About 1900 the entire holdings of the Company were capitalized, and a stock company was formed. The actual management of the lumbering, the conduct of the farms and ranches, the running of the hydro-electric systems of light and transportation, were placed in the hands of active young men. Charley Gates and his partner exercised over these activities only the slightest supervision; auditing accounts, making an occasional trip of inspection. Affairs would quite well have gone on without them; though they would have disbelieved and resented that statement.
The great central offices in San Francisco were very busy—all but the inner rooms where stood the partners’ desks. One day Cathcart lit a fresh cigar, and slowly wheeled his chair.
“Look here, Charley,” he proposed, “we’ve got a big surplus. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make a killing on the side.”
“As how?” asked Gates.
Cathcart outlined his plan. It was simply stock manipulation on a big scale; although the naked import was somewhat obscured by the complications of the scheme. After he had finished Gates smoked for some time in silence.
“All right, Cliff,” said he, “let’s do it.”
And so by a sentence, as his father before him, he marked the farthest throw of the wave that had borne him blindly toward the shore. In the next ten years Cathcart and Gates made forty million dollars. Charley seemed to himself to be doing a tremendous business, but his real work, his contribution to the episode in the life of the commonwealth, ceased there. Again the wave receded.
The third generation of the Gates family consisted of two girls and a boy. They were brought up as to their early childhood in what may be called moderate circumstances. A small home near the little mill town, a single Chinese servant, a setter dog, and plenty of horses formed their entourage. When Charles, Jr., was eleven, and his sisters six and eight, however, the family moved to a pretentious “mansion” on Nob Hill in San Francisco. The environment of childhood became a memory: the reality of life was comprised in the super-luxurious existence on Nob Hill.
It was not a particularly wise existence. Whims were too easily realized, consequences too lightly avoided, discipline too capricious. The children were sent to private schools where they met only their own kind; they were specifically forbidden to mingle with the “hoodlums” in the next street; they became accustomed to being sent here and there in carriages with two servants, or later, in motor cars; they had always spending money for the asking.