It was not the sum about which he hesitated, but a touch of uncertainty as to just how much capital Wimperley and the rest could actually provide. Then suddenly he decided to be economical, even though a secondhand mill had obvious weaknesses. In the next moment he rang for Belding.
"Hullo, Wimperley, glad to see you. Had a good trip? You and Stoughton are coming to the blockhouse with me. The others are at the hotel. Sorry I can't put you all up." Birch put down his bag and held out a clammy hand. "What about it?" He shot a quick glance at Wimperley. The president of the Consolidated shook his head.
And, by the way, I had an inquiry yesterday for forty thousand horse power. Of course we haven't got it to spare, at least not at the moment. Now will you excuse me for just a moment?" He stepped into the general office and shut the door softly behind him. Wimperley glanced inquiringly at Stoughton. "You haven't done much ramming this morning!" "No, I'm not just in the mood. How about you?"
That railway trestle you see that trestle don't you, Wimperley? Wimperley pulled himself together, but his feet had lost all feeling. "Yes, any one could see that." "Well, that will be replaced by a steel bridge at the railway's expense.
It is not given to many men to place themselves correctly in the general scheme of the world, and to fairly estimate their own contribution. Thus it was that Wimperley and his associates read on the screen of the present only the word "failure," and were conscious chiefly of a certain self contempt for the arduous part they had played. At the last moment success had been snatched from their grasp.
"You don't get me," Birch spoke in a thin dry voice totally devoid of any emphasis. "The proper use of a man like that is the purpose for which nature designed him. He's an originator but not an executive. Dividends don't interest him half as much as the foundations of a new mill." Wimperley shook his head. "That may be all right, but from my point of view he has become dangerous.
"Nothing, I admit, but why in thunder did we start this game anyway? Why couldn't we just take things easy and go fishing. We've all got enough." Wimperley stretched his arms above his head in delicious fatigue. "Keep away from second causes; this is no place for them. Four years ago you were meant to go fishing to-day in this very stream. Why worry about it?"
When Wimperley, unfolding his mind steadily and without interruption, told Clark that the old régime was at an end, the latter, at first, was not much impressed. But gradually the case became clearer. "I don't say we don't trust you," he said, "but candidly, we're afraid of you.
"Wait a minute," struck in Wimperley hastily and pressed a bell. "Telephone Mr. Riggs and Mr. Stoughton and see if they can come over for a moment," he said to his secretary, then, turning to Clark, "better wait for them." Silence fell in the office. Both men were thinking hard.
Wimperley was the auditor of a great railway system, and when Clark's name was brought in he looked up from his desk and announced shortly: "Busy, can't see him," which was really what Clark expected.