The Riverman by Stewart Edward White
Orde was up and out at six o'clock the following morning. By eight he had reported for work at Daly's mill, where, with the assistance of a portion of the river crew, he was occupied in sorting the logs in the booms. Not until six o'clock in the evening did the whistle blow for the shut-down. Then he hastened home, to find that Newmark had preceded him by some few moments and was engaged in conversation with Grandma Orde. The young man was talking easily, though rather precisely and with brevity. He nodded to Orde and finished his remark.
After supper Orde led the way up two flights of narrow stairs to his own room. This was among the gables, a chamber of strangely diversified ceiling, which slanted here and there according to the demands of the roof outside.
"Well," said he, "I've made up my mind to-day to go in with you. It may not work out, but it's a good chance, and I want to get in something that looks like money. I don't know who you are, nor how much of a business man you are or what your experience is, but I'll risk it."
"I'm putting in twenty thousand dollars," pointed out Newmark.
"And I'm putting in my everlasting reputation," said Orde. "If we tell these fellows that we'll get out their logs for them, and then don't do it, I'll be dead around here."
"So that's about a stand-off," said Newmark. "I'm betting twenty thousand on what I've seen and heard of you, and you're risking your reputation that I don't want to drop my money."
"And I reckon we're both right," he responded.
"Still," Newmark pursued the subject, "I've no objection to telling you about myself. New York born and bred; experience with Cooper and Dunne, brokers, eight years. Money from a legacy. Parents dead. No relatives to speak to."
Orde nodded gravely twice in acknowledgment.
"Now," said Newmark, "have you had time to do any figuring?"
"Well," replied Orde, "I got at it a little yesterday afternoon, and a little this noon. I have a rough idea." He produced a bundle of scribbled papers from his coat-pocket. "Here you are. I take Daly as a sample, because I've been with his outfit. It costs him to run and deliver his logs one hundred miles about two dollars a thousand feet. He's the only big manufacturer up here; the rest are all at Monrovia, where they can get shipping by water. I suppose it costs the other nine firms doing business on the river from two to two and a half a thousand."
Newmark produced a note-book and began to jot down figures.
"Do these men all conduct separate drives?" he inquired.
"All but Proctor and old Heinzman. They pool in together."
"Now," went on Newmark, "if we were to drive the whole river, how could we improve on that?"
"Well, I haven't got it down very fine, of course," Orde told him, "but in the first place we wouldn't need so many men. I could run the river on three hundred easy enough. That saves wages and grub on two hundred right there. And, of course, a few improvements on the river would save time, which in our case would mean money. We would not need so many separate cook outfits and all that. Of course, that part of it we'd have to get right down and figure on, and it will take time. Then, too, if we agreed to sort and deliver, we'd have to build sorting booms down at Monrovia."
"Suppose we had all that. What, for example, do you reckon you could bring Daly's logs down for?"
Orde fell into deep thought, from which he emerged occasionally to scribble on the back of his memoranda.
"I suppose somewhere about a dollar," he announced at last. He looked up a trifle startled. "Why," he cried, "that looks like big money! A hundred per cent!"
Newmark watched him for a moment, a quizzical smile wrinkling the corners of his eyes.
"Hold your horses," said he at last. "I don't know anything about this business, but I can see a few things. In the first place, close figuring will probably add a few cents to that dollar. And then, of course, all our improvements will be absolutely valueless to anybody after we've got through using them. You said yesterday they'd probably stand us in seventy-five thousand dollars. Even at a dollar profit, we'd have to drive seventy-five million before we got a cent back. And, of course, we've got to agree to drive for a little less than they could themselves."
"That's so," agreed Orde, his crest falling.
"However," said Newmark briskly, as he arose, "there's good money in it, as you say. Now, how soon can you leave Daly?"
"By the middle of the week we ought to be through with this job."
"That's good. Then we'll go into this matter of expense thoroughly, and establish our schedule of rates to submit to the different firms."
Newmark said a punctilious farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Orde.
"By the way," said Orde to him at the gate, "where are you staying?"
"At the Grand."
"I know most of the people here--all the young folks. I'd be glad to take you around and get you acquainted."
"Thank you," replied Newmark, "you are very kind. But I don't go in much for that sort of thing, and I expect to be very busy now on this new matter; so I won't trouble you."