“My understanding is that such is the programme.”
Bryce reached for the deed, then reached for his hat. “If you’ll be good enough to wait here, Judge Moore, I’ll run up to the house and get my father to sign this deed. The Valley of the Giants is his personal property, you know. He didn’t include it in his assets when incorporating the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company.”
A quarter of an hour later he returned with the deed duly signed by John Cardigan and witnessed by Bryce; whereupon the Judge carelessly tossed his certified check for a hundred thousand dollars on Bryce’s desk and departed whistling “Turkey in the Straw.” Bryce reached for the telephone and called up Colonel Pennington.
“Bryce Cardigan speaking,” he began, but the Colonel cut him short.
“My dear, impulsive young friend,” he interrupted in oleaginous tones, “how often do you have to be told that I am not quite ready to buy that quarter-section?”
“Oh,” Bryce retorted, “I merely called up to tell you that every dollar and every asset you have in the world, including your heart’s blood, isn’t sufficient to buy the Valley of the Giants from us now.”
“Eh? What’s that? Why?”
“Because, my dear, overcautious, and thoroughly unprincipled enemy, it was sold five minutes ago for the tidy sum of one hundred thousand dollars, and if you don’t believe me, come over to my office and I’ll let you feast your eyes on the certified check.”
He could hear a distinct gasp. After an interval of five seconds, however, the Colonel recovered his poise. “I congratulate you,” he purred. “I suppose I’ll have to wait a little longer now, won’t I? Well—patience is my middle name. Au revoir.”
The Colonel hung up. His hard face was ashen with rage, and he stared at a calendar on the wall with his cold, phidian stare. However, he was not without a generous stock of optimism. “Somebody has learned of the low state of the Cardigan fortune,” he mused, “and taken advantage of it to induce the old man to sell at last. They’re figuring on selling to me at a neat profit. And I certainly did overplay my hand last night. However, there’s nothing to do now except sit tight and wait for the new owner’s next move.”
Meanwhile, in the general office of the Cardigan Redwood Lumber Company, joy was rampant. Bryce Cardigan was doing a buck and wing dance around the room, while Moira McTavish, with her back to her tall desk, watched him, in her eyes a tremendous joy and a sweet, yearning glow of adoration that Bryce was too happy and excited to notice.
Suddenly he paused before her. “Moira, you’re a lucky girl,” he declared. “I thought this morning you were going back to a kitchen in a logging-camp. It almost broke my heart to think of fate’s swindling you like that.” He put his arm around her and gave her a brotherly hug. “It’s autumn in the woods, Moira, and all the underbrush is golden.”