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Chapter 44

  • It was in the course of his final upward progress that Eugene came once mor_nto contact with Kenyon C. Winfield, Ex-State Senator of New York, Presiden_f the Long Island Realty Company, land developer, real estate plunger,
  • financier, artist, what not—a man very much of Eugene's own type an_emperament, who at this time was doing rather remarkable things in a lan_peculative way. Winfield was tall and thin, black haired, black eyed,
  • slightly but not offensively hook nosed, dignified, gracious, intellectual,
  • magnetic, optimistic. He was forty-eight years of age. Winfield was a ver_air sample of your man of the world who has ideas, dreams, fancies, executiv_bility, a certain amount of reserve and judgment, sufficient to hold his ow_n this very complicated mortal struggle. He was not really a great man, bu_e was so near it that he gave the impression to many of being so. His dee_unken black eyes burned with a peculiar lustre, one might almost have fancie_ tint of red in them. His pale, slightly sunken face had some of th_haracteristics of your polished Mephisto, though not too many. He was not a_ll devilish looking in the true sense of the word, but keen, subtle,
  • artistic. His method was to ingratiate himself with men who had money in orde_o get from them the vast sums which he found it necessary to borrow to carr_ut the schemes or rather dreams he was constantly generating. His fancie_ere always too big for his purse, but he had such lovely fancies that it wa_ joy to work with them and him.
  • Primarily Winfield was a real estate speculator, secondarily he was a dreame_f dreams and seer of visions. His visions consisted of lovely country area_ear some city stocked with charming country houses, cut up with well paved,
  • tree shaded roads, provided with sewers, gas, electricity, suitable railwa_ervice, street cars and all the comforts of a well organized living distric_hich should be at once retired, exclusive, pleasing, conservative and ye_ound up tightly with the great Metropolitan heart of New York which he s_reatly admired. Winfield had been born and raised in Brooklyn. He had been _olitician, orator, insurance dealer, contractor, and so on. He had succeede_n organizing various suburban estates—Winfield, Sunnyside, Ruritania, Th_eeches—little forty, fifty, one hundred and two hundred acre flats which wit_he help of "O. P. M." as he always called other people's money he had divide_ff into blocks, laying out charmingly with trees and sometimes a strip o_reen grass running down the centre, concrete sidewalks, a set of nobl_estrictions, and so forth. Anyone who ever came to look at a lot in one o_infield's perfect suburbs always found the choicest piece of property in th_entre of this latest burst of improvement set aside for the magnificent hous_hich Mr. Kenyon C. Winfield, the president of the company, was to build an_ive in. Needless to say they were never built. He had been round the worl_nd seen a great many things and places, but Winfield or Sunnyside o_uritania or The Beeches, so the lot buyers in these places were told, ha_een finally selected by him deliberately as the one spot in all the world i_hich he hoped to spend the remainder of his days.
  • At the time Eugene met him, he was planning Minetta Water on the shores o_ravesend Bay, which was the most ambitious of all his projects so far. He wa_eing followed financially, by a certain number of Brooklyn politicians an_inanciers who had seen him succeed in small things, taking a profit of fro_hree to four hundred per cent, out of ten, twenty and thirty acre flats, bu_or all his brilliance it had been slow work. He was now worth between thre_nd four hundred thousand dollars and, for the first time in his life, wa_eginning to feel that freedom in financial matters which made him think tha_e could do almost anything. He had met all sorts of people, lawyers, bankers,
  • doctors, merchants, the "easy classes" he called them, all with a little mone_o invest, and he had succeeded in luring hundreds of worth-while people int_is projects. His great dreams had never really been realized, however, for h_aw visions of a great warehouse and shipping system to be established o_amaica Bay, out of which he was to make millions, if it ever came to pass,
  • and also a magnificent summer resort of some kind, somewhere, which was no_et clearly evolved in his mind. His ads were scattered freely through th_ewspapers: his signs, or rather the signs of his towns, scattered broadcas_ver Long Island.
  • Eugene had met him first when he was working with the Summerfield Company, bu_e met him this time quite anew at the home of the W. W. Willebrand on th_orth Shore of Long Island near Hempstead. He had gone down there one Saturda_fternoon at the invitation of Mrs. Willebrand, whom he had met at anothe_ouse party and with whom he had danced. She had been pleased with his gay,
  • vivacious manner and had asked him if he wouldn't come. Winfield was here as _uest with his automobile.
  • "Oh, yes," said Winfield pleasantly. "I recall you very well. You are now wit_he United Magazines Corporation,—I understand—someone was telling me—a mos_rosperous company, I believe. I know Mr. Colfax very well. I once spoke t_ummerfield about you. A most astonishing fellow, that, tremendously able. Yo_ere doing that series of sugar plantation ads for them or having them done. _hink I copied the spirit of those things in advertising Ruritania, as you ma_ave noticed. Well, you certainly have improved your condition since then. _nce tried to tell Summerfield that he had an exceptional man in you, but h_ould have nothing of it. He's too much of an egoist. He doesn't know how t_ork with a man on equal terms."
  • Eugene smiled at the thought of Summerfield.
  • "An able man," he said simply. "He did a great deal for me."
  • Winfield liked that. He thought Eugene would criticize him. He liked Eugene'_enial manner and intelligent, expressive face. It occurred to him that whe_ext he wanted to advertise one of his big development projects, he would g_o Eugene or the man who had done the sugar plantation series of pictures an_et him to give him the right idea for advertising.
  • Affinity is such a peculiar thing. It draws people so easily, apart fro_olition or consciousness. In a few moments Eugene and Winfield, sitting sid_y side on the veranda, looking at the greenwood before them, the long stretc_f open sound, dotted with white sails and the dim, distant shore o_onnecticut, were talking of real estate ventures in general, what land wa_orth, how speculations of this kind turned out, as a rule. Winfield wa_nxious to take Eugene seriously, for he felt drawn to him and Eugene studie_infield's pale face, his thin, immaculate hands, his suit of soft, gra_loth. He looked as able as his public reputation made him out to be—in fact,
  • he looked better than anything he had ever done. Eugene had seen Ruritania an_he Beeches. They did not impress him vastly as territorial improvements, bu_hey were pretty, nevertheless. For middle-class people, they were quite th_hing he thought.
  • "I should think it would be a pleasure to you to scheme out a new section," h_aid to him once. "The idea of a virgin piece of land to be converted int_treets and houses or a village appeals to me immensely. The idea of laying i_ut and sketching houses to fit certain positions, suits my temperamen_xactly. I wish sometimes I had been born an architect."
  • "It is pleasant and if that were all it would be ideal," returned Winfield.
  • "The thing is more a matter of financing than anything else. You have to rais_oney for land and improvements. If you make exceptional improvements they ar_xpensive. You really can't expect to get much, if any, of your money back,
  • until all your work is done. Then you have to wait. If you put up houses yo_an't rent them, for the moment you rent them, you can't sell them as new.
  • When you make your improvements your taxes go up immediately. If you sell _iece of property to a man or woman who isn't exactly in accord with you_cheme, he or she may put up a house which destroys the value of a whol_eighborhood for you. You can't fix the details of a design in a contract to_losely. You can only specify the minimum price the house is to cost and th_ature of the materials to be used. Some people's idea of beauty will var_astly from others. Taste in sections may change. A whole city like New Yor_ay suddenly decide that it wants to build west when you are figuring on it_uilding east. So—well, all these things have to be taken into consideration."
  • "That sounds logical enough," said Eugene, "but wouldn't the right sort of _cheme just naturally draw to itself the right sort of people, if it wer_resented in the right way? Don't you fix the conditions by your ow_ttitude?"
  • "You do, you do," replied Winfield, easily. "If you give the matter sufficien_are and attention it can be done. The pity is you can be too fine at times. _ave seen attempts at perfection come to nothing. People with taste an_radition and money behind them are not moving into new additions and suburbs,
  • as a rule. You are dealing with the new rich and financial beginners. Mos_eople strain their resources to the breaking point to better their livin_onditions and they don't always know. If they have the money, it doesn'_lways follow that they have the taste to grasp what you are striving for, an_f they have the taste they haven't the money. They would do better if the_ould, but they can't. A man in my position is like an artist and a teache_nd a father confessor and financier and everything all rolled into one. Whe_ou start to be a real estate developer on a big scale you must be thes_hings. I have had some successes and some notable failures. Winfield is on_f the worst. It's disgusting to me now."
  • "I have always wished I could lay out a seaside resort or a suburb," sai_ugene dreamily. "I've never been to but one or two of the resorts abroad, bu_t strikes me that none of the resorts here—certainly none near New York—ar_ight. The opportunities are so wonderful. The things that have been done ar_orrible. There is no plan, no detail anywhere."
  • "My views exactly," said Winfield. "I've been thinking of it for years. Som_uch place could be built, and I suppose if it were done right it would b_uccessful. It would be expensive, though, very, and those who come in woul_ave a long wait for their money."
  • "It would be a great opportunity to do something really worth while, though,"
  • said Eugene. "No one seems to realize how beautiful a thing like that could b_ade."
  • Winfield said nothing, but the thought stuck in his mind. He was dreaming _easide improvement which should be the most perfect place of its kind in th_orld—a monument to himself if he did it. If Eugene had this idea of beauty h_ight help. At least he might talk to him about it when the time came. Perhap_ugene might have a little money to invest. It would take millions to put suc_ scheme through, but every little would help. Besides Eugene might have idea_hich should make money both for himself and for Winfield. It was wort_hinking about. So they parted, not to meet again for weeks and months, bu_hey did not forget each other.