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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 14177

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"And now," announced Sam in calm triumph as they neared Hollis Creek Inn, "I'll finish up this deal right away. There is no use in my holding for a further rise at this time, and I'll just sell these trees to your father."

"To father!" she gasped, and then, as it dawned upon her that she had been out all morning to help Sam Turner buy up trees to sell to her own father at a profit, she burst forth into shrieks of laughter.

"What's the joke?" Sam asked, regarding her in amazement, and then, more or less dimly, he perceived. "Still," he said, relapsing into serious consideration of the affair, "your father will be in luck to buy those trees at all, even at the ten dollars a thousand profit he'll have to pay me. There is not less than a hundred thousand feet of walnut in that grove.

"Mercy!" she said. "Why, that will make you a thousand dollars for this morning's drive; and the opportunity was entirely accidental, one which would not have occurred if you hadn't come over to see me in this machine. I think I ought to have a commission."

"You ought to be fined," Sam retorted. "You had me scared stiff at one time."

"How was that?" she demanded.

"Why, of course you didn't think, but when you told the boys that I was going out to buy a walnut grove, they were right on their way to see your father. It would have been very natural for one of them to mention our errand. Your father might have immediately inquired where there was walnut to be found, and have telephoned to old man Gifford before I could reach him."

"You needn't have worried!" stated Miss Josephine in a tone so indignant that Sam turned to her in astonishment. "My father would not have done anything so despicable as that, I am quite sure!"

"He wouldn't!" exclaimed Sam. "I'll bet he would. Why, how do you suppose your father became rich in the lumber trade if it wasn't through snapping up bargains every time he found one?"

"I have no doubt that my father has been and is a very alert business man," retorted Miss Josephine most icily; "but after he knew that you had started out actually to purchase a tract of lumber, he would certainly consider that you had established a prior claim upon the property."

"Your father's name is Theophilus Stevens, isn't it?"


"Humph!" said Sam, but he did not explain that exclamation, nor was he asked to explain. Miss Stevens had been deeply wounded by the assault upon her father's business morality, and she desired to hear no further elaboration of the insult.

She was glad that they were drawing up now to the porch, glad this ride, with its many disagreeable features, was over, although she carefully gathered up her bright-berried branches, which were not half so much withered as she had expected them to be, and held her geranium slips cautiously as she alighted.

Her father came out to the edge of the porch to meet them. He paid no attention to his daughter.

"Well, Sam Turner," said Mr. Stevens, stroking his aggressive beard, "I hear you got it, confound you! What do you want for your lumber contract?"

"Just the advance of this morning's quotations," replied Sam. "Princeman tell you I was after it?"

"No, not at first," said Stevens. "I received a telegram about that grove just an hour ago, from my partner. Princeman was with me when the telegram came, and he told me then that you had just gone out on the trail. I did my best to get Gifford by 'phone before you could reach him."

"Father!" exclaimed Miss Josephine.

"What's the matter, Jo?"

"You say you actually tried to-to get in ahead of Mr. Turner in buying this lumber, knowing that he was going down there purposely for it?"

"Why, certainly," admitted her father.

"But did you know that I was with Mr. Turner?"

"Why, certainly!"

"Father!" was all she could gasp, and without deigning to say good-by to Mr. Turner, or to thank him for the ride or the bouquet of branches or even the geranium slips which she had received under false pretenses, she hurried away to her room, oppressed with Heaven only knows what mortification, and also with what wonder at the ways of men!

However, Princeman and Billy Westlake and young Hollis with the curly hair were impatiently waiting for Miss Josephine at the tennis court, as they informed her in a jointly signed note sent up to her by a boy, and hastily removing the dust of the road she ran down to join them. As she went across the lawn, tennis bat in hand, Sam Turner, discussing lumber with Mr. Stevens, saw her and stopped talking abruptly to admire the trim, graceful figure.

"Does your daughter play tennis much?" he inquired.

"A great deal," returned Mr. Stevens, expanding with pride. "Jo's a very expert player. She's better at it than any of these girls, and she really doesn't care to play except with experts. Princeman, Hollis and Billy Westlake are easily the champions here."

"I see," said Sam thoughtfully.

"I suppose you're a crack player yourself," his host resumed, glancing at Sam's bat.

"Me? No, worse than a dub. I never had time; that is, until now. I'll tell you, though, this being away from the business grind is a great thing. You don't know how I enjoy the fresh air and the being out in the country this way, and the absolute freedom from business cares and worries."

"But where are you going?" asked Stevens, for Sam was getting up. "You'll stay to lunch with us, won't you?"

"No, thanks," replied Sam, looking at his watch. "I expect some word from my kid brother. I have wired him to send some samples of marsh pulp, and the paper we've had made from it."

"Marsh pulp," repeated Mr. Stevens. "That's a new one on me. What's it like?"

"Greatest stunt on earth," replied Sam confidently. "It is our scheme to meet the deforestation danger on the way-coming."

Already he was reaching in his pocket for paper and pencil, and sat down again at the side of Mr. Stevens, who immediately began stroking his aggressive beard. Fifteen minutes later Sam briskly got up again and Mr. Stevens shook hands with him.

"That's a great scheme," he said, and he gazed after Sam's broad shoulders admiringly as that young man strode down the steps.

On his way Sam passed the tennis court where the one girl and three young men were engaged in a most dextrous game, a game which all the other amateurs of Hollis Creek Inn had stopped their own sets to watch. In the pause of changing sides Miss Josephine saw him and waved her hand and wafted a gay word to him. A second later she was in the air, a lithe, graceful figure, meeting a high "serve," and Sam walked on quite thoughtfully.

When he arrived at Meadow Brook his first care was for his telegram. It was there, and bore the assurance that the samples would arrive on the following morning. His next step was to hunt Miss Westlake. That plump young person forgot her pique of the morning in an instant when he came up to her with that smiling "been-looking-for-you-everywhere, mighty-glad-to-see-you" cordiality.

"I want you to

teach me tennis," he said immediately.

"I'm afraid I can't teach you much," she replied with becoming diffidence, "because I'm not a good enough player myself; but I'll do my best. We'll have a set right after luncheon; shall we?"

"Fine!" said he.

After luncheon Mr. Westlake and Mr. Cuthbert waylaid him, but he merely thrust his telegram into Mr. Westlake's hands, and hurried off to the tennis grounds with Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings and lanky Bob Tilloughby, who stuttered horribly and blushed when he spoke, and was in deadly seriousness about everything. Never did a man work so hard at anything as Sam Turner worked at tennis. He had a keen eye and a dextrous wrist, and he kept the game up to top-notch speed. Of course he made blunders and became confused in his count and overlooked opportunities, but he covered acres of ground, as Vivian Hastings expressed it, and when, at the end of an hour, they sat down, panting, to rest, young Tilloughby, with painful earnestness, assured him that he had "the mum-mum-makings of a fine tennis player."

Sam considered that compliment very thoughtfully, but he was a trifle dubious. Already he perceived that tennis playing was not only an occupation but a calling.

"Thanks," said he. "It's mighty nice of you to say so, Tilloughby. What's the next game?"

"The nun-nun-next game is a stroll," Tilloughby soberly advised him. "It always stus-stus-starts out as a foursome, and ends up in tut-tut-two doubles."

So they strolled. They wound along the brookside among some of the pretty paths, and in the rugged places Miss Westlake threw her weight upon Sam's helping arm as much as possible; in the concealed places she languished, which she did very prettily, she thought, considering her one hundred and sixty-three pounds. They took him through a detour of shady paths which occupied a full hour to traverse, but this particular game did not wind up in "two doubles." In spite of all the excellent tête-à-tête opportunities which should have risen for both couples, Miss Westlake was annoyed to find Miss Hastings right close behind, and holding even the conversation to a foursome.

In the meantime, Sam Turner took careful lessons in the art of talking twaddle, and they never knew that he was bored. Having entered into the game he played it with spirit, and before they had returned to the house Mr. Tilloughby was calling him Sus-Sus-Sam.

The girls disappeared for their beauty sleep, and Sam found McComas and Billy Westlake hunting for him.

"Do you play base-ball?" inquired McComas.

"A little. I used to catch, to help out my kid brother, who is an expert pitcher."

"Good!" said McComas, writing down Sam's name. "Princeman will pitch, but we needed a catcher. The rivalry between Meadow Brook and Hollis Creek is intense this year. They've captured nearly all the early trophies, but we're going over there next week for a match game and we're about crazy to win."

"I'll do the best I can," promised Sam. "Got a base-ball? We'll go out and practise."

They slammed hot ones into each other for a half hour, and when they had enough of it, McComas, wiping his brow, exclaimed approvingly:

"You'll do great with a little more warming up. We have a couple of corking players, but we need them. Hollis always pitches for Hollis Creek, and he usually wins his game. On baseball day he's the idol of all the girls."

Sam Turner placed his hand meditatively upon the back of his neck as he walked in to dress for dinner. Making a good impression upon the girls was a separate business, it seemed, and one which required much preparation. Well, he was in for the entire circus, but he realized that he was a little late in starting. In consequence he could not afford to overlook any of the points; so, before dressing for dinner, he paid a quiet visit to the greenhouses.

That evening, while he was bowling with all the earnestness that in him lay, Josephine Stevens, resisting the importunities of young Hollis for some music, sat by her father.

"Father," she asked after long and sober thought, "was it right for you, knowing Mr. Turner to be after that walnut lumber, to try to get it away from him by telephoning?"

"It certainly was!" he replied emphatically. "Turner went down there with a deliberate intention of buying that lumber before I could get it, so that he could sell it to me at as big a gain as possible. I paid him one thousand dollars profit for his contract. I had struggled my best to beat him to it; only I was too late. Both of us were playing the game according to the rules, but he is a younger player."

"I see." Another long pause. "Here's another thing. Mr. Turner happened to know of this increase in the price of lumber, and he hurried down there to a man who didn't know about that, and bought it. If Mr. Gifford had known of the new rates, Mr. Turner could not have bought those trees at the price he did, could he?"

"Certainly not," agreed her father. "He would have had to pay nearly a thousand dollars more for them."

"Then that wasn't right of Mr. Turner," she asserted.

"My child," said Mr. Stevens wearily, "all business is conducted for a profit, and the only way to get it is by keeping alive and knowing things that other people will find out to-morrow. Sam Turner is the shrewdest and the livest young man I've met in many a day, and he's square as a die. I'd take his word on any proposition; wouldn't you?"

"Yes, I think I'd take his word," she admitted, and very positively, after mature deliberation. "But truly, father, don't you think he's too much concentrated on business? He hasn't a thought in his mind for anything else. For instance, this morning he came over to take me an automobile ride around Bald Hill, and when he found out about this walnut grove, without either apology or explanation to me he ordered the chauffeur to drive right down there."

"Fine," laughed her father. "I'd like to hire him for my manager, if I could only offer him enough money. But I don't see your point of criticism. It seems to me that he's a mighty presentable and likable young fellow, good looking, and a gentleman in the sense in which I like to use that word."

"Yes, he is all of those things," she admitted again; "but it is a flaw in a young man, isn't it," she persisted, betraying an unusually anxious interest, "for him never to think of a solitary thing but just business?"

They were sitting in one of the alcoves of the assembly room, and at that moment a bell-boy, wandering around the place with apparent aimlessness, spied them and brought to Miss Josephine a big box. She opened it and an exclamation of pleasure escaped her. In the box was a huge bouquet of exquisite roses, soft and glowing, delicious in their fragrance.

Impulsively she buried her face in them.

"Oh, how delightful!" she cried, and she drew out the white card which peeped forth from amidst the stems. "They are from Mr. Turner!" she gasped.

"You're quite right about him," commented her father dryly. "He's all business."

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