Bob Brownley laughed a horrible ringing laugh as he uttered these awful words. Then he beat his hand down on my shoulders as he said in a hoarse voice, “Jim, but for you I should have had crimps in that jackal philanthropist’s soul by now and in the souls of his kind. But never mind. He will keep; he will surely keep until I get to him. Every day he lives he will be fitter for the crimping. Within the short two years since he finished grilling Judge Sands’s soul, he has put himself in better form to appreciate his reward. I see by the press that at last his aristocratic wife has gold-cured Newport of its habit of dating back the name Reinhart to her scullionhood, and it has taken her into the high-instep circle. I read the other day of his daughter’s marriage to some English nob, and of the discovery of the ancient Reinhart family tree and crest with the mailed hand and two-edged dirk and the vulture rampant, and the motto, ‘Who strikes in the back strikes often.’”
He left me with his laugh still ringing in my ears. I shuddered as I passed under the old black-and-gold sign my uncle and my father had nailed over the office entrance in an age now dead, an age when Wall Street men talked of honour and gold, not gold and more gold.
In telling my wife of the day’s happenings I could not refrain from giving vent to the feelings that consumed me. “Kate, Bob will surely do something awful one of these days. I can see no hope for him. He grows more and more the madman as he broods over his horrible situation. The whole thing seems incredible to me. Never was a human being in such perpetual living purgatory—unlimited, absolute power on the one hand, unfathomable, never-cool-down hell on the other.”
“Jim, how does he do what he does? I cannot make out from anything I have read or you have told me, how he creates those panics and makes all that money.”
“No one has ever been able to figure it out,” I answered. “I understand the stock business, but I cannot for the life of me see how he does it. He has none of the money powers in league with him, that’s sure, for in the mood he has been in during the past two years it would be impossible for him to work with them, even if his salvation depended on it. The mention of any of the big ‘System’ men drives him to a fury. He has to-day made more money than any one man ever made in a day since the world began, and he had only commenced his work when he quit to please me. As I stand in the Exchange and watch him do it, it seems commonplace and simple. Afterward it is beyond my comprehension. At the gait he is going, the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Gould fortunes combined will look tiny in comparison with the one he will have in a few years. It is beyond my power of figuring out, and it gives me a headache every time I try to see through it.”