“You bet I’ll shake ’em up,” the Colonel declared joyously. He paused with a morsel of food on his fork and waved the fork at her aggressively. “You stimulate me into activity, Shirley. My mind has been singularly dull of late; I have worried unnecessarily, but now that I know you are with me, I am inspired. I’ll tell you how we’ll fix this new railroad, if it exhibits signs of being dangerous.” Again he smote the table. “We’ll sew ’em up tighter than a new buttonhole.”
“Do tell me how,” she pleaded eagerly.
“I’ll block them on their franchise to run over the city streets of Sequoia.”
“By making the mayor and the city council see things my way,” he answered dryly. “Furthermore, in order to enter Sequoia, the N. C. O. will have to cross the tracks of the Laguna Grande Lumber Company’s line on Water Street—make a jump-crossing—and I’ll enjoin them and hold them up in the courts till the cows come home.”
“Uncle Seth, you’re a wizard.”
“Well, at least I’m no slouch at looking after my own interests—and yours, Shirley. In the midst of peace we should be prepared for war. You’ve met Mayor Poundstone and his lady, haven’t you?”
“I had tea at her house last week.”
“Good news. Suppose you invite her and Poundstone here for dinner some night this week. Just a quiet little family dinner, Shirley, and after dinner you can take Mrs. Poundstone upstairs, on some pretext or other, while I sound Poundstone out on his attitude toward the N. C. O. They haven’t asked for a franchise yet; at least, the Sentinel hasn’t printed a word about it;—but when they do, of course the franchise will be advertised for sale to the highest bidder. Naturally, I don’t want to bid against them; they might run the price up on me and leave me with a franchise on my hands—something I do not want, because I have no use for the blamed thing myself. I feel certain, however, I can find some less expensive means of keeping them out of it—say by convincing Poundstone and a majority of the city council that the N. C. O. is not such a public asset as its promoters claim for it. Hence I think it wise to sound the situation out in advance, don’t you, my dear?”
She nodded. “I shall attend to the matter, Uncle Seth.”
Five minutes after dinner was over, Shirley joined her uncle in the library and announced that His Honor, the Mayor, and Mrs. Poundstone, would be delighted to dine with them on the following Thursday night.
To return to Bryce Cardigan: Having completed his preliminary plans to build the N. C. O., Bryce had returned to Sequoia, prepared to sit quietly on the side-lines and watch his peppery henchman Buck Ogilvy go into action. The more Bryce considered that young man’s fitness for the position he occupied, the more satisfied did he become with his decision. While he had not been in touch with Ogilvy for several years, he had known him intimately at Princeton.