“But he has given a life-lease at nothing a year for each farm to former employees who have been smashed beyond the possibility of doing the hard work of the mill and woods,” Bryce reminded the manager. “Hence you must not figure those farms among our assets.”
“Why not?” Sinclair replied evenly. “Formal leases have never been executed, and the tenants occupy the property at your father’s pleasure.”
“I think that will be about as far as the discussion on that point need proceed,” Bryce replied smilingly. “My father’s word has always been considered sufficient in this country; his verbal promise to pay has always been collateral enough for those who know him.”
“But my dear boy,” Sinclair protested, “while that sort of philanthropy is very delightful when one can afford the luxury, it is scarcely practical when one is teetering on the verge of financial ruin. After all, Bryce, self-preservation is the first law of human nature, and the sale of those farms would go a long way toward helping the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company out of the hole it is in at present.”
“And we’re really teetering on the edge of financial ruin, eh?” Bryce queried calmly.
“That is expressing your condition mildly. The semi-annual payment of interest on the bonded indebtedness falls due on July first—and we’re going to default on it, sure as death and taxes. Colonel Pennington holds a majority of our bonds, and that means prompt suit for foreclosure.”
“Well, then, Sinclair,” Bryce retorted, carefully pigeon-holing the documents the manager had handed him, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. For fifty years my father has played the game in this community like a sport and a gentleman, and I’ll be damned if his son will dog it now, at the finish. I gather from your remarks that we could find ready sale for those thirty-two little farms?”
“I am continually receiving offers for them.”
“Then they were not included in the list of properties covered by our bonded indebtedness?”
“No, your father refused to include them. He said he would take a chance on the financial future of himself and his boy, but not on his helpless dependents.”
“Good old John Cardigan! Well, Sinclair, I’ll not take a chance on them either; so to-morrow morning you will instruct our attorney to draw up formal life-leases on those farms, and to make certain they are absolutely unassailable. Colonel Pennington may have the lands sold to satisfy a deficiency judgment against us, but while those life-leases from the former owner are in force, my father’s proteges cannot be dispossessed. After they are dead, of course, Pennington may take the farms—and be damned to him.”
Sinclair stared in frank amazement at his youthful superior. “You are throwing away two hundred thousand dollars,” he said distinctly.
“I haven’t thrown it away—yet. You forget, Sinclair, that we’re going to fight first—and fight like fiends; then if we lose—well, the tail goes with the hide, By the way, Sinclair, are any of those farms untenanted at the present time?”