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- The Little Lady of the Big House - 10/60 -
anybody here. I came home because it was time, because of my sense of duty to myself. I'm all the better from my three years of wandering about, and now it's up to me to go on with my education--my book education, I mean."
"The Belmont Academy," Mr. Slocum suggested. "That will fit you for the university--"
Dick shook his head decidedly.
"And take three years to do it. So would a high school. I intend to be in the University of California inside one year. That means work. But my mind's like acid. It'll bite into the books. I shall hire a coach, or half a dozen of them, and go to it. And I'll hire my coaches myself--hire and fire them. And that means money to handle."
"A hundred a month," Mr. Crockett suggested.
Dick shook his head.
"I've taken care of myself for three years without any of my money. I guess. I can take care of myself along with some of my money here in San Francisco. I don't care to handle my business affairs yet, but I do want a bank account, a respectable-sized one. I want to spend it as I see fit, for what I see fit."
The guardians looked their dismay at one another.
"It's ridiculous, impossible," Mr. Crockett began. "You are as unreasonable as you were before you went away."
"It's my way, I guess," Dick sighed. "The other disagreement was over my money. It was a hundred dollars I wanted then."
"Think of our position, Dick," Mr. Davidson urged. "As your guardians, how would it be looked upon if we gave you, a lad of sixteen, a free hand with money."
"What's the _Freda_ worth, right now?" Dick demanded irrelevantly.
"Can sell for twenty thousand any time," Mr. Crockett answered.
"Then sell her. She's too large for me, and she's worth less every year. I want a thirty-footer that I can handle myself for knocking around the Bay, and that won't cost a thousand. Sell the _Freda_ and put the money to my account. Now what you three are afraid of is that I'll misspend my money--taking to drinking, horse-racing, and running around with chorus girls. Here's my proposition to make you easy on that: let it be a drawing account for the four of us. The moment any of you decide I am misspending, that moment you can draw out the total balance. I may as well tell you, that just as a side line I'm going to get a business college expert to come here and cram me with the mechanical side of the business game."
Dick did not wait for their acquiescence, but went on as from a matter definitely settled.
"How about the horses down at Menlo?--never mind, I'll look them over and decide what to keep. Mrs. Summerstone will stay on here in charge of the house, because I've got too much work mapped out for myself already. I promise you you won't regret giving me a free hand with my directly personal affairs. And now, if you want to hear about the last three years, I'll spin the yarn for you."
Dick Forrest had been right when he told his guardians that his mind was acid and would bite into the books. Never was there such an education, and he directed it himself--but not without advice. He had learned the trick of hiring brains from his father and from John Chisum of the Jingle-bob. He had learned to sit silent and to think while cow men talked long about the campfire and the chuck wagon. And, by virtue of name and place, he sought and obtained interviews with professors and college presidents and practical men of affairs; and he listened to their talk through many hours, scarcely speaking, rarely asking a question, merely listening to the best they had to offer, content to receive from several such hours one idea, one fact, that would help him to decide what sort of an education he would go in for and how.
Then came the engaging of coaches. Never was there such an engaging and discharging, such a hiring and firing. He was not frugal in the matter. For one that he retained a month, or three months, he discharged a dozen on the first day, or the first week. And invariably he paid such dischargees a full month although their attempts to teach him might not have consumed an hour. He did such things fairly and grandly, because he could afford to be fair and grand.
He, who had eaten the leavings from firemen's pails in round-houses and "scoffed" mulligan-stews at water-tanks, had learned thoroughly the worth of money. He bought the best with the sure knowledge that it was the cheapest. A year of high school physics and a year of high school chemistry were necessary to enter the university. When he had crammed his algebra and geometry, he sought out the heads of the physics and chemistry departments in the University of California. Professor Carey laughed at him... at the first.
"My dear boy," Professor Carey began.
Dick waited patiently till he was through. Then Dick began, and concluded.
"I'm not a fool, Professor Carey. High school and academy students are children. They don't know the world. They don't know what they want, or why they want what is ladled out to them. I know the world. I know what I want and why I want it. They do physics for an hour, twice a week, for two terms, which, with two vacations, occupy one year. You are the top teacher on the Pacific Coast in physics. The college year is just ending. In the first week of your vacation, giving every minute of your time to me, I can get the year's physics. What is that week worth to you?"
"You couldn't buy it for a thousand dollars," Professor Carey rejoined, thinking he had settled the matter.
"I know what your salary is--" Dick began.
"What is it?" Professor Carey demanded sharply.
"It's not a thousand a week," Dick retorted as sharply. "It's not five hundred a week, nor two-fifty a week--" He held up his hand to stall off interruption. "You've just told me I couldn't buy a week of your time for a thousand dollars. I'm not going to. But I am going to buy that week for two thousand. Heavens!--I've only got so many years to live--"
"And you can buy years?" Professor Carey queried slyly.
"Sure. That's why I'm here. I buy three years in one, and the week from you is part of the deal."
"But I have not accepted," Professor Carey laughed.
"If the sum is not sufficient," Dick said stiffly, "why name the sum you consider fair."
And Professor Carey surrendered. So did Professor Barsdale, head of the department of chemistry.
Already had Dick taken his coaches in mathematics duck hunting for weeks in the sloughs of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. After his bout with physics and chemistry he took his two coaches in literature and history into the Curry County hunting region of southwestern Oregon. He had learned the trick from his father, and he worked, and played, lived in the open air, and did three conventional years of adolescent education in one year without straining himself. He fished, hunted, swam, exercised, and equipped himself for the university at the same time. And he made no mistake. He knew that he did it because his father's twenty millions had invested him with mastery. Money was a tool. He did not over-rate it, nor under-rate it. He used it to buy what he wanted.
"The weirdest form of dissipation I ever heard," said Mr. Crockett, holding up Dick's account for the year. "Sixteen thousand for education, all itemized, including railroad fares, porters' tips, and shot-gun cartridges for his teachers."
"He passed the examinations just the same," quoth Mr. Slocum.
"And in a year," growled Mr. Davidson. "My daughter's boy entered Belmont at the same time, and, if he's lucky, it will be two years yet before he enters the university."
"Well, all I've got to say," proclaimed Mr. Crockett, "is that from now on what that boy says in the matter of spending his money goes."
"And now I'll have a snap," Dick told his guardians. "Here I am, neck and neck again, and years ahead of them in knowledge of the world. Why, I know things, good and bad, big and little, about men and women and life that sometimes I almost doubt myself that they're true. But I know them.
"From now on, I'm not going to rush. I've caught up, and I'm going through regular. All I have to do is to keep the speed of the classes, and I'll be graduated when I'm twenty-one. From now on I'll need less money for education--no more coaches, you know--and more money for a good time."
Mr. Davidson was suspicious.
"What do you mean by a good time?"
"Oh, I'm going in for the frats, for football, hold my own, you know-- and I'm interested in gasoline engines. I'm going to build the first ocean-going gasoline yacht in the world--"
"You'll blow yourself up," Mr. Crockett demurred. "It's a fool notion all these cranks are rushing into over gasoline."
"I'll make myself safe," Dick answered, "and that means experimenting, and it means money, so keep me a good drawing account--same old way-- all four of us can draw."
Dick Forrest proved himself no prodigy at the university, save that he cut more lectures the first year than any other student. The reason
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