The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: September Page 1 of 3

Going, Going, Gone

“Reputed,” droned the auctioneer’s voice,”to be genuine Ming! Nine-fifty I am offered!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 20, 1947

“Come on!” pleaded Jimmie Frise. “They’re fun!”

“Auction sales are a fraud,” I scoffed. “They’re a racket!”

Jim had slowed the car in front of an old house in the downtown district which had been converted into an auction sale headquarters. Over the lighted portico, a large canvas banner proclaimed “Auction now in progress.” And cars were parked densely all around, while a regular church congregation seemed to be pouring into the emporium.

“Come on,” egged Jim. “We’ve nothing better to do.”

“I haven’t seen ‘Great Expectations’ yet,” I complained. “We can find it at one of the neighborhood theatres.”

“Look,” said Jim, “movies are all the same. Once you’ve seen one movie, you’ve seen all movies. But an auction sale is a riot. You see human nature revealed there in the raw – not all taffied up by some movie director. If you want a good chuckle, go to an auction sale.”

“Jim, they’re just a racket!” I protested, as he started to manoeuvre for a parking space up the street. “And it’s just junk they sell.”

“Oh, don’t think I was suggesting we buy anything,” laughed Jim. “It’s just to see the show.”

“It’s always the same, Jim, I made my last bid. The same old crowd always attends these auction sales. The auction sale habit is like the bingo habit or the racetrack habit or any other rut certain people seem to get into. You see the same types at an auction sale just as you see the same types at a race track. There’s an auction sale type.”

“Exactly,” agreed Jim, turning off the ignition. “And it’s fun to see them in operation, just the same as it’s fun to watch a bingo crowd. First of all, there’s the regular dealers who are in attendance, the secondhand dealers and antique dealers. Attending auction sales is a part of their business. They pick up a few dollars worth of odds and ends, bric-a-bric, china, silver, to eke out their own stocks in their shops.”

“Then,” I pointed out, “there are those other semi-professionals – they don’t have stores. But it’s a sort of sideline or hobby with them. They attend auctions as regular as the second-hand dealers, to pick up odds and ends which they take home, and then either sell to their friends and neighbors, or else advertise them in the want ads of the daily newspapers, turning over a little profit.”

“There could be worse hobbies,” asserted Jim, as he wound up the car windows. “It doesn’t cost anything. There’s no admission charge to an auction sale. And after a little experience, I suppose a man can become real expert at picking up things he knows he can make two or three dollars on.”

“It’s these second-hand dealers,” I pointed out, “and these semi-professional picker-uppers who make it next to impossible for the ordinary guy, like you or me ever to get anything worth while at an auction, Jim. They don’t just walk into an auction and sit down, like us They go beforehand and size up the merchandise that’s going on the block. They spot all the articles of any value and wait for them to come up. They have made up their minds in advance how much they will go for it, and still leave them a margin of profit on the resale.”

“That’s when you see the fun start, at an auction,” agreed Jim, as we left the car and started down street towards the emporium. “When the dealers begin bidding against each other.”

“With the odd outsider, like us,” I recollected, “butting in and upsetting the apple cart.”

“A good auction sale,” explained Jim, “is one that has a few worthwhile articles salted in among the junk. Only the dealers and the professionals know the real stuff from the junk. But their bidding, on the real stuff excites the rest of the congregation to bid on the junk. And that’s where the gravy comes in. For the auctioneer.”

We went up the steps and into the spacious and cluttered rooms of the old mansion.

A smell of new carpets and old dust filled the air. From the big living room and dining room of the old house – which had been opened up into one large chamber for the auction hall – came the monotonous but incisive voice of the auctioneer, rising above a low babble. The sale was already under way.

But in the lofty and outer halls, numbers of people, the men hat in hand, were wandering around with that slightly absent air you observe on people in an art gallery. They were inspecting the great clutter of goods piled and stacked around awaiting their turn on the auction block.

There were great heaps of carpets and rugs all rolled up. There were articles of furniture, tables, nets of tables, lamps, with shades, chairs, sofas, chesterfields, beds, dressers. All were spotless and recently polished.

“Just look at the rugs and carpets,” said Jimmie “Where do all the rugs come from that are put on auction?”

“Culls, I suppose,” I suggested, “and seconds picked up from jobbers or from the manufacturers. Besides, probably any number of these auction addicts get into the habit of buying and trading back their rugs every little while. The home of an auction addict probably never does get set. It’s in an eternal state of flux. They keep on adding little bits here and little bits there – each new piece of furniture upsetting the design or color scheme; so they’ve got to sell things to restore the balance. Probably a real bad auction addict never keeps a rug more than three months. Turn it in and snap up a new one.”

We examined the furniture. None of it was anything we would ever want to own. It was either large and florid, or extra plain. A great many pieces seemed random bits that had got cut adrift from what once upon a time must have been suites. We also examined a find set of china that was really beautiful, except that a pale bilious green rim on each piece spoiled it completely.

“Now how the dickens,” demanded Jim, the artist, “could any designer ever ruin a lovely design by such a fool rim as that?”

“Probably something went wrong in the mixing of the colors and in the firing,” I suggested, “and as the result this set has been on the auction circuit for the past 20 years. If you owned a china factory, and something got spoiled like this, what would you do? Why, sell it to an auctioneer! It’s the last hope for things that go wrong.”

A rising babble and mutter in the big room made us stop and listen. The auctioneer’s voice took on a ringing tone, excited. And we could hear the rising clamor stabbed by voices making rapid bids as they were shooting their bids like arrows.

We hurried over to the auction room doorway and stretched our necks and tiptoed to see over the heads of the others suddenly attracted.

“Sixty!” shot the auctioneer, leaning tensely. “Do I hear sixty-five? Sixty-five, do I hear?”

“Sixty-two-fifty!” came a hoarse voice.

“Sixty-five!” snapped another voice.

There was a deadly stillness.

“Seventy? Do I hear seventy?” rasped the auctioneer. There was dead silence.

“What’s selling?” I whispered to a tall man in front of me.

“A pair of Dresden china figures,” be replied quietly. “The dealers are after them.”

“Going!” wheedled the auctioneer. “Going!”

And they went at seventy.

Half a dozen people got up to leave and Jimmie and I seized the chance to get seats.

“Maybe,” chuckled Jim, “we’ll see that set of bilious china go.”

We had arrived right in the middle of a list of china, glassware, ornaments and other crockery. The battle of the dealers for the Dresden figures had stirred the crowd to great excitement. Everybody was shifting in their chairs and chattering excitedly. The next item was a large red glass vase which the auctioneer described as reputed to be genuine Bohemian, though I’m sure I have seen any number of the same down in the basement china departments of the big stores. Large, dark and ruby red.

The bidding started at $1 and went in about five minutes to $10. One of the bidders was a young woman, sitting just in front of us, obviously a newlywed. For every bid she upped, her young husband turned a glowing face on her, as though he loved the sound of her voice. Several other women and a couple of men were on the tilt. The auctioneer seemed a bit startled at the bidding, because he went over and had another good look at the red monstrosity, as if to make sure he wasn’t making some sort of mistake. When he resumed, he let the bidding go to $11.50 and then knocked it down very suddenly to the young newlyweds.

“You’ll notice,” whispered Jim gleefully, “there were dealers in on the tilt.”

“How about those two men bidding?” I suggested.

“Probably a couple of the auctioneer’s shills,” said Jim, “spotted in the crowd to excite the bidding. The shills always look like dealers.”

Sure enough, the beautiful set of china with the bilious border was tenderly brought in by three or four auctioneer’s helpers and ceremoniously displayed to the audience. The auctioneer described it as genuine Milton, one of the famed English chinamakers, and for the past 20 years the prized and tenderly cared for treasures of one of the city’s most prominent families.

“What am I offered?” he demanded.

“A hundred!” called a man.

“A hundred and ten!” promptly came a woman.

“A hundred and twenty!” rung another man.

“A hundred and twenty!” took up the auctioneer enthusiastically. “Come now, ladies and gentlemen…”

A curious apathy stood like a fog curtain between the auctioneer and the audience, and almost abruptly, knocked it down to the man who had bid the $120.

“A shill!” whispered Jimmie.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, we saw the man who bid the $120 out in the hallway showing some rugs to a pair of women.

“What a racket!” chuckled Jimmie, as we watched a man bid down all contestants for a brass coal scuttle that went for $14. And six glass tumblers that went to a fat man for $7. And a large glass dome, such as you see sandwiches displayed under in railroad restaurant counters, for $4.

“What the dickens,” I muttered, “would anybody want a thing like that?”

“Maybe the guy owns a railroad restaurant lunch counter,” hazarded Jim.

I was busy watching the crowd bidding on the next thing trying to pick the shills from the genuine bidders, and the dealers from the semi-professionals, and the neophytes from the newlyweds, when I heard Jimmie suddenly sing out:

“Four-fifty!”

I turned sharply. Sure enough it was Jim! He was sitting slightly forward on the edge of his chair, his chin lifted, his face flushed and a queer look in his eye.

Somebody called “Four seventy-five!” and Jim, rising slightly, snapped “Five!

I raised myself to see what was going.

It was one of those huge china vases, three feet high, in bright Chinese red, green and gold, with a golden dragon writhing around it.

I hadn’t seen one in years. Back in my boyhood, my grandmother had one in the front hall to put umbrellas in.

“Six-twenty-five!” rang Jim’s voice, as I realized the bidding was cracking faster and faster.

“Jim!” I hissed, taking his sleeve.

“Seven!” yelped Jimmie, jerking his sleeve from my grasp.

I furtively stood up and took another look, to be sure. Yes, the auctioneer’s helper was lifting the huge vase with laborious effort, to show its great weight. I noticed, now, that the slender neck of the vase would not permit umbrellas to go in it. It must have been for something else my grandmother had the bulky thing standing in the front hall.

“Nine!” quivered Jimmie’s voice beside me.

“Reputed,” droned the auctioneer’s voice, “to be genuine Ming! Nine-fifty I am offered!”

“Ten!” I shouted unexpectedly.

“Ten-fifty!” barked Jim.

“Hey!” I hissed, leaning out to try and fix his attention. “What the Sam Hill do you want that great ugly thing for?”

“You keep out of this!” snarled Jim, a wild look in his eyes, and elbowing me away. “Eleven-twenty five!”

The bidding had swept past us.

“Twelve!” I shouted.

“Twelve-fifty croaked Jim, turning his shoulder to me.

Well, it went at $14.25, to Jim!

And 20 minutes later we were outside in the lobby, paying the $14.25 to the cashier, while the auctioneer’s helper stood by, holding the great vase in his arms.

We both felt curiously limp and bewildered, as though we had been smitten by a sudden fever, sort of instantaneous malaria. Our faces were flushed. I had to lend Jim my $4.60 to eke out the $14.25.

Neither of us wished to look at the vase, which the helper kept confronting us with.

“I’ll carry it out to your car?” he wheedled. “You’ve got a car?”

“We’ll carry it,” said Jim grimly, pocketing his receipt.

We picked it up. Jim the heavy butt end, I the slender neck. We walked sideways to the door.

We picked it up, Jim the heavy butt end, I the slender neck

On the verandah, just at the top of the concrete steps, Jim’s foot caught, and he slipped.

The priceless Ming vase crashed to splinters down the steps.

“Thank heavens!” I gasped.

“Gosh!” whuffed Jimmie, taking his handkerchief and mopping his brow, “the way that thing strikes you! I didn’t know I was bidding. I just heard my voice!”

“It’s all very confusing, Jim,” I consoled, patting his shoulder. “Will we get somebody to come and sweep up this?”

“No, no,” said Jim, heading down the driveway. “They’re used to it. They expect it.”

And as we melted into the shadows, we saw the auctioneer’s helper come out with a carton and a broom and hastily sweep up the remnants.


Editor’s Notes: Great Expectations was a film released in 1946. It was adapted for the stage by Alec Guinness from the Charles Dickens novel. He also starred in the movie version.

$14.50 in 1947 is equivalent to $195 in 2020.

Where are the Bartenders of Yesterday?

“The expression on their faces of some of the old boys, as they sipped pink pop, was more than I could stand.”

By Gregory Clark, September 15, 1923

Into the private office of the manager of a large wholesale establishment on Wellington street was admitted a middle-aged gentleman of refined appearance who told the information girl guarding the sanctum that he was an old friend of the manager.

The manager looked up as the visitor entered, stared at him with a look of puzzlement on his face, and smiled.

The visitor was smiling broadly.

“I have called,” he said, “to see if I could write you up for some insurance under a new plan my company offers men of your age.”

“Now, I’m pretty busy,” said the manager. Then, halting, he asked:

“Look here: I know your face well, but hanged if I can place you.”

Still smiling broadly, the visitor came closer to the manager’s desk. Laying his hat down, he snatched a newspaper off the desk, flicked it open, and, with a sudden movement, tucked it like an apron into his vest. Then, leaning both hands on the manager’s desk he leaned forward and said:

“What’s yours, sir?”

The effect was remarkable on the manager. He leaped to his feet and cried:

“Tim, you old scoundrel! Where have you been all these years?”

And the two set about shaking hands as if they were long-lost brothers.

But they were simply two old friends, a bartender and one of his pet customers, meeting for the first time after seven years of drought.

Tim was head bartender in the downtown bar regularly patronized by this business man for years. An intimacy had grown up between them such as few not habituated to drinking in bars can imagine. A formal intimacy like that between golfers and their old pro, or between a lady and her housekeeper of twenty years.

Making him seated and comfortable, the manager asked his old friend:

“What have you been doing?”

“Well,” said Tim, pulling on the cigar. “I have had some rough times. When the old establishment closed, in 1916, I had no plans, like all bartenders, and couldn’t believe it when the doors were really closed. The old boss offered me a job around the hotel as a sort of watchman. But I was deeply insulted. A soft drink bar was opened in the old bar, and I served exactly four days there, for some of the old boys came in, and to see the look on their faces as they drank a glass of pink pop was really more than I could bear. I felt fallen in the world. I felt unclassed. Without warning, for my kids were all grown up, I packed a valise and went over to the States. Not belonging to their union, I had a bad two years there. I was in several New York towns in succession, but getting further and further down in the mouth.

“When the States went dry, I hadn’t enough money to take me to Montreal, the last oasis. So I worked at odd jobs and darn near starved–“

“Poor old Tim,” stuck in the manager, with real sympathy.

“No, no. It was good for me,” said Tim. “While serving in a bar in Syracuse I made the acquaintance of an insurance man. Two years ago I met him on the street one day, and he gave me a job selling insurance.

“‘If a man who has listened to as many sad life stories as you can’t sell insurance,’ he said to me. ‘nobody can.'”

“So here I am looking up, one by one, all my old friends across the mahogany. Do you remember that sad story you told me one night–“

“Easy, Tim, easy!” implored the manager, a changed man after seven years.

“–about your fears for your poor family, and you feeling that your heart was in a delicate condition?”

“Tut, Tim I have a golf handicap of eight.”

At any rate, Tim drew forth, in the approved manner, his booklets and folders outlining in graphic style the proposition his company had to make to business men of fifty and over. And It was a good proposition, in spite of the sentimental appendages to the deal.

For Tim wrote his old friend policy for ten thousand.

Where are the four hundred and fifty bartenders who, up to seven years ago, were quenching Toronto’s thirst with beers, wines and liquors? Where are the skilful jugglers amongst them whom men traveled far to see, as they tossed a cocktail from glass to glass, a gleaming rainbow four feet long? Where are these repositories of the sad life stories of thousands of male citizens of this now happy city?

Their union is broken up. Thorough enquiries at the Toronto Labor Temple failed to discover Arthur O’Leary, former business agent of the Bartenders’ Union, in his heyday one of the most popular figures in the labor world.

Strange to relate, a good many of Toronto’s bartenders have stuck to bartending, even though the quality of the goods they sell is different.

In remnant of what used to be one of the longest bars in Toronto, now remodeled down to a mere fragment of its old glory, a bartender of twenty years’ experience admitted that he was too old to change his calling just because the law changed.

“Is there much difference between selling liquor and soft drinks?” he was asked.

“I feel,” he replied, “like a banker who has failed and has had to take up the grocery business for a livelihood. As a bartender, I was the friend and confidante of members of the business world, half the city hall staff knew me by name, city fathers took council with me, mayors have wept on my shoulder. In the old days, my customers were regular customers. But of that bunch–“

And he waved a contemptuous hand at a dozen people, mostly idle young men, lounging against the soda bar.

“–of that bunch I don’t know one. Never saw them before in my life.”

“What effect has prohibition had on your income?”

“I don’t get one-third the wages I used to make and I get no tips. My income is about a quarter what it was.”

“Prohibition has hit you hard?”

“Yes it has. But I still think the going of the bar is the best thing ever happened. I do, really. For one good bar, where men had a drink, there were three crooked bars where men got drunk. I never let a man get drunk off my bar in my life. Some bartenders considered their job was to rake over the coin. Some of us, however, figured our job was to serve refreshment to men. But we all got hit just the same.”

Most of the bartenders who are still serving drinks are serving them over the former bars of old hotels. Only a couple are in soda parlors.

A few of the bartenders have gone up in the world. One owns a good hotel near the centre of the city. Others have retail businesses, grocery, hardware and boot and shoe.

One very gifted bartender is now in charge of a gasoline station, and is serving up gas and oil without a hint, in the way he serves up a pint of “medium,” that he was in his day one of the most skilful drink slingers in the city.

But others, the older ones, have had a very poor time the last seven years. Some are jobless, some are janitors and handy men around old hostelries.

“It took prohibition,” said one old bartender, who has been out of a job four of the seven years since his profession quit him, “to show up how shallow was bar-room friendship. I had lived in it so long that I had begun to imagine it was genuine.”

“Men who called me affectionately by name when they ordered a drink, sports who got me to do favors for them, men I’ve cashed checks for, all turned me down when I called on them.”

“I wanted a job, recommendation. But a month after the bars were closed, most of them had forgotten who I was. Not three out of fifty of them held out the helping hand when I was in need.”

Perhaps the hardest part of prohibition to the bartender was not the loss of his calling, but the discovery of the fact that the bar-room affection that shed a glamor over his trade was as thin and unsubstantial as the beer fumes that induced it.


Editor’s Note: Prohibition went through all sorts of referendums and polls between 1916 and 1927 in Ontario when it was repealed. Greg was likely not in favour of prohibition, but his newspaper was. At the time of the article in 1923, Howard Ferguson had been elected Premier, and would move slowly and cautiously on limiting the restrictions.

“Five Minutes to Closing Time”

September 17, 1921

Money Trouble

The storekeeper picked up the new twenty-dollar bill and examined it closely … In every face, all of a sudden, suspicion. Cold undisguised suspicion.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, September 16, 1944

“What is it,” asked Jimmie Frise, “that makes us Canadians so desperately respectful of authority?”

“I don’t imagine,” I replied, “that we’re any more respectful of authority than other people. The English, for instance, or the Germans.”

“Ah,” argued Jimmie, “yes, but the Germans have to be respectful or have their fingers jammed in doors in internment camps. And as for the English, it’s only put on. Did you ever try to pull a little authority over an Englishman?”

“If I had the authority, I think the English would recognize it as readily as anybody else,” I informed him.

“If you were an Englishman and had the authority,” corrected Jim. “They have a sort of agreement among themselves, a working agreement. But you take Canada. Somebody up top says what’s what and we all submit. There are no outbreaks. It isn’t as if these authorities had any tough gendarmes or black shirt police to back them up. I’m beginning to think Canadians are the most docile people on earth.”

“Remember the Chinese,” I protested. “Or the Eskimos.”

“All I’m thinking of,” said Jim, “is that cop back there at that fork in the highway. The way he ran up alongside of us and arrogantly turned us into the side of the road with a flick of his head.”

“He was perfectly right,” I said, “you didn’t slow down at that fork. There was a sign distinctly saying ‘slow to 15 miles’.”

“I’ve passed that fork a hundred times,” said Jim, “and there never was a cop there before.”

“That isn’t the point,” I assured him. “The law is the law whether there are any cops looking or not.”

“I don’t mind how many laws we’ve got,” said Jim, “so long as I am not humiliated in the enforcement of them.”

“You’re not mad at the cop,” I jeered. “You’re only mad at yourself for being so humble.”

“I wasn’t humble,” stated Jim. “I was only sensible.”

“You squawk about Canadians being docile,” I laughed, “and if ever I saw a docile Canadian, it was you when that cop nodded you haughtily to the side of the road and then bawled the daylight out of you.”

“I stared him straight in the eye,” cried Jim.

“Yes,” I said, “with your eyes wide and alarmed and full of an expression of deepest respect and humility.”

“We’ll Have to Be Smart”

“Oh, I did not,” protested Jim heatedly. “I did nothing of the kind. And anyway, how could you see me when you were cringing down in your seat as if God had suddenly appeared at the car window.”

“You were servile,” I declared. “You even called him sir.”

“An old habit,” said Jim, “I contracted in the last war. It was his khaki uniform.”

“Well,” I agreed, “it does seem absurd to me the way we kowtow to a cop. The way they bawl us out, the tone they take, you would think they were magistrates instead of cops. I don’t think we should put up with it.”

“The next cop,” said Jim, “I’m going to put in his place, if he so much as uses a tone I don’t like. He’s an employee.”

“Now you’re talking,” I said, sitting up hopefully to watch for cops.

“There must be some guilty conscience in us, or something,” mused Jim. “We Canadians must be descendants of people who came to this country fleeing from the law. All servility is based on fear. We must have some inherited fear of cops.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” I said guardedly (because after all what do we really know about our great-great-grandfathers?).

“I wish,” sighed Jim, “I had inherited something else from my ancestors than a guilty conscience. Craftiness, for example. I had a great-uncle Zebulon who was the craftiest man in seven townships. If I was crafty, I’d know what luck we were going to have tonight in finding the best place to go fishing.”

“It won’t be hard to find out,” I said. “A few discreet inquiries around the village.”

“Listen,” said Jim, “there are only nine houses, one general store and a gasoline pump in this village. Every man in the place is a musky fisherman. Dyed in the wool. The muskies at this time of year have left the weed beds and the deeps and have come in shore, along by the rocks and boulders. They are easier to catch and fight harder than at any other time of year. It is the peak, the glorious climax of the fishing season. These villagers look upon this season of the year as their share of the fishing. All summer long even in wartime they have been working madly for the benefit of vacationists who were getting all the fishing. Now the vacationists are gone, and it’s the villagers turn. They will resent us even arriving.”

“We’ll worm it out of them,” I assured him.

“We’ll have to be pretty smart,” said Jim.

“We can watch where they fish,” I reminded him.

“Yes, and waste half the morning trying to locate them,” argued Jim. “They’ll all be out before daybreak.”

“Jim,” I said, “you’ve got a poor opinion of country people. All we need to do is the old trick. Buy a few things at the general store, ask a few questions. Buy some gasoline, ask a few questions. Rent a boat, ask a few questions. Put two and two together, and there we are.”

Full of Great Quietness

We floated deeper into the musky country where civilization and the rocks were coming to grips. The farms grew fewer and more curiously laid out in fields bordered with shoals of primitive rock. We saw the first maples, gone gold and red. The villagers are right. This is the best time of year to go fishing.

The villages began to be farther apart. We left cement for gravel and gravel for sand, and finally entered a lovely narrow road winding amidst rocks and tall hardwood forests which we knew, according to our written directions, was the road that led to our happy destination where, along the rocky shores of a twisted and many-bayed lake, the big muskies, sick of the rotting weed beds, lay in the pure shallow shore water, waiting for something to wiggle past them, such as a well-cast lure.

And towards evening, we came to the village, full of a great quietness amidst all the equipment it had for summer, its park, the brightness, its shuttered outlying cottages. We cruised slowly down its one street, planning our campaign of reconnaissance.

“The general store, first,” I suggested.

And in front of the general store we drew up. It was the regular general store, with its ceiling covered with galvanized pails, bundles of hats, baled socks, boots. One side groceries. Other side, drygoods. Back, hardware.

Three or four men lingered leaning on counters as if expecting nothing to happen anyway.

“Good evening,” we said cheerily, in that easy city fashion. Our entry seemed to break a spell that had been holding the general store in thrall.

Everybody muttered except the storekeeper, an elderly gray moustached man who eyed us over his spectacles and said nothing. He went ahead quietly parcelling something out of sight.

Jim and I wandered slowly down the store, looking at the merchandise to see what we could reasonably buy as an excuse for visiting the store. Something inexpensive but useful.

“I think I’ll get a pair of overalls,” I said quietly, whispering through my nose.

“Nice bandanas,” murmured Jim. “How about a couple of bandanas each? Handy fishing.”

“You get the bandanas,” I muttered, “and I’ll take a hank of that clothes line. Good stuff to have in our kit for an anchor.”

“O.K.,” agreed Jim, “and two or three cans of tomatoes. I don’t like drinking this weedy water; and canned tomatoes are swell.”

“O.K.” I muttered, as we turned and proceeded to the front of the store where everybody was covertly taking us in out of the corners of their eyes.

The storekeeper finally finished whatever he was doing and came and stood facing us, planting both palms on the counter.

“Good-evening,” said Jim, amiably. “How much are those bandanas?”

“Two for a quarter,” said he, handing down a sheaf of them.

We examined them carefully.

“Two of them,” said Jim pleasantly.

“How much is that clothesline?” I inquired with a winning smile.

The storekeeper looked at me expressionlessly and said: “Thirty cents.”

“I’ll love one,” I informed him enthusiastically.

But it seemed very difficult to rouse any response. Jim strolled back eyeing the shelves speculatively, and I followed.

“What did I tell you?” Jim murmured. “We’re suspected.”

“Ask about the fishing anyway,” I whispered.

“Not now,” said Jim shortly. “Hostile.”

Our murmured conversation was not lost upon the silent company in the store. The merchant was tying up our small purchases in paper.

“Three cans of tomatoes,” said Jim. “About a pound of cheese and a box of soda biscuits.”

A Faint, Cold Smile

The storekeeper slowly gathered these items and set them on the counter. He seemed to be waiting. So did all the others. A curious electrical feeling was in the dim air of this store.

“That will be all,” said Jim, reaching into his pocket.

“Here,” I said, “you bought the gasoline. I’ll attend to this.”

“No,” said Jim, “I want this changed.”

And he laid a crisp new $20 bill on the counter.

The storekeeper’s hands paused in the act of spreading a piece of wrapping paper. He stared at the bill. He picked it up gingerly and examined it closely. He held at up to the light. “I can’t change this,” he said.

“Can you get it changed handy?” asked Jim.

The storekeeper looked long and steadily at Jim. Then he shifted his gaze to me. There seemed to be a faint cold smile in his eyes.

“No,” he said.

“Can any of you gentlemen?” said Jim, turning to the others standing back in the store.

They stirred and looked away and shook their heads.

“Here,” I said diving into my pocket. But I had only 17 cents and a $10 bill, the expenses of the fishing trip, plus any sudden emergencies.

“Can you change the ten?” I said, tossing down the nice new Bank of Canada dix.

The storekeeper reached out cautiously and picked it up and examined it closely. He shot a quick look around at the men standing behind us.

“No,” he said. “Sorry.”

“Well, heh, heh,” I said, “I’ve only got 17 cents. How much have you got, Jim?”

“Just a dime,” said Jim.

“You can take two cans of tomatoes,” said the storekeeper, “or the two bandanas. Or the rope and one can of tomatoes. Or…”

“Maybe the gas-pump man can change it,” suggested Jimmie.

“Do You Mean to Insinuate?”

All eyes turned to one of the men standing back of us. He, it seems, was the service-station man.

“Sorry,” he said. “All I got is tens myself.”

In every face, all of a sudden, suspicion. Cold, undisguised suspicion.

“Gentlemen,” I said, “do you mean this money is no good?”

I picked up my 10 and examined it closely.

“It may be all right,” said the garage man, he was a heavy set and sulky type, “but there has been some phoney money spread around this country lately.”

“Do you mean to insinuate,” I demanded of the public at large, “that we are trying to pass bogus money? Are you accusing us at being criminals?”

Nobody replied, but the storekeeper turned his back and began replacing on the shelves the articles we had almost bought.

Jim and I looked anxiously around at the faces. They were mostly averted, and there was no friendliness on any of them.

“Could you tell us,” asked Jim, “If there is a boarding house in the village open or anywhere we can put up for a couple of nights?”

Everybody looked at us.

“We’re here for a couple of days’ fishing,” I put in.

“Fishing?” said the sulky garage man. “Well, my mother takes in a couple now and then.”

“Mrs. Tom is still open, I believe,” said the storekeeper.

His and everybody else’s face had come to life.

“I’ll slip over and see what mother says,” said the garage man, buttoning his windbreaker in a business-like way.

“Muskies you’re after, eh?” said the storekeeper, breaking into a friendly grin.

“Yes,” we said, “but er … ah…”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the storekeeper. “If you want that stuff I can change your 20 easy enough.”

“How’s this?” demanded Jim. “A minute ago…”

“Sure, sure,” soothed the storekeeper. “But you acted so suspicious when you came in.”

“Suspicious?” I asked.

“Guilty as anything, the both of you,” laughed the storekeeper, starting to hand down the tomatoes and bandanas again “Didn’t they gents?”

Everybody smiled and nodded.

“I couldn’t figure out,” said the storekeeper, whose name proved to be McAndrews, and can he ever catch muskies? – “until you laid down that new 20, and naturally I thought there was something funny about it.”

“Well,” said Jim, “if we looked guilty it was only because our real purpose coming in here was to get some tips on where to go fishing tomorrow, but we were going to buy some odds and ends and ask you casually …”

“Ah,” said Mr. McAndrews, “a guilty conscience always shows.”

“All right,” said Jim, “here’s a straightforward question.”

And we got a straightforward answer, and five muskies, and we know the first name of the whole 14 men in the village and we hope to leave a lot of tens and twenties there in the future.


Editor’s Note: $20 in 1944 would be $301 in 2020, so 10s and 20s were quite valuable back then.

Here’s Boo Boo Again!

September 10, 1938

This is another illustration by Jim for a story by Merrill Denison after he moved to New York to work on Broadway, that features his dog Boo Boo.

Down and Under!

September 7, 1946

Millions in Mink

We drew up at a very neglected and dilapidated farm house.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by Jim Frise, September 6, 1947

“There’s millions,” declared Jimmie Frise, “in mink!”

“I wouldn’t invest a cent,” I stated.

“This fellow I met,” went on Jim excitedly, “offers us what they call a trio – male and two females – for only $140!”

“Not a cent,” I repeated decisively.

“Look,” said Jim. “We go shares. Seventy dollars each. He keeps the mink on his ranch, see? All we do is invest our money. He needs the money for development of his ranch. He does all the work. Now, suppose our two females have five kits each…”

“Kits!” I checked.

“That’s what they call young mink,” explained Jim. “There’s 10 kits. And so it goes. Maybe two or three litters a year. They’re like rabbits. They multiply rapidly. Why, before the year is out, we’ve got maybe 30 or 40 mink to our credit.”

“If there’s millions in mink,” I demanded cunningly, “What does this guy want $140 for?”

“You don’t understand,” complained Jim. “It’s like the mining game. You’ve got to put money in for development. I just met this mink rancher on the road. He was thumbing a lift, and I happened to be lucky enough. to pick him up.”

“Lucky?” I scoffed.

“Yes, I consider myself lucky,” asserted Jim, “in having picked this guy up. He certainly opened my eyes.”

“What was he doing thumbing a lift,” I questioned sarcastically, “if he is in the big money?”

“That’s the point!” cried Jim. “Don’t you see? He’s just developing into the mink racket. Do you think, if he were an established mink rancher, he’d let a couple of outsiders like us into a partnership?”

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” I grumbled.

“You’re like all the rest of mankind who miss the boat,” protested Jimmie. “The whole secret of success in life is speculation. Who makes the millions out of the gold mines of this country? The people who buy the stock AFTER the mine has proved good? No, sir! The people who make the millions are those who invested a little capital to develop the mine in the first place. The people with the courage to risk a little capital for the DEVELOPMENT of the mines. Those are the guys who own the two-tone convertible jobs.”

“Mink,” I stated, “are a fad.”

“A fad, my neck!” protested Jim. “Do you know how much they are paying for mink coats in New York and London right now? As high as $20,000!”

“That’s absurd,” I submitted.

“For blue mink coats,” said Jim. “Twenty, twenty-five thousand bucks!”

“Blue mink?” I requested.

“Yes, that’s the latest,” explained Jim. “The fine under-fur of the mink is a beautiful blue color. It gives the richest, most glorious lustre to the fur.”

“I’ve seen lots of mink,” I admitted, “but I never saw a blue one yet.”

“Well, up in the far north,” elaborated Jim, “the wild mink have this beautiful bluish under-fur. And on the world markets, mink pelts from the northern Quebec and James Bay district have always commanded the most fabulous prices. So, in recent years, the mink breeders have been specializing on this blue mink. Now, are you listening?”

“Go ahead,” I muttered.

“This fellow Middity I met, Hugh Middity, his name is,” said Jim dramatically, “is going to raise blue mink. And he’s letting us in, for only $140! Seventy bucks apiece!”

“Not for blue mink,” I asserted. “Nor for pink mink. Nor for any other kind of mink.”

“Aw, look,” pleaded Jim. “The world is hungry for mink. There isn’t a woman from the Atlantic to the Pacific who doesn’t covet a mink coat. So far, only the wealthiest and most pampered women – the movie stars, the wives of rich tycoons – have been able to afford mink. But there’s millions to be made …”

“Jim,” I assured, “when I was a boy, seal was the rage. No lady considered herself a lady until she owned a bob-tailed seal coat, with a frill around the bustle and large leg-of-mutton shoulders. So the fur trade produced millions of seal pelts and killed the fashion right off. The next thing I remember was Persian lamb. The next fashion was Hudson seal – which was muskrat clipped and dyed to look like seal. Next – mink!”

“But it will be years, years,” cried Jim, “before we satisfy the craving of the womanhood of America and Europe for mink coats!”

“I’ll tell you something, Jim,” I informed him. “Do you know that there are thousands of mink being bred right in the city limits of cities like Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg? Do you know that in back yards, all around the suburbs and actually inside the city limits, there are hundreds and hundreds of pens where little guys like store clerks and accountants and mechanics are raising mink for the market you are raving about? They have a long pen, about two feet square on the front, and about eight or 10 feet long, for each mink. A wire floor in each pen, and a little den of a sleeping box at the back…”

“Mink ranches are out in the quiet country,” interrupted Jimmie, “and the ranchers keep them solitary and free of worry from dogs barking or other disturbing noises.”

“Jim, I got it from a vet friend of mine,” I insisted, “who attends these city mink breeders. There are thousands of mink raised every year right in cities and the suburbs.”

“Well, what of it?” exclaimed Jim. “There’s a fortune in it! I’m not talking about guys raising half a dozen mink in a back yard. I’m talking about mink RANCH. We invest in a trio – one male and two females. At the end of the first year, we’ve got 30 or 40 mink. Forty mink! Do you know how much one blue mink – for breeding purposes – will sell for? TWO HUNDRED BUCKS!”

“For one mink,” I checked.

“For one mink,” assured Jim. “In fact, a good breeder blue male mink will sell as high as six hundred. Or even a thousand. It’s all luck. It’s like the gold mines. If you happen to develop a good blue strain, why there’s no limit to the money you can make. Look at what bulls sell for? You often see a bull selling for $15,000.”

“Yeah, a bull,” I admitted. “But a mink is a mighty small animal compared to a bull.”

“Greg,” said Jim, patiently, and a little sadly. “You don’t seem to understand how big money is made. You don’t get rich in this world by hard work. If hard work made a guy rich, there wouldn’t be a poor day laborer or a poor farmer or a poor mechanic in this world. No sir. The way you get rich is by shrewd and intelligent foresight. You look ahead and see what your fellow-man doesn’t see – yet! Now, any fool could look at the world today and see this mink coat racket and realize there’s millions in it. Every woman in the world – rich AND poor — wants a mink coat. Where are they going to come from?”

“Did you say this guy was breeding BLUE mink?” I inquired.

Now, during this debate, Jim was driving me 30 miles north of the city to meet the man he had picked up on the side road who had implanted in Jimmie this passion for mink.

“Two miles further,” said Jim, turning on to a gravel road.

And in no time, we drew up at a very neglected and dilapidated farm house, set among fields of stones and underbrush, a picture of decay.

We got out and Jimmie walked to the gaping front kitchen door and rapped. No answer.

We walked over past the barn, where there was neither animal nor man.

But beyond the barn, on a sloping bare pasture field, we saw eight or nine small structures amid the weeds which, on closer examination, appeared to be cages or pens. And among them, a man was bending.

We walked over the hills and hailed him.

“Jim,” I muttered, as we drew nearer, “this is an awful shabby outfit. If there was any money in mink, wouldn’t this guy have things a little more presentable?”

“I tell you,” hissed Jimmie, “it’s like the mining game. If this guy didn’t need capital to get his ranch going, would be ever be fool enough to let strangers like us in on the ground floor? I tell you, it’s a lucky strike, a bonanza for us!”

When we came up to the pens, the rancher, Mr. Middity, came forward to welcome us. He was a small, dignified little man, either with a very weak beard or else in need of a shave for about three weeks. His features were close set and narrow, and his eyes deep in his head. When he spoke, his small mouth revealed sharp marrow teeth, and I thought he looked more like a mink than some of the animals he showed us in the pens.

“Ah, Mr. Clark,” he said in a cultivated tone much in contrast to his ragged and dilapidated appearance, “I’m a city man born and raised myself. But I saw the folly of the city some years ago, and have been in the mink game.

“How many mink have you?” I interrupted, starting along the pens.

“Easy, easy!” warned Mr. Middity. “Don’t startle them? As a matter of fact, you have caught me at a fortunate moment for you and an unfortunate moment for me. I am in the throes of transition. I have just sold out, lock, stock and barrel, all my standard bred minks and have preserved only a very choice selection of breeding stock. Blue, Mr. Clark! I am confident I have solved the mystery of breeding the true blue mink. Not the mutation. Not the albino. But the true blue!”

“How many mink have you?” I repeated.

“Er… seven,” said Mr. Middity. “Let me see? Yes, seven.”

I glanced along the pens and could only see three.

“When strangers come around,” explained Mr. Middity, “they are very shy. They retreat into the sleeping dens.”

Jim was creeping from pen to pen, lost in a sort of ecstasy, even when looking into an empty pen. The screen of the pens was rusty and patched.

“At this stage,” explained Mr. Middity, “I am looking for a little capital to develop the property. I have, as I said, satisfied myself that I have the secret of the true blue strain in mink. It is a secret I am not at liberty, of course, to reveal at this time. But in due time, to my partners …”

And he smiled very minkily, and waved his hand airily.

Jim was down on his hands and knees at one of the far pens, making a sound like “eeky-weeky” at a very pale brown mink that was peering sleepily out of its den at the back of the pen.

“My proposition,” said Mr. Middity in a loud voice so as to include Jim, “is that I sell you a trio of three – a male and two females -“

“I was telling my friend,” assured Jim, jumping up and joining us.

“It was sheer chance, our meeting,” smiled Mr. Middity. “I was heading into the village to discuss the matter with one of my friends, there, the storekeeper. And who should pick me up …?”

“Which three are you going to sell us?” I inquired.

“Would you rather I sold you three particular mink?” asked Mr. Middity. “Or would you not prefer just to have a three-mink share in the enterprise?”

“I’d rather have three particular mink,” I stated. “Then we could keep track of the litters.”

“Aw, yes,” agreed Jim. “I think we’d prefer to have three particular mink.”

“Very good,” said Mr. Middity. “How about these three on the far end? The farthest is a male, and the next two pens are females. How would they do?”

“Can we see them?” I asked.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Middity. “If they’re out. But you know how shy mink are.”

The pale brown one – the one Jimmie had been going “eeky-weeky” at – had retired back into his den box. The other two pens appeared empty.

“If we wait a minute or so, quietly …” suggested Mr. Middity.

So we stood very quiet, watching. But after a good five minutes, nothing stirred. No sign of any mink appeared, either in the end pen or in the two adjoining ones.

“Ah, well,” sighed Mr. Middity. “They’re all the same, anyway. Only the rarest and choicest specimens were kept when I sold out the surplus, The three on the end, then, the male and two females, will be yours.”

And we went back to the broken down farmhouse, where Mr. Middity made room on his bachelor kitchen table for Jimmie to write out a cheque for $140.

Mr. Middity made room on his bachelor kitchen table for Jimmie to write out a cheque.

“I collect from you tonight,” Jim smiled at me.

Which he did.

That was Wednesday. This is Saturday. In this morning’s mail, Jim got the following letter from Mr. Middity:

“Dear Partners –

“In last night’s thunderstorm, a high wind blew the pens over, and your three mink escaped. I doubt if we can recover them. It’s the luck of the game. However, I have a beautiful azure blue female, a nice quiet animal that wouldn’t run away if she had the chance. I would be happy to let you have her for the sum of $200. Please let me know at once if this opportunity appeals to you, as it isn’t everybody I would take in on partnership.

“Your for bigger and better business,

“HUGH MIDDITY.”

Jim read the letter over the telephone to me.

“What do you think?” he asked enthusiastically.

“I think.” I replied, “it’s the same as gold mines.”

And I hung up.


Editor’s note: $140 in 1947 would be $1977 in 2020.

The Midway, Where Grown-Ups All Become Children Again

September 4, 1920

An illustration by Jim from the time of year of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.

A Tough Break!

September 1, 1934

Treasure Hunters

By Greg Clark, September 25, 1943

“You’re just in time,” cried Jimmie Frise, delightedly.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“There’s an old chap coming in,” hurried Jim, “an old sailor, who has got the most extraordinary story. About buried treasure.”

“Ho, ho, ho,” I scoffed.

“This,” cried Jim, “is the real thing. You’ll realize it the minute you see the old boy. He’s absolutely genuine.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” I said, settling down to my desk to earn my daily bread.

“Listen,” said Jim, “I’m no fool. I wouldn’t be taken in by any fake. I tell you, this old boy is the real stuff. And he’s got the most fascinating story I’ve ever listened to.”

“Was it gold coins,” I inquired sarcastically, “or just ordinary gold bricks?”

“I tell you,” declared Jim, that he held me absolutely spellbound for over an hour. He’s gone home to get some more documents, now that I’m interested. But I told him to hurry back because I wanted you to hear it from his own lips.”

“What kind of a man is he?” I asked.

“He’s an old sailor,” related Jim breathlessly. “He’s a big, stout, elderly fellow, with white hair and a big, round, ruddy face. His hands are all tattooed in red and blue, and you can fairly smell the salt off him.”

“I suppose,” I offered, “that he walks with rolling gait, like all sailors in stories?”

“Just you wait,” said Jim. “He isn’t the talkative plausible type at all. He’s a big, slow-speaking, bashful old man, who blushes and struggles with his words. He’s been trying to get up nerve enough to approach us ever since the summer, when he came to Toronto to visit his granddaughter.”

“And what’s he got?” I inquired

“He’s got,” said Jim, hastily collecting his thoughts, an ancient chart …”

“Phew,” I said. “It smells, Jim. It’s the old Spanish prisoner racket in a new guise.”

“Listen,” cried Jim hotly, “I saw this chart. It’s as old as the hills. It’s at least 200 years old.”

“Paper or parchment?” I demanded.

“Paper,” said Jim.

“And how it preserved?” I asked shrewdly.

“It’s pasted on leather,” explained Jim. “Old, old dried and withered leather of some kind …”

An Exciting Story

“How did he come by it?” I inquired.

“It was given to him by a native woman, down in the South Seas, when he was a young man,” related Jim, romantically. “This native girl loved him and gave him the chart, which she said was a secret possession of her family, handed down from her great-great-grandfather, a white man.”

“Probably a pirate,” I suggested.

“That’s what the old sailor thinks, too,” said Jim.

“Then why has he never done anything about it?” I submitted.

“That’s the exciting part of the whole thing,” cried Jim. “This is the part that makes me believe every word he says. And this is the story. When he left the South Seas, he left on a little trading schooner. He had the chart in his seaman’s box. He thought nothing of it. It was just a curio his girl had given him. He didn’t believe a word of the story she told about any buried treasure. On the trading schooner he came to blows with the master, and at the first port of call he quit the schooner and waited for a steamer. This was a tramp steamer engaged in some illegal traffic, and when they reached San Francisco the whole ship’s company, captain officers and crew, were all arrested, including this old boy – then a lad of about 25.”

“Go ahead,” I urged.

“He was in jail about a week,” went on Jim, “and when he got out and went back to the ship for his gear the ship’s cook, who had not been arrested, had gone through all the property of the crew, stealing anything of value that he found. And among the things he took from our friend’s sea chest was this old chart.”

“H’m,” said I.

“Fifteen years went by,” related Jimmie, “and our friend never even thought of the old chart. Never even thought of it. That’s how little he valued it. Then, in 1912 …”

Jim crouched down at his drawing-board and fixed me with a maritime eye.

“In 1912,” hissed Jim, “our friend, now an old sailor of 40 years of age, signed aboard a rich man’s yacht in New York. It was a pleasure cruise, going in search of buried treasure in the Caribbean.

“Ah,” I pleaded.

“And naturally among the crew and the members of the party,” said Jim, “the talk was all buried treasure. The yacht owner had dozens of books, pamphlets and old charts and old references and letters to all the buried treasure there ever were. And naturally our friend, in the course of talk as they cruised south, spoke up and told about the ancient yellow chart, backed with leather, that his girl had given him years before in the South Sea Islands.”

“So?” I begged.

“On this old chart,” whispered Jim mysteriously, as you will see in a few minutes, there is written, in ancient faded ink, the name Jos. Hawkins. When our friend described the chart and mentioned the name Jos. Hawkins, the yacht owner nearly went crazy with excitement. It appears he had records of the existence not only of that very chart, but of an enormous treasure, in gold, silver and jewels, buried on an island in the South Pacific.”

“What a coincidence,” I breathed.

“Naturally,” said Jim. “they quit their pleasure cruise and headed as fast as they knew how for San Francisco to try to pick up trace of that thieving ship’s cook or of the stolen chart.”

“When was this?” I asked.

“In 1912,” said Jim. “They went to San Francisco and with the help of the wealthy yacht owner they delved into the old records, they hunted through hundreds of sailors boarding-houses, for any trace of the cook. But never the slightest trace did they find. It was hopeless.”

“What happened?” I asked,

“Our friend,” said Jim, whose name is Smith, left the yacht’s crew and remained behind in San Francisco to continue the search. The yacht owner financed him for two years. He haunted the wharfs, searched the sailors’ hangouts. Then, in 1914, the wealthy yacht owner died. All alone, without any further means of support, Smith continued the search. He had to take jobs, and he went on short voyages, always returning to San Francisco. But about 1917 he finally gave up the search after five years. By now he was getting into his fifties. He went on a freighter to England and from there, during the hard years after the war, he took such jobs as he could get. But never did he forget the chart and that cook. He spent all his idle time searching sailor hangouts, searching second-hand shops, looking through the contents of sailors’ sea chests in second-hand stores. Then one day …”

“Please hurry,” I begged.

“One day in Rio de Janeiro,” said Jim, with a catch in his voice, “Smith walked into a little restaurant at the dockside, and there, at a table, was the cook!”

“What a moment!” I agreed.

“Smith was very clever,” said Jim. “He controlled himself. He simply sat down and shook hands with the thief and asked him what he had done with the chart which Smith said he valued as a gift from an old sweetheart. The cook said it had lain in the bottom of his chest for several years but that he had left the chest at a certain sailors’ boarding house in San Francisco. It was there yet, as far as he knew.”

“Not much chance,” I suggested. “After 20 years.”

“Yes,” said Jim, listening to hear if Smith’s footsteps were approaching. “Poor Smith. He had to make his way to San Francisco. It took him seven months. On account of the war merchant seamen can’t just go where they please. When he reached San Francisco he went at once to the boarding house. The house had changed hands several times. It took Smith a whole month to trace down the owner at the time the cook left the box. He lived in Chicago. Smith went to Chicago, riding freight trains. There he spent weeks tracing the old boarding house owner, who finally told him, at last, that he had sold the chest to a dealer in such junk.”

“What a treasure hunt itself,” I marvelled.

“Back to San Francisco went Smith, only this past summer,” said Jim. “He is, as you will see, an elderly man, though well preserved. In San Francisco he went straight to the junk dealer’s who, 10 years before, had bought a sea chest from a bankrupt boarding-house. Down cellar they went and searched amongst the gathering debris of the years. And there, in five minutes, they found the cook’s sea chest. Smith bought it for 50 cents.”

“Fifty cents?” I exclaimed.

“And down in the bottom,” exulted Jim, “was the chart, undamaged, exactly as Smith had last seen it.”

“What a remarkable thing,” I agreed.

How Lovely to Go Voyaging

“Smith,” continued Jim, “beat his way directly to New York, to try and dig up any connections with that yachting party of 1912. Any children or friends of the yacht owner. He couldn’t find any trace of them whatever. He used up all his money. He was absolutely checkmated. He was on the point of approaching some stranger and putting the proposition up to him, when he remembered his granddaughter here in Toronto. He decided, before taking any risks, to come and visit his granddaughter, whom he had never seen, and the only living soul left to him in the world. When you get old you turn back to your own.”

“So he came to Toronto?” I urged.

“He has been here a month,” said Jim. “He revealed his secret to the young woman. They talked the thing over from every angle. And finally the granddaughter suggested you and me. She reads our articles every week, and she just thought we were the adventurous type who might be interested. And she believes we are honest men. And discreet.”

“Jim,” I said shakily, “did Smith give you any idea of the size of the treasure?”

“He has no idea,” replied Jim. “All he knows is that it is in a most inaccessible region in the South Pacific, that it consists of a very great quantity of Spanish gold coins silver bars and jewels.”

“Did he not put a value on it?” I quivered

“He thinks he recollects hearing the yacht owner say,” said Jim, “that it amounted to $2,000,000.”

“Oh, my gosh,” I gasped.

“With the war on,” said Jim, “there isn’t much hope of getting near it.”

“Let’s cross our bridges when we come to them,” I counselled.

“It wouldn’t take a great deal,” said Jim, agitated. “Smith thinks $1,000 would make a start. We could let 10 friends in, for $100 apiece. And we could get leave of absence from the office for a few weeks.”

“I need a winter holiday,” I proclaimed.

“Smith should be back before this,” said Jim, looking at his watch. “He said he would be back right away. And that is two hours ago.”

Jim glared at a bit of paper on his drawing-board.

“Have you got his address?” I cried. “Let’s go at once and see if he’s all right. An elderly man. Maybe something has happened. And, anyway, imagine him carrying that precious chart around in his pocket. Why, Jim, he may have been waylaid…”

Jim reached for his hat.

“He lives,” said Jim, “with his granddaughter at a boarding-house on Jarvis. I’ll just leave a note for him to wait in case he comes while we’re gone.”

“We won’t be 15 minutes,” I pointed out.

With all speed we drove to the address on Jarvis street.

“Amongst sailors,” I pointed out, as we speeded, there are a lot of shady characters. Suppose somebody has caught on to the old man …”

Jim stepped on the gas.

“My interest in this,” I submitted, “is more to help the dear old fellow realize his dream than any hope of personal gain. Imagine all the years . . .”

At the Jarvis street address a thin woman in a wrapper answered the door. When we asked for Mr. Smith she opened the door agitatedly and said:

“Go right up.”

“Is everything all right?” I inquired.

“Certainly, certainly,” said the thin lady with increased agitation. “The first door on your left.”

We rapped. The door was instantly, opened by a very large man wearing his hat and coat.

“Step in,” he commanded.

Another large man was sitting on the bed.

“What’s your name, who are you and what do you want?” demanded this latter gentleman.

We explained we wanted Mr. Smith. We further explained that Mr. Smith had been going to call at our office re a little matter of business, but having failed to turn up we had called on him instead.

“Did you give him any money?” demanded one of the large gentlemen.

“No,” we said.

“All right, Bill,” said one to the other, “you go back with these birds to their office and I’ll wait here. But I don’t expect well see him.”

The larger gentleman ushered us out and downstairs and out into our car with us.

He’s called The Sailor,” explained the detective, for such he was. “He travels all over America with his so-called granddaughter, spilling this story about the buried treasure.”

“Good heavens,” we gasped.

“And it would astonish you,” said the cop, “how many people fall for it. Hundreds of dollars, some of them.”

“How silly of them,” I said, “to be taken in by such a tale.”

“The world’s full of them,” said Jimmie, contemptuously.


Editor’s Note: The Spanish Prisoner, would now be more notably known as the Nigerian Prince.

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