During the scene in the private office of the firm Mori had remained
silent and apparently indifferent. Apparently only–those who knew him
best would have augured from the appearance of the two bright red spots
in his dark cheeks that he was intensely interested.
He watched the movements of the crowd at the door, he listened to the
demand of the bank president, and he noted Grant’s struggle to appear
calm. Then just as the lame youth turned from the check-book to his
auditors with an announcement of their failure to pay trembling upon his
lips, the young Japanese introduced himself into the proceedings.
“What is the meaning of this, sir?” he asked the president, sharply.
“What do you wish?”
“I am here for my money,” was the defiant reply. “I have presented the
note, and I await payment.”
“Don’t you think this is rather sudden?” asked Mori, with a suspicious
calmness in his voice. “It was negotiated but yesterday. Why this
“I want my money,” was the only answer vouchsafed.
“And you at the door,” continued the Japanese youth, turning his gaze
in that direction. “Are you here for the same reason?”
Some one in the rear rank replied in the affirmative.
Mori’s eyes flashed. Taking a private check-book from his pocket, he
rapidly wrote several lines therein, and, detaching a leaf, tossed it to
“Pay them, every one,” he said, carelessly. “You will find that
sufficient, I think.”
The lame youth eagerly read the check, and then his face became suffused
with emotion. The amount called for was thirty thousand dollars! Mori
had placed his whole fortune to the firm’s account! Afraid to trust his
voice, Grant hobbled over to the youthful native, and, in the presence
of the whole assemblage, threw his arms around him.
“God bless you!” he exclaimed. “You are a friend and a man.”
“Nonsense,” replied Mori, gently. “It is nothing. Pay these cattle off,
and put them down in your black book. Pay them in full and rid the
office of the mob for good. And, understand,” he added, addressing the
bank president and his companions, “we will have no further dealings
with you. Hereafter we will trade with men not liable to scare at the
The official took the check extended him by Grant with a crestfallen
air. He saw that he had made a mistake and had lost the business of the
new firm. Too late he recalled the fact that he had really heard nothing
of moment. Rumors had been circulated, but try as he would, he could not
recollect their source.
The remaining creditors also suffered a revulsion of feeling. Some
attempted to slink away, but the three members of the firm singled them
out one by one, and compelled them to accept checks for the amount of
In an hour eighteen thousand dollars had been paid out, but the credit
of the firm was saved. When the last man had been sent away Nattie and
Grant overwhelmed the clever young Japanese with congratulations and
heartfelt thanks. Mori’s modesty equaled his generosity, and he
threatened them with immediate dissolution if they did not refrain.
“It is nothing, my friends,” he exclaimed, for the hundredth time. “I am
only glad that I was able to furnish the money.”
“You must withdraw the entire amount just as soon as it is available,”
insisted Grant. “We should hear from the American houses within five
weeks, and then we will return to the old basis.”
“I would like to have a photograph of old Black’s face when he hears
the news,” said Nattie, with a grin. “Or, better still, overhear his
“It was a shrewd trick, but it failed, I am glad to say,” remarked the
lame youth. “We must take advantage of the opportunity and clinch the
effect. Now is the time to set our credit upon a solid foundation.”
Taking several sheets of paper, he scribbled half a dozen lines upon
“Nattie, take these to the different newspaper offices, and have them
inserted in to-morrow’s issues,” he said. “Then drop in at the printing
office and tell Bates to work up a thousand posters to be displayed
about town. How does this sound?
“‘TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
“‘A despicable attempt having been made this day by certain
interested parties to injure the credit of the undersigned firm,
notice is hereby given that all outstanding bills will be settled
in full at ten A. M. to-morrow. A reward of one thousand _yen_ is
also offered for information leading to the conviction of the
person or persons starting the slander.
“‘MANNING BROTHERS & OKUMA'”
“That is just the thing!” exclaimed Mori. “It could not be better. We’ll
have the posters distributed broadcast over Yokohama and also Tokio.
Make it five instead of one thousand, Grant. Really, I believe that
little affair will do us a great deal of good. It is an excellent
Nattie hurried away to the printing office, and by night the two cities
were reading the posters. At ten o’clock the following morning fully two
score merchants had called upon the firm, but they came to ask for
trade, not to present bills.
The conspiracy had resolved itself into a boomerang, and the firm of
Manning Brothers & Okuma was more prosperous than ever. Black & Son were
correspondingly depressed. The failure of their latest scheme caused the
elder merchant much humiliation. At a meeting held in his office,
attended by Ralph and Mr. Round, it was resolved to stick at nothing to
defeat the enemy.
“It is war to the knife now,” exclaimed the head of the firm, grinding
his teeth. “Something must be done before the first of next month, as
the army contracts will be awarded then.”
“And that means a little trifle of twenty thousand pounds, eh?” replied
the ex-bookkeeper, softly rubbing his hands.
“Yes, one hundred thousand dollars. That is clear profit.”
“Many a man would commit murder for less than that,” mused Ralph,
absently stabbing the arm of his chair with a penknife.
Mr. Black gave his son a keen glance.
“Yes,” he said, in a peculiar tone. “Whole families have been put out of
the way for as many cents. But,” he added, hastily, “there is no such
question in our case. Ha! ha! the idea is simply preposterous!”
His companions echoed the laugh, but in a strained fashion. Ralph
continued to stare moodily at the floor. After a while Willis Round
announced that he had a proposition to make.
“You said a few moments ago that it was war to the knife now,” he
“It is to your interest to ruin the new firm before the awarding of the
army contracts, eh?”
“Certainly. If they are in business by the end of the present month they
will secure the valuable contracts without a doubt.”
“What would you give if they were rendered unable to bid for them?”
The merchant stared at his questioner half contemptuously.
“Why do you ask? You do not think you could ruin them single-handed?” he
“Never you mind,” was the dogged reply. “Answer my question. What would
you give if the contracts were placed in your way?”
“Twenty per cent. of the profits and our assistance in any scheme you
may propose. Do you really mean to say that you have a plan promising
The merchant left his chair in his eagerness and approached the
ex-bookkeeper. Ralph showed a renewed interest also. Before replying,
Round cautiously opened the door leading into the counting-room. After
satisfying himself, he talked long and earnestly to his companions. At
the conclusion the faces of the merchant and his son were expressive of
the liveliest satisfaction. There was trouble still in store for the new
firm of Manning Brothers & Okuma.