Part 3 out of 6
"Thank you. I'll have my bid in."
His muscles ached and his knees were trembling even before he had
reached the street. When he tried to board a 'bus he was waved away,
so he called a cab, piled his blueprints inside of it, and then
clambered in on top of them. He realized that he was badly frightened.
To this day the sight of a blueprint gives Louis Mitchell a peculiar
nausea and a fluttering sensation about the heart. At three o'clock
the next morning he felt his way blindly to his bed and toppled upon
it, falling straightway into a slumber during which he passed through
monotonous, maddening wastes of blue and white, over which ran
serpentine rows of figures.
He was up with the dawn and at his desk again, but by four that
afternoon he was too dazed, too exhausted to continue. His eyes were
playing him tricks, the room was whirling, his hand was shaking until
his fingers staggered drunkenly across the sheets of paper. Ground
plans, substructures, superstructures, were jumbled into a frightful
tangle. He wanted to yell. Instead he flung the drawings about the
room, stamped savagely upon them, then rushed down-stairs and devoured
a table d'hote dinner. He washed the meal down with a bottle of red
wine, smoked a long cigar, then undressed and went to bed amid the
scattered blueprints. He slept like a dead man.
He arose at sun-up, clear-headed, calm. All day he worked like a
machine, increasing his speed as the hours flew. He took good care to
eat and drink, and, above all, to smoke at regular intervals, but he
did not leave his room. By dark he had much of the task behind him; by
midnight he began to have hope; toward dawn he saw the end; and when
daylight came he collapsed.
He had deciphered the tank and superstructure plans on forty-five sets
of blueprints, had formulated a proposition, exclusive of substructure
work, basing a price per pound on the American market then ruling,
f.o.b. tidewater, New York. He had the proposition in his pocket
when he tapped on the ground-glass door of Mr. Peebleby's office at
ten-twenty-nine Thursday morning.
The Director General of the great Robinson-Ray Syndicate was genuinely
surprised to learn that the young American had completed a bid in so
short a time, then requested him, somewhat absent-mindedly, to leave
it on his desk where he could look it over at his leisure.
"Just a moment," said his caller. "I'm going to sit down and talk to
you again. How long have you been using cyanide tanks, Mr. Peebleby?"
"Ever since they were adopted." Mr. Peebleby was visibly annoyed at
this interruption to his morning's work.
"Well, I can give you a lot of information about them."
The Director General raised his brows haughtily. "Ah! Suggestions,
amendments, improvements, no doubt."
"In all my experience I never sent out a blueprint which some youthful
salesman could not improve upon. Generally the younger the salesman
the greater the improvement."
In Mitchell's own parlance he "beat Mr. Peebleby to the punch." "If
that's the case, you've got a rotten line of engineers," he frankly
"Indeed! I went over those drawings myself. I flattered myself that
they were comprehensive and up-to-date." Mr. Peebleby was annoyed,
nevertheless he was visibly interested and curious.
"Well, they're not," the younger man declared, eying him boldly.
"For instance, you call for cast-iron columns in your sub-and
super-structures, whereas they're obsolete. We've discarded them. What
you save in first cost you eat up, twice over, in freight. Not only
that, but their strength is a matter of theory, not of fact. Then,
too, in your structural-steel sections your factor of safety is
wrongly figured. To get the best results your lower tanks are twenty
inches too short and your upper ones nine inches too short. For
another thing, you're using a section of beam which is five per cent.
heavier than your other dimensions call for."
The Director General sat back in his chair, a look of extreme
alertness replacing his former expression.
"My word! Is there anything else?" He undertook to speak mockingly,
but without complete success.
"There is. The layout of your platework is all wrong--out of line with
modern practice. You should have interchangeable parts in every tank.
The floor of your lower section should be convex, instead of flat, to
get the run-off. You see, sir, this is my line of business."
"Who is your engineer?" inquired the elder man. "I should like to talk
"You're talking to him now. I'm him--it--them. I'm the party! I told
you I knew the game."
There was a brief silence, then Mr. Peebleby inquired, "By the way,
who helped you figure those prints?"
"You did that _alone_, since Monday morning?" The speaker was
"I did. I haven't slept much. I'm pretty tired."
There was a new note in Mr. Peebleby's voice when he said: "Jove! I've
treated you badly, Mr. Mitchell, but--I wonder if you're too tired to
tell my engineers what you told me just now? I should like them to
"Trot them in." For the first time since leaving this office three
days before, Mitchell smiled. He was getting into his stride at last.
After all, there seemed to be a chance.
There followed a convention of the draftsmen and engineers of the
Robinson-Ray Syndicate before which an unknown American youth
delivered an address on "Cyanide Tanks. How to Build Them; Where to
It was the old story of a man who had learned his work thoroughly and
who loved it. Mitchell typified the theory of specialization; what he
knew, he knew completely, and before he had more than begun his talk
these men recognized that fact. When he had finished, Mr. Peebleby
announced that the bids would not be opened that day.
The American had made his first point. He had gained time in which
to handle himself, and the Robinson-Ray people had recognized a new
factor in the field. When he was again in the Director General's room,
the latter said:
"I think I will have you formulate a new bid along the lines you have
"You understand, our time is up. Can you have it ready by Saturday,
three days from now?"
Mitchell laughed. "It's a ten days' job for two men."
"I know, but we can't wait."
"Then give me until Tuesday; I'm used to a twenty-four-hour shift
now. Meanwhile I'd like to leave these figures here for your chief
draftsman to examine. Of course they are not to be considered
"Isn't that a bit--er--foolish?" inquired Peebleby? "Aren't you
leaving a weapon behind you?"
"Yes, but not the sort of a weapon you suspect," thought Mitchell.
"This is a boomerang." Aloud, he answered, lightly: "Oh, that's all
right. I know I'm among friends."
When his request was granted he made a mental note, "Step number two!"
Again he filled a cab with drawings, again he went back to the
Metropole and to maddening columns of new figures--back to the
monotony of tasteless meals served at his elbow.
But there were other things besides his own bid to think of now.
Mitchell knew he must find what other firms were bidding on the job,
and what prices they had bid. The first promised to require some
ingenuity, the second was a Titan's task.
Salesmanship, in its highest development, is an exact science. Given
the data he desired, Louis Mitchell felt sure he could read the
figures sealed up in those other bids to a nicety, but to get that
data required much concentrated effort and much time. Time was what he
needed above all things; time to refigure these myriad drawings, time
to determine when the other bids had gone in, time to learn trade
conditions at the competitive plants, time to sleep. There were not
sufficient hours in the day for all these things, so he rigidly
economized on the least important, sleep. He laid out a program
for himself; by night he worked in his room, by day he cruised for
information, at odd moments around the dawn he slept. He began to feel
the strain before long. Never physically robust, he began to grow blue
and drawn about the nostrils. Frequently his food would not stay down.
He was forced to drive his lagging spirits with a lash. To accomplish
this he had to think often of his girl-wife. Her letters, written
daily, were a great help; they were like some God-given cordial that
infused fresh blood into his brain, new strength into his flagging
limbs. Without them he could not have held up.
With certain definite objects in view he made daily trips to
Threadneedle Street. Invariably he walked into the general offices
unannounced; invariably he made a new friend before he came out.
Peebleby seemed to like him; in fact asked his opinion on certain
forms of structure and voluntarily granted the young man two days of
grace. Two days! They were like oxygen to a dying man.
Mitchell asked permission to talk to the head draftsman and received
it, and following their interview he requested the privilege of
dictating some notes regarding the interview. In this way he met the
stenographer. When he had finished with her he flipped the girl a gold
sovereign, stolen from the sadly melted nine hundred and twenty.
As Mitchell was leaving the office the Director General yielded to a
kindly impulse and advised his new acquaintance to run over to Paris
and view the Exposition.
"You can do your figuring there just as well as here," said he.
"I don't want your trip from Chicago to be altogether wasted, Mr.
Louis smiled and shook his head. "I can't take that Exposition back
with me, and I can take this contract. I think I'll camp with my bid."
In the small hours of that night he made a discovery that
electrified him. He found that the most commonly used section in his
specifications, a twelve-inch I-beam, was listed under the English
custom as weighing fifty-four pounds per foot, whereas the
standardized American section, which possessed the same carrying
strength, weighed four pounds less. Here was an advantage of eight
per cent. in cost and freight! This put another round of the ladder
beneath him; he was progressing well, but as yet he had learned
nothing about his competitors.
The next morning he had some more dictation for Peebleby's
stenographer, and niched another sovereign from his sad little
bank-roll. When the girl gave him his copy he fell into conversation
with her and painted a picture of Yankeeland well calculated to keep
her awake nights. They gossiped idly, she of her social obligations,
he of the cyanide-tank business--he could think of nothing else to
talk about. Adroitly he led her out. They grew confidential. She
admitted her admiration for Mr. Jenkins from Edinburgh. Yes, Mr.
Jenkins's company was bidding on the Krugersdorpf job. He was much
nicer than Mr. Kruse from the Brussels concern, and, anyhow, those
Belgian firms had no chance at this contract, for Belgium was
pro-Boer, and--well, she had heard a few things around the office.
Mitchell was getting "feed-box" information. When he left he knew
the names of his dangerous competitors as well as those whom, in all
likelihood, he had no cause to fear. Another step! He was gaining
In order to make himself absolutely certain that his figures would be
low, there still remained three things to learn, and they were matters
upon which he could afford to take no slightest chance of mistake.
He must know, first, the dates of those other bids; second, the
market-price of English steel at such times; and, third, the cost of
fabrication at the various mills. The first two he believed could
be easily learned, but the third promised to afford appalling
difficulties to a man unfamiliar with foreign methods and utterly
lacking in trade acquaintances. He went at them systematically,
however, only to run against a snag within the hour. Not only did he
fail to find the answer to question number one, but he could find no
market quotations whatever on structural steel shapes such as entered
into the Krugersdorpf job.
He searched through every possible trade journal, through reading
rooms and libraries, for the price of I-beams, channels, Z-bars, and
the like; but nowhere could he even find mention of them. His failure
left him puzzled and panic-stricken; he could not understand it. If
only he had more time, he reflected, time in which to learn the usages
and the customs of this country. But time was what he had not. He was
tired, very tired from his sleepless nights and hours of daylight
strain--and meanwhile the days were rushing past.
While engaged in these side labors, he had, of course, been working
on his draftsmen friends, and more assiduously even than upon his
blue-prints. On Tuesday night, with but one more day of grace ahead of
him, he gave a dinner to all of them, disregarding the fact that his
bank-roll had become frightfully emaciated.
For several days after that little party blue-printing in the
Robinson-Ray office was a lost art. When his guests had dined and had
settled back into their chairs, Mitchell decided to risk all upon one
throw. He rose, at the head of the table, and told them who he was. He
utterly destroyed their illusions regarding him and his position with
Comer & Mathison, he bared his heart to those stoop-shouldered, shabby
young men from Threadneedle Street and came right down to the nine
hundred and twenty dollars and the girl. He told them what
this Krugersdorpf job meant to him and to her, and to the four
twenty-dollar bills in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Those Englishmen listened silently. Nobody laughed. Perhaps it was the
sort of thing they had dreamed of doing some day, perhaps there were
other girls in other tiny furnished flats, other hearts wrapped up in
similar struggles for advancement. They were good mathematicians, it
seemed, for they did not have to ask Mitchell how the nine hundred
and twenty was doing, or to inquire regarding the health of the other
eighty. One of them, a near-sighted fellow with thick lenses, arose
with the grave assertion that he had taken the floor for the purpose
of correcting a popular fallacy; Englishmen and Yankees, he declared,
were not cousins, they were brothers, and their interests ever had
been and ever would be identical. He said, too, that England wanted
to do business with America, and as for this particular contract, not
only did the British nation as a whole desire America to secure it,
but the chaps who bent over the boards at No. 42-1/2 Threadneedle
Street were plugging for her tooth and nail. His hollow-chested
companions yelled their approval of this statement, whereupon Mitchell
again arose, alternately flushing and paling, and apologized for what
had happened in 1776. He acknowledged himself ashamed of the 1812
affair, moreover, and sympathized with his guests over their present
trouble with the Boers. When he had finished they voted him the best
host and the best little cyanide tank-builder known to them--and then
everybody tried to tell him something at once.
They told him among other things that every bid except his had been in
for two weeks, and that they were in the vault under the care of Mr.
Pitts, the head draftsman. They promised to advise him if any new bids
came in or if any changes occurred, and, most important of all, they
told him that in England all structural steel shapes, instead of being
classified as in America, are known as "angles," and they told him
just how and where to find the official reports giving the price of
the same for every day in the year.
The word "angles" was the missing key, and those official market
reports formed the lock in which to fit it. Mitchell had taken several
mighty strides, and there remained but one more step to take.
When his guests had finally gone home, swearing fealty, and declaring
this to be the best dinner they had ever drunk, he hastened back to
his room, back to the desert of blueprints and to the interminable
columns of figures, and over them he worked like a madman.
He slept two hours before daylight, then he was up and toiling again,
for this was his last day. Using the data he had gathered the night
before, he soon had the price of English and Scottish steel at the
time the last bids were closed. Given one thing more--namely, the cost
of fabrication in these foreign shops, and he would have reduced this
hazard to a certainty, he would be able to read the prices contained
in those sealed bids as plainly as if they lay open before him. But
his time had narrowed now to hours.
He lunched with John Pitts, the head draughtsman, going back to pick
up the boomerang he had left the week before.
"Have you gone over my first bid?" he asked, carelessly.
"I have--lucky for you," said Pitts. "You made a mistake."
"Indeed! How so?"
"Why, it's thirty per cent. too low. It would be a crime to give you
the business at those figures."
"But, you see, I didn't include the sub-structure. I didn't have time
to figure that." Mitchell prayed that his face might not show his
eagerness. Evidently it did not, for Pitts walked into the trap.
"Even so," said he; "it's thirty per cent. out of the way. I made
allowance for that."
The boomerang had finished its flight!
Once they had separated, Mitchell broke for his hotel like a
hunted man. He had made no mistake in his first figures. The great
Krugersdorpf job was his; but, nevertheless, he wished to make himself
absolutely sure and to secure as much profit as possible for Comer
& Mathison. Without a handsome profit this three-million-dollar job
might ruin a firm of their standing.
In order to verify Pitts's statement, in order to swell his proposed
profits to the utmost, Mitchell knew he ought to learn the "overhead"
in English mills; that is, the fixed charges which, added to shop
costs and prices of material, are set aside to cover office expenses,
cost of operation, and contingencies. Without this information
he would have to go it blind, after a fashion, and thereby risk
penalizing himself; with it he could estimate very closely the amounts
of the other bids and insure a safe margin for Comer & Mathison. In
addition to this precaution he wished to have his own figures checked
up, for even under normal conditions, if one makes a numerical error
in work of this sort, he is more than apt to repeat it time and again,
and Mitchell knew himself to be deadly tired--almost on the verge
of collapse. He was inclined to doze off whenever he sat down; the
raucous noises of the city no longer jarred or startled him, and his
surroundings were becoming unreal, grotesque, as if seen through the
spell of absinthe. Yes, it was necessary to check off his figures.
But who could he get to do the work? He could not go to Threadneedle
Street. He thought of the Carnegie representative and telephoned him,
explaining the situation and his crying need, only to be told that
no one in that office was capable of assisting him. He was referred,
however, to an English engineer who, it was barely possible, could
handle the job. In closing, the Carnegie man voiced a vague warning:
"His name is Dell, and he used to be with one of the Edinburgh
concerns, so don't let him know your inside figures. He might spring a
A half-hour later Mitchell, his arms full of blue-prints, was in Mr.
Dell's office. But the English engineer hesitated; he was very busy;
he had numerous obligations. Mitchell gazed over the threadbare rooms
and hastily estimated how much of the nine hundred and twenty dollars
would be left after he had paid his hotel bill. What there was to do
must be done before the next morning's sun arose.
"This job is worth ten sovereigns to me if it is finished tonight," he
Mr. Dell hesitated, stumbled, and fell. "Very well. We'll begin at
once," said he.
He unrolled the blue-prints, from a drawer he produced a sliding-rule.
He slid this rule up; he slid it down; he gazed through his glasses
at space; he made microscopic Spencerian figures in neat rows and
columns. He seemed to pluck his results from the air with necromantic
cunning, and what had taken the young man at his elbow days and nights
of cruel effort to accomplish--what had put haggard lines about his
mouth and eyes--the engineer accomplished in a few hours by means
of that sliding-rule. Meanwhile, with one weary effort of will, his
visitor summoned his powers and cross-examined him adroitly. Here was
the very man to supply the one missing link in the perfect chain;
but Mr. Dell would not talk. He did not like Americans nor American
methods, and he made his dislike apparent by sealing his lips.
Mitchell played upon his vanity at first, only to find the man wholly
lacking in conceit. Changing his method of attack, Mitchell built a
fire under Mr. Dell. He grilled everything British, the people, their
social customs, their business methods, even English engineers, and
he did it in a most annoying manner. Mr. Dell began to perspire.
He worked doggedly on for a while, then he arose in defense of his
country, whereupon Mitchell artfully shifted his attack to English
steel-mills. The other refuted his statements flatly. At length the
engineer was goaded to anger, he became disputative, indignant,
When Louis Mitchell flung himself into the dark body of his cab,
late that evening, and sank his legs knee-deep into those hateful
blue-prints, he blessed that engineer, for Dell had told him all he
wished to know, all he had tried so vainly to discover through other
sources. The average "overhead" in British mills was one hundred and
thirty per cent., and Dell _knew_.
The young man laughed hysterically, triumphantly, but the sound was
more like a tearful hiccough. To-morrow at ten-thirty! It was nearly
over. He would be ready. As he lolled back inertly upon the cushions
he mused dreamily that he had done well. In less than two weeks, in a
foreign country, and under strange conditions, without acquaintance or
pull or help of any sort, he had learned the names of his competitive
firms, the dates of their bids, and the market prices ruling on every
piece of steel in the Krugersdorpf job when those bids were figured.
He had learned the rules governing English labor unions; he knew all
about piece-work and time-work, fixed charges and shop costs, together
with the ability of every plant figuring on the Robinson-Ray contract
to turn out the work in the necessary time. All this, and more, he
had learned legitimately and without cost to his commercial honor.
Henceforth that South-African contract depended merely upon his own
ability to add, subtract, and multiply correctly. It was his just as
surely as two and two make four--for salesmanship is an exact science.
The girl would be very happy, he told himself. He was glad that she
could never know the strain it had been.
Again, through the slow, silent hours of that Wednesday night,
Mitchell fought the fatigue of death, going over his figures
carefully. There were no errors in them.
Dawn was creeping in on him when he added a clean thirty-per-cent.
profit for his firm, signed his bid, and prepared for bed. But he
found that he could not leave the thing. After he had turned in he
became assailed by sudden doubts and fears. What if he had made a
mistake after all? What if some link in his chain were faulty? What if
some other bidder had made a mistake and underfigured? Such thoughts
made him tremble. Now that it was all done, he feared that he had been
overconfident, for could it really be possible that the greatest steel
contract in years would come to him? He grew dizzy at the picture of
what it meant to him and to the girl.
He calmed himself finally and looked straight at the matter, sitting
up in bed, his knees drawn up under his chin. While so engaged he
caught sight of his drawn face in the mirror opposite and started
when he realized how old and heavy with fatigue it was. He determined
suddenly to shave that profit to twenty-nine per cent. and make
assurance doubly sure, but managed to conquer his momentary panic.
Cold reasoning told him that his figures were safe.
Louis Mitchell was the only salesman in Mr. Peebleby's office that
morning who did not wear a silk hat, pearl gloves, and spats. In
consequence the others ignored him for a time--but only for a time.
Once the proposals had been read, an air of impenetrable gloom spread
over the room. The seven Scotch, English, and Belgian mourners stared
cheerlessly at one another and then with growing curiosity at the
young man from overseas who had underbid the lowest of them by six
thousand pounds sterling, less than one per cent. After a while they
bowed among themselves, mumbled something to Mr. Peebleby, and
went softly out in their high hats, their pearl gloves, and their
spats--more like pall-bearers now than ever.
"Six hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred pounds sterling!"
said the Director General. "By Jove, Mitchell, I'm glad!" They shook
hands. "I'm really glad."
"That's over three million dollars in real money," said the youth.
"It's quite a tidy little job."
Peebleby laughed. "You've been very decent about it, too. I hope to
see something of you in the future. What?"
"You'll see my smoke, that's all."
"You're not going back right away?"
"To-morrow; I've booked my passage and cabled the girl to meet me in
"My word! A girl! She'll be glad to hear of your success."
"Oh, I've told her already. You see, I knew I'd won."
The Director General of the Robinson-Ray Syndicate stared in open
amazement, but Mitchell hitched his chair closer, saying:
"Now let's get at those signatures. I've got to pack."
That night Louis Mitchell slept with fifteen separate contracts under
his pillow. He double-locked the door, pulled the dresser in front of
it, and left the light burning. At times he awoke with a start and
felt for the documents. Toward morning he was seized with a sudden
fright, so he got up and read them all over for fear somebody had
tampered with them. They were correct, however, whereupon he read them
a second time just for pleasure. They were strangely interesting.
On the _Deutschland_ he slept much of the way across, and by the
time Liberty Statue loomed up he could dream of other things than
blue-prints--of the girl, for instance.
She had enough left from the eighty dollars to bring her to New York
and to pay for a week's lodging in West Thirty-fourth Street, though
how she managed it Mitchell never knew. She was at the dock, of
course. He knew she would be. He expected to see her with her arms
outstretched and with the old joyous smile upon her dimpled face, and,
therefore, he was sorely disappointed when he came down the gang-plank
and she did not appear. He searched high and low until finally he
discovered her seated over by the letter "M," where his trunk was
waiting inspection. There she was, huddled up on a coil of rope,
crying as if her heart would break; her nerve was gone, along with the
four twenty-dollar bills; she was afraid to face him, afraid there had
been an error in his cablegram.
Not until she lay in his arms at last, sobbing and laughing, her
slender body all aquiver, did she believe. Then he allowed her to feel
the fifteen contracts inside his coat. Later, when they were in a cab
bound for her smelly little boarding-house, he showed them to her. In
return she gave him a telegram from his firm--a telegram addressed as
Mr. LOUIS MITCHELL,
General Sales Manager, Comer & Mathison, New York City.
The message read:
That goes. COMER.
Mitchell opened the trap above his head and called up to the driver:
"Hey, Cabbie! We've changed our minds. Drive us to the Waldorf--at a
WITH INTEREST TO DATE
This is the tale of a wrong that rankled and a great revenge. It is
not a moral story, nor yet, measured by the modern money code, is it
what could be called immoral. It is merely a tale of sharp wits
which clashed in pursuit of business, therefore let it be considered
unmoral, a word with a wholly different commercial significance.
Time was when wrongs were righted by mace and battle-ax, amid fanfares
and shoutings, but we live in a quieter age, an age of repression,
wherein the keenest thrust is not delivered with a yell of triumph nor
the oldest score settled to the blare of trumpets. No longer do the
men of great muscle lord it over the weak and the puny; as a rule
they toil and they lift, doing unpleasant, menial duties for
hollow-chested, big-domed men with eye-glasses. But among those very
spindle-shanked, terra-cotta dwellers who cower at draughts and eat
soda mints, the ancient struggle for supremacy wages fiercer than
ever. Single combats are fought now as then, and the flavor of victory
is quite as sweet to the pallid man back of a roll-top desk as to the
swart, bristling baron behind his vizored helmet.
The beginning of this story runs back to the time Henry Hanford went
with the General Equipment Company as a young salesman full of hope
and enthusiasm and a somewhat exaggerated idea of his own importance.
He was selling shears, punches, and other machinery used in the
fabrication of structural steel. In the territory assigned to him, the
works of the Atlantic Bridge Company stuck up like a sore thumb, for
although it employed many men, although its contracts were large and
its requirements numerous, the General Equipment Company had never
sold it a dollar's worth of anything.
In the course of time Hanford convinced himself that the Atlantic
Bridge Company needed more modern machinery, so he laid siege to
Jackson Wylie, Sr., its president and practical owner. He spent all of
six months in gaining the old man's ear, but when he succeeded he
laid himself out to sell his goods. He analyzed the Atlantic Bridge
Company's needs in the light of modern milling practice, and
demonstrated the saving his equipment would effect. A big order and
much prestige were at stake, both of which young Hanford needed
badly at the time. He was vastly encouraged, therefore, when the
bridge-builder listened attentively to him.
"I dare say we shall have to make a change," Mr. Wylie reluctantly
agreed. "I've been bothered to death by machinery salesmen, but you're
the first one to really interest me."
Hanford acknowledged the compliment and proceeded further to elaborate
upon the superiority of the General Equipment Company's goods over
those sold by rival concerns. When he left he felt that he had Mr.
Wylie, Sr., "going."
At the office they warned him that he had a hard nut to crack; that
Wylie was given to "stringing" salesmen and was a hard man to close
with, but Hanford smiled confidently. Granting those facts, they
rendered him all the more eager to make this sale; and the bridge
company really did need up-to-date machinery.
He instituted an even more vigorous selling campaign, he sent much
printed matter to Mr. Wylie, Sr., he wrote him many letters. Being a
thoroughgoing young saleman, he studied the plant from the ground up,
learning the bridge business in such detail as enabled him to talk
with authority on efficiency methods. In the course of his studies he
discovered many things that were wrong with the Atlantic, and spent
days in outlining improvements on paper. He made the acquaintance of
the foremen; he cultivated the General Superintendent; he even met Mr.
Jackson Wylie, Jr., the Sales Manager, a very polished, metallic young
man, who seemed quite as deeply impressed with Hanford's statements as
did his father.
Under our highly developed competitive system, modern business is done
very largely upon personality. From the attitude of both father and
son, Hanford began to count his chickens. Instead of letting up,
however, he redoubled his efforts, which was his way. He spent so much
time on the matter that his other work suffered, and in consequence
his firm called him down. He outlined his progress with the Atlantic
Bridge Company, declared he was going to succeed, and continued to
camp with the job, notwithstanding the firm's open doubts.
Sixty days after his first interview he had another visit with Wylie,
senior, during which the latter drained him of information and made an
appointment for a month later. Said Mr. Wylie:
"You impress me strongly, Hanford, and I want my associates to hear
you. Get your proposition into shape and make the same talk to them
that you have made to me."
Hanford went away elated; he even bragged a bit at the office, and the
report got around among the other salesmen that he really had done the
impossible and had pulled off something big with the Atlantic. It was
a busy month for that young gentleman, and when the red-letter day at
last arrived he went on to Newark to find both Wylies awaiting him.
"Well, sir, are you prepared to make a good argument?" the father
"I am." Hanford decided that three months was not too long a time to
devote to work of this magnitude, after all.
"I want you to do your best," the bridge-builder continued,
encouragingly, then he led Hanford into the directors' room, where, to
his visitor's astonishment, some fifty men were seated.
"These are our salesmen," announced Mr. Wylie. He introduced Hanford
to them with the request that they listen attentively to what the
young man had to say.
It was rather nervous work for Hanford, but he soon warmed up and
forgot his embarrassment. He stood on his feet for two long hours
pleading as if for his life. He went over the Atlantic plant from end
to end; he showed the economic necessity for new machinery; then he
explained the efficiency of his own appliances. He took rival types
and picked them to pieces, pointing out their inferiority. He showed
his familiarity with bridge work by going into figures which bore out
his contention that the Atlantic's output could be increased and at
an actual monthly saving. He wound up by proving that the General
Equipment Company was the one concern best fitted to effect the
It had taken months of unremitting toil to prepare himself for this
exposition, but the young fellow felt he had made his case. When he
took up the cost of the proposed instalment, however, Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., interrupted him.
"That is all I care to have you cover," the latter explained. "Thank
you very kindly, Mr. Hanford."
Hanford sat down and wiped his forehead, whereupon the other stepped
forward and addressed his employees.
"Gentlemen," said he, "you have just listened to the best argument I
ever heard. I purposely called you in from the road so that you might
have a practical lesson in salesmanship and learn something from an
outsider about your own business. I want you to profit by this talk.
Take it to heart and apply it to your own customers. Our selling
efficiency has deteriorated lately; you are getting lazy. I want you
to wake up and show better results. That is all. You might thank this
young gentleman for his kindness."
When the audience had dispersed, Hanford inquired, blankly, "Don't you
intend to act on my suggestions?"
"Oh no!" said Mr. Wylie, in apparent surprise. "We are doing nicely,
as it is. I merely wanted you to address the boys."
"But--I've spent three months of hard labor on this! You led me to
believe that you would put in new equipment."
The younger Wylie laughed, languidly exhaling a lungful of cigarette
smoke. "When Dad gets ready to purchase, he'll let you know," said he.
Six months later the Atlantic Bridge Company placed a mammoth order
with Hanford's rival concern, and he was not even asked to figure on
That is how the seeds of this story were sown. Of course the facts got
out, for those Atlantic salesmen were not wanting in a sense of humor,
and Hanford was joshed in every quarter. To make matters worse,
his firm called him to account for his wasted time, implying that
something was evidently wrong with his selling methods. Thus began a
lack of confidence which quickly developed into strained relations.
The result was inevitable; Hanford saw what was coming and was wise
enough to resign his position.
But it was the ridicule that hurt him most. He was unable to get
away from that. Had he been at all emotional, he would have sworn a
vendetta, so deep and lasting was the hurt, but he did not; he merely
failed to forget, which, after all, is not so different.
It seemed queer that Henry Hanford should wind up in the bridge
business himself, after attempting to fill several unsatisfactory
positions, and yet there was nothing remarkable about it, for that
three months of intense application at the Atlantic plant had given
him a groundwork which came in handy when the Patterson Bridge Company
offered him a desk. He was a good salesman; he worked hard and in
time he was promoted. By and by the story was forgotten--by every
one except Henry Hanford. But he had lost a considerable number of
* * * * *
When it became known that the English and Continental structural
shops were so full of work that they could not figure on the mammoth
five-million-dollar steel structure designed to span the Barrata River
in Africa, and when the Royal Commission in London finally advertised
broadcast that time was the essence of this contract, Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., realized that his plant was equipped to handle the job in
magnificent shape, with large profit to himself and with great renown
to the Wylie name. He therefore sent his son, Jackson Wylie, the
Second, now a full-fledged partner, to London armed with letters to
almost everybody in England from almost everybody in America.
Two weeks later--the Patterson Bridge Company was not so aggressive
as its more pretentious rival--Henry Hanford went abroad on the same
mission, but he carried no letters of introduction for the very good
reason that he possessed neither commercial influence nor social
prestige. Bradstreets had never rated him, and _Who's Who_ contained
no names with which he was familiar.
Jackson Wylie, the Second had been to London frequently, and he was
accustomed to English life. He had friends with headquarters at
Prince's and at Romano's, friends who were delighted to entertain so
prominent an American; his letters gave him the entree to many of the
best clubs and paved his way socially wherever he chose to go.
It was Hanford's first trip across, and he arrived on British soil
without so much as a knowledge of English coins, with nothing in
the way of baggage except a grip full of blue-prints, and with no
destination except the Parliament buildings, where he had been led
to believe the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission was eagerly and
impatiently awaiting his coming. But when he called at the Parliament
buildings he failed not only to find the Commission, but even to
encounter anybody who knew anything about it. He did manage to locate
the office, after some patient effort, but learned that it was nothing
more than a forwarding address, and that no member of the Commission
had been there for several weeks. He was informed that the Commission
had convened once, and therefore was not entirely an imaginary body;
beyond that he could discover nothing. On his second visit to the
office he was told that Sir Thomas Drummond, the chairman, was inside,
having run down from his shooting-lodge in Scotland for the day. But
Sir Thomas's clerk, with whom Hanford had become acquainted at the
time of his first call, informed him that Mr. Jackson Wylie, the
Second, from America, was closeted with his lordship, and in
consequence his lordship could not be disturbed. Later, when Hanford
got more thoroughly in touch with the general situation, he began to
realize that introductions, influence, social prestige would in all
probability go farther toward landing the Barrata Bridge than mere
engineering, ability or close figuring--facts with which the younger
Wylie was already familiar, and against which he had provided. It also
became plain to Hanford as time went on that the contract would of
necessity go to America, for none of the European shops were in
position to complete it on time.
Owing to government needs, this huge, eleven-span structure had to be
on the ground within ninety days from the date of the signing of the
contract, and erected within eight months thereafter. The Commission's
clerk, a big, red-faced, jovial fellow, informed Hanford that price
was not nearly so essential as time of delivery; that although the
contract glittered with alluring bonuses and was heavily weighted
with forfeits, neither bonuses nor forfeitures could in the slightest
manner compensate for a delay in time. It was due to this very fact,
to the peculiar urgency of the occasion, that the Commissioners were
inclined to look askance at prospective bidders who might in any way
fail to complete the task as specified.
"If all that is true, tell me why Wylie gets the call?" Hanford
"I understand he has the very highest references," said the
"No doubt. But you can't build bridges with letters of introduction,
even in Africa."
"Probably not. But Sir Thomas is a big man; Mr. Wylie is one of his
sort. They meet on common ground, don't you see?"
"Well, if I can't arrange an interview with any member of the
Commission, I can at least take you to lunch. Will you go?"
The clerk declared that he would, indeed, and in the days that
followed the two saw much of each other. This fellow, Lowe by name,
interested Hanford. He was a cosmopolite; he was polished to the
hardness of agate by a life spent in many lands. He possessed a cold
eye and a firm chin; he was a complex mixture of daredeviltry and
meekness. He had fought in a war or two, and he had led hopes quite
as forlorn as the one Hanford was now engaged upon. It was this bond,
perhaps, which drew the two together.
In spite of Lowe's assistance Hanford found it extremely difficult,
nay, almost impossible, to obtain any real inside information
concerning the Barrata Bridge; wherever he turned he brought up
against a blank wall of English impassiveness: he even experienced
difficulty in securing the blue-prints he wanted.
"It looks pretty tough for you," Lowe told him one day. "I'm afraid
you're going to come a cropper, old man. This chap Wylie has the rail
and he's running well. He has opened an office, I believe."
"So I understand. Well, the race isn't over yet, and I'm a good
stayer. This is the biggest thing I ever tackled and it means a lot to
me--more than you imagine."
Hanford recited the story of his old wrong, to Lowe's frank amazement.
"What a rotten trick!" the latter remarked.
"Yes! And--I don't forget."
"You'd better forget this job. It takes pull to get consideration from
people like Sir Thomas, and Wylie has more than he needs. A fellow
without it hasn't a chance. Look at me, for instance, working at a
"Want to try something else?"
"I do! And you'd better follow suit."
Hanford shook his head. "I never quit--I can't. When my chance at this
bridge comes along--"
"Oh, the chance will come. Chances always come; sometimes we don't see
them, that's all. When this one comes I want to be ready. Meanwhile, I
think I'll reconnoiter Wylie's new office and find out what's doing."
Day after day Henry Hanford pursued his work doggedly, seeing much of
Lowe, something of Wylie's clerk, and nothing whatever of Sir Thomas
Drummond or the other members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission.
He heard occasional rumors of the social triumphs of his rival,
and met him once, to be treated with half-veiled amusement by that
patronizing young man. Meanwhile, the time was growing short and
Hanford's firm was not well pleased with his progress.
Then the chance came, unexpectedly, as Hanford had declared chances
always come. The remarkable thing in this instance was not that the
veiled goddess showed her face, but that Hanford was quick enough
to recognize her and bold enough to act. He had taken Lowe to the
Trocadero for dinner, and, finding no seats where they could watch the
crowd, he had selected a stall in a quiet corner. They had been there
but a short time when Hanford recognized a voice from the stall
adjacent as belonging to the representative of the Atlantic Bridge
Company. From the sounds he could tell that Wylie was giving a
dinner-party, and with Lowe's aid he soon identified the guests as
members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission. Hanford began to
strain his ears.
As the meal progressed this became less of an effort, for young
Wylie's voice was strident. The Wylie conversation had ever been
limited largely to the Wylies, their accomplishments, their purposes,
and their prospects; and now having the floor as host, he talked
mainly about himself, his father, and their forthcoming Barrata Bridge
contract. It was his evident endeavor this evening to impress his
distinguished guests with the tremendous importance of the Atlantic
Bridge Company and its unsurpassed facilities for handling big jobs.
A large part of young Wylie's experience had been acquired by
manipulating municipal contracts and the aldermen connected therewith;
he now worked along similar lines. Hanford soon learned that he was
trying in every way possible to induce Drummond and his associates
to accompany him back to America for the purpose of proving
beyond peradventure that the Atlantic could take care of a
five-million-dollar contract with ease.
"As if they'd go!" Lowe said, softly. "And yet--by Jove! he talks as
if he had the job buttoned up."
The Englishman was alert, his dramatic instinct was at play;
recognizing the significance of Wylie's offer and its possible bearing
upon Hanford's fortunes, he waved the waiter away, knowing better than
to permit the rattle of dishes to distract his host's attention.
Meanwhile, with clenched teeth and smoldering eyes Henry Hanford heard
his rival in the next compartment identify the State of New Jersey by
the fact that the works of the Atlantic Bridge Company were located
therein, and dignify it by the fact that the Jackson Wylies lived
"You know, gentlemen," Wylie was saying, "I can arrange the trip
without the least difficulty, and I assure you there will be no
discomfort. I am in constant cipher communication with my father, and
he will be delighted to afford you every courtesy. I can fix it up by
cable in a day."
Hanford arose with a silent gesture to his guest, then, although the
meal was but half over, he paid the bill. He had closed his campaign.
Right then and there he landed the great Barrata Bridge contract.
Lowe, mystified beyond measure by his friend's action, made no comment
until they were outside. Then he exclaimed:
"I say, old top, what blew off?"
Hanford smiled at him queerly. "The whole top of young Wylie's head
blew off, if he only knew it. It's my day to settle that score, and
the interest will be compounded."
"I must be extremely stupid."
"Not at all. You're damned intelligent, and that's why I'm going to
need your help." Hanford turned upon the adventurer suddenly. "Have
you ever been an actor?"
Lowe made a comical grimace. "I say, old man, that's pretty rough. My
people raised me for a gentleman."
"Exactly. Come with me to my hotel. We're going to do each other a
great favor. With your help and the help of Mr. Jackson Wylie the
Second's London clerk, I'm going to land the Barrata Bridge."
Hanford had not read his friend Lowe awrong, and when, behind locked
doors, he outlined his plan, the big fellow gazed at him with
amazement, his blue eyes sparkling with admiration.
"Gad! That appeals to me. I--think I can do it." There was no timidity
in Lowe's words, merely a careful consideration of the risks involved.
Hanford gripped his hand. "I'll attend to Wylie's clerk," he declared.
"Now we'd better begin to rehearse."
"But what makes you so positive you can handle his clerk?" queried
"Oh, I've studied him the same way I've studied you! I've been doing
nothing else for the last month."
"Bli' me, you're a corker!" said Mr. Lowe.
* * * * *
Back in Newark, New Jersey, Jackson Wylie, Sr., was growing impatient.
In spite of his son's weekly reports he had begun to fret at the
indefinite nature of results up to date. This dissatisfaction it was
that had induced him to cable his invitation to the Royal Commission
to visit the Atlantic plant. Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had a mysterious
way of closing contracts once he came in personal contact with the
proper people. In the words of his envious competitors, he had "good
terminal facilities," and he felt sure in his own mind that he could
get this job if only he could meet some member of that Commission who
possessed the power to act. Business was bad, and in view of his son's
preliminary reports he had relied upon the certainty of securing this
tremendous contract; he had even turned work away so that his plant
might be ready for the rush, with the result that many of his men now
were idle and that he was running far below capacity. But he likewise
had his eye upon those English bonuses, and when his associates rather
timidly called his attention to the present state of affairs he
assured them bitingly that he knew his business. Nevertheless, he
could not help chafing at delay nor longing for the time to come to
submit the bid that had lain for a month upon his desk. The magnitude
of the figures contained therein was getting on Mr. Wylie's nerves.
On the tenth of May he received a cablegram in his own official cipher
which, translated, read:
Meet Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman Royal Barrata Bridge Commission,
arriving Cunard Liner _Campania_, thirteenth, stopping Waldorf.
Arrange personally Barrata contract. Caution.
The cablegram was unsigned, but its address, "Atwylie," betrayed not
only its destination, but also the identity of its sender. Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., became tremendously excited. The last word conjured up
bewildering possibilities. He was about to consult his associates when
it struck him that the greatest caution he could possibly observe
would consist of holding his own tongue now and henceforth. They had
seen fit to criticize his handling of the matter thus far; he decided
he would play safe and say nothing until he had first seen Sir Thomas
Drummond and learned the lay of the land. He imagined he might then
have something electrifying to tell them. He had "dealt from the
bottom" too often, he had closed too many bridge contracts in his
time, to mistake the meaning of this visit, or of that last word
During the next few days Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had hard work to hold
himself in, and he was at a high state of nervous tension when, on
the morning of the fourteenth day of May, he strolled into the
Waldorf-Astoria and inquired at the desk for Sir Thomas Drummond.
There was no Sir Thomas stopping at the hotel, although a Mr. T.
Drummond from London had arrived on the _Campania_ the day before. Mr.
Jackson Wylie placed the heel of his right shoe upon the favorite corn
of his left foot and bore down upon it heavily. He must be
getting into his dotage, he reflected, or else the idea of a
five-million-dollar job had him rattled. Of course Sir Thomas would
not use his title.
At the rear desk he had his card blown up through the tube to "Mr. T.
Drummond," and a few moments later was invited to take the elevator.
Arriving at the sixth floor, he needed no page to guide him; boots
pointed his way to the apartment of the distinguished visitor as plainly
as a lettered sign-board; boots of all descriptions--hunting-boots,
riding-boots, street shoes, lowshoes, pumps, sandals--black ones and tan
ones--all in a row outside the door. It was a typically English display.
Evidently Sir Thomas Drummond was a personage of the most extreme
importance and traveled in befitting style, Mr. Wylie told himself.
Nothing was missing from the collection, unless perhaps a pair of rubber
A stoop-shouldered old man with a marked accent and a port-wine nose
showed Mr. Wylie into a parlor where the first object upon which
his active eyes alighted was a mass of blue-prints. He knew these
drawings; he had figured on them himself. He likewise noted a hat-box
and a great, shapeless English bag, both plastered crazily with hotel
and steamship labels hailing from every quarter of the world. It was
plain to be seen that Sir Thomas was a globe-trotter.
"Mr. Drummond begs you to be seated," the valet announced, with what
seemed an unnecessary accent on the "mister," then moved silently out.
Mr. Wylie remarked to himself upon the value of discreet servants.
They were very valuable; very hard to get in America. This must be
some lifelong servitor in his lordship's family.
There was no occasion to inquire the identity of the tall, florid
Englishman in tweeds who entered a moment later, a bundle of estimates
in his hand. "Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman of the Royal Barrata
Bridge Commission," was written all over him in large type.
His lordship did not go to the trouble of welcoming his visitor, but
scanned him frigidly through his glasses.
"You are Mr. Jackson Wylie, Senior?" he demanded, abruptly.
"That is my name."
"President of the Atlantic Bridge Company, of Newark, New Jersey?"
"You received a cablegram from your son in London?"
"Yes, your lordship."
Sir Thomas made a gesture as if to forego the title. "Let me see it,
Mr. Wylie produced the cablegram, and Drummond scanned it sharply.
Evidently the identification was complete.
"Does any one besides your son and yourself know the contents of this
"Not a soul."
"You have not told any one of my coming?"
"Very well." Sir Thomas appeared to breathe easier; he deliberately
tore the cablegram into small bits, then tossed the fragments into
a wastepaper basket before waving his caller to a chair. He still
remained very cold, very forceful, although his stiff formality had
"Do you understand all about this bridge?" he inquired.
Wylie senior took the cue of brusqueness and nodded shortly.
"Can you build it in the time specified?"
"Have you submitted your bid?"
"Not yet. I--"
"What is the amount of your proposal?"
The president of the Atlantic Bridge Company gasped. This was the
boldest, the coldest work he had ever experienced. Many times he had
witnessed public officials like Sir Thomas Drummond approach this
delicate point, but never with such composure, such matter-of-fact
certainty and lack of moral scruple. Evidently, however, this
Englishman had come to trade and wanted a direct answer. There was no
false pose, no romance here. But Jackson Wylie, Sr., was too shrewd a
business man to name a rock-bottom price to begin with. The training
of a lifetime would not permit him to deny himself a liberal leeway
for hedging, therefore he replied, cautiously:
"My figures will be approximately L1,400,000 sterling." It was his
longest speech thus far.
For what seemed an hour to the bridge-builder Sir Thomas Drummond
gazed at him with a cold, hard eye, then he folded his papers,
rolled up his blue-prints, placed them in the big traveling-bag, and
carefully locked it. When he had finished he flung out this question
"Does that include the Commissioners?"
Up to this point Mr. Jackson Wylie had spoken mainly in monosyllables;
now he quit talking altogether; it was no longer necessary. He merely
shook his head in negation. He was smiling slightly.
"Then I shall ask you to add L200,000 sterling to your price," his
lordship calmly announced. "Make your bid L1,600,000 sterling, and
mail it in time for Wednesday's boat. I sail on the same ship.
Proposals will be opened on the twenty-fifth. Arrange for an English
indemnity bond for ten per cent. of your proposition. Do not
communicate in any manner whatsoever with your son, except to forward
the sealed bid to him. He is not to know of our arrangement. You will
meet me in London later; we will take care of that L200,000 out of the
last forty per cent. of the contract price, which is payable thirty
days after completion, inspection, and acceptance of the bridge. You
will not consult your associates upon leaving here. Do I make myself
clear? Very well, sir. The figures are easy to remember: L1,600,000;
L1,400,000 to you. I am pleased with the facilities your plant offers
for doing the work. I am confident you can complete the bridge on
time, and I beg leave to wish you a very pleasant good day."
Jackson Wylie, Sr., did not really come to until he had reached
the street; even then he did not know whether he had come down the
elevator or through the mail-chute. Of one thing only was he certain:
he was due to retire in favor of his son. He told himself that
he needed a trip through the Holy Land with a guardian and a
nursing-bottle; then he paused on the curb and stamped on his corn for
a second time.
"Oh, what an idiot I am!" he cried, savagely. "I could have
gotten L1,600,000 to start with, but--by gad, Sir Thomas is the
coldest-blooded thing I ever went against! I--I can't help but admire
Having shown a deplorable lack of foresight, Mr. Wylie determined to
make up for it by an ample display of hindsight. If the profits on the
job were not to be so large as they might have been, he would at
least make certain of them by obeying instructions to the letter. In
accordance with this determination, he made out the bid himself, and
he mailed it with his own hand that very afternoon. He put three blue
stamps on the envelope, although it required but two. Then he called
up an automobile agency and ordered a foreign town-car his wife had
admired. He decided that she and the girls might go to Paris for the
fall shopping--he might even go with them, in view of that morning's
For ten days he stood the pressure, then on the morning of the
twenty-fourth he called his _confreres_ into the directors' room, that
same room in which young Hanford had made his talk a number of years
before. Inasmuch as it was too late now for a disclosure to affect the
opening of the bids in London, he felt absolved from his promise to
"Gentlemen, I have the honor to inform you," he began, pompously,
"that the Barrata Bridge is ours! We have the greatest structural
steel job of the decade." His chest swelled with justifiable pride.
"How? When? What do you mean?" they cried.
He told them of his mysterious but fruitful interview at the Waldorf
ten days previously, enjoying their expressions of amazement to the
full; then he explained in considerable detail the difficulties he had
surmounted in securing such liberal figures from Sir Thomas.
"We were ready to take the contract for L1,300,000, as you will
remember, but by the exercise of some diplomacy"--he coughed
modestly--"I may say, by the display of some firmness and
independence, I succeeded in securing a clean profit of $500,000 over
what we had expected." He accepted, with becoming diffidence, the
congratulations which were showered upon him. Of course, the news
created a sensation, but it was as nothing to the sensation that
followed upon the receipt of a cablegram the next day which read:
Newark, New Jersey.
Terrible mistake somewhere. We lost. Am coming home to-day.
Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., also went home that day--by carriage, for,
after raving wildly of treachery, after cursing the name of some
English nobleman, unknown to most of the office force, he collapsed,
throwing his employees into much confusion. There were rumors of
an apoplectic stroke; some one telephoned for a physician; but the
president of the Atlantic Bridge Company only howled at the latter
when he arrived.
What hit the old man hardest was the fact that he could not explain to
his associates--that he could not even explain to himself, for that
matter. He could make neither head nor tail of the affair; his son was
on the high seas and could not be reached; the mystery of the whole
transaction threatened to unseat his reason. Even when his sorrowing
heir arrived, a week after the shock, the father could gather nothing
at first except the bare details.
All he could learn was that the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission
had met on the twenty-fifth day of May, for the second time in its
history, with Sir Thomas Drummond in the chair. In the midst of an
ultra-British solemnity the bids had been opened and read--nine of
them--two Belgian, one German, two French, one English, one Scottish,
and two American.
The only proposals that conformed to the specifications in every
respect were the last named. They were perfect. The Atlantic Bridge
Company, of Newark, New Jersey, offered to do the work as specified
for L1,600,000 sterling. The Patterson Bridge Company, through its
authorized agent, Mr. Henry Hanford, named a price of L1,550,000. The
rest was but a matter of detail.
Having concluded this bald recital, Jackson Wylie, the Second, spread
his hands in a gesture of despair. "I can't understand it," he said,
dolefully. "I thought I had it cinched all the time."
"_You_ had it cinched!" bellowed his father. "_You_! Why, you ruined
it all! Why in hell did you send him over here?"
"I? Send who? What are you talking about?"
"That man with the boots! That lying, thieving scoundrel, Sir Thomas
Drummond, of course."
The younger Wylie's face showed blank, uncomprehending amazement. "Sir
Thomas Drummond was in London all the time I was there. I saw him
daily," said he.
Not until this very moment did the president of the Atlantic Bridge
Company comprehend the trap he had walked into, but now the whole
hideous business became apparent. He had been fooled, swindled, and in
a way to render recourse impossible; nay, in a manner to blacken his
reputation if the story became public. He fell actually ill from the
passion of his rage and not even a long rest from the worries of
business completely cured him. The bitter taste of defeat would not
down. He might never have understood the matter thoroughly had it not
been for a missive he received one day through the mail. It was a bill
from a London shoe-store for twelve pairs of boots, of varying styles,
made out to Henry Hanford, and marked "paid."
Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., noted with unspeakable chagrin that the last
word was heavily under-scored in ink, as if by another hand. Hanford's
bill was indeed paid, and with interest to date.
THE CUB REPORTER
Why he chose Buffalo Paul Anderson never knew, unless perhaps it
had more newspapers than Bay City, Michigan, and because his ticket
expired in the vicinity of Buffalo. For that matter, why he should
have given up an easy job as the mate of a tugboat to enter the
tortuous paths of journalism the young man did not know, and, lacking
the introspective faculty, he did not stop to analyze his motives. So
far as he could discover he had felt the call to higher endeavor, and
just naturally had heeded it. Such things as practical experience and
educational equipment were but empty words to him, for he was young
and hopeful, and the world is kind at twenty-one.
He had hoped to enter his chosen field with some financial backing,
and to that end, when the desire to try his hand at literature had
struck him, he had bought an interest in a smoke-consumer which a
fireman on another tugboat had patented. In partnership with the
inventor he had installed one of the devices beneath a sawmill boiler
as an experiment. Although the thing consumed smoke surprisingly well,
it likewise unharnessed such an amazing army of heat-units that it
melted the crown-sheet of the boiler; whereupon the sawmill men, being
singularly coarse and unimaginative fellows, set upon the patentee and
his partner with ash-rakes, draw-bars, and other ordinary, unpatented
implements; a lumberjack beat hollowly upon their ribs with a peavy,
and that night young Anderson sickened of smoke-consumers, harked anew
to the call of journalism, and hiked, arriving in Buffalo with seven
dollars and fifty cents to the good.
For seven dollars, counted out in advance, he chartered a furnished
room for a week, the same carrying with it a meal at each end of the
day, which left in Anderson's possession a superfluity of fifty cents
to be spent in any extravagance he might choose.
Next day he bought a copy of each newspaper and, carefully scanning
them, selected the one upon which to bestow his reportorial gifts.
This done, he weighed anchor and steamed through the town in search of
the office. Walking in upon the city editor of _The Intelligencer_, he
gazed with benevolent approval upon that busy gentleman's broad back.
He liked the place, the office suited him, and he decided to have his
desk placed over by the window.
After a time the editor wheeled, displaying a young, smooth, fat face,
out of which peered gray-blue eyes with pin-point pupils.
"Well?" he queried.
"Here I am," said Anderson.
"So it appears. What do you want?"
"What can you do?"
"Well, well!" cried the editor. "You don't look much like a newspaper
"I'm not one--yet. But I'm going to be."
"Where have you worked?"
"Nowhere! You see, I'm really a playwright."
The editor's face showed a bit of interest. "Playwright, eh? Anderson!
Anderson!" he mused. "Don't recall the name."
"No," said Paul; "I've never written any plays yet, but I'm going
to. That's why I want to sort of begin here and get the hang of this
A boy entered with some proofs at that moment and tossed them upon
the table, distracting the attention of the newspaper man. The latter
wheeled back to his work and spoke curtly over his shoulder.
"I'm not running a school of journalism. Good-by."
"Maybe you'd like me to do a little space work--?"
"I'd never like you. Get out. I'm busy."
Anderson retired gracefully, jingling his scanty handful of nickels
and dimes, and a half-hour later thrust himself boldly in upon another
editor, but with no better result. He made the rounds of all the
offices; although invariably rebuffed he became more firmly convinced
than ever that journalism was his designated sphere.
That night after dinner he retired to his room with the evening
papers, wedged a chair against his bed, and, hoisting his feet upon
the wash-stand, absorbed the news of the day. It was ineffably sweet
and satisfying to be thus identified with the profession of letters,
and it was immeasurably more dignified than "tugging" on the Saginaw
River. Once he had schooled himself in the tricks of writing, he
decided he would step to higher things than newspaper work, but for
the present it was well to ground himself firmly in the rudiments of
In going through the papers he noted one topic which interested him, a
"similar mystery" story on the second page. From what he could gather,
he judged that much space had already been given to it; for now,
inasmuch as no solution offered, the item was dying slowly, the major
portion of each article being devoted to a rehash of similar unsolved
Anderson read that the body of the golden-haired girl still lay at the
Morgue, unidentified. Bit by bit he pieced together the lean story
that she was a suicide and that both the police and the press had
failed in their efforts to unearth the least particle of information
regarding her. In spite of her remarkable beauty and certain unusual
circumstances connected with her death investigation had led nowhere.
On the following day Anderson again walked into the editorial-rooms
of _The Intelligencer_ and greeted the smooth, fat-faced occupant
"Anything doing yet?" he inquired.
"Not yet," said the newspaper man, with a trace of annoyance in his
voice. As the applicant moved out he halted him at the door with the
words: "Oh! Wait!"
Anderson's heart leaped. After all, he thought, perseverance would--
"Not yet, nor soon." The editor smiled broadly, and Paul realized that
the humor in those pin-point eyes was rather cruel.
Five other calls he made that day, to be greeted gruffly in every
instance except one. One man encouraged him slightly by saying:
"Come back next week; I may have an opening then."
In view of the "pay-as-you-enter" policy in vogue at Anderson's
boarding-house he knew there could be no next week for him, therefore
"How about a little space work in the meantime? I'm pretty good at
"Surest thing you know."
"Did you ever do any?"
"No. But I'm good, just the same."
"Huh!" the editor grunted. "There's no room now, and, come to think of
it, you needn't bother to get around next week. I can't break in new
That evening young Anderson again repaired to his room with his
harvest of daily papers, and again he read them thoroughly. He was by
no means discouraged as yet, for his week had just begun--there
were still five days of grace, and prime ministers have been made
overnight, nations have fallen in five days. Six calls a day for five
days, that meant thirty chances for a job. It was a cinch!
Hidden away among the back pages once more he encountered the
golden-haired-girl story, and although one paper featured it a bit
because of some imaginary clue, the others treated it casually, making
public the information that the body still lay at the Morgue, a
silent, irritating thing of mystery.
On the third day Paul made his usual round of calls. He made them more
quickly now because he was recognized, and was practically thrown out
of each editorial sanctum. His serenity remained unruffled, and
his confidence undisturbed. Of all the six editors, Burns, of _The
Intelligencer_, treated him worst, adding ridicule to his gruffness, a
refinement of cruelty which annoyed the young steamboat man. Anderson
clenched his hard-knuckled hand and estimated the distance from
editorial ear to point of literary chin, but realized in time that
steamboat methods were out of place here in the politer realms of
Four times more he followed his daily routine, and on Monday morning
arose early to avoid his landlady. His week was up, his nickels and
dimes were gone, nevertheless he spent the day on his customary
rounds. He crept in late at night, blue with the cold and rather dazed
at his bad luck; he had eaten nothing since the morning before, and
he knew that he dared not show up at the breakfast-table the next
morning. For the time being discouragement settled upon him; it
settled suddenly like some heavy smothering thing; it robbed him of
hope and redoubled his hunger. He awoke at daylight, roused by the
sense of his defeat, then tiptoed out while yet the landlady was abed,
and spent the day looking for work along the water-front. But winter
had tied up the shipping, and he failed, as he likewise failed at
sundry employment agencies where he offered himself in any capacity.
At noon he wandered into the park, and, finding a sheltered spot,
sunned himself as best he could. He picked up the sheets of a
wind-scattered paper and read until the chill December afternoon
got into his bones and forced him to his feet. The tale of the
unidentified girl at the Morgue recurred to him when he read the
announcement that she would be buried two days later in the Potter's
Field. Perhaps the girl had starved for lack of work, he reflected.
Perhaps hunger and cold had driven her to her death. Certainly those
two were to blame for many a tragedy calculated to mystify warmly clad
policemen and well-fed reporters.
When he stole, shivering, into his bleak bedroom, late that night, he
found a note pinned upon his pillow. Of course the landlady needed her
rent--all landladies were in need of money--and of course he would get
out in the morning. He was glad she had not turned him out during the
day, for this afforded him sanctuary for another night at least. After
to-morrow it would be a park bench for his.
He left his valise behind in the morning, rather lamenting the fact
that the old lady could not wear the shirts it contained, and hoping
that she would realize a sufficient sum from their sale to pay his
It was late afternoon when he commenced his listless tramp toward the
newspaper offices. Since Burns had become his pet aversion, he saved
him for the last, framing a few farewell remarks befitting the death
of hopes like his, and rehearsing an exit speech suitable to mark his
departure from the field of letters.
When he finally reached _The Intelligencer_ editorial-rooms, Burns
rounded on him angrily.
"For the love of Mike! Are you here again?" he demanded.
"I thought you might like to have some space work--"
"By heavens! You're persistent."
"We editors are an unfeeling lot, aren't we?" the fat young man
inquired. "No temperament, no appreciation." He laughed noiselessly.
"Give me a job," Anderson cried, his voice breaking huskily. "I'll
make good. I'll do anything."
"How long do you intend to keep bothering me?" questioned Burns.
Anderson's cheeks were blue and the backs of his legs were trembling
from weakness, but he repeated, stolidly: "Give me a job. I--I won't
bother you after that. I'll make good, see if I don't."
"You think well of yourself, don't you?"
"If you thought half as well of me as I do," Paul assured him, "I'd be
your star reporter."
"Star hell!" testily cried the editor. "We haven't got such a thing.
They don't know they're alive, except on pay-day. Look at this blond
girl at the Morgue--they've wasted two weeks on that case." He paused
suddenly, then his soft lips spread, showing his sharp, white teeth.
Modifying his tone, he continued: "Say, I rather like you, Anderson,
you're such a blamed nuisance. You've half convinced me that you're a
The younger man's hunger, which had given up in despair, raised its
head and bit into his vitals sharply.
"I've a notion to give you a chance."
"That's all I want," the caller quavered, in a panic. "Just give me a
toe-hold, that's all," His voice broke in spite of his effort to
hold it steady. Burns wasn't a bad sort, after all; just grouchy and
irritable. Perhaps this was merely his way.
Burns continued: "Well, I will give you an assignment, a good
assignment, too, and if you cover it I'll put you on permanently. I'll
do more than that, I'll pay you what we pay our best man, if you make
good. That's fair, isn't it?"
He smiled benignly, and the soon-to-be reporter's wits went capering
off in a hysterical stampede. Anderson felt the desire to wring the
"All that counts in this office is efficiency," the latter went on.
"We play no favorites. When a man delivers the goods we boost him;
when he fails we fire him. There's no sentiment here, and I hold my
job merely because I'm the best man in the shop. Can you go to work
"Very well. That's the spirit I like. You can take your time on the
story, and you needn't come back till you bring it."
"Now pay attention, here it is. About two weeks ago a blond girl
committed suicide in a Main Street boarding-house. The body's down at
the Morgue now. Find out who she is." He turned back to his desk and
began to work.
The hungry youth behind him experienced a sudden sinking at the
stomach. All at once he became hopelessly empty and friendless, and he
felt his knees urging him to sit down. He next became conscious
that the shoulders of Mr. Burns were shaking a bit, as if he had
encountered a piece of rare humor. After an instant, when Anderson
made no move to go, the man at the desk wheeled about, exposing a
bloated countenance purple with suppressed enjoyment.
"What's the matter?" he giggled. "Don't you want the job? I can't tell
you any more about the girl; that's all we know. The rest is up to
you. You'll find out everything, won't you? Please do, for your own
sake and the sake of _The Intelligencer_. Yes, yes, I'm sure you will,
because you're a good newspaper man--you told me so yourself." His
appreciation of the jest threatened to strangle him.
"Mr. Burns," began the other, "I--I'm up against it. I guess you don't
know it, but I'm hungry. I haven't eaten for three days."
At this the editor became positively apoplectic.
"Oh yes--yes, I do!" He nodded vigorously. "You show it in your face.
That's why I went out of my way to help you. He! He! He! Now you run
along and get me the girl's name and address while I finish this
proof. Then come back and have supper with me at the Press Club."
Again he chortled and snickered, whereupon something sullen and fierce
awoke in young Anderson. He knew of a way to get food and a bed and a
place to work even if it would only last thirty days, for he judged
Burns was the kind of man who would yell for the police in case of an
assault. Paul would have welcomed the prospect of prison fare, but he
reasoned that it would be an incomplete satisfaction merely to mash
the pudgy face of Mr. Burns and hear him clamor. What he wanted at
this moment was a job; Burns's beating could hold over. This suicide
case had baffled the pick of Buffalo's trained reporters; it had
foiled the best efforts of her police; nevertheless, this fat-paunched
fellow had baited a starving man by offering him the assignment. It
was impossible; it was a cruel joke, and yet--there might be a chance
of success. Even while he was debating the point he heard himself say:
"Very well, Mr. Burns. If you want her name I'll get it for you."
He crammed his hat down over his ears and walked out, leaving the
astonished editor gazing after him with open mouth.
Anderson's first impulse had been merely to get out of Burns's office,
out of sight of that grinning satyr, and never to come back, but
before he had reached the street he had decided that it was as well to
starve striving as with folded hands. After all, the dead girl had a
Instead of leaving the building, he went to the files of the paper
and, turning back, uncovered the original story, which he cut out with
his pen-knife, folded up, and placed in his pocket. This done, he
sought the lobby of a near-by hotel, found a seat near a radiator, and
proceeded to read the clipping carefully.
It was a meager story, but it contained facts and was free from the
confusion and distortions of the later accounts, which was precisely
what he wished to guard against. Late one afternoon, so the story
went, the girl had rented a room in a Main Street boarding-house, had
eaten supper and retired. At eleven o'clock the next day, when she did
not respond to a knock on her door, the room had been broken into and
she had been found dead, with an empty morphine-bottle on the bureau.
That was all. There were absolutely no clues to the girl's identity,
for the closest scrutiny failed to discover a mark on her clothing
or any personal articles which could be traced. She had possessed no
luggage, save a little hand-satchel or shopping-bag containing a few
coins. One fact alone stood out in the whole affair. She had paid for
her room with a two-dollar Canadian bill, but this faint clue had been
followed with no result. No one knew the girl; she had walked out of
nowhere and had disappeared into impenetrable mystery. Those were the
facts in the case, and they were sufficiently limited to baffle the
best efforts of Buffalo's trained detective force.
It would seem that there can be no human creature so obscure as to
have neither relatives, friends, nor acquaintances, and yet this
appeared to be the case, for a full description of this girl had
been blazoned in the papers of every large city, had been exposed in
countless country post-offices, and conveyed to the police of every
city of the States and Canada. It was as if the mysterious occupant of
the Morgue had been born of the winter wind on that fateful evening
two weeks before. The country had been dragged by a net of publicity,
that marvelous, fine-meshed fabric from which no living man is small
or shrewd enough to escape, and still the sad, white face at the
Morgue continued to smile out from its halo of gold as if in gentle
For a long time Paul Anderson sat staring into the realms of
speculation, his lips white with hunger, his cheeks hollow and
feverish from the battle he had waged. His power of exclusion was
strong, therefore he lost himself to his surroundings. Finally,
however, he roused himself from his abstraction and realized the irony
of this situation. He, the weakest, the most inexperienced of all the
men who had tried, had been set to solve this mystery, and starvation
was to be the fruit of his failure.
He saw that it had begun to snow outside. In the lobby it was warm and
bright and vivid with jostling life; the music of a stringed orchestra
somewhere back of him was calling well-dressed men and women in to
dinner. All of them seemed happy, hopeful, purposeful. He noted,
furthermore, that three days without food makes a man cold, even in
a warm place, and light-headed, too. The north wind had bitten him
cruelly as he crossed the street, and now as he peered out of the
plate-glass windows the night seemed to hold other lurking horrors
besides. His want was like a burden, and he shuddered weakly,
hesitating to venture out where the wind could harry him. It was a
great temptation to remain here where there was warmth and laughter
and life; nevertheless, he rose and slunk shivering out into the
darkness, then laid a course toward the Morgue.
While Anderson trod the snowy streets a slack-jowled editor sat at
supper with some friends at the Press Club, eating and drinking
heartily, as is the custom of newspaper men let down for a moment from
the strain of their work. He had told a story, and his caustic way
of telling it had amused his hearers, for each and every one of them
remembered the shabby applicant for work, and all of them had wasted
baffling hours on the mystery of this girl with the golden hair.
"I guess I put a crimp in him," giggled Mr. Burns. "I gave him a
chance to show those talents he recommends so highly."
"The Morgue, on a night like this, is a pretty dismal place for a
hungry man," said one of the others. "It's none too cheerful in the
The others agreed, and Burns wabbled anew in his chair in appreciation
of his humor.
Young Anderson had never seen a morgue, and to-night, owing to his
condition, his dread of it was child-like. It seemed as if this
particular charnel-house harbored some grisly thing which stood
between him and food and warmth and hope; the nearer he drew to it the
greater grew his dread. A discourteous man, shrunken as if from the
chill of the place, was hunched up in front of a glowing stove. He
greeted Anderson sourly:
"Out into that courtyard; turn to the left--second door," he directed.
"She's in the third compartment."
Anderson lacked courage to ask the fellow to come along, but stumbled
out into a snow-filled areaway lighted by a swinging incandescent
which danced to the swirling eddies.
Compartment! He supposed bodies were kept upon slabs or tables, or
something like that. He had steeled himself to see rows of unspeakable
sights, played upon by dripping water, but he found nothing of the
The second door opened into a room which he discovered was colder than
the night outside, evidently the result of artificial refrigeration.
He was relieved to find the place utterly bare except for a sort of
car or truck which ran around the room on a track beneath a row of
square doors. These doors evidently opened into the compartments
alluded to by the keeper.
Which compartment had the fellow said? Paul abruptly discovered that
he was rattled, terribly rattled, and he turned back out of the place.
He paused shortly, however, and took hold of himself.
"Now, now!" he said, aloud. "You're a bum reporter, my boy." An
instant later he forced himself to jerk open the first door at his
For what seemed a full minute he stared into the cavern, as if
petrified, then he closed the door softly. Sweat had started from his
every pore. Alone once more in the great room, he stood shivering.
"God!" he muttered. This was newspaper training indeed.
He remembered now having read, several days before, about an Italian
laborer who had been crushed by a falling column. To one unaccustomed
to death in any form that object, head-on in the obscurity of the
compartment, had been a trying sight. He began to wonder if it were
really cold or stiflingly hot.
The boy ground his teeth and flung open the next door, slamming it
hurriedly again to blot out what it exposed. Why didn't they keep them
covered? Why didn't they show a card outside? Must he examine every
grisly corpse upon the premises?
He stepped to the third door and wrenched it open. He knew the girl at
once by her wealth of yellow hair and the beauty of her still, white
face. There was no horror here, no ghastly sight to weaken a man's
muscles and sicken his stomach; only a tired girl asleep. Anderson
felt a great pity as he wheeled the truck opposite the door and
reverently drew out the slab on which the body lay. He gazed upon her
intently for some time. She was not at all as he had pictured her, and
yet there could be no mistake. He took the printed description from
his pocket and reread it carefully, comparing it point by point. When
he had finished he found that it was a composite word photograph,
vaguely like and yet totally unlike the person it was intended to
portray, and so lacking in character that no one knowing the original
intimately would have been likely to recognize her from it.
So that was why no word had come in answer to all this newspaper
publicity. After all, this case might not be so difficult as it had
seemed; for the first time the dispirited youth felt a faint glow of
encouragement. He began to formulate a plan.
Hurriedly he fumbled for his note-book, and there, in that house
of death, with his paper propped against the wall, he wrote a
two-hundred-word description; a description so photographically exact
that to this day it is preserved in the Buffalo police archives as a
He replaced the body in its resting-place and went out. There was no
chill in him now, no stumbling nor weakness of any sort. He had found
a starting-point, had uncovered what all those trained newspaper men
had missed, and he felt that he had a chance to win.
Twenty minutes later Burns, who had just come in from supper, turned
back from his desk with annoyance and challenge in his little, narrow
"I think I've got her, Mr. Burns."
"Anyhow, I've got a description that her father or her mother or
her friends can recognize. The one you and the other papers printed
disguised her so that nobody could tell who she was--it might have
covered a hundred girls."
Rapidly, and without noting the editor's growing impatience, Paul read
the two descriptions, then ran on, breathlessly:
"All we have to do is print ten or twenty thousand of these and mail
them out with the morning edition--separate sheets, posters, you
understand?--so they can be nailed up in every post-office within two
hundred miles. Send some to the police of all the cities, and we'll
have a flash in twenty-four hours."
Burns made no comment for a moment. Instead, he looked the young man
over angrily from his eager face to his unblacked shoes. His silence,
his stare, were eloquent.
"Why? Why not?" Anderson demanded, querulously. "I tell you this
description isn't right. It--it's nothing like her, nothing at all."
"Say! I thought I'd seen the last of you," growled the corpulent man.
"Aren't you on to yourself yet?"
"Do you--mean that your talk this evening don't go?" Paul demanded,
quietly. "Do you mean to say you won't even give me the chance you
"No! I don't mean that. What I said goes, all right, but I told _you_
to identify this girl. I didn't agree to do it. What d'you think this
paper is, anyhow? We want stories in this office. We don't care who or
what this girl is unless there's a story in her. We're not running a
job-print shop nor a mail-order business to identify strayed females.
Twenty thousand posters! Bah! And say--don't you know that no two men
can write similar descriptions of anybody or anything? What's the
difference whether her hair is burnished gold or 'raw gold' or her
eyes bluish gray instead of grayish blue? Rats! Beat it!"
"But I tell you--"
"What's her name? Where does she live? What killed her? That's what I
want to know. I'd look fine, wouldn't I, circularizing a dead story?
Wouldn't that be a laugh on me? No, Mr. Anderson, author, artist, and
playwright, I'm getting damned tired of being pestered by you, and you
needn't come back here until you bring the goods. Do I make myself
It was anger which cut short the younger man's reply. On account of
petty economy, for fear of ridicule, this editor refused to relieve
some withered old woman, some bent and worried old man, who might be,
who probably were, waiting, waiting, waiting in some out-of-the-way
village. So Anderson reflected. Because there might not be a story in
it this girl would go to the Potter's Field and her people would never
know. And yet, by Heaven, they _would_ know! Something told him there
_was_ a story back of this girl's death, and he swore to get it. With
a mighty effort he swallowed his chagrin and, disregarding the insult
to himself, replied:
"Very well. I've got you this time."
"Humph!" Burns grunted, viciously.
"I don't know how I'll turn the trick, but I'll turn it." For the
second time that evening he left the office with his jaws set
Paul Anderson walked straight to his boarding-house and bearded his
landlady. "I've got a job," said he.
"I'm very glad," the lady told him, honestly enough. "I feared you
were going to move out."
"Yes!" he repeated. "I've got a job that carries the highest salary
on the paper. You remember the yellow-haired girl who killed herself
awhile ago?" he asked.
"Indeed I do. Everybody knows about that case."
"Well, it got too tough for the police and the other reporters, so
they turned it over to me. It's a bully assignment, and my pay starts
when I solve the mystery. Now I'm starved; I wish you'd rustle me some
"But, Mr. Anderson, you're bill for this week? You know I get paid
"Tut, tut! You know how newspapers are. They don't pay in advance, and
I can't pay you until they pay me. You'll probably have to wait until
Saturday, for I'm a little out of practice on detective stuff. But
I'll have this thing cleared up by then. You don't appreciate--you
_can't_ appreciate--what a corking assignment it is."
Anderson had a peculiarly engaging smile, and five minutes later he
was wrecking the pantry of all the edibles his fellow-boarders had
overlooked, the while his landlady told him her life's history, wept
over the memory of her departed husband, and confessed that she hoped
to get out of the boarding-house business some time.
A good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast put the young man in fine
fettle, and about ten o'clock he repaired to a certain rooming-house
on Main Street, the number of which he obtained from the clipping in
A girl answered his ring, but at sight of him she shut the door
hurriedly, explaining through the crack:
"Mrs. MacDougal is out and you can't come in."
"But I want to talk to you."
"I'm not allowed to talk to reporters," she declared. "Mrs. MacDougal
won't let me."
A slight Scotch accent gave Anderson his cue. "MacDougal is a good
Scotch name. I'm Scotch myself, and so are you." He smiled his
boarding-house smile, and the girl's eyes twinkled back at him.
"Didn't she tell you I was coming?"
"Why, no, sir. Aren't you a reporter?"
"I've been told that I'm not. I came to look at a room."
"What room?" the girl asked, quickly. "We haven't any vacant rooms."
"That's queer," Anderson frowned. "I can't be mistaken. I'm sure Mrs.
MacDougal said there was one."
The door opened slowly. "Maybe she meant the one on the second floor."
"Precisely." An instant later he was following his guide up-stairs.
Anderson recognized the room at a glance, from its description, but
the girl did not mention the tragedy which had occurred therein, so
he proceeded to talk terms with her, prolonging his stay as long as
possible, meanwhile using his eyes to the best advantage. He invented
an elaborate ancestry which he traced backward through the pages of
_Scottish Chiefs_, the only book of the sort he had ever read, and by
the time he was ready to leave the girl had thawed out considerably.
"I'll take the room," he told her, "and I'm well pleased to get it. I
don't see how such a good one stands vacant in this location."
There was an instant's pause, then his companion confessed: "There's a
reason. You'll find it out sooner or later, so I may as well tell you.
That's where the yellow-haired girl you hear so much about killed
herself. I hope it won't make any difference to you, Mr.--"
"Gregor. Certainly not. I read about the case. Canadian, wasn't she?"
"Oh yes! There's no doubt of it. She paid her rent with a Canadian
bill, and, besides, I noticed her accent. I didn't tell the reporters,
however, they're such a fresh lot."
Paul's visit, it appeared, had served to establish one thing, at
least, a thing which the trained investigators had not discovered.
Canadian money in Buffalo was too common to excite comment, therefore
none of them had seen fit to follow out that clue of the two-dollar
"The papers had it that she was some wealthy girl," the former speaker
ran on, "but I know better."
"Indeed? How do you know?"
"Her hands! They were good hands, and she used them as if she knew
what they were made for."
"No. She seemed very sad and didn't say much. Of course I only saw her
Anderson questioned the girl at some further length, but discovered
nothing of moment, so he left, declaring that he would probably move
into the room on the following day.
Prom the rooming-house he went directly to the Morgue, and for a
second time examined the body, confining his attention particularly to
the hands. The right one showed nothing upon which to found a theory,
save that it was, indeed, a capable hand with smooth skin and
well-tended nails; but on examining the left Paul noted a marked
peculiarity. Near the ends of the thumb and the first finger the skin
was roughened, abrased; there were numerous tiny black spots
beneath the skin, which, upon careful scrutiny, he discovered to be
For a long time he puzzled over this phenomenon which had escaped all
previous observers, but to save him he could invent no explanation for
it. He repaired finally to the office of the attendant and asked for
the girl's clothes, receiving permission to examine a small bundle.
"Where's the rest?" he demanded.
"That's all she had," said the man.
"No baggage at all?"
"Not a thing but what she stood up in. The coroner has her jewelry and
things of that sort."
Anderson searched the contents of the bundle with the utmost care, but
found no mark of any sort. The garments, although inexpensive, were
beautifully neat and clean, and they displayed the most marvelous
examples of needlework he had ever seen. Among the effects was a plush
muff, out of which, as he picked it up, fell a pair of little knitted
mittens--or was there a pair? Finding but the one, he shook the muff
again, then looked through the other things.
"Where's the other mitten?" he inquired.
"There 'ain't been but the one," the attendant told him.
"Are you sure?"