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Title: Young Wallingford
Author: Chester, George Randolph, 1869-1924
Language: English
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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.

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YOUNG WALLINGFORD

by

GEORGE RANDOLPH CHESTER

Author of
The Early Bird
The Making of Bobby Burnit

With Illustrations by F. R. Gruger & Henry Raleigh



Indianapolis
The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Publishers

Copyright 1910
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

Press of
Braunworth & Co.
Bookbinders and Printers
Brooklyn, N. Y.



[Illustration: Fannie]



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                          PAGE

     I WIX BEGINS TO THINK                          1

    II EASY MONEY                                  12

   III YOUNG WIX TAKES A HAND                      25

    IV THE EASIEST WAY                             38

     V WIX DISAPPEARS FOREVER                      52

    VI A SAD DISAPPOINTMENT                        61

   VII A GREEN-GOODS PLAYLET                       72

  VIII THE DOUBLE CROSS                            86

    IX SPOILING THE EGYPTIANS                     101

     X EATING CAKE AND HAVING IT                  111

    XI A BRIEF CHARACTER BIT                      126

   XII WALLINGFORD IS FROZEN OUT                  144

  XIII BEAUTY IN THE SPOT-LIGHT                   158

   XIV AN OLD SCORE EVENED UP                     172

    XV TAKING HIS MONEY                           183

   XVI ENJOYING THEMSELVES                        201

  XVII J. RUFUS SEEKS INVESTMENT                  219

 XVIII SPECULATION IN REAL ESTATE                 231

   XIX A GREAT ART CENTER                         251

    XX ETRUSCAN BLACK MUD                         264

   XXI THE GREAT VITTOREO MATTEO                  279

  XXII THE SURPRISE OF HIS LIFE                   288

 XXIII STILL ANOTHER SURPRISE                     298

  XXIV A STRAIGHT BUSINESS                        306

   XXV THE SCIATACATA COMPANY                     318

  XXVI A DELUSION AND A SNARE                     331

 XXVII LAUGH AT THAT WOOZY FEELING                341



YOUNG
WALLINGFORD



CHAPTER I

WHEREIN JONATHAN REUBEN WIX BEGINS TO THINK


"A natural again!" exulted Jonathan Reuben Wix, as the dice bounded
from his plump hand and came to rest upon the billiard-table in
Leiniger's Select Café, with a five and a deuce showing. "Somebody
ring the bell for me, because I'm a-going to get off."

He was a large young man in every dimension, broad of chest and big
and pink of face and jovial of eye, and he chuckled as he passed the
dice to his left-hand neighbor. There was a hundred dollars on the
table and he gathered it up in a wad.

"Good-by, boys, and many merry thanks for these kind contributions,"
he bantered as he stuffed the money into his pocket. "It's me for
Bunkville-amidst-the-ferry-boats, on the next Limited."

He was back in less than three days, having spent just twenty-four
hours in New York. The impulsively decided journey was nothing unusual
for him, but it had an intimate bearing upon his future in that it
forced upon him the confidence of secretive Clifford Gilman, who lived
next door.

"Home so soon?" inquired Gilman in surprise. "They must have robbed
you!"

"Robbed!" laughed Wix. "I should say not. I didn't waste a cent.
Railroad ticket, sleepers, meals and extra fare on the Limited cost
twenty-five each way. That left fifty. My room at the hotel cost five
dollars. Breakfast was two dollars; morning drive through Central
Park, four; lunch, three-fifty; matinée ticket, with cab each way,
five; dinner, eight, with the ordinary champagne of commerce; theater
and cab hire, five-fifty; supper, twelve, including a bottle of real
champagne at eight dollars, and the balance in tips."

Clifford gasped as he hungrily reviewed these luscious items.

Young Gilman was not one of those who had been in the game by which
Wix had won a hundred. He never played dice, did young Gilman, nor
poker, nor bet on a horse race, nor drank, nor even smoked; but
wore curly, silken sideburns, and walked up the same side of Main
Street every morning to the bank, with his lunch in a little
imitation-leather box. He walked back down the same side of Main
Street every evening. If he had happened to take the other side on any
morning, before noon there would have been half a dozen conservative
depositors to ask old Smalley, who owned the bank, why Clifford had
crossed over.

Young Gilman was popularly regarded as a "sissy," but that he had
organs, dimensions and senses, and would bleed if pricked, was
presently evidenced to Mr. Wix in a startling proposition.

"Look here, Wix," said Gilman, lowering his voice to a mystery-fraught
undertone, "I'm going to take a little trip and I want you to come
along."

"Behave!" admonished Wix. "It would be awful reckless in me to go with
a regular little devil like you; and besides, sarsaparilla and peanuts
tear up my system so."

"I've got three hundred dollars," stated Gilman calmly. "Does that
sound like sarsaparilla and peanuts?"

"I'm listening," said Wix with sudden interest. "Where did you get it,
mister?"

Gilman looked around them nervously, then spoke in an eager whisper,
clutching Wix by the arm.

"Saved it up, but like you do. I saw the wisdom of your way long ago.
Old Smalley makes me put half my salary in the bank, but I pinch out a
little more than that, and every time I get twenty dollars on the
side, I invest it in margin wheat, by mail. Most often I lose, but
when I do win I keep on until it amounts to something. Of course, I'm
laying myself open to you in this. If old Smalley found it out he'd
discharge me on the spot."

Wix chuckled.

"I know," he agreed. "My mother once wanted me to apply for that job.
I went to see old Smalley, and the first thing he did was to examine
my fingers for cigarette stains. 'You won't find any,' I told him,
'for I use a holder,' and I showed him the holder. Of course, that
settled my case with Smalley; but do you know that he smokes
after-dinner cigarettes away from home, and has beer and whisky and
three kinds of wine in his cellar? I've got his number, all right, but
I didn't have little Clifford's. Where do you hide it?"

"In the bank and here at home," returned Gilman with a snarl; "and
I've been at it so long I'm beginning to curdle. You've worked in
every mercantile establishment, factory and professional office in
town, and never cared to hold a job. Yet everybody likes you. You
drink, smoke, gamble and raise the dickens generally. You don't save a
cent and yet you always manage to have money. You dress swell and
don't amount to a tinker's cuss, yet you're happy all day long. Come
along to the Putnam County Fair and show me how."

"The Putnam County Fair!" repeated Wix. "Two hundred miles to get a
drink?"

"I can't take one any closer, can I?" demanded Gilman savagely. "But
the real reason is that Uncle Thomas lives there. I can go to visit
Uncle Thomas when I wouldn't be allowed to 'go on the cars alone'
anywhere else. But uncle is a good fellow and his wife don't write to
my mother. He tells me to go ahead; and I don't need go near him
unless I'm in trouble."

"Some time I'll borrow your Uncle Tom," laughed Wix. "He sounds good
to me."

Mrs. Gilman came to the door. She was a thin, nervous, little woman,
with a long chin and a narrow forehead.

"Come in, Cliffy," she urged in a shrill, wheedling voice. "You must
have a good, long night's rest for your trip in the morning." In
reality she was worried to have her Clifford talking with the
graceless Wix--though secretly she admired Jonathan Reuben.

"I must go in now," said Gilman hastily. "Go down to the train in the
morning and get in on the other side, so mother won't see you. And
don't tell your mother where you've gone."

"She won't ask," responded Wix, laughing. "Nothing ever worries mother
except our name. I don't like it myself, but I don't worry over it. It
isn't my fault, and it was hers."

If Wix felt any trace of bitterness over his mother's indifference he
never confessed it, even to himself. Mrs. Wix, left a sufficient
income by the late unloved, lived entirely by routine, with a
separate, complacent function for every afternoon of the week. She was
very comfortable, and plump, and placid, was Mrs. Wix, and Jonathan
Reuben was merely an excrescence upon her scheme of life. Jonathan
Reuben, however, had no lack of feminine sympathy. Quite a little
clique of dashing young matrons, with old or dryly preoccupied
husbands, vied with the girls to make him happy.

In the present instance, young Wix was quite right about his mother's
indifference. He called to her as he went down to early breakfast that
he might not be back for a few days, and she sleepily answered. "All
right." So Clifford and his instructor went to the fair, and the more
experienced spendthrift showed the amateur how to get rid of his
money, to their mutual gratification.

Back of the Streets of Cairo, on the closing day, Wix and Gilman,
hunting a drink, found a neat young man with piercing black eyes and
black hair, who upon the previous days had been making a surreptitious
hand-book on the races. Just now he was advising an interested group
of men that money would not grow in their pockets.

"If your eye is quicker than my hand you get my dollars," he
singsonged as he deftly shifted three English walnut shells about on a
flimsy folding stand. "If my hand is quicker than your eye, I get your
dollars. Here they go, three in a row. They're all set, and here's a
double sawbuck for some gentleman with a like amount of wealth and a
keen eye and a little courage. Where, oh, where, is the little pea?"

The location of the little pea was so obvious that it seemed a shame
to take the black-eyed young man's money, for just as he had stopped
moving the shells, Wix and Gilman, pressing up, saw that the edge of
the left-hand shell had rested upon the rubber "pea" and had
immediately closed over it. Notwithstanding this slip on the part of
the operator, there seemed some reluctance on the part of the audience
to invest; instead, with what might have seemed almost suspicious
eagerness, they turned toward the new-comers. Gilman, flushed of face
and muddy of eye, and hiccoughing slightly--though Wix, who had drunk
with him drink for drink, was clean and normal and his usual jovial,
clear-eyed self--hastily pressed in before any one else should take
advantage of the golden chance.

"Don't, Gilman," cautioned Wix, and grabbed him by the arm, but
Clifford, still eager, jerked his arm away; and it was strange how all
those who had been packed around the board made room for him.

"Here's the boy with the nerve and the money," commented the
black-eyed one as he took Mr. Gilman's twenty and flaunted it in the
air with his own. "Now lift up the little shell. If the little pea is
under it you get the twin twenties. Lovely twins!" He laughed and
kissed them lightly. "It's only a question," he shouted loudly, as
Gilman prepared to make his choice, "of whether your eye is quicker
than my hand."

Confidently Mr. Gilman picked up the left-hand shell, and a
ludicrously bewildered look came over his face as he saw that the
pellet was not under it. There was a laugh from the crowd. They had
been waiting for another victim. Gilman looked hastily down at the
trampled mass of straw and grass and muddy, black earth.

"The elusive little pea is not on the ground," explained the brisk
young man. "The elusive little pea is right here on the board in plain
sight."

To prove it he lifted up the center shell and displayed the pellet!
There was another laugh. Not one person in that crowd had seen the
dexterous movement of his little finger, so quick and certain that it
was scarcely more than a quiver; but, to make sure that his "quickness
of hand" had not been detected, he scanned every face about him
swiftly and piercingly. In this inspection his eye happened to light
on that of Jonathan Reuben Wix, and met a wink so knowing, and withal
so bubbling with gleeful appreciation, that he was himself forced to
grin.

"How you've wasted your young life," commented Wix as he led away his
still dazed companion. "I thought everybody knew that trick by this
time, but I guess postmasters and bank clerks are always exempt."

"But how did he do it?" protested Gilman. "I saw that little ball
under the left-hand shell as plain as day."

"That's what he meant you to see," returned Wix with a grin. "He let
that one stop under the edge as if he were awkward, then he flipped it
into the crook of his little finger. When he lifted the middle shell
he shoved the ball under it. At the time you picked yours up there
wasn't a ball under any of the three shells. There never is."

"I guess it's too late for me to get an education," sighed the other
plaintively. "Smalley won't give me a chance. I don't even dare buy a
new suit of clothes too often. I'd never see a bit of life if it
wasn't for this wheat speculation."

Wix turned to him slowly.

"You want to let that game alone," he cautioned.

"Oh, I'm cautious enough," returned Gilman.

"You're almost in full charge at the bank now, aren't you?" observed
Wix carelessly. "Smalley's over at his new bank in Milton a good
deal."

"About half the time," admitted Gilman uneasily.

"He keeps a big cash reserve, doesn't he? Done up in bales, I suppose,
and never looks at it except to count the mere bundles."

"Of course." Gilman was extremely nonchalant about it.

The other let him change the subject, but he found himself studying
Clifford speculatively every now and then. This day was another
deciding step in the future of Wix.



CHAPTER II

 THE BLACK-EYED YOUNG MAN DISCOURSES OF EASY
 MONEY


It was to Jonathan Reuben that the waiters in the dining-car paid
profound attention, although Gilman had the money. There was something
about young Wix's breadth of chest and pinkness of countenance and
clearness of smiling eye which marked him as one with whom good food
agreed, whom good liquor cheered, and whom good service thawed to the
point of gratitude and gratuities: whereas Clifford Gilman, take him
any place, was only background, and not much of that.

"Say, General Jackson," observed Wix pleasantly to the waiter, "put a
quart of bubbles in the freezer while we study over this form sheet.
Then bring us a dry Martini, _not_ out of a bottle."

"I reckon you're going to have about what you want, boss," said the
negro with a grin, and darted away.

He talked with the steward, who first frowned, then smiled, as he
looked back and saw the particular guest. A moment later he was
mixing, and Clifford Gilman gazed upon his friend with most worshipful
eyes. Here, indeed, was a comrade of whom to be proud, and by whom to
pattern!

They had swallowed their oysters and had finished their soup, with a
quart of champagne in a frosty silver bucket beside them and the
entrée on the way, when the "captain" was compelled to seat a third
passenger at their table. It was the black-eyed young man of the
walnut shells.

At first, as with his quick sweep he recognized in Mr. Gilman one of
his victims, he hesitated, but a glance at the jovial Mr. Wix
reassured him.

"We're just going to open a bottle of joy," invited Wix. "Shall I send
for another glass?"

"Surest thing, you know," replied the other. "I'm some partial to
headache water."

"This is on the victim," observed Wix with a laugh, as the cork was
pulled. "You see he has coin left, even after attending your little
party."

"Pity I didn't know he was so well padded," grinned the black-eyed
one, whereat all three laughed, Gilman more loudly than any of them.
Gilman ceased laughing, however, to struggle with his increasing
tendency toward cross-eyes.

Wix turned to him with something of contempt.

"He don't mind the loss of twenty or so," he dryly observed. "He's in
a business where he sees nothing but money all day long. He's a highly
trusted bank clerk."

Instead of glancing with interest at Mr. Gilman, the black-eyed young
man sharply scrutinized Mr. Wix. Then he smiled.

"And what line are you in?" he finally asked of Wix.

"I've been in everything," confessed that joyous young gentleman with
a chuckle, "and stayed in nothing. Just now, I'm studying law."

"Doing nothing on the side?"

"Not a thing."

"He can't save any money to go into anything else," laughed Gilman,
momentarily awakened into a surprising semblance of life. "Every time
he gets fifty dollars he goes out of town to buy a fancy meal."

"You were born for easy money," the black-eyed one advised Wix. "It's
that sort of a lip that drives us all into the shearing business."

Wix shook his head.

"Not me," said he. "The law books prove that easy money costs too
much."

The black-eyed one shrugged his shoulders.

"In certain lines it does," he admitted. "I'm going to get out of my
line right away, for that very reason. Besides," he added with a sigh,
"these educated town constables are putting the business on the
bump-the-bumps. They've got so they want from half to two-thirds, and
put a bookkeeper on the job."

Mr. Gilman presently created a diversion by emitting a faint whoop,
and immediately afterward went to sleep in the bread-platter. Wix sent
for the porter of their sleeping-car, and between the two they put Mr.
Gilman to bed. Before Wix returned to the shell expert he carefully
extracted the money from his friend Clifford's pocket.

"He won't need it, anyhow," he lightly explained, "and we will. I'll
tell him about it in the morning."

"I guess you can do that and make him like it all right," agreed the
other. "He's a born sucker. He can get to the fat money, can't he?"

Wix shook his head.

"No," he declared; "parents poor, and I don't think he has enough
ginger in him ever to make a pile of his own."

The other was thoughtful and smiling for a time.

"He'll get hold of it some way or other, mark what I tell you, and you
might just as well have it as anybody. Somebody's going to cop it. I
think you said you lived in Filmore? Suppose I drop through there with
a quick-turn proposition that would need two or three thousand, and
would show that much profit in a couple of months? If you help me pull
it through I'll give you a slice out of it."

Wix was deeply thoughtful, but he made no reply.

"You don't live this way all the time, and you'd like to," urged the
other. "There's no reason you shouldn't. Why, man, the bulk of this
country is composed of suckers that are able to lay hands on from one
to ten thousand apiece. They'll spend ten years to get it and can be
separated from it in ten minutes. You're one of the born separators.
You were cut out for nothing but easy money."

Easy money! The phrase sank into the very soul of Jonathan Reuben Wix.
Every professional, commercial and manufacturing man who knew him had
predicted for him a brilliant future; but they had given him false
credit for his father's patience to plod for years. Heredity had only
given him, upon his father's side, selfishness and ingenuity; upon his
mother's side, selfishness and a passion for luxurious comfort, and
now, at twenty-six, he was still a young man without any prospect
whatsoever.

Easy money! He was still dreaming of it; looking lazily for chance to
throw it his way, and reading law, commercial law principally, in a
desultory fashion, though absorbing more than he knew, when one day,
about six months afterward, the black-haired young man landed in
Filmore. He was growing a sparse, jet-black mustache now, and wore a
solemn, black frock-coat which fitted his slender frame like a glove.
He walked first into the Filmore Bank, and by his mere appearance
there nearly scared Clifford Gilman into fits.

"I guess you don't remember me," said the stranger with a smile. "My
name is Horace G. Daw, and I had the pleasure of doing a little
business with you at the Putnam County Fair."

"Yes, I--I--remember," admitted Gilman, thankful that there were no
depositors in, and looking apprehensively out of the door. "What can I
do for you?"

"I have a little business opportunity that I think would about suit
you," said Mr. Daw, reaching toward his inside coat pocket.

"Not here; not here!" Gilman nervously interrupted him. "Somebody
might come in at any minute, even Mr. Smalley himself. He's started
for the train, but he might come back."

"When, then, can I see you?" demanded Daw, seeing that Gilman was
afraid of him. He had intended to meet the young man upon terms of
jovial cordiality, but this was better.

"Any time you say, out of hours," said Gilman.

"Then suppose you come down to the Grand Hotel at from seven-thirty to
eight o'clock."

"All right," gulped Gilman. "I'll be there."

Under the circumstances Mr. Daw changed his plans immediately. He had
meant to hunt up Mr. Wix also, but now he most emphatically did not
wish to do so, and kept very closely to his hotel. Mr. Gilman, on the
contrary, did wish to find Mr. Wix, and hunted frantically for him;
but Wix, that day, obeying a sudden craving for squab, had gone fifty
miles to dine!

Alone, then, Gilman went in fear and trembling to the Grand Hotel, and
was very glad indeed to be sheltered from sight in Mr. Daw's room.

What would Mr. Gilman have to drink? Nothing, thank you. No, no wine.
A highball? No, not a highball. Some beer? Not any beer, thank you.
Nevertheless, Mr. Daw ordered a pitcher of draft beer with two
glasses, and Mr. Gilman found himself sipping eagerly at it almost
before he knew it: for after an enforced abstinence of months, that
beer tasted like honey. Also, it was warming to the heart and
exhilarating to the brain, and it enabled him to listen better to the
wonderful opportunity Mr. Daw had to offer him.

It seemed that Mr. Daw had obtained exclusive inside information about
the Red Mud Gold Mine. Three genuine miners--presumably top-booted,
broad-hatted and red neck-kerchiefed--had incorporated that company,
and, keeping sixty per cent. of the stock for themselves, had placed
forty per cent. of it in the East for sale. As paying ore had not been
found in it, after weary months of prospecting, one of the three
partners brought his twenty per cent. of the stock East, and Mr. Daw
had bought it for a song. A song, mind you, a mere nothing. Mr. Daw,
moreover, knew where the other forty per cent. had been sold, and it,
too, could be bought for a song. But now here came the point. After
the departure of the disgruntled third partner the others had found
gold! The two fortunate miners were, however, carefully concealing
their good luck, because they were making most strenuous endeavors to
raise enough money to buy in the outstanding stock before the holders
realized its value.

Mr. Gilman, pouring another amber glassful for himself, nodded his
head in vast appreciation. Smart men, those miners.

Mr. Daw had been fortunate enough to glean these facts from a returned
miner whom he had befriended in early years, and fortunate enough,
too, to secure samples of the ore, all of which had happened within
the past week. Here was one of the samples. _Look at those flecks!_
Those were gold, virgin _gold_!

Mr. Gilman feasted his eyes on those flecks, their precious color
richly enhanced when seen through four glasses of golden beer. That
was actually gold, in the raw state. He strove to comprehend it.

Here was the certified report of the assay, on the letter-head of the
chemist who had examined the ore. It ran _a hundred and sixty-three
dollars to the ton_! Marvelous; perfectly marvelous! Mr. Daw himself,
even as he showed the assay, admired it over and over. As for Mr.
Gilman, words could not explain how he was impressed. A genuine assay!

Now, here is what Mr. Daw had done. Immediately upon receiving the
report upon this assay he had scraped together all the money he could,
and had bought up an additional ten per cent. of the stock of that
company, which left him holding thirty per cent. Also, he had secured
an option upon the thirty per cent. still outstanding. That additional
thirty per cent. could be secured, if it were purchased at once, for
three thousand dollars. Now, if Mr. Gilman could invest that much
money, or knew any one who could, by pooling their stock Mr. Gilman
and Mr. Daw would have sixty per cent. of the total incorporated stock
of the company, and would thus hold control. Mr. Gilman certainly knew
what that meant.

Mr. Gilman did, for Mr. Smalley's Filmore Bank had been started as a
stock company, with Mr. Smalley holding control, and by means of that
control Mr. Smalley had been able to vote himself sufficient salary to
be able to buy up the balance of the stock, so that now it was all
his; but Mr. Gilman could not see where it was possible for him to
secure three thousand dollars for an investment of this nature.

An investment? Mr. Daw objected. This was not an investment at all. It
was merely the laying down of three thousand dollars and immediately
picking it up again fourfold. Why, having secured this stock,
all they had to do was to let the secret of the finding of the
hundred-and-sixty-three-dollar-a-ton gold be known, and, having
control to offer, they could immediately sell it, anywhere, for four
times what they had paid for it. The entire transaction need not take
a week: it need not take four days.

Now, here is what Mr. Daw would do--that is, after he had ordered
another pitcher of beer. He had the thirty per cent. of stock with
him. He spread it out before Mr. Gilman. It was most beautifully
printed stock, on the finest of bond paper, with gold-leaf letters, a
crimson border and green embellishments, and was carefully numbered in
metallic blue. It was also duly transferred in the name of Horace G.
Daw. Mr. Daw would do this: In order that Mr. Gilman might be
protected from the start, Mr. Daw would, upon taking Mr. Gilman's
three thousand, make over to Mr. Gilman this very stock. He would then
take Mr. Gilman's three thousand and purchase the other thirty per
cent. of stock in his, Mr. Daw's, own name, and would, in the
meantime, sign a binding agreement with Mr. Gilman that their stock
should be pooled--that neither should sell without the consent of the
other. It was a glorious opportunity! Mr. Daw was sorry he could not
swing it all himself, but, being unable to do so, it immediately
occurred to him that Mr. Gilman was the very man to benefit by the
opportunity.

Mr. Gilman looked upon that glittering sample of ore, that
unimpeachable certified assay, those beautifully printed stock
certificates of the Red Mud Gold Mining Company, and he saw yellow.
Nothing but gold, rich, red mud gold, was in all his safe, sane and
conservative vision. Here, indeed, was no risk, for here were proofs
enough and to spare. Besides, the entire transaction was so plausible
and natural.

"By George, I'll do it!" said Mr. Gilman, having already, in those few
brief moments, planned what he would do with nine thousand dollars of
profits. Mr. Daw was very loath to let Mr. Gilman go home after this
announcement. He tried to get him to stay all night, so that they
could go right down to the bank together in the morning and fix up the
matter; for it must be understood that a glittering opportunity like
this must be closed immediately. Mr. Gilman, as a business man of
experience, could appreciate that. But there were weighty reasons why
Mr. Gilman could not do this, no matter how much he might desire it,
or see its advisability. Very well, then, Mr. Daw would simply draw up
that little agreement to pool their stock, so that the matter could be
considered definitely settled, and Mr. Daw would then wire, yet that
night, to the holders of the remaining stock that he would take it.

With much gravity and even pomp the agreement was drawn up and signed;
then Mr. Gilman, taking the sage advice of Mr. Daw, drank seltzer and
ammonia and ate lemon peel, whereupon he went home, keeping squarely
in the center of the sidewalk to prove to himself that he could walk a
straight line without wavering. Young Mr. Daw, meanwhile, clinging to
that signed agreement as a mariner to his raft, sat upon the edge of
his bed to rejoice and to admire himself; for this was Mr. Daw's first
adventure into the higher and finer degrees of "wise work," and he was
quite naturally elated over his own neatness and despatch.



CHAPTER III

 YOUNG WIX TAKES A HAND IN THE BLACK-EYED
 ONE'S GAME


The glowing end of a cigar upon the porch of the adjoining house told
Gilman that young Wix was at home, and, full of his important
enterprise, he stopped in front of the Wix gate to gloat.

"Hello, Gilman," said Wix, sauntering down. "Out pretty late for a
mere infant of twenty-four?"

"Little matter of business," protested Mr. Gilman pompously, glancing
apprehensively at the second-story window, where a shade was already
drawn aside.

"Business!" repeated Wix. "They put midnight business in jail at
daylight."

"Hush!" warned Gilman, with another glance at the window. "This is
different. This is one of those lucky strokes that I have read about
but never hoped would come my way," and enthusiastically, in an
undertone which Wix had to strain to hear, he recited all the details
of the golden opportunity.

It was not so much experience as a natural trend of mind paralleling
Mr. Daw's which made Mr. Wix smile to himself all through this
recital. He seemed to foresee each step in the plan before it was told
him, and, when Mr. Gilman was through, the only point about which his
friend was at all surprised, or even eager, was the matter of the
three thousand.

"Do you mean to say you can swing that amount?" he demanded.

"I--I think I can," faltered Mr. Gilman. "In fact, I--I'm very sure of
it. Although, of course, that's a secret," he hastily added.

"Where would you get it?" asked Wix incredulously.

"Well, for a sure thing like this, if you must know," said Gilman,
gulping, but speaking with desperately businesslike decision, "I am
sure Mr. Smalley would loan it to me. Although he wouldn't want it
known," he again added quickly. "If you'd speak to him about it he'd
deny it, and might even make me trouble for being so loose-tongued;
so, of course, nobody must know."

"I see," said Wix slowly. "Well, Cliff, you just pass up this tidy
little fortune."

"Pass it up!"

"Yes, let it slide on by. Look on it with scorn. Wriggle your fingers
at it. Let somebody else have that nine thousand dollars clean profit
from the investment of three, all in a couple of days. I'm afraid it
would give you the short-haired paleness to make so much money so
suddenly. Ever hear of that disease? The short-haired paleness comes
from wearing horizontal stripes in a cement room."

For a moment young Gilman pondered this ambiguous reply in silence,
then out of his secret distress he blurted:

"But, Wix, I've _got_ to do something that will bring me in some
money! I've run behind on my wheat trades. I've--I've _got_ to do
something!"

Wix, in the darkness, made a little startled movement, the involuntary
placing of his finger-tips behind his ear; then he answered quietly:

"I told you to keep away from that game. I tried it myself and know
all about it."

"I know, but I did it just the same," answered Gilman.

Wix chuckled.

"Of course you did. You're the woolly breed that keeps bucket-shops
going. I'd like no better lazy life than just to run a bucket-shop and
fill all my buckets with the fleeces of about a dozen of your
bleating kind. It would be easy money."

The front door of the Gilman house opened a little way, and the voice
of a worried woman came out into the night:

"Is that you, Cliffy?"

"Yes, mother," answered Clifford. "Good night, old man. I want to be
sure to see you before I go to the bank in the morning. I want to talk
this thing over with you," and young Gilman hurried into the house.

Wix looked after him as he went in, and stood staring at the glowing
second-story window. Then he suddenly went back up to his own porch
and got his hat. Fifteen minutes later he was at the desk of the Grand
Hotel.

"Mr. Daw," he said to the clerk.

"I think Mr. Daw's probably gone to bed by this time, Wix," the clerk
protested.

"We'll wake him up, then. What's the number of his room? I'll do it
myself."

The clerk grinned.

"If he kicks, you know, Wix, I can't blame you for it. I'll have to
stand it myself."

"He won't kick. What's his room?"

"Number one," and again the clerk grinned. Nobody ever point-blank
refused young Wix a favor. There was that in his bigness, and in the
very jollity with which he defied life and its pretended gravity,
which opened all doors to him. His breadth of chest had much to do
with it.

"The bridal chamber, eh?" he chuckled. "In that case, send up a bottle
of champagne and charge it to Mr. Daw's account. Yes, I know the bar's
closed, but you have a key. Go dig it out yourself, Joe, and do it in
style."

Unattended, Mr. Wix made his way to room one and pounded on the door.
Mr. Daw, encased in blue pajamas and just on the point of retiring,
opened cautiously, and was quite crestfallen when he recognized his
visitor. Nevertheless, he thawed into instant amiability.

"Glad to see you, old scout," he cried, and shaking hands with Wix,
pulled him into the room. "I felt as if the old homestead was no
longer home when I didn't find you here to-day. Sit down. What'll you
have to drink?"

"Wine, thanks," replied Wix. "They're getting it ready now. I gave
them your order before I came up."

Mr. Daw gasped and batted his eyes, but swallowed quickly and had it
over with.

"You see," explained Wix, as they seated themselves comfortably. "I
thought, since we wouldn't have time for many drinks, that we might
just as well make it a good one. I brought up this timetable. There's
a train leaves for the East at five-thirty-seven this morning, and one
leaves for the West at six-ten. Which are you going to take?"

"Why, neither one," said Daw in some surprise. "I have some business
here."

"Yes," admitted Wix dryly; "I just saw Gilman. Which train are you
taking?"

"Neither, I said," snapped Daw, frowning, "I don't intend to leave
here until I finish my work."

"Oh, yes, you do," Wix informed him. "You're going about the time
Gilman is washing his face for breakfast; and you won't leave any word
for him."

"How do you know so well?" retorted Daw. "Look here, Mr. Wix, this
proposition I'm offering Gilman is a fair and square--"

"You say that again and I'll bite you," interrupted Wix pleasantly.

"I've got a pretty good left-handed punch of my own," flared Daw,
advancing a threatening step.

Wix, though much the larger man, betrayed his touch of physical
cowardice by a fleeting shade of pallor, and moved over next the door.
The Grand Hotel had not installed a room telephone service, still
relying upon the convenient push-button. To this, Wix, affecting to
treat the entire incident as a joke, called attention.

"One ring, ice water," he read from the printed card above it; "two
rings, bell boy; three rings, maid. I think about six rings will bring
the clerk, the porter and the fire department," he observed; "but I
don't see where we need them in a quiet little business talk like
ours."

"Oh, I see!" said Daw in the sudden flood of a great white light, and
he smiled most amiably. "I promised you a rake-off when I spoke about
this on the train, didn't I? And, of course, I'm willing to stick with
it. If I pull this across there's a thousand in it for you."

"No. It won't do," said Wix, shaking his head.

"Say fifteen hundred, then."

Once more Wix shook his head. He, also, smiled most amiably.

"I guess you want it all?" charged Daw with a sneer.

"Possibly," admitted Wix, then suddenly he chuckled so that his big
shoulders heaved. "To tell you the truth," he stated, "I didn't know
Gilman could put up so big a prize as all that nice money, or he
wouldn't have had it loose to offer you by now. As soon as I get over
the shock I'll know what to do about it. Just now, all I know is that
he's not going into this real silky little joke of yours. I don't want
to see the money go out of town."

"I saw it first," Daw reminded him. "I don't care where he gets it,
you know, just so I get it."

"Wherever he gets it," said Wix impressively, "it will be secured in a
perfectly legitimate manner. I want you to understand that much."

"Oh, yes, I understood that, anyhow," acknowledged Daw, and the two
young men looked quite steadily into each other's eyes, each knowing
what the other thought, but refusing to admit it.

It was Daw who first broke the ensuing silence.

"Suppose I can't decide to wing my onward way?" he suggested.

"Then I'll have you looking out on court-house square through the big
grill."

"On what charge?"

"General principles," chuckled Wix.

"I suppose there's a heavy stretch for that if they prove it on me,"
returned Daw thoughtfully. There was no levity whatever in the reply.
He had read the eyes of Wix correctly. Wix would have him arrested as
sure as breakfast, dinner and supper.

"Just general principles," repeated Wix; "to be followed by a general
investigation. Can you stand it?"

"I should say I can," asserted Daw. "What time did you say that train
leaves? The one going east, I mean."

"Five-thirty-seven."

"Then, if you don't mind, you may leave me a call for five o'clock;"
and Mr. Daw nonchalantly yawned.

There came a knock at the door.

"I'm sorry you have to leave us so soon, Mr. Daw," said Wix, admitting
the clerk with the wine, and speaking with much regret in his tone.

"I'll clink glasses with you, anyhow, old sport," offered Daw,
accepting the inevitable gracefully, after the clerk had gone. "I
don't know what your game is, but here's to it! Always remember,
though, that I located this three thousand for you. I hate to leave it
here. It was such easy money."

"Easy money!" Again that phrase rang in the ears of young Wix, as he
walked home, as he stood at his gate looking over at the second-story
window of the Gilman house, and as he lay upon his pillow. To dwell in
perpetual ease, to be surrounded with endless luxury, to spend money
prodigally in all the glitter and pomp of the places that had been
built at the demand of extravagance: these things had become an
obsession with him--yet, for them, he was not willing to work and
wait.

Gilman felt that he had lost vast estates, when, upon calling at the
hotel in the morning, he found that Mr. Daw had left upon an early
train. He was worried, too, that he had not been able to see Wix
before he started down-town. Most opportunely, however, Wix sauntered
out of Sam Glidden's cigar store, opposite the hotel, as Gilman
emerged upon the street.

"When's the funeral?" asked Wix. "You look like a sick-headache
feels."

"Daw has gone, and without leaving me any word," quavered Gilman. "I
suppose he'll--he'll probably write to me, though."

"I'm betting that he has writer's cramp every time he tries it,"
asserted Wix.

"But I signed an agreement with him last night. He must write."

"Does this look anything like that agreement," asked Wix, and from his
pocket drew the document, torn once across each way. Gilman gazed at
the pieces blankly. "I got it away from him, and tore it up myself,
last night," continued Wix. "Also, I ran the gentleman out of town on
the five-thirty-seven this morning, headed due east and still going."

"What do you mean?" gasped Gilman. "Why, man, you've taken away the
only chance I had to get even. I _have_ to make money, I tell you!"

"Be calm, little Cliffy," admonished Wix soothingly. "I'm going to get
it its money. Look here, Gilman, this man was a fake and I made him
say so, but his coming here gave me an idea. I'm going to open a
bucket-shop, and you're going to back it."

"Not a bucket-shop!" objected Gilman, aghast at the very name.

"Yes, a bucket-shop. Do you know how they operate? Of course not,
merely having played against them. Well, suppose you gamble a thousand
bushels of wheat on a two-cent margin, holding for a two-cent advance.
What happens to your twenty dollars? The bucket expert takes out his
buying commission of one-fourth cent a bushel. A straight broker
takes off one-eighth cent, but your man milks you for a nifty little
total of two dollars and a half, because you're a piker. If wheat goes
down one and three-fourths cents you lose the other seventeen-fifty,
don't you?"

"Yes," admitted Gilman.

"If it goes up two cents the man closes the deal and takes out another
one-fourth cent a bushel for closing. That's another two-fifty. You
get back thirty-five dollars. Your bucket-shop man is practically
betting fifteen dollars of his money against twenty of yours on worse
than an even break. Pretty good game for the bucket-shop man, isn't
it? But there's more. He doesn't take as much risk as matching pennies
on a three-to-four shot. Suppose he has one man betting that wheat
will go up and another that it will go down. Each man puts up twenty,
and one must lose. The man with the bucket runs no chances, and every
time he takes in forty dollars he pays out only thirty-five of it.
Twelve and one-half per cent. of all the money that passes through his
hands stays there. Moreover, the winner puts his right back into the
game, and the loser rakes up more, to win back what he lost. Pretty
syrupy, eh? The only trouble with you is that you have been playing
this game from the wrong end. Now, you're going to play it from the
inside. I'm going to rent an office to-day. You're to back me to the
extent of three thousand dollars, and we'll split the profits."

Gilman's eyes glistened. He was one who did his thinking by proxy, and
reflected enthusiasm with vast ease.

"Do you suppose it would take the three thousand all at once?" he
asked with some anxiety.

"No, we won't need it in a lump," Wix decided, after some sharp
thought over Gilman's nervousness; "but it must be where we can get
all or any part of it at a minute's notice."

Gilman drew such an obvious breath of relief that Wix became once more
thoughtful; but it was a thoughtfulness that brought with it only
hardening of the jaw and steeling of the eyes.



CHAPTER IV

 WHICH SHOWS THE EASIEST WAY TO MAKE A
 BUCKET-SHOP PAY


Within three days, Wix, who was a curious blend of laziness and
energy, had fitted up an office in a sample-room leading off the lobby
of the Grand Hotel. Over the name on the door he puzzled somewhat, and
it was only his hatred for every component syllable of "Jonathan
Reuben Wix" that caused the sign finally to appear as "La Salle Grain
and Stock Brokerage Company." The walls were freshly papered in deep
red, a thick, red carpet was put upon the floor, a resplendent
cashier's wicket and desk were installed, fine leather-padded chairs
faced a neatly ruled blackboard; and the speculative element of
Filmore walked right into its first real bucket-shop and made itself
at home. It was a positive pleasure to lose money there, and it was a
joy to have young Wix take it. He did it so jovially.

Punctually every evening Wix handed to Gilman his half of the profits
on the trades closed that day, and each week the profits became
larger. Gilman was thrown into a constant state of delight; Wix bought
him a horse and buggy. Gilman saw fortune just ahead of him; Wix saw
possible disaster. It pained him to note that Filmore was optimistic.
There were many more bulls than bears, which was not the ideal
condition. There should have been a bear to offset every bull, in
which case the La Salle Grain and Stock Brokerage Company would have
run no risk whatever.

Of course, the inevitable happened. All the wheat and stock gamblers
of Filmore got in on a strong bull market and stayed in. When the
market finally turned back and the "longs" were frightened out, the
crash came, and every dollar was lost of the original three thousand.
Wix, having anticipated the possibility of such an event, was
disappointed but "game." Gilman, having more at stake and being at
best a cheerful winner only, was frantic.

"What shall I do? What shall I do?" he moaned, over and over.

"Dig up more money," Wix cheerfully advised him.

"I can't!" cried Gilman. "I've gone now even deeper than I dared." He
was silent for a long time. Great beads of perspiration came on his
brow. His hair was wet. "Wix," he finally burst out, "I've got to tell
you something; something that no living creature knows but me."

"No, you don't!" Wix sharply stopped him. "If you have any secrets,
keep them to yourself. I am stone deaf."

Gilman's eyes widened with a look of positive terror. For the first
time in his life he had met that glare in the eyes of a supposed
friend which denied friendship, sentiment or emotion of any sort;
which told only of cold self-interest. Two or three times he essayed
to speak, but he could not. He only stood with his sides heaving, like
a spent dog.

"There is no use whining about this thing," Wix went on sharply.
"We've got to raise money, and that's all there is to it. How about
your profits that I've been handing you? I've spent mine."

There was no answer.

"You said something about owing four hundred dollars before we began,"
Wix went on. "I suppose you repaid that--that loan."

Gilman dumbly nodded.

"I've paid you over a thousand dollars rake-off. I suppose you saved
the rest of it?"

Again Gilman nodded his head.

"Well, bring me that six hundred or whatever it is."

Gilman mechanically produced it, all in one-hundred-dollar bills
folded very flat.

That morning Wix faced the business anew with six hundred dollars, and
felt keenly his limited capital. His severe losses had been a good
advertisement, and every man who had won a dollar was prepared to put
it back. Wix, with a steady hand at the helm, stood through this
crisis most admirably, refusing trades from buyers until he had
sellers enough to offset them, and refusing excess trades from sellers
until he had buyers to balance. Within two weeks he had a comfortable
little sum, but now the daily division of spoils brought no balm to
Gilman. He was suddenly old, and upon his face were appearing lines
that would last him throughout his life. Upon the florid countenance
of Wix there was not even the shadow of a crease.

"Good money, boy," said he to Gilman, upon the day he handed over the
completion of five hundred dollars. "This business is like a poker
game. If the players stick at it long enough the kitty will have all
the money."

"I don't want it all," replied Gilman wearily. "Wix, if I ever get
back the twenty-five hundred dollars that it will take to make me
square, I swear before my Maker," and he held up his trembling, white
hand, "never to touch another investment outside the bank as long as I
live."

"Your liver must be the color of a sick salmon," retorted Wix, but
nevertheless he was himself disillusioned. The bucket-shop business
was not what he had imagined it to be. It was not "easy money!" It had
fluctuations, must be constantly watched, was susceptible to
bankruptcy--and meant work! The ideal enterprise was one which,
starting from nothing, involved no possible loss; which yielded a
large block of cold cash within a short time, and which was then
ended. Daw's idea was the most ideal that had come under his
observation. That was really an admirable scheme of Daw's, except for
one very serious drawback. It was dangerous. Now, if as clever a plan,
and one without any menace from the law, could only be hinged upon
some more legitimate business--say a bucket-shop concern....

There is no analyzing a creation, an invention. It is not
deliberately worked out, step by step. It is a flash of genius. At
this moment young Wix created. The principle he evolved was, in fact,
to stand him in good stead in a score of "safe" operations, but, just
now, it was a gaudy new thing, and its beauty almost blinded him. The
same idea had been used by many men before him, but Wix did not know
this, and he created it anew.

"Sam," he said to the cigar-store man next morning, "I want you to
invest in The La Salle Grain and Stock Brokerage Company."

"Not any," declared Sam. "You have two hundred of my money now."

"Not the entire roll," denied Wix. "I only got twelve and one-half per
cent."

"If you'd take twelve and a half per cent. eight times you'd have it
all," retorted Sam. "That's why I quit. I stood to lose two hundred
dollars on a seven-point drop, or win a hundred and seventy-five on an
eight-point raise. When I finally figured out that I had the tweezers
into my hair going and coming, I didn't wish any more."

"But suppose I'd offer you a chance to stand on the other side of the
counter and take part of the change?"

"I'd let you stand right here and talk a while. What's the matter?"

"Haven't capital enough," explained Wix. "I think I refused to take a
trade of yours one time, just because I had to play safe. I had to be
in position to pay off all my losses or quit business."

"How much are you increasing?" asked Glidden, interested.

"A twenty-five-thousand-dollar stock company: two hundred and fifty
shares at a hundred dollars each."

"I might take a share or two," said Sam.

"You'll take twenty," declared Wix, quite sure of himself. "I want
four incorporators besides myself, and I want you to be one of them."

"Is that getting me the stock any cheaper?"

"Fifty per cent.; two thousand dollars' worth for a thousand. After we
five incorporators are in we'll raise the price to par and not sell a
share for a cent less."

"How much do you get out of this?" Sam asked, with a leer of
understanding.

"Ten per cent. for selling the stock, and have the new company buy
over the present one for ten thousand dollars' worth of shares."

[Illustration: "Sam," he said, "I want you to invest"]

"I thought so," said Glidden with a grin. "Fixtures, established
business and good will, I suppose."

Wix chuckled.

"You put it in the loveliest words," he admitted.

"You're a bright young man," said Glidden admiringly. "You'd better
pay for those fixtures and put in the whole business at five hundred."

"What do you suppose I'm enlarging the thing for, except to increase
my income?" Wix demanded. "With ten thousand dollars' worth of stock
I'd get only two-fifths of the profit, when I've been getting it all
heretofore. As a matter of fact, I'm doing pretty well not to try to
capture the majority."

They both laughed upon this, and Glidden capitulated. Within
forty-eight hours Wix had his four directors, all ex-traders who would
rather make money than gamble, and each willing to put in a thousand
dollars. As soon as they were incorporated they paid Wix his hundred
shares for the old business, and that developing financier started out
to sell the balance of the stock, on commission.

It was an easy task, for his fellow-directors did all the advertising
for him. Practically all he had to do was to deliver the certificates
and collect. It was while he was engaged in this pleasant occupation
that he went to Gilman with a blank certificate for twenty-five
shares.

"I think you said, Gilman, that if you could get your remaining
twenty-five hundred dollars out of the La Salle you'd be satisfied,
didn't you?"

"Satisfied!" gasped Gilman. "Just show me how it can be done!"

"Here's twenty-five hundred dollars' worth of stock in the new company
I've incorporated from the old one, and it's selling--at par--like
beer at a German picnic."

"That would ruin me," Gilman protested in a panic. "You must sell it
for me or I'm gone. Why, Wix, this new state bank inspection law has
just gone into effect, and there may be an inspector at the bank any
day."

"I see," said Wix slowly, looking him straight in the eye, "and they
may object to Smalley's having loaned you that money on insufficient
security. Well, I'll see what I can do."

Nevertheless, he let Gilman's stock lie while he sold the treasury
shares, and, the market being still so eager that it seemed a shame
not to supply it, _he sold his own_!

There was now time for Gilman, and Wix, with an artistic eye for
dramatic propinquities, presented his proposition to no less a person
than Smalley, grinning, however, as he went in.

"I couldn't think of such a thing, sir," squeaked that gentleman.
"I'll have nothing to do with gambling in any way, shape or form."

"No," agreed Wix, and carefully closed the door of Smalley's private
office. "Well, this isn't gambling, Mr. Smalley. It's only the people
outside who gamble. The La Salle doesn't propose to take any chances;
it only takes commissions," and he showed to Mr. Smalley, very
frankly, a record of his transactions, including the one disastrous
period for the purpose of pointing out the flaw which had brought it
about.

Smalley inspected those figures long and earnestly, while Wix sat back
smiling. He had penetrated through that leathery exterior, had
discovered what no one else would have suspected: that in Smalley
himself there ran a long-leashed gambling instinct.

"But I couldn't possibly have my name connected with a matter of this
sort," was Smalley's last citadel of objection.

"Why should you?" agreed Wix, and then a diabolical thought came to
him, in the guise of an exquisite joke. He had great difficulty in
repressing a chuckle as he suggested it. "Why not put the stock in
Gilman's name?"

"It might be a very bad influence for the young man," protested
Smalley virtuously, but clutching at the suggestion. "He is thoroughly
trustworthy, however, and I suppose I can explain it to him as being a
really conservative investment that should have no publicity. I think
you said, Mr. Wix, that there are only twenty-five shares remaining to
be sold."

"That's all," Wix assured him. "You couldn't secure another share if
you wanted it."

"Very well, then, I think I shall take it."

"I have the certificate in my pocket," said Wix, and he produced the
identical certificate that he had offered Gilman some days before. It
had already been signed by the complacent Sam Glidden as secretary.
"Make this out to Gilman, shall I?" asked Wix, seating himself at
Smalley's desk, and poising his pen above the certificate.

"I believe so," assented Smalley, pursing up his lips.

With a smile all of careless pleasure with the world, Wix wrote the
name of Clifford M. Gilman, and signed the certificate as president.

"Now, your check, Mr. Smalley, for twenty-five hundred, and the new La
Salle Company is completely filled up, ready to start in business on a
brand-new basis."

With his lips still pursed, Smalley made out that check, and Wix shook
hands with him most cordially as he left the room. Outside the door he
chuckled. He was still smiling when he walked up to the cashier's
wicket, where young Gilman sat tense and white-faced. Wix indorsed the
check, and handed it through the wicket.

"Here's your twenty-five hundred, Cliff," said he. "You can turn it
over on the books of the bank as soon as you like."

Gilman strove to voice his great relief, but his lips quivered and his
eyes filled, and he could only turn away speechless. Wix had gone out,
and Gilman was still holding in his nerveless fingers the check that
had saved him, when Smalley appeared at his side.

"Ah," said Smalley; "I see you have the check I gave Mr. Wix. Did he
deposit?"

"No, sir," replied Gilman, in a low voice; "he took currency."

Mr. Smalley visibly winced.

"A bill of exchange might have done him just as well," he protested.
"No non-employing person has need of actual currency in that amount.
I'm afraid young Wix is very extravagant--very. By the way, Mr.
Gilman, I have been forced, for protection and very much against my
will, to take some stock in an enterprise with which I can not have my
name associated for very obvious business reasons; so I have taken the
liberty of having the stock made out in your name," and, before young
Gilman's eyes, he spread his twenty-five-share certificate of The La
Salle Grain and Stock Brokerage Company.

Gilman, pale before, went suddenly ghastly. The blow of mockery had
come too soon upon the heels of his relief.

"I can't have it," he managed to stammer through parched lips. "I must
refuse, sir. I--I can not be connected in any way with that business,
Mr. Smalley. I--I abhor it. Never, as long as I live--"

Suddenly the fish-white face and staring eyes of Gilman were not in
the line of Mr. Smalley's astonished vision, for Gilman had slid to
the floor, between his high stool and his desk. Sam Glidden, coming
into the bank a moment after, found Smalley working feverishly over
the prostrate form of his feebly reviving clerk.



CHAPTER V

 JONATHAN REUBEN WIX CASTS ASIDE HIS ONLY
 HANDICAP AND DISAPPEARS FOR EVER


Just as Jonathan Reuben Wix reached his home, a delivery man was
taking in at the front door a fine dresser trunk. On the porch stood a
new alligator traveling-bag, and a big, new suit-case of thick sole
leather, trimmed profusely with the most expensive knobs and clamps,
and containing as elaborate a toilet set as is made for the use of
men. In the hall he found five big pasteboard boxes from his tailor.
He had the trunk and the suit-case and the traveling-bag delivered up
to his room; the clothing he carried up himself.

That morning he had dressed himself in new linen throughout. Now he
took off the suit he wore and put on one of the new business suits. He
opened half a dozen huge bundles of haberdashery which he had
purchased within the past week, and began packing them in his trunk:
underwear, shirts, socks, collars, cravats, everything brand new and
of the choicest quality. He packed away the other new business suit,
the Prince Albert, the tuxedo, the dress suit--the largest individual
order his tailor had ever received--putting into his trunk and
suit-case and traveling-bag not one thing that he had ever worn
before; nor did he put into any of his luggage a single book or
keepsake, for these things had no meaning to him. When he was
completely dressed and packed he went to his mother's room and knocked
on the door. It was her afternoon for the Women Journalists' Club, and
she was very busy indeed over a paper she was to read on _The Press:
Its Power for Evil_. Naturally, interruptions annoyed her very much.

"Well, what is it, son?" she asked in her level, even tone as he came
into the room. Her impatience was very nicely suppressed, indeed.

"I'm going to New York on the six-thirty," he told her.

"Really, I don't see how I can spare any money until the fifteenth,"
she objected.

"I have plenty of money," he assured her.

"Oh," she replied with evident relief, and glanced longingly back at
her neatly written paper.

"I can even let you have some if you want it," he suggested.

"No, thank you. I have sufficient, I am sure, portioned out to meet
all demands, including the usual small surplus, up to the fifteenth.
It's very nice of you to offer it, however."

"You see," he went on, after a moment's hesitation, "I'm not coming
back."

She turned now, and faced him squarely for the first time.

"You'd better stay here," she told him. "I'm afraid you'll cost me
more away from home than you do in Filmore."

"I shall never cost you a cent," he declared. "I have found out how
to make money."

She smiled in a superior way.

"I am a bit incredulous; but, after all, I don't see why you
shouldn't. Your father at least had that quality, and you should have
inherited something from him besides"--and she paused a trifle--"his
name." She sighed, and then continued: "Very well, son, I suppose you
must carve out your own destiny. You are quite old enough to make the
attempt, and I have been anticipating it for some time. After all, you
really ought to have very little trouble in impressing the world
favorably. You dress neatly," she surveyed him critically, "and you
make friends readily. Shall I see you again before you go?"

"I scarcely think so. I have a little down-town business to look
after, and shall take dinner on the train; so I'll just say good-by
to you now."

He shook hands with her and stooped down, and they kissed each other
dutifully upon the cheek. Mrs. Wix, being advanced, did not believe
in kissing upon the mouth. After he had gone, a fleeting impression
of loneliness weighed upon her as much as any purely sentimental
consideration could weigh. She looked thoughtfully at the closed door,
and a stirring of the slight maternal instinct within her made her
vaguely wistful. She turned, still with that faint tugging within her
breast which she could not understand, and it was purely mechanical
that her eyes, dropping to the surface of the paper, caught the
sentence: "Mental suggestion, unfit for growing minds, is upon every
page." The word "Mental" seemed redundant, and she drew her pen
through it, neatly changing the "s" in "suggestion" to a capital.

A cab drove past Wix as he started down the street and he saw Smalley
in it. He turned curiously. What was Smalley doing there? He stopped
until he saw the cab draw up in front of Gilman's house. He saw
Smalley assist young Gilman out of the cab, and Gilman's mother run
out to meet them. He was thoughtful for a moment over that, then he
shrugged his shoulders and strode on.

On the train that night as he swaggered into the dining-car, owning
it, in effect, and all it contained, he saw, seated alone at a far
table, no less a person than Horace G. Daw, as black and as natty as
ever, and with a mustache grown long enough to curl a little bit at
the ends.

"Hello, old pal," greeted Daw. "Where now?"

"I'm going out alone into the cold, cold world, to make fortunes and
spend them."

"Half of that stunt is a good game," commented Mr. Daw.

Wix chuckled.

"Both ends of it look good to me," he stated. "I've found the recipe
for doing it, and it was you that tipped off the plan."

"I certainly am the grand little tipper-off," agreed Daw, going back
in memory over their last meeting. "You got to that three thousand,
did you?"

"Oh, no," said Wix. "I only used it to get a little more. Our friend
Gilman has his all back again. Of course, I didn't use your plan as it
laid. It was too raw, but it gave me the suggestion from which I doped
out one of my own. I've got to improve my system a little, though. My
rake-off's too small. In the wind-up I handled twenty-one thousand
dollars, and only got away with eight thousand-odd of it for myself."

"You haven't it all with you?" asked Daw, a shade too eagerly.

Wix chuckled, his broad shoulders heaving and his pink face rippling.

"No use, kind friend," said he. "Just dismiss it from your active but
greedy mind. If anybody gets away unduly with a cent of this wad, all
they need to do is to prove it to me, and I'll make them a present of
the balance. No, my dark-complected brother, the bulk of it is in a
safe place in little old New York, where I can go get it as I need it;
but I have enough along to buy, I think. It seems to me you bought
last," and they both grinned at the reminiscence.

"I wasn't thinking of trying to annex any of that coin," lied Mr. Daw
glibly, and changing entirely his attitude toward Mr. Wix as his
admiration grew; "but I was thinking that we might cook up something
together. I'll put up dollar for dollar with you. I've just been
harvesting, myself."

Again Wix chuckled.

"Declined with thanks," he returned. "I don't mind trailing around a
bit with you when we get to New York, and also meeting the carefully
assorted selection of dead-sure-thing geniuses who must belong to your
set, but I'll go no further. For one thing, I don't like the idea of a
partner. It cramps me to split up. For another thing, I wouldn't like
to hook up in business with you. You're not safe enough; you trifle
too much with the law, which is not only foolish but unnecessary."

"Yes?" retorted Daw. "How about this eight thousand or so that you
committed mayhem on Filmore to get?"

"Good, honest money," asserted Wix. "I hate to boast about your
present companion, but I don't owe Filmore a cent. I merely worked up
a business and sold my share in it. Of course, they didn't know I was
selling it, but they'll find out when they go over the records, which
are perfectly straight. If, after buying the chance to go into
business, they don't know what to do with it, it isn't my fault."

A traveling man who had once been in the office of The La Salle Grain
and Stock Brokerage Company for an afternoon's flyer, and who
remembered the cordial ease with which Wix had taken his money, came
over to the table.

"Hello, Wix; how's tricks?" he hailed.

Wix looked up at him blankly but courteously.

"Beg pardon," he returned.

The face of the traveling man fell.

"Aren't you Mr. Wix, of Filmore?"

"I'm afraid not," replied Wix, smiling with great cordiality. "Sorry
to disappoint you, old man."

"Really, I beg your pardon," said the traveling man, perplexed. "It is
the most remarkable resemblance I ever saw. I would have sworn you
were Wix. He used to run a brokerage shop in the Grand Hotel in
Filmore."

"Never was in the town," lied Wix.

The man turned away. Daw looked after him with an amused smile.

"By the way, Wix, what is your name now?"

"By George, I haven't decided! I was too busy getting rid of my only
handicap to think up a substitute. I'll tell you in a minute," and on
the spur of the moment he invented a quite euphonious name, one which
was to last him for a great many years.

"Wallingford," he announced. "How does that hit you? J. Rufus
Wallingford!"



CHAPTER VI

 J. RUFUS PROVES A SAD, SAD DISAPPOINTMENT TO
 SOME CLEVER PEOPLE


They were glad to see Blackie Daw back on Broadway--that is, in the
way that Broadway is glad; for they of the Great White Way have no
sentiments and no emotions, and but scant memories. About Blackie's
companion, however, they were professionally curious.

"Who is this large, pink Wallingford person, and where did you get
it?" asked Mr. Phelps, whose more familiar name was Green-Goods Harry.

Mr. Daw, standing for the moment with Mr. Phelps at the famous old
cheese-and-crackers end of the Fifth Avenue bar, grinned.

"He's an educated Hick," he responded, "and I got him out of the heart
of the hay-fever district, right after he'd turned a classy little
trick on the easy producers of his childhood home. Sold 'em a bankrupt
bucket-shop for eight thousand, which is going _some_!"

Mr. Phelps, natty and jaunty and curly-haired, though shifty of eye,
through long habit of trying to watch front and back doors both at
once, looked with a shade more interest across at the imposing white
vest of young J. Rufus where he stood at the bar with fat and somber
Badger Billy. There was a cocksure touch to the joviality of young
Wallingford which was particularly aggravating to an expert like Mr.
Phelps. Young Wallingford was so big, so impressive, so sure of
pleasing, so certain the world was his oyster, that it seemed a shame
not to give his pride a tumble--for his own sake, of course.

"Has he got the eight thousand on him, do you think?" asked the
green-goods one, his interest rapidly increasing.

"Not so you could notice it," replied Daw with conviction. "He's a
wise prop, I tell you. He's probably lugging about five hundred in his
kick, just for running expenses, and has a time-lock on the rest."

"We might tinker with the lock," concluded Harry, running his fingers
through his hair to settle the curls; "it's worth a try, anyhow."

"You'll bounce right off," declared Mr. Daw. "I tried to put a sweet
one over in his home town, and he jolted the game so quick he made
its teeth rattle."

"Then you owe him one," persisted Mr. Phelps, whom it pained to see
other people have money. "Do you mean to say that any pumpkin husker
can't be trimmed?"

"Enjoy yourself," invited Mr. Daw with a retrospective smile, "but
count me out. I'm going to Boston next week, anyhow. I'm going to open
a mine investment office there. It's a nice easy money mining
district."

"For pocket mining," agreed his friend dryly.

Young Wallingford, in his desire for everybody to be happy, looked
around for them at this juncture, and further conversation was out of
the question. The quartet lounged out of the Fifth Avenue bar and
across Broadway in that dull way peculiar to their kind. At the
Hoffman House bar they were joined by a cadaverous gentleman known to
the police as Short-Card Larry, whose face was as that of a corpse,
but whose lithe, slender fingers were reputed to have brains of their
own, and the five of them sat down for a dull half-hour. Later they
had dull dinner together, strolled dully into four theaters, and,
still dull, wound up in the apartments of Daw and J. Rufus.

"What do you think of them?" asked Blackie in their first aside
moment.

"They give me the pip," announced J. Rufus frankly. "Why do they hate
themselves so? Why do they sit in the darkest corners and bark at
themselves? Can't they ever drink enough to get oiled happy?"

"Not and do business with strangers on Broadway," Daw explained.
"Phelps has been shy about thin glassware for five years, ever since
he let an Indiana come-on outdrink him and steal his own money back;
Billy Banting stops after the third glass of anything, on account of
his fat; the only time Larry Teller ever got pinched was for getting
spifflicated and telling a reporter what police protection cost him."

"If I wasn't waiting to see one of them bite himself and die of poison
I'd cut 'em out," returned Mr. Wallingford in the utmost disgust. "Any
one of them would slung-shot the others for the price of a cigarette.
Don't they ever get interested in anything?"

"Nothing but easy marks," replied Mr. Daw with a grin. "The way
they're treating you is a compliment. They're letting you just be one
of them."

"One of them! Take it back, Blackie!" protested Wallingford. "Why,
they're a bunch of crooks!"

In deep dejection young Wallingford, rejoining his guests, ordered
three lemonades and a quart of champagne. There was a trifle more of
animation among them now, however, since they had been left alone for
a few moments. They told three or four very hilarious stories, in each
of which the nub of the joke hinged on an utter disregard of every
human decency. Then, quite casually and after a lull, Badger Billy
smoothed down his smart vest and cleared his throat.

"What do you fellows say to a little game of stud?" he proposed.

"Sure!" agreed Wallingford with alacrity. "That's the first live noise
I've heard to-day," and he went to the 'phone at once to order up some
cards and chips.

With his back turned, the three lemonade drinkers exchanged pleased
smiles. It was too easy! Mr. Daw let them smile, and reposed
calmly upon the couch, entirely disinterested. Professional ethics
forbade Mr. Daw to interfere with the "trimming" of the jovial Mr.
Wallingford, and the instincts of a gentleman, with which, of course,
they were all perfectly provided, prevented him from taking any part
in that agreeable operation. To his keen amusement the game was very
brief--scarcely more than twenty minutes.

It was Short-Card Larry who, with a yawn, discovered suddenly how late
it was and stopped the game. As he rose to go, young Wallingford,
chuckling, was adding a few additional bills to the plethoric roll in
his pocket.

"What made you chop the game, Larry?" asked Green-Goods Harry in
impatient wonder. "We'd ought to strung it along a while. What made
you let him have that hundred and fifty so quick?"

"Let him!" retorted Larry savagely. "He took it! Twice I gave him aces
back to back on my deal, and he turned them down without a bet. On his
own deal he bet his head off on a pair of deuces, with not one of us
three able to draw out on him; and right there he cops that hundred
and fifty himself. He's too fresh!"

"Well," said Badger Billy philosophically, "he'll come for more."

"Not of mine, he won't," snorted the dexterous one. "I can't do any
business against a man that's next. I hope he chokes."

"There you go again, letting your temper get the best of you,"
protested Mr. Phelps, himself none too pleased. "This fresh lollop has
coin, and it ought to be ours."

"Ought to be? It _is_ ours," growled Larry. "We'll get it if we have
to mace him, at noon, on Madison Square."

In the meantime J. Rufus was chuckling himself to sleep. He rose at
eleven, breakfasted at one, and was dressing and planning to besiege
New York upon his own account, when the telephone advised him that Mr.
Phelps was down-stairs with a parched throat, and on the way up to get
a drink!

"Fine business!" exclaimed J. Rufus with a cordiality which had
nothing whatever to do with the puzzled expression on his brow.
"What'll you have? I'll order it while you're on your way up."

"Nothing stronger than a Scotch highball," was the reply, whereupon
young Wallingford, as soon as the telephone was clear, ordered the
materials therefor.

"Fine business," he repeated to himself musingly as he stood with his
hand still on the receiver after he had hung it up; "also rough work.
This thirst is too sudden."

He was still most thoughtful when Mr. Phelps knocked at the door, and
had yet more food for contemplation when the caller began talking with
great enthusiasm about his thirst, explaining the height and breadth
and thickness thereof, its atomic weight, its color and the excellent
style of its finish.

"If I just had that thirst outside of me where I could get at it, I
could make an airship of it," he imaginatively concluded.

"Gas or hot air?" inquired young Mr. Wallingford, entirely unmoved, as
he poured the highballs and dosed both quite liberally with the
Scotch, whereat Mr. Phelps almost visibly winced, though gamely
planning to drink with every appearance of enjoyment.

"Where's Daw?" he asked, after two sips which he tried to make seem
like gulps.

"Gone out to a print-shop to locate a couple of gold mines," announced
Wallingford dryly, holding his own opinion as to the folly of Mr.
Daw's methods. They were so unsanctioned of law.

"Sorry for that," said Mr. Phelps, who was nevertheless relieved to
hear it, for Mr. Daw was rather in the way. "We've got a great game
on; a Reuben right from Reubensville, with five thousand of pa's
money in his jeans. I wanted you fellows to come and look him over."

"What's the use?" returned Wallingford. "Come down to the lobby and
I'll show you a whole procession of them."

"No, but they're not so liberal as this boy," protested Phelps
laughing. "He just naturally hones and hones and hones to hand us this
nice little bundle of kale, and we're going to accommodate him. You
can get in on the split-up if you want to. Daw would have first
choice, of course, if he was here, but since he isn't you might as
well come in. Five thousand iron men are hardly worth bending to pick
up, I guess."

"Oh, I don't know," objected Wallingford condescendingly. "It would
make cigarette money, anyhow, if there are not too many to tear it
apart."

"It takes just four," Phelps informed him: "look-out, spieler,
panel-man and engraver."

Wallingford shook his head, refusing even to speculate on the duties
of the four named actors in the playlet.

"Four makes it hardly union wages," he objected.

Green-Goods Harry cast at him a look of quick dislike.

"I know, but wait till you see the sample," he insisted. "The fun's
worth more than the meat. He's the rawest you ever saw; wants green
goods, you know; thinks there really is green-goods, and stands ready
to exchange his five thousand of the genuine rhino for twenty of the
phoney stuff. Of course you know how this little joke is rimmed up. We
count out the twenty thousand in real money and wrap it up in bales
before both of his eyes, then put it in a little satchel of which we
make Mr. Alfred Alfalfa a present. While we're giving him the solemn
talk about the po-lice Badger Billy switches in another satchel with
the same kind of looking bales in it, but made out of tissue-paper
with twenties top and bottom; then we all move, and Henry Whiskers
don't dare make a holler because he's in on a crooked play himself;
see?"

"I see," assented Wallingford still dryly. "I've been reading the
papers ever since I was a kid. What puzzles me is how you can find
anybody left in the world who isn't hep."

"There's a new sucker born every minute," returned Mr. Phelps airily,
whereat Wallingford, detecting that Mr. Phelps held his intelligence
and education so cheaply as to offer this sage remark as original,
inwardly fumed.

"Come on and look him over, anyhow," insisted Phelps, rising.

Wallingford arose reluctantly.

"What's the matter with your highball?" he demanded.

"It's great Scotch!" said Mr. Phelps enthusiastically, and drank about
a tablespoonful with great avidity. "Come on; the boys are waiting,"
and he surged toward the door.

Wallingford finished his own glass contemplatively and followed with a
trace of annoyance.



CHAPTER VII

 WALLINGFORD HELPS IN A GREEN-GOODS PLAYLET
 PURELY FOR ACCOMMODATION


Into the back room of a flashy saloon just off Broadway Mr. Phelps led
the way, after pausing outside to post Wallingford carefully on all
their new names, and here they found Billy Banting and Larry Teller in
company with a stranger, one glance at whom raised Wallingford's
spirits quite appreciably, for he was so obviously made up.

He was a raw-boned young fellow who wore an out-of-date derby, a
cheap, made cravat which rode his collar, a cheap suit of loud-checked
clothes that was entirely too tight for him, and the trousers of
which, two inches too short, were rounded stiffly out below the knees,
like stove-pipes, by top-boots which were wrinkled about the ankles.
Moreover, the stranger spoke with a nasal drawl never heard off the
stage.

Wallingford, with a wink from Phelps, was introduced to Mr. Pickins
as Mr. Mombley. Then, leaning down to Mr. Pickins with another
prodigious wink at Wallingford, Phelps said in a stage-whisper to the
top-booted one:

"Mr. Mombley is our engraver. Used to work in the mint."

"Well, I'll swan!" drawled Mr. Pickins. "I'd reckoned to find such a
fine gove'ment expert a older man."

With a sigh Wallingford took up his expected part.

"I'm older than I look," said he. "Making money keeps a man young."

"I reckon," agreed Mr. Pickins, and "haw-hawed" quite broadly. "And
did you really make this greenback?" he asked, drawing from his vest
pocket a crinkled new ten-dollar-bill which he spread upon the table
and examined with very eager interest indeed.

"This is one of that last batch, Joe," Short-Card Larry negligently
informed Wallingford, with a meaning wink. "I just gave it to him as a
sample."

"By jingo, it's scrumptious work!" said Mr. Pickins admiringly.

"Yes, they'll take that for a perfectly good bill anywhere," asserted
Wallingford. "Just spend it and see," and he pushed the button. "Bring
us a bottle of the best champagne you have in the house," he directed
the waiter, and with satisfaction he noted the startled raising of
heads all around the table, _including the head of Mr. Pickins_.

"I don't like to brag on myself," continued Wallingford, taking on
fresh animation as he began to see humor in the situation, "but I
think I'm the grandest little money-maker in the city, in my special
line. I don't go after small game very often. A ten is the smallest I
handle. Peters," he suddenly commanded Phelps, "show him one of those
lovely twenties."

"I don't think I have one of the new ones," said Phelps, moistening
his lips, but nevertheless reaching for his wallet. "I think the only
twenties I have are those that we put through the aging process."

Wallingford calmly took the wallet from him and as calmly leafed over
the bills it contained.

"No, none of these twenties is from the new batch," he decided,
entering more and more into the spirit of the game, "but this
half-century is one that we're all proud of. Just examine that, Mr.
Pickins," and closing the wallet he handed it back to Phelps, passing
the fifty-dollar bill to the stranger. "Billy, give me one of those
twenties. I'm bound to show Mr. Pickins one of our best output."

Badger Billy, being notorious even among his fellows as a tight-wad,
swallowed hard, but he produced a small roll of bills and extracted
the newest twenty he could find. During this process it had twice
crossed Billy's mind to revolt; but, after all, Wallingford was
evincing an interest in the game that might be worth while.

"That's it," approved Wallingford, running it through his fingers and
passing it over to Pickins. He got up from his place and took the
vacant chair by that gentleman. "I just want you to look at the nifty
imitation of engine work in this scroll border," he insisted with vast
enthusiasm, while Mr. Pickins cast a despairing glance, half-puzzled
and half-bored, at the others of the company, themselves awed into
silence.

He was still explaining the excellent work in the more intricate
portions of the two designs when the waiter appeared with the wine,
and Wallingford only interrupted himself long enough nonchalantly to
toss the ten-dollar bill on the tray after the glasses were filled.
Then, with vast fervor, he returned to the counterfeiting business,
with the specimens before him as an inspiring text.

The waiter brought back two dollars in silver.

"Just keep the change," said Wallingford grandly, and then, as the
waiter was about to withdraw, he quickly handed up the fifty and the
twenty-dollar bills to him. "Just take this twenty, George," said he
to the waiter, "and run down to the cigar-store on the corner and buy
some of those dollar cigars. You might as well get us about three
apiece. Then take this fifty and get us a box for _The Prince of
Pikers_ to-night. Hustle right on, now," and he gave the waiter a
gentle but insistent shove on the arm that had all the effect of
bustling him out of the room. "We'll show Mr. Pickins a good time," he
exultantly declared. "We'll show him how easy it is to live on soft
money like this."

[Illustration: "Just keep the change," said Wallingford grandly]

Wallingford had held the floor for fifteen solid minutes. Now he
paused for some one else to offer a remark, his eager eye glowing
with the sense of a duty not only well, but brilliantly, performed,
as it roved from one to the other in search of approval. But feeble
encouragement was in any other eye. Four men could have throttled him,
singly and in company. Wallingford was too enthusiastic an actor. He
was taking the part entirely too well, and a vague doubt began to
cross the minds of the other gentlemen in the party as to whether he
would do or not. It was Short-Card Larry who first recovered his poise
and broke the dismal silence.

"Show him one or two of those new hundreds, Mombley," he invited
Wallingford with almost a snarl.

Wallingford merely smiled in a superior way.

"You know I never carry any but the genuine," he said in mild
reproach. "It wouldn't do, you know. Anyhow, are we sure that Mr.
Pickins wants to invest?"

Mr. Pickins drew a long breath and once more plunged into the
character which he had almost doffed.

"Invest? Well, I reckon!" he nasally drawled. "If I can get twenty
thousand dollars as good money as that for five, I'd be a blame fool
not to take it. And I got the five thousand, too."

Things were coming back to a normal basis now, and the others cheered
up.

"Look here," Mr. Pickins went on, and, reaching down, he drew off with
much tugging one of the high boots, in the top of which had reposed a
package of greenbacks: ten crisp, nice-looking five-hundred-dollar
bills.

For just a moment Wallingford eyed that money speculatively, then he
picked up one of the bills and slid it through his fingers.

"It's good money, I suppose," he observed. "You can hardly tell the
good from the bad these days, except by offering to spend it. We might
break one of these--say for an automobile ride."

"No, you don't," hurriedly interposed Mr. Pickins, losing his nasal
drawl for the moment and reaching for the bill, which he put back in
the package, snapping a weak rubber band around it. "I reckon I don't
let go of one of these bills till I see something in exchange. I--I
ain't no greenhorn!"

His nasal drawl had come back, and now seemed to be the cue for all
the others to affect laughter.

"To be sure he's not," said Mr. Phelps, reaching over to slap him on
the back in all the jovial heartiness with which a greenhorn is
supposed to be encouraged. "You're wise, all right, Pickins. We
wouldn't do business with you if you weren't. You see, we're putting
ourselves in danger of the penitentiary and we have to be careful.
More than that, wise people come back; and, with a dozen or so like
Mr. Pickins shoving the queer for us, we put out about all we can
make. Nobody in the business, Mr. Pickins, gets as high a price for
green-goods as we do, and nobody in the business keeps all their
customers as we do. That's because our output is so good."

This, which was one of the rehearsed speeches, went off very well, and
they began to feel comfortable again.

"That's me, by Jinks!" announced Pickins, slapping his leg. "I'll be
one of your steady customers, all right. When'll I get this first
twenty thousand?"

"Right away," said Mr. Phelps, rising. "Just wait a moment till I talk
it over with the engraver and see if he has the supply ready."

"The supply's all right," declared Wallingford. "These boys will 'tend
to the business with you, Mr. Pickins. I'm very glad to have met you.
I'll probably see you to-night at the show. I have to go back and look
after a little more engraving just now." And, shaking hands cordially
with Mr. Pickins, he rose to go.

"Wait a minute, Mombley," said Phelps amidst a general scowl, and
he walked outside with Wallingford. "Fine work, old man," he
complimented, keeping his suavity with no little effort. "We can
go right in and pick our bunch of posies any minute."

"Go right ahead!" said Wallingford heartily. "I'm glad to have helped
you out a little."

Mr. Phelps looked at him in sour speculation.

"Of course you're in on it," he observed with a great air of making a
merely perfunctory remark.

"Me?" inquired Wallingford in surprise. "Not on your life. I only
played engraver for accommodation. I thought I did a grand little
piece of work, too."

"But we can't go through without you," insisted Mr. Phelps
desperately, ignoring the other's maddening complacency and sticking
to the main point. "It takes twenty thousand and we only have five
thousand apiece. We're looking to you for the other five."

Wallingford looked him squarely in the eyes, with an entire change of
manner, and chuckled.

"There are four reasons, Phelps, why I won't," he kindly explained.
"The first is, I never do anything in partnership; second, I never
pike; third, I won't take a fall out of any game that has the
brown-and-white-striped clothes at the end of it; fourth, Billy might
not get the satchels switched right; _extra, I won't fool with any
farmer that strikes a match on the sole of his boot_!"

The fifth and extra reason was so unexpected and was laid before Mr.
Phelps with such meaning emphasis that that gentleman could only drop
his jaw and gape in reply. Wallingford laid both hands on his
shoulders and chuckled in his face.

"You're a fiercely unimaginative bunch," he said. "Let's don't try to
do any more business together. Just come up to my room to-night and
have a friendly game of stud poker."

At last Green-Goods Harry found his tongue.

"You go to hell!" said he.

Back in their common sitting-room, Wallingford found Daw studying some
gaudy samples of stock certificates. "Blackie, did you tell this gang
of yours that they didn't drink enough to suit me?" Wallingford
demanded.

Blackie grinned.

"They wanted to know why you wouldn't warm up," he admitted.

"I see the pretty, pretty lights at last," Wallingford chuckled. "I
was sure there was something doing when Curly Harry came up here
claiming a thirst, and went so far as to drink champagne on top of a
highball."

"He's taking stomach and liver dope right now," Blackie guessed. "You
see, these Broadway boys are handicapped when they run across a man
who still has a lining. They lost theirs years ago."

"They lost everything years ago. I'm disappointed in them, Blackie. I
had supposed that these people of the metropolis had Herman the Great
looking like a Bowery waiter when it came to smooth work; but they've
got nothing but thumbs."

"You do them deep wrong, J. Rufus Wallingford Wix," admonished
Blackie. "I've trailed with this crowd four or five years. They're
always to be found right here and they always have coin--whether they
spend it or not."

"They get it gold-bricking New Yorkers, then," declared Wallingford
contemptuously. "They couldn't cold deck anybody on the rural free
delivery routes. They wear the lemon sign on their faces, and when one
of their kind comes west of the big hills we padlock all our money in
our pockets and lock ourselves in jail till they get out of town."

"What have they been doing to you?" asked Blackie. "You've got a
regular Matteawan grouch."

"They had the nerve to try to ring me in for the fall guy on a
green-goods play, baited up with a stage farmer from One Hundred and
Sixtieth Street," asserted Wallingford. "Don't they ever spring a new
one here?"

Mr. Blackie Daw only laughed.

"I'm afraid they don't," he confessed. "They take the old ones that
have got the money for years, and work in new props and scenery on
them, just like they do in the theaters; and that goes for Broadway."

"It don't go for me," declared Wallingford. "If they come after mine
again I'll get real peevish and take their flash rolls away from
them."

"Go to it," invited Blackie. "They need a trimming."

"I think I'll hand it to them," said Wallingford savagely, and started
to walk out.

"Where are you going?" asked the other.

"I don't know," said Wallingford, "but I am going to scare up some
excitement in the only way possible for a stranger, and that is go out
and hunt for it by myself. No New Yorker knows where to go."

In the bar Wallingford found a convivial gentleman from Georgia,
lonesome like himself, with whom he became firm friends in an hour,
and it was after midnight when, their friendship still further fixed
by plenty of liquid cement, he left the Georgian at one of the broad,
bright entrances in charge of a door-man. It being but a few blocks to
his own hotel, he walked, carrying with complacent satisfaction a
burden of assorted beverages that would have staggered most men.

It was while he was pausing upon his own corner for a moment to
consider the past evening in smiling retrospection, that a big-boned
policeman tapped him on the shoulder. He was startled for a moment,
but a hearty voice reassured him with:

"Why, hello, Wix, my boy! When did you come to town?"

A smile broke over Wallingford's face as he shook hands with the
bluecoat.

"Hello, Harvey," he returned. "I never would have looked for you in
this make-up. It's a funny job for the ex-secretary of the Filmore
Coal Company."

"Forget it," returned Harvey complacently. "There's three squares a
day in this and pickings. Where are you stopping?"

Wallingford told him, and then looked at him speculatively.

"Come up and see me when you go off watch," he invited. "But don't ask
for me under the name of Wix. It's Wallingford now, J. Rufus
Wallingford."

"No!" said Harvey. "What did you do at home?"

"Not a thing," protested Wallingford. "I can go right back to Filmore
and play hop-scotch around the county jail if I want to. I just didn't
like the name, that's all. But I want to talk with you, Harvey. I
think I can throw about a hundred or so in your way."

"Not me," returned Harvey with a grin. "That's the price of a murder
in this town."

"Come up, and I'll coax you," laughed Wallingford.

He walked away quite thoughtfully. Harvey Willis, who had left Filmore
on account of his fine sense of honor--he had embezzled to pay a poker
debt--seemed suddenly to fit an empty and an aching void.



CHAPTER VIII

A THIRD ARM TO THE OLD-FASHIONED DOUBLE CROSS


"The fresh Hick!" observed Mr. Pickins savagely. "I'd like to hand him
a bunch of knuckles."

Mr. Pickins was not now in character, but was clad in quite ordinary
good clothes; his prominent cheek-bones, however, had become two white
spots in the midst of an angrily red countenance.

"I don't know as I blame him so much," said Phelps. "The trouble is
we sized him for about the intelligence of a louse. Anybody who would
stand for your Hoop-pole County line of talk wouldn't need such a
careful frame-up to make him lay down his money."

"There's something to that," agreed Short-Card Larry. "I always did
say your work was too strong, Pick."

"There ain't another man in the crowd can play as good a Rube,"
protested Mr. Pickins, touched deeply upon the matter of his art. "I
don't know how many thousands we've cleaned up on that outfit of
mine."

"Ye-e-es, but this Wallingford person called the turn," insisted
Phelps. "The only times we ever made it stick was on the kind of
farmers that work in eleven-story office buildings. You can fool a man
with a stuffed dog, but you can't fool a dog with it; and you couldn't
fool Yap Wallingford with a counterfeit yap."

"Well," announced Mr. Pickins, with emphatic finality, "you may have
my part of him. I'm willing to let him go right back to Oskaloosa, or
Oshkosh, or wherever it is."

"Not me," declared Phelps. "I want to get him just on general
principles. He's handed me too much flossy talk. You know the last
thing he had the nerve to say? He invited us up to play stud poker
with him."

"Why don't you?" asked Pickins.

"Ask Larry," said Phelps with a laugh, whereat Larry merely swore.

Badger Billy, who had been silently listening with his eyes half
closed, was possessed of a sudden inventive gift.

"Yes, why don't you?" he repeated. "If I read this village cut-up
right, and I think I do, he'll take a sporting chance. Get him over to
the Forty-second Street dump on a proposition to play two-handed stud
with Harry there, then pull off a phoney pinch for gambling."

"No chance," returned Phelps. "He'd be on to that game; it's a dead
one, too."

"Not if you work it this way," insisted Billy, in whom the creative
spirit was still strong. "Tell him that we're all sore at Harry, here;
that Harry threw the gang last night and got me put away. I'll have
McDermott take me down and lock me up on suspicion for a couple of
hours, so you can bring him down and show me to him. Tell him you've
found a way to get square. Harry's supposed to have a grouch about
that stud poker taunt and wants to play Wallingford two-handed, five
thousand a side. Tell him to go into this game, and that just when
they have the money and the cards on the table, you'll pull off a
phoney pinch and have your fake officer take the money and cards for
evidence, then you'll split up with him."

Billy paused and looked around with a triumphant eye. It was a long,
long speech for the Badger, and a vivid bit of creative work of which
he felt justly proud.

"Fine!" observed Larry in deep sarcasm. "Then I suppose we give him
the blackjack and take it all away from him?"

"No, you mutt," returned Billy, having waited for this objection so as
to bring out the clever part of his scheme as a climax. "Just as we
have Dan pull off the pinch, in jumps Sprig Foles and pinches Dan for
impersonating an officer. Then Sprig cops the money and the cards for
evidence, while we all make a get-away."

A long and thoughtful silence followed the exposition of this great
scheme of Billy's. It was Phelps who spoke first.

"There's one thing about it," he admitted: "it's a new one."

"Grandest little double cross that was ever pulled over," announced
Billy in the pride of authorship.

It was a matter of satisfaction, to say nothing of surprise, to
Short-Card Larry to note the readiness, even the alacrity, with which
young Wallingford fell into the trap. Would he accept the traitorous
Mr. Phelps' challenge if guaranteed that he would win? He would! There
was nothing young Wallingford detested so much as a traitor.
Moreover, he had a grouch at Mr. Phelps himself.

Short-Card Larry had expected to argue more than this, and, having
argument still lying heavily upon his lungs, must rid himself of it.
It must be distinctly understood that the crowd wanted nothing
whatever out of this. They merely wished to see the foresworn Mr.
Phelps lose all his money, so that he could not hire a lawyer to
defend him, and when he was thus resourceless they intended to have
him arrested on an old charge and "sent over." They were very severe
and heartless about Mr. Phelps, but they did not want his money. They
would not touch it! Wallingford could have it all with the exception
of the two hundred and fifty dollars he would have to pay to the
experienced plain-clothes-man impersonator whom Larry, having a wide
acquaintance, would secure.

Mr. Wallingford understood perfectly. He appreciated thoroughly the
motives that actuated Mr. Larry Teller and his friends, and those
motives did them credit. He counted himself, moreover, highly
fortunate in being on hand to take advantage of the situation. Still
moreover, after the trick was turned he would stand a fine dinner for
the entire crowd, including Mr. Pickins, to whom Mr. Teller would
kindly convey his, Mr. Wallingford's, respects.

Accepting this commission with some inward resentment but outward
pleasure, Mr. Teller suggested that the game be played off that very
afternoon. Mr. Wallingford was very sorry. That afternoon and evening
he had business of grave importance. To-morrow evening, however, say
at about nine o'clock, he would be on hand with the five thousand, in
bills of convenient denomination. Mr. Teller might call for him at the
hotel and escort him to the room, although, from having had the
location previously pointed out to him, Mr. Wallingford was quite sure
he could find Mr. Teller's apartment, where the contest was to take
place. Left alone, Mr. Wallingford, in the exuberance of his youth,
lay back in his big chair and spent five solid minutes in chuckling
self-congratulation, to the great mystification of the incoming Mr.
Daw, whom J. Rufus would not quite trust with his reason for mirth.
Feeling the need of really human companionship at this juncture, young
Wallingford called up his convivial friend from Georgia and they went
out to spend another busy and pleasant afternoon and evening, amid a
rapidly widening circle of friends whom these two enterprising and
jovial gentlemen had already managed to attach to them. With an eye to
business, however, Wallingford carefully timed their wanderings so
that he should return, alone, on foot, to his own hotel a trifle after
midnight.

As Mr. Teller and Mr. Wallingford, on the following evening at a few
minutes before nine, turned into the house on Forty-second Street,
they observed a sturdy figure helping a very much inebriated man up
the stone steps just before them, but as the sturdy figure inserted a
latch-key in the door and opened it with one hand while supporting his
companion with the other arm, the incident was not one to excite
comment. Just inside the door the inebriated man tried to raise a
disturbance, which was promptly squelched by the sturdy gentleman, who
held his charge firmly in a bearlike grip while Mr. Teller and Mr.
Wallingford passed around them at the foot of the stairs, casting
smiling glances down at the face of the perpetually-worried landlady,
who had come to the parlor door to wonder what she ought to do about
it.

In the second floor back room Mr. Phelps and Mr. Badger already
awaited them. Mr. Badger's greeting to Larry was the ordinary
greeting of one man who had seen the other within the hour; his
greeting to Mr. Wallingford was most cordial and accompanied by the
merest shade of a wink. Mr. Phelps, on the other hand, was most grim.
While not denying the semblance of courtesy one gentleman should
bestow upon another, he nevertheless gave Mr. Wallingford distinctly
to understand by his bearing that he was out for Mr. Wallingford's
financial blood, and after the coldest of greetings he asked gruffly:

"Did you bring cards?"

"One dollar's worth," said Wallingford, tossing four packs upon the
table. "Ordinary drug-store cards, bought at the corner."

"You see them bought, Larry?" inquired Phelps.

"They're all right, Phelps," Mr. Teller assured him.

"Good," said Mr. Phelps. "Then we might just as well get to work right
away," and from his pocket he drew a fat wallet out of which he
counted five thousand dollars, mostly in bills of large denomination.

In the chair at the opposite side of the little table Wallingford sat
down with equal grimness, and produced an equal amount of money in
similar denominations.

"I don't suppose we need chips," said Phelps. "The game may not last
over a couple of deals. Make it table stakes, loser of each hand to
deal the next one."

They opened a pack of cards and cut for the deal, which fell to
Wallingford, and they began with a mutual five-dollar ante. Upon the
turn card of the first deal each placed another five. Upon the third
card, Phelps, being high, shoved forward a five-dollar bill, which
Wallingford promptly raised with fifty. Scarcely glancing at his
hole-card, Phelps let him take the pot, and it became Phelps' deal.

It was a peculiar game, in that Phelps kept the deal from then on,
betting mildly until Wallingford raised, in which case Wallingford was
allowed to take down the money. By this means Wallingford steadily
won, but in such small amounts that Mr. Phelps could have kept playing
for hours on his five thousand dollars in spite of the annoyance of
maudlin quarreling from the next room. It was not necessary to enter
such a long test of endurance to gain mere time, however, for in less
than a half-hour the door suddenly burst open, its latch-bar losing
its screws with suspicious ease, and a gaunt but muscular-looking
individual with a down-drooping mustache strode in upon them,
displaying a large shining badge pinned on his vest underneath his
coat.

"Every man keep his seat!" commanded this apparition. "The place is
pinched as a gambling joint."

Mr. Phelps made a grab for the money on the table.

"Drop that!" said the new-comer, making a motion toward his hip
pocket, and Mr. Phelps subsided in his chair.

The others had posed themselves most dramatically, and now they sat in
motionless but trembling obedience to the law, while the man with the
tin badge produced from his pocket a little black bag into which he
stuffed the cards and all the money on the table.

"It's a frame-up!" shouted Mr. Phelps.

Loud voices and the overturning of chairs from the room just ahead
interrupted them at this moment, and not only Mr. Badger and Mr.
Teller and Mr. Phelps looked annoyed, but the man with the shining
badge glanced apprehensively in that direction, especially as, added
to the sudden uproar, there was the unmistakable clang of a
patrol-wagon in the street.

Simultaneously with this there bounded into the room a large gentleman
with a red face and a husky voice, who whipped a revolver from his
pocket the minute he passed the threshold and leveled it at the man
with the badge, while all the others sprang from their chairs.

"Hands up!" said he, in a hurried but businesslike manner, himself
apparently annoyed with and apprehensive of the adjoining disturbance
and the clanging in the street. "This is a sure-enough pinch, but it
ain't for gambling, you can bet your sweet life! You're all pulled for
a bunch of cheap sure-thing experts, but this guy has got the
lock-step comin' to him for impersonating an officer. You've played
that gag too long, Dan Blazer. Give me that evidence!" and he snatched
the black bag from the hand of the man with the badge.

Short-Card Larry, standing near what was apparently a closet door, now
took his cue and threw it open, and, grabbing Wallingford by the arm,
suddenly pulled him forward. "This is the real thing," he said in a
hoarse whisper. "We've got to make a get-away or go up. They're
fierce on us here if the pinch once comes."

"Hello, boys," broke in a third new voice, and then the real shock
came. The third new voice was not in the play at all, and the
consternation it wrought was more than ludicrous.

Wallingford, drawing back for a moment, was nearly knocked off his
feet by fat Badger Billy's dashing past him through that door to the
back stairway, closely followed by Mr. Phelps, and Mr. Phelps was
trailed almost as closely by the gaunt man of the badge. Glancing
toward the door, Mr. Wallingford smiled beatifically. The cause of all
this sudden exodus was huge Harvey Willis, in his blue suit and brass
buttons and helmet, with a club in his hand, who, making one dive for
the husky red-faced man as he, too, was bent on disappearing, whanged
him against the wall with a blow upon the head from his billy; and as
the red-faced man fell over, Harvey grabbed the black bag. The crash
of a breaking water-pitcher from the adjoining room, the shrill voice
of a protesting and frightened landlady as she came tearing up the
stairs, and the clamor of one of those lightning-collected mobs in
front of the house around the patrol-wagon, created a diversion in
the midst of which Harvey Willis started out into the hall, a
circumstance which gave the dazed red-faced man an opportunity to
stagger down the back stairway and out through the alley after his
companions, whom Wallingford had already followed. They were not
waiting for him, by any means, but this time were genuinely interested
in getting away from the law, each man darkly suspicious of all the
others, and Wallingford, alone, serene in mind.

In the hall, Willis, with a grin, thrust the black bag into his big
pocket, and turned his attention to the terrified landlady and his
brother officer of the wagon, who was just then mounting the stairs.

"Case of plain coke jag," he explained, and burst into the noisy room,
from which the two presently emerged with the shrieking and inebriated
man who had been brought up-stairs but a short while before.

In Wallingford's room that night, Blackie Daw was just starting for
Boston when Harvey Willis, now off duty, came up with the little black
bag, which he dropped upon the table, sitting down in one of the big
chairs and laughing hugely.

"Mr. Daw, shake hands with Mr. Willis, a friend of mine from
Filmore," said Wallingford. "Order a drink, Daw."

As he spoke, he untied the bag, and, taking its lower corners, sifted
the mixture of cards and greenbacks upon the table. Daw, in the act of
shaking hands, stopped with gaping jaws.

"What in Moses is that?" he asked.

"Merely a little contribution from your Broadway friends," Wallingford
explained with a chuckle. "Harvey, what do I owe out of this?"

"Well," said Harvey, sitting down again and naming over the cast of
characters on his fingers, "there's seven dollars for the room, and
the tenner I gave Sawyer to go down on Park Row and hunt up a coke
jag. Sawyer gets fifty. We ought to slip a twenty to the wagon-man.
Sawyer will have to pay about a ten-case note for broken furniture,
and I suppose you'll want to pay this poor coke dip's fine. That's
all, except me."

"Ninety-seven dollars, besides the fine," said Wallingford, counting
it up. "Suppose we say a hundred and fifty to cover all expenses, and
about three hundred and fifty for you. How would that do?"

"Fine!" agreed Harvey. "Stay right here and keep me busy at the
price."

"Not me," said Wallingford warmly. "I only did this because I was
peevish. I don't like this kind of money. It may not be honest money.
I don't know how Phelps and Banting and Teller got this money."

Blackie Daw came solemnly over and shook hands with him.

"Stay amongst our midst, J. Rufus," he pleaded. "We need an infusion
of live ones on Broadway. Our best workers have grown jaded and
effete, and our reputation is suffering. Stay, oh, stay!"

"No," refused J. Rufus positively. "I don't want to have anything more
to do with crooks!"



CHAPTER IX

 IN WHICH J. RUFUS HEARS OF SOME EGYPTIANS
 WORTH SPOILING


It was in a spirit of considerable loneliness that Wallingford came
back from seeing Blackie Daw to the midnight train, for he had grown
to like Blackie very well indeed. Moreover, his friend from Georgia
was gone, and quite disconsolate, for him, he stood in front of the
hotel wondering about his next move. Fate sent him a cab, from which
popped a miniature edition of the man from Georgia. The new-comer,
who had not waited for the cab door to be opened for him, immediately
offered to bet his driver the price of the fare that the horse
would eat bananas. He was a small, clean, elderly gentleman, of
silvery-white hair and mustache, who must have been near sixty, but
who possessed, temporarily at least, the youth and spirits of thirty;
and he was one of that sort of looking men to whom one instinctively
gives a title.

"Can't take a chance, Governor," said the driver, grinning. "I might
as well go jump off the dock as go back to the stand without them four
dollars. I'm in bad, anyhow."

"I'll bet you the tip, then," offered the very-much-alive elderly
gentleman, flourishing a five-dollar bill.

"All right," agreed the driver, eying the money. "Nothing or two
dollars."

"No, you don't! Not with Silas Fox, you don't!" promptly disputed that
gentleman. "First comes out of the dollar change two bits for bananas,
and then the bet is nothing or a dollar and a half that your horse'll
eat 'em. Why, any horse'll eat bananas," he added, turning suddenly to
Wallingford. With the habit of shrewdness he paused for a thorough
inspection of J. Rufus, whose bigness and good grooming and jovial
pinkness of countenance were so satisfactory that Mr. Fox promptly
made up his mind the young man could safely be counted as one of the
pleasures of existence.

"I'll bet _you_ this horse'll eat bananas," he offered.

"I'm not acquainted with the horse," objected Wallingford, with no
more than reasonable caution. "I don't even know its name. What do you
want to bet?"

"Anything from a drink to a hundred dollars."

J. Rufus threw back his head and chuckled in a most infectious manner,
his broad shoulders shaking and his big chest heaving.

"I'll take you for the drink," he agreed.

Two strapping big fellows in regulation khaki came striding past the
hotel, and Mr. Fox immediately hailed them.

"Here, you boys," he commanded, with a friendly assurance born of the
feeling that to-night all men were brothers; "you fellows walk across
the street there and get me a quarter's worth of real ripe bananas."

The soldiers stopped, perplexed, but only for an instant. The driver
of the cab was grinning, the door-man of the hotel was grinning, the
prosperous young man by the curb was grinning, and the well-dined and
wined elderly gentleman quite evidently expected nothing in this world
but friendly complaisance.

"All right, Senator," acquiesced the boys in khaki, themselves
catching the grinning contagion; and quite cheerfully they accepted a
quarter, wheeled abreast, marched over to the fruit stand, bought the
ripest bananas on sale, wheeled, and marched back.

Selecting the choicest one with great gravity and care, Mr. Silas Fox
peeled it and prepared for the great test. The driver leaned forward
interestedly; the two in khaki gathered close behind; the large young
man chuckled as he watched; the horse poked forward his nose gingerly,
then sniffed--then turned slowly away!

Mr. Fox was shocked. He caught that horse gently by the opposite jaw,
and drew the head toward him. This time the horse did not even sniff.
It shook its head, and, being further urged, jerked away so decidedly
that it drew its tormentor off the curb, and he would have fallen had
not Wallingford caught him by the arm.

"I win," declared the driver with relief, gathering up his lines.

"Not yet," denied Mr. Fox, and stepping forward he put his arm around
the horse's neck and tried to force the banana into its mouth.

This time the horse was so vigorous in its objection that the man came
near being trampled underfoot, and it was only on the unanimous vote
of the big man and the two in khaki that he profanely gave up the
attempt.

"Not that I mind losing the bet," announced Mr. Fox in apology, "but
I'm disappointed in the be damned horse. That horse loves bananas and
I know it, but he's just stubborn. Here's your money," and he gave the
driver his five-fifty; "and here's the rest of the bananas. When you
get back to the barn you try that horse and see if he won't eat 'em,
after he's cooled down and in his stall."

"All right," laughed the driver, and started away.

As he turned the corner he was peeling one of the bananas. The loser
looked after the horse reluctantly, and sighed in finality.

"Come on, young man, let's go get that drink," he said.

Delighted to have found company of happy spirit, Wallingford promptly
turned with the colonel into the hotel bar.

"Can you beat it?" asked one big soldier of the other as both looked
after the departing couple in pleased wonder.

At about the same second the new combination was falling eagerly and
vigorously into conversation upon twelve topics at once.

"You can't do anything without you have a pull," was Silas Fox's
fallacious theory of life, as summed up in the intimate friendship of
the second bottle. "That's why I left New Jersey. I had a National
Building and Loan Association organized down there that would have
been a public benefactor and a private joy; in business less than six
months, and already nine hundred honest working-men paying in their
dollar and a quarter a week; eleven hundred and fifty a week for us to
handle, and the amount growing every month."

"That's a pretty good start," commented J. Rufus, considering the
matter carefully as he eyed the stream of ascending bubbles in his
hollow-stemmed glass. "No matter what business you're in, if you have
a package of clean, new, fresh dollars every week to handle, some of
it is bound to settle to the bottom; but there mustn't be too many to
swallow the settlings."

"Six of us on the inside," mused the other. "Doc Turner, who sells
real estate only to people who can't pay for it; Ebenezer Squinch, a
lawyer that makes a specialty of widows and orphans and damage claims;
Tom Fester, who runs the nicest little chattel-mortgage company that
ever collected a life income from a five-dollar bill; Andy Grout, who
has been conducting a prosperous instalment business for ten years on
the same old stock of furniture; and Jim Christmas, who came in from
the farm ten years ago to become a barber, shaving nothing but notes."

Young Wallingford sat lost in admiration.

"What a lovely bunch of citizens to train a growing young dollar; to
teach it to jump through hoops and lay down and roll over," he
declared. "And I suppose you were in a similar line, Judge?" he
ventured.

"Nothing like it," denied the judge emphatically. "I was in a decent,
respectable loan business. Collateral loans were my specialty."

"I see," said J. Rufus, chuckling. "All mankind were not your
brothers, exactly, but your brothers' children."

"Making me the universal uncle, yes," admitted Mr. Fox, then he
suddenly puffed up with pride in his achievements. "And I do say," he
boasted, "that I could give any Jew cards and spades at the game and
still beat him out on points. I reckon I invented big casino, little
casino and the four aces in the pawn brokerage business. Let alone my
gage of the least a man would take, I had it fixed so that they could
slip into my place by the front door, from the drug-store on one side,
from the junk-yard on the other, from the saloon across the alley in
the rear, and down-stairs, from the hall leading to Doc Turner's
office."

Lost in twinkling-eyed admiration of his own cleverness he lapsed into
silence, but J. Rufus, eager for information, aroused him.

"But why did you blow the easy little new company?" he wanted to know.
"I could understand it if you had been running a local building-loan
company, for in that the only salaried officer is the secretary, who
gets fifty cents a year, and the happy home-builders pile up double
compound interest for the wise members who rent; but with a national
company it's different. A national building-loan company's business is
to collect money to juggle with, for the exclusive benefit of the
officers."

"You're a bright young man," said Mr. Fox admiringly. "But the
business was such a cinch it began to get crowded, and so the
lawmakers, who were mostly stock-holders in the three biggest
companies, had a spasm of virtue, and passed such stringent laws for
the protection of poor investors that no new company could do any
business. We tried to buy a pull but it was no use; there wasn't pull
enough to go round; so I'm going to retire and enjoy myself. This
country's getting too corrupt to do business in," and Mr. Fox relapsed
into sorrowful silence over the degeneracy of the times.

When his sorrow had become grief--midway of another bottle--a house
detective prevailed upon him to go to bed, leaving young Wallingford
to loneliness and to thought--also to settle the bill. This, however,
he did quite willingly. The evening had been worth much in an
educational way, and, moreover, it had suggested vast, immediate
possibilities. These possibilities might have remained vague and
formless--mere food for idle musing--had it not been for one important
circumstance: while the waiter was making change he picked some folded
papers from the floor and laid them at Wallingford's hand. Opened,
this packet of loose leaves proved to be a list of several hundred
names and addresses. There could be no riddle whatever about this
document; it was quite obviously a membership roster of the defunct
building-loan association.

"The judge ought to have a duplicate of this list; a single copy's so
easy to lose," mused Wallingford with a grin; so, out of the goodness
of his heart, he sat up in his room until very late indeed, copying
those pages with great care. When he sent the original to Mr. Fox's
room in the morning, however, he very carelessly omitted to send the
duplicate, and, indeed, omitted to think of remedying the omission
until after Mr. Fox had left the hotel for good.

Oh, well, a list of that sort was a handy thing for anybody to have
around. The names and addresses of nine hundred people naive enough to
pay a dollar and a quarter a week to a concern of whose standing they
knew absolutely nothing, was a really valuable curiosity indeed. It
was pleasant to think upon, in a speculative way.

Another inspiring thought was the vision of Doc Turner and Ebenezer
Squinch and Tom Fester and Andy Grout and Jim Christmas, with plenty
of money to invest in a dubious enterprise. It seemed to be a call to
arms. It would be a noble and a commendable thing to spoil those
Egyptians; to smite them hip and thigh!



CHAPTER X

 INTRODUCING A NOVEL MEANS OF EATING CAKE AND
 HAVING IT TOO


Doc Turner and Ebenezer Squinch and Tom Fester, all doing business
on the second floor of the old Turner building, were thrown into a
fever of curiosity by the tall, healthy, jovial young man with the
great breadth of white-waistcoated chest, who had rented the front
suite of offices on their floor. His rooms he fitted up regardless
of expense, and he immediately hired an office-boy, a secretary
and two stenographers, all of whom were conspicuously idle. Doc
Turner, who had a long, thin nose with a bluish tip, as if it had
been case-tempered for boring purposes, was the first to scrape
acquaintance with the jovial young gentleman, but was chagrined to
find that though Mr. Wallingford was most democratic and easily
approachable, still he was most evasive about his business. Nor
could any of his office force be "pumped."

"The People's Mutual Bond and Loan Company" was the name which a sign
painter, after a few days, blocked out upon the glass doors, but the
mere name was only a whet to the aggravated appetites of the other
tenants. Turner and Fester and Squinch were in the latter's office,
discussing the mystery with some trace of irritation, when the source
of it walked in upon them.

"I'm glad to find you all together," said young Wallingford breezily,
coming at once to the point of his visit. "I understand that you
gentlemen were once a part of the directorate of a national building
and loan company which suspended business."

Ebenezer Squinch, taking the chair by virtue of his being already
seated with his long legs elevated upon his own desk, craned forward
his head upon an absurdly slender neck, which much resembled that of
a warty squash, placed the tips of his wrinkled fingers together and
gazed across them at Wallingford quite judicially.

"Suppose we were to admit that fact?" he queried, in non-committal
habit.

"I am informed that you had a membership of some nine hundred when you
suspended business," Wallingford went on, "and among your effects you
have doubtless retained a list of that membership."

"Doubtless," assented Lawyer Squinch after a thoughtful pause,
deciding that he might, at least partially, admit that much.

"What will you take for that list, or a copy of it?" went on Mr.
Wallingford.

Mr. Turner, Mr. Squinch and Mr. Fester looked at one another in turn.
In the mind of each gentleman there instantly sprang a conjecture, not
as to the actual value of that list, but as to how much money young
Wallingford had at his command. Both Mr. Fester and Mr. Turner sealing
their mouths tightly, Mr. Fester straightly and Mr. Turner pursily,
looked to Mr. Squinch for an adequate reply, knowing quite well that
their former partner would do nothing ill-considered.

"M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m," nasally hesitated Mr. Squinch after long
cogitation; "this list, Mr. Wallingford, is very valuable indeed, and
I am quite sure that none of us here would think of setting a price on
it until we had called into consultation our other former directors,
Mr. Grout and Mr. Christmas."

"Let me know as soon as you can, gentlemen," said Mr. Wallingford. "I
would like a price by to-morrow afternoon at two o'clock, at least."

Another long pause.

"I think," stated Mr. Squinch, as deliberately and as carefully as if
he were announcing a supreme court decision--"I think that we may
promise an answer by to-morrow."

They were all silent, very silent, as Mr. Wallingford walked out, but
the moment they heard his own door close behind him conjecture began.

"I wonder how much money he's got," speculated fish-white Doc Turner,
rubbing his claw-like hands softly together.

"He's stopping at the Telford Hotel and occupies two of the best rooms
in the house," said blocky Mr. Fester, he of the bone-hard countenance
and the straight gash where his lips ought to be.

"He handed me a hundred-dollar bill to take the change out of for the
first month's rent in advance," supplemented Doc Turner, who was
manager of the Turner block.

"He wears very large diamonds, I notice," observed Squinch. "I
imagine, gentlemen, that he might be willing to pay quite two thousand
dollars."

"He's young," assented Mr. Turner, warming his hands over the thought.

"And reckless," added Mr. Fester, with a wooden appreciation that was
his nearest approach to a smile.

Their estimate of the youth and recklessness of the lamb-like Mr.
Wallingford was such that they mutually paused to muse upon it, though
not at all unpleasantly.

"Suppose that we say twenty-five hundred," resumed Mr. Squinch. "That
will give each of the five of us five hundred dollars apiece. At that
rate I'd venture to speak for both Grout and Christmas."

"We three have a majority vote," suggested Doc Turner. "However, it's
easy enough to see them."

"Need we do so?" inquired Mr. Squinch, in slow thought. "We might--"
and then he paused, struck by a sudden idea, and added hastily: "Oh,
of course, we'll have to give them a voice in the matter. I'll see
them to-night."

"All right," assented Doc Turner, rising with alacrity and looking at
his watch. "By the way, I have to see a man. I pretty near overlooked
it."

"That reminds me," said Mr. Fester, heaving himself up ponderously and
putting on the hat which should have been square, "I have to
foreclose a mortgage this afternoon."

Mr. Squinch also rose. It had occurred to all three of them
simultaneously to go privately to the two remaining members and buy
out their interest in the list for the least possible money.

J. Rufus found the full board in session, however, when he walked into
Mr. Squinch's office on the following afternoon. Mr. Grout was a
loose-skinned man of endless down-drooping lines, the corners of his
eyelids running down past his cheek-bones, the corners of his nose
running down past his mouth, the corners of his mouth running down
past his chin. Mr. Christmas had over-long, rusty-gray hair, bulbous
red ears, and an appalling outburst of scarlet veins netted upon
his copper-red countenance. Notwithstanding their vast physical
differences, however, Wallingford reflected that he had never seen
five men who, after all, looked more alike. And why not, since they
were all of one mind?

By way of illustrating the point, Mr. Grout and Mr. Christmas, finding
that the list in question had some value, and knowing well their
former partners, had steadfastly refused to sell, and the five of
them, meeting upon the common ground of self-interest, had agreed to
one thing--that they would ask five thousand dollars for the list, and
take what they could get.

When the price was named to him, Mr. Wallingford merely chuckled, and
observed, as he turned toward the door:

"You are mistaken, gentlemen. I did not want to buy out your
individual businesses. I am willing to give you one thousand dollars
in stock of my company, which will be two shares each."

The gentlemen could not think of that. It was preposterous. They would
not consider any other than a cash offer to begin with, nor less than
twenty-five hundred to end with.

"Very well, then," said J. Rufus; "I can do without your list," which
was no matter for wonder, since he had a duplicate of it in his desk
at that very moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Henry Smalzer was the first man on that defunct building and loan
company list, and him Wallingford went to see. He found Mr. Smalzer in
a little shoe repair shop, with a shoe upturned on his knee and held
firmly in place by a strap passing under his foot. Mr. Smalzer had
centrifugal whiskers, and long habit of looking up without rising from
his work had given his eyes a coldly suspicious look. Moreover,
socialistic argument, in red type, was hung violently upon the walls,
and Mr. Wallingford, being a close student of the psychological moment
and man, merely had a loose shoe-button tightened.

The next man on the list was a barber with his hair parted in the
middle and hand-curled in front. In the shop was no literature but the
Police Gazette, and in the showcase were six brands of stogies and one
brand of five-cent cigars. Here Mr. Wallingford merely purchased a
shave, reflecting that he could put a good germicide on his face when
he returned to the hotel.

He began to grow impatient when he found that his third man kept a
haberdashery, but, nevertheless, he went in. A clerk of the pale-eyed,
lavender-tie type was gracing the front counter, but in the rear, at a
little standing desk behind a neat railing, stood one who was
unmistakably the proprietor, though he wore a derby hat cocked on his
head and a big cigar cocked in the opposite corner of his mouth.
Tossed on the back part of the desk was a race-track badge, and the
man was studying a form sheet!

"Mr. Merrill, I believe," said Wallingford confidently approaching
that gentleman and carelessly laying his left hand--the one with the
three-carat diamond upon the third finger--negligently upon the rail.

Mr. Merrill's keen, dark-gray eyes rested first upon that three-carat
ring, then upon the three-carat stone in Mr. Wallingford's carmine
cravat, then upon Mr. Wallingford's jovial countenance with the
multiplicity of smile wrinkles about the eyes, and Mr. Merrill himself
smiled involuntarily.

"The same," he admitted.

"Mr. Merrill," propounded Wallingford, "how would you like to borrow
from ten dollars to five thousand, for four years, without interest
and without security?"

Mr. Merrill's eyes narrowed, and the flesh upon his face became quite
firm.

"Not if I have to pay money for it," he announced, and the
conversation would have ended right there had it not been for
Wallingford's engaging personality, a personality so large and
comprehensive that it made Mr. Merrill reflect that, though this
jovial stranger was undoubtedly engineering a "skin game," he was
quite evidently "no piker," and was, therefore, entitled to courteous
consideration.

"What you have to pay won't break you," said Wallingford, laughing,
and presented a neatly engraved card conveying merely the name of
The People's Mutual Bond and Loan Company, the fact that it was
incorporated for a hundred thousand dollars, and that the capital was
all paid in. "A loan bond," added Mr. Wallingford, "costs you one
dollar, and the payments thereafter are a dollar and a quarter a
week."

Mr. Merrill nodded as he looked at the card.

"I see," said he. "It's one of those pleasant little games, I suppose,
where the first man in gets the money of the next dozen, and the last
five thousand hold the bag."

"I knew you'd guess wrong," said Wallingford cheerfully. "The plan's
entirely different. Everybody gets a chance. With every payment you
sign a loan application and your receipt is numbered, giving you four
numbered receipts in the month. Every month one-fourth of the loan
fund is taken out for a grand annual distribution, and the balance is
distributed in monthly loans."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Merrill, the firmness of his facial muscles
relaxing and the cold look in his eyes softening. "A lottery? Now I'm
listening."

"Well," replied Wallingford, smiling, "we can't call it that, you
know."

"I'll take a chance," said Mr. Merrill.

Mr. Wallingford, with rare wisdom, promptly stopped argument and
produced a beautifully printed "bond" from his pocket, which he made
out in Mr. Merrill's name.

"I might add," said J. Rufus, after having taken another careful
inspection of Mr. Merrill, "that you win the first prize, payable in
the shape of food and drink. I'd like to have you take dinner with me
at the hotel this evening."

Mr. Merrill, from force of habit, looked at his watch, then looked at
Mr. Wallingford speculatively.

"Don't mind if I do," said he, quite well satisfied that the dinner
would be pleasant.

In his own carpenter-shop Wallingford found Mr. Albert Wright at a
foot-power circular-saw, with his hair and his eyebrows and his
mustache full of the same fine, white wood dust that covered his
overalls and jumper; and up over the saw, against the wall, was tacked
the time-yellowed placard of a long-since-eaten strawberry festival.
With his eyes and his mind upon this placard, Mr. Wallingford
explained his new boon to humanity: the great opportunity for a
four-year loan, without interest or security, of from ten dollars to
five thousand.

"But this is nothing more nor less than a lottery, under another
name," objected Mr. Wright, poising an accusing finger, his eyes, too,
unconsciously straying to the strawberry festival placard.

"Not a bit of it," denied Wallingford, shocked beyond measure. "It is
merely a mutual benefit association, where a large number of people
pool their small sums of money to make successive large ones. For
instance, suppose that a hundred of you should band together to put in
one dollar a week, the entire hundred dollars to go to a different
member each week? Each one would be merely saving up a hundred
dollars, but, in place of every one of the entire hundred of you
having to wait a hundred weeks to save his hundred dollars, one of you
would be saving it in one week, while the longest man in would only
have to pay the hundred weeks. It is merely a device, Mr. Wright, for
concentrating the savings of a large number of people."

Mr. Wright was forcibly impressed with Wallingford's illustration,
but, being a very bright man, he put that waving, argumentative
finger immediately upon a flaw.

"Half of that hundred people would not stay through to the end, and
somebody would get left," he objected, well pleased with himself.

"Precisely," agreed Mr. Wallingford. "That is just what our company
obviates. Every man who drops out helps the man who stays in, by not
having any claim upon the redemption fund. The redemption fund saves
us from being a lottery. When you have paid in two hundred and fifty
dollars your bond matures and you get your money back."

"Out of--" hesitated Mr. Wright, greatly perplexed.

"The redemption fund. It is supplied from returned loans."

Again the bright Mr. Wright saw a radical objection.

"Half of those people would not pay back their loans," said he.

"We figure that a certain number would not pay," admitted Wallingford,
"but there would be a larger proportion than you think who would. For
instance, you would pay back your loan at the end of four years,
wouldn't you, Mr. Wright?"

Mr. Wright was hastily sure of it, though he became thoughtful
immediately thereafter.

"So would a large majority of the others," Wallingford went on.
"Honesty is more prevalent than you would imagine, sir. However, all
our losses from this source will be made up by lapsation.
_Lapsation!_"

Mr. Wallingford laid emphatic stress upon this vital principle and
fixed Mr. Wright's mild blue eyes with his own glittering ones.

"A man who drops a payment on his bond gets nothing back--that is a
part of his contract--and the steady investor reaps the benefit, as he
should. Suppose you hold bond number ten; suppose at the time of
maturity, bonds number three, five, six, eight and nine have lapsed,
after having paid in from one-fourth to three-fourths of their money;
that leaves only bonds one, two, four, seven and ten to be paid from
the redemption fund. I don't suppose you understand how large a
percentage of lapsation there is. Let me show you."

From his pocket Mr. Wallingford produced a little red book, showing
how in industrial and fraternal insurance the percentage of lapsation
amounts to a staggering percentage, thus reducing by forfeited
capital the cost of insurance in those organizations.

"So you see, Mr. Wright," concluded Wallingford, snapping shut the
book and putting it in his pocket, "this, in the end, is only a
splendid device for saving money and for using it while you are saving
it."

On this ground, after much persuasion, he sold a bond to the careful
Mr. Wright, and quit work for the day, well satisfied with his two
dollars' commission. At a fifteen-dollar dinner that evening Mr.
Merrill found him a good fellow, and, being interested not only in
Wallingford's "lottery" but in Wallingford himself, gave him the names
of a dozen likely members. Later he even went so far as to see some of
them himself on behalf of the company.

Two days after that Mr. Wallingford called again on his careful
carpenter, and from that gentleman secured a personal recommendation
to a few friends of Mr. Wright's particular kind.



CHAPTER XI

 WHEREIN BLACKIE DAW PLAYS A BRIEF CHARACTER
 BIT


Andy Grout came into Doc Turner's office in a troubled mood, every
down-drooping line in his acid countenance absolutely vertical.

"We've made a mistake," he squeaked. "This young Wallingford is a
hustler, and he's doing some canvassing himself. In the past week he's
taken at least forty members for his loan company, and every man Jack
of them are old members of ours."

Doc Turner began rubbing his frosted hands together at a furious rate.

"Squinch has sold us out!" he charged. "He's let Wallingford copy that
list on the sly!"

"No, I don't think so," said Grout, more lugubrious than ever. "I made
some inquiries. You know, a lot of these fellows are customers of
mine, and I find that he just happened to land on some of them in the
first place. One recommends him to the others, just as we got them.
If we don't sell him that list right away he won't need it."

Together they went to Squinch and explained the matter, very much to
that gentleman's discomfiture and even agitation.

"What's his plan of operation, anyhow?" complained Squinch.

"I don't understand it," returned Andy. "I found out this much,
though: the members all expect to get rich as soon as the company
starts operating."

Mr. Squinch pounded his long finger-tips together for some time while
he pondered the matter.

"It might be worth while to have a share or two of stock in his
company, merely to find out his complete plan," he sagely concluded.
"If he's getting members that easy it's quite evident there is some
good money to be made on the inside."

This was the unanimous opinion of the entire five members of the board
of directors, and as each member was in positive pain on the subject
of "good money on the inside," they called a meeting that very
afternoon in Mr. Squinch's office, inviting Mr. Wallingford to attend,
which he did with inward alacrity but outward indifference.

"Mr. Wallingford," said Mr. Squinch, "we have about decided to accept
your offer for our list, but before doing so we will have to ask you
to explain to us the organization of your company."

"Very simple," Wallingford told them cheerfully. "It's incorporated
for a hundred thousand dollars; a thousand shares of a hundred dollars
each."

"All paid in?" Mr. Squinch wanted to know.

"All paid in," replied Mr. Wallingford calmly.

"Indeed!" commented Mr. Squinch. "Who owns the stock?"

"My four office assistants own one share each and I own the balance."

A smile pervaded the faces of all but one of the members of the board
of directors of the defunct National Building and Loan Association.
Even Tom Fester's immovable countenance presented a curiously strained
appearance. Strange as it may seem, the dummy-director idea was no
novelty in New Jersey.

"I take it, then, that the paid-in capitalization of the company is
not represented in actual cash," said Mr. Squinch.

"No," admitted Wallingford cheerfully. "As a matter of fact, at our
first meeting the directors paid me ninety-five thousand dollars for
my plan of operation."

Again broad smiles illuminated the faces of the four, and this time
Tom Fester actually accomplished a smile himself, though the graining
might be eternally warped.

"Then you started in business," sagely deduced Mr. Squinch, with the
joined finger-tip attitude of a triumphant cross-examiner, "having but
a total cash capitalization of five thousand dollars."

"Exactly," admitted Wallingford, chuckling. There was no reservation
whatever about Mr. Wallingford. He seemed to regard the matter as a
very fair joke.

"You are a very bright young man," Mr. Squinch complimented him, and
that opinion was reflected in the faces of the others. "And what is
your plan of loans, Mr. Wallingford?"

"Also very simple," replied the bright young man. "The members are in
loan groups, corresponding to the lodges of secret societies, and, in
fact, their meetings are secret meetings. Each member pays in a dollar
and a quarter a week, and the quarter goes into the expense fund."

The five individually and collectively nodded their heads.

"Expense fund," interpolated Doc Turner, his blue-tipped nose
wrinkling with the enjoyment transmitted from his whetting palms,
"meaning yourself."

"Exactly," agreed Wallingford. "The dollar per week goes into the loan
fund, but at the start there will be no loans made until there is a
thousand dollars in the fund. Ten per cent. of this will be taken out
for loan investigations and the payment of loan officers."

"Meaning, again, yourself," squeaked Andy Grout, his vertical lines
making obtuse bends.

"Exactly," again agreed Wallingford. "Twenty-five per cent. goes to
the grand annual loan, and the balance will be distributed in loans as
follows: One loan of two hundred and fifty dollars, one loan of one
hundred, one of fifty, four of twenty-five and fifteen of ten dollars
each. These loans will be granted without other security than an
unindorsed note of hand, payable in four years, without interest, and
the loans will be made at the discretion of the loan committee,
meeting in secret session."

Mr. Squinch drew a long breath.

"A lottery!" he exclaimed.

"Hush!" said J. Rufus, chuckling. "Impossible. Every man gets his
money back. Each member takes out a bond which matures in about four
years, if he keeps up his steady payments of a dollar and a quarter a
week without lapsation beyond four weeks, which four weeks may be made
up on additional payment of a fine of twenty-five cents for each
delinquent week, all fines, of course, going into the expense fund."

Doc Turner's palms were by this time quite red from the friction.

"And how, may I ask, are these bonds to be redeemed?" asked Mr.
Squinch severely.

"In their numbered order," announced Mr. Wallingford calmly, "from
returned loans. When bond number one, for instance, is fully
paid up, its face value will be two hundred and fifty dollars. If
there is two hundred and fifty dollars in the redemption fund at that
time--which the company, upon the face of the bonds, definitely
refuses to guarantee, not being responsible for the honesty of its
bond-holders--bond number one gets paid; if not, bond number one waits
until sufficient money has been returned to the fund, and number
two--or number five, say, if two, three and four have lapsed--waits
its redemption until number one has been paid."

A long and simultaneous sigh from five breasts attested the
appreciation of his auditors for Mr. Wallingford's beautiful plan of
operation.

"No," announced Mr. Squinch, placing his finger-tips ecstatically
together, "your plan is not a lottery."

"Not by any means," agreed Doc Turner, rubbing his palms.

Jim Christmas, who never committed himself orally if he could help it,
now chuckled thickly in his throat, and the scarlet network upon his
face turned crimson.

"I think, Mr. Wallingford," said Mr. Squinch, "I think that we will
accept your offer of two shares of stock each for our list."

Mr. Wallingford, having succeeded in giving these gentlemen a grasping
personal interest in his profits, diplomatically withheld his smile
for a private moment, and, turning over to each of the five gentlemen
two shares of his own stock in the company, accepted the list.
Afterward, in entering the item in his books, he purchased for the
company, from himself, ten shares of stock for one thousand dollars,
paying himself the cash, and charged the issue of stock to the expense
fund. Then he sat back and waited for the next move.

It could not but strike such closely calculating gentlemen as the new
members that here was a concern in which they ought to have more than
a paltry two shares each of stock. Each gentleman, exercising his
rights as a stock-holder, had insisted on poring carefully over the
constitution and by-laws, the charter, the "bonds," and all the other
forms and papers. Each, again in his capacity of stock-holder, had
kept careful track of the progress of the business, of the agents that
were presently put out, and of the long list of names rapidly piling
up in the card-index; and each made hints to J. Rufus about the
purchase of additional stock, becoming regretful, however, when they
found that the shares were held strictly at par.

In this triumphant period Wallingford was aggravatingly jovial, even
exasperating, in the crowing tone he took.

"How are we getting along? Fine!" he declared to each stock-holder in
turn. "Inside of six months we'll have a membership of ten thousand!"
And they were forced to believe him.

Probably none of the ex-members of the defunct loan association was so
annoyed over the condition of affairs as Ebenezer Squinch, nor so
nervously interested.

"I thought you intended to begin collecting your weekly payments when
you had two hundred and fifty members," he protested to Wallingford,
"but you have close to five hundred now."

"That's just the point," explained Wallingford. "I'm doing so much
better than I thought that I don't intend to start the collections
until I have a full thousand, which will let me have four thousand in
the very first loan fund, making two hundred and fifty a week to the
expense fund and a hundred a week for the loan committee, besides one
thousand dollars toward the grand annual distribution. That will give
me twenty-six hundred to be divided in one loan of a thousand, one of
five hundred, one of two hundred and fifty, two of a hundred, four of
fifty, ten of twenty-five, and twenty of ten dollars each; a grand
distribution of thirty-nine loans in all. That keeps it from being
a piker bet; and think what the first distribution and every
distribution will do toward getting future membership! And they'll
grow larger every month. I don't think it'll take me all that six
months to get my ten thousand members."

Mr. Squinch, over his tightly pressed finger-tips, did a little rapid
figuring. A membership of ten thousand would make a total income for
the office, counting expense fund and loan committee fund, of three
thousand five hundred per week, steadily, week in and week out, with
endless possibilities of increase.

"And what did you say you would take for a half interest?" he asked.

"I didn't say," returned Wallingford, chuckling, "because I wouldn't
sell a half interest under any consideration. I don't mind confessing
to you, though, that I do need some money at once, so much so that I
would part with four hundred and ninety-nine shares, right now, and
for spot cash, for a lump sum of twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Bound to keep control himself," Mr. Squinch reported to his
_confrères_, after having reluctantly confessed to himself that he
could not take care of the proposition alone. "I don't blame him so
much, either, for he's got a vast money-maker."

"Money without end," complained Andy Grout, his mouth stretching
sourly down to the shape of a narrow croquet wicket; "and the longer
we stay out of this thing the more money we're losing. It's better
than any building-loan."

There was a curious hesitation in Andy Grout's voice as he spoke of
the building-loan, for he had been heartbroken that they had been
compelled to give up this lucrative business, and he was not over it
yet.

Doc Turner rubbed his perpetually lifeless hands together quite
slowly.

"I don't know whether we're losing money or not," he interjected.
"There is no question but that Wallingford will make it, but I suppose
you know why he won't sell a half interest."

"So he won't lose control," said Squinch, impatient that of so obvious
a fact any explanation should be required.

"But why does he want to keep control?" persisted Doc Turner. "Why, so
he can vote himself a big salary as manager. No matter how much he
made we'd get practically no dividends."

It was shrewd Andy Grout whose high squeak broke the long silence
following this palpable fact.

"It seems to me we're a lot of plumb idiots, anyhow," he shrilled. "He
wants twenty-five thousand for less than fifty per cent. of the
stock. That's five thousand apiece for us. I move we put in the five
thousand dollars apiece, but start a company of our own."

Mr. Grout's suggestion was a revelation which saved Jim Christmas from
bursting one of his red veins in baffled cupidity. Negotiations with
Mr. Wallingford for any part of his stock suddenly ceased. Instead,
within a very short time there appeared upon the door of the only
vacant office left in the Turner block, the sign: "The People's
Coöperative Bond and Loan Company."

Mr. Wallingford did not seem to be in the slightest degree put out by
the competition. In fact, he was most friendly with the new concern,
and offered Doc Turner, who had been nominated manager of the new
company, his assistance in arranging his card-index system, or upon
any other point upon which he might need help.

"There's room enough for all of us," he said cheerfully. "Of course, I
think you fellows ought to pay me a royalty for using my plan, but
there's no way for me to compel you to do it. There's one thing we
ought to do, however, and that is to take steps to prevent a lot of
other companies from jumping in and spoiling our field. I think I'll
get right after that myself. I have a pretty strong pull in the state
department."

They were holding this conversation three days after the sign went
up, and Mr. Squinch, entering the office briskly to report a new
agent that he had secured, frowned at finding Mr. Wallingford
there. Business was business with Mr. Squinch, and social calls
should be discouraged. Before he could frame his objection in words,
however, another man entered the office, a stranger, a black-haired,
black-eyed, black-mustached young man, of quite ministerial appearance
indeed, as to mere clothing, who introduced himself to Doc Turner as
one Mr. Clifford, and laid down before that gentleman a neatly folded
parchment, at the same time displaying a beautiful little gold-plated
badge.

"I am the state inspector of corporations," said Mr. Clifford, "and
this paper contains my credentials. I have come to inspect your plan
of operation, and to examine all printed forms, books and minutes."

Mr. Wallingford rose to go, but a very natural curiosity apparently
led him to remain standing, while Doc Turner, with a troubled glance
at Ebenezer Squinch, rose to collect samples of all the company's
printed forms for the representative of the law.

Mr. Wallingford sat down again.

"I might just as well stay," he observed to Doc Turner, "because my
interests are the same as yours."

Mr. Clifford looked up at him with a very sharp glance, as both Mr.
Turner and Mr. Squinch took note. At once, however, Mr. Clifford went
to work. In a remarkably short space of time, seeming, indeed, to have
known just where to look for the flaw, he pointed out a phrase in the
"bond," the phrase pertaining to the plan of redemption.

"Gentlemen," said he gravely, "I am very sorry to say that the state
department can not permit you to do business with this bond, and that
any attempt to do so will result in the revoking of your charter. I
note that this is bond number one, and assume from this fact that you
have not yet sold any of them. You are very lucky indeed not to have
done so."

A total paralysis settled upon Messrs. Turner and Squinch, a paralysis
which was only relieved by the counter-irritant of Wallingford's
presence. To him Mr. Squinch made his first observation, and it was
almost with a snarl.

"Seems to me this rather puts a spoke in your wheel, too,
Wallingford," he observed.

"Is this Mr. Wallingford?" asked Mr. Clifford, suddenly rising with a
cordial smile. "I am very glad indeed to meet you, Mr. Wallingford,"
he said as he shook hands with that gentleman. "They told me about you
at the state department. As soon as I've finished here I'll drop in to
look at your papers, just as a matter of form, you know."

"If you refuse to let us operate," interposed Mr. Squinch in his most
severely legal tone, "you will be compelled to refuse Mr. Wallingford
permission to operate also!"

"I am not so sure about that," replied Mr. Clifford suavely. "The
slightest variation in forms of this sort can sometimes make a very
great difference, and I have no doubt that I shall find such a
divergence; no doubt whatever! By the way, Wallingford," he said,
turning again to that highly pleased gentleman, "Jerrold sent his
respects to you. He was telling me a good story about you that I'll
have to go over with you by and by. I want you to take dinner with me
to-night, anyhow."

[Illustration: "I shall be very much pleased," said Wallingford]

Jerrold was the state auditor.

"I shall be very much pleased," said Wallingford. "I'll just drop into
the office and get my papers laid out for you."

"All right," agreed Mr. Clifford carelessly. "I don't want to spend
much time over them."

Other fatal flaws Mr. Clifford found in the Turner and Company plan of
operation, and when he left the office of The People's Coöperative
Bond and Loan Company, the gentlemen present representing that concern
felt dismally sure that their doom was sealed.

"We're up against a pull again," said Doc Turner despondently. "It's
the building-loan company experience all over again. You can't do
anything any more in this country without a pull."

"And it won't do any good for us to go up to Trenton and try to get
one," concluded Mr. Squinch with equal despondency. "We tried that
with the building-loan company and failed."

In the office of The People's Mutual Bond and Loan Company there was
no despondency whatever, for Mr. Wallingford and the dark-haired
gentleman who had given his name as Mr. Clifford were shaking hands
with much glee.

"They fell for it like kids for a hoky-poky cart, Blackie," exulted
Wallingford. "They're in there right this minute talking about the
cash value of a pull. That was the real ready-money tip of all the
information I got from old Colonel Fox."

They had lit cigars and were still gleeful when a serious thought came
to Mr. Clifford, erstwhile Mr. Daw.

"This is a dangerous proposition, though, J. Rufus," he objected.
"Suppose they actually take this matter up with the state department?
Suppose they even go there?"

"Well, they can't prove any connection between you and me, and you
will be out of the road," said Wallingford. "I don't mind confessing
that it's nearer an infraction of the law than I like, though, and
hereafter I don't intend to come so close. It isn't necessary. But in
this case there's nothing to fear. These lead-pipe artists are scared
so stiff by their fall-down on the building-loan game that they'll
take their medicine right here and now. They'll come to me before
to-morrow night, now that I've got them, to collect their money in a
wad in the new company. They might even start work to-night."

He rose from the table in his private office and went to the door.

"Oh, Billy!" he called.

A sharp-looking young fellow with a pen behind his ear came from the
other room.

"Billy, here's a hundred dollars for you," said Wallingford.

"Thank you," said Billy. "Who's to be thugged?"

"Nobody," replied Wallingford, laughing. "It's just a good-will gift.
By the way, if Doc Turner or any of that crowd back there makes any
advances to you to buy your share of stock, sell it to them, and
you're a rank sucker if you take less than two hundred for it. Also
tell them that you can get three other shares from the office force at
the same price."

Billy, with great deliberation, took a pin from the lapel of his coat
and pinned his hundred-dollar bill inside his inside vest pocket, then
he winked prodigiously, and without another word withdrew.

"He's a smart kid," said Blackie.



CHAPTER XII

 WALLINGFORD IS FROZEN OUT OF THE MANAGEMENT
 OF HIS OWN COMPANY


In the old game of "pick or poe" one boy held out a pin, concealed
between his fingers, and the other boy guessed whether the head or
point was toward him. It was a great study in psychology. The boy who
held the pin had to do as much guessing as the other one. Having held
forward heads the first time, should he reverse the pin the second
time, or repeat heads? In so far as one of the two boys correctly
gaged the elaborateness of the other's mental process he was winner.
At the age when he played this game Wallingford usually had all the
pins in school. Now he was out-guessing the Doc Turner crowd. He had
foreseen every step in their mental process; he had foreseen that
they would start an opposition company; he had foreseen their
extravagant belief in his "pull," knowing what he did of their
previous experience, and he had foreseen that now they would offer
to buy up the stock held by his office force, so as to secure control,
before opening fresh negotiations for the stock he had offered them.

That very night Doc Turner called at the house of Billy Whipple to ask
where he could get a good bird-dog, young Whipple being known as a
gifted amateur in dogs. Billy, nothing loath, took Doc out to the
kennel, where, by a fortunate coincidence, of which Mr. Turner had
known nothing, of course, he happened to have a fine set of puppies.
These Mr. Turner admired in a more or less perfunctory fashion.

"By the way, Billy," he by and by inquired, "how do you like your
position?"

"Oh, so-so," replied Billy. "The job looks good to me. Wallingford has
started a very successful business."

"How much does he pay you?"

Billy reflected. It was easy enough to let a lie slip off his tongue,
but Turner had access to the books.

"Twenty-five dollars a week," he said.

"You owe a lot to Wallingford," observed Mr. Turner. "It's the best
pay you ever drew."

"Yes, it is pretty good," admitted Billy; "but I don't owe Wallingford
any more than I owe myself."

In the dark Mr. Turner slowly placed his palms together.

"You're a bright boy," said Mr. Turner. "Billy, I don't like to see a
stranger come in here and gobble up the community's money. It ought
to stay in the hands of home folks. I'd like to get control of that
business. If you'll sell me your share of stock I might be able to
handle it, and if I can I'll advance your wages to thirty-five dollars
a week."

"You're a far pleasanter man than Wallingford," said Billy amiably.
"You're a smarter man, a better man, a handsomer man! When do we start
on that thirty-five?"

"Very quickly, Billy, if you feel that way about it." And the friction
of Mr. Turner's palms was perfectly audible. "Then I can have your
share of stock?"

"You most certainly can, and I'll guarantee to buy up three other
shares in the office if you want them."

"Good!" exclaimed Turner, not having expected to accomplish so much of
his object so easily. "The minute you lay me down those four shares
I'll hand you four hundred dollars."

"Eight," Billy calmly corrected him. "Those shares are worth a hundred
dollars apiece any place now. Mine's worth more than two hundred to
me."

"Nonsense," protested the other. "Tell you what I'll do, though. I'll
pay you two hundred dollars for your share and a hundred dollars
apiece for the others."

"Two," insisted Billy. "We've talked it all over in the office, and
we've agreed to pool our stock and stand out for two hundred apiece,
if anybody wants it. As a matter of fact, I have all four shares in my
possession at this moment," and he displayed the certificates, holding
up his lantern so that Turner could see them.

The sight of the actual stock, the three other shares which the astute
Billy had secured on the promise of a hundred and fifty dollars per
share immediately after Wallingford's pointer, clenched the business.

It was scarcely as much a shock to Wallingford as the Turner crowd had
expected it to be when those gentlemen, having purchased four hundred
and ninety-nine shares of Wallingford's stock at his own price, sat
in the new stock-holders' meeting, at the reorganization upon which
they had insisted, with five hundred and three shares, and J. Rufus
made but feeble protest when the five of them, voting themselves into
the directorate, decided to put the founder of the company on an
extremely meager salary as assistant manager, and Mr. Turner on a
slightly larger salary as chief manager.

"There's no use of saying anything," he concluded philosophically.
"You gentlemen have played a very clever game and I lose; that's all
there is to it."

He thereupon took up the burden of the work and pushed through the
matter of new memberships and of collections with a vigor and ability
that could not but commend itself to his employers. The second week's
collections were now coming in, and it was during the following week
that a large hollow wheel with a handle and crank, mounted on an axle
like a patent churn, was brought into the now vacated room of the
defunct People's Coöperative Bond and Loan Company.

"What's this thing for?" asked Wallingford, inspecting it curiously.

"The drawing," whispered Doc Turner.

"What drawing?"

"The loans."

"You don't mean to say that you're going to conduct this as a
lottery?" protested Wallingford, shocked and even distressed.

"Sh! Don't use that word," cautioned Turner. "Not even among
ourselves. You might use it in the wrong place some time."

"Why not use the word?" Wallingford indignantly wanted to know.
"That's what you're preparing to do! I told you in the first place
that this was not by any means to be considered as a lottery; that it
was not to have any of the features of a lottery. Moreover, I shall
not permit it to be conducted as a lottery!"

Doc Turner leaned against the side of the big wooden wheel and stared
at Wallingford in consternation.

"What's the matter with you?" he demanded. "Have you gone crazy, or
what?"

"Sane enough that I don't intend to be connected with a lottery! I
have conscientious scruples about it."

"May I ask, then, how you propose to decide these so-called loans?"
inquired Turner, with palm-rubbing agitation.

"Examine the records of the men who have made application," explained
Wallingford; "find out their respective reputations for honesty,
reliability and prompt payment, and place the different loans,
according to that information, in as many different towns as
possible."

Doc Turner gazed at him in scorn for a full minute.

"You're a damned fool!" he declared. "Why, you yourself intended to
conduct this as a secret society, and I had intended to have
representatives from at least three of the lodges attend each
drawing."

To this Wallingford made no reply, and Turner, to ease his mind,
locked the door on the lottery-wheel and went in to open the mail. It
always soothed him to take money from envelopes. A great many of the
letters pertaining to the business of the company were addressed to
Wallingford in person, and Turner slit open all such letters as a
matter of course. Half-way down the pile he opened one, addressed to
Wallingford, which made him gasp and re-read. The letter read:

     DEAR JIM:

     They have found out your new name and where you are, and
     unless you get out of town on the first train they'll
     arrest you sure. I don't need to remind you that they don't
     hold manslaughter as a light offense in Massachusetts.

     Let me know your new name and address as soon as you have
     got safely away.

                         YOUR OLD PAL.

Doc Turner's own fingers were trembling as he passed this missive to
Wallingford, whose expectant eyes had been furtively fixed upon the
pile of letters for some time.

"Too bad, old man," said Turner, tremulously aghast. "Couldn't help
reading it."

"My God!" exclaimed Wallingford most dramatically. "It has come at
last, just as I had settled down to lead a quiet, decent, respectable
life, with every prospect in my favor!" He sprang up and looked at his
watch. "I'll have to move on again!" he dismally declared; "and I
suppose they'll chase me from one cover to another until they finally
get me; but I'll never give up! Please see what's coming to me, Mr.
Turner; you have the cash in the house to pay me, I know; and kindly
get my stock certificates from the safe."

Slowly and thoughtfully Turner took from the safe Wallingford's four
hundred and ninety-seven shares of stock, in four certificates of a
hundred shares each, one of fifty and one of forty-seven. Wallingford
hurried them into an envelope, sitting down to write the address upon
it.

"What are you going to do with those?" asked Turner with a thoughtful
frown.

"Send them to my friend in Boston and have him sell them for what he
can get," replied Wallingford with a sigh. "If the purchasers send any
one here to find out about the business, you'll, of course, give them
every facility for investigation."

"To be sure; to be sure," returned Turner. "But, say--"

He paused a moment, and Wallingford, in the act of writing a hasty
note to go with the stock certificates, hesitated, his pen poised just
above the paper.

"What is it?" he asked.

"You'll probably have to sell those shares at a sacrifice,
Wallingford."

"I have no doubt," he admitted.

Doc Turner's palms rubbed out a slow decision while Wallingford
scratched away at his letter.

"Um-m-m-m-m-m-m--I say!" began Turner gropingly. "Rather than have
those shares fall into the hands of strangers we might possibly make
you an offer for them ourselves. Wait till I see Squinch."

He saw Squinch, he saw Tom Fester, he telephoned to Andy Grout, and
the four of them gathered in solemn conclave. The consensus of the
meeting was that if they could secure Wallingford's shares at a low
enough figure it was a good thing. Not one man among them but had
regretted deeply the necessity of sharing any portion of the earnings
of the company with Wallingford, or with one another, for that matter.
Moreover, new stock-holders might "raise a rumpus" about their methods
of conducting the business, as Wallingford had started to do. Gravely
they called Wallingford in.

"Wallingford," said Mr. Squinch, showing in his very tone his
disrespect for a criminal, "Mr. Turner has acquainted us with the fact
that you are compelled to leave us, and though we already have about
as large a burden as we can conveniently carry, we're willing to allow
you five thousand dollars for your stock."

"For four hundred and ninety-seven shares! Nearly fifty thousand
dollars' worth!" gasped Wallingford, "and worth par!"

"It is a debatable point," said Mr. Squinch, placing his finger-tips
together, and speaking with cold severity, "as to whether that stock
is worth par or not at the present moment. I should say that it is
not, particularly the stock that _you_ hold."

"Even at a sacrifice," insisted Wallingford, "my friend ought to be
able to get fifty dollars a share for me."

"You must remember, Mr. Wallingford," returned the severe voice, "that
you are not so free to negotiate as you seemed to be an hour or so
ago. In a word, you are a fugitive from justice, and I don't know,
myself, but what our duty, anyhow, would be to give you up."

Not one man there but would have done it if it had been to his
advantage.

"You wouldn't do that!" pleaded Wallingford, most piteously indeed.
"Why, gentlemen, the mere fact that I am in life-and-death need of
every cent I can get ought to make you more liberal with me;
particularly in view of the fact that I made this business, that I
built it up, and that all its profits that you are to reap are due to
me. Why, at twenty thousand the stock would be a fine bargain."

This they thoroughly believed--but business is business!

"Utterly impossible," said Mr. Squinch.

The slyly rubbing palms of Mr. Turner, the down-shot lines of Andy
Grout's face, the compressed lips of Tom Fester, all affirmed Mr.
Squinch's decided negative.

"Give me fifteen," pleaded Wallingford. "Twelve--ten."

They would not. To each of these proposals they shook emphatic heads.

"Very well," said Wallingford, and quietly wrote an address on the
envelope containing his certificates. He tossed the envelope on the
postal scales, sealed it, took stamps from his drawer and pasted them
on. "Then, gentlemen, good day."

"Wait a minute," hastily protested Mr. Squinch. "Gentlemen, suppose we
confer a minute."

Heads bent together, they conferred.

"We'll give you eight thousand dollars," said Squinch as a result of
the conference. "We'll go right down and draw it out of the bank in
cash and give it to you."

There was not a trace of hesitation in Wallingford.

"I've made my lowest offer," he said. "Ten thousand or I'll drop these
in the mail box."

They were quite certain that Wallingford meant business, as indeed he
did. He had addressed the envelope to Blackie Daw and he was quite
sure that he could make the shares worth at least ten thousand.

Once more they conferred.

"All right," agreed Mr. Squinch reluctantly. "We'll do it--out of
charity."

"I don't care what it's out of, so long as I get the money," said
Wallingford.

In New York, where Wallingford met Blackie Daw by appointment, the
latter was eager to know the details.

"The letter did the business, I suppose, eh, Wallingford?"

"Fine and dandy," assented Wallingford. "A great piece of work, and
timed to the hour. I saw the envelope in that batch of mail before I
made my play."

"Manslaughter!" shrieked Blackie by and by. "On the level, J. Rufus,
did you ever kill anything bigger than a mosquito?"

"I don't know. I think I made quite a sizable killing down in Doc
Turner's little old town," he said complacently.

"I don't think so," disputed Blackie thoughtfully. "I may be a
cheese-head, but I don't see why you sold your stock, anyhow. Seems to
me you had a good graft there. Why didn't you hold on to it? It was a
money-maker."

"No," denied Wallingford with decision. "It's an illegal business,
Blackie, and I won't have anything to do with an illegal business. The
first thing you know that lottery will be in trouble with the federal
government, and I'm on record as never having conducted any part of it
after it became a lottery. Another thing, in less than a year that
bunch of crooks will be figuring on how to land the capital prize for
themselves under cover. No, Blackie, a quick turn and legal safety for
mine, every time. It pays better. Why, I cleaned up thirty thousand
dollars net profit on this in three months! Isn't that good pay?"

"It makes a crook look like a fool," admitted Blackie Daw.



CHAPTER XIII

 BEAUTY PHILLIPS STEPS INTO THE SPOT-LIGHT FOR
 HER GRAND SPECIALTY


Of course Blackie got his "bit" out of the spoils and hurried away
to pursue certain fortune-making plans of his own, while young
Wallingford, stopping in New York, prepared as elaborately to spend
one. It was some trouble at first to find the most expensive things in
New York, but at last he located them in the race-track and in Beauty
Phillips, the latter being the moderately talented but gorgeous "hit"
of _The Pink Canary_; and the thoroughbreds and Beauty made a splendid
combination, so perfect in their operations that one beautiful day
Wallingford awoke to the fact that the time had almost arrived to go
to work. At the moment he made this decision, the Beauty, as richly
colored and as expressionless as a wax model, was sitting at his side
in the grand-stand, with her eyes closed, jabbing a hole at random in
the card of the fifth race.

"Bologna!" exclaimed Wallingford, noting where the fateful pin-hole
had appeared. "It's a nice comic-supplement name; but I'll go down to
the ring and burn another hundred or so on him."

The band broke into a lively air, and the newest sensation of
Broadway, all in exquisite violet from nodding plume to silken hose,
looked out over the sunlit course in calm rumination. Her companion,
older but not too old, less handsome but not too ill-favored, less
richly dressed but not too plainly, nudged her.

"There goes your Money and Moonshine song again, dearie," she
observed.

Still calmly, as calmly as a digestive cow in pleasant shade, the star
of _The Pink Canary_ replied:

"Don't you see I'm trying not to hear it, mother?"

The eyes of "Mrs. Phillips" narrowed a trifle, and sundry tiny but
sharp lines, revealing much but concealing more, flashed upon her brow
and were gone. J. Rufus glanced in perplexity at her as he had done a
score of times, wondering at her self-repression, at her unrevealed
depths of wisdom, at her clever acting of a most difficult rôle; for
Beauty Phillips, being a wise young lady and having no convenient
mother of her own, had hired one, and by this device was enabled to
remain as placidly Platonic as a plate of ice-cream. Well, it was
worth rich gifts merely to be seen in proprietorship of her at the
supper places.

Wallingford rose without enthusiasm.

"Bologna won't win!" he announced with resigned conviction.

"Sure not!" agreed Beauty Phillips. "Bologna will stop to think at the
Barrier, and finish in the road of the next race."

"Bologna has to win," Wallingford rejoined, disputing both her and
himself. "There's only a little over a thousand left in your Uncle
Jimmy's bank-roll."

"And you had over forty thousand when Sammy Harrison introduced us,"
said the Beauty with a sigh. "Honest, Pinky, somebody has sure put a
poison curse on you. You're a grand little sport, but on the level,
I'm afraid to trail around with you much longer. I'm afraid I'll lose
my voice or break a leg."

"Old pal," agreed J. Rufus, "the hex is sure on me, and if I don't
walk around my chair real quick, the only way I'll get to see you will
be to buy a gallery seat."

"I was just going to talk with you about that, Jimmy," stated the
Beauty seriously. "You've been a perfect gentleman in every respect,
and I will say I never met a party that was freer with his coin; but
I've got to look out for my future. I won't always be a hit, and I've
got to pick out a good marrying proposition while the big bouquets
grow with my name already on 'em. Of course, you know, I couldn't
marry you, because nothing less than a million goes. If you only had
the money now--"

She looked up at him with a certain lazy admiration. He was
tremendously big; and rather good-looking, too, she gaged, although
the blue eyes that were set in his jovial big countenance were
entirely too small.

In reply to her unfinished sentence J. Rufus chuckled.

"Don't you worry about that, little one," said he. "I only wear you on
my arm for the same reason that I wear this Tungsten-light boulder in
my necktie: just to show 'em I'm the little boy that can grab off the
best there is in the market. Of course it'd be fine and dandy to win
you for keeps, but I know where you bought your ticket for, long ago.
You'll end by getting your millionaire. In six months he'll go dippy
over some other woman, and then you'll get your alimony, which is not
only a handy thing to have around the house, but proves that you're
perfectly respectable."

"You've got some good ideas, anyhow," she complimented him, and then
she sighed. "The only trouble is, every time one lines up that I
think'll do, I find he's got a wife hid away some place."

"And it isn't set down in her lines to fix up alimony for some other
woman," commented the pseudo Mrs. Phillips.

A couple of men, one nattily dressed and with curly hair, and the
other short and fat and wearing a flaming waistcoat, passed on their
way down to the betting-shed and carelessly tipped their hats.

"Do you know those two cheaps?" she inquired, eying their retreating
backs with disfavor.

Again Wallingford chuckled.

"Know them!" he replied. "I should say I do! Green-Goods Harry Phelps
and Badger Billy Banting? Why, they and their friends, Short-Card
Larry Teller and Yap Pickins, framed up a stud poker game on me the
first week I hit town, with the lovely idea of working a phoney pinch
on me; but I got a real cop to hand them the triple cross, and took
five thousand away from them so easy it was like taking four-o'clock
milk from a doorstep."

"I'm glad of it," she said, with as much trace of vindictiveness as
her beauty specialist would have permitted. "They're an awful
low-class crowd. They came over to my table one night in Shirley's,
after I'd met them only once, and butted in on a rich gentleman friend
of mine from Washington. They run up an awful bill on him and never
offered even to buy cigars, and then when he was gone for a minute to
pick out our wagon, they tried to get fresh with me right in front of
mother. I'm glad somebody stung 'em."

A very thick-set man, with an inordinately broad jaw and an
indefinable air of blunt aggressiveness, came past them and nodded to
J. Rufus with a grudging motion toward his shapeless slouch hat.

"Who's that?" she asked.

"Jake Block," he replied. "A big owner with so much money he could bed
his horses in it, and an ingrowing grouch that has put a crimp in his
information works. He's never been known to give out a tip since he
was able to lisp 'mamma.' He eats nothing but _table d'hôte_ dinners
so he won't have to tell the waiters what he likes."

Jake Block, on some brief errand to the press box, returned just as J.
Rufus was starting down to the betting-shed, and he stopped a moment.

"How are you picking them to-day, Wallingford?" he asked
perfunctorily, with his eye on Beauty Phillips.

"Same way," confessed Wallingford. "I haven't cashed a ticket in
the meeting. I have the kind of luck that would scale John D.
Rockefeller's bank-roll down to the size of a dance-program lead
pencil."

"Well," said Jake philosophically, his eyes still on the Beauty,
"sometimes they come bad for a long time, and then they come worse."

At this bit of wisdom J. Rufus politely laughed, and the silvery voice
of Beauty Phillips suddenly joined his own; whereupon J. Rufus, taking
the hint, introduced Mr. Block to Miss Phillips and her mother. Mr.
Block promptly sat down by them.

"I've heard a lot about you," he began, "but I've not been around to
see _The Pink Canary_ yet. I don't go to the theater much."

"You must certainly see my second-act turn. I sure have got them
going," the Beauty asserted modestly. "What do you like in this race,
Mr. Block?"

"I don't like anything," he replied almost gruffly. "I never bet
outside of my own stable."

"We're taking a small slice of Bologna," she informed him. "I suppose
he's about the--the wurst of the race. Guess that's bad, eh? I made
that one up all by myself, at that. I think I'll write a musical
comedy next. But how do you like Bologna?" she hastily added, her own
laugh freezing as she saw her feeble little joke passed by in
perplexity.

"You never can tell," he replied evasively. "You see, Miss Phillips, I
never give out a tip. If you bet on it and it don't win you get sore
against me. If I hand you a winner you'll tell two or three people
that are likely to beat me to it and break the price before I can get
my own money down."

Beauty Phillips' wide eyes narrowed just a trifle.

"I guess it's all the same," remarked J. Rufus resignedly. "If you
have a hoodoo over you you'll lose anyhow. I've tried to pick 'em
forty ways from the ace. I've played with the dope and against it and
lost both ways. I've played hunches and coppered hunches, and lost
both ways. I've played hot information straight and reverse, and lost
both ways. I've nosed into the paddock and made a lifetime hit with
stable boys, jockeys, trainers, clockers and even owners, but every
time they handed me a sure one I got burned. Any horse I bet on turns
into a crawfish."

The saddling bell rang.

"You'd better hurry if you want to get a bet on Sausage," admonished
the beautiful one, and J. Rufus, excusing himself, made his way down
to the betting-shed, where he was affectionately known as The Big
Pink, not only on account of his complexion but on account of the huge
carnation Beauty Phillips pinned on him each day.

At the first book he handed up three one-hundred-dollar bills.

"A century each way on Bologna," he directed.

"Welcome to our city!" greeted the red-haired man on the stool, and
then to the ticket writer: "Twelve hundred to a hundred, five hundred
to a hundred, and two hundred to a hundred on Bologna for The Big
Pink. Johnnie, you will now rub prices on Bologna and make him
fifteen, eight and three; then run around and tell the other boys that
The Big Pink's on Bologna, and it's a pipe for the books at any odds."

Wallingford chuckled good-naturedly. In other days he would have
called that bit of pleasantry by taking another hundred each way
across, at the new odds, but now his funds were too low.

"Some of these days, Sunset," he threatened the man on the stool,
"I'll win a bet on you and you'll drop dead."

"I'll die rich if your wad only holds out till then," returned Sunset,
laughing.

With but very little hope J. Rufus returned to the grand-stand, where
royalty sat like a warm and drowsy garment upon Beauty Phillips; for
Beauty was on the stage a queen, and outside of working-hours a
princess. Jake Block was still there, and making himself agreeable to
a degree that surprised even himself, and he was there yet when
Bologna, true to form, came home contentedly following the field. He
joined them again at the close of the sixth race, when Carnation, a
horse which the Beauty had picked because of his name, was just nosed
out of the money, and he walked with them down to the carriage gate.
As Block seemed reluctant to leave, he was invited to ride into the
city in the automobile J. Rufus had hired by the month, and accepted
that invitation with alacrity. He also accepted their invitation to
dinner, and during that meal he observed:

"I think, Miss Phillips, I'll go around and see _The Pink Canary_
to-night, and after the show I'd like to have you and your mother and
Wallingford take supper with me, if you have no other engagement."

"Sure," said Beauty Phillips, too eagerly for Wallingford's entire
comfort; and so it was settled.

Wallingford, although he had seen the show until it made him deathly
weary, went along and sat with Block in a stage box. During one of the
dull spots the horseman turned to his companion very suddenly.

"This Beauty Phillips could carry an awful handicap and still take the
Derby purse," he announced. "She beats any filly of her hands and age
I ever saw on a card."

"She certainly does," assented J. Rufus, suave without, but irritated
within.

"I see you training around with her all through the meet. Steady
company, I guess."

"Oh, we're very good friends; that's all," replied Wallingford with
such nonchalance as he could muster.

"Nothing in earnest, then?"

"Not a thing."

"Then I believe I will enter the handicap myself, that is if you don't
think you can haul down the purse."

"Go in and win," laughed J. Rufus, concealing his trace of
self-humiliation. He had no especial interest in Beauty Phillips, but
he did not exactly like to have her taken away from him. It was too
much in evidence that he was a loser. However, he was distinctly "down
and out" just now, for Beauty Phillips quite palpably exerted her
fascinations in the direction of that box, and Jake Block was most
obviously "hooked;" so much so that at supper he revealed his interest
most unmistakably, and parted from them reluctantly at the curb,
feeling silly but quite determined.

Wallingford made no allusion to Miss Phillips' capture of the
horseman, even after they had reached the flat, where he had gained
the rare privilege of calling, and where the Beauty's "mother" always
remained in the parlor with them, awake or asleep.

Rather sheepishly, J. Rufus produced from his pocket a newspaper
clipping of the following seductive advertisement, which he passed
over to the Beauty:

                                             BOSTON.

     Yesterday we slipped across, for the benefit of our happy
     New York and Brooklyn subscribers, that juicy watermelon,
     _Breezy_, a ten to one shot and the play on this section of
     hot dog was so strong it put a crimp in the bookies as deep
     as the water jump. To-morrow we have another lallapalooza
     at long odds that will waft under the wire and have the
     blanket on about the time the field is kicking dust at the
     barrier. This peacherino has been under cover throughout
     the meeting, but to-morrow it will be ripe and you want to
     get in on the killing.

     Will wire you the name of this pippin for five dollars;
     full service twenty dollars a week.

                         NATIONAL CLOCKERS' ASSOCIATION.

"I fell for this," he explained, after she had read it with a
sarcastic smile; "poked a fi'muth in a letter cold, and let 'em have
it."

The Beautiful One regarded him with pity.

"Honest, Pinky," she commented, "your soft spot's growing. If you
don't watch out the specialists'll get you. Do you suppose that if
these cheap touts had such hot info. as that, they'd peddle it out, in
place of going down to the track and coming back with all the money in
the world in their jeans?"

"Sure not," said he patiently. "They don't know any more about it than
the men who write the form sheets; but we've tried everything from
stable-dope to dreaming numbers and can't get one of them to run for
us. So I'm taking a chance that the National Strong Arm Association
might shut their eyes in the dark and happen to pass me the right name
without meaning it."

"There's some sense to that," admitted the Beauty reflectively.
"You'll get the first wire to-morrow morning, won't you? Just my luck.
It's matinée day and I'd like to see you try it."

"That's all right," said J. Rufus. "I'll have the money to show you as
a surprise at dinner."

The Beauty hesitated.

"I--I'm engaged for dinner to-morrow," she stated, half reluctantly.

He was silent a moment.

"Block? That means supper, too."

"Yes. You see, Jimmy, I've just got to give 'em all a try-out."

"Of course," he admitted. "But he won't do. I'll bet you a box of
gloves against a box of cigars."

"I won't bet you," she replied, laughing. "I've got a hunch that I'd
lose."



CHAPTER XIV

 WHEREIN THE BROADWAY QUARTET EVENS UP AN
 OLD SCORE


At his hotel the next day, about noon, J. Rufus got the promised wire.
It consisted of only one word: "Razzoo."

Alone, J. Rufus went out to the track, and on the race in which Razzoo
was entered at average odds of ten to one, he got down six hundred
dollars, reluctantly holding back, for his hotel bill, three hundred
dollars--all he had in the world. Then he shut his eyes, and with
large self-contempt waited for Razzoo to finish by lamplight. To his
immense surprise Razzoo won by two lengths, and with a contented
chuckle he went around to the various books and collected his
winnings, handing to each bookmaker derogatory remarks calculated to
destroy the previous _entente cordiale_.

On his way out, puffed with huge joy and sitting alone in the big
automobile, he was hailed by a familiar voice.

"Well, well, well! Our old friend, J. Rufus!" exclaimed Harry Phelps,
he of the natty clothes and the curly hair.

With Mr. Phelps were Larry Teller and Billy Banting and Yap Pickins.

"Jump in," invited J. Rufus with a commendable spirit, forgiving them
cheerfully for having lost money to him, and, despite the growl of
protest from lean Short-Card Larry, they invaded the tonneau.

"You must be hitting them up some, Wallingford," observed Mr. Phelps
with a trace of envy. "I know they're not furnishing automobiles to
losers these days."

"Oh, I'm doing fairly well," replied Wallingford loftily. "I cleaned
'em up for six thousand to-day."

The envy on the part of the four was almost audible.

"What did you play?" asked Badger Billy, with the eager post-mortem
interest of a loser.

"Only one horse in just one race," explained Wallingford. "Razzoo."

"Razzoo!" snorted Short-Card Larry. "Was you in on that assassination?
Why, that goat hasn't won a race since the day before Adam ate the
apple, and the jockey he had on to-day couldn't put up a good ride on
a street car. How did you happen to land on it?"

Blandly Wallingford produced the telegram he had received that
morning.

"This wire," he condescendingly explained, "is from the National
Clockers' Association of Boston, Massachusetts, United States of
America, who are charitable enough to pass out long-shot winners, at
the mere bag-o'-shells service-price of five dollars per day or twenty
per week."

They looked from the magic word "Razzoo" to the smiling face of J.
Rufus more in sorrow than in anger.

"And they happened to hand you a winner!" said the cadaverous Mr.
Teller, folding the telegram dexterously with the long, lean fingers
of one hand, and passing it back as if he hated to see it.

"Winner is right," agreed J. Rufus. "I couldn't pick 'em any other
way, and I took a chance on this game because it's just as good a
system as going to a clairvoyant or running the cards."

There was a short laugh from the raw-boned Mr. Pickins.

"I don't suppose they'll ever do it again," he observed, "but I feel
almost like taking a chance on it myself."

"Go to it," advised J. Rufus heartily. "Go to it, and come home with
something substantial in your pocket, like this," and most brazenly,
even in the face of what he knew of them, young Wallingford flaunted
before their very eyes an assorted package of orange-colored
bank-bills, well calculated to excite discord in this company. "Lovely
little package of documents," he said banteringly; "and I suppose you
burglars are already figuring how you can chisel it away from me."

They smiled wanly, and the smile of Larry Teller showed his teeth.

"No man ever pets a hornet but once," said Billy, the only one sturdy
enough to voice his discomfiture.

Wallingford beamed over this tribute to his prowess.

"Well, you get a split of it, anyhow," he offered. "I'll take you all
to dinner, then afterward we'll have a little game of stud poker if
you like--with police interference barred."

They were about to decline this kind invitation when Short-Card Larry
turned suddenly to him, with a gleam of the teeth which was almost a
snarl.

"We'll take you," he said. "Just a little friendly game for small
stakes."

J. Rufus elevated his eyebrows a trifle, but smiled. Inwardly he felt
perfectly competent to protect himself.

"Fine business," he assented. "Suppose we have dinner in my rooms. I'm
beginning to get them educated at my hotel."

At the hotel he stopped for a moment at the curb to give his chauffeur
some instructions, while the other four awaited him on the steps.

"How'd you come to fall for this stud game, Larry?" inquired Phelps.
"I can't see poker merely for health, and this Willy Wisdom won't call
any raise of over two dollars when he's playing with us."

"I know he won't," snapped Larry, setting his jaws savagely, "but
we're going to get his money just the same. Billy, you break away and
run down to Joe's drug-store for the K.O."

They all grinned, with the light of admiration dawning in their eyes
for Larry Teller. "K.O." was cipher for "knock-out drops," a pleasant
little decoction guaranteed to put a victim into fathomless slumber,
but not to kill him if his heart was right.

"How long will it be until dinner's ready, Wallingford?" asked Billy,
looking at his watch as J. Rufus came up.

"Oh, about an hour, I suppose."

"Good," said Billy. "I'll just have time. I have to go get some money
that a fellow promised me, and if I don't see him to-night I may not
see him at all. Besides, I'll probably need it if you play your usual
game."

"Nothing doing," replied Wallingford. "I only want to yammer you
fellows out of a hundred apiece, and the game will be as quiet as a
peddler's pup."

J. Rufus conducted the others into the sitting-room of his suite and
sent for a waiter. There was never any point lacking in Wallingford's
hospitality, and by the time Billy came back he was ready to serve
them a dinner that was worth discussing. The dinner despatched, he had
the table cleared and brought out cards and chips. It was a quiet,
comfortable game for nearly an hour, with very mild betting and plenty
to drink. It was during the fifth bottle of wine, dating from the
beginning of the dinner, that Short-Card Larry, by a dexterous
accident, pitched Wallingford's stack of chips on the floor with a
toss of the deck. Amid the profuse apologies of Larry, Mr. Phelps, who
was at Wallingford's left, stooped down to help that gentleman pick up
his chips, and in that moment Badger Billy quietly emptied the
colorless contents of a tiny vial in Wallingford's glass. J. Rufus
never was able to remember what happened after that.

       *       *       *       *       *

Silk pajama clad, but still wearing portions of his day attire, he
awoke next day with a headache, and a tongue that felt like a
shredded-wheat biscuit. He held his head very level to keep the leaden
weight in the top of it from sliding around and bumping his skull, and
opened the swollen slits that did him painful duty for eyelids wide
enough to let him find the telephone, through which instrument he
ordered a silver-fizz. Of the butler who brought it he asked what time
it was.

"One o'clock, sir," replied the butler with the utmost gravity.

One o'clock! J. Rufus pondered the matter slowly.

"Morning or afternoon," he huskily asked.

"Afternoon, sir," and this time the butler permitted himself the
slightest trace of a smile as he noted the electric lights, still
blazing in sickly defiance of the bright sunshine which crept in
around the edges of the double blinds.

"Huh!" grunted J. Rufus, and pondered more.

Half dozing, he stood, glass in hand, for full five minutes, while the
butler, with a lively appreciation of tips past and to come, stood
patiently holding his little silver tray, with check and pencil
waiting for the signature. At the expiration of that time, however,
the butler coughed once, gently; once, normally; the third time very
loudly. These means failing, he dropped the tray clattering to the
floor, and with a cheerful "Beg your pardon, sir," picked it up. Not
knowing that he had been asleep again, Wallingford took a sip of the
refreshing drink and walked across to a garment which lay upon the
chair, feeling through the pockets one after the other. In one pocket
there was a little silver, but in the others nothing. He gave a coin
to the butler and signed the check in deep thoughtfulness, then sat
down heavily and dozed another fifteen minutes. Awakening, he found
the glass at his hand on the serving-bench, and drank about a fourth
of the contents very slowly.

"Spiked!" he groaned aloud.

He had good reason to believe that his wine had been "doctored," for
never before had anything he drank affected him like this. Another
glance at the garment of barren pockets reminded him to look about for
the coat and vest he had worn the night before. They were not visible
in his bedroom, and, still carrying the glass of life-saving mixture
with him, he made his way into his sitting-room and surveyed the
wreck. On the table was a confusion of cards and chips, and around its
edge stood five champagne glasses, two of them empty, two half full,
one full. Against the wall stood a row of four empty quart bottles. In
an ice pail, filled now with but tepid water, there reposed a fifth
bottle, neck downward. Five chairs were grouped unevenly about the
table, one of them overturned and the others left at random where they
had been pushed back. The lights here, also, were still burning.
Heaped on a chair in the corner were the coat and vest he sought, and
he went through their pockets methodically, reaching first for his
wallet. It was perfectly clean inside. In one of the vest-pockets he
found a soiled, very much crumpled two-dollar bill, and the first
stiff smile of his waking stretched his lips.

"I wonder how they overlooked this?" he questioned.

Again his eyes turned musingly to those five empty bottles, and again
the conviction was borne in upon him that the wine had been drugged.
Under no circumstances could his share, even an unequal share, of five
bottles of champagne among five persons have worked this havoc in him.

"Spiked," he concluded again in a tone of resignation. "At last they
got to me."

The silver-fizz was flat now, but every sip of it was nevertheless
full of reviving grace, and he sat in the big leather rocker to think
things over. As he did so his eye caught something that made him start
from his chair so suddenly that he had to put both hands to his head.
Under the table was a bit of light orange paper. A fifty-dollar bill!
In that moment--that is, after he had painfully stooped down to get it
and had smoothed it out to assure himself that it was real--this
beautifully printed government certificate looked to him about the
size of a piano cover. An instant before, disaster had stared him in
the face. This was but Thursday morning, and, having paid his hotel
bill on Monday, he had the balance of the week to go on; but for that
week he would have been chained to this hotel. Now he was foot-loose,
now he was free, and his first thought was of his only possible
resource, Blackie Daw, in Boston!

It took two hours of severe labor on the part of a valet, two
bell-boys and a barber to turn the Wallingford wreck into his usual
well-groomed self, but the hour of sailing saw him somnolently, but
safely ensconced on a Boston packet.



CHAPTER XV

 THE BROADWAY QUARTET CONTINUES TO TAKE
 WALLINGFORD'S MONEY


Blackie Daw's most recent Boston address had been: "Yellow Streak
Mining Company, Seven Hundred and Ten Marabon Building," and yet when
J. Rufus paused before number seven hundred and ten of that building
he found its glass door painted with the sign of the National
Clockers' Association. Worried by the fact that Blackie had moved, yet
struck by the peculiar coincidence of his place being occupied by the
concern that had given him the tip on Razzoo, he walked into the
office to inquire the whereabouts of his friend. He found three girls
at a long table, slitting open huge piles of envelopes and removing
from them money, postal orders and checks--mostly money, for the sort
of people who patronized the National Clockers' Association were
quite willing to "take a chance" on a five- or a twenty-dollar bill
in the mails. Behind a newspaper, in a big leather chair near a
flat-top mahogany desk, with his feet conveniently elevated on the
waste-basket, sat a gentleman who, when he moved the paper aside to
see whom his visitor might be, proved to be Blackie Daw himself.

"Hello, none other than the friend of me childhood!" exclaimed
Blackie, springing to his feet and extending his hand. "What brings
you here?"

"Broke," replied Wallingford briefly. "They cleaned me. Got any
money?"

Mr. Daw opened the top drawer of his desk, and it proved to be nearly
full of bills, thrown loosely in, with no attempt at order or sorting.
"Money's the cheapest thing in Boston," he announced, waving his hand
carelessly over the contents of the drawer. "Help yourself, old man.
The New York mail will bring in plenty more. They've had two winners
there this week, and when it does fall for anything, N'Yawk's the
biggest yap town on earth."

Wallingford, having drawn up a chair with alacrity, was already
sorting bills, smoothing them out and counting them off in hundreds.

"And all on pure charity--picking out winning horses for your
customers!" laughed Wallingford. "This is a real gold mine you've hit
at last."

"Pretty good," agreed Blackie. "I'd have enough to start a mint of my
own if I didn't lose so much playing the races."

"You don't play your own tips, I hope," expostulated Wallingford,
pausing to inspect a tattered bill.

"I should say not," returned Daw with emphasis. "If I did that I'd
have to play every horse in every race. You see, every day I wire the
name of one horse to all my subscribers in Philadelphia, another to
Baltimore, another to Washington, and so on down the list. One of
those horses has to win. Suppose I pick out the horse Roller Skate
for Philadelphia. Well, if Roller skates home that day I advertise in
the Philadelphia papers the next morning, and, besides that, every
fall-easy that got the tip advertises me to some of his friends, and
they all spike themselves to send in money for the dope. Oh, it's a
great game, all right."

"It's got yegging frazzled to a pulp," agreed Wallingford. "But I
oughtn't to yell police. I got the lucky word my first time out. I
played Razzoo and cleaned up six thousand dollars on the strength of
your wire."

"Go on!" returned Blackie delightedly. "You don't mean to say you're
sorting some of your own money there?"

"I sure am," laughed Wallingford, picking up a five-dollar bill. "I
think this must be it. What's the New York horse to-day?"

Blackie consulted a list that lay on his desk.

"Whipsaw," he said.

"Whipsaw! By George, Blackie, if there's any one thing I'd like to do,
it'd be to whipsaw some friends of yours on Broadway." Whereupon he
told Blackie, with much picturesque embellishment, just how Messrs.
Phelps, Teller, Banting and Pickins had managed to annex the Razzoo
money.

Blackie enjoyed that recital very much.

"The Broadway Syndicate is still on the job," he commented. "Well, J.
Rufus, let this teach you how to take a joke next time."

"I'm not saying a word," replied Wallingford. "Any time I let a
kindergarten crowd like that work a trick on me that was invented
right after Noah discovered spoiled grape juice, I owe myself a month
in jail. But watch me. I'll make moccasins out of their hides, all
right."

"Go right ahead, old man, and see if I care," consented Blackie.
"Slam the harpoon into them and twist it."

"I will," asserted Wallingford confidently. "I don't like them because
they're grouches; I don't like them because they're cheap; I don't
like their names, nor their faces, nor the town they live in. Making
money in New York's too much like sixteen hungry bulldogs to one bone.
The best dog gets it, but he finishes too weak for an appetite. What
kind of a horse is this Whipsaw you're sending out to-day?"

"I don't know. Where's the dope on Whipsaw, Tillie?"

A girl with a freckled face and a keen eye and a saucy air went over
to the filing-case and searched out a piece of cardboard a foot
square. Blackie glanced over it with an experienced eye.

"Maiden," said he; "been in four races, and the best he ever did was
fourth in a bunch of goats that only ambled all the way around the
track because that was the only way they could get back to the
stable."

The mail carrier just then came in with a huge bundle of letters.

"New York mail," observed Blackie. "After that Razzoo thing it ought
to be rich pickings."

"Pickings!" exclaimed J. Rufus, struck by a sudden idea. "See if
Pickins or Teller or any of that crowd have contributed. Pickins said
they were going to try it out, just to see if lightning could really
strike twice in the same place."

Blackie wrote a number of names on a slip of paper and handed it to
Tillie.

"Look for these names in the mail," he directed, "and if a
subscription comes in from any one of them let me know it."

Wallingford had idly picked up the card containing Whipsaw's record.

It was a most accurate typewritten sheet, giving age, pedigree,
description and detailed action in every race; but the point that
caught Wallingford's eye was the name of the owner.

"One of Jake Block's horses, by George!" he said, and fell into silent
musing from which he was interrupted by the girl, who was laughing.

"Here's your party," she said to Blackie, handing him an envelope.
"This twenty's in it, and I think it's bad money."

Blackie passed the bill to Wallingford, who slipped it through
experienced fingers.

"You couldn't pass this one on an organ-grinder's monkey," he said,
chuckling. "But that's all right; just put 'em on the wiring-list,
anyhow. Make 'em lose their money. It's the only way you can get
even."

The girl looked to Blackie for instructions, and he nodded his head.

"Who sent it?" asked Wallingford idly.

"Peters is the name signed here," replied Blackie. "That means Harry
Phelps. I gave Tillie all the aliases this bunch of crimples carry
around with them, knowing they'd probably send it in that way."

Wallingford nodded comprehendingly.

"They'd rather do even the square thing crooked. Well, you know what
to do."

"I'll send them special picks," declared Blackie with a grin. "Nothing
but a list of crabs that would come in third in a two-horse race. But
come on outside; we're too far from cracked ice," and grabbing an
uncounted handful of bills from the drawer of his desk, Blackie
stuffed them in his pocket and led the way out.

It was at luncheon that Blackie made his first protest.

"What's the matter with you, J. Rufus?" he demanded. "I never saw you
insult food and drink before."

"I'm thinking," returned Wallingford solemnly. "I hate to do it, for
it interferes with my appetite; but here's a case where I must. I have
got to put one over on that Broadway bunch or lose my self-respect."

That evening, on the way down to the boat, their feet cocked
comfortably on the opposite seat of a cab, Wallingford formulated a
more or less vague plan.

"Tell you what you do, Blackie," he directed; "you send to Phelps and
to me, until I give you the word, a daily tip on sure losers. In the
meantime, bank all your money, and don't make a bet on any race."

"What are you going to do?" asked Blackie curiously.

"Land a sure winner for us and a loser for the Broadway Syndicate.
Hold yourself ready when I wire you to take a quick train for my
hotel, loaded down with all the money you can grab together."

"Fine!" returned Blackie. "You wire me that it's all fixed, and when I
start for New York there'll be a financial stringency in Boston."

Returning to New York, Wallingford caught Beauty Phillips at breakfast
about noon, and in a most charming morning gown, for the Beauty was
consistent enough to be neat even when there was none but "mother" to
see.

"Hello, Mr. Mark, from Easyville," she hailed him. "I heard all about
you."

"You did!" he demanded, surprised. "Who told you?"

"Phelps and Banting," she said. "They had the nerve to come up in the
grand-stand yesterday and tell Mr. Block and me all about it; told me
how much you won and how they got it away from you at poker."

"Did they tell you they put knock-out drops in my wine?" demanded
Wallingford.

"They didn't do that!" she protested.

"Exactly what they did. Whether we played poker afterward, I don't
know. I'd just as soon as not believe they went through my pockets."

"I wouldn't put it past them a bit," she agreed, and then her
indignation began to grow. "Say, ain't it a shame! Now, if I hadn't
gone out to dinner with Mr. Block, you'd have been with me. I'd have
had that lovely diamond brooch you promised me out of your first
winnings, and we'd have had all the rest of it to bet with for a few
days. Honest, Pinky, I feel as if it were my fault!"

"Don't you worry about that," Wallingford cordially reassured her. "It
was my own fault; but I wasn't looking for anything worse than a knife
in my back or a piece of lead pipe behind the ear. There's no use in
crying over spilled milk. The thing to do now is to get even, and I
want you to help me."

"Don't you mix in, Beauty," admonished the hired mother, but the
Beauty was thoughtful for a while. "Mother" was there to give good
advice, but the Beauty only took it if she liked it.

"I really can't afford it," she said, by and by; "but I've got some
principles about me, and I don't like to see a good sport like you
take a rough dose from a lot of cheaps like them; so you show me how
and I'll mix in just this once."

Wallingford hesitated in turn.

"How do you like Block?" he inquired.

Beauty Phillips sniffed her dainty nose in disdain.

"He won't do," she announced with decision. "I've found out all about
him. He's got enough money to star me in a show of my own for the next
ten years, but he's not furnished with the brand of manners I like.
I'll never marry a man I can't stand. I've got a _few_ principles
about me! Why, yesterday he tried to treat me real lovely, but do you
know, he wouldn't give me the name of a horse, even when he put a
hundred down for me in the third race? There I sat, with a string of
'em just prancing around the track, and not one to pull for. Then
after the race is over he comes and tosses me five hundred dollars. 'I
got you four to one on the winner,' says he. Why, it was just like
_giving me money_! Jimmy, I'm going out to dinner with him to-night,
then I'm going to turn him back into the paddock, and you can pal
around with me again until I find a man with plenty of money that I
could really love."

"Don't spill the beans," advised Wallingford hastily. "Block thinks
you're about the maple custard, don't he?"

"He's crazy about me," confessed the Beauty complacently.

"Fine work. Well, just you string him along till he gives you the
name of a sure winner in advance; jolly it out of him."

"Not on your three-sheet litho!" negatived the Beauty. "I never yet
worked one mash against another. I guess you'd expect to play even on
that tip, eh?"

"Sure, we'll play it," admitted Wallingford; "but better than that,
I'll shred this Harry Phelps crowd so clean they'll have to borrow car
fare."

She thought on this possibility with sparkling eyes. She was against
the "Phelps crowd" on principle. Also--well, Wallingford had always
been a perfect gentleman.

"Are you sure you can do it?" she wanted to know.

"It's all framed up," he asserted confidently; "all I want is the name
of that winner."

The Beauty considered the matter seriously, and in the end silently
shook hands with him. The _pro tem_. Mrs. Phillips sniffed.

This was on a Saturday, a matinée day, and Wallingford went out to the
track alone, contenting himself with extremely small bets, merely to
keep his interest alive. The day's racing was half over before he ran
across the Broadway Syndicate. They were heartily glad to see him.
They greeted him with even effervescent joy.

"Where have you been, J. Rufus?" asked Phelps. "We were looking for
you all over yesterday. We thought sure you'd be out at the track
playing that Boston Gouge Company's tips."

"Your dear chum was in the country, resting up," replied Wallingford,
with matter-of-fact cheerfulness. "By George, I never had wine put me
down and out so in my life"--whereat the cadaverous Short-Card Larry
could not repress a wink for the benefit of Yap Pickins. "What was the
good-thing they wired yesterday?"

"Whipsaw!" scorned Phelps. "Say, do you see that horse out
there?"--and he pointed to a selling-plater, up at the head of the
stretch, which was being warmed up by a stable-boy. "Well, that's
Whipsaw, just coming in from yesterday's last race."

Wallingford chuckled.

"They're bound, you know, to land on a dead one once in a while," he
grunted; "but I'm strong for their game, just the same. You remember
what that Razzoo thing that they tipped off did for me the other day."

"Yes?" admitted Phelps with a rising inflection and a meaning grin.
"Nice money you won on him. It spends well."

"Enjoy yourselves," invited Wallingford cordially. "I've no kick
coming. I'm through with stud poker till they quit playing it with a
hole-card."

"I don't blame you," agreed Short-Card Larry solemnly. "Anybody that
would bet a four-flush against two aces in sight, the way you did when
Billy won that three-thousand-dollar pot from you, ought never to play
anything stronger than ping-pong for the cigarettes."

Wallingford nodded, with the best brand of suavity he could muster
under the irritating circumstances.

"I suppose I did play like a man expecting his wife to telephone," he
admitted. "Excuse me a minute; I want to get a bet down on this race."

"Whom do you like?" asked Pickins.

"Rosey S."

The four began to laugh.

"That's the hot Boston tip," gasped Phelps. "Say, Wallingford, don't
give your money to the Mets. Let us make a book for you on that
skate."

"You're on," agreed J. Rufus, delighted that the proposition should
come from them, for he had been edging in that direction himself.
"I'll squander a hundred on the goat at the first odds we see."

They went into the betting-shed. Rosey S. was quoted at six to one.
Even as they looked the price was rubbed, and ten to one was chalked
in its place. The laughter of the quartet was long and loud as they
pulled money from their pockets.

"The first odds goes, Big Pink," Banting reminded him.

Wallingford produced his hundred dollars, and quietly noted that the
eyes of the quartet glistened as they saw the size of the roll from
which he extracted it. They had not been prepared to find that he
still had plenty of money. Jake Block passed near them, and
Wallingford hailed him.

"Hold stakes for us, Jake, on a little private bet?" he asked.

"Sure thing," acquiesced Jake. "What is it?"

"These fellows are trying to win out dinner-money on me. They're
giving me six hundred to one against Rosey S."

Block glanced up at the board and noted the increased odds, but it was
no part of his policy to interfere in anything.

"All right," he said, taking the seven hundred dollars and stuffing
the money in his pocket. "You don't want to lay a little more, do you,
at that odds?"

"No," declined Wallingford. "I'm unlucky when I press a bet."

Rosey S. put up a very good race for place, but dropped back in the
finish to a chorus of comforting observations from the quartet, who,
to make matters more aggravating, had played the winner for place at a
good price.

Jake Block came to them right after the race and handed over the
money. He was evidently in a great hurry. Wallingford started to talk
to him, but Block moved off rapidly, and it dawned upon J. Rufus that
the horseman wanted to "shake" him so as not to have to invite him to
dinner with himself and Beauty Phillips.

Sunday morning he went around to that discreet young lady's flat for
breakfast, by appointment. "Mrs. Phillips" met him with unusual
warmth.

"I've been missing you," she stated with belated remembrance of
certain generous gifts. "Say," she added with sudden indignation, "you
may have my share of Block for two peanuts. What do you suppose he
did? Offered me five dollars to boost him with Beauty. _Five
dollars!_"

"The cheap skate!" exclaimed Wallingford sympathetically.

The Beauty came in and greeted him with a flush of pleasure.

"Well," she said, "I got it, all right. The horse runs in the fourth
race Friday, and its name is Whipsaw."

"Whipsaw!" exclaimed Wallingford. "He's stringing you."

"No, he isn't," she declared positively. "It was one o'clock last
night before I got him thawed out enough to give up, and I had to let
him hold my hand, at that," and she rubbed that hand vigorously as if
it still had some stain upon it. "He told me all about the horse. He
says it's the one good thing he's going to uncover for this meeting.
He tried Whipsaw out on his own breeding-farm down in Kentucky,
clocking him twice a week, and he says the nag can beat anything on
this track. Block's been breaking him to run real races, entering
against a lot of selling-platers, with instructions to an iron-armed
jockey to hold in so as to get a long price. Friday he intends to send
the horse in to win and expects to get big odds. I'm glad it's over
with. We promised to go out to Claremont this afternoon with Block,
but that settles him. To-morrow I'm going out with you."

J. Rufus shook his head.

"No, you mustn't," he insisted. "You must string this boy along till
after the race Friday. He might change his mind or scratch the horse
or something, but if he knows you have a heavy bet down, and he's
still with you, he'll go through with the program."

"I can't do it," she protested.

He turned to her slowly, took both her hands, and gazed into her eyes.

"Yes, you can, Beauty," he said. "We've been good pals up to now, and
this is the last thing I'll ever ask of you."

She looked at him a moment with heightening color, then she dropped
her eyes.

"Honest, Pinky," she confessed, "sometimes I do wish you had a lot of
money."



CHAPTER XVI

 IN WHICH WALLINGFORD AND BLACKIE DAW ENJOY
 THEMSELVES


On Monday, nearing noon, Wallingford dropped into a flashy café just
off Broadway, where he knew he would be bound to find some one of his
quartet. He found Short-Card Larry there alone, his long, thin fingers
clasped around a glass of buttermilk.

"Hello, Wallingford," he said, grinning. "Going out to the track
to-day?"

"I'm not going to miss a race till the meeting closes," asserted
Wallingford. "I've a good one to-day that I'm going to send in a
couple of hundred on."

"What is it?" asked Larry.

"Governor."

"Governor!" snorted Larry. "Who's in the race with him?" He drew a
paper to him and turned to the entries. "Why," he protested, "there
isn't a plug in that race that can't come back to hunt him."

"That's all right," said Wallingford. "I'm for the National Clockers'
Association, and I'm going to play their picks straight through."

"Here's a match," offered Larry scornfully. "Set fire to your money
and save yourself the trouble of the trip."

"Maybe you'd like to save it from the flames. What odds will you give
me?"

This being an entirely different proposition, Larry began to think
much better of the horse.

"Five to one," he finally decided, after studying over the entries
again. "Don't know whether that's the track odds or not. But you can
take it or leave it."

"I'll take it," agreed Wallingford, and tossed his money on the bar.

Mr. Teller drew a check-book from his pocket, and Wallingford,
glancing at the top of the stub as Larry filled out the blank for a
thousand, noted with satisfaction the splendid balance that was there.
Evidently the gang was well in funds. They had, no doubt, been quite
busy of late.

"Of course you'll cash that," requested Wallingford, not so much on
account of this particular bet as to establish a precedent.

"Sure," agreed Teller; "although I'll only have to deposit it again."

"I'm betting the two hundred you don't, remember," said Wallingford,
and they signed a memorandum of the bet, which they deposited with the
rock-jawed proprietor, after that never-smiling gentleman had
nonchalantly opened his safe and cashed Larry's check.

On Tuesday morning, Governor having lost and Short-Card Larry having
imprudently exulted to his friends over the two-hundred-dollar
winning, Mr. Teller came around to Wallingford's hotel with his pocket
full of money to find there Badger Billy and Mr. Phelps, both of whom
had come on similar business.

"I suppose you got his coin on to-day's sure thing," observed Larry
with a scowl, he being one to whom a bad temper came naturally.

"Three hundred of it," said fat Badger Billy triumphantly. "To-day he
has a piece of Brie _fromage_ by the name of Handicass."

"Which ought to be called Handcase," supplemented Phelps, and the two
threw back their heads and roared. "The cheese is expected to skipper
home about the time the crowd realizes they're off." And they all
enjoyed themselves in contemplation of what was going to happen to
Handicass.

"Got any more?" demanded Larry.

"Not this morning," returned Wallingford, accepting his rôle of
derided "come-on" with smiling fortitude. "I want to save some for
to-morrow's bet."

"You see," explained Billy Banting, purring up his red cheeks with
laughter, "Wallingford's playing a system of progression. He hikes the
bet every day, expecting to play even in the finish."

"I see," said Larry, grinning; "but don't you fellows hook all this
easy money. Count me in for a piece of to-morrow's bet."

He had a chance. Handicass ran to consistent form with all the other
"picks"--except the one accident, Razzoo--of the National Clockers'
Association, and on Wednesday, Wallingford bet four hundred on the
"information" which that concern wired to him and to Mr. Phelps. On
that day, too, having received at breakfast-time a report from Beauty
Phillips that the Whipsaw horse was still "meant," he wrote careful
instructions to Blackie Daw, then held his thumbs and crossed his
fingers and touched wood and looked at the moon over the proper
shoulder, and did various other things to keep Fate from sending home
one of those tips as an accidental winner on either Wednesday or
Thursday.

Nothing of that disastrous sort happened, however, and his pet
enemies, the quartet, having won from J. Rufus on Saturday, Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, had by this time pooled their
interests and constituted themselves Wallingford's regular bookmaking
syndicate. Their only fear on Friday morning, after Phelps had
received his wire from Boston, was that Wallingford would not care to
bet that day, since the horse which had been given out was that
notorious tail-ender, Whipsaw! They invaded J. Rufus' apartments as
soon as they got the wire, and were relieved to find that Wallingford
was still firm in his allegiance to the National Clockers'
Association.

They were a little surprised, however, to find Blackie Daw at
breakfast with Wallingford, but they greeted that old comrade with
great cordiality, coupled with an inward fear that he might interfere
with their designs upon Wallingford.

"You haven't been making a book against J. Rufus on the day's races,
have you?" inquired Phelps.

"Not yet," said Blackie, laughing, "but I'm willing. What's he on?"

"Whipsaw," interposed Wallingford.

Blackie laughed softly.

"I don't know the horse," he said, "but I just seem to remember that
he's the joke of the track."

"No," explained Larry; "he's too painful to be a joke."

"What odds do you expect to get, Wallingford?" asked Blackie, reaching
for his wallet.

"Hold on a minute," said Phelps hastily. "You don't want to butt in on
this, Daw. We've been making book for J. Rufus all week, and it's our
money. You hold stakes."

"Don't you worry," snapped Wallingford, suddenly displaying temper;
"there will be enough to go around. I'll cover every cent you four
have or can get," and he pushed his chair back from the table. "This
is my last day in the racing game, and I'm going to plunge on Whipsaw.
I've turned into cash every resource I had in the world. I've even
soaked my diamonds and watch to get more. Now come on and cover my
coin." From his pocket he produced a thick bundle of bills of large
denomination. "What odds do I get? The last time Whipsaw was in a
race he opened at twelve to one and I ought to get fifteen at least
to-day. Here's a thousand at that odds."

"Not on your life!" said Short-Card Larry. "I wouldn't put up fifteen
thousand to win one on any game."

"What'll you give me, then? Come on for this easy money. Give me ten?"

No, they would not give him ten.

"Give me eight?"

They hesitated. He immediately slid the money in his pocket.

"You fellows are kidding. You don't want to make book for me. I'll
take this coin out to the track and get it down at the long odds."

His display of contemptuous anger decided them.

"I'll take my share," asserted Short-Card Larry, he of the quick
temper, and among them the four made up the money to cover
Wallingford's bet.

"Here's the stakes, Blackie," said Wallingford, passing over the money
toward him. "You're all willing he should hold the money?"

They were. They knew Blackie.

"Moreover," observed Yap Pickins meaningly, "we'll keep close to him."

"Here's another thousand that you can cover at five to one," offered
Wallingford, counting out the money.

Now they were as eager as he.

"We'll take you," said Teller, "but I'll have to go out and get more
mezuma."

"All right. Bring all you can scrape together and I'll cover the
balance of it at two to one."

For just one moment they were suspicious.

"Look here," said Billy Banting, "do you know something about this
horse?"

"If I did I wouldn't tell. Don't you know that I can get from fifteen
to twenty at the track? Why do you suppose I want to make such a
sucker bet as this? It's because I'd rather have your money than
anybody else's; because I want to _break_ you!"

He was fairly trembling with simulated anger now.

"If that's the case you'll be accommodated," said Teller with an oath.
"Come on, boys; we'll bring up a chunk of money that'll stop all this
four-flush conversation."

Mr. Phelps, having already "produced to his limit," stayed with
Wallingford while the others went out. First of all, they dropped in
at a quiet pool-room where they were known, and made inquiries about
Whipsaw. They were answered by a laugh, and an offer to "take them on
for all they wanted at their own odds," and, reassured, they
scattered, to raise all the money they could. They returned in the
course of an hour and counted down a sum larger than Wallingford had
thought the four of them could control. He was to find out later that
they had not only converted their bank accounts and all their other
holdings into currency, but had borrowed all their credit would stand
wherever they were known. Wallingford, covering their first five
thousand with one, calmly counted out an amount equal to one-half of
all the rest they had put down, passed it over to Blackie to hold,
then flaunted more money in their faces.

"This is at evens if you can scrape up any more," he offered
sneeringly. "Go soak your jewelry."

Before making that suggestion he had noted the absence of Larry's ring
and of Billy's studded watch-charm. Phelps was the only one who still
wore anything convertible, a loud cravat-pin, an emerald, set with
diamonds.

"Give you two hundred against your pin," said he to Phelps, and the
latter promptly took the bet.

"Are you all in?" asked Wallingford.

They promptly acknowledged that they were "all in."

"All right, then; we'll have a drink and go out to the track. You'll
want to see this race, _because I win_!"

They were naturally contemptuous of this view, even hilariously
contemptuous, and they offered to lend Wallingford money enough, after
the race, "to sneak out of town and hide."

While they were taking the parting drink Blackie Daw slipped into
Wallingford's bedroom for just one moment "to get a handkerchief."
There he found, mopping his brow, a short, thick-set chap known as
Shorty Hampton, a perfectly reliable and discreet betting
commissioner.

"I was just goin' to duck," growled Shorty in a gruff whisper. "I've
got two or three other parties to see. I've been suffocating in this
damned little room for the last hour, waitin'."

"All right. Here's the money," said Blackie, and handed him _half the
stakes which had just been intrusted to his care_. "Spread this in as
many pool-rooms as you can; get it all down on Whipsaw."

"Three ways?" asked Shorty.

"Straight, every cent of it," insisted Daw. "No place or show-money
for us to-day."

At the track they saw Beauty Phillips alone in the grand-stand, and
joined her. Wallingford introduced Blackie, and they chatted with her
a few moments, then Wallingford took him away. He did not care to have
Jake Block see them with her until after the fourth race. As they
moved off she gave Wallingford a quick, meaning little nod.

True to Pickins' threat the quartet kept very close indeed to Daw,
but, during the finish of the rather exciting third race, Blackie,
manoeuvering so that Wallingford was just behind him, slipped from
his pocket the remaining half of the stake-money.

"Well, boys," said Wallingford blandly, the money safely tucked away
in his own pocket. "I still have a little coin to wager on Whipsaw. Do
you want it?"

"No; we're satisfied," returned Larry dryly.

"All right, then," said Wallingford. "I'm going down and get it on the
books."

Harry Phelps sighed.

"It's too bad to see that easy money going away from us, Pink," he
confessed.

Jake Block spent but little time that afternoon in the grand-stand by
the side of Beauty Phillips and her mother. From the beginning of the
racing he was first in the stables and then in the paddock with an
anxious eye. He was lined up at the fence opposite the barrier for the
start of the fateful fourth, and he stood there, after the horses had
jumped away, to watch his great little Whipsaw around the course. But
Beauty Phillips was not without company. Wallingford sauntered up at
the sound of the mounting bell and sat confidently by her.

"Did you get it all down, Jimmy?" she asked.

"Every cent," said he, wiping his brow nervously. "Did you?"

"Mother and I are broke if Whipsaw don't win," she confessed with dry
lips. "What do you suppose makes Mr. Block look up here with such a
poison face every two or three minutes?"

Wallingford chuckled hugely.

"The odds," he explained. "I've cut them to slivers. I bet all mine
and Blackie's money with the Phelps crowd, then turned around and bet
all ours and theirs again. Say, it's murder if I lose. Not even a
fancy murder, either."

Blackie Daw, attended by three of his guard, came over to join them,
Blackie evidencing a strong disposition to linger in the rear, for he
was taking a desperate chance with desperate men. If Whipsaw lost he
had his course mapped out--down the nearest steps of the grand-stand
and out to the carriage-gate as fast as his legs would carry him.
There, J. Rufus' automobile was to be waiting, all cranked up and
trembling, ready to dart away the moment Blackie should jump in. Just
as Blackie and the others joined Wallingford and Beauty Phillips,
Larry Teller came breathlessly up from the betting-shed.

"There's something doing on that Whipsaw horse," he declared
excitedly. "He opened at twenty to one--and in fifteen minutes of
play--either somebody that knows something--or a wagonload of
fool-money--had backed him down to evens. Think of it! Evens!"

There was a sudden roar from the crowd, more like a gigantic groan
than any other sound. They were off! One horse was left at the post,
but it was not Whipsaw. Two others trailed behind. The other five were
away, well bunched. At the quarter, three horses drew into the lead,
Whipsaw just behind them. At the half, one of the three was dropping
back, and Whipsaw slowly overtaking it. Now his nose was at her
flanks; now at the saddle; then the jockeys were abreast; then the
white jacket and red sleeves of Whipsaw's rider could be seen to the
fore of the opposing jockey, with the two leaders just ahead. At the
three-quarters, three horses were neck and neck again, but this time
Whipsaw was among them. Down the stretch they came pounding, and then,
and not until then, did Whipsaw, a lithe, shining little brown streak,
strike into the best stride of which he was capable. A thousand hoarse
watchers, as they came to the seven-eighths, roared encouragement to
the horses. Whipsaw's name was much among them, but only in tones of
anger. Men and even women ran down to the rail and stood on tiptoe
with red faces, shrieking for Fashion to come on, begging and praying
Fashion to win, for Fashion carried most of the money; and the
shrieking became an agony as the horses flashed under the wire,
Whipsaw a good, clean half length in the lead!

[Illustration: Beauty Phillips discovered she was on her feet]

As the roaring stopped in one high, abrupt wail, Beauty Phillips, who
never knew emotion or excitement, suddenly discovered, to her vast
surprise, that she was on her feet! that she was clutching her throat
for its hoarseness! that she was dripping with perspiration! that she
was faint and weak and giddy! that her blood was pounding and her
eyeballs hurt; and that she had been, from the stretch down, jumping
violently up and down and shrieking the name of Whipsaw! Whipsaw!
Whipsaw! Whipsaw!

A frenzied hand grabbed Blackie Daw by the elbow.

"Duck, for God's sake, Blackie!" implored the shaking voice of Billy
Banting. "Go down to the old joint on Thirty-third Street and wait for
us. We'll split up that stake and all make a get-away."

"Not on your life!" returned Blacked calmly, and pulled Wallingford
around toward him by the shoulder. "I shall have great pleasure in
turning over to Mr. Wallingford the combined bets of the Broadway
Syndicate against that lovely little record-breaker, Whipsaw."

"It's a good horse," said Wallingford with forced calmness, and then
he began to chuckle, his broad shoulders shaking and his breast
heaving; "and it was well named. I fawncy the Broadway Syndicate book
will now go out of business--and with no chance to welch."

"All we wise people knew about it," Blackie condescendingly explained
to the quartet. "You see, I am running the National Clockers'
Association."

Before the voiceless Broadway Syndicate was through gasping over this
piece of news, Jake Block came stalking through the grand-stand.
Though elated over his victory and flushed with his winnings, he
nevertheless had time to cast a bitter scowl in the direction of
Beauty Phillips.

"The next time I hand any woman a tip you may cut my arm off!" he
declared. "I'm through with you!"

"Who's that?" asked Larry Teller, glaring after the man who had
mentioned the pregnant word "tip."

"Jake Block, the owner of Whipsaw," Wallingford was pleased to inform
him.

"It's a frame-up!" shouted Billy Banting.

A strong left hand clutched desperately at Blackie Daw's coat and tore
the top button off, and an equally strong right hand grabbed into
Blackie Daw's inside coat-pocket. It was empty, Pickins found, just as
a stronger hand than his own gripped him until he winced with pain.

"What have you done with the stakes?" shrieked Pickins, trying to
throw off that grip, but not turning.

"What's it your business? But, if you want to know, all that
stake-money was bet in the shed and in the books about town--on
Whipsaw to win!"

The broad-shouldered man who had edged up quite near to them during
the race, and who had interfered with Pickins, now stepped in front of
the members of the defunct Broadway Syndicate. They only took one good
look at him, and then fell back quite clamily. In the broad-shouldered
giant they had recognized Harvey Willis, the quite capable Broadway
policeman and friend of Wallingford, off for the day in his street
clothes.

"Run along, little ones, and play tricks on the ignorant country folks
from Harlem and Flatbush," advised Beauty Phillips as she took
Wallingford's arm and turned away with him. "You've been whipsawed!"

She was exceptionally gracious to J. Rufus that evening, but for the
first time in many days he was extremely thoughtful. A vague unrest
possessed him and it grew as the Beauty became more gracious. He
guessed that he could marry her if he wished, but somehow the idea did
not please him as it might have done a few weeks earlier. He liked the
Beauty perhaps even better than before, but somehow she was not quite
the type of woman for him, and he had not realized it until she
brought him face to face with the problem.

"By the way," he said as he bid her good night, "I think I'll take a
little run about the country for a while. I'm a whole lot tired of
this man's town."



CHAPTER XVII

 J. RUFUS SEEKS FOR PROFITABLE INVESTMENT IN
 THE COUNTRY


A rattling old carryall, drawn by one knobby yellow horse and driven
by a decrepit patriarch of sixty, stopped with a groan and a creak and
a final rattle at the door of the weather-beaten Atlas Hotel, and a
grocery "drummer," a beardless youth with pink cheeks, jumped hastily
out and rushed into the clean but bare little office, followed as
hastily by a grizzled veteran of the road who sold dry-goods and
notions and wore gaudy young clothes. Wallingford emerged much more
slowly, as became his ponderous size. He was dressed in a green summer
suit of ineffable fabric, wore green low shoes, green silk hose, a
green felt hat, and a green bow tie, below which, in the bosom of his
green silk negligee shirt, glowed a huge diamond. Richness and bigness
were the very essence of him, and the aged driver, recognizing true
worth when he saw it, gave a jerk at his dust-crusted old cap as he
addressed him.

"'Tain't no use to hurry now," he quavered. "Them other two'll have
the good rooms."

J. Rufus, from natural impulse, followed in immediately. There was no
one behind the little counter, but the young grocery drummer, having
hastily inspected the sparse entries of the preceding days, had
registered himself for room two.

"There ain't a single transient in the house, Billy," he said, turning
to the dry-goods and notion salesman, "so I'll just put you down for
number three."

A buxom young woman came out of the adjoining dining-room, wiping her
red hands and arms upon a water-spattered gingham apron.

"Three of us, Molly," said the older salesman. "Hustle up the dinner,"
and out of pure friendliness he started to chuck her under the chin,
whereat she wheeled and slapped him a resounding whack and ran away
laughing. This vigorous retort, being entirely expected, was passed
without comment, and the two commercial travelers took off their coats
to "wash up" at the tin basins in the corner. The aged driver,
intercepting them to collect, came in to Wallingford, who, noting the
custom, had already subscribed his name with a flourish upon the
register.

"Two shillin'," quavered the ancient one at his elbow.

Wallingford gave him twice the amount he asked for, and the old man
was galvanized into instant fluttering activity. He darted out of the
door with surprising agility, and returned with two pieces of
Wallingford's bright and shining luggage, which he surveyed reverently
as he placed them in front of the counter. Two more pieces, equally
rich, he brought, and on the third trip the proprietor's son, a brawny
boy of fifteen, clad in hickory shirt, blue overalls and plow shoes,
and with his sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, helped him in with
Wallingford's big sole-leather dresser trunk.

"Gee!" said the boy to Wallingford, beaming upon this array of
expensive baggage. "What do you sell?"

"White elephants, son," replied Wallingford, so gravely that the boy
took two minutes to decide that the rich stranger was "fresh."

It was not until dinner was called that any one displayed the least
interest in the register, and then the proprietor, a tall, cowboy-like
man, with drooping mustaches and a weather-browned face, came in with
his trousers tucked into his top boots.

"Hello, Joe! Hello, Billy!" he said, nodding to the two traveling men.
"How's business?"

"Rotten!" returned the grocery drummer.

"Fine!" asserted the dry-goods salesman. "Our house hasn't done so
much business in five years." _Sotto voce_, he turned to the young
drummer. "Never give it away that business is on the bum," he said out
of his years of experience.

The tall proprietor examined the impressively groomed Wallingford and
his impressive luggage with some curiosity, and went behind the little
counter to inspect the register.

"I'd like two rooms and a bath," said Wallingford, as the other looked
up thoughtfully.

"Two! Two?" repeated Jim Ranger, looking about the room. "Some ladies
with you? Mother or sister, maybe?"

"No," answered Wallingford, smiling. "A bedroom and sitting-room and a
bath for myself."

"Sitting-room?" repeated the proprietor. "You know, you can sit in
this office till the 'leven-ten's in every night, and then the
parlor's--" He hesitated, and, seeing the unresponsive look upon his
guest's face, he added hastily: "Oh, well, I reckon I can fix it. We
can move a bed out of number five, and I'll have the bath-tub and the
water sent up as soon as you need it. This is wash-day, you know, and
they've got the rinse water in it. I reckon you won't want it before
to-night, though."

"No," said J. Rufus quietly, and sighed.

Immediately after lunch, J. Rufus, inquiring again for the proprietor,
was told by Molly that he was in the barn, indicating its direction
with a vague wave of her thumb. Wallingford went out to the enormous
red barn, its timbers as firm as those of the hotel were flimsy, its
lines as rigidly perpendicular as those of the hotel were out of
plumb, its doors and windows as square-angled as those of the hotel
were askew. Across its wide front doors, opening upon the same wide,
cracked old stone sidewalk as the hotel, was a big sign kept fresh and
bright: "J. H. Ranger, Livery and Sales Stable." Here Wallingford
found the proprietor and the brawny boy in the middle of the wide barn
floor, in earnest consultation over the bruised hock of a fine, big,
draft horse.

"I'd like to get a good team and a driver for this afternoon,"
observed Wallingford.

"You've come to the right place," declared Jim Ranger heartily, and
when he straightened up he no longer looked awkward and out of place,
as he had in the hotel office, but seemed a graceful part of the
surrounding picture. "Bob, get out that little sorrel team and hitch
it up to the new buggy for the gentleman," and as Bob sprang away with
alacrity he turned to Wallingford. "They're not much to look at, that
sorrel team," he explained, "but they can go like a couple of rats,
all day, at a good, steady clip, up hill and down."

"Fine," said Wallingford, who was somewhat of a connoisseur in horses,
and he surveyed the under-sized, lithe-limbed, rough-coated sorrels
with approval as they were brought stamping out of their stalls,
though, as he climbed into his place, he regretted that they were not
more in keeping with the handsome buggy.

"Which way?" asked Bob, as he gathered up the reins.

"The country just outside of town, in all directions," directed
Wallingford briefly.

"All right," said Bob with a click to the little horses, and
clattering out of the door they turned to the right, away from the
broad, shady street of old maples, and were almost at once in the
country. For a mile or two there were gently undulating farms of rich,
black loam, and these Wallingford inspected in careful turn.

"Seems to be good land about here," he observed.

"Best in the world," said the youngster. "Was you thinkin' of buyin'
a farm?"

Wallingford smiled and shook his head.

"I scarcely think so," he replied.

"'Twouldn't do you any good if you was," retorted Bob. "There ain't a
farm hereabouts for sale."

To prove it, he pointed out the extent of each farm, gave the name of
its owner and told how much he was worth, to all of which Wallingford
listened most intently.

They had been driving to the east, but, coming to a fork in the road
leading to the north, Bob took that turning without instructions,
still chattering his local Bradstreet. Along this road was again rich
and smiling farm land, but Wallingford, seeming throughout the drive
to be eagerly searching for something, evinced a new interest when
they came to a grove of slender, straight-trunked trees.

"Old man Mescott gets a hundred gallons of maple syrup out of that
grove every spring," said Bob in answer to a query. "He gets two
dollars a gallon, then he stays drunk till plumb the middle of summer.
Was you thinkin' of buyin' a maple grove?"

Wallingford looked back in thoughtful speculation, but ended by
shaking his head, more to himself than to Bob.

They passed through a woods.

"Good timber land, that," suggested Wallingford.

"Good timber land! I should say it was," said Bob. "There's nigh a
hundred big walnut trees back in there a ways, to say nothing of
all the fine oak an' hick'ry, but old man Cass won't touch an ax
to nothing but underbrush. He says he's goin' to will 'em to his
grandchildren, and by the time they grow up it'll be worth their
weight in money. Was you thinkin' of buyin' some timber land?"

Wallingford again hesitated over that question, but finally stated
that he was not.

"Here's the north road back into town," said Bob, as they came to a
cross-road, and as they gained the top of the elevation they could
look down and see, a mile or so away, the little town, its gray roofs
and red chimneys peeping from out its sheltering of green leaves.
Just beyond the intersection the side of the hill had been cut away,
and clean, loose gravel lay there in a broad mass. Wallingford had Bob
halt while he inspected this.

"Good gravel bank," he commented.

"I reckon it is," agreed Bob. "They come clear over from Highville and
from Appletown and even from Jenkins Corners to get that gravel, and
Tom Kerrick dresses his whole family off of that bank. He wouldn't
sell it for any money. Was you thinkin' of buying a gravel bank,
mister?"

Instead of replying Wallingford indicated another broken hillside
farther on, where shale rock had slipped loosely down, like a
disintegrated slate roof, to a seeping hollow.

"Is that stone good for anything?" he asked.

"Nothing in the world," replied Bob. "It rots right up. If you was
thinkin' of buyin' a stone quarry now, there's a fine one up the north
road yonder."

Wallingford laughed and shook his head.

"I wasn't thinking of buying a stone quarry," said he.

Bob Ranger looked shrewdly and yet half-impatiently at the big young
man by his side.

"You're thinkin' o' buyin' somethin'; I know that," he opined.

Wallingford chuckled and dropped his big, plump hand on the other's
shoulder.

"Elephant hay only," he kindly explained; "just elephant hay for white
elephants," whereat the inquisitive Bob, mumbling something to himself
about "freshness," relapsed into hurt silence.

In this silence they passed far to the northwest of the town, and a
much-gullied highway led them down toward the broader west road. Here
again, as they headed straight in to Blakeville with their backs to
the descending sun, were gently undulating farm lands, but about half
a mile out of town they came to a wide expanse of black swamp, where
cat-tails and calamus held sole possession. Before this swamp
Wallingford paused in long and thoughtful contemplation.

"Who owns this?" he asked.

"Jonas Bubble," answered Bob, recovering cheerfully from his late
rebuff. "Gosh! He's the richest man in these parts. Owns three hundred
acres of this fine farmin' land we just passed, owns the mill down
yander by the railroad station, has a hide and seed and implement
store up-town, and lives in the finest house anywhere around
Blakeville; regular city house. That's it, on ahead. Was you thinkin'
o' buyin' some swamp land?"

To this Wallingford made no reply. He was gazing backward over that
useless little valley, its black waters now turned velvet crimson as
they caught the slant of the reddening sun.

"Here's Jonas Bubble's house," said Bob presently.

It was the first house outside of Blakeville--a big, square,
pretentious-looking place, with a two-story porch in front and a
quantity of scroll-sawed ornaments on eaves and gables and ridges, on
windows and doors and cornices, and with bright brass lightning-rods
projecting upward from every prominence. At the gate stood,
bare-headed, a dark-haired and strikingly pretty girl, with a rarely
olive-tinted complexion, through which, upon her oval cheeks, glowed a
clear, roseate under-tint. She was fairly slender, but well rounded,
too, and very graceful.

"Hello, Fannie!" called Bob, with a jerk at his flat-brimmed straw
hat.

"Hello, Bob!" she replied with equal heartiness, her bright eyes,
however, fixed in inquiring curiosity upon the stranger.

"That's Jonas Bubble's girl," explained Bob, as they drove on. "She's
a good looker, but she won't spoon."

Wallingford, grinning over the fatal defect in Fannie Bubble, looked
back at the girl.

"She would make a Casino chorus look like a row of Hallowe'en
confectionery junk," he admitted.

"Fannie, come right in here and get supper!" shrilled a harsh voice,
and in the doorway of the Bubble homestead they saw an overly-plump
figure in a green silk dress.

"Gosh!" said Bob, and hit one of the little sorrel horses a vindictive
clip. "That's Fannie's stepmother. Jonas Bubble married his hired girl
two years ago, and now they don't hire any. She makes Fannie do the
work."



CHAPTER XVIII

 WALLINGFORD SPECULATES IN THE CHEAPEST REAL
 ESTATE PROCURABLE


That evening, after supper, Wallingford sat on one of the broad,
cane-seated chairs in front of the Atlas Hotel, smoking a big, black
cigar from his own private store, and watched the regular evening
parade go by. They came, two by two, the girls of the village, up one
side of Maple Street, passed the Atlas Hotel, crossed over at the
corner of the livery stable, went down past the Big Store and as far
as the Campbellite church, where they crossed again and began a new
round; and each time they passed the Atlas Hotel they giggled, or they
talked loudly, or pushed one another, or did something to enlarge
themselves in the transient eye. The grocery drummer and the dry-goods
salesman sat together, a little aloof from J. Rufus, and presently
began saying flippant things to the girls as they passed. A wake of
giggles, after each such occasion, frothed across the street at the
livery-stable corner, and down toward the Campbellite church.

Molly presently slipped out of the garden gate and went down Maple
Street by herself. Within twenty minutes she, too, had joined the
parade, and with her was Fannie Bubble. As these passed the Atlas
Hotel both the drummers got up.

"Hello, Molly," said the grocery drummer. "I've been waiting for you
since Hector was a pup," and he caught her arm, while the dry-goods
salesman advanced a little uncertainly.

"You 'tend to your own business, Joe Cling," ordered Molly, jerking
her arm away, but nevertheless giving an inquiring glance toward her
companion. That rigid young lady, however, was looking straight ahead.
She was standing just in front of Wallingford.

"Come on," coaxed the grocery drummer; "I don't bite. Grab hold there
on the other side, Billy."

Miss Bubble, however, was still looking so uncompromisingly straight
ahead that Billy hesitated, and the willing enough Molly, seeing that
the conference had "struck a snag," took matters into her own vigorous
hands again.

"You're too fresh," she admonished the grocery drummer. "Let go my
arm, I tell you. Come on, Fannie," and she flounced away with her
companion, turning into the gate of the hotel garden. Miss Fannie cast
back a curious glance, not at the grocery drummer nor the veteran
dry-goods salesman, but at the quiet J. Rufus.

The discomfited transients gave short laughs of chagrin and went back
to their seats, but the grocery drummer was too young to be daunted
for long, and by the time another section or two of the giggling
parade had passed them he was ready for a second attempt. One couple,
a tall, thin girl and a short, chubby one, who had now made the
circuit three times, came sweeping past again, exchanging with each
other hilarious persiflage which was calculated to attract and tempt.

"Wait a minute," said the grocery drummer to his companion.

He dashed straight across the street, and under the shadow of the big
elm intercepted the long and short couple. There was a parley in which
the girls two or three times started to walk away, a further parley in
which they consented to stand still, a loud male guffaw mingled with a
succession of shrill giggles, then suddenly the grocery salesman
called:

"Come on, Billy!"

The dry-goods man half rose from his chair and hesitated.

"Come on, Billy!" again invited the grocery drummer. "We're going down
to wade in the creek."

A particularly high-pitched set of giggles followed this tremendous
joke, and Billy, his timid scruples finally overcome, went across the
street, a ridiculous figure with his ancient body and his youthful
clothes. Nevertheless, Wallingford felt just a trifle lonesome as he
watched his traveling companions of the afternoon go sauntering down
the street in company which, if silly, was at least human. While he
regretted Broadway, Bob Ranger, dressed no whit different from his
attire of the afternoon, except that his sleeves were rolled down,
came out of the hotel and stood for an undecided moment in front of
the door.

"Hello, Bob!" hailed Wallingford cordially, glad to see any face he
knew. "Do you smoke?"

"Reckon I do," said Bob. "I was thinkin' just this minute of walkin'
down to Bud Hegler's for some stogies."

"Sit down and have a cigar," offered Wallingford, producing a
companion to the one he was then enjoying.

Bob took that cigar and smelled it; he measured its length, its
weight, and felt its firmness.

"It ain't got any band on it, but I reckon that's a straight
ten-center," he opined.

"I'll buy all you can get me of that brand for a quarter apiece,"
offered Wallingford.

"So?" said Bob, looking at it doubtfully. "I reckon I'd better save
this for Sunday."

"No, smoke it now. I'll give you another one for Sunday," promised
Wallingford, and he lit a match, whereupon Bob, biting the end off the
cigar with his strong, white teeth, moistened it all over with his
tongue to keep the curl of the wrapper down.

With vast gratification he sat down to enjoy that awe-inspiring cigar,
and, by way of being entertaining, uttered comment upon the passing
parade--frank, ingeniously told bits of personal history which would
have been startling to one who had imbibed the conventional idea that
all country folk are without guile. Wallingford was not so much
shocked by these revelations, however, as he might have been, for he
had himself been raised in a country town, though one not so small as
Blakeville.

It was while Bob was in the midst of this more or less profane history
that Molly and Fannie Bubble came out of the gate.

"Come here, Molly," invited Bob; "I want to introduce you to a
friend of mine. He's going to stop here quite a long time. Mr.
Wallingford--Molly; Miss Bubble--Mr. Wallingford. Come on; let's
all take a walk," and confidently taking Molly's arm he started up
the crossing, leaving Miss Bubble to Wallingford.

"It's a beautiful evening, isn't it?" said Fannie, as Wallingford
caught step with her.

Wallingford had to hark back. Time had been when the line of
conversation which went with Miss Bubble's opening remark had been as
familiar to him as his own safety razor, but of late he had been
entertaining such characters as Beauty Phillips, and conversation with
the Beauty had consisted of lightning-witted search through the ends
of the earth and the seas therein for extravagant hyperbole and
metaphor. Harking back was so difficult that J. Rufus gave it up.

"Lovely evening," he admitted. "I've just been thinking about this
weather. I've about decided to build a factory to put it up in boxes
for the Chicago Market. They'd pay any price for it there in the
fall."

Miss Fannie considered this remark in silence for a moment, and then
she laughed, a quiet, silvery laugh that startled J. Rufus by its
musical quality.

"I don't see why you should laugh," protested Wallingford gravely. "If
a man can get a monopoly on weather-canning it would be even better
than the sleep-factory idea I've been considering."

"What was that like?" asked Fannie, interested in spite of the fact
that these jokes were not at all the good old standards, which could
be laughed at without the painful necessity of thought.

"Well," Wallingford explained, "I figured on building an immense
dormitory and hiring about a thousand fat hoboes to sleep for me night
and day. Then I intended to take that sleep and condense it and put it
up in eight-hour capsules for visitors to New York. There ought to be
a fortune in that."

Again a little silence and again that little silvery laugh which
Wallingford found himself watching for.

"You're so funny," said Miss Fannie.

"For a long time I was divided between that and my anti-bum serum as a
permanent investment," he went on, glancing down at her as he
extended himself along the line which had seemed to catch her fancy.
She was looking up at him, her eyes shining, her lips half parted in
an anticipatory smile, and unconsciously her hand had crept upon his
arm, where it lay warm and vibrant. "You know," he explained, "they
inoculate a guinea-pig or a sheep or something with disease germs, and
from this animal, somehow or other, they extract a serum which cures
that disease. Well, I propose to get a herd of billy-goats boiling
spifflicated, and extract from them the jag serum, and with that
inoculate all the rounders on Broadway at so much per inoc. Then they
can stand up in front of an onyx bar and guzzle till it oozes out of
their ears, without any worse effects than a lifting pain in the right
elbow."

This time the laugh came more slowly, for here was a lot of language
which, though refreshing, was tangled in knots that must be unraveled.
Nevertheless, the laugh came, and at the sound of it Wallingford
involuntarily pressed slightly against his side the hand that lay upon
his arm. They were passing Hen Moozer's General Merchandise Emporium
and Post-Office at the time, and upon the rickety porch, its posts,
benches, and even floors whittled like a huge Rosetta stone, sat a
group of five young men. Just after the couple had cleared the end of
the porch a series of derisive meows broke out. It was the old protest
of town boy against city boy, of work clothes against "Sunday duds,"
of native against alien; and again J. Rufus harked back. It only
provoked a smile in him, but he felt a sudden tenseness in the hand
that lay upon his arm, and he was relieved when Bob and Molly, a half
block ahead of them, turned hastily down a delightfully dark and shady
cross street, in the shelter of which Bob immediately slipped his arm
around Molly's waist. J. Rufus, pondering that movement and regarding
it as the entirely conventional and proper one, essayed to do
likewise; but Miss Fannie, discussing the unpleasant habit of her
young townsmen with some indignation but more sense of humor, gently
but firmly unwound J. Rufus' arm, placed it at his side and slipped
her hand within it again without the loss of a syllable.

Wallingford was surprised at himself. In the old days he would have
fought out this issue and would have conquered. Now, however,
something had made this bold young man of the world suddenly tame. He
himself helped Miss Fannie to put him back upon grounds of friendly
aloofness, and with a gasp he realized that for the first time in his
life he had met a girl who had forced his entire respect. It was
preposterous!

Unaccountably, however, they seemed to grow more friendly after that,
and the talk drifted to J. Rufus himself, the places he had seen, the
adventures he had encountered, the richness of luxury that he had
sought and found, and the girl listened with breathless eagerness.
They did not go back to Maple Street just now, for the Maple Street
parade was only for the unattached. Instead, they followed the others
down to the depot and back, and after another half-hour _détour_
through the quiet, shady street, they found Bob and Molly waiting for
them at the corner.

"Good night, Fannie," said Molly. "I'm going in. To-morrow's ironing
day. Good night, Mr. Wallingford."

"Good night," returned Miss Fannie, as a matter of course, and again
Wallingford harked back. He was to take Miss Fannie home. Quite
naturally. Why not?

It was a long walk, but by no means too long, and when they had
arrived at the big, fret-sawed house of Jonas Bubble, J. Rufus was
sorry. He lingered a moment at the gate, but only a moment, for a
woman's shrill voice called:

"Is that you, Fannie? You come right in here and go to bed! Who's that
with you?"

"You'd better go right away, please," pleaded Fannie in a flutter.
"I'm not allowed to be with strangers."

This would have been the cue for a less adroit and diplomatic caller
to hurry silently back up the street, and, as a matter of fact, this
entirely conventional course was all that Mrs. Bubble had looked for.
She was accordingly shocked when the gate opened, and in place of
Fannie coming alone, J. Rufus, in spite of the girl's protest, walked
deliberately up to the porch.

"Is Mr. Bubble at home?" he asked with great dignity.

Mrs. Bubble gasped.

"I reckon he is," she admitted.

"I'd like to see him, if possible."

There was another moment of silence, in which Mrs. Bubble strove to
readjust herself.

"I'll call him," she said, and went in.

Mr. Jonas Bubble, revealed in the light of the open door, proved to
be a pursy man of about fifty-five, full of importance from his
square-toed shoes to his gray sideburns; he exuded importance from
every vest button upon the bulge of his rotundity, and importance
glistened from the very top of his bald head.

"I am J. Rufus Wallingford," said that broad-chested young gentleman,
whose impressiveness was at least equal to Mr. Bubble's importance,
and he produced a neatly-engraved card to prove the genuineness of his
name. "I was introduced to your daughter at the hotel, and I came down
to consult with you upon a little matter of business."

"I usually transact business at my office," said Mr. Bubble pompously;
"nevertheless, you may come inside."

He led the way into a queer combination of parlor, library,
sitting-room and study, where he lit a big, hanging gasolene lamp,
opened his old swinging top desk with a key which he carefully and
pompously selected from a pompous bunch, placed a plush-covered chair
for his visitor, and seated himself upon an old leather-stuffed chair
in front of the desk.

"Now, sir," said he, swinging around to Wallingford and puffing out
his cheeks, "I am ready to consider whatever you may have to say."

Mr. Wallingford's first action was one well-calculated to inspire
interest. First he drew out the desk slide at Mr. Bubble's left;
then from his inside vest pocket he produced a large flat package
of greenbacks, no bill being of less than a hundred dollars'
denomination. From this pile he carefully counted out eight thousand
dollars, and put the balance, which Mr. Bubble hastily estimated at
about fifteen hundred, back in his pocket. This procedure having been
conducted with vast and impressive silence, Mr. Wallingford cleared
his throat.

"I have come to ask a great favor of you," said he, sinking his
voice to barely above a whisper. "I am a stranger here. I find,
unfortunately, that there is no bank in Blakeville, and I have more
money with me than I care to carry about. I learned that you are the
only real man of affairs in the town, and have come to ask you if you
would kindly make room for this in your private safe for a day or so."

Mr. Bubble, rotating his thumbs slowly upon each other, considered
that money in profound silence. The possessor of so much loose cash
was a gentleman, a man to be respected.

"With pleasure," said Mr. Bubble. "I don't myself like to have so much
money about me, and I'd advise you, as soon as convenient, to take it
up to Millford, where I do my banking. In the meantime, I don't blame
you, Mr. Wallingford, for not wanting to carry this much money about
with you, nor for hesitating to put it in Jim Ranger's old tin safe."

"Thank you," said Wallingford. "I feel very much relieved."

Mr. Bubble drew paper and pen toward him.

"I'll write you a receipt," he offered.

"Not at all; not at all," protested Wallingford, having gaged Mr.
Bubble very accurately. "Between gentlemen such matters are entirely
superfluous. By the way, Mr. Bubble, I see you have a large swamp on
your land. Do you intend to let it lie useless for ever?"

"What else can I do with it?" demanded Mr. Bubble, wondering. That
swamp had always been there. Naturally, it would always be there.

"You can't do very much with it," admitted Wallingford. "However, it
is barely possible that I might see a way to utilize it, if the price
were reasonable enough. What would you take for it?"

This was an entirely different matter. Mr. Bubble pursed up his lips.

"Well, I don't know. The land surrounding it is worth two hundred
dollars an acre."

Wallingford grinned, but only internally. He knew this to be a highly
exaggerated estimate, but he let it pass without comment.

"No doubt," he agreed; "but your swamp is worth exactly nothing
per square mile; in fact, worth less than nothing. It is only a
breeding-place of mosquitoes and malaria. How many acres does it
cover?"

"About forty."

"I suppose ten dollars an acre would buy it?"

"By no means," protested Mr. Bubble. "I wouldn't have a right of way
split through my farm for four hundred dollars. Couldn't think of it."

It was Wallingford's turn to be silent.

"Tell you what I'll do," he finally began. "I think of settling down
in Blakeville. I like the town from what I've seen of it, and I may
make some important investments here."

Mr. Bubble nodded his head gravely. A man who carried over eight
thousand dollars surplus cash in his pocket had a right to talk that
way.

"The matter, of course," continued Wallingford, "requires considerable
further investigation. In the meantime, I stand ready to pay you now a
hundred dollars for a thirty-day option upon forty acres of your swamp
land, the hundred to apply upon a total purchase price of one thousand
dollars. Moreover, I'll make it a part of the contract that no
enterprise be undertaken upon this ground without receiving your
sanction."

Mr. Bubble considered this matter in pompous silence for some little
time.

"Suppose we just reduce that proposition to writing, Mr. Wallingford,"
he finally suggested, and without stirring from his seat he raised his
voice and called: "Fannie!"

In reply two voices approached the door, one sharp, querulous,
nagging, the other, the younger and fresher voice, protesting; then
the girl came in, followed closely by her stepmother. The girl looked
at Wallingford brightly. He was the first young man who had bearded
the lioness at Bubble Villa, and she appreciated the novelty. Mrs.
Bubble, however, distinctly glared at him, though the eyes of both
women roved from him to the pile of bills held down with a paper
weight on Mr. Bubble's desk. Mr. Bubble made way for his daughter.

"Write a little agreement for Mr. Wallingford and myself," directed
Mr. Bubble, and dictated it, much to the surprise of the women, for
Jonas always did his own writing. They did not understand that he,
also, wished to make an impression.

With a delicate flush of self-consciousness in her occupation Fannie
wrote the option agreement, and later another document, acknowledging
the receipt of eight thousand dollars to be held in trust. In exchange
for the first paper J. Rufus gravely handed Mr. Bubble a
hundred-dollar bill.

"To-morrow," said he, "I shall drop around to see you at your office,
to confer with you about my proposed enterprise."

As Wallingford left the room, attended by the almost obsequious
Bubble, he caught a lingering glance of interest, curiosity, and
perhaps more, from the bright eyes of Fannie Bubble. Her stepmother,
however, distinctly sniffed.

Meanwhile, Wallingford, at the gate, turned for a moment toward the
distant swamp where it lay now ebony and glittering silver in the
moonlight, knitted his brows in perplexity, lit another of his black
cigars, and strolled back to the hotel.

What on earth should he do with that swamp, now that he had it?
Something good ought to be hinged on it. Should he form a drainage
company to restore it to good farming land? No. At best he could only
get a hundred and fifty dollars an acre, or, say, six thousand dollars
for the forty. The acreage alone was to cost him a thousand; no
telling what the drainage would cost, but whatever the figure there
would not be profit enough to hypothecate. And it was no part of
Wallingford's intention to do any actual work. He was through for ever
with drudgery; for him was only creation.

What should he do with that swamp? As he thought of it, his mind's eye
could see only its blackness. It was, after all, only a mass of dense,
sticky, black mud!

Still revolving this problem in mind, Wallingford went to his bedroom,
where he had scarcely arrived when Bob Ranger followed him, his
sleeves rolled up again and a pail of steaming water in each hand.

"The old man said you was to have a bath when you come in," stated
Bob. "How hot do you want it?"

"I think I'll let it go till morning and have it cold," replied
Wallingford, chuckling.

"All right," said Bob. "It's your funeral and not mine. I'll just pour
this in now and it'll get cool by morning."

In the next room--wherein the bed had been hastily replaced by two
chairs, an old horsehair lounge and a kitchen table covered with a red
table-cloth--Wallingford found a huge tin bath-tub, shaped like an
elongated coal scuttle, dingy white on the inside and dingy green on
the outside, and battered full of dents.

"How'd you get along?" asked Bob, pausing to wipe the perspiration
from his brow after he had emptied the two pails of water into the
tub.

"All right," said Wallingford with a reminiscent smile.

"Old Mrs. Bubble drive you off the place?"

"No," replied Wallingford loftily. "I went in the house and talked a
while."

"Go on!" exclaimed Bob, the glow of admiration almost shining through
his skin. "Say, you're a peach, all right! How do you like Fannie?"

"She's a very nice girl," opined Wallingford.

"Yes," agreed Bob. "She's getting a little old, though. She was
twenty her last birthday. She'll be an old maid pretty soon, but it's
her own fault."

Then Bob went after more water, and Wallingford, seating himself at
the table with paper and pencil, plunged into a succession of rambling
figures concerning Jonas Bubble's black swamp; and he figured and
puzzled far into the night, with the piquant face of Miss Fannie
drifting here and there among the figures.



CHAPTER XIX

 WHEREIN BLAKEVILLE HAS OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME
 A GREAT ART CENTER


The next morning Wallingford requisitioned the services of Bob and the
little sorrel team again, and drove out to Jonas Bubble's swamp.
Arrived there he climbed the fence, and, taking a sliver of fence rail
with him, gravely prodded into the edge of the swamp in various
places, hauling it up in each case dripping with viscid black mud,
which he examined with the most minute care, dropping tiny drops upon
the backs of clean cards and spreading them out smoothly with the tip
of his finger, while he looked up into the sky inquiringly, not one
gesture of his conduct lost upon the curious Bob.

When he climbed back into the buggy, Bob, finding it impossible longer
to restrain his quivering curiosity, asked him:

"What's it good for?"

"I can't tell you just yet," said Wallingford kindly, "but if it is
what I think it is, Bob, I've made a great discovery, one that I am
sure will not only increase my wealth but add greatly to the riches of
Blakeville. Do you know where I could find Jonas Bubble at this hour?"

"Down at the mill, sure."

"Drive down there."

As they drove past Jonas Bubble's house they saw Miss Fannie on the
back porch, in an old wrapper, peeling potatoes, and heard the sharp
voice of the second Mrs. Bubble scolding her.

"Say," said Bob, "if that old rip was my stepmother I'd poke her
head-first into that swamp back yonder."

Wallingford shook his head.

"She'd turn it black," he gravely objected.

"Why, it is black," protested Bob, opening his eyes in bewilderment.

In reply to this Wallingford merely chuckled. Bob, regarding him in
perplexity for a while, suddenly saw that this was a joke, and on the
way to the mill he snickered a score of times. Queer chap, this
Wallingford; rich, no doubt, and smart as a whip; and something
mysterious about him, too!

Wallingford found Jonas Bubble in flour-sifted garments in his office,
going over a dusty file of bills.

"Mr. Bubble," said he, "I have been down to your swamp and have
investigated its possibilities. I am now prepared, since I have
secured the right to purchase this land, to confide to you the
business search in which I have for some time been engaged, and which
now, I hope, is concluded. Do you know, Mr. Bubble, the valuable
deposit I think I have found in my swamp?"

"No!" ejaculated Bubble, stricken solemn by the confidential tone.
"What is it?"

Wallingford took a long breath, swelling out his already broad chest,
and, leaning over most impressively, tapped his compelling finger upon
Jonas Bubble's knee. Then said he, with almost tragic earnestness:

"_Black Mud!_"

Jonas Bubble drew back astounded, eying Wallingford with affrighted
incredulity. He had thought this young man sane.

"Black--" he gasped; "black--" and then hesitated.

"_Mud!_" finished Wallingford for him, more impressively than before.
"High and low, far and near, Mr. Bubble, I have searched for a deposit
of this sort. Wherever there was a swamp I have been, but never until
I came to Blakeville did I find what I believe to be the correct
quality of black mud."

"Black mud," repeated Jonas Bubble meaninglessly, but awed in spite of
himself.

"_Etruscan_ black mud," corrected Wallingford. "The same rare earth
out of which the world famous Etruscan pottery is manufactured in the
little village of Etrusca, near Milan, Italy. The smallest objects of
this beautiful jet-black pottery retail in this country from ten
dollars upward. With your permission I am going to express some
samples of this deposit to the world-famous pottery designer, Signor
Vittoreo Matteo, formerly in charge of the Etruscan Pottery, but who
is now in Boston waiting with feverish impatience for me to find a
suitable deposit of this rare black mud. If I have at last found it,
Mr. Bubble, I wish to congratulate you and Blakeville, as well as
myself, upon the acquisition of an enterprise which will not only
reflect vast credit on your charming and progressive little town, but
will bring it a splendid accession of wealth."

Mr. Bubble rose from his chair and shook hands with young Wallingford
in great, though pompous, emotion.

"My son," said he, "go right ahead. Take all of it you want--that
is," he hastily corrected himself, "all you need for experimental
purposes." For, he reflected, there was no need to waste any of the
rare and valuable Etruscan black mud. "I think I'll go with you."

"I'd be pleased to have you," said Wallingford, as, indeed, he was.

On the way, Wallingford stopped at Hen Moozer's General Merchandise
Emporium and Post-Office, where he bought a large tin pail with a
tight cover, a small tin pail and a long-handled garden trowel which
he bent at right angles; and seven people walked off of Hen Moozer's
porch into the middle of the street to see the town magnate and the
resplendent stranger, driven by the elated Bob Ranger, whirl down
Maple Street toward Jonas Bubble's swamp.

Arrived there, who so active in direction as Jonas Bubble?

"Bob," he ordered, protruding his girth at least three inches beyond
its normal position, "hitch those horses and jump over in the field
here with us. Mr. Wallingford, you will want this sample from
somewhere near the center of the swamp. Bob, back yonder beyond that
clump of bushes you will find that old flatboat we had right after
the big rainy season. Hunt around down there for a long pole and pole
out some place near the middle. Take this shovel and dig down and get
mud enough to fill these two buckets."

Bob stood unimpressed. It was not an attractive task.

"And Bob," added Wallingford mildly, "here's a dollar, and I know
where there's another."

"Sure," said Bob with the greatest of alacrity, and he hurried back to
where the old flatboat, water-soaked and nearly as black as the swamp
upon which it rested, was half submerged beyond the clump of bushes.
When, after infinite labor, he had pushed that clumsy craft afloat
upon the bosom of the shallow swamp, Mr. Bubble was on the spot with
infinite direction. He told Bob, shouting from the shore, just where
to proceed and how, down to the handling of each trowelful of dripping
mud, and even to the emptying of each small pailful into the large
pail.

"I don't know exactly how I'll get this boxed for shipping," hinted
Wallingford, as Bob carried the pail laboriously back to the buggy.

"Right down at the mill," invited Mr. Bubble with great cordiality.
"I'll have my people look after it for you."

"That's very kind of you," replied Wallingford. "I'll give you the
address," and upon the back of one of his own cards he wrote: Sig.
Vittoreo Matteo, 710 Marabon Building, Boston, Mass., U. S. A., care
Horace G. Daw.

That night he wrote a careful letter of explanation to Horace G. Daw.

Two weeks to wait. Oh, well, Wallingford could amuse himself by
working up a local reputation. It was while he was considering this,
upon the following day, that a farmer with three teeth drove up in a
dilapidated spring-wagon drawn by a pair of beautiful bay horses, and
stopped in front of Jim Ranger's livery and sales stable to talk hay.
Wallingford, sitting in front of the hotel in lazy meditation, walked
over and examined the team with a critical eye. They were an exquisite
match, perfect in every limb, with manes and tails and coats of that
peculiar silken sheen belonging to perfect health and perfect care.

"Very nice team you have," observed Wallingford.

"Finest match team anywhere," agreed Abner Follis, plucking at his
gray goatee and mouthing a straw, "an' I make a business o' raisin'
thoroughbreds. Cousins, they are, an' without a blemish on 'em. An'
trot--you'd ought to see that team trot."

"What'll you take for them?" asked Wallingford.

The response of Abner Follis was quick and to the point. He kept a
careful appraisement upon all his live stock.

"Seven hundred and fifty," said he, naming a price that allowed ample
leeway for dickering.

It was almost a disappointment to him that Wallingford produced his
wallet, counted over the exact amount that had been asked, and said
briefly:

"Unhitch them."

"Well!" said Abner, slowly taking the money and throwing away his
straw in petulance. It was dull and uninteresting to have a bargain
concluded so quickly.

Wallingford, however, knew what he was about. Within an hour everybody
in town knew of his purchase. Speculation that had been mildly active
concerning him now became feverish. He was a rich nabob with money to
throw away; had so much money that he would not even dicker in a horse
deal--and this was the height of human recklessness in Blakeville.
Wallingford, purchasing Jim Ranger's new buggy and his best set of
harness, drove to the Bubbles', the eyed of all observers, but before
he had opened the gate Mrs. Bubble was on the porch.

"Jonas ain't at home," she shrilled down at him.

"Yes, I know," replied Wallingford; "but I came to see Miss Fannie."

"She's busy," said Mrs. Bubble with forbidding loftiness. "She's in
the kitchen getting dinner."

Wallingford, however, strode quite confidently up the walk, and by the
time he reached the porch Miss Fannie was in the door, removing her
apron.

"What a pretty turnout!" she exclaimed.

"It's a beauty," agreed Wallingford. "I just bought it from Abner
Follis."

She smiled.

"I bet he beat you in the bargain."

"So long as I'm satisfied," retorted Wallingford, smiling back at her,
"I don't see why we shouldn't all be happy. Come on and take the first
ride in it."

She glanced at her stepmother dubiously.

"I'm very busy," she replied; "and I'd have to change my dress."

"You look good enough just as you are," he insisted. "Come right on.
Mrs. Bubble can finish the dinner. I'll bet she's a better cook,
anyhow," and he laughed cordially.

The remark was intended as a compliment, but Mrs. Bubble took distinct
umbrage. This was, without doubt, a premeditated slur. Of course he
knew that she had once been Mr. Bubble's cook!

"Fannie can't go," she snapped.

Wallingford walked straight up to Mrs. Bubble, beaming down upon her
from his overawing height; and for just one affrighted moment Fannie
feared that he intended to uptilt her stepmother's chin, or make some
equally familiar demonstration. Instead, he only laughed down into
that lady's belligerent eyes.

"Yes, she can," he insisted with large persuasiveness. "You were young
once yourself, Mrs. Bubble, and not so very long ago."

It was not what he said, but his jovial air of secret understanding,
that made Mrs. Bubble flush and laugh nervously and soften.

"Oh, I reckon I can get along," she said.

Miss Fannie, with a wondering glance at Wallingford, had already flown
up-stairs, and J. Rufus set himself deliberately to be agreeable to
Mrs. Bubble. When Fannie came tripping down again in an incredibly
short space of time, having shaken herself out of one frock and into
another with an expedition which surprised even herself, she found her
stepmother actually giggling! And when the young couple drove away in
the bright, shining new rig behind the handsome bays, Mrs. Bubble
watched after them with something almost like wistfulness. She had
been young herself, once--and not so very long ago!

Opposite the Bubble swamp Wallingford stopped for a moment.

"I hope to be a very near neighbor of yours," said he, waving his hand
out toward the wonderful deposit of genuine Etruscan black mud. "Did
your father tell you about the pottery studios which may be built
here?"

"Not a thing," she confessed with a slightly jealous laugh. "Papa
never tells us anything at home. We'll hear it on the street, no
doubt, as we usually do."

"Your father is a most estimable man, but I fear he makes a grave
mistake in not telling you about things," declared Wallingford. "I
believe in the value of a woman's intuition, and if I were as closely
related to you as your father I am sure I should confide all my
prospects to you."

Miss Fannie gave a little inward gasp. That serious tide in the talk,
fraught with great possibilities, for which every girl longs and which
every girl dreads, was already setting ashore.

"You might get fooled," she said. "Father don't think any woman has
very much gumption, and least of all me, since--since he married
again."

"I understand," said Wallingford gently, and drove on. "Just to show
you how _much_ differently I look at things from your father, I'm
going to tell you all about the black pottery project and see what you
think of it."

Thereupon he explained to her in minute detail, a wealth of which came
to him on the spur of the moment, the exact workings of the Etruscan
pottery art. He painted for her, in the gray of stone and the yellow
of face brick and the red of tiling, the beautiful studio buildings
that were to be erected yonder facing the swamp; he showed her through
cozy, cheerfully lighted apartments in those studios, where the best
trained artists of Europe, under the direction of the wizard, Vittoreo
Matteo, should execute ravishments of Etruscan black pottery; he
showed her, as the bays pranced on, connoisseurs and collectors
coming from all over the country to visit the Blakeville studios,
and carrying away priceless gems of the ceramic art at incalculable
prices!

The girl drank in all these details with thirsty avidity.

"It's splendid! Perfectly grand!" she assured him with vast
enthusiasm, and in her memory was stored every precious word that this
genius had said; and they were stored in logical order, ready to
reproduce on the slightest provocation, which was precisely the result
which Wallingford had intended to produce.

It was nearing noon now, and making a _détour_ by the railway road
they drove up in front of the mill with the spanking bays just as
Jonas Bubble was coming out of his office to go to dinner. Hilariously
they invited him into the carriage, and in state drove him home.

Wallingford very wisely kept away from the Bubble home that afternoon
and that evening, and by the next morning every woman in town had told
all her men-folk about the vast Etruscan black pottery project!



CHAPTER XX

 WALLINGFORD BEGINS TO UTILIZE THE WONDERFUL
 ETRUSCAN BLACK MUD


Wallingford was just going in to dinner when a tall, thin-visaged
young lady, who might have been nearing thirty, but insisted on all
the airs and graces of twenty, came boldly up to the Atlas Hotel in
search of him, and, by her right of being a public character,
introduced herself. She was Miss Forsythe, principal over one other
teacher in the Blakeville public school; moreover, she was president
of the Women's Culture Club!

"It is about the latter that I came to see you, Mr. Wallingford," she
said, pushing back a curl which had been carefully trained to be
wayward. "The Women's Culture Club meets this coming Saturday
afternoon at the residence of Mrs. Moozer. It just happens that we are
making an exhaustive study of the Italian Renaissance, and we have
nothing, _positively nothing_, about the renaissance of Italian
ceramics! I beg of you, Mr. Wallingford, I plead with you, to be our
guest upon that afternoon and address us upon Etruscan Pottery."

Wallingford required but one second to adjust himself to this new
phase. This was right where he lived. He could out-pretend anybody who
ever made pretensions to having a pretense. He expanded his broad
chest and beamed.

He knew but little about art, being only the business man of the
projected American Etruscan Black Pottery Studios, but he would be
more than pleased to tell them that little. He would, in fact, be
charmed!

"You don't know how kind, how good you are, and what a treat your
practical talk will be, I am sure," gurgled Miss Forsythe, biting
first her upper lip and then her lower to make them redder, and then,
still gurgling, she swept away, leaving Wallingford chuckling.

Immediately after lunch he went over to the telegraph office and wired
to the most exclusive establishment of its sort in New York:

     Express three black pottery vases Etruscan preferred but
     most expensive you have one eighteen inches high and two
     twelve inches high am wiring fifty dollars to insure
     transportation send balance C. O. D.

Not the least of J. Rufus' smile was that inserted clause, "Etruscan
preferred." He had not the slightest idea that there was such pottery
as Etruscan in the world, but his sage conclusion was that the big
firm would think they had overlooked something; and his other clause,
"most expensive you have," would insure proper results. That night he
wrote to Blackie Daw:

     Whatever you do, don't buy vase either twelve or eighteen
     inches high. Send one about nine.

Saturday morning the package came, and the excess bill was two hundred
and forty-five dollars, exclusive of express charges, all of which J.
Rufus cheerfully paid. He had that box delivered unopened to the
residence of Mrs. Henry Moozer. That afternoon he dressed himself with
consummate care, his gray frock suit and his gray bow tie, his gray
waistcoat and his gray spats, by some subtle personality he threw
about them, conveying delicately the idea of an ardent art amateur,
but an humble one, because he felt himself insufficiently gifted to
take part in actual creation.

Was Miss Forsythe there? Miss Forsythe was there, in her pink silk,
with cascade after cascade of ruffled flounces to take away the
appalling height and thinness of her figure. Was Mrs. Moozer there?
Dimly discernible, yes, backed into a corner and no longer mistress of
her own house, though ineffectually trying to assert herself above a
determined leadership. Also were there Mrs. Ranger, who was trying
hard to learn to dote; Mrs. Priestly, who prided herself on a marked
resemblance to Madame Melba, and had a high C which shattered
chandeliers; and Mrs. Hispin, whose troublesome mustache in nowise
interfered with her mad passion for the collection of antiques, which,
fortunately consisting of early chromos, could be purchased cheaply in
the vicinity of Blakeville; and Mrs. Bubble, whose specialty was the
avoidance of all subjects connected with domestic science. Many other
equally earnest and cultured ladies flocked about J. Rufus, as bees
around a buckwheat blossom, until the capable and masterly president,
by a careful accident arranging her skirts so that one inch of silken
hose was visible, tapped her little silver gavel for order.

There ensued the regular reports of committees, ponderous and grave in
their frivolity; there ensued unfinished business--relating to a
disputed sum of thirty-nine cents; there ensued new business--relating
to a disputed flaw in the constitution; there ensued a discussion of
scarcely repressed acidity upon the right of the president to
interfere in committee work; and then the gurgling president--with
many a reference to the great masters in Italian art, with a wide
digression into the fields of ceramics in general and of Italian
ceramics in particular, with a complete history of the plastic arts
back to the ooze stage of geological formation--introduced the speaker
of the day.

J. Rufus, accepting gracefully his prominence, bowed extravagantly
three times in response to the Chautauqua salute, and addressed those
nineteen assembled ladies with a charming earnestness which did vast
credit to himself and to the Italian ceramic renaissance. He invented
for them on the spot a history of Etruscan pottery, a process of
making it, a discovery of the wonderful Etruscan under-glaze, and the
eye-moistening struggles and triumphs of the great Vittoreo Matteo
from obscurity as a poor little barefooted Italian shepherd boy who
was caught constructing wonderful figures out of plain mud.

He regretted very much that he had been unable to secure, at such
short notice, samples of the famous Etruscan pottery which this same
Vittoreo Matteo had made famous, but he had secured the next best
thing, and with renewed apologies to Mrs. Moozer, who had kindly
consented to have a litter made upon her carpet, he would unpack the
vases which had come that morning. With a fine eye for stage effect,
Wallingford had had the covers of the boxes loosened, but had not had
the excelsior removed. Now he had the box brought in and placed it
upon the table, and then, from amid their careful wrappings, the
precious vases were lifted!

"Ah!"--"How _ex_-quisite!"--"Bee-yewtiful!" Such was the chorus of the
enraptured culture club.

Wallingford, smiling in calm triumph, was able to assure the almost
fainting worshipers that these were but feeble substitutes for the
exquisite creations that were shortly to be turned out in the studios
that were to make Blakeville famous. Yes, he might now promise them
that definitely! The matter was no longer one of conjecture. That
very morning he had received an epoch-making letter from the
great Vittoreo Matteo! This letter he read. It fairly exuded with
tears--warm, emotional, Latin tears of joy--over the discovery of this
priceless, this glorious, this beatific black mud! Already the great
Vittoreo was at work upon the sample sent him, modeling a vase after
one of his own famous shapes of Etrusca. It would soon be completed,
he would have it fired, and then he would send it to his dear
friend and successful manager, so that he might himself judge how
inexpressibly more than perfect was the wonderful mud of Blakeville.

[Illustration: "How _ex_-quisite!"--"Bee-yewtiful!" chorused the
culture club]

Mr. Wallingford was himself transported to nearly as ecstatic heights
over the prospect as the redoubtable Vittoreo Matteo, and as a memento
of this auspicious day he begged to present the largest of these vases
to the Women's Culture Club, to be in the keeping of its charming
president. One of the smaller vases he begged to present to the
hostess of the afternoon in token of the delightful hour he had spent
in that house. The other he retained to present to a very gracious
matron, the hospitality of whose home he had already enjoyed, and with
whose eminent husband he had already held the most pleasant business
relations; whereat Mrs. Jonas Bubble fairly wriggled lest her
confusion might not be seen or correctly interpreted.

Close upon the frantic applause which followed these graceful
gifts, pale tea and pink wafers were served by the Misses Priestly,
Hispin, Moozer and Bubble, and the function was over except for the
fluttering. Inadvertently, almost apparently quite inadvertently, when
he went away, J. Rufus left behind him the crumpled C. O. D. bill
which he had held in his hand while talking. That night Blakeville,
from center to circumference, was talking of nothing but the prices
of Etruscan vases. Why, these prices were not only stupendous, they
were impossible--and yet there was the receipted bill! To think that
anybody would pay real money in such enormous dole for mere earthen
vases! It was preposterous; it was incredible--and yet there was the
bill! Visions of wealth never before grasped by the minds of the
citizens of Blakeville began to loom in the immediate horizon of every
man, woman and child, and over all these visions of wealth hovered the
beneficent figure of J. Rufus Wallingford.

On Sunday J. Rufus, in solemn black frock-coat and shiny top hat,
attended church. From church he went to the Bubble home, by the warm
invitation of Jonas, for chicken dinner, and in the afternoon he took
Miss Fannie driving behind the handsome bays. While she was making
ready, however, he took Jonas Bubble in the rig and drove down to the
swamp, where they paused in solemn, sober contemplation of that vast
and beautiful expanse of Etruscan black mud. Mr. Bubble had, of
course, seen the glowing letter of Vittoreo Matteo shortly after its
arrival, and he was not unprepared for J. Rufus' urgency.

"To-morrow," said J. Rufus, as he swept his hand out over the swamp
with pride of possession, "to-morrow I shall exercise my option;
to-morrow I shall begin drainage operations; to-morrow I shall order
plans prepared for the first wing of the Blakeville Etruscan Studios,"
and he pointed out a spot facing the Bubble mansion. "Only one thing
worries me. In view of the fact that we shall have a large pay-roll
and handle considerable of ready cash, I regret that Blakeville has no
bank. Moreover, it grates upon me that the thriving little city of my
adoption must depend on a smaller town for all its banking facilities.
Why don't you start a bank, Mr. Bubble, and become its president? If
you will start a subscription list to-morrow I'll take five thousand
dollars' worth of stock myself."

To become the president of a bank! That was an idea which had not
previously presented itself to the pompous Mr. Bubble, but now that it
had arrived it made his waistband uncomfortable. Well, the town needed
a bank, and a bank was always profitable. His plain civic duty lay
before him. President Bubble, of the Blakeville Bank; or, much better
still, the Bubble Bank! Why not? He was already the most important man
in the community, and his name carried the most weight. President
Bubble, of the Bubble Bank! By George! It was a good idea!

Meanwhile, a clean, clear deed and title to forty acres of Jonas
Bubble's black mud was recorded in the Blake County court-house, and
J. Rufus went to the city, returning with a discreet engineer, who
surveyed and prodded and waded, and finally installed filtration boxes
and a pumping engine; and all Blakeville came down to watch in solemn
silence the monotonous jerks of the piston which lifted water from the
swamp faster than it flowed in. For hours they stood, first on one
foot and then on the other, watching the whir of the shining
fly-wheel, the exhaust of the steam, the smoke of the stack, and the
gushing of the black water through the big rubber nozzle to the
stream which had heretofore merely trickled beneath the rickety wooden
road culvert. It watched in awed silence the slow recession of waters,
the appearance of unexpected little lakes and islands and slimy
streams in the shining black bottom of that swamp.

On the very day, too, that this work was installed, there came from
Vittoreo Matteo, in Boston, the Etruscan vase. Wallingford, opening it
in the privacy of his own room, was intensely relieved to find that
Blackie had bought one of entirely different shape and style of
decoration from those he had already shown, and he sent it immediately
to the house of Mrs. Hispin, where that week's meeting of the Women's
Culture Club was being held. He followed it with his own impressive
self to show them the difference between the high-grade Etruscan ware
and the inferior ware he had previously exhibited. He placed the two
pieces side by side for comparison. Though they had been made by the
same factory, the ladies of the Women's Culture Club one and all could
see the enormous difference in the exquisiteness of the under-glaze.
The Etruscan ware was infinitely superior, and just think! this
beautiful vase was made from Blakeville's own superior article of
black mud!

Up in Hen Moozer's General Merchandise Emporium and Post-Office
Wallingford arranged for a show window, and from behind its dusty
panes he had the eternal pyramid of fly-specked canned goods removed.
In its place he constructed a semi-circular amphitheater of pale blue
velvet, bought from Moozer's own stock, and in its center he placed
the priceless bit of Etruscan ware, the first splendid art object from
the to-be-famous Blakeville Etruscan studios!

In the meantime, Jonas Bubble had found willing subscribers to the
stock of the Bubble Bank, and already was installing an impregnable
vault in his vacant brick building at the intersection of Maple Avenue
and Blake Street. By this time every citizen had a new impulse of
civic pride, and vast commercial expansion was planned by every
business man in Blakeville. Even the women felt the contagion, and it
was one of the sorrows of Miss Forsythe's soul that her vacation
arrangements had already been made for the summer, and that she should
be compelled to go away even for a short time, leaving all this
inspiriting progress behind her. It would be just like Mrs. Moozer to
take advantage of the situation! Mrs. Moozer was vice-president of the
Women's Culture Club.

The Bubble County Bank collected its funds, took possession of its new
quarters and made ready for business. Jonas Bubble, changing his
attire to a frock suit for good and all, became its president. J.
Rufus had also been offered an office in the bank, but he declined. A
directorship had been urged upon him, but he steadfastly refused, with
the same firmness that he had denied to Jonas Bubble a share in his
pottery or even his drainage project. No, with his five thousand
dollars' worth of stock he felt that he was taking as great a share as
a stranger might, with modesty, appropriate to himself in their
municipal advancement. Let the honors go to those who had grown up
with the city, and who had furnished the substantial nucleus upon
which their prosperity and advancement might be based.

He intended, however, to make free use of the new banking facilities,
and by way of showing the earnestness of that intention he drew
from his New York bank half of the sum he had cleared on his big
horse-racing "frame up," and deposited these funds in the Bubble Bank.
True enough, three days after, he withdrew nearly the entire amount
by draft in favor of one Horace G. Daw, of Boston, but a week later he
deposited a similar amount from his New York bank, then increased that
with the amount previously withdrawn in favor of Horace G. Daw. A few
days later he withdrew the entire account, replaced three-fourths of
it and drew out one-half of that, and it began to be talked about all
over the town that Wallingford's enterprises were by no means confined
to his Blakeville investments. He was a man of large financial
affairs, which required the frequent transfer of immense sums of
money. To keep up this rapid rotation of funds, Wallingford even
borrowed money which Blackie Daw had obtained in the same horse-racing
enterprise. Sometimes he had seventy-five thousand dollars in the
Bubble Bank, and sometimes his balance was less than a thousand.

In the meantime, J. Rufus allowed no opportunities for his reputation
to become stale. In the Atlas Hotel he built a model bath-room which
was to revert to Jim Ranger, without money and without price, when
Wallingford should leave, and over his bath-tub he installed an
instantaneous heater which was the pride and delight of the village.
It cost him a pretty penny, but he got tenfold advertising from it.
By the time this sensation had begun to die he was able to display
drawings of the quaint and pretty vine-clad Etruscan studio, and to
start men to digging trenches for the foundations!



CHAPTER XXI

 THE GREAT VITTOREO MATTEO, MASTER OF BLACK
 MUD, ARRIVES! BRAVA! HE DEPARTS! BRAVA!


One day a tall, slender, black-haired, black-mustached and black-eyed
young man, in a severely ministerial black frock suit, dropped off the
train and inquired in an undoubted foreign accent for the Atlas Hotel.
Even the station loungers recognized him at once as the great and
long-expected artist, Signor Vittoreo Matteo, who, save in the one
respect of short hair, was thoroughly satisfying to the eye and
imagination. Even before the spreading of his name upon the register
of the Atlas Hotel, all Blakeville knew that he had arrived.

In the hotel office he met J. Rufus. Instantly he shrieked for joy,
embraced Wallingford, kissed that discomfited gentleman upon both
cheeks and fell upon his neck, jabbering in most broken English his
joy at meeting his dear, dear friend once more. In the privacy of
Wallingford's own room, Wallingford's dear Italian friend threw
himself upon the bed and kicked up his heels like a boy, stuffing the
corner of a pillow in his mouth to suppress his shrieks of laughter.

"Ain't I the regular buya-da-banan Dago for fair?" he demanded,
without a trace of his choice Italian accent.

"Blackie," rejoiced Wallingford, wiping his eyes, "I never met your
parents, but I've a bet down that they came from Naples as ballast in
a cattle steamer. But I'm afraid you'll strain yourself on this. Don't
make it too strong."

"I'll make Salvini's acting as tame as a jointed crockery doll,"
asserted Blackie. "This deal is nuts and raisins to me; and say, J.
Rufus, your sending for me was just in the nick of time. Just got a
tip from a post-office friend that the federal officers were going to
investigate my plant, so I'm glad to have a vacation. What's this new
stunt of yours, anyhow?"

"It's a cinch," declared Wallingford, "but I don't want to scramble
your mind with anything but the story of your own life."

To his own romantic, personal history, as Vittoreo Matteo, and to the
interesting fabrications about the world-famous Etruscan pottery, in
the village of Etrusca, near Milan, Italy, Blackie listened most
attentively.

"All right," said he at the finish; "I get you. Now lead me forth to
the merry, merry villagers."

Behind the spanking bays which had made Fannie Bubble the envied of
every girl in Blakeville, Wallingford drove Blackie forth. Already
many of the faithful had gathered at the site of the Blakeville
Etruscan Studios in anticipation of the great Matteo's coming, and
when the tall, black-eyed Italian jumped out of the buggy they fairly
quivered with gratified curiosity. How well he looked the part! If
only he had had long hair! The eyes of the world-famous Italian
ceramic expert, however, were not for the assembled denizens of
Blakeville; they were only for that long and eagerly desired deposit
of Etruscan soil. He leaped from the buggy; he dashed through the gap
in the fence; he rushed to the side of that black swamp, the edges of
which had evaporated now until they were but a sticky mass, and said:

"Oh, da g-r-r-a-a-n-da mod!"

Forthwith, disregarding his cuffs, disregarding his rings,
disregarding everything, he plunged both his white hands into that
sticky mass and brought them up dripping-full of that precious
material--the genuine, no, better than genuine, Etruscan black mud!

A cheer broke out from assembled Blakeville. This surely was artistic
frenzy! This surely was the emotional temperament! This surely was the
manner in which the great Italian black-pottery expert _should_ act in
the first sight of his beloved black mud!

"Da gr-r-r-r-r-a-a-n-da mod!" he repeated over and over, and drew it
close to his face that he might inspect it with a near and loving eye.

One might almost have thought that he was about to kiss it, to bury
his nose in it; one almost expected him to jump into that pond and
wallow in it, his joy at seeing it was so complete.

It was J. Rufus Wallingford himself who, catching the contagion of
this superb fervor, ran to the pail of drinking-water kept for the
foundation workmen, and brought it to the great artist. J. Rufus
himself poured water upon the great artist's hands until those hands
were free of their Etruscan coating, and with his own immaculate
handkerchief he dried those deft and skilful fingers, while the great
Italian potter looked up into the face of his business manager with
almost tears in his eyes!

It was a wonderful scene, one never to be forgotten, and in the
enthusiasm of that psychological moment Mrs. Moozer rushed forward.
Mrs. Moozer, acting president of the Women's Culture Club in the
absence of Miss Forsythe, saw here a glorious opportunity; here was
where she could "put one over" upon that all-absorptive young lady.

"My dear Mr. Wallingford, you must introduce me at once!" she
exclaimed. "I can not any longer restrain my impatience."

His own voice quavering emotions of several sorts, Wallingford
introduced them, and Mrs. Moozer shook ecstatically the hand which
had just caressed the dear swamp.

"And so this is the great Matteo!" she exclaimed. "Signor, as acting
president of the Women's Culture Club, I claim you for an address upon
your sublime art next Saturday afternoon. Let business claim you
afterward."

"I hav'a--not da gooda Englis," said Blackie Daw, with an
indescribable gesture of the shoulders and right arm, "but whata
leetle I cana say, I s'alla be amost aglad to tella da ladees."

Never did man enjoy himself more than did Blackie Daw. Blakeville went
wild over this gifted, warmly temperamental foreigner. They dined him
and they listened to his soul-satisfying, broken English with vast
respect, even with veneration; the women because he was an artist, and
the men because he represented vast money-earning capacity. Even the
far-away president of the Women's Culture Club heard of his advent
from a faithful adherent, an anti-Moozer and pro-Forsythe member, and
on Saturday morning J. Rufus Wallingford received a gushing letter
from that enterprising lady.

     MY DEAR MR. WALLINGFORD:

     I have been informed that the great event has happened, and
     that the superb artist has at last arrived in Blakeville;
     moreover, that he is to favor the Women's Culture Club, of
     which I have the honor to be president, with a talk upon
     his delightful art. I simply can not resist presiding at
     that meeting, and I hope it is not uncharitable toward Mrs.
     Moozer that I feel it my duty to do so; consequently I
     shall arrive in time, I trust, to introduce him; moreover,
     to talk with him in his own, limpid, liquid language. I
     have been, for the past month, taking phonograph lessons in
     Italian for this moment, and I trust that it will be a
     pleasant surprise to him to be addressed in his native
     tongue.

Wallingford rushed up-stairs to where Blackie was leisurely getting
ready for breakfast.

"Old scout," he gasped, "your poor old mother in Italy is at the point
of death, so be grief-stricken and hustle! Get ready for the next
train out of town, you hear? Look at this!" and he thrust in front of
Blackie's eyes the fatal letter.

Blackie looked at it and comprehended its significance.

"What time does the first train leave?" he asked.

"I don't know, but whatever time it is I'll get you down to it," said
Wallingford. "This is warning enough for me. It's time to close up and
take my profits."

The next east-bound train found Blackie Daw and Wallingford at the
station, and just as it slowed down, Blackie, with Wallingford helping
him carry his grips, was at the steps of the parlor car. He stood
aside for the stream of descending passengers to step down, and had
turned to address some remark to Wallingford, when he saw that
gentleman's face blanch and his jaw drop. A second later a gauzy
female had descended from the car and seized upon J. Rufus. Even as
she turned upon him, Blackie felt the sinking certainty that this was
Miss Forsythe.

"And this is Signor Matteo, I am sure," she gushed. "You're _not_
going away!"

"Yes," interposed Wallingford, "his grandmother--I mean his mother--in
Genoa is at the point of death, and he must make a hasty trip. He will
return again in a month."

"Oh, it is too bad, too bad indeed!" she exclaimed. "I sympathize with
you, _so_ deeply, Signor Matteo. Signor,..."

The dreaded moment had come, and Wallingford braced himself as Miss
Forsythe, cocking her head upon one side archly, like a dear little
bird, gurgled out one of her very choicest bits of phonograph Italian!

Blackie Daw never batted an eyelash. He beamed upon Miss Forsythe,
he displayed his dazzling white teeth in a smile of intense
gratification, he grasped Miss Forsythe's two hands in the fervor of
his enthusiasm--and, with every appearance of lively intelligence
beaming from his eyes, he fired at Miss Forsythe a tumultuous stream
of utterly unintelligible gibberish!

As his flow continued, to the rhythm of an occasional, warm, double
handshake, Miss Forsythe's face turned pink and then red, and when at
last, upon the conductor's signal, Blackie hastily tore himself away
and clambered on board, waving his hand to the last and erupting
strange syllables which had no kith or kin, Miss Forsythe turned to
Wallingford, nearly crying.

"It is humiliating; it is _so_ humiliating," she admitted, trapped
into confession by the suddenness of it all; "but, after all my weeks
of preparation, I wasn't able to understand one word of that
beautiful, limpid Italian!"



CHAPTER XXII

 IN WHICH J. RUFUS GIVES HIMSELF THE SURPRISE
 OF HIS LIFE


Wallingford had kept his finger carefully upon the pulse of the Bubble
Bank by apparently inconsequential conversations with President
Bubble, and he knew its deposits and its surplus almost to the dollar.
Twice now he had checked out his entire account and borrowed nearly
the face of his bank stock, on short time, against his mere note of
hand, replacing the amounts quickly and at the same time depositing
large sums, which he almost immediately checked out again.

On the Saturday following Blackie Daw's departure all points had been
brought together: the drainage operation had been completed; walls had
been built about the three springs which supplied the swamp; the
foundation of the studio had been completed, and all his workmen paid
off and discharged; and the surplus of the Bubble Bank had reached
approximately its high-water mark.

On Sunday Wallingford, taking dinner with the Bubbles, unrolled a set
of drawings, showing a beautiful Colonial residence which he proposed
to build on vacant property he had that day bought, just east of Jonas
Bubble's home.

"Good!" approved Jonas with a clumsily bantering glance at his
daughter, who colored deliciously. "Going to get married and settle
down?"

"You never can tell," laughed Wallingford. "Whether I do or not,
however, the building of one or several houses like this would be a
good investment, for the highly paid decorators and modelers which the
pottery will employ will pay good rents."

Jonas nodded gravely.

"How easily success comes to men of enterprise and far-sightedness,"
he declared with hearty approbation, in which there was mixed a large
amount of self-complacency; for in thus complimenting Wallingford he
could not but compliment himself.

On Monday Wallingford walked into the Bubble Bank quite confidently.

"Bubble, how much is my balance?" he asked, as he had done several
times before.

Mr. Bubble, smiling, turned to his books.

"Three thousand one hundred and sixty-two dollars and fifty-eight
cents," said he.

"Why, I'm a pauper!" protested Wallingford. "I never could keep track
of my bank balance. Well, that isn't enough. I'll have to borrow
some."

"I guess we can arrange that," said Jonas with friendly, one might
almost say paternal, encouragement. "How much do you want?"

"Well, I'll have to have about forty-five thousand dollars, all told,"
replied Wallingford in an offhand manner.

He had come behind the railing, as he always did. He was leaning at
the end of Mr. Bubble's desk, his hands crossed before him. From
his finger sparkled a big three-carat diamond; from his red-brown
cravat--price three-fifty--sparkled another brilliant white stone
fully as large; an immaculate white waistcoat was upon his broad
chest; from his pocket depended a richly jeweled watch-fob. For
just an instant Jonas Bubble was staggered, and then the recently
imbibed idea of large operations quickly reasserted itself. Why, here
before him stood a commercial Napoleon. Only a week or so before
Wallingford's bank balance had been sixty thousand dollars; at other
times it had been even more, and there had been many intervals
between when his balance had been less than it was now. Here was a man
to whom forty-five thousand dollars meant a mere temporary convenience
in conducting operations of incalculable size. Here was a man who had
already done more to advance the prosperity of Blakeville than any one
other--excepting, of course, himself--in its history. Here was a man
predestined by fate to enormous wealth, and, moreover, one who might
be linked to Mr. Bubble, he hoped and believed, by ties even stronger
than mere business associations.

"Pretty good sum, Wallingford," said he. "We have the money, though,
and I don't see why we shouldn't arrange it. Thirty-day note, I
suppose?"

"Oh, anything you like," said Wallingford carelessly. "Fifteen days
will do just as well, but I suppose you'd rather have the interest for
thirty," and he laughed pleasantly.

"Yes, indeed," Jonas replied, echoing the laugh. "You're just in the
nick of time, though, Wallingford. A month from now we wouldn't have
so much. I'm making arrangements not to have idle capital on hand."

"Idle money always yells at me to put it back into circulation," said
Wallingford, looking about the desk. "Where are your note blanks?"

"Er--right here," replied Mr. Bubble, drawing the pad from a drawer.
"By the way, Wallingford, of course we'll have to arrange the little
matter of securities, and perhaps I'd better see the directors about a
loan of this size."

"Oh, certainly," agreed Wallingford. "As for security, I'll just turn
over to you my bank stock and a holding on the Etruscan property."

For one fleeting instant it flashed across Mr. Bubble's mind that he
had sold this very property to Wallingford for the sum of one thousand
dollars; but a small patch of stony ground which had been worth
absolutely nothing before the finding of gold in it had been known to
become worth a million in a day, as Wallingford had once observed when
looking across the great swamp, and now the mine he had sold to
Wallingford for a song was worth almost any sum that might be named.
Hen Moozer, when consulted, was of that opinion; Jim Ranger was of
that opinion; Bud Hegler was of that opinion; the other directors were
of that opinion; every one in Blakeville was of that opinion; so
Wallingford got his forty-five thousand dollars, and the Bubble Bank
held in return a mortgage on Wallingford's bank stock, and on forty
acres of genuine Etruscan black mud.

"By the way, Mr. Bubble," said Wallingford, tucking the bills of
exchange into his pocket, "I'm going to take a little run into New
York to-day. Would you mind putting the plans for my new house into
the hands of the two contractors here for them to figure on?"

"With pleasure. Hope you have a good trip, my boy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, it was all over, but he was not quite so well satisfied as
he had been over the consummation of certain other dubious deals.
Heretofore he had hugely enjoyed the matching of his sharp wits
against duller ones, had been contemptuous of the people he
out-manoeuvered, had chuckled in huge content over his triumphs; but
in this case there was an obstacle to his perfect enjoyment, and that
obstacle was Fannie Bubble. He was rather impatient about it.

He started early for the train, instructing Bob Ranger to be there to
drive back the bays, and drove around by way of Jonas Bubble's house.
As he was about to hitch his horses the door opened, and Fannie,
dressed for the afternoon, but hatless, came flying out, her head bent
and her hands back over it. She was crying, and was closely pursued by
Mrs. Bubble, who brandished a feather duster, held by the feather end.
Wallingford ran to open the gate as Fannie approached it, closing it
and latching it in time to stop her stepmother.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"She's a lazy, good-for-nothing, frivolous huzzy!" declared Mrs.
Bubble in hot wrath.

"I've been looking for just that kind," asserted Wallingford. "She'll
do for me. Fannie, get into the buggy. I came down to take you for a
ride to the depot."

"If she goes away from this house she don't come back till she gets
down on her knees and begs my forgiveness!" shrieked the woman.

"If she does that I'll have her sent to a bugitorium," declared
Wallingford. "She don't need to come back here. I'll take care of her
myself. You'll go with me, won't you, Fannie?"

"Anywhere," she said brokenly.

"Then come on."

Turning, he helped her into the buggy and they drove away, followed
by the invectives of Mrs. Bubble. The girl was in a tumult of emotion,
her whole little world clattering down about her ears. Bit by bit her
story came out. It was sordid enough and trivial enough, but to her it
was very real. That afternoon she had planned to go to the country for
ferns with a few girls, and they were to meet at the house of one of
her friends at one o'clock. Her stepmother had known about it three
days in advance, and had given her consent. When the time came,
however, she had suddenly insisted that Fannie stop to wash the
dishes, which would have made her a half-hour late. There followed
protest, argument, flat order and as flat refusal--then the handle of
the feather duster. It was not an unusual occurrence for her
stepmother to slap her, Fannie admitted in her bitterness. Her father,
pompous enough outside, was as wax in the hands of his termagant
second wife, and, though his sympathies were secretly with the girl,
he never dared protect her.

They had driven straight out the west road in the excitement, but
Wallingford, remembering in time his train schedule, made the
straightest _détour_ possible to the depot. He had barely time to buy
his tickets when the train came in, and he hurried Fannie into the
parlor car, her head still in a whirl and her confusion heightened by
the sudden appreciation of the fact that she had no hat. The stop at
Blakeville was but a brief one, and as the train moved away Fannie
looked out of the window and saw upon the platform of the little
depot, as if these people were a part of another world entirely, the
station agent, the old driver of the dilapidated 'bus, Bob Ranger and
others equally a part of her past life, all looking at her in
open-mouthed astonishment. Turning, as the last familiar outpost of
the town slipped by, she timidly reached out her hand and laid it in
that of Wallingford.

The touch of that warm hand laid on his electrified Wallingford. Many
women had loved him, or thought they did, and he had held them in more
or less contempt for it. He had regarded them as an amusement, as toys
to be picked up and discarded at will; but this, somehow, was
different. A sudden and startling resolve came to him, an idea so
novel that he smiled over it musingly for some little time before he
mentioned it.

"By George!" he exclaimed by and by; "I'm going to marry you!"

"Indeed!" she exclaimed in mock surprise, and laughed happily. "The
way you said it sounded so funny."

She was perfectly content.



CHAPTER XXIII

 WALLINGFORD GIVES HIMSELF STILL ANOTHER
 STUPENDOUS SURPRISE


Mrs. Wallingford, gowned and hatted and jeweled as Fannie Bubble had
never been, and had never expected to be, tried the luxurious life
that J. Rufus affected and found that she liked it. She was happy from
day's end to day's end. Her husband was the most wonderful man in the
world, flawless, perfect. Immediately upon their arrival in the city
he had driven in hot haste for a license, and they were married before
they left the court-house. Then he had wired the news to Jonas Bubble.

"We start on our honeymoon at once," he had added, and named their
hotel.

By the time they had been shown to the expensive suite which
Wallingford had engaged, a reply of earnest congratulation had come
back from Jonas Bubble. The next day had begun the delights of
shopping, of automobile rides, of the races, the roof gardens, the
endless round of cafés. This world was so different, so much brighter
and better, so much more pleasant in every way than the world of
Blakeville, that she never cared to go back there--she was ashamed to
confess it to herself--even to see her father!

Blackie Daw, still keeping out of the way of federal officers who knew
exactly where to find him, met J. Rufus on the street a week after his
arrival, and, learning from him of his marriage to Fannie, came around
to Wallingford's hotel to "look her over." Fannie marveled at Signor
Matteo's rapid advance in English, especially his quick mastery of the
vernacular, but she found him very amusing.

"You win," declared Blackie with emphasis, when he and Wallingford had
retired to a cozy little corner in the bar café. Fannie had inspired
in him the awed respect that men of his stamp always render to good
women. "You certainly got the original prize package. You and I are
awful skunks, Jim."

"She makes me feel that way, too, now and then," admitted Wallingford.
"I'd be ashamed of myself for marrying her if I hadn't taken her from
such a dog's life."

"She seems to enjoy this one," said Blackie. "You're spending as much
money on her as you used to on Beauty Phillips."

"Just about," agreed Wallingford. "However, papa-in-law is paying for
the honeymoon."

"Does he know it?" asked Blackie.

Wallingford chuckled.

"Not yet," he admitted. "I'd like to see him when he finds it out."

Blackie also grinned.

"That little Blakeville episode was the happiest period of my life,"
he declared. "By the way, J. Rufus, what was your game down there? I
never understood."

"As simple as a night-shirt," explained Wallingford. "I merely hunted
through the postal guide for the richest little town I could find that
had no bank. Then I went there and had one started so I could borrow
its money."

Blackie nodded comprehendingly.

"Then you bought a piece of property and raised it to a fictitious
value to cover the loan," he added. "Great stunt; but it seems to me
they can get you for it. If they catch you up in one lie they can
prove the whole thing to have been a frame-up. Suppose they find
out?"

Wallingford swelled up with righteous indignation.

"Vittoreo Matteo," he charged, "you are a rascally scoundrel! I met
you in New York and you imposed upon me with a miserable pack of lies.
I have investigated and I find that there is no Etrusca, near Milan,
Italy, no Etruscan black pottery, no Vittoreo Matteo. You induced me
to waste a lot of money in locating and developing a black mud-swamp.
When you had gained my full confidence you came to me in Blakeville
with a cock-and-bull story that your mother was dying in Genoa, and on
the strength of that borrowed a large sum of money from me. You are
gone--I don't know where. I shall have to make a clean breast of this
matter to Jonas Bubble, and tell him that if I can not pay that note
when it falls due he will have to foreclose. You heartless villain!
Waiter, ice us another bottle of that ninety-three."

When Wallingford returned to his wife he found her very thoughtful.

"When are we going to Blakeville, Jim?" she asked.

He studied her curiously for a moment. She would have to know him some
time or other. He had hoped to put it off while they were leading this
unruffled existence, but now that the test had come he might as well
have it over with.

"I'm not going back," he declared. "I'm through with Blakeville.
Aren't you?"

"Yes," she admitted, pondering it slowly. "I could be happy here
always, or, if not here, wherever you are. But your business back
there, Jim?"

He chuckled.

"I have no business there," he told her. "My business is concluded. I
borrowed forty-five thousand dollars on that forty acres of sticky
mud, and I think I'll just let the bank foreclose."

She looked at him a moment, dry-eyed and dry-lipped.

"You're joking," she protested, in a low voice.

"Not at all," he seriously assured her.

They looked at each other steadily for some moments, and gradually
Wallingford saw beneath those eyes a spirit that he might conquer,
but, having conquered, would always regret.

"It's--it's a swindle!" she gasped, as the true situation began to
dawn upon her. "You don't mean, Jim, that you are a swindler!"

"No, I wouldn't call it that," he objected, considering the matter
carefully. "It is only rather a shrewd deal in the game of business.
The law can't touch me for it unless they should chase down Vittoreo
Matteo and find him to be a fraud, _and prove that I knew it_!"

She was thoughtful a long time, following the intricate pattern of the
rug in their sitting-room with the toe of her neatly-shod foot. She
was perfectly calm, and he drew a sharp breath of relief. He had
expected a scene when this revelation should come; he was more than
pleased to find that she was not of the class which makes scenes.
Presently she looked up.

"Have you thought of what light this puts me in at home? Have you
thought how I should be regarded in the only world I have ever known?
Why, there are a thousand people back in Blakeville who know me, and
even if I were never to meet one of them again--Jim, it mustn't be!
You must not destroy my self-respect for ever. Have you spent any of
that money?"

"Well, no," he reluctantly replied. "I have plenty of money besides
that."

"Good!" said she with a gasp of relief. "Write father that, as you
will be unable to carry out your projects, you are sending him the
money to take up that note."

Wallingford was silent a long time. Wonderful the influence this girl
had over him. He was amazed at himself.

"I can't remember when I ever gave up any money," he finally said,
with an attempt at lightness; "but, Fannie, I think I'll do it just
this once--for you--as a wedding present."

"You'll do it right away, won't you?"

"Right this minute."

He walked over and stooped down to kiss her. She held up her lips
submissively, but they were cold, and there was no answering pressure
in them. Silently he took his hat and started down-stairs.

"By the way," he said, turning at the door, "I'm going to make your
father a present of that bay team."

He scarcely understood himself as he dictated to the public
stenographer a letter to Jonas Bubble, so far different from the one
he had planned to write. It was not like him to do this utterly
foolish thing, and yet, somehow, he felt that he could not do
otherwise. When he came back up-stairs again, the letter written and a
check inclosed in it and the whole mailed, he found her in the same
chair, but now she was crying. He approached her hesitantly and stood
looking down at her for a long, long time. It was, perhaps, but one
minute, but it seemed much longer. Now was the supreme test, the
moment that should influence all their future lives, and he dreaded to
dissolve that uncertainty.

He knelt beside her and put his arm about her. Still crying, she
turned to him, threw both arms around his neck and buried her head on
his shoulder--and as she cried she pressed him more tightly to her!



CHAPTER XXIV

 CASTING ABOUT FOR A STRAIGHT BUSINESS, PATENT
 MEDICINE PROVIDES THE ANSWER


That was a glorious honeymoon! They traveled from one gay summer
resort to another, and when Fannie expressed the first hint of
fatigue, Wallingford, who had grown to worship her, promptly provided
her with complete and unique rest, by taking her to some one of the
smaller inland cities of the type which he loved, installing her in a
comfortable hotel, and living, for a week or so, a quiet, lazy
existence consisting largely of mere eating and sleeping, and just
enough exercise to keep in good health. In all this time there was not
one jarring thought, one troubled moment, nor one hint of a shadow. J.
Rufus took his wife into all sorts of unique experiences, full of life
and color and novelty, having a huge pride in her constant wonder and
surprise.

It happened, while upon one of these resting sojourns, that they one
night paused on the edge of a crowd which stood gaping at a patent
medicine faker. Suddenly recognizing an old acquaintance in the
picturesque orator with the sombrero and the shoulder-length gray
hair, Wallingford drew closer.

Standing behind the "doctor," upon the seat of his carriage where the
yellow light of a gasolene torch flared full upon it, was a gaudy,
life-size anatomical chart, and with this as bait for his moths he was
extolling the virtues of Quagg's Peerless Sciatacata.

"Here, my friends," he declared, unfolding one of the many hinged
flaps of the gory chart, "you _bee_-hold the intimate relation of
the stomach with all the _inn_-ternal organs, and above all with
the blood, which, pumped by the heart through these _abb_-sorbing
membranes, takes up that priceless tonic, Doctor Quagg's Peerless
Sciatacata. This, acting _dii_-rectly upon the red corpuscles of
the vital fluid, _stimm_-ulates the circulation and carries its
germ-destroying properties to every atom of the human frame,
casting off _imm_-purities, _clean_-sing the syst-_em_, bringing
_ee_-lasticity to the footsteps, hope to the heart, the ruddy glow
of bounding health to pale cheeks, and the sparkle of new life to
tired and jaded eyes!"

Wallingford turned to his wife with a chuckle,

"Just stand here a minute, Fannie," said he. "I must wade in and speak
to the old scout. We stopped a week at the same hotel over in New
Jersey and got as chummy as two cell-mates."

Fannie smiled doubtfully in response, and watched her husband with a
slight trace of concern as he forced his way through the crowd and up
to the wheel of the carriage.

"How are you, Doctor?" said he, holding up his plump palm. "Where are
you stopping?"

The doctor's wink at J. Rufus was scarcely perceptible to that large
young gentleman himself, much less to the bystanders, as with
professional gravity he reached down for a hearty handshake.

"Benson House. Come around and see me to-morrow morning." Then, with
added gravity and in a louder voice: "I scarcely knew you, friend, you
are so changed. How many bottles of the Sciatacata was it you took?"

"Four," replied J. Rufus clearly, with not even a twinkle in his eye.

"Only four bottles," declaimed Doctor Quagg. "My friends, this is one
of my most marvelous cures. When I met this gentleman in Columbus,
Ohio, he was a living skeleton, having suffered for years from
sciatic rheumatism. He bought from me one night at my carriage, just
as he is standing now, six bottles of the Peerless Sciatacata. He took
but four bottles, and look at him to-day!"

With one accord they looked. There was some slight tittering among
them at first, but the dignity and gravity with which the towering J.
Rufus, hale and hearty and in the pink of condition, withstood that
inspection, checked all inclination to levity. Moreover, he was
entirely too prosperous-looking to be a "capper."

"I owe you my life, Doctor," said Wallingford gratefully. "I never
travel without those other two bottles of the Sciatacata," and with
the air of a debt of honor paid, he pressed back through the crowd to
the sidewalk.

His wife was laughing, yet confused.

"I don't see how you can make yourself so conspicuous," she protested
in a low voice.

"Why not?" he laughed. "We public characters must boost one another."

"And the price," they heard the doctor declaiming, "is only one dollar
_per_ bottle, or six for five dollars, guar-_an_-teed not only to
drive sciatic rheumatism from the sys-_tem_, but to cure the most
ob-_stin_-ate cases of ague, Bright's disease, cat-a-lepsy, coughs,
colds, cholera, _dys_-pepsia, ery-_sip_-_e_-las, fever _and_ chills,
_gas_-tritis"--

"And so on down to X Y Z, etc.," commented Wallingford as they walked
away.

His wife looked up at him curiously.

"Jim, did you honestly take four bottles of that medicine?" she wanted
to know.

"Take it?" he repeated in amazement. "Certainly not! It isn't meant
for wise people to take. It wouldn't do them any good."

"It wouldn't do anybody any good," she decided with a trace of
contempt.

"Guess again," he advised her. "That dope has cured a million people
that had nothing the matter with 'em."

At the Hotel Deriche in the adjoining block they turned into the huge,
garishly decorated dining-room for their after-theater supper. They
had been in the town only two days, but the head waiter already knew
to come eagerly to meet them, to show them to the best table in the
room, and to assign them the best waiter; also the head waiter himself
remained to take the order, to suggest a delicate, new dish and to
name over, at Wallingford's solicitation, the choice wines in the
cellar that were not upon the wine-list.

This little formality over, Wallingford looked about him complacently.
A pale gentleman with a jet-black beard bowed to him from across the
room.

"Doctor Lazzier," observed Wallingford to his wife. "Most agreeable
chap and has plenty of money."

He bent aside a little to see past his wife's hat, and exchanged a
suave salutation with a bald-headed young man who was with two ladies
and who wore a dove-gray silk bow with his evening clothes.

"Young Corbin," explained Wallingford, "of the Corbin and Paley
department store. He had about two dollars a week spending money till
his father died, and now he and young Paley are turning social
flip-flaps at the rate of twenty a minute. He belongs to the Mark
family and he's great pals with me. Looks good for him, don't it?"

"Jim," she said in earnest reproval, "you mustn't talk that way."

"Of course I'm only joking," he returned. "You know I promised you I'd
stick to the straight and narrow. I'll keep my word. Nothing but
straight business for me hereafter."

He, too, was quite serious about it, and yet he smiled as he thought
of young Corbin. Another man, of a party just being shown to a table,
nodded to him, and Mrs. Wallingford looked up at her husband with
admiration.

"Honestly, how do you do it?" she inquired. "We have only been here a
little over forty-eight hours, and yet you have already picked up a
host of nice friends."

"I patronize only the best saloons," he replied with a grin; then,
more seriously: "This is a mighty rich little city, Fannie. I could
organize a stock company here, within a week, for anything from a
burglar's trust to a church consolidation."

"It's a pretty place," she admitted. "I like it very much from what I
have seen of it."

He chuckled.

"Looks like a spending town," he returned; "and where they spend a wad
they're crazy to make one. Give me one of these inland society towns
for the loose, long green. New York's no place to start an honest
business," and again he chuckled. "By the way, Fannie," he added after
a pause, "what do you think of my going into the patent medicine
line?"

"How do you mean?" she inquired, frowning.

"Oh, on a big scale," he replied. "Advertise it big, manufacture it
big."

She studied it over in musing silence.

"I don't mind what you do so long as it is honest," she finally said.

"Good. I'll hunt up Quagg to-morrow and spring it on him."

"You don't mean that dreadful quack medicine he's selling on the
street, do you?" she protested.

"Why not? I don't know that it's worthless, and I do know that Quagg
has sold it on street corners for twenty years from coast to coast. He
goes back to the same towns over and over, and people buy who always
bought before. Looks like a good thing to me. Quagg was a regular
doctor when he was a kid; had a real diploma and all that, but no
practice and no patience. Joke. Giggle."

The oysters came on now, and they talked of other things, but while
they were upon the meat Doctor Lazzier, having finished, came across
to shake hands with his friend of a day, and was graciously charmed to
meet Mrs. Wallingford.

"Sit down," invited J. Rufus. "Won't you try a glass of this? It's
very fair," and he raised a practised eyebrow to the waiter.

The doctor delicately pushed down the edge of the ice-wet napkin
until he could see the label, and he gave an involuntary smile of
satisfaction as he recognized the vintage. The head waiter had timed
the exact second to take that bottle out of the ice-pail, had wrapped
the wet napkin about it and almost reverently filled glasses.
Occasionally he came over and felt up inside the hollow on the bottom
of the bottle.

"Delighted," confessed the doctor, and sat down quite comfortably.

"You may smoke if you like, Doctor," offered Mrs. Wallingford,
smiling. "I don't seem to feel that a man is comfortable unless he is
smoking."

"To tell the truth, he isn't," agreed the doctor with a laugh, and
accepting a choice cigar from Wallingford he lit it.

The waiter came with an extra glass and filled for all three of them.

"By the way, Doctor," said Wallingford, watching the pouring of the
wine with a host's anxiety, "I think of going into the patent medicine
business on a large scale, and I believe I shall have to have you on
the board of directors."

"Couldn't think of it!" objected the doctor hastily. "You know,
professional ethics--" and he shrugged his shoulders.

"That's so," admitted Wallingford. "We can't have you on the board,
but we can have you for a silent stock-holder."

"Open to the same objection," declared the doctor, with another
dubious shrug, as he took up his glass.

He tasted the wine; he took another sip, then another--slow, careful
sips, so that no drop of it should hasten by his palate unappreciated.
Wallingford did not disturb him in that operation. He had a large
appreciation himself of the good things of this world, and the proper
way to do them homage.

The doctor took a larger sip, and allowed the delicate liquid to flow
gently over his tongue. Wallingford was really a splendid fellow!

"What sort of patent medicine are you going to manufacture?" asked the
doctor by way of courtesy, but still "listening" to the taste of the
wine.

Wallingford laughed.

"I haven't just decided as yet," he announced. "The medicine is only
an incident. What we're going to invest in is advertising."

"I see," replied the doctor, laughing in turn.

"Advertising is a great speculation," went on Wallingford, with a
reminiscent smile. "Take Hawkins' Bitters, for instance; nine per
cent. cheap whisky flavored with coffee and licorice, and the balance
pure water. Hawkins had closed a fifty-thousand-dollar advertising
contract before he was quite sure whether he was going to sell patent
medicine or shoe polish. The first thing he decided on was the name,
and he had to do that in a hurry to get his advertising placed.
Hawkins' Bitters was familiar to ten million people before a bottle of
it had been made. It was only last summer that Hawkins sold out his
business for a cool two million and went to Europe."

"His decoction is terrible stuff," commented the doctor, more in
sorrow than in anger; "but it certainly has a remarkable sale."

"I should say it has!" agreed Wallingford. "The drug-stores sell it to
temperance people by the case, and in the dry states you'll find every
back yard littered with empty Hawkins' Bitters bottles."

A half-dozen entertaining stories of the kind Wallingford told
his guest, and by the time he was through Doctor Lazzier began
himself to have large visions of enormous profits to be made in the
patent medicine business. Somehow, the very waistcoat of young J.
Rufus seemed, in its breadth and gorgeousness, a guarantee of enormous
profits, no matter what business he discussed. But the doctor's very
last remark was upon the sacredness of medical ethics! When he was
gone there was a conspicuous silence between Wallingford and his wife
for a few minutes, and then she asked:

"Jim, are you actually going to start a patent medicine company?"

"Certainly I am," he replied.

"And will Doctor Lazzier take stock in it?"

"He certainly will," he assured her. "I figure him for from ten to
twenty-five thousand."



CHAPTER XXV

 IN WHICH WALLINGFORD ORGANIZES THE DOCTOR
 QUAGG PEERLESS SCIATACATA COMPANY


At the Benson House J. Rufus found Doctor Quagg with a leg propped up
on a chair, and himself in a state of profound profanity.

"What's the matter, Doc?" asked Wallingford.

"Sciatic rheumatism!" howled the martyr. "It's gettin' worse every
year. Every time I go on the street for a night I know I'm goin' to
suffer. That's why I keep it up so late and spiel myself hoarse in the
neck. I jumped into town just yesterday and got a reader from these
city hall pirates. They charged me twenty-five iron men for my license
for the week. I go out and make one pitch, and that's all I get for my
twenty-five."

"Sciatic rheumatism's a tough dose," commiserated Wallingford. "Why
don't you take five or six bottles of the Peerless Sciatacata?"

The answer to this was a storm of fervid expletives which needed no
diagram. Wallingford, chuckling, sat down and gloated over the
doctor's misery, lighting a big, fat cigar to gloat at better ease. He
offered a cigar to Quagg.

"I daresn't smoke," swore that invalid.

"And I suppose you daresn't drink, either," observed Wallingford.
"Well, that doesn't stop me, you know."

Wearily the doctor indicated a push-button.

"You'll have to ring for a boy yourself," said he.

When the boy came Wallingford ordered a highball.

"And what's yours, sir?" asked the boy, turning to the doctor.

"Lithia, you bullet-headed nigger!" roared the doctor with a twinge of
pain in his leg. "That's twice to-day I've had to tell you I can't
drink anything but lithia. Get out!"

The boy "got," grinning.

"Seriously, though, old man," said Wallingford, judging that the
doctor had been aggravated long enough, "your condition must be very
bad for business, and I've come to make you a proposition to go into
the manufacture of the Peerless on a large scale."

The doctor sat in silence for a moment, shaking his head despondently.

"You can't get spielers," he declared. "I've tried it. Once I made up
a lot of the Sciatacata and sent out three men; picked the best I
could find that had made good with street-corner pitches in other
lines, and their sales weren't half what mine would be; moreover, they
got drunk on the job, didn't pay for their goods, and were a nuisance
any way you took 'em."

Wallingford laughed.

"I didn't mean that we should manufacture the priceless remedy for
street fakers to handle," he explained. "I propose to start a big
factory to supply drug-stores through the jobbing trade, to spend a
hundred thousand dollars in advertising right off the bat, give you
stock in the company for the use of your formula, and a big salary to
superintend the manufacture. That will do away with your exposure to
the night air, stop the increase of your sciatica, and make you more
money. Why, Doc, just to begin with we'll give you ten thousand
dollars' worth of stock."

It took Doctor Quagg some time to recover from the shock of that much
money.

"I've heard of such things," said he gratefully, "but I never supposed
it could happen to me."

"You don't need to put up a cent," went on Wallingford. "And I don't
need to put up a cent. We'll use other people's money."

"Where are you going to get your share?" asked the doctor
suspiciously. "Are you going to have a salary, too?"

"No," said Wallingford. "We'll pay you thirty-five dollars to start
with as superintendent of the manufacturing department, but I won't
ask for a salary; I'll take a royalty of one cent a bottle as manager
of the company. I'll take five thousand dollars' worth of stock for my
services in promotion, and then for selling the stock I'll take
twenty-five per cent. of the par value for all I place, but will take
it out in stock at the market rate. We'll organize for half a million
and begin selling stock at fifty cents on the dollar, and I'll
guarantee to raise for us one hundred and twenty-five thousand net
cash--twenty-five thousand for manufacturing and one hundred thousand
for advertising."

The doctor drew a long breath.

"If you can do that you're a wonder," he declared; "but it don't seem
to me you're taking enough for yourself. You're giving me ten
thousand dollars and you're only taking five; you're giving me
thirty-five dollars a week and you're only taking a cent a bottle. It
seems to me the job of organizing and building up such a company is
worth as much as the Sciatacata."

"Don't you worry about me," protested J. Rufus modestly. "I'll get
along all right. I'm satisfied. We'll organize the company to-day."

"You can't get all that money together in a day!" exclaimed the doctor
in amazement.

"Oh, no; I don't expect to try it. I'll put up all the money
necessary. We want five directors, and we have three of them now, you
and my wife and I. Do you know anybody around the hotel that would
serve?"

The doctor snorted contemptuously.

"Nobody that's got any money or responsibility," he asserted.

"They don't need to have any money, and we don't want them to have any
responsibility," protested Wallingford. "Anybody of voting age will do
for us just now."

"Well," said the doctor reflectively, "the night clerk's a pretty good
fellow, and the head dining-room girl here has always been mighty
nice to me. She's some relation to the proprietor and she's been here
for five years."

"Good," said Wallingford. "I'll telephone out for a lawyer."

There was no telephone in the room, but down-stairs Wallingford found
a pay 'phone and selected a lawyer at random from the telephone
directory. Within two hours Wallingford and his wife, Doctor Quagg,
Albert Blesser and Carrie Schwam had gravely applied for a charter of
incorporation under the laws of the state, for The Doctor Quagg
Peerless Sciatacata Company, with a capital stock of one thousand
dollars, fully paid in. As he signed his name the doctor laughed like
a school-boy.

"Now," said he, "I'm going to get my hair cut."

Wallingford stopped him in positive fright.

"Don't you dare do it!" he protested.

"Is that hair necessary to the business?" asked the doctor,
crestfallen.

"Absolutely," declared Wallingford. "Why, man, that back curtain of
yours is ten per cent. dividends."

"Then I'll wear it," agreed the doctor resignedly; "but I hate to. You
know I've honed for years to quit this batting around the country,
and just ached to wear short hair and a derby hat like a white man."

Wallingford looked at the weather-bronzed face and shook his head.

"What a pity that would be!" he declared. "However, Doc, your
wanderings cease from this minute, and your salary begins from
to-day."

"Fine," breathed the doctor. "I say, Wallingford, then suppose you
order me about three gross of bottles and some fresh labels. I'll get
the drugs myself and start in making a supply of the Sciatacata."

"You just nurse your leg," advised Wallingford. "Why, man, when we
start manufacturing the Peerless it will be in vats holding a hundred
gallons, and will be bottled by machinery that will fill, cork and
label a hundred bottles a minute. You're to superintend mixing; that's
your job."

It took many days, days of irksome loafing for the doctor, before
they had their final incorporation papers. Immediately they
elected themselves as directors, made Quagg president, Wallingford
secretary and Albert Blesser treasurer, and voted for an increase of
capitalization to one-half million dollars. They gave Quagg his
hundred shares and Wallingford his fifty; they voted Quagg his salary
and Wallingford his royalty; also they voted Wallingford an honorarium
of twenty-five per cent., payable in stock, for disposing of such
of the treasury shares as they needed issued, and immediately
Wallingford, who had spent the interim in cultivating acquaintances,
began to secure investors.

He sold more than mere stock, however. He sold Doctor Quagg's hair and
sombrero; he sold glowing word pictures of immense profits, and he
sold the success of all other patent medicine companies; he sold
his own imposing height and broad chest, his own jovial smile and
twinkling eye, his own prosperous grooming and good feeding--and those
who bought felt themselves blessed.

First of all, he sold fifty thousand dollars' worth for twenty-five
thousand to young Corbin, whereupon Mr. Blesser, as per instructions,
resigned from the treasurership and directorate in favor of Mr.
Corbin. Wallingford got fifteen thousand dollars from Doctor
Lazzier, and ten from young Paley, and with fifty thousand dollars
in the treasury sent for an advertising man and gave out a
hundred-thousand-dollar contract.

"For the first half of this campaign," he explained to the advertising
man, "I want this one ad spread everywhere: 'Laugh at That Woozy
Feeling.' This is to cover the top half of the space in good, plain,
bold letters. In place of leaving the bottom blank for kids to
scribble reasons of their own why you should laugh at that woozy
feeling, we'll put gray shadow-figures there--grandpa and grandma and
pa and ma and Albert and Henry and Susan and Grace and little Willie,
all laughing fit to kill. And say, have it a real laugh. Have it the
sort of a laugh that'll make anybody that looks at it want to be
happy. Of course, later, I want you to cover up the bottom half of
that advertisement with: 'Use Doctor Quagg's Peerless Sciatacata,' or
something like that, but I'll furnish you the copy for that when the
time comes. It will be printed right over the laughing faces."

"It should make a very good ad," commented the agent with enthusiasm,
writing out the instructions Wallingford gave him, and willing to
approve of anything for that size contract.

Wallingford went home to his wife, filled with a virtuous glow.

"You know, there's something I like about this straight business,
Fannie," said he. "It gives a fellow a sort of clean feeling. I'm
going to build up a million-dollar business and make everybody
concerned in it rich, including myself. Already I've placed one
hundred thousand dollars' worth of stock, have fifty thousand dollars
cash in the treasury, and fifty-five thousand dollars' worth of stock
for myself."

She looked puzzled.

"I thought you were to get only twenty-five per cent. for selling the
stock."

He chuckled; shoulders, chest and throat, eyes and lips and chin, he
chuckled.

"Twenty-five per cent. of the par value," said he, "payable in stock
at the market price."

"I don't see the difference," she protested. "I'm sure I thought it
was to be straight twenty-five per cent., and I'm sure all the members
of the company thought so."

He patiently explained it to her.

"Don't you see, if I sell one hundred thousand dollars' worth of
stock, I get the same as twenty-five thousand dollars for it, and with
that buy fifty thousand dollars' worth of stock? Of course I get it at
the same price as others--fifty per cent."

"Did they understand you'd get fifty thousand instead of twenty-five
thousand?" she asked.

He chuckled again.

"If they didn't they will," he admitted.

She pondered over that thoughtfully for a while.

"Is that straight business?" she inquired.

"Of course it's straight business or I wouldn't be doing it. It is
perfectly legitimate. You just don't understand."

"No," she confessed, "I guess I don't; only I thought it was just
twenty-five per cent."

"It is twenty-five per cent.," he insisted, and then he gave it up.
"You'd better quit thinking," he advised. "It'll put wrinkles in your
brow, and I'm the one that has the wrinkles scheduled. I've just
contracted for one hundred thousand dollars' worth of advertising, and
I've got to go out to sell enough stock to bring in the cash. Also,
I've rented a factory, and to-morrow I'm going to let out contracts
for bottling machinery, vats and fixtures. I've already ordered the
office furniture. You ought to see it. It's swell. I'm having some
lithographed stationery made, too, embossed in four colors, with a
picture of Doctor Quagg in the corner."

"How much stock has the doctor?" she asked.

"Ten thousand."

"Is that all he's going to have?" she wanted to know.

"Why, certainly, that's all he's going to have. I made the bargain
with him and he's satisfied."

"Ten thousand dollars' worth out of a half-million-dollar corporation?
Why, Jim, for his medicine, upon which the whole business is built, he
only gets--how much is that of all of it?"

"One fiftieth, or two per cent.," he told her.

"Two per cent.!" she gasped. "Is that straight business, Jim?"

"Of course it's straight business," he assured her. "Of course," and
he smiled, "Doc didn't stop to figure that he only gets two per cent.
of the profits of the concern. He figures that he's to draw dividends
on the large hunk of ten thousand dollars' worth of stock, and he's
satisfied. Why aren't you?"

"I don't know," she replied slowly, still with the vague feeling that
something was wrong. "Really, Jim, it don't seem to me that straight
business is any more fair than crooked business."

Wallingford was hugely disappointed.

"And that's all the appreciation I get for confining myself to the
straight and narrow!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, I didn't mean that, Jim," she said, with instant contrition. "You
don't know how glad I am that now, since we're married, you have
settled down to honorable things; and you'll make a fortune, I know
you will."

"You bet I will," he agreed. "In the meantime I have to go out and dig
up seventy-five thousand dollars more of other people's money to put
into this concern; _which will give me another seventy-five thousand
dollars' worth of stock_! Straight business pays, Fannie!"



CHAPTER XXVI

 DOCTOR QUAGG PROVES THAT STRAIGHT BUSINESS IS A
 DELUSION AND A SNARE


Within a short time Wallingford had the satisfaction of seeing
bill-boards covered with his big sign ordering the public to "Laugh at
That Woozy Feeling," but not yet telling them how to do it, and he
heard people idly wondering what the answer to that advertisement was
going to be. Some of them resented having puzzles of the sort thrust
in front of their eyes, others welcomed it as a cheerful diversion.
Wallingford smiled at both sorts. He knew they would remember, and
firmly link together the mystery and the solution. Cards bearing the
same mandate stared down at every street-car rider, and newspaper
readers found it impossible to evade the same command. All this
advertising, for the appearance of which Wallingford had waited,
helped him to sell the stock to pay for itself, and, in the meantime,
he was busy putting into his new factory a bottling plant, second in
its facility if not its capacity, to none in the country. He installed
magnificent offices and for the doctor prepared an impressive private
apartment, this latter being a cross between an alchemist's laboratory
and a fortune-teller's oriental _salon_; but alas and alack! the
first day the doctor walked into his new office he had his hair
close-cropped and wore a derby, with such monstrous effect that even
Wallingford, inured as he was to most surprises, recoiled in horror!

From that moment the doctor became a hard one to manage. His first
protest was against the Benson House, the old-fashioned, moderate-rate
hotel which he had always patronized and had always recommended
wherever he went. Thereafter he changed boarding-houses and family
hotels about every two weeks; but he never had his hair cut after the
once. The big mixing vats that Wallingford installed he grew to hate.
He was used to mixing his Sciatacata in a hotel water-pitcher and
filling it into bottles with a tin funnel; and to mix up a hundred
gallons at a time of that precious compound seemed a cold, commercial
proposition which was so much a sacrilege that he went out and
"painted the town," winding up in a fight with a cigar-store Indian.
He left such a train of fireworks in his wake that Wallingford heard
of it for weeks afterward.

To J. Rufus the affair was a good joke, but to the other gentlemen of
the company, Corbin, Paley and Doctor Lazzier and the others who had
social reputations to maintain as well as business interests to guard,
the affair was tragic, not merely because one of their number had
become intoxicated, but that it should be this particular one, and
that he should make himself so conspicuous! The doctor repeated his
escapade within a week. This time he took a notion to "circulate" in a
cab, and as he got more mellow, insisted upon sitting up with the
driver, where he whooped sonorously every time they turned a corner.
This time he finished in the hands of the police, and Wallingford was
called upon at three o'clock in the morning to bail him out. Friends
of Corbin and Paley and the other exclusives whom Wallingford had
selected as his stock-holders began to drop in on them with pleasant
little remarks about their business associate. The doctor had been
bragging widely about his connection with them!

His crowning effort came when he continued his celebration of one
night through the next day, and drove around to make a few party
calls. He appeared like a specter of disgrace in Corbin's private
office with:

"Hello, old pal, come out and have a drink!" and gave Corbin a hearty
slap on the back.

Corbin gave a helpless glance across at the three prim young ladies on
the other side of his open screen. Back of him a solemn-visaged old
bookkeeper, who was both a deacon and Sunday-school superintendent,
looked on in shocked amazement.

"Couldn't begin to think of it, Doctor," protested Corbin nervously,
pulling at his lavender cravat, while the perspiration broke out upon
his bald spot. "I must attend to business, you know."

"Never mind the business!" insisted the doctor. "Wait till our
Sciatacata factory is shipping in car-loads, partner, and you can
afford to give this junk-shop away."

Paley, happening in to speak to Corbin, created a diversion welcome to
Corbin but unwelcome to himself, for the doctor immediately pounced
upon Paley and insisted upon taking him out to get a drink, and the
only way that narrow-framed young man could get rid of him was to
go along. He rode around in the cab with him for a while, and tried
to dissuade him from calling upon Doctor Lazzier and the other
stock-holders, but Quagg was obdurate. To wind up the evening's
performance he appeared on a prominent street corner about nine
o'clock, in a carriage with the gasolene torch and the life-size
anatomical chart, and began selling the Peerless Sciatacata, calling
upon the names of Wallingford, Lazzier, Corbin and Paley--his
"partners"--as guarantees of his sincerity and standing, and as
sureties of the excellence of the priceless compound.

Wallingford heard about him quickly, for the picturesque Quagg had
become a public joy and all the down-town crowd knew well about him.
Wallingford went down to the corner with the intention of putting a
stop to the exhibition, but, as he looked at the doctor, whose hair
now dropped beneath his sombrero to nearly its old-time length, a new
thought struck him and he went quietly away. The next day Corbin
withdrew from the treasurership and Paley from the directorate, and
every one of the directors who had taken the places of the original
incorporators did likewise. Intimate relationship with the doctor was
productive of too much publicity for peaceful enjoyment.

It was just at this time that the agent of the advertising concern
began to bother Wallingford for "copy" on the last half of his
contract. Wallingford, to placate him, finished paying for the
contract and took the cash discount, but held the agent off two or
three days in the matter of the "copy." He was not quite satisfied
about the wording of the advertisement. He sat up late one night
devising the most concise and striking form in which to present the
merits of Doctor Quagg's Peerless Sciatacata, and in the morning he
went down to the office prepared to mail the result of his labor. He
found upon his desk this note from the restless Doctor Quagg:

     Spring's here. I never stayed in one place so long in my
     life. You can have my salary and you can have my ten
     thousand dollars' worth of stock. I don't want it. My
     hair's out good and long again and I've gone back on the
     road to sell the Sciatacata.

                         Yours truly,
                              QUAGG.

It was the last straw, and the stock-holders' meeting which
Wallingford hastily called wore the greenish pallor peculiar to
landlubbers in their first sea storm.

"We don't need Quagg," Wallingford protested. "Our contract with him
covers any rights he has in the title of the medicine, and the mere
fact that he is not with us does not need to prevent our going ahead."

"Have you the formula for his preparation?" asked Doctor Lazzier
quietly.

"Oh, no," replied Wallingford carelessly. "I don't see that that need
stop us."

"Why not?" protested young Corbin. "Our whole business is built upon
that formula."

Wallingford smiled.

"We simply must stick to the Sciatacata," resumed Wallingford. "We
have all this fine stationery printed, with the full name of the
Peerless dope; we have elaborate booklets and circulars about it, and
the first delivery of ten thousand labels is here. There will be no
trouble in getting up another Peerless Sciatacata which will at least
be harmless, but I think that we can do even better than that. I think
that Doctor Lazzier can furnish us a good, handy, cheap prescription
for sciatic rheumatism."

"Certainly not," protested Doctor Lazzier with vast professional
indignation; but he nevertheless winked at Wallingford.

"Never mind," said Wallingford to Corbin; "I'll get the formula all
right."

"For my part I'm willing to sell my stock at ten per cent.," said
Corbin with infinite disgust. He was thinking at that very moment of a
gaudy "function" he was to attend that night, one marking quite an
advance in his social climb, and he almost dreaded to go. "I don't
like to lose money, but, in this case, I'd really rather. This is a
dreadful experience."

The rest of them agreed with young Corbin in attitude, if not in
words, and it was with considerable sadness that they dispersed, after
having decided, somewhat reluctantly, that Wallingford should go ahead
with the Sciatacata. Pursuing this plan Wallingford sent away the copy
for the bottom half of the great woozy-feeling advertisement.

The following afternoon, however, came the death-blow, in the shape of
a most hilarious article in the local papers. In a neighboring city
Doctor Quagg had gone out to sell the Peerless Sciatacata, had been
caught in a drizzle of spring rain and had been sent, raving angry, to
the hospital with a most severe case of sciatic rheumatism. The joke
of it was too good. The local papers, as a mere kindly matter of news
information, published a list of the stock-holders of the Doctor Quagg
Peerless Sciatacata Company.

Wallingford, with that item before him, sat and chuckled till the
tears quivered on his eyelashes; but, even in the midst of his
appreciation of the fun in the case, he wired to the agent of the
advertising company to cancel his previous letter of instructions, and
to secure him at least a week's grace before forfeiture of the
contract; then he proceeded quietly to telephone the stock-holders. He
found great difficulty in getting the use of his line, however, for
the stock-holders were already calling him up, frantically, tearfully,
broken-heartedly. They were all ruined through their connection with
the Sciatacata!

"I'll tell you, Fannie," said he at dinner, after pondering over a new
thought which would keep obtruding itself into his mind, "this thing
of training a straight business down to weight is no merry quip. It's
more trouble and risk than my favorite game of promoting for revenue
only."

"You keep right on at it, Jim," she insisted. "You'll find there is
ever so much more satisfaction in it in the end."

He was moody all through dinner. They had tickets for the theater that
night and they went, but here, too, Wallingford was distrait, and he
could not have remembered one incident of the play until during the
last act, when his brow suddenly cleared. When they went back to the
hotel he led his wife into the dining-room, and, excusing himself for
a moment, went to the telegraph desk and sent a telegram to Horace G.
Daw, of Boston.



CHAPTER XXVII

 IN WHICH YOU ARE TOLD HOW TO LAUGH AT THAT
 WOOZY FEELING


Two days later Wallingford called a conclave of the stock-holders to
meet one Hamilton G. Dorcas, of Boston, who had come to consider
taking over the property of the Doctor Quagg Peerless Sciatacata
Company. Quite hopefully Doctor Lazzier, young Corbin, young Paley and
the others attended that meeting for the disposal of the concern which
had already eaten up one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in
good cash; but when they began talking with Mr. Dorcas they were not
quite so extravagantly hopeful. Mr. H. G. Dorcas was a tall, thin,
black-haired, black-eyed and black-mustached young man in ministerial
clothing, who looked astonishingly like Horace G. Daw, if any one of
them had previously known that young gentleman.

"I have been through your factory," said Mr. Dorcas in a businesslike
manner, "and all I find here of any value to me is your second-hand
bottling machinery and vats and your second-hand office furniture. For
those I am prepared to pay you a reasonable second-hand price; say,
about fifteen thousand dollars."

It was young Corbin who put up the loudest protest.

"Why, man, such an offer is preposterous! Besides the twenty-five
thousand invested in the machinery, fixtures and other expenses, we
have spent exactly a hundred thousand dollars in advertising."

Mr. Dorcas shrugged his shoulders.

"What good will that do me?" he retorted. "It's wasted."

Deep silence followed. The stock-holders knew that a hundred thousand
had actually been paid out for advertising which, of course, was now
of no value whatever. Only Wallingford knew that, the contract not
being completed, part of it could be rebated, though only a small
part, but he was not saying anything. Temptation had caught up with
Wallingford, had wrestled with him and overthrown him!

"Yes," admitted young Paley with a long, long sigh, "all that
advertising money is wasted."

Young Corbin was figuring.

"Mr. Dorcas," said he, "if you will increase your offer by two
thousand dollars I am inclined to accept it and get out of this muddle
once and for all."

Mr. Dorcas himself figured very carefully.

"It is stretching a point with you," said he, "but I'll give it to
you. Understand, though, that is the last cent."

"I am not in favor of it," declared Wallingford, thereby putting
himself upon the proper side for future reference. "It leaves us with
a net cash loss of one hundred and eight thousand dollars. I'm in
favor of rigging up some other patent medicine and going right ahead
with the business. A slight assessment on our stock, or an agreement
to purchase _pro rata_, among ourselves, a small amount of the
treasury stock in order to raise about twenty-five thousand dollars
more, will put us in shape to go ahead."

If he intended to encourage them he had gone the wrong way about it.
They recoiled as one man from that thought. Young Corbin jumped to his
feet.

"You may count me out," he declared.

"Doctor Lazzier," pleaded Wallingford, "you are in favor of this
course?"

"By no means," said he. "A lot of my friends are 'on,' and some of my
patients are laughing at me. I can't afford it. Take this man's offer.
Wait just a minute." He rose to his feet. "I'll make that a formal
motion," and he did so.

With no dissenting voice, except Wallingford's, that motion was
carried through, and Wallingford spread it upon the minute-books at
once. Also a committee was appointed formally to close the business
with Mr. Dorcas, and to transfer to that gentleman, at once, all the
properties, rights and good-will of the company.

"Gentlemen, I am very sorry," said Wallingford, much crestfallen in
appearance. "I still protest against giving up, but I blame myself for
coaxing you into this unfortunate affair."

"Don't mention it," protested Doctor Lazzier, shaking hands. "You
meant to do us a favor."

They all agreed with the doctor, and young Corbin felt especially
sorry for Wallingford's contrition.

Immediately after the dispersal of the meeting Mr. Wallingford and
"Mr. Dorcas" shook hands ecstatically.

"Blackie, you're handier than a hollow cane in Drytown," exulted
Wallingford. "Here's where I clean up. I own over one third of this
stock. I have invested only one cheap thousand dollars over and above
my expenses since I got here, and I'll get a third of this seventeen
thousand right back again, so the company, up to date--and I own it
all--stands me just a little less than what's left of my winnings on
that noble little horse, Whipsaw. Just wait a minute till I send this
off to the advertising company," and he wrote rapidly a lengthy
telegram.

After he sent away the telegram he remained at his desk a few moments,
sketching on one of the proofs of a newspaper "ad" and filling in the
lower part.

"Here," said he to Blackie, "is the complete advertisement."

Blackie picked up the proof sheet and glanced over it in evident
approval. Taken altogether, it read:

                         LAUGH AT
                    THAT WOOZY FEELING
                      DRINK GINGEREE!
                 IT PUTS THE GINGER IN YOU
              TEN CENTS AT ALL SODA FOUNTAINS

"Within a week," exulted Wallingford, "everybody in the middle states
will know all about Gingeree. Before that time I'll have Gingeree
invented, and the Gingeree Company organized for half a million
dollars. I'll put in the plant and the advertising at one hundred and
fifty thousand, sell about twenty-five thousand dollars of treasury
stock to start the business, then sell my hundred and fifty thousand
and get out."

"You'll have to go out of town to sell your stock," observed Blackie.

"Out of town!" repeated Wallingford. "I should say not! With the good
introduction I have here? Not any. I'll sell stock to Doctor Lazzier
and young Corbin and young Paley and the rest of the bunch."

Blackie looked at his friend in gasping awe.

"Great guns!" he exploded. "J. Rufus, if you have nerve enough even to
figure on that stunt, I believe you can pull it off!"

The door of the office opened and Mrs. Wallingford came in.

"Blackie Daw!" she exclaimed. "And so you are in town and mixed up in
Jim's affairs! Jim Wallingford, now I know you are not conducting a
straight business!"

Blackie only grinned, but Mr. Wallingford was hurt.

"You're mistaken, Fannie," said he. "You sit right down there, and
I'll explain."

He did so. When Wallingford rejoined her in their rooms that evening
she had had time to think it all over. She had found no arguments to
combat Wallingford's statement of the case. She could not find words
to overturn his words, and yet there was a flaw some place that she
could not put her finger upon. Knowing this, then, and condoning it,
was she not a part sharer in his guilt? Yes, and no. For a solid hour
she searched her heart and she could find but one satisfactory answer.
No matter what he had done in the past or might do in the future, she
knew that she loved him, and whatever path his feet might tread, she
knew that she would walk along with him. She had thought at first that
she might guide his footsteps into better ways, but now she feared!
She knew, too, that in remaining with him she must take him as he was.

And so, when he came to her, she was ready with her customary kiss, in
which there was no lack of warmth; nor was there in her eyes any
troubled look. He was delighted to find her in this mood.

"I guess you've thought it all over, Fannie," said he, "and can see
that at least this one business deal is a dead straight game, just as
any good business man would play it."

"Yes," she reluctantly admitted. "I am afraid that business, even
straight business, is sometimes conducted along such lines."

But down in her heart of hearts she knew better.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and
intent.





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