Colonel Pennington’s discovery at San Francisco that Bryce Cardigan had stolen his thunder and turned the bolt upon him, was the hardest blow Seth Pennington could remember having received throughout thirty-odd years of give and take. He was too old and experienced a campaigner, however, to permit a futile rage to cloud his reason; he prided himself upon being a foeman worthy of any man’s steel.
On Tuesday he returned to Sequoia. Sexton related to him in detail the events which had transpired since his departure, but elicited nothing more than a noncommittal grunt.
“There is one more matter, sir, which will doubtless be of interest to you,” Sexton continued apologetically. “Miss Sumner called me on the telephone yesterday and instructed me formally to notify the board of directors of the Laguna Grande Company of a special meeting of the board, to be held here at two o’clock this afternoon. In view of the impossibility of communicating with you while you were en route, I conformed to her wishes. Our by-laws, as you know, stipulate that no meeting of the board shall be called without formal written notice to each director mailed twenty-four hours previously.”
“What the devil do you mean, Sexton, by conforming to her wishes? Miss Sumner is not a director of this company.” Pennington’s voice was harsh and trembled with apprehension.
“Miss Sumner controls forty per cent. of the Laguna Grande stock, sir. I took that into consideration.”
“You lie!” Pennington all but screamed. “You took into consideration your job as secretary and general manager. Damnation!”
He rose and commenced pacing up and down his office. Suddenly he paused. Sexton still stood beside his desk, watching him respectfully. “You fool!” he snarled. “Get out of here and leave me alone.”
Sexton departed promptly, glancing at his watch as he did so. It lacked five minutes of two. He passed Shirley Sumner in the general office.
“Shirley,” Pennington began in a hoarse voice as she entered his office, “what is the meaning of this directors’ meeting you have requested?”
“Be seated, Uncle Seth,” the girl answered quietly. “If you will only be quiet and reasonable, perhaps we can dispense with this directors’ meeting which appears to frighten you so.”
He sat down promptly, a look of relief on his face.
“I scarcely know how to begin, Uncle Seth,” Shirley commenced sadly. “It hurts me terribly to be forced to hurt you, but there doesn’t appear to be any other way out of it. I cannot trust you to manage my financial affairs in the future—this for a number of reasons, the principal one being—”
“Young Cardigan,” he interrupted in a low voice.