KEITH MEETS NORMAN
The day after Keith’s interview with Mr. Creamer he was walking up-town more slowly than was his wont; for gloom was beginning to take the place where disappointment had for some time been holding session. His experience that day had been more than usually disheartening. These people with all their shrewdness appeared to him to be in their way as contracted as his mountaineers. They lived to amass wealth, yet went like sheep in flocks, and were so blind that they could not recognize a great opportunity when it was presented. They were mere machines that ground through life as monotonously as the wheels in their factories, turning out riches, riches, riches.
This morning Keith had come across an article in a newspaper which, in a measure, explained his want of success. It was an article on New Leeds. It praised, in florid sentences, the place and the people, gave a reasonably true account of the rise of the town, set forth in a veiled way a highly colored prospectus of the Wickersham properties, and asserted explicitly that all the lands of value had been secured by this company, and that such as were now being offered outside were those which Wickersham had refused as valueless after a thorough and searching examination. The falsity of the statements made Keith boil with rage. Mr. J. Quincy Plume immediately flashed into his mind.
As he walked along, the newspaper clutched in his hand, a man brushed against him. Keith’s mind was far away on Quincy Plume and Ferdy Wickersham; but instinctively, as his shoulder touched the stranger’s, he said:
“I beg your pardon.”
At the words the other turned and glanced at him casually; then stopped, turned and caught up with him, so as to take a good look at his face. The next second a hand was on Keith’s shoulder.
“Why, Gordon Keith!”
Keith glanced up in a maze at the vigorous-looking, well-dressed young man who was holding out his gloved hand to him, his blue eyes full of a very pleasant light. Keith’s mind had been so far away that for a second it did not return. Then a light broke over his face. He seized the other’s hand.
The greeting between the two was so cordial that men hurrying by turned to look back at the pleasant faces, and their own set countenances softened.
Norman demanded where Keith had just come from and how long he had been in town, piling his questions one on the other with eager cordiality.
Keith looked sheepish, and began to explain in a rather shambling fashion that he had been there some time and “intended to hunt him up, of course”; but he had “been so taken up with business,” etc., etc.
“I heard you were here on business. That was the way I came to know you were in town,” explained Norman, “and I have looked everywhere for you. I hope you have been successful?” He was smiling. But Keith was still sore from the treatment he had received in one or two offices that morning.