Father had several lawyers, one for the railroad, another for his landholdings, and yet another for his investments. These men had been guests in our home many times over the years. However, I was not involved in any of the business meetings or transactions. In that regard, they were strangers.
I set up a series of meetings with the attorneys, the railroad managers, and Emily’s father.
After meeting with the lawyers and the railroad men, I invite Mr. Bartolini to dine with me. I do not invite Emily. After we eat, I ask Mr. Bartolini to join me in father’s study.
Bookshelves cover one wall. The shelves, from floor to ceiling, are laden with books from throughout the world. This is where I learned French and German at father’s knee. He read in whatever language the work was written. After, he discussed the subject with me in that same language. Behind father’s desk is a large window overlooking the river and forest behind Grisham Manor. The walls are of dark mahogany. I’ve always loved this room. Now my study, it has become my haven.
Offering Mr. Bartolini father’s cigar box, I say, “Please have one.”
“No, Mrs. Myer, I can’t smoke in the presence of a lady.”
“Mr. Bartolini, I’ve been in your home and store many a time while you enjoyed a good cigar. I know these are the finest cigars.”
“But this is different Mrs. Myer. I cannot…”
“Mr. Bartolini, I have been Lura to you for as long as I can remember. I insist that you call me by my given name and that you smoke one of these fine cigars. We cannot let them go to waste. Besides, in a very unladylike manner, I will pour a tumbler of good Tennessee whiskey for each of us. I will countenance no argument.” Before he can object, I select a fine thick cigar and using father’s silver cutter, I cut it, light it, and hand it to him.
Mr. Bartolini looks aghast.
“I began cutting and lighting father’s cigars as a child. It might surprise you to know that on occasion, I’ve smoked one myself.”
Once we are settled and taste the whiskey, Mr. Bartolini asks, “And why have you invited me here tonight dear lady…Lura.”
“I’ve known you all my life. My father always spoke of you as being one of the most honest men he had ever known. He confided in me that he tried to hire you away from the mercantile to run the supply organization for the railroad. But that you wished to remain your own man, able to spend every free moment with your family.”
“That is true Lura. But what do you require of me?”
“I plan to sell the railroad, most of my property holdings, and consolidate my investments. I want your advice.”
“My God Lura, I have no knowledge of such things. My advice would be of no value to you.”
“On the contrary kind sir, I’ve met with father’s lawyers regarding these issues. They were father’s counselors. They are not mine. I don’t know them, nor do I know their attitude toward women, specifically rich widows.”
“I still don’t see how I can help you.”
“Regardless of the potential profit to yourself, you’ll give me honest counsel. I want to hire you to assist me in a search.”
“What kind of search?”
“Find the best, the brightest, and the most honest attorney to advise me in these decisions. I don’t want several, just one in whom I can place complete confidence, with the same trust I have for you.”
“I’m honored by your request. But I’m not sure how we could go about such a search.”
“By using ‘we’ I see that you have already decided to help me.”
“I have Lura, but only upon one condition.”
“And what is that Mr. Bartolini?”
“Now that I’m in your employ, you must call me Giovanni.”
“Thank you Giovanni. You have removed a great burden from my shoulders.”
A month later, Giovanni and I meet with Mr. Louis Brandies in his New York office.
“Mrs. Myer I must admit that when Mr. Bartolini called upon me I was tempted to dismiss him and your request out of hand, in fact, as you know, I sent him packing.”
“What caused you to rethink your decision?”
“Several things, not the least being Mr. Bartolini’s persistence.”
“Was my wealth and holdings a factor?”
“Not in the way you might imagine, Mrs. Myer.”
“I’m intrigued. Please go on.”
“I’m normally a foe of anything to do with the railroads and the monopolies they foist upon the people. Representing one will be a challenge for me. You should know that before we talk further.”
“Mr. Brandies, Mr. Bartolini has recommended you as the one attorney who can be counted on to represent all my interests in the manner I desire. No one is to be advantaged or disadvantaged in any transaction. We have conducted inquires and I agree that you’re the one choice. Will you do me the honor of accepting my proposal?”
“Yes, I will. Now we have a few issues to settle.”
“I believe those issues will be easily handled. Here is an initial retainer in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars. Please draw an agreement and a Power-of-Attorney for Mr. Bartolini. He will be your point of contact. He will make all decisions on my behalf.”
Mr. Bartolini objected. I cut him off and hand him an envelope. “Giovanni this is a bank draft in the same amount. You’ll work with Mr. Brandies and will receive the same remuneration as he.”
“But Lura, this is more money than I make in five years. I cannot take this.”
“You dishonor me if you don’t. With this and the money you earn representing me, you’ll be able to retire and enjoy the rewards you deserve. Don’t worry, I believe that what you and Mr. Brandies do will be far more difficult and challenging than you can imagine. Am I right Mr. Brandies?”
“Yes, Mrs. Myer. This will be a task of monumental dimensions. Mr. Bartolini will earn every dime he garners.” Addressing Giovanni, he continues. “I’ve perused the papers you provided me. Even if these are the only holdings, and I’m sure there are more, you and I will meet with attorneys, managers, and potential buyers for at least a year, quite possibly into the nineteen century. You should divest yourself of your mercantile.”
Mr. Bartolini divested himself of the store. He gave it to Emily.