He turned from the manager and walked away through the drying yard, up the main street of Sequoia, and on into the second-growth timber at the edge of the town. Presently he emerged on the old, decaying skid-road and continued on through his logged-over lands, across the little divide and down into the quarter-section of green timber he had told McTavish not to cut. Once in the Valley of the Giants, he followed a well-worn foot-path to the little amphitheatre, and where the sunlight filtered through like a halo and fell on a plain little white marble monument, he paused and sat down on the now almost decayed sugar-pine windfall.
“I’ve come for a little comfort, sweetheart,” he murmured to her who slept beneath the stone. Then he leaned back against a redwood tree, removed his hat, and closed his eyes, holding his great gray head the while a little to one side in a listening attitude. Long he sat there, a great, time-bitten devotee at the shrine of his comfort; and presently the harried look left his strong, kind face and was replaced by a little prescient smile—the sort of smile worn by one who through bitter years has sought something very, very precious and has at length discovered it.
It was on the day that John Cardigan received the telegram from Bryce saying that, following four years at Princeton and two years of travel abroad, he was returning to Sequoia to take over his redwood heritage—that he discovered that a stranger and not the flesh of his flesh and the blood of his blood was to reap the reward of his fifty years of endeavour. Small wonder, then, that he laid his leonine head upon his desk and wept, silently, as the aged and helpless weep.
For a long time he sat there lethargic with misery. Eventually he roused himself, reached for the desk telephone, and pressed a button on the office exchange-station. His manager, one Thomas Sinclair, answered. “Thomas,” he said calmly, “you know, of course, that Bryce is coming home. Tell George to take the big car and go over to Red Bluff for him.”
“I’ll attend to it, Mr Cardigan. Anything else?”
“Yes, but I’ll wait until Bryce gets home.”
George Sea Otter, son of Bryce Cardigan’s old half-breed nurse, was a person in whose nature struggled the white man’s predilection for advertisement and civic pride and the red man’s instinct for adornment. For three years he had been old man Cardigan’s chauffeur and man-of-all-work about the latter’s old-fashioned home, and in the former capacity he drove John Cardigan’s single evidence of extravagance—a Napier car, which was very justly regarded by George Sea Otter as the king of automobiles, since it was the only imported car in the county. Upon receipt of orders, therefore, from Sinclair, to drive the Napier over to Red Bluff and meet his future boss and one-time playfellow, George Sea Otter arrayed himself in a pair of new