FICTION

Looms of Conflict

Beginning: A thrilling new novel of an epic feud

BURTON L. SPILLER June 1 1938
FICTION

Looms of Conflict

Beginning: A thrilling new novel of an epic feud

BURTON L. SPILLER June 1 1938

Looms of Conflict

Beginning: A thrilling new novel of an epic feud

BURTON L. SPILLER

KENT HARMON, in the stern of the heavily laden canoe, thrust his paddle deep into the water and drove the craft out of the current into the quiet water along the shore. He reached up and grasped an overhanging branch, held the canoe steady.

Jim Bradley, in the bow, rested his paddle across the gunwales, and cupped one hand to his ear that he might better hear the sound of rushing water beating up to them from the gorge ahead.

“Well, what do you think?” asked Harmon wearily.

“It’s pretty bad, I guess,” Bradley answered. “Rough water. If we’re going to portage we’d better pull out now. The banks are getting steeper.”

Harmon glanced down at the man who lay in the bottom of the canoe. A black-haired, leathery-faced Indian, wrapped in blankets. He noted the laboring chest, the flushed face, listened to the stertorous breathing.

“A long portage might hold us up for half a day. We’ve got to get him to a doctor as quick as we can, Jim.”

Bradley squinted at the swift water ahead.

“After all, we know that there aren’t any rapids down here that haven’t been run by white men. The Indian told us that himself. I’m game if you are.”

Harmon let go the branch, picked up the paddle, drove the canoe out into the current.

“Watch it ! We’re going down !”

The river was dropping down at last from high country.

The stream narrowed. The shore line became more abrupt. The canoe slipped along through water that surged in an oily rush.

Then little ripples began to dance on the surface of the narrowing river. The canoe tossed its bow impatiently as it accepted the challenge of the flood that creamed along its sides.

Harmon was groggy with weariness after two days and nights of bush travel. His paddle rose and fell in short stabbing strokes. His eyes were fixed on a bend in the river ahead. Beyond that bend was the white water.

The rocky walls rose high and steep. The canoe swung around the bend smoothly and swiftly into a roaring, whitemaned fury.

In the bow. Bradley sat erect, his paddle poised to signal or to avert disaster by striking swiftly to right or left. Grim-faced and keenly alert. Harmon drove into the lashing froth of the rapids.

An upthrust boulder loomed dead ahead. The water cascaded from it as from the prow of a speeding ship. The canoe swooped down on it. Paddles flashed. The bow of the canoe sheered away, missed the boulder, shot past.

A line of jagged rocks leaped toward them with startling speed. There was neither time nor space to win around, but above the raging white water Harmon could see a narrow gap. The river boiled through this hazardous channel. Bradley’s judgment was instantaneous. He drove his

paddle deep that they might hit the opening fairly.

They made it, with inches to spare. A scrape, a lurch, and the canoe shot down into a chaos of white water. It was seized upon by the river, and so tossed and buffeted that it seemed no human endeavor could guide its course.

Harmon bent his shoulders, stabbed savagely, threw every ounce of strength into the job of driving the canoe across this maelstrom. The waters sucked hungrily into yawning holes that opened and closed. Other waters, rushing to fill the voids, reared their curling crests upward and plunged down in frenzy. The canoe careened far over, Harmon lunged just in time to right it. For a moment he thought he had lost control; the bow of the canoe seemed to be swinging toward the jagged rocks inshore. Then Bradley’s arms rose and fell, his paddle snatched the craft back into the current.

And then, as suddenly as it began, it was over.

One last flurry of pouring waters, one last scrape against a half-hidden rock, one last sharp plunge through a low cascade, and they were through the rapids. In fast water yet, but water that was black and smooth and slick.

Y\ 7TS MADE it !” Bradley said, turning in the bow.

W There was something of awe in his voice, as if he had just witnessed a miracle.

“We made it, lad! I’ll bet you don’t know what I was thinking about. I stole a shilling once from my grandmother. There was a baker on the street ’awking pork pies, and I wanted one. I took the money from me old lydy’s purse. Why should I be thinkin’ of it just then, I arsk you?”

Harmon grinned. His long friendship with the man had taught him that only in moments of great stress did Bradley revert to the accents of his youth.

‘‘A chap will think of some queer things when ’e thinks ’es lookin’ heternity hin the fyce!” continued Bradley, wagging his head. “But why should that shillin’ and the pork pies pop hinto me mind? Lumme, it’s been years ago.”

The river was quiet now and had broadened. ‘ Behind them the torrent roared, but distance had muted its voice until it was no more than the sullen murmur of a giant cheated of its prey.

“Listen!” said Harmon suddenly. “Do you hear anything?”

He held his paddle motionless, listening. The sound came from downriver. It was an indistinct but rhythmic clicking, like the tick of a cheap watch held at arm’s length from the ear.

"Somewhere ahead of us,” said Bradley. “Sounds like a— listen !”

The canoe was rounding another bend in the river. The sound came clearer — clickety-clack-clickety-clack — a staccato and unvarying beat. Bradley twisted his head and spoke over his shoulder:

“If that ain’t a runnin’ loom, then I hope I never see Piccadilly again. What bloomin’ part of Maine are we in anyway?”

“I don’t even know the name of the river. But that does sound like a loom.”

The canoe slipped around another river bend.

“There !” shouted Bradley. “I knew it. Look !”

They were in civilization. To the eastward lay cleared land, stretching up over a long rising slope for half a mile before it surrendered to the forest. In the clearing stood a settlement of houses -gay little cottages, in rows that indicated an architect’s careful plan. The sun struck full upon them, accentuating the harmony of their coloring and the beauty of the white birches in the background.

At the water’s edge and still half a mile below, a building bulked large against the background of green. Abutments of masonry and brick bespoke a careful thought for ravaging spring freshets. The long, four-storied building glimmered with rows of windows. Slightly above it. on the rising ground, a smaller building stood, surmounted by a towering chimney of red brick from which curled a thin wisp of smoke, a wavering line of grey against the flawless blue of the sky.

It emphasized, more than anything else could have done, the utter lack of movement in the settlement. That wisp of smoke and the lonesome clickety-dack that rattled through the still air. were the only signs of life.

“Are we dreaming this, or is it a deserted village?” said Harmon.

“It looks spooky,” Bradley assented. “But the hammering of that loom sounds real enough. If that ain’t a woollen mill, then I never saw one.”

They bent to their paddles. In a little while they were close to the mill, with its rows of lifeless windows. They drove the craft to a sloping bit of grassy shore and Bradley climbed out stiffly. He stood wearily, with sagging knees, then stooped to draw up the bow.

The sick man in the canoe rolled his head weakly and muttered.

“It’s all right, old man,” Harmon said. “We’re out of the woods. We’ll have you in bed and under a doctor’s care in no time.”

He stepped carefully out into the shallow water and waded ashore.

“Stay with him, Jim. I’ll go for help.”

Harmon strode off through the lush grass toward the

mill, shuffling along on leaden feet, his shoulders hunched with fatigue. It didn’t look as if there would be a doctor in this abandoned place. After two days and two nights of travel with the pneumonia-stricken guide, he was so exhausted that he didn’t feel capable of another mile. It had been a gruelling trip down strange waters, and he hadn’t the faintest idea where he was now. As a one-time power in the textile trade, Kent Harmon thought he knew every woollen mill in the country but he couldn’t place this one.

“Certainly isn’t running full time and top speed anyhow,” Harmon reflected. “Another scalp in Daggett’s belt, maybe.”

More than one independent textile mill had closed its doors since Charles Daggett became managing director of Nationwide Woollens, the big combine that was fighting for complete control of the industry. Harmon had good reason to know. He and Jim Bradley had been important men in the affairs of Nationwide before the shake-up that put Daggett in the driver’s seat. They were out now, with time on their hands for fishing trips, because they didn’t believe in starving competitors into submission.

This looked like one of the starvation cases.

“Hi, mister!”

A man emerged from an open doorway.

Harmon had never seen so thin a creature, nor one so tall. A pair of overalls hung in billowing folds upon the fellow’s lanky frame; the long face was angular and solemn.

“My name’s Lute Griggs. I’m the master mechanic,” said the thin man in a high-pitched voice. “Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes! Can I get a doctor? We have a sick guide in our canoe. Pneumonia, I think. We’ve been paddling for two days.”

“Godfrymighty !” exclaimed the lanky one. “Nearest doctor’s in Bolton—twenty miles away. I’ll phone him. And I’ll phone ma to get a bed ready. Wait here. We’ll have the truck out in two shakes.”

With his overalls flapping, he vanished into the mill.

Lute Griggs was a man of action. In less than five minutes, with Bradley and Harmon crouching beside the sick man on a heap of gunnysacks in the bottom of a truck and Lute Griggs at the wheel, they were speeding up from the river, through the mill yard and into the main street of the village. The truck pulled up in front of a rambling frame building that displayed over its broad verandah a sign, “Rainbow’s End.”

“Rainbow!” exclaimed Bradley. “We might have guessed it. Four million dollars tied up in a model mill and a company town twenty miles from the railway. Fellow named Holcomb owns the whole shebang, and the mill’s been practically shut for nearly a year ...”

“Yep! This is Rainbow,” said Lute Griggs, scrambling out of the cab. “And this is the boardin’house. Ma runs it. She’ll welcome somebody to fuss over.”

The door of Rainbow’s End opened and a fat, motherly, red-faced woman waddled out onto the verandah, wringing her pudgy hands.

“Death and destruction !” she wailed. “All is grass that withereth. Bring him in, where he can die in comfort. The bed’s ready.”

They carried the sick man into the house and put him to bed in an upstairs room. Together the men disrobed the Indian, working clumsily but carefully, and garbed him in a billowing nightgown which Harmon felt could have belonged to but one person—a suspicion which Lute speedily verified.

“It’s ma’s,” he piped. “Big enough to sail a yacht with, but it’s clean. It won’t bind him nowhere, I guess. I’ll h’ist him up and you pull it down over him.”

While they were waiting for the doctor from Bolton, Harmon introduced himself and Bradley, explained the circumstances.

“We were on a fishing trip up in the back country when Joe keeled over. Pneumonia. So there we were out back of nowhere with a sick guide on our hands—I tell you, we’ve done some paddling. Two days and a night—and no sleep the night before, either—”

“And precious little to eat, I’ll be bound!” cried Lute’s wife. “Why, bless your souls!” She grabbed each by an arm. “No wonder you look like something the cat dragged in. There’s hardly a thing cooked in the house, but I can get you something to stay your stomachs until supper time.”

She waddled off to the kitchen, and dishes were clattering noisily by the time the doctor arrived. The Bolton medico was a brisk, stoutish man who seemed to know his business. His examination did not take long.

“Pneumonia, all right. It will have to run its course. Good heart, good constitution. Who is he? Where does he come from?”

Kent Harmon explained.

“I’ll be responsible, doctor. He ought to have a nurse, I suppose.”

“I’ll send one out from Bolton, and I’ll give Mrs. Griggs some instructions. He’s in good hands here. It’s lucky you were able to get him out of the bush, though. As for you two, stop worrying about the Indian and get some rest. You’re all in both of you.”

“They’ve got to eat, first.” declared Ma Griggs; from the doorway. “I’ve got a bite of lunch ready.” ;

As Harmon faced Bradley across a kitchen table loaded with a "bite of lunch” that would have earned respect from a threshing crew, he wondered just what one of Ma Griggs’ regular dinners would be like. They ate prodigiously, but when Bradley almost drowsed off asleep with his face in a custard pie. Ma Griggs called a halt.

“You boys have had enough for now,” she told them. “I’ll show you to your rooms and you can get a wink of sleep, like the doctor ordered. I’ll call you for supper.” “Tomorrow night’s supper,” grinned Harmon, blinking as he tried to keep his eyes open. “I’m good to sleep the clock around.”

rT'HE OTHER bed was empty when Harmon awakened next morning, and he wondered if hunger had driven Bradley out or if the guide’s condition had grown worse during the night. Shaved and dressed, he found his way down to the kitchen, where Ma Griggs, her face as round and red as a harvest moon, was frying doughnuts.

“Land alive!” she exclaimed. “So that’s what you look like, is it? A regular Romeo and Juliet. I hardly recognized you with all them whiskers shaved off. Here!” She extended a golden doughnut on the end of a fork. “It will keep you from starving until I can get your breakfast on. Slept all right, did you?”

“Great ! How is Joe?”

“The guide? Well, I don’t know. The doctor was here this morning and there’s a nurse on the job. But pneumony’s awful tricky. Y’ou never can tell about it.”

“How long has Bradley been up?”

“Land sake, he’s been prowlin’ around for hours. Said he was going down to look at the mill.”

“Your husband is the master mechanic, isn’t he?” “That’s right. Although I’m almost ashamed to own that he is my husband. Lute looks as if I never gave him anything to eat. Y'es, he’s master mechanic. Not that there’s much for him to do at the mill nowadays, but he manages to keep busy.”

Ma Griggs bustled about the kitchen, preparing Harmon’s breakfast. It had been more than a year, she said, since the woollen mill had been running full time.

“Rainbow was a fine place when it was first built,” she declared. “Mr. Holcomb spent four million dollars on this town. The workmen’s houses are as fine as you'll see anywhere, and Lute swears there isn’t a better textile mill in the country. There used to be as many as a thousand people living in Rainbow when times were better. But they’ve all moved away now. The mill can’t run without orders.”

Harmon knew something of the story. No independent operator had been more independent than David Holcomb, With his model mill and company town. In an era of mergers and combines, however, with Nationwide Woollens stopping at nothing in its ruthless struggle for control, the independents had been driven to cover. Rainbow was still free—but silent.

Bradley breezed in while Harmon was at breakfast.

“Hi, fella! Queer how a night’s sleep and a couple of square meals will set a bloke up, eh? I’ve been out lookin’ for a wildcat to lick.”

“Have you been in to see Joe?” asked Harmon.

“No, but I called on his nurse. One look was enough, though. She’s homelier than a wart hog. She says Joe ought to pull through. Got a heart like a steam pump.” Bradley sat down. “I’ve been giving the mill an inspection.”

“What’s it like? Falling to pieces?”

“Kent,” declared Bradley impressively, “it’s a mill! You’ve got to see it. Best machinery I ever saw under one roof. Every bit of it was new when it was put in. And the dye house! Wouldn’t I like to get going in that one! Sixteen-piece dye kettles. The carbonizer and dryer can handle twenty thousand yards a day. Oh, it’s a top-hole outfit, Kent.”

Harmon was interested.

“You haven’t been wasting any time,” he grinned.

“I went through it from picker room to shipper chute. Met the super, too. She was weaving. Swell piece of goods too —”

“The cloth or the super?”

“Both.”

“Y'ou don’t mean to tell me the superintendent is a woman?”

“Sure. And she knows how to make cloth. The mill is running with a skeleton staff, just on experimental work. She was getting out as fine a piece of tweed as was ever made on this side of the Atlantic. Quality stuff, from native wool, too. That was what Holcomb banked on when he built Rainbow, remember. They raise a lot of sheep up here. He’s got a scouring plant that will clean stock fast enough to run the mill day and night.”

Bradley’s enthusiasm was contagious. Harmon set down his coffee cup.

“You’re putting ideas in my head, Jim.”

“How?”

Harmon was staring thoughtfully at the sugar bowl.

Continued on page 30

Continued from page 7

“If we could get control of an outfit like that, Jim, maybe we could go places. I’d like to see this mill.”

Bradley’s mouth fell open.

“Control? Oh well, that’s out, Kent. We’re blacklisted. Daggett has seen to that. So far as manufacturing cloth is concerned, you and I are washed up. Nationwide would crack down on any owner who even hired us. But just the same, you’ll get a kick out of seeing this mill—”

“Now hold on, Jim. We’re not dead yet. The word is out in the textile industry that we’re a pair of crooks and double-crossers —just because we wouldn’t back Daggett up in his dirty work—but we do know how to make cloth. If we had an outfit of our own, we might do things.”

Bradley looked like a man who has just received a casual invitation to go on a submarine trip to the North Pole.

“Now, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Just because I’ve gone and looked at a woollen mill, you don’t have to go haywire. This mill ain’t running. The owner is broke. Chances are that Nationwide has a mortgage on the whole layout anyhow.”

But Kent Harmon — young, blackhaired. lean, impulsive — Harmon was looking for his hat.

“Come on, Jim! You’ve got me all excited. Let’s go. This setup sounds interesting.”

■p\AVID HOLCOMB had spent four million dollars on a model textile mill and town in the bush. Consequently he fancied himself a Napoleon of business. He wasn’t. He was merely a man who had been lucky enough to make four million dollars from wartime textile orders, and whose luck had turned after he spent the money. And this morning he was merely a bald, paunchy, worried little man who paced the floor of his private office and tried to evade the knowledge that he was practically bankrupt.

“It’suncanny I tell you. Nancy !’’he said querulously to his patiently listening daughter. “Uncanny! I was sure we would get that order from Vail. I could have sworn I had it all sewed up.”

Nancy drummed her slender fingers on the glass-topped desk. She was so young and lovely that trouble dwelt incongruously in her grey eyes, rested awkwardly on her slim shoulders. Her boyish figure was trim and neat; she was the sort of girl i you would picture on the golf course at 1 that hour of the morning, or at the wheel of a fast roadster, her tawny bobbed hair whipi>ed by the wind. Her body had the resilient vitality of ribbon steel.

“Don't worn’ about it, dad.” she said, trying to console him. although she knew there was every reason in the world for worrying. “Did I tell you we had a visitor this morning? A man named Bradley. He seemed to know a lot about the woollen business. I showed him through the mill, and when he saw that piece of tweed I was making—”

“Tweed ! Did you say tweed?” bellowed Holcomb. “Don't you know there isn’t any market for tweed—except imported stuff? If you must experiment, why don’t you fuss with something staple, like broadcloth. Tweed!” He flung himself into his swivel chair. “You might as well try to sell gold brocades.”

Nancy flushed. She leaned over and patted his cheek with a gesture that seemed to have lost much of its power, of late, to temper his petulant moods.

“Yes, dad.” she said. “I know. Brocades are out. But so is broadcloth. People don’t expect wearing qualities. They want something attractive in color and design, at about a third of the old price. If you weren’t so hopelessly old-fashioned—”

"Old-fashioned!” Holcomb’s fist hit the desk so hard that a paperweight jumped.

“I made over four million dollars by being old-fashioned. Don’t forget that.”

“But conditions have changed, dear. As Mr. Bradley said this morning, it’s up to the manufacturer to produce what the public demands.”

“Who is this Bradley? Is he a mill man?”

“Not at present, I believe. He has been.”

“Has been! You say he has been a mill man. If he knows so much, why the devil isn’t he one now? A has been, indeed ! A never was, more likely.”

“Perhaps so,” she replied soothingly. “I know nothing about him, except that his name is Bradley. I merely repeated what he said.”

“Well, don’t do it any more,” he said irritably. “I’m sick and tired of having every upstart in the country tell me how to run my business. I’m fed up on it.”

“All right, dad. I’ll try not to bother you again—for an hour or two anyway. But it does seem as though, with all our modern equipment, we ought to make something that would sell. Other manufacturers are doing it.”

“Some of them are,” he answered. “And a whole lot more of them are fighting with their backs to the wall. Run along now. I want to think.”

“Yes, dear. Only don’t worry too much.” She went back to the outer office to look over the pitifully meagre morning mail. It contained a bulletin from the Wool Growers’ Association, and she noted that Northern Raw was up two cents since the week before. A note from the insurance company, stating the premium would be due before the expiration of the current month, and a form letter, with a tawdry sample of fabric enclosed, asking for bids on duplicate material in thousand-yard lots.

But there were no orders.

In the inner office, David Holcomb sat staring out of a window at the deserted streets and empty homes of the town he had created. Monarch of a dead kingdom. A man with nothing to do.

“Uncanny!” he muttered. “I was sure we would have had an order by now.”

VTDU’RE a fine-lookin’ pair when you’re shaved,” declared Ma Griggs. "My heart’s all aflutter just from lookin’ at you. I never could get very excited about a beard on a man. I don’t really object to a mustache. They ain’t any real benefit that I know of, but as the frog said about the toadstool, they’re kinda nice to cuddle up under.”

“Thanks, ma!” laughed Bradley. “I ain't such a heart flutterer myself, but I wear well.”

Ma’s eyes twinkled. “You’ll have to hide your lights under a bushel basket. There ain’t a girl in the village except Nancy, and she wouldn’t look twice at either of you.”

“We’re going to find out about that,” Harmon said. “Come on, Jim. I’m anxious to meet this lady mill superintendent.”

They went down the main street of Rainbow, past the rows of neat, silent, lifeless cottages.

“Holcomb had the right idea,” Bradley said. “Build houses for the workers and get ’em settled. Make a home for them. That’s the kind of help to have. They're steady. Community hall, church and everything. Ma Griggs told me she had over fifty lodgers at the boardinghouse. Then everything went flooey overnight.’’

“If we could just take hold of this place, we'd make it hum!” declared Harmon. “By gosh, Jim, maybe that Indian did us a favor when he keeled over with pneumonia. Here we are looking for a way back into the textile game, and we blunder right into this setup.”

“Now hold your horses,” warned

Bradley. “You’re getting away ahead of yourself. You can’t run a mill like this on air and water. It takes dough. Jack. Coin. Cash. Money. Understand? Dollars.”

“I know. But it doesn’t cost anything to think about it.”

They entered the silent mill yard and made their way toward the office, a singlestory, stucco building that overlooked the river. Bradley thrust open the door, and Harmon followed him into a long sunny room with beamed ceiling, ivory walls, and a huge fireplace of grey fieldstone.

“Good morning, miss!” boomed Bradley. “I’m back again.”

A girl was sitting at a desk beneath one of the high windows. Spring sunlight shimmered on her soft hair. And when she got up and came toward them, Harmon caught his breath.

More than ever, now, he felt that destiny had brought him to Rainbow.

DAVID HOLCOMB and his daughter showed their visitors through the mill that morning. Holcomb had been out of touch with trade circles for so long that the names of his guests meant nothing to him. He did not know he was entertaining two men who had been ignobly booted out of the Nationwide Woollen organization. As for Nancy, the visit, was a welcome relief from the deadening monotony that had settled down on Rainbow.

Jim Bradley manoeuvred matters so that he went ahead with Holcomb, leaving the grateful Harmon to follow with the girl.

Their course took them from thescouring rooms, where the wool was washed and dried, to the pickers, where revolving cylinders and drums extracted the burrs and foreign matter from the raw wool before passing it on to a huge fan which blew it into enormous pens on the upper floor of the mills.

They went on past the mighty cards, massive metal giants so accurately adjusted that each could separate and straighten a single hair, yet do the work of a thousand Puritan maidens. Beyond the cards stretched the spinning mules— long, skeleton affairs, each capable of spinning 240 threads simultaneously. They were silent now, but Harmon could picture them in operation, could almost hear the roar of their whirling spindles twisting the yarn and winding it on the bobbins.

They descended a winding stairway to the dressing frames—six-foot cylinders that could wind thousands of threads simultaneously, reverse and rewind them as warps on the beams that fed the looms. Harmon admired the construction of the mill, the system that carried the cloth from the looms to the burlers, then to the dye house on the ground floor.

Jim Bradley and Holcomb were far ahead by the time Harmon and Nancy reached the great looms. Here, Nancy shyly indicated a cut of cloth that had not yet been removed from the loom.

“Mr. Bradley admired this sample when he saw it this morning,” she said.

Harmon appraised it with expert eye. He noted the fine warp, the hard twisted filling—above all, the subdued and harmonizing pattern.

“This is great stuff!” he exclaimed. “Who designed it? You?”

Nancy nodded, her eyes shining.

“I like to play at this sort of thing,” she admitted.

Harmon, honestly impressed, said: “If you did this in play, I'd like to see .some of your serious work. Do you mean to say you can’t sell goods of this quality?”

“We haven’t tried with this particular piece, but—oh, it hasn’t been any use, Mr. Harmon. We haven’t been able to place other stuff, just as good.”

“What buyers did you contact?”

She named several. “They were dad’s best customers in the old days. I can’t understand it, Mr. Harmon. I don’t think anyone can beat us on price. There isn’t a better plant in the country. Of course, dad is rather old-fashioned and he will insist

that we should specialize on broadcloths, but I’ve been running off samples like this and they should sell. They should! But they don't.”

Harmon studied the cloth thoughtfully. “Not to the buyers you mention. Nationwide has them sewed up so tightly they don’t dare call their souls their own. If you could find some buyer who is free of Nationwide—”

By the sudden tilt of Nancy’s chin, he realized that he was on uncertain ground.

“I’m afraid you are unjust to Nationwide Woollens. Mr. Harmon,” she said. “They have been very kind to us. They have thrown orders our way several times. I—I know their general manager, Mr. Daggett, very well.”

“I’m sorry,” Harmon apologized. “Perhaps I’m prejudiced.” He could guess at the situation. “Is your father thinking of selling out to the Nationwide people? None of my business, of course—”

“Selling out to Nationwide?” Nancy's eyes widened. “Oh, no. Dad will never sell Rainbow. Why, it’s his. He built it.” Harmon didn’t have to guess any longer. He knew. Rainbow was still free. And David Holcomb didn’t regard Nationwide Woollens as an enemy. Nationwide had been “very kind.” Soon there would be the offer of a loan, if it hadn’t been made already. And once Nationwide got a grip on Rainbow it would be only a matter of time . . .

“Miss Holcomb,” he said, “I don’t pose as a salesman, but I would like to show a sample of that cloth to a chap I know in the big town. If he’s the businessman I think he is, he’ll look at it twice before he says no.”

Nancy was radiant.

“It would be wonderful of you. If you could get us an order—a really big order —why it would mean everything to us, Mr. Harmon. Everything!”

He looked at her keenly.

“Is it as bad as that?”

Nancy’s lashes shaded her blue eyes. The toe of her shoe described a semicircle in the dust of the floor.

“Yes,” she admitted in a low voice. “It is—that bad. Or worse. Dad wouldn’t admit it to you, or to anyone else. But it’s true. If we don’t get an order, a big order, within the next month it will mean the end of Rainbow Mills, so far as the Holcombs are concerned.”

“I think,” said Harmon, “that you and I should have a long, long talk.”

V\ TE CAN swing it, Jim!” declared YY Harmon for the twentieth time. “All we need is money. I have ten thousand. You have eight. That won’t get us to first base, of course, but if I can get a backer It was a week after their arrival in Rainbow, for Harmon had insisted on remaining until they were assured that the sick guide was out of danger. And in that week Harmon had fairly haunted the Rainbow mill.

Bradley swung his feet down from the railing of the boardinghouse verandah.

“You’re welcome to my eight thousand,” he said. “But if we try to save Holcomb’s mill and buck Daggett again, don’t forget that we’ll have two strikes on us right from the start, as your baseball Johnnies say.”

“How?”

“Because we’ll fight fair. We don’t know any other way. And Daggett will fight foul, with no referee to stop him.”

Harmon was figuring on the back of an envelope.

“Maybe I can talk Thornton and Brinkley into handling it. They might advance us some money on an order.” Ma Griggs called them to lunch just then. Lute was in the dining room, his lanky figure hunched over the table. An occasional clicking sound, accompanied by a momentary flash of gleaming white, indicated that Lute’s prodigious and badly-fitting store teeth were in service.

Harmon plied the engineer with questions about the mill's mechanical equipment, but received only hissing monosyl-

lables in reply, until finally Lute engulfed a quarter section of lemon pie, pushed back his chair, thrust a grimy forefinger into his mouth and extracted the plates. He slapped them onto the tablecloth.

“It’s these dam teeth!” he piped in exasperation. “They bother me about talking. Don’t fit somehow, and hurt like blazes. I’ve filed and whittled and scraped, but it don’t do any good. Feller that made ’em probably sprung his pattern when he was moldin’ the dam things. If the stuff wasn’t so cussed heavy, I’d run myself a set out of babbitt.”

“Lute!” Ma Griggs’ voice was sharp, and she pointed an accusing finger. “Take them teeth off that cloth. They look like an alligator waitin’ to snap at something. Put them away !”

“Yes, ma.” replied Lute weakly, and stowed the offending teeth in his pocket. “What was that last question, Mr.

I Harmon? The water power? Well, we’ve got two sixty-inch turbines developin’ 500 horsepower each That’s at 180 revolu¡ tions, with a thirty-seven-foot head of ! water. Plenty of water for all the power we’ll ever need. Gives almost two and a half per cent advantage over a mill that I has to buy power ...”

Lute was away. All week Harmon had I been digging information out of the lanky j mechanic, and the more he learned the j more he was convinced that he had stumbled upon the opportunity of a lifei time. If he could only get his hands on some capital !

Lute gushed statistics and figures for the next half hour, and was still happily volunteering technical details when they accompanied him back to the mill and left him at the gate.

“Think you can get a sample ready for me to take to the city tonight?” Harmon asked Bradley, as Lute ambled off across I the mill yard. All week Bradley had been I experimenting in the mill, as contented as a rabbit in a clover patch.

“Tonight?” beamed Bradley. “Sure thing. It’s practically ready. I’ve put it through the carbonizer and the neutralizing bath. It looks jolly good too. It’s in the fulling mill now. We don’t need to set it up much, Kent. It was built in the loom. I’m not going to nap it at all just sheer it fairly close and give it the works in the press. Wait till you see it. That girl knows how to design.”

He hustled to the mill. Harmon went into the office. He had spent the morning there with Nancy, going over cost sheets, and she was already back at her desk, with a smudge of ink on her chin. Nancy gave I him a gay smile.

“You’ll be finding your wages docked j one of these days, young man. Do you realize you took an hour and a half for lunch?”

“Sorry, boss. I had to go to my grandmother’s funeral,” said Harmon. “It won’t happen again.” Nancy wrinkled her j nose at him and thrust a sheaf of papers across her desk.

“I found those wage sheets.”

Harmon picked them up. shuffled them idly but looked at Nancy instead.

“Well?” she said finally. “Aren’t you going to look at them?”

He shook his head.

“Too dry. I’d rather look at you.”

Nancy sat back, regarded him severely.

“No flirting in business hours.” she warned.

“Very well. I’ll be serious.” Harmon swung himself up on the edge of the desk. “I’ve been here a week, Nancy. Asking a lot of questions. Poking my nose into mill affairs. Why?”

“Because you’re going to help us get some orders.” she replied promptly.

“I hope so. But it goes a little deeper. I know something about mill management. Nancy. Jim Bradley is one of the best dyers in the country. You are one of the best designers in the game

“Don’t be silly!” laughed Nancy, embarrassed by this praise but flushing with pleasure.

I “You arc, whether you know it or not.

And Rainbow is one of the most efficient mills I’ve ever seen. It’s a crime that it isn’t operating. Now maybe I can go out and get a few orders, but they won’t mean much in the long run. What you need here are some big orders.”

“We can’t handle quantity production any more, Kent,” she told him. “We haven’t got the money. We’d have to hire staff, buy wool—it would cost thousands to start this place up on a big scale again.”

“Exactly what I’m getting at. I have a little money. So has Jim Bradley. Not enough, but maybe we can raise more. If I can raise the money, do you think your father would turn the mill over to me for— oh, say six months or a year—and let me make a try at putting Rainbow on its feet again?”

Nancy sprang to her feet. Her hands were clasped, her eyes shining.

“Kent! Would you?” she exclaimed. “Oh, if you only knew how I’ve been hoping—hoping something like this would happen—that someone would come along and see the possibilities in Rainbow— someone who could take hold of it and get the mill running again. It seems like a miracle—”

Eager and joyous, she was grasping his arms, almost dancing with enthusiasm and delight.

“Hold on, now!” gasped Harmon. “I’m no magician. The mill isn’t running yet. I’m not even sure I can raise the money—”

“Oh, but you will ! I know you will ! I had a feeling right from the first day you came here that you were going to mean good luck to Rainbow.” Nancy whirled away from him and danced across the room. She flung open the door of her father’s private office. “Dad!” she cried. “Mr. Harmon has something to tell you. It’s important. It’s awfully important.”

"TyWID HOLCOMB, who had been engaged in the important task of oiling a fishing reel, shuffled into the outer office with Nancy tugging at his arm. Oil can in hand, he blinked enquiringly at Harmon.

“Why, what’s the matter? What’s happened?”

“Tell him, Kent!” cried Nancy. “Tell him! He’ll say yes.”

Harmon felt that he was in for it. Judging by Nancy’s enthusiasm, the thing was as good as done, Rainbow as good as saved. He didn’t dare let himself think of the crushing disappointment it would mean to her if anything happened to the plan now.

“I’m afraid Nancy is a lot more optimistic than I am. Mr. Holcomb. ’’ he laughed. “I merely mentioned that you might be interested in a plan I have for getting operations started here again. If you’d care to hear it. I’d be glad to outline what I’ve got in mind.”

David Holcomb’s chest went out, his shoulders went back, he cleared his throat and again became the Napoleon of business.

“Hmph! Hmph!” He gestured with the oil can. “Come in, Mr. Harmon. Come into my private office.” He ushered Harmon into the sanctum. “You’ll excuse us, Nancy.” And when he closed the door and waved Harmon to a chair he removed two fly rods from the desk and stacked them in a corner. “Caught a two-pound trout this morning. Great country up here, Harmon. Good fishing, fine hunting. Everything a man needs to make him happy.”

“Except a few good orders for the mill.” remarked Harmon.

Holcomb coughed. “Well, yes, to be sure. Yes, an order would be acceptable, I don’t deny. We haven’t been very fortunate lately. Depression, business conditions. I don’t know where it’s going to end. But things will pick up, in time.”

With this dodderer in charge, no business could prosper, thought Harmon. And because he faced a battle in which no quarter would be given, Harmon knew that the question of leadership must be settled definitely.

He explained the purpose of his proposed trip to the city and outlined his plan. He quoted the total of his own and Bradley’s resources, admitted the difficulties he would face in raising additional capital, admitted the further difficulties that would rise even if he got a contract.

“It’s a gamble, Mr. Holcomb, but if you give your consent, I’ll take a shot at it. Before I try, though, I would want definite assurance that I would be given a free hand in production. I would expect and welcome advice, but the final decisions as to costs and methods would have to be mine. If you care to go in on that basis, I’ll get busy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t touch it.” Holcomb bristled and bridled, but after a good deal of throat-clearing and coughing, he capitulated.

“I—ah—would welcome the opportunity of casting aside the responsibility. Temporarily.” he said. “It has been very wearing. I would give you the benefit of my advice, of course. But the petty details—I would gladly leave them to you. I think it would be a very satisfactory arrangement indeed. You would have free rein. The financial details would have to be worked out after you raise the money—”

“If I raise the money,” Harmon amended. “We’ll have a fight on our hands. Nationwide Woollens will throw their whole weight against us.”

Holcomb stared at him.

“Nationwide Woollens!” he . scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Harmon. If there is one concern that has been friendly, Nationwide Woollens is the organization. Why, Daggett is one of my best friends. Very fine fellow, Daggett. Smart executive. He has hinted several times that he’d be glad to have Rainbow Mills as part of their organization.”

“I can well believe that.”

Holcomb missed the acidity in Harmon’s voice.

“But I won’t sell Rainbow,” the old man said stubbornly. “I built it and it’s mine. No sir, I won’t sell Rainbow. But don’t go into this regarding Nationwide as an enemy, Harmon.”

Harmon itched to express his honest opinion of Charles Daggett and the whole Nationwide outfit, but he kept quiet. Holcomb was obviously prejudiced, and it would do no good to irritate him at this stage of the affair. So after some further discussion it was agreed that he should leave for the city at once, and try to get the financial backing he would need before a wheel could turn in Rainbow.

Something of the vital energy of the younger man seemed to arouse Holcomb to enthusiasm. He grasped Harmon’s hand warmly.

“I feel we are going to make a success of this, my boy,” he declared. “I really do.”

T-J ARMON was making a final check of -*• his figures that afternoon with the help of the excited Nancy, when Bradley kicked the office door open, strode in and flung a bolt of cloth on the desk.

“Take a look at this, Hawkeve!” he commanded. “If you don’t say that’s the sweetest piece of goods you ever laid eyes on, then I’m a timber cruiser. Boy, it’s got everything. Weight, strength, feel and looks. Put on a suit of that stuff and you could walk into a bank and come out with a handful of G-notes.”

When Harmon examined the cloth he shared Bradley’s enthusiasm. Nancy had wrought a cunning pattern, and the finishing process had brought out all its beauty. The colors were subdued and harmonizing, and by clever manipulation of warp and woof she had achieved the merest suggestion of a plaid where no plaid existed. She had departed boldly from an open pattern and, trusting to the fulling process to bring it to a desired size and weight, had reached her aim by skilful design and the forming process within the loom.

“Well, what do you think of it?” Bradley

Continued on page 34

Continued from page 32

asked, after Kent examined the material. “Is it good, or am I cockeyed?”

Harmon turned, shook hands gravely with Nancy, shook hands with Bradley.

“Congratulations, both of you,” he said. “It’s better than merely good. It’s superlative. If we can’t get an order for that, there ain’t no justice.”

His figures had told him to a fraction what the material would cost, and its value would make any buyer sit up and take notice.

“I'll drive you out to Bolton,” volunteered Nancy. ‘The train leaves at fivethirty.”

“Anxious to get me on my way, eh?” he grinned. Then he turned to Bradley. “Still feel like risking your money, Jim?’’ “You bet I do! Eight thousand is no good by itself. If I can’t have more than that, I’d just as soon be busted. You do your best and there’ll be no kicks from me, even if I lose it all to the last, lone buck.” “It’s a deal, then. Cut off about fifteen yards of that stuff for me, Jim, and I’ll pick it up before I leave.”

When Harmon went over to the boardinghouse to pack up, Nancy promised to call for him in plenty of time to drive him out to the station at Bolton.

Joe, the guide, was on the mend. He had passed the crisis. A strong heart and a powerful physique had pulled him through. He was still weak and it would be some time before he would be on his feet again. His sloe-black eyes lighted with pleasure when Harmon dropped in to see him and say good-by.

“Good man,” muttered Joe. “Some time, I pay.”

“Forget it. All you have to think of is about getting well. I’ve got to go away for a few days, Joe, and when I come back I’ll expect to see you sitting up. We’ll be fishing together before the summer is over.” The eyes of the sick man followed Harmon as he went out of the room. Narrow-lidded eyes, full of devotion.

“Land sakes, I’ve hardly had time to get acquainted with you yet,” declared Ma Griggs when Harmon came downstairs. “What with you bein’ down at the mill almost every minute and what with me helpin’ the nurse look after that poor sick fellow, seems like I’ve only seen you at mealtimes. Now, you’re sure you’re cornin’ back?”

“Sure,” promised Harmon. “I’ll be back, if only to clean up on one of your pies, ma.”

“Mr. Bradley is staying, ain’t he?” “Yes. You’ll look after him, won’t you? And take care of Joe. We owe you a lot for what you’ve done already.”

“Shucks. You couldn’t kill that Indian if you tried. Come out in the kitchen and have a bite before you go. No use starting out hungry.”

To please her, Harmon tackled a quarter section of custard pie. He had to argue with considerable eloquence before he could persuade Ma Griggs to give up the notion of packing a large shoebox with lunch to sustain him on his journey.

“How are you getting out to Bolton?” she asked.

“Nancy is driving me out. She said she’d call forme.”

“Nancy?” Ma Griggs darted Harmon a shrewd glance. “Cálling her by her first name now. hey?”

"Why—it seems as if I’ve known her for years. I’ve been around the mill office so much in the past week —-”

“So I’ve noticed,” remarked Ma Griggs. “Mighty fine girl, Nancy. Shows plenty of common sense, mostly. Just one thing she and I don't agree about ..."

Ma Griggs became abruptly silent and began clattering dishes in the sink.

“And what is that?” asked Harmon.

“It isn’t a what. It’s a who,” she snapped. “It’s none of my business, only I hate to see anybody make a fool of themselves.” Ma Griggs now decided that she had said enough and vanished into the dining room. Harmon was mystified. The

sharp honk of an automobile horn interrupted his speculations.

“Here she is now!” shouted Ma Griggs, bustling back into the kitchen. “Better put an apple in your pocket, to eat on the train.”

OUT ON the verandah, Harmon gave Ma Griggs a friendly hug and hurried down the steps. Nancy was waiting at the wheel of a shabby roadster. Slim and boyish in skirt and sweater, she waved to Ma Griggs. “Hi, ma. I’m stealing your star boarder.”

“Looks like a elopement,” bawled ma. “Don’t you forget to come back, Nancy. Good-by, Mr. Harmon. Pleasant journey. Good luck.”

Bradley was waiting with the parcel of cloth when they drove up to the office. He tossed the package into the front seat and gave Harmon a slap on the back.

“There you are. If that doesn’t carry you through the enemy’s lines, then I don’t know woollens. Good luck, Kent.” He slipped an envelope into Harmon’s hand. “Better take that along in case they want it on the line.”

Harmon opened the envelope as the roadster swung into the road to Bolton. It contained a cheque. A cheque for eight thousand and forty dollars.

“Now there’s a man !” he said to Nancy, and showed her the slip of paper. “Drains his bank account dry, hands me every cent he has in the world, and doesn’t even ask for a receipt. Just because he thinks I might have to put up the cash to swing a deal. How can I lose out with a partner like that?”

“Oh, Kent, you can’t lose! You mustn’t lose!” exclaimed Nancy. “I was so discouraged and blue until you came along, and now I’m so excited and hopeful because there does seem to be a chance of saving Rainbow after all—there is a chance, isn’t there?”

No one knew better than Harmon the weight of the odds against him. But her faith made failure seem impossible.

“They can’t lick us, Nancy!” he declared buoyantly. “If I can’t come back with a contract in my pocket, I won’t come back at all.”

They drove in silence for a while. Harmon watched the sure grip of her slim young hands on the wheel. The car sped past ranks of white birches, swept down the dusty road that followed the course of the river. Below them, finally, lay the town of Bolton, with its rambling pulp mill and its disorderly rows of shacks and unpainted houses. The ugly little town was in such contrast to the spick-and-span village of Rainbow that Harmon couldn’t help saying: “I can appreciate your

father’s vision better after seeing this.” Nancy gave him a grateful glance.

“It is squalid and dirty, isn’t it? I never see it without feeling more appreciation for our own little village. I love Rainbow.” And as the car swung down into Bolton and sped toward the railway station, the girl continued: “You don’t know what it means to me—to feel that we’re going to have some help at last—that there is a chance. Dad’s whole life is wrapped up in Rainbow, And my life too. I used to cry at nights after the workmen left and the village was deserted.”

Harmon felt a sudden surge of confidence. His hand closed impulsively over Nancy’s hand on the wheel.

“Rainbow is coming back!” he said. “It’s got to come back. If I can just raise that money—why. I’ll work twenty-four hours a day and feel that I’m having a whale of a time.”

He meant it. For Rainbow’s comeback would be Kent Harmon’s comeback too.

HARMON didn’t sleep well on the train. The farther away he got from Rainbow, the more hopeless the whole affair seemed in perspective. He wondered if he had bitten off more than any one man could hope to chew. He could foresee a thousand obstacles. Unanswered questions bothered him Why did the Hol-

combs refuse to listen to any criticism of Nationwide Woollens and that industrial buccaneer, Charles Daggett? What was behind Ma Griggs' cryptic remark about Nancy? Oddly enough, that hint about “people making fools of themselves” stuck in Harmon’s mind like a burr. It loomed bigger than any of the really vital business matters that concerned him.

Confidence, however, varies with the hour, the weather and the state of one’s digestion. A bath, a shave and a hot breakfast did wonders next morning. The city streets were warm with spring sunshine. Kent Harmon set out from his hotel, with the bundle of Rainbow doth under his arm, feeling in shape to whip the world.

“Well, well! If it isn’t the prodigal son himself!” shouted Bob Thornton, when Harmon strode briskly into a fourteenthfloor office sharp on time for a ten o’clock appointment. “How are you, Kent? It’s grand to see you again.”

He was a plump, bald, affable man, this senior partner of Thornton and Brinkley, and there was no pretense about the friendliness of his welcome. “Sit down, Kent. Sit down and rest your feet. What have you been doing with yourself? You look like a million.”

“Same to you, Bob, and many of them,” grinned Harmon, and pulled up a chair. "Where’s Brink?”

“Mister Brinkley is in his office just now. Somebody with him. I think. Well, you’re a sight for sore eyes, Kent. What’s the news? Have you landed anything yet?” “Some trout.”

Thornton pursed his lips.

“That all?”

“I haven’t been offered the presidency of Nationwide Woollens, if that’s what you mean, Bob. But I've got something on the fire. That’s why I’m here.”

“What’s it all about? I knew we’d be hearing from you again before long. I said to Brink, when they froze you out of Nationwide, I said: ‘Brink, that Harmon fellow will be back in the textile game hip deep inside six months. You watch.’ Let’s hear the story, Kent.”

Harmon undid his parcel, unrolled his sample of cloth across the desk.

Then he sat back to watch the expression on the broker’s face. Thornton’s eyes widened, and he leaned forward. He ran his hand across the face of the cloth, felt the texture of a single thickness, then stood up and walked around the table to get the effect of the light from different angles.

“Nice stuff,” he said at last, and Harmon knew that he had not erred in his judgment, for even “pretty fair” was high praise from this man whose profits depended largely upon establishing the lowest possible price before accepting an assignment. “Yes, Kent, that is a nice piece of goods. Excellent! Whose is it? Where is it from? Where do you come in on the program?”

“Until you have signed an order for about fifty thousand pieces of it, I am not at liberty to say. I can tell you, though, that I am a representative of the concern and I’ll be in charge of the manufacturing —if that is any assurance to you.”

“Hm-m. I see. You aren’t, by any chance, hooked up with—but of course you aren’t. I should have known if you were.”

“What do you mean?” Harmon asked sharply. “You haven’t gone over to Nationwide, have you?”

“Well—er—yes—in a way,” admitted the other. “Nothing binding, you understand, only—well—we thought it better to get in when we could. After they get absolute control it won’t be so easy.” “You're making a big mistake.” Harmon told him. with the frankness excused by a long acquaintance. “They haven’t won control yet, and, if they had, you would have no assurance they would retain you as an agent. The little fellow is your one sure hope of existence. Once let them wipe out competition and secure a monopoly, and you haven’t a single weapon left with Which to fight. Your only hope would bo

to curry favor with them and they would drop you like an old glove if they chose.”

“That’s why we decided to go with them. It is their supporters, the loyal ones who stood by them when they were making their fight, who will get the gravy. Speaking confidentially, though”—Thornton lowered his voice—“we haven’t cut all our old ties. We couldn't, with the issue still undecided. There is no doubt in my mind as to the outcome, but—well—we are handling a bit of stuff on the side; rebilling it. you know, through another house. We might possibly do something for you in that way.”

“That doesn’t sound too good,” Harmon said wryly. “It looks as though you were playing with fire. Watch out that Nationwide doesn't catch you at it. or you will get your fingers scorched. Bob, I have something here. It’s original and it has quality. I have been over the whole setup and no one can beat us on price. I would like to see you backing us in it. We could go places together, but it would have to be a fight in the open where you could go out boldly for the big orders. It can’t be done in any other way.”

“That lets us out then, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t dare touch it—and I know Brinkley would agree with me. I would like to help you, Kent. You have given me a lot of profitable business, but it is a case of self-preservation. Sorry, of course—and, by the way, I haven’t had the opportunity to tell you until now, but I think we understand the circumstances which caused you to resign from Nationwide. Pretty raw deal to make you the goat.”

“They thought to put me down for the count, but they failed. I have found a weapon with which to fight, and I’m going to use it. Somewhere I’ll find a man who dares to call his soul his own. and we will put this on the market. I thought that you were the man, Bob. but it seems I was mistaken. I am not blaming you—under the circumstances I might do the same thing — but there can be no middle ground.”

HARMON had risen as he spoke. and now he leaned across the desk, the knuckles of his clenched hands resting on the outspread cloth. Footsteps sounded within an adjoining room, but he heeded neither them nor the opening of a door behind them. Still leaning across the desk he said: “Better come in with me, Bob ! If you string along with the Nationwide crowd, Daggett will cut your throat as ruthlessly as he cut mine.”

“It seems that I am being discussed.” said a well-remembered voice behind him. Harmon swung around.

Charles Daggett, of Nationwide Woollens was standing in the doorway of the adjoining office. The peaked, nervous face of Brinkley peered out from behind him.

He was a big man, Daggett, big and blond and poker-faced. He had the broadshouldered, rugged frame of a football hero, the regular features and crisp yellow hair of a matinee idol. The sort of man who would stand out in a crowd ; the sort of man who would be a magnet for women’s glances. He gave an impression of cold efficiency and strength. As he stood there in the doorway, his hands thrust into the side pockets of his coat, his face was a bland mask. But the eyes flickered over Harmon like a whiplash.

“Did I hear something said concerning my aptitude as a throat-slitter?”

Harmon faced his enemy.

“You did !" he snapped.

Daggett ’s eyes fell on the sample of cloth on the desk. Then they rested on Thornton, who looked guilty. They came back to Harmon.

“You should know,” said Daggett calmly. “I believe in it. As a punishment for traitors.” Then he said to Thom ton: “I advise you to be careful about doing business with one of Nationwide’s enemies.”

The implied threat was obvious,

Harmon folded his arms.

“Think I’m licked, Daggett?” he said.

Daggett’s face was expressionless. He shrugged.

“You were kicked out of Nationwide because you couldn’t be trusted. Because you were a double-crosser. You’re through, Harmon. I don’t know what you’re up to now”—his eyes fell curiously on the cloth sample again—“but it doesn’t matter. You're wasting your time. I’ll see to that.”

“You’re right when you say I was kicked out of Nationwide Woollens because I couldn’t be trusted.” Harmon snapped. “I couldn’t be trusted to back up your dirty work. If that’s being a doublecrosser, then I plead guilty. But if you think I’m licked just because your outfit froze me out of one company, you never made a bigger mistake. You’re going to hear plenty from me. Daggett, before you’re many weeks older.”

Daggett raised his eyebrows.

“That’s very interesting. I’ll have to keep it in mind. But I don’t think I’ll hear anything that will cost me any sleep.” He turned and strode out of the office.

“Well.” Harmon said grimly, “that’s that. You’ve heard a declaration of war, Bob.”

Thornton looked distressed.

“I’m darned sorry. Kent. I didn’t know he was in Brinkley’s office or I’d have warned you. It’s a tough break. Daggett will do plenty of telephoning in the next half hour, laying down the law. Inside half an hour there won’t be a textile broker in town who’ll touch your proposition with a fortv-foot pole. Boy, when Daggett cracks the whip nowadays—well, you can see for yourself how we have to jump !”

To be Continued