FIGURES AND FACTS
WITH the exception of old Fontenoy--in absence as in presence ornamental--the Board was again full; Soames, conscious of special ingratiation in the manner of 'that chap' Elderson, prepared himself for the worst. The figures were before them; a somewhat colourless show, appearing to disclose a state of things which would pass muster, if within the next six months there were no further violent disturbances of currency exchange. The proportion of foreign business to home business was duly expressed in terms of two to seven; German business, which constituted the bulk of the foreign, had been lumped--Soames noted--in the middle section, of countries only half-bankrupt, and taken at what might be called a conservative estimate.
During the silence which reigned while each member of the Board digested the figures, Soames perceived more clearly than ever the quandary he was in. Certainly, these figures would hardly justify the foregoing of the dividend earned on the past year's business. But suppose there were another Continental crash and they became liable on the great bulk of their foreign business, it might swamp all profit on home business next year, and more besides. And then his uneasiness about Elderson himself --founded he could not tell on what, intuitive, perhaps silly.
"Well, Mr. Forsyte," the Chairman was speaking; "there are the figures. Are you satisfied?"
Soames looked up; he had taken a resolution.
"I will agree to this year's dividend on the condition that we drop this foreign business in future, lock, stock,