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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER X A CRISIS
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 It was late at night when Andrew entered Watson's office at the mine with the letters he had brought. Though a bitter wind blew the snow about it, the little wooden building was hot and filled with the smell of pine boarding. A stove, glowing a dull red, stood at one end, and a kerosene1 lamp hanging from a beam threw a bright light on the faces of the men. They were eager and expectant, but Andrew's bore the stamp of fatigue2, for the journey up-river had tried his strength. Moreover, he shrank from learning what the smelting3 company's report might reveal. Drawing a chair to the table, he sat for a few moments lost in troubled thought.  
When he first reached the mine he had found a keen and scarcely expected pleasure in his work. Its difficulties seized his interest, and for a while he enjoyed the grapple with them. Then misgivings4 crept in; he felt that there was something wrong. Watson displayed no enthusiasm about the Company's prospects5, and Carnally let fall disturbing hints. Andrew, however, steadily6 occupied himself with his task, which gained a stronger hold on him, until he realized that all his mind was bent7 upon its successful accomplishment8. Now he must put his half-formed plans and surmises9 to a searching test. Bracing10 himself, he opened a large sealed envelope with a steady hand.
[Pg 101]As he took out the first of its contents he made an abrupt11 movement, but he read on through several sheets while his face hardened; and then he sat very still, with the papers scattered12 about the table.
"Well?" said Watson, in harsh inquiry13.
Gathering14 up the papers, Andrew passed them to him without a word, while Carnally waited as if he knew what to expect. When he in turn took the report from Watson, there was an oppressive silence in the shack15. Andrew could hear the billets snap in the stove and the murmur16 of the river among the ice.
"It seems to me that this report leaves us no room for doubt," he said, when Carnally had finished reading the papers. "We can't keep the mine working on such returns as these. But I want your honest opinion."
Watson made a sign of agreement.
"Well," he said frankly17, "you have got to have the truth, though I guess it will cost me my job. Rain Bluff18 will never pay its shareholders19."
"You knew this some time ago?"
"I was afraid of it; but it wasn't my business. I was sent here to get out as much ore as I could, and I've done so."
"Have you any suggestion to make?"
"If you wrote down your capital, got rid of Mappin, and did your transport work yourselves, you might keep going. The ore's there, though its hard to get at and not worth much."
Andrew turned to Carnally.
"You suspected how matters stood from the beginning. I see now that you meant to warn me."
"I guessed. I couldn't speak plainly without proof."
"Oh," said Andrew in a strained voice, "you knew;[Pg 102] so did Watson, and no doubt every man who works for us. I and the unfortunate people who found the money were the only ones deceived." He turned to the manager sharply. "What did you mean when you said the mine would never pay its shareholders? Do you imply that somebody else may make a profit out of it?"
"You've hit it. Mappin's making his pile, and I guess there's a man with money backing him; but that's no concern of mine. I'm sorry for you, Mr. Allinson, but I suppose I must hand you my notice and tell the boys to quit?"
"No," said Andrew; "not yet. Let them go on as usual, until I speak to you again."
"I'm not anxious to leave your service—you're square," Watson replied with an air of relief. "Now, if you don't want me any more, I'll go to bed."
He left them and Andrew quietly filled his pipe, while Carnally watched him with interest. Andrew had had a shock, but he had borne it well. Instead of unnerving, it had braced20 him to grapple with a difficult situation. He had courage and determination; but there was something else he must be told.
"Jake," Andrew said at length, "this has been a blow. I put a good deal of money into the Company and will lose it, but that's only half the trouble—the rest will hardly bear thinking of. My firm put its stamp on this venture, backed it with its name; and it was rotten from the first!" His face suddenly darkened with suspicion. "How Leonard came to take it up I can't imagine."
"If he's the man who fixed21 things in Montreal, I guess he'd tell you it was a fair business risk; but you don't quite understand the matter yet. It's clear that[Pg 103] Mappin has the support of Mr. Hathersage; he finds him the money, gives him the job at prices higher than you need pay, and no doubt takes a share of the profit."
Andrew started.
"It's hard to admit, but I believe you're right!" Then his mind leaped to a wider conclusion. "I dare say the Company was started solely22 for Hathersage's benefit!"
"I guess there's some foundation for that," Carnally said pointedly23.
Neither spoke24 for the next few moments; and then Andrew looked up with a grim smile.
"I'm beginning to understand your attitude toward me when I first came. You thought I was in the ring—one of the people who, knowing how bad it was, led investors25 into this rotten scheme!"
"I allow I did think something of the kind."
"And afterward26? My guess isn't flattering, but I can't blame you, Jake. You believed I was what you call a sucker, sent here because I was too big a fool to find things out."
Carnally looked embarrassed.
"I figured it out like this," he said: "the people who sent you expected you'd spend your time hunting and fishing, without taking much interest in the mine. Then, if trouble came, they'd leave you to face it. Being on the spot, it would be your fault for not learning what was wrong."
"A clever plan. After all, it's possible they took too much for granted."
"They did," Carnally declared. "You have shown a grip of things they didn't look for. In my opinion they picked the wrong man for the part: but you're[Pg 104] in a pretty tight place. You can't make this mine pay."
"No," said Andrew; "I don't mean to try. If I can get his consent, I'm going to look for Graham's lode27."
Carnally started.
"It's a great plan! Will you want me?"
"Of course! I'd be helpless without you."
"No," Carnally corrected him with a smile. "So far, I've given you hints about things you couldn't be expected to know; but I've taught you all I can, and you take your right place now. You're boss in this new proposition, and I'll be glad to be your second."
"Thank you," said Andrew. "We'll start for the Landing to-morrow and see Graham."
They left the mine at daybreak, and on reaching the town Andrew had first of all an interview with Graham's employer. The president of the lumber28 company sat at a desk in his office at the mill and listened attentively29 while Andrew explained the object of his visit. He was an elderly man with a keen but good-humored expression, and once or twice he glanced at Andrew as if surprised. When the latter had finished, the mill-owner took a box from a shelf.
"Have a cigar," he said.
Andrew lighted one and looked round the room. It was dusty and dingy
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