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   Chapter 17 SHE CALLS HIM SAM!

The Early Bird: A Business Man's Love Story By George Randolph Chester Characters: 17702

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Miss Josephine, finding all ordinary occupations stale, unprofitable and wearisome on the following morning, and finding herself, moreover, possessed of a restless spirit which urged her to do something or other and yet recoiled at each suggestion she made it, started out quite aimlessly to walk by herself. She walked in the direction of Meadow Brook. The paths in that direction were so much prettier.

Sam Turner, finding all other occupations stale, unprofitable and wearisome, at the same moment started out to walk by himself, going in the direction of Hollis Creek because that was the exact direction in which he wanted to go. As he walked much more rapidly than Miss Stevens, he arrived midway of the distance before she did, but at the valley where the unnamed stream came rippling down he paused.

He had looked often at this little hollow as he had passed it, and every time he had looked upon it he seemed to have an idea of some sort in the back of his head regarding it; a dim, unformed, fugitive sort of idea which had never asserted itself very prominently because he had been too busy to listen to its rather timid voice.

Just now, however, the idea suddenly struggled to make itself loudly known, whereupon Sam bade it come forth. Given hearing it proved to be a very pleasant idea, and a forceful one as well; so much so that it even checked the speed with which Sam had set out for Hollis Creek. He looked calculatingly across the road to where the little stream went flashing from under its wooden bridge across the field and hid around a curve behind some bushes, then reappeared, dancing in the sunlight, until finally it plunged among some far trees and was lost to him. He gazed up the stream. He had not very far to look, for there it ran down between two quite steep hills, through a sort of pocket valley, closed or almost closed, at the upper end, by another hill equally steep, its waters being augmented by a leaping little stream from a strong spring hidden away somewhere in the hill to the left.

As his eyes calculatingly swept stream and hills, they suddenly caught a flutter of white through the trees, and it was coming down the winding path which led across the hills to Hollis Creek. As it emerged more from the concealment of the leaves his blood gave a leap, for the flutter of white was a gown inclosing the unmistakable figure of Miss Josephine Stevens. The whole valley suddenly seemed radiant.

"Hello!" he called to her as she approached. "I didn't expect to find you here."

"I did not expect to be here," she laughed. "I just started out for a stroll and happened to land in this beautiful spot."

"Beautiful is no name for it," he replied with sudden vast enthusiasm, and ran up the path to help her down over a steep place.

For a moment, in the wonderful mystery of the touch of her hand and the joy of her presence, he forgot everything else. What was this strange phenomenon, by which the mere presence of one particular person filled all the air with a tingling glow? Marvelous, that's what it was! If Miss Josephine had any of the same wonder she was extremely careful not to express it, nor let it show, especially after yesterday's conversation, so she immediately talked of other things; and the first thing which came handy was another reference to the beautiful valley.

"You know, it is a wonder to me," she said, "that no one has built a summer resort here. I think it ever so much more charming than either Hollis Creek or Meadow Brook."

"Do you believe in telepathy?" asked Sam, almost startled. "I do. It hasn't been but a few minutes since that identical idea popped into my head, and I had just now decided that if I could secure options on this property I would have a real summer resort here-one that would make Hollis Creek and Meadow Brook mere farm boarding-houses. Do you see how close together these hills draw at their feet? The hollow is at least a thousand feet across at the widest part, but down there at the road, where the stream emerges to the fields, they close in with natural buttresses, as it were, to not over a hundred feet in width. Well, right across there we'll build a dam, and there is enough water here to make a beautiful lake up as high as that yellow rock."

Miss Josephine looked up at the yellow rock and clasped her hands with an exclamation of delight.

"Glorious!" she said. "I never would have thought of that; and how beautiful it will be! Why, if the lake comes up that high it will go clear back around that turn in the valley, won't it?"

"Easily," he replied; "although that might make us trouble, for I don't know where that turn in the valley leads. I have never explored that region. Suppose we go up and look it over."

"Won't that be fun?" she agreed, and they started to follow the stream.

As they reached the rear of the "pocket," where they could see around the curve, they turned and looked back over the route they had just traversed.

"My idea," Sam explained, having waited until they reached this viewpoint to do so, "is to build the dam down there at the roadside, and build the hotel right over it so that arriving guests will, after an elevator has brought them up to the height of the main floor, find the blue of the lake suddenly bursting upon them from the main piazza, which will face the valley. All of the inside rooms will, of course, have hanging balconies looking out over the water."

"Perfectly ideal!" she agreed, her enthusiasm growing.

"I think I'd better investigate the curve of the valley," he decided, studying the path carefully. "It seems rather rough for you, and I'll go alone. All I want to see is how far the water height will carry around there, and if it will become necessary to build a dam at the other end."

"Oh, it isn't too rough for me," she declared immediately. "I am an excellent climber," and together they started to explore the now narrowing valley, following the stream over steep rocks and fallen trees, and pushing through tangled undergrowth and among briers and bushes and around slippery banks until they came to another tortuous turn, where a second spring, welling up from under a flat, overhanging rock, tumbled down to augment the supply for the future lake; and here they stopped and had a drink of the cool, delicious water, Sam making the girl a cup from a huge leaf which she said made the water taste fuzzy, and then showing her how to get down on her hands and knees-spreading his coat on the ground to protect her gown-and drink au naturel, a trick at which she was most charming, and probably knew it.

The valley here had grown most narrow, but they followed the now very small stream around one sharp curve after another until they found its source, which was still another spring, and here there was no more valley; but a cleft in the hill to the right, which they suddenly came upon, gave them an exquisite view out over the beautiful low-lying country, miles in extent, which lay between this and the next range of hills; a delightful vista dotted with green farms and white farm-houses and smiling streams and waving trees and grazing cattle. They stopped in awe at the beauty of it and looked out over the valley in silence; and unconsciously the girl slipped her hand within the arm of the man!

"Just imagine a sunset out over there," he said. "You see those fleecy clouds that are out there now. If clouds like those are still there when the sun goes down, they will be a fleet of pearl-gray vessels, with carmine keels, upon a sea of gold."

She glanced at him quickly, but she did not express her marvel that this man had so many sides. Before she could comment, and while she was still framing some way to express her appreciation of his gentler gifts, he returned briskly to practical things.

"Our lake will scarcely come up to this point," he judged. "I don't think that at any point it will be high enough to cover the springs. We don't want it to if we can help it, for that would destroy some of the beauty of it. Have you noticed that our lake will be much like a kite in shape, with this winding ravine the tail of it. We'll have to take in a lot of acreage to cover this property, but it will be worth it. I'm going to look after options right away. I'm glad now I had already decided to stay another two weeks."

Of course she was still angry with Sam, she reminded herself, but she was inexpressibly glad, somehow or other, to find that he was intending to stay two weeks longer, and was startled as she recognized that fact.

"It will take a lot of money, won't it, to build a hotel here?" she asked, getting away from certain troublesome thoughts as quickly as she could.

"Yes, it will take a great deal," he admitted, as they turned to scramble down the ravine again. "I should judg

e, however, that about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars would finance it."

"But I thought, from something father once said, that you did not have so much money as that?"

"Bless you, no!" replied Sam, smiling. "No indeed! I've enough to cover an option on this property and that's about all, now, since I'm tangled up so deeply with my Pulp Company, but I figure that I can make a quick turn on this property to help me out on the other thing. What I'll do," he explained, "is to get this option first of all, and then have some plans drawn, including a nice perspective view of the hotel-a water-color sketch, you know, showing the building fronting the lake-and upon that build a prospectus to get up the stock company. I'll take stock for my control of the land and for my services in promotion. Then I'll sell my stock and get out. I ought to make the turn in two or three months and come out fifteen, or possibly twenty or twenty-five thousand dollars to the good. It is a nice, big scheme."

"Oh," she said blankly, "then you wouldn't actually build a hotel yourself?"

"Hardly," he returned. "I'll be content to make the profit out of promoting it that I'd make in the first four or five years of running the place."

"I see," she said musingly; "and you'd get this up just like you formed your Marsh Pulp Company, I think father called it, and of course you'd try to get-what is it?-oh, yes; control."

He smiled at her.

"I'd scarcely look for that in this deal," he explained. "If I can just get a nice slice of promotion stock and sell it I shall be quite well satisfied."

She bent puzzled brows over this new problem.

"I don't quite understand how you can do it," she confessed, "but of course you know how. You're used to these things. Father says you're very good at promoting."

"That's the way I've made all my money, or rather what little I have," he told her, modestly enough. "I expect this Pulp Company, however, to lift me out of that, for a few years at least; then when I come back into the promoting field I can go after things on a big scale. The Pulp Company ought to make me a lot of money if I can just keep it in my own hands," and involuntarily he sighed.

She looked at him musingly for a moment, and was about to say something, but thought better of it and said something else.

"The tail of your kite will be almost a perfect letter 'S'," she observed. "How beautiful it will be; the big, broad lake out there in the main valley, and then the nice, little, secluded, twisty waterway back in through here; a regular lover's lane of a waterway, as it were. I don't suppose these springs have any names. They must be named, and-why, we haven't even named the lake!"

"Yes, we have," he quickly returned. "I'm going to call it Lake Josephine."

"You haven't asked my permission for that," she objected with mock severity.

"There are plenty of Josephines in the world," he calmly observed. "Nobody has a copyright on the name, you know."

She smiled, as one sure of her ground.

"Yes, but you wouldn't call it that, if I were to object seriously."

"No, I guess I wouldn't," he gave up; "but you're not going to object seriously, are you?"

"I'll think it over," she said.

They were now making their way along a bank that was too difficult of travel to allow much conversation, though it did allow some delicious helping, but when they came out into the main valley where they could again look down on the road, they paused to survey the course over which they had just come, and to appreciate to the full the beauty of Sam's plan.

"I don't believe I quite like your idea of the hotel built down there at the roadside," she objected as they sat on a huge boulder to rest. "It cuts off the view of the lake from passers-by, and I should think it would be the best advertisement you could have for everybody who drove past there to say: 'Oh, what a pretty place!' Now I should think that right about here where we are sitting would be the proper location for your hotel. Just think how the lake and the building would look from the road. Right here would be a broad porch jutting out over the water, giving a view down that first bend of the kite tail, and back of the hotel would be this big hill and all the trees, and hills and trees would spread out each side of it, sort of open armed, as it were, welcoming people in."

"It couldn't be seen, though," objected Sam. "The dam down there would necessarily be about thirty feet high at the center, and people driving along the roadway would not be able to see the water at all. They would only see the blank wall of the dam. Of course we could soften that by building the dam back a few feet from the roadway, making an embankment and covering that with turf, or possibly shrubbery or flowers, but still the water would not be visible, nor the hotel!"

"I see," she said slowly.

They both studied that objection in silence for quite a little while. Then she suddenly and excitedly ejaculated:

"Sam!"

He jumped, and he thrilled all through. She had called him Sam entirely unconsciously, which showed that she had been thinking of him by that familiar name. With the exclamation had come sparkling eyes and heightened color, not due to having used the word, but due to a bright thought, and he almost lost his sense of logic in considering the delightful combination. It occurred to him, however, that it would be very unwise for him to call attention to her slip of the tongue, or even to give her time to think and recognize it herself.

"Another idea?" he asked.

"Indeed yes," she asserted, "and this time I know it's feasible. I don't know much about measurements in feet and inches, but there are three feet in a yard."

"Yes."

"Well, doesn't the road down there, from hill to hill, dip about ten yards?"

"Yes."

"Well then, that's thirty feet, just as high as you say the dam will have to be. Why not raise the road itself thirty feet, letting it be level and just as high as your dam?"

Sam rose and solemnly shook hands with her.

"You must come into the firm," he declared. "That solves the entire problem. We'll run a culvert underneath there to the fields. The road will reinforce the dam and the edge of the dam will be entirely concealed. It will be merely a retaining wall with a nice stone coping, which will be repeated on the field side. There will be no objection from the county commissioners, because we shall improve the road by taking two steep hills out of it. Your plan is much better than mine. I can see myself, for instance, driving along that road on my way to Hollis Creek from Restview, looking over that beautiful little lake to the hotel beyond, and saying to myself: 'Well, next summer I won't stop at Hollis Creek. I'll stop at Lake Jo.'"

"I thought it was to be Lake Josephine," she interposed.

"I thought so too," he agreed, "but Lake Jo just slipped out. It seems so much better. Lake Jo! That would look fine on a prospectus."

"You'd print the cover of it in blue and gold, I suppose, wouldn't you?"

"There would need to be a splash of brown-red in it," he reminded her, considering color schemes for a moment. "The roof of the hotel would, of course, be red tile. We'd build it fireproof. There is plenty of gray stone around here, and we'd build it of native rock."

"And then," she went on, in the full swing of their idea, "think of the beautiful walks and climbs you could have among these hills; and the driveway! Your approach to the hotel would come around the dam and up that hill, would wind up through those trees and rocks, and right here at the bend of the ravine it would cross the thick part of the kite tail to the hotel on a quaint rustic bridge; and as people arrived and departed you'd hear the clatter of the horses' hoofs."

"Great!" he exclaimed, catching her enthusiasm and with it augmenting his own, "and guests leaving would first wave good-by at the porte-cochère just about where we are sitting. They'd clatter across the bridge, with their friends on the porch still fluttering handkerchiefs after them; they'd disappear into the trees over yonder and around through that cleft in the rocks. And see; on the other side of the cleft there is a little tableland which juts out, and the road would wind over that, where carriages would once more be seen from the hotel porch. Then they'd twist in through the trees again down the winding driveway, and once more, for the very last glimpse, come into view as they went across our new road in front of the lake; and there the last flutter of handkerchiefs would be seen. You know it's silly to stand and wave your friends out of sight for a long distance when they're always in view, but if the view is interrupted two or three times it relieves the monotony."

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