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“'Is Allis in?' asked Stagg, and before the fellow could answer, the whole crowd pushed into the hall, and Stagg stood at the foot of the stairs and roared—he's got a voice like a bull, you know—'Allis, Allis, come down here!'

“Allis came to the head of the stairs in his nightshirt, half frightened to death.

“'Allis, we want to buy your steel plant,' said Stagg.

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“'Buy my steel plant!' gasped Allis.

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“'Sure, buy it outright! Spot cash! We'll pay you five hundred thousand for it.'

“'But it cost me over twelve hundred thousand,' said Allis.

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“'Well, then, we'll pay you twelve hundred thousand,' said Stagg—'God damn you, we'll pay you fifteen hundred thousand!'

“'My plant isn't for sale,' said Allis.

“'We'll pay you two million!' shouted Stagg.

“'It isn't for sale, I tell you.'

“'We'll pay you two million and a half! Come on down here!'

“'Do you mean that?' gasped Allis. He could hardly credit his ears.

“'Come downstairs and I'll write you a check!' said Stagg. And so they hauled him down, and they bought his mill. Then they opened some more champagne, and Allis began to get good-natured, too.

“'There's only one thing the matter with my mill,' said he, 'and that's Jones's mill over in Harristown. The railroads give him rebates, and he undersells me.'

“'Well, damn his soul,' said Stagg, 'we'll have his mill, too.'

“And so they bundled into their special again, and about six o'clock in the morning they got to Harristown, and they bought another mill. And that started them, you know. They'd never had such fun in their lives before. It seems that Stagg had just cleaned up ten or twelve millions on a big Wall Street plunge, and they blew in every dollar, buying steel mills—and paying two or three prices for every one, of course.”

Gamble paused and chuckled to himself. “What I'm telling you is the story that Stagg told me,” said he. “And of course you've got to make allowances. He said he had no idea of what Dan Waterman had been planning, but I fancy that was a lie. Harrison of Pittsburg had been threatening to build a railroad of his own, and take away his business from Waterman's roads, and so there was nothing for Waterman to do but buy him out at three times what his mills were worth. He took the mills that Stagg had bought at the same time. Stagg had paid two or three prices, and Waterman paid him a couple of prices more, and then he passed them on to the American people for a couple of prices more than that.”

Gamble paused. “That's where they get these fortunes,” he added, waving his fat little hand. “Sometimes it makes a fellow laugh to think of it. Every concern they bought was overcapitalised to begin with; I doubt if two hundred million dollars' worth of honest dollars was ever put into the Steel Trust properties, and they capitalised it at a billion, and now they've raised it to a billion and a half! The men who pulled it off made hundreds of millions, and the poor public that bought the common stock saw it go down to six! They gave old Harrison a four-hundred-million-dollar mortgage on the property, and he sits back and grins, and wonders why a man can't die poor!”

Gamble's car was opposite one of the clubs. Suddenly he signalled his chauffeur to stop.