He was dozing off, when a sound smote upon his ears. Instantly he was wide awake, listening intently, his head cocked on one side. The sound grew louder; evidently it was approaching Sequoia—and with a bound the Colonel sat up in bed, trembling in every limb.
Suddenly, out of the deep, rumbling diapason he heard a sharp click— then another and another. He counted them—six in all.
“A locomotive and two flat-cars!” he murmured. “And they just passed over the switch leading from the main-line tracks out to my log-dump. That means the train is going down Water Street to the switch into Cardigan’s yard. By George, they’ve outwitted me!”
With the agility of a boy he sprang into his clothes, raced downstairs, and leaped into Mayor Poundstone’s jitney, standing in the darkness at the front gate.
The success of Bryce Cardigan’s plan for getting Ms rails down from Laurel Creek depended entirely upon the whimsy which might seize the crew of the big mogul that hauled the last load of logs out of Cardigan’s redwoods on Thursday afternoon. Should the engineer and fireman decide to leave the locomotive at the logging-camp for the night, Bryce’s task would be as simple as turning a hose down a squirrel-hole. On the other hand, should they run back to Sequoia with the engine, he and Ogilvy faced the alternative of “borrowing” it from the Laguna Grande Lumber Company’s roundhouse; and that operation, in view of the fact that Pennington’s night watchman would be certain to hear the engine leaving, offered difficulties.
Throughout the afternoon, after having sent his orders in writing to the woods-boss, via George Sea Otter (for he dared not trust to the telephone), be waited in his office for a telephone-call from the logging-camp as to what action the engine-crew had taken. He could not work; he could not think. He only knew that all depended upon the success of his coup to-night. Finally, at a quarter of six, Curtis, his woods-boss rang in.
“They’re staying here all night, sir,” he reported.
“House them as far from the log-landing as possible, and organize a poker-game to keep them busy in case they don’t go to bed before eight o’clock,” Bryce ordered. “In the meantime, send a man you can trust—Jim Harding, who runs the big bull-donkey, will do—down to the locomotive to keep steam up until I arrive.”
He had scarcely hung up, when Buck Ogilvy came into the office. “Well?” he queried casually.
“Safe-o, Buck!” replied Bryce. “How about your end of the contract?”
“Crowbars, picks, shovels, hack-saws to cut the rails, lanterns to work by, and men to do the work will be cached in your lumber-yard by nine o’clock, waiting for the rails to arrive.”
Bryce nodded his approval, “Then I suppose there’s nothing to do but get a bite of dinner and proceed to business.”