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The Magnate
by [?]

It was in October, 19– that the word “Zinc” first began to be heard in financial circles. City men, pushing their dominoes regretfully away, and murmuring “Zinc” in apologetic tones, were back in their offices by three o’clock, forgetting in their haste to leave the usual twopence under the cup for the waitress. Clubmen, glancing at the tape on their way to the smoking-room, said to their neighbours, “Zinc’s moved a point, I see,” before covering themselves up with The Times. In the trains, returning husbands asked each other loudly, “What’s all this about zinc?”–all save the very innocent ones, who whispered, “I say, what is zinc exactly?” The music-halls took it up. No sooner had the word “Zinc” left the lips of an acknowledged comedian than the house was in roars of laughter. The furore at the Collodium when Octavius Octo, in his world-famous part of the landlady of a boarding-house, remarked, “I know why my ole man’s so late. ‘E’s buying zinc,” is still remembered in the bars round Piccadilly.

. . . . .

To explain it properly it will be necessary (my readers will be alarmed to hear) to go back some thirty years. This, as a simple calculation shows, takes us to June, 18–. It was in June, 18– that Felix Moses, a stout young man of attractive appearance (if you care for that style), took his courage in both hands, and told Phyllida Sloan that he was worth ten thousand a year and was changing his name to Mountenay. Miss Sloan, seeing that it was the beginning of a proposal, said hastily that she was changing hers to Abraham.

“You’re marrying Leo Abraham?” asked Felix in amazement. “Ah!” A gust of jealousy swept over him. He licked his lips. There was a dangerous look in his eyes–a look that was destined in after days to make Emperors and rival financiers quail. “Ah!” he said softly. “Leo Abraham! I shall not forget!”

. . . . .

And now it will be necessary (my readers will be relieved to learn) to jump forward some thirty years. This obviously takes us to September 19–. Let us on this fine September morning take a peep into “No. — Throgneedle Street, E.C.,” and see how the business of the mother city is carried on.

On the fourth floor we come to the sanctum of the great man himself. “Mr. Felix Mountenay–No admittance,” is painted upon the outer door. It is a name which is known and feared all over Europe. Mr. Mountenay’s private detective stands on one side of the door; on the other side is Mr. Mountenay’s private wolf-hound. Murmuring the word “Press,” however, we pass hastily through, and find ourselves before Mr. Mountenay himself. Mr. Mountenay is at work; let us watch him through a typical five minutes.

For a moment he stands meditating in the middle of the room. Kings are tottering on their thrones. Empires hang upon his nod. What will he decide? Suddenly he blows a cloud of smoke from his cigar, and rushes to the telephone.

“Hallo! Is that you, Jones?… What are Margarine Prefs. at?… What?… No, Margarine Prefs., idiot…. Ah! Then sell. Keep on selling till I tell you to stop…. Yes.”

He hangs up the receiver. For two minutes he paces the room, smoking rapidly. He stops a moment … but it is only to remove his cigar-band, which is in danger of burning. Then he resumes his pacings. Another minute goes rapidly by. He rushes to the telephone again.

“Hallo! Is that you, Jones?… What are Margarine Prefs. down to now?… Ah! Then buy. Keep on buying…. Yes.”