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“Mr. Ryder,” he said, “a few weeks ago you talked with me in this office, and asked me to assist you in electing your ticket for the Northern Mississippi Railroad. You said that you wished me to become president of the road, and that the reason for the request was that you wanted a man whom you could depend upon for efficient and honest management. I accepted your offer in good faith; and I have made all arrangements, and put in a great deal of hard work at the task of fitting myself for the position. Now I have learned from Mr. Price's own lips that he has organised a company for the purpose of exploiting the road for his own private benefit. I told him that I was unwilling to stand for anything of the sort. Since then I have been thinking the matter over, and I have concluded that this situation will make it impossible for me to cooperate with Mr. Price. I have concluded, therefore, that it would be best for me to resign my position as a member of the board of directors, and also to withdraw my candidacy as president.”

Ryder had avoided Montague's gaze; he sat staring in front of him, and tapping nervously with a pencil upon his desk. It was some time before he answered.

“Mr. Montague,” he said, finally, “I am very sorry indeed to hear your decision. But taking all the circumstances into consideration, it seems to me that perhaps it is a wise one.”

Again there was a pause.

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“You must permit me to thank you for what you have done,” Ryder added. “And I trust that this unfortunate episode will not alter our personal relationship.”

“Thank you,” said Montague, coldly.

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He had waited to see what Ryder would say. He waited again, having no mind to help him in his embarrassment.

“As I say,” Ryder repeated, “I am very much obliged to you.”

“I have no doubt of it,” said Montague. “But I trust that you do not expect to end our relationship in any such simple way as that.”

He saw Ryder's expression change. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“There is a matter of grave importance which has to be settled before we can part. As you know, I am personally the holder of five hundred shares of Northern Mississippi stock; and to that extent I am interested in the affairs of the road.”

“Most certainly,” said Ryder, quietly, “but I have nothing to do with that. As a stockholder of the road, you look to the board of directors.”