“I am content,” was the cool reply.
“But I am not!” Dredlinton shouted, straining at his cords. “I resign! I resign from the Board! Do you hear that, Wingate? I chuck it! Set me free!”
“The proper moment for your resignation from the Board of the British and Imperial Granaries,” Wingate told him sternly, “was a matter of six months ago. You are a little too late, Dredlinton. Better make up your mind to stick it out with your friends.”
Dredlinton groaned. There was all the malice of hatred in his eyes, a note of despair in his exclamation.
“They are strong men, those two,” he muttered. “They can stand more than I can. I demand my freedom.”
Wingate threw himself into an easy-chair.
“Endurance,” he observed, “is largely a matter of nerves. You must make this a test. If you fail, well, your release always rests with your two friends. I am sure they will not see you suffer unduly.”
Phipps leaned a little across the table.
“We shall suffer,” he said hoarsely, “but it will be for hours. With you, Wingate, it will be a matter of years! Our turn will come when we visit you in prison. Damn you!”
In the Board room of the British and Imperial Granaries, Limited, were four vacant chairs and four unoccupied desks, each of the latter piled with a mass of letters. Outside was disquietude, in the street almost a riot. Callers were compelled to form themselves into a queue,—and left with scanty comfort. Wingate, by what seemed to be special favour, was passed through the little throng and ushered by Harrison himself into the deserted Board room.
“So you have no news of any of your directors, Harrison?” the former observed.
“None whatever, sir.”
The two men exchanged long and in a way searching glances. Harrison was, as always, the lank and cadaverous nonentity, the man of negative suspicions and infinite reserves. His eyes were fixed upon the carpet. He was a study in passivity.
“What happens to the business, eh—to your big operations?” Wingate enquired.
“The business suffers to some extent, of course,” Harrison admitted.
“Your banking arrangements?”
“I have limited powers of signature. So far the bank has been lenient.”
“I see,” Wingate ruminated,—and waited.
“The general policy of the firm is, as you are aware, to buy,” Harrison continued thoughtfully. “That policy has naturally been suspended during the last forty-eight hours. There are rumours, too, of a large shipment of wheat from an unexpected source, by some steamers which we had failed to take account of. Prices are dropping every hour.”
The confidential clerk shook his head.
“Only by points and fractions. The market is never sure of our principals. Sometimes when they have bought, most largely they have remained inactive for a few days beforehand, on purpose to depress prices.”