A Deal in Wheat And Other Stories
The Dual Personality Of Slick Dick Nickerson
On a certain morning in the spring of the year, the three men who were known as the
Three Black Crows called at the office of "The President of the Pacific and Oriental
Flotation Company," situated in an obscure street near San Francisco's water-front. They
were Strokher, the tall, blond, solemn, silent Englishman; Hardenberg, the American, dry
of humour, shrewd, resourceful, who bargained like a Vermonter and sailed a schooner
like a Gloucester cod-fisher; and in their company, as ever inseparable from the other
two, came the little colonial, nicknamed, for occult reasons, "Ally Bazan," a small, wiry
man, excitable, vociferous, who was without fear, without guile and without money.
When Hardenberg, who was always spokesman for the Three Crows, had sent in their
names, they were admitted at once to the inner office of the "President." The President
was an old man, bearded like a prophet, with a watery blue eye and a forehead wrinkled
like an orang's. He spoke to the Three Crows in the manner of one speaking to friends he
has not seen in some time.
"Well, Mr. Ryder," began Hardenberg. "We called around to see if you had anything fer
us this morning. I don't mind telling you that we're at liberty jus' now. Anything doing?"
Ryder fingered his beard distressfully. "Very little, Joe; very little."
"Got any wrecks?"
"Not a wreck."
Hardenberg turned to a great map that hung on the wall by Ryder's desk. It was marked in
places by red crosses, against which were written certain numbers and letters. Hardenberg
put his finger on a small island south of the Marquesas group and demanded: "What
might be H. 33, Mr. President?"
"Pearl Island," answered the President. "Davidson is on that job."
"Or H. 125?" Hardenberg indicated a point in the Gilbert group.
"Guano deposits. That's promised."
"Hallo! You're up in the Aleutians. I make out. 20 A.--what's that?"
"Old government telegraph wire--line abandoned--finest drawn-copper wire. I've had
three boys at that for months."
"What's 301? This here, off the Mexican coast?"