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- The World For Sale, Volume 1. - 6/16 -
get what he wanted without trickery; to reach his goal by playing the game according to the rules, and this policy nonplussed his rivals and associates. They expected secret moves, and he laid his cards on the table. Sharp, quick, resolute and ruthless he was, however, if he knew that he was being tricked. Then he struck, and struck hard. The war of business was war and not "gollyfoxing," as he said. Selfish, stubborn and self-centred he was in much, but he had great joy in the natural and sincere, and he had a passionate love of Nature. To him the flat prairie was never ugly. Its very monotony had its own individuality. The Sagalac, even when muddy, had its own deep interest, and when it was full of logs drifting down to the sawmills, for which he had found the money by interesting capitalists in the East, he sniffed the stinging smell of the pines with elation. As the great saws in the mills, for which he had secured the capital, throwing off the spray of mangled wood, hummed and buzzed and sang, his mouth twisted in the droll smile it always wore when he talked with such as Jowett and Osterhaut, whose idiosyncrasies were like a meal to him; as he described it once to some of the big men from the East who had been behind his schemes, yet who cavilled at his ways. He was never diverted from his course by such men, and while he was loyal to those who had backed him, he vowed that he would be independent of these wooden souls in the end. They and the great bankers behind them were for monopoly; he was for organization and for economic prudence. So far they were necessary to all he did; but it was his intention to shake himself free of all monopoly in good time. One or two of his colleagues saw the drift of his policy and would have thrown him over if they could have replaced him by a man as capable, who would, at the time, consent to grow rich on their terms.
They could not understand a man who would stand for a half-hour watching a sunset, or a morning sky dappled with all the colours that shake from a prism; they were suspicious of a business-mind which could gloat over the light falling on snow-peaked mountains, while it planned a great bridge across a gorge in the same hour; of a man who would quote a verse of poetry while a flock of wild pigeons went whirring down a pine-girt valley in the shimmer of the sun.
On the occasion when he had quoted a verse of poetry to them, one of them said to him with a sidelong glance: "You seem to be dead-struck on Nature, Ingolby."
To that, with a sly quirk of the mouth, and meaning to mystify his wooden-headed questioner still more, he answered: "Dead-struck? Dead- drunk, you mean. I'm a Nature's dipsomaniac--as you can see," he added with a sly note of irony.
Then instantly he had drawn the little circle of experts into a discussion upon technical questions of railway-building and finance, which made demands upon all their resources and knowledge. In that conference he gave especial attention to the snub-souled financier who had sneered at his love of Nature. He tied his critic up in knots of self-assertion and bad logic which presently he deftly, deliberately and skilfully untied, to the delight of all the group.
"He's got as much in his ten years in the business as we've got out of half a life-time," said the chief of his admirers. This was the President who had first welcomed him into business, and introduced him to his colleagues in enterprise.
"I shouldn't be surprised if the belt flew off the wheel some day," savagely said Ingolby's snub-souled critic, whose enmity was held in check by the fact that on Ingolby, for the moment, depended the safety of the hard cash he had invested.
But the qualities which alienated an expert here and there caught the imagination of the pioneer spirits of Lebanon. Except those who, for financial reasons, were opposed to him, and must therefore pit themselves against him, as the representatives of bigger forces behind them, he was a leader of whom Lebanon was combatively proud. At last he came to the point where his merger was practically accomplished, and a problem arising out of it had to be solved. It was a problem which taxed every quality of an able mind. The situation had at last become acute, and Time, the solvent of most complications, had not quite eased the strain. Indeed, on the day that Fleda Druse had made her journey down the Carillon Rapids, Time's influence had not availed. So he had gone fishing, with millions at stake--to the despair of those who were risking all on his skill and judgment.
But that was Ingolby. Thinking was the essence of his business, not Time. As fishing was the friend of thinking, therefore he fished in Seely's Eddy, saw Fleda Druse run the Carillon Rapids, saved her from drowning, and would have brought her in pride and peace to her own home, but that she decreed otherwise.
THE COMING OF JETHRO FAWE
Gabriel Druse's house stood on a little knoll on the outskirts of the town of Manitou, backed by a grove of pines. Its front windows faced the Sagalac, and the windows behind looked into cool coverts where in old days many Indian tribes had camped; where Hudson's Bay Company's men had pitched their tents to buy the red man's furs. But the red man no longer set up his tepee in these secluded groves; the wapiti and red deer had fled to the north never to return, the snarling wolf had stolen into regions more barren; the ceremonial of the ancient people no longer made weird the lonely nights; the medicine-man's incantations, the harvest- dance, the green-corn-dance, the sun-dance had gone. The braves, their women, and their tepees had been shifted to reservations where Governments solemnly tried to teach them to till the field, and grow corn, and drive the cart to market; while yet they remembered the herds of buffalo which had pounded down the prairie like storm-clouds and given their hides for the tepee; and the swift deer whose skins made the wigwam luxurious.
Originally Manitou had been the home of Icelanders, Mennonites, and Doukhobors; settlers from lands where the conditions of earlier centuries prevailed, who, simple as they were in habits and in life, were ignorant, primitive, coarse, and none too cleanly.
They had formed an unprogressive polyglot settlement, and the place assumed a still more primeval character when the Indian Reservation was formed near by. When French Canadian settlers arrived, however, the place became less discordant to the life of a new democracy, though they did little to make it modern in the sense that Lebanon, across the river, where Ingolby lived, was modern from the day the first shack was thrown up.
Manitou showed itself antagonistic to progress; it was old-fashioned, and primitively agricultural. It looked with suspicion on the factories built after Ingolby came and on the mining propositions, which circled the place with speculation. Unlike other towns of the West, it was insanitary and uneducated; it was also given to nepotism and a primitive kind of jobbery; but, on the whole, it was honest. It was a settlement twenty years before Lebanon had a house, though the latter exceeded the population of Manitou in five years, and became the home of all adventuring spirits--land agents, company promoters, mining prospectors, railway men, politicians, saloon keepers, and up to-date dissenting preachers. Manitou was, however, full of back-water people, religious fanatics, little farmers, guides, trappers, old coureurs-de-bois, Hudson's Bay Company factors and ex-factors, half-breeds; and all the rest.
The real feud between the two towns began about the time of the arrival of Gabriel Druse, his daughter, and Madame Bulteel, the woman in black, and it had grown with great rapidity and increasing intensity. Manitou condemned the sacrilegiousness of the Protestants, whose meeting-houses were used for "socials," "tea-meetings," "strawberry festivals," and entertainments of many kinds; while comic songs were sung at the table where the solemn Love Feast was held at the quarterly meetings. At last when attempts were made to elect to Parliament an Irish lawyer who added to his impecuniousness, eloquence, a half-finished University education, and an Orangeman's prejudices of the best brand of Belfast or Derry, inter-civic strife took the form of physical violence. The great bridge built by Ingolby between the two towns might have been ten thousand yards long, so deep was the estrangement between the two places. They had only one thing in common--a curious compromise--in the person of Nathan Rockwell, an agnostic doctor, who had arrived in Lebanon with a reputation for morality somewhat clouded; though, where his patients in Manitou and Lebanon were concerned, he had been the "pink of propriety."
Rockwell had arrived in Lebanon early in its career, and had remained unimportant until a railway accident occurred at Manitou and the resident doctors were driven from the field of battle, one by death, and one by illness. Then it was that the silent, smiling, dark-skinned, cool-headed and cool-handed Rockwell stepped in, and won for himself the gratitude of all--from Monseigneur Lourde, the beloved Catholic priest, to Tekewani, the chief. This accident was followed by an epidemic.
That was at the time, also, when Fleda Druse returned from Winnipeg where she had been at school for one memorable and terrible six months, pining for her father, defying rules, and crying the night through for "the open world," as she called it. So it was that, to her father's dismay and joy in one, she had fled from school, leaving all her things behind her; and had reached home with only the clothes on her back and a few cents in her pocket.
Instantly on her return she had gone among the stricken people as fearlessly as Rockwell had done, but chiefly among the women and children; and it was said that the herbal medicine she administered was marvellous in its effect--so much so that Rockwell asked for the prescription, which she declined to give.
Thus it was that the French Canadian mothers with daughters of their own, bright-eyed brunettes, ready for the man-market, regarded with toleration the girl who took their children away for picnics down the river or into the woods, and brought them back safe and sound at the end of the day. Not that they failed to be shocked sometimes, when, on her wild Indian pony, Fleda swept through Manitou like a wind and out into the prairie, riding, as it were, to the end of the world. Try as they would, these grateful mothers of Manitou, they could not get as near to Fleda Druse as their children did, and they were vast distances from her father.
"There, there, look at him," said old Madame Thibadeau to her neighbour Christine Brisson--"look at him with his great grey-beard, and his eyes like black fires, and that head of hair like a bundle of burnt flax! He comes from the place no man ever saw, that's sure."
"Ah, surelee, men don't grow so tall in any Christian country," announced Christine Brisson, her head nodding sagely. "I've seen the pictures in the books, and there's nobody so tall and that looks like him--not anywhere since Adam."
"Nom de pipe, sometimes-trulee, sometimes, I look up there at where he lives, and I think I see a thousand men on horses ride out of the woods behind his house and down here to gobble us all up. That's the way I feel. It's fancy, but I can't help that." Dame Thibadeau rested her hands--on her huge stomach as though the idea had its origin there.
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