A day or two later, after his guest had left, Herbert sat in his office in a busy town with an open ledger in front of him. He looked thoughtful, and, as a matter of fact, he was reviewing the latter part of his business career, which had been marked by risks, boldly faced, but attended by keen anxiety. Though his wife had some money, Lansing had been hampered by lack of capital, and George’s money had been placed at his disposal at a very opportune time. It had enabled him to carry the rubber company over what might have proved a crisis, and thus strengthen his position as director, by purchasing sufficient shares on George’s account to keep the price from falling and defeat the intrigues of a clique of discontented investors. Now, however, the strain had slackened; Herbert’s schemes had succeeded, and he had only to take his profit by selling out as quietly as possible. He had already given a broker orders to do so. He rather regretted that he could not dispose of George’s shares, but these must be kept a little longer; to throw a large quantity upon the market would have a depressing effect and might arouse suspicion.
Presently a man with whom he had dealings was shown in and sat down. His appearance indicated some degree of prosperity, but he looked disturbed and anxious.
“I met Jackson yesterday, and after what he told me of his interview with you, I thought I’d better run up and see you at once,” he explained.
Herbert had expected the visit.
“I’m at your service,” he said.
“What about the new company? I understand you haven’t come to any decision yet about the suggestions we sent you for its flotation.”
“No,” replied Herbert. “In fact, I’ve reasons for believing it wouldn’t be wise to go any farther in the matter.”
The other looked at him in astonishment.
“Well,” he said, “I heard that you were not so enthusiastic as you were not long ago, which is why I came down; but I never expected this! Anyway, after what we have done, you are bound to go on with the thing. Our success with the first company will help the shares off.”
“That’s not certain.” Herbert handed him a paper. “You haven’t seen Singleton’s report.”
The man read it hastily, his face changing. Then he looked up with signs of strong indignation.
“You let him give you a thing like this? Paid him for it?”
“What could I do? The man’s honest. He declares the country’s dangerous; he had two carriers killed. There’s no prospect of our obtaining the needful native labor.”
“Send somebody else out at once!”
“With the same result. Besides, it’s expensive. Singleton’s fee wasn’t so big, because he shared the cost of his orchid collecting or something of the kind with us. Then he might talk, and there would always be the risk of somebody’s challenging us with suppressing his report. If things went wrong, that would lead to trouble.”