THE VALLEY OF THE GIANTS
PETER B. KYNE
AUTHOR OF CAPPY RICKS, THE LONG CHANCE, Etc.
ILLUSTRATED BY DEAN CORNWELL
TO MY WIFE
THE VALLEY OF THE GIANTS
In the summer of 1850 a topsail schooner slipped into the cove under Trinidad Head and dropped anchor at the edge of the kelp-fields. Fifteen minutes later her small-boat deposited on the beach a man armed with long squirrel-rifle and an axe, and carrying food and clothing in a brown canvas pack. From the beach he watched the boat return and saw the schooner weigh anchor and stand out to sea before the northwest trades. When she had disappeared from his ken, he swung his pack to his broad and powerful back and strode resolutely into the timber at the mouth of a little river.
The man was John Cardigan; in that lonely, hostile land he was the first pioneer. This is the tale of Cardigan and Cardigan's son, for in his chosen land the pioneer leader in the gigantic task of hewing a path for civilization was to know the bliss of woman's love and of parenthood, and the sorrow that comes of the loss of a perfect mate; he was to know the tremendous joy of accomplishment and worldly success after infinite labour; and in the sunset of life he was to know the dull despair of failure and ruin. Because of these things there is a tale to be told, the tale of Cardigan's son, who, when his sire fell in the fray, took up the fight to save his heritage—a tale of life with its love and hate, its battle, victory, defeat, labour, joy, and sorrow, a tale of that unconquerable spirit of youth which spurred Bryce Cardigan to lead a forlorn hope for the sake not of wealth but of an ideal. Hark, then, to this tale of Cardigan's redwoods:
Along the coast of California, through the secret valleys and over the tumbled foothills of the Coast Range, extends a belt of timber of an average width of thirty miles. In approaching it from the Oregon line the first tree looms suddenly against the horizon—an outpost, as it were, of the host of giants whose column stretches south nearly four hundred miles to where the last of the rear-guard maintains eternal sentry go on the crest of the mountains overlooking Monterey Bay. Far in the interior of the State, beyond the fertile San Joaquin Valley, the allies of this vast army hold a small sector on the west slope of the Sierras.
These are the redwood forests of California, the only trees of their kind in the world and indigenous only to these two areas within the State. The coast timber is known botanically as sequoia sempervirens, that in the interior as sequoia gigantea. As the name indicates, the latter is the larger species of the two, although the fibre of the timber is coarser and the wood softer and consequently less valuable commercially than the sequoia sempervirens—which in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, and Sonoma counties has been almost wholly logged off, because of its accessibility. In northern Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties, however, sixty years of logging seems scarcely to have left a scar upon this vast body of timber. Notwithstanding sixty years of attrition, there remain in this section of the redwood belt thousands upon thousands of acres of virgin timber that had already attained a vigorous growth when Christ was crucified. In their vast, sombre recesses, with the sunlight filtering through their branches two hundred and fifty feet above, one hears no sound save the tremendous diapason of the silence of the ages; here, more forcibly than elsewhere in the universe, is one reminded of the littleness of man and the glory of his creator.
In sizes ranging from five to twenty feet in diameter, the brown trunks rise perpendicularly to a height of from ninety to a hundred and fifty feet before putting forth a single limb, which frequently is more massive than the growth which men call a tree in the forests of Michigan. Scattered between the giants, like subjects around their king, one finds noble fir, spruce, or pines, with some Valparaiso live oak, black oak, pepper-wood, madrone, yew, and cedar.
In May and June, when the twisted and cowering madrone trees are putting forth their clusters of creamy buds, when the white blossoms of the dogwoods line the banks of little streams, when the azaleas and rhododendrons, lovely and delicate as orchids, blaze a bed of glory, and the modest little oxalis has thrust itself up through the brown carpet of pine-needles and redwood-twigs, these wonderful forests cast upon one a potent spell. To have seen them once thus in gala dress is to yearn thereafter to see them again and still again and grieve always in the knowledge of their inevitable death at the hands of the woodsman.
John Cardigan settled in Humboldt County, where the sequoia sempervirens attains the pinnacle of its glory, and with the lust for conquest hot in his blood, he filed upon a quarter-section of the timber almost on the shore of Humboldt Bay—land upon which a city subsequently was to be built. With his double-bitted axe and crosscut saw John Cardigan brought the first of the redwood giants crashing to the earth above which it had towered for twenty centuries, and in the form of split posts, railroad ties, pickets, and shakes, the fallen giant was hauled to tidewater in ox-drawn wagons and shipped to San Francisco in the little two-masted coasting schooners of the period. Here, by the abominable magic of barter and trade, the dismembered tree was transmuted into dollars and cents and returned to Humboldt County to assist John Cardigan in his task of hewing an empire out of a wilderness.
At a period in the history of California when the treasures of the centuries were to be had for the asking or the taking, John Cardigan chose that which others elected to cast away. For him the fertile wheat and fruit-lands of California's smiling valleys, the dull placer gold in her foot-hill streams, and the free grass, knee deep, on her cattle and sheep-ranges held no lure; for he had been first among the Humboldt redwoods and had come under the spell of the vastness and antiquity, the majesty and promise of these epics of a planet. He was a big man with a great heart and the soul of a dreamer, and in such a land as this it was fitting he should take his stand.
In that wasteful day a timber-claim was not looked upon as valuable. The price of a quarter-section was a pittance in cash and a brief residence in a cabin constructed on the claim as evidence of good faith to a government none too exacting in the restrictions with which it hedged about its careless dissipation of the heritage of posterity. Hence, because redwood timber-claims were easy to acquire, many men acquired them; but when the lure of greener pastures gripped these men and the necessity for ready money oppressed, they were wont to sell their holdings for a few hundred dollars. Gradually it became the fashion in Humboldt to "unload" redwood timber-claims on thrifty, far-seeing, visionary John Cardigan who appeared to be always in the market for any claim worth while.
Cardigan was a shrewd judge of stumpage; with the calm certitude of a prophet he looked over township after township and cunningly checkerboarded it with his holdings. Notwithstanding the fact that hillside timber is the best, John Cardigan in those days preferred to buy valley timber, for he was looking forward to the day when the timber on the watersheds should become available. He knew that when such timber should be cut it would have to be hauled out through the valleys where his untouched holdings formed an impenetrable barrier to the exit! Before long the owners of timber on the watersheds would come to realize this and sell to John Cardigan at a reasonable price.
Time passed. John Cardigan no longer swung an axe or dragged a cross- cut saw through a fallen redwood. He was an employer of labour now, well known in San Francisco as a manufacturer of split-redwood products, the purchasers sending their own schooners for the cargo. And presently John Cardigan mortgaged all of his timber holdings with a San Francisco bank, made a heap of his winnings, and like a true adventurer staked his all on a new venture—the first sawmill in Humboldt County. The timbers for it were hewed out by hand; the boards and planking were whipsawed.
It was a tiny mill, judged by present-day standards, for in a fourteen-hour working day John Cardigan and his men could not cut more than twenty thousand feet of lumber. Nevertheless, when Cardigan looked at his mill, his great heart would swell with pride. Built on tidewater and at the mouth of a large slough in the waters of which he stored the logs his woods-crew cut and peeled for the bull- whackers to haul with ox-teams down a mile-long skid-road, vessels could come to Cardigan's mill dock to load and lie safely in twenty feet of water at low tide. Also this dock was sufficiently far up the bay to be sheltered from the heavy seas that rolled in from Humboldt Bar, while the level land that stretched inland to the timber-line constituted the only logical townsite on the bay.
"Here," said John Cardigan to himself exultingly when a long-drawn wail told him his circular saw was biting into the first redwood log to be milled since the world began, "I shall build a city and call it Sequoia. By to-morrow I shall have cut sufficient timber to make a start. First I shall build for my employees better homes than the rude shacks and tent-houses they now occupy; then I shall build myself a fine residence with six rooms, and the room that faces on the bay shall be the parlour. When I can afford it, I shall build a larger mill, employ more men, and build more houses. I shall encourage tradesmen to set up in business in Sequoia, and to my city I shall present a church and a schoolhouse. We shall have a volunteer fire department, and if God is good, I shall, at a later date, get out some long-length fir-timber and build a schooner to freight my lumber to market. And she shall have three masts instead of two, and carry half a million feet of lumber instead of two hundred thousand. First, however, I must build a steam tugboat to tow my schooner in and out over Humboldt Bar. And after that—ah, well! That is sufficient for the present."
Thus did John Cardigan dream, and as he dreamed he worked. The city of Sequoia was born with the Argonaut's six-room mansion of rough redwood boards and a dozen three-room cabins with lean-to kitchens; and the tradespeople came when John Cardigan, with something of the largeness of his own redwood trees, gave them ground and lumber in order to encourage the building of their enterprises. Also the dream of the schoolhouse and the church came true, as did the steam tugboat and the schooner with three masts. The mill was enlarged until it could cut forty thousand feet on a twelve-hour shift, and a planer and machines for making rustic siding and tongued-and-grooved flooring and ceiling were installed. More ox-teams appeared upon the skid-road, which was longer now; the cry of "Timber-r-r!" and the thunderous roar of a falling redwood grew fainter and fainter as the forest receded from the bay shore, and at last the whine of the saws silenced these sounds forever in Sequoia.
At forty John Cardigan was younger than most men at thirty, albeit he worked fourteen hours a day, slept eight, and consumed the remaining two at his meals. But through all those fruitful years of toil he had still found time to dream, and the spell of the redwoods had lost none of its potency. He was still checker-boarding the forested townships with his adverse holdings—the key-positions to the timber in back of beyond which some day should come to his hand. Also he had competition now: other sawmills dotted the bay shore; other three- masted schooners carried Humboldt redwood to the world beyond the bar, over which they were escorted by other and more powerful steam- tugs. This competition John Cardigan welcomed and enjoyed, however, for he had been first in Humboldt, and the townsite and a mile of tidelands fronting on deep water were his; hence each incoming adventurer merely helped his dream of a city to come true.
At forty-two Cardigan was the first mayor of Sequoia. At forty-four he was standing on his dock one day, watching his tug kick into her berth the first square-rigged ship that had ever come to Humboldt Bay to load a cargo of clear redwood for foreign delivery. She was a big Bath-built clipper, and her master a lusty down-Easter, a widower with one daughter who had come with him around the Horn. John Cardigan saw this girl come up on the quarter-deck and stand by with a heaving-line in her hand; calmly she fixed her glance upon him, and as the ship was shunted in closer to the dock, she made the cast to Cardigan. He caught the light heaving-line, hauled in the heavy Manila stern-line to which it was attached, and slipped the loop of the mooring-cable over the dolphin at the end of the dock.
"Some men wanted aft here to take up the slack of the stern-line on the windlass, sir," he shouted to the skipper, who was walking around on top of the house. "That girl can't haul her in alone."
"Can't. I'm short-handed," the skipper replied. "Jump aboard and help her."
Cardigan made a long leap from the dock to the ship's rail, balanced there lightly a moment, and sprang to the deck. He passed the bight of the stern-line in a triple loop around the drum of the windlass, and without awaiting his instructions, the girl grasped the slack of the line and prepared to walk away with it as the rope paid in on the windlass. Cardigan inserted a belaying-pin in the windlass, paused and looked at the girl. "Raise a chantey," he suggested. Instantly she lifted a sweet contralto in that rollicking old ballad of the sea—"Blow the Men Down."
For tinkers and tailors and lawyers and all, Way! Aye! Blow the men down! They ship for real sailors aboard the Black Ball, Give me some time to blow the men down.
Round the windlass Cardigan walked, steadily and easily, and the girl's eyes widened in wonder as he did the work of three powerful men. When the ship had been warped in and the slack of the line made fast on the bitts, she said:
"Please run for'd and help my father with the bow-lines. You're worth three foremast hands. Indeed, I didn't expect to see a sailor on this dock."
"I had to come around the Horn to get here, Miss," he explained, "and when a man hasn't money to pay for his passage, he needs must work it."
"I'm the second mate," she explained. "We had a succession of gales from the Falklands to the Evangelistas, and there the mate got her in irons and she took three big ones over the taffrail and cost us eight men. Working short-handed, we couldn't get any canvas on her to speak of—long voyage, you know, and the rest of the crew got scurvy."
"You're a brave girl," he told her.
"And you're a first-class A. B.," she replied. "If you're looking for a berth, my father will be glad to ship you."
"Sorry, but I can't go," he called as he turned toward the companion ladder. "I'm Cardigan, and I own this sawmill and must stay here and look after it."
There was a light, exultant feeling in his middle-aged heart as he scampered along the deck. The girl had wonderful dark auburn hair and brown eyes, with a milk-white skin that sun and wind had sought in vain to blemish. And for all her girlhood she was a woman—bred from a race (his own people) to whom danger and despair merely furnished a tonic for their courage. What a mate for a man! And she had looked at him pridefully.
They were married before the ship was loaded, and on a knoll of the logged-over lands back of the town and commanding a view of the bay, with the dark-forested hills in back and the little second-growth redwoods flourishing in the front yard, he built her the finest home in Sequoia. He had reserved this building-site in a vague hope that some day he might utilize it for this very purpose, and here he spent with her three wonderfully happy years. Here his son Bryce was born, and here, two days later, the new-made mother made the supreme sacrifice of maternity.
For half a day following the destruction of his Eden John Cardigan sat dumbly beside his wife, his great, hard hand caressing the auburn head whose every thought for three years had been his happiness and comfort. Then the doctor came to him and mentioned the matter of funeral arrangements.
Cardigan looked up at him blankly. "Funeral arrangements?" he murmured. "Funeral arrangements?" He passed his gnarled hand over his leonine head. "Ah, yes, I suppose so. I shall attend to it."
He rose and left the house, walking with bowed head out of Sequoia, up the abandoned and decaying skid-road through the second-growth redwoods to the dark green blur that marked the old timber. It was May, and Nature was renewing herself, for spring comes late in Humboldt County. From an alder thicket a pompous cock grouse boomed intermittently; the valley quail, in pairs, were busy about their household affairs; from a clump of manzanita a buck watched John Cardigan curiously. On past the landing where the big bull donkey- engine stood (for with the march of progress, the logging donkey- engine had replaced the ox-teams, while the logs were hauled out of the woods to the landing by means of a mile-long steel cable, and there loaded on the flat-cars of a logging railroad to be hauled to the mill and dumped in the log-boom) he went, up the skid-road recently swamped from the landing to the down timber where the crosscut men and barkpeelers were at work, on into the green timber where the woods-boss and his men were chopping.
"Come with me, McTavish," he said to his woods-boss. They passed through a narrow gap between two low hills and emerged in a long narrow valley where the redwood grew thickly and where the smallest tree was not less than fifteen feet in diameter and two hundred and fifty feet tall. McTavish followed at the master's heels as they penetrated this grove, making their way with difficulty through the underbrush until they came at length to a little amphitheatre, a clearing perhaps a hundred feet in diameter, oval-shaped and surrounded by a wall of redwoods of such dimensions that even McTavish, who was no stranger to these natural marvels, was struck with wonder. The ground in this little amphitheatre was covered to a depth of a foot with brown, withered little redwood twigs to which the dead leaves still clung, while up through this aromatic covering delicate maidenhair ferns and oxalis had thrust themselves. Between the huge brown boles of the redwoods woodwardia grew riotously, while through the great branches of these sentinels of the ages the sunlight filtered. Against the prevailing twilight of the surrounding forest it descended like a halo, and where it struck the ground John Cardigan paused.
"McTavish," he said, "she died this morning."
"I'm sore distressed for you, sir," the woods-boss answered. "We'd a whisper in the camp yesterday that the lass was like to be in a bad way."
Cardigan scuffed with his foot a clear space in the brown litter. "Take two men from the section-gang, McTavish," he ordered, "and have them dig her grave here; then swamp a trail through the underbrush and out to the donkey-landing, so we can carry her in. The funeral will be private."
McTavish nodded. "Any further orders, sir?"
"Yes. When you come to that little gap in the hills, cease your logging and bear off yonder." He waved his hand. "I'm not going to cut the timber in this valley. You see, McTavish, what it is. The trees here—ah, man, I haven't the heart to destroy God's most wonderful handiwork. Besides, she loved this spot, McTavish, and she called the valley her Valley of the Giants. I—I gave it to her for a wedding present because she had a bit of a dream that some day the town I started would grow up to yonder gap, and when that time came and we could afford it, 'twas in her mind to give her Valley of the Giants to Sequoia for a city park, all hidden away here and unsuspected.
"She loved it, McTavish. It pleased her to come here with me; she'd make up a lunch of her own cooking and I would catch trout in the stream by the dogwoods yonder and fry the fish for her. Sometimes I'd barbecue a venison steak and—well, 'twas our playhouse, McTavish, and I who am no longer young—I who never played until I met her—I— I'm a bit foolish, I fear, but I found rest and comfort here, McTavish, even before I met her, and I'm thinking I'll have to come here often for the same. She—she was a very superior woman, McTavish—very superior. Ah, man, the soul of her! I cannot bear that her body should rest in Sequoia cemetery, along with the rag tag and bobtail o' the town. She was like this sunbeam, McTavish. She—she—"
"Aye," murmured McTavish huskily. "I ken. Ye wouldna gie her a common or a public spot in which to wait for ye. An' ye'll be shuttin' down the mill an' loggin'-camps an' layin' off the hands in her honour for a bit?"
"Until after the funeral, McTavish. And tell your men they'll be paid for the lost time. That will be all, lad."
When McTavish was gone, John Cardigan sat down on a small sugar-pine windfall, his head held slightly to one side while he listened to that which in the redwoods is not sound but rather the absence of it. And as he listened, he absorbed a subtle comfort from those huge brown trees, so emblematic of immortality; in the thought he grew closer to his Maker, and presently found that peace which he sought. Love such as theirs could never die... The tears came at last.
At sundown he walked home bearing an armful of rhododendrons and dogwood blossoms, which he arranged in the room where she lay. Then he sought the nurse who had attended her.
"I'd like to hold my son," he said gently. "May I?"
She brought him the baby and placed it in his great arms that trembled so; he sat down and gazed long and earnestly at this flesh of his flesh and blood of his blood. "You'll have her hair and skin and eyes," he murmured. "My son, my son, I shall love you so, for now I must love for two. Sorrow I shall keep from you, please God, and happiness and worldly comfort shall I leave you when I go to her." He nuzzled his grizzled cheek against the baby's face. "Just you and my trees," he whispered, "just you and my trees to help me hang on to a plucky finish."
For love and paternity had come to him late in life, and so had his first great sorrow; wherefore, since he was not accustomed to these heritages of all flesh, he would have to adjust himself to the change. But his son and his trees—ah, yes, they would help. And he would gather more redwoods now!
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.
Bryce always looked forward with eagerness to those frequent trips with his father "to the place where Mother dear went to heaven." From his perch on his father's shoulders he could look vast distances into the underbrush and catch glimpses of the wild life therein; when the last nut had been distributed to the squirrels in the clearing, he would follow a flash of blue that was a jay high up among the evergreen branches, or a flash of red that was a woodpecker hammering a home in the bark of a sugar-pine. Eventually, however, the spell of the forest would creep over the child; intuitively he would become one with the all-pervading silence, climb into his father's arms as the latter sat dreaming on the old sugar-pine windfall, and presently drop off to sleep.
When Bryce was six years old, his father sent him to the public school in Sequoia with the children of his loggers and mill-hands, thus laying the foundation for a democratic education all too infrequent with the sons of men rated as millionaires. At night old Cardigan (for so men had now commenced to designate him!) would hear his boy's lessons, taking the while an immeasurable delight in watching the lad's mind develop. As a pupil Bryce was not meteoric; he had his father's patient, unexcitable nature; and, like the old man, he possessed the glorious gift of imagination. Never mediocre, he was never especially brilliant, but was seemingly content to maintain a steady, dependable average in all things. He had his mother's dark auburn hair, brown eyes, and fair white skin, and quite early in life he gave promise of being as large and powerful a man as his father.
Bryce's boyhood was much the same as that of other lads in Sequoia, save that in the matter of toys and, later guns, fishing-rods, dogs, and ponies he was a source of envy to his fellows. After his tenth year his father placed him on the mill pay-roll, and on payday he was wont to line up with the mill-crew to receive his modest stipend of ten dollars for carrying in kindling to the cook in the mill kitchen each day after school.
This otherwise needless arrangement was old Cardigan's way of teaching his boy financial responsibility. All that he possessed he had worked for, and he wanted his son to grow up with the business to realize that he was a part of it with definite duties connected with it developing upon him—duties which he must never shirk if he was to retain the rich redwood heritage his father had been so eagerly storing up for him.
When Bryce Cardigan was about fourteen years old there occurred an important event in his life. In a commendable effort to increase his income he had laid out a small vegetable garden in the rear of his father's house, and here on a Saturday morning, while down on his knees weeding carrots, he chanced to look up and discovered a young lady gazing at him through the picket fence. She was a few years his junior, and a stranger in Sequoia. Ensued the following conversation: "Hello, little boy."
"Hello yourself! I ain't a little boy."
She ignored the correction. "What are you doing?"
"Weedin' carrots. Can't you see?"
Bryce, highly incensed at having been designated a little boy by this superior damsel, saw his opportunity to silence her. "Cat's fur for kitten breeches," he retorted—without any evidence of originality, we must confess. Whereat she stung him to the heart with a sweet smile and promptly sang for him this ancient ballad of childhood:
"What are little boys made of? What are little boys made of? Snakes and snails, And puppy dog's tails, And that's what little boys are made of."
Bryce knew the second verse and shrivelled inwardly in anticipation of being informed that little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Realizing that he had begun something which might not terminate with credit to himself, he hung his head and for the space of several minutes gave all his attention to his crop. And presently the visitor spoke again.
"I like your hair, little boy. It's a pretty red."
That settled the issue between them. To be hailed as little boy was bad enough, but to be reminded of his crowning misfortune was adding insult to injury. He rose and cautiously approached the fence with the intention of pinching the impudent stranger, suddenly and surreptitiously, and sending her away weeping. As his hand crept between the palings on its wicked mission, the little miss looked at him in friendly fashion and queried:
"What's your name?"
Bryce's hand hesitated. "Bryce Cardigan," he answered gruffly.
"I'm Shirley Sumner," she ventured, "Let's be friends."
"When did you come to live in Sequoia?" he demanded.
"I don't live here. I'm just visiting here with my aunt and uncle. We're staying at the hotel, and there's nobody to play with. My uncle's name is Pennington. So's my aunt's. He's out here buying timber, and we live in Michigan. Do you know the capital of Michigan?"
"Of course I do," he answered. "The capital of Michigan is Chicago."
"Oh, you big stupid! It isn't. It's Detroit."
"'Tain't neither. It's Chicago."
"I live there—so I guess I ought to know. So there!"
Bryce was vanquished, and an acute sense of his imperfections in matters geographical inclined him to end the argument. "Well, maybe you're right," he admitted grudgingly. "Anyhow, what difference does it make?"
She did not answer. Evidently she was desirous of avoiding an argument if possible. Her gaze wandered past Bryce to where his Indian pony stood with her head out the window of her box-stall contemplating her master.
"Oh, what a dear little horse!" Shirley Sumner exclaimed. "Whose is he?"
"'Tain't a he. It's a she. And she belongs to me."
"Do you ride her?"
"Not very often now. I'm getting too heavy for her, so Dad's bought me a horse that weighs nine hundred pounds. Midget only weighs five hundred." He considered her a moment while she gazed in awe upon this man with two horses. "Can you ride a pony?" he asked, for no reason that he was aware of.
She sighed, shaking her head resignedly. "We haven't any room to keep a pony at our house in Detroit," she explained, and added hopefully: "But I'd love to ride on Midget. I suppose I could learn to ride if somebody taught me how."
He looked at her again. At that period of his existence he was inclined to regard girls as a necessary evil. For some immutable reason they existed, and perforce must be borne with, and it was his hope that he would get through life and see as little as possible of the exasperating sex. Nevertheless, as Bryce surveyed this winsome miss through the palings, he was sensible of a sneaking desire to find favour in her eyes—also equally sensible of the fact that the path to that desirable end lay between himself and Midget. He swelled with the importance of one who knows he controls a delicate situation. "Well, I suppose if you want a ride I'll have to give it to you," he grumbled, "although I'm mighty busy this morning."
"Oh, I think you're so nice," she declared.
A thrill shot through him that was akin to pain; with difficulty did he restrain an impulse to dash wildly into the stable and saddle Midget in furious haste. Instead he walked to the barn slowly and with extreme dignity. When he reappeared, he was leading Midget, a little silverpoint runt of a Klamath Indian pony, and Moses, a sturdy pinto cayuse from the cattle ranges over in Trinity County. "I'll have to ride with you," he announced. "Can't let a tenderfoot like you go out alone on Midget."
All aflutter with delightful anticipation, the young lady climbed up on the gate and scrambled into the saddle when Bryce swung the pony broadside to the gate. Then he adjusted the stirrups to fit her, passed a hair rope from Midget's little hackamore to the pommel of Moses' saddle, mounted the pinto, and proceeded with his first adventure as a riding-master. Two hours of his valuable time did he give that morning before the call of duty brought him back to the house and his neglected crop of carrots. When he suggested tactfully, however, that it was now necessary that his guest and Midget separate, a difficulty arose. Shirley Sumner refused point blank to leave the premises. She liked Bryce for his hair and because he had been so kind to her; she was a stranger in Sequoia, and now that she had found an agreeable companion, it was far from her intention to desert him.
So Miss Sumner stayed and helped Bryce weed his carrots, and since as a voluntary labourer she was at least worth her board, at noon Bryce brought her in to Mrs. Tully with a request for luncheon. When he went to the mill to carry in the kindling for the cook, the young lady returned rather sorrowfully to the Hotel Sequoia, with a fervent promise to see him the next day. She did, and Bryce took her for a long ride up into the Valley of the Giants and showed her his mother's grave. The gray squirrels were there, and Bryce gave Shirley a bag of pine-nuts to feed them. Then they put some flowers on the grave, and when they returned to town and Bryce was unsaddling the ponies, Shirley drew Midget's nose down to her and kissed it. Then she commenced to weep rather violently.
"What are you crying about?" Bryce demanded. Girls were so hard to understand.
"I'm go-going h-h-h-home to-morrow," she howled.
He was stricken with dismay and bade her desist from her vain repinings. But her heart was broken, and somehow—Bryce appeared to act automatically—he had his arm around her. "Don't cry, Shirley," he pleaded. "It breaks my heart to see you cry. Do you want Midget? I'll give her to you."
Between sobs Shirley confessed that the prospect of parting with him and not Midget was provocative of her woe. This staggered Bryce and pleased him immensely. And at parting she kissed him good-bye, reiterating her opinion that he was the nicest, kindest boy she had ever met or hoped to meet.
When Shirley and her uncle and aunt boarded the steamer for San Francisco, Bryce stood disconsolate on the dock and waved to Shirley until he could no longer discern her on the deck. Then he went home, crawled up into the haymow and wept, for he had something in his heart and it hurt. He thought of his elfin companion very frequently for a week, and he lost his appetite, very much to Mrs. Tully's concern. Then the steelhead trout began to run in Eel River, and the sweetest event that can occur in any boy's existence—the sudden awakening to the wonder and beauty of life so poignantly realized in his first love-affair—was lost sight of by Bryce. In a month he had forgotten the incident; in six months he had forgotten Shirley Sumner.
The succeeding years of Bryce Cardigan's life, until he completed his high-school studies and went East to Princeton, were those of the ordinary youth in a small and somewhat primitive country town. He made frequent trips to San Francisco with his father, taking passage on the steamer that made bi-weekly trips between Sequoia and the metropolis—as The Sequoia Sentinel always referred to San Francisco. He was an expert fisherman, and the best shot with rifle or shot-gun in the county; he delighted in sports and, greatly to the secret delight of his father showed a profound interest in the latter's business.
Throughout the happy years of Bryce's boyhood his father continued to enlarge and improve his sawmill, to build more schooners, and to acquire more redwood timber. Lands, the purchase of which by Cardigan a decade before had caused his neighbours to impugn his judgment, now developed strategical importance. As a result those lands necessary to consolidate his own holdings came to him at his own price, while his adverse holdings that blocked the logging operations of his competitors went from him—also at his own price. In fact, all well- laid plans matured satisfactorily with the exception of one, and since it has a very definite bearing on the story, the necessity for explaining it is paramount.
Contiguous to Cardigan's logging operations to the east and north of Sequoia, and comparatively close in, lay a block of two thousand acres of splendid timber, the natural, feasible, and inexpensive outlet for which, when it should be logged, was the Valley of the Giants. For thirty years John Cardigan had played a waiting game with the owner of that timber, for the latter was as fully obsessed with the belief that he was going to sell it to John Cardigan at a dollar and a half per thousand feet stumpage as Cardigan was certain he was going to buy it for a dollar a thousand—when he should be ready to do so and not one second sooner. He calculated, as did the owner of the timber, that the time to do business would be a year or two before the last of Cardigan's timber in that section should be gone.
Eventually the time for acquiring more timber arrived. John Cardigan, meeting his neighbour on the street, accosted him thus:
"Look here, Bill: isn't it time we got together on that timber of yours? You know you've been holding it to block me and force me to buy at your figure."
"That's why I bought it," the other admitted smilingly. "Then, before I realized my position, you checkmated me with that quarter-section in the valley, and we've been deadlocked ever since."
"I'll give you a dollar a thousand stumpage for your timber, Bill."
"I want a dollar and a half."
"A dollar is my absolute limit."
"Then I'll keep my timber."
"And I'll keep my money. When I finish logging in my present holdings, I'm going to pull out of that country and log twenty miles south of Sequoia. I have ten thousand acres in the San Hedrin watershed. Remember, Bill, the man who buys your timber will have to log it through my land—and I'm not going to log that quarter-section in the valley. Hence there will be no outlet for your timber in back."
"Not going to log it? Why, what are you going to do with it?"
"I'm just going to let it stay there until I die. When my will is filed for probate, your curiosity will be satisfied—but not until then."
The other laughed. "John," he declared, "you just haven't got the courage to pull out when your timber adjoining mine is gone, and move twenty miles south to the San Hedrin watershed. That will be too expensive a move, and you'll only be biting off your nose to spite your face. Come through with a dollar and a half, John."
"I never bluff, Bill. Remember, if I pull out for the San Hedrin, I'll not abandon my logging-camps there to come back and log your timber. One expensive move is enough for me. Better take a dollar, Bill. It's a good, fair price, as the market on redwood timber is now, and you'll be making an even hundred per cent, on your investment. Remember, Bill, if I don't buy your timber, you'll never log it yourself and neither will anybody else. You'll be stuck with it for the next forty years—and taxes aren't getting any lower. Besides, there's a good deal of pine and fir in there, and you know what a forest fire will do to that."
"I'll hang on a little longer, I think."
"I think so, too," John Cardigan replied. And that night, as was his wont, even though he realized that it was not possible for Bryce to gain a profound understanding of the business problems to which he was heir, John Cardigan discussed the Squaw Creek timber with his son, relating to him the details of his conversation with the owner.
"I suppose he thinks you're bluffing," Bryce commented.
"I'm not, Bryce. I never bluff—that is, I never permit a bluff of mine to be called, and don't you ever do it, either. Remember that, boy. Any time you deliver a verdict, be sure you're in such a position you won't have to reverse yourself. I'm going to finish logging in that district this fall, so if I'm to keep the mill running, I'll have to establish my camps on the San Hedrin watershed right away."
Bryce pondered. "But isn't it cheaper to give him his price on Squaw Creek timber than go logging in the San Hedrin and have to build twenty miles of logging railroad to get your logs to the mill?"
"It would be, son, if I HAD to build the railroad. Fortunately, I do not. I'll just shoot the logs down the hillside to the San Hedrin River and drive them down the stream to a log-boom on tidewater."
"But there isn't enough water in the San Hedrin to float a redwood log, Dad. I've fished there, and I know."
"Quite true—in the summer and fall. But when the winter freshets come on and the snow begins to melt in the spring up in the Yola Bolas, where the San Hedrin has its source, we'll have plenty of water for driving the river. Once we get the logs down to tide-water, we'll raft them and tow them up to the mill. So you see, Bryce, we won't be bothered with the expense of maintaining a logging railroad, as at present."
Bryce looked at his father admiringly. "I guess Dan Keyes is right, Dad," he said. "Dan says you're crazy—like a fox. Now I know why you've been picking up claims in the San Hedrin watershed."
"No, you don't, Bryce. I've never told you, but I'll tell you now the real reason. Humboldt County has no rail connection with the outside world, so we are forced to ship our lumber by water. But some day a railroad will be built in from the south—from San Francisco; and when it comes, the only route for it to travel is through our timber in the San Hedrin Valley. I've accumulated that ten thousand acres for you, my son, for the railroad will never be built in my day. It may come in yours, but I have grown weary waiting for it, and now that my hand is forced, I'm going to start logging there. It doesn't matter, son. You will still be logging there fifty years from now. And when the railroad people come to you for a right of way, my boy, give it to them. Don't charge them a cent. It has always been my policy to encourage the development of this county, and I want you to be a forward-looking, public-spirited citizen. That's why I'm sending you East to college. You've been born and raised in this town, and you must see more of the world. You mustn't be narrow or provincial, because I'm saving up for you, my son, a great many responsibilities, and I want to educate you to meet them bravely and sensibly."
He paused, regarding the boy gravely and tenderly. "Bryce, lad," he said presently, "do you ever wonder why I work so hard and barely manage to spare the time to go camping with you in vacation time?"
"Why don't you take it easy, Dad? You do work awfully hard, and I have wondered about it."
"I have to work hard, my son, because I started something a long time ago, when work was fun. And now I can't let go. I employ too many people who are dependent on me for their bread and butter. When they plan a marriage or the building of a home or the purchase of a cottage organ, they have to figure me in on the proposition. I didn't have a name for the part I played in these people's lives until the other night when I was helping you with your algebra. I'm the unknown quantity."
"Oh, no," Bryce protested. "You're the known quantity."
Cardigan smiled. "Well, maybe I am," he admitted. "I've always tried to be. And if I have succeeded, then you're the unknown quantity, Bryce, because some day you'll have to take my place; they will have to depend upon you when I am gone. Listen to me, son. You're only a boy, and you can't understand everything I tell you now, but I want you to remember what I tell you, and some day understanding will come to you. You mustn't fail the people who work for you—who are dependent upon your strength and brains and enterprises to furnish them with an opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you are the boss of Cardigan's mill, you must keep the wheels turning; you must never shut down the mill or the logging- camps in dull times just to avoid a loss you can stand better than your employees."
His hard, trembling old hand closed over the boy's. "I want you to be a brave and honourable man," he concluded.
True to his word, when John Cardigan finished his logging in his old, original holdings adjacent to Sequoia and Bill Henderson's Squaw Creek timber, he quietly moved south with his Squaw Creek woods-gang and joined the crew already getting out logs in the San Hedrin watershed. Not until then did Bill Henderson realize that John Cardigan had called his bluff—whereat he cursed himself for a fool and a poor judge of human nature. He had tried a hold-up game and had failed; a dollar a thousand feet stumpage was a fair price; for years he had needed the money; and now, when it was too late, he realized his error. Luck was with Henderson, however; for shortly thereafter there came again to Sequoia one Colonel Seth Pennington, a millionaire white-pine operator from Michigan. The Colonel's Michigan lands had been logged off, and since he had had one taste of cheap timber, having seen fifty-cent stumpage go to five dollars, the Colonel, like Oliver Twist, desired some more of the same. On his previous visit to Sequoia he had seen his chance awaiting him in the gradually decreasing market for redwood lumber and the corresponding increase of melancholia in the redwood operators; hence he had returned to Michigan, closed out his business interests there, and returned to Sequoia on the alert for an investment in redwood timber. From a chair-warmer on the porch of the Hotel Sequoia, the Colonel had heard the tale of how stiff-necked old John Cardigan had called the bluff of equally stiff-necked old Bill Henderson; so for the next few weeks the Colonel, under pretense of going hunting or fishing on Squaw Creek, managed to make a fairly accurate cursory cruise of the Henderson timber—following which he purchased it from the delighted Bill for a dollar and a quarter per thousand feet stumpage and paid for it with a certified check. With his check in his hand, Henderson queried:
"Colonel, how do you purpose logging that timber?"
The Colonel smiled. "Oh, I don't intend to log it. When I log timber, it has to be more accessible. I'm just going to hold on and outgame your former prospect, John Cardigan. He needs that timber; he has to have it—and one of these days he'll pay me two dollars for it."
Bill Henderson raised an admonitory finger and shook it under the Colonel's nose. "Hear me, stranger," he warned. "When you know John Cardigan as well as I do, you'll change your tune. He doesn't bluff."
"He doesn't?" The Colonel laughed derisively. "Why, that move of his over to the San Hedrin was the most monumental bluff ever pulled off in this country."
"All right, sir. You wait and see."
"I've seen already. I know."
"How do you know?"
"Well, for one thing, Henderson, I noticed Cardigan has carefully housed his rolling-stock—and he hasn't scrapped his five miles of logging railroad and three miles of spurs."
Old Bill Henderson chewed his quid of tobacco reflectively and spat at a crack in the sidewalk. "No," he replied, "I'll admit he ain't started scrappin' it yet, but I happen to know he's sold the rollin'- stock an' rails to the Freshwater Lumber Company, so I reckon they'll be scrappin' that railroad for him before long."
The Colonel was visibly moved. "If your information is authentic," he said slowly, "I suppose I'll have to build a mill on tidewater and log the timber."
"'Twon't pay you to do that at the present price of redwood lumber."
"I'm in no hurry. I can wait for better times."
"Well, when better times arrive, you'll find that John Cardigan owns the only water-front property on this side of the bay where the water's deep enough to let a ship lie at low tide and load in safety."
"There is deep water across the bay and plenty of water-front property for sale. I'll find a mill-site there and tow my logs across."
"But you've got to dump 'em in the water on this side. Everything north of Cardigan's mill is tide-flat; he owns all the deep-water frontage for a mile south of Sequoia, and after that come more tide- flats. If you dump your logs on these tide-flats, they'll bog down in the mud, and there isn't water enough at high tide to float 'em off or let a tug go in an' snake 'em off."
"You're a discouraging sort of person," the Colonel declared irritably. "I suppose you'll tell me now that I can't log my timber without permission from Cardigan."
Old Bill spat at another crack; his faded blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "No, that's where you've got the bulge on John, Colonel. You can build a logging railroad from the southern fringe of your timber north and up a ten per cent. grade on the far side of the Squaw Creek watershed, then west three miles around a spur of low hills, and then south eleven miles through the level country along the bay shore. If you want to reduce your Squaw Creek grade to say two per cent., figure on ten additional miles of railroad and a couple extra locomotives. You understand, of course, Colonel, that no Locomotive can haul a long trainload of redwood logs up a long, crooked, two per cent. grade. You have to have an extry in back to push."
"Nonsense! I'll build my road from Squaw Creek gulch south through that valley where those whopping big trees grow. That's the natural outlet for the timber. See here:" [graphic]
Colonel Pennington took from his pocket the rough sketch-map of the region which we have reproduced herewith and pointed to the spot numbered "11."
"But that valley ain't logged yet," explained Henderson.
"Don't worry. Cardigan will sell that valley to me—also a right of way down his old railroad grade and through his logged-over lands to tidewater."
"Bet you a chaw o' tobacco he won't. Those big trees in that valley ain't goin' to be cut for no railroad right o' way. That valley's John Cardigan's private park; his wife's buried up there. Why, Colonel, that's the biggest grove of the biggest sequoia sempervirens in the world, an' many's the time I've heard John say he'd almost as lief cut off his right hand as fell one o' his giants, as he calls 'em. I tell you, Colonel, John Cardigan's mighty peculiar about them big trees. Any time he can get a day off he goes up an' looks 'em over."
"But, my very dear sir," the Colonel protested, "if the man will not listen to reason, the courts will make him. I can condemn a right of way, you know."
"We-ll," said old Bill, wagging his head sagely, "mebbe you can, an' then again mebbe you can't. It took me a long time to figger out just where I stood, but mebbe you're quicker at figgers than I am. Anyhow, Colonel, good luck to you, whichever way the cat jumps."
This illuminating conversation had one effect on Colonel Seth Pennington. It decided him to make haste slowly; so without taking the trouble to make the acquaintance of John Cardigan, he returned to Detroit, there to await the next move in this gigantic game of chess.
No man is infallible, and in planning his logging operations in the San Hedrin watershed, John Cardigan presently made the discovery that he had erred in judgment. That season, from May to November, his woods-crew put thirty million feet of logs into the San Hedrin River, while the mill sawed on a reserve supply of logs taken from the last of the old choppings adjacent to Squaw Creek. That year, however, the rainfall in the San Hedrin country was fifty per cent. less than normal, and by the first of May of the following year Cardigan's woods-crew had succeeded in driving slightly less than half of the cut of the preceding year to the boom on tidewater at the mouth of the river.
"Unless the Lord'll gi' us a lot more water in the river," the woods- boss McTavish complained, "I dinna see how I'm to keep the mill runnin'." He was taking John Cardigan up the riverbank and explaining the situation. "The heavy butt-logs hae sunk to the bottom," he continued. "Wie a normal head o' water, the lads'll move them, but wi' the wee drappie we have the noo—" He threw up his hamlike hands despairingly.
Three days later a cloud-burst filled the river to the brim; it came at night and swept the river clean of Cardigan's clear logs, An army of Juggernauts, they swept down on the boiling torrent to tidewater, reaching the bay shortly after the tide had commenced to ebb.
Now, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a log-boom is a chaplet of a small logs, linked end to end by means of short chains; hence when the vanguard of logs on the lip of that flood reached the log-boom, the impetus of the charge was too great to be resisted. Straight through the weakest link in this boom the huge saw-logs crashed and out over Humboldt Bar to the broad Pacific. With the ebb tide some of them came back, while others, caught in cross- currents, bobbed about the Bay all night and finally beached at widely scattered points. Out of the fifteen million feet of logs less than three million feet were salvaged, and this task in itself was an expensive operation.
John Cardigan received the news calmly. "Thank God we don't have a cloud-burst more than once in ten years," he remarked to his manager. "However, that is often enough, considering the high cost of this one. Those logs were worth eight dollars a thousand feet, board measure, in the millpond, and I suppose we've lost a hundred thousand dollars' worth."
He turned from the manager and walked away through the drying yard, up the main street of Sequoia, and on into the second-growth timber at the edge of the town. Presently he emerged on the old, decaying skid-road and continued on through his logged-over lands, across the little divide and down into the quarter-section of green timber he had told McTavish not to cut. Once in the Valley of the Giants, he followed a well-worn foot-path to the little amphitheatre, and where the sunlight filtered through like a halo and fell on a plain little white marble monument, he paused and sat down on the now almost decayed sugar-pine windfall.
"I've come for a little comfort, sweetheart," he murmured to her who slept beneath the stone. Then he leaned back against a redwood tree, removed his hat, and closed his eyes, holding his great gray head the while a little to one side in a listening attitude. Long he sat there, a great, time-bitten devotee at the shrine of his comfort; and presently the harried look left his strong, kind face and was replaced by a little prescient smile—the sort of smile worn by one who through bitter years has sought something very, very precious and has at length discovered it.
It was on the day that John Cardigan received the telegram from Bryce saying that, following four years at Princeton and two years of travel abroad, he was returning to Sequoia to take over his redwood heritage—that he discovered that a stranger and not the flesh of his flesh and the blood of his blood was to reap the reward of his fifty years of endeavour. Small wonder, then, that he laid his leonine head upon his desk and wept, silently, as the aged and helpless weep.
For a long time he sat there lethargic with misery. Eventually he roused himself, reached for the desk telephone, and pressed a button on the office exchange-station. His manager, one Thomas Sinclair, answered. "Thomas," he said calmly, "you know, of course, that Bryce is coming home. Tell George to take the big car and go over to Red Bluff for him."
"I'll attend to it, Mr Cardigan. Anything else?"
"Yes, but I'll wait until Bryce gets home."
George Sea Otter, son of Bryce Cardigan's old half-breed nurse, was a person in whose nature struggled the white man's predilection for advertisement and civic pride and the red man's instinct for adornment. For three years he had been old man Cardigan's chauffeur and man-of-all-work about the latter's old-fashioned home, and in the former capacity he drove John Cardigan's single evidence of extravagance—a Napier car, which was very justly regarded by George Sea Otter as the king of automobiles, since it was the only imported car in the county. Upon receipt of orders, therefore, from Sinclair, to drive the Napier over to Red Bluff and meet his future boss and one-time playfellow, George Sea Otter arrayed himself in a pair of new black corduroy trousers, yellow button shoes, a blue woollen shirt with a large scarlet silk handkerchief tied around the neck, a pair of beaded buckskin gloves with fringe dependent from the gauntlet, and a broad white beaver hat with a rattlesnake-skin band. Across the windshield of the Napier he fastened an orange-coloured pennant bearing in bright green letters the legend: MY CITY—SEQUOIA. As a safety-first precaution against man and beast en route, he buckled a gun-scabbard to the spare tires on the running-board and slipped a rifle into the scabbard within quick and easy reach of his hand; and arrayed thus, George descended upon Red Bluff at the helm of the king of automobiles.
When the overland train coasted into Red Bluff and slid to a grinding halt, Bryce Cardigan saw that the Highest Living Authority had descended from the train also. He had elected to designate her thus in the absence of any information anent her Christian and family names, and for the further reason that quite obviously she was a very superior person. He had a vague suspicion that she was the kind of girl in whose presence a man always feels that he must appear on parade—one of those alert, highly intelligent young women so extremely apt to reduce an ordinarily intelligent young man to a state of gibbering idiocy or stupid immobility.
Bryce had travelled in the same car with the Highest Living Authority from Chicago and had made up his mind by observation that with a little encouragement she could be induced to mount a soap-box and make a speech about Women's Rights; that when her native State should be granted equal suffrage she would run for office or manage somebody's political campaign; that she could drive an automobile and had probably been arrested for speeding; that she could go around any golf links in the country in ninety and had read Maeterlinck and enjoyed it.
Bryce could see that she was the little daughter of some large rich man. The sparsity of jewellery and the rich simplicity of her attire proved that, and moreover she was accompanied by a French maid to whom she spoke French in a manner which testified that before acquiring the French maid she had been in the custody of a French nurse. She possessed poise. For the rest, she had wonderful jet-black hair, violet eyes, and milk-white skin, a correct nose but a somewhat generous mouth, Bryce guessed she was twenty or twenty-one years old and that she had a temper susceptible of being aroused. On the whole, she was rather wonderful but not dazzling—at least, not to Bryce Cardigan. He told himself she merely interested him as a type— whatever he meant by that.
The fact that this remarkable young woman had also left the train at Red Bluff further interested him, for he knew Red Bluff and while giving due credit to the many lovely damsels of that ambitious little city, Bryce had a suspicion that no former Red Bluff girl would dare to invade the old home town with a French maid. He noted, as further evidence of the correctness of his assumption, that the youthful baggage-smasher at the station failed to recognize her and was evidently dazzled when, followed by the maid struggling with two suit-cases, she approached him and in pure though alien English (the Italian A predominated) inquired the name and location of the best hotel and the hour and point of departure of the automobile stage for San Hedrin. The youth had answered her first question and was about to answer the second when George Sea Otter, in all his barbaric splendour, came pussy-footing around the comer of the station in old man Cardigan's regal touring-car.
The Highest Living Authority, following the gaze of the baggage- smasher, turned and beheld George Sea Otter. Beyond a doubt he was of the West westward. She had heard that California stage-drivers were picturesque fellows, and in all probability the displacing of the old Concord coach of the movie-thriller in favour of the motor-stage had not disturbed the idiosyncrasies of the drivers in their choice of raiment. She noted the rifle-stock projecting from the scabbard, and a vision of a stage hold-up flashed across her mind. Ah, yes, of course—the express messenger's weapon, no doubt! And further to clinch her instant assumption that here was the Sequoia motor-stage, there was the pennant adorning the wind-shield!
Dismissing the baggage-smasher with a gracious smile, the Highest Living Authority approached George Sea Otter, noting, the while, further evidence that this car was a public conveyance, for the young man who had been her fellow-passenger was heading toward the automobile also. She heard him say:
"Hello, George, you radiant red rascal! I'm mighty glad to see you, boy. Shake!"
They shook, George Sea Otter's dark eyes and white teeth flashing pleasurably. Bryce tossed his bag into the tonneau; the half-breed opened the front door; and the young master had his foot on the running-board and was about to enter the car when a soft voice spoke at his elbow:
"Driver, this is the stage for Sequoia, is it not?"
George Sea Otter could scarcely credit his auditory nerves. "This car?" he demanded bluntly, "this—the Sequoia stage! Take a look, lady. This here's a Napier imported English automobile. It's a private car and belongs to my boss here."
"I'm so sorry I slandered your car," she replied demurely. "I observed the pennant on the wind-shield, and I thought—"
Bryce Cardigan turned and lifted his hat.
"Quite naturally, you thought it was the Sequoia stage," he said to her. He turned a smoldering glance upon George Sea Otter. "George," he declared ominously, but with a sly wink that drew the sting from his words, "if you're anxious to hold down your job the next time a lady speaks to you and asks you a simple question, you answer yes or no and refrain from sarcastic remarks. Don't let your enthusiasm for this car run away with you." He faced the girl again. "Was it your intention to go out to Sequoia on the next trip of the stage?"
"That means you will have to wait here three days until the stage returns from Sequoia," Bryce replied.
"I realized, of course, that we would arrive here too late to connect with the stage if it maintained the customary schedule for its departure," she explained, "but it didn't occur to me that the stage- driver wouldn't wait until our train arrived. I had an idea his schedule was rather elastic."
"Stage-drivers have no imagination, to speak of," Bryce assured her. To himself he remarked: "She's used to having people wait on her."
A shade of annoyance passed over the classic features of the Highest Living Authority. "Oh, dear," she complained, "how fearfully awkward! Now I shall have to take the next train to San Francisco and book passage on the steamer to Sequoia—and Marcelle is such a poor sailor. Oh, dear!"
Bryce had an inspiration and hastened to reveal it.
"We are about to start for Sequoia now, although the lateness of our start will compel us to put up tonight at the rest-house on the south fork of Trinity River and continue the journey in the morning. However, this rest-house is eminently respectable and the food and accommodations are extraordinarily good for mountains; so, if an invitation to occupy the tonneau of my car will not be construed as an impertinence, coming as it does from a total stranger, you are at liberty to regard this car as to all intents and purposes the public conveyance which so scandalously declined to wait for you this morning."
She looked at him searchingly for a brief instant: then with a peculiarly winning smile and a graceful inclination of her head she thanked him and accepted his hospitality—thus:
"Why, certainly not! You are very kind, and I shall be eternally grateful."
"Thank you for that vote of confidence. It makes me feel that I have your permission to introduce myself. My name is Bryce Cardigan, and I live in Sequoia when I'm at home."
"Of Cardigan's Redwoods?" she questioned. He nodded. "I've heard of you, I think," she continued. "I am Shirley Sumner."
"You do not live in Sequoia."
"No, but I'm going to hereafter. I was there about ten years ago."
He grinned and thrust out a great hand which she surveyed gravely for a minute before inserting hers in it. "I wonder," he said, "if it is to be my duty to give you a ride every time you come to Sequoia? The last time you were there you wheedled me into giving you a ride on my pony, an animal known as Midget. Do you, by any chance, recall that incident?"
She looked up at him wonderingly. "Why—why you're the boy with the beautiful auburn hair," she declared. He lifted his hat and revealed his thick thatch in all its glory. "I'm not so sensitive about it now," he explained. "When we first met, reference to my hair was apt to rile me." He shook her little hand with cordial good-nature. "What a pity it wasn't possible for us to renew acquaintance on the train, Miss Sumner!"
"Better late than never, Mr. Cardigan, considering the predicament in which you found me. What became of Midget?"
"Midget, I regret to state, made a little pig of herself one day and died of acute indigestion. She ate half a sack of carrots, and knowing full well that she was eating forbidden fruit, she bolted them, and for her failure to Fletcherize—but speaking of Fletcherizing, did you dine aboard the train?"
She nodded. "So did I, Miss Sumner; hence I take it that you are quite ready to start."
"Quite, Mr. Cardigan."
"Then we'll drift. George, suppose you pile Miss Sumner's hand- baggage in the tonneau and then pile in there yourself and keep Marcelle company. I'll drive; and you can sit up in front with me, Miss Sumner, snug behind the wind-shield where you'll not be blown about."
"I'm sure this is going to be a far pleasanter journey than the stage could possibly have afforded," she said graciously as Bryce slipped in beside her and took the wheel.
"You are very kind to share the pleasure with me, Miss Sumner." He went through his gears, and the car glided away on its journey. "By the way," he said suddenly as he turned west toward the distant blue mountains of Trinity County, "how did you happen to connect me with Cardigan's redwoods?"
"I've heard my uncle, Colonel Seth Pennington, speak of them."
"Colonel Seth Pennington means nothing in my young life. I never heard of him before; so I dare say he's a newcomer in our country. I've been away six years," he added in explanation.
"We're from Michigan. Uncle was formerly in the lumber business there, but he's logged out now."
"I see. So he came West, I suppose, and bought a lot of redwood timber cheap from some old croaker who never could see any future to the redwood lumber industry. Personally, I don't think he could have made a better investment. I hope I shall have the pleasure of making his acquaintance when I deliver you to him. Perhaps you may be a neighbour of mine. Hope so."
At this juncture George Sea Otter, who had been an interested listener to the conversation, essayed a grunt from the rear seat. Instantly, to Shirley Sumner's vast surprise, her host grunted also; whereupon George Sea Otter broke into a series of grunts and guttural exclamations which evidently appeared quite intelligible to her host, for he slowed down to five miles an hour and cocked one ear to the rear; apparently he was profoundly interested in whatever information his henchman had to impart. When George Sea Otter finished his harangue, Bryce nodded and once more gave his attention to tossing the miles behind him.
"What language was that?" Shirley Sumner inquired, consumed with curiosity.
"Digger Indian," he replied. "George's mother was my nurse, and he and I grew up together. So I can't very well help speaking the language of the tribe."
They chattered volubly on many subjects for the first twenty miles; then the road narrowed and commenced to climb steadily, and thereafter Bryce gave all of his attention to the car, for a deviation of a foot from the wheel-rut on the outside of the road would have sent them hurtling over the grade into the deep-timbered canons below. Their course led through a rugged wilderness, widely diversified and transcendently beautiful, and the girl was rather glad of the opportunity to enjoy it in silence. Also by reason of the fact that Bryce's gaze never wavered from the road immediately in front of the car, she had a chance to appraise him critically while pretending to look past him to the tumbled, snow-covered ranges to their right.
She saw a big, supple, powerful man of twenty-five or six, with the bearing and general demeanour of one many years his elder. His rich, dark auburn hair was wavy, and a curling lock of it had escaped from the band of his cap at the temple; his eyes were brown to match his hair and were the striking feature of a strong, rugged countenance, for they were spaced at that eminently proper interval which proclaims an honest man. His nose was high, of medium thickness and just a trifle long—the nose of a thinker. His ears were large, with full lobes—the ears of a generous man. The mouth, full-lipped but firm, the heavy jaw and square chin, the great hands (most amazingly free from freckles) denoted the man who would not avoid a fight worth while. Indeed, while the girl was looking covertly at him, she saw his jaw set and a sudden, fierce light leap up in his eyes, which at first sight had seemed to her rather quizzical. Subconsciously he lifted one hand from the wheel and clenched it; he wagged his head a very little bit; consequently she knew his thoughts were far away, and for some reason, not quite clear to her, she would have preferred that they weren't. As a usual thing, young men did not go wool- gathering in her presence; so she sought to divert his thoughts to present company.
"What a perfectly glorious country!" she exclaimed. "Can't we stop for just a minute to appreciate it?"
"Yes," he replied abstractedly as he descended from the car and sat at her feet while she drank in the beauty of the scene, "it's a he country; I love it, and I'm glad to get back to it."
Upon their arrival at the rest-house, however, Bryce cheered up, and during dinner was very attentive and mildly amusing, although Shirley's keen wits assured her that this was merely a clever pose and sustained with difficulty. She was confirmed in this assumption when, after sitting with him a little on the porch after dinner, she complained of being weary and bade him good-night. She had scarcely left him when he called:
The half-breed slid out of the darkness and sat down beside him. A moment later, through the open window of her room just above the porch where Bryce and George Sea Otter sat, Shirley heard the former say:
"George, when did you first notice that my father's sight was beginning to fail?"
"About two years ago, Bryce."
"What made you notice it?"
"He began to walk with his hands held out in front of him, and sometimes he lifted his feet too high."
"Can he see at all now, George?"
"Oh, yes, a little bit—enough to make his way to the office and back."
"Poor old governor! George, until you told me this afternoon, I hadn't heard a word about it. If I had, I never would have taken that two-year jaunt around the world."
George Sea Otter grunted. "That's what your father said, too. So he wouldn't tell you, and he ordered everybody else to keep quiet about it. Myself—well, I didn't want you to go home and not know it until you met him."
"That was mighty kind and considerate of you, George. And you say this man Colonel Pennington and my father have been having trouble?"
"Yes—" Here George Sea Otter gracefully unburdened himself of a fervent curse directed at Shirley's avuncular relative; whereupon that young lady promptly left the window and heard no more.
They were on the road again by eight o'clock next morning, and just as Cardigan's mill was blowing the six o'clock whistle, Bryce stopped the car at the head of the street leading down to the water-front. "I'll let you drive now, George," he informed the silent Sea Otter. He turned to Shirley Sumner. "I'm going to leave you now," he said. "Thank you for riding over from Red Bluff with me. My father never leaves the office until the whistle blows, and so I'm going to hurry down to that little building you see at the end of the street and surprise him."
He stepped out on the running-board, stood there a moment, and extended his hand. Shirley had commenced a due and formal expression of her gratitude for having been delivered safely in Sequoia, when George Sea Otter spoke:
"Here comes John Cardigan," he said.
"Drive Miss Sumner around to Colonel Pennington's house," Bryce ordered, and even while he held Shirley's hand, he turned to catch the first glimpse of his father. Shirley followed his glance and saw a tall, powerfully built old man coming down the street with his hands thrust a little in front of him, as if for protection from some invisible assailant.
"Oh, my poor old father!" she heard Bryce Cardigan murmur. "My dear old pal! And I've let him grope in the dark for two years!"
He released her hand and leaped from the car. "Dad!" he called. "It is I—Bryce. I've come home to you at last."
The slightly bent figure of John Cardigan straightened with a jerk; he held out his arms, trembling with eagerness, and as the car continued on to the Pennington house Shirley looked back and saw Bryce folded in his father's embrace. She did not, however, hear the heart-cry with which the beaten old man welcomed his boy.
"Sonny, sonny—oh, I'm so glad you're back. I've missed you. Bryce, I'm whipped—I've lost your heritage. Oh, son! I'm old—I can't fight any more. I'm blind—I can't see my enemies. I've lost your redwood trees—even your mother's Valley of the Giants."
And he commenced to weep for the third time in fifty years. And when the aged and helpless weep, nothing is more terrible. Bryce Cardigan said no word, but held his father close to his great heart and laid his cheek gently against the old man's, tenderly as a woman might. And presently, from that silent communion of spirit, each drew strength and comfort. As the shadows fell in John Cardigan's town, they went home to the house on the hill.
Shirley Sumner's eyes were still moist when George Sea Otter, in obedience to the instructions of his youthful master, set her, the French maid, and their hand-baggage down on the sidewalk in front of Colonel Seth Pennington's house. The half-breed hesitated a moment, undecided whether he would carry the hand-baggage up to the door or leave that task for a Pennington retainer; then he noted the tear- stains on the cheeks of his fair passenger. Instantly he took up the hand-baggage, kicked open the iron gate, and preceded Shirley up the cement walk to the door.
"Just wait a moment, if you please, George," Shirley said as he set the baggage down and started back for the car. He turned and beheld her extracting a five-dollar bill from her purse. "For you, George," she continued. "Thank you so much."
In all his life George Sea Otter had never had such an experience— he, happily, having been raised in a country where, with the exception of waiters, only a pronounced vagrant expects or accepts a gratuity from a woman. He took the bill and fingered it curiously; then his white blood asserted itself and he handed the bill back to Shirley.
"Thank you," he said respectfully. "If you are a man—all right. But from a lady—no. I am like my boss. I work for you for nothing."
Shirley did not understand his refusal, but her instinctive tact warned her not to insist. She returned the bill to her purse, thanked him again, and turned quickly to hide the slight flush of annoyance. George Sea Otter noted it.
"Lady," he said with great dignity, "at first I did not want to carry your baggage. I did not want to walk on this land." And with a sweeping gesture he indicated the Pennington grounds. "Then you cry a little because my boss is feeling bad about his old man. So I like you better. The old man—well, he has been like father to me and my mother—and we are Indians. My brothers, too—they work for him. So if you like my boss and his old man, George Sea Otter would go to hell for you pretty damn' quick. You bet you my life!"
"You're a very good boy, George," she replied, with difficulty repressing a smile at his blunt but earnest avowal. "I am glad the Cardigans have such an honest, loyal servant."
George Sea Otter's dark face lighted with a quick smile. "Now you pay me," he replied and returned to the car.
The door opened, and a Swedish maid stood in the entrance regarding her stolidly. "I'm Miss Sumner," Shirley informed her. "This is my maid Marcelle. Help her in with the hand-baggage." She stepped into the hall and called: "Ooh-hooh! Nunky-dunk!"
"Ship ahoy!" An answering call came to her from the dining room, across the entrance-hall, and an instant later Colonel Seth Pennington stood in the doorway, "Bless my whiskers! Is that you, my dear?" he cried, and advanced to greet her. "Why, how did you get here, Shirley? I thought you'd missed the stage."
She presented her cheek for his kiss. "So I did, Uncle, but a nice red-haired young man named Bryce Cardigan found me in distress at Red Bluff, picked me up in his car, and brought me here." She sniffed adorably. "I'm so hungry," she declared, "and here I am, just in time for dinner. Is my name in the pot?"
"It isn't, Shirley, but it soon will be. How perfectly bully to have you with me again, my dear! And what a charming young lady you've grown to be since I saw you last! You're—why, you've been crying! By Jove, I had no idea you'd be so glad to see me again."
She could not forego a sly little smile at his egoism.
"You're looking perfectly splendid, Uncle Seth," she parried.
"And I'm feeling perfectly splendid. This is a wonderful country, Shirley, and everything is going nicely with me here. By the way, who did you say picked you up in his car?"
"Bryce Cardigan. Do you know him?"
"No, we haven't met. Son of old John Cardigan, I dare say. I've heard of him. He's been away from Sequoia for quite a while, I believe."
"Yes; he was abroad for two years after he was graduated from Princeton."
"Hum-m-m! Well, it's about time he came home to take care of that stiff-necked old father of his." He stepped to the bell and pressed it, and the butler answered. "Set a place at dinner for Miss Shirley, James," he ordered. "Thelma will show you your rooms, Shirley. I was just about to sit down to dinner. I'll wait for you."
While Shirley was in the living room Colonel Pennington's features wore an expression almost pontifical, but when she had gone, the atmosphere of paternalism and affection which he radiated faded instantly. The Colonel's face was in repose now—cold, calculating, vaguely repellent. He scowled slightly.
"Now, isn't that the devil's luck?" he soliloquized. "Young Cardigan is probably the only man in Sequoia—dashed awkward if they should become interested in each other—at this time. Everybody in town, from lumberjacks to bankers, has told me what a fine fellow Bryce Cardigan is. They say he's good-looking; certainly he is educated and has acquired some worldly polish—just the kind of young fellow Shirley will find interesting and welcome company in a town like this. Many things can happen in a year—and it will be a year before I can smash the Cardigans. Damn it!"
Along the well-remembered streets of Sequoia Bryce Cardigan and his father walked arm in arm, their progress continuously interrupted by well-meaning but impulsive Sequoians who insisted upon halting the pair to shake hands with Bryce and bid him welcome home. In the presence of those third parties the old man quickly conquered the agitation he had felt at this long-deferred meeting with his son, and when presently they left the business section of the town and turned into a less-frequented street, his emotion assumed the character of a quiet joy, evidenced in a more erect bearing and a firmer tread, as if he strove, despite his seventy-six years, not to appear incongruous as he walked beside his splendid son.
"I wish I could see you more clearly," he said presently. His voice as well as his words expressed profound regret, but there was no hint of despair or heartbreak now.
Bryce, who up to this moment had refrained from discussing his father's misfortunes, drew the old man a little closer to his side.
"What's wrong with your eyes, pal?" he queried. He did not often address his parent, after the fashion of most sons, as "Father," "Dad" or "Pop." They were closer to each other than that, and a rare sense of perfect comradeship found expression, on Bryce's part, in such salutations as "pal," "partner" and, infrequently, "old sport." When arguing with his father, protesting with him or affectionately scolding him, Bryce, with mock seriousness, sometimes called the old man John Cardigan.
"Cataracts, son," his father answered. "Merely the penalty of old age."
"But can't something be done about it?" demanded Bryce. "Can't they be cured somehow or other?"
"Certainly they can. But I shall have to wait until they are completely matured and I have become completely blind; then a specialist will perform an operation on my eyes, and in all probability my sight will be restored for a few years. However, I haven't given the matter a great deal of consideration. At my age one doesn't find very much difficulty in making the best of everything. And I am about ready to quit now. I'd like to, in fact; I'm tired."
"Oh, but you can't quit until you've seen your redwoods again," Bryce reminded him. "I suppose it's been a long time since you've visited the Valley of the Giants; your long exile from the wood-goblins has made you a trifle gloomy, I'm afraid."
John Cardigan nodded. "I haven't seen them in a year and a half, Bryce. Last time I was up, I slipped between the logs on the old skid-road and like to broke my old fool neck. But even that wasn't warning enough for me. I cracked right on into the timber and got lost."
"Lost? Poor old partner! And what did you do about it?"
"The sensible thing, my boy. I just sat down under a tree and waited for George Sea Otter to trail me and bring me home."
"And did he find you? Or did you have to spend the night in the woods?"
John Cardigan smiled humorously. "I did not. Along about sunset George found me. Seems he'd been following me all the time, and when I sat down he waited to make certain whether I was lost or just taking a rest where I could be quiet and think."
"I've been leaving to an Indian the fulfillment of my duty," Bryce murmured bitterly.
"No, no, son. You have never been deficient in that," the old man protested.
"Why didn't you have the old skid-road planked with refuse lumber so you wouldn't fall through? And you might have had the woods-boss swamp a new trail into the timber and fence it on both sides, in order that you might feel your way along."
"Yes, quite true," admitted the old man. "But then, I don't spend money quite as freely as I used to, Bryce. I consider carefully now before I part with a dollar."
"Pal, it wasn't fair of you to make me stay away so long. If I had only known—if I had remotely suspected—"
"You'd have spoiled everything—of course. Don't scold me, son. You're all I have now, and I couldn't bear to send for you until you'd had your fling." His trembling old hand crept over and closed upon his boy's hand, so firm but free from signs of toil. "It was my pleasure, Bryce," he continued, "and you wouldn't deny me my choice of sport, would you? Remember, lad, I never had a boyhood; I never had a college education, and the only real travel I have ever had was when I worked my way around Cape Horn as a foremast hand, and all I saw then was water and hardships; all I've seen since is my little world here in Sequoia and in San Francisco."
"You've sacrificed enough—too much—for me, Dad."
"It pleased me to give you all the advantages I wanted and couldn't afford until I was too old and too busy to consider them. Besides, it was your mother's wish. We made plans for you before you were born, and I promised her—ah, well, why be a cry-baby? I knew I could manage until you were ready to settle down to business. And you HAVE enjoyed your little run, haven't you?" he concluded wistfully.
"I have, Dad." Bryce's great hand closed over the back of his father's neck; he shook the old man with mock ferocity. "Stubborn old lumberjack!" he chided.
John Cardigan shook with an inward chuckle, for the loving abuse his boy had formed a habit of heaping on him never failed to thrill him. Instinctively Bryce had realized that to-night obvious sympathy copiously expressed was not the medicine for his father's bruised spirit; hence he elected to regard the latter's blindness as a mere temporary annoyance, something to be considered lightly, if at all; and it was typical of him now that the subject had been discussed briefly, to resolve never to refer to it again. He released his hold on the old man's neck and tapped the latter's gray head lightly, while with his tongue he made hollow-sounding noises against the roof of his mouth.
"Ha! I thought so," he declared. "After your fifty-odd years in the lumber business your head has become packed with sawdust—"
"Be serious and talk to me, Bryce."
"I ought to send you to bed without your supper. Talk to you? You bet I'll talk to you, John Cardigan; and I'll tell you things, too, you scandalous bunko-steerer. To-morrow morning I'm going to put a pair of overalls on you, arm you with a tin can and a swab, and set you to greasing the skidways. Partner, you've deceived me."
"Oh, nonsense. If I had whimpered, that would only have spoiled everything."
"Nevertheless, you were forced to cable me to hurry home."
"I summoned you the instant I realized I was going to need you."
"No, you didn't, John Cardigan. You summoned me because, for the first time in your life, you were panicky and let yourself get out of hand."
His father nodded slowly. "And you aren't over it yet," Bryee continued, his voice no longer bantering but lowered affectionately. "What's the trouble, Dad? Trot out your old panic and let me inspect it. Trouble must be very real when it gets my father on the run."
"It is, Bryce, very real indeed. As I remarked before, I've lost your heritage for you." He sighed. "I waited till you would be able to come home and settle down to business; now you're home, and there isn't any business to settle down to."
Bryce chuckled, for he was indeed far from being worried over business matters, his consideration now being entirely for his father's peace of mind. "All right," he retorted, "Father has lost his money and we'll have to let the servants go and give up the old home. That part of it is settled; and weak, anemic, tenderly nurtured little Bryce Cardigan must put his turkey on his back and go into the woods looking for a job as lumberjack ... Busted, eh? Did I or did I not hear the six o'clock whistle blow at the mill? Bet you a dollar I did."
"Oh, I have title to everything—yet."
"How I do have to dig for good news! Then it appears we still have a business; indeed, we may always have a business, for the very fact that it is going but not quite gone implies a doubt as to its ultimate departure, and perhaps we may yet scheme a way to retain it."
"Oh, my boy, when I think of my years of toil and scheming, of the big dreams I dreamed—"
"Belay all! If we can save enough out of the wreck to insure you your customary home comforts, I shan't cry, partner. I have a profession to fall back on. Yes, sirree. I own a sheep-skin, and it says I'm an electrical and civil engineer."
"I said it. An electrical and civil engineer. Slipped one over on you at college, John Cardigan, when all the time you thought I was having a good time. Thought I'd come home and surprise you."
"It drives me wild to have a man sputter at me. I'm an electrical and civil engineer, I tell you, and my two years of travel have been spent studying the installation and construction of big plants abroad." He commenced to chuckle softly. "I've known for years that our sawmill was a debilitated old coffee-grinder and would have to be rebuilt, so I wanted to know how to rebuild it. And I've known for years that some day I might have to build a logging railroad—"
"My dear boy! And you've got your degree?"
"Partner, I have a string of letters after my name like the tail of a comet."
"You comfort me," the old man answered simply. "I have reproached myself with the thought that I reared you with the sole thought of making a lumberman out of you—and when I saw your lumber business slipping through my fingers—"
"You were sorry I didn't have a profession to fall back on, eh? Or were you fearful lest you had raised the usual rich man's son? If the latter, you did not compliment me, pal. I've never forgotten how hard you always strove to impress me with a sense of the exact weight of my responsibility as your successor."
"How big are you now?" his father queried suddenly.
"Well, sir," Bryce answered, for his father's pleasure putting aside his normal modesty, "I'm six feet two inches tall, and I weigh two hundred pounds in the pink of condition. I have a forty-eight-inch chest, with five and a half inches chest-expansion, and a reach as long as a gorilla's. My underpinning is good, too; I'm not one of these fellows with spidery legs and a barrel-chest. I can do a hundred yards in ten seconds; I'm no slouch of a swimmer; and at Princeton they say I made football history. And in spite of it all, I haven't an athletic heart."
"That is very encouraging, my boy—very. Ever do any boxing?" "Quite a little. I'm fairly up in the manly art of self-defence."
"That's good. And I suppose you did some wrestling at your college gymnasium, did you not?"
"Naturally. I went in for everything my big carcass could stand."
The old man wagged his head approvingly, and they had reached the gate of the Cardigan home before he spoke again. "There's a big buck woods-boss up in Pennington's camp," he remarked irrelevantly. "He's a French Canadian imported from northern Michigan by Colonel Pennington. I dare say he's the only man in this country who measures up to you physically. He can fight with his fists and wrestle right cleverly, I'm told. His name is Jules Rondeau, and he's top dog among the lumberjacks. They say he's the strongest man in the county." He unlatched the gate. "Folks used to say that about me once," he continued wistfully. "Ah, if I could have my eyes to see you meet Jules Rondeau!"