This is the tale of a wrong that rankled and a great revenge. It is not a moral story, nor yet, measured by the modern money code, is it what could be called immoral. It is merely a tale of sharp wits which clashed in pursuit of business, therefore let it be considered unmoral, a word with a wholly different commercial significance. Time was when wrongs were righted by mace and battle-ax, amid fanfares and shoutings, but we live in a quieter age, an age of repression, wherein the keenest thrust is not delivered with a yell of triumph nor the oldest score settled to the blare of trumpets.
The last place I locked wheels with Mike Butters was in Idaho. I'd just sold a silver-lead prospect and was proclaimin' my prosperity with soundin' brass and ticklin' symbols. I was tuned up to G and singin' quartettes with the bartender--opery buffet, so to speak--when in Mike walked. It was a bright morning out-side and I didn't reco'nize him at first against the sunlight. "Where's that cholera-morbus case?" said he.
Why he chose Buffalo Paul Anderson never knew, unless perhaps it had more newspapers than Bay City, Michigan, and because his ticket expired in the vicinity of Buffalo. For that matter, why he should have given up an easy job as the mate of a tugboat to enter the tortuous paths of journalism the young man did not know, and, lacking the introspective faculty, he did not stop to analyze his motives. So far as he could discover he had felt the call to higher endeavor, and just naturally had heeded it. Such things as practical experience and educational equipment were but empty words to him, for he was young and hopeful, and the world is kind at twenty-one.
"The science of salesmanship is quite as exact as the science of astronomy," said Mr. Gross, casting his eyes down the table to see that he had the attention of the other boarders, "and much more intricate. The successful salesman is as much an artist in his line as the man who paints pictures or writes books." "Oh, there's nothing so artistic as writing books," protested Miss Harris, the manicurist. "Nothing except acting, perhaps. Actors are artistic, too. But salesmen! I meet lots in my business, and I'm not strong for them."
Billings rode in from the Junction about dusk, and ate his supper in silence. He'd been East for sixty days, and, although there lurked about him the hint of unwonted ventures, etiquette forbade its mention. You see, in our country, that which a man gives voluntarily is ofttimes later dissected in smoky bunk-houses, or roughly handled round flickering camp fires, but the privacies he guards are inviolate. Curiosity isn't exactly a lost art, but its practice isn't popular nor hygenic.
Louis Mitchell knew what the telegram meant, even though it was brief and cryptic. He had been expecting something of the sort ever since the bottom dropped out of the steel business and prices tobogganed forty dollars a ton. Nevertheless, it came as an undeniable shock, for he had hoped the firm would keep him on in spite of hard times. He wondered, as he sadly pocketed the yellow sheet, whether he had in him the makings of a good life-insurance agent, or if he had not better "join out" with a medicine show. This message led him to think his talents must lie along the latter line. Certainly they did not lie in the direction of metal supplies.
The storm broke at Salmon Lake, and we ran for Slisco's road-house. It whipped out from the mountains, all tore into strips coming through the saw-teeth, lashing us off the glare ice and driving us up against the river banks among the willows. Cold? Well, some! My bottle of painkiller froze slushy, like lemon punch. There's nothing like a warm shack, with a cache full of grub, when the peaks smoke and the black snow-clouds roar down the gulch.
Bailey smoked morosely as he scanned the dusty trail leading down across the "bottom" and away over the dry grey prairie toward the hazy mountains in the west. From his back-tilted chair on the veranda, the road was visible for miles, as well as the river trail from the south, sneaking up through the cottonwoods and leprous sycamores. He called gruffly into the silence of the house, and his speech held the surliness of his attitude. "Hot Joy! Bar X outfit comin'. Git supper."
The Mission House at Togiak stands forlornly on a wind-swept Alaskan spit, while huddled around it a swarm of dirt-covered "igloos" grovel in an ecstacy of abasement. Many natives crawled out of these and stared across the bay as down a gully came an Arctic caravan, men and dogs, black against, the deadly whiteness. Ahead swung the guide, straddling awkwardly on his five foot webs, while the straining pack pattered at his heels. Big George, the driver, urged them with strong words, idioms of the Northland, and his long whip bit sharply at their legs.