During this bit of side play the attorney was laboring with the two Farleys, and Tom, watching narrowly, saw that there was a hitch of some kind.
“What is it?” he demanded, turning shortly on the trio at the table.
The lawyer explained. Mr. Farley thought the plan proposed was entirely too far-reaching in its effects, or possible effects. He was willing to delegate his authority as president of the company to Caleb Gordon in writing. Would not that answer all the requirements?
Tom asked his attorney with his eyes if it would answer, and read the negative reply very clearly. So he shook his head.
“No,” he said, turning his back on the Major and lowering his voice. “We must have your proxy, Mr. Farley.”
“And if I don’t choose to accede to your demands?”
“I don’t think we need to go over that ground again,” said Tom coolly. “If you don’t sign that paper, you’ll miss your steamer.”
The president glanced toward the open door, as if he half expected to see an officer waiting for him. Then he said, “Oh, well; it’s as broad as it is long,” and signed.
The leave-takings were brief, and somewhat constrained, save those of the genial Major. Tom pleaded business, further business, with his attorney, when the Major would have had him wait to tell the ladies good-by; hence he saw no more of the tourists after the conference broke up.
Not to lose time, Tom took a noon train back to Boston, first wiring his father to try and keep things in statu quo at Gordonia for another week at all hazards. Winning back to the technical school, he plunged once more into the examination whirlpool, doing his best to forget Chiawassee Consolidated and its mortal sickness for the time being, and succeeding so well that he passed with colors flying.
But the school task done, he turned down the old leaf, pasting it firmly in place. Telegraphing his father to meet him, on the morning of the third day following, at the station in South Tredegar, he allowed himself a few hours for a run up the North Shore and a conference with the Michigan iron king; after which he turned his face southward and was soon speeding to the battle-field through a land by this time shaking to its industrial foundations in the throes of the panic earthquake.
In accordance with Tom’s telegram, Caleb Gordon met his son at the station in South Tredegar, and they went together to breakfast in one of the dining-rooms of the Marlboro. Tom’s heart burned within him when he saw how the late stress of things had aged his father, and for the first time in his life he opened a vengeance account: if the Farleys ever came back there should be reckoning for more than the looting of Chiawassee Consolidated. But this was only the primitive under-thought. Uppermost at the moment was the joy of the young soldier arrived, fit and vigorous, on his maiden battle-field.