At four o’clock the next day the Colonel, his baggage, his automobile, his chauffeur, and the solemn butler James, boarded the passenger steamer for San Francisco, and at four-thirty sailed out of Humboldt Bay over the thundering bar and on into the south. The Colonel was still a rich man, but his dream of a redwood empire had faded, and once more he was taking up the search for cheap timber. Whether he ever found it or not is a matter that does not concern us.
At a moment when young Henry Poundstone’s dream of legal opulence was fading, when Mayor Poundstone’s hopes for domestic peace had been shattered beyond repair, the while his cheap political aspirations had been equally devastated because of a certain damnable document in the possession of Bryce Cardigan, many events of importance were transpiring. On the veranda of his old-fashioned home, John Cardigan sat tapping the floor with his stick and dreaming dreams which, for the first time in many years, were rose-tinted. Beside him Shirley sat, her glance bent musingly out across the roofs of Sequoia and on to the bay shore, where the smoke and exhaust-steam floated up from two sawmills—her own and Bryce Cardigan’s. To her came at regularly spaced intervals the faint whining of the saws and the rumble of log-trains crawling out on the log-dumps; high over the piles of bright, freshly sawed lumber she caught from time to time the flash of white spray as the great logs tossed from the trucks, hurtled down the skids, and crashed into the Bay. At the docks of both mills vessels were loading, their tall spars cutting the skyline above and beyond the smokestacks; far down the Bay a steam schooner, loaded until her main-deck was almost flush with the water, was putting out to sea, and Shirley heard the faint echo of her siren as she whistled her intention to pass to starboard of a wind-jammer inward bound in tow of a Cardigan tug.
“It’s wonderful,” she said presently, apropos of nothing.
“Aye,” he replied in his deep, melodious voice, “I’ve been sitting here, my dear, listening to your thoughts. You know something, now, of the tie that binds my boy to Sequoia. This”—he waved his arm abroad in the darkness—“this is the true essence of life—to create, to develop the gifts that God has given us—to work and know the blessing of weariness—to have dreams and see them come true. That is life, and I have lived. And now I am ready to rest.” He smiled wistfully. “‘The king is dead. Long live the king.’ I wonder if you, raised as you have been, can face life in Sequoia resolutely with my son. It is a dull, drab sawmill town, where life unfolds gradually without thrill—where the years stretch ahead of one with only trees, among simple folk. The life may be hard on you, Shirley; one has to acquire a taste for it, you know.”
“I have known the lilt of battle, John-partner,” she answered; “hence I think I can enjoy the sweets of victory. I am content.”