Chapter XI. Business is Business.
 

It reconciled Cleer to leaving London for awhile when she learnt that Eustace Le Neve was going north to Yorkshire, with Walter Tyrrel, to inspect the site of the proposed Wharfedale viaduct. Not that she ever mentioned his companion's name in her father's presence. Mrs. Trevennack had warned her many times over, with tears in her eyes, but without cause assigned, never to allude to Tyrrel's existence before her father's face; and Cleer, though she never for one moment suspected the need for such reticence, obeyed her mother's injunction with implicit honesty. So they parted two ways, Eustace and Tyrrel for the north, the Trevennacks for Devonshire. Cleer needed a change indeed; she'd spent the best part of a year in London. And for Cleer, that was a wild and delightful holiday. Though Eustace wasn't there, to be sure, he wrote hopefully from the north; he was maturing his ideas; he was evolving a plan; the sense of the magnitude of his stake in this attempt had given him an unwonted outburst of inspiration. As she wandered with her father among those boggy uplands, or stood on the rocky tors that so strangely crest the low flat hill-tops of the great Devonian moor. She felt a marvelous exhilaration stir her blood --the old Cornish freedom making itself felt through all the restrictions of our modern civilization. She was to the manner born, and she loved the Celtic West Country.

But to Michael Trevennack it was life, health, vigor. He hated London. He hated officialdom. He hated the bonds of red tape that enveloped him. It's hard to know yourself an archangel--

  "One of the seven who nearest to the throne
   Stand ready at command, and are as eyes
   That run through all the heavens, or down to the earth,"

and yet to have to sit at a desk all day long, with a pen in your hand, in obedience to the orders of the First Lord of the Admiralty! It's hard to know you can

  "Bear swift errands over moist and dry,
   O'er sea and land,"

as his laureate Milton puts it, and yet be doomed to keep still hour after hour in a stuffy office, or to haggle over details of pork and cheese in a malodorous victualing yard. Trevennack knew his "Paradise Lost" by heart--it was there, indeed, that he had formed his main ideas of the archangelic character; and he repeated the sonorous lines to himself, over and over again, in a ringing, loud voice, as he roamed the free moor or poised light on the craggy pinnacles. This was the world that he loved, these wild rolling uplands, these tall peaks of rock, these great granite boulders; he had loved them always, from the very beginning of things; had he not poised so of old, ages and ages gone by, on that famous crag

  "Of alabaster, piled up to the clouds,
   Conspicuous far, winding with one ascent
   Accessible from earth, one entrance high;
   The rest was craggy cliff that overhung
   Still as it rose, impossible to climb."

So he had poised in old days; so he poised himself now, with Cleer by his side, an angel confessed, on those high tors of Dartmoor.

But amid all the undulations of that great stony ocean, one peak there was that delighted Trevennack's soul more than any of the rest--a bold russet crest, bursting suddenly through the heathery waste in abrupt ascent, and scarcely to be scaled, save on one difficult side, like its Miltonic prototype. Even Cleer, who accompanied her father everywhere on his rambles, clad in stout shoes and coarse blue serge gown--. for Dartmoor is by no means a place to be approached by those who, like Agag, "walk delicately"--even Cleer didn't know that this craggy peak, jagged and pointed like some Alpine or dolomitic aiguille, was known to all the neighboring shepherds around as St. Michael's Tor, from its now forgotten chapel. A few wild Moorland sheep grazed now and again on the short herbage at its base; but for the most part father and daughter found themselves alone amid that gorse-clad solitude. There Michael Trevennack would stand erect, with head bare and brows knit, in the full eye of the sun, for hour after hour at a time, fighting the devil within him. And when he came back at night, tired out with his long tramp across the moor and his internal struggle, he would murmur to his wife, "I've conquered him to-day. It was a hard, hard fight! But I conquered! I conquered him!"

Up in the north, meanwhile, Eustace Le Neve worked away with a will at the idea for his viaduct. As he rightly wrote to Cleer, the need itself inspired him. Love is a great engineer, and Eustace learned fast from him. He was full of the fresh originality of youth; and the place took his fancy and impressed itself upon him. Gazing at it each day, there rose up slowly by degrees in his mind, like a dream, the picture of a great work on a new and startling principle--a modification of the cantilever to the necessities of the situation. Bit by bit he worked it out, and reduced his first floating conception to paper; then he explained it to Walter Tyrrel, who listened hard to his explanations, and tried his best to understand the force of the technical arguments. Enthusiasm is catching; and Le Neve was enthusiastic about his imaginary viaduct, till Walter Tyrrel in turn grew almost as enthusiastic as the designer himself over its beauty and utility. So charmed was he with the idea, indeed, that when Le Neve had at last committed it all to paper, he couldn't resist the temptation of asking leave to show it to Sir Edward Jones, whom he had already consulted as to Eustace's prospects.

Eustace permitted him, somewhat reluctantly, to carry the design to the great railway king, and on the very first day of their return to London, in the beginning of October, Tyrrel took the papers round to Sir Edward's house in Onslow Gardens. The millionaire inspected it at first with cautious reserve. He was a good business man, and he hated enthusiasm--except in money matters. But gradually, as Walter Tyrrel explained to him the various points in favor of the design, Sir Edward thawed. He looked into it carefully. Then he went over the calculations of material and expense with a critical eye. At the end he leant back in his study chair, with one finger on the elevation and one eye on the figures, while he observed with slow emphasis: "This is a very good design. Why, man, its just about twenty times better than Erasmus Walker's."

"Then you think it may succeed?" Tyrrel cried, with keen delight, as anxious for Cleer's sake as if the design were his own. "You think they may take it?"

"Oh dear, no," Sir Edward answered, confidently, with a superior smile. "Not the slightest chance in the world of that. They'd never even dream of it. It's novel, you see, novel, while Walker's is conventional. And they'll take the conventional one. But its a first rate design for all that, I can tell you. I never saw a better one."

"Well, but how do you know what Walker's is like?" Tyrrel asked, somewhat dismayed at the practical man's coolness.

"Oh, he showed it me last night," Sir Edward answered, calmly. "A very decent design, on the familiar lines, but not fit to hold a candle to Le Neve's, of course; any journeyman could have drafted it. Still, it has Walker's name to it, don't you see--it has Walker's name to it; that means everything."

"Is it cheaper than this would be," Tyrrel asked, for Le Neve had laid stress on the point that for economy of material, combined with strength of weight-resisting power, his own plan was remarkable.

"Cheaper!" Sir Edward echoed. "Oh dear, no. By no means. Nothing could very well be cheaper than this. There's genius in its construction, don't you see? It's a new idea, intelligently applied to the peculiarities and difficulties of a very unusual position, taking advantage most ingeniously of the natural support afforded by the rock and the inequalities of the situation; I should say your friend is well within the mark in the estimate he gives." He drummed his finger and calculated mentally. "It'd save the company from a hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand pounds, I fancy," he said, ruminating, after a minute.

"And do you mean to tell me," Tyrrel exclaimed, taken aback, "men of business like the directors of the Great North Midland will fling away two hundred thousand pounds of the shareholder's money as if it were dirt, by accepting Walker's plan when they might accept this one?"

Sir Edward opened his palms, like a Frenchman, in front of him. It was a trick he had picked up on foreign bourses.

"My dear fellow," he answered, compassionately, "directors are men, and to err is human. These great North Midland people are mere flesh and blood, and none of them very brilliant. They know Walker, and they'll be largely guided by Walker's advice in the matter. If he saw his way to make more out of contracting for carrying out somebody else's design, no doubt he'd do it. But failing that, he'll palm his own off upon them, and Stillingfleet'll accept it. You see with how little wisdom the railways of the world are governed! People think, if they get Walker to do a thing for them, they shift the responsibility upon Walker's shoulders. And knowing nothing themselves, they feel that's a great point; it saves them trouble and salves their consciences."

A new idea seemed to cross Tyrrel's mind. He leant forward suddenly.

"But as to safety," he asked, with some anxiety, "viewed as a matter of life and death, I mean? Which of these two viaducts is likely to last longest, to be freest from danger, to give rise in the end to least and fewest accidents?"

"Why, your friend Le Neve's, of course," the millionaire answered, without a moment's hesitation.

"You think so?"

"I don't think so at all, my dear fellow, I know it. I'm sure of it. Look here," and he pulled out a design from a pigeon-hole in his desk; "this is in confidence, you understand. I oughtn't to show it to you; but I can trust your honor. Here's Walker's idea. It isn't an idea at all, in fact, it's just the ordinary old stone viaduct, with the ordinary dangers, and the ordinary iron girders--nothing in any way new or original. It's respectable mediocrity. On an affair like that, and with this awkward curve, too, just behind taking-off point, the liability to accident is considerably greater than in a construction like Le Neve's, where nothing's left to chance, and where every source of evil, such as land-springs, or freshets, or weakening, or concussion, is considered beforehand and successfully provided against. If a company only thought of the lives and limbs of its passengers--which it never does, of course--and had a head on its shoulders, which it seldom possesses, Le Neve's is undoubtedly the design it would adopt in the interests of security."

Tyrrel drew a long breath. "And you know all this," he said, "and yet you won't say a word for Le Neve to the directors. A recommendation from you, you see--"

Sir Edward shrugged his shoulders. "Impossible!" he answered, at once. "It would be a great breach of confidence. Remember, Walker showed me his design as a friend, and after having looked at it I couldn't go right off and say to Stillingfleet, 'I've seen Walker's plans, and also another fellow's, and I advise you, for my part, not to take my friend's.' It wouldn't be gentlemanly."

Tyrrel paused and reflected. He saw the dilemma. And yet, what was the breach of confidence or of etiquette to the deadly peril to life and limb involved in choosing the worst design instead of the better one? It was a hard nut to crack. He could see no way out of it.

"Besides," Sir Edward went on, musingly, "even if I told them they wouldn't believe me. Whatever Walker sends in they're sure to accept it. They've more confidence, I feel sure, in Walker than in anybody."

A light broke in on Walter Tyrrel's mind.

"Then the only way," he said, looking up, "would be ... to work upon Walker; induce him not to send in, if that can be managed."

"But it can't be," Sir Edward answered, with brisk promptitude. "Walker's a money-grubbing chap. If he sees a chance of making a few thousands more anywhere, depend upon it he'll make 'em. He's a martyr to money, he is. He toils and slaves for L. s. d. {money} all his life. He has no other interests."

"What can he want with it?" Tyrrel exclaimed. "He's a bachelor, isn't he, without wife or child? What can a man like that want to pile up filthy lucre for?"

"Can't say, I'm sure," Sir Edward answered, good humoredly. "I have my quiver full of them myself, and every guinea I get I find three of my children are quarreling among themselves for ten and sixpence apiece of it. But what Walker can want with money heaven only knows. If I were a bachelor, now, and had an estate of my own in Cornwall, say, or Devonshire, I'm sure I don't know what I'd do with my income."

Tyrrel rose abruptly. The chance words had put an idea into his head.

"What's Walker's address?" he asked, in a very curt tone.

Sir Edward gave it him.

"You'll find him a tough nut, though," he added, with a smile, as he followed the enthusiastic young Cornishman to the door. "But I see you're in earnest. Good luck go with you!"