Gambles with Destiny - George Griffiths - ebook

Gambles with Destiny ebook

George Griffiths

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George Griffith became famous for his fantastic stories. The main character decided to fight with Destiny. The hero is the symbol of all nations, he combines the interests of all nations. The author conceived an interesting idea and in the end will surprise readers.

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Liczba stron: 183

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Contents

Hellville, U.S.A

I. FATHER AND SON

II. FROM WEALTH TO WORK

III. SOME STRAIGHT TALK

IV. PRESIDENT RAEBURN

V. SINCLAIR’S IDEA

VI

VII. SACRIFICE

VIII. VENGEANCE

The Great Crellin Comet

I

II

III

A Corner In Lightning

I

II

A Genius For A Year

I

II

III

The Plague-Ship “Tupisa”

Hellville, U.S.A

I. FATHER AND SON

“Then I am to understand definitely that you won’t?”

“It isn’t won’t, dad; it’s more like can’t. It’s no use. After all, you know, there are some things in the world that are better than money–”

Stanley Raeburn senior threw himself back in his chair and stared, or it might be more correct to say he glared, at his son, who was standing on the hearthrug in front of an open fire-grate in the library of one of the big brown- stone houses overlooking Central Park, New York.

It was a sentiment which would have been heresy from any one’s lips, but coming from those of his son it was simply flat blasphemy.

It meant not only the negation of his own life-lesson, a lesson which he had learnt through much labour and strife from the days when he had thought ten dollars a week a princely salary to those later ones in which his millions were accumulating so rapidly that he couldn’t always keep track even of the interest on them. It was also an unmistakable notification of the utter failure of the task that he had undertaken and prosecuted with only a little less interest than that with which he had devoted himself to the piling-up of millions.

Ever since his son had reached what he considered to be reasoning years, he had done everything that a man in command of practically unlimited resources could do to make him a duplicate of himself to make the boy grow up into a man whose first and only life-object should be the multiplication of the millions that he would inherit and the increase of the power into which those millions could be translated.

He himself had started out as a lawyer’s office-boy in West 43rd Street on three dollars a week. He was now a United States senator with money and influence enough behind him to justify him in aspiring to the presidency itself. Given, therefore, that his son began, as he might do, where he himself left off, how far might he not go? And here he was talking of losing all this for the sake of a pretty face and a pair of soft brown eyes with a gleam of gold in them belonging to a girl in one of his own offices who worked a typewriter for little more than double the salary he began on.

There were other things which, if possible, were even worse ridiculous theories on social and political subjects, which somehow, in spite of all his care, this prodigal son of his had managed to absorb; wild and impossible dreams of what he called honesty and purity in public affairs; blank idiotcy which would bring any respectably conducted state to ruin in a fortnight. But these he, Raeburn senior, considered to be quite secondary to the other disturbing cause, and it was just here, as subsequent events showed, that he went absolutely wrong.

“Look here, Stanley, if you’re going to talk like that, I’ll have to ask you to find another audience. There may be some things better than money, but Fd like to know how you’re going to get them without the money, unless you’re going to get other things with them in the way of shabby clothes and short meals that you’d rather be without. You know, one has to pay a very long price for true love and domestic felicity on a few dollars a week, and that’s a price you can’t pay in cash, mind. You’ve got to pay it with your own life and the lives of those you think you love.

“No, no, Stanley,” he went on, his voice softening a little, “it won’t do. Those sort of things are all very well when they’re made into poetry or slush of that sort, but they’re hard and ugly facts to knock your head against and break your heart over in real life. There’s time to turn back still. Won’t you do it, Stanley lad?”

“It isn’t won’t, dad, as I said before,” he answered with a little break in his voice; for this was almost the first time he could remember seeing this man of iron and gold who called him son soften even for a moment. “It isn’t won’t; it’s can’t. Even if I could give up Lucy to please you, that wouldn’t make any difference to my convictions; and you know, after all, a man can no more help his convictions than he can help his appetite. Put it as low down as you like, and you must still admit that you can no more help thinking a certain way at a certain time than you can help being hungry at a certain time.

“You, for instance, think that money is everything, or at any rate essential to everything worth having. Suppose you woke up tomorrow morning in a world that had no use for money. You’d think it was a lunatic asylum, and for some time you’d go on thinking as you do about money. You couldn’t help it any more than I can help my convictions about the worse than worthlessness of it when it’s used as it is here–”

“And everywhere else; don’t forget that, young man.”

Raeburn senior’s voice was harder now than ever.

“Don’t make any mistake about the size of the job you’ve taken in hand. It isn’t New York or the United States that you’ve got to reform; it’s the whole world and a trifle of fifteen hundred million human beings sitting tight on the traditions of more centuries than the histories tell us anything about. It’s a big order even for a man who thinks himself a deputy Providence to take on.”

The sarcasm stung Stanley a little, for he wasn’t quite thirty yet, and his moral skin was still thin and sensitive. He flushed slightly and pulled himself up, and replied in a tone that was almost as hard and cutting as his father’s in fact, there was a curious sort of a family likeness in it

“If you’ll allow me to take the frills off that last remark of yours and turn the theory into fact, the United States is just now putting in a ruinous tender for that self-same job; and you, I am sorry to say, are one of the boss contractors.”

“What the devil do you mean, sir? Have you forgotten that you’re talking to your father?”

“I hadn’t; but I might do if you forget that you’re speaking to your son. What I mean is this–”

“I don’t care a damn what you mean, sir!” his father almost shouted as he sprang from his seat and faced him as a man faces another who has made him an enemy for life. “What I mean is this: In this house there are millions for you, and the possibility of all that those millions and your own brains can buy. Outside there’s the street and the clothes you stand up in. Here you’re my son, with a passport to the best society in the world. There you’re an outcast, a tramp without a dollar in your pocket, and with every door shut against you. That’s your choice, and you’ve got to take it right here. Will you go or stay?”

“I’ll go, dad, not because I want to, but because I can’t stop on those terms. Good-bye.”

He held out his hand, but his father turned his back on him, perhaps because he wouldn’t shake hands, possibly for another reason. Stanley put his hand in his pocket and walked towards the door. As he opened it with his left hand, he looked back. His father had gone to the window, and was staring out over the park through a little mist that somehow obscured the brightness of the clear winter day. If he had been looking the other way for the moment, many things of great concern might never have happened. But the fates appeared to have made up their minds, and the millionaire didn’t look round until he heard the door close. Then he took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes, and reproached his own and all other prodigal sons in language that would not have been tolerated even in the United States Senate.

Then he turned to the window again, and as he did so he heard the front door close with a very decided bang. He knew what had happened, but somehow he couldn’t get away from the window. His son walked past with his hands in the pockets of his ulster.

That was all he had taken with him. He wasn’t even carrying a handbag, and he was looking straight in front of him.

“If he’d only look up even now!” the old man caught himself saying.

But no, the prodigal walked straight on without looking either up or back.

“Damn the boy!” said Stanley Raeburn senior under his breath, but with a stamp on the floor that added considerable emphasis to the words. And then he turned away and dropped into a big armchair by the fire, and presently he had taken out his handkerchief again.

II. FROM WEALTH TO WORK

Stanley Raeburn’s troubles had only just begun when he shut the door of his father’s house behind him. He knew that, of course, perfectly well; still, it was rather a curious sensation. An hour ago he could have drawn his cheque for fifty thousand dollars. Ten minutes ago a few words of submission would have earned him five million dollars in hard cash, for that was the splendid price which his father had offered him for his love and his convictions. Now he had less than ten dollars in his pocket, and he had scruples about keeping even that. He had a cheque-book, too, and a substantial sum to his credit at the bank, but that was no longer his.

He didn’t even know where he was going.

In point of fact, he had nowhere to go to, although his footsteps were instinctively turning in the direction of his club. As this thought struck him, his rebellious soul rose in even more fervent revolt. From this outside standpoint, this chilly isolation which he had so suddenly reached, he could look back and see how poor a creature he had really been a sort of gilt-edged pensioner absolutely dependent for his necessaries and his luxuries on the bounty of a man who made his money by methods which he himself considered little short of criminal. True, that man was his father; but that didn’t make much difference, after all, especially as he was his father now in little more than name.

Then there came a queer sort of exultation. He had grown up, as it were, in the last few minutes. He would be a man soon, and he might as well set about being so at once.

He went to his club and sat down in the writing-room. He took a long envelope out of the case and put his half-used cheque-book into it. Then he took a sheet of note-paper and wrote on it the ominous letters, “I.0.U.” He next went deliberately through his pockets, and when he had done this, he wrote, “Eight dollars seventy-five cents” under the letters, and signed his name to it. He put this in with the cheque-book, sealed the envelope, and addressed it to his father. Just as he had done so, he heard a voice behind him saying, in a low tone adjusted to the character of the room

“Morning, Raeburn! How do? You’re out early. Is it too early for a cocktail? I’ve got some fresh news about this European business for you when you’ve finished.”

“Ah, Sinclair, is that you?” said Raeburn, getting up and facing round with the envelope still in his hand. “You are just the one man in all New York that I wanted to see most. Cocktail? “Well, it’s a bit early, but never mind. Come along; I want to have a talk with you.”

When they got in the smoking-room and were comfortably ensconced in a couple of cosy, deep-seated armchairs, Raeburn felt another curious sort of thrill run through his moral being. This was in all probability his last appearance on the stage of life as a rich man, or at any rate as the son of one. To-morrow, that afternoon, perhaps, he might be somebody’s paid servant, possibly, indeed, as he hoped, the subordinate of the man who was sitting opposite to him; for Frank H. Sinclair was the news editor of the New York Tribune, and Stanley Raeburn, ex-heir to the richest man in New York State, was going to ask him for a job.

“Let me pay for these,” he said, as the boy brought the cocktails and put them down on the table.

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