FICTION

Uncle Croesus

Uncle's fortune was a myth, he himself a pest; but that was before the myth came galloping home in a cloud of dust

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM November 1 1935
FICTION

Uncle Croesus

Uncle's fortune was a myth, he himself a pest; but that was before the myth came galloping home in a cloud of dust

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM November 1 1935

Uncle Croesus

Uncle's fortune was a myth, he himself a pest; but that was before the myth came galloping home in a cloud of dust

LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM

CLARA wasn’t in good humor this morning. Jeremy could feel storm in the air when he woke up. It thickened when he shaved, and by the time he reached the dining room, having tiptoed past Uncle Eldridge’s door, despite the fact that the kids were making enough noise to give a mummy the jumps, Clara’s blue eyes were darting bayonets and zigzags of lightning and thunder filled the house.

Jeremy smiled feebly and said, “Good morning.” He slunk to his chair and tried to disappear behind the Westhampton Morning Echo. Young Tris dropped his spoon, clattering, shoved his oatmeal porridge away from him and said: “Aw, I don’t want that old stuff.”

"Why should you, dear?” said Clara sweetly. “You own a gold mine.”

Dulcie, of the honey-colored curls, put her dish away. “Aw, I’m tired of oatmeal.”

"Of course you are, darling,” murmured Clara. “You own an oil well and some shares in the Smokeless Coal Corjjoration.”

“Aw, say, Clara.” Jeremy Brayden lowered the Echo, which was in danger of taking fire from the flaming red of his face. “Don’t rub it in. Uncle Eldridge gave the kids the gold mine and the oil well and the rest, all in good faith, and—” I

“Aren’t we rich? Aren’t we all set for life?” piped Tris. “Uncle Eldridge said I’d be a millionaire when I grow up.” “I’m going to own a movie house of my own,” said Dulcie, “and be leading lady in all the pictures. And I’m going to have—”

“Marvellous!” said Clara, looking out the window. “It’s grand to think your dad had Midas for an uncle.”

“See here, Clara!” Jeremy banged down his paper, struggled with himself, picked it up and subsided. “Eat— eat your food, you two—you, Tris, and you, Dulcie, and get on to school.”

“I don’t see why we can’t each have a car,” complained Tris. “What’s the use of owning a gold mine, if you—”

"Be silent,” said Jeremy, and when he said it like that, the kids always were.

rT“'IIEY ATE their breakfast with much condescension, excused themselves, kissed Clara and got a pat on the head from Jeremy, then they were on their way. For a while Jeremy said nothing; he sipped his coffee. But Clara was waiting for words and he knew she was waiting, so he said: “I wish you’d be merciful, Clara. You know it’s not my fault.”

“Oh !” Clara started in like a politician who’s been handed the microphone. She put down her cup and stared at him. “Oh, I see. It’s not your fault. Your goofy old uncle comes here and parks with us when we can barely get along ourselves, and gives a lot of useless gold mines and oil wells and junk, on which he wasted a fortune, to Tris and Dulcie, and thinks he’s making them rich, and thinks I’m stingy and you’re a fool just because we don’t splurge on the imaginary wealth from the imaginary diamond mine and the half interest in the Trans-Jungle Railway he gave us. And you won’t tell hkn that not one of his old stocks is worth the fancy paper it’s printed on. You won’t even tell the kids the truth; and they think we’re mean and they want something new every day, and Uncle Eldridge comes along and says. ‘Why, sure, Clara; sure; let them spend their money. Let them get the good of it. There’s plenty, ain’t there? And lots more where that came from.’ ” Clara gritted her teeth. “He’s still got controlling interest in the Perpetual Motion Syndicate, and he owns half the ark that fellow out in Alberta built in case there was another flood.”

“Well—” Jeremy looked sheepish. “After all, Uncle Eldridge is pretty old and he was always good to me. I know he hasn’t heard of the depression and still thinks he’s rich and—well, heck. I just can’t disillusion him Clara. And if I tell the kids the truth they’ll give the whole thing away.” “Well, we can’t live like millionaires on your salary, Jeremy Brayden, just to keep your Uncle Eldridge thinking he's a second Rockefeller. And the children are becoming insufferable. Tris told the little Baker boy that his father— that’s you, Mr. Brayden—could buy all the Bakers in West-

hampton a hundred times over.”

“Good lord!” Jeremy paled. “Why, Baker is my

lX)SS. I—”

“Well, there you go,” said Clara. “And I don’t know what else. But I’ll tell you this, mv man: By the time Tris and Dulcie have finished broadcasting, there’ll be a line of creditors a block long, and the head of the line will have his hoofs on our mat that says Welcome.”

“Oh, gosh, Clara, I didn’t know. I’ll have to muzzle those, kids. I'll have to—”

“You’ll have to tell Unk the truth—that’s what.”

“But if I do, he’ll never stay here and—”

“Well?”

“Well, he’ll be destitute.

And he’s proud. He’d never stay on—”

“Well?”

“Stop saying that. I can’t turn him out and I won’t.”

“Oh, no; and you give him money too—”

“That’s some dividends from his shares in the Associated Spruce Gum—”

“You know there aren’t any dividends.”

“Yes, yes, I know. But he—” Jeremy broke off. Uncle Eldridge was coming downstairs. Jeremy gave Clara a warning look, and Clara’s mouth became a thin hard line.

“Well! Well!” Uncle Eldridge was very informal and used to appear in his undershirt until Clara put him wise. “It’s good to see that wealth ain’t spoilt you two. The Braydens was alius simple people.”

“I can imagine,” said Clara. Jeremy glared at her. He said: “Good morning. Uncle Eldridge. Did you sleep well? Will you have some porridge?”

“Yes, sure, t’ everything,” chuckled Uncle Eldridge, straightening his black string tie. “I alius sleep well. Why shouldn’t I, eh? I’m all set. I got no more worries, an’I’m happy because I got you two fixed up an’ settin’ pretty. But you—now you’re lookin’ kinda peekit, Clara. Why don’t ye get some help in an’ go out an’ get ye one of those permanent waves an’ all them things. Ye’re still a fine lookin’ woman, and you’re foolish just fer the sake of a few dollars.”

Clara got up, white and trembling. Jeremy prayed. He shoved the paper under Uncle Eldridge’s nose and cut off a spoonful of oatmeal on its way to Unk’s capacious maw. “See where the Siamese have a new king?” he said.

“That so ! Well, now ! Siamese, eh—seems to me—yes, by ginger—danged if I don’t own shares in a big ostrich farm out there. Or is that in the Transvaal? Can’t recall. Own shares in something out there.”

“Maybe the Siamese twins,” muttered Clara and left the room ; but Uncle Eldridge got his spoonful of porridge at that moment and couldn’t hear her at all.

"Y'ou look into them Periwinkle Canning shares o’ mine, Jeremy?” demanded Uncle Eldridge. “Fellow I bought ’em from said they was a sure winner.”

“Not paying just yet.” said Jeremy cheerfully, “but it’s a sound company; going right ahead.” In fact, thought Jeremy, it had already gone so far ahead that no one could catch the promoters; but, after all, Uncle Eldridge only wanted his room and board and a few dollars for himself. You couldn’t take a million dollars or so away from an old man—even an imaginary million—and not hurt him a great deal. Clara shouldn’t be so hard.

Jeremy went off to work, feeling miserable. It was the

first morning in many years that Clara hadn’t kissed him good-by. Then that bit about Tris and Dulcie telling Boss Baker’s son—Jeremy shuddered.

Bill Annister hailed him from the curb and he stopped his shabby old car with a great noise of brakes and tinware. “Hop in. Bill.”

“Thanks, Jeremy.” Bill settled his big bulk and chewed at his cigar. He didn't have much to say—something most unusual. He kept staring straight ahead of him and drumming with pudgy fingers on the brown tweed stretched taut

over his knee. He coughed after five blocks or so. “Suppose you’ll be gettin’ a new bus soon, Jeremy.”

“Hadn’t thought much about it, Bill.” Jeremy deftly dodged a truck driver’s thunderous charge.

“Well, I suppose when you got lots of it, you don’t feel like splurging.”

"Lots of it?” Jeremy’s mouth hung open.

"Coin. You know.” Bill nudged him and grinned. “Oh, 1 get you—keepin' it quiet, eh, son? Can’t blame you. Ain’t safe to have a fortune these days: too many pals wantin' to cut in on it.”

"Fortune!” Jeremy jumped suddenly, his foot pressed down on the accelerator and the old car almost leaped on

top of a bus. He saw it now—those kids, Uncle Eldridge. Well, he’d have to put a stop to this right now.

“See here, Bill, if you’ve been hearing any talk about the Braydens coming into a fortune, just forget it.”

“Sure, sure.” Bill grinned wider. “I know. You ain’t got a cent. Your uncle there don’t own a single gold mine or oil well or bank. I know—”

“But I tell you—”

“Tell it to the income-tax people, Jeremy. I get out here. So long.”

“But—” Jeremy stopped the car and started to explain again that he wasn’t a near millionaire or anything like it, but Bill Annister merely winked wisely and rolled on his stumpy legs into the People’s Market, where he juggled groceries.

Jeremy stared bleakly after him. Mr. Rosebaum, who owned The Toggery, passed by with an obsequious bow, and a smile strangely cordial for a man who, only a week ago, wrote a very legible “Please Remit,” on his two-months-old account. Mr. Rosebaum, in fact, was acting very strangely; lie stopped, turned back and leaned his elbow sociably on the car door.

“If it’s about that account, Mr. Rosebaum,” began Jeremy. “I assure—”

“Forget it. I should worry about a little thing like that. Any time. A year—well, six months. With a good customer like you, Mr. Brayden. . Mr. Rosebaum shrugged and smiled happily. “I just want to tell you we got in some very swell suits, real New York and London stuff—just the thing for grouch-shooting or catching ducks. You know—the sporting type. I should be glad to send a half-dozen up for you to look them over, eh?”

“Well, I—”

“Sure, I’ll do that. Thanks, Mr. Brayden. Thanks a lot.” Mr. Rosebaum strolled away, whistling. Jeremy wiped his brow. He saw the clock outside Mott’s Jewellery Shop. He got away with a rush. Ten minutes late already, and Mr. Baker had been looking at him pretty queerly of late. Quite a few fellows had lost their jobs—Jeremy shoved the old bus till she was almost going fast. Bang! Jeremy’s heart popped up in his mouth, then plummeted to his shoes. He limped into the curb and did a record job of changing tires. Even so, he owed the Baker Bookbinding and Printing Company a good half-houi by the time he hung up his hat.

“Ah. Brayden.” It was Baker himself—no, not himself, for he was smiling at half-past nine in the morning. "How are you? Beautiful morning, eh? Come in for a moment,

won’t you?” He was short and round and bald. He strutted toward his private office. Jeremy muttered, “The axe!” and crawled after him.

SIT DOWN, Brayden. Have a cigar. These aren’t quite up to the mark. I have some better ones at the house. You and Mrs. Brayden must come up some evening—what about Wednesday?—for a game of bridge.”

“We—why, we’d like it very much.” Jeremy puffed weakly on the cigar, closed and opened his eyes a couple of times, looked at Mr. Baker and turned very cold, then very hot.

“I suppose”—Mr. Baker rolled his cigar in thumb and forefinger and frowned hard at it—“I suppose you aren’t much concerned with your job here any more.”

“But—” Jeremy sat up, scared. “I’m—”

“I know. I know. But you’re a valuable man to us, Brayden; very valuable. Think it over. Take your time. We want you to stay; want it badly. I know it’s pretty small potatoes for a chap like you. but we might do something about a partnership. The main thing is, we hope you won’t walk out on us and—”

“You may be sure I won’t, Mr. Baker. I promise you.” He got up. The room was so hot. Baker got up too and stuck out his hand. “Thanks, Brayden. That’s fine. I suppose the salary is just a joke to you and a bit of a raise won’t mean a thing, but we can’t expect a man like you to work for a pittance. I promise you I’ll do my best. Don’t forget about Wednesday now. I got a case of rare old Scotch right from the Highlands—of Nova Scotia.”

It was a joke. He laughed. So did Jeremy. It sounded like noises from a sepulchre, that laugh. Jeremy escaped, got to his own office, laid his head on his arms and tried frantically to think. What a spot this was! What a terrible spot! A raise was great, even if he was getting it under false pretenses. And a partnership would be. . . But he’d need money, plenty of it. He’d need. . . “I can’t go on,” he muttered. “I'll have to do something. I’ll have to put it in the paper that I haven’t any money. Then—then Baker will fire me—oh, my gosh !”

Young Benny, the office nuisance, came in and was polite. Jeremy stared at him. “Well?”

“A Mr. Loftus is out there with a big Riesenberg Twelve and wants to know if you’ll try it out. Said he could leave it for you to drive home at noon.”

“Tell him—tell him, no.”

Continued on page 36

Uncle Croesus

Continued from page 25

“Right, Mr. Brayden.” Benny withdrew like a humble page. Jeremy yielded again to despair and lived through a day in which real estate men trod on the heels of insurance agents who trod on the heels of bond salesmen who trod on the heels of canvassers for a dozen worthy causes. For once, Jeremy found himself wondering if he really thought a lot of Uncle Eldridge; if all this wasn’t a bit too much.

TT WAS a pale and silent man who ran the ■•■battered car to its garage that evening and had barely enough energy to reach a rocker on the verandah, drop down into it, close his aching eyes and court oblivion. When he awakened from a short nap in which he had run a long losing race with sixteen bailiffs and a wildcat, there was a strange lady standing in front of him. Some foreigner, he thought, admiring the marvellous lines of garments that must have come from Old Bond Street or La Rue de la Paix.

"Were you looking for Mrs. Brayden?” demanded Jeremy.

“Yes,” said Clara. “I’ve been looking for her for years and today I found her. Look.” She turned and paraded like a mannequin. She removed the genuine brown felt and showed the pop-eyed Jeremy the golden maze of beauty that was her hair.

“How?” whispered Jeremy.

“Uncle Eldridge’s fortune,” said Clara. “I couldn’t help it. Most of the things I got for almost nothing, on the assurance I’d deal with the stores. The permanent and facial cost an introductory price of five dollars. The shoes are samples—I got five pairs. Isn’t it wonderful to be rich, Jeremy?”

“But we—”

“Well, even to imagine we are,” said Clara dreamily. “Do you know what? I’ve been elected to the Coronet Club, the ritziest crowd in Westhampton.”

“And I,” moaned Jeremy, “have been given a raise, offered a partnership and invited with you to play bridge at the Bakers’ Wednesday night.”

“Sorry,” said Clara. “I’d love to, of course, but we’re dining with Colonel Greaves and his wife. The colonel thought you’d be just the man to go on an ibex hunt with him.”

“A—a what hunt?”

“Ibex—something like a goat, I expect.” “But I—”

“Oh, Jeremy, don’t let’s talk about it all.” “But, dammit, Clara, where’s it all going to lead? What will you do when you have to pay your Coronet Club dues? What will I do when Baker offers me a partnership proposition? What will we use for money?” “Some of Uncle Eldridge’s shares in the company formed to extract gold from seawater, I suppose.” said Clara. “It’s all his doing and you’re equally to blame.”

“Please, Clara, please.” Jeremy pressed his aching temples. “What about supper? Have you given up cooking?”

“We have a cook now, dear. Uncle Eldridge hired her today.”

“But who—who’s going to pay her?” “How should I know?”

Jeremy groaned. Tris and Dulcie came scampering up the path and started to talk before they reached the top step.

“Say, dad, I don’t see why I can’t have a car of my own. Lots of fellows no bigger’n me got cars of their own. ’Taint as if you had to pay for it either. I got my own money.

I own a whole gold mine—the Gloom Gulch Mine, up in Alaska.”

“And I have to have new dresses,” piped Dulcie, pulling Tris’s arm to silence him. “These aren’t the kind of dresses a rich girl wears. I want a blue velvet and a green

silk and—”

“No!” thundered Jeremy. “No, I tell you. Wealth has proved a curse to this house. Wealth!” He glared at Tris and Dulcie so wildly that they circled him slowly and made for the door.

“I’m going to ask Uncle Eldridge,” called I

Dulcie. “if I can’t spend my own money What’s the good of a swell big oilwell if you can’t—” She ended with a squeal of terror as Jeremy rocketed from his chair.

T TNCLE ELDRIDGE, smoking his pat^ ent nicotine proof corncob—he owned shares in the company that started making them—came out on to the verandah.

“Why, now, Jeremy, that ain’t no way to go—frightenin’ those youngsters. I heard vhat Dulcie there was savin’ and, by gosh. I’m inclined to agree with her. You and Clara ain’t got no call to hold them kids cown the way you do. No sense to it either. They’re only young once, and I always say if you don’t get the good out of money when you’re young you can’t really appreciate it vhen you’re old. Look it me—rich as Croesus an’ the only kick I get outen it is givin’ the stuff away. I own a copper mine up to Passamaquoddy Bay I been thinkin’ of turnin’ over to you.”

“No—no, thanks, Uncle Eldridge. You’ve been too good to us all as it is. I couldn’t think of it. You don’t want to give away everything you own. After all—”

“Shucks, son! Don’t mention it. I got ¿11 kinds o’ those things—mines, wells, femon groves, everything. You’re a-goin’ to have them all anyway when I die, an’ by fivin’ them to you now you don’t have to pay no inheritance tax. They’re presents, see—no strings attached. Just the same. I'd ike to see you enjoyin’ yourself, you and Clara, more’n you’re doin’. And I want you to let the kids spend some o’ their money. That’s what it’s for.”

“Uncle Eldridge,” began Jeremy, and stopped. No use. No use at all. Suppose he did tell the old man the truth, and suppose, too. that Uncle Eldridge would believe him, wouldn’t he be worse off even than he was now? The kids would spread the real facts around, all the smiles would turn to sneers, and Baker, a pompous little man who hated to be made a fool of, would certainly fire him out on his ear. “Let’s go in to supper,” he said.

Jeremy passed a sleepless night and came downstairs looking wan and haggard. The man with the Riesenberg Twelve was waiting outside with a car as big as an ambulance to drive Jeremy to work. Jeremy shut his eyes and shook his head, and got so dizzy he had to clutch the banister for support. Tris and Dulcie were talking earnestly to the car salesman. Tris making shovelling motions and Dulcie throwing up her arms in pantomime of a gusher. The car salesman looked at them with an expression of profound wonder. He saw Jeremy at the window, and respectfully tipped his hat.

Jeremy rode to work in the Riesenberg, which also dropped the kids at school, impressively, before the eyes of the sons and daughters of half the families in Westhampton. Jeremy cowered down among the cushions. The big car made a velvet stop in front of Baker’s, just as Mr. Baker drove up in his own two-year-old brougham. Mr. Baker smiled and waved and waited to walk in with Jeremy.

“Now there’s a car, Brayden”—he waved an admiring hand at the blue and cream Riesenberg—“just the car for you—that or a Hardpan Sixteen. I really think, though, the Riesenberg is more your speed ; costlier, of course, but—ha-ha !”

“Ha-ha !” said Jeremy, because there was nothing else under heaven he could think of saying. He got to his desk. He tried to work. It proved quite impossible. Baker came in with a cigar and informed him he had been put up for the Kniblick Klub, an organization of local bigshot golfers. “Couple of hundred a year,” said Baker, “but worth every cent of it. You know that as well as I do.”

“Sure,” agreed Jeremy. “But just the same, Mr. Baker, I don’t think I—”

“Nonsense. You’ll like it. You want to get out more and enjoy yourself. You don’t want to let wealth get you down. I can see signs of mental strain already. My advice is: Forget it. Wealth can be a curse as well as a blessing.”

“Yes,” gulped Jeremy. “Oh, yes.”

“Well, we’ll see you tomorrow night for sure, eh?”

“Oh! I—I forgot. But Clara said she’d call Mrs. Baker and let her know—-that is. tell her she had made an engagement with Colonel and Mrs. Greaves for that night.” “The Greaves!” Mr. Baker might have been saying, “the hosts of heaven,” so respectful was his voice. “Well, that's too bad; but of course, there’s Thursday.”

“Sure, Thursday,” nodded Jeremy. ' “Thursday it is.”

“Right!” nodded Baker. “Greaves, eh— you certainly know the right people. Mrs. Baker tells me your wife is a charming woman, one of the Ottawa Watsons, wasn’t ! she?”

“Was—I mean, I believe she is.”

“Well, well. And she’s in the Coronet Club—great thing that. It’s nice to sec new blood coming into old organizations-—when it’s good new blood. Now I’ve often thought I of expanding this business. With even ten thousand of new money, you and I could make this old firm rear up on its hind legs. And that's a proposition, Brayden. I believe in being direct, getting right to the ixtint. You put a mere ten thousand into it and, I believe me, we’ll go places.”

“But. I tell you, Mr. Baker—”

“Don’t decide now. Think it over. You know how this business stands, the shape it’s in. Isn’t it a good thing? You know it is.” .

“It sure is, but—”

“Take your time, Brayden. Don’t want to hurry you at all. Think it over carefully. : Ten thousand is ten thousand, even to a man with a gold mine, what?”

TEREMY nodded. When Baker had gone J out, he nodded again. The day dragged on. Toward five o’clock young Benny came in, followed by a fat man in a green suit, who brushed him aside and pounced on Jeremy.

“Say!” He sat on Jeremy’s desk. “Are I you that kid’s father?”

“What !” Jeremy jumped up. “You mean Tris? Yes. Why? What’s happened?” “What’s happened. Holy smoke, are you so rich you can let him play with hundreds of dollars? I saw him flashing a share in Radium Limited on a bunch of kids. Don’t you know that company’s been reorganized and they’re calling in those old shares at a big price? The kid said something about his Uncle Eldridge—”

“Did you say”—Jeremy teetered against his chair back—“that those shares were worth money?”

The fat man nodded and Jeremy swooped down upon him and dragged him out of the office and into his car.

Uncle Eldridge was in his room, in his shirt sleeves. He had only given Tris a few shares of Radium, and he wasn’t so keen on selling.

“I heard it ain’t a good time to sell,” he remarked shrewdly, “but five thousand seems fair enough for ’em. We’ll call it a deal.” He pocketed the cheque as if it were an old cigar wrapper and went back to reading the World Almanac of 1921. Jeremy cordially farewelled the fat man, and began to feel all his old love for Uncle Eldridge returning. Clara was out to a tea. Jeremy grinned, thinking how he could laugh at Clara now. Five thousand dollars was a fortune, and Uncle Eldridge would most certainly turn it over to him tomorrow.

Jeremy conjured up rosy visions. Maybe Baker would let him in with five thousand. With a partnership in the business, he would be all set for life. Yes, he could see the whole thing working out as smooth as silk.

Clara arrived in a taxi. Jeremy met her at the gate and gave her a bear hug.

“Unk just got five thousand smackers for some of his old stock. Boy-oh-boy, he’s going to hand it to the treasurer here tomorrow, and then, Clarissa, you will be the wife of Baker’s partner. Isn’t it something?” “Jeremy! It is—why, it’s marvellous. Now I can have all the things I want, and I can stay in the Coronet Club and—”

“You can charter a yacht and go round the world.” said Jeremy. “Twice.”

“Let’s go celebrate. The kids aren’t home

yet. Anyway, the cook and Uncle Eldridge can look after them for an hour. Let’s have a cocktail.”

“A half dozen cocktails,” amended Jeremy. “Let’s go!”

When the Braydens returned, Uncle Eldridge had gone. “He say,” the colored lady of the kitchen announced, “lie goin’ to be gone till tomorrow afternoon. He see you then.”

Jeremy looked at Clara and Clara looked at Jeremy, each with wild surmise and a chill in the chest which completely ruined the triumphal cocktails. Jeremy’s shoulders droojx'd. He walked like an old man into the living room. Clara followed dejectedly. The children came in and were sent for supper to the kitchen. Food was distasteful to Jeremy and Clara.

“Why did we let him escape?” groaned Jeremy.

“Who’d have thought it. Do you suj>

pose—?”

“That he’s gone off to buy stocks?” Jeremy nodded dismally. “I expect he’ll come back with a large block of shares in a terrapin nursery or a goat farm. I might have guessed. I might have known. Everything we wanted in our mitt and—this.”

“We couldn’t find him, bring him back?”

Jeremy shook his head. “He always thumbs rides on trucks. Five thousand dollars!”

JEREMY did not go to work next day. He simply could not face Baker again. He nvxtned about the house, jumping like a rabbit at every sound on the porch, at every owning or shutting of a door, running up and down the block looking for Uncle Eldridge. Not. he knew, that there was any hope; Uncle Eldridge always ran true to form.

At five o’clock Clara, from her vantage I point in the front window, saw the wanderer returning, very dusty, very cheerful, lugging his old straw suitcase. Clara and Jeremy met him at the gate, and seized him as if they feared he would do an about-face.

“Well, well!” Uncle Eldridge beamed. “How you two young ones musta missed I me, hey? Shows you like me for m’self. anyways. .Some young ones, once they get an old man’s wealth, don’t care a hoot for him. Now you two—”

“Did you buy any shares. Uncle Eldridge?” asked Jeremy, a quaver in his voice.

“Shares! Heck. no. I didn’t go up to town for that. I went to see an old pal I used

to know out in Manitoba—Tom Rigby, an old sourdough and one o’ the best.”

Light of blessed relief shone in Jeremy’s eyes. Clara squeezed his arm. “Then you didn’t invest your live thousand dollars?” “Oh, that! No—no, I didn’t invest it.” j Uncle Eldridge chuckled. “I bet it on a | boss race.”

Jeremy made no sound. His eyes were glassy. Clara sat down in the porch swing. Uncle Eldridge took a rocking chair and ¡ filled his pipe and puffed contentedly. “Sure is great to be home.”

“Horse race?” asked a strange voice that proved to be Jeremy’s.

“Yep!” Uncle Eldridge nodded. “You know, that’s one thing I never done but always wanted to do—gamble. I’d clean forgot about the money that fat fellow gave me for the Radium shares until I was in a barber-shop uptown and hear some man sayin’ how this boss was fav’rite an’ was bound to win in the Greenfields Sweep. So I send a wire to a bookmaker an’—”

“Was it—was it”—Jeremy could barely whisper—“Beau Rivard?”

“Yep. That’s just what it was.”

“He—ran—sixth. Came—over—the—

radio—”

“Shucks, ain’t that too bad now ! Don’t it beat all ! The first time ever I take a chance and the danged boss runs sixth. Well, ’tain’t much money anyways. We still got a fortune, ain’t we?”

Clara gritted her teeth to keep from crying. Jeremy said nothing. Uncle Eldridge puffed away at the patent corncob.

“Yep, it’s funny, Only reason I liked that boss was on account of his name and bej cause it seemed like Fate was in it—me goin’ to see Tom Rigby an’ all. It was up to Bow River that me and Tom met an’ was such pals.”

Jeremy jerked as if he’d just sat on a hightension wire. He leaped on Uncle Eldridge and got him by the shoulders. “What horse did you bet on, Unde Eldridge?”

“Bow River. Ain’t I just told you? Fellow in the barber shop said it like you— kind o’ funny. But I wired the man to bet five thousand on Bow River.”

“Six to one!” Jeremy shouted. “He paid six to one. Clara. Uncle Eldridge, he paid six to one.”

“Shucks! What of it? It was only fun. You young ones can have it. Me, I got more mines an’ things than I can handle. But don’t get wrong ideas. IIoss races is only a gamble; you want to build up solid like I done.”