One Thousand Per Cent—Net!
VERY adroitly had Findlay led up to his real reason for the interview. A sharp glance at the other’s thoughtful face assured him that he had succeeded in presenting the proposition with necessary delicacy and he permitted himself a little smile of satisfaction. If he had come to the conclusion before that he knew his man, now he was sure of it.
McLennon scowled silently at the blue smoke trailing from the end of his cigar. He watched it draw into the draft of the open casement, dip and stagger over the edge of the sill and go flaring to pieces in the wind outside. It seemed almost as if he were listening still to the unbroken flow of the station agent’s talk, ending abruptly in this proposal, so bold that it scattered his poise, even half frightened him. He was not accustomed to doing business on such a big scale as these Westerners everywhere mapped it out and he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his thick-soled boots scraping harshly on the grit of the floor.
From the upper window of the newlybuilt station, where the company’s local agent had his private quarters, Spruce Crossing presented the full sprawl of the usual rough grade camp. A line of freight wagons, each pulled by three teams, was winding out slowly, skirting the river. McLennon’s abstracted gaze flitted ahead of them, past the log stables, past the white tents beyond on the valley trail to where, in the distance, the bridge gangs were at work. The “He-oo-he!” of a gang boss came faintly down the valley to his ears, to be drowned out almost immediately by the noise of hammers and saws closer at hand.
McLennon started ,though the other had spoken quietly.
“Well?” repeated Findlay with a touch of impatience. “You heard what I said. Of course, you don’t have to follow my advice if you don’t like; but you’ve never yet had occasion to regret doing so, have you?”
“No, I appreciate-—”
“Well, then, I’ve shown you how we can make a big clean-up. It’s up to you, Mac.”
“But—where’s the money coming from, man ?”
“Up to you, that end of it. If this thing’s too big for you to handle, all you have to do’s say so and I’ll look around for another partner in the deal. I know half a dozen big men in Winnipeg who have the capital and who’d tumble all over themselves to get in on this if I took them into my confidence as I have you. The reason I’m offering you first chance is because you’re here on the ground and can personally handle the business; also, you and I have already found out that we can trust each other and I must have a man I can trust implicitly. Frankly, I don’t fancy taking in a bunch of plutocrats with more money now than is good for them. I’d rather have you.”
McLennon shook his head dubiously. “Twenty thousand is an awful lot of money, Findlay.”
“If you haven’t got it, it is,” agreed the station agent dryly. “If you have, it depends on the proposition.”
“Why, say, old Dubenko must be crazy to ask a price like that for his land ! It’s more money than a fool foreigner like him ever heard of! There ain’t a homestead in the whole darn country worth anywhere near that!”
It’s easy to be seen you’re new to this business, old man.” Findlay smiled tolerantly. “You haven’t been West long enough to get the right perspective, that’s all. There’s hundreds of homesteaders out in this country have wakened up in the morning to find a new railway line driving smack through their barnyard and a new town being born on their very property. That’s what’s happening here and Dubenko is the lucky dog who owns the only piece of land the Company can use for their roundhouses and shops. The old beggar’s cute enough to see it. He’s no fool if his breath is strong enough to knock you down with garlic. I couldn’t get him to chop off a nickel and you bet I tried. Twenty thousand or nothing— that’s his final ultimatum. Question is, can you raise it—cash?”
McLennon watched a transit man in the distance slowly struggling up the steep embankment with his instrument.
“Supposin’ I could—just supposin’ I could,” he began cautiously, “what’d you say your share would be?”
“I said we’d split, fifty-fifty.”
“Don’t want much!”
“Certainly not!” said Findlay, shortly. “Oh no, ’course not!” McLennon’s tones were heavy with irony. “How much do you put in?—Not a cent! How much risk do you take—Not a jot! Yet you say fifty per cent.—half the profits! What ’you take me for, Findlay? Do I look like a sucker or what?”
“I’m giving you credit for more sense than that,” frowned the agent. “You’re forgetting that without my help there’s no deal at all. My share of it is to see that the company puts up its shops on your property and that’s the only way there’s anything in it for either of us. Do you get that? Isn’t that worth something? Or don’t you think I’ve got pull enough to work it?”
“Oh, I ain’t sayin’ that,” said McLennon readily enough.
“Well then, for the love of Mike let’s get down to brass tacks ! How much have you got?”
“How much?” insisted Findlay briskly. “Guess I could raise the twenty if I had to do it,” admitted McLennon reluctantly. “Had to, I said.”
The agent slowly tapped the ashes from his cigar with his middle finger. It was
Copyright in the United States by Hopkins Moorhouse.
better than he had anticipated. He got up and walked to the window, where he stood looking out until he was sure he could keep every trace of elation out of his voice. Presently he turned and held out his hand.
“The deal’s on then, Mac. We’ll put her through a-whistlin’.”
“Too fast for me,” objected McLennon, ignoring the extended hand. “I haven’t said I’d put up the money.”
“Not yet, but you will. My dear fellow', you can’t help yourself. Now that I know you can do it if you want to, I consider it as good as settled; for you’ve got too good a business head on your shoulders to let the chance go, once you’ve thought it over. I wouldn’t let you sign up with me to-day if you wanted to. Prefer to have you sleep on it over night and tomorrow you’ll come to me of your own accord.”
“That’s fair enough,” nodded McLennon with relief, for he did not like to be hurried. “You see, I’d be staking everything I’ve got in the world on this one gamble an’ naturally—”
“A sure thing is never a gamble.”
“Well—see you to-morrow,” nodded McLennon with studied carelessness from the doorway.
BUT once outside, he made straight for his “office.” It was located in a little wooden building with a high square front —the same false front with which all the other buildings on Main street faced the railroad track in anticipation of fooling the traveling public at a future date into an impression of two-storey solidity. All of these buildings, and the cluster of shacks outcropping on the side streets, were of rough unpainted lumber or of logs. The signs above most of the “stores” had been scrawled there by a busy shipping-clerk .with a marking-pot; as befitted the only genuine two-storey structure in town, however, the enterprising Empire Hotel had painted the entire stretch of boarding that topped its verandah. When he got into more permanent quarters McLennon secretly planned to “knock the spots clean off” that sign of Spratt’s; just now his own “Real Estate, Loans and Insurance” was much more modest than he was in the habit of feeling lately.
His mind, however, was full of more important things than the sign above his door as he let himself in. He turned the key in the lock, chucked his hat into a corner, swept some blueprints from the pine table that served as his desk and settled down to eager figuring. Old timers might see in Spruce Crossing only another mushroom railroad camp that would move on with the track-laving machine as soon as the big bridge was built; but not John McLennon—not if Thomas B. Findlay’s tip that day meant anything. And McLennon missed his guess if it didn’t mean— thing!
The river flowed down one side of the
little valley, skirted by the railroad’s right-of-way. Level ground upon which to build a town was more or less limited and the early comers had already taped off a small townsite into lots with a twenty-five-foot frontage. Right next to this “heart of the business district” was the sole remaining piece of real-estate that was of any use for expansion purposes— the Dubenko homestead. Before the railroad came there had been no such place as Spruce Crossing, so called, and lots there had been worth, so to speak, about a thousand for a dollar. Soon they would be selling for a thousand dollars a lot! Findlay said so.
And why not? Comparatively fresh from the East though he was, even he, McLennon, knew of several prairie towns where property values had leaped into the sky over night, where a mere rumor from railroad circles was enough to engulf the place in a rush of speculators whose nights were filled with dreams of second Chicagos, second Omahas, and their days with boisterous talk. And always it was the railroads that did it. So, why not at Spruce Crossing? Findlay said it was a cinch. Sure enough, why not?
TT was true that the “town” so far was
nothing but a railroad camp at the head of the steel, populated by the people engaged in building the road and those who followed them about with the sole object of making money. But everything had to have a beginning. The grading gangs long ago had swum their teams and packhorses across the river and were several miles from Spruce Crossing by this time; as soon as the bridge gangs had completed their work the track-laying would proceed. Whether the town was dragged up by the roots and carried along with the rails depended upon the railroad company; if the company saw fit to select Spruce Crossing as a divisional point, the town would boom as a railroad centre. That was the situation in a nut-shell.
McLennon did not require Findlay to tell him that there was no farming community to support the place; it was quite apparent that it was surrounded entirely by scenery with the nearest farming land ten miles away at “The Junction,” where the river met the old Potlatch Trail that wound through the foothill country into the mountains. Within thirty days after the first train stopped at Spruce Crossing every foot of the company’s land had been covered with sidetracks and the side tracks with cars; within thirty days after the track-laying machine crossed the bridge there would be little left but the sidetracks—unless the company—
McLennon nodded to himself as he tamped tobacco into his pipe. That was where the tip Findlay had just given him came in. The mileage demanded the location of a divisional point and the company had picked Spruce Crossing as the spot! That was the tip. So Spratt’s hotel was not such a.fool stunt as some people thought; the foxy beggar must have had the tip from the first and he hadn’t got himself elected Mayor for nothing either. Not him! The town would stick; values would soar in a night; the crowd would rush in to lay their money on a sure thing
and there would be dreams of a second Butte City and boisterous enthusiasm—a bang-up boom! And that was where McLennon would come in !
AH, yes, indeed! He chuckled as he began to speckle the paper with figures that would indicate just where he would stand in this matter. There were 160 acres in the Dubenko homestead, which would subdivide into thirty-two blocks with a total of 664 lots, measuring 30 x 120 to a 20-foot lane for the most part. Of these Findlay said the railroad people would need about a hundred for their storehouses, roundhouse, yardage, etc., and, being the choicest location, they would cost that prodigal corporation as close to a thousand dollars each as the company would stand for; that was exactly how Findlay had put it and he had been very positive about it.
McLennon’s throat grew dry as he stared at the totals. That alone would be $100,000! And the rest of the property, sold at four or five hundred dollars a lot— a reasonable enough price, Findlay said— would bring in a couple more hundred thousand, or a grand total of about $300,000! Even giving Dubenko his hold-up purchase price, for the property and subtracting the government subdivision tax, surveyor’s fees and sundry other items, they would be able to rely on a net return of say $266,666.66! If he could only beat Findlay down to a twenty-five per cent, share, McLennon found that it would net him $200,000 even. And that was exactly one thousand per cent, on his investment.
One thousand per cent, net! He kicked aside his chair and began pacing up and down excitedly. He rubbed hus pudgy hands together as the scheme enlarged on him. Two hundred thousand dollars at one crack ! Lord, was there that much money in the world? Was a thing like this ever put across?—really put across? Or had he made some mistake—?
Back to the table he jumped to make sure; but there was no error in the figuring. If the agent’s price estimates were right, he, McLennon, would practically own the town!
RESTLESSLY he began again to pace back and forth, back and forth. Could he raise the money? He had a little over eight thousand in the bank at Edmonton and some property there that could be sold at a sacrifice for two or three more; besides this he had three thousand tied up in a deal at Winnipeg—one Findlay had just lately persuaded him to go into. All told, that was only thirteen thousand and he would require twenty— cash !
There was the home down East, of course; but he had always reckoned that as belonging to Minnie. A man owed some consideration to his wife and he had made a vow before he went into this Western game that, come what might, the old home would remain in his wife’s possession; it would be something to go back to if need arose and he would be easier in his mind, knowing that his wife while patiently waiting there for him to get over his “venturesome fit,” as she called it—that
his wife was living comfortably among the old familiar surroundings.
In spite of the golden opportunity which he saw just within his grasp—in spite of the excitement it aroused in him, McLennon hesitated to break that vow he had made to himself unless he could finance the deficit in no other way. Of course if he could not—well, he’d be fiftyeleven kinds of a fool to let two hundred thousand get away from him for lack of seven! He eased his conscience, however, by promising himself that he would take the step only after being thoroughly satisfied that he had a sure thing.
A S he stood near the window, çevolvGV. ing the situation, his attention was suddenly directed to a bent figure plodding by on the far side of the narrow street. McLennon swept his papers into the table drawer, unlocked the door and shouted. When the foreigner turned, McLennon beckoned him across.
“Hello, Dubenko! You’re the very man I want to see. Come on in a minute. I’ve got a cigar for you.”
The Ruthenian was in a hurry, though he did not look it. He was a busy man these days, shoveling ballast while the sun shone. His wife looked after the little farm and left him free to make extra money off the construction work. Dobre! That was fine ! Just now he had been sent into town by his boss on a message and he must go back “queek.”
Still, a cigar was a cigar. In less than five minutes McLennon was satisfied that Findlay had not underestimated the situation. Apparently the man did not care whether he sold his place or not; he and his “missus” had lived there for a long time and they could keep on living there and raising their family, quite contented with their straw-thatched home and its whitewashed mud walls. Szczo bilshe! Already they had five pigs, two milch cows, twenty hens, a yoke of oxen—and an agent one time had come to them to sell machinery. And—
“But listen. Dubenko. I am the man who puts up the money for Mr. Findlay to buy your land. You’re crazy to ask so much for it; it ain’t worth it and never will be. Now supposing I refuse to give the money—”
The foreigner shook his head emphatically.
“Meester, me no care. Me no onderstan’ —Meester Fin’lay. he have paper—me put mark on. He geev me ten dollar.”
“Oh, that’s just the option he made you sign. That don’t mean he’s bought the homestead. Supposing he don’t buy, what then?”
“Yalta riznytzia! What matter? Me sell Meester Spratt, den. He pay me— mawtch money, my place, he say. Harazá! Oh yes, meester!”
“Ho, ho-o-o! Spratt, eh? He’s been after it, eh? Well now, look here, Dubenko, you sell Findlay. See? Not sell Spratt. Understand? Sell to Findlay sure. If you don’t—” and McLennon brought down his fist on the table, glared fiercely, “he’ll have you arrested! Here’s another cigar. Now, get out!”
A moment later McLennon was hurrying back to the station.
“What? Already, Mac?” grinned the agent.
“Findlay, I’ve just been talking to Dubenko.”
The grin vanished. The tilted chair thudded on to four legs and the agent’s glance was keen.
“Well?” he demanded sharply. “What did the fool have to say?”
“He doesn’t seem to care a hang whether he sells or not,” complained McLennon. “Won’t come down a cent.” “From what? Get it off your chest! What price did the idiot mention?”
“Why—the price you offered him, I suppose. Come to think of it, we didn’t mention the actual figure. Twenty thousand you said, didn’t you? I took it for granted Dubenko knew—”
“Sure. Sure he knew. That’s all right, Mac.” Findlay was grinning again. “You never know when these damphool Galicians have got a thing in their heads and doing business with them is risky as—”
“That’s just it!” broke in McLennon eagerly. “You see, Spratt’s after it—” “Of course he is,” nodded Findlay. “I forgot to tell you that. Do you suppose he built that hotel for nothing?”
“I know. Just what I was thinking.” “Though where he’s been finding out things—Well, anyway, I didn’t get that option any too soon. As it is, I expect Spratt will be one of our best little buyers of lots, eh? What we want now is action. Made up your mind yet?”
“I—think I can swing it,” hesitated McLennon.
“That’s the talk! When can you let me have the money?”
“Can’t we get along with ten thousand or so actual cash?”
“We can not!” declared the agent emphatically.
“I thought—that is—couldn’t we form a little syndicate—?”
“What? Split the profits? Nothing doing! If you can’t handle it, McLennon, as I said before—” He shrugged his shoulders.
McLennon wet his dry lips and ran a nervous finger around the neckband of his shirt before he finally reached for his checkbook.
“This may help a little, Mac. Arrived in the mail just after you left. It’s three thousand to start with.”
The other stared at the check. It was for $3,500, dated at Winnipeg—why, already this wizard of finance had turned over their Winnipeg buy!
“Got them for seven thousand,” explained Findlay, yawning. “That first payment gives you back your investment with five extra centuries for my commission, as we agreed. Your profits’ll come clear in the usual one and two.”
TT AD this happened even the day previA ous, McLennon would have shown his satisfaction in an enthusiastic outburst; for it was one hundred per cent., quickly turned. It was the biggest of the little deals he and Findlay had put through so far; but compared to one thousand per cent.—Findlay voiced it:
.“I hope we’re through piking along in this game, Mac. It’s time we made some real money. Now with what you’ve got at
Edmonton and this check—that’s exactly how much?”
“Say thirteen thousand.”
“Then we’re shy seven more. What about that?”
McLennon’s moment had come. Instead of answering, he took the cap off his fountain pen and neatly wrote out a check for his balance at the bank, then with equal deliberation endorsed the check for $3,500.
“I’ll frank a wire through to the East for you, if you like,” suggested the station agent. “You’ll raise it on your house down there, I suppose?”
“That’s my wife’s,” objected McLennon. “I can raise the money on it all right; but—” He cleared his throat. “It’ll have to be on one condition, Findlay.”
“That Mrs. McLennon receives a twenty-five per cent, share in this deal and that you accept twenty-five per cent, as your share. There’s your checks. That’s my proposition. Take it or leave it.”
'T'HE row was to be expected. Findlay swore, then raved. He did it very realistically indeed, banging the table, arguing vehemently, throwing around such words as “pirate,” “Shylock” and “stick-up artist.” Not till McLennon quietly picked up the two checks, folded them neatly and placed them between the leaves of his little red-backed memorandum book—not till then did the agent begin to calm down. He capitulated suddenly by tossing over a pad of telegraph blanks.
“Go on, write your wire!” He savagely bit the end off another cigar, turned his back and went to the window.
McLennon wrote the message eagerly, triumphantly. He had scarcely expected his bluff to work so well. Findlay rounded on him abruptly.
“Understand, McLennon, I’m doing this partly because your wife’s entitled to a run for her money and partly because the delay necessary for me to get in touch with the capital at Winnipeg might enable Spratt to put one over and— What’re you grinning at? By George! I believe you’ve figured on that very thing ! You son-of-a-gun !” Findlay laughed. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Mac. You’ve put it all over me!”
f I AHUS graciously acknowledging defeat, he shook hands. More than that, he produced a hidden flask and they had a drink; for while the new line was as “dry” a grade as the Mounted Police could keep it, there were ways and means if one were sufficiently close-mouthed. Of late McLennon had not neglected a growing taste for “the real MacKay”; but he swallowed his liquor on this occasion with the added elation of victory and a sense of being admitted to the innermost shrine of the agent’s friendship and trust.
Back in his own office a little later, he proceeded to further celebration from his own carefully guarded bottle. One thousand per cent, net! Maybe when they renamed the town, it would be called “McLennon”! Well, why not? He grinned at a copy of the wire to his wife:
“Sell house and lot at ouee to Harper & Co. on their standing offer of seventy-five hundred. Mail marked cheek soon as possible. Sell furniture and join me here.”
That would make Minnie sit up!
He was scarcely prepared for the answer that reached him that very evening, however. It was brief:
“Are you out of your mind? Positively refuse to sell.”
Angrily McLennon scribbled a brusque command :
“Do what I tell you and ask no questions. Means a fortune. Know what T am doing. Will expect check this week.”
He made no mention of the one thousand per cent. net. Minnie would not understand such a thing, being a mere woman.
THE trouble with John McLennon was that he labored under a delusion that he knew himself and the world. This delusion had been fathered by the comfortable success he had made of his retail grocery business back in London, Ontario. He had reached the head of the steel with a smile for everybody he met and an uncertain “conviction” that half the world gets rich because the other half are fools. It was a pet saying of his that if a fellow kept half a day’s march ahead of Poverty in this life, he had no kick coming!
It was the kind of saying that belonged among the nutmegs and yeast-cakes; it didn’t fit in with the real-estate business and McLennon had not been West more than a week before he discarded it. For in the grocer’s make-up was a streak that had lain uncovered through all his years for lack of revealing atmosphere. Once McLennon, the plodding grocer, had dabbled in real-estate and tasted the joys of making money rapidly and easily, his usefulness in the slow and somewhat uncertain business of selling flour and bacon was at an end.
After selling out the business in the East it had been his original intention to start a general store in some hustling Western town; but his quest of the right location had developed into a sight-seeing trip on which he had had the time of his life. Finally he had reached the end of the newest railway track and met Thomas B. Findlay.
By keeping to himself a great deal, the latter had succeeded in giving out the impression that he did not consider the general populace quite good enough for him to mix up with; so that it was quite an honor to know him unless one realized that he made a greater impression upon himself than anyone else.
In this latest arrival from the East the asrent saw the placid, heavy face of a man who had earned money slowly, saved it religiously. It was a face that attracted Findlay; and McLennon had not been in this dapper gentleman’s company many hours before advice was being asked for and received in full and convincing measure.
“Grocery business!” Findlay had laughed. “Why, Great Scott, man! If you’ve got any capital, you can make more money cashing C.G.’s for the men working on the line and that’s only the least of the good things I can put you next to. Jump Continued on Patje 77
Continued from Page 25
into real estate if you want to gather in the coin.”
A/T cLENNON was ready for anything —eagerly so. He had been West not more than a month; but in that time he had imbibed the prevailing spirit of confidence and enthusiasm till the jingle of it got into his blood. Everybody seemed to be making money. Progress everywhere in this wonderful grain-growing area was unbelievably swift. The cities were racing each other in building permits. Crops were good. All the railroads were pushing afield with new lines, opening up new land to inpouring settlers, while new towns were springing up along these lines like so many mushrooms.
Real estate was a main topic. The newspapers were running whole extra sections to dccommodate the full-page announcements of real-estate propositions— market gardens, choice residential districts, subdivisions with alluring names, convincing key-maps and elaborate illustrations. Even the working man was provided with artistic vistas of modern bungalow homes on treed boulevards, hammocks swinging on the front verandah and a garden at the rear. Why pay rent when one of these was waiting to be owned for the same outlay?—-just about. Offices were conveniently “open in the evenings.” Conversation on all sides was punctured by noisy stories of fabulous “turn-overs” and punctuated by such phrases as "agreement of sale,” “my equity,” “your note.” For every other person one met carried a blueprint, it seemed, and it was a poor man indeed who had not bought at least one lot somewhere.
Some of the biggest profits were beingmade in the smallest places, too. Right here at Spruce Crossing McLennon did not find the evidence lacking. Big Frank, who ran a poolroom and bowling-alley and sold soft drinks, was known to be making money “hand over fist.” Mayor Spratt was another worthy citizen who was accomplishing profits out of the Empire Hotel and that without a license to sell liquor; his bus line to the Junction at a dollar per head each way had also been a money-maker from the first though the “buses” were nothing but open wagons with rough seats along the sides and no springs. Then there was Mike Ryan, who ran the “Scandinavian Restaurant” in a tent and was taking in
sixty dollars a day from forty boarders and banking thirty-five of it as profit. He and his Swedish wife had been dishwashers in an Edmonton hotel before they took to following the steel for profit; they had cleared over a thousand dollars at Gopher Creek, another thousand at Turkey Trot and already they had picked up twenty-five hundred at the Crossing. And there was also “Dutch” Spoopendorfer, the little German barber—
A/T cLENNON got tired of the never-
^ ending list. Money-making was the way of the West and he liked it. As Findlay said, all that was needed now was a live real-estate man to make a real town of it and. McLennon was right there to fill the bill—under the direction of Mr. Findlay. “There surely will be something doing with the two of us on the job,” that gentleman had predicted. And it was certainly beginning to look that way.
Not until the Dubenko homestead had been duly purchased and the surveyors were at work, subdividing it—not till then, however, did the public learn that anything unusual was in the wind. Nobody knew where the rumor started, but all of a sudden the one subject under discussion was the selection of Spruce Crossing as a divisional point. It was then discovered that McLennon had purchased Dubenko’s land and that it was to be thrown on the market at once.
The excitement spread rapidly. Mayor Spratt hurried over to McLennon’s office as soon as he heard, mopping his bald head with a big red handkerchief and shaking his fist playfully under the new citizen’s pudgy nose, the while he panted for the conversational breath which his haste and rotundity denied him.
“Thrice wel—welcome—to our city!” he puffed at last. “McLennon, you’ve done somethin’—which I’ve been tryin’ to get away with—an’ couldn’t reach with a tenfoot pole. Landin’ that damn Galician, sir —that’s my meanin’. How’n blazes did you turn the trick? Well, anyways, you’ve done it an’ I want to know where Í come in on this.”
“I have no doubt that we’ll be able to supply you with all the lots you care to buy, Mr. Spratt.”
“You’re damn right!” enthused the Mayor. “I want first pick on that stuff. Gotta have it. Own most of the townsite now, I do, an’ you bet your boots I know what’s what in this little burg. When this move of the railroad people gets known outside—why say, boy, mebbe there won’t be a rush in here fer fair! Mumma! Everything’ll go to beat hell! We’re all in this together, understand. Boost her up! Boom her! That’s the dope! She’ll go higher’n a kite! Seen it before. Just wanted you to know I’m here to help along the good cause.”
His Worship paused for breath and ran the bandanna over his perspiring pate.
“We gotta have a Board o’ Trade, McLennon—right away quick. You’ll have to take hold o’ that end of it till we can get a regular live-wire publicity commissioner on the job. See? What’s the matte;with holding a meeting to-night over at my place? I’ll get hold of some of the boys and everybody that’s worth a hoot
’ll be there. Get together! Push! That’s the dope!”
C 0 the meeting was held amid the keen^ est enthusiasm. Everything went with a zip with everybody'eagerly seeking an honorable place upon the municipal subscription list for civic improvements and everybody ready for an active assignment. Dutch Spoopendorfer’s offer to organize a town band was hailed with especial approval.
Mayor Spratt was not a man to let the mud pack under his feet. He preferred new towns on the wing and the very next forenoon saw a dozen teams at work, grading the streets. An architect in Edmonton was wired for to discuss plans for a fine church and an equally fine schoolhouse, the same to be of dressed lumber, painted and decorated. An adequate water and sewage system was to be undertaken immediately and every effort made to “put the town on the map.”
As soon as the new subdivision was in legal shape the property began to move with a speed that made McLennon dizzy with delight and as thirsty as a fish. In spite of some grumbling about the price of the lots, he was so busy during the day taking in “first payments” and executing agreements-of-sale that for the first week he was obliged to work far into the night to keep the books in order. Every evening he mailed a Post Office Money Order to the Edmonton bank and urged the establishment of a branch office at Spruce Crossing.
The story of the boom got into the papers and the bank sent him a clipping from a Winnipeg paper which had gone to the railroad company’s Western headquarters for verification of the news that Spruce Crossing had been definitely chosen as a divisional point, obtaining a flat denial of the whole thing. Very much alarmed, McLennon hastened to show the item to Findlay, who waved it aside airily.
“Keep your hair on, McLennon,” he advised. “Keep right on raking in the coin while the raking’s good. Railroad diplomacy, that’s all.” And he winked knowingly.
As Spratt seemed to be of the same opinion, McLennon dismissed the matter from his mind and even viewed with complacency the rapid completion of the big bridge. When that was ready, things would come to a show-down and the town might expect a visit from the railway officials to select their site.
TN the middle of the excitement Mrs.
McLennon arrived from the East. She reached Spruce Crossing late one night on a work-train which was bringing supplies from Edmonton to the end of the track and she was very tired and travelstained from her long journey, made almost without a stop. Half frightened by the rough newness of her strange surroundings, the poor woman greeted the familiar figure of her husband with a half sob of relief. The freight crew had treated her with utmost kindness; but she had been feeling like an intruder in their caboose.
It was pouring rain and they had a dis-
mal wait while one of Spratt’s drivers swore at a wheel that had become badly mired ; but they had so much to tell each other that the driver was yelling at them to climb in almost before they knew it.
McLennon was staying at the “Empire” and the proprietor had obligingly arranged for a larger room, though he had to oust a guest to do it. Late as it was, his Worship greeted them in a clean flannel shirt and acknowledged the introduction with a profound bow.
“We ain’t so much on style, but the best we got ain’t none too good fer any o’ Mac’s folks. Town’s yours, Mrs. Mac. Here, I’ll show you people up to your room myself.”
With a suitcase in one hand and in the other a tin pitcher of hot water that he had heated himself, he led the way up the bare wooden stairs and along the empty hall, dimly lighted by a smoky and evillysmelling kerosene lamp. He lit the bracket lamp in their room.
“Now, if you don’t see what you want, y’know, just holler an’ you’ll find us Johnny-on-the-spot—or as dost to it as we can get,” he beamed. “You look sort o’ tuckered out, so I’ll say g’night an’ beat it.”
“Is—is he the hostler?” she asked when the footfalls had died out.
“Why, Minnie, he’s the Mayor of the town.”
“Mayor!” gasped the good woman. She sank into a chair, aghast. Her eye roved over the cheap furnishings of the room; but there was little to reassure her in the second-hand dinginess of a spindly enamelled bedstead or the tin basin on its upturned packing-box covered with faded chintz. “Oh John, what kind of a town have you brought me to?”
It poured rain nearly all next day and in spite of the street grading which was under way, Main street was soon a sea of mud—not mere, quietly-inoffensive, plain, eastern mud, kindly disposed towards all; but real mud—slippery, slithery, mean as dirt! In spots it puddled like thick yellow soup! It fastened to everything that passed; but a boot was its especial pleasure and when it had covered the boot it got stuck on itself! Sliced off on the edge of the sidewalk, it hung there sullenly in sombre clods. Gumbo! Gobs of it!
MRS.. MCLENNON drooped all day at the hotel. She was afraid to venture out, but in desperation her husband compelled her to take dinner with him at the “Scandinavian Restaurant” in the hope that it would provide a change. It was certainly a change from the hotel meals, which she had already turned against—a change for the worse!
Mike Ryan’s “lunch counter” was nothing but rough boards on trestles, flanked by crude benches. In one corner of the square tent a bunk was curtained off and at one end a small extension tent covered Ryan and his cookstove, held out of the mud by a few boards. His small blond wife waited on the table in rubber boots and a yellow oilskin!
Mrs. McLennon stared in fascination every time the Swedish woman essayed a trip from the kitchen. Much practice had
rendered her expert at balancing aloft in one hand a crowded tray while she stood on one foot and extracted the other without losing her rubber boot. On wet days, Hilda Ryan, in her marvelous exhibition of tray balancing, was alone worth the price of admission.
During meal times Ryan did not attempt to move from his place at the stove. He was anchored. The mud must have oozed half way to his knees. From where he stood he could reach the pile of wood on the right or the rickety table of edibles on his left. The bill-of-fare consisted of ham—boiled, fried or with eggs ; potatoes, boiled; pie, cold; tea or coffee, anywhere from hot down.
Cold and damp, everything, with the dankness only emphasized by the fire in the little box heater! The salt chunked in .the shakers; the sugar and its bowl had cemented their friendship to defiant solidity. Mrs. McLennon could eat but little and rubbing shoulders with rough, begrimed navvies did not reduce her discomfort.
“These people are making piles of money,” vouchsafed her husband cheerfully, his mouth full. “ ’Fore long they’ll be starting up a classy little restaurant in Edmonton or Calgary and your Uncle Mike, there, will be spinning around in his own auto with Mrs. Ryan.. The clothes she’ll have will be ‘some,’ as he puts it; but they won’t be a patch on yours, Minnie, when we land our stake.” McLennon was proud of his Western words.
“All I’ve got to say is they’re earning it,” retorted his wife without enthusiasm.
McLennon escorted her back to the hotel and returned to his office for another spell of work. When he came in later he found her crying. Her trunk had arrived and she had foolishly packed some of her cherished wedding china among her clothing. These were pieces which she had preserved through thick and thin for over twenty years. Every bit of it was smashed !
McLennon tried to comfort her as best he could; but she was sure they had made the mistake of their lives in breaking up their old home and she would not be pacified.
“It’s only for a little while, I tell you, Minnie. Why, already I’ve got a wad out of this thing that’d choke a horse! And as soon as we’ve made our clean-up we’ll get out of here—go back East, if you like —anywhere you say, wife.”
Awkwardly he stooped and kissed her. She drew away from him, her eyes dilating.
“John !” she cried, horrified. “Oh, John, you’ve been drinking!” The tears coursed afresh down her wet cheeks.
“Aw, shut up!” growled McLennon resentfully. “You make me sick!”
Half the night through she lay wide awake, a dull ache in her throat, her mind full of dark forebodings.
THE first frost of the autumn had coppered the aspens when one sunny day the blowing of whistles up the valley announced the completion of the bridge. The track-laying machine was greeted with cheers by the men as it slowly crossed to the roadbed awaiting it, look-
ing like some giant insect. Huge rails were swung to place on the flat-cars without any unnecessary delay and the twin threads of steel began to creep away from Spruce Crossing.
The town had developed rapidly, mostly through the efforts of the residents; for the influx of new citizens had not been very great as yet. Once the public announcement of its selection as a divisional point was made, however, the big boom would commence. That was what everybody told everybody else.
McLennon’s subdivision was already almost half sold out, few citizens not possessing at least one or two lots; some of them had invested in ten or a dozen. There was nearly fifty thousand dollars in the bank at Edmonton, with pledges for another hundred thousand in subsequent payments.
Findlay had been trying lately to persuade McLennon they ought to divide this money once a month; instead of leaving it idle in the bank, they could make it work by reinvestment. But McLennon refused absolutely to listen to this; it was not according to their partnership agreement and he did not consider it strictly fair to local purchasers. He refused stubbornly even to lend any of it on Findlay’s note. A man whose head was clear at all times and whose brain was not fired by too much thinking on one subject might have noted a growing coolness in the agent’s manner; but McLennon was too busy to note anything outside of his work.
Soon, however, business began to fall off noticeably. At the close of each golden autumn day the track builders spread their blankets a little farther from Spruce Ciossing till finally they ceased spending money in the tiny town. Idle men stood in little gioups in the narrow, dusty street, whittled sticks and talked of other places. Citizens who had planned to build more substantial houses on their lots began to wonder how much longer it would be before the railroad officials arrived on a tour of inspection. McLennon began to wonder himself.
Then one day Mayor Spratt came bustling over to the office, excitedly waving a bit of yellow paper. He had wired to Winnipeg to find out and the reply from headquarters was that a special was leaving that very night. They ought to reach Spruce Crossing early Wednesday morning.
A meeting was hurriedly called to select a reception committee and make preparations for the great event. Five hundred yards of bunting was ordered by wire from Edmonton and a number of carpenters set immediately to work on a huge cedar arch across Main street. There was nothing slow about the citizens of Spruce Crossing and they proposed to show these men who held the fate of the town that such was the case.
To Be Continued.
Greece has taken her place among the really great factors in the maritime transportation industry of the world. At the beginning of this year she had 410 steamers, with a tonnage of approximately 900,000 tons; and it is estimated that these vessels will earn $15,000,000 during 1915.