“I’ll be back Sunday forenoon. Good-bye.”
He hung up, went to his chauffeur’s quarters over the garage, and routed the man out of bed. Then he returned quietly to his room, dressed and packed a bag for his journey, left a brief note for Shirley notifying her of his departure, and started on his two-hundred-and-fifty mile trip over the mountains to the south. As his car sped through sleeping Sequoia and gained the open country, the Colonel’s heart thrilled pleasurably. He held cards and spades, big and little casino, four aces and the joker; therefore he knew he could sweep the board at his pleasure. And during his absence Shirley would have opportunity to cool off, while he would find time to formulate an argument to lull her suspicions upon his return.
Quite oblivious of her uncle’s departure for San Francisco, Shirley lay awake throughout the remainder of the night, turning over and over in her mind the various aspects of the Cardigan-Fennington imbroglio. Of one thing she was quite certain; peace must be declared at all hazards. She had been obsessed of a desire, rather unusual in her sex, to see a fight worth while; she had planned to permit it to go to a knockout, to use Bryce Cardigan’s language, because she believed Bryce Cardigan would be vanquished—and she had desired to see him smashed—but not beyond repair, for her joy in the conflict was to lie in the task of putting the pieces together afterward! She realized now, however, that she had permitted matters to go too far. A revulsion of feeling toward her uncle, induced by the memory of Bryce Cardigan’s blood on her white finger-tips, convinced the girl that, at all hazards to her financial future, henceforth she and her uncle must tread separate paths. She had found him out at last, and because in her nature there was some of his own fixity of purpose, the resolution cost her no particular pang.
It was rather a relief, therefore, when the imperturbable James handed her at breakfast the following note:
After leaving you last night, I decided that in your present frame of mind my absence for a few days might tend to a calmer and clearer perception, on your part, of the necessary tactics which in a moment of desperation, I saw fit, with regret, to pursue last night. And in the hope that you will have attained your old attitude toward me before my return, I am leaving in the motor for San Francisco. Your terrible accusation has grieved me to such an extent that I do not feel equal to the task of confronting you until, in a more judicial frame of mind, you can truly absolve me of the charge of wishing to do away with young Cardigan. Your affectionate Uncle Seth.
Shirley’s lip curled. With a rarer, keener intuition than she had hitherto manifested, she sensed the hypocrisy between the lines; she was not deceived.