“Is Mr. Haskins correct?” asked the other.

“He is correct.”

“He also stated that you are interested in the company. Is that true?”

“That is true.”

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“He also stated that the company did not manufacture, but simply sold. Is that true?”

“Yes, that is true.”

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“Very well, Mr. Price,” said Montague. “This is a matter about which we must have an understanding without delay. In my preliminary talks with you I was informed that it was your wish to find a man who should run the road honestly. The situation which you have just outlined to me does not seem to me consistent with that programme.”

Montague was prepared for an angry response, but he saw the other make an effort and control himself.

“You must realise, Mr. Montague,” he said, “that you are not very familiar with methods in the railroad world. This company of which you speak possesses advantages; it can secure better terms—” Price stopped.

“You mean that it can purchase goods more cheaply than the railroad itself can?” demanded Montague.

“In some cases,” began the other.

“Very well, then,” he answered. “In any case where it can obtain better terms, there can be no objection to its receiving the contract. But that does not agree with what Mr. Haskins told me; he gave me to understand that we were to prepare to pay a much higher price because it would be necessary to give the contracts to the Hill Manufacturing Company; and that was my reason for coming to see you. I wish to have a distinct understanding with you upon this point. While I am president of the Northern Mississippi Railroad, everything that is purchased by the road will be purchased in fair competition, and the concern which will give us the lowest price for the quality of goods we need will receive our order. That is a matter about which there must be left no possible room for misunderstanding. I trust I have made myself clear?”