He who putters may putter safely, but he who dares the impossible has his own reward
ON JUNE 17, 1928, Howard J. Kling met Malcolm Dale in the Hotel Palliser exit at Calgary. Kling always had a good memory for faces. He recognized his old schoolfellow instantly. While passengers and red-caps hurried to and from the trains, the two stood chatting.
“Let’s see,” said Kling. “It’s all of fifteen years since that last day I saw you in Mapleton. You remember— I told you Lyla Carroll was engaged to Chester Foxton . . . No, I’ve never gone east since. Too busy here . . . Sure. I cover British Columbia and the prairies for the Columbia Paint Company. I draw $400 a month, salt away a good bit in safe bonds, and sidestep all the get-rich-quick opportunities that infest Vancouver.”
“You still play safe, eh?”
“Would I be $15,000 to the good if I gambled? . . . Mac, I just know what brings you west. Some fortyacre tract on the fringe of Turner Valley is going to make you a millionaire? Eh?”
“I’ll admit Turner Valley interests me.”
“And you’ve taken flyers in Fort Norman and Peace River and Wainwright, eh? Once you start the easymoney game, there’s no quitting. Many’s the time I’ve thought of you that first night in Tedford’s store at Antrim—”
Malcolm Dale flushed.
“I was a fool.”
“You sure were—a fool, in all your dreams of gorgeous gambles, to miss the best bet of all. Oh, you would show Lyla Carroll you could make yourself as rich in a year as old D.W. had made himself in a lifetime, when all you needed was to prove to old D. W. that you were safe and sane. There was a time, Mac, when Lyla thought a heap of you. And whatever Lyla wanted, old D. W. would give her.”
Malcolm Dale drew a hand over his eyes.
“If only you’d been satisfied to plod like your father, right now, Mac, instead of chasing rainbow gold, you might be married to Lyla and nursing old D. W.’s hundred thousand into a million. But you would play for the big stakes . . .”
An announcer bellowed. Kling gave his old friend a dogmatic handclasp.
“Just like your Uncle Mac. . . . Well, that Vancouver train leaves in five minutes, and I never take chances.”
MALCOLM DALE first met the girl on a country road. At a glance he knew she must be the new teacher at Talbot School. She swung along with an easy, tireless gait; and as she passed, her clear gray eyes looked straight into his. So friendly, so confident that look, he said “Good morning, miss!” before he remembered she was a stranger.
When he reached home, young Dale straightway shaved the black stubble from his chin. He whistled as he did it; so that John Dale wondered. John Dale was in no mood to whistle.
Stooped, gray, with furrowed, kindly face, he had spent his meagre earnings giving other folks a chance; mostly his numerous relatives by marriage; chief of all, Uncle Mac MacLeod.
Young Malcolm Dale, shaving, and whistling as he shaved, thought first, with longing, of the girl with the clear gray eyes; and then with gratitude of Uncle Mac. John Dale
had no reason for gratitude to Uncle Mac. He had grubstaked Uncle Mac in the Klondike rush of ’98, and in every wildcat enterprise since then. Grubstaking, indeed, was done now.
Uncle Mac, shot in a gambling dispute in New Mexico, had won his last stake of six feet of earth; and, oddly enough, after all his catastrophic failures, had left $5,000 in real money for his sole legatee.
That legatee was not the hardworking brotherin-law who had so often put him on his tottery feet, but his nephew and namesake,
Malcolm MacLeod Dale.
“That money will give you something I never had, boy — a decent start,’’
John Dale had said when his son offered him the money. “Put it where it’ll be safe.
Some of these days you’ll marry. Deer Lick Farm can’t keep two families. It’s had a hard job keeping one.”
Malcolm Dale, still whistling gaily, knew just what that $5,000 would do. It would go for part payment on a hundred acres on the ridge. Some thoroughbred stock . . . tobacco and sugar beets ... an orchard ... a big bank barn . . . working and saving . . . more land . . . then the school board, the township council, reeve, warden . . . perhaps the legislature . . . that girl with the clear gray eyes his inspiration through it all.
To bald-headed Tedford who kept the Antrim village store, a flushed young Malcolm Dale later ventured a hesitant question:
“W-who’s the new t-teacher at Talbot school?”
The music of the name thrilled Malcolm Dale.
Tedford added a postscript:
“If I had D. W. Carroll’s money, I wouldn’t put my girl into teaching to compete with girls that really need the salary. But that’s why he’s rich. ‘A girl ought to have a trade, same’s a boy,’ says old D. W. But he means, ‘My girl’s cost a lot to educate and she ought to bring me some revenue.’ An only girl, too.”
Right then, in Malcolm Dale’s estimation Uncle Mac’s legacy shrank horribly. For D. W. Carroll, of Mapleton, was rated worth $100,000.
As Dale walked disconsolately home, bits of Uncle Mac’s grandiose schemes
came back to him out of the dim years. Uncle Mac had dreamed fortunes, had made fortunes, had lost fortunes. Right now, Malcolm Dale craved a fortune more than anything else on earth—except Lyla Carroll. He wanted to come to her as her father’s equal.
C^\N THE country road next morning she smiled and spoke first. Her fair prettiness amazed him; he had thought of her all night, and here she was more bewilderingly lovely than his dreams. The warm friendliness of her smile encouraged him.
Then he thought of her father, of the huge money gulf betwixt them. Through a day of turmoil he wrestled with that problem. And then the gambling strain of the MacLeods submerged the Dale caution.
To a little audience that night at Tedford’s store young Malcolm MacLeod Dale grew tremendously eloquent:
“Just look at Standard Oil. It’s scrambled its company eggs to make millions, and unscrambled them again to make more millions. Why, Mr. Tedford, s’pose you’d put a hundred dollars into Atlantic Refining at the start, right now you’d be on Easy Street. Down in Texas men who rode the bumpers into the oil fields are coming out in limousines. And even in Canada . . . look at that new field that’s opening at Calgary.”
Deaf Sam Briggs cupped a hand over his ear to listen again to patter that had fallen in other days so glibly from the lips of optimistic Uncle Mac. Tedford wiped his bald head, glistening like a storage egg. Pete Pigeon and Long Ed Goss, boots weighted with sticky mud from their truck farms, sat open-mouthed. Howard Kling looked skeptical.
Chester Foxton, the suave young Mapleton lawyer whose Antrim office was open every Thursday, interjected a question:
“S’pose you don’t get anything? Or just gas?”
“I wouldn’t kick at gas, nohow,” drawled Long Ed Goss. “The Amalgamated, over to Carisford, it paid twenty per cent, one year, so it did. I read it in the Planet.”
Sam Briggs drowned out all other talk with his deaf man’s roar:
“This whole country’s jest full o’ gas. You hear, fellers—jest full o’ gas—the whole country, I tell you. An’ oil—you fellers know that old deer lick back o’ John Dale’s orchard—”
“A deer lick,” suggested skeptical Foxton, “means salt.”
“And salt and oil always go together,” retorted eager Malcolm Dale. The thought of Lyla Carroll made him venturesome. “That deer lick’s the place to drill. Hand me some paper, Mr. Tedford. Here, Foxton, you draw a company agreement. Call it Deer Lick Oils, Limited. Capital, $10,000—that’ll drill a lot of wells.”
Foxton went to work. “I’ll get the company’s charter and take my fees in stock,” he volunteered.
Howard Kling argued soberly:
“This get-rich-quick business doesn’t get you anywhere, Mac. Who’s the richest man in these parts? D. W. Carroll. Did D. W. Carroll get where he is by speculating?”
The others cried him down, never guessing how closely D. W. Carroll and D. W. Carroll’s wealth and D. W. Carroll’s amazing daughter touched their epochal venture.
While Chester Foxton with the help of a red-haired stenographer secured the charter, Malcolm Dale set out to dicker with drilling contractors; and found no one on the horizon except Sauvey.
This Sauvey was middle-aged and huge, tanned by the suns of many summers in the open, weathered by the storms of many winters, and as hard as nails.
“Goin’ to drill, eh?” His attitude was distressingly matter-of-fact. “Just north of Antrim. That’s wildcat stuff—”
Malcolm Dale protested. They were not selling stock but putting up their own money.
“A wildcat,” Sauvey impatiently elucidated, “is a test in territory that’s never been drilled, where you can’t tell which way the danged animal, Luck, is goin’ to jump; where drillin’ rigs ain’t handy; where it costs extra to move in a string o’ tools. How deep you goin’? ”
“Oh, that’s not settled. They drill 300 feet at Petrolia, don’t they? If we don’t get oil there we’ll just keep on—”
“S’pose I start with six-and-a-quarter casing and after I’ve gone 300 feet you make up your minds to go 3,000? S’pose I bring in a light rig for a shallow test an’ then have to fetch in a heavy-duty outfit to drill to the Trenton lime? S’pose—”
Malcolm Dale floundered in water exceeding deep. But he gasped and sputtered and kept his head above the surface. For all the time on the remote shore he visioned Lyla Carroll as he had first glimpsed her on the country road, Lyla Carroll, alluring, wonderful.
T-JE’D recovered a cocky confidence when it came time, in Tedford’s dingy store at Antrim, to report to the tentative shareholders of the newly-chartered Deer Lick Oils, Limited. His deal with Sauvey called for a 2,000foot test at a cost of $5,000.
Casing, and putting it in, would cost as much more.
The ghastly silence unnerved him. Herman Neil at last spoke:
“Lucky I promised just one $10 share.”
Howard Kling smiled self-satisfaction. “I’m luckier. Old D. W. Carroll’s my model. D. W. says this getrich-quick stuff never gets you anywhere.”
“See here,” roared Sam Briggs, “this don’t look straight to me. I say, it don’t look straight. Didn't you say as $10,000 would drill a lot of wells? Why, s’pose we shoot our wad on this one hole, we’re done. We’re done, I say. Ain’t we?”
“If it wasn’t such an awful gamble,” whined the bald storekeeper, “I—I guess I could raise $100. But not right now.”
Malcolm Dale was thinking of a talk with Lyla Carroll that morning. Their brief chats when they met on the road had grown longer. He had not told her this morning of his vast scheme. But he had dared to hint, vaguely, of great things he meant to do; things that would make somnolent Antrim and even busy Mapleton sit up and take notice. The fire of that morning’s enthusiasm still lingered.
“See here,” he resentfully demanded, “are you fellows getting cold feet?”
Blustering denials tumbled over vehement explanations. Dale’s teeth clicked.
“All right. I’ll go it alone.”
Dramatically he strode out of the store. Chester Foxton eagerly followed:
“You go ahead, Mac. I’ll stick.”
Now Malcolm Dale was all in a panic.
“I—I don’t know.” He thought of his vague hints to Lyla Carroll, of things she had said about not taking chances, of her father’s known disapproval of such wild ventures. Gambling, old D. W. Carroll had termed it. “I—I don’t know, Chet. But if—if I do go ahead—” Dale flushed, stammered, faltered.
“Don’t tell . . . anyone . . . that I’m in on this . . .” Foxton was acute.
“You mean, don’t tell Lyla Carroll? I see. Old D. W. wouldn't approve—?”
“It’s not that”—lamely. “Only, I want it to come as a surprise when I do win.”
Foxton’s black eyes snapped; he laughed, shortly. “We’ll just say an outside company took over the charter when Tedford and his crowd got cold feet.” Walking home along the shadowed road, Malcolm Dale went hot and cold by turns. If he lost this gamble he lost everything. But if he won . . . then, he told himself, he could meet Lyla as an equal. And D. W. Carroll himself would forgive a winning gamble.
That night he told his father.
John Dale was old, gray, stooped, with a tired look now warmed by a kindly smile.
“Go ahead, boy,” he told Malcolm Dale.
“We’ll find the money.”
The young man thrilled. He would not fail. He could not fail now. He would win.
And after he won . . . He saw Lyla Carroll’s gray eyes light when he went to her.
Then his gaze rested on his father. How old, how tired, how worn John Dale looked! The young man shrank in sheer terror from this oil gamble as from a bottomless abyss.
Then again he pictured Lyla, the wonderful, the wellbeloved, the much desired; Lyla, with her gray eyes looking straight into his; her steady, quiet tones; her warmly friendly smile.
“I’ve got to go through with this,” he told himself; and in a veritable ague-fit he telephoned Sauvey to go ahead.
He had, though, to clip expense at every turn. So he snatched at an opportunity to pick up some casing, dirt cheap. Sauvey first saw the casing on the Mapleton siding.
“Shoot this rubbish right back,” he advised.
“It’s bought,” protested Dale.
“Aw, hell!” grumbled Sauvey. “This casing goes in at the company’s risk—not mine.”
After some hot words he carried his point. Next time Malcolm Dale visited the deer lick, ominous silence had displaced the monotonous clank of the drill.
“That rotten casing buckled all to Hades,” explained the big contractor. “We’ve got to pull it and case all over again. Better get new pipe.”
Hot rebellion surged through Malcolm Dale.
“Say!” he blustered. “Which pipe company is paying you?”
“Just peek through the stuff that’s left,” urged Sauvey, “and you’ll see daylight. I got a line on it; pipe pulled from abandoned wells in the Millbury field; eaten out by sulphur.”
On hands and knees Malcolm Dale examined the pipe. Then he slumped himself on the pile, his head sunk on his hands. Every such delay meant that Lyla Carroll was farther and farther distant. Not yet, though, would he concede the possibility of failure.
He got to his feet, squared his shoulders.
“We’ll get new pipe.”
“Attaboy!” approved Sauvey. “Joe Link is quitting,” he added. “Says it’s too far to get home to Carisford for week-ends. I’ve got to get someone else to take his place and will have to pay more—”
“Well,” flashed Malcolm Dale, “what’ll you pay? I’ll take the job. Before we’re through, I’ll need the money.” There were no more meetings now with Lyla Carroll on the road to Antrim. He wondered if she missed those Continued on page kk
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brief, passing chats as much as he did.
One day he looked up from his work to see her picking her way down the rough road toward the Deer Lick well. She was trim and neat as always; her clear gray eyes sought him out. He flushed, realizing what she saw; a nondescript young man spattered with western Ontario mud, grease from the machinery, soot from the forge, blue clay and yellow from the tailings.
“You foolish boy! Chester Foxton told me, but I wouldn’t believe it.” She glanced suspiciously at Hard-as-Nails Sauvey; then lowered her voice. “I hope you aren’t putting your own money into this gamble.”
So Chester Foxton had loyally kept that from her. Dale hesitated.
“A company is putting down the well,” he said; and hated himself for his deceit.
“Holidays are coming,” she told him. “I won’t be here for two long months.” She hesitated; it was her turn to flush. “If you’re in Mapleton, come and tell me how you’re getting on. I don’t know whether I’ll tell Dad what you’re doing. He doesn’t like oil companies. And—I want him to like you.”
Her radiant smile warmed Malcolm Dale’s soul. It was worth going down into the mud, worth all the grease and soot and grime and clay, to win that smile; those words.
He was going to win. Of that Malcolm MacLeod Dale felt sure. And when he won—then he would tell Lyla Carroll the whole truth, that he was the company, that he had stuck when everyone else quit.
Not everyone. No. There was that game little red-headed stenographer in Foxton’s office who had timidly handed him fifty dollars for five shares. And Foxton himself—though, somehow, Dale never regarded Foxton’s interest as real.
Working twelve hours a day, usually seven days a week, Malcolm Dale did not see Lyla Carroll, now that her holidays had come. The urge to see her was always with him. He hungered for that steady gray-eyed look, that friendly smile. “Wait,” he told himself. “Wait.”
BUT one Sunday, grown impatient of waiting, he put on his Sunday best, went into Mapleton, and up to the big house D. W. Carroll had built out of thrifty savings and cautious investment.
D. W. Carroll was there with Lyla; and D. W. Carroll received prosaic John Dale’s good-looking son with bland friendliness. Carroll, when he still farmed in Darkwood township, had known John Dale; he remembered Malcolm as a boy. And Lyla, manifestly, had said much to him of Malcolm Dale and nothing to Malcolm Dale’s hurt.
Malcolm Dale sat in the Carroll livingroom, among the things cautious thrift had bought, and told of the Deer Lick drilling. That was his pretext for coming.
“I may be wrong,” purred D. W. Carroll, “but I never liked such ventures. There is no way to get rich quick. Where would Canada be if it were not for the slow savings of thrifty folk? Where would Canada be if everyone took wild chances. It shows your own good sense, Mr. Dale, that you’re not putting money into this venture.”
Malcolm Dale winced, hating his own deceit.
Chester Foxton came presently. Thereat Malcolm Dale felt surprise. Of course, Foxton did legal work for Carroll —but on Sunday? And why his assured air of one who came often and found himself welcome?
“Hello, Mac Dale,” he chirrupped, almost insolently. “I didn’t expect you here. Drawn any dividends from your Deer Lick company yet?”
Dale realized the purposeful malice in the lawyer’s words. He felt reproach in Lyla’s gray eyes. Foxton sat himself
down beside Lyla Carroll with a manner that shut Malcolm Dale quite out of their talk. Dale gazed awkwardly at D. W. Carroll. Bland Carroll’s look was severely critical.
Awkwardly he rose to go. Lyla with queer alertness stepped outside with him.
“Is that true? What Chester just said?”
Dale faltered a moment. Then he gripped his courage with both hands.
“Lyla—I wanted it to come, when I had won, as a surprise to you. Now that fool”—he fairly snarled the word—“has spoiled it all.”
Steadily the gray eyes regarded him:
“But, don’t you see, whether you win or lose, it’s a gamble; and in the end the gambler loses—always.” Her father’s words came back. “What would Canada be if—”
Dale snatched the words from her lips.
“What would Canada be,” he snarled, “if Canadians were all afraid to take a chance. If Canadians were all as cowardly as—as I was in keeping this secret, or as your father and Chester Foxton have been all their lives?”
Her fair face flamed with color, as Dale turned and strode down the walk. Swiftly his anger passed; terror gripped him, just as it had gripped him when poor, overtaxed John Dale had volunteered to finance this gamble.
“I’ll show her,” he muttered; and stamped down the walk.
Two days later, the Deer Lick well ran into a fishing job. The cable broke, and the tools went clattering to the bottom of the 1,900 - foot hole. Hard - as - Nails Sauvey regaled Malcolm Dale with stories of wells lost through just such mishaps.
But after weeks of patient toil the tools were recovered, and Malcolm Dale with tragic eyes once more watched the lengthening of the cable, each added screw like the sands running out of an hour-glass, each slow stroke of the drill like the tolling of a funeral bell.
It came on a bright September morning, what Malcolm Dale had looked for with those tragic eyes.
“We’re done,” announced Sauvey. “We’ve drilled your 2,000 feet, and nine feet more for good measure.”
“At $100 a day,” grunted Sauvey. “If you weren’t such a game kid” — Sauvey coughed and looked away—“it’d cost you more.”
“I know the oil’s there,” Malcolm Dale told his father. “If I only had a chance—”
Old John Dale’s kindly face furrowed. He laid a hand on Malcolm’s shoulder.
“Boy, you shall have your chance.”
Returning that evening from a trip to Mapleton, he placed in his son’s hands a check for a thousand dollars. Malcolm Dale’s eyes filled with tears. Yet he did not know, then, what this last chance had cost his father. All he knew was that it meant putting that dry and hopeless hole on the deer lick a few feet deeper.
Sauvey resumed drilling. He did not need to run out the money. In three days the Deer Lick gasser came in.
NOW D. W. Carroll would approve, and Lyla would smile again. So Dale told himself.
Storekeeper Tedford next day mysteriously beckoned. In the shabby store Dale found Deaf Sam Briggs and Long Ed Goss.
“Well, we got the money at last,” confided bald-headed Tedford.
“For our shares. You remember I said I could raise it, and I did, though it was hard as pullin’ teeth.”
It was not so hard, though, as Malcolm Dale’s young face.
“Keep your money,” he snapped.
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Then, as Sam Briggs cupped a hand over his ear:
‘T mean it. There’s only two people to whom I owe anything. One is my old dad, and the other is”—he laughed— “a red-headed girl in Mapleton.”
They whined, pleaded, threatened; but Dale stalked out. In the doorway he collided with Pete Pigeon. “That goes for you, too,” he cried.
“But, see here,” expostulated Pete; “listen, can’t you? That gas is blowin’ open, anyway. Why not light ’er up and have dances in the meadow? You’ll draw crowds for miles around?”
From Mapleton? Lyla? Malcolm Dale scribbled a note to Sauvey.
Then, in the mood of one conferring a favor, he went to D. W. Carroll. He had the gas. Now all he needed was a pipe line. The market was ready on the taking.
“Well, Mac,” purred bland Carroll, “I appreciate that you mean well. But a natural gas gamble—”
“Gamble? Mr. Carroll, this is no gamble. We have the gas. Mapleton wants it. All we need is to link the two.” “To me it’s a gamble.”
There was finality in Carroll’s tone. Yet Malcolm Dale argued. Lyla might show herself. “I don’t want to see her,” he told himself. “She’s nothing to me.” And next minute knew that he lied.
But he did not even glimpse her.
More discouragement came when cautious investors, one after another, turned thumbs down. “Too risky,” they all said.
After days of futile solicitation he returned to Antrim. His friends danced in the meadow by the light of the gas torch. East and west along the horizon he counted a dozen derricks. Tedford had launched a syndicate and had a derrick up. An Ohio man named Leit had half a dozen. The Greenwood Natural Gas Company and the Consolidated Development Company had each a couple of wells. Only that day the Standard Oil Development Corporation, capitalized at $1,000,000, had commenced advertising its dollar shares at five cents.
Malcolm MacLeod Dale was thrilled. He had started all this. As for a market, the Amalgamated Gas Company would surely help him.
At Mapleton next day he called at Foxton’s office. Foxton was out, redheaded May Cameron told him. “Just think, Mr. Dale,” she breathed. “Our company!” Gratefully he regarded her.
He decided to go on to Carisford to see the Amalgamated, without waiting for Foxton. xAt the railroad station he met Howard Kling burdened with a glistening suitcase. “I’m going West,” explained Kling.
“I thought you never took chances?” gibed Malcolm Dale.
“And I don’t. I’ve sewed up a peach of a job with a company rated A-l in Dun and Bradstreet.” He chuckled. “Gambling doesn’t pay, Mac. Chet Foxton is wise, I’ll say it. Tedford offered him $1,000 for his $500 of Deer Lick stock, and shrewd old Chet grabbed the real money. It’ll pay for his honeymoon. Yes, Lyla Carroll; old D. W. told me himself. It’s next June, I think.” Two days later Malcolm Dale came home from Carisford. Even Dalny, the soft-spoken manager of the Amalgamated Gas Company, had shaken his head. “You can’t supply Mapleton with just one well,” he insisted. But through Malcolm Dale’s mind ran, while he talked, the cruel obbligato by Howard Kling: “Yes, Lyla Carroll. Old D. W. told me himself. It’s next June, I think.”
Dale gazed drearily over the Antrim landscape. No dance in the meadow, though the night was fair, no gas torch blazing above the deer lick. He was too hurt to wonder. John Dale’s gray face carried its own forecast of evil tidings. The old farmer tried to smile encouragingly; then he broke down.
“The gas is done,” he mumbled. “It blew itself out. Sauvey said it was just a pocket, anyway.”
After all, did it mat-ter? When Lyla Carroll, who had innocently inspired it all, was to marry Chester Foxton next June?
"CALL swept into winter, and winter crawled into spring, while Malcolm Dale, thrusting his glowing ambitions behind him, gave himself to the task of helping poor, tired John Dale put the mortgaged farm on its tottering feet.
In April, Malcolm Dale was summoned from the field to meet a young-old stranger with glasses and an alert, citified air. He perused a b't of pasteboard:
ROBERT J. CARROLL, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa.
Malcolm Dale had vaguely heard of D. W. Carroll’s half-brother with a string of degrees as long as the tail of a kite.
“I had to come up here for a wedding in June,” remarked Robert Carroll. “So I said to myself, why not come a bit early and dig up a bit of dope on all this drilling you’ve done?”
For a wedding in June! Malcolm Dale winced. But Uncle Bob had opened a black-covered note-book. Lyla, manifestly, had told the geologist-uncle nothing of what Malcolm MacLeod Dale had once hoped for? Had she ever really known? Did she realize, even now, how his hopes of her had inspired this pitifully futile gamble?
“A deer lick? That’s no real indication of oil. Ninety per cent, of the gas strikes you read about are pockets, and ninety per cent, of the oil showings are fakes.”
“At that,” commented Dale, grimly, “I got all there was.”
He shivered while Geologist Bob Carroll glanced through the drilling log Hard-as-Nails Sauvey had laboriously compiled.
“H’m! Your Deer Lick No. 1 was hopeless from the first. Hopeless!”
He came again and again, though. He studied the logs of all the abandoned dry holes: he roamed the country for miles; while April swept into May and May rushed on toward June. Only once in his talks with Dale did he mention Lyla.
“That chap my niece is marrying,” he remarked, enigmatically, “reminds me of D. W. when he was young.”
And then one day came to Malcolm MacLeod Dale a telephone message from Geologist Robert Carroll that took Dale, reluctant, to the big house at Mapleton.
'"PHEY sat in D. W. Carroll’s study.
From a distance came voices—Lyla? Malcolm MacLeod Dale wondered if that gay laugh were hers.
Awkwardly Robert Carroll regarded him.
“I’m not here merely for the wedding,” he blurted at last. “Or for the survey either. I’m here—”
* He lowered his voice.
“Because Lyla wrote me. She could never feel quite happy, I guess, if she remembered you as wasting your life here, moping over what you couldn’t help, clinging to dead hopes. She—she thought I might get these drilling logs and make you see just how hopeless your gamble was; that it wasn’t your fault you failed; that in such gambles, always, the cards are stacked against you.”
“Boy,” said Bob Carroll, unsteadily, “it was hopeless—all hopeless.” And Dale felt that he spoke, not merely of the Deer Lick well but of Lyla—Lyla, lovely, alluring, yet never once within his reach. “It’s done now. You’ve just one thing left; to make a new start.” Malcolm Dale’s hands clenched. Odd, that those words should make him think of red-headed May Cameron—loyal May Cameron who had proudly refused the fifty dollars he had saved her from the wreck.
“Now . . . for the future . . .?”
“I’ll stick to the farm,” returned Malcolm MacLeod Dale. “Get it clear — somehow. I owe dad that much.”
His tone was spiritless.
“Perhaps,” suggested Bob Carroll, softly, “a change of scene—in Ottawa or Toronto—with us, perhaps—You could do more for your father—hire cheaper men to do what you do here.”
Dale at last looked up.
‘Tf I ever do anything off the farm,” I he cried, “there’s what I’ll do.” His gesture vaguely indicated the deer lick. “Some day, somewhere, I’ll make that oil game go, if I die trying.”
“You’d gamble again?” challenged the geologist. i
Dale got to his feet. The distant voices, the laughter, seemed hushed.
“Yes—to the end.”
“You’re hopeless!” Bob Carroll laughed, a laugh that came close to a sob. Then, with sudden briskness, he produced a map. “Can you get leases there?”
“Now I can get them anywhere.”
“Not anywhere, but there.” He pointed. “There, the logs tell me, is our one real chance. And I’ve a crowd will help develop. Men with money to lose and the sporting instinct to venture it, and I’m one of them.”
Footsteps interrupted them. Malcolm Dale saw D. W. Carroll, a shocked D. W. Carroll, in the doorway, with Lyla at his elbow.
“Bob?” exclaimed Carroll. “Have you gone mad? And you, Malcolm Dale, haven’t you learned your lesson? Don’t you know enough to quit?”
Malcolm Dale faced the man of innate caution with a look that challenged all the safe and sane ideals for which D. W. Carroll stood.
It was Lyla, though, that answered. She ran to Malcolm Dale, she gripped his hands in hers, she faced her father, in her great gray eyes that unforgettable look.
“Dad, I’m the one that’s quitting. You’ve talked of safety and sanity till I almost believed you. But I’ve had lonely hours to think things out. And now I know.”
D. W. Carroll sputtered, but her look silenced him, her tumultous words overwhelmed him.
“You talk . . . talk . . . you tall^ of Canada. I, dad, I’ve taught Canada, and I’ve come to discover Canada. What made Canada? The men who stayed sate in the old land, or the men who staked all they had in the new? Pioneers—adventurers—what are they but gamblers? I’ve thought, thought, thought, till I see clear—that this thing Mac stands for is the finest thing a country can have—the spirit to dare the impossible. Oh, you safe, puttering men may possess what the gamblers won, but it’s the gamblers who pioneered it all.” Her gray eyes never wavered. It was D. W. Carroll looked down, as though sensing the finality of what had come.
“And always,” she finished, “there have been women to go with such men and share their fortunes—just as I’ll go with Malcolm Dale if he’ll let me.”
rT'HE train from the prairie west reached Mapleton on the evening of June 25, 1928. Malcolm Dale stepped down. A gray-eyed woman waited for him in a limousine. He kissed her.
“Oh,” he presently exclaimed, “I met Howard Kling at Calgary. You remember little Howard. He’s played safe and accumulated a nestegg?”
From the station platform drifted to him the words of a lounger:
“That's Mac Dale, the gas man . . . one lucky guy, I’ll say it; punches a hole in the ground and makes a million. And old John Dale, all his life stony broke, sitting pretty now. And that redheaded Cameron girl turns a dinky fifty dollars into thousands . . .”
Dale smiled grimly. “One lucky guy !”