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should like to get into the game and help, it was all being handled by some one else, and there was really nothing for us to do except to go on living as usual. That was the delusion from which we were suffering when we stepped off the train at the Grand Central Station that bright October morning.
René, our lame French chauffeur, whom we had left on half wages during our absence—"much too good to let go” had been our theory-was waiting for us with a fur lap-robe over his arm on the curb outside the station, and our smart little Renault landaulet, which had just come from the shop, looked almost like new. Our other servants had been sent
and our house on East Seventy-second Street had been left in charge of a caretaker.
"You had better go to the Chatwold for a day or two," I suggested to my wife; "then you can take plenty of time to engage your servants. I think I'll drop down to the office to see how things are going. Probably I'll be up to lunch."
We were back in New York, back in our home town, back in our old lives--that is, we thought we were back to them.
"Where's Morris?" I asked twenty minutes later as I stepped into our private office and shook my partner Lord by the hand.
“Morris ?” he repeated, lifting his eyebrows. "Didn't you know? Oh, you probably didn't get my
letter. Why, your brother-in-law pulled up stakes last week and has gone down to Washington to help McAdoo."
“Gone to Washington !" I repeated blankly. "What's he gone there for? How are we going to get on without him in the business?”
My partner laughed grimly and shrugged his welltailored shoulders.
"There isn't any business!” he remarked. I looked at him stupidly.
“How do you mean-no business ?” I repeated incredulously.
"Just exactly that-no business at all !” he answered. “Bonds are dead! Everybody is trying to sell 'em, and there aren't any buyers. We haven't paid our expenses for the last six months. There's nothing doing here. So far as business is concerned, you might have stayed away forever. We don't need Morris; we don't need any office force. But we can't send 'em away; it wouldn't be decent. We've just got to make up our minds to it--that's all !”
I sat down, slowly trying to take it all in-to envisage this new Wall Street.
“Aren't there any profits?” I persisted.
"Profits--hell !” he ejaculated. “Say, what's the matter with you? Where do you think you are, anyway? This business is costing us two thousand a month!”
I got up and walked to the window.
“Where did the money come from you've been sending me?” I demanded.
“Your share of our commissions on the Phoenicia merger,” he replied. “Look here, old top, it's time
, you began to wake up. I suppose we ought to have let you know how things were, but it seemed kinder to let you enjoy yourself.”
"To let me dream on," I retorted. “Well, let's hear the rest of it."
“I suppose you know about the income tax?” “Not much.”
"Well, you're soaked three ways—the old 1916 tax, the new 1917 war tax, and the 8 per cent on earnings over six thousand dollars."
"That last won't hurt us much, will it?” Then I burst out laughing. “Do you know, Lord-oh, Lord ! —that I've just sent my wife and daughter up to take a suite at the Chatwold ?”
“There's the telephone,” he said humorously, pushing it toward me.
"I think I need your help, old man," I replied. "Just sit down here with me--will you?-and figure out what's left.”
Lord opened a drawer and pulled out a printed sheet covered with a complicated table of figures. I told him the returns from my private capital, and after a comparatively brief calculation he informed me that my income tax would amount to $3,713.09. I never knew how he got the nine cents. Anyhow, it really didn't matter much. I took the sheet of pad paper on which he had been writing and studied it attentively, with mingled feelings. Then I lifted my pencil and poised it in my hand.
"What have our yearly profits averaged for the last five years-yours and mine?" I asked.
"Twelve thousand apiece,” he answered at once.
“Well, I've spent every cent of it; so have you. Add twelve thousand to three thousand and seven hundred”—I did it—"and you get fifteen thousand seven hundred. That's what this blooming old war has done to me already! It's cut my income over fifteen thousand dollars.'
"It's done the same to me," said he.
It didn't seem possible. I was almost convinced there must be some trick in the figures-a statistical joke.
“Do? Same as you will—cut down expenses." "Fifteen thousand dollars? I can't!"
Of course I couldn't! I had been living right up to the top notch on the theory that my income would, if anything, have a slight normal increase year by year. I had my principal, of course; but I had been brought up to view the spending of principal-of invested capital--as hardly less than a crime. Still, under the circumstances- Yet, to sell securities meant taking a loss of from twenty to forty points. There wasn't much fun in selling an investment security, in order to raise ten thousand dollars, at a cash loss of four thousand.
“You've got to do it, old man !” Lord said, perceiving what was going on
on inside my head. "We can't
“ dispose of our firm securities at these prices
we've had to mark 'em down an average of thirty points and you can't sell yours. You've simply got to change your mode of living. Everybody's doing it. You'll be in excellent company. After all, it's our contribution to the war! I don't mind so much. It's nothing to freezing in the trenches. We can't be stingy with our dollars when other fellows are giving their lives, can we?”
“You're right," I agreed. “But if you can spare me I guess I'll hike along up-town. My wife might buy a fur coat or something !"
My pet stenographer, Miss Peterson, who, in spite of her halo of bronze-colored hair, is the most efficient young woman I have ever had the good fortune to meet, had always attended to my personal accounts; so well, in fact, that I had rarely given them any attention. Now I rang for her and asked her to make me out an itemized statement setting forth my average yearly expenditures for the past five years.