Chapter XLII
 

Directly luncheon was over and Cappy Ricks had returned to his office, J. Augustus Redell moved into action. He called on Messrs. Ford & Carter, talked the situation over with them, and showed them where they, having the necessary tonnage in hand with which to guarantee delivery, could bring a couple of million bushels of fine Number One white Australian wheat to the Pacific Coast, cut the price a cent, and doubtless unload every kernel of it at a fair profit. There was every probability that wheat would go to two dollars. For his part in producing this profit Mr. Redell desired a commission of five per cent on all sales of wheat imported in the bottoms he had under option and which he stood ready to turn over to Ford & Carter without profit, since the owners of the vessels would pay him the customary broker's commission on the freight money earned on the voyage. Ford & Carter said they would think the matter over; so Mr. Redell tactfully withdrew, stating that he would call up the following day for an answer.

He knew Ford & Carter would promptly dispatch a long cablegram to their agent in Australia, instructing him to get a forty-eight-hour option on the wheat, with a guaranty of delivery to the vessels as they arrived from time to time. Meantime, Ford & Carter would quote every milling company in the West, subject to prior acceptance and their ability to deliver Number One Australian wheat at a price that would be of interest. If the milling companies accepted this rather nebulous quotation and telegraphed orders, and Ford & Carter's Australian agent could purchase at a satisfactory price the wheat to fill these orders, then Ford & Carter would make formal acceptance and purchase the wheat. If, on the other hand, their agent in Australia failed to get the wheat, then Ford & Carter had an "out" with the milling companies who desired to buy the wheat from them, and the entire matter would be off, with Ford & Carter merely out a couple of hundred dollars in telegraph bills. That was the bet they had to make to put their fortune to the touch; and right cheerfully did they make it.

J. Augustus Redell gave them all the time he could. His forty-eight-hour options on the vessels then en route to Australia had cost him nothing; that was a courtesy which one shipowner always extends to another, free of charge, unless the vessel happens to be on demurrage at the time the option is given. When his options were within two hours of expiring he called on Ford & Carter.

"We'll take 'em all," Carter almost shouted at him. "They'll be arriving with sufficient time elapsing between arrivals to guarantee us immunity from any undue delay or embarrassment in loading them. We've bought the wheat and sold it; now give us the tonnage to freight it, Redell, and we'll all be happy, and a little richer than we were the day before yesterday."

Redell took up the telephone and called each shipowner, in turn, to inform him that he would exercise his option on the latter's ship, and for the owner to prepare charter parties and send them up to his office for signature.

"I will have no difficulty in getting the owners to agree to an assignment of these charters to you," he advised Carter. "You and Ford are brothers in good standing, I take it. However, if they insist on doing business through me, in order that they may hold me responsible, I'll simply recharter to you at the same rate."

"Lovely!" cried Messrs. Ford & Carter in unison.

Ten minutes later J. Augustus Redell burst into Cappy Ricks' sanctum and wakened the old gentleman from his afternoon siesta.

"The trap is set," he announced. "Come on, Cappy! We're going up to the broker's office now and give the order to sell our December wheat. I can't go alone, you know. There wouldn't be an odor of sanctity about the transaction if I did."

"We'll have Gregg & Company attend to it for us," Cappy announced. "You remember Harry Gregg, don't you? Used to be in the steamship business years ago. Gosh, that boy knows me! He'll take a stiff finger bet from Alden P. Ricks."

Together they motored uptown to the office of Gregg & Co., where Cappy's card gained him instant admittance to the broker's private office. Redell remained in the anteroom on pretense of speaking to an acquaintance, and the instant Cappy disappeared into Gregg's office Redell stepped out into the hall, where he waited until Cappy had booked his order and came hunting for him.

"Well, I've sold my two hundred and fifty thousand bushels at a dollar-ninety," Cappy announced.

"How much margin?" Redell demanded.

"Oh, Gregg didn't sting me very hard. Ten cents a bushel. It seemed like a good bet to him. He looks for a drop in December wheat."

"Met a pest out here and couldn't seem to get away from him," Redell explained. "Take me in and introduce me to Gregg, and I'll give him an order to sell a jag of wheat for me."

Cappy complied and Redell gave the broker his order.

"It will take about twenty-five thousand dollars to margin this trade, Mr. Redell," the latter remarked easily as he wrote out the order and handed a copy to Redell.

"Nonsense!" Cappy struck in. "Mr. Redell is one of our most delightful, trustworthy and popular young men, and to ask him for twenty-five thousand dollars today would prejudice his standing with his banker. I guarantee him, Harry. Treat him as you'd treat me. I guarantee him up to a hundred thousand dollars."

"Your guaranty goes with me, Mr. Ricks," Gregg answered promptly, and shoved the copy of the order he had just booked over to Cappy, together with the fountain pen. Cappy wrote: "O. K. Alden P. Ricks." Redell gave his check for ten thousand dollars margin and the deal was closed. When the scheming pair returned to Cappy's office the latter gave Redell his check for ten thousand to reimburse Redell for margining the trade, in accordance with Cappy's verbal agreement to provide the sinews of war.

"Now then, Cappy," Redell announced as he stuffed Cappy's check into his pocket, "the next move is to return to my office, close those charters with the owners and turn the ships over to Ford & Carter. That matter attended to, I shall, with eighteen charter parties in my pocket, drift casually over to the Merchants' Exchange. There I shall find the market reporters for both of our sunrise sheets; if they are not there I shall wait until they arrive. These gifted young men I shall draw to one side; to them I shall, with great gusto, relate a tale of Number One white Australian wheat, shortly to descend upon the United States of America in no less than eighteen vessels, now chartered for that purpose, with more to follow. In proof of this statement I shall exhibit the charter parties; and then--"

"Front-page story!" Cappy declared, interrupting.

"Not yet--but soon. To get on the front page a story must be rather unusual. A perusal of our daily rags will convince the most skeptical that the sensational, the unusual, the bizarre are what appeal most to the men who make the newspapers. The unusual thing about our deal lies in the fact that this is the first time in the history of Australia or the United States that the former country has exported wheat into the latter--the first time the latter has ever had to call on an outsider for help. Then, Cappy, it will be a front-page story--and how those boys will hop to it! Why, we'll get a column about Australian wheat invading the land of the free whose rapacity threatens the very food that goes into the mouths of little children! Little children and their mouths is good stuff! I'll use that line when slipping the story to the boys. They might overlook it if I didn't. I'll remind them of the six-cent loaf of bread, the sufferings of the poor, and how far the importation of Australian wheat will go to knock the Chicago wheat barons for a goal."

"Here, here! You're too precipitate," Cappy cautioned. "Don't tip this story off to both reporters. That's coarse work. Tell it to one only. Put him under obligations to you by seeming to give him a scoop. Tell him you won't say a word to his competitor, and he'll tell his city editor the story is exclusive; then they'll be certain to play it up big."

"Cappy, you're the shadow of a rock in a weary land! Who'll tip off the other reporter?"

"I will, of course. Leave it to me. A man doesn't go through the mill of Big Business without knowing the way of that singularly useful individual, the newspaper man."

Redell sat down and laughed until the tears ran down his merry countenance. Cappy thought the outlook sufficiently cheerful to warrant that laugh, and suspected nothing. He even joined in the laugh.

"And to-morrow morning, when that story appears, the local brokerage firms will be calling up Ford friend and gave him a paternal hug. He winked wickedly.

"My dear boy," he suggested, "suppose you and I go out and pin one on? Hey? How about you, boy? A pint of '98, in order that we may properly drink confusion to the wolf of want and damnation to dull care!"