Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXIX
The scene changes.
Three weeks later among the miners who were sitting on the narrow veranda of the "Miners' Rest" in Oreville in Montana we recognize two familiar faces and figures--those of Jefferson Pettigrew and Rodney Ropes. Both were roughly clad, and if Jasper could have seen Rodney he would have turned up his nose in scorn, for Rodney had all the look of a common miner.
It was in Oreville that Mr. Pettigrew had a valuable mining property, on which he employed quite a number of men who preferred certain wages to a compensation depending on the fluctuations of fortune. Rodney was among those employed, but although he was well paid he could not get to like the work. Of this, however, he said nothing to Mr. Pettigrew whose company he enjoyed, and whom he held in high esteem.
On the evening in question Jefferson rose from his seat and signed to Rodney to follow him.
"Well, Rodney, how do you like Montana?" he asked.
"Well enough to be glad I came here," answered Rodney.
"Still you are not partial to the work of a miner!"
"I can think of other things I would prefer to do."
"How would you like keeping a hotel?"
"Is there any hotel in search of a manager?" asked Rodney smiling.
"I will explain. Yesterday I bought the `Miners' Rest.'"
"What--the hotel where we board?"
"Exactly. I found that Mr. Bailey, who has made a comfortable sum of money, wants to leave Montana and go East and I bought the hotel."
"So that hereafter I shall board with you?"
"Not exactly. I propose to put you in charge, and pay you a salary. I can oversee, and give you instructions. How will that suit you?"
"So you think I am competent, Mr. Pettigrew?"
"Yes, I think so. There is a good man cook, and two waiters. The cook will also order supplies and act as steward under you."
"What then will be my duties?"
"You will act as clerk and cashier, and pay the bills. You will have to look after all the details of management. If there is anything you don't understand you will have me to back you up, and advise you. What do you say?"
"That I shall like it much better than mining. My only doubt is as to whether I shall suit you."
"It is true that it takes a smart man to run a hotel, but I think we can do it between us. Now what will you consider a fair salary?"
"I leave that to you, Mr. Pettigrew."
"Then we will call it a hundred and fifty dollars a month and board."
"But, Mr. Pettigrew," said Rodney in surprise, "how can I possibly earn that much?"
"You know we charge big prices, and have about fifty steady boarders. I expect to make considerable money after deducting all the expenses of management."
"My friend Jasper would be very much surprised if he could know the salary I am to receive. In the store I was only paid seven dollars a week."
"The duties were different. Almost any boy could discharge the duties of an entry clerk while it takes peculiar qualities to run a hotel."
"I was certainly very fortunate to fall in with you, Mr. Pettigrew."
"I expect it will turn out fortunate for me too, Rodney."
"When do you want me to start in?"
"Next Monday morning. It is now Thursday evening. Mr. Bailey will turn over the hotel to me on Saturday night. You needn't go to the mines tomorrow, but may remain in the hotel, and he will instruct you in the details of management."
"That will be quite a help to me, and I am at present quite ignorant on the subject."
Rodney looked forward with pleasure to his new employment. He had good executive talent, though thus far he had had no occasion to exercise it. It was with unusual interest that he set about qualifying himself for his new position.
"Young man," said the veteran landlord, "I think you'll do. I thought at first that Jefferson was foolish to put a young boy in my place, but you've got a head on your shoulders, you have! I guess you'll fill the bill."
"I hope to do so, Mr. Bailey."
"Jefferson tells me that you understand Latin and Greek?"
"I know something of them."
"Thats what prejudiced me against you. I hired a college boy once as a clerk and he was the worst failure I ever came across. He seemed to have all kinds of sense except common sense. I reckon he was a smart scholar, and he could have made out the bills for the boarders in Latin or Greek if it had been necessary, but he was that soft that any one could cheat him. Things got so mixed up in the department that I had to turn him adrift in a couple of weeks. I surmised you might be the same sort of a chap. If you were it would be a bad lookout for Jefferson."
In Oreville Mr. Pettigrew was so well known that nearly everyone called him by his first name. Mr. Pettigrew did not care about this as he had no false pride or artificial dignity.
"Do you consider this hotel a good property, Mr. Bailey?"
"I'll tell you this much. I started here four years ago, and I've made fifty thousand dollars which I shall take back with me to New Hampshire."
"That certainly is satisfactory."
"I shouldn't wonder if you could improve upon it."
"How does it happen that you sell out such a valuable property, Mr. Bailey? Are you tired of making money?"
"No, but I must tell you that there's a girl waiting for me at home, an old schoolmate, who will become Mrs. Bailey as soon as possible after I get back. If she would come out here I wouldn't sell, but she has a mother that she wouldn't leave, and so I must go to her."
"That is a good reason, Mr. Bailey."
"Besides with fifty thousand dollars I can live as well as I want to in New Hampshire, and hold up my head with the best. You will follow my example some day."
"It will be a long day first, Mr. Bailey, for I am only sixteen."
On Monday morning the old landlord started for his Eastern home and Rodney took his place. It took him some little time to become familiar with all the details of hotel management, but he spared no pains to insure success. He had some trouble at first with the cook who presumed upon his position and Rodney's supposed ignorance to run things as he chose.
Rodney complained to Mr. Pettigrew.
"I think I can fix things, Rodney," he said. "There's a man working for me who used to be cook in a restaurant in New York. I found out about him quietly, for I wanted to be prepared for emergencies. The next time Gordon act contrary and threatens to leave, tell him he can do as he pleases. Then report to me."
The next day there came another conflict of authority.
"If you don't like the way I manage you can get somebody else," said the cook triumphantly. "Perhaps you'd like to cook the dinner yourself. You're nothing but a boy, and I don't see what Jefferson was thinking of to put you in charge."
"That is his business, Mr. Gordon."
"I advise you not to interfere with me, for I won't stand it."
"Why didn't you talk in this way to Mr. Bailey?"
"That's neither here nor there. He wasn't a boy for one thing."
"Then you propose to have your own way, Mr. Gordon?"
"Yes, I do."
"Very well, then you can leave me at the end of this week."
"What!" exclaimed the cook in profound astonishment. "Are you going crazy?"
"No, I know what I am about."
"Perhaps you intend to cook yourself."
"No, I don't. That would close up the hotel."
"Look here, young feller, you're gettin' too independent! I've a great mind to leave you tonight."
"You can do so if you want to," said Rodney indifferently.
"Then I will!" retorted Gordon angrily, bringing down his fist upon the table in vigorous emphasis.
Oreville was fifty miles from Helena, and that was the nearest point, as he supposed, where a new cook could be obtained.
After supper Rodney told Jefferson Pettigrew what had happened.
"Have I done right?" he asked.
"Yes; we can't have any insubordination here. There can't be two heads of one establishment. Send Gordon to me."
The cook with a defiant look answered the summons.
"I understand you want to leave, Gordon," said Jefferson Pettigrew.
"That depends. I ain't goin' to have no boy dictatin' to me."
"Then you insist upon having your own way without interference."
"Yes, I do."
"Very well, I accept your resignation. Do you wish to wait till the end of the week, or to leave tonight?"
"I want to give it up tonight."
"Very well, go to Rodney and he will pay you what is due you."
"Are you goin' to get along without a cook?" inquired Gordon in surprise.
"What are you going to do, then?"
"I shall employ Parker in your place."
"What does he know about cookin'?"
"He ran a restaurant in New York for five years, the first part of the time having charge of the cooking. We shan't suffer even if you do leave us."
"I think I will stay," said Gordon in a submissive tone.
"It is too late. You have discharged yourself. You can't stay here on any terms."
Gordon left Oreville the next day a sorely disappointed man, for he had received more liberal pay than he was likely to command elsewhere. The young landlord had triumphed.