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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 12231

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Miss Hastings did not exactly snub Sam in the morning, but she was surprisingly indifferent to him after all her previous cordiality, and even went so far as to forget the early morning constitutional she was to have taken with him; instead she passed him coolly by on the porch right after an extremely early breakfast, and sauntered away down lovers' lane, arm in arm with Billy Westlake, who was already looking very much comforted. Sam, who had been dreading that walk, released it with a sigh of intense satisfaction, planning that in the interim until time for his drive, he would improve his tennis a bit with Miss Westlake. He was just hunting her up when he met Bob Tilloughby, who invited him to join a riding party from both houses for a trip over to Sunset Rock.

"Sorry," said Sam with secret satisfaction, "but I've an engagement over at Hollis Creek at ten o'clock," and Tilloughby carried that information back to Miss Westlake, who had sent him.

An engagement at Hollis Creek at ten o'clock, eh? Well, Miss Westlake knew who that meant; none other than her dear friend, Josephine Stevens! Being a young lady of considerable directness, she went immediately to her father.

"Have you definitely made up your mind, pop, to take stock in Mr. Turner's company?" she asked, sitting down by that placid gentleman.

Without removing his interlocked hands from their comfortable resting-place in plain sight, he slowly twirled his thumbs some three times, and then stopped.

"Yes, I think I shall," he said.

"About how much?" Miss Westlake wanted to know.

"Oh, about twenty-five thousand."

"Who's to get it?"

"Why, I thought I'd divide it between Billy and you."

Miss Westlake put her hand on her father's arm.

"Say, pop, give it to me, please," she pleaded. "Billy can take the next stock you buy, or I'll let him have some of my other in exchange."

Mr. Westlake surveyed his daughter out of a pair of fish-gray eyes without turning his head.

"You seem to be especially interested in this stock. You asked about it yesterday and Sunday and one day last week."

"Yes, I am," she admitted. "It's a really first-class business investment, isn't it?"

"Yes, I think it is," replied Westlake; "as good as any stock in an untried company can be, anyhow. At least it's an excellent investment chance."

"That's what I thought," she said. "I'm judging, of course, only by what you say, and by my impression of Mr. Turner. It seems to me that almost anything he goes into should be highly successful."

Mr. Westlake slowly whirled his thumbs in the other direction, three separate twirls, and stopped them.

"Yes," he agreed. "I'm investing the money in just Sam myself, although the scheme itself looks like a splendid one."

Miss Westlake was silent a moment while she twisted at the button on her father's coat sleeve.

"I don't quite understand this matter of stock control," she went on presently. "You've explained it to me, but I don't seem quite to get the meaning of it."

"Well, it's like this," explained Mr. Westlake. "Sam Turner, with only a paltry investment, say about five thousand dollars, wants to be able to dictate the entire policy of a million-dollar concern. In other words, he wants a majority of stock, which will let him come into the stock-holders' meetings, and vote into office his own board of directors, who will do just what he says; and if he wanted to he might have them vote the entire profits of the concern for his salary."

"But, father, he wouldn't do anything like that," she protested, shocked.

"No, he probably wouldn't," admitted Mr. Westlake, "but I wouldn't be wise to let him have the chance, just the same."

"But, father," objected Miss Hallie, after further thought, "it's his invention, you know, and his process, and if he doesn't have control couldn't all you other stock-holders get together and appropriate the profits yourselves?"

Mr. Westlake gave his thumbs one quick turn.

"Yes," he grudgingly confessed. "In fact, it's been done," and there was a certain grim satisfaction at the corners of his mouth which his daughter could not interpret, as he thought back over the long list of absorptions which had made old Bill Westlake the power that he was.

"But-but, father," and she hesitated a long time.

"Yes," he encouraged her.

"Even if you won't let him have enough stock to obtain control, if some one other person should own enough of the stock, couldn't they put their stock with his and let him do just about as he liked?"

"Oh, yes," agreed Mr. Westlake without any twirling of his thumbs at all; "that's been done, too."

"Would this twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of stock that you're buying, pop, if it were added to what you men are willing to let Mr. Turner have, give him control?"

Again Mr. Westlake turned his speculative gray eyes upon his daughter and gave her a long, careful scrutiny, which she received with downcast lashes.

"No," he replied.

"How much would?"

"Well, fifty thousand would do it."

"Say, pop-"


Another long interval.

"I wish you'd buy fifty thousand for me in place of twenty-five."

"Humph," grunted Mr. Westlake, and after one sharp glance at her he looked down at his big fat thumbs and twirled them for a long, long time. "Well," said he, "Sam Turner is a fine young man. I've known him in a business way for five or six years, and I never saw a flaw in him of any sort. All right. You give Billy your sugar stock and I'll buy you this fifty thousand."

Miss Westlake reached over and kissed her father impulsively.

"Thanks, pop," she said. "Now there's another thing I want you to do."

"What, more?" he demanded.

"Yes, more," and this time the color deepened in her cheeks. "I want you to hunt up Mr. Turner and tell him that you're going to take that much."

Mr. Westlake with a smile reached up and pinched his daughter's cheek.

"Very well, Hallie, I'll do it," said he.

She patted him affectionately on the bald spot.

"Good for you," she said. "Be sure you see him this morning,

though, and before half-past nine."

"You're particular about that, eh?"

"Yes, it's rather important," she admitted, and blushed furiously.

Westlake patted his daughter on the shoulder.

"Hallie," said He, "if Billy only had your common-sense business instinct, I wouldn't ask for anything else in this world; but Billy is a saphead."

Mr. Westlake, thinking that he understood the matter very thoroughly, though in reality overunderstanding it-nice word, that-took it upon himself with considerable seriousness to hunt up Sam Turner; but it was fully nine-thirty before he found that energetic young man. Sam was just going down the driveway in a neat little trap behind a team of spirited grays.

"Wait a minute, Sam, wait a minute," hailed Westlake, puffing laboriously across the closely cropped lawn.

Sam held up his horses abruptly, and they stood swinging their heads and champing at their bits, while Sam, with a trace of a frown, looked at his watch.

"What's your rush?" asked Westlake. "I've been hunting for you everywhere. I want to talk about some important features of that Marsh Pulp Company of yours."

"All right," said Sam. "I'm open for conversation. I'll see you right after lunch."

"No. I must see you now," insisted Westlake. "I've-I've got to decide on some things right this morning. I-I've got to know how to portion out my investments."

Sam looked at his watch and was genuinely distressed.

"I'm sorry," said he, "but I have an engagement over at Hollis Creek at exactly ten o'clock, and I've scant time to make it."

"Business?" demanded Westlake.

"No," confessed Sam slowly.

"Oh, social then. Well, social engagements in America always play second fiddle to business ones, and don't you forget it. I'll talk about this matter this morning or I won't talk about it at all."

Sam stopped nonplussed. Westlake was an important factor in the prospective Marsh Pulp Company.

"Tell you what you do," said he, after some quick thought. "Why can't you get in the trap and drive over to Hollis Creek with me? We can talk on the way and you can visit with your friends over there until time for luncheon; then I'll bring you back and we can talk on the way home, too."

Miss Hallie and Princeman and young Tilloughby came cantering down the drive and waved hands at the two men.

"All right," said Westlake decisively, looking after his daughter and answering her glance with a nod. "Wait until I get my hat," and he wheeled abruptly away.

Sam fumed and fretted and jerked his watch back and forth from his pocket, while Westlake wasted fifteen precious minutes in waddling up to the house and hunting for his hat and returning with it, and two minutes more in bungling his awkward way into the buggy; then Sam started the grays at such a terrific pace that, until they came to the steep hill midway of the course, there was no chance for conversation. While the horses pulled up this steep hill, however, Westlake had his opportunity.

"I suppose you know," he said, "that you're not going to be allowed over two thousand shares of common stock for your patents."

"I'm beginning to give up the hope of having more," admitted Sam. "However, I'm going to stick it out to the last ditch."

"It won't be permitted, so you might as well give up that idea. How much stock do you think of buying?"

"About five thousand dollars' worth of the preferred," said Sam.

"Which will give you fifty bonus shares of the common. I suppose of course you figure on eventually securing control in some way or other."

"Not being an infant, I do," returned Sam, flicking his whip at a weed and gathering his lines up quickly as the mettled horses jumped.

"I don't know of any one person who's going to buy enough stock to help you out in that plan; unless I should do it myself," suggested Westlake, and waited.

Sam surveyed the other man long and silently. Westlake, as the largest minority shareholder, had done some very strange things to corporations in his time.

"Neither do I," said Sam non-committally.

There was another long silence.

"If you carry through this Marsh Pulp Company to a successful termination, you will be fairly well fixed for a young man, won't you?" the older man ventured by and by.

"Well," hesitated Sam, "I'll have a start anyhow."

"I should say you would," Westlake assured him, placing his hands in his favorite position for contemplative discussion. "You'll have a good enough start to enable you to settle down."

"Yes," admitted Sam.

"What you need, my boy, is a wife," went on Mr. Westlake. "No man's business career is properly assured until he has a wife to steady him down."

"I believe that," agreed Sam. "I've come to the same conclusion myself, and to tell you the truth of the matter I've been contemplating marriage very seriously since I've been down here."

"Good!" approved Westlake. "You're a fine boy, Sam. I may tell you right now that I approve of both you and your decision very heartily. I rather thought there was something in the wind that way."

"Yes," confessed Sam hesitantly. "I don't mind admitting that I have even gone so far as to pick out the girl, if she'll have me."

Mr. Westlake smiled.

"I don't think there will be any trouble on that score," said he. "Of course, Sam, I'm not going to force your confidence, or anything of that sort, but-but I want to tell you that I think you're all right," and he very solemnly shook hands with Mr. Turner.

They had just reached the top of the hill when Westlake again returned to business.

"I'm glad to know you're going to settle down, Sam," he said. "It inspires me with more confidence in your affairs, and I may say that I stand ready to subscribe, in my daughter's name, for fifty thousand dollars' worth of the stock of your company."

"Well," said Sam, giving the matter careful weight. "It will be a good investment for her."

Before Mr. Westlake had any time to reply to this, the grays, having just passed the summit of the hill, leaped forward in obedience to another swish of Sam's whip.

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