She paused suddenly. “No, I’ll not do that, either,” she soliloquized. “I’ll keep it myself—for an investment. I’ll show Uncle Seth I’m a business woman, after all. He has had his fair chance at the Valley of the Giants, after waiting years for it, and now he has deliberately sacrificed that chance to be mean and vindictive. I’m afraid Uncle Seth isn’t very sporty—after what Bryce Cardigan did for us that day the log-train ran away. I’ll have to teach him not to hit an old man when he’s down and begging for mercy. I’ll buy the Valley but keep my identity secret from everybody; then, when Uncle Seth finds a stranger in possession, he’ll have a fit, and perhaps, before he recovers, he’ll sell me all his Squaw Creek timber—only he’ll never know I’m the buyer. And when I control the outlet—well, I think that Squaw Creek timber will make an excellent investment if it’s held for a few years. Shirley, my dear, I’m pleased with you. Really, I never knew until now why men could be so devoted to business. Won’t it be jolly to step in between Uncle Seth and Bryce Cardigan, hold up my hand like a policeman, and say: ’Stop it, boys. No fighting, if you please. And if anybody wants to know who’s boss around here, start something.’”
And Shirley laid her head upon the dressing-table and laughed heartily. She had suddenly bethought herself of Aesop’s fable of the lion and the mouse!
When her uncle came home that night, Shirley observed that he was preoccupied and disinclined to conversation.
“I noticed in this evening’s paper,” she remarked presently, “that Mr. Cardigan has sold his Valley of the Giants. So you bought it, after all?”
“No such luck!” he almost barked. “I’m an idiot. I should be placed in charge of a keeper. Now, for heaven’s sake, Shirley, don’t discuss that timber with me, for if you do, I’ll go plain, lunatic crazy. I’ve had a very trying day.”
“Poor Uncle Seth!” she purred sweetly. Her apparent sympathy soothed his rasped soul. He continued:
“Oh, I’ll get the infernal property, and it will be worth what I have to pay for it, only it certainly does gravel me to realize that I am about to be held up, with no help in sight. I’ll see Judge Moore to-morrow and offer him a quick profit for his client. That’s the game, you know.”
“I do hope the new owner exhibits some common sense, Uncle dear,” she replied, and turned back to the piano. “But I greatly fear,” she added to herself, “that the new owner is going to prove a most obstinate creature and frightfully hard to discover.”
True to his promise, the Colonel called on Judge Moore bright and early the following morning. “Act Three of that little business drama entitled ‘The Valley of the Giants,’ my dear Judge,” he announced pleasantly. “I play the lead in this act. You remember me, I hope. I played a bit in Act Two.”
“In so far as my information goes, sir, you’ve been cut out of the cast in Act Three. I don’t seem to find any lines for you to speak.”