He waved her praise away. “Jest ez I kalkilated. Now it so happens, ez you said, that I was pinched on sugar. So every mother’s son and daughter that gits a squint at that paper to-night got to pony up five cups of sugar. Savve? Five cups,—big cups, white, or brown, or cube,—an’ I’ll take their IOU’s, an’ send a boy round to their shacks the day followin’ to collect.”
Frona’s face went blank at the telling, then the laughter came back into it. “Won’t it be jolly? I’ll do it if it raises a scandal. To-night, Dave? Sure to-night?”
“Sure. An’ you git a complimentary, you know, fer the loan of yer parlor.”
“But papa must pay his five cups. You must insist upon it, Dave.”
Dave’s eyes twinkled appreciatively. “I’ll git it back on him, you bet!”
“And I’ll make him come,” she promised, “at the tail of Dave Harney’s chariot.”
“Sugar cart,” Dave suggested. “An’ to-morrow night I’ll take the paper down to the Opery House. Won’t be fresh, then, so they kin git in cheap; a cup’ll be about the right thing, I reckon.” He sat up and cracked his huge knuckles boastfully. “I ain’t ben a-burnin’ daylight sence navigation closed; an’ if they set up all night they won’t be up early enough in the mornin’ to git ahead of Dave Harney—even on a sugar proposition.”
Over in the corner Vance Corliss leaned against the piano, deep in conversation with Colonel Trethaway. The latter, keen and sharp and wiry, for all his white hair and sixty-odd years, was as young in appearance as a man of thirty. A veteran mining engineer, with a record which put him at the head of his profession, he represented as large American interests as Corliss did British. Not only had a cordial friendship sprung up between them, but in a business way they had already been of large assistance to each other. And it was well that they should stand together,—a pair who held in grip and could direct at will the potent capital which two nations had contributed to the development of the land under the Pole.
The crowded room was thick with tobacco smoke. A hundred men or so, garbed in furs and warm-colored wools, lined the walls and looked on. But the mumble of their general conversation destroyed the spectacular feature of the scene and gave to it the geniality of common comradeship. For all its bizarre appearance, it was very like the living-room of the home when the members of the household come together after the work of the day. Kerosene lamps and tallow candles glimmered feebly in the murky atmosphere, while large stoves roared their red-hot and white-hot cheer.