“My friend,” she murmured tremulously, “didn’t I tell you I would not permit you to build the N.C.O.?”
He bowed his head in rage and shame at his defeat. Buck Ogilvy took him by the arm. “‘’Tis midnight’s holy hour,’” he quoted, “’and silence now is brooding like a gentle spirit o’er a still and pulseless world.’ Bryce, old chap, this is one of those occasions where silence is golden. Speak not. I’ll do it for you. Miss Sumner,” he continued, bowing graciously, “and Colonel Pennington,” favouring that triumphant rascal with an equally gracious bow, “we leave you in possession of the field—temporarily. However, if anybody should drive up in a hack and lean out and ask you, just tell him Buck Ogilvy has another trump tucked away in his kimono.”
Bryce turned to go, but with a sudden impulse Shirley laid her hand on his arm—his left arm. “Bryce!” she murmured.
He lifted her hand gently from his forearm, led her to the front of the locomotive, and held her hand up to the headlight. Her fingers were crimson with blood.
“Your uncle’s killer did that, Shirley,” he said ironically. “It’s only a slight flesh-wound, but that is no fault of your allies. Good-night.”
And he left her standing, pale of face and trembling, in the white glare of the headlight.
Shirley made no effort to detain Bryce Cardigan as he walked to his car and climbed into it. Ogilvy remained merely long enough to give orders to the foreman to gather up the tools, store them in the machine-shop of Cardigan’s mill, and dismiss his gang; then he, too, entered the automobile, and at a word from Bryce, the car slid noiselessly away into the darkness. The track-cutting crew departed a few minutes later, and when Shirley found herself alone with her uncle, the tumult in her heart gave way to the tears she could no longer repress. Pennington stood by, watching her curiously, coldly.
Presently Shirley mastered her emotion and glanced toward him.
“Well, my dear?” he queried nervously.
“I—I think I had better go home,” she said without spirit.
“I think so, too,” he answered. “Get into the Mayor’s flivver, my dear, and I’ll drive you. And perhaps the least said about this affair the better, Shirley. There are many things that you do not understand and which cannot be elucidated by discussion.”
“I can understand an attempt at assassination, Uncle Seth.”
“That blackguard Minorca! I should have known better than to put him on such a job. I told him to bluff and threaten; Cardigan, I knew, would realize the grudge the Black Minorca has against him, and for that reason I figured the greaser was the only man who could bluff him. While I gave him orders to shoot, I told him distinctly not to hit anybody. Good Lord, Shirley, surely you do not think I would wink at a murder!”