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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 10199

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The youngish-looking man who so vigorously swung off the train at Restview, wore a pair of intensely dark blue eyes which immediately photographed everything within their range of vision-flat green country, shaded farm-houses, encircling wooded hills and all-weighed it and sorted it and filed it away for future reference; and his clothes clung on him with almost that enviable fit found only in advertisements. Immediately he threw his luggage into the tonneau of the dingy automobile drawn up at the side of the lonely platform, and promptly climbed in after it. Spurred into purely mechanical action by this silent decisiveness, the driver, a grizzled graduate from a hay wagon, and a born grump, as promptly and as silently started his machine. The crisp and perfect start, however, was given check by a peremptory voice from the platform.

"Hey, you!" rasped the voice. "Come back here!"

As there were positively no other "Hey yous" in the landscape, the driver and the alert young man each acknowledged to the name, and turned to see an elderly gentleman, with a most aggressive beard and solid corpulency, gesticulating at them with much vigor and earnestness. Standing beside him was a slender sort of girl in a green outfit, with very large brown eyes and a smile of amusement which was just a shade mischievous. The driver turned upon his passenger a long and solemn accusation.

"Hollis Creek Inn?" he asked sternly.

"Meadow Brook," returned the passenger, not at all abashed, and he smiled with all the cheeriness imaginable.

"Oh," said the driver, and there was a world of disapprobation in his tone, as well as a subtle intonation of contempt. "You are not Mr. Stevens of Boston."

"No," confessed the passenger; "Mr. Turner of New York. I judge that to be Mr. Stevens on the platform," and he grinned.

The driver, still declining to see any humor whatsoever in the situation, sourly ran back to the platform. Jumping from his seat he opened the door of the tonneau, and waited with entirely artificial deference for Mr. Turner of New York to alight. Mr. Turner, however, did nothing of the sort. He merely stood up in the tonneau and bowed gravely.

"I seem to be a usurper," he said pleasantly to Mr. Stevens of Boston. "I was expected at Meadow Brook, and they were to send a conveyance for me. As this was the only conveyance in sight I naturally supposed it to be mine. I very much regret having discommoded you."

He was looking straight at Mr. Stevens of Boston as he spoke, but, nevertheless, he was perfectly aware of the presence of the girl; also of her eyes and of her smile of amusement with its trace of mischievousness. Becoming conscious of his consciousness of her, he cast her deliberately out of his mind and concentrated upon Mr. Stevens. The two men gazed quite steadily at each other, not to the point of impertinence at all, but nevertheless rather absorbedly. Really it was only for a fleeting moment, but in that moment they had each penetrated the husk of the other, had cleaved straight down to the soul, had estimated and judged for ever and ever, after the ways of men.

"I passed your carryall on the road. It was broke down. It'll be here in about a half hour, I suppose," insisted the driver, opening the door of the tonneau still wider, and waving the descending pathway with his right hand.

Both Mr. Stevens of Boston and Mr. Turner of New York were very glad of this interruption, for it gave the older gentleman an object upon which to vent his annoyance.

"Is Meadow Brook on the way to Hollis Creek?" he demanded in a tone full of reproof for the driver's presumption.

The driver reluctantly admitted that it was.

"I couldn't think of leaving you in this dismal spot to wait for a dubious carryall," offered Mr. Stevens, but with frigid politeness. "You are quite welcome to ride with us, if you will."

"Thank you," said Mr. Turner, now climbing out of the machine with alacrity and making way for the others. "I had intended," he laughed, as he took his place beside the driver, "to secure just such an invitation, by hook or by crook."

For this assurance he received a glance from the big eyes; not at all a flirtatious glance, but one of amusement, with a trace of mischief. The remark, however, had well-nigh stopped all conversation on the part of Mr. Stevens, who suddenly remembered that he had a daughter to protect, and must discourage forwardness. His musings along these lines were interrupted by an enthusiastic outburst from Mr. Turner.

"By George!" exclaimed the latter gentleman, "what a fine clump of walnut trees; an even half-dozen, and every solitary one of them would trim sixteen inches."

"Yes," agreed the older man with keenly awakened interest, "they are fine specimens. They would scale six hundred feet apiece, if they'd scale an inch."

"You're in the lumber business, I take it," guessed the young man immediately, already reaching for his card-case. "My name is Turner, known a little better as Sam Turner, of Turner and Turner."

"Sam T

urner," repeated the older man thoughtfully. "The name seems distinctly familiar to me, but I do not seem, either, to remember of any such firm in the trade."

"Oh, we're not in the lumber line," replied Mr. Turner. "Not at all. We're in most anything that offers a profit. We-that is my kid brother and myself-have engineered a deal or two in lumber lands, however. It was only last month that I turned a good trade-a very good trade-on a tract of the finest trees in Wisconsin."

"The dickens!" exclaimed the older gentleman explosively. "So you're the Turner who sold us our own lumber! Now I know you. I'm Stevens, of the Maine and Wisconsin Lumber Company."

Sam Turner laughed aloud, in both surprise and glee. Mr. Stevens had now reached for his own card-case. The two gentlemen exchanged cards, which, with barely more than a glance, they poked in the other flaps of their cases; then they took a new and more interested inspection of each other. Both were now entirely oblivious to the girl, who, however, was by no means oblivious to them. She found them, in this new meeting, a most interesting study.

"You gouged us on that land, young man," resumed Mr. Stevens with a wry little smile.

"Worth every cent you paid us for it, wasn't it?" demanded the other.

"Y-e-s; but if you hadn't stepped into the deal at the last minute, we could have secured it for five or six thousand dollars less money."

"You used to go after these things yourself," explained Mr. Turner with an easy laugh. "Now you send out people empowered only to look and not to purchase."

"But what I don't yet understand," protested Mr. Stevens, "is how you came to be in the deal at all. When we sent out our men to inspect the trees they belonged to a chap in Detroit. When we came to buy them they belonged to you."

"Certainly," agreed the younger man. "I was up that way on other business, when I heard about your man looking over this valuable acreage; so I just slipped down to Detroit and hunted up the owner and bought it. Then I sold it to you. That's all."

He smiled frankly and cheerfully upon Mr. Stevens, and the frown of discomfiture which had slightly clouded the latter gentleman's brow, faded away under the guilelessness of it all; so much so that he thought to introduce his daughter.

Miss Josephine having been brought into the conversation, Mr. Turner, for the first time, bent his gaze fully upon her, giving her the same swift scrutiny and appraisement that he had the father. He was evidently highly satisfied with what he saw, for he kept looking at it as much as he dared. He became aware after a moment or so that Mr. Stevens was saying something to him. He never did get all of it, but he got this much:

"-so you'd be rather a good man to watch, wherever you go."

"I hope so," agreed the other briskly. "If I want anything, I go prepared to grab it the minute I find that it suits me."

"Do you always get everything you want?" asked the young lady.

"Always," he answered her very earnestly, and looked her in the eyes so speculatively, albeit unconsciously so, that she found herself battling with a tendency to grow pink.

Her father nodded in approval.

"That's the way to get things," he said. "What are you after now? More lumber?"

"Rest," declared Mr. Turner with vigorous emphasis. "I've worked like a nailer ever since I turned out of high school. I had to make the living for the family, and I sent my kid brother through college. He's just been out a year and it's a wonder the way he takes hold. But do you know that in all those times since I left school I never took a lay-off until just this minute? It feels glorious already. It's fine to look around this good stretch of green country and breathe this fresh air and look at those hills over yonder, and to realize that I don't have to think of business for two solid weeks. Just absolute rest, for me! I don't intend to talk one syllable of shop while I'm here. Hello! there's another clump of walnut trees. It's a pity they're scattered so that it isn't worth while to buy them up."

The girl laughed, a little silvery laugh which made any memory of grand opera seem harsh and jangling. Both men turned to her in surprise. Neither of them could see any cause for mirth in all the fields or sky.

"I beg your pardon for being so silly," she said; "but I just thought of something funny."

"Tell it to us," urged Mr. Turner. "I've never taken the time I ought to enjoy funny things, and I might as well begin right now."

But she shook her head, and in some way he acquired an impression that she was amused at him. His brows gathered a trifle. If the young lady intended to make sport of him he would take her down a peg or two. He would find her point of susceptibility to ridicule, and hammer upon it until she cried enough. That was his way to make men respectful, and it ought to work with women.

When they let him out at Meadow Brook, Mr. Stevens was kind enough to ask him to drop over to Hollis Creek. Mr. Turner, with impulsive alacrity, promised that he would.

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