By CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND
Author of "The High Flyers," "The Little Moment of Happiness," "Sudden Jim," "Youth Challenges," etc.
CHAP. I. HE INVADES COLDRIVER II. SCATTERGOOD KICKS UP THE DUST III. THE MOUNTAIN COMES TO SCATTERGOOD IV. HE DEALS IN MATCHMAKING V. HE MAKES IT ROUND NUMBERS VI. INSURANCE THAT DID NOT LAPSE VII. HE BORROWS A GRANDMOTHER VIII. HE DIPS IN HIS SPOON IX. HE ADMINISTERS SOOTHING SYRUP X. HE HELPS WITH THE ROUGH WORK XI. HE INVESTS IN SALVATION XII. THE SON THAT WAS DEAD XIII. HE CRACKS AN OBDURATE NUT XIV. HE TREATS AN ATTACK OF LIFE
HE INVADES COLDRIVER
The entrance of Scattergood Baines into Coldriver Valley, and the manner of his first taking root in its soil, are legendary. This much is clear past even disputing in the post office at mail time, or evenings in the grocery—he walked in, perspiring profusely, for he was very fat.
It is asserted that he walked the full twenty-four miles from the railroad, subsisting on the country, as it were, and sagged down on the porch of Locker's grocery just before sundown. It is not implied that he walked all of the twenty-four miles in that single day. Huge bodies move deliberately.
He sagged down on Locker's porch, and it is reported the corner of the porch sagged with him. George Peddie has it from his grandfather, who was an eyewitness, that Scattergood did not so much as turn his head to look at the assembled manhood of the vicinity, but with infinite pains and audible grunts, succeeded in bringing first one foot, then the other, within reach of his hands, and removed his shoes. Following this he sighed with a great contentment and twiddled his bare toes openly and flagrantly in the eyes of all Coldriver. He is said now to have uttered the first words to fall from his mouth in the town where were to lie his life's unfoldings and fulfillments. They were significant—in the light of subsequent activities.
"One of them railroads runnin' up here," said he to the mountain just across the road from him, "would have spared me close to a dozen blisters."
Conversation had expired on Scattergood's arrival, and the group on the porch converted itself into an audience. It was an audience that got its money's worth. Not for an instant did the attention of a single member of it stray away from this Godsend come to furnish them with their first real topic of conversation since Crazy French stole a box of Paris green, mistaking it for a new sort of pancake flour.
Scattergood arose ponderously and limped out into the middle of the dusty road. From this vantage point he slowly and conscientiously studied the village.
"Uh-huh!" he said. "'Twouldn't pay to do all that walkin' just for a visit. Calc'late I'll have to settle."
He walked directly back to the absorbed group of leading citizens, his shoes dangling, one in each hand, and addressed them genially.
"Your town," said he, "is growin'. Its population jest increased by me."
"Sizable growth," said Old Man Penny, dryly, letting his eye rove over Scattergood's bulk.
"My line," said Scattergood, "is anythin' needful. Outside of a railroad, what you figger you need most?"
"Is it a grocery store?" asked Scattergood.
Locker stiffened in his chair. "Me and Sam Kittleman calc'lates to sell all the groceries this town needs," he said.
"How about dry goods?" said Scattergood.
Old Man Penny and Wade Lumley stirred to life at this.
"Lumley and me takes care of the dry goods," said the old man.
"Uh-huh! How about a clothin' store?"
"We got all the clothin' stores there's room for," said Lafe Atwell. "I run it."
"Kind of got the business of this town sewed up, hain't you?" Scattergood asked, admiringly. "Wouldn't look with favor on any more stores?"
"We calculate to keep what business we got," said Old Man Penny. "A outsider would have a hard time makin' a go of it here."
"Quite likely," said Scattergood. "Still, you never can tell. Let some feller come in here with a gen'ral store, sellin' for cash—and cuttin' prices, eh? How would an outsider git along if he done that? Up-to-date store. Fresh goods. Low prices. Eh? Calc'late some of you fellers would have to discharge a clerk."
"You hain't got money enough to start a store," Old Man Penny squawked. "Why, you hain't even got a satchel! You come walkin' in like a tramp."
"There's tramps—and tramps," said Scattergood, placidly. He reached far down into a trousers pocket and tugged to the light of day a roll that his fingers could not encircle. He looked at it fondly, tossed it up in the air a couple of times and caught it, and then held it between thumb and forefinger until the eyes of his audience had assured themselves that the outside bill was yellow and its denomination twenty dollars.... The audience gulped.
"Meals to the tavern perty good?" Coldriver's new citizen asked.
"Say," demanded Locker, "be you really thinkin' about startin' a cash store here?"
"Neighbor," said Scattergood, "never give up valuable information without gittin' somethin' for it. How much money would a complete and careful account of my intentions be worth to you?"
Locker snorted. "Bet that wad of bills is a dummy with a counterfeit twenty outside of it," he said.
Scattergood smiled tantalizingly. Locker had not, fortunately for Scattergood, the least idea how close to the truth he had been. On one point only had he been mistaken. The twenty outside was not counterfeit. However, except for three fives, four twos, and ninety cents in silver, it represented Scattergood's total cash capital.
"I'm goin'," said Scattergood, "to order me two suppers. Two! From bean soup to apple pie. It's my birthday. Twenty-six to-day, and I always eat two suppers on my birthdays.... Glad you leadin' citizens see fit to give me such a hearty welcome to your town. Right kind and generous of you."
He turned and ambled down the road toward the tavern, planting his bare feet with evident pleasure in the deepest of the warm sand, and flirting up little clouds of it behind him. The audience saw him seat himself on the tavern steps and pull on his shoes. They were too far to hear him say speculatively to himself: "I never heard tell of a man gittin' a start in life jest that way—but that hain't any reason it can't be done. I'm goin' to do this town good, and this valley. Hain't no more 'n fair them leadin' citizens should give me what help they feel they kin."
Scattergood ate with ease and pleasure two complete suppers—to the openly expressed admiration of Emma, the waitress. Very shortly afterward he retired to his room, where, not trusting to the sturdiness of the bed-slats provided, he dragged mattress and bedding to the floor and was soon emitting snores that Landlord Coombs assured his wife was the beat of anybody ever slept in the house not countin' that travelin' man from Boston. Next morning Scattergood was about early, padding slowly up and down the crossed streets which made up the village. He was studying the ground for immediate strategic purposes, just as he had been studying the valley on his long trudge up from the railroad for purposes related to distant campaigns. Though Scattergood's arrival in Coldriver may have seemed impromptu, as his adoption of the town for a permanent location seemed abrupt, not to say impulsive, neither really was so. Scattergood rarely acted without reason and after reflection.
True, he had but a moment's glimpse of Coldriver before he decided he had moved there, but the glimpse showed him the location was the one he had been searching for.... Scattergood's specialty, his hobby, was valleys. Valleys down which splashed and roared sizable streams, whose mountain sides were covered with timber, and whose flats were comfortable farms—such valleys interested him with an especial interest. But the valley he had been looking for was one with but a single possible outlet. He wanted a valley whose timber and produce and products could not go climbing off across the hills, over a number of easy roads, to market. His valley must be hemmed in. The only way to market must lie down the valley, with the river. And the river that flowed down his valley must be swift, with sufficient volume all twelve months of the year to turn possible mill wheels.... As yet he thought only of the direct application of power. He had not dreamed yet of great turbine generators which should transport thousands of horse power, written in terms of electricity, hundreds of miles across country, there to light cities and turn the wheels of huge manufactories....
Coldriver Valley was that valley! He felt it as soon as he turned into it; certainty increased as he progressed between those gigantic walls black with tall, straight, beautiful spruce. So, when he sat shoeless, resting his blistered feet on Locker's porch, he was ready to make his decision. The mere making of it was a negligible detail.
So Scattergood Baines found his valley. He entered it consciously as an invader, determined to conquer. Pitiful as were the resources of Cortez as he adventured against the power of Montezuma, or of Pizarro as he clambered over the Peruvian Andes, they were gigantic compared with Scattergood's. He was starting to make his conquest backed by one twenty, three fives, four twos, and ninety cents in silver. It was obvious to him the country to be conquered must supply the sinews of war for its own conquest.
Every village has its ramshackle, disused store building. Coldriver had one, especially well located, and not so ramshackle as it might have been. It was big; its front was crossed by a broad porch; its show windows were not show windows at all, but were put there solely to give light. Coldriver did not know there was such a thing as inviting patronage by skillful display.
"Sonny," said Scattergood to a boy digging worms in the shade of the building, "who owns this here ruin?"
"Old Tom Plummer," said the boy, and was even able to disclose where old Tom was to be found. Scattergood found him feeding a dozen White Orpingtons.
"Best layers a man can keep," said Scattergood, sincerely. "Man's got to have brains to even raise chickens."
"I git more eggs to the hen than anybody else in town," said old Tom, "but nobody listens to me."
"Own a store buildin' downtown, don't you?"
"If you was to git a chance to rent it, how much would it be a month?"
"Repairs or no repairs?"
"G'mornin'," said Scattergood, and turned toward the gate.
"What's your hurry, mister?"
"Can't bear to stay near a man that mentions so much money in a breath," said Scattergood, with his most ingratiating grin.
"How much could you stay and hear?"
"Not over ten."
"Huh!... Seein' the buildin's in poor shape, I'll call it fifteen."
"Twelve-fifty's as far's I'll go—on a five-year lease," said Scattergood. It will be seen he fully intended to become permanent.
"What you figger on usin' it fur?"
"Maybe a opry house, maybe a dime museum, maybe a carpenter shop, and maybe somethin' else. I hain't mentionin' jest what, but it's law-abidin' and respectable."
"Five-year lease, eh? Twelve-fifty."
"Two months' rent in advance," said Scattergood.
"Squire Hastings'll draw the papers," said old Tom, heading for the gate. Scattergood followed, and in half an hour was the lessee of a store building, bound to pay rent for five years, with more than half his capital vanished—with no stock of goods or wherewith to procure one, with not even a day's experience in any sort of merchandising to his credit.
His next step was to buy ten yards of white cloth, a small paint brush, and a can of paint. Ostentatiously he borrowed a stepladder and stretched the cloth across the front of his store, from post to post. Then, equally ostentatiously, he mounted the stepladder and began to paint a sign. He was not unskilled in the business of lettering. The sign, when completed, read:
CASH AND CUT PRICES IS MY MOTTO
Having completed this, he bought a pail, a mop, and a broom, and proceeded to a thorough housecleaning of his premises.
Old Man Penny and Locker and the rest of the merchants were far from oblivious to Scattergood's movements. No sooner had his sign appeared than every merchant in town—excepting Junkin, the druggist, who sold wall paper and farm machinery as side lines—went into executive session in the back room of Locker's store.
"He means business," said Locker.
"Leased that store for five year," said Old Man Penny.
"Cash, and Cut Prices," quoted Atwell, "and you fellers know our folks would pass by their own brothers to save a penny. He'll force us to cut, too."
"Me—I won't do it," asserted Kettleman.
"Then you'll eat your stock," growled Locker.
"Fellers," said Atwell, "if this man gits started it's goin' to cost all of us money. He'll draw some trade, even if he don't cut prices. Safe to figger he'll git a sixth of it. And a sixth of the business in this region is a pretty fair livin'. If he goes slashin' right and left, nobody kin tell how much trade he'll draw."
"We should 'a' leased that store between us. Then nobody could 'a' come in."
"But we didn't. And it's goin' to cost us money. If he puts in clothing it'll cost me five hundred dollars a year in profits, anyhow. Maybe more. And you other fellers clost to as much."
"But we can't do nothin'."
"We can buy him off," said Atwell.
The meeting at that moment became noisy. Epithets were applied with freedom to Scattergood, and even to Atwell, for these were not men who loved to part with their money. However, Atwell showed them the economy of it. It was either for them to suffer one sharp pang now, or to endure a greater dragging misery. They went in a body to call upon Scattergood.
"Howdy, neighbors!" Scattergood said, genially.
"We're the merchants of this town," said Old Man Penny, shortly.
"So I judged," said Scattergood.
"There's merchants enough here," the old man roared on. "Too many. We don't want any more. We don't want you should start up any business here."
"You're too late. It's started. I've leased these premises."
"But you hain't no stock in."
"I calc'late on havin' one shortly," said Scattergood, with a twinkle in his eye, whose meaning was kindly concealed from the five.
"What'll you take not to order any stock?" asked Atwell, abruptly.
"Figger on buyin' me off, eh? Now, neighbors, I've been lookin' for a place like this, and I calc'late on stayin'. I'm goin' to become all-fired permanent here."
"Give you a hundred dollars," said Old Man Penny.
"Apiece?" asked Scattergood, and laughed jovially. "It's my busy day, neighbors. Better call in again."
"What's your figger to pull out now—'fore you're started?"
"Hain't got no figger, but if I had I calc'late it would be about a thousand dollars."
"Give you two hundred," said Old Man Penny.
Scattergood picked up his mop. "If you fellers really mean business, talk business. I've figgered my profits in this store, countin' in low prices, wouldn't be a cent under a couple of thousand the first year.... And you know it. That's what you're fussin' around here for. Now fish or git to bait cuttin'."
"Five hundred dollars," said Atwell, and Old Man Penny moaned.
"Tell you what I'll do," said Scattergood. "You men git back here inside of an hour with seven hundred and fifty cash, and lay it in my hand, and I'll agree not to sell groceries, dry goods, notions, millinery, or men or women's clothes in this town for a term of twenty year."
They drew off and scolded one another, and glowered at Scattergood, but came to scratch. "It's jest like robbery," said Old Man Penny, tremulously.
"Keep your money," retorted Scattergood. "I'm satisfied the way things is at present."
Within the hour they were back with seven hundred and fifty dollars in bills, a lawyer, and an agreement, which Scattergood read with minute attention. It bound him not to sell, barter, trade, exchange, deal, or in any way to derive a profit from the handling of groceries, dry goods, notions, millinery, clothing, and gent's furnishings. It contained no hidden pitfalls, and Scattergood was satisfied. He signed his name and thrust the roll of bills into his pocket.... Then he picked up his mop and went to work as hard as ever.
"Say," Old Man Penny said, "what you goin' ahead for? You jest agreed not to."
"There wasn't nothin' said about moppin'," grinned Scattergood, "and there wasn't nothin' said about hardware and harness and farm implements, neither. If you don't b'lieve me, jest read the agreement. What I'm doin', neighbors, is git this place cleaned out to put in the finest cash, cut-price, up-to-date hardware store in the state. And thank you, neighbors. You've done right kindly by a stranger...."
To this point the history of Scattergood Baines has been for the most part legendary; now we begin to encounter him in the public records, for deeds, mortgages, and the like begin to appear with his name upon them. His history becomes authentic.
Seven hundred and fifty dollars is not much when put into hardware, but Scattergood had no intention of putting even that into a stock of goods. He had a notion that the right kind of man, with five hundred dollars, could get credit to twice that amount, and as for farm machinery, he could sell by catalogue or on commission. His suspicion was proven to be fact.
But it was not in Scattergood to sit idle while he waited for his stock to arrive. Coldriver doubtless thought him idle, but he was studying the locality and the river with the eye of a commander who knew this was to be his battlefield. What Scattergood wanted now was to place himself astride Coldriver Valley, somewhere below the village, so that he could control the upper reaches of the stream. It was not difficult to find such a location. It lay three miles below town, at the junction of the north and south branches of Coldriver. The juncture was in a big, marshy, untillable flat, from which hills rose abruptly. From the easterly end of the flat the augmented river squeezed in a roaring rapids through a sort of bottle neck.
Scattergood stood on the hillside and looked upon this with satisfied eye.
"A dam across that bottle neck," he said to himself, "will flood that flat. Reg'lar reservoy. Millpond. Git a twenty-foot fall here easy, maybe more. Calc'late that'll run about any mill folks'll want to build. And," he scratched his head as a sort of congratulation to it for its efficiency, "I can't study out how anybody's agoin' to git logs past here without dickerin' with the man who owns the dam...." Plenty of water twelve months a year to give free power; a flat made to order for reservoir or log pond; a complete and effective blockade of both branches of the river which came down from a country richly timbered! It was one of the spots Scattergood had dreamed of.
Scattergood knew perfectly well he could not stop a log from passing his dam. Nor could he shut off the stream. Any dam he built must have a sluice which could be opened for the passage of timber, and all timber was entitled to "natural water." But, as he well knew, "natural water" was not always enough. A dam at this point would raise the level on the bars of the flat so that logs would not jam, and a log which used the high water caused by the dam must pay for it. What Scattergood had in mind was a dam and boom company. It was his project to improve the river, to boom backwaters, to dynamite ledges, to make the river passable to logs in spring and fall. It was his idea that such a company, in addition to demanding pay for the use of "improvements," could contract with lumbermen up the river to drive their logs.... And a mill at this point! Scattergood fairly licked his lips as he thought of the millions upon millions of feet of spruce to be sawed into lumber.
The firm foundation that Scattergood's strategy rested upon was that lumbering had not really started in the valley. The valley had not opened up, but lay undeveloped, waiting to be stirred to life. Scattergood's strength lay in that he could see ahead of to-day, and was patient to wait for the developments that to-morrow must bring. To-day his foresight could get for him what would be impossible to-morrow. If he stepped softly he could obtain a charter from the state to develop that river, which, when lumbering interests became actually engaged, would be fought by them to the last penny.... And he felt in his bones that day would not long be delayed.
The land Scattergood required was owned by three individuals. All of it was worthless—except to a man of vision—so, treading lightly, Scattergood went about acquiring what he needed. His method was not direct approach. He went to the owners of that land with proffers to sell, not to buy. To Landers, who owned the marsh on both shores of the river, he tried to sell the newest development in mowing machines, and his manner of doing so was to hitch to the newly arrived machine, haul it to Landers's meadow—where the owner was haying—drag it through the gate, and unhitch.
"Here," he said, "try this here machine. Won't cost you nothin' to try it, and I'm curious to see if it works as good as they say."
Landers was willing. It worked better. Landers regarded the machine longingly, and spoke of price. Scattergood disclosed it.
"Hain't got it and can't afford it," said Landers.
"Might afford a swap?"
"Might. What you got in mind?"
"Say," said Scattergood, changing the subject, "ever try drainin' that marsh in the fork? Looks like it could be done. Might make a good medder."
Landers laughed. "If you want to try," he chuckled, "I'll trade it to you for this here mowin' machine."
"Hum!..." grunted Scattergood, and higgled and argued, but ended by accepting a deed for the land and turning over the machine to Landers. Scattergood himself had sixty days to pay for it. It cost him something like half a dollar an acre, and Landers considered he had robbed the hardware merchant of a machine.
One side of the bottle neck Scattergood took in exchange for a kitchen stove and a double harness; the third parcel of land came to him for a keg of nails, five gallons of paint, sundry kitchen utensils, and twelve dollars and fifty cents in money.... And when Coldriver heard of the deals it chuckled derisively and regarded its hardware merchant with pitying scorn.
Then Scattergood left a youth in charge of his store and went softly to the state capital. In after years his skill in handling legislatures was often remarked upon with displeasure. His young manhood held prophecy of this future ability, for he came home acquainted with nine tenths of the legislators, laughed at by half of them as a harmless oddity, and with a state charter for his river company in his pocket.... When folks heard of that charter they held their sides and roared.
Scattergood returned to selling hardware, and waited. He had an idea he would hear something stirring on his trail before long, and he fancied he could guess who and what that something would be. He judged he would hear from two gentlemen named Crane and Keith. Crane owned some twenty thousand acres of timber along the North Branch; Keith owned slightly lesser limits along the South Branch. Both gentlemen were lumbering and operating mills in another state; their Coldriver holdings they had acquired, and, as the saying is, forgotten, until the time should come when they would desire to move into Coldriver Valley.
Now these holdings were recalled sharply to memory, and both of them took train to Coldriver.
Scattergood had not worried about it. He had simply gone along selling hardware in his own way—and selling a good deal of it. His store had a new front, his stock was augmented. It was his business to sell goods, and he sold them.
For instance, Lem Jones stopped and hitched his team before the store, one chilly day. His horses he covered with old burlap, lacking blankets. While Lem was buying groceries, Scattergood selected two excellent blankets, carried them out, and put them on the horses. Then he went back into the store to attend to other matters. Presently Lem came in.
"Where'd them blankets come from?" he asked.
"Hosses looked a mite chilly," said Scattergood, without interest, "so I covered 'em."
"Bleeged," said Lem. Then, awkwardly, "I calc'late I need a pair of blankets, but I can't afford 'em this year. Wife's been sick—"
"Sure," said Scattergood, "I know. If you want them blankets take 'em along. Pay me when you kin.... Jest give me a sort of note for a memorandum. Glad to accommodate you."
So Scattergood marketed his blankets, taking in exchange a perfectly good, interest-bearing note. Also, he made a friend, for Lem could not be convinced but Scattergood had done him a notable favor.
Scattergood now had money in the bank. No longer did he have to stretch his credit for stock. He was established—and all in less than a year. Hardware, it seemed, had been a commodity much needed in that locality, yet no one had handled it in sufficient stock because of the twenty-four-mile haul. That had been too costly. It cost Scattergood just as much, but his customers paid for it.... The difference between him and the other merchants was that he sold goods while they allowed folks to buy.
So, wisely, he kept on building up in a small way, while waiting for bigger things to develop. And as he waited he studied the valley until he could recite every inch of it, and he studied the future until he knew what the future would require of that valley. He knew it before the future knew it and before the valley knew it, and was laying his plans to be ready with pails to catch the sap when others, taken by surprise, would be running wildly about seeking for buckets.
Then Crane and Keith arrived in Coldriver.... That day marked Scattergood's emergence from the ranks of country merchants, though he retained his hardware store to the last. That day marked distinctly Scattergood's launching on a greater body of water. For forty years he sailed it with varying success, meeting failures sometimes, scoring victories; but interesting, characteristic in every phase—a genius in his way and a man who never took the commonplace course when the unusual was open to him.
"I suppose you've looked this man Baines up," said Crane to Keith when they met in the Coldriver tavern.
"I know how much he weighs and how many teeth he's had filled," Keith replied.
"He ought not to be so difficult to handle. He hasn't capital enough to put this company of his through and his business experience don't amount to much."
"For monkeying with our buzz saw," said Keith, "we ought to let him lose a couple of fingers."
"How's this for an idea, then?" Crane said, and for fifteen minutes he outlined his theory of how best to eliminate Scattergood Baines from being an obstruction to the free flowage of their schemes for Coldriver Valley.
"It's got others by the hundred, in one form or another," agreed Keith. "This jayhawker'll welcome it with tears of joy."
Whereupon they went gladly on their way to Scattergood's store, not as enemies, but as business men who recognized his abilities and preferred to have him with them from the start, that they might profit by his canniness and energy, rather than to array themselves against him in an effort to take away from him what he had obtained.
Only by the exercise of notable will power could Crane keep his face straight as he shook hands with ungainly Scattergood and saw with his own eyes what a perfect bumpkin he had to deal with.
"I suppose you thought we fellows would be sore," he said, genially.
"Dunno's I thought about you at all," said Scattergood. "I was thinkin' mainly about me."
"Well, we're not. You caught us napping, of course. We should have grabbed off that dam location long ago—but we weren't expecting anybody to stray in with his eyes open—like yourself.... Of course your property and charter aren't worth a great deal till we start lumbering."
"Not to anybody but me," said Scattergood.
"Well, we expect to begin operations in a year or so. We'll build a mill on the railroad, and drive our logs down the river."
"Givin' my company the drivin' contracts?"
"Looks like we'd have to—if you get in your dam and improvements. But that'll take money. We've looked you up, of course, and we know you haven't it—nor any backing.... That's why we've come to see you."
"To be sure," said Scattergood. "Goin' to drive 'way to the railroad, eh? How if there was a mill right at my dam? Shorten your drive twenty mile, wouldn't it, eh?"
"Yes," said Keith, laughing at Scattergood's ignorance; "but how about transportation from your mill to the railroad? We can't drive cut lumber."
"Course not," said Scattergood, "but this valley's goin' to open up. It's startin'. There's only one way to open a valley, and that's to run a railroad up it.... Narrow-gauge 'u'd do here. Carry mostly lumber, but passengers, too."
"Thinking of building one?" asked Crane, almost laughing in Scattergood's face.
"Thinkin' don't cost nobody anythin'," said Scattergood. "Ever take a look at that charter of mine?"
"I'll let you read it over a bit. Maybe you'll git a idea from it."
He extracted the parchment from his safe, and spread it before them. "Kind of look careful along toward the end—in the tail feathers of it, so to speak," he advised.
They did so, and Crane looked up at the fat hardware man with eyes that were not quite so contemptuous. "By George!" he said, "this thing's a charter for a railroad down the valley, too."
"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood. "Dunno's the boys quite see what it was all about, but they calculated to please me, so they put it through jest as it stood. Mighty nice fellers up to the legislature."
"Pretty far in the future," said Keith, "and mighty expensive."
"Maybe not so far," said Scattergood, "and I could make a darn good start narrow-gaugin' it with a hunderd thousand."
"Which you've got handy for use," said Crane.
"There is that much money," said Scattergood, "and if there is, why, it kin be got."
"Let's get back to the river, now," said Keith. "If we're going to start lumbering in a year, say, we've got to have the river in shape. Take quite some time to get it cleared and dammed and boomed."
"Six months," said Scattergood.
"Cost a right smart pile."
"The work I'm figgerin' on would come to about thirty-odd thousand."
"Which you haven't got."
"Somebody has," said Scattergood.
"We have," said Crane. "That's why we came to you—and with a proposition. You've grabbed this thing off, but you can't hog it, because you haven't the money to put it through. Our offer is this: You put in your locations and your charter against our money. We'll finance it. Your enterprise entitles you to control. We won't dispute that. You can have fifty-one per cent of the stock for what you've contributed. We take the rest for financing. We're known, and can get money."
"How you figger to work it?"
"We'll bond for forty thousand dollars. Keith and I can place the bonds. That'll give us money to go ahead."
Scattergood reached down and took off a huge shoe. Usually he thought more accurately when his feet were unconfined. "That means we'd sort of mortgage the whole thing, eh?"
"That's the idea."
"And if we didn't pay interest on the bonds, why, the fellers that had 'em could foreclose?"
"But we needn't worry about that."
"Not," said Scattergood, "if you fellers sign a contract with the dam and boom company to give them the exclusive job of drivin' all your timber at, say, sixty cents a thousand feet of logs. And if you'd stick a clause in that contract that you'd begin cuttin' within twelve months from date."
"Sure we'd do that," said Keith. "To our advantage as much as to yours."
"To be sure," said Scattergood.
"It's a deal, then?"
"Far's I'm concerned," said Scattergood, slipping his foot inside his shoe, "it is."
That afternoon, the papers having been signed and the deal consummated, Scattergood sat cogitating.
"I've been done," he said to himself, solemnly, "accordin' to them fellers' notion. They come and seen me, and done me. They planned out how they'd do it, and I didn't never suspect a thing. Uh-huh! Seems like I was unfortunate, just gettin' a start in life like I be.... Bonds, says they. Uh-huh! They'll place 'em, and place 'em handy. First int'rest day there won't be no int'rest, and them bonds'll be foreclosed—and where'll I be? Mighty ingenious fellers, Crane and Keith.... And I up and walked right into it like a fly into a molasses barrel. Them fellers," he said, even more somberly, "come here calc'latin' to cheat me out of my river.... Me bein' jest a fat man without no brains...."
Crane and Keith had left Scattergood the executive head of the new dam and boom company, and had confided to him the task of building the dam and improving the river. He approached it sadly.
"Might as well save what I kin out of the wreck," he said to himself, and quietly manufactured a dummy contracting company to whom he let the entire job for a lump sum of thirty-eight thousand seven hundred dollars. The dummy contractor was Scattergood Baines.
The dam was completed, booms and cribbing placed, ledges blasted out well within the six months' period set for those operations. Every thirty days Scattergood, in the name of the dummy contractor, was paid eighty per cent of his estimates, and at the completion of the work he received the remainder of the whole sum.
"I wouldn't 'a' done it to them boys," he said, as he surveyed a deposit of upward of seven thousand dollars, his profit on the transaction, "if it hadn't 'a' been they organized to cheat me out of my river. I calc'late in the circumstances, though, I'm most entitled to what I kin salvage out of the wreck."
Now the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company, Scattergood Baines president and manager, was ready for business, which was to take the logs of Messrs. Crane and Keith and drive them down the river at the rate of sixty cents per thousand feet. It was ready and eager, and so expressed itself in quaintly worded communications from Baines to those gentlemen. But no logs appeared to be driven.
"Jest like I said," Scattergood told himself, and, the day being hot and the road dusty, he removed his shoes and rested his sweltering bulk in the shade to consider it.
"It's a nice river," he said, audibly. "I hate to git done out of it."
After long delays Crane and Keith made pretense of building camps and starting to log. But one difficulty after another descended on their operations. In the spring, when each of them should have had several millions of feet of spruce ready to roll into the water, not a log was on rollways. Not a man was in the camps, for, owing to reasons not to be comprehended by the public, the woodsmen of both operators had struck simultaneously and left the woods.
Presently the first interest day arrived, with not even a hope of being able to meet the required payment at a future date. Bondholders—dummies, just as Scattergood's contractor was a dummy—met. Their deliberations were brief. Foreclose with all promptitude was their word, and foreclose they did. With the result that legal notices were published to the effect that on the sixteenth day of June the dam, booms, cribbing, improvements, charter, contracts, and property of whatsoever nature belonging to the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company were to be sold at public auction on the steps of the county courthouse. Scattergood had lost his river....
"Terms of the sale are cash with the bid," said Crane to Keith. "I saw to that."
"Good. Wasn't necessary, I guess. There hasn't been even a wriggle out of Baines."
"Won't be. We'll have to send somebody up to bid it in. It's just taking money out of one pocket to put it into the other, but we've got to go through the motions."
"Anyhow, let's get credit for grabbing a bargain," said Keith. "Bid her in cheap. No use taking a big wad of money out of circulation even for a few days."
"Ten thousand'll be enough. Say ten thousand six hundred, just to make it sound better. Have to have two bidders there."
"Sure," agreed Keith. "I guess this'll teach our fat dreamer of dreams not to get in the way of the cars."
Scattergood's stock had gone down in Coldriver. True, his hardware store was thriving. In the two years his stock had increased from what his seven hundred and fifty dollars, with credit added, would buy, to an inventory of better than five thousand dollars, free of debt. It is true also that with the last winter coming on he had looked about for a chance to keep his small surplus at work for him, and his eyes had fallen upon the item of firewood. In Coldriver were a matter of sixty houses and a hotel, all of which derived their heat from hardwood chunks, and cooked their meals on range fires with sixteen-inch split wood. The houses were mostly of that large, comfortable, country variety which could not be kept warm with one fire. Scattergood figured they would burn on an average of fifteen cords of wood.
Now stove wood, to be really useful, must have seasoned a year. It is not pleasant to build fires with green wood. Appreciating this, Scattergood ambled about the countryside and bought up every available stick of wood at prices of the day—and under, for he was a good buyer. He secured a matter of a thousand cords—and then waited hopefully.
It was a small transaction, promising no great profits, but Scattergood Baines was never, even when a rich man, one to scorn a small deal.... Within sixty days he turned over his corner in wood, realizing a profit of something over four hundred dollars.... This is merely to illustrate how Scattergood's capital grew.
On June 16th Scattergood drove to the county seat. He now owned a horse, and a buggy whose seat he more than comfortably filled. In the county seat Scattergood was not unknown, for various county officers had been helped to their place by his growing influence in his town—notably the sheriff.
There was little interest in the sale, and what interest there was Scattergood caused by his unexpected appearance. Nobody had imagined he would be present. Now that he was there, nobody could imagine why. He did not enlighten them, though he was delighted to sit in the sun on the courthouse steps, waiting for the hour of the sale, and to chat. He loved to chat, especially if he could get off his shoes and wriggle his toes in the sunshine. And so he sat, bare of foot, when the sheriff appeared and made his announcement of the approaching sale. Scattergood chatted on, apparently not interested.
"All the dams, booms, cribbings, improvements, and property of the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company ..." the sheriff read.
"Including contracts and charter," amended Scattergood.
"Including contracts and charter," agreed the sheriff, and Scattergood continued his chat.
Bidding began. It was not brisk or exciting. Five thousand was the first offer, from a young man appertaining to Crane. Keith's young man raised him five hundred. Back and forth they tossed it, carrying on the pretense, until Keith's young man reached the sum of ten thousand six hundred dollars.... A silence followed.
"Ten thousand six hundred I'm offered," said the sheriff, loudly, and repeated it. He had been a licensed auctioneer in his day. "Do I hear seven hundred? Seven hundred ... Six fifty ..." A portentous pause. "Going at ten thousand six hundred, once. Going at ten thousand six hundred, twice ..."
"Ten thousand seven hunderd," said Scattergood, casually.
Crane's young man looked at Keith's young man in a panic. They had only the sum they had bid upon them.... Cash with bid were the terms of sale. Scattergood, out of the corner of his eye, saw them rush together and confer frenziedly. His eye glinted.
"Ten thousand eight hundred," Crane's youth bid, desperately.
"Cash with bid is terms of sale," said Scattergood. "I object to listenin' to that bid without the young man perduces." He smiled at the sheriff.
"Mr. Baines is right," said the sheriff. "Protect your bid with the cash or I cannot receive it."
"Make him protect his bid!" shouted Crane's young man.
"Certain," said Scattergood, approaching the sheriff and drawing a huge roll of bills from his sagging trousers pocket. "Calc'late you'll find her there, Mr. Sheriff, and some besides. Make your change and gimme back the rest."
"I'm waitin' on you, young feller," said the sheriff, eying the young men.... "Ten thousand seven hundred I hear. Going at ten thousand seven hundred—once.... Twice.... Three times!... Sold to Mr. Baines for ten thousand seven hundred dollars...."
So ends the first epoch of Scattergood Baines's career in Coldriver Valley. Here he emerges as a personage. From this point his fame began to spread, and legend grew. Had he not, in two brief years, after arriving with less than fifty dollars as a total capital, acquired a profitable hardware store—donated in the beginning by competitors? Had he not now, for the most part with money wrenched from Crane and Keith by his dummy contracting, been enabled to bid in for ten thousand seven hundred dollars a new property worth nearly four times that much? He was a man into whose band wagon all were eager to clamber.
But Scattergood did not change. He went back to his hardware store and waited—waited for Crane and Keith to start their inevitable logging operations. For in his safe reposed ironclad contracts with those gentlemen, covering the future for a decade, compelling them to pay him sixty cents for every thousand feet of timber that floated down his river. It was a good two years' work. He could well afford to wait....
Scattergood sat on the porch of his store, in the sunniest spot, twiddling his bare toes.
"The way to make money," he said to the mountain opposite, "is to let smarter folks 'n you be make it for you ... like I done."
SCATTERGOOD KICKS UP THE DUST
Scattergood Baines sat on the porch of his hardware store and looked down Coldriver Valley. It was very beautiful, even under the hot summer sun of the second anniversary of Scattergood's arrival in that part of the world, but he was not seeing it as it was—mountainous, green, with untouched forests, quickened to life and sound by the swift, rushing, splashing downrush of a tireless mountain river. Scattergood saw the valley as he was going to make it, for he was a specialist in valleys.
For years he had searched for an undeveloped valley—for the sort of valley it would be worth his while to take in hand, and two years ago he had found it and invaded it. His equipment for its conquest had been meager—some fifty dollars in money and a head filled from ear to ear and from eyebrows to scalp lock with shrewdness. His progress in twenty-four months had been notable, for he was sole proprietor of a profitable hardware store in Coldriver village, and controlled the upper stretches of Coldriver by virtue of a certain dam and boom company built with other men's capital for Scattergood's benefit and behoof.
Now, in the eye of his mind, he could see the whole twenty-odd miles of his valley. Along the left bank, hanging perilously to the slope of the mountain, he saw the rails of a narrow-gauge railroad reaching from Coldriver Valley to the main line that passed the valley's mouth. He saw sturdy, snorting little engines drawing logs to sawmills of a magnitude not dreamed of by any other man in the locality, and he saw other engines hauling out lumber to the southward. He saw villages where no villages existed that day, and villages meaning more traffic for his railroad, more trade for the stores he had it in his thought to establish. Something else he saw, but more dimly. This vision took the shape of a gigantic dam far back in the mountains, behind which should be stored the waters from the melting snows and from the spring rains, so that they might be released at will to insure a uniform flow throughout the year, wet months and dry months, as he desired. He saw this water pouring over other dams, turning water wheels, giving power to mills and factories. More than that, in the remotest and dimmest recess of his brain he saw not sharply, not with full comprehension, this tremendous water power converted into electricity and transported mile upon mile over far-reaching wires, to give light and energy to distant communities.
But all that was remote; it lay in the years to come. For the present smaller affairs must content him. Even the matter of the narrow-gauge railroad was beyond his grasp.
Scattergood reached down mechanically and removed his huge shoes; then, stretching out his fat legs gratefully, he twiddled his toes in the sunlight and gave himself up to practical thought. He controlled the tail of the valley with his dam and boom company; he must control its mouth. He must have command over the exit from the valley so that every individual, every log, every article of merchandise that entered or left the valley, should pass through his hands. That was to be the next step. He must straddle the mouth of the valley like the fat colossus he was.
Scattergood was placid and patient. He knew what he wanted to do with his valley, and had perfect confidence he should accomplish it. But he had no disposition to hasten matters unwisely. It was better, as he told Sam Kettleman, the grocer, "to let an apple fall in your lap instead of skinnin' your shins goin' up the tree after it—and then findin' it was green."
So, though he wanted the mouth of his river, and wanted it badly, he did not rush off, advertising his need, and try brashly to grab the forty or fifty acres of granite and scrub and steep mountain wall that his heart desired. Instead, he basked in the sunshine, twiddling his bare toes ecstatically, and let the huge bulk of him sink more contentedly into the well-reinforced armchair which creaked under his slightest motion.
Scattergood glanced across the dusty square to the post office. The mail was in, and possibly there were letters there for him. He thought it very likely, and he wanted to see them—but movement was repulsive to his bulging body. He sighed and closed his eyes. A shrill whistle attempting the national anthem, with certain liberties of variation, caused him to open them again, and he saw, passing him, a small boy, apparently without an object in life.
"A-hum!" said Scattergood.
The boy stopped and looked inquiringly.
"If I knew," said Scattergood to his bare feet, "where there was a boy that could find his way across to the post office and back without gittin' sunstroke or stone bruise, I dunno but I'd give him a penny to fetch my mail."
"It's worth a nickel," said the boy.
"Give you two cents," said Scattergood.
"Nickel or nothin'," said the boy.
Scattergood scrutinized the boy a moment, then surrendered.
"Bargain," said he, but as the boy hustled across the square Scattergood heaved himself out of his chair and padded inside the store. He stood scratching his head a moment and then removed a tin object from a card holding eleven more of its like. With it in his hand, he returned to his chair and resettled himself cautiously, for to apply his weight suddenly might have resulted in disaster.
The boy was returning. Scattergood placed the tin object to his lips and puffed out his bulging cheeks. A sound resulted such as the ears of Coldriver had seldom suffered. It was shrill, it was penetrating, it rose and fell with a sort of ripping, tearing slash. The boy stopped in front of Scattergood and stared. Without a word Scattergood held out his hand for his mail, and, receiving it, placed a nickel in the grimy palm that remained extended. Then, apparently oblivious to the boy's existence, he applied himself again to the whistle.
"Say," said the boy, "what's that?"
"Patent whistle," said Scattergood, without interest.
"Is it your'n, or is it for sale?"
"Calculate I might sell."
"Gimme it," said the boy, and Scattergood gravely received back his coin.
"Might tell the kids I got more," said Scattergood, and watched the boy trot down the street, entranced by the horrid sound he was fathering.
This transaction from beginning to end was eloquent of Scattergood Baines's character. He had been obliged to pay more than he regarded a service as worth, but had not protested vainly. Instead he had set about recouping himself as best he could. The whistle cost him two cents and a half. Therefore the boy had come closer to working for Scattergood's figure than for his own demanded price. In addition, Scattergood's wares were to receive free and valuable advertising, as was proven by the fact that before night he had sold ten more whistles at a profit of twenty-five cents! No deal was too small to receive Scattergood's best and most skillful attention.
Now he opened his letters, one of which was worthy of attention, for it was from a friend in the office of the Secretary of State for that commonwealth—a friend who owed his position there in great measure to Scattergood's influence. The letter gave the information that two gentlemen named Crane and Keith had pooled their timber holdings on the east and west branches of Coldriver, and had filed papers for the incorporation of the Coldriver Lumber Company.
This was important. First, the gentlemen named were no friends of Scattergood's by reason of having underestimated that fleshy individual to their financial detriment in the matter of a certain dam and boom company, of which Scattergood was now sole owner. Second, because it presaged active lumbering operations. Third, because, in Scattergood's safe were ironclad contracts with both of them whereby the said dam and boom company should receive sixty cents a thousand feet for driving their logs down the improved river.
And fourth—the fourth brought Scattergood's active toes to a rest. Fourth, it meant that Crane and Keith would be building the largest sawmill—the only sawmill of consequence—that the valley had seen.
It was an attribute of Scattergood's peculiar genius that even after you had encountered him once, and come out the worse for it, you still rated him as a fatuous, guileless mound of flesh. You did not credit his successes to astuteness, but to blundering luck. Another point also should be noted: If Scattergood were hunting bear he gave it out that his game was partridge. He would hunt partridge industriously and conspicuously until men's minds were turned quite away from the subject of bear. Then suddenly he would shift shotgun for rifle and come home with a bearskin in the wagon. Probably he would bring partridge, too, for he never neglected by-products.
"Them fellows," said he to himself, referring to Messrs. Crane and Keith, "hain't aimin' nor wishin' to pay me no sixty cents a thousand for drivin' their logs.... I figger they calculate to cut about ten million feet. That'll be six thousand dollars. Profit maybe two thousand. Don't see as I kin afford to lose it, seems as though."
On the river below Coldriver village were three hamlets each consisting of a general store, a church, and a few scattered dwellings. These villages were the supply centers for the mountain farms that lay behind them. Necessity had located them, for nowhere else along the valley was there flat land upon which even the tiniest village could find a resting place. These were Bailey, Tupper Falls, and Higgins's Bridge. In common with Coldriver village their communication with the world was by means of a stage line consisting of two so-called stages, one of which left Coldriver in the morning on the downward trip, the other of which left the mouth of the valley on the upward trip. There was also one freight wagon.
The morning following Scattergood's second anniversary in the region, he boarded the stage, occupying so much space therein that a single fare failed utterly to show a profit to the stage line, and alighted at Bailey. He went directly to the store, where no one was to be found save sharp-featured Mrs. Bailey, wife of the proprietor.
"Mornin', ma'am," said Scattergood, politely. "Husband hain't in?"
"Up the brook, catchin' a mess of trout," she responded, shortly. "He's always catchin' a mess of trout, or huntin' a deer or a partridge or somethin'. If you're ever aimin' to see Jim Bailey here, you want to git around afore daylight or after dark."
"Hain't it lucky," said Scattergood, "that some men manages to marry wimmin that kin look after their business?"
"Not for the wimmin," said Mrs. Bailey, shortly.
"My name's Baines," said Scattergood.
"I calculate to know that."
"Like livin' here, ma'am?"
"Not so but what I could bear a change."
"Um!... Mis' Bailey, I calc'late you'd hate to see Jim make a little money so's to be able to git away from here if he wanted to."
"Him? Only way hell ever make money is to ketch a solid-gold trout."
"Maybe I'm the solid-gold trout you're speakin' about," said Scattergood.
She regarded him sharply a moment. "Set," she said. "Looks like you got somethin' on your mind."
There were times when Scattergood could be direct and succinct. He perceived it was best to be so with this woman.
"I might want to buy this here store—under certain conditions."
"Inventory, and a share in the profits of a deal I got in mind."
"What's them conditions you mentioned?"
"That you and Jim don't mention the sale to anybody, and keep on runnin' the place—for wages—until I'm ready for you to quit."
"What's the deal them profits is comin' from, and how much you figger they'll be?"
"The deal's feedin' about five hunderd men, and the profits'll be plenty. I furnish the capital and show you how it's to be done. All Jim'll have to do is foller directions."
Then, lowering his voice, Scattergood went farther into particulars. Suddenly Mrs. Bailey arose, and screamed shrilly to an urchin playing in the road, "You, Jimmy, go up the brook and fetch your pa." Scattergood knew his deal was as good as closed. Before the up-bound stage arrived it was closed. The Baileys had cash in hand for their store and Scattergood carried away a duly executed bill of sale.
The following day, for fifteen hundred dollars cash, he acquired all the property of the stage line—and when the news became public it was believed that Scattergood had departed from his wits, for the line was notoriously unprofitable and an aching worry to its owners. But the commotion the transfer of the stage line created was as nothing to the news that Scattergood had bought a strip of land along the railroad at the mouth of the river, and was erecting a large wooden building upon it. When asked concerning this and its purpose, Scattergood replied that he wasn't made up in his mind what he would use it for, but likely it would be an "opry" house.
Following this, Scattergood went to the city, where he spent much valuable time interviewing gentlemen in wholesale grocery and provision houses....
Jim Bailey liked to fish—which is not an attribute to create scandal. He was not ambitious, nor was he endowed with a full reservoir of initiative, but he was a shrewd customer and seldom got the worst of it. One virtue he possessed, and that was an ability to follow directions—and to keep his mouth shut.
Not many days after Scattergood became the owner of the store at Bailey, Jim was a caller at the new offices of the lumber company, formed when Crane and Keith pooled their interests.
"I come to see you," he told Crane, "because it seemed like you got to feed your lumberjacks, and I want to git the contract for furnishin' and deliverin' the provisions."
"We've sure got to feed 'em," said Crane. "But five hundred men eat a lot of grub. Can you swing it if we give you a chance at it?"
Bailey produced a letter from the Coldriver bank which stated the bank was willing to stand behind any contract made by the Bailey Provision Company, up to a certain substantial amount.
"Who's the Bailey Provision Company?"
"Me 'n' my wife mostly holds the stock."
"Huh!... You'll handle the stuff, deliver it, and all that? What's your proposition?"
"Well, havin' been in business twenty-odd year, I kin buy mighty favorable. More so 'n you fellers. All I want's a livin' profit. Tell you what I'll do. I'll take this here contract like this: Goods to be delivered in your camps at actual cost of the stuff and freighting plus ten per cent. We'll keep stock on hand in depots, and deliver as needed. It'll save you all the trouble of handlin'. We'll carry the stock, and you pay once a month for what's delivered."
Crane called in Keith, and they discussed the proposition. It presented distinct advantages; might, indeed, save them money in addition to trouble. Bailey clinched the thing by showing an agreement with the stage line to transport the provisions at a price per hundred pounds notably lower than Crane and Keith imagined could be obtained, and went home carrying the contract Scattergood had sent him to get.
Scattergood put the paper away in his safe and sat back in his reinforced armchair, with placid satisfaction making benignant his face. "I calc'late," he said to himself, "that this here dicker'll keep Crane and Keith gropin' and wonderin' and scrutinizin' more or less—when it gits to their ears. Shouldn't be s'prised if it come to worry 'em a mite."
So, having created a diversion to conceal the movements of his main attack, Scattergood got out his maps and began scientifically to plan his fall and winter campaign.
Timber was his objective. Not a hundred acres of it, nor a thousand, but tens of thousands, even a hundred thousand acres of spruce-covered hills was the goal he had set. To control his valley he must have money; to get money for his developments he must have timber. Also, ownership of vast limits of growing spruce was necessary to the control of the valley. He must own more timber thereabouts than anybody else. He must dominate the timber situation. To a man whose total resources totaled a matter of fifty thousand dollars—the bulk of which was tied up in a dam and boom company as yet unproductive—this looked like a mouthful beyond his capacity to bite off. Even with timber in the back reaches selling at sixty-six cents an acre, a hundred thousand acres meant an investment of sixty-six thousand dollars. True, Scattergood could look forward to the day when that same timberland would be worth ten dollars an acre—a million dollars—but looking ahead would not produce a cent to-day.
Of timberlands, whose cut logs must go down Coldriver Valley to reach a market, Scattergood's maps showed him there were probably a quarter of a million acres—mostly spruce. Estimating with rigid conservatism, this would run eight thousand feet to the acre, or twenty billion feet of timber—and this did not take into consideration hardwood. In Scattergood's secret heart he wanted it all. All he might not be able to get, but he must have more than half—and that half distributed strategically.
It will be seen that Scattergood was content to wait. His motto was, "Grab a dollar to-day—but don't meddle with it if it interferes with a thousand dollars in ten years."
Scattergood's maps had been the work of two years. That they were accurate he knew, because he had set down on them most of the facts they showed. They were valuable, for, in Scattergood's rude printing, one could read upon them the owner of every piece of timber, every farm, the acreage in each piece of timber, with a careful estimate of the amount of timber to the acre—also its proportions of spruce, beech, birch, maple, ash.
Toward the head of the valley, where good timber was thickest, Scattergood's map showed how it spread out like a fan, with the two main branches of Coldriver and numerous brooks as the ribs. Then, down the length of the stream, were parallel bands of it. On the map one could see what this timber could be bought for; prices ranging from two dollars and a half an acre down the main river to sixty-six cents at the extremity of the fan.
As Scattergood studied his maps he saw, far in the future, perhaps, but clearly and distinctly and certainly, two parallel lines running up the river to his village; he saw, branching off from a spot below the village, where East and West Branches joined to pour over a certain dam owned by him, other narrower parallel lines following river and brooks back and back into the mountains, the spruce-clad mountains. These parallel lines were rails. The ones which ran close together were narrow-gauge—logging roads to bring logs to the big mill which Scattergood planned to build beside his dam. The broader lines were a standard-gauge road to carry the cut lumber to the outside world, and not only the cut lumber, but all the traffic of the valley, all the freight, the manufactured products of other mills and factories which were to come along the banks of his river. Here, in black and white, was set down Scattergood's life plan. When it was accomplished he would be through. He would be willing to have his maps rolled up and himself to be laid on the shelf, for he would have done the thing he set out to do.... For, strange as it may seem, Scattergood was not pursuing money for money itself—his objective was achievement.
Scattergood was not the only man to own or to study maps. Crane and Keith were at the same interesting employment, but on a lesser scale.
"Here's your stuff," said Keith, "over here on the East Branch—thirty thousand acres. Here's mine, on the West Branch—close to thirty thousand acres. We don't touch anywhere."
"But our locations put us in the driver's seat so far as the timber up here is concerned. We're in control. There are sixty thousand acres of mighty good spruce in that triangle between us, and it's as good as ours. It's there for us when we need it. All we got to do is reach out our hand for it. The folks that own it haven't got the money to go ahead with it. Pretty sweet for us—with sixty thousand acres in the palm of our hand and not a cent invested in it."
"Sweet is the word. But what if somebody grabbed it off?"
"I think we ought to tie it up somehow. If we owned the whole thing we could work a heap more profitably. Now we've got to divide camps, or else cut off one slice or the other at a time. If we owned the whole thing we could make our cut where it would be easiest handled—and leave the rest till things develop."
"It's safe. And we can make it mighty unpleasant for anybody who comes ramming into this region in a small way. Which reminds me of that Baines—our friend Scattergood. Are we going to let him get away with that dam and boom company we made him a present of?"
"I can't see ourselves digging down for sixty cents a thousand for driving our logs—contracts or no contracts."
"Maybe we can buy him off."
"Hanged if I'll do that—we'll chase him off. Look here—he's got to handle our logs. If he can't handle them we've got a right to put on our own crew and drive them down—and charge back to him what it costs us. Get the idea?"
"We deliver the logs as specified in the spring. Let him start his drive. Then, I figure, he'll have some trouble with his men, and most likely men he don't have trouble with will get into a row with lumberjacks going out of camp. See? Men of his that we can't handle we'll pitch into the river. Then we'll take charge with our men and make the drive. On top of that we'll sue Scattergood for thirty or forty cents a thousand—extra cost we've been put to by his inability to handle the drive. That'll put a crimp in him—and if we keep after him hot and heavy it won't take long to drive him out of the valley."
"Don't believe he's dangerous, anyhow. That last deal was bullhead luck."
"Yes, but he's stirring around. We don't want anybody poking in. There's a heap of money in this valley for us, if we can keep it to ourselves, and the sooner the idea gets abroad that it isn't healthful to butt in, the better."
"Guess you're right."
If Scattergood could have heard this conversation perhaps he would not have been so gayly partaking of the softer joys of life. For that is what Scattergood was doing. He had polished up his buggy, put his new harness on his horse, and was driving out to make a social call. Not only that, but it was a social call upon a lady!
Scattergood was lonely sometimes. In one of his moments of loneliness it had occurred to him that a great many men had wives, and that wives were, undoubtedly, a remarkably effective insurance against that ailment.
"I gather," he said, in the course of a casual conversation with Sam Kettleman, the grocer, "that wives is sometimes inconvenient and sometimes tryin' on the temper, but on the whole they're returnin' income on the investment."
"Some does and some doesn't," said Kettleman, lugubriously.
"Hotel grub," said Scattergood, "gets mighty similar. Roast beef and roast pork! Roast pork and roast beef! Then cold roast pork and beef for supper.... And me obliged, by the way I'm built, to pay extry board. Sundays I always order me two dinners. Seems like a wife 'u'd act as a benefit there."
"But there's drawbacks," said Sam, "and there's mother-in-laws, and there's lendin' a dollar to your brother-in-law."
"The thing to do," said Scattergood, "is to pick one without them impediments. I also figger," he added, wriggling his bare toes, "that a feller ought to pick one that could lend a dollar to your brother in case he needed one."
"Hain't none sich to be found," said Sam.
"I calc'late to look," Scattergood replied.
He had already done his looking. The lady of his choice, tradition says, was older than he, but this is a base libel. She was not older. She had not yet reached thirty. Scattergood had first encountered her when she came to his hardware store to buy a plow. On that occasion her excellent business judgment and her powers of barter had attracted him strongly. As a matter of fact, he was a bit in doubt if she hadn't the best of him on the deal.... Her name was Amanda Randle.
Scattergood gave the matter his best thought, then polished the buggy as aforesaid, and called.
"Howdy, Miss Randle?" said he, tying to her hitching post.
"Howdy, Mr. Baines?"
"I calculated," said he, "that, bein' as it's a hot night, a buggy ride might sort of cool you off, after a way of speakin'."
Amanda blushed, for the proffer of a buggy ride was not without definite significance in that region.
"I'll git my shawl and bonnet," she said.
To the casual eye it would have appeared that Scattergood's summer was devoted wholly to running his hardware store and to paying court to Mandy Randle.... But this would not have been so. He was making ready for the winter—and for the spring that came after it. For in the spring came the drive, and with the coming of the drive Scattergood foresaw the coming of trouble. He was not a man to dodge trouble that might bring profit dangling to the fringe of her skirt.
Coldriver watched with deep interest the progress of Scattergood's suit. It had figured Mandy as an old maid—for, as has been mentioned, she was close upon her thirtieth year, which, in a village where eighteen is the general age for taking a husband, is well along in spinsterhood. It was late in October when Scattergood "came to scratch," as the local saying is.
"Mandy," said he, "I calc'late you noticed I been comin' around here consid'able."
"You have—seems as though," she said, and blushed. It was coming. She recognized the signs.
"I been a-comin' on purpose," said Scattergood.
"Do tell," said Mandy.
"Yes, ma'am. It's like this: I own a hardware store and some other prop'ty; not a heap, ma'am, but some. It's gittin' to be more. I calculate, some day, to be wuth consid'able. When a man gits to this p'int, he ought to have him a wife, eh?"
Mandy made no reply.
"So," said Scattergood, "I took to lookin' around a bit, and of all the girls there was, Mandy, it looked to me like you would be the only one to make the kind of a wife I want. That's honest. Yes, sir. Says I to myself, 'Mandy Randle's the one for me.' So I washed up the buggy and hitched up the horse and come right out. I been comin' ever since, because that there first impression of mine has been bore out by facts.... I'm askin' you, Mandy, will you be Missis Baines?"
"You're stiddy and savin'—and makin'," said Mandy. "Add what you got to what I got, and we'll be pretty well off. And I aim to help take care of it."
"I aim to have you help," said Scattergood. "But, Mandy, I don't want you scrimpin' and savin' too much. I want my wife should have as good as the best, and be looked up to by the best. The day'll come, Mandy, when we'll keep a hired girl!"
"No extravagances, Scattergood, till I say we kin afford it.... And, Scattergood, you got to promise not to make no important move without consultin' me. I got a head for business."
"Mandy," said Scattergood, "you and me is equal partners."
Which, say both tradition and history, is how the arrangement worked out. Mandy and Scattergood were equal partners. Scattergood was to learn through the years that Mandy's was a good head for business, and, though business men who came to deal with Scattergood in the future sometimes laughed when they found Mandy present at their conferences, they never laughed but once.... And, though Scattergood's proffer of marriage had not been couched in fervent terms of love, nor had Mandy fallen on his overbroad bosom with rapture, theirs was a married life to be envied by most, for there was between them perfect trust, sincere affection, and wisest forbearance. For forty years Scattergood and Mandy lived together as man and wife, and at the end both could look back through the intimate years and say of the other that he had chosen well his mate.
It may be thought that this bit of romance is dropped in here by legend and history merely to amuse, or as a side light on the character of Scattergood Baines. This is not so. We are forced by the facts to regard the matter as an integral part of the business transaction related in this narrative. Not a minor part, not an important part, but perhaps the deciding factor....
John Bones, lawyer, age twenty-six, was a recent acquisition to Coldriver village. Scattergood had watched the young man's comings and goings, and had listened to his conversation. Early in November he went to his bank and drew from deposit two hundred and fifty dollars.... Then he went to call on Bones.
"Mr. Bones," he said, "folks says old Clayt Mosier's a client of your'n."
"He's given me some business, Mr. Baines."
"Uh-huh!... Somethin' to do with title to a piece of timber over Higgins's Bridge way, wa'n't it?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Baines, but I guess you'll have to ask Mr. Mosier about that."
"Huh!... Mosier hain't apt to tell me. Seems like I was sort of int'rested in that thing. I can't manage nohow to git the facts, so I thought I'd talk to you."
"I can't help you. I have no right to talk about a client's confidential matters."
"To be sure.... How's business?"
"Not very good."
"Not gittin' rich, eh?"
Young Bones looked unhappy, for making both ends meet was a problem he had not mastered as yet.
Scattergood got up, closed the door, and walked softly back to the desk. He drew from his pocket the roll of bills, and spread them out in alluring pattern.
"Them's your'n," said he.
"Mine? How? What for?"
"I'm swappin' with you."
"For what, Mr. Baines?" A slight perspiration was noticeable on young Lawyer Bones's brow.
"Information," said Scattergood, looking him in the eye. As the young man did not speak, Scattergood continued, "about Mosier's title matter."
For an instant the young man stood irresolute; then he reached slowly over, gathered up the money into a neat roll—while Scattergood watched him intently—and then, with suddenly set teeth, hurled the roll into Scattergood's face, and leaped around the desk.
"You git!" he said, between his teeth. "Git, and take your filthy money with you...."
Scattergood, who did not in the least look it, could move swiftly. The young lawyer was abruptly interrupted in his pastime of ejecting Scattergood forcibly. He found himself seized by his wrists and held as if he had shoved his arms into steel clamps.
"Set," said Scattergood, "and be sociable.... And keep the money. It's your'n. You're hired. I guess you're the feller I'm aimin' to use."
He forced the struggling young man back into his chair, and released him—grinning broadly, and not at all as a tempter should grin. "If it'll relieve your conscience," he said, "I hain't got no more int'rest in Mosier's affairs than I have in the emperor of the heathen Chinee.... But I have got a heap of int'rest in a young feller that kin refuse a wad of money when he can't pay his board bill. Maybe 'twan't jest a nice way, but I had to find out. The man I'm needin' has to have a clost mouth—and somethin' a mite better 'n that—gumption not to sell out.... Git the idee?"
"I—yes, I guess I do—but—"
"Any objections to workin' for me?"
"All right. Keep the money. When you've worked it up come for more. And, young feller, if things turns out for me like I think they will, you're goin' to quit bein' a lawyer one of these days. I'm a-goin' to need you in my business. Come over to my store."
At the store Scattergood spread his maps before the young man, and pointed to a certain spot. "There's about fifty different passels of timber in that crotch. I don't aim to need 'em all to-day, but I calc'late on gittin' a sort of fringe around the edge." He drew his finger down the East Branch and up the West Branch in a sort of horseshoe. "Your job's to git options on the fringe—in your own name. Git the idee?"
"Git 'em cheap."
"There's five thousand dollars on deposit in the bank in your name. Use it." When Scattergood trusted a man he trusted him. "And now," he said, "I calc'late to raise a little dust, so's you won't be noticed."
Scattergood's little dust consisted of allowing to be inserted in the local paper an item announcing that Scattergood Baines had bought all the stock and contracts of the Bailey Provision Company, which concern was purveying food supplies to all the camps of Messrs. Crane and Keith.... Then Scattergood settled back to watch the dust rise.
The dust arose, and filled the eyes and noses of Messrs. Crane and Keith, as Scattergood expected, with the result that Mr. Crane was a passenger on Scattergood's stage to Coldriver village.
"Howdy, Mr. Crane?" said Scattergood, as that gentleman belligerently entered the hardware store. "I was sort of lookin' forward to seein' some of you folks."
"Look here, Baines," said Crane, "what are you butting into our game for? We let you get away with that other thing, but this last deal of yours makes it look as if you were hunting trouble. You bought that provision company to get a lever on us."
"Maybe so.... Maybe so, but I wouldn't get het up about it.... You see, it's like this: you folks kind of did what I expected you'd do on that dam and boom deal, and come pretty close to doin' me out of some valuable property. I didn't get het up, though, I jest sort of sat around and waited.... And it come out all right. Now, didn't it?"
"Maybe so.... Maybe so. Now, here's how I figger things to-day. You and Keith hain't amiable about that deal, and you don't aim to let my dam and boom company make any money out of you. I expect you can manage it. If I was in your shoes, and was the kind of a man I judge you folks be, I'd fix it so's the dam and boom company couldn't handle the drive. Buy up the men, maybe, and start fights, and be sort of forced to take charge so's to get my drive through. And then I'd sue for damages.... That's how I'd do. I calc'late that's about what you and Keith has in mind, hain't it?"
Crane was purple with rage, but underneath his rage was a clammy layer of unpleasant surprise that this mound of flabby fat should have had such uncanny vision into his hardly creditable plans.
"You're crazy, man," he blustered.
"Maybe so.... Maybe so. Anyhow, I took out a mite of insurance ag'in' sich a happenin'. I got me this here provision company to feed your men.... Ever happen to think what would happen in the woods if your lumberjacks run short of grub? Eh?... And suppose it happened, and your men come bilin' out of camp, sore as bears with bee stings. What then, eh? Couldn't git another crew this winter, maybe. Eh?"
Crane blustered. He threatened legal measures, but Scattergood pointed out no legal measures could be taken until he failed to deliver supplies. Also, he directed Crane's attention to the fact that the provision company was a corporation, and liable only to the extent of its assets. "So, even if you got a judgment, you wouldn't collect enough to make no profit. And your winter's cut would be off, and what logs you got cut would rot in the woods. I calc'late you'd stand to git damaged consid'able."
"What's your proposition?" spluttered Crane.
"Hain't got none.... You jest run back to Keith and repeat as much of this here talk as you can remember. I'm goin' to be busy now. Afternoon."
For two weeks Scattergood disappeared, and though Crane and Keith sought him with fever in their blood, he was not to be found. He filled their minds; he dominated their conversation; he gave them sleepless nights and unpleasant days.... Their attention was effectively focused on the emergency he had presented to them. Scattergood had kicked up an effective dust.
At the end of two weeks Scattergood appeared again in town, and went directly to Johnnie Bones's office. Scattergood now called his lawyer Johnnie.
"Got 'em?" he asked.
"Not all. There's a fifteen-thousand-acre strip cutting right across your horseshoe, from East to West Branch, and I couldn't touch it. I got all the rest. That one belongs to a woman, and a more unreasonable woman to try to do business with I never saw."
"Um!" said Scattergood. "Know where I been, Johnnie?"
"Yes. Me 'n' the lady, we met by arrangement in Boston and got us a preacher and done the job. Marriage, Johnnie, is a doggone solemn matter."
"I've heard so," said the young man.
"Some day," said Scattergood, "I'm a-goin' to marry you off. Calculate I got the girl in my eye now."
"I hope," Johnnie said, "that you'll be—er—very happy."
"Guess we'll manage so-so.... Now about them options, Johnnie. You make tracks for the city and sort of edge up to Crane and Keith. Might start by showin' 'em a deed for a mill site down across from theirs at the railroad. Then you might start askin' questions like you was lookin' for information. Guess that'll git up their curiosity some. Then you kin spring your options on 'em.... When you've done that, come off and leave 'em sweatin'. And don't mention me. I hain't in this deal a-tall."
But before Johnnie could get to Crane and Keith, Crane and Keith came to Scattergood.
"You've got some kind of a proposition in mind," said Keith, who did the talking because he could keep his temper better than Crane. "What do you want?"
"Make me an offer," said Scattergood.
"We'll buy your provision company—and give you a decent profit."
"Don't sound enticin'," said Scattergood, reaching down and loosening his shoe. It was too cold to omit the wearing of heavy woolen socks, so he could not twiddle his toes with perfect freedom, but he could twiddle them some, and that helped his mental processes.
"Well, what do you want?"
"I'll sell the provision company's stock of provisions—and nothin' more.... At a profit. You got to buy, 'cause you can't make arrangements to git in grub before I bring on a famine for you.... And I got the grub stored in warehouses. That's part of it. Second, I'll lease you my river for three years. You wasn't calc'latin' to pay for the use of it. So you be obleeged to pay in advance. I figgered my profits on drivin' at about two thousand this year. Give you a three-year lease for five thousand. I hain't no hog.... Yes or no."
There was a brief conference. "Yes," was the answer.
"Cash," said Scattergood.
"You'll have to come to the city for it," Keith said, which Scattergood was not unwilling to do. He returned with a certified check for twenty-six thousand five hundred and twenty-four dollars and nineteen cents, of which five thousand was rental of his river, and four thousand and odd dollars were his profits on his provisions. Not a bad profit from a dust-throwing project!
Meantime Johnnie paid his visit to Crane and Keith, and came home to report.
"It hit them between wind and water," he said.
"Uh-huh!... What did you judge they had in mind?"
"They wanted to buy me out.... Of course I wouldn't sell. My clients wanted that timber, and were going to work to build their mill.... The last they said was that they were coming up to see me."
"Uh-huh! When they come, you mention about that strip of fifteen thousand acres you couldn't buy, eh? Let on you couldn't get it."
Johnnie held Scattergood as he was going out. "I want to account for that five thousand dollars you placed in my name."
"Go ahead. I hain't perventin' you."
"I got options on eighteen thousand six hundred acres of timber. The options cost me twenty-one hundred and seventy dollars, and my expenses were sixty-one dollars and a half."
"Um!... Cheap enough. What did the land cost an acre?"
"Averaged a dollar and seventy-five cents."
"Huh!... Not so bad. Now tend to Crane and his quiet friend."
They arrived in due time, accompanied by their lawyer.
"Mr. Bones," said the lawyer, "you have certain options that my clients wish to purchase. Undoubtedly they were taken in good faith, but we would like, before going farther, to know whom you are acting for."
"You can deal with me. I have full powers."
"You decline to disclose your principal?"
"Do I understand the project is to build a mill at once and start to cut this timber?"
"That is my information."
"Aha!... May I ask how much land you have?"
Johnnie exhibited a map, on which was blocked off the timber in question. "You see," he said, "there's one fifteen-thousand-acre strip I couldn't get hold of. It cuts right across the triangle from river to river."
Crane looked at Keith and Keith looked at Crane.
"It belongs to a woman who wouldn't do business," Johnnie added.
"What figure did you pay for the land?"
"That is hardly a fair question."
"What do you ask for your options? That's a fair question, isn't it?" "They're not for sale."
"But we may make an offer. It might be profitable for your principals to sell. My clients feel they need this property, lying as it does between their holdings."
There followed whispered arguments among the three, resulting in an offer of a dollar and seventy-five cents an acre for the whole tract—exactly what Johnnie had agreed to pay.
"I said I'd listen," said Johnnie, "but I don't seem to hear anything."
Another conference and a bid of two dollars. Johnnie shrugged his shoulders. Two dollars and a half an acre was finally offered, and then Johnnie leaned forward and tapped with his finger on his desk. "If you gentlemen mean business, let's talk business. I've got what you want. You can't get it unless I want to sell, and I don't want to sell. I and my clients know what that timber is worth to us, but any business man will consider a quick profit if it is enough profit. In five years that timber will be worth five or six dollars standing; in fifteen years it will be worth fifteen to twenty.... But if you want to buy to-day you can have it for three dollars through and through."
"We've got to have it," said Crane, and Keith nodded.
"Cash," said Johnnie, for cash was a hobby of Scattergood's.
"Our bank has made arrangements with your local bank to give us what money we need," said Keith.
And then, clattering upstairs, came a small boy. Without ceremony he burst into the room. "Mr. Bones," he shouted, "I was sent to tell you that strip of timber you tried to buy from the lady is for sale." Then he whisked out of sight.
Johnnie shrugged his shoulders. "Costs me some profit," he said. "Confound that woman!... Well, we can go to the bank and close this up. Then you fellows can finish up by buying that last fifteen thousand acres."
"You bet we will," said Crane, savagely.
At the bank fifty-five thousand eight hundred dollars in the form of a certified check was deposited in the hands of the cashier to be paid to Johnnie when he should deliver proper deeds to the property sold.... It represented a profit of twenty-three thousand two hundred and fifty dollars.
"Now for the other parcel," said Crane, and getting the information as to ownership, he and his companions took buggy to the spot. It was a comfortable farmhouse, white painted and agreeable to look upon, but the pleasure of the view was ruined for Crane and Keith by reason of a bulky figure standing on the porch in conversation with a woman.
"Baines!" ejaculated Crane. It sounded like a swear word as he said it.
The three rushed the piazza.
"Madam," said Crane, not deigning to recognize Scattergood's presence, "you own a tract of timber—fifteen thousand acres. We hear it is for sale. We want to buy it."
"This gentleman was just making me an offer for it," she said, pointing to Scattergood.
"We raise his offer twenty-five cents an acre," said Crane, and drew from his-pocket a huge roll of bills—it being his idea of the psychology of women that the sight of actual money would have a favorable effect.
"That makes two dollars an acre," said she, and looked at Scattergood.
"Two and a quarter," said he.
"Two and a half," roared Crane.
"Two seventy-five," said Scattergood. "Three dollars."
"Three ten," said Scattergood.
"Three and a quarter" said Crane. He glared at Scattergood. "If you want it worse than that," he shouted, "why, confound you, you can have it!"
"I don't," said Scattergood, placidly.
The woman figured a moment. "That makes forty-eight thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars," she said. "I kind of like even money. You can have it for an even fifty thousand."
Scattergood looked at her and grinned. One might have detected admiration in his eyes.
"Done," said Crane. "We'll get into town and close the deal, ma'am, if you don't mind."
"Your buggy seems to be crowded," said Scattergood. "I'll drive the lady in, if you want I should."
"We want nothing from you at all, Baines."
"All right," said Scattergood, placidly, and, getting into his buggy, he drove away. He drove rapidly, and alighted at Johnnie Bones's office. Presently he emerged, carrying a legal-appearing document in his hand, and went across to the bank, where he handed the document to the cashier.
Presently the parties appeared, entered the bank, and the cashier, upon being directed, executed a certified check to the lady for fifty thousand dollars. Then he handed it to her, and the deed to Mr. Crane. "You see," said he, "we have the deed all ready for you."
"Yes," said Scattergood, stepping through the door. "I had it fixed up for you. I aim to be prompt when I'm tendin' to my wife's business matters. Gentlemen, I guess you hain't met Mrs. Baines real proper yet...."
It was not a happy moment for Messrs. Crane and Keith, but they weathered it, not suavely, not with complete dignity, but after a fashion.... Their departure might, perhaps, have been termed brusque.
"Well, Scattergood," said Mandy, "it was a real good deal."
"The way you h'isted 'em to fifty thousand was what got my eye," he said, proudly. "I wouldn't 'a' had the nerve."
"I knew they'd pay it," she said. "Seems like a reasonable profit, though the land's been a-layin' there unproductive for thirty year. Father, he give a thousand dollars for it, and the taxes must 'a' been a couple of thousand more. Say forty-seven thousand dollars profit...."
"And I come out of the other deals perty fair. Made twenty-three thousand off of the options, and nine or ten off of the other things. Guess the Baines family's a matter of seventy-five thousand dollars richer by a good day's work."
"But it can't lay idle," she said.
"Not a minnit. We'll buy that sixty thousand acres 'way back up the river for sixty-six cents, like we planned, and have some workin' capital.... And, Mandy, Crane and Keith hain't got that timber for keeps. It's comin' back to us some of these days. I feel it in my bones...."
"Kind of a nice wind-up for our honeymoon," said Mrs. Baines, practically.
THE MOUNTAIN COMES TO SCATTERGOOD
Scattergood Baines was on his way to the city! An exclamation point deserves to be placed after this because it rightly belongs in a class with the statement that the mountain was coming to Mohammed. Scattergood had fully as much in common with cities as eels with the Desert of Sahara.
He had not started the journey brashly, on impulse, but after debate and discussion with Mandy, his wife. Mandy's conclusion was that if Scattergood had to go to the city he might as well get at it and have it over, exercising the care of an exceedingly prudent man in the circumstances, and following minutely advice that would be forthcoming from her. Undoubtedly, she thought, he could manage the matter and return to Coldriver unscathed.
So Scattergood was clambering into the stage—his stage that plied between Coldriver village and the railroad, twenty-four miles distant. When he settled in his seat the stage sagged noticeably on that side, for Scattergood added to his weight yearly as he added to his other possessions. Mandy stood by, watching anxiously.
"Remember," said she, "I pinned your money in the right leg of your pants, clost to the knee."
"Mandy," said he, confidentially, "I feel the lump of it. I hope I don't have to git after it sudden. Dunno but I should have fetched along a ferret to send up after it."
"Don't git friendly with no strangers—dressed-up ones, especial. And never set down your valise. There's a white shirt and a collar and two pairs of sox, and what not, in there. Make quite an object for some sharper."
He nodded solemnly.
"If you git invited out to his house," she said, "it'll save you a dollar hotel bill, anyhow, and be a heap sight safer."
"You're right, Mandy, as usual," he agreed. "G'by, Mandy. I calculate you won't have no trouble mindin' the store."
"G'by, Scattergood," she said, dabbing at her eyes. "I'll be relieved to see you gittin' back."
There seemed to be little sentiment in these, their words of parting, but in reality it was an exceedingly sentimental passage for them. Between Scattergood and his wife there was a deep, true, abiding affection. Folks who regarded it as a business partnership—and there were many of them—lacked the seeing eye.
The stage rattled off down the valley—Scattergood's valley. He had invaded it some years before because valleys were his hobby and because this valley offered him the opportunity he had been searching for. Scattergood knew what could be done with a valley, and he was busy doing it, but he was only at the beginning. As he bumped along he could see busy villages where only hamlets rested; he could see mills turning timber into finished products; he could see business and life and activity where there were only silence and rocks and trees. And where ran the rutted mountain road, over which his stage was carrying him uncomfortably, he could see the railroad that was to make his dream a reality. He could see a railroad stretching all the way from Coldriver village to the main line, and by virtue of this railroad Scattergood would rule the valley.
He had arrived with forty-odd dollars in his pocket. His few years of labor there, assisted by a wise and business-like marriage, had increased that forty dollars to what some folks would call wealth. First, he owned a prosperous hardware store. This was his business. It netted him a couple of thousand dollars a year. The valley was his avocation. It had netted him well over a hundred thousand dollars, most of which was growing on the mountain sides in straight, clear spruce, in birch, beech, and maple. It had netted him certain strategic holdings of land along Coldriver itself, sites for future dams, for mills yet to be built—for railroad yards, depots, and terminals. Quietly, almost stealthily, he had gotten a hold on the valley. Now he was ready to grip it with both hands and to make it his own.... That is why he journeyed to the city.