First Baines story from The Saturday Evening Post 1917
To be republished in Enter Scattergood Baines (illustrated)
Book 1 of the Coldriver Chronicles
(The first 15 stories in order - 3 never reprinted before -
with the original magazine illustrations)
Scattergood Baines arrives in Coldriver.
The entrance of Scattergood Baines into Coldriver Valley, and the manner of his first taking root in its soil, are legendary. This much is clear past even disputing in the post office at mail time, or evenings in the grocery—he walked in, perspiring profusely, for he was very fat.
It is asserted that he walked the full twenty-four miles from the railroad, subsisting on the country, as it were, and sagged down on the porch of Locker's grocery just before sundown. It is not implied that he walked all of the twenty-four miles in that single day. Huge bodies move deliberately.
He sagged down on Locker's porch, and it is reported the corner of the porch sagged with him. George Peddie has it from his grandfather, who was an eyewitness, that Scattergood did not so much as turn his head to look at the assembled manhood of the vicinity, but with infinite pains and audible grunts, succeeded in bringing first one foot, then the other, within reach of his hands, and removed his shoes. Following this he sighed with a great contentment and twiddled his bare toes openly and flagrantly in the eyes of all Coldriver. He is said now to have uttered the first words to fall from his mouth in the town where were to lie his life's unfoldings and fulfillments. They were significant—in the light of subsequent activities.
"One of them railroads runnin' up here," said he to the mountain just across the road from him, "would have spared me close to a dozen blisters."
Conversation had expired on Scattergood's arrival, and the group on the porch converted itself into an audience. It was an audience that got its money's worth. Not for an instant did the attention of a single member of it stray away from this Godsend come to furnish them with their first real topic of conversation since Crazy French stole a box of Paris green, mistaking it for a new sort of pancake flour.
Scattergood arose ponderously and limped out into the middle of the dusty road. From this vantage point he slowly and conscientiously studied the village.
"Uh-huh!" he said. "'Twouldn't pay to do all that walkin' just for a visit. Calc'late I'll have to settle."
He walked directly back to the absorbed group of leading citizens, his shoes dangling, one in each hand, and addressed them genially.
"Your town," said he, "is growin'. Its population jest increased by me."
"Sizable growth," said Old Man Penny, dryly, letting his eye rove over Scattergood's bulk.
"My line," said Scattergood, "is anythin' needful. Outside of a railroad, what you figger you need most?"
"Is it a grocery store?" asked Scattergood.
Locker stiffened in his chair. "Me and Sam Kittleman calc'lates to sell all the groceries this town needs," he said.
"How about dry goods?" said Scattergood.
Old Man Penny and Wade Lumley stirred to life at this.
"Lumley and me takes care of the dry goods," said the old man.
"Uh-huh! How about a clothin' store?"
"We got all the clothin' stores there's room for," said Lafe Atwell. "I run it."
"Kind of got the business of this town sewed up, hain't you?" Scattergood asked, admiringly. "Wouldn't look with favor on any more stores?"
"We calculate to keep what business we got," said Old Man Penny. "A outsider would have a hard time makin' a go of it here."
"Quite likely," said Scattergood. "Still, you never can tell. Let some feller come in here with a gen'ral store, sellin' for cash—and cuttin' prices, eh? How would an outsider git along if he done that? Up-to-date store. Fresh goods. Low prices. Eh? Calc'late some of you fellers would have to discharge a clerk."
"You hain't got money enough to start a store," Old Man Penny squawked. "Why, you hain't even got a satchel! You come walkin' in like a tramp."
"There's tramps—and tramps," said Scattergood, placidly. He reached far down into a trousers pocket and tugged to the light of day a roll that his fingers could not encircle. He looked at it fondly, tossed it up in the air a couple of times and caught it, and then held it between thumb and forefinger until the eyes of his audience had assured themselves that the outside bill was yellow and its denomination twenty dollars.... The audience gulped.
"Say," demanded Locker, "be you really thinkin' about startin' a cash store here?"
"Neighbor," said Scattergood, "never give up valuable information without gittin' somethin' for it. How much money would a complete and careful account of my intentions be worth to you?"
Locker snorted. "Bet that wad of bills is a dummy with a counterfeit twenty outside of it," he said.
Scattergood smiled tantalizingly. Locker had not, fortunately for Scattergood, the least idea how close to the truth he had been. On one point only had he been mistaken. The twenty outside was not counterfeit. However, except for three fives, four twos, and ninety cents in silver, it represented Scattergood's total cash capital.
"I'm goin'," said Scattergood, "to order me two suppers. Two! From bean soup to apple pie. It's my birthday. Twenty-six to-day, and I always eat two suppers on my birthdays.... Glad you leadin' citizens see fit to give me such a hearty welcome to your town. Right kind and generous of you."
He turned and ambled down the road toward the tavern, planting his bare feet with evident pleasure in the deepest of the warm sand, and flirting up little clouds of it behind him. The audience saw him seat himself on the tavern steps and pull on his shoes. They were too far to hear him say speculatively to himself: "I never heard tell of a man gittin' a start in life jest that way—but that hain't any reason it can't be done. I'm goin' to do this town good, and this valley. Hain't no more 'n fair them leadin' citizens should give me what help they feel they kin."
Scattergood ate with ease and pleasure two complete suppers—to the openly expressed admiration of Emma, the waitress. Very shortly afterward he retired to his room, where, not trusting to the sturdiness of the bed-slats provided, he dragged mattress and bedding to the floor and was soon emitting snores that Landlord Coombs assured his wife was the beat of anybody ever slept in the house not countin' that travelin' man from Boston. Next morning Scattergood was about early, padding slowly up and down the crossed streets which made up the village. He was studying the ground for immediate strategic purposes, just as he had been studying the valley on his long trudge up from the railroad for purposes related to distant campaigns. Though Scattergood's arrival in Coldriver may have seemed impromptu, as his adoption of the town for a permanent location seemed abrupt, not to say impulsive, neither really was so. Scattergood rarely acted without reason and after reflection.
True, he had but a moment's glimpse of Coldriver before he decided he had moved there, but the glimpse showed him the location was the one he had been searching for.... Scattergood's specialty, his hobby, was valleys. Valleys down which splashed and roared sizable streams, whose mountain sides were covered with timber, and whose flats were comfortable farms—such valleys interested him with an especial interest. But the valley he had been looking for was one with but a single possible outlet. He wanted a valley whose timber and produce and products could not go climbing off across the hills, over a number of easy roads, to market. His valley must be hemmed in. The only way to market must lie down the valley, with the river. And the river that flowed down his valley must be swift, with sufficient volume all twelve months of the year to turn possible mill wheels.... As yet he thought only of the direct application of power. He had not dreamed yet of great turbine generators which should transport thousands of horse power, written in terms of electricity, hundreds of miles across country, there to light cities and turn the wheels of huge manufactories....
Coldriver Valley was that valley! He felt it as soon as he turned into it; certainty increased as he progressed between those gigantic walls black with tall, straight, beautiful spruce. So, when he sat shoeless, resting his blistered feet on Locker's porch, he was ready to make his decision. The mere making of it was a negligible detail.
So Scattergood Baines found his valley. He entered it consciously as an invader, determined to conquer. Pitiful as were the resources of Cortez as he adventured against the power of Montezuma, or of Pizarro as he clambered over the Peruvian Andes, they were gigantic compared with Scattergood's. He was starting to make his conquest backed by one twenty, three fives, four twos, and ninety cents in silver. It was obvious to him the country to be conquered must supply the sinews of war for its own conquest.
Every village has its ramshackle, disused store building. Coldriver had one, especially well located, and not so ramshackle as it might have been. It was big; its front was crossed by a broad porch; its show windows were not show windows at all, but were put there solely to give light. Coldriver did not know there was such a thing as inviting patronage by skillful display.
"Sonny," said Scattergood to a boy digging worms in the shade of the building, "who owns this here ruin?"
"Old Tom Plummer," said the boy, and was even able to disclose where old Tom was to be found. Scattergood found him feeding a dozen White Orpingtons.
"Best layers a man can keep," said Scattergood, sincerely. "Man's got to have brains to even raise chickens."
"I git more eggs to the hen than anybody else in town," said old Tom, "but nobody listens to me."
"Own a store buildin' downtown, don't you?"
"If you was to git a chance to rent it, how much would it be a month?"
"Repairs or no repairs?"
"G'mornin'," said Scattergood, and turned toward the gate.
"What's your hurry, mister?"
"Can't bear to stay near a man that mentions so much money in a breath," said Scattergood, with his most ingratiating grin.
"How much could you stay and hear?"
"Not over ten."
"Huh!... Seein' the buildin's in poor shape, I'll call it fifteen."
"Twelve-fifty's as far's I'll go—on a five-year lease," said Scattergood. It will be seen he fully intended to become permanent.
"What you figger on usin' it fur?"
"Maybe a opry house, maybe a dime museum, maybe a carpenter shop, and maybe somethin' else. I hain't mentionin' jest what, but it's law-abidin' and respectable."
"Five-year lease, eh? Twelve-fifty."
"Two months' rent in advance," said Scattergood.
"Squire Hastings'll draw the papers," said old Tom, heading for the gate. Scattergood followed, and in half an hour was the lessee of a store building, bound to pay rent for five years, with more than half his capital vanished—with no stock of goods or wherewith to procure one, with not even a day's experience in any sort of merchandising to his credit.
His next step was to buy ten yards of white cloth, a small paint brush, and a can of paint. Ostentatiously he borrowed a stepladder and stretched the cloth across the front of his store, from post to post. Then, equally ostentatiously, he mounted the stepladder and began to paint a sign. He was not unskilled in the business of lettering. The sign, when completed, read:
CASH AND CUT PRICES IS MY MOTTO
Having completed this, he bought a pail, a mop, and a broom, and proceeded to a thorough housecleaning of his premises.
Having completed this, he bought a pail, a mop, and a broom, and proceeded to a thorough housecleaning of his premises.
Old Man Penny and Locker and the rest of the merchants were far from oblivious to Scattergood's movements. No sooner had his sign appeared than every merchant in town—excepting Junkin, the druggist, who sold wall paper and farm machinery as side lines—went into executive session in the back room of Locker's store.
"He means business," said Locker.
"Leased that store for five year," said Old Man Penny.
"Cash, and Cut Prices," quoted Atwell, "and you fellers know our folks would pass by their own brothers to save a penny. He'll force us to cut, too."
"Me—I won't do it," asserted Kettleman.
"Then you'll eat your stock," growled Locker.
"Fellers," said Atwell, "if this man gits started it's goin' to cost all of us money. He'll draw some trade, even if he don't cut prices. Safe to figger he'll git a sixth of it. And a sixth of the business in this region is a pretty fair livin'. If he goes slashin' right and left, nobody kin tell how much trade he'll draw."
"We should 'a' leased that store between us. Then nobody could 'a' come in."
"But we didn't. And it's goin' to cost us money. If he puts in clothing it'll cost me five hundred dollars a year in profits, anyhow. Maybe more. And you other fellers clost to as much."
"But we can't do nothin'."
"We can buy him off," said Atwell.
The meeting at that moment became noisy. Epithets were applied with freedom to Scattergood, and even to Atwell, for these were not men who loved to part with their money. However, Atwell showed them the economy of it. It was either for them to suffer one sharp pang now, or to endure a greater dragging misery. They went in a body to call upon Scattergood.
"Howdy, neighbors!" Scattergood said, genially.
"We're the merchants of this town," said Old Man Penny, shortly.
"So I judged," said Scattergood.
"There's merchants enough here," the old man roared on. "Too many. We don't want any more. We don't want you should start up any business here."
"You're too late. It's started. I've leased these premises."
"But you hain't no stock in."
"I calc'late on havin' one shortly," said Scattergood, with a twinkle in his eye, whose meaning was kindly concealed from the five.
"What'll you take not to order any stock?" asked Atwell, abruptly.
"Figger on buyin' me off, eh? Now, neighbors, I've been lookin' for a place like this, and I calc'late on stayin'. I'm goin' to become all-fired permanent here."
"Give you a hundred dollars," said Old Man Penny.
"Apiece?" asked Scattergood, and laughed jovially. "It's my busy day, neighbors. Better call in again."
"What's your figger to pull out now—'fore you're started?"
"Hain't got no figger, but if I had I calc'late it would be about a thousand dollars."
"Give you two hundred," said Old Man Penny.
Scattergood picked up his mop. "If you fellers really mean business, talk business. I've figgered my profits in this store, countin' in low prices, wouldn't be a cent under a couple of thousand the first year.... And you know it. That's what you're fussin' around here for. Now fish or git to bait cuttin'."
"Five hundred dollars," said Atwell, and Old Man Penny moaned.
"Tell you what I'll do," said Scattergood. "You men git back here inside of an hour with seven hundred and fifty cash, and lay it in my hand, and I'll agree not to sell groceries, dry goods, notions, millinery, or men or women's clothes in this town for a term of twenty year."
They drew off and scolded one another, and glowered at Scattergood, but came to scratch. "It's jest like robbery," said Old Man Penny, tremulously.
"Keep your money," retorted Scattergood. "I'm satisfied the way things is at present."
Within the hour they were back with seven hundred and fifty dollars in bills, a lawyer, and an agreement, which Scattergood read with minute attention. It bound him not to sell, barter, trade, exchange, deal, or in any way to derive a profit from the handling of groceries, dry goods, notions, millinery, clothing, and gent's furnishings. It contained no hidden pitfalls, and Scattergood was satisfied. He signed his name and thrust the roll of bills into his pocket.... Then he picked up his mop and went to work as hard as ever.
"Say," Old Man Penny said, "what you goin' ahead for? You jest agreed not to."
"There wasn't nothin' said about moppin'," grinned Scattergood, "and there wasn't nothin' said about hardware and harness and farm implements, neither. If you don't b'lieve me, jest read the agreement. What I'm doin', neighbors, is git this place cleaned out to put in the finest cash, cut-price, up-to-date hardware store in the state. And thank you, neighbors. You've done right kindly by a stranger...."
To this point the history of Scattergood Baines has been for the most part legendary; now we begin to encounter him in the public records, for deeds, mortgages, and the like begin to appear with his name upon them. His history becomes authentic.
Seven hundred and fifty dollars is not much when put into hardware, but Scattergood had no intention of putting even that into a stock of goods. He had a notion that the right kind of man, with five hundred dollars, could get credit to twice that amount, and as for farm machinery, he could sell by catalogue or on commission. His suspicion was proven to be fact.
But it was not in Scattergood to sit idle while he waited for his stock to arrive. Coldriver doubtless thought him idle, but he was studying the locality and the river with the eye of a commander who knew this was to be his battlefield. What Scattergood wanted now was to place himself astride Coldriver Valley, somewhere below the village, so that he could control the upper reaches of the stream. It was not difficult to find such a location. It lay three miles below town, at the junction of the north and south branches of Coldriver. The juncture was in a big, marshy, untillable flat, from which hills rose abruptly. From the easterly end of the flat the augmented river squeezed in a roaring rapids through a sort of bottle neck.
Scattergood stood on the hillside and looked upon this with satisfied eye.
"A dam across that bottle neck," he said to himself, "will flood that flat. Reg'lar reservoy. Millpond. Git a twenty-foot fall here easy, maybe more. Calc'late that'll run about any mill folks'll want to build. And," he scratched his head as a sort of congratulation to it for its efficiency, "I can't study out how anybody's agoin' to git logs past here without dickerin' with the man who owns the dam...." Plenty of water twelve months a year to give free power; a flat made to order for reservoir or log pond; a complete and effective blockade of both branches of the river which came down from a country richly timbered! It was one of the spots Scattergood had dreamed of.
Scattergood knew perfectly well he could not stop a log from passing his dam. Nor could he shut off the stream. Any dam he built must have a sluice which could be opened for the passage of timber, and all timber was entitled to "natural water." But, as he well knew, "natural water" was not always enough. A dam at this point would raise the level on the bars of the flat so that logs would not jam, and a log which used the high water caused by the dam must pay for it. What Scattergood had in mind was a dam and boom company. It was his project to improve the river, to boom backwaters, to dynamite ledges, to make the river passable to logs in spring and fall. It was his idea that such a company, in addition to demanding pay for the use of "improvements," could contract with lumbermen up the river to drive their logs.... And a mill at this point! Scattergood fairly licked his lips as he thought of the millions upon millions of feet of spruce to be sawed into lumber.
The firm foundation that Scattergood's strategy rested upon was that lumbering had not really started in the valley. The valley had not opened up, but lay undeveloped, waiting to be stirred to life. Scattergood's strength lay in that he could see ahead of to-day, and was patient to wait for the developments that to-morrow must bring. To-day his foresight could get for him what would be impossible to-morrow. If he stepped softly he could obtain a charter from the state to develop that river, which, when lumbering interests became actually engaged, would be fought by them to the last penny.... And he felt in his bones that day would not long be delayed.
The land Scattergood required was owned by three individuals. All of it was worthless—except to a man of vision—so, treading lightly, Scattergood went about acquiring what he needed. His method was not direct approach. He went to the owners of that land with proffers to sell, not to buy. To Landers, who owned the marsh on both shores of the river, he tried to sell the newest development in mowing machines, and his manner of doing so was to hitch to the newly arrived machine, haul it to Landers's meadow—where the owner was haying—drag it through the gate, and unhitch.
"Here," he said, "try this here machine. Won't cost you nothin' to try it, and I'm curious to see if it works as good as they say."
Landers was willing. It worked better. Landers regarded the machine longingly, and spoke of price. Scattergood disclosed it.
"Hain't got it and can't afford it," said Landers.
"Might afford a swap?"
"Might. What you got in mind?"
"Say," said Scattergood, changing the subject, "ever try drainin' that marsh in the fork? Looks like it could be done. Might make a good medder."
Landers laughed. "If you want to try," he chuckled, "I'll trade it to you for this here mowin' machine."
"Hum!..." grunted Scattergood, and higgled and argued, but ended by accepting a deed for the land and turning over the machine to Landers. Scattergood himself had sixty days to pay for it. It cost him something like half a dollar an acre, and Landers considered he had robbed the hardware merchant of a machine.
One side of the bottle neck Scattergood took in exchange for a kitchen stove and a double harness; the third parcel of land came to him for a keg of nails, five gallons of paint, sundry kitchen utensils, and twelve dollars and fifty cents in money.... And when Coldriver heard of the deals it chuckled derisively and regarded its hardware merchant with pitying scorn.
Then Scattergood left a youth in charge of his store and went softly to the state capital. In after years his skill in handling legislatures was often remarked upon with displeasure. His young manhood held prophecy of this future ability, for he came home acquainted with nine tenths of the legislators, laughed at by half of them as a harmless oddity, and with a state charter for his river company in his pocket.... When folks heard of that charter they held their sides and roared.
Scattergood returned to selling hardware, and waited. He had an idea he would hear something stirring on his trail before long, and he fancied he could guess who and what that something would be. He judged he would hear from two gentlemen named Crane and Keith. Crane owned some twenty thousand acres of timber along the North Branch; Keith owned slightly lesser limits along the South Branch. Both gentlemen were lumbering and operating mills in another state; their Coldriver holdings they had acquired, and, as the saying is, forgotten, until the time should come when they would desire to move into Coldriver Valley.
Now these holdings were recalled sharply to memory, and both of them took train to Coldriver.
Scattergood had not worried about it. He had simply gone along selling hardware in his own way—and selling a good deal of it. His store had a new front, his stock was augmented. It was his business to sell goods, and he sold them.
For instance, Lem Jones stopped and hitched his team before the store, one chilly day. His horses he covered with old burlap, lacking blankets. While Lem was buying groceries, Scattergood selected two excellent blankets, carried them out, and put them on the horses. Then he went back into the store to attend to other matters. Presently Lem came in.
"Where'd them blankets come from?" he asked.
"Hosses looked a mite chilly," said Scattergood, without interest, "so I covered 'em."
"Bleeged," said Lem. Then, awkwardly, "I calc'late I need a pair of blankets, but I can't afford 'em this year. Wife's been sick—"
"Sure," said Scattergood, "I know. If you want them blankets take 'em along. Pay me when you kin.... Jest give me a sort of note for a memorandum. Glad to accommodate you."
So Scattergood marketed his blankets, taking in exchange a perfectly good, interest-bearing note. Also, he made a friend, for Lem could not be convinced but Scattergood had done him a notable favor.
Scattergood now had money in the bank. No longer did he have to stretch his credit for stock. He was established—and all in less than a year. Hardware, it seemed, had been a commodity much needed in that locality, yet no one had handled it in sufficient stock because of the twenty-four-mile haul. That had been too costly. It cost Scattergood just as much, but his customers paid for it.... The difference between him and the other merchants was that he sold goods while they allowed folks to buy.
So, wisely, he kept on building up in a small way, while waiting for bigger things to develop. And as he waited he studied the valley until he could recite every inch of it, and he studied the future until he knew what the future would require of that valley. He knew it before the future knew it and before the valley knew it, and was laying his plans to be ready with pails to catch the sap when others, taken by surprise, would be running wildly about seeking for buckets.
Then Crane and Keith arrived in Coldriver.... That day marked Scattergood's emergence from the ranks of country merchants, though he retained his hardware store to the last. That day marked distinctly Scattergood's launching on a greater body of water. For forty years he sailed it with varying success, meeting failures sometimes, scoring victories; but interesting, characteristic in every phase—a genius in his way and a man who never took the commonplace course when the unusual was open to him.
"I suppose you've looked this man Baines up," said Crane to Keith when they met in the Coldriver tavern.
"I know how much he weighs and how many teeth he's had filled," Keith replied.
"He ought not to be so difficult to handle. He hasn't capital enough to put this company of his through and his business experience don't amount to much."
"For monkeying with our buzz saw," said Keith, "we ought to let him lose a couple of fingers."
"How's this for an idea, then?" Crane said, and for fifteen minutes he outlined his theory of how best to eliminate Scattergood Baines from being an obstruction to the free flowage of their schemes for Coldriver Valley.
"It's got others by the hundred, in one form or another," agreed Keith. "This jayhawker'll welcome it with tears of joy."
Whereupon they went gladly on their way to Scattergood's store, not as enemies, but as business men who recognized his abilities and preferred to have him with them from the start, that they might profit by his canniness and energy, rather than to array themselves against him in an effort to take away from him what he had obtained.
Only by the exercise of notable will power could Crane keep his face straight as he shook hands with ungainly Scattergood and saw with his own eyes what a perfect bumpkin he had to deal with.
"I suppose you thought we fellows would be sore," he said, genially.
"Dunno's I thought about you at all," said Scattergood. "I was thinkin' mainly about me."
"Well, we're not. You caught us napping, of course. We should have grabbed off that dam location long ago—but we weren't expecting anybody to stray in with his eyes open—like yourself.... Of course your property and charter aren't worth a great deal till we start lumbering."
"Not to anybody but me," said Scattergood.
"Well, we expect to begin operations in a year or so. We'll build a mill on the railroad, and drive our logs down the river."
"Givin' my company the drivin' contracts?"
"Looks like we'd have to—if you get in your dam and improvements. But that'll take money. We've looked you up, of course, and we know you haven't it—nor any backing.... That's why we've come to see you."
"To be sure," said Scattergood. "Goin' to drive 'way to the railroad, eh? How if there was a mill right at my dam? Shorten your drive twenty mile, wouldn't it, eh?"
"Yes," said Keith, laughing at Scattergood's ignorance; "but how about transportation from your mill to the railroad? We can't drive cut lumber."
"Course not," said Scattergood, "but this valley's goin' to open up. It's startin'. There's only one way to open a valley, and that's to run a railroad up it.... Narrow-gauge 'u'd do here. Carry mostly lumber, but passengers, too."
"Thinking of building one?" asked Crane, almost laughing in Scattergood's face.
"Thinkin' don't cost nobody anythin'," said Scattergood. "Ever take a look at that charter of mine?"
"I'll let you read it over a bit. Maybe you'll git a idea from it."
He extracted the parchment from his safe, and spread it before them. "Kind of look careful along toward the end—in the tail feathers of it, so to speak," he advised.
They did so, and Crane looked up at the fat hardware man with eyes that were not quite so contemptuous. "By George!" he said, "this thing's a charter for a railroad down the valley, too."
"Uh-huh!" said Scattergood. "Dunno's the boys quite see what it was all about, but they calculated to please me, so they put it through jest as it stood. Mighty nice fellers up to the legislature."
"Pretty far in the future," said Keith, "and mighty expensive."
"Maybe not so far," said Scattergood, "and I could make a darn good start narrow-gaugin' it with a hunderd thousand."
"Which you've got handy for use," said Crane.
"There is that much money," said Scattergood, "and if there is, why, it kin be got."
"Let's get back to the river, now," said Keith. "If we're going to start lumbering in a year, say, we've got to have the river in shape. Take quite some time to get it cleared and dammed and boomed."
"Six months," said Scattergood.
"Cost a right smart pile."
"The work I'm figgerin' on would come to about thirty-odd thousand."
"Which you haven't got."
"Somebody has," said Scattergood.
"We have," said Crane. "That's why we came to you—and with a proposition. You've grabbed this thing off, but you can't hog it, because you haven't the money to put it through. Our offer is this: You put in your locations and your charter against our money. We'll finance it. Your enterprise entitles you to control. We won't dispute that. You can have fifty-one per cent of the stock for what you've contributed. We take the rest for financing. We're known, and can get money."
"How you figger to work it?"
"We'll bond for forty thousand dollars. Keith and I can place the bonds. That'll give us money to go ahead."
Scattergood reached down and took off a huge shoe. Usually he thought more accurately when his feet were unconfined. "That means we'd sort of mortgage the whole thing, eh?"
"That's the idea."
"And if we didn't pay interest on the bonds, why, the fellers that had 'em could foreclose?"
"But we needn't worry about that."
"Not," said Scattergood, "if you fellers sign a contract with the dam and boom company to give them the exclusive job of drivin' all your timber at, say, sixty cents a thousand feet of logs. And if you'd stick a clause in that contract that you'd begin cuttin' within twelve months from date."
"Sure we'd do that," said Keith. "To our advantage as much as to yours."
"To be sure," said Scattergood.
"It's a deal, then?"
"Far's I'm concerned," said Scattergood, slipping his foot inside his shoe, "it is."
That afternoon, the papers having been signed and the deal consummated, Scattergood sat cogitating.
"I've been done," he said to himself, solemnly, "accordin' to them fellers' notion. They come and seen me, and done me. They planned out how they'd do it, and I didn't never suspect a thing. Uh-huh! Seems like I was unfortunate, just gettin' a start in life like I be.... Bonds, says they. Uh-huh! They'll place 'em, and place 'em handy. First int'rest day there won't be no int'rest, and them bonds'll be foreclosed—and where'll I be? Mighty ingenious fellers, Crane and Keith.... And I up and walked right into it like a fly into a molasses barrel. Them fellers," he said, even more somberly, "come here calc'latin' to cheat me out of my river.... Me bein' jest a fat man without no brains...."
Crane and Keith had left Scattergood the executive head of the new dam and boom company, and had confided to him the task of building the dam and improving the river. He approached it sadly.
"Might as well save what I kin out of the wreck," he said to himself, and quietly manufactured a dummy contracting company to whom he let the entire job for a lump sum of thirty-eight thousand seven hundred dollars. The dummy contractor was Scattergood Baines.
The dam was completed, booms and cribbing placed, ledges blasted out well within the six months' period set for those operations. Every thirty days Scattergood, in the name of the dummy contractor, was paid eighty per cent of his estimates, and at the completion of the work he received the remainder of the whole sum.
"I wouldn't 'a' done it to them boys," he said, as he surveyed a deposit of upward of seven thousand dollars, his profit on the transaction, "if it hadn't 'a' been they organized to cheat me out of my river. I calc'late in the circumstances, though, I'm most entitled to what I kin salvage out of the wreck."
Now the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company, Scattergood Baines president and manager, was ready for business, which was to take the logs of Messrs. Crane and Keith and drive them down the river at the rate of sixty cents per thousand feet. It was ready and eager, and so expressed itself in quaintly worded communications from Baines to those gentlemen. But no logs appeared to be driven.
"Jest like I said," Scattergood told himself, and, the day being hot and the road dusty, he removed his shoes and rested his sweltering bulk in the shade to consider it.
"It's a nice river," he said, audibly. "I hate to git done out of it."
After long delays Crane and Keith made pretense of building camps and starting to log. But one difficulty after another descended on their operations. In the spring, when each of them should have had several millions of feet of spruce ready to roll into the water, not a log was on rollways. Not a man was in the camps, for, owing to reasons not to be comprehended by the public, the woodsmen of both operators had struck simultaneously and left the woods.
Presently the first interest day arrived, with not even a hope of being able to meet the required payment at a future date. Bondholders—dummies, just as Scattergood's contractor was a dummy—met. Their deliberations were brief. Foreclose with all promptitude was their word, and foreclose they did. With the result that legal notices were published to the effect that on the sixteenth day of June the dam, booms, cribbing, improvements, charter, contracts, and property of whatsoever nature belonging to the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company were to be sold at public auction on the steps of the county courthouse. Scattergood had lost his river....
"Terms of the sale are cash with the bid," said Crane to Keith. "I saw to that."
"Good. Wasn't necessary, I guess. There hasn't been even a wriggle out of Baines."
"Won't be. We'll have to send somebody up to bid it in. It's just taking money out of one pocket to put it into the other, but we've got to go through the motions."
"Anyhow, let's get credit for grabbing a bargain," said Keith. "Bid her in cheap. No use taking a big wad of money out of circulation even for a few days."
"Ten thousand'll be enough. Say ten thousand six hundred, just to make it sound better. Have to have two bidders there."
"Sure," agreed Keith. "I guess this'll teach our fat dreamer of dreams not to get in the way of the cars."
Scattergood's stock had gone down in Coldriver. True, his hardware store was thriving. In the two years his stock had increased from what his seven hundred and fifty dollars, with credit added, would buy, to an inventory of better than five thousand dollars, free of debt. It is true also that with the last winter coming on he had looked about for a chance to keep his small surplus at work for him, and his eyes had fallen upon the item of firewood. In Coldriver were a matter of sixty houses and a hotel, all of which derived their heat from hardwood chunks, and cooked their meals on range fires with sixteen-inch split wood. The houses were mostly of that large, comfortable, country variety which could not be kept warm with one fire. Scattergood figured they would burn on an average of fifteen cords of wood.
Now stove wood, to be really useful, must have seasoned a year. It is not pleasant to build fires with green wood. Appreciating this, Scattergood ambled about the countryside and bought up every available stick of wood at prices of the day—and under, for he was a good buyer. He secured a matter of a thousand cords—and then waited hopefully.
It was a small transaction, promising no great profits, but Scattergood Baines was never, even when a rich man, one to scorn a small deal.... Within sixty days he turned over his corner in wood, realizing a profit of something over four hundred dollars.... This is merely to illustrate how Scattergood's capital grew.
On June 16th Scattergood drove to the county seat. He now owned a horse, and a buggy whose seat he more than comfortably filled. In the county seat Scattergood was not unknown, for various county officers had been helped to their place by his growing influence in his town—notably the sheriff.
There was little interest in the sale, and what interest there was Scattergood caused by his unexpected appearance. Nobody had imagined he would be present. Now that he was there, nobody could imagine why. He did not enlighten them, though he was delighted to sit in the sun on the courthouse steps, waiting for the hour of the sale, and to chat. He loved to chat, especially if he could get off his shoes and wriggle his toes in the sunshine. And so he sat, bare of foot, when the sheriff appeared and made his announcement of the approaching sale. Scattergood chatted on, apparently not interested.
"All the dams, booms, cribbings, improvements, and property of the Coldriver Dam and Boom Company ..." the sheriff read.
"Including contracts and charter," amended Scattergood.
"Including contracts and charter," agreed the sheriff, and Scattergood continued his chat.
Bidding began. It was not brisk or exciting. Five thousand was the first offer, from a young man appertaining to Crane. Keith's young man raised him five hundred. Back and forth they tossed it, carrying on the pretense, until Keith's young man reached the sum of ten thousand six hundred dollars.... A silence followed.
"Ten thousand six hundred I'm offered," said the sheriff, loudly, and repeated it. He had been a licensed auctioneer in his day. "Do I hear seven hundred? Seven hundred ... Six fifty ..." A portentous pause. "Going at ten thousand six hundred, once. Going at ten thousand six hundred, twice ..."
Crane's young man looked at Keith's young man in a panic. They had only the sum they had bid upon them.... Cash with bid were the terms of sale. Scattergood, out of the corner of his eye, saw them rush together and confer frenziedly. His eye glinted.
"Ten thousand eight hundred," Crane's youth bid, desperately.
"Cash with bid is terms of sale," said Scattergood. "I object to listenin' to that bid without the young man perduces." He smiled at the sheriff.
"Mr. Baines is right," said the sheriff. "Protect your bid with the cash or I cannot receive it."
"Make him protect his bid!" shouted Crane's young man.
"Certain," said Scattergood, approaching the sheriff and drawing a huge roll of bills from his sagging trousers pocket. "Calc'late you'll find her there, Mr. Sheriff, and some besides. Make your change and gimme back the rest."
"I'm waitin' on you, young feller," said the sheriff, eying the young men.... "Ten thousand seven hundred I hear. Going at ten thousand seven hundred—once.... Twice.... Three times!... Sold to Mr. Baines for ten thousand seven hundred dollars...."
So ends the first epoch of Scattergood Baines's career in Coldriver Valley. Here he emerges as a personage. From this point his fame began to spread, and legend grew. Had he not, in two brief years, after arriving with less than fifty dollars as a total capital, acquired a profitable hardware store—donated in the beginning by competitors? Had he not now, for the most part with money wrenched from Crane and Keith by his dummy contracting, been enabled to bid in for ten thousand seven hundred dollars a new property worth nearly four times that much? He was a man into whose band wagon all were eager to clamber.
But Scattergood did not change. He went back to his hardware store and waited—waited for Crane and Keith to start their inevitable logging operations. For in his safe reposed ironclad contracts with those gentlemen, covering the future for a decade, compelling them to pay him sixty cents for every thousand feet of timber that floated down his river. It was a good two years' work. He could well afford to wait....
Scattergood sat on the porch of his store, in the sunniest spot, twiddling his bare toes.
"The way to make money," he said to the mountain opposite, "is to let smarter folks 'n you be make it for you ... like I done."
Reprinted permission the estate of Clarence Budington Kelland.
Don't Miss "Scattegood Says" #1, reprint of the 1930s-40s column Kelland wrote for, and at the request of, The American Magazine. (click here)
Reprinted permission the estate of Clarence Budington Kelland.
Don't Miss "Scattegood Says" #1, reprint of the 1930s-40s column Kelland wrote for, and at the request of, The American Magazine. (click here)
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