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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER II THE FAMILY PRIDE
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 The hall which Andrew's grandfather had built around the peel had for years been let with its shooting rights. Ghyllside, however, where Andrew lived, was a commodious1 house, and Leonard Hathersage was frequently glad to spend a week-end there. He and his wife had arrived on the previous evening, and he was now busy in the library while Andrew sat talking to his sisters on the terrace.  
Though the light was fading, it was not yet dark, and the air was still and fragrant2 with flowers. Yew3 hedges and shrubberies were growing indistinct; a clump4 of firs in a neighboring meadow loomed5 up black and shadowy, but a band of pale saffron light still shone behind the hall on the edge of the moorland a mile away. The square peel stood out harsh and sharp against the glow, the rambling6 house with its tall chimneys trailing away into the gloom on its flanks.
Andrew, who had early lost his mother, had three sisters. Florence, Leonard's wife, his senior by several years, was a tall, prim7 and rather domineering woman; Gertrude, who had married Antony Wannop, a local gentleman, was gentler and less decided8 than her sister; Hilda, the youngest of all, was little, dark, and impulsive9.
Wannop leaned on the terrace wall between the flower urns10 with a cigar in his mouth. He was stout11 and generally marked by a bluff12 geniality13.
"Where did you go this afternoon, Andrew, when[Pg 14] you wouldn't come with us to the Warringtons'?" Hilda asked.
Andrew would have preferred to evade14 the question, but that seemed impossible.
"I went to see Mrs. Olcott."
"Again!" exclaimed Hilda, who prided herself on being blunt.
Wannop chuckled15 softly, but Florence claimed Andrew's attention.
"Don't you think you have been there often enough?"
"It hasn't struck me in that light."
"Then," replied Florence, "I feel it's time it did."
"Come now!" Wannop broke in. "Three to one is hardly fair. Don't be bullied16, Andrew; a bachelor can be independent."
"How do you make it three?" Hilda asked. "Only Florence and I mentioned the matter."
"I am, of course, acquainted with Gertrude's views," Wannop explained.
Hilda laughed. Antony, with his characteristic maladroitness17, had somehow made things worse, and Andrew's face hardened. His sisters were generally candid18 with him, but they had gone too far. With a thoughtlessness he sometimes showed, he had told them nothing about his acquaintance with Clare Olcott's husband.
"You're not much of an ally," he said with a dry smile. "Anyway, as there's no reason why I shouldn't go to The Firs, I'm not likely to be deterred19. I may as well mention that I met Ethel Hillyard and begged her to call."
"On Mrs. Olcott?" Florence cried. "What did she say?"
"She promised."
[Pg 15]The astonishment20 of the others was obvious, but Hilda was the only one who ventured to express it.
"Andrew, you're a wonder! You haven't the least idea of scheming, and you'd spoil the best plot you took a hand in, and yet you have a funny, blundering way of getting hard things done."
"You have hinted that I was a bit of a fool," said Andrew; "but I don't see why this should be hard."
As an explanation was undesirable21, Hilda let his remark pass and addressed the others.
"He has beaten us and we may as well give in gracefully22. If Ethel goes, all the people who count will follow her."
"There's more in Andrew than his friends suspect," Wannop observed, laughing.
They let the subject drop, and Florence went in search of her husband.
"What's your opinion of Allinson's new policy, Andrew?" Wannop asked.
"I don't know what to think. One can be too conservative nowadays, but I'll confess that I liked the firm's old-fashioned staidness better. Even the old dingy23 offices somehow made you feel that the Allinsons were sober, responsible people. The new place with its brass-work, plate-glass and gilding24 was somewhat of a shock to me; but the business is flourishing. Mining speculation25 was quite out of my father's line, but Leonard makes it pay."
"I've a few thousands in the African concern," Wannop remarked with complacent26 satisfaction. "As it looks as if I'd get my money back in about seven years, I wish I'd put in twice as much."
Hilda let her eyes rest on the fading outline of the grim old peel.
[Pg 16]"Well," she said, "I don't agree with Leonard's methods. They're vulgarly assertive27, and the new offices strike me as being out of place. Allinson's ought to be more dignified28. Even when we stole cattle from the Scots in the old days we did so in a gentlemanly way."
"Is stealing ever gentlemanly?" Wannop inquired.
"It's sometimes less mean than it is at others. Though I've no doubt that we robbed the Armstrongs and the Elliots, I can't think that we plundered29 our neighbors or took a bribe30 to shut our eyes when the Scots moss-troopers were riding up the dale. The Allinsons couldn't have betrayed the English cause, as some of the Borderers did."
"No," said Wannop, "it would certainly have been against their traditions. And in times that we know more about, nobody has ever questioned the honor of the House."
Andrew looked up with a reserved smile.
"I don't think it's likely that anybody ever will."
He got up and started toward the house.
"I must have a talk with Leonard," he said.
When he had left them, Wannop turned to the others.
"Now and then you can see the old stock in Andrew; and, after all, he has a controlling interest in the firm."
"Andrew may not do much good," Hilda declared, "but he'll do Allinson's no harm. He'll stick to the best of the old traditions." She paused with a laugh. "Perhaps we're silly in our family pride and sometimes think ourselves better than our neighbors with very little reason; but it's a clean pride. We're a mercantile family, but Allinson's has always ranked with the Bank of England."
When Andrew reached the library, his brother-in-law sat at a writing-table on which stood a tall silver lamp.[Pg 17] The light fell in a sharply defined circle on the polished floor, which ran back beyond it into shadow. The windows at the western end were open and, for it was not quite dark yet, the long rows of bookcases, dimly visible against the wall, emphasized the spaciousness31 of the room. The scent32 of flowers that drifted in was mingled33 with the smell of a cigar, and as Andrew's footsteps echoed through the room Leonard laid down his pen. The strong light fell upon him, showing his thin face and tall, spare figure. His hair receded35 somewhat from his high forehead, and he had the colorless complexion36 of a man who lives much indoors; but his eyes were singularly penetrating37. Dressed with fastidious neatness he had an air of elegance38 and, by comparison, made Andrew, who was of robuster build, look heavy and awkward.
"I'm glad of an excuse for stopping," he said. "Will you sit down and smoke?"
"What are you doing? I thought you came here for a rest," said Andrew, lighting39 a cigarette.
"The firm is a hard task-master, and it's difficult to get a few minutes undisturbed in town. That's why I brought these papers down. Writing a prospectus40 is a business which demands both caution and imagination. Would you like to see the draft?"
"I thought a boundless41 optimism was the most essential thing," Andrew replied, taking the paper handed him. "You're moderate," he continued when he had read it. "Ten per cent. is all you promise, though as far as my experience goes, twenty's the more usual thing."
"Allinson's does not promise more than it can fulfill42."
"That's true and quite in accordance with my views.[Pg 18] Until lately, however, prospectuses43 were very much out of our line."
Leonard was surprised and annoyed. Andrew was associating himself with the business in an unusual manner; although he had a right to do so.
"If there's anything you wish to ask, I shall be glad to explain it."
"These underwritten shares—I suppose you're letting the fellows have them below par34? Is that because you expect any difficulty in getting the money?"
"No; any project we're connected with will be taken up. Still, when you launch a good thing, it's policy to let a few members of the ring in at bottom and give them a share of the pickings."
Andrew frowned.
"It sounds like a bribe. But these pickings? They must come out of the shareholders44' pockets."
"In the end, they do."
"Though I'm not a business man, it seems to me that capital put into shafts45 and reducing plant stands a fair chance of being productive. That spent in starting the concern is largely wasted."
"We are spending less than usual. May I ask what your idea of the object of floating a company is?"
"Mine would be the expectation of getting a good dividend46 on the stock I took in it."
Leonard looked amused.
"Excellent, so far as it goes; but there's sometimes a little more than that."
Andrew sat silent a while. Then he said:
"I gather that this new scheme will be subscribed47 for because Allinson's guarantees it."
"It's impossible to guarantee a mining scheme, but, in a sense, you're right. The firm's name will count."
[Pg 19]"Well," said Andrew, "I'd like to go to Canada and take some share in starting things—you see, I know the country. Then, as I suppose some of my money will be put into the business, you might, perhaps, make me a director. I'd be of no use in London, but I might do something in Canada."
Leonard was surprised, but the suggestion pleased him. The name of Andrew Allinson would have its influence on investors48.
"It is not a bad idea," he said. "We'll see what can be done."
Andrew then changed the subject.
"How's business generally?"
"Pretty fair; we have made some profitable ventures in South America. You will remember my bringing Señor Piñola down? We made some money out of him."
"How?" Andrew asked without much interest. "The fellow had a dash of the nigger or Indian in him."
"He was Dictator Valhermosa's secret agent."
"Then you supported Valhermosa's administration during the unsuccessful revolution?"
"We did. They wanted to re-arm the troops quietly in preparation; Piñola came over to buy new rifles and machine-guns, and as he couldn't pay ready money we arranged the matter. There was a risk, but we got some valuable concessions49 as security, and turned them over afterward50 to a German syndicate on excellent terms."
Andrew's face was grim when he looked up.
"And I gave Piñola two days' shooting instead of pitching him into the nearest bog51! To think of Allinson's backing that brute52 Valhermosa is somewhat of a shock."
"What do you know about him?"
"A good deal. Warren, the naturalist53 who was with[Pg 20] me in Canada, spent some time in his country and has friends there. He used to talk about the things he'd seen, and the memory of his stories makes me savage54 yet, because I believe them. I have other acquaintances who have lived in parts of the world that business men don't often reach. If you don't know how rubber's collected and minerals are worked in countries where there's a subject native population, you'd better not find out." Andrew broke into a harsh laugh.
"You didn't suspect that while the firm helped the Dictator, I, its sleeping partner, gave Warren a check for the rebels, and I'd like to think that every cartridge55 my money bought accounted for one of the brutes56 who flog women to death and burn Indians at the stake when the revenue falls off."
Leonard looked grieved.
"I'm sorry to hear this; though it's possible that Warren was exaggerating. Anyway, we're out of it now. The deal was a matter of business—we couldn't be expected to know what was being done in the back-country, and after all it's no concern of ours."
Lighting another cigarette, Andrew smoked half of it in silence.
"The thing will hardly bear speaking of," he said finally; "and the fault is partly mine for not taking the interest in the firm I should have done."
He paused and looked Leonard steadily57 in the face.
"From what I've heard, those concessions may be good for another two or three years; and then, when Valhermosa's victims revolt again, if Allinson's can take any hand in the matter, it will be on the other side. Now we'll let the subject drop."
Leonard acquiesced58 with a tolerant gesture, though he was disconcerted by Andrew's tone. It implied[Pg 21] that his opinions would have to be considered in the future.
"By the way," Leonard said, "there's a matter I must mention, though it's delicate. I saw Judson this morning and he grumbled59 about the liberality you have shown of late."
"Judson's niggardliness60 has lost me one or two good tenants61."
"It's possible; but he told me that you had let The Firs to Mrs. Olcott for ten pounds less than he could easily have obtained. As he's a talkative fellow and nothing is kept secret here, do you think you were wise in letting her have the place below its value?"
"You have been given a hint, Leonard. What do you know about Mrs. Olcott?"
"Nothing. The point is that nobody else seems to know anything. I merely wished to suggest that it might be well to be more cautious."
The color crept into Andrew's face.
"The next time you hear Mrs. Olcott mentioned you may say that her husband is a friend of mine; that he served with credit as captain through the recent war; and that he now holds a government post in West Africa, though the climate compelled him to leave his wife at home. Now, would you like a game of pool?"
Leonard said that he would be busy for a while, and when Andrew went out he leaned back in his chair to think. On the death of Andrew's father, he had been left in control of the business, though, as he had not brought much capital into the firm, his share of the profits was not large. There was a good deal to be paid over to members of the family and, getting tired of slow and steady progress, he had of late launched out into bold speculations62.
Since his first advancement63 he had looked on his[Pg 22] brother-in-law as an obstacle in his way, and had quietly strengthened his own position. He had made Andrew's brief business experience distasteful to him, by seeing that the young man was kept busy at monotonous64 tasks that he could take no interest in. Afterward, when Andrew retired65 from the counting-house, he had missed no opportunity for suggesting that he was right in doing so, because he was obviously unfitted for a commercial career. Now and then he went farther and hinted that the young man was not gifted with much intelligence. It was, however, done cleverly; nobody realized that the impression that Andrew was something of a fool had originated with his brother-in-law, but in time it was generally held. This promised to make Leonard's position safer, because the firm was a family one, and though Andrew held a good deal of the capital, his opinion would not have much weight with his relatives.
Nevertheless, to some extent, Leonard was honest in what he had done. Andrew was undoubtedly66 not clever and Leonard believed that for him to have any say in matters would be detrimental67 to the firm. Now that he was inclined to assert his rights, it would be well to send him to Canada. This implied some risk, as there were matters connected with the mine which Leonard preferred to conceal68, but it was unlikely that Andrew would make any undesirable discovery. However, as Andrew's inaptitude for business was taken for granted, it might be wise to give the family a reason for entrusting69 him with the post, and Leonard thought it could be supplied by making the most of his acquaintance with Mrs. Olcott. Having arrived at this conclusion, he dismissed the matter and busied himself with the prospectus.

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