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"SHE'S SHAPING UP LIKE A BANK ROLL"
"Well," said Luck to the Happy Family, "we've come this far along the trail, and now I'm stuck again. Bank won't loan any more on the camera, and I've got a dollar and six bits to market The Phantom Herd with! Everything's fine so far; she's advertised,--or will be when the magazines come out,--and she's got some good press notices to back her up; but she ain't outa the woods yet. I've got to raise some money somehow. I hate to ask poor old Applehead--"
"Pore old Applehead, my granny!" bawled Big Medicine, laughing his big haw-haw. "Pore ole Applehead's sure steppin' high these days. He'd mortgage his ranch and feel like a millionaire, by cripes! His ole Come-Paddy cat jest natcherally walloped the tar outa Shunky Cheestely, and Applehead seen him doin' it. Come-Paddy, he's hangin' out in the house now, by cripes, 'cept when he takes a sashay down to the stable lookin' fer more. And Shunky, he's bedded down under the Ketch-all, when he ain't hittin' fer the tall timber with his tail clamped down between his legs. Honest to grandma, Luck, you couldn't hit Applehead at a better time. He'll borry money er do anything yuh care to ask, except shut up that there cat uh hisn."
"Well, luck may come my way; I'll just sit tight a few days and see," said Luck. "When that positive film comes, I'll have to rustle money somewhere to get it outa the express office, so we can make more prints. And--"
"And grind our daylights out again on that there drum that never does git wound up?" groaned Big Medicine, and felt his biceps tenderly.
"We won't rush the next job quite so hard," Luck soothed, perfectly amiable and easy to live with, now that the worst was over. "We made a darn good set of prints, just the same; boys, you oughta seen that picture! I've a good mind to get some house here in town to run it; say, I might raise some money that way, if I can't do it any other." And then his enthusiasm cooled. "Town isn't big enough for a long-enough run," he considered disgustedly. "I'm past the two-bit stage of the game now."
"Well, you ask Applehead to raise the money," advised Weary. "Or one of us will write to Chip for some. Mamma! The world's full of money! Seems like it ought to be easy to get hold of some."
"It is--but it ain't," Luck stated somewhat ambiguously, and turned the talk to his meeting with the old-timers, and prepared to "sit tight" and wait for his god Good Luck to smile upon him.
The smile arrived at noon the next day, in the form of a wire from Philadelphia. Luck read it and gave a whoop of joy quite at variance with his usual surface calm.
Can Offer You Fifteen Hundred Dollars for Pennsylvania Rights The Phantom Herd Usual Ten Cents Per Foot Positive Prints if Accepted Wire at Once and Ship to This Point
"I hollered too soon," groaned Luck, when he had read it the second time, pushing back his hair distractedly. "How the devil am I going to send him any positive prints at ten cents a foot or ten cents an inch or any other price? Till I get that shipment of positive, I can't fill any orders at all! And until I begin to fill orders, I can't realize on the film. Can you beat that? I'll have to wire him to wait, and that's two thousand dollars tied up!"
"Aw, gwan!" Happy Jack croaked argumentatively. "Why don't you send him what you took to the Convention?"
Luck stared at Happy stupefied before he said a word. "Say, Miguel, you saddle your ridge-runner while I get ready to take this wire hack to town and send it off," he snapped, preparing to write. "Sure, I'll send that set of prints! Happy, you can go to the head of the class. Now it's only a case of sit tight till the money comes. The prints are packed and in the bank vault, so I'll just get them out and send them C.O.D. to Mr. Crittenden, along with the states rights contract. How's that for luck, boys?"
"Pretty good--for Luck," grinned Andy meaningly. "Fly at it, you coming millionaire!"
"Just a case of sit tight, boys. Adios!" cried Luck jubilantly as he hurried away.
Once start along a smooth trail, and everything seems to conspire toward a pleasant trip. To prove it, Luck found another telegram waiting for him in Albuquerque. This was from Martinson, and might be interpreted as an apology more or less abject. Certainly it was an urgent request that he return immediately to Los Angeles and to his old place at the Acme, and produce Western pictures under no supervision whatever.
Luck gave a little chuckle when he pocketed that message, but he did not send any answer. He meant to wait and talk it over with the boys first. "Better proposition than before," Martinson said. Well, perhaps it would be best to look into it; Luck was too experienced to believe that one success means permanent success; there are too many risks for the free lance to run when a single failure means financial annihilation. If the Acme would come to his terms, it might be to his advantage to take his boys back and accept this peace-offering. At any rate, he appreciated to the full the triumph they had scored.
Next, by some twist of the red tape in the Philadelphia express office,--or perhaps R.J. Crittenden was a good fellow and asked them to do it,--the two thousand dollars came by wire, just three days after Luck had received notice that his shipment of positive film was being held for him at the express office in Albuquerque. Also came other offers, mostly by wire, for states rights to The Phantom Herd. And when the Happy Family realized what those offers meant, they didn't care how hard or how long Luck worked them in the little house which he had turned into a laboratory.
Being human, intensely so in some ways, the first set of prints they turned out Luck sent to Los Angeles with a mental godspeed and a hope that Bently Brown and Martinson would see it and "get wise to what a real Western picture looked like." There were other orders ahead of Los Angeles in Luck's book, but they waited a little longer so that he might the sooner taste a little of the sweets of revenge.
Whether Bently Brown and Martinson saw The Phantom Herd, Luck was a long, long time finding out. But he learned that some one else did see it, and that right speedily. For among his many telegrams that came clicking into Albuquerque was this one which makes a fitting end to this story:
Congratulations on The Phantom Herd Wonderful Production New Proposition You to Produce Western Features with Your Present Company on Straight Salary and Bonus Basis Miss Jean Douglas to Play Your Leads if I Can Sign Her up Can You Come Here at Once to Close Deal Answer
"All right, boys, you can run and play." Luck handed them the telegram, looked at his watch, and began to roll down his sleeves. "I'll catch the next train for 'Los' and see Dewitt,--don't take any studying to know that's the thing to do,--and if you'll pack all this negative, Bill, I'll take that along and hire the rest of the prints made. Andy, you're riding herd on this bunch while I'm gone. Just hold yourselves ready for orders, because I don't know how things will shape up. But believe me, boys, she's shaping up like a bank-roll!"
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