Bryce obeyed, and for the first time John Cardigan learned of his son’s acquaintance with Shirley Sumner and the fact that she had been present in Pennington’s woods the day Bryce had gone there to settle the score with Jules Rondeau. In the wonderful first flush of his love a sense of embarrassment, following his discovery of the fact that his father and Colonel Pennington were implacable enemies, had decided Bryce not to mention the matter of the girl to John Cardigan until the entente CORDIALE between Pennington and his father could be reestablished, for Bryce had, with the optimism of his years, entertained for a few days a thought that he could bring about this desirable condition of affairs. The discovery that he could not, together with his renunciation of his love until he should succeed in protecting his heritage and eliminating the despair that had come upon his father in the latter’s old age, had further operated to render unnecessary any discussion of the girl with the old man.
With the patience and gentleness of a confessor John Cardigan heard the story now, and though Bryce gave no hint in words that his affections were involved in the fight for the Cardigan acres, yet did his father know It, for he was a parent. And his great heart went out in sympathy for his boy.
“I understand, sonny, I understand. This young lady is only one additional reason why you must win, for of course you understand she is not indifferent to you.”
“I do not know that she feels for me anything stronger than a vagrant sympathy, Dad, for while she is eternally feminine, nevertheless she has a masculine way of looking at many things. She is a good comrade with a bully sense of sportsmanship, and unlike her skunk of an uncle, she fights in the open. Under the circumstances, however, her first loyalty is to him; in fact, she owes none to me. And I dare say he has given her some extremely plausible reason why we should be eliminated; while I think she is sorry that it must be done, nevertheless, in a mistaken impulse of self-protection she is likely to let him do it.”
“Perhaps, perhaps. One never knows why a woman does things, although it is a safe bet that if they’re with you at all, they’re with you all the way. Eliminate the girl, my boy. She’s trying to play fair to you and her relative. Let us concentrate on Pennington.”
“The entire situation hinges on that jump-crossing of his tracks on Water Street.”
“He doesn’t know you plan to cross them, does he?”
“Then, lad, your job is to get your crossing in before he finds out, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but it is an impossible task, partner. I’m not Aladdin, you know. I have to have a franchise from the city council, and I have to have rails.”
“Both are procurable, my son. Induce the city council to grant you a temporary franchise to-morrow, and buy your rails from Pennington. He has a mile of track running up Laurel Creek, and Laurel Creek was logged out three years ago. I believe that spur is useless to Pennington, and the ninety-pound rails are rusting there.”