He was tall, thin, cold, and tireless and he moved among the Watchers of this World of Trade. In the rich Wall Street offices of Grey and Easterly, Brokers, Mr. Taylor, as chief and confidential clerk surveyed the world’s nakedness and the supply of cotton to clothe it. The object of his watching was frankly stated to himself and to his world. He purposed going into business neither for his own health nor for the healing or clothing of the peoples but to apply his knowledge of the world’s nakedness and of black men’s toil in such a way as to bring himself wealth. In this he was but following the teaching of his highest ideal, lately deceased, Mr. Job Grey. Mr. Grey had so successfully manipulated the cotton market that while black men who made the cotton starved in Alabama and white men who bought it froze in Siberia, he himself sat—
"High on a throne
of royal state
That far outshone the wealth
Of Ormuz or of Ind.”
Notwithstanding this he died eventually, leaving the burden of his wealth to his bewildered wife, and his business to the astute Mr. Easterly; not simply to Mr. Easterly, but in a sense to his spiritual heir, John Taylor.
To be sure Mr. Taylor had but a modest salary and no financial interest in the business, but he had knowledge and business daring—effrontery even—and the determination was fixed in his mind to be a millionaire at no distant date. Some cautious fliers on the market gave him enough surplus to send his sister Mary through the high school of his country home in New Hampshire, and afterward through Wellesley College; although just why a woman should want to go through college was inexplicable to John Taylor, and he was still uncertain as to the wisdom of his charity.
When she had an offer to teach in the South, John Taylor hurried her off for two reasons: he was profoundly interested in the cotton-belt, and there she might be of service to him; and secondly, he had spent all the money on her that he intended to at present, and he wanted her to go to work. As an investment he did not consider Mary a success. Her letters intimated very strongly her intention not to return to Miss Smith’s School; but they also brought information—disjointed and incomplete, to be sure—which mightily interested Mr. Taylor and sent him to atlases, encyclopaedias, and census-reports. When he went to that little lunch with old Mrs. Grey he was not sure that he wanted his sister to leave the cotton-belt just yet. After lunch he was sure that he did not want her to leave.
The rich Mrs. Grey was at the crisis of her fortunes. She was an elderly lady, in those uncertain years beyond fifty, and had been left suddenly with more millions than she could easily count. Personally she was inclined to spend her money in bettering the world right off, in such ways as might from time to time seem attractive. This course, to her husband’s former partner and present executor, Mr. Edward Easterly, was not only foolish but wicked, and, incidentally, distinctly unprofitable to him. He had expressed himself strongly to Mrs. Grey last night at dinner and had reinforced his argument by a pointed letter written this morning.