Right here I took a hand myself, because I was afraid Ham was going to lose his temper, and that’s one thing you can’t always pick up in the same place that you left it. So I called Ham off, and told Percy to come back in an hour with his head broker and I’d protect his trades in the meanwhile. Then I pointed out to the old man that we’d make a pretty good thing on the deal, even after we’d let Percy out, as he’d had plenty of company on the bull side that could pay up; and anyway, that the boy was a blamed sight more important than the money, and here was the chance to make a man of him.
We were all ready for Mister Percy when he came back, and Ham got right down to business.
“Young man, I’ve decided to help you out of this hole,” he began.
Percy chippered right up. “Thank you, sir,” he said.
“Yes, I’m going to help you,” the old man went on. “I’m going to take all your trades off your hands and assume all your obligations at the banks.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Stop interrupting when I’m talking, I’m going to take up all your obligations, and you’re going to pay me three million dollars for doing it. When the whole thing’s cleaned up that will probably leave me a few hundred thousand in the hole, but I’m going to do the generous thing by you.”
Percy wasn’t so chipper now. “But, father,” he protested, “I haven’t got three million dollars; and you know very well I can’t possibly raise any three million dollars.”
“Yes, you can,” said Ham. “There’s the million I gave you: that makes one. There’s your interest in the business; I’ll buy it back for a million: that makes two. And I’ll take your note at five per cent, for the third million. A fair offer, Mr. Graham?”
“Very liberal, indeed, Mr. Huggins,” I answered.
“But I won’t have anything to live on, let alone any chance to pay you back, if you take my interest in the business away,” pleaded Percy.
“I’ve thought of that, too,” said his father, “and I’m going to give you a job. The experience you’ve had in this campaign ought to make you worth twenty-five dollars a week to us in our option department. Then you can board at home for five dollars a week, and pay ten more on your note. That’ll leave you ten per for clothes and extras.”
Percy wriggled and twisted and tried tears. Talked a lot of flip-flap flub-doodle, but Ham was all through with the proud-popper business, and the young man found him as full of knots as a hickory root, and with a hide that would turn the blade of an ax.
Percy was simply in the fix of the skunk that stood on the track and humped up his back at the lightning express—there was nothing left of him except a deficit and the stink he’d kicked up. And a fellow can’t dictate terms with those assets. In the end he left the room with a ring in his nose.