Down in the City itself, just below
the residential street where the Mausoleum Club is
situated, there stands overlooking Central Square the
Grand Palaver Hotel. It is, in truth, at no great
distance from the club, not half a minute in one’s
motor. In fact, one could almost walk it.
But in Central Square the quiet of
Plutoria Avenue is exchanged for another atmosphere.
There are fountains that splash unendingly and mingle
their music with the sound of the motor-horns and the
clatter of the cabs. There are real trees and
little green benches, with people reading yesterday’s
newspaper, and grass cut into plots among the asphalt.
There is at one end a statue of the first governor
of the state, life-size, cut in stone; and at the
other a statue of the last, ever so much larger than
life, cast in bronze. And all the people who
pass by pause and look at this statue and point at
it with walking-sticks, because it is of extraordinary
interest; in fact, it is an example of the new electro-chemical
process of casting by which you can cast a state governor
any size you like, no matter what you start from.
Those who know about such things explain what an interesting
contrast the two statues are; for in the case of the
governor of a hundred years ago one had to start from
plain, rough material and work patiently for years
to get the effect, whereas now the material doesn’t
matter at all, and with any sort of scrap, treated
in the gas furnace under tremendous pressure, one
may make a figure of colossal size like the one in
So naturally Central Square with its
trees and its fountains and its statues is one of
the places of chief interest in the City. But
especially because there stands along one side of it
the vast pile of the Grand Palaver Hotel. It
rises fifteen stories high and fills all one side
of the square. It has, overlooking the trees in
the square, twelve hundred rooms with three thousand
windows, and it would have held all George Washington’s
army. Even people in other cities who have never
seen it know it well from its advertising; “the
most homelike hotel in America,” so it is labelled
in all the magazines, the expensive ones, on the continent.
In fact, the aim of the company that owns the Grand
Palaver and they do not attempt to conceal
it is to make the place as much a home
as possible. Therein lies its charm. It
is a home. You realize that when you look up at
the Grand Palaver from the square at night when the
twelve hundred guests have turned on the lights of
the three thousand windows. You realize it at
theatre time when the great string of motors come
sweeping to the doors of the Palaver, to carry the
twelve hundred guests to twelve hundred seats in the
theatres at four dollars a seat. But most of all
do you appreciate the character of the Grand Palaver
when you step into its rotunda. Aladdin’s
enchanted palace was nothing to it. It has a vast
ceiling with a hundred glittering lights, and within
it night and day is a surging crowd that is never
still and a babel of voices that is never hushed,
and over all there hangs an enchanted cloud of thin
blue tobacco smoke such as might enshroud the conjured
vision of a magician of Baghdad or Damascus.
In and through the rotunda there are
palm trees to rest the eye and rubber trees in boxes
to soothe the mind, and there are great leather lounges
and deep armchairs, and here and there huge brass ash-bowls
as big as Etruscan tear-jugs. Along one side
is a counter with grated wickets like a bank, and
behind it are five clerks with flattened hair and
tall collars, dressed in long black frock-coats all
day like members of a legislature. They have
great books in front of them in which they study unceasingly,
and at their lightest thought they strike a bell with
the open palm of their hand, and at the sound of it
a page boy in a monkey suit, with G.P. stamped all
over him in brass, bounds to the desk and off again,
shouting a call into the unheeding crowd vociferously.
The sound of it fills for a moment the great space
of the rotunda; it echoes down the corridors to the
side; it floats, softly melodious, through the palm
trees of the ladies’ palm room; it is heard,
fainter and fainter, in the distant grill; and in the
depths of the barber shop below the level of the street
the barber arrests a moment-the drowsy hum of his
shampoo brushes to catch the sound as might
a miner in the sunken galleries of a coastal mine cease
in his toil a moment to hear the distant murmur of
And the clerks call for the pages,
the pages call for the guests, and the guests call
for the porters, the bells clang, the elevators rattle,
till home itself was never half so homelike.
“A call for Mr. Tomlinson! A call for Mr.
So went the sound, echoing through the rotunda.
And as the page boy found him and
handed him on a salver a telegram to read, the eyes
of the crowd about him turned for a moment to look
upon the figure of Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance.
There he stood in his wide-awake hat
and his long black coat, his shoulders slightly bent
with his fifty-eight years. Anyone who had known
him in the olden days on his bush farm beside Tomlinson’s
Creek in the country of the Great Lakes would have
recognized him in a moment. There was still on
his face that strange, puzzled look that it habitually
wore, only now, of course, the financial papers were
calling it “unfathomable.” There
was a certain way in which his eye roved to and fro
inquiringly that might have looked like perplexity,
were it not that the Financial Undertone had
recognized it as the “searching look of a captain
of industry.” One might have thought that
for all the goodness in it there was something simple
in his face, were it not that the Commercial and
Pictorial Review had called the face “inscrutable,”
and had proved it so with an illustration that left
no doubt of the matter. Indeed, the face of Tomlinson
of Tomlinson’s Creek, now Tomlinson the Wizard
of Finance, was not commonly spoken of as a face
by the paragraphers of the Saturday magazine sections,
but was more usually referred to as a mask; and it
would appear that Napoleon the First had had one also.
The Saturday editors were never tired of describing
the strange, impressive personality of Tomlinson,
the great dominating character of the newest and highest
finance. From the moment when the interim prospectus
of the Erie Auriferous Consolidated had broken like
a tidal wave over Stock Exchange circles, the picture
of Tomlinson, the sleeping shareholder of uncomputed
millions, had filled the imagination of every dreamer
in a nation of poets.
They all described him. And when
each had finished he began again.
“The face,” so wrote the
editor of the “Our Own Men” section of
Ourselves Monthly, “is that of a typical
American captain of finance, hard, yet with a certain
softness, broad but with a certain length, ductile
but not without its own firmness.”
“The mouth,” so wrote
the editor of the “Success” column of Brains,
“is strong but pliable, the jaw firm and yet
movable, while there is something in the set of the
ear that suggests the swift, eager mind of the born
leader of men.”
So from state to state ran the portrait
of Tomlinson of Tomlinson’s Creek, drawn by
people who had never seen him; so did it reach out
and cross the ocean, till the French journals inserted
a picture which they used for such occasions, and
called it Monsieur Tomlinson, nouveau capitaine
de la haute finance en Amérique; and the German
weeklies, inserting also a suitable picture from their
stock, marked it Herr Tomlinson, Amerikanischer
Industrie und Finanzcapitan. Thus did Tomlinson
float from Tomlinson’s Creek beside Lake Erie
to the very banks of the Danube and the Drave.
Some writers grew lyric about him.
What visions, they asked, could one but read them,
must lie behind the quiet, dreaming eyes of that inscrutable
They might have read them easily enough,
had they but had the key. Anyone who looked upon
Tomlinson as he stood there in the roar and clatter
of the great rotunda of the Grand Palaver with the
telegram in his hand, fumbling at the wrong end to
open it, might have read the visions of the master-mind
had he but known their nature. They were simple
enough. For the visions in the mind of Tomlinson,
Wizard of Finance, were for the most part those of
a wind-swept hillside farm beside Lake Erie, where
Tomlinson’s Creek runs down to the low edge of
the lake, and where the off-shore wind ripples the
rushes of the shallow water: that, and the vision
of a frame house, and the snake fences of the fourth
concession road where it falls to the lakeside.
And if the eyes of the man are dreamy and abstracted,
it is because there lies over the vision of this vanished
farm an infinite regret, greater in its compass than
all the shares the Erie Auriferous Consolidated has
ever thrown upon the market.
When Tomlinson had opened the telegram
he stood with it for a moment in his hand, looking
the boy full in the face. His look had in it that
peculiar far-away quality that the newspapers were
calling “Napoleonic abstraction.”
In reality he was wondering whether to give the boy
twenty-five cents or fifty.
The message that he had just read
was worded, “Morning quotations show preferred
A. G. falling rapidly recommend instant sale no confidence
The Wizard of Finance took from his
pocket a pencil (it was a carpenter’s pencil)
and wrote across the face of the message: “Buy
me quite a bit more of the same yours truly.”
This he gave to the boy. “Take
it over to him,” he said, pointing to the telegraph
corner of the rotunda. Then after another pause
he mumbled, “Here, sonny,” and gave the
boy a dollar.
With that he turned to walk towards
the elevator, and all the people about him who had
watched the signing of the message knew that some big
financial deal was going through a coup,
in fact, they called it.
The elevator took the Wizard to the
second floor. As he went up he felt in his pocket
and gripped a quarter, then changed his mind and felt
for a fifty-cent piece, and finally gave them both
to the elevator boy, after which he walked along the
corridor till he reached the corner suite of rooms,
a palace in itself, for which he was paying a thousand
dollars a month ever since the Erie Auriferous Consolidated
Company had begun tearing up the bed of Tomlinson’s
Creek in Cahoga County with its hydraulic dredges.
“Well, mother,” he said as he entered.
There was a woman seated near the
window, a woman with a plain, homely face such as
they wear in the farm kitchens of Cahoga County, and
a set of fashionable clothes upon her such as they
sell to the ladies of Plutoria Avenue.
This was “mother,” the
wife of the Wizard of Finance and eight years younger
than himself. And she, too, was in the papers
and the public eye; and whatsoever the shops had fresh
from Paris, at fabulous prices, that they sold to
mother. They had put a Balkan hat upon her with
an upright feather, and they had hung gold chains
on her, and everything that was most expensive they
had hung and tied on mother. You might see her
emerging any morning from the Grand Palaver in her
beetle-back jacket and her Balkan hat, a figure of
infinite pathos. And whatever she wore, the lady
editors of Spring Notes and Causerie du Boudoir
wrote it out in French, and one paper had called her
a belle chatelaine, and another had spoken
of her as a grande dame, which the Tomlinsons thought
must be a misprint.
But in any case, for Tomlinson, the
Wizard of Finance, it was a great relief to have as
his wife a woman like mother, because he knew that
she had taught school in Cahoga County and could hold
her own in the city with any of them.
So mother spent her time sitting in
her beetle jacket in the thousand-dollar suite, reading
new novels in brilliant paper covers. And the
Wizard on his trips up and down to the rotunda brought
her the very best, the ones that cost a dollar fifty,
because he knew that out home she had only been able
to read books like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walter
Scott, that were only worth ten cents.
“How’s Fred?” said
the Wizard, laying aside his hat, and looking towards
the closed door of an inner room. “Is he
“Some,” said mother. “He’s
dressed, but he’s lying down.”
Fred was the son of the Wizard and
mother. In the inner room he lay on a sofa, a
great hulking boy of seventeen in a flowered dressing-gown,
fancying himself ill. There was a packet of cigarettes
and a box of chocolates on a chair beside him, and
he had the blind drawn and his eyes half-closed to
Yet this was the same boy that less
than a year ago on Tomlinson’s Creek had worn
a rough store suit and set his sturdy shoulders to
the buck-saw. At present Fortune was busy taking
from him the golden gifts which the fairies of Cahoga
County, Lake Erie, had laid in his cradle seventeen
The Wizard tip-toed into the inner
room, and from the open door his listening wife could
hear the voice of the boy saying, in a tone as of
one distraught with suffering.
“Is there any more of that jelly?”
“Could he have any, do you suppose?” asked
Tomlinson coming back.
“It’s all right,”
said mother, “if it will sit on his stomach.”
For this, in the dietetics of Cahoga County, is the
sole test. All those things can be eaten which
will sit on the stomach. Anything that won’t
sit there is not eatable.
“Do you suppose I could get
them to get any?” questioned Tomlinson.
“Would it be all right to telephone down to the
office, or do you think it would be better to ring?”
“Perhaps,” said his wife,
“it would be better to look out into the hall
and see if there isn’t someone round that would
This was the kind of problem with
which Tomlinson and his wife, in their thousand-dollar
suite in the Grand Palaver, grappled all day.
And when presently a tall waiter in dress-clothes
appeared, and said, “Jelly? Yes, sir, immediately,
sir; would you like, sir, Maraschino, sir, or Portovino,
sir?” Tomlinson gazed at him gloomily, wondering
if he would take five dollars.
“What does the doctor say is
wrong with Fred?” asked Tomlinson, when the
waiter had gone.
“He don’t just say,”
said mother; “he said he must keep very quiet.
He looked in this morning for a minute or two, and
he said he’d look in later in the day again.
But he said to keep Fred very quiet.”
Exactly! In other words Fred
had pretty much the same complaint as the rest of
Dr. Slyder’s patients on Plutoria Avenue, and
was to be treated in the same way. Dr. Slyder,
who was the most fashionable practitioner in the City,
spent his entire time moving to and fro in an almost
noiseless motor earnestly advising people to keep quiet.
“You must keep very quiet for a little while,”
he would say with a sigh, as he sat beside a sick-bed.
As he drew on his gloves in the hall below he would
shake his head very impressively and say, “You
must keep him very quiet,” and so pass out,
quite soundlessly. By this means Dr. Slyder often
succeeded in keeping people quiet for weeks. It
was all the medicine that he knew. But it was
enough. And as his patients always got well there
being nothing wrong with them his reputation
Very naturally the Wizard and his
wife were impressed with him. They had never
seen such therapeutics in Cahoga County, where the
practice of medicine is carried on with forceps, pumps,
squirts, splints, and other instruments of violence.
The waiter had hardly gone when a
boy appeared at the door. This time he presented
to Tomlinson not one telegram but a little bundle of
The Wizard read them with a lengthening
face. The first ran something like this, “Congratulate
you on your daring market turned instantly”;
and the next, “Your opinion justified market
rose have sold at 20 points profit”; and a third,
“Your forecast entirely correct C. P. rose at
once send further instructions.”
These and similar messages were from
brokers’ offices, and all of them were in the
same tone; one told him that C. P. was up, and another
T. G. P. had passed 129, and another that T. C. R.
R. had risen ten all of which things were
imputed to the wonderful sagacity of Tomlinson.
Whereas if they had told him that X. Y. Z. had risen
to the moon he would have been just as wise as to
what it meant.
“Well,” said the wife
of the Wizard as her husband finished looking through
the reports, “how are things this morning?
Are they any better?”
“No,” said Tomlinson,
and he sighed as he said it; “this is the worst
day yet. It’s just been a shower of telegrams,
and mostly all the same. I can’t do the
figuring of it like you can, but I reckon I must have
made another hundred thousand dollars since yesterday.”
“You don’t say so!”
said mother, and they looked at one another gloomily.
“And half a million last week,
wasn’t it?” said Tomlinson as he sank
into a chair. “I’m afraid, mother,”
he continued, “it’s no good. We don’t
know how. We weren’t brought up to it.”
All of which meant that if the editor
of the Monetary Afternoon or Financial Sunday
had been able to know what was happening with the
two wizards, he could have written up a news story
calculated to electrify all America.
For the truth was that Tomlinson,
the Wizard of Finance, was attempting to carry out
a coup greater than any as yet attributed to
him by the Press. He was trying to lose his money.
That, in the sickness of his soul, crushed by the
Grand Palaver, overwhelmed with the burden of high
finance, had become his aim, to be done with it, to
get rid of his whole fortune.
But if you own a fortune that is computed
anywhere from fifty millions up, with no limit at
the top, if you own one-half of all the preferred
stock of an Erie Auriferous Consolidated that is digging
gold in hydraulic bucketfuls from a quarter of a mile
of river bed, the task of losing it is no easy matter.
There are men, no doubt, versed in
finance, who might succeed in doing it. But they
have a training that Tomlinson lacked. Invest
it as he would in the worst securities that offered,
the most rickety of stock, the most fraudulent bonds,
back it came to him. When he threw a handful
away, back came two in its place. And at every
new coup the crowd applauded the incomparable daring,
the unparalleled prescience of the Wizard.
Like the touch of Midas, his hand
turned everything to gold.
“Mother,” he repeated,
“it’s no use. It’s like this
here Destiny, as the books call it.”
The great fortune that Tomlinson,
the Wizard of Finance, was trying his best to lose
had come to him with wonderful suddenness. As
yet it was hardly six months old. As to how it
had originated, there were all sorts of stories afloat
in the weekly illustrated press. They agreed
mostly on the general basis that Tomlinson had made
his vast fortune by his own indomitable pluck and
dogged industry. Some said that he had been at
one time a mere farm hand who, by sheer doggedness,
had fought his way from the hay-mow to the control
of the produce market of seventeen states. Others
had it that he had been a lumberjack who, by sheer
doggedness, had got possession of the whole lumber
forest of the Lake district. Others said that
he had been a miner in a Lake Superior copper mine
who had, by the doggedness of his character, got a
practical monopoly of the copper supply. These
Saturday articles, at any rate, made the Saturday
reader rigid with sympathetic doggedness himself,
which was all that the editor (who was doggedly trying
to make the paper pay) wanted to effect.
But in reality the making of Tomlinson’s
fortune was very simple. The recipe for it is
open to anyone. It is only necessary to own a
hillside farm beside Lake Erie where the uncleared
bush and the broken fields go straggling down to the
lake, and to have running through it a creek, such
as that called Tomlinson’s, brawling among the
stones and willows, and to discover in the bed of
a creek a gold mine.
That is all.
Nor is it necessary in these well-ordered
days to discover the gold for one’s self.
One might have lived a lifetime on the farm, as Tomlinson’s
father had, and never discover it for one’s self.
For that indeed the best medium of destiny is a geologist,
let us say the senior professor of geology at Plutoria
University. That was how it happened.
The senior professor, so it chanced,
was spending his vacation near by on the shores of
the lake, and his time was mostly passed for
how better can a man spend a month of pleasure? in
looking for outcroppings of Devonian rock of the post-tertiary
period. For which purpose he carried a vacation
hammer in his pocket, and made from time to time a
note or two as he went along, or filled his pockets
with the chippings of vacation rocks.
So it chanced that he came to Tomlinson’s
Creek at the very point where a great slab of Devonian
rock bursts through the clay of the bank. When
the senior professor of geology saw it and noticed
a stripe like a mark on a tiger’s back a
fault he called it that ran over the face
of the block, he was at it in an instant, beating
off fragments with his little hammer.
Tomlinson and his boy Fred were logging
in the underbrush near by with a long chain and yoke
of oxen, but the geologist was so excited that he
did not see them till the sound of his eager hammer
had brought them to his side. They took him up
to the frame house in the clearing, where the chatelaine
was hoeing a potato patch with a man’s hat on
her head, and they gave him buttermilk and soda cakes,
but his hand shook so that he could hardly eat them.
The geologist left Cahoga station
that night for the City with a newspaper full of specimens
inside his suit-case, and he knew that if any person
or persons would put up money enough to tear that block
of rock away and follow the fissure down, there would
be found there something to astonish humanity, geologists
After that point in the launching
of a gold mine the rest is easy. Generous, warm-hearted
men, interested in geology, were soon found.
There was no stint of money. The great rock was
torn sideways from its place, and from beneath it
the crumbled, glittering rock-dust that sparkled in
the sun was sent in little boxes to the testing laboratories
of Plutoria University. There the senior professor
of geology had sat up with it far into the night in
a darkened laboratory, with little blue flames playing
underneath crucibles, as in a magician’s cavern,
and with the door locked. And as each sample that
he tested was set aside and tied in a cardboard box
by itself, he labelled it “aur. ,”
and the pen shook in his hand as he marked it.
For to professors of geology those symbols mean “this
is seventy-five per cent pure gold.” So
it was no wonder that the senior professor of geology
working far into the night among the blue flames shook
with excitement; not, of course, for the gold’s
sake as money (he had no time to think of that), but
because if this thing was true it meant that an auriferous
vein had been found in what was Devonian rock of the
post-tertiary stratification, and if that was so it
upset enough geology to spoil a textbook. It
would mean that the professor could read a paper at
the next Pan-Geological Conference that would turn
the whole assembly into a bedlam.
It pleased him, too, to know that
the men he was dealing with were generous. They
had asked him to name his own price or the tests that
he made and when he had said two dollars per sample
they had told him to go right ahead. The professor
was not, I suppose, a mercenary man, but it pleased
him to think that he could, clean up sixteen dollars
in a single evening in his laboratory. It showed,
at any rate, that businessmen put science at its proper
value. Strangest of all was the fact that the
men had told him that even this ore was apparently
nothing to what there was; it had all come out of one
single spot in the creek, not the hundredth part of
the whole claim. Lower down, where they had thrown
the big dam across to make the bed dry, they were
taking out this same stuff and even better, so they
said, in cartloads. The hydraulic dredges were
tearing it from the bed of the creek all day, and
at night a great circuit of arc lights gleamed and
sputtered over the roaring labour of the friends of
Thus had the Erie Auriferous Consolidated
broken in a tidal wave over financial circles.
On the Stock Exchange, in the downtown offices, and
among the palm trees of the Mausoleum Club they talked
of nothing else. And so great was the power of
the wave that it washed Tomlinson and his wife along
on the crest of it, and landed them fifty feet up in
their thousand-dollar suite in the Grand Palaver.
And as a result of it “mother” wore a
beetle-back jacket; and Tomlinson received a hundred
telegrams a day, and Fred quit school and ate chocolates.
But in the business world the most
amazing thing about it was the wonderful shrewdness
The first sign of it had been that
he had utterly refused to allow the Erie Auriferous
Consolidated (as the friends of geology called themselves)
to take over the top half of the Tomlinson farm.
For the bottom part he let them give him one-half
of the preferred stock in the company in return for
their supply of development capital. This was
their own proposition; in fact, they reckoned that
in doing this they were trading about two hundred
thousand dollars’ worth of machinery for, say
ten million dollars of gold. But it frightened
them when Tomlinson said “Yes” to the
offer, and when he said that as to common stock they
might keep it, it was no use to him, they were alarmed
and uneasy till they made him take a block of it for
the sake of market confidence.
But the top end of the farm he refused
to surrender, and the friends of applied geology knew
that there must be something pretty large behind this
refusal; the more so as the reason that Tomlinson gave
was such a simple one. He said that he didn’t
want to part with the top end of the place because
his father was buried on it beside the creek, and so
he didn’t want the dam higher up, not for any
This was regarded in business circles
as a piece of great shrewdness. “Says his
father is buried there, eh? Devilish shrewd that!”
It was so long since any of the members
of the Exchange or the Mausoleum Club had wandered
into such places as Cahoga County that they did not
know that there was nothing strange in what Tomlinson
said. His father was buried there, on the farm
itself, in a grave overgrown with raspberry bushes,
and with a wooden headstone encompassed by a square
of cedar rails, and slept as many another pioneer of
Cahoga is sleeping.
“Devilish smart idea!”
they said; and forthwith half the financial men of
the city buried their fathers, or professed to have
done so, in likely places along the prospective
right-of-way of a suburban railway, for example; in
fact, in any place that marked them out for the joyous
resurrection of an expropriation purchase.
Thus the astounding shrewdness of
Tomlinson rapidly became a legend, the more so as
he turned everything he touched to gold.
They narrated little stories of him
in the whiskey-and-soda corners of the Mausoleum Club.
“I put it to him in a casual
way,” related, for example, Mr. Lucullus Fyshe,
“casually, but quite frankly. I said, ’See
here, this is just a bagatelle to you, no doubt, but
to me it might be of some use. T. C. bonds,’
I said, ’have risen twenty-two and a half in
a week. You know as well as I do that they are
only collateral trust, and that the stock underneath
never could and never can earn a par dividend.
Now,’ I said, ‘Mr. Tomlinson, tell me
what all that means?’ Would you believe it, the
fellow looked me right in the face in that queer way
he has and he said, ‘I don’t know!’”
“He said he didn’t know!”
repeated the listener, in a tone of amazement and
respect. “By Jove! eh? he said he didn’t
know! The man’s a wizard!”
“And he looked as if he didn’t!”
went on Mr. Fyshe. “That’s the deuce
of it. That man when he wants to can put on a
look, sir, that simply means nothing, absolutely nothing.”
In this way Tomlinson had earned his
name of the Wizard of American Finance.
And meantime Tomlinson and his wife,
within their suite at the Grand Palaver, had long
since reached their decision. For there was one
aspect and only one in which Tomlinson was really and
truly a wizard. He saw clearly that for himself
and his wife the vast fortune that had fallen to them
was of no manner of use. What did it bring them?
The noise and roar of the City in place of the silence
of the farm and the racket of the great rotunda to
drown the remembered murmur of the waters of the creek.
So Tomlinson had decided to rid himself
of his new wealth, save only such as might be needed
to make his son a different kind of man from himself.
“For Fred, of course,”
he said, “it’s different. But out
of such a lot as that it’ll be easy to keep
enough for him. It’ll be a grand thing
for Fred, this money. He won’t have to grow
up like you and me. He’ll have opportunities
we never got.” He was getting them already.
The opportunity to wear seven dollar patent leather
shoes and a bell-shaped overcoat with a silk collar,
to lounge into moving-picture shows and eat chocolates
and smoke cigarettes all these opportunities
he was gathering immediately. Presently, when
he learned his way round a little, he would get still
“He’s improving fast,”
said mother. She was thinking of his patent leather
said his father. “I notice it downstairs.
He sasses any of them just as he likes; and no matter
how busy they are, as soon as they see it’s
Fred they’re all ready to have a laugh with him.”
Certainly they were, as any hotel
clerk with plastered hair is ready to laugh with the
son of a multimillionaire. It’s a certain
sense of humour that they develop.
“But for us, mother,”
said the Wizard, “we’ll be rid of it.
The gold is there. It’s not right to keep
it back. But we’ll just find a way to pass
it on to folks that need it worse than we do.”
For a time they had thought of giving
away the fortune. But how? Who did they
know that would take it?
It had crossed their minds for
who could live in the City a month without observing
the imposing buildings of Plutoria University, as
fine as any departmental store in town? that
they might give it to the college.
But there, it seemed, the way was blocked.
“You see, mother,” said
the puzzled Wizard, “we’re not known.
We’re strangers. I’d look fine going
up there to the college and saying, ’I want
to give you people a million dollars.’ They’d
laugh at me!”
“But don’t one read it
in the papers,” his wife had protested, “where
Mr. Carnegie gives ever so much to the colleges, more
than all we’ve got, and they take it?”
said the Wizard. “He’s in with them.
They all know him. Why, he’s a sort of
chairman of different boards of colleges, and he knows
all the heads of the schools, and the professors, so
it’s no wonder that if he offers to give a pension,
or anything, they take it. Just think of me going
up to one of the professors up there in the middle
of his teaching and saying; ’I’d like to
give you a pension for life!’ Imagine it!
Think what he’d say!”
But the Tomlinsons couldn’t
imagine it, which was just as well.
So it came about that they had embarked
on their system. Mother, who knew most arithmetic,
was the leading spirit. She tracked out all the
stocks and bonds in the front page of the Financial
Undertone, and on her recommendation the Wizard
bought. They knew the stocks only by their letters,
but this itself gave a touch of high finance to their
“I’d buy some of this
R.O.P. if I was you,” said mother; “it’s
gone down from 127 to 107 in two days, and I reckon
it’ll be all gone in ten days or so.”
“Wouldn’t ‘G.G. deb.’ be better?
It goes down quicker.”
“Well, it’s a quick one,”
she assented, “but it don’t go down so
steady. You can’t rely on it. You take
ones like R.O.P. and T.R.R. pfd.; they go down all
the time and you know where you are.”
As a result of which, Tomlinson would
send his instructions. He did it all from the
rotunda in a way of his own that he had evolved with
a telegraph clerk who told him the names of brokers,
and he dealt thus through brokers whom he never saw.
As a result of this, the sluggish R.O.P. and T.R.R.
would take as sudden a leap into the air as might a
mule with a galvanic shock applied to its tail.
At once the word was whispered that the “Tomlinson
interests” were after the R.O.P. to reorganize
it, and the whole floor of the Exchange scrambled for
And so it was that after a month or
two of these operations the Wizard of Finance saw
“It’s no good, mother,”
he repeated, “it’s just a kind of Destiny.”
Destiny perhaps it was.
But, if the Wizard of Finance had
known it, at this very moment when he sat with the
Aladdin’s palace of his golden fortune reared
so strangely about him, Destiny was preparing for
him still stranger things.
Destiny, so it would seem, was devising
Its own ways and means of dealing with Tomlinson’s
fortune. As one of the ways and means, Destiny
was sending at this moment as its special emissaries
two huge, portly figures, wearing gigantic goloshes,
and striding downwards from the halls of Plutoria
University to the Grand Palaver Hotel. And one
of these was the gigantic Dr. Boomer, the president
of the college, and the other was his professor of
Greek, almost as gigantic as himself. And they
carried in their capacious pockets bundles of pamphlets
on “Archaeological Remains of Mitylene,”
and the “Use of the Greek Pluperfect,”
and little treatises such as “Education and Philanthropy,”
by Dr. Boomer, and “The Excavation of Mitylene:
An Estimate of Cost,” by Dr. Boyster, “Boomer
on the Foundation and Maintenance of Chairs,”
Many a man in city finance who had
seen Dr. Boomer enter his office with a bundle of
these monographs and a fighting glitter in his eyes
had sunk back in his chair in dismay. For it meant
that Dr. Boomer had tracked him out for a benefaction
to the University, and that all resistance was hopeless.
When Dr. Boomer once laid upon a capitalist’s
desk his famous pamphlet on the “Use of the
Greek Pluperfect,” it was as if an Arabian sultan
had sent the fatal bow-string to a condemned pasha,
or Morgan the buccaneer had served the death-sign
on a shuddering pirate.
So they came nearer and nearer, shouldering
the passers-by. The sound of them as they talked
was like the roaring of the sea as Homer heard it.
Never did Castor and Pollux come surging into battle
as Dr. Boomer and Dr. Boyster bore down upon the Grand
Tomlinson, the Wizard of Finance,
had hesitated about going to the university.
The university was coming to him. As for those
millions of his, he could take his choice dormitories,
apparatus, campuses, buildings, endowment, anything
he liked but choose he must. And if he feared
that, after all, his fortune was too vast even for
such a disposal, Dr. Boomer would show him how he
might use it in digging up ancient Mitylene, or modern
Smyrna, or the lost cities of the Plain of Pactolus.
If the size of the fortune troubled him, Dr. Boomer
would dig him up the whole African Sahara from Alexandria
to Morocco, and ask for more.
But if Destiny held all this for Tomlinson
in its outstretched palm before it, it concealed stranger
things still beneath the folds of its toga.
There were enough surprises there
to turn the faces of the whole directorate of the
Erie Auriferous Consolidated as yellow as the gold
For at this very moment, while the
president of Plutoria University drew nearer and nearer
to the Grand Palaver Hotel, the senior professor of
geology was working again beside the blue flames in
his darkened laboratory. And this time there
was no shaking excitement over him. Nor were
the labels that he marked, as sample followed sample
in the tests, the same as those of the previous marking.
Not by any means.
And his grave face as he worked in
silence was as still as the stones of the post-tertiary