Bat was watching—searching. He was looking for that flicker of an eyelid he had learned to dread in the past. But he failed to discover it. The wide, clear eyes of the younger man returned his regard unwaveringly. The uncultured lumberman had stirred a responsive enthusiasm, and somehow the project no longer seemed the crazy thing it had once appeared to Bull Sternford.
“Guess my back teeth have got it,” he said, with a smile. “You needn’t worry I’ll let go.”
Bat drew a deep breath. He stood up and spat his mangled chew into the cuspidore.
“I’m glad. I’m real glad,” he cried. “I’m a heap more glad you told me those words without askin’ the other things you need to know. But you got to know ’em right away. Say, the day that fixes up the things we been talkin’ sees you with me and another masters of this mill an’ all it means. And while you’re playin’ your hand there’s one big fat salary for you to draw. This house and office is yours, an’ me an’ the mill’s ready to do all we know all the time, just the way you need it. Down in Abercrombie there’s the attorney, Charles Nisson, who’s got the outfit of papers that you’re goin’ to sign. And when you seen him, why you’ll get busy. Shake, boy,” he cried, thrusting out one knotted hand. “Father Adam sent you, and I don’t guess he’s made any mistake.”
Bull had risen, and his height left him towering over the man across the table.
“Now for the mill,” he cried, as their hands fell apart. “The Myra sails sundown to-morrow and I need to get a swift look around before then. Say, you folk have kind of taken me on a chance—well, that’s all right. I’m glad.”
DRAWING THE NET
Nathaniel Hellbeam was contemplating the spiral of smoke rising from his long cigar. He was dreaming pleasantly. He was dreaming of those successful manipulations of finance it was his purpose to achieve. He had lunched, so his dream was of the things which most appealed.
In the midst of his reflections the drub of the muffled telephone beat its insistent tattoo. His dream vanished, and his senses became alert. He leant forward in his chair and picked up the receiver.
“Yes,” he said shortly. And it sounded more like the Teutonic, “Ja!”
Putting up the receiver again he leant his clumsy body back in his chair. His small eyes no longer contained their dreaming light. They were turned expectantly upon the polished mahogany door.
The door swung silently open.
“Mr. Idepski!” The announcement was made in a carefully modulated tone.
The agent passed into the great man’s presence, slim, dark, confident. Then the door closed without a sound.
There was no cordiality in the greeting. That was not Hellbeam’s way with a paid agent.
Idepski walked across to the chair always waiting to receive a visitor and sat down.