Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

have you than any one I know. You're the only one of the outsiders who stayed by the Big Jam,” Orde continued. “Don't try to favour him — that's no favour. If he doesn't make good, fire him. Don't tell any of your people that he's the son of a friend. Let him stand on his own feet. If he's any good we'll work him into the old game. Just give him a job, and keep an eye on him for me, to see how well he does.”

"Jack, the job's his,” said Welton. “But it won't do him much good, because it won't last long. We're cleaned up in Minnesota; and have only an odd two years on some odds and ends we picked up in Wisconsin just to keep us busy."

“What are you going to do then ?” asked Orde, quietly dipping his oars again. “I'm going to retire and enjoy life.” Orde laughed quietly.

“Yes, you are!” said he. “You'd have a high old time for a calendar month. Then you'd get uneasy. You'd build you a big house, which would keep you mad for six months more. Then you'd degenerate to buying subscription books, and wheezing around a club and going by the cocktail route. You'd look sweet retiring, now, wouldn't

[ocr errors]

you?"

Welton grinned back, a trifle ruefully.

“You can no more retire than I can,” Orde went on. “And as for enjoying life, I'll trade jobs with you in a minute, you ungrateful old idiot.”

I know it, Jack," confessed Welton; "but what can I do? I can't pick up any more timber at any price. I tell you, the game is played out. We're old mossbacks; and our job is done."

“I have five hundred million feet of sugar pine in California. What do you say to going in with me to manufacture?”

“The hell you have!” cried Welton, his jaw dropping. "I didn't know that!”

“Neither does anybody else. I bought it twenty years ago, under a corporation name. I was the whole corporation. Called myself the Wolverine Company.”

“You own the Wolverine property, do you?” “Yes; ever hear of it?"

“I know where it is. I've been out there trying to get hold of something, but you have the heart of it.”

“Thought you were going to retire,” Orde pointed out.

“The property's all right, but I've some sort of notion the title is clouded.”

“Why?”

“Can't seem to remember; but I must have come against some record somewhere. Didn't pay extra much attention, because I wasn't interested in that piece. Something to do with fraudulent homesteading, wasn't it?"

Orde dropped his oars across his lap to fill and light a pipe.

“That title was deliberately clouded by an enemy to prevent my raising money at the time of the Big Jam, when I was pinched,” said he. “Frank Taylor straightened it out for me. You can see him. As a matter of fact, most of that land I bought outright from the original homesteaders, and the rest from a bank. I was very particular. There's one 160 I wouldn't take on that account."

“Well, that's all right,” said Welton, his jolly eyes twinking. “Why the secrecy?”

"I wanted a business for Bob when he should grow up,” explained Orde; “but I didn't want any of this ‘rich man's son' business. Nothing's worse for a boy than to feel that everything's cut and dried for him. He is to understand that he must go to work for somebody else, and stand strictly on his own feet, and make good on his own efforts. That's why I want you to break him in."

"All right. And about this partnership?"

“I want you to take charge. I can't leave Washington. We'll get down to details later. Bob can work for you there the same as here. By and by, we'll see whether to tell him or not,”

The twilight had fallen, and the shores of the river were lost in dusk. The surface of the water itself shone with an added luminosity, reflecting the sky. In the middle distance twinkled a light, beyond which in long stretches lay the sombre marshes. "That's the club," said Orde. “Now, if you disgrace "

, me, you old duffer, I'll use you as a decoy!”

A few moments later the two men, opening the door of the shooting-box, plunged into a murk of blue tobacco smoke. A half-dozen men greeted them boisterously. These were just about to draw lots for choice of blinds on the morrow. A savoury smell of roasting ducks came from the tiny kitchen where Weber - punter, keeper, duck-caller and cook - exercised the last-named function. Welton drew last choice, and was commiserated on his bad fortune. No one offered to give way to the guest, however. On this point the rules of the Club were inflexible.

Luckily the weather changed. It turned cold; the wind blew a gale. Squalls of light snow swept the marshes. Men chattered and shivered, and blew on their wet fingers, but in from the great open lake came myriads of waterfowl, seeking shelter, and the sport was grand.

“Well, old stick-in-the-mud," said Orde as, at the end of two days, the men thawed out in a smoking car, "ducks enough for you?”

“Jack,” said Welton solemnly, “there are no ducks in Minnesota. They've all come over here. I've had the time of my life. And about that other thing: as soon as our woods work is under way, I'll run out to California and look over the ground - see how easy it is to log that country. Then we can talk business. In the meantime, send Bob over to the Chicago office. I'll let Harvey break him in a little on the office work until I get back. When will he show up?”

Orde grinned apologetically. “The kid has set his heart on coaching the team this fall, and he don't want to go to work until after the season, said he. “I'm just an old fool enough to tell him he could wait. I know he ought to be at it now — you and I were, long before his age; but —

“Oh, shut up!” interrupted Welton, his big body shaking all over with mirth. “You talk like a copy-book. I'm not a constituent, and you needn't run any bluffs on me. You're tickled to death with that boy, and you are hoping that team will lick the everlasting daylights out of Chicago, Thanksgiving; and you wouldn't miss the game or have Bob out of the coaching for the whole of California; and you know it. Send him along when you get ready."

1

II

a

B

OB ORDE, armed with a card of introduction to Fox,

Welton's office partner, left home directly after

Thanksgiving. He had heard much of Welton & Fox in the past, both from his father and his father's associates. The firm name meant to him big things in the past history of Michigan's industries, and big things in the vague, large life of the Northwest. Therefore, he was considerably surprised, on finding the firm's Adams Street offices, to observe their comparative insignificance.

He made his way into a narrow entry, containing merely a high desk, a safe, some letter files, and two bookkeepers. Then, without challenge, he walked directly into a large apartment, furnished as simply, with another safe, a typewriter, several chairs, and a large roll-top desk. At the latter a man sprawled, reading a newspaper. Bob looked about for a further door closed on an inner private office, where the weighty business must be transacted. There

The tall, broad, lean young man hesitated, looking about him with a puzzled expression in his earnest young eyes. Could this be the heart and centre of those vast and far-reaching activities he had heard so much about?

After a moment the man in the revolving chair looked up shrewdly over his paper. Bob felt himself the object of an instant's searching scrutiny from a pair of elderly steelgray eyes.

"Well?" said the man, briefly.
“I am looking for Mr. Fox,” explained Bob.
“I am Fox."

was none.

te

« PředchozíPokračovat »