[Frontispiece: They stopped and had a drink of the cool water]
THE EARLY BIRD
A Business Man's Love Story
GEORGE RANDOLPH CHESTER
THE MAKING OF BOBBY BURNIT
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
ARTHUR WILLIAM BROWN
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
I A VERY BUSY YOUNG MAN II MR. TURNER PLUNGES III A MATTER OF DELICACY IV GREEK MEETS GREEK V MISS JOSEPHINE'S FATHER VI MARASCHINO CHOCOLATES VII A DANCE NUMBER VIII NOT SAM'S FAULT THIS TIME IX A VIOLENT FLIRT X A PIANOLA TRAINING XI THE WESTLAKES INVEST XII ANOTHER MISSED APPOINTMENT XIII A RIDE WITH MISS STEVENS XIV MATRIMONIAL ELIGIBILITY XV THE HERO OF THE HOUR XVI AN INTERRUPTED PROPOSAL XVII SHE CALLS HIM SAM! XVIII A BUSINESS PARTNER
They stopped and had a drink of the cool water . . . Frontispiece
They waylaid him on the porch
Hepseba studied him from head to foot
Sam played again the plaintive little air
"I don't like to worry you, Sam"
"Excuse me!" stammered Mr. Stevens
THE EARLY BIRD
WHEREIN A VERY BUSY YOUNG MAN STARTS ON AN ABSOLUTE REST
The youngish-looking man who so vigorously swung off the train at Restview, wore a pair of intensely dark blue eyes which immediately photographed everything within their range of vision—flat green country, shaded farm-houses, encircling wooded hills and all—weighed it and sorted it and filed it away for future reference; and his clothes clung on him with almost that enviable fit found only in advertisements. Immediately he threw his luggage into the tonneau of the dingy automobile drawn up at the side of the lonely platform, and promptly climbed in after it. Spurred into purely mechanical action by this silent decisiveness, the driver, a grizzled graduate from a hay wagon, and a born grump, as promptly and as silently started his machine. The crisp and perfect start, however, was given check by a peremptory voice from the platform.
"Hey, you!" rasped the voice. "Come back here!"
As there were positively no other "Hey yous" in the landscape, the driver and the alert young man each acknowledged to the name, and turned to see an elderly gentleman, with a most aggressive beard and solid corpulency, gesticulating at them with much vigor and earnestness. Standing beside him was a slender sort of girl in a green outfit, with very large brown eyes and a smile of amusement which was just a shade mischievous. The driver turned upon his passenger a long and solemn accusation.
"Hollis Creek Inn?" he asked sternly.
"Meadow Brook," returned the passenger, not at all abashed, and he smiled with all the cheeriness imaginable.
"Oh," said the driver, and there was a world of disapprobation in his tone, as well as a subtle intonation of contempt. "You are not Mr. Stevens of Boston."
"No," confessed the passenger; "Mr. Turner of New York. I judge that to be Mr. Stevens on the platform," and he grinned.
The driver, still declining to see any humor whatsoever in the situation, sourly ran back to the platform. Jumping from his seat he opened the door of the tonneau, and waited with entirely artificial deference for Mr. Turner of New York to alight. Mr. Turner, however, did nothing of the sort. He merely stood up in the tonneau and bowed gravely.
"I seem to be a usurper," he said pleasantly to Mr. Stevens of Boston. "I was expected at Meadow Brook, and they were to send a conveyance for me. As this was the only conveyance in sight I naturally supposed it to be mine. I very much regret having discommoded you."
He was looking straight at Mr. Stevens of Boston as he spoke, but, nevertheless, he was perfectly aware of the presence of the girl; also of her eyes and of her smile of amusement with its trace of mischievousness. Becoming conscious of his consciousness of her, he cast her deliberately out of his mind and concentrated upon Mr. Stevens. The two men gazed quite steadily at each other, not to the point of impertinence at all, but nevertheless rather absorbedly. Really it was only for a fleeting moment, but in that moment they had each penetrated the husk of the other, had cleaved straight down to the soul, had estimated and judged for ever and ever, after the ways of men.
"I passed your carryall on the road. It was broke down. It'll be here in about a half hour, I suppose," insisted the driver, opening the door of the tonneau still wider, and waving the descending pathway with his right hand.
Both Mr. Stevens of Boston and Mr. Turner of New York were very glad of this interruption, for it gave the older gentleman an object upon which to vent his annoyance.
"Is Meadow Brook on the way to Hollis Creek?" he demanded in a tone full of reproof for the driver's presumption.
The driver reluctantly admitted that it was.
"I couldn't think of leaving you in this dismal spot to wait for a dubious carryall," offered Mr. Stevens, but with frigid politeness. "You are quite welcome to ride with us, if you will."
"Thank you," said Mr. Turner, now climbing out of the machine with alacrity and making way for the others. "I had intended," he laughed, as he took his place beside the driver, "to secure just such an invitation, by hook or by crook."
For this assurance he received a glance from the big eyes; not at all a flirtatious glance, but one of amusement, with a trace of mischief. The remark, however, had well-nigh stopped all conversation on the part of Mr. Stevens, who suddenly remembered that he had a daughter to protect, and must discourage forwardness. His musings along these lines were interrupted by an enthusiastic outburst from Mr. Turner.
"By George!" exclaimed the latter gentleman, "what a fine clump of walnut trees; an even half-dozen, and every solitary one of them would trim sixteen inches."
"Yes," agreed the older man with keenly awakened interest, "they are fine specimens. They would scale six hundred feet apiece, if they'd scale an inch."
"You're in the lumber business, I take it," guessed the young man immediately, already reaching for his card-case. "My name is Turner, known a little better as Sam Turner, of Turner and Turner."
"Sam Turner," repeated the older man thoughtfully. "The name seems distinctly familiar to me, but I do not seem, either, to remember of any such firm in the trade."
"Oh, we're not in the lumber line," replied Mr. Turner. "Not at all. We're in most anything that offers a profit. We—that is my kid brother and myself—have engineered a deal or two in lumber lands, however. It was only last month that I turned a good trade—a very good trade—on a tract of the finest trees in Wisconsin."
"The dickens!" exclaimed the older gentleman explosively. "So you're the Turner who sold us our own lumber! Now I know you. I'm Stevens, of the Maine and Wisconsin Lumber Company."
Sam Turner laughed aloud, in both surprise and glee. Mr. Stevens had now reached for his own card-case. The two gentlemen exchanged cards, which, with barely more than a glance, they poked in the other flaps of their cases; then they took a new and more interested inspection of each other. Both were now entirely oblivious to the girl, who, however, was by no means oblivious to them. She found them, in this new meeting, a most interesting study.
"You gouged us on that land, young man," resumed Mr. Stevens with a wry little smile.
"Worth every cent you paid us for it, wasn't it?" demanded the other.
"Y-e-s; but if you hadn't stepped into the deal at the last minute, we could have secured it for five or six thousand dollars less money."
"You used to go after these things yourself," explained Mr. Turner with an easy laugh. "Now you send out people empowered only to look and not to purchase."
"But what I don't yet understand," protested Mr. Stevens, "is how you came to be in the deal at all. When we sent out our men to inspect the trees they belonged to a chap in Detroit. When we came to buy them they belonged to you."
"Certainly," agreed the younger man. "I was up that way on other business, when I heard about your man looking over this valuable acreage; so I just slipped down to Detroit and hunted up the owner and bought it. Then I sold it to you. That's all."
He smiled frankly and cheerfully upon Mr. Stevens, and the frown of discomfiture which had slightly clouded the latter gentleman's brow, faded away under the guilelessness of it all; so much so that he thought to introduce his daughter.
Miss Josephine having been brought into the conversation, Mr. Turner, for the first time, bent his gaze fully upon her, giving her the same swift scrutiny and appraisement that he had the father. He was evidently highly satisfied with what he saw, for he kept looking at it as much as he dared. He became aware after a moment or so that Mr. Stevens was saying something to him. He never did get all of it, but he got this much:
"—so you'd be rather a good man to watch, wherever you go."
"I hope so," agreed the other briskly. "If I want anything, I go prepared to grab it the minute I find that it suits me."
"Do you always get everything you want?" asked the young lady.
"Always," he answered her very earnestly, and looked her in the eyes so speculatively, albeit unconsciously so, that she found herself battling with a tendency to grow pink.
Her father nodded in approval.
"That's the way to get things," he said. "What are you after now? More lumber?"
"Rest," declared Mr. Turner with vigorous emphasis. "I've worked like a nailer ever since I turned out of high school. I had to make the living for the family, and I sent my kid brother through college. He's just been out a year and it's a wonder the way he takes hold. But do you know that in all those times since I left school I never took a lay-off until just this minute? It feels glorious already. It's fine to look around this good stretch of green country and breathe this fresh air and look at those hills over yonder, and to realize that I don't have to think of business for two solid weeks. Just absolute rest, for me! I don't intend to talk one syllable of shop while I'm here. Hello! there's another clump of walnut trees. It's a pity they're scattered so that it isn't worth while to buy them up."
The girl laughed, a little silvery laugh which made any memory of grand opera seem harsh and jangling. Both men turned to her in surprise. Neither of them could see any cause for mirth in all the fields or sky.
"I beg your pardon for being so silly," she said; "but I just thought of something funny."
"Tell it to us," urged Mr. Turner. "I've never taken the time I ought to enjoy funny things, and I might as well begin right now."
But she shook her head, and in some way he acquired an impression that she was amused at him. His brows gathered a trifle. If the young lady intended to make sport of him he would take her down a peg or two. He would find her point of susceptibility to ridicule, and hammer upon it until she cried enough. That was his way to make men respectful, and it ought to work with women.
When they let him out at Meadow Brook, Mr. Stevens was kind enough to ask him to drop over to Hollis Creek. Mr. Turner, with impulsive alacrity, promised that he would.
WHEREIN MR. TURNER PLUNGES INTO THE BUSINESS OF RESTING
At Meadow Brook Sam Turner found W. W. Westlake, of the Westlake Electric Company, a big, placid man with a mild gray eye and an appearance of well-fed and kindly laziness; a man also who had the record of having ruthlessly smashed more business competitors than any two other pirates in his line. Westlake, unclasping his fat hands from his comfortable rotundity, was glad to see young Turner, also glad to introduce the new eligible to his daughter, a girl of twenty-two, working might and main to reduce a threatened inheritance of embonpoint. Mr. Turner was charmed to meet Miss Westlake, and even more pleased to meet the gentleman who was with her, young Princeman, a brisk paper manufacturer variously quoted at from one to two million. He knew all about young Princeman; in fact, had him upon his mental list as a man presently to meet and cultivate for a specific purpose, and already Mr. Turner's busy mind offset the expenses of this trip with an equal credit, much in the form of "By introduction to H. L. Princeman, Jr. (Princeman and Son Paper Mills, AA 1), whatever it costs." He liked young Princeman at sight, too, and, proceeding directly to the matter uppermost in his thoughts, immediately asked him how the new tariff had affected his business.
"It's inconvenient," said Princeman with a shake of his head. "Of course, in the end the consumers must pay, but they protest so much about it that they disarrange the steady course of our operations."
"It's queer that the ultimate consumer never will be quite reconciled to his fate," laughed Mr. Turner; "but in this particular case, I think I hold the solution. You'll be interested, I know. You see—"
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Turner," interrupted Miss Westlake gaily; "I know you'll want to meet all the young folks, and you'll particularly want to meet my very dearest friend. Miss Hastings, Mr. Turner."
Mr. Turner had turned to find an extraordinarily thin young woman, with extraordinarily piercing black eyes, at Miss Westlake's side.
"Indeed, I do want to meet all the young people," he cordially asserted, taking Miss Hastings' claw-like hand in his own and wondering what to do with it. He could not clasp it and he could not shake it. She relieved him of his dilemma, after a moment, by twining that arm about the plump waist of her dearest friend.
"Is this your first stay at Meadow Brook?" she asked by way of starting conversation. She was very carefully vivacious, was Miss Hastings, and had a bird-like habit, meant to be very fetching, of cocking her head to one side as she spoke, and peering up to men—oh, away up—with the beady expression of a pet canary.
"My very first visit," confessed Mr. Turner, not yet realizing the disgrace it was to be "new people" at Meadow Brook, where there was always an aristocracy of the grandchildren of original Meadow Brookers. "However, I hope it won't be the last time," he continued.
"We shall all hope that, I am certain," Miss Westlake assured him, smiling engagingly into the depths of his eyes. "It will be our fault if you don't like it here;" and he might take such tentative promise as he would from that and her smile.
"Thank you," he said promptly enough. "I can see right now that I'm going to make Meadow Brook my future summer home. It's such a restful place, for one thing. I'm beginning to rest right now, and to put business so far into the background that—" he suddenly stopped and listened to a phrase which his trained ear had caught.
"And that is the trouble with the whole paper business," Mr. Princeman was saying to Mr. Westlake. "It is not the tariff, but the future scarcity of wood-pulp material."
"That's just what I was starting to explain to you," said Mr. Turner, wheeling eagerly to Mr. Princeman, entirely unaware, in his intensity of interest, of his utter rudeness to both groups. "My kid brother and myself are working on a scheme which, if we are on the right track, ought to bring about a revolution in the paper business. I can not give you the exact details of it now, because we're waiting for letters patent on it, but the fundamental point is this: that the wood-pulp manufacturers within a few years will have to grow their raw material, since wood is becoming so scarce and so high priced. Well, there is any quantity of swamp land available, and we have experimented like mad with reeds and rushes. We've found one particular variety which grows very rapidly, has a strong, woody fiber, and makes the finest pulp in the world. I turned the kid loose with the company's bank roll this spring, and he secured options on two thousand acres of swamp land, near to transportation and particularly adapted to this culture, and dirt cheap because it is useless for any other purpose. As soon as the patents are granted on our process we're going to organize a million dollar stock company to take up more land and handle the business."
"Come over here and sit down," invited Princeman, somewhat more than courteously.
"Wait a minute until I send for McComas. Here, boy, hunt Mr. McComas and ask him to come out on the porch."
The new guest was reaching for pencil and paper as they gathered their chairs together. The two girls had already started hesitantly to efface themselves. Half-way across the lawn they looked sadly toward the porch again. That handsome young Mr. Turner, his back toward them, was deep in formulated but thrilling facts, while three other heads, one gray and one black and one auburn, were bent interestedly over the envelope upon which he was figuring.
Later on, as he was dressing for dinner, Mr. Turner decided that he liked Meadow Brook very much. It was set upon the edge of a pleasant, rolling valley, faced and backed by some rather high hills, upon the sloping side of one of which the hotel was built, with broad verandas looking out upon exquisitely kept flowers and shrubbery and upon the shallow little brook which gave the place its name. A little more water would have suited Sam better, but the management had made the most of its opportunities, especially in the matter of arranging dozens of pretty little lovers' lanes leading in all directions among the trees and along the sides of the shimmering stream, and the whole prospect was very good to look at, indeed. Taken in conjunction with the fact that one had no business whatever on hand, it gave one a sense of delightful freedom to look out on the green lawn and the gay gardens, on the brook and the tennis and croquet courts, and on the purple-hazed, wooded hills beyond; it was good to fill one's lungs with country air and to realize for a little while what a delightful world this is; to see young people wandering about out there by twos and by threes, and to meet with so many other people of affairs enjoying leisure similar to one's own.
Of course, this wasn't a really fashionable place, being supported entirely by men who had made their own money; but there was Princeman, for instance, a fine chap and very keen; a well-set-up fellow, black-haired and black-eyed, and of a quick, nervous disposition; one of precisely the kind of energy which Turner liked to see. McComas, too, with his deep red hair and his tendency to freckles, and his frank smile with all the white teeth behind it, was a corking good fellow; and alive. McComas was in the furniture line, a maker of cheap stuff which was shipped in solid trains of carload lots from a factory that covered several acres. The other men he noticed around the place seemed to be of about the same stamp. He had never been anywhere that the men averaged so well.
As he went down-stairs, McComas introduced his wife, already gowned for the evening. She was a handsome woman, of the sort who would wear a different stunning gown every night for two weeks and then go on to the next place. Well, she had a right to this extravagance. Besides it is good for a man's business to have his wife dressed prosperously. A man who is getting on in the world ought to have a handsome wife. If she is the right kind, of Miss Stevens' type, say, she is a distinct asset.
After dinner, Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings waylaid him on the porch.
"I suppose, of course, you are going to take part in the bowling tournament to-night," suggested Miss Westlake with the engaging directness allowable to family friendship.
"I suppose so, although I didn't know there was one. Where is it to be held?"
"Oh, just down the other side of the brook, beyond the croquet grounds. We have a tournament every week, and a prize cup for the best score in the season. It's lots of fun. Do you bowl?"
"Not very much," Mr. Turner confessed; "but if you'll just keep me posted on all these various forms of recreation, you may count on my taking a prominent share in them."
"All right," agreed Miss Hastings, very vivaciously taking the conversation away from Miss Westlake. "We'll constitute ourselves a committee of two to lay out a program for you."
"Fine," he responded, bending on the fragile Miss Hastings a smile so pleasant that it made her instantly determine to find out something about his family and commercial standing. "What time do we start on our mad bowling career?"
"They'll be drifting over in about a half-hour," Miss Westlake told him, with a speculative sidelong glance at her dearest girl friend. "Everybody starts out for a stroll in some other direction, as if bowling was the least of their thoughts, but they all wind up at the alleys. I'll show you." A slight young man of the white-trousered faction, as distinguished from the dinner-coat crowd, passed them just then. "Oh, Billy," called Miss Westlake, and introduced the slight young man, who proved to be her brother, to Mr. Turner, at the same time wreathing her arm about the waist of her dear companion. "Come on, Vivian; let's go get our wraps," and the girls, leaving "Billy" and Mr. Turner together, scurried away.
The two young men looked at each other dubiously, though each had an earnest desire to please. They groped for human understanding, and suddenly that clammy, discouraged feeling spread its muffling wall between them. Billy was the first to recover in part.
"Charming weather, isn't it?" he observed with a polite smile.
Mr. Turner opined that it was, the while delving into Mr. Westlake's mental workshop and finding it completely devoid of tools, patterns or lumber.
"The girls are just going to take me over to bowl," Mr. Turner ventured desperately after a while. "Do you bowl very much?"
"Oh, I usually fill in," stated Mr. Westlake; "but really, I'm a very poor hand at it. I seem to be a poor hand at most everything," and he laughed with engaging candor, as if somehow this were creditable.
The conversation thereupon lagged for a moment or two, while Mr. Turner blankly asked himself: "What in thunder does a man talk about when he has nothing to say and nobody to say it to?" Presently he solved the problem.
"It must be beautiful out here in the autumn," he observed.
"Yes, it is indeed," returned Mr. Westlake with alacrity. "The leaves turn all sorts of colors."
Once more conversation lagged, while Billy feebly wondered how any person could possibly be so dull as this chap. He made another attempt.
"Beastly place, though, when it rains," he observed.
"Yes, I should imagine so," agreed Mr. Turner. Great Scott! The voice of McComas saved him from utter imbecility.
"You'll excuse Mr. Turner a moment, won't you, Billy?" begged McComas pleasantly. "I want to introduce him to a couple of friends of mine."
Billy Westlake bowed his forgiveness of Mr. McComas with fully as much relief as Sam Turner had felt. Over in the same corner of the porch where he had sat in the afternoon with McComas and Princeman and the elder Westlake, Sam found awaiting them Mr. Cuthbert, of the American Papier-Mache Company, an almost viciously ugly man with a twisted nose and a crooked mouth, who controlled practically all the worth-while papier-mache business of the United States, and Mr. Blackrock, an elderly man with a young toupee and particularly gaunt cheek-bones, who was a corporation lawyer of considerable note. Both gentlemen greeted Mr. Turner as one toward whom they were already highly predisposed, and Mr. Princeman and Mr. Westlake also shook hands most cordially, as if Sam had been gone for a day or two. Mr. McComas placed a chair for him.
"We just happened to mention your marsh pulp idea, and Mr. Cuthbert and Mr. Blackrock were at once very highly interested," observed McComas as they sat dawn. "Mr. Blackrock suggests that he don't see why you need wait for the issuance of the letters patent, at least to discuss the preliminary steps in the forming of your company."
"Why, no, Mr. Turner," said Mr. Blackrock, suavely and smoothly; "it is not a company anyhow, as I take it, which will depend so much upon letters patent as upon extensive exploitation."
"Yes, that's true enough," agreed Sam with a smile. "The letters patent, however, should give my kid brother and myself, without much capital, controlling interest in the stock."
Upon this frank but natural statement the others laughed quite pleasantly.
"That seems a plausible enough reason," admitted Mr. Westlake, folding his fat hands across his equator and leaning back in his chair with a placidity which seemed far removed from any thought of gain. "How did you propose to organize your company?"
"Well," said Sam, crossing one leg comfortably over the other, "I expect to issue a half million participating preferred stock, at five per cent., and a half-million common, one share of common as bonus with each two shares of preferred; the voting power, of course, vested in the common."
A silence followed that, and then Mr. Cuthbert, with a diagonal yawing of his mouth which seemed to give his words a special dryness, observed:
"And I presume you intend to take up the balance of the common stock?"
"Just about," returned Mr. Turner cheerfully, addressing Cuthbert directly. The papier-mache king was another man whom he had inscribed, some time since, upon his mental list. "My kid brother and myself will take two hundred and fifty thousand of the common stock for our patents and processes, and for our services as promoters and organizers, and will purchase enough of the preferred to give us voting power; say five thousand dollars worth."
Mr. Cuthbert shook his head.
"Very stringent terms," he observed. "I doubt if you will interest your capital on that basis."
"All right," said Sam, clasping his knee in his hands and rocking gently. "If we can't organize on that basis we won't organize at all. We're in no hurry. My kid brother's handling it just now, anyhow. I'm on a vacation, the first I ever had, and not keen upon business, by any means. In the meantime, let me show you some figures."
Five minutes later, Billy Westlake and his sister and Miss Hastings drew up to the edge of the group. Young Westlake stood diffidently for two or three minutes beside Mr. Turner's chair, and then he put his hand on that summer idler's shoulder.
"Oh, good evening, Mr.—Mr.—Mr.—" Sam stammered while he tried to find the name.
"Westlake," interposed Billy's father; and then, a trifle impatiently, "What do you want, Billy?"
"Mr. Turner was to go over with us to the bowling shed, dad."
"That's so," admitted Mr. Turner, glancing over to the porch rail where the girls stood expectantly in their fluffy white dresses, and nodding pleasantly at them, but not yet rising. He was in the midst of an important statement.
"Just you run on with the girls, Billy," ordered Mr. Westlake. "Mr. Turner will be over in a few minutes."
The others of the circle bent their eyes gravely upon Billy and the girls as they turned away, and waited for Mr. Turner to resume.
At a quarter past ten, as Mr. Turner and Mr. Princeman walked slowly along the porch to turn into the parlors for a few minutes of music, of which Sam was very fond, a crowd of young people came trooping up the steps. Among them were Billy Westlake and his sister, another young gentleman and Miss Hastings.
"By George, that bowling tournament!" exclaimed Mr. Turner. "I forgot all about it."
He was about to make his apologies, but Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings passed right on, with stern, set countenances and their heads in air. Apparently they did not see Mr. Turner at all. He gazed after them in consternation; suddenly there popped into his mind the vision of a slender girl in green, with mischievous brown eyes—and he felt strangely comforted. Before retiring he wired his brother to send some samples of the marsh pulp, and the paper made from it.
MR. TURNER APPLIES BUSINESS PROMPTNESS TO A MATTER OF DELICACY
Morning at Meadow Brook was even more delightful than evening. The time Mr. Turner had chosen for his outing was early September, and already there was a crispness in the air which was quite invigorating. Clad in flannels and with a brand new tennis racket under his arm, he went into the reading-room immediately after breakfast, bought a paper of the night before and glanced hastily over the news of the day, paying more particular attention to the market page. Prices of things had a peculiar fascination for him. He noticed that cereals had gone down, that there was another flurry in copper stock, and that hardwood had gone up, and ranging down the list his eye caught a quotation for walnut. It had made a sharp advance of ten dollars a thousand feet.
Out of the window, as he looked up, he saw Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings crossing the lawn, and he suddenly realized that he was here to wear himself out with rest, so he hurried in the direction the girls had taken; but when he arrived at the tennis court he found a set already in progress. Both Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings barely nodded at Mr. Turner, and went right on displaying grace and dexterity to a quite unusual degree. Decidedly Mr. Turner was being "cut," and he wondered why. Presently he strode down to the road and looked up over the hill in the direction he knew Hollis Creek Inn to be. He was still pondering the probable distance when Mr. Westlake and Billy and young Princeman came up the brook path.
"Just the chap I wanted to see, Sam," said Mr. Westlake heartily. "I'm trying to get up a pin-hook fishing contest, for three-inch sunfish."
"Happy thought," returned Sam, laughing. "Count me in."
"It's the governor's own idea, too," said Billy with vast enthusiasm. "Bully sport, it ought to be. Only trouble is, Princeman has some mysterious errand or other, and can't join us."
"No; the fact is, the Stevenses were due at Hollis Creek yesterday," confessed Mr. Princeman in cold return to the prying Billy, "and I think I'll stroll over and see if they've arrived."
Sam Turner surveyed Princeman with a new interest. Danger lurked in Princeman's black eyes, fascination dwelt in his black hair, attractiveness was in every line of his athletic figure. It was upon the tip of Sam's tongue to say that he would join Princeman in his walk, but he repressed that instinct immediately.
"Quite a long ways over there by the road, isn't it?" he questioned.
"Yes," admitted Princeman unsuspectingly, "it winds a good bit; but there is a path across the hills which is not only shorter but far more pleasant."
Sam turned to Mr. Westlake.
"It would be a shame not to let Princeman in on that pin-hook match," he suggested. "Why not put it off until to-morrow morning. I have an idea that I can beat Princeman at the game."
There was more or less of sudden challenge in his tone, and Princeman, keen as Sam himself, took it in that way.
"Fine!" he invited. "Any time you want to enter into a contest with me you just mention it."
"I'll let you know in some way or other, even if I don't make any direct announcement," laughed Sam, and Princeman walked away with Mr. Westlake, very much to Billy's consternation. He was alone with this dull Turner person once more. What should they talk about? Sam solved that problem for him at once. "What's the swiftest conveyance these people keep?" he asked briskly.
"Oh, you can get most anything you like," said Billy. "Saddle-horses and carriages of all sorts; and last year they put in a couple of automobiles, though scarcely any one uses them." There was a certain amount of careless contempt in Billy's tone as he mentioned the hired autos. Evidently they were not considered to be as good form as other modes of conveyance.
"Where's the garage?" asked Sam.
"Right around back of the hotel. Just follow that drive."
"Thanks," said the other crisply. "I'll see you this evening," and he stalked away leaving Billy gasping for breath at the suddenness of Sam. After all, though, he was glad to be rid of Mr. Turner. He knew the Stevenses himself, and it had slowly dawned on him that by having his own horse saddled he could beat Princeman over there.
It took Sam just about one minute to negotiate for an automobile, a neat little affair, shiny and new, and before they were half-way to Hollis Creek, his innate democracy led him into conversation with the driver, an alert young man of the near-by clay.
"Not very good soil in this neighborhood," Sam observed. "I notice there is a heavy outcropping of stone. What are the principal crops?"
"Summer resorters," replied the driver briefly.
"And do you mean to tell me that all these farm-houses call themselves summer resorts?" inquired Sam.
"No, only those that have running water. The others just keep boarders."
"I see," said Sam, laughing.
A moment later they passed over a beautifully clear stream which ran down a narrow pocket valley between two high hills, swept under a rickety wooden culvert, and raced on across a marshy meadow, sparkling invitingly here and there in the sunlight.
"Here's running water without a summer resort," observed the passenger, still smiling.
"It's too much shut in," replied the chauffeur as one who had voiced a final and insurmountable objection. All the "summer resorts" in this neighborhood were of one pattern, and no one would so much as dream of varying from the first successful model.
Sam scarcely heard. He was looking back toward the trough of those two picturesquely wooded hills, and for the rest of the drive he asked but few questions.
At Hollis Creek, where he found a much more imposing hotel than the one at Meadow Brook, he discovered Miss Stevens, clad in simple white from canvas shoes to knotted cravat, in a summer-house on the lawn, chatting gaily with a young man who was almost fat. Sam had seen other girls since he had entered the grounds, but he could not make out their features; this one he had recognized from afar, and as they approached the summer-house he opened the door of the machine and jumped out before it had come properly to a stop.
"Good morning, Miss Stevens," he said with a cheerful self-confidence which was beautiful to behold. "I have come over to take you a little spin, if you'll go."
Miss Stevens gazed at the caller quizzically, and laughed outright.
"This is so sudden," she murmured.
The caller himself grinned.
"Does seem so, if you stop to think of it," he admitted. "Rather like dropping out of the clouds. But the auto is here, and I can testify that it's a smooth-running machine. Will you go?"
She turned that same quizzical smile upon the young man who was almost fat, and introduced him, curly hair and all, to Mr. Turner as Mr. Hollis, who, it afterward transpired, was the heir to Hollis Creek Inn.
"I had just promised to play tennis with Mr. Hollis," Miss Stevens stated after the introduction had been properly acknowledged, "but I know he won't mind putting it off this time," and she handed him her tennis bat.
"Certainly not," said young Hollis with forcedly smiling politeness.
"Thank you, Mr. Hollis," said Sam promptly. "Just jump right in, Miss Stevens."
"How long shall we be gone?" she asked as she settled herself in the tonneau.
"Oh, whatever you say. A couple of hours, I presume."
"All right, then," she said to young Hollis; "we'll have our game in the afternoon."
"With pleasure," replied the other graciously, but he did not look it.
"Where shall we go?" asked Sam as the driver looked back inquiringly. "You know the country about here, I suppose."
"I ought to," she laughed. "Father's been ending the summer here ever since I was a little girl. You might take us around Bald Hill," she suggested to the chauffeur. "It is a very pretty drive," she explained, turning to Sam as the machine wheeled, and at the same time waving her hand gaily to the disconsolate Hollis, who was "hard hit" with a different girl every season. "It's just about a two-hour trip. What a fine morning to be out!" and she settled back comfortably as the machine gathered speed. "I do love a machine, but father is rather backward about them. He will consent to ride in them under necessity, but he won't buy one. Every time he sees a handsome pair of horses, however, he has to have them."
"I admire a good horse myself," returned Sam.
"Do you ride?" she asked him.
"Oh, I have suffered a few times on horseback," he confessed; "but you ought to see my kid brother ride. He looks as if he were part of the horse. He's a handsome brat."
"Except for calling him names, which is a purely masculine way of showing affection, you speak of him almost as if you were his mother," she observed.
"Well, I am, almost," replied Sam, studying the matter gravely. "I have been his mother, and his father, and his brother, too, for a great many years; and I will say that he's a credit to his family."
"Meaning just you?" she ventured.
"Yes, we're all we have; just yet, at least." This quite soberly.
"He must talk of getting married," she guessed, with a quick intuition that when this happened it would be a blow to Sam.
"Oh, no," he immediately corrected her. "He isn't quite old enough to think of it seriously as yet. I expect to be married long before he is."
Miss Stevens felt a rigid aloofness creeping over her, and, having a very wholesome sense of humor, smiled as she recognized the feeling in herself.
"I should think you'd spend your vacation where the girl is," she observed. "Men usually do, don't they?"
He laughed gaily.
"I surely would if I knew the girl," he asserted.
"That's a refreshing suggestion," she said, echoing his laugh, though from a different impulse. "I presume, then, that you entertain thoughts of matrimony merely because you think you are quite old enough."
"No, it isn't just that," he returned, still thoughtfully. "Somehow or other I feel that way about it; that's all. I have never had time to think of it before, but this past year I have had a sort of sense of lonesomeness; and I guess that must be it."
In spite of herself Miss Josephine giggled and repressed it, and giggled again and repressed it, and giggled again, and then she let herself go and laughed as heartily as she pleased. She had heard men say before, but always with more or less of a languishing air, inevitably ridiculous in a man, that they thought it about time they were getting married; but she could not remember anything to compare with Sam Turner's naivete in the statement.
He paid no attention to the laughter, for he had suddenly leaned forward to the chauffeur.
"There is another clump of walnut trees," he said, eagerly pointing them out. "Are there many of them in this locality?"
"A good many scattered here and there," replied the boy; "but old man Gifford has a twenty-acre grove down in the bottoms that's mostly all walnut trees, and I heard him say just the other day that walnut lumber's got so high he had a notion to clear his land."
"Where do you suppose we could find old man Gifford?" inquired Mr. Turner.
"Oh, about six miles off to the right, at the next turning."
"Suppose we whizz right down there," said Sam promptly, and he turned to Miss Stevens with enthusiasm shining in his eyes. "It does seem as if everything happens lucky for me," he observed. "I haven't any particular liking for the lumber business, but fate keeps handing lumber to me all the time; just fairly forcing it on me."
"Do you think fate is as much responsible for that as yourself?" she questioned, smiling as they passed at a good clip the turn which was to have taken them over the pretty Bald Hill drive. Sam had not even thought to apologize for the abrupt change in their program, because she could certainly see the opportunity which had offered itself, and how imperative it was to embrace it. The thing needed no explanation.
"I don't know," he replied to her query, after pausing to consider it a moment. "I certainly don't go out of my road to hunt up these things."
"No-o-o-o," she admitted. "But fate hasn't thrust this particular opportunity upon me, although I'm right with you at the time. It never would have occurred to me to ask about those walnut trees."
"It would have occurred to your father," he retorted quickly.
"Yes, it might have occurred to father, but I think that under the circumstances he would have waited until to-morrow to see about it."
"I suppose I might be that way when I arrive at his age," Sam commented philosophically, "but just now I can't afford it. His 'seeing about it to-morrow' cost him between five and six thousand dollars the last time I had anything to do with him."
She laughed. She was enjoying Sam's company very much. Even if a bit startling, he was at least refreshing after the type of young men she was in the habit of meeting.
"He was talking about that last night," she said. "I think father rather stands in both admiration and awe of you."
"I'm glad to hear that," he returned quite seriously. "It's a good attitude in which to have the man with whom you expect to do business."
"I think I shall have to tell him that," she observed, highly amused. "He will enjoy it, and it may put him on his guard."
"I don't mind," he concluded after due reflection. "It won't hurt a particle. If anything, if he likes me so far, that will only increase it. I like your father. In fact I like his whole family."
"Thank you," she said demurely, wondering if there was no end to his bluntness, and wondering, too, whether it were not about time that she should find it wearisome. On closer analysis, however, she decided that the time was not yet come. "But you have not met all of them," she reminded him. "There are mother and a younger sister and an older brother."
"Don't matter if there were six more, I like all of them," Sam promptly informed her. Then, "Stop a minute," he suddenly directed the chauffeur.
That functionary abruptly brought his machine to a halt just a little way past a tree glowing with bright green leaves and red berries.
"I don't know what sort of a tree that is," said Sam with boyish enthusiasm; "but see how pretty it is. Except for the shape of the leaves the effect is as beautiful as holly. Wouldn't you like a branch or two, Miss Stevens?"
"I certainly should," she heartily agreed. "I don't know how you discovered that I have a mad passion for decorative weeds and things."
"Have you?" he inquired eagerly. "So have I. If I had time I'd be rather ashamed of it."
He had scrambled out of the car and now ran back to the tree, where, perching himself upon the second top rail of the fence he drew down a limb, and with his knife began to snip off branches here and there. The girl noticed that he selected the branches with discrimination, turning each one over so that he could look at the broad side of it before clipping, rejecting many and studying each one after he had taken it in his hand. He was some time in finding the last one, a long straggling branch which had most of its leaves and berries at the tip, and she noticed that as he came back to the auto he was arranging them deftly and with a critical eye. When he handed them in to her they formed a carefully arranged and graceful composition. It was a new and an unexpected side of him, and it softened considerably the amused regard in which she had been holding him.
"They are beautifully arranged," she commented, as he stopped for a moment to brush the dust from his shoes in the tall grass by the roadside.
"Do you think so?" he delightedly inquired. "You ought to see my kid brother make up bouquets of goldenrod and such things. He seems to have a natural artistic gift."
She bent on his averted head a wondering glance, and she reflected that often this "hustler" must be misunderstood.
"You have aroused in me quite a curiosity to meet this paragon of a brother," she remarked. "He must be well-nigh perfection."
"He is," replied Sam instantly, turning to her very earnest eyes. "He hasn't a flaw in him any place."
She smiled musingly as she surveyed the group of branches she held in her hand.
"It is a pity these leaves will wither in so short a time," she said.
"Yes," he admitted; "but even if we have to throw them away before we get back to the hotel, their beauty will give us pleasure for an hour; and the tree won't miss them. See, it seems as perfect as ever."
"It wouldn't if everybody took the same liberties with it that you did," she remarked, glancing back at the tree.
Sam had climbed in the car and had slammed the door shut, but any reply he might have made was prevented by a hail from the woods above them at the other side of the road, and a man came scrambling down from the hillside path.
"Why, it's Mr. Princeman!" exclaimed the girl in pleased surprise. "Think of finding you wandering about, all alone in the woods here."
"I wasn't wandering about," he protested as he came up to the machine and shook hands with Miss Josephine. "I was headed directly for Hollis Creek Inn. Your brother wrote me that you were expected to arrive there yesterday evening, and I was dropping over to call on you right away this morning. I see, however, that I was not quite prompt enough. You're selfish, Mr. Turner. You knew I was going over to Hollis Creek, and you might have invited me to ride in your machine."
"You might have invited me to walk with you," retorted Sam.
"But you knew that I was coming and I didn't know that you even knew—" he paused abruptly and fixed a contemplative eye upon young Mr. Turner, who was now surveying the scenery and Mr. Princeman in calm enjoyment.
The arrival at this moment of a cloud of dust out of which evolved a lone horseman, and that horseman Billy Westlake, added a new angle to the situation, and for one fleeting moment the three men eyed one another in mutual sheepish guilt.
"Rather good sport, I call it, Miss Stevens," declared Billy, aware of a sudden increase in his estimation of Mr. Turner, and letting the cat completely out of the bag. "Each of us was trying to steal a march on the rest, but Mr. Turner used the most businesslike method, and of course he won the race."
"I'm flattered, I'm sure," said Miss Josephine demurely. "I really feel that I ought to go right back to the house and be the belle of the ball; but it's impossible for an hour or so in this case," and she turned to her escort with the smile of mischief which she had worn the first time he saw her. "You see, we are out on a little business trip, Mr. Turner and myself. We're going to buy a walnut grove."
Mr. Turner turned upon her a glance which was half a frown.
"I promised to get you back in two hours, and I'll do it," he stated, "but we mustn't linger much by the wayside."
"With which hint we shall wend our Hollis Creek-ward way," laughed Princeman, exchanging a glance of amusement with Miss Stevens. "I think we shall visit with your father until you come back."
"Please do," she urged. "He will be as glad to see you both as I am," with which information she settled herself back in her seat with a little air of the interview being over, and the chauffeur, with proper intuition, started the machine, while Mr. Princeman and Billy looked after them glumly.
"Queer chap, isn't he?" commented Billy.
"Queer? Well, hardly that," returned Princeman thoughtfully. "There's one thing certain; he's enterprising and vigorous enough to command respect, in business or—anything else."
At about that very moment Mr. Turner was impressing upon his companion a very important bit of ethics.
"You shouldn't have violated my confidence," he told her severely.
"How was that?" she asked in surprise, and with a trifle of indignation as well.
"You told them that we were going to buy a walnut grove. You ought never to let slip anything you happen to know of any man's business plans."
"Oh!" she said blankly.
Having voiced his straightforward objection, and delivered his simple but direct lesson, Mr. Turner turned as decisively to other matters.
"Son," he asked, leaning over toward the chauffeur, "are there any speed limit laws on these roads?"
"None that I know of," replied the boy.
"Then cut her loose. Do you object to fast driving, Miss Stevens?"
"Not at all," she told him, either much chastened by the late rebuke or much amused by it. She could scarcely tell which, as yet. "I don't particularly long for a broken neck, but I never can feel that my time has come."
"It hasn't," returned Sam. "Let's see your palm," and taking her hand he held it up before him. It was a small hand that he saw, and most gracefully formed, but a strong one, too, and Sam Turner had an extremely quick and critical eye for both strength and beauty. "You are going to live to be a gray-haired grandmother," he announced after an inspection of her pink palm, "and live happily all your life."
It was noteworthy that no matter what his impulse may have been he did not hold her hand overly long, nor subject it to undue warmth of pressure, but restored it gently to her lap. She was remarking upon this herself as she took that same hand and passed its tapering fingers deftly among the twigs of the tree-bouquet, arranging a leaf here and a berry there.
A LITTLE VACATION PASTIME IN WHICH GREEK MEETS GREEK
Old man Gifford was not at home in his squat, low-roofed farm-house, but a woman shaped like a pyramid of diminishing pumpkins directed them down through the grove to the corn patch. It was necessary to lift strenuously upon the sagging end of a squeaky old gate, and scrape it across gulleys, to get the automobile into the narrow, deeply-rutted road, and with a mind fearful of tires the chauffeur wheeled down through the grove quite slowly, a slowness for which Sam was duly grateful, since it allowed him to take a careful appraisement of the walnut trees, interspersed with occasional oaks, which bordered both sides of their path. They were tall, thick, straight-trunked trees, from amongst which the underbrush had been carefully cut away. It was a joy to his now vandal soul, this grove, and already he could see those majestic trunks, after having been sawed with as little wasteful chopping as possible, toppling in endless billowy furrows.
Old man Gifford came inquiringly up between the long rows of corn to the far edge of the grove. He was bent and weazened, and more gnarled than any of his trees, and even his fingers seemed to have the knotty, angular effect of twigs. A fringe of gray beard surrounded his clean-shaven face, which was criss-crossed with innumerable little furrows that the wind and rain had worn in it; but a pair of shrewd old eyes twinkled from under his bushy eyebrows.
"Morning, 'Ennery," he said, addressing the chauffeur with a squeaky little voice in which, though after forty years of residence in America, there was still a strong trace of British accent; and then his calculating gaze rested calmly in turns upon the other occupants of the machine.
"Good morning, Mr. Gifford," returned the chauffeur. "Fine day, isn't it?"
"Good corn-ripenin' weather," agreed the old man, squinting at the sky from force of habit, and then, being satisfied that there was no threatening cloud in all the visible blue expanse, he returned to a calm consideration of the strangers, waiting patiently for Mr. Turner to introduce himself.
"I understand, Mr. Gifford, that you are open to an offer for your walnut trees," began Mr. Turner, looking at his watch.
"Well, I might be," admitted the old man cautiously.
"I see," returned Sam; "that is, you might be interested if the price were right. Let's get right down to brass tacks. How much do you want?"
"Standin' or cut?"
"Well, say standing?"
"How much do you offer?"
Miss Stevens' gaze roved from the one to the other and found enjoyment in the fact that here Greek had met Greek.
Sam's reply was prompt and to the point. He named a price.
"No," said the old man instantly. "I been a-holdin' out for five dollars a thousand more than that."
Things were progressing. A basis for haggling had been established. Sam Turner, however, had the advantage. He knew the sharp advance in walnut announced that morning. Old man Gifford would not be aware of it until the rural free delivery brought his evening paper, of the night before, some time that afternoon. In view of the recent advance, even at Mr. Gifford's price there was a handsome profit in the transaction.
"The reason you've had to hold out for your rate until right now was that nobody would pay it," said Sam confidently. "Now I'm here to talk spot cash. I'll give you, say, a thousand dollars down, and the balance immediately upon measurement as the logs are loaded upon the cars."
The old man nodded in approval.
"The terms is all right," he said.
"How much will you take F. O. B. Restview?"
"Well, cuttin' and trimmin' and haulin' ain't much in my line," returned the old man, again cautious; "but after all, I reckon that there'd be less damage to my property if I looked after it myself. Of course, I'd have to have a profit for handlin' it. I'd feel like holdin' out for—for—" and after some hesitation he again named a figure.
"You've made that same proposition to others," charged Sam shrewdly, "and you couldn't get the price." Upon the heels of this he made his own offer.
The old man shook his head and turned as if to start back to the corn field.
"No, I can get better than that," he declared, shaking his head.
"Come back here and let's talk turkey," protested Sam compellingly. "You name the very lowest price you'll take, delivered on board the cars at Restview."
The old man reached down, pulled up a blade of grass, chewed it carefully, spit it out, and named his very, very lowest price; then he added: "What's the most you'll give?"
Miss Stevens leaned forward intently.
Sam very promptly named a figure five dollars lower.
"I'll split the difference with you," offered the old man.
"It's a bargain!" said Sam, and reaching into the inside pocket of his tennis coat, he brought out some queer furniture for that sort of garment—a small fountain pen and an extremely small card-case, from the latter of which he drew four folded blank checks.
He reached over and borrowed the chauffeur's enameled cap, dusted it carefully with his handkerchief, laid a check upon it and held his fountain pen poised. "What are your initials, please, Mr. Gifford?"
"Wait a minute," said the old man hastily. "Don't make out that check just yet. I don't do any business or sign any contracts till I talk with Hepseba."
"All right. Climb right in with Henry there," directed Sam, seizing upon the chauffeur's name. "We'll drive straight up to see her."
"I'll walk," firmly declared Mr. Gifford. "I never have rode in one of them things, and I'm too old to begin."
"Very well," said Sam cheerfully, jumping out of the machine with great promptness. "I'll walk with you. Back to the house, Henry," and he started anxiously to trudge up the road with Mr. Gifford, leaving Henry to manoeuver painfully in the narrow space. After a few steps, however, a sudden thought made him turn back. "Maybe you'd rather walk up, too," he suggested to Miss Stevens.
"No, I think I'll ride," she said coldly.
He opened the door in extreme haste.
"Do come on and walk," he pleaded. "Don't hold it against me because I just don't seem to be able to think of more than one thing at a time; but I was so wrapped up in this deal that— Really," and he sank his voice confidentially, "I have a tremendous bargain here, and I'll be nervous about it until I have it clenched. I'll tell you why as we go home."
He held out his hand as a matter of course to help her down. The white of his eyes was remarkably clear, the irises were remarkably blue, the pupils remarkably deep. Suddenly her face cleared and she laughed.
"It was silly of me to be snippy, wasn't it?" she confessed, as she took his hand and stepped lightly to the ground. It had just recurred to her that when he knew Princeman was walking over to see her he had said nothing, but had engaged an automobile.
Old man Gifford had nothing much to say when they caught up with him. Mr. Turner tried him with remarks about the weather, and received full information, but when he attempted to discuss the details of the walnut purchase, he received but mere grunts in reply, except finally this:
"There's no use, young man. I won't talk about them trees till I get Hepseba's opinion."
At the house Hepseba waddled out on the little stoop in response to old man Gifford's call, and stood regarding the strangers stonily through her narrow little slits of eyes.
"This gentleman, Hepseba," said old man Gifford, "wants to buy my walnut trees. What do you think of him?"
In response to that leading question, Hepseba studied Sam Turner from head to foot with the sort of scrutiny under which one slightly reddens.
"I like him," finally announced Hepseba, in a surprisingly liquid and feminine voice. "I like both of them," an unexpected turn which brought a flush to the face of Miss Stevens.
"All right, young man," said old man Gifford briskly. "Now, then, you come in the front room and write your contract, and I'll take your check."
All alacrity and open cordiality now, he led the way into the queer-old front room, musty with the solemnity of many dim Sundays.
"Just set down here in this easy chair, Mrs.— What did you say your name is?" Mr. Gifford inquired, turning to Sam.
"Turner; Sam J. Turner," returned that gentleman, grinning. "But this is Miss Stevens."
"No offense meant or taken, I hope," hastily said the old man by way of apology; "but I do say that Mr. Turner would be lucky if he had such a pretty wife."
"You have both good taste and good judgment, Mr. Gifford," commented Sam as airily as he could; then he looked across at Miss Stevens and laughed aloud, so openly and so ingenuously that, so far from the laughter giving offense, it seemed, strangely enough, to put Miss Josephine at her ease, though she still blushed furiously. There was nothing in that laugh nor in his look but frank, boyish enjoyment of the joke.
There ensued a crisp and decisive conversation between Mr. Gifford and Mr. Turner about the details of their contract, and 'Ennery was presently called in to append to it his painfully precise signature in vertical writing, Miss Stevens adding hers in a pretty round hand. Then Hepseba, to bind the bargain, brought in hot apple pie fresh from the oven, and they became quite a little family party indeed, and very friendly, 'Ennery sitting in the parlor with them and eating his pie with a fork.
"I know what Hepseba thinks," said old man Gifford, as he held the door of the car open for them. "She thinks you're a mighty keen young man that has to be watched in the beginning of a bargain, because you'll give as little as you can; but that after the bargain's made you don't need any more watching. But Lord love you, I have to be watched in a bargain myself. I take everything I can."
As he finished saying this he was closing the door of the car, but Hepseba called to them to wait, and came puffing out of the house with a little bundle wrapped in a newspaper.
"I brought this out for your wife," she said to Mr. Turner, and handed it to Miss Josephine. "It's some geranium slips. Everybody says I got the very finest geraniums in the bottoms here."
"Goodness, Hepseba," exclaimed old man Gifford, highly delighted; "that ain't his wife. That's Miss Stevens. I made the same mistake," and he hawhawed in keen enjoyment.
Hepseba was so evidently overcome with mortification, however, and her huge round face turned so painfully red, that Miss Stevens lost entirely any embarrassment she might otherwise have felt.
"It doesn't matter at all, I assure you, Mrs. Gifford," she said with charming eagerness to set Hepseba at ease. "I am very fond of geraniums, and I shall plant these slips and take good care of them. I thank you very, very much for them."
As the machine rolled away Hepseba turned to old man Gifford:
"I like both of them!" she stated most decisively.
MISS JOSEPHINE'S FATHER AGREES THAT SAM TURNER IS ALL BUSINESS
"And now," announced Sam in calm triumph as they neared Hollis Creek Inn, "I'll finish up this deal right away. There is no use in my holding for a further rise at this time, and I'll just sell these trees to your father."
"To father!" she gasped, and then, as it dawned upon her that she had been out all morning to help Sam Turner buy up trees to sell to her own father at a profit, she burst forth into shrieks of laughter.
"What's the joke?" Sam asked, regarding her in amazement, and then, more or less dimly, he perceived. "Still," he said, relapsing into serious consideration of the affair, "your father will be in luck to buy those trees at all, even at the ten dollars a thousand profit he'll have to pay me. There is not less than a hundred thousand feet of walnut in that grove.
"Mercy!" she said. "Why, that will make you a thousand dollars for this morning's drive; and the opportunity was entirely accidental, one which would not have occurred if you hadn't come over to see me in this machine. I think I ought to have a commission."
"You ought to be fined," Sam retorted. "You had me scared stiff at one time."
"How was that?" she demanded.
"Why, of course you didn't think, but when you told the boys that I was going out to buy a walnut grove, they were right on their way to see your father. It would have been very natural for one of them to mention our errand. Your father might have immediately inquired where there was walnut to be found, and have telephoned to old man Gifford before I could reach him."
"You needn't have worried!" stated Miss Josephine in a tone so indignant that Sam turned to her in astonishment. "My father would not have done anything so despicable as that, I am quite sure!"
"He wouldn't!" exclaimed Sam. "I'll bet he would. Why, how do you suppose your father became rich in the lumber trade if it wasn't through snapping up bargains every time he found one?"
"I have no doubt that my father has been and is a very alert business man," retorted Miss Josephine most icily; "but after he knew that you had started out actually to purchase a tract of lumber, he would certainly consider that you had established a prior claim upon the property."
"Your father's name is Theophilus Stevens, isn't it?"
"Humph!" said Sam, but he did not explain that exclamation, nor was he asked to explain. Miss Stevens had been deeply wounded by the assault upon her father's business morality, and she desired to hear no further elaboration of the insult.
She was glad that they were drawing up now to the porch, glad this ride, with its many disagreeable features, was over, although she carefully gathered up her bright-berried branches, which were not half so much withered as she had expected them to be, and held her geranium slips cautiously as she alighted.
Her father came out to the edge of the porch to meet them. He paid no attention to his daughter.
"Well, Sam Turner," said Mr. Stevens, stroking his aggressive beard, "I hear you got it, confound you! What do you want for your lumber contract?"
"Just the advance of this morning's quotations," replied Sam. "Princeman tell you I was after it?"
"No, not at first," said Stevens. "I received a telegram about that grove just an hour ago, from my partner. Princeman was with me when the telegram came, and he told me then that you had just gone out on the trail. I did my best to get Gifford by 'phone before you could reach him."
"Father!" exclaimed Miss Josephine.
"What's the matter, Jo?"
"You say you actually tried to—to get in ahead of Mr. Turner in buying this lumber, knowing that he was going down there purposely for it?"
"Why, certainly," admitted her father.
"But did you know that I was with Mr. Turner?"
"Father!" was all she could gasp, and without deigning to say good-by to Mr. Turner, or to thank him for the ride or the bouquet of branches or even the geranium slips which she had received under false pretenses, she hurried away to her room, oppressed with Heaven only knows what mortification, and also with what wonder at the ways of men!
However, Princeman and Billy Westlake and young Hollis with the curly hair were impatiently waiting for Miss Josephine at the tennis court, as they informed her in a jointly signed note sent up to her by a boy, and hastily removing the dust of the road she ran down to join them. As she went across the lawn, tennis bat in hand, Sam Turner, discussing lumber with Mr. Stevens, saw her and stopped talking abruptly to admire the trim, graceful figure.
"Does your daughter play tennis much?" he inquired.
"A great deal," returned Mr. Stevens, expanding with pride. "Jo's a very expert player. She's better at it than any of these girls, and she really doesn't care to play except with experts. Princeman, Hollis and Billy Westlake are easily the champions here."
"I see," said Sam thoughtfully.
"I suppose you're a crack player yourself," his host resumed, glancing at Sam's bat.
"Me? No, worse than a dub. I never had time; that is, until now. I'll tell you, though, this being away from the business grind is a great thing. You don't know how I enjoy the fresh air and the being out in the country this way, and the absolute freedom from business cares and worries."
"But where are you going?" asked Stevens, for Sam was getting up. "You'll stay to lunch with us, won't you?"
"No, thanks," replied Sam, looking at his watch. "I expect some word from my kid brother. I have wired him to send some samples of marsh pulp, and the paper we've had made from it."
"Marsh pulp," repeated Mr. Stevens. "That's a new one on me. What's it like?"
"Greatest stunt on earth," replied Sam confidently. "It is our scheme to meet the deforestation danger on the way—coming."
Already he was reaching in his pocket for paper and pencil, and sat down again at the side of Mr. Stevens, who immediately began stroking his aggressive beard. Fifteen minutes later Sam briskly got up again and Mr. Stevens shook hands with him.
"That's a great scheme," he said, and he gazed after Sam's broad shoulders admiringly as that young man strode down the steps.
On his way Sam passed the tennis court where the one girl and three young men were engaged in a most dextrous game, a game which all the other amateurs of Hollis Creek Inn had stopped their own sets to watch. In the pause of changing sides Miss Josephine saw him and waved her hand and wafted a gay word to him. A second later she was in the air, a lithe, graceful figure, meeting a high "serve," and Sam walked on quite thoughtfully.
When he arrived at Meadow Brook his first care was for his telegram. It was there, and bore the assurance that the samples would arrive on the following morning. His next step was to hunt Miss Westlake. That plump young person forgot her pique of the morning in an instant when he came up to her with that smiling "been-looking-for-you-everywhere, mighty-glad-to-see-you" cordiality.
"I want you to teach me tennis," he said immediately.
"I'm afraid I can't teach you much," she replied with becoming diffidence, "because I'm not a good enough player myself; but I'll do my best. We'll have a set right after luncheon; shall we?"
"Fine!" said he.
After luncheon Mr. Westlake and Mr. Cuthbert waylaid him, but he merely thrust his telegram into Mr. Westlake's hands, and hurried off to the tennis grounds with Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings and lanky Bob Tilloughby, who stuttered horribly and blushed when he spoke, and was in deadly seriousness about everything. Never did a man work so hard at anything as Sam Turner worked at tennis. He had a keen eye and a dextrous wrist, and he kept the game up to top-notch speed. Of course he made blunders and became confused in his count and overlooked opportunities, but he covered acres of ground, as Vivian Hastings expressed it, and when, at the end of an hour, they sat down, panting, to rest, young Tilloughby, with painful earnestness, assured him that he had "the mum-mum-makings of a fine tennis player."
Sam considered that compliment very thoughtfully, but he was a trifle dubious. Already he perceived that tennis playing was not only an occupation but a calling.
"Thanks," said he. "It's mighty nice of you to say so, Tilloughby. What's the next game?"
"The nun-nun-next game is a stroll," Tilloughby soberly advised him. "It always stus-stus-starts out as a foursome, and ends up in tut-tut-two doubles."
So they strolled. They wound along the brookside among some of the pretty paths, and in the rugged places Miss Westlake threw her weight upon Sam's helping arm as much as possible; in the concealed places she languished, which she did very prettily, she thought, considering her one hundred and sixty-three pounds. They took him through a detour of shady paths which occupied a full hour to traverse, but this particular game did not wind up in "two doubles." In spite of all the excellent tete-a-tete opportunities which should have risen for both couples, Miss Westlake was annoyed to find Miss Hastings right close behind, and holding even the conversation to a foursome.
In the meantime, Sam Turner took careful lessons in the art of talking twaddle, and they never knew that he was bored. Having entered into the game he played it with spirit, and before they had returned to the house Mr. Tilloughby was calling him Sus-Sus-Sam.
The girls disappeared for their beauty sleep, and Sam found McComas and Billy Westlake hunting for him.
"Do you play base-ball?" inquired McComas.
"A little. I used to catch, to help out my kid brother, who is an expert pitcher."
"Good!" said McComas, writing down Sam's name. "Princeman will pitch, but we needed a catcher. The rivalry between Meadow Brook and Hollis Creek is intense this year. They've captured nearly all the early trophies, but we're going over there next week for a match game and we're about crazy to win."
"I'll do the best I can," promised Sam. "Got a base-ball? We'll go out and practise."
They slammed hot ones into each other for a half hour, and when they had enough of it, McComas, wiping his brow, exclaimed approvingly:
"You'll do great with a little more warming up. We have a couple of corking players, but we need them. Hollis always pitches for Hollis Creek, and he usually wins his game. On baseball day he's the idol of all the girls."
Sam Turner placed his hand meditatively upon the back of his neck as he walked in to dress for dinner. Making a good impression upon the girls was a separate business, it seemed, and one which required much preparation. Well, he was in for the entire circus, but he realized that he was a little late in starting. In consequence he could not afford to overlook any of the points; so, before dressing for dinner, he paid a quiet visit to the greenhouses.
That evening, while he was bowling with all the earnestness that in him lay, Josephine Stevens, resisting the importunities of young Hollis for some music, sat by her father.
"Father," she asked after long and sober thought, "was it right for you, knowing Mr. Turner to be after that walnut lumber, to try to get it away from him by telephoning?"
"It certainly was!" he replied emphatically. "Turner went down there with a deliberate intention of buying that lumber before I could get it, so that he could sell it to me at as big a gain as possible. I paid him one thousand dollars profit for his contract. I had struggled my best to beat him to it; only I was too late. Both of us were playing the game according to the rules, but he is a younger player."
"I see." Another long pause. "Here's another thing. Mr. Turner happened to know of this increase in the price of lumber, and he hurried down there to a man who didn't know about that, and bought it. If Mr. Gifford had known of the new rates, Mr. Turner could not have bought those trees at the price he did, could he?"
"Certainly not," agreed her father. "He would have had to pay nearly a thousand dollars more for them."
"Then that wasn't right of Mr. Turner," she asserted.
"My child," said Mr. Stevens wearily, "all business is conducted for a profit, and the only way to get it is by keeping alive and knowing things that other people will find out to-morrow. Sam Turner is the shrewdest and the livest young man I've met in many a day, and he's square as a die. I'd take his word on any proposition; wouldn't you?"
"Yes, I think I'd take his word," she admitted, and very positively, after mature deliberation. "But truly, father, don't you think he's too much concentrated on business? He hasn't a thought in his mind for anything else. For instance, this morning he came over to take me an automobile ride around Bald Hill, and when he found out about this walnut grove, without either apology or explanation to me he ordered the chauffeur to drive right down there."
"Fine," laughed her father. "I'd like to hire him for my manager, if I could only offer him enough money. But I don't see your point of criticism. It seems to me that he's a mighty presentable and likable young fellow, good looking, and a gentleman in the sense in which I like to use that word."
"Yes, he is all of those things," she admitted again; "but it is a flaw in a young man, isn't it," she persisted, betraying an unusually anxious interest, "for him never to think of a solitary thing but just business?"
They were sitting in one of the alcoves of the assembly room, and at that moment a bell-boy, wandering around the place with apparent aimlessness, spied them and brought to Miss Josephine a big box. She opened it and an exclamation of pleasure escaped her. In the box was a huge bouquet of exquisite roses, soft and glowing, delicious in their fragrance.
Impulsively she buried her face in them.
"Oh, how delightful!" she cried, and she drew out the white card which peeped forth from amidst the stems. "They are from Mr. Turner!" she gasped.
"You're quite right about him," commented her father dryly. "He's all business."
IN WHICH THE SUMMER LOAFER ORDERS SOME MARASCHINO CHOCOLATES
Before Sam had his breakfast the next morning, he sat in his room with some figures with which Blackrock and Cuthbert had provided him the evening before. He cast them up and down and crosswise and diagonally, balanced them and juggled them and sorted them and shifted them, until at last he found the rat hole, and smiling grimly, placed those pages of neat figures in a small letter file which he took from his trunk. One thing was certain: the Meadow Brook capitalists were highly interested in his plan, or they would never go to the trouble to devise, so early in the game, a scheme for gaining control of the marsh pulp corporation. Well, they were the exact people he wanted.
Immediately after breakfast Miss Stevens telephoned over to thank him for his beautiful roses, and he had the pleasure of letting her know, quite incidentally, that he had gone down to the rose-beds and picked out each individual blossom himself, which, of course, accounted for their excellence. Also he suggested coming over that morning for a brief walk.
No, she was very sorry, but she was just making ready to go out horseback riding with Mr. Hollis, who, by the way, was an excellent rider; but they would be back from their canter about ten-thirty, and if Mr. Turner cared to come over for a game of tennis before luncheon, why—
"Sorry I can't do it," returned Mr. Turner with the deepest of genuine regret in his tone. "My kid brother is sending me some samples of pulp and paper which will arrive at about eleven o'clock, and I have called a meeting of some interested parties here to examine them at about eleven."
"Business again," she protested. "I thought you were on a vacation."
"I am," he assured her in surprise. "I never lazied around so or frittered up so much time in my life; and I'm enjoying every second of my freedom, too. I tell you, it's fine. But say, this meeting won't take over an hour. Why can't I come over right after lunch?"
She was very sorry, this time a little less regretfully, that after luncheon she had an engagement with Mr. Princeman to play a match game of croquet. But, and here she relented a trifle, they were getting up a hasty, informal dance over at Hollis Creek for that evening. Would he come over?
He certainly would, and he already spoke for as many dances as she would give him.
"I'll give you what I can," she told him; "but I've already promised three of them to Billy Westlake, who is a divine dancer."
Sam Turner was deeply thoughtful as he turned away from the telephone. Hollis was a superb horseback rider. Billy Westlake was a divine dancer. Princeman, he had learned from Miss Stevens, who had spoken with vast enthusiasm, was a base-ball hero. Hollis and Princeman and Westlake were crack bowlers, also crack tennis players, and no doubt all three were even expert croquet players. It was easy to see the sort of men she admired. Sam Turner only knew one recipe to get things, and he had made up his mind to have Miss Stevens. He promptly sought Miss Westlake.
"Do you ride?" he wanted to know.
"Not as often as I'd like," she said.
Really, she had half promised to go driving with Tilloughby, but it was not an actual promise, and if it were she was quite willing to get out of it, if Mr. Turner wanted her to go along, although she did not say so. Young Tilloughby was notoriously an impossible match. But possibly Mr. Tilloughby and Miss Hastings might care to join the party. She suggested it.
"Why, certainly," said Sam heartily. "The more the merrier," which was not the thing she wanted him to say.
Tilloughby, a trifle disappointed yet very gracious, consented to ride in place of drive, and Miss Hastings was only too delighted; entirely too much so, Miss Westlake thought. Accordingly they rode, and Sam insisted on lagging behind with Miss Westlake, which she took to be of considerable significance, and exhibited a very obvious fluttering about it. Sam's motive, however, was to watch Tilloughby in the saddle, for in their conversation it had developed that Tilloughby was a very fair rider; and everything that he saw Tilloughby do, Sam did. En route they met Hollis and Miss Stevens, cantering just where the Bald Hill road branched off, and the cavalcade was increased to six. Once, in taking a narrow cross-cut down through the woods, Sam had the felicity of riding beside Miss Stevens for a moment, and she put her hand on his horse and patted its glossy neck and admired it, while Sam admired the hand. He felt, in some way or other, that riding for that ten yards by her side was a sort of triumph over Hollis, until he saw her dash up presently by the side of Hollis again and chat brightly with that young gentleman.
Thereafter Sam quit watching Tilloughby and watched Hollis. Curly-head was an accomplished rider, and Sam felt that he himself cut but an awkward figure. In reality he was too conscious of his defects. By strict attention he was proving himself a fair ordinary rider, but when Hollis, out of sheer showiness, turned aside from the path to jump his horse over a fallen tree, and Miss Stevens out of bravado followed him, Sam Turner well-nigh ground his teeth, and, acting upon the impulse, he too attempted the jump. The horse got over safely, but Sam went a cropper over his head, and not being a particle hurt had to endure the good-natured laughter of the balance of them. Miss Stevens seemed as much amused as any one! He had not caught her look of fright as he fell nor of concern as he rose, nor could he estimate that her laugh was a mild form of hysteria, encouraged because it would deceive. What an ass he was, he savagely thought, to exhibit himself before her in an attempt like that, without sufficient preparation! He must ride every morning, by himself.
Miss Josephine and Mr. Hollis were bound for the Bald Hill circle, and they insisted, the insistence being largely on the part of Miss Stevens, on the others accompanying them; but Mr. Turner's engagement at eleven o'clock would not admit of this, and reluctantly he took Miss Hastings back with him, leaving Miss Westlake and young Tilloughby to go on. The arrangement suited him very well, for at least Hollis' ride with Miss Stevens would not be a tete-a-tete. Miss Westlake strove to let him understand as plainly as she could that she was only going with Mr. Tilloughby because of her previous semi-engagement with him—and there seemed a coolness between Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings as they separated. Miss Hastings did her best on the way back to console Mr. Turner for the absence of Miss Westlake. Vivacious as she always was, she never was more so than now, and before Sam knew it he had engaged himself with her to gather ferns in the afternoon.
Upon his arrival at Meadow Brook, he found his express package and also a couple of important letters awaiting him, and immediately held on the porch a full meeting of the tentative Marsh Pulp Company. In that meeting he decided on four things: first, that these hard-headed men of business were highly favorable to his scheme; second, that Princeman and Cuthbert, who knew most about paper and pulp, were so profoundly impressed with his samples that they tried to conceal it from him; third, that Princeman, at first his warmest adherent, was now most stubbornly opposed to him, not that he wished to prevent forming the company, but that he wished to prevent Sam's having his own way; fourth, that the crowd had talked it over and had firmly determined that Sam should not control their money. Princeman was especially severe.
"There is no question but that these samples are convincing of their own excellence," he admitted; "but properly to estimate the value of both pulp and paper, it would be necessary to know, by rigid experiment, the precise difficulties of manufacture, to say nothing of the manner in which these particular specimens were produced."
Mr. Princeman's words had undoubted weight, casting, as they did, a clammy suspicion upon Sam's samples.
"I had thought of that," confessed Mr. Turner, "and had I not been prepared to meet such a natural doubt, to say nothing of such a natural insinuation, I should never have submitted these samples. Mr. Princeman, do you know G. W. Creamer of the Eureka Paper Mills?"
Mr. Princeman, with a wince, did, for G. W. Creamer and the Eureka Paper Mills were his most successful competitors in the manufacture of special-priced high-grade papers. Mr. Cuthbert also knew Mr. Creamer intimately.
"Good," said Sam; "then Mr. Creamer's letter will have some weight," and he turned it over to Mr. Blackrock. That gentleman, setting his spectacles astride his nose and assuming his most profoundly professional air, read aloud the letter in which Mr. Creamer thanked Turner and Turner for reposing confidence enough in him to reveal their process and permit him to make experiments, and stated, with many convincing facts and figures, that he had made several separate samples of the pulp in his experimental shop, and from the pulp had made paper, samples of which he enclosed under separate cover, stating further that the pulp could be manufactured far cheaper than wood pulp, and that the quality of the paper, in his estimation, was even superior; and when the company was formed, he wished to be set down for a good, fat block of stock.
Having submitted exhibit A in the form of his brother's samples of pulp and paper, exhibit B in the form of Mr. Creamer's letter, and exhibit C in the form of Mr. Creamer's own samples of pulp and paper, Mr. Turner rested quite comfortably in his chair, thank you.
"This seems to make the thing positive," admitted Mr. Princeman. "Mr. Turner, would you mind sending some samples of your material to my factory with the necessary instructions?"
"Not at all," replied Sam suavely. "We would be pleased indeed to do so, just as soon as our patents are allowed."
"Pending that," suggested Mr. Westlake placidly, looking out over the brook, "why couldn't we organize a sort of tentative company? Why couldn't we at least canvass ourselves and see how much of Mr. Turner's stock we would take up among us?"
"That is," put in Mr. Cuthbert, screwing the remark out of himself sidewise, "provided the terms of incorporation and promotion were satisfactory to us."
"I have already drawn up a sort of preliminary proposition, after consultation with our friends here," Mr. Blackrock now stated, "and purely as a tentative matter it might be read."
"Go right ahead," directed Sam. "I'm a good listener."
Mr. Blackrock slowly and ponderously read the proposed plan of incorporation. Sam rose and looked at his watch.
"It won't do," he announced sharply. "That whole thing, in accordance with the figures you submitted me last night, is framed up for the sole purpose of preventing my ever securing control, and if I do not have a chance, at least, at control, I won't play."
"You seem to be very sure of that," said Mr. Princeman, surveying him coldly; "but there is another thing equally sure, and that is that you can not engage capital in as big an enterprise as this on any basis which will separate the control and the money."
"I'm going to try it, though," retorted Sam. "If I can't separate the control and the money I suppose I'll have to put up with the best terms I can get. If you will let me have that prospectus of yours, Mr. Blackrock, I'll take it up to my room and study it, and draw up a counter prospectus of my own."
"With pleasure," said Mr. Blackrock, handing it over courteously, and Mr. Turner rose.
"I'll say this much, Sam," stated Mr. Westlake, who seemed to have grown more friendly as Mr. Princeman grew cooler; "if you can get a proposition upon which we are all agreed, I'll take fifty thousand of that stock myself, at fifty."
"As a matter of fact, Mr. Turner," added Mr. Cuthbert, "including your friend Creamer, who insists upon being in, I imagine that we can finance your entire company right in this crowd—if the terms are right."
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, I'm sure," said Mr. Turner, and bowed himself away.
In place of going to his room, however, he went to the telegraph office, and wired his brother in New York: