“It's not as bad as it might be,” was the answer. “We are saved by the fact that these big men don't get together. There are too many jealousies and quarrels. Waterman wants easy money, and gets the Treasury Department to lend ten millions; Wyman, on the other hand, wants high prices, and he goes into the Street and borrows fifteen millions; and so it goes. There are a half dozen big banking groups in the city—”

“They are still competing, then?” asked Montague.

“Oh, yes,” said the Major. “For instance, they fight for the patronage of the out-of-town banks. The banks all over the country send their reserves to New York; it's a matter of four or five hundred million dollars, and that's an enormous power. Some of the big banks are agents for one or two thousand institutions, and there's the keenest kind of struggle going on. It's not an easy thing to follow, of course; but they offer all kinds of secret advantages—there's more graft in it than you'd find in Russia.”

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“I see,” said Montague.

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“There's only one thing about which the banks are agreed,” continued the other. “That is their hatred of the independent trust companies. You see, the national banks have to keep twenty-five per cent reserve, while the trust companies only keep five per cent. Consequently they do a faster business, and they offer four per cent, and advertise widely, and they are simply driving the banks to the wall. There are over fifty of them in this city alone, and they've got over a billion of the people's money. And, mark my word, that is where you'll see blood spilled before long.”

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And Montague was destined to remember the prophecy.

A couple of days later occurred an incident which gave him a new light upon the situation. His brother came around one afternoon, with a letter in his hand. “Allan,” he said, “what do you make of this?”

Montague glanced at it, and saw that it was from Lucy Dupree.

“My dear Ollie,” it read. “I find myself in an embarrassing position, owing to the fact that some business arrangements upon which I had counted have fallen through. The money which I brought with me to New York is nearly all gone, and, as you can understand, my position as a stranger is a difficult one. I have a note which Stanley Ryder gave me for my stock. It is for a hundred and forty thousand dollars, and is due in three months. It occurred to me that you might know someone who has some ready cash, and who would like to purchase the note. I should be very glad to sell it for a hundred and thirty thousand. Please do not mention it except in confidence.”

“Now, what in the world do you suppose that means?” said Oliver.

The other stared at him. “I am sure I can't imagine,” he replied.

“How much money did Lucy have when she came here?”

“She had three or four thousand dollars. But then, she got ten thousand from Stanley Ryder when he bought that stock.”

“She can't have spent any such sum of money!” exclaimed Oliver.

“She may have invested it,” said the other, thoughtfully.

“Invested nothing!” exclaimed Oliver.