“I do,” she answered passionately. “With Bryce Cardigan out of the way, you would have a clear field before you—”
“Oh, my dear, my dear! Surely you do not realize what you are saying. You are beside yourself, Shirley. Please—please do not wound me so— so horribly. You do not—you cannot realize what a desperate fight I have been putting up for both our sakes. I am surrounded by enemies— the most implacable enemies. They force me to fight the devil with fire—and here you are, giving them aid and comfort.”
“I want you to defeat Bryce Cardigan, if you can do it fairly.”
“At another time and in a calmer mood we will discuss that villain,” he said authoritatively. “If we argue the matter now, we are liable to misunderstandings; we may quarrel, and that is something neither of us can afford. Get into the car, and we will go home. There is nothing more to be done to-night.”
“Your sophistry does not alter my opinion,” she replied firmly. “However, as you say, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss it.”
They drove home in silence. Shirley went at once to her room. For the Colonel, however, the night’s work had scarcely begun. The instant he heard the door to his niece’s room shut, he went to the telephone and called up the Laguna Grande roundhouse. Sexton, his manager, answered.
“Have you sent the switch-engine to the woods for Rondeau and his men?”
“Good! Now, then, Sexton, listen to me: As you know, this raid of Cardigan’s has developed so suddenly I am more or less taken by surprise and have had no time to prepare the kind of counter-attack that will be most effective. However, with the crossing blocked, I gain time in which to organize—only there must be no weak point in my organization. In order to insure that, I am proceeding to San Francisco to-night by motor, via the coast road. I will arrive late to-morrow night, and early Saturday morning I will appear in the United States District Court with our attorneys and file a complaint and petition for an order temporarily restraining the N.C.O. from cutting our tracks.
“I will have to make an affidavit to support the complaint, so I had better be Johnny-on-the-spot to do it, rather than risk the delay of making the affidavit tomorrow morning here and forwarding it by mail to our attorneys. The judge will sign a restraining order, returnable in from ten to thirty days—I’ll try for thirty, because that will knock out the N.C.O.’s temporary franchise—and after I have obtained the restraining order, I will have the United States marshal telegraph it to Ogilvy and Cardigan!”
“Bully!” cried Sexton heartily. “That will fix their clock.”
“In the meantime,” Pennington continued, “logs will be glutting our landings. We need that locomotive for its legitimate purposes. Take all that discarded machinery and the old boiler we removed from the mill last fall, dump it on the tracks at the crossing, and get the locomotive back on its run. Understand? The other side, having no means of removing these heavy obstructions, will be blocked until I return; by that time the matter will be in the District Court, Cardigan will be hung up until his temporary franchise expires—and the city council will not renew it. Get me?”