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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 9734

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

No, Miss Stevens was sorry that she could not go walking with him that morning, which was the morning after the dance. She was very polite about it, too; almost too polite. Her voice over the telephone was as suave and as limpid as could possibly be, but there was a sort of metallic glitter behind it, as it were.

No, she could not see him that afternoon either. She had made a series of engagements, in fact, covering the entire day. Also, she regretted to say, upon further solicitation, that she had made engagements covering the entire following day.

No, she was not piqued about his last night's forgetfulness; by no means; certainly not; how absurd!

She quite understood. He had been talking business with her father, and naturally such a trifling detail as a dance with frivolous young people would not occur to him.

Frivolous young people! This was the exact point of the conversation at which Sam, with his ear glued to the receiver of the telephone and no necessity for concealing the concerned expression on his countenance, thought, in more or less of a panic, that he must really be getting old, which was a good joke, inasmuch as nobody ever took him to be over twenty-five. Heretofore his boyish appearance had worried him because it rather stood in the way of business, but now he began to fear that he was losing it; for he was nearing thirty!

Well, pleading was of no avail. He had to give it up. Reluctantly he went out and took a solitary walk, then came in and religiously played his two hours of tennis with Miss Westlake and Miss Hastings and Tilloughby. Was he not on vacation, and must he not enjoy himself? Just before he went in to luncheon, however, there was a telephone call for him.

Miss Stevens was perplexed to know what divine intuition had told him her obsession for maraschino chocolates. She had one in her fingers at the very moment she was telephoning, and she was going to pop it into her mouth while he talked. Being a mere man he could not realize how delightfully refreshing was a maraschino chocolate.

Sam had a lively picture of that dainty confection between the tips of her dainty fingers; he could see the white hand and the graceful wrist, and then he could see those exquisitely curved red lips parting with a flash of white teeth to receive the delicacy; and he had an impulse to climb through the telephone.

A little bird had told him about her preference, he stated. He had that little bird regularly in his employ to find out other preferences.

"I had those sent just to show you that I am not altogether absorbed in business," he went on; "that I can think of other things. Have another chocolate."

"I am," she laughingly said; "but I'm not going to eat them all. I'm going to save one or two for you."

"Good," returned Sam in huge delight and relief. "I'll come over to get them any time you say."

"All right," she gaily agreed. "As I told you this morning, I have an engagement for this afternoon, but if you'll come over after luncheon I'll try to find a half-hour or so for you anyhow."

Great blotches of perspiration sprang out on his forehead.

"Jinks!" he ejaculated. "You know, right after you telephoned me this morning I made an engagement with Mr. Blackrock and Mr. Cuthbert and Mr. Westlake, to go over some proposed incorporation papers."

"Oh, by all means, then, keep your engagement," she told him, and he could feel the instant frigidity which returned to her tone. A zero-like wave seemed to come right through the transmitter of the telephone and chill the perspiration of his brow into a cold trickle.

"No, I'll see if I can not set that engagement off for a couple of hours," he hastily informed her.

"By no means," she protested, more frigidly than before. "Come to think of it, I don't believe I'd have time anyhow. In fact, I'm sure that I would not. Mr. Hollis is calling me now. Good-by."

"Wait a minute," he called desperately into the telephone, but it was dead, and there is nothing in this world so dead as the telephone from which connection has been suddenly shut off.

Sam strode into the dining-room and went straight over to Blackrock's table.

"I find I have some pressing business right after luncheon," he said, bending over that gentleman's chair. "I can't possibly meet you at two o'clock. Will four do you?"

"Why, certainly," Mr. Blackrock was kind enough to say, and he furthermore agreed, with equal graciousness, to inform the others.

Sam ate his luncheon in worried silence, replying only in monosyllables to the remarks of McComas, who sat at his table, and of Mrs. McComas, who had taken quite a young-motherly fancy to him; and the amount that he ate was so much at variance with his usual hearty appetite that even the maid who waited on his table, a tall, gangling girl with a vinegar face and a kin

d heart, worried for fear he might be sick, and added unordered delicacies to his American plan meal. He went over to Hollis Creek in the swiftest conveyance he could obtain, which was naturally an auto, but he did not have 'Ennery for his chauffeur, of which he was heartily glad, for 'Ennery might have wanted to talk.

On the porch of Hollis Creek Inn he found Princeman and Mr. Stevens in earnest conversation. He knew what that meant. Princeman was already discussing with Mr. Stevens the matter of control of the Marsh Pulp Company. Princeman rose when Sam stepped up on the porch, and strolled away from Mr. Stevens. He nodded pleasantly to Turner, and the latter, returning the nod fully as pleasantly, was about to hurry on in search of Miss Josephine, when Mr. Stevens checked him.

"Hello, Sam," he called. "I've just been waiting to see you."

"All right," said Sam. "I'll be around presently."

"No, but come here," insisted Mr. Stevens.

Sam cast a nervous glance about the grounds and along the side porch; Miss Josephine most certainly was not among those present. He still hesitated, impatient to get away.

"Just a minute, Sam," insisted Stevens. "I want to talk to you right now."

With unwilling feet Sam went over.

"Sit down," directed Stevens, pushing forward a chair.

"What is it?" asked Sam, still standing.

"I have been talking with Princeman and Westlake about your Marsh Pulp Company."

"Yes," inquired Sam nervously.

"And everybody seems to be most enthusiastic about it. Fact of the matter is, my boy, I consider it a tremendous investment opportunity. The only drawback there seems to be is in the matter of stock distribution and voting power. I want you to explain this very fully to me."

"I thought you were quite satisfied with our talk last night," returned Sam, glancing hastily over his shoulder.

"I am, in so far as the investment goes, Sam. I've promised you that I'd take a good block of stock, and you've promised to make room for me in the company. I expect to go through with that, but I want to know about this other phase of the matter before I get into any entanglements with opposing factions. Now you sit right down there and tell me about it."

Despairingly Sam sat down and proceeded briefly and concisely to explain to him the various plans of incorporation which had been proposed. Ten minutes later he almost groaned, as a trap, drawn by a pair of handsome buckskin horses, driven by Princeman and containing Miss Josephine, crunched upon the gravel driveway in front of the porch. Miss Stevens greeted Mr. Turner very heartily indeed, Princeman stopping for that purpose. Sam ran down and shook hands with her. Oh, she was most cordial; just as cordial and polite as anybody he knew!

"I did not expect you at all," she said, "but I knew you were here, for I saw you from the window as you came up the drive. Pleasant weather, isn't it? Oh, papa!"

"Yes," answered Mr. Stevens ponderously from his place on the porch.

"Up on my dresser you will find a box of candy which Mr. Turner was kind enough to have sent me, and he confesses that he has never tasted maraschino chocolates. Won't you please run up and get them and let Mr. Turner sample them?"

"Huh!" grunted Mr. Stevens. "If Sam Turner insists upon running me up two flights of stairs on an errand of that sort, I suppose I'll have to go. But he won't."

"You're lazy," she said to her father in affectionate banter, then, with a wave of her hand and a bright nod to Mr. Turner, she was gone!

Sam trudged slowly up on the porch with the heart gone entirely out of him for business; and yet, as he approached Mr. Stevens he pulled himself together with a jerk. After all, she was gone, and he could not bring her back, and in his talk with Stevens he had just approached a grave and serious situation.

"The fact of the matter is, Mr. Stevens," said he as he sat down again, "these people are the very people I want to get into my concern, but they are old hands at the stock incorporation game, and even before I've organized the company they are planning to get it out of my hands. Now it is my scheme, mine and the kid brother's, and I don't propose to allow that."

"Well, Sam," said Mr. Stevens slowly, "you know capital of late has had a lot of experience with corporate business, and it isn't the fashionable thing this year for the control and the capital to be in separate hands-right at the very beginning."

This was the signal for the struggle, and Sam plunged earnestly into the conflict. At three-fifteen he suddenly rose and made his adieus. He would have liked to stay until Miss Josephine came back, so that he could make one more desperate attempt to set himself right with her, but there was that deferred engagement with Blackrock, and reluctantly he whirled back to Meadow Brook.

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