The Moneychangers

by Upton Sinclair

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Chapter 5

Montague hesitated only an instant. He sprang up to the deck. "Where is Mrs. Taylor?" he cried.

"She went below, sir," said the man, hesitating; but Montague sprang past him and down the companionway.

At the foot of the stairs he found himself in a broad entrance-hall, lighted by a glass dome above. He sprang toward a door which opened in the direction of the cry he had heard, and shouted aloud, "Lucy! Lucy!" He heard her answer beyond the doorway, and he seized the knob and tried it. The door was locked.

"Open the door!" he shouted.

There was no sound. "Open the door!" he called again, "or I'll break it down."

Suiting his action to the word, he flung his weight upon it. The barrier cracked; and then suddenly he heard a man's voice. "All right. Wait."

Someone fumbled at the knob; and Montague stood crouching and watching breathlessly, prepared for anything. The door opened, and he found himself confronted by Dan Waterman.

Montague recoiled a step in consternation; and the other strode out, and without a word went past him down the hall. There was just time enough for Montague to receive one look--of the most furious rage that he had ever seen upon a human face.

He rushed into the room. Lucy was standing at the farther end, leaning upon a table to support herself. Her clothing was in disarray, and her hair was falling about her ears; her face was flushed, and she was panting in great agitation.

"Lucy!" he gasped, running to her. She caught at his arm to steady herself.

"What is the matter?" he cried. She turned her face away, making not a sound.

For a minute or so he stood staring at her. Then she whispered, "Quick! let us go from here!"

And with a sudden movement of her hands, she swept her hair back from her forehead, and straightened her clothing, and started to the door, leaning upon her friend.

They went up to the deck, where the officer was still standing in perplexity.

"Mrs. Taylor wishes to go ashore," said Montague. "Will you get us a boat?"

"The launch will be back in a few minutes, sir--" the man began.

"We wish to go at once," said Montague. "Will you let us have one of those rowboats? Otherwise I shall hail that tug."

The man hesitated but a moment. Montague's voice was determined, and so he turned and gave orders to lower a small boat.

In the meantime, Lucy stood, breathing heavily, and gazing about her nervously. When at last they had left the yacht, he heard her sigh with relief.

They sat in silence until she had stepped upon the landing. Then she said, "Get me a cab, Allan."

He led her to the street and hailed a vehicle. When they were seated, Lucy sank back with a gasp. "Please don't ask me to talk, Allan," she said. And she made not another sound during the long drive to the hotel.

* * *

"Is there anything I can do for you?" he said, after he had seen her safely to her apartment.

"No," she answered. "I am all right. Wait for me."

She retired to her dressing-room, and when she came back, all traces of her excitement had been removed. Then she seated herself in a chair opposite Montague and gazed at him.

"Allan," she began, "I have been trying to think. What can I do to that man?"

"I am sure I don't know," he answered.

"Why, I can hardly believe that this is New York," she gasped. "I feel as though I had got back into the Middle Ages!"

"You forget, Lucy," he replied, "that I don't know what happened."

Again she fell silent. They sat staring at each other, and then suddenly she leaned back in her chair and began to laugh. Once she had started, burst after burst of merriment swept over her. "I try to stay angry, Allan!" she gasped. "It seems as if I ought to. But, honestly, it was perfectly absurd!"

"I am sure you'd much better laugh than cry," said he.

"I will tell you about it, Allan," the girl went on. "I know I shall have to tell somebody, or I shall simply explode. You will have to advise me about it, for I was never more bewildered in my life."

"Go ahead," said he. "Begin at the beginning."

"I told you how I met Waterman at his art gallery," said Lucy. "Mr. David Alden took me, and the old man was so polite, and so dignified--why, I never had the slightest idea! And then he wrote me a little note--in his own hand, mind you--inviting me to be one of a party for the first trip of the _Brünnhilde_. Of course, I thought it was all right. I told you I was going, you know, and you didn't have any objections either.

"I went down there, and the launch met me and took me on board, and a steward took me down into that room and left me, and a second later the old man himself came in. And he shut the door behind him and locked it!

"How do you do, Mrs. Taylor?' he said, and before I had a chance even to open my mouth and reply, he came to me and calmly put his arms around me.

"You can fancy my feelings. I was simply paralysed!

"Mr. Waterman?' I gasped.

"I didn't hear what he said; I was almost dazed with anger and fright. I remember I cried several times, 'Let me go!' but he paid not the slightest attention to me. He just held me tight in his arms.

"Finally I got myself together, a little. I didn't want to bite and scratch like a kitchen-wench. I tried to speak calmly.

"'Mr. Waterman,' I said, 'I want you to release me.'

"'I love you,' he said.

"'But I don't love you,' I protested. I remember thinking even then how absurd it sounded. I can't think of anything that wouldn't have sounded absurd in such a situation.

"'You will learn to love me,' he said. 'Many women have.'

"'I am not that sort of a woman,' I said. 'I tell you, you have made a mistake. Let me go.'

"'I want you,' he said. 'And when I want a thing, I get it. I never take any refusal--understand that. You don't realise the situation. It will be no disgrace to you. Women think it an honour to have me love them. Think what I can do for you. You can have anything you want. You can go anywhere you wish. I will never stint you.'

"I remember his going on like that for some time. And fancy, there I was! I might as well have been in the grip of a bear. You would not think it, you know, but he is terribly strong. I could not move. I could hardly think. I was suffocated, and all the time I could feel his breath on my face, and he was glaring into my eyes like some terrible wild beast.

"'Mr. Waterman,' I protested, 'I am not used to being treated in this way.'

"'I know, I know,' he said. 'If you were, I should not want you. But I am different from other men. Think of it--think of all that I have on my hands. I have no time to make love to women. But I love you. I loved you the minute I saw you. Is not that enough? What more can you ask?'

"'You have brought me here under false pretences,' I cried. 'You have taken cowardly advantage of me. If you have a spark of decency in you, you should be ashamed of yourself.'

"'Tut, tut,' he said, 'don't talk that kind of nonsense. You know the world. You are no spring chicken.'--Yes, he did, Allan--I remember that very phrase. And it made me so furious--you can't imagine! I tried to get away again, but the more I struggled, the more it seemed to enrage him. I was positively terrified. You know, I don't believe there was another person on board that yacht except his servants.

"'Mr. Waterman,' I cried, 'I tell you to take your hands off me. If you don't, I will make a disturbance. I will scream.'

"'It won't do you any good,' he said savagely.

"'But what do you want me to do?" I protested.

"'I want you to love me,' he said.

"And then I began to struggle again. I shouted once or twice,--I am not sure,--and then he clapped his hand over my mouth. Then I began to fight for my life. I really believe I would have scratched the old creature's eyes out if he had not heard you out in the hall. When you called my name, he dropped me and sprang back. I never saw such furious hatred on a man's countenance in my life.

"When I answered you, I tried to run to the door, but he stood in my way.

"'I will follow you!' he whispered. 'Do you understand me? I will never give you up!'

"And then you flung yourself against the door, and he turned and opened it and went out."

* * *

Lucy had turned scarlet over the recalling of the scene, and she was breathing quickly in her agitation. Montague sat staring in front of him, without a sound.

"Did you ever hear of anything like that in your life before?" she asked.

"Yes," said he, gravely, "I am sorry to say that I have heard of it several times. I have heard of things even worse."

"But what am I to do?" she cried. "Surely a man can't behave like that with impunity."

Montague said nothing.

"He is a monster!" cried Lucy. "I ought to have him put in jail."

Montague shook his head. "You couldn't do that," he said.

"I couldn't!" exclaimed the other. "Why not?"

"You couldn't prove it," said Montague.

"It would be your word against his, and they would take his every time. You can't go and have Dan Waterman arrested as you could any ordinary man. And think of the notoriety it would mean!"

"I would like to expose him," protested Lucy. "It would serve him right!"

"It would not do him the least harm in the world," said Montague. "I can speak quite positively there, for I have seen it tried. You couldn't get a newspaper in New York to publish that story. All that you could do would be to have yourself blazoned as an adventuress."

Lucy was staring, with clenched hands. "Why, I might as well be living in Turkey," she cried.

"Very nearly," said he. "There's an old man in this town who has spent his lifetime lending money and hoarding it; he has something like eighty or a hundred millions now, I believe, and once every six months or so you will read in the newspapers that some woman has made an attempt to blackmail him. That is because he does to every pretty girl who comes into his office just exactly what old Waterman did to you; and those who are arrested for blackmail are simply the ones who are so unwise as to make a disturbance."

"You see, Lucy," continued Montague, after a pause, "you must realise the situation. This man is a god in New York. He controls all the avenues of wealth; he can make or break any person he chooses. It is really the truth--I believe he could ruin any man in the city whom he chose to set out after. He can have anything that he wants done, so far as the police are concerned. It is simply a matter of paying them. And he is accustomed to rule in everything; his lightest whim is law. If he wants a thing, he buys it, and that is his attitude toward women. He is used to being treated as a master; women seek him, and vie for his favour. If you had been able to hold it, you might have had a million-dollar palace on Riverside Drive, or a cottage with a million-dollar pier at Newport. You might have had carte blanche at all the shops, and all the yachting trips and private trains that you wanted. That is all that other women want, and he could not understand what more you could want." Montague paused.

"Is that the way he spends his money?" Lucy asked.

"He buys everything he takes a fancy to," said Montague. "They say he spends five thousand dollars a day. One of the stories they tell in the clubs is that he loved the wife of a physician, and he gave a million dollars to found a hospital, and one of the conditions of the endowment was that this physician should go abroad for three years and study all the hospitals of Europe."

Lucy sat buried in thought. "Allan," she asked suddenly, "what do you suppose he meant by saying he would follow me? What could he do?"

"I don't know," said Allan, "it is something which we shall have to think over very carefully."

"He made a remark to me that I thought was very strange," she said. "I just happened to recall it. He said, 'You have no money. You cannot keep up the pace in New York. What you own is worth nothing.' Do you suppose, Allan, that he can know anything about my affairs?"

Montague was staring at her in consternation. "Lucy!" he exclaimed.

"What is it?" she cried.

"Nothing," he said; and he added to himself, "No, it is absurd. It could not be." The idea that it could have been Dan Waterman who had set the detectives to follow him seemed too grotesque for consideration. "It was nothing but a chance shot," he said to Lucy, "but you must be careful. He is a dangerous man."

"And I am powerless to punish him!" whispered Lucy, after a pause.

"It seems to me," said Montague, "that you are very well out of it. You will know better next time; and as for punishing him, I fancy that Nature will attend to that. He is getting old, you know; and they say he is morose and wretched."

"But, Allan!" protested Lucy. "I can't help thinking what would have happened to me if you had not come on board! I can't help thinking about other women who must have been caught in such a trap. Why, Allan, I would have been equally helpless--no matter what he had done!"

"I am afraid so," said he, gravely. "Many a woman has discovered it, I imagine. I understand how you feel, but what can you do about it? You can't punish men like Waterman. You can't punish them for anything they do, whether it is monopolising a necessity of life and starving thousands of people to death, or whether it is an attack upon a defenceless woman. There are rich men in this city who make it their diversion to answer advertisements and decoy young girls. A stenographer in my office told me that she had had over twenty positions in one year, and that she had left every one because some man in the office had approached her."

He paused for a moment. "You see," he added, "I have been finding out these things. You thought I was unreasonable, but I know what your dangers are. You are a stranger here; you have no friends and no influence, and so you will always be the one to suffer. I don't mean merely in a case like this, where it comes to the police and the newspapers; I mean in social matters--where it is a question of your reputation, of the interpretation which people will place upon your actions. They have their wealth and their prestige and their privileges, and they stand at bay. They are perfectly willing to give a stranger a good time, if the stranger has a pretty face and a lively wit to entertain them; but when you come to trespass, or to threaten their power, then you find out how they can hate you, and how mercilessly they will slander and ruin you!"


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