FICTION

Old Gold

LEWIS G. HYAMS November 15 1933
FICTION

Old Gold

LEWIS G. HYAMS November 15 1933

Old Gold

FICTION

LEWIS G. HYAMS

MARRIAGE!” cried Matthew Darbey, with all the assurance of his twentyfive years. "Marriage! Phooey on it for a fellow like me! Yes. show me a girl with a million or so, and I might think about it. That is, if she’s at all goodlooking. But no extra meal tickets for me. if I can help it. Not now. Why. I would be a fool, wouldn’t 1?”

Mrs. McShane’s eyes gleamed as she reached across the table and poured her roomer another cup of “tay.”

"Maybe yes. maybe no,” was her noncommittal response. "Though I don't know as anybody’s the worse for trying it, my boy. A wife sometimes knocks the kinks out of a man

and makes something out of him. I hits him on his feet, I mean. And as for you marrying a girl with a million— don’t worry! You'd—”

“Why, aren’t I standing on my own feet now?” he shot back in an aggrieved tone. “What do you mean—’makes something out of him?’ I—”

Mrs. McShane’s lips came together.

“Oh. I wasn't meaning you particular." she assured him. “But all the same. Mr. Darbey. you know as well as I do that if you had a wife and little ones to take care of. you’d liave found work by now. Either that or else— ”

"Drat that bell! There it goes again.” she interrupted sharply, as a summons came from the front of the house. And getting up hurriedly—too hurriedly, Darbey thought

—she left him alone to nurse his thoughts, and after a minute take his hat and climb to his room.

IT WAS the evening before when this conversation between Darbey and his landlady had taken place, yet such was the impression it had produced on him that fragments of it still filtered through his mind as he strode down town the next morning in pursuit of breakfast—and a job. For. though she did not suspect it. Mrs. McShane’s outspoken avowal had stirred her lodger more than he would have cared to admit —had. in fact, shaken his complacency to its very foundations, so that he was resolved, come what may, that work of some kind should be his before another day had passed.

Darbey was a draughtsman. “Was” is chronologically correct in his case, because he hadn’t laid 1-square on drawing-board since they had laid him off at the Okay Manufacturing Company a year ago. “Until things improve,” they had said; which had prompted Darbey more than once to telephone Mr. Hinchley, the senior partner, and ask if he were needed yet.

Many times in those first months of unwonted leisure, Darbey had thanked his lucky stars that he had been provident in the six years he was steadily employed. If ever he had counted himself a little more fortunate than some of his fellow-craftsmen who were laid off at the same time as he, it had been when he had examined his bank pass-book and figured he had enough to last him, with care, for a year.

But lately had come a new sensation—fear. With the passage of the months his savings had dwindled alarmingly until they were all but gone. Indeed, at this moment, as he

hurried beneath the trees in Allan Gardens he knew to a cent just how much he had. In all the world, Darbey possessed exactly seventeen dollars and forty-nine cents. Ah, yes in his trunk there was a five-dollar gold piece his mother had left him some years before. But it was a keepsake, and he had no intention of spending it. He left it out of his calculations.

It was this growing realization that he was approaching a crisis in his finances that had given Mrs. McShane’s words last night a potency that they might not otherwise have held. A few months ago he would not have heeded her judgment so much, perhaps. But taken together with his now almost vanished savings, it constituted a challenge that could be met only with actionand results. Which explains the determined Matthew Darbey who half an hour later thumbed open his newspaper to the classified page and ran his eyes down the section marked: “Help Wanted— Male.” He had finished an all too scanty breakfast of coffee and toast, and now’ was ready for the fray.

As usual, there was little to excite his immediate interest. Nobody wanted a draughtsman. Darbey decided, letting his eyes rest once more on the following somew’hat unusual advertisement :

"An old-gold dealer has an opening for a In ight, keen young man to assist in buying precious metals from the homes of this city. Previous experience not necessary, as we will teach applicant all he is required to know. Earnings start at once. ( kxxi opportunity. See Mr. Tickler. Room 202, -— Building, 11 a.m. today."

MR. ARNOLD TICKLER, proprietor and guiding spirit of the Square Deal Refining Company, examined the applicant with a keen, shrewd eye. To his critical glance he seemed all right tall, clean-cut, fresh complexioned, and with a neatness of attire that should gain him a favorable reception at the homes at which he calk'd. Still there was no knowing, of course. Likely young men had a habit of turning out—

"You say you’ve been a draughtsman, eh. Mr. Darbey?” he said at last, and blew his nose loudly as if he found the idea not entirely to his liking.

“That’s right. Yes, sir,” Darbey replied.

“And what makes you think you’d make a success of this business of buying gold?”

Darbey, at a loss for a moment, was visited by an inspiration or a sudden access of courage; perhajw a combination of both.

“Well, your ad. specified a bright, keen man.and I’m all of those, I think. And you said ‘experience not necessary,’ which also (its me. I’ll frankly confess. But I’ve had a hunch for some time that there’s money to be made in this gold business, and I'm pretty sure I could make a success of it.” Which last, it may as well be said, was a good deal of imagination on Darbey’s jxirt, for never had he given the slightest thought to the gold business beyond the occasional wonder that people could be so crazed about the yellow metal as to prize it almost beyond life itself. Still, he congratulated himself in the next few minutes that his reply had created a favorable effect.

That this was so seemed indicated when Mr. Tickler, after a few more questions, launched into a detailed exposition of the modus operandi of the Square Deal Refining Company, and the work required of the bright, keen young man whom he would engage. This was, Darbey decided, none other than himself.

Continued on page 33

Old Gold

Continued from page 15

For upwards of an hour he heard Mr. Tickler expound the business of gold dealing as Mr. Tickler practised it. With a degree of understanding which he hoped impressed the other, Darbey nodded his head and occasionally took notes, while his prosecti ve employer explored the whole field of gold—the world-wide demand that existed for it; its former set price of $20.67 per ounce, fine; and the steadily mounting value that had boosted this price within the last few months by practically fifty er cent. All of w’hich was of added imertance when it was remembered that, undoubtedly, considerable quantities of the precious metal were hidden away unused and unthought of, in thousands of local homes.

“How?” Darbey wanted to know in an unguarded moment.

“Why, old jewellery, of course ! Watches, bracelets, chains, rings—I don’t suppose there’s hardly a home in Toronto that hasn’t got a gold trinket of some kind or other lying around. Take your own home, for instance.”

Darbey, thinking of his five-dollar gold piece, again nodded. Even Mrs. McShane, he thought, might have a bit of gold in some forgotten comer or other which she could turn to good account. Though it hardly seemed likely, come to think about it. However—

“If gold has a standard market price, as you say, that is, pure gold—what do you pay for it?” Darbey asked.

“Now that’s the point, and it’s a very logical question,” replied Mr. Tickler, brightening up. “As I’ve already told you. practically no jewellery is made of pure gold, which is twenty-four carat. It would be too soft. Generally speaking, jewellery ranges all the way from seven or eight carat to twenty-two. Now remembering this, it don’t require the genius of a Solomon to see

that the value of the gold in an article depends on two tilings —the weight of that article and the proportion of gold it contains. In other words, the number of carats.

“For instance”—and Mr. Tickler exhibited a gold watchcase from which the movement had been taken—"we’ll say that this case weighs ten pennyweight, which is half an ounce. Now if it was pure gold it would be worth half of $20.67 or $10.33. But it happens to be only twelve carat or half gold, as you might say, which makes its value only $5.16. You got that?”

“Of course”—and here the speaker paused an appreciable moment—-“you don’t pay that much for it. Else where would be your profit? Also, you’ve got to allow something for any base metal such as the hinges in this watchcase, and solder in chains and rings, and so on. Now' before you start out tomorrow, I’ll give you a bottle of nitric acid and a file to tell the real stuff from the other kind. I’ll also show you how to judge the weight of gold so that, without scales and merely by your eye and sense of feel, you can make an intelligent offer for any kind of gold article you’re offered.”

“You mean,” said Darbey slowly, “it’s up to me to make my own profit on this job?”

“Exactly. Whatever you pay for gold is your own affair. I’ll give you the full price for all you bring in, less seven per cent for my trouble in refining it. In other w'ords, you’ll get four cents per carat per pennyweight, which is as much as any old-gold dealer in town is paying right now'.”

Quick figuring by Darbey showed that this would be at the rate of $19.20 an ounce. Which, as Tickler had said, was approximately seven per cent below $20.67. But this last figure was gold’s old valuation months ago. Since then, as had become common knowledge and as Tickler himself

liad said, the price of gold had increased until today it commanded a premium of almost fifty per cent. This would bring its current value around $30 an ounce. Nor w«s Darbey slow to mention this apparent oversight to the other. Perhaps Mr. Tickler had momentarily forgotten this large boost in gold's value?

“Mr. Darbey, there's not a place in town paying more than I’m offering you right now. Premium or no premium, the most they’re paying is what I’ve said. Who benefits by the increase? Well, it costs money to buy gold, and hold it and refine it, doesn’t it? Nobody’s in business for his health, these days.”

“I see. But these people I buy from -won’t I be taking advantage of their ignorance in these matters? That is, they would not know much about it, would they?”

Mr. Tickler looked at Darbey as if he viewed a strange creature for the first time. He seemed to be on the verge of losing his patience, then laughed and placed a hand on the other’s shoulder.

“Mr. Darbey, I’ve already told you that what you pay them is your own affair. You can give them as much or as little as you like. But remember, if you want to make any money at this job you’ve got to watch out for yourself. And another thing, there’s no law against a man buying as cheaply as he can, whether it’s groceries or gold, so long as he does it openly and honestly. Let the other fellow take care of himself, that’s my motto. And that’s the law in business today.”

“I understand,” said Darbey, and mentally registered the decision that Mr. Tickler was a man who knew a thing or two worth knowing and a man to guard oneself against.

“THE FOLLOWING DAY found Darbey I pressing a bell button on a street of neat, middle-class liomes in north Toronto. For over an hour since leaving the office of the Square Deal Refining Company he had walked about the city, his step undecided and his mind still grappling with the question of whether he sliould start now, or give to Tickler’s proposition the further consideration it seemed to demand. His pocket held a bottle of acid and a file, and his sole remaining cash fourteen dollars and a few cents. Sufficient, lie thought, to pay for any gold he might reasonably encounter on this first day. His mind held a whole reservoir of facts and advice pumped into it by his persuasive employer. Armed with this combination of capital, he felt he was in a position to set himself up as a gold buyer with the best of them. Still, his steps had faltered . . .

Darbey had selected this street after a good deal of hesitation. Never a salesman, lie had stopped on the comer for no other reason than that he was tired of walking aimlessly in the one direction. Now, carefully glancing it up and down, he felt that if he was going to start at all. the homes on this street offered as good an opportunity as any other. Gritting his teeth and mentally marshalling his forces, he went up to the first house in the block.

An old lady answered his summons. Darbey doffed his hat and explained that he was the representative of the Square Deal Refining Company. He had called to find out if she had any jewellery to sell: that is, gold jewellery, of course. If she had. he would pay a good price for it.

The old lady was either hard of hearing or found his words difficult to understand. A combination of both, perliaps. Eventually, when he had repeated his mission three times, she told him that she did have some jewellery, but they were treasured keepsakes. and anyhow she didn't see what good they would be to anybody else.

The next three calls brought no better results. At the fifth house, however, Darbey bought a ring. It was a cheap signet ring, of no great value, but Darbey paid a dollar for it after scratching its surface and testing it with acid and weighing it carefully in his palm. It was worth, he estimated, at least three dollars when melted down, so at one dollar he was reasonably on the safe side.

Until the afternoon was well advanced, Darbey rang bells and tapped on door panels; sometimes to be met with lifted brows and a note of surprise, at other times w-ith frank scepticism and frigid courtesy. Indeed, he had lost all count of time, and the encouragement of his first minor success had all but evaporated when he climbed the steps of a small house at the end of a block. He liad already decided that this would be his last call on the street.

As a draught of clear, cold water revives a kiln-dried throat, so Darbey’s flagging spirits took a new, sudden lease on life when the door opened in response to the bell whose echoes he could faintly hear. A girl, in her early twenties possibly, faced him, an unspoken enquiry in her cool, level grey eyes.

There was something so startling about the manner of her appearance, the quiet way in which she regarded him. that Darbey was temporarily taken aback. Never very sure of himself where women were concerned. that is, young good-looking women, he found himself stammering.

“I good afternoon. My name is Darbey. I represent the Square Deal Refining Company. We buy old gold and precious metals of all kinds. If there’s any jewellery you have which you don’t want. I’ll be glad to give you an offer for it. A good offer.”

He could see that she was on the point of saying “no." Indeed, the word had crossed her lips and the door had closed an imperceptible degree, when she seemed to hesitate. Her pretty yet pensive features took on a new expression.

“You say you buy jewellery?" she asked him.

Darbey nodded. “Anything of value,

Another moment she hesitated, glancing him up and down, then cast her eyes along the street.

“Please come inside,” she said.

Darbey found himself in a small front room, comfortably furnished. Several minutes elapsed before she returned and laid a small collection of articles on the table before him. Two rings, a locket with a long chain, and a heavy gold bangle of a day long past. All women’s trinkets; all speaking of the years that were gone.

“What will you give me for these?” she questioned.

He examined them closely, did things with his file and acid, weighed them carefully individually and together. Finally he looked up and said :

"I’ll give you twelve dollars for these,

She seemed disappointed. And yet, was it exactly? Wasn't it rather something else? A vague something tliat glued her eyes to that jewellery as if she would snatch it up from before him? As if the question of price had been forgotten as soon as it was spoken.

“Is that the most you can give?” she asked at length.

“I’m afraid so, miss. There's not so much gold here as one might think.” Darbey told her. Then, remembering that his offer comprised practically the whole of his available capital, he added more decisively:

"Twelvedollars is my limit.”

“Very well, you may take them,” came the reply. "Wait. Let me take that picture out of the locket.”

"THROUGH THE WHOLE of the ride I down town back to Tickler’s office. Darbey dwelt in a world apart from the hurrying throngs of people among whom he moved. Nor was he thinking about gold or

of the events of the day. except only as they revolved around the girl who had just sold him several pieces of outmoded jewellery for twelve dollars.

Somehow, he felt that she must have needed the money pretty badly to have parted with them.

Arnold Tickler was in his office when Darbey entered. He was in hearty mood, as evidenced by his greeting:

“Well, my boy. What’s the good word?”

Darbey laid his purchases before him.

“Not so much, but all I could buy with the money I had.” he said.

The other did not at once reply, but examined each piece in turn.

"Well, that’s not so bad. Not so bad at all for a start. Now weil see what kind of buyer you are.”

Darbey followed him to the scales.

“Weigh this piece separately, please,” Darbey told him, pointing to the ring he had first bought.

“That’s all right,” said Tickler, and placed it on the balance.

“A little under six pennyweight. And it’s fourteen carat. I’ll give you three and a quarter for this.”

"I see. And the rest?” said Darbey.

“Well, now, that’s not quite so simple. Some of it’s eighteen carat and the rest tw'enty-tw'o. Weil have to weigh each grade separately.”

Darbey gasped when he heard the result.

“You’ve got two ounces and three pennyweight of gold here. One ounce and nine pennyweight of twenty-two carat, and the rest, eighteen carat. For this I’ll pay—” He busied himself with a pencil. “For this I’ll pay thirty-five dollars and fifty cents. Satisfied?”

Darbey said he was, and received a new thrill from his first day’s work when Tickler opened the safe and paid him there and then.

“Johnny on the spot, that’s me,” said Mr. Tickler grandly.

IT WAS A DARBEY of strangely mixed I feelings who walked up Bay Street a few minutes later, a Darbey whose pockets held close to forty dollars where a short hour or two ago there had been less than half that amount. But also a Darbey w hose mind was far from feeling the unmixed jubilation that should rightfully have been his at the close of such a satisfactory day’s work.

The picture of the girl was still before him.

He had given her twelve dollars for something that was worth practically three times that amount. Moreover, she needed the money. Needed it badly, he felt sure. Disguise it as she would, he had seen . . .

Crossing the street, an automobile bore down on him before he realized he w'as walking blindly through the traffic. A block farther, and he had decided to revisit the girl and offer her the balance of the money. At least, not all the balance, but say another fifteen dollars. Even then he would have a fair margin of profit for his efforts. But, first of all, he would go to his room and get cleaned up.

“And sure, where have ye been all day?” was Mrs. McShane’s greeting as he entered the narrow hall. “I’ve a message for ye from Mister—Mister What’s-his-name at the Okay. He wants you to be dow n there in the morning. Says they’re busy. He needs ye.”

“No, you don’t say!” was all Darbey could manage for a moment. “They called up. Gosh! That’s great new's.” His whole bearing reflected a newly found happiness that, for the moment at least, pushed all other things ipto the background.

Windmills Generate Electricity

AT WEST BURLINGTON. N. J„ a / \ cylinder of metal, ninety feet high and twenty-two in diameter, is to be one of a series of windmills which will generate electricity and reduce the coal bill of a great power house.

Mounted on flat cars, these cylinders will be coupled in a train which will be blown

around a circular track. On the axles electric generators will be carried. The minimum wind velocity required to operate is six miles per hour.

The whole country may yet be covered with concentric circles of these rotors interconnected with steam and hydraulic stations.—Literary Digest.

“I thought that would please ye,” she said happily as he climbed the stairs. “Come on an’ have a cup o’ tay to celebrate !”

“All right. Thanks. But I’ve got to go out soon. I Ve a call to make.”

DARBEY’S first thought as he awaited a reply to his ring was that the girl might not be at home. In this case, it came to him, he would make whatever excuse seemed best, and return some other day.

Ah ! The door had opened. It was she. She recognized him with an inclination of the head. He. hat in hand, found courage to begin the lines he had rehearsed on the way up.

“How do you do, Miss Stockley?” (She had put her name to a receipt for the cash in the afternoon.) “I’ve got some good news for you.”

Her brows lifted.

“Good news?—for me? Why, that sounds too good to be true, almost.”

For the first time since he had seen her. her lips parted in a smile. The expression of settled gravity on her features lifted for a moment, and she became in that instant more charming, more desirable, than Darbey imagined any woman could have appeared in his sight. Somehow, he told himself.''he must get to know her.

“This afternoon, Miss Stockley, I paid you twrelve dollars for your jewellery.” He paused. “Well, I made a mistake. I discovered it was worth more than that—and so I’ve brought you the rest.”

“You did! Why, isn’t that splendid of you !” Her eyes shone as they fell upon him. Her voice held a note of elation, though whether it was purely mercenary in motive or in appreciation of his honesty, he could not decide.

“What did you discover they were worth?”

“Well, I’ve brought you another fifteen dollars. Miss Stockley, which, with what I paid you, makes a pretty fair price for your gold. If you’ll give me another receipt—” “Yes. Come in, please.”

An old lady appeared in the background. “It’s all right, Mrs. Hood,” the girl called to her. “It’s someone to see me.”

“You know,” he told the girl as he paid over the money, “I’ve never done this before today. That is, buying gold. I mean.” He looked at her. “So if I did make a mistake, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“I certainly do,” she told him. “Especially when you’ve been so honest about it. It strengthens one’s faith in human nature.” “Thanks,” he replied shortly, and asked himself wrhat he could possibly do to prolong the interview. Seemingly there was nothing more to be done. He had come, had explained his mission, and had paid over the money. And now . . .

“You know,” Darbey heard himself saying, “I think buying your gold this afternoon brought me good luck.” He laughed.

“Is that so? Why?”

“Well, I’ve been out of work for a year. Laid off, you know. And this afternoon, when I got home, there was a message from the office telling me to be there in the morning. I’m a draughtsman.”

“Isn’t that splendid ! I’m so glad, for your sake. You must be a happy man.”

“I am.” Darbey replied. Then throwing caution to the winds, he jumped off firm ground into thin air. “In fact, there’s only one thing would complete my happiness.” “And what’s that?”

“If I had someone to go with tonight—to celebrate with a show.” He blushed. Shifted from one foot to the other. Looked at his hat. “You wouldn’t care to go. I suppose?” She looked at him searchingly for a moment—then laughed. A short, merry, tinkling laugh that struck strange chords in his breast. Fearfully, he waited for the worst. Oh, what a fool he was !

“This is rather unexpected,” she said. “And perhaps not quite according to the rules. Still, I don’t see why not, do you? Even if only to reward you for your honesty. Yes, I’ll go.”

“This is my lucky day, all right,” said Darbey.