Chapter XXVI
 

Fortunately for the situation which had so suddenly confronted him, Bryce Cardigan had Mr. Buck Ogilvy; and out of the experiences gained in other railroad-building enterprises, the said Ogilvy, while startled, was not stunned by the suddenness and immensity of the order so casually given him by his youthful employer, for he had already devoted to the matter of that crossing the better part of the preceding night. Also he had investigated, indexed, and cross-indexed the city council with a view to ascertaining how great or how little would be the effort he must devote to obtaining from it the coveted franchise.

"Got to run a sandy on the Mayor," Buck soliloquized as he walked rapidly uptown. "And I'll have to be mighty slick about it, too, or I'll get my fingers in the jam. If I get the Mayor on my side--if I get him to the point where he thinks well of me and would like to oblige me without prejudicing himself financially or politically--I can get that temporary franchise. Now, how shall I proceed to sneak up on that oily old cuss's blind side?"

Two blocks farther on, Mr. Ogilvy paused and snapped his fingers vigorously. "Eureka!" he murmured. "I've got Poundstone by the tail on a downhill haul. Is it a cinch? Well, I just guess I should tell a man!"

He hurried to the telephone building and put in a long-distance call for the San Francisco office of the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company. When the manager came on the line, Ogilvy dictated to him a message which he instructed the manager to telegraph back to him at the Hotel Sequoia one hour later; this mysterious detail attended to, he continued on to the Mayor's office in the city hall.

Mayor Poundstone's bushy eyebrows arched with interest when his secretary laid upon his desk the card of Mr. Buchanan Ogilvy, vice- president and general manager of the Northern California Oregon Railroad. "Ah-h-h!" he breathed with an unpleasant resemblance to a bon vivant who sees before him his favourite vintage. "I have been expecting Mr. Ogilvy to call for quite a while. At last we shall see what we shall see. Show him in."

The visitor was accordingly admitted to the great man's presence and favoured with an official handshake of great heartiness. "I've been hoping to have this pleasure for quite some time, Mr. Poundstone," Buck announced easily as he disposed of his hat and overcoat on an adjacent chair. "But unfortunately I have had so much preliminary detail to attend to before making an official call that at last I grew discouraged and concluded I'd just drop in informally and get acquainted." Buck's alert blue eyes opened wide in sympathy with his genial mouth, to deluge Mayor Poundstone with a smile that was friendly, guileless, confidential, and singularly delightful. Mr. Ogilvy was a man possessed of tremendous personal magnetism when he chose to exert it, and that smile was ever the opening gun of his magnetic bombardment, for it was a smile that always had the effect of making the observer desire to behold it again--of disarming suspicion and establishing confidence.

"Glad you did--mighty glad," the Mayor cried heartily. "We have all, of course, heard of your great plans and are naturally anxious to hear more of them, in the hope that we can do all that anybody reasonably and legally can to promote your enterprise and incidentally our own, since we are not insensible to the advantages which will accrue to this county when it is connected by rail with the outside world."

"That extremely broad view is most encouraging," Buck chirped, and he showered the Mayor with another smile. "Reciprocity is the watchword of progress. I might state, however, that while you Humboldters are fully alive to the benefits to be derived from a feeder to a transcontinental road, my associates and myself are not insensible of the fact that the success of our enterprise depends to a great extent upon the enthusiasm with which the city of Sequoia shall cooperate with us; and since you are the chief executive of the city, naturally I have come to you to explain our plans fully."

"I have read your articles of incorporation, Mr. Ogilvy," Mayor Poundstone boomed paternally. "You will recall that they were published in the Sequoia Sentinel. It strikes me---"

"Then you know exactly what we purpose doing, and any further explanation would be superfluous," Buck interrupted amiably, glad to dispose of the matter so promptly. Again he favoured the Mayor with his bright smile, and the latter, now fully convinced that here was a young man of vast emprise whom it behooved him to receive in a whole- hearted and public-spirited manner, nodded vigorous approval.

"Well, that being the case, Mr. Ogilvy," he continued, "what can we Sequoians do to make you happy?"

"Why, to begin with, Mr. Poundstone, you might accept my solemn assurances that despite the skepticism which, for some unknown reason, appears to shroud our enterprise in the minds of some people, we have incorporated a railroad company for the purpose of building a railroad. We purpose commencing grading operations in the very near future, and the only thing that can possibly interfere with the project will be the declination of the city council to grant us a franchise to run our line through the city to tidewater."

He handed his cigar-case to Mayor Poundstone and continued lightly: "And I am glad to have your assurance that the city council will not drop a cold chisel in the cogs of the wheels of progress."

Mr. Poundstone had given no such assurance, but for some reason he did not feel equal to the task of contradicting this pleasant fellow. Ogilvy continued: "At the proper time we shall apply for the franchise. It will then be time enough to discuss it. In the meantime the N. C. O. plans a public dedicatory ceremony at the first breaking of ground, and I would be greatly honoured, Mr. Mayor, if you would consent to turn the first shovelful of earth and deliver the address of welcome upon that occasion."

The Mayor swelled like a Thanksgiving turkey. "The honour will be mine," he corrected his visitor.

"Thank you so much, sir. Well, that's another worry off my mind." With the tact of a prime minister Buck then proceeded deliberately to shift the conversation to the weather and asked a number of questions anent the annual rainfall. Then he turned to crops, finance, and national politics and gradually veered around to an artistic word- picture of the vast expansion of the redwood-lumber industry when the redwood-belt should be connected by rail with the markets of the entire country. He spoke of the magic effect the building of such a line would have upon the growth of Sequoia. Sequoia, he felt convinced, was destined to become a city of at least a hundred thousand inhabitants; he rhapsodized over the progressive spirit of the community and with a wave of his hand studded the waters of Humboldt Bay with the masts of the world's shipping. Suddenly he checked himself, glanced at his watch, apologized for consuming so much of His Honour's valuable time, expressed himself felicitated at knowing the Mayor, gracefully expressed his appreciation for the encouragement given his enterprise, and departed. When he had gone, Mayor Poundstone declared to his secretary that without doubt Ogilvy was the livest, keenest fellow that had struck Sequoia since the advent of old John Cardigan.

Half an hour later the Mayor's telephone-bell rang. Buck Ogilvy was on the line. "I beg your pardon for bothering you with my affairs twice in the same day, Mr. Mayor," he announced deprecatingly, "but the fact is, a condition has just arisen which necessitates the immediate employment of an attorney. The job is not a very important one and almost any lawyer would do, but in view of the fact that we must, sooner or later, employ an attorney to look after our interests locally, it occurred to me that I might as well make the selection of a permanent attorney now. I am a stranger in this city Mr. Poundstone. Would it be imposing on your consideration if I asked you to recommend such a person?"

"Why, not at all, not at all! Delighted to help you, Mr. Ogilvy. Let me see, now. There are several attorneys in Sequoia, all men of excellent ability and unimpeachable integrity, whom I can recommend with the utmost pleasure. Cadman look up the relatives of a public official! Well! Forward, men, follow me--to Henry's office."

Henry Poundstone, Junior, proved to be the sole inhabitant of one rather bare office in the Cardigan Block. Buck had fully resolved to give him a retainer of a thousand dollars, or even more, if he asked for it, but after one look at Henry he cut the appropriation to two hundred and fifty dollars. Young Mr. Poundstone was blonde and frail, with large round spectacles, rabbit teeth, and the swiftly receding chin of the terrapin. Moreover, he was in such a flutter of anticipation over the arrival of his client that Buck deduced two things--to wit, that the Mayor had telephoned Henry he was apt to have a client, and that as a result of this miracle, Henry was in no fit state to discuss the sordid subject of fees and retainers. Ergo, Mr. Ogilvy decided to obviate such discussion now or in the future. He handed Henry a check for two hundred and fifty dollars, which he wrote out on the spot, and with his bright winning smile remarked: "Now, Mr. Poundstone, we will proceed to business. That retainer isn't a large one, I admit, but neither is the job I have for you to- day. Later, if need of your services on a larger scale should develop, we shall of course expect to make a new arrangement whereby you will receive the customary retainer of all of our corporation attorneys I trust that is quite satisfactory."

"Eminently so," gasped the young disciple of Blackstone.

"Very well, then; let us proceed to business." Buck removed from a small leather bag a bale of legal-looking documents. "I have here," he announced, "agreements from landowners along the proposed right of way of the N. C. O. to give to that company, on demand, within one year from date, satisfactory deeds covering rights of way which are minutely described in the said agreements. I wish these deeds prepared for signing and recording at the earliest possible moment."

"You shall have them at this time to-morrow," Henry promised.

The head of Henry Poundstone, Junior, was held high for the first time since he had flung forth his modest shingle to the breezes of Sequoia six months before, and there was an unaccustomed gleam of importance in his pale eyes as he rushed into big father's office in the city hall.

"By jinks, Dad!" he exulted. "I've hooked a fish at last--and he's a whopper."

"Omit the cheers, my boy. Remember I sent that fish to you," his father answered with a bland and indulgent smile. "What are you doing for Ogilvy, and how large a retainer did he give you?"

"I'm making out deeds to his rights of way. Ordinarily it's about a fifty-dollar job, but without waiting to discuss finances he handed me out two hundred and fifty dollars. Why, Dad, that's more than you make in a month from your job as Mayor."

"Well, that isn't a bad retainer. It's an opening wedge. However, it would be mere chicken-feed in San Francisco."

"Read this," Henry urged, and thrust a yellow telegraph-form under the Mayor's nose. The latter adjusted his glasses and read:

Imperative building operations commence immediately. Local skepticism injurious and delays dangerous. We must show good faith to our New York friends. J. P. M. insists upon knowing promptly where we stand with Sequoia city council. See them immediately and secure temporary franchise, if possible, to enable us to cross Water Street at B Street and build out Front Street. Your arrangement with Cardigan for use of his mill-dock and spur for unloading material from steamer ratified by board but regarded as hold-up. If your judgment indicates no hold-up on permanent franchise, commence active operations immediately upon acquisition of permanent franchise. Engage local labour as far as possible. Cannot impress upon you too fully necessity for getting busy, as road must be completed in three years if our plans are to bear fruit and time is all too short. Impress this upon city council and wire answer to-morrow.

HOCKLEY.

This telegram, as the Mayor observed, was dated that day and addressed to Mr. Buchanan Ogilvy, Hotel Sequoia, Sequoia, Calif. Also, with a keen eye to minor details, lie noted that it had been filed at San Francisco subsequent to Ogilvy's visit to him that afternoon.

"Ah-h-h!" breathed His Honour. "That accounts for his failure to bring the matter up at our interview. Upon his return to the hotel he found this telegram and got busy at once. By Jupiter, this looks like business. Henry, how did you come into possession of this telegram?"

"It must have been mixed up in the documents Ogilvy left with me. I found it on my desk when I was sorting out the papers, and in my capacity of attorney for the N.C.O. I had no hesitancy in reading it."

"Well, I do declare! Wonder who Hockley is. Never heard of that fellow in connection with the N.C.O."

"Hockley doesn't matter," young Henry declared triumphantly, "although I'd bet a hat he's one of those heavy-weight Wall Street fellows and one of J.P.M's vice-presidents, probably. J.P.M., of course, is the man behind."

"Who the devil is J.P.M.?"

Henry smiled tolerantly upon his ignorant and guileless parent. "Well, how would J. Pierpont Morgan do for a guess?" he queried.

"Hell's bells and panther-tracks!" Mayor Poundstone started as if snake-bitten. "I should say you have hooked a big fish. Boy, you've landed a whale!" And the Mayor whistled softly in his amazement and delight. "By golly, to think of you getting in with that bunch! Tremendyous! Per-fect-ly tree-mend-yous! Did Ogilvy say anything about future business?"

"He did. Said if I proved satisfactory, he would probably take me on and pay the customary retainer given all of their corporation attorneys."

"Well, by golly, he'd better take you on! I had a notion that chap Ogilvy was smart enough to know which side his bread is buttered on and who does the buttering."

"If I could guarantee Mr. Ogilvy that temporary franchise mentioned in his telegram, it might help me to get in right with J.P.M, at the start," his hopeful suggested. "I guess it would be kind of poor to be taken on as one of the regular staff of attorneys for a Morgan corporation, eh? Say, they pay those chaps as high as fifty thousand dollars a year retainer!"

"Guarantee it!" his father shouted. "Guarantee it! Well, I should snicker! We'll just show J. P. M. and his crowd that they made no mistake when they picked you as their Sequoia legal representative. I'll call a special meeting of that little old city council of mine and jam that temporary franchise through while you'd be saying 'Jack Robinson!'"

"I'll tell you what let's do," Henry suggested. "I'll draw up the temporary franchise to-night, and we'll put it through to-morrow at, say, ten o'clock without saying a word to Mr. Ogilvy about it. Then when the city clerk has signed and attested it and put the seal of the city on it, I'll just casually take it over to Mr. Ogilvy. Of course he'll be surprised and ask me how I came to get it, and--"

"And you look surprised," his father cautioned. "--sort of as if you failed to comprehend what he's driving at. Make him repeat. Then you say: 'Oh, that! Why, that's nothing, Mr. Ogilvy. I found the telegram in those papers you left with me, read it, and concluded you'd left it there to give me the dope so I could go ahead and get the franchise for you. Up here, whenever anybody wants a franchise from the city, they always hire an attorney to get it for them, so I didn't think anything about this but just naturally went and got it for you. If it ain't right, why, say so and I'll have it made right.'" Old Poundstone nudged his son in the short ribs and winked drolly. "Let him get the idea you're a fly bird and on to your job."

"Leave it to yours truly," said Henry.

His father carefully made a copy of the telegram.

"H'm!" he grunted. "Wants to cross Water Street at B and build out Front Street. Well, I dare say nobody will kick over the traces at that. Nothing but warehouses and lumber-drying yards along there, anyhow. Still, come to think of it, Pennington will probably raise a howl about sparks from the engines of the N. C. O. setting his lumber piles afire. And he won't relish the idea of that crossing, because that means a watchman and safety-gates, and he'll have to stand half the cost of that."

"He'll be dead against it," Henry declared. "I know, because at the Wednesday meeting of the Lumber Manufacturers' Association the subject of the N. C. O. came up, and Pennington made a talk against it. He said the N. C. O. ought to be discouraged, if it was a legitimate enterprise, which he doubted, because the most feasible and natural route for a road would be from Willits, Mendocino County, north to Sequoia. He said the N. C. O. didn't tap the main body of the redwood-belt and that his own road could be extended to act as a feeder to a line that would build in from the south. I tell you he's dead set against it."

"Then we won't tell him anything about it, Henry. We'll just pull off this special session of the council and forget to invite the reporters; after the job has been put over, Pennington can come around and howl all he wants. We're not letting a chance like this slip by us without grabbing a handful of the tail-feathers, Henry. No, sir--not if we know it."

"You bet!" said Henry earnestly.

And it was even so. The entire council was present with the exception of Thatcher, who was home ill. His running mate Yates was heartily in favour of doing all and sundry of those things which would aid and encourage the building of the much-to-be-desired railroad and offered no objection to the motion to grant a sixty-day temporary franchise. However, he always played ball with the absent Thatcher and he was fairly well acquainted with his other colleagues on the council; where they were concerned he was as suspicious as a rattlesnake in August--in consequence of which he considered it policy to play safe pending Thatcher's recovery. Rising in his place, he pointed out to the board the fact that many prominent citizens who yearned for such a road as the N. C. O. had warned him of the danger of lending official aid and comfort to a passel of professional promoters and fly-by-nights; that after all, the N. C. O. might merely be the stalking-horse to a real-estate boom planned to unload the undesirable timber holdings of the Trinidad Redwood Lumber Company, in which event it might be well for the council to proceed with caution. It was Mr. Yates' opinion that for the present a temporary franchise for thirty days only should be given; if during that thirty days the N. C. O. exhibited indubitable signs of activity, he would gladly vote for a thirty-day extension to enable the matter of a permanent franchise to be taken up in regular order.

This amendment to the original motion met with the unqualified approval of the Mayor, as he was careful to announce for the benefit of the other members of the Solid Four. The fact of the matter was, however, that he was afraid to oppose Yates in such a simple matter through fear that Yates might grow cantankerous and carry his troubles to the Sequoia Sentinel--a base trick he had been known to do in the past. After explaining the advisability of keeping secret for the present the fact that a thirty-day franchise had been granted, His Honour, with the consent of the maker of the original motion and the second thereof, submitted the amended motion to a vote, which was carried unanimously.

At eleven-thirty Thursday morning, therefore, young Henry Poundstone, having worked the greater part of the previous night preparing the deeds, delivered both deeds and franchise to Buck Ogilvy at the latter's hotel. It was with difficulty that the latter could conceal his tremendous amazement when Henry casually handed him the franchise. True, he had slipped that fake telegram among the contracts as bait for Henry and his father, but in his wildest flights of fancy had not looked for them to swallow hook, line, and sinker. His fondest hope, at the time he conceived the brilliant idea, was that Henry would show the telegram to his father and thus inculcate in the old gentleman a friendly feeling toward the N. C. O. not unmixed with pleasurable anticipations of the day when Henry Poundstone, Junior, should be one of the most highly prized members of the legal staff of a public-service corporation.

When he could control his emotions, Mr. Ogilvy gazed approvingly upon Henry Poundstone. "Mr. Poundstone," he said solemnly, "I have met some meteoric young attorneys in my day, but you're the first genuine comet I have seen in the legal firmament. Do you mind telling me exactly how you procured this franchise--and why you procured it without explicit orders from me?"

Henry did his best to look puzzled. "Why," he said, "you left that telegram with me, and I concluded that you regarded it as self- explanatory or else had forgotten to mention it. I knew you were busy, and I didn't want to bother you with details, so I just went ahead and filled the order for you. Anything wrong about that?"

"Certainly not. It's perfectly wonderful. But how did you put it over?"

Henry smirked. "My dad's the engineer," he said bluntly. "If thirty days ain't enough time, see me and I'll get you thirty days more. And in the meantime nobody knows a thing about this little deal. What's more, they won't know. I figured Colonel Pennington might try to block you at that crossing so I--"

Buck Ogilvy extended his hand in benediction and let it drop lightly on Henry Poundstone's thin shoulder. Henry quivered with anticipation under that gentle accolade and swallowed his heart while the great Ogilvy made a portentous announcement.

"My dear Poundstone," he said earnestly, "I am not a man to forget clever work. At the proper time I shall--" He smiled his radiant smile. "You understand, of course, that I am speaking for and can make you no firm promises. However--" He smiled again. "All I have to say is that you'll do!"

"Thank you," said Henry Poundstone, Junior. "Thank you ever so much."