The trail was growing hot; the Colonel mopped his brow and concentrated further. If the N. C. O. was really going to start operations, in order to move its material from the Cardigan dock to the scene of operations it would have to cut his (the Colonel’s) tracks somewhere on Water Street. Damnation! That was it. They were trying to slip one over on him. They were planning to get a jump-crossing in before he should awake to the situation; they were planning, too, to have the city council slip through the franchise when nobody was looking, and once the crossing should be in, they could laugh at Colonel Pennington!
“The scoundrels!” he murmured. “I’m on to them! Cardigan is playing the game with them. That’s why he bought those rails from the old Laurel Creek spur! Oh, the sly young fox—quoting that portion of our hauling contract which stipulates that all spurs and extensions of my road, once it enters Cardigan’s lands, must be made at Cardigan’s expense! And all to fool me into thinking he wanted those rails for an extension of his logging-system. Oh, what a blithering idiot I have been! However, it’s not too late yet. Poundstone is coming over to dinner Thursday night, and I’ll wring the swine dry before he leaves the house. And as for those rails Cardigan managed to hornswoggle me out of—”
He seized the telephone and fairly shouted to his exchange operator to get his woods-foreman Jules Rondeau on the line.
“That you, Rondeau?” he shouted when the big French Canadian responded. “Pennington talking. What has young Cardigan done about those rails I sold him from the abandoned spur up Laurel Creek?”
“He have two flat-cars upon ze spur now. Dose woods-gang of hees she tear up dose rails from ze head of ze spur and load in ze flat-cars.”
“The ears haven’t left the Laurel Creek spur, then?”
“No, she don’t leave yet.”
“See to it, Rondeau, that they do not leave until I give the word. Understand? Cardigan’s woods-boss will call you up and ask you to send a switch-engine tip to snake them out late this afternoon or to-morrow afternoon. Tell him the switch-engine is in the shop for repairs or is busy at other work—anything that will stall him off and delay delivery.”
“Suppose Bryce Cardigan, he comes around and say ‘Why?’” Rondeau queried cautiously.
“Kill him,” the Colonel retorted coolly. “It strikes me you and the Black Minorca are rather slow playing even with young Cardigan.”
Rondeau grunted. “I theenk mebbe so you kill heem yourself, boss,” he replied enigmatically, and hung up.
The dictograph which Shirley had asked Bryce to obtain for her in San Francisco arrived on the regular passenger-steamer on Thursday morning and Bryce called her up to ask when she desired it sent over.
“Good morning, Mr. Cardigan,” she greeted him cheerily. “How do you feel this morning? Any the worse for having permitted yourself to be a human being last night?”