The Tortoise

WILLIAM BYRON September 1 1914

The Tortoise

WILLIAM BYRON September 1 1914

The Tortoise

WILLIAM BYRON

PART I.

IT’S not my style to speak unkindly of the dead,” said Uncle John, in his high-pitched, rasping voice, “but if you ain’t got more horse sense than your father had, don’t you ever dare to marry and raise a family. No man should have a family when he can’t provide for them. Now I’ll bet Henry was making upwards of twelve hundred dollars a year and all he saved in fifteen years was this paltry chicken feed. Any man making twelve hundred should save—” and he squinted obliquely, calculating the great opportunities for saving on so princely an income— “seven hundred a year or go back to kindergarten and start all o^cr again !”

Father had died very suddenly, leaving me with no relative closer than Uncle John Coombes, a hard-fisted old farmer, who had made a substantial fortune by dint of the hardest work and the most thorough methods of economy that have ever been practiced, I believe. The duty of straightening out father’s affairs had fallen to Uncle John, and he had found them in a sadly involved condition. When everything had been settled up, there would be about four hundred dollars left.

“We’ll invest this money in some safe municipal bonds,” went on Uncle John, “and if you want to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a parson, nephew, I’ll pay your way through college. You’ll pay me back, I know, or you’re not your father’s son.”

“Thanks, uncle,” I said, “but I don’t think it would be wise to go to college. I’d be just wasting money.

I couldn’t be a lawyer no matter how much money you spent trying to make me one.

You’ve got to be brilliant like Charlie Cutshaw, to make a lawyer. And it’s the same with doctors and ministers. No, I’ve thought it all out and decided I had better get a job somewhere. Perhaps I could make good in a

Uncle John gave me a hearty thump on the back.

“You’ve got an old head on those shoulders,” he declared. “I believe education’s a good thing but so’s a mustard plaster; and there’s no use putting a mustard plaster on a man that don’t need it. I know a couple of lawyers in this town that don’t amount to a hill of beans as lawyers but I reckon they’d have made good farmers if they’d got their learning from Mother Nature instead of at college. Put a trowel in the hands of a certain doctor around here and he’ll be more in his element than he is with a scalpel. A good bricklayer was lost to the world when that man went in for medicine. Throw a brick through several parsonage windows in this neighborhood and

you’ll hit the makings of clever insurance men, plum spoiled through educating themselves into the wrong groove. Nephew, if you feel you’re cut out to work in a store, the best thing you can do is to get a job right away. And if you ever need help don’t forget you can always call on your Uncle John.”

Accordingly I did not wait for the finish of the high school term, but left at once and managed to get a job in the general store of Hicks & Co. Old Lem Hicks was not a philanthropist in the usual sense of the word, but he stretched a point when he took me on at $4.00 a week, his usual practice having been to start his clerks at $3.00. The extra dollar, he explained, was because he had known my father well and wished to help me along. Just the same I had a shrewd suspicion that old Lem, who was many degrees removed from a sentimentalist, had figured that, with my education, I would be worth the extra dollar to him. I decided most earnestly that I would prove myself worth $4.00 a week.

Although I had been perfectly sincere in what I had said to Uncle John on the score of education, I could not help feeling a certain sense of disappointment in the necessary curtailment of my scholastic career.

It had been all planned out that I should go to college at the same time as my two school chums, Charlie Cutshaw and Lawrence Barlow. As the three leaders at the collegiate, we had been close friends and hard rivals in everything, even down to our love affairs. As Charlie would have expressed it, we worshipped at the same

EDITOR’S NOTE.—Are you interested in business stories, in seeing the problems that face you every day presented in a form that compels attention? Every man who desires to win success knows the value of instructive reading; and the business story is a pill of inspirational appeal rendered palatable by the sugar coating of fiction. The author of “The Tortoise” is a newcomer in the field of business fiction, but he has a story of gripping interest to tell. “The Tortoise” will be continued in succeeding numbers and, though the thread of continuous narrative will be maintained throughout the series, each installment will tell a more or less complete story in itself. The next part, which will appear in an early issue, will tell of a fight for the control of civic politics.

shrine; two openly and competitively, the third (myself) quietly and secretively. My position in the race for the favor of Alice Holworth was similar in some respects to that of poor John Brimblecomb in the society of the Rose. My fear of the gentler sex was so overpowering that I had done my share of the worshipping from a distance, never letting the other two know I had entered myself in the race at all; and needless to say Alice herself had no suspicion of the truth. Consequently it was a little trying to see from my post behind Sam Hicks’ gloomy counter, our mutual divinity riding past

on her bicycle with Charlie Cutshaw, or lingering at the post office to talk for a few minutes with Larry Barlow.

It was still more trying, when the fall came around, to see Charlie start off for Toronto, and to hear that Larry, who had decided to give up the idea of going to college, was to start in business on his own account.

Lawrence Barlow, senior, had died some five years previously, leaving an estate variously estimated by townsfolk at anywhere from ten thousand to a hundred thousand, the result of a positive genius for second mortgages. Although Larry would not come into this handsome principal until he was twenty-one, the interest, which had been piling up in a way that interest has when allowed to run, was at his disposal. The way he proceeded to use it stamped him as made of the stuff from which magnates are fashioned.

His first step was to secure an automobile agency. As the town up to thaï, time had boasted of two cars only, both cranky little two-cylinder contraptions of a pre-Adamite model, the field was practically a virgin one. Larry cleaned up on the automobile business like a veteran, selling a dozen in almost as many weeks. Then he got into the real estate business and by easy stages branched into the building line. The “jerry builder” had never invaded Martinville up to this stage, most of the houses being built on solid lines that gave full assurance of comfort and stability. Larry introduced the type of house that is built to sell— neat, two-storey brick affairs with all modern inconveniences. They sold as fast as they could be put up. The profits he pulled out of his various transactions were turned into other channels where, if current report was to be believed, the same process of multiplication was continued without any slackening or abatement. When the G.T.R. decided to build a new station the need was felt for a strip of land adjoining the railway property. This land was occupied by a few old shacks and had formerly been owned by an Italian fruit peddler. But when negotiations for the land commenced, it was learned that the deed had changed hands and that Larry was the new owner. He got a fancy price for the property. Whether it was sheer foresight on his part in calculating the possibilities of that property or whether he had a tip from the inside, no one ever found out. If there was any “easy money” to be had, Larry beat the whole town to it in a canter. In fact he was generally in a position to shove the proceeds with a deposit slip under the grill-work of the cashier’s cage before any one else had even sensed the opportunity. It was shrewdly estimated around town that when he came of age, Larry had just about doubled his inheritance. He had become a rich man in record time.

When I reached my twenty-first birthday,

I had barely secured a fingerhold on the window-sill of success. I was still working for Hicks & Co. at $12 a week.

However, I had not done so badly either.

Ï had saved up $900.

During the course of m y business career since, I have accomplished various financial feats which have netted me large amounts, but I don’t think any of them could compare with that. If I could bring to bear on my business affairs to-day the same perserverance, economy, and careful foresight that I displayed in saving up that amount, I would become a multi-millionaire.

I liked the work. Despite the long hours, the stuffiness of the illventilated store and the crabbed whims of old Lem, I really became convinced during the first year that I had found my proper vocation. I liked waiting on customers. The mouldy ledgers and thumbed-over day book had a sort of fascination for me. Checking over incoming goods—an especially displeasing sort of drudgery to the other clerks—had a real interest for me. I can only^explain it by saying that the work suited me and, therefore, it could never be entirely lacking in interest.

By the time I was twenty-one, I was doing most of the buying for the store and old Lem had handed over to me complete charge of the sales staff, which consisted of two other clerks besides myself. During the four years that I had been in the store I had learned a great deal from travelers and from the occasional trips I had made to other places. In addition I had read omnivorously and mostly along one line—business. I stayed with Lem Hicks because I had become convinced that a man’s opportunities for learning are not necessarily limited by his environment; that if he can learn when placed in an establishment where efficiency is highest, he can also learn in equal measure from his efforts to improve surroundings that lack in efficiency. Acting on this principle, I had succeeded in intro-

ducing a number of new ideas into the Hicks store. We kept the stock clean and as attractively displayed as our facilities would permit. We even paid some attention to the store windows. I had a faint hope that if I continued to work on him, I would ultimately succeed in persuading Lem to do a little advertising.

Four years more passed. Larry Barlow’s progress had proceeded unchecked. He went into venture after venture and the Midas touch remained with him. He soon had a finger in every business pie in Martinville, even holding a large interest in the Star, the only daily paper in town. With Charlie Cutshaw still away at college, he had plain sailing in his love affair and it was generally believed around town that he and Alice Holworth were engaged. At any rate he was assiduous in his attentions to her and did not give any one else a chance in that quarter.

They say Opportunity knocks once at every man’s door. My call came one morning about this time and it was by the merest chance I happened to be at home. If old man Opportunity had stop-

ped for a moment to tie up his sandal or to mop his bald pate, I would not have been around when he ar-

I had been instructed this morning to drive to a neighboring village to settle up some business connected with an account and the rig was in front of the store ready for me when I was called to the telephone'. Five minutes elapsed before I could get out and just as I was climbing into the buggy, up came old man Opportunity, a little out of breath, and hurrying. I did not recognize him at first because he came in the guise of a commercial traveler named Hank Sullivan, a short, fat and jocular chap who covered our territory for a dry goods house.

“Hello, Harry,” he said. “It’s a good thing I hurried up. I wanted to see you.”

“I don’t think we want anything Hank,” I said, after mentally reviewing the state of our stock.

“It’s really a personal matter I wanted to see you about just now,” replied the traveler, “though I’ll be anxious to argue your stock requirements when you get back.

“The Bicknell stock is to be sold to-day, he went on, speaking in a cautious tone. “There’s some shinnanigan about it too that I just got the rights of. Old man Hewer’s acting as assignee and he s managed somehow to get round his instructions about selling the stock. He’s keeping bidders out of the market and will see to it that only one bid goes in. That will be in Bicknell’s name for about thirty or forty cents on the dollar. Being the only offer made, it’ll be accepted by the creditors. It’s a deliberate steal they’re putting over.”

I dropped the reins and started to do a little figuring on the back of an envelope. I had fifteen hundred dollars in the bank and the additional four hundred that Dad had left me. My inheritance was invested in municipal debentures but could be turned into cash in a few days’ time.

“What figure would buy that stock, Hank?” I asked.

“Twenty-five hundred,” answered the traveler. “Raise the money if you can and get your bid in to the old skinflint before three o’clock this afternoon. The bids close then.”

I looked at my watch. It was 11.15. Uncle John lived out of town about six miles and if I expected to reach him and raise the balance of the money I would have to hurry.

“I'll be there in time. Good-bye, Hank, and thanks,” I called, whipping up my horse to a rapid canter.

I knew that the opportunity was a splendid one. Bicknell had run the only specialty dry goods store in town and should have made a big success of it. Loose management and personal extravagance alone had put him under. The store had been closed up the month before.

It was a long hot drive out to Uncle John’s farm and when I got there, of course, he was out. I followed him to the village store where he had gone for his mail and on the drive back explained the whole matter to him.

“How much?” asked Uncle John, who always went straight to the point.

“A thousand will see me through,” I said. “I’ll give you notes at 6 per cent. I can’t put up any collateral that would be worth anything to you.”

Uncle John grunted, but made no further comment and, when we got back to the house, made at once for the attic. Although a shrewd investor and thoroughly alive to the importance of making his money work for him, he always had quite a little sum that he could put his hands on at a moment’s notice. In a few minutes he returned with an old sock from which he extracted the required amount in ten bills. This done he rolled up the sock and dropped it into a capacious pocket.

“If the worst comes to the worst and you can show me you’ve laid out every cent wisely, I might be induced to dig up a few more of the same kind,” he said. “The old sock isn’t cleaned out yet.”

I had a hard race to get back to town in time. Covered with dust from head to foot, I walked into Abner Hewer’s office at five minutes to three and laid down my offer for the bankrupt stock. Hewer scowled at me with frank hostility.

“Who’s this for?” he snapped.

“Myself,” I said.

“Only cash offers considered,” he warned.

“I have the cash to back my offer up,” I replied confidently; and left him turning the envelope over and over in his hand, with a doubtful and angry frown. Three days later I received notification that my offer had been accepted. And by the end of the following week I had started in business on my own account.

Before the newly painted sign of “H. Haven & Co.” had been elevated to its position above the store, I learned some inside facts about the attempt that had been made to buy in the Bicknell stock. Larry Barlow had engineered the deal and was supplying the capital! Which explained why he favored me with a scowl whenever we met after that.

My first year’s experience in business on my own account can be summed up in a few words. I financed the store on the surest, and ordinarily the slowest, policy.

I sold only for cash and never bought new goods until I had the funds to foot the bill. The stagnation which might have resulted from this course was avoided by a whirlwind advertising campaign. I made the townspeople literally sit up by the daring scope of my publicity methods. The other merchants had never gone in much for advertising and my methods therefore had the advantage almost of originality. I sold a lot of goods the first year and became about as popular with my competitors as a three-card shark at a camp meeting. To cut a long story short, I was able at the end of the year to pay Uncle John back his thousand dollars with interest and to have a little over to come and go on.

Two more years passed — busy and prosperous years. I had been out one Sunday to discuss my plans with Uncle John, and was driving back in the dusk of the evening. As I turned out into the main road leading to town, a big motor car came rolling along and I saw that it was Larry Barlow’s. As usual Alice Holworth was with him. To my surprise as they drew alongside, I heard Alice request that the car be stopped.

“Good evening,” said Larry, sulkily, obeying his companion’s behest.

Before I had time to reply, Alice opened the door of the car and sprang out.

“Will you drive me home, Mr. Haven?” she asked. Her tone was quiet enough, but I could see that she was excited and, I thought, a little frightened.

They had quite apparently been quarreling. For a moment Larry was too surprised to speak and then his temper, always a hot and unruly one, got the better of him.

“Don’t be a fool, Alice!” he snapped. “Come back into the car right away!”

“I have no intention of returning to town with you,” said Alice, with a quiet determination. “If Mr. Haven can’t drive me back I’ll—I’ll walk!”

I put out my hand at once and helped her in.

“I shall be delighted to drive you home,” I said, gladly—oh, how gladly! To have Alice Holworth all to myself for a fivemile drive! I had never dared hope that such a pleasure would be mine. The fact that she would have acted just the same if it had been any other acquaintance, who had happened along just at this juncture, did not detract in the slightest from the thrill I experienced as she ensconced herself beside me on the buggy seat.

Larry remained silent for a moment while he fought to get control of himself. Finally he said:

“Don’t carry the bluff too far, Alice. This puts us both in a ridiculous position. Look here, we’ll talk this over on the way home and to start matters right I’ll apologize now.”

“Please drive on, Mr. Haven,” said Alice, turning to me with a look so troubled and so appealing that I would gladly have thrashed Larry Barlow there and then.

We drove off at a sharp clip. Larry impetuously threw on the power and his car drew up alongside. He had tossed

restraint to the winds and was in a fine

flaring temper.

“You’ll be sorry for this Haven!” he called. “What do you want to butt in on me for? Why, you poor two-spot, I could put you out of business to-morrow.”

I reined in the horse sharply and th( car ran ahead of us quite a stretch befo« coming to a stop.

“Drive on, Barlow,” I called. “Miss Holworth doesn’t want to see anything more of you this evening.”

“What, and leave Alice with you? I’ve half a notion to come back there and make her cut out this nonsense! I could take her away from you easy, Haven.”

I glanced at Alice. “Say the word and I’ll get out and horsewhip him,” I said.

“No, please, Mr. Haven,” she said, entreatingly. “Drive on and we’ll pay no more attention to him.”

Accordingly I whipped up the horse and we drove past the car, both of us looking straight ahead. Barlow started the car at once and settled down to follow us.

“I don’t know just how to explain this,” began Alice, after a few minutes of awkward silence, “but an explanation is due you. We had a quarrel and I— really, I was afraid of him. I know it’s been generally understood that we were engaged, but we never really have been. He’s been worrying me a great deal lately, and I only consented to the ride tonight because I wanted to tell him finally that our friendship had to stop. He became very angry and threatened to force me to marry him. He has a very bad temper and I preferred not to ride home with him.”

I glanced back at the car, following closely in our wake. Larry had grown quite stout during the past few years. Crouched over the wheel he looked very big and strong and formidable with his huge shoulders, thick neck and massive

“There’s something of the cave man about Larry,” I answered. “He can’t stand opposition. I happened to stumble across his path a year ago, incidentally spoiling one of his schemes, and he’s never forgiven me.”

“I hope that he won’t cause you any trouble over this,” said Alice, anxiously. “I would indeed be sorry to cause any unpleasantness between you. He’s quite capable of carrying out his threats.”

“Don’t worry on that score,” I said. "I can take care of myself. I’m not afraid of Larry Barlow with all his wealth and power.”

I don’t think that three people ever made a trip under such trying circumstances before. Alice Holworth and I were practically strangers to each other although we had grown up together in the same town. The circumstances of the meeting served further to throw a constraint on conversation and the situation was not helped any by the persistent presence, almost within earshot, of Larry Barlow, giim and implacable as fate. He hung right on, although too thoroughly angry to say anything more.

After the first couple of miles I began to see the funny side of it and with difficulty restrained myself from laughing at the thought of how funny we three must have looked. The same idea had probably occurred to my companion for, in stealing a glance at her, I noted that the color had come back into her cheeks and that the corners of her mouth twitched suspiciously. Conscious of my scrutiny she turned her head. Our glances met and. spontaneously we burst out laughing.

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That broke up the pursuit. Larry could not stay there to be laughed at. He almost immediately threw on full speed and swung past us recklessly. He did not look at Alice in passing, but gave me the benefit of a stare that was positively malignant. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t need to ; I could read his intentions in his glance and knew that I had made an active enemy.

Barlow made formal declaration of war the next day. I had returned to the store after lunch and was going through my mail which I had not had a chance to attend to before. The last letter I opened was from the business manager of the Star. It briefly notified me that the Star would find it necessary to cancel my advertising contract and that henceforth the use of its columns would not be open to me.

My first feeling was one of blank amazement My account with the Star was a large one but, more important still, my advertising campaign had stirred up the other merchants in town to publicity work. The Star had seen prosperous days since I entered into the retail business. It was strange that Larry would intentionally take a step that spelled pecuniary loss to himself. That he had done so bore tribute to the intensity of the ill-will he had conceived for me.

The next feeling I experienced was one of dismay. My business had been built up very largely on advertising and, as the Star was the only daily paper published in town, it was very necessary to me. How I would keep my business up without the opportunity of daily appeals to the bargain-cupidity of the people of Martinville was a problem that I had not the nerve at once to consider. But I knew this was the problem I would have to meet unless by any chance I could wrest control of the Star from Barlow; for the note from the business manager, I knew, was in effect an ultimatum from Larry. He would never recede from that position.

After several hours of hard thinking I originated a plan of action and on the spur of the moment rushed out to put it into execution. Crossing the street I made my way up to the shop of old Jed Jarvis, who ran a one-horse job-printing plant in a gloomy little hole above a tobacco store and pool-room.

Old Jed was a drunkard, a scholar, a philosopher, and a socialist rolled into one; but whether drunk or sober, whether setting up type from his dust-laden case or discoursing learnedly on Plato and

Karl Marx, he was always sincere, amusing, and pretty much of a gentleman.

“The Star has washed its hands of me,” I announced.

“How’s that?” asked Jed, squinting at me over the top of his case.

“They won’t accept any more advertising from me,” I explained. “I suppose Anderson, the manager, is acting on instructions from the man higher up. Anyway I can’t use the columns of the Star any more.”

Jed spat disgustedly, emphatically, but nevertheless accurately, at the battered spittoon beneath his case.

“When they were making up that puny edition of mankind called Hiram Anderson, someone must have pied the brain form,” he declared. “And that Star crowd call themselves journalists! Why the rag never showed any signs of life until you forced the other merchants here to advertise. Anyway, you’re well out of the Star, son. A real newspaper presides in the parlor of public opinion but this imitation paper aims no higher than a voice in the scullery of peanut politics. It’s spineless, spavined, pigeon-toed policy has always made me ashamed to call myself a journalist!”

“We’re going to start a sort of opposition paper,” I said. “And we’ll make you editor, Jed.”

The old printer sat up very straight at that.

“Son,” he said, almost tremulously, “it’s always been my ambition to have a regular column in which to tell the dear, benighted, chuckle-headed public what I think about ’em. I’ve felt the spirit of Horace Greeley and George Brown stirring in me for half a century. Give me a medium of utterance and I’ll turn this town upside down.”

He did. We put out a small single sheet paper, sixteen inches by twelve, and called it the Daily Blast. Jed Jarvis took the front for two columns of skits on local matters and I used the back for my advertisement. I gave Jed two dollars a day and paid for the paper and supplies. Jed wrote all the matter and set the whole sheet up by hand. I hired a couple of boys to distribute copies of the paper each night to every home in town; It cost me more than I had been paying the Star but I soon realized that it was worth every cent that I paid out.

Martinville had never been accustomed to candid comment on local topics, the policy of the Star being opposed to frank utterance, except where certain interests were to be served. Jed Jarvis’ caustic remarks and outspoken criticisms of all things official set the town rocking. He had a dry wit all his own and a power of withering sarcasm that soon brought people to the point where they looked for the arrival of the Blast as the event of the day.

My advertising was read as never before and this, added to the sympathy which the action of the Star earned for me, made the next three months particularly busy and profitable ones.

I had to act in the capacity of editorial censor, as otherwise Jed would have plunged us into endless trouble. But one day I was called out of town and the inevitable happened. The preceding day Jed had said to me:

“Hadn’t we better pitch into Barlow a little now? It’s his turn.”

“No,” I had replied, “not yet.”

When I returned next night the first item I read in the Blast had to do witn my erstwhile chum. It ran as follows.

“Our enterprising young financial magnate, Lawrence Barlow, is reported to have secured a working control of the stock of Union Electric. This was quite to be expected of Larry, but one cannot help speculating as to the nature of the scientific porch-climbing methods that he adopted to secure this stock.”

In explanation it may be stated cuat the Union Electric Co. controlled the lignt. power and traction situation in town. As the corporation had succeeded in extracting perpetual franchises from the council, the stock was considered to be of exceptional value and when a man was lucky enough to own some Union Electric he generally locked it away in his safe and scoffed at offers of purchase.

I knew there would be trouble over Jed’s rash comment, and it was not long in coming. Barlow got me on the telephone early that evening.

“I’ve lust got one thing to say to you, Haven,” he remarked in a voice that vibrated with suppressed feeling. “You’re responsible for that low scurrilous rag called the Blast. I’m going to put you out of business and I’m going to jail Jed Jarvis. That’s all !” And he rang off.

Barlow’s next move followed rapidly. Dunderdale, the messeneer for the Dank I did business with, brought me the first

“That vacant store down the street’s to be fitted up,” he announced.

“What for?” I asked.

“I guess you’re to have opposition,” said Dunderdale.

“Any idea who it is?”

“Of course I’m not telling you but—” said the messenger in a cautious whisper-“it’s whispered that Barlow is fin-

ancing it. Bucknell will be manager.”

In two weeks the new store was fully launched finder Bucknell’s name. Everyone in town knew, however, that it was Barlow who was backing it; and there were few who did not guess at his motive.

I realized from the first the seriousness of the situation. The stock carried in the opposition store, paralleled my own to the last detail. They cut prices to the bone, sometimes offering quick-selling lines at prices which I knew were below the actual cost of the goods. They advertised heavily, employed a high-priced window-trimmer and spared no expense to make the store attractive.

If I had attempted to follow the pace, my ruin would have been accomplished in rapid order. It was a game at which I would have no chance of ultimate victory, for Barlow could keep on throwing in money until I was forced to surrender. If I met one cut, he could go me one better.

Recognizing this, I decided at once that I would adopt a passive attitude and allow the opposition to run its course. I stopped buying goods, discontinued the Blast and all other forms of advertising and lightened up my expenses in every possible detail. I did not drop my prices a single copper. With the money on hand I figured that I could keep the store open for three months and pay all expenses even if I didn’t sell a cent’s worth of goods. If the worst came to the worst I could call upon Uncle John for further ammunition to aid me in standing siege.

Bucknell soon had practically all the trade of the town. No consideration such as friendship for me or disapproval of the tactics of Barlow could withstand the lure of the low prices offered at the new store. Some of my old customers would drop in and price goods which they required.

“I’d like to buy from you,” they would say, “but you’re asking half as much again as Bucknell’s. Can’t you meet the price?”

“You’ll do me a kindness,” I would reply, “if you buy as much stuff at these bargain prices as you can. The more they sell the more they lose ; and the more they lose the quicker they’ll go out of business and leave me alone. I don’t blame you in the least for dealing there. But it would be suicide for me to follow their lead.”

A few of my best customers continued to deal with me but there were some days when I didn’t sell a dollar’s worth of goods.

I hung on for three months, grimly waiting to see how long Larry’s desire for revenge would keep the upper hand over his natural cupidity. By the end of the third month my bank account was getting perilously low. '

For the next few weeks, Larry threw all pretence to the winds, and took hold of the business himself. He certainly made things hum, selling a volume of goods by sheer force of colossal price cutting which hurt the dry goods business in town for a good year afterward. He oversold the town.

But as I had gone to Uncle John for further backing, this whirlwind campaign did not bring me any closer to the verge of backing out. I figured that I could pay my expenses for four months more if Larry continued his attempt to effect my oommercial extermination at the gait he »as then going.

But Larry had had just about enough. He had expected me to meet him half »ay in the fight and nothing but a quick decision had been in his mind when he tossed his hat into the mercantile ring. He had not stopped to count the cost. Bucknell had shown his usual lack of judgment and in the matter of expenses the total had reached such a figure that Larry must have spent some bad nights going over the sheets. I feel sure that ifter the first month Larry regretted his impetuosity in taking on the fight. This led to his desire to bring it to a quick finish-—and consequently he was beaten from the start.

At the end of the first four months, a traveler gave me the tip that Bucknell had stopped buying goods. Larry left town ostensibly on a business trip, but in reality, I believe, to avoid facing out the failure of his attempt. And two weeks later the store was closed.

I immediately resumed publication of the Blast, and business flowed back to my store pretty much as though no interruption had occurred. The interruption, so I learned afterward, had cost Larry a good $8,000. I had lost over $1,000 myself; it was a costly victory.

I knew enough about Larry Barlow to realize that he was not through with me by any means. He returned to town surcharged with animosity and I waited in daily expectation of the attack breaking out in another quarter. I considered my position carefully, but could not see a single breach in my defences. But there was a breach; and Larry did not take long in finding it.

The owner of the store I occupied was a retired farmer of considerable means named Withrow. My lease expired on first of the year and, when I went abou1 the first of December to see about : renewal I experienced a distinct shock.

“Can’t renew,” said the owner. “IV given an option of the property until thfirst of the year, and expect it will b taken up.”

“Barlow, of course?"

“Yes, Mr. Barlow holds the option."

There were only two other stands i town where I could carry on business wit any degree of profit to ftiyself, and I loj no time in getting around to see th owners. At both places I got the sara answer. They had given options on thei property and could not entertain any position from me. Larry had done h; work with characteristic thoroughness.

Thoroughly dejectëd, I dropped in 1 talk it over with Jed Jarvis, who had gor back to his work of editing the Bla» with renewed vim. Jed received the nev quite philosophically.

“I heard something to-day that wi make old Withrow weep real tears wh he finds out about it,” he said. “Uni Electric are going to add a new car lit for the North Ward people, as you kno' I’m told the new line will branch off your corner. Do you see what th means? That corner will become t busiest in town, and the value of the pi perty will go up at least 50 per cent, nice profit for Barlow, eh?”

“That’s the best piece of news I’ heard!” I exclaimed. “I think I see i way out of this mess now.”

Without pausing to enlighten the printer as to my plans, I hurried back see Withrow again. His chagrin on leal ing the news was quite as poignant as J had predicted.

“The young scamp ! He’s swindled mi he exclaimed, with tears in his voice, if i in his eyes. “And there isn’t a looph anywhere for me to get out of my b gain!”

“I’ll find one,” I said. “Will you give me a lease for five years, provisional on my finding some means of preventing Barlow from taking up that option?”

“If we can agree on terms,” assented Withrow.

The next day, having settled up matters satisfactorily with Withrow and perfected a plan of action, I called on Adam Handy, the leading real estate man in

“I’m afraid I’ll have to move, Mr. Handy,” I said. “My lease on the present place is up at the first of the year, and Withrow doesn’t seem inclined to do anything for me. It would cost a lot to fix that place up. I had intended to put in a new store front and improve the interior generally and, in fact, I went so far that an architect is coming up from Toronto to-morrow to look the building over. After he sends in his report I’ll make up my mind definitely, but I think I can say now what it will be. I’ll be compelled to move, I’m afraid. So you might look up another store for me.”

“What’s the matter with the building?” asked Handy, an extremely fat man, with shrewd, little eyes which were said to possess the uncanny faculty of seeing inside the pockets and check-books of prospective customers. He worked hand-inglove with Larry Barlow on all real estate deals, and had, as a matter of fact, secured the option from Withrow. His interest in the building, therefore, was sufficient to put .a certain amount of anxiety into his tone.

“I don’t want to say anything about the place, especially as I’m likely to move out at once,” I replied. “But, just between you and me, Mr. Handy, I’m glad the building inspector never dropped around

“Huh ! What’s that?” asked Handy, all interest now. “The building isn’t dangerous, is it?”

I hesitated a moment.

“Of course not,” I replied, with an air of suddenly assumed caution. “But it’s just possible the inspector’s report might make a difference in the price the property would bring. Well, we’re both busy men, Mr. Handy, so I’ll trot along. You might let me know in a few days what you can do for me.”

I could tell by the expression of Handy’s face that my purpose had been accomplished. The next day the architect arrived, and I had him go thoroughly over the building with the idea of giving me a report on it. In addition, he was to prepare plans for a new front and a complete renovation of the main floor. I took pains to have him conduct his outside examination during the busiest time of the day, when he would be sure to be noticed. And I stuck right at his elbow.

Early next morning, the town building inspector dropped over to see me. John Connel was a big, lanky fellow, with a long, ropy neck, a nose that protruded so startlingly that it gave him a top-heavy appearance and a lazy nasal drawl. He was a power in municipal politics, which accounted for his occupancy of the various offices of building inspector, health and sanitary inspector and relief officer. What he didn’t know about buildings would constitute almost a complete encyclopædia on the subject.

“What’s wrong with this building?” he drawled.

“Nothing,” I replied, sharply. “Why?”

“I’ve heard rumors that the place was in bad condition,” he said. “Anyway, it’s my duty as building inspector to look it over, and if it’s in bad condition I’ll be forced to make the owner fix it up.”

“You wouldn’t condemn it, would you?” I asked. “It would kill my trade if you did.”

“ Not necessarily,” replied Connel. “Anyway, I’ll look it over now.”

“Why not wait for a week or so,” I suggested. “I had an architect from Toronto going over the building yesterday, and his report will be in soon. You could take it and verify his findings. It would save a lot of work.”

Connel accepted the suggestion eagerly. The plan would enable him to put in an accurate report without any effort on his part; and as he hardly knew a joist from a base-board, this way out relieved what might have been an awkward situation for him.

After he left I indulged in a quiet laugh ; for I could see my way clear now. It was obvious that Handy had gone to Barlow with his news, and that Barlow had sent the building inspector around. Anyone familiar with Larry’s methods would know what his next move would be. If convinced that the building was in bad condition, he would let his option drop, have the inspector condemn the property, and then buy it in on a much lower basis. In the meantime, he would hush up the matter of the street railway extension.

I had arranged with the architect to get his report in by the first day of the year, and it took some diplomacy to stave the inspector off until that time. With Larry urging him on to get definite information, Connel kept dropping in every few days. I kept the coals of Connel’s suspicion fanned by elaborate efforts to impress him with the safety of the building.

Early in the last week of the year, I went down to see Handy again.

“I must have a new store at once,” I told him. “It’s very urgent, Mr. Handy. My lease expires next week.”

“I haven’t been able to find anything that will suit you,” he replied. “What’s the matter? Won’t Withrow give you any satisfaction?”

“He seemed anxious to sell,” I replied. “In fact, he hinted to me yesterday that he had practically closed a deal to get it off his hands.”

“By the way, any word from that architect yet?” asked Handy, in a casual tone.

“No report yet. Of course, I’ve heard from him.”

“Perhaps the new owner of the store will renew your lease,” suggested Handy, craftily.

I pretended to walk into the trap.

“No, I don’t want to renew,” I said. “I want a new store.”

“Then, the architect’s report will be a bad one?”

“I’m sure I can’t say,” I stated, hurriedly. “There’s nothing wrong with the store, I’m sure. But it doesn’t suit me at all. It was never built for the dry goods business.”

On the last day of the year the report of the architect arrived. Withrow notified me at noon that Barlow had allowed the option to drop. I at once telephoned to Connel to come up.

“Well, what’s the architect say?” asked Connel, wrapping his long legs around an office stool and casting a deprecating glance around the place.

“Just what I expected he would say,” I replied. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the store. The foundations are in excellent condition, the walls are firm and the floors show no signs of sagging. In short, he is prepared to guarantee the building good for at least ten years more.”

Connel was too stunned to speak. He picked up the typewritten report mechanically, and started to thumb over the leaves.

“I’ve signed up a five-year lease on the premises,” I added, “and will let contracts for some renovations in a day or so. You might tell Barlow about it, Connel.”

To be Continued.