A Plaster on the Rooftree


A Plaster on the Rooftree


A Plaster on the Rooftree


A tale of tumbling fortunes and a wife who read her husband a lesson in the business of living

THEY met by chance in Dominion Square, both on a holiday in Montreal’s Mardi Gras, seeking entertainment and both accompanied by their wives. They went to the same theatre, the same night club, and by the time they parted after breakfast they were all that they had been in the days when they went to the same lecture rooms, swiped ties from one another, and waited for the same shower in the rush hour at the gymnasium ufter three hard sets of tennis.

Richard Clafflin and Carlyle Dermont—usually called Dick and Lyle—had been friends in college days. Dick had returned to his home town, and entered his father’s real estate business, to which he had succeeded two years later. Lyle, on graduation, had betaken himself to bond selling, later to operating on his own. In spite of tardy correspondence, they had lost sight of each other for five years.

Dermont, he let it be understood that very night, was thinking of retiring to a suburban community where -Dick took the words out of his mouth -life was worth living and people were real. He had made enough in St. James Street to retire comfortably; though of course he would continue to carry on a little long-distance dickering. What could be more sensible than to take time to enjoy the good things while still young enough to do so?

Joan, Mrs. Carlyle Dermont, made a moue. He was always talking of the joys of the country and the simple life, she said, with tolerance. Lyle looked at her impersonally as she talked with Eunice Clafflin; she was as meticulous in grooming as in control of a tendency to plumpness. He was excessively plain looking, with features so regular you wondered why he was not handsome. Perhaps it was his coolness which made you sure that his mind and calculations ruled all his actions.

Dick Clafflin was enthusiastic in approbation of the plan. He was a burly young man built so that his clothes could not seem pressed. Baie Beauport, he said, was the very spot for his friend. Everything you could want; sports of all kinds, a couple of the best golf courses in the country, a hunt club, polo if you wanted it. The be3t winter clubs; sports on Lac Rouge and the hills thereabout, or indoors if you pleased. The log chateau had a swimming pool. And the world at your door; roads to the cities and old Quebec towns. Above all, the class of residence and estate being built was such as to satisfy the most critical.

“You must have a subdivision or two there yourself,” laughed Dermont.

“Have I? I live there, if you want to know, built myself a home. Say, Lyle, I wouldn’t dare talk so enthusiastically to a prospect, it would sound too good to be true. But I guess you know me well enough, and when I say I’ve built there myself —”

"It sounds as though it would bear looking into,” agreed Dermont. “I’ll come out and look it over.”

“Sure, you folks come out and see us. The ladies here w'on’t let us talk business now. Hey, what? Dresses, they’re talking dresses and gay Paree. ’ He winked at his friend. “Is that the way to enjoy a party?” Dick took a drink and began to beat upon the table with the little wooden mallet with which the hostess of the night club had supplied the guests.

“Dick! You might act your age,” remonstrated his wife, turning a severe eye upon him. In contrast with her husband, she was a restrained and mature-looking person.

Thus it came to pass that the Dermonts, Carlyle and Joan, did visit the Clafflins, Dick and Eunice, two weeks

later. They found Baie Beauport all that could be demanded as regarded scenic properties, and more imposing than they had expected as to residential structure. Of course the place was on the make. In spots it looked new, even raw. But in ten years, five, they would be glad they settled there if merely from the point of view of investment.

rT'HEY bought a house, already built, from Dick, and paid him practically the whole amount. The furniture from their large place in Westmount sufficed for a good deal of the living quarters of the new house. In a short time they were settled, with a chauffeur, a gardener, a Japanese houseman, all the attributes of suburban life, and invited the Clafflins in to dinner. The latter lived in another admirable house near by.

Neither couple possessed children, and they made the most of this freedom. There were no dances, private or even public, no club or community social activities, in which the Clafflins did not bear their due part and share; and soon it became clear that where the Clafflins were to be seèn, there the Dermonts were more than likely to be found too. In fact, since Dermont no longer had to go down to his broker’s office every morning and afternoon as he had in Montreal, the Dermonts began to be seen in places and at times when even the Clafflins were absent.

When the newcomers had been fully introduced and the honors done, it transpired that the two ladies had become a little bored with the constant association, and it was the men who were seen constantly together. Perhaps Joan Dermont wanted to find a few new friends on her own account. It did not amount to more than indifference between them, hardly coolness. Or perhaps it was that they had been rather passive in the friendship, and simply made a point of getting on well when their husbands brought them together. Their talk seemed to be of dresses, of servants, of their bridge scores, the things women can talk about whether they are interested or not.

Of course they sometimes went to bridge teas together; but Eunice, Dick’s wife, claimed that Joan should have an opportunity to make her own social milieu, not be fitted into one ot somebody else’s choosing. She was quite prepared to help all she could, of course, but that sort of thing could easily be overdone.

But Dick and Carlyle were having the best time, they declared, since they had left college. They golfed and hunted and fished with unbounded zest. At least there seemed to be no limitation to Dick’s enjoyment of this sort of outing. He would come home with a game bag full of ducks, and tell Eunice how many there had been, how they had divided them, and how long they had waited in their “hide,” scarcely daring to smoke or swap yarns, watching the decoys, until they had been rewarded by a good flight. The first year there was talk of going down into New Brunswick for the deer shooting, and Dermont would have been willing, but when fall came Dick could not spare the two weeks. His affairs were flourishing, and he was opening up a few new houses, getting tenants for those he could not sell. Moreover, another firm was operating in his district, and he could not let anyone get ahead of him. Dermont did not go either, but instead of this suggesting that his friend was not too keen about hunting anyway, it merely indicated to Dick that he did not care for hunting in any other company.

There never were two better fellows, the wife of each learned over and over again. It was no wonder that Joan occasionally hinted to her husband that she found something short of perfection in Clafflin, and that Eunice told Dick to run along and make a twosome at the golf course. She would not promise to turn up, and she might or might not have Joan with her on the clubhouse verandah.

Fortunately, each family had two cars, so that, as they might have said, husband and wife were not actually tied together.

SO TWO years passed, smoothly enough, with both couples normally content. When Clafflin opened up a new subdivision or built a pair of new houses, Dermont laid away a hundred shares of preferred stock that could not go wrong or bought the newest model of automobile. They were both comfortably fixed, and did not bother to wonder whether one had more than the other. The main thing was that each was a good fellow and ready for any kind of outing, from a night of stud poker to a morning of mushroom hunting.

They might have continued in such amity for as many years as they were fated to be neighbors had not an incident occurred which seemed likely to add to the warmth of their friendship. But it made for change. Joan Dermont gave birth to a baby boy.

Dick was more excited than Dermont by its arrival. Every day while Joan was in the hospital he slipped over to his friend’s house and enquired how she and the baby were getting on. As soon as she was permitted to see visitors he and Eunice called at the hospital with the new father. Their exclamations over the rosy infant were all that the most captious parents, and the newest, could have demanded. It was the most wonderful baby they had ever seen. Dick declared f -the hundredth time that he wt crazy about kids. Joan lay anc looked at the three adults and at the puckered child on the nurse’s arm with eyes large and bright from her illness. It was a heart-warming i rasión.

The Dermonts had stolen a marei on the Clafflins. They almost had a hint of condescensic in their manner now, or so it seemed. The expansivenes vhich Dermont developed, instead of intriguing Dick wi his own habit of glad-handed goodfellowship almost nnoyed him. Lyle was not meant to be that type. He as cool, intellectual, lacking in originality, severely ^flcal in his living and his plans. Perhaps too logical.

Dick, on the other hand, was a jolly, large-bodied, large-hearted sort, a boy who would never grow up. So in business he had a natural gift for getting on with men, making them see his proposition as being to their own advantage. But when it came to the letter of the bargain he proved adamant, as more than one provisional purchaser had found when he could not meet payments and was forced to lose those he had made. There was not a more popular fellow in Baie Beauport, and he had been elected to the Chamber of Commerce long since. Progressive measures were the order of the day, and, while Dick saw that the interests of realestate did not suffer, he was for the good of the town as a whole too.

Dermont, for all his equal fondness for a pipe, a gun, a sailboat, was almost like a stranger or a city commuter. He was interested in his town, and public-spirited enough when it came to anything as definite as subscriptions and guarantees such as that demanded for the return of Chautauqua each year, but he did not seem really concerned, didn’t even attend the Chautauqua sessions. It was because he hadn’t had a hand in the development of

the town, Dick u privately. It wa~ offish. Eunice he so that everyone would be satisuiet The coming of do something to between the men, into a hundred pe d to say, excusing him but wondering ist Lyle's way; he wasn't really stand n to laugh. Poor Dick. It was getting tad to be just like himself before he e child might have been expected to ring out the common denominator it had not exactly made Dermont center. Instead, it caused a slight

coolness to spring up. The Dermonts were so preoccupied they could not go out, or at least only one of them could go at a time, in spite of the capable nurse they employed; and they were so obsessed with the baby as a topic of conversation that the Clafflins ended by wearying of it and its parents. Calls between the two houses became occasional.

Autumn came. The Dermonts were going to Vancouver for the winter, on account of the boy. Over a bottle of whole rye the two men wondered how they would pass the winter apart, and reminisced of the trout streams they had followed, the near-par golf scores they had shot, even the bridge fights their wives had dragged them through.

"You know, Lyle, old fellow, I don’t like it,”*Dick said, shaking his head. “Oh, I dare say nothing will happen to the kiddie or anythingyou mustn’t think that. I mean, I wonder if things will be the same after this winter. You know, people do change.”

“Have another,” said Dermont. “Why, they can’t change unless we change, and I don’t think we intend to become hard-boiled crabs.”

“Of course, no one intends to. Well, here’s lucky weather, whether or no.”

“The same, agreed Dermont.

T5 EFORE winter, however, something did happen not at all in accordance with the expectations of either man. The stock market performed some unforeseen, unprecedented evolutions. Stocks were high, yet in the prevalent optimism there was no general consciousness of inflation. There could not have been a more complete far-reaching collapse. Dermont went to Montreal the first day, before reading his morning paper and after a phone conversation with his broker. The third day he was back, haggard and despairing, no longer resolute and imperturbable. He did not seem the same man when he came to Dick Clafflin in his office.

“Hello, Lyle! Back from the wicked city? Hope you weathered her all right. -She was some storm, 1 guess. Take a chair. You look fagged, man.”

Carlyle Dermont sank into a leather cushion.

“Fagged! I’m done, Dick, unless you can come to the rescue."

"What, as bad as that? The pikers in this town nearly wore the pavement down outside the brokers’ offices. You fellows right in the street must have had it easy though, money being so cheap, and knowing what was coming.”

“Money cheap! Yes, but try and get it! Listen, Dick, you can’t let me have a hundred thousand, can you, to stave things off a little till she comes back?”

Dick was uncomfortable. He brushed his lips with the mouthpiece of the dictaphone he had been using when his friend entered.

“Well, now! How do you know she’s going to come back?”

"Come back!" Dermont leaned forward. “She’s got to come back. You know that. Do you think General Electric and U. S. Steel and Eastman’s and General Motors and such enterprises are going to make assignments because of a flurry like this?”

“I don’t know anything about speculation, Lyle, old boy. I leave it to those who understand it. Stick to real estate, that’s my motto.” Dick stuck his thumbs in his armholes complacently.

“Well, it’s stock like those I’ve got. You know my motto’s always been, if it isn’t good enough for the Morgans it isn’t good enough for me.” Carlyle explained: “You see, you don’t risk anything, except that you may have to wait for a few weeks longer than we expect.”

"You were carrying them on margin, then? Doesn’t seem very wise when you’re as far from Wall Street as this.”

“I thought I was well able to cover up, and double, if I had to. But when the best ones break forty or fifty

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A Plaster on the Rooftree

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points, things are bound to happen. I put up three hundred thousand, and still there doesn’t seem to be any bottom in sight. If you will just put up another hundred thousand I’ll own most of the stuff, and I can sit tight.”

“And if we’re not heavy enough,” said Dick, looking at his weighty knees, “we lose everything, eh? And how long do we sit tight, if we can?”

“But we will be quite safe, I tell you.” Dermont spoke with a perplexed frown, imploringly.

“How do you know?”

“How does anybody know?” asked Dermont impatiently, starting up and pacing the floor as though he did not know what he was doing.

“That’s it,” agreed his friend gently. “How does anybody know?”

“Then you won’t help? You’ll see me wiped out, after all you’ve pretended to be to me?”

“I wouldn’t like to say that. I wouldn’t see us both wiped out by sending good money after bad. If one is left, he can help the other.”

“You really—refuse tohelp?” asked Carlyle Dermont deliberately.

“Well, it’s business, old man. I can’t see that I’d be helping anybody except the big fellows that are taking the stocks over.”

Dermont turned and strode from the office with a curse.

'""THAT night at dinner Dick spoke to his wife of his friend’s call, though he had not intended to do so.

“Old Lyle has got himself on the skids, I’m afraid,” he began. “I don’t know how it’ll end. Wanted a hundred thousand loan to hold his stocks.”

“On the skids? Do you mean he’s ruined?”

“That sounds like it, doesn’t it? I dare say he has already pledged his house and the family heirlooms. Now he thinks I should let him have a hundred thousand.” Dick repeated the amount with relish, or so it seemed to his wife.

“Can’t you get a hundred thousand for him?” she asked hesitatingly.

“Well, if I had to get it for myself I would have job enough, but getting it for a friend, that makes it just three times as hard.”

Eunice snorted indignantly.

“Dick Clafflin. You know you’re bluffing. You know you could let him have that much from your own bank account, or at least raise it without any great trouble. And when it comes to getting it for someone else, it’s just twice as easy, because you put your name to it as well as his. Isn’t that perfectly true?” “You’re assuming,” Dick said, in the manner which made his wife think of a small boy imitating the stern accents of his teacher, “that I’m rich enough to give away a hundred thousand dollars. I’m not to him or anybody else.”

Eunice looked thoughtful.

“Cive it away? If you could for anyone,” she said slowly, “and I think you could you should for Carlyle Dermont, after all you’ve been to one another. I’d have thought you were Damonand Pythias.”

“Well, you’ve got another gutes, old lady,” said Dick with good-natured sarcasm. “What I could do doesn’t enter into the calculation. This is business. I’ve always been able to take care of mine, and I thought he knew his. If he does not, what can anybody do?”

Eunice looked at him with silent indignation, then she asked:

“You mean that in business there is no such thing as friends?”

“I mean I don’t want to talk about it,” Dick exclaimed. Eunice knew that when he spoke in that tone he would not reason. She did not stop to think of Carlyle’s

problem, though. She reflected that if she had been in her husband’s place she would have found some way of helping. She couldn’t have done anything else, she thought. Of course it would have been different if a friendship had been broken. But this friendship was ostensibly flourishing as the green bay tree. In honor, there was no going back on its obligations. She wondered how she could face Joan Dermont if nothing was done to help them.

For it was not merely a question of helping Dermont when he was in a bad hole. It was a matter into which entered the whole fabric of their lives. They could not maintain integrity if they were to ignore all that had made up their common lives these last two years. They would be betraying not their friendship or their friends-—which she, after all, had not valued so highly as her husband had— but they would be betraying themselves.

What could she do? That was the question she asked herself, staring at the snoring Dick in the next bed. And before morning an answer came to her.

SHE had a negligible bank account, and very little property of the inherited sort. But the deed of the house they lived in was in her name. Dick had far-sightedly taken that course, she suspected, to give himself margin just in case anything went wrong; even bankruptcy may have occurred to him as a possibility. She wouldn’t be surprised, he seemed so frightened in Carlyle’s case. The home • rid its contents were hers. The house had cost more than a hundred thousand to build. She could surely raise that much on it. She would know why, if not, she resolved.

There was no time to lose. If matters were as bad as Dick seemed to think, a day or an hour might mean ruin. She had heard that abouVtl},e stock market. For once she was up $fore her husband, looking through the city directory for a mortgage broker. She had heard the name of one Dick had dealings with, but would use the knowledge as a last resort. She did not want to be stopped or hindered.

As soon as Dick had gone to his office she backed her car out of the garage and was off. The mortgage lender offered her eighty thousand dollars on house and contents. That was a generous estimate of half value, he said, and he knew the property. Would she have the money in the form of cheque or notes? A cheque, she said, impatiently. If she wasn’t careful, her man might have got away to Montreal.

The crushed stone flew as she turned into the Dermont drive. Carlyle answered

the door, looking haggard. She almost pulled him into the library, though she caught a glimpse of Joan on the stair landing with the baby, and of the Jap, who had come to answer the ring, at the back of the hall.

“You look worried, Eunice,” Dermont said half banteringly. “This isn’t merely a social call, is it, at this hour?”

“Dick told me,” she said, “that you needed some money because the stock market has broken—”

“Well, I may not need it very long,” Carlyle rejoined grimly. “If she goes a bit too far this morning, I will not need any money from anyone.”

“Listen, will eighty thousand pull you through?”

“Will eighty thousand?” Carlyle’s brows wrinkled. “Who has eighty thousand to put up?”

“I have,” said Eunice.

“You have! Where in heaven’s name did you get eighty thousand dollars?”

“I own our house, and I mortgaged it.” “You what? You don’t mean to tell me you mortgaged your house to get money for me?”

She nodded. Then quickly she raised her hand.

“Don’t misunderstand this. I thought that Dick should have done so. But since he did not see it that way and I was able to do it, why, it was the only thing to do.” “But—I can’t take that money of yours. Not when Dick refused me.”

“It’s my money. He sees the matter in a different light just now, that’s all. We are both your friends. And what are friends for, unless to help one another when there’s no help to be found elsewhere?”

“It may be true, but how many women are there who would think of doing such a thing when their husbands had passed it up?” Carlyle looked at her doubtfully. Eunice laughed.

“No, I’m not secretly in love with you, or anything of that kind.”

“That isn’t what I was thinking. I was wondering whether I could take advantage ...”

“Of my simplicity? Well, that is your side. My side is that I simply don’t see myself leaving my friends in the lurch. Yours is that you won’t cause them unnecessary risk.”

“That’s what makes me hesitate. Nobody knows how much lower the market is going to go. But if it does not break entirely I can buy enough of my stocks outright to safeguard your money, and incidentally most of mine and what I’ve raised.”

“Then, if you’re fairly sure of that, take it.” Eunice was pale. The possession of such a sum as eighty thousand dollars in one’s hand was enough to turn one’s blood cold in itself. She held out the paper.

Carlyle Dermont put his hands in his pockets.

“I can’t take it. Y’ou know the way it is.”

“That’s why you must take it and shall.” She advanced, as though to put the cheque into his pocket. Rather than be involved in such a childish predicament, he gestured toward the table and she placed it there.

“We’ll see if it’s necessary,” he muttered. “I must get away to the city at once. Better say hello to Joan,” he added, throwing back a smile as he went toward the cloakroom.”

DICK was not at home for lunch, but at dinner he gave no sign of suspecting that the roof had been mortgaged over his head. He seemed preoccupied, and did not mention his friend. Eunice mischievously referred to the episode.

“Carlyle wasn’t around again today, was he?”

“No. It beats me, how it is always the clever fellows who seem to be sitting on the world, who are really riding for a fall, if they only knew it.”

"Yes?” She lifted her eyebrows.

“It’s no game for a family man, this stock gambling,” he went on heavily, attacking a second helping of dessert.

“I sometimes think,” said Joan pensively, “if we had children we might not be so self-centred.”

Her husband grunted.

He had plenty to think about, it turned out, in the weeks which followed. In the first place, three of the parties who had agreed to buy houses from him—two of them had actually signed papers—reneged. They had got pinched in the stockmarket debacle. Then it became clear that this was no temporary thing, that business would not pick up for a long time. His scale of operations would be affected at once. There might be a lowering of the prices of building materials, but if people could not afford to buy so as to give him a profit, what was the use of his buying lots and building? It looked as though the only thing to be done was to sit tight and avoid expansion. His obligations would have to be met before he had returns from many of them. The banks were reasonable, but no more than reasonable. The time came when Dick said to Eunice one evening when he supposed that she was in a good humor:

“It looks as though we’ll have to put a plaster on the old shack, girlie.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mortgage the rooftree. Don’t let’s look like Mr. and Mrs. in the comics. It will do no harm.”

“But—but—we can’t.”

“Can’t mortgage the housewhy? You can.”

“The deed is in my name. I don’t like the idea.” Another thought struck her, and she went on calmly. “You can’t expect me to, merely as a matter of friendship. This is business, you know.”

“Merely a matter of friendship.” Dick gazed at her, round-eyed, like a delinquent schoolboy. “Aren’t you my wife?”

“That is the reason,” she explained patiently, “why you decided to put the house in my name. To make it a sort of reserve which we couldn’t touch if your affairs happened to be temporarily out of joint.”

Dick still gazed at her in silence.

“Oh, that was why I did it,” he said. “I didn’t know,” he added softly, and sat down. “Still I did think it was to be a kind of reserve, too.”

“You appear to have made a mistake,” rejoined Eunice briskly.

After a moment Dick spoke again. “You really mean you won’t let me raise fifty thousand or so on the house?” “I do.” She blushed a little.

“You’re harking back to the way I refused Lyle Dermont, are you?”

“Well, I can’t say that it predisposed me in favor of that kind of loan. You told me yourself there’s a possibility of losing everything. Just because I would be too easy. You weren’t sentimental that way.”

“I never knew you were in love with Lyle all these years.”

“Didn’t you? Neither did I. And I’m not.”

Eunice rose and left the room, with a lack of haughty airs which impressed her husband. She was really angry, then.

HE SAT and chewed his cigar, and looked at his hands, and finally rose to drive over to Lyle’s house. It was only a step, and he used to sprint over in sports * togs when it was a matter of planning for a day outdoors. Now solemnly he rolled under the portico, and laboriously alighted. He had not come to his wife until there was only one alternative, and he was not one to waste time repining before taking it.

Dermont received him politely. They had scarcely met since their talk in Dick’s office.

“Well, I hear you came out all right,” Dick said.

“I might have done worse,” agreed Carlyle urbanely.

“Didn’t have to sell the shack or the car, anyway.”

“No.” Dermont seemed to have a distrust for his old friend’s jocular ways.

“Say, Lyle, old man. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. I’ve got myself tied up rather, and I don’t mean maybe. Now if you’ve made a goal, and have a loose fifty thou., maybe you’ll come to the rescue.” He raised his hand hastily. “Now I wouldn’t blame you if you said no right off the bat, because I said no to you. But that was because I had to. You know that. Millionaires were going boom like balloons those days, by the score. I had to say no. You can see how it was.” “I can see how it was,” returned Carlyle thoughtfully. “But I do not quite see how it is now. I’m unlike you in that respect. I’ll have to ask for a day or so before I can let you know. Certainly I would like to oblige a friend.”

“I know you would.” Dick clapped him on the back. “You’re a real friend and always were. If you find it will pinch you to do it, just tell me, and—” He ¡ spread his hands. “No hard feelings.”

“I’ll let you know tomorrow at lunch time. Will that be satisfactory?”

“Of course. Splendid.”

Next morning Carlyle called upon his friend’s wife. Eunice burst out laughing when she saw him.

“You haven’t come to pay me, have you?”

“I have. I intended to do so anyway soon. Things have been coming my way. You saved my neck. My broker had been unloading for me before I had to take a loss, and by short selling and consolidating my holdings I managed to come out on the right side. In another six months I may be as good as ever. Here’s your cheque.”

Eunice took the paper, looked at it, and passed it back, if the truth be known, reluctantly.

“Change it to one for fifty thousand to Dick, will you, pier le? You may pay the other thirty thousand to me now or whenever it is convenient.”

“I’ll pay the whole eighty thousand this morning, now I’m about it,” said Carlyle with resolution for all his smile.

“I’ll give you the receipt for the whole eighty,” agreed Eunice.

“Better not. I’ll be getting one from Dick. But I’d rather make it to you direct, without any pretense of doing him a favor.”

“That’s all right, but I told him I couldn’t see my way clear to it. Business is business, I said, and I did not care to take the risk.”

“Ah,” said Lyle understanding^.

“Yes. I want to give him a little lesson in friendship. You are paying when you’d rather not, I know, though you say it doesn’t pinch.”

“Very well. It means when he pays me I pay you.”

Eunice nodded.

“I want you to stay to lunch.”

“But—well, I suppose I can. I’ll call Joan.”

That luncheon was of the most cordial. They were like the old friends they actually were, or even like the younger friends they had been. Jokes, reminiscences, laughter, without a false note. Only a silence fell when Eunice said, "I’ve been neglecting Joan fearfully since she has been kept in with the baby. We must see more of one another.”

And after lunch, when the men went into Dick’s den, there was not even a questioning look upon the face of the hast. Lyle handed him the cheque for fifty thousand dollars.

Tears came into Dick’s eyes.

“Old man,” he said, “I’ll never forget this. Next time you call on me, I’ll sell j the roof over my head, but I’ll help you.” I “I hope you won’t go that far—and | that I won’t need it,” Lyle said. I