The Case and Exceptions Part 9

_Mr. John Glenning, Pa.s.senger on No. 44.

Effervescent Albany._

Had he possessed Mr. Glenning's code he would not have been much wiser, for the translated message simply read as follows:

_The party wanted is in Albany._

II.

Messrs. Constable, Glenning and Hertzog were engaged in the general practice of the law, but Hertzog was the only lawyer in the partnership.

The others were merely members of the Bar.

Mr. Constable's apt.i.tudes lay in the line of drumming up business. He was known, although he did not know it, as the "barker" for the firm. He belonged to eight clubs; he was identified with fourteen charities, among which he counted three chairmanships; he was in the vestry of a prosperous church and on the Visiting Board of two hospitals; sixteen corporations published his name as a director, and the same sixteen acknowledged his firm as Counsel. Mr. Constable was in the public eye.

Mr. Glenning was not in the public eye, but he had its ear, provided public was spelled with a capital P and the right political party was in power. Mr. Glenning had been a member of the firm for twenty years, which proved that the right political party generally was in power. What his functions were no one seemed to know, but unquestionably he was a very busy man. A very serious, earnest believer too in his profession was Mr. Glenning, and impatient of the silly slights and slurs ever ready on the tongues of the outsiders. Thus when an alleged wit said something about "more cases being decided at the trench than at the Bench," Mr. Glenning, who dined more with the Judges and knew them better than any other man in town, snubbed the speaker and disposed of his remark as "a sneer of the unsuccessful."

Everybody understood Hertzog's work. It used to be said that his two best clients were Constable and Glenning, but then people are always saying bitter things for want of better.

Mr. Constable was a florid-faced, white-whiskered, well-dressed little man, bright, quick and full of energy. There were those who considered him pompous, and it is true he regarded himself very seriously. But most people took him at his own estimate. In the outer office his manner was sharp, short and decisive; in the inner office he was silent, impressive and indecisive. That is to say he listened thoughtfully, earnestly, sympathetically, intelligently, comprehendingly--in any and every way that inspires confidence, but no one ever lured him into expressing an off-hand opinion. His decisions were always "decisions reserved."--"Reserved for Hertzog," muttered "the unsuccessful."--But luckily Mr. Constable never heard them, for, like Mr. Glenning, he was intolerant of flippancy in every form. He was also intolerant of details.

If anything went wrong in the office Mr. Constable shook off all responsibility for it. "That is a detail of which I know nothing," was his ever present phrase in time of trouble, and this, accompanied by a wave of his hands, cleared the atmosphere in his vicinity. A detail in Mr. Constable's meaning was anything uncomfortable to remember. "That is a detail with which I do not charge my memory," he would say, and he was never contradicted.

There was no firm in the city more prominent than Constable, Glenning and Hertzog, and none more highly esteemed. Possibly Mr. Constable emphasised this a little too often, but perhaps his insistence impressed some of the very people who pretended to laugh at it. "A firm of our standing," was another of his pet phrases, and on this he rang the changes with such genuine pride that those who did not envy readily forgave him the touch of conceit.

Still there were those who would not have grieved had the firm lost its standing in the Hydroid Fibre case. But the mud there only reached Horton, the office Notary Public, and he went to Sing Sing for his cleansing.

It was at the annual meeting of the great Hydroid Fibre Co., during a bitter fight for control, that one of the stockholders repudiated a proxy bearing his name and carrying votes in favour of Mr. Constable.

The signature was an evident forgery, and ugly things were said. Horton, the Notary Public who had witnessed the paper and taken the signer's "acknowledgment," was sent for, but could give no adequate explanation.

Mr. Constable, though dumfounded at the disclosure, acted with commendable promptness. He instantly ordered the arrest of Horton and silenced accusation by placing himself in the hands of his counsel, Mr. Hertzog, and demanding an investigation. This inquiry clearly demonstrated that Mr. Constable controlled more votes than were necessary without the disputed shares. Horton swore that the bogus stockholder had been properly identified, and claimed that he had been artfully imposed upon, but of this there was absolutely no proof. Not a trace of the swindler could be found.

But the firm did not rest satisfied with this vindication. A clerk in the office had proved untrustworthy, and of him it was determined to make an example.

The District Attorney's office was not a little proud of the short work it made of Horton's case, and Messrs. Constable, Glenning & Hertzog, each in his own way, complimented the officials on having promptly closed what threatened to be quite a scandal, involving the fair name of the firm.

But Horton's case would not stay closed, and it was that which was "effervescing."

Horton's counsel, Barton Mackenzie, was one of those irrepressible persons who answer defeat with defiance, and gather courage with every fresh discouragement. But Mackenzie built up a record of disaster in Horton's case which surpa.s.sed anything he had ever experienced before.

He was defeated before the Police Magistrate and Horton was held for the Grand Jury, which promptly indicted him on half a dozen different charges. At the trial the presiding Justice ruled steadily against him, and the verdict of the jury adjudged his client guilty. Another judge refused a "certificate of reasonable doubt," and Horton went to Sing Sing with his case still on appeal. Eight weeks slipped by and then the Appellate Division affirmed the conviction. Three months later Mackenzie argued his client's cause before the Court of Appeals in Albany, but Horton had served nearly six months of his sentence before that tribunal decided he had been legally convicted. This brought Mackenzie to a stand-still for a while, though Hertzog thought he recognised his hand in the subsequent badgering of Mr. Constable and the Hydroid Fibre Co.

One of those insignificant five-share stockholders, the pest of every corporation, began to worry the company with ceaseless questions, demanding every possible privilege accorded by the statutes. Who he was, or how he got his shares, was a detail of which Mr. Constable regretfully admitted "he knew nothing," and Glenning, exploring every underground pa.s.sage known to politics, could not run the thing to earth.

This irrepressible shareholder examined the list of stockholders, obtained statements of the treasurer, called for papers and particulars, and made a general nuisance of himself. His specialty, however, was interviewing President Constable. Hardly a week pa.s.sed without his calling on this official.

"Here's that five-share man again," Mr. Constable would say, slipping into Mr. Hertzog's private room. "Shall I see him?"

"Of course--see him."

"You will--er--drop in?"

"No--confound it! You've seen him with me often enough. What have you got to worry about?"

"Nothing. Nothing, of course--but----"

"Well, see him!"

Then Mr. Constable gaining confidence from his Hebrew partner's shrewd face would answer decisively:

"Very well, I will see him."

But in his own private office the President would be apt to run his fingers along the inside of his collar, as though it choked him, muttering, "d.a.m.n this business!" before he pushed his bell and ordered in his visitor.

Mr. Constable was subjected to another constant annoyance. Several of the daily papers invariably coupled his name with some reference to the Horton case. A paragraph announcing his election to a trusteeship would identify him as "_the President of the Hydroid Fibre Co., who recently had a most unfortunate experience with a Notary Public now serving sentence in Sing Sing_." Or, if his name appeared in some list, the paragrapher would add: "_Mr. Constable, it will be remembered, disposed of quite a serious charge in the Hydroid Fibre matter, some of the parties now being in Sing Sing_."

It was incessant, intolerable, and intangible.

But one evening, in an after-dinner chat, Mr. Glenning had a short, whispered conference about the matter with a city official, and the city official dropped a hint next day to his advertising agent which must have reached the city editors, for the "squibbing" stopped. However, when Mr. Constable resigned from the Presidency of the Hydroid Fibre Co., the paragraphers took occasion to revive the whole story.

Then, as though tired of being in the public eye, Mr. Constable began to resign his trusteeships one after another, until his partners took alarm and vigorously protested.

"I'm not well," he answered, "and I don't want so much responsibility."

"But what about the business?" suggested Mr. Glenning.

Then Mr. Constable astounded them.

"Let me retire," he answered wearily.

But Mr. Constable's partners did not propose to have the business sacrificed in any such way. They would not hear of his retirement, and when he insisted, Mr. Hertzog remarked very pointedly that he did not presume to understand this gentle resignation business, but if there was any little game on hand he proposed to be in it for the next three years at least. About money matters Mr. Hertzog cherished no illusions, and at the word dollar Hester Street instantly reclaimed him.

There was no "little game," Mr. Constable hastened to a.s.sure him. It was simply that he could not do justice to the firm or himself. He was a sick man--a very sick man.

"Then take a vacation. Go into the country and stay as long as you like, but drop this retirement nonsense," commanded Mr. Hertzog, and the senior partner turned away wearily without another word.

"It's the reaction after that cussed Horton affair," Mr. Glenning remarked; "he was snappy enough about that until Mackenzie was finally knocked out, but since then he's drooped. Reaction, I suppose--don't you?"

"Yes."

Mr. Hertzog was seldom more than monosyllabic, but his eyes followed the wilted little figure of his partner with more anxiety than the word implied. Alone in his private room he frowned, muttering to himself:

"Reaction--yes or action.--Costing us thousands of dollars anyway.

Confound the little fool!"

III.

Mr. Constable's physician recommended rest and a complete change of scene. With all the world to choose from, the patient made a peculiar selection for his place of sojourn. It was Sing Sing, on the Hudson. But Mr. Constable strictly complied with the Doctor's advice in not allowing anyone to know his address.

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