Ned's Stroke of Business by Lucy Maud
"Jump in, Ned; I can give you a lift if you're going my way." Mr.
Rogers reined up his prancing grey horse, and Ned Allen sprang lightly
into the comfortable cutter. The next minute they were flying down the
long, glistening road, rosy-white in the sunset splendour. The first
snow of the season had come, and the sleighing was, as Ned said,
"Going over to Windsor, I suppose," said Mr. Rogers, with a glance at
the skates that were hanging over Ned's shoulder.
"Yes, sir; all the Carleton boys are going over tonight. The moon is
out, and the ice is good. We have to go in a body, or the Windsor
fellows won't leave us alone. There's safety in numbers."
"Pretty hard lines when boys have to go six miles for a skate,"
commented Mr. Rogers.
"Well, it's that or nothing," laughed Ned. "There isn't a saucerful of
ice any nearer, except that small pond in Old Dutcher's field, behind
his barn. And you know Old Dutcher won't allow a boy to set foot
there. He says they would knock down his fences climbing over them,
and like as not set fire to his barn."
"Old Dutcher was always a crank," said Mr. Rogers, "and doubtless will
be to the end. By the way, I heard a rumour to the effect that you are
soon going to take a course at the business college in Trenton. I hope
Ned's frank face clouded over. "I'm afraid not, sir. The truth is, I
guess Mother can't afford it. Of course, Aunt Ella has very kindly
offered to board me free for the term, but fees, books, and so on
would require at least fifty dollars. I don't expect to go."
"That's a pity. Can't you earn the necessary money yourself?"
Ned shook his head. "Not much chance for that in Carleton, Mr. Rogers.
I've cudgelled my brains for the past month trying to think of some
way, but in vain. Well, here is the crossroad, so I must get off.
Thank you for the drive, sir."
"Keep on thinking, Ned," advised Mr. Rogers, as the lad jumped out.
"Perhaps you'll hit on some plan yet to earn that money, and if you
do—well, it will prove that you have good stuff in you."
"I think it would," laughed Ned to himself, as he trudged away. "A
quiet little farming village in winter isn't exactly a promising field
for financial operations."
At Winterby Corners Ned found a crowd of boys waiting for him, and
soon paired off with his chum, Jim Slocum. Jim, as usual, was
grumbling because they had to go all the way to Windsor to skate.
"Like as not we'll get into a free fight with the Windsorites when we
get there, and be chevied off the ice," he complained.
The rivalry which existed between the Carleton and the Windsor boys
was bitter and of long standing.
"We ought to be able to hold our own tonight," said Ned. "There'll be
thirty of us there."
"If we could only get Old Dutcher to let us skate on his pond!" said
Jim. "It wouldn't hurt his old pond! And the ice is always splendid on
it. I'd give a lot if we could only go there."
Ned was silent. A sudden idea had come to him. He wondered if it were
feasible. "Anyhow, I'll try it," he said to himself. "I'll interview
Old Dutcher tomorrow."
The skating that night was not particularly successful. The small pond
at Windsor was crowded, the Windsor boys being out in force and,
although no positive disturbance arose, they contrived to make matters
unpleasant for the Carletonites, who tramped moodily homeward in no
very good humour, most of them declaring that, skating or no skating,
they would not go to Windsor again.
The next day Ned Allen went down to see Mr. Dutcher, or Old Dutcher,
as he was universally called in Carleton. Ned did not exactly look
forward to the interview with pleasure. Old Dutcher was a crank—there
was no getting around that fact. He had "good days" occasionally when,
for him, he was fairly affable, but they were few and far between, and
Ned had no reason to hope that this would be one. Old Dutcher was
unmarried, and his widowed sister kept house for him. This poor lady
had a decidedly lonely life of it, for Old Dutcher studiously
discouraged visitors. His passion for solitude was surpassed only by
his eagerness to make and save money. Although he was well-to-do, he
would wrangle over a cent, and was the terror of all who had ever had
dealings with him.
Fortunately for Ned and his project, this did turn out to be one of
Old Dutcher's good days. He had just concluded an advantageous bargain
with a Windsor cattle-dealer, and hence he received Ned with what, for
Old Dutcher, might be called absolute cordiality. Besides, although
Old Dutcher disliked all boys on principle, he disliked Ned less than
the rest because the boy had always treated him respectfully and had
never played any tricks on him on Hallowe'en or April Fool's Day.
"I've come down to see you on a little matter of business, Mr.
Dutcher," said Ned, boldly and promptly. It never did to beat about
the bush with Old Dutcher; you had to come straight to the point. "I
want to know if you will rent your pond behind the barn to me for a
Old Dutcher's aspect was certainly not encouraging. "No, I won't. You
ought to know that. I never allow anyone to skate there. I ain't going
to have a parcel of whooping, yelling youngsters tearing over my
fences, disturbing my sleep at nights, and like as not setting fire to
my barns. No, sir! I ain't going to rent that pond for no
Ned smothered a smile. "Just wait a moment, Mr. Dutcher," he said
respectfully. "I want you to hear my proposition before you refuse
definitely. First, I'll give you ten dollars for the rent of the pond;
then I'll see that there will be no running over your fields and
climbing your fences, no lighting of fire or matches about it, and no
'whooping and yelling' at nights. My rink will be open only from two
to six in the afternoon and from seven to ten in the evening. During
that time I shall always be at the pond to keep everything in order.
The skaters will come and go by the lane leading from the barn to the
road. I think that if you agree to my proposition, Mr. Dutcher, you
will not regret it."
"What's to prevent my running such a rink myself?" asked Old Dutcher
"It wouldn't pay you, Mr. Dutcher," answered Ned promptly. "The
Carleton boys wouldn't patronize a rink run by you."
Old Dutcher's eyes twinkled. It did not displease him to know that the
Carleton boys hated him. In fact, it seemed as if he rather liked it.
"Besides," went on Ned, "you couldn't afford the time. You couldn't be
on the pond for eight hours a day and until ten o'clock at night. I
can, as I've nothing else to do just now. If I had, I wouldn't have to
be trying to make money by a skating-rink."
Old Dutcher scowled. Ten dollars was ten dollars and, as Ned had said,
he knew very well that he could not run a rink by himself. "Well," he
said, half reluctantly, "I suppose I'll let you go ahead. Only
remember I'll hold you responsible if anything happens."
Ned went home in high spirits. By the next day he had placards out in
conspicuous places—on the schoolhouse, at the forge, at Mr. Rogers's
store, and at Winterby Corners—announcing that he had rented Mr.
Dutcher's pond for a skating-rink, and that tickets for the same at
twenty-five cents a week for each skater could be had upon application
Ned was not long left in doubt as to the success of his enterprise. It
was popular from the start. There were about fifty boys in Carleton
and Winterby, and they all patronized the rink freely. At first Ned
had some trouble with two or three rowdies, who tried to evade his
rules. He was backed up, however, by Old Dutcher's reputation and by
the public opinion of the other boys, as well as by his own undoubted
muscle, and soon had everything going smoothly. The rink flourished
amain, and everybody, even Old Dutcher, was highly pleased.
At the end of the season Ned paid Old Dutcher his ten dollars, and had
plenty left to pay for books and tuition at the business college in
Trenton. On the eve of his departure Mr. Rogers, who had kept a keen
eye on Ned's enterprise, again picked him up on the road.
"So you found a way after all, Ned," he said genially. "I had an idea
you would. My bookkeeper will be leaving me about the time you will be
through at the college. I will be wanting in his place a young man
with a good nose for business, and I rather think that you will be
that young man. What do you say?"
"Thank you, sir," stammered Ned, scarcely believing his ears. A
position in Mr. Rogers's store meant good salary and promotion. He had
never dared to hope for such good fortune. "If you—think I can give
"You manipulated Old Dutcher, and you've earned enough in a very
slow-going place to put you through your business-college term, so I
am sure you are the man I'm looking for. I believe in helping those
who have 'gumption' enough to help themselves, so we'll call it a