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The Valley of the Giants (Chapter22)

2006-08-22 19:52
 

Chapter XXII

When Bryce Cardigan walked down the gang-plank at the steamship-dock in San Francisco, the first face he saw among the waiting crowd was Buck Ogilvy's. Mr. Ogilvy wore his over-coat and a joyous smile, proving that in so far as he was concerned all was well with the world; he pressed forward and thrust forth a great speckled paw for Bryce to shake. Bryce ignored it.

"Why, don't you remember me?" Ogilvy demanded. "I'm Buck Ogilvy."

Bryce looked him fairly in the eye and favoured him with a lightning wink. "I have never heard of you, Mr. Ogilvy. You are mistaking me for someone else."

"Sorry," Ogilvy murmured. "My mistake! Thought you were Bill Kerrick, who used to be a partner of mine. I'm expecting him on this boat, and he's the speaking image of you."

Bryce nodded and passed on, hailed a taxicab, and was driven to the San Francisco office of his company. Five minutes later the door opened and Buck Ogilvy entered.

"I was a bit puzzled at the dock, Bryce," he explained as they shook hands, "but decided to play safe and then follow you to your office. What's up? Have you killed somebody, and are the detectives on your trail? If so, 'fess up and I'll assume the responsibility for your crime, just to show you how grateful I am for that hundred."

"No, I wasn't being shadowed, Buck, but my principal enemy was coming down the gangplank right behind me, and--"

"So was my principal enemy," Ogilvy interrupted. "What does our enemy look like?"

"Like ready money. And if he had seen me shaking hands with you, he'd have suspected a connection between us later on. Buck, you have a good job--about five hundred a month."

"Thanks, old man. I'd work for you for nothing. What are we going to do?"

"Build twelve miles of logging railroad and parallel the line of the old wolf I spoke of a moment ago."

"Good news! We'll do it. How soon do you want it done?"

"As soon as possible. You're the vice-president and general manager."

"I accept the nomination. What do I do first?"

"Listen carefully to my story, analyze my plan for possible weak spots, and then get busy, because after I have provided the funds and given the word 'Go!' the rest is up to you. I must not be known in the transaction at all, because that would be fatal. And I miss my guess if, once we start building or advertising the building of the road, you and I and everybody connected with the enterprise will not be shadowed day and night by an army of Pinkertons."

"I listen," said Buck Ogilvy, and he inclined a large speckled ear in Bryce's direction, the while his large speckled hand drew a scratch- pad toward him.

Three hours later Ogilvy was in possession of the most minute details of the situation in Sequoia, had tabulated, indexed, and cross- indexed them in his ingenious brain and was ready for business--and so announced himself. "And inasmuch as that hundred you sent me has been pretty well shattered," he concluded, "suppose you call in your cold-hearted manager who refused me alms on your credit, and give him orders to honour my sight-drafts. If I'm to light in Sequoia looking like ready money, I've got to have some high-class, tailor-made clothes, and a shine and a shave and a shampoo and a trunk and a private secretary. If there was a railroad running into Sequoia, I'd insist on a private car."

This final detail having been attended to, Mr. Ogilvy promptly proceeded to forget business and launched forth into a recital of his manifold adventures since leaving Princeton; and when at length all of their classmates had been accounted for and listed as dead, married, prosperous, or pauperized, the amiable and highly entertaining Buck took his departure with the announcement that he would look around a little and try to buy some good second-hand grading equipment and a locomotive, in addition to casting an eye over the labour situation and sending a few wires East for the purpose of sounding the market on steel rails. Always an enthusiast in all things, in his mind's eye Mr. Ogilvy could already see a long trainload of logs coming down the Northern California & Oregon Railroad, as he and Bryce had decided to christen the venture.

"N. C. & O.," Mr. Ogilvy murmured. "Sounds brisk and snappy. I like it. Hope that old hunks Pennington likes it, too. He'll probably feel that N. C. & O. stands for Northern California Outrage"

When Bryce Cardigan returned to Sequoia, his labours, insofar as the building of the road were concerned, had been completed. His agreement with Gregory of the Trinidad Redwood Timber Company had been signed, sealed, and delivered; the money to build the road had been deposited in bank; and Buck Ogilvy was already spending it like a drunken sailor. From now on, Bryce could only watch, wait, and pray.

On the next steamer a surveying party with complete camping-equipment arrived in Sequoia, purchased a wagon and two horses, piled their dunnage into the wagon, and disappeared up-country. Hard on their heels came Mr. Buck Ogilvy, and occupied the bridal suite in the Hotel Sequoia, arrangements for which had previously been made by wire. In the sitting room of the suite Mr. Ogilvy installed a new desk, a filing-cabinet, and a brisk young male secretary.

He had been in town less than an hour when the editor of the Sequoia Sentinel sent up his card. The announcement of the incorporation of the Northern California Outrage (for so had Mr. Ogilvy, in huge enjoyment of the misery he was about to create, dubbed the road) had previously been flashed to the Sentinel by the United Press Association, as a local feature story, and already speculation was rife in Sequoia as to the identity of the harebrained individuals who dared to back an enterprise as nebulous as the millennium. Mr. Ogilvy was expecting the visit--in fact, impatiently awaiting it; and since the easiest thing he did was to speak for publication, naturally the editor of the Sentinel got a story which, to that individual's simple soul, seemed to warrant a seven-column head--which it received. Having boned up on the literature of the Redwood Manufacturers' Association, what Buck Ogilvy didn't know about redwood timber, redwood lumber, the remaining redwood acreage and market conditions, past and present, might have been secreted in the editorial eye without seriously hampering the editorial sight. He stated that the capital behind the project was foreign, that he believed in the success of the project and that his entire fortune was dependent upon the completion of it. In glowing terms he spoke of the billions of tons of timber-products to be hauled out of this wonderfully fertile and little-known country, and confidently predicted for the county a future commercial supremacy that would be simply staggering to contemplate.

When Colonel Seth Pennington read this outburst he smiled. "That's a bright scheme on the part of that Trinidad Redwood Timber Company gang to start a railroad excitement and unload their white elephant," he declared. "A scheme like that stuck them with their timber, and I suppose they figure there's a sucker born every minute and that the same old gag might work again. Chances are they have a prospect in tow already."

When Bryce Cardigan read it, he laughed. The interview was so like Buck Ogilvy! In the morning the latter's automobile was brought up from the steamship-dock, and accompanied by his secretary, Mr. Ogilvy disappeared into the north following the bright new stakes of his surveying-gang, and for three weeks was seen no more. As for Bryce Cardigan, that young man buckled down to business, and whenever questioned about the new railroad was careful to hoot at the idea.

On a day when Bryce's mind happened to be occupied with thoughts of Shirley Sumner, he bumped into her on the main street of Sequoia, and to her great relief but profound surprise, he paused in his tracks, lifted his hat, smiled, and opened his mouth to say something-- thought better of it, changed his mind, and continued on about his business. As Shirley passed him, she looked him squarely in the face, and in her glance there was neither coldness nor malice.

Bryce felt himself afire from heels to hair one instant, and cold and clammy the next, for Shirley spoke to him.

"Good morning, Mr. Cardigan."

He paused, turned, and approached her. "Good morning, Shirley," he replied. "How have you been?"

"I might have been dead, for all the interest you took in me," she replied sharply. "As matters stand, I'm exceedingly well--thank you. By the way, are you still belligerent?"

He nodded. "I have to be."

"Still peeved at my uncle?"

Again he nodded.

"I think you're a great big grouch, Bryce Cardigan," she flared at him suddenly. "You make me unutterably weary."

"I'm. sorry," he answered, "but just at present I am forced to subject you to the strain. Say a year from now, when things are different with me, I'll strive not to offend."

"I'll not be here a year from now," she warned him. He bowed. "Then I'll go wherever you are--and bring you back." And with a mocking little grin, he lifted his hat and passed on.


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