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HOME > Classical Novels > For the Allinson Honor > CHAPTER XI THE REAL BOSS
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 "How have you been getting on in the bush?" Frobisher asked his guest when they sat talking in his smoking-room. "You look worried."  
"There's a reason for it—the mine's no good." Andrew looked Frobisher steadily1 in the face. "I dare say you knew that some time ago."
"I had my suspicions. I wasn't singular in that."
"So it seems. I must ask you to believe that it was only during the last few days that I found out the truth."
Frobisher smiled.
"After that, I'd better say that I exonerated2 you—I think it's the right word—as soon as we'd had our first talk. I saw that you were being made a tool of."
"You were right," said Andrew. "It isn't a pleasant situation. I don't mind its not being flattering; that's the least trouble."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"The square thing, so far as I'm able. Allinson's, so to speak, guaranteed the undertaking3."
There was some extra color in Andrew's face and pride in his voice, though he spoke4 quietly, and Frobisher sat silent a moment or two.
"Have you made any plans yet?" the American then asked.
Andrew told him that he proposed to take Carnally[Pg 111] and Graham north to search for the silver lode5; and Frobisher looked grave.
"There's a point to be remembered," he cautioned. "Minerals in Canada belong to the State, which makes a grant of them to the discoverer on certain terms. The lode will therefore become the property of whoever first locates and records it, which will be open to any member of your party."
"I've thought of that. The expedition will be financed by me, and I'll have an understanding with Graham and Carnally as to their share before we start."
"Three claims could be staked, and your companions could make them over to you when the development work was done. If properly patented, you would be the legal owner."
"I intend to become the owner."
Frobisher looked as if the statement surprised him.
"Then you'd better cut your connection with Rain Bluff6 before you set off," he advised. "It might prevent some complications. The directors might contend that you were not entitled to undertake private mining operations while you represented the Company and drew its pay."
"I don't think you understand. I mean to hold the claims in my own name, so as to strengthen my position, which will need it. I expect to have serious trouble over the Company's affairs."
Frobisher laughed softly.
"You're no fool! You feel that you undertook to look after the shareholders7' interests when you came over, and you have to make good?"
"Yes," Andrew assented8; "I feel something of the kind."
[Pg 112]"Then we'll assume that you find the lode and that it's as rich as Graham believes—which is taking a good deal for granted. Your shareholders, learning that Rain Bluff is worthless, would probably jump at a proposition that would give them back their money, or even part of it. You could buy them out and afterward9 repay yourself handsomely by developing the new mine."
Andrew's face hardened.
"When these people gave us their money, they did so expecting to get any profit that could be made. It's their due and, so far, Allinson's has never broken faith with those who trusted it."
Frobisher was not surprised at the answer. There was, he had seen, a clean pride in the man, whom he felt disposed to pity. Allinson had obviously little knowledge of business, and would have to meet the determined10 opposition11 of the clever tricksters who had floated the Company. He was entering on a hard fight with unaccustomed weapons. Nevertheless, Frobisher would not venture to predict his defeat. Courage such as Allinson showed often carried one a long way, and he had the right upon his side. Frobisher's business experience had not made him an optimist12, but he was prepared to watch this altruistic13 champion's struggles with friendly interest and to assist him as far as he could.
"You have undertaken a pretty big thing," he said. "To begin with, it's a lonely country that you're going into, and though having the lakes and rivers frozen may simplify traveling, you'll find it tough work living in the open with the thermometer at forty below. Winter's a bad time for prospecting14; but as timber's plentiful15, you may be able to thaw16 out enough of the[Pg 113] surface to test the lode, and something might be done with giant-powder. Provisions will be your chief difficulty. You will need a number of packers."
"If possible, I must make the trip with no companions except Carnally and Graham. Everybody at the Landing has heard about the lode, and if we took up a strong party and failed to locate it, we'd have shown them roughly where it lay. That would give the packers a chance for forestalling17 our next attempt. Their right to record the minerals would be as good as ours."
Frobisher was somewhat surprised. Allinson had thought out the matter in a way that would have done credit to a more experienced man.
"Suppose we go down now," he suggested after a while. "I'll get Geraldine to sing for us."
Andrew agreed, and was glad he had done so when Miss Frobisher opened the piano. He was not a musician, but there was a sweetness in her voice that greatly pleased him. He sat listening with quiet enjoyment18 to her first song, watching her with appreciation19. The light from a shaded lamp forced up the strong warm coloring of her hair and fell on her face, which was outlined in delicate profile against a background of ebony. Her figure lay half in shadow, but the thin evening-dress shimmered20 in places, flowing about her in graceful21 lines.
He grew more intent when she sang again. It was a ballad22 of toil23 and endeavor, and the girl had caught its feeling. Andrew wondered whether she had chosen it by accident, for the words chimed with his mood, and he was stirred and carried away as he listened. Obscure feelings deep in his nature throbbed24 in quick response. After wasted years of lounging,[Pg 114] he had plunged25 into the struggle of life and become a citizen of the strenuous26 world. Ingenuous27 as he was, some of his lost youthful fervor28 awoke again; he would never sink back into his former state of slothful ease; bruised29, beaten perhaps, he must go on. The duty to which he had long been blind now burned like a beacon30 through the mists ahead. Yet it was no evanescent, romantic sentiment. Andrew was a solid and matter-of-fact person.
When Geraldine closed the piano he rose and looked at her with a gleam in his eyes.
"Thank you; I mean it sincerely," he said. "It's a very fine song."
"It's stirring," she replied. "I dare say it's true—one would like to think so."
There was some color in her face, and his heart throbbed at the knowledge that she had meant the song for him.
Then Frobisher broke in humorously:
"That kind of thing appeals more to young folk. When one gets to my age, one would rather be soothed31. We've had enough of the rough-and-tumble scuffle; it's time to retire from the ring and sit comfortably in a front seat, looking on."
"It would soon get tiresome," declared Geraldine. "You would want to take a side and instruct the combatants," she added with an affectionate smile. "The temptation would be irresistible32 if somebody whom you thought didn't deserve it were getting badly hurt."
"I don't know. Interfering33 is a dangerous habit, and people aren't always grateful." Frobisher's glance rested for a moment on his guest. "However, I might still step into the ring if the provocation34 were very strong."
[Pg 115]Then they engaged in casual talk until it got late, and when Geraldine and her father wished him goodnight Andrew said diffidently:
"I'm grateful to you for keeping me here. I'll go back feeling brighter than when I came."
He left them and Frobisher looked after him with a humorous expression.
"That young man has chosen a hard row to hoe, though I don't think he quite sees all he's up against. It's safer to take a bone from a hungry dog than to do a business man out of the pickings he thinks he's entitled to, especially if he's engaged in floating companies."
"But that is part of your business."
"Sure!" said Frobisher. "It's wiser to speak of the things you know. I've picked up one or two good bones."
"But you had a right to them," Geraldine declared confidently.
Frobisher's eyes twinkled.
"I believe there was a difference of opinion on the point, but I'd got my teeth in first. However, I'll admit that unless Allinson was convinced the bone belonged to him he'd let it go. That's the kind of man he is, and he's not likely to grow more prudent35 if you let him see that you agree with him."
"Do you think I've done so?" Geraldine asked.
"I don't know," Frobisher smiled. "It seems possible; but I've no doubt your intentions were excellent. You're a bit of an idealist. However, the fellow will do you credit. He has sense and grit36, though he's what one might perhaps call superfluously37 honest."
"How could his virtues38 reflect any credit on me?"[Pg 116] Geraldine retorted. "Besides, your cynicism is assumed. I don't believe you ever took a dollar you were not entitled to. Why do you always make a joke of things?"
"It's true that my ventures have generally paid a dividend39, but I've a suspicion that it was a lucky accident that one or two of them did so. When I was young, I was as serious as Mr. Allinson, but people sometimes grow more humorous as they get older. They don't expect so much and they learn to make allowances."
"That's a mistake," said Geraldine. "I should never be content with the
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