Friday, the Thirteenth
“Friday, the 13th; I thought as much. If Bob has started, there will be hell, but I will see what I can do.”
The sound of my voice, as I dropped the receiver, seemed to part the mists of five years and usher me into the world of Then as though it had never passed on.
I had been sitting in my office, letting the tape slide through my fingers while its every yard spelled “panic” in a constantly rising voice, when they told me that Brownley on the floor of the Exchange wanted me at the ’phone, and “quick.” Brownley was our junior partner and floor man. He talked with a rush. Stock Exchange floor men in panics never let their speech hobble.
“Mr. Randolph, it’s sizzling over here, and it’s getting hotter every second. It’s Bob—that is evident to all. If he keeps up this pace for twenty minutes longer, the sulphur will overflow ‘the Street’ and get into the banks and into the country, and no man can tell how much territory will be burned over by to-morrow. The boys have begged me to ask you to throw yourself into the breach and stay him. They agree you are the only hope now.”
“Are you sure, Fred, that this is Bob’s work?” I asked. “Have you seen him?”
“Yes, I have just come from his office, and glad I was to get out. He’s on the war-path, Mr. Randolph—uglier than I ever saw him. The last time he broke loose was child’s play to his mood to-day. Mother sent me word this morning that she saw last night the spell was coming. He had been up to see her and sisters, and mother thought from his tone he was about to disappear again. When she told me of his mood, and I remembered the day, I was afraid he might seek his vent here. Also I heard of his being about town till long after midnight. The minute I opened his office door this morning he flew at me like a panther. I told him I had only dropped in on my rounds for an order, as they were running off right smart, and I didn’t know but he might like to pick up some bargains. ‘Bargains!’ he roared, ’don’t you know the day? Don’t you know it is Friday, the 13th? Go back to that hell-pit and sell, sell, sell.’ ‘Sell what and how much?’ I asked. ’Anything, everything. Give the thieves every share they will take, and when they won’t take any more, ram as much again down their crops until they spit up all they have been buying for the last three months!’ Going out I met Jim Holliday and Frank Swan rushing in. They are evidently executing Bob’s orders, and have been pouring Anti-People’s out for an hour. They will be on the floor again in a few minutes, so I thought it safer to call you before I started to sell. Mr. Randolph, they cannot take much more of anything in here, and if I begin to throw stocks over, it will bring the gavel inside of ten minutes; and that will be to announce a dozen failures. It’s yet twenty minutes to one and God only knows what will happen before three. It’s up to you, Mr. Randolph, to do something, and unless I am on a bad slant, you haven’t many minutes to lose.”