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producer or carrier to go beyond a cer. tain mark, and to that extent he is bound to give protection. Sometimes he overreaches himself, but it carries its own cure. Waiving the ethics of the matter, you know that no responsible business man goes into a scheme which he knows is going to kill people. He understands the reaction."
"Which was just my friend's point." The president smiled genially as he arose. "No business scheme actually contemplates the taking of human life; it simply overlooks it entirely. It doesn't enter, so to speak, into the specifications. Well, gentlemen, my sermon is finished. I am now going to risk my personal safety on one of Wilmot's cars, and if I lose a leg or two, I shall prove this argument in court."
Larrabee left them-he was always the first out-and as the president turned to follow, Wilmot looked over at him with twinkling eyes.
"Have you seen this afternoon's
"No. What's in it?"
"Well, I didn't think you had, when you began your exposition on negligible quantities. You know Larrabee is in the City Hall Ring, and the Times lines up with the opposition. It comes out with a column article about a new scraper he is putting up for Morrison on Forty-second, next to the Berwick, and it more than hints that he has inched on the specifications until it doesn't come up to legal requirements for safety. Then it raps the Berwick and calls it 'a rotted eight-story firetrap.' The Berwick belongs to Larrabee, you know."
"No, I did not know," The old director frowned a little.
"I thought the Berwick was a pretty decent hotel," Atwood ventured curiously.
"Oh, it looks all right, and it commands good prices; but I guess it was pretty old when Larrabee bought it, dirt cheap, about ten years ago. He has
Better come up to my house. Don't talk until you see me. Good bye."
A grim little smile twitched at his mouth as he hung up. His skies were clearing. This was action, and action was meat and strong drink to him. He stayed at his desk nearly an hour longer, deep in a wilderness of figures.
He ate alone that night. His boy Frank was home from college for the Easter holiday, but he was out somewhere for supper-no, dinner. Plain supper had always been good enough for Larrabee, but the boy's friends seemed to do things differently. Down somewhere in his tough little knotted muscle of a heart Larrabee nursed a queer vanity over the "swellness" of his boy's college friends. Frank should have the things in life which he himself had been denied. His wife had His wife had died some years before, but he still kept his house, with all its speaking ugliness of misspent wealth, for the boy's sake. It was for the same untimate end, unformulated but insistent, that he had taken an expensive pew in an expensive church and sat stolidly through the service each Sunday morning, and for the same reason he lingered after the directors' meeting of the Cornhill Bank, listening to conversation which he did not always understand. In some obscure way these things seemed to be a title of respectability to hand on to the boy.
Larrabee was no fool. He knew where he stood-that with all his money and strength he could not get beyond a certain plane. He knew that while men like Atwood and Gordon would meet him genially on a business level, they would as soon think of inviting an East River tugboat to sit at their tables. For himself he could snap his fingers at it; but they should not despise his son. Frank should be all that he was and all that he could not hope to be, and thus far the boy had justified his ambition,
When Rankin came Larrabee carried him off to what he always called the "sittin'-room," and shut the door. For ten minutes the strong murmur of his voice rose and fell.
"Now," finished Lararbee, "I want you to go over to the Berwick and the new building. Make a regular official inspection, and report. Pay special at. tention to the new building. That's the way to shut those fellows up. As soon as you're through I'll go to the Times people and cram it down their throats."
The Building Inspector cleared his own throat and hesitated. He had been in politics long enough to know what he owed his backers.
"I took a run up there after I got your 'phone, but it was so dark I couldn't see much. Maybe a little bracing here and there might show up well. They've been blasting a couple of sqares down, and that might have weakened it. If Morrison should get nervous-"
“Fiddlesticks!” The contractor snapped it out contemptuously. "I'll be responsible to Morrison. Now see here, Rankin, I'm not running any risk of losing money on buildings that I put up. If that place isn't safe I'll go to work and make it safe. That's business, and you're the man to put me wise about it. But I say it is safe. I've been all over the plans again tonight. Guess you've heard somebody
He narrowed his sharp eyes at Rankin, not ill-naturedly. The Inspector knew as well as he that Larrabee had "inched" on the specifications in quantity and quality as far as he dared, and justified himself in it. That, as he would have said, was business. Rankin also knew that what Larrabee said was true that he was not the man to lose money by going too far if he knew it. "I questioned the foreman a bit," he admitted, "and he said that the masons have been grumbling lately. They have
a notion that she's going to lean before the walls are up. Perhaps that's where the Times got it."
"Damn their notions!" said Larrabee shortly. "Now Rankin, put that through tomorrow, and we won't forget you. If you think there's trouble ahead, come to me first and say so. I'm not doing anything foolish if I know it, but I think she's all right."
Larrabee was still up when his son returned. At the sound of the key in the latch he laid down the trade journal he had been reading.
"Hello, dad; you up?" "M'm, been busy."
The young man threw his hat and coat at one chair, stretched himself in another, and took the cigar his father shoved toward him. He was a well set up youngster, with pleasant gray eyes which came from his mother's side, and a strong chin which marked him the son of his father. That was the only resemblance that outsiders ever no. ticed between Larrabee and his son. It might develop later, but the advantages which Larrabee's money had bought for the boy had given him something that the father could never buy for himself. When Larrabee wore a "dress suit" it looked hired; it struck him that the boy looked as though he had grown
"Dad, do you mind if I desert you for a few days?"
"Do as you please," Larrabee grunted briefly. "I want you to have a good time."
"It's a wedding," the boy explained. "Billy Cummings-he's Gordon's cousin, you know, and graduated last yearBilly's engaged to a girl out in Chicago, and the wedding comes off Thursday. I hadn't intended going, but the boys got at me tonight, and I promised. There will be quite a party of us going from here, and we'll have a big time.”
Larrabee swelled with that silent pride as he listened. Old Gordon's boy
was his boy's classmate; the other names he mentioned were of the same social altitude, and they were begging Frank to go with them. His boy was as good as any of 'em, and better. He could buy 'em all out some day, body and soul.
The son talked on contentedly. It seemed odd to him that his father should enjoy these details of his doings, but since he did, there was no harm in telling them. Perhaps some day Larrabee's boy would be ashamed of his father, or college democracy past— would be dropped by these friends of another life and come to live contentedly enough on the father's plane, but just at present he was simply a healthy, good-looking youngster with a likable way about him and only the normal amount of iniquity in his system, and he was content to take the good things that the world offered without asking why.
"The Gordons gave a dinner tonight to Billy and all the men of our class who are in town for the holiday. That's where I was. Stag? No, mixed. I met Tom's sister; she's awfully fine." He arose and slowly gathered up his belongings. "She's going with the party tomorrow, and Mrs. Gordon chaperons it. Tom has a splendid mother, and she's mighty kind to all his friends. Well, good-night. See you tomorrow morning. We take the 2:20, and I'll get back in time for another day home before vacation ends."
His father was fumbling in his pockets.
"You'll need money," he suggested. "I left my check-book at the office, but let me know what you want and I'll leave it there for you. I may be gone when you get down.”
It was his way of expressing approval. For a long time after Frank left him he sat there and smoked, deliberating the boy's future. Next year he would take him into the business, or start him out on a venture of his own. And in a few years more—.
It happened about two o'clock the next day, one of those windy, violent days when winter grudgingly gives way to spring, fighting to the last inch for supremacy. Larrabee's clerk answered the telephone call which announced it, and his eyes rounded in dismay. No, Mr. Larrabee was out of town. He had an appointment with an architect over in Jersey-no, he hadn't said where, but he would be back by four.
The clerk hung up and began to fidget around the room. He looked worried. Then he hunted up a time table, looked it over and fidgeted again. Twice he started to put on his overcoat, and took it off. He dared not leave the office now-Larrabee might come in. He went to the telephone and called again for news. It was bad. He ventured to say what was troubling him. No, they knew nothing about it, but they should not be surprised.
It was nearly four when Larrabee came. He had secured his contract, and he was brisk and contented. At the sight of the clerk's perturbed face and the overcoat lying in a heap on the desk his brows went up.
"Well, well, out with it! Lord, man, it won't get any better by keeping!" "The new building-Morrison's-it collapsed about two o'clock."
Larrabee's wrath exploded in one word. His brows went together, his lips tightened. He jerked his head for the man to go on.
"I got it over the 'phone. She fell to the left and crushed that side of the Berwick, and the hotel took fire. It's under control now, but-Mr. Larrabee!"
"Hurry up!" he snapped. What was the fool stuttering about?
Larrabee was going for the door, and he looked impatiently over his should
"Your son came in for the letter you left. I'm afraid-al least, he said he must hurry, for he had to catch a train and was to stop for a friend who was staying at the Berwick. That was twenty minutes of two, and-"
Larrabee glared at him from the doorway. He clenched his fist, half
"You lie," he said thickly.
"Well, Mr. Larrabee, it's bad news, surged and pressed, held back only by a but I hope-"
single line of rope and bulky statues in blue. Now and then a cry went up as some one guessed at a friend or kindred in the ruins and struggled to get near. er. Larrabee went inside the inclosure; Building Inspector Rankin had just been admitted.
The fire was out when Larrabee arrived. The Berwick was two ragged walls above ground and a steaming chaos below. Morrison's new "scraper," a tall steel skeleton the day before, was now a twisted, bewildering heap of scrap. Men were working on the ruins already, where they could. An engine was playing on the hot embers of the hotel, and firemen were venturing wherever a beam would hold, but most of the injured or dead-were down in that smouldering pit and might not yet be reached.
The danger zone was roped off, policemen guarding it, and ambulances stood lined up in readiness. Around the place on three sides the crowd
The satellite smiled deprecatingly. He was uneasy, but Larrabee could help him out if he wished.
"Well, I thought I might get a line on something. It's pretty bad, isn't it?"
"Sure!" Larrabee grunted impatiently-he did not like people to waste words over the obvious. "Some of these trouble-hunters would like to scare me,"
The crowd surged, craned its neck and went into an expectant hush. A group of workers had concentrated suddenly in one spot and were delving fast, yet with delicate care. They brought up something limp and red stained, with hung arms and dragging legs, and a stretcher from the nearest ambulance was raced over the precarious footing of fallen masonry and twisted steel. It was one of the workmen, alive, for he groaned faintly as they brought him down. The ropes parted to let him out, closed again, and the diminishing clang of the ambulance pounded into Larrabee's brain.
"I've sent a telegram after my boy." he said in Rankin's ear, "but he won't get it before tomorrow."
"That's a good idea." Rankin nodded and moved off uneasily. He wanted to get away from the restless crowd and Larrabee's parrot repetition about his son, and he ducked under the rope and went home. Tomorrow would have its own reckoning, but Larrabee could see him through.
At the edge of the crowd an old woman, gray-uaired and frowzed in her strident grief, leveled a thin finger at the contractor.
"That's him! That's Larrabee!" she shrilled across the inclosure. "Where's my Johnny, him as worked for ye? Ye sent him in that hole to work, didn't ye? Now bring him out again."
The accusing finger coiled into a threatening fist; she leaned far over and shrieked hideous revilement at him and his building; broke into sobs again, and went limp and gasping. The voice
of the crowd swelled into a hoarse murmur. They held him culpable, him, Larrabee! It was the damned intrusive folly of that paper-lies, lies, all lies! It was the blasting, the wind. Didn't he know how to put up buildings? He spoke to the officer nearest him, without moving his head.
"Keep tabs on the hospitals that take the workmen. That's up to me."
Another body came down, still another, this one a woman, a charred rag of humanity from the hotel. The mur mur of the crowd surged after each Larrabee leaned against a post and waited. An extra was called through the street. He bought one, read its arraignment of himself with contemptuously out-thrust lip, and frowned at the paragraph which spoke of his son. It was a lie. Frank had to catch the train. Something that Gordon had said the day before marched and countermarched through his brain in stark procession: "No business scheme actually contemplates the taking of human life; it simply overlooks it entirely. It does not enter, so to speak, in the specifications." Pooh! Gordon was an old fool.
The crowd stopped counting as the bearers of still burdens came down into the inclosure. the inclosure. Some of these lived; more did not; all were horrible. Larrabee watched them with hard, keen eyes as they were carried past, especially the men. All New York seemed to his fretted nerves to be straining at those ropes to claim its dead. Strangled sobs came to him as stretchers went out with what was left of men and women; red eyes and unsteady lips blurred across his sharp vision. He took out a telegraph blank and sent another message after the boy.
Darkness came, and over the wreck of both buildings lanterns gleamed out, bobbing here and there. They could not do much more until morning. The mob thinned out, save for those who