Chapter XLIII
 

Late that afternoon Cappy Ricks graciously summoned the Chronicle reporter to his office and told him in detail all he knew about the Australian wheat invasion.

"Of course," he added, "this may be mere street gossip; but I think there's something in it, my boy. At any rate, I thought you might care to be tipped off to the situation. It looks like a corking story to me. I suggest that you call up Ford & Carter and see what they have to say about it."

"I wonder whether the Examiner reporter has a tip on this?" the Chronicle man queried hopefully.

"Not from me. This story is for you, young man. That's why I called you down to my office."

About the same hour J. Augustus Redell might have been seen at the press table on 'Change, unfolding a similar story to the market reporter of the Examiner, who thought it was a humdinger of a story, and so declared.

"All right. Glad you think so," Mr. Redell replied, beaming upon him. "And just to show you I'm right, I'll not breathe a word of it to the Chronicle man."

Having planted his journalistic bomb, Mr. Redell glanced at his watch. It was exactly eleven o'clock. "I still have time," he murmured, and departed immediately to the office of Gregg of December wheat, but to cease selling the instant the market hesitated to absorb it or the price broke a point. At the same moment, in another brokerage office, Cappy Ricks was issuing a similar order. Before the market closed, Cappy had succeeded in selling a hundred and eighty thousand bushels, while Redell had disposed of a hundred and thirty. Evidently the bears took it as it came, for the market closed strong at $1.89.

Neither Cappy nor Redell reported at his office the following day. At the hour when the market opened in Chicago both schemers appeared on the floor of the Merchants' Exchange and bent their gaze upon the only blackboard on 'Change they had not heretofore honored with their scrutiny--the board in back of the Grain Pit, which carried the quotations on the Chicago Board of Trade, already beginning to come in by wire.

For an hour the trading was inactive. Then suddenly the price broke half a point as somebody tossed a lot of fifty thousand bushels on the market. Cappy and Redell each wondered whether he might not be the responsible party; and while they pondered somebody unloaded a hundred thousand bushels at $1.88. Cappy gasped as the quotations appeared on the blackboard.

"Something doing, Gus!" he whispered; Redell nodded.

And now commenced a period of wild trading. The price crept back to $1.89, only to be assaulted and beaten back to $1.87; then, fraction by fraction and point by point, the price fell; and J. Augustus Redell wagged his head approvingly.

"They have received our message," he said. "The riot is on!"

When the price had been beaten down to $1.83 Cappy turned to his associate.

"I'm through!" he said. "Time to cover my shorts." And he trotted away to a telephone booth.

As for Redell, he would not intrust his fortune to a telephonic order, but sprang into 'his runabout, parked at the curb outside the Exchange, and scorched uptown to Gregg & Co.'s offices, where he learned that he had sold four hundred and ten thousand bushels of December wheat. One hundred thousand had been sold at $1.90, two hundred and eighty thousand at prices varying from $1.89 to $1.88 1/8, and the remainder at 1.88.

"Buy me four hundred and ten thousand bushels at the market," he ordered.

Before he left the office the sale had been confirmed and Mr. Redell's shorts had been covered at a price ranging from $1.83 to $1.83 5/8, whereupon he closed out his trade and received a check for his margin and his profits. An hour later he met Cappy Ricks again on 'Change.

"Well, Cappy?" he queried.

"I cleaned up, thank you," the old gentleman informed him. "Sold, bought, and got the money. This is one time it rained duck soup and I was there with a bucket."

He prodded Mr. Redell playfully in the short ribs and the incident was closed. They had made a profit of more than twenty thousand dollars each; and when each returned to his office he forgot all about December wheat until half past five that evening, when both met on the deserted floor of the exchange to scan the blackboard. December wheat had closed that day at $1.83! Two days later J. Augustus Redell called Cappy Ricks on the telephone.

"That you, Cappy?"

"Yep!"

"Redell speaking. Read the story on the front page of the Chronicle this morning?"

"No; what was it?"

"The British Government has placed an embargo on the exportation of wheat from Australia; so all those eighteen charters I negotiated with Ford were placed with Ford & Carter subject to Ford & Carter's ability to make delivery and to prior sale. Before Ford & Carter could make them firm orders and get in over their heads, I tipped them off to the possibility of this government embargo."

"You tipped them off! How did you know the British Government was going to clap an embargo on Australian wheat?"

"Why, I didn't know," Redell confessed. "I just guessed it would; so I advised Ford than I did--and I made a trifle more than twenty-four thousand dollars,"

"Is that so? Well, listen to me tell it; When you and I cashed in that day our deal was closed wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"And I'd played fair with you?"

"You certainly did, Gus."

"Then I was freed from any further obligations to take you into partnership with me, was I not?"

"That's how I figure it, my boy."

"That's how I figured it also, Cappy. Consequently, being morally certain that the British Government would place an embargo on the exportation of Australian wheat--Cappy, you must admit that the British Government would have been absolutely crazy if it hadn't--I just called on Gregg & Co. and bought another half million bushels of December wheat at $1.83 to $1.84 a bushel. Then I sat tight and waited for that embargo story to break. Cappy, do you know that story just raised hell on the Chicago Pit today? The bears were caught napping; and the bulls got busy and kicked the price up to $1.90 again, at which figure I unloaded and took my profit."

"You amazing rascal! Why didn't you tip your partner off to that deal?"

"We were no longer partners. You admitted that a moment ago. When I first outlined this scheme I didn't have a dollar to spare with which I could speculate. Every last cent was tied up in the business of the West Coast Trading Company. So I schemed to take you in as a partner on one-half of the deal; and you not only financed me but guaranteed me to the broker! Your introduction was all I wanted. After that my credit was as good as December wheat; in consequence of which, without a cent invested, I was actually enabled to carry a trade for half a million bushels! Much obliged to you, Cappy. You're a fine old sport, and I like you--I wouldn't be surprised if you laid off on me after this--eh, Cappy?"

"Gus," said Cappy Ricks, "one of these days the Democratic party is going to wake up and discover that America isn't where they left it the night before! And when that happens they're going to ask you about it, you--you--infer-nal--"

The phone clicked. J. Augustus Redell had hung up.

"Drat it!--God bless him!" murmured Cappy Ricks--and hung up, too.