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The Profiteers   By: (1866-1946)

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The Marchioness of Amesbury was giving a garden party in the spacious but somewhat urban grounds of her mansion in Kensington. Perhaps because it was the first affair of its sort of the season, and perhaps, also, because Cecilia Amesbury had the knack of making friends in every walk of life, it was remarkably well attended. Two stockbrokers, Roger Kendrick and his friend Maurice White, who had escaped from the City a little earlier than usual, and had shared a taxicab up west, congratulated themselves upon having found a quiet and shady seat where iced drinks were procurable and the crush was not so great.

"Anything doing in your market to day?" Kendrick asked his younger associate.

White made a little grimace.

"B. & I., B. & I., all the time," he grumbled. "I'm sick of the name of the damned things. And to tell you the truth, Ken, when a client asks for my advice about them, I don't know what to say."

Kendrick contemplated the tips of his patent boots. He was a well looking, well turned out and well to do representative of the occupation which he, his father and grandfather had followed, ten years older, perhaps, than his companion, but remarkably well preserved. He had made money and kept it.

"They say that Rockefeller's at the back of them," he remarked.

"They may say what they like but who's to prove it?" his young companion argued. "They must have enormous backing, of course, but until they declare it, I'm not pushing the business. Look at the Board on their merits, Ken."

Roger Kendrick nodded. Every one on the Stock Exchange was interested in B. & I.'s, and he settled himself down comfortably to hear what his companion had to say on the matter.

"There's old Dreadnought Phipps," White continued. "Peter Phipps, to give him his right name. Well, has ever a man who aspires to be considered a financial giant had such a career? He was broken on the New York Stock Exchange, went to Montreal and made a million or so, back to New York, where he got in with the copper lot and no doubt made real money. Then he went for that wheat corner in Chicago. He got out of that with another fortune, though they say he sold his fellow directors. Now he turns up here, chairman of the B. & I., who must have bought fifty million pounds' worth of wheat already this year. Well, unless he's considerably out of his depth, he must have some one else's money to play with besides his own."

"Let me see, who are the other directors?" Kendrick enquired.

"Well, there's young Stanley Rees, Phipps' nephew, who came in for three hundred thousand pounds a few years ago," Maurice White answered; "old skinflint Martin, who may be worth half a million but certainly not more; and Dredlinton. Dredlinton's rabbit, of course. He hasn't got a bob. There's money enough amongst the rest for any ordinary business undertaking, if only one could understand what the mischief they were up to. They can't corner wheat in this country."

"I wonder," Kendrick murmured. "The harvests last year were bad all over the world, you know, and this year, except in the States and Canada, they will be worse. With another fifty million it might be done."

"But they're taking deliveries," White pointed out. "They have granaries all over the kingdom, subsidiary companies to do the dirty work of refusing to sell. Already they say that three quarters of the wheat of the country is in their hands, and mind you, they sell nothing. The price goes up and up, just the same as the price of their shares has risen. They buy but they never sell. Some of the big banks must be helping, of course, but I know one or two one in particular who decline to handle any business from them at all."

"I should say their greatest risk was Government interference," Kendrick observed. "Gambling in foodstuffs ought to be forbidden."

"It would take our Government a year to make up their minds what to do," White scoffed, "and by that time these fellows would have sold out and be on to something else... Continue reading book >>

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