Tutt and Mr. Tutt/Wile Versus Guile
Wile Versus Guile
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar.—Hamlet.
IT was a mouse by virtue of which Ephraim Tutt had leaped into fame. It is true that other characters famous in song and story—particularly in "Mother Goose"—have similarly owed their celebrity in whole or part to rodents, but there is, it is submitted, no other case of a mouse, as mouse per se, reported in the annals of the law, except Tutt's mouse, from Doomsday Book down to the present time.
Yet it is doubtful whether without his mouse Ephraim Tutt would ever have been heard of at all, and same would equally have been true if when pursued by the chef's gray cat the mouse aforesaid had jumped in another direction. But as luck would have it, said mouse leaped foolishly into an open casserole upon a stove in the kitchen of the Comers Hotel, and Mr. Tutt became in his way a leader of the bar.
It is quite true that the tragic end of the mouse in question has nothing to do with our present narrative except as a side light upon the vagaries of the legal career, but it illustrates how an attorney if he expects to succeed in his profession, must be ready for anything that comes along—even if it be a mouse.
The two Tutts composing the firm of Tutt & Tutt were both, at the time of the mouse case, comparatively young men. Tutt was a native of Bangor, Maine, and numbered among his childhood friends one Newbegin, a commercial wayfarer in the shingle and clapboard line; and as he hoped at some future time to draw Newbegin's will or to incorporate for him some business venture Tutt made a practise of entertaining his prospective client at dinner upon his various visits to the metropolis, first at one New York hostelry and then at another.
Chance led them one night to the Comers, and there amid the imitation palms and imitation French waiters of the imitation French restaurant Tutt invited his friend Newbegin to select what dish he chose from those upon the bill of fare; and Newbegin chose kidney stew. It was at about that moment that the adventure which has been referred to occurred in the hotel kitchen. The gray cat was cheated of its prey, and in due course the casserole containing the stew was borne into the dining room and the dish was served.
Suddenly Mr. Newbegin contorted his mouth and exclaimed:
"Heck! A mouse!"
It was. The head waiter was summoned, the manager, the owner. Guests and garçons crowded about Tutt and Mr. Newbegin to inspect what had so unexpectedly been found. No one could deny that it was, mouse—cooked mouse; and Newbegin had ordered kidney stew. Then Tutt had had his inspiration.
"You shall pay well for this!" he cried, frowning at the distressed proprietor, while Newbegin leaned piteously against a pâpier-maché pillar. "This is an outrage! You shall be held liable in heavy damages for my client's indigestion!"
And thus Tutt & Tutt got their first case out of Newbegin, for under the influence of the eloquence of Mr. Tutt a jury was induced to give him a verdict of one thousand dollars against the Comers Hotel, which the Court of Appeals sustained in the following words, quoting verbatim from the learned brief furnished by Tutt & Tutt, Ephraim Tutt of counsel:
"The only legal question in the case, or so it appears to us, is whether there is such a sale of food to a guest on the part of the proprietor as will sustain a warranty. If we are not in error, however, the law is settled and has been since the reign of Henry the Sixth. In the Ninth Year Book of that Monarch's reign there is a case in which it was held that 'if I go to a tavern to eat, and the taverner gives and sells me meat and it corrupted, whereby I am made very sick, action lies against him without any express warranty, for there is a warranty in law'; and in the time of Henry the Seventh the learned Justice Keilway said, 'No man can justify selling corrupt victual, but an action on the case lies against the seller, whether the victual was warranted to be good or not.' Now, certainly, whether mouse meat be or be not deleterious to health a guest at a hotel who orders a portion of kidney stew has the right to expect, and the hotel keeper impliedly warrants, that such dish will contain no ingredients beyond those ordinarily placed therein."
"A thousand dollars!" exulted Tutt when the verdict was rendered. "Why, anyone would eat mouse for a thousand dollars!"
The Comers Hotel became in due course a client of Tutt & Tutt, and the mouse which made Mr. Tutt famous did not die in vain, for the case became celebrated throughout the length and breadth of the land, to the glory of the firm and a vast improvement in the culinary conditions existing in hotels.
"Come in, Mr. Barrows! Come right in! I haven't seen you for—well, how long is it?" exclaimed Mr. Tutt, extending a long welcoming arm toward a human scarecrow upon the threshold.
"Five years," answered the visitor. "I only got out day before yesterday. Fourteen months off for good behavior."
He coughed and put down carefully beside him a large dress-suit case marked E. V. B., Pottsville, N. Y.
"Well, well!" sighed Mr. Tutt. "So it is. How time flies!"
"Not in Sing Sing!" replied Mr. Barrows ruefully.
"I suppose not. Still, it must feel good to be out!"
Mr. Barrows made no reply but dusted off his felt hat. He was but the shadow of a man, an old man at that, as was attested by his long gray beard, his faded blue eyes, and the thin white hair about his fine domelike forehead.
"I forget what your trouble was about," said Mr. Tutt gently. "Won't you have a stogy?"
Mr. Barrows shook his head.
"I ain't used to it," he answered. "Makes me cough." He gazed about him vaguely.
"Something about bonds, wasn't it?" asked Mr. Tutt.
"Yes," replied Mr. Barrows; "Great Lakes and Canadian Southern."
"Of course! Of course!"
"A wonderful property," murmured Mr. Barrows regretfully. "The bonds were perfectly good. There was a defect in the foreclosure proceedings which made them a permanent underlying security of the reorganized company—under The Northern Pacific R. R. Co. vs. Boyd; you know—but the court refused to hold that way. They never will hold the way you want, will they?" He looked innocently at Mr. Tutt.
"No," agreed the latter with conviction, "they never will!"
"Now those bonds were as good as gold," went on the old man; "and yet they said I had to go to prison. You know all about it. You were my lawyer."
"Yes," assented Mr. Tutt, "I remember all about it now."
Indeed it had all come back to him with the vividness of a landscape seen during a lightning flash—the crowded court, old Doc Barrows upon the witness stand, charged with getting money on the strength of defaulted and outlawed bonds—picked up heaven knows where—pathetically trying to persuade an unsympathetic court that for some reason they were still worth their face value, though the mortgage securing the debt which they represented had long since been foreclosed and the money distributed.
"I'd paid for 'em—actual cash," he rambled on. "Not much, to be sure—but real money. If I got 'em cheap that was my good luck, wasn't it? It was because my brain was sharper than other folks'! I said they had value and I say so now—only nobody will believe it or take the trouble to find out. I learned a lot up there in Sing Sing too," he continued, warming to his subject. "Do you know, sir, there are fortunes lying all about us? Take gold, for instance! There's a fraction of a grain in every ton of sea water. But the big people don't want it taken out because it would depress the standard of exchange. I say it's a conspiracy—and yet they jailed a man for it! There's great mineral deposits all about just waiting for the right man to come along and develop 'em."
His lifted eye rested upon the engraving of Abraham Lincoln over Mr. Tutt's desk. "There was a man!" he exclaimed inconsequently; then stopped and ran his transparent, heavily veined old hand over his forehead. "Where was I? Let me see. Oh, yes—gold. All those great properties could be bought at one time or another for a song. It needed a pioneer! That's what I was—a pioneer to find the gold where other people couldn't find it. That's not any crime; it's a service to humanity! If only they'd have a little faith—instead of locking you up. The judge never looked up the law about those Great Lakes bonds! If he had he'd have found out I was right! I'd looked it up. I studied law once myself."
"I know," said Mr. Tutt, almost moved to tears by the sight of the wreck before him. "You practised up state, didn't you?"
"Yes," responded Doc Barrows eagerly. "And in Chicago too. I'm a member of the Cook County bar. I'll tell you something! If the Supreme Court of Illinois hadn't been wrong in its law I'd be the richest man in the world—in the whole world!" He grabbed Mr. Tutt by the arm and stared hard into his eyes. "Didn't I show you my papers? I own seven feet of water front clean round Lake Michigan all through the city of Chicago I got it for a song from the man who found out the flaw in the original title deed of 1817; he was dying. 'I'll sell my secret to you,' he says, 'because I'm passing on. May it bring you luck!' I looked it all up and it was just as he said. So I got up a corporation—The Chicago Water Front and Terminal Company—and sold bonds to fight my claim in the courts. But all the people who had deeds to my land conspired against me and had me arrested! They sent me to the penitentiary. There's justice for you!"
"That was too bad!" said Mr. Tutt in a soothing voice. "But after all what good would all that money have done you?"
"I don't want money!" affirmed Doc plaintively. "I've never needed money. I know enough secrets to make me rich a dozen times over. Not money but justice is what I want—my legal rights. But I'm tired of fighting against 'em. They've beaten me! Yes, they've beaten me! I'm going to retire. That's why I came in to see you, Mr. Tutt. I never paid you for your services as my attorney. I'm going away. You see my married daughter lost her husband the other day and she wants me to come up and live with her on the farm to keep her from being lonely. Of course it won't be much like life in Wall Street—but I owe her some duty and I'm getting on—I am, Mr. Tutt, I really am!"
"And I haven't seen Louisa for three years—my only daughter. I shall enjoy being with her. She was such a dear little girl! I'll tell you another secret"—his voice dropped to a whisper—"I've found out there's a gold mine on her farm, only she doesn't know it. A rich vein runs right through her cow pasture. We'll be rich! Wouldn't it be fine, Mr. Tutt, to be rich? Then I'm going to pay you in real money for all you've done for me—thousands! But until then I'm going to let you have these—all my securities; my own, you know, every one of them."
He placed the suitcase in front of Mr. Tutt and opened the clasps with his shaking old fingers. It bulged with bonds, and he dumped them forth until they covered the top of the desk.
"These are my jewels!" he said. "There's millions represented here!" He lifted one tenderly and held it to the light, fresh as it came from the engraver's press—a thousand dollar first-mortgage bond of The Chicago Water Front and Terminal Company. "Look at that! Good as gold—if the courts only knew the law."
He took up a yellow package of valueless obligations upon the top of which an old-fashioned locomotive from whose bell-shaped funnel the smoke poured in picturesque black clouds, dragging behind it a chain of funny little passenger coaches, drove furiously along beside a rushing river through fields rich with corn and wheat amid a border of dollar signs.
"The Great Lakes and Canadian Southern," he crooned lovingly. "The child of my heart! The district attorney kept all the rest—as evidence, he claimed, but some day you'll see he'll bring an action against the Lake Shore or the New York Central based on these bonds. Yes, sir! They're all right!"
He pawed them over, picking out favorites here and there and excitedly extolling the merits of the imaginary properties they represented. There were the repudiated bonds of Southern states and municipalities of railroads upon whose tracks no wheel had ever turned; of factories never built except in Doc Barrows' addled brain; of companies which had defaulted and given stock for their worthless obligations; certificates of oil, mining and land companies; deeds to tracts now covered with sky scrapers in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and New York—each and every one of them not worth the paper they were printed on except to some crook who dealt in high finance. But they were exquisitely engraved, quite lovely to look at, and Doc Barrows gloated upon them with scintillating eyes.
"Ain't they beauties?" he sighed. "Some day—yes sir!—some day they'll be worth real money. I paid it for some of 'em. But they're yours—all yours."
He gathered them up with care and returned them to the suitcase, then fastened the clasps and patted the leather cover with his hand.
"They are yours, sir!" he exclaimed dramatically.
"As you say," agreed Mr. Tutt, "there's gold lying round everywhere if we only had sense enough to look for it. But I think you're wise to retire. After all, you have the satisfaction of knowing that your enterprises were sound even if other people disagreed with you."
"If this was 1819 instead of 1919 I'd own Chicago," began Doc, a gleam appearing in his eye. "But they don't want to upset the status quo—that's why I haven't got a fair chance. But they needn't worry! I'd be generous with 'em—give 'em easy terms—long leases and nominal rents."
"But you'll like living with your daughter, I'm sure," said Mr. Tutt. "It will make a new man of you in no time."
"Healthiest spot in northern New York," exclaimed Doc. "Within two miles of a lake—fishing, shooting, outdoor recreation of all kinds, an ideal site for a mammoth summer hotel."
Mr. Tutt rose and laid his arms round old Doc Barrows' shoulders.
"Thank you a thousand times," he said gratefully, "for the securities. I'll be glad to keep them for you in my vault." His lips puckered in a stealthy smile which he tried hard to conceal.
"Louisa may want to repaper the farmhouse some time," he added to himself.
"Oh, they're all yours to keep!" insisted Doc. "I want you to have them!" His voice trembled.
"Well, well!" answered Mr. Tutt. "Leave it that way; but if you ever should want them they'll be here waiting for you."
"I'm no Indian giver!" replied Doc with dignity. "Give, give, give a thing—never take it back again."
He laughed rather childishly. He was evidently embarrassed.
"Could—could you let me have the loan of seventy-five cents?" he asked shyly.
Down below, inside a doorway upon the other side of the street, Sergeant Murtha of the Detective Bureau waited for Doc Barrows to come out and be arrested again. Murtha had known Doc for fifteen years as a harmless old nut who had rarely succeeded in cheating anybody, but who was regarded as generally undesirable by the authorities and sent away every few years in order to keep him out of mischief. There was no danger that the public would accept Doc's version of the nature or value of his securities, but there was always the chance that some of his worthless bonds—those bastard offsprings of his cracked old brain—would find their way into less honest but saner hands. So Doc rattled about from penitentiary to prison and from prison to madhouse and out again, constantly taking appeals and securing writs of habeas corpus, and feeling mildly resentful, but not particularly so, that people should be so interfering with his business. Now as from force of long habit he peered out of the doorway before making his exit; he looked like one of the John Sargent's prophets gone a little madder than usual—a Jeremiah or a Habakkuk.
"Hello, Doc!" called Murtha in hearty, friendly tones. "Hie spy! Come on out!"
"Oh, how d'ye do, captain!" responded Doc. "How are you? I was just interviewing my solicitor."
"Sorry," said Murtha. "The inspector wants to see you."
"But they've just let me go!" he protested faintly.
"It's one of those old indictments—Chicago Water Front or something. Anyhow—— Here! Hold on to yourself!"
He threw his arms around the old man, who seemed on the point of falling.
"Oh, captain! That's all over! I served time for that out in Illinois!" For some strange reason all the insanity had gone out of his bearing.
"Not in this state," answered Murtha. New pity for this poor old wastrel took hold upon him. "What were you going to do?"
"I was going to retire, captain," said Doc faintly. "My daughter's husband—he owned a farm up in Cayuga County—well, he died and I was planning to go up there and live with her."
"And sting all the boobs?" grinned Murtha not unsympathetically. "How much money have you got?"
"How much is the ticket?"
"About nine dollars," quavered Doc. "But I know a man down on Chatham Square who might buy a block of stock in the Last Chance Gold Mining Company; I could get the money that way."
"What's the Last Chance Gold Mining Company?" asked Murtha sharply.
"It's a company I'm going to organize. I'll tell you a secret, Murtha. There's a vein of gold runs right through my daughter Louisa's cow pasture—she doesn't know anything about it——"
"Oh, hell!" exclaimed Murtha. "Come along to the station. I'll let you have the nine bones. And you can put me down for half a million of the underwriting."
That same evening Mr. Tutt was toasting his carpet slippers before the sea-coal fire in his library, sipping a hot toddy and rereading for the eleventh time the "Lives of the Chancellors" when Miranda, who had not yet finished washing the few dishes incident to her master's meager supper, pushed open the door and announced that a lady was calling.
"She said you'd know her sho' enough, Mis' Tutt," grinned Miranda, swinging her dishrag, "'case you and she used to live tergidder when you was a young man."
This scandalous announcement did not have the startling effect upon the respectable Mr. Tutt which might naturally have been anticipated, since he was quite used to Miranda's forms of expression.
"It must be Mrs. Effingham," he remarked, closing the career of Lord Eldon and removing his feet from the fender.
"Dat's who it is!" answered Miranda. "She's downstairs waitin' to come up."
"Well, let her come," directed Mr. Tutt, wondering what his old boarding-house keeper could want of him, for he had not seen Mrs. Effingham for more than fifteen years, at which time she was well provided with husband, three children and a going business. Indeed, it required some mental adjustment on his part to recognize the withered little old lady in widow's weeds and rusty black with a gold star on her sleeve who so timidly, a moment later, followed Miranda into the room.
"I'm afraid you don't recognize me," she said with a pitiful attempt at faded coquetry. "I don't blame you, Mr. Tutt. You don't look a day older yourself. But a great deal has happened to me!"
"I should have recognized you anywhere," he protested gallantly. "Do sit down, Mrs. Effingham won't you? I am delighted to see you. How would you like a glass of toddy? Just to show there's no ill-feeling!"
He forced a glass into her hand and filled it from the teakettle standing on the hearth, while Miranda brought a sofa cushion and tucked it behind the old lady's back.
Mrs. Effingham sighed, tasted the toddy and leaned back deliciously. She was very wrinkled and her hair under the bonnet was startlingly white in contrast with the crêpe of her veil, but there were still traces of beauty in her face.
"I've come to you, Mr. Tutt," she explained apologetically, "because I always said that if I ever was in trouble you'd be the one to whom I should go to help me out."
"What greater compliment could I receive?""Well, in those days I never thought that time would come," she went on. "You remember my husband—Jim? Jim died two years ago. And little Jimmy—our eldest—he was only fourteen when you boarded with us—he was killed at the Front last July." She paused and felt for her handkerchief, but could not find it. "I still keep the house; but do you know how old I am, Mr. Tutt? I'm seventy-one! And the two older girls
"I always said that if I ever was in trouble you'd be the one to whom I should go to help me out"
got married long ago and I'm all alone except for Jessie, the youngest—and I haven't told her anything about it."
"Yes?" said Mr. Tutt sympathetically. "What haven't you told her about?"
"My trouble. You see, Jessie's not a well girl—she really ought to live out West somewhere, the doctor says—and Jim and I had saved up all these years so that after we were gone she would have something to live on. We saved twelve thousand dollars—and put it into Government bonds."
"You couldn't have anything safer, at any rate," remarked the lawyer. "I think you did exceedingly well."
"Now comes the awful part of it all!" exclaimed Mrs. Effingham, clasping her hands. "I'm afraid it's gone—gone forever. I should have consulted you first before I did it, but it all seemed so fair and above-board that I never thought."
"Have you got rid of your bonds?"
"Yes—no—that is, the bank has them. You see I borrowed ten thousand dollars on them and gave it to Mr. Badger to invest in his oil company for me."
Mr. Tutt groaned inwardly. Badger was the most celebrated of Wall Street's near-financiers.
"Where on earth did you meet Badger?" he demanded.
"Why, he boarded with me—for a long time," she answered. "I've no complaint to make of Mr. Badger. He's a very handsome polite gentleman. And I don't feel altogether right about coming to you and saying anything that might be taken against him—but lately I've heard so many things——"
"Don't worry about Badger!" growled Mr. Tutt. "How did you come to invest in his oil stock?"
"I was there when he got the telegram telling how they had found oil on the property; it came one night at dinner. He was tickled to death. The stock had been selling at three cents a share, and, of course, after the oil was discovered he said it would go right up to ten dollars. But he was real nice about it—he said anybody who had been living there in the house could share his good fortune with him, come in on the ground floor, and have it just the same for three cents. A week later there came a photograph of the gusher and almost all of us decided to buy stock."
At this point in the narrative Mr. Tutt kicked the coal hod violently and uttered a smothered ejaculation.
"Of course I didn't have any ready money," explained Mrs. Effingham, "but I had the bonds—they only paid two per cent and the oil stock was going to pay twenty—and so I took them down to the bank and borrowed ten thousand dollars on them. I had to sign a note and pay five per cent interest. I was making the difference—fifteen hundred dollars every year."
"What has it paid?" demanded Mr. Tutt ironically.
"Twenty per cent," replied Mrs. Effingham. "I get Mr. Badger's check regularly every six months."
"How many times have you got it?"
"Well, why don't you like your investment?" inquired Mr. Tutt blandly. "I'd like something that would pay me twenty per cent a year!"
"Because I'm afraid Mr. Badger isn't quite truthful, and one of the ladies—that old Mrs. Channing; you remember her, don't you—the one with the curls?—she tried to sell her stock and nobody would make a bid on it at all—and when she spoke to Mr. Badger about it he became very angry and swore right in front of her. Then somebody told me that Mr. Badger had been arrested once for something—and—and—— Oh, I wish I hadn't given him the money, because if it's lost Jessie won't have anything to live on after I'm dead—and she's too sick to work. What do you think, Mr. Tutt? Do you suppose Mr. Badger would buy the stock back?"
Mr. Tutt smiled grimly.
"Not if I know him! Have you got your stock with you?"
She nodded. Fumbling in her black bag she pulled forth a flaring certificate—of the regulation kind, not even engraved—which evidenced that Sarah Maria Ann Effingham was the legal owner of three hundred and thirty thousand shares of the capital stock of the Great Geyser Texan Petroleum and Llano Estacado Land Company.
Mr. Tutt took it gingerly between his thumb and forefinger. It was signed Alfred Haynes Badger, Pres., and he had an almost irresistible temptation to twist it into a spill and light a stogy with it. But he used a match instead, while Mrs. Effingham watched him apprehensively. Then he handed the stock back to her and poured out another glass of toddy.
"Ever been in Mr. Badger's office?"
"Oh, yes!" she answered. "It's a lovely office. You can see 'way down the harbor—and over to New Jersey. It's real elegant."
"Would you mind going there again? That is, are you on friendly terms with him?"
Already a strange, rather desperate plan was half formulated in his mind.
"Oh, we're perfectly friendly," she smiled. "I generally go down there to get my check."
"Whose check is it—his or the company's?"
"I really don't know," she answered simply. "What difference would it make?"
"Oh, nothing—except that he might claim that he'd loaned you the money."
"Loaned it? To me?"
"Why, yes. One hears of such things."
"But it is my money!" she cried, stiffening.
"You paid that for the stock."
She shook her head helplessly.
"I don't understand these things," she murmured. "If Jim had been alive it wouldn't have happened. He was so careful."
"Husbands have some uses occasionally."
Suddenly she put her hands to her face.
"Oh, Mr. Tutt! Please get the money back from him. If you don't something terrible will happen to Jessie!"
"I'll do my best," he said gently, laying his hand on her fragile shoulder. "But I may not be able to do it—and anyhow I'll need your help."
"What can I do?"
"I want you to go down to Mr. Badger's office to-morrow morning and tell him that you are so much pleased with your investment that you would like to turn all your securities over to him to sell and put the money into the Great Geyser Texan Petroleum and Llano Estacado Land Company."
He rolled out the words with unction.
"But I don't!"
"Oh, yes, you do!" he assured her. "You want to do just what I tell you, don't you?"
"Of course," she answered. "But I thought you didn't like Mr. Badger's oil company."
"Whether I like it or not makes no difference. I want you to say just what I tell you."
"Oh, very well, Mr. Tutt."
"Then you must tell him about the note, and that first it will have to be paid off."
"And then you must hand him a letter which I will dictate to you now."
She flushed slightly, her eyes bright with excitement.
"You're sure it's perfectly honest, Mr. Tutt? I wouldn't want to do anything unfair!"
"Would you be honest with a burglar?"
"But Mr. Badger isn't a burglar!"
"No—he's only about a thousand times worse. He's a robber of widows and orphans. He isn't man enough to take a chance at housebreaking."
"I don't know what you mean," she sighed. "Where shall I write?"
Mr. Tutt cleared a space upon his desk, handed her a pad and dipped a pen in the ink while she took off her gloves.
"Address the note to the bank," he directed.
She did so.
"Now say: 'Kindly deliver to Mr. Badger all the securities I have on deposit with you, whenever he pays my note. Very truly yours, Sarah Maria Ann Effingham.'"
"But I don't want him to have my securities!" she retorted.
"Oh, you won't mind! You'll be lucky to get Mr. Badger to take back your oil stock on any terms. Leave the certificate with me," laughed Mr. Tutt, rubbing his long thin hands together almost gleefully. "And now as it is getting rather late perhaps you will do me the honor of letting me escort you home."
It was midnight before Mr. Tutt went to bed. In the first place he had felt himself so neglectful of Mrs. Effingham that after he had taken her home he had sat there a long time talking over the old lady's affairs and making the acquaintance of the phthisical Jessie, who turned out to be a wistful little creature with great liquid eyes and a delicate transparent skin that foretold only too clearly what was to be her future. There was only one place for her, Mr. Tutt told himself—Arizona; and by the grace of God she should go there, Badger or no Badger!
As the old lawyer walked slowly home with his hands clasped behind his back he pondered upon the seeming mockery and injustice of the law that forced a lonely, half-demented old fellow with the fixed delusion that he was a financier behind prison bars and left free the sharp slick crook who had no bowels or mercies and would snatch away the widow's mite and leave her and her consumptive daughter to die in the poorhouse. Yet such was the case, and there they all were! Could you blame people for being Bolsheviks? And yet old Doc Barrows was as far from a Bolshevik as anyone could well be.
Mr. Tutt passed a restless night, dreaming, when he slept at all, of mines from which poured myriads of pieces of yellow gold, of gushers spouting columns of blood-red oil hundreds of feet into the air, and of old-fashioned locomotives dragging picturesque trains of cars across bright green prairies studded with cacti in the shape of dollar signs. Old Doc Barrows was with him, and from time to time he would lean toward him and whisper "Listen, Mr. Tutt, I'll tell you a secret! There's a vein of gold runs right through my daughter's cow pasture!"
When Willie next morning at half past eight reached the office he found the door already unlocked and Mr. Tutt busy at his desk, up to his elbows in a great mass of bonds and stock certificates.
"Gee!" he exclaimed to Miss Sondheim, the stenographer, when she made her appearance at a quarter past nine. "Just peek in the old man's door if you want to feel rich! Say, he must ha' struck pay dirt! I wonder if we'll all get a raise?"
But all the securities on Mr. Tutt's desk would not have justified even the modest advance of five dollars in Miss Sondheim's salary, and their employer was merely sorting out and making an inventory of Doc Barrows' imaginary wealth. By the time Mrs. Effingham arrived by appointment at ten o'clock he had them all arranged and labeled; and in a special bundle neatly tied with a piece of red tape were what on their face were securities worth upward of seventy thousand dollars. There were ten of the beautiful bonds of the Great Lakes and Canadian Southern Railroad Company with their miniature locomotives and fields of wheat, and ten equally lovely bits of engraving belonging to the long-since defunct Bluff Creek and Iowa Central, ten more superb lithographs issued by the Mohawk and Housatonic in 1867 and paid off in 1882, and a variety of gorgeous chromos of Indians and buffaloes, and of factories and steamships spouting clouds of soft-coal smoke; and on the top of all was a pile of the First Mortgage Gold Six Per Cent obligations of the Chicago Water Front and Terminal Company—all of them fresh and crisp, with that faintly acrid smell which though not agreeable to the nostrils nevertheless delights the banker's soul.
"Ah! Good morning to you, Mrs. Effingham!" Mr. Tutt cried, waving her in when that lady was announced. "You are not the only millionaire, you see! In fact, I've stumbled into a few barrels of securities myself—only I didn't pay anything for them."
"Gracious!" cried Mrs. Effingham, her eyes lighting with astonishment. "Wherever did you get them? And such exquisite pictures! Look at that lamb!"
"It ought to have been a wolf!" muttered Mr. Tutt. "Well, Mrs. Effingham, I've decided to make you a present—just a few pounds of Chicago Water Front and Canadian Southern—those over there in that pile; and now if you say so we'll just go along to your bank."
"Give them to me!" she protested. "What on earth for? You're joking, Mr. Tutt."
"Not a bit of it!" he retorted. "I don't make any pretensions as to the value of my gift, but they're yours for whatever they're worth."
He wrapped them carefully in a piece of paper and returned the balance to Doc Barrows' dress-suit case.
"Aren't you afraid to leave them that way?" she asked, surprised.
"Not at all! Not at all!" he laughed. "You see there are fortunes lying all about us everywhere if we only know where to look. Now the first thing to do is to get your bonds back from the bank."
Mr. Thomas McKeever, the popular loan clerk of the Mustardseed National, was just getting ready for the annual visit of the state bank examiner when Mr. Tutt, followed by Mrs. Effingham, entered the exquisitely furnished boudoir where lady clients were induced by all modern conveniences except manicures and shower baths to become depositors. Mr. Tutt and Mr. McKeever belonged to the same Saturday evening poker game at the Colophon Club, familiarly known as The Bible Class.
"'Morning, Tom," said Mr. Tutt. "This is my client, Mrs. Effingham. You hold her note, I believe, for ten thousand dollars secured by some government bonds. She has a use for those bonds and I thought that you might be willing to take my indorsement instead. You know I'm good for the money."
"Why, I guess we can accommodate her, Mr. Tutt!" answered the Chesterfieldian Mr. McKeever. "Certainly we can. Sit down, Mrs. Effingham, while I send for your bonds. See the morning paper?"
Mrs. Effingham blushingly acknowledged that she had not seen the paper. In fact, she was much too excited to see anything.
"Sign here!" said the loan clerk, placing the note before the lawyer.
Mr. Tutt indorsed it in his strange, humpbacked chirography.
"Here are your bonds," said Mr. McKeever, handing Mrs. Effingham a small package in a manila envelope. She took them in a half-frightened way, as if she thought she was doing something wrong.
"And now," said Mr. Tutt, "the lady would like a box in your safe-deposit vaults; a small one—about five dollars a year—will do. She has quite a bundle of securities with her, which I am looking into. Most if not all of them are of little or no value, but I have told her she might just as well leave them as security for what they are worth, in addition to my indorsement. Really it's just a slick game of ours to get the bank to look after them for nothing. Isn't it, Mrs. Effingham?"
"Ye-es!" stammered Mrs. Effingham, not understanding what he was talking about.
"Well," answered Mr. McKeever, "we never refuse collateral. I'll put the bonds with the note—" His eye caught the edges of the bundle. "Great Scott, Tutt! What are you leaving all these bonds here for against that note? There must be nearly a hundred thousand dol——"
"I thought you never refused collateral, Mr. McKeever!" challenged Mr. Tutt sternly.
Twenty minutes later the exquisite blonde that acted as Mr. Badger's financial accomplice learned from Mrs. Effingham's faltering lips that the widow would like to see the great man in regard to further investments.
"How does it look, Mabel?" inquired the financier from behind his massive mahogany desk covered with a six by five sheet of plate glass. "Is it a squeal or a fall?"
"Easy money," answered Mabel with confidence. "She wants to put a mortgage on the farm."
"Keep her about fourteen minutes, tell her the story of my philanthropies, and then shoot her in," directed Badger.
So Mrs. Effingham listened politely while Mabel showed her the photographs of Mr. Badger's home for consumptives out in Tyrone, New Mexico, and of his wife and children, taken on the porch of his summer home at Seabright, New Jersey; and then, exactly fourteen minutes having elapsed, she was shot in.
"Ah! Mrs. Effingham! Delighted! Do be seated!" Mr. Badger's smile was like that of the boa constrictor about to swallow the rabbit.
"About my oil stock," hesitated Mrs. Effingham.
"Well, what about it?" demanded Badger sharply. "Are you dissatisfied with your twenty per cent?"
"Oh, no!" stammered the old lady. "Not at all! I just thought if I could only get the note paid off at the Mustardseed Bank I might ask you to sell the collateral and invest the proceeds in your gusher."
"Oh!" Mr. Badger beamed with pleasure. "Do you really wish to have me dispose of your securities for you?"
He did not regard it as necessary to inquire into the nature of the collateral. If it was satisfactory to the Mustardseed National it must of course exceed considerably the amount of the note.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Effingham timidly; and she handed him the letter dictated by Mr. Tutt.
"Well," replied Mr. Badger thoughtfully, after reading it, "what you ask is rather unusual—quite unusual, I may say, but I think I may be able to attend to the matter for you. Leave it in my hands and think no more about it. How have you been, my dear Mrs. Effingham? You're looking extraordinarily well!"
Mr. McKeever had about concluded his arrangements for welcoming the state bank examiner when the telephone on his desk buzzed, and on taking up the receiver he heard the ingratiating voice of Alfred Haynes Badger.
"Is this the Loan Department of the Mustardseed National?"
"It is," he answered shortly.
"I understand you hold a note of a certain Mrs. Effingham for ten thousand dollars. May I ask if it is secured?"
"Who is this?" snapped McKeever.
"One of her friends," replied Mr. Badger amicably.
"Well, we don't discuss our clients' affairs over the telephone. You had better come in here if you have any inquiries to make."
"But I want to pay the note," expostulated Mr. Badger.
"Oh! Well, anybody can pay the note who wants to."
"And of course in that case you would turn over whatever collateral is on deposit to secure the note?"
"If we were so directed."
"May I ask what collateral there is?"
"I don't know."
"There is some collateral, I suppose?"
"Well, I have an order from Mrs. Effingham directing the bank to turn over whatever securities she has on deposit as collateral, on my payment of the note."
"In that case you'll get 'em," said Mr. McKeever gruffly. "I'll get them out and have 'em ready for you."
"Here is my certified check for ten thousand; dollars," announced Alfred Haynes Badger a few minutes later. "And here is the order from Mrs. Effingham. Now will you kindly turn over to me all the securities?"
Mr. McKeever, knowing something of the reputation of Mr. Badger, first called up the bank which had certified the latter's check, and having ascertained that the certification was genuine he marked Mrs. Effingham's note as paid and then took down from the top of his roll-top desk the bundle of beautifully engraved securities given him by Mr. Tutt. Badger watched him greedily.
"Thank you," he gurgled, stuffing them into his pocket. "Much obliged for your courtesy. Perhaps you would like me to open an account here?"
"Oh, anybody can open an account who wants to," remarked Mr. McKeever dryly, turning away from him to something else.
Mr. Badger fairly flew back to his office. The exquisite blonde had hardly ever before seen him exhibit so much agitation.
"What have you pulled this time?" she inquired dreamily. "Father's daguerreotype and the bracelet of mother's hair?"
"I've grabbed off the whole bag of tricks!" he cried. "Look at 'em! We've not seen so much of the real stuff in six months.
"Ten—twenty—thirty—forty—fifty—— By gad!—sixty—seventy!"
"What are they?" asked Mabel curiously. "Some bonds—what?"
"I should say so!" he retorted gaily. "Say, girlie, I'll give you the swellest meal of your young life to-night! Chicago Water Front and Terminal, Great Lakes and Canadian Southern, Mohawk and Housatonic, Bluff Creek and Iowa Central. 'Oh, Mabel!'"
It was at just about this period of the celebration that Mr. Tutt entered the outer office and sent in his name; and as Mr. Badger was at the height of his good humor he condescended to see him.
"I have called," said Mr. Tutt, "in regard to the bonds belonging to my client, Mrs. Effingham. I see you have them on the desk there in front of you. Unfortunately she has changed her mind. She has decided not to have you dispose of her securities."
Mr. Badger's expression instantly became hostile and defiant.
"It's too late!" he replied. "I have paid off her note and I am going to carry out the rest of the arrangement."
"Oh," said Mr. Tutt, "so you are going to sell all her securities and put the proceeds into your bogus oil company—whether she wishes it or not? If you do the district attorney will get after you."
"I stand on my rights," snarled Badger. "Anyhow I can sell enough of the securities to pay myself back my ten thousand dollars."
"And then you'll steal the rest?" inquired Mr. Tutt. "Be careful, my dear sir! Remember there is such a thing as equity, and such a place as Sing Sing."
Badger gave a cynical laugh.
"You're too late, my friend! I've got a written order—a written order—from your client, as you call her. She can't go back on it now. I've got the bonds and I'm going to dispose of them."
"Very well," said Mr. Tutt tolerantly. "You can do as you see fit. But"—and he produced ten genuine one-thousand-dollar bills and exhibited them to Mr. Badger at a safe distance—"I now on behalf of Mrs. Effingham make you a legal tender of the ten thousand dollars you have just paid out to cancel her note, and I demand the return of the securities. Incidentally I beg to inform you that they are not worth the paper they are printed on."
"Indeed!" sneered Badger. "Well, my dear! old friend, you might have saved yourself the trouble of coming round here. You and your client can go straight to hell. You can keep the money; I'll keep the bonds. See?"
Mr. Tutt sighed and shook his head hopelessly.
Then he put the bills back into his pocket and started slowly for the door.
"You absolutely and finally decline to give up the securities?" he asked plaintively.
"Absolutely and finally?" mocked Mr. Badger with a sweeping bow.
"Dear! Dear!" almost moaned Mr. Tutt. "I'd heard of you a great many times but I never realized before what an unscrupulous man you were! Anyhow, I'm glad to have had a look at you. By the way, if you take the trouble to dig through all that junk you'll find the certificate of stock in the Great Jehoshaphat Oil Company you used to flim flam Mrs. Effingham with out of her ten thousand dollars. Maybe you can use it on someone else! Anyhow, she's about two thousand dollars to the good. It isn't every widow who can get twenty per cent and then get her money back in full."