BUTTERED SIDE UP:
C. W. STEPHENS
SNOW had fallen intermittently but heavily during the past three days; the ground was thickly covered with it; at four o’clock this December afternoon the man who had charge of the weather factory snow department had decided to call it a day, so he switched off the snow tap, switched on zero winds, and went off home for the night to wife and kids. The world was always yapping about good old Christmas weather, and writing to the papers about the degeneracy of the times, so let ’em have all they wanted of it.
“Whew!” Eddie Fraser emitted the expression as a gust of icy wind slammed him full in the face. The thing had come on so suddenly. At four the skies had been heavy and lowering, now they were clean swept, black blue, with dots of starlight winking frostily out of them. Over the pines at the hilltop a young moon was coming up cheerily.
The branches of the trees were covered thickly with woolly snow; it creaked and crunched under Fraser’s heavy boots, it roofed the mill buildings, lined the big cables that stretched over the pits, piled itself thickly on either side of the narrow foot track. Real Christmassy weather, come nicely in advance, for the merry season was two weeks ahead. The casual observer might have said that if Fraser had been a young man of average intelligence he would have buttoned up his sheep-lined corduroy coat to his ears, looked about him appreciatively on what the weather chap was doing for the world, and gone off to his warm quarters in the hotel and made himself snug for the night.
He was, however, quite up to the average of intelligence, though he lingered on this cheerless spot on a particularly bitter night. There was about this young man of thirty the suggestion of keen, driving, intelligent force, and looks told the truth. Yet, as he looked within and without—on the visible world and the bigger and more real one seen only with the inner eye—the scene was one that would have caused the late Mark Tapley to summon all his reserves of cheerfulness.
The premises on which he stood had been the property of the Eastern Star Mining Company, but were now in the hands of the liquidators of that corporation. Drysdale, the local attorney for the corporation undertakers, had just paid off tfie help, and gone down home whistling cheerily, for Drysdale was a blithe laddie, and no one looks for undue mourning from an undertaker. When there is no more death he’ll be out of a job, so things might be a great deal worse than they are.
PHRASER had been the manager of the defunct corporation; he too had been paid off; a three thousand a year income had been neatly snipped off; this last had made quite a gap in his scheme of things, and played hob with several remarkably pretty dreams this practical young man had from time to time indulged in. He had supposed that the job would be reasonably permanent, and that, being pretty high up on the ladder, any change he would make would be in reaching from his present position to one on a bit taller ladder, and so on to the end of the nice chapter. This being so, he had discovered that hotels and hotel homes, are, on the whole, pretty shoddy homes and abiding places for a real home-loving man. He had only discovered this during the year he had been in Langdale, at the head of the Eastern Star concern.
Before that he thought hotels very agreeable places, and hotel homes models of convenient comfort. It was since he met Ella Benton that this home notion had grown on him. He latterly had pictured the kind of home he wanted —in fact he’d spotted the very house, a small but reasonably roomy place out of town, on the edge of the lake, with a lawn and a garden and trees and things like that
round it, and —Oh, Boy, wasn’t it a grand and glorious feeling ? He prowled round the house as if he had meditated burglary; in broad daylight, in the gloom of night. It was one of his pet nightmares that he’d wake up one morning and hear that some other chap had taken it, and the dream raised murderous plans in his breast. Common sense would have said “Well, there’s the house; the landlord will be glad to rent it to you; you’ve got a fair amount of the furnishing stuff salted away in the bank, so go to it, you blighter, go to it, and get the girl.” Eddie was not a bashful young man, nor a pessi-
He had a reputation for tackling tough problems and getting results, but this marrying business was a different kind of proposition. A reigning monarch might in his loftier moments aspire to the hand of Ella Benton, but if his aspirations were to be realized he'd be a darned lucky chap. Ella was so wonderful—Eddie reflected a million times—she wasn’t like the ordinary girl to whom a fellow might walk up and say:
“Look here, girlie, what about getting married, eh?” A suitor ought to approach Ella on the bended knees of his soul, and when he dared to invite her to share his home and life he ought to have enough of the bright stuff to make her future as easy as a chute-the-chutes slide.» Latterly Eddie had thought that this Christmas he’d make the great advance; he had enough money to marry on, and with a three thousand a year job, and he himself making good on it, he might have a chance. And then the job fell from under, and Eddie came down with a royal wallop. It was all off for the time being, for no man outside a lunatic asylum could go up to a girl and say:
“Marry me, honey; all I have is yours, and I’m out of a job.”
The fact that Ella had money of her own made the situation worse. He wasn’t going to ask a girl to keep him till he could get into the running again. Therefore, this night, Eddie was not sunshiny or Christmassy. Some snipe would take that house— some fellow with a job and a girl, and the first thing Eddie would know there’d be somebody else’s smoke coming out of that chimney.
TJ E SHOVED his hands into his pockets -*• and reviewed the outer world. The white mill stood out with silent ghostliness against the dark sky; its windows had the dull blank of lifeless eyes; silence, eerie and cold as the night, wrapped the place about.
Fraser turned from the melancholy sight glumly. About the pits a few dim lights pierced the glooom, but served only to make the darkness a bit more depressing.
“Five minutes more of this, and I’ll have the blues,” said Eddie.
“Come on, quit it, the chapter’s closed, the great thing is to start a new onp.” He gave a last good-bye look, for the place had been his first command, and a first love, a first ship, are things quite different from later loves and ships. He was turning away to descend the hill when the silence was broken and the world cheered by the sound of somebody whistling. It was a clear, correct, throstle kind of whistle, and the tune was a Christmassy one.
Eddie listened, more or less entranced. It was not so much because he liked ancient carols, or because he appreciated the admirable moral of the old song, or because the whole thing harmonized so agreeably with the snow and frost and matters Christmassy. Reversing the sentiment of the well-known saw, Eddie was prepared to lose sight of the song and think only ofthesinger. It was Ella— nobody else could whistle just like that. You could tell it was Ella—whether she spoke, or laughed,or whistled, it was just the same distinctive performance. Other girls’ laughter or voices or whistles were much of a muchness, but Ella was a creature apart. The whistle grew clearer as the whistler approached, she was taking the short cut through the pit area, and at the thought icy shivers ran down Eddie’s back. It wasn’t the cold wind, or the zero atmosphere; it would have been just the same in the middle of summer. Have you ever had your heart a glowing furnace and cataracts of icy water pouring down your back at the same time? If you have you know what Fraser felt. She might get off the path, it was only about fifty feet wide, she might tumble into one of the abysses, there was only a barbed wire fence about them. A hundred things might happen. At last she appeared — she was quite safe; the cataract stopped and the glow intensified.
“Why, Eddie!” she spoke first. “What are you doing? Staging a winter tableau of ‘Love among the Ruins’?”
“Look here, Ella,” he said solemnly. “You shouldn’t come this way, through the pits.”
“Why not?” she asked. “Am I trespassing? I’ll go back if you say so.”
“No, it isn’t that, of course, but there’s the risk; you might get off the path and something terrible happen,” he said.
“Oh, I thought that perhaps I was intruding on your meditations,” she answered. “I could walk through the pits blindfold, I’ve come this way ever since I remember. Cold, isn’t it? I’ll have to hurry or’supper will be late. Are you coming along?”
“Yes,” he answered. “I was just on my way when I heard you whistling. We paid off this afternoon, and I was taking a sort of moony look around before I quit finally.”
CHE looked at him and in her pretty face was a new ^ seriousness. There was sympathy in her eyes he did not see, for want of looking. She put a hand on his arm.
“Poor old Eddie,” she said. “I guess—I know you feel it badly.”
“I’m sore as a bear,” he grinned, ruefully but attractively, as she thought. “It isn’t because I’m out of a job, but because I’ve worked the best I knew how on this place, and now realize that it was never meant to go. Jt was just something rigged up to put on the market and trim the public. Three or four small concerns bought up, merged, and capitalized at a big figure, bonus stock given with bond subscriptions, dividends paid for a year or so from Lord knows where to boost market prices, then when the stock had been unloaded on the market at good figures, dividends are passed, and then bond interest defaulted; bondholders step in and stockholders step out.
I once saw a fellow, short on brains but long on muscle, trying to lift himself in a basket, and I guess I must have looked the same to the world. I don’t say it to boast in any way, but I was on the job in the morning before the men, and after they’d quit at night I was there planning and scheming.
“I got the mills and pits into good shape, they have exceeded all previous records
for production this year, and I can see now that it was all thrown away. It’s been a fool’s job; I might have loafed on it, scamped the work, and the result would have been just the same—no worse. I’ll never do a better year’s work, no matter how long I live, or how hard I try, and it’s been spent on a skin game—gone for nothing.”
“That’s not so,” she replied. “If everyone about that corporation had done its duty to itself and the public as you have done, there would have been no closing down. That is public knowledge.”
“Mighty nice of you to say so, Ella,” he replied. “Everybody says so,” she added. “Uncle, with whom you fought half the time, says you did a man’s work, man way. And you can’t make me believe that such work goes for nothing. It brings heme its pay sooner or later.” He found her praise very cheering, and the world began to take on a pleasanter aspect. At the gate of her home he left her and went on his way much uplifted as to soul.
A MAN stood at the door of the hotel. Nearer view revealed him as John Benton, superintendent of the Fortescue Mining Company, and uncle of Ella. Eddie had often wondered that nature could produce from the same main stock two persons so diverse in charm as Ella and her uncle. The Fortescue Company was the biggest, oldest, and wealthiest corporation in the extensive Langdale Camp. Fortescue, who owned practically all its stock, was uncrowned king of the camp, an autocrat— hjs enemies said a despot. Benton reflected his master, though a man of decided individuality.
When the Eastern Star had been floated into the financial firmament, it had been the hope of the promoters to lure Fortescue into it, but he had turned down seductive offers with unconcealed contempt. He had no use for promoters, company, or anything that had to do with either of them, and he made no secret of his opinions. Fraser knew practically nothing of Fortescue, who was away a good deal, taking life agreeably in old age, but he had an extensive knowledge of Benton. There were places at which the properties of the two concerns joined, and, to say the least of it, the Fortescue people were exacting and not overneighborly. The Star folks had to keep close to the line, or they’d know about it. This extreme, and, as Eddie regarded it, unneighborly punctiliousness, had rousèd something of resentment in the young manager, and he had given back as good as was sent, insisting that the big folks should give as they demanded—consequently there was generally war on, in greater or less degree, with Benton and Fraser the principal scrappers. What the old man wanted to wait for him at the door for this evening, Fraser couldn’t make out. Probably to knock the corpse of the Star, after his amiable fashion.
“Hello, Eddie!” The salutation took Fraser aback somewhat. It had always been “Fraser,” or “Young fellow,” before.
“Hello!” responded Eddie.
“Guess it is,” the other replied. Fraser smelt double meaning in the acquiescence.
“Cold on the hill, I guess.
I hear they paid off this evening. She went down , quicker than I’d looked for.
Fortescue was surprised too; just had a letter from him; he’s playing golf in his shirt sleeves down in Florida.”
“Guess it didn’t break his heart any more than it did yours,” said Eddie bluntly.
“Tickled us both near to death,” grinned Benton. “I can’t say when I enjoyed a funeral more. Fortescue’s the same, only more so.”
Then it seemed to occur to the old man that there was something rather unseemly in jeering over what meant the loss of a good job to this youngster.
“But you can comfort yourself with this thought, my lad, that the fizzle was none of your work; you gave service, a hundred per cent., even if you were a darn bad Then of c neighbor. You worked and fought for your folks as if
they had been the salt of the earth, but, Lord, son, you never had the ghost of a show; that company was like mother’s piecrust ^made to be broken. Better luck next time. I came a cropper on my first two jobs, then I linked up with Fortescue, and I’ve been with him five and thirty years. I’m past the chloroform age now, so, between you and me, I’m slacking off a bit after the year winds up, not retiring altogether, but just easing off. Got a Santa Claus stocking, a bit ahead of time, from Florida yesterday.
“It was a nice bit of stock in the company; I’m not telling you this boastingly, but to show you that all employers are not like the bunch that welshed on you. You’ll drop on your feet, for you know your job, have no union hours, and can be as ugly as the next when you feel like it.”
D ENTON put up his greatcoat collar, lighted a long cigar, -*-* jammed his hat down to his eyes, and sallied forth into the street.
“Lucky chap!” ejaculated Eddie as he watched him go down the street. Then he entered the dining-room and took chances, being a robust young man. What a life for a home-loving young man! He’d bet his life that Ella would never serve pork swimming in grease. Then what a difference in the matter of dining-room scenery between Ella as vis-â-vis, and the fat drummer opposite who gobbled like a conscientious turkey anxious to be in trim for Christmas. He wondered if, by any horrible mischance, the real estate folks had rented that little house. Supper over, a long evening stretched before him. It might be slain at a movie show, but the killing would be rather tedious. Reading, to improve his mind, up in his not over-comfortable bedroom, did not appeal to him. If he dropped into the home of some of his acquaintances, he’d get two ears’ full of the crimes and callousness of the defunct company, and the corpse was getting rather noisome to him. He pined for the living and not the dead.
Would it or would it not be overdoing things if he went along to call on Ella Benton? What a chance he had missed when she asked him if he wouldn’t come in and have a cup of tea when he left her at the gate. He had been afraid he’d be in the way, and had taken her invitation as mere politeness. He ought to have declined nicely, but suggested that he’d drop along after supper. These afterthoughts that came to him made him mad because they were not forethoughts. He hadn’t enough initiative or aggressiveness in these matters; anyway he’d drop along and take a chance. Likely enough he’d find seme other chap there. He got to his feet, knocked out the ashes of his after-dinner pipe, and walked to the window to survey the world before going upstairs to spruce up for his visit. The wind was more boisterous than ever, and there were few people on the street. He was about to turn from the window and go up and beautify himself when he saw two persons flit by. One was a rather small, slim girl, swathed in furs most becomingly. As she turned her head the least bit to escape the cutting fury of the wind, Eddie caught sight of a prettily glowing cheek, a laughing mouth, tendrils of dark hair blown about temples and brow. It was Ella again, but she was not alone. Her arm was linked in that of a tall young man, a quite good-looking chap. It was Crayshaw, a young mining engineer, the manager of the Atlas Company, a small, prosperous concern on the outskirts of the town.
Crayshaw was a pleasant, sociable fellow, who had been
friendly with Fraser, though not intimate. He belonged to influential people, was a Toronto University and Technical College man, and a very capable engineer. Personally and professionally Eddie had not the least thing against him, but he saw something not altogether seemly or fitting in this arm-in-arm connection between him and Ella. Some sour spirit, anxious to disturb Eddie’s equanimity, suggested the extreme appropriateness of the friendship between the two. Crayshaw was of good family, had money, a sound job, and a roseate future. With his abil-
ity, the influence back of him, and his pleasingly aggressive manner, it was not difficult to see where he would fetch up; it would be in the ample, dignified, comfortable chair of the president of an influential corporation. A most suitable partner in life for Ella Benton.
Fraser told himself that while he was not jealous, he thought the suggestion rather crude. Crayshaw was all right in his way, but there were limits to him. The two had now passed out of sight, and the world was very chill. The fat drummer, having finished his supper in the diningroom, was having a snack with a toothpick, and approached Eddie, mellifluously suggesting a little game. Fraser, who was not his own genial self, so the drummer confided to the landlord later, declined the offer and sought the seclusion that his bedroom granted. He picked up a light, cheerful volume dealing with the European Situation and sat down in proper mood to enjoy its humor. Scarcely had he absorbed a page of the gloom stuff than the landlord’s raucous voice summoned him.
“Mister Fraser! Teller-fun!”
“Now who’s got the gall to disturb me at this time of night?” demanded Eddie of himself, and grouchilv descended.
“Hello!” he bellowed truculently.
“Why, Eddie!” came a protest that sounded angelically.
“Why, Ella!” he answered dulcetly.
“You sounded like a dinnerless lion,” she said.
“It’s the rotten telephone,” he excused himself. “I’ve had dinner, too.”
“Not a thing to do. Was just reading up on the European Situation—festive stuff.”
“Would you mind—very much—if you abandoned the European Situation for an hour or two? Listen, and never mind compliments. We are up at the school, practising carols for Christmas — we mean to have waits, real oldfashioned waits, this year—and we are making decorations ahead of time for the Christmas tree and feast we always give to the children. Could you come up and help us? You have just the right kind of baritone needed for waits
“The kind fish-peddlers use?” he interrupted.
“Don’t disparage yourself, fishing for praise,” she rebuked. “You’ll come and help—me, won’t you?"
“I’ll be there inside ten minutes,” he acceded. Yes, he’d even be a wait, and get cold bawling carols to lazy lumpish people snugged up in warm beds.
He looked round for Crayshaw' when he entered the room, but he had vanished, which was not unsatisfactory.
“Mr. Crayshaw came up with me,” said Ella, “but he had to leave almost at once. He is taking the night train—going down to Florida, on the invitation of Mr. Fortescue.”
“Lucky chap!” commented Fraser, who hoped that when Crayshaw got to Florida he’d stop there quite a while.
“Yes,” chimed in another girl, “they say that Mr. Benton is giving up the managership and entering the firm, and that Mr. Crayshaw is to have the superintendency.”
"Doubly lucky!” said Eddie. That was how things went. The Fortescues and the Crayshaws were close friends, distant relatives, in the same top-notch social bunch. Well, Crayshaw was a smart chap, he’d fill the hill all right.
HE SANG baritone to order till his throat ached, he helped to paste wool stuff on scarlet cloth in the construction of a portentous motto, and made himself generally useful.
“You’d never think that M r. Fraser was out of a position, from the way he jollies along,” said an observant girl to Ella.
"What do you expect him to do, sit in a corner, weep, and suck his thumb?” asked Ella. “He isn’t that kind.” "Well you needn’t scratch me, Ella,” said the maiden.
and the t wo laughed.
It was rather late when Eddie and Ella reached the Benton home, but there was sound of mild revelry within.
“Come in for a few minutes,” she invited. "They are playing cards.”
He did not decline, and enjoyed her society in a small room off the drawing-room. The party soon broke up and Eddie, after a few words to Mrs. Benton and some of her guests, took his leave.
Continued on page 52
Buttered Side Up
Continued from page 27
“Fraser dropped on anything yet?’ Whiston, the lawyer, asked of old John Benton.
“Not that I’ve heard of,” was the reply. “He’ll land all right, and a bit of mauling round won’t harm him.”
“Probably not,” said Whiston. “Especially as he is not at all lacking in selfconfidence. I guess he thought he knew it all as thoroughly as if he had your experience, Benton.”
“And he does know quite a bit,” conceded the old man. “Once or twice he gave me all I could handle.” And Benton, who wasn’t much of a gossip, took his departure.
“Really Fraser’s lack of diplomacy has been very notable,” observed Whiston to those who lingered over cake and coffee. “One would have thought that, knowing the wide influence wielded by men like Mr. Fortescue and Mr. Benton, he would have avoided antagonizing them.”
“If you think that Uncle John approves of men who toady to Mr. Fortescue or him, you are mistaken, Mr. Whiston,” interposed Ella spiritedly. “Both of them, I feel sure, think none the less of a man who defended what he thought were the rights of his employer.”
“Oh, doubtless,” said Whiston, who had the reputation of saying “Amen” to anything Fortescue prayed. “What I mean is that there are men in the world so undiplomatic that they don’t know which side their bread’s buttered. Then, there are those whose bread always falls buttered side up. I hear, by the way, that Crayshaw is likely to take Mr. Benton’s vacated shoes, and is on his way to Florida. A most excellent appointment, I should judge it— a man of excellent family and standing, practical and capable, who will work harmoniously with Mr. Fortescue and Mr. Benton at all times. There is not the least doubt that Crayshaw will know the buttered side of his bread.”
I 'ELEGRAM for you, Mr. Fraser,” said the hotel man when Eddie entered the lobby.
The recipient opened the missive, read and re-read it. It was dated the day before, and had evidently been delayed en route. The burden of it was as follows:—
“Wish to see you as quickly as possible. Expenses and fee paid. Fortescue, Jacksonville, Florida.”
At first Fraser suspected some mining camp joke. He went over to the telegraph office, ostensibly to inquire as to the delay. The thing was genuine enough. What did Fortescue want him for? Thoughts began to dart about his brain, dreams to weave themselves on his vivid imagination.
“Go slow, son!” he admonished himself, when the castles in rose and gold began to be visible. Then, like a practical man, he went to bed to sleep over things. He rose and breakfasted early. He emerged from the dining-room as Benton entered the hotel, apparently in quest of him.
“Cot Fortescue’s wire?” the visitor asked.
“Last night—delayed in transit,” Fraser replied.
“I’d one telling me he wanted to see you. Going?”
“Yes, I’ve nothing on hand, and a trip south looks good,” said Eddie.
“He wants to talk with you about things. Remember that wall collapse between the Star Number Two Pit and our Seven? You folks claimed our blasting at fault, and wanted twenty thousand. The Star’s notion of humor. Suit was filed, and it seems the liquidators are pushing it. Hearing’s down for the 23rd. The old man’s hot about it.”
“I can’t see what about,” Fraser replied. “The claim’s sound; you ripped out the bulwark, tumbled shacks and hoists into the pit, and played general hob; the marvel was you didn’t kill a dozen or two.”
“Bah! just an unavoidable incident in every-day work,” said Benton impatiently. “However, Fortescue might mention it to you—that’s just my guess. You are out of the Star employ now—they’re dead as Columbus—and things look different, maybe, tp you. It’s just a case of liquidators, with fee-hungry Drysdale at their hack, trying to boost assets. Whichever way the case goes it will neither fatten nor impoverish you. You’re not the advicetaking kind any more than I’m the advicegiving brand, but just for once I’ll break"
“As an old man, who knows Fortescue, and has seen a good bit of the world, and the ways of men, I’d bid you watch your step, put personal safety first, consider Number One. You may be in a position to put Fortescue under obligation to you; remember, he never welshes on a debt. He pays both ways—friend and foe.”
“Bah! I might have known,” snapped Eddie, when the other had gone. “I’m to rat on my former employers, in the hope that when bones are plentiful and dogs few, something will be tossed to me.” At first he decided he would not go, then resolved to go. So that same evening he started on his way, leaving the snows and frosts and keen winds of the North for the warm sun, foliaged trees, flowers and open water of the South. There was a car waiting the arrival of his train. Fraser would have preferred to walk to his hotel.
On reaching the house—a palatial establishment, worthy of the fortune of the old millionaire—he discovered that the hotel was off the schedule, that he was to be the house guest of the Fortescues. The job would be less pleasant than he had imagined. He didn’t think any more of Fortescue for receiving him as guest, and trying to get him to turn a crooked trick. The old man met him at the door, handsome, suave, hospitable to the last degree.
'T'HERE were two sides to Fortescue;
he was the scion of an ancient aristocratic family, who had made every dollar he owned as a keen, steel-gripped, indomitable twentieth century business-man. His tongue was twc-edged, one rasping as a file, the other smooth and keen as a razor blade. He knew both diplomacies, the full-dress and the shirt-sleeve. He was as good with blackthorn as rapier.
Crayshaw was the only other guest in the house, and seemed to be on excellent terms with the place and his host. The two young men met in the most cordial way; that they could be rivals apparently was not in the mind of either. Probably Crayshaw knew what Fortescue wanted of Fraser and let it go at that. No guest— not the highest in the land—could have been received with warmer cordiality, or given larger-souled hospitality than that bestowed on this young manager who had come up out of the ranks.
“You play golf, Fraser?” asked Fortescue the afternoon of his guest’s arrival. “Excellent, what about a three-ball
Fraser golfed well. As a bare-footed kid he had earned a fair amount of supplementary money acting as caddie, and he had picked up the game at the right age. He was a more than average scratch man. Crayshaw was only two or three strokes worse. Fortescue was an industrious golfer of the rabid order rather than a finished performer. The two young
men conceded a stroke a hole to Fortescue, and they set out.
Despite the excellence of the links, the beauty of the surroundings, and the natural gratification a golfer finds in getting a game in the off season, Fraser found no enjoyment in the round. He saw everything in the light of the service Fortescue wanted of him, and felt that, in his heart, the man must regard him as a cheap, purchasable thing to be handled and flattered for selfish ends.
Matters were not bettered by the fact that the caddies and Crayshaw formed themselves into a society for praising everything Fortescue did. The thing was so gross and fulsome and false that Eddie was astonished that so shrewd a man as his host could not see it. As it was he swallowed it all like milk. From the applause that greeted his shots he might have been a composite of Ray Hagen and George Lyon. If he sliced or pulled there was some crafty golfing purpose in the stroke to give a better line to the bole, or a sudden gust of wind swerved the ball.
“You’re slicing,” said Eddie, in response to his host’s enquiry as to why a ball swung out to the right from the tee. “You’re habitually drawing the club across the face of the ball, and putting cut on it.”
Several times afterwards the old man appealed to Fraser or Crayshaw. From the former he heard of some error in play, from the latter he had some excuse manufactured for him, the wind, or an unlucky kick, or a rottenly placed bunker or hole on the green. Once or twice Crayshaw nudged Fraser as if bidding him feed the old boy the stuff he wanted. The crisis came at the last hole. Crayshaw and Fraser, playing wretchedly throughout, were all square with their host, with one to play.
After a zig-zag course from tee to green, Fortescue managed to fluke in a long putt. His two opponents, playing miserably, were down in sevens; neither wished to beat the old man if it was humanly possible to avoid it.
“That’s seven!” exclaimed Fortescue excitedly. “With my stroke it gives me the hole and match.”
“Certainly—seven minus one, sixcorking good hole,” said Crayshaw.
“It was seven, wasn’t it, Fraser?” asked Fortescue.
“I counted nine,” replied Eddie.
“Nine! Preposterous!” replied Fortescue.
“That’s what I made it. There was the drive into the bunker—two to get out, makes three—two more from the rough makes five—a missed brassie, iron shot, and approach, makes eight—long putt nine,” said Fraser. There was nothing, surely, to lie about in a score card.
“My vote goes against Fraser,” said Crayshaw. “You played a corking game, Mr. Fortescue, and that putt deserved to win a match, straight to the middle of the hole, and no gobbling about it. I’m not ashamed to be beaten by such golf.”
“We’ll call it a tie, since Mr. Fraser doubts my score,” said Fortescue a bit frigidly. Eddie thought himself an ass to have argued the matter—seven or seventeen, what did it matter? Still, when appealed to, what was there to lie about, just because the old man was rich and spoiled? A lot of silly, sycophantic fuss about nothing!
IF FORTESCUE had been displeased,
the remembrance of it had passed off when he came down to dinner. He was the perfect host, humorous, polite, and debonair.
“You had a good game?” inquired Mrs. Fortescue.
“Excellent, though Fraser found fault with my counting,” smiled her husband.
“Glad someone else taxed you with bad arithmetic,” said his wife.
“Crayshaw however stuck by me.”
“Probably his conscience is more elastic,” she replied.
“You really must leave to-morrow, Fraser?” asked Fortescue when the two men found themselves alone in the library after dinner. “I hoped you would spend a few days with us.”
Eddie urged engagements at home, which were genuine enough though they might have beenpostponed. He wanted to get what had to be done over, and leave the place. The atmosphere was not pleasant, despite all the cordiality. There was to be a price paid for it all, and it was much too dear.
“I’m really sorry,” Fortescue continued. “However, you are the best judge of your own affairs and movements. You may,
perhaps, have wondered why my invitation gave you such short notice. It was because of an intimation I received that a suit I thought died at birth was very much alive. You recall, probably, the dispute between the Star and myself regarding some blasting operations?”
“Your people demanded twenty thousand, and, being refused, sued. When we are negligent we pay; when we are not,, and are accused, we fight; this was a fighting case. It seems that the liquidators are pushing it, and it is down for hearing on the 23rd of this month. Have you been subpoenaed?” Fortescue asked.
“No,” Fraser replied.
“I think, as a practical man, you must see the unreasonableness of this claim.”
“No, I regard it as very reasonable,” Eddie replied. “I figured it out in detail myself.”
“When you were in the employ of the Star,” smiled the old man. “One looks for zeal in an employee.”
“And reflection has not made me change my estimate,” added Fraser.
Fortescue was silent for some moments. There was a decisiveness about his guest’s manner that rendered prolonged argument unnecessary. Presently the old man rose, pitched his cigar away and looked down on
“Fraser,” he said in his plain-speaking manner, “the Star was one of the pet aversions of my later life. I detested the concern, the conception of it, its birth, its parentage, its managing heads, its shameless commercial immorality. It was a later day coffin ship, that went out to certain, predestined wreckage, laden with the hopes and resources of a good many simple, poor people. It was meant for the rocks, and found them. This claim I regard as characteristic of the company, extortionate, unjust. I have it in mind to fight.
“Your evidence, if hostile to me, may not wreck my case, for I shall call in expert testimony. On the other hand, if it supported my contention, the matter would collapse at once, and we should be saved trouble and expense. Had you been still in the Star’s employ I should not have discussed the matter with you, but you are free now, your company is dead, and this is but a lawyer’s hunt. * I take it you are seeking a place in the mining world—there may come to me an opportunity of saying a good word for you, for I try to remember my obligations. I offer you no bribe, I merely suggest good-will. If you are put on the stand what will your testimony be?”
“It will be testimony that will match my oath,” replied Fraser. “It will be the straight truth as I see it, and that means testimony in support of the claim I take to be just. The morals of the Star Company have nothing to do with this; their claim is just, whatever else they may have done or left undone.”
“You stand, then, with the worthless dead rather than the profitable living?”
“I stand with what I take to be right,” answered Eddie.
"T hat is all, then, Fraser,” said Fortescue icily. “I beg of you not to allow this conversation to influence your stay here. We have been into the business world, let us return to the more agreeable social one.”
^ Fraser left in the morning. At parting Fortescue placed an envelope in his hand. The cheque was an astonishingly handsome one, but Eddie gave it back.
“I have enjoyed the trip, and appreciate your hospitality,” he said. “I’d feel better if I paid my own way.”
“As you will,” smiled Fortescue. “You are a refreshingly original young man, Mr. Fraser.”
TT WAS the day before Christmas.
Crayshaw was back from the South, but there was no official word as to Benton’s successor. Watching the morning train in, Fraser was astonished to see Fortescue alight with Benton. Nothing had been heard of the suit, and Eddie presumed it had gone over the holidays, by consent. Going along the street and hearing current gossip, he found it generally assumed that Crayshaw was stepping into Benton’s place.
“Pretty nifty,” one of the storekeepers observed. “Crayshaw, not eight years out of Technical School, and drops into ten thousand a year, and the House of Lords in prospect”—the latter phrase referring to partnership.
Later Eddie ran across Benton; there was a grin on the elder man’s face.
“Old man was telling me about the way you scrapped with him down there,” he said. “Called him a liar over his golf card, so he says, and mulish about the suit. By the way we’ve settled that claim for five thousand.”
The news was like a sharp flick in the face to Eddie.
“If Drysdale’s a nut that doesn’t affect the merits of the case,” he said.
“It affects our pockets, and that’s more to the point,” retorted Benton. “Eddie, that conscience of yours has started backfiring. I hear it’s round that Crayshaw gets my old job. Don’t it beat all how things you want to keep in get out. What’s your opinion of him?”
“Corking good man,” replied Fraser promptly.
“So they say,” said Benton. “So long, see you at the School frivol to-night. Make a fool of myself, willingly, once a year, for the kids. I’ve persuaded the old man to show up, but don’t scrap with him: remember it’s the season of peace and goodwill.”
If there was one kind of reputation Eddie disliked more than another it was that of a contentious man, but it seemed to be his long suit, as Benton and Fortescue looked at him.
The evening was a not altogether disagreeable one and Eddie made himself useful, under Ella’s direction. He carried —as it seemed to him—tons of cut cake and oceans of tea, in the endeavor to fill hiatuses in the tummies of the mob of children. He listened to speeches, more or less dry and stodgy, but on the usual line. He laughed at the ancient Christmas jokes, and—best of all in that direction— helped little girls and boys on with their coats, and sped them on their way under threat of what might happen if Santa came to their homes and found them out spreeing. He wanted the walk with Ella, for he was feeling a bit bruised and sore in the dream area. Christmas in a hotel made a man— a home-loving man—pine more than ever for a real home, and—Lord! how far it seemed off!
She must have known how lonely he was, for she assumed, at the door, that he was coming in. Then, feeling, instinctively perhaps, that he was not eager for the society of a bunch of Benton relatives who had come in for an hour or two, she found a pleasant little room, with a nice open fire, and a not too luminous lamp, and introduced him to it, while she went to take off her outdoor garments.
It was a very homey kind of room; he’d like to have one pretty much like it, when the dream establishment down by the lake became an actuality. Then she returned, and the place became perfect. What bliss to have a room just like this, and, on Christmas Eve, she sitting on one side of the log fire, you on the other, and the wind howling and the snow beating on the windows with soft hands!
LJf E THOUGHT her hair had never
J looked prettier; the wind had blown it about, and she had not troubled to redress it elaborately. The artist of the cold outside had painted living colors in her cheeks. Eddie highly approved of the dark dress she wore. He could not have suggested one thing more to make more perfect her charm.
“You never told me of your trip south, she said. He narrated the pleasant bits to her; there was little enough to tell.
“Uncle tells me you accused Mr. Fortescue of falsifying his score card, and refused to accommodate him in some small matter connected with a law suit,” she
“They’re never satisfied unless they are making me out a rough-neck, everlastingly itching for a scrap, or stamping on people’s corns,” he grumbled mildly. “What would you have had me do, Ella, lie over the matter of a score card just because Fortescue’s a big man?—is his bigness a reason for treating him like a spoiled child?’
“I don’t believe I’d have you do other than you did,” she responded. “You were tempted highly, or—well, it would have meant temptation to some men; I’m proud to know you came out as you did.”
The idea that she could be proud of anything he did came as a cheering assurance to him. It silenced him for a time.
It was not an unsociable, hut a very intimate silence. She took advantage of his absent-mindedness to scan the strong, somewhat wistful face that was turned to the fire.
“I don’t think you know how highly I was tempted,” he said. “It was a long drawn-out temptation. It came when Fortescue’s wire came; it haunted me all the way from here to Florida, in day and night dreams; it was with me all the time I was there. Of course I didn’t think there was any big job waiting, all wrapped up in silk and velvet, for me, but something kept dinning it into my ear that nobody but a fool would deny a rich and powerful man whatever little bit of subservience he might be looking for in those beneath him socially or financially. You have thought of me, perhaps, as a cantankerous, selfwilled, obstinate crank, always wanting to jam his own opinions to the front, and loving to contradict older and wiser folks.”
“You don’t know what I’ve thought of you,” she answered.
“Well, all the way down I thought that perhaps the old man would find some place on the ladder for me. All I’d ask would be the chance to work with the right folks; then if I couldn’t make good, that would be up to me. I’ve done a lot of dreaming in my time—especially here in Langdale— and down in that little hotel room that’s my home.”
“Dreaming about what, Eddie?” she asked.
“Oh, all kinds of tilings—and when it’s Christmas time the dreams get more vivid than ever.”
“That’s the least bit vague, isn’t it? Or perhaps you think I’m over-curious to want to pry,” she said.
“I guess not,” he answered. “I’ve dreamed of a home—as a lone man will— a home with rooms in it—something like this room,” and he looked about it.
“It would be lonely, Eddie—just you and an old housekeeper,” she smiled.
“And in the home—with rooms like this—there would be a woman—not a housekeeper, but a wife,” he added.
“That would be different,” she said softly, her eyes now on the fire. He rose, stood before the fire, regarding her. When he spoke there was a new' eager earnestness in the tones.
“I am a fool to speak of it,” he said. “But—well, you asked of the dream, and I’ve told you. Afterwards you can, if you wish, wipe it all out of your mind with the rest of the Christmastide make-believe. There has ever been in the dreaming one woman, and there never will be another, whether luck’s with me or not, and I’d planned, if things had gone with me as I hoped they would, to tell her of the dream.”
“Then she was just a summer kind of woman, a fairweather woman, who could not stand the winter—when the snow fell, the bitter winds blew—who wanted a man always in luck? I don’t think a very great deal of your woman, Eddie. I’d rather have the woman who takes her man for winter and summer, for sunny and bleak days, when luck’s in and luck’s out. But, of course, as you say, it’s all makebelieve?”
He reached out his hands to her, and she rose at their touch.
“You are not teasing me, playing with me, Elia? There was only the one woman —and she was you, woman of dreams. I’ve nothing to offer you—little money, no home, no position—nothing but myself, and what with such a woman I might be-
And her dark head drooped to his shoulder, as his arms enfolded her.
“I’ve nothing—” he whispered, “and everything.”
THEY decided to keep the news to themselves until the morrow', when Eddie would be a member of the big Christmas Day party. The Benton relatives from two or three counties would he there, John Benton, Mr. Fortescue, and everybody who was anybody in the vicinity, and a good many who were really rank nobodies. The big house was elaborately decorated for the occasion, two great rooms thrown into one for dining and dancing, holly and mistletoe everywhere, extra servants and helpers to cope with the great situation. Mrs. Benton and her brother-in-law', John Benton, were admitted to fore-possession of the great secret late in the afternoon, and both appeared to be quite satisfied. It was arranged that the tidings of the engagement should be given to the world at the dinner. On the right of the hostess at table sat Mr. Fortescue, in real Christmas humor, cracking jokes with the company in his top form; on the lady’s left was
John Benton, brusque, jolly and popular. , At the opposite end of the long table sat ¡ Ella, with Fraser in close attendance, ; both more silent than usual, but noticeably 1 engrossed in each other’s society. With jest and laughter, the buzz of merry con; versation and far-flung exchange of seasonable greetings, the evening sped on. It would have been regarded, in Langdale, on such an occasion, as distinctly unseemly had not a few speeches been made.
The first to get to his feet this Christmas night was Mr. Fortescue. He had, naturally, first to make some reference to the hostess of the occasion, the wife of a former associate of his in business, the sister-inlaw of his partner, John Benton. Then j he proceeded to dwell on the past of the camp town; those who had been pioneers in the local mining world were marshalled and reviewed, the living named, the dead extolled.
From the broader aspect of things he narrowed down to the affairs of the company that bore his name. He mentioned John Benton, his associate for thirty-five j years, his partner henceforward.
“And as to the future,” he proceeded, “the firm has a history to be lived up to. | When my friend, Benton, spoke of retiring from' the management, the matter of his : successor naturally came up. It was not ! an easy matter to settle. We wanted brains, ability, high technical skill and administrative gifts, and—above all— j character. We sought a man with inÍ dividuality, personality, one who seeing his way clearly would follow that way, no j matter the inducement to swerve.
It would have been easy to get a rubber stamp man, eager to fit in with the fads or prejudices of Benton or myself, his eye | ever on us to see whether we smile or frown. We didn’t want such a man. We , had a big field before us, full of capable men: we narrowed it down until we came to the man. The general managership | will be offered to Edward Fraser, who site I at the other end of this table.”
He had to wait until the roar of applause j died away.
“X/OU may ask why we make this ap-
1 pointment,” he continued. “I’ll tell you. He worked for a rotten company, giving it gilt-edged service; he was not a ! clock watcher; his ability none questioned; i he fought for its interests as if they had ! been his own. That was not all. I inj vited him to my place in Florida, and ! there we played golf. I took nine strokes j at a hole, and suggested to the players | that I'd done it in seven. All agreed I had, though they knew better—they wantj ed to be diplomatic—except P’raser. He j said I’d taken nine, and stuck to it.
“Then I put a rather insidious suggestion | before him, perhaps a quite unfair one. j He was out of a job, and there was the covert suggestion that if he switched his j evidence in a certain suit that was pending j between the Star liquidators and myself, j it might be profitable for him. He reI jected the temptation. 1 don’t want a man to run my mines who will talk just, to please me. I want my immediate j representative to be one who will let me ¡ have the truth, sweet or bitter; I can’t j afford to have in that position a mere manI pleaser or time-server. I don’t want a j diplomatist, or a man who knows which j side his bread is buttered, as the old saying is, hut one who cares more for j truth and straight honor than his bread.”
Ella’s shining eyes caught those of Whiston, and those of the lawyer fell before them.
"I may say,” added P'ortescue, “that no one hut John Benton and myself knew anything of this decision until now.”
Eraser listened to the announcement as one in a daze. It was a dream, fitting in with the other still more beautiful one. j The clasp of Ella’s hand under the table brought him to realize that the dream world and that of reality were one and the I same. The speech he made was not 1 much as a speech, but it matched the occasion. Then, of course, John Benton had to say something, on behalf of his sister-in-law, and on his own account. '
"It. seems to mo that this Edward Fraser is pretty much in the limelight this night,” he said. “I’m convinced that the mines have got the right manager 1 ought to know for I’ve been scrapping with him this twelvemonth. One tiling I had against him was that he was single, j and a married man, in my opinion, is a lot more reliable than a single one.
“However, that’s a curable fault, and ¡ Eddie, so I’m told, is going to cure it.
They say - and I refer you to the principals for confirmation—they look guilty enough —that my niece Ella is going to help him to get rid of the defect, and—”
But that was all of the speech the guests heard. It was a rather uproarious scene, but it was Christmas night, and —well, you can picture the rest.