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The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter-13


The Rise of Silas Lapham Chapter-13




Lapham woke the next morning in a confused state. The loss of the night before seemed like a bad dream. But before he lifted his head from the pillow the true facts pressed down upon him with a weight against which it needed all his will to bear up and live. In that moment he wished he had not wak­ened; he rose, however, and faced the cares of the day.

The morning newspapers gave an account of the fire and the supposed loss. The report said that nothing remained of the building but the walls. Lapham, on his way to business, walkeu past the smoke-darkened shell. His heart felt heavier than it had ever felt before, but he gathered himself up and
went on to his office. The plan that had come to his mind the day before, as he sat before the chimney in the new house, seemed to him now his only hope. It gave him courage to think about it. If he could buy out the whole business of that West Virginia company, mines, plant, stock on hand everything nd join it with his own, he could put himself on top again.


These thoughts were still running through Lapham’s mind when, later in the morning, young Corey knocked at his office door and asked if he could speak with him a few minutes.

Yes,” said Lapham. “Sit down. I also want to talk with you. I ought to tell you that if you think you can do better some­where else, I can help you do it. There ain’t going to be the future in foreign markets that we expected, and I guess you bet­ter give it up.”

I don’t wish to give it up,” said the young man, setting his lips. He had thought, first, to express his regret to Lapham for the loss of the new house, but Lapham’s opening remark made him go directly to his own problem. “I’ve as much faith in the business as ever. I now want to propose that you let me put some money into it.”

Some money?” Lapham said, leaning towards him.

I’ve got about thirty thousand dollars that I could put in, and if you don’t want to consider me as a partner, then you can accept it as though I were investing it in the company. I think I see a way of doing something immediately in Mexico, and that way I could feel that I was something more than just a salesman.”

The two men sat looking into each other’s eyes for a mo­ment; then Lapham asked, “Your family know about this?”

My uncle, James Bellingham, knows. I have discussed it with him and he agrees that by this time I ought to be able to trust my own judgment.”

Do you suppose I could see your uncle at his office?” Lap­ham asked.
“I imagine he will be glad to talk with you.”

“Well, I want to have a talk with him about various mat­ters.” Lapham sat thinking a while, and then rose and went with Corey to the door. “I guess I won’t change my mind about taking you into the business in that way, though I appreciate
your offer,” he said. “If there was any reason why I shouldn’t at first, there’s more now.”

Very well, sir,” said the young man and returned to his own desk.

Lapham left his office shortly after this without telling any­one where he was going. He did not return during the rest of the day. The fact that he spent the whole afternoon in the of­fice of James Bellingham, however, discussing his financial situation, was later established when Tom’s uncle came to the Corey home that evening to see Tom.

I’ve come at the suggestion of Colonel Lapham,” said Mr. Bellingham. “He was at my office this afternoon, and I had a long talk with him. Did you know how serious his situation is?”

“I fancied that he was in considerable trouble. And the book­keeper has never hesitated to give me his ideas on the matter.” “Well, he thinks it time you should know how he stands, and why he refused that offer of yours. I must say he behaved well—like a gentleman. It must have cost him something to say no to you, for he’s just in that state where he needs cash desper­ately and believes that this or that chance, however small, would save him.”


Corey was silent. “Is he really in such a bad way?”

It’s hard to say just where he stands. He has a fondness for round figures which has caused him to value his holdings at considerably more than they really seem to be worth. I don’t say he’s been dishonest but he’s calculated his wealth on the basis of his capital, and some of his capital is borrowed. He’s also lost heavily by reason of recent business failures that have occurred all over the country; people who have owed him large sums have been unable to pay. Then he’s run into some serious competition. You know about that West Virginia paint?”

Corey nodded.

Well, he tells me they’ve struck a vein of natural gas which will permit them to make as good a paint as his at a price so low they can sell at a lower price everywhere. If this is so, it will not only drive his paint out of the market, but will bring down the value of his works the whole plant at Lapham to a very low figure.”

I see,” said Corey sadly. “I’ve understood that he has put a great deal of money into his works.”

Yes, and he valued the mine there at a high figure. But it will also be worthless if the West Virginia plant drives him out. Then, besides, he seems to have lost money in the stock market and in other ways. He’s all mixed up about his accounts. Whether he can be helped over his difficulties remains to be seen. I’m afraid it will take a great deal of money to do it—a great deal more than he thinks, and much more than any out­side party would care to risk at this point. As I say, it must have been a trial to him to refuse your offer.”

This did not seem to be the way that Bellingham had meant to conclude. But he said no more, and Corey, who seemed greatly disturbed by what he had heard, made no answer. Ac­tually, though he had not wished to tell Tom about it for fear of alarming him, Bellingham had suggested to Lapham that he assign all his holdings to his creditors. If he did this, Bel­lingham argued, he could gain time. The state of things might improve, the market recover, and he could start again. But Lapham stubbornly refused to agree to this. He was not ready yet to admit his failure publicly and he still had hopes of carry­ing through his plan of buying out the West Virginia people. Bellingham considered the latter possibility almost fantastic. Such a deal required time and capital, neither of which Lap­ham had. But he admired Lapham’s courage in trying to bring off such a maneuver.

Lapham left the next day to talk with the West Virginia people. They had their principal office in New York, and he went directly there. He found the West Virginians full of hope and energy, but in ten minutes he knew that they had not yet tried their strength in the money market and knew nothing of how much or how little capital they could command. Lapham himself, if he had had the money, would not have hesitated to put a million dollars into their business. He saw, as they did not see, that they had the game in their hands and could ruin him if they wished. He admitted to them that they had a good thing but emphasized the fact that he was better established in the field than they and would fight them hard. Now the ques­tion was whether they had both better go on and suffer a heavy loss by competition, or whether they should join forces in some way and command the market. He made them three offers, each fair and open: to sell out to them, to buy them out, to join forces with them. They could name the figure at which they would buy him out, at which they would sell or at which they would join with him as partners.

They talked all day, going out to lunch together. Lapham praised their paint; later, back in their office, they sent out for some of Lapham’s paint and compared it with their own. They were young fellows, country fellows like himself, and Lapham got on well with them. At last they said what they would do. They said it was foolish to talk of buying Lapham out; they didn’t have the money. As for selling out, they would not do it, for they knew they had a big thing. But they had need of more capital and would just as soon use his capital as any other to develop their business. If he could put up a certain sum for this purpose, they would go in with him. He would run the works at Lapham and they would run the West Virginia plant and the New York office. The two brothers with whom Lap­ham talked, named their figure, subject to the approval of a third brother in West Virginia, to whom they would write at once. Lapham could have his answer in three days but they were sure the third brother would agree.

Lapham started back from New York on the night train with a feeling of excitement which gradually disappeared as he drew near Boston, where he must raise the money. It seemed to him that those fellows had made the terms very difficult, but he had to admit they had a sure thing and in their situation he would have done the same thing himself. He left the sleeping car in the Boston station feeling old and broken. A year or so ago he would have laughed at the idea that it would be hard to raise the money. Now he hardly knew where to turn. He thought of his losses to Rogers and to other men, losses which had eaten up so much of his own working capital. He thought bitterly of the tens of thousands he had gambled away in the stock market.

For years he had been helping, with generous sums, the wife and daughter of Jim Millen, the young corporal whose self- sacrifice on the battle field had saved Lapham’s life. He had helped others in different ways, but now, in his own hour of need, there was no one to help him. He did not go home but spent most of the day “shining around,” as he would have ex­pressed it, and trying to see where he could raise the money. But nobody wanted to lend him money without first looking into his business, and Lapham had no time for this, and also knew that his business would not bear looking into.

He could raise fifteen thousand dollars on his Nankeen Square house and another fifteen thousand on his Beacon Street lot—but that was all. On the third day, a telegram arrived from the West Virginia people saying that the third brother agreed to the terms. It now remained for Lapham to fulfill his part. He was still far from being able to do this, and finally, setting aside his pride, he went to see James Bellingham again for ad­vice. Bellingham advised delay. He pointed out that a deal of such importance should be examined more carefully; the price was extremely high, and Lapham had never even been to West Virginia to see the plant in which he was investing.

Well,” said Lapham, “but if I don’t close the deal within twenty-four hours, they’ll withdraw it, and go somewhere else for capital. Then where am I?”

Go and see them again,” said Bellingham. “Ask them for more time. They must give you time at least to look at what they want to sell you. If it turns out to be what you hope, then we’ll see what can be done. But look into the thing carefully first.”

Well!” cried Lapham agreeing. He took out his watch, and saw he had forty minutes to catch the next train to New York. He hurried back to his office, put together some papers to take with him, and sent a message to Mrs. Lapham saying he was going out of town on business for a few days.

Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review

A. 1. How did Lapham feel about the loss of the house?

  1. What still gave him some courage?

  2. What did Tom Corey offerv to do?

  3. What had Tom’s uncle told him?

  4. Why did Lapham go to see J ames Bellingham?

  5. What did Bellingham tell Tom about Lapham’s financial situation?

7.What did Bellingham think about the possibility of Lap­ham’s buying out the West Virginia people?

8.What did Lapham find out about the West Virginia people?

9.What was the offer that Lapham made to the West Virginia people?

10.What did the West Virginia people tell Lapham they wanted to do?

11.What did Lapham think about as he returned to Boston?
12.What money would Lapham be able to raise quickly?

13.What did Bellingham advise Lapham to do?

B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your

redget                   bear up
judgment             think about
behave                 buy out
competition         ought to
assign                 be glad to
failure                  have a talk with
fantastic              know how
emphasize         run into