Chapter XI. Wherein Boyd Emerson is Twice Amazed
 

Nearly a month had elapsed when Emerson at last expressed to George the discouragement that for several days had lain silently in both men's minds.

"It looks like failure, doesn't it?"

"Sure does! You've played your string out, eh?"

"Absolutely. I've done everything except burglary, but I can't raise that hundred thousand dollars. From the way we started off it looked easy, but times are hard and I've bled my friends of every dollar they can spare. In fact, some of them have put in more than they can afford."

"It's an awful big piece of money," Balt admitted, with a sigh.

"I never fully realized before how very large," Boyd said. "And yet, without that amount the Seattle bank won't back us for the remainder."

"Oh, it's no use to tackle the business on a small scale." Big George pondered for a moment. "We can't wait much longer. We'd ought to be on the coast now. We're shy twenty-five thousand dollars, eh?"

"Yes, and I can't see any possible way of raising it. I've done the best I could, and so has Clyde, but it's no use."

The strain of the past month was evident in Emerson's face, which was worn and tired, as if from sleepless nights. Of late he had lapsed again into that despondent mood which Fraser had observed in Alaska, his moments of depression growing more frequent as the precious days slipped past. Every waking hour he had devoted to the promotion of his enterprise. He had laughed at rebuffs and refused discouragement; he had solicited every man who seemed in any way likely to be interested. He had gone from office to office, his hours regulated by watch and note-book, always retailing the same facts, always convincingly lucid and calmly enthusiastic. But a scarcity of money seemed prevalent. Those who sought investment either had better opportunities or refused to finance an undertaking so far from home, and apparently so hazardous.

During those three years in the North, Boyd had worked with feverish haste and suffered many disappointments; but never before had he used such a vast amount of nervous force as in this short month, never had fortune seemed so maddeningly stubborn. But he had hung on with bulldog tenacity, not knowing how to give up, until at last he had placed his stock to the extent of seventy-five thousand dollars, only to realize that he had exhausted his vital force as well as his list of acquaintances. In public he maintained a sanguine front, but in private he let go, and only his two Alaskan friends had sounded the depths of his disappointment.

One other, to be sure, had some inkling of what troubled him, yet to Mildred he had never explained the precise nature of his difficulties. She did not even know his plans. He spent many evenings with her, and she would have given him more of her society had he consented to go out with her, for the demands upon her time were numerous; but this he could never bring himself to do, being too wearied in mind and body, and wishing to spare himself any additional mental disquiet.

Neither Mildred nor her father ever spoke of that unknown suitor in his presence, and their very silence invested the mysterious man with menacing possibilities which did not tend to soothe Boyd's troubled mind. In fact, Mr. Wayland, despite his genial manner, inspired him with a vague sense of hostility, and, as if he were not sufficiently distracted by all this, Fraser and George kept him in a constant state of worry from other causes. The former was continually involving him in some wildly impossible enterprise which seemed ever in danger of police interference. He could not get rid of the fellow, for Fraser calmly included him in all his machinations, dragging him in willy-nilly, until in Boyd's ears there sounded the distant clank of chains and the echo of the warden's tread. A dozen times he had exposed the rogue and established his own position, only to find himself the next day wallowing in some new complication more difficult than that from which he had escaped. Ordinarily it would have been laughable, but at this crisis it was tragic.

As for George, he had been very quiet since the night of his encounter with Marsh, and he spent much of his time by himself. This was a relief to Boyd, until he happened several times to meet the big fellow in strange places at unexpected hours, surprising in his eyes a look of expectant watchfulness, the meaning of which at first puzzled him. It took but little observation, however, to learn that the fisherman spent his days in hotel lobbies, always walking about through the crowd, and that by night he patrolled the theatre district, slinking about as if to avoid observation. Emerson finally realized with a shock that George was in search of his enemy; but no amount of argument could alter the fellow's mind, and he continued to hunt with the silence of a lone wolf. What the result of his meeting Marsh would be Boyd hesitated to think, but neither George nor he discovered any trace of that gentleman.

These various cares, added to the consequences of his inability to finance the cannery project, had reduced Emerson to a state bordering upon collapse. Balt had entered his room that morning for his daily report of progress, and after his partner's confession of failure had fetched a deep sigh.

"Well, it's tough, after all we've went through," he said. Then, after a pause, "Cherry will be broken-hearted."

"I hadn't thought of her," confessed the other.

"You see, it's her last chance, too."

"So she told me. I'm sorry I brought you all these thousands of miles on a wild-goose chase, but--"

"I don't care for myself. I'll get back somehow and live in the brush, like I used to, and some day I'll get my chance. But she's a woman, and she can't fight Marsh like I can."

"Just who or what is she?" Boyd inquired, curiously, glad of anything to divert his thoughts from their present channel.

"She's just a big-hearted girl, and the only person, red, white, or yellow, who gave me a kind word or a bite to eat till you came along. That's all I know about her. I'd have gone crazy only for her." The big man ground his teeth as the memory of his injuries came uppermost.

Before Boyd could follow the subject further, Alton Clyde strolled in upon them, arrayed immaculately, with gloves, tie, spats, and a derby to match, a striped waistcoast, and a gold-headed walking-stick.

"Salutations, fellow-fishermen!" he began. "I just ran in to settle the details of our trip. I want my tailor to get busy on my wardrobe to- morrow." Boyd shook his head.

"Ain't going to be no wardrobe," said Balt.

"Why? Has something happened to scare the fish?"

"I can't raise the money," Emerson confessed.

"Still shy that twenty-five thou?" questioned the clubman.

"Yes! I'm done."

"That's a shame! I had some ripping clothes planned--English whip-cord--"

"That stuff won't rip," George declared. "But over-alls is plenty good."

Clyde tapped the narrow points of his shoes with his walking-stick, frowning in meditation. "I'm all in, and so are the rest of the fellows. By Jove, this will be a disappointment to Mildred! Have you told her?"

"No. She doesn't know anything about the plan, and I didn't want to tell her until I had the money. Now I can't go to her and acknowledge another failure."

"I'm terribly disappointed," said Clyde. There was a moment's silence; then he went to the telephone and called the hotel office: "Get me a cab at once--Mr. Clyde. I'll be right down."

Turning to the others, he remarked: "I'll see what I can do; but as a promoter, I'm a joke. However, the trip will do me good, and I am hungry for the fray; the smell of battle is in my nostrils, and I am champing at my bit. Woof! Leave it to me." He smote the air with his slender cane, and made for the door with an appearance of fierce determination upon his colorless face. "You'll hear from me in the morning. So long!"

His martial air amused the two, but Boyd soon dismissed him from his mind and spent that evening in such moody silence that, in desperation, Big George forsook him and sought out the manicure parlor. Fraser was busied on some enterprise of his own.

The thought of Alton Clyde's raising twenty-five thousand dollars where he had failed was ridiculous to Emerson. He was utterly astounded when that radiantly attired youth strolled into his room on the following morning and tossed a thick roll of bills upon the table, saying, carelessly:

"There it is; count it."

"What?"

"Twenty-five one-thousand-dollar notes. Anyhow, I think there are twenty- five of them, but I'm not sure. I counted them twice: once I made twenty- four and the next time twenty-six, but I had my gloves on; so I struck an averages and took the paying teller's word for it."

Emerson leaped to his feet, staring at the dandy as if not comprehending this sudden turn of fortune.

"Did you rustle this money without any help?" he demanded.

"Abso-blooming-lutely!"

"Is it your own?"

"Well, hardly! It is so far from it that I was sorely tempted to spread my wings and soar to foreign parts. It wouldn't have taken much of a nudge to butt me clear over into Canada this morning."

"Where in the world did you get it, Al?"

"What difference does that make? I got it, didn't I?" He slapped his trousers leg daintily with his stick. "You can issue the stock in my name."

Boyd seized the little fellow and whirled him around the room, laughing gleefully, lifted in one moment from the pit of despair to the height of optimism.

"Stop it! I'm all rumpled!" gasped Clyde, finally, sinking into a chair "When I get rumpled in the morning I stay rumpled all day. Don't you touch me!"

"Whose money is this? What good angel took pity on us?"

Clyde's faded eyes dropped. "Well, I turned a trick, and to all intents and purposes it is mine. There it is. I didn't steal it, and--you don't have to know everything, do you? That is why I got the check cashed."

"I beg your pardon," Boyd apologized; "I didn't mean to pry into your affairs, and it is none of my business, anyhow. I'm glad enough to get the money, no matter where it came from. I'd forgive you if you had stolen it." He began to dress hurriedly. "You are the fairy prince of this enterprise, Alton, and you can go to Kalvik and pick flowers or play the mandolin or do anything you wish. Now for a telegram to the bank at Seattle. We leave to-morrow."

"Oh, here, now! I can't get my wardrobe ready."

"Ward--nothing! You don't need any clothes! You can get all that stuff in Seattle."

"Must have wardrobe," firmly maintained Clyde. "No can do without."

"George and I will be in Seattle for several weeks, so you can come on later."

"No, sir! I'm going to trail my bet with yours. I might change my mind if I hung around here alone. I'll make my tailor work all night to-night; it will do him good. But it upsets me to be hurried; it upsets me worse than being rumpled in the morning."

That was a busy day for Boyd Emerson, but he was too elated to notice fatigue, even while dressing for the Waylands'. He had arranged to come an hour before dinner, that Mildred and he might have a little time to themselves, and his haste to acquaint her with the news of his success brought him to the Lake Shore house ahead of time. She did not keep him waiting, however, and when she appeared, gowned for dinner, he fairly swept her off her feet with his abruptness.

"It's a go, my Lady; I have succeeded."

"I knew it by your smile. I am so glad!"

"Yes. I have all the money I need, and I am off for the Coast to-morrow."

"Oh!" She drew back from him. "To-morrow! Why, you wretch! You seem actually glad of it!"

"I am."

"Confusion! Of all the discourteous lovers--!" She simulated such an expression of injury that his dancing eyes became grave. "My poor heart!"

"Are you sorry?"

"Sorry? Indeed! La, la!" She gave a dainty French shrug of her bare shoulders and tossed her head. "I summon my pride. My spirit is aroused. I rejoice; I laugh; I sing! Sorry? Pooh!" Then she melted with an impulsiveness rare in her, saying, "Tell me all about it, please; tell me everything."

He held her slender hand. "This morning I was bluer than a tatooed man, but to-night I am in the clouds, for I have overcome the greatest obstacle that stands between us. It is only a question of months now until I can come to your father with sufficient means to satisfy him. Of course, there are chances of failure, but I don't admit them. I have such a superabundance of courage now that I can't imagine defeat."

"Do you know," she said, hesitatingly, "you have never told me anything about this plan of yours? You have never takes me into your confidence in the slightest degree."

"I didn't think you would care to know the details, dear. This is so entirely a business matter. It is so sordidly commonplace, and you are so very far removed from sordid things that I didn't think you would care to hear of it. My mind won't associate you with commercialism. I have always burned incense to you; I have always seen you in shaded light and through the smoke of altar fires, so to speak."

"I realize that I don't appreciate the things that you have done," said the girl, "but I should like to know more about this new adventure."

"I warn you, it is not romantic," he smiled, "although to me anything which brings me closer to you is invested with the very essence of romance." He told her briefly of his enterprise and the difficulties he had conquered. "It looks like plain sailing now," he concluded. "I will have to work hard, but that just suits me, for it will occupy the time while I am away from you. There will be no mail or communication with the outside world after we sail, except at long intervals. But I am sure you will feel the messages I shall send you every hour."

"And so you are going to put fish into little tin cans?" said Mildred.

"Very prosy, isn't it?"

"Of course, you will have men to do it. You won't do that sort of thing yourself?"

"Assuredly not. There will be some hundreds of Chinese."

"Will you have to catch the fish? Will you pull on a long fish-line? I should think that would be rather nice."

"No," he laughed.

"At any rate, you will wear oilskins and a 'sou'wester,' won't you?"

"Yes, just like the pictures you see on bill-boards."

She meditated for an instant. "Why don't you build a railroad or do something such as father does? He makes a great deal of money out of railroads."

"He is also a director in the largest packing concern at the Stock Yards," Boyd reminded her. "This is much the same sort of thing."

"To be sure! Do you know, he has become greatly interested in your country of late. I have heard him speak of Alaska frequently. In fact, I think that is one reason why he has been so nice to you; he wants to learn all he can about it."

"Why?"

"Oh, dear, I never know why he does anything."

"Tell me, does he still legislate in favor of this mysterious suitor whose identity you have never revealed to me?"

"Nonsense!" said the girl. "There is no mysterious suitor, and father does not legislate for or against any one. He isn't that sort."

"And yet I never seem to meet this stranger."

"Indeed!" she observed, a trifle indifferently. "It is your own fault. You never go out any more. However, you won't have long to wait. Father telephoned that he is to dine with us."

"To-night?"

"Yes."

"But, Mildred, this is our last evening together," said Emerson, seriously. "Can't we have it alone?"

"I am afraid not. I had nothing to say in the matter. It is some business affair."

So the fellow was a business associate of the magnate, thought Boyd. "Who is he?"

"He is merely--" Mildred paused to listen. "Here they are now. Please don't look so tragic, Othello."

Hearing voices outside the library, the young man asked, hurriedly: "Give me some time alone with you, my Lady. I must leave early."

"We will come in here while they are smoking," she said.

There was time for no more, for Wayne Wayland entered, followed by another gentleman, at the first sight of whom Emerson started, while his mind raced off into a dizzy whirl of incredulity. It could not be! It was too grotesque--too ridiculous! What prank of malicious fate was this? He turned his eyes to the door again, to see if by any chance there were a third visitor, but there was not, and he was forced to respond to Mr. Wayland's greeting. The other man had meanwhile stepped directly to Mildred, as if he had eyes for no one else, and was bowing over her hand when her father spoke.

"Mr. Emerson, let me present you to Mr. Marsh. I believe you have never happened to meet here." Marsh turned as if reluctant to release the girl's hand, and not until his own was outstretched did he recognize the other. Even then he betrayed his recognition only by a slight lift of the eyebrows and an intensification of his glance.

The two mumbled the customary salutations while their eyes met. At their first encounter Boyd had considered Marsh rather indistinct in type, but with a lover's jealousy he now beheld a rival endowed with many disquieting attributes.

"You two will get along famously," said Mr. Wayland. "Mr. Marsh is acquainted with your country, Boyd."

"Ah!" Marsh exclaimed, quickly. "Are you an Alaskan, Mr. Emerson?"

"Indeed, he is so wedded to the country that he is going back to-morrow," Mildred offered.

Marsh's first look of challenge now changed to one of the liveliest interest, and Boyd imagined the fellow endeavoring to link him, through the affair at the restaurant, with the presence of Big George in Chicago. Although the full significance of the meeting had not struck the young lover yet, upon the heels of his first surprise came the realization that this man was to be not only his rival in love, but the greatest menace to the success of his venture--that venture which meant the world to him.

"Yes," he answered, cautiously, "I am a typical Alaskan--disappointed, but not discouraged."

"What business?"

"Mining!"

"Oh!" indifferently. Marsh addressed himself to Mr. Wayland: "I told you the commercial opportunities in that country were far greater than those in the mining business. All miners have the same story." Sensing the slight in his tone, rather than in his words, Mildred hastened to the defence of her fiance, nearly causing disaster thereby.

"Boyd has something far better than mining now. He was telling me about it as--"

"You interrupted us," interjected Emerson, panic stricken. "I didn't have time to explain the nature of my enterprise."

The girl was about to put in a disclaimer, when he flashed a look at her which she could not help but heed. "I am very stupid about such things," she offered, easily. "I would not have understood it, I am sure." To her father, she continued, leaving what she felt to be dangerous ground: "I didn't look for you so early."

"We finished sooner than I expected," Mr. Wayland answered, "so I drove Willis to his hotel and waited for him to dress. I was afraid he might disappoint us if I let him out of my sight. I couldn't allow that--not to- night of all nights, eh?" The magnate laughed knowingly at Marsh.

"I have never yet disappointed Miss Wayland, and I never shall," the new- comer replied, eying the girl in such a way that Boyd felt a sudden desire to choke him until his smooth, expressionless face matched the color of his evening coat. "I can imagine your daughter's feminine guests staying away, Mr. Wayland, but her masculine friends, never!"

"What rot!" thought Emerson.

"Well, I couldn't take any chances to-night," the father reasserted, "for this is a celebration. I will tell Hawkins to open a bottle of that Private Cuvee, '86."

"What machinations have you precious conspirators been at now?" queried Mildred.

"My dear, I have effected a wonderful deal to-day," said her father. "With the help of Mr. Marsh, I closed the last details of a consolidation which has occupied me for many months."

"Another trust, I suppose."

"Certain people might call it that," chuckled the old man. "Willis was the inspiring genius, and did most of the work; the credit is his."

"Not at all! Not at all!" disclaimed the modest Marsh. "I was but a child in your father's hands, Miss Wayland. He has given me a liberal education in finance."

"It was a beautiful affair, eh?" questioned the magnate.

"Wonderful."

"May I inquire the nature of this merger?" Emerson ventured, amazed at this disclosure of the intimate relations existing between the two.

"Certainly," replied Wayne Wayland. "There is no longer any secret about it, and the papers will be full of the story in the morning. I have combined the packing industries of the Pacific Coast under the name of the North American Packers' Association."

Boyd felt himself growing numb.

"What do you mean by 'packing industries'?" asked Mildred.

"Canneries--salmon fisheries! We own sixty per cent. of the plants of the entire Coast, including Alaska. That's why I've been so keen about that north country, Boyd. You never guessed it, eh?"

"No, sir," Boyd stammered.

"Well, we control the supply, and we will regulate the market. We will allow only what competition we desire. Oh, it is all in our hands. It was a beautiful transaction, and one of the largest I ever effected."

Was he dreaming? Boyd wondered. His mouth was dry, but he managed to inquire:

"What about the independent canneries?"

Marsh laughed. "There is no sentiment in business! There are about forty per cent. too many plants to suit us. I believe I am capable of attending to them."

"Mr. Marsh is the General Manager," Wayland explained. "With the market in our own hands, and sufficient capital to operate at a loss for a year, or two years, if necessary, I don't think the independent plants will cost us much."

Emerson found his sweetheart's eyes fixed upon him oddly. She turned to her father and said: "I consider that positively criminal."

"Tut, tut, my dear! It sounds cruel, of course, but it is business, and it is being done every day; isn't it, Boyd?"

Boyd made no answer, but Marsh hastened to add:

"You see, Miss Wayland, business, in the last analysis, is merely a survival of the fittest; only the strong and merciless can hold their own."

"Exactly," confirmed her fatner. "One can't allow sentiment to affect one. It isn't business. But you don't understand such things. Now, if you young people will excuse me, I shall remove the grime of toil, and return like a giant refreshed." He chuckled to himself and left the room, highly pleased with the events of the day.