Under Sealed Orders by H. A. Cody
Chapter XX. Business Details
As spring drew near David became anxious for more definite news about the work at the falls. He knew what Jasper and his men were doing and how the portable mill was busy sawing the logs which had been hauled out. But he was impatient to see what he called "the real beginning." It was, therefore, with considerable satisfaction when at last the great start was made. As the weeks passed word reached him of what was going on. He had not yet visited the falls as he did not feel equal to the walk. But he listened eagerly to all that was told him. The reports were truly marvellous of the large number of men engaged upon the "Plant," of the activity at Creekdale and all up the brook. In a few weeks the whole place had been converted into a hive of bustling industry. It seemed as if a magic wand had been suddenly waved over the place to produce such an astonishing change.
In addition to this there were men working between the city and Creekdale as well as along the road leading up-river, putting large poles in place for the electric wires. These poles had been run down the brook and then floated to various places along the river. In this way the work was facilitated. Everything had been well planned, and it seemed as if nothing had been overlooked. Though David could not visit the falls, yet he and Betty often sat by the road and watched the workmen as they dug the deep holes, erected the poles and strung the wires.
One beautiful morning as they came to the road, they saw a man not far off busily sketching a clump of white birch trees a short distance away. So intent was he upon his work that he did not appear to notice the two who were watching him with undisguised curiosity.
"Who is he?" David whispered, fearful lest he should disturb the man.
"He must be that artist who came yesterday," Betty replied. "He has a little tent over there," and she pointed to the right. "I saw him fixing it up yesterday and it looks so cosy. He spoke to me as I came by and seemed to be very friendly."
"And you say that he is an artist?" David enquired.
"Yes. Don't you see him painting now? He told me that he wants to get some pictures of this beautiful place."
"He must see the falls, girl," and David rose from his sitting position. "There is nothing here to equal it, and how nice it would be to have a picture before too great a change takes place up there."
"Suppose we tell him about it," Betty suggested, now much interested in the idea. "Come, I will introduce you."
As the two approached, the artist rose to his feet and lifted his hat.
"Why, it's my little visitor of yesterday," he pleasantly remarked. "I didn't expect to meet you so soon again. Is this your grandfather?"
"Oh, no," and Betty laughed heartily. "This is Mr. David, and I am looking after him."
"I am glad to meet you, sir," and the stranger held out his hand. "I have only arrived lately and of course do not know any of the people here, so you will pardon my mistake."
"It doesn't matter, I assure you," David replied. "Betty is really a daughter to me, so it was no mistake after all. But I hope we have not interrupted you."
"Not at all. I am not doing much this morning, just getting my bearings, as it were. But you have a wonderful view from this hill. I am hoping to get some excellent pictures. I wish I had known of this beautiful spot before."
"Wait until you see the falls," David eagerly replied. "You will find something worth while there."
"Is it far from here?" the artist enquired.
"Oh, no. You can easily find it. There is a good road there now which has been made by the new company."
"Is that the place where the light and power are to come from, of which I have heard so much?"
"So you have heard of it then? I am very glad." There was a pleased expression in David's eyes. It gave him much satisfaction to know that the news of what was being done at the falls had extended beyond Creekdale.
"Oh, yes, every one has heard about the great undertaking which is going on at Break Neck Falls," the artist replied. "I have read much about it in the city papers, and only recently there was a long article describing certain phases of the work and what would be accomplished. I have the paper with me. Here it is, if you care to read it," and the artist drew from his pocket a carefully-folded newspaper, and handed it to the old man.
With much eagerness David took it in his hands, unfolded it and ran his eyes quickly over the article with the big headlines, "A Gigantic Undertaking." Betty stepped close to his side and began to read as well. Her animated face and sparkling eyes showed plainly the keen interest she took in the whole affair, and several times she gave expression to exclamations of delight.
"Isn't it great!" she cried, when she had finished. "And what a lot they tell about you, Mr. David, and how you had that thing in your head for so long when you were very poor."
"Yes, girl," David replied, "and did you notice what is said about the benefit it will be to the city and the whole country?"
In their intense excitement they had forgotten all about the artist. But as they talked like two happy children he was watching them very closely, especially the old man. In his eyes there was a peculiar half-gloating expression, while a partly-suppressed sinister smile lurked about the corners of his mouth.
"May we show this paper to Miss Lois?" Betty asked, turning suddenly toward the artist. As she did so, she started, for intuitively she saw something in the man's face which frightened her. Whatever it was, it instantly dispelled the happiness which possessed her. The artist noticed this, and it annoyed him. He shrugged his shoulder and gave a short laugh.
"Yes, you may keep the paper," he said. "I am through with it. But I must get on with my work now."
They stood and watched him as he walked away carrying with him his easel and camp-stool.
"I am afraid of him," Betty whispered to her companion. Then she shivered as if cold.
"Why, what's the matter?" David asked in surprise. "What makes you afraid of that man? He is only a harmless artist, and he was very kind to us this morning. I feel most grateful for the paper he has given us."
"I know that, but I don't want to see him again," the girl replied. "I saw something in his eyes which I don't like. I can't explain it, but it makes me afraid of him. I hope he will go away soon."
"Tut, girl, that is all nonsense," David chided. "It is just a notion on your part. I like him well enough for a stranger. What harm can he do us?"
During the rest of the morning Betty could not get clear of the feeling of fear which possessed her, and David worried much over her unusual silence. She longed to see Lois that she might talk it all over with her. In fact she had her mind made up to visit her that afternoon when an unlooked-for excitement changed the entire current of her thoughts, and put the artist out of her mind for the rest of the day.
It was just after dinner when the captain and David were out upon the verandah enjoying their pipes, when a big car lurched up and stopped in front of the house. To David's surprise he saw Mr. Westcote alight and come up the verandah steps. He at once rose to meet him.
"I have come to give you a ride in my car," Mr. Westcote informed David, after he had been introduced to the captain, and had handed him a cigar. "It is a pity to take you from such a beautiful place as this," and he cast his eyes over the sloping fields before him. "But, I would like for you to come with me to the city to-day. It is a matter of business, that is, some details which should have been attended to before."
"Has it anything to do with the falls?" David enquired.
"Yes, everything centres there," and Mr. Westcote smiled. "This affair is really important or I should not bother you to-day."
"I can be ready in a short time," David replied. He was eager now to be away, and the thought that he was needed and was in some way necessary to the working out of the plans at the falls gave him great pleasure.
In little less than half an hour the car left the Haven and sped rapidly down the road. David enjoyed the ride, and leaned back comfortably in the soft springy seat.
"You should have a car, sir," Mr. Westcote remarked as he noted how David liked the drive. "It would do you so much good to have a spin every day."
"Why, I never thought of it," was the reply. "But I would not know how to handle a car if I did have one. And besides, it would cost a great deal."
"Oh, you could easily overcome such difficulties. You are a rich man, you know, and could afford to buy a good car and keep a chauffeur to drive it for you. You have not spent all of that money you received, have you?"
"No, no; only a very small portion of it. You see, Betty and I live very quietly, and spend but little. We are planning to build a comfortable house of our own some day. We keep putting it off, though, as we are so happy at the Haven with the captain and Mrs. Peterson."
Nothing more was said about this subject during the rest of the ride, and in about an hour and a half they reached the city and drew up before a large building on one of the business streets. When once inside David looked around with much interest upon the busy scenes which met his eyes.
"This is our main office," Mr. Westcote explained, "and we keep quite a staff. As the work develops it will be necessary to have a building of our own, for we have only the ground floor here. This is my private office," and he motioned to a door on the right. "We will be more quiet there."
David was greatly delighted at all he saw, and he could not restrain the feeling of pride that he was the cause of all this activity. Not the slightest surprise entered his mind at what he observed. There was not even the least shadow of mystery about it all. To him it was but natural that things should be as they were. He doubted nothing; he asked no questions. His plan was so great and reasonable that he accepted everything as a matter of course.
"You have perhaps wondered," Mr. Westcote began, after they were seated, "why I have brought you here to-day. I told you that it is a matter of business details, and so it is. You are Honorary President of our company and, accordingly, you are a large share-holder. You were not aware of that before, and I trust you do not mind our keeping it a secret?"
"No, no; not at all," David replied. "Everything is satisfactory to me."
"That is good," Mr. Westcote continued. "But as you have such a large interest in the company, it is necessary that you should have your will made to save complications in the future. Life is uncertain, you know, and if anything should happen to you it would make it very difficult for us if you did not have your business matters attended to."
"Quite right, quite right," David assented. "I have thought about it somewhat of late, and I am very glad that you have mentioned it. Could we not have the business attended to at once? It will not take long, will it?"
"No, it can soon be done," was the reply. "But first of all it will be necessary for you to state in whose favour you wish to make your will. Then we can have the papers drawn up, and you can sign them before you, leave the city."
"Yes, that will be necessary," and David placed his right hand to his forehead in a thoughtful manner. "I have been thinking that all over, and know the ones to whom I wish to leave my principal share in the falls. You see, I want to have people who will take a keen interest in the undertaking, such as I have, and who will be able to continue the work when I am gone."
"You are quite right," Mr. Westcote replied, though it was evident that he with difficulty repressed a smile of amusement at his companion's words.
"But I am somewhat worried about the others," David continued. "I wish to leave something to my faithful girl, Betty Bean, to her mother, who is a widow, and to Captain Peterson and his wife, for they have a hard struggle to make a living. Now, they are the ones I wish to help as far as I can, but I have no idea what I ought to leave them."
"How much would you like for them to have?" Mr. Westcote enquired.
"Well, it would be nice if they could have a thousand each. That would make them so comfortable. But I am afraid such an amount is out of the question."
"Not at all," was the reply. "You name the amount, and we shall put it in the will. You see," he added, as if it were an afterthought, "the falls will be good for that, and perhaps more, even after you have arranged for the others."
"I am pleased to hear you express such confidence in the undertaking," and David looked into his companion's face. "I little realised that it would pay so well in such a short time. I am very grateful to you for what you have done."
"It will pay you regularly," Mr. Westcote replied. "I may as well tell you that this is one of the most remarkable companies ever formed. Will you now mention the names of the principal ones to whom you wish to leave the rest of your interest?"
"There are only two, but I have such unlimited confidence in them that I feel I am making no mistake. You know them both for they are Jasper Randall, the young foreman, and Miss Lois Sinclair."
"Have you no relatives?" Mr. Westcote asked, concealing his surprise as much as possible. "If you have, would it not be well to remember them in your will?"
"I desire that all I possess in this world should go to the ones I have mentioned," David slowly replied. "We will not talk about relatives, please."
"Just as you say," Mr. Westcote assented, as he rose to his feet. "I shall have the papers drawn up at once. In the meantime, you had better come and stay with me. You will need a good rest after your trip."
It was late in the afternoon the next day before the work upon the will was completed. It was quite an elaborate affair, so David thought, and he had to study it carefully before signing it. When at last all was finished, the car was waiting before the office to carry them back to Creekdale.
"I am going with you," Mr. Westcote remarked as he took his seat by David's side. "I want to see that you get safely home. And besides," he added, "I wish to learn how the work is getting along up there. I have just been telephoning to Mr. Randall, and his report is most encouraging."