"Gentlemen," I addressed the group seriously, "You have found out a good deal of information about the purpose of our mission. It is obvious that you have found out about my previous military experience, and I thank you for your previous kind words. However, you have interfered with a government project designed to help you as you have stated. Now, as to my joining your militia, I am afraid that I cannot accept your very kind invitation simply because I am under a long time contract to the government already, and that forbids any other contract acceptance at the same time. However, because of my experience in the Mexican War, I fully understand that an Engineer is necessary in a military organization. If you desire, however, I give you my word, that if you will choose a young man from your organization that is smart and wishes to learn how to be an engineer, and who is a full member of your militia, I will write him a letter of introduction to Col. Abert who is the Corps Commandant of the U.S. Topographical Engineers. When I get back to Washington City, I will be pleased to insure that your young man has the best of training, and I will add his presence to my field work at least once a year during his training. Would that meet your needs and desires in this instance?"
There was a silence around the table for a full minute.
Charley turned to the others and said, "Well, what do you think about this offer?"
Cass answered after a moments consideration, "Mr. McKay is right, in that we have interfered with his government mission, however, my response to that is that he is the only person who has answered our concerns about an engineer. I have come to believe that Mr. McKay is trustworthy and I am in favor of his offer. Both you and I know of a good candidate for such an appointment and training."
He looked around the room and slowly the others nodded their heads. Charley looked at me and said, "Well, I guess that you have your answer."
I replied, "Very Well, then if you will provide me with your candidate's name and contact information, I will write the letter of introduction and deliver that letter to you when I return to Aquia. Now I need your promise to keep this discussion very private. The reason is that apparently we have raised some hackles somewhere, probably in those large businesses who would much rather keep this report quiet or still more probabble would rather do the survey themselves so they could pad the items found to be repaired or rebuilt for a much bigger contract value. If you will do that for the mission I will be pleased to give you credit for assisting me rather than obstructing the mission." I smiled at the men after this last.
Charley grinned and then chuckled out loud, and the other three men began to laugh as well. Charley said when his chuckling was over, "Mr. McKay you should be a storekeeper. You haggle well!"
I replied, " My thanks again, for this chance to assist you. Perhaps now we could get some help in the restoration of the trace buckle, since we really must be on our way, as we are behind our schedule significantly. I do not want our assistants to worry that we have been injured in some way."
Say no more, said Charley, and he pointed as Cass, "Please get the wagon hooked up properly -- Oh!!! And by the way don't upset His young friend Josh. Make sure you explain what you are doing to the wagon."
Cass and the other men saluted and left the room. Charley turned to me and he said, "Now you and I have another item to discuss."