THE MARCH HARE
WITH a glance of mingled pride and regret Brunton Fairleystood and looked for a time toward that modest two-storey structure, and listened with far-reading ear to the pleasing drone of motors as a string of cars passed him, reached the street, then spread fan-like to scatter over the broad city. His cars, and his produce, covering the whole of the city! And the most of that, of course, was the fruit of his brains.
From where he stood, he could see, above the doorway, the simple sign, “Fairley & Laxton, Meat Packers and Curers,” and even as he watched, three or four mere slips of feminine humanity passed him, nodded a gay greeting and hurried on toward the doorway leading to the office be-
Fairley’s glance swerved about until it met the wideopen eyes of the girl so close to his side that he might have reached out and touched her. She was sitting behind the wheel of a [roadster, and alsurprisingly pretty picture she made as she looked out upon the world with something of the vision of youth living afresh in her glowing manner.
“Your office girls, Brunt, how happy they seem,” she all but whispered. “And I do so want others to be happy
It was the last word which told all the essential details of that one chapter of life’s endless story; that, and the glance which flashed between them.
“And your drivers. They seem Icontented,” the girl added slowly.
“I have always done what I could for them, both in the way of wages and conditions.” Fairley spoke with averted face; and in spite of that flash which had passed between them, there was now a slight frown marring the smoothness of his brow, “But....”
“What is it, Brunt?” When the girl’s anxiety showed so plainly, it required the full control of his will to hold hiipself in check. “What is it? Are things not running well at the plant?” Then, just there, in the barest of whispers, she added: “You know what father has promised!”
Why did she remind him at this moment of what Samuel Frankland had promised, Frankland, the man who through the shrewdness of his judgment had found in him, Brunton Fairley, some of the first faint marks which warrant approval?
Frankland had promised. Just six months more to weather this financial strain as he had weathered it for the past year and a half; and then. . . .The girl’s eyes were bright and luring with the jewels of that promise. But only he, Fairley, knew just how close that came to mockery. So instead of answering the girl at his side, he continued to watch that little string of humanity streaming its way through the office doorway; and he wondered.. . .Just how long would it be happy?
“Isn’t everything running right?” The tremor in the girl’s whisper was like music in his ears; but it was the music of pain. Suddenly the man straightened his shoulders, and a smile flashed to his lips.
“Oh course, Marie, we’re turning out meat like wildfire,” he laughed. “Isn’t it wonderful to think that your father has at last stamped me as all wool and a yard wide? Now, run along, Marie, and don’t worry that little head of yours about anything. Laxton is away, and that shoves too much upon my shoulders; that’s all there is to it.”
THE smile held upon Fairley’s face while the girl drove away, then his lips grew straight again. It was perfectly true that Samuel Frankland, the everwatchful and the shrewd of eye, had placed the family brand of approval upon him; yet even while he pondered the years through which he had climbed to the modest success against which Frankland had set his measure, he wondered if even .the man himself would understand.
For those had been stressful months which tore at a man’s'nerves. They were the days when his raw produce had been tumbling, tottering and wavering, fluctuating through those restless stages of a price collapse which finds itself at the top of the stairway, tumbling downward, but which turns and struggles at each step tolregain its
Buying on a liquidating market, for the quick turning-over of one’s produce, watching the sudden slumps, the frantic efforts at a rally —that had been the strain of the past year which had drawn the nerves taut and which had thrust sleepless nights into the hitherto placid routine of his life. Cured meats and the thrill of struggle!
Who thinks of that?
But Brunton Fairley had come to know through the hectic months that the struggle was there, and if perchance the thrill was missing, it was because the brain was too weary at times to feel the full force of the battle.
Yet that was not all. For there were times through that strain when the mill-stones had all but caught him in their maw, when they had gnashed and ground at his prestige in an effort to crush him out; there were times when fortune had thrown him the life-line and had flicked him high into the air. And he felt, as well, that there was some secret, silent combination which was trying to grind him out. For how else could those rumors have started, rumors which toyed with his name, which nagged at his credit, and which more than once in the past year had informed those big abattoir kings at the top of the business that he was on his last financial legs and was tottering toward ruin?
Still, they were but rumors, no matter how much the wish may have given father to the birth. It was perfectly true that he had not launched out, as had Brackton and Tanley, with the building of new plants; but it was likewise a fact that the funds were tucked away for the launching of such a new foundation, despite the stress and the strain of the fevered years; and what was greater than all, it was true that Frankland had at last approved.
YET, in spite of all the smiles of fortune which had been the reward of his labors, he could see looming justlthere upon the horizon the cloud of danger.
And if he failed, would Frankland understand? Would Marie?
As he crossed the street and made his way to his office with his shoulders square-set Fairley became glad for the first time that Laxton was away. For that partner of his, with the burden of a family upon him, assuredly would not understand.
In that moment, Fairley smiled to himself, somewhat grimly. There were all too few, he feared, who would understand; and if. by chance, he should be wrong
The thought of that sobered him quite, so that when Miss Fenton, the efficient., entered with the staidness of business detail showing upon every Hr e of her countenance, Fairley felt that he was in the proper mood to meet her.
“How’s business, Miss Fenton?”
The woman was startled for a moment out of her placidity.
“It couldn’t lie much better,” she pronounced, at length, “in view of the jumping of the market. We have finally managed to carry out the instructions which Mr. Laxton gave when he left, to clean out every last pound of stock. I was just talking to Mr. Angus, the stock man, and he tells me that the last side of bacon went out in the cars this morning. We are free of that at last, and I should think you would be most awfully glad. Mr. Angus is now buying on the shortest possible orders which the abattoirs will take. . . two days’ supply at a time. He says we can’t possibly get bitten by that system. . .”
Miss Fenton came to a jerky stop, and instantly she found herself wondering just why she had been reciting all those details, which, after all, were her concern only to the extent that she had the interests'of Fairley & Laxton at heart. Yet, when she looked more closely at Fairley’s face, she knew instantly that it had been something subtle in the man’s manner, a consciousness of the approach of something big and astonishing, which had made her temporarily lose control of her sense of proportion.
“So the past is wiped out, we start with a clean slate,” the man mused. “We have held this business together and have made money through a most difficult period by cautious buying. Now, Miss Fenton, what would you, as confidential clerk, advise? The Spring of 1922, according to a whisper which has reached my ears, is apt to be a tricky one.”
“Angus is a good man,” the girl replied in a startled way, for hitherto that term “confidential” had been more decorative than practical. “His system is the correct one. Always buy from hand to mouth on a falling market. It has dropped a cent a pound since yesterday.”
Brunton Fairley nodded slowly, and his gaze was so fixed and far-distant that for a time the girl stood and watched him in wonder.
“Very good, Miss Fenton, I see you have learned the rudiments,” he replied. “Kindly take this letter. Ready? ‘Dear Brackton. . .’ No, that’s too personal with that man. Make it strictly formal. ‘Dear Sir: I have been given to understand that you have not yet succeeded in liquidating the supply of cured hams and bacon which you had on hand when the prices began to fall several months ago. If that is the case, kindly consider this letter as a formal contract offer for the complete stock of your cured meats which you have been unable to sell, the price to be one cent a pound below
Miss Fenton’s pencil slipped from her fingers, and as she groped for it along the floor, she was staring into Brunton Fairley’s face in a frightened way; but Fairley, it seemed, was totally unaware of the consternation which his few words had conveyed.
“Just make an extra carbon of that, and prepare the same thing for Tanley,” he instructed, “then I will need you for a few minutes. Or, by the way, take this telegram first and prepare copies of it to be sent to the five eastern abattoirs. ‘Double Fairley & Laxton's weekly order, at to-morrow’s prices. To be delivered on call. Wire acceptance of order.’ That’s all.”
The stenographer left the room, with a startled backward glance at her employer. As she went there was a faint suggestion of a chuckle in Fairley’s manner.
Miss Fenton’s next action, though flurried, was nevertheless deliberate. She hurried from the main office and through the odorous channels of the stockroom, and there at length she came upon the foreman contemplating with a marked measure of pride those empty shelves whose burdens for the past months had been his chief worry in life.
“Mr. Angus, come, please!” the girl pleaded; then the moment they were beyond the earshot of the helpers, she turned upon him quickly, “Do men ever go suddenly insane, Malcolm?” she demanded. “1 mean, after they have had some great strain?”
“Don’t you go worrying about me,” the man started to
banter; then he paused because of the lines about the girl’s lips. “What is it, Ruth?”
“It’s Mr. Fairley,” she hastened to inform, “I am afraid there has something gone wrong, and 1 don’t know what to do. He seemed queer when he came in this morning. He looked at me in a funny way, and now he has just given me a contract offer to Brackton to take every pound of cured meat off his hands. . . .”
“He’s done what?” Angus demanded in amazement. “He’s offered to buy all Calvin Brackton’s surplus meats?” Then the man’s alarm seemed to subside as he added hopefully, “But perhaps he’s got a rock bottom price on the stuff. You can’t always say, Ruth.”
“But he hasn’t”, the girl interrupted. “I just took the letter, and he has offered to buy all Brackton’s stock at a cent a pound below to-day’s prices, with the market still falling. And that isn’t all. The same contract is to be sent to Tanley ......and, goodness
knows, I don’t know what to do. But something must be done. And there’s five telegrams he’s sending out Ito 'the out-of-town abattoirs doubling the weekly orders....”
“From each?” Angus demanded, in amazement,
“You don't mean to say he is doubling our full weekly order from each of those five abattoirs?”
The girl nodded, as though her feelings could not be fully conveyed in words.
“That means ten times the regular stock, besides that offer to Brackton and Tanley.” Angus made a swift summing-up of the results of Fairley’s outbreak; then he pronounced solemnly:“I never believed it before, Ruth, that men could go suddenly insane, but I believe it now. You’re right, girl. Something must be done, or Fairley & Laxton will be in the scrap basket inside a month and you and I will both be out of a job. . . Have you wired^Mr. Laxton?”
“Wired him? |No,” the girl informed in a strained way, “it just happened a minute ago. . . But I’ll do it at once. What should I say to him? Or just tell him to hurry home
Through a period of fevered reflection, Angus stared at the empty shelves above the girl’s head, and as he pictured them piled once more with ruinous stock acquired on a falling market, he looked back at the girl quickly and clenched his hands.
“It means I’d be ruined too,” the man faltered. “I didn’t tell you, girl, but I put all my spare money into Fairley & Laxton a year ago. . . .and if they go down, we can’t ever. . . .not for years. ...”
He paused just there, staring back into the girl’s worried countenance; then abruptly it seemed that he came tosome decision.
“You go ahead, girl, and do what he has told you to do; write the letters ¡or whatever it is, while I go in and have a talk with him. You can’t tell. I might happen to catch him just right; and if I do that there shouldn’t be much trouble......”
jV/ÍISS FENTON wrote, with stumbling fingers, watching all the time for the opening of the door through which Angus must return. Between the clicking of the keys, she could hear the voices'now. There was Fairley’s seemingly calm and smooth, running along with liquid cadence; and there was the voice of Angus raised, excited, almost, angered. She rose from her small typing desk, paced the room nervously, then sat down uneasily. She shuffled her papers restlessly; for already she knew the story which those voices were thrusting'upon her ears.
At last Angus came through the doorway, more dazed, it seemed, than when he had entered.
“Gad, I can’t do a thing with him,” he exclaimed, when the girl had followed him into the hallway. “And you didn’t tell me the worst of it. I think I lost my head when I heard that.... What do you suppose he was doing when 1 stepped in there?” He paused to laugh harshly. “Well, he was ’phoning the city abattoirs, too, doubling up his orders on them ... Insane? He’s gone wild. He’s crazy as a March hare......”
“What did he say? Why is he doing it?" the girl insisted. “There must be some reason.”
"Reason? Of course a crazy man has reason for everything he docs; and it’s you and me who are crazy to him. . Reason? He says he’s sized up the situation, watched little things here and there, the actions of the abattoirs, the steamship companies and the overseas market, and he has made up his mind that the export trade with the Old Country is going to open up this Spring. And he says that means meats will shoot up a few cents a pound, and we’ll be fixed......”
Again Angus laughed, with the harsh notes dominant. “We’ll be fixed all right,” Miss Fenton broke in, with some bitterness, “with meats falling every day. Linton of the Curtis 'Abattoir was ;in yesterday, and do 'you know what he told Mr. Fairley? Well, he said: ‘You’d better get out from under. Export can’t open up this spring. ...’ ” There were doubtless other secrets of the office which the confidential clerk would have imparted to'the head of the stock department owing to the stress of the moment, but at this moment Fairley’s calm voice summoned her to
“These contracts with Brackton and Tanley are rather important,” he remarked, “and they must be hurried through. I will look after the Tanley one myself, and I have just been talking to Brackton over the telephone. He is waiting for the contract; so'if you will just slip over to'his office, Miss Fenton, and see that he signs both copies you will clear the air. You have good judgment; and if Brackton should raise any objections, I trust you to get me on the telephone at once.” ,
Miss Fenton stood and stared at her employer in a dazed way; for the trap, she could see, was closing swiftly about them. Mechanically, she reached over and turned that batch of five telegrams face down upon her desk. Those telegrams, placed in her care, need never be fsent.
Brunton Fairley reached across the desk, almost Jas though he had divined her thoughts.
“Since I have to pass the telegraph office to see Tanley, I will save you that trouble, Miss Fenton,” he remarked, as he scooped up the forms and slipped them into his pocket.
CO SHE left the office, with Brackton’s duplicate eon^ tract in her hands, and with Fairley standing there at the window'in a musing way.
The firm of Fairley & Laxton must be saved. But how?
That contract in her fingers; and Calvin Brackton, cold and calculating, calmly unscrupulous, awaiting her just down the street aways! She could almost picture the gloating smile upon his thin lips: for this was an opening, she knew, which Brackton would seize with any rival. Most of all would he grip it and hug it to him when the rival was Fairley & Laxton. There had been those rivalries, those
hostilities of the past......But Miss Fenton found that
she must crowd their memory from her.
She must think, instead, of some way in which to defeat this thickening shadow of ruin gathering so swiftly about
Yet by the time she reached Brackton’s door there had been no plan clear-cut enough to formulate itself out of the racings of her brain, and the only thing which seemed to carry with it any hope at all was a direct appeal to Calvin Brackton’s sens« of honor.
"You brought me Fairley & Laxton’s contract?” he asked abruptly.
Miss Fenton sat down and looked the man fairly in the eyes, and through the riot of her thoughts it was a moment or more before the words would come to her lips.
But when she looked into the man’s face, the girl almost felt the futility of that; for Brackton was sitting there, with anticipatory relish in his eyes, though much of it was hidden behind the smile upon his lips.
“Yes, I brought the contracts,” she spoke, at length. “But I am going to ask you, Mr. Brackton please not to sign them, to send them back. We.... the firm, can’t stand it. ... I mean'it isn’t fair to the rest of us. We have worked so hard.... and now to buy all that stock—on a falling market.... Please, Mr. Brackton, don’t sign
Fairley is not himself this morning. He seemed queer and Mr. Laxton is away
The girl came to a pause because of the amused, speculative gleam in the man’s eyes.
“You say he is queer today?” Brackton asked. “Yet I would not think of doubting it. And Laxton is away? So! Would you mind letting me see just what kind of a contract Fairley writes when he is a bit queer?”
Miss Fenton placed the papers in the man’s extended hand, and as she did so'she began to speak again; she spoke words of whose portent she was barely conscious, yet it all had to do with the drab foreground which the failure of Fairley & Laxton would paint into the future of so many lives, but most of all into the lives of Miss Fenton and the man Angus. Once more she paused because of the amusement on the man’s lips.
“The contract really is quite coherent, much more so than you, yourself,” Brackton suggested indifferently. “I was just afraid he might not'have made matters plain, if he should be queer, as you suggest. I will just sign them now......!”
TT WAS by an effort only that the girl was able to re-
strain herself from snatching the pen from the man’s hands; and when, with the grin of victory upon his lips, he thrust the one contract into her fingers, she turned and fled from the place.
Barely had the door closed behind her before Brackton turned to the telephone. The man forlwhom he asked was Mr. Elgin P. Coffey, head of the Coffey packing plant, and when finally he greeted the man over the telephone there was the ring of triumph in his voice.
“Want to help me put the skids to Fairley & Laxton?” he called, “......Sure thing, I didn’t think there was any-
thing else which could give you quite so much amusement .... Got them exactly where we want them, though Heaven knows it’s taken a long time to get them there.. . Come right over....”
Some minutes later, Elgin P. Coffey drew his gloves carefully from his finger-tips and sat down with meticulous care as though there'were some magic spell which might be dispelled by the touch of man, and he looked into Galvin Brackton’s face somewhat incredulously.
“It seems impossible to think we have at last got Fairley & Laxton where we want them,” he spoke softly, unbelievingly, “but I came over anyway. Now, what’s it all about?”
Calvin Brackton told him, in brief and pointed words.
“.....So here is where you come into it,” he raced on,
as the other’s widening eyes betrayed startled approval. “The girl was right. He is slightly off his gait, or he would never have signed what is practically a blank cheque and left me to fill in the amount. Don’t you see? The contract does not specify any definite amount. It merely says ‘the complete stock of cured meats which I have been unable to sell.’ Holy snakes, Coffey! Don’t you see what that means?"
For a moment the man did not see; then shortly his eyes narrowed, and his lips parted with sharp laughter.
“It means that I can unload too,” he declared in the end. “I sell you my surplus stuff, and you dump it onto Fairley & Laxton. What a blessed idea! And what a fool the man must be......”
“That isn’t all,” Brackton interrupted the other's joyful musing. “Are we, or are we not, out to put the skidal
Continued on page 40
The March Hare
om page 18
under them? You remember what they did a year ago.... Refused to come into our . ... ah.. er.. gentleman’s agreement to keep the prices from falling all to pieces when meats started to drop. Do we get them for that now, or don’t we? They made us face a loss then. Do we pass it on to them or don’t we?”
“Oh, no: We forget the past,” Coffey mocked. “We don’t do a thing to them, not a’thing, except break them up into mince meat and gobble up the pieces. That’s all we do to them, Bracky, old boy.”
1?OR a moment Brackton seemed tocon1 template that prospect with undisputed
“Then we get busy, at once,” he declared. “It looks, Coff, old chap, as though there was a busy day ahead of us for when you start a thing ’you may as well do it right. We will just slip around to every packer in the city and pick up every pound of ham and bacon that we can get our hands on; and if we haven’t got Fairley & Laxton wallowing in a briny grave by the end of the week, why, Coffey, I’ll eat the whole lot, that’s all.”
Elgin P. Coffey nodded in admiration. “It’s coming to'them, for holding out on us a year ago,” he declared. “But still, Bracky, if it hadn’t been for that girl coming over here and putting up that sob story you told about, I wouldn’t feel any too easy about it. I’d think Fairley had a trick up his sleeve. But now. ...”
“We got them, and that’s all there is to it. We swamp them with the surplus stock of every packer in the city, and if that doesn’t do it, we go out of town to get more and we start doubling up on our orders fromlthe abattoirs and running our curing plants
twenty-four hours of the day......for
their benefit, of course.” Just there Brackton paused to contemplate the future and when he spoke again his voice was 'mild and soothing. “Coffey, did you ever hear this phrase? ‘The Lord hath delivered mine enemy into mine hands.’ ”
A smile of satisfaction came to the lips of Elgin P. Coffey, but it was a moment before he replied with even greater mildness than Brackton.
“Or would this be more appropriate, ‘Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.’ ”
The laughter which they shared between them was of some moment’s duration, and when they reached the doorway together they gripped hands as though sealing some bond of honor by the ancient signal of friendship.
“And when they’re through, we split their business?” Coffey murmured.
“What a fine understanding you have,” Brackton returned mildly.
IT WAS bright and early on the following morning when a'series of trucks and wagons drew up in the rear'lot of the pro-
perty of Fairley & Laxton and appeared to be vieing with each other in their eagerness to unload their cargoes through the back doorway of the storage plant. Angus was there, working in a daze of incomprehension. For to the stockman it was, just as Braekton had predicted, only so'many mountains of sod piled upon his premature grave, and each sod as it fell seemed one more shattering blow I to his hopes.
“It seems impossible to me,” he burst out, when he finally had a moment with Fairley alone. “I can’t understand it. Tanley’s wagons haven’t showed up yet; and see that terrible pile of stuff out'there, with more of it still coming. Where did Braekton ever get it all? He must have been on his last legs, to be carrying all that stock.”
“I didn’t imagine it myself,” Fairley returned with a smile which the stockman interpreted as but one more signal of insanity. “It is something of a surprise to me; but it strengthens our position, of course
Angus walked away, with his lower lip between his teeth, for that seemed to him the only manner'in which he could control the storm of words which were battling at the tip of his tongue. Well, thank goodness, the wire had been sent to Laxton, though the man could not possibly arrive for two days. In the meantime, there was that one slim hope created by Miss Fenton, the confidential clerk. For at the first sight of all those wagons of bacon and ham cluttering up the rear yards in the early morning, she had been stripped entirely of all right to make further use of that word ‘confidential.’ She had dashed to the telephone and had poured her tale of fear into the ears of Samuel Frankland..... .Frankland, the father of Marie. And if Marie felt towards Fairley as she, Ruth Fenton, felt toward Malcolm, then the girl’s father had a right to
Angus passed through to the front office. Yes, that was Frankland’s car now at the door, and thank fortune Fairley was still at the rear storeroom gloating over those P“es and piles of bacon-sods which were already being poured upon his grave. Angus opened the door, and Frankland slipped into the office quietly.
‘‘R does seem amazing,” the man stripÍTT-I. asl . ad. the husks of conversation.
jhen did this thing happen, Miss Fenton, and what is the state of the market? There is a chance, you know, that his judgment is better than Brackton’s and Tanley’s.”
“It took him yesterday morning,” tüê girl hastened to inform, “I should have Phoned you then, I know; but I was afraid
to. The market is still falling____another
cent dewn to-day......What are we
■ever to do, Mr. Frankland?”
I ll see about it,” Frankland returned grimly, as he vanished towards the inner
TT WAS an hour before he appeared 1 again, and even, while she hurried up to him, Miss Fenton felt that she could sense something of the futility of it all.
“Couldn’t do a thing with him,” Frankland confessed, somewhat dazedly. “Thinks he is going to make a big clean-up.... A clean-up! Good Lord! With that crook Braekton!” Then his lips set firmly, as though he, too, were beginning to feel some of the lust of battle. “Brackton’s got Brunt just where he wants him. I saw that contract. .. .And can’t you see, Miss Fenton, just what that scoundrel is doing? He is pouring in meat here by the ton; and I’ll wager he never owned so much in his whole lifetime. If he isn’t running around town gobbling everything up that he can lay hands to, then I miss my guess......”
Frankland’s eyes roved about the neat premises, the spacious yards, the orderly offices; they took in that string of Brackton’s cars'which were still piling their avalanche of cured meats upon Fairley & Laxton, and finally they came to rest upon the stricken face of the girl at his 'side. In that moment he gave a'start of surprise.
“You, too? I wonder what Marie would say to'that?”
“No,” the girl protested, in confusion; then abruptly she whispered, in confidence. “Just Mr. Angus.”
Samuel Frankland nodded swiftly.
“It is the same thing,” he declared, “the principle is the same. What a fine little business he had here, promising, with a great future; and now. . . .1 can’t do a thing with him.”
“But what did he say?” the girl asked anxiously, raised for the time being to the common plane of human sympathy.
“Say? A dozen things. He says the export business will open within two weeks. Reasons? A dozen of them, which I could not understand. Two abattoirs yesterday in the East turned down his orders. .. mean nothing to me.. . .seemed to tell him a whole lot. Said they had been keen for business before. Said Linton of the Curtis firm practically told him the export would open......”
“Told him that?” Miss Fenton exclaimed. “I heard Linton say the export would not open ...”
“Yes. Yes.” Frankland tried to soothe his own ruffled feelings. “But Brunt says the man winked when he said it. And Brunt had to'pull a long time before he could get the Curtis people to increase his deliveries. You see, Miss Fenton. .. .straws held to the wind. Mean nothing to me. To'him? Gad, and if he should be right! That scoundrel Braekton still piling in the stuff. ... ”
Frankland broke off, to pace about the room, and when he finally paused before the girl, it seemed that he had assumed a fatherly air.
“Just telephone Marie to come down,” he suggested.
WHEN Marie Frankland arrived, summoned in such a hasty and mysterious manner, she swept into Brunton Fairley’s office with the attitude of one mothering her'lost chicks. There was fear in her eyes and anxiety in her very
A half hour later, when she returned, there was'alsmile upon her lips and merriment in her eyes.
“What ever has been wrong with you people?” she demanded, “Brunt is all right. Dad, I want some of my money. Ten thousand dollars. I am going to buy cured meats ...”
The exclamation which slipped from Frankland’s lips was to be pardoned in the stress of the moment.
“You too!” he exclaimed. “What if he should be right!”
“Of course he is right,” Marie Frankland interposed, “Braekton is shipping rather more than Brunt was looking for, so he is going to let me buy the Tanley stock and have what I make on it. Won’t that just be fine? Nowlhurry, Dad. Please get me the money. For there isn’t much time to be lost. The export is going to open. I just know it is. Why, when I was with Brunt, they telephoned him a telegram from one of the Montreal abattoirs, the Redfern people. They turned him down flat, wouldn’t even take his regular order, let alone doubling it. So can’t you
For a time Samuel Frankland mused in silence.
“Straws held to the wind,” he reflected aloud. “Oh, for the confidence of youth and its reckless foresight!”
The man may have intended to muse'to further length; but at this instant an interruption came in the form of a figure which hurried through the front doorway. The person seemed disheveled and worried, and thefe was nervousness in his voice when he approached the group and spoke quickly. It was Tanley.
“Where’s Fairley ? Must see him at
“Now I wonder what he wanted?” she asked aloud, after'Tanley had passed into the inner office. “He signed the same kind of contract, but hasn’t shipped a pound of meat yet; and for the life of me, I don’t see where we could put it anyway.” Through the minutes they waited; and when finally Tanley emerged from Fairley’s office it seemed almost as though he had passed through some magical change.
“Fairley sure is a great scout,” he hailed Frankland, as he hurried through the outer office. “He let me off on that contract.” Miss Fenton gave a sigh of relief.
“He’s recovering,” she suggested hopefully. “But there’s so 'much cured meat here now'that I’m afraid we’re ruined ...” She paused because of the strange lights in Frankland’s eyes. They were new lights which she did not recognize; but she fancied that it was just as a man must look when he has caughtsight of some fresh vision.
“Didn’t you hear what Tanley said?” he asked solemnly. “I, too, am going to buy
This time Miss Fenton sat down heavily
and she put her hands to her head. “Anoth¡ er of them gone,” she murmured, as'Frankland disappeared in the direction of the ■ stockroomsen search of Brunton Fairley.
“I am afraid you are a bit late,” Fairley remarked, when the other had made known bis fresh viewpoint. “I let Tanley 1 off because he has always played the square game, but I’ll take every pound of meat I that the Brackton-Coffey combination ! can pour into here. You see, Mr. Frank¡ land, how else could I get'it? The abattoirs started to'turn me down three days ago, and that in itself would have been a straight tip that 'they were holding it : for quick export, even if Linton hadn’t ; come along from the Curtis people and ¡ told me.”
“But Miss Fenton says Linton told you 1 the export would not open this spring,” Frankland inserted.
Brunton Fairley laughed easily.
“A'little stage-play, that is^all,” he rei plied. “A person is not always certain that I he can trust even his office hands these j days.”
FRANKLAND, in his tum, laughed somewhat grimly. “Then I think you had better trust her to'thefull, after this,’ he suggested; then he added, somewhat confusedly, “if Brackton and Coffey should pile more stuff in here than you can handle, you might let me in on it. . . . ” Fairley nodded quickly. “Just what I was'thinking of doing.”
“And about when do you think the exportbusinesswill force prices up again?” Frankland asked.
“In a week perhaps, or two weqks. We are within a'cent or two'of the low mark. The rebound will come shortly, and then we will turn over every ton of this meat at
an advance of five cents a pound at the very least.” Fairley paused there long enough to smile boyishly.
“You see, Dad,” he added daringly. “It is sometimes useful to have an enemy. Brackton has been extremely useful to me, and under the circumstances don’t you think it would be quite the proper thing to let'him buy some of it back from me, after the abattoirs hold down on him, of course?' After all the trouble he has gone to, to collect this stuff for me from all over the city, don’t you really think I should let him buy some of it at a trifle under the regular figure?”
Frankiand did not answer, but'his eyes were sparkling as'he made his way blithely through the outer offices.
Straws held to the wind! It was’ a week before events established the fact that Brunton Fairley had prejudged them aright. And when the Brackton-Coffey combination came to'appreciate that point, there was sorrow'all about them.
“Yes,” Fairley was quick to inform Marie on that evening when it was definitely known that the tide had ’turned, “the export 'has shoved the price up six cents a pound all around, but I have decided to let Brackton and Coffey buy back at the four cent advance. That is better than they can do just now'with anybody else, and they both seem eager to buy... But why talk about things like that?”
“I am glad,” the girl murmured at length, “for the sake of Malcolm Angus and Ruth......”
Fairley broke in with quiet laughter.
“And for'the sake of you:.. .and me?” he whispered,' as his brain began to play once more with those glimmering visions which had been painted into the far-ground of the future.