Harry Leon Wilson
Part 6 out of 7
just what was being done by that Ledrick combine. But we've got
something better, and I don't want to take chances on tying up some
ready money we might need in a hurry. If a man gets started on those
little side issues he's too apt to lose his head. He jumps in one day,
and out the next, and gets to be what they call a 'kangaroo,' down in
the Street. It's all right for amusement, but the big money is in
cinching one deal and pushing hard. It's a bull market now, too; buy
A.O.T. is the good word--Any Old Thing--but I'm going to stay right by
my little line."
"You certainly have a genius fur finance," declared Uncle Peter, with
fervent admiration. "This going into business will be the makin' of
you. You'll be good fur something else besides holdin' one of them
dinky little teacups, and talking about 'trouserings'--no matter _what_
people say. Let 'em _talk_ about you--sayin' you'll never be anything
like the man your pa was--_you'll_ show 'em."
And Percival, important with his secret knowledge of the great _coup_,
went back to the ticker, and laughed inwardly at the seasoned experts
who frankly admitted their bewilderment as to what was "doing" in
copper and Western Trolley.
"When it's all over," he confided gaily to the old man, "we ought to
pinch off about ten per cent of the winnings, and put up a monument to
absinthe _frappé_--the stuff Relpin had been drinking that day.
They'll give us a fine public square for it in Paris if they won't here
in New York. And it wouldn't do any good to give it to Relpin, who's
really earned it--he'd only lush himself into one of those drunkard's
graves--I understand there's a few left yet."
Early in March, Coplen, the lawyer, was sent for, and with him Percival
spent two laborious weeks, going over inventories of the properties,
securities, and moneys of the estate. The major portion of the latter
was now invested in the three stocks, and the remainder was at hand
where it could be conveniently reached.
Percival informed himself minutely as to the values of the different
mining properties, railroad and other securities. A group of the
lesser-paying mines was disposed of to an English syndicate, the
proceeds being retained for the stock deal. All but the best paying of
the railroad, smelting, and land-improvement securities were also
thrown on the market.
The experience was a valuable one to the young man, enlarging greatly
his knowledge of affairs, and giving him a needed insight into the
methods by which the fortune had been accumulated.
"That was a slow, clumsy, old-fashioned way to make money," he declared
to Coplen. "Nowadays it's done quicker."
His grasp of details delighted Uncle Peter and surprised Coplen.
"I didn't know but he might be getting plucked," said Coplen to the old
man, "with all that money being drawn out so fast. If I hadn't known
you were with him, I'd have taken it on myself to find out something
about his operations. But he's all right, apparently. He had a scent
like a hound for those dead-wood properties--got rid of them while we
would have been making up our minds to. That boy will make his way
unless I'm mistaken. He has a head for detail."
"I'll make him a bigger man than his pa was yet," declared Uncle Peter.
"But I wouldn't want to let on that I'd had anything to do with it.
He'll think he's done it all himself, and it's right he should. It
stimulates 'em. Boys of his age need just about so much conceit, and it
don't do to take it out of 'em."
Reports of the most encouraging character came from Burman. The deal in
corn was being engineered with a riper caution than had been displayed
in the ill-fated wheat deal of the spring before.
"Burman's drawn close up to a million already," said Percival to Uncle
Peter, "and now he wants me to stand ready for another million."
"Is Burman," asked Uncle Peter, "that young fellow that had a habit of
standin' pat on a pair of Jacks, and then bettin' everybody off the
"Yes, that was Burman."
"Well, I liked his ways. I should say he could do you a whole lot of
good in a corn deal."
"It certainly does look good--and Burman has learned the ropes and
spars. They're already calling him the 'corn-king' out on the Chicago
Board of Trade."
"Use your own judgment," Uncle Peter urged him. "You're the one that
knows all about these things. My Lord! how you ever _do_ manage to keep
things runnin' in your head gets me. If you got confidence in Burman,
all I can say is--well, your pa was a fine judge of men, and I don't
see why you shouldn't have the gift."
"Between you and me, Uncle Peter, I _am_ a good judge of human nature,
and I know this much about Burman: when he does win out he'll win big.
And I think he's going to whipsaw the market to a standstill this time,
for sure. Here's a little item from this morning's paper that sounds
right, all along the line."
"COPPER, CORN, AND CORDAGE.
"There are just now three great movements in the market, Copper Trust
stock, corn, and cordage stock. The upward movement in corn seems to be
in the main not speculative but natural--the result of a short supply
and a long demand. The movements in Copper and Cordage Trust stocks are
purely speculative. The copper movement is based on this proposition:
Can the Copper Trust maintain the price for standard copper at
seventeen cents a pound, in face of enormously increased supply and the
rapidly decreasing demand, notably in Germany? The bears think not. The
bulls, contrarily, persist in behaving as if they had inside
information of a superior value. Just possibly a simultaneous rise in
corn, copper, and cordage will be the next sensation in the trading
"You see?" said Percival. "They're beginning to wake up, down
there--beginning to turn over in their sleep and mutter. Pretty soon
they'll begin to stretch lazily; when they finally hear something drop
and jump out of bed it will be too late. The bulls will be counting
their chips to cash in, and the man waiting around to put out the
lights. And I don't see why Burman isn't as safe as I am." "I don't,
either," said Uncle Peter.
"'A short supply and a long demand,'--it would be a sin to let any one
else in. I'll just wire him we're on, and that we need all of that good
In the flush of his great plans and great expectations came a chance
meeting with Miss Milbrey. He had seen her only at a distance since
their talk at Newport. Yet the thought of her had persisted as a
plaintive undertone through all the days after. Only the sharp hurt to
his sensitive pride--from the conviction that she had found him
tolerable solely because of the money--had saved him from the willing
admission to himself that he had carried off too much of her ever to
forget. In his quiet moments, the tones of her clear, low voice came
movingly to his ears, and his eyes conjured involuntarily her girlish
animation, her rounded young form, her colour and fire--the choked,
smouldering fire of opals. He saw the curve of her wrist, the confident
swing of her walk, the easy poise of her head, her bearing, at once
girlish and womanly, the little air, half of wistful appeal, and half
of self-reliant assertion. Yet he failed not to regard these
indulgences as utter folly. It had been folly enough while he believed
that she stood ready to accept him and his wealth. It was more
flagrant, now that her quest for a husband with millions had been so
But again, the fact that she was now clearly impossible for him, so
that even a degrading submission on his part could no longer secure
her, served only to bring her attractiveness into greater relief. With
the fear gone that a sudden impulse to possess her might lead him to
stultify himself, he could see more clearly than ever why she was and
promised always to be to him the very dearest woman in the
world--dearest in spite of all he could reason about so lucidly. He
felt, then, a little shock of unreasoning joy to find one night that
they were dining together at the Oldakers'.
At four o'clock he had received a hasty note signed "Fidelia Oldaker,"
penned in the fine, precise script of some young ladies' finishing
school--perhaps extinct now for fifty years--imploring him, if aught of
chivalry survived within his breast, to fetch his young grandfather and
dine with her that evening. Two men had inconsiderately succumbed, at
this eleventh hour, to the prevailing grip-epidemic, and the lady
threw herself confidently on the well-known generosity of the Bines
male--"like one of the big, stout nets those acrobatic people fall into
from their high bars," she concluded.
Uncle Peter was more than willing. He liked the Oldakers.
"They're the only sane folks I've met among your friends," he had told
his grandson. He had dined there frequently during the winter, and
professed to be enamoured of the hostess. That fragile but sprightly
bit of antiquity professed in turn to find Uncle Peter a very dangerous
man among the ladies. They flirted outrageously at every opportunity,
and Uncle Peter sent her more violets than many a popular _débutante_
received that winter.
Percival, with his new air of Wall Street operator, was inclined to
"You know I'm up early now, Uncle Peter, to get the day's run of the
markets before I go downtown, and a man can't do much in the way of
dinners when his mind is working all day. Perhaps Mauburn will go."
But Mauburn was taking Psyche and Mrs. Drelmer to the first night of a
play, and Percival was finally persuaded by the old man to relax, for
one evening, the austerity of his _régime_.
"But how your pa would love to see you so conscientious," he said, "and
you with Wall Street, or a good part of it, right under your heel, just
like _that_," and the old man ground his heel viciously into the
When Percival found Shepler with Mrs. Van Geist and Miss Milbrey among
the Oldakers' guests, he rejoiced. Now he would talk to her without any
of that old awkward self-consciousness. He was even audacious enough to
insist that Mrs. Oldaker direct him to take Miss Milbrey out to dinner.
"I claim it as the price of coming, you know, when I was only an
"You shall be paid, sir," his hostess declared, "if you consider it pay
to sit beside an engaged girl whose mind is full of her _trousseau_.
And here's this captivating young scapegrace relative of yours. What
price does he demand for coming?" and she glanced up at Uncle Peter
with arch liberality in her bright eyes.
That gentleman bowed low--a bow that had been the admiration of the
smartest society in Marietta County, Ohio, fifty years and more ago.
"I'm paid fur coming by coming," he replied, urbanely.
"There, now!" cried his hostess, "that's pretty, and means something.
You shall take me in for that."
"I'll have to give you a credit-slip, ma'am. You've overpaid me." And
Mrs. Oldaker, with a coy fillip of her fan, called him a naughty boy.
"Here, Rulon," she called to Shepler, "are two young daredevils who've
been good enough to save me as many empty chairs. Now you shall take
out Cornelia, and this juvenile sprig shall relieve you of Avice
Milbrey. It's a providence. You engaged couples are always so dull when
you're banished from your own _ciel ŕ deux_."
Shepler bowed and greeted the two men. Percival sought Miss Milbrey,
who was with her aunt at the other side of the old-fashioned room, a
room whose brocade hangings had been imported from England in the days
of the Georges, and whose furniture was fabricated in the time when
France was suffering its last kings.
He no longer felt the presence of anything overt between them. The girl
herself seemed to have regained the charming frankness of her first
manner with him. Their relationship was defined irrevocably. No
uncertainty of doubt or false seeming lurked now under the surface to
perplex and embarrass. The relief was felt at once by each.
"I'm to have the pleasure of taking you in, Miss Milbrey--hostess
issues special commands to that effect."
"Isn't that jolly! We've not met for an age."
"And I've such an appetite for talk with you, I fear I won't eat a
thing. If I'd known you were to be here I'd have taken the forethought
to eat a gored ox, or something--what is the proverb, 'better a dinner
of stalled ox where--'"
"'Where talk is,'" suggested Miss Milbrey, quickly.
"Oh, yes--.' than to have your own ox gored without a word of talk.' I
remember it perfectly now. And--there--we're moving on to this feast of
"And the flow of something superior to reason," finished Shepler, who
had come over for Mrs. Van Geist. "Oldaker has some port that lay in
the wood in his cellar for forty years--and went around the world
between keel and canvas."
"That sounds good," said Percival, and then to Miss Milbrey, "But come,
let us reason together." His next sentiment, unuttered, was that the
soft touch of her hand under his arm was headier than any drink, how
Throughout the dinner their entire absorption in each other was all but
unbroken. Percival never could remember who had sat at his left; and
Miss Milbrey's right-hand neighbour saw more than the winning line of
her profile but twice. Percival began--
"Do you know, I've never been able to classify you at all. I never
could tell how to take you."
"I'll tell you a secret, Mr. Bines; I think I'm not to be taken at all.
I've begun to suspect that I'm like one of those words that haven't any
rhyme--like 'orange' and 'month,' you know."
"But you find poetry in life? I do."
"Plenty of verse--not much poetry."
"How would you order life now, if the little old wishing-lady came to
your door and knocked?"
And they plunged forthwith, buoyed by youth's divine effrontery, into
mysteries that have vexed diners, not less than hermit sages, since
"the fog of old time" first obscured truth. Of life and death--the
ugliness of life, and the beauty of death--
"... even as death might smile, Petting the plumes of some surprised
quoted the girl. Of loving and hating, they talked; of trying and
failing--of the implacable urge under which men must strive in the face
of certain defeat--of the probability that men are purposely born
fools, since, if they were born wise they would refuse to strive;
whereupon life and death would merge, and naught would prevail but a
vast indifference. In fact, they were very deep, and affected to
consider these grave matters seriously. They affected that they never
habitually thought of lesser concerns. And they had the air of
listening to each other as if they were weighing the words judicially,
and were quite above any mere sensuous considerations of personality.
Once they emerged long enough to hear the hostess speaking, as it were
of yesterday, of a day when the new "German cotillion" was introduced,
to make a sensation in New York; of a time when the best ballrooms were
heated with wood stoves and lighted with lamps; and of a later but
apparently still remote time when the Assemblies were "really, quite
the smartest function of the season."
In another pause, they caught the kernel of a story being told by Uncle
"The girl was a half-breed, but had a fair skin and the biggest shock
of hair you ever saw--bright yellow hair. She was awful proud of her
hair. So when her husband, Clem Dewler, went to this priest, Father
McNally, and complained that she _would_ run away from the shack and
hang around the dance-halls down at this mining-camp, Father McNally
made up his mind to learn her a lesson. Well, he goes down and finds
her jest comin' out of Tim Healy's place with two other women. He
rushes up to her, catches hold of this big shock of hair that was
trailin' behind her, and before she knew what was comin' he whipped out
a big pair of sharp, shiny shears, and made as if he was going to give
her a hair-cut. At that she begins to scream, but the priest he
wouldn't let go. 'I'll cut it off,' he says, 'close,' he says, 'if you
don't swear on this crucifix to be a good squaw to Clem Dewler, and
never set so much as one of your little feet in these places again.'
She could feel the shears against her hair, and she was so scared she
swore like he told her. And so she was that afraid of losin' her fine
yellow hair afterward, knowin' Father McNally was a man that didn't
make no idle threats, that she kept prim and proper--fur a half-breed."
"That poor creature had countless sisters," was Miss Milbrey's comment
to Percival. And they fell together once more in deciding whether,
after all, the brightest women ever cease to believe that men are
influenced most by surface beauties. They fired each other's enthusiasm
for expressing opinions, and they took the opinions very seriously. Yet
of their meeting, to an observer, their talk would have seemed the part
least worth recording.
Twice Percival caught Shepler's regard bent upon them. It amused him to
think he detected signs of uneasiness back of the survey, cool,
friendly, and guarded as it was on the surface.
At parting, later, Percival spoke for the first time to Miss Milbrey of
"You must know that I wish you all the happiness you hope for yourself;
and if I were as lucky in love as Mr. Shepler has been, I surely would
never dare to gamble in anything else--you know the saying."
"And you, Mr. Bines. I've been hearing so much of your marriage. I hope
the rumour I heard to-day is true, that your engagement has been
"Come, now! That's all gossip, you know; not a word of truth in it, and
it's been very annoying to us both. Please demolish that rumour on my
authority next time you hear it, thoroughly, so they can make nothing
out of the pieces."
Miss Milbrey showed genuine disappointment.
"I had thought, naturally--"
"The only member of that household I could marry is not suited to my
Miss Milbrey was puzzled.
"But, really, she's not so old."
"No, not so very old. Still, she's going on five, and you know how time
flies--and so much disparity in our ages--twenty-one years or so; no,
she was no wife for me, although I don't mind confessing that there has
been an affair between us, but--really you can't imagine what a
frivolous and trifling creature she is."
Miss Milbrey laughed now, rather painfully he fancied.
"You mean the baby? Isn't she a little dear?"
"I'll tell you something, just between us--the baby's mother is--well,
I like her--but she's a joke. That's all, a joke."
"I beg your pardon for talking of it. It had seemed so definite.
They're waiting for me--good night--_so_ glad to have seen you--and,
nevertheless, she's a very _practical_ joke!"
He watched her with frank, utter longing, as she moved over to Mrs.
Oldaker, tender, girlish, appealing, with the old air of timid
wistfulness, kept guard over by her woman's knowledge. His fingers
still curved, as if they were loth to forget the clasp of her warm,
firm little hand. She was gowned in white fleece, and she wore one pink
rose where she could bend her blue eyes down upon it.
And she was going to marry Shepler for his millions. She might even yet
regret that she had not waited for him, when his own name had been
written up as the wizard of markets, and the master of millions. Since
money was all she loved, he would show her that even in that he was
pre-eminent; though he would still have none of her. And as for
Shepler--he wondered if Shepler knew just what risks he might be taking
"Oh, Mütterchen! Wasn't it the jolliest evening?"
They were in the carriage.
"Did you and Mr. Bines enjoy yourselves as much as you seemed to?"
"And isn't his grandfather an old dear? What an interesting little
story about that woman. I know just how she felt. You see, sir," she
turned to Shepler, "there is always a way to manage a woman--you must
find her weakness."
"He's a very unusual old chap," said Shepler. "I had occasion not long
since to tell him that a certain business plan he proposed was entirely
without precedent. His answer was characteristic. He said, 'We _make_
precedents in the West when we can't find one to suit us.' It seemed so
typical of the people to me. You never can tell what they may do. You
see they were started out of old ruts by some form of necessity, almost
every one of them, when they went West, and as necessity stimulates
only the brightest people to action, those Westerners are apt to be of
a pretty keen, active, and sturdy mental type. As this old chap says,
they never hang back for lack of precedents; they go ahead and make
them. They're not afraid to take sudden queer steps. But, really, I
like them both."
"So do I," said his betrothed.
The Amateur Napoleon of Wall Street
At the beginning of April, the situation in the three stocks Percival
had bought so heavily grew undeniably tense. Consolidated Copper went
from 109 to 103 in a week. But Percival's enthusiasm suffered little
abatement from the drop. "You see," he reminded Uncle Peter, "it isn't
exactly what I expected, but it's right in line with it, so it doesn't
alarm me. I knew those fellows inside were bound to hammer it down if
they could. It wouldn't phase me a bit if it sagged to 95."
"My! My!" Uncle Peter exclaimed, with warm approval, "the way you
master this business certainly does win _me_. I tell you, it's a mighty
good thing we got your brains to depend on. I'm all right the other
side of Council Bluffs, but I'm a tenderfoot here, sure, where
everybody's tryin' to get the best of you. You see, out there,
everybody tries to make the best of it. But here they try to get the
best of it. I told that to one of them smarties last night. But you'll
put them in their place all right. You know both ends of the game and
the middle. We certainly got a right to be proud of you, son. Dan'l J.
liked big propositions himself--but, well, I'd just like to have him
see the nerve you've showed, that's all."
Uncle Peter's professions of confidence were unfailing, and Percival
took new hope and faith in his judgment from them daily.
Nevertheless, as the weeks passed, and the mysterious insiders
succeeded in their design of keeping the stock from rising, he came to
feel a touch of anxiety. More, indeed, than he was able to communicate
to Uncle Peter, without confessing outright that he had lost faith in
himself. That he was unable to do, even if it were true, which he
doubted. The Bines fortune was now hanging, as to all but some of the
Western properties, on the turning of the three stocks. Yet the old
man's confidence in the young man's acumen was invulnerable. No shaft
that Percival was able to fashion had point enough to pierce it. And he
was both to batter it down, for he still had the gambler's faith in his
"You got your father's head in business matters," was Uncle Peter's
invariable response to any suggestion of failure. "I know that
much--spite of what all these gossips say--and that's all I _want_ to
know. And of course you can't ever be no Shepler 'less you take your
share of chances. Only don't ask _my_ advice. You're master of the
game, and we're all layin' right smack down on your genius fur it."
Whereupon the young man, with confidence in himself newly inflated,
would hurry off to the stock tickers. He had ceased to buy the stocks
outright, and for several weeks had bought only on margins.
"There was one rule in poker your pa had," said Uncle Peter. "If a hand
is worth calling on, it's worth raising on. He jest never _would_ call.
If he didn't think a hand was worth raising, he'd bunch it in with the
discards, and wait fur another deal. I don't know much about the game,
but _he_ said it was a sound rule, and if it was sound in poker, why
it's got to be sound in this game. That's all I can tell you. You know
what you hold, and if 'tain't a hand to lay down, it must be a hand to
raise on. Of course, if you'd been brash and ignorant in your first
calculations--if you'd made a fool of yourself at the start--but
shucks! you're the son of Daniel J. Bines, ain't you?"
The rule and the clever provocation had their effect.
"I'll raise as long as I have a chip left, Uncle Peter. Why, only
to-day I had a tip that came straight from Shepler, though he never
dreamed it would reach me. That Pacific Cable bill is going to be
rushed through at this session of Congress, sure, and that means enough
increased demand to send Consolidated back where it was. And then, when
it comes out that they've got those Rio Tinto mines by the throat,
well, this anvil chorus will have to stop, and those Federal Oil sharks
and Shepler will be wondering how I had the face to stay in."
The published rumours regarding Consolidated began to conflict very
sharply. Percival read them all hungrily, disregarding those that did
not confirm his own opinions. He called them irresponsible newspaper
gossip, or believed them to be inspired by the clique for its own ends.
He studied the history of copper until he knew all its ups and downs
since the great electrical development began in 1887. When Fouts, the
broker he traded most heavily with, suggested that the Consolidated
Company was skating on thin ice, that it might, indeed, be going
through the same experience that shattered the famous Secretan corner a
dozen years before, Percival pointed out unerringly the vital
difference in the circumstances. The Consolidated had reduced the
production of its controlled mines, and the price was bound to be
maintained. When his adviser suggested that the companies not in the
combine might cut the price, he brought up the very lively rumours of a
"gentlemen's agreement" with the "non-combine" producers.
"Of course, there's Calumet and Hecla. I know that couldn't be gunned
into the combination. They could pay dividends with copper at ten cents
a pound. But the other independents know which side of their stock is
spread with dividends, all right."
When it was further suggested that the Rio Tinto mines had sold ahead
for a year, with the result that European imports from the United
States had fallen off, and that the Consolidated could not go on for
ever holding up the price, Percival said nothing.
The answer to that was the secret negotiations for control of the
European output, which would make the Consolidated master of the copper
world. Instead of disclosing this, he pretended craftily to be
encouraged by the mere generally hopeful outlook in all lines. Western
Trolley, too, might be overcapitalised, and Union Cordage might also be
in the hands of a piratical clique; but the demand for trolley lines
was growing every day, and cordage products were not going out of
fashion by any means.
"You see," he said to his adviser, "here's what the most conservative
man in the Street says in this afternoon's paper. 'That copper must
necessarily break badly, and the whole boom collapse I do not believe.
There is enough prosperity to maintain a strong demand for the metal
through another year at least. As to Western Trolley and Union Cordage,
the two other stocks about which doubt is now being so widely expressed
in the Street, I am persuaded that they are both due to rise, not
sensationally, but at a healthy upward rate that makes them sound
"There," said Percival, "there's the judgment of a man that knows the
game, but doesn't happen to have a dollar in either stock, and he
doesn't know one or two things that I know, either. Just hypothecate
ten thousand of those Union Cordage shares and five thousand Western
Trolley, and buy Consolidated on a twenty per cent margin. I want to
get bigger action. There's a good rule in poker: if your hand is worth
calling, it's worth raising."
"I like your nerve," said the broker.
"Well, I know some one who has a sleeve with something up it, that's
By the third week in April, it was believed that his holdings of
Consolidated were the largest in the Street, excepting those of the
Federal Oil people. Uncle Peter was delighted by the magnitude of his
operations, and by his newly formed habits of industry.
"It'll be the makings of the boy," he said to Mrs. Bines in her son's
presence. "Not that I care so much myself about all the millions he'll
pile up, but it gives him a business training, and takes him out of the
pin-head class. I bet Shepler himself will be takin' off his silk hat
to your son, jest as soon as he's made this turn in copper--if he has
enough of Dan'l J.'s grit to hang on--and I think he has."
"They needn't wait another day for me," Percival told him later. "The
family treasure is about all in now, except ma's amethyst earrings, and
the hair watch-chain Grandpa Cummings had. Of course I'm holding what
I promised for Burman. But that rise can't hold off much longer, and
the only thing I'll do, from now on, is to hock a few blocks of the
stock I bought outright, and buy on margins, so's to get bigger
"My! My! you jest do fairly dazzle me," exclaimed the old man,
delightedly. "Oh, I guess your pa wouldn't be at all proud of you if he
could see it. I tell you, this family's all right while you keep
"Well, I'm not pushing my chest out any," said the young man, with
becoming modesty, "but I don't mind telling you it will be the biggest
thing ever pulled off down there by any one man."
"That's the true Western spirit," declared Uncle Peter, beside himself
with enthusiasm. "We do things big when we bother with 'em at all. We
ain't afraid of any pikers like Shepler, with his little two and five
thousand lots. Oh! I can jest hear 'em callin' you hard names down in
that Wall Street--Napoleon of Finance and Copper King and all like
that--in about thirty days!"
He accepted Percival's invitation that afternoon to go down into the
Street with him. They stopped for a moment in the visitors' gallery of
the Stock Exchange and looked down into the mob of writhing,
dishevelled, shouting brokers. In and out, the throng swirled upon
itself, while above its muddy depths surged a froth of hands in
frenzied gesticulation. The frantic movement and din of shrieks
disturbed Uncle Peter.
"Faro is such a lot quieter game," was his comment; "so much more ca'm
and restful. What a pity, now, 'tain't as Christian!"
Then they made the rounds of the brokers' offices in New, Broad, and
They reached the office of Fouts, in the, latter street, just as the
Exchange had closed. In the outer trading-room groups of men were still
about the tickers, rather excitedly discussing the last quotations.
Percival made his way toward one of them with a dim notion that he
might be concerned. He was relieved when he saw Gordon Blythe, suave
and smiling, in the midst of the group, still regarding the tape he
held in his hands. Blythe, too, had plunged in copper. He had been one
of the few as sanguine as Percival--and Blythe's manner now reassured
him. Copper had obviously not gone wrong.
"Ah, Blythe, how did we close? Mr. Blythe, my grandfather, Mr. Bines."
Blythe was the model of easy, indolent, happy middle-age. His tall hat,
frock coat with a carnation in the lapel, the precise crease of his
trousers, the spickness of his patent-leathers and his graceful
confidence of manner, proclaimed his mind to be free from all but the
pleasant things of life. He greeted Uncle Peter airily.
"Come down to see how we do it, eh, Mr. Bines? It's vastly engrossing,
on my word. Here's copper just closed at 93, after opening strong this
morning at 105. I hardly fancied, you know, it could fall off so many
of those wretched little points. Rumours that the Consolidated has made
large sales of the stuff in London at sixteen, I believe. One never can
be quite aware of what really governs these absurd fluctuations."
Percival was staring at Blythe in unconcealed amazement. He turned,
leaving Uncle Peter still chatting with him, and sought Fouts in the
inner office. When he came out ten minutes later Uncle Peter was
waiting for him alone.
"Your friend Mr. Blythe is a clever sort of man, jolly and
light-hearted as a boy."
"Let's go out and have a drink, before we go up-town."
In the _café_ of the Savarin, to which he led Uncle Peter, they saw
Blythe again. He was seated at one of the tables with a younger man.
Uncle Peter and Percival sat down at a table near by.
Blythe was having trouble about his wine.
"Now, George," he was saying, "give us a real _lively_ pint of wine.
You see, yourself, that cork isn't fresh; show it to Frank there, and
look at the wine itself--come now, George! Hardly a bubble in it! Tell
Frank I'll leave it to him, by Gad! if this bottle is right."
The waiter left with the rejected wine, and they heard Blythe resume to
his companion, with the relish of a connoisseur:
"It's simply a matter of genius, old chap--you understand?--to tell
good wine--that is really to discriminate finely. If a chap's not born
with the gift he's an ass to think he can acquire it. Sometime you've a
setter pup that looks fit--head good, nose all right--all the
markings--but you try him out and you know in half an hour he'll never
do in the world. Then it's better to take him out back of the barn and
shoot him, by Gad! Rather than have his strain corrupt the rest of the
kennel. He can't acquire the gift, and no more can a chap acquire this
gift. Ah! I was right, was I, George? Look how different that cork is."
He sipped the bubbling amber wine with cautious and exacting
appreciation. As the waiter would have refilled the glasses, Blythe
"Now, George, let me tell you something. You're serving at this moment
the only gentleman's drink. Do it right, George. Listen! Never refill a
gentleman's glass until it's quite empty. Do you know why? Think,
George! You pour fresh wine into stale wine and what have
you?--neither. I've taught you something, George. Never fill a glass
till it's empty."
"It beats me," said Uncle Peter, when Blythe and his companion had
gone, "how easy them rich codgers get along. That fellow must 'a' made
a study of wines, and nothing worse ever bothers him than a waiter
fillin' his glass wrong."
"You'll be beat more," answered Percival, "when I tell you this slump
in copper has just ruined him--wiped out every cent he had. He'd just
taken it off the ticker when we found him in Fouts's place there. He's
lost a million and a half, every cent he had in the world, and he has a
wife and two grown daughters."
"Shoo! you don't say! And I'd have sworn he didn't care a row of pins
whether copper went up or down. He was a lot more worried about that
champagne. Well, well! he certainly is a game loser. I got more respect
fur him now. This town does produce thoroughbreds, you can't deny
"Uncle Peter, she's down to 93, and I've had to margin up a good bit. I
didn't think it could get below 95 at the worst."
"Oh, I can't bother about them things. Just think of when she booms."
"I do--but say--do you think we better pinch our bets?"
Uncle Peter finished his glass of beer.
"Lord! don't ask _me_," he replied, with the unconcern of perfect
trust. "Of course if you've lost your nerve, or if you think all these
things you been tellin' me was jest some one foolin' you--"
"No, I know better than that, and I haven't lost my nerve. After all,
it only means that the crowd is looking for a bigger rake-off."
"Your pa always kept _his_ nerve," said Uncle Peter. "I've known him to
make big money by keepin' it when other men lost theirs. Of course he
had genius fur it, and you're purty young yet--"
"I only thought of it for a minute. I didn't really mean it."
They read the next afternoon that Gordon Blythe had been found dead of
asphyxiation in a little down-town hotel under circumstances that left
no doubt of his suicide.
"That man wa'n't so game as we thought," said Uncle Peter. "He's left
his family to starve. Now your pa was a game loser fur fair. Dan'l J.
would'a' called fur another deck."
"And copper's up two points to-day," said Percival, cheerfully. He had
begun to be depressed with forebodings of disaster, and this slight
recovery was cheering.
"By the way," he continued, "there may be another gas-jet blown out in
a few days. That party, you know, our friend from Montana, has been
selling Consolidated right and left. Where do you suppose she got any
such tip as that? Well, I'm buying and she's selling, and we'll have
that money back. She'll be wiped off the board when Consolidated
How the Chinook Came to Wall Street
The loss of much money is commonly a subject to be managed with brevity
and aversion by one who sits down with the right reverence for sheets
of clean paper. To bewail is painful. To affect lightness, on the other
hand, would, in this age, savour of insincerity, if not of downright
blasphemy. More than a bare recital of the wretched facts, therefore,
is not seemly.
The Bines fortune disappeared much as a heavy fall of snow melts under
the Chinook wind.
That phenomenon is not uninteresting. We may picture a far-reaching
waste of snow, wind-furrowed until it resembles a billowy white sea
frozen motionless. The wind blows half a gale and the air is full of
fine ice-crystals that sting the face viciously. The sun, lying low on
the southern horizon, seems a mere frozen globe, with lustrous pink
crescents encircling it.
One day the wind backs and shifts. A change portends. Even the herds of
half-frozen range cattle sense it by some subtle beast-knowledge. They
are no longer afraid to lie down as they may have been for a week. The
danger of freezing has passed. The temperature has been at fifty
degrees below zero. Now, suddenly it begins to rise. The air is
scarcely in motion, but occasionally it descends as out of a
blast-furnace from overhead. To the southeast is a mass of dull black
clouds. Their face is unbroken. But the upper edges are ragged, torn by
a wind not yet felt below. Two hours later its warmth comes. In ten
minutes the mercury goes up thirty-five degrees. The wind comes at a
thirty-mile velocity. It increases in strength and warmth, blowing with
a mighty roar.
Twelve hours afterward the snow, three feet deep on a level, has
melted. There are bald, brown hills everywhere to the horizon, and the
plains are flooded with water. The Chinook has come and gone. In this
manner suddenly went the Bines fortune.
April 30th, Consolidated Copper closed at 91. Two days later, May 2d,
the same ill-fated stock closed at 5l--a drop of forty points. Roughly
the decline meant the loss of a hundred million dollars to the fifteen
thousand share-holders. From every city of importance in the country
came tales more or less tragic of holdings wiped out, of ruined
families, of defalcations and suicides. The losses in New York City
alone were said to be fifty millions. A few large holders, reputed to
enjoy inside information, were said to have put their stock aside and
"sold short" in the knowledge of what was coming. Such tales are always
popular in the Street.
Others not less popular had to do with the reasons for the slump. Many
were plausible. A deal with the Rothschilds for control of the Spanish
mines had fallen through. Or, again, the slaughter was due to the
Shepler group of Federal Oil operators, who were bent on forcing some
one to unload a great quantity of the stock so that they might absorb
it. The immediate causes were less recondite. The Consolidated Company,
so far from controlling the output, was suddenly shown to control
actually less than fifty per cent of it. Its efforts to amend or repeal
the hardy old law of Supply and Demand had simply met with the
indifferent success that has marked all such efforts since the first
attempted corner in stone hatchets, or mastodon tusks, or whatever it
may have been. In the language of one of its newspaper critics, the
"Trust" had been "founded on misconception and prompted along lines of
self-destruction. Its fundamental principles were the restriction of
product, the increase of price, and the throttling of competition, a
trinity that would wreck any combination, business, political, or
With this generalisation we have no concern. As to the copper
situation, the comment was pat. It had been suddenly disclosed, not
only that no combination could be made to include the European mines,
but that the Consolidated Company had an unsold surplus of 150,000,000
pounds of copper; that it was producing 20,000,000 pounds a month more
than could be sold, and that it had made large secret sales abroad at
from two to three cents below the market price.
As if fearing that these adverse conditions did not sufficiently ensure
the stock's downfall, the Shepler group of Federal Oil operators beat
it down further with what was veritably a golden sledge. That is, they
exported gold at a loss. At a time when obligations could have been met
more cheaply with bought bills they sent out many golden cargoes at an
actual loss of three hundred dollars on the half million. As money was
already dear, and thus became dearer, the temptation and the means to
hold copper stock, in spite of all discouragements, were removed from
the paths of hundreds of the harried holders.
Incidentally, Western Trolley had gone into the hands of a receiver, a
failure involving another hundred million dollars, and Union Cordage
had fallen thirty-five points through sensational disclosures as to
Into this maelstrom of a panic market the Bines fortune had been sucked
with a swiftness so terrible that the family's chief advising member
was left dazed and incredulous.
For two days he clung to the ticker tape as to a life line. He had
committed the millions of the family as lightly as ever he had staked a
hundred dollars on the turn of a card or left ten on the change-tray
for his waiter.
Then he had seen his cunningly built foundations, rested upon with
hopes so high for three months, melt away like snow when the blistering
It has been thought wise to adopt two somewhat differing similes in the
foregoing, in order that the direness of the tragedy may be
The morning of the first of the two last awful days, he was called to
the office of Fouts and Hendricks by telephone.
"Something going to happen in Consolidated to-day."
He had hurried down-town, flushed with confidence. He knew there was
but one thing _could_ happen. He had reached the office at ten and
heard the first vicious little click of the ticker--that beating heart
of the Stock Exchange--as it began the unemotional story of what men
bought and sold over on the floor. Its inventor died in the poorhouse,
but Capital would fare badly without his machine. Consolidated was down
three points. The crowd about the ticker grew absorbed at once. Reports
came in over the telephone. The bears had made a set for the stock. It
began to slump rapidly. As the stock was goaded down, point by point,
the crowd of traders waxed more excited.
As the stock fell, the banks requested the brokers to margin up their
loans, and the brokers, in turn, requested Percival to margin up his
trades. The shares he had bought outright went to cover the shortage in
those he had bought on a twenty per cent margin. Loans were called
later, and marginal accounts wiped out with appalling informality.
Yet when Consolidated suddenly rallied three points just at the close
of the day's trading, he took much comfort in it as an omen of the
morrow. That night, however, he took but little satisfaction in Uncle
Peter's renewed assurances of trust in his acumen. Uncle Peter, he
decided all at once, was a fatuous, doddering old man, unable to
realise that the whole fortune was gravely endangered. And with the
gambler's inveterate hope that luck must change he forbore to undeceive
the old man.
Uncle Peter went with him to the office next morning, serenely
interested in the prospects.
"You got your pa's way of taking hold of big propositions. That's all I
need to know," he reassured the young man, cheerfully.
Consolidated Copper opened that day at 78, and went by two o'clock to
Percival watched the decline with a conviction that he was dreaming. He
laughed to think of his relief when he should awaken. The crowd surged
about the ticker, and their voices came as from afar. Their acts all
had the weird inconsequence of the people we see in dreams. Yet
presently it had gone too far to be amusing. He must arouse himself and
turn over on his side. In five minutes, according to the dream, he had
lost five million dollars as nearly as he could calculate. Losing a
million a minute, even in sleep, he thought, was disquieting.
Then upon the tape he read another chapter of disaster. Western Trolley
had gone into the hands of a receiver,--a fine, fat, promising stock
ruined without a word of warning; and while he tried to master this
news the horrible clicking thing declared that Union Cordage was
selling down to 58,--a drop of exactly 35 points since morning.
Fouts, with a slip of paper in his hand, beckoned him from the door of
his private office. He went dazedly in to him,--and was awakened from
the dream that he had been losing a fortune in his sleep.
Coming out after a few moments, he went up to Uncle Peter, who had been
sitting, watchful but unconcerned, in one of the armchairs along the
wall. The old man looked up inquiringly.
"Come inside, Uncle Peter!"
They went into the private office of Fouts. Percival shut the door, and
they were alone.
"Uncle Peter, Burman's been suspended on the Board of Trade; Fouts just
had this over his private wire. Corn broke to-day."
"That so? Oh, well, maybe it was worth a couple of million to find out
Burman plays corn like he plays poker; 'twas if you couldn't get it fur
"Uncle Peter, we're wiped out."
"How, wiped out? What do you mean, son?"
"We're done, I tell you. We needn't care a damn now where copper goes
to. We're out of it--and--Uncle Peter, we're broke."
"Out of copper? Broke? But you said--" He seemed to be making an effort
to comprehend. His lack of grasp was pitiful.
"Out of copper, but there's Western Trolley and that Cordage stock--"
"Everything wiped out, I tell you--Union Cordage gone down thirty-five
points, somebody let out the inside secrets--and God only knows how far
Western Trolley's gone down."
"Are you all in?"
"Every dollar--you knew that. But say," he brightened out of his
despair, "there's the One Girl--a good producer--Shepler knows the
property--Shepler's in this block--" and he was gone.
The old man strolled out into the trading-room again. A curious grim
smile softened his square jaw for a moment. He resumed his comfortable
chair and took up a newspaper, glancing incidentally at the crowd of
excited men about the tickers. He had about him that air of repose
which comes to big men who have stayed much in big out-of-door
"Ain't he a nervy old guy?" said a crisp little money-broker to Fouts.
"They're wiped out, but you wouldn't think he cared any more about it
than Mike the porter with his brass polish out there."
The old man held his paper up, but did not read.
Percival rushed in by him, beckoning him to the inner room.
"Shepler's all right about the One Girl. He'll take a mortgage on it
for two hundred thousand if you'll recommend it--only he can't get the
money before to-morrow. There's bound to be a rally in this stock, and
we'll go right back for some of the hair of the--why,--what's the
The old man had reeled, and then weakly caught at the top of the desk
with both hands for support.
"Ruined!" he cried, hoarsely, as if the extent of the calamity had just
borne in upon him. "My God! Ruined, and at my time of life!" He seemed
about to collapse. Percíval quickly helped him into a chair, where he
"There, I'm all right. Oh, it's terrible! and we all trusted you so. I
thought you had your pa's brains. I'd 'a' trusted you soon's I would
Shepler, and now look what you led us into--fortune gone--broke--and
all your fault!"
"Don't, Uncle Peter--don't, for God's sake--not when I'm down! I can't
"Gamble away your own money--no, that wa'n't enough--take your poor
ma's share and your sister's, and take what little I had to keep me in
my old age--robbed us all--that's what comes of thinkin' a damned
tea-drinkin' fop could have a thimble-full of brains!"
"Don't, please,--not just now--give it to me good later--to-morrow--all
you want to!"
"And here I'm come to want in my last days when I'm too feeble to work.
I'll die in bitter privation because I was an old fool, and trusted a
"Please don't, Uncle Peter!"
"You led us in--robbed your poor ma and your sister. I told you I
didn't know anything about it and you talked me into trusting you--I
might 'a' known better."
"Can't you stop awhile--just a moment?"
"Of course I don't matter. Maybe I can hold a drill, or tram ore, or
something, but I can't support your ma and Pishy like they ought to be,
with my rheumatiz comin' on again, too. And your ma'll have to take in
boarders, and do washin' like as not, and think of poor Pishy--prob'ly
she'll have to teach school or clerk in a store--poor Pish--she'll be
lucky now if she can marry some common scrub American out in them
hills--like as not one of them shoe-clerks in the Boston Cash Store at
Montana City! And jest when I was lookin' forward to luxury and palaces
in England, and everything so grand! How much you lost?" "That's right,
no use whining! Nearly as I can get the round figures of it, about
"Awful--awful! By Cripes! that man Blythe that done himself up the
other night had the right of it. What's the use of living if you got to
go to the poorhouse?"
"Come, come!" said Percival, alarm over Uncle Peter crowding out his
other emotions. "Be a game loser, just as you said pa would be. Sit up
straight and make 'em bring on another deck."
He slapped the old man on the back with simulated cheerfulness; but the
despairing one only cowered weakly under the blow.
"We can't--we ain't got the stake for a new deck. Oh, dear! think of
your ma and me not knowin' where to turn fur a meal of victuals at our
time of life."
Percival was being forced to cheerfulness in spite of himself.
"Come, it isn't as bad as that, Uncle Peter. We've got properties left,
and good ones, too."
Uncle Peter weakly waved the hand of finished discouragement. "Hush,
don't speak of that. Them properties need a manager to make 'em pay--a
plain business man--a man to stay on the ground and watch 'em and develop
'em with his brains--a young man with his health! What good am I--a poor,
broken-down old cuss, bent double with rheumatiz--almost--I'm ashamed of
you fur suggesting such a thing!"
"I'll do it myself--I never thought of asking you."
Uncle Peter emitted a nasal gasp of disgust.
"You--you--you'd make a purty manager of anything, wouldn't you! As if
you could be trusted with anything again that needs a schoolboy's
intelligence. Even if you had the brains, you ain't got the taste nor
the sperrit in you. You're too lazy--too triflin'. _You_, a-goin' back
there, developin' mines, and gettin' out ties, and lumber, and breeding
shorthorns, and improvin' some of the finest land God ever made--_you_
bein' sober and industrious, and smart, like a business man has got to
be out there nowadays. That ain't any bonanza country any more; 1901
ain't like 1870; don't figure on that. You got to work the low-grade
ore now for a few dollars a ton, and you got to work it with brains.
No, sir, that country ain't what it used to be. There might 'a' been a
time when you'd made your board and clothes out there when things come
easier. Now it's full of men that hustle and keep their mind on their
work, and ain't runnin' off to pink teas in New York. It takes a man
with some of the brains your pa had to make the game pay now. But
_you_--don't let me hear any more of _that_ nonsense!"
Percival had entered the room pale. He was now red. The old man's
bitter contempt had flushed him into momentary forgetfulness of the
"Look here, Uncle Peter, you've been telling me right along I _did_
have my father's head and my father's ways and his nerve, and God knows
what I _didn't_ have that he had!"
"I was fooled,--I can't deny it. What's the use of tryin' to crawl out
of it? You did fool me, and I own up to it; I thought you had some
sense, some capacity; but you was only like him on the surface; you
jest got one or two little ways like his, that's all--Dan'l J. now was
good stuff all the way through. He might 'a' guessed wrong on copper,
but he'd 'a' saved a get-away stake or borrowed one, and he'd 'a' piked
back fur Montana to make his pile right over--and he'd 'a' _made_ it,
too--that was the kind of man your pa was--he'd 'a' made it!"
"I _have_ saved a get-away stake."
"Your pa had the head, I tell you--and the spirit--"
"And, by God, I'll show you I've got the head. You think because I wanted
to live here, and because I made this wrong play that I'm like all these
pinheads you've seen around here. I'll show you different!--I'll fool
"Now don't explode!" said the old man, wearily. "You meant well, poor
fellow--I'll say that fur you; you got a good heart. But there's lots
of good men that ain't good fur anything in particular. You've got a
good heart--yes--you're all right from the neck down."
"See here," said Percival, more calmly, "listen: I've got you all into
this thing, and played you broke against copper; and I'm going to get
you out--understand that?"
The old man looked at him pityingly.
"I tell you I'm going to get you out. I'm going back there, and get
things in action, and I'm going to stay by them. I've got a good idea
of these properties--and you hear me, now--I'll finish with a
bank-roll that'll choke Red Bank Cańon."
Fouts knocked and came in.
"Now you go along up-town, Uncle Peter. I want a few minutes with Mr.
Fouts, and I'll come to your place at seven."
The old man arose dejectedly.
"Don't let me interfere a minute with your financial operations. I'm
too old a man to be around in folks' way."
He slouched out with his head bent.
A moment later Percival remembered his last words, also his reference
to Blythe. He was seized with fear for what he might do in his despair.
Uncle Peter would act quickly if his mind had been made up.
He ran out into Wall Street, and hurried up to Broadway. A block off on
that crowded thoroughfare he saw the tall figure of Uncle Peter turning
into the door of a saloon. He might have bought poison. He ran the
length of the block and turned in.
Uncle Peter stood at one end of the bar with a glass of creamy beer in
front of him. At the moment Percival entered he was enclosing a large
slab of Swiss cheese between two slices of rye bread.
He turned and faced Percival, looking from him to his sandwich with
"I'm that wrought up and distressed, son, I hardly know what I'm doin'!
Look at me now with this stuff in my hands."
"I just wanted to be sure you were all right," said Percival, greatly
"All right," the old man repeated. "All right? My God,--ruined! There's
nothin' left to do now."
He looked absently at the sandwich, and bit a generous semicircle into
"I don't see how you can eat, Uncle Peter. It's so horrible!"
"I don't myself; it ain't a healthy appetite--can't be--must be some kind
of a fever inside of me--I s'pose--from all this trouble. And now I've
come to poverty and want in my old age. Say, son, I believe there's jest
one thing you can do to keep me from goin' crazy."
"Name it, Uncle Peter. You bet I'll do it!"
"Well, it ain't much--of course I wouldn't expect you to do all them
things you was jest braggin' about back there--about goin' to work the
properties and all that--you would do it if you could, I know--but it
ain't that. All I ask is, don't play this Wall Street game any more. If
we can save out enough by good luck to keep us decently, so your ma
won't have to take boarders, why, don't you go and lose that, too.
Don't mortgage the One Girl. I may be sort of superstitious, but
somehow, I don't believe Wall Street is your game. Course, I don't say
you ain't got a game--of some kind--but I got one of them presentiments
that it ain't Wall Street." "I don't believe it is, Uncle Peter--I
won't touch another share, and I won't go near Shepler again. We'll
keep the One Girl."
He called a cab for the old man, and saw him started safely off
At the hotel Uncle Peter met Billy Brue flourishing an evening paper
that flared with exclamatory headlines.
"It's all in the papers, Uncle Peter!"
"Dead broke! Ain't it awful, Billy!"
"Say, Uncle Peter, you said you'd raise hell, and you done it. You done
it good, didn't you?"
The News Broken, Whereupon an Engagement is Broken
At seven Percival found Uncle Peter at his hotel, still in abysmal
depths of woe. Together they went to break the awful news to the
unsuspecting Mrs. Bines and Psyche.
"If you'd only learned something useful while you had the chance,"
began Uncle Peter, dismally, as they were driven to the Hightower, "how
to do tricks with cards, or how to sing funny songs, like that little
friend of yours from Baltimore you was tellin' me about. Look at him,
now. He didn't have anything but his own ability. He could tell you
every time what card you was thinkin' about, and do a skirt dance and
give comic recitations and imitate a dog fight out in the back yard,
and now he's married to one of the richest ladies in New York. Why
couldn't you 'a' been learnin' some of them clever things, so you could
'a' married some good-hearted woman with lots of money--but no--" Uncle
Peter's tones were bitter to excess--"you was a rich man's son and
raised in idleness--and now, when the rainy day's come, you can't even
take a white rabbit out of a stove-pipe hat!"
To these senile maunderings Percival paid no attention. When they came
into the crowd and lights of the Hightower, he sent the old man up
"You go, please, and break it to them, Uncle Peter. I'd rather not be
there just at first. I'll come along in a little bit."
So Uncle Peter went, protesting that he was a broken old man and a
cumberer of God's green earth.
Mrs. Bines and Psyche had that moment sat down to dinner. Uncle Peter's
manner at once alarmed them.
"It's all over," he said, sinking into a chair.
"Why, what's the matter, Uncle Peter?"
Mrs. Bines arose quickly, trembling.
"There--I just knew it--it's all over?--he's been struck by one of
those terrible automobiles--Oh, take me to where he is!"
"He ain't been run over--he's gone broke-lost all our money; every last
"He hasn't been run over and killed?"
"He's ruined us, I tell you, Marthy,--lost every cent of our money in
"Hasn't he been hurt at all?--not even his leg broke or a big gash in
his head and knocked senseless?"
"That boy never had any sense. I tell you he's lost all our money."
"And he ain't a bit hurt--nothing the matter with him?"
"Ain't any more hurt than you or me this minute."
"You're not fooling his mother, Uncle Peter?"
"I tell you he's alive and well, only he's lost your money and Pish's
and mine and his own."
Mrs. Bines breathed a long, trembling sigh of relief, and sat down to
the table again.
"Well, no need to scare a body out of their wits--scaring his mother to
death won't bring his money back, will it? If it's gone it's gone."
"But ma, it _is_ awful!" cried Psyche. "Listen to what Uncle Peter
says. We're poor! Don't you understand? Perce has lost all our money."
Mrs. Bines was eating her soup defiantly.
"Long's he's got his health," she began.
"And me windin' up in the poorhouse," whined Uncle Peter.
"Think of it, ma! Oh, what shall we do?"
Percival entered. Uncle Peter did not raise his head. Psyche stared at
him. His mother ran to him, satisfied herself that he was sound in wind
and limb, that he had not treacherously donned his summer underwear,
and that his feet were not wet. Then she led him to the table.
"Now you sit right down here and take some food. If you're all right,
everything is all right."
With a weak attempt at his old gaiety he began: "Really, Mrs.
Crackenthorpe--" but he caught Psyche's look and had to stop.
"I'm sorry, sis, clear into my bones. I made an ass of myself--a
regular fool right from the factory."
"Never mind, my son; eat your soup," said his mother. And then, with
honest intent to comfort him, "Remember that saying of your pa's, 'it
takes all kinds of fools to make a world.'"
"But there ain't any fool like a damn fool!" said Uncle Peter, shortly.
"I been a-tellin' him."
"Well, you just let him alone; you'll spoil his appetite, first thing
you know. My son, eat your soup, now before it gets cold."
"If I only hadn't gone in so heavy," groaned Percival. "Or, if I'd only
got tied up in some way for a few weeks--something I could tide over."
"Yes," said Uncle Peter, with a cheerful effort at sarcasm, "it's
always easy to think up a lot of holes you _could_ get out of--some
different kind of a hole besides the one you're in. That's all some
folks can do when they get in one hole, they say, 'Oh, if I was only in
that other one, now, how slick I could climb out!' I ain't ever met a
person yet was satisfied with the hole they was in. Always some
complaint to make about 'em."
"And I had a chance to get out a week ago."
"Yes, and you wouldn't take it, of course--you knew too much--swellin'
around here about bein' a Napoleon of finance--and a Shepler and a
Wizard of Wall Street, and all that kind of guff--and you wouldn't take
your chance, and old Mr. Chance went right off and left you, that's
what. I tell you, what some folks need is a breed of chances that'll
stand without hitchin'."
Percival braced himself and began on his soup.
[Illustration: _"'REMEMBER THAT SAYING OF YOUR PA'S--IT TAKES ALL KINDS
OF FOOLS TO MAKE A WORLD.'"_]
"Never you mind, Uncle Peter. You remember what I told you."
"That takes a different man from what you are. If your pa was alive
"But what are we going to do?" cried Psyche.
"First thing you'll do," said Uncle Peter, promptly, "you go write a
letter to that beau of your'n, tellin' him it's all off. You don't want
to let him be the one to break it because you lost your money, do you?
You go sign his release right this minute."
"Yes--you're right, Uncle Peter--I suppose it must be done--but the
poor fellow really cares for me."
"Oh, of course," answered the old man, "it'll fairly break his heart.
You do it just the same!"
She withdrew, and presently came back with a note which she despatched
Percival and his mother had continued their dinner, the former shaking
his head between the intervals of the old man's lashings, and appearing
to hold silent converse with himself.
This was an encouraging sign. It is a curious fact that people never
talk to themselves except triumphantly. In moments of real despair we
are inwardly dumb. But observe the holders of imaginary conversations.
They are conquerors to the last one. They administer stinging rebukes
that leave the adversary writhing. They rise to Alpine heights of pure
wisdom and power, leaving him to flounder ignobly in the mire of his
They achieve repartee the brilliance of which dazzles him to
contemptible silence. If statistics were at hand we should doubtless
learn that no man has ever talked to himself save by way of
demonstrating his own godlike superiority, and the tawdry impotence of
all obstacles and opponents. Percival talked to himself and mentally
lived the next five years in a style that reduced Uncle Peter to
grudging but imperative awe for his superb gifts of administration. He
bathed in this imaginary future as in the waters of omnipotence. As
time went on he foresaw the shafts of Uncle Peter being turned back
upon him with such deadliness that, by the time the roast came, his
breast was swelling with pity for that senile scoffer.
Uncle Peter had first declared that the thought of food sickened him.
Prevailed upon at last by Mrs. Bines to taste the soup, he was soon
eating as those present had of late rarely seen him eat.
"'Tain't a natural appetite, though," he warned them. "It's a kind of a
mania before I go all to pieces, I s'pose."
"Nonsense! We'll have you all right in a week," said Percival. "Just
remember that I'm going to take care of you."
"My son can do anything he makes up his mind to," declared Mrs.
Bines--"just anything he lays out to do."
They talked until late into the night of what he should "lay out" to
Meantime the stronghold of Mauburn's optimism was being desperately
In an evening paper he had read of Percival's losses. The afternoon
press of New York is not apt to understate the facts of a given case.
The account Mauburn read stated that the young Western millionaire had
beggared his family.
Mauburn had gone to his room to be alone with this bitter news. He had
begun to face it when Psyche's note of release came. While he was
adjusting this development, another knock came on his door. It was the
same maid who had brought Psyche's note. This time she brought what he
saw to be a cablegram.
"Excuse me, Mr. Mauburn,--now this came early to-day and you wasn't in
your room, and when you came in Mrs. Ferguson forgot it till just now."
He tore open the envelope and read:
"Male twins born to Lady Casselthorpe. Mother and sons doing finely.
Mauburn felt the rock foundations of Manhattan Island to be crumbling
to dust. For an hour he sat staring at the message. He did not talk to
Then he hurriedly dressed, took the note and the cablegram, and sought
He found that capable lady gowned for the opera. She received his bits
of news with the aplomb of a resourceful commander.
"Now, don't go seedy all at once--you've a chance."
"Hang it all, Mrs. Drelmer, I've not. Life isn't worth living--"
"Tut, tut! Death isn't, either!"
"But we'd have been so nicely set up, even without the title, and now
Bines, the clumsy ass, has come this infernal cropper, and knocked
everything on the head. I say, you know, it's beastly!"
"Hush, and let me think!"
He paced the floor while his matrimonial adviser tapped a white kidded
foot on the floor, and appeared to read plans of new battle in a
mother-of-pearl paper-knife which she held between the tips of her
"I have it--and we'll do it quickly!--Mrs. Wybert!"
Mauburn's eyes opened widely.
"That absurd old Peter Bines has spoken to me of her three times
lately. She's made a lot more money than she had in this same copper
deal, and she'd a lot to begin with. I wondered why he spoke so
enthusiastically of her, and I don't see now, but--"
"She'll take you, and you'll be as well set up as you were before.
Listen. I met her last week at the Critchleys. She spoke of having seen
you. I could see she was dead set to make a good marriage. You know she
wanted to marry Fred Milbrey, but Horace and his mother wouldn't hear
of it after Avice became engaged to Rulon Shepler. I'm in the
Critchleys' box to-night and I understand she's to be there. Leave it
to me. Now it's after nine, so run along."
"But, Mrs. Drelmer, there's that poor girl--she cares for me, and I
like her immensely, you know--truly I do--and she's a trump--see where
she says here she couldn't possibly leave her people now they've come
down--even if matters were not otherwise impossible."
"Well, you see they're not only otherwise impossible, but every wise
impossible. What could you do? Go to Montana with them and learn to be
an Indian? Don't for heaven's sake sentimentalise! Go home and sleep
like a rational creature. Come in by eleven to-morrow. Even without the
title you'll be a splendid match for Mrs. Wybert, and she must have a
tidy lot of millions after this deal."
Sorely distressed, he walked back to his lodgings in Thirty-second
Street. Wild, Quixotic notions of sacrifice flooded his mood of
dejection. If the worst came, he could go West with the family and
learn how to do something. And yet--Mrs. Wybert. Of course it must be
that. The other idea was absurd--too wild for serious consideration. He
was thirty years old, and there was only one way for an English
gentleman to live--even if it must break the heart of a poor girl who
had loved him devotedly, and for whom he had felt a steady and genuine
affection. He passed a troubled night.
Down at the hotel of Peter Bines was an intimation from Mrs. Wybert
herself, bearing upon this same fortuity. When Uncle Peter reached
there at 2 A.M., he found in his box a small scented envelope which he
opened with wonder.
Two enclosures fell out. One was a clipping from an evening paper,
announcing the birth of twin sons to Lord Casselthorpe. The other was
the card he had left with Mrs. Wybert on the day of his call; his name
on one side, announcing him; on the other the words he had written:
"Sell Consolidated Copper all you can until it goes down to 65. Do this
up to the limit of your capital and I will make good anything you lose.
He read the note:
"MR. PETER BINES:
"_Dear Sir_:--You funny old man, you. I don't pretend to understand
your game, but you may rely on my secrecy. I am more grateful to you
than words can utter--and I will always be glad to do anything for
"_Yours very truly_,
"BLANCHE CATHERTON WYBERT.
"P. S. About that other matter--him you know--you will see from this
notice I cut from the paper that the party won't get any title at all
now, so a dead swell New York man is in every way more eligible. In
fact the other party is not to be thought of for one moment, as I am
positive you would agree with me."
* * * * *
He tore the note and the card to fine bits.
"It does beat all," he complained later to Billy Brue. "Put a beggar on
horseback and they begin right away to fuss around because the bridle
ain't set with diamonds--give 'em a little, and they want the whole
ball of wax!"
"That's right," said Billy Brue, with the quick sympathy of the
experienced. "That guy that doped me, he wa'n't satisfied with my good
thirty-dollar wad. Not by no means! He had to go take my breast-pin
nugget from the Early Bird."
At eleven o'clock the next morning Mauburn waited in Mrs. Drelmer's
drawing-room for the news she might have.
When that competent person sailed in, he saw temporary defeat written
on her brow. His heart sank to its low level of the night before.
"Well, I saw the creature," she began, "and it required no time at all
to reach a very definite understanding with her. I had feared it might
be rather a delicate matter, talking to her at once, you know--and we
needed to hurry--but she's a woman one can talk to. She's made heaps of
money, and the poor thing is society-mad--_so_ afraid the modish world
won't take her at her true value--but she talked very frankly about
marriage--really she's cool-headed for all the fire she seems to
have--and the short of it is that she's determined to marry some one of
the smart men here in New York. The creature's fascinated by the very
"Did you mention me?"
"You may be sure I did, but she'd read the papers, and, like so many of
these people, she has no use at all for an Englishman without a title.
Of course I couldn't be too definite with her, but she understood
perfectly, and she let me see she wouldn't hear of it at all. So she's
off the list. But don't give up. Now, there's--"
But Mauburn was determinedly downcast.
"It's uncommon handsome of you, Mrs. Drelmer, really, but we'll have to
leave off that, you know. If a chap isn't heir to a peerage or a city
fortune there's no getting on that way."
"Why, the man is actually discouraged. Now you need some American
pluck, old chap. An American of your age wouldn't give up."
"But, hang it all! an American knows how to do things, you know, and
like as not he'd nothing to begin with, by Jove! Now I'd a lot to begin
with, and here it's all taken away."
"Look at young Bines. He's had a lot taken away, but I'll wager he
makes it all back again and more too before he's forty."
"He might in this country; he'd never do it at home, you know."
"This country is for you as much as for him. Now, there's Augusta
Hartong--those mixed-pickle millionaires, you know. I was chatting with
Augusta's mother only the other day, and if I'd only suspected this--"
"Awfully kind of you, Mrs. Drelmer, but it's no use. I'm fairly played
out. I shall go to see Miss Bines, and have a chat with her people, you
"Now, for heaven's sake, don't make a silly of yourself, whatever you
do! Mind, the girl released you of her own accord!"
"Awfully obliged. I'll think about it jolly well, first. See you soon.
Good-bye!" And Mauburn was off.
He was reproaching himself. "That poor girl has been eating her heart
out for a word of love from me. I'm a brute!"
The God in the Machine
Uncle Peter next morning was up to a late breakfast with the stricken
family. Percival found him a trifle less bitter, but not less convinced
in his despair. The young man himself had recovered his spirits
wonderfully. The utter collapse of the old man, always so reliant
before, had served to fire all his latent energy. He was now voluble
with plans for the future; not only determined to reassure Uncle Peter
that the family would be provided for, but not a little anxious to
justify the old man's earlier praise, and refute his calumnies of the
Mrs. Bines, so complacent overnight, was the most disconsolate one of
the group. With her low tastes she was now regarding the loss of the
fortune as a calamity to the worthy infants of her own chosen field.
"And there, I'd promised to give five thousand dollars to the new home
for crippled children, and five thousand to St. John's Guild for the
floating hospitals this summer--just yesterday--and I do declare, I
just couldn't stay in New York without money, and see those poor babies
"You couldn't stay in New York without money. Mrs. Good-thing," said
her son,--"not even if you couldn't see a thing; but don't you welsh
on any of your plays--we'll make that ten thousand good if I have to
get a sand-bag, and lay out a few of these lads around here some dark
"But anyway you can't do much to relieve them. I don't know but what
it's honester to be poor while the authorities allow such goings on."
"You have the makings of a very dangerous anarchist in you, ma. I've
seen that for some time. But we're an honest family all right now, with
the exception of a few properties that I'll have to sit up with
nights--sit right by their sick-beds and wake them up to take their
meddy every half hour--"
"Now, my son, don't you get to going without your sleep," began his
"And wasn't it lucky about my sending that note to George!" said
Psyche. "Here in this morning's paper we find he isn't going to be Lord
Casselthorpe, after all. What _could_ I have done if we hadn't lost the
money?" From which it might be inferred that certain people who had
declared Miss Bines to be very hard-headed were not so far wrong as
the notorious "casual observer" is very apt to be.
"Never you mind, sis," said her brother, cheerfully, "we'll be all
right yet. You wait a little, and hear Uncle Peter take back what he's
said about me. Uncle Peter, I'll have you taking off that hat of yours
every time you get sight of me, in about a year."
He went again over the plans. The income from the One Girl was to be
used in developing the other properties: the stock ranch up on the
Bitter Root, the other mines that had been worked but little and with
crude appliances; the irrigation and land-improvement enterprises, and
the big timber tracts.
"I got something of an idea of it when Uncle Peter took me around
summer before last, and I learned a lot more getting the stuff together
with Coplen. Now, I'm ready to buckle down to it." He looked at Uncle
Peter, hungry for a word of encouragement to soothe the hurts the old
man had put upon him.
But all Uncle Peter would say was, "That _sounds_ very well,"
compelling the inference that he regarded sound and substance as
phenomena not necessarily related.
"But give me a chance, Uncle Peter. Just don't jump on me too hard for
"Well, I know that country. There's big chances for a young man with
brains--understand?--that has got all the high-living nonsense blasted
out of his upper levels--but it takes work. You _may_ do
something--there _are_ white blackbirds--but you're on a nasty piece
of road-bed--curves all down on the outside--wheels flatted under every
truck, and you've had her down in the corner so long I doubt if you can
even slow up, say nothin' of reversin'. And think of me gettin' fooled
that way at _my_ time of life," he continued, as if in confidence to
himself. "But then, I always was a terrible poor judge of human
"Well, have your own way; but I'll fool you again, while you're
coppering me. You watch, that's all I ask. Just sit around and talk
wise about me all you want to, but watch. Now, I must go down and get
to work with Fouts. Thank the Lord, we didn't have to welsh either, any
more than Mrs. Give-up there did."
"You won't touch any more stock; you won't get that money from
"I won't; I won't go near Shepler, I promise you. Now you'll believe me
in one thing, I know you will, Uncle Peter." He went over to the old
"I want to thank you for pulling me up on that play as you did last
night. You saved me, and I'm more grateful to you than I can say. But
for you I'd have gone in and dug the hole deeper." He made the old man
shake hands with him--though Uncle Peter's hand remained limp and
cheerless. "You can shake on that, at least. You saved me, and I thank
you for it."
"Well, I'm glad you got _some_ sense," answered the old man,
grudgingly. "It's always the way in that stock game. There's always
goin' to be a big killing made in Wall Street to-morrow, only to-morrow
never comes. Reminds me of Hollings's old turtle out at
Spokane--Hollings that keeps the Little Gem restaurant. He's got an
enormous big turtle in his cellar that he's kept to my knowledge fur
fifteen years. Every time he gets a little turtle from the coast he
takes a can of red paint down cellar, and touches up the sign on old
Ben's back--they call the turtle Ben, after Hollings's father-in-law
that won't do a thing but lay around the house all the time, and kick
about the meals. Well, the sign on Ben's back is, 'Green Turtle Soup
To-morrow,' and Ben is drug up to the sidewalk in front of the Little
Gem. And Hollings does have turtle-soup next day, but it's always the
little turtles that's killed, and old Ben is hiked back to his boudoir
until another killing comes off. It's a good deal like that in Wall
Street; there's killings made, but the big fellers with the signs on
their back don't worry none."
"You're right, Uncle Peter. It certainly wasn't my game. Will you come
down with me?"
"Me? Shucks, no! I'm jest a poor, broken old man, now. I'm goin' down
to the square if I can walk that fur, and set on a bench in the sun."
Uncle Peter did succeed in walking as far as Madison Square. He walked,
indeed, with a step of amazing springiness for a man of his years. But
there, instead of reposing in the sun, he entered a cab and was driven
to the Vandevere Building, where he sent in his name to Rulon Shepler.
He was ushered into Shepler's office after a little delay. The two men
shook hands warmly. Uncle Peter was grinning now with rare
enjoyment--he who had in the presence of the family shown naught but
broken age and utter despondency.
"You rough-housed the boy considerable yesterday."
"I never believed the fellow would hold on," said Shepler. "I'm sure
you're right in a way about the West. There isn't another man in this
section who'd have plunged as he did. Really, Mr. Bines, the Street's
never known anything like it. Here are those matters."
He handed the old man a dozen or so certified checks on as many
different banks. Each check had many figures on it. Uncle Peter placed
them in his old leather wallet.
"I knew he'd plunge," he said, taking the chair proffered him, near
Shepler's desk. "I knew he was a natural born plunger, and I knew that
once he gets an idea in his head you can't blast it out; makes no
difference what he starts on he'll play the string out. His pa was jest
that way. Then of course he wa'n't used to money, and he was ignorant
of this game, and he didn't realise what he was doin'. He sort of
distrusted himself along toward the last--but I kept him swelled up
good and plenty."
"Well, I'm glad it's over, Mr. Bines. Of course I concede the relative
insignificance of money to a young man of his qualities--"
"Not its relative insignificance, Mr. Shepler--it's plain damned
insignificance, if you'll excuse the word. If that boy'd gone on he'd
'a' been one of what Billy Brue calls them high-collared Clarences--no
good fur anything but to spend money, and get apoplexy or worse by
forty. As it is now, he'll be a man. He's got his health turned on like
a steam radiator, he's full of responsibility, and he's really
"How did he take the loss?"
"He acted jest like a healthy baby does when you take one toy away from
him. He cries a minute, then forgets all about it, and grabs up
something else to play with. His other toy was bad. What he's playin'
with now will do him a lot of good."
"He's not discouraged, then--he's really hopeful?"
"That ain't any name fur it. Why, he's actin' this mornin' jest like
the world's his oyster--and every month had an 'r' in it at that."
"I'm delighted to hear it. I've always been taken with the chap; and
I'm very glad you read him correctly. It seemed to me you were taking a
risk. It would have broken the spirit of most men."
"Well, you see I knew the stock. It's pushin', fightin' stock. My
grandfather fought his way west to Pennsylvania when that country was
wilder'n Africa, and my father fought his way to Ohio when that was the
frontier. I seen some hard times myself, and this boy's father was a
fighter, too. So I knew the boy had it in him, all right. He's got his
faults, but they don't hurt him none."
"Will he return West?"
"He will that--and the West is the only place fur him. He was gettin'
bad notions about his own country here from them folks that's always
crackin' up the 'other side' 'sif there wa'n't any 'this side,' worth
speakin' of in company. This was no place fur him. Mr. Shepler, this
whole country is God's country. I don't talk much about them things,
but I believe in God--a man has to if he lives so much alone in them
wild places as I have--and I believe this country is His favourite. I
believe He set it apart fur great works. The history of the United
States bears me out so fur. And I didn't want any of my stock growin'
up without feelin' that he had the best native land on earth, and
without bein' ready to fight fur it at the drop of the hat. And jest
between you and me, I believe we can raise that kind in the West
better'n you can here in New York. You got a fine handsome town here,
it's a corkin' good place to see--and get out of--but it ain't any
breedin' place--there ain't the room to grow. Now we produce everything
in the West, includin' men. Here you don't do anything but
consume--includin' men. If the West stopped producin' men fur you,
you'd be as bad off as if it stopped producin' food. You can't grow a
big man on this island any more than you can grow wheat out there on
Broadway. You're all right. You folks have your uses. I ain't like one
of these crazy Populists that thinks you're rascals and all like that;
but my point is that you don't get the fun out of life. You don't get
the big feelin's. Out in the West they're the flesh and blood and bone;
and you people here, meanin' no disrespect--you're the dimples and
wrinkles and--the warts. You spend and gamble back and forth with that
money we raise and dig out of the ground, and you think you're gettin'
the best end of it, but you ain't. I found that out thirty-two years
ago this spring. I had a crazy fool notion then to go back there even
when I hadn't gone broke--and I done well to go. And that's why I
wanted that boy back there. And that's why I'm mighty proud of him, to
see he's so hot to go and take hold, like I knew he would be."
"That's excellent. Now, Mr. Bines, I like him and I dare say you've
done the best thing for him, unusual as it was. But don't grind him.
Might it not be well to ease up a little after he's out there? You
might let it be understood that I am willing to finance any of those
propositions there liberally--"
"No, no--that ain't the way to handle him. Say, I don't expect to quit
cussin' him fur another thirty days yet. I want him to think he ain't
got a friend on earth but himself. Why, I'd have made this play just as
I have done, Mr. Shepler, if there hadn't been a chance to get back a
cent of it--if we'd had to go plumb broke--back to the West in an
emigrant car, with bologna and crackers to eat, that's what I'd have
done. No, sir, no help fur him!"
"Aren't you a little hard on him?"
"Not a bit; don't I know the stock, and know just what he needs? Most
men you couldn't treat as I'm treatin' him; but with him, the harder
you bear down on him the more you'll get out of him. That was the way
with his pa--he was a different man after things got to comin' too easy
fur him. This fellow, the way I'm treatin' him, will keep his head even
after he gets things comin' easy again, or I miss my guess. He thinks I
despise him now. If you told him I was proud of him, I almost believe
you could get a bet out of him, sick as he is of gamblin'."
"Has he suspected anything?"
"Sure, not! Why, he just thanked me about an hour ago fur savin'
him--made me shake hands with him--and I could see the tears back in
The old man chuckled.
"It was like Len Carey's Nigger Jim. Len had Jim set apart on the
plantation fur his own nigger. They fished and went huntin' and
swimmin' together. One day they'd been swimmin', and was lyin' up on
the bank. Len got thinkin' he'd never seen any one drown. He knew Jim
couldn't swim a lick, so he thought he'd have Jim go drown. He says to
him, 'Jim, go jump off that rock there!' That was where the deep hole
was. Jim was scar't, but he had to go. After he'd gone down once, Len
says to him, 'Drown, now, you damn nigger!' and Jim come up and went
down twice more. Then Len begun to think Jim was worth a good bit of
money, and mebbe he'd be almighty walloped if the truth come out, so he
dives in after Jim and gets him shore, and after while he brought him
to. Anyway, he said, Jim had already sure-enough drowned as fur as
there was any fun in it. Well, Len Carey is an old man now, and Jim is
an old white-headed nigger still hangin' around the old place, and when
Len goes back there to visit his relatives, old Nigger Jim hunts him up
with tears in his eyes, and thanks Mister Leonard fur savin' his life
that time. Say, I felt this mornin' like Len Carey must feel them times
when Jim's thankin' him."
"You're a rare man, Mr. Bines. I'll hope to have your cheerful, easy
views of life if I ever lose my hold here in the Street. I hope I'll
have the old Bines philosophy and the young Bines spirit. That reminds
me," he continued as Uncle Peter rose to go, "we've been pretty
confidential, Mr. Bines, and I don't mind telling you I was a bit
afraid of that young man until yesterday. Oh, not on the stock
proposition. On another matter. You may have noticed that night at the
Oldakers'--well, women, Mr. Bines, are uncertain. I know something
about markets and the ways of a dollar, but all I know about women is
that they're good to have. You can't know any more about them, because
they don't know any more themselves. Just between us, now, I never felt
any too sure of a certain young woman's state of mind until copper
reached 51 and Union Cordage had been blown up from inside."
They parted with warm expressions of good-will, and Uncle Peter, in
high spirits at the success of his machinations, had himself driven
The only point where his plans had failed was in Mrs. Wybert's refusal
to consider Mauburn after the birth of the Casselthorpe twins. Yet he
felt that matters, in spite of this happening, must go as he wished
them to. The Englishman-Uncle Peter cherished the strong anti-British
sentiment peculiar to his generation--would surely never marry a girl
who was all but penniless, and the consideration of an alliance with
Mrs. Wybert, when the fortune should be lost, had, after all, been an
incident--a means of showing the girl, if she should prove to be too
deeply infatuated with Mauburn for her own peace of mind--how unworthy
and mercenary he was; for he had meant, in that event, to disillusion
her by disclosing something of Mrs. Wybert's history--the woman Mauburn
should prefer to her. He still counted confidently on the loss of the
fortune sufficing to break the match.
When he reached the Hightower that night for dinner, he found Percival
down-stairs in great glee over what he conceived to be a funny
"Don't ask me, Uncle Peter. I couldn't get it straight; but as near as
I could make out, Mauburn came up here afraid the blow of losing him
was going to kill sis with a broken heart, and sis was afraid the blow
was going to kill Mauburn, because she wouldn't have married him
anyway, rich or poor, after he'd lost the title. They found each other
out some way, and then Mauburn accused her of being heartless, of
caring only for his title, and she accused him of caring only for her
money, and he insisted she ought to marry him anyway, but she wouldn't
have it because of the twins--"
Uncle Peter rubbed his big brown hands with the first signs of
cheerfulness he had permitted Percival to detect in him.
"Good fur Pish--that's the way to take down them conceited
"But then they went at matters again from a new standpoint, and the
result is they've made it up."
"What? Has them precious twin Casselthorpes perished?"
"Not at all, both doing finely--haven't even had colic--growing
fast--probably learned to say 'fancy, now,' by this time. But Mauburn's
going West with us if we'll take him."
"Fact! Say, it must have been an awful blow to him when he found sis
wouldn't think of him at all without his title, even if she was broke.
They had a stormy time of it from all I can hear. He said he was strong
enough to work and all that, and since he'd cared for her, and not for
her money, it was low down of her to throw him over; then she said she
wouldn't leave her mother and us, now that we might need her, not for
him or any other man--and he said that only made him love her all the
more, and then he got chesty, and said he was just as good as any
American, even if he never would have a title; so pretty soon they got
kind of interested in each other again, and by the time I came home it
was all over. They ratified the preliminary agreement for a merger."
"Well, I snum!"
"That's right, go ahead and snum. I'd snum myself if I knew how--it
knocked me. Better come up-stairs and congratulate the happy couple."
"Shoo, now! I certainly am mighty disappointed in that fellow. Still he
_is_ well spotted, and them freckles mean iron in the blood. Maybe we
can develop him along with the other properties."
They found Psyche already radiant, though showing about her eyes traces
of the storm's devastations. Mauburn was looking happy; also defiant
"Mr. Bines," he said to Uncle Peter, "I hope you'll side with me. I
know something about horses, and I've nearly a thousand pounds that
I'll be glad to put in with you out there if you can make a place for
The old man looked him over quizzically. Psyche put her arm through
"I'd _have_ to marry some one, you know, Uncle Peter!"
"Don't apologise, Pish. There's room for men that can work out there,
Mr. Mauburn, but there ain't any vintages or trouserings to speak of,
and the hours is long."
"Try me, Mr. Bines!"
"Well, come on! If you can't skin yourself you can hold a leg while
somebody else skins. But you ain't met my expectations, I'll say that."
And he shook hands cordially with the Englishman.
"I say, you know," said Mauburn later to Psyche, "why _should_ I skin
myself? Why should I be skinned at all, you know?"
"You shouldn't," she reassured him. "That's only Uncle Peter's way of
saying you can help the others, even if you can't do much yourself at
first. And won't Mrs. Drelmer be delighted to know it's all settled?"
"Well," said Uncle Peter to Percival, later in the evening, "Pish has
done better than you have here. It's a pity you didn't pick out some
good sensible girl, and marry her in the midst of your other doings."
"I couldn't find one that liked cats. I saw a lot that suited every
other way but I always said to myself, 'Remember Uncle Peter's
warning!' so I'd go to an animal store and get a basket of kittens and
take them around, and not one of the dozen stood your test. Of course
I'd never disregard your advice."
"Hum," remarked Uncle Peter, in a tone to be noticed for its extreme
dryness. "Too bad, though--you certainly need a wife to take the
conceit out of you."
"I lost that in the Street, along with the rest."
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