George Randolph Chester.

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Author of
The Early Bird
The Making of Bobby Burnit

With Illustrations by F. R. Gruger & Henry Raleigh

The Bobbs-Merrill Company

Copyright 1910
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

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

[Illustration: Fannie]

































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

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

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

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

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

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

Clifford gasped as he hungrily reviewed these luscious items.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wix chuckled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wix turned to him slowly.

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

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

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

"About half the time," admitted Gilman uneasily.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wix turned to him with something of contempt.

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

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

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

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

"Doing nothing on the side?"

"Not a thing."

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

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

Wix shook his head.

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

The black-eyed one shrugged his shoulders.

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

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

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

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

Wix shook his head.

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

The other was thoughtful and smiling for a time.

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

Wix was deeply thoughtful, but he made no reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, here is what Mr. Daw had done. Immediately upon receiving the
report upon this assay he had scraped together all the money he could,
and had bought up an additional ten per cent. of the stock of that

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Online LibraryGeorge Randolph ChesterYoung Wallingford → online text (page 1 of 16)