I. THE BEAR—WHEAT AT SIXTY-TWO
As Sam Lewiston backed the horse into the shafts of his backboard
and began hitching the tugs to the whiffletree, his wife came out from
the kitchen door of the house and drew near, and stood for some time at
the horse's head, her arms folded and her apron rolled around them. For
a long moment neither spoke. They had talked over the situation so long
and so comprehensively the night before that there seemed to be nothing
more to say.
The time was late in the summer, the place a ranch in southwestern
Kansas, and Lewiston and his wife were two of a vast population of
farmers, wheat growers, who at that moment were passing through a
crisis—a crisis that at any moment might culminate in tragedy. Wheat
was down to sixty-six.
At length Emma Lewiston spoke.
“Well,” she hazarded, looking vaguely out across the ranch toward
the horizon, leagues distant; “well, Sam, there's always that offer of
brother Joe's. We can quit—and go to Chicago—if the worst comes.”
“And give up!” exclaimed Lewiston, running the lines through the
torets. “Leave the ranch! Give up! After all these years!”
His wife made no reply for the moment. Lewiston climbed into the
buckboard and gathered up the lines. “Well, here goes for the last try,
Emmie,” he said. “Good-by, girl. Maybe things will look better in town
“Maybe,” she said gravely. She kissed her husband good-by and stood
for some time looking after the buckboard traveling toward the town in
a moving pillar of dust.
“I don't know,” she murmured at length; “I don't know just how we're
going to make out.”
When he reached town, Lewiston tied the horse to the iron railing in
front of the Odd Fellows' Hall, the ground floor of which was occupied
by the post-office, and went across the street and up the stairway of a
building of brick and granite—quite the most pretentious structure of
the town—and knocked at a door upon the first landing. The door was
furnished with a pane of frosted glass, on which, in gold letters, was
inscribed, “Bridges &Co., Grain Dealers.”
Bridges himself, a middle-aged man who wore a velvet skull-cap and
who was smoking a Pittsburg stogie, met the farmer at the counter and
the two exchanged perfunctory greetings.
“Well,” said Lewiston, tentatively, after awhile.
“Well, Lewiston,” said the other, “I can't take that wheat of yours
at any better than sixty-two.”
“It's the Chicago price that does it, Lewiston. Truslow is bearing
the stuff for all he's worth. It's Truslow and the bear clique that
stick the knife into us. The price broke again this morning. We've just
got a wire.”
“Good heavens,” murmured Lewiston, looking vaguely from side to
side. “That—that ruins me. I can't carry my grain any
longer—what with storage charges and—and—Bridges, I don't see just
how I'm going to make out. Sixty-two cents a bushel! Why, man, what
with this and with that it's cost me nearly a dollar a bushel to raise
that wheat, and now Truslow—”
He turned away abruptly with a quick gesture of infinite
He went down the stairs, and making his way to where his buckboard
was hitched, got in, and, with eyes vacant, the reins slipping and
sliding in his limp, half-open hands, drove slowly back to the ranch.
His wife had seen him coming, and met him as he drew up before the
“Well?” she demanded.
“Emmie,” he said as he got out of the buckboard, laying his arm
across her shoulder, “Emmie, I guess we'll take up with Joe's offer.
We'll go to Chicago. We're cleaned out!”
II. THE BULL—WHEAT AT A DOLLAR-TEN
...——and said Party of the Second Part further covenants and
agrees to merchandise such wheat in foreign ports, it being understood
and agreed between the Party of the First Part and the Party of the
Second Part that the wheat hereinbefore mentioned is released and sold
to the Party of the Second Part for export purposes only, and not for
consumption or distribution within the boundaries of the United States
of America or of Canada.
“Now, Mr. Gates, if you will sign for Mr. Truslow I guess that'll be
all,” remarked Hornung when he had finished reading.
Hornung affixed his signature to the two documents and passed them
over to Gates, who signed for his principal and client, Truslow—or, as
he had been called ever since he had gone into the fight against
Hornung's corner—the Great Bear. Hornung's secretary was called in and
witnessed the signatures, and Gates thrust the contract into his
Gladstone bag and stood up, smoothing his hat.
“You will deliver the warehouse receipts for the grain,” began
“I'll send a messenger to Truslow's office before noon,” interrupted
Hornung. “You can pay by certified check through the Illinois Trust
When the other had taken himself off, Hornung sat for some moments
gazing abstractedly toward his office windows, thinking over the whole
matter. He had just agreed to release to Truslow, at the rate of one
dollar and ten cents per bushel, one hundred thousand out of the two
million and odd bushels of wheat that he, Hornung, controlled, or
actually owned. And for the moment he was wondering if, after all, he
had done wisely in not goring the Great Bear to actual financial death.
He had made him pay one hundred thousand dollars. Truslow was good for
this amount. Would it not have been better to have put a prohibitive
figure on the grain and forced the Bear into bankruptcy? True, Hornung
would then be without his enemy's money, but Truslow would have been
eliminated from the situation, and that—so Hornung told himself—was
always a consummation most devoutly, strenuously and diligently to be
striven for. Truslow once dead was dead, but the Bear was never more
dangerous than when desperate.
“But so long as he can't get wheat,” muttered Hornung at the
end of his reflections, “he can't hurt me. And he can't get it. That I
For Hornung controlled the situation. So far back as the February of
that year an “unknown bull” had been making his presence felt on the
floor of the Board of Trade. By the middle of March the commercial
reports of the daily press had begun to speak of “the powerful bull
clique”; a few weeks later that legendary condition of affairs implied
and epitomized in the magic words “Dollar Wheat” had been attained, and
by the first of April, when the price had been boosted to one dollar
and ten cents a bushel, Hornung had disclosed his hand, and in place of
mere rumours, the definite and authoritative news that May wheat had
been cornered in the Chicago pit went flashing around the world from
Liverpool to Odessa and from Duluth to Buenos Ayres.
It was—so the veteran operators were persuaded—Truslow himself who
had made Hornung's corner possible. The Great Bear had for once
over-reached himself, and, believing himself all-powerful, had hammered
the price just the fatal fraction too far down. Wheat had gone to
sixty-two—for the time, and under the circumstances, an abnormal
When the reaction came it was tremendous. Hornung saw his chance,
seized it, and in a few months had turned the tables, had cornered the
product, and virtually driven the bear clique out of the pit.
On the same day that the delivery of the hundred thousand bushels
was made to Truslow, Hornung met his broker at his lunch club.
“Well,” said the latter, “I see you let go that line of stuff to
Hornung nodded; but the broker added:
“Remember, I was against it from the very beginning. I know we've
cleared up over a hundred thou'. I would have fifty times preferred to
have lost twice that and smashed Truslow dead. Bet you what you
like he makes us pay for it somehow.”
“Huh!” grunted his principal. “How about insurance, and warehouse
charges, and carrying expenses on that lot? Guess we'd have had to pay
those, too, if we'd held on.”
But the other put up his chin, unwilling to be persuaded. “I won't
sleep easy,” he declared, “till Truslow is busted.”
III. THE PIT
Just as Going mounted the steps on the edge of the pit the great
gong struck, a roar of a hundred voices developed with the swiftness of
successive explosions, the rush of a hundred men surging downward to
the centre of the pit filled the air with the stamp and grind of feet,
a hundred hands in eager strenuous gestures tossed upward from out the
brown of the crowd, the official reporter in his cage on the margin of
the pit leaned far forward with straining ear to catch the opening bid,
and another day of battle was begun.
Since the sale of the hundred thousand bushels of wheat to Truslow
the “Hornung crowd” had steadily shouldered the price higher until on
this particular morning it stood at one dollar and a half. That was
Hornung's price. No one else had any grain to sell.
But not ten minutes after the opening, Going was surprised out of
all countenance to hear shouted from the other side of the pit these
“Sell May at one-fifty.”
Going was for the moment touching elbows with Kimbark on one side
and with Merriam on the other, all three belonging to the “Hornung
crowd.” Their answering challenge of “Sold” was as the voice of
one man. They did not pause to reflect upon the strangeness of the
circumstance. (That was for afterward.) Their response to the offer was
as unconscious, as reflex action and almost as rapid, and before the
pit was well aware of what had happened the transaction of one thousand
bushels was down upon Going's trading-card and fifteen hundred dollars
had changed hands. But here was a marvel—the whole available supply of
wheat cornered, Hornung master of the situation, invincible,
unassailable; yet behold a man willing to sell, a Bear bold enough to
raise his head.
“That was Kennedy, wasn't it, who made that offer?” asked Kimbark,
as Going noted down the trade—“Kennedy, that new man?”
“Yes; who do you suppose he's selling for; who's willing to go short
at this stage of the game?”
“Maybe he ain't short.”
“Short! Great heavens, man; where'd he get the stuff?”
“Blamed if I know. We can account for every handful of May. Steady!
Oh, there he goes again.”
“Sell a thousand May at one-fifty,” vociferated the bear-broker,
throwing out his hand, one finger raised to indicate the number of
“contracts” offered. This time it was evident that he was attacking the
Hornung crowd deliberately, for, ignoring the jam of traders that swept
toward him, he looked across the pit to where Going and Kimbark were
shouting “Sold! Sold!” and nodded his head.
A second time Going made memoranda of the trade, and either the
Hornung holdings were increased by two thousand bushels of May wheat or
the Hornung bank account swelled by at least three thousand dollars of
some unknown short's money.
Of late—so sure was the bull crowd of its position—no one had even
thought of glancing at the inspection sheet on the bulletin board. But
now one of Going's messengers hurried up to him with the announcement
that this sheet showed receipts at Chicago for that morning of
twenty-five thousand bushels, and not credited to Hornung. Some one had
got hold of a line of wheat overlooked by the “clique” and was dumping
it upon them.
“Wire the Chief,” said Going over his shoulder to Merriam. This one
struggled out of the crowd, and on a telegraph blank scribbled:
“Strong bear movement—New man—Kennedy—Selling in lots of five
contracts—Chicago receipts twenty-five thousand.”
The message was despatched, and in a few moments the answer came
back, laconic, of military terseness:
“Support the market.”
And Going obeyed, Merriam and Kimbark following, the new broker
fairly throwing the wheat at them in thousand-bushel lots.
“Sell May at 'fifty; sell May; sell May.” A moment's indecision, an
instant's hesitation, the first faint suggestion of weakness, and the
market would have broken under them. But for the better part of four
hours they stood their ground, taking all that was offered, in constant
communication with the Chief, and from time to time stimulated and
steadied by his brief, unvarying command:
“Support the market.”
At the close of the session they had bought in the twenty-five
thousand bushels of May. Hornung's position was as stable as a rock,
and the price closed even with the opening figure—one dollar and a
But the morning's work was the talk of all La Salle Street. Who was
back of the raid?
What was the meaning of this unexpected selling? For weeks the pit
trading had been merely nominal. Truslow, the Great Bear, from whom the
most serious attack might have been expected, had gone to his country
seat at Geneva Lake, in Wisconsin, declaring himself to be out of the
market entirely. He went bass-fishing every day.
IV. THE BELT LINE
On a certain day toward the middle of the month, at a time when the
mysterious Bear had unloaded some eighty thousand bushels upon Hornung,
a conference was held in the library of Hornung's home. His broker
attended it, and also a clean-faced, bright-eyed individual whose name
of Cyrus Ryder might have been found upon the pay-roll of a rather
well-known detective agency. For upward of half an hour after the
conference began the detective spoke, the other two listening
“Then, last of all,” concluded Ryder, “I made out I was a hobo, and
began stealing rides on the Belt Line Railroad. Know the road? It just
circles Chicago. Truslow owns it. Yes? Well, then I began to catch on.
I noticed that cars of certain numbers—thirty-one nought thirty-four,
thirty-two one ninety—well, the numbers don't matter, but anyhow,
these cars were always switched onto the sidings by Mr. Truslow's main
elevator D soon as they came in. The wheat was shunted in, and they
were pulled out again. Well, I spotted one car and stole a ride on her.
Say, look here, that car went right around the city on the Belt, and
came back to D again, and the same wheat in her all the time. The
grain was reinspected—it was raw, I tell you—and the warehouse
receipts made out just as though the stuff had come in from Kansas or
“The same wheat all the time!” interrupted Hornung.
“The same wheat—your wheat, that you sold to Truslow.”
“Great snakes!” ejaculated Hornung's broker. “Truslow never took it
abroad at all.”
“Took it abroad! Say, he's just been running it around Chicago, like
the supers in 'Shenandoah,' round an' round, so you'd think it was a
new lot, an' selling it back to you again.”
“No wonder we couldn't account for so much wheat.”
“Bought it from us at one-ten, and made us buy it back—our own
Hornung and his broker looked at each other in silence for a moment.
Then all at once Hornung struck the arm of his chair with his fist and
exploded in a roar of laughter. The broker stared for one bewildered
moment, then followed his example.
“Sold! Sold!” shouted Hornung almost gleefully. “Upon my soul it's
as good as a Gilbert and Sullivan show. And we—Oh, Lord! Billy, shake
on it, and hats off to my distinguished friend, Truslow. He'll be
President some day. Hey! What? Prosecute him? Not I.”
“He's done us out of a neat hatful of dollars for all that,”
observed the broker, suddenly grave.
“Billy, it's worth the price.”
“We've got to make it up somehow.”
“Well, tell you what. We were going to boost the price to one
seventy-five next week, and make that our settlement figure.”
“Can't do it now. Can't afford it.”
“No. Here; we'll let out a big link; we'll put wheat at two dollars,
and let it go at that.”
“Two it is, then,” said the broker.
V. THE BREAD LINE
The street was very dark and absolutely deserted. It was a district
on the “South Side,” not far from the Chicago River, given up largely
to wholesale stores, and after nightfall was empty of all life. The
echoes slept but lightly hereabouts, and the slightest footfall, the
faintest noise, woke them upon the instant and sent them clamouring up
and down the length of the pavement between the iron shuttered fronts.
The only light visible came from the side door of a certain “Vienna"
bakery, where at one o'clock in the morning loaves of bread were given
away to any who should ask. Every evening about nine o'clock the
outcasts began to gather about the side door. The stragglers came in
rapidly, and the line—the “bread line,” as it was called—began to
form. By midnight it was usually some hundred yards in length,
stretching almost the entire length of the block.
Toward ten in the evening, his coat collar turned up against the
fine drizzle that pervaded the air, his hands in his pockets, his
elbows gripping his sides, Sam Lewiston came up and silently took his
place at the end of the line.
Unable to conduct his farm upon a paying basis at the time when
Truslow, the “Great Bear,” had sent the price of grain down to
sixty-two cents a bushel, Lewiston had turned over his entire property
to his creditors, and, leaving Kansas for good, had abandoned farming,
and had left his wife at her sister's boarding-house in Topeka with the
understanding that she was to join him in Chicago so soon as he had
found a steady job. Then he had come to Chicago and had turned workman.
His brother Joe conducted a small hat factory on Archer Avenue, and for
a time he found there a meager employment. But difficulties had
occurred, times were bad, the hat factory was involved in debts, the
repealing of a certain import duty on manufactured felt overcrowded the
home market with cheap Belgian and French products, and in the end his
brother had assigned and gone to Milwaukee.
Thrown out of work, Lewiston drifted aimlessly about Chicago, from
pillar to post, working a little, earning here a dollar, there a dime,
but always sinking, sinking, till at last the ooze of the lowest bottom
dragged at his feet and the rush of the great ebb went over him and
engulfed him and shut him out from the light, and a park bench became
his home and the “bread line” his chief makeshift of subsistence.
He stood now in the enfolding drizzle, sodden, stupefied with
fatigue. Before and behind stretched the line. There was no talking.
There was no sound. The street was empty. It was so still that the
passing of a cable-car in the adjoining thoroughfare grated like
prolonged rolling explosions, beginning and ending at immeasurable
distances. The drizzle descended incessantly. After a long time
There was something ominous and gravely impressive in this
interminable line of dark figures, close-pressed, soundless; a crowd,
yet absolutely still; a close-packed, silent file, waiting, waiting in
the vast deserted night-ridden street; waiting without a word, without
a movement, there under the night and under the slow-moving mists of
Few in the crowd were professional beggars. Most of them were
workmen, long since out of work, forced into idleness by long-continued
“hard times,” by ill luck, by sickness. To them the “bread line” was a
godsend. At least they could not starve. Between jobs here in the end
was something to hold them up—a small platform, as it were, above the
sweep of black water, where for a moment they might pause and take
breath before the plunge.
The period of waiting on this night of rain seemed endless to those
silent, hungry men; but at length there was a stir. The line moved. The
side door opened. Ah, at last! They were going to hand out the bread.
But instead of the usual white-aproned under-cook with his crowded
hampers there now appeared in the doorway a new man—a young fellow who
looked like a bookkeeper's assistant. He bore in his hand a placard,
which he tacked to the outside of the door. Then he disappeared within
the bakery, locking the door after him.
A shudder of poignant despair, an unformed, inarticulate sense of
calamity, seemed to run from end to end of the line. What had happened?
Those in the rear, unable to read the placard, surged forward, a sense
of bitter disappointment clutching at their hearts.
The line broke up, disintegrated into a shapeless throng—a throng
that crowded forward and collected in front of the shut door whereon
the placard was affixed. Lewiston, with the others, pushed forward. On
the placard he read these words:
“Owing to the fact that the price of grain has been increased to two
dollars a bushel, there will be no distribution of bread from this
bakery until further notice.”
Lewiston turned away, dumb, bewildered. Till morning he walked the
streets, going on without purpose, without direction. But now at last
his luck had turned. Overnight the wheel of his fortunes had creaked
and swung upon its axis, and before noon he had found a job in the
street-cleaning brigade. In the course of time he rose to be first
shift-boss, then deputy inspector, then inspector, promoted to the
dignity of driving in a red wagon with rubber tires and drawing a
salary instead of mere wages. The wife was sent for and a new start
But Lewiston never forgot. Dimly he began to see the significance of
things. Caught once in the cogs and wheels of a great and terrible
engine, he had seen—none better—its workings. Of all the men who had
vainly stood in the “bread line” on that rainy night in early summer,
he, perhaps, had been the only one who had struggled up to the surface
again. How many others had gone down in the great ebb? Grim question;
he dared not think how many.
He had seen the two ends of a great wheat operation—a battle
between Bear and Bull. The stories (subsequently published in the
city's press) of Truslow's countermove in selling Hornung his own
wheat, supplied the unseen section. The farmer—he who raised the
wheat—was ruined upon one hand; the working-man—he who consumed
it—was ruined upon the other. But between the two, the great
operators, who never saw the wheat they traded in, bought and sold the
world's food, gambled in the nourishment of entire nations, practised
their tricks, their chicanery and oblique shifty “deals,” were
reconciled in their differences, and went on through their appointed
way, jovial, contented, enthroned, and unassailable.