"I?" ejaculated Mr. Hepplewhite. "Mercy, no! Take him away as quickly as possible!"
"As you say, sir," wheezed the captain. "Come along, boys! Take him over to court and arraign him!"
"Yes, do!" urged Mrs. Witherspoon. "And arraign him as hard as you can; for he really frightened me nearly to death, the terrible man!"
"Leave him to me, ma'am!" adjured the captain "Will you have your butler act as complainant sir?" he asked.
"Why—yes—Bibby will do whatever is proper," agreed Mr. Hepplewhite. "It will not be necessary for me to go to court, will it?"
"Oh, no!" answered the captain. "Mr. Bibby will do all right. I suppose we had better make the charge burglary, sir?"
"I suppose so," replied Mr. Hepplewhite vaguely.
"Get on, boys," ordered the captain. "Good evening, sir. Good evening, ma'am. Step lively, you!"
The blue cloud faded away, bearing with it both Bibby and the burglar. Then the third footman brought the belated tea.
"What a frightful thing to have happen!" grieved Mrs. Witherspoon as she poured out the tea for Mr. Hepplewhite. "You don't take cream, do you?"
"No, thanks," he answered. "I find too much cream hard to digest. I have to be rather careful, you know. By the way, you haven't told me where the burglar was or what he was doing when you went into the room."
"He was in the bed," said Mrs. Witherspoon.
* * * * *
"In the 'Decay of Lying,' Mr. Tutt," said Tutt thoughtfully, as he dropped in for a moment's chat after lunch, "Oscar Wilde says, 'There is no essential incongruity between crime and culture.'"
The senior partner removed his horn-rimmed spectacles and carefully polished the lenses with a bit of chamois, which he produced from his watch pocket, meanwhile resting the muscles of his forehead by elevating his eyebrows until he somewhat resembled an inquiring but good-natured owl.
"That's plain enough," he replied. "The most highly cultivated people are often the most unscrupulous. I go Oscar one better and declare that there is a distinct relationship between crime and progress!"
"You don't say, now!" ejaculated Tutt. "How do you make that out?"
Mr. Tutt readjusted his spectacles and slowly selected a stogy from the bundle in the dusty old cigar box.
"Crime," he announced, "is the violation of the will of the majority as expressed in the statutes. The law is wholly arbitrary and depends upon public opinion. Acts which are crimes in one century or country become virtues in another, and vice versa. Moreover, there is no difference, except one of degree, between infractions of etiquette and of law, each of which expresses the feelings and ideas of society at a given moment. Violations of good taste, manners, morals, illegalities, wrongs, crimes—they are all fundamentally the same thing, the insistence on one's own will in defiance of society as a whole. The man who keeps his hat on in a drawing-room is essentially a criminal because he prefers his own way of doing things to that adopted by his fellows."
"That's all right," answered Tutt. "But how about progress?"
"Why, that is simple," replied his partner. "The man who refuses to bow to habit, tradition, law—who thinks for himself and acts for himself, who evolves new theories, who has the courage of his convictions and stakes his life and liberty upon them—that man is either a statesman, a prophet or a criminal. And in the end he is either hailed as a hero and a liberator or is burned, cast into prison or crucified."
Tutt looked interested.
"Well, now," he returned, helping himself from the box, "I never thought of it, but, of course, it's true. Your proposition is that progress depends on development and development depends on new ideas. If the new idea is contrary to those of society it is probably criminal. If its inventor puts it across, gets away with it, and persuades society that he is right he is a leader in the march of progress. If he fails he goes to jail. Hence the relationship between crime and progress. Why not say that crime is progress?"
"If successful it is," answered Mr. Tutt. "But the moment it is successful it ceases to be crime."
"I get you," nodded Tutt. "Here to-day it is a crime to kill one's grandmother; but I recall reading that among certain savage tribes to do so is regarded as a highly virtuous act. Now if I convince society that to kill one's grandmother is a good thing it ceases to be a crime. Society has progressed. I am a public benefactor."
"And if you don't persuade society you go to the chair," remarked Mr. Tutt laconically.
"To use another illustration," exclaimed Tutt, warming to the subject, "the private ownership of property at the present time is recognized and protected by the law, but if we had a Bolshevik government it might be a crime to refuse to share one's property with others."
"In that case if you took your share of another's property by force, instead of being a thief you would be a Progressive," smiled his partner.
Tutt robbed his forehead.
"Looking at it that way, you know," said he, "makes it seem as if criminals were rather to be admired."
"Well, some of them are, and a great multitude of them certainly were," answered Mr. Tutt. "All the early Christian martyrs were criminals in the sense that they were law-breakers."
"And Martin Luther," suggested Tutt.
"And Garibaldi," added Mr. Tutt.
"And George Washington—maybe?" hazarded the junior partner.
Mr. Tutt shrugged his high shoulders.
"You press the analogy a long way, but—in a sense every successful revolutionist was in the beginning a criminal—as every rebel is and perforce must be," he replied.
"So," said Tutt, "if you're a big enough criminal you cease to be a criminal at all. If you're going to be a crook, don't be a piker—it's too risky. Grab everything in sight. Exterminate a whole nation, if possible. Don't be a common garden highwayman or pirate; be a Napoleon or a Willy Hohenzollern."
"You have the idea," replied Mr. Tutt. "Crime is unsuccessful defiance of the existing order of things. Once rebellion rises to the dignity of revolution murder becomes execution and the murderers become belligerents. Therefore, as all real progress involves a change in or defiance of existing law, those who advocate progress are essentially criminally minded, and if they attempt to secure progress by openly refusing to obey the law they are actual criminals. Then if they prevail, and from being in the minority come into power, they are taken out of jail, banquets are given in their honor, and they are called patriots and heroes. Hence the close connection between crime and progress."
Tutt scratched his chin doubtfully.
"That sounds pretty good," he admitted, "but"—and he shook his head—"there's something the matter with it. It doesn't work except in the case of crimes involving personal rights and liberties. I see your point that all progressives are criminals in the sense that they are 'agin the law' as it is, but—I also see the hole in your argument, which is that the fact that all progressives are criminals doesn't make all criminals progressive. Your proposition is only a half truth."
"You're quite wrong about my theory being a half truth," retorted Mr. Tutt. "It is fundamentally sound. The fellow who steals a razor or a few dollars is regarded as a mean thief, but if he loots a trust company or takes a million he's a financier. The criminal law, I maintain, is administered for the purpose of protecting the strong from the weak, the successful from the unsuccessful the rich from the poor. And, sir"—Mr. Tutt here shook his fist at an imaginary jury—"the man who wears a red necktie in violation of the taste of his community or eats peas with his knife is just as much a criminal as a man who spits on the floor when there's a law against it. Don't you agree with me?"
"I do not!" replied Tutt. "But that makes no difference. Nevertheless what you say about the criminal law being devised to protect the rich from the poor interests me very much—very much indeed But I think there's a flaw in that argument too, isn't there? Your proposition is true only to the extent that the criminal law is invoked to protect property rights—and not life and liberty. Naturally the laws that protect property are chiefly of benefit to those who have it—the rich."
"However that may be," declared Mr. Tutt fiercely, "I claim that the criminal laws are administered, interpreted and construed in favor of the rich as against the liberties of the poor, for the simple reason that the administrators of the criminal law desire to curry favor with the powers that be."
"The moral of which all is," retorted the other, "that the law ought to be very careful about locking up people."
"At any rate those who have violated laws upon which there can be a legitimate difference of opinion," agreed Mr. Tutt.
"That's where we come in," said Tutt. "We make the difference—even if there never was any before."
Mr. Tutt chuckled.
"We perform a dual service to society," he declared. "We prevent the law from making mistakes and so keep it from falling into disrepute, and we show up its weak points and thus enable it to be improved."
"And incidentally we keep many a future statesman and prophet from going to prison," said Tutt. "The name of the last one was Solomon Rabinovitch—and he was charged with stealing a second-hand razor from a colored person described in the papers as one Morris Cohen."
How long this specious philosophic discussion would have continued is problematical had it not been interrupted by the entry of a young gentleman dressed with a somewhat ostentatious elegance, whose wizened face bore an expression at once of vast good nature and of a deep and subtle wisdom.
It was clear that he held an intimate relationship to Tutt & Tutt from the familiar way in which he returned their cordial, if casual, salutations.
"Well, here we are again," remarked Mr. Doon pleasantly, seating himself upon the corner of Mr. Tutt's desk and spinning his bowler hat upon the forefinger of his left hand. "The hospitals are empty. The Tombs is as dry as a bone. Everybody's good and every day'll be Sunday by and by."
"How about that man who stole a razor?" asked Tutt.
"Discharged on the ground that the fact that he had a full beard created a reasonable doubt," replied Doon. "Honestly there's nothing doing in my line—unless you want a tramp case."
"A tramp case!" exclaimed Tutt & Tutt.
"I suppose you'd call it that," he answered blandly. "I don't think he was a burglar. Anyhow he's in the Tombs now, shouting for a lawyer. I listened to him and made a note of the case."
Mr. Tutt pushed over the box of stogies and leaned back attentively.
"You know the Hepplewhite house up on Fifth Avenue—that great stone one with the driveway?"
The Tutts nodded.
"Well, it appears that the prisoner—our prospective client—was snooping round looking for something to eat and found that the butler had left the front door slightly ajar. Filled with a natural curiosity to observe how the other half lived, he thrust his way cautiously in and found himself in the main hall—hung with tapestry and lined with stands of armor. No one was to be seen. Can't you imagine him standing there in his rags—the Weary Willy of the comic supplements—gazing about him at the objets d'art, the old masters, the onyx tables, the statuary—wondering where the pantry was and whether the housekeeper would be more likely to feed him or kick him out?"
"Weren't any of the domestics about?" inquired Tutt.
"Not one. They were all taking an afternoon off, except the third assistant second man who was reading 'The Pilgrim's Progress' in the servants' hall. To resume, our friend was not only very hungry, but very tired. He had walked all the way from Yonkers, and he needed everything from a Turkish bath to a manicuring. He had not been shaved for weeks. His feet sank almost out of sight in the thick nap of the carpets. It was quiet, warm, peaceful in there. A sense of relaxation stole over him. He hated to go away, he says, and he meditated no wrong. But he wanted to see what it was like upstairs.
"So up he went. It was like the palace of 'The Sleeping Beauty.' Everywhere his eyes were soothed by the sight of hothouse plants, marble floors, priceless rugs, luxurious divans—"
"Stop!" cried Tutt. "You are making me sleepy!"
"Well, that's what it did to him. He wandered along the upper hall, peeking into the different rooms, until finally he came to a beautiful chamber finished entirely in pink silk. It had a pink rug—of silk; the furniture was upholstered in pink silk, the walls were lined with pink silk and in the middle of the room was a great big bed with a pink silk coverlid and a canopy of the same. It seemed to him that that bed must have been predestined for him. Without a thought for the morrow he jumped into it, pulled the coverlid over his head and went fast asleep.
"Meanwhile, at tea time Mrs. De Lancy Witherspoon arrived for the week-end. Bibby, the butler, followed by Stocking, the second man, bearing the hand luggage, escorted the guest to the Bouguereau Room, as the pink-silk chamber is called."
Mr. Bonnie Doon, carried away by his own powers of description, waved his hand dramatically at the old leather couch against the side wall, in which Weary Willy was supposed to be reclining.
"Can't you see 'em?" he declaimed. "The haughty Bibby with nose in air, preceding the great dame of fashion, enters the pink room and comes to attention, 'This way, madam!' he declaims, and Mrs. Witherspoon sweeps across the threshold." Bonnie Doon, picking up an imaginary skirt, waddled round Mr. Tutt and approached the couch. Suddenly he started back.
"Oh, la, la!" he half shrieked, dancing about. "There is a man in the bed!"
Both Tutts stared hard at the couch as if fully expecting to see the form of Weary Willy thereon. Bonnie Doon had a way of making things appear very vivid.
"And sure enough," he concluded, "there underneath the coverlid in the middle of the bed was a huddled heap with a stubby beard projecting like Excalibur from a pink silk lake!"
"Excuse me," interrupted Tutt. "But may I ask what this is all about?"
"Why, your new case, to be sure," grinned Bonnie, who, had he been employed by any other firm, might have run the risk of being regarded as an ambulance chaser. "To make a long and tragic story short, they sent for the watchman, whistled for a policeman, telephoned for the hurry-up wagon, and haled the sleeper away to prison—where he is now, waiting to be tried."
"Tried!" ejaculated Mr. Tutt. "What for?"
"For crime, to be sure," answered Mr. Doon.
"I don't know. They'll find one, of course."
Mr. Tutt swiftly lowered his legs from the desk and brought his fist down upon it with a bang.
"Outrageous! What was I just telling you, Tutt!" he cried, a flush coming into his wrinkled face. "This poor man is a victim of the overzealousness which the officers of the law exhibit in protecting the privileges and property of the rich. If John De Puyster Hepplewhite fell asleep in somebody's vestibule the policeman on post would send him home in a cab; but if a hungry tramp does the same thing he runs him in. If John De Puyster Hepplewhite should be arrested for some crime they would let him out on bail; while the tramp is imprisoned for weeks awaiting trial, though under the law he is presumed to be innocent. Is he presumed to be innocent? Not much! He is presumed to be guilty, otherwise he would not be there. But what is he presumed to be guilty of? That's what I want to know! Just because this poor man—hungry, thirsty and weary—happened to select a bed belonging to John De Puyster Hepplewhite to lie on he is thrown into prison, indicted by a grand jury, and tried for felony! Ye gods! 'Sweet land of liberty!'"
"Well, he hasn't been tried yet," replied Bonnie Doon. "If you feel that way about it why don't you defend him?"
"I will!" shouted Mr. Tutt, springing to his feet. "I'll defend him and acquit him!"
He seized his tall hat, placed it upon his head and strode rapidly through the door.
"He will too!" remarked Bonnie, winking at Tutt.
"He thinks that tramp is either a statesman or a prophet!" mused Tutt, his mind reverting to his partner's earlier remarks.
"He won't think so after he's seen him," replied Mr. Doon.
It sometimes happens that those who seek to establish great principles and redress social evils involve others in an involuntary martyrdom far from their desires. Mr. Tutt would have gone to the electric chair rather than see the Hepplewhite Tramp, as he was popularly called by the newspapers convicted of a crime, but the very fact that he had become his legal champion interjected a new element into the situation, particularly as O'Brien, Mr. Tutt's arch enemy in the district attorney's office, had been placed in charge of the case.
It would have been one thing to let Hans Schmidt—that was the tramp's name—go, if after remaining in the Tombs until he had been forgotten by the press he could have been unobtrusively hustled over the Bridge of Sighs to freedom. Then there would have been no comeback. But with Ephraim Tutt breathing fire and slaughter, accusing the police and district attorney of being trucklers to the rich and great, and oppressors of the poor—law breakers, in fact—O'Brien found himself in the position of one having an elephant by the tail and unable to let go.
In fact, it looked as if the case of the Hepplewhite Tramp might become a political issue. That there was something of a comic side to it made it all the worse.
"Holy cats, boys!" snorted District Attorney Peckham to the circle of disgruntled police officers and assistants gathered about him on the occasion described by the reporters as his making a personal investigation of the case, "Why in the name of common sense didn't you simply boot the fellow into the street?"
"I wish we had, counselor!" assented the captain of the Hepplewhite precinct mournfully. "But we thought he was a burglar. I guess he was, at that—and it was Mr. Hepplewhite's house."
"I've heard that until I'm sick of it!" retorted Peckham.
"One thing is sure—if we turn him out now Tutt will sue us all for false arrest and put the whole administration on the bum," snarled O'Brien.
"But I didn't know the tramp would get Mr. Tutt to defend him," expostulated the captain. "Anyhow, ain't it a crime to go to sleep in another man's bed?"
"If it ain't it ought to be!" declared his plain-clothes man sententiously. "Can't you indict him for burglary?"
"You can indict all day; the thing is to convict!" snapped Peckham. "It's up to you, O'Brien, to square this business so that the law is vindicated—somehow It must be a crime to go into a house on Fifth Avenue and use it as a hotel. Why, you can't cross the street faster than a walk these days without committing a crime. Everything's a crime."
"Sure thing," agreed the captain. "I never yet had any trouble finding a crime to charge a man with, once I got the nippers on him."
"That's so," interjected the plain-clothes man. "Did you ever know it was a crime to mismanage a steam boiler? Well, it is."
"Quite right," agreed Mr. Magnus, the indictment clerk. "The great difficulty for the perfectly honest man nowadays is to avoid some act or omission which the legislature has seen fit to make a crime without his knowledge. Refilling a Sarsaparilla bottle, for instance, or getting up a masquerade ball or going fishing or playing on Sunday or loitering about a building to overhear what people are talking about inside—"
"That's no crime," protested the captain scornfully.
"Yes, it is too!" retorted Mr. Magnus, otherwise known to his fellows as Caput, because of his supposed cerebral inflation. "Just like it is a crime to have any kind of a show or procession on Sunday except a funeral, in which case it's a crime to make a disbursing noise at it."
"What's a disbursing noise?" demanded O'Brien.
"I don't know," admitted Magnus. "But that's the law anyway. You can't make a disbursing noise at a funeral on Sunday."
"Oh, hell!" ejaculated the captain. "Come to think of it, it's a crime to spit. What man is safe?"
"It occurs to me," continued Mr. Magnus thoughtfully, "that it is a crime under the law to build a house on another man's land; now I should say that there was a close analogy between doing that and sleeping in his bed."
"Hear! Hear!" commented O'Brien. "Caput Magnus, otherwise known as Big Head, there is no doubt but that your fertile brain can easily devise a way out of our present difficulty."
"Well, I've no time to waste on tramp cases," remarked District Attorney Peckham. "I've something more important to attend to. Indict this fellow and send him up quick. Charge him with everything in sight and trust in the Lord. That's the only thing to be done. Don't bother me about it, that's all!"
Meantime Mr. Hepplewhite became more and more agitated. Entirely against his will and, so far as he could see, without any fault of his own, he suddenly found himself the center of a violent and acrimonious controversy respecting the fundamental and sacred rights of freemen which threatened to disrupt society and extinguish the supremacy of the dominant local political organization.
On the one hand he was acclaimed by the conservative pulpit and press as a public-spirited citizen who had done exactly the right thing—disinterestedly enforced the law regardless of his own convenience and safety as a matter of principle and for the sake of the community—a moral hero; on the other, though he was president of several charitable organizations and at least one orphan asylum he was execrated as a heartless brute, an oppressor of the poor, an octopus, a soulless capitalist who fattened on the innocent and helpless and who—Mr. Hepplewhite was a bachelor—probably if the truth could be known lived a life of horrid depravity and crime.
Indeed there was a man named Tutt, of whom Mr. Hepplewhite had never before heard, who publicly declared that he, Tutt, would show him, Hepplewhite, up for what he was and make him pay with his body and his blood, to say nothing of his money, for what he had done and caused to be done. And so Mr. Hepplewhite became even more agitated, until he dreamed of this Tutt as an enormous bird like the fabled roc, with a malignant face and a huge hooked beak that some day would nip him in the abdomen and fly, croaking, away with him. Mrs. Witherspoon had returned to Aiken, and after the first flood of commiserations from his friends on Lists Numbers One, Two, Three and Four he felt neglected, lonely and rather fearful.
And then one morning something happened that upset his equanimity entirely. He had just started out for a walk in the park when a flashy person who looked like an actor walked impudently up to him and handed him a piece of paper in which was wrapped a silver half dollar. In a word Mr. Hepplewhite was subpoenaed and the nervous excitement attendant upon that operation nearly caused his collapse. For he was thereby commanded to appear before the Court of General Sessions of the Peace upon the following Monday at ten a.m. as a witness in a criminal action prosecuted by the People of the State of New York against Hans Schmidt. Moreover, the paper was a dirty-brown color and bore the awful name of Tutt. He returned immediately to the house and telephoned for Mr. Edgerton, his lawyer, who at once jumped into a taxi on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets and hurried uptown.
"Edgerton," said Hepplewhite faintly as the lawyer entered his library, "this whole unfortunate affair has almost made me sick. I had nothing to do with the arrest of this man Schmidt. The police did everything. And now I'm ordered to appear as a witness! Why, I hardly looked at the man. I shouldn't know him if I saw him. Do I have to go to court?"
Mr. Edgerton smiled genially in a manner which he thought would encourage Mr. Hepplewhite.
"I suppose you'll have to go to court. You can't help that, you know, if you've been subpoenaed. But you can't testify to anything that I can see. It's just a formality."
"Formality!" groaned his client. "Well, I supposed the arrest was just a formality."
Mr. Edgerton smiled again rather unconvincingly.
"Well, you see, you can't always tell what will happen when you once start something," he began.
"But I didn't start anything," answered Mr. Hepplewhite. "I had nothing to say about it."
At that moment Bibby appeared in the doorway.
"Excuse me, sir," he said. "There is a young man outside who asked me to tell you that he has a paper he wishes to serve on you—and would you mind saving him the trouble of waiting for you to go out?"
"Another!" gagged Mr. Hepplewhite.
"Yes, sir! Thank you, sir," stammered Bibby.
Mr. Hepplewhite looked inquiringly at Mr. Edgerton and rose feebly.
"He'll get you sooner or later," declared the lawyer. "A man as well known as you can't avoid process."
Mr. Hepplewhite bit his lips and went out into the hall.
Presently he returned carrying a legal-looking bunch of papers.
"Well, what is it this time?" asked Edgerton jocosely.
"It's a suit for false imprisonment for one hundred thousand dollars!" choked Mr. Hepplewhite.
Mr. Edgerton looked shocked.
"Well, now you've got to convict him!" he declared.
"Convict him?" retorted Mr. Hepplewhite. "I don't want to convict him. I'd gladly give a hundred thousand dollars to get out of the—the—darn thing!"
Which was as near profanity as he had ever permitted himself to go.
* * * * *
Upon the following Monday Mr. Hepplewhite proceeded to court—flanked by his distinguished counsel in frock coats and tall hats—simply because he had been served with a dirty-brown subpoena by Tutt & Tutt; and his distress was not lessened by the crowd of reporters who joined him at the entrance of the Criminal Courts Building; or by the flashlight bomb that was exploded in the corridor in order that the evening papers might reproduce his picture on the front page. He had never been so much in the public eye before, and he felt slightly defiled. For some curious reason he had the feeling that he and not Schmidt was the actual defendant charged with being guilty of something; nor was this impression dispelled even by listening to the indictment by which the Grand Jury charged Schmidt in eleven counts with burglary in the first, second and third degrees and with the crime of entering his, Hepplewhite's, house under circumstances not amounting to a burglary but with intent to commit a felony, as follows:
"Therefore, to wit, on the eleventh day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and nineteen in the night-time of the said day at the ward, city and county aforesaid the dwelling house of one John De Puyster Hepplewhite there situate, feloniously and burglariously did break into and enter there being then and there a human being in said dwelling house, with intent to commit some crime therein, to wit, the goods, chattels, and personal property of the said John De Puyster Hepplewhite, then and there being found, then and there feloniously and burglariously to steal, take and carry away one silver tea service of the value of five hundred dollars and one pair of opera glasses of the value of five dollars each with force and arms——"
"But that silver tea service cost fifteen thousand dollars and weighs eight hundred pounds!" whispered Mr. Hepplewhite.
"Order in the court!" shouted Captain Phelan, pounding upon the oak rail of the bar, and Mr. Hepplewhite subsided.
Yet as he sat there between his lawyers listening to all the extraordinary things that the Grand Jury evidently had believed Schmidt intended to do, the suspicion began gradually to steal over him that something was not entirely right somewhere. Why, it was ridiculous to charge the man with trying to carry off a silver service weighing nearly half a ton when he simply had gone to bed and fallen asleep. Still, perhaps that was the law.
However, when the assistant district attorney opened the People's case to the jury Mr. Hepplewhite began to feel much more at ease. Indeed O'Brien made it very plain that the defendant had been guilty of a very grievous—he pronounced it "gree-vious"—offense in forcing his way into another man's private house. It might or might not be burglary—that would depend upon the testimony—but in any event it was a criminal, illegal entry and he should ask for a conviction. A man's house was his castle and—to quote from that most famous of orators and statesmen—Edmund Burke—"the wind might enter, the rain might enter, but the King of England might not enter!" Thus Schmidt could not enter the house of Hepplewhite without making himself amenable to the law.
Hepplewhite was filled with admiration for Mr. O'Brien, and his drooping spirits reared their wilted heads as the prosecutor called Bibby to the stand and elicited from him the salient features of the case. The jury was vastly interested in the butler personally, as well as his account rendered in the choicest cockney of how he had discovered Schmidt in his master's bed. O'Brien bowed to Mr. Tutt and told him that he might cross-examine.
And then it was that Mr. Hepplewhite discovered why he had been haunted by that mysterious feeling of guilt; for by some occult and subtle method of suggestion on the part of Mr. Tutt, the case, instead of being a trial of Schmidt, resolved itself into an attack upon Mr. Hepplewhite and his retainers and upon the corrupt minions of the law who had violated every principle of justice, decency and morality in order to accomplish the unscrupulous purposes of a merciless aristocrat—meaning him. With biting sarcasm, Mr. Tutt forced from the writhing Bibby the admission that the prisoner was sound asleep in the pink silk fastnesses of the Bouguereau Room when he was discovered that he made no attempt to escape, that he did not assault anybody and that he had appeared comatose from exhaustion; that there was no sign of a break anywhere, and that the pair of opera glasses "worth five dollars apiece"—Tutt invited the court's attention to this ingenuous phraseology of Mr. Caput Magnus, as a literary curiosity—were a figment of the imagination.
In a word Mr. Tutt rolled Bibby up and threw him away, while his master shuddered at the open disclosure of his trusted major-domo's vulgarity, mendacity and general lack of sportsmanship. Somehow all at once the case began to break up and go all to pot. The jury got laughing at Bibby, the footmen and the cops as Mr. Tutt painted for their edification the scene following the arrival of Mrs. Witherspoon, when Schmidt was discovered asleep, as Mr. Tutt put it, like Goldilocks in the Little, Small, Wee Bear's bed.
Stocking was the next witness, and he fared no better than had Bibby. O'Brien, catching the judge's eye, made a wry face and imperceptibly lowered his left lid—on the side away from the jury, thus officially indicating that, of course, the case was a lemon but that there was nothing that could be done except to try it out to the bitter end.
Then he rose and called out unexpectedly: "Mr. John De Puyster Hepplewhite—take the stand!"
It was entirely unexpected. No one had suggested that he would be called for the prosecution. Possibly O'Brien was actuated by a slight touch of malice; possibly he wanted to be able, if the case was lost, to accuse Hepplewhite of losing it on his own testimony. But at any rate he certainly had no anticipation of what the ultimate consequence of his act would be.
Mr. Hepplewhite suddenly felt as though his entire intestinal mechanism had been removed. But he had no time to take counsel of his fears. Everybody in the courtroom turned with one accord and looked at him. He rose, feeling as one who dreams; that he is naked in the midst of a multitude. He shrank back hesitating, but hostile hands reached out and pushed him forward. Cringing, he slunk to the witness chair, and for the first time faced the sardonic eyes of the terrible Tutt, his adversary who looked scornfully from Hepplewhite to the jury and then from the jury back to Hepplewhite as if to say: "Look at him! Call you this a man?"
"You are the Mr. Hepplewhite who has been referred to in the testimony as the owner of the house in which the defendant was found?" inquired O'Brien.
"Yes—yes," answered Mr. Hepplewhite deprecatingly.
"The first witness—Bibby—is in your employ?"
"Did you have a silver tea set of the value of—er—at least five hundred dollars in the house?"
"It was worth fifteen thousand," corrected Mr. Hepplewhite.
"Oh! Now, have you been served by the defendant's attorneys with a summons and complaint in an action for false arrest in which damages are claimed in the sum of one hundred thousand dollars?"
"I object!" shouted Mr. Tutt. "It is wholly irrelevant."
"I think it shows the importance of the result of this trial to the witness," argued O'Brien perfunctorily. "It shows this case isn't any joke—even if some people seem to think it is."
"Objection sustained," ruled the court. "The question is irrelevant. The jury is supposed to know that every case is important to those concerned—to the defendant as well as to those who charge him with crime."
"That's all. You may examine, Mr. Tutt."
The old lawyer slowly unfolded his tall frame and gazed quizzically down upon the shivering Hepplewhite.
"You have been sued by my client for one hundred thousand dollars, haven't you?" he demanded.
"Object!" shot out O'Brien.
"Overruled," snapped the court. "It is a proper question for cross-examination. It may show motive."
Mr. Hepplewhite sat helplessly until the shooting was over.
"Answer the question!" suddenly shouted Mr. Tutt.
"But I thought—" he began.
"Don't think!" retorted the court sarcastically. "The time to think has gone by. Answer!"
"I don't know what the question is," stammered Mr. Hepplewhite, thoroughly frightened.
"Lord! Lord!" groaned O'Brien in plain hearing of the jury.
Mr. Tutt sighed sympathetically in mock resignation.
"My dear sir," he began in icy tones, "when you had my client arrested and charged with being a burglar, had you made any personal inquiry as to the facts?"
"I didn't have him arrested!" protested the witness.
"You deny that you ordered Bibby to charge the defendant with burglary?" roared Mr. Tutt. "Take care! You know there is such a crime as perjury, do you not?"
"No—I mean yes," stuttered Mr. Hepplewhite abjectly. "That is, I've heard about perjury—but the police attended to everything for me."
"Aha!" cried Mr. Tutt, snorting angrily like the war horse depicted in the Book of Job. "The police 'attended' to my client for you, did they? What do you mean—for you? Did you pay them for their little attention?"
"I always send them something on Christmas," said Mr. Hepplewhite. "Just like the postmen."
Mr. Tutt looked significantly at the jury, while a titter ran round the court room.
"Well," he continued with patient irony, "what we wish to know is whether these friends of yours whom you so kindly remember at Christmas dragged the helpless man away from your house, threw him into jail and charged him with burglary by your authority?"
"I didn't think anything about it," asserted Hepplewhite "Really I didn't. I assumed that they knew what to do under such circumstances. I didn't suppose they needed any authority from me."
Mr. Tutt eyed sideways the twelve jurymen.
"Trying to get out of it, are you? Attempting to avoid responsibility? Are you thinking of what your position will be if the defendant is acquitted—with an action against you for one hundred thousand dollars?"
Ashamed, terrified, humiliated, Mr. Hepplewhite almost burst into tears. He had suffered a complete moral disintegration—did not know where to turn for help or sympathy. The whole world seemed to have risen against him. He opened his mouth to reply, but the words would not come. He looked appealingly at the judge, but the judge coldly ignored him. The whole room seemed crowded with a multitude of leering eyes. Why had God made him a rich man? Why was he compelled to suffer those terrible indignities? He was not responsible for what had been done—why then, was he being treated so abominably?
"I don't want this man punished!" he suddenly broke out in fervent expostulation. "I have nothing against him. I don't believe he intended to do any wrong. And I hope the jury will acquit him!"
"Oho!" whistled Mr. Tutt exultantly, while O'Brien gazed at Hepplewhite in stupefaction. Was this a man?
"So you admit that the charge against my client is without foundation?" insisted Mr. Tutt.
Hepplewhite nodded weakly.
"I don't know rightly what the charge is—but I don't think he meant any harm," he faltered.
"Then why did you have the police put him under arrest and hale him away?" challenged Mr. Tutt ferociously.
"I supposed they had to—if he came into my house," said Mr. Hepplewhite. Then he added shamefacedly: "I know it sounds silly—but frankly I did not know that I had anything to say in the matter. If your client has been injured by my fault or mistake I will gladly reimburse him as handsomely as you wish."
O'Brien gasped. Then he made a funnel of his hands and whispered toward the bench: "Take it away, for heaven's sake!"
"That is all!" remarked Mr. Tutt with deep sarcasm, making an elaborate bow in the direction of Mr. Hepplewhite. "Thank you for your excellent intentions!"
A snicker followed Mr. Hepplewhite as he dragged himself back to his seat among the spectators.
He felt as though he had passed through a clothes wringer. Dimly he heard Mr. Tutt addressing the court.
"And I move, Your Honor," the lawyer was paying, "that you take the counts for burglary in the first, second and third degrees away from the jury on the ground that there has been a complete failure of proof that my client broke into the house of this man Hepplewhite either by night or by day, or that he assaulted anybody or stole anything there, or ever intended to."
"Motion granted," agreed the judge. "I quite agree with you, Mr. Tutt. There is no evidence here of any breaking. In fact, the inferences are all the other way."
"I further move that you take from the consideration of the jury the remaining count of illegally entering the house with intent to commit a crime and direct the jury to acquit the defendant for lack of evidence," continued Mr. Tutt.
"But what was your client doing in the house?" inquired the judge. "He had no particular business in it, had he?"
"That does not make his presence a crime, Your Honor," retorted the lawyer. "A man is not guilty of a felony who falls asleep on my haycock. Why should he be if he falls asleep in my bed?"
The judge smiled.
"We have no illegal entry statute with respect to fields or meadows, Mr. Tutt," he remarked good-naturedly. "No, I shall be obliged to let the jury decide whether this defendant went into that house for an honest or dishonest purpose. It is clearly a proper question for them to pass upon. Proceed with your case."
Now when, as in the case of the Hepplewhite Tramp, the chief witness for the prosecution throws up his hands and offers to repay the defendant for the wrong he has done him, naturally it is all over but the shouting.
"There is no need for me to call the defendant," Mr. Tutt told the court, "in view of the admissions made by the last witness. I am ready to proceed with the summing up."
"As you deem wise," answered the judge. "Proceed then."
Through a blur of sight and sound Mr. Hepplewhite dimly heard Mr. Tutt addressing the jury and saw them lean forward to catch his every word.
Beside him Mr. Edgerton was saying protestingly: "May I ask why you made those fool statements on the witness stand?"
"Because I didn't want an innocent man convicted," returned Mr. Hepplewhite tartly.
"Well, you'll get your wish!" sniffed his lawyer. "And you'll get soaked for about twenty thousand dollars for false arrest!"
"I don't care," retorted the client. "And what's more I hope Mr. Tutt gets a substantial fee out of it. He strikes me as a lawyer who knows his business!"
The oldest and fattest court officers, men so old and fat that they remembered the trial of Boss Tweed and the days when Delancey Nicoll was the White Hope of the Brownstone Court House—declared Mr. Tutt's summation was the greatest that ever they heard. For the shrewd old lawyer had an artist's hand with which he played upon the keyboard of the jury and knew just when to pull out the stops of the vox humana of pathos and the grand diapason of indignation and defiance. So he began by tickling their sense of humor with an ironic description of afternoon tea at Mr. Hepplewhite's, with Bibby and Stocking as chief actors, until all twelve shook with suppressed laughter and the judge was forced to hide his face behind the Law Journal; ridiculed the idea of a criminal who wanted to commit a crime calmly going to sleep in a pink silk bed in broad daylight; and then brought tears to their eyes as he pictured the wretched homeless tramp, sick, footsore and starving, who, drawn by the need of food and warmth to this silk nest of luxury, was clubbed, arrested and jailed simply because he had violated the supposed sanctity of a rich man's home.
The jury watched him as intently as a dog watches a piece of meat held over its nose. They smiled with him, they wept with him, they glared at Mr. Hepplewhite and they gazed in a friendly way at Schmidt, whom Mr. Tutt had bailed out just before the trial. The very stars in their courses seemed warring for Tutt & Tutt. In the words of Phelan: "There was nothing to it!"
"Thank God," concluded Mr. Tutt eloquently, "that in this land of liberty in which we are privileged to dwell no man can be convicted of a crime except by a jury of his peers—a right sacred under our Constitution and inherited from Magna Charta, that foundation stone of English liberty, in which the barons forced King John to declare that 'No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed ... save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.'
"Had I the time I would demonstrate to you the arbitrary character of our laws and the inequality with which they are administered.
"But in this case the chief witness has already admitted the innocence of the defendant. There is nothing more to be said. The prosecution has cried 'Peccavi!' I leave my client in your hands."
He resumed his seat contentedly and wiped his forehead with his silk handkerchief. The judge looked down at O'Brien with raised eyebrows.
"I will leave the case to the jury on Your Honor's charge," remarked the latter carelessly.
"Gentlemen of the jury," began the judge, "the defendant is accused of entering the house of Mr. Hepplewhite with the intent to commit a crime therein—"
Mr. Hepplewhite sat, his head upon his breast, for what seemed to him several hours. He had but one thought—to escape. His ordeal had been far worse than he had anticipated. But he had made a discovery. He had suddenly realized that one cannot avoid one's duties to one's fellows by leaving one's affairs to others—not even to the police. He perceived that he had lived with his head stuck in the sand. He had tried to escape from his responsibilities as a citizen by hiding behind the thick walls of his stone mansion on Fifth Avenue. He made up his mind that he would do differently if he ever had the chance. Meanwhile, was not the jury ever going to set the poor man free?
They had indeed remained out a surprisingly long time in order merely to reach a verdict which was a mere formality. Ah! There they were! Mr. Hepplewhite watched with palpitating heart while they straggled slowly in. The clerk made the ordinary perfunctory inquiry as to what their verdict was. Mr. Hepplewhite did not hear what the foreman said in reply, but he saw both the Tutts and O'Brien start from their seats and heard a loud murmur rise throughout the court room.
"What's that!" cried the clerk in astonished tones. "What did you say, Mister Foreman?"
"I said that we find the defendant guilty," replied the foreman calmly.
Mr. Tutt stared incredulously at the twelve traitors who had betrayed him.
"Never mind, Mr. Tutt," whispered Number Six confidentially. "You did the best you could. Your argument was fine—grand—but nobody could ever make us believe that your client went into that house for any purpose except to steal whatever he could lay his hands on. Besides, it wasn't Mr. Hepplewhite's fault. He means well. And anyhow a nut like that has got to be protected against himself."
He might have enlightened Mr. Tutt further upon the psychology of the situation had not the judge at that moment ordered the prisoner arraigned at the bar.
"Have you ever been convicted before?" asked His Honor sharply.
"Sure," replied the Hepplewhite Tramp carelessly. "I've done three or four bits, I'm a burglar. But you can't give me more than a year for illegal entry."
"That is quite true," admitted His Honor stiffly. "And it isn't half enough!" He hesitated. "Perhaps under the circumstances you'll tell us what you were doing in Mr. Hepplewhite's bed?"
"Oh, I don't mind," returned the defendant with the superior air of one who has put something over. "When I heard the guy in the knee breeches coming up the stairs I just dove for the slats and played I was asleep."
Leaving the courthouse Mr. Tutt encountered Bonnie Doon.
"Young man," he remarked severely, "you assured me that fellow was only a harmless tramp!"
"Well," answered Bonnie, "that's what he said."
"He says now he's a burglar," retorted Mr. Tutt wrathfully. "I don't believe he knows what he is. Did you ever hear of such an outrageous verdict? With not a scrap of evidence to support it?"
Bonnie lit a cigarette doubtfully.
"Oh, I don't know," he muttered. "The jury seems to have sized him up rather better than we did."
"Jury!" growled Mr. Tutt, rolling his eyes heavenward. "'Sweet land of liberty!'"
"Ethics: The doctrine of man's duty in respect to himself and the rights of others." —CENTURY DICTIONARY.
"I don't say that all these people couldn't be squared; but it is right to tell you that I shouldn't be sufficiently degraded in my own estimation unless I was insulted with a very considerable bribe." —POOH-BAH.
"I've been all over those securities," Miss Wiggin informed Mr. Tutt as he entered the office one morning, "and not a single one of them is listed on the Stock Exchange."
"What securities are those?" asked her employer, hanging his tall hat on the antiquated mahogany coat tree in the corner opposite the screen that ambushed the washing apparatus. "I don't remember any securities," he remarked as he applied a match to the off end of a particularly green and vicious-looking stogy.
"Why, of course you do, Mr. Tutt!" insisted Miss Wiggin. "Don't you remember those great piles of bonds and stocks that Doctor Barrows left here with you to keep for him?"
"Oh, those!" Mr. Tutt smiled inscrutably. "Mr. Barrows is not a physician," he corrected her, running his eye over the General Sessions calendar. "He's only a 'doc'—that is to say, one who doctors. You know you can doctor a lot of things besides the human anatomy. No, I guess they're not listed on the Stock Exchange or anywhere else."
"Well, here's a schedule I made of them—Miss Sondheim typed it—and their total face value is seventeen million eight hundred thousand dollars. I tried to find out all I could, but none of the firms on Wall Street had ever heard of any of them—excepting of one that was traded in on the curb up to within a few weeks. There's Great Lakes and Canadian Southern Railway Company," she went on, "Chicago Water Front and Terminal Company, Great Geyser Texan Petroleum and Llano Estacado Land Company—dozens and dozens of them, and not one has an office or, so far as I can find out, any tangible existence—but the one I spoke of."
"Which is this great exception?" queried Mr. Tutt absently as he searched through the Law Journal for the case he was going to try that afternoon. "You said one of them had been dealt in on the curb? You astonish me!"
"It's got a funny name," she answered. "It almost sounds as if they meant it for a joke—Horse's Neck Extension."
"I guess they meant it for a joke all right—on the public," chuckled her employer. "How many shares are there?"
"A hundred thousand," she answered.
"Jumping Jehoshaphat!" ejaculated Mr. Tutt. "How on earth did old Doc manage to get hold of them?"
"It sold for only ten cents a share!" replied Miss Wiggin. "That would mean ten thousand dollars—"
"If Doc paid for it," supplemented Mr. Tutt. "Which he probably didn't. What's it selling for now?"
"It isn't selling at all."
Mr. Tutt pressed the button that summoned Willie.
"When you haven't anything better to do," he said to her, "why don't you go round and see what has become of—of—Horse's Neck Extension?"
"I will," assented Miss Wiggin. "It makes me feel rich just to talk about such things. I just love it."
"Many a slick crook has taken advantage of just that kind of feeling," mused Mr. Tutt. "There are two things that women—particularly trained nurses—seem to like better than anything else in the world—babies and stock certificates."
Then upon the arrival of the recalcitrant William he gathered up his papers and took down his hat from the tree.
"I wish you'd let me get your hat ironed, Mr. Tutt," remarked Miss Wiggin. "It would cost you only fifty cents."
"That's all you know about it, my dear," he answered. "More likely it would cost me a hundred thousand dollars."
* * * * *
Mr. Tobias Greenbaum, of Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck, carefully placed his cigar where it would not char his Italian Renaissance desk and smoothed out the list which Mr. Elderberry, the secretary of The Horse's Neck Extension Copper Mining Company, handed to him. The list was typed on thin sheets; of foolscap and contained the names of stockholders, but as it had lain rolled up in the bottom of Mr. Elderberry's desk for five years without being disturbed it was inclined to resist the gentle pressure of Mr. Greenbaum's fingers.
Mr. Greenbaum glanced sharply round the plate-glass lake that separated him from the other directors of Horse's Neck, rather as if he had detected his associates in a crime.
"Isaacs says," he announced in an arrogant, almost insulting tone, though below the surface he was an entirely genial person, "that the new vein in the Amphalula runs into the west drift of Horse's Neck almost to where we quit work in Number Nine five years ago."
"If it does it will make it a bonanza property," emphatically declared his partner, Mr. Scherer, a dolichocephalous person with very black hair and thin bluish cheeks. "It's a pity we didn't buy it all in at ten cents a share."
"We did!" retorted Greenbaum. "All that could be shaken out. We've got all the stock that hasn't gravitated to the cemeteries."
"Even if the Amphalula vein doesn't run into it it will come near enough to make Horse's Neck worth dollars per share. It's a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition," commented Mr. Hunn dryly. "Who controls Amphalula?"
"We do," snapped Greenbaum.
"Then it's a cinch," returned Hunn mildly. "Shake out the sleepers, reorganize, and sell or hold as seems most advisable later on."
Mr. Elderberry cleared his throat tentatively.
"If you gentlemen will pardon me—I have been considering this matter for some little time," he hazarded. Mr. Elderberry was not only the professional salaried secretary of Horse's Neck but was also treasurer of the Amphalula, and general factotum, representative and interlocking director for Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck in their various mining enterprises, combining in his person almost as many offices as, Pooh-Bah in "The Mikado." Though he could not have claimed to serve as "First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buck Hounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop of Titipu and Lord Mayor, both acting and elect, all rolled into one," he could with entire modesty have admitted the soft impeachment of being simultaneously treasurer of Amphalula, vice-president of Hooligan Gulch and Red Water, secretary of Horse's Neck, Holy Jo, Gargoyle Extension, Cowhide Number Five, Consolidated Bimetallic, Nevada Mastodon, Leaping Frog, Orelady Mine, Why Marry and Sol's Cliff Buttress, and president of Blimp Consolidated.
All these various properties were either owned or controlled by Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck and had been acquired with the use of the same original capital in various entirely legal ways, which at the present moment are irrelevant. The firm was a strictly honorable business house, from both their own point of view and that of the Street. Everything they did was with and by the advice of counsel. Yet not one of these active-minded gentlemen, including Mr. Greenbaum, the dolichocephalous Scherer and the acephalous Hunn, had ever done a stroke of productive work or contributed anything toward the common weal. In fact, distress to somebody in some form, and usually to a large number of persons, inevitably followed whatever deal they undertook, since their business was speculating in mining properties and unloading the bad ones upon an unsuspecting public which Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck had permitted to deceive itself.
Thus, when Greenbaum called upon Mr. Elderberry for advice, it savored strongly of Koko's consulting Pooh-Bah and was sometimes almost as confusing, for just as Pooh-Bah on these occasions was won't to reply, "Certainly. In which of my capacities? As First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chamberlain, Attorney-General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse or Private Secretary?" so the financial and corporate Elderberry might equally well ask: "Exactly. But are you seeking my advice as secretary of Horse's Neck, of Holy Jo, of Cowhide Number Five, or as vice-president of Hooligan Gulch and Red Water, treasurer of Amphalula or president of Blimp Consolidated?"
Just now it was, of course, obvious that he was addressing the company in his capacity of secretary of Horse's Neck.
"It goes without saying, gentlemen, that this property is pretty nearly down and out. You will recall that most of the insiders sold out on the tail of the Goldfield Boom and waited for the market to sag until we could buy in again. The mines are full of water, work was abandoned over four years ago, and the property is practically defunct. The original capitalization was ten million shares at one dollar a share. We own or control at least four million shares, for which we paid ten to fifteen cents, while we had sold our original holdings for one dollar sixty to one dollar ninety-five a share. While Horse's Neck represents a handsome profit—in my opinion"—he cleared his throat again as if deprecating the vulgarity of his phrase—"it is good for another whirl."
"You say it's full of water?" inquired Hunn.
"It will cost about fifty thousand dollars to pump out the mines and a hundred thousand to repair the machinery. Then there's quite an indebtedness—about seventy-five thousand; and tax liens—another fifty. Half a million dollars would put Horse's Neck on the map, and if the Amphalula vein crosses the property it will be worth ten millions. If it doesn't, the chance that it is going to will make a market for the stock."
Mr. Elderberry swept with a bland inquiring eye the shore of the glassy sea about which his associates were gathered.
"I've been over the ground," announced Greenbaum "and it's a good gamble. We want Horse's Neck for ourselves—at any rate until we are confident that it's a real lemon. Half a million will do it. I'll personally put up a hundred thousand."
"How are you going to get rid of the fifty thousand other stockholders?" asked Mr. Beck dubiously "We don't want them trailing along with us."
"I propose," answered Mr. Elderberry brightly, in his capacity as chief conspirator for Scherer, Hunn, et al., "that we organize a new corporation to be called 'Lallapaloosa Limited' and capitalize it at a million dollars—one million shares at a dollar a share. Then we will execute a contract between Horse's Neck and Lallapaloosa by the terms of which the old bankrupt corporation will sell to the new corporation all its assets for one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. We underwrite the stock of Lallapaloosa at fifty cents a share, thus supplying the new corporation with the funds with which to purchase the properties of the old. In a word we shall get Horse's Neck for a hundred and twenty-five thousand and have three hundred and seventy-five thousand left out of what we subscribe to underwrite the stock to put it on its feet."
"That's all right," debated Hunn. "But how about the other stockholders in Horse's Neck that Beck referred to? Where do they come in?"
"I've thought of that," returned Elderberry. "Of course you can't just squeeze 'em out entirely. That wouldn't be legal. They must be given the chance to subscribe at par to the stock of the new corporation on the basis of one share in the new for every ten they hold in the old; or, as Horse's Neck is a Delaware corporation, to have their old stock appraised under the laws of Delaware. In point of fact, they've all written off their holdings in Horse's Neck as a total loss years ago and you couldn't drag 'em into putting in any new money. They'll simply let it go—forfeit their stock in Horse's Neck and be wiped out because they were not willing to go in and reorganize the property with us."
"They would if they knew about Amphalula," remarked Beck.
"Well, they don't!" snapped Greenbaum, "and we're under no obligations to tell 'em. They can infer what they like from the fact that Horse's Neck has been selling for ten cents a share for the last three years."
"Is that right, Chippingham?" inquired Beck of the attorney who was in attendance. "I mean—is it legal?"
"Perfectly legal," replied Mr. Chippingham conclusively. "A corporation has a perfect right to dispose of its entire assets for a proper consideration and if any minority stockholder feels aggrieved he can take the matter to the Delaware courts and get his equity assessed. Besides, everybody is treated alike—all the stockholders in Horse's Neck can subscribe pro rata for Lallapaloosa."
"Only they won't," grinned Scherer.
"And so, as they are wiped out—the new corporation—that is us—in fact gets their equity, just as much as if they had deeded it to us."
"That is, we get for nothing about one-half the value of the property," agreed Elderberry. "Now, I've been over the list and I don't think you'll hear a peep from any of them."
"He's got 'em on the list—he's got 'em on the list; And they'll none of 'em be missed—they'll none of 'em be missed!"
hummed Mr. Beck. "It looks good to me! I'll take a hundred thousand."
"Mr. Chippingham has the papers drawn already," continued Elderberry. "Of course you've got to give the old stockholders notice, but we can rush the thing through and before anybody wakes up the thing will be done. Then they can holler all they want."
"Well, I'll come in," announced Hunn complacently.
"So will I," echoed Scherer. "And the firm can underwrite the last hundred thousand, and that will clean it up."
"Is it all right for us to underwrite the stock ourselves at half price?" inquired Mr. Beck. "I mean—is it legal?"
"Sure!" reiterated Mr. Chippingham. "Somebody's got to underwrite it; why not us?"
"Move we adjourn," said Mr. Greenbaum. "Elderberry—the usual."
Mr. Elderberry removed from his change pocket five glittering gold pieces and slid one across the glass sheet to each director.
"Second motion. Carried! All up—seventh inning!" smiled Mr. Scherer; and the directors, pocketing their gold pieces, arose.
If, as it has been defined, ethics consists of a "system of principles and rules concerning moral obligations and regard for the rights of others," it may be interesting to speculate as to whether or not these gentlemen had any or not, and, if so, what it may have been. But in considering this somewhat nice question it should be borne in mind that Messrs. Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck were bankers of standing, and were advised by a firm of attorneys of the highest reputation. On its face, and as it was about to be represented to the stockholders of Horse's Neck, the proposition appeared fair enough.
The circular, shortly after sent out to all the names upon the list, stated succinctly that financial and labor conditions had been such that it had been found impossible to operate the mine profitably for several years, that it had depreciated greatly in value owing to the water which had accumulated in its lower levels, that it had exhausted its surplus, that a heavy indebtedness had accumulated, that the corporation's outstanding notes had been protested and that the property would be sold under foreclosure unless money was immediately raised to pay them, the interest due and taxes; that half a million dollars was needed to put the property in operation and that there was no way to secure it, as nobody was willing to loan money to a bankrupt mining concern. That under these circumstances no practical method had been proposed except to organize a new corporation capitalized at one million instead of ten, to the stock of which each shareholder in Horse's Neck might subscribe in proportion to his holdings, at par, and to which the assets of the old corporation should be transferred practically for its debts. That this, in a word, was the only way to save the situation and possibly make a go of a bad business, and that it was a gamble in which the old stockholders had a right, up to a certain date, to participate if they saw fit. Those that did not would find their stock in Horse's Neck entirely valueless as it would have no assets left which had not been transferred to Lallapaloosa. Stockholders who were dissatisfied could protest against the enabling resolution to be offered at the annual meeting of the stockholders of Horse's Neck to be held the following week at Wilmington, Delaware, and could avail themselves of the right to have their equity assessed under the laws of Delaware, but as the liabilities practically equaled the present value of the property that equity would naturally be highly problematical.
Now, as a matter of morals or of law the only thing that made the proposed reorganization unethical or inequitable was the single trifling fact that those responsible for it were the only ones who knew of the existence and proximity of the Amphalula vein. When a mining company, a railroad, an oil well or any other enterprise is down and out it is only fair that the majority stockholders, who are obliged to protect their investment, should have the right to call upon the rest to come forward and do their share or else drop out. A minority stockholder cannot appeal to any canon of fair play whereby he should be entitled to sit back and let the majority take all the risks and then claim his share of the profits.
The imponderable element of injustice in the situation consisted in the suppression of a fact which the directors concealed but concerning which, however, they made no representation, false or otherwise. They were going to risk half a million dollars of their own money and they wanted the whole gamble for themselves. They sincerely felt that nobody else was entitled to take that risk with them. Once they had floated Horse's Neck they had come to look upon it as their own private affair. The minority had no rights which they, the majority, were bound to respect. The minority were nothing but a lot of piking gamblers, anyway, who bought or sold for a rise or fall of a few cents. They knew nothing of the property and cared less for its real value. They were merely traders and if they lost they forgot it or tried to. On the other hand Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck were promoters, who contributed something to the economic advancement of the nation.
* * * * *
"Regarding my hat, which you suggested this morning should be pressed at a cost of fifty cents," remarked Mr. Tutt to Miss Wiggin when he returned to the office upon the adjournment of court in the afternoon and replaced that ancient object in its accustomed resting-place —"regarding that precious hat of mine"—he eyed it affectionately —"I can only say that I would as soon send myself to a dry-cleaning establishment as to permit its profanation by the iron of a haberdasher."
Miss Wiggin laughed lightly.
"That doesn't explain your cryptic statement that it would probably cost you a hundred thousand dollars," she replied. "Still—"
Mr. Tutt turned suddenly upon his heel and held her with an upraised hand, the bony wrist of which was encircled, after an intervening space of some five inches, by a frayed cuff confined with a black onyx button the size of a quarter.
"Behold," he cried in the deep resonant voice that he used in addressing juries at the climax of a peroration, "the integuments of my personality—the ancient habiliments of an honorable profession—the panoply of the legal warrior. Here, my corslet"—he touched his dingy waistcoat with his left hand; "my greaves"—he brushed the baggy legs of his pantaloons; "my halberd"—he raised his old mahogany cane with its knot of yellow ivory; "my casque"—he indicated his ruffled stove-pipe "Arrayed in these I am Mr. Ephraim Tutt, attorney and counselor at law—the senior partner in Tutt & Tutt—a respected member of the bar duly accredited and authorized to practise before the Supreme Court of the State of New York, the Court of Appeals, the District Court of the United States, the Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of the United States, the Court of Claims—"
"—the Police Court and the Coroner's Court," concluded Miss Wiggin, making him a mock curtsy.
"Without these indicia of my profession and my individuality I should be like David without his sling or Samson without his hair. I should be merely Tutt, a criminal lawyer—one of a multitude—regarded perhaps as a shyster. But in these robes of my high office I am a high priest of the law; just as you, my dear girl, are one of its many devoted and worthy priestesses. Can you imagine me going to court in a bowler hat or arguing to the jury in a cutaway coat or bobtail business suit? Can you picture Ephraim Tutt with his hair cut short or in an Ascot tie, any more than you can envisage him in riding breeches or wearing lilacs? No! There is but one Mr. Tutt, and these are his only garments. He who steals my hat may steal trash, but without it I should be like a disembodied spirit unable to return to my earthly dwelling-place.
"A paltry hundred thousand?
"Nay, without my hat—my helmet!—I should be valueless to myself and everybody else; so estimate my worth and you can assay the value of my hat. What am I worth in your opinion?"
And then Miss Wiggin, having glanced cautiously if quickly round, made a most astonishing declaration.
"Just about a million times more than anybody else in the whole world, you old dear!" she whispered and rising upon her toes she kissed his wrinkled cheek.
"Dear me! You really mustn't do that!" gasped Mr. Tutt.
"Well," she retorted, "you can discharge me if you like. But first sit down, light a cigar and let me tell you something."
Mr. Tutt did as he was bid, chuckling.
"Well," said Miss Wiggin, "there is such a thing as Horse's Neck Extension after all!"
"Um—you don't say?" he answered, struggling to make his stogy draw.
"And it has an office with about a hundred other corporations of various kinds—most of them with names that sound like the zoo—Yellow Wildcat, Jumping Leapfrog, and that sort of thing. It seems Horse's Neck is played out and they are going to reorganize it—"
"Who are?" demanded her employer, suddenly sitting erect.
"Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck."
"The dickens they are!" he ejaculated. "That bunch of pirates? Not if I know it!"
"Reorganize! Reorganize? Reorganization is my middle name!" cried Mr. Tutt. "So Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck are going to reorganize something, are they? Let 'em try! Not so long as I've got my hat!"
"This is all very enigmatical to me," replied Miss Wiggin. "But then, I'm only a woman. Aren't they all right? Why shouldn't they reorganize a mine if it's exhausted?"
"If it's exhausted why do they want to reorganize it?" he demanded, climbing to his feet. "Let me tell you something, Minerva! All my life I've been fighting against tyranny—the tyranny of the law, the tyranny of power, the tyranny of money."
He drew fiercely on his stogy, which being desiccated flared like a Roman candle.
"You don't need to tell me what this plan of reorganization is; because they wouldn't propose one unless it was going to benefit them in some way, and the only way it can be made to benefit them is at the expense of the other stockholders. Quod erat demonstrandum."
Mr. Tutt seemed to have become distended somehow and to have spread over the entire wall surface of his office like the genie which the fisherman innocently permitted to escape from the bottle.
"There isn't one reorganization scheme in a hundred that isn't crooked somewhere."
"According to that, if a business is unsuccessful it ought to be allowed to go to pot for fear that somebody might make a profit in putting it on its feet," she countered. "I think you're a violent, irascible, prejudiced old man!"
"All the same," he retorted, "show me a reorganization scheme and I'll show you a flimflam! What's this one? Bet you anything you like it's as crooked as a ram's horn. I don't have to hear about it. Don't want to read the plan. But I'll bust it—higher than Hades. See if I don't!"
He spat the remaining filaments of his stogy from the window and fished out another.
"How do we come into it, anyhow?" he demanded.
"Doctor—I mean Mister Barrows," replied Miss Wiggin.
"Oh, yes. Of course. Well, you send for him to come down here and sign the papers."
"The complaint and order to show cause."
"But there isn't any."
"There will be, all right, by the time he gets here."
Miss Wiggin looked first puzzled and then pained.
"I don't understand," she said rather stiffly. "Do you mean that the firm of Tutt & Tutt is going to engage in the enterprise of trying to break up a plan of reorganization without knowing what it is? Won't you lay us all open to the accusation of being strikers?"
Mr. Tutt's ordinarily brown complexion became slightly tinged with purple.
"Let the court decide!" he cried hotly. "You say Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck are proposing to reorganize a mining company? You admit we hold some of the stock? Well—as the natural-born and perennial champion of the outraged minority—I'm going to attack it, and bust it, and raise heck with it—on general principles. I'm going to throw that damned old hat of mine into the ring, my child, and play hell with everything."
And with a cluck Mr. Tutt leaned over, produced a dingy bottle wrapped in a coat of many colors and poured himself out a glass of malt extract.
* * * * *
When Mr. Greenbaum was summoned to the telephone and informed by Mr. Elderberry in disgruntled tones that somebody had just served upon him an order to show cause why the proposed reorganization of Horse's Neck should not be set aside and enjoined, he not only became instantly annoyed but highly excited.
"What!" he almost screamed.
"I'll read it to you, if you don't believe it!" said Mr. Elderberry.
"'United States District Court, Southern District of New York, Edward V. Barrows, Complainant against Horse's Neck Extension Mining Company, Defendant.
"'Upon the subpoena herein and the complaint duly verified the nineteenth day of February, 1919, and the affidavit of Ephraim Tutt and—'"
"Who in hell is Tutt?" shouted Greenbaum, interrupting.
"I don't know," retorted Elderberry; "or Barrows either."
"Well, skip all the legal rot and get to the point," directed Greenbaum.
"'Ordered—ordered, that the defendant, Horse's Neck Extension Mining Company, show cause at a stated term to be held in and for—'"
"I said to cut the legal rot!"
"Um—um—'why an injunction order should not be issued herein pending the trial of this action and enjoining the defendant from disposing of its assets and for the appointment of a receiver of the assets of the defendant corporation; and why the complainant should not have such other, further and different relief as may be equitable.'"
There was a long pause during which Mr. Elderberry was under a convincing delusion that he could actually hear the thoughts that were rattling round in Mr. Greenbaum's brain.
"You there?" he inquired presently.
"Oh, yes, I'm here!" retorted Greenbaum. "This is the devil of a note! Have you spoken to Chippingham?"
"What does he say?"
"He says it's awkward. They have got hold somewhere of one of our old circulars of 1914 in which the property is described as worth about ten million dollars—that was during the boom, you remember—and they claim we are selling it to ourselves for less than one million and that on its face it's a fraud on the minority stockholders who can't afford to buy stock in the new corporation—as of course it would be if the mine was really worth ten million or anything like it."
"Did we really ever get out any circular like that?" demanded Greenbaum in a protesting voice. "I don't recall any."
"That was when we were making a market for the stock," Elderberry reminded him. "We couldn't say enough. Honestly, to look at the thing now is enough to make you sick!"
"Well, it's just a hold-up—that's what it is. Some crook like this Tutt or this Barrows has found out about Amphalula and is bringing a strike suit. You'll have to call a meeting right away. I'd like to strangle all these shyster lawyers!"
And it never occurred to Mr. Greenbaum that the possible existence of the Amphalula vein was what in fact made the order to show cause justifiable—his actual ground of complaint being that anybody should, as he assumed, have found out about it in defiance of his plans.
* * * * *
"Yeronner," said Attendant Mike Horan as he helped Judge Pollak into his black bombazine gown in his chambers in the old Post-Office Building on the morning of the return day, "there's a great bunch out there in the court room waitin' for ye, an' no mistake!"
"Indeed!" remarked His Honor. "And who are they? What is the case?"
"Hanged if I know," answered Mike, snipping a piece of fluff off his judgeship's shoulder. "There's a white-bearded old guy, two or three swell gents with tall hats, Counselor Tutt and an attorney named Chippingham, besides that pretty Miss Wiggin; and they ain't speakin' none to one another, neither."
"It must be that mining-reorganization case," answered the judge. "Well, it's time to go in."
They walked down the dirty marble corridor and entered the court room, while the clerk rapped on the railing.
"Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons having any business to do with the District Court of the United States draw near, give your attention and you will be heard," he intoned with unctuous authority.
The "bunch" rose and made obeisance.
"Good morning," said the judge pleasantly, sitting down with a side switch of the bombazine. "Barrows against the—er—er—Horse's Neck Mining Company. Do you represent the complainant, Mr. Tutt?"
"I do," answered Mr. Tutt with great dignity. "Your Honor, this is a motion for an order to show cause why an injunction pendente lite should not issue restraining the sale of the assets, of this corporation to another in fraud of its minority stockholders—and for a receiver. My client, an aged man living upon his farm in the northern part of the state, is the owner of one hundred thousand shares in the Horse's Neck Mining Company of the par value of one hundred thousand dollars. He has owned these securities for many years. They represent his entire capital. He is a bona fide stockholder—"
"May I be pardoned for interrupting?" sneered Chippingham, springing to his feet. "I think the court should be informed at the outset that this man, Barrows, is a notorious ex-convict."
Judge Pollak raised his eyebrows.
"This is an outrage!" thundered Mr. Tutt, his form rising ceilingward. "My client—like all of us—has had his misfortunes, but they are happily a thing of the past; he has the same rights as if he were an archbishop, the president of a university or—a judge of this honorable court."
"We are sitting in equity," remarked His Honor. "The question of bona fides is a vital one. Is the complainant an ex-convict?"
"This is the complainant, sir," cried Mr. Tutt, indicating old Doc, now for the first time in his life smartly arrayed in a new checked suit, red tie, patent-leather shoes and suede gloves, and with his beard neatly trimmed. "This is the unfortunate man whose honest savings of a lifetime are being wrested from him by an unscrupulous group of manipulators who—in my opinion—are more deserving of confinement behind prison walls than he ever was."
The gentlemen with the tall hats bit their lips and showed signs of poorly suppressed agitation.
"But is your client an ex-convict, Mr. Tutt?" repeated the judge quietly.
"Yes, Your Honor, he is."
"When and how did he become possessed of his stock?"
Mr. Tutt turned to Doc with an air of ineffectually striving to master his righteous indignation.
"Tell the court, Mr. Barrows," he cried, "in your own words."
Doc Barrows wonderingly rose.
"If you please, sir," he began, "it's quite a long story. You see, I was the owner of all the stock of The Chicago Water Front and Terminal Company—there was a flaw in the title deed which I can explain to you privately if you wish—and when I was—er—visiting—up on the Hudson—I met a man there who was the owner of a hundred thousand shares of Horse's Neck, and we agreed to exchange."
The judge tried to hide a slight smile.
"I see," he replied pleasantly. "And what was the man's name?"
"Oscar Bloom, sir."
The gentlemen with the tall hats exchanged agitated glances.
"Do you know how he got his stock?"
"That is all. Go on, Mr. Tutt."
Doc sat down while Mr. Tutt again unhooked his lank form.
"To resume where I was interrupted, Your Honor, the directors controlling a majority of the stock of this corporation, the capital of which is ten millions of dollars, have made a contract to sell all of its properties to another corporation, organized by themselves and capitalized for one million, for the sum of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars!
"It is true that in their plan of reorganization they offer to permit any stockholder in the old corporation to subscribe for stock in the new at par—thus at first glance placing all upon what seems to be an equality; but any stockholder who does not see fit to subscribe or cannot afford to do so is wiped out, for there will be nothing left in the way of assets in Horse's Neck after the transfer is completed.
"Now these gentlemen have underwritten the stock in the new Lallapaloosa Company at fifty cents upon the dollar, and if this nefarious deal is permitted to go through they will thus acquire a property worth ten millions for five hundred thousand dollars, of which they will use only one hundred and twenty-five thousand in payment of old indebtedness. In effect, they confiscate the equity of all the minority stockholders in Horse's Neck who cannot afford to subscribe for stock in Lallapaloosa." He turned upon the uncomfortable tall hats with an arraigning eye.
"In the criminal courts, Your Honor, such a conspiracy would be properly described as grand larceny; in Wall Street perchance it may be viewed as high finance. But so long as there are courts of equity such a wrong upon a helpless stockholder will not go unrebuked. Have I made myself clear to Your Honor?"
Judge Pollak looked interested. He was a man famous for his protection of helpless minorities and his court had been selected by Mr. Tutt on this account.
"If the facts are as you state them, Mr. Tutt," he answered seriously, "the plan on its face would seem to be inequitable. If the property is worth ten million the consideration is palpably inadequate. Your client's equity, worth on that basis at least one hundred thousand dollars, would be entirely destroyed without any redress."
"Your Honor," burst out Mr. Chippingham, whose bald head had been bobbing about in excited contiguity with the tall hats, "this is a most misleading statement. The assets of Horse's Neck aren't worth a hundred thousand dollars. And if any of the minority don't want to come into the reorganization—and I assure Your Honor that we would welcome their participation—they can have their equity appraised under the laws of Delaware and the finding becomes a lien on the assets even after they have been transferred."
"What relief does that give a man like Mr. Barrows?" shouted Mr. Tutt. "He can't afford to go down to Wilmington with a carload of books and a corps of experts to prove the value of Horse's Neck. It would cost him more than his stock is worth!"
"That remedy is not exclusive, in any event," declared the judge. "If this complainant is going to be defrauded I will enjoin this contract pendente lite and appoint a receiver."
"Your Honor!" protested Chippingham in great agony. "It is not the fact that this mine is worth ten million. It isn't worth at the most more than one hundred thousand. It is, full of water, the machinery is rusted and falling to pieces and the workings are practically exhausted. The only way to rehabilitate this property is for everybody to come in and put up enough money by subscribing to the stock of the new corporation to pump it out, buy new engines and start producing again. Is it fair to the majority, who are willing to go on, put up more money, and make an attempt to save the property, to have this complainant—an ex-convict who never paid a cent for his stock, dug up from heaven knows where—enjoin their contract and throw the corporation into the hands of a receiver? This is nothing but a strike suit. I repeat—a strike suit!"
He glowered breathless at his adversary.
"Oh! Oh!" groaned Mr. Tutt in horrified tones.
"Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" expostulated the court. "This will not do!"
"I beg pardon—of the court," stammered Mr. Chippingham.
"Your Honor," mourned Mr. Tutt, "I have practised here for thirty years and this is the first time I have ever been insulted in open court. A strike suit? I hold in my hand"—he waved it threateningly at the tall hats—"a circular issued by these directors less than five years ago, in which they give the itemized value of this property as ten million dollars. Shortly after that circular was issued the stock sold in the open market at one dollar and ninety cents a share. In two years it sank to ten cents a share. Will a little water, a little rust, a little trouble with labor reduce the value of a great property like this from ten millions of dollars to one hundred thousand—one per cent of its appraised value? Either"—he fixed Chippingham with an exultant and terrifying glance—"they were lying then or they are lying now!"
"Let me look at that circular," directed Judge Pollak. He took it from Mr. Tutt's eager hand, glanced through it and turned sharply upon the quaking Chippingham.
"How long have you been attorney for Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck?"
"Twelve years, Your Honor."
"Who is Wilson W. Elderberry?"
"He is the secretary of the Horse's Neck Extension, Your Honor."
"Is he in court?"
From a distant corner Mr. Elderberry bashfully rose.
"Come here!" ordered the court. And the Pooh-Bah of the Scherer-Hunn-Greenbaum-Beck enterprises came cringing to the bar.
"Did you sign this circular in 1914?" demanded Judge Pollak.
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Were the statements contained in it true?"
"Ye-es, Your Honor. That is—they were to the best of my knowledge and belief. I was, of course, obliged to take what information was at hand—and—er—and—"
"Did you sign the other circular, issued last month, to the effect that the mine was practically valueless?"
"Yes, sir." Elderberry studiously examined the moldings on the cornice of the judge's canopy.
"Um!" remarked the court significantly.
There was a flurry among the tall hats. Then Mr. Greenbaum sprang to his feet.
"If you please, Your Honor," he announced, staccato, "we entirely disavow Mr. Elderberry's circular of 1914. It was issued without our knowledge or authority. It is no evidence that the mine was worth ten millions or any other amount at that time."
"Oh! Oh!" choked Mr. Tutt, while Miss Wiggin giggled delightedly into her brief case.
Judge Pollak bent upon Mr. Greenbaum a withering glance.
"Did your firm sell any of its holdings in Horse's Neck after the issuance of that circular?"
Greenbaum hesitated. He would have liked to wring that judge's neck.
"Why—how do I know? We may have."
"Say 'yes,' for God's sake," hissed Chippingham "or you'll land in the pen!"
"I am informed that we did," answered Greenbaum defiantly. "That is, I don't say we did. Very likely we did. Our books would show. But I repeat—we disavow this circular and we deny any responsibility for this man, Elderberry."
This man, Elderberry, who for twelve long years had writhed under the biting lash of his employer's tongue, hating him with a hatred known only to those in subordinate positions who are bribed to suffer the "whips and scorns of time, the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely," quivered and saw red. He was going to be made the goat! They expected him to take all the responsibility and give them a clean slate! The nerve of it! To hell with them! Suddenly he began to cry, shockingly, with deep stertorous suspirations.
"No—you won't!" he hiccuped. "You shan't lay the blame on me! I'll tell the truth, I will! I won't stand for it! Your Honor, they want to reorganize Horse's Neck because they think there's a vein in Amphalula that crosses one of the old workings and that it'll make the property worth millions and millions."
Utter silence descended upon the court room—silence broken only by the slow ticktack of the self-winding clock on the rear wall and the whine of the electric cars on Park Row. One of the tall hats crept quietly to the door and vanished. The others sat like images.
Then the court said very quietly: "I will adjourn this matter for one week. I need not point out that what has occurred has a very grave interpretation. Adjourn court!"
* * * * *
Old Doc Barrows, the two Tutts and Miss Wiggin were sitting in Mr. Tutt's office an hour later when Willie announced that Mr. Tobias Greenbaum was outside and would like an interview.
"Send him in!" directed Mr. Tutt, winking at Miss Wiggin.
Mr. Greenbaum entered, frowning and without salutation, while Doc partially rose, moved by the acquired instinct of disciplinary politeness, then changed his mind and sat down again.
"See here," snarled Greenbaum. "You sure have made a most awful hash of this business. I don't want to argue about it. We could go ahead and beat you, but Pollak is prejudiced and will probably give you your injunction and appoint a receiver. If he does, that will knock the whole property higher than a kite. Nobody would ever buy stock in it or even finance it. Now how much do you want to call off your suit?"
"Have a stogy?" asked Mr. Tutt politely.
"We want exactly one hundred thousand dollars."
Greenbaum laughed derisively.
"A hundred thousand fiddlesticks! This old jailbird swindled another crook, Bloom—"
"Oh, Bloom was a crook too, was he?" chuckled Mr. Tutt. "He worked for your firm, didn't he?"
"That's nothing to do with it!" retorted Greenbaum angrily. "Your swindling client traded some bum stock in a fake corporation for Bloom's stock, which he received for bona fide services—"
"Like Elderberry's?" inquired Tutt innocently.
"Your man never paid a cent for his holdings. That alone would throw him out of court. The mine isn't worth a cent without the Amphalula vein. We're taking a big chance. You've got us down and we've got to pay; but we'll pay only ten thousand dollars—that's final."
"I ain't any more of a swindler than you be!" said Doc with plaintive indignation.
"What do you wish to do, Mr. Barrows?" asked Mr. Tutt, turning to him deferentially.
"I leave it entirely to you, Mr. Tutt. It's your stock; I gave it all to you months ago."
"Then," answered Mr. Tutt with fine scorn, "I shall tell this miserable cheating rogue and rascal either to pay you a hundred thousand dollars or go to hell."
Mr. Tobias Greenbaum clenched his fists and cast a black glance upon the group.
"You can wreck this corporation if you choose, you bunch of dirty blackmailers, but you'll get not a cent more than ten thousand. For the last time, will you take it or not?"
Mr. Tutt rose and pointed toward the door.
"Kindly remove yourself before I call the police," he said coldly. "I advise the firm of Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck to retain criminal counsel. Your ten thousand may come in handy for that purpose."
Mr. Tobias Greenbaum went.
"And now, Miss Wiggin, how about a cup of tea?" said Mr. Tutt.
The firm of Tutt & Tutt claimed to be the only law firm in the city of New York which still maintained the historic English custom of having tea at five o'clock. Whether the claim had any foundation or not the tea was none the less an institution, undoubtedly generating a friendly, sociable atmosphere throughout the office; and now Willie pulled aside the screen in the corner and disclosed the gate-leg table over which Miss Wiggin exercised her daily prerogative. Soon the room was filled with the comfortable odor of Pekoe, of muffins toasted upon an electric heater, of cigarettes and stogies. Yet there was, and had been ever since their conversation about the hat, a certain restraint between Miss Wiggin and Mr. Tutt, rising presumably out of her suggestion that his course savored of blackmail, however justified it had afterward turned out to be.
"My, isn't this nice!" murmured Doc, trying unsuccessfully to eat a muffin, drink his tea and do justice to a stogy at the same time. "It's so homy now, isn't it?"
"Doc," answered Mr. Tutt, "did you really want that ten thousand?"
"Me?" repeated Doc vaguely. "Why, I told you I gave that stock to you long ago. It isn't mine any longer. Besides, I don't want any money. I'm perfectly happy as I am."
Mr. Tutt laughed genially.
"Oh, well," he said, "it's no matter who owns it. Elderberry just telephoned me that he had received a telegram from the Amphalula that the vein had definitely run out. It's all over—including the shouting."
"Elderberry telephone you?" queried Miss Wiggin in astonishment.
"Yes, Elderberry. You see, he's done, he says, with Scherer, Hunn, Greenbaum & Beck. Wants to turn state's evidence and put 'em all in jail. I've said I'd help him."
"Then why didn't you take the ten thousand and call it quits while the getting was good?" demanded his partner icily.
"Because I knew I'd never get the ten anyway," replied Mr. Tutt. "Greenbaum would have learned about the vein on his return to the office."
"Well, I must be getting along back to Pottsville!" mumbled Doc. "This has been a very pleasant trip—very pleasant; and quite—quite—exciting. I—"
"What I'd like to know, Mr. Tutt," interrupted Miss Wiggin, "is how you justify your course in this matter. When you attempted to block this proposed reorganization you knew nothing about the Elderberry circular of 1914 valuing the property at ten million, or of the Amphalula vein. On its face you were attempting to wreck a perfectly honest piece of financiering, and unless it was a strike suit—which I hope and pray it wasn't—"
"Strike suit!" protested Mr. Tutt with a slight twinkle in his eye. "How can you suggest such a thing! Didn't the events demonstrate the wisdom of my judgment?"
"But you didn't know what was going to happen when you began your suit!" she argued firmly. "I hate to say it, but I should think that if everything had not come out just as it has your motives might easily have been misconstrued."
"It was a matter of principle with me, my dear," declared Mr. Tutt solemnly. "Just to show there's no ill feeling, won't you give me another cup of tea?"