The Challenge of the North

The Challenge of the North

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The Challenge of the North

I

Oskar Hedin, head of the fur department of old John McNabb's big store, looked up from his scrutiny of the Russian sable coat spread upon a table before him, and encountered the twinkling eyes of old John himself.

"It's a shame to keep this coat here—and that natural black fox piece, too. Who is there in Terrace City that's got thirty thousand dollars to spend for a fur coat, or twenty thousand for a fox fur?"

Old John grinned. "Mrs. Orcutt bought one, didn't she?"

"Yes, but she bought it down in New York——"

"An' paid thirty-five thousand for a coat that runs half a dozen shades lighter, an' is topped an' pointed to bring it up to the best it's got. Did I ever tell ye the story of Mrs. Orcutt's coat?"

"No."

"It goes back quite a ways—the left-handed love me an' Fred Orcutt has for one another. We speak neighborly on the street, an' for years we've played on opposite sides of a ball-a-hole foursome at the Country Club, but either of us would sooner lose a hundred dollars than pay the other a golf ball.

"It come about in a business way, an' in a business way it's kept on.Not a dollar of McNabb money passes through the hands of Orcutt'sWolverine Bank—an' he could have had it all, an' he knows it.

"As ye know, I started out, a lad, with the Hudson's Bay Company, an' I'd got to be a factor when an old uncle of my mother's in Scotlan' died an' left me a matter of twenty thousand pounds sterling. When I got the money I quit the Company an' drifted around a bit until finally I bought up a big tract of Michigan pine. There wasn't any Terrace City then. I located a sawmill here at the mouth of the river an' it was known as McNabb's Landin'.

"D'ye see those docks? I built 'em, an' I've seen the time when they was two steamers warped along each side of 'em, an' one acrost the end, an' a half a dozen more anchored in the harbor waitin' to haul McNabb's lumber. The van stood on this spot in the sawmill days, an' when it got too small I built a wooden store. Folks began driftin' in. They changed the name from McNabb's Landin' to Terrace City, an' I turned a many a good dollar for buildin' sites.

"The second summer brought Fred Orcutt, an' I practically give him the best lot of the whole outfit to build his bank on. The town outgrew the wooden store an' I built this one, addin' the annex later, an' I ripped out the old dam an' put in a concrete dam an' a power plant that furnished light an' power for all Terrace City. Money was comin' in fast an' I invested it here an' there—Michigan, an' Minnesota, an' Winconsin pine, an' the Lord knows what not. Then come the panic, an' I found out almost over night that I was land poor. I needed cash, or credit at the bank, or I had to take a big loss. I went to see Fred Orcutt—I banked with him, those days, an' he knew the fix I was in. Yes, the bank would be glad to accommodate me all right; if you could of been there an' heard Fred Orcutt lay down his terms you'd know just how damn glad they'd of been to accommodate me....