As Bryce Cardigan hung up, he heaved a slight sigh, and a parody on a quatrain from “Lalla Rookh” ran through his mind:
I never loved a dear gazelle, To glad me with its limpid eye, But when I learned to love it well, The gol-darned thing was sure to die!
It was difficult to get out of the habit of playing; he found himself the possessor of a very great desire to close down the desk, call on Shirley Sumner, and spend the remainder of the day basking in the sunlight of her presence.
The days passed swiftly, as they have a habit of passing after one has discovered one’s allotted task in life and has proceeded to perform it. Following his discovery of the outrage committed on his father’s sanctuary, Bryce wasted considerable valuable time and effort in a futile endeavour to gather some further hint of the identity of the vandals; but despairing at last, he dismissed the matter from his mind, resolving only that on Thursday he would go up into Pennington’s woods and interview the redoubtable Jules Rondeau. Bryce’s natural inclination was to wait upon M. Rondeau immediately, if not sooner, but the recollection of his dinner engagement at the Pennington home warned him to proceed cautiously; for while harbouring no apprehensions as to the outcome of a possible clash with Rondeau, Bryce was not so optimistic as to believe he would escape unscathed from an encounter. Experience had impressed upon him the fact that in a rough-and-tumble battle nobody is quite so thoroughly at home as a lumberjack; once in a clinch with such a man, even a champion gladiator of the prize ring may well feel apprehensive of the outcome.
Wednesday evening at five o’clock Mr. Sinclair, the manager, came into Bryce’s office with a handful of folded papers. “I have here,” he announced in his clerky voice with a touch of solemnity to it, “a trial balance. I have not had time to make an exact inventory; but in order to give you some idea of the condition of your father’s affairs, I have used approximate figures and prepared a profit-and-loss account.”
Bryce reached for the papers.
“You will note the amount charged off to profit and loss under the head of ‘Pensions,’ Sinclair continued. “It amounts approximately to two thousand dollars a month, and this sum represents payments to crippled employees and the dependent families of men killed in the employ of the Company.
“In addition to these payments, your father owns thirty-two thirty-acre farms which he has cleared from his logged-over lands. These little farms are equipped with bungalows and outbuildings built by your father and represent a considerable investment. As you know, these farms are wonderfully rich, and are planted in apples and berries. Other lands contiguous to them sell readily at two hundred dollars an acre, and so you will see that your father has approximately two hundred thousand dollars tied up in these little farms.”