“I’m delighted to find you in such a generous frame of mind, Colonel. You can make me genuinely happy by renewing, for ten years on the same terms as the original contract, your arrangement to freight the logs of the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company from the woods to tidewater.”
Colonel Pennington cleared his throat with a propitiatory “Ahem-m-m!” Then he removed his gold spectacles and carefully wiped them with a silk handkerchief, as carefully replaced them upon his aristocratic nose, and then gazed curiously at Bryce.
“Upon my soul!” he breathed.
“I realized, of course, that this is reopening an issue which you have been pleased to regard as having been settled in the last letter my father had from you, and wherein you named terms that were absolutely prohibitive.”
“My dear young friend! My very dear young friend! I must protest at being asked to discuss this matter. Your father and I have been over it in detail; we failed to agree, and that settles it. As a matter of fact, I am not in position to handle your logs with my limited rolling-stock, and that old hauling contract which I took over when I bought the mills, timber-lands, and logging railroad from the late Mr. Henderson and incorporated into the Laguna Grande Lumber Company, has been an embarrassment I have longed to rid myself of. Under those circumstances you could scarcely expect me to saddle myself with it again, at your mere request and solely to oblige you.”
“I did not expect you to agree to my request. I am not quite that optimistic,” Bryce replied evenly.
“Then why did you ask me?”
“I thought that possibly, if I reopened negotiations, you might have a reasonable counter-proposition to suggest.”
“I haven’t thought of any.”
“I suppose if I agreed to sell you that quarter-section of timber in the little valley over yonder” (he pointed to the east) “and the natural outlet for your Squaw Creek timber, you’d quickly think of one,” Bryce suggested pointedly.
“No, I am not in the market for that Valley of the Giants, as your idealistic father prefers to call it. Once I would have purchased it for double its value, but at present I am not interested.”
“Nevertheless it would be an advantage for you to possess it.”
“My dear boy, the possession of that big timber is an advantage I expect to enjoy before I acquire many more gray hairs. But I do not expect to pay for it.”
“Do you expect me to offer it to you as a bonus for renewing our hauling contract?”
The Colonel snapped his fingers. “By George,” he declared, “that’s a bright idea, and a few months ago I would have been inclined to consider it very seriously. But now—”
“You figure you’ve got us winging, eh?” Bryce was smiling pleasantly.
“I am making no admissions,” Pennington responded enigmatically “— nor any hauling contracts for my neighbour’s logs,” he added.