Up the Ladder of Gold - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Up the Ladder of Gold ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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The secretive financier and Press baron Warren Rand is working to bring about Global Peace and Disarmament, against the plotting of England, France, Germany, and Russia. The story expands to include the chief characters in Rands life: his security chief a British officer Tellesom who falls in love with Rand’s estranged daughter, the financier John Glynde and a large cast of evil Russian and German spies. His machinations of the gold market and international sabotage bring the major players to the table. The book shows the interesting attitudes of Europeans towards America, the failure of the Revolution in Russia, the plotting of Germany for a second war and how millionaire corners the gold market and tries bribing the most powerful nations to maintain peace for forty years.

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Liczba stron: 448

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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 XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER I

The two men–Warren Rand, the human riddle of two hemispheres, and John Glynde, his scarcely less famous secretary–leaned across the green baize-covered table until their heads almost met. They both wore the new headpieces and receivers designed to lessen the roar of the great engine which drove the plane. The sheet of paper in front of the latter was covered with figures and calculations, which he had apparently just brought to an end. He thrust a drawing pin through it for security and steadied himself by gripping at the side of the table as the powerful machine ploughed its way through an unexpected air pocket. He peered steadily into his companion’s face, and, notwithstanding his own insignificant appearance and thin, reedy voice, there was something curiously impressive in his solemnly spoken words.

“You are the richest man in the world, Warren Rand,” he announced.

“I always expected to be,” was the cool reply. “The only question is whether I am rich enough for my purpose.”

“With your holdings of newspapers, you practically control the Press of the world,” John Glynde continued. Warren Rand, the man with the roughly hewn, brooding face of an intellectual satyr, frowned gloomily.

“Not yet,” he grunted. “You don’t know as much about newspapers, John, as you do about money. That will come, though–it must come.”

“What do you expect to get out of it all?” the smaller man asked curiously, taking off his thin, gold-rimmed spectacles and wiping them with meticulous care. “So far, you don’t seem to get as much from life as other men. You are probably the most hated individual in the world. Every one with whom you permit yourself to exchange a word fawns upon you, and no one tells you the truth if they can help it. You haven’t a single friend, it costs us a small fortune every year to save you from being assassinated. Where does your pull come?”

Warren Rand made no immediate reply, but steadying himself carefully, leaned back in his chair. Obliquely through the window, he could see in front a dull, red haze, which might have been the rolling torrent of some huge conflagration. The glow of it mounted upwards, gaining in clarity and substance at every moment. Opposite to him, John Glynde gathered his papers together with the mechanical exactitude of a trained man of affairs.

“Power!” the latter muttered, half soliloquising, half addressing his vis-a-vis. “What’s the use of that except to pander to your vanity, to breed hate? Which of your senses can you gratify by knowing that you could drive your crowbar into the flywheel of the world if it pleased you? What’s it all about, Warren Rand–the urge and the sweat, and the clamorous strain of it all?”

Warren Rand turned away from the window and looked at his secretary. The latter, diminutive alike in physique and features, met his employer’s fierce but passive scrutiny without flinching. He was a man of insignificant appearance, with flaxen hair streaked with grey, shrewd eyes rather deeply set, a negligible chin, and a mouth whose lips were generally a little thrust outwards.

“I wonder,” Warren Rand speculated, “whether any employer in the world ever permitted himself the luxury of such a secretary as you?”

John Glynde ignored the satire and elected to take the question seriously.

“Not many men could afford one,” he observed. “You are paying me a hundred thousand dollars a year, at which price I am extraordinarily cheap. If you had left me alone where I was, I should have been president of my bank before now, chairman of the Country Club, and commodore of the West Bay Sailing Club. Instead of serving a corporation, I chose to serve you. You may dispute it as often as you like, but the task I set myself out to accomplish I have accomplished. I have put you in the most dangerous position any human being could occupy. You are the richest man in the world.”

The mighty machine throbbed and rushed onwards into the darkness–onward toward the wall of misty fire. Once again they were caught in an air pocket, and the whole structure shook with convulsions, whilst it seemed that the mahogany panels of the saloon were being torn asunder. Filmy wisps of the cloud through which they mounted stole mysteriously into the interior. They were enveloped in it as though in a fog.

“I made only one condition when I gave up my own career to boost yours,” John Glynde continued. “You know what it was. I insisted that when the time came for me to ask you the question, towards what goal we were driving, what was behind all this huge, dynamic force, you should answer me as man to man. Already you can neither use your money nor wield your power; yet the piston rods are still beating.”

“Wait for a few more months before you ask your question,” the other demanded. “All that I can tell you at this moment is that we are not beating the air. The organisation which you have helped me to build up has its purpose and its future. Both will be clear enough to you when the time comes to strike the first blow.”

The door of the saloon was suddenly opened and closed. A young man entered with a despatch.

“In Number Three code, sir, from London,” he announced.

Warren Rand waved it towards his companion, who opened a despatch box by his side and drew out a long, Morocco-bound volume. In something under a minute, he wrote out a transcription of the message in a clear, clerkly hand and passed it across the table:

Our agent, occupying responsible position in premier London newspaper, Daily Sun, reports editorial by Harold Nickols now going into type disapproving transference Disarmament Conference to Geneva and adopting hostile tone towards discussion of Peace Pact stop article further supports reception of Postinoff and Vitznow if discussions prove of practical value.

Warren Rand waved the messenger away. He pointed to a small locked ledger which lay upon the table.

“This man Harold Nickols?”

“I can tell you from memory,” Glynde replied. “Fifty-three years old, club man, widower, opinionated, inaccessible.”

His Chief glanced at his watch.

“What time shall we be in Croydon?” he enquired of an official who was passing through.

“Half-past-seven, sir,” the latter answered. “Barely twenty minutes, that is.”

Warren Rand gazed for a moment or two thoughtfully at the great carpet of lights which seemed moving upwards. Then he drew a cigar from his pocket and, regardless of the strenuous rules of every airship line in the world, lit it. His action was arbitrary, but usual. The plane was his; the two pilots, the mechanics, and very much John Glynde were the bondsmen of his will.

CHAPTER II

Shop was very seldom talked at the Sheridan Club, but on the evening when Warren Rand’s great plane sloped downwards from the clouds and left him at Croydon, Harold Nickols, who was dining there with three or four of his intimate friends and associates, departed from the usual custom. Over his second glass of port he leaned forward in his chair at the end of the table–a place which he usually occupied by reason of his constant attendance and seniority–and addressed his friend Andrews, the editor of a famous monthly.

“So the Sphinx of New York is on his way over, I hear,” he remarked. “Coming to set Europe right about something or other, I suppose.”

“Who is the Sphinx of New York?” Herbert Dring, the playwright, enquired, moving from a lower place at the table into the charmed circle.

“Who is he? What is he driving at? How have we deserved him?” Harold Nickols rejoined. “There are a hundred questions one could ask about Warren Rand–which is his name in real life, if you want to know it.”

“To begin with, then,“Dring continued, “why ‘Sphinx’?”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” Nickols went on. “He is one of the richest men in the world. He owns more newspaper interests than any one else. He could do almost more mischief than any other breathing man, and yet I’ll wager there isn’t a soul in this room who’s ever seen his photograph or could tell you what he looks like. Why, you don’t even read about him! He seems to use his tremendous Press influence to avoid publicity instead of courting it.”

“That sounds like the Sphinx, all right,” Dring agreed. “What’s the idea of all this super-modesty? I never associated it with the giants of your profession.”

“You are without the powers of observation, my dear Herbert.”

“Which is why you write such damned good plays,” the man on Harold Nickol’s right remarked.

“What’s he coming to Europe for?” one of the others queried.

“No idea,” Nickols confessed carelessly. “He owns some shares in our show, but I’ve never seen him in my life and don’t expect to this time. He launches his thunderbolts from the clouds or sends up his poison gases from the caverns of the world. No one ever sees him. He never attends any public meeting, never signs an article, never allows his movements to be chronicled. The compositor who sets up in type the name of ‘Warren Rand’ knows about it afterwards, I can promise you, or rather his employers do.”

“How does he manage all that?” Dring persisted.

“He controls more newspapers than you’ve ever written plays,” Harold Nickols explained. “He travels with a staff who go about bullying the world. That sort of thing’s all very well in America, where multi-millionaires rule the roost. but even over here there’s scarcely a paper issued that doesn’t somehow or other understand his wishes and which isn’t damned sorry for it afterwards if they don’t respect them. The man’s a sphinx, all right. He’s after something in life, and something definite, but there’s no one I know of who’s been clever enough yet to find out what it is.”

“Sounds interesting. Any chance of meeting the fellow?”

“Not the slightest,” was the uncompromising reply.

“What about sending him a card for the Club?”

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