The Tempest breads in the mining market and the jackals of finance prepare for a feast
JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE
The Story: In the hectic days of the late stock boom, John Rockingham, the great 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.
LeGresley, acting for Rockingham, offers to buy the new Street and Richmond claims. The brokerage company refuses to sell: and then LeGresley offers them a million-dollar loan, his idea being that the stock market must break soon and Street and Richmond will be unable to pay, in which event Rockingham will be able to take over not only all stock advanced as security against the loan but the claims as well. Dick Armstrong advises against acceptance, but the senior partners overrule him.
Alyce Weldon tells Rockingham that she loves Dick and therefore can no longer permit herself to be used as a tool to rob Dick’s company.
In New York the stock market breaks, and Rockingham and LeGresley are chagrined because they had not expected the Ineak to come for another two weeks.
IEGRESLEY’s fears were groundless. Within the hour the bear raid on the New York market was “■* repulsed, prices firmed, and then started to rise again. The Queen’s Town market very quickly reacted to the big board, and the misgivings that had risen in some quarters speedily gave place to renewed confidence.
Armstrong arrived to find himself rushed into a maelstrom of work. Alyce, to his great delight, met him at the station, and they breakfasted together at the Royal Wessex. There was so much they had to say that they hardly spoke at all after the first ecstatic moment of meeting. They were content to sit, looking at each other with gladly anxious eyes, as if to make sure they were really together and that the wonder of it was not a dream or a delusion. Dick, of course, knew that Street would be anxious to see him, and he, on his part, realized that he would be wanted in the office. But it was hard to break away, and it was Alyce who finally, with a reluctance she could not disguise, made the effort to rise.
“Dick, my dear,” she said as she pushed back her chair, “you must go. I know Mr. Street will be waiting for you, and I don’t want him to hate me for keeping you.”
Dick quickly covered her hand with his, and her eyes glow'ed.
“It has been the most wonderful hour I’ve ever known,” he whispered. “I’ll be counting the minutes till I see you again.”
She laughed softly, and Dick thought it might be the
music of angels.
“Oh. no, you won’t,” she retorted, “you’ll be much too busy. Perhaps you won’t have time even to think of me.
Dick, I’d just hate that. But come out as soon as you possibly can tonight, and—” She hesitated.
“And?” he urged, still holding her hand as if he never wanted to let her use it again.
She blushed a little. “And if you get just one minute to spare, phone me, Dick. Then I’ll know you haven’t shot off to some other faraway place without even letting me know.”
He promised happily, and they walked together out to her car. “I’ll take you up to your office,” she said gaily, and they drove to Market Street together.
Street, looking down casually from his open office window, saw them part. Dick stood on the edge of the sidewalk, hat in hand, watching her car out of sight in the traffic. He turned round, startled, as Street’s voice hailed him from above.
A minute later he was being welcomed by Street and Alan Richmond. The former thumped him on the back, the latter shook hands, and both congratulated him. He was surprised to find that the news of his engagement to Alyce Weldon had trickled out. Curiously, he had not counted on that; he had thought that he might experience some embarrassment in telling Street about it. Apparently, he found, it was a matter of general knowledge, though he knew no public announcement had been made, in deference to Rockingham’s wishes.
It did not take long for him to give them his report on the Western situation, the salient points of which he had naturally sent on in his daily wires to head office. Street was obviously pleased at the results he had secured. It was clearly a load off his mind. Then Dick started to ask questions. He wanted to get abreast of things here, so that he could take up the round of his daily duties with some degree of confidence.
“What about Black Lake?” was his first query. For some reason, he felt that Alyce’s uncle was anxious about the future of the strike. Rockingham had appeared so very eager to know whether under certain circumstances Street would sell.
“Still having a lot of bother over the claims,” Street explained, “and for the life of me I don’t understand it. Paulson’s no fool. He was satisfied the claims were in order, yet we’re having all kinds of trouble trying to get a clear title. However, it will come out all right, I suppose.”
“Any offers for the property?” “Nothing you can call an offer. We have had Gundelheim’s men up there looking things over, and Paulson reports they are very enthusiastic. Why shouldn’t they be? It’s the finest discovery ever made in the province.” Alan Richmond got up from his chair and W'alked to the window.
“My view is the same as it always has been—if we get a good offer, sell.” He turned round to Dick. “Do you think your friend Rockingham is really interested? LeGresley made us an offer—a ridiculous one, of course—but he didn’t seem particularly worried when we turned it down.”
Armstrong was surprised. “I understood he had an option to purchase,” he said.
“He has, verbally,” interjected Street. “That is, I promised him that if we got an offer, we w'ould let him know before accepting it. That’s all.”
“Well, I expect we shall hear from the Gundelheims before long,” remarked Richmond. “Personally, I see no reason why they wouldn’t gobble that property up and give us a reasonable price for it.”
Street was thinking as he sat listening.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea if you had a talk to Rockingham about it, Dick,” he suggested. “I wouldn’t mention the Gundelheims, but tell him other people are interested and ask him if he wants to come in with us.”
“Ask him if he wants to offer us a decent price,” amended Richmond bluntly. “We’re not going to wait forever with the best strike in Canada in our possession.”
“Well, anyhow.” modified Street, “see what he says about it. We’ll play fair with him. WTe owe him something for the way he’s helped us with this loaning post of his.” Dick was not quite so sure that he agreed with that point of view.
“111 speak to him, of course, the first chance I get. We may as well know definitely where he stands. Frankly, I believe he’s got some plan that concerns Black Lake, but what it is I don’t know.”
“You ought to be able to find out now,” said Richmond, and Dick didn’t like the emphasis he placed on the last word. He changed the subject.
“What about business? What’s going to happen to this market? Any definite ideas on that?”
There was a general laugh.
“Business?” repeated Street, still smiling. “We don’t know how to handle it, it’s coming so fast. Wait till you get into your office and see the rejxirts. I tell you, Dick, we’re going to be the biggest mining house in Canada, perhaps in the world.”
“Well, what about the market? Any sign of it cracking?” he demanded.
“This year, next year, some time, never,” monotoned Richmond humorously. “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”
But Dick was serious. “It can’t last forever, and I’ll bet the crash is nearer than you think. Are we ready for it?”
"Don’t worry so much, Dick,” Street said. “It won’t come yet awhile. They couldn’t crack this market if they tried.”
“As they have tried,” interjected Richmond.
“Yes, I guess you’re right,” resumed Street. “And in the meantime we’re making money; lots of it.”
Armstrong rose. “I guess I’ll get busy,” he said. “I want to see how the figures look. If there’s a sudden break, we’ve got to be ready to meet margin calls from LeGresley.”
Street was disinclined to worry about that.
“He won’t be too hard on us,” he predicted confidently, “and we’ll get the money in from our own clients to meet his calls.”
“Maybe,” Dick rejoined, "but there’s nothing like being prepared.” And with that, he hurried to his own office.
It was some time after lunch—which, to Dick, meant a hurried sandwich and a cup of coffee in his office as he worked—that he was called to Street’s office. His chief passed him a telegram. “Just received it,” he explained. It was from New York:
“Reports from our engineers at Black Lake satisfactory stop am prepared to discuss terms stop suggest arrange interview here or Queens Town stop would require short term option to cover period of negotiations and legal investigations.
“Holgate is the Gundelheims’ chief engineer,” Street explained, “and he’s one of the best in America. Now. what are we going to do?”
Richmond moved impatiently. “Surely there’s no question about it?” he asked. "Find out what they’re willing to pay.”
“What about LeGresley?” Street was excited. “We can't do anything with him till we know what Gundelheims will pay,” Richmond retorted, “and the sooner we find out the better.”
“What’s your idea?” asked Street, looking at Dick.
Armstrong looked at his watch. “It's nearly three o’clock now,” he said thoughtfully. "I suggest we wire Holgate and tell him we’ll wire fully in the morning as to arrangements. That would give us time to think things over.”
“Good idea.” exclaimed Street, relieved. “Get that wire off, Dick. What about it, Alan?” Richmond, to his partner’s surprise, agreed.
“I’ll raise one point, however,” he said. “Should Dick mention this to Rockingham before we say anything to LeGresley?”
Street thought for a moment. “We’ll leave that to Dick’s judgment,” he said finally. “Go get the wire off, Dick.”
It was after seven o’clock before Armstrong could get away from the office, and it was striking nine when he reached Rockingham’s house.
Alyce ran forward to greet him, a shining welcome in her blue eyes. His eager arms closed round her, and he lowered his lips to hers. But she put up her hand.
“Wait, Dick, for just a little while; wait till we go into the garden. It is just a fancy of mine, dear.” The look in her face made Dick acquiesce; it was a look of longing and of promise, and he was content to wait.
As they passed into the lounge. Rockingham came from the library and greeted Dick. His manner seemed sincerely cordial, and Armstrong, for the first time, sens«! a friendliness in the man.
“Come in here, the pair of you,” he said genially, opening the door of the library again. “I know you want to get away by yourselves, but I want to have a few words with both of you.”
They talked of themselves, and. somewhat indefinitely, of the future. Rockingham asked alxiut the Western trip and expressed himself well satisfied with Dick's work there.
“You may wonder at my interest in this matter,” he said in explanation, “but I have too many irons in the mining fire right now to want any bother. Just now, if any of the brokers got into trouble with the authorities it might upset the whole market, and that wouldn’t suit me. I could easily lose a lot of money.”
He watched Armstrong as he talked, but Dick’s face was impassive.
"There’s another thing," Rockingham continued, still looking at Dick. "You know that I control certain mines?” Dick nodded. “Well, there are certain amalgamations under way, and I’m working the market to some extent. This is confidential, of course. I’m telling you so you will know why I’m keen on you getting ahead at this time."
As a matter of fact, this was to a great extent true. Rockingham had been busy for some time on the formation of a new holding company to control several properties, in some of which he was already largely interested. It was in his mind that Armstrong might ultimately associate himself with this part of his interests.
“I appreciate that, sir,” observed Dick, feeling that something ought to be said.
“I suppose your firm is as busy as ever?” Rockingham asked.
“Busier than ever,” amended Dick, smiling. "There seems to be no holding the crowd back.”
“Why hold them back?” questioned his host pointedly.
Dick looked at him curiously. "Well, sir.” he said with some deliberation, “this market can’t go on like this forever. I’m afraid that when the break aimes a lot of people will be ruined.”
Rockingham seemed more amused than interested.
“And when do you think the break will come?” he asked.
“Before very long,” answered Dick boldly, and Rockingham looked at him searchingly.
“Well, you may be right,” he said, and characteristically changed the subject.
“How’’s your gold find developing?” The query' seemed to be without any special significance.
Dick was ready for that question. “I understand the Gundelheims sent one of their engineers up there to
investigate,” he said casually. “It seems to me they would be the logical people to take it over.”
“Why?” Rockingham’s voice was sharper.
“They’re always after a good thing,” Dick replied, "and they generally pay a fair price. Besides, I think it would be better for us to sell than to attempt to develop it ourselves.”
"You do, eh?”
“Don’t you. sir? We’ve got a big business to look after, and I believe Mr. Street would be better advised to stick to that.”
“Have Gundelheims approached you?”
This was the question Dick had been waiting for. "They have suggested a conference, I think, sir.”
“No price mentioned so far?”
“They haven’t reached that point. All they want now is a meeting to discuss it."
“H’m.” Rockingham appeared to be thinking. “Gundelheims arc a foreign crowd,” he remarked.
“Their money is good, sir.”
"I didn’t say it wasn't, but it would be better to keep things like that in Canadian hands. I’ll speak to LeGresley about it. Tell Street not to do anything till he hears from him, will you? It will be to his advantage.”
Dick agreed willingly enough, and Rockingham rose.
"Well, run along, the pair of you,” he advised with a laugh. “Show him how the garden looks in the moonlight, Alyce.” He turned to Dick. “Come in for a drink before you leave," he added cordially.
AGAIN they wandered out into the garden. ** *• Hand in hand they wandered, silent and enthralled, till they came to the bench among the roses. There, instinctively, they paused. The fragrant incense of the flowers filled the still night, and the stars looked down with shining happiness upon the place of their meeting. The moonbeams wove a shimmering robe of enchantment and flung it around them. They stood in a land of mystery, alone.
She turned slowly to him, and, with a sudden gesture of happy content, put her arfns around him as he drew her close.
“Now kiss me. Dick,” she breathed. And for a while the world stood still.
15117, surprisingly, the world went on again.
The following weeks passed quickly for Armstrong. His work kept him occupied every moment of the day; there were many evenings, too, when the pressure of his duties forced him, much against his will, to remain at his desk.
The feverish activity of the market still mounted; public excitement had turned to hysteria, and hysteria almost to madness.
The business of Street and Richmond grew apace as their clients multiplied, and their board were stormed daily by excited crowds, eager to watch the tide of rising prices bring fortune to the shores of their desire. To Dick, happy and busy, the days raced by; he had little time now even to wonder when the storm might break.
To John Rockingham, curiously enough, the days began to drag. As September merged into October he became anxious for action. For some strange reason which he himself could not fathom entirely, an unaccustomed restlessness jxxisessed him. This in itself was disturbing, and he found himself wondering if he could possibly be losing the cold confidence with which he had Girried previous schemes to triumphant conclusions. It was true that he had been busy on his new merger, and that some troubling developments had arisen unexpectedly in one of his larger industrial interests, but these were small matters compared with the big project which LeGresley was handling.
This was by far the biggest thing he had yet conceived, and it was imperative that he should bring it to a successful issue, if only to justify himself to his two powerful associates, Moundell and Tame. It was this thought, as much as his anxiety for success for its own sake, that made him impatient for the day of action to dawn.
Through his wide industrial connections, he knew that the keen eye of big business had discerned indications of danger ahead, the only question being, how far ahead? In common with other powerful figures in the commercial world, he was already planning his preparations to meet a coming economic storm. He was the more anxious, as a consequence, to get at grips with the market debacle which he knew was now imminent. Once his big plan had succeeded, he would rest in the knowledge that Huron and its mineral wealth were at last under his control. To his associates and himself it would mean incalculable wealth, but to him alone it meant an indisputable position as The Power in the Land.
It was early in October that LeGresley, dropping in for a
chat on his way home after a heavy day's work, was surprised to find him in this critical and restless mood. With the frankness bom of their years of work together, he bluntly demanded the reason for it.
"I’m beginning to wonder whether Tame was right,” Rockingham explained as they sat before the fire in the library. “It’s about time the break came. The market seems as strong as ever today.”
LeGresley smiled his confidence. “I’ll bet he won’t be far out. It’s only the beginning of October now, and I feel certain we won’t have to wait much longer. I can feel a tremor now and then.”
“You can?” Rockingham asked. “Well, you’re the man who should know. I don’t need to ask if you are ready?”
“You don’t,” LeGresley retorted briefly. “I am.”
Rockingham stared reflectively at the fire in front of him. “I suppose there’s no danger of having overlooked anything, Henri?” he queried.
Again LeGresley grinned. “Bring on your crash,” he said. “We’re ready and waiting. And I’m not worrying.” It sounded like a plain rebuke.
Rockingham relaxed. “So Gundelheims made a bid for Black Lake,” he said by way of changing the subject.
“How do you know?” demanded LeGresley, who knew all about it.
“Armstrong told me, but I didn’t get any details. Did Street let you know?”
“Yes; he was quite excited about it.”
“He was, eh? Wanted to accept their offer?”
“No, anything but eager. It’s Richmond who is keen on selling. Street wants to hold on.”
“What for?” Rockingham was incredulous.
“He plans to form his own company and sell sufficient stock to develop the claims.”
“Well, I admire his pluck. Have you any idea what Gundelheims offered?”
^ LeGresley laughed. “Just twice as much as we did. Frankly, I expected they would have made a bigger bid than that.”
“It’s big enough. After all, those claims are a long way from steel, and it’s going to be a mighty costly business getting equipment up there. In fact, I doubt if it can be done for a year or so.”
"Well, it doesn’t matter anyhow." LeGresley was unconcerned. “They withdrew their offer yesterday.” Rockingham stared. “The devil they did ! Why?”
“Too much legal trouble in the way right now. They’ll renew the offer when the title is clear. Street didn’t tell me that, but I heard from Holgate indirectly. I guess it’s right.”
Both men laughed. “Good for Lane,” exclaimed Rockingham enthusiastically. “He surely must have tied those claims up. There’s no fear of anything slipping up. Henri?”
“Not a chance. Holgate—that’s their chief engineer—is keen on getting hold of the property, but he says they can’t do anything more till the legal position is straightened out.”
“Still, Henri, watch your step. Suppose—”
LeGresley interrupted with a scornful gesture. “Suppose nothing,” he snapped. “I’m handling it. Street is going ahead with his company. I want him to. Let him sell stock, if he can; if he has time to do it.”
“Yes?” Rockingham prompted. He was interested in this idea.
“Yes,” emphasized LeGresley. “It’s easier for a man to offer you shares as collateral than it is for him to offer claims, especially when they are somewhat involved at law. Much easier to accept, too.”
His grin was significant, and Rockingham was quick to catch his meaning.
“That’s a brainy idea,” he admitted genially. “I might have known you would put it over them. I suppose you offered to subscribe for some stock?”
“Of course.” There was a pleased twinkle in LeGresley’s eyes. “The obvious thing to do.” The talk drifted to other topics. When, later, LeGresley rose to go, Rockingham walked with him to his car outside. As he turned back into the hall, deep in thought, his niece came through the lounge toward the stairs.
She waited to say good night to him, and he noticed that her eyes had lost something of the happiness that had shone there of late.
“What’s the matter, honey?” he asked solicitously, and his use of her old pet name pleased her. “You don’t look any too happy tonight. Had a scrap with Dick?”
She shook her head. “I was just going to bed,” she said rather wearily, “but I do want to talk to you. Let’s go into the library.” He was quick to agree, and led her to the big chair by the fire.
“Now, my dear, fire away,” he said, sitting down beside her.
She was silent for quite a while, staring into the fire, her fingers moving restlessly on the big arms of her chair. Suddenly she turned and looked at her uncle.
“I am worried—terribly,” she said, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes. “I feel such a traitor to Dick. Uncle, he believes in me so utterly, he confides his plans and his hopes to me, and yet I know all the time what is going to happen to his firm.”
Rockingham bent across and took one of her hands in his. “Don’t worry, Alyce,” he urged quite earnestly. “I’ve told you we’ll take care of him all right.”
She pulled her hand away. “That isn’t the point,” she cried. “Why don’t you tell him?” “And let him warn Street and all the others?”
“No; he wouldn’t do that. But I feel so contemptible when I know how he trusts me. When he finds out, he’ll never speak to me again. I know him too well.”
“Oh, yes, he will,” her uncle assured her. “Why should you ever tell him that you knew our plans? Put all the blame on me; I guess I can stand it.”
“And have him hate you? That’s worse than ever.”
“I can stand a little hate.” Rockingham was very grim. “And I think I can put up with it even from your young man. He needs a little special training in business methods, Alyce.”
But she was not to be comforted. “I can hardly bear to face him,” she sobbed, “and I want to see him so much.” “Well, don’t worry,” he urged again, ‘I’ll take care of that situation all right. Do you know wrhat I plan for him?” She looked up, surprised. “No; what is it?”
“Well, I thought he could take hold of the new company; the one we’re forming to consolidate the Bramlington interests. It wx>uld be just the job for him; keep him busy for a while, too. What do you think of that idea?”
Her eyes were glowing now\ “I think it’s splendid. Uncle John, and I’m sure he would handle it well.”
“All right. Then the next time you see him, tell him and see what he has to say about it.”
She kissed him gratefully. “May I?” she asked. “It wall be such a surprise for him. I do hope he’ll agree to it.” Her uncle snorted. “He had better agree.” he promised, “or there’ll be ructions in the family. Run off to bed, Continued on page 33
Continued on page 33
Continued from paie 24
dear, and leave things to your Uncle John.” He stroked her golden head and gently pushed her from the room.
BUT it was two nights later before she had a chance to speak of the matter to Dick. The two of them were driving slowly back from the country club, where they had dined and danced. Their way fringed the lake, and the light of an October full moon gleamed on the waters. They were in Dick’s big roadster, and, perhaps because the evening was chilly, Alyce sat quite close to him, her head resting against his shoulder.
He glanced down at her, tenderly possessive. “Tired?” he asked.
The blue eyes he loved smiled up at him. "Maybe a little,” she confessed and snuggled closer. “But I’m happy anyhow.”
“Very happy?” He wanted her to say it again.
He looked down again. The dear eyes were troubled. “Why, what do you mean?” he asked anxiously. He drew the car up by the roadside, and took her into his arms.
“Tell me, dearest,” he begged, “what is bothering you?”
She buried her head on his shoulder. “Nothing; at least—”
Very gently he turned her face toward him. “Tell me,” he urged quietly, and was startled to see quick tears in her eyes.
But abruptly she tore herself from his arms and sat tense, looking straight ahead.
“Dick,” she said earnestly, “would you love me under any conditions? If you found out things about me?” She put up a restraining hand as he attempted to pull her to him. "No, Dick, I’m serious. Supposing you found out I had deceived you in some—”
Dick looked troubled now. “You mean, you loved some one else before we met?” “Oh, no, no.” She laid a finger on his mouth. "Nothing of that kind. You know that you are the only man I’ve ever loved. Take that as gospel, Dick, darling. Oh,
I can’t explain! I wish I could.” And he saw the tears rise again.
A sudden inspiration came to him. “Listen, darling,” he whispered, “is it anything to do with your uncle’s affairs?”
She looked at him in wonder, and nodded. “And is it in any way connected with some one you love very dearly?” He paused and smiled.
Again she nodded, not speaking,
“Let me suppose for a little while, dear,” he continued quietly. ‘Let’s just suppose a girl—a very nice girl, in fact a wonderful girl—knows something about her uncle’s business plans, and those plans involve some one else or those with whom he works.” Her eyes were fixed on his face as he spoke. “And suppose she doesn’t know what to do, whether she should say anything or not?
Is that the matter, honey?”
She was staring at him now, half frightened. “What do you know?” she asked breathlessly. “What do you know?"
He took her h°”',s in his and their coldness shocked him.
“Perhaps I guesseo « little,” he reassured her. “That is all.”
Suddenly she moved toward him, and her head fell slowly to a resting place on his shoulder. Eyes filled with tears looked up at him.
“How did you guess, Dick?” she murmured. “And what shall I do?”
He rested his face against the red gold of her hair.
“You really want my advice, dearest?”
She nodded. “Yes, Dick, I do—so much.” “Then, forget it,” he declared slowly. “Just forget it, if it means betraying a trust.”
Her head lifted, and her lips sought his.
A white, soft arm crept round his shoulders.
“You are a wonderful man,” she said at length. “Only I hope you are right, darling.” He held her closer to him. “Let’s forget it, dear,” he exhorted. “Don’t worry any more.”
“But, Dick,” she added softly, “there's no reason why you shouldn’t keep on guessing, is there?”
His eyes questioned her. “No, I suppose not,” he said thoughtfully.
He pressed his foot on the starter, but she protested.
“There’s something else I want to say,” she announced more happily, “so don’t go yet. ’ She was smiling now, rather shyly. “Dick, my uncle wants you to take over the management of the Bramlington interests.” She looked up anxiously as he moved. “He’s just formed a new company, and it's a big job, Dick.”
He was silent for a long time, his eyes watching the light on the waters before them. All at once she felt afraid. His face had grown stern and troubled.
“Why, Dick, dear,” she asked quickly, “what’s the matter?”
He turned to her again. “Alyce, dear,” he said slowly, “that is a very wonderful offer, and it is good of your uncle to suggest it. But I can’t leave Street.”
She interrupted, almost angrily. “But you must, Dick. It means so much to us. Besides, I want you—”
“Out of harm’s way,” he suggested bitterly. “I know. But I can’t do it.”
She was angry now. “You mean you won’t,” she cried, pulling herself from him. “And you know what it means to me.”
Dick felt suddenly weary. “Please, dear, try to understand. I must stay with Street now. He’s been a mighty good friend to me and I can’t leave him.”
“Even—?” she challenged directly.
“Even if it means—” He paused for a word.
Before he could speak again, she was back in his arms, all her anger gone.
“I am trying to understand,” she whispered. “Be patient with me, Dick. We won’t talk about it any more. Let’s go home now.”
He started the car, and they drove back in silence.
Long after he had left her, her troubled eyes haunted nim. Something which concerned him and his firm was afoot, and she knew all about it. Up to now it had been little more than a suspicion on his part, based on a few words overheard, but he had tested his theory tonight, and his suspicions were confirmed. She could not talk—he acknowledged that—and he would have to piece the plot together as best he could. Suddenly he remembered the cutting which Street had sent him about Sir Peter Tarne. That was the name Alyce had mentioned so inadvertently; “Sir Peter,” she had said. So Tame was in league with Rockingham—a powerful combination for him to tackle. But his first duty was to Street. Or was it to Alyce? Weary doubts re-assailed him, haunting him as he dropped to sleep.
Far off, in her room, Alyce lay awake, wondering if she had said enough or too much.
In one way, she was disappointed. She had counted on Dick accepting her uncle’s offer. But, at the same time, she felt a measure of pride in his loyalty to Street.
A sudden fear seized her. Would he ever leave Street, even for her, if Street were broke, as she feared he would be? Dick was loyal enough to stick; and a fear for the future swept over her.
She slept fretfully and awoke to a morning of doubt.
THE days passed by, and prices on the seething markets continued to soar as the floods of frenzied buying swept steadily in. At Queen’s Town, as at all the larger cities, the hysterical excitement of the past few weeks had climaxed in a wild delirium of mad speculation. All restraint and caution were discarded in a frantic stampede for fortune. To the money-mad throngs that jostled and swayed in the crowded board rooms, all the tomorrows would be molded in the pattern of the passing day. Then, one morning, the tempest broke.
Suddenly, swiftly, from a blue sky, it struck a sweltering market. Before its first wild fury, prices tottered and fell; profits were swept away in one cyclonic blast as the stricken market staggered beneath the onslaught. The public were stunned. Then, as prices still tumbled, panic seized them. Everybody rushed to sell, sell; and this avalanche of liquidation made disaster, utter and complete, inevitable.
Fortunes, large and small, vanished into the void; millionaires saw themselves penniless; by thousands, people watched ruin descend upon them, helpless to escape it. Even the greater financial houses were compelled to marshal their resources with desperate speed. Many of the smaller firms failed in their quick struggle for solvency, and crashed, one by one, into the pit of bankruptcy. At the end of the day the markets lay stricken as a battlefield lies after carnage and conflict. The horror of the day was only exceeded by the dread of the morrow.
In Queen’s Town the panic was as instant, if not as spectacular, as in New York. On the mining market prices dropped swiftly, and, after the first frantic endeavors to save even part of their holdings, the crowds watched their fortunes fade with a sort of dumb apathy. It was a sad business. Even in the brokers’ offices the staffs went about their work with a subdued feeling of resignation; a matter of performing routine duties without the inspiration of a cheering crowd. Toward the close of the market, the downward rush of prices halted and held till the closing.
As the tickers clicked out their tale of tragedy, there was one man who smiled. LeGresley sat at his desk, watching a mass of figures on the schedules spread out before him. As each new length of ticker tape was brought into him he made quick calculations on a pad, and smiled at each successive figured result. Just after three o’clock he called up Matthew Street.
“Can you come over here for a few minutes?” he asked, and got the assurance that Street would consider it a pleasure. In fifteen minutes the two were greeting each other. LeGresley offered his visitor a seat and a cigar.
“Well, Matt,” he asked, “what do you think of it now?”
Street shook his head. “My heavens, what a crash!” he said sombrely. “I didn’t expect it to break so soon.”
LeGresley looked quite sympathetic. “It’s a crash, all right,” he agreed, “and it’s a big surprise to me. I thought New York was strong enough to last for months. I guess you were pretty busy today?”
“Busy?” retorted Street, smiling in spite of himself. “I was glad to get away from it for a little while. We’re jammed with selling orders.”
“Clients’ orders or sell-outs?”
“Clients, mostly. We’ve got to be reasonable, LeGresley.”
“Why? Aren’t your clients all off margin
“Certainly they are, but I’m not selling anybody out till they’ve had a chance to meet their margin calls.”
LeGresley was scornful. “Then you’re a fool,” he said with some emphasis.
"I don’t think so,” remonstrated Street earnestly. “At all events, that’s the way I play.”
“Well, I hope you won’t be sorry for it,” LeGresley said pointedly. “Are you covering up your own short position?”
Street nodded. “To some extent, of course.” he replied. “Don’t want to overdo it with the market going down.”
“Think it’ll go lower?” LeGresley’s question was quite casual.
“You’re a better judge of that than I am, but what’s to stop it?”
LeGresley lit another cigarette. “The short interest—yours among others,” he answered. “I wouldn’t gamble on a lower market yet awhile. Even the small volume of covering today halted the drop, didn’t it?”
• “I guess it did,” Street agreed.
“Well, then,” resumed LeGresley. “when all the shorts start to cover, what’s going to happen? They’ll have to spread it over a
period, in a small market like this, oi they’ll start prices up again.”
“Then, in other words, you suggest covering at the present price level?” suggested Street seriously.
The other nodded. “That was my thought,” he explained as if caught unawares, “but I don’t want it passed around.”
Street looked at him. “It wouldn’t suit your plans, eh?”
“Well, I’m merely passing a suggestion on to you personally. Don’t act on it if you don’t want to.” He grew serious. “But remember this, Matt, the firms that are fully covered will be thankful that they are before long.”
There was a curious enquiry in Street’s face. “Think something’s in the wind?” he queried.
“Are your audited statements in yet?” was LeGresley’s retort, and Street nodded, both in assent and understanding. He left for his office quite gratified; he had been given a straight tip. It was LeGresley who smiled—after he had gone.
Back in his office, Street called Dick into conference. Richmond was away; somewhere up north. With a brief account of his visit to LeGresley’s office, Street asked Dick what he thought about it.
“I don’t trust him,” was Dick’s immediate reply. “There’s something afoot, I know. Why should he want you to cover now. He knows you would have to lodge the stock with him, and his loan to us is already a mighty big one.”
“Well, what of it?” Street was unimpressed.
Armstrong came to a sudden resolution. Without further thought as to the right or wrong of it, he told Street the story of his adventure in Rockingham’s garden, when he had heard the conversation in the room above his head.
Street was absolutely incredulous.
“It can’t be, Dick; it can’t. Why, Parker and Rockingham are both personal friends. They can’t mean anything injurious to us.” “Well, can you read the riddle?” asked Dick quite bluntly, and waited in vain for a reply. “Neither can I fully, but this is what I think it may be. Rockingham, backed by Tame, is planning some move. Maybe it’s a new combine—he told me a while ago there was something like that in the wind—and he wants to force the brokers to do something that will—” A sudden idea struck him, and he paused, almost frightened by it. For the first time he saw clearly a connection between Rockingham—the loan business—and the market crash. He jumped to his feet, and leaned across Street’s desk.
“Listen,” he cried. “You know Rockingham’s reputation when it comes to cold business. And as for Parker—” He indicated his opinion with a shrug. “How far can you bank on him?”
But Street refused to give up this one prop.
“What about his brother in Dalgerton?” he queried. “Haven’t we financed him right along? Aren't we carrying his account? And what will he owe us tonight after this crash?” He looked at Armstrong questioning^
“Well, what of it?” asked Dick quite calmly.
“What of it?” echoed Street, pounding the desk. '“He’d be ruined if anything happened to us, wouldn’t he?”
"I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t lean too much on that prop, if I were you.”
“Well, you’ve given me a lot to think about,” Street said, and then a new thought struck him. “Dick, how is this going to affect you? What will Rockingham say to you if what you suggest is correct?”
Dick looked right into Street’s eyes. “I don’t know,” he said staunchly. “That is something that must take care of itself. My place always is here.”
Street’s eyes moistened as they shook hands. “Good lad,” he said. “We’ll weather this storm together.”
But somehow, in his heart. Dick wasn’t so sure.
To be Concluded