Posted by: jowanderer | September 7, 2008

Jeffrey Archer – Kane and Abel

Jeffrey Archer – Kane and Abel


Florentyna struck those who saw her for the first time as a pretty, frail, shabby little thing. It was unfair that for the last three years she had had only one dress to wear, but those who could separate their opinion of the child from that of her surroundings understood why Jasio had fallen in love with her mother. Florrentyna’s long fair hair shone while her hazel eyes sparkled in defiance against the influence of her birth and diet.

Wladek returned to the castle with joy. Leon welcomed him back with open arms; for him, as isolated by the wealth of his father as Wladek was by the poverty of the trapper, it had also been a Christmas with little to celebrate.

‘Surely it won’t happen in my next pregnancy?’ she asked, phrasing her question to dispose the doctor to a favourable answer.

Grandmother Kane and Grandmother Cabot claimed that they would never travel in the dreadful machine and never did, although it should be pointed out that Grandmother Kane travelled to her funeral in a motor car, but was never informed.

Doctor and nurse were unanimous however in their insistence that he should remain in bed. Anne used the extra time to write long letters to the family, while William remained in bed, protesting, but on Thursday morning he got himself up early and went into his mother’s room, very much back to his normal self. He climbed into bed next to her and his cold hands immediately woke her up. Anne was relieved to see him so obviously fully recovered. She rang to order breakfast in bed for both of them, an indulgence William’s father would never have countenanced.
In all Sir Piers’ career as a politician, diplomat and now chairman of Kane and Cabot, London, he had never seen such self-containment in one so young. Presence is given to very few, he was heard to remark some years later. It had been given to Richard Kane and had been passed on to his only son.

William made no reply. He was thus provided with the motive for life which he had lacked before, and he acted upon his grandmother’s advice. He learned to live with his sorrow without complaining and from that moment on he threw himself steadfastly into his work at school, satisfied only if Grandmother Kane seemed impressed. At no subject did he fail to excel, and in mathematics he was not only top of his class but far ahead of his years. Anything his father had achieved, he was determined to better. He grew even closer to his mother and became suspicious of anyone who was not family, so that he was often thought of as a solitary child, a loner and, unfairly, as a snob.

When he had lived in the safety of the castle, Wladek had never thought of the previous day with so much occupying him from hour to hour. Now he was unable to remember even the previous hour, because nothing ever changed, Hopeless minutes turned into hours, hours into days, and then months that he soon lost track of. Only the arrival of food, darkness or light indicated that another twelve hours had passed, while the intensity of that light, and its eventual giving way to storms, and then ice forming on the dungeon walls, melting only when a new sun appeared, heralded each season in a manner that Wladek could never have learned from a nature study lesson. During the long nights Wladek became even more aware of the stench of death that permeated even the farthest comers of the four dungeons, alleviated occasionally by the morning sunshine, a cool breeze, or the most blessed relief of all, the return of rain.

She watched his car glide slowly back down Beacon Hill knowing that she wanted to see him again. She was delighted, though not entirely surprised, when he telephoned her the following morning.

Although she was well aware that he looked younger than herself, he had done so much with his life that she always felt deliciously youthful and inexperienced in his company. She told him about her husband’s death, and cried a little more- He took her hand and she spoke of her son with glowing pride and affection.

The announcement during that summer of the engagement came as no surprise to anyone except William. He had disliked Henry intensely from the day that Anne, with a well-founded sense of misgiving, introduced them to each other. Their first conversation took the form of long questions from Henry, trying to prove he wanted to be a friend, and monosyllabic answers from William, showing that he didn’t.

The old and the sick were starting to die, quietly at night, if they were lucky. The unlucky ones, unable to keep up the pace, were uncuffed from the chains and cast off to be left alone in the endless snow. Those who survived walked on, on, on, always towards the north, until Wladek lost all sense of time and was simply conscious of the inexorable tug of the chain, not even sure when he dug his hole in the snow to sleep at night that he would wake the next morning: those that didn’t had dug their own grave.

Breakfast in a freezing communal hall lasted for ten minutes and consisted of a bowl of lukewarm gniel, with pieces of rotten fish and a leaf of cabbage floating in it. The newcomers spat the fish bones out on the table while the more seasoned prisoners ate the bones and even the fishes’ eyes.

You must realise by now that escape is impossible. I have been in captivity fifteen years, and not a day has passed that I have not thought of escape.

Fifteen years to scrape together two hundred rubles, a shirt and a suit, and the doctor was willing to sacrifice them to Wladek in a moment.

Wladek never again in his life experienced such an act of selflessness.

‘May I sit down?’

‘Please do,’ said the woman, looking at him carefully.

He was unlatching the window when the door was flung open and into the room came the station master, a tiny man, no taller than Wladek, with a large stomach and an almost bald head covered in long strands of grey hair. He wore rimless spectacles, which had produced little red semicircles under each eye. The man carried a paraffin lamp.

He hesitated as he passed the woman and touched her hand, feeling the response. Nothing was said; no words would have been adequate.

From his inside pocket the man drew out an official looking form, signed it hurriedly, and handed it over furtively to Wladek. The station master’s eyes kept looking all around him for any possible danger. Wladek had seen those eyes so many times during the past four years; the eyes of a coward.

 He undid his little parcel and started to investigate. Apples, bread, nuts, two shirts, a pair of trousers and even shoes were contained in that brown-papered treasure trove. What a woman, what a husband.

He gazed into the blue expanse longingly: that way was freedom and escape from Russia. The city must have seen its fair share of fighting: bumt-out houses and squalor were all too evident, grotesque in the mild, flower-scented sea air.

Anne wasn’t sure whether she should talk to him about it, and each Monday she would carefully extract William’s letter from the box to be certain that Henry never saw the envelope. She continued to hope, that in time William would come around to liking Henry, but it became clear that that hope was unrealistic when, in one particular letter to his mother, he sought her permission to stay with his friend, Matthew Lester, for the summer holidays. The request came as a painful blow to Anne, but she took the easy way out and fell in with William’s plans, which Henry also seemed to favour.

‘However, it may interest you to know, Mr. Kane, that your mother has drawn out the entir

The letters kept coming, sometimes with new names. Anne continued to destroy them, but now they were beginning to prey on her mind. She wanted to discuss the whole problem with someone, but couldn’t think of anybody in whom she could confide.

She feared another could only mean more bad news.

She called the bank. The operator put her straight through..

‘Alan, you, wanted to see me?’

‘Yes, my dear, I would like to have a chat sometime. When would suit you?’

‘Is it bad news?’ asked Anne.

‘Not exactly, but I would rather not say anything over the phone, but there’s nothing for you to worry about. Are you free for lunch, by any chance?’

‘Yes I am, Alan.’

‘Well, let’s meet at the Ritz at one o’clock. I look forward to seeing you then, Anne!’


‘William, dear boy, how are you and how are things at St. Paul’s?’

‘All is well this end, thank you, sir, but that’s not why I telephoned!

The tact of an advancing Mack truck, thought Alan. ‘No, I didn’t imagine it was,’ he replied drily. ‘What can I do for YOU?’

‘I’d like to see you tomorrow afternoon?’

‘On a Sunday, William?’

‘Yes, as it’s the only day I can get away from school, I’ll come to you any time any place.’ William made the statement sound as though it were a concession on his part. ‘And under no condition is my mother to know of our meeting!’

Alan hit an even worse tee shot. Williarn’s went right down the middle of the fairway. Alan chopped the next shot into a bush he had never even realised existed before and swore out loud for the first time in forty-three years. (He had got a hiding on that occasion as well.)

‘That’s asking a little too much,’ said Alan, as he joined up with William on the fif th green.

‘It’s nothing compared with what I’d do if I couldn’t be sure of your support, sir!’

‘I don’t think your father would have approved of threats, William,’ said Alan as he watched William’s ball sink from fourteen feet.

‘The only thing of which my father would not have approved is Osborne,’ retorted William. Alan Lloyd two-putted four feet from the hole.

‘Do you have any more bombshells for me?’ asked Alan.

‘Before or after your putt, sir?’

Anne turned and smiled at him. ‘How kind of you to come Alan, when you must be so busy at the bank.’

‘I couldn’t afford to miss out on one of your parties, my dear, they’re still the toast of Boston.’

She smiled. ‘I wonder if you ever say the wrong thing!’


‘Anne, I am sorry. I can understand how that might look and why you are upset, but there really was a reason, believe me. May I come around and explain everything to you?’

‘No, Alan, you can’t. You’re all ganging up against my husband. None of you wants to give him a chance to prove himself. Well, I am going to give him that chance!’

The two boys sat in silence on the small bench and waited. Frightening cries and screams, unlike any sound they had ever heard anyone make, came from the delivery room; to be succeeded by an even more frightening silence. For the first time in his life William felt totally helpless. The two of them sat there for over an hour, without a word passing between them. Eventually a tired Doctor MacKenzie emerged.

The two boys rose, and the doctor looked at Matthew Lester.

‘William?’he asked.

‘No, sir, I am Matthew Lester; this is William.’

The doctor turned to William and put a hand on his shoulder. ‘William, I’m so sorry, your mother died a few minutes ago … and the child, a little girl, was stillborn.’

William’s legs gave way and he sank on to the bench. ‘We did everything in our power to save them, but it was hopeless.’ He shook his head wearily. ‘She wouldn’t listen to me, she insisted on having the baby. It should never have happened.’

William sat silently, stunned by the whiplash sound of the doctor’s words.
 ‘We can discuss this again when I am twenty-one and not before. Until then I would be obliged if you would run my bank in your usual diplomatic and conservative manner. I want nothing of what has happened to be discussed outside this office. You will destroy any information you have on Henry Osborne and consider the matter closed.’

During their last term, he and Matthew would sit in their study at St. Paul’s for hours, never speaking unless Matthew had some rnathernatical problem he was quite unable to solve- When the long awaited examinations finally came, they lasted for only one brutal week. The moment they were over, both boys were sanguine about their results, but as the days went by, and they waited and waited, their confidence began to diminish. … As more time went by and still he heard nothing, William began to assume the worst.
Yet another telegram arrived, this one from Charles Lester, congratulating his son and inviting the boys to tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Both grandmothers sent congratulations to William, but as Grandmother Kane informed Alan Lloyd, somewhat testily, ‘the boy has done no less than was expected of him and no more than his father did before him.’

The four of them had a memorable evening, mainly because Abel knew exactly what to expect from a good restaurant. His three guests all had a great deal too much to eat, and when the bill was presented, George was aghast to see that it came to more than he earned in a month. Abel paid the bill without a second glance. If you have to pay a bill, make it look as if the amount is of no consequence. If it is, don’t go to the restaurant again, but whatever you do, don’t comment or look surprised – something else the rich had taught him.

When the party broke up at about two in the morning,

‘I have been very impressed by what I’ve seen, Abel, because you got class, real class, and I am always on the lookout for that. Ellsworth Statler was a fool not to pick you up right away.’

‘What are you paid?’ said Mr. Leroy.

The suddenness of the question took Abel by surprise. ‘I take in around twenty-4five dollars a week with tips.’

‘I’ll start you at thirty-five a week.’

‘Tell me, Matthew, what is the point of spending one hour climbing up a hill only to come back down the same hill in a few seconds at considerable risk to life and limb?’

Matthew grunted. ‘Sure gives me a bigger kick than graph theory, William. Why don’t you admit you’re not very good either at the going up or the coming down?

They both did enough work in their sophomore year to get by, although their interpretations of ‘getting by’ were wildly different.

They both did enough work in their sophomore year to get by, although their interpretations of ‘getting by’ were wildly different. For the first two months of the summer holidays, they worked as junior management assistants in Charles Lester’s bank in New York, Matthew’s father having long since given up the battle of trying to keep William away. When the dog days of August arrived, they spent most of their time dashing about the New England countryside in ‘Daisy’ sailing on the Charles River with as many different girls as possible and attending any house party to which they could get themselves invited. In no time, they were among the accredited personalities of the university, known to the cognoscenti as the Scholar and the Sweat. It was perfectly understood in Boston society that the girl who married William Kane or Matthew Lester would have no fears for her future, but as fast as hopeful mothers appeared with their fresh-faced daughters, Grandmother Kane and Grandmother Cabot despatched them unceremoniously.

That summer, the grandmothers, fearing a fresh outbreak of predatory girls, despatched William and Matthew on the grand tour of Europe, which turned out to be a great success for both of them. Matthew, surmounting all language barriers, found a beautiful girl in every major European capital – love, he assured William, was an international commodity.

William secured introductions to a director of most of the major European banks – money, he assured Matthew, was also an international commodity.

From London to Berlin to Rome, the two young men left a trail of broken hearts and suitably impressed bankers. When they returned to Harvard in September, they were both ready to hit the books for their final year.

After months of long, studious days, William and Matthew were almost ready – no one ever thinks he is quite ready -for their final examinations. For six days they answered questions and filled up sheets and sheets of the little books, and then they waited, not in vain for they both graduated as expected from Harvard in June of 1928.

Alan Lloyd waited for his reply. It was not forthcoming. ‘Well, I must say, William, it’s most unlike you to be rendered speechless by anything!’
William played for another meeting. ‘Don’t let’s make too hasty a decision. I think it might be wise to consult my colleagues and discuss this with you again at a later date.’

She shrugged slightly. ‘As you wish. I don’t really care about the money either way, and I wouldn’t want to put you to any inconvenience!’

William blinked. ‘Mrs. Brookes, I must confess to have been surprised by your magnanimous attitude. At least allow me the pleasure of taking you to lunch.’

She smiled for the first time, revealing an unsuspected dimple in her right cheek. William gazed at it in delight and did his utmost to provoke its reappearance over a long lunch at the Ritz. By the time he returned to his desk, it was well past three o’clock.

Finally, after the legal papers were signed, he could find no more excuses for not returning to Boston. He invited her to dinner at his hotel, resolved to reveal something of his feelings for her. Not for the first time, she took him by surprise. Before he had broached the subject, she asked him, twirling her glass to avoid looking at him, if he would like to stay over at Buckhurst Park for a few days.

‘A sort of holiday for us both.’ She blushed; William remained silent.

Finally she found the courage to continue. ‘I know this might sound mad, but you must realise I’ve been very lonely. The extraordinary thing is that I seem to have enjoyed the last week with you more than any time I can remember.’ She blushed again. ‘I’ve expressed that badly, and you’ll think the worst of me.’

William’s pulse leaped. ‘Kate, I have wanted to say something at least as bad as that for the last nine months.’

‘Then you’ll stay for a few days, William?’

‘Yes, Kate, I will.’

‘For larceny on a grand scale.’

‘Good morning, Mr. Leroy. It’s Abel Rosnovski calling from Chicago. I’ve just fired Desmond Pacey, and he wants a word with you.’

Melanie Leroy always dined with her father on these visits. Cool, pretty, with a slim figure and long legs which attracted many a stare from the hotel guests, she treated Abel with a slight degree of hauteur which gave him no encouragement for the aspirations he had begun to formulate for her, nor did she invite him to substitute ‘Melanie’ for ‘Miss Leroy’ until she discovered he was the holder of an economics degree from Columbia and knew more about discounted cash flow than she did herself. After that, she softened a little and came from time to time to dine with Abel alone in the hotel and seek assistance with the work she was doing for her liberal arts degree at the University of Chicago. Emboldened, he occasionally escorted her to concerts and the theatre, and began to feel a proprietorial jealousy whenever she brought other men to dine at the hotel, though she never came with the same escort twice.

‘Has Mr. Leroy given you the authority to represent him?’

‘No, but.. .’

‘Then I am sorry. It would be most unprofessional of me to continue this conversation.’

‘You couldn’t be less helpful, could you?’ asked Abel, immediately regretting his words.

‘That is no doubt how you see it, Mr. Rosnovski. Good day, sir.’
The next evening Abel spotted Melanie in the restaurant, not displaying her usual well-groomed confidence but looking tired and anxious, and he nearly asked her if everything was all right. He decided against approaching her and, as he left the dining room to go to his office, he found Davis Leroy standing alone in the front hall.

‘Oh my God, Abel, I hope you didn’t put all your money into me.’His voice was becoming thick.

‘Every last cent,’ said Abel. ‘But I don’t regret it, Davis. Better to lose with a wise man than win with a fool! He poured himself another bourbon.

She clung to him, happy in his happiness.
Richard’s last words before sleeping were, ‘Tree, Daddy.’ William gave in.

It wasn’t his day.

‘You look exhausted, darling. I hope you haven’t forgotten that we’re having drinks later with Andrew MacKenzie.’

‘Hell, Andrew’s party had totally slipped my mind. What time is he expecting us?,’

‘In about an hour.’

‘Well, first I’m going to take a long, hot bath.’

‘I thought that was a woman’s privilege,’ said Kate.

‘Tonight I need a little pampering. I’ve had a nerveracking day.’

‘Tony bothering you again?’

‘Yes, but I am afraid this time he’s in the right. He’s been complaining about Matthew’s drinking habits. I was only thankful he didn’t mention the womanising. It’s become impossible to take Matthew to any party nowadays without the eldest daughter, not to mention the occasional wife, having to be locked away for their own safety. Will you run my bath?’

The funeral was held in New York, and William and Kate stayed with Charles Lester. In six months, he had become an old man, and as he stood by the graves of his wife and only son, he told William that he no longer saw any purpose in this life. William said nothing; no words of his could help the gnevmg father. William and Kate returned to Boston the next day. The Red House seemed strangely empty without Matthew. The past few months had been at once the happiest and unhappiest period in William’s life. Death had brought him a closeness, both to Matthew and to Kate, that normal life would never have allowed.

When William retutned to the bank after Matthew’s death, he found it hard to get back into any sort of normal routine. He would get up and start to head towards Matthew’s office for advice or a laugh, or merely to be assured of his existence, but he was no longer there. It was weeks before William could prevent himself from doing this.

Tony Simmons was very understanding, but it didn’t help. William lost all interest in banking, even in Kane and Cabot itself, as he went through months of remorse over Matthew’s death. He had always taken it for granted that he and Matthew would grow old together and share a cormnon destiny. No one commented that William’s work was not up to its usual high standard.

Even Kate grew worried by the hours William would spend alone.

Then one morning she awoke to find him sitting on the edge of the bed staring down at her. She blinked up at him. ‘Is something wrong, darling?’

‘No, I’m just looking at my greatest asset and making sure I don’t take it for granted!

‘Then you must listen to an old man who has, over the years, come to view you with great respect, and if I may say so, with some affection, and I’ll tell you exactly what I’d do if I were faced with your predicament!

William strode into the impressive oak-panelled room and did not need to count heads to be sure that every director was present. This was not going to be one of those board meetings a director could occasionally afford to skip. The conversation stopped the moment William entered the room, and there was an awkward silence as they all stood around and stared at him. William quickly took the chairman’s seat at the head of the long mahogany table before Peter.Parfitt could realise what was happening.

‘Gentlemen, please be seated,’ said William, hoping his voice sounded fim Ted Leach. and some of the other directors took their seats immediately; others were more reluctant. Murmuring started.

William could see that two directors whom he didn’t know were about to rise and interrupt him.

‘Before anyone else says anything I would, it you will allow me, like to make an opening statement, and then you can decide how you wish to proceed from there. I feel that is the least we can do to comply with the wishes of the late Charles Lester.’

The two men sat down.

‘Thank you, gentlemen. To start with, I would like to make it clear to all those present that I have absolutely no desire to be the chairman of this bank—— William paused for effect–unless it be the wish of the majority of its directors!

Every eye in the room was now fixed on William.

‘I am, gentlemen, at present vice-chairman of Kane and Cabot, and I own fifty-one per cent of their stock. Kane and Cabot was founded by my grandfather, and I think it compares favourably in reputation, though not in size, with Lester’s. Were I required to leave Boston and move to New York to become the next chairman of Lester’s, in compliance with Charles Lester’s wishes, I cannot pretend the move would be an easy one for myself or for-my family. However, as it was Charles Lester’s wish that I should do just that -and he was not a man to make such a proposition lightly – I am, gentlemen, bound to take his wishes seriously myself. I would also like to add that his son, Matthew Lester, was my closest friend for over fifteen years, and I consider it a tragedy that it is I, and not he, who is addressing you today as your nominated chairman.’

Some of the directors were nodding their approval.

‘Gentlemen, if I am fortunate enough to secure your support today, I will sacrifice everything I have in Boston in order to serve you. I hope it is unnecessary for me to give you a detailed account of my banking experience. I shall assume that any director present who has read Charles Lester’s will must have taken the trouble to find out why he considered that I was the right man to succeed him My own chairman, Anthony Simmons, whom many of you will know, has asked me to stay on at Kane and Cabot.

‘I had intended to inform Mr. Parfitt yesterday of my final decision, had he taken the trouble to call me and seek out that information. I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. and Mrs. Parfitt last Friday evening at their home, and on that occasion Mr. Parfitt informed me that he had no interest in becoming the next chairman of this bank. My only rival, in his opinion, was Mr. Edward Leach, your other vice-chairman. I have since consulted with Mr. Leach himself, and he informs me that I have always had his support for the chair. I assumed, therefore, that both vice-chairmen were backing me. After reading the Wall Street journal this morning, not that I have ever trusted their forecasting since the age of eighe – a little laughter – 11 felt I should attend today’s meeting to assure myself that I had not lost the support of the two vice-chairmen, and that the Journal’s account was inaccurate. Mr. Leach called this board meeting, and I must ask him at this juncture if he still supports me to succeed Charles Lester as the bank’s next chairman!

William looked towards Ted Leach, whose head was bowed. The wait for his verdict was palpable. A thumbsdown from him would mean the Parfittians could eat the Christian.

Ted Leach raised his head slowly and said, ‘I support Mr. Kane unreservedly!

William looked directly at Peter Parfitt for the first time that day. He was sweating profusely, and when he spoke, he did not take his eyes off the yellow pad in front of him.

‘Well, some members of the board,’ he began, ‘felt I should throw my hat in the ring…’

‘So you have changed your mind about supporting me and complying with Charles Lesters wishes?’ interrupted Williarn, allowing a small note of surprise to enter his voice.

Peter Parfitt raised his head a little. ‘The problem is not quite that easy, Mr. Kane!

‘Yes or no, Mr. Parfitt?

‘Yes, I shall stand against you,’ said Peter Parfitt suddenly, forcefully.

‘Despite telling me last Friday you had no interest in being chairman yourself?’

‘I would like to be able to state my own position,’ said Parfitt, ‘before you assume too much. This is not your board room yet, Mr. Kane!

‘Certainly, Mr. Parfitt.’

So far, the meeting had gone exactly as William had planned. His own speech had been carefully prepared and delivered, and Peter Parfitt now laboured under the disadvantage of having lost the initiative, to say nothing of having been publicly called a liar.

‘Gentlemen,’ he began, as if searching for words. ‘Well,’ he said.

The eyes had turned their gaze from William and now fixed on Parfitt. It gave William the chance to relax and study the faces of the other directors.

‘Several members of the board approached me privately after I had dinner with Mr, Kane, and I felt that it was no more than my duty to consider their wishes and offer myself for election. I have never at any time wanted to oppose the wishes of Mr. Charles Lester, whom I always admired and respected. Naturally, I would have informed Mr. Kane of my intention before tomorrow’s scheduled board meeting, but I confess to have been taken somewhat by surprise by today’s events!

He drew a deep breath and started again. ‘I have served Lester’s for twenty-two years, six of them as your vice-chairman. I feel, therefore, that I have the right to be considered for the chair. I would be delighted if Mr. Kane were to join the board, but I now find myself unable to back his appointment as chairman. I hope my fellow-directors will find it possible to support someone who has worked for this bank for over twenty years rather than elect an unknown outsider on the whim of a man distraught by the death of his only som Thank you, gentlemen!

He sat down.

In the circumstances, William was rather impressed by the speech, but Parfitt did not have the benefit of Mr. Cohen’s advice on the power of the last word in a close contest. William rose again.

‘Gentlemen, Mr. Parfitt has pointed out that I am personally unknown to you. I, therefore, want none of you to be in any doubt as to the type of man I am. I am, as I said, the grandson and the son of bankers. I’ve been a banker all my life and it would beless than honest of me to pretend I would not be delighted to serve as the next chairman of Lester’s. If, on the other hand, after all. you have heard today, you decide to back Mr. Parfitt as chairman, so be it. I shall return to Boston and serve my own bank quite happily I will, moreover, announce publicly that I have no wish to be the chairman of Lester’s, and that will insure you against any claims that you have been derelict in fulfilling the provisions of Charles Lester’s will. There are, however, no conditions on which I would be willing to serve on your board under Mr. Parfitt. I have no intention of being less than frank with you on that point. I come before you, gentlemen, at the grave disadvantage of being, in Mr. Parfitt’s words, “an unknown outsider”. I have however, the advantage of being supported by a man who cannot be present today. A man whom all of you respected and admired, a man not known for yielding to whims or making hasty decisions. I therefore suggest this board wastes no more of its valuable time in deciding whom they wish to serve as the next chairman of Lestees. If any of you have any doubts in your mind about my ability to run this bank, then I can only suggest you vote for Mr. Parfitt. I shall not vote in this election myself, gentlemen, and I assume Mr. Parfitt will not do so either.’

‘You cannot vote,’ said Peter Parfitt, angrily. ‘You are not a member of this board yet. I am, and I shall vote.’

‘So be it, Mr. Parfitt. No one will ever be able to say you did not have the opportunity to gain every possible vote.’

William waited for the effect of his words to sink in, and as a director who was a stranger to William, was about to interrupt, he continued, ‘I will ask Mr. Rodgers as company secretary to carry out the electoral procedure, and when you have completed your vote, gentlemen, perhaps you could pass the ballot papers back to him.’

Alfred Rodgers’. monocle hid been popping out periodically during the entire meeting. Nervously, he passed voting slips around to each director.

When each had written down the name of the candidate whom he supported, the slips were returned to him.

‘Perhaps it might be prudent under the circhmstances, Mr. Rodgers, if the votes were counted aloud, thus making sure no inadvertent error is made that might lead the directors to require a second ballot!

‘Certainly, Mr Kane?’

‘Does that meet with your approval, Mr. Parfitt?’ Peter Parfitt nodded his agreement without looking up.

‘Thank you. Perhaps you would be kind enough to read the votes out to the board, Mr. Rodgers.’

The company secretary opened the first voting slip.


And then the second.

Tarfitt,’ he repeated.

The game was now out of William’s hands. All the years of waiting for the prize he had told Charles Lester so long ago would be his would be over in the next few seconds.

‘Kane. Parfitt. Kane?

Three votes to two against him; was he going to meet the same fate as he had in his contest with Tony Simmons?

‘Kane. Kane. Parfitt.’

Four votes all. He could see that Parfitt was sweating profusely at the other side of the table and he didn’t exactly feel relaxed himself.


No expression crossed William’s face. Parfitt allowed himself a smile.

Five votes to four.

‘Kane. Kane. Kane.’

He smile disappeared.

just two more, two more, pleaded William, nearly out loud.

‘Parfitt. Parfitt?

The company secretary took a long time opening a voting slip which someone had folded and refolded several times.

Kane! Eight votes to seven in William’s favour.

The last piece of paper was now being opened. William watched Alfred Rodgers’ lips. The company secretary looked up; for that one moment he was the most important man in the room.

‘Kane.’ Parfitt’s head sank into his hands.

‘Gentlemen, the tally is nine votes for Mr. William Kane, seven votes for Mr. Peter Parfitt. I therefore declare Mr. William Kane to be the duly elected chairman of Lester’s Bank.’

A respectful silence fell aver the room and every head except Peter Parfitt’s turned towards William and waited for the new chairman’s first move.

William exhaled a great rush of air and stood once again, this time to face his board.

‘Thank you, gentlemen, for the confidence you have placed in mine. It was Charles Lester’s wish that I should be your next chairman and I am delighted you have confirmed that wish with your vote. I now intend to serve this bank to the best of my ability, which I shall be unable to do without the wholehearted support of the board. if Mr. Parfitt would be kind enough…

Peter Parfitt looked up hopefully.

… to join me in the chairman’s office in a few minutes time, I would be much obliged. After I have seen Mr. Parfitt, I would like-to see Mr. Leach. I hope, gentlemen, that tomorrow I shall have the opportunity of meeting all of you individually. The next board meeting will be, the monthly one. This meeting is now adjourned!

The directors began to rise and talk among themselves. William walked quickly into the corridor, avoiding Peter Parfitt’s stare. Ted Leach caught up with him and directed him to the chairman’s office.

‘That was a great risk you took,’ said Ted Leach, ‘and you only just pulled it off. What- would you have done if you’d lost the vote?’

‘Gone back to Boston,’ said William, sounding unperturbed.

Ted Leach opened the door to the chairman’s office for William. The room was almost exactly as he remembered it; perhaps it had seemed a little larger when, as a prep-school boy, he had told Charles Lester that he would one day run the bank. He stared at the portrait of the great man behind his desk and winked at the late chairmar. Then he sat down in the big red leather chair, and put his elbows on the mahogany desk. As he took a small, leather-bound book out of his jacket pocket and placed it on the desk in front of him, there was a knock on the door. An old man entered, leaning heavily on a black stick with a silver handle. Ted Leach left them alone.


Peter Parfitt blustered in. ‘Well, I tried and I lost. A man can’t do more,’ he said laughing. ‘No hard feelings, Bill?’ He extended his hand.

‘There are no hard feelings, Mr. Parfitt. As you so rightly say, you tried and you lost, and now you will resign from your post at this bank.’

‘I’ll do what?’ said Parfitt.

‘Resign,’said William.

William passed him the letter. Ted Leach read it and then looked at William.

‘I shall be delighted to be overall vice-chairman. Thank you for your confidence in me.’

‘Good. I will be obliged if you will arrange for me to meet every director during the next two days. I shall start work at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.’

William swivelled round, and there standing in front of him was a middle-aged woman, primly dressed, looking very irate.

Within six months the clash with Peter Parfitt was a thing of the pass and William had become the undisputed chairman of Lester’s bank and a figure to be reckoned with in New York financial circles. Not many more months had passed before he began to wonder in which direction he should start to set himself a new goal. He had achieved his life’s ambition by becoming chairman of Lester’s at the age of thirty-three although, unlike Alexander, he felt there were more worlds still to conquer, and he had neither the dme nor the inclination to sit down and weep.

Florentyna was speechless. The young man seemed to muster courage.

‘Will you have dinner with me tonight?’

She heard herself saying, ‘Yes.’

‘Shall I pick you up at your home?’

‘No,’ said Florentyna a little too firmly. The last thing she wanted was to be met at her apartment where it would be obvious to anyone that she was not a salesgirl. ‘Let’s meet at a restaurant,’ shb added quickly.

‘Where would you like to go?.

Florentyna tried to think quickly of a place that would not be too ostentatious.

‘Allen’s at Seventy-third and Third?’ he ventured.

‘Yes, fine,’ said Florentyna, thinking how much better Maisie would have been at handling the whole situation.

‘Around eight o’clock suit you?’

‘Around eight,’ replied Florentyna.


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