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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/262

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friends; he had met with no failures; articles appeared about him, therefore, in the supplements of the Sunday newspapers, from Boston to San Francisco, with pictures, more or less genuine, of his country house and his steam yacht and his family; in these articles he was usually referred to at least once either as "the Napoleon of finance" or as "the master mind of Wall Street." An enterprise fathered by Kerr at this period was sure of a joyful, care-free, blooming infancy—however friendless and forsaken might be its old age.

For these reasons nineteen men listened submissively and one listened proudly when Kerr said in his deliberate and pregnant voice, "On the condition that I have named and on that alone will I undertake the matter; and on that condition I shall be glad to undertake it."

Mr. Dunbar spoke. "If we sell out, do I understand that we mill-owners are definitely retired from business—given no active management either in the affairs of the corporation or in the mills which have been ours?"

"Some of you will be asked to take part in the management and others will not," replied Kerr. "Some of you will necessarily find yourselves gentlemen of leisure—with three or four or eight or ten times your present income. You will receive your pay for your mills in bonds and preferred stock on which dividends are certain or which may be sold for a price. The public will absorb the common stock—on which dividends are probable. We may be extravagant in paying for the mills which shall form our nucleus—but when we have demonstrated our power"—an ungenial smile crossed his face—"we shall be able to recoup by acquiring other properties at bargain prices."

The manufacturers smiled at this agreeably sinister suggestion, and the solemnity with which they had been listening was dissipated very soon in jokes and laughter, and then in practical questions and answers. Floyd sat overlooked in a corner of the room, absorbed in a slow,