THE GILDED NUTMEG
ADAM HAROLD BROWN
IT WAS a bright April day. The air was full of the tang of Spring. Birds sang; in the distance a hand-organ rasped cheerfully: and Mr. Bowermeek’s feet rang with joyous tread on the sidewalk. The little gentleman could appreciate spring weather.
For had he not the soul of a poet? He felt tike slapping every man on the back, and kissing every beautiful baby he met.
He strolled along enjoying the shop windows. So many things he had never noticed before! In the window of an automobile agency, a good-looking young woman, arrayed in a chauffeur’s costume and black silk stockings, was demonstrating a patent brake. Mr. Bowermeek was quite interested. But the sight of a vacuum-cleaner exhibit left him cold. He paused to relish a display of picturepost cards, presenting the colorful careers of comic film people. The little man chuckled heartily.
But there was a fly in theointment. For nearly two weeks he had been slightly worried—how was he to invest his fortune? About three weeks before his Uncle Obadiah, passing on. had left several acres of arable land to his next-ofkin: also leaving
$1.000 in cash to “my beloved nephew. Henry Bowermeek.”
At first Mr. Bowenne^k had thought of refurnishing his h o u s e—s till he rouldn’t bear to part with the old furniture. Then he thought of buying a new piano: but they already had one.
Next he wanted to buy a silk dress for his 19-year-old daughter Carolina, together with fur? and other feminine adornments. But here Mrs. Bowermeek put her foot down. “Y o u n g girls.” she declared.
“dress too expensively anyway. Now when I was a girl
Mr. Bowermeek then considered investing in a library of a thousand voiu m e s, principally poetry and biography. Or a few hundred instructive books for his young son Alfred. But again his betterhalf interposed. “A fool and his money." she quoted, “are soon parted!” And so he resolved to prove himself a man of acumen.
Suddenly his wandering gaze was caught by a photograph in a window—a photo of a handsome bungalow, with a classical roof and artistic chimney. Across the front ran a verandah on which several ladies gracefully lolled. At each side spread neat—and presumably green—lawns, showing flowerplots and clipped trees. A plate revealed it as, “No. 99 Hyacinthe Boulevard.” His eyes travelled to the sign — “Isaac B. Good, Real Estate Agent and Moving Contractor.” Underneath ran the slogan: “It is cheaper to move than pay rent.” It was like finding a map for buried treasure. Mr. Bowermeek’s mind was made up.
"Ah.” smiled Mr. Good, when the little man had ex-
plained himself, “I quite understand you liking that photograph. You have an artist’s eye. It is very beautiful—the photo, I mean. But I should have taken it in this morning. I just gave an option on the property to a man—” The agent’s voice broke with gentle pathos— “Can’t I interest you in some other place?”
“No-o. I’m afraid not. I was attracted by that
beautiful bungalow—I—it’s just the very thing.” “Er—How much money did you think of—”
“I have $1,000,” was the quick reply. “I was looking
“Just so, I’d like to oblige you; I know a man of intelligence when I see one. Hum. Let’s see? Of course I’d have to get eight thousand for the residence. It’s dirt cheap.... Here’s what we’ll do.”
The agent led Mr. Bowermeek into a corner. “You give me $1,000 for an option—we’ll call it ‘on account’— and you can pay the rest whenever you feel like it.”
“Hut what,” asked the poet with remarkable keenness
for him, “of the other man? How about that?” “Oh, I’ll get outa that. He'll take any kind of a house. He's not an artist like you.” In his long career Mr. Good had probed human nature to its depths, and notwithstanding the layer of sawdust and excelsior he could still be enthusiastic when there were easy dollars in sight.
As a result, some time later Mr. Bowermeek stepped forth, humming a jaunty tune. He had signed his name on the dotted line and he now owned property outside the city limits. He had yet to break the news to his better-half. But in this case, he was sure she’d be delighted. The little man felt certain about that. Such a bargain? Why it was dirt cheap. . . .More than once Mrs. Bowermeek had audibly wished they could
move to the country. He remembered her reason: To
get Carolina away from that young reporter who wras always hanging about.
He again eyed the card of directions; “99 Hyacinthe Boulevard,” the poet read, “Lake Shore Trolley Line, Stop No. 17.”
Of course she’d be delighted. But yet —Amazonia Bowermeek had queer ways of looking at things. Y ou never could tell. Perhaps
OH,CHARLIE,” cried Carolina that evening, as Mr. Fustle lit a fresh Egyptian cigarette; ‘ ‘ S omething wonderful has happened. You’ll never guess!” “I know it.” The young reporter blew a scented puff. “So tell me the worst.” “It’s grand! At first I thought mother’d be cross when father told us.”
“Oh, your father? That’s different. But tell me, Carrie, I’m all excitement.” “Why, father has bought a country estate. It’s a perfect dream.”
“Who’d he buy it from?”
“From Mr. Good, the real estate agent.”
“Old Ike Good, eh? Isaac B.?” “Yes. Do you know him, Charlie?’ “Haven’t that pleasure. But I’ve got his number. So your poor old dad got stung?”
“WThy, Charlie, how you talk! Father says a man with such a name must have a good heart.” “How much do you suppose it cost him?”
“Only $1,000. You know what Great-Uncle Obadiah left. Father gave a check—”
“Ever seen the-a-place?”
“No. But father has described it. It’s too lovely for words! Oh, Charlie, I’m going to have a swell time this summer—tennis, canoeing, and dancing.”
The youthful journalist visioned white-flanneled rivals wielding racquets, paddles, or jazzing to a phonograph. The thought did not please him. Therefore, he veered the subject into personal and more congenial small-talk. Carolina was a good listener. She was easy to look at, too.
Even a mere reporter eöiild be thrilled by her luminous eyes. Her soft red lips, the smooth curve of her cheek The time sped.
“If you move to the country, Carrie,” said young Fustle on departing, “I’ll have to see you every second night, even if I have to steal the boss’s motor. When are you going to give this place the once over?”
“On Sunday afternoon. Mr. Good gave father full directions. . . .I’m so excited! Wish me luck, Charlie!” Charlie did so, disarranging her hair in the process.
SUNDAY afternoon was bright and balmy. In the street car different emotions gripped the Bowermeek family. Mr. Bowermeek, his straw hat tilted rakishly, hadn’t felt so buoyant since Armistice Day. To him everyone was beautiful, idealistic, Olympian. He smiled blandly at two pretty young flappers opposite; and they, smiling in return, were provoked into giggling hysteria by Mrs. Bowermeek’s glare. She, poor lady, had her hands full. Master Alfred refused to be seen and not heard, and as for her lesser half—well, Amazonia knew what men were.
Carolina’s demure eyes and graceful poise were noticed by several young gentlemen, who accordingly fingered their neckties and shot down their cuffs. But Carolina was listening to her father. The language of Keats and Shelley at their best may possibly have been choicer, but Mr. Bowermeek was a close third.. . .At the terminal they waited for the Lake-Shore Trolley.
“I can almost sniff the briny breezes,” said the happy ipoet. “Is it not glorious to contemplate?—the delights of ,our new summer home. Of course I will leave the refurnishing to you, my dear Amazonia.” He smiled benignly. But his wife was taking fashion notes from several other ladies, who also seemed to be encumbered with children and husbands.
f‘l thought,” went on the little man, “of having a croquet lawn for you, my dear. It is an interesting sport and quite scientific, My great-grandmother used to be croquet champion of our village. . Also, I will revive the tennis court for our daughter. I have been telling her of the charms of that lively game, though I don’t understand it myself. And I was wondering whether to lay out a bowling green for myself, or to build a classic summerhouse wherein I can woo the Muse.”
“Henry !” came tartly from Mrs. Bowermeek, who had caught the last five words. “How dare you speak of such a thing before all these people! Woo the Muse indeed! Let me catch the creature!”
“Say, Pop,” Master Alfred unwittingly came to the rescue; “I want a ball field, an’ a rifle range, an’—”
“We shall see, Alfred,” was the reply. “We shall see.” The trolley-car was fairly full but many got off at the different stops. Mr. Bowermeek paid the fare with a flourish, and the conductor in passing had taken mental note of his breath.
“Must be something new,” that worthy reflected, “perhaps he makes it himself.”
And as the passengers thinned the blue-coated official, pausing inside the rear door, winked at the little man.
“Ahem,” Mr. Bowermeek saw an opening. “Do you know Hyacinthe Boulevard?”
“Never heard of it,” replied the conductor, “though I did hear they were going to rename Bulls Road. Don’t know why. Only one house on it—the old McPhail place. Going there?”
“No,” decidedly. “We get off at Stop No. 17. Hyacinthe Boulevard begins there.”
“Bulls Road an’ Pine Avenue run from 17 too. ^ Well, get your family ready, gran’pa. It’s the next stop.”
The four , Bowermeeks alighted and watched the trolley disappear. Then they gazed around. They were the only humans in sight. A reflective cow, tethered by a short rope, munched in sombre silence. Two grassgrown roads met at the right-of-way, and at the corner stood a large brick house—a mansion in fact. Its pillared portico, its dark, cool verandah, topped by a glass sun room, appealed to the poet’s heart. He gaped. “Oh, father!” Carolina cried, clasping her hands. “Well, Henry,” Mrs. Bowermeek approved, “you’ve done right for once. It’s quite a nice-looking place.” She advanced.
“But,” quavered her lord, “I don’t think—I—”
“What! Are you crazy, Henry?”
“No-o. But Mr. Good said it was a short walk from the cars.”
There fell what is known as an awkward pause. “Why not ring the bell and inquire!” cut in Carolina. “See, the blinds are up, so there must be someone inside. Eh, father?”
The little man rang thé do or bell. It was answered, after a long wait, by an elderly man-menial, who seemed to be thinking of a Sunday nap.
“Excuse me,” began Mr. Bowermeek, “but is this No. 99 Hyacinthe Boulevard?”
“No it ain’t,” snapped the other, “it’s No. 10 Downing Street.” But at Mr. Bowermeek’s shocked glance he relented: “I mean to say, sir, this is No. 1 Pine Avenue; the ’ome of Mr. Smith. As the family are coming down next week, I’m getting the ’ouse ready.... This Yacint Bully, like you’re asking for, used to be called Bulls Road. An agent’s man was out two days ago putting up placards—like over there.”
Mr. Bowermeek retired in good order. Amazonia said several things—several!
“I don’t understand it,” the poet winced. “It’s most confusing. Mr. Good said-—”
“Oh, look,” called Carolina. “Here’s one of the placards the man spoke of. It says, ‘Hyacinthe Boulevard, Lots for Sale, I. B. Good’.”
“But where are the houses?” demanded her mother.
“This is the country,” the girl laughed. “Ye may see ’em from that little hill. It’s only about two minutes. So come on, folks.”
Under her impetus they reached the rising ground. The landscape unrolled before them. Mr. BowermeeK took one glance. Then he looked ’round for something on which to lean.
Like a greenish gray ribbon, flung down by some careless fate, the road ran for a quarter of a mile—more or less-seeming to lose itself in the shimmering lake. Railfenced, weed bordered, but houseless, it stretched away, an occasional ancient barn or rickety hay-cock being the only buildings in sight—but no, near the lake could be seen a one-story building, possibly a dwelling. Even at that distance, it looked unpainted and in need of repair.
Mrs. Bowermeek made some pungent remarks, but the little man was already squelched. He could only gasp. The placards, Carolina pointed out, gave the number of each lot; they were now’abreast of No. 11.
“Nine elevens is 99,” supplemented the young student.
“But where are the houses?” their mother insisted.
“They may be hidden by that funny old place,” said the girl. “We’ll have to find out.”
Continued on page 51
Continued from page 23
WHERE the road was not clammy with mud it was deep with ruts, and the Bowermeeks were not shod for country walking. But they persevered, buoyed up by Carolina’s optimism.
“Oh, mother,” she cried; “what’s that lovely field we’re coming to?”
“It’s golden-rod,” was the grim reply, and the little man felt for his handkerchief. In the nick of time his wife lent him one.
“Those flowers always give your father hay-ffever,” was the resigned comment of Carolina’s mother.
“Echew!” wheezed the poet. “This is terrible! O dear. We bust hurry bast. Ec-c-hew!”
In the next lot a thoughtful cow rested her chin on the top rail, and mooed in gentle sympathy. Perhaps, thought Mr. Bowermeek, she recognized a poet.
But young Alfred sought knowledge. “What’s she chewing?” he wanted to know.
“Here, Alfred,” shrilled his mother; “come away from that dreadful bull! I’m surprised at you!”
Mr. Bowermeek held a discreet silence; it required all his optimism to retain his equipoise. Later, Master Alfred showed
his fondness for aquatic sports. Spying a puddle of water he leaped into the middle of it.
“Stop that, child!” cried his sister. “If you splash me again, you won’t get any more candies when I get another box.”
This threat was sufficient to one who appreciated Mr. Fustle’s choice in chocolates.
A few paces further they came abreast of a dilapidated entrance, and one of the leaning gate-posts bore the figures 99. It was their goal!
Their gaze travelled over the fence. “Oh,” breathed Carolina, clenching her hands. Her brother whooped with joy; he saw the inviting lake. Mrs. Bowermeek’s mouth fell open, shut, and her gaze was awesome.
As for Mr. Bowermeek—he just gave a little yelp.
Confronting them was the same onestorey house they had seen from a distance. At closer range it looked even worse. Weeds grew in profusion and a few weird crabapple trees lent the landscape a woebegone aspect.
They pushed through the gateway.
Mrs. Bowermeek was first to find speech. The little man was thoroughly withered. He longed for the ground to
open beneath him and take him into the sable embrace of oblivion.
His wife finished her discourse by sarcastically wanting to know if he had intended it as a joke.
“Father’s just as disappointed as we are,” interposed Carolina. “It’s all the fault of that horrid Mr. Good!”
That started the irate lady on a new tack. The reputation of the real estate agent was considered from a variety of angles. None of them showed a favorable sign. Suddenly she stopped abruptly. A loud yell rent the Sabbath afternoon.
“It’s Alfred!” screamed Mrs. Bowermeek. “He’s in the water. Save him! He must have fallen into a hole or been bitten by a crab.”
The three adults tore around the housecorner. In the shallow water a few feet from the shore was seated Master Alfred, apparently preparing for another yell. The others raced to the rescue. Carolina easily out-ran them.
Standing at the sand’s edge, she addressed her brother: “Here, you, kid; what are you trying to do now?”
“Jus’ paddlin’,” was the reply; “must ’a’ stubbed m’ toes.”
At that moment the poet panting up would have plunged in but for his daughter’s restraining hand. “You’ll get yourself all wet,” she told him. “The kid’s all right. Here, you,” she commanded the seated one; “get up and come out. Rememberwhat I said about the candies.” Master Alfred remembered. Rising he splashed ashore.
“Better get him in the house,” suggested the practical Carolina; “get a fire, and change his—”
“Yes, yes,” gulped the little man. “I have the key.”
When Master Alfred had been dragged inside, Mr. Bowermeek rejoined his daughter. “Your mother seems very upset,” he said; “with one thing and another—almost unreasonable.”
“Cheer up, father. Everyone’s liable to make mistakes. Besides—”
“If we weren’t so far from the trolley,” —the little man glanced at the crab-apple trees—“I might do something with this fruit—market it, you know. As it is, the place is utterly worthless.” He groaned again.
FROM inside the house sounded the shrill protests of his wife. Carolina sought to engage her father’s interest.
“We’ll make the best of it,” she said. “Have you thought of naming it?”—waving her hand—“Do you think it ever had a name?”
“Now I remember Mr. Good showing me the title deeds—you know, I did not pay the full amount—and one of the blanks was filled in; ‘No. 99 Hyacinthe Ave., better-known as “the McPhail place.” ’ I suppose it formerly belonged to people named McPhail.”
“Oh, well, the view over the lake is nice. See,” she added, “that big boulder down on the beach. Must be as high as three men. It’s shaped like a—something mother used in cooking—Oh, yes, [ike a nutmeg.”
The poet raised pathetic eyes. “Uhuh,” he muttered.
“It’s later than we thought,” ran on Carolina. “Look; the sun is getting low. When it shines on that funny boulder it makes it look like gold.”
At that moment the still damp Alfred was pulled into the open by his mother and they started for the car line.
That return march was no holiday jaunt. To the little man it was like the Retreat from Moscow. He was panting painfully as they passed the Smith house. His lady was also rendered speechless— for some time after they climbed aboard the trolley.
As the passengers were few at that hour, the new arrivals easily found seats. But the conductor—the same who had carried them out—noting the little man’s gloomy face, paused for a word of cheer.
“You look as if you’d been held up by bandits.” He genially clicked his farebox as if it contained scandalous secrets. “It’s a wild place, that Bull’s Road. Did you hear about the bootlegger that got held up by four masked bandits last week? He had a truck load of booze, and besides taking $47 off him, they took a box of pure Scotch joy. Tough work, eh? I’m told the poor bootlegger blubbered like a kid.” “But who,” something prompted Mr. Bowermeek to ask, though it didn’t really matter—nothing mattered now, “who got the Scotch?”
“It’s one of these mysteries,” was the
reply. “Only wish I knew! They couldn’t drink it all. No living man could. Happy days for somebody, eh?”
He bustled away. The poet glanced at his wife. Amazonia’s lips were rigid; she appeared to be thinking, thinking deeply. Hér husband shivered. He knew that when they reached home, when Alfred was put between blankets—the heavy artillery would come into action.
ON MONDAY evening Carolina met Mr. Fustle as he turned the corner en route to the Bowermeek residence. He noted her pale face, but his greeting was casually cheerful.
“Let’s go into the Park, Charlie,” the girl urged, “and get a seat somewhere.” As they walked toward the nearest Park the diplomatic youth made discreet inquiries. “Now then, Carrie,” he said, when they were seated, “what’s up? Has your father been writing another cantata?”
But she declared it was no joke. She felt very sad. She told him she couldn’t see him at her own home any more. Something terrible had happened. Their house was in a fearful mix-up. And she had cried her eyes out. “Yesterday,” ran her plaintive story, “we went to see that place in the country father bought. Oh, Charlie, it’s too awful for words! Poor father was swindled by that horrid real estate man.”
“Old Ike Good, eh?” Charlie lit a cigarette.
The girl nodded. Then she described the ramshackle dwelling at No. 99, the barren piece of land, the sandy beach, and her father’s woe.
“Too bad,” murmured Mr. Fustle sympathetically.
Then she told how her mother had “gone up in the air.” At supper-time things had reached a climax; Carolina had stuck up for her father, and Mrs. Bowermeek vented her wrath on the girl. “She said that as we were now ruined I’d have to go to work or else m-marry some rich man. I must have got red, for she jumped on you, Charlie. Said all sorts of things.”
He grinned. “Bet she said newspapermen were scoundrels and blackmailers.” “How did you guess? Though that isn’t the worst. She—she ordered father to forbid you the house if you ever came to the door. That’s why I had to meet you at the corner.” Carolina burst into tears.
The young man put his arm around her shoulders—and did his best!
“If you’ll only marry me, Carrie,” he urged.
“Oh, I couldn’t leave father. He needs me. But if you could manage for him to get his money back I’m sure she’d relent. Can’t you think of something?”
Mr. Fustle stared thoughtfully at a passing policeman. “You said it’s on Bull’s road, didn’t you? Used 'to be called ‘the McPhail place’? A sandy beach? Yes? And a boulder shaped like a nutmeg?”
“Yes, the sinking sun makes it look like gold. Oh, Charlie, if you’ve got an idea, tell me!”
“It’s too vague. Now let’s talk of something more cheerful.”
Some hours later he escorted her to the Bowermeek front door; then sought his own boarding-house. Turning on the light, he picked a book. “Buried Treasure of the Spanish Main,” was its title. He grinned as he turned the leaves. It showed facsimiles of maps, pictures of pirates, heaps of treasure.
Tor several minutes the young reporter stared at the wall. Once or twice he whistled. He smiled to himself—the Great Idea was taking shape in his fertile mind. For some time he lay awake. The Great Idea was being developed.
MR. BOWERMEEK being somewhat late on Tuesday evening the supper was in danger of growing cold. Amazonia’s eyes were grim. She heard the front door slam and the little man’s feet in the hall. He had apparently forgotten to cringe through the side way as usual.
“A nice thing,” his wife began, “keeping us waiting and starving, as well as playing ducks and drakes with that money Uncle Obadiah left us.”
“One moment, my dear.” The poet stuck his head around the door jamb. His face had a queer look. The lines of deep worry seemed to have disappeared. “One moment,” he repeated, “the food can wait. I must tell you of my remarkable
expêTrerröè’! I couldn’t eat a bite until—” Mrs. Bowermeek seeking words, gave Alfred a piece of bread and butter.
> Her husband proceeded: “About two o’clock I was told a visitor wished to see me in our lunch-room. There I found—you can imagine my astonishment—none other than Mr. Good! Do not frown, Carolina, he acted in a noble manner. He explained he had been thinking over the land on Hyacinthe Boulevard 99, and had come to the conclusion that it should have been sold to a farmer. It is only fit to grow Spanish onions, he said. Well, to make a long story short he offered to take back the property at the same figure.” “Were you fool enough to be buncoed the second time?”
“No indeed! I am too sharp for that. Though I did appear to hesitate, considering, and as he seemed very anxious to do the right thing, he said he’d give me $500 more. . .Well, the long and short of it is, he made out a check for $1,500 in exchange for that receipt I had told you about, Carolina.
“But why did he?” the girl wanted to know. “There must be a reason!” “My dear, I do not question the goodness of the human heart. I know—”
“And I know men,” stormed his wife. “That check’s probably bogus.”
“I’ll admit I had the same unworthy thought; so I at once took it over to the Bank. It was just ten minutes before their closing time.
“Not so. The cashier said it was O. K. And I placed it to our joint account. Oh, I was so happy! So relieved. Yes, everything is lovely—” His gaze was caught by a book on the side table. “What’s this?”
Mrs. Bowermeek made an ineffective grab. “Oh, something I had to pass the time while waiting for you. Do put it down, Henry. It’s of no account!”
But he eyed the ornate jacket. It pictured a dark-skinned gentleman in a green turban and white pantaloons who was looking plainly displeased with something. The finder thumbed its pages: “Poetry, eh? Hum. It’s called ‘Love Letters of a Rajah.’ Why in Hades, Amazonia, do you read 'such disgusting trash? This creature probably had a hundred wives.”
“Only four,” spoke up Carolina, “but he didn’t care for them. And a beautiful American girl he met in Paris changed his whole career.”
“Good Lord!” gulped Mr. Bowermeek. “Girl,” cried her mother, “have you read that book?”
“Of course. Long before you did. Don’t get worked-up, father; it’s not what you think. Parts of it are rather sloppy; like where the Rajah talks about suicide and midnight dancing. But it isn’t so bad—really.”
Her parents exchanged glances. The lady of the house reverting to the tea-pot, found Alfred crunching his fourth lump of sugar.
“Ahem,” Mr. Bowermeek broke the silence. “We’ll think no more of this book. To-morrow I shall destroy it. We must now let happiness reign. After we sup I will write you a lyric, my dear wife, beside which the ravings of this—a Rajah will seem like a cold shower! I—” Carolina cut in; “I hope, father if Charlie Fustle comes around to-night, you won’t be rude to him.”
“Rude to him, my love? Why, you know I have always thought him a rising young genius—a lad who will go far! Someday he may acquire a poetical ideal, instead of wasting his time in a newspaper office. At any rate I—and I’m sure I can include your mother—we’ll be delighted to shake his hand.”
OWING to pressing telephone directions Mr. Tustle was ensconsed that evening in the Bowermeek parlor. Carolina saw him alone. The young reporter heard the recent developments—particularly the worthiness of Mr. Good.
“Now, Charlie,” the girl finished, “I think there must be a reason! So—” “Well, if you’re bound to know, Carrie, I’ll have to tell. On Monday I thought over what you’d said, and that night I thought out a plan.”
“I knew you could, Charlie. But tell me.”
“Well, early this morning I took a sheet of yellow copy-paper, rubbed the edges and made it look like an old document. I headed it, ‘To the owner of the McPhail place.’ Then I wrote in a disguised hand—letting on it was written
about eighty years ago by Andrew McPhail. For the benefit of his heirs I took a chance on the name—probably hundreds of Andrews. I made him say he had learned how a Carribean pirate had been chased up to the St. Lawrence by the King's ships, and thinking the way through the Great Lakes led to Cathay he decided to try his luck with the Great Mogul. He took canoes to get round the rapids -1 had to say) but carried his chest of gold pieces with him—I thought that would hit friend Good.”
"But. Charlie, I don’t see—”
"Well, I said in Lake Ontario the last of his crew dying, the pirate-captain put ashore and buried his treasure in the sands under the shadow of the great rock shaped like a nutmeg!” Andrew was supposed to add that he had identified the spot as on the beach at the back of their lace: though he hadn’t been able to dig imself. for being mixed-up in the rebellion of ’37 he had to flee the country. But the gold was still there, he averred— waiting.”
"But Charlie, don’t you think—?” "Sure. I know it sounded silly. But I counted on old Good being so crazy about money that he’d eat the story without salt. So, during the morning, I told our city editor I knew to get a good interview from a real estate guy on ‘The Alarming Decline in House-rents’, or some humorous lead. Well, as it happened to be a dull season, the boss gave me his blessing ...After the interview—it’s mighty clever stuff—you’ll see it in the weekly edition—as I was getting ready to go I asked casual-like, ‘By the way, don’t you own the McPhail place?’
“ 'No,’ he says; ‘sold it to a city fellow. Why d’y’ ask?’
“ ‘Why,’ I says, ‘the office got a lot of ancient papers from the old County Court House on the Lake shore road that was pulled down to build a movie theatre. Sorting them over,’ I goes on. ‘I came on one headed something about the McPhail place. Didn’t have time to read it, but thinking you owned the place I brought it along.’
“With that I pulled the yellow sheet from my pocket, ‘Just give me the name of the new owner,’ were my words, ‘I can mail it. May be valuable.’
“I could tell Isaac B. was curious. ‘Let’s see it,’ he says.
“ ‘Look it over while I’m making these notes,’ I tells him.
“A minute later I hear a gasp. ‘Did you say you hadn’t read this?’ ‘No time,’ I answers. “Is it worth sending on to—?’
“ ‘No’, says the old shark. ‘I’ll keep it as a curiosity; I’m a collector, you know.’ “ ‘So you are!’ I says under my breath as I went out.”
“But,” asked Carolina, “do you really think he believed it?”
“Yes, it was a good bluff. I’m sure he fell; that’s why he bought the place back from your father. Old Ike is a wise guy. but he’s easy when he smells gold.”
“.Still, Charlie, do you really think he’ll dig?”
“Trust him! Though he won’t find anything, because—” the young man put his arm around her waist—“Well, because I’ve got the treasure.”
CCORDING to all the canons of art, this should be the story’s end. It presents peace in the poet’s household, the young lovers reunited, while the villain supposedly goes on a wild goose chase. What more can be expected? Yet
in this case a truthful footnote is necessary; for the real estate agent did find a treasure.
Yes, he arrived that evening at the McPhail place as the sun was setting like a bronze coin dropping into the world’s great collection-box. Leaving his trusty Ford at the front door he hurried to the beach; the sinking rays turning the boulder-nutmeg to a thing of gold, warmed the real estate man’s heart.
“Providence,” he told himself, “Providence is going to pay me 100 per cent, for my honesty in taking back this place.”
After re-consulting the map he began to dig.
Barely a foot down his spade struck something hard, He broke into a hot perspiration. In feverish haste he uncovered a box about the size of a steamertrunk. It was a pirate’s chest! With superhuman efforts he lifted it to the level.
Darkness was gathering and he couldn’t distinguish exactly—it was securely locked—iron handles at each end. By aid of an ancient wheelbarrow—that some one had left at the back-door—and still perspiring freely, he hauled his find to the McPhail kitchen. Then, with the Ford’s lamp throwing grotesque shadows, Mr. Good pried up the lid.
The imaginative reader may visualize the discovery of pieces-of-eight, and Spanish doubloons .... But what Mr. Good saw was rows of dark bottles labled with bonnie Scottish names. The knowing real estate agent guessed what they were. Evidently a “cache.” Althoúgh it was not the treasure—although he knew nothing of the unfortunate bootlegger who had been held up by masked bandits—it was a treasure. And Mr. Good’s philosophy of life urged him to ask no questions, but to take everything as an act of Providence. Moreover, he was alone!
In his car he carried a bottle of seltzer, a tumbler, and a corkscrew. Sometimes he used them on his country trips. He used them now!
The flavor of the first drink evoked a bright smile. With the “kick” of a second he thought of Bowermeek. “Ah,well,” reflected the philosopher, “we can’t all be lucky.” .•. . .He felt drowsy as he started to pour his fifth. Its “punch” made him drop a few tears for the poor old pirate, who couldn’t read the bonnie Scotch labels. . . Ah, well. . . . Confound this drowsiness. . . . For a moment Mr. Good closed his eyes. Then, reclining on the floor, he peacefully fell asleep like a tired child.
MEANWHILE a party of men circled round the McPhail place. In the waning moonlight their stalking figures looked like ghosts.
“Say, Jim,” said the leader, “are all[the men ready for my whistle?”
“Yep, boss,” answered^his lieutenant, “we’ve got’em good this time.”
The leader agreed. “See, that streak of light under the door. The still must be working overtime. Caught right in the act.”
“How many d’y’think they are?” Jim wanted to know.
“Four or five; may get nasty, but we outnumber them. I’ll knock first, and if they won’t open, we’ll break in the door. Slip around Jim, and warn the men.”
Who were these men? Why, gentle reader, you have guessed.—They were Revenue Officers.