So Miss Sumner stayed and helped Bryce weed his carrots, and since as a voluntary labourer she was at least worth her board, at noon Bryce brought her in to Mrs. Tully with a request for luncheon. When he went to the mill to carry in the kindling for the cook, the young lady returned rather sorrowfully to the Hotel Sequoia, with a fervent promise to see him the next day. She did, and Bryce took her for a long ride up into the Valley of the Giants and showed her his mother’s grave. The gray squirrels were there, and Bryce gave Shirley a bag of pine-nuts to feed them. Then they put some flowers on the grave, and when they returned to town and Bryce was unsaddling the ponies, Shirley drew Midget’s nose down to her and kissed it. Then she commenced to weep rather violently.
“What are you crying about?” Bryce demanded. Girls were so hard to understand.
“I’m go-going h-h-h-home to-morrow,” she howled.
He was stricken with dismay and bade her desist from her vain repinings. But her heart was broken, and somehow—Bryce appeared to act automatically—he had his arm around her. “Don’t cry, Shirley,” he pleaded. “It breaks my heart to see you cry. Do you want Midget? I’ll give her to you.”
Between sobs Shirley confessed that the prospect of parting with him and not Midget was provocative of her woe. This staggered Bryce and pleased him immensely. And at parting she kissed him good-bye, reiterating her opinion that he was the nicest, kindest boy she had ever met or hoped to meet.
When Shirley and her uncle and aunt boarded the steamer for San Francisco, Bryce stood disconsolate on the dock and waved to Shirley until he could no longer discern her on the deck. Then he went home, crawled up into the haymow and wept, for he had something in his heart and it hurt. He thought of his elfin companion very frequently for a week, and he lost his appetite, very much to Mrs. Tully’s concern. Then the steelhead trout began to run in Eel River, and the sweetest event that can occur in any boy’s existence—the sudden awakening to the wonder and beauty of life so poignantly realized in his first love-affair—was lost sight of by Bryce. In a month he had forgotten the incident; in six months he had forgotten Shirley Sumner.
The succeeding years of Bryce Cardigan’s life, until he completed his high-school studies and went East to Princeton, were those of the ordinary youth in a small and somewhat primitive country town. He made frequent trips to San Francisco with his father, taking passage on the steamer that made bi-weekly trips between Sequoia and the metropolis—as The Sequoia Sentinel always referred to San Francisco. He was an expert fisherman, and the best shot with rifle or shot-gun in the county; he delighted in sports and, greatly to the secret delight of his father showed a profound interest in the latter’s business.