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Six weeks later, on the morning after the general election, Dumont awoke bubbling over with good humor--as always, when the world went well with him and so set the strong, red currents of his body to flowing in unobstructed channels.
He had not gone to bed the previous night until he had definite news from Indiana, Illinois and New York, the three states in which his industrial-political stakes were heaviest. They had gone as he wished, as he and his friends had spent large sums of money to assist them to go. And now a glance at the morning papers confirmed his midnight bulletins. Indiana, where he had made the strongest efforts because the control of its statute book was vital to him, had gone his way barely but, apparently, securely; Scarborough was beaten for governor by twenty-five hundred. Presently he had Culver in to begin the day's business. The first paper Culver handed him was a cipher telegram announcing the closing of an agreement which made the National Woolens Company absolute in the Northwest; the second item in Culver's budget was also a cipher telegram--from Merriweather. It had been filed at four o'clock--several hours later than the newspaper despatches. It said that Scarborough's friends conceded his defeat, that the Legislature was safely Dumont's way in both houses. Culver always sorted out to present first the agreeable part of the morning's budget; never had he been more successful.
At the office Dumont found another cipher telegram from Merriweather: "Later returns show Scarborough elected by a narrow majority. But he will be powerless as Legislature and all other state offices are with us."
Dumont crushed the telegram in his hand. "Powerless--hell!" he muttered. "Does he think I'm a fool?" He had spent three hundred thousand dollars to "protect" his monopoly in its home; for it was under Indiana laws, as interpreted by Dumont's agents in public office, that the main or holding corporation of his group was organized. And he knew that, in spite of his judges and his attorney-general and his legislative lobby and his resourceful lawyers and his subsidized newspapers, a governor of Scarborough's courage and sagacity could harass him, could force his tools in public office to activity against him, might drive him from the state. Heretofore he had felt, and had been, secure in the might of his millions. But now-- He had a feeling of dread, close kin to fear, as he measured this peril, this man strong with a strength against which money and intrigue were as futile as bow and arrow against rifle.
He opened the door into the room where his twenty personal clerks were at work. They glanced at his face, winced, bent to their tasks. They knew that expression: it meant "J. D. will take the hide off every one who goes near him to-day."
"Tell Mr. Giddings I want to see him," he snapped, lifting the head of the nearest clerk with a glance like an electric shock.
The clerk rose, tiptoed away to the office of the first vice-president of the Woolens Trust. He came tiptoeing back to say in a faint, deprecating voice: "Mr. Giddings isn't down yet, sir."
Dumont rolled out a volley of violent language about Giddings. In his tantrums he had no more regard for the dignity of his chief lieutenants, themselves rich men and middle-aged or old, than he had for his office boys. To the Ineffable Grand Turk what noteworthy distinction is there between vizier and sandal-strapper?
"Send him in--quick,--you, as soon as he comes," he shouted in conclusion. If he had not paid generously, if his lieutenants had not been coining huge dividends out of his brains and commercial audacity, if his magnetic, confidence-inspiring personality had not created in the minds of all about him visions of golden rivers widening into golden oceans, he would have been deserted and execrated. As it was, his service was eagerly sought; and his servants endured its mental and moral hardships as the prospector endures the physical cruelties of the mountain fastnesses.
He was closing his private door when the door-boy from the outermost of that maze of handsome offices came up to him with a card.
"Not here," he growled, and shut himself in.
Half an hour later the sounds of an angry tumult in the clerks' room made him fling his door open. "What the--" he began, his heavy face purple, then stopped amazed.
The outside doorkeeper, the watchman and several clerks were engaged in a struggle with Fanshaw. His hat was off, his hair wild, his necktie, shirt and coat awry.
"There you are now--I knew you were in," he shouted, as he caught sight of Dumont. "Call these curs off, Jack!"
"Let him alone," snarled Dumont.
Fanshaw was released. He advanced into Dumont's office, straightening his clothing and panting with exertion, excitement and anger. Dumont closed the door. "Well," he said surlily. "What d' you want?"
"I'll have to go to the wall at half-past ten if you don't help me out," said Fanshaw. "The Montana election went against my crowd--I'm in the copper deal. There's a slump, but the stock's dead sure to go up within a week."
"In trouble again?" sneered Dumont. "It's been only three months since I pulled you through."
"You didn't lose anything by it, did you?" retorted Fanshaw--he had recovered himself and was eying Dumont with the cool, steady, significant stare of one rascal at another whom he thinks he has in his power.
Before that look Dumont flushed an angrier red. "I won't do it again!" and he brought his fist down with a bang.
"All I want is five hundred thousand to carry my copper for a week at the outside. If I get it I'll clear a million. If I don't"--Fanshaw shrugged his shoulders--"I'll be cleaned out." He looked with narrowed, shifting eyes at Dumont. "My wife has all she's got in this," he went on, "even her jewels."
Dumont's look shot straight into Fanshaw's.
"Not a cent!" he said with vicious emphasis. "Not a red!"
Fanshaw paled and pinched in his lips. "I'm a desperate man. I'm ruined. Leonora--"
Dumont shook his head, the veins swelling in his forehead and neck. The last strand of his self-restraint snapped. "Leave her out of this! She has no claim on me now--and you never had."
Fanshaw stared at him, then sprang to his feet, all in a blaze. "You scoundrel!" he shouted, shaking his fist under Dumont's nose.
"If you don't clear out instantly I'll have you thrown out," said Dumont. He was cool and watchful now.
Fanshaw folded his arms and looked down at him with the dignified fury of the betrayed and outraged. "So!" he exclaimed. "I see it all!"
Dumont pressed an electric button, then leaned back in his revolving chair and surveyed Fanshaw tranquilly. "Not a cent!" he repeated, a cruel smile in his eyes and round his mouth. The boy came and Dumont said to him: "Send the watchman."
Fanshaw drew himself up. "I shall punish you," he said. "Your wealth will not save you." And he stalked past the gaping office boy.
He stood in front of the Edison Building, looking aimlessly up and down the street as he pulled his long, narrow, brown-gray mustache. Gloom was in his face and hate in his heart--not hate for Dumont alone but hate for all who were what he longed to be, all rich and "successful" men. And the towering steel and stone palaces of prosperity sneered down on him with crushing mockery.
"Damn them all!" he muttered. "The cold-hearted thieves!"
From his entry into that district he had played a gambling game, had played it dishonestly in a small way. Again and again he had sneakingly violated Wall Street's code of morality--that curious code with its quaint, unexpected incorporations of parts of the decalogue and its quainter, though not so unexpected, infringements thereof and amendments thereto. Now by "pull," now by trickery, he had evaded punishment. But apparently at last he was to be brought to bar, branded and banished.
"Damn them all!" he repeated. "They're a pack of wolves. They've got me down and they're going to eat me."
He blamed Dumont and he blamed his wife for his plight--and there was some justice in both accusations. Twenty years before, he had come down to "the Street" a frank-looking boy, of an old and distinguished New York family that had become too aristocratic for business and had therefore lost its hold upon its once great fortune. He was neither a good boy nor a bad. But he was weak, and had the extravagant tastes and cynical morals to which he had been bred; and his intelligent brain was of the kind that goes with weakness--shrewd and sly, preferring to slink along the byways of craft even when the highway of courage lies straight and easy. But he had physical bravery and the self-confidence that is based upon an assured social position in a community where social position is worshiped; so, he passed for manly and proud when he was in reality neither. Family vanity he had; personal pride he had not.
In many environments his weakness would have remained hidden even from himself, and he would have lived and died in the odor and complacence of respectability. But not in the strain and stress of Wall Street. There he had naturally developed not into a lion, not even into a wolf, but into a coyote.
Wall Street found him out in ten years--about one year after it began to take note of him and his skulking ways and his habit of prowling in the wake of the pack. Only his adroit use of his family connections and social position saved him from being trampled to death by the wolves and eaten by his brother coyotes. Thereafter he lived precariously, but on the whole sumptuously, upon carcasses of one kind and another. He participated in "strike" suits against big corporations--he would set on a pack of coyotes to dog the lions and to raise discordant howls that inopportunely centered public attention upon leonine, lawless doings; the lions would pay him well to call off the pack. He assisted sometimes wolves and sometimes coyotes in flotations of worthless, or almost worthless, stocks and bonds from gold and mahogany offices and upon a sea of glittering prospectuses. He had a hand in all manner of small, shady transactions of lawful, or almost lawful, swindling that were tolerated by lions and wolves, because at bottom there is a feeling of fellowship among creatures of prey as against creatures preyed upon.
There were days when he came home haggard and blue in the lips to tell Leonora that he must fly. There were days when he returned from the chase, or rather from the skulk, elated, youthful, his pockets full of money and his imagination afire with hopes of substantial wealth. But his course was steadily downward, his methods steadily farther and farther from the line of the law. Dumont came just in time to save him, came to build him up from the most shunned of coyotes into a deceptive imitation of a wolf with aspirations toward the lion class.
Leonora knew that he was small, but she thought all men small--she had supreme contempt for her own sex; and it seemed to her that men must be even less worthy of respect since they were under the influence of women and lavished time and money on them. Thus she was deceived into cherishing the hope that her husband, small and timid though he was, would expand into a multi-millionaire and would help her to possess the splendors she now enjoyed at the expense of her associates whom she despised. She was always thinking how far more impressive than their splendor her magnificence would be, if their money were added to her brains and beauty.
Dumont had helped Fanshaw as much as he could. He immediately detected the coyote. He knew it was impossible to make a lion or even a wolf out of one who was both small and crooked. He used him only in minor matters, chiefly in doing queer, dark things on the market with National Woolens, things he indirectly ordered done but refused to know the details of beyond the one important detail--the record of checks for the profits in his bank account. For such matters Fanshaw did as well as another. But as Dumont became less of a wolf and more of a lion, less of a speculator and more of a financier, he had less and less work of the kind Fanshaw could do.
But Leonora, unaware of her husband's worthlessness and desperate in her calamities, sneered and jeered and lashed him on--to ruin. The coyote could put on the airs of a lion so long as the lion was his friend and protector; when he kept on in kingly ways after the lion had cast him off, he speedily came to grief.
As he stood looking helplessly up and down Broad Street he was debating what move to make. There were about even measures of truth and falsehood in his statement to Dumont--he did need two hundred thousand dollars; and he must have it before a quarter past two that day or go into a bankruptcy from which he could not hope to save a shred of reputation or to secrete more than fifty thousand dollars.
"To the New York Life Building," he finally said to the driver as he got into his hansom. Then to himself: "I'll have a go at old Herron."
He knew that Dumont and Herron had quarreled, and that Herron had sold out of the National Woolens Company. But he did not know that Herron was a man with a fixed idea, hatred of Dumont, and a fixed purpose, to damage him at every opportunity that offered or could be created, to ruin him if possible.
When the National Woolens Company was expanded into the huge conglomerate it now was--a hundred millions common, a hundred millions preferred, and twenty millions of bonds--Herron had devised and directed the intricate and highly perilous course among the rocks of law and public opinion in many states and in the nation. It was a splendid exhibition of legal piloting, and he was bitterly dissatisfied with the modest reward of ten millions of the preferred stock which Dumont apportioned to him. He felt that that would have been about his just share in the new concern merely in exchange for his stock in the old. When he found Dumont obdurate, and grew frank and spoke such words as "dishonor" and "dishonesty" and got into the first syllable of "swindling," Dumont cut him off with--
"If you don't like it, get out! I can hire that sort of work for half what I've paid you. You're swollen with vanity. We ought to have a young man in your position, anyhow."
Herron might have swallowed the insult to his pride as a lawyer. But the insult to his pride in his youth! He was fifty-seven and in dress and in expression was stoutly insisting that he was still a young man whom hard work had made prematurely gray and somewhat wrinkled. Dumont's insinuation that he was old and stale set a great fire of hate blazing; he, of course, told himself and others that his wrath was stirred solely because his sense of justice had been outraged by the "swindling."
Fanshaw entered Herron's office wearing the jaunty air of arrogant prosperity, never so important as when prosperity has fled. But Herron's shrewd, experienced eyes penetrated the sham. He had intended to be cold. Scenting a "hard-luck yarn" and a "touch" he lowered his temperature to the point at which conversation is ice-beset and confidences are frozen tight.
Fanshaw's nerve deserted him. "Herron," he said, dropping his prosperous pose, "I want to get a divorce and I want to punish Dumont."
Herron's narrow, cold face lighted up. He knew what everybody in their set knew of Fanshaw's domestic affairs, but like everybody else he had pretended not to know. He changed his expression to one of shock and indignation.
"You astound me!" he exclaimed. "It is incredible!"
"He told me himself not an hour ago," said Fanshaw. "I went to him as a friend to ask him to help me out of a hole. And--" He rose and theatrically paced the floor.
Herron prided himself upon his acute conscience and his nice sense of honor. He felt that here was a chance to wreak vengeance upon Dumont--or rather, as he put it to himself, to bring Dumont to an accounting for his depravity. Just as Dumont maintained with himself a character of honesty by ignoring all the dubious acts which his agents were forced to do in carrying out his orders, so Herron kept peace with a far more sensitive conscience by never permitting it to look in upon his mind or out through his eyes.
"Frightful! Frightful!" he exclaimed, after a long pause in which his immured and blindfold conscience decided that he could afford to support Fanshaw. "I knew he was a rascal in business--but this!"
There was genuine emotion in his voice and in his mind. He was strict to puritanic primness in his ideals of feminine morality; nor had he been relaxed by having a handsome wife, looking scarce a day over thirty behind her veil or in artificial light, and fond of gathering about her young men who treated him as if he were old and "didn't count."
"You are certain, Fanshaw?"
"I tell you, he hinted it himself," replied Fanshaw. "And instantly my eyes were opened to scores of damning confirmations." He struck his forehead with his open hand. "How blind I've been!" he exclaimed.
Herron shook his head sympathetically and hastened on to business.
"We can't handle your case," he said. "But Best and Sharpless, on the floor above, are reliable. And I'll be glad to help you with advice. I feel that this is the beginning of Dumont's end. I knew such insolent wickedness could not have a long course."
Fanshaw drew Herron on to tell the story of his wrongs--the "swindling." Before it was ended Fanshaw saw that he had found a man who hated Dumont malignantly and was thirsting for vengeance. This encouraged him to unfold his financial difficulties. Herron listened sympathetically, asked ingeniously illuminating questions, and in the end agreed to tide him over. He had assured himself that Fanshaw had simply undertaken too large an enterprise; the advance would be well secured; he would make the loan in such a way that he would get a sure profit, and would also bind Fanshaw firmly to him without binding himself to Fanshaw. Besides--"It wouldn't do for him to go to the wall just now."
Arm in arm they went up to Best and Sharpless' to take the first steps in the suit. Together they went down-town to relieve Fanshaw of the pressure of the too heavy burden of copper stocks; then up to their club where he assisted Fanshaw in composing the breaking-off letter to Leonora.
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