Castle stood up and bowed. “I take off my hat to you, Baines.... I bid ten thousand.”
“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 git?”
“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.