The Mayor on Horseback - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Mayor on Horseback ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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The young handsome Mayor of Mechester, Daniel Poynton is the owner of a very successful shoe manufacturer, the major employer in the city and the mayor will soon be a Lord Mayor. Never before interested in women, or even in social affairs, he is stricken by the beauty of The Lady Ursula Manningham and falls in love. As the novel develops, Poynton’s factory is threatened by foreign manufacturers who want to establish a cooperative monopoly with him. At the same time, Poynton’s relationship with Violet Grey, who is a competent secretary, continues to develop and becomes more important to his business and social life. Meanwhile his infatuation with Lady Ursula progresses to the point of asking her to marry... The book shows interesting color on the interaction between socialist workers unions and managements enlightened response to worker unrest.

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Liczba stron: 514

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER I

BOREDOM came to the Mayor of Mechester, as it had done several times before, seated in his high-backed oak chair in the famous apartment well known to antiquarians entitled the Mayor’s Parlour. He was receiving a deputation who were seated around the long table at which he presided. They were a dull and uninspiring-looking lot of men. Most of them he remembered had been school fellows of his in the Grammar School of the old town and they seemed to have plodded their way through life with uncertain and cumbersome footsteps. Alderman Alfred Mason, a bespectacled, anaemic looking man on his right who was reading from a sheet of foolscap, had once been head boy of the school. Probably his scholarly gifts had driven from his brain every element of imagination and enterprise. There were others there of the same type–complacent, prosperous in their walks of life simply because they were too easily satisfied. It was without a doubt a dull affair.

Alderman Mason brought his reading to an end, resumed his seat and looked expectantly towards His Worship the Mayor. The smothered murmur of applause which had greeted his last sentence faded spasmodically away. The Mayor, whose name was Daniel Poynton, pushed back a mass of thickly-growing, unruly black hair from his forehead and showed himself in no hurry to frame his reply. He was a heavily-built but well- proportioned man with a power and significance in his features which distinguished him in that somewhat mediocre company. He clasped his hands together and leaned slightly forward. He spoke deliberately and firmly.

“My old friends,” he said, “and fellow townsmen, I am about to disappoint you. I have given this matter of open spaces my careful consideration. In my opinion, for a borough of our size, enough space is already given up for recreation grounds devoted to the pursuit of sport pure and simple. You are most of you, I see, town councillors and I shall be divulging no confidences if I tell you that before very long a housing scheme will come before you officially which will need all the spare land we can lay our hands upon even when we have demolished certain districts in the town which, in my opinion and the opinion of the Borough Surveyor, are unsanitary. My answer to you gentlemen, therefore, I regret to say is in the negative.”

There was a blank silence, a feeling of dissatisfaction which made itself felt more by frowning faces and the rustling of papers than in any other way. The Mayor rang the bell.

“Is it useless for us to hope, sir,” Mason asked, rising to his feet, “that you will give this matter your further consideration?”

“It would be a figure of speech, my dear Alderman,” the Mayor replied, “purely a figure of speech. My mind is made up. Your scheme is an excellent one, but it is largely intended to benefit a class of our townspeople who are very well able to look after themselves. I need the land for those who are not in that fortunate position. I wish you all good day, gentlemen, and a more successful visit the next time you come to see me.”

They filed out discomfited, a little annoyed and with plenty to say when they found themselves in the street outside. The Mayor rang for his secretary–a pallid young man with a brown smudge of a moustache and gold-rimmed spectacles.

“Anything else in the book for me to-day, Young?” he enquired.

“You are free for the rest of the day, sir,” the secretary replied. “To-morrow I am afraid is not quite so easy. You have a bazaar to open at De Montfort Hall, you have to take the chair at the Literary Society–Mr. Fulton, the lecturer, is, I believe, to be your guest. There is also a memorandum to make an appointment with the architects in London who are displaying the model houses and reports to look through concerning the various water schemes.”

“And nothing more to-day?”

“Nothing more to-day, your worship.”

Daniel Poynton rose to his feet, strolled out to the coat closet, put on a soft felt hat and overcoat and made his way to the street where his car was waiting–a large limousine driven by a chauffeur in undress uniform.

“The factory, Chambers,” he directed.

He was driven rapidly away, pretending to read a newspaper to escape a multitude of greetings from passers-by but really seeing not a line. The automobile was brought to a standstill before a very imposing pile of buildings about a couple of miles out of the town. Here he alighted and made his way swiftly, although with no apparent haste, across the busy entrance hall past the rows of offices to his own private room. Arrived there he took off his coat and his hat, turned back his cuffs and rang for his manager. Whilst he waited he went hastily through a pile of selected correspondence which had been put on one side for his attention. There was throughout the whole of the businesslike routine in which he engaged a somewhat curious impassivity of action and expression. Papers were glanced through and laid methodically on one side, a few consigned in the wastepaper basket, one or two placed neatly in a basket. There was never any hesitation, not a moment’s doubt. His behaviour was that of a man who had the gift of making up his mind quickly.

“Well, Burden,” he remarked as the manager made his appearance, “anything fresh?”

Mark Burden, a young, capable-looking man, wearing a long overall, answered with a crispness of speech which was perhaps derived from long association with his chief.

“Nothing particular, sir. Two large orders telephoned down from Manchester for the ladies’ department. Several shipments of American glazed kids which will have to be returned and a thousand sides Mr. Purvis is doubtful about. They are left over until the day you select for looking through the imports.”

Poynton nodded.

“That will be Wednesday this week,” he decided. “Advise the shippers that the goods are in suspense, have costings of numbers six and seven looked through again. Those are the numbers which seem to be selling too readily. I didn’t see the daybook this morning. What was the output?”

“Something just under five thousand pounds, sir. Today’s will be heavier.”

“Returns?”

“Of no importance.”

“Do you require my advice upon any subject whatever?”

“No decisions are necessary to-day in any department, sir.”

“Send in Miss Gray, please.”

Burden took his leave. His place was taken almost immediately by a quietly-dressed young woman who entered the room and sank into her chair with scarcely a sound. She opened her book and sat expectantly. Poynton handed her a sheaf of letters.

“Refuse all these,” he enjoined. “Polite as possible– pressure of business and that sort of thing. Accept the luncheon with the Bishop and the dinner with the President of the Board of Trade.”

She glanced at the calendar.

“You promised to reply to-day, Mr. Poynton, about those three fields near The Grange.”

“Quite right,” he answered. “I won’t have them. Too damp. They’re on the wrong side.”

“The owners suggested that they might be open to an offer,” she reminded him.

“I won’t have them at any price,” he decided. “They are no use to me. They are on the wrong side of the estate. Telephone to The Grange. Tell them I shall be home in half-an-hour and to have Grey Prince saddled. Anything else?”

The girl rose to her feet. She hesitated for a moment, standing in the full blaze of light which streamed in from the huge window. Her eyes seemed a little lustreless and her complexion over-pallid. Her fingers touched her throat nervously.

“May I take a liberty before I go, sir?”

He looked up in quick surprise.

“At your own risk,” he replied. “I am not fond of that sort of thing, you know.”

“The last time I telephoned for Grey Prince the groom who answered said that the horse had not been out for a week and that he ought to be galloped round the fields before he was taken on the roads.”

“What business is that of yours?” Poynton asked coldly.

The girl showed an unexpected spirit. She wheeled round and looked her employer in the face.

“None at all, sir, except that I should hate going over to The Grange to take the letters whilst you were recovering from a broken leg or something of that sort.”

“I promise that shan’t happen,” he assured her. “The day I break my leg I will get another secretary. Many thanks for your consideration, Miss Gray, but don’t interfere with such matters in the future, please. The horse is quite all right, but a little high-spirited and short of exercise.”

“Very good, sir, I spoke as much on behalf of the staff as personally.”

She turned away, a silent, swiftly moving young woman with a probably inherited grace of carriage. At the door he stopped her.

“What do you mean on behalf of the staff, Miss Gray?” he asked.

She answered him with the slightest possible shrug of the shoulders–as though the matter indeed were of very small concern.

“The business doesn’t do quite so well when you are not here, sir,” she reminded him. “Your mayoral duties and public work take up a great deal of your time as it is. It seems a pity to risk anything.”

“Close the door, please,” he ordered curtly.

He leaned back in his chair for a moment listening to the muffled roar of the machinery. Three thousand men and women hard at work and all the best machinery human skill had been able to devise slaving away towards production. Fifty clerks, a hundred in the warehouses, perhaps, a great capital being built up and ministered to. He detached himself momentarily from this monster of commerce for which he was responsible. How much of it, he wondered, was due to his own individuality? How much of it was Poynton and how much of it was robot-generated progress forging its way through the crowded hours? His work in the town. His thoughts flashed back to that. His public work. His schemes for the betterment of the people. His political devotions. He was giving all a man could give but he could not flatter himself that this small corner of the world would even falter at his passing. Funny that a man should work so hard, bring such a variety of gifts into such a barren vineyard.

A word or two on the telephone, with Priestley, the Town Clerk, a few decisions easily arrived at, a few signatures, and on went his coat and hat again. He passed quickly out of the place and stepped into the car.

“Home,” he directed.

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