of elation surged through him. A third time he read it, this time more normally.

“My dear Mr. Armstrong:

We are having a little party —quite an informal affair—on Monday evening, and my uncle and I would be glad if you would come. John Costello, the pianist, is to be with us, and if you care for music—as I am sure you do—I think you will enjoy yourself. May we expect to see you at 8.30 on that evening? Yours sincerely,

Alyce Weldon.”

But it was the postscript that stirred him so strangely and forced his pulse to beat so uncommonly fast.

“P.S.—Do come. I want to talk to you. A.W.”

The letter dropped from his hand to the desk, and he sat looking at it, broodingly. He was conscious of an unaccustomed sense of indecision. Why shouldn’t he go? Yet, curiously, he felt a strange reluctance to accept; a queer shrinking from what appeared to be a wonderful chance to improve his acquaintanceship with this girl who so definitely attracted him. There was no engagement of importance to prevent him accepting, and yet he hesitated. Matthew Street, Alyce Weldon, John Rockingham, Richard Armstrong—somehow there seemed to be an incongruity in the combination. Besides, should he accept this proffered friendship in order to use it for other ends, to help along an impersonal interest?

Then, too, the situation was one toward which he did not seem to gravitate naturally. He had been, in some way, projected into it. Normally, he felt sure, Alyce Weldon would not have invited him. Circumstance might provide a reason, but one not wholly sufficient. Why had she asked him? To believe that his attraction for her was mutual was only to indulge in a self-appreciation which,

while pleasant, was not wholly sincere. He quite realized that he did not belong to her set.

Armstrong's earlier life had been based on the dig-and-fill principle—digging for a job. and then filling it while it lasted. Howfar his early environment had been responsible for this condition he could not say. Those days had not been easy ones. He could not recall a single period during that time which even remotely could be designated as affluent.

Only during the past Kvo or three years had he put his feet firmly upon the steps of success. From a minor executive post in the firm he had risen, by hard work and applied ability, to his present position. He possessed the full confidence of his senior partners, and to him they had entrusted the handling of all organization and administrative matters in connection with the business. After all, he was now a partner, even if a junior one, and as such, occupied a definite place in the business world. His eyes wandered round his office. His surroundings indicated a luxury which sacrificed nothing to efficiency. The mahogany

of the panelled walls repeated itself in his fiat-topped desk, his chairs, and his bookcase. An unpattemed mg of blue carpetted the entire1 floor. A restrained dignity was reflected by the white-matted etchings upon the walls. There could be little doubt that his business standing entitled him to accept this invitation; yet, now that he had the opportunity, a singular hesitancy held him back.

But Alyce Weldon certainly fascinated him. He might not be a member of her social circle, yet he felt that she. in some way. belonged to his set. There, no social amenities counted: it was comradeship with a mind that paralleled. And she qualified. Then, too, there was Rockingham himself. An intimacy such as this invitation opened up could give him an opportunity of observing the man at close range. That, in | itself, might be something to be desired. The suggestion that he should use this girl to cement a business relationship kept recurring to his mind. What should he do?

He was still undecided when the boy came in for his mail.

To be Continued