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قراءة كتاب The She Boss: A Western Story

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The She Boss: A Western Story

The She Boss: A Western Story

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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"I thought if I could get into some big man's office and work up, I might reach——"

The other man raised his hand protestingly and his face assumed a sick expression.

"Forget it! Forget it!" he cried. "Say, that's the biggest mistake a fella like you could make. Your feet are too big for an office. Say, take this from me: An office man is always an office man. He knows the figgers—nothing else. The fella out on the works is the lad that knows the fundamentals of the job. Take this railroad-construction business, for instance: When the contractor wants a new general superintendent he don't make him out of an office man. He goes out on the job and gets him. You get offices outa your head, and get out and learn something." He was thoughtful a minute, then finished with the question: "How long are you on cash?"

"I haven't got much," Hiram confessed—"sixty some dollars."

"M'm-m," the other said musingly. Then, after another thoughtful pause: "Say, I suppose you're a little shy about bracin' these employment men, ain't you?"

Hiram nodded.

"Then I'll tell you what I'll do: You go to work and dig up my fee, and I'll go down to southern California with you on the jerkline job. I been wantin' to get outa Frisco for a week, but couldn't raise the price. Anywhere'll suit me, where there's a chance o' makin' a little stake. That's what you wanta do—go to work and make a stake. Then look about for something you c'n float for yourself. There's nothin' in working for somebody else. Work for yourself if it's only running a peanut stand. Southern California'll do. What d'ye say?"

"D'ye mean you're broke?"

"Broke! I'm ruined!"

"How did you lose your money?" Hiram asked innocently.

"You're askin' for the story o' my life. What d'ye say, now? Le's go to work and get breakfast, then enter Morgan & Stroud's in our usual graceful manner and tell 'em we've decided to accept their kind offer and let 'em ship us south. You'll probably learn a few things on that trip."

"Are you a jerkline skinner?"

"I dunno. Maybe I am. I never tried. But if that's what you wanta hit—me, too. Say, what's your name?"

"Hiram Hooker."

"That's a peach, all right. They sure labeled you for the part. Mine ain't much better though. They call me Twitter-or-Tweet."

"What!"

"Proves I'm a bird, don't it? My name is Orr Tweet. Can you beat it? So they call me Twitter-or-Tweet, or just Twitter—or sometimes Playmate. I'm gregarious. I gotta have a partner all the time. I'll play with any o' the little boys so long as they're nice to me."

He handed Hiram a card. It read:

ORR TWEET
REPRESENTING THE CUCAMONGA
DEVELOPMENT COMPANY

Cerro Gordo, Mexico

THE HOMESEEKERS' PROMISED LAND
OF MILK AND HONEY


"That Cucamonga Development Company and the milk-and-honey business is passé," explained Mr. Tweet, "but I've got no other card. They pinched the owners, and I flew the coop before they could lay it onto me. Crooked deal."

"What was it?" Hiram asked vaguely.

"Banana plantation," Tweet replied lightly. "At least they called it that—I never saw it. I was just promotin' the deal. Well, what d'ye say?" he persisted. "I'm broke and I need a little cash. But I'm a money getter! You tide me over this little depression and I'll remember you. We may strike somethin' that'll look good anywhere between here and there. If so, we'll drop off and look into it."

Hiram did not know what to say. He had no experience in reading human nature, and Mr. Tweet would have appeared as an enigma to many more astute than Hiram.

"What do you want me to do?" he hedged.

"Hold me up, if your coin lasts, till I hit the ball—that's all. You'll never regret it." Tweet sat pulling his twisted nose from side to side, as if trying to straighten it.

"But I don't understand. You seem to be—that is, you call yourself a capitalist, and you're only—I mean it seems funny——"

"I get you. I talk like a millionaire and travel with tramps." Tweet sighed. "Well, my faculty for breedin' confidence in others is one o' the big secrets o' my success. Success, I say—get that? If this faculty won't work on you, then I lose this time. I'll say no more. Think it over."

He yawned, rose, and started for the door.

"Are—are you goin' down on the street?" Hiram asked timidly.

"Yes, I thought I'd stroll about a bit."

"I—I guess I'll go with you, if you don't mind."

"Sure not—come on."

Hiram rose quickly and followed him out. Even though he were to distrust this man, in the end, the thought of losing him now was appalling.

Down on the street he thought of breakfast and paused before the restaurant.

"Have you had breakfast, Mr. Tweet?" he asked.

Tweet stopped and looked at him soberly. "Are you invitin' me to dine?" he said quizzically.

"Well, kinda that way," admitted Hiram with a foolish grin. "I haven't eaten myself, and——"

"I haven't eaten myself either, nor anybody else since yesterday mornin'. I accept."

And promptly Mr. Tweet pushed ahead through the swinging doors.




CHAPTER V

A RIVAL

The restaurant was all but deserted at the late breakfast hour when Hiram Hooker and Mr. Tweet entered. Hiram timidly wished that the men's side were filled, so that he would be obliged to eat on the ladies' side again. A waiter was beckoning them to the men's side, however, and Hiram meekly led the way, though casting a quick, expectant glance down the long row of tables beyond the screen.

Waitresses were dallying about, but he did not see the girl with the cords of fluffy hair. He was halfway through breakfast before it occurred to him that, as she was at work at eleven the night before, he scarce could expect her at nine in the morning. He was glad she was not there to tantalize him, and at the same time deeply disappointed.

Hiram's new acquaintance changed perceptibly as the food began to warm him. Mildly loquacious before, he now became voluble.

"I wanta tell you this," he remarked finally, "you're in luck to strike me when I'm crippled for cash. A week from now, perhaps, you'd never met me at all. And if you had, there'd 'a' been nothin' to connect us. But right now I'm up against it and forced to sleep in a twenty-five-cent lodgin' house. Therefore we met and found out each of us had somethin' the other wanted. You're lucky, Hooker—that's all there is to it. You'd 'a' drifted about for years and never got the chance to hook up with Twitter-or-Tweet. And here you are, right from the backwoods, makin' yourself solid the first crack outa the box with the original money-getter. Stay by me till I get a toehold, and I'll make you."

Hiram was at a loss how to take him. He had not agreed to tide him over, had not even made up his mind that Tweet was not a rank faker; yet Tweet seemed to be taking it for granted that his case was won, and that they were to go from the breakfast table to Morgan & Stroud's to enter the road to competence.

As if answering his thoughts, Tweet said:

"I'm a mystery to you, ain't I? I don't use very good grammar, but I talk sense. I'm talkin' about makin' piles o' money, and I'm gettin' my breakfast off o' you, ain't I? If I really was the heavy hitter I'm advertisin' myself to be I wouldn't condescend to take you on, would I? That's what you been thinkin', ain't it?

"Take those hobos up in the lodgin' house, for instance. Curiosity's eatin' their hearts out in regard to me. They know I ain't a tramp, yet they see me float smoothly along among 'em and never strike a discord. I don't seem to mix with 'em, neither do I seem to keep aloof from 'em. I'm there and I ain't there—see? If they only knew it, I've tramped miles to their feet. Yet I never was a regular tramp.

"On the other

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