“Why don’t you lend us the ten thousand and let us gamble?”
Pell was in no wise disconcerted by the query. He replied with another question—always the shrewd man’s way out of a difficulty, “Would you, in my place?”
“Sure I would!” came from the wheel chair.
“Oh, you would—”
Pell had nothing further to say to him, but addressed himself to Gilbert again.
“However, if you don’t think that offer fair, I’ll give you twenty thousand cash and assume the mortgages.”
“Twenty thousand?” Uncle Henry’s eyes opened wide.
“Well, what do you say?” Pell wanted to know, still addressing Gilbert. He had no taste for Smith’s constant interruptions.
But Hardy broke in, confounded by this talk. He saw himself slipping out of the transactions. “If you think you’re going to ...”
Pell paid no heed to what he said. “If I were in your place,” he remarked to young Jones, “it wouldn’t take me long to decide. You see, from me you get twenty thousand dollars clean. Otherwise, the place goes to him.” He nodded toward Hardy. “And you get nothing. It’s mighty plain—as plain as the nose on your face. I’m a plain man, and I don’t quibble. I’ve made you a direct offer. Nothing could be fairer. Well?”
Gilbert didn’t pause or hesitate a second. “All right. Give him the ten thousand,” indicating Hardy.
Morgan Pell was visibly relieved. Things seemed to be going his way, just as he had planned. Sturgis had been right, after all. He rubbed his hands in satisfaction, “And now, to facilitate matters,” he said, “if you will give us a ten-day option on the place, at a purchase price of thirty thousand ...” He went to the table, and arranged pen and paper, and motioned Gilbert to be seated and write.
The latter was in the chair at once. “Thank you, no. Twenty,” he said, and began to write.
“Twenty?” Pell repeated, and stroked his chin. He must be wary; he must go cautiously with this young fellow. He would see through him if he didn’t. “Certainly. Your first offer is the one I take,” Gilbert said in a firm voice.
Uncle Henry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You mean you ain’t going to take the other ten?” he cried, in surprise. Gilbert never looked up from his writing. The pen was moving swiftly over the paper. Uncle Henry was on the verge of a nervous breakdown then and there. He looked at Pell, eagerly. “Give it to me! I’ll take it!”
But Pell only said: “Mr. Jones is the owner of this property,” and watched the young man write.
Angela, like a timid bird, watched the proceedings breathlessly, and moved over close to her big father and put her little hand in his arm, “Isn’t there anything we can do, dad?” she inquired.
Hardy pressed her fingers, and said, in a whisper: “But I’m not sure there’s oil here. I’m not sure at all.”