With Interest To Date

This is the tale of a wrong that rankled and a great revenge. It is

not a moral story, nor yet, measured by the modern money code, is it

what could be called immoral. It is merely a tale of sharp wits

which clashed in pursuit of business, therefore let it be considered

unmoral, a word with a wholly different commercial significance.

Time was when wrongs were righted by mace and battle-ax, amid fanfares

and shoutings, but we live in a quieter age, an age of repression,

wherein the keenest thrust is not delivered with a yell of triumph nor

the oldest score settled to the blare of trumpets. No longer do the

men of great muscle lord it over the weak and the puny; as a rule

they toil and they lift, doing unpleasant, menial duties for

hollow-chested, big-domed men with eye-glasses. But among those very

spindle-shanked, terra-cotta dwellers who cower at draughts and eat

soda mints, the ancient struggle for supremacy wages fiercer than

ever. Single combats are fought now as then, and the flavor of victory

is quite as sweet to the pallid man back of a roll-top desk as to the

swart, bristling baron behind his vizored helmet.

The beginning of this story runs back to the time Henry Hanford went

with the General Equipment Company as a young salesman full of hope

and enthusiasm and a somewhat exaggerated idea of his own importance.

He was selling shears, punches, and other machinery used in the

fabrication of structural steel. In the territory assigned to him, the

works of the Atlantic Bridge Company stuck up like a sore thumb, for

although it employed many men, although its contracts were large and

its requirements numerous, the General Equipment Company had never

sold it a dollar's worth of anything.

In the course of time Hanford convinced himself that the Atlantic

Bridge Company needed more modern machinery, so he laid siege to

Jackson Wylie, Sr., its president and practical owner. He spent all of

six months in gaining the old man's ear, but when he succeeded he

laid himself out to sell his goods. He analyzed the Atlantic Bridge

Company's needs in the light of modern milling practice, and

demonstrated the saving his equipment would effect. A big order and

much prestige were at stake, both of which young Hanford needed

badly at the time. He was vastly encouraged, therefore, when the

bridge-builder listened attentively to him.

"I dare say we shall have to make a change," Mr. Wylie reluctantly

agreed. "I've been bothered to death by machinery salesmen, but you're

the first one to really interest me."

Hanford acknowledged the compliment and proceeded further to elaborate

upon the superiority of the General Equipment Company's goods over

those sold by rival concerns. When he left he felt that he had Mr.

Wylie, Sr., "going."

At the office they warned him that he had a hard nut to crack; that

Wylie was given to "stringing" salesmen and was a hard man to close

with, but Hanford smiled confidently. Granting those facts, they

rendered him all the more eager to make this sale; and the bridge

company really did need up-to-date machinery.

He instituted an even more vigorous selling campaign, he sent much

printed matter to Mr. Wylie, Sr., he wrote him many letters. Being a

thoroughgoing young saleman, he studied the plant from the ground up,

learning the bridge business in such detail as enabled him to talk

with authority on efficiency methods. In the course of his studies he

discovered many things that were wrong with the Atlantic, and spent

days in outlining improvements on paper. He made the acquaintance of

the foremen; he cultivated the General Superintendent; he even met Mr.

Jackson Wylie, Jr., the Sales Manager, a very polished, metallic young

man, who seemed quite as deeply impressed with Hanford's statements as

did his father.

Under our highly developed competitive system, modern business is done

very largely upon personality. From the attitude of both father and

son, Hanford began to count his chickens. Instead of letting up,

however, he redoubled his efforts, which was his way. He spent so much

time on the matter that his other work suffered, and in consequence

his firm called him down. He outlined his progress with the Atlantic

Bridge Company, declared he was going to succeed, and continued to

camp with the job, notwithstanding the firm's open doubts.

Sixty days after his first interview he had another visit with Wylie,

senior, during which the latter drained him of information and made an

appointment for a month later. Said Mr. Wylie:

"You impress me strongly, Hanford, and I want my associates to hear

you. Get your proposition into shape and make the same talk to them

that you have made to me."

Hanford went away elated; he even bragged a bit at the office, and the

report got around among the other salesmen that he really had done the

impossible and had pulled off something big with the Atlantic. It was

a busy month for that young gentleman, and when the red-letter day at

last arrived he went on to Newark to find both Wylies awaiting him.

"Well, sir, are you prepared to make a good argument?" the father


"I am." Hanford decided that three months was not too long a time to

devote to work of this magnitude, after all.

"I want you to do your best," the bridge-builder continued,

encouragingly, then he led Hanford into the directors' room, where, to

his visitor's astonishment, some fifty men were seated.

"These are our salesmen," announced Mr. Wylie. He introduced Hanford

to them with the request that they listen attentively to what the

young man had to say.

It was rather nervous work for Hanford, but he soon warmed up and

forgot his embarrassment. He stood on his feet for two long hours

pleading as if for his life. He went over the Atlantic plant from end

to end; he showed the economic necessity for new machinery; then he

explained the efficiency of his own appliances. He took rival types

and picked them to pieces, pointing out their inferiority. He showed

his familiarity with bridge work by going into figures which bore out

his contention that the Atlantic's output could be increased and at

an actual monthly saving. He wound up by proving that the General

Equipment Company was the one concern best fitted to effect the


It had taken months of unremitting toil to prepare himself for this

exposition, but the young fellow felt he had made his case. When he

took up the cost of the proposed instalment, however, Mr. Jackson

Wylie, Sr., interrupted him.

"That is all I care to have you cover," the latter explained. "Thank

you very kindly, Mr. Hanford."

Hanford sat down and wiped his forehead, whereupon the other stepped

forward and addressed his employees.

"Gentlemen," said he, "you have just listened to the best argument I

ever heard. I purposely called you in from the road so that you might

have a practical lesson in salesmanship and learn something from an

outsider about your own business. I want you to profit by this talk.

Take it to heart and apply it to your own customers. Our selling

efficiency has deteriorated lately; you are getting lazy. I want you

to wake up and show better results. That is all. You might thank this

young gentleman for his kindness."

When the audience had dispersed, Hanford inquired, blankly, "Don't you

intend to act on my suggestions?"

"Oh no!" said Mr. Wylie, in apparent surprise. "We are doing nicely,

as it is. I merely wanted you to address the boys."

"But--I've spent three months of hard labor on this! You led me to

believe that you would put in new equipment."

The younger Wylie laughed, languidly exhaling a lungful of cigarette

smoke. "When Dad gets ready to purchase, he'll let you know," said he.

Six months later the Atlantic Bridge Company placed a mammoth order

with Hanford's rival concern, and he was not even asked to figure on


That is how the seeds of this story were sown. Of course the facts got

out, for those Atlantic salesmen were not wanting in a sense of humor,

and Hanford was joshed in every quarter. To make matters worse,

his firm called him to account for his wasted time, implying that

something was evidently wrong with his selling methods. Thus began a

lack of confidence which quickly developed into strained relations.

The result was inevitable; Hanford saw what was coming and was wise

enough to resign his position.

But it was the ridicule that hurt him most. He was unable to get

away from that. Had he been at all emotional, he would have sworn a

vendetta, so deep and lasting was the hurt, but he did not; he merely

failed to forget, which, after all, is not so different.

It seemed queer that Henry Hanford should wind up in the bridge

business himself, after attempting to fill several unsatisfactory

positions, and yet there was nothing remarkable about it, for that

three months of intense application at the Atlantic plant had given

him a groundwork which came in handy when the Patterson Bridge Company

offered him a desk. He was a good salesman; he worked hard and in

time he was promoted. By and by the story was forgotten--by every

one except Henry Hanford. But he had lost a considerable number of

precious years.

* * * * *

When it became known that the English and Continental structural

shops were so full of work that they could not figure on the mammoth

five-million-dollar steel structure designed to span the Barrata River

in Africa, and when the Royal Commission in London finally advertised

broadcast that time was the essence of this contract, Mr. Jackson

Wylie, Sr., realized that his plant was equipped to handle the job in

magnificent shape, with large profit to himself and with great renown

to the Wylie name. He therefore sent his son, Jackson Wylie, the

Second, now a full-fledged partner, to London armed with letters to

almost everybody in England from almost everybody in America.

Two weeks later--the Patterson Bridge Company was not so aggressive

as its more pretentious rival--Henry Hanford went abroad on the same

mission, but he carried no letters of introduction for the very good

reason that he possessed neither commercial influence nor social

prestige. Bradstreets had never rated him, and Who's Who contained

no names with which he was familiar.

Jackson Wylie, the Second had been to London frequently, and he was

accustomed to English life. He had friends with headquarters at

Prince's and at Romano's, friends who were delighted to entertain so

prominent an American; his letters gave him the entree to many of the

best clubs and paved his way socially wherever he chose to go.

It was Hanford's first trip across, and he arrived on British soil

without so much as a knowledge of English coins, with nothing in

the way of baggage except a grip full of blue-prints, and with no

destination except the Parliament buildings, where he had been led

to believe the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission was eagerly and

impatiently awaiting his coming. But when he called at the Parliament

buildings he failed not only to find the Commission, but even to

encounter anybody who knew anything about it. He did manage to locate

the office, after some patient effort, but learned that it was nothing

more than a forwarding address, and that no member of the Commission

had been there for several weeks. He was informed that the Commission

had convened once, and therefore was not entirely an imaginary body;

beyond that he could discover nothing. On his second visit to the

office he was told that Sir Thomas Drummond, the chairman, was inside,

having run down from his shooting-lodge in Scotland for the day. But

Sir Thomas's clerk, with whom Hanford had become acquainted at the

time of his first call, informed him that Mr. Jackson Wylie, the

Second, from America, was closeted with his lordship, and in

consequence his lordship could not be disturbed. Later, when Hanford

got more thoroughly in touch with the general situation, he began to

realize that introductions, influence, social prestige would in all

probability go farther toward landing the Barrata Bridge than mere

engineering, ability or close figuring--facts with which the younger

Wylie was already familiar, and against which he had provided. It also

became plain to Hanford as time went on that the contract would of

necessity go to America, for none of the European shops were in

position to complete it on time.

Owing to government needs, this huge, eleven-span structure had to be

on the ground within ninety days from the date of the signing of the

contract, and erected within eight months thereafter. The Commission's

clerk, a big, red-faced, jovial fellow, informed Hanford that price

was not nearly so essential as time of delivery; that although the

contract glittered with alluring bonuses and was heavily weighted

with forfeits, neither bonuses nor forfeitures could in the slightest

manner compensate for a delay in time. It was due to this very fact,

to the peculiar urgency of the occasion, that the Commissioners were

inclined to look askance at prospective bidders who might in any way

fail to complete the task as specified.

"If all that is true, tell me why Wylie gets the call?" Hanford


"I understand he has the very highest references," said the


"No doubt. But you can't build bridges with letters of introduction,

even in Africa."

"Probably not. But Sir Thomas is a big man; Mr. Wylie is one of his

sort. They meet on common ground, don't you see?"

"Well, if I can't arrange an interview with any member of the

Commission, I can at least take you to lunch. Will you go?"

The clerk declared that he would, indeed, and in the days that

followed the two saw much of each other. This fellow, Lowe by name,

interested Hanford. He was a cosmopolite; he was polished to the

hardness of agate by a life spent in many lands. He possessed a cold

eye and a firm chin; he was a complex mixture of daredeviltry and

meekness. He had fought in a war or two, and he had led hopes quite

as forlorn as the one Hanford was now engaged upon. It was this bond,

perhaps, which drew the two together.

In spite of Lowe's assistance Hanford found it extremely difficult,

nay, almost impossible, to obtain any real inside information

concerning the Barrata Bridge; wherever he turned he brought up

against a blank wall of English impassiveness: he even experienced

difficulty in securing the blue-prints he wanted.

"It looks pretty tough for you," Lowe told him one day. "I'm afraid

you're going to come a cropper, old man. This chap Wylie has the rail

and he's running well. He has opened an office, I believe."

"So I understand. Well, the race isn't over yet, and I'm a good

stayer. This is the biggest thing I ever tackled and it means a lot to

me--more than you imagine."

"How so?"

Hanford recited the story of his old wrong, to Lowe's frank amazement.

"What a rotten trick!" the latter remarked.

"Yes! And--I don't forget."

"You'd better forget this job. It takes pull to get consideration from

people like Sir Thomas, and Wylie has more than he needs. A fellow

without it hasn't a chance. Look at me, for instance, working at a

desk! Bah!"

"Want to try something else?"

"I do! And you'd better follow suit."

Hanford shook his head. "I never quit--I can't. When my chance at this

bridge comes along--"

Lowe laughed.

"Oh, the chance will come. Chances always come; sometimes we don't see

them, that's all. When this one comes I want to be ready. Meanwhile, I

think I'll reconnoiter Wylie's new office and find out what's doing."

Day after day Henry Hanford pursued his work doggedly, seeing much of

Lowe, something of Wylie's clerk, and nothing whatever of Sir Thomas

Drummond or the other members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission.

He heard occasional rumors of the social triumphs of his rival,

and met him once, to be treated with half-veiled amusement by that

patronizing young man. Meanwhile, the time was growing short and

Hanford's firm was not well pleased with his progress.

Then the chance came, unexpectedly, as Hanford had declared chances

always come. The remarkable thing in this instance was not that the

veiled goddess showed her face, but that Hanford was quick enough

to recognize her and bold enough to act. He had taken Lowe to the

Trocadero for dinner, and, finding no seats where they could watch the

crowd, he had selected a stall in a quiet corner. They had been there

but a short time when Hanford recognized a voice from the stall

adjacent as belonging to the representative of the Atlantic Bridge

Company. From the sounds he could tell that Wylie was giving a

dinner-party, and with Lowe's aid he soon identified the guests as

members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission. Hanford began to

strain his ears.

As the meal progressed this became less of an effort, for young

Wylie's voice was strident. The Wylie conversation had ever been

limited largely to the Wylies, their accomplishments, their purposes,

and their prospects; and now having the floor as host, he talked

mainly about himself, his father, and their forthcoming Barrata Bridge

contract. It was his evident endeavor this evening to impress his

distinguished guests with the tremendous importance of the Atlantic

Bridge Company and its unsurpassed facilities for handling big jobs.

A large part of young Wylie's experience had been acquired by

manipulating municipal contracts and the aldermen connected therewith;

he now worked along similar lines. Hanford soon learned that he was

trying in every way possible to induce Drummond and his associates

to accompany him back to America for the purpose of proving

beyond peradventure that the Atlantic could take care of a

five-million-dollar contract with ease.

"As if they'd go!" Lowe said, softly. "And yet--by Jove! he talks as

if he had the job buttoned up."

The Englishman was alert, his dramatic instinct was at play;

recognizing the significance of Wylie's offer and its possible bearing

upon Hanford's fortunes, he waved the waiter away, knowing better than

to permit the rattle of dishes to distract his host's attention.

Meanwhile, with clenched teeth and smoldering eyes Henry Hanford heard

his rival in the next compartment identify the State of New Jersey by

the fact that the works of the Atlantic Bridge Company were located

therein, and dignify it by the fact that the Jackson Wylies lived


"You know, gentlemen," Wylie was saying, "I can arrange the trip

without the least difficulty, and I assure you there will be no

discomfort. I am in constant cipher communication with my father, and

he will be delighted to afford you every courtesy. I can fix it up by

cable in a day."

Hanford arose with a silent gesture to his guest, then, although the

meal was but half over, he paid the bill. He had closed his campaign.

Right then and there he landed the great Barrata Bridge contract.

Lowe, mystified beyond measure by his friend's action, made no comment

until they were outside. Then he exclaimed:

"I say, old top, what blew off?"

Hanford smiled at him queerly. "The whole top of young Wylie's head

blew off, if he only knew it. It's my day to settle that score, and

the interest will be compounded."

"I must be extremely stupid."

"Not at all. You're damned intelligent, and that's why I'm going to

need your help." Hanford turned upon the adventurer suddenly. "Have

you ever been an actor?"

Lowe made a comical grimace. "I say, old man, that's pretty rough. My

people raised me for a gentleman."

"Exactly. Come with me to my hotel. We're going to do each other a

great favor. With your help and the help of Mr. Jackson Wylie the

Second's London clerk, I'm going to land the Barrata Bridge."

Hanford had not read his friend Lowe awrong, and when, behind locked

doors, he outlined his plan, the big fellow gazed at him with

amazement, his blue eyes sparkling with admiration.

"Gad! That appeals to me. I--think I can do it." There was no timidity

in Lowe's words, merely a careful consideration of the risks involved.

Hanford gripped his hand. "I'll attend to Wylie's clerk," he declared.

"Now we'd better begin to rehearse."

"But what makes you so positive you can handle his clerk?" queried


"Oh, I've studied him the same way I've studied you! I've been doing

nothing else for the last month."

"Bli' me, you're a corker!" said Mr. Lowe.

* * * * *

Back in Newark, New Jersey, Jackson Wylie, Sr., was growing impatient.

In spite of his son's weekly reports he had begun to fret at the

indefinite nature of results up to date. This dissatisfaction it was

that had induced him to cable his invitation to the Royal Commission

to visit the Atlantic plant. Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had a mysterious

way of closing contracts once he came in personal contact with the

proper people. In the words of his envious competitors, he had "good

terminal facilities," and he felt sure in his own mind that he could

get this job if only he could meet some member of that Commission who

possessed the power to act. Business was bad, and in view of his son's

preliminary reports he had relied upon the certainty of securing this

tremendous contract; he had even turned work away so that his plant

might be ready for the rush, with the result that many of his men now

were idle and that he was running far below capacity. But he likewise

had his eye upon those English bonuses, and when his associates rather

timidly called his attention to the present state of affairs he

assured them bitingly that he knew his business. Nevertheless, he

could not help chafing at delay nor longing for the time to come to

submit the bid that had lain for a month upon his desk. The magnitude

of the figures contained therein was getting on Mr. Wylie's nerves.

On the tenth of May he received a cablegram in his own official cipher

which, translated, read:

Meet Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman Royal Barrata Bridge Commission,

arriving Cunard Liner Campania, thirteenth, stopping Waldorf.

Arrange personally Barrata contract. Caution.

The cablegram was unsigned, but its address, "Atwylie," betrayed not

only its destination, but also the identity of its sender. Mr. Jackson

Wylie, Sr., became tremendously excited. The last word conjured up

bewildering possibilities. He was about to consult his associates when

it struck him that the greatest caution he could possibly observe

would consist of holding his own tongue now and henceforth. They had

seen fit to criticize his handling of the matter thus far; he decided

he would play safe and say nothing until he had first seen Sir Thomas

Drummond and learned the lay of the land. He imagined he might then

have something electrifying to tell them. He had "dealt from the

bottom" too often, he had closed too many bridge contracts in his

time, to mistake the meaning of this visit, or of that last word


During the next few days Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had hard work to hold

himself in, and he was at a high state of nervous tension when, on

the morning of the fourteenth day of May, he strolled into the

Waldorf-Astoria and inquired at the desk for Sir Thomas Drummond.

There was no Sir Thomas stopping at the hotel, although a Mr. T.

Drummond from London had arrived on the Campania the day before. Mr.

Jackson Wylie placed the heel of his right shoe upon the favorite corn

of his left foot and bore down upon it heavily. He must be

getting into his dotage, he reflected, or else the idea of a

five-million-dollar job had him rattled. Of course Sir Thomas would

not use his title.

At the rear desk he had his card blown up through the tube to "Mr. T.

Drummond," and a few moments later was invited to take the elevator.

Arriving at the sixth floor, he needed no page to guide him; boots

pointed his way to the apartment of the distinguished visitor as plainly

as a lettered sign-board; boots of all descriptions--hunting-boots,

riding-boots, street shoes, lowshoes, pumps, sandals--black ones and tan

ones--all in a row outside the door. It was a typically English display.

Evidently Sir Thomas Drummond was a personage of the most extreme

importance and traveled in befitting style, Mr. Wylie told himself.

Nothing was missing from the collection, unless perhaps a pair of rubber


A stoop-shouldered old man with a marked accent and a port-wine nose

showed Mr. Wylie into a parlor where the first object upon which

his active eyes alighted was a mass of blue-prints. He knew these

drawings; he had figured on them himself. He likewise noted a hat-box

and a great, shapeless English bag, both plastered crazily with hotel

and steamship labels hailing from every quarter of the world. It was

plain to be seen that Sir Thomas was a globe-trotter.

"Mr. Drummond begs you to be seated," the valet announced, with what

seemed an unnecessary accent on the "mister," then moved silently out.

Mr. Wylie remarked to himself upon the value of discreet servants.

They were very valuable; very hard to get in America. This must be

some lifelong servitor in his lordship's family.

There was no occasion to inquire the identity of the tall, florid

Englishman in tweeds who entered a moment later, a bundle of estimates

in his hand. "Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman of the Royal Barrata

Bridge Commission," was written all over him in large type.

His lordship did not go to the trouble of welcoming his visitor, but

scanned him frigidly through his glasses.

"You are Mr. Jackson Wylie, Senior?" he demanded, abruptly.

"That is my name."

"President of the Atlantic Bridge Company, of Newark, New Jersey?"

"The same."

"You received a cablegram from your son in London?"

"Yes, your lordship."

Sir Thomas made a gesture as if to forego the title. "Let me see it,


Mr. Wylie produced the cablegram, and Drummond scanned it sharply.

Evidently the identification was complete.

"Does any one besides your son and yourself know the contents of this


"Not a soul."

"You have not told any one of my coming?"

"No, sir!"

"Very well." Sir Thomas appeared to breathe easier; he deliberately

tore the cablegram into small bits, then tossed the fragments into

a wastepaper basket before waving his caller to a chair. He still

remained very cold, very forceful, although his stiff formality had


"Do you understand all about this bridge?" he inquired.

Wylie senior took the cue of brusqueness and nodded shortly.

"Can you build it in the time specified?"

"With ease."

"Have you submitted your bid?"

"Not yet. I--"

"What is the amount of your proposal?"

The president of the Atlantic Bridge Company gasped. This was the

boldest, the coldest work he had ever experienced. Many times he had

witnessed public officials like Sir Thomas Drummond approach this

delicate point, but never with such composure, such matter-of-fact

certainty and lack of moral scruple. Evidently, however, this

Englishman had come to trade and wanted a direct answer. There was no

false pose, no romance here. But Jackson Wylie, Sr., was too shrewd a

business man to name a rock-bottom price to begin with. The training

of a lifetime would not permit him to deny himself a liberal leeway

for hedging, therefore he replied, cautiously:

"My figures will be approximately L1,400,000 sterling." It was his

longest speech thus far.

For what seemed an hour to the bridge-builder Sir Thomas Drummond

gazed at him with a cold, hard eye, then he folded his papers,

rolled up his blue-prints, placed them in the big traveling-bag, and

carefully locked it. When he had finished he flung out this question


"Does that include the Commissioners?"

Up to this point Mr. Jackson Wylie had spoken mainly in monosyllables;

now he quit talking altogether; it was no longer necessary. He merely

shook his head in negation. He was smiling slightly.

"Then I shall ask you to add L200,000 sterling to your price," his

lordship calmly announced. "Make your bid L1,600,000 sterling, and

mail it in time for Wednesday's boat. I sail on the same ship.

Proposals will be opened on the twenty-fifth. Arrange for an English

indemnity bond for ten per cent. of your proposition. Do not

communicate in any manner whatsoever with your son, except to forward

the sealed bid to him. He is not to know of our arrangement. You will

meet me in London later; we will take care of that L200,000 out of the

last forty per cent. of the contract price, which is payable thirty

days after completion, inspection, and acceptance of the bridge. You

will not consult your associates upon leaving here. Do I make myself

clear? Very well, sir. The figures are easy to remember: L1,600,000;

L1,400,000 to you. I am pleased with the facilities your plant offers

for doing the work. I am confident you can complete the bridge on

time, and I beg leave to wish you a very pleasant good day."

Jackson Wylie, Sr., did not really come to until he had reached

the street; even then he did not know whether he had come down the

elevator or through the mail-chute. Of one thing only was he certain:

he was due to retire in favor of his son. He told himself that

he needed a trip through the Holy Land with a guardian and a

nursing-bottle; then he paused on the curb and stamped on his corn for

a second time.

"Oh, what an idiot I am!" he cried, savagely. "I could have

gotten L1,600,000 to start with, but--by gad, Sir Thomas is the

coldest-blooded thing I ever went against! I--I can't help but admire


Having shown a deplorable lack of foresight, Mr. Wylie determined to

make up for it by an ample display of hindsight. If the profits on the

job were not to be so large as they might have been, he would at

least make certain of them by obeying instructions to the letter. In

accordance with this determination, he made out the bid himself, and

he mailed it with his own hand that very afternoon. He put three blue

stamps on the envelope, although it required but two. Then he called

up an automobile agency and ordered a foreign town-car his wife had

admired. He decided that she and the girls might go to Paris for the

fall shopping--he might even go with them, in view of that morning's


For ten days he stood the pressure, then on the morning of the

twenty-fourth he called his confreres into the directors' room, that

same room in which young Hanford had made his talk a number of years

before. Inasmuch as it was too late now for a disclosure to affect the

opening of the bids in London, he felt absolved from his promise to

Sir Thomas.

"Gentlemen, I have the honor to inform you," he began, pompously,

"that the Barrata Bridge is ours! We have the greatest structural

steel job of the decade." His chest swelled with justifiable pride.

"How? When? What do you mean?" they cried.

He told them of his mysterious but fruitful interview at the Waldorf

ten days previously, enjoying their expressions of amazement to the

full; then he explained in considerable detail the difficulties he had

surmounted in securing such liberal figures from Sir Thomas.

"We were ready to take the contract for L1,300,000, as you will

remember, but by the exercise of some diplomacy"--he coughed

modestly--"I may say, by the display of some firmness and

independence, I succeeded in securing a clean profit of $500,000 over

what we had expected." He accepted, with becoming diffidence, the

congratulations which were showered upon him. Of course, the news

created a sensation, but it was as nothing to the sensation that

followed upon the receipt of a cablegram the next day which read:


Newark, New Jersey.

Terrible mistake somewhere. We lost. Am coming home to-day.

Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., also went home that day--by carriage, for,

after raving wildly of treachery, after cursing the name of some

English nobleman, unknown to most of the office force, he collapsed,

throwing his employees into much confusion. There were rumors of

an apoplectic stroke; some one telephoned for a physician; but the

president of the Atlantic Bridge Company only howled at the latter

when he arrived.

What hit the old man hardest was the fact that he could not explain to

his associates--that he could not even explain to himself, for that

matter. He could make neither head nor tail of the affair; his son was

on the high seas and could not be reached; the mystery of the whole

transaction threatened to unseat his reason. Even when his sorrowing

heir arrived, a week after the shock, the father could gather nothing

at first except the bare details.

All he could learn was that the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission

had met on the twenty-fifth day of May, for the second time in its

history, with Sir Thomas Drummond in the chair. In the midst of an

ultra-British solemnity the bids had been opened and read--nine of

them--two Belgian, one German, two French, one English, one Scottish,

and two American.

The only proposals that conformed to the specifications in every

respect were the last named. They were perfect. The Atlantic Bridge

Company, of Newark, New Jersey, offered to do the work as specified

for L1,600,000 sterling. The Patterson Bridge Company, through its

authorized agent, Mr. Henry Hanford, named a price of L1,550,000. The

rest was but a matter of detail.

Having concluded this bald recital, Jackson Wylie, the Second, spread

his hands in a gesture of despair. "I can't understand it," he said,

dolefully. "I thought I had it cinched all the time."

"You had it cinched!" bellowed his father. "You! Why, you ruined

it all! Why in hell did you send him over here?"

"I? Send who? What are you talking about?"

"That man with the boots! That lying, thieving scoundrel, Sir Thomas

Drummond, of course."

The younger Wylie's face showed blank, uncomprehending amazement. "Sir

Thomas Drummond was in London all the time I was there. I saw him

daily," said he.

Not until this very moment did the president of the Atlantic Bridge

Company comprehend the trap he had walked into, but now the whole

hideous business became apparent. He had been fooled, swindled, and in

a way to render recourse impossible; nay, in a manner to blacken his

reputation if the story became public. He fell actually ill from the

passion of his rage and not even a long rest from the worries of

business completely cured him. The bitter taste of defeat would not

down. He might never have understood the matter thoroughly had it not

been for a missive he received one day through the mail. It was a bill

from a London shoe-store for twelve pairs of boots, of varying styles,

made out to Henry Hanford, and marked "paid."

Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., noted with unspeakable chagrin that the last

word was heavily under-scored in ink, as if by another hand. Hanford's

bill was indeed paid, and with interest to date.

With Bridges Burned With Malice Aforethought facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail