JAMES MICHAEL CORBIE
"The weak must always pay and all their bleatings will never save them"
WHEN conditions demanded, the shrewd and diplomatic LeGresley could become a man of action.
Within a couple of days the loan arrangements which he had perfected with more than half a dozen other houses were in effect and functioning smoothly. In the meantime, Street and Richmond’s cautious covering had been a strong factor in propping the mining market at the low levels of the dosing on the first day of the panic.
As a matter of fact, prices had declined slightly on the day following. but tliere had been a gradual recovery and no subsequent drop. Some of the bolder clients came back into the market, but others who still held stock outright took advantage of the moment to sell, fearing that the price hold was only momentary. LeGresley’s problem now w-as to force the brokers to cover their entire short position, and at the same time to prevent any rise in prices as the scope of the covering process was consequently enlarged. It was a task after his own heart.
He liad expected daily to hear that orders had been issued by the authorities to the brokers in accordance with this plan. Rockingham himself had assured him that this had been arranged, yet nothing hapjxmed. This unexpected delay bothered them both, and it was nearly a week after the break on the market that Rockingham came striding into LeGresley’s office. Chester Lane happened to be there at the time, and both he and LeGresley perceived immediately that Rockingham was angry.
“Parker has ordered the mining brokers to file audited statements at once,” Rockingham announced as he sat down.
“But what about orders to cover?” demanded LeGresley impatiently.
Rockingham shrugged his shoulders in disgust.
"You tell me,” he answered caustically. "The fool is so frightened that he balks at issuing the order. Says it spells ruin. I guess he’s right at that, only he doesn’t know why. I daren’t tell him too much; he’d break down and cry.” Rockingham was bitter.
“But." Lane interjected incredulously, “isn’t he going to do anything?”
"Says he’d only be justified in acting when he gets the statements. I don’t know what’s got into the man, he’s so careful of his brokerage pals.”
“Well, I guess he owes quite a bit to one of them.” LeGresley remarked bitterly.
"Money?” Rockingham asked sharply.
"No, no; favors. It’s the other who owes the money now.” LeGresley grinned. “After all, Street’s done a lot for them, one way or another.”
Lane broke in. “What did you say to him?” he asked Rockingham.
“Plenty,” was the savage answer. “I fancy he’s afraid of something. Hasn’t he got a brother mixed up with Clothier and Company?”
Lane nodded. "He’s their counsel, I believe. He may be more. O’Leary is involved there, too. Maybe Parker is afraid of ruining him.”
“Well, don’t worry,” Rockingham snapped. “I’ll force the issue, even if I have ta—”
It was I-eGresley who interrupted him.
“Well, you had better get busy. We can’t wait too long on this market.”
"W’hat do you mean, ‘on this market’? I thought you had it eating out of your hand?”
LeGresley was silent, and the other two looked up, a little alarmed.
“Anything wrong?” Lane asked him bluntly.
"Well”LeGresley drew the word out uncertainly— "there’s one point I’ve got to watch.”
“Good heavens, man,” interrupted Rockingham with some concern in his voice, “don’t tell me we’ve”
“No, no,” LeGresley assured him, “there’s no need for worry. The point is this: In selling out clients who don’t put up their margins, the brokers are very likely only making a book entry.”
"I don’t quite get you, Henri.”
“I mean, they’re simply writing such stock off against their short position. Covering up without effort.”
‘‘Well, how does that affect us?” Rockingham was bothered.
“It will keep prices from falling fast enough to suit me, and indirectly it will save them from greater margin calls— from me.”
"Explain it, Henri,” said Rockingham wearily, his brow furrowed. “I don’t follow.”
"When a broker lias to sell a client out because the latter can’t put up the required margin, and the broker hasn’t got the stock to make delivery, he puts the order to sell through to the exchange in the regular way, but accompanies it with an order to purchase at the same price or thereabouts. He may even take a small loss—”
“I see,” Lane exclaimed. "The purchase offsets his sale on the clearing sheet, but the purchase also offsets the effect of the sale on the exchange.”
‘‘In other words,” Rockingham suggested as he saw the point, “if all these forced sales were unaccompanied by purchases, prices would naturally fall quickly.” “Exactly; and as long as the brokers can do this, there is a stabilizing factor to be reckoned with.” Rockingham was thoughtful.
"But,” he said, "is it a condition likely to prove troublesome? I mean, will it hold up your plans to any extent?”
LeGresley’s tired face broke into a smile.
"If my figures are correct, and I think they are, the brokers will soon reach the end of their tether on the stocks that matter. Then we can start to squeeze.”
“You have the figures of each broker’s position?”
“If they don’t lie, I have,” LeGresley said, frowning. “Naturally, I made the loan conditional on being fully informed of their stock position. That’s how I’m able to diversify my collateral. I think my judgment is all right. But this condition wants watching.”
“How about the market now?” questioned Rockingham, nodding his agreement with LeGresley’s views.
LeGresley considered. "It will hold up all right till we’re ready to break it again. But you must get Parker to act— at once.”
Rockingham smiled again grimly and rose to go.
“I’ll attend to him, Henri; you carry on. You coming, Lane?” The conference was over.
"DUT to Rockingham’s surprise and disgust, the days passed and still no order was issued. The delay made him furious. It was obvious that Parker had some very weighty reason for holding up the desired instructions to the brokers, and Rockingham was quick to suspect what that reason was. He determined to proceed along other lines; and his decision was soon followed by a succession of significant happenings.
Out in the West, a sensation was created by the arrest of Montgomery and his partner, charged with half-a-dozen offenses under the criminal code. This was followed by the sudden and unexpected arrest of a broker in Queen’s Town, and financial circles began to wonder what was coming next. They did not have long to wait. Like a bolt from the blue, Government auditors walked into the leading mining houses of Queen’s Town and announced that they were there to make complete investigations.
The firm of Street and Richmond was one of the houses selected for this examination. Street was more furious than frightened. He called up Rockingham, to find he was out of town—a statement which Armstrong himself was unable to confirm. LeGresley, questioned, was as suave as ever, but
professed to be as bothered as the brokers themselves and every bit as anxious.
“I don’t understand it. Matt,” LeGresley said smoothly. “I wish I did. I can’t get hold of Parker either.”
Lane was equally ignorant of the ultimate meaning of this new development.
‘‘Parker must be trying something out,” was his explanation. “I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about.” And, as far as that was concerned, he meant it. He did not believe Parker had enough nerve to do anything very drastic, unless . . .
It was O’Leary who stilled Street’s fears to some extent. O’Leary was a local man, prominent in party circles, with the reputation of being very close to Parker. He had a good deal to do with the party patronage, which Parker controlled. He was interested, with Street, in one enterprise, and Street looked upon him as one of his best friends.
O’Leary dropped in to see Street the day after the Government auditors had entered, and Street welcomed him warmly.
“What the devil is the meaning of it, Terence?” he asked as soon as his visitor entered. “What’s Parker up to now?”
O’LEARY smiled reassuringly.
“Nothing to it, old man,” he laughed. “I’ve just come from Parker. You have nothing to worry about. They’re after somebody else.”
“Well, that may be,” was Street’s reply, “but they’ve put special auditors in all the big houses, except”emdash;and he looked meaningly at O’Learyemdash;“except Clothier and Company.”
His visitor moved uneasily.
“You should be as pleased about that as anybody,” he said. “It might save us both a lot of trouble.”
“Why?” demanded Street. “Why should it?”
“Oh, for several good reasons.”
“I can guess one of them all right,” Street interrupted hotly, “and I don’temdash;”
“Better not say anything,” O’Leary suggested smoothly. “It will pay to say nothing about that, even to ourselves. I can tell you this: there’s nothing to worry about as far as you’re concerned.”
Street’s face brightened a little.
“Well, I’ll take your word for it,” he said, “but I think Parker could haveemdash;”
O’Leary raised a hand.
“Now, Matt,” he protested, “he can’t do that. Listen, I’ll keep you posted all right. Parker’s not going to do anything to hurt you.”
“No?” Street gave the word a most delicate inflection. “But suppose he can’t help himself?”
O’Leary sat up straight in his chair and looked at Street in blank surprise.
“Now, exactly what do you mean by that, Matt?” he asked, both face and voice betraying genuine astonishment.
Street regarded him unsmilingly.
“Ever heard of John Rockingham?” he queried pointedly.
“Of course I have,” O’Leary replied without hesitation. “Who hasn’t?
But what’s he got to do with it?” He seemed so plainly ignorant of any reason for the mention of Rockingham’s name that Street wondered if he himself were wise in saying any more. But O’Leary was not to be sidetracked. “Tell me. Matt,” he insisted, “what has Rockingham got to do with this businessemdash;or with Parker, for that matter?”
For a moment or two Street was silent.
“Quite a lot,” he said at length, and came to a sudden decision. “I know more than you think I do,
Terence. And if this isn’t Rockingham’s work, I’m aemdash;”
“You’re crazy, man,” interrupted O’Leary tersely. “Why should Parker do anything for him, even if Rockingham wanted it?”
Street laughed aloud.
“I see you don’t know an awful lot about Parker’s friends,” he jeered.
“You’d better ask him about John Rockingham.”
“I’ll do that very thing,” O’Leary announced with much emphasis. He could not know that his words sealed the fate of Matthew Street. Parker would never forgive a man who found him out.
“And in the meantime, I’ll rely on you,” said Street, smiling again as i O’Leary, really perplexed, took his leave. I
His visit had brought small
comfort, Street thought, but at least it was something to have O’Leary’s assurance of Parker’s good intentions, even if one discounted them. He called Dick in, and told him what O’Leary had said.
Armstrong disposed of the matter in a few words.
“He may be right, but I think we’d better get ready for action. You can trust to Parker if you like; I might, if my powder were dry and my guns ready. I’m going to talk to Rockingham. It’s about time for a showdown.”
Matthew Street looked up in some amazement. There was a new dominant note in Dick’s voice, and he felt obliged to offer a word of advice.
“Careful, Dick, my boy,” he cautioned. “Don’t say anything to hurt yourself or your future.”
Armstrong’s face was set.
“It’s high time I said something,” he declared with decision. “I’ve been dumb too long.”
TWO days later Dick got his opportunity. He sat with Alyce in the big lounge of Rockingham’s home late in the evening, a hard day’s work behind him. His face showed unmistakably the strain of the past few months; his eyes gazed steadily at the fire as he pondered recent happenings. Alyce watched him silently. She, too. was troubled by the strange passage of events. With a gesture of tender solicitude, she laid her hand on his.
"You look terribly tired, Dick,” she said caressingly. “Are you still worried?” •
He nodded broodingly.
"Who wouldn’t be worried?” he countered almost sternly. “These are no accidental happenings. There’s a reasonemdash; and a manemdash;behind them. And I’m fighting him in the dark.” He did not turn his face to her.
“But there is nothing that can hurt you,” she urged insistently.
Impatiently Dick swung around to face her.
"I’m not worrying about myself,” he said, and she felt the reproof in his voice. "I'm worrying about Street and the firmemdash;oh, the whole miserable business.”
“But, dearemdash;” she began, her voice full of appeal, but he interrupted.
“Alyce, there is only one thing I can do,” he told her. “I must talk to your uncle. I must know the truth of the whole matter.”
She buried her face in her hands.
“Dick, don’t do that,” she pleaded, and Armstrong had to bend toward her to catch her muffled words. “If you quarrel with him, Iemdash;I think I’ll die.”
“Why should I quarrel with him?” Dick asked her bluntly. “Surely he can tell me the truthemdash;for your sake. He knows I couldn’t ask you.” She was sobbing now, and Dick felt suddenly ashamed. He spoke more gently. “I’m sorry, dearest, I don’t want to hurt you. But I must know what is hapixming, and I think your uncle is the only one who can tell me.”
With a swift movement she knelt beside him. “Let me tell you, Dick, as much as I know. Don’t ask him; ask me.” Her hands clenched on his, and her shining eyes searched his face beseechingly.
For an instant Dick wavered; then his face hardened as he put temptation aside. His arm went around her shoulders as he drew her to him.
“No, honey,” he decided, "I can’t do that; but I love you for the thought.” He smiled gratefully. “I must talk to your uncle, but I won’t quarrel with him and 1 won’t let him quarrel with me.” "Promise?" She llt;x)ked up at him, smiling through tears. A kiss was his pledge, and another his promise. The subsequent ones presumably were by way of assurance.
TT WAS nearly an hour later when
John Rockingham came in. He had arrived in town early that evening, but had stayed down town with LeGresley for an hour or so. Alyce herself had not known where he had journeyed; he had been away for several days. To their surprise, he came straight over to them and, after exchanging greetings, sat down. He. t(xgt;, looked tired, and Alyce remarked on it, in some concern. But Rockingham laughed brusquely.
‘‘I’m all right,’’ he told her. "Haven’t time to be tired, these days.”
He turned to Armstrong with a look of careful appraisal. There was a moment of silence. Dick felt the tension and sensed the approach of a crisis. He stared back, curiously unafraid. Yet when Rockingham spoke his voice sounded friendly enough.
“Things seem to be happening to you brokers,” he said pointedly. "What’s it all about?”
An unexpected wave of irritation ruffled Dick. Suddenly he was anxious to bring matters to a definite issue between them. His reply was deliberate.
"I don’t know, sir, but I can surmise.” There was a provocative emphasis on the last word, and the shadow of a smile appeared on Rockingham’s cynical face.
“So?” It seemed to Armstrong that there was a certain note of challenge in the exclamation. “And your surmises lead youemdash;where?”
Dick realized that the battle was joined. He looked the other man squarely in the eyes as he answered him.
“To you, sir!” he said quietly, and Alyce, at his side, drew in her breath sharply.
Rockingham’s thin lips pursed up in characteristic fashion. Alyce knew this sign of suppressed anger and shivered. But her eyes gave quick
and proud denial of the accusation in the glance he levelled at her. Her lipS moved as if in silent appeal, but Rockingham’s face was set in stern lines as he turned to Armstrong.
“That calls for some explanation, doesn’t it?” he demanded grimly.
Dick was ready for him.
“I think, sir,” he retorted steadily, "that you could explain the whole matter if you would.”
For fully half a minute Rockingham glared at him with blazing eyes. Alyce shrank back on the chesterfield, her face white with the fear of what might come. Dick sat there, erect, waiting for the storm to break but strangely calm. Suddenly Rockingham laughed shortly—a harsh, bitter laugh and jumped to his feet. He stood towering over the young man.
"Armstrong,” he said frigidly, “I don’t think you mean to be impertinent, but I’ve broken better men than you for less than that.”
Dick came slowly to his feet, and faced him.
"I believe it,” he declared bitterly. "Isn’t that just what you are doing now?”
The sneer on Rockingham’s face gave place to a swift flush of anger, but he was still master of himself.
"Do I understand that you blame me for all the trouble you brokers are in?” he asked in a cold, hard voice. “And I hope that you will let me have a straight answer.”
"At least I think you are responsible for it,” Dick answered, measuring his words deliberately. "I believe it is all part of a scheme to grab control of mineral resources, and 1 think that you and Sir Peter Tame are behind it.”
“I appear to be in good company,”
Rockingham sneered. "Anything more?”
"Just this— that Parker is obviously taking instructions, perhaps unwillingly, and LeGresley’s loan proposition is part of the plan. I think 1 am see what is a)ming.”
"You seem to be full of surmises,”
Rockingham jeered. "What is coming?
I’m anxious to know.”
With an effort, Dick held himself in liand.
“I think you know already.” His retort was bitter with meaning. "Ruin! Ruin for the men who trusted you; men like Street who play the game as white men should, and the hundreds who depend on him and the others for their living.” He paused, almost choked with the intensity of his feeling. "It's true,” he cried defiantly. "and you know it’s true! And why?
To make a couple of rich men richer.”
"A very laudable object,” Rockingham broke in, and with the words his anger seemed to leave him. He started to smile in a curious, thoughtful way. With an abrupt movement, he took Armstrong by the slwmlders and pushed him back to his seat on tlie chesterfield. For a moment he stood looking down at him, then turned unexjxjctedly to his niece.
"This young man, Alyce,” he began very calmly, "measures up to my first estimate of him. He is shrewd and his reasoning is excellent. He is a man I want. But there are some things he doesn’t yet know. One of them is to understand that the spoils go to the victor because he is the stronger.
The weak must always pay, and all their bleatings will never save them. Tell him,
Alyce, that the Bramlington job is urgent;
1 can’t wait any longer. I’ll leave it to you to fix the salary. You might even decide it between you; I'll agree to it in advance. But he must start work tomorrow.”
Rockingham turned to go, and before Armstrong could speak had reached the library door. There he paused and. looking back, spoke directly to Dick.
"You understand, Armstrong," he said quietly. "Street or Alyce. The choice is yours.”
The door closed behind him.
ROCKINGHAM locked the library door
and sat down at his big desk. A new problem confronted him now. Armstrong had reasoned the thing out too well and could easily become troublesome if he were clever enough because the success of the whole scheme depended largely upon the secrecy with which it could be carried out. He felt reasonably certain that Armstrong would be sensible. The fellow could not possibly be such a fool as to throw away the offer that had been made to him. That was why he himself would not be drawn into any discussion that might have led to a definite quarrel with the young man. Then there was Alyce as a factor in the problem. She and Armstrong were much too fond of each other to allow any
fool idea of loyalty to Street to part them. None the less, there was just a bare possibility that Armstrong might prove recalcitrant, and that possibility alone would force him to act; to hurry matters along, even if it meant drastic
Rockingham rang up LeGresley’s office and, as he expected, found him still at work. Very briefly he told of the conversation with Armstrong, and LeGresley agreed with him as to the possibility of serious consequences.
"I’ll come right out,” he said. "We’ll have to decide on our next step right now.”
Thirty minutes later, in Rockingham’s library, LeGresley wasted no time in getting down to business.
“I’ve only one objection to forced action at this time,” he explained after listening to Rockingham’s story, “and that is that the brokers haven’t nearly covered in full; in fact, they’ve little more than begun. And you know what that means. There's still a lot of stock, vital to our purpose, to come in before we kick the props away. I can’t understand why Parker *won’t do what we want. That would speed up things.”
“Well, we know why he won’t,” observed Rockingham resignedly. “We’ll have to get action some other way—and it will be just too bad for him and his friends.”
“What have you in mind?” asked LeGresley laughing.
His chief smiled cryptically.
“Wait a moment till I call up Parker,” he said, reaching for the phone. He dialled rapidly.
“That you. Parker?” he asked. “Rockingham speaking. Tell me, are all the brokers’ statements in yet? How do they show up? Well, what are you doing about it? Is that all? Say, I want to see you ... no, first thing in the morning ... All right, I’ll be there.”
He smiled contentedly as he hung up.
“All the statements are in, examines! and analyzed,” he relayed to LeGresley. "Parker’s in for a bad time when I see him in the morning.”
"They show a big aggregate short position, I suppose?”
“Of course,” Rockingham agreed quite cheerfully, "and that gives me my opening.” He chuckled with satisfaction. "Here’s what we’ll do.” The two heads bent toward each other.
When LeGresley left he was smiling quietly. With thoughtful mien, he drove down the long drive and turned on to the highway toward the city. A hundred yards from the gates he jammed on his brakes and skidded to a sudden halt.
Just behind him, as he stopped, a big roadster lay upside down in the ditch. Men were busy with lanterns; other cars were lined up by the roadside. Some one, evidently a doctor, was kneeling beside a motionless figure lying on the grass.
LeGresley had a sudden, curious intuition. He jumped from his car and turned back to the little group. As he approached, the doctor rose and turned to the men about him.
“He’s alive all right, but he’s knocked out cold. May be internal injuries, certainly some concussion. We must get him to Queen’s Town at once. An operation may be necessary.”
LeGresley pushed forward and looked at the grey face of the injured man.
He recognized Richard Armstrong.
Acting on sudden impulse, he seized the doctor’s arm.
“May I suggest you move him to Mr. Rockingham’s house? This man is a friend of his. If you like, I’ll go back and get things ready for him.”
The doctor regarded LeGresley with new respect; the latter’s voice and attitude carried weight.
“If you think Mr. Rockingham wouldn’t mind, that would be splendid,” he said. “The sooner we make a complete examination of the injuries, the better.” He turned back to give the necessary instructions.
LeGresley hurried back to his car. “What a stroke of luck,” he thought. “This will keep Armstrong quiet for a week or two.”
The thought of Alyce never entered his head.
R more than a week Rockingham was busy; so busy, indeed, that even LeGresley, though quite aware of the nature of his activities, saw very little of him.
Then, one day, as the dusk of late afternoon began to gather, Rockingham, with six other men, sat in conference in a certain upper room in Queen’s Town. Before them on the long table around which they sat was spread an array of financial statements, and before each man was a summary and a report. Rockingham smiled to himself as he looked at the faces of the others present. It had been so easy to arrange this meeting, and Parker was looking frightened. Probably he knew what Rockingham had in mind.
At the head of the table sat the premier himself, apparently in a very impatient mood. At his right, Sir Walter Rawll, the famous financier upon whose advice official circles so greatly depended, perused a document with great interest through his heavy-lensed spectacles. On his left, Parker fidgetted uneasily, with a nervousness that grew more obvious as the conference progressed. Beside him, Dodge, his very efficient underling, listened deferentially to the discussion. Opposite Rockingham sat Ennington and Driscoll, two of Queen’s Town’s leading auditors.
Altogether, a gathering very suited to his purpose, thought Rockingham as he watched and listened attentively. Ennington was speaking.
“The statements before you disclose a very large stock shortage on the part of certain big houses. Of course, each house claims to be solvent; that is, they show resources as more than sufficient to cover their liabilities to clients.”
“Then what’s the fuss about?” demanded the premier, who wanted to get home to dinner.
“Simply this: that we have no present means of ascertaining whether the assets they show here are good or not,” explained Ennington patiently. "Take, for instance, this one statement—I’ll mention no names at the moment. It shows ‘Investments, at cost, one million, three hundred thousand dollars.’ That one item may not be worth, on realization, more than ten thousand dollars.”
“Some depreciation, that,” murmured the chairman, but
Continued on page 44
Behind the locked door of a hotel room, Aaron Netherwood was stabbed to death. Police and the victim’s own daughter heard his calls for help. But, quick as they were, the murderer had escaped. Apparently, it was a ‘‘perfect crime.” But patience and Gordon Muldrew solved it.
The Fourth Dagger
A NEW AND EXCITING DETECTIVE THRILLER
By LUKE ALLAN
Maclean’s, September 15
Continued from page 22
no one even smiled. Sir Walter Rawll asked Ennington a question.
“What is the total shortage of stocks to clients?”
The auditor consulted a memorandum in his hand.
“Roughly,” he announced, “twenty million dollars.”
A gasp of incredulity from Sir Walter followed his words, and Rockingham saw an opportunity.
“Can that possibly be correct?” he asked in a voice of deep concern.
Ennington nodded emphatically. “Absolutely correct, according to their own statements,” and Rockingham sat back in his chair, satisfied.
Sir Walter leaned across to Parker,
“Then I don’t think there’s any question about it. You will have to take drastic action. You cannot allow a condition like this to continue.”
Parker’s eyes shifted uneasily.
“I’m not so sure," he said carefully. “This is too serious a matter for any snap decision.” Driscoll intervened in his quiet way.
“I think there may be a misunderstanding about these figures,” he suggested. “Ennington’s total was a gross figure.” “What do you mean by that?” Sir Walter Rawll demanded.
“That is the figure at which these stocks were purchased for clients. They could be bought in now for many millions less.” “And the difference, I suppose,” snorted Sir Walter, “is the brokers’ profit?”
It was Parker who replied to him.
“No; it’s what they make to finance their clients and guard against losses by way of bad debts,” he declared.
“Pah!” Sir Walter was vitriolic. “Most immoral.”
Rockingham saw another chance to throw oil on the fire.
“Have you never sold short, Sir Walter?” he asked smoothly. . “Sold on the market without having stock to make delivery?” Sir Walter shook with indignation.
“That has nothing to do wñth the case. I risked my own money. And I was invited here to give advice, not to be asked personal questions.” He glared through his glasses at Rockingham.
"Well, what is your advice?” The question came from the premier, who saw a chance to end the discussion.
“This,” declared Sir Walter bluntly. “In my opinion, they’re all utterly insolvent. I’d arrest the whole lot of them.”
rT'HERE was a second of silence in the room. Then Parker was on his feet.
"Do you want to wreck the market?” he cried. “If you do that, the mining industry of this province is killed for forty years.” There were murmurs of dissent, and Rockingham ventured a direct rebuke.
"If I may say so," he said, looking straight at the ilinching Parker, “that is a foolish statement. I, for one, could prevent that.” “Of course,” snapped Sir Walter, and turned on Parker again. “Let’s get the strictly legal point of view. That’s your province. Is this practice of brokers in selling short against clients legal or not?” Every eye turned toward Parker. He moved restlessly in his chair and played uneasily with the papers in his hand. Obviously, he was reluctant to answer the question.
"Well?” Sir Walter was insistent.
“Iemdash;I am advised,” said Parker finally, "that the practice, though more or less universal, is contrary to the axle.” He looked round at Dodge. “Isn’t that your view?” he asked. Apparently, he was eager to place the responsibility for the pronouncement on somelxxiy other than himself.
“It is, definitely,” Dodge stated tersely. “Then,” interrupted Sir Walter pointedly, “may I ask why no action has been taken by you before now?”
The unhappy Parker could not reply. He had shrunk back into his chair, and appeared to be immersed in the study of a
report. Sir Walter gave him no respite.
“Has the matter been tested out in the courts here?” he asked peremptorily.
“I don’t think so.” replied Parker guardedly.
“Then how do you know it is contrary to the code?”
"I said it was my opinionemdash;” Parker began, but Sir Walter waved his hand impatiently.
“Let’s get on. What action do you propose to take?”
“Give them six months in which to clear up their short positions,” retorted Parker with a show of spirit.
Sir Walter grunted derisively.
“They couldn’t do it,” he declared, “and you’ve got no right to give them that consideration. If their practice is illegalemdash;and you say it isemdash;you haven’t any choice in the matter. It’s your duty to arrest them.” He looked toward Ennington. “I suppose your investigations show sufficient evidence to prove they were acting illegally?”
Ennington nodded. “As far as the actual figures go, I think we have.”
Before Sir Walter could speak again, Dodge interrupted.
“Excuse me, Sir Walter,” he said, “it is really a case of conspiracy; conspiracy to defraud their clients.”
“Well, whatever your strict legal definitions may be, they’re breaking the law, aren’t they?” Sir Walter asked; and Dodge nodded silently.
Rockingham was watching the unhappy Parker with cynical eyes, half expecting him to speak. But he made no motion to reply to Rawll, and there was -a moment of tense silence. The premier finally turned to Parker.
“It’s rather up to you now,” he summed up, “and I think you’d better act quickly. I agree with Sir Walter.” He looked past Parker to Dodge. “You’ll handle things in the regular way, I suppose? Get hold of Richards before he goes home.”
He glanced round the room as he rose.
"Let’s go, gentlemen.”
Rockingham was smiling as he left the room with Rawll.
“Well, that’s that,” he remarked as they went downstairs together. “It was the only possible decision. Thank you, Sir Walter.”
Sir Walter Rawll looked at him very curiously.
ARMSTRONG had not been so badly injured as it was at first thought. No bones had been broken; and the slight concussion and shock soon yielded to rest and quiet. The third day after the accident he was able to be moved home. He did not feel too comfortable under Rockingham’s roof.
Alyce had tried her best to persuade him to an instant decision to accept the Bramlington post. He had found it very difficult to refuse her, but, as he explained, he wanted to talk to Street before definitely committing himself. Finally Alyce had agreed to his wish, though with some reluctance. But now his accident had left the matter in the air, so to speak. Neither Rockingham, who visited his room each day, nor Alyce herself spoke of it. He gathered that they both regarded the matter as settled. On his removal from Rockingham’s house. Street came to see him and they discussed the matter very frankly. Street urged him strongly to accept the offer, with all that it implied, but Dick wanted to defer his final decision till he was around and at work again. Rockingham had made it an issueStreet or Alyce. Loyalty or love. To Dick, through these few days of idleness, it was a strange battle that waged within him.
The issue was settled for him by the sudden arrest of Matthew Street and Alan Richmond.
One morning before breakfast police officers called at the homes of Street. Richmond and six or seven other prominent brokers of the mining exchange, and produced warrants for their arrest. There had
been not a whisper of warning. Street, though he kept his good-natured smile, was dazed and dismayed. He could hardly believe it to be true. He felt betrayed.
Armstrong, by a strange twist of fate, had chosen that day for his return to business. He had recovered sufficiently to want to get back to work again. To him the news came like a thunderbolt. At first he was frankly incredulous. Not until he had hurried down town to assist in bail arrangements and to give instructions for the conduct of business as usual at the office, did he realize fully what had happened. Then his whole soul cried out in futile rebellion. He sensed instinctively the significance of it all.
Furious and with a consuming hatred of Rockingham in his heart, he went to see Alyce at her home that same evening.
In silence she met him in the big lounge. The news of the arrests had prepared her in some measure for his visit. In one glance at his drawn face she read his decision.
“This is good-by, Alyce,” he said as gently as he could. “I have no choice now.”
“Is that your final decision?” she asked in a voice strangely hard and cold.
He nodded slowly.
“There is no other way.” he added, and could say no more.
“You, who said you loved me,” she challenged harshly; “you say that to me?” Her eyes were afire with the pride he had wounded.
He attempted to take her hand, but she jerked it from his grasp furiously.
“Go to your jail friends,” she cried; “the friends you prefer to me!”
He shivered at the scorn in her voice.
“Don’t you see, Alyceemdash;” he began, but she would not listen.
“Of course I see,” she flamed. “I see how much you wanted me. And I let myself fall in loveemdash;with you.” Complete contempt chilled the very words as she uttered them. She pointed a scornful finger at him. “Why don’t you go, now?”
But Dick, moved by a wild impulse, seized her by the arms and held her in front of him. Wildly she struggled, but presently grew quiet in his grasp.
"Listen to me,” he commanded, speaking with an effort. “Your uncle has tried to buy meemdash;with his money and with you. Well, I’m not for sale! Do you hear that? And you can tell your uncle the same thing. I’d sooner starve.”
She wrenched herself free.
“You probably will.” she jeered. “I hate you nowemdash;more than I ever thought I loved you.” Her voice shrilled with the violence of her anger.
Dick looked at her distorted face and shuddered. Suddenly he felt very weary. But he made one more effort.
“Alyce,” he said quietly, “don’t you understand? I can’temdash;”
“Will you go?” she said hysterically. “Will you stop talking and go?”
For a moment he hesitated, watching her: then sadly he turned to the door. In spite of herself, a cry broke from her. He swung around in time to catch her as she fell.
He carried her to a couch and laid her there very gently. Then, striding across the room, he rang the bell. To the maid who answered, he said curtly:
“Miss Weldon has fainted; will you look after her?” He pointed to the couch where she lay, white and still; and as the maid rushed to her side he went out silently.
As he reached the open space by the driveway he looked back at the house. His hands clenched. He stumbled toward his waiting car, cursing John Rockingham and all his works.
He never knew exactly how he got home that night; nor did he care.
AS ROCKINGHAM and LeGresley had anticipated, the arrests of the brokers forced Parker to order a general coverage of short positions under penalty of immediate seizure of the business by the authorities. All the houses scurried to obey the order,
and for a time LeGresley’s staff were kept working overtime, coping with the Hood of stock that swept in upon them from the brokers.
When the time arrived for action, the steadied market was promptly and very thoroughly wrecked by the astute LeGresley. Prices fell so fast that, in one man’s words, “last October’s crash was an April shower compared with this cloudburst.” Thousands of people who had stayed in the market to protect their holdings were ruined. In a few days there was no market left, worth the name. The entire mining industry of the province was aghast. It meant the end of normal development for years unless a miracle happened.
For a time the brokerage houses affected struggled on. Gradually, even the few clients left dropped away or were sold out. Finally, one by one, the offices closed.
Street made a determined effort to save his firm. After his arrest and while awaiting trial he put everything he possessed back into the business. So did his partners. But it was useless. LeGresley, with words of sorrow on his tongue and cold contempt in his heart, called him mercilessly for margin as quickly as the market fell. Little by little, Street’s resources vanished. O’Leary urged him to hold on, making many promises, both on his own account and on behalf of Parker. There came one day a message through O’Leary that it would be well for him to take over Clothier’s business and accounts.
Against Armstrong’s advice Street did it, depending on the assurance that O’Leary had conveyed to him. It cost him $50,000. Even Parker’s brother came to him to bolster up his faltering resolution. “You must carry on,” they told him; and there came a day when there was nothing left to him save the Black Lake claims.
Feverishly, Street tried to sell them. Always his efforts were blocked by some unseen, sinister influence. If it wasn’t a question of the lawsuits respecting the claims, it was a question of the property being too remote for immediate and profitable development. He was hemmed in completely. His own personal resources had gone into the melting pot; these claims were all he had left. And then LeGresley took them from him; to pay in part, he said, for the balance still due on his margin calls.
Street took this final disaster quietly. He was game to the end. He and Dick sat in the quietened office, now a desolation of silent furniture.
“Well, Dick,” he reflected calmly, “you were right after all. LeGresley has taken my last asset, and swore he hated doing it.”
Armstrong held out his hand.
“It’s just a case of waiting, Matt. One day we’ll pay them back for it.”
Street’s eyes twinkled, as of old.
“It will be after two or three years, I guess,” he jested, “but maybe we will work it out then.” He paused thoughtfully. “I wonder if Parker will still be here?” he added, and Dick caught his meaning.
When, after long delay, the trial of Matthew Street and Alan Richmond began, Armstrong sat in court, watching the proceedings with anxiously observant eyes. To his surprise and indignation, he had been called as a witness for the prosecution, and though his examination had been brief, he resented very bitterly the position in which it had placed him. The very thought that any evidence of his, formal as it was, could be used by the prosecution as part of their case against his friend and chief, rankled and hurt. Never before had he felt so utterly helpless. He, too, was caught in the net that had been so subtly and skilfully cast about them. An overwhelming sense of futility swept over him. He realized at last the uselessness of his feeble attempts to combat the mighty power of Rockingham and his associates. And there came upon him again a new surge of hatred—a bitter, lingering hatred —of the man.
AS THE trial proceeded it was apparent to Armstrong that the prosecution were building up an atmosphere of resentment against the accused. As far as he could see.
the conspiracy charges were so highly technical in their nature that the evidence given required a highly trained and expert legal mind to connect it at all with the terms of the indictment. It seemed not so much the forging of a chain of facts as an indirect and even sinister appeal to public prejudice and passion, Dick thought bitterly-and there were few who had not suffered by the collapse of the mining market. It seemed to be a case of finding a victim.
Up to the last. Street had counted on the assurances, brought to him by O’Leary and others, that Parker would certainly "do something for him.” Armstrong, with keener perception of the true condition of things, had warned him frankly that to depend on such promises was merely to delude himself. A greater than Parker, he knew, had decreed that there should be no such intervention, and Parker would neither venture nor dare to disregard the decree. Street believed that when his relationship with Parker was disclosed in court, it would be proof that no conspiracy existed or was even contemplated. At least it was clear to Dick that, not only had Parker known of the methods of short selling by the brokers, but had tacitly approved. Parker’s speech at the Exchange dinner clearly proved that, and Dodge, his assistant, had expressed a similar view some time later to the directors of the Exchange. Surely, when all this was made known, it would mean acquittal for Street.
So engrossed was Armstrong with these thoughts of his, that he almost started when counsel for the defense, seizing an opportunity, sought to bring out these very facts. Eagerly he leaned forward, waiting to see the effect of the disclosure on jury and judge. But instantly, as the object of the defense became apparent, the prosecution objected, and their objection was promptly upheld. Again and again did the defense seek to bring the facts before the court', and each time their effort met with the same result.
It was with a feeling of despair and disaster that Dick left the court at the end of the day. He knew then that Street had been abandoned by the man whom he had helped so willingly and at great cost, by the man who had promised to be his friend.
Armstrong suddenly remembered, too, that all the records of the firm—books, cancelled cheques and the like—had been seized by Parker’s auditors and were inaccessible to the defense. Why had such a complete seizure been necessary? Dick thought he could give a very pointed answer to that question.
When, on the following day, the jury brought in their verdict, Dick was more prepared for it than either Street or Richmond. Somehow, he had felt it to be inevitable. predestined. He listened to the proceedings that day with a strange detachment. It seemed that he watched a play in which the actors spoke nought but the lines allotted to them.
One day, some months later, Dick stood on the station platform and bade Street farewell. Street and the others were “going away” under guard. He watched the train pull out, watched it disappear in the distance - and walked quietly away. He. too, was a ruined man and he was alone.
TT HAPPENED, on the same morning,
that John Rockingham sat in LeGresley’s office, going through a mass of figured reports. It was the tale of the spoils, and the count looked good. He rubbed his hands together and smiled at LeGresley, who sat, suave as ever, behind his desk.
“Excellent, Henri, excellent. Moundell and Tame should be pleased. I think we can begin to plan again now. We mustn’t let the market die.”
LeGresley grinned at him.
“The market? There will be no market for the next two years if I can help it. Let the fool public alone for a while. They’ll still be there when we want them—”
“—and their money,’’ added Rockingham, lighting another cigarette. The two men laughed.
In her room, at John Rockingham’s home, Alyce Weldon sat by the window—watching.