Part 3 out of 6
"Locker's wife'll be glad to have it, too. She'd have to wait two
weeks for hers, and now she'll git it right off. Oven's cracked on hern,
and she allows she sp'iles every batch of bread she bakes--and her
pledged to furnish six loaves for the Methodist Ladies' Food Sale...."
"Scattergood Baines, if you dast touch my stove I'll have the law onto
you. You can't go enterin' my house and removin' things without my
permission, I kin tell you. Don't you try to forgit it, neither. If you
think you can gouge me out of my stove jest to make it more convenient
for Mis' Locker, you're thinkin' _wrong_...."
"'Tain't your stove till it's paid for, Sam."
"Then, by gum! it'll be mine darn quick. Thirty-eight dollars, was it?
Now you gimme a receipt.... Locker!..."
Scattergood waddled into the store, wrote a receipt, and put the money
in the safe. When Sam had recrossed the road again he turned to Johnnie
Bones. "Sellin' hard-ware's easy if you put your mind to it, Johnnie.
Trouble with you is you don't take no int'rest in it.... Next time
you'll know better. Train's goin' in fifteen minutes. Better hustle."
Next noon Scattergood was in his usual place on the piazza of his store
when the train came in. Presently Mr. Castle, president of the G. & B.,
came into view, and Scattergood closed his eyes as if enjoying a midday
snooze. Mr. Castle approached, stopped, regarded Scattergood with a
pucker of his thin lips, and said to himself that the man must be an
accident. It was one of Scattergood's most valuable qualities that his
appearance and manner gave that opinion to people, even when they had
suffered discomfiture at his hands. Mr. Castle coughed, and Scattergood
opened his eyes sleepily and peered over the rolls of fat that were his
"Howdy?" said Scattergood, not moving.
"Good day, Mr. Baines. You got my message?"
"Seein' as you got my reply to it, I must have," said Scattergood.
"Can we talk here?"
Mr. Castle looked about. No one was within earshot. He occupied a chair
at Scattergood's side.
"I understand your message to mean that you are willing to sell your
"I calculate that message meant jest what it said."
"I know what your railroad cost you--almost to a penny."
"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood, without interest.
"I'll tell you why I want it. My idea is to extend it through to
Humboldt--twenty miles. May have to tunnel Hopper Mountain, but it will
give me a short line to compete with the V. and M. from Montreal."
"To be sure," said Scattergood, who knew well that such an extension was
not only impracticable from the point of view of engineering, but also
from the standpoint of traffic to be obtained. "Good idee."
"I'll pay you cost and a profit of twenty-five thousand dollars."
"Hain't interested special," said Scattergood. "I git that much fun out
"It isn't paying interest on your investment."
"I calculate it's goin' to. I'm aimin' to see it does."
"Set a figure yourself."
"Hain't got no figger in mind."
"Mr. Baines, I'll be frank with you. I want your railroad."
"So I jedged," said Scattergood.
"I _need_ it. I'll pay you a profit of fifty thousand--and that's my
Scattergood closed his eyes, opened them again, and sat erect. "Now that
business is over with," he said, "better come up and set down to table
with Mandy and me. Mandy's cookin' is considered some better 'n at the
"I was wonderin'," said Scattergood, "if you had any notion if I could
buy the Goodhue timber reasonable?"
"Eh?" said Mr. Castle, startled. "The Goodhue timber?"
"Back of Tupper Falls."
"Who told--" Mr. Castle snapped his teeth together sharply.
"Leetle bird," said Scattergood. "Dinner's ready."
"There might come a time when you'd be mighty glad to sell for less than
"Once there was a boy," said Scattergood, "and he up and says to another
boy, 'I kin lick you,' The story come to me that the boy sort of
overestimated his weight.'"
"I'm not threatening you," said Castle.
"It's a privilege I don't deny to nobody.... Say, Mr. Castle, be you
goin' into this deal to make money or to take somebody's scalp?"
"Baines," said Mr. Castle, "I'll buy you the best box of cigars in
Boston if you'll tell me where you get your information."
"Hatch it," said Scattergood, gravely. "Jest set patient onto the egg,
and perty soon the shell busts and there stands the information all
fluffy and wabbly and ready to grow up into a chicken if it's used
"Will you answer a fair question?"
"If our idees of the fairness of it agrees with one another."
"Has McKettrick got to you first?"
It was the information Scattergood wanted, but his dumplinglike face
showed no sign of satisfaction. As a matter of fact, he did not know who
McKettrick was--but he could find out. "Don't seem to recall any
conversation with him," he said, cautiously, leaving Castle to believe
what he desired--and Castle believed.
"He was keeping his plans almighty dark. I don't understand his spilling
them to you. It cost _me_ money to find out."
"Dinner's waitin'," said Scattergood.
"Did he offer to buy your road?"
"If he did," said Scattergood, "it didn't come to nothin'."
It will be observed that Scattergood had obtained important information,
though affording none, and in addition had surrounded himself with a
haze through which President Castle was unable to see clearly. Castle
knew less after the interview than he had known when he came;
Scattergood had discovered all he hoped to discover.
Johnnie Bones came home next noon and reported to Scattergood that he
had been partially successful.
"I couldn't get all of that flat," he said. "Somebody's been buying on
the quiet. Three strips from the river to the hill were not to be had,
but I bought four strips, two at the ends and two between the pieces I
"Better call it a side of bacon, Johnnie. Strip of fat and strip of
lean. Dunno but it's better as it lays. Hear anythin' about the Goodhue
"Somebody's been cruising it for a month back--without a brass band."
"Um!... Send a wire, Johnnie. Lumberman's Trust Company, Boston. Set
price Goodhue tract...."
Johnnie telephoned the wire. Two hours later the answer came, "Goodhue
tract no longer in our hands."
"Did you ever wonder, Johnnie, why I never got int'rested into that
Johnnie shook his head.
"Because," said Scattergood, "you got to log it by rail. Forty thousand
acres of it, and no stream runnin' through it big enough to drive logs
down.... But I got an idee, Johnnie, that loggin' by rail can be done
economical. Know who bought that timber?"
"McKettrick of the Seaboard Box and Paper Company, biggest concern of
the kind in America. Calc'late they'll be makin' pulp here to ship to
their paper mills. Calculate I'll give 'em a commodity rate of around
seven cents to the G. and B. Johnnie, our orchard's goin' to begin
givin' a crop. That'll give us sixteen dollars and eighty cents for
haulin' a minimum car of twenty-four thousand. And this hain't goin' to
be any one-car mill, neither. Five cars a day'll be increasin' our
revenue twenty-four thousand three hunderd dollars a year--on outgoin'
freight. Then there's incomin' freight to figger. All we got to do is
set still and take _that_. Beauty of controllin' the transportation of a
region. But it seems like we ought to git more out of it than that--if
we stir around some. Especial when you come to consider that McKettrick
and Castle is flyin' at each other's throats. It's a situation, Johnnie,
that man owes a duty to himself to take advantage of."
Scattergood went back to his hardware store and seated himself on the
piazza. Presently a team drove up from down the valley and a tall, gaunt
individual, with hair of the color of a dead leaf, alighted.
"I was told I could find a man named Scattergood Baines here," he said.
"You kin," Scattergood replied.
"Where is he?"
"Sich as he is," said Scattergood, "you see him."
The man looked from Scattergood's shoeless feet and white woolen socks
to Scattergood's shabby, baggy trousers, and then on upward, by slow and
disapproving degrees, to Scattergood's guileless face, and there the
"Some mistake," he said; "I want the owner of the Coldriver Valley
"It may be a mistake," said Scattergood. "Calculate it _is_ a mistake to
own a railroad. But 'tain't the only mistake I ever made."
"_You_ own the road?"
Evidently the stranger was not impressed by Scattergood in a manner to
arouse him to a notable exertion of courtesy. He allowed it to appear in
his manner that he set a light value on Scattergood; in fact, that it
was not exactly pleasant to him to be compelled to do business with such
a human being. Scattergood's eyes twinkled and he wriggled his toes.
"Well, Baines," said the stranger, "I want to talk business to you."
"Step into my private office," said Scattergood, motioning to a chair at
his side, "and rest your legs."
"I'm thinking of establishing a plant below," said the stranger. "A very
considerable plant. In studying the situation it seems as if your
railroad might be run as an adjunct to my business. I suppose it can be
"Supposing" said Scattergood, "is free as air."
"I'll take it off your hands at a fair figure."
"'Tain't layin' heavy on my hands," said Scattergood.
"How much did it cost you?"
"A heap less 'n I'll sell for.... You hain't mentioned your name."
"I'd sell to a man of that name."
"One million dollars," said Scattergood.
"You're--you're _crazy_," said McKettrick. It was an exclamation of
disgust, a statement of belief, and a cry of pain. "I might go a quarter
of a million."
"This here's a one-price store--marked plain on the goods. Customers is
requested not to haggle."
"You're not serious?"
"One million dollars."
"I'll build a road down my side of the river."
"Maybe. Can be done. Twelve mile of tunnel and the rest trestle.
Wouldn't cost more 'n fifteen, twenty million--if you're figgerin' on
the west side of the stream.... How you figgerin' on gettin' your pulp
wood down to Tupper Falls?"
"What?... What's that?"
"Goin' to log, yourself, or job it?"
"Look here, Baines, what do you know?"
"About what's needful. I try to keep posted."
"Tell me what you know. I insist."
Scattergood opened his eyes and peered over his dumpling cheeks at
McKettrick, but said nothing.
"And how you found it out."
"I've been figgerin' over your case," said Scattergood. "I'll give you a
sidetrack into your yards pervidin' you pay the cost of bridgin' and
layin' the track, me to furnish ties and rails. _Also_, I'll give you a
commodity rate of seven cents to the G. and B. As to sellin', I don't
calc'late you want to buy at a million. But that hain't no sign you and
me can't do business. You got to log by rail. You got to cut consid'able
number of cords of pulpwood. I'll build your loggin' road, and I'll
contract to cut your pulp and deliver it.... Want to go into it with
McKettrick peered at Scattergood with awakened interest. His scrutiny
told him nothing.
"What backing have you?"
McKettrick almost sneered.
"Been lookin' me up?" asked Scattergood.
"Let's step to the bank."
McKettrick followed Scattergood's bulky figure-wondering.
In the bank Scattergood presented the treasurer. "Mr. Noble, meet Mr.
McKettrick. He wants you should tell him somethin' about me. For
instance, Noble, about how fur you calculate my credit could be
"Mr. Baines would have no difficulty borrowing from five hundred
thousand to three quarters of a million," said Noble.
"How's his reppitation for keepin' his word?" said Scattergood.
"The whole state knows your word is kept to the letter."
"What you calculate I'm wuth--visible prop'ty?"
"I'd say a million and a half to two millions."
"Backin' enough to suit you, Mr. McKettrick?" asked Scattergood.
McKettrick wore a dazed look. Scattergood did not look like two
millions; he did not look like ten thousand. His bearing became more
"I'll listen to any proposition you wish to make," he said.
"Come over to Johnnie Bones's," said Scattergood.
In a moment they were sitting in Johnnie's office, and McKettrick and
Johnnie were acquainted.
"Here's my proposition," said Scattergood. "I'll build and equip a
loggin' road accordin' to your surveys. You furnish right of way and
enough money to give you forty-nine per cent of the stock in the company
we'll form. I kin build cheaper 'n you, and I know the country and kin
git the labor. You pay the new railroad a set price for haulin'
pulpwood--say dollar 'n a quarter to two dollars a cord, as we figger it
later.... Then I'll take the job of loggin' for you and layin' down the
pulpwood at sidings. It'll save you labor and expense and trouble. I've
showed I was responsible. The new railroad company'll put up bonds, and
so'll the loggin' company--if you say so."
This was the beginning of some weeks of negotiations, during which
Scattergood became convinced that McKettrick was wishful of using him so
long as he proved useful; then, when the day arrived for a showing of
profit on the profit sheet, the same McKettrick was planning to see that
no profit would be there and that Scattergood Baines should be
eliminated from consideration--to McKettrick's profit in the sum of
whatever amount Scattergood invested in the construction of the
railroad. It was a situation that exactly suited Scattergood's love of
"If McKettrick had come up here wearin' better manners," said
Scattergood to Johnnie, "and if he hadn't got himself all rigged out as
little Red Ridin' Hood's grandmother--figgerin' I'd qualify for little
Red Ridin' Hood without the eyesight for big ears and big teeth that
little girl had--why, I might 'a' give him a reg'lar business deal. But
seem's he's as he is, I calc'late I'm privileged to git what I kin git."
Therefore Scattergood made it a clause in the contract that all the
stock in the new railroad and construction company should remain in his
own name until the road was completed and ready to operate. Then 49 per
cent should be transferred to McKettrick. This McKettrick regarded as a
harmless eccentricity of the lamb he was about to fleece.
The new company was organized with Johnnie Bones as president,
Scattergood as treasurer, an employee of McKettrick's as secretary, and
Mandy Baines and another employee of McKettrick's as the remaining two
While the negotiations regarding the railroad were being carried on,
another matter arose to irritate Mr. McKettrick, and, in some measure,
to take the keen edge off his attention. Scattergood usually endeavored
to have some matter arise to irritate and distract when he was engaged
on a major operation, and it was for this reason he had bought the four
strips of land at Tupper Falls.
McKettrick awoke suddenly to find that his men had not secured the site
for his mills, and that, apparently, it could not be secured. He
discussed the thing with Scattergood.
"Prob'ly some old scissor bills that got a notion of hangin' on to their
land," Scattergood said.
"It can't be that, for the sales to the present owners were recent. The
new owners refuse absolutely to sell."
"And pulp mills hain't got no right of eminent domain like railroads."
"All substantial businesses ought to have it," said McKettrick. "You
know these folks. I wish you'd see what you can do."
"Glad to," Scattergood promised, and two days later he reported that all
four landowners might be brought to terms. Three would sell, surely; one
was holding back strangely, but the three had put the matter into the
hands of a local real-estate and insurance broker, by name Wangen.
"We'll go see him," said Scattergood.
Which they did. "My clients," said Wangen, importantly, "realize the
value of their property. That, I may say, is why they bought."
"It cost the three of 'em less 'n three thousand dollars for the three
passels," said Scattergood.
"Prices have gone up," said Wangen.
"Give them two hundred dollars profit apiece," said McKettrick.
"Consid'able difference between givin' it and their takin' it," said
Scattergood. "I agree with that," said Wangen.
"Now, Wangen, you and me has done consid'able business," said
Scattergood, "and you hain't goin' to hold up a friend of mine."
"If it was a personal thing, Mr. Baines; but I've got to do my best for
"What's your proposition?"
"Five thousand dollars apiece for the three strips."
"It's an outrage," roared McKettrick. "I'll never be robbed like that."
"Take it," said Wangen, "or leave it."
"You've _got_ to have it," Scattergood whispered.
McKettrick spluttered and stormed and pleaded, but Wangen was firm and
gave but one answer. There could be but one result: McKettrick wrote a
check for fifteen thousand dollars--and still had one strip to buy--a
strip not at an edge of his mill site, but bisecting it.
This strip caused the worry when Scattergood needed attention distracted
the most. But Scattergood managed finally to secure it for McKettrick
for seventy-five hundred dollars. Thus it will be seen how Scattergood
resorted to the law of necessity, and how McKettrick suffered from
failure to build securely his commercial structure from its foundation.
Twenty-two thousand two hundred and fifty dollars were paid by
McKettrick for land that had cost Scattergood exactly three thousand six
hundred dollars. Scattergood believed in always paying for services
rendered, so Wangen and each of the four ostensible landowners were
given a hundred dollars. Net profit to Scattergood, eighteen thousand
one hundred and fifty dollars.
"Which it wouldn't 'a' cost him if he hadn't looked sneerin' at my
stockin' feet," said Scattergood to Johnnie Bones.
Johnnie Bones prepared the papers for the incorporation of the new
railroad, and the organization was perfected. There were two thousand
shares of one hundred dollars each. McKettrick put in his right of way
at five thousand, an excessive figure, as Scattergood knew well, and
gave his check for the balance of his 49 per cent. Scattergood deposited
a check for his 51 per cent, or one hundred and two thousand dollars.
Work was begun grading the right of way immediately.
McKettrick vanished from the region and did not appear again except for
flying visits to his rising plant at Tupper Falls. He never inspected so
much as a foot of the new railroad back into the Goodhue tract--and
this, Scattergood very correctly took to be suspicious. The work was
left utterly in Scattergood's hands, with no check upon him and no
inspection. It was not like a man of McKettrick's character--unless
there were an object.
Once or twice Scattergood encountered President Castle of the G. & B.
while the road was building.
"Hear you're putting in a logging road for McKettrick," he said.
"For me," said Scattergood. "Stock stands in my name. Calculate to
operate it myself."
"Oh!" said Castle, and drummed with his fingers on the window ledge.
Scattergood said nothing.
"Own the right of way?" asked Castle.
"'Tain't precisely a right of way," said Scattergood. "It's a easement,
or property right, or whatever the lawyers would call it, to run tracks
over any part of McKettrick's property and operate a loggin'
railroad--where McKettrick says he wants to get logs from."
"No definite right of way?"
"Jest what I described."
"Capitalized for two hundred thousand, I see."
"Any stock for sale?"
"Not at the present writin'."
"At a price?"
"Say a profit of twenty dollars a share."
"It'll pay dividends on more 'n that figger," said Scattergood,
"which," he added, "you know dum well."
"Yes," said Castle, "but for a quick turnover--and I'm not figuring
"Kind of got a bone to pick with McKettrick, eh?"
"Tell you what I'll do," said Scattergood. "I'll sell you forty-nine per
cent of the stock at a hunderd and twenty. Stock to stand in my name
till the road's ready to operate, I don't want it known I've been
sellin' any.... Shouldn't be s'prised if you was able to pick up control
one way and another--but I hain't goin' to sell it to you."
"I see," said Castle, closing his eyes and squinting through a slit
between the lids. "It's a deal, Mr. Baines," he said, presently.
"Cash," said Scattergood.
"You'll find a certified check in the mail the day after I get the
Which transaction gave Scattergood another profit on the whole affair of
nineteen thousand six hundred dollars--this time a capitalization of the
spite of man toward man. It will be seen that McKettrick owned 49 per
cent of the stock, Castle, 49 per cent, and Scattergood, 2 per cent. He
was now in a position to await developments.
They arrived as the railway was on the point of running its first train.
McKettrick brought them in person. He burst upon Scattergood as
Scattergood sat in front of his hardware store, and began to storm.
"What's this? What's this?" he roared. "What's that railroad doing up
the easterly side of our timber? It's waste money, lost money. It'll
have to be rebuilt. We've made all arrangements to cut off the westerly
side. Now we'll have to swamp roads and log by team till the road can be
"Um!..." said Scattergood, "so _that's_ it, eh? I was wonderin' how it
"It was an inexcusable blunder, and it'll cost you money. You know how
the railroad's contract with the company reads. Who gave you directions
to run up the easterly side?"
"My engineer got 'em in your office."
"Oh, your engineer. He made the mistake, eh? Then the mistake's yours,
all right, for every scrap of writing in our office has the word
'westerly' in it, plain and distinct. It means tearing up those rails,
grading a new line--and you'll pay for it. I sha'n't stand loss for your
mistake. It'll cost you a hundred thousand dollars for that blunder."
"Hain't you discoverin' it a mite late?"
"It was left wholly to you."
"Seems like I noticed it," said Scattergood. "So all that work's lost,
eh? Seems a pity, too."
"You don't seem to take it seriously."
"You bet I do, and I calculate to look into it _some_."
"It won't do any good. The mistake is plain."
"Shouldn't be s'prised. I git your idee, McKettrick. You've been
figgerin' from the start on smougin' me out of what I invested in that
road, eh?... By the way, your stock's in your name. I'll git the
certificates out of the safe."
McKettrick shoved the envelope in his pocket. "The Seaboard Box and
Paper Company will force you to remove your tracks from our land. I'll
sue you for damages for your blunder. The Seaboard will sue the new
railroad for damages for failure to have the tracks into the cuttings
on time. I guess when we begin collecting judgments by levying on the
new road, there won't be much of it left. The Seaboard will come pretty
close to owning it."
"And you and I will be frozen out, eh?" said Scattergood.
McKettrick purred and smiled. "Exactly," he said. "Now, my advice to you
is not to fight the thing. You can't deny the blunder and you'll save
cost of litigation."
"What's your proposition?"
"Transfer your stock to the Seaboard."
"And lose a hunderd and two thousand?"
"It's not our fault if you make expensive mistakes."
"Course not," said Scattergood. "I admit I hain't much on litigation.
S'posin' you and me meets in Boston to-morrow with our lawyers, and sort
of figger this thing out."
"There's nothing to figure out--but I'll meet you to-morrow. You're
sensible to settle."
"Calc'late I be," said Scattergood.
That afternoon Johnnie Bones carried President Castle's 49 per cent of
the railroad's stock to the G. & B. offices, and gave them into the
hands of the railroad's chief executive.
"Mr. Baines will be here to-morrow. There will be a meeting at his hotel
at three o'clock. McKettrick will be there."
"I'll come," said President Castle.
The meeting was held in the shabby hotel which Scattergood patronized.
McKettrick was there with his attorney, Scattergood was there with
Johnnie Bones--and last came President Castle.
At his entrance McKettrick scowled and leaped to his feet.
"What do _you_ want here?" he demanded.
"Well," said Mr. Castle, with a smile which descended into great depths
of disagreeability, "I own forty-nine per cent of the stock in this
concern. I imagine I have a right to be here."
"What's that? What's that?" McKettrick glared at Scattergood, who sat
placidly removing his shoes.
"Calc'late I'll relieve my feet," he said.
"So I got you, too," McKettrick said to Castle. "I didn't figure on
"Got me? I'm interested."
McKettrick explained at length, and, as he explained, Castle glared at
him, and then at Scattergood, with increasing rage. As he saw it there
was a plot between Scattergood and McKettrick to get him--and he
appeared to have been gotten. He started to speak, but Scattergood
"Jest a minute, Mr. Castle," he said. "'Tain't time for you to cuss yet.
Maybe you won't git to do no reg'lar cussin' a-tall. You see, McKettrick
he up and made a little error himself. Regardin' me makin' an error.
Yass.... I don't calc'late to make errors costin' upward of a hunderd
thousand. No.... Not," he said, "that I got any doubts about the word
'westerly' appearin' in all the papers McKettrick's got regardin' this
enterprise. What I doubt some is whether the word 'westerly' was there
right from the start off of the beginnin'. In other words, it looks to
me kind of as if McKettrick had done a mite of fixin' up to them
documents. Rubbin' out and writin' in, so to speak."
"Fiddlesticks!" said McKettrick. "Of course that is what you would
"McKettrick," said Scattergood, "did you figger I'd take notes in lead
pencil on my cuff of where I was to build that railroad? Did you figger
I was goin' to lay down a railroad without knowin' the place I put it
was where it b'longed? Castle he knows me better 'n you, and he
wouldn't guess I'd do sich a thing. No, sir, Mr. McKettrick. I took
them original papers out of your office for jest a day, and bein' as
they constituted an easement on land, I got 'em recorded in the office
of the recorder of deeds. Paid reg'lar money in fees to have it done.
And who you think I got to compare the records with the original in case
somethin' come up, eh? Why, the circuit jedge of this county and the
prosecutin' attorney--they both bein' personal and political friends of
mine.... That's what I done, and if you'll search them records you'll
find the word 'easterly' standin' cool and ca'm in every place where it
ought to be.... So, if you're figgerin' on litigation, I guess maybe
we'll litigate, eh?"
"These are the references to the records," said Johnnie Bones, laying a
memorandum on the table. "You'll find them correct."
"Knowing Baines as I do," said President Castle, "I'm satisfied."
McKettrick and his attorney were conversing in hoarse whispers.
McKettrick looked like a man who had come out of a warm bath into a
cold-storage room. He was speechless, but his lawyer spoke for him.
"You win," he said, succinctly.
"Always calc'late to when I kin," said Scattergood. "Now, don't hurry,
gentlemen. I got another leetle matter to call to your attention.
McKettrick there's got forty-nine per cent of the stock in the railroad
that's built where it ought to be, and Castle's got another forty-nine
per cent. That leaves two men with all but two per cent of the stock,
and neither of them in control. If I know them men they hain't apt to
git together and agree peaceable and reasonable. Therefore, the feller
that has the remainin' two per cent of the stock, or forty shares,
stands perty clost to controllin' the corporation, eh? Him votin' with
either of the forty-nine per cents? Sounds that way, don't it?... And I
got that two per cent.... Do I hear any suggestions?"
Castle stood up and bowed. "I take off my hat to you, Baines.... I bid
"Eleven," choked McKettrick.
"This here road's goin' to be mighty profitable. Contract with the
Seaboard folks makes it look like it would pay eighteen, twenty per cent
on the investment, maybe more. And control--hain't that wuth a figger?"
"Fifteen," said Castle.
"Seventeen five hundred."
"That's enough," said Scattergood. "I got a leetle grudge ag'in'
McKettrick for havin' bad manners, and for regardin' me as somethin' to
pick and eat. It'll hurt him some to have you control this road, Castle,
so you git it, at seventeen thousand five hunderd. I don't want to burn
you, and I calc'late the figger you're payin' is clost to bein' fair.
I'm satisfied. Write a check."
Castle drew out his check book, and in a moment passed the valuable slip
across to Scattergood. "Thankee," said Baines, "and good day.... Another
time, McKettrick, don't look sneerin' at white woolen socks."
He walked out of the room, followed by Johnnie Bones.
"Perty fair deal for a scissor bill," said Scattergood. "This last
check, deductin' four thousand as cost of stock, gives me a profit of
twelve thousand two hunderd and fifty for the day. Add that to eighteen
thousand one hunderd and fifty on the strips of land, and nineteen
thousand six hunderd on the stock I sold Castle first, and what do we
"Even fifty thousand," said Johnnie.
"I always did cotton to round figgers," said Scattergood, comfortably.
"Let's git us a meal of vittles."
INSURANCE THAT DID NOT LAPSE
Scattergood Baines was not a man to shingle his roof before he built his
foundations. He knew the value of shingles, and was not without some
appreciation for frescoes and porticoes and didos, but he liked to reach
them in the ordinary course of logical procedure. His completed
structure, according to the plans carefully printed on his brain, was
the domination of Coldriver Valley through ownership of its means of
transportation and of its water power. He wanted to be rich, not for the
sake of being rich, but because a great deal of money is, aside from
love or hate, the most powerful lever in the world. For five years, now,
Scattergood had moved along slowly and irresistibly, buying a bit of
timber here, acquiring a dam site there, taking over the stage line to
the railroad twenty-four miles away, and establishing a credit and a
reputation for shrewdness that were worth much more to him than dollars
and cents in the bank.
As a matter of fact, Scattergood had amassed considerable more money
than even the gimlet eyes and whispering tongues of Coldriver had been
able to credit him with. It is doubtful if anybody realized just how
strong a foot-hold Scattergood was getting in that valley, but the men
who came closest to it were Messrs. Crane and Keith, lumbermen, who were
beginning to experience a feeling of growing irritation toward the fat
hardware merchant. They were irritated because, every now and then, they
found themselves shut off from the water, or from a bit of timber, or
from some other desirable property, by some small holding of
Scattergood's which seemed to have dropped into just the right spot to
create the maximum amount of trouble for them. It could be nothing but
chance, they told each other, for they had sat in judgment on
Scattergood, and their judgment had been that he was a lazy lout with
more than a fair share of luck.
"It's nothing but luck," Crane told his partner. "The man hasn't a brain
in his head--just a big lump of fat."
"But he's always getting in the way--and he does seem to know a
water-power site when he sees it."
"Anybody does," said Crane. "He's a doggone nuisance and we might as
well settle with him one time as another--and the time to settle is
before his luck gives him a genuine strangle hold on this valley. We've
got too much timber on these hills to take any risks."
"I leave it with you, Crane. You're the outside man. But when you bust
him, bust him good."
Crane retired to his office and devoted his head to the subject
exclusively, and because Crane's head was that sort of head he devised
an enterprise which, if Scattergood could be made to involve himself in
it, would result in the extinction of that gentleman in the Coldriver
It was a week later that a gentleman, whose clothes and bearing
guaranteed him to be a genuine denizen of the city, stopped at
Scattergood's store. Scattergood was sitting, as usual, on the piazza,
in his especially reinforced chair, laying in wait for somebody to whom
he could sell a bit of hardware, no matter how small.
"Good morning," said the gentleman. "Is this Mr. Scattergood Baines?"
"It's Scattergood Baines, all right. Don't call to mind bein' christened
"My name is Blossom."
"Perty name," said Scattergood, unsmilingly.
"I wonder if I can have a little talk with you, Mr. Baines?"
"Havin' it, hain't you?"
Mr. Blossom smiled appreciatively, and sat down beside Scattergood. "I'm
interested in the new Higgins's Bridge Pulp Company. You've heard of it,
"Some," said Scattergood. "Some."
"We are starting to build our mill. It will be the largest in America,
with the most modern machinery. Now we're looking about for somebody to
supply us spruce cut to the proper length for pulpwood. You own
considerable spruce, do you not?"
"Calc'late to have title to a tree or two."
"Good. I came up to find out if you are in a position to swing a rather
big contract--to deliver us at the mill a minimum of twenty-five
thousand cords of pulpwood?"
"Depends," said Scattergood.
Mr. Blossom drew a jackknife from his pocket and began leisurely to
sharpen a pencil. It was a rather battered jackknife, and Scattergood
noticed that one blade had been broken off. He stretched out his hand.
"Jackknife's kind of lame, hain't it? Don't 'pear to be as stylish as
the rest of you?"
"It is a bit dilapidated."
"Got some good ones inside. Fine line of jackknives. Only carry the
best. Show 'em to you."
He lifted himself out of the groaning chair and went into the store, to
return with a dozen or more knives, which he showed to Mr. Blossom, and
Mr. Blossom looked at them gravely. He was smiling to himself. A man who
could interrupt a deal involving upward of a hundred thousand dollars to
try to sell a jackknife certainly was not of a caliber to give serious
worry to an astute business man.
"Recommend the pearl-handled one," said Scattergood. "Two dollars 'n' a
"I'll take it," said Mr. Blossom, and he stuck his old knife in a post,
replacing it in his pocket with the new purchase.
"Cash," said Scattergood, and Mr. Blossom handed over the currency.
"Speakin' of pulpwood," said Scattergood, "how much you figger on
Mr. Blossom named a price, delivered at the mill.
"When want it delivered, eh? What date?"
"Before May first."
"Water power or steam?" said Scattergood, somewhat irrelevantly.
"Both. We're putting in steam engines and boilers, but we're going to
depend mostly on water power."
"Goin' to build a dam, eh? Big dam?"
"Um!... Stock company?"
"Yes. We'll be solid. Capitalized for a quarter of a million and bonded
for a quarter of a million. Gives us half a million capital to start
"Stock all sold?"
"Mostly in small blocks in Boston."
"Um!... Bonds sold?"
"Who bought 'em?"
"They're underwritten by the Commonwealth Security Trust Company."
"Want to know!... Got authority? Vested with authority to put it in
"The contract, you mean?"
"Calculate to mean that."
"Lawyer acrost the street," said Scattergood.
"You can swing it?"
"You have the capital to make good?"
"Know I have, don't you? Wouldn't have come to me if you hadn't?"
"You'll have to borrow heavily."
"My lookout, hain't it? Don't need to worry you?"
"Not in the least."
"Lawyer's still acrost the street."
So Scattergood and Mr. Blossom went across the street and up the narrow
stairs to Lawyer Norton's office, where a contract was drafted and
signed, obligating Scattergood to deliver to the Higgins's Bridge Pulp
Company twenty-five thousand cords of pulp, on or before May 1st,
payment to be made on delivery. Mr. Blossom went away wearing a
satisfied expression, and in the course of the day sent to Crane & Keith
a brief message, a message of two words. "He bit," was the telegram.
Scattergood went back to his chair, and presently might have been seen
to unlace his shoes absent-mindedly. For an hour he sat there, twiddling
his bare toes. Then he got up, jerked Mr. Blossom's old jackknife from
the post where it had been abandoned, and pocketed it.
"If nothin' else happens," he said to himself, "I'm figgered to make a
profit of sixty cents and a tradin' knife."
There followed a very busy fall and winter for Scattergood. Not that he
neglected his hardware store, but from its porch, and later from a post
beside its big stove, he recruited men for his camps and directed the
labor of cutting and piling pulpwood along the banks of Coldriver.
Also, from time to time, he visited various banks to borrow the money
necessary to carry on the operation, sometimes on notes and collateral,
sometimes on timber mortgages. The sum of his borrowing mounted and
mounted, until, before the arrival of spring, his credit had been
strained to the uttermost.
Nor had the pulp company been idle. Its new mills had arisen beside the
river at Higgins's Bridge, machinery had been installed, and the little
hamlet was beginning to speculate in town lots and to look forward to
But before the ice was out of the river disquieting rumors began to
breathe out of Higgins's Bridge. They were the meerest vapor of
conjecture at first, apparently based upon no evidence whatever, but
friends delighted to convey them to Scattergood, as friends always
delight to perform such a disagreeable duty.
"Hear things hain't goin' right down to the new pulp mill," said Deacon
Pettybone, one bitterly cold afternoon, when he came into Scattergood's
store to thaw the icicles out of his sparse beard.
"Do tell," said Scattergood.
"Be perty bad for you if they was to go wrong, wouldn't it?"
"Perty bad, Deacon."
"'Most ruin you, wouldn't it? Clean you out? Leave you with nothin'?"
"Hain't mortgaged my health. Hain't mortgaged my brains. Have them left,
Deacon. Don't figger I'm clean bankrupt till them two is gone."
But it was to be noticed that Scattergood toasted his bare toes a great
deal during the ensuing days. He scarcely put on his shoes except when
he was going out to wallow through the drifts; and, as Coldriver knew,
when Scattergood waggled his bare toes he was struggling with a
Also it might have been noticed that he pored much over the detailed
maps in the county atlas, studying the flow of streams and the lie of
timber. It might have been seen that several large blocks of timber had
been marked by Scattergood with red crosses, and that certain other
limits had been blotted out in black. The black pieces were neither
numerous nor individually extensive, but they belonged to Scattergood.
Those marked with red crosses were the property of Messrs. Crane &
Now, it may be taken as axiomatic that in those early days the value of
a piece of timber depended upon its accessibility to flowing water down
which logs might be driven. A medium piece of timber on the banks of a
stream which came to plentiful flood in the spring was worth more in
hard dollars and cents than a much larger and finer piece back in the
hills. A piece of timber which had no access whatever to water
approximated worthlessness. On the atlas, the largest pieces of Crane &
Keith timber were back from the river--not too far back, but still
separated from it by narrow strips which, for the most part, were farms.
Some few pieces ran down to the river, but it was apparent that Crane &
Keith were looking to the future--buying timber when it was at its
lowest, and preparing to hold for a better day. They had bought
strategically. More than one tributary valley was in their hands, and,
when the day ripened, small land purchases would connect their holdings,
bring them to water, and place them in such a commanding position that
the valley would be as surely theirs as if they owned every foot of it.
Inasmuch as Scattergood planned, himself, to control Coldriver Valley,
the prospect was not pleasing to him.
Scattergood closed the atlas and put on his shoes. "Um!..." he said.
"Calculate that'll keep their minds off'n other things a spell. If
they see me dickerin' there, they won't figger I'm dickerin' some place
If Scattergood had been a general, history would have recorded that he
won his battles by making feints at some vulnerable point in the enemy's
line, and then struck his major blow at a distance where he was not
suspected to be operating at all.
It chanced that Crane & Keith were cutting timber from the Bottle--a
valley so named. Their rollways were piled high, and it was time for
them to team to the river. To reach the river they must pass through the
Bottleneck and over the farm belonging to Old Man Plumm. There was
another road into the valley--a public road--but it was a fifteen-mile
haul. Old Man Plumm was a non-assertive person, and good-natured. His
farm was a ramshackle, down-at-heels, worthless place, off which he
gleaned the meagerest of livelihoods, so that he had not been averse to
permitting Crane & Keith to traverse his land for a nominal
consideration. It was cheaper for Crane & Keith than purchase--and so
the matter stood.
Scattergood went across the road to Lawyer Norton's office.
"Goin' up Bottleneck way perty soon?" he asked.
"Not that I know of, Scattergood."
"Nice drive. Old Man Plumm's got a farm there."
"I know that, of course."
"Don't figger to visit him?"
"Why--" said Norton, beginning to see that Scattergood had something in
"Wouldn't try to buy the farm, would you?"
Norton hesitated. "I--I might."
"Why, I suppose so."
"In your own name, eh? Not in anybody else's."
"How much should I pay?"
"Folks always pays what they have to--no more--no less. Immediate
possession. Always a good thing. Got any money?"
"Call at the bank. They'll give you what's needed. Ought to be back with
the deed by night. Fast hoss?"
That night Norton returned with the deed and with Old Man Plumm, who
took the morning stage for Connecticut and his youngest daughter.
"Hear folks is trespassin' on your land, Norton. Name of Crane and
Keith. Haulin' logs acrost. No contract with you? No contract with
"Hain't got a right to do it, have they?"
"If I owned that land I'd give 'em notice," said Scattergood. "G'-by,
Norton. Goin'to Boston to-day. Set tight, Norton. G'-by."
Twenty-four hours later both Crane and Keith were in Coldriver, storming
up to Lawyer Norton's office. Scattergood was in Boston and not visible.
"What does this mean?" blustered Crane, displaying to Norton the notice
mailed at Scattergood's direction.
"What it says."
"You can't stop us hauling to the river."
Norton shrugged his shoulders. "You can use the state road."
"Fifteen miles! You know it's impossible. We've got millions of feet on
our rollways. It'll doze and spoil if we don't get it out."
"That's your lookout."
"What do you want?"
"It's some kind of a hold-up. What'll you take for that farm?"
"Not for sale."
"What will it cost us to haul across you?"
"You can't haul across. Not for money, marbles, or chalk. Use the road."
That was the best Crane & Keith could get out of Norton, though they
besieged him for a week, though they consulted lawyers, though they made
threats, and though they begged and promised. Norton was a stubborn man.
During this week Scattergood had been in Boston. His first visit had
been to Linderman, president of the Atlantic Pulp and Paper Company.
"Have you an appointment with Mr. Linderman?" asked a clerk.
"Never heard of me."
"Then I'm afraid you can't see him. He's very busy."
"That his office? That door?"
"He in? Right in there?"
Scattergood walked calmly toward it. The slender clerk interposed.
Scattergood picked him up, tucked him under a huge arm, and waddled
through the great man's door.
"Howdy, Mr. Linderman? Howdy?"
Linderman looked up and frowned, then his eyes twinkled.
"Who are you? What have you there?"
"Young feller I found outside. 'Fraid of steppin' on him, so I picked
him up to save him. You can run along now, sonny," he said to the clerk.
"He let on I couldn't see you," Scattergood explained.
"What's your name?"
"Of Coldriver?" Scattergood was surprised, but did not show it. "Yes."
"Thankee.... Come to do a mite of business with you. Interested in pulp,
hain't you. Quite consid'able interested?"
"Know the Higgins's Bridge Pulp Company?"
"Of course. Understand they're in difficulties."
"In some, and goin' to be in more. That's why I come down."
Thereupon Scattergood explained in detail his contract with the pulp
company, and his theories of what that company was planning to do to
him. "Double barreled," he said. "Crane and Keith owns them bonds.
Figger on freezin' out the stockholders and buyin' 'em out for a song.
Figger on bustin' me. Next we hear the mill'll be in receiver's hands.
No money. Can't pay no contracts. My notes'll come due, and I'm done
for. Simple. Crane thought it up."
"What do you want of me? So far as I can see, you are up against it. You
can't borrow any more, and your notes won't be extended. You're done."
"Hain't started yet--not yet. Figger to start to-day. That's why I come
to see you."
"But I can do nothing for you."
"Higgins's Bridge mill's good, hain't it? Logical payin' proposition?
Money to be made?"
"Like to own it cheap?"
"Crane and Keith is gittin' ready for a killin'. Own big block of stock.
Paid par. Want to sell, I hear ... if anybody's fool enough to buy. Then
want to buy back for dum' near nothin' when receivership comes. Good
scheme. Money in it. Crane thought it up."
"What's your idea?"
"Buy all they got. Option the rest. Easy.... What happens when a man
sells somethin' he hain't got?"
"He has to get it some place."
"If he can't get it, what?"
"Makes it expensive for him."
"Thought so. Figgered that way.... Nobody to interfere. Crane and Keith
left orders to sell. They won't be takin' notice. Got 'em worried some
place else. Mighty worried." Scattergood recounted the story of Plumm's
Mr. Linderman scrutinized Scattergood intently and nodded his head. "And
you want me--"
"Put up the money. Git the stock. Lemme handle it. Gimme twenty per
"Baines," said Linderman, "I'll go you. Crane and Keith are due for a
"G'-by, Mr. Linderman. Have money when I want it. G'-by."
Scattergood had a list of stockholders in the pulp company and knew they
were worried. He spent two days in interviewing a dozen of them, and
found little difficulty optioning their stock at a pleasant figure. They
imagined he must be crazy, and he did nothing to destroy the belief.
Then he called at the offices of Crane & Keith.
"Want to see the boss man," he said.
"Hear you got stock for sale. Pulp company. Figger to buy."
Here was a lamb ready for the slaughter. Mr. McCann, who received him,
could see the delight of his employers, and his own profit, if he
should succeed in taking this fat backwoodsman into camp.
"You want to buy stock in the pulp company, I understand?"
"How much you got?"
"Guess we can sell you all you want."
"Money-makin' proposition, hain't it?"
"But you're willin' to sell? Kind of funny, hain't it?"
"Oh no. We have so many enterprises."
"Glad you want to sell. I figger to make money on this stock. Want to
buy a lot of it."
"About how many shares?"
"What you askin'?" said Scattergood.
"Shucks! Give you thirty."
There was haggling and bickering until a price of sixty was agreed upon,
and Mr. McCann's heart expanded with satisfaction.
"Now, how many shares?"
"Want control. Want fifty-one per cent, anyhow. Got 'em?"
"Of course." This was not the fact, but Mr. McCann was not addicted to
unnecessary facts. He knew where he could get the rest for less than 60.
There would be an additional profit and additional credit coming to him.
In cold reality, Crane & Keith owned some 40 per cent of the stock.
"Take all you'll sell."
"I can let you have fifteen hundred shares--for cash." This was an even
60 per cent, but McCann knew where he could get the other 20.
"Come to the bank. Come now. Give you the cash."
"I can't deliver but one thousand shares to-day, but I can give you the
other five hundred to-morrow."
"Suits me. Pay for 'em all to-day. Gimme what you got and a receipt for
the rest. Comin' to the bank?"
Mr. McCann put on his coat and hat and accompanied Scattergood to the
bank, where he received a certified check for the full amount, gave
Scattergood in return a thousand shares of stock, and a receipt which
recited that Scattergood had paid for five hundred shares more, to be
delivered within twenty-four hours.
Scattergood went to see Mr. Linderman; McCann went out to round up five
hundred shares of stock. By midnight he was a worried young man. The
stock he had thought to pick up so readily was not to be had. Everybody
seemed to have disposed of it and nobody seemed to know exactly who had
been doing the buying, for the options had been taken in a number of
names. Next morning McCann sought diligently until he found Scattergood.
"I've been a bit delayed in the delivery of the rest of the stock," he
told Scattergood, and there was cold moisture on his forehead. "Would
you mind waiting until to-morrow?"
"Guess I'll have to," said Scattergood. "G'-by. Better be movin' around
spry. I want to git back home."
That night McCann wired his employers to get back home as quickly as
conveyances would carry them. They did so, and in no happy mood, for
Lawyer Norton had remained immovable in his position. Young McCann told
his tale hesitatingly.
"Who did you say you sold to?" demanded Crane.
"Fat man by the name of Baines."
"Baines! He's busted. Hasn't a cent."
Crane looked at Keith and Keith looked at Crane. Just then the telephone
rang. It was Scattergood.
"Want to speak to Mr. Crane," he said.
"Hello!" Crane said, gruffly. "What's this about your buying pulp
"Bought some. Bought a little. Called up to see why your young man
wasn't deliverin'. Want to git home."
"Where did you get the money?"
"Have to know that? Have to know where it come from before you kin make
delivery? Hain't inquisitive, be you?"
Mr. Crane made use of language. "I want to see you--got to have a talk.
Come right down here."
"Jest been measurin'," said Scattergood, "and I figger it's a mite
longer from here to there than it is from there to here. If you want to
see me, here I be."
Scattergood gave an office address and hung up the receiver.
"They'll be here in a minnit," he said to Mr. Linderman, and he was not
exaggerating greatly as to the time required to bring the gentlemen to
him. "Know Mr. Linderman--Crane and Keith?" said Scattergood. "Come in
"What do you want with pulp company stock?" Crane demanded.
"Paper the kitchen. Maybe, if I kin git enough, I'll paper the parlor.
Lack five hunderd shares for the parlor. Got'em with you?"
"No, and we're not going to get them."
"Um!... Paid for 'em, didn't I? Got a receipt?"
"What's Linderman doing in this?"
Mr. Linderman leaned forward a little. "I'm in a legitimate business
transaction--something quite foreign to you gentlemen's notions of doing
business. I came into it to make a profit, but mostly to teach you
fellows a lesson in decent business methods. I don't like you. I don't
like your ways. If you like your ways you must expect to pay for the
pleasure you get out of them.... Mr. Baines is waiting for delivery of
the stock he bought."
"I suppose you know we haven't got it?"
"We can't deliver."
"Yes, you can. Go out in the open market and buy. Now, I own a few
shares, for instance. I might sell."
The faces of Messrs. Crane and Keith did not picture lively enjoyment.
They were caught. If it had been Scattergood alone they might have
wriggled out of it, they thought, for they had scant respect for his
sagacity, but Linderman--well, Linderman was not to be trifled with.
"How much?" said Crane.
"You need five hundred shares. Par is a hundred, is it not? I will part
with mine for three hundred. First, last, and only offer. In ten minutes
the price goes up to three fifty, and fifty for each five minutes after
"It's robbery ..." Mr. Crane spluttered, and made uncouth sounds of
"Now you know how the other fellow has been feeling. Seven minutes
Four more minutes sped before the surrender came.
"Certified check," said Mr. Linderman. "My messenger will go to the bank
The check was drawn for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and Crane
and Keith settled back sullenly.
"You can retain your bonds. I believe you have about a quarter of a
million dollars' worth of them. Glad to have you finance the mill for
me. It will, of course, go ahead under my direction," said Linderman. "I
guess I can iron out the difficulties you gentlemen have arranged for,
and there will be no receivership. That will relieve Mr. Baines, who has
a considerable contract with the company." Mr. Crane swore softly.
Scattergood heaved himself to his feet. "One other leetle matter, Crane.
There's the Plumm farm. Kind of exercised about that, hain't you? Stayed
up in the country a week to look after it--while I was dickerin' down
here.... Like to buy that farm?"
There was no answer.
"Calculate to take a hint from Mr. Linderman. That farm's mine, and you
can't haul a log acrost it. My price is fifteen thousand. Bought it for
two. Price goes up hunderd dollars a minute. Cash deal."
That surrender was more prompt, and a second check was sent to the bank
to be certified.
"G'-by, gentlemen," said Scattergood, and Messrs. Crane and Keith took
their departure in no dignified manner, but with rancor in their hearts,
which there was no method of salving.
"Let's take stock," said Scattergood. "Like to know jest how we come
"Let's see. We bought the stock at an average of sixty dollars a share.
That makes a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in expenses, doesn't it?
The five hundred shares just transferred cost thirty thousand dollars
and we sold them for a hundred and fifty thousand. Profit on that part
of the deal is a hundred and twenty thousand dollars. That made the
total capital stock in the mill worth a quarter of a million of
anybody's money; cost us exactly thirty thousand dollars, didn't it?
Nice deal.... And you cleaned up an extra thirteen thousand on your side
issue. Not bad."
"I git five hunderd shares worth fifty thousand dollars, don't I? Then
my thirteen. That's sixty-three thousand. Then my profit on twenty-five
thousand cords of pulpwood--which is goin' to be paid, I jedge. That'll
be anyhow another twenty-five thousand. Calc'late this deal's about
fixed me so's I kin go ahead with a number of plans. Much obleeged, Mr.
Linderman. You come in handy."
"So did you, Mr. Baines. Mighty handy."
"Oh, me. I had to. I was jest takin' out reasonable insurance ag'in'
"I guess you have a permanent insurance policy against loss, inside your
"Um!..." said Scattergood, slipping his feet into his shoes, preparatory
to leaving, "difficulty about that kind of insurance is that most folks
lets it lapse 'long about the first week after they're born."
HE BORROWS A GRANDMOTHER
The world has come to think of Scattergood Baines as an astute and
perhaps tricky business man, or as the political despot of a state.
Because this is so it has overlooked or neglected many stories about the
man much more indicative of character, and more fascinating of detail
than those well-known and often-repeated tales of his sagacity in
trading or his readiness in outwitting a political enemy. To one who
makes a careful study of Scattergood's life with a view to writing a
truthful biography, he inevitably becomes more interesting and more
lovable when seen simply as a neighbor, a fellow townsman of other New
Englanders, and as a country hardware merchant. There is a certain charm
in the naivete with which he was wont to stick his pudgy finger in the
affairs of others with benignant purpose; and it is not easy to believe
other tales of hardness, of ruthless beating down of opposition, when
one repeatedly comes upon well-authenticated instances in which he has
stood quietly hidden behind the scenes to pull the strings and to make
his neighbors bow and dance and posture in accordance with some schemes
which he has formulated for their greater happiness.
Scattergood loved to meddle. Perhaps that is his dominant trait. He
could see nothing moving in the community about him and withhold his
hand. If Old Man Bogle set about buying a wheelbarrow, Scattergood would
intervene in the transaction; if Pliny Pickett stopped at the Widow
Ware's gate to deliver a message, Scattergood saw an opportunity to
unite lonely hearts--and set about uniting them forthwith; if little Sam
Kettleman, junior, and Wade Lumley's boy, Tom, came to blows,
Scattergood became peacemaker or referee, as the needs of the moment
seemed to dictate. It would be difficult to find a pie in Coldriver
which was not marked by his thumb. So it came about that when he became
convinced that Grandmother Penny was unhappy because of various
restrictions and inhibitions placed on her by her son, the dry-goods
merchant, and by her daughter-in-law, he determined to intervene.
Scattergood was partial to old ladies, and this partiality can be traced
to his earliest days in Coldriver. He loved white hair and wrinkled
cheeks and eyes that had once been youthful and glowing, but were dulled
and dimmed by watching the long procession of the years.
Now he sat on the piazza of his hardware store, his shoes on the
planking beside him, and his pudgy toes wriggling like the trained
fingers of an eminent pianist. It was a knotty problem. An ordinary
problem Scattergood could solve with shoes on feet, but let the matter
take on eminent difficulty and his toes must be given freedom and elbow
room, as one might say. Later in life his wife, Mandy, after he had
married her, tried to cure him of this habit, which she considered
vulgar, but at this point she failed signally.
The facts about Grandmother Penny were, not that she was consciously ill
treated. Her bodily comfort was seen to. She was well fed and reasonably
clothed, and had a good bed in which to sleep. Where she was sinned
against was in this: that her family looked upon her white hair and her
wrinkles and arrived at the erroneous conclusion that her interest in
life was gone--in short, that she was content to cumber the earth and to
wait for the long sleep. To them she was simply one who tarries and is
content. Scattergood looked into her sharp, old eyes, eyes that were
capable of sudden gleams of humor or flashes of anger, and he _knew_. He
knew that death seemed as distant to Grandmother Penny as it had seemed
fifty years ago. He knew that her interest in life was as keen, her
yearning to participate in the affairs of life as strong, as they had
been when Grandfather Penny--now long gone to his reward--had driven his
horse over the hills with one hand while he utilized the other arm for
more important and delightful purposes.
Scattergood was remembering his own grandmother. He had known her as no
other living soul had known her, because she had been his boyhood
intimate, his defender, always his advocate, and because the boyish love
which he had given her had made his eyes keen to perceive. His parents
had fancied Grandma Baines to be content when she was in constant
revolt. They had supposed that life meant nothing more to her now than
to sit in a comfortable rocker and to knit interminable stockings and to
remember past years. Scattergood knew that the present compelled her
interest and that the future thrilled her. She wanted to participate in
life, to be in the midst of events--to continue to live so long as the
power of movement and of perception remained to her. He was now able to
see that the old lady had done much to mold his character, and as he
recalled incident after incident his face wore a softer, more melancholy
expression than Coldriver was wont to associate with it. He was
regretting that in his thoughtless youth he had failed to accomplish
more to make gladder his grandmother's few remaining years.
"I calc'late," said Scattergood to himself--but aloud--"that I'll kind
of substitute Grandmother Penny for Grandma Baines--pervidin' Grandma
Baines is fixed so's she kin see; more'n likely she'll understand what
I'm up to, and it'll tickle her--I'm goin' to up and borrow me a
He wriggled his toes and considered. What thing had his grandmother most
"Independence was what she craved," he said, and considered the point.
"She didn't want to be beholdin' to folks. She wanted to be fixed so's
she could do as she pleased, and nobody to interfere. I calc'late if
Grandma Baines 'd 'a' been left alone she'd 'a' found her another
husband and they'd 'a' had a home of their own with all the fixin's. It
wasn't so much doin' that grandma wanted, it was knowin' she _could_ do
if she wanted to."
Scattergood's specially reinforced chair creaked as he strained forward
to pick up his shoepacs and draw them on. It required no small exertion,
and he straightened up, red of face and panting a trifle. He walked up
the street, crossed the bridge, and descended to the little room under
the barber shop where the checker or cribbage championship of the state
was decided daily. Two ancient citizens were playing checkers, while a
third stood over them, watching with that thrilled concentration with
which the ordinary person might watch an only son essaying to cross
Niagara Falls on a tight rope. Scattergood knew better than to interrupt
the game, so he stood by until, by a breath-taking triple jump, Old Man
Bogle sent his antagonist down to defeat. Then, and only then, did
Scattergood speak to the old gentleman who had been the spectator.
"Morning Mr. Spackles," he said.
"Mornin', Scattergood. See that last jump of Bogle's? I swanny if
'twan't about as clever a move as I see this year."
"Mr. Spackles," said Scattergood, "I come down here to find out could I
ask you some advice. You bein' experienced like you be, it 'peared to
me like you was the one man that could help me out."
"Um!..." grunted Mr. Spackles, his old blue eyes widening with the
distinction of the moment. "If I kin be of any service to you, I
calculate I'm willin'. 'Tain't often folks comes to me for advice any
more, or anythin' else, for that matter. Guess they figger I'm too old
to 'mount to anythin'."
"Feel like takin' a mite of a walk?"
"Who? Me? I'm skittisher'n a colt this mornin'. Bet I kin walk twenty
mile 'fore sundown."
They moved toward the door, but there Mr. Spackles paused to look back
grandly upon the checker players. "Sorry I can't linger to watch you,
boys," he said, loftily, "but they's important matters me and
Scattergood got to discuss. Seems like he's feelin' the need of sound
When they were gone the checker players scrutinized each other, and then
with one accord scrambled to the door and stared out after Scattergood
and Mr. Spackles.
"I swanny!" said Old Man Bogle.
"What d'you figger Scattergood wanted of that ol' coot?" demanded Old
"Somethin' deep," hazarded Old Man Bogle. "I always did hold Spackles
was a brainy cuss. Hain't he 'most as good a checker player as I be?
What gits me, though, is how Scattergood come to pick him instid of me."
"Huh!..." grunted Old Man Peterson, and they resumed their game.
Scattergood walked along in silence for a few paces; then he regarded
Mr. Spackles appraisingly.
"Mr. Spackles," said he, deferentially, "I dunno when I come acrost a
man that holds his years like you do. Mind if I ask you jest how old you
"Sixty-six year," said Spackles.
"Wouldn't never 'a' b'lieved it," marveled Scattergood. "Wouldn't 'a'
set you down for a day more 'n fifty-five or six, not with them clear
eyes and them ruddy cheeks and the way you step out."
"Calc'late to be nigh as good as I ever was, Scattergood. J'ints creak
some, but what I got inside my head it don't never creak none to speak
"What I want to ask you, Mr. Spackles," said Scattergood, "is if you
calc'late a man that's got to be past sixty and a woman that's got to be
past sixty has got any business hitchin' up and marryin' each other."
"Um!... Depends. I'd say it depends. If the feller was perserved like I
be, and the woman was his equal in mind and body, I'd say they was no
reason ag'in' it--'ceptin' it might be money."
"Ever think of marryin', yourself, Mr. Spackles?"
"Figgered some. Figgered some. But knowed they wasn't no use. Son and
daughter wouldn't hear to it. Couldn't support a wife, nohow. Son and
daughter calc'lates to be mighty kind to me, Scattergood, and gives me
dum near all I kin ask, but both of 'em says I got to the time of life
where it hain't becomin' in 'em to allow me to work."
"How much kin sich a couple as I been talkin' about live on?"
"When I married, forty-odd year ago, I was gittin' a dollar a day. Me
'n' Ma we done fine and saved money. Livin's higher now. Calc'late it
'u'd take nigh a dollar 'n' a half to git on comfortable."
"Figger fifty dollars a month 'u'd do it? Think that 'u'd be enough?"
"Scattergood, you listen here to me. I hain't never earned as much as
fifty dollar a month reg'lar in my whole life--and I got consid'able
pleasure out of livin', too." They had walked up the street until they
were passing the Penny residence. Grandmother Penny was sitting on the
porch, knitting as usual. She looked very neat and dainty as she sat
there in her white lace cap and her lavender dress.
"Fine-lookin' old lady," said Scattergood.
Mr. Spackles regarded Grandmother Penny and nodded with the air of a
connoisseur. "Dum'd if she hain't." He lifted his hat and yelled across
the road: "Mornin', Ellen."
"Mornin', James," replied Grandmother Penny, and bobbed her head. "Won't
you folks stop and set? Sun's a-comin' down powerful hot."
"Don't mind if we do," said Scattergood. He seated himself, and mopped
his brow, and fanned himself with his broad straw hat, whose flapping
brim was beginning to ravel about the edges. Presently he stood up.
"Got to be movin' along, Mis' Penny. Seems like I'm mighty busy off and
on. But I dunno what I'd do without Mr. Spackles, here, to advise with
once in a while. He's jest been givin' me the benefit of his thinkin'
With inward satisfaction Scattergood noticed how the old lady turned a
pert, sharp look upon Mr. Spackles, regarding him with awakened
interest. To be considered a man of wisdom by Scattergood Baines was a
distinction in Coldriver even in those days, and for a man actually to
be consulted and asked for advice by the ample hardware merchant was to
lift him into an intellectual class to which few could aspire.
"I hope he gin you good advice, Scattergood," said Grandmother Penny.
"Allus does. If ever you're lookin' for level-headedness, and f'r a man
you kin depend on, jest send a call for Mr. Spackles. G'-by, ma'am.
G'-by, Mr. Spackles, and much 'bleeged to you."
Mr. Spackles was a little bewildered, for he had not the least idea
upon what subject he had advised Scattergood, but he was of an acuteness
not to pass by any of the advantage that accrued from the situation. He
replied, with lofty kindness, "Any time you want for to consult with me,
young man, jest come right ahead."
When Scattergood was gone, Mr. Spackles turned to the old lady and
waggled his head.
"Ellen, that there's a mighty promisin' young man. Time's comin' when
he's a-goin' to amount to suthin'. I'm a-calc'latin' on guidin' him all
"I want to know," said Grandmother Penny, almost breathless at this new
importance of Mr. Spackles's, and Mr. Spackles basked in her admiration,
and added to it by apochryphal narratives of his relations with
For a week Scattergood let matters rest. He was content, for more than
once he saw Mr. Spackles's faded overalls and ragged hat on the Penny
premises, and watched the old gentleman in animated conversation with
Grandmother Penny, who seemed to be perter and brighter and handsomer
than she had ever seemed before.
On one such day Scattergood crossed the street and entered the gate.
"Howdy, folks?" he said. "Wonder if I kin speak with Mr. Spackles
"Certain you kin," said Grandmother Penny, cordially.
"Got a important bankin' matter over to the county seat, Mr. Spackles,
and I was wonderin' if I could figger on your help?"
"To be sure you kin, Scattergood. To be sure."
"Got to have a brainy man over there day after to-morrer. B'jing! that's
circus day, too. Didn't think of that till this minnit. Wonder if you'd
drive my boss and buggy over and fix up a deal with the president of the
"Glad to 'bleege," said the flattered Mr. Spackles.
"Circus day," Scattergood repeated. "Been to a circus lately, Mis'
"Hain't seen one for years."
"No?... Mr. Spackles, what be you thinkin' of? To be sure. Why, you kin
bundle Mis' Penny into the buggy and take her along with you! Finish the
business in no time, bein' spry like you be, and then you and her kin
take in the circus and the side show, and stay f'r the concert. How's
Mr. Spackles was suddenly red and embarrassed, but Grandmother Penny
"Why," says she, "makes me feel like a young girl ag'in. To be sure I'll
go. Daughter'll make a fuss, but I jest don't care if she does. I'm
"That's the way to talk," said Scattergood. "Mr. Spackles'll be round
f'r you bright and early. Now, if you kin spare him, I calc'late we got
to talk business."
When they were in the street Mr. Spackles choked and coughed, and said
with some vexation:
"You went and got me in f'r it that time."
"How so, Mr. Spackles? Don't you want to take Mis' Penny to the circus?"
"Course I do, but circuses cost money. I hain't got more 'n a quarter to
"H'm!... Didn't calc'late I was askin' you to take a day of your time
for _nothin_', did you? F'r a trip like this here, with a lot hangin' on
to it, I'd say ten dollars was about the fittin' pay. What say?"
Mr. Spackles's beaming face was answer enough.
Grandmother Penny and Mr. Spackles went to the circus in a more or less
surreptitious manner. It was a wonderful day, a successful day, such a
day as neither of them had expected ever to see again, and when they
drove home through the moonlight, across the mountains, their souls
were no longer the souls of threescore and ten, but of twoscore and one.
"Great day, wa'n't it, Ellen?" said Mr. Spackles, softly.
"Don't call to mind nothin' approachin' it, James."
"You be powerful good company, Ellen."
"So be you, James."
"I calculate to come and set with you, often," said James, diffidently.
"Whenever the notion strikes you, James," replied Grandmother Penny, and
she blushed for the first time in a score of years.
Two days later Pliny Pickett stopped to speak to Scattergood in front of
the hardware store. Pliny supplemented and amplified the weekly
newspaper, and so was very useful to Baines.
"Hear tell Ol' Man Spackles is sparkin' Grandmother Penny," Pliny said,
with a grin. "Don't figger nothin' 'll come of it, though. Their
childern won't allow it."
"Won't allow it, eh? What's the reason? What business is 't of theirn?"
"Have to support 'em. The ol' folks hain't got no money. Spackles 's got
two-three hunderd laid by for to bury him, and so's Grandmother Penny.
Seems like ol' folks allus lays by for the funeral, but that's every red
cent they got. I hear tell Mis' Penny's son has forbid Spackles's comin'
around the house."
This proved to be the fact, as Scattergood learned from no less an
authority than Mr. Spackles himself.
"Felt like strikin' him right there 'n' then," said Mr. Spackles,
heatedly, "but I seen 'twouldn't do to abuse one of Ellen's childern."
"Um!... Was you and Grandmother Penny figgerin' on hitchin' up?"
"I put the question," said Mr. Spackles, with the air of a youth of
twenty, "and Ellen up and allowed she'd have me. But I guess 'twon't
never come off now. Seems like I'll never be content ag'in, and Ellen's
that downcast I shouldn't be a mite s'prised if she jest give up and
"Difficulty's money, hain't it? Largely financial, eh?"
"Folks has got rich before. Maybe somethin' like that'll happen to you."
"Have to happen mighty suddin, Scattergood, if it aims to do any good in
"I've knowed men to invest a couple hunderd dollars into some venture
and come out at t'other end with thousands. You got couple hunderd,
"Ellen and me both has--saved up to bury us."
"Um!... Git buried, anyhow. Law compels it. Doggone little pleasure
spendin' money f'r your own coffin. More sensible to git some good out
of it.... I'm goin' away to the city f'r a week or sich a matter. When I
come back we'll kind of thrash things out and see what's to be done.
Meantime, don't you and Grandmother Penny up and elope."
In this manner Scattergood planted the get-rich-quick idea in the head
of Mr. Spackles, who communicated it to Grandmother Penny in the course
of a clandestine meeting. The old folks discussed it, and hope made it
seem more and more plausible to them. Realizing the fewness of the days
remaining to them, they were anxious to utilize every moment. It was
Grandmother Penny who was the daring spirit. She was for drawing their
money out of the bank that very day and investing it somehow, somewhere,
in the hope of seeing it come back to them a hundredfold.
Scattergood had neglected to take into consideration Grandmother Penny's
adventuresome spirit; he had also neglected to avail himself of the
information that a certain Mr. Baxter, registered from Boston, was at
the hotel, and that his business was selling shares of stock in a mine
which did not exist to gullible folks who wanted to become wealthy
without spending any labor in the process. He did a thriving business.
It was Coldriver's first experience with this particular method of
extracting money from the public, and it came to the front handsomely.
Mr. Spackles got wind of the opportunity and told it to Grandmother
Penny. She took charge of affairs, compelled her fiance to go with her
to the bank, where they withdrew their savings, and then sought for Mr.
Baxter, who, in return for a bulk sum of some five hundred dollars, sold
them enough stock in the mine to paper the parlor. Also, he promised
them enormous returns in an exceedingly brief space of time. Their
profit on the transaction would, he assured them, be not less than ten
thousand dollars, and might mount to double that sum. They departed in a
state of extreme elation, and but for Mr. Spackles's conservatism
Grandmother Penny would have eloped with him then and there.
"I'd like to, Ellen. I'd like to, mighty well, but 'tain't safe. Le's
git the money fust. The minnit the money comes in, off we mog to the
parson. But 'tain't safe yit. Jest hold your hosses."
When Scattergood returned and was visible again on the piazza of his
hardware store, it was not long before the village financiers came to
him boasting of their achievement. He, Scattergood, was not the only man
in town with the ability to make money. No, indeed, and for proof of it
here were the stock certificates, purchased from a deluded young man for
a few cents a share, when common sense told you they were worth many,
many dollars. Scattergood listened to two or three without a word.
Finally he asked:
"How many folks went into this here thing?"
"Sev'ral. Sev'ral. Near's I kin figger, folks here bought nigh five
thousand dollars' wuth of stock off'n Baxter. Must 'a' been fifty or
sixty went into the deal."
"Dum fools," said Scattergood, with sudden wrath. "Has it got so's I
don't dast to leave town without you folks messin' things up? Can't I
leave overnight and find things safe in the mornin'?... You hain't got
the sense Gawd give field mice--the whole kit and b'ilin' of you. Serves
you dum well right, tryin' to git somethin' f'r nothin'. Now git away
fr'm here. Don't pester me.... You've been swindled, that's what, and it
serves you doggone well right. Now git."
It was one of the few times that Coldriver saw Scattergood in a rage.
The rage convinced them. Scattergood said they were swindled and he was
in a rage. Therefore he must be right. The news spread, and knots of
citizens with lowered heads and anxious eyes gathered on street corners
and whispered and nodded toward Scattergood, who sat heavily on his
piazza, speaking to nobody. It was Grandmother Penny who dared accost
him. She crept up to his place and said, tremulously:
"Be you sure, Scattergood, about that feller bein' a swindler?"
Scattergood looked down at her fiercely. Then his eyes softened and he
leaned forward and scrutinized her face.
"Did you git into this mess, too, Grandmother Penny?"
"Both me 'n' James," she said. "You let on that folks got rich quick by
investin'. Me 'n' James was powerful anxious to git money so's--so's we
could git married on it. So we drawed out our money and--and invested
"Come here, Grandmother," said Scattergood, and she stood just before
his chair, her head coming very little higher than his own as he sat
there, big and ominous. "So the skunk took _your_ money, too. I hain't
carin' a whoop for them others. They got what was comin' to 'em, and I
didn't calculate to do nothin'. But you! By crimminy!... Wa-al,
Grandmother, you go off home and knit. I'll look into things. It's on
your account, and not on theirs." He shook his head fiercely toward the
town. "But I calculate I'll have to git theirn back, too.... And,
Grandmother--you and James kin rest easy. Hain't sayin' no more. Jest
wait, and don't worry, and don't say nothin' to nobody.... G'-by,
Grandmother Penny. G'-by."
That evening Scattergood drove out of Coldriver in his rickety buggy.
Nobody had dared to speak to him, but, nevertheless, he carried in his
pocket a list of the town's investors in mining stock, together with the
amounts of their investments. He was not seen again for several days.
Two days later Scattergood appeared in the lobby of the Mansion House,
in the county seat. He scrutinized the register, and found, to his
satisfaction, that a Mr. Bowman of Boston was occupying room 106. Mr.
Bowman had signed the hotel register in Coldriver as Mr. Baxter, also of
Boston. Scattergood seated himself in a chair and lighted one of the
cigars which made his presence so undesirable in an inclosed space. He
appeared to be taking a nap.
Fifteen minutes after Scattergood began to nod, Sam Bangs, a politician
with some strength in the rural districts, came down the stairs in
company with a young man of prepossessing appearance, and clothing which
did not strike the beholder as either too gaudy or too stylish. Indeed
the young man impressed the world as being a sober, conservative person
in whose judgment it would be well to place confidence.
When Bangs saw Scattergood he stopped and whispered a moment to his
companion, who nodded. They approached Scattergood, and Bangs touched
him on the shoulder.