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Steve Hunter decided that it was time something was done to wake up his native
town. The call of the spring wind awoke something in him as in Hugh. It came up
from the south bringing rain followed by warm fair days. Robins hopped about on
the lawns before the houses on the residence streets of Bidwell, and the air was
again sweet with the pregnant sweetness of new-plowed ground. Like Hugh,
Steve walked about alone through the dark, dimly lighted residence streets
during the spring evenings, but he did not try awkwardly to leap over creeks in
the darkness or pull bushes out of the ground, nor did he waste his time
dreaming of being physically young, clean-limbed and beautiful.
Before the coming of his great achievements in the industrial field, Steve had not
been highly regarded in his home town. He had been a noisy boastful youth and
had been spoiled by his father. When he was twelve years old what were called
safety bicycles first came into use and for a long time he owned the only one in
town. In the evening he rode it up and down Main Street, frightening the horses
and arousing the envy of the town boys. He learned to ride without putting his
hands on the handle-bars and the other boys began to call him Smarty Hunter
and later, because he wore a stiff, white collar that folded down over his
shoulders, they gave him a girl's name. "Hello, Susan," they shouted, "don't fall
and muss your clothes."
In the spring that marked the beginning of his great industrial adventure, Steve
was stirred by the soft spring winds into dreaming his own kind of dreams. As he
walked about through the streets, avoiding the other young men and women, he
remembered Ernestine, the daughter of the Buffalo soap maker, and thought a
great deal about the magnificence of the big stone house in which she lived with
her father. His body ached for her, but that was a matter he felt could be
managed. How he could achieve a financial position that would make it possible
for him to ask for her hand was a more difficult problem. Since he had come back
from the business college to live in his home town, he had secretly, and at the
cost of two new five dollar dresses, arranged a physical alliance with a girl
named Louise Trucker whose father was a farm laborer, and that left his mind
free for other things. He intended to become a manufacturer, the first one in
Bidwell, to make himself a leader in the new movement that was sweeping over
the country. He had thought out what he wanted to do and it only remained to
find something for him to manufacture to put his plans through. First of all he had
selected with great care certain men he intended to ask to go in with him. There
was John Clark the banker, his own father, E. H. Hunter the town jeweler,
Thomas Butterworth the rich farmer, and young Gordon Hart, who had a job as
assistant cashier in the bank. For a month he had been dropping hints to these
men of something mysterious and important about to happen. With the exception
of his father who had infinite faith in the shrewdness and ability of his son, the
men he wanted to impress were only amused. One day Thomas Butterworth
went into the bank and stood talking the matter over with John Clark. "The young