FICTION

Plunder

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE August 1 1932
FICTION

Plunder

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE August 1 1932

Plunder

JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE

In the hectic days of the late stock boom, John Rockingham, a Canadian financier, plots with Sir Peter Tarne and Lord Moundell to secure control of Canada's mineral wealth.

Chester Lane is Rockingham’s legal adviser; Parker, the Minister of Public Order, is his servant; LeGresley is his manager.

The plans of the financiers are upset when a prospector named Paulson, sent out by the Queen’s Town brokerage firm of Street and Richmond, stakes a number of valuable new claims.

With a view to obtaining these claims in any way possible, Rockingham suggests to his attractive niece and confidential secretary, Alyce Weldon, that she should become friendly with a junior member of the Street and Richmond firm named Dick Armstrong. Alyce does as requested, and presently Armstrong is deeply in love with her.

Unable to persuade the brokerage firm to sell their new claims, LeGresley offers them a huge loan in the expectation that they will not Ire able to repay it except by ceding their property.

Armstrong, however, has grown a bit suspicious of Rockingham, though as yet his trust in Alyce Weldon is implicit, and he persuades his company to reject the loan for the time being.

Street arul Richmond really need a loan because, in common with many other brokers in those boom days, they have overextended their credit.

This involvement threatens to become serious when a government audit is ordered of the Street and Richmond Iwoks in their Western office at Dalgerton.

Dick Armstrong starts for that city in order to straighten things out.

I ATE the following afternoon—at the time when Sir Peter Tarne was watching the ramparts of old Quebec fade ■" from sight; at the hour when Richard Armstrong was rounding the far shores of Superior as his train scurried toward the West; at the moment when Alyce Weldon, alone in her garden, read for the seventh time a long message signed “Dick"—Matthew Street sat in his office in Queen's Town, talking to Chester Lane.

The usual cheerful smile was absent from Street’s face, and the unusual frown that had replaced it indicated some perplexity of mind. He tossed a paper to the desk impatiently.

“I don’t like it. Chester.” he said, looking anxiously at his visitor, “and that’s why I asked you to come over. I want your advice.’’

Lane leaned forward in his chair. “Of course, I'm glad to help you in any way I can, but. frankly, I don’t think there’s much cause for alarm, as far as you are concerned.” But Street was far from being reassured. “We’re a long way from Dalgerton,” he retorted. "I don’t know what Montgomery Hill have been doing out there, but apparently they’ve got themselves in dutch all round.”

“Did you have any idea that the Altobia authorities would take any action against them?”

“Armstrong predicted something would happen when he came back last time; said they were being closely watched. But I couldn’t quite credit it.”

Lane laughed quietly. "I don’t blame you for that,” he remarked, “but Armstrong’s no fool.”

“You bet he isn’t; that’s one reason w’hy he’s on his way there now.” Street’s smile almost came back. “But he can’t get there till—”

“Who’s your manager there?” Lane interrupted. “Is he a good man?”

"Quite good; clever and very popular. He’ll do his best, of course."

“The fact is. they seized Montgomery’s books, then yours and others?”

“Yes.”

“How many firms are affected?”

“About five, I gather from the message.”

“Well, there’s nothing to worry about immediately. It’ll take their auditors two or three weeks to go through all of them. Are your books in good shape?” Street nodded. “As far as I know. That’s Armstrong’s department.”

"Then I guess they’re all right. Listen, Street, here’s my reading of the matter: It’s generally understood that all brokers go short to clients, especially the mining houses. That is, as you know, they all sell stocks, purchased for clients to hold on margin, in order to finance the operation of their business. Obviously, the bank loans, limited as they are, are insufficient to provide funds to make up the difference between the total of the clients’ margin and the purchase price of the stocks. Personally, I’ve always held that, under certain conditions, that is not an offense under the code, but the principle has never been finally tested in our courts. Every one knows that it is practised in some form or other on every exchange in the world.”

“Well, what are they trying to do?” demanded Street impatiently.

Lane held up a warning hand. “No use getting mad about it,” he rebuked. “I’m just trying to get at the reason for their action.” He considered for a moment.

"From what I gather,” he resumed, “Montgomery has been riding rather fast out there, and possibly some of his clients have raised the devil. The Government gets worried by a few of the more noisy of them, and decides to look into things. It takes a certain view of a section of the code—a different view from mine and proceeds to propitiate the dear public by taking hold of the firm’s books. Then, to show it is no invidious action, it does the same to the others.”

But Street was not satisfied. “Well, why take so drastic an action? No Government could audit the books without seizure.”

“Possibly,” Lane agreed, “but it decided to take no chance. I wouldn’t worry, if I were you.”

CTREET’S fist thumped down on the desk. “But ^ 1 am worrying. Listen, Chester, I’m trying to run a straight business. You know how we’re reorganizing now, and I don’t want any trouble. Another six months or so and we’ll have every share of stock owing to a client on hand or at call. I tell you. I do worry.”

"Another six months and you won’t have any need to worry,” said Lane, reflectively.

“Do you really think so?” asked Street anxiously.

“I’m sure,” stated Lane emphatically, but he didn’t explain why. He was still gazing at the wall.

Street’s sigh was one of sheer relief. “I’m glad to hear you say that, Chester,” he said, “but I don’t think we ought to leave anything undone to avoid trouble.”

“Right,” Lane acquiesced swiftly. “But till Armstrong gets there and reports, I don’t think we can do very much.”

Street hesitated. “There’s one thing, Chester, we could do if you think it wise.” He looked at Lane and waited.

“What is that?” Lane asked.

“Well,” explained Street, speaking slowly, “you know we are carrying Parker’s brother for a big amount in Dalgerton. Besides, we’re financing their oil proposition in Burning Valley, and it’s cost us a lot of money so far, with no apparent return.”

Lane was very interested now. “How did you get into that?” he asked. “You never told me about it.”

“Oh, Parker sent his brothers down to see me, and naturally I wanted to do him a favor if I could. It didn’t look such a bad speculation anyhow, so I agreed to take a hundred thousand shares.”

“At what price?”

“A dollar a share. I gave them twenty-five thousand dollars to start with, and agreed to take the balance of the stock in periodical installments.”

“Phew!” Lane’s low whistle was expressive. “Is Parker in this himself?”

“I don’t know, he may be, but his two brothers certainly are. And the one in Dalgerton is carrying a mighty big account with us right now. So I think Parker should help us if he can.”

Lane agreed. “I do, too. Want me to speak to him?”

Street reflected for a moment. “Perhaps not,” he decided. “His brother is coming in for more money tomorrow, and I’ll mention it to him."

“Make it a condition of his getting the money,” suggested Lane tersely, but Street shook his head.

“Hardly. I must live up to my contract, but I certainly hope he can do something. After all, I’ve done enough for him.”

Lane rose to go. “Keep me advised, Street, and I’ll be at your service at any time. I’ll go out there myself if it will do any good.” He stretched out his hand. “Ask Armstrong, when he gets there, if I could help by meeting him there.”

“I will,” said Street gratefully, “and many thanks for the suggestion.”

A lady in rebellion delivers an ultimatum and the great conspiracy faces a new menace

After Lane had gone. Street sat at his desk, thinking hard.

One way or another, he had done quite a few things for Parker. When the Rutherford failure looked like trouble, Parker had asked him to do what he could to mend matters. He had acted immediately; had arranged for a partnership to take over the business without loss to any of the clients. It had cost him and others a lot of money to finance it, but he had put it across. Then there was the Morrow and McIntyre mess, when it seemed only a matter of hours before they would crash. Parker had asked him then to save the situation, and he had done it. He recalled how he had sweated persuading some of the other houses to help, and how glad Parker had been when they had put up sufficient funds and stock between them to stave off disaster to the failing firm. Above all, there had been the queer sequel to the Biggin and Bruce flare-up. He had put in Clothier, one of his own best men, and formed a new company. He and O’Leary, a friend of Parker’s, had put up $60,000 and again trouble was averted. More, it had saved a dangerous situation, and Parker knew it. Why shouldn’t he do something in return? It would be possible, surely, for him to get in touch with the Altobia people and tell them what he, Street, had done for him. Tell them, too, that he was running his business on level lines; spending money to reorganize on the strictest basis, as Parker knew well. It might not do any good, but, on the other hand, it might help Armstrong’s efforts.

A PICTURE of Parker, as he knew him, came to Street’s mind as he sat there—a big man, tall and paunchy, with keen, twinkling eyes set in a heavy face; a manner hearty, even jovial, except when he discoursed on the public platforms on the vices of his political opponents.

Street, always an analyst, started to consider the man,

carefully. Parker was one to whom success had not come easily. He had had to fight his way, as Street knew well, by scheme and counterscheme, through the tortuous tides of political expediency, before reaching his present high position. He certainly possessed an amazing faculty for handling all kinds of political problems, and he controlled the machinery of his party with a firm and dexterous hand. He was ambitious, too. Even some of the man’s enemies—and they were many—gave him credit for being “astute,” but in Street’s judgment he was more than that. His work in the administration had developed a natural cleverness into a broad, almost brilliant, capacity for shrewd and clear thinking. But in the man himself, Street had sensed a strange fear, an innate doubt as to his ability to live consistently up to the responsibilities of his position in the Government and in the province.

Maybe it was the ghost of some inferiority complex dating from his earlier days which, in spite of all the progress and development of his career, he had not been able to banish completely. “Well,” thought Street, “with it all, he owes •me something, and now is the time for him to show his gratitude.”

That thought made him smile. Gratitude. Who ever heard of that attribute in a politician? And, after all. Parker was always that. Well, he would see. Street shrugged his shoulders, put on his hat, and went down to his waiting car.

He was sitting comfortably in his den after dinner that evening when, in glancing over the local paper, the name of Rockingham caught his attention. He read the paragraph carefully:

FAMOUS FINANCIER VISITS QUEEN’S TOWN.

CONSULTS WITH LOCAL MEN.

One of the world’s greatest financiers visited Queen’s Town yesterday, though few people were aware of it. Sir Peter Tarne, multimillionaire, of London. England, arrived in the city yesterday morning, accompanied by his secretaries, and occupied a suite at the Royal Wessex Hotel. His name did not appear in the hotel register, nor could confirmation of his presence be secured from the hotel authorities. Nevertheless, the Planet is able to announce that Sir Peter spent the morning in his suite working, presumably with his secretaries; that in the afternoon he visited the Legislative Buildings, where he conferred privately with certain high officials; and that he dined with Mr. John Rockingham at the latter’s beautiful home at Hampstead Park, leaving on the 11 p.m. train, to which his private car was attached, for Hillroyal, en route for Quebec. Sir Peter, the Planet ascertains, is sailing today on the Empress of Atlantis for England.

Sir Peter Tame, who is regarded as one of the richest men in the world and who controls a wide range of industrial interests, will be remembered as the man who some years ago effected the cotton combine in England, at which time his methods were roundly condemned by a powerful section of the press in that country. He was afterward identified with the huge shipping merger which caused a serious political crisis in England, and with the famous colliery combine which now controls the greater part of the coal supply of the world.

The Planet understands that his visit to Queen’s Town yesterday may be fraught with important consequences to this city and to the province.

Matthew Street’s eyebrows went up as he finished reading. Sir Peter Tame? Could he j»ssibly be interested in Rockingham’s loan plan? That scheme would need

quite a few millions, and it might be that Rockingham had interested Tame to the extent of financing it, or at least sharing in the financing of it. Perhaps there were big things afoot. Well, all the better. He would share in them, now that Rockingham had assured him of the future of his firm. Pretty shrewd of Rockingham, he thought, to tie up with a man like Sir Peter Tame, one of the most |x>werful as well as one of the richest men in the world. Rockingham knew what he was about, all right. Golly! Armstrong, the young croaker, would be interested in that bit of news. It would clear his head of that f;x>l notion of his that there was something sinister behind this new loaning plan of Rockingham and LeGresley. Street tore the paragraph out. put it in an envelope, and addressed it to Richard Armstrong. Lassiter Hotel. Dalgerton, chuckling as he placed it on the desk for mailing.

THE thought of Armstrong brought the Western problem to Street’s mind again. He would be anxious till he heard that Dick had arrived and was on the job. He frowned as he remembered that Armstrong had a double duty this trip. He had been glad to accede to Rockingham’s request that Dick should give a hand to the Montgomery affair as well as his own. It was a stiff assignment to give the man, but Dick would carry the load all right. If he wanted help. Chester Lane could go, and Lane was the smartest lawyer in brokerage matters that Street knew of. Somehow, they would get things into shape. Probably Dick would do it himself.

Just then the phone rang.

It was Rockingham’s voice that came over the wire. “Hello, Street,” the deep voice said, ‘Tm glad I found you at home Have I interrupted your dinner?”

"No, I’ve just finished.” Street made haste to assure him. “I’m sitting here reading the pa|>ers.”

“Nothing stirring in the press these days,” Rockingham’s voice declared, “other than write-ups about the record markets.”

Street chuckled into the receiver. “Well, there’s a little write-up about you or at least about Sir Peter Tame’s visit to you.”

There came an angry snort from the wire. “The devil you say! What paper? The Planet?”

“Yes. Didn’t you see it?”

Another snort from the phone. "How do the papers get hold of things? Tarne wanted his visit kept quiet. I*>es it say where he went?”

Secretly, Street smiled at Rockingham’s anger. “Like me to read it to you?” he asked.

“No. I’ll look it up myself, thanks.” The wire nearly fused with the crispness of the words. “I’m very much annoyed about it, Street.”

“Well,” Street began sympathetically, but the deep voice on the wire interrupted him.

"Listen, Street, what I wanted to say was this. Lane

was talking to me just now on some legal matter, and he mentioned that you were still worried over the Dalgerton situation. Any new developments?”

"No, but 1 don't like the way they're acting out there. Why should we lx: brought into the mess?”

There came another rumble from the phone. "I called Parker up a while ago about it. 1 le is mad about the whole thing. He doesn't want trouble any more than we do.” "Can he do anything?

"Don’t ask questions!” snapped back the deep voice. Yet somehow Street felt relief. "Don’t you think young Armstrong can manage things out there?"

"I certainly do,” Street declared. "I asked Lane to stand by just in case we needed him.”

There came a short, unexpected laugh from the other end. "Keep Lane out of it. Street. He’s needed here. 1 want to see what your young man, Armstrong, can do.”

"Well,” said Street staunchly, "he’s never failed me yet.” "And he had better not fail now,” the other voice warned. "It’s his big chance.”

“A chance to do something for you as well as for me.” Street thought that was rather diplomatic.

The voice over the wire seemed to sharpen. "We shall see. There are others besides us who want him to put it over.” Immediately Street was curious. “What others?” he asked swiftly.

Came an amused chuckle from the receiver. “My niece, for one. She seems to be mightily interested in his success. I guess he knows it.

So I’m thinking he’ll put it over all right.

Don’t worry.”

Another chuckle and the phone clicked.

Street, in a daze, replaced the receiver.

“So it's gone as far. as that, eh?" he mused.

He walked across to the sideboard, and solemnly mixed himself a drink.

"Here’s luck, Dick, lad,” he said, raising his glass, "but I fear this will mean good-by.”

He put down the emptied tumbler, and stood, leaning against the mantelpiece, lost in troubled thought.

At the moment, in his compartment on the Continental flyer, Armstrong was sure that he owned the earth, to say nothing of the whole firmament of heaven. Again he read the message that had been handed to him at the train's last stopping place:

"Your wires have made me more than happy stop do your darndest Dick for my sake. Alyce.”

ARMSTRONG, remained in the West longer than he had anticipated, and a great deal longer than he desired. He found, upon his arrival in Dalgerton. a situation more grave, from the standpoint of the brokers, than he had expected.

For one thing, there was a certain popular resentment against the methods that one brokerage house had been using, and while his own firm was held in good regard, the action of the Government in seizing the Ixxiks of the leading firms had undoubtedly met with some degree of approval on the part of the public at large. Consequently, he had to work with diplomatic skill to achieve any satisfactory progress. It was a matter of several weeks before he could feel sure that he had, at all events to some extent, succeeded in his mission, and that his own house was safe from any further official action. Rockingham had asked him to study the general situation, chiefly with regard to the other house especially affected, and here he met with some difficulty.

Finally he managed to achieve a compromise, but he was not unduly sanguine as to the outcome. In the last analysis, a great deal depended on the attitude of the principals themselves, and so he reported.

And now. as he saw the city of Dalgerton moving slowly by. as his train pulled out from the station on its journey eastward, he was conscious of one thing —he was at last on his way back to Alyce Weldon. There had been no mention of a formal engagement for which John Rockingham was responsible but their understanding had become utterly complete and perfect. The very remembrance of her thrilled him. and now to be going back to her after these long weeks filled him with a longing eagerness he had never before experienced. He recalled a phrase from her last letter, “Do you realize, my dear, that you have never yet kissed me?” and his pulses pounded with impatient desire. Just one thought came to disturb him. In falling in love with her -and. as heaven knew, it was something beyond his helping — had he been disloyal in any way to Matthew Street?

In the meantime, prosperity seemed to have attached

itself permanently to the firm of Street and Richmond. The market continued to boil. Prices rose with sensational regularity. The whole world appeared drunk with this speculative passion. Fortunes were made and lost with spectacular rapidity. Merchants became millionaires. Even newsboys played the market and discussed the financial columns with the keenness of seasoned investors. And the house of Street and Richmond prospered accordingly. Their board rooms were packed every day with a throng of eager clients, and their business expanded until even the resources of a maximum staff failed to keep abreast of the consequent routine. They were handling millions of shares daily, and their private lines were choked with orders and fills confirmed. To Street and his partner Richmond, it looked as though their golden dreams had come strangely true.

LeGresley had lived up to his promise. A credit of one million dollars had been extended to their house, and at last they felt independent of the banks. Further credits had been promised to them, later on. With their accumulated reserves they had bought in, even at current prices though with judicious care, some of the stocks they were short to clients, and LeGresley had commended them for their action. Altogether, they felt that fortune had chosen them to be deservedly favored, and even the astute Street ceased to worry overmuch about the “swing of the pendulum.” It seemed, from all appearances, that this buying market could not be broken, at all events, for a long time yet. And

when Armstrong reported the success of his Western mission, there appeared not even a cloud the size of a child’s hand upon the calm and clear horizon of their good fortune.

But the rush of business in the brokers’ board rooms throughout the city had a complete counterpart, save for the crowds, in the offices of the Anglo-Cambrian Corporation, Limited. Here, on the top floor of one of Queen’s Town’s newest skyscrapers, Henri LeGresley worked day and night, watching his plans develop, keeping in constant touch with men and markets. Never a flurry on the board passed unnoticed by his keen eye; never a professional play in a listed stock but his alert mind had analyzed it and unmasked its secret personnel and purpose.

The tickers in the antechamber of his private office were watched unceasingly by trained men; he was informed instantly of any undue movement in volume or price. Besides the work involved in connection with their main plan. LeGresley was skilfully operating on the market for his company. But his shrewd and calculated moves were never

allowed to appear or become known, so skilfully were they put through various channels. Even Matthew Street had no suspicion that two very active and large accounts on his books were other than what they appeared to be—personal accounts of substantial clients. The account that was carried on Street and Richmond’s books in LeGresley’s own name, active as it was, was only a screen to cover his real plays. And with one exception, every other mining broker of repute in the city was. in this respect, as innocent as Street.

1EGRESLEY, suave and shrewd, competent and clever, J sat in his office, weaving his web and watching his plans draw nearer to their full fruition. Even Rockingham himself did not intrude too much upon the time of his lieutenant. He was content to confer only when circumstances compelled it. He was quite aware that LeGresley worked better alone and unhampered.

The first interview between the two men, following the visit of Sir Peter Tarne, had been on the day after Armstrong’s sudden departure for the West. Rockingham dropped into LeGresley’s office around five o’clock, quite unexpectedly.

LeGresley looked his surprise as his chief interrupted him. Five o’clock in the afternoon was, to LeGresley at that period, just about the middle of the day’s work. A glance at Rockingham’s face made him wave his secretary back to her adjoining room and tear his own attention completely away from the mass of papers that strewed his desk. Rockingham carefully closed the door behind him, sat down, and lit a cigarette.

“What’s the matter?” asked LeGresley in some anxiety, for Rockingham looked very solemn. He was relieved w'hen Rockingham smiled, even if the smile was somewhat one-sided.

“I told you about young Armstrong leaving in a hurry for the West last night?” LeGresley nodded.

"And I told you about getting Street to let him work on the Montgomery Hill affair out there?”

Again LeGresley assented.

"And you know how Armstrong has been coming out to the house to see Alyce —they have been seeing quite a lot of each other—and how close-mouthed Armstrong has been?”

LeGresley’s eyes glinted. Was there something wrong?

"Well, my dear LeGresley, I think we’re a pair of fools. They have fallen in love with each other.”

"Is that all?” There was a great relief in LeGresley’s question.

"It’s enough,” retorted Rockingham bluntly. “Alyce served an ultimatum on me today.” He smiled dourly at the remembrance of it. “Told me she was going to marry him some day, and she’d be hanged if she would try to pump him any more. In fact, she went so far as to tell me it was an immoral suggestion on my part.”

"Didn’t you see this coming?” asked LeGresley.

"Certainly I did, but I didn’t think it would come to a head so soon.”

"Well, what are you going to do about it?”

“What can I do? I’m going to give them my blessing.” Rockingham chuckled at the quaint idea of a benediction pronounced by himself. “After all, I suppose she will marry somebody. Armstrong is a promising fellow and I like him. So why not?” He was almost belligerent.

LeGresley nodded reflectively. “Maybe it’s a good thing. We can always find a good place f^r Armstrong if he needs it. And anyhow, it’s nothing irrevocable till they are actually married, and I suppose that’s not in immediate prospect.”

“Not by a darned sight,” was Rockingham’s emphatic pronouncement, “but Alyce certainly knows her own mind.” He didn’t tell LeGresley all she had actually said to him. She had spoken more like a Rockingham than a Weldon that day. No beating about the bush with that young lady.

Secretly, he was proud of her, and proud of the fighting frankness with which she had confronted him when she found that Armstrong had left so unexpectedly the night before.

“I know positively that I love him, and I want him more than anything else on earth,” she had said, head high, her eyes flashing. “You urged me to see him, so don’t blame me now -for falling in love with him.”

Rockingham had to admit there was justice in her argument. So he had agreed, and because he had faith in her.

Continued on page 56

Plunder

Continued from page 18

he made no secret of his reservations.

“All right,” he had said, and to his surprise he found himself kissing her tenderly. “All right. But you know what’s coming, and he’s with the other crowd. Of course, I can look after him, but you must promise me two things. First, there will be no hint of any of our present plans to him as long as he is with Street, and, second, no question of marriage for one whole year. Agreed?” She had nodded happily, and that nod was as good as a sealed contract. Curiously, Rockingham felt happy, because she looked so glad. There was a rapture in the blue eyes that made him think, for a minute or two, of his own mother, so long lost to him. And then he had felt ashamed of his moment of weakness: he was John Rockingham again.

TEGRESLEY’S calm voice brought him back to the office.

“It may tum out all right; perhaps it may even help us. Are you going to get him to quit Street?”

"Not yet. He may be more useful where he is. But no monkey business as far as he’s concerned, or we’ll have Alyce in wild rebellion.”

LeGresley grinned. “All right. I thought when you came in that Moundell or Tame had committed suicide, at the very least. And—I want to get back to work.”

“You go to the devil,” advised Rockingham genially, and left him.

By a strange coincidence, the day following Armstrong’s departure from Dalgerton, the two had another unexpected conference. For more than a week Rockingham had been in New York, but he walked into LeGresley’s office immediately after breakfast that morning. LeGresley had not anticipated his return quite so soon, and said so.

“Didn’t have time to wire you before I left,” Rockingham explained briefly, “but I’ve found out something important and we’ve got to talk about it.”

LeGresley looked enquiringly at him. “Well, what’s up now?” he asked.

Rockingham took some papers from his inner pocket and threw one across the desk.

“That arrived yesterday morning,” he said, “and that’s the reason I’m back here.” It was a cable in code, with the translation pencilled in between the lines. LeGresley read it through twice.

“Have positive information Gundelheim planning spectacular invasion Canadian mines stop cannot ascertain whether market action contemplated or private acquisition planned stop information definite enough to suggest you take steps to counter stop advise progress and if further funds necessary.

Moundell.”

He passed the message back to Rockingham, and the two men looked at each other thoughtfully. Then, without a word, LeGresley rose and stood gazing from the window across the lake.

“Get any confirmation of this in New York?” he asked sharply, but Rockingham shook his head.

"They’re the closest bunch in the world, as you well know,” he said, with as near to an apology in his voice as LeGresley had ever heard from him. “I couldn’t get one darned piece of information through any of our usual channels. My thought is that we’ll pick up news here quicker than down there.” “Of course,” snapped LeGresley, “but it would liave helped if we knew which line they were taking.”

He strode across to his desk and pressed a button. Almost immediately there came a soft knock on the door, and a young man entered. LeGresley spoke fast.

“Listen, Smith. There were no signs yesterday of any unusual volume of orders from New York, were there?”

“No, sir.”

“You are watching that angle closely?” “Yes, sir.”

“Well, listen carefully. There may be sudden action; not anything like a raid, of course, but some new interest coming in. Get me? Tell me the moment you suspect anything.”

The young man nodded. “Yes, sir, quite,” and left the room. LeGresley turned to Rockingham.

“We’ll soon know if even another small pebble is thrown into our mill pond,” he said cheerfully.

TYOCKINGHAM signified his agreement. 1A. “My opinion exactly. I suppose you’ve got all the big blocks of shares tagged Any one you know likely to doublecross you?”

“I think not. There’s only one bad spot.” “Black Lake?”

“Yes. I know Gundelheims have had their men up there for weeks. They are working closely with Street’s man, Paulson.” “But I thought you had that arranged with Street?”

“I have, but it’s only a verbal agreement. Street won’t sign an option. That’s why I tied up his claims, just to make sure. Well, I’ll find out something before the day’s gone.”

Rockingham picked up his hat. “You’re not worrying unduly,Henri,” he observed with a smile, “so I guess I’ll leave it to you. But it would be dangerous if they made any affiliations here. We might be forced to compromise if our plans were threatened. And we don’t want to do that.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t,” was LeGresley’s quiet assurance. “But we’ve got our work cut out.”

“Well, I’ll go. Let me know as soon as you have any news. By the way, young Armstrong will be back in a couple of days. He may be able to help us, in case Street is approached by Gundelheim.”

LeGresley nodded absently, and picked up a typewritten report from his desk.

“Want to know how we’re standing now?” he asked.

Rockingham paused on his way to the door.

"Bring the figures up with you tonight, and we’ll go over them. Incidentally, have you mentioned the loan proposition to Montgomery Hill yet?”

“No; nor to any one else except Street.” LeGresley was not so enthusiastic about that point. He changed the subject. “Say, young Armstrong did well out at Dalgerton. Did he get any help from Parker?”

“Parker said he took what action he could; but I’m wondering how much it amounted to,” Rockingham remarked. “However, we’ll talk the whole thing over tonight. See you around nine-thirty?” LeGresley waited till the door had closed behind him, and snatched up the phone.

“Get me Mr. Chester Lane,” he ordered his operator curtly. He was put through quickly.

“That you, Chester? Listen. I believe the Gundelheims may be after Black Lake. Yes, any time now. What’s the position? Are the claims tied up? Yes, yes . . . Can they be restrained from selling? Fine. Then we needn’t .worry too much. I’ll keep you posted. Yes, yes; good-by.”

The door of his office flew open just as he put down the receiver, and his young man, Smith, burst in, all excited.

“New York opening looks queer, sir. Seems to be a bear raid all across the board. Mining market jumpy, too. - Waterside and Crown off two points already.”

He passed a long ticker tape to LeGresley, and fled back to his post. LeGresley ran quickly along the line of figures. This was a general break; too general to be any move by Gundelheim. He shot a swift glance at the calendar.

“Two weeks ahead of time,” he cried to the empty room, “and two weeks too soon. Blast Tame and all his predictions!”

He made a jump for the tickers in the anteroom.

To be Continued