‘United Manufacturing, 28th Street,’ he called. ‘Make it fast.’
On arrival at his destination he found that Mr. C. B. Benjamin was the president of the United Manufacturing Corporation, which—so a large calendar stated—was the biggest business of its kind in the universe. It had more branches, more output, more character, more push than any other three enterprises in America.
Mr. Benjamin was in, but could be seen only by appointment, so said a sleek-haired young man of immaculate dress.
‘Give him that card, and tell him I want to see him at once,’ said Selwyn, with a forcefulness that caused a look of pain to cross the young man’s countenance.
‘Please sit down,’ he said, ‘and I’ll see what I can do.’
As a result of his efforts, Selwyn received a summons to go right in—which he did, going past a number of people who had various big propositions to put before the big man when they could gain his ear.
‘Good-morning, Mr. Selwyn,’ said the president, a smartly dressed Jew, with a shrewd face and an unquestionable dignity of manner. ’You have returned to America, I see.’
‘Yes, Mr. Benjamin. Do you mind if I come right down to business?’
’Mind? How else could I have built up the United Manufacturing Corporation? Have a cigar?’
’No, thanks. Mr. Benjamin, you wrote my agent that you wanted me to lecture on the fallacy of war.’
‘Sure,’ said the president.
‘May I ask why?’
Mr. Benjamin removed his spectacles and wiped them carefully. Putting them on, he surveyed his visitor through them. After that he took them off again, and winked confidentially. ‘Mr. Selwyn,’ he chuckled, ’you ain’t a child, and I see that I can’t put over any sob stuff with you. I told your agent I would pay him real money for you to lecture. Well, take it from me, when the president of the United Manufacturing Corporation pays out any of his greenbacks he don’t expect nothing for something, eh?’
‘I don’t understand you—yet,’ said Selwyn quietly.
Mr. Benjamin leaned back in his swivel-chair and cut the end of a cigar with a little silver knife. ‘Business,’ he said, ‘is business, eh?’
‘Agreed,’ was the terse response. ’I am still waiting to know why you offered your money to me.’
Mr. Benjamin leaned forward, and taking up his glasses, waved them hypnotically at the young man. ‘Simply business,’ he said. ’Same with you—same with me. You write all this dope against war—why? Because you know there’s big money in it. I pay you to lecture because you can help to keep America out of the war. In 1913 I was worth two hundred thousand dollars. To-day I have ten million. We are wise men, Mr. Selwyn, both of us. While all the rest of the peoples fight, you and I make money.’
As if his bones were aching with fatigue, Austin Selwyn rose wearily to his feet, and, without comment, walked slowly out of the office. But the clerks noticed that his face was ashy-pale, like that of a prisoner who has received the maximum sentence of the law.