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A Tempered Wind
by [?]

“I don’t either,” says Atterbury, wiping off his head; “but I’ll bet enough Gold Bonds to paper a cell in the Tombs that he’s a newspaper reporter.”

“What did he want?” asks Buck.

“Information,” says our president. “Said he was thinking of buying some stock. He asked me about nine hundred questions, and every one of ’em hit some sore place in the business. I know he’s on a paper. You can’t fool me. You see a man about half shabby, with an eye like a gimlet, smoking cut plug, with dandruff on his coat collar, and knowing more than J. P. Morgan and Shakespeare put together–if that ain’t a reporter I never saw one. I was afraid of this. I don’t mind detectives and post-office inspectors–I talk to ’em eight minutes and then sell ’em stock–but them reporters take the starch out of my collar. Boys, I recommend that we declare a dividend and fade away. The signs point that way.”

Me and Buck talked to Atterbury and got him to stop sweating and stand still. That fellow didn’t look like a reporter to us. Reporters always pull out a pencil and tablet on you, and tell you a story you’ve heard, and strikes you for the drinks. But Atterbury was shaky and nervous all day.

The next day me and Buck comes down from the hotel about ten-thirty. On the way we buys the papers, and the first thing we see is a column on the front page about our little imposition. It was a shame the way that reporter intimated that we were no blood relatives of the late George W. Childs. He tells all about the scheme as he sees it, in a rich, racy kind of a guying style that might amuse most anybody except a stockholder. Yes, Atterbury was right; it behooveth the gaily clad treasurer and the pearly pated president and the rugged vice-president of the Golconda Gold Bond and Investment Company to go away real sudden and quick that their days might be longer upon the land.

Me and Buck hurries down to the office. We finds on the stairs and in the hall a crowd of people trying to squeeze into our office, which is already jammed full inside to the railing. They’ve nearly all got Golconda stock and Gold Bonds in their hands. Me and Buck judged they’d been reading the papers, too.

We stopped and looked at our stockholders, some surprised. It wasn’t quite the kind of a gang we supposed had been investing. They all looked like poor people; there was plenty of old women and lots of young girls that you’d say worked in factories and mills. Some was old men that looked like war veterans, and some was crippled, and a good many was just kids–bootblacks and newsboys and messengers. Some was working-men in overalls, with their sleeves rolled up. Not one of the gang looked like a stockholder in anything unless it was a peanut stand. But they all had Golconda stock and looked as sick as you please.

I saw a queer kind of a pale look come on Buck’s face when he sized up the crowd. He stepped up to a sickly looking woman and says: “Madam, do you own any of this stock?”

“I put in a hundred dollars,” says the woman, faint like. “It was all I had saved in a year. One of my children is dying at home now and I haven’t a cent in the house. I came to see if I could draw out some. The circulars said you could draw it at any time. But they say now I will lose it all.”

There was a smart kind of kid in the gang–I guess he was a newsboy. “I got in twenty-fi’, mister,” he says, looking hopeful at Buck’s silk hat and clothes. “Dey paid me two-fifty a mont’ on it. Say, a man tells me dey can’t do dat and be on de square. Is dat straight? Do you guess I can get out my twenty-fi’?”