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Title: Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford
Author: Chester, George Randolph, 1869-1924
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                   GET-RICH-QUICK WALLINGFORD

    A cheerful account of the rise and fall of an American Business
    Buccaneer

                  By GEORGE RANDOLPH CHESTER

    Author of "The Making of Bobby Burnit," "The Cash Intrigue," Etc.

    WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

    A. L. BURT COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS       NEW YORK

    Copyright, 1907, by the Curtis Publishing Company
    Copyright, 1908, by the Curtis Publishing Company
    Copyright, 1908, by Howard E. Altemus

    Published April, 1908


    TO THE LIVE BUSINESS MEN OF AMERICA--THOSE
        WHO HAVE BEEN "STUNG" AND THOSE WHO
         HAVE YET TO UNDERGO THAT PAINFUL
         EXPERIENCE--THIS LITTLE TALE IS
            SYMPATHETICALLY DEDICATED



[Illustration: "AND THE BATHROOM MUST HAVE A LARGE TUB"]



Contents


         CHAPTER I. In Which J. Rufus Wallingford Conceives a
                    Brilliant Invention                              9

        CHAPTER II. Wherein Edward Lamb Beholds the Amazing
                    Profits of the Carpet-tack Industry              21

       CHAPTER III. Mr. Wallingford's Lamb Is Carefully Inspired
                    with a Flash of Creative Genius                  33

        CHAPTER IV. J. Rufus Accepts a Temporary Accommodation
                    and Buys an Automobile                           45

         CHAPTER V. The Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company
                    Forms Amid Great Enthusiasm                      58

        CHAPTER VI. In Which an Astounding Revelation Is Made
                    Concerning J. Rufus                              71

       CHAPTER VII. Wherein the Great Tack Inventor Suddenly
                    Decides to Change His Location                   93

      CHAPTER VIII. Mr. Wallingford Takes a Dose of His Own
                    Bitter Medicine                                 111

        CHAPTER IX. Mr. Wallingford Shows Mr. Clover How to Do
                    the Widows and Orphans Good                     129

         CHAPTER X. An Amazing Combination of Philanthropy and
                    Profit is Inaugurated                           140

        CHAPTER XI. Neil Takes a Sudden Interest in the
                    Business, and Wallingford Lets Go               155

       CHAPTER XII. Fate Arranges for J. Rufus an Opportunity
                    to Manufacture Sales Recorders                  171

      CHAPTER XIII. Mr. Wallingford Offers Unlimited Financial
                    Backing to a New Enterprise                     187

       CHAPTER XIV. Showing How Five Hundred Dollars May Do
                    the Work of Five Thousand                       202

        CHAPTER XV. Wallingford Generously Loans The Pneumatic
                    Company Some of Its Own Money                   215

       CHAPTER XVI. The Financier Takes a Flying Trip to Europe
                    on an Affair of the Heart                       232

      CHAPTER XVII. Wherein a Good Stomach for Strong Drink
                    is Worth Thousands of Dollars                   246

     CHAPTER XVIII. The Town of Battlesburg Finds a Private
                    Railroad Car in Its Midst!                      256

       CHAPTER XIX. Mr. Wallingford Wins the Town of Battlesburg
                    by the Toss of a Coin                           273

        CHAPTER XX. Battlesburg Smells Money and Plunges into
                    a Mad Orgie of Speculation                      293

       CHAPTER XXI. In Which the Sheep Are Sheared and Skinned
                    and Their Hides Tanned                          310

      CHAPTER XXII. J. Rufus Prefers Farming in America to
                    Promoting in Europe                             330

     CHAPTER XXIII. A Corner on Farmers is Formed and It
                    Beholds a Most Wonderful Vision                 347

      CHAPTER XXIV. The Farmers' Commercial Association Does
                    Terrific Things to the Board of Trade           365

       CHAPTER XXV. Mr. Fox Solves His Great Problem and Mr.
                    Wallingford Falls With a Thud                   383

      CHAPTER XXVI. J. Rufus Scents a Fortune in Smoke and
                    Lets Mr. Nickel See the Flames                  399

     CHAPTER XXVII. Mr. Wallingford Gambles a Bit and Picks
                    Up an Unsolicited Partner                       414

    CHAPTER XXVIII. Wherein Mr. Wallingford Joins the Largest
                    Club in the World                               431



GET-RICH-QUICK WALLINGFORD



CHAPTER I

IN WHICH J. RUFUS WALLINGFORD CONCEIVES A BRILLIANT INVENTION


The mud was black and oily where it spread thinly at the edges of the
asphalt, and wherever it touched it left a stain; it was upon the
leather of every pedestrian, even the most fastidious, and it bordered
with almost laughable conspicuousness the higher marking of yellow clay
upon the heavy shoes of David Jasper, where he stood at the curb in
front of the big hotel with his young friend, Edward Lamb. Absorbed in
"lodge," talk, neither of the oddly assorted cronies cared much for
drizzle overhead or mire underfoot; but a splash of black mud in the
face must necessarily command some attention. This surprise came
suddenly to both from the circumstance of a cab having dashed up just
beside them. Their resentment, bubbling hot for a moment, was quickly
chilled, however, as the cab door opened and out of it stepped one of
those impressive beings for whom the best things of this world have been
especially made and provided. He was a large gentleman, a suave
gentleman, a gentleman whose clothes not merely fit him but
distinguished him, a gentleman of rare good living, even though one of
the sort whose faces turn red when they eat; and the dignity of his
worldly prosperousness surrounded him like a blessed aura. Without a
glance at the two plain citizens who stood mopping the mud from their
faces, he strode majestically into the hotel, leaving Mr. David Jasper
and Mr. Edward Lamb out in the rain.

The clerk kowtowed to the signature, though he had never seen nor heard
of it before--"J. Rufus Wallingford, Boston." His eyes, however, had
noted a few things: traveling suit, scarf pin, watch guard, ring,
hatbox, suit case, bag, all expensive and of the finest grade.

"Sitting room and bedroom; outside!" directed Mr. Wallingford. "And the
bathroom must have a large tub."

The clerk ventured a comprehending smile as he noted the bulk before
him.

"Certainly, Mr. Wallingford. Boy, key for 44-A. Anything else, Mr.
Wallingford?"

"Send up a waiter and a valet."

Once more the clerk permitted himself a slight smile, but this time it
was as his large guest turned away. He had not the slightest doubt that
Mr. Wallingford's bill would be princely, he was positive that it would
be paid; but a vague wonder had crossed his mind as to who would
regrettingly pay it. His penetration was excellent, for at this very
moment the new arrival's entire capitalized worth was represented by the
less than one hundred dollars he carried in his pocket, nor had Mr.
Wallingford the slightest idea of where he was to get more. This latter
circumstance did not distress him, however; he knew that there was still
plenty of money in the world and that none of it was soldered on, and a
reflection of this comfortable philosophy was in his whole bearing. As
he strode in pomp across the lobby, a score of bellboys, with a
carefully trained scent for tips, envied the cheerfully grinning
servitor who followed him to the elevator with his luggage.

Just as the bellboy was inserting the key in the lock of 44-A, a tall,
slightly built man in a glove-fitting black frock suit, a quite
ministerial-looking man, indeed, had it not been for the startling
effect of his extravagantly curled black mustache and his piercing black
eyes, came down the hallway, so abstracted that he had almost passed Mr.
Wallingford. The latter, however, had eyes for everything.

"What's the hurry, Blackie?" he inquired affably.

The other wheeled instantly, with the snappy alertness of a man who has
grown of habit to hold himself in readiness against sudden surprises
from any quarter.

"Hello, J. Rufus!" he exclaimed, and shook hands. "Boston squeezed dry?"

Mr. Wallingford chuckled with a cumbrous heaving of his shoulders.

"Just threw the rind away," he confessed. "Come in."

Mr. Daw, known as "Blackie" to a small but select circle of gentlemen
who make it their business to rescue and put carefully hoarded money
back into rapid circulation, dropped moodily into a chair and sat
considering his well-manicured finger-nails in glum silence, while his
masterful host disposed of the bellboy and the valet.

"Had your dinner?" inquired Mr. Wallingford as he donned the last few
garments of a fresh suit.

"Not yet," growled the other. "I've got such a grouch against myself I
won't even feed right, for fear I'd enjoy it. On the cheaps for the last
day, too."

Mr. Wallingford laughed and shook his head.

"I'm clean myself," he hastened to inform his friend. "If I have a
hundred I'm a millionaire, but I'm coming and you're going, and we don't
look at that settle-up ceremony the same way. What's the matter?"

"I'm the goat!" responded Blackie moodily. "The original goat! Came
clear out here to trim a sucker that looked good by mail, and have
swallowed so much of that citric fruit that if I scrape myself my skin
spurts lemon juice. Say, do I look like a come-on?"

"If you only had the shaving-brush goatee, Blackie, I'd try to make you
bet on the location of the little pea," gravely responded his friend.

"That's right; rub it in!" exclaimed the disgruntled one. "Massage me
with it! Jimmy, if I could take off my legs, I'd kick myself with them
from here to Boston and never lose a stroke. And me wise!"

"But where's the fire?" asked J. Rufus, bringing the end of his collar
to place with a dexterous jerk.

"This lamb I came out to shear--rot him and burn him and scatter his
ashes! Before I went dippy over two letter-heads and a nice round
signature, I ordered an extra safety-deposit vault back home and came on
to take his bank roll and house and lot, and make him a present of his
clothes if he behaved. But not so! _Not_--so! Jimmy, this whole town
blew right over from out of the middle of Missouri in the last cyclone.
You've got to show everybody, and then turn it over and let 'em see the
other side, and I haven't met the man yet that you could separate from a
dollar without chloroform and an ax. Let me tell you what to do with
that hundred, J. Rufe. Just get on the train and give it to the
conductor, and tell him to take you as far ay-way from here as the money
will reach!"

Mr. Wallingford settled his cravat tastefully and smiled at himself in
the glass.

"I like the place," he observed. "They have tall buildings here, and I
smell soft money. This town will listen to a legitimate business
proposition. What?"

"Like the milk-stopper industry?" inquired Mr. Daw, grinning
appreciatively. "How is your Boston corporation coming on, anyhow?"

"It has even quit holding the bag," responded the other, "because there
isn't anything left of the bag. The last I saw of them, the thin and
feeble stockholders were chasing themselves around in circles, so I
faded away."

"You're a wonder," complimented the black-haired man with genuine
admiration. "You never take a chance, yet get away with everything in
sight, and you never leave 'em an opening to put the funny clothes on
you."

"I deal in nothing but straight commercial propositions that are
strictly within the pale of the law," said J. Rufus without a wink; "and
even at that they can't say I took anything away from Boston."

"Don't blame Boston. You never cleaned up a cent less than five thousand
a month while you were there, and if you spent it, that was your
lookout."

"I had to live."

"So do the suckers," sagely observed Mr. Daw, "but they manage it on
four cents' worth of prunes a day, and save up their money for good
people. How is Mrs. Wallingford?"

"All others are base imitations," boasted the large man, pausing to
critically consider the flavor of his champagne. "Just now, Fanny's in
New York, eating up her diamonds. She was swallowing the last of the
brooch when I left her, and this morning she was to begin on the
necklace. That ought to last her quite some days, and by that time J.
Rufus expects to be on earth again."

A waiter came to the door with a menu card, and Mr. Wallingford ordered,
to be ready to serve in three quarters of an hour, at a choice table
near the music, a dinner for two that would gladden the heart of any
tip-hunter.

"How soon are you going back to Boston, Blackie?"

"To-night!" snapped the other. "I was going to take a train that makes
it in nineteen hours, but I found there is one that makes it in eighteen
and a half, so I'm going to take that; and when I get back where the
police are satisfied with half, I'm not going out after the emerald
paper any more. I'm going to make them bring it to me. It's always the
best way. I never went after money yet that they didn't ask me why I
wanted it."

The large man laughed with his eyes closed.

"Honestly, Blackie, you ought to go into legitimate business
enterprises. That's the only game. You can get anybody to buy stock
when you make them print it themselves, if you'll only bait up with
some little staple article that people use and throw away every day,
like ice-cream pails, or corks, or cigar bands, or--or--or carpet
tacks." Having sought about the room for this last illustration, Mr.
Wallingford became suddenly inspired, and, arising, went over to the
edge of the carpet, where he gazed down meditatively for a moment. "Now,
look at this, for instance!" he said with final enthusiasm. "See this
swell red carpet fastened down with rusty tacks? There's the chance.
Suppose those tacks were covered with red cloth to match the carpet.
Blackie, that's my next invention."

"Maybe there are covered carpet tacks," observed his friend, with but
languid interest.

"What do I care?" rejoined Mr. Wallingford. "A man can always get a
patent, and that's all I need, even if it's one you can throw a cat
through. The company can fight the patent after I'm out of it. You
wouldn't expect me to fasten myself down to the grease-covered details
of an actual manufacturing business, would you?"

"Not any!" rejoined the dark one emphatically. "You're all right, J.
Rufus. I'd go into your business myself if I wasn't honest. But, on the
level, what do you expect to do here?"

"Organize the Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company. I'll begin
to-morrow morning. Give me the list you couldn't use."

"Don't get in bad from the start," warned Mr. Daw. "Tackle fresh ones.
The particular piece of Roquefort, though, that fooled me into a Pullman
compartment and kept me grinning like a drunken hyena all the way here,
was a pinhead by the name of Edward Lamb. When Eddy fell for an inquiry
about Billion Strike gold stock, he wrote on the firm's stationery, all
printed in seventeen colors and embossed so it made holes in the
envelopes when the cancellation stamp came down. From the tone of Eddy's
letter I thought he was about ready to mortgage father's business to buy
Billion Strike, and I came on to help him do it. Honest, J. Rufus,
wouldn't it strike you that Lamb was a good name? Couldn't you hear it
bleat?"

Mr. Wallingford shook silently, the more so that there was no answering
gleam of mirth in Mr. Daw's savage visage.

"Say, do you know what I found when I got here?" went on Blackie still
more ferociously. "I found he was a piker bookkeeper, but with five
thousand dollars that he'd wrenched out of his own pay envelope, a
pinch at a clip; and every time he takes a dollar out of his pocket his
fingers creak. His whole push is like him, too, but I never got any
further than Eddy. He's not merely Johnny Wise--he's the whole Wise
family, and it's only due to my Christian bringing up that I didn't swat
him with a brick during our last little chatter when I saw it all fade
away. Do you know what he wanted me to do? He wanted me to prove to him
that there actually was a Billion Strike mine, and that gold had been
found in it!"

Mr. Wallingford had ceased to laugh. He was soberly contemplating.

"Your Lamb is my mutton," he finally concluded, pressing his finger tips
together. "He'll listen to a legitimate business proposition."

"Don't make me fuss with you, J. Rufus," admonished Mr. Daw. "Remember,
I'm going away to-night," and he arose.

Mr. Wallingford arose with him. "By the way, of course I'll want to
refer to you; how many addresses have you besides the Billion Strike? A
mention of that would probably get me arrested."

"Four: the Mexican and Rio Grande Rubber Company, Tremont Building; the
St. John's Blood Orange Plantation Company, 643 Third Street; the Los
Pocos Lead Development Company, 868 Schuttle Avenue, and the Sierra
Cinnabar Grant, Schuttle Square, all of which addresses will reach me at
my little old desk-room corner in 1126 Tremont Building, Third and
Schuttle Avenues; and I'll answer letters of inquiry on four different
letter-heads. If you need more I'll post Billy Riggs over in the Cloud
Block and fix it for another four or five."

"I'll write Billy a letter myself," observed J. Rufus. "I'll need all
the references I can get when I come to organize the Universal Covered
Carpet Tack Company."

"Quit kidding," retorted Mr. Daw.

"It's on the level," insisted J. Rufus seriously. "Let's go down to
dinner."



CHAPTER II

WHEREIN EDWARD LAMB BEHOLDS THE AMAZING PROFITS OF THE CARPET-TACK
INDUSTRY


There were twenty-four applicants for the position before Edward Lamb
appeared, the second day after the initial insertion of the
advertisement which had been designed to meet his eye alone. David
Jasper, who read his paper advertisements and all, in order to get the
full worth of his money out of it, telephoned to his friend Edward about
the glittering chance.

Yes, Mr. Wallingford was in his suite. Would the gentleman give his
name? Mr. Lamb produced a card, printed in careful imitation of
engraving, and it gained him admission to the august presence, where he
created some surprise by a sudden burst of laughter.

"Ex-cuse me!" he exclaimed. "But you're the man that splashed mud on me
the other night!"

When the circumstance was related, Mr. Wallingford laughed with great
gusto and shook hands for the second time with his visitor. The
incident helped them to get upon a most cordial footing at once. It did
not occur to either of them, at the time, how appropriate it was that
Mr. Wallingford should splash mud upon Mr. Lamb at their very first
meeting.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Lamb?" inquired the large man.

"You advertised----" began the caller.

"Oh, you came about that position," deprecated Mr. Wallingford, with a
nicely shaded tone of courteous disappointment in his voice. "I am
afraid that I am already fairly well suited, although I have made no
final choice as yet. What are your qualifications?"

"There will be no trouble about that," returned Mr. Lamb, straightening
visibly. "I can satisfy anybody." And Mr. Wallingford had the keynote
for which he was seeking.

He knew at once that Mr. Lamb prided himself upon his independence, upon
his local standing, upon his efficiency, upon his business astuteness.
The observer had also the experience of Mr. Daw to guide him, and,
moreover, better than all, here was Mr. Lamb himself. He was a
broad-shouldered young man, who stood well upon his two feet; he dressed
with a proper and decent pride in his prosperity, and wore looped upon
his vest a watch chain that by its very weight bespoke the wearer's
solid worth. The young man was an open book, whereof the pages were
embossed in large type.

"Now you're talking like the right man," said the prospective employer.
"Sit down. You'll understand, Mr. Lamb, that my question was only a
natural one, for I am quite particular about this position, which is the
most important one I have to fill. Our business is to be a large one. We
are to conduct an immense plant in this city, and I want the office work
organized with a thorough system from the beginning. The duties,
consequently, would begin at once. The man who would become secretary of
the Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company, would need to know all about
the concern from its very inception, and until I have secured that exact
man I shall take no steps toward organization."

Word by word, Mr. Wallingford watched the face of Edward Lamb and could
see that he was succumbing to the mental chloroform. However, a man who
at thirty has accumulated five thousand is not apt to be numbed without
struggling.

"Before we go any further," interposed the patient, with deep, deep
shrewdness, "it must be understood that I have no money to invest."

"Exactly," agreed Mr. Wallingford. "I stated that in my advertisement.
To become secretary it will be necessary to hold one share of stock, but
that share I shall give to the right applicant. I do not care for him to
have any investment in the company. What I want is the services of the
best man in the city, and to that end I advertised for one who had been
an expert bookkeeper and who knew all the office routine of conducting a
large business, agreeing to start such a man with a salary of two
hundred dollars a month. That advertisement stated in full all that I
expect from the one who secures this position--his expert services. I
may say that you are only the second candidate who has had the outward
appearance of being able to fulfill the requirements. Actual efficiency
would naturally have to be shown."

Mr. Wallingford was now quite coldly insistent. The proper sleep had
been induced.

"For fifteen years," Mr. Lamb now hastened to advise him, "I have been
employed by the A. J. Dorman Manufacturing Company, and can refer you to
them for everything you wish to know. I can give you other references as
to reliability if you like."

Mr. Wallingford was instant warmth.

"The A. J. Dorman Company, indeed!" he exclaimed, though he had never
heard of that concern. "The name itself is guarantee enough, at least to
defer such matters for a bit while I show you the industry that is to be
built in your city." From his dresser Mr. Wallingford produced a handful
of tacks, the head of each one covered with a bit of different-colored
bright cloth. "You have only to look at these," he continued, holding
them forth, and with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand turning
one red-topped tack about in front of Mr. Lamb's eyes, "to appreciate to
the full what a wonderful business certainty I am preparing to launch.
Just hold these tacks a moment," and he turned the handful into Mr.
Lamb's outstretched palm. "Now come over to the edge of this carpet. I
have selected here a tack which matches this floor covering. You see
those rusty heads? Imagine the difference if they were replaced by
this!"

Mr. Lamb looked and saw, but it was necessary to display his business
acumen.

"Looks like a good thing," he commented; "but the cost?"

"The cost is comparatively nothing over the old steel tack, although we
can easily get ten cents a paper as against five for the common ones,
leaving us a much wider margin of profit than the manufacturers of the
straight tack obtain. There is no family so poor that will use the old,
rusty tinned or bronze tack when these are made known to the trade, and
you can easily compute for yourself how many millions of packages are
used every year. Why, the Eureka Tack Company, which practically has a
monopoly of the carpet-tack business, operates a manufacturing plant
covering twenty solid acres, and a loaded freight car leaves its
warehouse doors on an average of every seven minutes! You cannot buy a
share of stock in the Eureka Carpet Tack Company at any price. It yields
sixteen per cent. a year dividends, with over eighteen million dollars
of undivided surplus--and that business was built on carpet tacks alone!
Why, sir, if we wished to do so, within two months after we had started
our factory wheels rolling we could sell out to the Eureka Company for
two million dollars; or a profit of more than one thousand per cent. on
the investment that we are to make."

For once Mr. Lamb was overwhelmed. Only three days before he had been
beset by Mr. Daw, but that gentleman had grown hoarsely eloquent over
vast possessions that were beyond thousands of miles of circumambient
space, across vast barren reaches where desert sands sent up constant
streams of superheated atmosphere, with the "hot air" distinctly to be
traced throughout the conversation; but here was something to be seen
and felt. The points of the very tacks that he held pricked his palm,
and his eyes were still glued upon the red-topped one which Mr.
Wallingford held hypnotically before him.

"Who composes your company?" he managed to ask.

"So far, I do," replied Mr. Wallingford with quiet pride. "I have not
organized the company. That is a minor detail. When I go searching for
capital I shall know where to secure it. I have chosen this city on
account of its manufacturing facilities, and for its splendid
geographical position as a distributing center."

"The stock is not yet placed, then," mused aloud Mr. Lamb, upon whose
vision there already glowed a pleasing picture of immense profits.

Why, the thing was startling in the magnificence of its opportunity!
Simple little trick, millions and millions used, better than anything of
its kind ever put upon the market, cheaply manufactured, it was marked
for success from the first!

"Stock placed? Not at all," stated Mr. Wallingford. "My plans only
contemplate incorporating for a quarter of a million, and I mean to
avoid small stockholders. I shall try to divide the stock into, say,
about ten holdings of twenty-five thousand each."

Mr. Lamb was visibly disappointed.

"It looks like a fine thing," he declared with a note of regret.

"Fine? My boy, I'm not much older than you are, but I have been
connected with several large enterprises in Boston and elsewhere--if any
one were to care to inquire about me they might drop a line to the
Mexican and Rio Grande Rubber Company, the St. John's Blood Orange
Plantation Company, the Los Pocos Lead Development Company, the Sierra
Cinnabar Grant, and a number of others, the addresses of which I could
supply--and I never have seen anything so good as this. I am staking my
entire business judgment upon it, and, of course, I shall retain the
majority of stock myself, inasmuch as the article is my invention."

This being the psychological moment, Mr. Wallingford put forth his hand
and had Mr. Lamb dump the tacks back into the large palm that had at
first held them. He left them open to view, however, and presently Mr.
Lamb picked out one of them for examination. This particular tack was
of an exquisite apple-green color, the covering for which had been
clipped from one of Mr. Wallingford's own expensive ties, glued to its
place and carefully trimmed by Mr. Wallingford's own hands. Mr. Lamb
took it to the window for closer admiration, and the promoter, left to
himself for a moment, stood before the glass to mop his face and head
and neck. He had been working until he had perspired; but, looking into
the glass at Mr. Lamb's rigid back, he perceived that the work was well
done. Mr. Lamb was profoundly convinced that the Universal Covered
Carpet Tack Company was an entity to be respected; nay, to be revered!
Mr. Lamb could already see the smoke belching from the tall chimneys of
its factory, the bright lights gleaming out from its myriad windows
where it was working overtime, the thousands of workmen streaming in at
its broad gates, the loaded freight cars leaving every seven minutes!

"You're not going home to dinner, are you, Mr. Lamb?" asked Mr.
Wallingford suddenly. "I owe you one for the splash, you know."

"Why--I'm expected home."

"Telephone them you're not coming."

"We--we haven't a telephone in the house."

"Telephone to the nearest drug store and send a messenger over."

Mr. Lamb looked down at himself. He was always neatly dressed, but he
did not feel equal to the glitter of the big dining room downstairs.

"I am not--cleaned up," he objected.

"Nonsense! However, as far as that goes, we'll have 'em bring a table
right here." And, taking the matter into his own hands, Mr. Wallingford
telephoned for a waiter.

From that moment Mr. Lamb strove not to show his wonder at the heights
to which human comfort and luxury can attain, but it was a vain attempt;
for from the time the two uniformed attendants brought in the table with
its snowy cloth and began to place upon it the shining silver and
cut-glass service, with the centerpiece of red carnations, he began to
grasp at a new world--and it was about this time that he wished he had
on his best black suit. In the bathroom Mr. Wallingford came upon him as
he held his collar ruefully in his hand, and needed no explanation.

"I say, old man, we can't keep 'em clean, can we? We'll fix that."

The bellboys were anxious to answer summons from 44-A by this time. Mr.
Wallingford never used money in a hotel except for tips. It was
scarcely a minute until a boy had that collar, with instructions to get
another just like it.

"How are the cuffs? Attached, old man? All right. What size shirt do you
wear?"

Mr. Lamb gave up. He was now past the point of protest. He told Mr.
Wallingford the number of his shirt. In five minutes more he was
completely outfitted with clean linen, and when, washed and refreshed
and spotless as to high lights, he stepped forth into what was now a
perfectly appointed private dining room, he felt himself gradually
rising to Mr. Wallingford's own height and able to be supercilious to
the waiters, under whose gaze, while his collar was soiled, he had
quailed.

It was said by those who made a business of dining that Mr. Wallingford
could order a dinner worth while, except for the one trifling fault of
over-plenty; but then, Mr. Wallingford himself was a large man, and it
took much food and drink to sustain that largeness. Whatever other
critics might have said, Mr. Lamb could have but one opinion as they
sipped their champagne, toward the end of the meal, and this opinion was
that Mr. Wallingford was a genius, a prince of entertainers, a master of
finance, a gentleman to be imitated in every particular, and that a man
should especially blush to question his financial standing or
integrity.

They went to the theater after dinner--box seats--and after the theater
they had a little cold snack, amounting to about eleven dollars,
including wine and cigars. Moreover, Mr. Lamb had gratefully accepted
the secretaryship of the Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company.



CHAPTER III

MR. WALLINGFORD'S LAMB IS CAREFULLY INSPIRED WITH A FLASH OF CREATIVE
GENIUS


The next morning, in spite of protests and warnings from his employer,
Mr. Lamb resigned his position with the A. J. Dorman Company, and,
jumping on a car, rode out to the far North Side, where he called at
David Jasper's tumble-down frame house. On either side of this were
three neat houses that David had built, one at a time, on land he had
bought for a song in his younger days; but these were for renting
purposes. David lived in the old one for exactly the same reason that he
wore the frayed overcoat and slouch hat that had done him duty for many
years--they made him as comfortable as new ones, and appearances fed no
one nor kept anybody warm.

Wholesome Ella Jasper met the caller at the door with an inward
cordiality entirely out of proportion to even a close friend of the
family, but her greeting was commonplaceness itself.

"Father's just over to Kriegler's, getting his glass of beer and his
lunch," she observed as he shook hands warmly with her. Sometimes she
wished that he were not quite so meaninglessly cordial; that he could be
either a bit more shy or a bit more bold in his greeting of her.

"I might have known that," he laughed, looking at his watch. "Half-past
ten. I'll hurry right over there," and he was gone.

Ella stood in the doorway and looked after him until he had turned the
corner of the house; then she sighed and went back to her baking. A
moment later she was singing cheerfully.

It was a sort of morning lunch club of elderly men, all of the one
lodge, the one building association, the one manner of life, which met
over at Kriegler's, and "Eddy" was compelled to sit with them for nearly
an hour of slow beer, while politics, municipal, state and national, was
thoroughly thrashed out, before he could get his friend David to
himself.

"Well, what brings you out so early, Eddy?" asked the old harness maker
on the walk home. "Got a new gold-mining scheme again to put us all in
the poorhouse?"

Eddy laughed.

"You don't remember of the kid-glove miner taking anybody's money away,
do you?" he demanded. "I guess your old chum Eddy saw through the
grindstone that time, eh?"

Mr. Jasper laughed and pounded him a sledge-hammer blow upon the
shoulder. It was intended as a mere pat of approval.

"You're all right, Eddy. The only trouble with you is that you don't get
married. You'll be an old bachelor before you know it."

"So you've said before," laughed Eddy, "but I can't find the girl that
will have me."

"I'll speak to Ella for you."

The younger man laughed lightly again.

"She's my sister," he said gayly. "I wouldn't lose my sister for
anything."

David frowned a little and shook his head to himself, but he said
nothing more, though the wish was close to his heart. He thought he was
tactful.

"No, I've got that new job," went on young Lamb. "Another man from
Boston, too. I'm in charge of the complete office organization of a
brand-new manufacturing business that's to start up here. Two hundred
dollars a month to begin. How's that?"

"Fine," said David. "Enough to marry on. But it sounds too good. Is he a
sharper, too?"

"He don't need to be. He seems to have plenty of money, and the article
he's going to start manufacturing is so good that it will pay him
better to be honest than to be crooked. I don't see where the man could
go wrong. Why, look here!" and from his vest pocket he pulled an
orange-headed tack. "Carpet tack--covered with any color you want--same
color as your carpet so the tacks don't show--only cost a little bit
more than the cheap ones. Don't you think it's a good thing?"

David stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and put on his spectacles to
examine the trifle critically.

"Is that all he's going to make--just tacks?"

"Just tacks!" exclaimed the younger man. "Why, Dave, the Eureka Tack
Company, that has a practical monopoly now of the tack business in this
country, occupies a plant covering twenty acres. It employs thousands of
men. It makes sixteen per cent. a year dividends, and has millions of
dollars surplus in its treasury--undivided profits! Long freight trains
leave its warehouses every day, loaded down with nothing but tacks; and
that's all they make--just tacks! Why, think, Dave, of how many millions
of tacks are pulled out of carpets and thrown away every spring!"

Mr. Jasper was still examining the tack from head to point with deep
interest. Now he drew a long breath and handed it back.

"It's a big thing, even if it is little," he admitted. "Watch out for
the man, though. Does he want any money?"

"Not a cent. Why, any money I've got he'd laugh at. I couldn't give him
any. He's a rich man, and able to start his own factory. He's going to
organize a quarter of a million stock company and keep the majority of
the stock himself."

"It might be pretty good stock to buy, if you could get some of it,"
decided Dave after some slow pondering.

"I wish I could, but there is no chance. What stock he issues is only to
be put out in twenty-five-thousand-dollar lots."

Again David Jasper sighed. Sixteen per cent. a year! He was thinking now
of what a small margin of profit his houses left him after repairs and
taxes were paid.

"It looks to me like you'd struck it rich, my boy. Well, you deserve it.
You have worked hard and saved your money. You know, when I got married
I had nothing but a set of harness tools and the girl, and we got
along."

"Look here, Dave," laughed his younger friend, whose thirty years were
unbelievable in that he still looked so much like a boy, "some of these
days I will hunt up a girl and get married, just to make you keep still
about it, and if I have any trouble I'll throw it up to you as long as
you live. But what do you think of this chance of mine? That's what I
came out for--to get your opinion on it."

"Well," drawled Dave, cautious now that the final judgment was to be
pronounced, "you want to remember that you're giving up a good job that
has got better and better every year and that will most likely get still
better every year; but, if you can start at two hundred a month, and are
sure you're going to get it, and the man don't want any money, and he
isn't a sharper, why, it looks like it was too good to miss."

"That's what I think," rejoined Mr. Lamb enthusiastically. "Well, I must
go now. I want to see Mr. Lewis and John Nolting and one or two of the
others, and get their advice," and he swung jubilantly on a car.

It was a pleasant figment this, Eddy Lamb's plan of consulting his older
friends. He always went to them most scrupulously to get their advice,
and afterward did as he pleased. He was too near the soil, however--only
one generation away--to make many mistakes in the matter of caution,
and so far he had swung his little financial ventures with such great
success that he had begun to be conceited.

He found Mr. Wallingford at the hotel, but not waiting for him by any
means. Mr. Wallingford was very busy with correspondence which, since
part of it was to his wife and to "Blackie" Daw, was entirely too
personal to be trusted to a public stenographer, and he frowningly
placed his caller near the window with some new samples of tacks he had
made that morning; then, for fifteen minutes, he silently wrote straight
on, a course which allowed Mr. Lamb the opportunity to reflect that he
was, after all, not entitled to have worn that air of affable
familiarity with which he had come into the room. In closing his letter
to Mr. Daw the writer added a postscript: "The Lamb is here, and I am
now sharpening the shears."

His letters finished and a swift boy called to despatch them, Mr.
Wallingford drew a chair soberly to the opposite side of the little
table at which he had seated Mr. Lamb. Like every great captain of
finance, he turned his back to the window so that his features were in
shadow, while the wide-set, open eyes of Mr. Lamb, under their good,
broad brow, blinked into the full light of day, which revealed for
minute study every wrinkle of expression in his features.

"I forgot to warn you of one thing last night, and I hope you have not
talked too much," Mr. Wallingford began with great seriousness. "I
reposed such confidence in you that I did not think of caution, a
confidence that was justified, for from such inquiries as I have made
this morning I am perfectly satisfied with your record--and, by the way,
Mr. Lamb, while we are upon this subject, here is a list of references
to some of whom I must insist that you write, for my own satisfaction if
not for yours. But now to the main point. The thing I omitted to warn
you about is this," and here he sank his voice to a quite confidential
tone: "I have not yet applied for letters patent upon this device."

"You have not?" exclaimed Mr. Lamb in surprise. The revelation rather
altered his estimate of Mr. Wallingford's great business ability.

"No," confessed the latter. "You can see how much I trust you, to tell
you this, because, if you did not know, you would naturally suppose that
the patent was at least under way, and I would be in no danger whatever;
but I am not yet satisfied on one point, and I want the device perfect
before I make application. It has worried me quite a bit. You see, the
heads of these tacks are too smooth to retain the cloth. It is very
difficult to glue cloth to a smooth metal surface, and if we send out
our tacks in such condition that a hammer will pound the cloth tops off,
it will ruin our business the first season. I have experimented with
every sort of glue I can get, and have pounded thousands of tacks into
boards, but the cloth covering still comes off in such large percentage
that I am afraid to go ahead. Of course, the thing can be solved--it is
merely a question of time--but there is no time now to be lost."

From out the drawer of the table he drew a board into which had been
driven some dozens of tacks. From at least twenty-five per cent. of them
the cloth covering had been knocked off.

"I see," observed the Lamb, and he examined the board thoughtfully; then
he looked out of the window at the passing traffic in the street.

Mr. Wallingford tilted back his chair and lit a fat, black cigar, the
barest twinkle of a smile playing about his eyes. He laid a mate to the
cigar in front of the bookkeeper, but the latter paid no attention
whatever to it. He was perfectly absorbed, and the twinkles around the
large man's eyes deepened.

"I say!" suddenly exclaimed Mr. Lamb, turning from the window to the
capitalist and throwing open his coat impatiently, as if to get away
from anything that encumbered his free expression, "why wouldn't it do
to roughen the heads of the tacks?"

His eyes fairly gleamed with the enthusiasm of creation. He had found
the answer to one of those difficult problems like: "What bright genius
can supply the missing letters to make up the name of this great
American martyr, who was also a President and freed the slaves? L-NC-LN.
$100.00 in GOLD to be divided among the four million successful solvers!
_Send no money_ until afterwards!"

Mr. Wallingford brought down the legs of his chair with a thump.

"By George!" he ejaculated. "I'm glad I found you. You're a man of
remarkable resource, and I must be a dumbhead. Here I have been puzzling
and puzzling with this problem, and it never occurred to me to roughen
those tacks!"

It was now Mr. Lamb's turn to find the fat, black cigar, to light it, to
lean back comfortably and to contemplate Mr. Wallingford with
triumphantly smiling eyes. The latter gentleman, however, was in no
contemplative mood. He was a man all of energy. He had two bellboys at
the door in another minute. One he sent for a quart of wine and the
other to the hardware store with a list of necessities, which were
breathlessly bought and delivered: a small table-vise, a heavy hammer,
two or three patterns of flat files and several papers of tacks. Already
in one corner of Mr. Wallingford's room stood a rough serving table
which he had been using as a work bench, and Mr. Lamb could not but
reflect how everything needed came quickly to this man's bidding, as if
he had possessed the magic lamp of Aladdin. He was forced to admire,
too, the dexterity with which this genius screwed the small vise to the
table, placed in its jaws a row of tacks, and, pressing upon them the
flat side of one of the files, pounded this vigorously until, upon
lifting it up, the fine, indented pattern was found repeated in the hard
heads of the tacks. The master magician went through this operation
until he had a whole paper of them with roughened heads; then, glowing
with fervid enthusiasm which was quickly communicated to his helper, he
set Mr. Lamb to gluing bits of cloth upon these heads, to be trimmed
later with delicate scissors, an extra pair of which Mr. Wallingford
sent out to get. When the tacks were all set aside to dry the coworkers
addressed themselves to the contents of the ice pail; but, as the host
was pulling the cork from the bottle, and while both of them were
perspiring and glowing with anticipated triumph in the experiment, Mr.
Wallingford's face grew suddenly troubled.

"By George, Eddy"--and Mr. Lamb beamed over this early adoption of his
familiar first name--"if this experiment succeeds it makes you part
inventor with me!"

Eddy sat down to gasp.



CHAPTER IV

J. RUFUS ACCEPTS A TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION AND BUYS AN AUTOMOBILE


The experiment was a success. Immediately after lunch they secured a
fresh pine board and pounded all the tacks into it. Not one top came
off. The fact, however, that Mr. Lamb was part inventor, made a vast
difference in the proposition.

"Now, we'll talk cold business on this," said Mr. Wallingford. "Of
course, the main idea is mine, but the patent must be applied for by
both as joint inventors. Under the circumstances, I should say that
about one fourth of the value of the patent, which we shall sell to the
company for at least sixty thousand dollars, would be pretty good for
your few minutes of thought, eh?"

Mr. Lamb, his head swimming, agreed with him thoroughly.

"Very well, then, we'll go right out to a lawyer and have a contract
drawn up; then we'll go to a patent attorney and get the thing under
way at once. Do you know of a good lawyer?"

Mr. Lamb did. There was a young one, thoroughly good, who belonged to
Mr. Lamb's lodge, and they went over to see him. There is no expressing
the angle at which Mr. Lamb held his head as he passed out through the
lobby of the best hotel in his city. If his well-to-do townsmen having
business there wished to take notice of him, well and good; if they did
not, well and good also. He needed nothing of them.

It was with the same shoulder-squared self-gratification that he ushered
his affluent friend into Carwin's office. Carwin was in. Unfortunately,
he was always in. Practice had not yet begun for him, but Lamb was
bringing fortune in his hand and was correspondingly elated. He intended
to make Carwin the lawyer for the corporation. Mr. Carwin drew up for
them articles of agreement, in which it was set forth, with many a
whereas and wherein, that the said party of the first part and the said
party of the second part were joint inventors of a herein described new
and improved carpet tack, the full and total benefits of which were to
accrue to the said parties of the first part and the second part, and to
their heirs and assigns forever and ever, in the proportion of one
fourth to the said party of the first part and three fourths to the said
party of the second part.

Mr. Carwin, as he saw them walk out with the precious agreement, duly
signed, attested and sealed, was too timid to hint about his fee, and
Mr. Lamb could scarcely be so indelicate as to call attention to the
trifle, even though he knew that Mr. Carwin was gasping for it at that
present moment. The latter had hidden his shoes carefully under his desk
throughout the consultation, and had kept tucking his cuffs back out of
sight during the entire time. There were reasons, however, why Mr.
Wallingford did not pay the fee. In spite of the fact that everything
was charged at his hotel, it did take some cash for the bare necessities
of existence, and, in the past three days, he had spent over fifty
dollars in mere incidentals, aside from his living expenses.

Mr. Lamb did not know a patent lawyer, but he had seen the sign of one,
and he knew where to go right to him. The patent lawyer demanded a
preliminary fee of twenty-five dollars. Mr. Lamb was sorry that Mr.
Christopher had made such an unfortunate "break," for he felt that the
man would get no more of Mr. Wallingford's business. The latter drew
out a roll of bills, however, paid the man on the spot and took his
receipt.

"Will a ten-dollar bill help hurry matters any?" he asked.

"It might," admitted the patent lawyer with a cheerful smile.

His office was in a ramshackle old building that had no elevator, and
they had been compelled to climb two flights of stairs to reach it. Mr.
Wallingford handed him the ten dollars.

"Have the drawings and the application ready by to-morrow. If the thing
can be expedited we shall want you to go on to Washington with the
papers."

Mr. Christopher glowed within him. Wherever this man Wallingford went he
left behind him a trail of high hopes, a glimpse of a better day to
dawn. He was a public benefactor, a boon to humanity. His very presence
radiated good cheer and golden prospects.

As they entered the hotel, said Mr. Wallingford:

"Just get the key and go right on up to the room, Eddy. You know where
it is. Make yourself at home. Take your knife and try the covering on
those last tacks we put in. I'll be up in five or ten minutes."

When Mr. Wallingford came in Mr. Lamb was testing the tack covers with
great gratification. They were all solid, and they could scarcely be dug
off with a knife. He looked up to communicate this fact with glee, and
saw a frowning countenance upon his senior partner. Mr. J. Rufus
Wallingford was distinctly vexed.

"Nice thing!" he growled. "Just got a notice that there is an overdraft
in my bank. Now, I'll have to order some bonds sold at a loss, with the
market down all around; but that will take a couple of days and here I
am without cash--without cash! Look at that! Less than five dollars!"

He threw off his coat and hat in disgust and loosened his vest. He
mopped his face and brow and neck. Mr. Wallingford was extremely vexed.
He ordered a quart of champagne in a tone which must have made the
telephone clerk feel that the princely guest was dissatisfied with the
house. "Frappé, too!" he demanded. "The last I had was as warm as tea!"

Mr. Lamb, within the past day, had himself begun the rise to dizzy
heights; he had breathed the atmosphere of small birds and cold bottles
into his nostrils until that vapor seemed the normal air of heaven; the
ordinary dollar had gradually shrunk from its normal dimensions of a
peck measure to the size of a mere dot, and, moreover, he considered how
necessary pocket money was to a man of J. Rufus Wallingford's rich
relationship with the world.

"I have a little ready cash I could help you out with, if you will let
me offer it," he ventured, embarrassed to find slight alternate waves of
heat flushing his face. The borrowing and the lending of money were not
unknown by any means in Mr. Lamb's set. They asked each other for fifty
dollars with perfect nonchalance, got it and paid it back with equal
unconcern, and no man among them had been known to forget. Mr.
Wallingford accepted quite gracefully.

"Really, if you don't mind," said he, "five hundred or so would be quite
an accommodation for a couple of days."

Mr. Lamb gulped, but it was only a sort of growing pain that he had. It
was difficult for him to keep up with his own financial expansion.

"Certainly," he stammered. "I'll go right down and get it for you. The
bank closes at three. I have only a half hour to make it."

"I'll go right with you," said Mr. Wallingford, asking no questions, but
rightly divining that his Lamb kept no open account. "Wait a minute.
I'll make you out a note--just so there'll be something to show for it,
you know."

He hurriedly drew a blank from his pocket, filled it in and arose from
the table.

"I made it out for thirty days, merely as a matter of business form,"
stated Mr. Wallingford as they walked to the elevator, "but, as soon as
I put those bonds on the market, I'll take up the note, of course. I
left the interest in at six per cent."

"Oh, that was not necessary at all," protested Mr. Lamb.

The sum had been at first rather a staggering one, but it only took him
a moment or two to get his new bearings, and, if possible, he held his
head a trifle higher than ever as he walked out through the lobby. On
the way to the bank the capitalist passed the note over to his friend.

"I believe that's the right date; the twenty-fifth, isn't it?"

"The twenty-fifth is right," Mr. Lamb replied, and perfunctorily opened
the note. Then he stopped walking. "Hello!" he said. "You've made a
mistake. This is for a thousand."

"Is that so? I declare! I so seldom draw less than that. Well, suppose
we let it go at a thousand."

Time for gulping was passed.

"All right," said the younger man, but he could not make the assent as
sprightly as he could have wished. In spite of himself the words
drawled.

Nevertheless, at his bank he handed in his savings-book and the check,
and, thoroughly permeated by the atmosphere in which he was now moving,
he had made out the order for eleven hundred dollars.

"I needed a little loose change myself," he explained, as he put a
hundred into his own pocket and passed the thousand over to Mr.
Wallingford.

Events moved rapidly now. Mr. Wallingford that night sent off one
hundred and fifty dollars to his wife.

"Cheer up, little girl," he wrote her. "Blackie came here and reported
that this was a grouch town. I've been here three days and dug up a
thousand, and there's more in sight. I've been inquiring around this
morning. There is a swell little ten-thousand-dollar house out in the
rich end of the burg that I'm going to buy to put up a front, and you
know how I'll buy it. Also I'm going over to-morrow and pick out an
automobile. I need it in my business. You ought to see what long, silky
wool the sheep grow here."

The next morning was devoted entirely to pleasure. They visited three
automobile firms and took spins in four machines, and at last Mr.
Wallingford picked out a five-thousand-dollar car that about suited him.

"I shall try this for two weeks," he told the proprietor of the
establishment. "Keep it here in your garage at my call, and, by that
time, if I decide to buy it, I shall have my own garage under way. I
have my eye on a very nice little place out in Gildendale, and if they
don't want too much for it I'll bring on Mrs. Wallingford from Boston."

"With pleasure, Mr. Wallingford," said the proprietor.

Mr. Lamb walked away with a new valuation of things. Not a penny of
deposit had been asked, for the mere appearance of Mr. Wallingford and
his air of owning the entire garage were sufficient. In the room at the
hotel that afternoon they made some further experiments on tacks, and
Mr. Wallingford gave his young partner some further statistics
concerning the Eureka Company: its output, the number of men it
employed, the number of machines it had in operation, the small start
it had, the immense profits it made.

"We've got them all beat," Mr. Lamb enthusiastically summed up for him.
"We're starting much better than they did, and with, I believe, the best
manufacturing proposition that was ever put before the public."

It was not necessary to supply him with any further enthusiasm. He had
been inoculated with the yeast of it, and from that point onward would
be self-raising.

"The only thing I am afraid of," worried Mr. Wallingford, "is that the
Eureka Company will want to buy us out before we get fairly started,
and, if they offer us a good price, the stockholders will want to
stampede. Now, you and I must vote down any proposition the Eureka
Company make us, no matter what the other stockholders want, because, if
they buy us out before we have actually begun to encroach upon their
business, they will not give us one fifth of the price we could get
after giving them a good scare. Between us, Eddy, we'll hold six tenths
of the stock and we must stand firm."

Eddy stuck his thumbs in his vest pocket and with great complacency
tapped himself alternately upon his recent luncheon with the finger
tips of his two hands.

"Certainly we will," he admitted. "But say; I have some friends that I'd
like to bring into this thing. They're not able to buy blocks of stock
as large as you suggested, but, maybe, we could split up one lot so as
to let them in."

"I don't like the idea of small stockholders," Mr. Wallingford objected,
frowning. "They are too hard to handle. Your larger investors are
business men who understand all the details and are not raising eternal
questions about the little things that turn up; but since we have this
tack so perfect I've changed my plan of incorporation, and consequently
there is a way in which your friends can get in. We don't want to
attract any attention to ourselves from the Eureka people just now, so
we will only incorporate at first for one thousand dollars, in ten
shares of one hundred dollars each--sort of a dummy corporation in which
my name will not appear at all. If you can find four friends who will
buy one share of stock each you will then subscribe for the other six
shares, for which I will pay you, giving you one share, as I promised.
These four friends of yours then, if they wish, may take up one block of
twenty-five thousand when we make the final corporation, which we will
do by increasing our capital stock as soon as we get our corporation
papers. These friends of yours would, necessarily, be on our first board
of directors, too, which will hold for one year, and it will be an
exceptional opportunity for them."

"I don't quite understand," said Mr. Lamb.

"We incorporate for one thousand only," explained Mr. Wallingford,
slowly and patiently, "ten shares of one hundred dollars each,
all fully paid in. The Eureka Company will pay no attention to a
one-thousand-dollar company. As soon as we get our corporation papers,
we original incorporators will, of course, form the officers and board
of directors, and we will immediately vote to increase our
capitalization to one hundred thousand dollars, in one thousand shares
of one hundred dollars each. We will vote to pay you and I as inventors
sixty thousand dollars or six hundred shares of stock for our
patents--applied for and to be applied for during a period of five years
to come--in carpet-tack improvements and machinery for making the same.
We will offer the balance of the forty thousand dollars stock for sale,
to carry us through the experimental stage--that is, until we get our
machinery all in working order. Then we will need one hundred thousand
dollars to start our factory. To get that, we will reincorporate for a
three-hundred-thousand capital, taking up all the outstanding stock and
giving to each stockholder two shares at par for each share he then
holds. That will take up two hundred thousand dollars of the stock and
leave one hundred thousand for sale at par. You, in place of fifteen
thousand dollars' worth of stock as your share for the patent rights,
will have thirty thousand dollars' worth, or three hundred shares, and
if, after we have started operating, the Eureka Company should buy us
out at only a million, you would have a hundred thousand dollars net
profit."

A long, long sigh was the answer. Mr Lamb saw. Here was real
financiering.

"Let's get outside," he said, needing fresh air in his lungs after this.
"Let's go up and see my friend, Mr. Jasper."

In ten minutes the automobile had reported. Each man, before he left the
room, slipped a handful of covered carpet tacks into his coat pocket.



CHAPTER V

THE UNIVERSAL COVERED CARPET TACK COMPANY FORMS AMID GREAT ENTHUSIASM


The intense democracy of J. Rufus Wallingford could not but charm David
Jasper, even though he disapproved of diamond stick-pins and
red-leather-padded automobiles as a matter of principle. The manner in
which the gentleman from Boston acknowledged the introduction, the fine
mixture of deference due Mr. Jasper's age and of cordiality due his
easily discernible qualities of good fellowship, would have charmed the
heart out of a cabbage.

"Get in, Dave; we want to take you a ride," demanded Mr. Lamb.

David shook his head at the big machine, and laughed.

"I don't carry enough insurance," he objected.

Mr. Wallingford had caught sight of a little bronze button in the lapel
of Mr. Jasper's faded and threadbare coat.

"A man who went through the battle of Bull Run ought to face anything,"
he laughed back.

The shot went home. Mr. Jasper _had_ acquitted himself with honor in the
battle of Bull Run, and without further ado he got into the invitingly
open door of the tonneau, to sink back among the padded cushions with
his friend Lamb. As the door slammed shut, Ella Jasper waved them adieu,
and it was fully three minutes after the machine drove away before she
began humming about her work. Somehow or other, she did not like to see
her father's friend so intimately associated with rich people.

They had gone but a couple of blocks, and Mr. Lamb was in the early
stages of the enthusiasm attendant upon describing the wonderful events
of the past two days--especially his own share in the invention, and the
hundred thousand dollars that it was to make him within the year--when
Mr. Wallingford suddenly halted the machine.

"You're not going to get home to dinner, you know, Mr. Jasper," he
declared.

"Oh, we have to! This is lodge night, and I am a patriarch. I haven't
missed a night for twenty years, and Eddy, here, has an office, too--his
first one. We've got ten candidates to-night." "I see," said Mr.
Wallingford gravely. "It is more or less in the line of a sacred duty.
Nevertheless, we will not go home to dinner. I'll get you at the lodge
door at half past eight. Will that be early enough?"

Mr. Jasper put his hands upon his knees and turned to his friend.

"I guess we can work our way in, can't we, Eddy?" he chuckled, and Eddy,
with equally simple pleasure, replied that they could.

"Very well. Back to the house, chauffeur." And, in a moment more, they
were sailing back to the decrepit little cottage, where Lamb jumped out
to carry the news to Ella. She was just coming out of the kitchen door
in her sunbonnet to run over to the grocery store as Edward came up the
steps. He grabbed her by both shoulders and dragged her out.

"Come on; we're going to take you along!" he threatened, and she did not
know why, but, at the touch of his hands, she paled slightly. Her eyes
never faltered, however, as she laughed and jerked herself away.

"Not much, you don't! I'm worried enough as it is with father in
there--and you, of course."

He told her that they would not be home to supper, and, for a second
time, she wistfully saw them driving away in the big red machine.

Mr. Wallingford talked with the chauffeur for a few moments, and then
the machine leaped forward with definiteness. Once or twice Mr.
Wallingford looked back. The two in the tonneau were examining the
cloth-topped tacks, and both were talking volubly. Mile after mile they
were still at it, and the rich man felt relieved of all responsibility.
The less he said in the matter the better; he had learned the invaluable
lesson of when not to talk. So far as he was concerned, the Universal
Covered Carpet Tack Company was launched, and he was able to turn his
attention to the science of running the car, a matter which, by the time
they had reached their stopping point, he had picked up to the great
admiration of the expert driver. For the last five miles the big man ran
the machine himself, with the help of a guiding word or two, and when
they finally stopped in front of the one pretentious hotel in the small
town they had reached, he was so completely absorbed in the new toy that
he was actually as nonchalant about the new company as he would have
wished to appear. His passengers were surprised when they found that
they had come twenty miles, and Mr. Wallingford showed them what a man
who knows how to dine can do in a minor hotel. He had everybody busy,
from the proprietor down. The snap of his fingers was as potent here as
the clarion call of the trumpet in battle, and David Jasper, though he
strove to disapprove, after sixty years of somnolence woke up and
actually enjoyed pretentious luxury.

There were but five minutes of real business conversation following the
meal, but five minutes were enough. David Jasper had called his friend
Eddy aside for one brief moment.

"Did he give you any references?" he asked, the habit of caution
asserting itself.

"Sure; more than half a dozen of them."

"Have you written to them?"

"I wrote this morning."

"I guess he wouldn't give them to you if he wasn't all right."

"We don't need the references," urged Lamb. "The man himself is
reference enough. You see that automobile? He bought it this morning and
didn't pay a cent on it. They didn't ask him to."

It was a greater recommendation than if the man had paid cash down for
the machine; for credit is mightier than cash, everywhere.

"I think we'll go in," said Dave. Think he would go in! It was only his
conservative way of expressing himself, for he was already in with his
whole heart and soul. In the five minutes of conversation between the
three that ensued, David Jasper agreed to be one of the original
incorporators, to go on the first board of directors, and to provide
three other solid men to serve in a like capacity, the preliminary
meeting being arranged for the next morning. Mr. Wallingford passed
around his black cigars and lit one in huge content as he climbed into
the front seat with the chauffeur, to begin his task of urging driver
and machine back through the night in the time that he had promised.

That was a wonderful ride to the novices. Nothing but darkness ahead,
with a single stream of white light spreading out upon the roadway,
which, like a fast descending curtain, lowered always before them; a rut
here, a rock there, angle and curve and dip and rise all springing out
of the night with startling swiftness, to disappear behind them before
they had given even a gasp of comprehension for the possible danger they
had confronted but that was now past. Unconsciously they found
themselves gripping tightly the sides of the car, and yet, even to the
old man, there was a strange sense of exhilaration, aided perhaps by
wine, that made them, after the first breathless five miles, begin to
jest in voices loud enough to carry against the wind, to laugh
boisterously, and even to sing, by-and-by, a nonsensical song started by
Lamb and caught up by Wallingford and joined by the still firm voice of
David Jasper. The chauffeur, the while bent grimly over his wheel,
peered with iron-nerved intensity out into that mysterious way where the
fatal snag might rise up at any second and smite them into lifeless
clay, for they were going at a terrific pace. The hoarse horn kept
constantly hooting, and every now and then they flashed by trembling
horses drawn up at the side of the road and attached to "rigs," the
occupants of which appeared only as one or two or three fish-white faces
in the one instant that the glow of the headlight gleamed upon them.
Once there was a quick swerve out of the road and back into it again,
where the rear wheel hovered for a fraction of a second over a steep
gully, and not until they had passed on did the realization come to them
that there had been one horse that had refused, either through
stubbornness or fright, to get out of the road fast enough. But what is
a danger past when a myriad lie before, and what are dangers ahead when
a myriad have been passed safely by? The exhilaration became almost an
intoxication, for, in spite of those few moments when mirth and gayety
were checked by that sudden throb of what might have been, the songs
burst forth again as soon as a level track stretched ahead once more.

"Five minutes before the time I promised you!" exclaimed Mr. Wallingford
in jovial triumph, jumping from his seat and opening the door of the
tonneau for his passengers just in front of the stairway that led to
their lodge-rooms.

They climbed out, stiff and breathless and still tingling with the
inexplicable thrill of it all.

"Eleven o'clock in the morning, remember, at Carwin's," he reminded them
as they left him, and afterward they wondered why such a simple exertion
as the climbing of one flight of stairs should make their hearts beat so
high and their breath come so deep and harsh. It would have been
curious, later that night, to see Edward Lamb buying a quart of
champagne for his friends, and protesting that it was not cold enough!

Mr. Wallingford stepped back to the chauffeur. "What's your first
name?" he inquired.

"Frank, sir."

"Well, Frank, when you go back to the shop you tell them that you're to
drive my machine hereafter when I call for it, and when I get settled
down here I want you to work for me. Drive to the hotel now and wait."

Before climbing into the luxury of the tonneau he handed the chauffeur a
five-dollar bill.

"All right, sir," said Frank.

At the hotel, the man of means walked up to the clerk and opened his
pocketbook.

"I have a little more cash than I care to carry around. Just put this to
my credit, will you?" and he counted out six one-hundred-dollar bills.

As he turned away the clerk permitted himself that faint trace of a
smile once more. His confidence was justified. He had known that
somebody would pay Mr. Wallingford's acrobatic bill. His interesting
guest strode out to the big red automobile. The chauffeur was out in a
second and had the tonneau open before the stately but earnestly willing
doorman of the hotel could perform the duty.

"Now, show us the town," said Wallingford as the door closed upon him,
and when he came in late that night his eyes were red and his speech
was thick; but there were plenty of eager hands to see safely to bed the
prince who had landed in their midst with less than a hundred dollars in
his possession.

He was up bright and vigorous the next morning, however. A cold bath, a
hearty breakfast in his room, a half hour with the barber and a spin in
the automobile made him elastic and bounding again, so that at eleven
o'clock he was easily the freshest man among the six who gathered in Mr.
Carwin's office. The incorporators noted with admiration, which with
wiser men might have turned to suspicion, that Mr. Wallingford was
better posted on corporation law than Mr. Carwin himself, and that he
engineered the preliminary proceedings through in a jiffy. With the
exception of Lamb, they were all men past forty, and not one of them had
known experience of this nature. They had been engaged in minor
occupations or in minor business throughout their lives, and had
gathered their few thousands together dollar by dollar. To them this new
realm that was opened up was a fairyland, and the simple trick of
watering stock that had been carefully explained to them, one by one,
pleased them as no toy ever pleased a child. They had heard of such
things as being vague and mysterious operations in the realms of
finance and had condemned them, taking their tone from the columns of
editorials they had read upon such practices; but, now that they were
themselves to reap the fruits of it, they looked through different
spectacles. It was a just proceeding which this genius of commerce
proposed; for they who stood the first brunt of launching the ship were
entitled to greater rewards than they who came in upon an assured
certainty of profits, having waited only for the golden cargo to be in
the harbor.

As a sort of sealing of their compact and to show that this was to be a
corporation upon a friendly basis, rather than a cold, grasping business
proposition, Mr. Wallingford took them all over to a simple lunch in a
private dining room at his hotel. He was careful not to make it too
elaborate, but careful, too, that the luncheon should be notable, and
they all went away talking about him: what a wonderful man he was, what
a wonderful business proposition he had permitted them to enter upon,
what wonderful resources he must have at his command, what wonderful
genius was his in manipulation, in invention, in every way.

There was a week now in which to act, and Mr. Wallingford wasted no
time. He picked out his house in the exclusive part of Gildendale, and
when it came to paying the thousand dollars down, Mr. Wallingford
quietly made out a sixty-day note for the amount.

"I beg your pardon," hesitated the agent, "the first payment is supposed
to be in cash."

"Oh, I know that it is supposed to be," laughed Mr. Wallingford, "but we
understand how these things are. I guess the house itself will secure
the note for that length of time. I am going to be under pretty heavy
expense in fitting up the place, and a man with any regard for the
earning power of money does not keep much cash lying loose. Do you want
this note or not?" and his final tone was peremptory.

"Oh, why, certainly; that's all right," said the agent, and took it.

Upon the court records appeared the sale, but even before it was so
entered a firm of decorators and furnishers had been given _carte
blanche_, following, however, certain artistic requirements of Mr.
Wallingford himself. The result that they produced within the three days
that he gave them was marvelous; somewhat too garish, perhaps, for
people of good taste, but impressive in every detail; and for all this
he paid not one penny in cash. He was accredited with being the owner of
a house in the exclusive suburb, Gildendale. On that accrediting the
furnishing was done, on that accrediting he stocked his pantry shelves,
his refrigerator, his wine cellar, his coal bins, his humidors, and had
started a tailor to work upon half a dozen suits, among them an
automobile costume. He had a modest establishment of two servants and a
chauffeur by the time his wife arrived, and on the day the final
organization of the one-thousand-dollar company was effected, he gave a
housewarming for his associates of the Universal Covered Carpet Tack
Company. Where Mr. Wallingford had charmed, Mrs. Wallingford fascinated,
and the five men went home that night richer than they had ever dreamed
of being; than they would ever be again.



CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH AN ASTOUNDING REVELATION IS MADE CONCERNING J. RUFUS


The first stockholders' meeting of the Tack Company was a cheerful
affair, held around a table that was within an hour or so to have a
cloth; for whenever J. Rufus Wallingford did business, he must,
perforce, eat and drink, and all who did business with him must do the
same. The stockholders, being all present, elected their officers and
their board of directors: Mr. Wallingford, president; Mr. Lamb,
secretary; Mr. Jasper, treasurer; and Mr. Lewis, David Jasper's nearest
friend, vice president, these four and Mr. Nolting also constituting the
board of directors. Immediately after, they adopted a stock, printed
form of constitution, voted an increase of capitalization to one hundred
thousand dollars, and then adjourned.

The president, during the luncheon, made them a little speech in which
he held before them constantly a tack with a crimson top glued upon a
roughened surface, and alluded to the invaluable services their young
friend, Edward Lamb, had rendered to the completion of the company's now
perfect and flawless article of manufacture. He explained to them in
detail the bigness of the Eureka Tack Manufacturing Company, its
enormous undivided profits, its tremendous yearly dividends, the
fabulous price at which its stock was quoted, with none for sale; and
all this gigantic business built upon a simple tack!--Gentlemen, not
nearly, not _nearly_ so attractive and so profitable an article of
commerce as this perfect little convenience held before them. The
gentlemen were to be congratulated upon a bigger and brighter and better
fortune than had ever come to them; they were all to be congratulated
upon having met each other, and since they had been kind enough, since
they had been trusting enough, to give him their confidence with but
little question, Mr. Wallingford felt it his duty to reassure them, even
though they needed no reassurance, that he was what he was; and he
called upon his friend and their secretary, Mr. Lamb, to read to them
the few letters that he understood had been received from the Mexican
and Rio Grande Rubber Company, the St. John's Blood Orange Plantation
Company, the Los Pocos Lead Development Company, the Sierra Cinnabar
Grant, and others.

Mr. Lamb--Secretary Lamb, if you please--arose in self-conscious
dignity, which he strove to taper off into graceful ease.

"It is hardly worth while reading more than one, for they're all alike,"
he stated jovially, "and if anybody questions our president, send him to
his friend Eddy!" Whereupon he read the letters.

According to them, Mr. Wallingford was a gentleman of the highest
integrity; he was a man of unimpeachable character, morally and
financially; he was a genius of commerce; he had been sought, for his
advice and for the tower of strength that his name had become, by all
the money kings of Boston; he was, in a word, the greatest boon that had
ever descended upon any city, and all of the gentlemen who were lucky
enough to be associated with him in any business enterprise that he
might back or vouch for, could count themselves indeed most fortunate.
The letters were passed around. Some of them had embossed heads; most of
them were, at least, engraved; some of them were printed in two or three
rich colors; some had beautifully tinted pictures of vast Mexican
estates, and Florida plantations, and Nevada mining ranges. They were
impressive, those letter-heads, and when, after passing the round of the
table, they were returned to Mr. Lamb, four pairs of eyes followed them
as greedily as if those eyes had been resting upon actual money.

In the ensuing week the committee on factories, consisting of Mr.
Wallingford, Mr. Lamb and Mr. Jasper, honked and inspected and lunched
until they found a small place which would "do for the first year's
business," and within two days the factory was cleaned and the office
most sumptuously furnished; then Mr. Wallingford, having provided work
for the secretary, began to attend to his purely personal affairs, one
of which was the private consulting of the patent attorney. Upon his
first visit Mr. Christopher met him with a dejected air.

"I find four interferences against your application," he dolefully
stated, "and they cover the ground very completely."

"Get me a patent," directed Mr. Wallingford shortly.

Mr. Christopher hesitated. Not only was his working jacket out at the
elbows, but his street coat was shiny at the seams.

"I am bound to tell you," he confessed, after quite a struggle, "that,
while I _might_ get you some sort of a patent, it would not hold
water."

"I don't care if it wouldn't hold pebbles or even brickbats," retorted
Mr. Wallingford. "I'm not particular about the mesh of it. Just you get
me a patent--any sort of a patent, so it has a seal and a ribbon on it.
I believe it is part of your professional ethics, Mr. Christopher, to do
no particular amount of talking except to your clients.

"Well, yes, sir," admitted Mr. Christopher.

"Very well, then; I am the only client you know in this case, and I
say--get a patent! After all, a patent isn't worth as much as a dollar
at the Waldorf, except to form the basis of a lawsuit," whereat Mr.
Christopher saw a great white light and his conscience ceased to bother
him.

Meanwhile the majestic wheels of state revolved, and at the second
meeting of the board of directors the secretary was able to lay before
them the august permission of the Commonwealth to issue one hundred
thousand dollars of stock in the new corporation. In fact, the secretary
was able to show them a book of especially printed stock certificates,
and a corporate seal had been made. Their own seal! Each man tried it
with awe and pride. This also was a cheerful board meeting, wherein the
directors, as one man, knowing beforehand what they were to do, voted to
Mr. Wallingford and Mr. Lamb sixty thousand dollars in stock, for all
patents relating to covered carpet tacks or devices for making the same
that should be obtained by them for a period of five years to come. The
three remaining members of the board of directors and the one
stockholder who was allowed to be present by courtesy then took up five
thousand dollars' worth of stock each and guaranteed to bring in, by the
end of the week, four more like subscriptions, two of which they
secured; and, thirty thousand dollars of cash having been put into the
treasury, a special stockholders' meeting was immediately called. When
this met it was agreed that they should incorporate another company
under the name of the Universal Covered Tack Company, dropping the word
"Carpet," with an authorized capital of three hundred thousand dollars,
two hundred thousand of which was already subscribed.

It took but a little over a month to organize this new company, which
bought out the old company for the consideration of two hundred thousand
dollars, payable in stock of the new company. With great glee the new
stockholders bought from themselves, as old stockholders, the old
company at this valuation, each man receiving two shares of one hundred
dollars face value for each one hundred dollars' worth of stock that he
had held before. It was their very first transaction in water, and the
delight that it gave them one and all knew no bounds; they had doubled
their money in one day! But their elation was not half the elation of J.
Rufus Wallingford, for in his possession he had ninety thousand dollars'
worth, par value, of stock, the legitimacy of which no one could
question, and the market price of which could be to himself whatever his
glib tongue had the opportunity to make it. In addition to the nine
hundred shares of stock, he had a ten-thousand-dollar house, a
five-thousand-dollar automobile and unlimited credit; and this was the
man who had landed in the city but two brief months before, with no
credit in any known spot upon the globe, and with less than one hundred
dollars in his pocket!

It is a singular commentary upon the honesty of American business
methods that so much is done on pure faith. The standing of J. Rufus
Wallingford was established beyond question. Aside from the perfunctory
inquiries that Edward Lamb had made, no one ever took the trouble to
question into the promoter's past record. So far as local merchants were
concerned, these did not care; for did not J. Rufus own a finely
appointed new house in Gildendale, and did he not appear before them
daily in a fine new automobile? This, added to the fact that he
established credit with one merchant and referred the next one to him,
referred the third to the second, and the fourth to the third, was
ample. If merchant number four took the trouble to inquire of merchant
number three, he was told: "Yes, we have Mr. Wallingford on our books,
and consider him good." Consequently, Mrs. Wallingford was able to go to
any establishment, in her own little runabout that J. Rufus got her
presently, and order what she would; and she took ample advantage of the
opportunity. She, like J. Rufus, was one of those rare beings of earth
for whom earth's most prized treasures are delved, and wrought, and
woven, and sewed; for transcendent beauty demands ever more beauty for
its adornment. In all the city there was nothing too good for either of
them, and they got it without money and without price. The provider of
all this made no move toward paying even a retainer upon his automobile,
for instance; but, when the subtle intuition within him warned that the
dealer would presently make a demand, he calmly went in and selected the
neat little runabout for his wife, and had it added to his bill. After
he had seen the runabout glide away, the dealer was a little aghast at
himself. He had firmly intended, the next time he saw Mr. Wallingford,
to insist upon a payment. In place of that, he had only jeopardized two
thousand dollars more, and all that he had to show for it were half a
dozen covered tacks which J. Rufus had left him to ponder upon. In the
meantime, Lamb's loan of one thousand had been increased, upon plausible
pretext, to two thousand.

There began, now, busy days at the factory. In the third floor of their
building a machine shop was installed. Three thousand dollars went
there. Outside, in a large experimental shop, work was being rapidly
pushed on machinery which would make tacks with cross-corrugated heads.
Genius Wallingford had secretly secured drawings of tack machinery, and
devised slight changes which would evade the patents, adding dies that
would make the roughened tops. A final day came when, set up in their
shop, the first faulty machine pounded out tacks ready for later
covering, and every stockholder who had been called in to witness the
working of the miracle went away profoundly convinced that fortune was
just within his reach. They had their first patent granted now, and the
sight of it, on stiff parchment with its bit of bright ribbon, was like
a glimpse at dividends. It was right at this time, however, that one cat
was let out of the bag. The information came first to Edward Lamb,
through the inquiries of a commercial rating company, that their Boston
capitalist was a whited sepulcher, so far as capital went. He had not a
cent. The secretary, in the privacy of their office, put the matter to
him squarely, and he admitted it cheerfully. He was glad that the
_exposé_ had come--it suited his present course, and he would have
brought it about himself before long.

"Who said I had money?" he demanded. "I never said so."

"Well, but the way you live," objected Lamb.

"I have always lived that way, and I always shall. Not only is it a fact
that I have no money, but I must have some right away."

"I haven't any more to lend."

"No, Eddy; I'm not saying that you have. I am merely stating that I have
to have some. I am being bothered by people who want it, and I cannot
work on the covering machine until I get it," and Mr. Wallingford coolly
telephoned for his big automobile to be brought around.

They sat silently in the office for the next five minutes, while Lamb
slowly appreciated the position they were in. If J. Rufus should "lay
down on them" before the covering machine was perfected, they were in a
bad case. They had already spent over twenty thousand dollars in
equipping their office, their machine shop, and perfecting their
stamping machine, and time was flying.

"You might sell a little of your stock," suggested Lamb.

"We have an agreement between us to hold control."

"But you can still sell a little of yours, and stay within that amount.
I'm not selling any of mine."

Mr. Wallingford drew from his pocket a hundred-share stock certificate.

"I have already sold some. Make out fifty shares of this to L. W.
Ramsay, twenty-five to E. H. Wyman, and the other twenty-five to C. D.
Wyman."

Ramsay and the Wyman Brothers! Ramsay was the automobile dealer; Wyman
Brothers were Wallingford's tailors.

"So much? Why didn't you sell them at least part from our extra treasury
stock? There is twenty thousand there, replacing the ten thousand of the
old company."

"Why didn't I? I needed the money. I got twenty-five hundred cash from
Ramsay, and let him put twenty-five on account. I agreed to take one
thousand in trade from Wyman Brothers, and got four thousand cash
there."

The younger man looked at him angrily.

"Look here, Wallingford; you're hitting it up rather strong, ain't you?
This makes six thousand five hundred, besides two thousand you borrowed
from me, that you have spent in three months. You have squandered money
since you came here at the rate of three thousand a month, besides all
the bills I know you owe, and still you are broke. How is it possible?"

"That's my business," retorted Wallingford, and his face reddened with
assumed anger. "We are not going to discuss it. The point is that I need
money and must have it."

The automobile drew up at the door, and J. Rufus, who was in his
automobile suit, put on his cap and riding coat.

"Where are you going?"

"Over to Rayling."

Lamb frowned. Rayling was sixty miles away.

"And you will not be back until midnight, I suppose."

"Hardly."

"Why, confound it, man, you can't go!" exclaimed Lamb. "They're waiting
for you now over at the machine shop, for further instructions on the
covering device."

"They'll have to wait!" announced J. Rufus, and stalked out of the door.

The thing had been deliberately followed up. Mr. Wallingford had come to
the point where he wished his flock to know that he had no financial
resources whatever, and that they would have to support him. It was the
first time that he had departed from his suavity, and he left Lamb in a
panic. He had been gone scarcely more than an hour when David Jasper
came in.

"Where is Wallingford?" he asked.

"Gone out for an automobile trip."

"When will he be back?"

"Not to-day."

Jasper's face was white, but the flush of slow anger was creeping upon
his cheeks.

"Well, he ought to be; his note is due."

"What note?" inquired Lamb, startled.

"His note for a thousand dollars that I went security on."

"You might just as well renew it, or pay it. I had to renew mine," said
Lamb. "Dave, the man is a four-flusher, without a cent to fall back on.
I just found it out this morning. Why didn't you tell me that he was
borrowing money of you?"

"Why didn't you tell me he was borrowing money of you?" retorted his
friend.

They looked at each other hotly for a moment, and then both laughed. The
big man was too much for them to comprehend.

"We are both cutting our eye teeth," Lamb decided. "I wonder how many
more he's borrowed money from."

"Lewis, for one. He got fifteen hundred from him. Lewis told me this
morning, up at Kriegler's."

Lamb began figuring. To the eight thousand five hundred of which he
already knew, here was twenty-five hundred more to be added--eleven
thousand dollars that the man had spent in three months! Some bills, of
course, he had paid, but the rest of it had gone as the wind blew. It
seemed impossible that a man could spend money at the rate of one
hundred and twenty-five dollars a day, but this one had done it, and
that at first was the point which held them aghast, to the forgetting of
their own share in it. They could not begin to understand it until Lamb
recalled one incident that had impressed him. Wallingford had taken his
wife and two friends to the opera one night. They had engaged a private
dining room at the hotel, indulging in a dinner that, with flowers and
wines, had cost over a hundred dollars. Their seats had cost fifty.
There had been a supper afterward where the wine flowed until long past
midnight. Altogether, that evening alone had cost not less than three
hundred dollars--and the man lived at that gait all the time! In his
home, even when himself and wife were alone, seven-course dinners were
served. Huge fowls were carved for but the choicest slices, were sent
away from the table and never came back again in any form. Expensive
wines were opened and left uncorked after two glasses, because some whim
had led the man to prefer some other brand.

Lamb looked up from his figuring with an expression so troubled that his
older friend, groping as men will do for cheering words, hit upon the
idea that restored them both to their equilibrium.

"After all," suggested Jasper, "it's none of our business. The company
is all right."

"That's so," agreed Lamb, recovering his enthusiasm in a bound. "The
tack itself can't be beat, and we are making progress toward getting on
the market. Suppose the man were to sell all his stock. It wouldn't make
any difference, so long as he finishes that one machine for covering the
tack."

"He's a liar!" suddenly burst out David Jasper. "I wish he had his
machinery done and was away from us. I can't sleep well when I do
business with a liar."

"We don't want to get rid of him yet," Lamb reminded him, "and, in the
meantime, I suppose he will have to have money in order to keep him at
work. You'd better get him to give you stock to cover your note and tell
Lewis to do the same. We'll all go after him on that point, and get
protected."

David looked troubled in his turn.

"I can't afford it. When I took up that five thousand dollars' worth of
stock I only had fifteen hundred in the building loan, and I put a
mortgage on one of my houses to make up the amount. If I have to stand
this thousand I'll have to give another mortgage, and I swore I'd never
put a plaster on my property."

"The tack's good for it," urged Lamb, with conviction.

"Yes, the tack's good," admitted Jasper.

That was the thing which held them all in line--the tack! Wallingford
himself might be a spendthrift and a ne'er-do-well, but their faith in
the tack that was to make them all rich was supreme. Lamb picked up one
from his desk and handed it to his friend. The very sight of it, with
its silken covered top, imagination carrying it to its place in a carpet
where it would not show, was most reassuring, and behind it, looming up
like the immense open cornucopia of Fortune herself, was the Eureka
Company, the concern that would buy them out at any time for a million
dollars if they were foolish enough to sell. After all, they had nothing
to worry them.

David Jasper went up to the bank and had them hold the note until the
next day, which they did without comment. David was "good" for anything
he wanted. The next day he got hold of Wallingford to get him to renew
the note and to give him stock as security for it. When J. Rufus came
out of that transaction, in which David had intended to be severe with
him, he had four thousand dollars in his pocket, for he had transferred
to his indorser five thousand dollars of his stock and Jasper had placed
another mortgage on his property. The single tack in his vest pocket had
assumed proportions far larger than his six cottages and his home. It
was the same with Lewis and one of the others, and, for a week, the
inventor struggled with the covering machine.

No one seemed to appreciate the fact that here their genius was
confronting a problem that was most difficult of solution. To them it
meant a mere bit of mechanical juggling, as certain to be accomplished
as the simple process of multiplication; but to glue a piece of cloth to
so minute and irregular a thing as the head of a tack, to put it on
firmly and leave it trimmed properly at the edges, to do this trick by
machinery and at a rate rapid enough to insure profitable operation, was
a Herculean task, and the stockholders would have been aghast had they
known that J. Rufus was in no hurry to solve this last perplexity. He
knew better than to begin actual manufacture. The interference report on
the first patent led him to make secret inquiries, the result of which
convinced him that the day they went on the market would be the day that
they would be disrupted by vigorous suits, backed by millions of
capital. He had been right in stating that a patent is of no value
except as a basis for lawsuits.

There was only one thing which offset his shrewdness in realizing these
conditions, and that was his own folly. Had he been content to devote
himself earnestly to the accomplishment even of his own ends, the many
difficulties into which he had floundered would never have existed.
Always there was the pressing need for money. He was a colossal example
of the fact that easily gotten pelf is of no value. His wife was
shrewder than he. She had no social aspirations whatever at this time.
They were both of them too bohemian of taste and habit to conform to the
strict rules which society imposes in certain directions, even had they
been able to enter the charmed circle. She cared only to dress as well
as the best and to go to such places of public entertainment as the best
frequented, to show herself in jewels that would attract attention and
in gowns that would excite envy; but she did tire of continuous
suspense--and she was not without keenness of perception.

"Jim," she asked, one night, "how is your business going?"

"You see me have money every day, don't you? There's nothing you want,
is there?" was the evasive reply.

"Not a thing, except this: I want a vacation. I don't want to be
wondering all my life when the crash is to come. So far as I have seen,
this looks like a clean business arrangement that you are in now; but,
even if it is, it can't stand the bleeding that you are giving it. If
you are going to get out of this thing, as you have left everything else
you were ever in, get out right away. Realize every dollar you can at
once, and let us take a trip abroad."

"I can't let go just yet," he replied.

She looked up, startled.

"Nothing wrong in this, is there, Jim?"

"Wrong!" he exclaimed. "Fanny, I never did anything in my life that the
law could get me for. The law is a friend of mine. It was framed up
especially for the protection of J. Rufus Wallingford. I can shove
ordinary policemen off the sidewalk and make the chief stand up and
salute when I go past. The only way I could break into a jail would be
to buy one."

She shook her head.

"You're too smart a man to stay out of jail, Jim. The penitentiary is
full of men who were too clever to go there. You're a queer case,
anyhow. If you had buckled down to straight business, with your ability
you'd be worth ten million dollars to-day."

He chuckled.

"Look at the fun I'd have missed, though."

But for once she would not joke about their position.

"No," she insisted, "you're looking at it wrong, Jim. You had to leave
Boston; you had to leave Baltimore; you had to leave Philadelphia and
Washington; you will have to leave this town."

"Never mind, Fanny," he admonished her. "There are fifty towns in the
United States as good as this, and they've got coin in every one of
them. They're waiting for me to come and get it, and when I have been
clear through the list I'll start all over again. There's always a fresh
crop of bait-nibblers, and money is being turned out at the mint every
day."

"Have it your own way," responded Mrs. Wallingford; "but you will be
wise if you take my advice to accumulate some money while you can this
time, so that we do not have to take a night train out in the suburbs,
as we did when we left Boston."

Mr. Wallingford returned no answer. He opened the cellar door and
touched the button that flooded his wine cellar with light, going down
himself to hunt among his bottles for the one that would tempt him most.
Nevertheless, he did some serious thinking, and, at the next
board-of-directors' meeting, he announced that the covering machine was
well under way, showing them drawings of a patent application he was
about to send off.

It was a hopeful sign--one that restored confidence. He must now
organize a selling department and must have a Chicago branch. They
listened with respect, even with elation. After all, while this man had
deceived them as to his financial standing when he first came among
them, he was well posted, for their benefit, upon matters about which
they knew nothing. Moreover, there was the great tack! He went to
Chicago and appointed a Western sales agent. When he came back he had
sold fifteen thousand dollars' worth of his stock through the
introductions gained him by this man.

J. Rufus Wallingford was "cleaning up."



CHAPTER VII

WHEREIN THE GREAT TACK INVENTOR SUDDENLY DECIDES TO CHANGE HIS LOCATION


"In two weeks we will be ready for the market," Wallingford told
inquiring members of the company every two weeks, and, in the meantime,
the model for the covering device, in which change after change was
made, went on very slowly, while the money went very rapidly. A half
dozen of the expensive stamping machines had already been installed, and
the treasury was exhausted. The directors began to look worried.

One morning, while Ella Jasper was at her sweeping in the front room,
the big red automobile chugged up to the gate and J. Rufus Wallingford
got out. He seemed gigantic as he loomed up on the little front porch
and filled the doorway.

"Where is your father?" he asked her.

"He is over at Kriegler's," she told him, and directed him how to find
the little German saloon where the morning "lunch club" gathered.

Instead of turning, he stood still for a moment and looked her slowly
from head to foot. There was that in his look which made her tremble,
which made her flush with shame, and when at last he turned away she sat
down in a chair and wept.

At Kriegler's, Wallingford found Jasper and two other stockholders, and
he drew them aside to a corner table. For a quarter of an hour he was
jovial with them, and once more they felt the magnetic charm of his
personality, though each one secretly feared that he had come again for
money. He had, but not for himself.

"The treasury is empty," he calmly informed them, during a convenient
pause, "and the Corley Machine Company insist on having their bill paid.
We owe them two thousand dollars, and it will take five thousand more to
complete the covering machine."

"You've been wasting money in the company as you do at home," charged
David, flaring up at once with long-suppressed grievances. "You had
thirty thousand cash to begin with. I was down to the Corley Machine
Company myself, day before yesterday, and I saw a pile of things you had
them make and throw away that they told me cost nearly five thousand
dollars."

"They didn't show you all of it," returned Wallingford coolly. "There's
more. You don't expect to perfect a machine without experimenting, do
you? Now you let me alone in this. I know my business, and no man can
say that I am not going after the best results in the best way. You
fellows figure on expense as if we were conducting a harness shop or a
grocery store," he continued, whereat Jasper and Lewis reddened with
resentment of the sort for which they could not find voice. "Rent,
light, power, and wages eat up money every day," he reminded them, "and
every day's delay means that much more waste. We _must_ have money to
complete this covering machine, and we must have it at once. There is
twenty thousand dollars' worth of treasury stock for sale, aside from
the hundred thousand held in reserve until we are ready to manufacture.
That extra stock must be sold right away! I leave it to you," he
concluded, rising. "I'm not a stock salesman," and with that brazen
statement he left them.

The statement was particularly brazen because that very morning, after
he left these men, he disposed of a five-thousand-dollar block of his
own stock and turned the money over to his wife before he returned to
the office in the afternoon. Lamb received him in a torrent of
impatience.

"I feel like a cheat," he declared. "The Corley people were over here
again, and say that they do not know us. They only know our money, and
they want some at once or they will not proceed with the machinery."

"I have been doing what I could," replied Wallingford. "I put the matter
up to Jasper and Lewis and Nolting this morning. I told them they would
have to sell the extra treasury stock."

"You did!" exclaimed Lamb. "Why did you go to them? Why didn't you go
out and sell the stock yourself?"

"I am not a stock salesman, my boy."

"You have been active enough in selling your private stock," charged
Lamb.

"That's my business," retorted Mr. Wallingford. "I am strictly within my
legal rights in disposing of my own stock. It is my property, to do with
as I please."

"It is obtaining money under false pretenses, for until you have
completed this machinery and made a market for our goods, the stock you
have sold is not worth the paper it is printed on. It represents no
value whatever."

"It represents as much value as treasury stock or any other stock,"
retorted Mr. Wallingford. "By the way, make a transfer of this
fifty-share certificate to Thomas D. Caldwell."

"Caldwell!" exclaimed Lamb. "Why, he is one of the very men we have been
trying to interest in some of this treasury stock. He is of our lodge.
Last week we had him almost in the notion, but he backed out."

"When the right man came along he bought," said Wallingford, and
laughed.

"This money should have gone into our depleted treasury," Lamb declared
hotly. "I refuse to make the transfer."

"I don't care; it's nothing to me. I have the money and I shall turn
over this certificate to Mr. Caldwell. When he demands the transfer you
will have to make it."

"There ought to be some legal way to compel this sale to be made of
treasury stock."

"Possibly," admitted Mr. Wallingford; "but there isn't. You will find,
my boy, that everything I do is strictly within the pale of the law. I
can go into any court and prove that I am an honest man."

Lamb sprang angrily from his chair.

"You're a thief," he charged, his eyes flashing.

"I'm not drawing any salary for it," replied Wallingford, and Lamb
halted his anger with a sickened feeling. The two hundred dollars a
month that he had been drawing lay heavily upon his conscience.

"I'm going to ask for a reduction in my pay at the next meeting," he
declared. "I cannot take the money with a clear conscience."

"That's up to you," replied Wallingford; "but I want to remind you that
unless money is put into this treasury within a day or so the works are
stopped," and he went out to climb into his auto, leaving the secretary
to some very sober thought.

Well, Lamb reflected, what was there to do? But one thing: raise the
money by the sale of treasury stock to replenish their coffers and carry
on the work. He wished he could see his friend Jasper. The wish was like
sorcery, for no more was it uttered than David and Mr. Lewis came in.
They were deeply worried over the condition into which affairs had been
allowed to drift, but Lamb had cooled down by this time. He allowed them
to hold an indignation meeting for a time, but presently he reminded
them that, after all, no matter what else was right or wrong, it would
be necessary to raise money--that the machine must be finished. They
went over to the shop to look at it. The workmen were testing it by hand
when they arrived, and it was working with at least a fair degree of
accuracy. The inspection committee did not know that the device was
entirely impractical. All that they saw was that it produced the result
of a finished tack with a cover of colored cloth glued tightly to its
head, and to them its operation was a silent tribute to the genius of
the man they had been execrating. They came away encouraged. It was Mr.
Lewis who expressed the opinion which was gaining ground with all of
them.

"After all," he declared, "we're bound to admit that he's a big man."

The result was precisely what Wallingford had foreseen. These men, to
save their company, to save the money they had already invested, raised
ten thousand dollars among them. David Jasper put another
five-thousand-dollar mortgage on his property; Mr. Lewis raised two
thousand, and Edward Lamb three thousand, and with this money they
bought of the extra treasury stock to that amount. J. Rufus Wallingford
returned in the morning. The stock lay open for him to sign; there was
ten thousand dollars in the treasury, and a check to the Corley Machine
Company, already signed by the treasurer, was also awaiting his
signature.

The eight thousand dollars that was left went at a surprisingly rapid
rate, for, with a love for polished detail, Wallingford had ordered
large quantities of shipping cases, stamps to burn the company's device
upon them, japanned steel signs in half a dozen colors to go with each
shipment, and many other expensive incidentals, besides the experimental
work. There were patent applications and a host of other accumulating
bills that gave Lamb more worry and perplexity than he had known in all
his fifteen years of service with the Dorman Company. The next
replenishment was harder. To get the remaining ten thousand dollars in
the treasury, the already committed stockholders scraped around among
their friends to the remotest acquaintance, and placed scrip no longer
in blocks of five thousand, but of ten shares, of five shares, even in
driblets of one and two hundred dollars, until they had absorbed all the
extra treasury stock; and in that time Wallingford, by appointing a St.
Louis agent, had managed to dispose of twenty thousand dollars' worth of
his own holdings. He was still "cleaning up," and he brought in his
transfer certificates with as much nonchalance as if he were turning in
orders for tacks.

Rapid as he now was, however, he did not work quite fast enough. He had
still some fifteen thousand dollars' worth of personal stock when, early
one morning, a businesslike gentleman stepped into the office where Lamb
sat alone at work, and presented his card. It told nothing beyond the
mere fact that he was an attorney.

"Well, Mr. Rook, what can I do for you?" asked Lamb pleasantly, though
not without apprehension. He wondered what J. Rufus had been doing.

"Are you an officer of the Universal Covered Tack Company?" inquired Mr.
Rook.

"The secretary; Edward Lamb."

"Quite so. Mr. Lamb, I represent the Invisible Carpet Tack Company, and
I bring you their formal notification to cease using their device;"
whereupon he delivered to Edward a document. "The company assumes that
you are not thoroughly posted as to its article of manufacture, nor as
to its patents covering it," he resumed. "They have been on the market
three years with this product."

From his pocket he took a fancifully embellished package, and, opening
it, he poured two or three tacks into Edward's hand. With dismay the
secretary examined one of them. It was an ordinary carpet tack, such as
they were about to make, but with a crimson-covered top. Dazed, scarcely
knowing what he was doing, he mechanically took his knife from his
pocket and cut the cloth from it. The head was roughened for gluing
precisely as had been planned for their own!

"Assuming, as I say, that you are not aware of the encroachment," the
attorney went on, "the Invisible Company does not desire to let you
invite prosecution, but wishes merely to warn you against attempting to
put an infringement of their goods on the market. They have plenty of
surplus capital, and are prepared to defend their rights with all of it,
if necessary. Should you wish to communicate with me or have your
counsel do so, my address is on that card," and, leaving the paper of
tacks behind him, Mr. Rook left the office.

Without taking the trouble to investigate, Lamb knew instinctively that
the lawyer was right, an opinion which later inquiry all too thoroughly
corroborated. For three years the Invisible Carpet Tack Company had been
supplying precisely the article the Universal Company was then striving
to perfect. What there was of that trade they had and would keep, and a
sickening realization came to the secretary that it meant a total loss
to himself and his friends of practically everything they possessed. The
machinery in which their money was invested was special machinery that
could be used for no other purpose, and was worth but little more than
the price of scrap iron. Every cent that they had invested was gone!

His first thought was for David Jasper. As for himself, he was young
yet. He could stand the loss of five thousand. He could go back to
Dorman's, take his old position and be the more valuable for his ripened
experience, and there was always a chance that a minor partnership might
await him there after a few more years; but as for Jasper, his day was
run, his sun had set. It was a hard task that confronted the secretary,
but he must do it. He called up Kriegler's and asked for David Jasper,
and when David came to the telephone he told him what had happened. Over
and over, carefully and point by point, he had to explain it, for his
friend could not believe, since he could not even comprehend, the blow
that had fallen upon him. Suddenly, Lamb found there was no answer to a
question that he asked. He called anxiously again and again. He could
hear only a confused murmur in the 'phone. There were tramping feet and
excited voices, and he gathered that the receiver was left dangling,
that no one held it, that no one listened to what he said. Hastily
putting on his coat and hat, he locked the office and took a car for the
North Side.

J. Rufus Wallingford himself was busy that morning, and in the North
Side, too. His huge car whirled past the little frame houses that were
covered with mortgages which would never be lifted, and stopped before
the home of David Jasper. His jaw was hanging loosely, his big, red face
was bloated and splotched, and his small eyes were bloodshot, though
they glowed with a somber fire. He had been out all night, and this was
one of the few times he had been indiscreet enough to carry his excesses
over into the morning; usually he was alcohol proof. At first, blinking
and blearing in the sunlight, he had been numb; but an hour's swift ride
in the fresh air of the country had revived him, while the ascending sun
had started into life again the fumes of the wine that he had drunk, so
that all of the evil within him had come uppermost without the
restraining caution that belonged to his sober hours. In his abnormal
condition the thought had struck him that now was the time for the final
coup--that he would dispose of his remaining shares of stock at a
reduced valuation and get away, at last, from the irksome tasks that
confronted him, from the dilemma that was slowly but surely encompassing
him. In pursuance of this idea it had occurred to him, as it never would
have done in his sober moments, that David Jasper could still raise
money and that he could still be made to do so. Lumbering back to the
kitchen door, he knocked upon it, and Ella Jasper opened it. Ella had
finished her morning's work hurriedly, for she intended to go downtown
shopping, and was already preparing to dress. Her white, rounded arms
were bared to the elbow, and her collar was turned in with a "V" at the
throat.

The somber glow in Wallingford's eyes leaped into flame, and, without
stopping to question her, he pushed his way into the kitchen, closing
the door behind him. He lurched suddenly toward her, and, screaming, she
flew through the rooms toward the front door. She would have gained the
door easily enough, and, in fact, had just reached it, when it opened
from the outside, and her father, accompanied by his friend Lewis, came
suddenly in. For half an hour, up at Kriegler's, they had been restoring
David from the numb half-trance in which he had dropped the receiver of
the telephone, and even now he swayed as he walked, so that his
condition could scarcely have been told from that of Wallingford when
the latter had come through the gate. But there was this difference
between them: the strength of Wallingford had been dissipated; that of
Jasper had been merely suspended. It was a mental wrench that had
rendered him for the moment physically incapable. Now, however, when he
saw the author of all his miseries, a hoarse cry of rage burst from him,
and before his eyes there suddenly seemed to surge a red mist. Hale and
sturdy still, a young man in physique, despite his sixty years, he
sprang like a tiger at the adventurer who had wrecked his prosperity and
who now had held his home in contempt.

There was no impact of strained bodies, as when two warriors meet in
mortal combat; as when attacker and defender prepare to measure prowess.
Instead, the big man, twice the size and possibly twice the lifting and
striking strength of David Jasper, having on his side, too, the
advantage of being in what should have been the summit of life, shrank
back, pale to the lips, suddenly whimpering and crying for mercy. It was
only a limp, resistless man of blubber that David Jasper had hurled
himself upon, and about whose throat his lean, strong fingers had
clutched, the craven gurgling still his appeals for grace. Ordinarily
this would have disarmed a man like David Jasper, for disgust alone
would have stayed his hand, have turned his wrath to loathing, his
righteous vengefulness to nausea; but now he was blind, blood-mad, and
he bore the huge spineless lump of moral putty to the floor by the force
of his resistless onrush.

"Man!" Lewis shouted in his ear. "Man, there's a law against that sort
of thing!"

"Law!" screamed David Jasper. "Law! Did it save me my savings? Let me
alone!"

The only result of the interference was to alter the direction of his
fury, and now, with his left hand still gripping the throat of his
despoiler, his stalwart fist rained down blow after blow upon the hated,
fat-jowled face that lay beneath him. It was a brutal thing, and, even
as she strove to coax and pull her father away, Ella was compelled to
avert her face. The smacking impact of those blows made her turn faint;
but, even so, she had wit enough to close the front door, so that morbid
curiosity should not look in upon them nor divine her father's madness.
Just as she returned to him, however, and even while his fist was
upraised for another stroke at that sobbing coward, a spasmodic twitch
crossed his face as he gasped deeply for air, and he toppled to the
floor, inert by the side of his enemy. Age had told at last. In spite of
an abstemious life, the unwonted exertion and the unwonted passion had
wreaked their punishment upon him.

It was David's friend Lewis who, with white, set face, helped
Wallingford to his feet, and, without a word, scornfully shoved him
toward the door, throwing his crumpled hat after him as he passed out.
With blood upon his face and two rivulets of tears streaming down across
it, J. Rufus Wallingford, the suave, the gentleman for whom all good
things of earth were made and provided, ran sobbing, with downstretched
quivering lips, to his automobile. The chauffeur jumped out for a moment
to get the hat and to dip his kerchief in the stream that he turned on
for a moment from the garden hydrant; coming back to the machine, he
handed the wet kerchief to his master, then, without instructions, he
started home. When his back was thoroughly turned, the chauffeur,
despite that he had been well paid and extravagantly tipped during all
the months of his fat employment, smiled, and smiled, and kept on
smiling, and had all he could do to prevent his shoulders from heaving.
He was gratified--was Frank--pleased in his two active senses of justice
and of humor.

Just as the automobile turned the corner, Edward Lamb came running down
the street from Kriegler's, where he had gone first to find out what had
happened, and he met Mr. Lewis going for a doctor. Without stopping to
explain, Lewis jerked his thumb in the direction of the house, and
Edward, not knocking, dashed in at the door. They had laid David on his
bed in the front room, and his daughter bent over him, bathing his brow
with camphor. David was speechless, but his eyes were open now, and the
gleam of intelligence was in them. As their friend came to the bedside,
Ella looked around at him. She tried to gaze up at him unmoved as he
stood there so young, so strong, so dependable; she strove to look into
his eyes bravely and frankly, but it had been a racking time, in which
her strength had been sorely tested, and she swayed slightly toward
him. Edward Lamb caught his sister in his arms, but when her head was
pillowed for an instant upon his shoulder and the tears burst forth, lo!
the miracle happened. The foolish scales fell so that he could see into
his own heart, and detect what had lain there unnamed for many a long
year--and Ella Jasper was his sister no longer!

"There, there, dear," he soothed her, and smoothed her tresses with his
broad, gentle palm.

The touch and the words electrified her. Smiling through her tears, she
ventured to look up at him, and he bent and kissed her solemnly and
gently upon the lips; then David Jasper, lying there upon his bed, with
all his little fortune gone and all his sturdy vigor vanished, saw, and
over his wan lips there flickered the trace of a satisfied smile.

Hidden that night in a stateroom on a fast train, J. Rufus Wallingford
and his wife, with but such possessions as they could carry in their
suit cases and one trunk, whirled eastward.



CHAPTER VIII

MR. WALLINGFORD TAKES A DOSE OF HIS OWN BITTER MEDICINE


As the lights of the railroad yard, red and white and green, slid by, so
passed out of the ken of these fugitives all those who had contributed
to their luxury through the medium of the Universal Covered Carpet Tack
Company. Lamb, Jasper, Lewis, Nolting, Ella; what were all these people
to them? What were any living creatures except a part of the always
moving panorama which composed the background of their lives? Nomads
always since their marriage, when Mrs. Wallingford as a girl had run
away from home that was no home to join this cheerful knave of fortune,
they had known no resting place, no spot on earth that called to them;
had formed no new ties and made no new friendships. Where all the world
seemed anchored they were ever flitting on, and the faces that they knew
belonged but to the more or less vivid episodes by which the man strove
after such luxurious ideals as he had. Only a few of the dubious
acquaintances which Wallingford had formed in his earlier days of
adventure remained for them to greet as they paused before fresh flights
afield. "Blackie" Daw, who had recently removed his "office" from Boston
to New York, was the most constant of these, and him they entertained in
one of the most exclusive hostelries in the metropolis soon after their
arrival. Mr. Wallingford's face still bore traces of the recent
conflict.

"Fanny's the girl!" he declared with his hand resting affectionately on
his wife's shoulder, after he had detailed to Mr. Daw how he had
squeezed the covered carpet tack dry of its possibilities. "She's little
Mamie Bright, all right. For once we got away with it. I'm a piker, I
know, but twenty-eight thousand in yellow, crinkly boys to the good, all
sewed up in Fanny's skirt till we ripped it out and soused it in a
deposit vault, isn't so bad for four months' work; and now we're on our
way to ruin Monte Carlo."

"You're all to the mustard," admired Blackie; "you're the big noise and
the blinding flash. As I say, I'd go into some legitimate line myself if
I wasn't honest. What bites me, though, is that you got all that out of
my little Lamb and his easy friends."

"Easy! Um--m--m--m," commented Mr. Wallingford frowningly, as he
unconsciously rubbed the tips of his fingers over the black puff under
his right eye. "You've got it wrong. I like to sting the big people
best. They take it like a dentist's pet; but when you tap one of these
pikers for a couple of mean little thousands he howls like a steam
calliope. One old pappy guy started to take it out of my hide, and he
tried so hard it gave him paralysis."

Mr. Daw laughed in sympathy.

"You must have had a lively get-away, to judge from the marks the mill
left on you; but why this trip across the pond? Are they after you?"

"After me!" scorned J. Rufus. "There's no chance! Why, I never did a
thing in my life that stepped outside the law!"

"But you lean way over the fence," charged Blackie with a knowing nod,
"and some of these days the palings will break."

"By that time I'll have enough soft money in front of me to ease my
fall," announced Wallingford confidently. "I'm for that get-rich-quick
game, and you can just bank on me as a winner."

"You'll win all right," agreed Blackie confidently, looking at his
watch, "but you're like the rest of us. You'll have to die real sudden
if you want to leave anything to your widow. That's the trouble with
this quick money. It's lively or you wouldn't catch it on the wing, and
it stays so lively after you get it."

He arose as he concluded this sage observation and buttoned his coat.

"But you're going to stay to dinner with us?" insisted Mrs. Wallingford.

"No," he returned regretfully. "I'd like to, but business is business. I
have an engagement to trim a deacon in Podunk this evening. Give my
regards to the Prince of Monaco."

It was scarcely more than a week afterwards when he somberly turned in
at the bar room of that same hotel, and almost bumped into Wallingford,
who was as somberly coming out. For a moment they gazed at each other in
amazement and then both laughed.

"You must have gone over and back by wireless," observed Blackie. "What
turned up?"

"Stung!" exclaimed J. Rufus with deep self-scorn. "I got an inside tip
on some copper stock the evening you left, and the next morning I looked
up a broker and he broke me. He had just started up in the bucket-shop
business and I was his first customer. He didn't wait for any more.
That's all."

Daw laughed happily, and he was still laughing when they entered the
drawing room of Wallingford's suite.

"It's the one gaudy bet that the biggest suckers of all are the wise
people," he observed. "Here you go out West and trim a bunch of come-ons
for twenty-five thousand, and what do you do next? Oh, just tarry here
long enough to tuck that neat little bundle into the pocket of a
bucket-shop broker that throws away the bucket! You'd think he was the
wise boy, after that, but he'll drop your twenty-five thousand on a
wire-tapping game, and the wire tapper will buy gold bricks with it. The
gold-brick man will give it to the bookies and the bookies will lose it
on stud poker. I'm a Billy goat myself. I clean up ten thousand last
week on mining stock that permits Mr. Easy Mark to mine if he wants to,
and I pay it right over last night for the fun of watching a faro expert
deal from a sanded deck! Me? Cleaned with-_out_ soap!"

"You don't mean to say you're broke, too?" demanded his host.

"If I had any less they'd arrest me for loitering."

Mr. Wallingford glowered upon his twenty-dollar-a-day apartments with a
sigh. The latest in heavy lace curtains fluttered at him from the
windows, thick rugs yielded to his feet, all the frippery of
Louis-Quinze, while it mocked his bigness, ministered to his
comfort--but waited to be paid for!

"You don't look as good to me as you did a while ago," he declared. "I'd
figured on you for a sure touch, for now it's back to the Rube patch for
us. O Fanny!"

"Yes, Jim," answered a pleasant voice, and Mrs. Wallingford, in a
stunning gown which, supplementing her hair and eyes, made of her a
symphony in brown, came from the adjoining room. She shook hands
cordially with Mr. Daw and sat down with an inquiring look at her
husband.

"It's time for us to take up a collection," said the latter gentleman.
"We're going ay-wye."

"Ya-as, ay-wye from he-_ah_!" supplemented Blackie to no one in
particular.

"Won't your ring and scarf pin do?" his wife inquired anxiously of Mr.
Wallingford. A "collection," in their parlance, meant the sacrifice of a
last resource, and she was a woman of experience.

"You know they won't," he returned in mild reproach. "If I don't keep a
front I know where my ticket reads to; the first tank!"

Without any further objection she brought him a little black leather
case, which he opened. An agreeable glitter sparkled from its velvet
depths, and he passed it to his friend with a smile of satisfaction.

"They'll please Uncle, eh, Blackie?" he observed. "The first thing to
do, after I cash these, is to look at the map and pick out a fresh town
where smart people have money in banks. It always helps a lot to
remember that somewhere in this big United States people have been
saving up coin for years, just waiting for us to come and get it."

The two men laughed, but Mrs. Wallingford did not.

"Honest, I'm tired of it," she confessed. "If this speculation of Jim's
had only turned out luckily I wanted to buy a little house and live
quietly and--and decently for a year or so."

Mr. Daw glanced at her in amusement.

"She wants to be respectable!" he gasped in mock surprise.

"All women do," she said, still earnestly.

"You wouldn't last three months," he informed her. "You'd join the
village sewing circle and the culture club, and paddle around in a giddy
whirl of pale functions till you saw you had to keep your mouth shut all
the time for fear the other women would find out you knew something.
Then you'd quit."

"You talk as if you had been crossed in love," she consoled him.

"That's because I'm in pain," confessed Blackie. "It hasn't been an hour
since I saw a thousand dollars in real money, and the telegraph company
jerked it away from me just as I reached out to bring it home."

"_Is_ there that much money in the world?" inquired Wallingford.

"Not loose," replied Blackie. "I thought I had this lump pried off, but
now it's got a double padlock on it and to-night it starts far, far back
to that dear old metropolis of the Big Thick Water, where the windy
river looks like a fresh-plowed field. But they've coin out there, and
every time I think of Mr. James Clover and his thousand I'm tempted to
go down to his two-dollar hotel and coax him up a dark alley."

"Who does Mr. Clover do?" inquired Wallingford perfunctorily.

Blackie's sense of humor came uppermost to soothe his anguished
feelings.

"He's the Supreme Exalted Ruler of the Noble Order of Friendly Hands,"
he grinned, "and his twenty-six members at three or eleven cents a
month don't turn in the money fast enough; so he took a chance on the
cold-iron cage and brought a chunk of the insurance reserve fund to New
York to double it. I picked myself out to do the doubling for him."

Mr. Wallingford chuckled.

"I know," he said. "To double it you fold the bills when you put them in
your pocket, and when Clover wanted it back you'd have him pinched for a
common thief. But how did it get away? I'm disappointed in you, Blackie.
I thought when you once saw soft money it was yours."

"Man died in his town. If he'd only put it off for one day the whole
burg could have turned into a morgue, for I don't need it. But no! The
man died, and the Supreme Exalted Secretary wired the Supreme Exalted
Ruler. The telegram was brought to his room just when I had the hook to
his gills, and he--went--down--stream! It was perfectly scandalous the
names we called that man for having died, but it takes a long time to
cuss a thousand dollars' worth."

Mr. Wallingford was thoughtful.

"A fraternal insurance company," he mused. "I've never taken a fall out
of that game, and it sounds good. This gifted amateur's going out
to-night? Hustle right down to his hotel and bring him up to dinner.
Tell him I've been thinking of going into the insurance field and might
be induced to buy a share in his business. I've a notion to travel along
with that thousand dollars to-night, no matter where it goes. O Fanny!"
he called again to his wife in the other room. "Suppose you begin to
pack up while I step out and soak the diamonds."

That was how Mr. James Clover came to obtain some startling new ideas
about insurance; also about impressiveness. When Mr. Wallingford in a
dinner coat walked into any public dining room, waiters were instantly
electrified and ordinary mortals felt humble. His broad expanse of white
shirt front awed the most self-satisfied into instant submission, and he
carried himself as one who was monarch of all he surveyed. This was due
to complacency, for though bills might press and cash be scarce, there
never stood any line of worry upon his smooth brow. Worry was for
others--those who would have to pay. Mr. Clover, himself of some bulk
but of no genuine lordliness whatever, no sooner set eyes upon Mr. J.
Rufus Wallingford than he felt comforted. Here was wealth unlimited, and
if this opulent being could possibly be induced to finance the Noble
Order of Friendly Hands, he saw better skies ahead, bright skies that
shone down on a fair, fruitful world where all was prosperity and
plenty. Mr. Clover was a block-like man with a square face and a heavy
fist, with a loud voice and a cultivated oratorical habit of speech
which he meant to be awe-inspiring. Behind him there was a string of
failures that were a constant source of wonderment to him, since he had
not been too scrupulous!

"He'd be a crook if he knew how; but he stumbles over his feet," Blackie
confided to Wallingford. To Clover he said: "Look out for the big man.
He's a pretty smooth article, and you'll miss the gold out of your teeth
if you don't watch him."

It was a recommendation, and a shrewd one. Mr. Clover was prepared by it
to be impressed; he ended by becoming a dazed worshiper, and his
conquest began when his host ordered the dinner. It was not merely what
he ordered, but how, that stamped him as one who habitually dined well;
and to Clover, who had always lived upon a beer basis, the ascent to the
champagne level was dizzying. It was not until they had broached their
second quart of wine that business was brought up for discussion.

"I understand you've just had a bit of hard luck, Mr. Clover," said
Wallingford, laughing as if hard luck were a joke.

Mr. Clover winced within, but put on a cheerful air.

"Merely what was to have been expected," he replied. "You refer, I
suppose, to the death of one of our members, but as our Order now has a
large enrollment we are only averaging with the mortality tables."

"What is your membership?" asked the other with sudden directness.

"At our present rate of progress," began Mr. Clover, eloquently,
squaring his shoulders and looking Mr. Wallingford straight in the eye,
"thousands will have been enrolled upon our books before the end of the
coming year. Already we are perfecting a new and elaborate filing system
to take care of the business, which is increasing by leaps and bounds."

Mr. Wallingford calmly closed one blue orb.

"But in chilly figures, discounting next year, how many?" he asked.
"Live ones, I mean, that cough up their little dues every month."

The Supreme Exalted Ruler squirmed and smiled a trifle weakly.

"You might just as well tell me, you know," insisted Mr. Wallingford,
"because I shall want to inspect your books if I buy in. Have you a
thousand?"

"Not quite," confessed Mr. Clover, in a voice which, in spite of him,
would sound a trifle leaden.

"Have you five hundred?" persisted Mr. Wallingford.

Mr. Clover considered, while the silent Mr. Daw discreetly kept his face
straight.

"Five hundred and seventeen," he blurted, his face reddening.

"That isn't so bad," said Mr. Wallingford encouragingly. "But how do you
clinch your rake-off?"

At this Mr. Clover could smile with smug content; he could swell with
pride.

"Out our way, a little knothole in the regulations was found by yours
truly," he modestly boasted. "Mine is somewhat different from any
insurance order on earth. The members think they vote, but they don't.
If they ever elect another Supreme Exalted Ruler, all he can do is to
wear a brass crown and a red robe; I'll still handle the funds. You see,
we've just held our first annual election, and I had the entire
membership vote 'Yes' on a forever-and-ever contract which puts our
whole income--for safety, of course--into the hands of a duly bonded
company. For ten cents a month from each member this company is to pay
all expenses, to handle, invest and disburse its insurance and other
funds for the benefit of the Order. It's like making a savings bank our
trustee; only it's different, because I'm the company."

His host nodded in approval.

"You have other rake-offs," he suggested.

"Right again!" agreed Clover with gleeful enthusiasm. "Certificate fees,
fines for delinquency, regalia company and all that. But the main
fountain is the little dime. Ten cents seems like a cheap game, maybe,
but when we have two hundred and fifty thousand members, that trifling
ante amounts to twenty-five thousand dollars a month. Bad, I guess!"

"When you get it," agreed the other. "You're incorporated, then. For how
much?"

"Ten thousand."

"I see," said Mr. Wallingford with a smile of tolerance. "You need me,
all right. You ought to _give_ me a half interest in your business."

Mr. Clover's self-assertiveness came back to him with a jerk.

"Anything else?" he asked pleasantly.

Mr. Wallingford beamed upon him.

"I might want a salary, but it would be purely nominal; a hundred a week
or so."

Mr. Clover was highly amused. The only reason on earth that he would
admit another man to a partnership with him was that he must have ready
cash. His shoe soles were wearing out.

"I'm afraid our business wouldn't suit you, anyhow, Mr. Wallingford," he
said with bantering sarcasm. "Our office is very plain, for one thing,
and we have no rug on the floor."

"We'll put rugs down right away, and if the offices are not as swell as
they make 'em we'll move," Wallingford promptly announced. "I might give
you two thousand for a half interest."

Mr. Clover drank a glass of champagne and considered. Two thousand
dollars, at the present stage of his finances, was real money. The Noble
Order of Friendly Hands had been started on a "shoestring" of five
hundred dollars, and the profits of the Friendly Hands Trust Company had
been nil up to the present time. This offer was more than a temptation;
it was a fall.

"Couldn't think of it," he nevertheless coldly replied. "But I'll sell
you half my stock at par. The secretary has ten shares, and dummy
directors four. I hold eighty-six."

"Forty-three hundred dollars!" figured Wallingford. "And you'd charge me
that for a brick with the plating worn thin! You forget the value of my
expert services."

"What do you know about fraternal insurance?" demanded Clover, who had
reddened under fire.

"Not a thing," confessed Mr. Wallingford. "All I know is how to get
money. If I go in with you, the first thing we do is to reorganize on a
two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar basis."

Mr. Clover pounded his fist upon the table until the glasses rang, and
laughed so loudly that the head waiter shivered and frowned. Seeing,
however, that the noise came from Mr. Wallingford's corner, he smiled.
He was venal, was the head waiter, and he remembered the pleasant,
velvety rustle of a bill in his palm.

"That joke's good enough for a minstrel show," Clover declared. "Why,
man, even if that stock could be sold, Gabriel's horn would catch us
still struggling to pay our first dividend."

Mr. Wallingford lit a cigarette and smiled in pity.

"Oh, well, if you figure on staying in the business till you drop dead I
won't wake you up," he stated. "But I thought you wanted money."

Mr. Clover shook his head.

"We have laws in my State, Mr. Wallingford."

"I should hope so," returned that gentleman. "If it wasn't for good,
safe, solid laws I never would make a cent. Why, the law's on my side
all the time, and the police are the best friends I've got. They show me
the way home at night."

Mr. Clover looked incredulous.

"I'm afraid you don't understand the fraternal insurance business," he
insisted. "It takes a lot of hard, patient work to build up an order."

"_You_ don't understand the business," retorted the other. "What, for
instance, are you going to do with that thousand dollars you're taking
back home?"

"Give it to the widow of Mr. Henry L. Bishop, of course," said Mr.
Clover, expanding his chest and pursing his mouth virtuously. "The
widows and orphans who look to the Noble Order of Friendly Hands for
protection shall not look in vain."

"That will look well in a prospectus," admitted Mr. Wallingford with a
knowing twinkle of his eyes; "but I'm not going to take out any
insurance so you could notice it. Suppose I show you how to have Mrs.
Bishop hand you back that thousand with sobs of gratitude? Do I get two
hundred and fifty of it?"

"If you can do that legitimately," said Mr. Clover, leaning forward and
surprised into sudden warm eagerness, "I'll accept your price for a half
interest."

"I'll go with you to-night--if I can get the drawing-room on your
train," decided Wallingford, and arose.

The Supreme Exalted Ruler gazed up at him with profound admiration. He
looked so much like actual cash. He might be a "smooth article," but was
not one Clover also "smooth"? He could guard the gold in his own teeth,
all right.

"You're a wonder, Jim," said Mr. Daw to his friend when they were alone
for a few minutes; "but where are you going to get that two thousand?"

"Out of the business--if I pay it at all," replied Mr. Wallingford.
"Trust your Uncle Rufus."



CHAPTER IX

MR. WALLINGFORD SHOWS MR. CLOVER HOW TO DO THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS GOOD


Mrs. Bishop, a small, nervous-looking woman of forty-five, with her thin
hair drawn back so tightly from her narrow forehead that it gave one the
headache to look at her, was in her dismal "front room" with her
wrinkled red hands folded in her lap when Mr. Wallingford and Mr. Clover
called. It was only the day after the funeral, and she broke into tears
the moment they introduced themselves.

"Madam," declaimed Mr. Clover in his deepest and most sympathetic voice,
"it is the blessed privilege of the Noble Order of Friendly Hands to dry
the tears of the widows and orphans, and to shed the light of hope upon
their disconsolate pathway. It is our pleasure to bring you, as a
testimonial of your husband's affection and loving care, this check for
one thousand dollars."

Mrs. Bishop took the check and burst into uncontrollable sobs, whereat
Mr. Wallingford looked distinctly annoyed. If he could help it, he
never, by any possibility, looked upon other than the most cheerful
aspects of life.

Mr. Clover cleared his throat.

"But the broad paternal interest of the Noble Order of Friendly Hands
does not stop here," he went on, turning for a glance of earned approval
from J. Rufus Wallingford. "The family of every member of our Order
becomes at once a ward of ours, and they may look to us for assistance,
advice, and benefit in every way possible. We are a group of friends,
banded together for mutual aid in time of trouble and sorrow."

Mr. Wallingford judged this magnificent flight to be a quotation from
the ritual of the Noble Order of Friendly Hands, and he was correct;
but, as Mrs. Bishop had ventured to look up at them, he nodded his head
gravely.

"It is about that thousand dollars you hold in your hand, Mrs. Bishop,"
Clover continued, resuming his oratorical version of the lesson he had
carefully learned from Wallingford; "and we feel it our duty to remind
you that, unless it is wisely used, the plans of your thoughtful husband
for your safe future will not have been carried out. How had you thought
of investing this neat little sum?"

Mrs. Bishop gazed at the check through her tears and tried to comprehend
that it was real money, as it would have been but for the astuteness of
Mr. Wallingford. Mr. Clover had proposed to bring her ten new, crisp
one-hundred-dollar bills, but his monitor had pointed out that if she
ever got that money between her fingers and felt it crinkle she would
never let go of it. A check was so different.

"Well," she faltered, "my daughter Minnie wanted me to get us some
clothes and pay some down on a piano and lay in the winter coal and
provisions and put the rest in a bank for a rainy day. Minnie's my
youngest. She's just quit the High School because she wants to go to a
commercial college. But my oldest daughter, Hattie, wouldn't hear to it.
She says if Minnie'll only take a job in the store where she works they
can run the family, and for me to take this thousand dollars and finish
paying off the mortgage on the house with it. The mortgage costs six per
cent. a year."

"Your daughter Hattie is a very sensible young lady," said Mr.
Wallingford with great gravity. "It would be folly to expend this
thousand dollars upon personal luxuries; but equally wrong to lose its
earning power."

It was the voice of Wall Street, of the Government Mint, of the very
soul and spirit of all financial wisdom, that spoke here, and Mrs.
Bishop felt it with a thrill.

"Madam," orated Mr. Clover, "the Noble Order of Friendly Hands has
provided a way for the safe and profitable investment of the funds left
to the widows and orphans under its protection. It has set aside a
certain amount of high-dividend-bearing stock in the Order itself, or
rather in its operating department, of which, by the way, I am the
president, and of which the eminent capitalist and philanthropist, Mr.
J. Rufus Wallingford, is a leading spirit." His sweeping gesture toward
that benevolent multi-millionaire, and Mr. Wallingford's bow in return,
were sights worth beholding. "The benevolent gentlemen who organized
this generous association have just made possible this further
beneficence to its dependents. The stock should pay you not less than
twelve per cent. a year, and your original capital can be withdrawn at
any time. With this income you can pay the interest on your mortgage,
and have a tidy little sum left at the end of each quarter. Think of it,
madam! Money every three months, and your thousand dollars always
there!"

Mrs. Bishop glanced at him in slow comprehension. The figures that he
gave her did not, as yet, mean so much, but the sight of Mr. Wallingford
did. He was so big, so solid looking, so much like substantial
prosperity itself. A huge diamond glowed from his finger. It must be
worth several hundred dollars. Another one gleamed from his scarf. His
clothing was of the latest cut and the finest material. Even his socks,
in the narrow rim which showed above his low-cut shoes, were silk; she
could see that clear across the room.

The door opened, and a girl of seventeen or eighteen came in. That she
was unusually pretty was attested by the suddenly widening eyes of Mr.
Wallingford.

"And is this your daughter Minnie?" asked the benevolent gentleman, all
his protecting and fostering instincts aroused.

Mrs. Bishop, in a flutter, presented her younger daughter to the
fortune-bringing gentlemen, and Minnie fluttered a bit on her own
account. She knew she was pretty; she read in the eyes of the
wealthy-looking, perfectly groomed Mr. Wallingford that she was pretty;
she saw in the smile of Mr. Clover that she was pretty, and her vanity
was pleased inordinately.

A sudden brilliant idea came to Mr. Wallingford.

"I have the solution to your problem, Mrs. Bishop," he said. "We shall
need more help in our offices, and your daughter shall have the place.
She can soon earn more money than she ever could in a store, and can
secure as good a training as she could in a business college. How would
you like that, Miss Bishop?"

"I think it would be fine," replied the young lady, with a large-eyed
glance toward Mr. Wallingford.

The glance was more of habit than intent. Minnie's mirror and what she
had heard from her boy friends had given her an impulse toward coquetry.
It was pleasant to feel her power, to see what instantaneous impression
she could make upon grown men. Such a friendly party it was! Everybody
was pleased, and in the end Mr. Wallingford and Mr. Clover walked away
from the house with Mrs. Bishop's check and her receipt and her policy
in their pockets.

Mr. Clover was lost in profound admiration.

"It worked, all right!" he said exultantly to Mr. Neil, as soon as they
returned to the dingy little office. "Here's the thousand dollars," and
he threw down the check. "Good Lord! I couldn't believe but that
thousand was gone; and then if another man died he would put us on the
toboggan."

Mr. Neil was a thin young man whose forehead wore the perpetual frown of
slow thought. Also his cuffs were ragged. He was the Supreme Exalted
Secretary.

"Now may I have fifty?" he inquired in an aside to Clover. "My board
bill, you know."

"Certainly not!" declared the Supreme Exalted Ruler with loud rectitude.
"This thousand dollars belongs in the insurance reserve fund."

"Tut, tut," interposed Wallingford. "Your alarm clock is out of order.
You just now paid a death claim with that money, and the reserve fund is
out that much. A private individual, however, just now bought a thousand
dollars' worth of stock in the reorganized Friendly Hands Trust Company,
and you have the pay in advance. Let Mr. Neil have his fifty dollars,
and give me a check for my two hundred and fifty; then we'll go out to
hunt a decent suite of offices and buy the furniture for it."

"There wouldn't be much of the thousand left after that," objected Mr.
Clover, frowning.

"Why not? You don't suppose we are going to pay cash for anything, do
you?" returned Wallingford in surprise. "My credit's good, if yours
isn't."

His credit! He had not been in town four hours! As Mr. Clover looked him
over again, however, he saw where he was wrong. Mr. Wallingford's mere
appearance was as good as a bond. He would not ask for credit; he would
take it. Mr. Clover, in a quick analysis of this thought, decided that
this rich man's resources were so vast that they shone through his very
bearing. Mr. Wallingford, at that same moment, after having paid his
enormous hotel bill in New York and the expenses of his luxurious trip,
had only ten dollars in the world.

"Now then," suggested Mr. Clover as he passed the hypnotically won check
to his new partner, "we might as well conclude our personal business.
I'll make you over half my stock in the company, and take your two
thousand."

"All right," agreed Wallingford very cheerfully, and they both sat down
to write.

Mr. Clover transferred to Mr. Wallingford forty-three shares of stock in
the Friendly Hands Trust Company, Incorporated, and received a
rectangular slip of paper in return. His face reddened as he examined
it.

"Why, this isn't a check!" he said sharply. "It's a note for ninety
days!"

"Sure!" said J. Rufus Wallingford. "In our talk there wasn't a word said
about cash."

"But cash is what I want, and nothing but cash!" exploded the other,
smacking his hairy fist upon his desk.

"How foolish!" chided J. Rufus smilingly. "I see I'll have to teach you
a lot about business. Draw up your chairs and get my plan in detail. If,
after that, Clover, you do not want my note, you may give it back and go
broke in your own way. Here's what we will do. We will organize a new
operating company for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in
twenty-five-dollar shares. We will buy over the old ten-thousand-dollar
company for one hundred and fifty thousand in stock of the new company.
Dividing this pro rata, you and I, Clover, will each have nearly
twenty-six hundred shares. Mr. Neil, in place of his present ten shares,
will have six hundred, and we shall have left four thousand shares of
treasury stock. These we will sell among your members. We will reduce
your present insurance rate one fourth, and use the hundred thousand
dollars we take in on stock sales to get new members to whom to sell
more stock. In the meantime, we'll see money every day. You and I,
Clover, will each draw a hundred a week, and I think Mr. Neil will be
pretty well satisfied if he drags down fifty."

The pleased expression upon Mr. Neil's face struggled with the deepening
creases on his brow. Fifteen dollars a week was the most he had ever
earned in his life, but he was so full of fraternal insurance figures
that his skin prickled.

"But how about the insurance end of it?" he interposed. "How will we
ever keep up at that ridiculously low rate? That might do for a while,
but as our membership becomes older the death rate will increase on us
and we can't pay it. Why, the mortality tables--" and he reached for the
inevitable facts and figures.

"Who's talking about insurance?" demanded Wallingford. "I'm talking
about how to get money. Put up the little red dope-book. Clover, you get
busy right away and write a lot of circus literature about the grand
work your members will be doing for the widows and orphans by buying
this stock; also how much dividend it will pay them. When the treasury
stock is sold, and we have a big enough organization to absorb it, we
will begin to unload our own shares and get out. If you clean up your
sixty-four thousand dollars in this year, I guess you will be willing
to let the stockholders elect new officers and conduct their own
Friendly Hands Trust Company any way they please, won't you?"

Mr. Clover quietly folded Mr. Wallingford's note and put it in his
pocket.

"Let's go out and rent some new offices," he said.

He came back, at Mr. Neil's call, to write out that fifty-dollar check,
and incidentally made out one for himself in a like amount.

"What do you think of him, anyhow?" asked Neil with a troubled
countenance.

"Think of him?" repeated Clover with enthusiasm. "He's the greatest
ever! If I had known him five years ago I'd be worth a million to-day!"

"But is this scheme on the level?" asked Neil.

"That's the beauty of it," said Clover, exulting like a schoolboy. "The
law can't touch us any place."

"Maybe not," admitted Neil; "but somehow I don't quite like it."

"I guess you'll like your fifty a week when it begins to come in, and
your fifteen thousand when we clean up," retorted Clover.

"You bet!" said Neil, but he began to do some bewildered figuring on his
own account. His head was in a whirl.



CHAPTER X

AN AMAZING COMBINATION OF PHILANTHROPY AND PROFIT IS INAUGURATED


Minnie Bishop came to work for the Noble Order of Friendly Hands on the
day that they moved into offices more in keeping with the magnificence
of Mr. Wallingford, and she was by no means out of place amid the
mahogany desks and fine rugs and huge leather chairs.

"Her smile alone is worth fifty dollars a week to the business," Clover
admitted, but they only paid her five at the start.

She had more to recommend her, however, than white teeth and red lips.
Wallingford himself was surprised to find that, in spite of her
apparently frivolous bent, she had considerable ability and was quick to
learn. From the first he assumed a direct guardianship over her, and his
approaches toward a slightly more than paternal friendship she
considered great fun. At home she mimicked him, and when her older
sister tried to talk to her seriously about it she only laughed the
more. Clover she amused continually, but Neil fell desperately in love
with her from the start, and him she flouted most unmercifully. Really,
she liked him, although she would not admit it even to herself, charging
him with the fatal error of being "too serious."

In the meantime the affairs of the concern progressed delightfully. For
the regulation fee, the Secretary of State, after some perfunctory
inquiries, permitted the "Trust Company" to increase its capitalization
to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Even before the certificates
were delivered from the printer's, however, that month's issue of "The
Friendly Hand" bore the news to the five hundred members of the Order
and to four thousand five hundred prospective members, of the truly
unprecedented combination of philanthropy and profit. Somewhere the
indefatigable Wallingford had secured a copy of a most unusual annual
statement of a large and highly successful insurance company, of the
flat-rate variety and of a similar sounding name. In the smallest type
to be found he had printed over this:

     READ THIS REPORT OF THE PROVIDENT FRIENDS TO ITS STOCKHOLDERS

Then followed direct quotations, showing that the Provident Friends had
a membership of a quarter of a million; that it had paid out in death
claims an enormous amount; that it had a surplus fund expressed in a
staggering array of figures; that its enrollment had increased fifty
thousand within the past year. Striking sentences, such as:

     WE HAVE JUST DECLARED A THIRTY PER CENT. DIVIDEND

were displayed in big, black type, the whole being spread out in such
form that readers ignorant of such matters would take this to be a sworn
statement of the present condition of the Order of Friendly Hands; and
they were invited to subscribe for its golden stock at the rate of
twenty-five dollars a share! The prudent members who were providing for
their families after death could now also participate in the profits of
this commendable investment during life, and at a rate which, while not
guaranteed, could be expected, in the light of past experience, to pay
back the capital in a trifle over three years, leaving it still intact
and drawing interest.

But this, dear friends and coworkers in a noble cause, was not just a
hard, money-grinding proposition. The revenue derived from the sale of
stock was to be expended in the further expansion of the Order, until
it should blanket the world and carry the blessings of protection to the
widows and orphans throughout the universe! Never before in the history
of finance had it been made possible for men of modest means to further
a charitable work, a noble work, a work appealing to all the highest
aspirations of humanity and creditable to every finest instinct of the
human heart, and at the same time to reap an enormous profit! And the
price was only twenty-five dollars a share--while they lasted!

Wallingford had secured the data and supplied the human frailty ideas
for this flaming announcement, but Clover had put it together, and, as
he examined the proof sheet, the latter gentleman leaned back in his
chair with profound self-esteem.

"That'll get 'em!" he exulted. "If that don't bring in the money to make
this the greatest organization in the business, I don't want a cent!"

"You spread it on too much," objected Neil. "Why can't we do just as
well or better by presenting the thing squarely? It seems to me that any
man who would be caught by the self-evident buncombe of that thing would
be too big a sucker to have any money."

Wallingford looked at him thoughtfully.

"You're right, in a way, Neil," he admitted. "The men who have real
money wouldn't touch it, but the people we're appealing to have stacked
theirs up a cent at a time, and they are afraid of all investments--even
of the banks. When you offer them thirty per cent., however, they are
willing to take a chance; and, after all, I don't see why, with the
money that comes in from this stock sale, we should not be able to
expand our organization to even larger proportions than the Provident
Friends. If we do that, what is to prevent a good dividend to our
stockholders?"

Clover glanced at his partner in surprise. From that overawing bulk
there positively radiated high moral purpose, and Neil shriveled under
it. When they were alone, Clover, making idle marks with his pencil,
looked up at Wallingford from time to time from under shaggy brows, and
finally he laughed aloud.

"You're the limit," he observed. "That's a fine line of talk you gave
Neil."

"Can't we buy him out?" asked Wallingford abruptly.

"What with? A note?" inquired Clover. "Hardly."

"Cash, then."

"Will you put it up?"

"I'll see about it, for if I have him gauged right he will be hunting
for trouble all along the line."

Wallingford went to the window and looked out; then he got his hat. As
he stepped into the hall Neil came from an adjoining room.

"Do you want to sell your stock, Neil?" asked Clover.

"To whom?" asked Neil slowly. Wallingford had shaken his slow
deductions, had suggested new possibilities to ponder, and he was still
bewildered.

"To Wallingford."

"Say, Clover, has he _got_ any money?" demanded Neil.

"If he hasn't he can get it," replied the other. "Come here a minute."

He drew Neil to the window and they looked down into the street.
Standing in front of the office building was a huge, maroon-colored
automobile with a leather-capped chauffeur in front. As they watched,
Mr. Wallingford came out to the curb and the chauffeur saluted with his
finger. Mr. Wallingford took from the rear seat a broad-checked ulster,
put it on, and exchanged his derby for a cap to match. Then he climbed
into the auto and went whirring away.

"That looks like money, don't it?" demanded Clover.

"I give up," said Neil.

"How much do you want for your stock?" inquired Clover, again with a
smile.

"Par!" exclaimed Neil, once more satisfied. "Nothing less!"

"Right you are," agreed Clover. "This man Wallingford is the greatest
ever, I tell you! He's a wonder, a positive genius, and it was a lucky
day for me that I met him. He will make us all rich."

His admiration for Wallingford knew no bounds. He had detected in the
man a genius for chicanery, and so long as he was "in with it"
Wallingford might be as "smooth" as he liked. Were they not partners?
Indeed, yes. Share and share alike!

That night Clover and Neil dined with Mr. and Mrs. Wallingford at their
hotel, and if Neil had any lingering doubts as to Mr. Wallingford's
command of money, those doubts were dispelled by the size of the check,
by the obsequiousness shown them, and by the manner in which Mrs.
Wallingford wore her expensive clothing. After dinner Wallingford took
them for a ride in his automobile, and at a quiet road house, a dozen
miles out of town, over sparkling drinks and heavy cigars, they quite
incidentally discussed a trifling matter of business.

"You fellows go ahead with the insurance part of the game," Wallingford
directed them. "I don't understand any part of that business, but I'll
look after the stock sales. That I know I can handle."

They were enthusiastic in their seconding of this idea, and after this
point had been reached, the host, his business done, took his guests
back to town in the automobile upon which he had not as yet paid a cent,
dropping them at their homes in a most blissful state of content.

Proceeding along the lines of the understanding thus established, within
a few days money began to flow into the coffers of the concern. Mr.
Wallingford's method of procedure was perfectly simple. When an
experimentally inclined member of any one of the out-of-town "Circles"
sent in his modest twenty-five dollars for a share of stock, or even
inquired about it, Wallingford promptly got on a train and went to see
that man. Upon his arrival he immediately found out how much money the
man had and issued him stock to the amount; then he got introductions to
the other members and brought home stock subscriptions to approximately
the exact total of their available cash. There was no resisting him. In
the meantime, with ample funds to urge it forward, the membership of the
organization increased at a rapid enough rate to please even the master
hand. New members meant new opportunities for stock sales, and that
only, to him, and to Clover, the world, at last, was as it should be.
Money was his for the asking, and by means which pleased his sense of
being "in" on a bit of superior cleverness. Quite early in the days of
plenty he saw a side investment which, being questionable, tempted him,
and he came to Wallingford--to borrow money!

"I'll sell some of your stock," offered Wallingford. "I want to sell a
little of my own, anyhow."

In all, he sold for Clover five thousand dollars' worth, and the stock
was promptly reported by the purchasers for transfer on the books of the
company. Some of Wallingford's also came in for transfer, although a
much less amount; sufficient, however, it seemed, for he took the most
expensive apartments in town, filled them with the best furnishings that
were made, and lived like a king. Mrs. Wallingford secured her diamonds
again and bought many more. Clover also "took on airs." Neil worried.
He had made a study of the actual cost of insurance, and the low rate
that they were now receiving filled him with apprehension.

"We're going on the rocks as fast as we can go," he declared to Clover.
"According to the tables we're due for a couple of deaths right now, and
the longer they delay the more they will bunch up on us. Mark what I
say: the avalanche will get you before you have time to get out, if
that's what you plan on doing. I wish the laws governed our rate here as
they do in some of the other States."

"What's the matter with the rate?" Clover wanted to know. "When it's
inadequate we'll raise it."

"That isn't what we're promising to do," insisted Neil. "We're
advertising a permanent flat rate."

"Show me where," demanded Clover.

Neil tried to do so, but everywhere, in their policies, in their
literature, or even in their correspondence, that he pointed out a
statement apparently to that effect, Clover showed him a "joker" clause
contradicting it.

"You see, Neil, you're too hasty in jumping at conclusions," he
expostulated. "You know that the law will not permit us to claim a flat
rate without a sufficient cash provision, under State control, to
guarantee it, and compels us to be purely an assessment company. When
the time comes that we must do so, we will do precisely what other
companies have done before us: raise the rate. If it becomes prohibitive
the company will drop out of business, as so many others have; but we
will be out of it long before then."

"Yes," retorted Neil, "and thousands of people who are too old to get
fresh insurance at any price, and who will have paid for years, will be
left holding the bag."

"The trouble with you, Neil, is that you have a streak of yellow,"
interrupted Clover impatiently. "Don't you like your fifty a week?"

"Yes."

"Don't you like your fifteen thousand dollars' worth of stock?"

"It looks good to me," confessed Neil.

"Then keep still or sell out and get out."

"I'm not going to do that," said Neil deliberately. He had his slow mind
made up at last. "I'm going to stick, and reorganize the company when it
goes broke!"

When Clover reported this to Wallingford that gentleman laughed.

"How is he on ritual work?" he asked.

"Fine! He has a streak of fool earnestness in him that makes him take to
that flubdubbery like a duck to water."

"Then send him out as a special degree master to inaugurate the new
lodges that are formed. He's a nuisance in the office."

In this the big man had a double purpose. Neil was paying entirely too
much attention to Minnie Bishop of late, and Wallingford resented the
interference. His pursuit of the girl was characteristic. He gave her
flowers and boxes of candy in an offhand way, not as presents, but as
rewards. As the business grew he appropriated her services more and more
to his own individual work, seating her at a desk in his private room,
and a neat balance-sheet would bring forth an approving word and an
offhand:

"Fine work. I owe you theater tickets for that."

The next time he came in he would bring the tickets and drop them upon
her desk, with a brusque heartiness that was intended to disarm
suspicion, and with a suggestion to take her mother and sister along.
Moreover, he raised her salary from time to time. The consideration that
he showed her would have won the gratitude of any girl unused to such
attentions and unfamiliar with the ways of the world, but under them she
nevertheless grew troubled and thoughtful. Noticing this, Wallingford
conceived the idea that he had made an impression, whereupon he ventured
to become a shade more personal.

About this time another disagreeable circumstance came to her attention
and plunged her into perplexity. Clover walked into Mr. Wallingford's
room just as the latter was preparing to go out.

"Tag, you're it, Wallingford," said Clover jovially, holding out a piece
of paper. "I've just found out that your note was due yesterday."

"Quit joking with me on Wednesdays," admonished Wallingford, and taking
the note he tore it into little bits and threw them into the waste
basket.

"Here! That's two thousand dollars, and it's mine," Clover protested.

Wallingford laughed.

"You didn't really think I'd pay it, did you? Why, I told you at the
time that it was only a matter of form; and, besides that, you know my
motto: 'I never give up money,'" and, still chuckling, he went out.

"Isn't he the greatest ever?" said Clover admiringly, to Minnie.

But Minnie could not see the joke. If Wallingford "never gave up money,"
and Clover subscribed to that clever idea with such enthusiasm that he
was willing to be laughed out of two thousand dollars, what would become
of her mother's little nest-egg? A thousand dollars was a tragic amount
to the Bishops. That very evening, as Wallingford went out, he ventured
to pinch and then to pat her cheek, and shame crimsoned her face that
she had brought upon herself the coarse familiarities which now she
suddenly understood. Neil, who had come in from a trip that afternoon,
walked into the office just after Wallingford had gone, and found her
crying. The sight of her in tears broke down the reserve that she had
forced upon him, so that he told her many things; told them eloquently,
too, and suddenly she found herself glad that he had come--glad to rely
upon him and confide in him. Naturally, when she let him draw from her
the cause of her distress, he was furious. He wanted to hunt Wallingford
at once and chastise him, but she stopped him with vehement earnestness.

"No," she insisted, "I positively forbid it! When Mr. Wallingford comes
here to-morrow, I want him to find me the same as ever, and I do not
want one word said that will make him think I am any different. But I
want you to walk home with me, if you can spare the time. I want to talk
with you."



CHAPTER XI

NEIL TAKES A SUDDEN INTEREST IN THE BUSINESS AND WALLINGFORD LETS GO


Neil, the next day after his talk with Minnie Bishop, had a great idea,
which was nothing more nor less than a Supreme Circle Conclave, in which
a picked degree team would exemplify the ritual, and to which delegates
from all the local circles should be invited. They had never held a
Supreme Conclave, and they needed it to arouse enthusiasm. Clover fell
in with the idea at once. It would provide him with an opportunity for
one of the spread-eagle speeches he was so fond of making. As this phase
of the business--comprising the insurance and the lodge work--was left
completely in charge of Clover and Neil, Wallingford made no objections,
and, having ample funds for carrying out such a plan, it was accordingly
arranged. Neil went on the road at once about this matter, but letters
between himself and Minnie Bishop passed almost daily. An indefinable
change had come over the girl. She had grown more earnest, for one
thing, but she assumed a forced flippancy with Wallingford because she
found that it was her only defense against him. She turned off his
advances as jests, and her instinct of coquetry, though now she
recognized it and was ashamed of it, made her able to puzzle and hold
uncertainly aloof even this experienced "man of the world." It was
immediately after she had jerked her hand away from under his one
afternoon that, in place of the reproof he had half expected from her,
she turned to him with a most dazzling smile.

"By the way, we've both forgotten something, Mr. Wallingford," she said.
"Quarter day for the Bishops is long past due."

"What is it that is past due?" he asked in surprise.

"When my mother bought her stock, you know, you promised that she should
have twelve per cent. interest on it, payable every three months."

"That's right," he admitted, looking at her curiously, and before she
started home that evening he handed her an envelope with thirty dollars
in it.

She immediately made a note of the amount and dropped it in the drawer
of her desk.

"Never mind entering that in your books," he said hastily, noting her
action; "just keep the memorandum until we arrange for a regular
dividend, then it can all be posted at once. It's--it's a matter that
has been overlooked."

She thanked him for the money and took it home with her. She had been
planning for a week or more upon how to get this thirty dollars. On the
very next day, while he was absorbedly poring over a small account book
that he kept locked carefully in his desk, he found her standing beside
him.

"I'm afraid that I shall have to ask you to buy back mother's stock in
the company," she said. That morning's mail had been unusually heavy in
stock sale possibilities. "We have a sudden pressing need for that
thousand dollars, and we'll just have to have it, that's all."

Wallingford's first impulse was to dissuade her from this idea, but
another thought now came to him as he looked musingly into his roll-top
desk; and as the girl, standing above him, gazed down upon his thick
neck and puffy cheeks, he reminded her of nothing so much as a monstrous
toad.

"Have you the stock certificate with you?" he inquired presently.

No, she had not.

"Well, bring it down to-night," he said, "and I'll give you a check for
it. I'm going away on a little trip to-morrow, and I want you to get me
up a statement out of the books, anyhow."

For an instant the girl hesitated with a sharp intake of breath. Then
she said, "Very well," and went home.

That night, when she returned, she paused in the hall a moment to subdue
her trepidation, then, whether foolish or not, but with such courage as
men might envy, she boldly opened the door and stepped in. She found
Wallingford at his desk, and she had walked up to him and laid at his
elbow the stock certificate, properly released, before he turned his
unusually flushed face toward her. In his red eyes she saw that he had
been dining rather too well, even for him. She had been prepared for
this, however, and her voice was quite steady as she asked:

"Have you the check made out, Mr. Wallingford?"

"There's no hurry about it," he replied a trifle thickly. "There's some
work I want you to do first."

"I'd rather you would make out the check now," she insisted, "so that I
won't forget it."

Laboriously he filled out the blank and signed it, and then blinkingly
watched her smooth, white fingers as she folded it and snapped it into
her purse. Suddenly he swung his great arm about her waist and drew her
toward him. What followed was the surprise of his life, for a very sharp
steel hatpin was jabbed into him in half a dozen indiscriminate places,
and Minnie Bishop stood panting in the middle of the floor.

"I have endured it here for weeks now, longer than I believed it
possible," she shrieked at him, crying hysterically, "because we could
not afford to lose this money: stood it for days when the sight of you
turned me sick! It seems a year ago, you ugly beast, that I made sure
you were a thief, but I wouldn't leave till I knew it was the right time
to ask you for this check!"

Dazed, he stood nursing his hurts. One of her strokes had been into his
cheek, and as he took his reddened handkerchief away from it a flood of
rage came over him and he took a step forward; but he had miscalculated
her spirit.

"I wish I had killed you!" she cried, and darted out of the door.

For three days after that episode the man was confined to his room under
the care of his wife, whom he told that he had been attacked by a
footpad, "a half-crazy foreigner with a stiletto." For a week more he
was out of town. A peremptory telegram from Clover brought him in from
his stock-drumming transactions, and by the time he reached the city he
was ready for any emergency, though finally attributing the call to the
fact, which he had almost forgotten, that to-morrow was the first day of
the three set apart for the Supreme Circle Conclave of the Noble Order
of Friendly Hands.

He arrived at about eight o'clock in the evening, and as his automobile
rolled past the big building where their offices were located, he
glanced up and saw that lights were blazing brightly from the windows.
Anxious to find out at once the true status of affairs he went up. He
was surprised to find the big reception room full of hard-featured men
who looked uncomfortable in their "best clothes," and among them he
recognized two or three, from surrounding small towns, to whom he had
sold stock. At first, as he opened the door, black looks were cast in
his direction, and a couple of the men half arose from their seats; but
they sat down again as Mr. J. Rufus Wallingford's face beamed with a
cordial smile.

"Good evening, gentlemen," he observed cheerfully, with a special nod
for those he remembered, and then he stalked calmly through the room.

The nights being cool now, Mr. Wallingford wore a fur-lined ulster of
rich material and of a fit which made his huge bulk seem the perfection
of elegance. Upon his feet were shining patent leather shoes; upon his
head was a shining high hat. He carried one new glove in his gloved left
hand; from his right hand gleamed the big diamond. His ulster hung open
in front, displaying his sparkling scarf pin, his rich scarf of the
latest pattern, his fancy waistcoat. He held his head high, and no man
could stand before him nor against him. When the door had closed behind
him they almost sighed in unison. There went money, sacred money, even
the more so that some of it was their own!

In the inner office, Wallingford was surprised to find Minnie Bishop
present and working earnestly upon the books. Looking up she met his
darkening glance defiantly, but even if he had chosen to speak to her
there was no time, for Clover had opened the door of his own private
office and greeted him with a curt nod.

"Come in here," said Clover roughly. "I want to talk to you."

It was the inevitable moment, the one for which Wallingford had long
been prepared.

"Certainly," he said with aggravating cheerfulness, and, walking in, let
Clover close the door behind him. He sat comfortably in the big leather
chair at the side of the desk and lit a cigar, while Clover plumped
himself in his own swivel.

"Who are the Rubes outside?" asked Wallingford, puffing critically at
his half-dollar perfecto.

"Neil's picked degree team," answered Clover shortly. "He had them meet
up here to-night for some instructions, I believe, but he's not here
yet. It's his affair entirely. I want to see you about something else."

"Blaze away," said Wallingford with great heartiness, carefully placing
his silk hat upon a clean sheet of paper. He was still smiling
cheerfully, but in his eyes had come the trace of a glitter.

"I'll blaze away all right, whether I have your invitation or not!"
snapped Clover. "You've been giving me the double cross. For every share
of stock you sold for the company you've sold five of your own and
pocketed the money."

"Why shouldn't I?" inquired Mr. Wallingford calmly, his willingness to
admit it so pleasantly amounting to insolence. "It was my stock, and the
money I got for such of it as I sold was my money."

"_Such_ of it as you sold!" repeated Clover indignantly. "I know how
much you unloaded. You have placed somewhat over twenty thousand for the
company--"

"And five thousand for you," Wallingford reminded him. "I suppose you
went South with the proceeds. If you didn't you're crazy!"

Clover flushed a trifle.

"But you got rid of nearly sixty thousand dollars of your own stock," he
charged bitterly. It still rankled in him that Wallingford had "handed
the lemon" to him. _Him!_ Monstrous that a man should be so
dishonorable! "You played me for a mark. When you handed out my
certificates you instructed every man to send them in for transfer, but
when you peddled your own you said nothing about that, and only the few
yaps who happened to know about such things sent them in. You're nearly
all sold out, and I'm holding the bag."

"Right you are," admitted Wallingford, openly amused. "I have a few
shares left in my desk, though, and I'll make you a present of them. I'm
going out of the company, you know."

"You're not!" exclaimed Clover, smiting his fist upon his desk. "We were
in this thing together, half and half, and I want my share!"

Wallingford laughed.

"I told you once," he informed his irate partner, "that I never give up
any money. My action is strictly legal. Now, don't choke!" he added as
he saw Clover about to make another objection. "You've not a gasp
coming. When I took hold here you were practically on your last legs.
You have had a salary of one hundred dollars a week since that time. In
addition to that I have handed you five thousand dollars, and you have
nearly sixty thousand dollars' worth of stock left. You can do just what
I have been doing: sell your stock and get out. As for me I _am_ out,
and that's all there is to it! I have all I want and I'm going to quit!"

The door had opened and Neil stood on the threshold.

"You bet you're going to quit!" said Neil. His face was pale but his
eyes were blazing and his fists were clenched. "You're both going to
quit, but not the way you think you are! Come out here. Some of my
friends are in the waiting room, and they want to see you right away!"

Clover had turned a sickly, ashen white, but Wallingford rose to his
feet.

"You tell them to go plumb to Hell!" he snarled.

His eyes were widened until they showed the whites. He was fully as much
cowed by the suggestion as Clover, but he would "put up a front" to the
last.

"Come in, boys!" commanded Neil loudly.

They came with alacrity. They crowded into the small room, packing it so
snugly that Neil and Wallingford and Clover, forced into the little
space before Clover's desk, stood touching.

"What does this mean?" demanded Wallingford, glaring at the invaders.

He stood almost head and shoulders above them, and where he met a man's
eyes those eyes dropped. Some of them who had not removed their hats
hastily did so. His lordliness was still potent.

"You can't bluff me!" shrieked Neil, who, standing beside him, shook his
fist in Wallingford's face. The contrast between the sizes of the two
men would have been ludicrous, had it not been for Neil's intensity,
which seemed to expand him, to make him and his passionate purpose
colossal. "I know you, and these men don't!" he went on, his neck chords
swelling with anger. "Why, think of it, gentlemen, in the four months
that he has been here, this man has taken sixty thousand dollars from
the hard-working members of this Order, has stuffed it in his pocket and
is making ready to leave! The little girl out there, who is getting us
up a statement for to-morrow, figured him out for the dog he is while I
was still groping for the facts. He tried to take her for a fool, but
she--she--" His voice broke and he smacked his fist in his palm to
loosen his tongue. "You're a smart man, Mr. Wallingford, but you made a
few mistakes. One of them was in sending me on the road so you could--so
you--" again his voice broke and he sank his nails into his palms for
control. "You thought this meeting was a mere jolly for our members,
didn't you? It's not. These men are here solely as representatives of
the business interests of their friends. We're going to put this Order
back upon a sound basis, and the first thing we're going to do is to cut
out graft. Why, you unclean whelp, you have spent over fourteen
thousand dollars in the four months you have been here, and you have--or
had, up to a week ago--forty-five thousand dollars in the Second
National--all of poor men's money! How do I know? You lost your bank
book which had just been balanced. As for you, Clover, you're a clog
upon the business, too!" Clover had brought this upon himself by darting
at Wallingford a glance of hate, which Neil caught. "Now this is what
_you're_ going to do, James Clover. For having fathered the Order you're
to be allowed to keep the five thousand dollars you got for the sale of
stock. Your remaining stock you're going to transfer over to our
treasury, and then you're going to step down and out. As for you, Mr. J.
Rufus Wallingford, you're going to write a check for forty-five thousand
dollars, payable to the company."

"What you are asking of me is unjust--and absurd," whined Wallingford.

"Write that check!" Neil almost screamed. "We know you're slick enough
to keep your tricks within legal bounds, and that's why these men are
here."

The brow of Wallingford contracted and he tried to look angry, but his
breath was coming short and there was a curious pallor around the edge
of his lips and around his eyes.

"This is coercion!" he charged with dry mouth.

"Put it that way if you want to," agreed Neil hotly.

"We'll break your infernal neck, that's what we'll do!" put in a
spokesman back toward the door, and there was a general pressing
forward. Neil had lashed them into fury, and one rawboned fellow, a
blacksmith, wedged through them with purple face and upraised fist. So
heavily that he knocked the breath out of Clover with his chair back,
Wallingford plumped down at the desk and whipped out his check book.

"I ask one thing of you," he said, as he picked up the pen with a
curious trembling grimace that was almost like a smile, but was not.
"You must leave me at least a thousand dollars to get away from here."

There was a moment of silence.

"That's reasonable," granted Neil, after careful consideration. "Give us
the check for forty-four thousand."

Wallingford wrote it and then he put it in his pocket.

"I have the check ready, gentlemen," he announced, "but I'll give it to
you at the entrance of my home--to a committee consisting of Neil and
any two others you may select. If I hand it to you before I pass out at
that door, some of you are liable to--to lose your heads."

He was positively craven in appearance when he said this, and with an
expression of contempt Neil agreed to it. Wallingford's car was still
waiting on the street below, and into it piled the four. Before the rich
building where J. Rufus had his apartments, Neil and one of the other
men got out first; but if they had anticipated any attempt at escape on
Wallingford's part they were mistaken. Without a word he handed the
check to Neil and waited while they inspected it to see that it was
correctly drawn and signed.

"Now, Mr. Slippery Eel," said Neil exultantly as he put the check in his
pocket, "it won't do any good to try to stop this check, for if I can't
draw it you can't. I shall be there in the morning when the bank opens.
I secured an injunction this afternoon that will tie up your account,"
and his voice swelled with triumph.

Wallingford laughed. With his hand upon the knob he held the vestibule
door open, and he felt safe from violence, which was all he feared.

"Well," said he philosophically, "I see I'm beaten, and there's no use
crying over spilled milk."

Neil looked after him dubiously, as he swaggered into the hall.

"I didn't expect it would be so easy," he said to the men. "I knew the
fellow was a physical coward, but I didn't know he was such a big one.
My lawyer told me he could even beat us on that injunction."

Mr. Wallingford did not go directly to his apartments. He went into the
booth downstairs, instead, and telephoned his wife. Then he went out. He
was gone for about half an hour, and, when he came back, Mrs.
Wallingford, wastefully leaving a number of expensive accumulations that
were too big to be carried as hand luggage, and abandoning the rich
furniture to be claimed by the deluded dealers, had four suit cases
packed.



CHAPTER XII

FATE ARRANGES FOR J. RUFUS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MANUFACTURE SALES RECORDERS


It was not until their train had passed beyond the last suburb that
Wallingford, ensconced in the sleeper drawing room, was able to resume
his accustomed cheerfulness.

"Sure you have that bundle of American passports all right, Fanny?" he
inquired.

"They're perfectly safe, but I'm glad to be rid of them," she answered
listlessly, and opening her hand bag she emptied it of its contents,
then, with a small penknife, loosened the false bottom in it. From
underneath this she drew a flat package of thousand-dollar bills and
handed them to him.

"Forty of them!" gloated Wallingford, counting them over. Then he
pounded upon his knees and laughed. "I can see Starvation Neil when he
has to tell his jay delegates that I drew out every cent the day after I
lost my bank book. I'd been missing too many things that never turned up
again. I fixed them to-night, too. Although I didn't need to do it to
be on the law's safe side, I hustled out before we started and swore to
a notary that I signed that check under coercion; and they'll get that
affidavit before the check and the injunction!"

Mrs. Wallingford did not join him in the shoulder-heaving laugh which
followed.

"I don't like it, Jim," she urged. "You're growing worse all the time,
and some day you'll overstep the bounds. And have you noticed another
thing? Our money never does us any good."

"You'll wake up when we get settled down some place to enjoy ourselves.
I don't believe you know how well you like fine dresses and diamonds,
and to live on the fat of the land. You know what this little bundle of
comfort means? That we're the salt of the earth while it lasts; that for
a solid year we may have not only all the luxuries in the world, but
everybody we meet will try to make life pleasant for us."

To that end Wallingford secured a suite of rooms at two hundred dollars
per week the moment they landed in New York, and began to live at a
corresponding rate. He gave himself no regret for yesterday and no care
for to-morrow, but let each extravagant moment take care of itself. It
was such intervals as this, between her husband's more than doubtful
"business" operations, that reconciled Mrs. Wallingford to their mode of
life, or, rather, that numbed the moral sensibilities which lie dormant
in every woman. While they were merely spending money she was content to
play the _grande dame_, to dress herself in exquisite toilettes and
bedeck herself with brilliant gems, to go among other birds of fine
feathers that congregated at the more exclusive public places, though
she made no friends among them, to be surrounded by every luxury that
money could purchase, to have her every whim gratified by the mere
pressing of a button. As for Wallingford, to be a prince of spenders, to
find new and gaudy methods of display, to have people turn as he passed
by and ask who he might be; these things made existence worth while.

Only one thing--his restless spirit--kept him from pursuing this
uneventful path until all of his forty thousand dollars was gone. After
two months of slothful ease, something more exciting became imperative,
and just then the racing season began and supplied that need. Every
afternoon they drove out to the track, and there Wallingford bet
thousands as another man might bet fives. There could be but one end to
this, but he did not care. What did it matter whether he spent his money
a trifle more or less quickly? There was plenty of it within his broad
hunting grounds, and when what he had was gone he had only to go capture
more; so it was no shock one morning to count over his resources and
find that he had but a fragment left of what he had laughingly termed
his "insurance fund." Upon that same morning an urgent telegram was
delivered to him from "Blackie" Daw. He read it with a whistle of
surprise and passed it over to his wife without comment.

"You're not going?" she asked with much concern, passing the message
back to him.

"Of course I am," he promptly told her. "Blackie's the only man I could
depend upon to get me out of a similar scrape."

"But, Jim," she protested; "you just now said that you have barely over
six thousand left."

"That's all right," he assured her. "I'd have to get out and hustle in
less than a month anyhow, at the rate we're going. I'll just take
Blackie's five thousand, and a couple of hundred over for expenses. You
keep the balance of the money and we'll get out of these apartments at
once. I'll get you nice accommodations at about twenty a week, and
before I come back I'll have something stirred up."

Secretly, he was rather pleased with the turn affairs had taken.
Inaction was beginning to pall upon him, and this message that called
urgently upon him to take an immediate trip out of town was entirely to
his liking. Within an hour he had transferred his wife into comfortable
quarters and was on his way to the train. He had very little margin of
time, but, slight as it was, the grinning Fate which presided over his
destinies had opportunity to arrange a meeting for him. Even as he
pointed out his luggage to a running porter, a fussy little German in
very new-looking clothes which fitted almost like tailor-made, had
rushed back to the gates of the train shed where the conductor stood
with his eyes fixed intently on his watch, his left hand poised ready to
raise.

"I left my umbrella," spluttered the passenger.

"No time," declared the autocrat, not gruffly or unkindly, but in a tone
of virtuous devotion to duty.

The little German's eyes glared through his spectacles, his face puffed
red, his gray mustache bristled.

"But it's my wife's umbrella!" he urged, as if that might make a
difference.

The brass-buttoned slave to duty did not even smile. He raised his hand,
and in a moment more the potent wave of his wrist would have sent Number
Eighteen plunging on her westward way. In that moment, however, the
Pullman conductor, waiting with him, clutched the blue arm of authority.

"Hold her a second," he advised, and with his thumb pointed far up the
platform. "Here comes from a dollar up for everybody. He's rode with me
before."

The captain of Eighteen gave a swift glance and was satisfied.

"Sure. I know him," he said of the newcomer; then he turned to the still
desperately hopeful passenger and relented. "Run!" he directed briefly.

Wallingford, who had secured for Carl Klug this boon, merely by an
opportune arrival, was not hurrying. He was too large a man to hurry, so
a depot porter was doing it for him. The porter plunged on in advance,
springing heavily from one bent leg to the other, weighted down with a
hat box in one hand, a huge Gladstone bag in the other and a suit case
under each arm. The perspiration was streaming down his face, but he
was quite content. Behind him stalked J. Rufus, carrying only a cane and
gloves; but more, for him, would have seemed absurd, for when he moved
the background seemed to advance with him, he was so broad of shoulder
and of chest and of girth. Dignity radiated from his frame and carriage,
good humor from his big face, wealth from every line and crease of his
garments; and it was no matter for wonder that even the rigid schedule
of Number Eighteen was glad to extend to this master of circumstances
its small fraction of elasticity.

One of the Pullman porters from up the train caught a glimpse of his
approach and came running back to snatch up two of the pieces of
luggage. It did not matter to him whether the impressive gentleman was
riding in his coach or not; he was anxious to help on mere general
principles, and was even more so when the depot porter, dropping the
luggage inside the gate, broke into glorious sunrise over the crinkling
green certificate of merit that was handed him. The Pullman conductor
only asked to what city the man was bound, then he too snatched up a
suit case and a bag and raced with the porter to take them on board,
calling out as he ran the car into which the luggage must go. To
Wallingford their activity gave profound satisfaction, and he paused to
hand the conductor a counterpart to the huge black cigar he was then
smoking. It had no band of any sort upon it, but the conductor judged
the cigar by the man. It was not less than three for a dollar, he was
sure.

"Pretty close figuring, old man," observed Wallingford cordially.

The conductor's smile, while gracious enough, was only fleeting, for
this thing of being responsible for Eighteen was an anxious business,
the gravity of which the traveling public should be taught to appreciate
more.

"We're nearly a minute off now," he said, "and I've let myself in to
wait for a Dutchman I let run out when I saw you coming. There he is.
Third car up for you, sir," and he ran up to the steps of the second car
himself.

The missing passenger came tearing through the gates just as Wallingford
went up the car steps. The conductor held his hand aloft, and the
engineer, looking back, impatiently clanged his bell. The porter picked
up his stepping-box and jumped on after his tip, but he looked out to
watch the little German racing with all his might up the platform, and
did not withdraw his head until the belated one, all legs and arms,
scrambled upon the train. Instantly the wheels began to revolve, both
vestibule doors were closed with a slam, and a moment later Carl Klug,
puffing and panting, dropped upon a seat in the smoking compartment,
opposite to the calm J. Rufus Wallingford, without breath--and without
his umbrella.

"_Schrecklich!_" he exploded when he could talk. "They are all thieves
here. I leave my umbrella in the waiting-room five minutes, I go back
and it is gone. Gone! And it was my wife's umbrella!"

Under ordinary circumstances Mr. Klug, whose thirty years of residence
in America had not altogether destroyed certain old-country notions of
caste, would not have ventured to address this lordly-looking stranger,
but at present he was angry and simply must open the vials of his wrath
to some one. He met with no repulse. Mr. Wallingford was not one to
repulse strangers of even modest competence. He only laughed. A score of
jovial wrinkles sprang about his half-closed eyes, and his pink face
grew pinker.

"Right you are," he agreed. "When I'm in this town I keep everything
I've got right in front of me, and if I want to look the other way I
edge around on the other side of my grips."

Mr. Klug digested this idea for a moment, and then he, too, laughed,
though not with the abandon of Mr. Wallingford. He could not so soon
forget his wife's umbrella.

"It is so," he admitted. "I have been here three days, and every man I
had any business with ought to be in _jail_!"

A sudden thought as he came to this last word made Mr. Klug lay almost
shrieking emphasis upon it, and smack both fists upon his knees. He
craned his head forward, his eyes glared through his spectacles, his
cheeks puffed out and his mustache bristled. Wallingford surveyed him
with careful appraisement. The clothing was ready made, but it was a
very good quality of its kind. The man's face was an intelligent one and
told of careful, concentrated effort. His hands were lean and rough, the
fingers were supple and the outer joints bent back, particularly those
of the thumb, which described almost a half circle. The insides of the
fingers were seamed and crossed with countless little black lines. From
all this the man was a mechanic, and a skilled one. Those fingers dealt
deftly with small parts, and years of grimy oil had blackened those
innumerable cuts and scratches.

"Did they sting you?" Wallingford inquired with a dawning interest that
was more than courteous sympathy.

"I guess _not_!" snapped Mr. Klug triumphantly, and the other made quick
note of the fact that the man was familiar with current slang. "I was
too smart for them." Then, after a reflective pause, he added: "Maybe.
They might steal my patent some way."

Patent! Mr. Wallingford's small, thick ears suddenly twitched forward.

"Been trying to sell one?" he asked, pausing with his cigar half way to
his mouth and waiting for the answer.

"Three hundred dollars they offer me!" exploded Mr. Klug, again smiting
both fists on his knees. "Six years I worked on it in my little shop of
nights to get up a machine that was different from all the rest and that
would work right, and when I get it done and get my patent and take it
to them, they already had a copy of my patent and showed it to me. They
bought it from the Government for five cents, and called me the same as
a thief and offered me three hundred dollars!"

Wallingford pondered seriously.

"You must have a good machine," he finally announced.

Mr. Klug thought that he was "being made fun of."

"It _is_ a good machine. It's as good a machine as any they have got.
There is no joke about it!"

"I'm not joking," Wallingford insisted. "Who are the people?"

Mr. Klug considered for a suspicious moment, but the appearance of this
gentleman, the very embodiment of sterling worth, was most reassuring.
Beneath that broad chest and behind that diamond scarf pin there could
rest no duplicity. Moreover, Mr. Klug was still angry, and anger and
discretion do not dwell together.

"The United Sales Recording Machine Company of New Jersey," he stated,
rolling out the name with a roundness which betrayed how much in respect
and even awe he held it.

Wallingford was now genuinely interested.

"Then you _have_ a good patent," he repeated. "If they offered you three
hundred dollars it is worth thousands, otherwise they would not buy it
at any price. They have hundreds of patents now, and you have something
that they have not covered."

"Four hundred and twelve patents they own," corrected Mr. Klug. "I have
been over every one in the last six years, every little wire and bar and
spring in them, and mine is a whole new machine, like nothing they have
got. They have got one man that does nothing else but look after these
patents. You know what he said? 'Yes, you have worked six years for a
chance to hold us up. But we're used to it. It happens to us every day.
If you think you can manufacture your machine and make any money, go at
it.' He told me that!"

Wallingford nodded comprehendingly.

"Of course," he agreed. "They have either fought out or bought out
everybody who ever poked their nose into the business. They had to. I
know all about them. If you have a clean invention you were foolish to
go to them with it in the first place. They'd only offer you the cost of
the first lawsuit they're bound to bring against you. That's no way to
sell a patent. Inventors all die poor for that very reason. The thing
for you to do is to start manufacturing, and make them come to you.
Throw a scare into them."

Mr. Klug was frightened by the very suggestion.

"Jiminy, no!" he protested, shaking his head vigorously. "I got no big
money like that. I'd lose every cent and all my little property."

"It don't take so much money, if you use it right," insisted
Wallingford. "Use as little capital as you can for manufacturing, and
save the most of it for litigation. I'll bet I could sell your patent
for you." He pondered a while with slowly kindling eyes, and smiled out
of the window at the rushing landscape. "I tell you what you do. Get up
a company and I'll buy some stock in it myself."

"Humbug with that stock business!" Mr. Klug exclaimed with explosive
violence, his mustache bristling now until it stuck straight out. "I
would not get up any such a business with stock in it. I had all the
stock I want, and I never buy nor sell any any more. I got some I'll
give away."

Wallingford smiled introspectively.

"Oh, well, form a partnership, then. You have four or five friends who
could put up five thousand apiece, haven't you?"

Mr. Klug was quite certain of that.

"I am president of the Germania Building Loan Association," he announced
with pardonable pride.

"Then, of course, you can control money," agreed the other in a tone
which conveyed a thoroughly proper appreciation of Mr. Klug's standing.
"I'll invest as much as anybody else, and you put in your patent for a
half interest. We'll start manufacturing right away, and if your
machine's right, as it must be if they offer to buy the patent at all,
I'll make the United people kneel down and coax us to take their money.
There are ways to do it."

"The machine is all right," declared Mr. Klug. "Wait; I'll show it to
you."

He hurried out to his seat, where reposed a huge box like a typewriter
case, but larger. He lugged this back toward the smoker, into which
other passengers were now lounging, but on the way Wallingford met him.

"Let's go in here, instead," said the latter, and opened the door into
the drawing room.

It was the first time Mr. Klug had ever been in one of these
compartments, and the sense of exclusiveness it aroused fairly reeked of
money. The dreams of wealth that had been so rudely shattered sprang
once more into life as the inventor opened the case and explained his
device to this luxury-affording stranger, who, as a display of their
tickets had brought out, was bound for his own city. It was a pneumatic
machine, each key actuating a piston which flashed the numbered tickets
noiselessly into view. It was perfect in every particular, and
Wallingford examined it with an intelligent scrutiny which raised him
still further in Mr. Klug's estimation; but as he compared patent
drawings and machine, intent apparently only upon the mechanism, his
busy mind was ranging far and wide over many other matters, bringing
tangled threads of planning together here and there, and knotting them
firmly.

"Good," said he at last. "As I said, I'll buy into your company. Get
your friends together right away and manufacture this machine. I'll
guarantee to get a proper price for your patent."



CHAPTER XIII

MR. WALLINGFORD OFFERS UNLIMITED FINANCIAL BACKING TO A NEW ENTERPRISE


The hotel at which Mr. Wallingford had elected to stop was only four
blocks from the depot, but he rode there in a cab, and, having grandly
emerged after a soul-warming handshake with Mr. Klug, paid liberally to
have his friend the inventor taken to his destination. His next step,
after being shown to one of the best suites in the house, was to
telephone for a certain lawyer whose address he carried in his notebook,
and the next to make himself richly comfortable after the manner of his
kind. When the lawyer arrived, he found Wallingford, in lounging jacket
and slippers and in fresh linen, enjoying an appetizer of Roquefort and
champagne by way of resting from the fatigue of his journey. He was a
brisk young man, was the lawyer, with his keen eyes set so close
together that one praised Nature's care in having inserted such a hard,
sharp wedge of nose to keep them apart. He cast a somewhat lingering
glance at the champagne as he sat down, but he steadfastly refused Mr.
Wallingford's proffer of a share in it.

"Not in business hours," he said, with over-disdain of such weak
indulgence. "In the evening some time, possibly," and he bowed his head
with a thin-lipped smile to complete the sentence.

"All right," acquiesced J. Rufus; "maybe you will smoke then," and he
pointed to cigars.

One of them Mr. Maylie took, and Wallingford was silent until he had lit
it.

"How is this town?" he then asked. "Is the treasury full, or are the
smart people in power?"

The young man laughed, and, with a complete change of manner, drew his
chair up to the table with a jerk.

"Say; you're all right!" he admiringly exclaimed, and--shoved forward
the extra glass. "They're in debt here up to their ears."

"Then they'd rather have the bail than the man," Wallingford guessed, as
he performed the part of host with a practiced hand.

"Which would you rather have?" asked Maylie, pausing with the glass
drawn half way toward him.

"The man."

"Then everybody's satisfied," announced the lawyer. "If the authorities
once get hold of that five thousand dollars cash bail and the man leaves
town, they'll post police at every train to warn him away if he ever
comes back."

"That's what I thought when I looked at the streets. You can even get
the bond reduced."

"I don't know," replied the other, shaking his head doubtfully. "I've
tried it."

"But you didn't go to them with the cash in your hand," Wallingford
smilingly reminded him, and from an envelope in his inside vest pocket
he produced a bundle of large bills. "This is a purchase, understand,
and it's worth while to do a little dickering. Hurry, and bring the
goods back with you."

"Watch me," said Mr. Maylie, taking the money with alacrity, but before
he went out he hastily swallowed another glass of wine.

He was gone about an hour, during which his distinguished client was
absorbed in drawing sketch after sketch upon nice, clean sheets of hotel
stationery; and every sketch bore a strong resemblance to some part of
Mr. Klug's pneumatic sales recording device. Mr. Wallingford was very
busy indeed over the problem of selling Mr. Klug's patent.

"Come in," he called heartily in answer to a knock at the door.

It opened and the voice of Mr. Maylie announced: "Here's the goods, all
right." And he ushered in a tall, woe-begone gentleman, who, except for
the untidiness of black mustache and hair, and the startlingly wrinkled
and rusty condition of the black frock suit, bore strong resemblance to
a certain expert collector and disseminator of foolish money--one
"Blackie" Daw!

Mr. Wallingford, who, in his creative enthusiasm, had shed his lounging
coat and waistcoat, and had even rolled up his shirt sleeves, lay back
in his chair and laughed until he shook like a bowl of jelly. Mr. Daw,
erstwhile the dapper Mr. Daw, had gloomily advanced to shake hands, but
now suddenly burst forth in a volley of language so fervid that Mr.
Maylie hastily closed the door. His large friend, with the tears
streaming down his face, thereupon laughed all the more, but he managed
to call attention to a frost-covered silver pail which awaited this
moment, and while Mr. Daw pounced upon that solace, Mr. Maylie, smiling
unobtrusively as one who must enjoy a joke from the outside, proceeded
to business.

"I got him for four thousand," he informed Mr. Wallingford and laid down
a five-hundred-dollar bill. The remainder, in hundreds, he counted off
one at a time, more slowly with each one, and when there were but two
left in his hand Mr. Wallingford picked up the others and stuffed them
in his pocket.

"That will about square us, I guess," he observed.

"Certainly; and thank you. Now, if there's anything else--"

"Not a thing--just now."

"Very well, sir," said Mr. Maylie with a glance at the enticing
hollow-stemmed glasses; but it was quite evident that this was a private
bottle, and he edged himself out of the door, disappearing with much the
effect of a sharp knife blade being closed back into its handle.

Mr. Daw had tossed three bumpers of the champagne down his throat
without stopping to taste them, and without setting down the bottle. Now
he poured one for Mr. Wallingford.

"Laugh, confound you; laugh!" he snarled. "Maybe I look like the
original comic supplement, but I don't feel like a joke. Think of it, J.
Rufus! Four days in an infernal cement tomb, with exactly seventeen
iron bars in front of me! I counted them twenty hours a day, and I know.
Seven-teen!"

He glanced down over his creased and wrinkled and rusty clothing with a
shudder, and suddenly began to tear them off, not stopping until he had
divested himself of coat, vest and trousers, which he flung upon a
chair. Then he rushed to the telephone, ridiculously gaunt in his
unsheathed state, and ordered a valet and a barber.

"Give me one of those hundreds, Jim, quick! I want it in my hand. Maybe
I'll believe it's real money after a while."

Mr. Wallingford chuckled again as he passed over one of the crisp bills.
"Cheer up, Blackie," he admonished his friend. "See how calm I am. Have
a smoke."

Mr. Daw seized eagerly upon one of the cigars that were proffered him;
but he was still too much perturbed to sit down, and stalked violently
about the room like a huge pair of white tongs.

"I notice you turn every seven feet," observed Wallingford with a grin.
"That must have been the size of your cell. Well, you never know your
luck. Why, out here, Blackie, your occupation is called swindling, and
it's a wonder they didn't hang you. You see, in these harvest festival
towns there's not a yap over twenty-five who hasn't been fanged on a
fake gold mine or something of the sort, and when twelve of these born
boobs get a happy chance at a vaselined gold brick artist like you,
nothing will suit them but a verdict of murder in the first degree."

Mr. Daw merely swore. The events of the past four days had dampened him
so that he was utterly incapable of defense. There was a knock at the
door. In view of his _déshabillé_ the lank one retreated to the other
room, but when the caller proved to be only the valet, he came prancing
out with his clothes upon his arm. "I want these back in half an hour,"
he demanded, "and have this bill changed into money I can understand. I
feel better already," he added when the valet had gone. "I've ordered
somebody to do something, and he stood for it."

Wallingford brought from his closet a bath-robe in which Mr. Daw could
wrap himself two or three times, and continued his lecture.

"It's too bad you don't understand your profession," he went on, still
amused. "Sometimes I think I'll buy you another acre of Arizona sand and
start a new mining company with you, just to show you how the stock can
be sold safely and legally."

For the first time Mr. Daw was able to grin.

"Who's that clattering down the street?" he exclaimed with fine dramatic
effect. "Why, it's _me_! Notice how my coat tails snap as I top yon
distant hill. See how pale my face as I turn to see if I am still
pursued. Oh, no, J. Rufus. We've been friends too long. I'd hate to
think of us losing sleep every night, trying to figure how to give each
other the double cross."

"I got you at a bargain just now, and I ought to be able to sell you
cheap," retorted the other. "By the way, it's a mighty lucky thing for
you that Fanny had some money soaked away from that insurance deal of
mine. I had to all but use a club to get it, too. She don't think very
much of you. She thinks you might lead me astray some time."

"_Can_ limburger smell worse?" growled Mr. Daw, but there he stopped.
Four days in jail had taken a lot of his gift of repartee away. When
barber and bootblack and valet had restored him to his well-groomed
ministerial aspect, however, his saturnine sense of humor came back and
he was able to enjoy the elaborate midday luncheon which his host had
served in the room.

"Amuse yourself, Blackie," invited Wallingford after luncheon. "Get
_orey-eyed_ if you want to, and don't mind me, for I'm laying the wires
to locate here."

"Don't!" advised his friend. "This is a poison town. Every dollar has a
tag on it, and if you touch one they examine the thumb marks and pinch
you."

"Not me! My legitimate methods will excite both awe and admiration." And
he set to work again.

Not caring to show himself in daylight, Mr. Daw read papers and took
naps and drank and smoked until his midnight train; but, no matter what
he did, Mr. Wallingford sat steadily at the little desk, sketching,
sketching, sketching. Along about closing time he went down to make
friends with the bartender, and before he went to bed he had secured an
unused sales recording machine which was kept on hand for use during
conventions, and this he had taken up to his rooms for leisurely study
and comparison. In the morning he drove out to Carl Klug's clean little
model making shop in the outskirts of the town, and here he found an
interested group gathered about the pneumatic device that he had seen
the day before. On a bench lay the patent--a real United States
Government patent with a seal and a ribbon on it!

"Different from all the four hundred and twelve patents, every place!"
Mr. Klug had just a shade pompously reiterated before Wallingford came.

"So-o-o-o!" commented big Otto Schmitt, the market gardener, as he
pushed down the dollar key and then the forty-five-cent key with a huge,
earth-brown finger that spread out on the end like a flat club. "And how
much does it cost to make it?"

"Not twenty-five dollars apiece," claimed Carl; "and the United Sales
Recording Machine Company sells them for two and three hundred dollars.
We can sell these for one hundred, and when we get a good business they
must buy us out or we take all their trade away from them. That's the
way to sell a patent. Because they don't do this way is why inventors
never get rich."

"Sure!" agreed Henry Vogel, the lean, rawboned carpenter. "When they buy
us out, that's where we make our money."

"Sure!" echoed Carl, and the three of them laughed. It was such a
pleasant idea that they would be able to wrest some of its hoarded
thousands from a big monopoly.

"It is a good business," went on Carl. "When I showed this machine to
this Mr. Wallingford I told you about, he said right away he would come
in. He is one of these Eastern money fellows, and they are all smart
men."

Over in the corner sat Jens Jensen, with a hundred shrewd wrinkles in
his face and a fringe of wiry beard around his chin from ear to ear. Up
to now he had not said a word. He was a next door neighbor to Carl, and
he had seen the great patent over and over.

"It is foolishness," declared Jens. "He is a skinner, maybe; and,
anyhow, if there's money to be made we should keep it at home."

Big Otto Schmitt pushed down the two-dollar key. The dollar ticket and
the forty-five-cent ticket disappeared, the two-dollar ticket came up
with a click, the drawer popped open and a little bell rang. It was
wonderful.

"I say it too," agreed Otto. His face was broad and hard as granite, his
cheekbones were enormous and the skin over them was purple.

The four men were near the front windows of the shop, and it was at this
moment that Wallingford's cab whirled up to the door. It was a new
looking cab, its woodwork polished like a piano, the glass in it
beveled plate. The driver sprang down and opened the door. Out of that
small opening stepped the huge promoter, resplendent in a new suit of
brown checks, and wearing a brown Derby, brown shoes and brown silk
hose, all of the exact shade to match, while from his coat pocket peeped
the fingers of brown gloves.

"That's him," said Carl.

"I knew it," announced Jens Jensen. "He is a skinner."

Nothing could exceed the affability of Mr. Wallingford. He shook hands
with Mr. Klug, with Mr. Schmitt, with Mr. Vogel, with Mr. Jensen; he
smiled upon them in turns; he made each one of them feel that never in
all his life had he been afforded a keener delight than in this meeting.

"You have a fine little shop, Mr. Klug," he said, looking about him with
an air of pleased surprise. "There is room right here to manufacture
enough machines to scare the United Sales Recording Machine Company into
fits. Gentlemen, if no one else cares for a share in Mr. Klug's splendid
invention, I am quite willing to back him myself with all the capital he
needs."

This was an exceptionally generous offer on Mr. Wallingford's part,
particularly as the six hundred dollars he had in his pocket was all the
capital he controlled in the world. In justice to him, however, it must
be said that he expected to have more money--shortly. The prospects
seemed good. They looked him over. Twenty-five thousand, fifty thousand,
a hundred thousand dollars; it was easy to see that the gentleman could
supply any or all of these sums at a moment's notice.

"No!" said Jens Jensen, voicing the suddenly eager sentiment of all.
"We're all going in it, and another man."

"Two other men," corrected Carl. "Doctor Feldmeyer and Emil Kessler."

Otto Schmitt shook his head dubiously.

"Emil owes on his building loan," he observed.

"Emil's coming in," firmly repeated Carl Klug. "He is a friend of mine.
I will lend him the money and he pays me when we sell out."

Mr. Wallingford glanced out of the window at the shining cab and smiled.
With business people like these he felt that he could get on.

"When, then, do we form the partnership?" he asked.

"To-morrow!" Jens promptly informed him. "We all put in what money we
want to, and we take out according to what we put in."

Jens, who had condemned Mr. Wallingford at sight as a "skinner," now
kept as close to him as possible, and beamed up at him all the time; one
cordial handshake from the man of millions had won him over.

"Carl," he suggested, "you must take Mr. Wallingford over to the
cellar."

"Oh, we all go there," said big Otto Schmitt, and they all laughed, Carl
more than any of them.

"Come on," he said.

Right at the side of the shop stood Mr. Klug's brick house, in the midst
of a big garden that was painfully orderly. Every tree was whitewashed
to exactly the same height, and everything else that could be
whitewashed glared like new-fallen snow. The walks were scrubbed until
they were as red as bricks could be made, and all in between was
velvet-green grass. There were flowers everywhere, and climbing vines
were matted upon the porch trellises and against the entire front of the
house. In the rear garden could be seen all sorts of kitchen vegetables
in neat rows and beds. Down into the front basement the five men
crowded and sat on rough wooden benches. Jens Jensen hastened to spread
a clean newspaper on the bench where Mr. Wallingford was to sit. Carl
disappeared into another part of the cellar and presently came out again
with a big jug and five glasses, all of different shapes and sizes. Out
of the jug he poured his best home-made wine, and they settled down for
a jovial half hour, in which they admitted the guest of honor to full
fellowship.

"You must come over to church to-night," Jens Jensen insisted as they
came away. "We have a raffle and Doctor Feldmeyer will be there. He is a
swell. He will be glad to know you. There will be plenty to eat and
drink. Look; you can see the church from here," and he pointed out its
tall spire.

Mr. Wallingford shook hands with Mr. Jensen impulsively.

"I'll be _there_!" he declared with enthusiasm.

When he had gone, Carl Klug asked:

"Well, what do you think of him?"

"He is a swell," said Jens, and no voice dissented.



CHAPTER XIV

SHOWING HOW FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS MAY DO THE WORK OF FIVE THOUSAND


At a total cost of twenty-five dollars, Mr. Wallingford made himself a
Prince of the Blood at the church raffle that night, throwing down bills
and refusing all change, winning prizes and turning them back to be
raffled over again, treating all the youngsters to endless grabs in the
"fish pond"; and Jens Jensen proudly introduced him to everybody,
beginning with the minister and Emil Kessler--the latter a thin,
white-faced man with a high brow, who looked like a university professor
and was a shoe-maker--and ending with Doctor Feldmeyer, who came late.
Wallingford's eyes brightened when he saw this gentleman. He was more or
less of a dandy, was the doctor, and had great polish and suavity of
manner. He had not been with Mr. Wallingford five minutes until he was
talking of Europe. Mr. Wallingford had also been to Europe. The doctor
was very keen on books, on music, on art, on all the refinements of
life, also he was very much of a ladies' man, he delicately insinuated,
and not one expression of his face was lost upon the Eastern capitalist.
It transpired that the doctor was living at Mr. Wallingford's hotel, and
they went home together that night, leaving behind them the ineffaceable
impression that the rich Mr. Wallingford was an invaluable acquisition
to Mr. Klug and his friends, to the community, to the city, to any
portion of the globe which he might grace with his presence. But when
the invaluable acquisition was left alone in his rooms he penned a long
letter to his wife.

"My dear Fanny," he wrote, "come right away. I have in sight the biggest
stake I have made yet, in a clean, legitimate deal; and I need your
smiling countenance in my business."

He meant more by that than he would have dared to tell her, but he
laughed and mused on Doctor Feldmeyer as he sealed the letter; then he
sent it out to be mailed and turned his earnest attention to the inside
of his sales recorder. This time he found the one little point for which
he had been looking: the thing that he knew must be there, and the next
morning, bright and early, he drove out to Mr. Klug's shop.

"Mr. Klug, you are in bad," he said with portentous gravity. "Look
here." And he pointed out the long, spring-actuated bar which kept all
the tickets from dropping back when they sprang up, and released them as
others were shot into place. "This is an infringement of the United
Sales Recording Machine Company's machine," he declared.

"Nothing like it!" indignantly denied the inventor, bristling and
reddening and puffing his cheeks.

"The identical device is in every machine they manufacture," insisted
Wallingford; "and I would bet you all you expect to make that before
you're on the market two days they will have an injunction out against
you on that very point. Now let me show you how we can get around it."

Mr. Klug reluctantly and protestingly followed his mechanical idea, a
logical application of the pneumatic principle, as he made it plain by
sketches and demonstration on the machine.

"Another thing," went on Mr. Wallingford. "It occurs to me that all
these little pistons multiply the chances of throwing your machine out
of order. Why don't you make one compressible air chamber to actuate all
the ticket pistons and to be actuated by all the keys, the keys also
opening valves in the ticket pistons? It would save at least five
dollars on each machine, make it simpler and much more practical. Of
course, I'll have to patent this improvement, but I'll turn it over to
you at practically no cost to the company."

Mr. Klug merely blinked. Six long years he had worked on this invention,
following the one idea doggedly and persistently, and he had thought
that he had it perfect. He had all the United Company's patents marked
in his copies of the patent record, and now he went through the more
basic ones one after the other.

"It is not there," he said in triumph, after an hour's search, during
which Wallingford patiently waited. One book he had held aside, and now
he put his finger quietly upon a drawing in it.

"No," he admitted, "not in the form that you have used it; but here is
the trick that covers the principle, and this patent still has four
years to run."

Carl examined it silently. In form the device was radically different
from his own, but when he came to analyze it he saw that Wallingford was
probably right; the principle had been covered, at least nearly enough
to leave a loophole for litigation, and it worried him beyond measure.

"Don't look at it that way," comforted Wallingford. "Only be glad that
we found it out in time. I'll apply for this patent right away and
assign it to you. All I'll want for it will be a slight credit on the
books of the company; say fifteen hundred."

Again Carl Klug blinked.

"I'll let you know this afternoon."

He needed time to figure out this tangled proposition; also he wanted,
in simple honor, to talk it over with his friends.

"All right," said Wallingford cheerfully. "By the way, we don't want to
form such a big partnership in a lawyer's office, where people are
running in and out all the time. I'll provide a room at my hotel. That
will be better, don't you think?"

"Sure," slowly agreed Mr. Klug. He was glad to decide upon something
about which a decision was easy.

"Can you get word to the others?" asked the promoter. "If not I'll go
around and notify them."

"Oh, they're going to meet here. They all live up this way except Doctor
Feldmeyer. You see him. I'll bring the lawyer along."

"All right," said Wallingford, quite convinced that a lawyer other than
Maylie would be secured, and after he had driven from sight he took out
his pocketbook and counted again his available cash.

He had a trifle over six hundred dollars, and in the afternoon he would
be expected to pay over the difference between five thousand dollars and
the fifteen hundred he was certain would be allowed for his patent.
Thirty-five hundred dollars! At the present moment there was no place on
earth that he could raise that amount, but nevertheless he smiled
complacently as he put up his pocketbook. So long as other people had
money, the intricacies of finance were only a pleasant recreation to
him, and it was with entire ease of mind that he set the stage for his
little drama at the hotel. He had Doctor Feldmeyer to await Carl Klug
and his friends in the lobby and conduct them up to a private dining
room, where the man of specious ideas, at the head of a long table and
strictly in his element, received them with broad hospitality. In his
bigness and richness of apparel and his general air of belonging to
splendid things, he was particularly at home in this high,
beam-ceilinged apartment, with its dark woodwork, its rich tapestry, its
stained-glass windows, its thick carpet, its glittering buffet. Around
the snowy clothed table were chairs for eight, and at each plate stood a
generous goblet. As the first of the visitors filed in, Wallingford
touched a button, and almost by the time they were seated a waiter
appeared with huge glass pitchers of beer. The coming of this beverage
necessarily put them all in a good humor, and there was much refilling
and laughing and talking of a purely informal character until Doctor
Feldmeyer arose to his feet and tapped with his knuckles upon the table,
when deep gravity sat instantly upon the assemblage.

"Since our host is already seated at the head of the table," said the
doctor with easy pleasantry, "I move that he be made temporary
chairman."

The doctor had lunched with Mr. Wallingford at noon, and now knew him to
be a thoroughbred in every respect; a _bon vivant_ who knew good food
and good wine and good fellowship; a gentleman of vast financial
resources, who did not care how he spent his money just so he got what
he wanted when he wanted it; and he was quite willing to vouch for Mr.
Wallingford, in every way, upon a gentleman's basis! The election of
Mr. Wallingford as temporary chairman and of Doctor Feldmeyer as
temporary secretary were most cordial and pleasant things to behold. The
lawyer, a dry little gentleman who never ventured an opinion unless
asked for it, and always put the answer in his bill, thereupon read the
articles of agreement which were to bind these friends in a common
partnership, whereby it was understood that Mr. Klug, in virtue of his
patents, was to have one half interest in the company, no matter to what
size it might be increased, and that the other gentlemen were to put in
such money as was needed to carry on the business, each one to share in
the profits in exact proportion to the amount of his investment. It
appeared to be the unsmiling consensus of the meeting that this
agreement was precisely what they wanted, and after it had been read
again, very slowly and distinctly, the simply honorable gentlemen
interested solemnly signed it. While this little formality was being
looked after, with much individual spelling out of the document, word by
word, under broad forefingers, the waiter filled the glasses again and
Wallingford turned to Mr. Klug.

"By the way," he asked, in a voice low enough to be taken as
confidential but loud enough to be heard by those nearest, "have you
told the gentlemen about the new patent?"

Jens Jensen, seated next to Mr. Klug, took it upon himself to answer.

"That is all right," he said, nodding his head emphatically. "We know
all about that," and a glance at the nodding heads about the table
disposed of that question. It was quite understood that Mr. Wallingford
was to have a fifteen-hundred-dollar credit for the invaluable addition
and correction he had made to their principal asset, the wonderful sales
recorder patent.

"Very well, then," said Mr. Wallingford, with a secret relief which he
carefully kept out of his voice, "as temporary chairman I would instruct
the secretary now to take the list of subscriptions."

A sigh went around the table. This was serious business, the letting go
of toil-won money, but nevertheless they would go sturdily through with
it. It appeared upon a canvass that Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Jensen and
Doctor Feldmeyer and Mr. Wallingford were each prepared immediately to
invest five thousand dollars, while Mr. Vogel and Mr. Kessler were each
ready to invest two thousand.

"Twenty-four thousand dollars," announced the doctor roundly, whereupon
Mr. Wallingford arose.

"Gentlemen," said he, "there is no use to have idle capital. This is
more money than we shall need for some time to come, and that is not
good business. I therefore propose that the total assessment from any
one member at this time be restricted to two thousand dollars. That will
allow Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Jensen, Doctor Feldmeyer and myself each to
keep three thousand dollars of our money in our savings banks, building
associations and other places where it is earning good interest, until
the company needs it, which may perhaps be a matter of six months. I
would like to have a vote upon this proposition."

There could be but one answer to this. Interest! The savings of all
these men throughout their lives had been increased at three, four and
scarcely to exceed five per cent. rates, and they had grown to reverence
interest almost more than capital. He was a smart man, this Wallingford,
to think of the interest!

Money was already appearing from deep pockets when the crabby little
lawyer, as if it gave him pain to volunteer information, wrenched from
himself the fact that before any money could be paid in some one must
be appointed to receive it. Thereupon, though not a corporate
association, they held an election, and, naturally, Mr. Klug was made
president. Mr. Wallingford firmly declined the vice presidency and also
the secretaryship. He might even have had the post of treasurer, but he
was too modest, also too busy, to hold office. No, he kindly stated, he
would be a mere investor, ready to aid them with what little advice and
experience he could give them, and ready to back them to any extent if
the time should ever arise when their own finances would prove
insufficient to carry the Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company on to the
undoubted success which awaited it! Thereupon the treasurership was
voted to Jens Jensen, and Emil Kessler proposed that they pay in their
respective assessments and adjourn. He had two thousand dollars of Carl
Klug's money in his pocket, and it made him a trifle uncomfortable.

"I forbid anybody to leave this room," laughingly announced Mr.
Wallingford, and gave a nod to the waiter, who disappeared. "We'll pay
in our money, but we have some other very important business."

Doctor Feldmeyer also became jolly, to show that he was in the secret.
He drew a fountain pen and a check book from his pocket.

"Mr. Wallingford wants us to eat, drink and make merry on the United
Sales Recording Machine Company of New Jersey," he told them as he
wrote.

The joke was thoroughly appreciated. It was a commendable and a holy
thing to conspire to get the money of a monopoly away from it, as every
newspaper proved to them. In pleasant pursuance of this idea, the United
Company, by methods that should proceed in comfort and ease and entire
absence of worry, such as was foreshadowed by this luxurious dining room
and by the personal grandeur of Mr. Wallingford, was to be brought
suppliantly to its knees; so, with the utmost cheerfulness, each of
these men paid over his subscription. Doctor Feldmeyer was the only man
among them who paid by check. The rest was in cash, but the host, busy
with his hospitable duties, held back his payment until the waiters
brought in a luncheon which was a revelation in the way of "cold
snacks." It was during this appetite-whetting, gayety-promoting
confusion that Wallingford quietly paid over his five hundred
dollars--this, with the fifteen hundred dollars' credit on the coming
patent, making his contribution total to two thousand, the same amount
as that put in by every other member of the company except Carl Klug.
This done, the clever gentleman surreptitiously wiped his brow and
sighed a little sigh all to himself. It had taken him three days to
figure how to fasten upon Mr. Klug's patent and prospects with as little
money as five hundred dollars!

It was a happy crowd that dispersed an hour later--a crowd upon which
Fortune already beamed; but the last of them had scarcely left the room
when their princely entertainer telephoned for his own lawyer.

"I want you," said Wallingford to Mr. Maylie, when he arrived, "to find
out all you can for me about the United Sales Recording Machine Company
of New Jersey. I want to know the outcome of every suit they have
brought against infringers of their patents, and the present addresses
of the people with whom they fought; also all about the companies they
have been forced to buy out. Got that?"

"I'll get it," replied Mr. Maylie confidently, and helped himself to a
glass of champagne. He looked longingly at the bottle as he finished his
first glass, but as Mr. Wallingford did not invite him to have a second
he went out.



CHAPTER XV

WALLINGFORD GENEROUSLY LOANS THE PNEUMATIC COMPANY SOME OF ITS OWN MONEY


The arrival of Mrs. Wallingford set upon a much higher plane her
husband's already well-established reputation as a capitalist of
illimitable resources, and had any one of his partners paused to reflect
that Mr. Wallingford had secured an active interest in the concern for
five hundred dollars, Doctor Feldmeyer's report of the capitalist's
charming lady was enough to make that trifling incident forgotten. To
Carl Klug and Jens Jensen at Carl's shop, the doctor, without knowing
it, did the missionary work that Wallingford had planned for him to do.

"She is a stunner," he declared, with the faintest suggestion of a
smirk, "and carries herself like a queen. She wears a fur coat that cost
not less than six or seven hundred dollars, and not a woman in this town
has such diamonds. We all went to the theater last night, and there were
more opera glasses turned on our box than on the stage. I tell you, our
friend Wallingford has the best there is, in women, as well as in wine,
and as for wealth, he could buy and sell us all."

"I believe it," said Jens Jensen. "But why should such a rich man go
into a little business?"

"Because," said Doctor Feldmeyer, with profound wisdom, "a rich man
never overlooks a thousand per cent. like this. That's why they are
rich. Why, this man's daily expenses would keep every one of us. He had
fine apartments at the hotel himself, but when his wife came he got the
best in the house--four fine, big rooms. Last night after the theater he
took me to his own dining room, and we had a supper that cost not less
than thirty or forty dollars!"

Such gossip would go far to establishing any man's reputation for
wealth, especially among such simple natured people as these, and it was
quite certain that Otto Schmitt and Henry Vogel and Emil Kessler would
hear every scrap of it. Had Doctor Feldmeyer heard the conversation that
took place after he left the Wallingford suite the night before, his
report might have been slightly different.

"Well, Jim," Mrs. Wallingford had asked with a trace of anxiety, "what
are you doing this time?"

"The United Sales Recording Machine Company of New Jersey," he replied
with a laugh. "You remember how they turned me down a long time ago when
I tried to sell them a patent?" She nodded. "You made me go right to
them and try what you called 'straight business,' and I got what was
coming to a mollycoddle. I'm going to sell them a patent this time, but
in the right way, and for a good, big round chunk."

"Whose patent?" she inquired.

"What's the difference?" he queried, and laughed again. "It serves him
right for being an inventor."

She did not laugh with him, however. She sat in frowning disquiet, and
he watched her curiously.

"What's the matter with you?" he presently complained. "It used to be
enough for you that I could not be jailed for having a few dollars."

"We're nearly middle-aged, Jim," she replied, turning to him soberly.
"What will we be like when we are old?"

"Cheer up, Fanny, and I will tell you the worst!" he declaimed. "You'll
be gray and I'll be bald!"

She was compelled to laugh herself, and gave up the idea of serious
conversation with him, for that time at least.

Doctor Feldmeyer, encouraged by Wallingford, became an unofficial
attaché of the family in the following weeks. Vain, susceptible, and
considering himself very much of a ladies' man, he exerted himself to be
agreeable, and J. Rufus helped him to opportunities. If he had any
ulterior purpose in this he did not confide it to his wife, or even let
her suspect it. It would not have been safe. In the meantime the affairs
of the Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company moved speedily onward. One
entire end of his shop Carl Klug devoted to its affairs, putting in
special machinery and hiring as many men as he could use, and here
Wallingford reported every day, his suggestions being nearly always
sound and inspiring Mr. Klug's respect. He held his standing with the
rest of them in a different way. When they called at the shop they found
Wallingford's cab always standing outside, and it was soon noised about
that this cab was hired by the day! "Blackie" Daw, levying his dubious
contributions on a gullible public, was paying for this and wiping out
his debt.

But little more than two months had elapsed when Carl had his first lot
of recorders ready for the market, and the treasury was depleted. Now it
became necessary to have money for marketing, and that meant the
remaining three thousand dollars of J. Rufus Wallingford's subscription
or an evasion of it. Prepared for this, he took the floor as soon as the
matter was mentioned at the meeting which was called to levy this
assessment.

"What is the use?" he demanded to know. "Why use our own money? I
understand that Mr. Schmitt must get his three thousand from the
building loan association, to which he must pay six per cent. I
understand that Mr. Jensen has his now out at five per cent. Let me show
you how to finance this concern. I will put in ten thousand at once, and
take the company's note. This note I can then discount, and put the
money right back into my business, and in that way my ten thousand
dollars is doing twenty thousand dollars' worth of work--a bank carrying
the burden of both operations."

It was a financial argument entirely new to these men, unused to tricks
of money manipulation, and it took them some little time to grasp it.
When they did, however, they were as pleased as a boy with his first
watch, and Wallingford was a dazzling hero, as, with a nonchalant air,
after glancing at the clock to make sure that it was after banking
hours, he wrote them a check on "his bank in Boston" for ten thousand,
and took their note, signed by the Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company and
indorsed jointly by all its members.

That night Wallingford drove up in hot haste to Jens Jensen's house.

"Let me see that check I gave you this afternoon," he demanded, with an
air of suspecting a good joke on himself. Jens, wondering, produced it
from a little tin box. "That's what I thought," said Wallingford as he
glanced at it. Then, smiling, he handed it back. "I have made it out on
the Fifth National of Boston. They'd probably honor it, but it's the
wrong bank. I have a balance there, but am not sure that it is
sufficient to cover this check. Just hold that, and I'll wire them in
the morning. If my balance isn't large enough I'll give you a check on
the First, with which I do most of my business."

"Sure," said Jens, and put back into the tin box the worthless paper
which called for ten thousand dollars.

The next morning Wallingford called at one of the local banks and had no
difficulty whatever in discounting the quite acceptable note. He gained
a full day by forwarding the proceeds, special delivery, to the Fifth
National Bank of Boston, where his balance at that moment was
considerably less than a hundred dollars; then he told Jensen to deposit
the check: that his balance in the Fifth National was all right.

It was financial jugglery of a shrewd order, and the juggler prided
himself upon it. He was not yet through, however. Having loaned the
company ten thousand dollars of its own money at six per cent. interest,
he was now confronted by the necessity of securing money for his own
enormous personal expenses. For replenishment, however, he had long
planned, and now he went to his new source of income--Doctor Feldmeyer.
The time was ripe, for, though Mrs. Wallingford had given him no more
encouragement than the ordinary courteous graciousness which is so often
misinterpreted by male coquettes, the doctor was aflame with foolish
imaginings, and, within the past week or so, had felt guilty upon every
meeting with Mr. Wallingford, betraying it as Wallingford had planned
that he should, growing nervous at a sharp glance, a sudden movement, an
obscure remark. He was as uncomfortable as guilty conscience ever made a
coward, and when the big man, on the plea of sudden business and
personal needs, went to him almost peremptorily for a loan of rather
staggering proportions, the doctor was an easy victim. Thus provided and
at ease, Wallingford "consented" to become the salesman for the first
output of Pneumatic Sales Recorders, going directly to a list of cities
supplied to him by Maylie; and in those cities he went to see certain
gentlemen whose names came to him from the same source! Incidentally, he
sold a number of sales recorders with a celerity that was most
gratifying to the delighted members of the company. Why, even if the
United Sales Recording Machine Company of New Jersey did not care to buy
them out, a fortune was in sight through the legitimate manufacture and
sale of this device! Before the salesman returned from his trip,
however, a blow, entirely unexpected by Klug and his friends, fell on
them from a clear sky. An injunction and a notice of suit was served,
not only upon the company, but upon every purchaser of their
contrivance. The injunction restrained the buyers from using and the
company from manufacturing or selling any further machines, and the suit
was for infringement of patent. The device by which the drawer flew open
after the keys had been pressed, the United Sales Recording Machine
Company of New Jersey claimed to be modeled upon their own. The news was
wired to Wallingford. He had been waiting for it, and he came home at
once, where he found that Maylie had been appointed the local legal
representative of the big New Jersey concern; but as this had been a
matter of Wallingford's own contriving, he was not nearly so much
surprised over it as he might have been. He also found direst
consternation in the company's ranks, and himself shook his head sadly
when questioned, though he spoke bravely.

"What we have to do," he declared, "is to keep a stiff upper lip and
fight it."

They did so. Within a couple of months they had the suit decided in
their favor, and Carl Klug was vindicated in the eyes of his friends.
Again they were jubilant, again they prepared for an era of commercial
triumph; but on the very next day another injunction and suit were
brought, and from the very start of this proceeding delays were
encountered. The weakest case had been brought first, the stubborn one
being held back for a longer and more discouraging fight. When that was
over there would be a third suit and a fourth. With their millions of
capital and their knowledge of such matters, gleaned from vital
struggles with others who had demanded either their money or their
business life, they could continue such a fight indefinitely, or until
the Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company should be choked out of existence.

There never was a more discouraged lot of men than those who met in Carl
Klug's shop upon the day after notice of this second suit was brought.
Wallingford was the most inconsolable of all. Of course, if the others
felt like putting in any more money to fight this company with its
millions they could do so; in fact, they ought to do so, but his own
business affairs were in such shape that, at the present moment, he
could not spare a dollar. He said this in such a hesitant way, with a
five-hundred-dollar diamond gleaming from his finger and another from
his scarf, that they felt sure he had plenty of capital, but would not
risk it further in such a losing fight; and it helped them to realize
that all the capital they could command would be but as a wisp of straw
to be brushed aside by this formidable giant, which not only could crush
them, but had the disposition to do so.

Wallingford left them in this hopeless spirit, and went "back East to
look after his other business." That business took him directly to the
offices of the United Sales Recording Machine Company of New Jersey, and
into an immediate conference with the man who had charge of all its
patent affairs.

"I have come to sell you the Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company," said
Wallingford, by way of introduction.

"The Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company?" repeated Mr. Priestly vaguely,
trying to convey the impression that the name was unfamiliar to him, and
he looked into his desk file. "Oh, yes; we have a suit pending against
them."

"Exactly," agreed his caller. "Suit number two is now pending. We won
suit number one. We will win suits number two, three, four, five and
six, if need be, but it is such a waste of money on both sides. You
might just as well buy us out now as later."

Mr. Priestly shook his head without a smile. He was almost gloomy about
it, even. He was a small man with gray mutton-chop whiskers, and
nothing could exceed his deep gravity. From another file he produced a
copy of the patent taken out by Mr. Klug, and of the one just issued to
Mr. Wallingford, assignor to Mr. King's company.

"The Pneumatic Sales Recorder Company," he stated, tossing down the
papers as if they were too trifling to examine after he had found them,
"has nothing whatever that we wish to purchase."

"Oh, yes, it has," Wallingford insisted. "It has two patents, and the
absolute certainty of a business that in three years will take trade
enough and profits enough away from you to buy the company several times
over."

Again Mr. Priestly shook his head sadly.

"We shall have to wait three years to determine that," he hinted, with
no sinister intonation whatever to go with the veiled threat. "We must
defend our very existence here every day of our lives. If we did not we
would have been put out of the business years ago."

"Exactly," again agreed the other. "In your files you have comprehensive
reports on Mr. Carl Klug, Mr. Jens Jensen, Mr. Otto Schmitt and the
others of the company. You know their small resources to a penny, and
you can figure almost to the day how long they can last. But that, Mr.
Priestly, is where you have made your error, for these men will soon be
out of the game. I have here another list about which you will not need
to collect any information, for you have it even in memory, no doubt."

He laid before Mr. Priestly a neatly-typewritten slip, containing barely
over half a dozen names. In spite of his excellent facial command, Mr.
Priestly could not repress a start of surprise, and he shot across at
Mr. Wallingford one quick little glance, which had in it much more of
respect than he had hitherto shown.

"_J. B._ Hammond," read Mr. Priestly, clutching at a straw. "The last
name is familiar, but the initials are not."

"No," agreed Wallingford. "By the terms under which he sold out to you,
Mr. W. A. Hammond is not to go into the sales recorder business at all.
Allow me to read you a letter," and from a pocketbook he took a folded
paper.

"My dear Mr. Wallingford," he read. "Under no circumstances could I
participate in the manufacture of sales recorders; but my son, Mr. J.
B. Hammond, is quite convinced that the Klug patent is both practical
and tenable, and he advises me that he is willing to invest up to two
hundred thousand dollars, provided a company of at least one million
_bona fide_ capitalization can be formed."

"It is a curious coincidence," added Wallingford, passing over this
letter with a smile, "that two hundred thousand dollars is exactly the
price you paid William Hammond for his business, after five years of
very bitter litigation. The son, no doubt, would take a keen personal
interest in regaining the losses of the father through a company that
has so excellent a chance to compete with yours. You see, a company with
a million dollars, composed of men who know all about the sales recorder
business, would set aside these suits of yours in a jiffy, because they
are untenable, and you know it, although I do not expect you to admit it
just now. Mr. Keyes, whose name is next on the list, had nothing left to
sell after losing almost a quarter of a million in fighting you, and so
is unbound. It just happens, however, that he has been left quite a
comfortable legacy, and would like nothing so much as to sink part of it
in our company. Here is the letter from Mr. Keyes," and he spread the
second document in the case before Mr. Priestly, who now laid down the
first letter and, readjusting his glasses, took up the second one in
profound silence.

Mr. Wallingford lit a cigar in calm content and waited until Mr.
Priestly had finished reading the letter of Mr. Keyes, when he produced
another one.

"Mr. Rankley," he observed, "has never been in the sales recorder
business, but he apparently has his own private and personal reasons for
wishing to engage in it," and at the mention of Mr. Rankley's name Mr.
Priestly broke the toothpick he was holding and threw it away.

Mr. Rankley, as he quite well knew, was Mr. Alexander's bitterest enemy,
and Mr. Alexander was practically the United Sales Recording Machine
Company of New Jersey. Wallingford went on down the list in calm joy. It
was composed entirely of men of means, who would put into this
enterprise not only experience and shrewd business ability, but a
particularly energetic hatred of the big corporation and its components.

"I see," said Mr. Priestly, laying down the final letter upon the
previous ones, and with great delicacy and precision placing a glass
paperweight squarely in the middle of them. "Permit me to retain these
letters for a short time. I wish to take them before our board of
directors."

"When?" asked Wallingford.

"Well, our regular monthly meeting--" began Mr. Priestly.

"No, you don't," interrupted the other. "I think a few minutes of
conversation with Mr. Alexander himself would do away entirely with the
necessity of consulting the board of directors. You think it possible, I
know, that by going directly to Mr. Klug and his friends you would be
able to purchase the patents cheaper than you can from me, but I am
quite sure I can convince Klug and his company that these gentlemen will
raise the price on you."

"Why didn't you form this new company in the first place, then?"
demanded Mr. Priestly sharply, implying a doubt. "Why do you come to us
at all!"

"Because I personally," patiently explained Wallingford, "can make more
money by quietly selling the patent to you than I personally can make by
selling it openly to them, as you will see if you reflect a moment. At
present I own a twelfth share in the company. If I induce this other
company to take hold of it I must divide the purchase price into twelve
equal shares, of which I receive but one. Is Mr. Alexander in the city?"

"I believe so," hesitated Mr. Priestly.

"Is he in his office?"

"Possibly," admitted the other.

"Oh, he's in, then," concluded Wallingford sagely. "Well, I think you
can give me my answer in an hour. I'll be down at the Hotel Vandyne. You
might telephone me. I want to go back West this evening."

It did not take Mr. Priestly and Mr. Alexander sixty minutes to conclude
that they could save a lot of money by doing business with Mr.
Wallingford, and they asked him to drive up to their office and see them
again. When they got through "dickering," Mr. Wallingford had agreed, in
writing, to deliver over to them, within sixty days, the Pneumatic Sales
Recorder Company patents, for the sum of one hundred and seventy-five
thousand dollars, the receipt of a ten-thousand-dollar advance payment
being acknowledged therewith.

Before he started West, Wallingford wired Maylie: "Note due in morning.
Advise bank on quiet to sue."



CHAPTER XVI

THE FINANCIER TAKES A FLYING TRIP TO EUROPE ON AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART


A storm that he had scarcely expected awaited Wallingford when he
returned. His wife met him furiously. She had all her belongings packed
separately from his own, and would have been gone before his arrival but
that she could not express her anger in a mere letter.

"It is the last straw, Jim!" she charged him. "You're growing worse all
the time. I saw that you were throwing me with this puppy Feldmeyer
deliberately, but was foolish enough to think that you were doing it
only so that I might be amused while you were busy. As well as I know
you, I did not suspect that you could possibly bring yourself to use me
as a lever to borrow money from him!"

A twinkle that he could not help came into Wallingford's eyes as he
thought of how easily Feldmeyer had been bent to his own ends, and it
was most unfortunate for him, for she caught the look and interpreted it
instantly.

"You're even proud of it!" she cried. "There's nothing in this world
sacred to you. Why, only last night he made open love to me and insisted
that I 'disappear' with him on a trip he is taking. He only laughed when
I told him how I hated him. He had been drinking, and he and Maylie had
been together. They are on to you, Jim. Maylie has found out something
about you and has told Feldmeyer, and now the man would believe anything
of you. He showed me your notes, and as good as told me that I was in
partnership with you in getting money out of him. And you exposed me to
this!"

"Where is he?" asked Wallingford unsteadily.

"I shan't tell you. He has left the city. He left this morning, and I
have been considering whether, after all, I had not better stay sold."

They were in the parlor. Now she opened the door into the next room.

"Where are you going?" he asked, stepping toward her.

For reply she only laughed, the most unpleasant laugh he had ever heard
from her, and, stepping through, closed the door. Before he could reach
it she had bolted it. He went immediately into the hall, but all the
other doors to their suite were also locked.

Maylie stepped out of the elevator as he was pondering what to do.

"Heard you had come in," said the lawyer, in a jaunty tone of easy
familiarity. "How are tricks?"

The fellow stood in front of the open parlor door, and the light
streamed upon his face. Wallingford, in the dimness, could study his
countenance without exposing his own to such full scrutiny. There sat
upon Maylie a new self-possession that had something insolent about it.
Fanny had been right. Maylie had been getting reports upon him.

"Step in," he cordially invited, and Maylie walked into the parlor. It
was noticeable that he kept his hat on until after he had sat down.
"Tricks are very fair indeed," continued Wallingford in answer to the
offhand question. "We're going to get through with it in good shape."

Maylie laughed.

"You're all right," he said. "From all accounts you're a wonder. No
matter what you tackle, the milk stopper business, carpet tacks,
insurance, sales recorders, you're always a winner," and after this hint
that he knew something of Wallingford's past he lit a cigarette with
arrogant nonchalance, then got up to close the hall door which had been
left slightly ajar.

Wallingford's half-closed eyes followed him across the room with a gleam
in which there boded no good for Mr. Maylie. Turning, however, Maylie
found his host laughing heartily.

"I seldom pick up the hot end of it," asserted Wallingford. "How about
the bank?"

"They're offering suit right now, and the Pneumatic will not pay the
note. The company hasn't the money, and the tightening up of the local
financial situation that has come about in the past month will make it
almost impossible to realize on such trifling securities as the members
have. Moreover, if they had money they're scared stiff, and not one of
them would put up a dollar, except Klug, perhaps. They'll let the
company go to a forced sale. I guess that's what you wanted, isn't it?"

"I'm not going to say about that," replied Wallingford. "The less we
talk, even with the doors locked, the better."

"That's so," agreed Maylie; "only there's one point of it we _must_ talk
about. How did you come out in the East?"

"I have just told you not to try to know too much."

"I don't want to know too much. I only want to know where I come in."

"Your experience with me ought to tell you that you will have no
occasion to quarrel with your fee."

"I thought so," retorted Maylie, leaning forward with a laugh that was
more like a sneer; "but I want more than a fee, and I'm going to have
more than a fee!"

For just one instant Wallingford almost lost his suavity, but whatever
game he played he held all its tangled ends continuously in view.

"So we're all thieves together, eh?" he said, smiling, and the gleam of
gratification upon Maylie's face assured him that he was upon the right
track. "Of course, I know that you have a string on me in this matter
and can hold me up," he admitted, as if reluctantly, "so suppose we say
ten thousand for you, if the deal goes through the way I want it."

"Now you're shouting!" exclaimed Maylie, and rising impulsively he shook
hands with great enthusiasm. "You may count on me."

"I do," said Wallingford, also rising; and, still keeping his grip of
the lawyer's hand, he turned his back squarely to the window, so that
Maylie would be compelled to face it. "I consider you as mine from this
minute."

As he said the words there came that little flicker in Maylie's close
set eyes for which he had been looking. It told of negation--that Maylie
still held his own plans in reserve. So adroit himself in plot and
counterplot, it was no trick for Wallingford to fathom this amateur, and
he let the lawyer go away hugging the delusion that he had this
experienced schemer under his thumb; then Wallingford once more turned
his attention to the locked door.

The silence within those other rooms had become oppressive, and a panic
began to come over him. He knocked, but there was no response. He went
out into the hall once more, and trying each of the knobs shook them.
The far door, to his surprise, opened under his hand. Not one valued
possession of Mrs. Wallingford's was in evidence. Empty dresser drawers
were open, and two suit cases were gone. A trunk in the corner stood
wide, and its bulky articles of lesser worth were strewn upon the floor.
He immediately telephoned from that room. Yes, Mrs. Wallingford had
gone. No, they did not know to which depot. She had merely called a cab
and had hurried away. He ordered up time tables and studied them
feverishly. Almost at this very moment trains were leaving from two
different depots, and these were more than three miles apart. There was
no chance of finding quickly to which one she had gone. A horrible fear
oppressed him. That she had joined Feldmeyer was almost inconceivable,
but that she might have taken even this revenge for the slight that had
made her furious was a thought in harmony with the principles by which,
through his own moral warp, he judged humanity, and he was frantic. At
Feldmeyer's office he found the door also locked and the rooms for rent!

The next train for the East found Wallingford upon it. He spent days in
attempting to get on the track of them, and he finally found out about
Feldmeyer. He had gone to Europe. On the sailing list almost any name
might conceal his wife, and to Europe went Wallingford, misled by his
own worse self. It was characteristic of him that, having found
Feldmeyer and being convinced that Mrs. Wallingford had never joined
that gentleman, he should remind the doctor that he had been "chased"
with his own money; and then he hurried home, more worried than ever,
but his precious ten thousand dollars still intact and with some to
spare. He needed that ten thousand for a specific purpose. Finally it
occurred to him to enlist the services of "Blackie" Daw, and hunted that
enterprising salesman of insecure securities. Blackie laughed at him and
handed him a letter. Partly to punish her husband and partly to satisfy
certain vague, mistaken longings she had cherished for a "quiet life,"
Mrs. Wallingford had immured herself in a little village, living most
comfortably upon her diamonds; but now she was tired of it--and anxious
for "Jim!"

"It's no use," she confessed when he had hurried to her. "Your way is
wrong, but you've spoiled me with luxury."

"I'll spoil you with more of it," he assured her, petting her with an
overgrown playfulness that seemed strange in one of his bigness of
frame, and made of his varied character a most complex thing; "but if I
don't hurry back on the job I'll get the hooks."

It was, in fact, high time for him to return to business, for he could
get no wire from Maylie about the forced sale; and this was the
strategic point for which he had been planning since the day he met Carl
Klug. Three telegrams drew no response, and there was no one else to
whom he dared wire in the present condition of affairs. Leaving his wife
where she was for the present, he took the first train for the West and,
arriving on the day before the sale, drove directly from the train to
Carl Klug's, where he found a mournful assembly.

"That's him!" exclaimed Jens Jensen, as he came into the shop. "I always
said he was a skinner."

Klug looked at him with dull eyes. Otto Schmitt arose to his
threatening, rawboned height. Henry Vogel put his hand on Otto's arm.

"Wait a minute," he cautioned. "You don't know anything for sure about
things."

"What's the matter?" Wallingford asked, stopped in the midst of his
intended cordial greeting by the hostile air of the gathering.

"You done it a-purpose," charged Jens, shaking his skinny fist. "You got
from us that note, and now it shuts us up in business. You say you back
the company for all you're worth. Maybe you ain't worth anything. If you
ain't you're a liar. If you are worth something you don't back us up.
Then you're a liar again, so that makes you a skinner!"

"Gentlemen," said Wallingford sternly, "I am surprised. The question of
whether I have or have not money is not worth arguing just now. The
point is this: if any one of you had money would you be willing to
invest it against the millions of the United Sales Recording Machine
Company of New Jersey? Would you, Mr. Jensen?"

"I don't know," said Jens sullenly. "I think you're a skinner."

Wallingford shrugged his shoulders.

"Would you, Mr. Schmitt?"

"No," said Otto, and unclenched his huge fists.

"Would you, Vogel?"

Vogel was positive about it, too. It would be throwing good money after
bad.

"I ask Mr. Klug. Would you, Carl?"

"Yes," sturdily asserted Carl, his mustache bristling, his face puffing
red. "Every cent. It is a good patent. It is a good machine. There's
money in it."

"Maybe," admitted Mr. Wallingford; "but let me tell you something I
found out during my trip East. For five years the Hammond Automatic
Cashier Company fought the United Sales Recording Machine Company of New
Jersey tooth and toe nail, and finally sold out to them for two hundred
thousand dollars, a net loss of over a quarter of a million, besides
all their time. During the same period, the Keyes Accounting Device
Company, with a capital of three hundred thousand dollars, was fought
out of existence and quit without a cent. The Burch Company, the
Electric Sales Checking System Company and the Wakeford and Littleman
Store Supply Company, all rich, all met the same fate. That note you
gave me was a mere incident. You had the ten thousand dollars, have used
it in the business, and it is gone. If you had a hundred thousand
dollars more on top of it, that would drop into the same hole, for I am
told that the United Company lays aside twenty-five dollars from every
sale for patent litigation. But since Jensen seems to think I am not a
man of my word I will do this: There are seven of us in the company. I
will put in ten thousand dollars if the rest of you will raise thirty.
We will pay this note and hire lawyers as long as we last, and as a
proof that I mean what I say here is ten thousand dollars that I will
put into the hands of your treasurer the minute the rest of you are
ready to make up your share."

From his pocket he drew ten bills of one thousand dollars each. It was
the first time they had any of them seen money of such large
denomination, and it had a visible effect.

"I can raise five thousand dollars on my house and shop," offered Carl
Klug hopefully, but one glance at the glum faces of his friends was
enough to discourage that idea.

Wallingford was rehabilitated, but not their faith in Carl Klug's
unlucky device. The sale of the company must bring something, possibly
enough to settle the note. If they could get out of it without losing
any more they would consider themselves lucky.

"When is this sale?" asked Wallingford.

"To-morrow morning at ten o'clock. Here."

"Very well," said Wallingford. "If before that time any of you want to
take up the offer I have just made, you are welcome to do so," and he
put the money back in his pocket.

He had found out what he wanted to know, and drove away well satisfied
with the results of his visit. His proposition to put further cash into
the concern "if they would raise thirty thousand dollars" had wrought
the effect he had calculated upon. It had scared them out completely.

At his hotel he found three telephone memoranda waiting for him. They
were all from the same source: room number 425 of the only other good
hotel in the city. He did not answer this call until he got to his own
rooms, and then he spoke with much briefness.

"No, do not come over," he peremptorily insisted. "I have no time to-day
nor to-night, nor until after the sale. It is at ten o'clock, at 2245
Poplar Street. Stay right where you are. I'll send you over the stuff
within an hour," and he rang off.

As soon as he could get connection he called up Maylie, but if the
latter contemplated any trickery he did not show it by any hesitation of
speech when he recognized Wallingford's voice. As a matter of fact, he
already knew Wallingford to be in town. He was cordiality itself. Why,
certainly, he would be right over! His cordiality, however, could not be
exceeded by that of Mr. Wallingford when they met.

"You simply must stay for dinner with me, old man," said Wallingford. "I
have a lot of things to talk over with you."

"I really have an engagement," Maylie hesitated. He had not, but he
would much rather have been alone, this night of all nights.

"Nonsense," insisted Wallingford. "This is more important. It means
money, and big money, to both of us, and we'll just have dinner up here.
We want to be alone to-night. There might always be somebody at the
next table, you know."

Within ten minutes Maylie was glad he had stayed, and the dinner he
heard Wallingford order had reconciled him. He had been doing yeoman
work for himself, and he felt entitled to a certain amount of
indulgence. Within another ten minutes a bottle of champagne was opened,
and Wallingford, taking one glass of it, excused himself to remove the
stains of travel. When he came back, refreshed and clean, the quart of
wine was nearly emptied, and Maylie, leaning back in a big leather
chair, was puffing smoke rings at the ceiling in huge content.



CHAPTER XVII

WHEREIN A GOOD STOMACH FOR STRONG DRINK IS WORTH THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS


Wine was the _pièce de résistance_ of that dinner. There were other
things, certainly, course after course, one of those leisurely,
carefully blended affairs for which Wallingford was famous among his
friends, a dinner that extended to nearly three hours, perfect in its
ordering and appointments; but champagne was, after all, its main
ingredient. It was on the table before the first course was served, and
half emptied bottles and glasses of it were there when they came to the
coffee and the cordials and the fat black cigars. In all, they had
consumed an enormous quantity, but Wallingford was as steady as when he
began, while Maylie was flushed and so buoyant that everything was a
hilarious joke. Wallingford, on their first encounter, had detected this
appetite in the young man, and had saved it for just such a possibility
as this. It was half past nine before they arose from the table, and by
that time Maylie was ripe for any suggestion. Wallingford's proposal
that they pile into a carriage and take a ride met with instant and
enthusiastic acquiescence. There were clubs to which Wallingford had
already secured the _entrée_ by his personality and his free handling of
money, and now he put them to full and extravagant use.

Dawn was breaking when the roisterers finally rolled back to
Wallingford's apartments. Wallingford was holding himself right by a
grim effort, but Maylie had passed to a pitiable condition of
imbecility. His hair was stringing down over his forehead, and his face
was of a ghastly pallor. In the parlor, however, he drew himself
together for a moment and thought that he was capable of great
shrewdness.

"Look yere, ole man," he stammered, trying to focus his gaze upon his
watch; "this's mornin' now, an' i'ss all off. Tha's sale's at ten
o'clock an' we godda be there."

"We'll be there all right," said Wallingford. "What we need's a little
nap. There are two bedrooms here. We'll leave a call for nine o'clock.
Three hours of sleep will do us more good than anything else."

"Aw ri'," agreed Maylie, and winked laboriously to himself as an
absurdly foolish idea came to him that he would let Wallingford get to
sleep first, and would then change the call to his own room. He would
answer that call, take a hasty plunge, dress and walk out, leaving
Wallingford to sleep on for a week! Wallingford, in the dining room,
sought for the thing he had ordered left there: one more bottle, packed
tightly in its ice, and this he now opened. Into Maylie's glass he
poured two or three drops of a colorless liquid from a little vial he
carried, filled it with wine and set it before him. Maylie pushed it
away.

"Do' wan' any more wine," he protested.

"Sure you do. A nightcap with your dear old pal?" Wallingford persisted,
and clinked glasses with him.

Maylie obeyed that clink as he would not have responded to any verbal
urging. He reached for the glass of champagne and drank half of it, then
collapsed in his chair. Wallingford sat opposite to him and watched him
as intently as a cat watches a mouse hole, sipping at his own wine
quietly from time to time. His capacity was a byword among his friends.
Maylie's hand slipped from his chair and hung straight down, the other
one curling awkwardly upon his lap. His head drooped and he began to
snore. He was good for an all-day sleep. Only a doctor could arouse him
from it.

Wallingford still waited. By and by he lifted up the hanging hand and
dropped it roughly. Maylie made not the slightest motion. Wallingford
stood above him and looked down in smiling contempt; and the ghastly
blending of the artificial light with the morning, where it struggled
bluely in around the edges of the blinds, touched the smile into a
snarl. Suddenly he stooped to the limp figure in the chair and picked it
up bodily in his arms, and, staggering slightly under the burden,
carried the insensate lump to the far sleeping apartment and laid it
upon the bed. He loosened the man's collar and took off his shoes, then,
as calmly and unconcernedly as he might read a newspaper, he went
through Mr. Maylie's clothing.

Nothing worth mentioning in the outside coat pockets; nothing in the
inside coat pockets; in the inside vest pocket a few yellow papers! He
did not even stop at the window of this dim room to make sure of what he
held. He was sure without looking. Into the parlor and to an easy chair
he took them and opened them with grim satisfaction. They were
telegrams, all from the United Sales Recording Machine Company of New
Jersey, and they told an absorbingly interesting story. There were four,
and in the order of their receipt they read thus:

     Were already informed our Mr. Bowman will report to you in time for
     sale

     Since you think Bowman's presence might hurt negotiations he will
     not come look to you to bid us in at lowest possible figure

     Up to one hundred and fifty thousand if bidding goes above that
     wire for further instructions

     Yes keep all under fifty thousand for your fee

Business! All pure business! The United Sales Recording Machine Company
of New Jersey was being held up, and it was good business for them to
see that they were mulcted of as little as possible. Wallingford rather
admired them for it. Since the property was at open sale they had as
much right to buy it as he had. He read these telegrams over and over in
profound content. He had foreseen them. Moreover, he had read not only
Maylie's intention, but his plan and every detail of it, and for him he
felt no admiration whatever. Maylie was too clumsy.

There was a small serving table in the dining room, and Wallingford
carried that in to the sleeper's bedside. Upon this he spread the four
telegrams in neat order, and weighted them down with _empty glasses_ for
Mr. Maylie's absorbed study if he should happen to awaken. Next he drew
his favorite chair into that room, and placed it at the opposite end of
the serving table. He put upon this the champagne bottle and his own
glass, and lighting a big and extremely black cigar he sat down to watch
his erstwhile comrade, for he was taking no chances. Whenever he felt
himself nodding or letting that cigar lax in his fingers he took a tiny
sip of the champagne. Sometimes he went in and held his head under the
cold water faucet.

At the end of the first hour sleep threatened to overcome him, in spite
of all that he could do, and going into the bathroom he undressed and
took a cold shower. That refreshed him exceedingly, and the feel of
cool, fresh linen upon him brightened him still more, for in his
personal habits he was clean as a cat. It crossed his mind once or twice
to send down and get newspapers, but he knew that the least strain upon
his eyes would send him to sleep quicker than anything else. The second
hour passed; the third, then the fourth one dragged wearily by. At the
beginning of the fifth he began to stumble as he walked from room to
room to keep awake, but never for more than five minutes at a time did
he let that sleeping man out of his sight.

It seemed an eternity until the telephone bell rang in the parlor with
startling insistence. With a glance of triumph toward the bed, he
hurried in to obey the welcome call.

"Yes, this is Wallingford," he answered huskily. "How about it?...
Good. How much?... What? All right, come straight up."

He stood scratching his head and trying to think for a few minutes,
endeavoring to recall a certain number that he had in mind. Then he
turned to the telephone book and fumbled through its leaves, backward
and forward. His thumbs and fingers were like clubs. They had no feeling
whatever. It took him whole minutes to separate two leaves from each
other, swaying upon his feet and muttering to himself, but finally he
found the name he wanted and put in the call. Slowly and with
tremendous effort he delivered his message, then slapped the receiver
on the hook and staggered back to his chair. His fight against sleep for
the next ten relaxed minutes was like a drowning man's fight for life,
but he conquered, and when, a few moments later, there came a knock at
his door, he was able to open it briskly.

"Hee-avings hee-elp us!" exclaimed Blackie Daw when he came in. "What a
bat you've been on! Have you looked at yourself, J. Rufus?" and kicking
the door shut he walked his friend up in front of the mantel mirror.

Wallingford focused his attention upon his own puffed face, on the
swelled and reddened eyelids, on the bloodshot eyes, and laughed
hoarsely.

"It's worth it," he declared. "I win over one hundred and fifty thousand
clean, cold simoleans. But how did you come to have to pay eight
thousand for the patents?"

"Klug," replied Blackie. "I thought for a minute he'd top my pile. He'd
raised a little money some place, but he spent four thousand of it
bidding in some machinery. It never flashed on him that the patents
would have to be sold, too, and he nearly took a fit when he found it
out. Game, though. He bid 'em up to his last cent. We had been going in
five-hundred-dollar raises until it got up to six thousand. That was Mr.
Klug's last bid, for I piled two thousand square on top of it and tried
to look like I could go two thousand at a jump for the next two hours,
and then Klug laid down."

"Eight thousand and four thousand. That's twelve thousand, and the
bank's note is ten," figured Wallingford with painful slowness. "The
costs will run about two hundred, and that lets the company have
eighteen hundred dollars to divide among the partners. Why, say,
Blackie, I get one twelfth of that! There's about a hundred and fifty
dollars coming to me. Suppose we go over and get it."

He laughed, but even as he did so he swayed and caught at a chair, and
his eyelids dropped.

"I've got to keep up now until we get into a Pullman," he mumbled with
halting effort. "Sleep? I'll sleep all the way to New Jersey. Did you
arrange to pay for the patents?"

"Did I?" triumphed Mr. Daw. "Trust your uncle for that. Say, J. Rufus,
what'll you give me to transfer them over to you?"

Wallingford turned to his friend a countenance that was almost ferocious
in its sudden alertness.

"I'll give you twenty minutes to do it in," he said with a growl.
"There's a lawyer on the way here now, and I can have a policeman here
in two minutes. You know you jumped bail in this town, don't you?"

Mr. Daw was shocked.

"There's no need for you to be so ugly about it, J. Rufus," he
protested. "I wouldn't take a cent away from you."

"Wouldn't you!" sneered J. Rufus. "Do you know why? I'd never give you a
chance. Let me show you the last man that tried to do me up," and he led
the way into the apartment where Mr. Maylie still lay in profound
slumber.

Mr. Daw grinned.

"He makes you look perfectly sober," he confessed; "but what are those
papers on the table?"

Mr. Wallingford laughed quite naturally this time.

"Poor boob!" he said. "He just lost forty thousand, and those telegrams
are his fee."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE TOWN OF BATTLESBURG FINDS A PRIVATE RAILROAD CAR IN ITS MIDST!


Sleep, blessed sleep! Desperately Wallingford fought it off until the
lawyer had arrived and the necessary documents had been signed, and
then, more dead than alive, he allowed himself to be bundled into a cab.

"Now, J. Rufus," said Blackie Daw as he jumped in beside him, "we have
your affairs all wound up and a red ribbon tied around them, so let's
'tend to Happy Horace. I'm a bridegroom! Congratulate muh."

"Huh?" grunted J. Rufus, and immediately there followed another
succession of unintelligible sounds. Wallingford was snoring.

It was precisely twenty-four hours before Mr. Daw could convey this
important information to his friend and make him understand it, and it
was not until they had arrived in Jersey City that J. Rufus, still dull
from his nerve-racking experience, was normal enough to ask:

"Who's the lucky lady?"

"The Star of Morning and the Queen of Night," responded Blackie with
vast enthusiasm. "The one best bet of blazing Broadway. The sweetest
peach in the orchard of joy. The fairest blossom in Cupid's garden.
The--"

"It's a fine description," interrupted Wallingford. "I'd be able to pick
her out any place from it; but what was her name before she shortened
it?"

"You want to know too quick," complained Blackie. "You ought to have
waited till I explained something more about her; but you always were an
impatient cuss, and I'll tell you. Her name was and is, upon the
bill-boards and in the barber-shop windows, Violet Bonnie, whose
exquisite voice and perfect figure--"

"Is _she_ divorced again?" once more interrupted Wallingford.

"Last week," answered Blackie with no abatement of his enthusiasm, "and
Happy Horace happened to be on the spot. I was introduced to her over at
Shirley's the night she was celebrating the granting of her decree, and
I had so much money with me it made my clothes look lumpy. She took an
awful shine to that bank roll; not so much the diameter of it but the
way I rolled it. It never rested, and by two in the morning she had
transferred her affections from the swiftly flowing mezuma to me. At
four o'clock G. M. we waded out from among the ocean of empties and,
attended by a party so happy they didn't care whether it was day before
yesterday or day after to-morrow, we took passage in seaworthy
taximeters and floated to the Little Church Around the Corner, where the
bright and shining arc light of musical comedy became Mrs. Violet Bonnie
Daw. It was a case of love at first sight."

"For how long have you secured a lease?" inquired Wallingford.

"I don't know," replied Blackie reflectively. "She was married the first
time for three years, the second for two and the third for one.
According to those figures Number Four would have a right to look
forward to about six months of married bliss."

"I never was drunk for six months at a time in my life," reflected
Wallingford, "but I can see how it could happen. When it's all over,
come around to me and I'll lead you to a sanitarium. In the meantime,
when am I to have a chance to congratulate the lady?"

"Right away. She is now awaiting yours truly with quite yearning yearns.
You know, J. Rufus, your urgent telegram interrupted the howlingest
honeymoon that ever turned the main stem into the Great Purple Way.
Here's the address. Come over as soon as you have held up the United
people, and interrupt us. If you don't find us at home, just go charter
a car and roll up and down the avenue until you see the speediest
automobile cab outdoors. Chase that, because it's us."

When he called at two o'clock on the following afternoon, however, after
having seen Mr. Priestly to their mutual satisfaction, he found them at
home just preparing for breakfast, and blinking at the gray world
through the mists of a champagne headache. He found Violet Bonnie Daw,
seen thus intimately, to be an extremely blond person with a slight
tendency toward _embonpoint_, but her eyes were very blue, and her
complexion, even without a make-up, very clear, able even to dominate
her charming morning gown of a golden shade that exactly matched her
hair. True, if one looked closely there were already traces of coming
crow's-feet about the eyes, but one must not look closely; and her very
real cordiality made amends for any such slight drawbacks.

"So you're my husband's old pal!" she exclaimed as she shook hands with
him warmly. Then she surveyed him from head to foot with an expert
appraisement. "You look like a good sport all right," she concluded.
"Blackie tells me you just cleaned up a tidy wad of pin money out West,
and that you could give Pittsburgh's Best cards and spades on how to
spend it. And Blackie's no slouch himself," she rattled on. "My, you
ought to have been with us last night."

Blackie grinned dolefully.

"We left a string of long-necked bottles from the Café Boulevard to
Churchill's," he stated somberly, but still with quite justifiable
pride, "and when we rolled home this morning even the bankers were
coming to work."

"It was something fierce," smiled his wife reminiscently, "but I guess
we had a good time. Anyhow, it was so hilarious that we can't tell this
morning what to take for a pick-me-up."

"That's where I won my first gold medals," boasted Wallingford,
chuckling. "What sort of a bar outfit have you?"

"Everything from plain poison to prussic acid," Blackie informed him.
"The preceding husband of Mrs. Daw was a swell provider."

"You bet he was," agreed Mrs. Daw as she led the way to the dining room
and threw open the cupboard of the sideboard. "Harry was a good sport
all right, but his stomach gave out."

The sideboard, given over in most apartments to cut glass and other
ordinary dining-room adornments, was in this case stocked with fancy
bottles of all shapes and colors and sizes, and in the lower part of it
was ice.

"Pardon the bartender, mum," observed J. Rufus, his eyes lighting up
with the dawning of creative skill as he removed his coat.

Mrs. Daw watched him musingly through the open door of the dining room
as he worked deftly among those bottles and utensils.

"He's a good sport all right," she confided to her present husband, and
she was still more of that opinion when Wallingford served three tall,
thin glasses with sugared edges, crowned with cracked ice and filled
with a golden greenish liquid from which projected two straws. One sip
and a sigh of satisfaction from both Mr. and Mrs. Daw, and then they
drained the glasses.

"Our hero!" declaimed Mrs. Daw, looking up at him in gratitude. "You
have saved our lives. Which will you have, Mr. Wallingford, breakfast or
lunch?"

By evening she was calling him Jimmie, and any trifle of disapproving
impression that Wallingford had at first harbored was gone. As Blackie
claimed, she was born to adorn the night and became more beautiful as
dusk fell. Perhaps clothes and consummate art in toilet had something to
do with this, but before the three had parted in the morning,
Wallingford had decided to introduce his wife after all, a matter about
which he had been in considerable doubt. Now, however, he was convinced
that the lady was thoroughly respectable. No breath of scandal had ever
attached itself to her name. She was always off with the old love before
she was on with the new, and could hold up her head in any society!

Mrs. Wallingford came to town the next day, and at no time did she share
the enthusiasm of these two men for the incomparable Mrs. Daw. There was
a striking contrast between the women, and even their beauty was not
only of a strikingly different kind but of a strikingly different
nature. Mrs. Daw was a flaming poinsettia, Mrs. Wallingford a rose, and
the twain were as antagonistic as were their hues of cheek. Mrs. Daw,
however, was more at ease, for she was in her natural environment, the
niche to which her nature had fashioned her and of which she had made
deliberate choice; but Mrs. Wallingford, in spite of her surroundings,
had much in her--though she did not recognize it--of the quantities that
would go to make up a Lady Godiva. Her proper sphere, one of calm, pure
domesticity, she had never known, though she had vaguely yearned for it;
but she was adaptable, and, particularly throughout her married life,
she had been thrown with all sorts and conditions of chance nomads such
as her husband was likely to pick up; so she accepted Mrs. Daw as a
matter of course and got on with her without friction. Nevertheless, her
face fell a trifle when her husband joyously announced one afternoon
that he had just thought up a great stunt--a honeymoon party for the
Daws. He had acted the moment the suggestion had come to him. He had
already chartered a private car and had given orders to have it stocked
with the very best of everything. He had telephoned the Daws. Mrs. Daw
had only the day before signed a contract with a leading dramatic
producer, but what was a contract?

The next day, in all the luxury that car builders and fitters had yet
been able to devise, they started upon a hilarious tour across the
continent; but so far as their mode of life and amusement was concerned
they might just as well have stayed on Broadway, for their nights were
spent in drinking, their mornings in sleep and their afternoons in
sobering up, though in all this Mrs. Wallingford held herself as much
reserved and aloof as she could without spoiling the content of the
others. They were merely moving a section of the rapid hotel life of New
York across the country with them, and the only things which made their
hours seem different were the constantly changing scenic environment and
the sensation of speed. So long as they were moving swiftly they were
satisfied, but a slow rate brought forth howls of discontent. It was on
a small connecting line in the middle west that this annoyance reached
its climax, and after an hour of exceptionally slow travel Wallingford
sent for the conductor and put in a vigorous protest. Yes, there was a
faster train on that road. Then why hadn't they been attached to that
fast train? The conductor did not know. It was orders.

"You go get different orders!" demanded Wallingford, and for another
hour he made life a burden to that official.

Goaded to desperation, wiring at every stop, the conductor finally, with
a sigh of relief, saw the polished private car "Theodore" shunted off
on the siding at Battlesburg and left behind.

To the quartette of riotous travelers Battlesburg was only an
uninteresting detail of their trip, which had intruded itself unbidden
upon their sight; but to Battlesburg the arrival of a private car with
real people in it was an epoch. Why, it might be the President!
Long-legged Billy Ricks, standing idly upon the platform because the
dragging hours passed by there as well as anywhere else, did not even
wait to take a good look at it, but loped up the one long street, so
fired with enthusiasm that he scarcely wobbled as his bony knees
switched past each other in their faded blue overalls. He did not bother
with people near the depot--they would find out soon enough; but at the
little frame office of "Judge" Lampton, Justice of the Peace, Notary
Public and Real Estate Dealer, he bobbed his head in for a moment.

"Private car on the sidin'!" he bawled. "Name's 'Theodore'!" and he was
gone.

Judge Lampton, smoking a long, ragged stogie, jerked his feet down from
among the dust-covered litter of ages upon his combination
bookcase-desk. Doc Gunther, veterinary surgeon and proprietor of the
livery stable across the way, lifted his head forward from against the
dark-brown spot it had made during the past years upon the map of
Battlesburg, where it hung upon the wall, and vigorously took a fresh
chew of tobacco. Then the two friends, without exchanging one word,
stalked solemnly out of the office and toward the depot. In the meantime
Billy Ricks had paused to hurl his startling information in at the door
of Joe Warren's cigar store, of Ben Kirby's cash grocery, of Tom Handy's
Red Front saloon, of the Dogget Brothers' furniture and undertaking
establishment, of the Barret & Lucas dry goods and notion store, and of
every other place of business on that side of the street, including the
Palace Hotel, until he came to Gus Newton's drug store and
confectionery, where the real dyed-in-the-wool sports of the town shot
dice and played penny-ante in a little back room. Here he met a round
half dozen of these high-spirited youths piling out upon the street with
their eyes depot-ward.

"Private car on the sidin'!" Billy shouted to them. "Name's 'Theodore'!"

"Uh-huh," agreed Gus Newton, "I ordered it. It's late," and, shouting
back further ready mendacity, his crowd hurried on.

Just in front of the Battles County Bank, Billy met Clint Richards,
owner and city editor of the Battlesburg _Blade_. Clint was also
reporter, exchange and society editor and advertising solicitor of the
_Blade_, and, as became a literary man, he wore his hair rather long. He
was in a hurry, and had his broad-brimmed black felt hat pulled down
determinedly upon his head.

"Private car--" began Billy Ricks.

"Yes," interrupted Clint, "I know about it. Thank you," and his coat
tails fluttered behind him.

Billy stopped in dejection. The street which, when he started, had been
so lazy and deserted, was now alive. People were pouring from all the
places of business beyond him and hurrying toward him. Back of him they
were all hurrying away from him. He had been outstripped by the
telephone, and ungrateful Battlesburg would fail to connect him with the
sensation in any way. Well, he might as well go down to the depot
himself, and he turned in that direction; but now his feet shuffled.

At the siding, the denizens of Battlesburg--men, women, children and
dogs--were packed four deep around the glistening, rolling palace
"Theodore." Agitated groups of two and three and four, scattered from
the depot platform to the siding, were discussing the occurrence
excitedly, and Dave Walker, the station agent, turned suddenly crisp and
brusque with importance, was refusing explanations and then relenting in
neighborly confidence with each group in turn. Clint Richards, pale but
calm and confident, bustled through the quivering throng, and they all
but set up a cheer as they recognized the official and only authorized
asker of important questions. The vestibule being open, he pulled
himself up the steps and tried the door. It was locked.

"Push the button, Clint," advised Gus Newton, who knew a thing or two,
you bet! and Clint, with a smile and a nod in his direction, for Gus was
an advertiser, rang the bell.

A brisk and clean-looking young negro in a white apron and jacket came
to the door and Clint handed in his card. The porter disappeared. A
moment later the news gatherer was admitted. A sigh of relief went up
from the waiting crowd, and they swayed in unison from side to side as
they stood on tiptoe and craned their necks to see farther in through
those broad windows.

Through the wicker-furnitured observation library the porter led the
way into a rich compartment the full width of the car, where at luncheon
sat the honeymoon quartette, rich in gay apparel and brave in sparkling
adornment. They had evidently just sat down, for an untouched cocktail
stood at each place. The extremely large and impressive Mr. Wallingford,
the breadth of whose white waistcoat alone proclaimed him as a man of
affairs, arose to greet the representative of the Battlesburg _Blade_
with great cordiality.

"The members of the progressive press are always welcome," he announced,
clasping Mr. Richards' hand in a vast, plump palm, and exuding
democratic good will from every square inch of his surface. "We're just
going to have a bit of luncheon. Join us."

"I wouldn't think of intruding," hesitated Mr. Richards, his eyes
leaping with an appreciation of the rare opportunity and his brain
already busy framing phrases like "priceless viands," "toothsome
delicacies," "epicurean luxuries."

"Nonsense!" insisted Wallingford heartily, and introduced his visitor
with much pompous ceremony to Mr. Horace G. Daw, mine dealer and
investment specialist; to Mrs. Violet Daw, formerly Violet Bonnie, the
famous comic-opera queen, but now the happy bride of a month; to Mrs.
Fanny Wallingford; to himself as a recently retired manufacturer and
capitalist; then he placed Mr. Richards in a chair with a cocktail in
front of him.

Mr. Richards was naturally overwhelmed at this close contact with two of
America's leading millionaires, and he agreed with his host that the P.
D. S. Railroad was positively the worst-conducted streak of corrugated
rust in the entire United States. He was even more indignant than the
travelers that, after having been promised a through train, they had
been hitched to the local egg accommodation, and was even more satisfied
than they that Mr. Wallingford had given the chills and ague to the
entire transportation system of the P. D. S. until their car had finally
been dropped off here to wait for the 3.45, which was a through train
and the one which should have carried them in the first place. Why,
Wallingford ought to buy the P. D. S., plow up the right of way and sow
it in pumpkins!

"Sir," declared Mr. Richards, "the P. D. S. is a disgrace to the science
of railroading! Why, its through trains stop only on signal at this
thriving manufacturing center of four thousand souls. From your car
windows here you may see the smoke belching forth from the chimneys of
the Battlesburg Wagon Works, of the G. W. Battles Plow Factory, of the
Battles & Handy Sash, Door and Blind Company, of the Battles & Son
Canning Company, of the Battles & Battles Pure Food Creamery and Cheese
Concern; and yet the only two through trains of the 'Pretty Darn Slow
Railroad,' as we call it here, clink right on through! The Honorable G.
W. Battles himself has taken up this matter and can do nothing, and when
he can do nothing--"

The utter hopelessness of a situation for which the Honorable G. W.
Battles himself could do nothing was so far beyond mere words that Mr.
Richards turned from the subject in dejection and inquired about the
financial situation back East. He found out all about it, and more. Mr.
Daw and Mr. Wallingford, their faculty of invention springing instantly
to the opportunity, helped him to fill his notebook to the brim, and
turned him loose at last with one final glowing fabrication about the
priceless sparkling Burgundy which was served during the seven courses
of the little midday morsel. Adorned with a big cigar, from which he did
not remove the gold band, Mr. Richards hastened from the car, and to
the pressing throng outside he observed, from the midst of an air of
easy familiarity with the great ones of earth:

"That's Colonel Wallingford, the famous Eastern millionaire, and he's a
prince! You certainly want to see the _Blade_ to-night," and he hurried
away to put his splendid sensation into type.



CHAPTER XIX

MR. WALLINGFORD WINS THE TOWN OF BATTLESBURG BY THE TOSS OF A COIN


"Colonel" Wallingford looked at his watch.

"Two hours yet!" he exclaimed with a yawn. "Two solid hours in a yap
town that's not on the map. What shall we do with the time? Play cards?"

"What's the use?" demanded "Blackie" Daw. "If I'd win your money you'd
choke me till I gave it back, and if you won mine I'd have you pinched."

"Let's get off then and look at the burg," suggested J. Rufus.

It was Mr. Daw's turn to yawn. He looked out on one side of the
manufacturing portion of Battlesburg, and on the other side at the
mercantile and residence portion.

"I think I can see all I want to remember of it from here," he objected;
"but anything's better than nothing. Shall we go, Vi?"

"That's us," replied the vivacious bride, who was already beginning to
respond to all Mr. Wallingford's suggestions with more alacrity than
either Mrs. Wallingford or Mr. Daw quite approved. "Let's go wake 'em
up, Jimmy. Ring for a carriage."

The invaluable porter was already exchanging his white coat and apron
for his dark-blue coat and derby, and, in another moment, that dusky
autocrat, his face calm with the calmness of them who dwell near to much
money, had asked the crowd outside the way to a livery stable.

Billy Ricks projected himself instantly through the assemblage. "I'll
show you," he said eagerly.

The autocrat surveyed Billy Ricks briefly and gauged him accurately.

"Suppose you go get the best two-horse carriage, to seat four, that you
can find in town," and in Billy's palm he pressed a half dollar.

The excitement grew intense! The millionaires were positively to appear!
Doc Gunther's best "rig," his rubber-tired one, came rolling down Main
Street, turned, and drew up near the car. The porter, now wearing his
official cap, jumped down with his stepping box. Ah-h-h! Here they came!
First emerged huge, sleek Mr. Wallingford, looking more like a million
cleverly won dollars than the money itself. Mr. Daw stepped down upon
the gravel, tall and slender, clad in glove-fitting "Prince Albert," his
black mustache curled tightly, his black eyes glittering. Descended the
beautiful, brown-haired Mrs. Wallingford, brave in dark-green
broadcloth. Descended the golden-haired Mrs. Daw, stunning in violet
from hat to silken hose. Perfectly satisfactory, all of them; perfectly
adapted to fill the ideal of what a quartette of genuine nabobs should
look like! Under the skillful guidance of Mr. Wallingford they pranced
up Main Street, of fully as much interest and importance as any circus
parade that had ever wended its way along that thoroughfare.

The town of Battlesburg, converting a level, dusty country road into
"Main Street" for a space, lay across the railroad like a huge tennis
racquet, its hand grip being the manufacturing district, its handle the
business quarter, its net the residence section; and here were the first
cross streets, little, short byways, the longest of them ten or twelve
blocks in extent, and all ending against the fences of level fields. As
they rode through the town, however, its pavements stirred to unusual
liveliness by the great event, the impression that here was a place of
merely sleeping money grew and grew upon J. Rufus Wallingford and
appealed to his professional instincts.

"Some town, this," he concluded, turning to Mr. Daw. "They have rusty
wealth here, and, if somebody will only give it a start, it will
circulate till it gets all bright and shiny again. Then you can see by
the flash where it is and nab it."

"Heads or tails to see who gets it," suggested Mr. Daw, and drew a
dollar from his pocket.

"Heads!" called Mr. Wallingford, pulling on the reins, and just in front
of the Baptist Church the fate of Battlesburg was decided.

Mr. Daw flipped the coin in the air over Mrs. Wallingford's lap. Upon
the green broadcloth the bright silver piece came down with a spat, and
the Goddess of Liberty faced upward to the sky.

"I win the place!" exulted J. Rufus as they rolled on out past the
cemetery and toward Battles' Grove. "I don't know just yet how I'll milk
it, but the milk is here."

"You wouldn't honestly come back to this graveyard, would you?" inquired
Mrs. Daw. "Why, you'd die."

"If I did, I'd die with money in both hands," responded Wallingford. "I
can smell money, and I don't think there's a pantry shelf in this town
without some spare coin tucked away in the little old cracked blue
teapot. All you have to do is to play the right music, and all that coin
will dance right out. I shouldn't be surprised that I'd come back here
and toot a tune."

"There's no danger just yet a while," laughed Mrs. Wallingford. "You
have too much wealth. In spite of this trip I never saw you get rid of
money so slowly."

"He's a good enough spender for me," stated Mrs. Daw, with a sidelong
glance at him from her round blue eyes. "He's a good sport, all right."

"I rather like this town, Jim," interposed Mrs. Wallingford quickly,
catching that glance. "Let's do come back here and start up a business
of some sort."

"I'm glad I lost," declared Mr. Daw vehemently. "It's too far away from
a push button."

He also had seen that glance. It was nothing to which he could object,
of course, but he did not like it. A damper had somehow been put upon
the spirits of the party, and, after they had driven far out of sight of
the town, Mrs. Wallingford suggested that they had better turn back.

"I don't know," said her husband, looking at his watch. "We have nearly
an hour and a half yet, and we can easily make it from here in half an
hour."

"But what a long, long ways we are from a drink, if we wanted one,"
objected Mrs. Daw. "Just think of all that fizzy red wine in the ice
box."

"You're a smart woman," declared J. Rufus with laughing enthusiasm, "and
you win! Back we go."

They had scarcely proceeded a mile upon the return trip, however, when a
shrill whistle screamed behind them. They turned, and there across the
fields they saw a passenger train whizzing along at tremendous speed.
The same thought came to them instantly.

"I thought there wasn't another train in that direction until 3.45,"
exclaimed Mr. Daw, "and now it is only 2.40!"

The team was abruptly stopped, and both men gazed accusingly at their
watches. Suddenly Wallingford swore and whipped up the horses.

"We've Western time!" he called over his shoulder.

The explanation, though depressing, was correct. They had thought that
they were over the line in the morning, and had set their watches ahead.
When they discovered their error they had let it stand and had forgotten
about it. They made the trip back to Battlesburg at record speed, and
just beyond the cemetery they met Billy Ricks, in the middle of the
road. He had been running.

"Number Two's jus' been through, an' it took away your private car!"
gasped Billy.

Mr. Wallingford, gazing straight ahead, made no intelligible answer, but
he was muttering under his breath.

"Your colored gentleman tried to stop 'em," Billy went on with
enthusiasm, delighted to be the bearer of good or ill tidings so long as
it was startling, "but the conductor cussed an' said he had orders to
stop here and take on private car 'Theodore,' an' he was goin' to do it.
Number Two didn't even stop at the depot. It jus' backed on to the
sidin' an' took your private car an' whizzed out, an' the conductor
stood on the back platform damnin' Dave Walker till he was plumb out o'
hearin'!"

Mrs. Wallingford smiled. Mr. Daw chuckled. Mrs. Daw laughed
hilariously.

"Ain't that the limit?" she demanded. "Let's _all_ be happy!"

"I jus' thought I'd come on out and tell you, 'cause you might want to
know," went on Billy expectantly.

For the first time Mr. Wallingford looked at him, and the next minute
his hand went in his pocket. Billy Ricks drew a long breath. Two half
dollars for officious errands in one day was a life record, and he
trotted behind that carriage all the way to the depot, where Mr.
Wallingford, with the aid of Dave Walker, immediately began to "burn up
the wires." It seemed that the management of the P. D. S. positively
refused to haul the "Theodore" back to Battlesburg. It was not their
fault that the passengers had not been aboard at the time they were
warned Number Two would stop for them. They would hold the car at the
end of that division, and instruct their agent at Battlesburg to issue
transportation to the four on the next west bound train; and that was
all they would do!

The only west bound train that night was a local freight; the only west
bound train in the morning was the accommodation which had brought them
to Battlesburg; then came Number Two, the next afternoon. They drove
straight to the Palace Hotel and met the only man in Battlesburg who was
not impressed by the high honor that a lucky accident had bestowed upon
the city and upon his hostelry. Suspicion, engendered by thirty years of
contact with a traveling public which had invariably either insulted his
accommodations or tried to cheat him--and sometimes both--had soured the
disposition of the proprietor of the Palace and cramped his soul until
his very beard had crinkled. Suspicion gleamed from his puckered eyes,
it was chiseled in the wrinkles about his nose, it rasped in his voice;
and the first and only thing he noted about Mr. J. Rufus Wallingford and
his splendid company was that they had no luggage! Whereupon, even
before the multi-millionaire had finished inscribing the quartette of
names upon his register, he had demanded cash in advance.

Judge Lampton, who had edged up close to the register, was shocked by
this crass demand, and expected to see the retired capitalist give Pete
Parsons the dressing down of his life. Instead, however, Mr. J. Rufus
Wallingford calmly abstracted, from a pocketbook bulging with such
trifles, a hundred-dollar bill which he tossed upon the desk, and went
on writing. As impassive as Fate, Pete Parsons turned to his safe,
slowly worked the combination, and still more slowly started to make
change. In this operation he suddenly paused.

"Billy," said he to the ever-present Ricks, "run over to the bank with
this hundred-dollar bill and see if Battles'll change it."

For just one instant the small eyes of Wallingford narrowed
threateningly, and then he smiled again.

"Show us to our rooms," he ordered. "Send up the change when it comes."

He laid down the pen, but his hand had scarcely left the surface of the
book when it was clutched by that of Judge Lampton.

"In the name of the judiciary and of the enterprising citizens of this
place, I welcome you to Battlesburg," he announced.

Mr. Wallingford, "always on the job"--to use the expressive parlance of
his friend Mr. Daw--drew himself up and radiated.

"Thank you," he returned. "I have already inspected your beautiful
little city with much pleasure, and all that you need to make this a
live town is a good hotel."

The Judge shot at Pete Parsons a triumphant grin. Ever since Mr. Lampton
had been denied credit beyond the amount of two dollars at the Palace
Hotel bar, himself and Mr. Parsons had been "on the outs."

"Let me show you the very piece of property to build it on," he eagerly
returned.

Only for a moment Wallingford considered.

"I'll look at it to-morrow morning," he said.

"I shall have the facts and figures ready for you, sir," and Judge
Lampton swaggered out of the Palace Hotel on a bee-line for a little
publicity.

It was scarcely half an hour later when Clint Richards called at
Wallingford's room with four copies of the Battlesburg _Blade_.

"I brought these up myself, Mr. Wallingford," he explained, "to show you
that Battlesburg is not without its enterprise. Twice this afternoon the
_Blade_ was made over after it was on the press; once when the P. D. S.
stole your private car--stole, sir, is the word--and again upon Judge
Lampton's report of his important conversation with you. If you should
decide to invest some of your surplus capital in Battlesburg, I am sure
that you will find her progressive citizens working hand in hand with
you to make that investment profitable."

The Battlesburg _Blade_ consisted of four pages, and the first one of
these was devoted entirely to that eminent financier, Mr. J. Rufus
Wallingford.

     EASTERN MILLIONS HERE

was the heading which, in huge, black type, ran entirely across the top
of the page just beneath the date line. Beneath this was a smaller black
streamer, informing the public that these millions were represented in
the persons of those eminent captains of industry, Mr. J. Rufus
Wallingford and Mr. Horace G. Daw. Beneath this, in the center four
columns of the six-column page, was another large type headline:

     ROBBED OF THEIR PRIVATE CAR "THEODORE" BY THE BUNGLING P. D. S.

In the center two columns was this boxed-in, large type announcement:

     LATER!

     It is rumored upon good authority that these wide-awake
     millionaires may invest a portion of their surplus capital in
     wide-awake Battlesburg. _Huge hotel projected!_

The article which filled the balance of the page was an eloquent tribute
to the yellow genius of Mr. Richards. With flaming adjectives and a
generous use of exclamation points it told of the marvelous richness of
the private car "Theodore," owned, of course, by the gentlemen who were
traveling in it; of the truly unparalleled sumptuousness of the feast
that had been served by these charmingly democratic gentlemen to the
humble representative of the _Blade_; of the irresistible beauty and
refinement of their ladies; of the triumphs of Mr. J. Rufus Wallingford
in the milk-stopper business, the carpet tack industry, the insurance
field, the sales recorder trade, successive steps by which he had arisen
to his present proud eminence as one of the powers of Wall Street; of
Mr. Daw's tremendously successful activity in gold mining, in rubber
cultivation, in orange culture and in allied lines, where deft and
brilliant stock manipulations had contributed to the wealth of the
nation and himself; of the clumsy and arrogant blundering of the P. D.
S. Railroad, which, until this lucky accident, had always been a
detriment to the energetic city of Battlesburg.

It was easy to see by the reading of this article that the P. D. S. R.
R. did not advertise in the Battlesburg _Blade_, and that it now issued
no passes to the press, and Mr. Richards took occasion to point out, as
he had so often before urged, that, if a traction line could only be
induced to parallel the P. D. S. and enter Battlesburg, it would awaken
that puerile railroad from its lifelong lethargy and infuse a new
current of life and activity into the entire surrounding country,
besides earning for itself a handsome revenue.

It was this last clause which plunged Wallingford into profound
meditation.

"A traction line," he said musingly, by and by. "I'm a shine for
overlooking that bet so long, but when we get through this voyage of
joy, just watch my trolleys buzz. I'm coming back here and jar loose all
the money that's not too much crusted to jingle."

"But, Jim," protested Mrs. Wallingford thoughtfully, "you couldn't build
a traction line with only a little over a hundred thousand dollars!"

"How little you know of business, Fanny," he rejoined, with a wink at
Mr. Daw. "I can tear up a street, level a small hill and buy two tons of
iron rails with one thousand, and have the rest to marry to other money.
Blackie, I'm glad I won this town from you. I'd hate to think of all
the good coin hidden away under the cellar stairways here being paid
over for your fine samples of four-color printing. They don't need
phoney gold mining stock in this burg. What they need is something live
and progressive, like a traction line."

"I know," agreed Mr. Daw with a grin. "You'll organize an air line and
sell them the air."

"Don't, Jim," protested Mrs. Wallingford. "You're clever enough to make
honest money, and I know it. Other people do. A hundred thousand is a
splendid nest-egg."

"To be sure it is," assented Mr. Daw. "Watch Jim set on it! If he don't
hatch out a whole lot of healthy little dollars from it I'll grow
hayseed whiskers and wear rubber boots down Broadway."

There was another knock at the door. This time it was Judge Lampton, and
with him was a nervous, wiry man, in black broadcloth and wearing a vest
of the same snowy whiteness as his natty mustache.

"Mr. Wallingford," said Judge Lampton, tingling with pride, "permit me
to introduce the Honorable G. W. Battles, president of the Battles
County Bank, of the Battlesburg Wagon Works, of the G. W. Battles Plow
Factory, of the Battles & Handy Sash, Door and Blind Company, of the
Battles & Son Canning Company, of the Battles & Battles Pure Food
Creamery and Cheese Concern, and of the Battlesburg Chamber of
Commerce."

As one seasoned financier to another these two masters of commerce
foregathered gravely upon matters of investment and profit. The
Honorable G. W. Battles was a man who believed in his own enthusiasm and
had command of many, many words, a gift which had been enhanced by much
public speechmaking, and now, in a monologue that fairly scintillated
and coruscated, he laid before J. Rufus Wallingford the manifold
advantages of investment in the historic town that had been founded by
his historic grandfather. Before he was entirely through all that he
could, would or might have said, there came another knock at the door.
Judge Lampton, who had retired immediately upon introducing the
Honorable G. W. Battles, had returned, and with him was Max Geldenstein,
proprietor of the Rock Bottom clothing stores, not only in Battlesburg,
but also in Paris, London, Dublin, Berlin and Rome, all six cities being
in or adjacent to Battles County. He was also a director in the Battles
County Bank and in the Battles & Son Canning Company, a city councilman
and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He, too, extended a welcoming
hand to the chance millionaire and invited him most cordially to become
one of them. Came shortly after, in tow of the indefatigable Judge
Lampton, the Honorable Timothy Battles, mayor of Battlesburg and
illustrious son of the Honorable G. W. Battles, bearing with him the
keys of the city. Came, too, Lampton-led, Mr. Henry Quig, coal and ice
magnate, and the largest stockholder, except the Honorable G. W.
Battles, in the Battlesburg Gas and Electric Light Plant; also a member
of the City Council and of the Chamber of Commerce.

It became necessary to subsidize the dining room after eight o'clock,
and until far into the night Mr. Wallingford and Mr. Daw entertained the
leading gentlemen of the city, who, under the efficient marshalship of
Judge Lampton, came to help the Judge sell a building lot and to present
their respects to these gentlemen of boundless capital. What need is
there to tell how J. Rufus Wallingford, he of the broad chest and the
massive dignity, arose to the opportunity of presiding as informal host
over Battlesburg's entire supply of twenty-one bottles of champagne?
Suffice it to say that, when the last callers had gone, he mopped his
perspiring brow and turned to Blackie Daw with a chuckle in which his
entire body participated.

"They will do it, eh, Blackie?" he commented. "Just come and beg to be
skinned! What will you give me for one side of Main Street?"

"It would be a shame to split it," declared Mr. Daw. "Keep it all, J.
Rufus. I'm only a piker. If I make ten thousand on a clean-up I think
I'm John W. Gates, and if I made more I'd start mumbling and making
funny signs. I can't trot in your class."

But J. Rufus was in no humor for banter. He looked at the array of empty
bottles and glasses upon the long dining-room table and nodded his head
in satisfaction.

"It's been a good night's work, Blackie," he concluded, "and, when I
come back here, I'm going to jam a chestnut burr under the tail of this
one-horse town. To-morrow morning I'm going to be an investor in
Battlesburg real estate, and the traction line idea must be kept under
cover for a while. Don't breathe a word of it."

The next morning, in pursuance of this idea, Mr. Wallingford went forth
with Judge Lampton and looked at property. Between the Palace Hotel and
the depot was an entire vacant block, used at present for mere grazing
purposes by Doc Gunther, and Mr. Wallingford agreed that this would be
an admirable site for an up-to-date, six-story, pressed-brick hotel. He
even went so far as to sketch out his idea of the two-story marble
lobby--a fountain in the center--balcony at the height of the first
floor ceiling--arched orchestra bridge! On the other side of the street,
a little above the bank and on a block occupied at present by a
blacksmith shop and a prehistoric junk heap, he gave a glowing word
picture of the new Grand Opera House that should be erected there.
Farther up the street was another cow pasture, over which he thought
deeply; but his thoughts he carefully kept to himself, and both Clint
Richards and Judge Lampton dreamed great, puzzling dreams by reason of
that very silence. Up in the residence district Mr. Wallingford picked
out three splendid lots, one of which he did not hesitate to say would
make an admirable site for an up-to-date apartment house, and one of the
others--he had not decided which--would make an admirable location for a
private residence.

He bought none of this property, but he took ninety-day options on all
seven pieces, paying therefor from ten to fifty dollars upon each one,
and leaving in the town of Battlesburg, aside from his hotel and livery
bill and other expenses, not less than two hundred and fifty dollars of
real money, each dollar of which glowed with a promise of many more to
come. It is needless to say that the Battlesburg _Blade_ that evening
did full honor to these wholesale transactions. It took all of the first
page and part of the last to do that; even the telegraphic account of
the absorbing and scandalous Estelle Lightfoot murder romance, clipped
from the Chicago morning papers, had to be condensed for that day to
half-a-dozen lines.



CHAPTER XX

BATTLESBURG SMELLS MONEY AND PLUNGES INTO A MAD ORGIE OF SPECULATION


Billy Ricks, shambling after dandelion greens, stepped out of the road
to let a great, olive-green touring car go tearing by and bounce over
the railroad track. A second or so later he breathlessly dashed into the
near-by office of the wagon works and grabbed for the telephone.

"That millionaire that went through here in his private car a couple o'
weeks ago has come back to town in his automobile," he told Clint
Richards.

"I know it," was the answer. "He's just stopped in front of the Palace
Hotel," and with a sigh Billy Ricks hung up the telephone receiver,
eying that instrument in huge disfavor.

In the mean time, Main Street, which had relapsed into slumber for two
weeks, was once more wide awake. Hope and J. Rufus Wallingford had come
back to town. There was no avenue of trade that did not feel the
quickening influence within an hour. Even his appearance, as he stepped
from the touring car, clad richly to the last detail of the part,
conveyed a golden promise. Mrs. Wallingford, mostly fluttering veil, was
another promise, and even the sedate G. W. Battles so far forgot his
dignity as to come across from the bank in his bare head and shake hands
with the great magnate. Quick as he was, however, Judge Lampton was
there before him. His half of the option money left behind by Mr.
Wallingford had wrought a tremendous change in the Judge, for now the
beard that he had worn straggling for so long was cut Vandyke and kept
carefully trimmed--and instead of a stogie he was smoking a cigar.

Warmed by their enthusiastic reception, the Wallingfords amiably forgot
the purely private and personal quarrel between Mrs. Wallingford and
Mrs. Daw, which had disrupted the happy quartette and nipped in the bud
an itinerary that had been planned through to San Francisco, and they
plunged into a new life with great zest. For years J. Rufus had been
content to make a few thousand dollars and spend them, but his last haul
of a hundred and fifty thousand that he had received from the perfectly
legitimate sale of another man's patent for which the inventor got
nothing, had stirred in him the desire not merely to live like a
multi-millionaire, but to be one. As the first step in his upward and
onward progress he transferred his hundred odd thousand dollars from an
Eastern depository to the Battles County Bank. Next he took ninety-day
options upon all the unoccupied property in Battlesburg, including
several acres of ground beyond the Battles & Battles Pure Food Creamery
and Cheese Concern. He was not so improvident as to pay cash for these
options, however; instead, he gave ninety-day notes, writing across the
face of each one: "Not negotiable until after maturity." The first of
these notes Judge Lampton took to the Honorable G. W. Battles
inquiringly. The autocrat of Battles County merely smiled.

"I'll lend you face value on it, Tommy, any time you want it," he
observed; and that was the last notch in establishing the local credit
of J. Rufus Wallingford, for Judge Lampton was in his way as persistent
a disseminator as Billy Ricks himself.

But Battlesburg alone was not a large enough field for Wallingford.
Having tied up about half the town, he left "for a little pleasure
jaunt;" but before he went away he bought the Star Boarding House and
gave Judge Lampton _carte blanche_ to fit up that magnificent ten-room
structure as a private residence, according to certain general plans and
requirements laid down by the purchaser. When Mr. and Mrs. Wallingford
came back two weeks later, that palatial dwelling was perfect in all its
arrangements and appointments, even to the stocking of its cellars and
the hiring of Letty Kirby as cook and Bessie Walker as maid, and of
Billy Ricks as gardener and man-of-all-work. The vast sensation that
might have been created by the hiring of three servants, and by the
other lusciously extravagant expenditures faithfully chronicled in the
daily issues of the Battlesburg _Blade_, was, however, swallowed up in a
still greater sensation; for during the absence of the noted financier
Mr. Wallingford had become a vast throbbing mystery to the town of his
adoption. He had been gone only two days, when, in the _Blade_, there
appeared the heading:

                          OUR MILLIONAIRE

     Favors Paris with Crumbs of the Good Fortune Falling from
     Battlesburg's Table

The article that followed was a clipping from the Paris _Times_, and
from this it seemed that Colonel J. Rufus Wallingford, the famous
multi-millionaire, late of Boston and New York but now of their neighbor
and county seat, Battlesburg, had been purchasing property liberally
along the main street of Paris, giving in exchange his promissory notes
for ninety days, which notes, upon the telephonic advice of the
Honorable G. W. Battles, of Battlesburg, were as good as gold. Similar
reports were reprinted later on from the London _News_, the Dublin
_Banner_, the Berlin _Clarion_, the Rome _Vindicator_, and from the
papers of other towns still farther away. It was Clint Richards who
became the Sherlock Holmes of Battlesburg and found the solution to this
mystery, being led thereto by the fact that the only towns where Mr.
Wallingford was purchasing this property were along the direct east and
west highway, which, running through Battlesburg, paralleled the P. D.
S. Railroad from Lewisville to Elliston. These two towns were not only
the terminals of the P. D. S. Railroad, but were also the respective
outposts of the great Midland Valley traction system and the vast Golden
West traction system. The conclusion was obvious that either Colonel
Wallingford intended to finance a traction road connecting those two
great terminal points, or that he had absolute knowledge that such a
line was to be built; _and Colonel Wallingford had chosen Battlesburg
for his headquarters_!

It was exhilarating to see how Battlesburg arose to the vast
possibilities of this conjecture. Men who but a brief two weeks before
had slouched to their work in the morning as to a mere daily grind, now
stepped forward briskly with smiles upon their faces and high courage in
their hearts. Every man who had a dollar lying idle looked upon that
dollar now not as so much rusting metal, but as being a raft which might
float him high upon the shore of golden prosperity. Only Pete Parsons,
of all that town, croaked a note of discord. He never for one moment
forgot that J. Rufus Wallingford, upon the day he first registered at
the Palace Hotel, had no baggage with him!

The return of Mr. Wallingford after the _Blade's_ revelation was the
occasion of a tremendous ovation. Clint Richards had fairly to paw his
way through the crowd that surrounded him on the steps of the bank,
where he had stopped to draw a mere five hundred or so for his pocket
money; but, once inside the closely packed circle, Clint pinned Colonel
Wallingford down to an admission of his plans. Yes, the Lewisville,
Battlesburg and Elliston Traction Line was a thing of the near future.
All that remained was to secure rights of way. Battlesburg would, in all
probability, be headquarters, and the L., B. & E. might even build its
car shops here if the citizens of Battlesburg were willing to do their
share. Mr. Richards reached out impulsively to grasp the hand of Colonel
Wallingford, but it was already in possession of Judge Lampton, who,
thrilled with emotion, guaranteed Colonel Wallingford that the city of
Battlesburg would not only be glad, but would be proud, to perform her
part in this great work. He might have said more, but that the Honorable
G. W. Battles, who had emerged upon the steps of the bank just above and
behind Colonel Wallingford, publicly thanked that gentleman, on behalf
of his fellow citizens, for this vast boon. Appreciating the opportunity
thus thrown upon his very doorstep, Mr. Battles, by merely beginning to
speak, quickly packed the street to the opposite curb with his admiring
fellow townsmen, and gave them a half hour of such eloquence as only a
Battles could summon upon the spur of the moment; and Colonel
Wallingford, looming beside him as big and as impressive as the Panama
bond issue, looked his part, every inch!

No open-air political meeting, no Fourth of July speechmaking, no
dedication or grand opening had ever given rise to such tumultuous
fervor as this. There were cheers and tigers galore for Colonel
Wallingford, for the Honorable G. W. Battles, for Judge Lampton, for the
Battlesburg _Blade_, for the L., B. & E. Traction line, for the city of
Battlesburg, for everything and everybody, until the ecstatic throng was
too hoarse to cheer any more; and then, at Colonel Wallingford's cordial
solicitation, the entire town moved down to the mansion which, by the
magic of his money, this great benefactor had built within and without
the shell of the one-time Star Boarding House. They filled his yard,
they trampled his grass, they invaded the newly carpeted house, and the
male portion of them passed in earnest review before his sideboard.
Cakes and sandwiches were on the way in hot haste from Andy Wolf's
bake-shop, boxes of cigars stood open upon the porch, ice cream appeared
for the ladies. Suddenly there arose sweet strains of music upon the
air, and down the street at a quick march, accompanied by happy Billy
Ricks, came the Battlesburg brass band. Never before was Battlesburg so
spontaneously aroused. Amid that happy throng, Colonel Wallingford,
laughing from the sheer joy of feeding people into allegiance, moved
like a prince in the midst of his devoted subjects; and while he
smilingly accepted their homage, came copies of the Battlesburg _Blade_,
wet from the press, an extra special edition. Great piles of these were
kept replenished upon the porch throughout the evening, so that every
inhabitant of the city of promise should know all the golden future that
lay before him--and learn to subscribe. Battlesburg was at last to
become the New Metropolis of the West; her citizens were to be in the
very vortex of a vast whirlpool of wealth, and not one of them but
should wax rich. From the East and from the West, from villages and
farms, trade would rush in an endless stream aboard the trolley cars of
the L., B. & E. traction line; Main Street of Battlesburg should become
a Mecca where countless pilgrims would leave their stream of bright and
shining dollars; as business increased, property values would rise; with
the first singing of the trolleys a hundred-dollar lot would be worth a
thousand. And all this through the advent of that master magician of the
modern commercial world, Colonel J. Rufus Wallingford!

Marked copies of that issue of the _Blade_ were sent to Paris, to
London, to Dublin, to Berlin, to Rome and to all the other towns between
Lewisville and Elliston, and all the papers on the route of the proposed
new traction line caught up the information eagerly. Within three days a
boom had leaped along every foot of what had been before but a lazy,
dusty hundred miles of country road. It was a magnificent effect. Even
Mrs. Wallingford read the accounts of this stupendous movement, which
her husband had inaugurated, with wonder and amazement, and laid down
the first _eight-page issue_ of the _Blade_ with sparkling eyes.

"Jim," she exclaimed, "I'm proud of you! It is worth something to have
started thousands of people into new activity, new hope, new life; to
have, by your own unaided efforts, doubled and tripled and quadrupled
within just a few days the value of hundreds of thousands of dollars'
worth of property!"

Mr. Wallingford at that moment was pouring himself out a glass of
champagne, and now he laughed.

"It is a big stunt, Fannie," he agreed; "especially when you come to
think that outside of our traveling expenses it was all done at an
expense of two-fifty cash, the amount I paid Lampton when I bought
those first options."

It was almost unbelievable, but it was true, that all these huge
impulses had been set in motion by mere commercial hypnotism. The
public, however, saw in them only the power of unlimited money. Money!
At last its magic presence hovered over Battlesburg, a vast beneficent
spirit that quivered in the very air and rendered the mere act of
breathing an intoxication. Its glitter enhanced the glory of the very
sunlight, and to its clinking music the staid inhabitants of the town
that had slumbered for half a century quickened their pace as if
inspired by the strains of a martial air. The same quickening that
applied to individuals applied also to the town as a whole. Civic pride
and ambition were aroused. The day after Wallingford returned, the
Chamber of Commerce convened in special session, and a committee,
composed of Henry Quig and Max Geldenstein, escorted Colonel Wallingford
before that august board, where the Honorable G. W. Battles, as
president, asked of the eminent capitalist a pregnant question.
Battlesburg wanted the shops of the L., B. & E. traction line. What did
the L., B. & E. want?

His requirements were modest, Colonel Wallingford assured them. He
demanded no cash bonus whatever. If they would merely provide him the
ground to build the shops, and a lot conveniently placed in the center
of the city for a freight, baggage and passenger station, and would use
their influence with the city council to secure him a franchise, he
would be content. He had secured options upon the very pieces of
property that would be ideal for the purposes of the L., B. & E., but
upon these he would ask no profit whatever, notwithstanding their
enhanced value and his right to share in the wealth he had created. If
the Chamber of Commerce would merely take up his options, repaying him
the amounts he had paid to secure them, he would ask no more, and,
further than that, he would take the option money, would add to it a
like sum--or more--and with the total amount would purchase a fountain
for Courthouse Square as an earnest of his sincere regard for
Battlesburg and its enterprising and gentlemanly citizens.

The enthusiasm that greeted this announcement was distinctly audible for
two blocks each way on Main Street, and in the midst of it the Honorable
G. W. Battles arose to once more make the speech of his life. He could
assure Colonel Wallingford that there would be no trouble in
influencing the City Council to grant him a franchise, for the Chamber
of Commerce had means of coercing the City Council; which was a splendid
joke, for every member of the City Council was also a member of the
Chamber of Commerce, and they were all present. Such a quantity of
mutual good will and esteem was never before uncorked in so limited a
space as the social room of Odd Fellows' Hall, and Clint Richards was
quite lost to find new adjectives for the front page of the next day's
issue of the _Blade_. The glorious news, together with some striking
illustrations of the healthy advance of Battlesburg real estate, was
copied in the papers of Paris, London, Dublin, Berlin and Rome. In those
towns, too, the same civic activity was exhibited, the same golden hopes
were aroused, the same era of prosperity set in; and the papers of those
villages vied with each other in chronicling the evidences of increased
wealth that had come upon them. Franchises, therefore, were to be had by
the munificent Colonel Wallingford without the asking. Before he could
even appeal to them, village councils had given him the exclusive use of
their only desirable streets for fifty years without money and without
price. Ground for stations was donated everywhere, and when Wallingford
started out to secure a right of way from the regenerated farmers, who
in these days kept themselves posted by telephone and rural free
delivery, his triumphant progress would have sickened with envy the
promoters of legitimate traction lines.

Discarding the big touring car, he secured a horse and buckboard, and
donning yellow leather boots with straps and buckles at the calf,
appeared upon the road the very apotheosis of a constructive engineering
contractor; and when he stepped to the ground, big and hearty, and head
and shoulders above nearly every man he went to see, when he gave them
that cordial handclasp and laughed down upon them in that jovial way,
every battle was half won. The thorough democracy of the man--that was
what caught them! Moreover, the value of every foot of ground along the
traction line was to be enhanced; at every farmhouse was to be an
official stopping point with a platform; cars were to be run at least
every hour; it would be possible to go to town in either direction,
perform an errand and get back quickly, at infinitesimal cost and
without sparing a horse from the field; sidings were to be made
everywhere, and wheat cars, whenever required, would be loaded directly
from the fields, the cost of transportation being guaranteed to remain
less than one half that charged by the railroad; express cars were to be
inaugurated, and upon these, milk, butter, eggs, produce of all kinds,
could be shipped at trifling expense.

[Illustration: NEVER IN ALL HER MARRIED LIFE HAD SHE ENJOYED ANY
POSITION APPROACHING THIS]

While Wallingford was enjoying this new _rôle_ he had created, his wife
had also her taste of an entirely new life. She had no more than settled
down in her new house than Mrs. G. W. Battles called upon her. Following
her lead came Mrs. Geldenstein and Mrs. Quig and Mrs. Dorsett and the
other acknowledged social leaders of the town. True, they criticised her
house, her gowns, her manner of speech, her way of doing up her hair,
but, this solemn duty performed, they unanimously agreed that she was a
distinct acquisition to the polite life of the place. Never in all her
married existence had she enjoyed any position approaching this. They
had been nomads always, but now she had actual calls to make, actual,
sober, formal friendships to cement, all these made possible by her
husband's vast importance in the community; and upon Wallingford's
triumphant return from his campaign for the right of way he was
surprised to find her grown so young and care-free.

"I like this place, Jim," she told him in explanation. "Let's fix it to
stay here always."

He gazed down at her and laughed.

"What have you been doing?" he inquired. "Giving pink teas? Getting full
credit for your diamonds and those Paris dresses and hats?"

She laughed with him in sheer lightness of spirit.

"It's more than that," she said. "It is because I'm a human being at
last. I have a chance to be a real woman like other women, and it is
nice to have everybody looking up to you as the biggest man in town, not
even excepting Mr. Battles. Why, you could go to the Legislature from
here! You could be elected to any office they have! You could even be
governor, I think."

He laughed again and shook his head.

"There isn't enough in it," he assured her. "I'd rather promote a
traction line. This is the best ever. Why, Fanny, the entire population,
on both sides of the road for a solid hundred miles, is laying awake
nights and turning handsprings by day, all just to make money for yours
truly."

"They owe it to you," she insisted. "Look how much money you're making
for them. The only thing I don't like about it is that you're away so
much. You must manage, though, to be home the twenty-first. I'm going to
give a lawn reception."

"Fine!" he exclaimed. "Every little bit helps. It's a good business
move," and he walked away, laughing.



CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH THE SHEEP ARE SHEARED AND SKINNED AND THEIR HIDES TANNED


An engineer appeared upon the scene and ran a line straight down the
center of Main Street, amid intense excitement on the part of the
populace; then he trailed off into the country, and farmers driving into
town reported seeing him at work all along the line. It was strange the
amount of business that farmers found in town of late. Never before had
so brisk a country trade been enjoyed at this season of the year, and
the results were far-reaching. The Honorable G. W. Battles, on the
occasion of one of Wallingford's visits to the bank, invited him into
the back room.

"Are you going to build that hotel, Colonel?" he asked as soon as they
were seated.

"I scarcely think so," replied Wallingford with apparent reluctance.
"The traction line itself is going to take all my time to look after it,
and I really do not see how I can take part in any other work of
magnitude."

"That lot, then," began Mr. Battles hesitatingly. "You know that
property belongs to me. Judge Lampton, on the very day you first stopped
here, came for a power of attorney to dispose of it. Of course your
option hasn't expired yet, but if you don't figure on using the ground I
might consider the building of a hotel myself."

"Good investment," declared Wallingford. "Just pay me the difference in
increased valuation and take over the site."

"The difference in valuation?" mused Mr. Battles. "Of course, I
appreciate the fact that you are entitled to some of the wealth you
produce for us. About how much do you think the property has increased?"

"Oh, about four times," estimated Wallingford. "The lot's probably worth
two thousand by now."

He had looked for a vigorous objection to this, but when the other
turned to a scratch pad and began figuring, he was sorry that he had not
asked more, for presently Mr. Battles turned to him with:

"Well, in the way property has been going, I presume the lot _is_ worth
about two thousand. You paid a twenty-five-dollar option to hold it for
ninety days, and that, of course, you lose. You owe me five hundred for
the property and I owe you two thousand."

With no further words he took from his desk his private check book and
wrote Mr. Wallingford an order for fifteen hundred dollars. Then, as by
a common impulse, they walked straight up to the office of the
Battlesburg _Blade_. That evening's issue flamed anew. The big hotel was
a certainty. It would be called the Battles House. It would be four or
five stories in height, and ground would be broken for it as soon as the
plans could be prepared. In the same item were published the details of
the real estate transaction. Mr. Battles had paid two thousand dollars
for his own property, which, less than two months before, he had agreed
to sell at five hundred dollars! Battlesburg was waking up.

Mr. Geldenstein and Henry Quig came to Mr. Wallingford with another
proposition. Did he intend to build the new opera house, or would he
care to dispose of the property he had secured with that end in view? As
a favor to them he would dispose of it. With the money he had received
from Mr. Battles he had already taken up his option on this and other
property, and he let the opera-house syndicate have it for three
thousand, four times what it had cost him. In the papers of Paris,
London, Dublin, Berlin, Rome, these things were retold, and the
temperature of those places went up another degree or two. Keeping his
fingers carefully upon the pulse of the town, Wallingford began to draw
upon his capital and close in his options. Men whose property he had
been holding in leash, accepted that money with wailing and gnashing of
teeth, but, within a week, whatever of selfish bitterness they might
have held was forgotten in the fever of speculation; for by the end of
that time there appeared on the hill just east of town a gang of men
with horses and scrapers--and they began chipping off the top of that
hill! Wallingford was out there every morning in his buckboard and
yellow leggings and yellow leather cap. The Battlesburg _Blade_ and all
the other papers from Lewisville to Elliston blazed with the fact that
actual construction work had begun upon the L., B. & E., and the time
when trolleys would begin to whiz through the main streets of a dozen
villages was calculated to a second. Supply men, the agents of street
car shops, of ironworks, of electrical machinery and the like, began
flocking to Battlesburg until even Pete Parsons woke up and raised his
hotel rates; and the arrival of each one of them was heralded in Colonel
Wallingford's invaluable adjunct, the Evening _Blade_. From these men
Wallingford secured "cuts," which he distributed gratis, and pictures of
the palatial L., B. & E. cars appeared in all the papers along its right
of way; photographs of the special wheat cars, of the freight and
express cars, even of the through sleeping cars which would traverse the
L., B. & E., carrying passengers from the western limit of the Midland
Valley traction system to the most eastern point of the Golden West
traction system.

Ground for the opera house and the hotel was broken within a month, and,
immediately upon this, small gangs of men were set to work grading near
half a dozen different towns at once upon the projected route. The
supreme moment of Wallingford's planning had arrived, for now leaped
into devouring flame the blaze that he had kindled. What had at first
been a quickening of business became a craze. At a rapidly accelerating
pace property began to change hands, with a leap in value at every
change. Men thought by day and dreamt by night of nothing but real
estate speculation. A hundred per cent. could be made in a day by a
lucky trade. A mere "suburban" lot that was purchased in the morning
for two hundred and fifty dollars, by night could be sold for five
hundred, and every additional transaction added fuel to the flames. The
papers chronicled these deals as examples of the wonderful wealth that
had suddenly descended upon their respective towns. Money, long hoarded,
leaped forth from its hiding places. Everybody had money, everybody was
making money. Even the farmers made real estate purchases in the towns,
not to hold, but to turn over. The craze for speculation had at last
seized upon them all, and it was now that Wallingford began to reap his
harvest. A sale here, a sale there, with an occasional purchase to
offset them, and he gradually began to unload, making it a rule never to
close a deal that did not net him ten times the amount that he had
invested. He was on the road constantly now, first in one village and
then in another, ostensibly to look after details of the building of his
route, but in reality to snap up money that was certain to be offered
him for this or that or the other piece of property that he held.

And all this time the people to whom he sold were raving of the wealth
that he had made for them! Battlesburg nor any other town stopped for a
moment to consider that he had brought it not one cent of new wealth;
that the money they were passing so feverishly from hand to hand was
their own; that the values he had created for them were purely
artificial. They would only realize this after he had gone, and then
would come gradually the knowledge that, in place of creating wealth, he
had lost it to them in the exact amount that he carried away. Never in
all his planning had it crossed his mind really to build a traction
line. Throughout a stretch of a hundred miles he had succeeded in
starting a mad, unreasoning scramble for real estate, and he, having
bought first to sell last, was the principal gainer. He was unloading
now at flood-tide from one end of the line to the other, and the ebb
would see all these thousands of people standing dazed and agape upon
the barren beach of their hopes. Some few shrewd ones would be ahead,
but for the most part the "investors" would find themselves with
property upon their hands bought at an absurd valuation that could never
be realized.

At no time did Wallingford talk to his wife about his plans and
intentions. She, like the rest of them, saw the work apparently pushing
forward, and gave herself up to the social triumphs that were hers at
last. She was supremely happy, and her lawn reception upon the
twenty-first was, to quote the Battlesburg _Blade_, "the most exclusive
and _recherché al fresco_ function of a decade," and Wallingford,
hurrying in late from the road, scarcely recognized his wife as, in a
shimmering white gown, she moved among her guests with a flush upon her
cheeks that heightened the sparkling of her eyes. The grounds had been
wired, and electric lights of many colors glowed among the trees. On the
porch an orchestra, recruited from the ranks of the Battlesburg band,
discoursed ambitious music, and Wallingford smiled grimly as he thought
of the awakening that must come within a week or so. He had reached the
house unobserved, and paused for a moment outside the fence to view the
scene as a stranger might.

"I made it myself," he mused, with a strange perversion of pride. "I'm
the Big Josh, all right; but it will be a shame to kick the props out
from under all this giddy jubilee."

His wife discovered him and came smiling to meet him, and on his way
into the house to change his clothing Tim Battles met him at the porch
steps with a cordial handshake.

"Well, how goes it, Colonel?" asked the mayor. "We're listening now for
the hum of the trolleys almost any day."

"Maybe you're deaf," retorted Wallingford enigmatically, and laughed.
"What will you do if the golden spike is never pounded in?"

"Drop dead," replied the other promptly. "Every cent I could lay my
hands on is invested in property for which I'm refusing all sorts of
fancy prices, and I'm not going to sell any of it until your first car
whizzes through Main Street. Lucky you got back to-night. You'd regret
it if you didn't hear my speech at the fountain dedication to-morrow."

"Is it up?" inquired Wallingford perfunctorily.

"Up and ready to spout; and so is father."

He said this because his father was approaching them, and all three of
them laughed courteously at the sally. When Wallingford, cleansed and
dressed, came downstairs again, he was more jovially cordial than usual,
even for him, and made his guests, as he always did, feel how incomplete
the evening would have been without his presence; but after they had all
gone he withdrew into the library, where, after she had seen to the
setting of her house to rights, his wife joined him. He had taken a
bottle of wine in with him, but it stood upon the table unopened, while
he sat close by it, holding an unlighted cigar and gazing thoughtfully
out of the window. She hesitated in the doorway and he looked up slowly.

"Come in, Fanny," he invited her soberly. "Sit down!" and opening the
wine he poured out a glass for her.

She sipped at it and set it back upon the table.

"What's the matter, Jim?" she asked solicitously. "Don't you feel well?
Aren't things going right?"

"Never felt better in my life," he declared, "and things never panned
out half so good. I guess I'm tired. I never pulled off anything near so
big a game, but my end of the boom is over. To-day I sold the last piece
of property I own, except this. Of course, I've been too wise to sell
any of the ground that was given to me for shops and depots and terminal
stations. I'd lay myself open to the law if I did that; and the law and
I are real chummy. I'm particular about the law. But I am rid of
everything else, and, in the five months we have been here, I have
cleaned up over two hundred thousand dollars."

"The most money we ever did have!" she exclaimed. "Is that in addition
to what we had when we came here?"

"All velvet," he assured her. "We have considerably over three hundred
thousand now, all told; a full third of a million!"

"I knew you could do it if you only set yourself to it," she declared.
"And all of that fortune, for it is a fortune, Jim, was made in a clean,
honorable way."

He looked up at her, puzzled. Could it be possible that she did not
understand?

"_Is_ a dollar honest?" he responded dryly, and he talked no more of
business that night.

The next morning ushered in a great day for Battlesburg. Early in the
dawn two carpenters appeared in Courthouse Square and began putting up a
platform; but, early as they were, boys were already on the ground,
trying to peer beneath the mysterious swathings of the "veiled"
fountain. Dan Hopkins set up his ice cream and candy stand, and hoarse
Jim Moller appeared with his red and blue and green toy balloons. About
nine o'clock the farm wagons came lumbering into town with the old
folks. About ten, smart "rigs" drawn by real "high steppers" came
speeding in ahead of whirling clouds of dust, and these rigs carried the
young folks. By noon there were horses tied to every hitching-post, and
genuine throngs shuffled aimlessly up one side of Main Street and down
the other. There was the sound of shrieking whistles and of hoarse tin
horns; there was the usual fight in front of Len Bradley's blacksmith
shop. At one o'clock strange noises were wafted out upon the street from
Odd Fellows' Hall. The Battlesburg brass band was practicing. At
one-thirty Courthouse Square was jammed from fence to fence, and the
street was black with people, the narrow lane between being constantly
broken by perspiring mothers darting frantically after Willie and Susie
and Baby Johnnie.

Za-a-a-am! At last here came the band, two and two, down the street, to
the inspiriting strains of "Marching Through Georgia," with Will Derks
at the head in a shako two feet high and performing the most marvelous
gyrations with a shining brass baton. Throw it whirling right over a
telephone wire, for instance, and never miss a stroke! Right through the
crowd went the band, and in about ten minutes it came back to the lively
step of "The Girl I Left Behind Me." Following the music came carriages,
trailed off by Ben Kirby's gayly decorated grocery wagon; and in the
first carriage of all were the Honorable G. W. Battles, the Honorable
Timothy Battles, Judge Lampton, and last, but not least, that master of
golden plenty, Colonel J. Rufus Wallingford! Ah, there rode the progress
and prosperity, the greatness and power, the initiative and referendum
not only of Battlesburg, but of a dozen once poor, now rich, villages
between Lewisville and Elliston! Amid mingled music and huzzas the noble
assemblage took their places upon the platform, the gentlemen in the
front row, the ladies in the rear; and, at one side, was a table and a
chair for that thoroughly alive representative of the press, Clint
Richards.

The band stopped abruptly. The Honorable G. W. Battles had held up his
hand for silence. He had the honor to introduce the speaker of the day,
Mayor Timothy Battles, but before doing so he would take up a trifle of
their time, only a few brief moments, to congratulate his beloved fellow
citizens upon the brave and patriotic struggle they had made to bring
Battlesburg to such a thriving condition that it could attract Eastern
capital; and in vivid, glowing, burning words he depicted the glorious
future that awaited Battlesburg when she should become the new Queen of
the Prairies, the new Metropolis of the Middle West, the new Arbiter of
Commerce and Wealth! Nobody escaped the Honorable G. W. Battles. From
the farmer's hired hand who tilled the soil to the millionaire whose
enterprise had made so much possible to them, he gave to every man his
just and due meed of praise, and there was not one within hearing of his
voice who did not ache at that very moment to vote for the Honorable G.
W. Battles, for something, for anything! For full forty-five minutes he
introduced the speaker of the day, sitting down at last amid deafening
cheers that were so aptly described in that evening's issue of the
Battlesburg _Blade_ as "salvos of applause."

The Honorable Timothy Battles, mayor of Battlesburg, had also but very
little to say. He also would not take up much of their time. It was
merely his privilege to introduce a gentleman whom they all knew well,
one who had come among them modestly and unobtrusively, asking nothing
for himself, but bringing to them precious Opportunity, of the golden
fruits of which they had already been given more than a taste; a
gentleman of masterful ability, of infinite resources, of magnificent
plans, of vast accomplishment; in short, a gentleman who had made
famous, across five counties and to thousands of grateful people, his
own name as a synonym for all that was progressive, for all that was
vigorous, for all that was ennobling--the name of Colonel J. Rufus
Wallingford!

"_Wallingford!_" That was the magic word for which they had waited.
Through all of the Honorable G. W. Battles' speech of introduction the
name itself had not been used, although the address had bristled with
allusions to the gentleman who bore it. In the same manner the Honorable
Timothy Battles, trained in the same effective school of oratory, had
held back the actual name until this dramatic moment, when, with hand
upraised, he shouted it down upon them and waited, smiling, for that
tumultuous shout of enthusiasm which he knew to be inevitable.

"WALLINGFORD!" Courthouse Square fairly rang with the syllables.
Patiently the Honorable Timothy Battles awaited the subsidence of the
storm he had so painstakingly created, smiling upon his beloved people
with ineffable approval. Not yet was the Honorable Timothy Battles
through, however. He had a few words to say about the political party
which he had the honor to represent in his humble capacity, and how it
had laid the ground work of the prosperity upon which their friend and
benefactor, Mr. J. Rufus Wallingford, had reared such a magnificent
super-structure; and amid the deadly silence of enforced respect he made
them a rousing political speech for a solid half hour, after which he
really did introduce that splendid benefactor, Colonel J. Rufus
Wallingford!

The Colonel, all that a distinguished capitalist should be in externals,
arose hugely in his frock coat of black broadcloth and looked at his
watch. He was not an orator, he said; he was a mere business man, and as
he had listened to the earnest remarks of his very dear friends, the
Honorable G. W. Battles and the Honorable Timothy Battles, he felt very
humble indeed. He had done but little that he should deserve all the
glowing encomiums that had been pronounced upon him. The energetic
citizens who stood before him were themselves responsible for the new
era of prosperity, and what trifle he had been able to add to it they
were quite welcome to have. He only wished that it were more and of
greater value. He would remember them, and how they had all worked hand
in hand together, throughout life, and in the meantime he thanked them,
and he thanked them again for their cordial treatment ever since that
first and most happy moment that he had come among them. Thanking them
yet once more, he mopped his brow and sat down.

Again the Honorable G. W. Battles was upon his feet. He had now, beloved
citizens, to call their attention to the beautiful and generous gift
that had been made them by their esteemed fellow townsman, Colonel J.
Rufus Wallingford (great applause) and the honor, moreover, to introduce
to them the charming wife of that esteemed fellow townsman, to whose
fair hand should be committed the cord that was to reveal to Battlesburg
its first official glimpse of this splendid gift. The cord was placed in
her hand; the Battlesburg Band, at a signal from the Honorable G. W.
Battles, struck into "The Star-Spangled Banner;" the wife of their
esteemed fellow townsman, confused, yet secretly elated, gave a tug at
the silken cord; the gray shroud that had enveloped the new bronze
fountain fell apart; Jim Higgins, waiting at the basement window of the
courthouse for his signal, turned on the cock and the water spouted high
in air, a silver stream in the glorious sunlight of midday, falling back
to the basin in a million glittering diamonds. At that moment, gathering
these descriptive facts into words as he went, Clint Richards grabbed
his notes from the table, and, springing over the railing of the
platform, forced his way through the cheering, howling crowd to strike
out on a lope for the office of the Battlesburg _Blade_.

Well, it was all over. The grand shakedown was accomplished; he had
milked his milk; he had sheared his sheep and skinned them, and nailed
their hides up to dry. To-morrow, or in two or three days at most, he
would quietly disappear and leave all these Reubens to wake up and find
themselves waiting at the morgue. But it had been a skyrocket finish,
anyhow, and he reflected upon this with a curious satisfaction as he
made his slow progress to the street, stopping at every step to shake
hands with those who crowded up to greet him as the incomparable human
cornucopia. It was with a sigh of relief, however, that he finally
reached home, where he could shut himself away from all this adulation.

"Honest, Fanny," he confessed with an uneasy laugh, "it's coming too
strong for me. I want to get away from it."

"'Away'!" she echoed. "I thought you liked all this. I do. I like the
place and the people--and we amount to something here."

"That's right, puff up," he bantered her. "I like that tight-vest
feeling, too, but I can't keep it going, for the yeast's run out; so
it's us for Europe. Next spring I'll try this game again. A couple more
such deals, and then I'll jump on Wall Street and slam the breath out of
it. I have an idea or two about that game----"

He stopped abruptly, checked by the dawning horror in his wife's face,
then he laughed a bit nervously.

"Go away from here: from the only place where we've ever had respect for
ourselves and from others?" she faltered. "Not build the traction line?
Make all this happiness I've had a theft that is worse than stealing
money? Jim! You can't mean it!"

"You don't understand business," he protested. "This is all perfectly
legal, and the traction line wouldn't make me as much in ten years as
I've already cleared. I'd be a rank sucker----Hello, who's this?"

They were standing before the window of the library, and at that moment
a road-spattered automobile, one of the class built distinctively for
service, stopped in front of the door. Out of it sprang a rather
undersized man with a steel-gray beard and very keen gray eyes, but not
at all impressive looking. His clothing was very dusty, but he did not
even shake his ulster as he strode up to the porch and rang the bell. Of
all their household not even Billy Ricks had as yet returned, and
Wallingford himself opened the door.

"Is this the residence of Colonel Wallingford?" asked the man crisply.

"I am Mr. Wallingford."

"I am E. B. Lott, of the Midland Valley Traction System, which was
yesterday consolidated with the Golden West group. I dropped in to talk
with you about your Lewisville-Elliston line."

Mrs. Wallingford stopped for only a moment to gather the full
significance of what this might mean, and then hurried upstairs. She was
afraid to remain for fear she might betray her own eagerness.

"Step in," said Wallingford calmly, and led the way to the library.



CHAPTER XXII

J. RUFUS PREFERS FARMING IN AMERICA TO PROMOTING IN EUROPE


The Battlesburg _Blade_ was full of the big consolidation for a week
following the providential visit of Mr. Lott. The Lewisville,
Battlesburg and Elliston traction line was not merely an assured
fact--it had always been that since the coming of Colonel
Wallingford--but it was now even a bigger and better thing than ever,
the key to a vast network of trolleys which, with this connecting link,
would have its ramifications across more than the fourth part of a
continent. The only drawback to all this good was that they were to lose
as a permanent resident their esteemed fellow citizen, Colonel J. Rufus
Wallingford--since he had sold his right of way, franchises, concessions
and good will--and every issue of the _Blade_, from news columns to
editorials, was a tribute to all that this noble, high-spirited
gentleman had done for Battlesburg.

A score of impulsive women kissed Mrs. Wallingford good-by at the
train, while the Honorable G. W. Battles strove against Billy Ricks and
Judge Lampton and Clint Richards for the honor of the last handshake
with her husband; and after Mrs. Wallingford had fluttered her
handkerchief from the car window for the last time, she pressed it to
her eyes.

"I'm going to keep my house there always," she said, when she had
calmed, "and whenever we're tired of living at other places I want to
come here--home! Why, just think, Jim, it's the only town you ever did
business in that you can come back to!"

He agreed with her in this, but, by and by, she found his shoulders
heaving with his usual elephantine mirth.

"What is it?" she asked him.

"The joke's on me," he laughed. "The biggest stunt I ever pulled off,
and even the baa-baas satisfied. Why, Fanny," and the surprise in his
face was almost ludicrous, "it turned out to be a legitimate deal, after
all!"

That was the keynote of a startling new thought which came to him: that
there might actually be more money in legitimate deals than in the
dubious ones in which he had always engaged; and that thought he took to
Europe with him. It dwelt with him in the fogs of London and the
sunshine of Paris, at the roulette tables of Monte Carlo and on the
canals of Venice. It was an ambition-rousing idea, and with perfect
confidence in his own powers he saw himself rising to a commanding
position in American financial affairs. Why, he already owned a round
half million of dollars, and the mere momentum of this huge amount
caused quite an alteration, not only in his mode of thought, but of
life. Heretofore he had looked upon such gain as he wrested from his
shady transactions as a mere medium of quick exchange, which was to be
turned into pleasure and lavish display as rapidly as possible. When he
secured money his only impulse had been to spend all of it and then get
more; but a half million! It was a sum large enough to represent earning
capacity, and his always creative mind was busy with the thought of how
he might utilize its power. After all, it was only another new and
expensive pleasure that he desired, the pleasure of swaying big affairs,
of enrolling himself upon the roster of the pseudo-great, and to that
end, during his entire European trip he devoured American newspapers
wherever he could find them, seeking for means by which he could
increase his fortune to one of truly commanding proportions. In the
meantime he was as lavish as ever, scattering money with a prodigal
hand; but now it was with a different motive. He used it freely to
secure the best to be found in the way of luxury, but no longer spent it
merely to get rid of it.

Mrs. Wallingford, content, viewed Europe with appreciative eyes, and no
empress swathed in silk and diadem-crowned ever took more graciously to
the pomp with which their royal progress was attended wherever they
went. Wallingford's interest in foreign lands, however, had suddenly
become a business one. Restless as ever, he moved from place to place
with rapid speed, and covered in two months the ground that ordinary
tourists above the financial standing of "trippers" would think they had
slighted in six. Europe, as a matter of fact, did not please him at all.
Its laws were too strict, and he found in nearly every country he
visited, that a man, unless he happened to be an innkeeper, was expected
to actually deliver value received for every coin that came into his
possession! This was so vastly different from the financial and
commercial system to which he had been used that he became eager to get
back home, and finally, having been visited over night with the
inspiration for a brilliant new enterprise, he cabled his bankers to
throw open a portion of his account to Blackie Daw, and to the latter
gentleman cabled instructions to buy him a good farm in the middle of
the wheat belt and fit it for his residence regardless of cost. Then he
started back for the land where the money grows.

The task he had set Blackie Daw was very much to that gentleman's
liking. There had arisen a sudden crisis in his "business affairs," that
very morning, which demanded his immediate absence, not only from his
office, but from any other spot in which the authorities might be able
to find him, and, relieved of his dilemma in the nick of time by
Wallingford's money, he immediately put an enormous number of miles
between himself and New York. A week he spent in search, and when he
found the location which suited him, he set about his task of
constructing a Wallingford estate in great glee. He built a big new
barn, the finest in the county; he put a new front to the house, bigger
than the house itself had been; he brought on load after load of fine
furniture; he stocked the big cellar with beer and wines and liquors of
all kinds; he piped natural gas from twelve miles away and installed a
gas furnace in the cellar and a gas engine in a workshop near the barn;
he had electricians wire the place from cellar to attic, including the
barn and the front porch and the trees in the front yard, and had a
dynamo put in to be run by the gas engine and to illuminate the entire
estate; he installed both line and house telephone systems, with
extension phones wherever they would be handy, and, his work finished,
surveyed it with much satisfaction. With the mail carrier stopping every
day, with the traction line running right past the door, and with plenty
of money, he decided that J. Rufus would be able to get along, through
the winter, at least.

It was in the early part of September when J. Rufus, clad according to
his notions of what a gentleman farmer should look like--a rich brown
velvet corduroy suit with the trousers neatly tucked into an
eighteen-dollar pair of seal leather boots; a twenty-dollar
broad-brimmed felt hat upon his head; a brown silk negligé shirt and a
scarf of a little deeper shade in the "V" of his broad vest; an immense
diamond gleaming from the scarf--arrived at the Wallingford estate in a
splendid equipage drawn by a pair of sleek bays.

Marching in time to the ringing "Soldiers' Chorus" from _Faust_, Blackie
Daw came down the walk from the wide Colonial porch, carrying in his
arms the huge phonograph from which the music proceeded, and greeted
the laughing new master and mistress of the house with extravagant
ceremony, while three country girls, a red-cheeked one, a thin one, and
a mortally ugly one, stood giggling upon the porch.

"Welcome to Wallingford Villa!" exclaimed Blackie, setting the blaring
phonograph on the gate post, and, with his left hand tucked into his
coat bosom, extending his right hand dramatically toward the porch.
"Welcome to your ancestral estates and adoring tenantry!"

"Fine business!" approved J. Rufus, shaking hands with Mr. Daw. "Invite
the band in to have a drink, Blackie."

"Hush!" admonished Mr. Daw in a hoarse stage whisper. "_Not_ Blackie.
Here, in hiding from the minions of Uncle Sam, I am Horatio Raven.
Remember the name."

"What's the matter?" asked Wallingford, detecting something real beneath
all this absurdity. "I called at your place in Boston, and found a corn
doctor's sign on the door. I didn't mean to plant you out here."

"Plant is the word," responded Mr. Daw, "and I've rooted fast in the
soil. I'm going to take out naturalization papers and grow a chin beard.
You're harboring a fugitive, Jim. The very day I got your letter from
dear old Lunnon, throwing open a section of your bank account and
telling me to buy a farm, the postal authorities took it into their
heads to stop all traffic in the Yellow Streak gold mine; also they
wanted to mark one Horace G. Daw 'Exhibit A,' and slam him in a cold
cage for future reference; so I put on my green whiskers and snuck here
to the far, far prairies."

A certain amount of reserve had been quite noticeable in Mrs.
Wallingford, and it was still apparent as she asked courteously:

"Where is Mrs. Daw?"

"Raven, if you please," he corrected her, and, in spite of his general
air of flippancy, his face lengthened a trifle. "Mrs. Violet Bonnie D.,"
he replied, "has returned to the original lemon box of which she was so
perfect a product, and is now delighting a palpitating public in 'The
Jolly Divorcée,' with a string of waiting Johnnies from the stage door
two blocks down Broadway every night. Let us mention the lady no more
lest I use language."

"What a pretty place you have made of this!" exclaimed Mrs. Wallingford,
thawing into instant amiability. She had her own reasons for being
highly pleased with the absence of Violet Bonnie Daw.

"Pretty good," agreed the pseudo Raven. "Step inside and imagine you're
in Peacock Alley at the Waldorf."

With considerable pride he led them inside. Knowing Wallingford as he
did, he had spared no expense to make this house as luxurious as fine
furnishings would render it, and, having considerable taste in
Wallingford's own bizarre way, he had accomplished rather flaming
results.

"And this," said he, throwing open a door upstairs, "is my own room;
number twenty-three. Upon the walls you will observe the mournful relics
of a glorious past."

The ceiling was papered with silver stock certificates of the late Los
Pocos Lead Development Company, the walls with dark green shares of the
late Mexican and Rio Grande Rubber Company, and dark red ones of the
late St. John's Blood Orange Plantation Company, while walls and ceiling
were divided by a frieze of the beautiful orange-colored stock
certificates of the late Yellow Streak Gold Mining Company.

"My own little idea," he explained, as Mrs. Wallingford smiled her
appreciation of the grim humor and went to her own dainty apartment to
remove the stains of travel. "A reminder of the happy times that once
were but that shall be no more. I have now to figure out another stunt
for skinning the beloved public, and it's hard work. I wish I had your
ability to dope up gaudy new boob-stringers. What are you going to do
with the farm, anyhow?"

"Save the farmers," replied J. Rufus Wallingford solemnly. "The farmers
of the United States are the most downtrodden people in the world. The
real producers of the wealth of our great nation hold the bag, and the
non-producers reap the golden riches of the soil. Who rises in his might
and comes to their rescue? Who overturns the old order of things, puts
the farmer upon a pinnacle of prosperity and places his well-deserved
earnings beyond the reach of avarice and greed? Who, I ask? J. Rufus
Wallingford, the friend of the oppressed and the protector of the poor!"

"Good!" responded Mr. Daw, "and the way you say it it's worse than ever.
I'm in on the play, but please give me a tip before the blow-off comes
so I can leave the county."

"The county is safe," responded Mr. Wallingford. "It's nailed down. You
know me, Blackie. The law and I are old college chums and we never go
back on each other. I'm going to lift my money out of the Chicago wheat
pit, and when I get through that pit will be nothing but an empty hole.
By this time next fall I'll have a clean, cool million, and then I can
buy a stack of blue chips and sit in the big game. I'll never rest easy
till I can hold a royal flush against Morgan and Rockefeller, and when I
skin them all will be forgiven."

"Jump right in, Jim; the water's fine for you just now. I'm not wised up
yet to this new game of yours, but I've got a bet on you. Go to it and
win."

"It's my day to break the bank," asserted J. Rufus. "Your bet's safe. Go
soak your watch and play me across the board."

The telephone bell rang and Blackie answered it.

"Come right over," he told the man at the other end of the wire. "Mr.
Wallingford has arrived."

He hung up the receiver and conducted Wallingford downstairs into a
well-lighted room that jutted out in an "L" from the house, with a
separate outside entrance toward the rear.

"Observe the center of a modern agriculturist's web," he declaimed. "Sit
at your desk, farmer, for your working superintendent is about to call
on you."

J. Rufus looked around him with vast appreciation.

"I thought I had my own ideas about looking the part," he observed, "but
you have me skinned four ways from the Jack."

In the center of the room was a large, flat-top desk, and upon it was an
extension 'phone from the country line. On the other side was the desk
'phone and call board of a private line which connected the house, the
barn, the granary and a dozen fields throughout the farm. On one side
was a roll-top desk, and this was Mr. Daw's. Opposite was another
roll-top desk, for the "working superintendent."

"At least one real farmer will have to be on the job," Blackie
explained, "and I nabbed Hamlet Tinkle, the prize of the neighborhood.
He is a graduate of an agricultural college and all the farmers think
he's a joke; but I have him doped out as being able to coax more fodder
from unwilling mud than any soil tickler in these parts. He helped me
select the farm library."

With a grin at his own completeness of detail, Mr. Daw indicated the
sectional bookcases, where stood, in neat rows, the Government reports
on everything agricultural, and treatises on every farm subject under
the sun from the pip to the boll weevil. Filing cases there were, and
card indexes, and every luxury that has been devised for modern office
work. With an amused air the up-to-date farmer was leafing through one
after the other of the conglomeration of strange books, when Hamlet
Tinkle was ushered in by the ever-grinning Nellie. He was a tall,
big-boned fellow, who had divided his time at the agricultural college
between playing center rush and studying the chemical capabilities of
various soils. Just now, though the weather was bracing, he wore a
broad-brimmed straw hat with the front turned up, and a flannel shirt
with no coat or vest; and he had walked two miles, from the place at
which he had telephoned, in twenty-two minutes.

"Mr. Tinkle--Mr. Wallingford," said Mr. Daw. "Mr. Wallingford, this is
the gentleman whom I recommend as your working superintendent."

Both Mr. Wallingford and Mr. Tinkle accepted this title with perfect
gravity.

"Sit down," said Wallingford cordially, and himself took his place at
the flat-top desk in the midst of the telephones and push buttons.
Already he began to feel the exhilaration of his new _rôle_ and loomed
broadly above his desk, from the waist line up a most satisfying
revelation to Mr. Tinkle of what the farmer of the future ought to be
like. "Mr. Raven tells me," observed Wallingford, "that you are prepared
to conduct this farm on scientific principles."

"Yes, sir," admitted Mr. Tinkle. "I shall be very glad to show to
Truscot County what can be done with advanced methods. Father doesn't
seem to care to have me try it on his farm. He says he made enough out
of his own methods to send me to college, and I ought to be satisfied
with that."

"Your father's all right, but maybe we can teach even him some new
tricks. The first question, Mr. Tinkle, is how much money you want."

"Fifteen a week and board," responded Mr. Tinkle promptly. "The seasons
through."

"Fine!" responded Wallingford with a wave of the hand which indicated
that fifty a week and board would have been no bar, as, indeed, it would
not have been. "Consider yourself engaged from the present moment. Now
let's get down to brass tacks, Mr. Tinkle. I don't know enough about
farming to stuff up the middle of a cipher; I don't know which end down
you plant the grains of wheat; but wheat is what I want, and nothing but
wheat!"

Mr. Tinkle shook his head.

"With Mr. Raven's permission I have been making tests of your soil," he
observed. "Your northeast forty is still good for wheat and will make a
good yield, possibly thirty bushels, but the southwest forty will do
well if it gives you eight to ten bushels without thorough
fertilization; and this will be much more expensive than planting it in
some other crop for a couple of years."

"Jolly it any old way to get wheat," directed Wallingford. "Wheat is
what I want; all you can get."

Mr. Tinkle hesitated. He made two or three false starts, during which
his auditors waited with the patience born to those who lie in crouch
for incautious money, and then displayed his altruistic youth.

"I have to tell you," he blurted. "You have here one hundred and sixty
acres. Suppose that you could get the high average of thirty bushels per
acre from it. Suppose you got a dollar a bushel for that wheat, your
total income would still be less than five thousand dollars. You are
hiring me as manager, and you will need other hands; you have a
machinist, who is also to be your chauffeur, I understand; you have
three house servants, and upon the scale you evidently intend to conduct
this farm and your residence I judge that you cannot get along for less
than eight to ten thousand a year. I am bound to tell you that I cannot
see a profit for you."

"Which of these buttons calls one of the girls?" asked Wallingford.

"The third button is Nellie," replied Mr. Daw gravely, and touched it.

The rosy-cheeked girl appeared instantly, on the point of giggling, as
she had been from the moment Mr. Daw first engaged her.

"Bring in my grip from the hall," Mr. Wallingford directed; "the one
with the labels on it."

This brought in, Mr. Wallingford extracted from it a huge bundle of
documents bound with rubber bands. Unfolded, they proved to be United
States Government bonds, shares of railroad stocks and of particularly
stable industrials, thousands of dollars worth of them. For Mr. Tinkle's
inspection he passed over his bank book, showing a balance of one
hundred and fifty thousand.

"Wheat," cheerfully lied Mr. Wallingford, with a wave of his hand; "all
wheat! Half a million dollars!"

"Speculation?" charged Mr. Tinkle, a trace of sternness in his voice.

"Investment," protested Wallingford. "I never sold; I bought, operating
always upon margin sufficient for ample protection, and always upon
absolute information gathered directly from the centers of production.
This farm is for the purpose of bringing me more thoroughly in touch
with the actual conditions that make prices. So, as you see, Mr. Tinkle,
the trifling profit or loss of this venture in a business way is a mere
bagatelle."

Both Mr. Daw and Mr. Tinkle were regarding Mr. Wallingford with awe and
admiration, but for somewhat different reasons. Mr. Tinkle, elated, went
home to get his clothes and books, and on the way he put into breathless
circulation the fact that the new proprietor of the old Spicer place was
the greatest man on earth, with the possible exception of Theodore
Roosevelt, and that he had already made half a million dollars in wheat!
He had seen the money!

"I pass," observed Mr. Daw to Mr. Wallingford. "I'm in the kindergarten
class, and I take off my lid to you as being the most valuable
combination known to the history of plain or fancy robbery. You have
them all beat twice around the track. You make an amateur of Ananias and
a piker of Judas Iscariot."



CHAPTER XXIII

A CORNER IN FARMERS IS FORMED AND IT BEHOLDS A MOST WONDERFUL VISION


It was already high time for fall planting operations on the Wallingford
estate, and Truscot County was a-quiver with what might be the result of
the new-fangled test-tube farming that Ham Tinkle was to inaugurate.
From the first moment of his hiring that young enthusiast plunged into
his work with a fervor that left him a scant six hours of sleep a night.

In the meantime J. Rufus took a flying trip to Chicago, where he visited
one broker's office after another. Those places with fine polished
woodwork and brass trimmings and expensive leather furniture he left
without even introducing himself--such stage settings were too much in
his own line of business for him not to be suspicious of them--but,
finally, he wandered into the office of Fox & Fleecer, a dingy, poorly
lighted place, where gas was kept burning on old-fashioned fixtures all
day long, where the woodwork was battered and blackened, where the
furniture was scratched and hacked and bound together with wires to keep
it intact, and where, on a cracked and splintered blackboard, one small
and lazy boy posted, for a score or so of rusty men past middle age, the
fluctuating figures of the Great Gamble. Mr. Fox, a slow-spoken and
absolutely placid gentleman of benevolent appearance and silvery
mutton-chop whiskers, delicately blended the impressions that while he
was indeed flattered by this visit from so distinguished a gentleman,
his habitual conservatism would not allow him to express his delight.

"How much money can you be trusted with?" asked Wallingford bluntly.

"I would not say, sir," rejoined Mr. Fox with no resentment whatever.
"We have been thirty years in these same offices, and we never yet have
had enough in our hands to make it worth while for us to quit business.
Permit me to show you our books."

His ledger displayed accounts running as high as two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars that had been intrusted to their care by single
individuals. But thirty years in business at the same old stand! He
insisted gently upon this point, and Wallingford nodded his head.

"Before I'm through I'll make all these bets look like cigar money," he
asserted, "but just now I'm going to put fifty thousand in your hands,
and I want it placed in exactly this way: Monday morning, with ten
thousand dollars buy me one hundred thousand bushels of December wheat
on a ten-cent margin. No more money will be put up on this deal, so
place a stop-loss order against it. If wheat drops enough to wipe out
the ten thousand dollars, all right; say nothing and report the finish
of the transaction to me. I'll do my own grinning. If wheat goes up
enough to leave me five cents a bushel profit, clear of commissions,
close the deal and remit. On the following Monday, if wheat has gone up
from the quotations of to-day, sell one hundred thousand bushels more at
ten cents margin and close at a sufficient drop to net me five cents
clear. If it has gone down, buy. Do this on five successive Mondays and
handle each deal separately. Get me one winning out of five. That's all
I want."

Mr. Fox considered thoughtfully for a moment, carefully polishing his
bald, pink scalp around and around with the palm of his hand. He gave
the curious impression of being always engaged with some blandly
interesting secret problem along with the business under consideration.

"Very well, sir," he observed. "Fox & Fleecer never makes any promises,
but if you will put your instructions into writing I will place them in
the hands of our Mr. Fleecer, who conducts our board operations. He will
do the best he can for you."

Mr. Wallingford looked about him for a stenographer. There was none
employed here, and, sitting down to the little writing table which was
pointed out to him, he made out the instructions in long hand, while Mr.
Fox polished away at his already glistening pate, still working at that
blandly interesting secret problem.

Ten days later, at the test-tube farm, arrived a report from Messrs. Fox
& Fleecer, inclosing their check for fifteen thousand dollars. Wheat, in
the week following Wallingford's purchase, had fortunately gone up
nearly six cents. This check, and the accompanying statement of the
transaction which had brought it forth, Wallingford showed to Ham
Tinkle, quite incidentally, of course, and Ham, in awe and enthusiasm,
confided the five-thousand-dollar winning to Hiram Hines, who spread the
report through Truscot County that Judge Wallingford had already made
fifteen thousand dollars in wheat since he had come among them. The
savings of an ordinary lifetime! The amount was fifty thousand when it
reached Mapes County. Two weeks later Messrs. Fox & Fleecer reported on
the second of Wallingford's deals. Wheat sold at ninety-four had dropped
to eighty-eight. Luck was distinctly with J. Rufus Wallingford.

"Why, oh, why, do cheap skates sell gold bricks and good come-on men
waste their talents on Broadway!" wailed Blackie Daw. "But what's the
joke, J. Rufus? I see your luck, but where do the surrounding farmers
get in? Or where do you get in on the surrounding farmers? Show me. I'm
an infant."

"You couldn't understand it, Blackie," said J. Rufus with condescending
kindness. "The mere fact that you look on these pocket-change winnings
as real money lets you out. Wait till I spring the big game. To-morrow
night you shall attend this winter's opening meeting of the Philomathean
Literary Society at the Willow Creek schoolhouse, and observe the
methods of a real bread winner."

For the memorable occasion that he had mentioned, Wallingford wore a
fur-lined overcoat and quadruple-woven blue silk sweater, and, being
welcomed with great acclaim, proposed for debate that burning question:
"Resolved: That the farmer is a failure as a business man."

With much stamping and pawing of the air that subject was thrashed out
by Abe Johnson and Dan Price for the affirmative, and Cal Whorley and Ed
Wiggin for the negative. The farmer as a gold-brick purchaser, as prey
for every class of tradesmen, as a producer who received less net profit
than any other from the capital and labor invested, was presented to
himself by men who knew their own grievances well, and the affirmative
was carried almost unanimously. Flushed with pleasure, beaming with
gratification, the most advanced farmer of them all arose in his place
and requested of the worthy chairman the privilege to address the
meeting, a privilege that was granted with pleasure and delight.

It was an eventful moment when J. Rufus Wallingford stalked up the
middle aisle, passed around the red-hot, cannon-ball stove and ascended
the rostrum which had been the scene of so many impassioned addresses;
and, as he turned to face them from that historic elevation, he seemed
to fill the entire end of the schoolroom, to blot out not only the
teacher's desk but the judges' seats, the blackboard and the
four-colored map of the United States that hung upon the wall behind
him. He was a fine-looking man, a solid-looking man, a gentleman of
wealth and culture, who, unspoiled by good fortune, was still a brother
to all men. Already he had gained that enviable reputation among them.

Friends and neighbors and fellow-farmers, it was startling to reflect
that the agriculturist was the only producer in all the world who had no
voice in the price which was put upon his product! The manufacturer
turned out his goods and set a price upon them and the consumer had to
pay that price. And how was this done? By the throttling of competition.
And how had competition been throttled? By consolidation of all the
interests in any particular line of trade. Iron and steel were all
controlled by one mighty corporation against which could stand no
competitor except by sufferance; petroleum and all its by-products were
in the hands of another, and each charged what it liked. The farmer
alone, after months of weary, unending toil, of exposure in all sorts of
weather, of struggle against the whims of nature and against an
appalling list of possible disasters, himself hauled his output to
market and meekly accepted whatever was offered him. Prices on every
product of the soil were dictated by a clique of gamblers who, in all
probability, had never seen wheat growing nor cattle grazing. Friends
and neighbors and fellow-farmers, this woeful condition must end! They
must coöperate! Once compacted the farmers could stand together as firm
as a rock, could demand a fair and reasonable and just price for their
output, and get it. To-day wheat was quoted at ninety-four cents on the
Chicago Board of Trade. If the farmer, however, secured eighty-two at
his delivery point in actual cash he was doing well. There was no reason
why the farmers should not agree to establish a standing price of a
dollar and a half a bushel for wheat; and that must be their slogan.
Wheat at a dollar and a half!

He was vitally interested in this project, and he was willing to spend
his life and fortune for it; and, in the furtherance of it, he invited
his friends and neighbors and fellow-farmers to assemble at his house on
the following Saturday night and discuss ways and means to bring this
enormous movement to a practical working basis. Incidentally he _might_
find a bite and a sup and a whiff of smoke to offer them. All those who
would attend would please rise in their seats.

As one man they arose, and when J. Rufus Wallingford, glowing with the
immensity of his noble project, stepped down from that platform, the
walls of the Willow Creek schoolhouse echoed and reechoed with the
cheers which followed his speech.

The Farmers' Commercial Association! There had been farmers'
affiliations without number, with motives political, economical,
educational; alliances for the purchasing of supplies at wholesale and
for every other purpose under the sun, but nothing like this, for, to
begin with, the Farmers' Commercial Association had no initiation fee
and no dues, and it had for its sole and only object the securing of a
flat, uniform rate of a dollar and a half a bushel for wheat. The first
meeting, attended by every able-bodied tiller of the soil in Truscot
County and some even from Mapes County, was so large that there was no
place in the Wallingford homestead to house it, and it had to be taken
out to the great new barn, where, in the spacious aisle between stalls
and mows, enthusiasm had plenty of room to soar to the rafters. One
feature had stilled all doubts: J. Rufus Wallingford alone was to pay!

With a whoop the association was organized, Judge Wallingford was made
its president, and with great enthusiasm was authorized to go ahead and
spend all of his own money that he cared to lay out for the benefit of
the association. Only one trifling duty was laid upon the members.
President Wallingford introduced an endless chain letter. It was brief.
It was concise. It told in the fewest possible words just why the
Farmers' Commercial Association had been formed and what it was expected
to do, laying especial stress upon the fact that there were to be no
initiation fees and no dues, no money to be paid for anything! All that
the members were to do was to join, and when enough were in, to demand
one dollar and a half for their wheat. It was a glittering proposition,
for there was no trouble and no expense and no risk, with much to gain.
Every one of the ninety-odd who gathered that night in Wallingford's
barn was to write three or more of these letters to wheat-growing
acquaintances, and each recipient of a letter was told that the only
thing which need be done to enroll himself as a member of the order was
to write three more such letters and send in his name to Horatio Raven,
Secretary.

Horatio Raven himself was there. There was a barrel of good, hard cider
on tap in the barn, and every few minutes Mr. Raven could be seen
conducting one or two acquaintances quietly over to the cellar, where
there were other things on tap. Cigars were passed around, and the good
cheer which was provided became so inextricably mingled with the
enthusiasm which had been aroused, that no farmer could tell which was
which. It only sufficed that when they went away each one was profoundly
convinced that J. Rufus Wallingford was the Moses who should lead the
farmers of America out of their financial Wilderness.

During the next two or three days nearly three hundred letters left
Truscot and Mapes counties, inviting nearly three hundred farmers in the
great wheat belt, extending from the Rockies to the Appalachians, to
take full sixty per cent. more for their produce than the average price
they had always been receiving, to invite others to receive like
benefits, and all to accept this boon without money and without price.
It was personal solicitation from one man to another who knew him, and
the first flood that went out reached every wheat-growing State in the
Union. Within a week, names and requests for further information began
pouring in upon Horatio Raven, Secretary, and the card index drawers in
the filing cabinet, originally bought in jest, became of actual service.
One, then two, then three girls were installed. A pamphlet was printed
explaining the purpose of the Farmers' Commercial Association, and these
were sent to all "members," J. Rufus Wallingford furnishing both the
printing and the postage.

Through the long winter the president of that great association was
constantly upon the road, always in his corduroy suit and his broad felt
hat, with his trousers tucked neatly into his seal-leather boots. His
range was from Pennsylvania to Nebraska and from Minnesota to Texas, and
everywhere his destination was some branch nucleus of the Farmers'
Commercial Association where meetings had been arranged for him. Each
night he addressed some body of skeptical farmers who came wondering,
who saw the impressive and instantly convincing "Judge" Wallingford;
who, listening, caught a touch of that magnetic thrill with which he
always imbued his auditors, and who went away enthusiastic to carry to
still further reaches the great work that he had planned. By the holiday
season he had visited a dozen States and had addressed nearly a hundred
sub-organizations. In each of these he gave the chain letters a new
start, and the December meeting of the central organization of the
Farmers' Commercial Association was also a Christmas celebration in the
barn of that progressive and self-sacrificing and noble farmer, J. Rufus
Wallingford.

It was a huge "family affair," held two nights before Christmas so as
not to interfere with the Baptist Church at Three Roads or the
Presbyterian Church at Miller's Crossing, and the great barn was trimmed
with wreaths and festoons of holly from floor to rafters. At one end was
a gigantic Christmas tree, from the branches of which glowed a myriad of
electric lights and sparkled innumerable baubles of vivid coloring and
metallic luster. Handsome presents had been provided for every man,
woman and child, and down the extent of the wide center had been spread
two enormous, long tables upon which was placed food enough to feed a
small army; huge turkeys and all that went with them. At the head of the
ladies' table sat Mrs. Wallingford, glittering in her diamonds, the
first time she had worn them since coming into this environment, and at
the head of the men's table, resplendent in a dinner coat and with huge
diamond studs flashing from his wide, white shirt bosom, sat the giver
of all these bounties, Judge J. Rufus Wallingford, president of the vast
Farmers' Commercial Association. He was flushed with triumph, and he
told them so at the proper moment. Beyond his most sanguine hopes the
Farmers' Commercial Association had spread and flourished in every
State, nay, in every community where wheat was grown, and the time was
rapidly approaching when the farmer, now turned business man, would be
able to get the full value of his investment of money, time and toil.
Moreover, they would destroy the birds of prey, feathers, bones and
beaks, fledgelings, eggs and nests.

Around the table, at this point, Horatio Raven, Secretary, passed a
sheaf of reports upon the various successful deals that Wallingford had
made, each one showing a profit of five thousand dollars on a
ten-thousand-dollar investment. The secret facts of the case were that
fortune had favored Wallingford tremendously. By one of those strange
runs of luck which sometimes break the monotony of persistent gambling
disasters, he had won not less than five out of every six of the
continuous deals intrusted to Fox & Fleecer. The failures he kept to
himself, and Ham Tinkle added to the furore that the proofs of this
success created by rising in his place and advising them how, upon
Wallingford's certain and sure advance information of the market, he
himself had been able to turn his modest little two hundred dollars into
seven hundred during the past three months, with the profits still
piling up.

But J. Rufus Wallingford, resuming, saw such profits vanishing in the
future, for by the aid of the Farmers' Commercial Association he
intended to wipe out the iniquitous grain and produce exchange, and, in
fact, all gambling in food products throughout the United States. The
scope of the Farmers' Commercial Association was much broader, much more
far-reaching than even he had imagined when he at first conceived it.
When they were ready they would not only establish a firm cash basis for
wheat, but they would wipe this festering mass of corruption, called the
Board of Trade, off the face of the earth by the simple process of
taking all its money away from it. With their certain knowledge of what
the price of wheat would be, when the time was ripe they would go into
the market and, themselves, by their aggregate profits, would break
every man who was in the business of manipulating prices on wheat, on
oats and corn and live stock. Why, nearly one million names were now
enrolled in the membership of the association, and to these million
names circulars explaining in detail the plans of the organization had
been mailed at a cost in postage alone of nearly ten thousand dollars.
This expense he had cheerfully borne himself, in his devotion to the
great work of reformation. Not one penny had been paid by any other
member of the organization for the furtherance of this project. He had
spent nearly twenty thousand dollars in travel and other expenses, but
the market had paid for it, and he was not one penny loser by his
endeavors. Even if he were, that would not stop him. He would sell every
government bond and every share of industrial and railroad stock that he
owned, he would even mortgage his farm, if necessary, to complete this
organization and make it the powerful and impregnable factor in
agricultural commerce that he had intended it to be. It was his dream,
his ambition, nay, his determined purpose, to leave behind him this vast
organization as an evidence that his life had not been spent in vain;
and if he could only see the wheat gamblers put out of that nefarious
business, and the farmers of the United States coming, after all these
toiling generations, into their just and honest dues, he would die with
peace in his heart and a smile upon his lips, even though he went to a
pauper's grave!

There were actual tears in his eyes as he closed with these words, and
his voice quivered. From the foot of the table Blackie Daw was watching
with a curious smile that was almost a sardonic grin. From the head of
the parallel table Mrs. Wallingford was watching him with a pallor that
deepened as he went on, but no one noticed these significant
indications, and as J. Rufus Wallingford sat down a mighty cheer went up
that made every branch of the glittering Christmas tree dance and
quiver.

He was a wonderful man, this Wallingford, a genius, a martyr, a being
made in his entirety of the milk of human kindness and brotherly love;
but this rapidly growing organization that he had formed was more
wonderful still. They could see as plain as print what it would do for
them; they could see even plainer than print how, with the certain
knowledge of the price to which wheat would eventually rise, they could
safely dabble in fictitious wheat themselves, and by their enormous
aggregate winnings, obliterate all boards of trade. It was a conception
Titanic in its immensity, perfect in its detail, amazing in its
flawlessness, and not one among them who listened but went home that
night--J. Rufus Wallingford's seal-leather pocketbook in his pocket, J.
Rufus Wallingford's box of lace handkerchiefs on his wife's lap, J. Rufus
Wallingford's daintily dressed French doll in his little girl's arm,
J. Rufus Wallingford's toy engine in his little boy's hands--but foresaw,
not as in a dream but as in a concrete reality that needed only to be
clutched, the future golden success of the Farmers' Commercial
Association; and on the forehead of that success was emblazoned in
letters of gold:

     "$1.50 WHEAT!"



CHAPTER XXIV

THE FARMERS' COMMERCIAL ASSOCIATION DOES TERRIFIC THINGS TO THE BOARD OF
TRADE


The holidays barely over, Wallingford was upon the road again, and until
the first of May he spent his time organizing new branches, keeping the
endless chain letters booming and taking subscriptions for his new
journal, the _Commercial Farmer_, a device by which he had solved the
grave problem of postage. The _Commercial Farmer_ was issued every two
weeks. It was printed on four small pages of thin paper, and to make it
second-class postal matter a real subscription price was charged--five
cents a year! For this he paid postage of one cent a pound, and there
were eighty copies to the pound. He could convey his semi-monthly
message to a million people at a cost of one hundred and twenty-five
dollars, as against the ten thousand dollars it would cost him to mail a
million letters with a one-cent stamp upon them. And five cents a year
was enough to pay expenses. On the first of May, the enterprising
promoter, who seriously aspired now to become a financial star of the
first magnitude, took a swift thousand-mile journey to the offices of
Fox & Fleecer, where Mr. Fox, polishing, as always, at his glazed scalp,
was still intent upon that bland but perplexing secret problem. Mr.
Wallingford, as a preliminary to conversation, drew his chair up to the
opposite side of the desk and laid upon it a check book and a package of
documents with a rubber band around them. "Four hundred and twenty-five
thousand dollars in cash and negotiable securities," he stated, "and all
to buy September wheat."

Mr. Fox said nothing, but unconsciously his palm went to the top of his
head.

"The September option is at this moment quoted at eighty-seven and
one-eighth cents," went on Mr. Wallingford. "Could it possibly go lower
than sixty-two?"

"It is the invariable rule of Fox & Fleecer," said Mr. Fox slowly,
"never to give advice nor to predict any future performances of wheat.
Wheat can go to any price, up or down. I may add, however, that it has
been several years since the September option has touched the low level
you name."

"Well, I'm going to bet this four hundred and twenty-five thousand
dollars that it don't go as low as sixty-two," retorted Wallingford
stiffening. "I want you to take this wad and invest it in September
wheat right off the bat, at the market, on a twenty-five cent margin,
which covers one million, seven hundred thousand bushels."

Mr. Fox, his eyes hypnotically glued upon the little stack of securities
which represented four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, and a
larger commission than his firm had ever in all its existence received
in one deal, filled his lungs with a long, slow intake of air which he
strove to make as noiseless as possible.

"You must understand, Mr. Wallingford," he finally observed, "that it
will be impossible to buy an approximate two million bushels of the
September option at this time without disturbing the market and running
up the price on yourself, and it may take us a little time to get this
trade launched. Probably five hundred thousand bushels can be placed at
near the market, and then we will have to wait until a favorable moment
to place another section. Our Mr. Fleecer, however, is very skillful in
such matters and will no doubt get a good price for you."

"I understand about that," said Wallingford, "and I understand about the
other end of it, too. I want to turn this four hundred and twenty-five
thousand dollars into a clean million or I don't want a cent. September
wheat will go to one dollar and a quarter."

Mr. Fox reserved his smile until Mr. Wallingford should be gone. At
present he only polished his pate.

"That's when you would probably fall down," continued Wallingford; "when
September wheat reaches a dollar and a quarter. If you try to throw this
seventeen hundred thousand bushels on the market you will break the
price, unless on the same day that you sell it you can buy the same
amount for somebody else. Will that let you get the price without
dropping it off ten or fifteen cents?"

"Fox & Fleecer never predict," said Mr. Fox slowly, "but in a general
way I should say that if we were to buy in as much as we sold, the
market would probably be strengthened rather than depressed."

"All right," said Wallingford. "Now I have another little matter to
present to you." From his pocket he drew a copy of the _Commercial
Farmer_, the pages scarcely larger than a sheet of business letter
paper. "I want an advertisement from you for the back page of this. Just
a mere card, with your name and address and the fact that you have been
in business at the same location for thirty years; and at the bottom I
want to put: 'We handle all the wheat transactions of J. Rufus
Wallingford.'"

[Illustration: A LARGER COMMISSION THAN FOX AND FLEECER HAD EVER
RECEIVED IN ONE DEAL]

Of course in a matter so trifling Mr. Fox could not refuse so good a
customer, and J. Rufus departed, well satisfied, to work and wait while
Nature helped his plans.

Across a thousand miles of fertile land the spring rains fell and the
life-giving sun shone down; from the warm earth sprang up green blades
and tall shoots that through their hollow stems sucked the life of the
soil, and by a transformation more wonderful than ever conceived by any
magician, upon the stalks there swelled heads of grain that nodded and
yellowed and ripened with the advancing summer. From the windows of
Pullman cars, as he rode hither and yonder throughout this rich
territory in the utmost luxury that travelers may have, J. Rufus
Wallingford, the great liberator of farmers, watched all this magic of
the Almighty with but the one thought of what it might mean to him. Back
on the Wallingford farm, Blackie Daw and his staff of assistants, now
half-a-dozen girls, kept up an ever-increasing correspondence. Ham
Tinkle was jealous of the very night that hid his handiwork for a space
out of each twenty-four hours, and begrudged the time that he spent in
sleep. During every waking moment, almost, he was abroad in his fields,
and led his neighbors, when he could, to see his triumph, for never had
the old Spicer farm brought forth such a yield, and nowhere in Truscot
County or in Mapes County could such fields be shown. Upon these broad
acres the wheat was thicker and sturdier, the heads longer and larger
and fuller of fine, fat grain than anywhere in all the region round.

The Farmers' Commercial Association, a "combination in restraint of
trade" which was well protected by the fear-inspiring farmer vote, met
monthly, and Wallingford ran in to the meetings as often as he could,
though there was no need to sustain their enthusiasm; for not only was
the plan one of such tremendous scope as to compel admiration, but
Nature and circumstances both were kind. There came the usual early
rumors of a drought in Kansas, of over-much rotting rain in the Dakotas,
of the green bug in Oklahoma, of foreign wars and domestic disturbances,
and these things were good for the price of wheat, as they were
exaggerated upon the floors of the great boards of trade in Chicago and
New York. Through these causes alone September wheat climbed from
eighty-seven to ninety, to ninety-five, to a dollar, to a dollar-five;
but in the latter part of July there came a new and an unexpected
factor. Dollar-and-a-half wheat had been the continuous slogan of the
Farmers' Commercial Association, and every issue of the _Commercial
Farmer_ had dwelt upon the glorious day when that should be made the
standard price. Now, in the mid-July issue, the idea was driven home and
the entire first page was given up to a great, flaming advertisement:

              HOLD YOUR WHEAT!
         SEPTEMBER WHEAT WILL GO TO
               $1.50!
    DON'T SELL A BUSHEL OF IT FOR LESS!

The result was widespread and instantaneous. In Oklahoma a small farmer
drove up to the elevator and asked:

"What's wheat worth to-day?"

"A dollar, even," was the answer.

"This is all you get from me at that price," said the farmer, "and you
wouldn't get this if I didn't need fifty dollars to-day. Take it in."

"Think wheat's going higher?" asked the buyer.

"Higher! It's going to a dollar and a half," boasted the farmer. "I got
twelve hundred bushels at home, and nobody gets it for a cent less than
eighteen hundred dollars."

"You'd better see a doctor before you drive back," advised the elevator
man, laughing.

Over in Kansas at one of the big collecting centers the telephone bell
rang.

"What's cash wheat worth to-day?"

"Dollar-one."

"A dollar-one! I'll hold mine a while."

"Better take this price while you can get it," advised the shipper. "Big
crop this year."

"A dollar and a half's the price," responded the farmer on the other end
of the wire.

"Who is this?" asked the shipper.

"J. W. Harkness."

The man rubbed his chin. Harkness owned five hundred acres of the best
wheat land in Kansas.

In South Dakota, on the same day, two farmers who had brought in their
wheat drove home with it, refusing the price offered with scorn. In
Pennsylvania not one-tenth of the grain was delivered as on the same
date a year before, and the crop was much larger. In Ohio, in Indiana,
in Illinois, in Iowa, in Nebraska, all through the wheat belt began
these significant incidents, and to brokers in Chicago and New York were
wired startling reports from a hundred centers: farmers were delivering
no wheat and were holding out for a dollar and a half!

"You can scare the entire Board of Trade black in the face with a
Hallowe'en pumpkin," Wallingford had declared to Blackie Daw. "Say
'Boo!' and they drop dead. Step on a parlor match and every trader jumps
straight up into the gallery. Four snowflakes make a blizzard, and a
frost on State Street kills all the crops in Texas."

Results seemed to justify his summing up. On that day wheat jumped ten
cents within the last hour before closing, and ten thousand small
speculators who had been bearing the market, since they could see no
good reason for the already high price, were wiped out before they had a
chance to protect their margins. On the following day a special edition
of the _Commercial Farmer_ was issued. It exulted, it gloated, it fairly
shrieked over the triumph that had already been accomplished by the
Farmers' Commercial Association. The first minute that it had shown its
teeth it had made for the farmers of the United States ten cents a
bushel on four hundred million bushels of wheat! It had made for them in
one hour forty million dollars net profit, and this was but the
beginning. The farmers themselves, by standing together, had already
raised the price of wheat to a dollar-fifteen, and dollar-and-a-half
wheat was but a matter of a few days. On the boards of trade it would go
even higher. There would be no stopping it. It would soar to a dollar
and a half, to a dollar-seventy-five, to two dollars! Speculation was a
thing ordinarily to be discouraged, yet under these circumstances the
farmers themselves should reap the wealth that was now ripe. They should
take out of "Wall Street" and La Salle Street their share of the money
that these iniquitous centers of financial jugglery had taken from the
agricultural interests of the country for these many years. They
themselves knew now, by the events of one day, that the Farmers'
Commercial Association was strong enough to accomplish what it had meant
to accomplish, and now was the time to get into the market. It should be
not only the pleasure and profit of every farmer, but the duty of every
farmer, to hit the gamblers a fatal blow by investing every loose
dollar, on safe and conservative margins, in this certain advance of
wheat. On the last page of this issue of the _Commercial Farmer_
appeared for the first time the advertisement of Fox & Fleecer, and
copies went to a million wheat growers.

The response was many-phased. Farmers who were convinced of this logic,
and those who were not, rushed their wheat to market at the then
prevailing price, not waiting for the dollar and a half, but turning
their produce into cash at once. To offset this sudden release of grain,
buying orders poured into the markets, the same cash that had been
received from the sale of actual wheat being put into margins upon
fictitious wheat. Prices fluctuated in leaps of five and ten cents, and
the pit went crazy. It was a seething, howling mob, tossing frenzied
trades back and forth until faces were red and voices were hoarse; and
the firm of Fox & Fleecer, long noted for its conservative dealing and
almost passed by in the course of events, suddenly became the most
important factor on the floor.

On the ticker that on the first of May he had installed in his now
mortgaged house upon his mortgaged farm, Wallingford saw the price mount
to a dollar and a quarter, drop to a dollar-eighteen, jump to a
dollar-twenty-two, back to twenty, up to twenty-five, back to
twenty-two, up to twenty-eight. This last quotation he came back into
the room to see after he had on his hat and ulster, and while his
automobile, carrying Blackie Daw and Mrs. Wallingford, was spluttering
and quivering at the door. Then he started for Chicago, leaving his
neighbors back home to keep his telephone in a continuous jingle.

Hiram Hines met Len Miller in the road, for example. Both were beaming.

"What's the latest about wheat?" asked Len.

"A dollar twenty-eight and seven-eighths," replied Hiram; "at least it
was about an hour ago when I telephoned to Judge Wallingford's house.
Suppose its climbing for a dollar-thirty by now. How much you got, Len?"

"Twenty thousand bushels," answered Len jubilantly. "Bought it at a
dollar twenty-four on a five-cent margin, and got that much profits
already, nearly. Raised a thousand dollars on my sixty acres and have
made nearly a thousand on it in two weeks; with Judge Wallingford's own
brokers, too."

"So's mine," exulted Hiram. "Paid a dollar-twenty-six, but I'm
satisfied. When it reaches a dollar-forty I'll quit."

Ezekiel Tinkle walked six miles to see his son Ham at the Wallingford
place.

"Jonas Whetmore's bragging about two thousand dollars he's made in a few
days in this wheat business," he stated. "I don't rightly understand
it, Hamlet. How about it? I don't believe in speculating, but Jonas says
this ain't speculating, and if there's such a lot of money to be made I
want some."

"We all do," laughed Ham Tinkle, who, since he had "made good" with his
new-fangled farming, was accepted as an equal by his father. "I had two
hundred when I started. It's a thousand now, and will be five thousand
before I quit. Bring your money to me, father, and I'll show you how to
get in on the profits. But hurry. How much can you spare?"

"Well," figured Ezekiel, "there's that fifteen hundred I've saved up for
Bobbie's schooling; then when I sell my wheat----"

"Don't do that!" interposed his son quickly. "Wheat is going up so
rapidly because the growers are holding it for a dollar and a half.
Every man who sells his now, weakens the price that much."

"Is _that_ the way of it!" exclaimed the old man, enlightened at last,
and he kicked reflectively at a piece of turf. "To make money out of
this all the farmers must hold their wheat for a dollar and a half! Say,
Hamlet; Charlie Granice sold his wheat at a dollar-six to go into this
thing. Adam Spooner and Burt Powers and Charlie Dorsett all sold theirs,
and they're all members of this association. Ham, I'm going right home
to sell my wheat."

"They are traitors!" charged Hamlet angrily. "I won't send that money
away for you."

"Send it away!" retorted the old man. "Not by a danged sight you won't!
I'll sell my wheat right now while it's high, and put my money in the
bank along with the fifteen hundred I've got there; and you go ahead and
be your own fool. I know advice from your old daddy won't stop you."

Not many, however, were like old man Tinkle, and J. Rufus Wallingford,
as he sped toward Chicago, was more self-congratulatory than he had ever
been in all his life. A million dollars! A real million! Why, dignity
could now attach to the same sort of dealing that had made him forever
avoid the cities where he had "done business." Heretofore his operations
had been on such a small scale that they could be called "common
grafting," but now, with a larger scope, they would be termed "shrewd
financiering." It was entirely a matter of proportion. A million! Well,
he deserved a million, and the other millions that would follow. Didn't
he look the part? Didn't he act it? Didn't he live it?

"Me for the big game!" he exulted. "Watch me take my little old
cast-iron dollars into Wall Street and keep six corporations rotating in
the air at one and the same time. Who's the real Napoleon of Finance?
Me; Judge Wallingford, Esquire!"

"Pull the safety-rope and let out a little gas, J. Rufus," advised
Blackie Daw dryly. "Your balloon will rip a seam. The boys on Wall
Street were born with their eye-teeth cut, and eat marks like you before
breakfast for appetizers."

J. Rufus only laughed.

"They'd be going some," he declared. "Any wise Willie who can make a
million farmers jump in to help him up into the class of purely
legitimate theft, like railroad mergers and industrial holding
companies, ought to be able to stay there. The manipulator that swallows
me will have a horrible stomachache."

Mrs. Wallingford had listened with a puzzled expression.

"But I don't understand it, Jim," she said. "I can see why you got the
farmers together to raise the price of wheat. It does them good as well
as you. But why have you worked so hard to make them speculate?"

J. Rufus looked at her with an amused expression.

"My dear infant," he observed; "when Fox & Fleecer got ready to sell my
near-two-million bushels of wheat this morning, somebody had to be ready
to buy them. I provided the buyers. That's all."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Wallingford, and pondered the matter slowly. "I
see. But, Jim! Mr. Hines, Mr. Evans, Mr. Whetmore, Mr. Granice, and the
others--to whom do they sell after they have bought your wheat?"

"The sheriff," interposed Blackie with a grin.

"Not necessarily," Wallingford hastened to contradict him in answer to
the troubled frown upon his wife's brow. "My deal don't disturb the
market, and I expect wheat to go on up to at least a dollar and a half.
If these farmers get out on the way up they make money. But the boobs
who buy from them----"

"Ain't it funny?" inquired Blackie plaintively. "There's always a herd
of 'em just crazy eager to grab the hot end."

A boy came on the train with evening papers containing the closing
market quotations. Wheat had touched thirty-four, but a quick break had
come at the close, back to twenty-six! Another column told why. Every
cent of advance in the actual grain had brought out cash wheat in
floods. Members of the great Farmers' Commercial Association had hurried
their holdings to market, trusting to the great body of the loosely
bound organizations to keep up the price--and the great body of the
organization was doing precisely the same thing. At bottom they had, in
fact, small faith in it, and the Board of Trade, sensitive as a
barometer, was quick to feel this psychological change in the situation.
Wallingford said nothing of this to his wife. He had begun to fear her.
Always she had set herself against actual dishonesty, and more so than
ever of late as he had begun to pride himself upon being a great
financier. In the smoking compartment, however, he handed the paper to
Blackie Daw, with his thumb upon the quotations.

"There's the answer," he said. "The Rubes have cut their own throats, as
I figured they would, and you'll see wheat tumble to lower than it was
when this raise began. Hines and Evans and Granice and the rest of them
will hold the bag on this deal, and they needn't blame it to me. They
can only blame it to the fact that farmers won't stick. I'm lucky that
they hung together long enough to reach my price of a dollar and a
quarter."

"How do you know you got out?" asked Blackie, passing over as a matter
of no moment whatever the fact that all their neighbors of Truscot and
Mapes Counties, who had followed "Judge" Wallingford's lead and urging
in the matter of speculation, would lose their all; as would hundreds if
not thousands of other "members" who had been led through the deftly
worded columns of the _Commercial Farmer_ to gamble in their own grain.

"Easy," explained J. Rufus. "The quotations themselves tell it. Fox &
Fleecer had instructions to unload at a dollar twenty-five, and they
follow such instructions absolutely. They began unloading at that price,
buying in at the same time for my farmers, and, in spite of the fact
that they were pitching nearly two million bushels of wheat on the
market after it hit the twenty-five mark, it went on up to thirty-four
before it broke, showing that the buying orders until that time were in
excess of selling orders. The farmers throughout the country simply ate
up my two million bushels of wheat."

"Then it's their money you got, after all," observed Blackie.

"It's mine now," responded J. Rufus with a chuckle. "I saw it first."



CHAPTER XXV

MR. FOX SOLVES HIS GREAT PROBLEM, AND MR. WALLINGFORD FALLS WITH A THUD


They arrived in Chicago late and they arose late. At breakfast, with
languid interest, Wallingford picked up the paper that lay beside his
plate, and the first item upon which his eyes rested was a sensational
article headed: "BROKER SUICIDES." Even then he was scarcely interested
until his eye caught the name of Edwin H. Fox.

"What is the matter?" asked his wife anxiously, as, with a startled
exclamation, he hastily pushed back his chair and arose. It was the
first time that she had ever in any emergency seen his florid face turn
ghastly pale. Dilemmas, reverses and even absolute defeats he had always
accepted with a gambler's coolness, but now, since his vanity had let
him dignify his pursuit of other people's money by the name of
financiering, the blow came with crushing force; for it maimed not only
his pocketbook but his pride as it swept away the glittering air
castles that he had been building for the past year.

"Matter!" he spluttered, half choking. "We are broke!" And leaving his
breakfast untasted he hastily ordered a cab and drove to the office of
Fox & Fleecer, devouring the details of the tragedy as he went. The
philanthropic Mr. Fox, he of the glistening bald pate and the air of
cold probity, the man who had been for thirty years in business at the
old stand, who had seemed as firm as a rock and as unsusceptible as a
quart of clams, had been leading not only a double but a sextuple life,
for half a dozen pseudo-widows mourned his demise and the loss of a
generous banker. To support all these expensive establishments, which,
once set up, firmly declined to ever go out of existence, Mr. Fox had
been juggling with the money of his customers; robbing Peter to pay
Paul, until the time had come when Paul could be no longer paid and
there was only one debt left that he could by any possibility wipe
out--the debt he owed to Nature. That he had paid with a forty-four
caliber bullet through the temple. At last he had solved that perplexing
problem which had bothered him all these years.

Wallingford had expected to find the office of Fox & Fleecer closed,
but the door stood wide open and the dingy apartment was filled with a
crowd of men, all equally nervous but violently contrasted as to
complexion, some of them being extremely pale and some extremely
flushed, according to their temperaments. Mr. Fleecer, one of those
strangest of all anomalies, a nervous fat man, stood behind Mr. Fox's
desk, his collar wilted with perspiration and the flabby pouches under
his eyes black from his vigil of the night. He was almost as large as
Wallingford himself, but a careless dresser, and a pitiable object as he
started back on hearing Wallingford's name, tossing up his right hand
with a curious involuntary motion as if to ward off a blow. His crisp,
quick voice, however, did not fit at all with his appearance of crushed
indecision.

"I might as well tell you the blunt truth at first, Mr. Wallingford," he
said. "You haven't a cent, so far as Fox & Fleecer is concerned. Nobody
has. I haven't a dollar in the world and Fox was head over heels in
debt, I find. How that sanctimonious old hypocrite ever got away with it
all these years is the limit. I looked after the buying and selling
orders as he gave them to me, and never had anything to do with the
books. I never knew when a deal was in the office until I received
market orders. I have spent all night on Fox's private accounts,
however, and since yours was the largest item, I naturally went into it
as deeply as I could. If they had telephones in Hell I could give you
more accurate information, but the way I figure it is this: when he got
hold of your four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars with
instructions to buy and not to close until it reached a dollar and a
quarter, he evidently classed your proposition as absurd. There was
absolutely nothing to make wheat go to that price, and, with the big
margin you had put up, he figured that the account would drag along at
least until September, without being touched; so he used what he had to
have of the money to cover up his other steals, expecting to juggle the
market with the rest of it on his own judgment, and expecting, in the
end, to have it back to hand to you when you got tired. When he
understood this upward movement, however, and saw the big thing you had
done, he jumped into the market with what was left, something less than
three hundred thousand dollars. The only way to make that up to the
amount you should have by the time it reached a dollar and a quarter was
to pyramid it, and this he did. He bought on short margin, closed when
he had a good profit, and spread the total amount over other short
margin purchases. He did this three times. On the last deal he had
upward of five million bushels bought to your account, and it was this
strong buying, coupled with the other buying orders which came in at
about the dollar-and-a-quarter mark, that sent the market up to a dollar
thirty-four. If the market could have held half an hour he would have
gotten out all right and turned over to you a million dollars, after
using two hundred and fifty thousand for his own purposes, but when he
attempted to unload the market broke; and by ---- we're all broke!"

Mr. Wallingford laughed, quite mechanically, and from his pocket drew
two huge black cigars with gold bands around them.

"Have a smoke," he said to Mr. Fleecer.

Lighting his own Havana he turned and elbowed his way out of the room.
One of the men who had stood near him exchanged a wondering stare with
his neighbor.

"That's the limit of gameness," he observed.

But he was mistaken. It was not gameness. Wallingford was merely dazed.
He could find no words to express the bitter depth to which he had
fallen. As he passed out through the ticker-room he glanced at the
blackboard. The boy was just chalking up the latest morning quotation on
September wheat--a dollar twelve.

In the cab he opened his pocketbook and counted the money in it. Before
he had started on this trip he had scarcely thought of money, except
that at Fox & Fleecer's there would be waiting for him a cool, clean
million. Instead of that he found himself with exactly fifty-four
dollars.

Mrs. Wallingford was in her room, pale to the lips.

"How much money have you?" he asked her.

Without a word she handed him her purse. A few small bills were in it.
She handed him another small black leather case which he took slowly. He
opened it, and from the velvet depths there gleamed up at him the old
standby--her diamonds. He could get a couple of thousand dollars on
these at any time. He put the case in his pocket, but without any gleam
of satisfaction, and sat down heavily in one of the huge leather-padded
chairs.

"Fanny," said he savagely, "never preach to me again! I have tried a
straight-out legitimate deal and it dumped me. Hereafter, be satisfied
with whatever way I make money, just so long as I have the law on my
side. Why," and his indignation over this last reflection was beyond
expression, "I've coaxed a carload of money out of the farmers of this
country, and I don't get away with a cent of it! A thief got it! _A
thief and a grafter!_"

Mrs. Wallingford did not answer him. She was crying. It was not so much
that they had lost all of this money, it was not that he had spoken
harshly to her for almost the first time since he had come into her
life, but the shattering once more of certain hopeful dreams that had
grown up within her since their sojourn in Battlesburg. Of course, he
was instantly regretful and made such clumsy amends as he could, but the
sting, not of bitterness but of sorrow, was there, and it remained for
long after; until, in fact, she came to realize how much to heart her
husband had taken his only real defeat. For the first time in his life
he became despondent. The height to which he had aspired and had almost
reached, looked now so utterly unattainable that the contemplation of it
took out of him all ambition, all initiative, all life. He seemed to
have lost his creative faculty. Where his fertile brain had heretofore
teemed with plans and projects, crowding upon each other, clamoring for
fulfilment, now he seemed incapable of thought, and fell into an apathy
from which he could not arouse himself no matter how hard he tried.
Parting company with Blackie Daw, who seemed equally rudderless, they
moved aimlessly about from city to city, pawning Mrs. Wallingford's
diamonds as they needed the money, but the man's spirit was gone, and no
matter how often he changed his environment or brought himself into
contact with new fields and new opportunities, no plan for getting back
upon his feet seemed to offer itself. He was too much disheartened, in
fact, even to try. To husband their fast waning resources they even
descended to living in boarding houses, where the brief gratification of
exciting awe among the less impressive boarders was but small
compensation for the loss of the luxury to which they had been used.

It was the sight of a miserable dinner in one of these boarding houses
that proved the turning point for him. His chair was drawn back from the
table for him when he suddenly shoved it to its place again, and with a
darkening brow stalked out of the dining room, followed by the
bewildered Mrs. Wallingford.

"I can't stand this thing, Fanny," he declared. "I've insulted my
stomach with that sort of fodder until it's too late for an apology."

"What are you going to do?" she asked in concern.

"Go where the good steaks grow," he answered emphatically. "We're going
to pack up and move to the best hotel in town and eat ourselves blue in
the face, and to-morrow J. Rufus is going to go back on the job. I
haven't the money in my pocket to pay for it, and we haven't another
thing we can soak, but if I run up a hotel bill I'll have to get out and
dig to pay it, and that's what I need. I'm lazy."

It was a positive elation to him to dash up in a cab to a palatial
hotel, to walk into its gilded and marble corridors with a deferential
porter carrying his luggage, to loom up before a suave clerk in his
impressive immensity and sign his name with a flourish, to demand the
best accommodations they had in the house and to be shown into
apartments that bathed him once more in a garish atmosphere where
everything tasted and felt and smelled of money. It was like the
prodigal son coming home again, and instantly his spirits arose with a
bound. He began as of old to live like a lord, and though the long
sought idea did not come to him for almost two weeks, he held to the
untroubled tenor of his way with all his old arrogance, blessed with a
cheerful belief that some lucky solution of his difficulties would be
found.

One thing alone bothered him toward the last, and that was the rapid
disappearance of such little ready money as he needed for tips when he
was in the hotel, and for drinks and cigars when he found himself away
from it. He was sensitive about ordering inferior goods in good places,
and when away from his source of credit supplies, took to turning in at
obscure cigar stores, preferring to buy the best they had rather than to
taking a second grade in a better place. It was in one of these obscure
little establishments that the elusive inspiration at last came to him.

"The government is rotten!" the stoop-shouldered cigar maker had
complained just a moment before, rasping the air of his dingy little
store with a high-pitched voice that was almost a whine. "It fosters
consolidations. Big profits for rich men and bankruptcy for poor men,
that's what we have come to!"

The stoop-shouldered cigar maker had no chin worth mentioning, and grew
a thin, down-pointed mustache which accentuated that lack. He wore a
green eye-shade and an apron of bed ticking, and he held in his hand a
split mold, gripping the two parts together while he feebly and
hopelessly groped for an inspiration in the mending line. The flabby man
in the greasy vest, who was playing solitaire with a pack of cards so
grimy that it took an experienced eye to tell whether the backs or the
faces were up, did not raise his head, nor did the apathetic young man
with the chronic dent in his time-yellowed Derby, who, sitting
motionless with his crossed arms resting on his knees, had been making a
business of watching the solitaire game in silence.

"That's right," agreed the flabby man, laying the trey of diamonds
carefully upon the four of clubs and peeping to see what the next card
would have been; "all the laws are against the poor man, and we're
ground right down."

A pimple-faced youngster, clearly below the legal age, came in and
bought two cigarettes for a cent, and the cigar maker waited upon him in
sour-visaged nonchalance; neither the solitaire expert nor his
interested watcher raised his eyes; a young man with a flashy tie and a
soiled collar bought three stogies for a nickel and still apathy
reigned; then Wallingford's huge bulk darkened the open doorway and
everybody woke up.

Wallingford was so large that he seemed to crowd the little shop and
absorb all its light, and he approached the cigar case doubtingly,
surveying its contents with the eye of a _connoisseur_. A brand or two
that he knew quite well he passed over, for the boxes were nearly empty
and no doubt had been reeking for a long time in that sponge-moistened
assortment of flavors, but finally he settled upon a newly opened box
from which but two cigars had been sold, and tapped his finger on the
glass above it. The cigar maker reached in for that box with alacrity,
for they were two-for-a-quarter goods, and as he brought them forth he
gave to the buyer the appreciative scrutiny due one of so impressive
appearance. He did not know that under his inspection the big man
winced. In the fine scarf there should have glowed a huge diamond; the
scarf itself had two or three frayed threads; the binding of the hat
brim was somewhat worn; the cuffs were a little ragged. Wallingford felt
that all the world saw this unwonted condition, but still he smiled
richly; and the cigar dealer saw only richness. Probably the imposing
customer would have left the store in the same silence in which he had
made his purchase, but, as he stopped to fastidiously cut the tip from
one of his cigars, an undersized but pompous young collector bustled in
and threw down a bill.

"Hundred Blue Rings," he announced curtly.

With a mechanical curiosity, Wallingford glanced into the case where a
box of cigars with cheap blue bands was displayed. The cigar maker
opened his money drawer and slowly counted out a pile of small silver.

"Three fifty," he lifelessly whined as he shoved it over, and the
collector receipted the bill, dashing out with the same absurd
self-assertiveness with which he had come in.

"Thirty-five a thousand," observed Wallingford incredulously. "That
price is claimed for every nickel cigar on earth, but I always thought
it was phoney. It's a stiff rate, isn't it?"

"It's a hold up," snarled the other, "but I got to keep 'em. I make a
better cigar myself but people don't know anything about tobacco. They
only smoke advertising. Here's my cigar," and he set a box on the case;
"Ed Nickel's Nickelfine. There's a piece of real goods."

The big man picked one out of the box, and twirled it in his deft
fingers with a scrutiny that betokened keen judgment of all small
articles of manufacture.

"It's well made," he admitted; "but what's the use? I could deliver your
week's output in my pocket, and on the way back could spend the money
getting my shoes shined; all because you haven't the wherewith to
advertise."

"I got a little money," insisted the other aggressively, touched on a
point of pride; "money I saved and pinched and scraped together; but it
ain't enough to push a cigar. Some of these big manufacturers spread
around a fortune on a new brand before they sell a single box. There's
John Crewly & Company. They spent a hundred thousand dollars advertising
Blue Rings."

"And you small dealers have handed it back to them," laughed
Wallingford. "You pay that advertising difference above what the cigar
is worth."

"Ten times over!" exploded Mr. Nickel. "The houses that buy in big
quantities get them for below twenty-eight, I've heard. But that's where
the government is rotten! It's fixed so the little man always gets it in
the neck. Combines and trusts eat us up. Every man that joins a
consolidation ought to get ten years at hard labor."

"Don't grouch," advised Wallingford, grinning; "consolidate. If all the
small dealers in this town formed a consolidation, they could buy their
supplies in quantity for spot cash and get the lowest price going."

Ed Nickel looked out of the window at the clanging street cars and
digested this palatable new idea.

"I reckon they could," he mused, "if there was any way to work it so
they wouldn't all spike each other trying to get the best of it," and J.
Rufus chuckled as he recognized this business anarchist's willingness to
undergo an instant change of opinion about consolidation.

The door opened, and a tall, thin man, with curly gray hair and a little
gray goatee, strode nervously in and threw a half dollar on the case.

"Two packs of Kiosks," he demanded.

Almost in the same breath he saw Wallingford, whose face was at that
moment illuminated by the lighter to which he held his cigar.

"J. Rufus, by Heck!" he exclaimed.

Before Wallingford could give voice to his amazement the strangely
altered Blackie Daw was shaking hands eagerly with him.

"You probably don't remember me," went on Blackie with an expansive
grin. "Rush is the name. I. B. Rush, and I never was so bug-house glad
to see anybody in my life!"

The eyes of Wallingford twinkled.

"Well, well, well, Mr. Rush! How you have changed!" he declared.

Blackie shook his head warningly.

"Nix on the advertisement," he cautioned. "Wallingford, you're the
long-sought message from home! Feel in your vest pocket and see if there
isn't an overlooked hundred or two down in the corner."

J. Rufus was cheerful, nay, happy, complaisance itself.

"Certainly, Mr. Rush," he said heartily; "a thousand if you want it.
Just step over to the bank with me till I draw the money," and they
walked out of the door.

With a sigh the flabby man laid the long-suspended jack of hearts upon
the queen of spades.

"Hear the big guy tossin' over a thousand like it was car fare," he
observed. "If I had a piece of lead pipe I'd follow him."

"What do you suppose his graft is?" queried the watcher at the game.

"He's made his money off poor people; that's what!" announced Ed Nickel.
"How else does a man get rich?"



CHAPTER XXVI

J. RUFUS SCENTS A FORTUNE IN SMOKE AND LETS MR. NICKEL SEE THE FLAMES


Wallingford had good cause to survey his friend with amused wonder.

"How you have aged, Blackie," he chuckled. "What has turned you gray in
a single month?"

"Beating it," replied Blackie, hoarsely. "Did you see that guy just now
look around and give me the X-ray stare?"

"He was only admiring your handsome make-up," retorted J. Rufus. "What's
got your nerve all of a sudden?"

"Nerve!" scorned the other. "Say, J. Rufus, when I cut my finger I bleed
yellow, and the mere sight of a brass button gives me hydrophobia.
They're after me, dear friend of my childhood days, for going into the
oil-well industry without any oil wells, and you're the first human
being I've seen in three weeks that didn't look like he had the iron
bracelets in his pocket. Even you're a living frost. For a minute you
gave me that glad feeling, but when you said to come around to the bank
and I could have a thousand, I knew it was all off. If you'd had it,
nothing but paralysis would have stopped you from putting your hand in
your pocket and making a flash with the two hundred I wanted. I have to
make a quick get-away from this town or have the door of a nice steel
bedroom locked from the outside!"

Solemnly J. Rufus drew from his pocket his total supply of earthly
wealth, a ten-dollar bill and the change he had received at the cigar
store.

"I'll give you the ten," he offered, "although I'm glued to the floor
myself."

"I can see it, for your sparks are gone," said Mr. Daw, glumly looking
his friend over from head to foot as he pocketed the ten. "How did the
beans get spilled? I thought there was a fresh crop of your particular
breed of come-ons every morning."

"I'm overtrained," explained J. Rufus with cheerful resignation. "I used
to be able to jump into a town with ten dollars in my pocket, and have
to lock myself in my room to keep 'em from forcing money on me faster
than I could take it; but I've lost my winning ways, I guess. The fact
of the matter is, Blackie, I need an oculist. I can't see small enough
since the big blow-up. I had climbed too high, and when I tumbled off
the perch I fell so hard I couldn't see anything but stars. A dollar is
small as a pea now, and perfectly silent, and it takes at least a
thousand to emit even a faint click. I can't learn to pike again."

"I wish I could learn anything else," complained Mr. Daw in disgust.
"Why, blind-men's tincups look like fat picking to me, and my yellow
streak shows through so strong that I cross the street every time I see
a push cart; I'm afraid the banana men will make a mistake and pull my
fingers off. Say! See that mug over there on the corner with his back to
us? Well, that's a plain-clothes man. I know him all right and he knows
me. It's Jimmy Rogers and I can't hand him a sou to plug his memory!"

Blackie was visibly distressed and edged around the corner.

"I should say you had developed a saffron streak," observed J. Rufus,
eying him with a trace of contempt. "I wouldn't have known you till you
spoke. Come on and we'll go right straight past Jimmy Rogers."

He put his hand behind Blackie's elbow to take him in that direction,
but to his surprise Daw shrank back.

"Not for mine!" he declared. "I know I'm due, but I won't go till they
come after me. Why, J. Rufus, do you know we're all that's left of the
old bunch? Billy Riggs, Tommy Rance, Dick Logan, Pit Hardesty--all put
away, for stretches of from five to twenty years! And Jim, mind what I
say; our turn's next! There, he's turning this way! I'm on the lope. Me
for the first train out of town. Good-by, old man."

He shook hands hastily and, drawn-chested, plunged down the side street
at a swift pace. Wallingford looked after him and involuntarily expanded
his own broad chest as he turned in the direction of his hotel. He
looked back at Ed Nickel's cigar store after a few steps, and hesitated
as if he might return, but he did not. On the way he counted five such
establishments, and he peered keenly into each one of them. They were
all of a little better grade than the one he had visited, but none of
them was stocked in such manner as to tell of wholesale purchases and
cash discounts. Suddenly he chuckled. At last he had the detail for his
heretofore vague idea, and it was a draught of strong wine to him. He
had been the high jester of finance, always, and once more the bells
upon his cap jingled merrily. Inspired, he walked into his hotel with a
swaggering assurance entirely out of keeping with the lonely two dollars
in his pocket. The clerk had been instructed to look after Wallingford,
for though he had been an extravagant guest for within a day of two
weeks, no one but the bellboys and waiters had seen a penny of his
money--and his bill was nearly two hundred dollars. The clerk firmly
intended to call to him if he strode past on the far side of the lobby,
as had been his custom in the past two or three days; but he did not
need to call, for J. Rufus approached the desk without invitation,
beaming as he turned toward it, but growing stern as he neared it.

"The wine I had served in my rooms last night was vile," he charged. "If
I cannot get the brand of champagne I want, have it perfectly frappé
when it gets to my apartments, and secure better service all around, I
shall pay my bill and leave!"

The clerk touched a bell instantly.

"Very sorry, Mr. Wallingford," said he. "I shall speak to the wine
steward about the matter at once."

J. Rufus grunted in acknowledgment of this apology, and with a feeling
of relief the clerk surveyed that broad back as it retreated in
immeasurable dignity. There was no need to worry about the money of a
man who took that attitude. On the way to his suite, however, J. Rufus,
as he handed the elevator boy a quarter with one hand, drew down his
cuff furtively with the other, under the impulse of a sudden idea, and,
grinning, looked at his cuff button. It was diamond studded, and he
ought to be able to raise at least twenty-five apiece on the pair.

Mrs. Wallingford was sewing when her capable husband came in. Something
in the very movement of the door caused her to look up with an instant
knowledge that he brought good news, and a sight of his face confirmed
the impression. She smiled at him brightly, and yet with a trace of
apprehension. There had come over her a curious change of late. Her
color was as clear as ever, even clearer, for it seemed to have attained
a certain pure transparency, but there seemed, too, a slight pallor
beneath it, and her eyes were strangely luminous.

"I got the fog out of my conk to-day, Fanny," he said exultantly. "It
seemed as if I never would be able to frame up a good business stunt
again, but it hit me at last. How do you like this place?"

"I can't tell," she slowly returned. "I haven't seen much of it, you
know."

"You will," he laughed. "You may pick out any part of it you like,
because I think I'll settle down here for good."

She looked up with a little gasp.

"Then you're going into a--a _real_ business?" she faltered.

"A hundred of them," he boasted. "I've just decided to rake off half the
profits of all this town's cigar stores, except a few of the best ones,
and stay right here to collect. The hundred or more ought to yield me
one or two dollars a day apiece. Looks good, don't it?"

"I'm so glad," she said simply. It never occurred to either of them to
doubt that he could do what he had planned, and just now she was less
inclined than ever to inquire into details. She sat, her hands folded in
the fluffy white goods upon her lap, with a deepening color in her
cheeks.

"I'll tell you why I'm glad we are to settle down at last and have a
real home," she said suddenly, and, arising, advanced to him and shook
out the dainty article upon which she had been sewing, holding it
outstretched before him so that he could gather its full import.

"What?" he gasped.

She nodded her head, half crying and half laughing, and suddenly buried
her head upon his shoulder, sobbing. He clasped her in his arms, tiny
white garment and all, and looked on over her head, out of the window at
the gathering dusk in the sky where it stretched down between the tall
buildings. For just one fleeting second a trace of the Eternal Mystery
came to awe him, but it passed and left him grinning.

"I'd just been figuring on a new house," he observed, "but I guess I'll
have to plan it all over now."

He led her to a chair presently, and went back to the window, where he
stood until the darkness warned him that it was time to dress for
dinner. The meal finished, he sat down to write, tearing up sheet after
sheet of paper and crumpling it into the waste basket until far into the
night, and later he sent down for a city directory, making out a list of
cigar stores, dropping out those that were printed in black-face type;
but whatever he did he paused once in a while to turn toward that tiny
white garment upon the table and survey it with smiling wonder.

In the morning he called upon a job printer of reputation, and then he
went again to Ed Nickel's cigar store; but this time he dashed up to
the door in a showy carriage drawn by two good horses. The same flabby
man sat in the corner playing solitaire as if he had never left off, and
the same apathetic young man with the dent in his hat was watching him.
The split cigar mold had not yet grown together, though Ed Nickel still
held its two parts matched tightly in his left hand. Upon the entrance
of Wallingford the magnificent, however, the three graven figures,
glancing first upon him and then upon the carriage, inhaled the breath
of life. The solitaire player suddenly pushed his cards together and
began shuffling them over and over and over and over, though he had not
yet exhausted the possibilities of the previous game. The apathetic
young man stood up to yawn but changed his mind after he had his mouth
open. Ed Nickel bowed, smiled and hurried behind his counter.

"What will you take for your business, Mr. Nickel?" asked J. Rufus,
throwing a coin on the case and tapping his finger over the box from
which he had purchased the cigars the night before. Freshly shaven, he
wore a new collar, a new shirt with fine, crisp cuffs, and a new silk
lavender tie--also plain new cuff buttons.

Ed Nickel's ears heard the astounding question, but Ed Nickel's mind did
not grasp it, for Ed Nickel's hand went on mechanically into the case
after the designated cigars. It secured the box, it brought it partly
out--and then dropped it just inside the sliding door. The hand came out
and its fingers twined with those of the other hand.

"What did you say?" asked Mr. Nickel's mouth.

"How much will you take for your business?" repeated J. Rufus.

Mr. Nickel looked slowly around his walls, past the dust-hung wire
screen to the dingy back room, under the counter, into the case, over
the sparsely filled shelves.

"I don't know," he said, his eyes roving back to those of J. Rufus.
"Besides the stock and fixtures, there's the good will, the trade I've
worked up, and the call for my Nickelfine and the Double Nickel, my
leading ten-cent cigar. I'd have to take an invoice to set a price on
this business."

"I know," laughed J. Rufus with a wink, "but you can invoice it with
your eyes shut and we can lump the rest of it. Say five hundred for the
stock and fixtures and three hundred for the good will, which is
crowding it some."

Ed Nickel's cupidity gave a thump. Eight hundred was a good price for
his business, especially in this location. He had often thought of
moving. In a better location he would do a better business; he was sure
of that, like every other unsuccessful merchant; but of course he
objected.

"Make it a thousand and I'll listen," he proposed.

J. Rufus looked about the place coldly.

"No," he decided. "I'd be cheating the consolidation."

Mr. Nickel immediately woke up another notch.

"What consolidation?" he wanted to know.

"The one I spoke to you about yesterday," said the prospective buyer,
and picking up the coin he had tossed down he tapped with it on the
glass.

Thus reminded, the benumbed one brought out the delayed box and Mr.
Wallingford lit one of the cigars.

"I'm going to finance a consolidation of all the smaller cigar stores in
the city," he then explained. "I expect to buy several for spot cash and
put in charge of them managers who know their business. The rest I am
going to allow to purchase shares in the consolidation, with the value
of their stock and good will, so that altogether we shall have a
quarter-of-a-million-dollar corporation. With this enormous buying power
I intend to get the lowest spot-cash discount on all goods, manufacture
a few good brands, cut rates and control the cigar business of this
town. But I'm going to be fair to every man. I'll give you eight hundred
dollars for your business, in cold coin."

The day before, had any providentially sent stranger offered Ed Nickel
eight hundred dollars in real money for his store, he would have jumped
at the chance, and with the purchase price would have opened a better
one in some other part of the town. Now it suddenly occurred to him----

"And if I don't sell or come in I get froze out, I suppose," he gloomily
opined. "That's the regulation poor man's chance. But how are you going
to work this consolidation, anyhow?"

"The same plan upon which all successful organizations are put
together," patiently explained the eminent financier whose resplendent
carriage was waiting outside. "For instance, five of us organize a
holding company. Having incorporated for, say, two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars, I buy your business for eight hundred dollars in
stock of the new corporation, fit it up new till it glitters, and put
you in charge of it. A hundred other stores go in on the same
proposition, their valuations varying according to their location, their
stock, and the volume of business their books can show. You get a salary
of just as much as you can prove you're making now, and every three
months the business is footed up and a dividend is paid. The difference
is just this. The cigars for which you now pay thirty-five dollars a
thousand, you will get for twenty-eight and less, and so on down the
line. Your profits will be increased nearly a hundred per cent., and all
financial worry will be lifted off your shoulders."

Ed Nickel suddenly awoke to the fact that the flabby solitaire player
was pressed closely upon one side of the eminent financier, and the
apathetic young man upon the other, both drinking in every word, and
quivering.

"Come in the back room," invited Mr. Nickel, and on two reeking stools,
with tobacco scraps strewn all about them, they sat down to really "get
together." Patiently the energetic man of wealth went over the
proposition again, point by point, and the cigar maker enumerated these
upon his fingers until he got it quite clear in his mind that his
business was not to pass out of his hands at all. If it was put in at a
valuation of eight hundred dollars, he received a salary equal to his
present earnings for taking care of it, and also the net profits on
eight hundred dollars worth of stock. It was a great scheme! It would
put all the goods he wanted upon his shelves. It would brighten up his
place of business and he would no longer have the aggravation of knowing
that rich dealers, just because they were rich, could buy cigars a
shameful per cent. cheaper than he could. Moreover, there sat
Wallingford, a wonderful argument in himself! When he had fully grasped
the idea Mr. Nickel was enthusiastic.

"Of course I'll come in!" said he. "Surest thing, you know!"

"Suit yourself," said J. Rufus, with vast indifference. "I have a little
agreement that I'll bring around in a couple of days to let you see, and
then you may finally decide. By the way, Mr. Nickel, I may need you for
one of the original five incorporators, and as a director for the first
year."

Mr. Nickel hesitated.

"That'll cost me something, won't it?" he wanted to know.

Mr. Wallingford laughed.

"A little bit," he admitted. "But there are ways to get it back. For
instance, as one of the directors I do not suppose there would be any
particular harm in selling your business to the consolidation for a
thousand in place of eight hundred."

The first stock subscriber to the Retail Cigar Dealers' Consolidation
became as knowingly jovial as the genial promoter.

"It listens good to me," he declared, and shook hands.

The big man got up to go, but turned and came back.

"By the way," said he, "I don't know the cigar men in this town, and if
you have a couple of friends in the business who would like to help form
this incorporation with the same advantages you have, let's go see
them."

Mr. Nickel was already throwing off his apron and eye shade, and now he
took his coat and hat from their hook.

"I've got two of them, and they ain't too darned smart, either," he
stated, showing wise forethought in that last remark; then, putting the
flabby man in charge of the store, he went out and _rode in that
carriage_!



CHAPTER XXVII

MR. WALLINGFORD GAMBLES A BIT AND PICKS UP AN UNSOLICITED PARTNER


In the smart carriage Mr. Wallingford took Mr. Nickel and his two
friends down to his hotel for lunch to talk over the final steps in the
great consolidation. The chief thing the three remembered when they left
the hotel was that they had been most liberally treated in the matter of
extravagant food and drink, and that the lunch had cost over twenty
dollars! Also they recalled that the distinguished-looking head waiter
had come over to their table half a dozen times to see that everything
was served at the proper minute and in the pink of condition. Nobody but
a rich man could command that sort of attention, and they left the table
not only willing but thankful to take any business tonic this commercial
genius should prescribe. As they passed the desk, the manager called Mr.
Wallingford to him, and the great promoter, instantly bidding his
friends good-by, promised to see them to-morrow. Then he walked back to
the manager.

"Good morning, Senator," said that official, shaking hands. "How are
they treating you? Nicely?"

"Very well, indeed," replied Wallingford, "except I'd like to have
corner rooms if I could get them."

"I know; you spoke of that last week. I've been trying to secure them
for you, but those apartments are always dated so far ahead. I think the
corner suite on the second floor will be vacant in a day or so, though,
and I'll let you know. By the way, Mr. Wallingford"--this in the most
pleasantly confidential tone imaginable--"I'm afraid I'll have to draw
on you. The proprietor is a little strict about his rules, and you have
been here two weeks to-day."

"Is that so?" exclaimed Wallingford, very much surprised. "I'll have to
look after that," and he reached out his hand with courteous alacrity
for the bill which the manager was handing to him. Without the quiver of
an eye-lash he glanced over the items and stuck the bill in his pocket.
"I'm glad you spoke of it. I'm rather careless about such matters," and
he walked away in perfect nonchalance.

The telegraph desk mocked him. There was not a soul he knew to whom he
could wire with a certainty of getting money, and if he pretended to
wire he must certainly produce quick results. Instead of making that
error he walked out upon the street briskly. Half way to Ed Nickel's
cigar store he paused. Mr. Nickel was not yet ripe, and it would be
folly to waste his chances. Thinking most deeply indeed, he strolled
into a cigar store of far better appearance than any he had yet visited.
The place was a-quiver with life; there was much glitter of beveled
plate mirrors; there were expensive light fixtures; the shelves were
crowded with rows upon rows of cigar boxes, and at a most ornate case
stood three rather strikingly dressed men, playing "ping pong" on a
mahogany edged board that was covered with green baize. He had seen
these boards before, but they were all set away behind counters, for
this game--of dice, not of balls and paddles--was strictly taboo. A
moral wave had swept over the town and had made dice shaking for cigars,
as well as every other form of gambling, next door to a hanging offense.
A heavy-set young fellow, with a red face and a red tie and red stripes
in the thread of his broad-checked clothing, was at the end of the
counter, half behind it, scoring the game. He was evidently the
proprietor, though he had his hat on, and he asked Wallingford what he
wanted.

"I don't know your brands, so I'll leave it to you," said the large man,
with a pleasant smile. "I want a nice three for a half, rather heavy,
but not too tightly rolled."

The proprietor gave his customer a shrewd "sizing-up," as he promptly
set out three boxes of different brands. Evidently the general
appearance of Wallingford satisfied him that the man asked for this
grade of cigars because he liked them and could afford them, for after
the selection had been made the salesman observed that it was quite
pleasant weather, looking Wallingford squarely in the eyes and smiling
in sheer goodfellowship with all the world. He then renewed his
attention to the "ping pong" game, and Wallingford, aimless for the time
and occupied with that tremendous puzzle of the hotel bill, stood by and
watched. A policeman came through, but no one paid any attention.

"Hello, Joe!" he said affably to the man in charge, and passed on into
the back room. As the door of this was opened the sharp click of ivory
chips came through, and Wallingford heard one strident voice say, "I'll
raise you ten." A brisk and gimlet-eyed young man came out a moment
later with a fifty-dollar bill, for which he got change.

"How you making it, Tommy?" he asked perfunctorily of one of the men who
were shaking dice.

"Rotten!" said the dice shaker. "I've won ten two-for-a-quarter cigars
that have cost me four dollars."

"I'd blow the game," advised the young man with a bantering laugh.
"Shoot somebody for the four and quit double or even."

"I'll do it," said the man addressed as Tommy. "Fade me, Joe?"

"Any amount, old man," said the proprietor nonchalantly, and taking four
dollars from the cash register he left the drawer open. "How do you want
to be skinned?"

"First-flop poker dice," said Tommy, picking up the leather box which
Joe had slammed upon the board, and rattling the five dice in it.

One turn apiece and the proprietor picked up the money. Tommy silently
threw a five on the case.

"You other fellows want in on this?" he asked.

J. Rufus suddenly felt that mysterious thing called a "hunch" prickling
in his wrist.

"How about letting a stranger in?" he observed, considering himself far
enough west for this forwardness.

With a smile he made ready for that lightning glance of judgment which
he knew would be leveled at him from three pairs of eyes at least.

"I'd rather anybody would have my money than Joe," said the man next to
him, after that brief but pleased inspection and after an almost
imperceptible nod from the proprietor. "Joe's a robber and we none of us
like him."

"I don't think I like him very well myself," laughed Wallingford,
throwing down his money, and, having accepted him, they judged him again
from this new angle. He was a most likeable man, this big fellow, and an
open-handed sport. Anybody could see that. It would make no difference
to him whether he won or lost. All he wanted was to be in on the game.
Rich as the mint, no doubt.

In reality J. Rufus had but three five dollar bills in his pocket, but
desperate needs require desperate remedies, and, in view of those vast
needs, if he lost he would be but little worse off than he was now.
Twice he staked his last five, and then luck steadily alternated between
him and the proprietor. One at a time the three others dropped out, and
the two winners were left confronting each other.

"Well, old man," said the proprietor to Wallingford, shaking the box up
and down while he talked, and smiling his challenge, "we split 'em about
even. Shall we quit satisfied, or shoot it off to see who owns the best
rabbit's foot?"

Wallingford glanced down at the crumpled pile of greenbacks in front of
him and made a hasty computation. He was sure that he had fully two
hundred dollars, but he could not in decency quit now.

"I never saw a finer afternoon for a murder in my life," he declared.

"Shoot you fifty," said Joe.

In for it, Wallingford covered the bet, and by this time a throng of
interested spectators was at his elbows. It was Wallingford's first
throw, and four aces tumbled up. His opponent followed him with fours,
but they were four sixes.

"Cover the hundred and be a real sport," advised Wallingford with a
grin.

Joe counted the money in front of him. There was enough to cover the
bet, with a ten-dollar bill left over. He threw down the pile.

"I'll press it ten," said he, and Wallingford promptly added a ten from
his own stack.

Four aces again. Again the man who was called Joe threw four sixes.

"I'll just leave that bundle of lettuce once more," observed J. Rufus.
"I've a hunch that you'll be sorry you saw me."

"I'm sorry now," admitted the other, "but I'll skin the money drawer
rather than have you go away dissatisfied," and from the cash register
he took two hundred and twenty dollars. "Now shoot your head off," he
advised.

Wallingford, in perfect confidence, rattled the box high in the air and
tossed the five little ivory cubes upon the baize; and a dash of cold
water fell on his confidence. A single, small, lonely, ashamed-looking
pair of deuces confronted him.

"Here's where we get it all-l-l-l-l back again," laughed Joe in much
joy. "Somebody call the porter to throw this stranger out when I get
through," and with a crash he dumped the box upside down, lifting it
with a sweep. The dice rattled about the board, and when they had all
settled down he leaned over to count them. There was a moment of silence
and then everybody laughed. There was not even a pair. Wallingford's
miserable two deuces had won a two-hundred-and-forty-dollar pot. Gently
he leaned over.

"How much of this spinach would you like to cover now?" he asked in
soothing tones.

"Wait till I ask the safe," replied his antagonist, but at that moment
the telephone bell just behind him rang and he turned to answer it. With
almost the first words that he heard he looked at his watch and swore,
and when he had hung up the receiver he turned to Wallingford briskly.

"Afraid I'll have to let you carry that bundle of kale for a while," he
grudgingly admitted, "for I have to hurry over to the court or lose more
than there is in sight right here. But for heaven's sake, man, remember
the number and bring that back to me. I want it."

"Thanks," said J. Rufus. "If there's any left after I get through with
it I'll bring it back," and he walked out, the admired of all beholders.

He headed straight for a bank, where he exchanged his crumpled money
into nice, crisp, fifty-dollar bills, and then with profound
satisfaction he strolled into his hotel and threw two hundred dollars in
front of the manager. The circumstance, however, was worth more than
money to him. It meant a renewal of his confidence. The world was once
more his oyster.

That evening, just as he had finished a late dinner, a boy brought a
card to him in the dining room; "Mr. Joseph O. Meers."

"Meers!" read Wallingford to his wife. "That isn't one of the men I had
to lunch, and besides, none of that bunch would have an engraved card.
Where is he?" he asked the boy.

"Out in the lobby, sir."

Wallingford arose and went with the boy. Sitting in one of the big
chairs was the "Joe" from whom he had won the money that afternoon, and
the man began to laugh as soon as he saw J. Rufus.

"So _you're_ Wallingford!" he said, extending his hand. "No wonder I
wanted to hunt you up."

"Yes?" laughed Wallingford, entirely at ease. "I had been expecting
either you or a warrant."

"You can square that with a bottle of wine," offered the caller, and
together they trailed in to the bar, where, in a snug little corner,
they sat down. "What I came to see you about," began Meers, while they
waited for the wine to be made cold, "is this cigar dealers'
association that I hear you're doping up."

"Who told you?" asked Wallingford.

Mr. Meers winked.

"Never mind about that," he said. "I get it before the newspapers, and
if there's a good game going count little Joseph in."

Wallingford studied this over a bit before answering. That afternoon he
had decided not to invite Mr. Meers into the combination at all. He had
not seemed likely material.

"I want to give you a little tip," added Mr. Meers, observing this
hesitation. "No matter what the game is you need me. If I see my bit in
it it goes through, but if I don't I'll bet you lose."

"The thing isn't a game at all," Wallingford soberly insisted. "It is a
much needed commercial development that lets the cigar store be a real
business in place of a peanut stand. What I'm going to do is to
consolidate all the small shops in the city, for the purpose of buying
at large-lot prices and taking cash discounts."

"That's a good play, too," agreed Meers; "but how about the details of
it? How do you organize?"

"Make it a stock company," explained Wallingford, expanding largely;
"incorporate as the Retail Cigar Dealers' Consolidation and issue each
man stock to the value of his present business; leave each man in charge
of his own shop and pay him a salary equal to his present proved clear
earnings; split up the surplus profits every three months and declare
dividends."

"That's the outside," commented Mr. Meers, nodding his head wisely; "but
what's the inside? Show me. Understand, Mr. Wallingford, except for a
little friendly gamble like we had this afternoon, I only run a game
from behind the table. I do the dealing. I'm not what they call rich
back in the _effete_ East, but I'm getting along pretty well on one
proposition: _I always bet they don't_!"

"It's a good healthy bet," admitted Wallingford; "but you want to copper
it on this deal. This is a straight, legitimate proposition."

"Sure; sure," assented the other soothingly. "But where do you get in?"

"Well, I'm going to finance it. I'm going to take up some of the stock
and get my quarterly dividends. I'll probably buy a few stores and put
them in, and I hope to be made manager at a pretty good salary."

"I see but I don't," insisted the seeker after intimate knowledge. "That
all sounds good, but it don't look fancy enough for a man that's down on
the register of this hotel for suite D. If you come in to get my store
in the consolidation--"

"Which I don't know whether I'll do or not," interrupted Wallingford.

"Wait and you will, though," retorted the other. "If you come into my
place of business to get my store into the consolidation, I say, how do
you close the deal? I suppose I sign an agreement of some sort, don't
I?"

"Well, naturally, to have a safe understanding you'd have to," admitted
the promoter.

"Let me see the agreement."

J. Rufus drew a long breath and chuckled.

"You're a regular insister, ain't you?" he said as he drew a carbon copy
of the agreement from his pocket.

Mr. Meers read the paper over twice. The wine was brought to their table
and served, but he paid no attention to the filled glass at his elbow.
He was reading a certain portion of that agreement for the third and
fourth time, but at last he laid it down on the chair beside him and
solemnly tilted his hat to Mr. Wallingford.

"You're an honor to your family," he announced. "I didn't suppose there
were any more games left, but you've sprung a new one and it's a peach!"

Wallingford strove to look magnificently unaware of what he meant, but
the attempt was a failure.

"The scheme is so smooth," went on Mr. Meers with a heartfelt
appreciation, "that it strained my eyesight to find the little joker;
but now I can tell you all about it. It's in the transfer of the stock,
and here's what you do. The consolidation buys my place for, say, five
thousand dollars, and gives me five thousand dollars' worth of stock in
the consolidation for it. That's what this paper seems to say, but
that's not what happens. It's _you_ that buys my place for five thousand
dollars and gives me five thousand dollars' worth of stock in the
consolidation for it, and _you_, being then the temporary owner through
a fake trusteeship, turn around and sell my business to the
consolidation, the management of which is in your flipper through a
board of dummy directors, for _ten_ thousand dollars; and you have our
iron-clad contract to let you do this, though it don't say so! When you
get through you have consolidated a hundred and twenty-five thousand
dollars' worth of business into a two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar
stock company, and you have a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars'
worth of stock which didn't cost you a cent! Say! Have this wine on me.
I insist! I want to buy you something!"

Slowly Mr. Wallingford's shoulders began to heave and his face to turn
red, and presently he broke into a series of chuckles that expanded to a
guffaw.

"I don't see how I ever won that five hundred from you this afternoon,"
he observed, and shook again.

"The pleasure is all mine," said the loser politely. "Now I'm sorry it
wasn't a thousand. You're worth the money and I'm glad I came to see
you. Count me in on the Retail Cigar Dealers' Consolidation."

"All right, sign the paper," said Wallingford with another chuckle.

"Watch me sign it not," said Meers. "I'm too patriotic. I'm so patriotic
that I hate to see all this good money go to a stranger, so I'm going to
take sixty-two and one half thousand dollars' worth of that free stock
myself. I declare myself in. You hear me?"

By the time Mr. Meers was through talking Wallingford was delighted so
far as surface went, though he was already doing some intense figuring.

"I don't know but that it's a good thing you came to see me," he
admitted. "However, I hope it don't strike you that I intend to give you
half a nice ripe peach without a good reason for it. What do I get for
letting you in?"

"That's a fair question. I guess you noticed that if we want to cut a
melon or open a keg of nails over in my place we don't go down in the
cellar?"

"I certainly did," admitted the big man with a grin.

"Well, that's it. I'm permanent alderman from the fifth ward, and every
time they hold an election they come and ask me whether I want it served
with mushrooms or tomato sauce. The job has belonged to me ever since I
was old enough to lie about my age. What I say goes in the privilege
line, and I guess a mere child could figure out what that privilege
would be worth to the Retail Cigar Dealers' Consolidation; the dice box
privilege; the back room privilege with a nice little poker game going
on twenty-four hours a day; faro if I want it. Besides, I'm coming in
just because. Why, I'm the man that stopped the ping pong game in this
town so I could have a monopoly of it!"

"How soon can you be ready to incorporate?" asked Wallingford, satisfied
to all external appearances; for this man could stop him. "To-morrow?"

"To-night, if you say so."

Wallingford laughed.

"It won't spoil over night," he said; "but there's just one thing I want
to know. Is there anybody else to cut in on this?"

In reply, Mr. Meers slowly drew down the under lid of his right eye to
show that there was no green in it, and when they parted an hour or so
later it was with mutual, even hilarious expressions of good will.
Immediately thereafter, however, Wallingford retired within himself and
spent long, long hours in thought.



CHAPTER XXVIII

WHEREIN MR. WALLINGFORD JOINS THE LARGEST CLUB IN THE WORLD


The name of Meers was magic. It is quite probable that the magnetic
Wallingford would have been able to carry through his proposed
consolidation alone; but with the fifth ward alderman to back him his
work was easy. A few of the small dealers were afraid of Meers, but they
were also afraid to stay out; for the most part, however, they were glad
to enter into any combination with him, particularly since it was
tacitly understood that this would open up to them the much coveted
"ping pong" privilege, an attraction which not only increased the sale
of goods but gave an additional hundred per cent. of profit.

The first steps in the incorporation were taken the next day after the
interview of Wallingford and Meers, and within a few days the Retail
Cigar Dealers' Consolidation was formally effected, even to the trifling
little mummeries which covered the state's requirement of a certain
percentage of "fully paid up stock." Wallingford's share of the initial
expense was one hundred dollars, but he had no mind to give up any of
his precious pocket money at this time.

"Suppose you just pay the whole bill yourself, and let us pay you," he
suggested in an offhand way to Meers. "It looks so much better all in
one lump."

Of course, Mr. Meers was agreeable to this eminently respectable
suggestion; but when Wallingford handed over his own check it was dated
a week ahead.

"If this won't do you I'll have to give up some cash," he explained with
an easy laugh. "I'm having some securities negotiated back East to open
an account here, and it may take three or four days to have it
arranged."

Meers heard him with a curious smile.

"I beat a pleasant stranger's head off once for putting up a line of
talk like that," he commented; "but, of course, this is different," and
he took the check.

He had become an enthusiastic admirer of Wallingford's undoubted genius,
and at nothing was he more amused than by the caliber of the three other
incorporators who had been chosen. Stock valuations were at once made
for these three, at an exaggerated estimate of the value of their
concerns, and when they came to Meers himself the same plan was
followed.

[Illustration: "YOUR FINE LITTLE WIFE HERE SWEARS THAT IT WILL"]

"For," said Wallingford, "to make this strong you have to come in just
like the rest, and I have to take up the balance of the stock right now
as trustee."

Meers balked a trifle at that.

"I never feel so cheerful as when I'm my own stakeholder," he stated
frankly. "When I hold all the coin it's a cinch I'll get mine, but when
somebody else holds it I keep trained down for a foot race."

"Fix it any way to suit yourself," offered Wallingford with a
carelessness that he was far from feeling. "If you can figure out a
better stunt, show it to me."

Mr. Meers tried earnestly to think of a better plan but was forced to
concede that there was none.

"Oh, well," he gave in at last, "it don't matter. It's only for a week
or so I'll have to rub salve on my fingers to cure that itch."

"Certainly," Wallingford assured him. "It won't take more than a week,
after we get the stock certificates from the printers, to make all the
transfers, and then we'll have from a hundred and twenty to a hundred
and forty thousand dollars' worth to split up. If we can't make that
yield us five or six thousand a year apiece, aside from salaries, the
buying and manufacturing grafts and other rake-offs, we ought to have
guardians appointed."

"Fine business," agreed Meers complacently.

That complacency, which meant forgetfulness of the fact that all the
stock would be temporarily in Wallingford's hands and under his absolute
legal mastery, was what J. Rufus wished to encourage, and to that end he
arranged for "secret" meetings of the Retail Cigar Dealers during the
constructive period. Here the promoter was at his best. Singly, his big
impressiveness dominated men; in masses, he swayed them. Enthusiasm was
raised to fever heat. Even the smallest among these men grew large.
Individually they were poor; collectively they were rich. Outside the
consolidation not one of them amounted to much; inside it each one was a
part of a millionaire! In the business of cigar selling a new era had
come, and its name was Wallingford! By the close of the second meeting,
scarcely a small dealer in the town but had signed the cleverly worded
agreement.

It was while the stock certificates were being printed that
Wallingford, who almost lived in the resplendent carriage these days,
drove up to Ed Nickel's place of business, at a time when both the
flabby solitaire player and the apathetic watcher had gone out to
whatever mysterious place it was that they secured food.

"I say, Mr. Vice President," asked Wallingford, addressing the amazingly
spruced up Mr. Nickel quite as an equal, "do you know where I could buy
a nice house? One for about fifteen thousand?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," regretted Nickel, pleased to be taken thus
into the great Wallingford's intimacy, "but there ought to be plenty of
them. I wish I could figure on a house like that."

"Stick to me and see what happens to you," advised Wallingford with no
thought of the joke he was uttering. "There's no reason you shouldn't
have anything you want if you just go after the big game. Watch me."

"But you've got money," protested the Vice President.

"Did I always have it?" demanded the eminent financier. "Every cent I
have, Mr. Nickel, I made myself; and you can do the same. The trouble
is, you don't go in big enough. You have only a thousand dollars worth
of stock in our consolidation, for instance. You ought to have at least
ten thousand."

"I haven't the money," said Nickel.

"How much have you?"

"Just a shade over five thousand. Say, man, I'm forty-six years old and
I been slavin' like a dog ever since I was sixteen. Thirty years it took
me to scrape that five thousand together."

"Saved it!" snorted Wallingford. "No wonder you haven't but five
thousand. You can't make money that way. You have to invest. Do you
suppose Rockefeller _saved_ his first million? Tell you what I'll do,
Nickel. Can you keep a secret?"

"Sure," asserted Mr. Nickel, with the eagerness of one who has never
been entrusted with a secret of consequence.

"If you want it and will pay for it on delivery next Saturday, I can
scheme it for you to take up an extra five thousand dollars' worth of
stock in the consolidation; but if I do you must not say one word about
it to any one until after everything is settled, or some of these other
fellows will be jealous. There's Meers, for instance. He's crazy right
now to take over every share of the surplus, but, between you and I, we
don't want him to have such a big finger in the pie."

"I should say not," agreed Mr. Nickel emphatically. "He's too big as it
is. Why, he pretty near runs this town."

"He can't run the consolidation; I'll tell him that!" declared Mr.
Wallingford with much apparent heat. "It's _my_ project and I'll favor
whoever I want to. But about this stock, old man. You think it over, and
if you want it let me know by not later than to-day noon. If it isn't
spoken for by that time I'll take it myself; but remember, not one
word!"

Mr. Nickel promised, on his honor as a man and his self-interest as a
favored stockholder, to say nothing, and Wallingford started out. At the
door he turned back, however.

"By the way," said he, "when we get going I've made up my mind to push
the Nickelfine and the Double Nickel brands. I've been trying those two
boxes you gave me and they're great. But don't say anything. Jealousy,
you know!"

Mr. Nickel put his finger to his lips and smiled and bowed
significantly. Fine man, that Wallingford! Knew a good thing when he saw
it, and easy as an old shoe in spite of all his money. Regular howling
swell, too.

The regular howling swell was at that very moment on his rubber-tired
way to the shop of Alfred Norton, where he made a similar proposition to
the one he had made Nickel. In all his manipulating he had kept careful
track of the gentlemen who had or who might have money, and now he made
it his business to visit each of them in turn, to talk additional stock
with them and bind them to inviolate secrecy. For three days he kept
this up, and on Friday evening was able to mop his brow in content.

"Fanny," he opined, "you have a smart husband."

"That's the only fault I have to find with you, Jim," she retorted
smiling. "What have you done this time?"

"I've just tapped Mr. Joseph O. Meers on the solar plexus," he exulted.
"I'll show that gentleman how to horn into my game and take the rake-off
that's coming to a real artist! He's dreaming happy dreams just now, but
when I leave town with the mezuma he'll wake up."

"I thought you were going to stay here," she objected with a troubled
frown.

He understood her at once, and reached over to stroke her hair.

"Never mind, girl," he said. "I'm as anxious now as you are to settle
down," and he glanced at the fluffy white sewing in her lap; "but this
isn't the town. I had a nice clean business planned here, but the
village grafter tried to jiu-jitsu me, so I just naturally had to jolt
him one. I'll clean up about a hundred thousand to-morrow, and with that
I'll go anywhere you say and into any business you pick out. Suppose we
go back to Battlesburg, clear off that mortgage on your house and settle
down there?"

"Oh, will you?" she asked eagerly. "But who loses this money, Jim?" she
suddenly wanted to know. "I'm more particular than ever about it just
now. I don't want to take a dollar that isn't right."

Again he understood.

"Don't worry about that," he replied seriously. "This money is
legitimate water that I am sopping up out of a reorganization, just like
a Harriman or a Morgan. The drag-down I get is simply my pay as promoter
and organizer, and is no bigger percentage than other promoters take
when they get a chance."

He had never taken so much pains to justify himself in her eyes, and she
felt that this was due to a new tenderness. What if the wonderful
influence that was dawning upon their lives should make a permanent
change in him?

There came a knock at the door. Wallingford opened it and was confronted
by a tall and stoutly built gentleman, who wore a blue helmet and
numerous brass buttons upon his clothes.

"Mr. Wallingford," said the caller, with a laborious wink and a broad
brogue, "could ye step across to the Court House wid me a few minutes
and sign them papers?" and when Wallingford had stepped outside, he
added: "'Twas on account of the lady I told ye that, but on the level,
I'm after arrestin' yez!"

"What's the charge?" asked Wallingford with a tolerant smile, knowing
his entire innocence of wrong.

"Obtainin' money under false pretenses."

Wallingford whistled, and, still unworried, excused himself for a
moment. His statement to his wife was characteristic.

"I'll be back in about an hour," he said, "but I don't feel safe with so
much wealth in my clothes when I'm out with a policeman," and with a
laugh he tossed into her lap practically all the money that he had--an
even fifty dollars.

Of course Wallingford sent immediately for Joseph O. Meers, and that
gentleman came at once.

"Lovely place to find your old college chum," the prisoner cheerfully
remarked. "I wish you'd go find out what this charge is all about and
get me out of this, Meers. It might hurt the consolidation if it becomes
known. There's a mistake some place."

"Oh, is there?" Mr. Meers wanted to know. "I'll bet there ain't a
mistake, because I'm the baby that secured the warrant, and I'm going to
send you over. Tried to double cross me, didn't you?" he asked
pleasantly. "Well, it can't be done. Any grafter that tries to hand me
the worst of it is going to find himself sucking at the sour end of a
lemon,----quick. So I was to be the mark, eh? Just because there wasn't
a paper signed between us to show that I was entitled to half that
surplus stock, you was going to sell the bunch of it and make a quick
get-away. I was to be the fall guy for that nice little futurity check,
too! You remember that little old hundred, don't you? Well, it got you.
I was hep to you day before yesterday, but your date didn't run out on
that check till to-day, so I waited; and I'm going to send you over the
road for as long a stretch as a good lawyer can hand you. Now stay here
and rot!" and Joseph O. Meers, highly pleased with himself, walked out.

Jail! Mr. J. Rufus Wallingford, to whom tufted carpets and soft leather
chairs were not luxuries but necessities, looked around him with the
nearest substitute for a "game" grin that he could muster, and the
prophetic words of Blackie Daw occurred to him:

"Our turn's next!"

"It's a fine joke I played on myself," he mused. "Me that a few weeks
ago had a million in sight and that two hours ago had a hundred thousand
cinched for to-morrow, to lose out like this; _and for a hundred
dollars_!"

That was the rub! To think that after all these years, during which he
had conducted his pleasant and legally safe financial recreations with
other people's money upon a scale large enough to live like a gentleman,
his first introduction to a jail should be because of a miserable,
contemptible hundred dollars! _Why_ had he forgotten that check? _Why_
had he been fool enough to think he could swear a lot of spineless jelly
fish to secrecy? _Why_ hadn't he been content with half? It served him
right, he admitted, and unless Meers relented, the penitentiary yawned
its ugly mouth very close to him. At any rate, he was now a full-fledged
member of the largest organization in the world--the Down and Out Club.
It was queer that in all this thought there came no trace of regret for
what he had done; there came only regret for the consequences, only
self-revilement that he had "overlooked a bet." His "conscience" did not
reproach him at all, except for failure; for, monstrous as it may seem,
to his own mind he had done no wrong! Nor had he meant any wrong! With
no sense of moral obligation whatever--and no more to be blamed for that
than another man is for being born hunchbacked--he merely looked upon
himself as smarter than most men, doing just what they would have done
had they been blessed with the ability. Only at last he had been
unfortunate! Well, the joke was on him, and he must be a good loser.

The humor of the situation rather wore off when, after a night upon a
hard pallet and a breakfast of dry bread and weak coffee, he sent a
message to Ed Nickel and learned from that indignantly virtuous citizen
that he would have nothing to do with swindlers! Then he sent word to
his wife and the answer he got to that message was the last straw. Mrs.
Wallingford had quitted the hotel early that morning! He was sure of
her, however. She would turn up again in her own good time, but what
could she do? Nothing! For the first time in his life, the man who had
never thought to have need of a friend outside a few moral defectives of
his own class, realized what it is to be absolutely friendless. There
was no one left in all this wide world upon whom he could make any
demand of loyalty. Blackie Daw a fugitive, Billy Riggs a convict, all
the old clan scattered far and wide, either paying their penalty, or,
having transgressed the law, fleeing from it, the universe had come to
an end.

Hour after hour he spent in trying to think of some one to whom he could
appeal, and the conviction gradually burned itself in upon him that at
last he was "up against it." It was a bad mess. He had made no deposit
whatever in the local bank upon which he had drawn that check, though he
had intended to do so. Moreover, Meers, to prove fraudulent intent,
could show his intended bad faith in the other matter between them; and
besides all that the alderman cigar dealer had a "pull" of no mean
proportions. It had seemed impossible, the night before, that he who had
dealt only in thousands and hundreds of thousands should be made a felon
for a paltry hundred. It had seemed too absurd to be true, an anomalous
situation that a day would clear up and at which he could afterwards
laugh. Even now he joked with the turnkey, and that guardian of social
recalcitrants was profoundly convinced that in J. Rufus Wallingford he
had the swellest prisoner upon whom he had ever slid a bolt. The
policeman who arrested him and the judge who next morning remanded him
for trial shared that opinion, but it was a very melancholy
satisfaction. After his preliminary hearing he went from the city prison
to a more "comfortable" cell in the county jail, to think a number of
very deep thoughts. Not a friendly eye had been turned on him but that
of Joseph O. Meers, who had come around to see the fun. Mr. Meers had
been quite jovial with him, had handed him a good cigar and told him the
latest developments in the Retail Cigar Dealers' Consolidation. He was
reorganizing it himself. It was really a good "stunt," and he thanked J.
Rufus most effusively for having started it. This was "kidding" of a
broad-gauge type that Wallingford, for the same reason that a gambler
tries to look pleased when he loses his money, was bound to enjoy very
much, and with right good wit he replied in kind; but in this exchange
of humor he was very much handicapped, for really Meers had all the joke
on his side.

Another restless night and another dreary day, and then, just as he had
begun to sincerely pity himself as a forlorn castaway upon the barrenest
shore of all living things, there came visitors for him, and the turnkey
with much deference threw open his cell and led him out to the visitor's
cage. His wife! Well, he had expected her, and he had expected, too,
since this great new tenderness had come upon her, to find her eyes
suffused with bravely suppressed tears as they now were; but he had
never expected to see again the man who was with her. E. B. Lott! the
man to whom he had once sold rights of way to a traction line which he
had never intended to build! one of his most profitable victims!

"So they got you at last, did they, Wallingford?" said Lott briskly, and
shook hands with him, positive pleasure in the meeting beaming from his
grizzled countenance. "I expected they would. A nice little game you
played on me up in Battlesburg, wasn't it? Well, my boy, it was worth
the money. You really had a valuable right of way, with valuable
franchises and concessions, and the Lewisville, Battlesburg and Elliston
Traction Line is doing a ripping business; so I'll forgive you,
especially since you're not an individual criminal at all. You're only
the logical development of the American tendency to 'get there' no
matter how. It is the national weakness, the national menace, and you're
only an exaggerated molecule of it. You think that so long as you stay
inside the _law_ you're all right, even morally; but a man who
habitually shaves so close to the narrow edge is going to slip off some
time. Now you've had your dose and I shouldn't wonder but it _might_
make a man of you. Your fine little wife here, who hunted me up the
minute she found out your real predicament, swears that it will, but I'm
not sure. You're too valuable, though, to coop up in a penitentiary, and
I'm going to buy you off. I can use you. I've been in the traction
business ever since the first trolley touched a wire, and I never yet
have seen a man who could go out and get a right of way for nothing, as
you did, nor get it in so short a space of time, even for money. We
expect to open up two thousand miles of lines this coming year and I'm
going to put you on the job. I can't fix it to make you such quick
riches as you can rake in on crooked deals, but I'll guarantee you will
have more in the end. It's a great chance for you, my boy, and just to
protect you against yourself I'm going to hire a good man to watch
you."

Wallingford had already regained his breadth of chest, and now he began
to laugh. His shoulders heaved and the hundred jovial wrinkles about his
eyes creased with the humor of the thought that had come to him.

"You'd better hire three," he suggested, "and work them in eight-hour
shifts."

Nevertheless there was a bit of moisture in his eyes, and his hand,
dropping down, sought his wife's. Perhaps in that moment he vaguely
promised himself some effort toward a higher ideal, but the woman at his
side, though knowing what she knew, though herself renewed and made over
wholly with that great new reason, though detecting the presence of the
crippled moral sense that was falling back baffled from its feeble
assault upon his soul, pressed her other palm over his hand protectingly
and shook her head--for at last she understood!

Upon thistles grow no roses.


THE END





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