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The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 15393

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The morning train was due at ten o'clock. At ten o'clock also Sam was due at Hollis Creek to take his long deferred drive with Miss Stevens. It was a slight conflict, her engagement, but the solution to that was very easy. As early in the morning as he dared, Sam called up Miss Josephine.

"I've some glorious news," he said hopefully. "My kid brother will arrive at Restview on the ten o'clock train."

"You are to be congratulated," Miss Stevens told him, with an echo of his own delight.

"But you know we've an engagement to go driving at ten o'clock," he reminded her, still hopefully, but trembling in spirit.

There was an instant of hesitation, which ended in a laugh.

"Don't let that interfere," she said. "We can defer our drive until some other time, when fate is not so determined against it."

"But that doesn't suit me at all," he assured her. "Why can't you be ready at nine in place of ten, let me call for you at that time and drive over to Restview with me to meet Jack?"

"Is that his name?" she asked in blissfully reassuring tones. "You've never spoken of him as anybody but your 'kid brother.' Why of course I'll drive over to Restview with you. I shall be delighted to meet him."

Privately she had her own fears of what Jack Turner might turn out to be like. Sam was always so good in speaking of him, always held him in such tender regard, such profound admiration, that she feared he might prove to be perfect only in Sam's eyes.

"Good," said Sam. "Just for that I'm going to bring you over some choice blooms that I have been having the gardener save back for me," and he turned away from the telephone quite happy in the thought that for once he had been able to kill two birds with one stone without ruffling the feathers of either.

Armed with a huge consignment of brilliant blossoms, enough to transform her room into a fairy bower, he sped quite happily to Hollis Creek.

"Oh, gladiolas!" cried Miss Josephine, as he drove up. "How did you ever guess it! That little bird must have been busy again."

"Honestly, it was the little bird this time. I just had an intuition that you must like them because I do so well," upon which na?ve statement Miss Josephine merely smiled, and calling her father with pretty peremptoriness, she loaded that heavy gentleman down with the flowers and with instructions concerning them, and then stepped brightly into the tonneau with Sam.

It was a pleasant ride they had to Restview, and it was a pleasant surprise which greeted Miss Josephine when the train arrived, for out of it stepped a youth who was unmistakably a Turner. He was as tall as Sam, but slighter, and as clean a looking boy as one would find in a day's journey. There was that, too, in the hand-clasp between the brothers which proclaimed at once their flawless relationship.

Miss Stevens was so relieved to find the younger Turner so presentable that she took him into her friendship at once. He was that kind of chap anyhow, and in the very first greeting she almost found herself calling him Jack. Just behind him, however, was a little, dried-up man with a complexion the color of old parchment, with sandy, stubby hair shot with gray, and a stubby gray beard shot with red. His lips were a wide straight line, as grim as judgment day. He walked with a slight stoop, but with a quick staccato step which betokened great nervous energy, a quality which the alert expression of his beady eyes confirmed with distinct emphasis.

"Hello, Creamer!" hailed Sam to this gentleman. "I didn't expect to see you here quite so soon."

"You had every right to expect me," snapped the little man querulously. "After all the experimenting I have done for you boys, you had every reason to keep me posted on all your movements; and yet I reckon if I hadn't been in your office yesterday evening when Jack said he was coming down here, you would not have notified me until you had your company all formed. Then I suppose you'd have written to tell me how much stock you had assigned to me. I'm going to be in on the formation of this company, and I'm going to have my say about it!"

"Will you never get over that dyspepsia?" chided Sam easily. "There was no intention of leaving you out."

"Just what I told him," declared Jack, turning from Miss Stevens to them. "I have been swearing to him that as soon as we had found out to-day what we were to do I would have wired him at once."

"You were quite right, Jack," approved Sam, opening the door of the car for them, "and as a proof of it, Creamer, when you return to your office you will find there a letter postmarked yesterday, telling you our exact progress here, and warning you to be in readiness to come on telegram."

"All right, then," said Mr. Creamer, somewhat mollified, "but since that letter's there and I'm here, you might as well tell me what you've done."

Sam stopped the proceedings long enough to introduce Creamer to Miss Stevens after he had closed the door upon them and had taken his own seat by the chauffeur.

"All right," he then said to Mr. Creamer, "I'll begin at the beginning."

He began at the beginning. He told Mr. Creamer all the steps in the development of the company. He detailed to him the names of the gentlemen concerned, and their complete commercial histories, pausing to answer many pertinent side questions and observations from his younger brother, who proved to be as keen a student of business puzzles as Sam himself.

"That's all very well," said Mr. Creamer, "and now I'm here. I want to get away to-night: Can't we form that company to-day? At what figure do you propose offering the original stock?"

"The preferred at fifty, with a par value of a hundred," returned Sam promptly.

"Common?" asked Mr. Creamer crisply.

"One share of common with each two shares of preferred."

"Eh! Well, I've twenty-five thousand dollars to put into this marsh pulp business, if I can have any figure in the management. I want on the board."

"It's quite likely you'll be on the board," returned Sam. "We shall have a very small list of subscribers, and the board will not be unwieldy if every investor is a director."

"Voting power in the common stock?"

"In the common stock," repeated Sam.

"Do you intend to buy any preferred?" asked Creamer.

"A hundred shares."

"How much common do you expect to take out for your patents?"

"Two hundred and fifty thousand," Sam answered without an instant's hesitation.

"Never!" exclaimed Mr. Creamer. "The time for that's gone by, young man, no matter how good your proposition is. It's too old a game. You won't handle my money with control in your hands. I have no objection to letting you have two hundred thousand dollars worth of common stock out of the half million, because that will give you an incentive to make the common worth par; but you shan't at any time have or be able to acquire a share over two hundred and forty-nine thousand; not if I know anything about it! Can you call a meeting as soon as we get there?"

"I think so," replied Sam, with a more or less worried air. "I'll try it. Tell you what I'll do. I'll run right on over to get Mr. Stevens, who wants to join the company, and in the meantime Mr. Westlake or Princeman can round up the others."

For the first time in that drive Miss Stevens had something to say, but she said it with a briefness that was like a dash of cold water to the preoccupied Sam.

"Father is over there now, I think," she said.

"Good," approved Mr. Creamer. "We can have a little direct business talk and wind up the whole affair before lunch. What time do we arrive at Meadow Brook?"

"Before elev

en o'clock."

"That will give us two hours. Two hours is enough to form any company, when everybody knows exactly what he wants to do. Got a lawyer over there?"

"One of the best in the country."

Miss Stevens sat in the center seat of the tonneau. Sam, in addressing his remarks to the others and in listening to their replies, was compelled to sweep his glance squarely across her, and occasionally in these sweeps he paused to let his gaze rest upon her. She was a relief to his eyes, a blessing to them! Miss Stevens, however, seldom met any of these glances. Very much preoccupied she was, looking at the passing scenery and not seeing it.

There had begun boiling and seething in Miss Stevens a feeling that she was decidedly de trop, that these men could talk their absorbing business more freely if she were not there; not because she embarrassed them, but because she used up space! Nobody seemed to give her a thought. Nobody seemed to be aware that she was present. They were almost gaspingly engrossed in something far more important to them than she was. It was uncomplimentary, to say the least. She was not used to playing "second fiddle" in any company. She was in the habit of absorbing the most of the attention in her immediate vicinity. Mr. Princeman or Mr. Hollis would neither one ignore her in that way, to say nothing of Billy Westlake.

She was glad when they reached Meadow Brook. Their whole talk had been of marsh pulp, and company organization, and preferred and common stock, and who was to get it, and how much they were to pay for it, and how they were going to cut the throats of the wood pulp manufacturers, and how much profit they were going to make from the consumers and with all that, not a word for her. Not a single word! Not even an apology! Oh, it was atrocious! As soon as they drew up to the porch she rose, and before Sam could jump down to open the door of the tonneau she had opened it for herself and sprung out.

"I'll hunt up father right away for you," she stated courteously. "Glad to have met you, Mr. Creamer. I presume I shall meet you again, Mr. Turner," she said to Jack. "Thank you so much for the ride," she said to Sam, and then she was gone.

Sam looked after her blankly. It couldn't be possible that she was "huffy" about this business talk. Why, couldn't the girl see that this had to do with the birth of a great big company, a million dollar corporation, and that it was of vital importance to him? It meant the apex of a lifetime of endeavor. It meant the upbuilding of a fortune. Couldn't she see that he and his brother were two lone youngsters against all these shrewd business men, whose only terms of aiding them and floating this big company was to take their mastery of it away from them? Couldn't she understand what control of a million dollar organization meant? He was not angry with Miss Stevens for her apparent attitude in this matter, but he was hurt. He was not impatient with her, but he was impatient of the fact that she could not appreciate. Now the fat was in the fire again. He felt that. Under other circumstances he would have said that it was much more trouble than it was worth to keep in the good graces of a girl, but under the present circumstances-well, his heart had sunk down about a foot out of place, and he had a sort of faint feeling in the region of his stomach. He was just about sick. He followed her in, just in time to see the flutter of her skirts at the top of the stairway, but he could not call without making himself and her ridiculous. Confound things in general!

Mr. Stevens joined him while he was still looking into that blank hole in the world.

"Glad I happened to be here, Sam," said Stevens. "Jo tells me that your brother and Mr. Creamer have arrived and that you want to form that company right away."

"Yes," admitted Sam. "Was she sarcastic about it?"

Mr. Stevens closed his eyes and laughed.

"Not exactly sarcastic," he stated; "but she did allude to your proposed corporation as 'that old company!'"

"I was afraid so," said Sam ruefully.

Stevens surveyed him in amusement for a moment, and then in pity.

"Never mind, my boy," he said kindly. "You'll get used to these things by and by. It took me the first five years of my married life to convince Mrs. Stevens that business was not a rival to her affections, when, if I'd only have known the recipe, I could have convinced her at the start."

"How did you finally do it?" asked Sam, vitally interested.

"Made her my confidante and adviser," stated Stevens, smiling reminiscently.

Sam shook his head.

"Was that safe?" he asked. "Didn't she sometimes let out your secrets?"

"Bosh!" exclaimed Stevens. "I'd rather trust a woman than a man, any day, with a secret, business or personal. That goes for any woman; mother, sister, sweetheart, wife, daughter, or stenographer. Just give them a chance to get interested in your game, and they're with you against the world."

"Thanks," said Sam, putting that bit of information aside for future pondering. "By the way, Mr. Stevens, before we join the others I'd like to ask you how much stock you're going to carry in the Marsh Pulp Company."

"Well," returned Mr. Stevens slowly, "I did think that if the thing looked good on final analysis, I might invest twenty-five thousand dollars."

"Can't you stretch that to fifty?"

"Can't see it. But why? Don't you think you're going to fill your list?"

"We'll fill our list all right," returned Sam. "As a matter of fact, that's what I'm afraid of. These fellows are going to pool their stock, and hold control in their own hands. Now if I could get you to invest fifty thousand and vote with me under proper emergency, I could control the thing; and I ought to. It is my own company. Seems to me these fellows are selfish about it. You think I'm a good business man, don't you?"

"I certainly do," agreed Mr. Stevens emphatically.

"Well, it stands to reason that if I have two hundred and sixty thousand dollars of common stock that isn't worth a picayune unless I make it worth par, I'll hustle; and if I make my common stock worth par, I'm making a fine, fat profit for these other fellows, to say nothing of the raising of their preferred stock from the value of fifty to a hundred dollars a share, and their common from nothing to a hundred."

"That's all right, Sam," returned Mr. Stevens; "but you'll work just as hard to make your common worth par if you only have two hundred thousand; and there's a growing tendency on the part of capital to be able to keep a string on its own money. Strange, but true."

"All right," said Sam wearily. "We won't argue that point any more just now; but will you invest fifty thousand?"

"I can't promise," said Stevens, and he walked out on the porch. Much worried, Sam followed him, and with many misgivings he introduced Mr. Stevens to his brother Jack and to Mr. Creamer. The prospective organizers of the Marsh Pulp Company were already in solemn conclave on the porch, with the single exception of Princeman, who was on the lawn talking most perfunctorily with Miss Josephine. That young lady, with wickedness of the deepest sort in her soul, was doing her best to entice Mr. Princeman into forgetting the important meeting, but as soon as Princeman saw the gathering hosts he gently but firmly tore himself away, very much to her surprise and indignation. Why, he had been as rude to her as Sam Turner himself, in placing the charms of business above her own! Immediately afterward she snubbed Billy Westlake unmercifully. Had he the qualities which would go to make a successful man in any walk of life? No!

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