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RGL e-Book Cover 2018

Ex Libris

First published in Fantastic Adventures, March 1942
This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-12-01
Produced by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

The text of this book is in the public domain in Australia.
All original content added by RGL is protected by copyright.

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Fantastic Adventures, March 1942, with "The Fantastic Twins"


"How do you do?" They spoke simultaneously, like a vaudeville act.

The twins had a secret knowledge of the power of
words, and they also had a formula to increase it...

I LOOKED up from the copy I was writing—something to persuade mothers that their offspring begged for a particularly foul brand of patent medicine—and blinked in astonishment.

"How do you do?" They spoke simultaneously, like a vaudeville act. They both wore severe black silk summer suits, both carried battered black derbies in their hands, and both were possessed of gray whiskers and old-fashioned sideburns. They were both short and dumpy, and as they stood there gravely in the doorway of the tiny hovel that is laughingly called my private office, I wondered how in the hell the receptionist had let them in.

I thought of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I took another quick gander at the whiskers and sideburns.

"If it's cough drops," I said, "I don't want any, thanks."

They shook their heads, simultaneously.

"We are not selling cough drops."

Again the vocal teamwork. "You are a copywriter," they added in unison. "You write advertisements."

"Yes. And at the moment I am very busy writing an advertisement. If you gentlemen will excuse me..." I turned back to my typewriter to punctuate my meaning.

"Our name is Mollison," they said, ignoring the hint. "We have written a book. We are psychologists."

"I have a book," I snapped. "And I don't figure I need any psychologists. Not for a while yet, anyway."

"But this book should be of interest to you," they said. I was beginning to wonder what they'd sound like separately.

I gave up.

"Why?" I demanded. "Why should any book you two, ah, gentlemen would write be of interest to me?"

"It might help you," they declared. "And we need someone like yourself to try it out. It concerns the psychology of words. It is a system. A scientific system."

"The only system I'm in the market for right at the moment is one which will come in handy at my bookmaker's," I told them.

They looked at one another for an instant, then back at me.

"You don't understand," they declared. "Words are your business. This book will help you. If it works."

"Look," I said, getting a little hot under the collar. "This is the day before payday. I'm broke. I don't want to buy any books. Especially about words. Good day, gentlemen."

Again they looked at each other, and again they turned back to me.

"You don't understand. We just want you to read our book. We just want you to try it. We aren't attempting to sell it."

"There is no obligation to buy," I said, quoting from one of the oldest sales gags since Cleopatra peddled a rug to Caesar. "You can just tear off your right arm and send it in to us if you aren't satisfied. Nuts!"

Then, in a lightning gesture that caught me flat-footed, one of the two sideburned old goats pulled forth a thick sheaf of manuscript pages from a briefcase he'd had inconspicuously under his arm and shoved the pile of papers onto my desk.

"Here," they said in unison. "You will find our name and address on the outside. Read the book. Try out our system. Let us know."

I was blinking dazedly at the lumpy manuscript on my desk. I scarcely noticed that they bowed simultaneously from the hips, popped their derbies on their heads, and backed toward the door.

"Good day," they said. "Let us know."

I WAS still staring, fascinated, at the thick manuscript before I looked up again to see they'd gone.

"Hey!" I yelled, jumping up and running after them. "Hey, wait a minute!"

But my two mysterious visitors were already out the front door of the agency. And by the time I dashed to the hallway, the elevator had already taken them down.

Vastly annoyed, and equally perplexed, I walked back into the office. It was while I was heading to my own little cubicle that Vickers—he's the head of the agency Vickers & Dunn—stepped out of his ornate sanctum and bellowed.

"Yore!" he yelled. "Come in here a minute." His red face was angry under his bald pate, and he adjusted his horn-rimmed specs the way he does when he is disapproving of something.

He paid the salary, and my name was Yore, so I came.

"Yes, Mr. Vickers," I said, when we'd stepped inside his office and he closed the door.

"Yore," he barked immediately. "Your copy has been lousy this last month. I might say unusually lousy."

I waited. You couldn't argue with Vickers. Although nearing his fifties he still considered himself a Boy Genius, a Brilliant Executive.

"And furthermore," he added, "the stuff you've turned out on the Kiddie-Lax account to date has been miserable. You aren't doing a good job of making mothers believe their wee tots scream for the product."

"They scream because of it," I snapped, nettled.

"Very funny," said Vickers. And he didn't mean it. "So funny that I'm prompted to tell you I'm taking you off the Kiddie-Lax job and turning it over to someone competent to handle it. Obviously, it's too tough for you."

I bit my underlip, choking back a few things I might have said about his small fry second-rate agency and where it and the job I held could go. But there was no sense in being hasty until I'd lined up a job with another outfit first.

"All right," I replied. "Just as you say. What'll I work on?"

Vickers debated an instant, pursing his lips to show that a brilliantly conceived decision was coming up.

"You take over the Chew-Chew Account," he ordered.

My eyes must have bugged out and my veins bulged with the sudden indignation I felt. The Chew-Chew Gum account was the smallest in the agency. It was strictly peanuts. A job for a junior copywriter, not a veteran.

"Did you hear me?" he asked.

I knew what this meant. It was the prelude to the old heave- ho. I was set for the sack. That was the way Vickers always worked it. I could only nod. I wasn't able to trust myself to speak.

"And don't botch it," he said as I stepped out.

I WAS so burned up that I wasn't aware the sheaf of manuscript from the sideburned Mollison duet was still on my desk when I went back into my own cubicle. In fact I was so burned up that I didn't notice anything until I realized it was time for lunch half an hour later.

Whatever on earth prompted me, I don't know, but I had the thick manuscript sheaf with me when I popped my hat on my dome and stormed out of the office for lunch a few minutes after that. Maybe it was because it was big and heavy and easy to throw at someone.

Or maybe it was because I was so mad I wanted something to keep me from slugging people. Anyway I still had it in my paw when I parked myself in a booth at the place I'd decided to drink my lunch.

Four highballs and fifteen minutes after I'd planked myself down in this joint, I was trying to calm myself down by abstractedly thumbing through the manuscript as I gulped my forget-me-nots.

Of course I wasn't able to catch much of the drift of the thing, for my mind kept going back to Vickers and the homicide I'd like to wreak on him. But I was roughly aware that the two sideburned old ducks with the gray whiskers had written some sort of a technical treatise of the science of words.

There was a lot of stuff in the manuscript to the effect that words—since they were the actual symbols of ideas—were tangible powers for force in themselves.* And there was more about the powers of force in words being just as strong as the powers of energy of electrical force in motors. It didn't make much sense. But it kept me calmed down just a little.

[* This is a premise which is actually maintained by numerous students of the Hampfher theory of phonetic psychology. They claim that since sounds have been proven, in many instances, to have psychological activating power, words have the same power plus an additional motivating energy due to the fact that they represent formed ideas. —Ed.]

Then the manuscript—after having proved, in some fashion I couldn't understand, that words were as real as chemical elements or electrical current—went on to state that words could be definitely united by formula to produce definite and invariable effects on people. This was where the psychology hitched onto it.

And this was the point at which my tenth drink began to fuzz everything up beyond the point of further understanding. I had five more drinks before my watch told me that I was an hour late, and that I was due back at the office.

So clutching the manuscript and forgetting my hat, I careened out of the place and back to the office. Under any other circumstances, I'd have been smart enough not to pop my head into the agency in that condition. But I was feeling very much to- hell-with-it. And Vickers would can me the following day anyway.

I remember that I was disappointed to find that Vickers had gone out for an afternoon's golf and that I couldn't tell him what I thought of him. I recall, also, that I put on my best sober front as I entered the office and made my way to my cubicle.

IT was while I was busy cleaning out the stuff from my desk that Red, the office boy, stuck his head in the door and handed me a sheaf of papers.

"Mr. Vickers said to give you these papers when you got back from lunch, Mr. Yore," he said. "It's the dope on the Chew-Chew Gum account he's put you on." Red paused to look at the stuff I was packing. Then went on. "He says there's an urgent rush on this Chew-Chew copy. It has to be at the printers by four this afternoon, so's it can be in the papers by tomorrow."

And with that Red took his head out of the door and vanished before I could hit him with an inkpot. I looked at the mess of work he'd left on my desk. High-ho the merry-oh, I thought. Vickers will lose this account, small as it is, for that copy can rot for all I care. Let it miss the deadline.

I went on packing.

Then, suddenly as a Joe Louis left hook, I got a bright idea. A trifle tipsy, perhaps, but still a bright idea. I would really get back at that snake Vickers. I would write the Chew-Chew copy. I would write him such copy as he had never seen before. He was out of the office and wouldn't be back until the following day. In the meantime the copy would go straight to the newspapers and be in print before he could stop it.

Chew-Chew was a small account. But Vickers would lose a lot of agency prestige in addition to the peanuts that the account paid. I took off my coat, dropped it carefully on the floor, and rolled up my sleeves.

A few minutes later and my typewriter was clacking out the Chew-Chew copy. Clacking it out somewhat slowly, however, for I was spending a little time referring to the thick sheaf of manuscript papers on the table beside me. The manuscript left by the two sideburned, bewhiskered old goats named Mollison.

I was using a chart which was part of the first few pages of the manuscript. It was called a "Scientific Word Chart." And the idea of it was supposed to formulate whatever you were trying to say into an invincible, irresistible combination of words—a combination absolutely guaranteed to produce a desired effect on the reader.

It was hodgepodge, of course.

It was the most stupendously crazy hodgepodge I had ever encountered anywhere. It was utterly nonsensical.

Which was swell. For it would louse up the Chew-Chew copy more horribly than anything I could ever think of myself. I laughed and laughed and laughed. And my typewriter clacked along, making the most magnificently absurd word combinations man has ever encountered.

When I'd finally finished, I tore the sheet from the machine and pushed a buzzer that would bring Red, the office boy, a- running. I was mentally delighting in the picture of Vickers' face the following morning when he saw the Chew-Chew copy in the papers.

The copy was ten times as confusing, thirty times as senseless, as the most absurd nursery rhymes or nonsense- syllables you have ever read. It was a riot. It was a scream.

Red appeared a moment later, and I gave him the stuff.

He glanced at it—he was always a snoopy kid—and blinked in bewilderment.

"But, Mr. Yore," he said, "this must be the wrong stuff. It doesn't make sense!"

"Listen," I snapped. "Do as you are told. It's an experiment, and it's to be run just like that. Chop, chop!"

He left, and drunkenly I finished packing my things. I even took the thick Mollison manuscript sheaf with me as I teetered out of the office some ten minutes later. I was bidding adieu to Vickers & Dunn Advertising Agency, quitting before I was canned.

And I had had the last laugh.

I checked my things at my hotel, and then I remember climbing into a cab to start the evening round of my tear. After all, I reasoned a bit thickly, a man has a right to celebrate losing a job, hasn't he?

THE binge I tied on must have been a lulu. For I woke up in my hotel room the following morning, stretched out on the cold, cold floor, with a staggering hangover. My pockets were stuffed with Chew-Chew gum, probably through some puckish impulse I'd had the night before. I felt miserable. My head was like a balloon in a barrage.

And I was only able to think of what an asinine stunt I'd pulled.

Obviously, if the Chew-Chew copy was in the papers by now, I'd fixed Vickers' clock for him. But it was just occurring to me that I had also fixed my own. A copywriter doesn't pull a stunt like that on an agency—no matter how sore he is at the boss—and then try to land a job with another concern. It just doesn't work like that. My little puckish prank had undeniably blackballed me throughout the entire advertising game.

I was sick. From my conscience and from the hangover.

I picked up the house phone and told the girl at the switchboard not to let any calls reach me until evening. Then I got room service.

The bellhop appeared with the ice-pack and the hot-water bottle I'd sent for some ten minutes later. Bleary-eyed, I let him in while he put the stuff on the nightstand beside my bed. As I tipped him I noticed that his jaws were working furiously.

I gazed sickly at him, my mind shot back to my crimes.

"Don'cha like gum?" he asked.

"No." I handed him a quarter. "Get out!"

I started closing the door.

"But this is Chew-Chew," the bell hop protested.

It was more than I could stand. With a half-gurgling scream I pushed him bodily out into the hallway and slammed the door. Then I ruefully staggered back to my bed and flopped face downward, sick and exhausted. My head was spinning like a multicolored pinwheel. Through the fog of my nausea, I could see my coat on the floor where I'd dropped it. In thus depositing it, the contents had spilled forth from the pockets.

Small packages of Chew-Chew gum were spilled all over the floor.

With a moan I closed my eyes, shutting out the sight.

SOMEONE was pounding rivets into my skull, and finally I couldn't stand it any longer. I opened my eyes. For a moment I didn't realize where I was or what had happened.

And then I knew I must have fallen off into a heavy sleep. A quick glance at the window of my room told me that it was early- evening dark outside.

But the pounding continued.

Now I was awake enough to realize that someone was hammering on my door. Hammering incessantly.

I climbed out of bed, groggy and shivering.

"Yes?" I bellowed.

"Yore, old man, are you all right?" A voice outside the door yelled anxiously.

For a minute I stood there stupidly, and then the voice registered on my consciousness. I couldn't mistake it anywhere. It belonged to Vickers!

I didn't know quite what to do. He was probably accompanied by police.

He might be carrying a gun, ready to blast my brains out. Or maybe he intended to tear me apart with his bare hands.

Automatically, I stepped across the room and opened the door, before being fully aware of what I was doing. It was Vickers, all right. And he stood there—smiling!

You could have knocked me over with a feather duster. I was only able to gape foolishly as he pushed past me into the room, talking a mile a minute.

"I've been trying to call you all day, but I couldn't get past the switchboard girl," he said excitedly. "Finally I had to come down here to see if everything was okay."

I still didn't say anything. I couldn't. I just listened as he went on.

"Everywhere, every candy counter, every cigar stand, every drug store," he babbled, "it's the same story—all sold out!"

"What?" I managed weakly. "What's sold out?"

"Chew-Chew!" said Vickers.

I wanted to faint.

"The most amazing thing that's ever happened to advertising," he was still babbling. "It marks a new era, Yore. It's incredible! I don't know how you ever hit on it, or what your secret is, but man-oh-man, it's stupendous!"

It was then that I noticed he was chewing even as he spoke.

"That gum," I faltered, "that gum you're chewing—"

"Is Chew-Chew, of course," he said. "I could no more resist that sales copy than the next guy." His glance shot down to the packages on the floor. "Neither could you, I see," he laughed. "Mind if I have some?"

I nodded weakly.

"Go ahead. Take all you want." I walked back to the bed and sat down on the edge very carefully, so as not to disrupt this wild dream. In the meantime Vickers had dropped to his hands and knees and was greedily scooping up the stray packages of Chew- Chew.

THIS much was beginning to be clear to me. I wasn't crazy. Neither was Vickers. Chew-Chew gum, thanks to the horrible mess of wordage I'd pounded out for it—while using the Mollisons' formula for words—had sold out everywhere in the city. Even Vickers, on his hands and knees at the moment, was ample testimony of what reading that Chew-Chew copy had done to people!

Then I recalled that bellhop, mouth full of the stuff, who seemed shocked that I hadn't been aware he was masticating Chew- Chew. And those packages on the floor, the ones I'd filled my pockets with when blind drunk, while the copy was fresh in my fogged mind, hadn't been my idea of a puckish bit of irony. I had bought the stuff because of the copy itself. Probably I'd chewed it throughout the entire drunken evening!

This was much more than I could stand. I had to be alone. I had to think this thing through. I had to stabilize the entire loony whirlwind of confusion. There was plenty of adjusting to be done in my mental pattern.

"Look," I said to Vickers, who was just rising, after stuffing his pockets with the packages of Chew-Chew, "why don't you see me tomorrow, in the office? I don't feel any too well, and I've got some things to straighten out."

His face went a trifle ashen.

"I hope," he said with a sick, false smile, "that you aren't taking what I said to you yesterday seriously. After all, Yore, I was only joking. You'll see I was only joking when I tell you that I need a partner like you. I've been considering you for some time, you know. There's a substantial raise involved, of course, and—"

"Look," I repeated. "I'll see you tomorrow. We'll talk about it then."

He backed to the door, eager to comply with my slightest wish.

"Surely, old man. Whatever you say. Heh, heh. Got to keep my new partner satisfied, eh?"

"Goodnight," I said.

"Don't forget," Vickers said. "I'll expect you tomorrow—at your convenience, of course."

"Yeah, goodnight."

He left, uncertainly, shakily, obviously hoping that I wasn't holding any grudges.

I DID a great deal of rationalizing in the next several hours. The incredible situation called for a lot of it. But finally the thing was beginning to work itself out for me. Finally, I was getting adjusted to this astonishing state of affairs.

The sideburned, bewhiskered Mollisons, crazy though they had seemed, were the damndest pair of geniuses the world had ever seen!

And I, Mike Yore, was in possession of a formula that could coin me millions of bananas.

It made me a little bit frightened, sitting there thinking of it. Of course I would have to find the Mollisons. I could undoubtedly make some sort of a deal with them. They certainly deserved their share of the gravy.

I went over to the telephone. My hangover had vanished. I felt like a man on the crest of a hundred-foot wave. It was wonderful, magnificent, dizzying. I was practically a millionaire!

And then someone was knocking on my door again.

I opened it to see four expensively clad, beet-faced gentlemen of obvious dignity. One of them stood foremost. He had white hair and wore a pair of be-ribboned spectacles. He coughed impressively.

"My name, sir," he declared, "is Trewlawny."

I frowned.

"My name is Yore," I began automatically.

"Yes," said the expensively-clad old duck named Trewlawny, "We know your name. These gentlemen are my associates." Obviously their importance was nothing compared as to his, for he didn't bother to introduce them.

I waved them to the few chairs I had in the room.

"What can I do for you, gentlemen?"

Trewlawny did all the talking for the group. His three paunched brethren took seats while he remained on his feet.

"I am Augustus Trewlawny of the Federated Realty Corporation," he began. "These gentlemen are on the board of directors. We have come to offer you a flat sum of twenty-five hundred dollars to write some advertising copy for us, immediately."

I gaped at this.

"What in—" I began.

Trewlawny held up his red hand. I noticed he wore platinum cufflinks, centered by diamonds.

"You are the Yore who wrote the sensational advertising copy for the Chew-Chew Gum account, are you not?"

I nodded.

"We want similar copy, that is to say, copy of the same brand as you wrote for Chew-Chew gum, written for our corporation," he declared.

This sounded just as insane as anything yet.

"Why?" I demanded. "And what's the rush?"

Trewlawny grew a little redder.

"I am no fool, sir. I know a medium that strikes the public fancy when I see one. I read your Chew-Chew copy. It sold gum. We want the same kind of copy to sell our Great Gulch Land Boom. It goes on the open market tomorrow morning. There is no time to waste."

There was another knock on the door. It was the bellhop, with the stuff I'd checked at the desk the night before. I checked through it. The Mollison manuscript sheaf was there.

When the bellhop made his exit I sat down on the bed.

"Go ahead," I told Trewlawny. "This sounds interesting."

"We want to create a greater demand for our realty project at Great Gulch," Trewlawny continued. "Consequently we decided that copy—in pamphlet form—of the type you wrote for Chew- Chew gum, distributed on the floor of the exchange, just before the selling begins, would insure our success."

"A good idea," I nodded.

Trewlawny beamed.

"Thank you, sir. Then you accept my offer?"

I took a deep breath. If this geezer wanted my copy enough to come to me in this rush for it, it was worth more than twenty- five hundred smackers.

"Twenty-five hundred isn't enough," I said, holding tight to the edge of the table.

"Three thousand, then," said Trewlawny.

"Twenty-five thousand," I heard a voice demanding rashly. It was mine!

"Agreed!" snapped Trewlawny, and I almost fainted then and there.

I FINALLY got hold of myself. I nodded. My brain was swimming. Twenty-five thousand, and this was just a start. This was just the first twenty-four hours of my new gold mine. Hell, I'd be a billionaire at least!

"We brought the cash," said Trewlawny. And one of his associates opened a briefcase and began piling sheafs of big denomination bills on the table in front of me. I gave up trying to eat. Hell, who could eat under such circumstances?

We made the arrangements. They were to clear out of the room, to leave me alone for a couple of hours, while I wrote the copy. Then Trewlawny would pick it up, rush it to the printers, and have the pamphlets ready to distribute on the floor of the exchange by morning.

I thought of Vickers' measly offer of a partnership and laughed aloud. Hell, you couldn't blame me if I was a little crazy from the heat of twenty-five thousand dollars!

For the next two hours, then, alone in my hotel room, with a copy of the Mollison Word Chart beside me, I hammered out the stuff for the Great Gulch Land Boom on my portable typewriter. This was just a start... just a start... just a start—that's what the clacking of the typewriter kept singing in my brain.

And exactly two hours later, Trewlawny was knocking at the door to my room. He was more excited than I was, and he scarcely glanced at the sheaf of copy I handed him. As a matter of fact, I didn't know what I'd written any more than he did, for—although I'd used the Mollison Word Chart as per directions—my mind had been too filled with the thought of yachts, sleek limousines, and all that scads of money can buy, to pay attention to what I was doing.

When Trewlawny left I called room service for some champagne. Then began a much happier secluded celebration than I'd had the night before, but I got just as drunk, however, and it was morning when I came to, stretched out on the floor of my room with another banging hangover.

But I didn't mind my buzzing bean this time. I was on the top of the world—hangover or not—as I had a pick-me-up breakfast sent to my room.

The blow came after I had shaved and dressed.

It came in the shape of a small leather briefcase I noticed on the chair beside the door. A briefcase that had been forgotten by one of Trewlawny's associates. It was my curiosity that prompted me to open it, and further curiosity that prompted me to look at the first paper in the sheaf inside.

It was a letter. A letter addressed to Trewlawny, and obviously well read. It was from someone in Washington. The someone in Washington told Trewlawny in no uncertain terms that "The F.B.I. is hot after us. Unload the Great Gulch Land Boom stock immediately. They've proved it to be worthless. Time counts for everything. Get all you can for it and skip town!"

I didn't bother to read the signature. The room was reeling. In my pocket I had the cash Trewlawny had given me. I'd intended to plunk it right in the bank. It burned like a hot iron now, however. For it was tainted—but definitely!

And I was implicated in the Trewlawny hoax. Up to my ears. I'd written the copy. Cold sweat trickled down my spine. I had visions of the Big House, maybe a life term behind those gray walls. For at this very instant my copy was selling fraudulent real estate to thousands of suckers, and for countless thousands of dollars. I was sick, and crazy, and panicky, all at once.

MAYBE I had some crazy idea that I was destroying evidence. But I dashed back into my room, grabbed the Mollison manuscript and was frantically holding a match under it a minute later. I watched it burn to ashes. Then I realized what an asinine stunt that was. It hadn't helped. It wouldn't get me out of the soup. I had visions of Mike Yore standing behind bars with his head shaved.

And then I got another wild brainstorm. I'd find the sideburned, bewhiskered Mollisons. They'd have some counter- solvent to their Word Chart. They'd be able to figure out an irresistible word spiel that could unsell the suckers who must at this moment be reading those Great Gulch Land Boom pamphlets.

They'd have to have!

I made it across town to the hotel address the Mollisons had given me the day before. Made it in nothing flat, in a taxicab that flew. I dashed into the hotel a minute after, and was questioning the clerk at the lobby desk a mile a minute.

"Yes, the Mollisons did live here. Two strange old codgers, weren't they?" the clerk said.

I was wild with impatience. It took me fully two more minutes to draw the rest of the information from the clerk. It seemed that the keepers for the Mollison codgers had found them only yesterday. They were charges in a rich, private mental sanitarium. Quite batty, both of them. They broke loose now and then. But they were harmless, quite harmless. Wealthy, too. Interesting, eh?

"No," answered the clerk to my screaming inquiry. "I don't know what sanitarium they broke loose from. The keepers didn't say."

"Oh, God," I moaned sickly. "And I haven't time to find out!"

I jumped back in the taxi, then, nearly nuts from frantic desperation. I had no idea of what to do next. The Great Gulch Land Boom stock was probably being bought at this instant. And a cell was being prepared for me in the federal penitentiary. I told the cabbie to continue flying—and to drive to the exchange.

Idiotic though it sounds, I must have been figuring to go to the exchange, find a central spot on the floor, and scream to the high heavens that the Great Gulch Land Boom stock was all crooked. It seemed to be the only thing left to do. It was all I could think of. The cabbie dropped me in front of the exchange ten minutes later.

The floor of the exchange, where the trading was going on, was a scene of the wildest hysteria I have ever seen. And from every voice around me, as I crowded close to the floor, I could hear the names, "Trewlawny... Great Gulch... Great Gulch... Trewlawny."

And then I saw them, Trewlawny and his three associates, my chums of but a few hours ago!

The four of them stood in the middle of the floor. All waved their arms wildly. They were, as impossible as it sounds, buying—bidding on something!

But they should have been selling. They should have been minting thousands and thousands from suckers buying the Great Gulch stock. I couldn't stand it. This was too much. It was too impossible, too outlandish.

"The Board of Directors and President of Great Gulch Land Boom have been buying up every last share of their own stock at staggering prices all day," a red-faced gentleman beside me explained, seeing my astonishment. "It's the most incredible thing that's ever happened. They won't let a soul outbid them!"

"Did they," my voice shook, "did they distribute their sales pamphlets?"

The red-faced gentleman shook his head.

"No. They stormed onto the floor the minute trading opened and began buying up their own stock."

I SUDDENLY felt as limp as a rag doll. Part of me was crying in sheer relief, and another part was laughing hysterically. For it was all too plain what had happened. Trewlawny and his associates had read the pamphlets before distributing them. They'd been irresistibly sold—through the Mollison formula—on their own worthless stuff!

Somehow I still had strength enough to push my way out of there. I needed a drink, badly. I'd been through heaven and hell in less than twelve hours. But now it was over. For good. No federal pen for yours truly. But no millions, either. For the Mollison manuscript was ashes in my room. And the two sideburned gents were safely back in whatever booby house they'd hatched from.

But I wasn't going to look them up. I'd had enough. I was twenty-five grand to the good, and not in jail. That was plenty for me!

And as for you, if two sideburned be-whiskered old guys try to sell you a book, call their keeper—even if they aren't crazy....