The half-breed slid out of the darkness and sat down beside him. A moment later, through the open window of her room just above the porch where Bryce and George Sea Otter sat, Shirley heard the former say:
“George, when did you first notice that my father’s sight was beginning to fail?”
“About two years ago, Bryce.”
“What made you notice it?”
“He began to walk with his hands held out in front of him, and sometimes he lifted his feet too high.”
“Can he see at all now, George?”
“Oh, yes, a little bit—enough to make his way to the office and back.”
“Poor old governor! George, until you told me this afternoon, I hadn’t heard a word about it. If I had, I never would have taken that two-year jaunt around the world.”
George Sea Otter grunted. “That’s what your father said, too. So he wouldn’t tell you, and he ordered everybody else to keep quiet about it. Myself—well, I didn’t want you to go home and not know it until you met him.”
“That was mighty kind and considerate of you, George. And you say this man Colonel Pennington and my father have been having trouble?”
“Yes—” Here George Sea Otter gracefully unburdened himself of a fervent curse directed at Shirley’s avuncular relative; whereupon that young lady promptly left the window and heard no more.
They were on the road again by eight o’clock next morning, and just as Cardigan’s mill was blowing the six o’clock whistle, Bryce stopped the car at the head of the street leading down to the water-front. “I’ll let you drive now, George,” he informed the silent Sea Otter. He turned to Shirley Sumner. “I’m going to leave you now,” he said. “Thank you for riding over from Red Bluff with me. My father never leaves the office until the whistle blows, and so I’m going to hurry down to that little building you see at the end of the street and surprise him.”
He stepped out on the running-board, stood there a moment, and extended his hand. Shirley had commenced a due and formal expression of her gratitude for having been delivered safely in Sequoia, when George Sea Otter spoke:
“Here comes John Cardigan,” he said.
“Drive Miss Sumner around to Colonel Pennington’s house,” Bryce ordered, and even while he held Shirley’s hand, he turned to catch the first glimpse of his father. Shirley followed his glance and saw a tall, powerfully built old man coming down the street with his hands thrust a little in front of him, as if for protection from some invisible assailant.
“Oh, my poor old father!” she heard Bryce Cardigan murmur. “My dear old pal! And I’ve let him grope in the dark for two years!”
He released her hand and leaped from the car. “Dad!” he called. “It is I—Bryce. I’ve come home to you at last.”
The slightly bent figure of John Cardigan straightened with a jerk; he held out his arms, trembling with eagerness, and as the car continued on to the Pennington house Shirley looked back and saw Bryce folded in his father’s embrace. She did not, however, hear the heart-cry with which the beaten old man welcomed his boy.