The talk was money, summer shows, and club gossip, but financial rumours ruled.
Young Ellis, in pale blue silk and wig, perched airily, on a table, became gloomily prophetic concerning the steady retirement of capital from philanthropic enterprises hatched in Wall Street; Peter Tappan saw in the endlessly sagging market dire disaster for the future digestions of wealthy owners of undistributed securities.
“Marble columns and gold ceilings don’t make a trust company,” he sneered. “There are a few billionaire gamblers from the West who seem to think Wall Street is Coney Island. There’ll be a shindy, don’t make any mistake; we’re going to have one hell of a time; but when it’s over the corpses will all be shipped—ahem!—west.”
Several men laughed uneasily; one or two old line trust companies were mentioned; then somebody spoke of the Minnisink, lately taken over by the Algonquin.
Duane lighted a cigarette and, watching the match still burning, said:
“Dysart is a director. You can’t ask for any more conservative citizen than Dysart, can you?”
Several men looked around for Dysart, but he had stepped out of the room.
Ellis said, after a silence:
“That gambling outfit from the West has bedevilled one or two good citizens in Gotham town.”
Dr. Bailey shrugged his big, fat shoulders.
“It’s no secret, I suppose, that the Minnisink crowd is being talked about,” he grunted.
Ellis said in a low but perfectly distinct voice:
“Neither is it any secret that Jack Dysart has been hit hard in National Ice.”
Peter Tappan slipped from his seat on the table and threw away his cigarette:
“One thing is sure as soubrettes,” he observed; “the Clearing House means to get rid of certain false prophets. The game law is off prophets—in the fall. There’ll be some good gunning—under the laws of New Jersey.”
“I hope they’ll be careful not to injure any marble columns or ruin the gold-leaf on the ceilings,” sneered Ellis. “Come on, some of you fellows, and fix the buckle in this cursed stock of mine.”
“I thought fixing stocks was rather in your own line,” said Duane to the foxy-visaged and celebrated manipulator, who joined very heartily in the general and unscrupulous laugh.
A moment later, Dysart, who had heard every word from the doorway, walked silently back to his own room and sat down, resting his temples between his closed fists.
The well-cut head was already silvery gray at the temples; one month had done it. When animated, his features still appeared firm and of good colour; relaxed, they were loose and pallid, and around the mouth fine lines appeared. Often a man’s hands indicate his age, and his betrayed him, giving the lie to his lithe, straight, graceful figure. The man had aged amazingly in a month or two.
Matters were not going very well with him. For one thing, the Half-Moon Trust Company had finally terminated all dealings with the gorgeous marble-pillared temple of high finance of which he was a director. For another, he had met the men of the West, and for them he had done things which he did not always care to think about. For another, money was becoming disturbingly scarce, and the time was already past for selling securities.