CHAPTER TWO: The Wizard of Finance
Down in the City itself, just below the residential street where the Mausoleum Club is situated, there stands overlooking Central Square the Grand Palaver Hotel. It is, in truth, at no great distance from the club, not half a minute in one’s motor. In fact, one could almost walk it.
But in Central Square the quiet of Plutoria Avenue is exchanged for another atmosphere. There are fountains that splash unendingly and mingle their music with the sound of the motor-horns and the clatter of the cabs. There are real trees and little green benches, with people reading yesterday’s newspaper, and grass cut into plots among the asphalt. There is at one end a statue of the first governor of the state, life-size, cut in stone; and at the other a statue of the last, ever so much larger than life, cast in bronze. And all the people who pass by pause and look at this statue and point at it with walking-sticks, because it is of extraordinary interest; in fact, it is an example of the new electro-chemical process of casting by which you can cast a state governor any size you like, no matter what you start from. Those who know about such things explain what an interesting contrast the two statues are; for in the case of the governor of a hundred years ago one had to start from plain, rough material and work patiently for years to get the effect, whereas now the material doesn’t matter at all, and with any sort of scrap, treated in the gas furnace under tremendous pressure, one may make a figure of colossal size like the one in Central Square.
So naturally Central Square with its trees and its fountains and its statues is one of the places of chief interest in the City. But especially because there stands along one side of it the vast pile of the Grand Palaver Hotel. It rises fifteen stories high and fills all one side of the square. It has, overlooking the trees in the square, twelve hundred rooms with three thousand windows, and it would have held all George Washington’s army. Even people in other cities who have never seen it know it well from its advertising; “the most homelike hotel in America,” so it is labelled in all the magazines, the expensive ones, on the continent. In fact, the aim of the company that owns the Grand Palaver–and they do not attempt to conceal it–is to make the place as much a home as possible. Therein lies its charm. It is a home. You realize that when you look up at the Grand Palaver from the square at night when the twelve hundred guests have turned on the lights of the three thousand windows. You realize it at theatre time when the great string of motors come sweeping to the doors of the Palaver, to carry the twelve hundred guests to twelve hundred seats in the theatres at four dollars a seat. But most of all do you appreciate the character of the Grand Palaver when you step into its rotunda. Aladdin’s enchanted palace was nothing to it. It has a vast ceiling with a hundred glittering lights, and within it night and day is a surging crowd that is never still and a babel of voices that is never hushed, and over all there hangs an enchanted cloud of thin blue tobacco smoke such as might enshroud the conjured vision of a magician of Baghdad or Damascus.
In and through the rotunda there are palm trees to rest the eye and rubber trees in boxes to soothe the mind, and there are great leather lounges and deep armchairs, and here and there huge brass ash-bowls as big as Etruscan tear-jugs. Along one side is a counter with grated wickets like a bank, and behind it are five clerks with flattened hair and tall collars, dressed in long black frock-coats all day like members of a legislature. They have great books in front of them in which they study unceasingly, and at their lightest thought they strike a bell with the open palm of their hand, and at the sound of it a page boy in a monkey suit, with G.P. stamped all over him in brass, bounds to the desk and off again, shouting a call into the unheeding crowd vociferously. The sound of it fills for a moment the great space of the rotunda; it echoes down the corridors to the side; it floats, softly melodious, through the palm trees of the ladies’ palm room; it is heard, fainter and fainter, in the distant grill; and in the depths of the barber shop below the level of the street the barber arrests a moment the drowsy hum of his shampoo brushes to catch the sound–as might a miner in the sunken galleries of a coastal mine cease in his toil a moment to hear the distant murmur of the sea.
And the clerks call for the pages, the pages call for the guests, and the guests call for the porters, the bells clang, the elevators rattle, till home itself was never half so homelike.
* * * * *
“A call for Mr. Tomlinson! A call for Mr. Tomlinson!”
So went the sound, echoing through the rotunda.
And as the page boy found him and handed him on a salver a telegram to read, the eyes of the crowd about him turned for a moment to look upon the figure of Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance.
There he stood in his wide-awake hat and his long black coat, his shoulders slightly bent with his fifty-eight years. Anyone who had known him in the olden days on his bush farm beside Tomlinson’s Creek in the country of the Great Lakes would have recognized him in a moment. There was still on his face that strange, puzzled look that it habitually wore, only now, of course, the financial papers were calling it “unfathomable.” There was a certain way in which his eye roved to and fro inquiringly that might have looked like perplexity, were it not that the _Financial Undertone_ had recognized it as the “searching look of a captain of industry.” One might have thought that for all the goodness in it there was something simple in his face, were it not that the _Commercial and Pictorial Review_ had called the face “inscrutable,” and had proved it so with an illustration that left no doubt of the matter. Indeed, the face of Tomlinson of Tomlinson’s Creek, now Tomlinson the Wizard of Finance, was not commonly spoken of as a _face_ by the paragraphers of the Saturday magazine sections, but was more usually referred to as a mask; and it would appear that Napoleon the First had had one also. The Saturday editors were never tired of describing the strange, impressive personality of Tomlinson, the great dominating character of the newest and highest finance. From the moment when the interim prospectus of the Erie Auriferous Consolidated had broken like a tidal wave over Stock Exchange circles, the picture of Tomlinson, the sleeping shareholder of uncomputed millions, had filled the imagination of every dreamer in a nation of poets.
They all described him. And when each had finished he began again.
“The face,” so wrote the editor of the “Our Own Men” section of _Ourselves Monthly_, “is that of a typical American captain of finance, hard, yet with a certain softness, broad but with a certain length, ductile but not without its own firmness.”
“The mouth,” so wrote the editor of the “Success” column of _Brains_, “is strong but pliable, the jaw firm and yet movable, while there is something in the set of the ear that suggests the swift, eager mind of the born leader of men.”
So from state to state ran the portrait of Tomlinson of Tomlinson’s Creek, drawn by people who had never seen him; so did it reach out and cross the ocean, till the French journals inserted a picture which they used for such occasions, and called it _Monsieur Tomlinson, nouveau capitaine de la haute finance en Amerique_; and the German weeklies, inserting also a suitable picture from their stock, marked it _Herr Tomlinson, Amerikanischer Industrie und Finanzcapitan_. Thus did Tomlinson float from Tomlinson’s Creek beside Lake Erie to the very banks of the Danube and the Drave.
Some writers grew lyric about him. What visions, they asked, could one but read them, must lie behind the quiet, dreaming eyes of that inscrutable face?
They might have read them easily enough, had they but had the key. Anyone who looked upon Tomlinson as he stood there in the roar and clatter of the great rotunda of the Grand Palaver with the telegram in his hand, fumbling at the wrong end to open it, might have read the visions of the master-mind had he but known their nature. They were simple enough. For the visions in the mind of Tomlinson, Wizard of Finance, were for the most part those of a wind-swept hillside farm beside Lake Erie, where Tomlinson’s Creek runs down to the low edge of the lake, and where the off-shore wind ripples the rushes of the shallow water: that, and the vision of a frame house, and the snake fences of the fourth concession road where it falls to the lakeside. And if the eyes of the man are dreamy and abstracted, it is because there lies over the vision of this vanished farm an infinite regret, greater in its compass than all the shares the Erie Auriferous Consolidated has ever thrown upon the market.
* * * * *
When Tomlinson had opened the telegram he stood with it for a moment in his hand, looking the boy full in the face. His look had in it that peculiar far-away quality that the newspapers were calling “Napoleonic abstraction.” In reality he was wondering whether to give the boy twenty-five cents or fifty.
The message that he had just read was worded, “Morning quotations show preferred A. G. falling rapidly recommend instant sale no confidence send instructions.”
The Wizard of Finance took from his pocket a pencil (it was a carpenter’s pencil) and wrote across the face of the message: “Buy me quite a bit more of the same yours truly.”
This he gave to the boy. “Take it over to him,” he said, pointing to the telegraph corner of the rotunda. Then after another pause he mumbled, “Here, sonny,” and gave the boy a dollar.
With that he turned to walk towards the elevator, and all the people about him who had watched the signing of the message knew that some big financial deal was going through–a _coup_, in fact, they called it.
The elevator took the Wizard to the second floor. As he went up he felt in his pocket and gripped a quarter, then changed his mind and felt for a fifty-cent piece, and finally gave them both to the elevator boy, after which he walked along the corridor till he reached the corner suite of rooms, a palace in itself, for which he was paying a thousand dollars a month ever since the Erie Auriferous Consolidated Company had begun tearing up the bed of Tomlinson’s Creek in Cahoga County with its hydraulic dredges.
“Well, mother,” he said as he entered.
There was a woman seated near the window, a woman with a plain, homely face such as they wear in the farm kitchens of Cahoga County, and a set of fashionable clothes upon her such as they sell to the ladies of Plutoria Avenue.
This was “mother,” the wife of the Wizard of Finance and eight years younger than himself. And she, too, was in the papers and the public eye; and whatsoever the shops had fresh from Paris, at fabulous prices, that they sold to mother. They had put a Balkan hat upon her with an upright feather, and they had hung gold chains on her, and everything that was most expensive they had hung and tied on mother. You might see her emerging any morning from the Grand Palaver in her beetle-back jacket and her Balkan hat, a figure of infinite pathos. And whatever she wore, the lady editors of _Spring Notes_ and _Causerie du Boudoir_ wrote it out in French, and one paper had called her a _belle chatelaine_, and another had spoken of her as a grande dame, which the Tomlinsons thought must be a misprint.
But in any case, for Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance, it was a great relief to have as his wife a woman like mother, because he knew that she had taught school in Cahoga County and could hold her own in the city with any of them.
So mother spent her time sitting in her beetle jacket in the thousand-dollar suite, reading new novels in brilliant paper covers. And the Wizard on his trips up and down to the rotunda brought her the very best, the ones that cost a dollar fifty, because he knew that out home she had only been able to read books like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter Scott, that were only worth ten cents.
* * * * *
“How’s Fred?” said the Wizard, laying aside his hat, and looking towards the closed door of an inner room. “Is he better?”
“Some,” said mother. “He’s dressed, but he’s lying down.”
Fred was the son of the Wizard and mother. In the inner room he lay on a sofa, a great hulking boy of seventeen in a flowered dressing-gown, fancying himself ill. There was a packet of cigarettes and a box of chocolates on a chair beside him, and he had the blind drawn and his eyes half-closed to impress himself.
Yet this was the same boy that less than a year ago on Tomlinson’s Creek had worn a rough store suit and set his sturdy shoulders to the buck-saw. At present Fortune was busy taking from him the golden gifts which the fairies of Cahoga County, Lake Erie, had laid in his cradle seventeen years ago.
The Wizard tip-toed into the inner room, and from the open door his listening wife could hear the voice of the boy saying, in a tone as of one distraught with suffering.
“Is there any more of that jelly?”
“Could he have any, do you suppose?” asked Tomlinson coming back.
“It’s all right,” said mother, “if it will sit on his stomach.” For this, in the dietetics of Cahoga County, is the sole test. All those things can be eaten which will sit on the stomach. Anything that won’t sit there is not eatable.
“Do you suppose I could get them to get any?” questioned Tomlinson. “Would it be all right to telephone down to the office, or do you think it would be better to ring?”
“Perhaps,” said his wife, “it would be better to look out into the hall and see if there isn’t someone round that would tell them.”
This was the kind of problem with which Tomlinson and his wife, in their thousand-dollar suite in the Grand Palaver, grappled all day. And when presently a tall waiter in dress-clothes appeared, and said, “Jelly? Yes, sir, immediately, sir; would you like, sir, Maraschino, sir, or Portovino, sir?” Tomlinson gazed at him gloomily, wondering if he would take five dollars.
“What does the doctor say is wrong with Fred?” asked Tomlinson, when the waiter had gone.
“He don’t just say,” said mother; “he said he must keep very quiet. He looked in this morning for a minute or two, and he said he’d look in later in the day again. But he said to keep Fred very quiet.”
Exactly! In other words Fred had pretty much the same complaint as the rest of Dr. Slyder’s patients on Plutoria Avenue, and was to be treated in the same way. Dr. Slyder, who was the most fashionable practitioner in the City, spent his entire time moving to and fro in an almost noiseless motor earnestly advising people to keep quiet. “You must keep very quiet for a little while,” he would say with a sigh, as he sat beside a sick-bed. As he drew on his gloves in the hall below he would shake his head very impressively and say, “You must keep him very quiet,” and so pass out, quite soundlessly. By this means Dr. Slyder often succeeded in keeping people quiet for weeks. It was all the medicine that he knew. But it was enough. And as his patients always got well–there being nothing wrong with them–his reputation was immense.
Very naturally the Wizard and his wife were impressed with him. They had never seen such therapeutics in Cahoga County, where the practice of medicine is carried on with forceps, pumps, squirts, splints, and other instruments of violence.
The waiter had hardly gone when a boy appeared at the door. This time he presented to Tomlinson not one telegram but a little bundle of them.
The Wizard read them with a lengthening face. The first ran something like this, “Congratulate you on your daring market turned instantly”; and the next, “Your opinion justified market rose have sold at 20 points profit”; and a third, “Your forecast entirely correct C. P. rose at once send further instructions.”
These and similar messages were from brokers’ offices, and all of them were in the same tone; one told him that C. P. was up, and another T. G. P. had passed 129, and another that T. C. R. R. had risen ten–all of which things were imputed to the wonderful sagacity of Tomlinson. Whereas if they had told him that X. Y. Z. had risen to the moon he would have been just as wise as to what it meant.
“Well,” said the wife of the Wizard as her husband finished looking through the reports, “how are things this morning? Are they any better?”
“No,” said Tomlinson, and he sighed as he said it; “this is the worst day yet. It’s just been a shower of telegrams, and mostly all the same. I can’t do the figuring of it like you can, but I reckon I must have made another hundred thousand dollars since yesterday.”
“You don’t say so!” said mother, and they looked at one another gloomily.
“And half a million last week, wasn’t it?” said Tomlinson as he sank into a chair. “I’m afraid, mother,” he continued, “it’s no good. We don’t know how. We weren’t brought up to it.”
All of which meant that if the editor of the _Monetary Afternoon_ or _Financial Sunday_ had been able to know what was happening with the two wizards, he could have written up a news story calculated to electrify all America.
For the truth was that Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance, was attempting to carry out a _coup_ greater than any as yet attributed to him by the Press. He was trying to lose his money. That, in the sickness of his soul, crushed by the Grand Palaver, overwhelmed with the burden of high finance, had become his aim, to be done with it, to get rid of his whole fortune.
But if you own a fortune that is computed anywhere from fifty millions up, with no limit at the top, if you own one-half of all the preferred stock of an Erie Auriferous Consolidated that is digging gold in hydraulic bucketfuls from a quarter of a mile of river bed, the task of losing it is no easy matter.
There are men, no doubt, versed in finance, who might succeed in doing it. But they have a training that Tomlinson lacked. Invest it as he would in the worst securities that offered, the most rickety of stock, the most fraudulent bonds, back it came to him. When he threw a handful away, back came two in its place. And at every new coup the crowd applauded the incomparable daring, the unparalleled prescience of the Wizard.
Like the touch of Midas, his hand turned everything to gold.
“Mother,” he repeated, “it’s no use. It’s like this here Destiny, as the books call it.”
* * * * *
The great fortune that Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance, was trying his best to lose had come to him with wonderful suddenness. As yet it was hardly six months old. As to how it had originated, there were all sorts of stories afloat in the weekly illustrated press. They agreed mostly on the general basis that Tomlinson had made his vast fortune by his own indomitable pluck and dogged industry. Some said that he had been at one time a mere farm hand who, by sheer doggedness, had fought his way from the hay-mow to the control of the produce market of seventeen states. Others had it that he had been a lumberjack who, by sheer doggedness, had got possession of the whole lumber forest of the Lake district. Others said that he had been a miner in a Lake Superior copper mine who had, by the doggedness of his character, got a practical monopoly of the copper supply. These Saturday articles, at any rate, made the Saturday reader rigid with sympathetic doggedness himself, which was all that the editor (who was doggedly trying to make the paper pay) wanted to effect.
But in reality the making of Tomlinson’s fortune was very simple. The recipe for it is open to anyone. It is only necessary to own a hillside farm beside Lake Erie where the uncleared bush and the broken fields go straggling down to the lake, and to have running through it a creek, such as that called Tomlinson’s, brawling among the stones and willows, and to discover in the bed of a creek–a gold mine.
That is all.
Nor is it necessary in these well-ordered days to discover the gold for one’s self. One might have lived a lifetime on the farm, as Tomlinson’s father had, and never discover it for one’s self. For that indeed the best medium of destiny is a geologist, let us say the senior professor of geology at Plutoria University. That was how it happened.
The senior professor, so it chanced, was spending his vacation near by on the shores of the lake, and his time was mostly passed–for how better can a man spend a month of pleasure?–in looking for outcroppings of Devonian rock of the post-tertiary period. For which purpose he carried a vacation hammer in his pocket, and made from time to time a note or two as he went along, or filled his pockets with the chippings of vacation rocks.
So it chanced that he came to Tomlinson’s Creek at the very point where a great slab of Devonian rock bursts through the clay of the bank. When the senior professor of geology saw it and noticed a stripe like a mark on a tiger’s back–a fault he called it–that ran over the face of the block, he was at it in an instant, beating off fragments with his little hammer.
Tomlinson and his boy Fred were logging in the underbrush near by with a long chain and yoke of oxen, but the geologist was so excited that he did not see them till the sound of his eager hammer had brought them to his side. They took him up to the frame house in the clearing, where the chatelaine was hoeing a potato patch with a man’s hat on her head, and they gave him buttermilk and soda cakes, but his hand shook so that he could hardly eat them.
The geologist left Cahoga station that night for the City with a newspaper full of specimens inside his suit-case, and he knew that if any person or persons would put up money enough to tear that block of rock away and follow the fissure down, there would be found there something to astonish humanity, geologists and all.
* * * * *
After that point in the launching of a gold mine the rest is easy. Generous, warm-hearted men, interested in geology, were soon found. There was no stint of money. The great rock was torn sideways from its place, and from beneath it the crumbled, glittering rock-dust that sparkled in the sun was sent in little boxes to the testing laboratories of Plutoria University. There the senior professor of geology had sat up with it far into the night in a darkened laboratory, with little blue flames playing underneath crucibles, as in a magician’s cavern, and with the door locked. And as each sample that he tested was set aside and tied in a cardboard box by itself, he labelled it “aur. p. 75,” and the pen shook in his hand as he marked it. For to professors of geology those symbols mean “this is seventy-five per cent pure gold.” So it was no wonder that the senior professor of geology working far into the night among the blue flames shook with excitement; not, of course, for the gold’s sake as money (he had no time to think of that), but because if this thing was true it meant that an auriferous vein had been found in what was Devonian rock of the post-tertiary stratification, and if that was so it upset enough geology to spoil a textbook. It would mean that the professor could read a paper at the next Pan-Geological Conference that would turn the whole assembly into a bedlam.
It pleased him, too, to know that the men he was dealing with were generous. They had asked him to name his own price or the tests that he made and when he had said two dollars per sample they had told him to go right ahead. The professor was not, I suppose, a mercenary man, but it pleased him to think that he could, clean up sixteen dollars in a single evening in his laboratory. It showed, at any rate, that businessmen put science at its proper value. Strangest of all was the fact that the men had told him that even this ore was apparently nothing to what there was; it had all come out of one single spot in the creek, not the hundredth part of the whole claim. Lower down, where they had thrown the big dam across to make the bed dry, they were taking out this same stuff and even better, so they said, in cartloads. The hydraulic dredges were tearing it from the bed of the creek all day, and at night a great circuit of arc lights gleamed and sputtered over the roaring labour of the friends of geological research.
Thus had the Erie Auriferous Consolidated broken in a tidal wave over financial circles. On the Stock Exchange, in the downtown offices, and among the palm trees of the Mausoleum Club they talked of nothing else. And so great was the power of the wave that it washed Tomlinson and his wife along on the crest of it, and landed them fifty feet up in their thousand-dollar suite in the Grand Palaver. And as a result of it “mother” wore a beetle-back jacket; and Tomlinson received a hundred telegrams a day, and Fred quit school and ate chocolates.
But in the business world the most amazing thing about it was the wonderful shrewdness of Tomlinson.
The first sign of it had been that he had utterly refused to allow the Erie Auriferous Consolidated (as the friends of geology called themselves) to take over the top half of the Tomlinson farm. For the bottom part he let them give him one-half of the preferred stock in the company in return for their supply of development capital. This was their own proposition; in fact, they reckoned that in doing this they were trading about two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of machinery for, say ten million dollars of gold. But it frightened them when Tomlinson said “Yes” to the offer, and when he said that as to common stock they might keep it, it was no use to him, they were alarmed and uneasy till they made him take a block of it for the sake of market confidence.
But the top end of the farm he refused to surrender, and the friends of applied geology knew that there must be something pretty large behind this refusal; the more so as the reason that Tomlinson gave was such a simple one. He said that he didn’t want to part with the top end of the place because his father was buried on it beside the creek, and so he didn’t want the dam higher up, not for any consideration.
This was regarded in business circles as a piece of great shrewdness. “Says his father is buried there, eh? Devilish shrewd that!”
It was so long since any of the members of the Exchange or the Mausoleum Club had wandered into such places as Cahoga County that they did not know that there was nothing strange in what Tomlinson said. His father was buried there, on the farm itself, in a grave overgrown with raspberry bushes, and with a wooden headstone encompassed by a square of cedar rails, and slept as many another pioneer of Cahoga is sleeping.
“Devilish smart idea!” they said; and forthwith half the financial men of the city buried their fathers, or professed to have done so, in likely places–along the prospective right-of-way of a suburban railway, for example; in fact, in any place that marked them out for the joyous resurrection of an expropriation purchase.
Thus the astounding shrewdness of Tomlinson rapidly became a legend, the more so as he turned everything he touched to gold.
They narrated little stories of him in the whiskey-and-soda corners of the Mausoleum Club.
“I put it to him in a casual way,” related, for example, Mr. Lucullus Fyshe, “casually, but quite frankly. I said, ‘See here, this is just a bagatelle to you, no doubt, but to me it might be of some use. T. C. bonds,’ I said, ‘have risen twenty-two and a half in a week. You know as well as I do that they are only collateral trust, and that the stock underneath never could and never can earn a par dividend. Now,’ I said, ‘Mr. Tomlinson, tell me what all that means?’ Would you believe it, the fellow looked me right in the face in that queer way he has and he said, ‘I don’t know!'”
“He said he didn’t know!” repeated the listener, in a tone of amazement and respect. “By Jove! eh? he said he didn’t know! The man’s a wizard!”
“And he looked as if he didn’t!” went on Mr. Fyshe. “That’s the deuce of it. That man when he wants to can put on a look, sir, that simply means nothing, absolutely nothing.”
In this way Tomlinson had earned his name of the Wizard of American Finance.
And meantime Tomlinson and his wife, within their suite at the Grand Palaver, had long since reached their decision. For there was one aspect and only one in which Tomlinson was really and truly a wizard. He saw clearly that for himself and his wife the vast fortune that had fallen to them was of no manner of use. What did it bring them? The noise and roar of the City in place of the silence of the farm and the racket of the great rotunda to drown the remembered murmur of the waters of the creek.
So Tomlinson had decided to rid himself of his new wealth, save only such as might be needed to make his son a different kind of man from himself.
“For Fred, of course,” he said, “it’s different. But out of such a lot as that it’ll be easy to keep enough for him. It’ll be a grand thing for Fred, this money. He won’t have to grow up like you and me. He’ll have opportunities we never got.” He was getting them already. The opportunity to wear seven dollar patent leather shoes and a bell-shaped overcoat with a silk collar, to lounge into moving-picture shows and eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes–all these opportunities he was gathering immediately. Presently, when he learned his way round a little, he would get still bigger ones.
“He’s improving fast,” said mother. She was thinking of his patent leather shoes.
“He’s popular,” said his father. “I notice it downstairs. He sasses any of them just as he likes; and no matter how busy they are, as soon as they see it’s Fred they’re all ready to have a laugh with him.”
Certainly they were, as any hotel clerk with plastered hair is ready to laugh with the son of a multimillionaire. It’s a certain sense of humour that they develop.
“But for us, mother,” said the Wizard, “we’ll be rid of it. The gold is there. It’s not right to keep it back. But we’ll just find a way to pass it on to folks that need it worse than we do.”
For a time they had thought of giving away the fortune. But how? Who did they know that would take it?
It had crossed their minds–for who could live in the City a month without observing the imposing buildings of Plutoria University, as fine as any departmental store in town?–that they might give it to the college.
But there, it seemed, the way was blocked.
“You see, mother,” said the puzzled Wizard, “we’re not known. We’re strangers. I’d look fine going up there to the college and saying, ‘I want to give you people a million dollars.’ They’d laugh at me!”
“But don’t one read it in the papers,” his wife had protested, “where Mr. Carnegie gives ever so much to the colleges, more than all we’ve got, and they take it?”
“That’s different,” said the Wizard. “He’s in with them. They all know him. Why, he’s a sort of chairman of different boards of colleges, and he knows all the heads of the schools, and the professors, so it’s no wonder that if he offers to give a pension, or anything, they take it. Just think of me going up to one of the professors up there in the middle of his teaching and saying; ‘I’d like to give you a pension for life!’ Imagine it! Think what he’d say!”
But the Tomlinsons couldn’t imagine it, which was just as well.
So it came about that they had embarked on their system. Mother, who knew most arithmetic, was the leading spirit. She tracked out all the stocks and bonds in the front page of the _Financial Undertone_, and on her recommendation the Wizard bought. They knew the stocks only by their letters, but this itself gave a touch of high finance to their deliberations.
“I’d buy some of this R.O.P. if I was you,” said mother; “it’s gone down from 127 to 107 in two days, and I reckon it’ll be all gone in ten days or so.”
“Wouldn’t ‘G.G. deb.’ be better? It goes down quicker.”
“Well, it’s a quick one,” she assented, “but it don’t go down so steady. You can’t rely on it. You take ones like R.O.P. and T.R.R. pfd.; they go down all the time and you know where you are.”
As a result of which, Tomlinson would send his instructions. He did it all from the rotunda in a way of his own that he had evolved with a telegraph clerk who told him the names of brokers, and he dealt thus through brokers whom he never saw. As a result of this, the sluggish R.O.P. and T.R.R. would take as sudden a leap into the air as might a mule with a galvanic shock applied to its tail. At once the word was whispered that the “Tomlinson interests” were after the R.O.P. to reorganize it, and the whole floor of the Exchange scrambled for the stock.
And so it was that after a month or two of these operations the Wizard of Finance saw himself beaten.
“It’s no good, mother,” he repeated, “it’s just a kind of Destiny.”
Destiny perhaps it was.
But, if the Wizard of Finance had known it, at this very moment when he sat with the Aladdin’s palace of his golden fortune reared so strangely about him, Destiny was preparing for him still stranger things.
Destiny, so it would seem, was devising Its own ways and means of dealing with Tomlinson’s fortune. As one of the ways and means, Destiny was sending at this moment as its special emissaries two huge, portly figures, wearing gigantic goloshes, and striding downwards from the halls of Plutoria University to the Grand Palaver Hotel. And one of these was the gigantic Dr. Boomer, the president of the college, and the other was his professor of Greek, almost as gigantic as himself. And they carried in their capacious pockets bundles of pamphlets on “Archaeological Remains of Mitylene,” and the “Use of the Greek Pluperfect,” and little treatises such as “Education and Philanthropy,” by Dr. Boomer, and “The Excavation of Mitylene: An Estimate of Cost,” by Dr. Boyster, “Boomer on the Foundation and Maintenance of Chairs,” etc.
Many a man in city finance who had seen Dr. Boomer enter his office with a bundle of these monographs and a fighting glitter in his eyes had sunk back in his chair in dismay. For it meant that Dr. Boomer had tracked him out for a benefaction to the University, and that all resistance was hopeless.
When Dr. Boomer once laid upon a capitalist’s desk his famous pamphlet on the “Use of the Greek Pluperfect,” it was as if an Arabian sultan had sent the fatal bow-string to a condemned pasha, or Morgan the buccaneer had served the death-sign on a shuddering pirate.
So they came nearer and nearer, shouldering the passers-by. The sound of them as they talked was like the roaring of the sea as Homer heard it. Never did Castor and Pollux come surging into battle as Dr. Boomer and Dr. Boyster bore down upon the Grand Palaver Hotel.
Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance, had hesitated about going to the university. The university was coming to him. As for those millions of his, he could take his choice–dormitories, apparatus, campuses, buildings, endowment, anything he liked but choose he must. And if he feared that, after all, his fortune was too vast even for such a disposal, Dr. Boomer would show him how he might use it in digging up ancient Mitylene, or modern Smyrna, or the lost cities of the Plain of Pactolus. If the size of the fortune troubled him, Dr. Boomer would dig him up the whole African Sahara from Alexandria to Morocco, and ask for more.
But if Destiny held all this for Tomlinson in its outstretched palm before it, it concealed stranger things still beneath the folds of its toga.
There were enough surprises there to turn the faces of the whole directorate of the Erie Auriferous Consolidated as yellow as the gold they mined.
For at this very moment, while the president of Plutoria University drew nearer and nearer to the Grand Palaver Hotel, the senior professor of geology was working again beside the blue flames in his darkened laboratory. And this time there was no shaking excitement over him. Nor were the labels that he marked, as sample followed sample in the tests, the same as those of the previous marking. Not by any means.
And his grave face as he worked in silence was as still as the stones of the post-tertiary period.