Arm in arm they walked up the garden path together.
Just as they entered the house, the telephone in the hall tinkled, and Bryce answered.
“Mr. Cardigan,” came Shirley Sumner’s voice over the wire.
“Bryce,” he corrected her.
She ignored the correction,
“I—I don’t know what to say to you,” she faltered.
“There is no necessity for saying anything, Shirley.”
“But you saved our lives, and at least have a right to expect due and grateful acknowledgment of our debt. I rang up to tell you how splendid and heroic your action was—”
“I had my own life to save, Shirley.”
“You did not think of that at the time.”
“Well—I didn’t think of your uncle’s, either,” he replied without enthusiasm.
“I’m sure we never can hope to catch even with you, Mr. Cardigan.”
“Don’t try. Your revered relative will not; so why should you?”
“You are making it somewhat hard for me to—to—rehabilitate our friendship, Mr. Cardigan. We have just passed through a most extraordinary day, and if at evening I can feel as I do now, I think you ought to do your share—and help.”
“Bless your heart,” he murmured. “The very fact that you bothered to ring me up at all makes me your debtor. Shirley, can you stand some plain speaking—between friends, I mean?”
“I think so, Mr. Cardigan.”
“Well, then,” said Bryce, “listen to this: I am your uncle’s enemy until death do us part. Neither he nor I expect to ask or to give quarter, and I’m going to smash him if I can.”
“If you do, you smash me,” she warned him.
“Likewise our friendship. I’m sorry, but it’s got to be done if I can do it. Shall—shall we say good-bye, Shirley?”
“Yes-s-s!” There was a break in her voice. “Good-bye, Mr Cardigan. I wanted you to know.”
“Good-bye! Well, that’s cutting the mustard,” he murmured sotto voce, “and there goes another bright day-dream.” Unknown to himself, he spoke directly into the transmitter, and Shirley, clinging half hopefully to the receiver at the other end of the wire, heard him— caught every inflection of the words, commonplace enough, but freighted with the pathos of Bryce’s first real tragedy.
“Oh, Bryce!” she cried sharply. But he did not hear her; he had hung up his receiver now.
The week that ensued was remarkable for the amount of work Bryce accomplished in the investigation of his father’s affairs—also for a visit from Donald McTavish, the woods-boss. Bryce found him sitting in the private office one morning at seven o’clock.
“Hello, McTavish,” he saluted the woods-boss cheerfully and extended his hand for a cordial greeting. His wayward employee stood up, took the proffered hand in both of his huge and callous ones, and held it rather childishly.
“Weel! ’Tis the wee laddie hissel,” he boomed. “I’m glad to see ye, boy.”