“Sit down. You’ve been insulted that way before now. Shall we say one thousand dollars per each for your three good councilmen and true, and for yourself that sedan of my niece’s? It’s a good car. Last year’s model, but only run about four thousand miles and in tiptop condition. It’s always had the best of care, and I imagine it will please Mrs. P. immensely and grant you surcease from sorrow. Of course, I will not give it to you. I’ll sell it to you—five hundred down upon the signing of the agreement, and in lieu of the cash, I will take over that jitney Mrs. Poundstone finds so distasteful. Then I will employ your son Henry as the attorney for the Laguna Grande Lumber Company and give him a retainer of twenty-five hundred dollars for one year. I will leave it to you to get this twenty-five hundred dollars from Henry and pay my niece cash for the car. Doesn’t that strike you as a perfectly safe and sane proposition?”
Had a vista of paradise opened up before Mr. Poundstone, he could not have been more thrilled. He had been absolutely honest in his plea to Mrs. Poundstone that he could not afford a thirty-two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar sedan, much as he longed to oblige her and gain a greatly to be desired peace. And now the price was dangling before his eyes, so to speak. At any rate it was parked in the porte-cochere not fifty feet distant!
For the space of a minute the Mayor weighed his son’s future as a corporation attorney against his own future as mayor of Sequoia—and Henry lost.
“It might be arranged, Colonel,” he murmured in a low voice—the voice of shame.
“It is already arranged,” the Colonel replied cheerfully. “Leave your jit at the front gate and drive home in Shirley’s car. I’ll arrange matters with her.” He laughed shortly. “It means, of course, that I’ll have to telegraph to San Francisco to-morrow and buy her a later model. Thank goodness, she has a birthday to-morrow! Have a fresh cigar, Mayor.”
Riding home that night in Shirley Sumner’s car Mrs. Poundstone leaned suddenly toward her husband, threw a fat arm around his neck and kissed him. “Oh, Henry, you darling!” she purred. “What did I tell you? If a person only wishes hard enough—”
“Oh, go to the devil!” he roared angrily. “You’ve nagged me into it. Shut up and take your arm away. Do you want me to wreck the car before we’ve had it an hour?”
As for Colonel Pennington, he had little difficulty in explaining the deal to Shirley, who was sleepy and not at all interested. The Poundstones had bored her to extinction, and upon her uncle’s assurance that she would have a new car within a week, she thanked him and for the first time retired without offering her cheek for his good-night kiss. Shortly thereafter the Colonel sought his own virtuous couch and prepared to surrender himself to the first good sleep in three weeks. He laid the flattering unction to his soul that Bryce Cardigan had dealt him a poor hand from a marked deck and he had played it exceedingly well. “Lucky I blocked the young beggar from getting those rails out of the Laurel Creek spur,” he mused, “or he’d have had his jump-crossing in overnight—and then where the devil would I have been? Up Salt Creek without a paddle—and all the courts in Christendom would avail me nothing.”