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The Plunderer   By: (1883-1921)

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First Page:

THE PLUNDERER

BY

HENRY OYEN

AUTHOR OF

BIG FLAT, GASTON OLAF, THE SNOW BURNER, ETC.

NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT, 1920,

BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

THE PLUNDERER

I

Roger Payne had come to a decision. He waited until the office door had closed behind the departing stenographer, then swung his long legs recklessly upon his flat top desk and shouted across the room at his partner:

"Jim Tibbetts!"

Tibbetts frowned. He was footing a column of cost figures and the blast from his young partner nearly made him lose count.

Payne grinned. He liked his partner. Had he not done so he would never have allowed himself to be dragged into business Tibbetts & Payne, Manufacturers' Agents. Two years of it. Two years from the day on a Western irrigation dam when Payne had installed the cement machine that Tibbetts was selling. Two years to Payne of prison. And now his moment of decision had arrived.

Roger Payne was out of place. He did not fit the furniture. There was a look of permanence to the dark tan upon his face which labeled it not the surface sunburn which may be collected during a two weeks' vacation or gradually acquired by spending Saturday afternoon and Sunday on the golf links. It was a tan that suggested leather, and which comes as much from frostbite as sunburn, and from the whip of frozen snowflakes as the heated winds of summer.

Beneath the tan the face was too lean and hard to be in sympathy with the high polish of flat top desks.

His body also was lean and hard. Even the proper cut of a carefully tailored business suit could not conceal a certain bunchiness about the shoulders which had nothing at all in common with office efficiency. The shoulders were outrageously broad, the barrel of his chest was scandalously deep, the hands distressingly large and brown, considered in intimate association with filing systems and adding machines. And the keen blue eyes, sometimes gazing with a far away, unbusiness like look out into the grimy, roaring caƱon called Wabash Avenue, sometimes twinkling with unbusinesslike mischief, inevitably completed the exposure of Roger Payne.

He did not belong there, and he knew it. Hence it was that he suddenly jerked his long legs from the desk, sat up and said swiftly:

"Jim Tibbetts, I want you to buy me out!"

Tibbetts blinked. He was bald, plump, spectacled and kindly.

"Eh? What say? Dang it, Rog, you made me lose count!"

He began all over to foot the column of cost figures. He footed from bottom to top, checked the result by footing from top to bottom, erased his light penciled figures and rewrote them in ink, laid the sheet to one side and folded his hands in resignation.

"I knew it was coming, Rog. I've seen the signs for weeks past. You've been ramping round like a man in prison. Dang it, Rog, I'm sorry."

"Jim," said Roger, "this is no business for me to be in."

"It's a good business, Roger," protested Tibbetts mildly. "There's nothing wrong with it. We've been running only two years. Look what we've done. Look at our prospects. We're pretty well off already. We'll be rich pretty soon. Why? Because Roger Payne comes pretty near being a genius with machinery and Jim Tibbetts can beat most fellows selling. It's too good to spoil, Roger."

"Two years," repeated Payne slowly. "Jim, it seems like a lifetime to me, and it doesn't seem real. The other did bridgebuilding, irrigation, timber cruising. That was living."

"That was bumming, and you know it!" protested Tibbetts. "That was kid stuff; it was your way of sowing your wild oats. How much money did you have when it was over? How much have you got now, after only two years of business? It was time wasting, that's what it was, and you know it."

"It was outdoors," said Payne.

They were silent for a while.

"Roger," said Tibbetts sorrowfully, "are you beginning to turn dreamer?"

"No," said Payne emphatically, "I'm waking up... Continue reading book >>




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