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Blow The Man Down - A Romance Of The Coast - 1916
by Holman Day
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In that mood he would have avoided Captain Zoradus Wass if he had spied that boisterously cheerful mariner in season. But the captain had him by the arm and was dancing him about the sidewalk, showing more affability than was his wont.

"Heifers o' Herod! youngster," shouted the grizzled master, "have you come looking for me?"

"No," faltered Mayo. "Did you want to see me?"

"Have worn taps off my boots to-day chasing from shipping commissioner's office to every hole and corner along the water-front. Heard you had quit aboard a yacht, and reckoned you had got sensible again and wanted real work."

"If you had asked down among the fish-houses you might have got on track of me, sir." Mayo's tone was somber.

"Fish! You fishing?" demanded Captain Wass, with incredulity.

"Yes, and on a chartered smack at that—shack-fishing on shares!" Mayo was sourly resolved to paint his low estate in black colors. "And I have concluded it's about all I'm fit for."

"That's fine, seaman-like talk to come from a young chap I have trained up to master's papers, giving him two years in my pilot-house. I was afraid you were going astern, you young cuss, when I heard you'd gone skipper of a yacht, but I didn't think it was as bad as all this."

"My yachting business is done, sir."

"Thank the bald-headed Nicodemus! There's hopes of you. Did anybody tell you I've been looking for you?"

"No, sir!"

"Glad of it. Now I can tell you myself. Do you know where I am now?"

"I heard you were on a Vose line freighter, sir."

"Don't know who told you that—but it wasn't Ananias. You're right. She's the old Nequasset, handed back to me again because I'm the only one who understands her cussed fool notions. First mate got drunk yesterday and broke second mate's leg in the scuffle—one is in jail and t'other in the hospital, and never neither of 'em will step aboard any ship with me again. I sail at daybreak, bade to the Chesapeake for steel rails. Got your papers?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Come along. You're first mate."

"Do you really want me, sir?"

"Want you? Confound it all, I've got you! In about half a day I'll have all the yacht notions shaken out of you and the fish-scales stripped off, and then you'll be what you was when I let you go—the smartest youngster I ever trained."

Mayo obeyed the thrust of the jubilant master's arm and went along. "I'll go and explain to Captain Can-dage, my partner."

"All right. I'll go along, too, and help you make it short."

As they walked along Captain Wass inspected his companion critically.

"High living aboard Marston's yacht make you dyspeptic, son? You look as if your vittles hadn't been agreeing with you."

"My health is all right, sir."

"Heard you had trouble with Marston," proceeded the old skipper, with brutal frankness. "Anybody who has trouble with that damnation pirate comes well recommended to me. He is trying to steal every steamboat line on this coast. Thank Gawd, he can never get his claws on the old Vose line. Some great doings in the steamboat business are ahead, Mayo. Reckon it's a good line to be in if you like fight and want to make your bigness."

Mayo walked on in silence. He was troubled by this added information that news of his affair with Marston had gained such wide currency. However, he was glad that this new opportunity offered him a chance to hide himself in the isolation of a freighter's pilot-house.

Captain Candage received the news with meek resignation. "I knowed it would have to come," he said. "Couldn't expect much else. Howsomever, it ain't comforting."

"Can't keep a good boy like this pawing around in fish gurry," stated Captain Wass.

"I know it, and I wish him well and all the best!"

Their leave-taking, presided over by the peremptory master of the Nequasset, was short.

"I'll probably have a chance to see you when we come here again," called Mayo from the wharf, looking down into the mournful countenance of the skipper. "Perhaps I'll have time to run down to Maquoit while we are discharging. At any rate, explain it all for me, especially to your daughter."

"I'll tell all concerned just what's right," Captain Candage assured him. "I'll tell her for you."

She was on the beach when the skipper came rowing in alone from the Ethel and May.

"He's gone," he called to her. "Of course we couldn't keep him. He's too smart to stay on a job like this."

When they were on their way up to the widow's cottage he stole side-glances at her, and her silence distressed him.

"Let's see! He says to me—if I can remember it right-he says, says he, 'Take my best respects and '—let's see—yes, 'take my best respects and love to your Polly—'"

"Father! Please don't fib."

"It's just as I remember it, dear. 'Especial,' he says. I remember that! 'Especial,' he says. And he looked mighty sad, dear, mighty sad." He put his arm about her. "There are a lot of sad things in this world for everybody, Polly. Sometimes things get so blamed mixed up that I feel like going off and climbing a tree!"



XV ~ THE RULES OF THE ROAD

Now the Dreadnought's a-sailing the Atlantic so wide, Where the high, roaring seas roll along her black side. Her sailors like lions walk the deck to and fro, She's the Liverpool packet—O Lord let her go! —Song of the Flash Packet.

On a day in early August the Nequasset came walloping laboriously up-coast through a dungeon fog, steel rails her dragging burden, caution her watchword.

The needle of her indicator marked "Half speed," and it really meant half speed. Captain Zoradus Wass made scripture of the rules laid down by the Department of Commerce and Labor. There was no tricky slipping-over under his sway—no finger-at-nose connivance between the pilot-house and the chief engineer's grille platform. No, Captain Wass was not that kind of a man, though the fog had held in front of him two days, vapor thick as feathers in a tick, and he had averaged not much over six nautical miles an hour, and was bitterly aware that the rate of freight on steel rails was sixty-five cents a ton.

"And as I've been telling you, at sixty-five cents there's about as much profit as there would be in swapping hard dollars from one hand to the other and depending on what silver you can rub off," said Captain Wass to First-mate Mayo.

The captain was holding the knob of the whistle-pull In constant clutch. Regularly every minute Nequasset's prolonged blast sounded, strictly according to the rules of the road.

Her voice started with a complaining squawk, was full toned for a few moments, then trailed off into more querulousness; the timbre of that tone seemed to fit with Captain Wass's mood.

"It's tough times when a cargo-carrier has to figger so fine that she can lose profit on account of what the men eat," he went on. "If you're two days late, minding rules in a fog, owners ask what the tophet's the matter with you! This kind of business don't need steamboat men any longer; it calls for boarding-house keepers who can cut sirloin steak off'n a critter clear to the horn, and who are handy in turning sharp corners on left-overs. I'll buy a book of cooking receets and try to turn in dividends."

The captain was broad-bowed, like the Nequasset, he sagged on short legs as if he carried a cargo fully as heavy as steel rails, his white whiskers streamed away from his cutwater nose like the froth kicked up by the old freighter's forefoot. He chewed slowly, conscientiously and continuously on tobacco which bulged in his cheek; his jaws, moving as steadily as a pendulum swings, seemed to set the time for the isochronal whistle-blast. Sixty ruminating jaw-wags, then he spat into the fog, then the blast—correct to the clock's tide!

The windows of the pilot-house were dropped into their casings, so that all sounds might be admitted; the wet breeze beaded the skipper's whiskers and dampened the mate's crisp hair. While the mate leaned from a window, ear cocked for signals, the captain gave him more of the critical inspection in which he had been indulging when occasion served.

Furthermore, Captain Wass went on pecking around the edges of a topic which he had been attacking from time to time with clumsy attempt at artful inquisition.

"As bad as it is on a freighter, I reckon you ain't sorry you're off that yacht, son?"

"I'm not sorry, sir."

"From what you told me, the owner was around meddling all the time."

"I don't remember that I ever said so, sir."

"Oh, I thought you did," grunted Captain Wass, and he covered his momentary check by sounding the whistle.

"Now that you are back in the steamboat business, of course you're a steamboat man. Have the interests of your owners at heart," he resumed.

"Certainly, sir."

"It would be a lot of help to the regular steamboat men—the good old stand-bys—if they could get some kind of a line on what them Wall Street cusses are gunning through with Marston leading 'em—or, at leastways, he's supposed to be leading. He hides away in the middle of the web and lets the other spiders run and fetch. But it's Marston's scheme, you can bet on that! What do you think?"

"I haven't thought anything about it, Captain Wass." "But how could you help thinking, catching a word here and a word there, aboard that yacht?"

"I never listened—I never heard anything."

"But he had them other spiders aboard—seen 'em myself through my spy-glass when you passed us one day in June."

"I suppose they talked together aft, but my duty was forward, sir."

"It's too bad you didn't have a flea put into your ear about getting a line on Marston's scheme, whatever it is. You could have helped the real boys in this game!"

Mayo did not reply.

Captain Wass showed a resolve to quit pecking at the edges and make a dab at the center of the subject. He pulled the whistle, released the knob, and turned back to the window, setting his elbows on the casing.

"Son, you ain't in love with that pirate Marston, are you?"

"No, sir!" replied the young man, with bitterness that could not be doubted.

"Well, how about your being in love with his daughter?" The caustic humor in the old skipper's tones robbed the question of some of its brutal bluntness, and Mayo was accustomed to Captain Wass's brand of humor. The young man did not turn his head for a few moments; he continued to look into the fog as if intent on his duty; he was trying to get command of himself, fully aware that resentment would not work in the case of Zoradus Wass. When Mayo did face the skipper, the latter was discomposed in his turn, for Mayo showed his even teeth in a cordial smile.

"Do you think I have been trying the chauffeur trick in order to catch an heiress, sir?"

"Well, there's quite a gab-wireless operating along-coast and sailors don't always keep their yawp closed after they have taken a man's money to keep still," stated Captain Wass, pointedly. "I wouldn't blame you for grabbing in. You're good-looking enough to do what others have done in like cases."

"Thank you, sir. What's the rest of the joke?"

"I never joke," retorted the skipper, turning and pulling the whistle-cord. Nequasset's squall rose and died down in her brazen throat. "Her name is Alma?" he prodded. "Something of a clipper. If Marston ever makes you general manager, put me into a better job than this, will you?"

"I will, sir!"

The skipper gave his mate a disgusted stare. "You're a devil of a man to keep up a conversation with!" He spat against the wall of the fog and again let loose the freighter's hoarse lament.

From somewhere, ahead, a horn wailed, dividing its call into two blasts.

"Port tack and headed acrost us," snarled the master, after a sniff at the air and a squint at the sluggish ripple.

"Why ain't the infernal fool anchored, instead of drifting around underfoot? How does he bear, Mr. Mayo?" He was now back to pilot-house formality with his mate.

"Two points and a half, starboard bow, sir. And there's another chap giving one horn in about the same direction."

"Another drifter—not wind enough for 'em to know what tack they're really on. Well, there's always Article Twenty-seven to fall back on," grumbled the skipper. He quoted sarcastically in the tone in which that rule is mouthed so often in pilot-houses along coast: '"Due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision, and to any special circumstances which may render a departure from the above rules necessary, and so forth and et cetry. Meaning, thank the Lord, that a steamer can always run away from a gad-slammed schooner, even at half speed. Hope if it ever comes to a showdown the secretary of the bureau of commerce will agree with me. Ease her off to starboard, Mr. Mayo, till we bring 'em abeam."

The mate gave a quick glance at the compass. "East by nothe, Jack," he commanded.

"East by nothe, sir," repeated the quartermaster in mechanical tones, spinning the big wheel to the left.

It was evident that the Nequasset had considerable company on the sea that day. A little abaft her beam a tugboat was blowing one long and two short, indicating her tow. She had been their "chum" for some time, and Mayo had occasionally taken her bearings by sound and compass and knew that the freighter was slowly forging ahead. He figured, listening again to the horns, that the Nequasset was headed to clear all.

"You take a skipper who studies his book and is always ready to look the department in the eye, without flinching, he has to mind his own business and mind the other fellow's, too," said Captain Wass, continuing his monologue of grouch. "Dodging here and there, keeping out of the way, two days behind schedule, meat three times a day or else you can't keep a crew, and everybody hearty at meal-time! My owners have never told me to let the law go to hoot and ram her for all she's worth! But when I carry in my accounts they seem to be trying to think up language that tells a man to do a thing, and yet doesn't tell him. What's that?" He put his head far out of the window.

Floating out of the fog came a dull, grunting sound, a faint and far-away diapason, a marine whistle which announced a big chap.

"I should say it is a Union liner, sir—either the Triton or Neptune."

They listened. They waited two long minutes for another signal.

"Seems to be taking up his full, legal time," growled Captain Wass. "Since Marston has gobbled that line maybe he has put on a special register to keep tabs on tooting—thinks it's waste of steam and will reduce dividends. Expects us little fellows to do the squawking!"

The big whistle boomed again, dead ahead, and so much nearer that it provoked the skipper to lash out a round oath.

"He is reeling off eighteen knots for a gait, or you can use my head for a rivet nut!" He yanked the cord and the freighter howled angrily. The other replied with bellowing roar—autocratic, domineering. With irony, with vindictiveness, Captain Wass pitched his voice in sarcastic nasal tone and recited another rule—thereby trying to express his irate opinion of the lawlessness of other men.

"Article Sixteen, Mr. Mayo! He probably carries it in his watch-case instead of his girl's picture! Nice reading for a rainy day! 'A steam-vessel hearing apparently forward of her beam the fog signal of a vessel, the position of which is not ascertained, shall, so far as the circumstances of the case permit, stop her engines and then navigate with caution until all danger of collision is over.' Hooray for the rules!"

Captain Wass hooked a gnarled finger into the loop of the bell-pull and yanked upward viciously. A dull clang sounded far below. He pulled again and the vibration of the engine ceased.

"Gad rabbit it! I'll go the whole hog as the department orders! If he bangs into me we'll see who comes off best at the hearing."

He gave the bell-loop two quick jerks; then he shifted his hand to another pull and the jingle bell sounded in the engine-room—the Nequasset was ordered to make full speed astern.

The freighter shook and shivered when the screw began to reverse, pulling at the frothing sea, clawing frantically to haul her to a stop. The skipper then gave three resentful, protesting whistle-blasts.

But the reply he received from ahead was a hoarse, prolonged howl. In it there was no hint that the big fellow proposed to heed the protest of the three blasts. It was insistence on right of way, the insolence of the swaggering express liner making time in competition with rivals; it hinted confident opinion that smaller chaps would better get out of the way.

The on-comer had received a signal which served to justify that opinion. Captain Wass had docilely announced that he was going full speed astern, his whistle-blasts had declared that he had stepped off the sidewalk of the ocean lane—as usual! The big fellows knew that the little chaps would do it!

Mate Mayo leaned from the window, his jaw muscles tense, anxiety in his eyes.

The big whistle now was fairly shaking the curtains of the mists and was not giving him any comforting assurance that the liner was swinging to avoid them.

The quartermaster was taking the situation more philosophically than his superiors. He hummed:

Sez all the little fishes that swim to and fro, She's the Liverpool packet—O Lord let her go!

"Does that gor-righteously fool ahead there think I blowed three whistles to salute Marston's birthday or their last dividend, Mr. Mayo?" shouted Captain Wass.

Fogs are freaky; ocean mists are often eerie in movements. There are strata, there are eddying air-currents which rend the curtain or shred the massing vapors. The men in the pilot-house of the Nequasset suddenly found their range of vision widened. The fog did not clear; it became more tenuous and showed an area of the sea. It was like a thin veil which disclosed dimly what it distorted and magnified.

In a fog, experienced steamboat men always examine with earnest gaze the line where fog and ocean merge. They do not stare up into the fog, trying to distinguish the loom of an on-coming craft; they are able to discern first of all the white line of foam marking the vessel's cutwater kick-up or her wake.

"There she comes, sir!" announced the mate. He pointed his finger at a foaming upthrust of tossing water.

"Yes, sir! Eighteen knots and both eyes shut!" But there was relief mingled with the resentment. His quick glance informed him that the liner would pass the Nequasset well to starboard—her bow showed a divergence of at least two points from the freighter's course. But the next instant Captain Wass yelped a shout of angry alarm. "Yes, both eyes shut!" he repeated.

Right in line with the liner's threshing bow was a fisherman's Hampton boat, disclosed as the fog drifted.

The passenger-steamer gave forth a half-dozen "woofs" from her whistle, answering the freighter's staccato warning, but gave no signs of slowing. But that they were making an attempt to dodge the mite in their path was made known by a shout from their lookout and his shrill call: "Port! Hard over!"

The fisherman had all the alertness of his kind, trained by dangers and ever-present prospect of mischance to grab at desperate measures. He leaped forward and pulled out his mast and tossed mast and sail overboard.

He knew that he must encounter the tremendous wash and wake of the rushing hull. His shell of a boat, if made topheavy by the sail, would stand small show.

"He's a goner!" gasped Captain Wass. "She's a-going to tramp him plumb underfoot—unless she's going to get up a little more speed and jump over him!" he added, moved to bitter sarcasm.

They saw the little boat go into eclipse behind the black prow, the first lift of the churning waters flipping the cockleshell as a coin is snapped by the thumb. The fisherman was not in view—he had thrown himself flat in the bottom of his boat.

"He's under for keeps," stated the skipper, with conviction. "If her bilge-keel doesn't cooper him, her port propeller will!"

So rapidly was the liner moving, so abrupt her swoop to the right, that she leaned far over and showed them the red of her huge bilge. Her high speed enabled her to make an especially quick turn. As they gaped, her two stacks swung almost into line. Her shearing bow menaced the Nequasset.

"The condemned old hellion is going to nail us, now!" bellowed Captain Wass. In his panic and his fury he leaped up and down, pulling at the whistle-cord.

She was almost upon them—only a few hundred yards of gray water separated the two steamers.

She was the Triton!

Her name was disclosed on her bow. Her red hawse-holes showed like glowering and savage eyes. There was indescribably brutal threat in this sudden dart in their direction. It was as if a sea monster had swallowed an insect in the shape of a Hampton boat and now sought a real mouthful. But her great rudder swung to the quick pull of her steam steering-gear and again she sheered, cutting a letter s. The movement brought her past the stern of the Nequasset, a biscuit-toss away. The mighty surge of her roaring passage lifted the freighter's bulk aft, and the huge wave that was crowded between the two hulls crowned itself with frothing white and slapped a good, generous ton of green water over the smaller steamer's superstructure.

Captain Wass grabbed down his megaphone; he wanted to submit a few remarks which seemed to fit the incident.

But the captain of the Triton was beforehand with a celerity which matched the up-to-date speed of his craft. He was bellowing through the huge funnel which a quartermaster was holding for him. His language was terrific. He cursed freighters in most able style. He asked why the Nequasset was loafing there in the seaway without steering headway on her! That amazing query took away Captain Wass's breath and all power to retort. Asking that of a man who had obeyed the law to the letter! A fellow who was banging through the fog at eighteen knots' speed blaming a conscientious skipper because the latter had stopped so as to get out of the way!

And, above all, going so fast when he asked the question that he was out of ear-shot before suitable answer could be returned!

Captain Wass revolved those whirling thoughts in a brain which flamed and showed its fires through the skipper's wide-propped eyes.

Then he banged his megaphone across the pilot-house. It rebounded against him, and he kicked it into a corner. He began to whack his fist against a broad placard which was tacked up under his license as master. The cardboard was freshly white, and its tacks were bright, showing that it had been recently added as a feature of the pilot-house. Big letters in red ink at the top counseled, "Safety First." Other big letters at the bottom warned, "Take No Chances." The center lettering advised shipmasters that in case of accident the guilty parties would feel all the weight of Uncle Sam's heavy palm; it was the latest output from the Department of Commerce and Labor, and bore the signature of the honorable secretary of the bureau.

Mayo noted that his chief was wholly absorbed in this speechless activity; therefore he pulled the bells which stopped the backward churning and sent the freighter on her way. They passed the fisherman in the Hampton boat; he was bailing his craft.

"That was a rather close call, sir! I am glad that I have been trained by you to be a careful man. You took no chances!"

"And where have I got to by obeying the United States rules and never taking chances, Mr. Mayo? At sixty-five I'm master of a freight-scow, sassed by owners ashore and sassed on the high seas by fellows like that one who just slammed past us! If that passenger-steamer had hit me the lawyers would have shoved the tar end of the stick into my hands! It's all for the good of the hellbent fellows the way things are arranged in this world at the present time. I'll be lucky if he doesn't lodge complaint against me when he gets to New York, saying that I got in his way!" He cut off a fresh sliver of black plug and took his position at the whistle-pull. "You'd better go get an heiress," he advised his mate, sourly. "Being an old-fashioned skipper in these days of steam-boating is what I'm too polite to name. And as to being the other kind—well, you have just seen him whang past!"

However, as they went wallowing up the coast, their old tub sagging with the weight of the rails under her hatches, Mate Mayo felt considerable of a young man's ambitious envy of that spick-and-span swaggerer who had yelled anathema from the pilot-house of the Triton. It was real steamboating, he reflected, even if the demands of owners and dividend-seekers did compel a master to take his luck between his teeth and gallop down the seas.



XVI ~ MILLIONS AND A MITE

To Tiffany's I took her, I did not mind expense; I bought her two gold ear-rings, They cost me fifty cents. And a-a-away, you santee! My dear Annie! O you New York girls! Can't you dance the polka! —Shanty, "The Lime Juicer."

Mr. Ralph Bradish, using one of the booth telephones in the Wall Street offices of Marston & Waller, earnestly asked the cashier of an up-town restaurant, as a special favor, to hold for twenty-four hours the personal check, amount twenty-five dollars, given by Mr. Bradish the evening before.

Ten minutes later, with the utmost nonchalance and quite certain that the document was as good as wheat, Mr. Bradish signed a check for one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

That amount in no measure astonished him. He was quite used to signing smashing-big checks when he was called into the presence of Julius Marston. Once, the amount named was two millions. And there had been numbers and numbers of what Mr. Bradish mentally termed "piker checks"—a hundred thousand, two and three hundred thousand. And he had never been obliged to request any hold up on those checks for want of funds. Because, in each instance, there had been a magic, printed line along which Mr. Bradish had splashed his signature.

Before he blotted the ink on this check Bradish glanced, with only idle curiosity, to note in what capacity he was serving this time. The printed line announced to him that he was "Treasurer, the Paramount Coast Transportation Company, Inc." He remembered that in the past he had signed as treasurer of the "Union Securities Company," the "Amalgamated Holding Company," and for other corporations sponsoring railroads and big industries with whose destinies Julius Marston, financier, appeared to have much to do. It was evident that Financier Marston preferred to have a forty-dollar-a-week clerk do the menial work of check-signing, or at least to have that clerk's name in evidence instead of Marston's own.

That modesty about having his name appear in public on a check seemed to attach to the business habits of Mr. Marston.

Mighty few person were ever admitted to this inner sanctuary where Bradish sat facing his employer across the flat-topped desk. And men who saw that employer outside his office did not turn their heads to stare after him or point respectful finger at him or remark to somebody else, "There's the big Julius Marston." In the first place, Mr. Marston was not big in a physical sense, and there was nothing about him which would attract attention or cause him to be remarked in a crowd. And only a few persons really knew him, anyway.

He sat in his massive chair; one hand propped on the arm, his elbow akimbo, and with the other hand plucked slowly at the narrow strip of beard which extended from his lower lip to the peaked end of his chin.

"Very well, Mr. Bradish," he remarked, after the latter had lifted the blotter from the check.

Bradish rose and bowed, and started to leave. He was a tall and shapely young man, with a waist, with a carriage. His garb was up-to-the-minute fashion—repressed. He was a study in brown, as to fabric of attire and its accessories. One of those white-faced chaps who always look a bit bored, with a touch of up-to-date cynicism! One of those fellows who listen much and who say little!

"Just a moment, Bradish," invited Marston, and the young man stopped. "I like your way in these matters. You don't ask questions. You show no silly interest in any check you sign."

Bradish reflected an instant on the check in the restaurant cashier's drawer, and pinched his thin lips a little more tightly.

"I'm quite sure you don't do any broadcast talking about the nature of these special duties." The financier pointed to the check. "I'll say quite frankly that I didn't select you for this service until I had ascertained that you did no talking about your own affairs in the office with my other clerks."

Bradish inclined his head respectfully.

"In financial matters it is necessary to pick men carefully. I trust you understand my attitude. These transactions are quite legitimate. But modern methods of high finance make it necessary to manipulate the details a little. Your attitude in accepting these duties, as a matter of course is very gratifying from a business standpoint. As a little mark of our confidence in you, you will receive seventy-five dollars per week hereafter."

"Thank you."

Mr. Martson allowed himself a quick, dry smile. "This isn't a bribe, you understand. There is nothing attached to this nominal service which requires bribing. We merely want to make it worth while for a prudent and close-mouthed young man to remain with us."

A buzzer, as unobtrusive as were all the characteristics of Financier Marston, sounded its meek purr.

"Yes," he murmured into the receiver of the telephone which communicated with the watchful picket of the Marston & Waller offices. "Who? Oh, she may come in at once."

"Wait here a moment, if you please, Mr. Bradish. It is my daughter who has dropped in for a moment's word with me. I have something more for you to attend to."

Bradish walked to one of the windows. He stared sharply at the girl who hurried in. Her hat and face were shrouded in an automobile veil, and the cloistered light of the big room helped to conceal her features. But Bradish seemed to recognize something about her in spite of the vagueness of outline. When she spoke to her father the young man's eyes snapped in true astonishment.

"I couldn't explain it very well over the telephone, papa, so I came right down. Do forgive me if I bother you for just a minute." She glanced quickly at the young man beside the window, but found him merely an outline against the light.

"Only one of our clerks," said her father. "What is it, my girl?"

"It's Nan Burgess's house-party at Kingston! There's to be an automobile parade—all decorated—at the fete, and I want to go in our big car, and have it two days. I was afraid you'd say no if I asked you over the telephone, but now that I'm right here, looking you in the eyes with all the coaxing power of my soul, you just can't refuse, can you, papa?"

"I think perhaps I would have consented over the telephone, Alma."

"Then I may take the car?" Her playful tones rose in ecstatic crescendo. The impulsiveness of her nature was displayed by her manner in accepting this favor. She danced to her father and threw her arms about him. She exhibited as much delight as if he had bestowed upon her a gift of priceless pearls. The exuberance of her joy appeared to annoy him a bit.

"Gently, gently, Alma! If you waste your thanks in this manner for a little favor, what will you do some day for superlatives when you are really eager to thank some-body for a big gift?"

"Oh, I'll always have thanks enough to go around—that's my disposition. The folks who love me, I can love them twice as much. You're a dear old dad, and I know you want me to run along so that you can go to making a lot more money. So I'll just take myself out from underfoot."

When she turned she glanced again at the person near the window, and this time she got a good look at his face. Even the veil could not hide from Bradish the color which spread into her cheeks. She was so conscious of her embarrassment and of her appearance that she did not turn her face to her father when he spoke to her.

"One moment, Alma! Seeing that my big car is going to have a two days' vacation in the country, I may as well make it do one last business errand for me."

He called Bradish to the desk by a side jerk of the head.

"I want that check put into the hands of the brokerage firm of Mower Brothers as quickly as possible. My car is at the door, and it may as well take you along. Alma, allow this young man of ours to ride with you to the place where I'm sending him."

He did not present Bradish to Miss Marston. Bradish did not expect the financier to do so. But this dismissal of him as a mere errand-boy—with the young lady staring him out of countenance in a half-frightened way—did cut the pride a bit, even in the case of a mere clerk. And this clerk was pondering on the memory that only the night before he had clasped this young lady—then a party unknown who was evidently bent upon an escapade incog.—had encircled this selfsame maiden with his arms during many blissful dances in one of the gorgeous Broadway public ball-rooms. And he had regaled her and a girl friend on viands for which his twenty-five-dollar check had scarcely sufficed to pay.

Bradish was pretty familiar with the phases and the oddities of the dancing craze, but this contretemps rather staggered him.

They had asked no questions of each other during those dances. They had been perfectly satisfied with the joy of the moment. She had looked at him in a way and with a softness in her eyes which told him that she found him pleasing in her sight. She had been enthusiastic, with that same exuberance he had just witnessed, over his grace in the dance. They had promised to meet again at the ball-room where social conventions did not prevent healthy young folks from enjoying themselves.

"Good heavens!" she whispered to him, as she preceded him through the door. "You work in my father's office?"

"You are surprised—a little shocked—and I don't blame you," he returned, humbly. "As for me, I am simply astounded. But I am not a gossip."

She stole a look at his pale, impassive face, and some of her father's instinct in judging men seemed to reassure her.

"One must play a bit," she sighed. "And it's so stupid most of the time, among folks whom one knows very well. There are no more surprises."

As he shut the door softly behind them Bradish heard Marston, once more immersed in his affairs of business, directing over the telephone that one Fletcher Fogg be located and sent to him.

"I apologize," said Bradish, in the corridor. They were waiting for the elevator.

"For what?" She lifted her eyebrows, and there was no hint of annoyance in her dark eyes.

"For—well—seeing how the matter stands, it almost seems as if I had presumed—was masquerading. I am only a clerk, and—"

"But you are a clerk in Julius Marston's offices," she said, with pride, "and that means that you are to be trusted. I require no apology from you, Mr.—er—"

"My name is Ralph Bradish."

"I dodged away from dullness last evening; I was hoping to have a bit of a frolic. And I found a young gentleman who asked no impertinent questions, who was very gracious, and who was a delight in the dance. It was all very innocent—rather imprudent—but altogether lovely. There!"

"I thank you."

"And—well, after Nan Burgess's house-party, I—"

She glanced up at him, provocation in her eyes.

"But I don't dare to hope, do I, that you will condescend to come again and dance with me?"

"Julius Marston has taught his daughter to keep her promise, sir. If I remember, I promised."

He did not reply, for the elevator's grille door clashed open for them to enter.

And in the elevator, and later in the car, he was silent, as became the clerk of Marston's offices in the company of Marston's daughter when there were listeners near.

Her eyes gave him distinct approval and her lips gave him a charming smile when he alighted at his destination.

Bradish stood for a moment and gazed after the car when it threaded its way into the Broadway traffic.

"She's a flighty young dame, with a new notion for every minute," he told himself. "You can see that plain enough. It's probably all jolly on her part. However, in these days, if a fellow keeps his head steady and his feet busy, there's no telling what the tango may lead to. This may be exactly, what I've been paying tailors' bills for."

Indicating that in these calculating times the spirit of youth in the ardor of love at first sight is not as the poet of romance has painted it.



XVII ~ "EXACTLY!" SAID MR. FOGG

"O I am not a man o' war or privateer," said he, Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we! "But I'm an honest pirate a-looking for my fee, Cruising down along the coast of the High Barbaree." —Shanty of the "Prince Luther."

Mr. Fletcher Fogg privately and mentally and metaphorically slapped himself on the back whenever he considered his many activities.

He was perfectly certain that he was the best little two-handed general operator of an all-around character that any gentleman could secure when that gentleman wanted a job done and did not care to give explicit instructions as to the details of procedure.

The look of grief and regret that the fat face of Mr. Fogg could assume when said gentleman—after the job was done—blamed the methods as unsanctioned, even though the result had been achieved—that expression was a study in humility—humility with its tongue in its cheek.

If Mr. Fogg could have advertised his business to suit himself—being not a whit ashamed of his tactics—he would have issued a card inscribed about as follows:

"Mr. FLETCHER FOGG: Promoting and demoting. Building and busting. The whole inside of any financial or industrial cheese cleaned out without disturbing the outside rind. All still work done noiselessly. Plenty of brass bands for loud work. Broad shoulders supplied to take on all the blame."

Mr. Fogg, in the presence of Julius Marston, was properly obsequious, but not a bit fawning. He wiped away the moisture patches beside his nose with a purple handkerchief, and put it back into his outside breast pocket with the corners sticking out like attentive ears. He crossed his legs and set on his knee an ankle clothed in a purple silk stocking. On account of his rotundity he was compelled to hold the ankle in place in the firm clutch of his hand. He settled his purple tie with the other hand.

"I'm glad I was in reach when you wanted me," he assured Mr. Marston. "I'm just in on the Triton. And I want to tell you that you're running that steamboat line in the way an American business man wants to have it run. If I had been on any other line, sir, I wouldn't have been here to-day when you were looking for me. Everything else on the coast prowling along half-speed, but down slammed the old Triton, scattering 'em out from underfoot like an auto going through a flock of chickens, but not a jar or a scrape or a jolt, and into her dock, through two days of thick fog, exactly on the dot. That's the way an American wants to be carried, sir."

"I believe so, Mr. Fogg," agreed Julius Marston. "And that's why we feel it's going to be a good thing for all the coast lines to be under one management—our management."

"Exactly!"

"It's true progress—true benefit to travelers, stockholders, and all concerned. Consolidation instead of rivalry. I believe in it."

"Exactly!"

"As a broad-gauged business man—big enough to grasp big matters—you have seen how consolidation effects reforms."

"No two ways about it," affirmed Mr. Fogg.

"That was very good missionary work you did in the matter of the Sound & Cape line—very good indeed."

"It's astonishing what high and lofty ideas some stockholders have about properties they're interested in. In financial matters the poorest conclusion a man can draw is that a stock will always continue to pay dividends simply because it always has done so. I had to set off a pretty loud firecracker to wake those Sound & Cape fellows up. I had to show 'em what damage the new deals and competition and our combination would do to 'em if they kept on sleeping on their stock certificates. Funny how hard it is to pry some folks loose from their par-value notions." Mr. Fogg delivered this little disquisition on the intractability of stockholders with reproachful vigor, staring blandly into the unwinking gaze of Mr. Marston. "I don't want to praise my own humble efforts too much," he went on, "but I truly believe that inside another thirty days the Sound crowd would have been ready to cash in at fifty, in spite of that minority bunch that was hollering for par. That was only a big yawp from a few folks."

"Fifty was a fair price in view of what's ahead in the way of competition, but we have made it a five-eighths proposition in order to clinch the deal promptly. I just sent one of our boys around with the check."

Mr. Fogg beamed. He used his purple handkerchief on his cheeks once more. He allowed to himself a few words of praise: "They'll understand some day that I saved 'em from a bigger bump. But it's hard to show some people."

"Now, Mr. Fogg, we come to the matter of the Vose line. What's the outlook?"

Mr. Fogg looked sad. "After weeks of chasing 'em, I can only say that they're ugly and stubborn, simply blind to their best interests."

"Insist on par, do they?"

"Worse than that. Old Vose and his sons and those old hornbeam directors—retired sea-captains, you know, as hard as old turtles—they have taken a stand against consolidation. They belong in the dark ages of business. Old Vose had the impudence to tell me that forming this steamboat combine was a crime, and that he wouldn't be a party to a betrayal of the public. He won't come in; he won't sell; he's going to compete."

Mr. Marston stroked his strip of beard. "In order for our stock to be what we intend it to be, the Paramount Coast Transportation has got to operate as a complete monopoly, as you understand, Mr. Fogg. A beneficent monopoly—consolidation benefiting all—but nevertheless a monopoly. With one line holding out on us, we've got only a limping proposition."

"Exactly!"

"What are we going to do about the Vose line?"

"Let it compete, sir. We can kill it in the end."

"Possibly—probably. But that plan will not serve, Mr. Fogg."

"It's business."

"But it is not finance. I'm looking at this proposition solely as a financier, Mr. Fogg. I hardly know one end of a steamboat from the other. I'm not interested in rate-cutting problems. I don't know how long it would take to put the Vose line under. But I do know this, as a financier, handling a big deal, that the Paramount stock will not appeal to investors or the bonds to banks unless we can launch our project as a clean, perfect combination, every transportation charter locked up. I handle money, and I know all of money's timidity and all of money's courage. You think the Vose directors are able to hold their stockholders in line, do you?"

Mr. Fogg uncrossed his legs, put both feet on the floor, hooked his hands across his paunch, and gazed up at the ceiling, evidently pondering profoundly.

"I repeat, I'm not viewing this thing as a steamboating proposition, not figuring what kind of tariffs will kill competition," stated Mr. Marston. "I'm not estimating what kind of tariffs will make a profit for the Paramount. I'd as soon sell sugar over the counter. My associates expect me to make money for them in another way—make it in big lumps and on a quick turn. The Vose line, competing, kills us from the financial viewpoint."

"Exactly."

There was silence in the room for some time.

"There's never any telling what stockholders will do," remarked Mr. Fogg, his eyes still studying the panels of the ceiling.

Mr. Marston did not dispute that dictum.

His field-marshal slowly tipped down his head and gave his superior another of those bland stares.

"So I'll go right ahead and see what they'll do, sir."

He rose and kicked the legs of his trousers into place.

"You understand that in this affair, as in all matters where you have been employed, there must be absolutely clean work. There must be no come-back. Of course, I have instructed you to this effect regularly, but I wish to have you remember that I have repeated the instructions, sir."

"Exactly!" Mr. Fogg's eyes did not blink.

"You will be prepared to testify to that effect in case the need ever arises."

"Exactly!"

Mr. Fogg delivered that word like a countersign. Into it, in his interviews with Julius Marston, he put understanding, humility, promise.

"May we expect quick action?" asked the financier. "The thing mustn't hang fire. We have a lot of our nimble money tied up as it is."

"Exactly!" returned Mr. Fogg, on his way to the door. "Quick action it is!"

"This is probably the craziest idea that ever popped into a man's head when that man was sitting in Julius Marston's office," reflected Mr. Fogg, marching through the anteroom of this temple of finance. "There's one thing about it that's comforting—it's so wild-eyed it will never be blamed on to Julius Marston as any of his getting up. And that's his principal lookout when a deal is on. It seems to be up to me to deliver the goods."

He sat down on a bench in the waiting-room and rubbed his knuckles over his forehead.

"Just let me get this thing right end to," he told himself. "How did the idea happen to hit me, anyway? Oh, yes! Old Vose bragging to me that every stockholder in the Vose line was behind him, and that the annual meeting was about to come off, and then I would see what a condemned poor show I stood to get even the toe of my boot into the crack of the company door. He's a Maine corporation. I've known of cases where that fact helped a lot. There are plenty of ifs and buts in this thing, but here goes!"

He applied himself to one of the office telephones, asked for several numbers, one after the other, and put questions with eagerness and rapidity.

The information he received seemed to disturb him considerably. He came out of the booth and scrubbed his cheeks with his purple handkerchief.

"Their annual meeting at ten o'clock to-morrow morning, four hundred miles from here! Well, I suppose I ought to be thankful that it's not being held right now," Mr. Fogg informed himself, determined to fan that one flicker of hope with both wings of his optimism. "But I've got to admit that twenty-four hours is almighty scant time for a job of this sort, even when the operator is the little Fogg boy himself. Damme, I haven't come to a full, realizing sense yet of all I've got to do and how I'm going to do it."

He hurried out, dove into an elevator, and was shot down to the street.

He was lucky enough to find a taxi at the curb.

"Grand Central," he told the driver. "I've got five dollars that says you can beat the Subway express and land me in season for the ten-o'clock limited for Boston."

As soon as it became evident to Mr. Fogg that his driver had seen his duty and was going to do it, traffic squad be blowed, the promoter settled back, and his thoughts began to revolve faster than the taxi's wheels.

"It's going to be like the mining-camp 'lulu hand,'" was his mental preface to his plans. "It can be played only once in a sitting-in; it has got to be backed with good bluff, but it's a peach when it works. And what am I a promoter for? What have I studied foreign corporation laws for?"

Mr. Fogg took off his hat and mopped his bald spot, wrinkling his eyelids in deep reflection.

"The idea is," he mused, "I'm a candidate for the presidency of the Vose line at to-morrow's meeting. But I haven't been elected yet!"

However, Mr. Fogg's preliminary sniffing at the affairs of the Vose line had informed him where he could pick up at least ten scattered shares of their stock. He figured that before midnight he would have them in his possession. As to the next day and the next steps, well, the nerve of a real American plunger clings to life until the sunset of all hopes, even as the snake's tail, though the serpent's head be bruised beyond repair, is supposed to wriggle until sunset.

He despatched a telegram at New Haven. He received a reply at Providence, and he read it and felt like a gambler who has drawn a card to fill his bobtail hand. When a design is brazen and the game is largely a bluff, plain, lucky chance must be appealed to.

The telegram had been addressed to Attorney Sawyer Franklin, in a Maine city. It had requested an appointment with Mr. Franklin on the following morning.

The reply had stated that Mr. Franklin was critically ill in a hospital, but that all matters of business would be attended to by his office force, as far as was possible.

Attorney Sawyer Franklin, as Mr. Fogg, of course, was fully aware, was clerk of the Vose line corporation, organized according to the Maine law as a "foreign corporation," under the more liberal regulations which have attracted so many metropolitan promoters into the states of Maine and New Jersey.



XVIII ~ HOW AN ANNUAL MEETING WAS HELD—ONCE!

O, a ship she was rigged and ready for sea, And all of her sailors were fishes to be! Windy-y-weather, Stormy-y-weather! When the wind blows we're all together! —The Fishes.

Fletcher Fogg, suave, dignified, radiating business importance, freshened by a barber's ministrations, walked into the Franklin law-offices the next morning at nine-thirty.

He announced himself to a girl typist, and she referred him to a young man who came forth from a private room.

"I have power of attorney from Mr. Franklin to transact his routine business," explained the young man. "Of course, if it's a new case or a question of law—"

"Neither, neither, my dear sir! Simply a matter of routine. But," he leaned close to the young man's ear, "strictly private."

Mr. Fogg himself closed the door of the inner office when the two had retired there.

"One of your matters to-day, I believe, is the annual meeting of the Vose line. I am a stockholder."

Fogg produced a packet of certificates and laid them on the desk.

"Are there to be any officers or other stockholders present?" he asked, showing just a bit of solicitude, in spite of himself.

"I think not," returned the young man. "Nothing has been said about it. The proxies and instructions have been sent in, as usual, by registered mail." He indicated documents stacked on the desk. "I was just about to begin on the matter."

"I suppose our proxies run to the clerk of the corporation, as usual, with full power of substitution, clerk to follow instructions," said Mr. Fogg, a bit pompously, using his complete knowledge of corporation routine.

"Yes, sir. We handle most of the corporation meetings that way when it's all cut and dried. In this case, it's simply a re-election of the old officers."

"Exactly!"

Mr. Fogg pulled his chair closer, dabbed his purple handkerchief on each side of his nose, and inquired, kindly and confidentially: "My son, what's your name?"

"David Boyne."

"Law student here—secretary, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Exactly—and a long, hard pull ahead of you. It's too bad you're not in New York, where a young man doesn't have to travel the whole way around, but can cut a corner or two. I could give you a lot of examples of bright young chaps who have grabbed in when the grabbing was good.

"But I haven't the time. You take my word for it. I'm a plain, outspoken business man, and I'm in with the biggest financial interests in New York. And I'm going to offer you the grandest opportunity of your life right now, David."

He picked up his certificates and arranged them in one hand, as a player arranges his cards.

"I have here ten shares, say, and each share is owned by a different individual—all good men. You don't know them, but I do. They are connected with our big interests. And I'm right here as a stockholder. Do you realize, David, that instructing you to hold this meeting without a single stockholder present is really asking you to do something that's not strictly legal?"

"We usually do it this way," faltered Boyne.

"Exactly! Men like those who are running the Vose line are always asking an innocent man to do something illegal. I'm going to come right to the point with you, David. Those old moss-backs who have sent those instructions are trying to wreck the Vose line. I want you to disregard those instructions. I am anxious to be president and general manager of the line. I want you to elect as directors these stockholders." He tapped his finger on the certificates.

The young man was both frightened and bewildered. He turned pale. "I can't do that," he gasped.

"Yes, you can. There are the proxies. It's up to you to vote 'em as you want to. They allow full power of substitution, usual fashion!"

"But I can't disobey my instructions."

"I say you can, if you've got grit enough to make a good thing for yourself."

"Such a thing was never done here."

"Probably not. It's a new idea. But new things are being done right along in high finance. You ought to be up where big things are happening every day. You stand in with me, and I'll put you there. You see, I'm getting right down to cases on this matter with you, David. Vote those proxies as I direct and I'll hand you five thousand dollars inside of two hours, and will plant you in a corking job with my people as soon as this thing calms down. I could have palavered a long time before coming to business in this way, but I see you're a bright young fellow and don't need a lot of hair-oil talk. I don't ask you to hurt anybody in especial. You can elect the old treasurer—we don't want to handle the money—this is no cheap brace game. But I want a board of directors who will put me in as general manager until certain reforms can be instituted so as to bring the line up to date. Five thousand dollars, mind you, and then you'll be taken care of."

"But I'll be put into state prison."

"Nonsense, my boy! Why would you vote those proxies according to your instructions? Why, because it would be for your interest to do so if I hadn't come in here with a better proposition. Now it's for your interest to vote 'em as I tell you. The most they can make out of it is a breach of trust, and that amounts to nothing. With five thousand dollars in your mitt, you wouldn't need to hang around here to take a lot of slurs. I'll slip you another thousand for your expenses on a little trip till the air is all clear."

Boyne stared at this blunt and forceful tempter; his hand which clutched the chair-arms trembled; "I'm going to be still more frank with you, my boy. And, by the way, you must know that I'm no mere four-flusher. You've heard of Fletcher Fogg, eh? You knew who I was when you got that wire from me yesterday?"

"Why, yes, I know of you through our corporation work, sir."

"Exactly!" Mr. Fogg assumed even more unctuously the manner of an old friend. "Now, as I say, I'm going to be frank—take you in on the ground floor. Of course, they can have another—a special meeting of the Vose line after a thirty days' notice to the stockholders. They will probably call that meeting, and I don't care if they do. But I have an ambition to be general manager of the line for those thirty days to make—well, I want to make a little investigation of general conditions," declared Mr. Fogg, resorting to his purple handkerchief. "That's all I care to say. At the end of thirty days we may—I'm speaking of the big interests I represent—we may decide to buy the line and make it really worth something to the stockholders. You understand, I hope. It's strictly business—it's all right—it's good financiering. After it's all over and those old, hardshell directors wake up, I'll venture to say they'll be pleased all around that this little turn has been made. In the mean time, having been taken care of, you needn't mind whether they're pleased or not."

Boyne looked at the sheaf of certificates in Fogg's hand; he bent frightened gaze on the documents stacked on the desk. They lay there representing his responsibility, but they also represented opportunity. The sight of them was a rebuke to the agitated thoughts of treason which assailed him. But the mere papers had no voice to make that rebuke pointed.

Mr. Fogg did have a voice. "Five thousand dollars in your fist, my boy, as soon as I can work the wire to New York—and there's no piker about the man who can have five thousand flashed in here when he asks for it. You can see what kind of men are behind me. What do you care about old man Vose and his crowd?"

"There's Mr. Franklin! I'll be doing a mighty mean trick, Mr. Fogg. No, I'll not do it."

Mr. Fogg did not bluster. He was silent for some time. He pursed his lips and stared at Boyne, and then he shifted his gaze to the ceiling.

"It's too bad—too bad for a young fellow to turn down such an opportunity," he sighed. "It can be done without you, Boyne, in another way. The same result will happen. But you might as well be in on it. Now let me tell you a few instances of how some of the big men in this country got their start."

Mr. Fogg was an excellent raconteur with a vivid imagination, and it did not trouble his conscience because the narratives he imparted to this wide-eyed youth were largely apocryphal.

"You see," he put in at the end of the first tale, "what a flying start will do for a man. Suppose that chap I've just told you about sat back and refused to jump when the road was all open to him! You don't hear anybody knocking that man nowadays, do you? And yet that's the trick he pulled to get his start."

With a similar snapper did Mr. Fogg touch up each one of his stories of success.

"I—I didn't have any idea—I thought they managed it some other way," murmured David Boyne.

"Your horizon has been limited; you haven't been out in the world enough to know, my son."

"I have heard of all those men, of course. They're big men to-day."

"You didn't think they got to be millionaires by saving the money out of clerks' salaries, did you? Of course, Boyne, I admit that in this affair you'll be up to a little sharp practice. But you're not stealing anything. Nobody can lug off steamships in a vest pocket. It's only a deal—and deals are being made every day."

Fogg was a keen judge of his fellow-men. He knew weakness when he saw it. He could determine from a man's lower lip and the set of his nose whether that person were covetous. And he knew now what signified the flush on Boyne's cheeks and the light in his eyes. However, there was something else to reckon with.

"I will not betray Mr. Franklin's confidence in me. Positively, I will not," said the young man. "He's sick, and that would make it worse."

"How sick is he?"

"He is very, very ill. It was an operation, and he has had a relapse. But we hope he's coming out all right."

"What hospital is he in?"

Boyne gave the name.

"I think I'll call up and ask when it is expected that he can see visitors," announced Fogg, with business briskness. "I wish Franklin had been here on deck—Franklin, himself."

"I don't believe Mr. Franklin would turn a trick of this sort," asserted the clerk. "I'd hate to face him, after doing it myself."

"Franklin would be able to see further into a financial deal than a young chap," said Mr. Fogg, severely, and then he found his number and made his call. "Good heavens!" he blurted, after a question. "I am in his office. Yes, I'll tell Boyne."

With a fine affectation of grief and surprise, he snapped the transmitter upon the hook and whirled on Boyne. His back had been toward the young man—he had spoken with hand across the receiver.

"He has just died—he's dead! Franklin has passed away."

"I would have been notified," gasped Boyne.

"They were just going to call you. You heard me say I'd inform you."

"But I must call the hospital—offer my services. I must go up there."

Mr. Fogg put out his hand and pressed the young man back into his chair. "A lulu must be played quick and the pot raked sudden," he reflected.

"Just a moment, my son. Now you're standing on your own bottom. You won't have to explain to Mr. Franklin."

He pointed to the clock. His stories had consumed time. The hour was ten-thirty-five.

"That annual meeting of the Vose line was called for ten of the clock to-day. Mr. Franklin was alive at that hour. He was the clerk of that corporation. What happens now will not embarrass you so far as he's concerned. Be sensible. Make a stroke for yourself. You're out of a job, anyway. Go to it, now."

Fogg spoke sharply, imperiously. He exerted over the young man all the force of his personality.

"Five thousand dollars—protected by my interests—slipped out of sight for a few months—it's easy. Sit down there and make up your records; vote those proxies. Vote 'em, I say. This meeting was held at ten o'clock. Make up your records."

He stood over Boyne, arguing, promising, urging, and the young man, at last, sweating, flushed, trembling, bent over his documents, sorted them, and made up his records.

"We'll send on a copy to the office of the Vose line by registered mail," commanded Fogg. "Attest it as a copy of the true record by notary. When it drops in on 'em I will be there, with my directors and my little story—and the face of Uncle Vose will be worth looking at, though his language may not be elevating. You come out with me, Boyne. I'm going to the telegraph office."

"But I must get in touch at once with Mr. Franklin's family—offer my services," pleaded the clerk.

"There isn't a thing you can do right now," snapped the masterful gentleman from New York. "I suggest that you close the office. Send the girl home. You should do that much out of respect to your employer's memory."

Ten minutes later the record had been mailed and the flustered Boyne was trotting around town with Mr. Fogg. The latter seemed to have a tremendous amount of business on his hands. He hired a cab and was hustled yon and thither, leaving the young man in the vehicle, with instructions to stay there, whenever a stop was made. But at last Mr. Fogg returned from an errand with some very tangible results. He put a packet of bank-notes into Boyne's shaking hands.

"Did you ever see as much real money before, my son?" asked Fogg, genially. "That's your five thousand. And here's five hundred toward that expense money we promised. I'm suggesting that you leave town to-night. Tuck that cash away on yourself and duck out of sight."

Having secured the money and placed that powerful argument in the young man's hands, Mr. Fogg's hurry and anxiety seemed to be over. When he had seen the packet buttoned inside Boyne's coat he smiled.

"The trade is clinched and the job is done, son, and I feel sure that, being a healthy young American citizen with plenty of cash to pay your way, you're not going to let go that cash nor do any foolish squealing."

"I've gone too far to back out," admitted Boyne, patting the outside of his coat. "But it seems like a dream."

"I've heard a little piece of good news while I've been running around—forgot to tell you," said Fogg, in a matter-of-fact way. "That fool attendant at the hospital must have misunderstood me, or I misunderstood him. Franklin isn't dead."

"He-isn't-dead?"

"No. Last report is that he's better this forenoon. But that's the way some of these crazy attendants mix things up when anybody inquires at a hospital. Now, of course, seeing that the registered copy is on its way and Franklin is getting better, that's all the more reason why you don't care to hang around these diggings and be annoyed. I've got a scheme. It will take you out of town in a very quiet style. I have telephoned down to the docks, and there's a Vose freighter in here discharging rails. Do you live at home or at a boarding-place?"

"I board," said Boyne, still wrestling with the sickening information that he had betrayed an employer who was alive; somehow the sentiment that it was equally base to betray a deceased employer had not impressed itself on his benumbed conscience. He was now keenly aware that he feared to meet up with a living and indignant Lawyer Franklin. Fogg questioned, and Boyne gave his boarding-house address.

"We'll drive there, and I'll wait outside in the cab until you can scratch together a gripful of your things. Don't load yourself down too much. Remember, you've got plenty of cash in your pockets."

A little later Fogg escorted the young man up the gang-plank of the Nequasset, from whose hold the last of her load of clanging rails was being derricked by panting windlass engines. To Captain Zoradus Wass, who was lounging against the rail just outside the pilot-house, Mr. Fogg marched with business promptitude, and spoke with assurance.

"Captain, my name is Fletcher Fogg. Within forty-eight hours the directors of the Vose line will elect me president and general manager. That news may be rather astonishing, but it's true."

The veteran skipper did not reply. He shifted a certain bulge from one cheek to the other.

"Well?" queried Fogg, a bit sharply.

"I ain't saying anything"

"You believe what I tell you, don't you?"

"I don't know you."

"This young man is David Boyne, acting clerk of the Vose line corporation. The annual meeting has just been held in this city. He made the official records. He will tell you that a new board of directors has been chosen—the old crowd is out."

"That is so," stated Boyne, obeying the prompting of Fogg's quick glance.

"I don't know you, either."

Mr. Fogg was not abashed. "It isn't especially necessary that you know us. How soon do you leave?"

"We're going out light as soon as them rails are on the wharf."

"I am sending Mr. Boyne with you on a tour of inspection, captain. Please give him quarters and use him right."

"Nothing doing till I get orders from the owners," declared Captain Wass.

"Haven't I told you that I shall be general manager of this line to-morrow, or next day, at the latest?"

"When you're general manager come around and give off your orders, sir."

"I'll do it. I'll come aboard in New York—"

"I'm ordered to Philadelphia," prompted Captain Wass. "That's where you'll find me."

"Philadelphia, then! I'll come aboard and fire you."

"Do just as you feel like doing."

"You refuse to take along this young man?"

"This ain't a passenger-boat. I don't know you. Show orders from owners—otherwise nothing doing."

Mate Mayo had come out of his cabin, near at hand. With a young man's quicker perception of possibilities and contingencies he realized that his skipper might be letting an old man's obstinacy block common sense.

The first mate had an eye for men and their manners. He had been listening to Mr. Fogg. That gentleman certainly seemed to know what he was talking about. And young Mate Mayo, having a nose for news as well as an eye for men, understood that the coast transportation business was in a touchy state generally. He gave Mr. Fogg further inspection and decided that a little skilful compromising was advisable.

"Captain Wass, will you step aside with me a moment?" asked the mate.

"What for?"

"I want to have a word with you."

"Have it right here," said the captain, tartly. "I never have any business that's got to be whispered behind corners." He scowled when his mate gave him a wink, both suggestive and imploring. "Spit it out!"

"The law doesn't allow us to take passengers, as you suggest. And naturally you don't like to act without orders from owners." He looked at Mr. Fogg as he spoke, plainly offering apology to that gentleman. "But we need a second steward and—"

"We don't!" Captain Wass was blunt and tactless.

"I beg pardon—we really do. And we can sign this young man in a—a sort of nominal way, and then when we get to Philadelphia we'll probably find the matter all straightened out."

"What's your name?" asked Mr. Fogg.

"Boyd Mayo, sir. First mate."

"Mr. Mayo, you're a young man with a lot of common sense," declared Fogg.

To himself, staring at the young man, he said: "I'm going to play this game out with two-spots, and here's one ready for the draw!"

"I'll see you in Philadelphia, Mr. Mayo," he continued, aloud. "I am exactly what I say I am. Captain Wass, you've got something coming to you. Mr. Mayo, you've got something coming to you, also—and it's good!" His assertiveness was compelling, and even the captain displayed symptoms of being impressed. "It isn't at all necessary that my agent make this trip with you, Captain Wass. Perhaps I had no distinct right to bring him here. But I am a hustling sort of a business man and I want to get at matters in short order. However, I ask no favors. Come on, Boyne!"

"We'll sign him on as steward to cover the law," proffered the captain, as terse in consent as he was in refusal.

"Very well," agreed Fogg. "You've got an able first mate, sir." He flipped his watch out. "I've got a train to make, gentlemen. Good day!"

He took Boyne by the arm and led him to the ladder from the bridge. "Son," said he, "you dig into that Mayo chap till you know him up and down and through and through. I'm going to use him. And you keep your mouth shut about yourself." He backed down the ladder, feeling his way cautiously with his fat legs, trotted to the waiting cab, and was whirled away.

At high noon the next day Fletcher Fogg marched into the general offices of the Vose line in company with ten solid-looking citizens. Imperturbable and smiling, he allowed President Vose to shriek anathema and to wave the certified copy of the record of the annual meeting under the snub Fogg nose.

"What you say doesn't change the situation in the least," affirmed Mr. Fogg. "You'll find the actual records of the meeting deposited in the usual place in the state of your incorporation. If you think these new directors are not lawfully and duly elected, you can apply to the courts."

"You confounded thief, it's likely to take a year to get a decision. This is damnable. It's piracy. You know what courts are!"

"Poke up your courts, then. It isn't my fault if they're slow."

The new directors filed into the board-room and with great celerity proceeded to elect Fletcher Fogg to be president and general manager of the Vose line.

"What are you going to do?" pleaded the deposed executive head. "My money is in here—my whole life is in it—my pride—my intention to see that the public gets a square deal. You infernal rogue, what are you going to do with my property?"

"That's my own business," said Fletcher Fogg.

"You can't get away with it—you can't do it!" raged Vose. "I'll get at the inside of how that meeting was conducted. You'd better take backwater right now, Fogg, and save yourself. I'm not afraid to tell you what I'm going to do. I'll have a temporary injunction issued. I'll prove fraud was used at that meeting—bribery, yes, sir!"

Mr. Fogg smiled and sat down at the president's desk. "First he'll have to find a young man by the name of David Boyne," he told himself.

"Vose," said the new president, "all you can show a court is the record of an annual meeting, duly and legally held. And if the judge wants to have a look at me he'll find me running this line a blamed sight better than you have ever run it."

"It's a cheap, plain trick," bleated the aged steamship manager. "Your crowd is going to sell out to the Paramount—it's your plot."

"Oh no! We're not inviting injunctions and law and newspaper talk and slurs and slander, Mr. Vose. If there's ever any selling out you'll be the first to suggest it; I never shall. You see, I'm just as frank with you as you are with me. Selling this line to the Paramount right now, just because the new board is in, would be ragged work—very coarse work. Thank Heaven, I have a proper respect for the law—and what it can do to bother a fool. I am not a fool, Mr. Vose."



XIX ~ THE PRIZE PACKAGE FROM MR. FOGG

Our captain stood on his quarter-deck, And a fine little man was he! "Overhaul, overhaul, on your davit tackle fall, And launch your boats to the sea, Brave boys! And launch your boats to the sea." —The Whale.

A slowing, tug, tooting fussy and staccato blasts which Captain Wass translated into commands to hold up, intercepted the Nequasset in Hampton Roads.

Mr. Fletcher Fogg was a passenger on the tug. In a suit of natty gray, he loomed conspicuously in the alley outside the tug's pilot-house. He cursed roundly when he toilsomely climbed the ladder to the freighter's deck, for the rusty sheathing smutched the knees of his trousers.

"I'm doing a little better than I promised you, captain," he stated when he arrived finally in the presence of the master. "I said Philadelphia. But here I am. Do you know me now?"

"Your name is Fogg," returned Captain Wass, exhibiting no special delight.

"And I'm manager of this line. As it seems to be pretty hard for you to get anything through that thick nut of yours, I'll ask you to glance at a paper which will save argument."

The paper was an attested notification, signed by the directors, stating in laconic legal phrase what Mr. Fogg had just declared.

"You recognize my authority, do you?"

"Your bill o' lading reads O. K.," assented the skipper.

"Very well! Exactly! Then you take your orders. Proceed to an anchorage off Lambert Point below Norfolk, pick a berth well off the channel, and put down both hooks. The boat is going out of commission. I find you're not making any money for the owners."

"It ain't my fault. With charters at—" began the master, indignantly.

"I haven't any time for a joint debate. You are laid off. Bring your accounts to the main office as soon as you have turned the steamer over to the caretaker—he'll come out from Norfolk." Manager Fogg turned on his heel to meet Mate Mayo. "You will report at the main offices, too, Mr. Mayo. Have you master's papers?"

"I have, sir—Atlantic waters, Jacksonville to East-port."

"Very good—you're going to be promoted. I shall put you aboard the passenger-steamer Montana as captain." He looked about sharply. "Where is my agent?"

"There, in the quartermaster's cabin. We gave him that," replied Captain Wass, gruffly. "I'm glad I'm out of steamboating. I've learned how to run a boarding-house and make money out of it."

Mr. Fogg did not understand that sneer, and he paid no attention to the captain's manner. He started for the cabin indicated.

"Well, you can swell around in gold braid now and catch your heiress," observed Captain Wass to his mate.

"I'm sorry, skipper," said the young man, with real feeling. "You are the man to be promoted, not I. It isn't right—it doesn't seem real."

"There isn't any real steamboating on this coast any longer. It is—I don't know what the devil it is," snarled the veteran. "I have been sniffing and scouting. I'd like to be a mouse in the wall of them New York offices and hear what it is they're trying to do to us poor cusses. Ordered one day to keep the law; ordered the next day to break the law; hounded by owners and threatened by the government! I'm glad I'm out of it and glad you've got a good job. That last I'm specially glad about. But keep your eye peeled. There are queer doings round about you!"

Fogg entered the cabin and shut the door behind him. He found Boyne sitting on a stool and looking somewhat apprehensive. "Hiding?" inquired Fogg.

"I thought I wouldn't show myself till I was sure about who was on that tug," said the young man.

"That's the boy, David," complimented Fogg, with real heartiness. "You're no fool. Nothing like being careful. Pack your bag and go aboard the tug." He marched out.

"Philadelphia charter has been canceled, eh?" asked Captain Wass. The tone of his voice did not invite amity.

"It has, sir."

"Seems queer to turn down a cargo that's there waiting—and the old boat can carry it cheaper than anybody else, the way I've got expenses fined down."

"Are you trying to tell me my business?"

"I have beep steamboating forty years, and I know a little something about it."

Mr. Fogg looked at the old mariner, eyes narrowed. He wanted to inform Captain Wass that the latter knew altogether too much about steamboating for the kind of work that was planned out along the coast in those ticklish times.

"Then I ain't to expect anything special from now on?" asked the skipper. In spite of his determination to be crusty and keep his upper lip stiff, he could not repress a little wistfulness, and his eyes roved over the old freighter with affection.

"Not a thing, sir!" Mr. Fogg was blunt and cool. He started for the ladder. He slapped the shoulder of Mayo as he passed the young man. "Here's the kind of chap we're looking for nowadays. The sooner you report, my boy, the better for you."

With Boyne following him, he climbed down the swaying ladder, and was lifted from the lower rungs over the tug's rail to a secure footing.

After the lines had been cast off and the tug went floundering away at a sharp angle, Captain Wass scuffed into his pilot-house and gave the bells.

"She seems to feel it—honest she does!" he told Mate Mayo. "She goes off logy. She doesn't pick up her heels. Nor could I do it when I walked in here. Going to be scrapped—the two of us! Cuss their picking and stealing and fighting and financing. They ain't steam-boating any longer. They're using good boats to play checkers in Wall Street with. Well, son," he mourned, hanging dispiritedly over the sill of the window and staring up the wind-swept Chesapeake, "I ain't going to whine—but I shall miss the old packet and the rumble and racket of the old machine down there in her belly. I'd even take the job of watchman aboard her if he would hire me."

"He seems to fancy me a bit. I'll ask him to hire you," proffered the mate, eagerly.

"I reckon you didn't get the look in his eye when he fired me," said Captain Wass. "I won't allow you to say a word to him about me. You go ahead, boy, and take the job he has offered. But always remember that he's a slick operator. See what he has done to Uncle Vose; and we haven't been able to worm it out of that passenger how it was done, either. Financing in these days comes pretty nigh to running without lights and under forced draught. It gets a man to Prosperity Landing in a hurry, providing he doesn't hit anything bigger than he is. They're going to haul up this freighter and blame it on to me because I ain't making money for the owners. They'll have plenty of figgers to show it. Look out that they don't lay something worse and bigger to you. They're going to play a game with the Vose line, I tell you! In the game of big finance, 'tag-gool,' making 'it' out of the little chap who can't run very fast, seems to be almighty popular."

He slowed the freighter to a snail's pace when he approached the dredged channel, and at last the leadsman found suitable bottom. Both anchors were let go.

The old skipper sounded the jingle, telling the chief engineer that the engine-crew was released. In a speaking-tube the captain ordered both boilers to be blown off.

"And there's the end of me as master of my ship," he said.

Mate Mayo's eyes were wet, but words of sympathy to fit the case did not come to his sailor tongue, and he was silent.

When the tug was near Newport News, Manager Fogg took David Boyne apart from all ears which might hear. He gave the young man another packet of money.

"The rest of your expenses for a good trip," he said. "You seem to be a chap who knows how to mind his own business—and able to get at the other fellow's business in pretty fair shape. You haven't told such an awful lot about young Mayo, but it's satisfactory to learn that he has lived such a simple and every-day life that there isn't much to tell."

"I never saw a man so sort of guileless," affirmed Boyne. "Not that I have had a lot of experience, but in a lawyer's office you are bound to see considerable of human nature."

"He is no doubt a very deserving young man—and I'm glad I can use him," said Fogg, not able to keep all the grimness out of his tones. "Now, son," he went on, after a moment of pondering, "you stay on board this tug till I have been gone five minutes. There are a lot of sharp eyes around in these times, and some of Vose's friends would be glad to run to him with a story about me. After five minutes, you take your bag and walk to Dock Seven and go aboard the freighter Ariel—go just as if you belonged there. Tell the captain that you are Daniel Boyle—get the name—Daniel Boyle. And never tell anybody until you hear from me that your name is David Boyne. That freighter leaves to-night for Barbados with sugar machinery. You'll have a nice trip."

"I don't care how far away I get," declared Boyne, rather bitterly. "I have done a tough trick. I'm pretty much of a renegade. No, I don't care how far I go."

"Nor I, either," agreed Fogg, but a smile relieved the brutality of the speech. "You see, son, both of us have special reasons why it's just as well for you to be away from these diggings for a time. If some folks get hold of you they'll bother you with a lot of foolish questions. When you get tired of Barbados go ahead and pick out another nice trip, and keep going, and later on we'll find a good job for you up this way. Keep me posted. Good-by."

The tug had docked and he hurried off and away.

"It's quite a game," reflected Mr. Fogg. "I've bluffed a pot with one two-spot. Work was a little coarse because it had to be done on short notice. The work I do with my second two-spot is going to be smoother, and there won't be so much beefing after the pot is raked in. Too much hollering, and your game gets raided! I can see what would happen to me—Julius Marston doing it—if I give the strong-arm squad an opening. But if they see the little Fogg boy slip a card in the next deal he's going to make—well, I'll eat the Montana, if that's the only way to get rid of her."

Boyd Mayo lost no time in obeying his orders to report in New York. He gave his name to a clerk at the offices of the Vose line and asked to see Mr. Fogg. He presented himself a bit timorously. He was not at all sure of his good fortune. It is rather bewildering for a young man to have the captaincy of a twin-screw passenger racer popped at one as carelessly as tossing a peanut to a child. He crushed his cap between trembling palms when he followed the clerk into the inner office.

Mr. Fogg rose and greeted Mayo with great cordiality. "Good morning, captain," said the manager. "Allow me to hope that you're going to be as lively in keeping to schedule time as you have been in getting here from Norfolk."

"I didn't feel like wasting much time, considering what was promised me," stammered Mayo, not yet sure of himself.

"Afraid I might change my mind?"

"It seemed too good to be true. I wanted to get here as soon as I could and make sure that I had heard right, sir. Here are my papers."

He laid them in the manager's hand. Fogg did not unfold them. He fanned them, indicating a chair.

"Sit down, Captain Mayo. You understand that new management has taken hold of the Vose line in order to get some life and snap into the business. We have strong competition. A big syndicate is taking over the other steamship properties, and we must hustle to keep up with the procession. I'm laying off freighters that are not showing a proper profit—I'm weeding out the moss-covered captains who are not up with the times. That's why I'm putting you on the Montana in place of Jacobs."

"He's a good man—one of the best," ventured Mayo, loyalty to his kind prompting him. "I'll be sorry to see him step aside, as glad as I am to be promoted—and that's honest."

"That's the way to talk; but we've got to have hustle and dash, and young men can give us what we're after. It doesn't mean that you've got to take reckless chances."

"I hope not, Mr. Fogg. My training with Captain Wass has been the other way. And if you could only give him—"

"Captain, you've got your own row to hoe. Keep your eye on it," advised the general manager, sharply. "I'm picking captains for the Vose boats, and I think I understand my business. Now what I want to know is, do you have confidence in me? Are you going to be loyal to me?"

"Yes, sir!" affirmed Mayo, impressed by his superior's brisk, brusque business demeanor.

"Exactly! And the only talk I want you to turn loose is to the effect that you believe I'm doing my best to make this line worth something to the stockholders. Where are you stopping?"

Mayo named a little hotel around the corner.

"I'll put you aboard the Montana just as soon as I can arrange the details of transfer. I may let Jacobs make another trip or so. Report here each morning at nine. For the rest of the time keep within reach of the hotel telephone."

Mayo saluted and went out.

Fogg called the observer at the weather bureau on the telephone and asked some questions. He was informed that the wind had swung into the northwest and that the long-prevailing fog had been blown off the coast.

Mr. Fogg appeared to feel somewhat peevish over this sudden departure of the weather phenomenon which bore his family name. He slammed the receiver on to the hook and said a naughty word. A person overhearing might have wondered a bit, for here was a steamboat manager cursing the absence of the fog instead of preserving his profanity to expend on the presence of the demoralizing mists. But the reign of the north wind in late summer is never long; three days later the breeze shifted, and the gray banks of the fog marched in from the open sea.

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