HIS HEAVY, florid face darkened with annoyance, John W. Todd stamped past the clerks in the outer office and steered his portly form on a direct course toward a door of frosted glass, lettered with forbidding blackness, “Private." He entered and slammed the door behind him. Halfa-dozen assorted persons looked in the direction of the frosted door and then winked, grimaced or smiled portentously at one another.
“Gale blowing up in the starboard quarter,” muttered one with a nautical complex.
"Phew." gasped another. “This day’s spoiled, sure.”
“What’s up now?” asked a feminine voice.
There was a long pause, followed by a flood of frivolous conjecture; then a girl typist flashed a knowing look at her desk mate.
“Can't you make a guess?" she said with a squeaky gurgle. “Perhaps that ‘Sleepy’ Webster has got under his skin again."
The other chuckled merrily. They exchanged significant looks. The others caught up the idea and everybody laughed. The old man might have heard them had not the senior of the group pulled himself together and held up a warning hand.
But the two typists continued to whisper. They explored the Webster hypothesis to its depths.
“It's got me,” said one. "why a swell girl like Martha Todd should bother about a guy like that. Of all the dumb things in plus-fours, that Webster is the last in line.”
“Walks about as if he were in a trance, don’t he?” agreed the other. “No wonder old Todd flares up. 1 guess Webster’s about the last sort of guy he’d want for a son-in-law . . . Say.” A pair of eyes shone with inspiration. “Golly! ’Spose they've eloped?"
The girl opposite caught her breath.
"Eloped? Not a chance. That fellow’ couldn’t stay awake long enough." She laughed satirically. “Think up somethin' else.”
“But 1 guess Webster is the cause of all the black looks anyway,” insisted the other.
"Shouldn’t be surprised. We got to wait and see.”
AS IT HAPPENED, they were right. But only half / \ right. Two factors, related only by coincidence, had produced profound disturbance in the mind of John W. Todd. One, it is true, was Donald Websteror. more aptly. “Sleepy” Webster. It affected him very intimately. Ilis daughter was concerned. The other factor was the railway line that ran to Brimstead via Tullyville. That was pure grouch.
Mr. Todd had spent the previous day in Brimstead. He had been comfortably whirled there in his big sedan over the new’ road that had been built by Government unemployment relief money. He had meant to come back by the same means. But at Tullyville, on the return journey, something went wrong with the machinery’, and Mr. Todd had to take the train.
The Brimstead train. Ye gods! It was enough to make the hardest boiled commercial traveller shudder.
Mr. Todd paced up and down over the carpet in his private office. He had flung his Panama and briefcase into a chair. He mopped his forehead and his neck, rubbed the dust and grime from his eyes.
“What a railway, what a train,” he mumbled viciously. “Disgraceful. Four hours to go sixty miles—crawling, bumping, backing up, creaking and shaking, nothing but filth and muck, cars never washed—worse than a cattle train. Good for nothing but scrap iron.” He stared wrathfully through his office windows.
“Should have buses,” he went on, raging to himself. “That young Rowley’s got the right idea. By George, he has. A good bus line’s just what’s needed. I’ve half a mind to back him ...”
Some association of ideas diverted his mind to a fresh channel. Perhaps it was his mention of “young Rowley.” The crowning humiliation of the whole distressful, uncomfortable journey crowded into his tumultuous thoughts.
The slow-moving, lanky figure of Sleepy Webster paraded across his vision. His mind tumbled back to the last few miles of that abominable train journey. The tracks approaching the town skirted the country club grounds and the golf links. For the convenience of some golfers who did not travel with benefit of motor cars, there was a small way station. The train had stopped to pick up a small group. From the train window he saw a low, yellow roadster turning out of the club driveway to the highway. There was no mistaking the car; it was his daughter’s. There was no doubt who wa3 driving; it was Martha herself. And sprawled down, low in the seat beside her was Webster.
John W. Todd hated the very thought of Webster. He hated him because Martha, for some extraordinary feminine reason, seemed to like him. If it weren’t for that, he never would have given the fellow a thought.
Mr. Todd, thinking and breathing imprecations, resumed his peregrinations about the office floor.
“Confound that good-for-nothing, lazy scamp. What Martha can see inghim, I don’t know.”
John W. Todd was the head of the biggest financial establishment in that part of the Maritime Provinces. By reason of his position and because of a certain hard-headed astuteness, combined with a conservative outlook, he was a monetary adviser to half the community. He was looked up to by the citizens of the small dty of Ashton, of which he had been mayor for six terms in succession. And his daughter, Martha, was as beautiful as—well, let’s say Helen of Troy. Her nose was perhaps a little too pointed, but her eyes were as blue as the June sky, her hair was golden brown, and her figure . . .
Taking all these points into view, it is not to be wondered that Sleepy Webster was considered a poor risk by Mr. Todd, and that he had not the slightest intention of investing his gilt-edged daughter in that young man’s future. No fellow who had earned the sobriquet of “Sleepy” could stir Mr. Todd’a heart to enthusiasm. Again, Sleepy was not a native of Asht^n^but was more in the nature of a summer visitor. On the tace of it, he was extremely indolent and never sat erect w’hen he could sprawl. He had no business arrangements with Mr. Todd, and, finally, he sang soft tenor songs.
THE NEXT DAY, Mr. Todd, whose thoughts and reactions had been restored more or less to a level of ordered reason, encountered Sleepy on the street and invited him into his office. He had been looking for such an opportunity. His manner was not redolent of bonhomie as he extended the invitation, but on the contrary was slightly menacing. Young Webster lounged after him and flopped down in the largest chair available, so that he quite filled the office w’ith legs and feet.
“Young man,” said Mr. Todd sternly, “I disapprove of you.”
“Yes, sir,” said Sleepy, courteously but not eagerly.
“I have the reputation,” pursued Mr. Todd, “of being an accurate judge of character. I do not boast of it, but my friends and acquaintances rely upon my estimates of people; t and in my position I must be able to know if this man or .’that man is honest and dependable and worthy of trust.” “It must be very trying,” drawled Sleepy.
“In no circumstances would I lend you a penny,” declared Mr. Todd abruptly.
“That,” retorted Sleepy, “does not make you unique.” “No young man,” went on Mr. Todd, “can hope for success in the world unless he can sáfely establish a good line of credit.”
“Then,” said Sleepy, “it looks very dark for me.”
“It does,” said Mr. Todd with a certain amount of emphasis. “Now, young man, my most precious asset is my daughter. I regard her, if I may say so, as a priceless possession.”
"Hear, hear,” said Sleepy with a show of enthusiasm. “Therefore,” said Mr. Todd. ‘T am accustomed to scrutinize any young man who becomes friendly with her as I would scrutinize a Concern in which I am asked to invest money. In short, I regard my daughter as a sort of trust fund, and I look upon her marriage, if you follow me, as an investment of that trust fund.”
“That,” said Sleepy, “is poetic.”
“No, it is practical. When I invest my daughter in some
young man I shall see to it that he is sound, efficiently managed and on a paying basis. The crying need these days for people as well as institutions is stability.”
“Yes. sir,” said Sleepy devoutly. “Yes, sir.” “I do not,” said Mr. Todd, his voice rising, “consider a tenor voice as an asset. I do not consider what seems to be a profound inertia and a perpetual indolence as a promise of earning power. I do not consider ‘Sleepy’ to be a profitable trade name. It is a term of derision.”
“No,” said Sleepy. “Of deep affection.”
"You sprawl and you don’t work, it seems,” said Mr. Todd. “You have no visible means of support. I’ve observed you for the last six weeks. You’re simply a loafer. You have no bank account in Ashton; at least I’m told so. I doubt if you have one anywhere else. You exhibit not a microscopical symptom of ambition. You are, in short, no good.”
‘‘I’m good company,” protested Sleepy humbly.
“You must promise,” said Mr. Todd, pointing a fat finger at the object of his denunciation, “not to pay any further attention to my daughter. I do not consider you a ht companion for her.”
“Do I annoy her?” asked Sleepy.
“And I'm forbidden your house?”
“You are,” said Mr. Todd sternly. “You are forbidden to see Martha, to speak to Martha, to dance with Martha, to sing to Martha, to inflict yourself on Martha in any manner, at any time, at any place.”
“That,” said Sleepy, “seems to cover a lot of territory. May I ask a question?”
“Do I owe you any money?”
“Are you my parent or guardian?”
“Do you pay me a salary?”
“The idea is absurd.”
“Have you any legal control over me?"
“I wish I had.”
“I am a British subject, white and more than twenty-
“As far as I know.”
Sleepy sighed and rolled his head lazily on the back of the chair.
‘‘It's very queer,” he murmured. “There’s something I don’t quite understand about it all.”
“What do you fail to understand?"
“How it comes that you can issue commands to me. I know it must be all right and legal and everything, but I just don’t see the point. For instance, when a man issues an order, he’s got to be able to enforce it. Hasn’t he? Authority, unless the dictionary is cock-eyed, implies the power to enforce orders. You don't seem to have that kind of authority over me." 1 íe paused and brightened. “Maybe, you mean to use physical force. Like in a war. If I don’t do as you say, you'll mobilize and beat me up.”
“Absurd,” blurted out Mr. Todd.
“You can’t deny it was an idea anyway,” said Sleepy regretfully. “It would have cleared the matter all up. Oh, well, I 'm kind of dumb. By the way, have you told Martha about this arrangement?”
“I have,” said Mr. Todd.
Sleepy looked interested. “Did she say anything?” “What passes between my daughter and myself,” said Mr. Todd curtly, “is no concern of yours.”
“Quite,” agreed Sleepy. “Anything else, sir?” “Nothing,” said Mr. Todd.
Sleepy arose slowly, a joint at a time, and stood regarding Mr. Todd wistfully.
"Isn’t there anything about me that you like?”
"Pretty tough,” said Sleepy dolefully. "Pretty tough.”
YOUNG MR. WEBSTER was not playing golf; on the contrary he occupied an area of grass adjacent to the eighteenth hole and gazed at the sky whenever his eyes happened to open under their own power. Players came and went but he did not stir, for the sunshine was benevolent and the turf soft beneath his somnolent bones.
Presently a mixed foursome of young people finished their round. Martha Todd detached herself from the group and came to kneel over the prostrate young man.
"We’ve finished the game, Sleepy,” she said.
He did not open his eyes.
“Go away from here,” he said languidly. “Go a long way away. Evil companions corrupt. I can’t associate with you, can’t speak to you, can’t even look at you. Go away.”
She looked down at him oddly. “What is the general vague idea? I don’t seem to place it.”
"I’ve been seen by your old man.”
“Oh,” said Martha.
“He jxnnted out defects,” drawled Sleepy. “He issued edicts, injunctions and commands. So leave me alone. 1 positively can’t marry you, as I agreed. It’s off. Your father says I’m a rotten investment. Don’t bring the unpleasant subject up again. Go away and marry some nice industrious young fellow who has—er—a microscopical symptom of ambition.”
“For instance?" asked Martha.
“Whom does your father suggest?” countered Sleepy.
“I think he has his investing eyes on Arthur Rowley,” said Martha. “He hinted about him.”
“Very,” said Martha with a little chuckle.
“He pointed out that Arthur is old enough to have settled down, and is ambitious and all splattered over with promising future.”
"Well, you'd better get started then, my young and vivacious maiden,” advised Sleepy. “It’ll take time to learn to love a hard-hearted blighter like Rowley.”
“Meanwhile, what are you going to do?” asked Martha whimsically.
“Take a nice long nap,” said Sleepy.
"Rowley’ll talk business and big figures to you. Is he here?” *
"I just played a round with him.”
"How very gratifying for father,” said Sleepy. "You can't overdo it. Now, go and have lunch with him. Good-by. Miss Todd.
1 m sorry to disappoint you about the marriage, but you can see how it is.”
Martha smiled down upon the sprawled figure, and there was something in her blue eyes which he should not have missed. But he seemed to be asleep. Then she rose, strolled a few yards to the clubhouse ' verandah, and rejoined her friends.
"What’s the matter with Sleepy?” asked Rowley in a tone meant to be humorous.
"Has he been overdoing things?”
“He’d rather sleep than eat,” said Martha.
"Hush," admonished the other girl in the grout). “He’ll hear you.”
hat young fellow never hears anything,” spoke up Rowley, "even when he's awake. V hat do you find so amusing about him. Martha?"
"lie’s so restful." said Martha, and abruptly changed the subject. “How’s business?”
"Great,” said Rowley. “I’ve got your father interested in my scheme for a bus line to Brimstead, through Tullyville. I guess his experience on the train about clinched it. He told me he hadn’t made that trip by rail for years, and didn't quite appreciate how fearful it is. He’s completely sold on the bus idea. He’s wondering why it has never been done before. I’ve studied the situation from every angle, and it’s a world-beater.”
“How nice,” said Martha.
“Of course, we’ll operate both for merchandise and passengers," Rowley went on. “Since the new Government road is through, the distance is cut by more than ten miles. We’re hoping that, with luck, we shall be able to operate all winter. A big point is that fares will be considerably cheaper. We’re having the papers drawn up now. All the franchises are in order.”
"Gracious,” exclaimed Martha. “You are a business man, aren't you?”
"It’s things like this that develop the province.” said
Rowley piously, and Sleepy Webster stirred as if a fly had alighted on his nose. For a moment his eyes opened wide.
“You have to have vision,” went on Rowley.
“Yes, indeed,” said Martha.
“And courage to take a chance, and initiative and ambition.”
"Father says those are grand qualities,” Martha agreed.
“I,” announced Rowley, "am to be the president of the new company.”
“Splendid,” said Martha. “And when will the buses be running?”
"We hope in ninety days or so.”
“Well,” said Martha, “it just shows what initiative and enterprise can do.”
“You can’t go to sleep,” returned the young financier, “and get anywhere in this world.”
BUT YOUNG WEBSTER continued to slumber. Perhaps he had no desire to get any place in this particular world. He basked in the sunshine for fully another hour. Then he found his car and drove back to his hotel, gathered his fishing tackle and went out into the country. He did his fishing sitting down in a boat on a stream at Tullyville.
Tullyville was about as queer a town as there is to be found anywhere. Years ago, before the younger element began to drift away to the West and the New England States, the population was twice as big. Time and economic circumstance had played havoc with its fortunes. Grass
now grew on what was at one time a thriving main street. It was now but a straggling farm community spread over four square miles, but still a town technically, with a charter and a town’s responsibilities. It was a drowsy, Rip Van Winkle sort of place. From the hills above there flowed two streams which cut through the town and eventually joined to find outlet to the sea. It was in one of these that Sleepy "Webster lazily tempted speckled trout.
Sleepy knew his way about the highways and byways of the Tullyville countryside. He had fished at the same spot a dozen times. Moreover, he was on friendly terms with many of the town's citizens. On this occasion he was accompanied by the local postmaster and the Member for the district in the Legislature. The three of them for a couple of hours had been somnolently awaiting the arrival of a fish. Suddenly, a glint of alertness, of intelligent thought Hashed in the eyes of the visitor. Sleepy as quickly relapsed.
as if the effort were too much for him, but presently an observation escaped him.
"Those bridges are pretty rotten, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” said the postmaster. “Guess they’ll cave in and be carried away some flood time. Lucky there ain’t been much snow last few winters.”
“Bridges cost money,” said Sleepy drowsily. “Count on building new ones, now that the Government road is built?” He turned his head and looked to the Member for an answer.
"Its been talked about a lot,” said that functionary. “But there’s a hitch. The Government won’t pay the cost— only half. They argue the town’s got to dig up the rest.” “And the town won’t do it, eh?”
“The town ain’t got it,” put in the postmaster.
“Oh.” said Sleepy. “Pretty tough.”
Half an hour later. Sleepy looked through half-closed lids. "It would be nice,” he drawled, “if Tullyville could get those bridges built free of cost.”
“Yeah, it would,” agreed the postmaster.
The Member said nothing, but looked at the young man curiously.
“This new road’s going to be a big thing for Tullyville, isn’t it?” asked Sleepy. He was gaining a reputation for garrulity that was going to be hard to live down.
“Perhaps,” said the Member. “But all of the traffic will go through to Brimstead. I guess we’ll knock off a few benefits. A couple of gas stations and hot-dog stands have cropped up already. And there’ll be road work, too.”
The sun was getting low when Sleepy spoke again. He nudged the Member.
"How long have you been in the Legislature?”
"Only a couple of sessions.”
“Ever introduce a bill?”
“You ought to—just for the fun of the thing.”
“Never had any reason to.”
That night, in the rickety old building that once was a fairly imposing town hall and still did duty as a post-office and headquarters for the local cribbage club, there gathered the leading citizens of the town, Several games got under way, and those worthy citizens who were not engaged stood around, watched the counting and offered free criticism. Sleepy neither criticized nor counted.
"Is this a meeting of the councillors?” he asked whimsically.
"It easily could be,” said one kibitzer. “Might organize a caucus anyway.”
Two hours later, all hands went to their homes and Sleepy Webster drove slowly back to Ashton.
SLEEPY WEBSTER continued to browse and drowse about the town and take daily naps out at the country club. It was reported to Mr. Todd that his daughter had been seen on more than one occasion to sit beside the young man on the grass while he dozed, and this irritated the Ashton capitalist exceedingly.
“Martha,” he said. “I’ve told that Webster fellow to stay away from you.”
“I know,” she said briefly.
“But you’ve been with him a number of times since. I won’t have it. I’ll take steps He’s worthless, and I won’t stand for his associating with you. This is final.”
“But he has kept away from me,” Martha protested.
Mr. Todd scrutinized his unabashed daughter carefully.
“You’ve been seen with him at the country club a dozen times or more,” he charged.
Martha met his gaze unflinchingly • and then laughed.
“He couldn’t help it. I sneaked up on him.”
“Yes. I invaded his favorite couch of turf while he was asleep. As soon as he discovered I was there he went off. He has a very high respect for you. He said so. He said children should obey their parents, that it was one of the Ten Commandments.”
Mr. Todd grunted. “The most useless sort of man I’ve ever known. He wouldn’t know it if someone came up and cut off his necktie."
"He’s not very observing,” remarked Martha.
“Compare him with young Rowley,” said Mr. Todd destructively. "If there is any basis for comparison.” he added. "Rowley’s the type of young man that makes the backbone of the country. L'p and coming. Nothing gets past that boy.”
Continued on page 55
Continued from page 20
“He mentioned the fact to me,’’ breathed Martha.
"Oh.” Mr. Todd’s eyes lighted up. "So, you’ve been out with Rowley, eh? I’m glad.” “Yes,” said Martha. “He’s so interesting. He talks about motor buses. I dote on motor buses.”
“I’ll venture to say,” said Mr. Todd pontifically, “that nobody in this city can get the better of Rowley in a business deal. He’s done wonders with the new company. No grass grows under his feet. All the stock is subscribed and paid for. All the details are arranged. That young chap is a genius for detail; has vision, too . . . Well, I suppose we must let matters take their course.”
“What matters?” Martha contrived to look puzzled.
“Why er -between you and Rowley.” “Oh,” said Martha.
“A son-in-law of whom I could be proud,” said Mr. Todd.
“He’d be a grand son-in-law,” agreed his daughter.
“I’m glad you see it that way.”
“Yes,” she said. “But do you think it is right for a girl to marry just to provide her father with a son-in-law?”
“Eh?” asked Mr. Todd.
“I think,” said Martha, “I’ll go out to the club.”
Martha found Sleepy in a big chair on the verandah, with his legs occupying a great deal of space and his nose turned up toward a gentle sky.
"Hello, Sleepy,” she said.
“Go away from me. young woman. Haven’t I told you before?”
“Yes, sir,” she said, but didn’t budge. She stood looking down at him. eyes full of amusement.
"Dad is very proud of Mr. Arthur Rowley,” she observed.
“And well he may be,” returned Sleepy. “He has initiative and vision.”
“Nobody can get the best of him in a business deal.”
“Why should they?” came from the depths of the chair. “Why should anybodyget the best of anybody? What’s the good of it? It just makes people sore.”
“Why did you say you w-eren’t working at anything?” asked Martha.
“I’m on vacation,” said Sleepy patiently. “One doesn't work during vacation.” “Arthur Rowley hasn’t had a vacation in five years.” said Martha. “He'd make an ideal son-in-law.”
“Good for him,” said Sleepy. “It’s all
for the best. Ic would be a lot of trouble for me to marry you. No. Positively, I shan't do it. Now, run along and bother somebody else.”
“There’s a meeting of the motor bus company tomorrow,” she persisted.
“Yeah,” said Sleepy. “Well, well.” Then his eyes betrayed a glint of intelligence. “Has Rowley asked you yet?”
Martha grimaced. “None of your business . . . But I think he’s going to, tomorrow evening —after his triumph at the meeting.”
“Good luck to him,” murmured Sleepy. “Admirable qualities, hut intolerant. I heard him tell somebody I was a horrible example. He said I was —er—a disgraceful spectacle.”
“Of course you are,” said Martha. “But remember,” she added “the meeting is at two.”
“There is such an hour, isn’t there?” murmured Sleepy,
AT TWO O’CLOCK the following day / \ the stockholders who had invested in Rowley’s motor bus line assembled at Mr. Todd’s office. They had been drawn into the venture by Mr. Todd’s conservative advice and by the growing reputation of young Mr. Rowley. The concern was at the point of beginning operations and they were to receive a final report.
Proceedings were just beginning when Sleepy Webster lounged in. Mr. Todd frowned. So did Rowley. Everybody looked at him curiously.
“This is a stockholders’ meeting,” said Mr. Todd severely. “It is private.”
“That’s why I came,” said Sleepy. “I own a stock—just one.”
“A heavy investor,” observed Rowley tartly.
“Just the price of admission.” said Sleepy. “Cost me ten dollars. I’ve paid more than that to see a show I didn’t like.”
Sleepy sat in the chair provided and found difficulty with his legs. There was not room for them to sprawl in their accustomed attitude, but he closed his eyes and made the best of it. Rowley rose and reported at length, and glowingly, and sat down amid applause. Sleepy clapped his hands lackadaisically, then blinked and wriggled in his chair.
“Going to run buses from Ashton straight through to Brimstead. eh?” he asked.
“Of course,” said Rowley.
“No change of buses, or transfers, or anything?”
j “But what about Tullyville?”
“Why, nothing that I know.”
"Oh,” said Sleepy. “Oh.” He paused. ¡“And you can show a profit on the j announced fare schedule?”
“With twelve cents a passenger deducted?” asked Sleepy.
"There’s no twelve cents to be deducted,” said Rowley.
“I thought there was,” returned Sleepy in a slow drawl, “On account of the bridges.”
"What bridges do you mean?” asked Rowley.
“The two toll bridges,” said Sleepy. "There are no toll bridges,” declared Rowley.
“Two,” said Sleepy. "Count ’em. Six cents a passenger each.”
I “You’re crazy,” observed Rowley.
“Perhaps,” returned the lanky individual with his chin on his chest. “But I can’t for the life of me see how you’re going to jump your motor buses over the town of Tullyville. Are you going to give ’em airplane wings?”
“Put him out.” said an irate stockholder. “Young man,” broke in Mr. Todd, “your conduct is unseemly. Have you anything Í to say that isn’t nonsense?”
“I’m not sure. But have you the right to run your motor buses on the road between the two Tullyville bridges?”
“Nonsense,” cried Rowley.
“Because somebody else has,” said Sleepy. ‘Exclusive rights over that stretch. Granted by the town and approved by provincial charter. All legal and everything. Didn’t you know about it? Why, gentlemen.” His voice was expostulatory.
Young Rowley looked a bit flabbergasted. “I thought,” said Sleepy indolently, “you were one of these geniuses for detail. And about those toll bridges. Two of ’em. bought and owned by another corporation, empowered to charge six cents a passenger and twenty-five cents extra for commercial vehicles at each bridge. And there’s no other road to Brimstead that could carry buses. Didn’t you look into that detail, Rowley?”
“You’re just trying to get a rise out of me.” said Rowley.
Mr. Todd was scowling. “Have you stated facts?” he demanded.
“Yes, sir.” said Sleepy. “Regular facts.” Mr. Todd turned a lowering face upon Rowley. "How do you explain this?” he asked.
“And don’t forget the bridges,” said Sleepy. “Even if you surmount the obstacle of the road rights, what about the toll?” “Why,” expostulated Rowley, ‘‘Tullyville is hardly a place. It’s not really a town. That council up there has been looked upon just as a sort of joke.”
“There’s a town, all right. And a town’s a town,” said a stockholder.
“We’re in this thing now,” said another.
I “There’s just one thing to do. We must buy out this other concern. We’re as good as busted if we don’t.” j "Looks so to me,” said Sleepy.
! . "And those tolls subtracted from our advertised schedules will destroy any chance of profit,” roared another investor.
AN OLD GENTLEMAN with whiskers ^ cleared his throat.
“Somebuddy’s been pert y smart.” he said placidly. "A sight smarter’n what Rowley is. I dunno if he’s so danged smart, the way this has turned out.”
“Gentlemen, you must give me a chance to look into this and see what can be done.” Rowley rose to protest.
“I guess we’d better let somebody look j who can see further’n the end of his nose.” j said the bearded investor.
“How come nobody discovered it but this j boy here?” demanded another, pointing to j Sleepy.
j “EveryN^iy else,” said Sleepy, “was so busy b* »ng efficient ai}d ambitious and full ; of vision that they didn cfp^ye time to look ! arouncI wasn’t all cluttered^JfL^ith those I spier hd qualities, so I just kind of happened
“Huh,” grunted the bearded one. “And 1 maybe you can tell us who owns them bridges and rights and things?”
"I do,” said Sleepy placidly. “At least I iiave the rights for the construction of new hr n 01 *■*»•«' keep them in repair and charge toll1# about t to certain privileges for the peopïê v,was to vn of Tullyville. I’ve got to carry on ^development work in the
town whiepf fiy[, ’ help to restore its prosperity. Thln# ?'3,\t,of Tullyville are all for; it . . . If itfi¿>íé$rcómfort to you,” he added as an afterthought, “it’s all fixed so that the present bridges will function while the new ones are being built. That’s just a job for the engineers. But your buses’ll have to pay toll.”
There was profound silence, most of it issuing from Mr. Todd and Mr. Rowley.
“Nonsense,” said Mr. Todd presently.
“Maybe so,” said Sleepy, getting slowly to his feet. “If it is, I guess I’ll be getting along. Kind of close in here; all clogged up with initiative and what-not. Well, good afternoon.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” bellowed the bewhiskered stockholder. “What’s your proposition?”
“It’s kind of involved,” returned Sleepy over his shoulder. He paused a moment in thought. “You see,” he went on, addressing the meeting, “I used up some of my vacation to work and vacation time’s valuable to me. I’ve got to be paid for that. And then I don’t hold with so many noble qualities as Mr. Todd thinks are necessary in a son-inlaw. And I object to being called dumb and a lot of other things.”
“Get down to brass tacks,” shouted one of the listeners.
“To be sure,” said Sleepy. “The first part involves the withdrawal by Mr. Todd of certain reflections and prohibitions of his. and a revolution in his notions about sonsin-law. Then it involves cash. And, if things work out. I want to move to Ashton permanently and have a position with a salary attached to it. Not that I need it exactly, but I just want it.”
“Get to business,” shouted the bearded man.
“Very well. Ten thousand dollars in cash. Cheap at the price. Second, the job of being president of the motor bus company. These are points the stockholders can settle.”
The aged stockholder was on his feet.
“I make a motion,” he yelled, “that we accept this here proposition and give him the money and the job. Looks to me he’s the feller I’d like to see president of this ’ere company. Mebbe, he ain’t got them qualities we heard about, but, by jing, he’s got gumption when he needs it. I’d rather have gumption when it’s needed than a hull lot of energy and vision and efficiency and them things that clutters a feller up so’s he can’t see what’s right under his nose . . . Where’d you come from afore you showed up here?”
“I sort of worked for dad,” said Sleepy.
“And who is dad?”
Sleepy yawned. “Oh, dad—he’s head of the Amalgamated Motor Transport Company. But he was too vigorous. He tired me all out. So I came here for a rest—the first since I left college—and, well, just to look around.”
Mr. Todd blinked. Son of the president of the largest bus concern in three provinces !
“It isn’t what he is. it’s what he’s done.” called out a stockholder from the back of the room. “I second the motion.”
It was carried unanimously.
“Thank you, gentlemen.” said Sleepy. “But the third and most important point is Mr. Todd’s decision on a certain other matter. But that perhaps concerns only ; us.”
Mr. Todd looked uncomfortable. A j gurgle of laughter broke into a roar. When it subsided, Mr. Todd was heard to remark:
“I—er—guess you have a certain modicum of efficiency and vision and the like.”
Sleepy had edged over to Mr. Todd, and he sat down in a big chair beside him.
“Enough for a son-in-law?” he whispered.
“Urn—quite sufficient. I should say.” Sleepy turned to the crowd.
“I’m ready to go on with the job. gentlemen. Let’s call it a day. Because I’m getting all tired out.”
Mr. Todd cleared his throat.
“Mr. Webster.” he began. “I’m about to go home. Would you care to dine with me and my daughter this evening?”
“I was planning to,” said Sleepy.
“Martha invited me a fortnight ago." He’ beamed on the stockholders. "These gentlej men." he said, "might be interested to' know that the wedding will be two weeks from this day. Am I right. Mr. Todd?” !
“That date,” said Mr. Todd, “is as good as any.”
The stockholders came forward to congratulate the new president, but he seemed to have fallen asleep in his chair.