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Five Thousand an Hour: How Johnny Gamble Won the Heiress by George Randolph Chester

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"Of course he's serious about it," asserted Constance almost
indignantly. "Don't you suppose he can do it?"

"Well, this is the age of financial miracles," acknowledged Loring,
but with a shake of his head. "He can't do it, though, if Collaton
gobbles up all he makes and injures his credit besides."

Constance drew a deep breath.

"I wish you to act as my agent, Ashley," she said crisply. "Mr.
Gamble is certain to make some money, is he not?"

"Johnny will always make money," he assured her.

"If you bring in a bill against him for money you have expended,
after you have wound up the Gamble-Collaton affairs, he will, of
course, pay it."

"As quickly as he can find a fountain-pen and a check-book."

"I wish to loan him some money without his knowledge. I want you to
take fifteen thousand dollars early to-morrow morning and pay that
attachment, or whatever it is, at his bank. Naturally I do not want
Mr. Gamble to know that I am interested; and I look to you to manage
it so that, when the money is returned to me, he shall imagine that
you have advanced the funds."

"I can arrange that easily enough," Loring promised her. "Constance,
I suppose I ought to advise you that this is silly; but I'm glad
you're doing it. Moreover, I feel certain that, if this entanglement
is straightened out, Johnny may take a new interest in the
irrigation company and, by handling it himself, may recover all his
losses."

"I sincerely hope so," returned Constance earnestly. "You know I've
taken a queer interest in this quixotic attempt of Mr. Gamble's to
make his million. It's like a fascinating game, and I almost feel as
if I were playing it myself--I'm so eager about it."

"And your spirit of fair play is aroused," Loring said.

CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH JOHNNY DREAMS OF A MAGNIFICENT TWENTY-STORY HOTEL

The other terminal hotel projects had been kept very quiet, indeed,
lest the jealous promoters of similar enterprises might be whetted
into greediness; but no such modesty seemed to attend the plans of
the Terminal Hotel Company; in fact, it seemed to court publicity--
and, since Johnny Gamble was known and liked by a host of newspaper
men, it received plenty of attention. After the ball game Johnny
rode down to Mr. Courtney's club with him to dinner; and when he was
through talking to Courtney he immediately called on his newspaper
friends.

When Loring arrived at the office in the morning he found Johnny
immersed in a pile of papers--and gloating.

"Say, Johnny, I want you to give me power of attorney to wind up the
Gamble-Collaton Irrigation Company," was Loring's morning greeting.

"Go as far as you like," Johnny told him without looking up from a
glowing account of the magnificent new hostelry.

"Good for you!" approved Loring. "I'd expected to have half an
hour's wrestle with you--and I couldn't afford it, for this is my
busy day. I want you to understand this, Johnny: If I take that old
partnership off your hands you're to ask no questions."

"Go twice as far as you like," offered Johnny indifferently." I've
forgotten there ever was a Gamble-Collaton Irrigation Company.
Listen to this, Loring: 'Surmounting the twentieth story of the
magnificent new structure there will be a combined roof garden, cafe
and theater, running continuous vaudeville--'"

"This agreement, entered into this twenty-fifth day of April," began
the discordantly hurried voice of Loring. He was dictating to his
stenographer a much more comprehensive agreement than a mere power
of attorney; and as soon, as it was ready Johnny signed it without a
question.

"Get this, Ashley?" he remarked, handing back Loring's pen and
reading gleefully from another paper: "'A subway entrance into the
new terminal station is being negotiated--'"

"All right," said Loring, putting on his hat. "Good-by!"--and he was
gone.

If Loring professed but slight interest in the flamboyant plans for
the new hotel, there were others who were painfully absorbed in the
news of the project. Gresham, for one, read the account with
contracted brows at his late breakfast; and at noon, inspired by a
virtuous sense of duty, he sauntered over to Courtney's club.

"I see you're involved in another hotel proposition," he ventured.

"I hope involved is not the word," returned Courtney with rather a
wry smile.

"Is your company fully organized?" asked Gresham with a trace of
more than polite interest.

"I think not," answered Courtney. "I'm not in a position to state,
however, as the matter is out of my hands. I am taking some stock in
it, of course; but I have nothing to do with the organization of the
company, since I have sold the ground to Mr. Gamble."

"Gamble?" repeated Gresham. "Oh, is that so?"

His tone was so deprecative that Courtney was sharply awakened by
it.

"Do you know anything against Gamble?" he quite naturally inquired.

"Not a thing," Gresham hastily assured him. "Anyhow, you have sold
him the property and are fully secured?"

"I've sold it to him under contract," replied Courtney, ready, in
view of his recent experiences, to become panic-stricken at a
moment's notice.

"Of course, if anything happens you can reclaim the property,"
Gresham considered. "It forms its own security; but still, any one
holding a private claim against Gamble might try to attach it and
give you a nasty entanglement."

"There doesn't seem to be any danger of that," argued Courtney,
looking worried, nevertheless. "He was able to show me an extremely
clean bill of health. The only drawback I could find in his record
was the payment of some debts which were not rightly his and which
he might have evaded."

"Did he refer you to the Fourth National Bank?" inquired Gresham
quietly.

"No. Say, Gresham, what have you up your sleeve? Gamble paid me
fifteen thousand dollars this morning, as per agreement. I would
scarcely think he would risk that much money on a bluff."

"He paid you the fifteen thousand, then?" said Gresham with a smile.
"Mr. Courtney, one does not like to mix in these affairs; but you
and my father were friends and, though I regret to do so, I feel it
my duty to advise you to call up the Fourth National Bank."

"Thanks!" gratefully acknowledged Courtney, and hurried down to the
telephone booth. He came back in a few moments, and his manner was
distinctly cool. "I 'phoned to Mr. Close," he stated. "He tells me
that an attachment was laid against Mr. Gamble's account at his bank
yesterday for fifteen thousand dollars, and was returned to the
server marked 'no funds'; but that this morning the executor of Mr.
Gamble's interests in the Gamble-Collaton Irrigation Company
deposited fifteen thousand dollars for the specific purpose of
meeting this attachment. Mr. Close informs me that, though he could
not, of course, guarantee Mr. Gamble's solvency, he would take Mr.
Gamble's unsupported word on any proposition. I have known Joe Close
for years, and I never knew him to be so enthusiastic about any man
who possessed no negotiable securities. I thank you for your well-
intentioned interference in my behalf, Mr. Gresham, but I think I
shall cling to Mr. Gamble nevertheless."

"I certainly should if I were in your place," Gresham hastily
assured him with such heartiness as he could assume. "I am delighted
to learn that the rumor I heard of Mr. Gamble's insolvency is
unfounded."

"By the way, where did you hear the rumor?" inquired Courtney with a
frown.

"Really, I've forgotten," Gresham confessed.

"One should not forget such things if one repeats such rumors,"
Courtney reproved him.

Gresham went away both puzzled and annoyed. It was three o'clock
before he found Collaton; and that featureless young man, whose lack
of visible eyebrows and lashes was a constant annoyance to the
fastidious Gresham, was in a high state of elation.

"Well, we get back your fifteen thousand," he exulted after they
were safely in Gresham's apartments. "Of course Jacobs gets five
thousand for engineering the deal, but that gives us five thousand
apiece. Jacobs was told--about eleven o'clock--that the money was
there."

"Keep my share; but why didn't you send me word?" snarled Gresham.
"I nearly put my foot in it by having a man with whom Gamble is
doing business inquire about him at the Fourth National. In place of
injuring his credit, we've strengthened it."

"Good work!" approved Collaton. "I hope he makes all kinds of
money."

"I don't!" snapped Gresham. "Did you read the papers this morning?"

"I read the racing and base-ball returns."

"There was more to interest you in the news. Gamble has a big hotel
proposition on--and I want it stopped. Can you get another
attachment against him for about fifty thousand dollars?"

"It's risky!" And Collaton looked about him furtively. "It's easy
enough to fake an old note for money--"

"You must not say 'fake' to me. I will not countenance any crooked
business."

"To dig up an old note for money I am supposed to have borrowed and
spent--"

"Not supposed."

"For money I borrowed and spent on the work out there--and have a
quiet suit entered by one of my pet assassins in Fliegel's court,
have the summons served and confess judgment. Johnny is sucker
enough to confess judgment, too, rather than repudiate a debt which
he can not prove he does not owe; but I've already milked that
scheme so dry that I'm afraid of it."

"You're afraid of everything," Gresham charged him with the scorn
one coward feels for another. "Your operations out there were spread
over ten thousand acres of ground; and it would take a dozen experts
six months, without any books or papers to guide them, to make even
an approximate estimate of your legitimate expenditures."

"I don't know," hesitated Collaton with a shake of his head--"I only
touched the high places in the actual work out there. I believe I
was a sucker at that, Gresham. If I had buckled down to it, like
Gamble does, we could have made a fortune out of that scheme. He's a
wonder!"

"He has wonderful luck," corrected Gresham. "I tried my best to
scare Courtney away from him with that attachment, but he insisted
on clinging to his Johnny Gamble; so we'll hand him enough of Johnny
by laying a fifty-thousand-dollar attachment against his property."

"You're a funny cuss," said Collaton, puzzled. "If you wanted to
soak him for this fifty thousand why did you try to scare Courtney
off?"

"Can't you understand that I'm not after the money?" demanded
Gresham. "I've explained that to you before. I want Gamble broke,
discredited, and so involved that he can never transact any business
in New York."

"What's he done to you?" inquired Collaton. "He must be winning a
stand-in with your girl."

"My private affairs are none of your concern!" Gresham indignantly
flared.

"All right, governor," assented Collaton a trifle sullenly. "I'll
fake that note for you to-night; and--"

"I told you I would not have anything to do with any crooked work,"
Gresham sharply reprimanded him.

"Oh, shut up!" growled Collaton. "You give me the cramps. You're a
worse crook than I am!"

CHAPTER VIII

IN WHICH CONSTANCE SHOWS FURTHER INTEREST IN JOHNNY'S AFFAIRS

On Wednesday morning Mr. Courtney, sitting as rigidly at his desk as
if he were in church, was handed the card of Morton Washer. He laid
the card face down and placed a paper-weight on it, as if he feared
it might get away. He turned a callous eye on his secretary and, in
his driest and most husky tones, directed: "Tell Mr. Washer I will
see him in five minutes."

During that five minutes Mr. Courtney signed letters as solemnly as
a judge pronouncing a death sentence. At last he paused and looked
at himself for a solid half-minute in the bookcase mirror across
from his desk. Apparently he was as mournful as an undertaker, but
at the end of the inspection his mouth suddenly stretched in a wide
grin, which bristled the silver-white beard upon his cheeks; his
eyes screwed themselves up into knots of jovial wrinkles and he
winked--actually winked--at his reflection in the glass! Thereupon
he straightened his face and sent for Morton Washer.

Mr. Washer, proprietor of two of the largest hotels in New York, and
half a dozen enormous winter and summer places, looked no more like
a boniface than he did like a little girl on communion Sunday. He
was a small, wispy, waspish fellow with a violently upright, raging
pompadour, a mustache which, in spite of careful attempts at waxing,
persisted in sticking straight forward, and a sharp hard nose which
had apparently been tempered to a delicate purple.

"Hear you've revived your hotel project," he said to Mr. Courtney.

"No," denied Courtney. "Sold the property."

"I know," agreed Mr. Washer with absolute disbelief. "What'll you
take for it?"

"I told you it was sold. Here's the contract." And, with great
satisfaction, Courtney passed over the document.

"Two million six hundred and fifty!" snorted Washer. "That's half a
million more than it's worth."

"You told my friends you intended to buy the railroad plot at three
and a half," Courtney gladly reminded him.

"It's four hundred feet deep."

"You said you only wanted two hundred feet square, which is the size
of this plot--and this is an equally good location."

"I know," admitted Washer, contemptuous of all such trifles. "What
will you take for the property--spot cash?"

"It's sold, I tell you. If you want to buy it see Mr. Gamble."

"Who's Gamble?"

"The man who is organizing the Terminal Hotel Company."

"How much stock has he subscribed?"

"You will have to see Mr. Gamble about that."

"Did you take any?"

"Half a million."

"Humph! You could afford to. Now give me the straight of it,
Courtney: Is it any use to talk to you?"

"Not a bit. You'll--"

"I know. I'll have to see Mr. Gamble! Well, where do I find him?"

Mr. Courtney kindly wrote the address on a slip of paper. Mr. Washer
looked at it with a grunt, stuffed it in his waistcoat pocket and
slammed out of the door. Mr. Courtney winked at himself in the
glass. Old Mort Washer would try to take advantage of him, to the
extent of an eighth of a million dollars, would he! Make his old
friend Courtney take an eighth of a million less than he paid, eh?
Mr. Courtney whistled a merry little tune.

Fifteen minutes later, Old Mort Washer bounced into Loring's office.

"Mr. Gamble?" he popped out.

Both gentlemen turned to him, but Loring turned away.

"I'm Gamble," stated that individual.

"I'm Morton Washer."

Since Mr. Gamble was aware of that fact and was expecting this
visit, he betrayed no surprise.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Washer?" he inquired.

"Are you taking bona fide subscriptions to your Terminal Hotel
Company?"

"No other kind interests me."

"How nearly is your company filled?"

"Why do you want to know? Do you figure on taking some stock?"

"No."

"What do you want?"

"Your price on the property. Will you sell it?"

"Of course I will--at a profit."

"How much?"

"Two million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

"Keep it!" snapped Washer, and started for the door.

"Much obliged," returned Johnny cheerfully, and returned to his
combination daybook, journal, ledger and diary. "Ashley, I put in
four hours' overtime, Monday. Do I enter that on the debit or credit
side?"

Loring stifled a snicker.

"I think I'd open a separate account for that," he solemnly advised.

"I say," renewed Washer, returning one pace, "who are some of your
prospective stockholders?"

"Close, of the Fourth National, is one; Mr. Courtney is another;
Colonel Bouncer is another. I have more."

"Thanks!" snapped Washer. "I'll give you two and a half millions for
that property."

"I'd rather finance the Terminal Hotel. Let me show you a
perspective sketch of it, Mr. Washer," and he opened the drawer of
his desk.

"You'll have to excuse me," blurted Mr. Washer. "Good day!" and he
was gone.

"I didn't know you had Close," commented Loring in surprise. "How
did you hypnotize him?"

"Showed him a profit. Mr. Courtney told me last night that Close
boosted me yesterday, so I sold him some stock this morning. Say,
Loring, how did you square that fifteen thousand attachment?"

"None of your business," said Loring.

Mr. Washer rushed in to see Mr. Close.

"I see you've subscribed for stock in the Terminal Hotel Company,"
he observed. "To accommodate a client?"

"No, because I thought it would be a good investment," Mr. Close
informed him, turning up the edge of a piece of paper and creasing
it as carefully as if it had been money. "Of course I would not care
to have my action influence others."

"Do you think Gamble can fully organize such a company?"

"I think so," stated Mr. Close. "Understand, I do not recommend the
investment; and my stock is subscribed only on condition that he
obtains his full quota of capital."

"What sort of a man is he?"

"A very reliable young man, I believe," responded Mr. Close,
carefully testing an ink-eaten steel pen point to see if it was
really time for it to be thrown away. "Of course I could not state
Mr. Gamble to be financially responsible, but personally I would
trust him. I would not urge or even recommend any one to take part
in his projects; but personally I feel quite safe in investing with
him, though I would not care to have that fact generally known,
because of the influence it might have. Perhaps you had better see
some of the other subscribers."

"No, I've seen enough," announced Mr. Washer. "Thanks!" and he
dashed out of the door.

Ten minutes later he was in Loring's office again.

"Now, name your bottom price for that property," he ordered.

"Two million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars," obliged
Johnny with careful emphasis on each word.

"It's too much money."

"Don't buy it, then," advised Johnny, smiling quite cheerfully.

"Come on; let's close it up," offered Washer resignedly. "I might
have to pay more if I waited."

"All right," said Johnny. "It's a bargain, then?"

"It's a bargain--confound it!" agreed Mr. Washer quite affably, now
that the struggle was over. "Where do we go?"

"To Mallard Tyne, the six original owners and myself will all take a
piece of your two and three-quarter millions."

"I ought to take a body-guard," grinned Washer; "but I'll chance it.
Come on."

While the foregoing was in progress Constance Joy was entertaining
Paul Gresham, who had the effrontery to drop in for lunch. Of course
the conversation turned to Johnny Gamble. Neither of them could
avoid it. They had reached the point where Gresham was angry and
Constance was enjoying herself.

"I have great faith in him," she was saying. "He has a wonderful
project under way just now."

"And he doesn't care who suffers by it," charged Gresham, furious
that she should be so well-informed. "You'll see that he'll involve
Courtney's property with some of his old debts."

Constance's eyes widened.

"Do you think so?" she inquired as quietly as possible.

"Of course he will. His creditors are certain to take advantage of
this immediately. I warned Courtney."

She hastily arose and went into the hall.

"Oh, Aunt Pattie!" she called up the stairs. "Mr. Gresham is here."
Then to Gresham: "You'll excuse me for a little while, won't you?
Aunt Pattie is coming down."

Five minutes after Johnny and Mr. Washer had gone, Constance Joy
came into Johnny's office with carefully concealed timidity. Her
manner was coldly gracious and self-possessed, and her toilet was
perfect; but she carried one ripped glove.

"Is Mr. Loring in?" she asked with perfect assurance and also with
suddenly accelerated dignity; for the stenographer was really quite
neat-looking--not pretty, you know, but neat.

"He has just gone out," replied the stenographer with tremendous
sweetness. Anybody could look pretty in expensive clothes like
Constance Joy's.

There was a moment's hesitation.

"Is Mr. Gamble in?"

The girl smiled quite brightly.

"Mr. Gamble has just gone out," she stated, and smiled again. She
was not at all pretty when she smiled--not by any means--neat,
though.

"Could you tell me where I would be likely to find Mr. Loring?"
asked Constance stiffly.

"Haven't the slightest idea," answered the girl happily, and gave
her hair a touch. Ah! there was a rip under her sleeve!

"Do you know where Mr. Gamble has gone?" and Constance was suddenly
pleasant through and through.

"Mr. Gamble?" repeated the girl, wondering at the sudden sweetness
and suspicious of it. "Oh, Mr. Gamble has gone over to the office of
Mallard back in a few minutes. He's in and out a great deal, but he
seldom stays out of the office long at a time."

"Thank you," said Constance hastily, reflecting that there was a
public telephone booth in the drug store on the corner, so she need
not inquire the address of Mallard & Tyne.

Mr. Gamble, Mr. Courtney, and Mr. Washer were in Mr. Mallard's
private office, with that acutely earnest real estate gentleman,
when a boy came in to advise Mr. Gamble that he was wanted on the
telephone. Johnny Gamble had never heard the voice of Constance over
a thin wire, but he recognized it in an instant; and he hitched his
chair six inches closer to the instrument. He gave her a fool
greeting, which he tried to remember afterward so that he could be
confused about it; but Constance wasted no time in preliminaries.

"Have you any property which could be attached?" she wanted to know.

"Just at the present minute I have," he admitted. "I shall have a
nominal title in a big building plot, for a day or two--or until the
necessary papers can he signed."

"You mustn't wait!" she hastily ordered him. "You must get rid of it
right this minute."

"I'll burn it up if you don't like it," he heartily promised her.
"What's the matter with it?"

"It isn't safe for you to have it an instant. I've wasted so much
time trying to find Polly or Loring, so that they could warn you,
that I haven't time to explain. Just get rid of it immediately--
can't you?"

"I can do anything you say," he earnestly informed her, hitching his
chair closer. There was only an inch left, but he took that. "You'll
explain to me to-night what all this is about, won't you?"

"You may come, but you mustn't ask questions."

"I'll be there as soon as I'm through here," he promptly informed
her.

"Not so early," she protested, panic-stricken, "I have a caller just
now. You must hurry, Mr. Gamble."

"Yes, I will," and he tried to hitch his chair closer. "You're
telephoning from the house, then?"

"No-o-o-o!" and he thought he detected a stifled snicker. "I left
him with Aunt Pattie and slipped out for a minute."

Him! Him, eh? And she had slipped out to telephone her friend,
Johnny, the bit of hot information!

He covered the transmitter with his hand to turn aside and smile.
This was a pleasant world after all!

"Many, many thanks!" he jubilated. "I think I'll arrange a little
dinner of jollification to-night and hand you the official score.
I'll have the colonel, and Mr. Courtney, and Polly, and--"

"You may call me up and tell me about it as soon as you get that
property off your hands," she interrupted him.

"All right," he reluctantly agreed. "You'll come to the dinner,
won't you?"

"Well, I have a partial engagement," she hesitated.

"Then you'll come," he exultantly knew.

"Maybe," she replied. "Hurry!"

He declared that he would--but he was talking into a dead telephone.

"I guess I'll hurry," he decided, and stalked into Mallard's room.
"Look here, fellows. Can't we cut this thing short?" he suggested.
"There's no use in Mr. Courtney's completing his purchase from
Mallard & Tyne, or me mine from Mr. Courtney, or Mr. Washer his from
me. All that poppy-cock is just to conceal out profits. What Mr.
Washer wants is the ground; and Courtney and I want half a million
dollars, besides the eighth of a million that Mr. Courtney had
already invested. Mr. Washer, give Courtney your check for five-
eighths of a million--and both Courtney and I will tear up our
contracts and give you the pieces. Then you settle with Mallard &
Tyne for two and an eighth millions."

"Look here, Courtney, is this a put-up job between you and Gamble?"
demanded Washer.

"No," returned Courtney, with that rarely seen smile of his, "it's
only the finish of that job you put up on me when you persuaded my
friends to drop out of my hotel company."

Washer looked petulant. Johnny Gamble patted him on the shoulder.

"Cheer up," he said--"but hurry. If you don't hurry I'll sell you
some stock in my Terminal Hotel Company."

"Give me some papers to sign," ordered Washer, producing his check-
book.

Gresham met the colonel and Courtney on Broadway in full regalia
just as they were turning in at the newest big cafe to dine that
night.

"I'm sorry to tell you, Mr. Courtney, that my warning of this noon
was not unfounded," he remarked. "Perhaps, however, you already know
it."

"No, I don't," returned Courtney, eying the correctly dressed
Gresham with some dissatisfaction. "I'm not even sure of what you
mean."

"About a certain man with whom you are doing business."

"Oh--Gamble?"

"What's the matter with Gamble?" bristled the colonel.

"Why, Gresham hinted to me this morning that Gamble had financial
obligations he could not meet," explained Courtney. "It seems that
he met them, however."

"Of course he did!" snorted the colonel.

"I hadn't intended to make the matter public property," stated
Gresham with an uncomfortable feeling that he was combating an
unassailable and unaccountable prejudice.

"Bless my soul, you're succeeding mighty well!" blurted the colonel.
"Now, tell us all you know about my friend Gamble. Out with it!"

"I beg you to understand, Mr. Courtney, that I am inspired by a
purely friendly interest," insisted Gresham with very stiff dignity.
"I thought it might be of value for you to know--if you were not
already informed--that an attachment for fifty thousand dollars upon
Mr. Gamble was laid against your Terminal Hotel property this
afternoon."

Mr. Courtney paused to consider.

"At what time was this attachment issued?"

"At three-thirty, I was informed."

Mr. Courtney's reception of that important bit of news was rather
unusual, in consideration of its gravity. He threw back his head and
laughed; he turned to the colonel and, putting his hand upon his old
friend's shoulder, laughed again; he put his other hand upon
Gresham's shoulder and laughed more. The colonel was a slower
thinker. He looked painfully puzzled for a moment--then suddenly it
dawned upon him, and he laughed uproariously; he punched his old
friend Courtney in the ribs and laughed more uproariously; he
punched Gresham in the ribs and laughed most uproariously.

"Why, bless my heart, boy!" he explained for Courtney. "At two-
thirty, neither Courtney nor Johnny Gamble owned a penny's worth of
interest in the Terminal Hotel site, if that's the property you
mean--and of course you do."

"No," laughed Courtney. "At that hour we sold it outright to Morton
Washer for a cool half-million profit, which my friend Johnny and I
divide equally. I saw him make the entry in his book. He has twenty-
four hours in which to loaf on that remarkable schedule of his.
Johnny Gamble is a wonderful young man!"

"Who's that's such a wonderful young man?" snapped a jerky little
voice. "Johnny Gamble? You bet he is! He skinned me!"

Turning, Courtney grasped the hands of lean little Morton Washer and
of wiry-faced Joe Close.

"We're all here now except the youngsters and the ladies," said
Courtney. "Possibly they're inside. Coming in, Gresham?"

"No, I think not," announced Gresham, sickly. "Who's giving the
party?"

"Johnny Gamble," snapped Washer. "It's in honor of me!"

A limousine drove up just then. In it were sweet-faced Mrs. Parsons-
-Polly's mother by adoption--Polly, Loring and Sammy Chirp, the
latter gentleman being laden with the wraps of everybody but Loring.

Just behind the limousine was a taxi. In it were Aunt Pattie Boyden,
Constance Joy and Johnny Gamble. Gresham, who had held a partial
engagement for the evening, went to his club instead.

CHAPTER IX

IN WHICH JOHNNY MEETS A DEFENDER OF THE OLD ARISTOCRACY

Johnny, whose sources of information were many and varied, called on
a certain Miss Purry the very next morning, taking along Val Russel
to introduce him.

"Any friend of Mr. Russel's is welcome, I am sure," declared Miss
Purry, passing a clammy wedge of a hand to Johnny, who felt the
chill in his palm creeping down his spine. "Of the Maryland
Gambles?"

"No, White Roads," replied Johnny cheerfully. Miss Purry's chiseled
smile remained, but it was not the same. "I came to see you about
that vacant building site, just beyond the adjoining property."

Miss Purry shook her head,

"I'm afraid I could not even consider selling it without a very
specific knowledge of its future." And her pale green eyes took on a
slightly deeper hue.

Val Russel stifled a sly grin.

"This was once a very aristocratic neighborhood," he informed Johnny
with well-assumed sorrow. "Miss Purry is the last of the fine old
families to keep alive the traditions of the district. Except for
her influence, the new-rich have vulgarized the entire locality."

"Thank you," cooed Miss Purry. "I could not have said that myself,
but I can't hinder Mr. Russel from saying it. Nearly all of my
neighbors tried to buy the riverview plot, about which you have come
to see me; but I did not care to sell--to them."

Her emphasis on the last two words was almost imperceptible, but it
was there; and her reminiscent satisfaction was so complete that
Johnny, who had known few women, was perplexed.

"If all the old families had been as careful the Bend would not have
deteriorated," Val stated maliciously, knowing just how to encourage
her." However, the new-comers are benefited by Miss Purry's resolve-
-particularly Mrs. Slosher. The Sloshers are just on the other side
of the drive from the vacant property, and they have almost as good
a river view as if they had been able to purchase it and build upon
it in the first place."

The green of Miss Purry's eyes deepened another tone.

"Mr. Slosher, who is now in Europe, was almost brutal in his
determination to purchase the property," she stated with painful
repression. "The present Mrs. Slosher is a pretty doll, and he is
childishly infatuated with her; but his millions can not buy
everything she demands."

Ignorant of social interplay as Johnny Gamble was, he somehow
divined that William G. Slosher's doll was the neighborhood reason
for everything.

"If you were only certain of what you intend to build there--" she
suggested, to break the helpless silence.

"I have an apartment-house in mind," he told her.

"That would be very large and very high, no doubt," she guessed,
looking pleased.

"It's the only kind that would pay," Johnny Gamble hastily assured
her. "It would be expensive--no suite less than three thousand a
year and nobody allowed to do anything."

"I'll consider the matter," she said musingly.

"What about the price?" asked Johnny, whose mind had been fixed upon
that important detail.

"Oh, yes--the price," agreed Miss Purry indifferently; "I've been
holding it at two hundred thousand. I shall continue to hold it at
that figure."

"Then that's the price," decided Johnny. "Can't we come to an
agreement now?"

"To-morrow afternoon at three," she dryly insisted.

He saw that she meant to-morrow afternoon at three.

"Can't I arrange with you for a twenty-four-hour option?" he begged,
becoming anxious.

"I shall not bind myself in any way," she declared. "To-morrow
afternoon at three."

"That's a beautiful piece of property," commented Johnny as they
drove by. "By George, the apartment-house will shut those people off
from the river!"

"That's the only reason she'd be willing to sell," replied Val.
"What set you hunting up this property?"

"The De Luxe Apartments Company intends confining its operations to
this quarter. They'll go scouting among the listed properties first-
-and they may not find this one until I am asking them two hundred
and fifty for it."

That afternoon, Johnny, always prompt, was ahead of time at the
final committee meeting of the Babies' Fund Fair, but Constance Joy
did not seem in the least surprised at his punctuality.

"I was in hopes you'd come early," she greeted him. "I want to show
you the score board of your game."

"Honest, did you make one?" he asked, half-incredulous of his good
fortune, as she led the way into the library; and his eyes further
betrayed his delight when she showed him the score board itself.

"See," she pointed out, "you were to make five thousand dollars an
hour for two hundred working hours, beginning on April twenty-second
and ending May thirty-first."

Johnny examined the board with eager interest. It was ruled into
tiny squares, forty blocks long and seven deep.

"I want to frame that when we're through," he said, admiring the
perfect drawing.

"Suppose you lose?" she suggested, smiling to herself at his
unconscious use of the word "we".

"No chance," he stoutly returned. "I have to paste a five-thousand-
dollar bill in each one of those blocks."

"You've kept your paste brush busy," she congratulated him,
marveling anew at how he had done it, as she glanced at the record
which she had herself set down. "I have the little squares crossed
off up to two hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars."

"The money's in Loring's bank," he cheerfully assured her. "That
pays me up to next Tuesday, May second, at two o'clock. This is two
o'clock, Thursday. I have twenty-four working hours to loaf."

"Lazy!" she bantered him. "That isn't loafing time; it's only a
safety margin."

Her eagerness about it pleased Johnny very much. When he had his
million he intended to ask her to marry him; and it was pleasant to
have her, all unaware of his purpose, of course, taking such an
acute interest in this big game.

"If a man plays too safe he goes broke," objected Johnny seriously,
still intent on the diagram, however. "I notice that none of these
Sundays or Saturday afternoons have money in them. According to my
plan I also allowed for two possible holidays; but why are those two
special days left white?"

"Well," hesitated Constance, flushing slightly, "May thirtieth is
Decoration Day; and then I allowed for a possible birthday."

"Birthday?" he repeated, perplexed. "Whose?"

"Oh, anybody's," she hastily assured him. "You can move the date to
suit. You know you said you weren't going to work on Sundays,
evenings, holidays or birthdays."

"I have but one birthday this year, and it comes in the fall," he
answered, laughing; then suddenly a dazzling light blinded him.
"It's the score keeper's!" he guessed.

In spite of all her efforts to prevent it Constance blushed
furiously. "I had intended to give a little party on the
nineteenth," she confessed.

"I'm coming!" he emphatically announced.

Aunt Pattie Boyden swept into the room, and Johnny immediately felt
that he had on tight shoes. He had once made a fatal error before
Aunt Pattie; he had confessed to having been a voter before he owned
a dress suit.

Paul Gresham arrived, and Aunt Pattie was as the essence of violets.
Paul, though American-born, was a second cousin of Lord Yawpingham.
Johnny and Paul sat and inwardly barked at each other. Johnny almost
barked outwardly.

Val Russel and Bruce Townley came, and everybody breathed a sigh of
relief.

"Well, Johnny," said Val, "I just now saw your newest speculation
driving down the Avenue in a pea-green gown and a purple hat."

"I never had a speculation like that," denied Johnny.

"Sounds like a scandal," decided Bruce Townley.

"You might as well tell it, Val," laughed Constance with a
mischievous glance at Johnny.

"It hasn't gone very far as yet," replied Val, enjoying Johnny's
discomfort, "but it promises well. Johnny and I called upon a
wealthy spinster, away upon Riverside Drive, this morning,
ostensibly to buy real estate."

Val, leaning his cheek upon his knuckles with his middle finger upon
his temple, imitated Miss Purry's languishing air so perfectly that
Aunt Pattie and Gresham, both of whom knew the lady, could see her
in the flesh--or at least in the bone.

"'Ostensible' is a good word in that neighborhood," opined Gresham
lightly. "Were you trying to buy Miss Purry's vacant riverfront
property?"

Notwithstanding his seeming nonchalance, Gresham betrayed an earnest
interest which Constance noted, and she turned to Johnny with a
quick little shake of her head, but he was already answering, and
she frowned slightly.

Mrs. Follison arrived, and after her the rest of the committee came
trooping by twos and threes,--a bright, busy, chattering mob which
stopped all personal conversation.

Last of all came Polly Parsons, accompanied by Ashley Loring and
Sammy Chirp, and by the fluffy little orphan whom she had been
keeping in school for the last three years.

"I know I'm late," declared Polly defiantly; "but I don't adopt a
sister every day. I stopped at Loring's office to do it, and I'm so
proud I'm cross-eyed. Sister Winnie, shake hands with everybody and
then run out in the gardens with Sammy."

Dutifully, Winnie, in her new role of sister, shook hands with
everybody and clenched their friendship with her wide blue eyes and
her ingenuous smile; and, dutifully, Sammy Chirp, laden with her
sun-hat and parasol and fan, her vanity box and lace hand-bag, took
her out into the gardens, and the proceedings began as they usually
did when Polly Parsons arrived. Subcommittees took cheerful and
happy possession of the most comfortable locations they could find,
and Constance Joy walked Ashley Loring out through the side porch.

"There's a very cozy and retired seat in the summer-house," she
informed him. "I wish to have a tete-a-tete with you on a most
important business matter."

"You may have a tete-a-tete with me on any subject whatsoever,"
laughed Loring. "I suppose it's about those Johnny Gamble
attachments, however."

"It's about that exactly," she acknowledged. "What have you learned
of the one for fifty thousand dollars which was attempted to be laid
against Mr. Gamble's interest in that hotel property yesterday?"

"Very little," he confessed. "It is of the same sort as the one we
discussed the other day."

Constance nodded. "Fraudulent, probably," she guessed.

"I think so myself," agreed Loring. "Trouble is, nobody can locate
the Gamble-Collaton books."

"Perhaps they have been destroyed," mused Constance.

"I doubt it," returned Loring. "It would seem the sensible thing to
do; but, through some curious psychology which I can not fathom,
crooks seldom make away with documentary evidence."

"Who is helping Mr. Collaton?" asked Constance abruptly after a
little silence.

"I do not know," answered Loring promptly, looking her squarely in
the eye.

"Some one of our mutual acquaintance," she persisted shrewdly.
"Twice, now, attachments have been served on Mr. Gamble when the
news of his having attachable property could only have come from our
set."

They had turned the corner of the lilac screen and found a little
summer-house occupied by Sammy and Winnie, and the low mellow voice
of Winnie was flowing on and on without a break.

"It's the darlingest vanity purse I ever saw," she babbled. "Sister
Polly bought it for me this morning. She's the dearest dear in the
world! I don't wonder you're so crazy about her. How red your hand
is next to mine! Madge Cunningham says that I have the whitest and
prettiest hands of any girl in school--and she's made a special
study of hands. Isn't that the cunniest sapphire ring? Sister Polly
sent it to me on my last birthday; so now you know what month I was
born in. Jeannette Crawley says it's just the color of my eyes. She
writes poetry. She wrote some awfully sweet verses about my hair.
'The regal color of the flaming sun', she called it. She's
dreadfully romantic; but the poor child's afraid she will never have
a chance on account of her snub nose. We thought her nose was cute
though. Miss Grazie, our professor of ancient history, said my nose
was of the most perfect Greek profile she had ever seen--just like
that on the features of Clytie, and with just as delicately formed
nostrils. We set the funniest trap for her once. Somebody always
told the principal when we were going to sneak our fudge nights, and
we suspected it was one of the ugly girls--they're always either the
sweetest or the meanest girls in school, you know. We had a signal
for it, of course--one finger to the right eye and closing the left;
and one day, when we were planning for a big fudge spree that night,
I saw Miss Grazie watching us pass the sign. There isn't much
escapes my eyes. Sure enough, that night Miss Porley made a raid.
Well, on Thursday, Madge Cunningham and myself, without saying a
word to anybody, stayed in Miss Grazie's room after class and gave
each--other the fudge signal; and sure enough, that night--"

Constance and Loring tiptoed away, leaving the bewildered Sammy
smiling feebly into the eyes of Winnie and floundering hopelessly in
the maze of her information.

"I have it," declared Constance. "That lovely little chatterbox has
given me an idea."

"Is it possible?" chuckled Loring. "Poor Sammy!"

"He was smiling," laughed Constance. "Here comes the chairman of the
floor-walkers' committee."

Gresham, always uneasy in the absence of Constance, who was too
valuable a part of his scheme of life to be left in charge of his
friends, had come into the garden after them on the pretext of
consulting the general committee.

"Do you know anything about the Garfield Bank?" Constance asked
Gresham in the first convenient pause.

"It is very good as far as I have heard," he replied after careful
consideration. "Are there any rumors out against it?"

"Quite the contrary," she hastily assured him. "It is so convenient,
however, that I had thought of opening a small account there. Mr.
Gamble transferred his funds to that bank to-day--and if he can
trust them with over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars I should
think I might give them my little checking account."

When they were alone again Loring turned to her in surprise.

"I have Johnny's money in my name. I didn't know he had opened an
account with the Garfield Bank," he wondered.

"Neither did I," she laughed. "I told a fib! I laid a trap!"

CHAPTER X

IN WHICH JOHNNY IS SINGULARLY THRILLED BY A LITTLE CONVERSATION OVER
THE TELEPHONE

Mr. Gamble, on his arrival the following afternoon, found Miss Purry
very coldly regretful that she had already disposed of her property
for a working-girls' home, at a hundred and seventy-five thousand
dollars, having made a twenty-five-thousand-dollar reduction by way
of a donation to the cause. Johnny drove back into the city rapidly-
-for he was now only sixteen hours ahead of his schedule. He was
particularly out of sorts because Miss Purry had mentioned that the
De Luxe Apartments Company had been after the plot. It is small
satisfaction to a loser to have his judgment corroborated.

There was a Bronx project, involving the promotion of a huge
exclusive subdivision, which he had hoped to launch; but during his
call on Miss Purry that scheme went adrift through the sudden
disagreement of the uncertain Wobbles brothers who owned the land.
It was a day of failures; and at four o'clock he returned to the
office and inscribed, upon the credit side of his unique little day-
book, the laconic entry:

"April 28. Two flivvers. $0."

Loring, pausing behind him and looking over his shoulder, smiled--
and added a climax. "Jacobs attached your account at the Garfield
Bank to-day on that fifty-thousand-dollar note."

"That's my first good laugh to-day," returned Johnny. "I have no
funds there."

"Gresham thought you had," said Loring quietly. "A trap was laid to
make him think so, and he walked right into it."

"As soon as I have any place to keep a goat I'll get Gresham's,"
declared Johnny. "So he's really in on it."

"He's scared," stated Loring.

"I hope he's right," returned Johnny. "I do wish they'd let me
alone, though, till Thursday, June first."

On Saturday, the twenty-ninth, and on Monday, the first of May,
Johnny Gamble was compelled reluctantly to enter "flivvers" against
his days' labors; and on Tuesday at two o'clock Constance called him
up.

"Guilty!" he acknowledged as soon as he heard her voice. "I'm caught
up with my schedule. At four o'clock I'll be ten thousand dollars
behind. Everything I touch crawls right back in its shell."

"They'll come out again," she encouraged him. "I didn't call you up,
as your score keeper, to tell you that from this hour you will be
running in debt to yourself, but that one of your projects has come
to life again."

"Which one is that?" he eagerly inquired.

"The property owned by that lady on Riverside Drive. I see by this
morning's paper that the working-girls' home is not to be built. I
suppose you already know it, however."

"I overlooked that scandal," he confessed. "Wasn't the building to
be ugly enough?"

"This was a little obscure paragraph," she told him. "It was rather
a joking item, based upon the fact that there is a great deal of ill
feeling among the neighbors, who clubbed together and bought the
option to prevent a building of this character from being erected.
I'm so glad you didn't know about it!"

Her enthusiasm was contagious. Johnny himself was glad. It seemed
like a terrific waste of time to have to wait a month before he
could tell her what he thought of her; but he had to have that
million!

"You're a careful score keeper," he complimented her. "I'll go right
after that property. Does the item say who controls it now?"

"I have the paper before me. I'll read you the names," she returned
with businesslike preparedness: "Mr. James Jameson-Guff, Mr. G. W.
Mason, Mr. Martin Sheats, Mr. Edward Kettle."

"All the neighbors," he commented. "They don't like honest working-
girls, I guess. That's a fine crowd of information you've handed me.
I ought to give you a partnership in that million."

"You just run along or you'll be too late!" she urged him. "I'll
take my commission in the five-thousand-dollar hours you donate to
the Babies' Fund Fair. By the way, from whom do you suppose that
option was purchased?"

"Gresham?" inquired Johnny promptly and with such a thrill of
startled intensity in his tone that Constance could not repress a
giggle.

"No, James Collaton," she informed him. "That's all the news. Hurry,
now! Report to me, won't you, as soon as you find out whether you
can secure the property? I haven't made an entry on my score board
since last Wednesday night. Good-by."

"Good-by," said Johnny reluctantly; but he held the telephone open,
trying to think of something else to say until he heard the click
which told him that she had hung up.

Last Wednesday night! Why, that was the night he had given the
dinner in celebration of his passing the quarter-of-a-million mark;
and after he had taken her home from the dinner she had sat up to
rule and mark that elaborate score board! Somehow his lungs felt
very light and buoyant.

Collaton, though? How did he get into the deal? Suddenly Johnny
remembered Val Russel's joking at the committee meeting. Gresham
again!

"Loring, I don't think I can wait till June first to get after the
scalps of Gresham and Collaton," he declared as he prepared to go
out. "I want to soak them now."

James Jameson-Guff, so christened by his wife, but more familiarly
known among his associates as Jim Guff, received Johnny with a frown
when he understood his errand.

"You're too late," he told Johnny. "We've turned the option over to
our wives to do with as they pleased. We're to have a swell yacht
club out there now. I think that's a graft, too!"

"If you get stung again, Mr. Guff, let me know," offered Johnny,
"and I'll have you a bona fide apartment-house proposition in short
order."

"Nyagh!" observed Mr. Guff.

Johnny dutifully reported to his score keeper the result of his
errand and, that evening, to explain it more fully he went out to
her house; but he found Gresham there and nobody had a very good
time.

On the following morning he saw in the papers that the Royal Yacht
Club, a new organization, the moving spirit of which was one Michael
T. O'Shaunessy, was to have magnificent headquarters on Riverside
Drive--and he immediately went to see Mr. Guff. Mike O'Shaunessy was
a notorious proprietor of road houses and "clubs" of shady
reputation, and there was no question as to what sort of place the
Royal Yacht Club would be.

Mr. Guff was furious about it.

"I knew it," he said. "The women have just telephoned me an
authorization to send for this Jacobs blackguard and buy back the
option."

"Jacobs?" inquired Johnny, "Not Abraham Jacobs?"

"That's the one," corroborated Guff. "Why, do you know him?"

"He is a professional stinger," Johnny admitted. "He stung me, and
Collaton helped."

"I've no doubt of it," responded Guff. "It was a put-up job in the
first place. By the way, Gamble, you used to be in partnership with
Collaton yourself."

"That's true enough," admitted Johnny. "Possibly I'd better give you
some references."

"Give them to the women," retorted Guff.

An hour later Johnny telephoned Guff.

"Did you repurchase the option from Jacobs?" he inquired.

"Yes!" snapped Guff, and hung up.

The facts that the De Luxe Apartments Company was hot after the
property and that he himself was now four hours behind his schedule,
with nothing in sight, drove Johnny on, in spite of his dismal
forebodings.

Mrs. Guff he found to be a hugely globular lady, with a globular
nose, the lines on either side of which gave her perpetually an
expression of having just taken quinine. In view of her recent
experiences she was inclined to call the police the moment Johnny
stated his errand, but he promptly referred her to some gentlemen of
unimpeachable commercial standing; namely, Close, Courtney, Bouncer
and Morton Washer. She coolly telephoned them in his presence and
was satisfied.

"You must understand, however," she said to him severely, "the only
way in which we will release this option is that nothing but a
first-class apartment-house, of not less than ten stories in height
and with no suites of less than three thousand a year rental, shall
be erected."

"I'll sign an agreement to that effect," he promptly promised.

"And how much do you offer us for the property?"

"Two hundred thousand," he returned, making a conservative guess at
the amount they must have paid for the two options.

A deepening of the quinine expression told him that he had undershot
the mark.

"Two hundred and ten thousand," he quickly amended.

A chocolate-cream expression struggled feebly with the quinine; and
Johnny, who could translate the lines of the human countenance into
dollars and cents with great accuracy, knew instantly that their two
options had cost them thirty thousand dollars, and that he was
offering the four ladies a profit of one thousand two hundred and
fifty dollars' worth of gowns or diamonds each.

"That will be the most I can give," he still further amended. "I am
prepared to write you a check at any moment."

"I think I can call a meeting at once," she informed him, and did so
by telephone.

Mrs. Sheats, who came over presently, was an angular woman who kept
the expression of her mouth persistently sweet, no matter what her
state of mind might be; and she was very glad indeed that, so long
as Miss Purry insisted on permitting a building of any sort to be
erected opposite the Slosher residence, they were protecting that
estimable lady in her absence by insuring a structure of dignity and
class.

Mrs. Kettle, who was a placid lady of mature flesh and many teeth,
and who carried ounces upon ounces of diamonds without visible
effort, bewailed the innovation that Miss Purry was forcing on them,
but felt a righteous glow that, under the circumstances, they were
doing so nobly on behalf of Mrs. Slosher.

Mrs. Mason, who was a little, dry, jerky woman whose skin creaked
when she rubbed it, whose voice scratched and whose whole
personality suggested the rasp of saw-filing, was in her own
confession actuated by less affectionate motives.

"I'm glad of it!" she snapped. "Mrs. Slosher is always talking about
their superb river view and the general superiority of the Slosher
location, the Slosher residence, the Slosher everything! I'm glad of
it!"

The other ladies felt that Mrs. Mason was very catty.

At four o'clock that afternoon Johnny entered in his book:

"May third. To seven hours--nine hours behind schedule--$35,000. To
Purry speculation, $210,000."

To offset this was:

"May third. To a chance, $0."

CHAPTER XI

IN WHICH JOHNNY EXECUTES SOME EXCEEDINGLY RAPID BUSINESS DEALS

Sitting tight and watching the hands of his watch go round, with a
deficit of five thousand dollars an hour piling up against him, was
as hard work as Johnny Gamble had ever done; and yet he knew that,
if he succumbed to impatience and went to the De Luxe Apartments
Company before they came to him, he would relinquish a fifty per
cent, advantage. He saw another day slipping past him, with a total
deficit of sixteen hours behind his schedule--or an appalling
shortage of eighty thousand dollars--when, at one o'clock on
Thursday, the expected happened--and a brisk little man, with a
mustache which would have been highly luxuriant if he had not kept
it bitten off as closely as he could reach it, dropped in, inquired
for Loring, jerked a chair as close to him as he could get it and
said, in one breath: "Want to sell your river-view property?"

"Certainly," replied Loring, in whose name the property stood. "Mr.
Gamble is handling that for me. Mr. Chase, Mr. Gamble."

Mr. Chase, holding to his chair, jumped up, hurried over to Johnny
and once more jerked the chair close up.

"How much do you want for it?" he asked.

"Two hundred and seventy-five thousand."

"Too much. I understand it's restricted to apartment-house purposes
alone?"

"Yes."

"Not less than ten stories, and a minimum rental of three thousand
dollars a suite?"

"Yes."

"You can't sell it for that price with those restrictions."

"We can build on it," replied Johnny calmly.

"You won't," asserted Mr. Chase with equal conviction. "You bought
it to sell. I'll give you two hundred and fifty thousand."

"No," refused Johnny quite bravely, though with a panicky feeling as
he thought of that appallingly swift schedule.

"All right," said Chase. "I'll hold the offer open at that figure
for forty-eight hours. I think you'll come to it."

"I doubt it," responded Johnny, smiling; but he was afraid he would.

In less than an hour he received an unexpected call from Mrs. Guff,
who was in such secret agitation that she quivered like jelly
whenever she breathed.

"Mr. Guff and myself have decided to take Miss Purry's river-view
property off your hands, Mr. Gamble," was the glad tidings she
conveyed to him, smiling to share his delight. "We can't think of
letting that river view slip by us."

"I'm glad to hear it," he announced with gratification, as he
thought of Mr. Chase. "Have you secured the consent of your partners
in the option to waive the apartment-house requirements?"

"Oh, no!" she ejaculated, shocked that any one should think that
possible. "We have decided to build the apartment-house and to live
there."

"To live there!" he repeated, remembering the elaborate Guff
residence.

"Yes, indeed!" she enthusiastically exclaimed. "You know the
property slopes down to the river beautifully, and exquisite,
private, terraced gardens could be built there. We could take the
entire lower floor of the apartment building for ourselves, with a
private driveway arched right through it; and we could take the
first three floors of the rear part for our own use, with wonderful
Venetian balconies overlooking the terraces and the river. The
remaining apartments would have entrances on the two front corners,
leaving us all the effect of a Venetian palace. Don't you think
that's clever?"

"It is clever!" he repeated with smiling emphasis, and mentally
raising Chase's ultimatum ten per cent.

"I suppose you'll want to charge us more for the property than you
paid for it," she suggested with a faint hope that maybe he might
not, since he had bought it so recently--and through them.

"That's what I'm in business for," he blandly acknowledged. "I can
let you have the property for two hundred and seventy-five thousand
dollars."

"How much did you say?" she gasped.

"Two hundred and seventy-five thousand."

"Why, it's an outrage!" she puffed. "You paid only two hundred and
ten thousand for it yesterday."

"I'm not telling you its cost to me yesterday, but its value to-
day," he reminded her.

Mrs. Guff had helped her husband to his business success in the
early days--and she had driven bargains with supply men which had
made them glad when she was ill.

"You may keep the property," she wheezed. "Nobody will pay that
price--not even William Slosher; and he'll buy anything if his wife
pouts for it in the ridiculous French clothes she's brought back
with her."

"So the Sloshers are back?" he guessed, with an understanding, at
last, of her agitation.

"They came last night," she admitted, inflating with a multitude of
feelings. "The most ungrateful people in the world! So far from
being thankful for the time and pains and money we spent to protect
them, they're viciously angry and are making threats--positive
threats--that they will disgrace the entire neighborhood!"

"Do you refuse this property at two hundred and seventy-five
thousand?" Mr. Gamble interestedly wanted to know.

"Certainly I do!" she emphatically declared, positive that no human
being would pay that absurd increase in valuation.

"Then the price is withdrawn," he told her; and she left him,
puzzling mightily over that last remark.

Johnny Gamble was a man of steady nerves, yet even he fidgeted until
three o'clock for fear Mr. Slosher would not call him up. At that
hour, however, Mr. Slosher called in person, accompanied by his
wife. There is no need to describe Mr. Slosher, who was merely an
elderly gentleman of much vigor and directness; and it is impossible
to describe Mrs. Slosher, who was never twice alike, anyhow, being
merely the spirit of a beautiful ever changing youth in a body of
beautiful ever changing habiliments.

"What do you want for the river-view property you have just
purchased?" Mr. Slosher demanded.

"I don't know," confessed Johnny, laughing. "The valuation is going
up so rapidly that I can't keep track of it myself. Mrs. Guff was
just in, asking the price."

Mrs. Slosher tapped the toe of a beautiful satin carriage slipper
impatiently upon the floor, and a very bright red spot glowed on
each cheek; but she did not say a word. She only looked at her
husband. Mr. Gamble had a queer idea that her mere gaze could, on an
occasion like this, burn holes through a cake of ice. Certain it is
that Mr. Slosher turned quickly to her--and then, as if he had been
galvanized, turned back to Johnny.

"I'll give you until to-morrow night to secure your highest offer
and then I'll add five per cent, to it," he stated.

"You understand the restrictions, I suppose?" ventured Johnny.

"Perfectly. My kind neighbors have handed me a ten-story apartment-
house, with a minimum rental per suite of three thousand dollars a
year. I'm going to build their neighborhood ornament and fill it
with high-toned niggers!"

Mrs. Slosher smiled. She was a beautiful young woman. To youth
belongs much.

Johnny Gamble, caught amidships, as it were, snorted.

"Well, I don't live out there," he said.

Mr. Slosher smiled.

"That is all, I believe," he announced as he assisted Mrs. Slosher
to her feet with that punctilious gallantry which defies a younger
man to do it better.

At four o'clock Jim Guff called Mr. Gamble on the telephone.

"Hello, Gamble!" he hailed in an entirely new voice. "You're a
robber!"

"You flatter me," returned Johnny quite comfortably. "Is there
anything I can do for you in that line?"

"A whole lot," replied Guff. "I'll accept the price you gave Mrs.
Guff on that river-view site."

"Too late," answered Johnny cheerfully. "I withdrew that offer
before Mrs. Guff left the office. Mr. and Mrs. Slosher have been in
since then."

Jim Guff's voice cracked as he hastily said:

"I'll meet any offer he makes you and tack a five-thousand-dollar
bonus to it."

Johnny called up the De Luxe Apartments. Company and secured the ear
of Mr. Chase.

"I withdraw my offer of two hundred and seventy-five thousand for
that river-view property," he stated." What is the best bid you will
make me above that figure?"

"I'm not inclined to scramble for it," immediately claimed Mr.
Chase, who was aware at the time that he was telling a point-blank
lie.

"Very well, then," said Johnny, wondering how he was to get a
definite figure without committing himself. "I'll have to drop you
out of my calculations."

"When must you know?"

"To-morrow morning."

"You're bluffing!" charged Mr. Chase scornfully.

"I have two very earnest bidders for the property," insisted Johnny
with dignity--and completed his bluff, if Chase cared to regard it
that way, by hanging up his receiver.

Before he left the office he entered in his books:

"May 4. Sold; but I don't know who to or at what price. Close to
schedule, though."

He entered the next day in advance:

"May 5. The Babies' Fund Fair--Holiday. Nothing doing."

CHAPTER XII

IN WHICH JOHNNY EVEN DOES BUSINESS AT THE BABIES' FUND FAIR

"I wish I could write poetry," regretted Johnny, looking across at
Constance Joy in the violet booth.

"Why don't you try it?" asked Polly Parsons, following his gaze and
comprehending his desire perfectly, for she, too, was a rabid
Constancite.

"I did," he confessed with a disappointed laugh. "I hadn't the nerve
to be mushy enough, though--and nothing else seems to be real
poetry. I got one line that listened like the goods, but I couldn't
match it up: 'As I lie awake and look at the stars--' Pretty good
start, eh? How do you find a rhyme for it?"

"You go down through the alphabet," Polly advised him, rather proud
to be able to answer him so promptly. "Bars, cars, fars, jars--that
way, you know. How I found out is that Sister Winnie writes so much
poetry."

"She's a great kid," laughed Johnny. "Where is she?"

"Round here some place, giving orders to Sammy Chirp. Why are you
loafing this afternoon? You're supposed to be making five thousand
dollars an hour, but I don't see any chance for it here."

"It's a holiday," he retorted. "You're loafing yourself. I see it's
on the program that you're to sell a quarter's worth of violets and
a smile, for five dollars a throw at the boutonniere booth. Notice
how I said boutonniere?"

"You got it out of a book," charged Polly disdainfully. "I called
Constance over from the candy booth to take my place because a gray-
haired rusher came back seven times to have me pin violets on his
coat--and I couldn't smile any more. There he goes now. That's his
second trip for Constance."

"This is a cruel world. I suppose it would fuss her all up if I
dropped him out of a window," Johnny observed wistfully.

"Constance doesn't need help. Just watch her!" And Polly grinned
appreciatively as Constance, recognizing and sorting the tottering
lady-killer at a glance, took his money handed him a nosegay and a
pin, and returned to the back of the booth to arrange her stock:

A huge blot of orange and a thin streak of lavender paused on the
other side of the palms. Johnny wondered to see these two enemies
together, but no man could know the satisfaction they took in it.

"The violet booth," read the big blot of orange, adjusting her gold
lorgnette to the bridge of her globular nose and consulting her
catalogue. "Friday afternoon: Polly Parsons and Mrs. Arthur
Follison. That is not Mrs. Follison in the booth, is it?"

"Oh, no, Mrs. Guff!" protested the thin streak of lavender in a
rasping little lavender voice. "Mrs. Follison, though not a doll-
face--indeed, far from it--is of most aristocratic bearing."

"I suppose that person in the booth, then, is the adopted actress,"
guessed Mrs. Guff. "Any one can tell that's beauty and movement of
the professional type."

Johnny looked at Polly with hasty concern, but that young lady was
enjoying the joke on Constance and gripped his arm for silence.

"One can quite understand how poor Billy Parsons might become
infatuated with her doll-face," returned Miss Purry pityingly, since
she was herself entirely free from the crime of doll-facedness; "but
that the Parsons should adopt such a common person merely because
Billy died before he could marry her was inconsiderate of the rest
of our class."

"The artfulness of her!" exclaimed the thick one, lorgnetting the
graceful Constance with a fishy eye as the temporary flower girl
joyously greeted Ashley Loring and Val Russel and Bruce Townley,
pinned bouquets upon them and exchanged laughing banter with them.

"Dreadful!" agreed the shocked thin one. "Those are the very wiles
by which doll-faced stage women insnare our most desirable young
men."

Constance looked about just then in search of Polly, and her eyes
lighted as they saw Johnny standing with her.

"Oh, Polly!" she called.

"Coming, Constance!" returned the hearty and cheery voice of Polly
from just behind the critics.

The ladies in lavender and orange were still gasping when Johnny
Gamble passed them with Polly. He had made up his mind about the
river-front property.

Loud acclaim hailed Polly and Johnny, for where they went there was
zest of life; and the boys, knowing well that Johnny never wore
flowers, made instant way for him at the violet booth.

"I'll take some blue ones, lady," announced Johnny gamely, intending
to wear them with defiance.

"I'll give you the nearest we have, mister," laughed Constance, and
promptly decorated him.

Since this was the closest her face and eyes had ever been to him,
he forgot to pay her and had to be reminded of that important duty
by Polly and all the boys in unison. There was a faint evasive trace
of perfume about her, more like the freshness of morning or the
delicacy of starlight than an actual essence, he vaguely thought
with a groping return to his poetic inclination. He felt the warmth
of her velvet cheek, even at its distance of a foot away, and there
seemed to be a pulsing thrill in the very air which intervened. For
a startled instant he found himself gazing deep down into her brown
eyes. In that instant her red lips curved in a fleeting smile--a
smile of the type which needs moist eyes to carry its tenderness. It
was all over in a flash, only a fragment of a second, which seemed a
blissful pulsing eternity; and at its conclusion he thought that her
finger quivered as it brushed his own, where he held out the lapel
of his coat, and her cheek paled ever so slightly--but these were
dreams, he knew.

"I'm next, I think," grated a usually suave voice which now had a
decided tinge of unpleasantness; and Paul Gresham, selecting a bunch
of violets from the tray, held them out toward Constance, impatient
to end the all too pretty tableau.

"Next and served," Polly briskly told him; and, taking the
boutonniere from his fingers, she whisked it into place and pinned
it and extracted his money--all apparently in one deft operation.

"Thanks," said Gresham, blinking with the suddenness of it all and
sweeping with a glance of gloomy dissatisfaction, Polly, the
bouquet, Constance and Johnny. "I thought you were to be in the
caramel booth, Constance."

"I'm just going back," she informed him, pausing to straighten
Johnny's lapel, patting it in place and stepping back to view the
result with a critical eye. It seemed to need another coaxing bend
and another pat, both of which she calmly delivered.

A handsome passing couple caught Johnny's eye--a keen and vigorous-
looking elderly gentleman, and Springtime come among them in the
pink and white of apple blossoms--sweet and fresh and smiling; as
guileless as the May itself, but competent!

"Excuse me," said Johnny, and tore himself away from the girl whose
natural beauty made Mrs. Slosher an exquisite work of art. "Beg your
pardon, Mr. Slosher."

Mr. Slosher turned and smiled.

"Hello, Mr. Gamble!" he greeted him, while Mrs. Slosher gave him a
bright and cheery little nod. "I played old-fashioned army poker
with Colonel Bouncer and Ben Courtney and Mort Washer and Joe Close
last night--and the old robbers skinned me out of thirty-two
dollars. They spoke of you during the game and I guess you could get
backing to any amount in that crowd."

"Thanks for the tip," returned Johnny. "I may need it."

"You're going to give us our apartment-house property, aren't you?"
Mrs. Slosher knew by his very appearance.

"It's only a matter of closing the deal," Johnny told her with a
perfectly justifiable smile which Constance, from a distance,
criticized severely. He drew an envelope from his pocket and took
from it a paper which he passed to Mr. Slosher.

It was a written offer from the De Luxe Apartments Company for three
hundred thousand dollars.

"That makes my offer, then--at five per cent, advance--three hundred
and fifteen thousand," figured Slosher. "Is that a bargain?"

Johnny, glancing contentedly about the big inclosure, saw Jim Guff
waiting impatiently for a chance to speak with him.

"It's a bargain," he agreed, and pretty little Mrs. Slosher nodded
her head vehemently with innocent joy.

Gresham passed them by and tipped his hat to Mrs. Slosher, including
Mr. Slosher in the greeting. A pleasant idea struck Johnny.

"You scarcely intend to build your colored apartment-house under
your own name?" he suggested.

"Indeed, no!" laughed Mrs. Slosher happily. "All we wish is the
result. We ask for no credit."

"Moreover," warned Mr. Slosher, "I wouldn't care to have my purpose
known until after I have sold my own residence. I am a little
worried, however, about the detail you suggest. No man of any
consequence would injure the good will of his fellows by standing
sponsor for such a venture."

"I think I know your man," stated Gamble with pleasant anticipation.
"I'll tell you about him if you'll be careful not to let him or
anybody else know that I recommended him."

"I can figure out sufficient reasons for that," replied Slosher. "Is
he reliable?"

"He can give you security--and I suppose you had better exact it,"
advised Johnny. "He is the man who first secured the option from
Miss Purry."

"What is his name?"

"Collaton," and Johnny gazed serenely after Gresham.

"I'll send for him in the morning," decided Mr. Slosher.

When Johnny returned to the violet booth he found there Winnie and
Sammy Chirp, the latter with all his pockets and both his arms full
of Winnie's purchases and personal belongings, inextricably mixed
with similar articles belonging to Polly; and there was a new note
of usefulness which redeemed somewhat the feebleness of his smile.
Loring was helping Sammy to adjust his burdens; and Winnie, with the
aid of the mirror in her vanity box, was trying the effect of
violets close to her eyes. Johnny waited patiently for Loring to get
through and then, despite Polly's protest, dragged him away.

"I've arranged for the first dent in Gresham and Collaton," he
announced, and outlined the program which later on was carried out
to the letter. "I've fixed to have some valuable property placed in
Collaton's name, with Gresham as security. When that is done I want
you to go to Jacobs and play a mean trick on him. Make him serve
that attachment on Collaton's ostensible property. Collaton, having
confessed judgment on the note, can not fight it--and Gresham will
have to foot the bill."

Self-contained and undemonstrative as Loring was in public, he,
nevertheless, gave way to an uncontrollable burst of laughter which
humiliated him beyond measure when he discovered the attention he
had attracted.

CHAPTER XIII

IN WHICH JOHNNY BUYS A PRESENT AND HATCHES A SCHEME

Johnny, relying like a lost mariner on Polly Parsons and Constance
Joy to help him pick out a present for his only mother, approached
Lofty's with a diffidence amounting to awe. In that exclusive shop
he would meet miles of furbelowed femininity, but he would not have
ventured unprotected into those fluffed and billowed aisles for
anything short of a penance.

Being a philosopher, however, he kept his mind active in as many
other directions as possible, like a child deliberately feasting
upon thoughts of Santa Claus though on the way to a promised
spanking.

"There's a hoodoo on this block," Johnny observed as they were
caught in the traffic crush almost in front of their destination.

"Lofty and Ersten must be the hoodooers, then," laughed Polly.
"Everybody else has gone away."

Johnny looked at the towering big Lofty establishment, which
occupied half the block, and at the dingy little ladies' tailoring
shop, down around the other corner, with speculative curiosity.
About both, as widely different as they were, there was the same
indefinable appearance of prosperity, as if the solid worth from
within shone heavily through.

"Lofty's couldn't move and Ersten wouldn't," supplemented Constance.

"Not that Dutchman!" returned Polly, laughing again as she peered
into the low dark windows of the ladies' tailoring shop. "I was in
the other day, and he told me three times that he would be right
there to make my walking frocks for the next thirteen years."

"He was having a quarrel with Mr. Schnitt about the light in the
workroom when I was in," observed Constance, "but he told me the
same thing, in his enjoyable German way, and he seemed almost angry
about it."

"That's the extent of his lease," guessed Johnny shrewdly. "They're
trying to get it away from him."

"I wonder why," speculated Constance.

"It's as simple as spending money," Johnny announced. "Lofty intends
building an extension."

"They won't tear down Ersten's shop," Polly confidently asserted.

"They'll move him in a wheelbarrow some night," Johnny prophesied.
"If I could grab his lease I could play a few hours."

Both the girls laughed at him for that speech.

"You'll be gray before the thirty-first of May," warned Polly.

"It turns anybody gray to dig up a million," agreed Johnny. "It's a
good guess, though, Polly. I counted seven new white ones this
morning."

"That's a strange coincidence," commented Constance, with a secretly
anxious glance at his hair. "You're just seven hours behind your
schedule."

Johnny shook his head.

"That schedule goes round like an electric fan," he soberly
declared.

"And there's no switch," Constance reminded him.

"Gresham," Johnny suggested with a smile.

Polly cast a sidelong glance at the pretty cousin into whose family
she had been adopted. The subject of Gresham was a painful one; and
Johnny felt his blundering bluntness keenly.

"There isn't any Gresham," laughingly asserted Polly. "There never
was any Gresham. Let's go to Coney Island to-night."

Both Constance and Johnny gave Polly a silent but sincere vote of
thanks.

Willis Lofty, who continued the progressive fortune of his father by
prowling about the vast establishment with a microscopic eye,
approached Polly with more than a shopkeeper's alacrity.

"You promised to send for me to be your clerk the next time you came
in," he chided her.

"I didn't come in this time," she gaily returned. "Mr. Gamble is the
customer," and she introduced Constance and the two gentlemen. "Mr.
Gamble wants to buy a silk shawl for a blue-eyed mother with gray
wavy hair and baby-pink cheeks."

"There are a lot of pretty shawls here," Constance added, "but none
of them seems quite good enough for this kind of a mother."

Young Lofty, himself looking more like a brisk and natty college
youth who had come in to buy a gift for his own mother than the
successful business man he was, glanced at the embarrassed Johnny
with thorough understanding.

"I think I know what you want," he said pleasantly; and, calling a
boy, he gave him some brief instructions. "We have some very
beautiful samples of French embroidered silks, just in yesterday,
and if I can get them away from our buyer you may have your choice.
There's a delicate gray, worked in pink, which would be very
becoming to a mother of that description. They're quite expensive,
but, I believe, are worth the money."

"That's what I want," stated Johnny. "I understand you're going to
build an extension, Mr. Lofty."

The girls gasped and then almost tittered.

Young Lofty ceased immediately to be the suave master of friendly
favors and became the harassed slave of finance.

"I don't know where you secured your information," he protested.

"I'm a fancy guesser," returned Johnny with a grin.

"I wish you were right," said Lofty soberly. "We have quietly gained
possession of nearly all the property in the block, but we're not
quite ready to build, nevertheless."

"I can finish the sad story," sympathized Johnny. "One granite-
headed ladies' tailor threatens to block the way for thirteen
years."

Lofty was surprised by the accuracy of his knowledge. "I'd like to
borrow your guesser," he admitted.

Johnny and the girls looked at each other with smiles of infantile
glee. They were delighted that they had deduced all this while
waiting for a traffic Napoleon to blow his whistle.

"Somebody's been telling," surmised Lofty. "The worst of it is, we
own the original lease. Father covered the entire block, in fact."

Johnny's thorough knowledge of New York business conditions enabled
him to make another good conjecture.

"Your firm has made money too fast," he remarked. "Your father hoped
to build in twenty years, and you need to build in seven."

"He provided much better than that," returned Lofty in quick defense
of his father's acumen. "He only allowed ten-year leases; but the
one occupied by Ersten came to him with a twenty-year life on it.
We've bought off all the other tenants, at startlingly extravagant
figures in some cases; but Ersten won't listen."

"Did you rattle your keys?" inquired Johnny, much interested.

"As loudly as possible," returned Lofty, smiling. "I went up three
steps at a time until I had offered him a hundred thousand; then I
quit. Money wouldn't buy him."

"Then you can't build," innocently remarked Constance.

Willis Lofty immediately displayed his real age in his eyes and his
jaws.

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