"Has any other gentleman anything to say before I move the adoption of the report?"
Phew! That would put their backs up. Yes, sure enough it had brought that fellow, who had said he might as well go home, to his feet! Now for something nasty!
"Mr. Westgate requires answering. I don't like this business. I don't impute anything to anybody; but it looks to me as if there were something behind it which the shareholders ought to be told. Not only that; but, to speak frankly, I'm not satisfied to be ridden over roughshod in this fashion by one who, whatever he may have been in the past, is obviously not now in the prime of his faculties."
With a gasp the secretary thought: 'I knew that was a plain-spoken man!'
He heard again the rumbling beside him. The chairman had gone crimson, his mouth was pursed, his little eyes were very blue.
The secretary helped him, and waited, rather breathless.
The chairman took a sip of water, and his voice, unexpectedly loud, broke an ominous hush:
"Never been so insulted in my life. My best services have been at your disposal for nineteen years; you know what measure of success this Company has attained. I am the oldest man here, and my experience of shipping is, I hope, a little greater than that of the two gentlemen who spoke last. I have done my best for you, ladies and gentlemen, and we shall see whether you are going to endorse an indictment of my judgment and of my honour, if I am to take the last speaker seriously. This purchase is for your good. 'There is a tide in the affairs of men'--and I for one am not content, never have been, to stagnate. If that is what you want, however, by all means give your support to these gentlemen and have done with it. I tell you freights will go up before the end of the year; the purchase is a sound one, more than a sound one--I, at any rate, stand or fall by it. Refuse to ratify it, if you like; if you do, I shall resign."