“Where is Hudner’s office?” Matt queried.
“In this building—sixth floor.” Matt rose and started for the door. “Where are you going now, Matt?” Cappy piped.
“Why, you say the Unicorn will compete against the Lion for this charter I have in mind. That is true enough. I know the Black Butte Lumber Company will be approached for the Unicorn; so I’m going to get the Unicorn out of the way and give you a clear field with the Lion. I figured it all out coming down on the train.” And, without waiting to listen to Cappy’s protestations, Matt left the office.
Three minutes later he was closeted with Hudner, of the Black Butte Lumber Company.
“My name is Peasley, Mr. Hudner,” he began truthfully. “I arrived from Seattle this morning. I am looking for a steam freighter for some very responsible people and your Unicorn appears to be about the vessel they’re looking for. They would want her to run coastwise, and prefer to charter at a flat rate a day, owners to pay all expenses of operating the ship. Would you be willing to charter for sixty days, with an option on the vessel for an extension of the charter on the same terms for four years, provided she proves satisfactory for my clients’ purposes?”
Mr. Hudner started slightly. Four years! It seemed almost too good to be true. He was certain of this the next instant when he thought of Cappy Ricks’ Lion, also laid up and as hungry for business as the Unicorn. He wondered whether this young broker from Seattle had called on Cappy Ricks as yet; and, wondering, he decided to name a price low enough to prove interesting and, by closing promptly, eliminate his hated competitor from all consideration.
“I should be very glad to consider your proposition, Mr. Peasley,” he said. “You say your clients are entirely responsible?”
“They will post a bond if you’re not satisfied on that point, Mr. Hudner. What will you charter the Unicorn for, a day?”
Mr. Hudner pretended to do a deal of figuring. At the end of five minutes he said: “Three hundred and fifty dollars a day, net to the vessel.”
Matt nodded, rose and reached for his hat.
“I guess you don’t want to charter your vessel, sir,” he said. “I’m not working for my health, either; so I guess I’ll look for some other vessel. I hear the Lion is on the market.” And without further ado he walked out.
Mr. Hudner let him go; then ran after him and cornered him in the hall.
“I’ll let you have her at three hundred and thirty,” he said desperately; “and that’s bedrock. And if your clients elect to take her for four years, I’ll pay you a thousand dollars commission on the deal. The vessel simply cannot afford to pay more.”
After his conversation with Cappy Ricks, Matt realized that Hudner had, indeed, named a very low price on the Unicorn. But Matt was a Yankee. He knew he had Hudner where the hair was short; so he said: