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Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about If Winter Comes.
doubtful persons—­passed up and down this stairway on visits to the principals.  It was not used by the clerks, the half-landing communicating with the outer world by the clerks’ stairs leading to the clerks’ entrance at the back of the building, and with the showrooms by the clerks’ stairs leading at one end to the book-lined study and at the other to the model classroom.  The clerks’ office, by the taking down of original walls, ran the whole length of the building, and accommodated not only the clerks, but the designing room, the checking room and the dispatch room.  This arrangement was highly inconvenient to the performers of the various duties thus carried on, but was essential to the more rapid execution of Mr. Fortune’s habit of “keeping an eye” on everything.  This habit of the Reverend Sebastian Fortune was roundly detested by all on whom his eye fell.  He was called Jonah by his employees; and he was called Jonah partly because his visits to the places of their industry invariably presaged disaster, but principally for the gross-minded and wrongly-adduced reason that he had (in their opinion) a whale’s belly.

IV

He bore a certain resemblance to a stunted whale.  He was chiefly abdominal.  His legs appeared to begin, without thighs, at his knees, and his face, without neck, at his chest.  His face was large, both wide and long, and covered as to its lower part with a tough scrub of grey beard.  The line of his mouth showed through the scrub and turned extravagantly downwards at the corners.  He had a commanding, heavily knobbed brow, and small grey eyes of intense severity.  His voice was cold, and his manner, though intensely polished and suave, singularly stern and decisive.  He had an expression of “I have decided” and Sabre said that he kept this expression on ice.  It had an icy sound and it certainly had the rigidity and imperviousness of an iceberg.  Hearing it, one might believe that it could have a cruel sound.

The Reverend Sebastian Fortune had come into the business at the age of twenty-eight.  He was now sixty-two.  He had come in to find the controlling interest almost entirely in the hands of the Fortune branch of the firm, and in his thirty-four years of association, indeed in the first twenty, he had, by fortuitous circumstances, and by force of his decisive personality, achieved what amounted to sole and single control.  Coming in as a young man of force and character, he had added to these qualities, by marriage, a useful sum of money (to which was attached a widow) and proceeded to deal decisively with the East and the Sabre (Mark Sabre’s grandfather) of that day.  Both were old men.  The East, young Mr. Fortune bought out neck and crop.  The Sabre, who owned then a fifth instead of a third interest in the business, and had developed, as an obsession, an unreasonable fear of bankruptcy, he relieved of all liability for the firm at the negligible cost of giving himself a free hand in the conduct of the business.  The deed of partnership was altered accordingly.  It was to this fifth share, without control, that Sabre’s father and, in his turn, Sabre succeeded.

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