“Shirley Sumner,” she answered. “You do not know me, Mr. Cardigan.”
“No,” replied he, “I do not. That is a name I have heard, however. You are Seth Pennington’s niece. Is someone with you?”
“I am quite alone, Mr. Cardigan.”
“And why did you come here alone?” he queried.
“I—I wanted to think.”
“You mean you wanted to think clearly, my dear. Ah, yes, this is the place for thoughts.” He was silent a moment. Then: “You were thinking aloud, Miss Shirley Sumner. I heard you. You said: ’Poor dear, God didn’t spare you for much happiness, did He?” And I think you rearranged my roses. Didn’t I have them on her grave?”
“Yes, Mr. Cardigan. I was merely making room for some wild flowers I had gathered.”
“Indeed. Then you knew—about her being here.”
“Yes, sir. Some ten years ago, when I was a very little girl, I met your son Bryce. He gave me a ride on his Indian pony, and we came here. So I remember.”
“Well, I declare! Ten years ago, eh? You’ve met, eh? You’ve met Bryce since his return to Sequoia, I believe. He’s quite a fellow now.”
“He is indeed.”
John Cardigan nodded sagely. “So that’s why you thought aloud,” he remarked impersonally. “Bryce told you about her. You are right, Miss Shirley Sumner. God didn’t give her much time for happiness—just three years; but oh, such wonderful years! Such wonderful years!
“It was mighty fine of you to bring flowers,” he announced presently. “I appreciate that. I wish I could see you. You must be a dear, nice, thoughtful girl. Won’t you sit down and talk to me?”
“I should be glad to,” she answered, and seated herself on the brown carpet of redwood twigs close to his chair.
“So you came up here to do a little clear thinking,” he continued in his deliberate, amiable tones. “Do you come here often?”
“This is the third time in ten years,” she answered. “I feel that I have no business to intrude here. This is your shrine, and strangers should not profane it.”
“I think I should have resented the presence of any other person, Miss Sumner. I resented you—until you spoke.”
“I’m glad you said that, Mr. Cardigan. It sets me at ease.”
“I hadn’t been up here for nearly two years until recently. You see I—I don’t own the Valley of the Giants any more.”
“Indeed. To whom have you sold it?”
“I do not know, Miss Sumner. I had to sell; there was no other way out of the jam Bryce and I were in; so I sacrificed my sentiment for my boy. However, the new owner has been wonderfully kind and thoughtful. She reorganized that old skid-road so even an old blind duffer like me can find his way in and out without getting lost—and she had this easy-chair made for me. I have told Judge Moore, who represents the unknown owner, to extend my thanks to his client. But words are so empty, Shirley Sumner. If that new owner could only understand how truly grateful I am—how profoundly her courtesy touches me—”