MR. BROWN, THE NIBLICK

C. W. STEPHENS July 1 1921

MR. BROWN, THE NIBLICK

C. W. STEPHENS July 1 1921

MR. BROWN, THE NIBLICK

C. W. STEPHENS

IT was Saturday, the hour shortly after noon, said Algernon, tamping the tobacco in his pipe, and I was busy with a fascinating brief that concerned itself with the iniquity of a corporation that was discharging

refuse into a drain pipe with as much legal right as had the Germans in Belgium. So alluring was it— the brief, not the drainpipe—that I was oblivious of the holiday hour, the glories of the day, the call to golf. I was aroused by a tap at the door, which immediately opened to admit Virginia. Before the new

charm the brief became a thing negligible. “Come along, Algy!” she commanded. “Away with melancholy! You may take me to lunch, then we’ll go home, pick up Frank, and sally forth to worship at the shrine of Mrs. Peyton• Briggs.” Virginia is my cousin by marriage. Frank Mardon has accomplished one or two notable things in his career, but when he induced Virginia to meet him at the altar and swap promises with him, he rose to the heights of positive greatness. There are pretty women who are not very brainy, and there are brainy women whose attractions end just there, but, when you find the two together in the one girl, sell all you have and buy that pearl of great price. Virginia was such a girl. She wore, this sunny noon, a trim, tailor - made costume, jaunty white stock, a snappy tie, and a Tamo’-shantery hat, cocked the least bit on one side of her charming head, and her influence

was a combination of that of a sunbeam, a pleasant electric thrill, the scudding through wind-whipped seas, and a large legacy from a not too seriously mourned relative—you get my meaning? Virginia and Frank lived at Bridgeham, eight miles from my office, and I was staying with them, ft happened that Mrs. Popple, my housekeeper, had been bitten by a ferocious bug that attacks her once or twice a year; the results combine the features of avalanche, whirlwind and tornado. The house must be scrubbed, painted, patched, uncarpeted and recarpeted, and remonstrance is vain; better rob a she-bear of her cubs than seek to balk the cleaning fury of Mrs. Popple; the courageous man seeks the cyclone cellar. Virginia dropped in to see me one day, and found me another Alexander Selkirk, feeling with him: “Better drown in the depths of the sea Than dwell in this horrible place.” “You poor chivvied Algy!” she said. “I’m going to take you home with me. Why didn’t you send him out to me, Mrs. Popple? How you can tolerate a man about at a time like this I can’t understand.” She’s an artful girl, and craftily divided her sympathies. “Now, hurry up, Algy, throw together your toothbrush and — paraphernalia.” “I don’t wear them, Virginia,” I replied, meekly. “Nothing beats the good old-fashioned nightshirt— spacious, you know, and so forth.” “Well, anyway, chuck it into a bag, or over your arm, since you appear so proud of it, and come along.” And for two months thereafter I was Virginia’s guest, and she had the joy of dominating two men. At her bidding I locked my desk up this Saturday rroon, abandoned drain-pipy meditations, and escorted

Virginia to lunch. Then we boarded the Mardon car and sped homeward, Virginia at the wheel, shaving carts, scooting round corners, disobeying traffic cops and getting away with it by means of smile and wave of the hand. “Might as well come in for a minute while I dig

Frank out,” she saia, when we arrived ai the Mardon door. “Oh, Frank! Where are you and are you ready? Frank! where can that man of mine be?” She flitted along the passage, opened the door of her husband’s remote sanctum softly, then beckoned to me, a finger on her lips. Frank at times was a rather absorbed lad, and there he sat at his desk, his back turned to us, unemployed but obviously busy. Virginia tiptoed across the room, and placed her hands over his eyes. “T AZYBACK!” she said, and touched his forehead •*-' with her lips. Lucky man to be so rebuked. He swung about in his chair smilingly. “Hello, Virginia!” he responded, guilt in his glance. “You are not ready—it’s after two—the car at the door—and even Algy is all ready for cranking up. Hustle—get a swift move on!” “Must I go, Virgie, honey?” he asked seductively. “What a question!” she answered. “Of course you “I don’t know why.” He rose from the chair and faced the pair of us. He and I were like two brothers, moveover I was his legal adviser, acquainted with his affairs. “I can see heaps of reasons why I shouldn’t go, and I’ve been thinking them over. Seriously, Virginia, I don’t know that we ought to mix with that high-finance bunch out at the club; financially I am not in their class, and I feel a fourflusher when I’m with them, and fancy that’s how they rate me. There’s old Peyton-Briggs, whose wife is entertaining this afternoon; he’s watching me like a hustling undertaker eyeing a promising case.” “Nonsense!” answered Virginia warmly. “The Mardons were social somebodies when the Peyton-Briggs were just Briggs, and absolute nobodies.”

“It isn’t what your folks were yesterday, it is what you are to-day,” said Frank. “The fact is that they are the big sharks, while I’m a small minnow. If this deal goes through for the absorption of my bank, the Trust Com-

pany, with the Woolen Trades Bank, I can see where I've a chance to become much smaller, considering that our host of this afternoon is the head of the absorbing organization, and that he has as much use for me as for a large dose of prussic acid.” Frank’s facts were fairly correct. He was a textile

manufacturer in a small way, working with inadequate capital. Four years before an opening had come for branching out on his own account; Peyton-Briggs, a local financial magnate, suggested partnership, and they went to it. It soon became evident that the moneyed partner intended to make Mardon little more than a superior hired man, and a row followed, Frank not being the kind to accept the position of animated doormat. Peyton-Briggs lost his head in the “melee,” and offered to sell out or buy Frank out; to his astonishment and chagrin Mardon took the first alternative; a deal was made whereby the young man paid so much down and gave notes for the balance, payable in five equal annual sums; up to this time two of the latter had been paid and a third would come due shortly. “All of which,” observed Virginia in graver mood, “instead of furnishing reasons for staying away, form the very best reasons for going. The money it

money costs us is not much, and if we have to do economizing in the face of the foe, we will do it modestly and without tearful ostentation. I do not believe in advertising my righteousness with, trumpets at street comers, nor my troubles. I’ll economize on dress, entertainments, my table, I’ll wash my floors and clothes, but to economize in the matter of the bunting flying at the masthead, not to the extent of one single solitary stitch. You think, Frank, we can’t afford to stay in—I hold that we can’t afford to stay out. If we are bunkered, no need to give up the hole till we’re forced to; we’ll play the game to the finish, and if we have to go down it shall be with sails set, flags flying, guns blazing away till the water chokes them. When you’re bunkered, get out the niblick. There!” and she nodded her head to emphasize her decision. Frank eyed her with pride and admiration, as he had a full right to. “Some game little bird, Algy!” he said. “Soundest wisdom,” I approved. “Then we continue to four-flush,” continued Frank. “It isn’t four-flushing,” objected Virginia briskly. “We are putting up no false front, but just holding on our accustomed way. Now, if you have done your sorrowful stunt, Frankie boy, come along, both of you. If I had just one more man to look after I’d go grey on the spot; I had to dig Algy out of a drainpipe, and now you, Frank, from the slough of despond.” “All set!” said Frank. “Oh, you niblick!” II. rpHERE were wheels within wheels at the Bridgeham Country Club, narrowing circles, progressive heavens; in the seventh of the latter dwelt Mrs.

Peyton-Briggs and her satellites. When she entertained, the people of the inferior circles stayed away, so that their inferiority might not be advertised. The Mardons belonged, by ancient right, to the inner ring; there had been Mardons in the vicinity as long as there had been a Bridgeham—Mardon lawyers, parsons, doctors, but few of them money-makers.

We were among the last to arrive at the club house, and no sooner had we joined the small group than Mrs. Peyton-Briggs proceeded to unfold her project for the afternoon’s entertainment. She was a woman who liked to be original, unique, enterprising.

“It is quite a new idea,” she said. “I heard of it the other day from Sir Badgeworth Tickleby, the English baronet, who was our guest over the weekend—it is team golf. You have half a dozen persons on each side, each person uses one club, and plays just one kind of shot; that is, one person is the driver and does all the driving; another the brassie, and he does the brassie work, and so on through the half dozen clubs; each side has a captain who decides what kind of a club is to be used for the shots as they have to be played.” She read off her list of players and then her husband’s list, for they were to lead the opposed bands; it happened that Mardon and I were on the lady’s side, while Virginia had been allotted to Peyton-Briggs’ band. Noses then were counted, and we were about to fare forth, when it was discovered that old Toller was absent from Briggs’ side. There was a hue and cry for him, without result; Toller is rather an ass in his brighter moments; forgets appointments, and keeps others he never made. Well, the eleven folks chosen about exhausted the available forces; the other folks were aged dowagers, decrepit spinsters, and doddering old chaps who came out for tea and any scandal they could rake up; there was nothing to do but wait and curse Toller, and we did both. We had been loafing around full fifteen minutes listening -or trying not to listen to Mrs. Peyton-Briggs’ talk of the purple-nosed old rip, “dear Sir Badgeworth,” when someone at the forepeak discerned a craft on the horizon. Doubtless Toller, optimism suggested. But it wasn’t Toller; closer observation showed the suggestion’s absurdity.

Toller i» built on the architectural lines of the gaspipe, but the chap breezing along much resembled a gasometer. Mrs. Peyton-Briggs raised her lorg-

“XXJHAT an extraordinary creature!” she exclaimed.

Her characterisation was quite admirable, he did seem extraordinary. Picture to yourself a man over six feet tall, four feet wide and about the same thick, and you have the ground plan of the newcomer; nobody knew him from Adam.

He wasn’t fat, but just thick and hugely solid; his face was brick - red, his under jaw was like that of a bulldog, his teeth were tusky, and aggression was in his very mien. His trousers were flappy, he was vestless, his coat and bag of clubs were slung over his shoulder, and on his head was a wide - brimmed straw hat that a middle - class scarecrow would have turned up its nose at. He was the kind of man you’d hate to meet in a lonely lane on a dark night, his appearance near your house would set you to thinking up hiding-places for your silver. He puffed at a nauseous black pipe, leaving a smoky trail behind him. Extraordinary creature was right.

He marched up the creaking steps, doffed his hat in general salute to the amazed throng, and walked to the opposite, untenanted end of the verandah, dropping with a bang into a loudly

complaining chair. Virginia Mardon was at my elbow and, turning, I saw her face wreathed in smiles.

“Isn’t he the loveliest old thing?” she said. It hadn’t occurred to me quite in that light.

“Roberts!” and Mrs. Peyton-Briggs summoned a hovering waiter. “Who is that—individual?”

“Gentleman named Brown, Ma’am; he is here on a week’s card; some Western Club he comes from, I believe, Ma’am.” The lady shrugged her shoulders.

“I don’t see why we should be expected to receive any person who happens to belong to some club in the wilds,” she said. “Dear me, where can that Mr. Toller be? Most aggravating person! Can’t you find somebody, my dear?” and she turned to her husband. At that moment Roberts reappeared with a telephoned message from Toller, he had gout or housemaid’s knee or spinal meningitis or something equally footling; no one had the least sympathy for him. There wasn’t a player to be had and it was rather rotten to ask one of the chaps to stand down. The massive person appeared to pick up the drift of the situation, for he rose and approached.

“My name’s Brown—Brown of Valeport,” he announced in rumbly tones. “If you are short, perhaps I could fill in. I’m no crack—eighteen handicap at Valeport.” He addressed Peyton-Briggs, who is a haughty little man on occasion, and it was plain that the dour Colossus hadn’t made a hit with him. He is not naturally impressive, and so has to rouse interest by aggressive means. He gazed upon Brown much as a combed and slicked-up Pekingese might regard a burly mastiff that had ventured upon a salute, vouchsafing no reply. The short but pregnant silence was broken by Mardon.

“VTIGHTY glad to have you in the game, Mr.

Brown,” he said, extending his hand. Frank’s a gentleman, and an impulsive chap, with a hatred of all kinds of snobbery, especially the cheap brand. Peyton-Briggs turned on him acidly.

“I think I lead this side,” he observed. “Let me see, I’ll be the driver and” — he went through his list, allocating the clubs; I recollect that Virginia was the iron; then when five clubs had been named he turned to the stranger.

“I fancy the niblick will about suit you, Mr. - er -Brown,” he said. Undoubtedly there was something apt in the designation, the man had a niblicky look, but there was discourtesy in both tone and meaning; it was the next thing to a denial of a game to the stranger; he might make the whole round without having a shot to play. A large grin, however, came over the face of Mr. Brown.

“It does a mighty lot of credit to your judgment, brother,” he said to Peyton-Briggs. “If there’s one

job I star at it’s niblicking, when I lam into a thing there’s bound to be a crack somewhere; all I ask is, give me plenty of business.”

“I’m the iron,” chirruped Virginia, “and if you don’t get into all the grief-spots on the course, it won’t be my fault.”

“Good!” said Mr. Brown. “Lead me to the bunkers, with three loud cheers for each kind of trouble.” He reached for his bag and drew out a niblick that looked like the business section of a steam shovel.

It was not much of a game, the only people who appeared to enjoy it being Virginia Mardon and the large man; she flipped him into sand pits and rock jams and bushes, and his laughter could be heard out of a sand-cloud, a gale of flying twigs, the spray of a water hazard.

“You’re flirting with the extraordinary creature!” I accused her right before Frank, and she did not deny it.

“He’s a darling!” she replied. “And if you don’t invite him to dinner, Frank, I’ll do it myself, right before Mrs. Peyton-Briggs.”

Whether it was real liking for Brown, or the mischievous desire to run counter to the prevailing Peyton-Briggs sentiment, or just one of the odd whims of a bright and impulsive woman it would be hard to say, but she did get Frank to invite the old man, and when we drove away from the club a little later in the afternoon we had Mr. Brown the Niblick with us. I heard the next day that Mrs. Peyton-Briggs had commented rather severely upon the flirtatiousness of the young married woman of the present day, and the entertainment of strange and unprepossessing men by those who could ill afford to keep open house.

It was, however, a very pleasant evening; Virginia served one of her homey little Saturday night Canadian dinners, unelaborate and inexpensive, and I am quite sure that our friend the Niblick thoroughly enjoyed himself. He was an entertaining man, alert, breezy, western, with an oddly attractive radiating friendliness. When we discussed him afterwards we were astonished to find how little he had told of himself, and how much information he had obtained about us, rot by inquisitive means, but in an ingratiating way peculiarly his own. We talked Bridgeham, the bank merger project, the big business of the Consolidated Textile, the little business of Frank Mardon, and we didn’t know, when he had gone, whether he was selling snake oil or had a suitcase full ef western stock certificates to talk off upon effete easterners. Virginia listened and laughed when we baited her about the attractions of the bull-dog visaged man.

“If I were a gambler,” she said presently, “I’d be the biggest hunch-player in the market. Now, listen! I don’t know anything -about this Mr. Brown except that he’s as big other ways as he is physically; however, that’s not the point. When we went out to the club this afternoon, we practically decided that the Mardon family was rather badly bunkered. Now when you’re in a bunker vou want a niblick, and when the gods send along a niblick you figure — oh well, I don’t know, it’s just woman’s fancy, but just now that kind of a club looks good to me, and, I like Mr. Brown, and I don’t like — Mr. and Mrs. Peyton-Briggs.”

III.

npHE following Mon-*• day I went out of town for a few days to try a case. Picking up a newspaper at my country hotel one

morning I saw that, the bank deal had

gone through; the

Trust Company at Bridgeham had been absorbed by the Woolen Trades Bank. Continued on page 61

Continued from page 19

Frank had not reached Pome when I got to the Mardon place the following evening, and Virginia was sedater than

“Frank’s pretty much in the dumps,” she said. “He had an interview with the manager of the Woolen Bank, and it was not at all reassuring. Trade is bad, money tight, and they are compelled to adopt a conservative policy; they don’t see their way to extend the same amount of help to Frank that he had from the Trust Company, and the manager is afraid they’ll have to ask him to take up some of his paper; if he has to find five thousand to reduce his indebtedness to the bank, and have

another five thousand to meet the Peyton-Briggs instalment in a month’s time, it will be quite a task for him. Orders are not coming in, stock is piling up instead of turning into cash, and, generally speaking, the bunker seems to be getting deeper, with no niblick handy.”

“Seen anything more of our burly friend, Mr. Brown?” I asked.

“Yes, he was up on Monday evening,” she smiled. “But to-day we had a kind of revelation. Who do you think Mr. Brown is?”

“I never was good at conundrums,” I replied.

“He’s the Brown of the Consolidated

Textile,” she said.

After all, the best incognito is a common name. I had known that the head of the big concern was named Brown, but it never occurred to me to connect him with our niblicking friend.

“Frank is put out over it,” she continued. “You remember how freely we spoke on Saturday evening about the skirmishes with the Textile and their attempt to buy him out. Really, we were fearfully garrulous.

“There is a funny side to the revelation, though. The Peyton-Briggs are talking of their friend, who was so delightful a guest at the country club on Saturday afternoon.”

“Brown the Niblick’s stock has gone down somewhat in this vicinity then?” I said. “Still, Frank told nothing hut the truth.”

“But it doesn’t do to blurt out all the truth,” she sighed. “And Frank is awfully worried. All our eggs are in one basket, and he suspects all kinds of plots to harm him. The Consolidated are so closely identified with the Woolen Trades Bank that he sees in the visit of our Niblick friend, just at the time of the merger, some deep inside politics. If anything does go wrong the smash will be Dretty complete, and I’m getting afraid for the first time, not for myself, but for the effect it will have on Frank; he’s worked himself to a frazzle; do you know I am cowardly enough to think sometimes it would have been better if we had stayed as we were, just small salaried people. I wish he’d come home; he had to see the bank people this afternoon to get a final answer, and he would have ’phoned had the news been good.”

We had not long to wait, for presently he appeared. It needed no two guesses to know that he had not met with success.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” he said. “I only got away from the bank interview at five, and I had some work to do at the office. Nothing much to tell, honey,” he said in reply to the question in Virginia’s eyes. “I only had the thumbscrew, the rack, and the polite dismissal afterwards. PeytonBriggs had the time of his life. Our friend Mr.. Brown the Niblick strolled in to hear the grand finale; he’s one of the new directorate, it seems; guess I dia myself no good by going, but I had the satisfaction of turning my battery on Briggs before I came out. Brown sat mum throughout, giving me a nod when they handed out the verdict. I’ve thirty days to clear off five thousand, and to find as much again for the instalment note, and I don’t know where there’s a loose five hundred. However, let’s eat, drink, and be merry, if we have to die.”

When the table was cleared and we sat down for the evening Virginia was unusually silent, so much so that Frank noticed it.

“I’m afraid I’ve made you dumpy, Virgie,” he said. “Things won’t look as bleak in the morning: it’s so much to the good to know the worst, any change is for the bettter.”

“I’m not dumpy,” she said, brightening up. “I was thinking about Mr. Brown. I’m not going back on him one inch. When he’s quiet he’s busy. He can no more follow Peyton-Briggs’ lead than you could.”

“Well, we won’t say anything more about it to-night,” replied Frank. “Play something for us, Virginia.”

She rose at his request, and was turning toward the piano when her ears caught the sound of footsteps on the gravel path. A tiny frown gathered

upon her forehead for an instant, and she halted. The maid was out for the evening.

“Confound visitors!” exclaimed Frank impatiently. "I'll go to the door.” Oddly enough all three of us seemed moved in the same direction. Frank opened the door, and there, seeming to fill the squared aperture, was Mr. Brown the Niblick.

“Queer time to come along without notice,” he said. “But I took advantage of the general invitation Mrs. Mardon extended to me last Saturday. Seen you before, this afternoon, Mr. Mardon.” There was the suspicion of a grin on the broad face. “Guess it was not quite as cosy as this place. I can never go into a banker’s room now without a bit of a shiver; they had their innings with me at one time.” He filled the ample chair, took out his pipe at Virginia’s invitation to smoke, and made himself comfortable.

“Going away on the midnight train, and so wanted to drop in for a chat before I went. Guess I’ll be back again in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said. “I hope we’ll have some more niblicking, Mrs. Mardon, when I do get back. Peyton-Briggs was right, that’s my weapon, let those who like it have their carpet greens and pancake courses, but give me trouble and a nifty hunk of steel on a stout shaft. By the way, Mardon, I looked in at your office this afternoon, but you’d just gone. I wanted to have a few words with you.”

“We can go into the den, then,” said Frank. “Though if it’s not very private perhaps it would be as comfortable to talk it over here. Virginia’s one of the firm, and Algy knows more of my affairs almost than I do myself.”

“I’m interested in that bank,” proceeded Mr. Brown. “And from the way you flew at Peyton-Briggs I guessed you felt a bit sore.”

“Your guess wasn’t far off,” replied Mardon.

“Too bad!” commented Mr. Brown. “My heart sympathies were with you, but my head told me that Peyton-Briggs was right.”

JORANK shifted uneasily in his chair;

it was clear he was not in the mood to listen calmly to justifications of Peyton Briggs. Virginia looked up at the speaker with a flash of belligerency in her eyes; Mr. Brown caught it, and his own twinkled.

“I’ve a hunch that isn’t a popular statement,” he said. “Let me make it plainer. The Trust Company has been easy—too easy—perhaps if they had been better business folks, paying less attention to the sentimental friendships of a small town community, they would not have been so anxious to sell out. You can’t run business on sentiment.

“Whenever I’ve indulged in it, in my own affairs, I’ve been royally stuck, and I parted company with it some time back. Times are not over-good just now, and it has to be remembered that a bank’s money is not its own, it belongs, to a great extent, to the public, and as such is a public trust. I figure, therefore, that Peyton-Briggs was just about right in what he said, and the accommodation he offered you ' is all that you are entitled to.” And Mr. Brown smiled as cheerily as if he had brought the gladdest kind of news.

“We’ll consider that settled,” said Frank, a bit stiffly. “I got my answer and that’s about all there is to it.”

“And Brown can just naturally shut UP>” grinned the large man in a rather provoking way. “So be it, we’ll close that chapter and say Amen.”

There was a short, embarrassing silence. Precisely why Mr. Brown had broached the unhappy topic was not. apparent; there was something exasperating about it.

“I’m interested in that bank,” pursued Brown, as if he were a dog with a meaty bone that he hated to let go. “But I’m a great deal more interested in the Consolidated Textile Company. I’d like to talk about that a bit, if it won’t hurt anybody’s feelings; it’s a sort of hobby with me, like a kind of bigger golf. I believe we made you a bid some time ago for your business, and you turned it down. I’m coming back at it again. You see the cursed

malevolence of the big corporation, the wheels within wheels kind of thing, that wants to make capital out of your difficulties—the typical action of the typical soulless aggregation of tyrannical capital. Changed your mind?”

“No!” ren'led Mardon sharply. “I’ll see the thing through to the finish; there are more roads to travel than

“That’s right,” agreed Brown. “And naturally you want to get your feet on the best one, the one that’s likely to lead to the most gainful end. As you know we are a mighty big concern, and this is the day of big concerns. I daresay we can get on without your mill; and it isn’t unlikely that you could make a success of it ultimately. I’ll concede that you have ability and the fighting spirit that coupled with brains and skill makes a success of an enterprise. Still it will be a long pull and a hard pull. The point is, will it land you where you want to get as quickly and as surely as another course would? Is it the best you can do for yourself and your family? I understand and appreciate the desire for independence, for I was a small manufacturer once, and when the Consolidated made its proposition to buy me out, I thought—at first— just as you think, then I took the broader and longer look. I sold out, and so far as I know I sacrificed none of my independence. To-day I am where I never could have been had I stuck to the old road. Of course this wouldn’t apply to every man; some are made for the smaller jobs; and others can work best on big ones. Now, listen to me. I’ll take your place over at a fair impartial valuation, to be figured by com. petent outside men, or you can put your own price on it, and if it is reasonable I think we can come to terms.”

“And I’ll be out on the sidewalk, with little more than I started in with,” said Frank.

“So you would,” agreed Brown, loading up his evil-looking pipe again. “But I’ve only got half-way through what I want to say. Don’t think we’re breaking our hearts to get hold of your little mill, we don’t care a whole lot about it.”

,,rpHEN why do you urge the matter?” interposed Virginia belligerently at the thought that Frank was being needlessly badgered.

“Because there is something belonging to it that I do want,” grinned Mr. Brown. “Oh, I’m selfish, all right, make no mistake about that, Mrs. Mardon. What did you walk up to the altar for one day some years past and surrender a whole lot of your liberty— just answer me that?” and his eyes twinkled. “And what did he meet you there for? You wanted him, and he wanted you, am I right or wrong?”

Virginia nodded brightly.

“We are not bothering so much about getting the mill, but we’d like to make a dicker for Frank Mardon,” said Mr. Brown. “Bannerman, our general manager here, is going west to look after our interests there; he wants to go for health and family reasons, and I’ve been looking round to see where I can find a man to take his place. There’s ten thousand a year in it for Frank Mardon if he wants to take it. Whether it is a better or bigger job than doing heavy collar-work in a small way, he ought to know. Once get into the big swim, and I figure that a man’s future is in his own hands. Now, you’ll want to talk this over with the other member of the firm, so I’ll be on my way. Nobody knows of this except Bannerman, and he’s as close as the grave;

I may tell you, though, that he was the ; man who first put me on your track.”

And Mr. Brown got into his overcoat and went on his way.

A deep stülnesá fell upon the room; Frank bent forward, his pipe cold in his hands; Virginia pretended to sew, but the pretence was very unconvinc\ ing; I glanced from one to the other.

“It was some bunker,” reflected Frank, with a heavy sigh of relief.

“You’ll take it?” asked Virginia. I

“Will a duck swim ?” he replied rather flippantly.

“Mr. Peyton-Briggs was right,” she said. “The niblick is Mr. Brown's club.”