“Do you realize what that resolution means to us?” The girl’s tones were grave, her glance graver.
“I realize what it means to me!”
She came closer to him. Suddenly the blaze in her violet eyes gave way to one of mirth. “Oh, you dear big booby!” she cried. “I was just testing you.” And she clung to him, laughing. “You always beat me down—you always win. Bryce, dear, I’m the Laguna Grande Lumber Company—at least, I will be to-morrow, and I repeat for the last time that you shall not build the N.C.O.—because I’m going to—oh, dear, I shall die laughing at you—because I’m going to merge with the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company, and then my railroad shall be your railroad, and we’ll extend it and haul Gregory’s logs to tidewater for him also. And—silly, didn’t I tell you you’d never build the N.C.O.?”
“God bless my mildewed soul!” he murmured, and drew her to him.
In the gathering dusk they walked down the trail. Beside the madrone tree John Cardigan waited patiently.
“Well,” he queried when they joined him, “did you find my handkerchief for me, son?”
“I didn’t find your handkerchief, John Cardigan,” Bryce answered, “but I did find what I suspect you sent me back for—and that is a perfectly wonderful daughter-in-law for you.”
John Cardigan smiled and held out his arms for her. “This,” he said, “is the happiest day that I have known since my boy was born.”
Colonel Seth Pennington was thoroughly crushed. Look which way he would, the bedevilled old rascal could find no loophole for escape.
“You win, Cardigan,” he muttered desperately as he sat in his office after Shirley had left him. “You’ve had more than a shade in every round thus far, and at the finish you’ve landed a clean knockout. If I had to fight any man but you—”
He sighed resignedly and pressed the push-button on his desk. Sexton entered. “Sexton,” he said bluntly and with a slight quiver in his voice, “my niece and I have had a disagreement. We have quarrelled over young Cardigan. She’s going to marry him. Now, our affairs are somewhat involved, and in order to straighten them out, we spun a coin to see whether she should sell her stock in Laguna Grande to me or whether I should sell mine to her—and I lost. The book-valuation of the stock at the close of last year’s business, plus ten per cent. will determine the selling price, and I shall resign as president. You will, in all probability, be retained to manage the company until it is merged with the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company—when, I imagine, you will be given ample notice to seek a new job elsewhere. Call Miss Sumner’s attorney, Judge Moore, on the telephone and ask him to come to the office at nine o’clock to-morrow, when the papers can be drawn up and signed. That is all.”
The Colonel did not return to his home in Redwood Boulevard that night. He had no appetite for dinner and sat brooding in his office until very late; then he went to the Hotel Sequoia and engaged a room. He did not possess sufficient courage to face his niece again.