A young half-breed Digger woman, who had suffered the loss of the latest of her numerous progeny two days prior to Mrs. Cardigan’s death, was installed in the house on the knoll as nurse to John Cardigan’s son whom he called Bryce, the family name of his mother’s people. A Mrs. Tully, widow of Cardigan’s first engineer in the mill, was engaged as housekeeper and cook; and with his domestic establishment reorganized along these simple lines, John Cardigan turned with added eagerness to his business affairs, hoping between them and his boy to salvage as much as possible from what seemed to him, in the first pangs of his loneliness and desolation, the wreckage of his life.
While Bryce was in swaddling clothes, he was known only to those females of Sequoia to whom his half-breed foster mother proudly exhibited him when taking him abroad for an airing in his perambulator. With his advent into rompers, however, and the assumption of his American prerogative of free speech, his father developed the habit of bringing the child down to the mill office, to which he added a playroom that connected with his private office. Hence, prior to his second birthday, Bryce divined that his father was closer to him than motherly Mrs. Tully or the half-breed girl, albeit the housekeeper sang to him the lullabys that mothers know while the Digger girl, improvising blank verse paeans of praise and prophecy, crooned them to her charge in the unmusical monotone of her tribal tongue. His father, on the contrary, wasted no time in singing, but would toss him to the ceiling or set him astride his foot and swing him until he screamed in ecstasy. Moreover, his father took him on wonderful journeys which no other member of the household had even suggested. Together they were wont to ride to and from the woods in the cab of the logging locomotive, and once they both got on the log carriage in the mill with Dan Keyes, the head sawyer, and had a jolly ride up to the saw and back again, up and back again until the log had been completely sawed; and because he had refrained from crying aloud when the greedy saw bit into the log with a shrill whine, Dan Keyes had given him a nickel to put in his tin bank.
Of all their adventures together, however, those which occurred on their frequent excursions up to the Valley of the Giants impressed themselves imperishably upon Bryce’s memory. How well he remembered their first trip, when, seated astride his father’s shoulders with his sturdy little legs around Cardigan’s neck and his chubby little hands clasping the old man’s ears, they had gone up the abandoned skid-road and into the semi-darkness of the forest, terminating suddenly in a shower of sunshine that fell in an open space where a boy could roll and play and never get dirty. Also there were several dozen gray squirrels there waiting to climb on his shoulder and search his pockets for pine-nuts, a supply of which his father always furnished.