Mr. Thad Belton swung his shiny, lumbering roadster out of the yard and threaded his way through the morning traffic downtown. Visibility seemed to be poor, somehow, though there was nothing but an occasional puff of dust to obscure the unfailing sunshine of that Southwestern region. The cloud that hovered about everything with a pale cast of uncertainty lay deeper than mere superficial things. It brooded in the background eluding identity, threatening and unpleasantly foreboding. Mechanically Thad nodded out of his open window to an acquaintance here, or waved a hand to a friend there, hardly seeing any of them. Everybody seemed glad to wave at Thad Belton. He had, in two short years, become a noticeable example of shrewd, persistent aggressiveness and had ridden a small contracting business to success when, in a depressed world, many businesses had shrunk, wavered, and curled up and died. He presented, too, something of an appearance, even from within the car window, that invited recognition and the hail-fellow greetings that flashed to him and shop and sidewalk. His neat, trim figure, with the slightly greying hair close-cropped beneath the rim of his panama, and his clean-cut features and youngish gray attire rather gave the lie to his age which was somewhere in the fifties. Neat and trim-that was Thad Belton all over; and even the sober frown now on his face but enhanced the shrewd, trim make-up of the man.
At the red light in the Square he halted long enough to recognize Bill Denman, proprietor of Denman’s Motor Mart-Duplex Cars and Red Bullet Motorcycles, taking his constitutional on the way to his establishment. At the driver’s gesture Bill stepped from the curbing, fussed with the door, and clambered in beside him as if relinquishing with small regret his morning walk.
They rode two blocks before either said a word, and then Bill observed, “Say-y-y, what’s the matter with you this mornin’ -got a million-dollar deal on or somethin’?”
“Uh, me? Oh, er-uh yes- er, I mean no.”
“Haw, haw!” observed Bill further, “ If you was twenty years younger I’d sure say twas a woman! But, bein Plainton’s outstandin’ bachelor-”
Thad permitted himself to grin a bit at that, and then resumed his sober look.
“There’s some things in this world, Bill,” he philosophized, “besides women; and one of those interesting things is hunches.”
“Yes-some people call them that-you know-premonitions and that sort of thing.”
“You done got one?” queried Bill, twisting one end of a prize mustache.
“Well, it would be pretty hard to pin it down with a finger, but I have a feeling that something’s all set to happen-something that, just like sometimes, does things to a fellow’s scheme of life.”
“Wall,” supplied Bill, twisting the other bristle, “they say it’s an ill wind that don’t blow somebody some good. If you, for instance, go and blow up, perhaps I’ll be the gainer; who knows?” With that, he cuffed Thad’s knee across the shift-lever as if to dispel his friend’ s mood.
“True; it’s possible. But, really, I’m sensitive to these things. It’s being keyed to what was in the air, I think, that has helped me out when others around us floundered. I don’t know what else could have brought me luck in these ventures of mine. I never began to wake up until I was fifty, somehow; and since that I have learned to prune and pare and trim and eliminate waste and lost motion. Folks tell me, as you yourself told me the other day, that it looks as if I were sitting on top of Plainton, but I’m not-not quite yet. That is, there’s something out of balance somewhere. And the fact that I can’t seem to put my finger on it just riles me up a bit.”
“Hmm !” said Bill. Then they pulled in at the Mart, and Bill alighted, by a series of jacknife performances, and clambered out over the running-board, swung and shut a door big enough for a refrigerator car. “Well,” he concluded in semi-jest, “when you get all primed to blow up, better save me this bus of yours. I c’n allow you five hundred on it. guess, as she stands. She’ll make a good trader.”