The Riverman by Stewart Edward White
After lunch Orde went downtown to his office where for some time he sat idly looking over the mail. About three o'clock Newmark came in.
"Hullo, Joe," said Orde with a slight constraint, "sorry to hear you've been under the weather. You don't look very sick now."
"I'm better," replied Newmark, briefly; "this is my first appearance."
"Too bad you got sick just at that time," said Orde; "we needed you."
"So I hear. You may rest assured I'd have been there if possible."
"Sure thing," said Orde, heartily, his slight resentment dissipating, as always, in the presence of another's personality. "Well, we had a lively time, you bet, all right; and got through about by the skin of our teeth." He arose and walked over to Newmark's desk, on the edge of which he perched. "It's cost us considerable; and it's going to cost us a lot more, I'll have to get an extension on those notes."
"What's that?" asked Newmark, quickly.
Orde picked up a paper knife and turned it slowly between his fingers.
"I don't believe I'll be able to meet those notes. So many things have happened--"
"But," broke in Newmark, "the firm certainly cannot do so. I've been relying on your assurance that you would take them up personally. Our resources are all tied up."
"Can't we raise anything more on the Northern Peninsula timber?" asked Orde.
"You ought to know we can't," cried Newmark, with an appearance of growing excitement. "The last seventy-five thousand we borrowed for me finishes that."
"Can't you take up part of your note?"
"My note comes due in 1885," rejoined Newmark with cold disgust. "I expect to take it up then. But I can't until then. I hadn't expected anything like this."
"Well, don't get hot," said Orde vaguely. "I only thought that Northern Peninsula stuff might be worth saving any way we could figure it."
"Worth saving!" snorted Newmark, whirling in his chair.
"Well, keep your hair on," said Orde, on whom Newmark's manner was beginning to have its effect, as Newmark intended it should. "You have my Boom Company stock as security."
"Pretty security for the loss of a tract like the Upper Peninsula timber!"
"Well, it's the security you asked for, and suggested," said Orde.
"I thought you'd surely be able to pay it," retorted Newmark, now secure in the position he desired to take, that of putting Orde entirely in the wrong.
"Well, I expected to pay it; and I'll pay it yet," rejoined Orde. "I don't think Heinzman will stand in his own light rather than renew the notes."
He seized his hat and departed. Once in the street, however, his irritation passed. As was the habit of the man, he began more clearly to see Newmark's side, and so more emphatically to blame himself. After all, when he got right down to the essentials, he could not but acknowledge that Newmark's anger was justified. For his own private ends he had jeopardised the firm's property. More of a business man might have reflected that Newmark, as financial head, should have protected the firm against all contingencies; should have seen to it that it met Heinzman's notes, instead of tying up its resources in unnecessary ways. Orde's own delinquency bulked too large in his eyes to admit his perception of this. By the time he had reached Heinzman's office, the last of his irritation had vanished. Only he realised clearly now that it would hardly do to ask Newmark for a renewal of the personal note on which depended his retention of his Boom Company stock unless he could renew the Heinzman note also. This is probably what Newmark intended.
"Mr. Heinzman?" he asked briefly of the first clerk.
"Mr. Heinzman is at home ill," replied the bookkeeper.
"Already?" said Orde. He drummed on the black walnut rail thoughtfully. The notes came due in ten days. "How bad is he?"
The clerk looked up curiously. "Can't say. Probably won't be back for a long time. It's smallpox, you know."
"True," said Orde. "Well, who's in charge?"
"Mr. Lambert. You'll find him in the private office."
Orde passed through the grill into the inner room.
"Hullo, Lambert," he addressed the individual seated at Heinzman's desk. "So you're the boss, eh?"
Lambert turned, showing a perfectly round face, ornamented by a dot of a nose, two dots of eyes set rather close together, and a pursed up mouth. His skin was very brown and shiny, and was so filled by the flesh beneath as to take the appearance of having been inflated.
"Yes, I'm the boss," said he non-committally.
Orde dropped into a chair.
"Heinzman holds some notes due against our people in ten days," said he. "I came in to see about their renewal. Can you attend to it?"
"Yes, I can attend to it," replied Lambert. He struck a bell; and to the bookkeeper who answered he said: "John, bring me those Newmark and Orde papers."
Orde heard the clang of the safe door. In a moment the clerk returned and handed to Lambert a long manilla envelope. Lambert opened this quite deliberately, spread its contents on his knee, and assumed a pair of round spectacles.
"Note for seventy-five thousand dollars with interest at ten per cent. Interest paid to January tenth. Mortgage deed on certain lands described herein."
"That's it," said Orde.
Lambert looked up over his spectacles.
"I want to renew the note for another year," Orde explained.
"Can't do it," replied Lambert, removing and folding the glasses.
"Mr. Heinzman gave me especial instructions in regard to this matter just before his daughter was taken sick. He told me if you came when he was not here--he intended to go to Chicago yesterday--to tell you he would not renew."
"Why not?" asked Orde blankly.
"I don't know that."
"But I'll give him twelve per cent for another year."
"He said not to renew, even if you offered higher interest."
"Do you happen to know whether he intends anything in regard to this mortgage?"
"He instructed me to begin suit in foreclosure immediately."
"I don't understand this," said Orde.
Lambert shook his head blandly. Orde thought for a moment.
"Where's your telephone?" he demanded abruptly.
He tried in vain to get Heinzman at his house. Finally the telephone girl informed him that although messages had come from the stricken household, she had been unable to get an answer to any of her numerous calls, and suspected the bell had been removed. Finally Orde left the office at a loss how to proceed next. Lambert, secretly overjoyed at this opportunity of exercising an unaccustomed and autocratic power, refused to see beyond his instructions. Heinzman's attitude puzzled Orde. A foreclosure could gain Heinzman no advantage of immediate cash. Orde was forced to the conclusion that the German saw here a good opportunity to acquire cheap a valuable property. In that case a personal appeal would avail little.
Orde tramped out to the end of the pier and back, mulling over the tangled problem. He was pressed on all sides--by the fatigue after his tremendous exertions of the past two weeks; by his natural uneasiness in regard to Carroll; and finally by this new complication which threatened the very basis of his prosperity. Nevertheless the natural optimism of the man finally won its ascendency.
"There's the year of redemption on that mortgage," he reminded himself. "We may be able to do something in that time. I don't know just what," he added whimsically, with a laugh at himself. He became grave. "Poor Joe," he said, "this is pretty tough on him. I'll have to make it up to him somehow. I can let him in on that California deal, when the titles are straightened out."