GRYDE watched his companion with frank admiration. He could afford to do thi_penly for the simple reason that the other man was blind. All the same, Gryd_ever was a tight hand at a bargain where he could see his way clear to _rofitable termination. Frank Chasemore must have been a handsome man befor_he terrible accident which had scored his face like a dried walnut an_eprived him of his sight.
"I am disposed to purchase your invention," Gryde said thoughtfully.
Chasemore smiled bitterly. Gryde had picked up the clever mechanical enginee_iterally out of the gutter in New York. Wild and visionary as some of hi_chemes were, Gryde had not been slow to see the practical vein beneath.
"Let me congratulate you," Chasemore replied. "I have hawked that inventio_ll over the States, frequently walking from town to town, and everybod_aughed at me. I tell you the thing is workable—with a drill and a motor lik_ine I could bore a hole through the universe in a fortnight. And what is th_ost? Practically nothing. But for that nitro-glycerine explosion I shoul_ave made it go. Without my eyes I am like a child. I shall have to go int_he poor-house, I suppose. And yet, blind as I am, with a small competenc_ehind me, I could startle the world yet. If the fools would only listen!"
Chasemore shook with the bitterness of his indignation. Gryde perfectl_nderstood Was he not also a genius in his way?
"The fools are going to listen," the latter said quietly. "Do you know why _rought you and your _lares_ to this howling wilderness?"
"I don't know," said Chasemore; "out of pure kindness, perhaps. I have read o_eople in books committing eccentricities of the kind."
"My dear fellow, there is no occasion for bitterness. I brought you here s_hat we could test your invention without attracting undue attention. If th_hing succeeds in doing what you claim for it, I'll make you a present o_wenty thousand dollars. That is merely for the hire of the concern, o_ourse."
Chasemore expressed his satisfaction. If Gryde had anything in the way of _oring operation on, the patent could do the work of a regiment in less tim_han the same could grapple with a yard.
"So much the better for you," Gryde replied. "Now will you briefly explain."
"To outline the thing is easy. In the first place I have an entirely ne_otor. In the space of a pill-box I have one horse-power. The fools say yo_an't multiply power. When the egotist fails at a thing he always says i_an't be done. Did you ever see a crowd push down a solid stone wall withou_nyone being hurt?"
"Get to the point," Gryde suggested quietly.
"I beg your pardon. My motor is more or less a pocket affair. With it I ca_rive a six-inch drill through granite at the rate of thirty feet an hour.
Outside the drill runs a flexible metal coil, and between the two, by _inotype kind of smelting arrangement, I can cast and force in my pipe. Wha_o you think of that? Thirty feet of solid tubing six inches in diameter in a_our."
Gryde's eyes glittered. It was not the first time he had heard these details.
Within a day of doing so he had seen his way to turn the discovery to account.
Within a week he and Chasemore had found themselves settled in a little hut i_ne of the loneliest and most dreary parts of Pennsylvania. There was no tow_n sight, nothing but a collection of wooden huts, a few long warehouses, an_wo tall grimy chimneys. They were within a mile of one of the greatest oil- wells in the world.
Outside the limits of the Cradlestone Syndicate Estate—itself no more than _quare mile—many a bold speculator had ruined himself sinking for oil. Ther_ere shafts and pits there down which thousands of dollars had been cast. An_et whilst the Cradlestone Creek flowed like a sea, not a drop came elsewhere.
"Is it oil you are after?" Chasemore asked.
"What put that idea into your head?" Gryde demanded.
"I can't see, but I can smell," Chasemore said sententiously. "The air reek_ith it. Still, your business is no business of mine. Pay in my price and _sk no questions."
"All the same you have guessed it," said Gryde. "There is oil here, but on_ust go down deep to find it. That is why I require your drill. I hav_urchased some land here with a shaft or two upon it. You will show me how t_se your machine, and as for the rest you can lie here and dream to you_eart's content."
Gryde, for reasons of his own, said nothing of their proximity to th_radlestone Estate. In carrying out one of the most daring of his schemes, th_lindness of Chasemore was an important and convenient factor. Fortune ha_avoured him again. But then Fortune always does seem to favour the man wh_as capital, energy, and an amazing faculty for taking pains.
"What you ask is a very easy matter," said Chasemore. "Within three days yo_ill understand the thing as well as I do myself. And already I can se_mprovement… "
Chasemore's speech trailed off into a mutter. A look of dreamy speculation la_ike a mist upon his face. When Chasemore retired thus within himself Gryd_ight as well have been alone. He lighted a cigarette and passed into th_pen.
So far as he could see the place was one level plain. Nothing seemed to gro_here beyond the coarse bush grass. Here and there mounds of earth thrown u_estified to the barren labour of the unlucky speculator. By reason of thes_pen shafts the place was a dangerous one for the stranger after nightfall.
Gryde walked on until he reached the split rail fence bounding the Cradleston_roperty. From where he stood he was within four hundred yards of the mai_errick. Here the ground trended down abruptly. In the centre of a hollow cu_as a disused shaft. In depth it might have been two hundred feet; the winc_nd steel hawser for lifting purposes were still intact. Over the same stood _razy sign bearing the legend—"Guaranteed Oil Trust." For this well astut_ryde had paid down the sum of ninety dollars cash.
Using the timber props as a means of descent, Gryde reached the bottom. Th_haft was a fairly large one and perfectly dry. There was nothing there a_resent beyond a lantern and box of matches. By the aid of the former Gryd_roceeded to examine a mass of figures. The study of these seemed to fill hi_ith profound satisfaction.
"Four hundred yards," he muttered, "twelve hundred feet at thirty feet pe_our, say three hundred feet a day. Four days would be quite sufficient. Tha_runken geologist who worked at this for me understood his business. Really, _hild couldn't go wrong with these instructions. No rise or fall, but merely _traight boring. The three weeks I spent grappling with the mysteries of th_heodolite were not spent in vain. With any luck I ought to make a clea_illion out of this thing."
Gryde emerged to the surface again. As he did so he became aware of the fac_hat he was not alone. A big man with a square, determined jaw was regardin_im derisively.
"Good evening," Gryde said tentatively.
"Good evening, stranger," came the reply. "If it isn't a rude question, what'_our game?"
Gryde explained. He hoped to succeed, he said, where others had failed. Th_ther smiled.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked.
"Perfectly well," Gryde said coolly.
"You are Walter Cradlestone, the Oil King, and you are worth a hundred millio_ollars. You ought to be satisfied with that, but some people can never hav_nough. You are a lucky man, Cradlestone.".
"You're an original one, anyway," the millionaire laughed. "You'll get no oi_here. Our big spring draws all the tributaries to it like a blister. I'v_nown oil found here to spurt for a day or two and then to pour out for good.
But as for quantities!"
"I don't want quantities," said Gryde: "a small supply could suffice for me, and the cruder the better. Don't suppose I've come along here to run a riva_yndicate. I've got an invention, and I want my own springs to work it. W_now nothing about petroleum yet."
"I guess I do," Cradlestone said drily.
"You think so, of course. All you rich men are so amazingly egotistical. I'_ot thinking of oil as an illuminating power, but as a healing factor."
"Pooh. Every schoolboy has heard of vaseline."
"Granted. But if you put 'crysoline' to them they would be stumped. An_rysoline is going to be one of the healers of the future. Got a bruise abou_ou?"
Cradlestone pulled up his sleeve and displayed an ugly-looking mark on hi_rm.
"Pinched in a bit of machinery," he said. "Black, isn't it? And a good openin_or your crysoline."
By way of reply, Gryde took a small bottle from his pocket. Inside the bottl_as some jelly-like substance with a blue-grey green tinge. With the tip o_is finger he applied a small portion of this to the wounded arm.
"Now pull your sleeve down," he said, "and forget all about it for a minute o_wo. So you think I am going to drop my money here?"
"I'm absolutely certain of it."
"Then you're as absolutely wrong, for the simple reason that I haven't an_oney to drop. And I don't mind making you a small bet that I shall find wha_ want. Now will you oblige me by pulling up your sleeve again?" Cradleston_id as desired. To his amazement he could see no trace of the dark bruise. Th_ut remained, but all the discoloration had vanished.
"Well!" he exclaimed, " I should like to know how that was worked."
"Crysoline," Gryde smiled. "Petroleum jelly _plus_ —What do you think of it?"
"I think there's a mighty big fortune squeezed into that little bottle o_ours. I'll give you—"
"Twopence-halfpenny for a million," Gryde laughed. "You'd like to buy th_niverse and sell it in shilling tins, _you_ would. My secret is not for sale, sir."
Gryde was not to be shaken. He returned to the hut whistling.
"I've drawn the feather over his eye," he thought; "he won't suspect anythin_ow. But unless I am greatly mistaken, Cradlestone will sing a different tun_re long. And Heaven help the man who comes to gratify his curiosity here!"