He always lost his temper when the foreign mail came in. Sitting in his private room, which overlooked a space of gardens where bright red and yellow flowers were planted in rhomboids, triangles, parallelograms, and other stiff and ugly figures, he would glance hastily through the papers and magazines. He was familiar with several foreign languages, and would skim through the text. Then he would pound the table with his fist, walk angrily about the floor, and tear the offensive journals into strips. For very often he found in these papers from abroad articles or cartoons that were most annoying to him, and very detrimental to the business of his firm.
His assistants tried to keep foreign publications away from him, but he was plucky in his own harsh way. He insisted on seeing them. Always the same thing happened. His face would grow grim, the seam-worn forehead would corrugate, the muscles of his jaw throb nervously. His gray eyes would flash–and the fist come down heavily on the mahogany desk.
When a man is nearly sixty and of a full-blooded physique, it is not well for him to have these frequent pulsations of rage. But he had always found it hard to control his temper. He sometimes remembered what a schoolmaster had said to him at Cassel, forty-five years before: “He who loses his temper will lose everything.”
But he must be granted great provocation. He had always had difficulties to contend with. His father was an invalid, and he himself was puny in childhood; infantile paralysis withered his left arm when he was an infant; but in spite of these handicaps he had made himself a vigorous swimmer, rider, and yachtsman; he could shoot better with one arm than most sportsmen with two. After leaving the university he served in the army, but at his father’s death the management of the vast family business came into his hands. He was then twenty-eight.
No one can question the energy with which he set himself to carry on the affairs of the firm. Generous, impetuous, indiscreet, stubborn, pugnacious, his blend of qualities held many of the elements of a successful man of business. His first act was to dismiss the confidential and honoured assistant who had guided both his father and grandfather in the difficult years of the firm’s growth. But the new executive was determined to run the business his own way. Disregarding criticism, ridicule, or flattery, he declared it his mission to spread the influence of the business to the ends of the earth. “We must have our place in the sun,” he said; and announced himself as the divine instrument through whom this would be accomplished. He made it perfectly plain that no man’s opposition would balk him in the management of the firm’s affairs. One of his most famous remarks was: “Considering myself as the instrument of the Lord, without heeding the views and opinions of the day, I go my way.” The board of directors censured him for this, but he paid little heed.
The growth of the business was enormous; nothing like it had been seen in the world’s history. Branch offices were opened all over the globe. Vessels bearing the insignia of the company were seen on every ocean. He himself with his accustomed energy travelled everywhere to advance the interests of trade. In England, Russia, Denmark, Italy, Austria, Turkey, the Holy Land, he made personal visits to the firm’s best customers. He sent his brother to America to spread the goodwill of the business; and other members of the firm to France, Holland, China, and Japan. Telegram after telegram kept the world’s cables busy as he distributed congratulations, condolences, messages of one kind and another to foreign merchants. His publicity department never rested. He employed famous scientists and inventors to improve the products of his factories. He reared six sons to carry on the business after him.