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|When The World Was Young||Jack London|
|Page 1 of 3||
Dave Slotter leaned belligerently against the desk that barred the way to the private office of James Ward, senior partner of the firm of Ward, Knowles & Co. Dave was angry. Every one in the outer office had looked him over suspiciously, and the man who faced him was excessively suspicious.
"You just tell Mr. Ward it's important," he urged.
"I tell you he is dictating and cannot be disturbed," was the answer. "Come to-morrow."
"To-morrow will be too late. You just trot along and tell Mr. Ward it's a matter of life and death."
The secretary hesitated and Dave seized the advantage.
"You just tell him I was across the bay in Mill Valley last night, and that I want to put him wise to something."
"What name?" was the query.
"Never mind the name. He don't know me."
When Dave was shown into the private office, he was still in the belligerent frame of mind, but when he saw a large fair man whirl in a revolving chair from dictating to a stenographer to face him, Dave's demeanor abruptly changed. He did not know why it changed, and he was secretly angry with himself.
"You are Mr. Ward?" Dave asked with a fatuousness that still further irritated him. He had never intended it at all.
"Yes," came the answer.
"And who are you?"
"Harry Bancroft," Dave lied. "You don't know me, and my name don't matter."
"You sent in word that you were in Mill Valley last night?"
"You live there, don't you?" Dave countered, looking suspiciously at the stenographer.
"Yes. What do you mean to see me about? I am very busy."
"I'd like to see you alone, sir."
Mr. Ward gave him a quick, penetrating look, hesitated, then made up his mind.
"That will do for a few minutes, Miss Potter."
The girl arose, gathered her notes together, and passed out. Dave looked at Mr. James Ward wonderingly, until that gentleman broke his train of inchoate thought.
"I was over in Mill Valley last night," Dave began confusedly.
"I've heard that before. What do you want?"
And Dave proceeded in the face of a growing conviction that was unbelievable. "I was at your house, or in the grounds, I mean."
"What were you doing there?"
"I came to break in," Dave answered in all frankness.
"I heard you lived all alone with a Chinaman for cook, and it looked good to me. Only I didn't break in. Something happened that prevented. That's why I'm here. I come to warn you. I found a wild man loose in your grounds--a regular devil. He could pull a guy like me to pieces. He gave me the run of my life. He don't wear any clothes to speak of, he climbs trees like a monkey, and he runs like a deer. I saw him chasing a coyote, and the last I saw of it, by God, he was gaining on it."
Dave paused and looked for the effect that would follow his words. But no effect came. James Ward was quietly curious, and that was all.
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