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´╗┐Title: Scattergood Baines
Author: Kelland, Clarence Budington, 1881-1964
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Scattergood Baines" ***

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SCATTERGOOD BAINES

By
CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND

Author of
"_The High Flyers_," "_The Little Moment of Happiness_,"
"_Sudden Jim_," "_Youth Challenges_," etc.



CONTENTS

CHAP.
I. HE INVADES COLDRIVER
II. SCATTERGOOD KICKS UP THE DUST
III. THE MOUNTAIN COMES TO SCATTERGOOD
IV. HE DEALS IN MATCHMAKING
V. HE MAKES IT ROUND NUMBERS
VI. INSURANCE THAT DID NOT LAPSE
VII. HE BORROWS A GRANDMOTHER
VIII. HE DIPS IN HIS SPOON
IX. HE ADMINISTERS SOOTHING SYRUP
X. HE HELPS WITH THE ROUGH WORK
XI. HE INVESTS IN SALVATION
XII. THE SON THAT WAS DEAD
XIII. HE CRACKS AN OBDURATE NUT
XIV. HE TREATS AN ATTACK OF LIFE



CHAPTER I

HE INVADES COLDRIVER


The entrance of Scattergood Baines into Coldriver Valley, and the manner
of his first taking root in its soil, are legendary. This much is clear
past even disputing in the post office at mail time, or evenings in the
grocery--he walked in, perspiring profusely, for he was very fat.

It is asserted that he walked the full twenty-four miles from the
railroad, subsisting on the country, as it were, and sagged down on the
porch of Locker's grocery just before sundown. It is not implied that he
walked all of the twenty-four miles in that single day. Huge bodies move
deliberately.

He sagged down on Locker's porch, and it is reported the corner of the
porch sagged with him. George Peddie has it from his grandfather, who
was an eyewitness, that Scattergood did not so much as turn his head to
look at the assembled manhood of the vicinity, but with infinite pains
and audible grunts, succeeded in bringing first one foot, then the
other, within reach of his hands, and removed his shoes. Following this
he sighed with a great contentment and twiddled his bare toes openly and
flagrantly in the eyes of all Coldriver. He is said now to have uttered
the first words to fall from his mouth in the town where were to lie his
life's unfoldings and fulfillments. They were significant--in the light
of subsequent activities.

"One of them railroads runnin' up here," said he to the mountain just
across the road from him, "would have spared me close to a dozen
blisters."

Conversation had expired on Scattergood's arrival, and the group on the
porch converted itself into an audience. It was an audience that got its
money's worth. Not for an instant did the attention of a single member
of it stray away from this Godsend come to furnish them with their first
real topic of conversation since Crazy French stole a box of Paris
green, mistaking it for a new sort of pancake flour.

Scattergood arose ponderously and limped out into the middle of the
dusty road. From this vantage point he slowly and conscientiously
studied the village.

"Uh-huh!" he said. "'Twouldn't pay to do all that walkin' just for a
visit. Calc'late I'll have to settle."

He walked directly back to the absorbed group of leading citizens, his
shoes dangling, one in each hand, and addressed them genially.

"Your town," said he, "is growin'. Its population jest increased by me."

"Sizable growth," said Old Man Penny, dryly, letting his eye rove over
Scattergood's bulk.

"My line," said Scattergood, "is anythin' needful. Outside of a
railroad, what you figger you need most?"

Nobody answered.

"Is it a grocery store?" asked Scattergood.

Locker stiffened in his chair. "Me and Sam Kittleman calc'lates to sell
all the groceries this town needs," he said.

"How about dry goods?" said Scattergood.

Old Man Penny and Wade Lumley stirred to life at this.

"Lumley and me takes care of the dry goods," said the old man.

"Uh-huh! How about a clothin' store?"

"We got all the clothin' stores there's room for," said Lafe Atwell. "I
run it."

"Kind of got the business of this town sewed up, hain't you?"
Scattergood asked, admiringly. "Wouldn't look with favor on any more
stores?"

"We calculate to keep what business we got," said Old Man Penny. "A
outsider would have a hard time makin' a go of it here."

"Quite likely," said Scattergood. "Still, you never can tell. Let some
feller come in here with a gen'ral store, sellin' for cash--and cuttin'
prices, eh? How would an outsider git along if he done that? Up-to-date
store. Fresh goods. Low prices. Eh? Calc'late some of you fellers would
have to discharge a clerk."

"You hain't got money enough to start a store," Old Man Penny squawked.
"Why, you hain't even got a satchel! You come walkin' in like a tramp."

"There's tramps--and tramps," said Scattergood, placidly. He reached far
down into a trousers pocket and tugged to the light of day a roll that
his fingers could not encircle. He looked at it fondly, tossed it up in
the air a couple of times and caught it, and then held it between thumb
and forefinger until the eyes of his audience had assured themselves
that the outside bill was yellow and its denomination twenty dollars....
The audience gulped.

"Meals to the tavern perty good?" Coldriver's new citizen asked.

"Say," demanded Locker, "be you really thinkin' about startin' a cash
store here?"

"Neighbor," said Scattergood, "never give up valuable information
without gittin' somethin' for it. How much money would a complete and
careful account of my intentions be worth to you?"

Locker snorted. "Bet that wad of bills is a dummy with a counterfeit
twenty outside of it," he said.

Scattergood smiled tantalizingly. Locker had not, fortunately for
Scattergood, the least idea how close to the truth he had been. On one
point only had he been mistaken. The twenty outside was _not_
counterfeit. However, except for three fives, four twos, and ninety
cents in silver, it represented Scattergood's total cash capital.

"I'm goin'," said Scattergood, "to order me _two_ suppers. Two! From
bean soup to apple pie. It's my birthday. Twenty-six to-day, and I
always eat two suppers on my birthdays.... Glad you leadin' citizens see
fit to give me such a hearty welcome to your town. Right kind and
generous of you."

He turned and ambled down the road toward the tavern, planting his bare
feet with evident pleasure in the deepest of the warm sand, and flirting
up little clouds of it behind him. The audience saw him seat himself on
the tavern steps and pull on his shoes. They were too far to hear him
say speculatively to himself: "I never heard tell of a man gittin' a
start in life jest that way--but _that_ hain't any reason it can't be
done. I'm goin' to do this town good, and this valley. Hain't no more 'n
fair them leadin' citizens should give me what help they feel they kin."

Scattergood ate with ease and pleasure two complete suppers--to the
openly expressed admiration of Emma, the waitress. Very shortly
afterward he retired to his room, where, not trusting to the sturdiness
of the bed-slats provided, he dragged mattress and bedding to the floor
and was soon emitting snores that Landlord Coombs assured his wife was
the beat of anybody ever slept in the house not countin' that travelin'
man from Boston. Next morning Scattergood was about early, padding
slowly up and down the crossed streets which made up the village. He was
studying the ground for immediate strategic purposes, just as he had
been studying the valley on his long trudge up from the railroad for
purposes related to distant campaigns. Though Scattergood's arrival in
Coldriver may have seemed impromptu, as his adoption of the town for a
permanent location seemed abrupt, not to say impulsive, neither really
was so. Scattergood rarely acted without reason and after reflection.

True, he had but a moment's glimpse of Coldriver before he decided he
had moved there, but the glimpse showed him the location was the one he
had been searching for.... Scattergood's specialty, his hobby, was
valleys. Valleys down which splashed and roared sizable streams, whose
mountain sides were covered with timber, and whose flats were
comfortable farms--such valleys interested him with an especial
interest. But the valley he had been looking for was one with but a
single possible _outlet_. He wanted a valley whose timber and produce
and products could not go climbing off across the hills, over a number
of easy roads, to market. His valley must be hemmed in. The only way to
market must lie _down_ the valley, with the river. And the river that
flowed down his valley must be swift, with sufficient volume all twelve
months of the year to turn possible mill wheels.... As yet he thought
only of the direct application of power. He had not dreamed yet of great
turbine generators which should transport thousands of horse power,
written in terms of electricity, hundreds of miles across country, there
to light cities and turn the wheels of huge manufactories....

Coldriver Valley was that valley! He felt it as soon as he turned into
it; certainty increased as he progressed between those gigantic walls
black with tall, straight, beautiful spruce. So, when he sat shoeless,
resting his blistered feet on Locker's porch, he was ready to make his
decision. The mere making of it was a negligible detail.

So Scattergood Baines found his valley. He entered it consciously as an
invader, determined to conquer. Pitiful as were the resources of Cortez
as he adventured against the power of Montezuma, or of Pizarro as he
clambered over the Peruvian Andes, they were gigantic compared with
Scattergood's. He was starting to make _his_ conquest backed by one
twenty, three fives, four twos, and ninety cents in silver. It was
obvious to him the country to be conquered must supply the sinews of war
for its own conquest.

Every village has its ramshackle, disused store building. Coldriver had
one, especially well located, and not so ramshackle as it might have
been. It was big; its front was crossed by a broad porch; its show
windows were not show windows at all, but were put there solely to give
light. Coldriver did not know there was such a thing as inviting
patronage by skillful display.

"Sonny," said Scattergood to a boy digging worms in the shade of the
building, "who owns this here ruin?"

"Old Tom Plummer," said the boy, and was even able to disclose where old
Tom was to be found. Scattergood found him feeding a dozen White
Orpingtons.

"Best layers a man can keep," said Scattergood, sincerely. "Man's got to
have brains to even raise chickens."

"I git more eggs to the hen than anybody else in town," said old Tom,
"but nobody listens to me."

"Own a store buildin' downtown, don't you?"

"Calc'late to."

"If you was to git a chance to rent it, how much would it be a month?"

"Repairs or no repairs?"

"No repairs."

"Twenty dollars."

"G'mornin'," said Scattergood, and turned toward the gate.

"What's your hurry, mister?"

"Can't bear to stay near a man that mentions so much money in a breath,"
said Scattergood, with his most ingratiating grin.

"How much could you stay and hear?"

"Not over ten."

"Huh!... Seein' the buildin's in poor shape, I'll call it fifteen."

"Twelve-fifty's as far's I'll go--on a five-year lease," said
Scattergood. It will be seen he fully intended to become permanent.

"What you figger on usin' it fur?"

"Maybe a opry house, maybe a dime museum, maybe a carpenter shop, and
maybe somethin' else. I hain't mentionin' jest what, but it's
law-abidin' and respectable."

"Five-year lease, eh? Twelve-fifty."

"Two months' rent in advance," said Scattergood.

"Squire Hastings'll draw the papers," said old Tom, heading for the
gate. Scattergood followed, and in half an hour was the lessee of a
store building, bound to pay rent for five years, with more than half
his capital vanished--with no stock of goods or wherewith to procure
one, with not even a day's experience in any sort of merchandising to
his credit.

His next step was to buy ten yards of white cloth, a small paint brush,
and a can of paint. Ostentatiously he borrowed a stepladder and
stretched the cloth across the front of his store, from post to post.
Then, equally ostentatiously, he mounted the stepladder and began to
paint a sign. He was not unskilled in the business of lettering. The
sign, when completed, read:

    CASH AND CUT PRICES IS MY MOTTO

Having completed this, he bought a pail, a mop, and a broom, and
proceeded to a thorough housecleaning of his premises.

Old Man Penny and Locker and the rest of the merchants were far from
oblivious to Scattergood's movements. No sooner had his sign appeared
than every merchant in town--excepting Junkin, the druggist, who sold
wall paper and farm machinery as side lines--went into executive session
in the back room of Locker's store.

"He means business," said Locker.

"Leased that store for five year," said Old Man Penny.

"Cash, and Cut Prices," quoted Atwell, "and you fellers know our folks
would pass by their own brothers to save a penny. He'll force us to cut,
too."

"Me--I won't do it," asserted Kettleman.

"Then you'll eat your stock," growled Locker.

"Fellers," said Atwell, "if this man gits started it's goin' to cost all
of us money. He'll draw some trade, even if he don't cut prices. Safe to
figger he'll git a sixth of it. And a sixth of the business in this
region is a pretty fair livin'. If he goes slashin' right and left,
nobody kin tell how much trade he'll draw."

"We should 'a' leased that store between us. Then nobody could 'a' come
in."

"But we didn't. And it's goin' to cost us money. If he puts in clothing
it'll cost me five hundred dollars a year in profits, anyhow. Maybe
more. And you other fellers clost to as much."

"But we can't do nothin'."

"We can buy him off," said Atwell.

The meeting at that moment became noisy. Epithets were applied with
freedom to Scattergood, and even to Atwell, for these were not men who
loved to part with their money. However, Atwell showed them the economy
of it. It was either for them to suffer one sharp pang now, or to endure
a greater dragging misery. They went in a body to call upon Scattergood.

"Howdy, neighbors!" Scattergood said, genially.

"We're the merchants of this town," said Old Man Penny, shortly.

"So I judged," said Scattergood.

"There's merchants enough here," the old man roared on. "Too many. We
don't want any more. We don't want you should start up any business
here."

"You're too late. It's started. I've leased these premises."

"But you hain't no stock in."

"I calc'late on havin' one shortly," said Scattergood, with a twinkle in
his eye, whose meaning was kindly concealed from the five.

"What'll you take not to order any stock?" asked Atwell, abruptly.

"Figger on buyin' me off, eh? Now, neighbors, I've been lookin' for a
place like this, and I calc'late on stayin'. I'm goin' to become
all-fired permanent here."

"Give you a hundred dollars," said Old Man Penny.

"Apiece?" asked Scattergood, and laughed jovially. "It's my busy day,
neighbors. Better call in again."

"What's your figger to pull out now--'fore you're started?"

"Hain't got no figger, but if I had I calc'late it would be about a
thousand dollars."

"Give you two hundred," said Old Man Penny.

Scattergood picked up his mop. "If you fellers really mean business,
talk business. I've figgered my profits in this store, countin' in low
prices, wouldn't be a cent under a couple of thousand the first
year.... And you know it. That's what you're fussin' around here for.
Now fish or git to bait cuttin'."

"Five hundred dollars," said Atwell, and Old Man Penny moaned.

"Tell you what I'll do," said Scattergood. "You men git back here inside
of an hour with seven hundred and fifty _cash_, and lay it in my hand,
and I'll agree not to sell groceries, dry goods, notions, millinery, or
men or women's clothes in this town for a term of twenty year."

They drew off and scolded one another, and glowered at Scattergood, but
came to scratch. "It's jest like robbery," said Old Man Penny,
tremulously.

"Keep your money," retorted Scattergood. "I'm satisfied the way things
is at present."

Within the hour they were back with seven hundred and fifty dollars in
bills, a lawyer, and an agreement, which Scattergood read with minute
attention. It bound him not to sell, barter, trade, exchange, deal, or
in any way to derive a profit from the handling of groceries, dry goods,
notions, millinery, clothing, and gent's furnishings. It contained no
hidden pitfalls, and Scattergood was satisfied. He signed his name and
thrust the roll of bills into his pocket.... Then he picked up his mop
and went to work as hard as ever.

"Say," Old Man Penny said, "what you goin' ahead for? You jest agreed
not to."

"There wasn't nothin' said about moppin'," grinned Scattergood, "and
there wasn't nothin' said about hardware and harness and farm
implements, neither. If you don't b'lieve me, jest read the agreement.
What I'm doin', neighbors, is git this place cleaned out to put in the
finest cash, cut-price, up-to-date hardware store in the state. And
thank you, neighbors. You've done right kindly by a stranger...."

To this point the history of Scattergood Baines has been for the most
part legendary; now we begin to encounter him in the public records, for
deeds, mortgages, and the like begin to appear with his name upon them.
His history becomes authentic.

Seven hundred and fifty dollars is not much when put into hardware, but
Scattergood had no intention of putting even that into a stock of goods.
He had a notion that the right kind of man, with five hundred dollars,
could get credit to twice that amount, and as for farm machinery, he
could sell by catalogue or on commission. His suspicion was proven to be
fact.

But it was not in Scattergood to sit idle while he waited for his stock
to arrive. Coldriver doubtless thought him idle, but he was studying the
locality and the river with the eye of a commander who knew this was to
be his battlefield. What Scattergood wanted now was to place himself
astride Coldriver Valley, somewhere below the village, so that he could
control the upper reaches of the stream. It was not difficult to find
such a location. It lay three miles below town, at the junction of the
north and south branches of Coldriver. The juncture was in a big,
marshy, untillable flat, from which hills rose abruptly. From the
easterly end of the flat the augmented river squeezed in a roaring
rapids through a sort of bottle neck.

Scattergood stood on the hillside and looked upon this with satisfied
eye.

"A dam across that bottle neck," he said to himself, "will flood that
flat. Reg'lar reservoy. Millpond. Git a twenty-foot fall here easy,
maybe more. Calc'late that'll run about any mill folks'll want to build.
And," he scratched his head as a sort of congratulation to it for its
efficiency, "I can't study out how anybody's agoin' to git logs past
here without dickerin' with the man who owns the dam...." Plenty of
water twelve months a year to give free power; a flat made to order for
reservoir or log pond; a complete and effective blockade of both
branches of the river which came down from a country richly timbered! It
was one of the spots Scattergood had dreamed of.

Scattergood knew perfectly well he could not stop a log from passing his
dam. Nor could he shut off the stream. Any dam he built must have a
sluice which could be opened for the passage of timber, and all timber
was entitled to "natural water." But, as he well knew, "natural water"
was not always enough. A dam at this point would raise the level on the
bars of the flat so that logs would not jam, and a log which used the
high water caused by the dam must pay for it. What Scattergood had in
mind was a dam and boom company. It was his project to improve the
river, to boom backwaters, to dynamite ledges, to make the river
passable to logs in spring and fall. It was his idea that such a
company, in addition to demanding pay for the use of "improvements,"
could contract with lumbermen up the river to drive their logs.... And a
mill at this point! Scattergood fairly licked his lips as he thought of
the millions upon millions of feet of spruce to be sawed into lumber.

The firm foundation that Scattergood's strategy rested upon was that
lumbering had not really started in the valley. The valley had not
opened up, but lay undeveloped, waiting to be stirred to life.
Scattergood's strength lay in that he could see ahead of to-day, and was
patient to wait for the developments that to-morrow must bring. To-day
his foresight could get for him what would be impossible to-morrow. If
he stepped softly he could obtain a charter from the state to develop
that river, which, when lumbering interests became actually engaged,
would be fought by them to the last penny.... And he felt in his bones
that day would not long be delayed.

The land Scattergood required was owned by three individuals. All of it
was worthless--except to a man of vision--so, treading lightly,
Scattergood went about acquiring what he needed. His method was not
direct approach. He went to the owners of that land with proffers to
sell, not to buy. To Landers, who owned the marsh on both shores of the
river, he tried to sell the newest development in mowing machines, and
his manner of doing so was to hitch to the newly arrived machine, haul
it to Landers's meadow--where the owner was haying--drag it through
the gate, and unhitch.

"Here," he said, "try this here machine. Won't cost you nothin' to try
it, and I'm curious to see if it works as good as they say."

Landers was willing. It worked better. Landers regarded the machine
longingly, and spoke of price. Scattergood disclosed it.

"Hain't got it and can't afford it," said Landers.

"Might afford a swap?"

"Might. What you got in mind?"

"Say," said Scattergood, changing the subject, "ever try drainin' that
marsh in the fork? Looks like it could be done. Might make a good
medder."

Landers laughed. "If you want to try," he chuckled, "I'll trade it to
you for this here mowin' machine."

"Hum!..." grunted Scattergood, and higgled and argued, but ended by
accepting a deed for the land and turning over the machine to Landers.
Scattergood himself had sixty days to pay for it. It cost him something
like half a dollar an acre, and Landers considered he had robbed the
hardware merchant of a machine.

One side of the bottle neck Scattergood took in exchange for a kitchen
stove and a double harness; the third parcel of land came to him for a
keg of nails, five gallons of paint, sundry kitchen utensils, and twelve
dollars and fifty cents in money.... And when Coldriver heard of the
deals it chuckled derisively and regarded its hardware merchant with
pitying scorn.

Then Scattergood left a youth in charge of his store and went softly to
the state capital. In after years his skill in handling legislatures was
often remarked upon with displeasure. His young manhood held prophecy of
this future ability, for he came home acquainted with nine tenths of the
legislators, laughed at by half of them as a harmless oddity, and with a
state charter for his river company in his pocket.... When folks heard
of that charter they held their sides and roared.

Scattergood returned to selling hardware, and waited. He had an idea he
would hear something stirring on his trail before long, and he fancied
he could guess who and what that something would be. He judged he would
hear from two gentlemen named Crane and Keith. Crane owned some twenty
thousand acres of timber along the North Branch; Keith owned slightly
lesser limits along the South Branch. Both gentlemen were lumbering and
operating mills in another state; their Coldriver holdings they had
acquired, and, as the saying is, forgotten, until the time should come
when they would desire to move into Coldriver Valley.

Now these holdings were recalled sharply to memory, and both of them
took train to Coldriver.

Scattergood had not worried about it. He had simply gone along selling
hardware in his own way--and selling a good deal of it. His store had a
new front, his stock was augmented. It was his business to sell goods,
and he sold them.

For instance, Lem Jones stopped and hitched his team before the store,
one chilly day. His horses he covered with old burlap, lacking blankets.
While Lem was buying groceries, Scattergood selected two excellent
blankets, carried them out, and put them on the horses. Then he went
back into the store to attend to other matters. Presently Lem came in.

"Where'd them blankets come from?" he asked.

"Hosses looked a mite chilly," said Scattergood, without interest, "so I
covered 'em."

"Bleeged," said Lem. Then, awkwardly, "I calc'late I need a pair of
blankets, but I can't afford 'em this year. Wife's been sick--"

"Sure," said Scattergood, "I know. If you want them blankets take 'em
along. Pay me when you kin.... Jest give me a sort of note for a
memorandum. Glad to accommodate you."

So Scattergood marketed his blankets, taking in exchange a perfectly
good, interest-bearing note. Also, he made a friend, for Lem could not
be convinced but Scattergood had done him a notable favor.

Scattergood now had money in the bank. No longer did he have to stretch
his credit for stock. He was established--and all in less than a year.
Hardware, it seemed, had been a commodity much needed in that locality,
yet no one had handled it in sufficient stock because of the
twenty-four-mile haul. That had been too costly. It cost Scattergood
just as much, but his customers paid for it.... The difference between
him and the other merchants was that he sold goods while they allowed
folks to buy.

So, wisely, he kept on building up in a small way, while waiting for
bigger things to develop. And as he waited he studied the valley until
he could recite every inch of it, and he studied the future until he
knew what the future would require of that valley. He knew it before the
future knew it and before the valley knew it, and was laying his plans
to be ready with pails to catch the sap when others, taken by surprise,
would be running wildly about seeking for buckets.

Then Crane and Keith arrived in Coldriver.... That day marked
Scattergood's emergence from the ranks of country merchants, though he
retained his hardware store to the last. That day marked distinctly
Scattergood's launching on a greater body of water. For forty years he
sailed it with varying success, meeting failures sometimes, scoring
victories; but interesting, characteristic in every phase--a genius in
his way and a man who never took the commonplace course when the unusual
was open to him.

"I suppose you've looked this man Baines up," said Crane to Keith when
they met in the Coldriver tavern.

"I know how much he weighs and how many teeth he's had filled," Keith
replied.

"He ought not to be so difficult to handle. He hasn't capital enough to
put this company of his through and his business experience don't amount
to much."

"For monkeying with our buzz saw," said Keith, "we ought to let him lose
a couple of fingers."

"How's this for an idea, then?" Crane said, and for fifteen minutes he
outlined his theory of how best to eliminate Scattergood Baines from
being an obstruction to the free flowage of their schemes for Coldriver
Valley.

"It's got others by the hundred, in one form or another," agreed Keith.
"This jayhawker'll welcome it with tears of joy."

Whereupon they went gladly on their way to Scattergood's store, not as
enemies, but as business men who recognized his abilities and preferred
to have him with them from the start, that they might profit by his
canniness and energy, rather than to array themselves against him in an
effort to take away from him what he had obtained.

Only by the exercise of notable will power could Crane keep his face
straight as he shook hands with ungainly Scattergood and saw with his
own eyes what a perfect bumpkin he had to deal with.

"I suppose you thought we fellows would be sore," he said, genially.

"Dunno's I thought about you at all," said Scattergood. "I was thinkin'
mainly about me."

"Well, we're not. You caught us napping, of course. We should have
grabbed off that dam location long ago--but we weren't expecting
anybody to stray in with his eyes open--like yourself.... Of course your
property and charter aren't worth a great deal till we start lumbering."

"Not to anybody but me," said Scattergood.

"Well, we expect to begin operations in a year or so. We'll build a mill
on the railroad, and drive our logs down the river."

"Givin' my company the drivin' contracts?"

"Looks like we'd _have_ to--if you get in your dam and improvements.
But that'll take money. We've looked you up, of course, and we know you
haven't it--nor any backing.... That's why we've come to see you."

"To be sure," said Scattergood. "Goin' to drive 'way to the railroad,
eh? How if there was a mill right at my dam? Shorten your drive twenty
mile, wouldn't it, eh?"

"Yes," said Keith, laughing at Scattergood's ignorance; "but how about
transportation from your mill to the railroad? We can't drive cut
lumber."

"Course not," said Scattergood, "but this valley's goin' to open up.
It's startin'. There's only one way to open a valley, and that's to run
a railroad up it.... Narrow-gauge 'u'd do here. Carry mostly lumber, but
passengers, too."

"Thinking of building one?" asked Crane, almost laughing in
Scattergood's face.

"Thinkin' don't cost nobody anythin'," said Scattergood. "Ever take a
look at that charter of mine?"

"No."

"I'll let you read it over a bit. Maybe you'll git a idea from it."

He extracted the parchment from his safe, and spread it before them.
"Kind of look careful along toward the end--in the tail feathers of it,
so to speak," he advised.

They did so, and Crane looked up at the fat hardware man with eyes that
were not quite so contemptuous. "By George!" he said, "this thing's a
charter for a railroad down the valley, too."

"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood. "Dunno's the boys quite see what it was all
about, but they calculated to please me, so they put it through jest as
it stood. Mighty nice fellers up to the legislature."

"Pretty far in the future," said Keith, "and mighty expensive."

"Maybe not so far," said Scattergood, "and I could make a darn good
start narrow-gaugin' it with a hunderd thousand."

"Which you've got handy for use," said Crane.

"There _is_ that much money," said Scattergood, "and if there is, why,
it kin be got."

"Let's get back to the river, now," said Keith. "If we're going to start
lumbering in a year, say, we've got to have the river in shape. Take
quite some time to get it cleared and dammed and boomed."

"Six months," said Scattergood.

"Cost a right smart pile."

"The work I'm figgerin' on would come to about thirty-odd thousand."

"Which you haven't got."

"Somebody has," said Scattergood.

"_We_ have," said Crane. "That's why we came to you--and with a
proposition. You've grabbed this thing off, but you can't hog it,
because you haven't the money to put it through. Our offer is this: You
put in your locations and your charter against our money. We'll finance
it. Your enterprise entitles you to control. We won't dispute that. You
can have fifty-one per cent of the stock for what you've contributed. We
take the rest for financing. We're known, and can get money."

"How you figger to work it?"

"We'll bond for forty thousand dollars. Keith and I can place the bonds.
That'll give us money to go ahead."

Scattergood reached down and took off a huge shoe. Usually he thought
more accurately when his feet were unconfined. "That means we'd sort of
mortgage the whole thing, eh?"

"That's the idea."

"And if we didn't pay interest on the bonds, why, the fellers that had
'em could foreclose?"

"But we needn't worry about that."

"Not," said Scattergood, "if you fellers sign a contract with the dam
and boom company to give them the exclusive job of drivin' all your
timber at, say, sixty cents a thousand feet of logs. And if you'd stick
a clause in that contract that you'd begin cuttin' within twelve months
from date."

"Sure we'd do that," said Keith. "To our advantage as much as to yours."

"To be sure," said Scattergood.

"It's a deal, then?"

"Far's I'm concerned," said Scattergood, slipping his foot inside his
shoe, "it is."

That afternoon, the papers having been signed and the deal consummated,
Scattergood sat cogitating.

"I've been done," he said to himself, solemnly, "accordin' to them
fellers' notion. They come and seen me, and done me. They planned out
how they'd do it, and I didn't never suspect a thing. Uh-huh! Seems like
I was unfortunate, just gettin' a start in life like I be.... Bonds,
says they. Uh-huh! They'll place 'em, and place 'em handy. First
int'rest day there won't be no int'rest, and them bonds'll be
foreclosed--and where'll I be? Mighty ingenious fellers, Crane and
Keith.... And I up and walked right into it like a fly into a molasses
barrel. Them fellers," he said, even more somberly, "come here
calc'latin' to cheat me out of my river.... Me bein' jest a fat man
without no brains...."

Crane and Keith had left Scattergood the executive head of the new dam
and boom company, and had confided to him the task of building the dam
and improving the river. He approached it sadly.

"Might as well save what I kin out of the wreck," he said to himself,
and quietly manufactured a dummy contracting company to whom he let the
entire job for a lump sum of thirty-eight thousand seven hundred
dollars. The dummy contractor was Scattergood Baines.

The dam was completed, booms and cribbing placed, ledges blasted out
well within the six months' period set for those operations. Every
thirty days Scattergood, in the name of the dummy contractor, was paid
eighty per cent of his estimates, and at the completion of the work he
received the remainder of the whole sum.

"I wouldn't 'a' done it to them boys," he said, as he surveyed a deposit
of upward of seven thousand dollars, his profit on the transaction, "if
it hadn't 'a' been they organized to cheat me out of my river. I
calc'late in the circumstances, though, I'm most entitled to what I kin
salvage out of the wreck."

Now the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company, Scattergood Baines president and
manager, was ready for business, which was to take the logs of Messrs.
Crane and Keith and drive them down the river at the rate of sixty cents
per thousand feet. It was ready and eager, and so expressed itself in
quaintly worded communications from Baines to those gentlemen. But no
logs appeared to be driven.

"Jest like I said," Scattergood told himself, and, the day being hot and
the road dusty, he removed his shoes and rested his sweltering bulk in
the shade to consider it.

"It's a nice river," he said, audibly. "I hate to git done out of it."

After long delays Crane and Keith made pretense of building camps and
starting to log. But one difficulty after another descended on their
operations. In the spring, when each of them should have had several
millions of feet of spruce ready to roll into the water, not a log was
on rollways. Not a man was in the camps, for, owing to reasons not to be
comprehended by the public, the woodsmen of both operators had struck
simultaneously and left the woods.

Presently the first interest day arrived, with not even a hope of being
able to meet the required payment at a future date. Bondholders--dummies,
just as Scattergood's contractor was a dummy--met. Their deliberations
were brief. Foreclose with all promptitude was their word, and foreclose
they did. With the result that legal notices were published to the effect
that on the sixteenth day of June the dam, booms, cribbing, improvements,
charter, contracts, and property of whatsoever nature belonging to the
Coldriver Dam and Boom Company were to be sold at public auction on the
steps of the county courthouse. Scattergood had lost his river....

"Terms of the sale are cash with the bid," said Crane to Keith. "I saw
to that."

"Good. Wasn't necessary, I guess. There hasn't been even a wriggle out
of Baines."

"Won't be. We'll have to send somebody up to bid it in. It's just taking
money out of one pocket to put it into the other, but we've got to go
through the motions."

"Anyhow, let's get credit for grabbing a bargain," said Keith. "Bid her
in cheap. No use taking a big wad of money out of circulation even for a
few days."

"Ten thousand'll be enough. Say ten thousand six hundred, just to make
it sound better. Have to have two bidders there."

"Sure," agreed Keith. "I guess this'll teach our fat dreamer of dreams
not to get in the way of the cars."

Scattergood's stock had gone down in Coldriver. True, his hardware store
was thriving. In the two years his stock had increased from what his
seven hundred and fifty dollars, with credit added, would buy, to an
inventory of better than five thousand dollars, free of debt. It is true
also that with the last winter coming on he had looked about for a
chance to keep his small surplus at work for him, and his eyes had
fallen upon the item of firewood. In Coldriver were a matter of sixty
houses and a hotel, all of which derived their heat from hardwood
chunks, and cooked their meals on range fires with sixteen-inch split
wood. The houses were mostly of that large, comfortable, country variety
which could not be kept warm with one fire. Scattergood figured they
would burn on an average of fifteen cords of wood.

Now stove wood, to be really useful, must have seasoned a year. It is
not pleasant to build fires with green wood. Appreciating this,
Scattergood ambled about the countryside and bought up every available
stick of wood at prices of the day--and under, for he was a good buyer.
He secured a matter of a thousand cords--and then waited hopefully.

It was a small transaction, promising no great profits, but Scattergood
Baines was never, even when a rich man, one to scorn a small deal....
Within sixty days he turned over his corner in wood, realizing a profit
of something over four hundred dollars.... This is merely to illustrate
how Scattergood's capital grew.

On June 16th Scattergood drove to the county seat. He now owned a horse,
and a buggy whose seat he more than comfortably filled. In the county
seat Scattergood was not unknown, for various county officers had been
helped to their place by his growing influence in his town--notably the
sheriff.

There was little interest in the sale, and what interest there was
Scattergood caused by his unexpected appearance. Nobody had imagined he
would be present. Now that he was there, nobody could imagine why. He
did not enlighten them, though he was delighted to sit in the sun on the
courthouse steps, waiting for the hour of the sale, and to chat. He
loved to chat, especially if he could get off his shoes and wriggle his
toes in the sunshine. And so he sat, bare of foot, when the sheriff
appeared and made his announcement of the approaching sale. Scattergood
chatted on, apparently not interested.

"All the dams, booms, cribbings, improvements, and property of the
Coldriver Dam and Boom Company ..." the sheriff read.

"Including contracts and charter," amended Scattergood.

"Including contracts and charter," agreed the sheriff, and Scattergood
continued his chat.

Bidding began. It was not brisk or exciting. Five thousand was the first
offer, from a young man appertaining to Crane. Keith's young man raised
him five hundred. Back and forth they tossed it, carrying on the
pretense, until Keith's young man reached the sum of ten thousand six
hundred dollars.... A silence followed.

"Ten thousand six hundred I'm offered," said the sheriff, loudly, and
repeated it. He had been a licensed auctioneer in his day. "Do I hear
seven hundred? Seven hundred ... Six fifty ..." A portentous pause.
"Going at ten thousand six hundred, once. Going at ten thousand six
hundred, twice ..."

"Ten thousand seven hunderd," said Scattergood, casually.

Crane's young man looked at Keith's young man in a panic. They had only
the sum they had bid upon them.... Cash with bid were the terms of
sale. Scattergood, out of the corner of his eye, saw them rush together
and confer frenziedly. His eye glinted.

"Ten thousand eight hundred," Crane's youth bid, desperately.

"Cash with bid is terms of sale," said Scattergood. "I object to
listenin' to that bid without the young man perduces." He smiled at the
sheriff.

"Mr. Baines is right," said the sheriff. "Protect your bid with the cash
or I cannot receive it."

"Make _him_ protect his bid!" shouted Crane's young man.

"Certain," said Scattergood, approaching the sheriff and drawing a huge
roll of bills from his sagging trousers pocket. "Calc'late you'll find
her there, Mr. Sheriff, and some besides. Make your change and gimme
back the rest."

"I'm waitin' on you, young feller," said the sheriff, eying the young
men.... "Ten thousand seven hundred I hear. Going at ten thousand seven
hundred--once.... Twice.... Three times!... Sold to Mr. Baines for
ten thousand seven hundred dollars...."

So ends the first epoch of Scattergood Baines's career in Coldriver
Valley. Here he emerges as a personage. From this point his fame began
to spread, and legend grew. Had he not, in two brief years, after
arriving with less than fifty dollars as a total capital, acquired a
profitable hardware store--donated in the beginning by competitors? Had
he not now, for the most part with money wrenched from Crane and Keith
by his dummy contracting, been enabled to bid in for ten thousand seven
hundred dollars a new property worth nearly four times that much? He was
a man into whose band wagon all were eager to clamber.

But Scattergood did not change. He went back to his hardware store and
waited--waited for Crane and Keith to start their inevitable logging
operations. For in his safe reposed ironclad contracts with those
gentlemen, covering the future for a decade, compelling them to pay him
sixty cents for every thousand feet of timber that floated down his
river. It was a good two years' work. He could well afford to wait....

Scattergood sat on the porch of his store, in the sunniest spot,
twiddling his bare toes.

"The way to make money," he said to the mountain opposite, "is to let
smarter folks 'n you be make it for you ... like I done."



CHAPTER II

SCATTERGOOD KICKS UP THE DUST


Scattergood Baines sat on the porch of his hardware store and looked
down Coldriver Valley. It was very beautiful, even under the hot summer
sun of the second anniversary of Scattergood's arrival in that part of
the world, but he was not seeing it as it was--mountainous, green,
with untouched forests, quickened to life and sound by the swift,
rushing, splashing downrush of a tireless mountain river. Scattergood
saw the valley as he was going to make it, for he was a specialist in
valleys.

For years he had searched for an undeveloped valley--for the sort of
valley it would be worth his while to take in hand, and two years ago he
had found it and invaded it. His equipment for its conquest had been
meager--some fifty dollars in money and a head filled from ear to ear
and from eyebrows to scalp lock with shrewdness. His progress in
twenty-four months had been notable, for he was sole proprietor of a
profitable hardware store in Coldriver village, and controlled the upper
stretches of Coldriver by virtue of a certain dam and boom company built
with other men's capital for Scattergood's benefit and behoof.

Now, in the eye of his mind, he could see the whole twenty-odd miles of
his valley. Along the left bank, hanging perilously to the slope of the
mountain, he saw the rails of a narrow-gauge railroad reaching from
Coldriver Valley to the main line that passed the valley's mouth. He saw
sturdy, snorting little engines drawing logs to sawmills of a magnitude
not dreamed of by any other man in the locality, and he saw other
engines hauling out lumber to the southward. He saw villages where no
villages existed that day, and villages meaning more traffic for his
railroad, more trade for the stores he had it in his thought to
establish. Something else he saw, but more dimly. This vision took the
shape of a gigantic dam far back in the mountains, behind which should
be stored the waters from the melting snows and from the spring rains,
so that they might be released at will to insure a uniform flow
throughout the year, wet months and dry months, as he desired. He saw
this water pouring over other dams, turning water wheels, giving power
to mills and factories. More than that, in the remotest and dimmest
recess of his brain he saw not sharply, not with full comprehension,
this tremendous water power converted into electricity and transported
mile upon mile over far-reaching wires, to give light and energy to
distant communities.

But all that was remote; it lay in the years to come. For the present
smaller affairs must content him. Even the matter of the narrow-gauge
railroad was beyond his grasp.

Scattergood reached down mechanically and removed his huge shoes; then,
stretching out his fat legs gratefully, he twiddled his toes in the
sunlight and gave himself up to practical thought. He controlled the
tail of the valley with his dam and boom company; he must control its
mouth. He must have command over the exit from the valley so that every
individual, every log, every article of merchandise that entered or left
the valley, should pass through his hands. That was to be the next step.
He must straddle the mouth of the valley like the fat colossus he was.

Scattergood was placid and patient. He knew what he wanted to do with
his valley, and had perfect confidence he should accomplish it. But he
had no disposition to hasten matters unwisely. It was better, as he told
Sam Kettleman, the grocer, "to let an apple fall in your lap instead of
skinnin' your shins goin' up the tree after it--and then findin' it was
green."

So, though he wanted the mouth of his river, and wanted it badly, he did
not rush off, advertising his need, and try brashly to grab the forty or
fifty acres of granite and scrub and steep mountain wall that his heart
desired. Instead, he basked in the sunshine, twiddling his bare toes
ecstatically, and let the huge bulk of him sink more contentedly into
the well-reinforced armchair which creaked under his slightest motion.

Scattergood glanced across the dusty square to the post office. The mail
was in, and possibly there were letters there for him. He thought it
very likely, and he wanted to see them--but movement was repulsive to
his bulging body. He sighed and closed his eyes. A shrill whistle
attempting the national anthem, with certain liberties of variation,
caused him to open them again, and he saw, passing him, a small boy,
apparently without an object in life.

"A-hum!" said Scattergood.

The boy stopped and looked inquiringly.

"If I knew," said Scattergood to his bare feet, "where there was a boy
that could find his way across to the post office and back without
gittin' sunstroke or stone bruise, I dunno but I'd give him a penny to
fetch my mail."

"It's worth a nickel," said the boy.

"Give you two cents," said Scattergood.

"Nickel or nothin'," said the boy.

Scattergood scrutinized the boy a moment, then surrendered.

"Bargain," said he, but as the boy hustled across the square
Scattergood heaved himself out of his chair and padded inside the store.
He stood scratching his head a moment and then removed a tin object from
a card holding eleven more of its like. With it in his hand, he returned
to his chair and resettled himself cautiously, for to apply his weight
suddenly might have resulted in disaster.

The boy was returning. Scattergood placed the tin object to his lips and
puffed out his bulging cheeks. A sound resulted such as the ears of
Coldriver had seldom suffered. It was shrill, it was penetrating, it
rose and fell with a sort of ripping, tearing slash. The boy stopped in
front of Scattergood and stared. Without a word Scattergood held out his
hand for his mail, and, receiving it, placed a nickel in the grimy palm
that remained extended. Then, apparently oblivious to the boy's
existence, he applied himself again to the whistle.

"Say," said the boy, "what's that?"

"Patent whistle," said Scattergood, without interest.

"Is it your'n, or is it for sale?"

"Calculate I might sell."

"How much?"

"Nickel."

"Gimme it," said the boy, and Scattergood gravely received back his
coin.

"Might tell the kids I got more," said Scattergood, and watched the boy
trot down the street, entranced by the horrid sound he was fathering.

This transaction from beginning to end was eloquent of Scattergood
Baines's character. He had been obliged to pay more than he regarded a
service as worth, but had not protested vainly. Instead he had set about
recouping himself as best he could. The whistle cost him two cents and a
half. Therefore the boy had come closer to working for Scattergood's
figure than for his own demanded price. In addition, Scattergood's wares
were to receive free and valuable advertising, as was proven by the
fact that before night he had sold ten more whistles at a profit of
twenty-five cents! No deal was too small to receive Scattergood's best
and most skillful attention.

Now he opened his letters, one of which was worthy of attention, for it
was from a friend in the office of the Secretary of State for that
commonwealth--a friend who owed his position there in great measure to
Scattergood's influence. The letter gave the information that two
gentlemen named Crane and Keith had pooled their timber holdings on the
east and west branches of Coldriver, and had filed papers for the
incorporation of the Coldriver Lumber Company.

This was important. First, the gentlemen named were no friends of
Scattergood's by reason of having underestimated that fleshy individual
to their financial detriment in the matter of a certain dam and boom
company, of which Scattergood was now sole owner. Second, because it
presaged active lumbering operations. Third, because, in Scattergood's
safe were ironclad contracts with both of them whereby the said dam and
boom company should receive sixty cents a thousand feet for driving
their logs down the improved river.

And fourth--the fourth brought Scattergood's active toes to a rest.
Fourth, it meant that Crane and Keith would be building the largest
sawmill--the only sawmill of consequence--that the valley had seen.

It was an attribute of Scattergood's peculiar genius that even after you
had encountered him once, and come out the worse for it, you still rated
him as a fatuous, guileless mound of flesh. You did not credit his
successes to astuteness, but to blundering luck. Another point also
should be noted: If Scattergood were hunting bear he gave it out that
his game was partridge. He would hunt partridge industriously and
conspicuously until men's minds were turned quite away from the subject
of bear. Then suddenly he would shift shotgun for rifle and come home
with a bearskin in the wagon. Probably he would bring partridge, too,
for he never neglected by-products.

"Them fellows," said he to himself, referring to Messrs. Crane and
Keith, "hain't aimin' nor wishin' to pay me no sixty cents a thousand
for drivin' their logs.... I figger they calculate to cut about ten
million feet. That'll be six thousand dollars. Profit maybe two
thousand. Don't see as I kin afford to lose it, seems as though."

On the river below Coldriver village were three hamlets each consisting
of a general store, a church, and a few scattered dwellings. These
villages were the supply centers for the mountain farms that lay behind
them. Necessity had located them, for nowhere else along the valley was
there flat land upon which even the tiniest village could find a resting
place. These were Bailey, Tupper Falls, and Higgins's Bridge. In common
with Coldriver village their communication with the world was by means
of a stage line consisting of two so-called stages, one of which left
Coldriver in the morning on the downward trip, the other of which left
the mouth of the valley on the upward trip. There was also one freight
wagon.

The morning following Scattergood's second anniversary in the region, he
boarded the stage, occupying so much space therein that a single fare
failed utterly to show a profit to the stage line, and alighted at
Bailey. He went directly to the store, where no one was to be found save
sharp-featured Mrs. Bailey, wife of the proprietor.

"Mornin', ma'am," said Scattergood, politely. "Husband hain't in?"

"Up the brook, catchin' a mess of trout," she responded, shortly. "He's
always catchin' a mess of trout, or huntin' a deer or a partridge or
somethin'. If you're ever aimin' to see Jim Bailey here, you want to
git around afore daylight or after dark."

"Hain't it lucky," said Scattergood, "that some men manages to marry
wimmin that kin look after their business?"

"Not for the wimmin," said Mrs. Bailey, shortly.

"My name's Baines," said Scattergood.

"I calculate to know _that_."

"Like livin' here, ma'am?"

"Not so but what I could bear a change."

"Um!... Mis' Bailey, I calc'late you'd hate to see Jim make a little
money so's to be able to git away from here if he wanted to."

"Him? Only way hell ever make money is to ketch a solid-gold trout."

"Maybe I'm the solid-gold trout you're speakin' about," said
Scattergood.

She regarded him sharply a moment. "Set," she said. "Looks like you got
somethin' on your mind."

There were times when Scattergood could be direct and succinct. He
perceived it was best to be so with this woman.

"I might want to buy this here store--under certain conditions."

"How much?"

"Inventory, and a share in the profits of a deal I got in mind."

"What's them conditions you mentioned?"

"That you and Jim don't mention the sale to anybody, and keep on runnin'
the place--for wages--until I'm ready for you to quit."

"What's the deal them profits is comin' from, and how much you figger
they'll be?"

"The deal's feedin' about five hunderd men, and the profits'll be
plenty. I furnish the capital and show you how it's to be done. All
Jim'll have to do is foller directions."

Then, lowering his voice, Scattergood went farther into particulars.
Suddenly Mrs. Bailey arose, and screamed shrilly to an urchin playing in
the road, "You, Jimmy, go up the brook and fetch your pa." Scattergood
knew his deal was as good as closed. Before the up-bound stage arrived
it was closed. The Baileys had cash in hand for their store and
Scattergood carried away a duly executed bill of sale.

The following day, for fifteen hundred dollars cash, he acquired all the
property of the stage line--and when the news became public it was
believed that Scattergood had departed from his wits, for the line was
notoriously unprofitable and an aching worry to its owners. But the
commotion the transfer of the stage line created was as nothing to the
news that Scattergood had bought a strip of land along the railroad at
the mouth of the river, and was erecting a large wooden building upon
it. When asked concerning this and its purpose, Scattergood replied that
he wasn't made up in his mind what he would use it for, but likely it
would be an "opry" house.

Following this, Scattergood went to the city, where he spent much
valuable time interviewing gentlemen in wholesale grocery and provision
houses....

Jim Bailey liked to fish--which is not an attribute to create scandal.
He was not ambitious, nor was he endowed with a full reservoir of
initiative, but he was a shrewd customer and seldom got the worst of it.
One virtue he possessed, and that was an ability to follow
directions--and to keep his mouth shut.

Not many days after Scattergood became the owner of the store at Bailey,
Jim was a caller at the new offices of the lumber company, formed when
Crane and Keith pooled their interests.

"I come to see you," he told Crane, "because it seemed like you got to
feed your lumberjacks, and I want to git the contract for furnishin' and
deliverin' the provisions."

"We've sure got to feed 'em," said Crane. "But five hundred men eat a
lot of grub. Can you swing it if we give you a chance at it?"

Bailey produced a letter from the Coldriver bank which stated the bank
was willing to stand behind any contract made by the Bailey Provision
Company, up to a certain substantial amount.

"Who's the Bailey Provision Company?"

"Me 'n' my wife mostly holds the stock."

"Huh!... You'll handle the stuff, deliver it, and all that? What's your
proposition?"

"Well, havin' been in business twenty-odd year, I kin buy mighty
favorable. More so 'n you fellers. All I want's a livin' profit. Tell
you what I'll do. I'll take this here contract like this: Goods to be
delivered in your camps at actual cost of the stuff and freighting plus
ten per cent. We'll keep stock on hand in depots, and deliver as needed.
It'll save you all the trouble of handlin'. We'll carry the stock, and
you pay once a month for what's delivered."

Crane called in Keith, and they discussed the proposition. It presented
distinct advantages; might, indeed, save them money in addition to
trouble. Bailey clinched the thing by showing an agreement with the
stage line to transport the provisions at a price per hundred pounds
notably lower than Crane and Keith imagined could be obtained, and went
home carrying the contract Scattergood had sent him to get.

Scattergood put the paper away in his safe and sat back in his
reinforced armchair, with placid satisfaction making benignant his face.
"I calc'late," he said to himself, "that this here dicker'll keep Crane
and Keith gropin' and wonderin' and scrutinizin' more or less--when it
gits to their ears. Shouldn't be s'prised if it come to worry 'em a
mite."

So, having created a diversion to conceal the movements of his main
attack, Scattergood got out his maps and began scientifically to plan
his fall and winter campaign.

Timber was his objective. Not a hundred acres of it, nor a thousand, but
tens of thousands, even a hundred thousand acres of spruce-covered hills
was the goal he had set. To control his valley he must have money; to
get money for his developments he must have timber. Also, ownership of
vast limits of growing spruce was necessary to the control of the
valley. He must own more timber thereabouts than anybody else. He must
dominate the timber situation. To a man whose total resources totaled a
matter of fifty thousand dollars--the bulk of which was tied up in a dam
and boom company as yet unproductive--this looked like a mouthful beyond
his capacity to bite off. Even with timber in the back reaches selling
at sixty-six cents an acre, a hundred thousand acres meant an investment
of sixty-six thousand dollars. True, Scattergood could look forward to
the day when that same timberland would be worth ten dollars an acre--a
million dollars--but looking ahead would not produce a cent to-day.

Of timberlands, whose cut logs must go down Coldriver Valley to reach a
market, Scattergood's maps showed him there were probably a quarter of a
million acres--mostly spruce. Estimating with rigid conservatism, this
would run eight thousand feet to the acre, or twenty billion feet of
timber--and this did not take into consideration hardwood. In
Scattergood's secret heart he wanted it _all_. All he might not be able
to get, but he must have more than half--and that half distributed
strategically.

It will be seen that Scattergood was content to wait. His motto was,
"Grab a dollar to-day--but don't meddle with it if it interferes with a
thousand dollars in ten years."

Scattergood's maps had been the work of two years. That they were
accurate he knew, because he had set down on them most of the facts they
showed. They were valuable, for, in Scattergood's rude printing, one
could read upon them the owner of every piece of timber, every farm, the
acreage in each piece of timber, with a careful estimate of the amount
of timber to the acre--also its proportions of spruce, beech, birch,
maple, ash.

Toward the head of the valley, where good timber was thickest,
Scattergood's map showed how it spread out like a fan, with the two main
branches of Coldriver and numerous brooks as the ribs. Then, down the
length of the stream, were parallel bands of it. On the map one could
see what this timber could be bought for; prices ranging from two
dollars and a half an acre down the main river to sixty-six cents at the
extremity of the fan.

As Scattergood studied his maps he saw, far in the future, perhaps, but
clearly and distinctly and certainly, two parallel lines running up the
river to his village; he saw, branching off from a spot below the
village, where East and West Branches joined to pour over a certain dam
owned by him, other narrower parallel lines following river and brooks
back and back into the mountains, the spruce-clad mountains. These
parallel lines were rails. The ones which ran close together were
narrow-gauge--logging roads to bring logs to the big mill which
Scattergood planned to build beside his dam. The broader lines were a
standard-gauge road to carry the cut lumber to the outside world, and
not only the cut lumber, but all the traffic of the valley, all the
freight, the manufactured products of other mills and factories which
were to come along the banks of his river. Here, in black and white, was
set down Scattergood's life plan. When it was accomplished he would be
through. He would be willing to have his maps rolled up and himself to
be laid on the shelf, for he would have done the thing he set out to
do.... For, strange as it may seem, Scattergood was not pursuing money
for money itself--his objective was achievement.

Scattergood was not the only man to own or to study maps. Crane and
Keith were at the same interesting employment, but on a lesser scale.

"Here's your stuff," said Keith, "over here on the East Branch--thirty
thousand acres. Here's mine, on the West Branch--close to thirty
thousand acres. We don't touch anywhere."

"But our locations put us in the driver's seat so far as the timber up
here is concerned. We're in control. There are sixty thousand acres of
mighty good spruce in that triangle between us, and it's as good as
ours. It's there for us when we need it. All we got to do is reach out
our hand for it. The folks that own it haven't got the money to go ahead
with it. Pretty sweet for us--with sixty thousand acres in the palm of
our hand and not a cent invested in it."

"Sweet is the word. But what if somebody grabbed it off?"

"Who'll grab?"

"I think we ought to tie it up somehow. If we owned the whole thing we
could work a heap more profitably. Now we've got to divide camps, or
else cut off one slice or the other at a time. If we owned the whole
thing we could make our cut where it would be easiest handled--and leave
the rest till things develop."

"It's safe. And we can make it mighty unpleasant for anybody who comes
ramming into this region in a small way. Which reminds me of that
Baines--our friend Scattergood. Are we going to let him get away with
that dam and boom company we made him a present of?"

"I can't see ourselves digging down for sixty cents a thousand for
driving our logs--contracts or no contracts."

"Maybe we can buy him off."

"Hanged if I'll do that--we'll chase him off. Look here--he's got to
handle our logs. If he can't handle them we've got a right to put on our
own crew and drive them down--and charge back to him what it costs us.
Get the idea?"

"Not exactly."

"We deliver the logs as specified in the spring. Let him start his
drive. Then, I figure, he'll have some trouble with his men, and most
likely men he don't have trouble with will get into a row with
lumberjacks going out of camp. See? Men of his that we can't handle
we'll pitch into the river. Then we'll take charge with our men and make
the drive. On top of that we'll sue Scattergood for thirty or forty
cents a thousand--extra cost we've been put to by his inability to
handle the drive. That'll put a crimp in him--and if we keep after him
hot and heavy it won't take long to drive him out of the valley."

"Don't believe he's dangerous, anyhow. That last deal was bullhead
luck."

"Yes, but he's stirring around. We don't want anybody poking in. There's
a heap of money in this valley for us, if we can keep it to ourselves,
and the sooner the idea gets abroad that it isn't healthful to butt in,
the better."

"Guess you're right."

If Scattergood could have heard this conversation perhaps he would not
have been so gayly partaking of the softer joys of life. For that is
what Scattergood was doing. He had polished up his buggy, put his new
harness on his horse, and was driving out to make a social call. Not
only that, but it was a social call upon a lady!

Scattergood was lonely sometimes. In one of his moments of loneliness
it had occurred to him that a great many men had wives, and that wives
were, undoubtedly, a remarkably effective insurance against that
ailment.

"I gather," he said, in the course of a casual conversation with Sam
Kettleman, the grocer, "that wives is sometimes inconvenient and
sometimes tryin' on the temper, but on the whole they're returnin'
income on the investment."

"Some does and some doesn't," said Kettleman, lugubriously.

"Hotel grub," said Scattergood, "gets mighty similar. Roast beef and
roast pork! Roast pork and roast beef! Then cold roast pork and beef for
supper.... And me obliged, by the way I'm built, to pay extry board.
Sundays I always order me two dinners. Seems like a wife 'u'd act as a
benefit there."

"But there's drawbacks," said Sam, "and there's mother-in-laws, and
there's lendin' a dollar to your brother-in-law."

"The thing to do," said Scattergood, "is to pick one without them
impediments. I also figger," he added, wriggling his bare toes, "that a
feller ought to pick one that could lend a dollar to _your_ brother in
case he needed one."

"Hain't none sich to be found," said Sam.

"I calc'late to look," Scattergood replied.

He had already done his looking. The lady of his choice, tradition says,
was older than he, but this is a base libel. She was not older. She had
not yet reached thirty. Scattergood had first encountered her when she
came to his hardware store to buy a plow. On that occasion her excellent
business judgment and her powers of barter had attracted him strongly.
As a matter of fact, he was a bit in doubt if she hadn't the best of him
on the deal.... Her name was Amanda Randle.

Scattergood gave the matter his best thought, then polished the buggy
as aforesaid, and called.

"Howdy, Miss Randle?" said he, tying to her hitching post.

"Howdy, Mr. Baines?"

"I calculated," said he, "that, bein' as it's a hot night, a buggy ride
might sort of cool you off, after a way of speakin'."

Amanda blushed, for the proffer of a buggy ride was not without definite
significance in that region.

"I'll git my shawl and bonnet," she said.

To the casual eye it would have appeared that Scattergood's summer was
devoted wholly to running his hardware store and to paying court to
Mandy Randle.... But this would not have been so. He was making ready
for the winter--and for the spring that came after it. For in the spring
came the drive, and with the coming of the drive Scattergood foresaw the
coming of trouble. He was not a man to dodge trouble that might bring
profit dangling to the fringe of her skirt.

Coldriver watched with deep interest the progress of Scattergood's suit.
It had figured Mandy as an old maid--for, as has been mentioned, she was
close upon her thirtieth year, which, in a village where eighteen is the
general age for taking a husband, is well along in spinsterhood. It was
late in October when Scattergood "came to scratch," as the local saying
is.

"Mandy," said he, "I calc'late you noticed I been comin' around here
consid'able."

"You have--seems as though," she said, and blushed. It was coming. She
recognized the signs.

"I been a-comin' on purpose," said Scattergood.

"Do tell," said Mandy.

"Yes, ma'am. It's like this: I own a hardware store and some other
prop'ty; not a heap, ma'am, but _some_. It's gittin' to be more. I
calculate, some day, to be wuth consid'able. When a man gits to this
p'int, he ought to have him a wife, eh?"

Mandy made no reply.

"So," said Scattergood, "I took to lookin' around a bit, and of all the
girls there was, Mandy, it looked to me like you would be the only one
to make the kind of a wife I want. That's honest. Yes, sir. Says I to
myself, 'Mandy Randle's the one for me.' So I washed up the buggy and
hitched up the horse and come right out. I been comin' ever since,
because that there first impression of mine has been bore out by
facts.... I'm askin' you, Mandy, will you be Missis Baines?"

"You're stiddy and savin'--and makin'," said Mandy. "Add what _you_ got
to what I got, and we'll be pretty well off. And I aim to help take care
of it."

"I aim to have you help," said Scattergood. "But, Mandy, I don't want
you scrimpin' and savin' too much. I want my wife should have as good as
the best, and be looked up to by the best. The day'll come, Mandy, when
we'll keep a hired girl!"

"No extravagances, Scattergood, till I say we kin afford it.... And,
Scattergood, you got to promise not to make no important move without
consultin' me. I got a head for business."

"Mandy," said Scattergood, "you and me is equal partners."

Which, say both tradition and history, is how the arrangement worked
out. Mandy and Scattergood _were_ equal partners. Scattergood was to
learn through the years that Mandy's _was_ a good head for business,
and, though business men who came to deal with Scattergood in the future
sometimes laughed when they found Mandy present at their conferences,
they never laughed but once.... And, though Scattergood's proffer of
marriage had not been couched in fervent terms of love, nor had Mandy
fallen on his overbroad bosom with rapture, theirs was a married life to
be envied by most, for there was between them perfect trust, sincere
affection, and wisest forbearance. For forty years Scattergood and Mandy
lived together as man and wife, and at the end both could look back
through the intimate years and say of the other that he had chosen well
his mate.

It may be thought that this bit of romance is dropped in here by legend
and history merely to amuse, or as a side light on the character of
Scattergood Baines. This is not so. We are forced by the facts to regard
the matter as an integral part of the business transaction related in
this narrative. Not a minor part, not an important part, but perhaps the
deciding factor....

John Bones, lawyer, age twenty-six, was a recent acquisition to
Coldriver village. Scattergood had watched the young man's comings and
goings, and had listened to his conversation. Early in November he went
to his bank and drew from deposit two hundred and fifty dollars.... Then
he went to call on Bones.

"Mr. Bones," he said, "folks says old Clayt Mosier's a client of
your'n."

"He's given me some business, Mr. Baines."

"Uh-huh!... Somethin' to do with title to a piece of timber over
Higgins's Bridge way, wa'n't it?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Baines, but I guess you'll have to ask Mr. Mosier about
that."

"Huh!... Mosier hain't apt to tell _me_. Seems like I was sort of
int'rested in that thing. I can't manage nohow to git the facts, so I
thought I'd talk to you."

"I can't help you. I have no right to talk about a client's confidential
matters."

"To be sure.... How's business?"

"Not very good."

"Not gittin' rich, eh?"

Young Bones looked unhappy, for making both ends meet was a problem he
had not mastered as yet.

Scattergood got up, closed the door, and walked softly back to the desk.
He drew from his pocket the roll of bills, and spread them out in
alluring pattern.

"Them's your'n," said he.

"Mine? How? What for?"

"I'm swappin' with you."

"For what, Mr. Baines?" A slight perspiration was noticeable on young
Lawyer Bones's brow.

"Information," said Scattergood, looking him in the eye. As the young
man did not speak, Scattergood continued, "about Mosier's title matter."

For an instant the young man stood irresolute; then he reached slowly
over, gathered up the money into a neat roll--while Scattergood watched
him intently--and then, with suddenly set teeth, hurled the roll into
Scattergood's face, and leaped around the desk.

"You _git_!" he said, between his teeth. "Git, and take your filthy
money with you...."

Scattergood, who did not in the least look it, could move swiftly. The
young lawyer was abruptly interrupted in his pastime of ejecting
Scattergood forcibly. He found himself seized by his wrists and held as
if he had shoved his arms into steel clamps.

"Set," said Scattergood, "and be sociable.... And keep the money. It's
your'n. You're hired. I guess you're the feller I'm aimin' to use."

He forced the struggling young man back into his chair, and released
him--grinning broadly, and not at all as a tempter should grin. "If
it'll relieve your conscience," he said, "I hain't got no more int'rest
in Mosier's affairs than I have in the emperor of the heathen Chinee....
But I _have_ got a heap of int'rest in a young feller that kin refuse a
wad of money when he can't pay his board bill. Maybe 'twan't jest a nice
way, but I had to find out. The man I'm needin' has to have a clost
mouth--and somethin' a mite better 'n that--gumption not to sell out....
Git the idee?"

"I--yes, I guess I do--but--"

"Any objections to workin' for me?"

"None."

"All right. Keep the money. When you've worked it up come for more. And,
young feller, if things turns out for me like I think they will, you're
goin' to quit bein' a lawyer one of these days. I'm a-goin' to need you
in my business. Come over to my store."

At the store Scattergood spread his maps before the young man, and
pointed to a certain spot. "There's about fifty different passels of
timber in that crotch. I don't aim to need 'em all to-day, but I
calc'late on gittin' a sort of fringe around the edge." He drew his
finger down the East Branch and up the West Branch in a sort of
horseshoe. "Your job's to git options on the fringe--in your own name.
Git the idee?"

"Yes."

"Git 'em cheap."

"Yes, sir."

"There's five thousand dollars on deposit in the bank in your name. Use
it." When Scattergood trusted a man he trusted him. "And now," he said,
"I calc'late to raise a little dust, so's you won't be noticed."

Scattergood's little dust consisted of allowing to be inserted in the
local paper an item announcing that Scattergood Baines had bought all
the stock and contracts of the Bailey Provision Company, which concern
was purveying food supplies to all the camps of Messrs. Crane and
Keith.... Then Scattergood settled back to watch the dust rise.

The dust arose, and filled the eyes and noses of Messrs. Crane and
Keith, as Scattergood expected, with the result that Mr. Crane was a
passenger on Scattergood's stage to Coldriver village.

"Howdy, Mr. Crane?" said Scattergood, as that gentleman belligerently
entered the hardware store. "I was sort of lookin' forward to seein'
some of you folks."

"Look here, Baines," said Crane, "what are you butting into our game
for? We let you get away with that other thing, but this last deal of
yours makes it look as if you were hunting trouble. You bought that
provision company to get a lever on us."

"Maybe so.... Maybe so, but I wouldn't get het up about it.... You see,
it's like this: you folks kind of did what I expected you'd do on that
dam and boom deal, and come pretty close to doin' me out of some
valuable property. I didn't get het up, though, I jest sort of sat
around and waited.... And it come out all right. Now, didn't it?"

"Bullhead luck."

"Maybe so.... Maybe so. Now, here's how I figger things to-day. You and
Keith hain't amiable about that deal, and you don't aim to let my dam
and boom company make any money out of you. I expect you can manage it.
If I was in your shoes, and was the kind of a man I judge you folks be,
I'd fix it so's the dam and boom company couldn't handle the drive. Buy
up the men, maybe, and start fights, and be sort of forced to take
charge so's to get my drive through. And then I'd sue for damages....
That's how I'd do. I calc'late that's about what you and Keith has in
mind, hain't it?"

Crane was purple with rage, but underneath his rage was a clammy layer
of unpleasant surprise that this mound of flabby fat should have had
such uncanny vision into his hardly creditable plans.

"You're crazy, man," he blustered.

"Maybe so.... Maybe so. Anyhow, I took out a mite of insurance ag'in'
sich a happenin'. I got me this here provision company to feed your
men.... Ever happen to think what would happen in the woods if your
lumberjacks run short of grub? Eh?... And suppose it happened, and your
men come bilin' out of camp, sore as bears with bee stings. What then,
eh? Couldn't git another crew this winter, maybe. Eh?"

Crane blustered. He threatened legal measures, but Scattergood pointed
out no legal measures could be taken until he failed to deliver
supplies. Also, he directed Crane's attention to the fact that the
provision company was a corporation, and liable only to the extent of
its assets. "So, even if you got a judgment, you wouldn't collect enough
to make no profit. And your winter's cut would be off, and what logs you
got cut would rot in the woods. I calc'late you'd stand to git damaged
consid'able."

"What's your proposition?" spluttered Crane.

"Hain't got none.... You jest run back to Keith and repeat as much of
this here talk as you can remember. I'm goin' to be busy now.
Afternoon."

For two weeks Scattergood disappeared, and though Crane and Keith sought
him with fever in their blood, he was not to be found. He filled their
minds; he dominated their conversation; he gave them sleepless nights
and unpleasant days.... Their attention was effectively focused on the
emergency he had presented to them. Scattergood had kicked up an
effective dust.

At the end of two weeks Scattergood appeared again in town, and went
directly to Johnnie Bones's office. Scattergood now called his lawyer
Johnnie.

"Got 'em?" he asked.

"Not all. There's a fifteen-thousand-acre strip cutting right across
your horseshoe, from East to West Branch, and I couldn't touch it. I got
all the rest. That one belongs to a woman, and a more unreasonable
woman to try to do business with I never saw."

"Um!" said Scattergood. "Know where I been, Johnnie?"

"No, sir."

"Gittin' married."

"What?"

"Yes. Me 'n' the lady, we met by arrangement in Boston and got us a
preacher and done the job. Marriage, Johnnie, is a doggone solemn
matter."

"I've heard so," said the young man.

"Some day," said Scattergood, "I'm a-goin' to marry you off. Calculate I
got the girl in my eye now."

"I hope," Johnnie said, "that you'll be--er--very happy."

"Guess we'll manage so-so.... Now about them options, Johnnie. You make
tracks for the city and sort of edge up to Crane and Keith. Might start
by showin' 'em a deed for a mill site down across from theirs at the
railroad. Then you might start askin' questions like you was lookin' for
information. Guess that'll git up their curiosity some. Then you kin
spring your options on 'em.... When you've done that, come off and leave
'em sweatin'. And don't mention me. I hain't in this deal a-tall."

But before Johnnie could get to Crane and Keith, Crane and Keith came to
Scattergood.

"You've got some kind of a proposition in mind," said Keith, who did the
talking because he could keep his temper better than Crane. "What do you
want?"

"Make me an offer," said Scattergood.

"We'll buy your provision company--and give you a decent profit."

"Don't sound enticin'," said Scattergood, reaching down and loosening
his shoe. It was too cold to omit the wearing of heavy woolen socks, so
he could not twiddle his toes with perfect freedom, but he could
twiddle them some, and that helped his mental processes.

"Well, what do you want?"

"I'll sell the provision company's stock of provisions--and nothin'
more.... At a profit. You got to buy, 'cause you can't make arrangements
to git in grub before I bring on a famine for you.... And I got the grub
stored in warehouses. That's part of it. Second, I'll _lease_ you my
river for three years. You wasn't calc'latin' to pay for the use of it.
So you be obleeged to pay in advance. I figgered my profits on drivin'
at about two thousand this year. Give you a three-year lease for five
thousand. I hain't no hog.... Yes or no."

There was a brief conference. "Yes," was the answer.

"Cash," said Scattergood.

"You'll have to come to the city for it," Keith said, which Scattergood
was not unwilling to do. He returned with a certified check for
twenty-six thousand five hundred and twenty-four dollars and nineteen
cents, of which five thousand was rental of his river, and four thousand
and odd dollars were his profits on his provisions. Not a bad profit
from a dust-throwing project!

Meantime Johnnie paid his visit to Crane and Keith, and came home to
report.

"It hit them between wind and water," he said.

"Uh-huh!... What did you judge they had in mind?"

"They wanted to buy me out.... Of course I wouldn't sell. My clients
wanted that timber, and were going to work to build their mill.... The
last they said was that they were coming up to see me."

"Uh-huh! When they come, you mention about that strip of fifteen
thousand acres you couldn't buy, eh? Let on you couldn't get it."

Johnnie held Scattergood as he was going out. "I want to account for
that five thousand dollars you placed in my name."

"Go ahead. I hain't perventin' you."

"I got options on eighteen thousand six hundred acres of timber. The
options cost me twenty-one hundred and seventy dollars, and my expenses
were sixty-one dollars and a half."

"Um!... Cheap enough. What did the land cost an acre?"

"Averaged a dollar and seventy-five cents."

"Huh!... Not so bad. Now tend to Crane and his quiet friend."

They arrived in due time, accompanied by their lawyer.

"Mr. Bones," said the lawyer, "you have certain options that my clients
wish to purchase. Undoubtedly they were taken in good faith, but we
would like, before going farther, to know whom you are acting for."

"You can deal with me. I have full powers."

"You decline to disclose your principal?"

"Absolutely."

"Do I understand the project is to build a mill at once and start to cut
this timber?"

"That is my information."

"Aha!... May I ask how much land you have?"

Johnnie exhibited a map, on which was blocked off the timber in
question. "You see," he said, "there's one fifteen-thousand-acre strip I
couldn't get hold of. It cuts right across the triangle from river to
river."

Crane looked at Keith and Keith looked at Crane.

"It belongs to a woman who wouldn't do business," Johnnie added.

"What figure did you pay for the land?"

"That is hardly a fair question."

"What do you ask for your options? That's a fair question, isn't it?"
"They're not for sale."

"But we may make an offer. It might be profitable for your principals to
sell. My clients feel they need this property, lying as it does between
their holdings."

"I'll listen."

There followed whispered arguments among the three, resulting in an
offer of a dollar and seventy-five cents an acre for the whole
tract--exactly what Johnnie had agreed to pay.

"I said I'd listen," said Johnnie, "but I don't seem to hear anything."

Another conference and a bid of two dollars. Johnnie shrugged his
shoulders. Two dollars and a half an acre was finally offered, and then
Johnnie leaned forward and tapped with his finger on his desk. "If you
gentlemen mean business, let's talk business. I've got what you want.
You can't get it unless I want to sell, and I don't want to sell. I and
my clients know what that timber is worth to us, but any business man
will consider a quick profit if it is _enough_ profit. In five years
that timber will be worth five or six dollars standing; in fifteen years
it will be worth fifteen to twenty.... But if you want to buy to-day you
can have it for three dollars through and through."

"We've got to have it," said Crane, and Keith nodded.

"Cash," said Johnnie, for cash was a hobby of Scattergood's.

"Our bank has made arrangements with your local bank to give us what
money we need," said Keith.

And then, clattering upstairs, came a small boy. Without ceremony he
burst into the room. "Mr. Bones," he shouted, "I was sent to tell you
that strip of timber you tried to buy from the lady is for sale." Then
he whisked out of sight.

Johnnie shrugged his shoulders. "Costs me some profit," he said.
"Confound that woman!... Well, we can go to the bank and close this up.
Then you fellows can finish up by buying that last fifteen thousand
acres."

"You bet we will," said Crane, savagely.

At the bank fifty-five thousand eight hundred dollars in the form of a
certified check was deposited in the hands of the cashier to be paid to
Johnnie when he should deliver proper deeds to the property sold.... It
represented a profit of twenty-three thousand two hundred and fifty
dollars.

"Now for the other parcel," said Crane, and getting the information as
to ownership, he and his companions took buggy to the spot. It was a
comfortable farmhouse, white painted and agreeable to look upon, but the
pleasure of the view was ruined for Crane and Keith by reason of a bulky
figure standing on the porch in conversation with a woman.

"Baines!" ejaculated Crane. It sounded like a swear word as he said it.

The three rushed the piazza.

"Madam," said Crane, not deigning to recognize Scattergood's presence,
"you own a tract of timber--fifteen thousand acres. We hear it is for
sale. We want to buy it."

"This gentleman was just making me an offer for it," she said, pointing
to Scattergood.

"We raise his offer twenty-five cents an acre," said Crane, and drew
from his-pocket a huge roll of bills--it being his idea of the
psychology of women that the sight of actual money would have a
favorable effect.

"That makes two dollars an acre," said she, and looked at Scattergood.

"Two and a quarter," said he.

"Two and a half," roared Crane.

"Two seventy-five," said Scattergood. "Three dollars."

"Three ten," said Scattergood.

"Three and a quarter" said Crane. He glared at Scattergood. "If you want
it worse than that," he shouted, "why, confound you, you can have it!"

"I don't," said Scattergood, placidly.

The woman figured a moment. "That makes forty-eight thousand seven
hundred and fifty dollars," she said. "I kind of like even money. You
can have it for an even fifty thousand."

Scattergood looked at her and grinned. One might have detected
admiration in his eyes.

"Done," said Crane. "We'll get into town and close the deal, ma'am, if
you don't mind."

"Your buggy seems to be crowded," said Scattergood. "I'll drive the lady
in, if you want I should."

"We want nothing from you at all, Baines."

"All right," said Scattergood, placidly, and, getting into his buggy, he
drove away. He drove rapidly, and alighted at Johnnie Bones's office.
Presently he emerged, carrying a legal-appearing document in his hand,
and went across to the bank, where he handed the document to the
cashier.

Presently the parties appeared, entered the bank, and the cashier, upon
being directed, executed a certified check to the lady for fifty
thousand dollars. Then he handed it to her, and the deed to Mr. Crane.
"You see," said he, "we have the deed all ready for you."

"Yes," said Scattergood, stepping through the door. "I had it fixed up
for you. I aim to be prompt when I'm tendin' to my wife's business
matters. Gentlemen, I guess you hain't met Mrs. Baines real proper
yet...."

It was not a happy moment for Messrs. Crane and Keith, but they
weathered it, not suavely, not with complete dignity, but after a
fashion.... Their departure might, perhaps, have been termed brusque.

"Well, Scattergood," said Mandy, "it was a real good deal."

"The way you h'isted 'em to fifty thousand was what got my eye," he
said, proudly. "I wouldn't 'a' had the nerve."

"I knew they'd pay it," she said. "Seems like a reasonable profit,
though the land's been a-layin' there unproductive for thirty year.
Father, he give a thousand dollars for it, and the taxes must 'a' been a
couple of thousand more. Say forty-seven thousand dollars profit...."

"And I come out of the other deals perty fair. Made twenty-three
thousand off of the options, and nine or ten off of the other things.
Guess the Baines family's a matter of seventy-five thousand dollars
richer by a good day's work."

"But it can't lay idle," she said.

"Not a minnit. We'll buy that sixty thousand acres 'way back up the
river for sixty-six cents, like we planned, and have some workin'
capital.... And, Mandy, Crane and Keith hain't got that timber for
keeps. It's comin' back to us some of these days. I feel it in my
bones...."

"Kind of a nice wind-up for our honeymoon," said Mrs. Baines,
practically.



CHAPTER III

THE MOUNTAIN COMES TO SCATTERGOOD


Scattergood Baines was on his way to the city! An exclamation point
deserves to be placed after this because it rightly belongs in a class
with the statement that the mountain was coming to Mohammed. Scattergood
had fully as much in common with cities as eels with the Desert of
Sahara.

He had not started the journey brashly, on impulse, but after debate and
discussion with Mandy, his wife. Mandy's conclusion was that if
Scattergood _had_ to go to the city he might as well get at it and have
it over, exercising the care of an exceedingly prudent man in the
circumstances, and following minutely advice that would be forthcoming
from _her_. Undoubtedly, she thought, he could manage the matter and
return to Coldriver unscathed.

So Scattergood was clambering into the stage--his stage that plied
between Coldriver village and the railroad, twenty-four miles distant.
When he settled in his seat the stage sagged noticeably on that side,
for Scattergood added to his weight yearly as he added to his other
possessions. Mandy stood by, watching anxiously.

"Remember," said she, "I pinned your money in the right leg of your
pants, clost to the knee."

"Mandy," said he, confidentially, "I feel the lump of it. I hope I don't
have to git after it sudden. Dunno but I should have fetched along a
ferret to send up after it."

"Don't git friendly with no strangers--dressed-up ones, especial. And
never set down your valise. There's a white shirt and a collar and two
pairs of sox, and what not, in there. Make quite an object for some
sharper."

He nodded solemnly.

"If you git invited out to _his house_," she said, "it'll save you a
dollar hotel bill, anyhow, and be a heap sight safer."

"You're right, Mandy, as usual," he agreed. "G'by, Mandy. I calculate
you won't have no trouble mindin' the store."

"G'by, Scattergood," she said, dabbing at her eyes. "I'll be relieved to
see you gittin' back."

There seemed to be little sentiment in these, their words of parting,
but in reality it was an exceedingly sentimental passage for them.
Between Scattergood and his wife there was a deep, true, abiding
affection. Folks who regarded it as a business partnership--and there
were many of them--lacked the seeing eye.

The stage rattled off down the valley--Scattergood's valley. He had
invaded it some years before because valleys were his hobby and because
_this_ valley offered him the opportunity he had been searching for.
Scattergood knew what could be done with a valley, and he was busy doing
it, but he was only at the beginning. As he bumped along he could see
busy villages where only hamlets rested; he could see mills turning
timber into finished products; he could see business and life and
activity where there were only silence and rocks and trees. And where
ran the rutted mountain road, over which his stage was carrying him
uncomfortably, he could see the railroad that was to make his dream a
reality. He could see a railroad stretching all the way from Coldriver
village to the main line, and by virtue of this railroad Scattergood
would rule the valley.

He had arrived with forty-odd dollars in his pocket. His few years of
labor there, assisted by a wise and business-like marriage, had
increased that forty dollars to what some folks would call wealth.
First, he owned a prosperous hardware store. This was his business. It
netted him a couple of thousand dollars a year. The valley was his
avocation. It had netted him well over a hundred thousand dollars, most
of which was growing on the mountain sides in straight, clear spruce, in
birch, beech, and maple. It had netted him certain strategic holdings of
land along Coldriver itself, sites for future dams, for mills yet to be
built--for railroad yards, depots, and terminals. Quietly, almost
stealthily, he had gotten a hold on the valley. Now he was ready to grip
it with both hands and to make it his own.... That is why he journeyed
to the city.

He put his canvas telescope between his feet so that he could feel it.
It was as well, he determined, to practice caution where none was
needed, so he would be letter perfect in the art when he reached the
dangers of the city. Between Scattergood's shoes and the feet they
inclosed, were sox. Before his union with Mandy he had been a stranger
to such effeteness. Even now he was prone to discard them as soon as he
was out of range of her vision. To-day he had not escaped, for, warm as
the day was, heavy white woolen sox folded and festooned themselves
modishly over the tops of his shoes. He could not wriggle a toe, which
made his mental processes difficult, for his toes were first aids to his
brain.

However, he was going to visit a railroad president, and railroad
presidents were said by Mandy to go in for style. Scattergood mournfully
arose to the necessities of the situation.

The twenty-four-mile ride was not long to Scattergood, for he occupied
it by studying again every inch of his valley. He never tired of
studying it. As the law book to the lawyer so the valley was to
Scattergood--something never to be laid aside, something to be kept
fresh in mind and never neglected. He never passed the length of it
without seeing a new possibility.

Scattergood flagged the train. The four-hour ride to the city he
occupied in talking to the conductor or brake-man or any member of the
train's crew he could engage in conversation. He was asking them about
their jobs, what they did, and why. He was asking question after
question about railroads and railroading, in his quaint, characteristic
manner. It was his intention to own a railroad, and he was at work
finding out how the thing was done.

Next morning at seven he was on hand at the terminal offices of the G.
and B. An hour later minor employees began to arrive.

"Young feller," he said, accosting a pleasant-faced boy, "where d'you
calc'late I'll find Mr. Castle?"

"President Castle?" asked the boy.

"That's the feller," said Scattergood.

"About now he'll be eating grapefruit and poached egg," said the boy.

"Don't he work none durin' the day?"

The boy laughed good-humoredly. "He gets down about nine thirty, and
when he don't go off somewheres he's mostly here till four--except
between one and two, when he's at lunch."

"Gosh!" said Scattergood. "Must be wearin' him to the bone. 'Most five
hours a day he sticks to it. Bear up under it perty well, young feller,
does he? Keep his health and strength?"

"He works enough to get paid fifty thousand a year for it," said the
boy.

"That settles it," said Scattergood. "I've picked my job. I'm a-goin' to
be a railroad president." He put his canvas telescope down, and placed a
heavy foot on it for safety. "Calc'late I kin sit here and wait, can't
I?"

The boy nodded and went on. During the next hour more than one dozen
young men and women passed that spot to eye with appreciation the caller
who waited for Mr. Castle. Scattergood was unaware of their scrutiny,
for he was building a railroad down his valley--a railroad of which he
was the president.

Scattergood looked frequently at a big, open-faced, silver watch which
was connected to his vest in pickpocket-proof fashion with a braided
leather thong. When it told him nine thirty had arrived, he got up, his
telescope in his hand, and ambled heavily down the corridor. He poked
his head in at an open door, and called, amiably, "Kin anybody tell me
where to find Mr. Castle?"

He was directed, and presently opened a door marked "President's
Office." The room within did not contain the president. It was crossed
by a railing, behind which sat an office boy. Behind him was a
stenographer.

"President in?" asked Scattergood.

The boy looked at him severely, and replied, shortly, that the president
was busy.

"Havin' only five hours to do all his work," said Scattergood, "I
calc'lated he _would_ be some took up. Tell him Scattergood Baines wants
to have a talk to him, sonny."

"Have an appointment?"

"No, sonny," said Scattergood, "but if you don't scamper into his room
fairly _spry_, the seat of your pants is goin' to have an appointment
with my hand." He leaned over the railing as he said it, and the boy,
regarding Scattergood's face a moment, arose and whisked into the next
room.

Shortly there appeared a youngish man, constructed by nature to adorn
wearing apparel.

"Be you Mr. Castle?" asked Scattergood.

"I'm his secretary. What do you want?"

"Young man, I'm disapp'inted. When I see you I figgered you must be
president of the railroad or the Queen of Sheeby. I want to see Mr.
Castle."

"What is your business with him?"

"'Tain't fit for young ears to listen to," said Scattergood.

"If you have any business with Mr. Castle, state it to me."

"Um!... I come quite consid'able of a distance to see _him_--which I
calc'late to _do_." He reached over, with astonishing suddenness in one
so bulky, and twirled the secretary about with his ham of a hand. At the
same time he leaned against the gate, which was not fastened to restrain
such a weight. "Now, forrard march, young feller. Lead the way. I'm
follerin' you." And thus Scattergood entered the presence.

He saw behind a huge, flat desk a very thin man, who leaned forward,
clutching his temples as though to restrain within bounds the machinery
of the brain inside. It was President Castle's habitual posture when
working. The temples and dome of the head seemed to bulge, as if there
was too much inside for the strength of the restraining walls. The
president looked up and fastened eyes that themselves bulged from
hollowed sockets. It was the face of a man who ran his mental dynamo at
top speed in defiance of nature's laws against speeding.

"Well?" he snapped. "_Well--well_?"

"Name's Scattergood Baines. Figger to build a railroad. Want to see you
about it," said Scattergood, succinctly.

"Not interested. Busy. Get out," said Castle.

Scattergood dropped the secretary, and lumbered up to the president's
desk. He leaned over it heavily. "I've come to see you about this here
thing," he said, quietly. "Either you'll talk to me about it _now_, or
I'll have to sort of arrange so that you'll come to _me_, askin' to talk
about it, later. Now you kin save both our time."

Castle regarded Scattergood with eyes that seemed to burn with
unnatural nervous energy--it was a brief scrutiny. "Clear out," he said
to his secretary. "Sit down," to Scattergood.

"Obleeged," said Scattergood. "I'm figgerin' on buildin' a railroad down
Coldriver Valley from Coldriver to connect with the G. and B. narrow
gauge. Carry freight and passengers. Want you to agree about train
service, freight transfer, buildin' a station, and sich matters."

Here was a man who could get down to business, President Castle
perceived, and who could state his business clearly and to the point.

"I know the valley. Been talking about it. Where do you come in?"

"I calculate to build the road."

"For Crane and Keith?"

"Eh?"

"They're the men backing it, aren't they? In to see me about it last
week."

Crane and Keith! Scattergood's career in the valley had been one of
warfare with Crane and Keith. He had beaten them with his dam and boom
company; he had beaten them in certain stumpage operations. Now they
were after his railroad and his valley.

"Um!..." he said, and reached down mechanically to loosen his shoe. Here
was need for careful thought.

"I gave them all necessary information," said the president.

"Don't concern me none," said Scattergood. "This here is to be _my_
railroad, and I'm the feller that's goin' to own and run it. Crane and
Keith hain't in it at all."

"You're too late. The G. and B. has agreed to handle their freight and
to stop passengers at their station. Tentatively agreed to lease and
operate the road when built.... Good morning." "I calculate there's
room for argument," said Scattergood. "I own right consid'able of that
right of way."

"Railroad can take it under the right of eminent domain," said the
president.

"Kin one railroad take from another one?" asked Scattergood, a bit
anxiously.

"No."

"Um!... Wa-al, you see, Mr. Castle, I got me a charter to build this
railroad. Legislature up and give me one."

"Makes no difference. We've made an agreement with Crane and Keith which
_stands_. You can't build your road, whatever you've got. Frankly, we
won't tolerate a road there that we don't control. Good morning."

"That final, Mr. President?"

"Absolutely."

"If I was to build in spite of you I calc'late you'd fix things so's
runnin' it wouldn't do much good to me, eh? Stop no trains for me, and
sich like?"

"Exactly."

"Um!... Mornin', Mr. President. If you ever git up to Coldriver don't go
to the hotel. Come right to my house. Mandy'll be glad to see you.
Mornin'."

Scattergood and Johnnie Bones, the young lawyer whom Scattergood had
taken to his heart, were studying a railway map of the state with
special reference to the G. & B. It showed them that the G. & B.
traversed a southerly corner of the state and had within its boundaries
some forty miles of track.

"The idee," said Scattergood, "is to make that forty mile of track
consid'able more of a worry to Castle than all the rest of his
railroad."

"Meddling with the railroads is a dangerous pastime," said Johnnie.
"Besides, how can you manage it?"

"We got a legislature, hain't we?"

"Yes, but the boys feel pretty friendly to the railroads, I
understand."

"Feel perty friendly to me, too," said Scattergood.

"I doubt if you could pass any legislation they wanted to fight hard."

"Um!... I'll look out for that end, Johnnie. Now what I want is for you
to draw up a bill for me that'll sort of irritate 'em where irritation
does the most hurt--which, I calc'late, is in the pocketbook. Here's my
notion: To make a pop'lar measure of it; somethin' that'll appeal to the
folks. We kin git the papers to start a holler and have folks demandin'
action of their representatives, and sich like. Taxes! That'll fetch 'em
every time."

"Yes," said Johnnie, dubiously, "but--"

"You _listen_" said Scattergood. "It stands to reason that the state
don't realize much out of that there forty mile of track. The G. and B.
gits the use of the state, so to speak, without payin' a fair rent for
it. You draw up a bill pervidin' that the railroad has got to pay a fee
of, say a dollar, for every passenger car it runs over them forty miles,
and fifty cents for every freight car. That'll mount to a consid'able
sum every year, eh?"

"It'll amount to so much," said Johnnie, gazing ruefully at his client,
"that there'll be the devil to pay. You'll pull every railroad in the
state down around your ears."

"Let 'em drop."

"And I don't know if the law'll hold water--even if you got it passed.
It's darn-fool legislation, Mr. Baines--but some darn-fool legislation
_sticks_. I don't believe this would, but it _might_."

"That's plenty to suit me," said Scattergood, slipping on his shoes and
standing up. "You git at it.... And say," he said, as a sort of
afterthought, "I want to git through a leetle bill for my stage line.
Here's about it. Won't take more'n fifty words." He handed Johnnie a
slip, crumpled and grimy, with lead-pencil notes on. "This won't cause
no trouble, anyhow."

Scattergood went back to his hardware store and sat down in his
reinforced armchair on the piazza. As he sat there young Jim Hands drove
up with his girl, alighted, and went into the ice-cream parlor for
refreshment. Scattergood studied the rig. It lacked something to give it
the final touch of style dear to the country youth.

Scattergood got up, and ambled into his store, returning with a
resplendent buggy whip--one with a white silk bow tied above its handle.
This he placed in the socket on the dashboard. Then he resumed his
chair. Presently Jim emerged with his girl and helped her into the rig.
He noticed the whip, took it out of its place, and examined it; swished
it through the air to try its excellence.

"Mighty nice gad," said Scattergood.

"Where in tunket did it come from?" asked Jim.

"I stuck it there. Looked to me like a rig sich as your'n needed a good
whip to set it off. I jest put it there to see how it looked."

Jim glanced at his girl, scratched the back of his suntanned neck, and
felt in his pocket.

"Calc'late I _did_ need a whip," he said. "How much is sich whips
fetchin'?"

"I kin give you that one a might lower 'n usual. It'll be two dollars to
you, seem's you got sich a purty girl in the buggy."

The girl giggled, Jim flushed, and fished out two one-dollar bills,
which he passed over to Scattergood. Then, whip in hand, he drove off
with a flourish. Scattergood pocketed the money serenely. It was by
methods such as this that he did, in his hardware store, double the
business such a store in such a locality normally accounted for.
Scattergood's most outstanding quality was that he never let a business
opportunity slip--large or small--and that he manufactured for himself
fully half of his business opportunities. He had lifted retail
salesmanship to the rank of an art.

Again he got up and went inside, where he wrote a letter to a certain
wholesale house with whom his account was large. The letter said he had
pressing need for half a dozen railroad rails of certain size and
weight, and didn't know where to get them, and would the recipient find
them and ship them at once.

Presently Tim Plant, teamster, drove by, and Scattergood hailed him.

"Tim," he said, "you owe me a leetle bill. This hain't a dun, but I got
a mite of work to be done, and seein' things wasn't brisk with you, I
figgered you might want to work it out--jest to keep busy."

"Sure," said Tim.

Whereupon Scattergood elevated himself to the seat beside Tim, and was
driven to the spot he had selected for the Coldriver terminal of his
railroad.

"I want about a hunderd feet graded along here," he said, "to lay rails
on."

"Rails!... Gosh! Scattergood, you hain't thinkin' of buildin' a
railroad, be you?"

"Shucks!" said Scattergood. "I jest got a half dozen rails comin', and I
figgered I'd like to see how they'd look all laid down on the spot. Give
folks an idee how a railroad 'u'd look if there was one."

In which manner Scattergood collected a doubtful bill, obtained a
quantity of labor at what might be called wholesale rates--and actually
started work on his railroad. Actual, patent for the world to see. The
railroad was begun. Not Crane & Keith, not President Castle, not a court
in the world could deny that actual construction had begun. Scattergood
was insuring himself against possible steps by the enemy to nullify his
charter.

"What's this here _eminent domain_?" Scattergood asked Johnnie Bones.

"It's a legal thing that allows railroads to take land necessary to its
operation--paying for it, of course."

"Anybody's land?"

"Yes."

"Crane and Keith, f'r instance?"

"Yes."

"Um!... Have to be right of way, or jest land for railroad yards, or to
build railroad buildin's on?"

"Any land _necessary_ to a railroad."

"Um!... Who says if it's necessary?"

"The courts."

"How'd you git at it?"

"Start what are called condemnation proceedings."

"All right, Johnnie, start me some."

"Against whom, and for what, Mr. Baines?"

"Against Crane and Keith, to git their land down at the G. and B. All
their mill yards, you know. Don't want the mill buildin'. They're
welcome to that. Jest their yards."

"But they can't run the mill without the log yard and the yard to pile
out their lumber."

"Be too bad, wouldn't it? Calc'late I'm a heap sorry for Crane and
Keith. Them fellers arouses my sympathy mighty frequent."

"But you're not a railroad, Mr. Baines."

"Yes I be, Johnnie. To-morrow I'll be layin' rails to prove it."

"But you own land right adjoining Crane and Keith's yards. Plenty of
it."

"Not plenty, Johnnie.... Not plenty. As long as Crane and Keith owns
_anything_ in this neighborhood I hain't got plenty of it. Get the idee?"

"You want to run them out?"

"Wa-al, they hain't been exactly friendly to me. I like to dwell among
friends, Johnnie. Lately they been makin' a sight of trouble for me.
Seems like I ought to sort of return the favor. 'Tain't jest spite,
Johnnie. Spite's a luxury I can't afford if there hain't a money profit
in it. Seems like there might be a dollar or two in this here
proceedin'--if handled jest right."

Johnnie didn't see it, but then he failed to see the profitable object
in a great many things that Scattergood undertook. It was not his
business to see, but to carry out promptly and efficiently Scattergood's
directions. The time had not yet arrived when Johnnie was Scattergood's
right hand, as in the bigger days that lay ahead.

"Didn't know Crane's sister married President Castle of the G. and B.,
did you, Johnnie?"

"No. What has that to do with it?"

"Consid'able.... Consid'able. Goes some ways toward provin' to me I was
expected to call on Castle and that things was arranged on purpose.
Proves to my satisfaction that Crane and Keith went out of their way to
start this rumpus with me.... You start them condemnation proceedin's as
quick as you kin."

Johnnie started them. Scattergood waited a few days; watched with
interest the laying of the first rails of the Coldriver Railroad, and
then made the day's drive to the state capital with drafts of his pair
of bills in his pocket. He hunted up the representative from his
town--Amri Striker by name.

"Amri," said he, "how's your disposition these days, eh? Feel like doin'
favors?"

"Guess a lot of us boys feel like doin' favors for you, Scattergood."
Which was not short of the truth, for Scattergood had been studying the
science of politics as it was practiced in his state and putting to
practical use his education. Indeed, he added to the science not a few
contrivances characteristic of himself, which made the old-timers
scratch their heads and admit that a new man had arisen who must be
reckoned with. Not yet did Scattergood hold the state in the hollow of
his hand, naming governors, senators, directing legislation, as he did
when his years were heavier on his shoulders. Probably, however, there
was no single individual in the commonwealth who could exert as much
influence as he. If there was a single man to compare with him it was
Lafe Siggins, from the northern part of the state. All men admitted that
a partnership between Scattergood and Lafe would be unbeatable.

"Got a bill I want introduced, Amri," said Scattergood.

"Let's see her, Scattergood."

Amri read the bill; then he turned around in his chair and looked out of
the window. Then he walked to the door and opened it suddenly, and
peered up and down the hall.

"The dum thing's loaded with dynamite," he said, when he came back.

"Calc'lated on some explosion," said Scattergood. "But I calc'late the
folks'll be for it. Shouldn't be s'prised if the feller who introduced
it and made a fight for it would stand mighty well, back home. Might git
to be Senator, Amri. No tellin'."

"Can't no sich bill be passed. The boys likes their passes, and I guess
there's some that gits more than passes out of the railroads."

"If this bill's introduced, Amri," said Scattergood, solemnly, "there'll
be a chance for some of the boys to fat up their savings'
account--pervidin' there's a good chance of its passin'. The
railroads'll git scairt and send quite a bank roll up this way."

"You bet," said Amri, with watering mouth.

"Lafe in town?"

"Come in last week."

"Lafe, I understand, hain't in politics for fun."

"Lafe's in right where he kin git the most the quickest."

"Run out and git him to step up here," said Scattergood.

In half an hour Lafe Siggins, tall, bony, long, and solemn of face,
stepped into the room, and closed the door after him cautiously.

"Howdy, Scattergood!" he said.

"Howdy, Lafe!... Want your backin' for a pop'lar measure. I've up and
invented a new way of taxin' a railroad."

Lafe started for the door. "Afternoon," he said, with a tone of
finality.

"But," said Scattergood, "I figger you to do the fightin' for the
railroads--reapin' whatever benefits you can figger out of it for
yourself."

Lafe paused, considered, and returned. "What's the idee?" he asked.

"I jest don't want this bill to pass too easy," said Scattergood,
soberly, but with a twinkle in his eye.

"It wouldn't," said Lafe.

"Um!... Railroads is more liberal, hain't they, when there's a good
chance of their gittin' licked? Suppose this come to a fight, and it
looked like they was goin' to git the worst of it. Supposin' the outcome
hung on two or three votes, eh? And them votes looked dubious."

Lafe pressed his thin lips together.

"I guess I kin account for near half of the boys, Lafe, and I guess you
kin line up clost to half with the railroads, can't you? Well, you don't
stand to lose nothin', do you? All we got to do is keep them decidin'
votes where we want 'em." Then he leaned over and whispered in Lafe's
ear briefly.

Lafe's thin lips curved upward a trifle at the ends. "Scattergood,"
said he, "this here's an idee. Never recollect nothin' resemblin' it
since I been in politics. What _you_ after?"

"Jest pleasure, Lafe.... Jest pleasure. Is it a deal?"

"It's a deal."

"Amri outside?"

"Standin' guard, Scattergood."

"When you go out send him in."

Amri opened the door that Lafe closed behind him.

"All fixed," said Scattergood. "I want to see these boys to-night."
Scattergood handed Amri a list of names. "And say, Amri, here's a leetle
bill you might jest slip along quick. Don't amount to nothin', but it
might help me some. Like to git the Governor's signature to it as soon
as it kin be done."

Amri read it cautiously. It was just a harmless little measure having to
do with stage lines. "All right," he said, carelessly.

Crane was in President Castle's office, and his demeanor was that of a
man who has heard disquieting news.

"I told you," he said, in tones of reproach, "that he wasn't safe to
monkey with. Keith and I thought he was just a fat, backwoods rube, but
we got burnt, and burnt good. We were going to let him alone, but you
got us into this--and now you've got to get us out again. Know what he's
done? Nothing much but start condemnation proceedings against us to take
our mill yards down on the railroad for a site for a depot and freight
sheds. That's all. And us with close to a hundred thousand tied up in
that mill. If he puts it through ..."

"He won't," snapped Castle.

"He's started to build his railroad. Actually laying rails."

"So I heard. That's to hold his charter.... Don't you worry. He can't
build that road, and you men will. As soon as I found out he had that
charter, and saw the possibilities of that valley, I made up my mind he
had to be eliminated. And he will be."

"Keith and I tried that."

"I saw him," said Castle. "He's no fool. You thought he was. I'm not
making any such mistake. Going after you the way he has proves it."

"And he'll be going after you, too. You want to mind your eye."

"It's a little different tackling the G. and B., don't you think? And I
doubt if he figures we're really backing you."

"What he figures and what you think he figures are mighty wide apart
sometimes. It cost me money to find that out."

The telephone interrupted. Castle answered: "Yes, Hammond, I can see you
now. What is it?... All right. Come right up." Hammond was the
railroad's general counsel.

He appeared presently.

"I thought we had the legislature up yonder tamed," he said, angrily, as
he entered the office.

"We have."

"Huh!... Take a look at this." He handed to the president Scattergood's
novel taxation, measure. "What you make of that? Who's behind it? What's
the game?"

Castle read it carefully; then he turned to Crane. "You win," he said,
succinctly. "Your friend Scattergood has brought the fight right on to
our front porch.... What about it, Hammond? Will such a tom-fool law
stand water?"

"Can't tell. My judgment is that it wouldn't, but it's such a fool law
that nobody can tell. And if it stuck--" He sucked in his breath. "It
would give every jay legisature a show to rough the railroads
beautifully."

"It would hurt.... Of course it mustn't pass. Get after it and don't let
any grass grow. Kill it in committee. That's the safest way.... Have
Lafe Siggins look after it."

Hammond bustled out, and Castle turned to his brother-in-law. "I
underestimated this Scattergood _some_," he said. "Now I'll go after
him.... For reasons of necessity we will discontinue all train service
at the flag station at the mouth of Coldriver Valley. That'll leave his
stage line dangling in the air. Just for a taste of what we can do....
I'll have Hammond look after that condemnation matter for you."

"He'll be coming around to offer to sidetrack that legislation if you'll
let him build his railroad."

"Probably. I guess we won't trade."

But Scattergood did not come around to offer a compromise. He seemed to
have lost interest in the matter wholly and to give his time solely to
his hardware store. But the Transient Car bill, as it came to be called,
began mysteriously to attract unprecedented attention. The press of the
state showed unusual interest in it. In short, it became the one big
measure of the legislative session. Everything else was secondary to it.
When a railroad measure is hotly discussed in every loafing place in a
state there is a measure that legislators handle with gloves. It is
loaded. When the home folks get really interested in a thing they are
apt to demand explanations. Wherefore it was but natural that President
Castle's experts found it impossible to strangle the bill in committee.
It was reported out, and then Hammond found it wise to journey to the
capital to take charge of things himself.

At the end of a week, Mr. Hammond, general counsel for the G. & B. and
expert handler of legislatures, was forced to write President Castle
that he faced a condition new in his broad experience.

"The chances," he said, "are more than even that this bill passes. Men
we have been able to depend on are refractory. Siggins is doing his
best, but so far he has been able to account for only forty-five per
cent of the votes. The strange thing about it," he finished, with
genuine amazement, "is that the other side doesn't seem to be spending a
penny."

Which was perfectly true. Neither in that fight nor in any of the scores
of legislative battles in which Scattergood took part in his after life
did he spend a dollar to buy a vote or to influence legislation. Perhaps
it was scruple on his part; perhaps economy; perhaps he felt that his
own peculiar methods were more efficacious than mere barter and sale.

From end to end, the state was in excitement over the measure. Skillful
work had made it seem a vital thing to the people, and hundreds of
letters and telegrams poured in to representatives. It looked as if
public opinion were overwhelmingly with the bill. It was Scattergood's
first use of the weapon of public opinion. In this battle he learned its
potentialities. Men who knew him well and were close to him in political
matters declare he became the most skillful creator of a fictitious
public opinion that ever lived in the state. It was in keeping with his
methods that he always seemed to be acting in response to a demand from
the public rather than that he excited the public to demand what
Scattergood wanted. But that was when Scattergood's hair was touched
with gray and his girth had increased by twoscore pounds.

"I can't find any trace of Scattergood Baines in this matter," Hammond
reported to President Castle.

That was true. Scattergood stayed at home, tending vigorously to his
hardware business. Representatives did not call on him; he did not call
on them. No trails led to his door.

President Castle had expected overtures from Scattergood, but none
materialized. To a man of Castle's experience this was more than
strange; it was uncanny. He began to consider the situation really
serious. Was the man so confident as his silence indicated?

"Get the votes," he wired succinctly to Hammond, and Hammond, reading
the message correctly, dipped into the emergency barrel of the railroad
with generous hands. Prosperity had come to that legislature. Yet he was
able, at the end of another two weeks, to guarantee six votes less than
a majority. The opposition had captured one more vote than he, and
needed but five to pass their measure. Hammond faced the task of
acquiring those five unplaced legislators, and of weaning one away from
Scattergood--and the bill was due to come up in the House in two days.

That day President Castle himself arrived in the capital, and, after
discussing the situation with Hammond, wired Scattergood, asking for an
appointment. The mountain was going to Mohammed. Scattergood replied not
a word.

"I calc'late," he said to Mandy, "that President Castle's raisin' him a
blister."

On the morning of the day on which the bill was to come to a vote
Scattergood appeared unostentatiously in the capital, but word of his
presence flashed from tongue to tongue with miraculous speed. Word of it
came to President Castle, who pocketed his pride for excellent business
reasons, and sent up his card to Scattergood's room.

"Guess I kin see him a minute," said Scattergood, and the president
ascended with thoughts in his heart which Scattergood was well able to
lead.

"Baines," said Castle, without preface, "what do you want?"

"Nothin' you've got, I calc'late," said Scattergood, serenely.

"You're back of this infernal bill. The railroads can't permit it to
pass. It won't pass."

"Then what you wastin' your time on me for?" Scattergood asked.

"If we let you build your infernal little railroad will you drop out of
this?"

"Hain't in it to speak of."

"Will you take your hands off--if we give you your railroad and
guarantee train service?"

"Can't seem to see my way clear."

"What do you gain by passing this bill? You're nothing ahead. It won't
give you your railroad. It won't give you anything."

"Calc'late you're right."

"Listen to reason, man. You want _something_. What is it?"

"Me?... Um!... I'm a plain kind of a man, Mr. President, with a plain
kind of a wife. Hain't never met Mandy, have you? Wa-al, her and me is
perty contented with life. We got a good hardware store ..."

"Rot! What do you want?"

Scattergood leaned forward, his round face, with its bulging cheeks, as
expressionless as some particularly big and ruddy apple.

"If you're achin' to do favors for me, Mr. President you kin drop in
along about supper time. Right now can't think of a thing you kin do for
me. But I'll try ... I'll spend the afternoon thinkin' over all the
things you might be able to do, and I'll try to pick one of 'em out....
I got to see a hardware salesman now. Afternoon Mr. President."

"Baines," said Castle, losing his temper for the first time in a dozen
years, "we'll smash you for this. We'll drive you out of the state.
Well--"

"Don't slam the door," said Scattergood, placidly; "it might disturb the
other folks in the hotel."

That afternoon the galleries of the House were jammed. Below, in their
seats, the legislators sat uncomfortably. There was a tenseness in the
air which made men's skin tingle. The Transient Car bill was about to
come to a vote. Everything had been done by both sides that could be
done. There could be no more outside interference; no more money
influence. It was all over. Now the matter was in the hands of those
uneasy men, who, even now, might hold steadfast to their principles or
to the money that had bought them or to the power that had compelled
them--or who might, for reasons secret to their several souls, change
sides with astonishing suddenness, upsetting all calculations. Such
things have been done.... But, even without the happening of the
unexpected, no man could say how the votes would fall. Neither side had
obtained a sure majority.

The preliminary formalities went forward. Then began the roll call, and
from his place in the gallery Hammond shecked off on his list name after
name, as they voted yea or nay--and President Castle watched and kept
mental count. Scattergood was not present. The thing was even,
dangerously even. For every yea there sounded a balancing nay. The count
stood sixty-one for, sixty against ... with ten more votes to call....
With six votes to call the count was even.

"Whittaker," called the clerk's monotonous voice.

"Nay."

"Robbins."

"Nay."

"Baker."

"Nay."

"Hooper."

"Nay."

"Bolger."

"Nay."

"Brock."

"Nay."

The six final votes had been cast--and cast solidly against
Scattergood's bill. Scattergood was beaten, decisively, destructively
beaten. Not only was he defeated here, but he was smashed where the
damage was even more destructive--in his prestige. He was a discredited
political leader.... Lafe Siggins could not restrain a chuckle, for
Scattergood had played into his hands. Scattergood had allowed himself
to be eliminated from calculation in the state, leaving Siggins as sole,
undisputed, victorious boss. It had been a clever scheme that
Scattergood had outlined to Lafe--so clever that Lafe hadn't seen the
great good that lay in it for himself--until days later. He shrugged his
shoulders. It was just another case of a man unfamiliar with the game
overplaying his hand.

President Castle shook hands openly with Hammond. True, there was a
demonstration of disapproval from the gallery--but that was only the
people! It did not signify.

"We got him," said Castle.

"But it was a close squeak."

Castle looked grimly down on the representatives, now huddled together
in whispering groups.

"I don't often have the impulse to crow over a man," he said, "but this
Baines was so infernally cocky. He told me I might see him at six
o'clock and he'd tell me what I could do for him. Well, I'm going to see
him." His voice was grim and forbidding.

On the way they picked up Siggins and invited him to dinner. The three
went to the hotel, where, sitting calmly, placidly in the lobby, was
Scattergood.

Castle walked directly to him. "You were going to tell me what I could
do for you--at this hour, I believe."

"Did say somethin' like that."

Castle eyed Scattergood venomously, found him a hard man to crow over.
He admitted Scattergood to be a good loser.

"I expect you'll be asking favors for some time," Castle said, "and not
getting them. I told you we'd lick you--and we have. I told you we'd
smash you and drive you out of the state. We'll do that just as
surely ..."

"Maybe so," said Scattergood, phlegmatically. "Maybe so. Nobody kin
tell.... Howdy, Siggins! Lookin' mighty jubilant about somethin'. Glad
to see it.... And Mr. Hammond seems pleased, too. Done a good job of
work, didn't you? Bet your boss is pleased with you, eh?"

"When you're ready to turn your chunks of right of way over to Crane and
Keith, let them know," said Castle. "I guess the G. and B. loses
interest in you from this on--or it will presently."

"Jest a jiffy," said Scattergood, as the trio turned away. "Seems like
you was goin' to do a favor for me. Well, you hain't done it yet....
Guess I need a favor perty bad at this minute, eh? Wa-al, 'tain't a big
one. Jest sort of cast your eye over this here." Scattergood handed
Castle a folded paper of documentary appearance.

Castle snatched it and read it. It was brief. Not more than fifty words.
It was a copy of a bill having to do with stage lines, passed by both
Houses and signed by the Governor. It provided that wherever any stage
line or _other transportation company of whatsoever nature_ intersected
the line of a railroad or terminated on such line, the railroad should
be compelled to establish a regular station on demand, for the handling
of passengers and freight, and should stop all trains except through
trains, and should establish sidetracks for the handling and transfer of
freight.

A few formal words, backed by the authority of the state, compelling the
G. & B. to do all, and more than all, that Scattergood had requested of
them! A few words making possible Scattergood's railroad more surely
than agreement with President Castle could have made it!

"While you folks was busy with the Transient Car bill," Scattergood
said, amiably, "the boys sort of tended to this for me. If I'd thought
Hammond was int'rested I might have called it to his attention. But I
figgered he was paid to watch out for sich things, and I didn't want to
interfere none. Jest as well, I take it."

Castle was scowling at Hammond, momentarily at a loss for words. Siggins
was gazing at Scattergood with thin lips parted a trifle. His joy was
blanketed.

"Somethin' else," said Scattergood, looking from one to another, and
finally at Lafe. "Siggins figgered that my gittin' a beatin' on this
bill would sort of make him boss of the state. You see, Mr. President,
this here bill wasn't _meant_ to pass. It was fixed up for a couple of
reasons. One was to git something which I'll tell you about in a second.
Another was to make the boys in the House sort of prosperous like, and
grateful to me for gittin' 'em the prosperity--with the railroads payin'
for it. The last was to settle things between Lafe and me. I sort of
wanted Lafe and the boys in politics to understand which was which....
And they'll understand.... Now, Mr. President, the thing I wanted to git
was in two parts. First one was to git your attention on this here bill
so's you wouldn't notice my little stage-line thing. The other was
pretty nigh as valuable. I got it. It's a list of every man in this
legislature that took money for a vote on this thing, with how much
money he took and the hour and minute it was paid him--and _who by_.
Seems like I managed to git _your_ name, Mr. President, connected with
them last six votes that you took over body and britches this noon. And
I kin _prove_ every item of it.... With the folks around the state
feelin' like they do, I shouldn't be s'prised if I could make a heap of
trouble."

President Castle was a big man or he would not hold the position that
was his. He knew when a fight was over. "You win," he said, tersely.
"Name it."

"Two things. First off I want an agreement with your road, made by a
full vote of the board of directors, agreein' to do jest what this bill
pervides--in case of emergencies. And second, I want your folks should
handle the bonds of my railroad--construction bonds. Guess I could
manage it without, but I need my money for somethin' else. About two
hunderd thousand dollars' worth of bonds'll do it."

Castle shrugged his shoulders--seeing possibilities for the future.
However, he knew Scattergood had weighed those possibilities himself.

"Agreed," he said. There was a moment's silence. "By the way," he asked,
"what was the idea of the condemnation proceedings against Crane and
Keith?"

"Jest a mite of business. With the railroad goin', I need a good mill up
on a site I got below Coldriver. Seems like Crane and Keith got a might
timid, and yestiddy they up and sold out that mill to a friend of
mine--actin' for me--for fifty-five thousand dollars. Figger I got it
dirt cheap. Wuth close to a hunderd thousand, hain't it?... I'm goin' to
move it to Coldriver, lock, stock, and barrel."

"Baines," said Castle, presently, "the G. and B. will keep hands off
your valley. It will be better for us to work together than at odds.
Suppose we bury the hatchet and work for each other's interest.... I'm
paid to know a coming man when I see one."

"Was hopin' you'd see it that way, Mr. President. I hain't one that
hankers for strife ... not even with Lafe, here, if he can figger he's
willin' to admit what he's got to admit."

"I take my orders from you," said Lafe.

In which authentic manner Scattergood Baines, in one transaction, made
possible and financed his railroad, obtained his first mill, and became
undisputed political dictator of his state. Characteristically, there
was charged to expense for the whole transaction a sum that a very
ordinary man could earn in a week. Scattergood loved cheap results.



CHAPTER IV

HE DEALS IN MATCHMAKING


It is known to all the world that Scattergood came to own the stage line
that plied down the valley to the railroad, but minute research and a
sifting of dubious testimony was required to unearth the true details of
that transaction in which the peg leg of Deacon Pettybone figured in a
dominant manner.

Scattergood had long had his eye on the stage line, because his valley,
the Coldriver Valley, was dominated by it. Transportation was king, and
Scattergood knew that if his vision of developing that valley and of
acquiring riches for himself out of the development were ever to become
actuality, he must first control the means of transporting passengers
and commodities. But the stage line was not to be acquired, because
Deacon Pettybone and Elder Hooper, who owned it in partnership, had not
been on speaking terms for twenty years. So bitter was the feud that
either would have borne cheerfully a loss to prevent the other from
making a profit. The stage line was a worry and an annoyance to both of
them, but neither of them would sell, because he was afraid his enemy
might derive some advantage.

As Scattergood well knew, the feud had its inception in religion as
religion is practiced in that community. Deacon Pettybone had been born
a Congregationalist. Elder Hooper was the sturdiest pillar of the
Congregationalist church. They had grown up together from boyhood, as
chums, and later as business partners, but at the mature age of forty
Deacon Pettybone had attended a revival service in the Baptist church.
When he came out of that service the mischief was done--he had been
converted to the tenets of immersion and straightway withdrew from the
church of his birth to enter the fold of its bitterest rival in
Coldriver, if it were possible for the Baptists to be bitterer rivals of
the Congregationalist than the Methodists and Universalists were.
Coldriver's population was less than four hundred. It required a great
deal of religion to get that four hundred safely past the snares and
pitfalls of Coldriver, for there were no fewer than five full-grown
churches, of which the Roman Catholic was the fifth, and a body of folks
who met in one another's houses of a Sabbath under the denomination of
the United Brethren. Five churches worshiped God through the crackling
parchment of their mortgages, when one, or at most two, might have
pointed the way to heaven free and clear, and with no worries over
semiannual interest.

When Pettybone turned apostate there was such a commotion as had never
before disturbed Coldriver; it subsided, and was forgotten as the years
dragged on, by all but Pettybone and Hooper, who continued tenaciously
to hate each other with a bitter hatred--and the more so that their
financial affairs were so inextricably mingled.

Even when Pettybone's leg was mashed by a log, and he lay between life
and death, there was no hint of a reconciliation; and when Pettybone
appeared again on Coldriver's streets, hobbling on a peg leg of his own
fashioning, the fires of vindictiveness burned higher and hotter than
ever.

The situation would have been hopeless to anybody not possessed of
Scattergood's optimism and resource. It is reported that Scattergood
propounded a saying early in his career at Coldriver, to this effect:

"Anybody kin git anythin' done if he wants it hard enough. Trouble is,
most folks hain't got a sufficient capacity for wantin'."

Scattergood's capacity for wanting was abnormal, and his ability to want
until he got was what made him the remarkable figure in the life of his
state that he was destined to become.

Scattergood was sitting on the piazza of his hardware store, basking in
the sunshine, and gazing up the dusty road which passed between
Coldriver's business structures, and disappeared over the hill. His eyes
were half closed, and his bulk, which later became phenomenal, filled
comfortably the specially reinforced chair which came to be called his
throne. Pliny Pickett slouched around the corner, and, as he approached,
the unmistakable odor of horses became noticeable. Inhabitants of
Coldriver knew when Pliny came into a room even if their backs were
turned.

"Mornin', Pliny," said Scattergood.

"Mornin', Scattergood."

"Fetch any passengers?"

"Drummer 'n' a fat woman to visit the Bogles. Say, Scattergood, looks
like you're goin' to have competition."

"Um!... Don't say."

"Hardware," said Pliny, nasally. "Station's heaped with it. Every
merchant in town's layin' in a stock."

"Do tell," said Scattergood, without emotion. "Kettleman and Locker?"
They were the grocers.

Pliny nodded. "An' Lumley and Penny mixin' it in with dry goods, and
Atwell minglin' it with clothin'."

Scattergood reached down and unlaced his shoes. His mind worked more
freely when his toes were unconfined, so that he might wriggle them as
he reasoned. Pliny knew the sign and grinned.

"Much 'bleeged," said Scattergood, and Pliny moved off.

"Pliny," said Scattergood.

"Eh?"

"Was you thinkin' of buyin' a stove?"

"No."

"Could think about it, couldn't you?"

"Might manage it."

"Folks thinkin' of buyin' stoves gits prices, don't they? Kind of
inquires around to see where they kin buy cheapest?"

"Most does."

"G'-by, Pliny."

"G'-by, Scattergood."

Something of the sort was not unanticipated by Scattergood. He knew the
merchants of the town had not forgiven him for once getting decidedly
the better of them in a certain transaction, and he knew now that they
had combined against him. Their idea was transparent to him. It was
their hope to put him out of business by adding hardware to their stocks
and to sell it at cost, until he gave up the ship. They could afford it.
It would not interfere with their normal profits.

Scattergood wriggled his toes furiously and squinted his eyes. They
alighted on a young man in clerical black, who crossed the square from
the post office. It was no other than Jason Hooper, son of Elder Hooper,
who had been educated to the ministry and had recently come to occupy
the pulpit of his father's church--a pleasant and worthy young man.
Almost simultaneously Scattergood's eyes perceived Selina Pettybone,
daughter of Deacon Pettybone, just entering the post office.

"Purty as a picture," said Scattergood to himself, and then he chuckled.

The young minister nodded to Scattergood, and Scattergood spoke in
return. "Mornin', Parson," he said. "How d'you find business?"

"Business?" The young man looked a bit startled.

"Oh, how's the marryin' industry, f'r instance? Brisk?"

Jason smiled. "It might be brisker."

"Um!... Maybe folks figgers you hain't had enough experience to do their
marryin' jest accordin' to rule--seein' 's you hain't married yourself."

Jason blushed and frowned. This was a subject that had been brought to
his attention insistently; he had been informed that a minister should
marry, and there were several marriageable daughters in his church.

"You aren't going to pick a wife for me, too?" he said, with a rueful
smile.

"Dunno but I might," said Scattergood. "Got any preferences as to weight
and color?"

"My only preference is to have them all--a long way off," said the young
minister.

"Some day you'll have opposite leanin's. There'll be a girl you'll want
to snuggle right clost to.... G'-by, Parson, I'll keep my eyes open for
you."

A few days later consignments of hardware began to arrive, and
Scattergood, sitting on the piazza of his store, watched them carried
with much ostentation into the stores of his rivals. It was noticed that
he scarcely had his shoes on during this week and that he even walked to
the post office barefooted, squirming his delighted toes into the warm
sand with apparent enjoyment. Immediately Locker and Kettleman and
Lumley and the rest made it known to Coldriver and environs that they
were dealing in hardware and not for profit, but merely as a convenience
to their patrons. They emphasized the fact that they would sell hardware
at cost, and exhibited prices which Scattergood studied and saw that he
could not meet.

The town watched the affair, expecting much of Scattergood, but he made
no move. Apparently he was contented to sit on his piazza and see
customers passing him by for the alluring bargains offered beyond.
Coldriver was disappointed in Scattergood, and it said so, much as a
disgruntled critic will speak of an actor who has made a flat failure in
a favorite piece.

On a certain afternoon Scattergood was seen to accost Selina Pettybone,
who paused, and drew nearer, showing signs of regret and interest.

"Seliny," said Scattergood, "you're one of them Daughters of Dorcas, or
half sisters of Mehitable, or somethin' religious and charitable, hain't
you?"

"Yes," said Selina, with a smile.

"What does sich folks do when they git to hear of a case of misery and
distress?"

"They do what they can, Mr. Baines," said Selina.

"Um!... If you heard Xenophon Banks was took sick of a busted leg, and
his wife was dead these two year, and a 'leven-year-old girl was tryin'
to nuss her pa and look after four more, what d'ye calc'late you'd
calc'late?"

"I'd calculate," said Selina, "that I ought to go out there to the farm
and see about it at once."

"Usin' your buggy or mine?"

"Mine, thank you."

"G'-by, Selina."

"G'-by, Mr. Baines," she said, and laughed.

Scattergood watched her disappear in the direction of her home and then
got up leisurely and ambled toward the Congregational parsonage, in
which young Jason Hooper lived in solitary dignity. Mr. Hooper was in
his study.

"Howdy, Parson?" said Scattergood.

"How do you do, Mr. Baines?"

"Bible say anythin' regardin' visitin' the sick an' ministerin' to the
oppressed?"

"A great deal, Mr. Baines."

"Think it's meant, eh? Or was it put there jest to preach about?"

"It is meant, undoubtedly."

"For ministers?"

"Yes."

"Um!... Xenophon Banks busted his leg. 'Leven-year-old daughter's tryin'
to carry him and four other childern on to her back, so to speak."

"I'll go at once, Mr. Baines."

Scattergood fidgeted. "Calculate Xenophon wasn't forehanded. Six mouths
to feed. _More mealtimes than meals_," he said, and fumbled in his
pocket. He was visibly embarrassed. "Here's ten dollars that was give me
to be used for sich a purpose. The feller that give it let on he wanted
it to come like it was give by the church, and him not mentioned. Git
the idee?"

"I get the idea perfectly," said young Mr. Hooper, his face lighting as
he surveyed Scattergood with a whimsical twinkle--and as he saw this
scheming, money-hungry, power-hungry man in a new light. "The man may
feel confident I shall not betray him."

"If I was a minister in sich a case I wouldn't forgit some stick candy
for them five childern. Seems like candy's 'most necessary for sich. Dum
foolishness, but keeps 'em quiet.... Git a big bag of candy.... And, if
I was doin' this, I wouldn't let no grass grow under my feet."

So it happened that Selina Pettybone and the Rev. Jason Hooper,
respectively, daughter of the leading deacon of the Baptist church, and
parson of the Congregational church, arrived at Xenophon Banks's little
house within ten minutes of each other, and each was greatly embarrassed
by the other's presence, for the family feud had compelled them to be
coldly distant to each other all of their short lives.... But there was
much to do, and embarrassment of such kind between an unusually pretty
and wholesome girl, and a reasonably well-looking and kindly young man,
is not an emotion that cannot be easily dissipated.

About a week later Scattergood chanced to pass Deacon Pettybone's
house, and saw the old gentleman sitting on the front porch, shaping a
large piece of wood with a draw-shave.

"Afternoon, Deacon," said Scattergood.

"Set and rest your legs," said the deacon. "Jest puttin' the finishin'
touches on this timber leg of mine."

"Sturdy-lookin' leg, Deacon."

"Best I ever made. Always calc'late to keep one ahead. Soon's one leg
wears out and I put on the spare one, I set to work fashionin' another,
to have by me. Always manage to figger some improvement."

"More int'restin' than cuttin' out ax handles," said Scattergood.

The deacon looked his scorn. "Anybody kin cut an ax handle, but lemme
tell you it takes study and figgerin' and _brains_ to turn out a timber
leg that's full as good if not better 'n a real one.... I aim to varnish
this here leg and hang it in the harness room. Wisht I could keep it by
me in the kitchen, but the ol' woman says it sp'iles her appetite.
Wimmin is full of notions. Claims she'd go crazy with a leg a-hangin'
back of the stove, and some day she'd up and slam it in the oven and
serve it up for a roast. You kin thank your stars you hain't got
wimmin's notions to worry you, Scattergood."

"How d'ye stand on the proposition to have the town build a sidewalk up
the hill apast the Congregational church, Deacon?"

The deacon pounded on the porch with his nearly finished leg, and grew
red in the face. "All the doin's of ol' man Hooper. Connivin' and
squillickin' around for his own ends. Lemme tell you, Scattergood, no
town meetin' of Coldriver'll ever vote sich a steal only over my dead
body. Jest you tell that far and wide."

Business had been almost at a standstill for Scattergood. The only
sales he made were of small articles his competitors had forgotten or
neglected to stock. He had not taken in enough money for a month to pay
for the wear and tear on his fixtures. Coldriver was coming to set him
down as a failure and a black disappointment; but it marveled that he
took no action whatever and showed no signs of worry. His eyes were as
blue and his manner as humorous as it had ever been. Most of his
conversation seemed to be on the subject of the sidewalk past the
Congregational church, and it was carried on in low tones, and never to
more than one individual at a time. If those individuals had compared
notes they would have been astonished. Scattergood's attitude on the
matter was widely different, depending on whether he talked with Baptist
or Congregationalist. One might almost say that both sides were coming
to him for advice on how to conduct its campaign to carry the town
meeting--and one would have been right.

The matter had developed into the hottest political issue Coldriver had
ever seen. No presidential election had come near to rivaling it, and
the local-option issue had stirred up fewer heartburnings and given rise
to less bellowing and to fewer hard words. The town meeting was less
than a month away.

But even in the heat of the campaign Scattergood found time to drive out
to Xenophon Banks's. The road to Banks's was fairly well traveled these
days, for there was hardly a day that did not see either Selina
Pettybone or Parson Hooper driving out to the little house, and,
strangely enough, the days on which both were present appeared to be in
the majority. Scattergood dropped out now and then with pockets full of
stick candy, which he never delivered himself, but which he always
handed to the minister or to Selina to be given anonymously after he was
gone. He seemed as much interested in watching Selina and Jason as he
was in talking with Xenophon, and he might have been perceived
frequently to nod his head with satisfaction--especially on the day when
he heard Jason call Selina by her first name, and on the other day when
he saw the young minister retaining Selina's hand longer than he should
have done in saying good afternoon. That day Jason drove back to town
with Scattergood.

"Likely-lookin' girl--Seliny," observed Scattergood.

"Beautiful," said the parson, and Scattergood grinned.

"Um!... Single ministers is a menace. Yes, sir, churches has busted up
on account of their ministers not bein' married."

There was no reply.

"But I calculate you're different. You're jest made and created to be an
old batch. Never seen sich a feller. Couldn't no girl interest you, not
if she was the Queen of Sheeby."

"Mr. Baines," said Jason, after a pause, "I'm very miserable. I--I think
I shall resign from my church and go away."

"Sandrich Islands or somewheres--missionery feller?" said Scattergood.

"I--why, yes, that's what I'll do.... I wish I'd never seen her." Then
he corrected himself sharply. "No, I don't. I'm glad I've seen her. I've
got that much, anyhow. I can always remember her and think about how
sweet and beautiful she was--"

"And die at the age of eighty with her name comin' from your lips on
your last breath. To be sure.... Seems to me, though, it would be a
sight more satisfyin' to live them fifty-odd years _with_ her and raise
up a fam'ly, and git some benefits out of that sweetness and beauty and
sich like, besides mullin' 'em over in your mind. Speakin' of Seliny,
wasn't you?"

"Yes."

"Don't hanker to marry her?"

"Mr. Baines--"

"Then why in tunket don't you?"

"She's a Baptist."

"White, hain't she?"

"Yes."

"Respectable?"

"Of course, sir."

"Don't call to mind no state law ag'in' Congregationalists marryin'
Baptists."

"My congregation wouldn't allow it."

"Hain't never seen no deed of sale of you to your congregation."

"Her father would never permit it?"

"Huh!..."

"And she's an obedient daughter."

"Has she said so?"

"Y-yes."

"Ho! Kind of human, after all, hain't you? Look pleased when she said
it?"

"She cried."

"Comfort her--some."

"I--She--she loves me, Mr. Baines."

"Well, I snum! Kind of disobedient to love you, hain't it? Knows her
father 'd be set ag'in' it?"

"Yes, but she can't help that."

"Why?"

"You--why, you _fall_ in love! You don't do it on purpose, Mr. Baines.
It just comes to you."

"From where?" said Scattergood, abruptly.

The young minister stared.

"Who's to blame for there bein' love?" Scattergood demanded.

After a pause the young man answered. "God," he said. "Why does He send
it?"

"So that people will marry, and the love will keep them together, strong
to bear the trials and labors of life. I think love is a kind of wages
that God pays to men and women for living on His earth."

"Um!... Does He send love sort of helter-skelter and hit-or-miss, or
does He aim it at certain folks?"

"I have often preached that marriages were made in heaven."

"Then it's a kind of a command, hain't it?"

"Yes."

"Which d'ye calculate is the wust disobedience? To refuse to obey an
order sich as this, or to disobey a parent that runs counter to the
wants of the Almighty?"

The young man's face was alight with happiness. "Mr. Baines," he said,
"I'm grateful to you. I shall marry Selina."

"Maybe," said Scattergood. "It runs in my mind you got to have dealin's
with Deacon Pettybone, and the deacon always figgers that the news he
gits from heaven is fresher and more dependable than what anybody else
gits. Might ask him and see."

A few days after that Coldriver knew that Parson Hooper had asked the
hand of Selina from her father and had been rejected with language and
almost with violence. Then a strange thing took place. If Jason had
married Selina without opposition, his congregation would have been
enraged. He might have been forced from his pulpit. Now it regarded him
as a martyr, and with clacking tongues and singleness of purpose it
espoused his cause and declared that their minister was good enough to
marry any girl alive, and that Deacon Pettybone was a mean,
narrow-minded, bigoted, cantankerous old grampus. The thing became a
public question, second in importance only to the sidewalk.

"Hold your hosses," Scattergood advised Jason. "Let's see what a mite
of dickerin' and persuasion'll do with the deacon. Then, if measures
fails, my advice to you as a human bein' and a citizen is to git Seliny
into a buckboard and run off with her. But hold on a spell."

So Jason held on, and the town meeting approached, and Scattergood
continued to sit in idleness on the piazza of his store and twiddle his
bare toes in the sunshine. Deacon Pettybone was a busy man, organizing
the forces of the Baptists, and seeking diligently to round up the votes
of neutrals. Elder Hooper, the leader of the Congregationalist party,
was equally occupied, and no man might hazard a guess at the outcome of
the affair.

"This here is a great principle," said Deacon Pettybone, "and men gives
their lives and sacrifices their families for sich. I'm a-goin' to fight
to the last gasp."

"Don't blame ye a mite," said Scattergood. "If them Congregationalists
rule this town meetin' you might's well throw up your hands. They'll
rule the town forever."

"It's got to be pervented."

"And nobody but you kin manage it," said Scattergood. "The hull thing
rests with you. Why, if you was sick so's to be absent from that meetin'
the Congregationalists 'u'd win, hands down."

"I b'lieve it," said the deacon, "and nothin' on earth'll keep me
away--nothin'. If I was a-layin' at my last gasp I'd git myself carried
there."

"Deacon," said Scattergood, solemnly, "much is dependin' on you.
Coldriver's fort'nit to have sich a man at the helm."

Even the cribbage game under the barber shop was suspended, and the
cribbage game was an institution. It was the deacon's one shortcoming,
but even there he strove to get the better of the enemy, for the two men
who were considered his only worthy antagonists at the game were
Congregationalists. The three bickered and quarreled and threatened
each other with violence, but they played daily. There were few
afternoons when a ring of spectators did not surround the table,
breathlessly watching the champions. It was the great local sporting
event, and who shall quarrel with the good deacon for touching cards in
the innocent game of cribbage? Certainly his pastor did not do so, nor
did the fellow members of his congregation. Indeed, there was even pride
in his prowess.

But the game was discontinued, and Hamilcar Jones and Tilley Newcamp
were loud in their excoriations of their late antagonist. The
Congregationalists had no hotter adherents than they, nor none who
entered the conflict with more bitterness of spirit. Scattergood saw to
it that he encountered them on the evening before the momentous town
meeting.

"Evenin', Ham. Evening Tilley."

"Howdy, Scattergood?"

"How's things lookin' for to-morrer?"

"Mighty even, Scattergood. If 'twan't for that ol' gallus Pettybone,
we'd git that sidewalk with votes to spare."

"Um!... If he was absent from the meetin' things might git to happen."

"Ho! Tie him to home, and there wouldn't even be a fight."

"Got a wooden leg, hain't he?"

"Wisht he had three."

"Got two, one hangin' in the harness room. Harness room's never locked.
If 'twas a boy could squirm through the window."

"What of it?"

"Nothin'. Jest happened to think of it.... Ever stop to think what a
comical thing it 'u'd be if somebody was to ketch a wooden-legged man
and saw his leg off about halfway up? Jest lay him across a saw buck
and saw her off while he hollered and fit. Most comical notion I ever
had."

"Would make a feller laugh."

"More 'special if his spare leg was stole away and he didn't have
nothin' but the sawed-off one. Sich a man would have difficulty gittin'
any place he wanted to git to.... G'-by, Ham. G'-by, Tilley. Hope the
meetin' comes out right to-morrer."

Scattergood went inside and looked at his bank book. In two months his
deposits from sales had amounted to something like a hundred dollars.
The situation spelled nothing less than bankruptcy, but Scattergood
replaced the book and waddled out to his piazza, where he sat in the
cool of the evening, twiddling his toes and looking from the store of
one competitor to the store of another, reflectively.

At a late hour a small boy named Newcamp delivered a bulky package to
Scattergood, and vanished into the darkness. The package was about large
enough to contain a timber leg.

The town seethed with politics next morning, and the deacon was in the
center of it. The meeting was called for ten o'clock. At nine thirty a
small boy wriggled up to the deacon and whispered in his ear. The deacon
quickly made his way out of the crowd and down the stairs into the
basement room under the barber shop--for news had been given him of a
chance to swap for votes. He burst into the room, and stopped, frowning,
for Tilley Newcamp stood before him. Hamilcar Jones was not at the
moment visible, because he was behind the door, which he slammed shut
and locked.

No word was uttered, but a Trojan struggle ensued. It was two against
one, but even those odds did not daunt the deacon. It was full five
minutes before he was flat on his back, panting and uttering such
burning and searing words as might properly fall from the lips of a
Baptist deacon. Tilley Newcamp, who was heavy, sat on his chest.
Hamilcar Jones dragged up a saw buck and laid the deacon's timber leg
across it.... The deacon saw and comprehended, and lifted up his voice.
Another five minutes were consumed in returning him to quiescence. And
then the saw did its work, while the deacon breathed threats of blood
and torture, and regretted that his religion prevented him from using
language better suited to his purpose. The leg was severed; a fragment
full ten inches long fell from the end, and the deacon's assailants drew
away, their fell purpose accomplished.

There was a rapping on the door. It was Scattergood Baines, and he was
admitted. His face was full of wrath as he gazed within, and he quivered
with fury as he ordered the two miscreants out of the place.

"What's this, Deacon, what's this?" he demanded.

The deacon told him at length, and fluently.

"I was jest in time. Now we kin send for that spare leg and you kin git
to the meetin'. Lucky you had that spare leg."

The deacon sat on the floor, speechless now, staring down at all that
remained to him of his timber leg. Scattergood, with great show of
solicitude, dispatched a youngster to the deacon's house for his extra
limb. He returned empty-handed.

"This here boy says the leg hain't in the harness room. Sure you left it
there?"

Again the deacon found his voice, and his words were to the general
effect that the blame swizzled, ornery, ill-sired, and regrettably
reared pew-gags had, in defiance of law and order, stolen and made away
with his leg--and what was he to do?

"Deacon, you can't go like that. If this story got into the meetin' it
would do fer you. You'd git laughed out. Them Congregationalists 'u'd
win. You got to have a sound leg to travel on, and I don't see but one
way to git it."

"How's that?"

"Call in young Parson Hooper and make him force them adherents of hisn
to give it up."

Scattergood did not wait for the permission he surmised would not be
given, but sent word for Jason Hooper, who came, saw, and was most
remarkably astonished.

"Parson," said Scattergood, "this here outrage is onendurable. Some of
you Congregationers done it, and stole his other leg. As leader of your
flock and a honest man, it's your bounden duty to git it back."

"But I--I know nothing about it. What can I do? I--There isn't a thing
you can do."

"Deacon," said Scattergood, "there hain't a soul in the world can git
back your leg in time but this young man. Maybe he don't know he kin do
it, but he kin. Hain't you got no offer to make?"

The parson started to say something, but Scattergood silenced him with a
waggle of the head.

"I got to git to that meetin'," bellowed the deacon. "There hain't
nothin' in the world I wouldn't give to git there, and git there whole
and hearty, and so's not to be laughed at."

"Remind you of any leetle want of yourn?" asked Scattergood. He took the
young man aside and whispered to him.

"Deacon," he said, presently, "Parson Hooper says as how he don't see no
reason for interferin' and helpin' his enemy." The parson had said
nothing of the sort. "But I kin see a reason, Deacon. If this here young
man was a member of your family, so to speak, and was related to you
clost by ties of love and marriage, I don't see how he'd have a right
to hold his hand.... Want this man's daughter f'r your wedded wife,
don't you?"

"Yes," said the parson, faintly.

"Hear that, Deacon? Hear that?"

"Never, by the hornswoggled whale that swallered Jonah."

"Meetin's about to start," said Scattergood, looking at his watch.

The deacon sweated and bellowed, but Scattergood adroitly waved the red
flag of animosity before his eyes, and pictured black ruin and
defeat--until the deacon was ready to surrender life itself.

"Git me my leg," he shouted, "and you kin have anythin'.... Git me my
leg."

"Is it a promise, Deacon? Calculate it's a promise?"

"I promise. I promise, solemn."

Scattergood whispered again in the pastor's ear, who stuttered and
flushed and choked, and hurried out of the room, presently to reappear
with the deacon's spare leg.

"Now, young feller, make your preparations for that there weddin'....
Scoot."

It is of record that the deacon arrived, like Sheridan at Winchester, in
the nick of time; that he rallied his flustered cohorts and led them to
triumph--and then regretted the bargain he had made. But it was too
late. He could not draw back. Wife and daughter and townsfolk were all
against him, and he could not withstand the pressure.

And then....

"Parson," said Scattergood, "your pa and the deacon ought to make up."

"They'll never do it, Mr. Baines."

"Deacon'll have to let your pa come to the weddin'. There'll be makin'
up and reconciliations when there's a grandson, but I can't wait. I'm in
a all-fired hurry. You go to the deacon and tell him your pa sent him
to say that he's ready to bury the hatchet and begs the deacon's pardon
for everythin'--everythin'."

"But it wouldn't be true."

"It's got to be true. Hain't I sayin' it's true? And then you go to your
pa and tell him the deacon wants to make up, and begs _his_ pardon out
and out. Tell both of 'em to be at my store at three o'clock, but don't
tell neither t'other's to be there."

At three o'clock Deacon Pettybone and Elder Hooper came face to face in
Scattergood's place of business.

"Howdy, gents?" said Scattergood. "Lookin' forward to bein' mutual
grandads, I calc'late. Must be quite a feelin' to know you're in line to
be a grandad."

"Huh!" grunted the deacon.

"Wumph!" coughed the elder.

"To think of you old coots dandlin' a baby on your knees--and buyin' it
pep'mint candy and the Lord knows what, and walkin' down the street,
each of you holdin' one of its hands and it walkin' betwixt you....
Dummed if I don't congratulate you."

The deacon looked at the elder and the elder looked at the deacon. They
grinned, frostily at first, then more broadly.

"By hek! Eph," said the deacon.

"I'll be snummed!" said the elder, and they shook hands there and then.

"Step back here a minute. I got a mite of business. You won't want the
nuisance of that stage line--with a grandson to fetch up. I'm kinder
hankerin' to run the thing--not that it'll be much of an investment."

"What you offerin'?" asked the deacon.

Scattergood mentioned the sum. "Cash," he concluded.

"Calc'late we better sell," said the elder.

An hour later, with the papers in his pocket to prove ownership,
Scattergood visited the stores of his rivals, Locker, Kettleman, Lumley,
and Penny.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you been a-tryin' to crowd me out of business. I
hain't made a cent of profit f'r two months, and I calc'late on a profit
of two hunderd and fifty a month. Jest gimme your check for five hunderd
dollars and I'll take your stocks of hardware off'n your hands at, say,
fifty cents on the dollar, and we'll call it a day."

"Scattergood, we got you where we want you. You can't hold out another
sixty days."

"Maybe. But, gentlemen, I guess we kin do business. I jest bought the
only means of transportin' goods, wares, and merchandise into Coldriver.
Beginnin' now, rates for freight goes up. I've studied the law, and
there hain't no way to pervent me. I kin charge what I want for
freighting and what I want will be so much not a one of you kin do
business.... And I'll put in groceries and what not, myself. Gittin' my
freight free, I calc'late to under-sell you quite consid'able.... Kin we
do business?"

The enemy went into executive session. They surrendered. Scattergood
pocketed a check for five hundred dollars, and came into possession of a
fine stock of hardware at fifty cents on the dollar. Likewise, he owned
the stage line and franchise, controlling the only right of way by which
a railroad could reach up the valley. It had required politics, marrying
and giving in marriage, and patience, to accomplish it, but it was done.

That evening Mrs. Hooper and Mrs. Pettybone, childhood friends, long
separated by the feud, stopped to speak to Scattergood.

"Nobody knows how we appreciate what you done Minnie and me," said Mrs.
Pettybone.

"Blessed is the peacemaker," said Mrs. Hooper.

"Thankee, ladies. I don't mind bein' a peacemaker any time--when I kin
do it at a profit."

"It's always done at a profit, Mr. Baines, if you read the Good Book.
This day you laid up a treasure in heaven."

"Trouble with depositin' profits in heaven," said Scattergood, very
soberly, "is that you got to wait so tarnation long to draw your
int'rest."



CHAPTER V

HE MAKES IT ROUND NUMBERS


"It's a telegram from Johnnie Bones," said Scattergood Baines to his
wife, Mandy, as he tore open the yellow envelope and read the brief
message it contained.

"Telegram!" said Mandy. "Why didn't he write? Them telegrams come
high.... Huh! Jest one word--'Come.' Costs as much to send ten as it
does one, don't it?"

"Identical," said Scattergood.

"Then," said Mandy, sharply, "if he was bound to telegraph why didn't he
git his money's worth?"

"I calc'late he thought he said a plenty," Scattergood replied. "Johnnie
he don't like to put no more in writin' that's apt to pass from hand to
hand than he's obleeged to.... Mandy, looks like we better start for
home."

"What d'you s'pose it kin be?" Mandy asked, already busy laying clothing
in their canvas telescope. "Mostly telegrams announces death or
sickness."

"I kin think of sixty-nine things it _might_ be," said Scattergood, "but
I got a feelin' it hain't none of 'em."

"We shouldn't of come away on this vacation," said Mandy. "Johnnie Bones
is too young a boy to leave in charge."

"Johnnie Bones is a dum good lawyer, Mandy, and a dum far-seein' young
man. I don't calc'late Johnnie's done us no harm. Hain't no hurry,
Mandy. We can't git a train home for five hours."

"We'll be settin' right in the depot waitin' for it," said Mandy, who
declined to take chances. "Be sure you keep your money in the pants
pocket on the side I'm walkin' on. Pickpockets 'u'd have some difficulty
gittin' past me."

"Only thing ag'in' Johnnie Bones," said Scattergood, "is that he hain't
a first-rate hardware clerk."

Scattergood, in spite of the ownership of twenty-four miles of
narrow-gauge railroad, of a hundred-odd thousand acres of spruce, and of
a sawmill whose capacity was thirty thousand feet a day, persisted in
regarding these things as side lines, and in looking upon his little
hardware store in Coldriver as the vital business of his life. It was
now ten years since Scattergood had walked up Coldriver Valley to the
village of Coldriver. It was ten years since he had embarked on the
conquest of that desirable valley, with a total working capital of forty
dollars and some cents--and he not only controlled the valley's business
and timber and transportation, but generally supervised the politics of
the state. He could have borne up manfully if all of it were taken away
from him--excepting the hardware store. To have ill befall that would
have been disaster, indeed.

On the train Scattergood turned over a seat to have a resting place for
his feet, took off his shoes, displaying white woolen socks, a
refinement forced upon him by Mandy, and leaned back to doze and
speculate. When Mandy thought him safely asleep she covered his feet
with a paper, to conceal from the public view this evidence of a
character not overgiven to refinements. It is characteristic of
Scattergood that, though wide awake, he gave no sign of knowledge of
Mandy's act. Scattergood was thinking, and to think, with him, meant so
to unfetter his feet that he could wriggle his toes pleasurably.

Johnnie Bones was waiting for Scattergood at the station.

"Johnnie," said Scattergood, "did you sell that kitchen range to Sam
Kettleman?"

"Almost, Mr. Baines, almost. But when it came to unwrapping the weasel
skin and laying money on the counter, Sam guessed Mrs. Kettleman could
keep on cooking a spell with what she had."

"Johnnie," said Scattergood, "you're dum near perfect; but you got your
shortcomings. Hardware's one of 'em.... What about that telegram of
yourn?"

"Yes," said Mandy.

"Mr. Castle, president of the G. and B.--"

"I know what job he's holdin' down, Johnnie."

"--came to see you yesterday. I wouldn't tell him where you were, so he
had to tell me what he wanted. He wants to buy your railroad. Said to
have you wire him right off."

"Um!..." Scattergood walked deliberately, with heavy-footed stride, to
the telegraph operator, and wrote a brief but eminently characteristic
message. "I might," the telegram said to President Castle.

"Now, folks," he said, "we'll go up to the store and sort of figger on
what Castle's got in mind."

They sat down on the veranda, under the wooden awning, and Scattergood's
specially reinforced chair creaked under his great weight as he stooped
to remove his shoes. For a moment he wriggled his toes, just as a golfer
waggles his driver preparatory to the stroke. "Um!..." he said.

"Castle," said he, presently, "works for jest two objects--makin' money
and payin' off grudges. Most gen'ally he tries to figger so's to combine
'em."

Johnnie and Mandy waited. They knew better than to interrupt
Scattergood's train of thought. Had they done so he would have uttered
no rebuke, but would have hoisted himself out of his chair and would
have waddled away up the dusty street, and neither of them would ever
hear another word of the matter.

"He knows I wouldn't sell this road without gittin' money for it.
_Therefore_ he's figgerin' on makin' a lot of money out of it, or payin'
off a doggone big grudge.... Somebody we don't know about is calc'latin'
on movin' into this valley, Johnnie. Somebody that's goin' to do a heap
of shippin'--and that means timber cuttin'.... And it must be settled or
Castle wouldn't come out and offer to buy."

Johnnie and Mandy had followed the reasoning and nodded assent.

"What timber be they goin' to cut?" Scattergood poked a chubby finger at
Johnnie, who shook his head.

"The Goodhue tract, back of Tupper Falls. Uh-huh! Because there hain't
no other sizable tract that I hain't got strings on. And the mills,
whatever kind they be, will be at Tupper Falls. Mills _got_ to be there.
Can't git timber out to no other place. And, Johnnie, buyin' timber is a
heap more important and difficult than buyin' mill sites. Eh?...
Johnnie, you ketch the first train for Tupper Falls. I own a mite of
land along the railroad, Johnnie, but you buy all the rest from the
falls to the station. Not in my name, Johnnie. Git deeds to folks whose
names we're entitled to use--and the more deeds the better. Scoot."

"Now, Scattergood, don't go actin' hasty," said Mandy. "You don't
_know_--"

"The only thing I don't know, Mandy, is whether Johnnie 's too late to
buy that land. Knowin' nobody else wants it, and it hain't no good for
nothin' but what they want it for, these folks may not have bought
_yit_...."

Scattergood shouted suddenly at the passing drayman. "Hey, Pete.... Come
here and git a cookin' range and take it up to Sam Kettleman's house.
Git a man to help you. Tell Mis' Kettleman I sent it, and she's to try
it a week to see if she likes it. Set it up for her and all."

Scattergood settled back to watch with approval, while two men hoisted
the heavy stove on the wagon and drove away with it. Presently Sam
Kettleman appeared on the porch of his grocery across the street, and
Scattergood called to him: "Well, Sam, glad you decided to git the woman
a new stove. Shows you're up an' doin'. It's all set up by this time."

Sam stared a moment; then, smitten speechless, he rushed across the road
and stood, a picture of rage, glaring at Scattergood. "I didn't buy no
stove. You know dum well I didn't buy no stove. I can't afford no stove.
You jest git right up there and haul it back here, d'you hear me?"

"Well, now, Sam, don't it beat all--me makin' a mistake like that? Sure
I'll send after it, right off.... Now I won't have to order one special
for Locker." Locker was the rival grocer. "I kin haul this one right to
his house, and explain to him how he come to git it so soon. I'll say:
'Locker, we jest hauled this stove down from Sam Kettleman's. Had it all
set up there and then Sam he figgered it was too expensive a stove for
him and he couldn't afford it right now on account of business not bein'
brisk.'"

"Eh?" said Kettleman.

"'Twon't cause a mite of talk that anybody'll pay attention to.
Everybody knows what Locker's wife is. Tongue wagglin' at both ends. And
I'll take pains to conterdict whatever story she goes spreadin' about
you bein' too mean to git your wife things to do with in the kitchen,
and about how you're 'most bankrupt and ready to give up business.
Nobody'll b'lieve her, anyhow, Sam, but if they do I'll explain it to
'em."

"Now--"

"Locker's wife'll be glad to have it, too. She'd have to wait two
weeks for hers, and now she'll git it right off. Oven's cracked on hern,
and she allows she sp'iles every batch of bread she bakes--and her
pledged to furnish six loaves for the Methodist Ladies' Food Sale...."

"Scattergood Baines, if you dast touch my stove I'll have the law onto
you. You can't go enterin' my house and removin' things without my
permission, I kin tell you. Don't you try to forgit it, neither. If you
think you can gouge me out of my stove jest to make it more convenient
for Mis' Locker, you're thinkin' _wrong_...."

"'Tain't your stove till it's paid for, Sam."

"Then, by gum! it'll be mine darn quick. Thirty-eight dollars, was it?
Now you gimme a receipt.... Locker!..."

Scattergood waddled into the store, wrote a receipt, and put the money
in the safe. When Sam had recrossed the road again he turned to Johnnie
Bones. "Sellin' hard-ware's easy if you put your mind to it, Johnnie.
Trouble with you is you don't take no int'rest in it.... Next time
you'll know better. Train's goin' in fifteen minutes. Better hustle."

Next noon Scattergood was in his usual place on the piazza of his store
when the train came in. Presently Mr. Castle, president of the G. & B.,
came into view, and Scattergood closed his eyes as if enjoying a midday
snooze. Mr. Castle approached, stopped, regarded Scattergood with a
pucker of his thin lips, and said to himself that the man must be an
accident. It was one of Scattergood's most valuable qualities that his
appearance and manner gave that opinion to people, even when they had
suffered discomfiture at his hands. Mr. Castle coughed, and Scattergood
opened his eyes sleepily and peered over the rolls of fat that were his
cheeks.

"Howdy?" said Scattergood, not moving.

"Good day, Mr. Baines. You got my message?"

"Seein' as you got my reply to it, I must have," said Scattergood.

"Can we talk here?"

"I kin."

Mr. Castle looked about. No one was within earshot. He occupied a chair
at Scattergood's side.

"I understand your message to mean that you are willing to sell your
railroad."

"I calculate that message meant jest what it said."

"I know what your railroad cost you--almost to a penny."

"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood, without interest.

"I'll tell you why I want it. My idea is to extend it through to
Humboldt--twenty miles. May have to tunnel Hopper Mountain, but it will
give me a short line to compete with the V. and M. from Montreal."

"To be sure," said Scattergood, who knew well that such an extension was
not only impracticable from the point of view of engineering, but also
from the standpoint of traffic to be obtained. "Good idee."

"I'll pay you cost and a profit of twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Hain't interested special," said Scattergood. "I git that much fun out
of railroadin'."

"It isn't paying interest on your investment."

"I calculate it's goin' to. I'm aimin' to see it does."

"Set a figure yourself."

"Hain't got no figger in mind."

"Mr. Baines, I'll be frank with you. I want your railroad."

"So I jedged," said Scattergood.

"I _need_ it. I'll pay you a profit of fifty thousand--and that's my
last word."

Scattergood closed his eyes, opened them again, and sat erect. "Now that
business is over with," he said, "better come up and set down to table
with Mandy and me. Mandy's cookin' is considered some better 'n at the
hotel."

"You refuse?"

"I was wonderin'," said Scattergood, "if you had any notion if I could
buy the Goodhue timber reasonable?"

"Eh?" said Mr. Castle, startled. "The Goodhue timber?"

"Back of Tupper Falls."

"Who told--" Mr. Castle snapped his teeth together sharply.

"Leetle bird," said Scattergood. "Dinner's ready."

"There might come a time when you'd be mighty glad to sell for less than
I'm offering."

"Once there was a boy," said Scattergood, "and he up and says to another
boy, 'I kin lick you,' The story come to me that the boy sort of
overestimated his weight.'"

"I'm not threatening you," said Castle.

"It's a privilege I don't deny to nobody.... Say, Mr. Castle, be you
goin' into this deal to make money or to take somebody's scalp?"

"Baines," said Mr. Castle, "I'll buy you the best box of cigars in
Boston if you'll tell me where you get your information."

"Hatch it," said Scattergood, gravely. "Jest set patient onto the egg,
and perty soon the shell busts and there stands the information all
fluffy and wabbly and ready to grow up into a chicken if it's used
right."

"Will you answer a fair question?"

"If our idees of the fairness of it agrees with one another."

"Has McKettrick got to you first?"

It was the information Scattergood wanted, but his dumplinglike face
showed no sign of satisfaction. As a matter of fact, he did not know who
McKettrick was--but he could find out. "Don't seem to recall any
conversation with him," he said, cautiously, leaving Castle to believe
what he desired--and Castle believed.

"He was keeping his plans almighty dark. I don't understand his spilling
them to you. It cost _me_ money to find out."

"Dinner's waitin'," said Scattergood.

"Did he offer to buy your road?"

"If he did," said Scattergood, "it didn't come to nothin'."

It will be observed that Scattergood had obtained important information,
though affording none, and in addition had surrounded himself with a
haze through which President Castle was unable to see clearly. Castle
knew less after the interview than he had known when he came;
Scattergood had discovered all he hoped to discover.

Johnnie Bones came home next noon and reported to Scattergood that he
had been partially successful.

"I couldn't get all of that flat," he said. "Somebody's been buying on
the quiet. Three strips from the river to the hill were not to be had,
but I bought four strips, two at the ends and two between the pieces I
couldn't get."

"Better call it a side of bacon, Johnnie. Strip of fat and strip of
lean. Dunno but it's better as it lays. Hear anythin' about the Goodhue
tract?"

"Somebody's been cruising it for a month back--without a brass band."

"Um!... Send a wire, Johnnie. Lumberman's Trust Company, Boston. Set
price Goodhue tract...."

Johnnie telephoned the wire. Two hours later the answer came, "Goodhue
tract no longer in our hands."

"Did you ever wonder, Johnnie, why I never got int'rested into that
Goodhue timber?"

Johnnie shook his head.

"Because," said Scattergood, "you got to log it by rail. Forty thousand
acres of it, and no stream runnin' through it big enough to drive logs
down.... But I got an idee, Johnnie, that loggin' by rail can be done
economical. Know who bought that timber?"

"No."

"McKettrick of the Seaboard Box and Paper Company, biggest concern of
the kind in America. Calc'late they'll be makin' pulp here to ship to
their paper mills. Calculate I'll give 'em a commodity rate of around
seven cents to the G. and B. Johnnie, our orchard's goin' to begin
givin' a crop. That'll give us sixteen dollars and eighty cents for
haulin' a minimum car of twenty-four thousand. And this hain't goin' to
be any one-car mill, neither. Five cars a day'll be increasin' our
revenue twenty-four thousand three hunderd dollars a year--on outgoin'
freight. Then there's incomin' freight to figger. All we got to do is
set still and take _that_. Beauty of controllin' the transportation of a
region. But it seems like we ought to git more out of it than that--if
we stir around some. Especial when you come to consider that McKettrick
and Castle is flyin' at each other's throats. It's a situation, Johnnie,
that man owes a duty to himself to take advantage of."

Scattergood went back to his hardware store and seated himself on the
piazza. Presently a team drove up from down the valley and a tall, gaunt
individual, with hair of the color of a dead leaf, alighted.

"I was told I could find a man named Scattergood Baines here," he said.

"You kin," Scattergood replied.

"Where is he?"

"Sich as he is," said Scattergood, "you see him."

The man looked from Scattergood's shoeless feet and white woolen socks
to Scattergood's shabby, baggy trousers, and then on upward, by slow and
disapproving degrees, to Scattergood's guileless face, and there the
scrutiny stopped.

"Some mistake," he said; "I want the owner of the Coldriver Valley
Railroad."

"It may be a mistake," said Scattergood. "Calculate it _is_ a mistake to
own a railroad. But 'tain't the only mistake I ever made."

"_You_ own the road?"

"Calculate to."

Evidently the stranger was not impressed by Scattergood in a manner to
arouse him to a notable exertion of courtesy. He allowed it to appear in
his manner that he set a light value on Scattergood; in fact, that it
was not exactly pleasant to him to be compelled to do business with such
a human being. Scattergood's eyes twinkled and he wriggled his toes.

"Well, Baines," said the stranger, "I want to talk business to you."

"Step into my private office," said Scattergood, motioning to a chair at
his side, "and rest your legs."

"I'm thinking of establishing a plant below," said the stranger. "A very
considerable plant. In studying the situation it seems as if your
railroad might be run as an adjunct to my business. I suppose it can be
bought."

"Supposing" said Scattergood, "is free as air."

"I'll take it off your hands at a fair figure."

"'Tain't layin' heavy on my hands," said Scattergood.

"How much did it cost you?"

"A heap less 'n I'll sell for.... You hain't mentioned your name."

"McKettrick."

Scattergood nodded.

"I'd sell to a man of that name."

"How much?"

"One million dollars," said Scattergood.

"You're--you're _crazy_," said McKettrick. It was an exclamation of
disgust, a statement of belief, and a cry of pain. "I might go a quarter
of a million."

"This here's a one-price store--marked plain on the goods. Customers is
requested not to haggle."

"You're not serious?"

"One million dollars."

"I'll build a road down my side of the river."

"Maybe. Can be done. Twelve mile of tunnel and the rest trestle.
Wouldn't cost more 'n fifteen, twenty million--if you're figgerin' on
the west side of the stream.... How you figgerin' on gettin' your pulp
wood down to Tupper Falls?"

"What?... What's that?"

"Goin' to log, yourself, or job it?"

"Look here, Baines, what do you know?"

"About what's needful. I try to keep posted."

"Tell me what you know. I insist."

Scattergood opened his eyes and peered over his dumpling cheeks at
McKettrick, but said nothing.

"And how you found it out."

"I've been figgerin' over your case," said Scattergood. "I'll give you a
sidetrack into your yards pervidin' you pay the cost of bridgin' and
layin' the track, me to furnish ties and rails. _Also_, I'll give you a
commodity rate of seven cents to the G. and B. As to sellin', I don't
calc'late you want to buy at a million. But that hain't no sign you and
me can't do business. You got to log by rail. You got to cut consid'able
number of cords of pulpwood. I'll build your loggin' road, and I'll
contract to cut your pulp and deliver it.... Want to go into it with
me?"

McKettrick peered at Scattergood with awakened interest. His scrutiny
told him nothing.

"What backing have you?"

"My own."

McKettrick almost sneered.

"Been lookin' me up?" asked Scattergood.

"No."

"Let's step to the bank."

McKettrick followed Scattergood's bulky figure-wondering.

In the bank Scattergood presented the treasurer. "Mr. Noble, meet Mr.
McKettrick. He wants you should tell him somethin' about me. For
instance, Noble, about how fur you calculate my credit could be
stretched."

"Mr. Baines would have no difficulty borrowing from five hundred
thousand to three quarters of a million," said Noble.

"How's his reppitation for keepin' his word?" said Scattergood.

"The whole state knows your word is kept to the letter."

"What you calculate I'm wuth--visible prop'ty?"

"I'd say a million and a half to two millions."

"Backin' enough to suit you, Mr. McKettrick?" asked Scattergood.

McKettrick wore a dazed look. Scattergood did not look like two
millions; he did not look like ten thousand. His bearing became more
respectful.

"I'll listen to any proposition you wish to make," he said.

"Come over to Johnnie Bones's," said Scattergood.

In a moment they were sitting in Johnnie's office, and McKettrick and
Johnnie were acquainted.

"Here's my proposition," said Scattergood. "I'll build and equip a
loggin' road accordin' to your surveys. You furnish right of way and
enough money to give you forty-nine per cent of the stock in the company
we'll form. I kin build cheaper 'n you, and I know the country and kin
git the labor. You pay the new railroad a set price for haulin'
pulpwood--say dollar 'n a quarter to two dollars a cord, as we figger it
later.... Then I'll take the job of loggin' for you and layin' down the
pulpwood at sidings. It'll save you labor and expense and trouble. I've
showed I was responsible. The new railroad company'll put up bonds, and
so'll the loggin' company--if you say so."

This was the beginning of some weeks of negotiations, during which
Scattergood became convinced that McKettrick was wishful of using him so
long as he proved useful; then, when the day arrived for a showing of
profit on the profit sheet, the same McKettrick was planning to see that
no profit would be there and that Scattergood Baines should be
eliminated from consideration--to McKettrick's profit in the sum of
whatever amount Scattergood invested in the construction of the
railroad. It was a situation that exactly suited Scattergood's love of
business excitement.

"If McKettrick had come up here wearin' better manners," said
Scattergood to Johnnie, "and if he hadn't got himself all rigged out as
little Red Ridin' Hood's grandmother--figgerin' I'd qualify for little
Red Ridin' Hood without the eyesight for big ears and big teeth that
little girl had--why, I might 'a' give him a reg'lar business deal. But
seem's he's as he is, I calc'late I'm privileged to git what I kin git."

Therefore Scattergood made it a clause in the contract that all the
stock in the new railroad and construction company should remain in his
own name until the road was completed and ready to operate. Then 49 per
cent should be transferred to McKettrick. This McKettrick regarded as a
harmless eccentricity of the lamb he was about to fleece.

The new company was organized with Johnnie Bones as president,
Scattergood as treasurer, an employee of McKettrick's as secretary, and
Mandy Baines and another employee of McKettrick's as the remaining two
directors.

While the negotiations regarding the railroad were being carried on,
another matter arose to irritate Mr. McKettrick, and, in some measure,
to take the keen edge off his attention. Scattergood usually endeavored
to have some matter arise to irritate and distract when he was engaged
on a major operation, and it was for this reason he had bought the four
strips of land at Tupper Falls.

McKettrick awoke suddenly to find that his men had not secured the site
for his mills, and that, apparently, it could not be secured. He
discussed the thing with Scattergood.

"Prob'ly some old scissor bills that got a notion of hangin' on to their
land," Scattergood said.

"It can't be that, for the sales to the present owners were recent. The
new owners refuse absolutely to sell."

"And pulp mills hain't got no right of eminent domain like railroads."

"All substantial businesses ought to have it," said McKettrick. "You
know these folks. I wish you'd see what you can do."

"Glad to," Scattergood promised, and two days later he reported that all
four landowners might be brought to terms. Three would sell, surely; one
was holding back strangely, but the three had put the matter into the
hands of a local real-estate and insurance broker, by name Wangen.
"We'll go see him," said Scattergood.

Which they did. "My clients," said Wangen, importantly, "realize the
value of their property. That, I may say, is why they bought."

"It cost the three of 'em less 'n three thousand dollars for the three
passels," said Scattergood.

"Prices have gone up," said Wangen.

"Give them two hundred dollars profit apiece," said McKettrick.

"Consid'able difference between givin' it and their takin' it," said
Scattergood. "I agree with that," said Wangen.

"Now, Wangen, you and me has done consid'able business," said
Scattergood, "and you hain't goin' to hold up a friend of mine."

"If it was a personal thing, Mr. Baines; but I've got to do my best for
my clients."

"What's your proposition?"

"Five thousand dollars apiece for the three strips."

"It's an outrage," roared McKettrick. "I'll never be robbed like that."

"Take it," said Wangen, "or leave it."

"You've _got_ to have it," Scattergood whispered.

McKettrick spluttered and stormed and pleaded, but Wangen was firm and
gave but one answer. There could be but one result: McKettrick wrote a
check for fifteen thousand dollars--and still had one strip to buy--a
strip not at an edge of his mill site, but bisecting it.

This strip caused the worry when Scattergood needed attention distracted
the most. But Scattergood managed finally to secure it for McKettrick
for seventy-five hundred dollars. Thus it will be seen how Scattergood
resorted to the law of necessity, and how McKettrick suffered from
failure to build securely his commercial structure from its foundation.
Twenty-two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars were paid by
McKettrick for land that had cost Scattergood exactly three thousand six
hundred dollars. Scattergood believed in always paying for services
rendered, so Wangen and each of the four ostensible landowners were
given a hundred dollars. Net profit to Scattergood, eighteen thousand
one hundred and fifty dollars.

"Which it wouldn't 'a' cost him if he hadn't looked sneerin' at my
stockin' feet," said Scattergood to Johnnie Bones.

Johnnie Bones prepared the papers for the incorporation of the new
railroad, and the organization was perfected. There were two thousand
shares of one hundred dollars each. McKettrick put in his right of way
at five thousand, an excessive figure, as Scattergood knew well, and
gave his check for the balance of his 49 per cent. Scattergood deposited
a check for his 51 per cent, or one hundred and two thousand dollars.
Work was begun grading the right of way immediately.

McKettrick vanished from the region and did not appear again except for
flying visits to his rising plant at Tupper Falls. He never inspected so
much as a foot of the new railroad back into the Goodhue tract--and
this, Scattergood very correctly took to be suspicious. The work was
left utterly in Scattergood's hands, with no check upon him and no
inspection. It was not like a man of McKettrick's character--unless
there were an object.

Once or twice Scattergood encountered President Castle of the G. & B.
while the road was building.

"Hear you're putting in a logging road for McKettrick," he said.

"For me," said Scattergood. "Stock stands in my name. Calculate to
operate it myself."

"Oh!" said Castle, and drummed with his fingers on the window ledge.
Scattergood said nothing.

"Own the right of way?" asked Castle.

"'Tain't precisely a right of way," said Scattergood. "It's a easement,
or property right, or whatever the lawyers would call it, to run tracks
over any part of McKettrick's property and operate a loggin'
railroad--where McKettrick says he wants to get logs from."

"No definite right of way?"

"Jest what I described."

"Capitalized for two hundred thousand, I see."

"Uh-huh!"

"Any stock for sale?"

"Not at the present writin'."

"At a price?"

"Wa-al, now--"

"Say a profit of twenty dollars a share."

"It'll pay dividends on more 'n that figger," said Scattergood,
"which," he added, "you know dum well."

"Yes," said Castle, "but for a quick turnover--and I'm not figuring
dividends altogether."

"Kind of got a bone to pick with McKettrick, eh?"

"Maybe."

"Tell you what I'll do," said Scattergood. "I'll sell you forty-nine per
cent of the stock at a hunderd and twenty. Stock to stand in my name
till the road's ready to operate, I don't want it known I've been
sellin' any.... Shouldn't be s'prised if you was able to pick up control
one way and another--but I hain't goin' to sell it to you."

"I see," said Castle, closing his eyes and squinting through a slit
between the lids. "It's a deal, Mr. Baines," he said, presently.

"Cash," said Scattergood.

"You'll find a certified check in the mail the day after I get the
proper papers."

Which transaction gave Scattergood another profit on the whole affair of
nineteen thousand six hundred dollars--this time a capitalization of the
spite of man toward man. It will be seen that McKettrick owned 49 per
cent of the stock, Castle, 49 per cent, and Scattergood, 2 per cent. He
was now in a position to await developments.

They arrived as the railway was on the point of running its first train.
McKettrick brought them in person. He burst upon Scattergood as
Scattergood sat in front of his hardware store, and began to storm.

"What's this? What's this?" he roared. "What's that railroad doing up
the easterly side of our timber? It's waste money, lost money. It'll
have to be rebuilt. We've made all arrangements to cut off the westerly
side. Now we'll have to swamp roads and log by team till the road can be
moved."

"Um!..." said Scattergood, "so _that's_ it, eh? I was wonderin' how it
would come."

"It was an inexcusable blunder, and it'll cost you money. You know how
the railroad's contract with the company reads. Who gave you directions
to run up the easterly side?"

"My engineer got 'em in your office."

"Oh, your engineer. He made the mistake, eh? Then the mistake's yours,
all right, for every scrap of writing in our office has the word
'westerly' in it, plain and distinct. It means tearing up those rails,
grading a new line--and you'll pay for it. I sha'n't stand loss for your
mistake. It'll cost you a hundred thousand dollars for that blunder."

"Hain't you discoverin' it a mite late?"

"It was left wholly to you."

"Seems like I noticed it," said Scattergood. "So all that work's lost,
eh? Seems a pity, too."

"You don't seem to take it seriously."

"You bet I do, and I calculate to look into it _some_."

"It won't do any good. The mistake is plain."

"Shouldn't be s'prised. I git your idee, McKettrick. You've been
figgerin' from the start on smougin' me out of what I invested in that
road, eh?... By the way, your stock's in your name. I'll git the
certificates out of the safe."

McKettrick shoved the envelope in his pocket. "The Seaboard Box and
Paper Company will force you to remove your tracks from our land. I'll
sue you for damages for your blunder. The Seaboard will sue the new
railroad for damages for failure to have the tracks into the cuttings
on time. I guess when we begin collecting judgments by levying on the
new road, there won't be much of it left. The Seaboard will come pretty
close to owning it."

"And you and I will be frozen out, eh?" said Scattergood.

McKettrick purred and smiled. "Exactly," he said. "Now, my advice to you
is not to fight the thing. You can't deny the blunder and you'll save
cost of litigation."

"What's your proposition?"

"Transfer your stock to the Seaboard."

"And lose a hunderd and two thousand?"

"It's not our fault if you make expensive mistakes."

"Course not," said Scattergood. "I admit I hain't much on litigation.
S'posin' you and me meets in Boston to-morrow with our lawyers, and sort
of figger this thing out."

"There's nothing to figure out--but I'll meet you to-morrow. You're
sensible to settle."

"Calc'late I be," said Scattergood.

That afternoon Johnnie Bones carried President Castle's 49 per cent of
the railroad's stock to the G. & B. offices, and gave them into the
hands of the railroad's chief executive.

"Mr. Baines will be here to-morrow. There will be a meeting at his hotel
at three o'clock. McKettrick will be there."

"I'll come," said President Castle.

The meeting was held in the shabby hotel which Scattergood patronized.
McKettrick was there with his attorney, Scattergood was there with
Johnnie Bones--and last came President Castle.

At his entrance McKettrick scowled and leaped to his feet.

"What do _you_ want here?" he demanded.

"Well," said Mr. Castle, with a smile which descended into great depths
of disagreeability, "I own forty-nine per cent of the stock in this
concern. I imagine I have a right to be here."

"What's that? What's that?" McKettrick glared at Scattergood, who sat
placidly removing his shoes.

"Calc'late I'll relieve my feet," he said.

"So I got you, too," McKettrick said to Castle. "I didn't figure on
_that_ luck."

"Got me? I'm interested."

McKettrick explained at length, and, as he explained, Castle glared at
him, and then at Scattergood, with increasing rage. As he saw it there
was a plot between Scattergood and McKettrick to get him--and he
appeared to have been gotten. He started to speak, but Scattergood
stopped him.

"Jest a minute, Mr. Castle," he said. "'Tain't time for you to cuss yet.
Maybe you won't git to do no reg'lar cussin' a-tall. You see, McKettrick
he up and made a little error himself. Regardin' me makin' an error.
Yass.... I don't calc'late to make errors costin' upward of a hunderd
thousand. No.... Not," he said, "that I got any doubts about the word
'westerly' appearin' in all the papers McKettrick's got regardin' this
enterprise. What I doubt some is whether the word 'westerly' was there
right from the start off of the beginnin'. In other words, it looks to
me kind of as if McKettrick had done a mite of fixin' up to them
documents. Rubbin' out and writin' in, so to speak."

"Fiddlesticks!" said McKettrick. "Of course that is what you would
charge."

"McKettrick," said Scattergood, "did you figger I'd take notes in lead
pencil on my cuff of where I was to build that railroad? Did you figger
I was goin' to lay down a railroad without knowin' the place I put it
was where it b'longed? Castle he knows me better 'n you, and he
wouldn't guess I'd do sich a thing. No, sir, Mr. McKettrick. I took
them original papers out of your office for jest a day, and bein' as
they constituted an easement on land, I got 'em recorded in the office
of the recorder of deeds. Paid reg'lar money in fees to have it done.
And who you think I got to compare the records with the original in case
somethin' come up, eh? Why, the circuit jedge of this county and the
prosecutin' attorney--they both bein' personal and political friends of
mine.... That's what I done, and if you'll search them records you'll
find the word 'easterly' standin' cool and ca'm in every place where it
ought to be.... So, if you're figgerin' on litigation, I guess maybe
we'll litigate, eh?"

"These are the references to the records," said Johnnie Bones, laying a
memorandum on the table. "You'll find them correct."

"Knowing Baines as I do," said President Castle, "I'm satisfied."

McKettrick and his attorney were conversing in hoarse whispers.
McKettrick looked like a man who had come out of a warm bath into a
cold-storage room. He was speechless, but his lawyer spoke for him.

"You win," he said, succinctly.

"Always calc'late to when I kin," said Scattergood. "Now, don't hurry,
gentlemen. I got another leetle matter to call to your attention.
McKettrick there's got forty-nine per cent of the stock in the railroad
that's built where it ought to be, and Castle's got another forty-nine
per cent. That leaves two men with all but two per cent of the stock,
and neither of them in control. If I know them men they hain't apt to
git together and agree peaceable and reasonable. Therefore, the feller
that has the remainin' two per cent of the stock, or forty shares,
stands perty clost to controllin' the corporation, eh? Him votin' with
either of the forty-nine per cents? Sounds that way, don't it?... And I
got that two per cent.... Do I hear any suggestions?"

Castle stood up and bowed. "I take off my hat to you, Baines.... I bid
ten thousand."

"Eleven," choked McKettrick.

"This here road's goin' to be mighty profitable. Contract with the
Seaboard folks makes it look like it would pay eighteen, twenty per cent
on the investment, maybe more. And control--hain't that wuth a figger?"

"Fifteen," said Castle.

"Sixteen."

"Seventeen five hundred."

"That's enough," said Scattergood. "I got a leetle grudge ag'in'
McKettrick for havin' bad manners, and for regardin' me as somethin' to
pick and eat. It'll hurt him some to have you control this road, Castle,
so you git it, at seventeen thousand five hunderd. I don't want to burn
you, and I calc'late the figger you're payin' is clost to bein' fair.
I'm satisfied. Write a check."

Castle drew out his check book, and in a moment passed the valuable slip
across to Scattergood. "Thankee," said Baines, "and good day.... Another
time, McKettrick, don't look sneerin' at white woolen socks."

He walked out of the room, followed by Johnnie Bones.

"Perty fair deal for a scissor bill," said Scattergood. "This last
check, deductin' four thousand as cost of stock, gives me a profit of
twelve thousand two hunderd and fifty for the day. Add that to eighteen
thousand one hunderd and fifty on the strips of land, and nineteen
thousand six hunderd on the stock I sold Castle first, and what do we
git?"

"Even fifty thousand," said Johnnie.

"I always did cotton to round figgers," said Scattergood, comfortably.
"Let's git us a meal of vittles."



CHAPTER VI

INSURANCE THAT DID NOT LAPSE


Scattergood Baines was not a man to shingle his roof before he built his
foundations. He knew the value of shingles, and was not without some
appreciation for frescoes and porticoes and didos, but he liked to reach
them in the ordinary course of logical procedure. His completed
structure, according to the plans carefully printed on his brain, was
the domination of Coldriver Valley through ownership of its means of
transportation and of its water power. He wanted to be rich, not for the
sake of being rich, but because a great deal of money is, aside from
love or hate, the most powerful lever in the world. For five years, now,
Scattergood had moved along slowly and irresistibly, buying a bit of
timber here, acquiring a dam site there, taking over the stage line to
the railroad twenty-four miles away, and establishing a credit and a
reputation for shrewdness that were worth much more to him than dollars
and cents in the bank.

As a matter of fact, Scattergood had amassed considerable more money
than even the gimlet eyes and whispering tongues of Coldriver had been
able to credit him with. It is doubtful if anybody realized just how
strong a foot-hold Scattergood was getting in that valley, but the men
who came closest to it were Messrs. Crane and Keith, lumbermen, who were
beginning to experience a feeling of growing irritation toward the fat
hardware merchant. They were irritated because, every now and then, they
found themselves shut off from the water, or from a bit of timber, or
from some other desirable property, by some small holding of
Scattergood's which seemed to have dropped into just the right spot to
create the maximum amount of trouble for them. It could be nothing but
chance, they told each other, for they had sat in judgment on
Scattergood, and their judgment had been that he was a lazy lout with
more than a fair share of luck.

"It's nothing but luck," Crane told his partner. "The man hasn't a brain
in his head--just a big lump of fat."

"But he's always getting in the way--and he does seem to know a
water-power site when he sees it."

"Anybody does," said Crane. "He's a doggone nuisance and we might as
well settle with him one time as another--and the time to settle is
before his luck gives him a genuine strangle hold on this valley. We've
got too much timber on these hills to take any risks."

"I leave it with you, Crane. You're the outside man. But when you bust
him, bust him good."

Crane retired to his office and devoted his head to the subject
exclusively, and because Crane's head was that sort of head he devised
an enterprise which, if Scattergood could be made to involve himself in
it, would result in the extinction of that gentleman in the Coldriver
Valley.

It was a week later that a gentleman, whose clothes and bearing
guaranteed him to be a genuine denizen of the city, stopped at
Scattergood's store. Scattergood was sitting, as usual, on the piazza,
in his especially reinforced chair, laying in wait for somebody to whom
he could sell a bit of hardware, no matter how small.

"Good morning," said the gentleman. "Is this Mr. Scattergood Baines?"

"It's Scattergood Baines, all right. Don't call to mind bein' christened
Mister."

"My name is Blossom."

"Perty name," said Scattergood, unsmilingly.

"I wonder if I can have a little talk with you, Mr. Baines?"

"Havin' it, hain't you?"

Mr. Blossom smiled appreciatively, and sat down beside Scattergood. "I'm
interested in the new Higgins's Bridge Pulp Company. You've heard of it,
haven't you?"

"Some," said Scattergood. "Some."

"We are starting to build our mill. It will be the largest in America,
with the most modern machinery. Now we're looking about for somebody to
supply us spruce cut to the proper length for pulpwood. You own
considerable spruce, do you not?"

"Calc'late to have title to a tree or two."

"Good. I came up to find out if you are in a position to swing a rather
big contract--to deliver us at the mill a minimum of twenty-five
thousand cords of pulpwood?"

"Depends," said Scattergood.

Mr. Blossom drew a jackknife from his pocket and began leisurely to
sharpen a pencil. It was a rather battered jackknife, and Scattergood
noticed that one blade had been broken off. He stretched out his hand.
"Jackknife's kind of lame, hain't it? Don't 'pear to be as stylish as
the rest of you?"

"It is a bit dilapidated."

"Got some good ones inside. Fine line of jackknives. Only carry the
best. Show 'em to you."

He lifted himself out of the groaning chair and went into the store, to
return with a dozen or more knives, which he showed to Mr. Blossom, and
Mr. Blossom looked at them gravely. He was smiling to himself. A man who
could interrupt a deal involving upward of a hundred thousand dollars to
try to sell a jackknife certainly was not of a caliber to give serious
worry to an astute business man.

"Recommend the pearl-handled one," said Scattergood. "Two dollars 'n' a
half."

"I'll take it," said Mr. Blossom, and he stuck his old knife in a post,
replacing it in his pocket with the new purchase.

"Cash," said Scattergood, and Mr. Blossom handed over the currency.

"Speakin' of pulpwood," said Scattergood, "how much you figger on
payin'?"

Mr. Blossom named a price, delivered at the mill.

"Pay when?"

"On delivery."

"When want it delivered, eh? What date?"

"Before May first."

"Water power or steam?" said Scattergood, somewhat irrelevantly.

"Both. We're putting in steam engines and boilers, but we're going to
depend mostly on water power."

"Goin' to build a dam, eh? Big dam?"

"Yes."

"Um!... Stock company?"

"Yes. We'll be solid. Capitalized for a quarter of a million and bonded
for a quarter of a million. Gives us half a million capital to start
business."

"Stock all sold?"

"Every share."

"Who to?"

"Mostly in small blocks in Boston."

"Um!... Bonds sold?"

"Yes."

"Who bought 'em?"

"They're underwritten by the Commonwealth Security Trust Company."

"Want to know!... Got authority? Vested with authority to put it in
writin'?"

"The contract, you mean?"

"Calculate to mean that."

"Yes."

"Lawyer acrost the street," said Scattergood.

"You can swing it?"

"Calculate to."

"You have the capital to make good?"

"Know I have, don't you? Wouldn't have come to me if you hadn't?"

"You'll have to borrow heavily."

"My lookout, hain't it? Don't need to worry you?"

"Not in the least."

"Lawyer's still acrost the street."

So Scattergood and Mr. Blossom went across the street and up the narrow
stairs to Lawyer Norton's office, where a contract was drafted and
signed, obligating Scattergood to deliver to the Higgins's Bridge Pulp
Company twenty-five thousand cords of pulp, on or before May 1st,
payment to be made on delivery. Mr. Blossom went away wearing a
satisfied expression, and in the course of the day sent to Crane & Keith
a brief message, a message of two words. "He bit," was the telegram.

Scattergood went back to his chair, and presently might have been seen
to unlace his shoes absent-mindedly. For an hour he sat there, twiddling
his bare toes. Then he got up, jerked Mr. Blossom's old jackknife from
the post where it had been abandoned, and pocketed it.

"If nothin' else happens," he said to himself, "I'm figgered to make a
profit of sixty cents and a tradin' knife."

There followed a very busy fall and winter for Scattergood. Not that he
neglected his hardware store, but from its porch, and later from a post
beside its big stove, he recruited men for his camps and directed the
labor of cutting and piling pulpwood along the banks of Coldriver.
Also, from time to time, he visited various banks to borrow the money
necessary to carry on the operation, sometimes on notes and collateral,
sometimes on timber mortgages. The sum of his borrowing mounted and
mounted, until, before the arrival of spring, his credit had been
strained to the uttermost.

Nor had the pulp company been idle. Its new mills had arisen beside the
river at Higgins's Bridge, machinery had been installed, and the little
hamlet was beginning to speculate in town lots and to look forward to
unexampled prosperity.

But before the ice was out of the river disquieting rumors began to
breathe out of Higgins's Bridge. They were the meerest vapor of
conjecture at first, apparently based upon no evidence whatever, but
friends delighted to convey them to Scattergood, as friends always
delight to perform such a disagreeable duty.

"Hear things hain't goin' right down to the new pulp mill," said Deacon
Pettybone, one bitterly cold afternoon, when he came into Scattergood's
store to thaw the icicles out of his sparse beard.

"Do tell," said Scattergood.

"Be perty bad for you if they was to go wrong, wouldn't it?"

"Perty bad, Deacon."

"'Most ruin you, wouldn't it? Clean you out? Leave you with nothin'?"

"Hain't mortgaged my health. Hain't mortgaged my brains. Have them left,
Deacon. Don't figger I'm clean bankrupt till them two is gone."

But it was to be noticed that Scattergood toasted his bare toes a great
deal during the ensuing days. He scarcely put on his shoes except when
he was going out to wallow through the drifts; and, as Coldriver knew,
when Scattergood waggled his bare toes he was struggling with a
problem.

Also it might have been noticed that he pored much over the detailed
maps in the county atlas, studying the flow of streams and the lie of
timber. It might have been seen that several large blocks of timber had
been marked by Scattergood with red crosses, and that certain other
limits had been blotted out in black. The black pieces were neither
numerous nor individually extensive, but they belonged to Scattergood.
Those marked with red crosses were the property of Messrs. Crane &
Keith.

Now, it may be taken as axiomatic that in those early days the value of
a piece of timber depended upon its accessibility to flowing water down
which logs might be driven. A medium piece of timber on the banks of a
stream which came to plentiful flood in the spring was worth more in
hard dollars and cents than a much larger and finer piece back in the
hills. A piece of timber which had no access whatever to water
approximated worthlessness. On the atlas, the largest pieces of Crane &
Keith timber were back from the river--not too far back, but still
separated from it by narrow strips which, for the most part, were farms.
Some few pieces ran down to the river, but it was apparent that Crane &
Keith were looking to the future--buying timber when it was at its
lowest, and preparing to hold for a better day. They had bought
strategically. More than one tributary valley was in their hands, and,
when the day ripened, small land purchases would connect their holdings,
bring them to water, and place them in such a commanding position that
the valley would be as surely theirs as if they owned every foot of it.
Inasmuch as Scattergood planned, himself, to control Coldriver Valley,
the prospect was not pleasing to him.

Scattergood closed the atlas and put on his shoes. "Um!..." he said.
"Calculate that'll keep their minds off'n other things a spell. If
they see me dickerin' there, they won't figger I'm dickerin' some place
else."

If Scattergood had been a general, history would have recorded that he
won his battles by making feints at some vulnerable point in the enemy's
line, and then struck his major blow at a distance where he was not
suspected to be operating at all.

It chanced that Crane & Keith were cutting timber from the Bottle--a
valley so named. Their rollways were piled high, and it was time for
them to team to the river. To reach the river they must pass through the
Bottleneck and over the farm belonging to Old Man Plumm. There was
another road into the valley--a public road--but it was a fifteen-mile
haul. Old Man Plumm was a non-assertive person, and good-natured. His
farm was a ramshackle, down-at-heels, worthless place, off which he
gleaned the meagerest of livelihoods, so that he had not been averse to
permitting Crane & Keith to traverse his land for a nominal
consideration. It was cheaper for Crane & Keith than purchase--and so
the matter stood.

Scattergood went across the road to Lawyer Norton's office.

"Goin' up Bottleneck way perty soon?" he asked.

"Not that I know of, Scattergood."

"Nice drive. Old Man Plumm's got a farm there."

"I know that, of course."

"Don't figger to visit him?"

"Why--" said Norton, beginning to see that Scattergood had something in
view--"I could."

"Wouldn't try to buy the farm, would you?"

Norton hesitated. "I--I might."

"Cash?"

"Why, I suppose so."

"In your own name, eh? Not in anybody else's."

"How much should I pay?"

"Folks always pays what they have to--no more--no less. Immediate
possession. Always a good thing. Got any money?"

"No."

"Call at the bank. They'll give you what's needed. Ought to be back with
the deed by night. Fast hoss?"

"Fast enough."

"G'-by, Norton."

That night Norton returned with the deed and with Old Man Plumm, who
took the morning stage for Connecticut and his youngest daughter.

"Hear folks is trespassin' on your land, Norton. Name of Crane and
Keith. Haulin' logs acrost. No contract with you? No contract with
Plumm?"

"No contract."

"Hain't got a right to do it, have they?"

"No."

"If I owned that land I'd give 'em notice," said Scattergood. "G'-by,
Norton. Goin'to Boston to-day. Set tight, Norton. G'-by."

Twenty-four hours later both Crane and Keith were in Coldriver, storming
up to Lawyer Norton's office. Scattergood was in Boston and not visible.

"What does this mean?" blustered Crane, displaying to Norton the notice
mailed at Scattergood's direction.

"What it says."

"You can't stop us hauling to the river."

Norton shrugged his shoulders. "You can use the state road."

"Fifteen miles! You know it's impossible. We've got millions of feet on
our rollways. It'll doze and spoil if we don't get it out."

"That's your lookout."

"What do you want?"

"Nothing."

"It's some kind of a hold-up. What'll you take for that farm?"

"Not for sale."

"What will it cost us to haul across you?"

"You can't haul across. Not for money, marbles, or chalk. Use the road."

That was the best Crane & Keith could get out of Norton, though they
besieged him for a week, though they consulted lawyers, though they made
threats, and though they begged and promised. Norton was a stubborn man.

During this week Scattergood had been in Boston. His first visit had
been to Linderman, president of the Atlantic Pulp and Paper Company.

"Have you an appointment with Mr. Linderman?" asked a clerk.

"Never heard of me."

"Then I'm afraid you can't see him. He's very busy."

"That his office? That door?"

"Yes."

"He in? Right in there?"

"Yes."

Scattergood walked calmly toward it. The slender clerk interposed.
Scattergood picked him up, tucked him under a huge arm, and waddled
through the great man's door.

"Howdy, Mr. Linderman? Howdy?"

Linderman looked up and frowned, then his eyes twinkled.

"Who are you? What have you there?"

"Young feller I found outside. 'Fraid of steppin' on him, so I picked
him up to save him. You can run along now, sonny," he said to the clerk.
"He let on I couldn't see you," Scattergood explained.

"What's your name?"

"Scattergood Baines."

"Of Coldriver?" Scattergood was surprised, but did not show it. "Yes."

"Sit down."

"Thankee.... Come to do a mite of business with you. Interested in pulp,
hain't you. Quite consid'able interested?"

"Very much."

"Know the Higgins's Bridge Pulp Company?"

"Of course. Understand they're in difficulties."

"In some, and goin' to be in more. That's why I come down."

Thereupon Scattergood explained in detail his contract with the pulp
company, and his theories of what that company was planning to do to
him. "Double barreled," he said. "Crane and Keith owns them bonds.
Figger on freezin' out the stockholders and buyin' 'em out for a song.
Figger on bustin' me. Next we hear the mill'll be in receiver's hands.
No money. Can't pay no contracts. My notes'll come due, and I'm done
for. Simple. Crane thought it up."

"What do you want of me? So far as I can see, you are up against it. You
can't borrow any more, and your notes won't be extended. You're done."

"Hain't started yet--not yet. Figger to start to-day. That's why I come
to see you."

"But I can do nothing for you."

"Higgins's Bridge mill's good, hain't it? Logical payin' proposition?
Money to be made?"

"Yes."

"Like to own it cheap?"

"Of course."

"Crane and Keith is gittin' ready for a killin'. Own big block of stock.
Paid par. Want to sell, I hear ... if anybody's fool enough to buy. Then
want to buy back for dum' near nothin' when receivership comes. Good
scheme. Money in it. Crane thought it up."

"What's your idea?"

"Buy all they got. Option the rest. Easy.... What happens when a man
sells somethin' he hain't got?"

"He has to get it some place."

"If he can't get it, what?"

"Makes it expensive for him."

"Thought so. Figgered that way.... Nobody to interfere. Crane and Keith
left orders to sell. They won't be takin' notice. Got 'em worried some
place else. Mighty worried." Scattergood recounted the story of Plumm's
farm.

Mr. Linderman scrutinized Scattergood intently and nodded his head. "And
you want me--"

"Put up the money. Git the stock. Lemme handle it. Gimme twenty per
cent."

"In stock?"

"Calc'late so."

"Baines," said Linderman, "I'll go you. Crane and Keith are due for a
lesson."

"Ready now?"

"Yes."

"G'-by, Mr. Linderman. Have money when I want it. G'-by."

Scattergood had a list of stockholders in the pulp company and knew they
were worried. He spent two days in interviewing a dozen of them, and
found little difficulty optioning their stock at a pleasant figure. They
imagined he must be crazy, and he did nothing to destroy the belief.

Then he called at the offices of Crane & Keith.

"Want to see the boss man," he said.

"What for?"

"Hear you got stock for sale. Pulp company. Figger to buy."

Here was a lamb ready for the slaughter. Mr. McCann, who received him,
could see the delight of his employers, and his own profit, if he
should succeed in taking this fat backwoodsman into camp.

"You want to buy stock in the pulp company, I understand?"

"Yes."

"How much?"

"How much you got?"

"Guess we can sell you all you want."

"Money-makin' proposition, hain't it?"

"Of course."

"But you're willin' to sell? Kind of funny, hain't it?"

"Oh no. We have so many enterprises."

"Glad you want to sell. I figger to make money on this stock. Want to
buy a lot of it."

"About how many shares?"

"What you askin'?" said Scattergood.

"Par."

"Shucks! Give you thirty."

There was haggling and bickering until a price of sixty was agreed upon,
and Mr. McCann's heart expanded with satisfaction.

"Now, how many shares?"

"Want control. Want fifty-one per cent, anyhow. Got 'em?"

"Of course." This was not the fact, but Mr. McCann was not addicted to
unnecessary facts. He knew where he could get the rest for less than 60.
There would be an additional profit and additional credit coming to him.
In cold reality, Crane & Keith owned some 40 per cent of the stock.

"Take all you'll sell."

"I can let you have fifteen hundred shares--for cash." This was an even
60 per cent, but McCann knew where he could get the other 20.

"Come to the bank. Come now. Give you the cash."

"I can't deliver but one thousand shares to-day, but I can give you the
other five hundred to-morrow."

"Suits me. Pay for 'em all to-day. Gimme what you got and a receipt for
the rest. Comin' to the bank?"

Mr. McCann put on his coat and hat and accompanied Scattergood to the
bank, where he received a certified check for the full amount, gave
Scattergood in return a thousand shares of stock, and a receipt which
recited that Scattergood had paid for five hundred shares more, to be
delivered within twenty-four hours.

Scattergood went to see Mr. Linderman; McCann went out to round up five
hundred shares of stock. By midnight he was a worried young man. The
stock he had thought to pick up so readily was not to be had. Everybody
seemed to have disposed of it and nobody seemed to know exactly who had
been doing the buying, for the options had been taken in a number of
names. Next morning McCann sought diligently until he found Scattergood.

"I've been a bit delayed in the delivery of the rest of the stock," he
told Scattergood, and there was cold moisture on his forehead. "Would
you mind waiting until to-morrow?"

"Guess I'll have to," said Scattergood. "G'-by. Better be movin' around
spry. I want to git back home."

That night McCann wired his employers to get back home as quickly as
conveyances would carry them. They did so, and in no happy mood, for
Lawyer Norton had remained immovable in his position. Young McCann told
his tale hesitatingly.

"Who did you say you sold to?" demanded Crane.

"Fat man by the name of Baines."

"Baines! He's busted. Hasn't a cent."

"Paid cash."

Crane looked at Keith and Keith looked at Crane. Just then the telephone
rang. It was Scattergood.

"Want to speak to Mr. Crane," he said.

"Hello!" Crane said, gruffly. "What's this about your buying pulp
company stock?"

"Bought some. Bought a little. Called up to see why your young man
wasn't deliverin'. Want to git home."

"Where did you get the money?"

"Have to know that? Have to know where it come from before you kin make
delivery? Hain't inquisitive, be you?"

Mr. Crane made use of language. "I want to see you--got to have a talk.
Come right down here."

"Jest been measurin'," said Scattergood, "and I figger it's a mite
longer from here to there than it is from there to here. If you want to
see me, here I be."

"Where?"

Scattergood gave an office address and hung up the receiver.

"They'll be here in a minnit," he said to Mr. Linderman, and he was not
exaggerating greatly as to the time required to bring the gentlemen to
him. "Know Mr. Linderman--Crane and Keith?" said Scattergood. "Come in
and set."

"What do you want with pulp company stock?" Crane demanded.

"Paper the kitchen. Maybe, if I kin git enough, I'll paper the parlor.
Lack five hunderd shares for the parlor. Got'em with you?"

"No, and we're not going to get them."

"Um!... Paid for 'em, didn't I? Got a receipt?"

"What's Linderman doing in this?"

Mr. Linderman leaned forward a little. "I'm in a legitimate business
transaction--something quite foreign to you gentlemen's notions of doing
business. I came into it to make a profit, but mostly to teach you
fellows a lesson in decent business methods. I don't like you. I don't
like your ways. If you like your ways you must expect to pay for the
pleasure you get out of them.... Mr. Baines is waiting for delivery of
the stock he bought."

"I suppose you know we haven't got it?"

"I do."

"We can't deliver."

"Yes, you can. Go out in the open market and buy. Now, I own a few
shares, for instance. I might sell."

The faces of Messrs. Crane and Keith did not picture lively enjoyment.
They were caught. If it had been Scattergood alone they might have
wriggled out of it, they thought, for they had scant respect for his
sagacity, but Linderman--well, Linderman was not to be trifled with.

"How much?" said Crane.

"You need five hundred shares. Par is a hundred, is it not? I will part
with mine for three hundred. First, last, and only offer. In ten minutes
the price goes up to three fifty, and fifty for each five minutes after
that."

"It's robbery ..." Mr. Crane spluttered, and made uncouth sounds of
rage.

"Now you know how the other fellow has been feeling. Seven minutes
left...."

Four more minutes sped before the surrender came.

"Certified check," said Mr. Linderman. "My messenger will go to the bank
for you."

The check was drawn for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and Crane
and Keith settled back sullenly.

"You can retain your bonds. I believe you have about a quarter of a
million dollars' worth of them. Glad to have you finance the mill for
me. It will, of course, go ahead under my direction," said Linderman. "I
guess I can iron out the difficulties you gentlemen have arranged for,
and there will be no receivership. That will relieve Mr. Baines, who has
a considerable contract with the company." Mr. Crane swore softly.

Scattergood heaved himself to his feet. "One other leetle matter, Crane.
There's the Plumm farm. Kind of exercised about that, hain't you? Stayed
up in the country a week to look after it--while I was dickerin' down
here.... Like to buy that farm?"

There was no answer.

"Calculate to take a hint from Mr. Linderman. That farm's mine, and you
can't haul a log acrost it. My price is fifteen thousand. Bought it for
two. Price goes up hunderd dollars a minute. Cash deal."

That surrender was more prompt, and a second check was sent to the bank
to be certified.

"G'-by, gentlemen," said Scattergood, and Messrs. Crane and Keith took
their departure in no dignified manner, but with rancor in their hearts,
which there was no method of salving.

"Let's take stock," said Scattergood. "Like to know jest how we come
out."

"Let's see. We bought the stock at an average of sixty dollars a share.
That makes a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in expenses, doesn't it?
The five hundred shares just transferred cost thirty thousand dollars
and we sold them for a hundred and fifty thousand. Profit on that part
of the deal is a hundred and twenty thousand dollars. That made the
total capital stock in the mill worth a quarter of a million of
anybody's money; cost us exactly thirty thousand dollars, didn't it?
Nice deal.... And you cleaned up an extra thirteen thousand on your side
issue. Not bad."

"I git five hunderd shares worth fifty thousand dollars, don't I? Then
my thirteen. That's sixty-three thousand. Then my profit on twenty-five
thousand cords of pulpwood--which is goin' to be paid, I jedge. That'll
be anyhow another twenty-five thousand. Calc'late this deal's about
fixed me so's I kin go ahead with a number of plans. Much obleeged, Mr.
Linderman. You come in handy."

"So did you, Mr. Baines. Mighty handy."

"Oh, me. I had to. I was jest takin' out reasonable insurance ag'in'
loss...."

"I guess you have a permanent insurance policy against loss, inside your
head."

"Um!..." said Scattergood, slipping his feet into his shoes, preparatory
to leaving, "difficulty about that kind of insurance is that most folks
lets it lapse 'long about the first week after they're born."



CHAPTER VII

HE BORROWS A GRANDMOTHER


The world has come to think of Scattergood Baines as an astute and
perhaps tricky business man, or as the political despot of a state.
Because this is so it has overlooked or neglected many stories about the
man much more indicative of character, and more fascinating of detail
than those well-known and often-repeated tales of his sagacity in
trading or his readiness in outwitting a political enemy. To one who
makes a careful study of Scattergood's life with a view to writing a
truthful biography, he inevitably becomes more interesting and more
lovable when seen simply as a neighbor, a fellow townsman of other New
Englanders, and as a country hardware merchant. There is a certain charm
in the naivete with which he was wont to stick his pudgy finger in the
affairs of others with benignant purpose; and it is not easy to believe
other tales of hardness, of ruthless beating down of opposition, when
one repeatedly comes upon well-authenticated instances in which he has
stood quietly hidden behind the scenes to pull the strings and to make
his neighbors bow and dance and posture in accordance with some schemes
which he has formulated for their greater happiness.

Scattergood loved to meddle. Perhaps that is his dominant trait. He
could see nothing moving in the community about him and withhold his
hand. If Old Man Bogle set about buying a wheelbarrow, Scattergood would
intervene in the transaction; if Pliny Pickett stopped at the Widow
Ware's gate to deliver a message, Scattergood saw an opportunity to
unite lonely hearts--and set about uniting them forthwith; if little Sam
Kettleman, junior, and Wade Lumley's boy, Tom, came to blows,
Scattergood became peacemaker or referee, as the needs of the moment
seemed to dictate. It would be difficult to find a pie in Coldriver
which was not marked by his thumb. So it came about that when he became
convinced that Grandmother Penny was unhappy because of various
restrictions and inhibitions placed on her by her son, the dry-goods
merchant, and by her daughter-in-law, he determined to intervene.
Scattergood was partial to old ladies, and this partiality can be traced
to his earliest days in Coldriver. He loved white hair and wrinkled
cheeks and eyes that had once been youthful and glowing, but were dulled
and dimmed by watching the long procession of the years.

Now he sat on the piazza of his hardware store, his shoes on the
planking beside him, and his pudgy toes wriggling like the trained
fingers of an eminent pianist. It was a knotty problem. An ordinary
problem Scattergood could solve with shoes on feet, but let the matter
take on eminent difficulty and his toes must be given freedom and elbow
room, as one might say. Later in life his wife, Mandy, after he had
married her, tried to cure him of this habit, which she considered
vulgar, but at this point she failed signally.

The facts about Grandmother Penny were, not that she was consciously ill
treated. Her bodily comfort was seen to. She was well fed and reasonably
clothed, and had a good bed in which to sleep. Where she was sinned
against was in this: that her family looked upon her white hair and her
wrinkles and arrived at the erroneous conclusion that her interest in
life was gone--in short, that she was content to cumber the earth and to
wait for the long sleep. To them she was simply one who tarries and is
content. Scattergood looked into her sharp, old eyes, eyes that were
capable of sudden gleams of humor or flashes of anger, and he _knew_. He
knew that death seemed as distant to Grandmother Penny as it had seemed
fifty years ago. He knew that her interest in life was as keen, her
yearning to participate in the affairs of life as strong, as they had
been when Grandfather Penny--now long gone to his reward--had driven his
horse over the hills with one hand while he utilized the other arm for
more important and delightful purposes.

Scattergood was remembering his own grandmother. He had known her as no
other living soul had known her, because she had been his boyhood
intimate, his defender, always his advocate, and because the boyish love
which he had given her had made his eyes keen to perceive. His parents
had fancied Grandma Baines to be content when she was in constant
revolt. They had supposed that life meant nothing more to her now than
to sit in a comfortable rocker and to knit interminable stockings and to
remember past years. Scattergood knew that the present compelled her
interest and that the future thrilled her. She wanted to participate in
life, to be in the midst of events--to continue to live so long as the
power of movement and of perception remained to her. He was now able to
see that the old lady had done much to mold his character, and as he
recalled incident after incident his face wore a softer, more melancholy
expression than Coldriver was wont to associate with it. He was
regretting that in his thoughtless youth he had failed to accomplish
more to make gladder his grandmother's few remaining years.

"I calc'late," said Scattergood to himself--but aloud--"that I'll kind
of substitute Grandmother Penny for Grandma Baines--pervidin' Grandma
Baines is fixed so's she kin see; more'n likely she'll understand what
I'm up to, and it'll tickle her--I'm goin' to up and borrow me a
grandmother."

He wriggled his toes and considered. What thing had his grandmother most
desired?

"Independence was what she craved," he said, and considered the point.
"She didn't want to be beholdin' to folks. She wanted to be fixed so's
she could do as she pleased, and nobody to interfere. I calc'late if
Grandma Baines 'd 'a' been left alone she'd 'a' found her another
husband and they'd 'a' had a home of their own with all the fixin's. It
wasn't so much doin' that grandma wanted, it was knowin' she _could_ do
if she wanted to."

Scattergood's specially reinforced chair creaked as he strained forward
to pick up his shoepacs and draw them on. It required no small exertion,
and he straightened up, red of face and panting a trifle. He walked up
the street, crossed the bridge, and descended to the little room under
the barber shop where the checker or cribbage championship of the state
was decided daily. Two ancient citizens were playing checkers, while a
third stood over them, watching with that thrilled concentration with
which the ordinary person might watch an only son essaying to cross
Niagara Falls on a tight rope. Scattergood knew better than to interrupt
the game, so he stood by until, by a breath-taking triple jump, Old Man
Bogle sent his antagonist down to defeat. Then, and only then, did
Scattergood speak to the old gentleman who had been the spectator.

"Morning Mr. Spackles," he said.

"Mornin', Scattergood. See that last jump of Bogle's? I swanny if
'twan't about as clever a move as I see this year."

"Mr. Spackles," said Scattergood, "I come down here to find out could I
ask you some advice. You bein' experienced like you be, it 'peared to
me like you was the one man that could help me out."

"Um!..." grunted Mr. Spackles, his old blue eyes widening with the
distinction of the moment. "If I kin be of any service to you, I
calculate I'm willin'. 'Tain't often folks comes to me for advice any
more, or anythin' else, for that matter. Guess they figger I'm too old
to 'mount to anythin'."

"Feel like takin' a mite of a walk?"

"Who? Me? I'm skittisher'n a colt this mornin'. Bet I kin walk twenty
mile 'fore sundown."

They moved toward the door, but there Mr. Spackles paused to look back
grandly upon the checker players. "Sorry I can't linger to watch you,
boys," he said, loftily, "but they's important matters me and
Scattergood got to discuss. Seems like he's feelin' the need of sound
advice."

When they were gone the checker players scrutinized each other, and then
with one accord scrambled to the door and stared out after Scattergood
and Mr. Spackles.

"I swanny!" said Old Man Bogle.

"What d'you figger Scattergood wanted of that ol' coot?" demanded Old
Man Peterson.

"Somethin' deep," hazarded Old Man Bogle. "I always did hold Spackles
was a brainy cuss. Hain't he 'most as good a checker player as I be?
What gits me, though, is how Scattergood come to pick him instid of me."

"Huh!..." grunted Old Man Peterson, and they resumed their game.

Scattergood walked along in silence for a few paces; then he regarded
Mr. Spackles appraisingly.

"Mr. Spackles," said he, deferentially, "I dunno when I come acrost a
man that holds his years like you do. Mind if I ask you jest how old you
be?"

"Sixty-six year," said Spackles.

"Wouldn't never 'a' b'lieved it," marveled Scattergood. "Wouldn't 'a'
set you down for a day more 'n fifty-five or six, not with them clear
eyes and them ruddy cheeks and the way you step out."

"Calc'late to be nigh as good as I ever was, Scattergood. J'ints creak
some, but what I got inside my head it don't never creak none to speak
of."

"What I want to ask you, Mr. Spackles," said Scattergood, "is if you
calc'late a man that's got to be past sixty and a woman that's got to be
past sixty has got any business hitchin' up and marryin' each other."

"Um!... Depends. I'd say it depends. If the feller was perserved like I
be, and the woman was his equal in mind and body, I'd say they was no
reason ag'in' it--'ceptin' it might be money."

"Ever think of marryin', yourself, Mr. Spackles?"

"Figgered some. Figgered some. But knowed they wasn't no use. Son and
daughter wouldn't hear to it. Couldn't support a wife, nohow. Son and
daughter calc'lates to be mighty kind to me, Scattergood, and gives me
dum near all I kin ask, but both of 'em says I got to the time of life
where it hain't becomin' in 'em to allow me to work."

"How much kin sich a couple as I been talkin' about live on?"

"When I married, forty-odd year ago, I was gittin' a dollar a day. Me
'n' Ma we done fine and saved money. Livin's higher now. Calc'late it
'u'd take nigh a dollar 'n' a half to git on comfortable."

"Figger fifty dollars a month 'u'd do it? Think that 'u'd be enough?"

"Scattergood, you listen here to me. I hain't never earned as much as
fifty dollar a month reg'lar in my whole life--and I got consid'able
pleasure out of livin', too." They had walked up the street until they
were passing the Penny residence. Grandmother Penny was sitting on the
porch, knitting as usual. She looked very neat and dainty as she sat
there in her white lace cap and her lavender dress.

"Fine-lookin' old lady," said Scattergood.

Mr. Spackles regarded Grandmother Penny and nodded with the air of a
connoisseur. "Dum'd if she hain't." He lifted his hat and yelled across
the road: "Mornin', Ellen."

"Mornin', James," replied Grandmother Penny, and bobbed her head. "Won't
you folks stop and set? Sun's a-comin' down powerful hot."

"Don't mind if we do," said Scattergood. He seated himself, and mopped
his brow, and fanned himself with his broad straw hat, whose flapping
brim was beginning to ravel about the edges. Presently he stood up.

"Got to be movin' along, Mis' Penny. Seems like I'm mighty busy off and
on. But I dunno what I'd do without Mr. Spackles, here, to advise with
once in a while. He's jest been givin' me the benefit of his thinkin'
this mornin'."

With inward satisfaction Scattergood noticed how the old lady turned a
pert, sharp look upon Mr. Spackles, regarding him with awakened
interest. To be considered a man of wisdom by Scattergood Baines was a
distinction in Coldriver even in those days, and for a man actually to
be consulted and asked for advice by the ample hardware merchant was to
lift him into an intellectual class to which few could aspire.

"I hope he gin you good advice, Scattergood," said Grandmother Penny.

"Allus does. If ever you're lookin' for level-headedness, and f'r a man
you kin depend on, jest send a call for Mr. Spackles. G'-by, ma'am.
G'-by, Mr. Spackles, and much 'bleeged to you."

Mr. Spackles was a little bewildered, for he had not the least idea
upon what subject he had advised Scattergood, but he was of an acuteness
not to pass by any of the advantage that accrued from the situation. He
replied, with lofty kindness, "Any time you want for to consult with me,
young man, jest come right ahead."

When Scattergood was gone, Mr. Spackles turned to the old lady and
waggled his head.

"Ellen, that there's a mighty promisin' young man. Time's comin' when
he's a-goin' to amount to suthin'. I'm a-calc'latin' on guidin' him all
I kin."

"I want to know," said Grandmother Penny, almost breathless at this new
importance of Mr. Spackles's, and Mr. Spackles basked in her admiration,
and added to it by apochryphal narratives of his relations with
Scattergood.

For a week Scattergood let matters rest. He was content, for more than
once he saw Mr. Spackles's faded overalls and ragged hat on the Penny
premises, and watched the old gentleman in animated conversation with
Grandmother Penny, who seemed to be perter and brighter and handsomer
than she had ever seemed before.

On one such day Scattergood crossed the street and entered the gate.

"Howdy, folks?" he said. "Wonder if I kin speak with Mr. Spackles
without interferin'?"

"Certain you kin," said Grandmother Penny, cordially.

"Got a important bankin' matter over to the county seat, Mr. Spackles,
and I was wonderin' if I could figger on your help?"

"To be sure you kin, Scattergood. To be sure."

"Got to have a brainy man over there day after to-morrer. B'jing! that's
circus day, too. Didn't think of that till this minnit. Wonder if you'd
drive my boss and buggy over and fix up a deal with the president of the
bank?"

"Glad to 'bleege," said the flattered Mr. Spackles.

"Circus day," Scattergood repeated. "Been to a circus lately, Mis'
Penny?"

"Hain't seen one for years."

"No?... Mr. Spackles, what be you thinkin' of? To be sure. Why, you kin
bundle Mis' Penny into the buggy and take her along with you! Finish the
business in no time, bein' spry like you be, and then you and her kin
take in the circus and the side show, and stay f'r the concert. How's
that?"

Mr. Spackles was suddenly red and embarrassed, but Grandmother Penny
beamed.

"Why," says she, "makes me feel like a young girl ag'in. To be sure I'll
go. Daughter'll make a fuss, but I jest don't care if she does. I'm
a-goin'."

"That's the way to talk," said Scattergood. "Mr. Spackles'll be round
f'r you bright and early. Now, if you kin spare him, I calc'late we got
to talk business."

When they were in the street Mr. Spackles choked and coughed, and said
with some vexation:

"You went and got me in f'r it that time."

"How so, Mr. Spackles? Don't you want to take Mis' Penny to the circus?"

"Course I do, but circuses cost money. I hain't got more 'n a quarter to
my name."

"H'm!... Didn't calc'late I was askin' you to take a day of your time
for _nothin_', did you? F'r a trip like this here, with a lot hangin' on
to it, I'd say ten dollars was about the fittin' pay. What say?"

Mr. Spackles's beaming face was answer enough.

Grandmother Penny and Mr. Spackles went to the circus in a more or less
surreptitious manner. It was a wonderful day, a successful day, such a
day as neither of them had expected ever to see again, and when they
drove home through the moonlight, across the mountains, their souls
were no longer the souls of threescore and ten, but of twoscore and one.

"Great day, wa'n't it, Ellen?" said Mr. Spackles, softly.

"Don't call to mind nothin' approachin' it, James."

"You be powerful good company, Ellen."

"So be you, James."

"I calculate to come and set with you, often," said James, diffidently.

"Whenever the notion strikes you, James," replied Grandmother Penny, and
she blushed for the first time in a score of years.

Two days later Pliny Pickett stopped to speak to Scattergood in front of
the hardware store. Pliny supplemented and amplified the weekly
newspaper, and so was very useful to Baines.

"Hear tell Ol' Man Spackles is sparkin' Grandmother Penny," Pliny said,
with a grin. "Don't figger nothin' 'll come of it, though. Their
childern won't allow it."

"Won't allow it, eh? What's the reason? What business is 't of theirn?"

"Have to support 'em. The ol' folks hain't got no money. Spackles 's got
two-three hunderd laid by for to bury him, and so's Grandmother Penny.
Seems like ol' folks allus lays by for the funeral, but that's every red
cent they got. I hear tell Mis' Penny's son has forbid Spackles's comin'
around the house."

This proved to be the fact, as Scattergood learned from no less an
authority than Mr. Spackles himself.

"Felt like strikin' him right there 'n' then," said Mr. Spackles,
heatedly, "but I seen 'twouldn't do to abuse one of Ellen's childern."

"Um!... Was you and Grandmother Penny figgerin' on hitchin' up?"
Scattergood asked.

"I put the question," said Mr. Spackles, with the air of a youth of
twenty, "and Ellen up and allowed she'd have me. But I guess 'twon't
never come off now. Seems like I'll never be content ag'in, and Ellen's
that downcast I shouldn't be a mite s'prised if she jest give up and
passed away."

"Difficulty's money, hain't it? Largely financial, eh?"

"Ya-as."

"Folks has got rich before. Maybe somethin' like that'll happen to you."

"Have to happen mighty suddin, Scattergood, if it aims to do any good in
this world."

"I've knowed men to invest a couple hunderd dollars into some venture
and come out at t'other end with thousands. You got couple hunderd,
hain't you?"

"Ellen and me both has--saved up to bury us."

"Um!... Git buried, anyhow. Law compels it. Doggone little pleasure
spendin' money f'r your own coffin. More sensible to git some good out
of it.... I'm goin' away to the city f'r a week or sich a matter. When I
come back we'll kind of thrash things out and see what's to be done.
Meantime, don't you and Grandmother Penny up and elope."

In this manner Scattergood planted the get-rich-quick idea in the head
of Mr. Spackles, who communicated it to Grandmother Penny in the course
of a clandestine meeting. The old folks discussed it, and hope made it
seem more and more plausible to them. Realizing the fewness of the days
remaining to them, they were anxious to utilize every moment. It was
Grandmother Penny who was the daring spirit. She was for drawing their
money out of the bank that very day and investing it somehow, somewhere,
in the hope of seeing it come back to them a hundredfold.

Scattergood had neglected to take into consideration Grandmother Penny's
adventuresome spirit; he had also neglected to avail himself of the
information that a certain Mr. Baxter, registered from Boston, was at
the hotel, and that his business was selling shares of stock in a mine
which did not exist to gullible folks who wanted to become wealthy
without spending any labor in the process. He did a thriving business.
It was Coldriver's first experience with this particular method of
extracting money from the public, and it came to the front handsomely.
Mr. Spackles got wind of the opportunity and told it to Grandmother
Penny. She took charge of affairs, compelled her fiance to go with her
to the bank, where they withdrew their savings, and then sought for Mr.
Baxter, who, in return for a bulk sum of some five hundred dollars, sold
them enough stock in the mine to paper the parlor. Also, he promised
them enormous returns in an exceedingly brief space of time. Their
profit on the transaction would, he assured them, be not less than ten
thousand dollars, and might mount to double that sum. They departed in a
state of extreme elation, and but for Mr. Spackles's conservatism
Grandmother Penny would have eloped with him then and there.

"I'd like to, Ellen. I'd like to, mighty well, but 'tain't safe. Le's
git the money fust. The minnit the money comes in, off we mog to the
parson. But 'tain't safe yit. Jest hold your hosses."

When Scattergood returned and was visible again on the piazza of his
hardware store, it was not long before the village financiers came to
him boasting of their achievement. He, Scattergood, was not the only man
in town with the ability to make money. No, indeed, and for proof of it
here were the stock certificates, purchased from a deluded young man for
a few cents a share, when common sense told you they were worth many,
many dollars. Scattergood listened to two or three without a word.
Finally he asked:

"How many folks went into this here thing?"

"Sev'ral. Sev'ral. Near's I kin figger, folks here bought nigh five
thousand dollars' wuth of stock off'n Baxter. Must 'a' been fifty or
sixty went into the deal."

"Dum fools," said Scattergood, with sudden wrath. "Has it got so's I
don't dast to leave town without you folks messin' things up? Can't I
leave overnight and find things safe in the mornin'?... You hain't got
the sense Gawd give field mice--the whole kit and b'ilin' of you. Serves
you dum well right, tryin' to git somethin' f'r nothin'. Now git away
fr'm here. Don't pester me.... You've been swindled, that's what, and it
serves you doggone well right. Now git."

It was one of the few times that Coldriver saw Scattergood in a rage.
The rage convinced them. Scattergood said they were swindled and he was
in a rage. Therefore he must be right. The news spread, and knots of
citizens with lowered heads and anxious eyes gathered on street corners
and whispered and nodded toward Scattergood, who sat heavily on his
piazza, speaking to nobody. It was Grandmother Penny who dared accost
him. She crept up to his place and said, tremulously:

"Be you sure, Scattergood, about that feller bein' a swindler?"

Scattergood looked down at her fiercely. Then his eyes softened and he
leaned forward and scrutinized her face.

"Did you git into this mess, too, Grandmother Penny?"

"Both me 'n' James," she said. "You let on that folks got rich quick by
investin'. Me 'n' James was powerful anxious to git money so's--so's we
could git married on it. So we drawed out our money and--and invested
it."

"Come here, Grandmother," said Scattergood, and she stood just before
his chair, her head coming very little higher than his own as he sat
there, big and ominous. "So the skunk took _your_ money, too. I hain't
carin' a whoop for them others. They got what was comin' to 'em, and I
didn't calculate to do nothin'. But you! By crimminy!... Wa-al,
Grandmother, you go off home and knit. I'll look into things. It's on
your account, and not on theirs." He shook his head fiercely toward the
town. "But I calculate I'll have to git theirn back, too.... And,
Grandmother--you and James kin rest easy. Hain't sayin' no more. Jest
wait, and don't worry, and don't say nothin' to nobody.... G'-by,
Grandmother Penny. G'-by."

That evening Scattergood drove out of Coldriver in his rickety buggy.
Nobody had dared to speak to him, but, nevertheless, he carried in his
pocket a list of the town's investors in mining stock, together with the
amounts of their investments. He was not seen again for several days.

Two days later Scattergood appeared in the lobby of the Mansion House,
in the county seat. He scrutinized the register, and found, to his
satisfaction, that a Mr. Bowman of Boston was occupying room 106. Mr.
Bowman had signed the hotel register in Coldriver as Mr. Baxter, also of
Boston. Scattergood seated himself in a chair and lighted one of the
cigars which made his presence so undesirable in an inclosed space. He
appeared to be taking a nap.

Fifteen minutes after Scattergood began to nod, Sam Bangs, a politician
with some strength in the rural districts, came down the stairs in
company with a young man of prepossessing appearance, and clothing which
did not strike the beholder as either too gaudy or too stylish. Indeed
the young man impressed the world as being a sober, conservative person
in whose judgment it would be well to place confidence.

When Bangs saw Scattergood he stopped and whispered a moment to his
companion, who nodded. They approached Scattergood, and Bangs touched
him on the shoulder.

"Mr. Baines," he said, "I want you should meet my friend Mr. Bowman.
Mr. Bowman's a broker. Been buyin' some stocks off'n him--or calculate
to. I knowed you done consid'able investing so I took the liberty."

Scattergood looked drowsily at the young man. "Set," he said. "Set and
have a cigar."

The young Mr. Bowman accepted the cigar, but, after a glance at it,
thrust it into his mouth unlighted. The conversation began with national
politics, swung to crops, and veered finally to the subject of
investments. Mr. Bowman, backed in his statements by Mr. Bangs, spoke to
Scattergood of a certain mine whose stock could be had for a song, but
whose riches in mineral, about to be reached by a certain shaft or drift
or tunnel, were fabulous. Scattergood was interested. An appointment was
made for further discussion.

The appointment was kept that evening, in the same lobby, and Mr.
Bowman, while finding more than ordinary difficulty in convincing this
fat country merchant, did eventually succeed in bringing him to a point
of enthusiasm.

"Looks good," said Scattergood. "Calc'late a feller could make a
killin'. I'm a-goin' into it hair, hide, and hoofs. Figger me f'r not
less 'n five thousand dollars' wuth of it. Ought to make me fifty
thousand if it makes a cent."

"You're conservative, Mr. Baines, conservative."

"Always calculated to be, Mr. Bowman." He looked up as a middle-aged man
with a drooping mustache approached. "Howdy, John? Still workin' f'r the
express company, be you?"

"Calc'late to, Mr. Baines. Got charge of the local office. 'Tain't all
pleasure, neither. In a sight of trouble this minnit."

"I want to know," said Scattergood. "Stand to lose my job," said John,
sadly. "Dunno where I'll find me another."

"What you been doin', eh? What got you in bad?"

"One of them dummed gold shipments from the state bank. Hadn't ought to
speak about it, 'cause the comp'ny's bein' awful secret. Hain't lettin'
it out." He glanced apprehensively at Mr. Bowman.

"Needn't to be afraid of Mr. Bowman, John. What's the story?"

"Bank shippin' bullion. Three chunks of it. Wuth fifty-odd thousand
dollars. I know, 'cause that's the comp'ny's liability wrote in black
and white.... Been stole," he said, after a brief pause.

"Where?"

"Out of my office, this mornin'. Not a trace. Jest up and disappeared.
Detectives and all can't run on to no clue. Might as well 'a' melted and
run through a crack. Jest gone, and that's all anybody kin find."

"Mighty sorry to hear it, John. Hope you wasn't keerless, and don't
figger you was. Guess you won't be blamed when the facts comes out."

"If they ever do," said John. "G' night, Mr. Baines. I'm mighty oneasy
in my mind."

Scattergood turned the subject back at once to mining stocks.

"You set me down for five thousand dollars. Don't let nobody else have
it. Got jest that sum comin' due tomorrer. You and me'll drive over to
git it, and you fetch them stock certificates along. Got 'em in that
little satchel you're always carryin'?"

"No," smiled Mr. Bowman. "That's my purse. I take no chances on robbers,
like your express agent spoke of. I don't mind telling you that I have
fifteen thousand dollars in that bag--and I intend to keep it there."

"Do tell!" exclaimed Scattergood. "Wa-al, you know your business. Now,
then, if you want to drive over six mile with me to-morrer, well git us
that money and I'll take the stock."

"Good," said Mr. Bowman. "An early start. Can I take a train from there?
I'll be through here, I think."

"To be sure," said Scattergood. "Mighty funny thing about that gold, now
wa'n't it? Three bars. Wuth fifty thousand! Mighty slick work--to spirit
it off and nobody never find a trace."

"The criminal classes," said Mr. Bowman, "have produced some remarkable
intellects. Good night, Mr. Baines."

"See you early in the mornin'," replied Scattergood.

After a breakfast which Mr. Bowman watched Scattergood dispose of with
admiration and astonishment, the pair entered the old buggy and started
across the hills. In addition to his small bag Mr. Bowman brought a
large suitcase containing his apparel, so it was apparent he was leaving
the county seat for good. The morning came off hot and humid.
Scattergood kept his eyes open for a spring, but it was not until they
had driven some miles that an opportunity to find water appeared.

"Calculate we kin git a drink there," said Scattergood, pointing to a
little shanty in a clearing by the roadside. He stopped his horse, and
they alighted and knocked. There was no reply. Scattergood pushed open
the door and then stepped back suddenly, for within were three
individuals of disreputable appearance, and one of them regarded
Scattergood over the leveled barrels of a shotgun.

"Come right in and set," invited this individual, and Scattergood,
followed by Mr. Bowman, entered. On a table of pine wood, unconcealed,
lay three enormous bars of gold.

"Um!..." said Scattergood, faintly, and leaned against the wall. "You
would come rammin' in," said the gentleman with the shotgun. "Now I
calc'late you got to stay."

Scattergood grinned amiably. "Vallyble loaves of bread you got there,"
he said.

"Gold," said the man, succinctly.

"Hain't no mines around here, be there?"

"We hain't sayin'. But that there gold come from a mine, all
right--sometime."

"Calc'late you been robbin' a train or somethin'," said Scattergood,
mildly. "Now don't git het up. 'Tain't none of my business. Doin'
robbin' for a reg'lar livin'?" he asked, innocently.

"Hain't never done none before--" began one of the men, but his
companion directed him to "shut up and stay shut."

"No harm talkin' 's I kin see. We got these fellers here and here they
stay till we git clean off. Kind of like to tell somebody the joke."

"I'm doggone int'rested," said Scattergood.

The rough individual with the gun laughed loudly. "May's well tell you,"
he said, raucously. "Me and the boys was in town yestiddy, calc'latin'
to ship some ferns by express. Went into the office. Agent wa'n't there.
Safe was. Open. Ya-as, wide open. We seen three gold chunks inside, and
nobody around watchin'. Looked full better 'n ferns, so we jest took a
notion to carry 'em out to the wagin and drive off.... Now we got it,
I'm dummed if I know what to do with it. Hear tell it's wuth fifty
thousand dollars."

Mr. Bowman spoke. "You'll find it mighty hard to dispose of."

"Don't need to worry you."

"Suppose you could sell it for a fair price, cash, and get away with the
money?"

"That's our aim."

"Mr. Baines," said Bowman, "there's money in this if you aren't too
particular."

"Hain't p'tic'lar a-tall. How you mean?"

"What would you say to buying this gold--at a reasonable price? I can
dispose of it--through channels I am acquainted with. You can put in the
money we were going for, and I'll put in some more. Ought to show a
handsome profit."

"Might nigh double my money, maybe, eh? Figger that? Gimme twict as much
to buy stock with."

"Yes, indeed."

"Let's dicker."

"What will you men take to walk away and leave that gold?"

"Forty thousand."

"Fiddlesticks. I'll give you ten--and you're clear of the whole mess."

There was a wrangle. For half an hour the dicker went on, and finally a
price of fifteen thousand dollars was agreed upon. Mr. Bowman was to pay
over the money, and Scattergood was to contribute his five thousand
dollars as soon as they got it. For one third of the profits.

The money was paid over; the three robbers disappeared with alacrity,
leaving Scattergood and Bowman with the stolen gold.

"We can take it along in the buggy, covered with ferns," said Bowman.
"Nobody'll suspect _you_."

"Be safe as a church," said Scattergood, boldly. "Lug her out."

So they carried the gold to the buggy, covered it snugly with ferns, and
drove toward the next town, Scattergood talking excitedly of profits and
of how much mining stock he could purchase with the money received, and
of ample wealth from the transaction. Mr. Bowman smiled with the faint,
quiet smile of one whose soul is at peace. Just before they got to town
Scattergood suggested that they stop to make sure the gold was
completely concealed.

They drove into the woods a few rods and uncovered the treasure.
Scattergood gloated over it.

"I've heard tell you kin cut real gold like cheese," he said, and opened
his jackknife. With it he hacked off a shaving and held it up to the
light.

"Is all gold this here way?" he asked. "Don't look to me to be the same
color all the way through. Looks like silver or suthin' inside."

Mr. Bowman snatched the shaving, scrutinized it, and uttered language in
a loud voice. He snatched Scattergood's knife and tested all three
ingots.

"Lead!" he said, savagely. "Nothing but lead! We've been swindled!"

"You mean it hain't gold a-tall?"

"It's lead, I tell you."

"I vum!... Them fellers stole lead! And they got off with all your
money. Gosh! I'm glad I didn't have none along." His eyes were mirthless
and his face vacuous. "Beats all. Never heard tell of nothin' sim'lar."

They got into the buggy and drove silently into town. Mr. Bowman tried
to recover his spirits, but they were at low ebb. He did manage to hint
that Scattergood should stand his share of the loss, but in his heart he
knew that to be vain. Still, he could get that five thousand dollars for
the mining stock. It would be five thousand dollars.

"Anyhow," he said, "you're fortunate. You still can buy the stock and
make your pile."

"This here deal," said Scattergood, "has kind of made me figger. 'Tain't
safe to buy gold chunks till you _know_ they're gold. Likewise 'tain't
safe to buy mine stock till you know there's a mine. Calc'late I'll do a
mite of investigatin' 'fore I pungle over that five thousand.... Where
kin I leave you, Mr. Bowman? I'm calc'latin' to drive home from here.
Maybe I'll see you later. But I got to investigate."

Mr. Bowman made himself unpleasant for a brief time, but Scattergood was
vacuously stubborn. Presently he drove away, leaving Mr. Bowman on the
veranda of the hotel, scowling and uttering words of strength and
meaning. Mr. Bowman was very unhappy.

Scattergood drove as rapidly as his horse could travel, arriving at
Coldriver just after the supper hour. He went directly to his store,
which had been left in charge of Mr. Spackles. Three men were waiting
there for him. They handed him a leather bag and he satisfied himself
that it contained fifteen thousand dollars.

"Much 'bleeged, boys," he said. "Do as much f'r you, some day. G'-by."

"Mr. Spackles," he said, "kin you fetch Grandmother Penny over
here--right now?"

"Calculate I kin," said Mr. Spackles, and he proved himself able to keep
his word.

"Grandmother Penny," said Scattergood, when she arrived, "you and Mr.
Spackles up and made a investment. I been a-lookin' after that
investment f'r you--and f'r these other dum fools in town. Best I could
do f'r them others was to git their money back--every cent of it. But I
took keer to do a mite more f'r you and Mr. Spackles. I got your five
hunderd f'r you--and then I seen a way to git ten thousand more. Here
she be. Count it.... I don't guess there's any way this here money could
be put to better use."

"F'r us? Ten thousand--"

"I'll handle it f'r you. Give you int'rest of six hunderd a year. You
kin marry like you planned, and if your childern objects you kin tell
'em to go to blazes.... You'll want a place to live. Wa-al, I got twenty
acre back of town and a leetle house and furniture. Took it on a deal.
You kin move in and work it on shares. Ought to be able to live blamed
well."

Grandmother Penny was crying.

"You done all this f'r us, f'r James and me! There hain't no reason f'r
it. 'Tain't believable.... There hain't no way to say thankee."

"I hain't wantin' you to say thankee, Grandmother Penny. Jest mog along
and marry this old coot, and git what joy you kin out of livin'."

Mr. Spackles was inquisitive in addition to being grateful.

"What I want to know," he demanded, "is how you managed it?"

"Oh," said Scattergood, "jest made use of the sayin' about curin' with
the hair of the dog that bit you. Figgered a swindler wouldn't never
suspect nobody of swindlin' him with one of his own tricks. This here
Mr. Baxter, or Mr. Bowman, or whatever his name is, used to make a
livin' sellin' gold bricks. When I found that there fact out I jest
calc'lated he was ripe to do a mite of gold-brick buyin' himself....
Which he done."

"Scattergood," said Grandmother Penny, "I'm a-goin' to kiss you."

Scattergood presented his cheek, and Grandmother Penny threw her arms
around his neck and pressed her lips to his weather-beaten face. He
smiled, but as if he were smiling at somebody not present. When they had
gone their way to find marriage license and parson he went out on to his
piazza and looked up at the moonlit sky.

"Grandma Baines," he said, after a moment, "if you kin see down from
where you be, I hope you hain't missin' that I done this f'r you. I was
pertendin' all the time that you was Grandmother Penny...."



CHAPTER VIII

HE DIPS IN HIS SPOON


Scattergood Baines sat on the piazza of his hardware store and twiddled
his bare toes reflectively. He was not thinking of to-day nor of
to-morrow, but of days a score of years distant and of plans not to come
to maturity for twenty years. That was Scattergood's way. From his
history, as it is to be gathered from the ancient gossips of Coldriver,
one is forced to the conclusion that few of his acts were performed with
reference to the immediate time. If he set on foot some scheme, one
learns to study it and to endeavor to see to what outcome it may lead
ten years after its inception. He looked always to the future, and more
than once one may see where he has forgone immediate profit in order to
derive that profit a hundredfold a generation later.

So, as Scattergood twiddled his reflective toes, he looked far ahead
into the future of Coldriver Valley; he saw that valley as his own,
developed as few mountain valleys are ever developed. Its stage line,
already his property, was replaced by a railroad. The waters of its
river and tributaries were dammed to give a cheap and constant power
which should be connected in some way to this electricity of which he
heard so much and about which he always desired to hear more. He saw
factories springing up. In short, he saw his valley as the center of the
state's commercial life, and himself as the center of the valley.

Scattergood was well aware that there always will exist those who will
clog the road of progress and attempt to stem any tide arising for the
public good--unless they can see for themselves an individual benefit.
He knew that it is not uncommon for those whose business is the common
good--such individuals as legislators and governors and judges--to
assume some such attitude, and he knew that it was regarded as expensive
to win their favor. He did not grow especially angry at this condition,
but accepted it as a condition and studied to see what he could do about
it--for he knew he must do something about it.

He must take it into consideration, because one does not build railroads
without legislative sanction, nor does one dam streams nor carry out
wide commercial programs. The consent of the _people_ must be had, and
the people had handed over their consent in trust to their elected
representatives. Scattergood saw at once that it was preferable to be
one from whom governors and legislators and judges asked favors and
looked to for guidance, than to be one to come a suppliant before those
personages, and as soon as he saw that clearly he reached his
determination.

"Calculate," said he, to the shoes which he held in his hand, "that I
got to git up and stir around in politics some."

From that moment Scattergood scrutinized the bowl of politics to
discover when and where he could dip in his spoon.

The opportunity to dip, it soon became apparent, would be at the time of
the fall town meetings, for there was a fight on in the state and its
preliminary rumblings were already making themselves audible. Hitherto
the state had been held securely by certain political gentlemen, who in
turn had been held securely by a certain other and greater political
gentleman--Lafe Siggins. Other non-political gentlemen who represented
_money_ and _business_ had seen, as Scattergood did, the necessity for
becoming political, and had chosen their moment to endeavor to take the
state away from Messrs. Siggins & Co. and to hold it thereafter for
their own benefit and behoof. They were, therefore, laying their plans
to win the legislature by winning the town meetings of the fall, and to
win they had decided to make their fight upon the total prohibition of
liquor in the state. It was not that they cared ethically whether drinks
of a spirituous nature were dispensed or not, but it was the best
available issue. If it did not work out to their satisfaction they could
reverse themselves when they came into power.

So they made an issue of prohibition, and planned astutely to go to the
town meetings on that platform, for a majority of the towns voted local
option with regularity. The new powers would first sweep the town
meetings for local option, and in the wave of enthusiasm put into office
at the same time legislators chosen by themselves.

Scattergood saw the trend of affairs early and gave them his earnest
consideration. That his ancient ill wishers, Messrs. Crane & Keith, were
identified with the new and rising power may not have been the least of
the considerations which determined him to dip in his spoon on the side
of Siggins and the old order. But there was one obstacle. Scattergood
desired local option, for he was now the employer of many men, both in
the woods and in other enterprises, and he knew well that labor and hard
liquor are disturbing bedfellows.... He considered and reached the
conclusion that for this one time, perhaps, he could both have his cake
and eat it.

He could have his cake and still eat it only by the results of an
election which should not be a victory for the new powers nor for the
old, but for another minor power differing from each. In other words,
Scattergood saw the wisdom of defeating both the contenders locally, and
then of throwing in with Siggins as to the fight for state control....
But of this determination he notified not a soul. Judging from his
actions, it may be safely said that he was at some pains to conceal the
fact that he was interested in politics in any manner or degree
whatever.

But Scattergood was a chatty body, and Coldriver would have been
surprised if he did not talk politics, as did all its other male
inhabitants. It came about that more politics than hardware was
discussed on Scattergood's piazza, but to the casual listener it seemed
only purposeless discussion. But Scattergood was a master of purposeless
discussion. His methods were his own and worthy of notice.

Marvin Towne and Old Man Bogle sauntered past and paused to mention the
weather.

"Goin' to be lots of politics this year," said Scattergood. "Jest got in
a line of gardenin' tools, Bogle."

"Town's goin' to be het up for certain," said Mr. Bogle, waggling his
ancient head. "Calc'late to have all the tools I need."

"Who's figgerin' on runnin' for legislature, Marvin?"

"Guess Will Pratt's puttin' up Pazzy Cox ag'in." Pratt was postmaster
and local party leader.

"Anybody calc'latin' to run ag'in' him, Marvin? Any opposition
appearin'?"

"Goin' to be a fight, Scattergood. Big doin's in the state. Tryin' to
upset Lafe Siggins. Uh-huh! Wuth watchin', says I."

"I hear tell the lawless elements is puttin' up Jim Allen on a whisky
platform," said Old Man Bogle, acidly.

"Them all the candidates, Bogle? Hain't no others?"

"Nary."

"Coldriver's got to take whatever candidates them outsiders chooses, eh?
Coldriver hain't got no say who'll represent her in the legislature?"

"Don't 'pear so. All done by party machinery, Scattergood. We got
nothin' to do but pick between parties."

"Looks so.... Looks that way," said Scattergood. "Too bad there hain't
one more party that hain't controlled so folks could git a chance....
What's this here Prohibition party I been hearin' some of in other
parts?"

"'S fur's I know it's all right, only it hain't got no votes, and votes
is necessary in politics."

"Licker enters into this here campaign, don't it?"

"Backbone of it."

"Seems like these Prohibition fellers ought to take a hand. Any of 'em
in Coldriver?"

"Don't seem like I ever heard speak of one."

"Could be, couldn't there? 'Tain't impossible?"

"S'pose one could be got up--if anybody was int'rested."

"Need a strong candidate, wouldn't they? Have to have a man to head it
up that would command respect?"

"Wouldn't git fur with it. Parties too well organized."

"Um!... Lemme show you a new hand seeder I jest got in. Labor savin'.
Calc'late it's a bargain."

"Don't hold with them newfangled notions, Scattergood."

"S'prised at you, Marvin. Folks expects progress of you. Look up to you,
kind of. Take their idees from you."

"I dunno," said Marvin, visibly pleased, but deprecatory.

"Careful, cautious--but most gen'ally right, that's what I hear folks
say. Quite a bit of talk goin' around about you. Politics. Uh-huh! Heard
several say it was a pity Marvin Towne couldn't be got to go to the
legislature. Heard that, hain't you, Bogle?"

"Don't call it to mind, but maybe I have. Maybe I have. Anyhow, I
calc'late it's true."

"There you be, Marvin. Now it behooves a man that's looked up to for to
keep in the lead. Ought to look into that seeder, Marvin. Folks'll say:
'Marvin Towne's got him one of them seeders. Darn progressive farmer.
Gits him all the modern improvements.'"

"Suthin' in what you say, Scattergood. Calculate I might examine into
that tool one of these days."

"Hain't much choice between Pazzy Cox and Jim Allen, eh? Hain't neither
of 'em desirable lawmakers, eh? That what you was sayin'?"

"Them's my idees," said Marvin.

"Too bad we're forced to take one or t'other. Now if they was some way
for you to step in and run."

"Hain't."

"Sh'u'd think you'd look over them Prohibitionists. Draw all the best
citizens after you. Set a example to the state.... Step back and look at
that there seeder, Marvin."

Marvin looked at the seeder judicially. "Calc'late to guarantee it,
Scattergood?"

"Put it in writin'," said Scattergood.

"Calc'late I'll have to have it. Considerin' everything, guess I'll take
it along."

"Knowed you would, Marvin. Sich men as you is to be depended on. Folks
realizes it."

"If I thought they was a call for me to go to the legislature--"

"Call?" said Scattergood. "Marvin, I'm tellin' you it's dum near a
shout."

"Huh!... Where could I git to find out about this here Prohibitionist
party?"

Presently Marvin Towne and Old Man Bogle went along. Scattergood gazed
after them speculatively, and as he gazed his hands went automatically
to his shoes, which he removed to give play to his reflective toes.
"Um!..." he grunted. "If nothin' more comes of it I made a profit of
three dollar forty on that seeder."

Pliny Pickett, stage driver, was a frequent caller at Scattergood's
store, first as an employee, but more importantly as a dependable
representative who could carry out an order without asking questions,
especially when no definite order had been given.

"Pliny," said Scattergood, "know Marvin Towne, don't you? Brought up
with him, wasn't you?"

"Know him like the palm of my hand."

"Um!... Strange he hain't never been talked up for the legislature,
Pliny. Strange there hain't talk about him on the stagecoach. Ever hear
any?"

"Some, lately."

"Could hear more, couldn't you? If you listened.... Set around the post
office, evenin's, don't you?"

"Some."

"Discussin' topics? Ever discuss this Prohibition party?"

"I _could_," said Pliny.

"Seems like a shame folks here can't run the man they want for office.
Strike you that way?"

"Certain sure. Calc'late they want Marvin bad?"

"They _could_," said Scattergood. "G'-by, Pliny."

Ten days later a third party made its appearance in the politics of
Coldriver, and Marvin Towne was announced as its candidate for the
legislature. It seemed a spontaneous excrescence, but, nevertheless, it
caused a visit from that great man and citizen, Lafe Siggins, as well as
a call from Mr. Crane, of Crane & Keith. Both astute gentlemen viewed
the situation, and their alarm subsided. Indeed, both perceived where it
could be turned to advantage. A canvass of the situation showed them
that the new Prohibitionists, though they talked loud and long, were
made up mainly of the discontented and of a few men always ready to
join any novel movement, and promised at best to poll not to exceed
forty votes of Coldriver's registered three hundred and eighty. It
really simplified the situation to Lafe and to Crane, for it removed
from circulation forty doubtful votes and left the real battle to be
fought between the regulars. Wherefore Messrs. Siggins and Crane
departed from the village in satisfied mood.

Scattergood sat on his piazza as usual, the morning after the portentous
visit, and called a greeting to Wade Lumley, dry-goods merchant, as that
prominent citizen passed to his place of business.

"How's the geldin' this mornin', Wade?" he asked.

"Feelin' his oats. Got to take him out on the road this evenin'. Time to
begin shapin' him up for the county fair."

"Three-year-old, hain't he?"

"Best in the state."

"Always figgered that till I heard Ren Green talkin'. Ren calculates
he's got a three-year-old that'll make any other boss in these parts
look like it was built of pine."

Wade was eager in a moment. "Willin' to back them statements with money,
is he?"

"Said somethin' about havin' a hunderd dollars that wasn't workin'
otherwise, seems as though," said Scattergood. "Jest half a mile from
Pettybone's house to the dam," he continued, with apparent irrelevance.
"Level road."

"And my geldin' kin travel that same road spryer 'n Green's hoss--for a
hunderd dollars," said Wade, eagerly.

"Dunno," said Scattergood. "Hoss races is uncertain. G'-by, Wade. See
you later."

A similar conversation with Ren Green during the day resulted in a
meeting between the horsemen, an argument, loud words, and a heated
offer to wager money, which was accepted with like heat.

"From Pettybone's to the dam--half a mile," shouted Wade.

"Suits me to a T," bellowed Ren; "and now you kin step across with me
and deposit that there hunderd dollars ag'in' mine with Briggs of the
hotel."

So, terms and conditions having been arranged, the bets were made, and
the money locked in the hotel safe. News of the matter swept through
Coldriver, and for the evening politics were forgotten and excitement
ran high. Next day it arose to a higher pitch, for Town-marshal Pease
had forbidden the race to be run through the public streets of
Coldriver, viewing it as a menace to life, limb, and the public peace.
Scattergood had conversed sagely with Pease on the duties of a town
marshal.

Marvin Towne had formed the habit of stopping to chat with Scattergood
daily, totally unconscious that to all intents and purposes he had been
ordered by Scattergood to make daily reports to him. He seemed depressed
as he leaned against a post of the piazza.

"Lookin' peaked, Marvin. Hain't all goin' well? Gittin' uneasy?"

"It's this dum hoss race," said Marvin. "Everybody's het up over it so's
nobody'll talk politics. How's a feller goin' to win votes if he can't
git nobody to talk to him, that's what I want to know? Seems like there
hain't nothin' in the world but Wade Lumley's geldin' and that hoss of
Green's."

"Um!... Sort of distressing hain't it? Know Kent Pilkinton perty well,
Marvin?"

"Brother-in-law."

"Holds public office, don't he?"

"Chairman of the Board of Selectmen's what he is."

"Good man fur't," said Scattergood, waggling his head. "Calculate to be
on good terms with him, Marvin? Perty good terms?"

"Good enough so's he kin ask me to loan him two thousand dollars he's
needin' a'mighty bad."

"Give it to him, Marvin?"

"Huh!" said Marvin, eloquently.

"If I was to indorse his note, think you could see your way clear?"

"Certain sure."

"See him ag'in, won't you? Perty soon?"

"Yes."

"What d'you calc'late to tell him?"

"What you said?"

"Didn't say nothin', did I? Jest asked a question. It was you _said_
something Marvin, wa'n't it? Said you'd lend on my indorsement."

"That what you want me to tell him?"

"Didn't say so, did I? Jest asked a question. G'-by, Marvin. Lemme know
what he says."

It was unnecessary for Marvin to report, for early next morning Kent
Pilkinton, owner of a hill farm on the out-skirts of a village--a farm
on which he succeeded in raising the most ample crop of whiskers in
Coldriver, and little else, came diffidently up to Scattergood as he sat
in front of his hardware store.

"Morning Kent," said Scattergood. "Come to look at mowin' machines, I
calc'late."

"Might _look_ at one," said Kent.

"Need one, don't you?"

"Bad."

"Need quite a mess of implements, don't you?"

"Could do with 'em if I had 'em.... 'Tain't what I come fur, though,
Scattergood. Been tryin' to borrow money off of my brother-in-law, but
he don't calclate to lend without I git an indorser, and seems like he
sets store by your name on a note."

"Does, eh? Any reason I should indorse for you? Know any reason?"

"Nary," said Kent, and started to move off.

"Hold your bosses. What you need the money for?"

"Pay off a thousand-dollar mortgage and another thousand to git the farm
in shape to run."

"Calculate you kin run it, then?"

"If I git the tools."

"I figger maybe you kin. Like to see you git ahead. Where d'you
calculate to buy them implements?"

"Off of you."

"I got 'em to sell. When you got to have the money?"

"Two weeks to-morrow."

This was the day after the town meeting.

"Come in and pick out your implements," said Scattergood.

"Meanin' you'll indorse?"

"Meanin' that--pervidin' nothin' unforeseen comes up between now and
then."

Half a day was spent selecting tools and implements for the farm, and
though Pilkinton did not know it, it was Scattergood's selection that
was purchased. Scattergood knew what was necessary and what would be
economical, and that was what Pilkinton got, and nothing more. It netted
Scattergood a pleasant profit, and Kent got the full equivalent of his
money.

"Preside at town meetin', don't you?"

"My duty," said Kent.

"Calc'late to _do_ your duty?"

"Always done so."

"Comin' to see you do it," said Scattergood. He paused. "Next mornin'
we'll fix up the note. G'-by, Kent." During the fourteen days that
followed Coldriver was happy; between politics and the forbidden horse
race, it had such food for conversation that even cribbage under the
barber shop languished, and one had to walk into the road to pass the
crowd at the post office of evenings. As to the horse race, it resembled
a boil. Daily it grew more painful. Like a boil, such a horse race as
this must burst some day, and it was reaching the acute stage. But
Town-marshal Pease was vigilant and spoke sternly of the majesty of the
law.

As to the election, it grew even more dubious. Scattergood privately
took stock of the situation. Marvin Towne and the Prohibitionists might
count now on a vote or two more than fifty. Postmaster Pratt appeared
certain of better than a hundred, and so did the opposing party. One or
the other of them was certain to win as matters lay, and Marvin's case
seemed hopeless. Marvin conceived it so and was for withdrawing, but
Scattergood saw to it that he did not withdraw.

"Keep your votes together," he said. "Stiffen 'em." It was his first
direct order. "Fetch 'em to the meetin' and be sure of every one."

On town-meeting day Coldriver filled with rigs from the surrounding
township. Every rail and post was utilized for hitching, and
Town-marshal Pease, his star displayed, patrolled the town to avert
disorder. He patrolled until the meeting went into session, and then he
took his chair just under the platform, and, as was his duty, guarded
the sacredness of the ballot.

Scattergood was present, sitting in a corner under the overhang of the
balcony, watching, but discouraging conversation. If one had studied his
face during the early proceedings he would have read nothing except a
genial interest, which was the thing Coldriver expected to see on
Scattergood's face. Town questions were decided, matters of sidewalks,
of road building, of schools, and every instance Marvin Towne's
fifty-two voted as a unit, swinging from one side to the other as their
peculiar interest dictated. On all minor questions it was Marvin Towne's
Prohibitionists who decided, because they carried the volume of votes
necessary to control. But when it came to major affairs, such as the
election of officers, there would be a different story. Then they could
join with neither party, but must stand alone as a unit, far outvoted.

So the regulars disregarded them, or if they gave them any attention it
was jocular. Even Marvin viewed the day as lost, but Scattergood held
him to the mark with a word passed now and then. It came three o'clock
of the afternoon before nominations for the high office of legislator
were the order of proceeding. Jim Allen and Pazzy Cox were placed before
the meeting as candidates amid the stimulated applause of their
adherents. Marvin Towne's name was received with laughter and such jeers
as the New England breed of farmer and townsman has rendered his own,
and at which he is a genius surpassed by none.

Chairman Pilkinton arose, as befitted the moment.

"Feller townsmen, we will now proceed to cast our ballots for the office
of representative in the legislature. The polls is open, and overlooked
by Town-marshal Pease. The ballotin' will begin."

And then....

At that instant there was an uproar on the stairs. Pliny Pickett burst
into the room, his hat missing, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

"It's a-comin' off. They've stole a march. Hoss race!... Hoss race!...
Ren Green and Wade Lumley's got their bosses up to Deacon Pettybone's
and they're goin' to race to the dam. Everybody out. Hoss race!... Hoss
race!..." He turned and ran frantically down the stairs, and on his
heels followed the voters of Coldriver. But one or two remained; men too
rheumatic to chance rapid movement, or those whose positions compelled
them to consider as non-existent such a matter as a race between
quadrupeds.

But no sooner had the hall cleared than men began to return, in couples,
in squads, and to take their seats. Scattergood was standing up now,
counting. Fifty-two he counted, and remained standing.

"Polls is open, Mr. Chairman," says he.

"They was declared so, but--er--the voters has gone. I hain't clear how
to perceed."

"Do your duty, chairman, like you said. Town meetings don't calculate to
take account of hoss races, do they? Eh?... None of your affair, is it?"

Pilkinton looked at Scattergood, who smiled genially and said: "Duty's
duty, Pilkinton. If you was to fail in your duty as a public officer,
folks might git to think you wasn't the sort of citizen that could be
trusted. Might even affect sich things as credit and promissory notes."

Mr. Pilkinton no longer hesitated.

"The polls is open," he said.

The fifty-two, ballots ready in their hands, started for the box, but
Town-marshal Pease, awakened from his astonishment, lifted his voice.

"I got to stop that hoss race. Stop the votin' till I git back. That
hoss race has got to be stopped."

"Seems to me like votes was more important than hoss races," said
Scattergood.

"The town marshal will stay right where he is, and guard the ballot
box," said the chairman.

The voters moved to the front, and as they deposited their ballots,
sounds from without, indicating excitement and delight, were carried
through the windows to their ears. The fifty-two voted and returned to
their seats.

"If everybody present and desirin' to vote has done so," said
Scattergood, "I move you them polls be closed."

Mr. Pilkinton put the motion, and it was carried with enthusiasm.

"Tellers," suggested Scattergood.

As was the custom, the votes were counted immediately. The result stood,
Marvin Towne: fifty-three votes; Jim Allen, two votes; Pazzy Cox, four
votes.

"I declare Marvin Towne elected our representative to the legislature,"
said Chairman Pilkinton, weakly, and sat down, mopping his brow.

"That bein' the final business of this meetin'," said Scattergood, "I
move we adjourn."

The story swept the state. Twenty-four hours later Lafe Siggins visited
Coldriver and was driven to Scattergood Baines's hardware store.
Scattergood sat on the piazza, and as soon as the visitor was identified
the male inhabitants of the village began to gather.

"Kin we talk in private?" said Mr. Siggins.

"Hain't got no need for privacy. Folks is welcome to listen to all I got
to say."

Mr. Siggins frowned, but, being a politician and partially estimating
the quality of his man, he did not protest.

"You beat us clever," said he.

"Calculated to," said Scattergood.

"In politics for good?"

"Calculate to be."

"What you aim to do?"

"Kind of look after the politics in Coldriver."

"Be you fur me or ag'in' me?"

"I'm fur you till my mind changes."

"How about this here Prohibition party?"

"Don't figger it's necessary after this."

"Guess we kin agree," said Siggins. "You can figger the party
machinery's behind you. So fur's _we're_ concerned, _you're_ Coldriver."

"Calc'lated to be," said Scattergood.

"Some day," said Siggins, in not willing admiration, "you're goin' to
run the state."

"Calc'late to," said Scattergood, and thereby rather took Mr. Siggins's
breath. "Figger on makin' politics kind of a side issue to the hardware
business. Find it mighty stimilatin'. Politics took in moderation,
follerin' a meal of business, makes an all-fired tasty dessert....
G'-by, Siggins, g'-by."



CHAPTER IX

HE ADMINISTERS SOOTHING SYRUP


"Calc'late both them young folks was guilty of an error of jedgment when
they up and married each other," said Will Pratt, postmaster of
Coldriver, in the judicial tone which he had affected since his
elevation to office.

"Mean Marthy Norton and Jed Lewis, Will? Referrin' to them especial?"
Scattergood peered after the young couple who had the moment before
passed his hardware store, not walking jovially in the enjoyment of each
other's presence as young married folks should walk, but sullenly and in
silence.

"They be the _i_-dentical ones," Will declared. "Naggin' and quarrelin'
and bickerin' from sunup to milkin' time. Used to do it private like,
but it's been gittin' so lately you can't pass the house without hearin'
'em referrin' to each other mighty sharp and searchin'."

"Um!... Difficulty appears to be what, Will? Got any idee where lies the
seat of the trouble?"

"They jest hain't habitually suited to one another," said Will.
"Whatever one of 'em is fur the tother's ag'in'. Looks like they go to
bed spiteful and wake up acr'monious. 'Tain't like as if Jed was the
breed of feller that beats his wife, or that Marthy was the kind that
looks out of the corner of her eye at drummers stoppin' to the hotel."

"Jest kind of irritate one another, eh?" said Scattergood, thoughtfully.
"Kind of git on each other's nerves, you might say. Um!... I call to
mind when they was married, five year ago. 'Twan't indicated them days.
Jed he couldn't set easy if Marthy wasn't nigh, and Marthy went around
lookin' as if she'd swallered a pin and it hurt if Jed was more 'n forty
rod off. If ever two young folks was all het up over each other, Jed and
Marthy was them young folks.... And 'twan't but five year ago...."

"End by separating" said the postmaster.

"There's the stage a-rattlin' in," Scattergood said, suddenly. "Better
git ready f'r distributin' the mail, Will. G'-by, Will; and, Will, if
'twas me I dunno but what I'd kind of keep my mouth shet about Marthy
and Jed. Outside gabblin' hain't calc'lated to help matters none. G'-by,
Will."

The postmaster recognized his dismissal; he knew that the manner which
had fallen upon Scattergood portended that something was on his mind and
that he wanted to be alone and think, so he withdrew hastily and plodded
across the dusty road to the office of which he was the executive head.

As for Scattergood, he pressed his double chin down upon his bulging
chest, closed his eyes, and gave himself up enthusiastically to looking
like a gigantic figure of discouragement. He waggled his head dubiously.

"Wonder if it kin be laid to my door," he said to himself. "I figgered
they was about made f'r each other, and I brung 'em together....
Somethin's got crossways. Um!... Take them young folks separate, and
you couldn't ask for nothin' better.... Don't understand it a mite....
Anyhow, things has turned out as they be, and what kin I do about it?"

His reinforced chair creaked under the shifting of his great weight as
he bent mechanically to remove his shoes. With his toes imprisoned in
leather, Scattergood's brain refused to function, a characteristic
which greatly chagrined his wife, Mandy--so much so that she had
considered sewing him up in his footwear, as certain mothers in the
community sewed their children in their underwear for the winter.

Scattergood had amassed a fortune that might be called handsome, but it
had not made him effete. His income had never warranted him in
purchasing a pair of socks, so now, upon the removal of his shoepacs,
his toes were fully at liberty to squirm and wriggle in the most
soul-satisfying manner. He sat thus, battling with his problem, until
Pliny Pickett, driver of the stage, and Scattergood's man, rattled up to
the store in his dust-whitened conveyance.

"Afternoon, Scattergood," he said, in a manner which he endeavored to
make as like his employer's as possible.

"Afternoon, Pliny. Successful trip, Pliny? Plenty of passengers? Eh? Any
news down the valley?"

"Done middlin' well. Hain't much news, 'ceptin' that young Widder Conroy
down to Tupper Falls died of somethin' the matter with her stummick and
folks is wonderin' what'll become of her baby."

"Baby? What kind of a baby did she calc'late to have?"

"A he one--nigh onto two year old. Neighbors is lookin' after him."

"Got relatives?"

"Not that anybody knows of."

"Um!... Wasn't passin' Jed Lewis's house, was you?"

"Didn't figger to."

"Wasn't passin' Jed Lewis's, was you?" Scattergood repeated,
insistently.

"I could."

"Um!... If you was to, and if you seen Jed, what was you figgerin' on
sayin' to him?"

Pliny scratched his head and pondered.

"Calculate I'd mention the heat some, and maybe I might say suthin'
about national politics."

"Wouldn't mention me, would you, Pliny? Don't figger my name might come
up?"

"It might."

"If it did, what 'u'd you say, eh? Hain't no reason for mentionin' that
I might want to talk to him, is there? Hain't said so, have I?"

"You hain't," said Pliny, at last enlightened as to Scattergood's desire
in the matter.

"G'-by, Pliny."

"G'-by, Scattergood."

An hour later Jed Lewis sauntered past the store and stopped. "Pliny
Pickett says you want to see me, Scattergood."

"Said that, did he? Told you I said I wanted to see you?"

"Wa-al, maybe not exactly. Not in so many words. But he kind of hinted
around and pecked around till I figgered that was what the ol' coot was
gittin' at."

"Um!... Didn't tell him nothin' of the kind, but as long's you're here
you might as well set. Hain't seen much of you lately. How's the
hayin'?"

"Too much rain. Got her cocked twice and had to spread her ag'in to
dry."

"Hear any politics talked around, Jed?"

"Nothin' special."

Jed was brief in his answers. He seemed depressed, and conducted himself
like a man who had something on his mind.

"Any fresh news from anywheres?"

"Hain't heard none."

"Hear about the Packinses down to Bailey?"

"Never heard tell of 'em." There was excellent reason for this, because
no such family as the Packinses existed in Bailey or anywhere else, to
Scattergood's knowledge.

"Goin' to separate," said Scattergood.

Jed looked up quickly, bit his lip, and looked down again.

"What fur?" he asked.

"Nobody kin figger out. Jest agreein' to disagree. Can't git along,
nohow. Always naggin' at each other and squabblin' and hectorin'....
Nice young folks, too. Used to set a heap of store by one another. Can't
figger how they come to disagree like they do!"

"Nobody kin figger it out," said Jed, with sudden vehemence. "All to
once you wake up and things is that way, and you dunno how they come to
be. It jest drifts along. Fust you know things has went all to smash."

"Um!... You talk like you knowed somethin' about it."

"Nobody knows more," said the young man, bitterly. He was suddenly
conscious that he wanted to talk about his domestic affairs; that he
wanted to loose the story of his troubles and dwell upon them in all
their ramifications.

"Do tell," said Scattergood, with an inflection of astonishment.

"Marthy and me has about come to the partin' of our roads," said Jed.
"It's come gradual, without our noticin' it, but it's here at last.
Seems like we can't bear the sight of each other--when we git together.
And yit--sounds mighty funny, too--I calc'late to be as fond of Marthy
as ever I was. But the minute we git together we bicker and quarrel till
there hain't no pleasure into life at all."

"All Marthy's fault, hain't it? Kind of a mean disposition, hain't she?"

"No sich thing, Scattergood, and you know it dum well. There didn't use
to be a sweeter-dispositioned girl in the state than Marthy....
Somethin's jest went wrong. They's times when I git mad and it all
looks to be her fault, and then I ketch my own self startin' some
hectorin' meanness. 'Tain't all her fault, and 'tain't all my fault. The
whole sum and substance of it is that we can't git along with each other
no more."

"So you calc'late to separate?"

"Been talkin' it up some."

"Marthy willin'?"

"Hain't neither of us willin'. We fix it up and agree to try over ag'in,
and then, fust thing we know, we're right into the middle of another
squabble. I want Marthy, and I guess Marthy wants me, but we want each
other like we was five year back and not like we be now."

"Been married five year, hain't you?"

"Five year last April."

"Um!... Wa-al, I hope nothin' comes of it, Jed. But if it has to it
will. Better live happy separate than unhappy together.... G'-by, Jed."

Scattergood did not discuss this problem with Mandy, his wife, as it was
his custom to discuss business problems. He did not mention the young
Lewises because the first rule of Mandy's life was "Mind your own
business," and it irritated her beyond measure to see Scattergood poking
his finger into every dish that offered. He did talk the matter over
with Deacon Pettybone, but got little enlightenment for his pains.

"Don't seem natteral," Scattergood said, "f'r young folks to git to
quarrelin' and bickerin' ontil life hain't endurable no longer. 'Tain't
natteral a-tall. Somethin' must be all-fired wrong somewheres."

"It's human nature to quarrel," said the deacon, gloomily. "Nothin'
onusual about it."

"Human nature," said Scattergood, "gits blamed f'r a heap of things that
ought to be laid at the door of human cussedness."

"Same thing," said the deacon. "If you're human you're cussed. Used to
be so in the Garden of Eden, and it'll keep on bein' so till Gabriel
blows his final trump."

"'Tain't no more natteral to bicker than 'tis to have dispepsy.
Quarrelin' and hectorin' hain't nothin' but a kind of dispepsy that
attacks families instid of stummicks. In both cases it means somethin'
is wrong."

"Can't cure a unhappy family with a dose of calomel," said the deacon,
acidly.

"Hain't so sure. Bet that identical remedy' u'd fix up three out of ten.
But somethin' else is wrong with them young Lewises. A dose of somethin'
'u'd cure 'em, if only a feller could figger out what 'twas."

"Might try soothin' syrup," said the deacon, with an ironic grin.
"Sounds like it ought to git results.... Soothin' syrup--eh? Have to
tell the boys that one. Soothin' syrup. Perty good f'r an old man. Don't
call to mind makin' no joke like that f'r twenty year."

"Do it often, Deacon," said Scattergood, gravely. "You won't have to
take so much sody followin' meals to sweeten you up.... G'-by,
Deacon.... Soothin' syrup. Um!... I swanny...."

He looked across the square and saw that Pliny Pickett was delighting an
audience with apochryphal reminiscences, doubtless of a gallant and
spicy character. It is characteristic of Scattergood that he waited
until Pliny had reached his climax, shot it off, and was doubled up with
laughter at his own narration, before he lifted up his voice and
summoned the stage driver.

"Hey, Pliny! Step over here a minute."

"Comin'," said Pliny, with alacrity. Then in an aside to his audience:
"See that? Can't let an evenin' pass without a conference with me. Sets
a heap of store by my judgment."

"Sets more store by your laigs," said Old Man Bogle. "They kin run
errants, anyhow."

Pliny hastened across the square, and in careful imitation of
Scattergood said, "Evening Scattergood."

"Evening Pliny. Flow of language good as usual to-night? Didn't meet
with no trouble sayin' what you had to say?"

"Not a mite, Scattergood."

"Come through Bailey to-day?"

"Calculated to."

"Any news?"

"Nary."

"What's become of that What's-his-name baby you was a-tellin' about? The
one that lost his ma and was bein' cared for by neighbors?"

"Nothin' hain't become of him. Calc'late he'll be took to a
institution."

"Um! Likely-lookin' two-year-old, was he? Take note of any blemishes?"

"I hear tell by them that knows as how he was sound in wind and limb."

"Who's keepin' him, Pliny?"

"Mis' Patterson's sort of shuffled him in with her seven. Says she don't
notice no difference to speak of. Claims 'tain't possible f'r eight
childern to be no noisier 'n what seven be."

"Um!... G'-by, Pliny. Ever deal in facts over there to the post office?
Ever have occasion to mention facts?"

"Er--not _reg'lar_ facts, Scattergood. You needn't to worry about my
talkin' too free."

"Seems like a feller that talks as much as you do would _have_ to
mention a fact once in a while. G'-by, Pliny."

It was two or three days later that Postmaster Pratt alluded again to
Martha and Jed Lewis.

"They're gittin' wuss and wuss," he said, with some gratification.
"Last night they was a rumpus you could 'a' heard forty mile. Ended up
by him threatenin' to leave her, and by her tellin' him that if he
didn't she'd lock him out of the house. Looks to me like that family
fracas was about ripe to bust."

"Signs all p'int that way, Will. Too bad, hain't it? There's a reason
f'r it, I calculate. Ever look f'r the reason, Will? Ever think about it
at all?"

"Hain't had no time. Post office keeps me thinkin' night and day."

"Well, I _have_. Figgered a heap."

"Any results, Scattergood?"

"Some--_some_."

"What be they?"

Scattergood's eyes twinkled in the darkness. "I got it all figgered
out," he said, "that them young folks needs a dose of soothin' syrup."

"I want to know," said the postmaster, breathlessly and with
bewilderment. "Soothin' syrup! I swan to man!... Hain't been out in the
heat, have you, Scattergood?"

Scattergood made no reply to this question. He merely waggled his head
and said: "G'-by, Will. G'-by."

Next morning Scattergood walked past the Lewis place. He passed it three
times before he made up his mind whether to go in or not, but finally he
turned through the gate and walked around to the kitchen door. Inside he
saw Martha ridding up the kitchen, not with a morning song on her lips,
but wearing a sullen expression which sat ill on her fine New England
face.

"Mornin', Marthy," he called.

She looked up and smiled suddenly. The change in her face was
astonishing.

"Mornin', Mr. Baines. Set right down on the porch. ... Let me fetch you
a hot cup of coffee. 'Twon't take but a minute to make."

"Can't stop," said Scattergood. "I was lookin' for Jed."

"Jed's gone," she replied, shortly, the sullen expression returning to
her face. "'He won't be back 'fore noon."

"Uh-huh!... Wa-al, I calc'late I kin keep on drawin' my breath till
then--if you kin. I call to mind the time when you was all-fired oneasy
if Jed got away from you for six hours in a stretch."

"Them times is gone," she said, shortly.

"Shucks!" said Scattergood.

"They be," she said, fiercely. "Hain't no use tryin' to hide it. Jed and
me is about through. Nothin' but fussin' and backbitin' and
maneuvering'. He don't care f'r me no more like he used to, and--"

"You don't set sich a heap of store by him," Scattergood interrupted.

Martha hesitated. "I do," she said, slowly. "But I can't put up with it
no more."

"Jed's fault--mostly," said Scattergood, as one speaks who utters an
accepted fact.

"No more 'n mine," she said, with a sudden flash. "I dunno what's got
into us, Mr. Baines, but we no sooner git into the same room than it
commences. 'Tain't no-body's fault--it jest _is_."

"Um!... Kinder like to have things the way they used to be?"

"Oh, Mr. Baines!" Her eyes filled. "Them first two-three years! Jed was
the best man a woman ever had."

"Hain't drinkin', is he?"

"Never touches a drop."

"Jest his nasty temper," said Scattergood, casually.

"No sich thing.... It's jest happened so. We can't git on, and I'm
through tryin'. One of us is gain' to git out of this house. I've made
up my mind." She started untying her apron. "I'm a-goin' right now.
It'll be off'n my mind then, and I kin sort of git a fresh start. I'm
goin' right now and pack."

"Kind of hasty, hain't you?... Now, Marthy, as a special favor to me I
wish you'd stay, maybe two days more. I got a special reason. If you was
to go this mornin' it 'u'd upset my plans. After Sattidy you kin do as
you like, and maybe it's best you should part. But I do wisht you could
see your way to stayin' till Sattidy."

"I don't see why, Mr. Baines, but if it'll be any good to _you_, I'll
do it. But not a minute after Sattidy--now mind that!"

"Much 'bleeged, Marthy. G'-by, Marthy. G'-by."

On Friday Scattergood was invisible in Coldriver village, for he had
started away before dawn, driving his sway-backed horse over the
mountain roads to the southward. He notified nobody of his going, unless
it was Mandy, his wife, and even to her he did not make apparent his
errand.

Before noon he was in Bailey and stopping before the small white house
in which Mrs. Patterson managed by ingenuity to fit in a husband, a
mother-in-law, an aged father, seven children of her own, the Conroy
orphan, and a constantly changing number of cats. Nobody could have done
it but Mrs. Patterson. The house resembled one of those puzzle boxes
containing a number of curiously sawn pieces of wood, which, once
removed, can be returned and fitted into place again only by some one
who knows the secret.

Scattergood entered the house, remained upward of an hour, and then
reappeared, followed by Mrs. Patterson, seven children, an old man, and
an old woman--and in his arms was a baby whose lungs gave promise of a
healthy manhood.

"Do this much, does he?" Scattergood asked, uneasily.

"Not more 'n most," said Mrs. Patterson.

"Um!... If he lets on to be hungry, what's the best thing to feed him
up on? I got a bag of doughnuts and five-six sandriches and nigh on to
half a apple pie in the buggy."

"Feed him them," said Mrs. Patterson, "and you'll be like to hear some
real yellin'. What he's doin' now hain't nothin' but his objectin' to
you a-carryin' him like he was a horse blanket.... You wait right there
till I git a bottle of milk. And I'll fix you some sugar in a rag that
you kin put into his mouth if he acts uneasy. It'll quiet him right
off."

"Much 'bleeged. Hain't had much experience with young uns. Might's well
start now. Bet me 'n this here one gits well acquainted 'fore we reach
Coldriver."

"'Twouldn't s'prise me a mite," replied Mrs. Patterson, with something
that might have been a twinkle in her tired eyes. "I almost feel I
should go along with you."

"G'-by, Mrs. Patterson," said Scattergood, hastily, and he climbed into
his buggy clumsily, placing the baby on the seat beside him, and holding
it in place with his left arm. "G'-by."

The buggy rattled off. The baby hushed suddenly and began to look at the
horse.

"Kind of come to your senses, eh?" said Scattergood. "Now you and me's
goin' to git on fine if you jest keep your mouth shet. If you behave
yourself proper I dunno but what I kin find a stick of candy f'r you
when we git there."

Presently Scattergood looked down to find the baby asleep. He drove
slowly and cautiously, whispering what commands he felt were
indispensable to his horse. This delightful situation continued for
upward of two hours, and Scattergood said to himself that folks who
bothered about traveling with infants must be very easily worried.

"Jest as soon ride with this one clean to the Pacific coast," he said.

And then the baby awoke. It blinked and looked about it; it rubbed its
eyes; it stared severely up at Scattergood; it opened its mouth
tentatively, closed it again, and then--and then it uttered such an
ear-piercing, long-drawn shriek that the old horse jumped with fright.

"Hey, there!" said the startled Scattergood. "Hey! what's ailin' you
now?"

The baby closed his eyes, clenched his fists, kicked out with his legs,
and gave himself up whole-heartedly to the exercise of his voice.

"Quit that," said Scattergood. "Now listen here; that hain't no way to
behave. You won't git that candy--"

Louder and more piercing arose the baby's cries. Scattergood dropped the
reins, lifted the baby to his knee, and jounced it up and down
furiously, performing an act which he imagined to be singing, a thing he
had heard was interesting and soothing to babies. It did not even
attract this one's attention.

"Sufferin' heathen!" Scattergood said. "What in tunket was it that woman
said I sh'u'd do? Hain't they no way of shuttin' him off? Look-ee here,
young feller, you jest quit it.... B'jing! here's my watch. You kin
listen to it tick."

The baby tried the watch on his toothless gums, found it not to his
taste, and flung it from him with such vehemence that it would have
suffered permanent injury but for the size and strength of the silver
chain which attached it to Scattergood. The cries became more maddening.
Scattergood was not hungry, so it did not occur to him that the infant
might be thinking of food. He dandled it, he whistled, he sang, he
pointed out the interesting attributes of his horse, and promised to
direct attention to a rabbit or even a deer in a moment, but nothing
availed. Perspiration was pouring down Scattergood's face, and his
expression was that of a man who devoutly wishes he were far otherwise
than he is.

Half an hour of this seemed to Scattergood like the length of a sizable
day--and then he remembered the milk. Frantically he fished it out of
the basket and thrust it toward the young person, who did with it what
seemed right to him, and, with a gurgle of satisfaction, settled down to
business. Scattergood sighed, wiped his forehead, and revised his
opinion of folks who were worried at the prospect of travel with an
infant.

The rest of that drive was a nightmare to Scattergood. When the baby
yelled he was in torment. When the baby slept he was in torment lest he
wake it, so that it would commence again to cry. He sweat cold and he
sweat hot, and he wished wishes in his secret heart and blamed himself
for many things--chief of which was that he had not brought Mandy along
to bear the brunt of the adventure.

But at last, long after nightfall, with baby fast asleep, Scattergood
drove into Coldriver by deserted and circuitous roads. He stopped his
horse in a dark spot on the edge of the village, and, with the baby
cautiously held in his arms, he slunk through back ways and short cuts
to the house where Jed and Martha Lewis made their home. With meticulous
stealth he passed through the gate, laid the baby on the doorstep, rang
the bell long and determinedly, and then, with astonishing quiet and
agility, hid himself in the midst of a clump of lilacs.

The door opened, and a light shone through upon the squirming bundle
that lay upon the step. A tentative cry issued from the baby; a bass
exclamation issued from Jed Lewis. "My Gawd! Marthy, somebody's left a
baby here!"

Martha pushed past her husband and lifted the baby in her arms. She said
no word, but Scattergood could see her press it close, and, in the
light that came through the door, could see the expression of her face.
It satisfied him.

"What we goin' to do with the doggone thing?" Jed demanded.

Martha pushed past him into the house, and he followed, wordless,
closing the door after them.... Scattergood remained for some time, and
then slunk away....

Postmaster Pratt gave the news to Scattergood in the morning.

"Somebody went and left a baby on to Jed Lewis's stoop last night," he
declared. "Hain't nobody been able to identify it. Nary a mark nor a
sign on to it no place. ... Whatever possessed anybody to leave a baby
_there_ of all places?"

"I want to know!" exclaimed Scattergood. "Girl er boy?"

"Boy, I'm told."

"What's Jed say?"

"Hain't sayin' much. Jest sets and kind of hangs on to his head, and
every once in a while he gits up and looks at the baby and then goes
back to holdin' his head."

"How about Marthy?"

"Marthy," said Postmaster Pratt. "I can't make out about Marthy, but I
heard her a-singin' this mornin' 'fore breakfast. Fust time I heard her
sing for more 'n a year."

"Might 'a' been singin' to the baby," Scattergood suggested.

"Naw, it was while she was gittin' breakfast. Jest the time she and Jed
quarrels most powerful."

During the day all of Coldriver called to see the mysterious infant.
Nobody could give a clue to its identity, and it was decided unanimously
that it had been brought from a distance. As to the intentions of the
Lewises regarding its disposition, they were noncommittal. It was
universally accepted as fact, however, that the baby would be sent to
an institution.

Thereupon Scattergood called upon the First Selectman.

"What's the town goin' to do about that baby?" he demanded.
"Taxpayers'll be wantin' to know. Seems like the town's liable f'r its
support."

"Calculate we be.... Calculate we be. I been figgerin' on what steps to
take."

"Better go across to Jed's and notify 'em," said Scattergood. "They'll
be expectin' you to take action prompt. I'll go 'long with you."

They walked down the street and rapped at the Lewises' door.

"Come on official business," said the First Selectman, pompously, to
Jed, "connected with that there foundlin'."

Martha came hastily into the room. "What you want?" she demanded, in a
dangerous voice.

"Come to tell you we would take that baby off'n your hands and send it
to a institution. Git it ready, and we'll take it to-morrer."

"Take that baby!... Did you hear him, Jed Lewis? Did you hear that man
say as how he was goin' to take away my baby?" She stumbled across the
room to Jed and clutched the lapels of his coat. Scattergood noticed
with some pleasure that Jed's arm went automatically about her waist.
"Make 'em git out, Jed. Tell 'em they can't take this baby.... You want
we should keep it, don't you, Jed?... We wanted one. You know how we
wanted one.... You're goin' to let us keep it, hain't you, Jed?"

Jed put Martha aside gently and walked over to a makeshift crib in the
corner, where the baby was asleep, where he stood for a moment looking
down at it with a curious expression. Then he turned suddenly, strode to
the door, opened it, and pointed. "Git!" he said to the First Selectman
and Scattergood.

"Jed ... Jed ... darlin'," Martha cried, and as Scattergood passed out
he saw from the corner of his eye that she was sobbing on her husband's
hickory shirt and that he was patting her back with awkward gentleness.

"Looked a mite like Jed wanted we should go," said Scattergood.

"I'll have the law on to him. He'll be showed that he can't stand up to
the First Selectman of this here town, I'll--"

"You'll go home and set down in the shade and cool off," said
Scattergood, merrily, "and while you're a-coolin' you might sort of
thank Gawd that there's sich things as human bein's with human feelin's,
and that there's sich things as babies ...that sometimes gits themselves
left on the right doorstep.... G'-by, Selectman. G'-by."

A week later Scattergood was passing the Lewis home early in the
evening. In the side yard was a hammock under the trees which had been
unoccupied this year past, but to-night it was occupied again. Martha
was there with the baby against her breast, and Jed was there, his arm
tightly about his wife, and one of the baby's hands lying on his
calloused palm.... As Scattergood watched he saw Jed bend clumsily and
kiss the tiny fingers ... and Martha turned a trifle and smiled up into
her husband's eyes.

Scattergood passed on, blinking, perhaps because dust had gotten in his
eyes. He stopped at the post office and spoke to Postmaster Pratt.

"Call to mind my speakin' of soothin' syrup and Jed Lewis and his wife?"
he asked.

"Seems like I mind it, Scattergood."

"Jest walk past their house, Postmaster. Calc'late you'll see I figgered
clost to right.... Marthy's a-sittin' there with Jed in the hammick,
and they're a-holdin' on their lap the doggondest best soothin' syrup
f'r man and wife that any doctor c'u'd perscribe.... Calculate it's one
of them nature's remedies.... Go take a look, Postmaster.... G'-by."



CHAPTER X

HE HELPS WITH THE ROUGH WORK


Scattergood Baines, as he sat with shirt open at the throat, his huge
body sagged down in the chair that had been especially reinforced to
sustain his weight, seemed to passing Coldriver village to be drowsing.
Many people suspected Scattergood of drowsing when he was exceedingly
wide awake and observant of events. It was part of his stock in trade.

At this moment he was looking across the square toward the post office.
A large, broad-shouldered young man, with hair sun-bleached to a ruddy
yellow, had alighted from a buggy and entered the office. He was a fine,
bulky, upstanding farmer, built for enduring much hard labor in times of
peace and for performing feats of arms in time of war. He looked like a
fighter; he was a fighter--a willing fighter, and folks up and down the
valley stepped aside if it was noised about that Abner Levens had broken
loose. It was not that Abner delighted in the fruit of the vine nor the
essence of the maize; he was a teetotaler. But it did seem as if nature
had overdone the matter of providing him with the machinery for creating
energy and had overlooked the safety valve. Wherefore Abner, once or
twice a year, lost his temper.

Now, losing his temper was not for Abner a matter of uttering a couple
of oaths and of wrapping a hoe handle around a tree. He lost his temper
thoroughly and seemed unable to locate it again for days. He rampaged.
He roared up and down the valley, inviting one and all to step up and
be demolished, which the inhabitants were very reluctant to do, for
Abner worked upon his victims with thoroughness and enthusiasm.

When Abner was in his normal humor he was a jovial, noisily jovial young
man, who would dance with the girls until the cock tired of crowing; who
would give a day's work to a friend; who performed his civic and
religious duties punctiliously, if gayly; who was honest to the fraction
of a penny; and who would have been the most popular and admired youth
in the valley among the maidens of the valley had it not been for their
constant, uneasy fear that he might suddenly turn Berserk.

It was this young man whom Scattergood eyed thoughtfully, and, one might
say, apprehensively, for Scattergood liked the youth and feared the
germs of disaster that lay quiescent in his powerful body.

Pliny Pickett lounged past, stopped, eyed Scattergood, and seated
himself on the step.

"Abner Levens 's in town," he said.

"Seen him," answered Scattergood.

"Calc'late Asa'll be in?"

"Bein' 's it's Sattidy night, 'most likely he'll come."

"Hope Abner's feelin' friendly, then," said Pliny with an anticipatory
twinkle in his shrewd little gray eyes which gave direct contradiction
to his words. "If Abner hain't feelin' jest cheerful them boys'll be
wrastlin' all over town and pushin' down houses."

"They hain't never fit yet," said Scattergood.

"Nor won't if Asa has the say of it.... He's full as big as Abner, too.
Otherwise they don't resemble twins none."

"Hain't much brotherly feelin' betwixt 'em."

"I hain't clear as to the rights of the matter," said Pliny, "but they
hain't nothin' like a will dispute to make bad blood betwixt
relatives.... Asa got the best of _that_ argument, anyhow. Don't seem
fair, exactly, is my opinion, that Old Man Levens should up and
discriminate betwixt them boys like he did--givin' Asa a hog's share."

"Dunno's I'd worry sich a heap about that," said Scattergood, "if they
hadn't both got het up about the same gal. Looks to me like one or
tother of 'em took up with that gal jest to make mischief.... Seems like
Abner was settin' out with her fust."

"Some says both ways. I dunno," said Pliny, impartially. "Anyhow, Abner
he lets on public and constant that he's a-goin' to nail Asa's hide to
the barn door.... It's one good, healthy hate betwixt them boys."

"And trouble'll come of it.... Wonder which of 'em Mary Ware favors? If
she favors either of 'em, and trouble comes, it'll mix her in."

"Hope Abner gits him. Better for her, says I, to take up with a man like
Ab, that's a good feller fifty weeks out of the year, and goes on a tear
two weeks, than to be married to a cuss like Asa that jest goes along
sort of gloomy and _still_ and seekin'. I hain't never heard Asa laugh
with no real enjoyment into it yet. He grins and shows his teeth. He's
too dum quiet, and always acts like a feller that's afraid you'll find
out what he's got in mind."

"Um!..." said Scattergood.

"Mary's about the pertiest girl in Coldriver," said Pliny. "Dunno but
what she could handle Abner all right, too. Call to mind the firemen's
picnic last year when she went with Abner, and he busted loose on that
feller with the three shells and the leetle ball?"

"When the feller had robbed Half-wit Stenens of nigh on to twenty
dollars? I call to mind."

"Abner was jest on the p'int of separatin' that feller into chunks and
dispersin' the chunks over the county when Mary she steps up and puts
her hand en his arm, and says, 'Abner!' ... Jest like that she said it,
quiet and gentle, but firm. Abner he let loose of the feller and turned
to look at her, and in a minute all the fight went out of his face and
his eyes like somebody had drained it off. He kind of blushed and hung
his head, and walked away with her.... She didn't tongue-lash him,
neither, jest kept a-touchin' his arm so's he wouldn't forgit she was
there."

"Um!..." said Scattergood. "Here comes Asa." He lifted himself from his
creaking chair and started across the bridge. "If it's a-comin' off," he
said to Pliny, "I want to git where I kin git a good view."

In the post office the twin brothers came face to face. Scattergood saw
Abner's thin lips twist in a provocative sneer. Abner halted suddenly,
at arm's length from his brother, and eyed him from head to foot, and
Asa returned an insolent stare.

"You sneakin' hound," said Abner, without heat, as was his way in the
beginning, always. "You're lower'n I thought, and I thought you was
low." Scattergood took in these words and pondered them. Did they mean
some new cause for enmity between the brothers? Suddenly Abner's eyes
began to kindle and to blaze. Asa crouched and his teeth showed in a
saturnine, crooked smile. No man could look upon him and accuse him of
being afraid of Abner or of avoiding the issue.

"I know what you've been up to, you slinkin' varmint ... I know where
you was Tuesday." Scattergood took possession of this sentence and
placed it in the safety-deposit box of his memory. Where had Asa been
Tuesday, he wondered, and what had Asa been doing there?

"I've put up with a heap from you, for you're my own flesh and blood. I
hain't never laid a hand on you, though I've threatened it often. But
now! by Gawd, I'm goin' to take you apart so's nobody kin put you
together ag'in ... you mis'able, cheatin', low-down, crawlin' snake."
With that he stepped back a pace and with his open palm struck Asa
across the mouth.

Asa licked his lips and continued to smile his crooked, saturnine smile.

"Hain't scarcely room in here," he said, softly.

"Git outside and take off your coat," said Abner, "for I'm goin' to fix
you so's nobody kin ever accuse flesh and blood of mine of doin' agin
what I've ketched you doin'."

"What's gnawin' you," said Asa, softly, "is that I got the best farm and
that I'm a-goin' to git your girl."

There was a stark pause. Abner stiffened, grew tense, as one becomes at
the moment of bursting into dynamic action, but he did not stir.
Scattergood was surprised, but he was more surprised by Abner's next
words. "I hain't goin' to half kill you on account of your lyin' to
father, nor on account of her--it's on account of _her_." The sentence
seemed without sense or meaning, but Scattergood placed it with his
other collected sentences; he did not perceive its meaning, but he did
perceive that the first 'her' and the second 'her' were pronounced so
that they became different words, like names, indicating, identifying,
different persons. That was Scattergood's notion.

Asa turned on his heel and walked into the square, removing his coat as
he went; Abner followed. They faced each other, crouching. Abner's face
depicting wrath, Asa's depicting hatred.... Before a blow was struck, a
girl, tall, slender, deep-bosomed, fit mate for a man of might, pushed
through the circle of spectators. Her face was pale and distressed, but
very lovely. Her brown eyes were dark with the emotion of the moment,
and a wisp of wavy brown hair lay unnoticed upon her broad forehead....
She walked to Abner's side and touched his arm.

"Abner!" she said, gently.

He turned his blazing eyes upon her. "Not this time" he said. "Go away,
Mary." Even in his rage he spoke to her in a voice of reverence.

"Abner!" she repeated.

He turned to his brother. "You get off this time," he said, evenly, "but
there will be another time.... Asa, I think I am going to kill you...."

Asa laughed mockingly, and Abner took a threatening step toward him, but
Mary touched his arm again. "Abner!" she said once more; and obediently
as some well-trained mastiff he followed her through the gaping ring,
she still touching his arm, and together they walked slowly up the road.

Two days later, about eight o'clock in the morning, Sheriff Ulysses
Watts bustled down the street wearing his official, rather than his
common, or meat-wagon, air. He paused, to speak excitedly to
Scattergood, who sat as usual on the piazza of his hardware store.

"They've jest found Asa Levens's body," he ejaculated. "A-layin' clost
to the road it was, with a bullet through the head. Clear case of
murder.... I'm gatherin' a posse to fetch in the murderer."

"Murderer's known, is he?" said Scattergood, leaning forward, and eying
the sheriff.

"Abner, of course. Who else would 'a' done it? Hain't he been
a-threatenin' right along?"

"Anybody see him fire the shot, Sheriff? Any witnesses?"

"Nary witness. Nothin' but the body a-layin' where it fell."

"What was the manner of this shootin', Sheriff?"

"All I know's what I've told you."

"Gatherin' a posse, Ulysses? Who be you selectin'?"

"Various and sundry," said the sheriff.

"Any objection to deputizin' me?" said Scattergood. "Any notion I might
help some?"

"Glad to have you, Scattergood.... Got to hustle. Most likely the
murderer's escapin' this minute."

"Um!..." said Scattergood. "Need any catridges or anythin' in the
hardware line, Sheriff? Figgerin' on goin' armed, hain't you?"

"Dunno but what the boys'll need somethin'. You keep open till I gather
'em here."

"I carry the most reliable line of catridges in the state," said
Scattergood. "Prices low.... I'll be waitin', Sheriff."

In twenty minutes a dozen citizens of the vicinage gathered at
Scattergood's store, each armed with his favorite weapon, rifle or
double-barreled shotgun, and each wearing what he fancied to be the air
of a dangerous and resolute citizen.

"Calc'late he'll be desprit," said Jed Lewis. "He won't be took without
a fight."

It was characteristic of Scattergood that he delayed the setting out of
the posse until, by his peculiar methods of salesmanship, he had pressed
upon various members lethal merchandise to a value of upward of twenty
dollars. This being done, they entered a big picnic wagon with parallel
seats and set out for the scene of the crime. Coroner Bogle demanded
that the body should be viewed officially before the man-hunt should
begin. Scattergood threw the weight of his opinion with the coroner.

The body was found lying beside a narrow path leading from the road
through a field to Asa Levens's farmhouse; it lay upon its face, with
arms outstretched, very still and very peaceful, with the morning sun
shining down upon it, and the robins singing from shadowing trees, and
insects buzzing and whirring cheerfully in the fields, and the fields
themselves peaceful and beautiful in their golden embellishments, ready
for the harvest. Scattergood looked about him at the trappings of the
day, and the thought came unbidden that it was a pleasant spot in which
to die ... perhaps more pleasant than the dead man deserved.

"Shot from behind." said the sheriff.

"By somebody a-layin' in wait," said Jed Lewis.

"It was murder--cold-blooded murder," said the sheriff.

Scattergood stepped forward as the coroner turned the face up to the
light of the sun.

"It was a death by violence," said Scattergood. "It may be murder....
Asa Levens wears, as he lies, the face of a man who troubled God...."

There was none in that little group to comprehend his meaning.

"There was no struggle," said the coroner.

"He never knowed he was shot," said Jed Lewis.

"Be you still a-goin' to arrest Abner Levens?" Scattergood asked.

"To be sure. He done it, didn't he? Who else would 'a' killed Asa?"

"Who else?" said Scattergood, solemnly.

They raised Asa Levens and carried him to his house. Having left him in
proper custody, the posse re-entered its picnic van and drove with no
small trepidation toward Abner Levens's farm, a mile away. Abner Levens
was perceived from a distance, hoeing in a field.

"He's goin' to face it out," said the sheriff; "or maybe he wasn't
expectin' Asa to be found yet."

The picnic van stopped beside the field and the armed posse scrambled
out, holding its weapons threateningly; but as Abner was armed with
nothing more lethal than a hoe there was some appearance of
embarrassment among them, and more than one man endeavored to make his
shooting iron invisible by dropping it in the long grass.

"Come on," said the sheriff, and in a body the posse advanced across the
field toward Abner, who leaned upon his hoe and waited for them. "Abner
Levens," said the sheriff, in a voice which was not of the steadiest, "I
arrest you for murder."

Abner looked at the sheriff; Abner looked from one to another of the
posse in silence. It seemed as if he were not going to speak, but at
last he did speak.

"Then Asa Levens is dead," he said.

It was not a question; it was a statement, made with conviction.
Scattergood Baines noted that Abner called his brother by name as if
desiring to avoid the matter of blood kindred; that he made no denial.

"You know it better than anybody," said the sheriff.

Abner looked past the sheriff, over the uneven fields, with their rock
fences, and beyond to the green slopes of the mountains as they upreared
distinct, majestic, imposing in their serene permanence against the
undimmed summer sky.

"Asa Levens is dead," said Abner, presently. "Now I know that God is not
infinite in everything.... His patience is not infinite."

"It's my duty to warn you that anythin' you say kin be used ag'in' you,"
said the sheriff. "Be you comin' along peaceable?"

"I'm comin' peaceable," said Abner. "If God's satisfied--I be."

Abner Levens was locked in the unreliable jail of Coldriver village, and
a watch placed over him. Those who saw him marveled at his demeanor;
Scattergood Baines marveled at it, for it was not the demeanor of a
man--even of an innocent man--accused of a crime for which the penalty
was death. Abner sat upon the hard bench and looked quietly, even
placidly, out at the brightness of day, as it was apparent beyond flimsy
iron bars, and his expression was the expression of _contentment_.

He had not demanded the benefit of legal guidance; he had neither
affirmed nor denied his guilt; indeed, he had uttered no word since the
door of the jail had closed behind him.

Mary Ware spoke to the young man through the window of the jail in full
view of all Coldriver.

"You didn't do it, Abner. I know you didn't do it," she said, so that
all might hear, "and if you still want me, Abner, like you said, I'll
stick by you through thick and thin."

"Thank ye, Mary," Abner replied. "Now I guess you better go away."

"What shall I do, Abner--to help you?"

"Nothing Mary. Looks like God's took aholt of matters. Better let him
finish 'em in his own way."

That was all; neither Mary Ware nor any other could get more out of him,
and it was said by many to be a confession of guilt.

"Realizes there hain't no use makin' a defense. Calc'lates on takin' his
medicine like a man," said Postmaster Pratt.... There were those in town
who voiced the wish that it had been some other than Abner who had
killed Asa Levens. "His gun's been shot recent," said the sheriff. It
was the final gram of evidence necessary to complete assurance of
Abner's guilt.

Mary Ware was observed by many to walk directly from the jail window to
Scattergood Baines's hardware store, and there to stop and address
Scattergood, who sat barefooted, and therefore in deep thought, before
the door of his place of business.

"Mr. Baines," said Mary, "you've helped other folks. Will you help me?"

"Help you how, Mary? What kin I do for you?"

"Abner isn't guilty, Mr. Baines"

"Tell you so?... Abner tell you so?"

"No."

"Um!... 'F he was innocent, wouldn't he deny it, Mary?" He did not
permit her to reply, but asked another question. "What makes you say he
hain't guilty, Mary?"

"Because I know it," she replied, simply.

"How do you know it, Mary? It's mighty hard to _know_ anythin' on earth.
How d'you _know_?"

"Because I know," said Mary.

"'Twon't convince no jury."

Mary stood in silence for a moment, and then turned away, not tearful,
not despairing.

"Hold your hosses," said Scattergood. "Kin you think of anythin' that
might convince a _stranger_ that Abner is innocent?"

Mary considered. "Asa was shot," she said.

Scattergood nodded.

"From behind," said Mary.

Scattergood nodded again.

"Asa never knew who shot him," said Mary, and again Scattergood moved
his head. "If Abner had killed Asa," she went on, "he would have done it
with his hands. He would have wanted Asa to know who was killing him."

"Might convince them that knows Abner," said Scattergood, "but the
jury'll be strangers." He paused, and asked, suddenly, "Why did you let
Asa Levens come to court you?"

"Because I hated him," said Mary.

"Um!... Abner say anythin' to you?"

"He said God had taken hold of matters and we'd better let him finish
them."

"When God takes holt of human affairs he mostly uses human bein's to do
the rough work," said Scattergood.

"Abner's innocent," said Mary, stubbornly.

"Mebby so.... Mebby so."

"Will you help me clear him, Mr. Baines?"

"I'll help you find out the truth, Mary, if that'll keep you
satisfied. Calculate I'd like to know the truth myself. Had a look at
Asa's face a-layin' there by the road, and it interested me."

"Did you see that?" Mary asked, with sudden excitement.

"What?" asked Scattergood, curiously.

"The mark.... Sometimes it showed plain. It was a mark put on Asa
Levens's face as a warning to folks that God mistrusted him."

"When he was dead it was different," said Scattergood, with solemnity.
"It said he had r'iled God past endurance."

Mary nodded. She comprehended. "The truth will do," she said,
confidently.

"Did Abner mention last Tuesday to you?" Scattergood asked.

"No."

"Where was Asa Levens last Tuesday? Do you know, Mary?"

"No."

"Why did Abner say to Asa yesterday, 'It's not on account of her, it's
on account of _her_'?"

"I don't know."

"G'-by, Mary. G'-by." It was so Scattergood always ended a conversation,
abruptly, but as one became accustomed to it it was neither abrupt nor
discourteous.

"Thank you," said Mary, and she went away obediently.

As the afternoon was stretching toward evening, Scattergood sauntered
into Sheriff Ulysses Watts's barn.

"Who's feedin' and waterin' Asa Levens's stock?" he asked.

"Dummed if I didn't clean forgit 'em," confessed the sheriff.

"Any objection if I look after 'em, Sheriff? Any logical objection? Hoss
might need exercisin'. Can't never tell. Want I should drive up and do
what's needed to be done?"

"Be much 'bleeged," said Sheriff Watts.

Scattergood drove briskly to Asa Levens's farm, watered and fed the
stock, and then led out of its stall Asa Levens's favorite driving mare.
He hitched it to Asa Levens's buggy and mounted to the seat. "Giddap,"
he said to the mare, and dropped the reins on her back. She started out
of the gate and turned toward town. Scattergood let the reins lie,
attempting no guidance. At the next four corners the mare hesitated,
slowed, and, feeling no direction from her driver, turned to the left.
Scattergood nodded his head.

The mare trotted on, following the slowly lifting mountain road for a
matter of two miles, and then turned again down a highway that was
little more than a tote road. Half a mile later she stopped with her
nose against the fence of a shabby farmhouse, and sagged down, as is the
custom of horses when they realize they are at their destination and
have a rest of duration before them. Scattergood alighted and fastened
her to the fence.

As he swung open the gate a middle-aged man appeared in the door of the
house, and over his shoulder Scattergood could see the white face of a
woman--staring.

"Evening Jed," said Scattergood. "Evening Mis' Briggs."

"Howdy, Mr. Baines? Wa'n't expectin' to see _you_. What fetches you this
fur off'n the road?"

"Sort of got here by accident, you might say. Didn't come of my own free
will, seems as though. Kind of tired, Jed. Mind if I set a spell?...
How's the cannin', Mis' Briggs?"

"Done up thutty quarts to-day, Mr. Baines," said the young woman, who
was Jed Briggs's wife, a woman fifteen years his junior, comely,
desirable, vivid.

"Um!... Got a hoss out here. Want you should both come and look her
over." He raised himself to his feet, and was followed by Jed Briggs and
his wife to the fence.

"Likely mare," said Scattergood, blandly.

Startlingly Mrs. Briggs laughed, shrilly, unpleasantly, as a woman
laughs in great fear.

"Gawd!" said Jed Briggs, "it's--"

"Yes," said Scattergood, gently. "It's Asa Levens's mare. Was she here
last Tuesday?"

"She was here Tuesday, Scattergood Baines," said Jed Briggs. "What's the
meanin' of this?"

"I knowed she was somewheres Tuesday," Scattergood said, impersonally.
"Didn't know where, but I mistrusted she'd been to that place frequent.
Jest got in and give her her head. She brought me.... Asa Levens is
dead."

"Dead!" said Jed Briggs in a hushed voice.

"He deserved to die.... He deserved to die.... He deserved to die ..."
the young woman repeated shrilly, hysterically.

"Was you in town to lodge Tuesday night, Jed?"

"Yes."

"Asa come every lodge night, Mis' Briggs?"

"He always came--when Jed was here and when Jed was away.... When Jed
was here he'd jest set eyin' me and eyin' me ... and when Jed was gone
he--he talked...."

"Asa owned the mortgage on the place," said Jed, as if that explained
something. Scattergood nodded comprehension.

"Keep up your int'rest, Jed?"

"Year behind. Asa was threatenin' foreclosure."

"Threatened to throw us offn the place ... ag'in and ag'in he
threatened--and we'd 'a' starved, 'cause Jed hain't strong. It's me does
most of the work.... What we got into this place is all we got on
earth ... and he threatened to take it."

"He come Tuesday night," said Scattergood, as a prompter speaks.

"Hush, Lindy," said Jed.

"I calculate you'd best both of you talk," said Scattergood. "You'd
better tell me, Jed, jest why you shot Asa Levens."

Lindy Briggs uttered a choking cry and clutched her husband; Jed Briggs
stared at Scattergood with hunted eyes.

"It'll be best for you to tell. I'm standin' your friend, Jed
Briggs.... Better tell me than the sheriff.... Asa Levens was here
Tuesday night...."

"He excused us from payin' our int'rest," said Jed, and then he, too,
laughed shrilly. "Let us off our int'rest. Lindy told me when I come
home. Couldn't hardly b'lieve my ears." Jed was talking wildly,
pitifully. "Lindy was a-layin' on the floor, sobbin', when I come home,
and she was afeard to tell me why Asa let us off our int'rest, but I
coaxed her, Mr. Baines, and she told me--and so I shot Asa Levens 'cause
he wa'n't fit to live."

Scattergood nodded. "Sich things was wrote on Asa's face," he said. "But
what about Abner? Wa'n't goin' to let him suffer f'r your act, Jed? What
about Abner?"

"Him too.... All of that blood.... I met Abner on the road of a Tuesday
when I wa'n't quite myself with all that had happened, and I stopped his
hoss and accused his brother to his face.... He listened quiet-like, and
then he laughed. That's what Abner done, he laughed.... When I heard he
was arrested f'r the killin', I laughed.... Back in Bible times, if one
of a family sinned, God wiped out the whole of the kin...."

Scattergood was thoughtful. "Yes," he said, "Abner would have laughed.
That was like Abner.... Now I calc'late you and Mis' Briggs better fix
up and drive to town with me.... Don't be afeard. Right'll be done, and
there hain't no more sufferin' fallin' to your share, ... You been doin'
God's rough work, Jed, and I don't calc'late he figgers to have you
punished f'r it...."

Next morning at ten by the clock the coroner with his jury held inquest
over the body of Asa Levens, and over that body Jed Briggs and Lindy,
his wife, told their story under oath to ears that credited the truth of
their words because they knew the man of whom those words were spoken.
The jury deliberated briefly. Its verdict was in these words:

"We find that Asa Levens came to his death by act of God, and that there
are found no reasons for further investigation into this matter."

And so it stands in the imperishable records of the township; legal
authority recognized the right of Deity to utilize a human being for his
rougher sort of work.

"I knew it was something like this," Mary Ware said, clinging openly and
unashamed to Abner Levens. "It's why he couldn't defend himself."

Abner nodded. "My flesh and blood was guilty. Could I free myself by
accusin' the husband of this woman?... I calc'lated God meant to destroy
us Levenses, root and branch.... It was his business, not mine."

"I've took note," said Scattergood, "that them that was most strict
about mindin' their own business was gen'ally most diligent about doin'
God's--all unbeknownst to themselves."



CHAPTER XI

HE INVESTS IN SALVATION


From Scattergood Baines's seat on the piazza of his hardware store he
could look across the river and through a side window of the bank.
Scattergood was availing himself of this privilege. As a member of the
finance committee of the bank Scattergood was naturally interested in
that enterprise, so important to the thrifty community, but his interest
at the moment was not exactly official. He was regarding, speculatively,
the back of young Ovid Nixon, the assistant cashier.

His concern for young Ovid was sartorial. It is true that a shiny alpaca
office coat covered the excellent shoulders of the boy, but below that
alpaca and under Scattergood's line of vision were trousers--and
carefully stretched over a hanger on a closet hook was a coat! There was
also a waistcoat, recognized only by the name of _vest_ in Coldriver,
and that very morning Scattergood had seen the three, to say nothing of
a certain shirt and a necktie of sorts, making brave young Ovid's
figure.

Ovid passed Scattergood's store on the way to his work. Baines had
regarded him with interest.

"Mornin', Ovid" he said.

"Morning, Mr. Baines."

"Calc'late to be wearin' some new clothes, Ovid? Eh?"

Ovid smiled down at himself, and wagged his head.

"Don't recall seem' jest sich a suit in Coldriver before," said
Scattergood. "Never bought 'em at Lafe Atwell's, did you?"

"Got 'em in the city," said Ovid.

"I want to know! Come made that way, Ovid, or was they manufactured
special fer you?"

"Best tailor there was," said Ovid.

"Must 'a' come to quite a figger, includin' the shirt and necktie."

"Forty dollars for the suit," Ovid said, proudly, "and it busted a
five-dollar bill all to pieces to git the shirt and tie."

Scattergood waggled his head admiringly. "Must be a satisfaction," he
said, "to be able to afford sich clothes."

Ovid looked a bit doubtful, but Scattergood's voice was so interested,
so bland, that any suspicion of irony was allayed.

"How's your ma?" Scattergood asked.

"Pert," answered Ovid. "Ma's spry. Barrin' a siege of neuralgy in the
face off and on, ma hain't complainin' of nothin'."

"Has she took to patronizin' a city tailor, too?" Scattergood asked.

"Mostly," said Ovid, "ma makes her own."

Scattergood nodded.

"Still does sewin' for other folks?"

"Ma enjoys it," said Ovid, defensively. "Says it passes the time."

"Passes consid'able of it, don't it? Passes the time right up till she
gits into bed?"

"Ma's industrious."

"It's a handsome rig-out," said Scattergood. "Credit to you; credit to
Coldriver; credit to the bank."

Ovid glanced down at his legs to admire them.

"Been spendin' Saturday nights and Sundays out of town for a spell,
hain't you? Seems like I hain't seen you around."

"Been takin' the 'three-o'clock' down the line," said Ovid, complacently.

"Girl?" said Scattergood--one might have noticed that it was hopefully.

"Naw.... Fellers. We go to the opery Saturday nights and kind of amuse
ourselves Sundays."

"Um!... G'-by, Ovid."

"Good-by, Mr. Baines."

Coldriver had seen tailor-made clothing before, worn by drummers and
visitors, but it is doubtful if it had ever really experienced one
personally adorning one of its own citizens. A few years before it had
been currently reported that Jed Lewis was about to have such a suit to
be married in, but it turned out that the major part of the sum to be
devoted to that purpose actually went as the first payment on a parlor
organ and that Lafe Atwell purveyed the wedding garment. This denouement
had created a breath of dissatisfaction with Jed, and there were those
who argued that organs were more wasteful than clothes, because you
could go to church of a Sunday, drop a dime in the collection plate, and
hear all the organ music a body needed to hear.

So now Scattergood regarded Ovid speculatively through the window,
setting on opposite mental columns Ovid's salary of nine hundred dollars
a year and the probable total cost of tailor-made clothes and weekly
trips down the line on the "three-o'clock."

Scattergood was interested in every man, woman, and child in Coldriver.
Their business was his business. But just now he owned an especial
concern for Ovid, because he, and he alone, had placed the boy in the
bank after Ovid's graduation from high school--and had watched him, with
some pleasure, as he progressed steadily and methodically to a position
which Coldriver regarded as one of the finest it was possible for a
young man to hold. To be assistant cashier of the Coldriver Savings
Bank was to have achieved both social and business success.

Scattergood liked Ovid, had confidence in the boy, and even speculated
on the possibility of attaching Ovid to his own enterprises as he had
attached young Johnnie Bones, the lawyer. But latterly he had done a
deal of thinking. In the first place, there was no need for Mrs. Nixon
to continue to take in sewing when Ovid earned nine hundred a year; in
the second place, Ovid had been less engrossed in his work and more
engrossed by himself and by interests "down the line."

It was Scattergood's opinion that Ovid was sound at bottom, but was
suffering from some sort of temporary attack, which would have its
run ... if no serious complication set in. Scattergood was watching for
symptoms of the complication.

Three weeks later Ovid took the "three-o'clock" down the line of a
Saturday afternoon and failed to return Sunday night. Indeed, he did not
appear Monday night, nor was there explanatory word from him. Mrs. Nixon
could give Scattergood no explanation, and she herself, in the midst of
a spell of neuralgia, was distracted.

Scattergood fumbled automatically for his shoe fastenings, but,
recalling in time that he was seated in a lady's parlor, restrained his
impulse to free his feet from restraint in order that he might clear his
thoughts by wriggling his toes.

"Likely," he said, "it's nothin' serious. Then, ag'in, you can't
tell.... You do two things, Mis' Nixon: go out to the farm and stay with
my wife--Mandy'll be glad to have you ... and keep your mouth shet."

"You'll find him, Mr. Baines?... You'll fetch him back to me?"

"If I figger he's wuth it," said Scattergood.

He went from Mrs. Nixon's to the bank, where the finance committee were
gathering to discuss the situation and to discover if Ovid's
disappearance were in any manner connected with the movable assets of
the institution. There were Deacon Pettybone, Sam Kettleman, the grocer,
Lafe Atwell, Marvin Towne--Scattergood made up the full committee.

"How be you?" Scattergood said, as he sat in a chair which uttered its
protest at the burden.

"What d'you think?" Towne said. "Got any notions? Noticed anythin'
suspicious?"

"Not 'less it's that there dude suit of clothes," said Atwell, with some
acidity.

"You put him in here," said Kettleman to Scattergood.

"Calculate I did.... Hain't found no reason to regret it--not yit.
Looks to me like the fust move's to kind of go over the books and the
cash, hain't it?... You fellers tackle the books and I'll give the vault
an overhaulin'."

Scattergood already had made up his mind that if Ovid had allowed any of
the bank's funds to cling to him when he went away the shortage would be
discoverable in the cash reserve, undoubtedly in a lump sum, and not by
an examination of the books. It was his judgment that Ovid was not of a
caliber to plan the looting of a bank and skillfully to hide his
progress by a falsification of the books. That required an imagination
that Ovid lacked. No, Scattergood said to himself, if Ovid had looted he
had looted clumsily--and on sudden provocation.... Therefore he chose
the vault for his peculiar task.

It is a comparatively easy task to count the cash reserve in the vault
of so small a bank. Even a matter of thirty-odd thousand dollars can be
checked by one man alone in half an hour, for the small silver is packed
away in rolls, each roll containing a stated sum; the larger silver is
bagged, each bag bearing a label stating the amount of its contents, and
the currency is wrapped in packages containing even sums....
Scattergood went to work. He went over the cash carefully, and totaled
the sums he set down on a bit of paper.... He found the amount to be
inadequate by exactly three thousand dollars.

"Huh!" said Scattergood to himself. "Ovid hain't no hawg."

One might have thought the young man had dropped in Scattergood's
estimation. It would have been as easy to make away with twenty thousand
dollars as with three thousand, and the penalty would not have been
greater.

"Kind of a childish sum," said Scattergood to himself. "'Tain't wuth
bustin' up a life over--not three thousand.... Calc'late Ovid hain't
_bad_--not at a figger of three thousand. Jest a dum fool--him and his
tailor-made clothes...."

In the silence of the vault Scattergood removed his shoes and sat on a
pile of bagged silver. His pudgy toes worked busily while he reflected
upon the sum of three thousand dollars and what the theft of that amount
might indicate. "Looked big to Ovid," he said to himself. Then, "Jest a
dum young eediot...."

He replaced the cash and, carrying his shoes in his hand, left the vault
and closed it behind him. His four fellow committeemen were sweating
over the books, but all looked up anxiously as Scattergood appeared. He
stood looking at them an instant, as if in doubt.

"What d'you find?" asked Atwell.

"She checks," said Scattergood.

The four drew a breath of relief. Scattergood wished that he might have
joined them in the breath, but there was no relief for him. He had
joined his fortunes to those of Ovid Nixon--and to those of Ovid's
mother; had become _particeps criminis_, and the requirements of the
situation rested heavily upon him.

It was past midnight before the laborious four finished their review of
the books and joined with Scattergood in giving Ovid a clean bill of
health.

"Didn't think Ovid had it in him to steal," said Kettleman.

"Hain't got no business stirrin' us up like this for nothin'," said
Atwell, acrimoniously.

"Maybe," suggested Scattergood, "Ovid's come down with a fit of
suthin'."

"Hope it's painful," said Lafe, "I'm a-goin' home to bed."

"What'll we do?" asked Deacon Pettybone.

"Nothin'," said Scattergood, "till some doin' is called fur. Calc'late I
better slip on my shoes. Might meet my wife." Mandy Scattergood was
doing her able best to break Scattergood of his shoeless ways.

"Guess we'll let Ovid git through when he comes back," said Deacon
Pettybone, harshly, making use of the mountain term to denote discharge.
There no one is ever discharged, no one ever resigns. The single phrase
covers both actions--the individual "gets through."

"I always figgered," said Scattergood, urbanely, "that it was allus
premature to git ahead of time.... I'm calc'latin' on runnin' down to
see what kind of a fit of ailment Ovid's come down with."

Next morning, having in the meantime industriously allowed the rumor to
go abroad that Ovid was suddenly ill, Scattergood took the seven-o'clock
for points south. He did not know where he was going, but expected to
pick up information on that question en route. His method of reaching
for it was to take a seat on a trunk in the baggage car.

The railroad, Scattergood's individual property and his greatest step
forward in his dream for the development of the Coldriver Valley, was
but a year old now. It was twenty-four miles long, but he regarded it
with an affection only second to his love for his hardware store--and
he dealt with it as an indulgent parent.... Pliny Pickett once stage
driver, was now conductor, and wore with ostentation a uniform suitable
to the dignity, speaking of "my railroad" largely.

"Hear Ovid Nixon's sick down to town" said Pliny.

"Sich a rumor's come to me."

"Likely at the Mountain House?" ventured Pliny.

"Shouldn't be s'prised."

"That's where he mostly stopped," said Pliny.

"Um!... Wonder what ailment Ovid was most open to git?"

Scattergood and Pliny talked politics for the rest of the journey, and,
as usual, Pliny received directions to "talk up" certain matters to his
passengers. Pliny was one of Scattergood's main channels to public
opinion. At the junction Scattergood changed for the short ride to town,
and there he carried his ancient valise up to the Mountain House, where
he registered.

"Young feller named Nixon--Ovid Nixon--stoppin' here?" he asked the
clerk.

"Checked out Monday night."

"Um!... Monday night, eh? Expect him back? I was calc'latin' on meetin'
him here to-day."

"He usually gets in Saturday night.... You might ask Mr. Pillows, over
there by the cigar case. He and Nixon hang out together."

Scattergood scrutinized Mr. Pillows and did not like the appearance of
that young man; not that he looked especially vicious, but there was a
sort of useless, lazy, sponging look to him. Baines set him down as the
sort of young man who would play Kelly pool with money his mother earned
by doing laundry, and, in addition, catalogued him as a "saphead." He
acted accordingly.

Walking lightly across the lobby, he stopped just behind Pillows, and
then said, with startling sharpness, "Where's Ovid Nixon?"

The agility with which Mr. Pillows leaped into the air and descended,
facing Scattergood, did some little to raise him in the estimation of
Coldriver's first citizen. Nor did he pause to study Scattergood. One
might have said that he lit in mid-career, at the top of his speed, and
was out of the door before Scattergood could extend a pudgy hand to
snatch at him. Scattergood grinned.

"Figgered he'd be a mite skittish," he said to the girl behind the cigar
counter.

"I _thought_ something sneaking was going on," said the young woman, as
if to herself.

Scattergood gave her his attention. She had red hair, and his respect
for red hair was a notable characteristic. There was a freckle or two on
her nose, her eyes were steady, and her mouth was firm--but she was
pretty. Scattergood continued to regard her in silence, and she, not
disconcerted, studied him.

"You and me is goin' to eat dinner together this noon," he said,
presently.

"Business or pleasure?" Her rejoinder was tart.

"Why?"

"If it's business, we eat. If it's pleasure, you've stopped at the wrong
cigar counter."

"I knowed I was goin' to take to you," said Scattergood. "You got
capable hair.... This here was to be business."

"Twelve o'clock sharp, then," she said.

He looked at the clock. It lacked half an hour of noon.

"G'-by," he said, and went to a distant corner, where he seated himself
and stared out of the window, trying to imagine what he would do if he
were Ovid Nixon, and what would make him appropriate three thousand
dollars.... At twelve o'clock he lumbered over to the cigar case. "C'm
on," he said. "Hain't got no time to waste."

The girl put on her hat and they walked out together.

"What's your name?" Scattergood asked.

"Pansy O'Toole.... You're Scattergood Baines--that's why I'm here.... I
don't eat with every man that oozes out of the woods."

Scattergood said nothing. It was a fixed principle of his to let other
folks do the talking if they would. If not he talked himself--deviously.
Seldom did he ask a direct question regarding any matter of importance,
and so strong was habit that it was rare for him to put any query
directly. If he wanted to know what time it was he would lead up to the
subject by mentioning sun dials, or calendars, or lunar eclipses, and so
approach circuitously and by degrees, until his victim was led to
exhibit his watch. Pansy did not talk.

"See lots of folks, standin' back of that counter like you do?" he
began.

"Lots."

"Um!... From lots of towns?... From Boston?"

"Yes."

"From Tupper Falls?"

"Some."

"From Coldriver?"

"If you want to know if I know Ovid Nixon, why don't you ask right out?"

Scattergood looked at her admiringly.

"I know him," she said.

"Like him?"

"He's a nice boy." Scattergood liked the way she said "nice." It
conveyed a fine shade of meaning, and he thought more of Ovid in
consequence. "But he's awful young--and green."

"Calc'late he is--calc'late he is."

"He needs somebody to look after him," she said, sharply.

"Thinkin' of undertakin' the work?... Favor undertakin' it?"

She looked at him a moment speculatively. "I might do worse. He'd be
decent and kind--and I've got brains. I could make something of him...."

"Um!... Ovid's up and made somethin' of himself."

"What?" She spoke quickly, sharply.

"A thief."

Scattergood glanced sidewise to study the effect of this curt
announcement, but her face was expressionless, rather too
expressionless.

"That's why you're looking for him?"

"Yes."

"To put him in jail?"

"What would _you_ calc'late on doin' if you was me?"

"Before I did anything," she said, slowly, "I'd make up my mind if he
was a thief, or if he just happened to take whatever it was he has
taken.... I'd be sure he was _bad_. If I made up my mind he'd just been
green and a fool--well, I'd see to it he never was that kind of a fool
again.... But not by jailing him."

"Um!... Three thousand's a lot of money."

"Mr. Baines, I see men and other kinds of men from behind my cigar
counter--and the kind of a man Ovid Nixon _could_ be is worth more than
that."

"Mebby so.... Mebby so. But if I was investin' in Ovid, I'd want some
sort of a guarantee with him. Would you be willin' to furnish the
guarantee? And see it was kept good?"

"If you mean what I think you do--yes," she said, steadily. "I'd marry
Ovid to-morrow."

"Him bein' a thief?"

"Girls that sell cigars aren't so select," she said, a trifle bitterly.

"Pansy," said Scattergood, and he patted her back with a heavy hand that
was, nevertheless, gentle, "if 'twan't for Mandy, that I've up and
married already, I calc'late I'd try to cut Ovid out.... But then I've
kinder observed that every woman you meet up with, if she's bein'
crowded by somethin' hard and mean, strikes you as bein' better 'n any
other woman you ever see. I call to mind a number.... Ovid some attached
to you, is he?"

"He's never made love to me, if that's what you mean."

"Think you could land him--for his good and yourn?"

"I--why, I think I could," she said.

"Is it a bargain?"

"What?"

"For, and in consideration of one dollar to you in hand paid, and the
further consideration of you undertakin' to keep an eye on him till
death do you part, I agree to keep him out of jail--and without nobody
knowin' he was ever anythin' but honest--and a dum fool."

She held out her hand and Scattergood took it.

"What's got Ovid into this here mess?"

"Bucket shop," she said.

"Um!... They been lettin' him make a mite of money--up to now, eh? So he
calc'lated on gittin' rich at one wallop. Kind of led him along, I
calc'late, till they got him to swaller hook, line, and sinker ... and
then they up and jerked him floppin' on to the bank.... Who owns this
here bucket shop?"

"Tim Peaney."

"Perty slick, is he?"

"Slick enough to take care of Ovid and sheep like him--but I can't help
thinking he's a sheep himself."

"He got Ovid's three thousand, or Ovid 'u'd 'a' come back Sunday
night.... Got to find Ovid--and got to git that money back."

"I've an idea Ovid's right in town. If you're suspicious, and keep your
eyes open, you can tell when something's going on. That Pillows man you
scared knows, and Peaney acts like the man of mystery in one of the kind
of plays we get around here. It's breaking out all over them.... I'll
bet they've fleeced Ovid, and now they're hiding him--to save themselves
more than him."

"And Ovid's the kind that would let himself be hid," said Scattergood.
"Do you and me work together on this job?"

"If I can help--"

"You bet you kin.... We'll jest let Ovid lie hid while we kind of
maneuver around Peaney some--commencin' right soon. Peaney ever aspire
to take you to dinner?"

"Yes," she said, shortly.

"Git organized to go with him to-night...."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in the neighborhood of five o'clock when Mr. Peaney came into the
Mountain House and stopped at the cigar counter for cigarettes.

"Any more friendly to-day, sister?" he asked.

Pansy smiled and leaned across the case. "The trouble with you," she
said, in a low tone, "is that you're a piker."

"Piker--me?"

"Always after small change."

"Just show me some real money once," he said, flamboyantly.

"It would scare you," she said.

"Show me some--you'd see how it would scare me."

"I wonder," she said, musingly, "if you have the nerve?"

"For what?" he said, with quickened interest.

"To go after a wad that I know of?"

"Say," he said, his eyes narrowing, his face assuming a look of cupidity
and cunning, "do you know something? If you do, come on out where we can
eat and talk. If there's anything in it I'll split with you."

"I know you will," she said, promptly. "Fifty-fifty.... In an hour, at
Case's restaurant."

At the hour set Pansy and Mr. Peaney found a corner table in the little
restaurant, and when they had ordered Peaney asked, "Well, what you got
on your mind?"

"A big farmer from the backwoods--with a trunkful of money. Don't know
how he got it. Must have sold the family wood lot, but he's got it with
him ... and he came down to invest it."

"No."

"Honest Injun."

"How much?"

"From what he said it's more than ten thousand dollars."

"Lead me to him."

"He'll need some playing with--thinks he's sharp.... But I've been
talking to him. Guess he took a liking to me. Wanted to take me to
dinner--and he did."

"Say!" exclaimed Mr. Peaney, in admiration, "I had you sized all wrong."

"It'll take nerve," Pansy said.

"It's what I've got most of."

"He's no Ovid Nixon."

"Eh?... What d'you know about Ovid Nixon?"

"I know he was too green to burn and that you and he were together a
lot.... Isn't that enough?"

He smiled complacently, seeing a compliment. "He was easy--but he got to
be a nuisance."

"Making trouble?"

"No.... Scared."

"I _see_," she nodded, wisely. "Lost more than he had, was that it? And
then helped himself to what he didn't have?"

"I'm not supposed to know where it came from. None of my business."

"Of course not"--her tone was rank flattery. "Wants you to take care of
him. Threatens to squeal. I know.... So you've got to hide him out."

"You are a wise one. Where'd you get it?"

"I didn't always sell cigars for a living.... He isn't apt to break
loose and spoil this thing, is he?"

"Too scared to show his face.... If we can pull this across he can show
it whenever he wants to--I'll be gone."

So Ovid Nixon was here--in town. It was as she had reasoned. If here, he
was somewhere in the building Mr. Peaney occupied as a bucket shop.

"It's understood we divide--if I introduce my farmer to you--and show
you how to get it."

"You bet, sister."

"Have you any money? Nothing makes people so confident and trustful as
the sight of money?"

"I've got it," he said, complacently.

"Then you come to the hotel this evening.... Just do as I say. I'll
manage it. In a couple of days--if you have the nerve and do exactly
what I say--you can forget Ovid Nixon and take a long journey."

Two hours later, when Peaney entered the lobby of the Mountain House, he
saw a very fat, uncouthly dressed backwoodsman talking to Pansy. She
signaled him and he walked over nonchalantly.

"Mr. Baines," said Pansy, "here's the gentleman I was speaking about. He
can advise you. He's a broker, and everybody trusts him." She lowered
her voice. "He's very rich, himself. Made it in stocks. I guess he
knows what's going on right in Mr. Rockefeller's private office.... You
couldn't do better than to talk business with him.... Mr. Peaney, Mr.
Baines."

"Very glad to meet you, sir," said Peaney, in his grandest manner.

"Much obleeged, and the same to you," said Scattergood, beaming his
admiration. "Hear tell you're one of them stock brokers."

"Yes, sir. That's my business."

"Guess you and me had better talk some. I'm a-lookin' for somebody to
gimme advice about investin'. I got a sight of money to invest
some'eres--a sight of it. Railroad stocks, or suthin'. Calc'late on
makin' myself well off."

"I'm not taking any new clients, Mr. Baines. I'm very busy indeed." He
glanced at Pansy. "But if you are a friend of Miss O'Toole's possibly I
can break my rule.... About how much do you wish to invest?"

"Oh, say fifteen to twenty thousand. Figger on doublin' it up, or mebby
better 'n that. Folks does it. I've read about 'em."

"To be sure they do--if they are properly advised. But one has to know
the stock market--like a book."

"And Mr. Peaney knows it like a book," said Pansy.

Peaney lowered his voice. "I have agents--men in the offices of great
corporations, and they telegraph me secrets. I know when a big stock
manipulation is coming off--and my clients profit by it."

"Don't call to mind none, right now, do you?"

Mr. Peaney looked about him cautiously. "I do," he said, in a low voice.
"My man in the office of the president of the International Utilities
Company wired me to-day that to-morrow they were going to shove the
stock up five points."

"Um!... Don't understand. What's that mean?"

"It means, if you invested a thousand dollars on margin and the stock
went up five points, you would get your money back, and five thousand
dollars besides."

"Say!... I knowed they was money to be made easy.... But I hain't no
fool. I don't know you, mister." Scattergood became very cunning. "I
don't know this here girl very well--though I kinder took to her at the
first. I'm a-goin' cautious. I might git smouged.... What I aim to do is
to go careful till I git on to the ropes and know who to trust....
Hain't goin' to put all my money in at the first go-off. No, siree.
Goin' to try it first kind of small, and if it shows all right, why,
then I'm a-goin' in right up to my neck.... Folks back home would figger
I was pretty slick if I come home with a million dollars."

"That's the smart way," Pansy said, with a little grimace at Peaney.
"Why don't you try this International Utilities investment,
to-morrow--say for a thousand dollars?... If you--come out right, then
you'll know you can trust Mr. Peaney, and the next time he has some real
information you can jump right in and make a fortune."

"Sounds mighty reasonable. I kin afford to lose a thousand--charge it up
to investigatin'.... My, jest think of gainin' five thousand dollars
jest by settin' down and takin' it."

"It's the way money is made," said Mr. Peaney.

"How'd I know I'd git the money?" Scattergood asked, with sudden doubt.

"Why, you'd _see_ it," said Pansy, with another grimace at Peaney. "You
put your thousand dollars on the counter, and Mr. Peaney puts five
thousand right beside it. You see it all the time. If you come out
right, you just pick up the money and walk off."

"No!... _Say_! That's slick, hain't it? Wisht you'd come along when we
try, Miss O'Toole. Somehow I'd feel easier in my mind if you was
along.... See you early in the mornin'.... Got to git to bed, now.
Always aim to be in bed by nine.... G' night."

"Say," expostulated Mr. Peaney, "do you expect me to hand over five
thousand to that hick? He might walk off with it."

"He might walk off with the hotel.... I told you you hadn't any
nerve.... Why, give that fat man a taste of easy money and you couldn't
drive him away. Let him sleep all night with five thousand dollars that
came as easy as that, and you couldn't drive him away from your office
with a gun.... Besides, I'm here to take care of him ...or are you a
quitter?"

"Twenty thousand dollars," Mr. Peaney said to himself. "Then I'll show
you how good my nerve is. Bring on your fat man...."

Scattergood was up at his accustomed early hour, and before breakfast
had examined Mr. Peaney's premises from front and rear. The bucket shop
was in a small wooden building. The ground floor consisted of a large
office where was visible the big blackboard upon which stock quotations
were posted, and of a back room whose interior was invisible from the
street. A corner of the main office had been partitioned off as a
private retreat for Mr. Peaney. What was upstairs Scattergood could not
tell with accuracy, but he judged it to be a single room or perhaps two
small rooms.... It was here, he felt certain, Ovid was secreting
himself, and, with a certain grimness, he hoped the young man was not
happy in his surroundings.

"I calc'late," he said to himself, "that Ovid, bein' shet up with his
own figgerin's and imaginin's, hain't in no jubilant frame of mind....
Meanest punishment you kin give a feller is to lock him in for a spell
with himself, callin' himself names...." When the office opened,
Scattergood and Pansy were at the door, where Mr. Peaney welcomed them,
not without a certain uneasiness at the prospect of intrusting his money
to Scattergood.

"Let's git started right off," Scattergood said. "I'd like to tell it to
the folks how I gained five thousand dollars in one mornin'--jest doin'
nothin' but settin'."

"Very well," said Mr. Peaney. "You buy a thousand shares of
International Utilities on a one-point margin.... Sign this order slip."

"And you set out five thousand dollars right where I kinn see it," said
Scattergood, with anxious fatuity.

"Certainly.... Certainly."

Mr. Peaney deposited on his desk a bundle of currency which Scattergood
counted meticulously, and then laid his own thousand beside it.

"It's as good as yours, right now," said Pansy.

"We'll stay right here in my private room," said Peaney. "We can watch
the board from here, and nobody will disturb us."

"I'd kinder like to have folks see me makin' all this money," complained
Scattergood, but he acquiesced, and presently quotations commenced to be
posted on the board. International Utilities opened at seventy-six.
Presently they advanced half a point, lingered, and returned to their
original position.

"Kind of slow, hain't it?" Scattergood said, a worried look beginning to
appear on his face. "Maybe them folks hain't goin' to do what you said."

Mr. Peaney went out into the back room, and presently the ticker began
to click furiously. International Utilities leaped a whole point. In ten
minutes they ascended a half point, and at every advance Scattergood
figured his profit, and hesitated as to whether or not it would be best
to close the transaction then and there, but Pansy cajoled him
skillfully, making evident to Mr. Peaney the power of her influence over
the old fellow.

Scattergood was the picture of the fatuous countryman. He was childlike
in his ignorance and in his delight. He exclaimed, he slapped his thigh,
he laughed aloud at each advance. "It's a-comin'. Next time she h'ists,
the money's mine.... And 'tain't been two hours. What'll the folks say
to that, eh? Me doin' nothin' but settin' here and makin' five thousand
dollars in two hours.... Nothin' short of a million's goin' to satisfy
me--and when I get that million, Mr. Peaney, I'm a-goin' to show you how
much obleeged I be. I'm a-goin' to git you a whole box of them cigars.
Pansy knows which ones. They come at a nickel apiece...."

Then ...then International Utilities touched eighty-one. Scattergood
slapped Peaney on the back. He laughed. He acted like a boy with a new
jackknife.

"It's all mine now, hain't it? Mine? Fair and square? It's my
money--every penny of it?"

"It's yours, Mr. Baines. And I congratulate you. I myself have made a
matter of fifty thousand dollars."

"Wisht I'd put up every cent I got.... But there'll be other chances,
won't they? I kin git in ag'in?"

"Of course. To-morrow. Possibly this afternoon."

"And I kin take this now?" Scattergood had his hands on the six thousand
dollars; was handling it greedily.

"It's yours," said Mr. Peaney.

"Calc'lated it was," said Scattergood. "Calc'lated it was.... Now
where's Ovid?"

Mr. Peaney stared. Something had happened suddenly to this countryman.
He was no longer fatuous, futile. His face was no longer foolish and
good-natured; it was; granite--it was the face of a man with force, and
the skill to use that force.

"Where's Ovid?" he demanded again.

"Ovid ... Ovid who? I don't know any Ovid."

He became suddenly alarmed and blocked the way to the door.
Scattergood's eyes twinkled. "If I was you I wouldn't git in the way to
any extent. Feelin' the way I do I sh'u'dn't be s'prised if I got a
certain amount of satisfaction out of tramplin' over you."

"Hey, you put that money back ..."

"Mine, hain't it? Gained it lawful, didn't I?"

He walked slowly toward the door, and Mr. Peaney, still barring the way,
found himself sitting suddenly in an adjacent corner. Scattergood walked
calmly past and made for the back room.

"Stop him!" shouted Mr. Peaney. "Don't let him go in there."

But Scattergood proceeded methodically, leaving no less than three of
Mr. Peaney's employees in recumbent postures along his line of march....
Pansy followed him closely, pale, but resolute. He ascended the stairs,
and, finding the door at the top fastened from within, he removed it
bodily by the application of a calk-studded boot.... Ovid Nixon was
disclosed cowering against the wall, pale, terrified.

"Howdy, Ovid?" said Scattergood, as if he had met the young man casually
on the street. "How d'you find yourself?"

Ovid remained mute.

"Fetched a friend to see you, Ovid," said Scattergood. "This is her." He
pushed Pansy forward. "Find her better comp'ny than you been havin'
recent," he said. "She's got suthin' fer you.... When she gits through
visitin' with you, I calculate to have a word to say.... Here, Pansy,
you kin give this here to Ovid." He counted off three thousand dollars
before the young man's staring eyes.

"I--I'm glad I'm found," Ovid said, tremulously. "I was making up my
mind to give myself up...."

"What fer?" said Scattergood.

"You know--you know I took three thousand dollars out of the vault."

"Vault don't show nothin' short," said Scattergood, waggling his head.
"Counted it myself. Did look for a minute like they was three thousand
short, but I kind of put that amount in, and then counted ag'in, and,
sure enough, it was all there...."

Ovid stared, took a step forward. "You mean.... What do you mean, Mr.
Baines?"

"I'm goin' to step outside of what used to be the door," said
Scattergood, "and let Pansy do the explainin'.... What I do after that
depends a heap on ... Pansy...."

Scattergood went outside and waited, his eyes on the stairs, but nobody
offered to ascend. He could hear the conversation within, but it was
only toward the end that it interested him.

"Ovid," said Pansy, "you've been hanging around my counter a good
deal--and asking me to dinners, and to go driving on Sunday. What for?"

"Because--because I liked you awful well, Pansy, but now--now that I've
done this--"

"If you hadn't done this? If you had made money instead of losing it?"

"I--oh, what's the use of talking about it? I wanted you should marry
me, Pansy."

"But you don't want me any more?"

"Nobody'd marry me--knowing what you know."

"Ovid," said Pansy, sharply, "there's nothing wrong with you except
that--you haven't enough brains all by yourself. You need to be looked
after ...and I'm going to do it."

"Looked after?"

"Ovid Nixon, do you like me well enough to marry me?"

"I--"

"Do you? Yes or no ... quick!"

"Yes."

"Then ask me," said Pansy.

Presently the three emerged into the street from the deserted offices of
Mr. Peaney. Scattergood Baines held in his hands two thousand dollars in
bills, representing net profit on the transaction. He regarded the money
with a frown.

"Somethings got to be done to you to make you fit to tetch," he said to
it.

Out of an adjoining store came a young woman in a queer bonnet, with a
tambourine in her hand. "Huh!" said Scattergood, and stopped her.
"Salvation Army, hain't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Hold it out," he said, motioning to the tambourine.

She obeyed, and he dropped into it the package of bills, and, looking
into her startled, almost frightened eyes, he said: "It come from fools
to sharpers.... I calculate nothin' but a leetle salvation'll kill the
cussedness in it.... Make it do all the salvagin' it kin...."

Whereupon he passed on, leaving a bewildered woman to stare after him.

Next morning, Scattergood, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Ovid Nixon,
alighted from the train in Coldriver. Deacon Pettybone happened to be
standing on the depot platform.

"Make you acquainted with Mis' Nixon," said Scattergood, with gravity.
"She's what Ovid come down with.... Can't blame a young feller for
forgittin' work a day or two when he's got him sich a wife.... Deacon,
this here girl's performed a service for Coldriver. Increased our
population by two--her and Ovid. And, Deacon, Ovid hain't the fust man
that ever was made so's he was wuth countin' in the census by marryin'
him a wife...."

"Dummed if she hain't got red hair," was the deacon's astonished
contribution. It was as near to congratulations as the deacon ever came.



CHAPTER XII

THE SON THAT WAS DEAD


"The ox is dressed and hung," said Pliny Pickett, with the air of a man
announcing that the country has been saved from destruction.

"Uh!... How much 'd he dress?" asked Scattergood Baines, moving in his
especially reinforced armchair until it creaked its protest.

"Eight hunderd and forty-three--accordin' to Newt Patterson's scales."

"Which hain't never been knowed to err on the side of overweight," said
Scattergood, dryly.

"The boys has got the oven fixed for roastin' him, and the band gits in
on the mornin' train, failin' accidents, and the dec'rations is up in
the taown hall--'n' now we kin git ready for a week of stiddy rain."

"They's wuss things than rain," said Scattergood, "though at the minnit
I don't call to mind what they be."

"Deacon Pettybone's north mowin' is turned into a baseball grounds, and
everybody in town is buyin' buntin' to wrap their harnesses, and
Kittleman's fetched in more 'n five bushels of peanuts, and every young
un in taown'll be sick with the stummick ache."

"Feelin' extry cheerful this mornin', hain't ye? Kind of more
hopeful-like than I call to mind seein' you fer some time."

"Never knowed no big celebration to come off like it was planned, or
'thout somebody gittin' a leg busted, or the big speaker fergittin' what
day it was, or suthin'. Seems like the hull weight of this here falls
right on to me."

"Responsibility," said Scattergood, with a twinkle in his eye, "is a
turrible thing to bear up under. But nothin' hain't happened yit, and
folks is dependin' on you, Pliny, to see 't nothin' mars the party."

"It'll rain on to the _pe_-rade, and the ball game'll bust up in a
fight, and pickpockets'll most likely git wind of sich a big gatherin'
and come swarmin' in.... Scattergood," he lowered his voice
impressively, "it's rumored Mavin Newton's a-comin' back for this here
Old Home Week."

"Um!... Mavin Newton.... Um!... Who up and la'nched that rumor?"

"Everybody's a-talkin' it up. Folks says he's sure to come, and then
what in tunket'll we do? The sheriff's goin' to be busy handlin' the
crowds and the traffic and sich, and he won't have no time fer extry
miscreants, seems as though.... Folks is a-comin' from as fur 's Denver,
and we don't want no town criminal brought to justice in the middle of
it all. Though Mavin's father 'd be glad to see his son ketched, I
calc'late."

"Hain't interviewed Mattie Strong as ree-gards _her_ feelin's, have ye?"

"I wonder," said Pliny, with intense interest, "if Mattie's ever heard
from him? But she's that close-mouthed."

"'Tain't a common failin' hereabouts," said Scattergood. "How long since
Mavin run off?"

"Eight year come November."

"The night before him and Mattie was goin' to be married."

"Uh-huh! Takin' with him that there fund the Congo church raised fer a
new organ, and it's took them eight year to raise it over ag'in."

"And in the meantime," said Scattergood, "I calc'late the tunes off of
the old organ has riz about as pleasin' to heaven as if 'twas new.
Squeaks some, I'm told, but I figger the squeaks gits kind of filtered
out, and nothin' but the true meanin' of the tunes ever gits up to Him."
Scattergood jerked a pudgy thumb skyward.

"More 'n two hunderd dollars, it was--and Mavin treasurer of the church.
Old Man Newton he resigned as elder, and hain't never set foot in church
from that day to this."

"Bein' moved," said Scattergood, "more by cantankerousness than grief."

"I'll venture," said Pliny, "that there'll be more'n five hunderd old
residents a-comin' back, and where in tunket we're goin' to sleep 'em
all the committee don't know."

"Um!... G'-by, Pliny," said Scattergood, suddenly, and Pliny,
recognizing the old hardware merchant's customary and inescapable
dismissal, got up off the step and cut across diagonally to the post
office, where he could air his importance as a committeeman before an
assemblage as ready to discuss the events of the week as he was himself.

It was a momentous occasion in the life of Coldriver; a gathering of
prodigals and wanderers under home roofs; a week set aside for the
return of sons and daughters and grandchildren of Coldriver who had
ventured forth into the world to woo fortune and to seek adventure.
Preparations had been in the making for months, and the village was
resolved that its collateral relatives to the remotest generation should
be made aware that Coldriver was not deficient in the necessary "git up
and git" to wear down its visitors to the last point of exhaustion.
Pliny Pickett, chairman of numerous committees and marshal of the
parade, predicted it would "lay over" the Centennial in Philadelphia.

The greased pig was to be greasier; the barbecued ox was to be larger;
the band was to be noisier; the speeches were to be longer and more
tiresome; the firemen's races and the ball games, and the fat men's
race, and the frog race, and the grand ball with its quadrilles and
Virginia reels and "Hull's Victory" and "Lady Washington's Reel" and its
"Portland Fancy," were all to be just a little superior to anything of
the sort ever attempted in the state. Numerous septuagenarians were
resorting to St. Jacob's oil and surreptitious prancing in the barn, to
"soople" up their legs for the dance. It was to be one of those
wholesome, generous, splendid outpourings of neighborliness and good
feeling and wonderful simplicity and kindliness, such as one can meet
with nowhere but in the remoter mountain communities of old New England,
where customs do not grow stale and no innovation mars. If any man would
discover the deep meaning of the word "welcome," let him attend such a
Home-coming!

Though Coldriver did not realize it, the impetus toward the Home-coming
Week had been given by Scattergood Baines. He had seen in it a
subsidence of old grudges and the birth of universal better feeling. He
had set the idea in motion, and then, by methods of indirection, of
which he was a master, he had urged it on to fulfillment.

Scattergood went inside the store and leaned upon the counter, taking no
small pleasure in a mental inventory of his heterogeneous stock. He had
completed one side, and arrived at the rear, given over to stoves and
garden tools, when a customer entered. Scattergood turned.

"Mornin', Mattie," he said. "What kin I help ye to this time?"

"I--I need a tack hammer, Mr. Baines."

"Got three kinds: plain, with claws, and them patent ones that picks up
tacks by electricity. I hold by them and kin recommend 'em high."

"I'll take one, then," said Mattie; but after Scattergood wrapped it up
and gave her change for her dollar bill, she remained, hesitating,
uncertain, embarrassed.

"Was they suthin' besides a tack hammer you wanted, Mattie." Scattergood
asked, gently.

"I--No, nothing." Her courage had failed her, and she moved toward the
door.

"Mattie!"

She stopped.

"Jest a minute," said Scattergood. "Never walk off with suthin' on your
mind. Apt to give ye mental cramps. What was that there tack hammer an
excuse for comin' here fer?"

"Is it true that _he's_ coming back, like the talk's goin' around?"

"I calc'late ye mean Mavin. Mean Mavin Newton?"

"Yes," she said, faintly.

"What if he did?" said Scattergood.

"I don't know.... Oh, I don't know."

"Want he should come back?"

"He--If he should come--"

"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood. "Calc'late I kin appreciate your feelin's.
Treated you mighty bad, didn't he?"

"He treated himself worse," said Mattie, with a little awakening of
sharpness.

"So he done. So he done.... Um!... Eight year he's been gone, and you
was twenty when he went, wa'n't ye? Twenty?"

"Yes."

"Hain't never had a feller since?"

She shook her head. "I'm an old maid, Mr. Baines."

"I've heard tell of older," he said, dryly. "Wisht you'd tell me why you
let sich a scalawag up and ruin your life fer ye?"

"He wasn't a scalawag--till _then_."

"You hain't thinkin' he was accused of suthin' he didn't do?"

"He told me he took the money. He came to see me before he ran away."

"Do tell!" This was news to Scattergood. Neither he nor any other was
aware that Mavin Newton had seen or been seen by a soul after the
commission of his crime.

"He told me," she repeated, "and he said good-by.... But he never told
me why. That's what's been hurtin' me and troublin' me all these years.
He didn't tell me why he done it, and I hain't ever been able to figger
it out."

"Um!... _Why_ he done it? Never occurred to me."

"It never occurred to anybody. All they saw was that he took their organ
money and robbed the church. But why did he do it? Folks don't do them
things without reason, Mr. Baines."

"He wouldn't tell you?"

"I asked him--and I asked him to take me along with him. I'd 'a' gone
gladly, and folks could 'a' thought what they liked. But he wouldn't
tell, and he wouldn't have me, and I hain't heard a word from him from
that day to this.... But I've thought and figgered and figgered and
thought--and I jest can't see no reason at all."

"Took it to run away with--fer expenses," said Scattergood.

"There wasn't anything to run away from until _after_ he took it. I
_know_. Whatever 'twas, it come on him suddin. The night before we was
together--and--and he didn't have nothin' on his mind but plans for him
and me ... and he was that happy, Mr. Baines!... I wisht I could make
out what turned a good man into a thief--all in a minute, as you might
say. It's suthin', Mr. Baines, suthin' out of the ordinary, and always I
got a feelin' like I got a right to know."

"Yes," said Scattergood, "seems as though you had a right to know."

"Folks is passin' it about that he's comin' home. Is there any truth
into it?"

"I calc'late it's jest talk," said Scattergood. "Nobody knows where he
is."

"He'll come sometime," she said.

"And you calc'late to keep on waitin' fer him to come?"

"Until I'm dead--and after that, if it's allowed."

"I wisht," said Scattergood, "there was suthin' I could do to mend it
all."

"Nobody kin ever do anythin'," she said.... "But if he should venture
back, calc'latin' it had all blown over and been forgot!... His father'd
see him put in prison--and I--I couldn't bear that, it seems as though."

"There's a bad thing about borrowin' trouble," said Scattergood. "No
matter how hard you try, you can't ever pay it back. Wait till he
croaks, and then do your worryin'."

"I've got a feelin' he's goin' to come," she said, and turned away
wearily. "I thought maybe you'd know. That's why I came in, Mr. Baines."

"G'-by, Mattie. G'-by. Come ag'in when you feel that way, and you
needn't to buy no tack hammer for an excuse."

Scattergood slumped down in his chair on the store's piazza, and began
pulling his round cheeks as if he had taken up with some new method of
massage. It was a sign of inward disturbance. Presently a hand stole
downward to the laces of his shoes--a gesture purely automatic--and in a
moment, to the accompaniment of a sigh of relief, his broad feet were
released from bondage and his liberty-loving toes were wriggling with
delight. Any resident of Coldriver passing at that moment could have
told you Scattergood Baines was wrestling with some grave difficulty.

"It stands to reason," said he to himself, "that ever'body has a reason
for ever'thing, except lunatics, and lunatics think they got a reason.
Now, Mavin he wa'n't no lunatic. He wouldn't have stole church money and
run off the night before his weddin' jest to exercise his feet. They
hain't no reason, as I recall it, why he needed two hunderd dollars.
Unless it was to git married on.... And instid of that, it busted up the
weddin'. I calc'late that matter wa'n't looked into sharp enough ... and
eight years has gone by. Lots of grass grows up to cover old paths in
eight year."

A small boy was passing at the moment, giving an imitation of a cowboy
pursuing Indians. Scattergood called to him.

"Hey, bub! Scurry around and see if ye kin find Marvin Preston. Uh-huh!
'F ye see him, tell him I'm a-settin' here on the piazza."

The small boy dug his toes into the dust and disappeared up the street.
Presently Marvin Preston appeared in answer to the indirect summons.

"How be ye, Marvin? Stock doin' well?"

"Fust class. See the critter they're figgerin' on barbecuin'? He's a
sample."

"Um!... Lived here quite a spell, hain't you, Marvin? Quite a spell?"

"Born here, Scattergood."

"Know lots of folks, don't ye? Got acquainted consid'able in town and
the surroundin' country?"

"A feller 'u'd be apt to in fifty-five year."

"Call to mind the Meggses that used to live here?"

"Place next to the Newton farm. Recollect 'em well."

"Lived next to Ol' Man Newton, eh? Forgot that." Scattergood had not
forgotten it, but quite the contrary. His interest in the Meggses was
negligible; his purpose in mentioning them was to approach the Newtons
circuitously and by stealth, as he always approached affairs of
importance to him.

"Know 'em well? Know 'em as well's you knowed the Newtons?"

"Not by no means. I've knowed Ol' Man Newton better 'n 'most anybody,
seems as though."

"Um!... Le's see.... Had a son, didn't he?"

"Run off with the organ money," said Marvin, shortly.

"Remembered suthin' about him. Quite a while back."

"Eight year. Allus recall the date on account of sellin' a Holstein
heifer to Avery Sutphin the mornin' follerin' ... fer cash."

"Him that was dep'ty sheriff?"

"That's the feller."

"Um!... Ever git a notion what young Mavin up and stole that money fer?"

"Inborn cussedness, I calc'late."

"Allus seemed to me like Ol' Man Newton might 'a' made restitution of
that there money," said Scattergood, tentatively.

"H'm!" Marvin cleared his throat and glanced up the street. "Seein's how
it's you, I dunno but what I kin tell you suthin' you hain't heard, nor
nobody else. Young Mavin sent that there money back to his father in a
letter to be give to the church--and the ol' man _burned_ it. That's
what he up and done. Two hunderd good dollars went up in smoke. Said
they was crimes that was beyond restitution or forgiveness, and robbin'
the House of God was one of 'em."

"Um!... Now, Marvin, I'd be mighty curious to learn if the ol' man got
that information from God himself or if it come out of his own head....
No matter, I calc'late. 'Twan't credit with the church young Mavin was
after when he sent back the money, and the Lord _he_ knows the money
come, if the organ fund never did find it out."

"Guess I'll take a walk down to Spackles's and look over the steer. They
tell me he dressed clost to nine hunderd. Hope they contrive to cook him
through and through. Never see a barbecued critter yit that was done....
Folks is beginnin' to git here. Guess they won't be a spare bedroom in
town that hain't full up."

Scattergood pulled on his shoes and, leaving his store to take care of
itself, walked up the road, turned across the mowing which had been
metamorphosed into an athletic field, trusted his weight to the
temporary bridge across the brook, and scrambled up the bank to the
great oven where the steer was to be baked, and where the potato hole
was ready to receive twenty bushels of potatoes and the arch was ready
to receive the sugar vat in which two thousand ears of corn were to be
steamed. Pliny Pickett was in charge, with Ulysses Watts, sheriff, and
Coroner Bogle as assistants. They had fired up already, and were sitting
blissfully by in the blistering heat, bragging about the sort of meal
they were going to purvey, and speculating on whether the imported band
would play enough, and how the ball games would come out, and naming
over the folks who were expected to arrive from distant parts.

"This here town team hain't what it was ten year ago," said the sheriff.
"In them days the boys knowed how to play ball. There was me 'n' Will
Pratt and Pliny here 'n' Avery Sutphin, that was sheriff 'fore I
was...."

"What ever become of Avery?" Pliny asked.

"Went West. Heard suthin' about him a spell back, but don't call to mind
what it was. Wonder if he'll be comin' back with the rest?"

"Dunno. Think there's anythin' in the rumor that Mavin Newton's comin'?"
"Hope not," said the sheriff, assuming an official look and feeling of
the suspender to which was affixed his badge of office. "Don't want to
have no arrestin' to do durin' Old Home Week."

"Calc'late to take him in if he comes?"

"Duty," said Sheriff Watts, "is duty."

"When it hain't a pleasure," said Scattergood. "Recall what place Avery
Sutphin went to?"

"Seems like it was Oswego. Some'eres out West like that."

"Wisht all the town 'u'd quit traipsin' over here," said Pliny. "Never
see sich curiosity. They needn't to think they're goin' to git a look at
the critter while he's a-cookin'. No, siree. Nobody but this here
committee sees him till he's took out final, ready fer eatin'."

All that day visitors arrived in town. They drove in, came by train and
by stage--and walked. There was no house whose ready hospitality was not
taxed to its capacity, and the ladies in charge of the restaurant in
Masonic Hall became frantic and sent out hysterical messengers for more
food and more help. Every house was dressed in flags and bunting. Even
Deacon Pettybone, reputed to be the "nearest" inhabitant of the village,
flew one small cotton flag, reputed to have cost fifteen cents, from his
front stoop. The bridge was so covered with red, white, and blue as to
quite lose its identity as a bridge and to become one of the wonders of
the world, to be talked about for a decade. As one looked up the street
a similarity of motion, almost machinelike, was apparent. It was an
endless shaking of hands as old friend met old friend joyously.

"Bet ye don't know who I be?"

"I'd 'a' know'd you in Chiny. You're Mort Whittaker's wife--her that was
Ida Janes. Hair hain't so red as what it was."

"You've took on flesh some, but otherwise--'Member the time you took me
to the dance at Tupper Falls--"

"An' we got mired crossin'--"

"An' Sam Kettleman come in a plug hat."

This conversation, or its counterpart, was repeated wherever resident
and visitor met. Old days lived again. Ancient men became middle-aged,
and middle-aged women became girls. The past was brought to life and
lived again. Sometimes it was brought to life a bit tediously, as when
old Jethro Hammond, postmaster of Coldriver twenty years ago, made a
speech seventy minutes long, which consisted in naming and locating
every house that existed in his day, and describing with minute detail
who lived in it and what part they played in the affairs of the
community. But the audience forgave him, because it knew what a good
time he was having.... Houses were invaded by perfect strangers who
insisted in pointing out the rooms in which they were born and in which
they had been married, and in telling the present proprietors how
fortunate they were to live in dwellings thus blessed.

The band arrived and met with universal satisfaction, though Lafe Atwell
complained that he hadn't ever see a snare drummer with whiskers. But
their coats were red, with gorgeous frogs, and their trousers were sky
blue, with gold stripes, and the drum major could whirl his baton in a
manner every boy in town would be imitating with the handle of the
ancestral broom for months to come.... Through it all Scattergood Baines
sat on the piazza and beamed upon the world, and rejoiced in the
goodness thereof.

Only one resident took no part in the holiday making, and that was Old
Man Newton, who had closed his house, drawn the blinds, and refused to
make himself visible while the celebration lasted. He took a savage
pleasure in thus making himself conspicuous, knowing well how his
conduct would be discussed, and viewing himself as a righteous man
suffering for the sins of another.

In the darkness of the evening street Mattie Strong accosted Scattergood
that evening, clinging to his arm tremulously.

"Mr. Baines," she whispered, affrightedly, "he's come!"

"Who's come?"

"Mavin Newton--he's here, in town."

Scattergood frowned. "See him?"

"Hain't seen him, but he's here. I kin feel him. I knowed it the minute
he come."

"Calc'late I've seen everybody here, and _I_ hain't seen him."

"He's here, jest the same. I'm a-lookin' fer him. Whatever name he come
under, or however he looks, I'll know him. I couldn't make no mistake
about Mavin."

"Mattie, I hope 'tain't so.... I hope you're mistook."

"I--I don't know whether I hope so or not. I--Oh, Mr. Baines, I'd rather
be with him, a-comfortin' him and standin' by him, no matter what he
done--"

Scattergood patted her arm. "I calc'late," he said, softly, "that God
hain't never invented no institution that beats the love of a good
woman.... I'll look around, Mattie.... I'll look around."

It was the next morning, at the ball game, when Mattie spoke to
Scattergood again.

"I've seen him," she whispered, and there was a note of happiness in her
voice and a look of renewed youth in her eyes. "He's here, like I said."

"Where?"

Mattie lowered her voice farther still. "Look at the band," she said.

"Nobody resembles him there," said Scattergood, after a minute.

"Wait till they stop playin'--and then see if they hain't somebody
there that takes holt of the fingers of his right hand, one after the
other, and kind of twists 'em.... Look sharp. Mavin he allus done that
when he was nervous--allus. I'd know him by it, anywheres."

Scattergood watched. Presently the "piece" ended and the musicians laid
down their instruments and eased back in their chairs.

"Look," said Mattie.

The bearded snare drummer was performing a queer antic. It was as if his
fingers were screwed into his hand and had become loosened while he
drummed. No, he was tightening them so they wouldn't fall off. One
finger after another he screwed up, and then went over them again to
make certain they were secure.

"I--knowed he'd come," Mattie said, happily.

"Um!... This here's kind of untoward. You keep your mouth shet, Mattie
Strong. Don't you go near that feller till I tell you. We don't want a
rumpus to spoil this here week."

"But he's here.... He's here."

"So's trouble," said Scattergood, succinctly.

The rest of that day Scattergood busied himself in searching out old
friends and neighbors of the Newtons. Nothing seemed to interest him
which happened later than eight years before, but no event of that
period was too slight or inconsequential to receive his attention and to
be filed away in his shrewd old brain. He was looking for the answer to
a question, and the answer was piled under the rubbish of eight years of
human activities--a hopeless quest to any but Scattergood.

Comedy and tragedy were alike interesting to him. Just as he lost no
detail of the old man's conduct when his boy disappeared, so he listened
and laughed when Martin Banks recalled to a group how Old Man Newton had
fallen under the suspicion of bootlegging and how the town had seethed
with the downfall of an elder of the church--and all because the old man
had imported two cases, each of a dozen bottles of the Siwash Indian
Stomach Bitters recommended to cure his dyspepsia. There had been a
moment, said Banks, when the town expected to see Newton shut up in the
calaboose under the post office--until the true contents of those cases
was revealed.

During the afternoon Scattergood sent six telegrams to as many different
cities. Late that night he received replies, and sent one long message
to an individual high in office in the state. It was an urgent message,
amounting to a command, for in his own commonwealth Scattergood Baines
was able to command when the need required.

"It's an off chance," he said to himself, "but it's what might 'a'
happened, and if it might 'a' happened, maybe it did happen...."

Wednesday afternoon the band was thrown into consternation, and the town
into a paroxysm of excitement and speculation, when Sheriff Watts
ascended the platform of the musicians and, placing a heavy hand on the
shoulder of the snare drummer, said, loudly, "Mavin Newton, I arrest ye
in the name of the law."

Not a soul in that breathless crowd was there who failed to see Mattie
Strong point her finger in the face of Scattergood Baines, and to hear
her utter the one word, "_Shame!_" Nor did any fail to see her take her
place at the side of the bearded drummer, with her fingers clutching his
arm, and walk to the door of the jail under the post office with the
prisoner.

Then the word was passed about that the hearing would take place before
Justice of the Peace Bender that very evening. So great was the public
clamor that the justice agreed to hold court in the town hall instead of
in his office; and it was rumored that Johnnie Bones, Scattergood
Baines's own lawyer, had been appointed special prosecutor by the
Governor of the state.

Opinion ran against Scattergood. It was free and outspoken. Townsfolk
and visitors alike felt that Scattergood had done ill in bringing the
young man to justice--especially at such a time. He should have let
sleeping dogs lie.... And when it heard that Sheriff Watts had carried a
subpoena to Mavin Newton's father, compelling his presence as a witness
against his own son, there arose a wind of disapproval which quite swept
Scattergood from the esteem of the community.

But the town came to the hearing. In the beginning it was a
cut-and-dried affair. The facts of the crime were established with dry
precision. Then Johnnie Bones called the name of a witness, and the
audience stiffened to attention. Even Old Man Newton, sitting with bowed
head and scowling brow, lifted his eyes to the face of the young lawyer.

"Avery Sutphin," said Johnnie Bones, and the former sheriff, wearing
such a haircut as Coldriver seldom saw within its corporate limits, and
clothed in such clothing as it had never seen there, was brought through
the door by two strangers of official look. He seated himself in the
witness chair.

"You are Avery Sutphin, former sheriff of this town?"

"Yes."

"Where do you reside?"

"In the state penitentiary," said Avery, seeking to hide his face.

"Do you know Mavin Newton?"

"Yes."

"When did you last see him?"

"It was the night of June twelfth, eight year ago."

"Where?"

"In his father's barn."

"What was he doing?"

"Milkin'," said Avery.

"You went to see him?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"To git some money out of him."

"Did he owe you money?"

"No."

"How much money did you go to get?"

"Two hunderd dollars."

"Did you get it?"

"Yes."

"Do you know what money it was?"

"Church-organ money. He told me."

"Why did he give it to you?"

"I made him."

"How?"

"Lemme tell it my own way--if I got to tell it.... He'd took my girl,
and I never liked him, anyhow.... There'd been rumors his old man was
bootleggin'. Nothin' to it, of course, and I knowed that. And I needed
some money. Bought a beef critter off'n Marvin Preston next day. So I
went to Mavin and says I was goin' to arrest his old man because I'd
ketched him sellin' liquor, and Mavin he begged me I shouldn't. I told
him the old man would git ten year, anyhow."

"What did Mavin say to that?"

"He jest bowed his head and kind of leaned against the stall."

"Then what?"

"I let on I needed money, and told him if he'd gimme two hunderd dollars
I'd destroy the evidence and let the old man go. He says he didn't have
the money, and I says he had the organ money. He didn't say nothin' for
a spell, and then he says, kind of low, and wonderin', 'Which 'u'd be
the worst? Which 'u'd be the worst?' Then I says, 'Worst what?' And he
says for his father to be ketched for a bootlegger or for him to be a
thief.... I jest let him think about it, and didn't say nothin', because
I knowed how he looked up to his old man.

"Pretty soon he says: 'I'd be a thief, 'cause I couldn't explain. I'd
have to run off--and leave Mattie, that I'm a-goin' to marry
to-morrer.... I could pay it back, but that wouldn't do no good.... But
for father to be arrested, him an elder, and all, would kill him. I
couldn't bear for father to be shamed 'fore all the world or to be
thought guilty of sich a thing.... He's wuth a heap more 'n I be, and he
won't never do it ag'in.' Then he asks if I'll give a letter to his old
man, and I says yes. He walked up and down for maybe a quarter of an
hour, talkin' to himself, and kind of fightin' it out, but I knowed what
he'd do, right along. At the end he come over and says: 'This here means
ruinin' my life and breakin' Mattie's heart ... but I calc'late that's
better 'n holdin' father up to scorn and seein' him in jail.... If they
was only some other way!' His voice was stiddylike, but he was right
pale and his eyes was a-shinin'. I remember how they was a-shinin'. 'I
calc'late,' he says, 'that I kin bear it fer father's sake.' Then he
says to me, kind of fierce, 'If ever you let on to anybody why I done
this, if it's in a hunderd years, I'll come back and kill you.' For a
while he kept still again, and then he went in the house and got the
money, and wrote a letter to his old man, and I promised to give it to
him--but I tore it up."

"What did the letter say?"

"It just said somethin' to the effect that he was willin' to do what he
done if his old man would give over breakin' the law and go to livin'
upright like he always done, and that he hoped maybe God seen a
difference in stealin' on account of the reasons folks had for doin'
it--but if God didn't make no difference, why, he'd rather bear it than
have it fall on his old man."

"And then?"

"I took the money and come away. And he run away. And that's all."

The town hall was very still. The stillness of it seemed to pierce and
hurt.... Then it was broken by a cry, a hoarse cry, wrenched from the
soul of a man. "My boy!... My boy!..." Old Elder Newton was on his
feet, tottering toward his son, and before his son he sank upon his
knees and buried his hard, weathered old face upon Mavin's knees.

Justice of the Peace Bender cleared his throat.

"This here," he said, "looks to me to be suthin' the folks of this town,
the friends and neighbors of this here father and son, ought to settle,
instid of the law. Maybe it hain't legal, but I dunno who's to
interfere.... Folks, what ought to be done to this here boy that done a
crime and suffered the consequences of it, jest to save his father from
another crime the old man never done a-tall?"

Neither Mavin nor his father heard. The old elder was muttering over and
over, "My boy that was dead and is alive again...."

Scattergood arose silently and pointed to the door, and the crowd
withdrew silently, withdrew to group about the entrance outside and to
wait. They were patient. It was an hour before Elder Newton descended,
his son on one side and Mattie Strong on the other.... The band, with a
volunteer drummer, lifted its joyous voice, and, looking up, the trio
faced a banner upon which Scattergood had caused to be painted, "Welcome
Home, Mavin Newton."

Coldriver had taken judicial action and thus voiced its decision.



CHAPTER XIII

HE CRACKS AN OBDURATE NUT


Jason Locker, who was Sam Kettleman's rival in Coldriver's grocery
industry, was a trifle too amenable to modern ideas at times. He took
notions, as the folks said. Once he went so far as to say that he could
do anything in his store that anybody could do in a big city store and
make a success of it. He was so progressive that in the Coldriver parade
he occupied a position so advanced that it really seemed like two
parades.

Old Man Bogle and Deacon Pettybone and Elder Hooper always discussed
Locker when politics were exhausted, and their only point of difference
was as to when and exactly _how_ Jason would wind up in bankruptcy. They
were agreed that he was a bit touched in his head. He was much given to
sales. He installed a perfectly unnecessary cash carrier from the
counter to a desk where Mrs. Locker made change. He bought a case of
olives, which were viewed and tasted (free) by the village loafers, and
pronounced spoiled.... In short, there was no newfangled idea which
Jason failed to adopt, and in a matter of twenty years the town grew
accustomed to him, and tolerated him, and, as a matter of fact, was
rather proud of him as a novel lunatic. However, he prospered.

But when, on a certain Monday morning, a strange and unquestionably
pretty girl, dressed not according to Coldriver's ideas of current
fashions, made her appearance in a space cleared in the middle of the
store, and there proceeded to make and dispense tiny cups of a new
brand of coffee, the village considered that Jason had gone too far.

It is true that it came in droves to taste the coffee being
demonstrated, for it was to be had without money and without price. It
came to see what it would not believe without seeing, and regarded the
young woman with open suspicion and hostility. It wondered what manner
of young woman it could be who would harum-scarum around the country
making coffee for every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and wearing a smile for
everybody, and demeaning herself generally in a manner not heretofore
observed. It viewed and reviewed her hair, her slippers, her ankles, her
frocks, and her ornaments. The women folks, and especially the younger
women, held frequent indignation meetings, and declared for the
advisability of boycotting Locker unless he removed this menace from
their midst.

But when it noticed, not later than the second day of Miss Yvette
Hinchbrooke's career in their midst, that young Homer Locker flapped
about her like some over-grown insect about a street lamp, it took no
pains to conceal its delight and devoutly hoped for the worst.

"Looks like Providence was steppin' in," said Elder Hooper to Deacon
Pettybone. "Dunno's I ever see a more fittin' _as_ well _as_ proper
follerin' up of sinful carelessness by sich consequences as might be
expected to ensue."

"Uh-huh!... That there name of her'n. Folks differs about the way to say
it. I been holdin' out ag'in' many for Wife-ette--that way. Looks like
French or suthin' furrin. Others say it's Weev-ette. If 'twan't for
seemin' to show interest in the baggage, dummed if I wouldn't up and ask
her."

"Names don't count," said Old Man Bogle, oracularly. "She hain't to
blame for pickin' her name. Her ma gave it to her out of a book, seems
as though. Nevertheless, 'tain't no fit name for a woman, and, so fur's
I kin see, she fits her name like Ovid Nixon's tailor pants fits his
laigs."

"She's light," said the elder.

"Sh'u'dn't be s'prised," said Old Man Bogle, rolling his eyes, "if she
was one of them actoresses. Venture to say she's filled with worldly
wisdom, that gal, and that sin and cuttin' up different ways hain't
nothin' strange nor unaccustomed to her."

"While I was a-drinkin' down her coffee out of that measly leetle cup,"
said the deacon, "she was that brazen! Acted like she'd took a fancy to
me," he said, with a sprucing back of his old shoulders.

"Got all the wiles of that there woman that danced off the head of John
the Baptist," said the elder, grimly. "So she dasted even to tempt a
deacon of the church."

"She didn't tempt me none," snapped the deacon, "but I lay she was
willin'."

"I'll venture," said Old Man Bogle, with a light in his rheumy eyes,
"that she hain't no stranger to wearin' _tights._"

"Shame!" said the elder and the deacon, in a breath. And then, from the
deacon, in a tone which might have been a reflection of lofty
satisfaction in a virtue, or which might have been something quite
different, "I've read of them there tights, Elder, but I kin say with a
clear conscience that I hain't never witnessed a pair of 'em."

"My nevvy took me to a show in Boston wunst," said Old Man Bogle,
tentatively, but he was silenced immediately and sternly.

"How kin a man combat evil," he demanded, "if he hain't familiar with
the wiles of it?"

"He kin set his face to the right," said the elder, "and tread the
path."

"You wouldn't b'lieve the things I seen in that show," said Bogle,
waggling his head.

"Don't intend to be called on to b'lieve 'em," said the deacon.
"Look.... Comin' acrost the bridge. There's Locker's boy and that there
Wife-ette, and him lookin' like he'd enjoy divin' down her throat."

"Poor Jason," said the elder, "he's reapin' the whirlwind."

"Kin he be blind?"

"Somebody ought to take Jason off to one side and give him warnin'."

The deacon considered, puckering his thin lips and cocking a hard old
eye. "'Tain't fer us to meddle," he said, righteously. "They's a divine
plan in ever'thing, and we hain't able to see what's behind all this
here. We'll jest set and wait the outcome."

That is what all Coldriver did: it sat and awaited the outcome with
ill-restrained enthusiasm, and while it waited it talked. No word or
gesture or movement of young Homer Locker and Yvette Hinchbrooke went
undiscussed. Nobody in town was unaware of Homer's infatuation for the
coffee demonstrator--with the one exception of Homer's father, who was
too busy waiting upon the unaccustomed rush of trade to notice anything
else.

On the fourth evening of Yvette's stay in Coldriver there was a dance in
the town hall. Especial interest immediately, attached to this affair
because of the speculations as to whether Homer would be so rash as to
invite Yvette as his partner. The village refused to believe the young
man would fail them and remain away. That would be a calamity not easily
endured, so it set itself to plan its actions in case she made her
appearance. It wondered, how she would dress and how she would behave.

Every girl in the village who possessed clear title to a young man knew
exactly how _she_ would deport herself. The night before the dance no
less than a score of young men were informed with finality that they
were not to dance with the stranger, nor to be seen in her vicinity.
Norma Grainger expressed the will of all when she told Will Peasley that
if he danced one dance with that coffee girl she would up and go home
alone. In the beginning there was no definite concerted action; it was
assured, however, that Yvette would have few partners.

Homer did not disappoint his friends. During the first dance he entered
the hall with Yvette, and the music all but stopped to stare. Undeniably
she was pretty. It was not her prettiness the women resented, however,
but her air and her clothes. Actually she wore a dress cut low at the
neck, and sleeveless. Coldriver had heard of such garments, and there
were those who actually believed them to exist and to be worn by certain
women in European society among kings and dukes and other frightfully
immoral people. But that one should ever make its appearance in
Coldriver, under their very eyes, was a thing so startling, so
outrageous, as almost to demand the spontaneous formation of a vigilance
committee.

Even yet there was no concerted action, but sentiment was crystallizing.
Homer and Yvette danced three dances, and Homer's face began to wear a
scowl. No less than five young men approached by him with the purpose of
securing them as partners for Yvette declined with brevity.

"What's the matter with you??" he demanded, belligerently. "There hain't
no pertier girl nor no better dancer on the floor."

"Mebby so. Hain't noticed. Got all _my_ dances took."

"Me too. My girl she says--"

"She says what?" snapped Homer.

"She says she'll go home if I dance with yourn."

"And _I_ say," said Homer, with set jaw, "that you fellers is goin' to
dance with Yvette, or there's goin' to be more fights in Coldriver 'n
Coldriver ever see before. That's _my_ say."

He announced he would be back after the next dance, and that _somebody_
would dance with Yvette. "The feller that refuses," said he, "goes
outside with me."

He went back to Yvette, who, not lacking in shrewdness, sensed something
of the situation.

"I wish I hadn't come," she said, uneasily.

"I don't ... if you hain't got no objection to dancin' jest with me."

"It'll look queer if I dance all of them with you."

"Jest ask me, and see if I care," he said, desperately. "It's like I'd
want to have it. I couldn't never dance more'n I want to with you. I
wisht I could dance all the dances there'll be in your life with
you.... Come on. This here's a quadrille."

Pliny Pickett, self-appointed caller of square dances, was arranging the
floor. "One more couple wanted to this end," he bellowed. "Here's two
couples a-waitin'. Don't hang back. Music's a-waitin'.... Right there.
All ready?... Nope. One couple needed in the middle."

Homer and Yvette approached that square where three couples awaited the
fourth to complete their set. They took their places, to the manifest
embarrassment of the other six. Suddenly Norma Grainger whispered
something to her young man and tugged at his arm. He looked sidewise,
sheepishly, at Homer, and hung back.

"You come right along," said Norma. "I hain't goin' to have it said of
me that I danced in no set with her."

"Nor me," said Marion Towne, also tugging at her escort.

The young men were forced to give way, and, not too proud to cast
glances of placating nature at Homer, they fell from their places and
walked to the benches around the hall. Yvette and Homer were left
standing alone, conspicuous, the center of all eyes.

Homer clenched his fists and glared about him; then--for in his ungainly
body there resided something that is essential to manhood, and without
which none may be called a gentleman--he offered his arm to Yvette. "I
guess we better go," he said, softly. Then squaring his powerful
shoulders and glancing about him with a real dignity which Scattergood
Baines, sitting in one corner, noted and applauded, he led the girl from
the room.

"I'll see you home," he said, formally. "I hain't got nothin' to say."

"It--it's not your fault," she said, tremulously.

"Somebody'll wisht it wa'n't their fault 'fore mornin'," he answered.

"I shouldn't have gone."

"Why? Hain't you as good as any of them, and better? Hain't you the
pertiest girl I ever see?... You hain't mad with _me_, be you?"

"'No.... Not with anybody, I guess. I--I ought to be used to it. I--"
She began to cry.

It was a dark spot there on the bridge. Homer was not apt at words, but
he could feel and he did feel. It was no mere impulse to comfort a
pretty girl that moved him to inclose her with his muscular arms and to
press her to him none too gently.

"I kin lick the hull world fer you," he said, huskily, and then he
kissed her wet cheek again and again, and repeated his ability to thrash
all comers in her cause, and stated his desire to undertake exactly that
task for the term of her natural life. "If you was to marry me," he
said, "they wouldn't nobody dast trample on you.... You're a-goin' to
marry me, hain't you?"

"I--I don't know.... You--you don't know anything about me."

"Calc'late I know enough," he said.

"Your folks wouldn't put up with it."

"Huh!"

There was a silence. Then she said, brokenly: "I must go away. I can't
ever go back to the store to-morrow to have everybody staring at me and
talking about me.... I want to go away to-night."

"You sha'n't. Nor no other time, neither."

And then, out of the darkness behind, spoke Scattergood Baines's voice.
"Hain't calc'latin' to bust the gal, be you?... Jest happened along to
say the deacon's been talkin' to your pa about you 'n' her, and your
pa's het up consid'able. He's startin' out to look fer you. Lucky I come
along, wa'n't it?"

"I'm of age," said Homer, aggressively.

"Lots is," said Scattergood. "'Tain't nothin' to take special pride
in.... Homer, I've watched you raised from a colt, hain't I? Be you
willin' to kind of leave this here to me a spell? I sort of want to look
into things. You go along about your business and leave me talk to
Wife-ette here.... Made up your mind you want her?"

"Yes."

"She want you?"

"I--What business is it of yours?" Yvette demanded, angrily. "Who are
you? What are you interfering for?"

"Kind of a habit with me," said Scattergood, "and my wife hain't ever
been able to cure me, even puttin' things in my coffee on the sly....
G'-by, Homer. And don't go lickin' nobody. G'-by."

The habit of obedience to Scattergood's customary dismissal was strong
in Coldriver. For more than a generation the town had been trained to
heed it and to trust its affairs to the old hardware merchant. Homer
hesitated, coughed, mumbled good night to Yvette, and slouched away.

"There," said Scattergood, "now you and me kin talk. We'll go up to your
room, where nobody kin disturb us." The conventions nor the tongue of
gossip was non-existent to Scattergood Baines, and Yvette, not reared in
a school where trust in men is easily learned, was shrewd enough to
recognize Scattergood's purpose and her own safety.

"I s'pose you're the local Mr. Fix-it," she said, with sarcasm.

"I s'pose," said Scattergood, "that I've knowed Homer sence he was knee
high to a mouse's kitten, and I don't know nothin' about you a-tall. I
gather you're calc'latin' on marryin' Homer.... Mebby you be and mebby
you hain't.... Depends. Come along."

He led the way to the hotel and allowed Yvette to precede him up the
stairs to her room, which she unlocked and stood aside for him to enter.
He looked about him in the sharp-eyed way characteristic of him, not
omitting to include in his survey the toilet articles on the dresser.

"Hain't you perty enough without them?" he asked, indicating the lip
stick and rice powder. "Us folks hain't used to 'em, much.... Wunst we
give a home-talent play here, and there come a feller from Boston to
help out. Mis' Blossom was into it, and he come around to paint her up.
She jest give him one look, and says, says she, 'I hain't never painted
my face yit, and I don't calc'late to start in now.' ... I got to admit
she looked kind of pale and peeked amongst the rest, but she stuck to
her principles."

Yvette stared at Scattergood, nonplused for the first time. What did he
mean? How was she to take him? His face was serene and there was no
glint of humor in his eye.... Yet, somehow, she gathered the idea he was
chuckling inwardly and that there resided in him a broad and tender
toleration for the little antics and makeshifts of mankind. Possibly he
was holding Mrs. Blossom up to her as a model of rectitude; perhaps he
was asking her to laugh with him at a foible of one of his own people.
She wished she knew which.

"Calc'late on marryin' Homer?" he asked.

"I--"

"Yes or no--quick."

"Yes," she said, lifting her chin bravely.

"Um!... Knowed him four days, hain't you? Think it's long enough? Plenty
of time to figger it all out?"

She sat down on the bed, drooping wearily. "I'm tired," she said, "awful
tired. I can't stand this life any longer. I've got to have a place to
rest."

"Hain't goin' to have Homer used for no sanitorium," said Scattergood.

"I like him," said Yvette.

"'Tain't enough. Up this way folks mostly loves when they git
married--or owns adjoinin' timber."

Again she was at a loss. What did he mean? If he would only smile!

"I--I've got a feeling I could _trust_ him," she said, "and he'd be good
to me."

"_He_ would," said Scattergood. "I hain't worritin' about his dealin'
with you; it's your dealin' with him I'm questionin' into."

"I'd--. He wouldn't be sorry."

"Um!... Nate Weaver, back country a spell, is lookin' fer a wife. Hain't
young. Got lots of money, and the right woman could weasel it out of
him. Lots of it.... He'd like you fine. Homer won't have much, and if
his pa keeps on feelin' like he does, he won't have none.... If you're
lookin' fer a restin' place, you might consider Nate. I could fix it."
Her eyes flashed. "I haven't come to that yet," she said, sharply, and
then began to cry quietly.

"Um!..." Scattergood gripped his pudgy hands together so that each might
restrain the other from patting her head comfortingly. "Um!... What's
your name?"

"My name?"

"Yes.... 'Tain't Wife-ette Hinchbrooke. They hain't no sich name.
'Tain't human.... What's your real one?"

"Eva Hopkins."

"How'd you come to change?"

"A girl's got a right to call herself anything she wants to," she said,
defensively.

"Except Mrs. Homer Locker," said Scattergood, dryly. "Now jest come
off'n your high boss, and we'll talk. When we git through, we'll
_do_.... Either you'll take the mornin' train out of Coldriver, or
you'll stay and well see. Depends on what I hear."

"I could lie," she said.

"Folks don't gen'ally lie to _me_," said Scattergood, gently. "They
found out it didn't pay--and I hain't much give to believin' nothin' but
the truth. We deal in it a lot up this here way."

"I hate your people and their dealings."

"Don't wonder at it. I seen what they done to you to-night.... But you
don't know 'em like I do. They's times when they act cold and ha'sh and
nigh to cruel, but that hain't when they're real. Them times they're
jest makin' b'lieve, 'cause they hain't got no idee what they ought to
do.... I've knowed 'em these thirty year--right down _knowed_ 'em. Lemme
tell you they hain't a finer folks on earth, bar nobody. They don't show
much outside, but the insides is right. You kin find more kindness and
charity and long-sufferin' and tenderness and goodness right here
amongst the cantankerous-seemin' of Coldriver 'n you kin find anywheres
else on earth.... They're narrer, Eva, and they got sot notions, but
they got a power to do kindness, once you git 'em started at it, that
hain't to be beat.... I kind of calculate God hain't so disapp'inted
with the folks of Coldriver as a stranger might git the idee he is....
Now we'll go ahead."

When Scattergood had done asking questions and receiving answers, he sat
silent for a matter of moments. Automatically his hands strayed to the
lacing of his shoes, for his pudgy toes itched for freedom to wiggle. He
dealt with a problem whose complex elements were human emotions and
prejudices, and at such times he found his brain to act more clearly and
efficiently with shoes removed. He detected himself, however, in the act
of untying the laces, and sat upright with ludicrous suddenness.

"Um!..." he said, in some confusion. "Mandy says I hain't never to do it
when wimmin is around. Dunno why.... Now they's some p'ints I got to
impress on you."

"Yes, Mr. Baines," said Yvette, who had reached a condition of respect
and confidence in Scattergood--as most people did upon meeting him face
to face.

"Fust, Homer hain't no sanitorium for weary wimmin. When you kin come
and say, meanin' it from your heart, 'I love Homer,' then we'll see."

She nodded acquiescence.

"Second, it won't never and noways be possible fer you and Homer to live
here onless the folks takes to you. You got to win yourself a welcome in
Coldriver."

"That means," she said, dully, "that I'd better go."

"Huh!... Hain't you got no backbone? You do like you're told. You stay
where you be. 'Tain't possible fer you to go back to Locker's store, and
that puts you out of a job, don't it?"

"Yes."

"Hard up?"

"I can live a few days--but--"

"Hain't no buts. You kin live as long as I say so. You stay hitched to
this here hitchin' post, and I'll 'tend to the money. Jest don't do
nothin' but be where you be--and be makin' up your mind if Homer's the
boy you kin love and cherish, or if he's nothin' but a sort of shady
restin' place.... G'-by."

He got up abruptly and went out. On the bridge he encountered three dark
figures, which, upon inspection, resolved themselves into Old Man Bogle,
Deacon Pettybone, and Elder Hooper.

"Scattergood," said the elder, "somethin's happened."

"Somethin' 'most allus does."

"This here's special and horrifyin'."

"Havin' to do with what?"

"That coffee gal, that baggage, that hussy!"

"Um!... Sich as?"

"Recall that show Bogle was took to in Boston?"

"Where the wimmin wore tights--that's been on his mind ever since?
Calc'late I do. Kind of a high spot in Bogle's life. Come nigh bein' the
makin' of him."

"He claims he recognizes this here gal as one of them dancin' wimmin
that stood in a row with less on to them than any woman ever ought to
have with the lights turned on."

"No!" exclaimed Scattergood.

"Yep!" said all three of them in chorus.

"Stood right in front, as I recall it, a-makin' eyes and kickin' up her
heels that immodest you wouldn't b'lieve. Looked right at me, too. I
seen her."

"Got your money's wuth, then, didn't ye? Wa-al?"

"Suthin's got to be done."

"Sich as?"

"Riddin' the town of her."

"Go ahead and rid it, then.... G'-by."

"But we want you sh'u'd help us."

"G'-by," said Scattergood again, as he moved off ponderously into the
darkness.

The elder moved nearer Bogle and endeavored to peer into his face. "Be
you sure she's the same one?" he asked, in a confidential whisper.

"Wa-al--they was about the same heft," said Bogle, "and if this hain't
her, it ought to be. I kin b'lieve it, can't I? Got a right to b'lieve
it, hain't I? Good fer the town to b'lieve it, hain't it?"

"Calc'late 'tis."

"All right, then. I aim to keep on b'lievin' it."

Next day Homer Locker abandoned his work and with the utmost brazenness
hired a rig at the livery and drove to the hotel. A group of notables
assembled upon the bridge to watch the event. They saw him emerge from
the inn with Yvette, help her into the buggy with great solicitude, and
drive away. They did not return until supper time was long past.

"I'm determined to git this settled one way or t'other," said Homer,
after a long pause. "Be you goin' to marry me?"

"Why do you want me?" Yvette asked, fixing her eyes on his face. "Is it
just because you think I'm pretty?"

He considered. It was a hard question for a young man not adept in the
use of words to answer. "'Tain't jest that," he said, finally. "I like
you bein' perty. But it's somethin' else. I hain't able to explain it,
exceptin' that I want you more'n I ever wanted anythin' in my life."

"Maybe, when I tell you about myself, you won't want me at all."

He paused again, while she studied his face anxiously.

"I dunno.... I--. Tell ye what. I want you like I know you. I'm
satisfied. I don't want you to tell me nothin'. I don't want to know
nothin'." He turned and looked with clumsy gravity into her eyes, which
did not waver. "Besides," he said, "I don't believe you got anythin'
discreditable to tell."

"I want to tell you."

"I don't want to hear," he said, simply. "I'd rather take you, jest
trustin' you and knowin' in my heart that you're good. Somehow I _know_
it."

She bit her lip, her eyes were moist, and she sat very still for a long
time; then she said, softly: "I didn't know men like that lived.... I
didn't know."

Then again, after the passage of minutes: "I was going to marry you,
Homer, just for a home and a good man and to get peace.... But I sha'n't
do it now. I can't come between you and all your folks--and they
wouldn't have me."

"You're more to me than everybody else throwed together."

"No, Homer. Before I didn't think I cared.... I do care, Homer. I--I
love you. I don't mind saying it now.... I'm going away in the morning."

It was a point they argued all the day, but Yvette was not to be moved,
and Homer was in despair. As he drove into the village that evening,
glum and unhappy, Yvette said: "Stop at Mr. Baines's, please, Homer. I
want to speak to him."

Scattergood was in his accustomed place before his store, shoes on the
piazza beside him, and his feet, guiltless of socks, reveling in their
liberty.

"Mr. Baines," said Yvette, "I've made up my mind to go away to-morrow."

"Um!... To-morrer, eh? Made up your mind you don't want Homer, have ye?
Don't blame ye. He's a mighty humble critter."

"He's the best man in the world," said Yvette, softly, "and I love
him ... and that--that's why I'm going. I can't stay and make him
miserable."

Scattergood studied her face a moment, and cleared his throat noisily.
"Hum!... I swan to man! Goin', be ye?... Mebby that's best.... But they
hain't no sich hurry. Be out of a job, won't ye? Uh-huh! Wa-al, you stay
till Thursday mornin' and kind of visit with Homer, and say good-by, and
then you kin go. Thursday mornin'.... Not a minute before."

"But--"

"Thursday mornin's the time, I said.... G'-by."

Next morning Scattergood was absent. He had taken the early train out of
town, as Pliny Pickett reported, on a "whoppin' big deal that come up
suddin in the night." It appeared that for once Scattergood had allowed
business to distract him wholly from his favorite occupation of meddling
in other folks' affairs.... Nobody saw him return, for he drove into
town late Wednesday afternoon and went directly to his home.

For forty-eight hours during his absence rumor had spread and increased
its girth to astounding dimensions. Old Man Bogle had released his
story. He now recollected Yvette perfectly, and when not restrained by
the modesty of some person of the opposite sex, he described her costume
in the play with minute detail. Hourly he remembered more and more, and
the mouth-to-ear repetitions of his tale embellished it with details
even Old Man Bogle's imagination could not have encompassed.... Before
Wednesday night Yvette had arisen in the estimation of the village to an
eminence of evil never before attained by any visitor to Coldriver.

Jason Locker forbade his son his home if ever he were seen in the
hussy's company again, and Homer left by the front door.... He announced
his purpose of journeying to the South Seas or New York, or some other
equally strange and dangerous shore. The town seethed. It had been
years since any local sensation approached this high moment.... At half
past six Pliny Pickett, Scattergood's right-hand man and general errand
boy, was seen to approach Homer on the street and to whisper to him.
Pliny always enshrouded his most matter-of-fact errands with voluminous
mystery. "Scattergood wants you sh'u'd see him right off," he said, and
tiptoed away.

Another sensation occurred that evening. Scattergood Baines went to
prayer meeting in the Methodist church. When word of this was passed
about, the Baptists and Congos deserted their places of worship in
whispering groups and invaded the rival edifice until it was crowded as
it had seldom been before. Scattergood in prayer meeting! Scattergood,
who had never been inside a church since the day of his arrival in
Coldriver, forty years before.... Even Yvette Hinchbrooke and her
affairs sank into insignificance.

But the amazing presence of Scattergood in church was as nothing to the
epochal fact that, after the prayer and hymn, he was seen slowly to get
to his feet. Scattergood Baines was going to lift up his voice in
meeting!

"Folks," he said, "I've knowed Coldriver for quite a spell. I've knowed
its good and its bad, but the good outweighs the bad by a darn sight."
The congregation gasped.

"I run on to a case to-day," he said, and then paused, apparently
thinking better of what he was going to say and taking another course.
"They's one great way to reach folks's hearts and that's through their
sympathy. All of you give up to furrin missions to rescue naked fellers
with rings in their noses. That's sympathy, hain't it? Mebby they hain't
needin' sympathy and cast-off pants, but that's neither here nor there.
You _think_ they do.... Coldriver's great on sympathy, and it's a
doggone upstandin' quality." Again the audience sucked in its breath at
this approach to the language of everyday life.

"If I was wantin' to stir up your sympathy, I'd tell you about a leetle
feller I seen yestiddy. Mebby I will. He wa'n't no naked heathen, and he
didn't have no ring into his nose. He was jest a boy. Uh-huh! Calculate
he might 'a' been ten year old. Couldn't walk a step. Suthin' ailed his
laigs, and he had to lay around in a chair in one of these here kind of
cheap horspittles. Alone he was. Didn't have no pa nor ma.... But he had
to be looked after by somebody, didn't he? Somebody had to pay them
bills."

Scattergood blew his nose gustily. "Mebby he could 'a' been cured if
they was money to pay for costly doctorin', but they wa'n't. It took all
that could be got jest to pay for his food and keep.... Patient leetle
feller, too, and gentlelike and cheerful. Kind of took to him, I did."

He paused, turned slowly, and surveyed the congregation, and frowned at
the door of the church. He coughed. He waited. The congregation turned,
following his eyes, and saw Mandy, Scattergood's ample-bosomed wife,
enter, bearing in her arms the form of a child. She walked to
Scattergood's pew and handed the boy to him. Scattergood held the child
high, so all could see.

He was a red-haired little fellow, white and thin of face, with
pipe-stem legs that dangled pitifully.

"I fetched him along," said Scattergood. "I wisht you'd look him over."

The audience craned its neck, exclaiming, dropping tears. The heart of
Coldriver was well protected, it fancied, by an exterior of harshness
and suspicion, but Coldriver was wrong. Its heart lay near the surface,
easy of access, warm, tender, sympathetic. "This is him," said
Scattergood.

He turned his face to the child. "Sonny," he said, kindly, "you hain't
got no pa nor ma?" "No, sir," said the little fellow.

"And you live in one of them horspittles?"

"Yes, sir."

"It costs money?"

"Yes, sir."

"How do you git it, sonny? Tell the folks."

"Sister," said the child. "She's awful good to me. When she kin, she
stays whole days with me, but she can't stay much on account of havin'
to earn money to pay for me. It takes 'most all she earns.... She's had
to do kinds of work she don't like, on account of it earnin' more money
than nice jobs. We're savin' to have me cured, and then I'm goin' to go
to work and keep _her._ I got it all planned out while I was layin'
there."

"Is your sister a bad woman?"

"Nobody dast say that, even if I hain't got legs. I'd grab somethin' and
throw it at 'em."

"Was this here sister ever one of them actoresses?"

"Once, when I was sicker 'n usual ... it was awful costly. That time she
was in a show, 'cause she got more money there. She got enough to pay
for what I needed."

"Wear tights, sonny? Calc'late she wore tights?"

"Sure. She told me. She said to me it wasn't wearin' tights that done
harm, and she could be jest as good in tights as wearin' a fur coat if
her heart wasn't bad. That's what she said. Yes, sir, she said she
wouldn't wear nothin' if it had to be done to git me medicine."

"Um!... What's this here sister's name?"

"Eva Hopkins."

Scattergood turned again toward the door. "Homer," he called, and Homer
Locker entered, almost dragging Yvette by the arm.... The congregation
heard one sound. It was a glad, childish cry. "Eva!... Eva!... Here I
am."

Then it saw Yvette Hinchbrooke wrench free from Homer and run down the
aisle to snatch the child from Scattergood's arms into her own.

Scattergood stood erect, looking from face to face in silence. It was a
full minute before he spoke.

"There ..." he said. "You kin see the evil of passin' jedgments. You kin
see the evil of old coots traffickin' in rumors.... What you've heard
the boy tell is all true.... That's the girl you was ready to tar and
feather and run out of town.... Now what you think of yourselves?"

It was Deacon Pettybone, blinking a mist from his watery blue eyes, who
arose to the moment. "Folks," he said, huskily, "I'm goin' to pass among
you directly, carryin' the collection plate. 'Tain't fer furrin
missions. It's fer that child yonder--to git them legs fixed.... And
standin' here I want to acknowledge to sin in public. I been hard, and
lackin' in charity. I been passin' jedgments, contrairy to God's word. I
been stiff-backed and obdurate, and I calc'late they's others a-sittin'
here that needs prayers for forgiveness.... Now I'm a-comin' with the
plate. Them that hain't prepared to give to-night kin whisper to me what
they'll give to-morrer--and have no fear of my forgittin' the amounts
they pledge.... And I'm askin' forgiveness of the young woman and hopin'
she won't hold it ag'in' an old man--when she settles down here amongst
us, like I hope she'll do."

"Like she's a-goin' to do," said Jason Locker, with a voice and air of
pride. "Why, folks, that there gal is goin' to be my daughter-in-law!"

Scattergood patted Yvette on the back heavily, but jubilantly. "I've
diskivered," he said, "that if you can't crack a hick'ry nut with a pad
of butter, you better use a hammer.... Sometimes Coldriver's a nut
needin' a sledge--but when it cracks it's full of meat."



CHAPTER XIV

HE TREATS AN ATTACK OF LIFE


Scattergood Baines lounged back in his armchair, reinforced by iron
crosspieces to sustain his weight, and basked in the warmth from the
Round Oak stove, heated to redness by the clean, dry maple within. He
was drowsy. For the time he had ceased even to search for a scheme
whereby he could rid his hardware stock of one dozen sixteen-pound
sledge hammers acquired by him at a recent auction down in Tupper Falls.
His eyes were closed and his soul was at peace.

Somebody rattled the door knob and then rapped on the door. This was so
unusual a method of seeking entrance to a hardware store that
Scattergood sat up abruptly, blinking.

"Wa-al," he said, tartly, "be you comin' in, or be you goin' to stand
out there wagglin' that door knob all day?"

"I'm coming in, Mr. Baines, as soon as I can contrive to open the door,"
replied a male voice, a voice that appeared incapable of expressing
impatience; a gentle voice; the voice of a man who would dream dreams
but perform few actions.

"Um!... It's you, hey? What d'you allus carry books under your arm for?
How d'you calculate to be able to open doors, with both hands full?"

The knob turned at last, and Nahum Pound, long schoolmaster in the
little district school on Hiper Hill, came in hesitatingly, clutching
with each arm half a dozen books which struggled to escape with the
ingenuity of inanimate objects. Nahum's hair was white; his face was
vague--lovably vague.... A man of considerable, if confused, learning,
he was.

"Well?" said Scattergood. "Got suthin' on to your mind? Commence
unloadin' it before it busts your back."

"It's Sarah," said Nahum, helplessly.

"Um!... Sairy, eh? What's Sairy up to?"

"I don't seem to gather, Mr. Baines. She's--she's difficult. Something
seems to be working in her head."

"Twenty-two, hain't she? Twenty-two?... Prob'ly a number of things
a-workin' in her head. Got any special symptoms?"

"She--she wants to leave home, Mr. Baines." Nahum said this with mild
amazement. His amazement would have been no greater--and not a whit less
mild--had his daughter announced her intention to swim from New York to
Liverpool, or to marry the chef of the Czar of Russia.

"Um!... Can't say's that's onnatural--so's to require callin' in a
doctor. Live five mile from town, don't you? Nearest neighbor nigh on to
a mile. Sairy gits to see company only about so often or not so seldom
as that, eh?" Scattergood shut his eyes until there appeared at the
corners of them a network of little wrinkles. "I'm a-goin' to astonish
you, Nahum. This here hain't the first girl that ever come down with the
complaint Sairy's got!... They's been sev'ral. Complaint's older 'n you
or me.... Dum near as old as Deacon Pettybone. Uh-huh!... She's got a
attack of life, Nahum, and the only cure for it ever discovered is to
let her live.... Sairy's woke up out of childhood, Nahum. She's jest
openin' her eyes. Perty soon she'll be stirrin' around brisk.... When
you goin' to drive her in, Nahum? To-morrer?"

"You--you advise letting her do this thing?"

"When you goin' to fetch her in, Nahum?" Scattergood repeated.

"She said she was coming Monday."

"Um!... G'-by, Nahum." This was Scattergood's invariable phrase of
dismissal, given to friend or enemy alike. It was characteristic of him
that when he was through with a conversation he ended it--and left no
doubt in anybody's mind that it _was_ ended. Nahum withdrew
apologetically. Scattergood called after him, "Fetch her here--to me,"
he said, and, automatically, it seemed, reached for the laces of his
shoes. A problem had been presented to him which required a deal of
solving, and Scattergood could not concentrate with toes imprisoned in
leather. He even removed the white woolen socks which Mandy, his wife,
compelled him to wear in the winter season. Presently he was twiddling
his pudgy toes and concentrating on Sarah Pound. He waggled his head.
"After livin' out there," he said to himself, "she'll think Coldriver's
livin'--and so 'tis, so 'tis.... More sometimes 'n 'tis others.
Calculate this is like to be one of 'em...."

Scattergood was just thinking about dinner on Monday when Nahum Pound
brought his daughter Sarah into the store. One glance at Sarah's face
taught Scattergood that she was in suspicious, if not defiant, mood. If
he had a doubt of the correctness of his observation, Sarah removed it
efficiently.

"Scattergood Baines," she said, "if you think you're going to boss me
like you do father, and everybody else in this town, you're mistaken. I
won't have it.... Understand that, I won't have it."

Scattergood rubbed his chin and puffed out his fat cheeks, and smiled
with deceiving mildness. "Sairy," he said, "you needn't to be scairt of
my interferin' with you in your goin's and comin's. I'd sooner stick my
hand into a kittle of b'ilin' pitch than to meddle with a young woman
in your state of mind.... I hain't hankerin' to raise no blisters."

"I won't stay penned up 'way out there in the country another day. I've
got a right to live. I've got a right to see folks and to go places,
and--to--to live!"

"To be sure.... To be sure. Jest itchin' to kick the top bar off'n the
pasture fence. Most certain you got a right to live, and nobody hain't
goin' to hender you ... least of all me. But there's jest one
observation I'd sort of like to let loose of, and that's this: Your
life's a whole lot like one of your arms and legs--easy busted. To be
sure, it kin be put in splints and mended up ag'in, but maybe you'll go
limpy or knit crooked so's nothin' kin keep the busted place from
showin'. Bearin' that in mind, if I was you, I wouldn't be too careless
about scramblin' up into places where you was apt to git a fall.... I
calc'late, Sairy, that it's better to miss the view than to fall out of
the tree...."

"I'm going to see the view if I fall out of every tree I climb," Sarah
said, hotly.

"Don't object if I find you a boardin' house?"

"I'm going to board with Grandma Penny that was--Mrs. Spackles."

Scattergood nodded. "G'-by, Sairy.... G'-by, Nahum." He watched father
and daughter leave the store with a twinkle in his eyes, not a twinkle
of humor, but the twinkle that always came when his interest in life,
always keen, was aroused to a point where it tingled. "Calc'late to be
kep' busy--more 'n ordinary busy," he offered as an opinion to be
digested by the Round Oak stove. Presently he added: "She's perty ...
and bein' perty is kind of a remarkable thing ... bein' perty and
young.... Don't seem like God ought to hold folks accountable fer bein'
young, nor yet fer bein' good to look at ... but they's times when it
seems like He does...." On his way back to the store after dinner,
Scattergood stopped at the bank corner, hesitated a moment, and then
mounted the stairs to the offices above. A door bearing the legend,
"Robert Allen, Attorney at Law," admitted him to a large, bare office,
such as one finds in such towns as Coldriver.

"Howdy, Bob?" said Scattergood.

"Good day, Mr. Baines," said the young man behind the desk, who had
suddenly pretended to be very much occupied with important matters as
his door opened.

"Um!... Busy time, eh? Better come back later."

"No. No, indeed. Take this chair right here, Mr. Baines. What can I do
for you?"

"Depends. Uh-huh! Depends.... Calc'late to make a perty good livin',
Bob?"

"No complaints."

"Studied it yourself, didn't you--out of books? No college?"

"Yes."

"Hard work, wasn't it? Mighty hard work?"

"It might have been easier," said Bob, wondering what Scattergood was
getting at.

"Like to be prosecutin' attorney for this county, Bob?"

Prosecuting attorney! With a salary of twenty-five hundred dollars a
year--and the prestige! Bob strove valiantly to maintain a look of
dignified interest, but with ill success.

"I--I might consider it. Yes, I would consider it."

"Um!... Figgered you would," said Scattergood, dryly. "Hain't got no
help in the office," he observed. "Need some, don't you? Somebody to
write letters and sort of look after things, eh?"

"Why--er--I've never thought about it."

"If you was to think about it, you'd calc'late on payin' about six
dollars a week, wouldn't you?" Bob swallowed hard. Six dollars a week
was a great deal of money to this young man, just embarking on the
practice of his profession. "Guess that would be about right," he said.

"Got anybody in mind, Bob? Thinkin' of anybody specific for the place?"

Bob shook his head.

"Um!... Nahum Pound's daughter's boardin' with Grandma Penny, that's now
Mis' Spackles. All-fired perty girl, Bob. Don't call to mind no pertier.
Sairy's her name.... G'-by, Bob. G'-by."

He walked to the door, but paused. "About that six dollars, Bob--I was
figgerin' on payin' that out of my own pocket."

Bob Allen was not accustomed to the oversight of employees--least of all
to an employee who was very satisfying to look at, who was winsomely
young, whose mere presence distracted his thoughts from that rigorous
concentration upon the logical principles of the law.... He did not know
what to do with Sarah once he had hired her, and it required so much of
his time and brain power to think up something for her to do that it is
fortunate his practice was neither large nor arduous. It is no mean
tribute to the young man that he kept Sarah so busy with apparently
necessary matters that she had no occasion to doubt the authenticity of
her employment.

Bob faced a second difficulty, due to his inexperience, and that was
that he was at a loss how to comport himself toward Sarah, as to how
friendly he should be, and as to how much he should maintain a certain
grave dignity and reserve in his dealings with her. This was a matter
which need not have troubled him, for Nature has a way of taking into
her own keeping the bearing of young men toward young women when the two
are thrown much into each other's company. Propinquity is a tremendous
force in the life of humanity. It has caused as many love affairs as
the kicking of other men's dogs has caused street fights--which numbers
into infinity. Consequently, while Bob worried much and selected a
number of widely differing attitudes--a thing which caused Sarah some
uneasiness and no little speculation as to what sort of disposition her
employer possessed--the solution lay not with him at all. It took care
of itself.

Scattergood noted the significance of symptoms. He made a mental
memorandum of the fact that Bob Allen was seldom to be seen among the
post-office loafers; that Bob preferred his office to any other spot;
that Bob had ordered a new suit from a city tailor; that Bob wore a
constant air of anxiety and excitement, and--most expressive symptom of
all for a Coldriver young man--he became interested in residence
property, in lots, and in the cost of erecting dwellings.... Scattergood
looked in vain for reciprocal symptoms to be shown by Sarah. But Sarah
was a woman. What symptoms she exhibited were meaningless even to
Scattergood.

"Bob," said Scattergood, one auspicious day, "got any pref'rence for
prosecutin' attorneys--married or single?"

"It depends," said Bob, cautiously.

"Um!... How's Sairy behavin', Bob?"

"She's--she's--" Bob became incoherent, and then speechless.

"Calc'late I foller you, Bob.... Git your point of view exact.... About
prosecutin' attorneys, Bob, I prefer 'em married."

"Mr. Baines," said Bob, "if I could get Sarah Pound to marry me, I
wouldn't give a tinker's dam who was prosecutor."

"Mishandlin' of fact sim'lar to that," said Scattergood, dryly, "has
been done nigh on to a billion times.... Any idee how Sairy stands on
sich a proposition?"

"She's about equally fond of me and the letter press," said Bob,
dolefully.

"Good sign," said Scattergood. Then after a short pause: "Say, Bob,
still rent out drivin' bosses at the livery?... G'-by, Bob."

Bob was astonished to find how easy it is to ask a girl to go driving
the second time--after you have spent an anxious, dubious, fearsome day
screwing up your courage to ask her the first time. He was delighted,
too, because he even fancied Sarah now discriminated between him and the
letter press--in his favor. Bob came fresh and unsophisticated to the
business in hand, which was courtship. Sarah had never before been
courted, but she recognized a courtship when she saw it at such close
range, and found it delightfully exciting. Bob did his clumsy, earnest,
honest best, and Sarah, somewhat to her surprise, became more satisfied
with the universe and with her share in its destinies.... In short,
matters were progressing as nature intended they should progress, and
Scattergood felt almost that they might be trusted to go forward to a
satisfactory denouement without his interference.

Then old Solon Beatty died!

This solved one of Bob Allen's problems; it furnished plenty of
authentic work for Sarah Pound--for Bob was retained as attorney for old
Solon's estate, which he found to be in an amazing state of confusion.
Old Solon left behind him, reluctantly, property of divers kinds, and in
numerous localities, valued at upward of a hundred thousand dollars,
split and invested into as many enterprises and mortgages and savings
accounts as there were dollars! This made work. There were papers to
sort and list, to file and to schedule--clerical work in abundance. It
interfered with the more important business of courtship, but even in
this respect it was not without a certain value.

"Who's going to get all this money?" Sarah asked, one morning after she
had been listing mortgages until her head ached with the sight of
figures and descriptions. "Does Mary Beatty get it all?"

"Not unless we find a will somewhere. Everybody thought Solon's
niece--which is Mary Beatty--would get the whole estate. Solon intended
it should go that way, and the Lord knows she's worked for him and
nursed him and coddled him enough to deserve it. Gave her whole life up
to the old codger ... But we can't find a will, and so she won't get but
half. The rest goes to Solon's nephew, Farley Curtis ... under the
statute of descent and distribution, you know," he finished, learnedly.

"Farley Curtis.... I never heard of him."

"He's never been here--at least not for years. But he'll be along now.
We're due to see him soon."

"Correct," said a voice from the door, which had opened silently. In it
stood a young man of dress and demeanor not indigenous to Coldriver.
"You're due to see Farley Curtis--so you behold him. Look me over
carefully. I was due--therefore I arrive." The young man laughed
pleasantly, as if he intended his words to be regarded as whimsical,
yet, somehow, Bob felt the whimsicality to be surface deep; that Curtis
was a young man with much confidence in himself, who felt that if he
were due he would inevitably arrive.

"Mr. Allen, I suppose," said Curtis, extending his hand. "I am told you
are handling the legal affairs of my late uncle's estate."

Sarah Pound eyed the newcomer, and as the young men shook hands compared
them, to Bob Allen's disadvantage. To inexperience any comparison must
be to Bob's disadvantage, for Curtis was handsome, dressed with taste,
and gifted with a worldly certainty of manner and an undeniable charm.
Sarah had never encountered all these attributes in a single individual.
She drew on her reading of fiction and knew at once that she was in the
presence of that wonderful creature she had seen described so
frequently--a gentleman. As for Bob Allen, he was big, rugged, careless
of dress, kindly, without pretense of polish.... And besides, to
Curtis's advantage there attached to him a certain literary glamour--of
heirship--and a mystery due to his sudden appearance out of the great
unknown that lay beyond the confines of Coldriver.

"I am in the dark," said Curtis. "All I know is that Uncle Solon is
dead. It is proper I should come to you for information, is it not? For
instance, there is no harm in asking if there is a will?"

"None has been found," said Bob, not graciously. He had taken a dislike
to this stranger instinctively, a dislike which increased at an amazing
pace as he noted Curtis's eyes cast admiring glances upon Sarah Pound.

"In which case," said the young man, "I suppose I may regard myself as
an interested party."

"Yourself and Miss Beatty are the heirs--so far as has been determined."

"You have searched all my uncle's papers?"

"We have gone through them, but not so thoroughly as to reach a final
conclusion. He was a peculiar old man."

"And no will has been found? No--other papers--" Curtis smiled
deprecatingly. "It is only natural I should be interested," he said, and
smiled at Sarah.

"Was there anything special you wanted to ask?"

"Only if there was a will--or other paper." There was a curious
hesitation in Farley Curtis's voice as he spoke the last two words. "I'm
glad, of course, there's not.... Thank you. Think I'll stay in town till
the thing is settled up. Probably see you often. Pleased to have met
you." He included Sarah in the bow with which he took his leave.

For a few days Farley Curtis lived at the Coldriver House, then moved
to Grandmother Penny's, where Sarah Pound boarded. Secretly Bob Allen
was furious, without apparent cause. He had no reason to draw
conclusions, for boarding houses were scarce in Coldriver. What Sarah
thought of the event was not so easily discovered.

Bob would naturally have discussed immediately the significance of
Farley Curtis's arrival in Coldriver, with Scattergood, for everybody in
Coldriver went to Scattergood with whatever important occurrence that
befell, but Scattergood was absent on a political mission. When he
returned Bob lost no time in laying the matter before him.

"Um!... Calculated he'd turn up. Natural.... Acted kind of anxious, eh?
What was it he said about a will--or somethin'?"

Bob repeated Curtis's conversation minutely.

"Um!... That young man didn't suspect--he _knew_," said Scattergood,
reaching automatically for his shoes. "What he wanted to know was--has
it been found?... Um!... Not a will. Somethin'. Somethin' he's afraid of
bein' found.... Hain't the kind of feller I'd like to see spendin' old
Solon's money.... Guess you and me'll go through them papers ag'in."

So with minute care Bob and Scattergood examined the documents and
memoranda and receipts and accounts of Solon Beatty, but no will, no
minute reference to Farley Curtis, was discovered. They went again to
Solon's house to question Mary and to rummage there with the hope of
falling upon some such hiding place as the queer old man might have
chosen as the safe depository of his will. Mary Beatty was not helpful;
middle-aged, with wasted youth behind her; she was even resentful that
her meticulous housekeeping should be disturbed.

Scattergood and Bob sat down in the parlor, discouraged. It was evident
there was no will. Solon had neglected to attend to that matter until
it was too late.... Scattergood wiggled his feet uneasily and stared at
the motto over the door.

"Solon didn't run much to religion," he observed.

"No," said Mary Beatty.

"Um!... Have a Bible, maybe? One of them big ones?"

"Up in his room, Mr. Baines. It always laid on the table
there--unopened."

"Opened it yourself lately, Mary? Been readin' the Scriptures out of
that p'tic'lar book?"

"No."

"Um!... Got a kind of a hankerin' to read a verse or two," said
Scattergood. "Come on, Bob. You 'n' me'll peruse Solon's Bible some."

The huge Bible with its Dore illustrations lay on the marble-topped
table in old Solon's bedroom. Scattergood opened it--found it stiff with
lack of use, its pages clinging together as if their gilt edging had
never been broken.... Bob leaned over Scattergood while the old man
rapidly thumbed the pages.... He brought to light a pressed flower, and
shrugged his shoulders. What moment of softness in the life of a hard
old man did this flower commemorate?... A letter whose ink was faded to
illegibility! Even Solon Beatty had once known the rose-leaf scent of
romance.

"Nothing there," said Bob.

"The reason folks seldom find things," said Scattergood, "is that they
say 'Nothin' there' before they've half looked.... They might be any
quantity of things in this Bible that we hain't overhauled yet." The old
man stood a moment frowning down at the book. "Births and deaths," he
said to himself. "Births and deaths--and marryin's...." Rapidly he
turned to the illumined pages on which were set down the family records
of the Beattys. "Um!... Jest sich a place as he'd pick out.... What you
make of this, Bob?"

Scattergood loosened a sheet of paper which had been lightly glued to
the page. "Hain't got my specs, Bob."

The young lawyer read it, re-read it aloud. "I, Farley Curtis, one of
the two legal heirs of Solon Beatty, of Coldriver Township, do hereby
acknowledge the receipt of ten thousand dollars, the same to be
considered an advance of my share of the said Solon Beatty's estate.
For, and in consideration of the said ten thousand dollars I hereby
waive all claims to any further participation in the said estate, and
agree that I will not, whether the said Solon Beatty dies testate or
intestate, make any claim against the said estate, nor upon Mary Beatty,
who, by this advance to me, becomes sole heir to the said estate.'"

Bob drew a long breath. Scattergood stared owlishly at Mary Beatty.

"Now, what d'you think of that, eh? Shouldn't be s'prised if that was
the i-dentical paper that was weighin' on the mind of young Mr. Curtis.
Shouldn't be a mite s'prised if 'twas."

"What is it, Mr. Baines?" asked Mary Beatty. "A will?"

"Wa-al, offhand I'd say it was consid'able better 'n a will. Ya-as....
Wills kin be busted, but this here docyment--I calc'late it would take
mighty powerful hammerin' to knock it apart."

"And, Mary," said Bob, "if I were you I shouldn't mention the finding of
it."

"Not to a soul," said Scattergood. "We'll take it mighty soft and spry
and shet it up in Bob's safe.... Anybody know the combination to it
besides you, Bob?"

"Nobody but you, Mr. Baines."

"Oh, me!... To be sure, me."

"And Miss Pound." "Um!... Sairy, eh? Course.... Sairy."

Within twenty-four hours everybody in Coldriver knew a paper of great
significance had been discovered affecting the heirs to Solon Beatty's
estate, and that the paper was locked in Bob Allen's safe. Bob had not
talked; Scattergood certainly had been silent, and Mary Beatty solemnly
averred that no word had passed her lips. Yet the fact was there for all
to contemplate.... Farley Curtis devoted an entire day to the
contemplation of it in his room at Grandmother Penny's.... That evening
he invited Sarah Pound to drive with him. She found him a delightful and
entertaining companion.

Sunday was still two days away when Bob looked up from his desk to say
to Sarah: "This Beatty matter has kept us so busy there hasn't been any
time for pleasure. You must be tired out, Miss Pound. Wouldn't you like
to start early Sunday and drive over to White Pine for dinner--and come
back after the sun goes down? It's a beautiful drive."

"I'm sorry," said Sarah, flushing with a feeling that was akin to guilt,
"but I am engaged Sunday."

Bob turned again to his work, cast into sudden gloom, and wondering
jealously what was Sarah's engagement. Sarah, not altogether easy in her
mind, nor wholly pleased with herself, endeavored to justify herself for
being so lightly off with the old and on with the new.... She compared
Bob to Farley Curtis, and found the comparison not in Bob's favor. Not
that this was exactly a justification, but it was a salve. Sarah was in
the shopping period of her life--shopping for a husband, so to speak.
She was entitled to the best she could get ... and Bob did not seem to
be the best. Farley was sprightly, interesting, with the manners of a
more effete world than Coldriver; Bob was awkward, ofttimes silent,
lacking polish. Farley was solicitous in small matters that Bob failed
utterly to perceive; Farley was always skilled in minute points of
decorum, whose very existence was unknown to Bob. In short, Farley was
altogether fascinating, while Bob, at best, was commonplace. Yet, not in
her objective mind, but deep in her centers of intuition, she was
conscious of a hesitancy, conscious of something that urged her toward
Bob and warned her against Farley Curtis.

On Sunday Bob saw Sarah drive away with Curtis--and spent a black day of
jealousy and heartburning. During the succeeding two weeks he spent many
black days and sleepless nights, for Curtis monopolized Sarah's leisure,
and Sarah seemed to have thrown discretion to the winds and clothed
herself against fear of Coldriver's gossip, for she seemed to give her
company almost eagerly to the stranger.... And Coldriver talked.

Bob spoke bitterly of the matter to Scattergood.

"Um!..." grunted Scattergood, "don't seem to recall any statute
forbiddin' any young feller to git him any gal he kin. Eh?"

"No. But this Curtis--there's something wrong there. He isn't intending
to play fair.... I--He's got some kind of a purpose, Mr. Baines."

"Think so, eh? What kind of a purpose?" Scattergood had his own ideas on
this subject, but did not disclose them. It was in his mind that Curtis
cultivated Sarah because of Sarah's propinquity of a certain paper which
the man had reason to believe was in Bob Allen's safe.

Bob's face was set and stern, granite as the hills among which he had
been born and which had become a part of his nature. "If he doesn't play
fair ... if he should--hurt her ... I'd take him apart, Mr. Baines."

"Calc'late you would," said Scattergood, tranquilly, "but there's a law
in sich case, made and pervided, callin' that kind of amusement
murder ..."

It was not Scattergood's custom to publish his emotions; nevertheless
he was worried. He appreciated the state of mind which had brought Sarah
to Coldriver--the spirit of restless, resentful youth, demanding the
world for its plaything. He knew Sarah's high temper, her eagerness for
adventure.... He knew that thousands of girls before her had been
fascinated by well-told tales of the life to be lived out in the world
of cities, of wealth, of artificial gayeties ... the lure of travel, of
excitement.... And Scattergood did not covet the duty of carrying a
woeful story to old Nahum Pound, the gentle schoolmaster.

His uneasiness was not decreased by a bit of unpremeditated
eavesdropping that fell in his way the next evening.... Farley Curtis
was talking, Sarah Pound was listening--eagerly.

"You can't understand what living is," the man was saying, "How could
you? You haven't lived. Here in this backwater you will never live....
You move around in a fog of monotony. Every day the same. But out
there.... Everything! Everything you want and can imagine is there for
the taking. A beautiful woman can take what she wants--that's what it's
all for--for her to help herself to. Life and excitement and
pleasure--and love ... they are all out there waiting."

Sarah sighed.

"Did you ever try to imagine Paris, London, Madrid, Rome?" he went on.
"You can't do it.... But you can see them. I--I would take you if you
would let me ... if things fall out right. I'm poor ...but with this
Beatty money I could take you anywhere. It would give us everything we
want.... Half of that money belongs to me rightfully, doesn't it?"

"I suppose so."

"But I may not get it."

She was silent.

"There is a paper," he said, "and that paper may stand between you and
me--and Paris and Rome and the world...." He paused, and then said,
carelessly: "Won't you go with me, Sarah--away from this? Won't you let
me take you, to love and to make happy?"

Presently she spoke, so low her voice was scarcely audible to
Scattergood. "I don't know.... I don't know," she said.

Scattergood had heard enough. He stole away silently. The time had come
to act, if he were going to act ... if no woeful story were to be
carried to old Nahum Pound concerning his daughter. He might even be too
late.... The lure of great cities and foreign shores might have done its
work, and Farley Curtis's eloquence have served its purpose.

In the morning Bob Allen was early at his office. His first act was to
open the safe to take out a packet of papers he had been laboring over
the afternoon before.... The packet was not where he had placed it the
night before. He remembered distinctly how he had shoved it into a
certain pigeonhole.... It was not there. He found it in the compartment
below.... Bob was not easily startled or frightened, so now he paused
and took his memory to account. No.... The fault was not with his
memory. He had done exactly as he remembered doing.... Somebody had
opened that safe since he closed it; somebody had fingered its
contents.... He caught his breath, not at the fear of loss, but in
sudden terror of the means by which that loss had been brought about,
the person who might have been the instrument.... Furiously he began
going over the contents of the safe--money, securities, papers.
Everything seemed intact. But one thing remained--the little drawer. He
had put off opening that, because he dreaded to open it, for it
contained the paper that excluded Farley Curtis from a share in his
uncle's estate.... Bob compelled himself to turn the little key, to
open the drawer.... It was empty!...

Bob walked slowly to his desk and sat down, his eyes fixed upon the safe
as if it fascinated him.... Facts, facts! His soul demanded facts. Those
at hand were few, simple. First, the safe had been opened by some one
who knew the combination. Three persons existed who might have opened
it--or betrayed its combination: Scattergood, himself, Sarah Pound....
Second, he knew he had not opened it nor betrayed the combination.
Third, he was equally certain Scattergood had not done so.... Fourth--he
groaned!...

Bob comprehended what had happened; why Farley Curtis had wooed so
persistently Sarah Pound. It was not out of love nor desire, but for a
more sordid purpose ... it was to win her love, to blind her to honor,
to make a tool of her, and through her to secure possession of that bit
of paper which stood between him and riches.

Presently Sarah Pound entered. Bob could not force himself to look at
her; did not speak. She gazed at him curiously, and when she saw the
grayness of his face, the lines about his mouth, and eyes that advanced
his age by twenty years, she felt a little catch at her heart, a
breathlessness, a sudden alarm.

"Miss Pound," he said, in a voice which he himself could not recognize
as his own, "you needn't take off your hat.... You--you actually came
back here! You were bold enough to come again to this office.... I
fancied you would be gone--from Coldriver." His voice broke queerly. "I
suppose you realize what you have done--and are satisfied with the
price--the price of forfeiting the respect of every honest man and woman
you know! That is a great deal to give up. It ought to command a high
price--treachery.... I hope you are getting a sufficient return.... It
means nothing to you, of course, but--I loved you. I thought about you
as a man thinks about the woman he hopes will be his wife ... and his
children's mother ... so it--pains--to find you despicable...."

Sarah's little fists clenched, her eyes glinted.

"How dare you?" she cried. "What affair is it of yours what I do?...
You're a silly, jealous idiot." With which childish invective she flung
out of the office.

In an hour Bob Allen was calmer, and so the more unhappy. His mind
cleared, and, being cleared, it directed him to carry his trouble to
Scattergood Baines.

"Um!... Gone, eh?" said Scattergood. "Sure it's gone?... Um!..."

"Yes, and Sarah Pound will be gone, too. How dared she come back to my
office?... Now she'll go with Curtis."

"Shouldn't be s'prised," said Scattergood, waggling his head. "I heard
Farley a-pointin' out to her the _dee_-sirability of Paris and Rome and
sich European p'ints last night.... You calculate Sairy took the paper?"

"What else can I think?"

"To be sure.... Um!... Paris, Rome, London--might be argued into
stealin' it myself, if I was a gal. Um!... Ever see a toad ketch flies,
Bob? Does it with his tongue. There's toad men, Bob, that goes huntin'
wimmin the same way--with their tongues. Su'prisin' the number and
quality they ketch, too. What was you plannin' on doin', Bob? Goin' back
to your office, wasn't you? And keepin' your mouth shet? Was that the
idee? Eh?"

"I don't know what to do, Mr. Baines."

"Didn't figger on droppin' around to Grandma Penny's boardin' house
about eight sharp, did you? Eight sharp.... And kind of settin' down
quiet on the front porch? Jest settin'? Eh?... G'-by, Bob."

After Bob left the store Scattergood sat half an hour staring at the
stove; then he left the store to its own devices and wandered up the
street toward Grandmother Penny's. He encountered Sarah Pound as she
came out through the gate.

"Howdy, Sairy?" he said, cheerfully. "Havin' consid'able amusement with
life--eh?"

"I've been enjoying myself, Mr. Baines," Sarah said, making an effort at
coldness and dignity.

"Bet you hain't enjoyin' yourself enough to warrant your doin' a favor
for an old feller like me, eh?... This evenin', for instance?"

"I--I'm going away this evening."

"Um!... Goin' away, eh? Alone? Or along with somebody?"

"That's my own affair."

"To be sure.... To be sure, but the train don't leave till nine, does
it? Couldn't manage to do me a favor at eight?"

"What is the favor, Mr. Baines?"

"'Tain't much. Sca'cely anythin' a-tall. I calc'late to be a-settin' in
Grandma Penny's parlor at eight sharp. I won't keep you waitin' more 'n
a second--unless somebody happens to be with me a-talkin' my arm off. If
they hain't nobody with me, why, you walk right in. If they is somebody,
why, you jest stand outside of the door a second, and they'll be gone.
Then you come in. But don't come rompin' in if you hear voices. It's a
mite of business, and 'twon't take but a second. Calc'late you kin
manage that, eh?"

"Yes," she said, shortly.

"Promise?"

"Yes."

"G'-by, Sairy."

At five minutes before eight Scattergood Baines rapped at Grandmother
Penny's door and asked to speak to Farley Curtis, "Tell him it's
somethin' p'tic'lar reegardin' the Beatty estate," he said, and stepped
into the parlor. Farley appeared almost instantly; dapper, his usual
courteous, self-possessed self. Scattergood began a peculiar and
roundabout conversation after the manner of a man who fears to broach a
subject plainly. Farley showed his irritation.

"Mr. Baines," he said, "suppose you get down to business. I'm going away
this evening."

"To be sure.... To be sure. It's overlappin' eight now, hain't it?"
Scattergood paused, listening. He fancied he heard some one approach and
halt just outside the door. He was certain that a chair creaked on the
porch outside the window.... He cleared his throat and drew a big yellow
envelope from his pocket.

"Calculate I'm ready for business, if you be.... Which d'you calc'late
is most desirable--havin' half a loaf, or no bread?"

"What do you mean?"

"You come to Coldriver on business, didn't you? Money business?"

"Why I came is my own affair."

"Certain.... Certain.... But things gets noised about. Things has got
noised about concernin' a paper that stands betwixt you and half of the
Beatty estate. Heard 'em myself." Scattergood waggled the envelope. "I
hain't exactly objectin' to makin' a leetle quick money
myself--supposin' it kin be done safe, and the blame, if they is any,
throwed somewheres else.... Now, Mr. Curtis, what kind of a course would
you foller if that paper we been talkin' about was to fall into the
hands of a feller that felt like I do about makin' money?"

"What do you mean?" Farley demanded, moving forward eagerly in his
chair.

"Hain't good at guessin', be you?"

"That paper doesn't worry me," said Farley. "Calc'lated on havin' it
before you took the train to-night, eh?"

Farley scowled.

"Uh-huh!... Wa-al, I wasn't seein' sich a chance to make a dollar slip
by. The way you was figgerin' on gittin' that paper, Mr. Curtis, won't
work. I know. Uh-huh! I know, because I got ahead of you. I got that
paper myself.... And we kin deal if I kin be made to feel safe.... Most
things leaks out through wimmin.... Hain't mixin' any wimmin into this,
be you?"

"No."

"Um!... How about Sairy Pound?"

Curtis shrugged his shoulders.

"Calc'latin' on takin' her away with you to-night?"

"Not now," said Farley.

"Seein's how you can't use her to git this paper for you, eh? That it?"

"Yes."

"Calc'lated on marryin' her, didn't you?"

"Fiddlesticks!" said Mr. Curtis, harshly.

"Understand me, I hain't takin' chances.... If this gal's mixed up in
this, I don't deal."

"Do I look like a man who would let a silly, backwoods idiot of a girl
stand between me and money? I'm through with her. She's no use to me
now. You've said that yourself.... She's nothing to me."

"Good.... I got the paper right here, and I'm a-listenin' to your offer
for it...."

"Ten thous--" began Farley, but a swift, furious thrusting open of the
parlor door interrupted, as Sarah Pound flung herself into the room. For
a moment she was speechless with rage.... Shame would come later....
"You contemptible--contemptible--contemptible--" she cried,
breathlessly. "It was a thing like you I--I could choose!... I could
throw away a man for you!... For a suit of clothes, and manners, and a
lying tongue.... I could compare Bob Allen with you--and choose you!...
Oh!..."

"Sairy," said Scattergood.

"But I never would have done it--not that. I'd never have taken that
paper.... You know I wouldn't, Mr. Baines. Say you know that...."

"Wa-al," said Scattergood, dryly, "they hain't no tellin' how fur a
woman'll go when she's bein' bamboozled by a scamp--so I kind of insured
ag'in' your takin' it by takin' it myself.... Er--Mr. Curtis, if I was
you, I'd sort of slip out soft by the back door. Bob Allen's a-waitin'
for you on the front porch.... There's a train at nine."

Scattergood put a clumsy arm about Sarah, who, the moment her wrathful
energy ebbed away, sobbed and sobbed and sobbed with shame and fear.

"Hey, out there," shouted Scattergood, "git a move on you!"

Bob Allen needed no urging. His arm was substituted for Scattergood's,
his breast for Scattergood's--and Sarah made no complaint. "I
wouldn't.... I wouldn't.... You thought I did," she murmured.

"I thought that," said Bob, brokenly. "How can you ever forgive me?...
I--But I love you, Sarah. Won't that make up for it?"

"You--believed it," she repeated, and Scattergood grinned.

"Dummed if she hain't managed to put him in the wrong.... You can't beat
wimmin.... She's put him in the wrong."

Scattergood peered at them a moment, saw what filled him with perfect
satisfaction, and discreetly withdrew. He went out and sat on the porch
and beamed up at the stars.... He sat there a long, long time, and
nobody called him in. He got up, pressed his nose against the window,
and rapped on the glass.

"Everybody forgiv' and fixed up," he called, "so's I kin git to bed with
an easy mind?"

There was no answer. He had not been heard--but what he saw was answer
sufficient for any man.


THE END





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