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- The Lion and the Mouse - 2/50 -


railroads, which after all seemed but retributive justice.

John Burkett Ryder, the richest man in the world--the man whose name had spread to the farthest corners of the earth because of his wealth, and whose money, instead of being a blessing, promised to become not only a curse to himself but a source of dire peril to all mankind--was a genius born of the railroad age. No other age could have brought him forth; his peculiar talents fitted exactly the conditions of his time. Attracted early in life to the newly discovered oil fields of Pennsylvania, he became a dealer in the raw product and later a refiner, acquiring with capital, laboriously saved, first one refinery, then another. The railroads were cutting each other's throats to secure the freight business of the oil men, and John Burkett Ryder saw his opportunity. He made secret overtures to the road, guaranteeing a vast amount of business if he could get exceptionally low rates, and the illegal compact was made. His competitors, undersold in the market, stood no chance, and one by one they were crushed out of existence. Ryder called these manouvres "business"; the world called them brigandage. But the Colossus prospered and slowly built up the foundations of the extraordinary fortune which is the talk and the wonder of the world today. Master now of the oil situation, Ryder succeeded in his ambition of organizing the Empire Trading Company, the most powerful, the most secretive, and the most wealthy business institution the commercial world has yet known.

Yet with all this success John Burkett Ryder was still not content. He was now a rich man, richer by many millions that he had dreamed he could ever be, but still he was unsatisfied. He became money mad. He wanted to be richer still, to be the richest man in the world, the richest man the world had ever known. And the richer he got the stronger the idea grew upon him with all the force of a morbid obsession. He thought of money by day, he dreamt of it at night. No matter by what questionable device it was to be procured, more gold and more must flow into his already overflowing coffers. So each day, instead of spending the rest of his years in peace, in the enjoyment of the wealth he had accumulated, he went downtown like any twenty-dollar-a-week clerk to the tall building in lower Broadway and, closeted with his associates, toiled and plotted to make more money.

He acquired vast copper mines and secured control of this and that railroad. He had invested heavily in the Southern and Transcontinental road and was chairman of its board of directors. Then he and his fellow-conspirators planned a great financial coup. The millions were not coming in fast enough. They must make a hundred millions at one stroke. They floated a great mining company to which the public was invited to subscribe. The scheme having the endorsement of the Empire Trading Company no one suspected a snare, and such was the magic of John Ryder's name that gold flowed in from every point of the compass. The stock sold away above par the day it was issued. Men deemed themselves fortunate if they were even granted an allotment. What matter if, a few days later, the house of cards came tumbling down, and a dozen suicides were strewn along Wall Street, that sinister thoroughfare which, as a wit has said, has a graveyard at one end and the river at the other! Had Ryder any twinges of conscience? Hardly. Had he not made a cool twenty millions by the deal?

Yet this commercial pirate, this Napoleon of finance, was not a wholly bad man. He had his redeeming qualities, like most bad men. His most pronounced weakness, and the one that had made him the most conspicuous man of his time, was an entire lack of moral principle. No honest or honourable man could have amassed such stupendous wealth. In other words, John Ryder had not been equipped by Nature with a conscience. He had no sense of right, or wrong, or justice where his own interests were concerned. He was the prince of egoists. On the other hand, he possessed qualities which, with some people, count as virtues. He was pious and regular in his attendance at church and, while he had done but little for charity, he was known to have encouraged the giving of alms by the members of his family, which consisted of a wife, whose timid voice was rarely heard, and a son Jefferson, who was the destined successor to his gigantic estate.

Such was the man who was the real power behind the Southern and Transcontinental Railroad. More than anyone else Ryder had been aroused by the present legal action, not so much for the money interest at stake as that any one should dare to thwart his will. It had been a pet scheme of his, this purchase for a song, when the land was cheap, of some thousand acres along the line, and it is true that at the time of the purchase there had been some idea of laying the land out as a park. But real estate values had increased in astonishing fashion, the road could no longer afford to carry out the original scheme, and had attempted to dispose of the property for building purposes, including a right of way for a branch road. The news, made public in the newspapers, had raised a storm of protest. The people in the vicinity claimed that the railroad secured the land on the express condition of a park being laid out, and in order to make a legal test they had secured an injunction, which had been sustained by Judge Rossmore of the United States Circuit Court.

These details were hastily told and re-told by one clerk to another as the babel of voices in the inner room grew louder, and more directors kept arriving from the ever-busy elevators. The meeting was called for three o'clock. Another five minutes and the chairman would rap for order. A tall, strongly built man with white moustache and kindly smile emerged from the directors room and, addressing one of the clerks, asked:

"Has Mr. Ryder arrived yet?"

The alacrity with which the employe hastened forward to reply would indicate that his interlocutor was a person of more than ordinary importance.

"No, Senator, not yet. We expect him any minute." Then with a deferential smile he added: "Mr. Ryder usually arrives on the stroke, sir."

The senator gave a nod of acquiescence and, turning on his heel, greeted with a grasp of the hand and affable smile his fellow- directors as they passed in by twos and threes.

Senator Roberts was in the world of politics what his friend John Burkett Ryder was in the world of finance--a leader of men. He started life in Wisconsin as an errand boy, was educated in the public schools, and later became clerk in a dry-goods store, finally going into business for his own account on a large scale. He was elected to the Legislature, where his ability as an organizer soon gained the friendship of the men in power, and later was sent to Congress, where he was quickly initiated in the game of corrupt politics. In 1885 he entered the United States Senate. He soon became the acknowledged leader of a considerable majority of the Republican senators, and from then on he was a figure to be reckoned with. A very ambitious man, with a great love of power and few scruples, it is little wonder that only the practical or dishonest side of politics appealed to him. He was in politics for all there was in it, and he saw in his lofty position only a splendid opportunity for easy graft.

He did not hesitate to make such alliances with corporate interests seeking influence at Washington as would enable him to accomplish this purpose, and in this way he had met and formed a strong friendship with John Burkett Ryder. Each being a master in his own field was useful to the other. Neither was troubled with qualms of conscience, so they never quarrelled. If the Ryder interests needed anything in the Senate, Roberts and his followers were there to attend to it. Just now the cohort was marshalled in defence of the railroads against the attacks of the new Rebate bill. In fact, Ryder managed to keep the Senate busy all the time. When, on the other hand, the senators wanted anything--and they often did--Ryder saw that they got it, lower rates for this one, a fat job for that one, not forgetting themselves. Senator Roberts was already a very rich man, and although the world often wondered where he got it, no one had the courage to ask him.

But the Republican leader was stirred with an ambition greater than that of controlling a majority in the Senate. He had a daughter, a marriageable young woman who, at least in her father's opinion, would make a desirable wife for any man. His friend Ryder had a son, and this son was the only heir to the greatest fortune ever amassed by one man, a fortune which, at its present rate of increase, by the time the father died and the young couple were ready to inherit, would probably amount to over SIX BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. Could the human mind grasp the possibilities of such a colossal fortune? It staggered the imagination. Its owner, or the man who controlled it, would be master of the world! Was not this a prize any man might well set himself out to win? The senator was thinking of it now as he stood exchanging banal remarks with the men who accosted him. If he could only bring off that marriage he would be content. The ambition of his life would be attained. There was no difficulty as far as John Ryder was concerned. He favoured the match and had often spoken of it. Indeed, Ryder desired it, for such an alliance would naturally further his business interests in every way. Roberts knew that his daughter Kate had more than a liking for Ryder's handsome young son. Moreover, Kate was practical, like her father, and had sense enough to realize what it would mean to be the mistress of the Ryder fortune. No, Kate was all right, but there was young Ryder to reckon with. It would take two in this case to make a bargain.

Jefferson Ryder was, in truth, an entirely different man from his father. It was difficult to realize that both had sprung from the same stock. A college-bred boy with all the advantages his father's wealth could give him, he had inherited from the parent only those characteristics which would have made him successful even if born poor--activity, pluck, application, dogged obstinacy, alert mentality. To these qualities he added what his father sorely lacked--a high notion of honour, a keen sense of right and wrong. He had the honest man's contempt for meanness of any description, and he had little patience with the lax so-called business morals of the day. For him a dishonourable or dishonest action could have no apologist, and he could see no difference between the crime of the hungry wretch who stole a loaf of bread and the coal baron who systematically robbed both his employes and the public. In fact, had he been on the bench he would probably have acquitted the human derelict who, in despair, had appropriated the prime necessary of life, and sent the over-fed, conscienceless coal baron to jail.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This simple and fundamental axiom Jefferson Ryder had adopted early in life, and it had become his religion--the only one, in fact, that he had. He was never pious like his father, a fact much regretted by his mother, who could see nothing but eternal damnation in store for her son because he never went to church and professed no orthodox creed. She knew him to be a good lad, but to her simple mind a conduct of life based merely on a system of moral


The Lion and the Mouse - 2/50

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