On the morning of the same day Squire Sheldon sat in his study when the servant came in and brought a card.
“It’s a gentleman thats come to see you, sir,” she said.
Lemuel Sheldon’s eye brightened when he saw the name, for it was that of a railroad man who was interested in the proposed road from Sherborn.
“I am glad to see you, Mr. Caldwell,” he said cordially, rising to receive his guest. “What is the prospect as regards the railroad?”
“I look upon it as a certainty,” answered Enoch Caldwell, a grave, portly man of fifty.
“And it is sure to pass through our town?”
“Yes, I look upon that as definitely decided.”
“The next question is as to the route it will take,” went on the squire. “Upon that point I should like to offer a few suggestions.”
“I shall be glad to receive them. In fact, I may say that my report will probably be accepted, and I shall be glad to consult you.”
“Thank you. I appreciate the compliment you pay me, and, though I say it, I don’t think you could find any one more thoroughly conversant with the lay of the land and the most advisable route to follow. If you will put on your hat we will go out together and I will give you my views.”
“I shall be glad to do so.”
The two gentlemen took a leisurely walk through the village, going by Cyrus Hooper’s house on the way.
“In my view,” said the squire, “the road should go directly through this farm a little to the north of the house.”
The squire proceeded to explain his reasons for the route he recommended.
“To whom does the farm belong?” asked Caldwell, with a shrewd glance at the squire.
“To an old man named Cyrus Hooper.”
“Ahem! Perhaps he would be opposed to the road passing so near his house.”
“I apprehend that he will not have to be consulted,” said the squire with a crafty smile.
“Because I hold a mortgage on the farm which I propose to foreclose this afternoon.”
“I see. So that you will be considerably benefited by the road.”
“Yes, to a moderate extent.”
“But if a different course should be selected, how then?”
“If the road goes through the farm I would be willing to give a quarter of the damages awarded to me to—you understand?”
“I think I do. After all it seems the most natural route.”
“I think there can be no doubt on that point. Of course the corporation will be willing to pay a reasonable sum for land taken.”
“I think I can promise that, as I shall have an important voice in the matter.”
“I see you are a thorough business man,” said the squire. “I hold that it is always best to pursue a liberal policy.”
“Quite so. You have no doubt of obtaining the farm?”
“Not the slightest.”
“But suppose the present owner meets the mortgage?”