Montague started to walk. He had no idea where he went; his mind was in a whirl, and he was lost to everything about him. He must have spent a couple of hours wandering about the park and the streets of the city; when at last he stopped and looked about him, he was on a lighted thoroughfare, and a big clock in front of a jewellery store was pointing to the hour of two.
He looked around. Immediately across the street was a building which he recognised as the office of the Express; and in a flash he thought of Bates. "Come in after the paper has gone to press," the latter had said.
He went in and entered the elevator.
"I want to see Mr. Bates, a reporter," he said.
"City-room," said the elevator man; "eleventh floor."
Montague confronted a very cross and sleepy-looking office-boy. "Is Mr. Bates in?" he asked.
"I dunno," said the boy, and slowly let himself down from the table upon which he had been sitting. Montague produced a card, and the boy disappeared. "This way," he said, when he returned; and Montague found himself in a huge room, crowded with desks and chairs. Everything was in confusion; the floor was literally buried out of sight in paper.
Montague observed that there were only about a dozen men in the room; and several of these were putting on their coats. "There he is, over there," said the office-boy.
He looked and saw Bates sitting at a desk, with his head buried in his arms. "Tired," he thought to himself.
"Hello, Bates," he said; then, as the other looked up, he gave a start of dismay.
"What's the matter?" he cried.
It was half a minute before Bates replied. His voice was husky. "They sold me out," he whispered.
"What!" gasped the other.
"They sold me out!" repeated Bates, and struck the table in front of him. "Cut out the story, by God! Did me out of my scoop!
"Look at that, sir," he added, and shoved toward Montague a double column of newspaper proofs, with a huge head-line, "Gotham Trust Company to be Wrecked," and the words scrawled across in blue pencil, "Killed by orders from the office."
Montague could scarcely find words to reply. He drew up a chair and sat down. "Tell me about it," he said.
"There's nothing much to tell," said Bates. "They sold me out. They wouldn't print it."
"But why didn't you take it elsewhere?" asked the other.
"Too late," said Bates; "the scoundrels--they never even let me know!" He poured out his rage in a string of curses.
Then he told Montague the story.
"I was in here at half-past ten," he said, "and I reported to the managing editor. He was crazy with delight, and told me to go ahead--front page, double column, and all the rest. So Rodney and I set to work. He did the interview, and I did all the embroidery--oh, my God, but it was a story! And it was read, and went through; and then an hour or two ago, just when the forms were ready, in comes old Hodges--he's one of the owners, you know--and begins nosing round. 'What's this?' he cries, and reads the story; and then he goes to the managing editor. They almost had a fight over it. 'No paper that I am interested in shall ever print a story like that!' says Hodges; and the managing editor threatens to resign, but he can't budge him. The first thing I knew of it was when I got this copy; and the paper had already gone to press."
"What do you suppose was the reason for it?" asked Montague, in wonder.
"Reason?" echoed Bates. "The reason is Hodges; he's a crook. 'If we publish that story,' he said,'the directors of the bank will never meet, and we'll bear the onus of having wrecked the Gotham Trust Company.' But that's all a bluff, and he knew it; we could prove that that conference took place, if it ever came to a fight."
"You were quite safe, it seems to me," said Montague.
"Safe?" echoed Bates. "We had the greatest scoop that a newspaper ever had in this country--if only the Express were a newspaper. But Hodges isn't publishing the news, you see; he's serving his masters, whoever they are. I knew that it meant trouble when he bought into the Express. He used to be managing editor of the Gazette, you know; and he made his fortune selling the policy of that paper--its financial news is edited to this very hour in the offices of Wyman's bankers, and I can prove it to anybody who wants me to. That's the sort of proposition a man's up against; and what's the use of gathering the news?"
And Bates rose up with an oath, kicking away the chair behind him. "Come on," he said; "let's get out of here. I don't know that I'll ever come back."
Montague spent another hour wandering about with Bates, listening to his opinion of the newspapers of the Metropolis. Then, utterly exhausted, he went home; but not to sleep. He sat in a chair for an hour or two, his mind besieged by images of ruin and destruction. At last he lay down, but he had not closed his eyes when daylight began to stream into the room.
At eight o'clock he was up again and at the telephone. He called up Lucy's apartment house.
"I want to speak to Mrs. Taylor," he said.
"She is not in," was the reply.
"Will you ring up the apartment?" asked Montague. "I will speak to the maid."
"This is Mr. Montague," he said, when he heard the woman's voice. "Where is Mrs. Taylor?"
"She has not come back, sir," was the reply.
Montague had some work before him that day which could not be put off. Accordingly he bathed and shaved, and had some coffee in his room, and then set out for his office. Even at that early hour there were crowds in the financial district, and another day's crop of rumours had begun to spring. He heard nothing about the Gotham Trust Company; but when he left court at lunch time, the newsboys on the street were shouting the announcement of the action of the bank directors. Lucy had failed in her errand, then; the blow had fallen!
There was almost a panic on the Exchange that day, and the terror and anxiety upon the faces of the people who thronged the financial district were painful to see. But the courts did not suspend, even on account of the Gotham Trust; and Montague had an important case to argue. He came out on the street late in the afternoon, and though it was after banking hours, he saw crowds in front of a couple of the big trust companies, and he read in the papers that a run upon the Gotham Trust had begun.
At his office he found a telegram from his brother Oliver, who was still in the Adirondacks: "Money in Trust Company of the Republic. Notify me of the slightest sign of trouble."
He replied that there was none; and, as he rode up in the subway, he thought the problem over, and made up his own mind. He had a trifle over sixty thousand dollars in Prentice's institution--more than half of all he owned. He had Prentice's word for it that the Company was in a sound condition, and he believed it. He made up his mind that he would not be one of those to be stampeded, whatever might happen.
He dined quietly at home with his mother; then he took his way up town again to Lucy's apartment; for he was haunted by the thought of her, and could not rest. He had read in the late evening papers that Stanley Ryder had resigned from the Gotham Trust Company.
"Is Mrs. Taylor in?" he asked, and gave his name.
"Mrs. Taylor says will you please to wait, sir," was the reply. And Montague sat down in the reception-room. A couple of minutes later, the hall-boy brought him a note.
He opened it and read these words, in a trembling hand:--
"Dear Allan: It is good of you to try to help me, but I cannot bear it. Please go away. I do not want you to think about me. Lucy."
Montague could read the agony between those lines; but there was nothing he could do about it. He went over to Broadway, and started to walk down town.
He felt that he must have someone to talk to, to take his mind off these things. He thought of the Major, and went over to the club, but the storm had routed out even the Major, it appeared. He was just off to attend some conference, and had only time to shake hands with Montague, and tell him to "trim sail."
Then he thought of Bates, and went down to the office of the Express. He found Bates hard at work, seated at a table in his shirt-sleeves, and with stacks of papers around him.
"I can always spare time for a chat," he said, as Montague offered to go.
"I see you came back," observed the other.
"I'm like an old horse in a tread mill," answered Bates. "What else is there for me to do?"
He leaned back in his chair, and put his thumbs in his armholes. "Well," he remarked, "they made their killing."
"They did, indeed," said Montague.
"And they're not satisfied yet," exclaimed the other. "They're on another trail!"
"What!" cried Montague.
"Listen," said Bates. "I went in to see David Ward about the action of the Clearinghouse Committee; Gary--he's the Despatch man--was with me. Ward talked for half an hour, as he always does; he told us all about the gallant efforts which the bankers were making to stem the tide, and he told us that the Trust Company of the Republic was in danger and that an agreement had been made to try to save it. Mind you, there's not been the least sign of trouble for the company.' 'Shall we print that?' asked Gary. 'Surely,' said Ward. 'But it will make trouble,' said Gary. 'That's all right,' said Ward. 'It's a fact. So print it.' Now what do you think of that?"
Montague sat rigid. "But I thought they had promised to protect Prentice!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," said Bates, grimly; "and now they throw him down."
"Do you suppose Waterman knew that?"
"Why, of course; Ward is no more than one of his clerks."
"And will the Despatch print it, do you suppose?"
"I don't know why not," said the other. "I asked Gary if he was going to put it in, and he said 'Yes.' 'It will make another panic,' I said, and he answered, 'Panics are news.'"
Montague said nothing for a minute or two. Finally he remarked, "I have good reason to believe that the Trust Company of the Republic is perfectly sound."
"I have no doubt of it," was the reply.
"Then why--" He stopped.
Bates shrugged his shoulders. "Ask Waterman," he said. "It's some quarrel or other; he wants to put the screws on somebody. Perhaps it's simply that two trust companies will scare the President more than one; or perhaps it's some stock he wants to break. I've heard it said that he has seventy-five millions laid by to pick up bargains with; and I shouldn't wonder if it was true."
There was a moment's pause. "And by the way," Bates added, "the Oil Trust has made another haul! The Electric Manufacturing Company is in trouble--that's a rival of one of their enterprises! Doesn't it all fit together beautifully?"
Montague thought for a moment or two. "This is rather important news to me," he said; "I've got money in the Trust Company of the Republic. Do you suppose they are going to let it go down?"
"I talked it over with Rodney," the other replied. "He says Waterman was quite explicit in his promises to see Prentice through. And there's one thing you can say about old Dan--for all his villainies, he never breaks his word. So I imagine he'll save it."
"But then, why give out this report?" exclaimed the lawyer.
"Don't you see?" said Bates. "He wants a chance to save it."
Montague's jaw fell. "Oh!" he said.
"It's as plain as the nose on your face," said Bates. "That story will come out to-morrow morning, and everybody will say it was the blunder of a newspaper reporter; and then Waterman will come forward and do the rescue act. It'll be just like a play."
"It's taking a long chance," said Montague, and added, "I had thought of telling Prentice, who's an intimate friend of mine; but I don't suppose it will do him any good."
"Poor old Prentice can't help himself," was the reply. "All you can do is to make him lose a night's sleep."
Montague went out, with a new set of problems to ponder. As he went home, he passed the magnificent building of the Gotham Trust Company, where there stood a long line of people who had prepared to spend the night. All the afternoon a frantic mob had besieged the doors, and millions of dollars had been withdrawn in a few hours. Montague knew that by the time he got down town the next morning there would be another such mob in front of the Trust Company of the Republic; but he was determined to stand by his own resolve. However, he had sent a telegram to Oliver, warning him to return at once.
He went home and found there another letter from Lucy Dupree.
"Dear Allan," she wrote. "No doubt you have heard the news that Ryder has been forced out of the Gotham Trust. But I have accomplished part of my purpose--Waterman has promised that he will put him on his feet again after this trouble is over. In the meantime, I am told to go away. This is for the best; you will remember that you yourself urged me to go. Ryder cannot see me, because the newspaper reporters are following him so closely.
"I beg of you not to try to find me. I am hateful in my own sight, and you will never see me again. There is one last thing that you can do for me. Go to Stanley Ryder and offer him your help--I mean your advice in straightening out his affairs. He has no friends now, and he is in a desperate plight. Do this for me. Lucy."