Chapter XXXVI
 

Orde immediately set into motion the machinery of banking to borrow on the California timber. Taylor took charge of this, as the only man in Monrovia who had Orde's confidence. At the end of a necessary delay Orde received notice that the West had been heard from. He stepped across the hall to the lawyer's office.

"Well, Frank," said he, "glad we managed to push it through with so little trouble."

Taylor arose, shut carefully the door into his outer office, walked to the window, looked contemplatively out upon the hotel backyard, and returned to his desk.

"But there is trouble," said he curtly.

"What's the matter?" asked Orde.

"The banks refuse the loan."

Orde stared at him in blank astonishment.

"Refuse!" he echoed.

"Absolutely."

"What grounds can they possibly have for that?"

"I can't make out exactly from these advices. It's something about the title."

"But I thought you went over the title."

"I did," stated Taylor emphatically; "and I'll stake my reputation as a lawyer that everything is straight and clear from the Land Office itself. I've wired for an explanation; and we ought surely to know something definite by tomorrow."

With this uncertainty Orde was forced to be content. For the first time in his business career a real anxiety gnawed at his vitals. He had been in many tight places; but somehow heretofore success or failure had seemed to him about immaterial, like points gained or conceded in the game; a fresh start was always so easy, and what had been already won as yet unreal. Now the game itself was at issue. Property, reputation, and the family's future were at stake. When the three had lived in the tiny house by the church, it had seemed that no adversity could touch them. But now that long use had accustomed them to larger quarters, servants, luxuries, Orde could not conceive the possibility of Carroll's ever returning to that simplest existence. Carroll could have told him otherwise; but of course he did not as yet bring the possibility before her. She had economised closely, these last few years. Orde was proud of her. He was also fiercely resentful that his own foolishness, or untoward circumstances, or a combination of both should jeopardise her future. Therefore he awaited further news with the greatest impatience.

The message came the following day, as Taylor had predicted. Taylor handed it to him without comment.

"Land Office under investigation," Orde read. "Fraudulent entries suspected. All titles clouded until decision is reached."

"What do you suppose that means?" asked Orde, although he knew well enough.

Taylor glanced up at his dull eyes with commiseration.

"They simply won't lend good money on an uncertainty," said he.

"Frank," said Orde, rousing himself with an effort, "I've got to be here. I couldn't get away this winter if my life depended on it. And I won't even have time to pay much attention to it from here. I want you to go to California and look after those interests for me. Never mind your practice, man," as Taylor tried to interrupt him. "Make what arrangements you please; but go. It'll be like a sort of vacation to you. You need one. And I'll make it worth your while. Take Clara with you. She'll like California. Now don't say no. It's important. Straighten it out as quick as you can: and the minute it IS straight borrow that money on it, and send it on p.d.q."

Taylor thoughtfully tapped his palm with the edge of his eye- glasses.

"All right," he said at last.

"Good!" cried Orde, rising and holding out his hand.

He descended the dark stairs to the street, where he turned down toward the river. There he sat on a pile for nearly an hour, quite oblivious to the keen wind of latter November which swept up over the scum ice from the Lake. At length he hopped down and made his way to the office of the Welton Lumber Co.

"Look here, Welton," he demanded abruptly when he had reached that operator's private office, "how much of a cut are you going to make this year?"

"About twenty million," replied Welton. "Why?"

"Just figuring on the drive," said Orde, nodding a farewell.

He had the team harnessed, and, assuming his buffalo-fur coat, drove to the offices of all the men owning timber up and down the river. When he had collected his statistics, he returned to his desk, where he filled the backs of several envelopes with his characteristically minute figures. At the close of his calculations he nodded his head vigorously several times.

"Joe," he called across to his partner, "I'm going to cut that whole forty million we have left."

Newmark did not turn. After a moment his dry expressionless voice came back.

"I thought that we figured that as a two-years' job."

"We did, but I'm going to clean up the whole thing this year."

"Do you think you can do it?"

"Sure thing," replied Orde. Then under his breath, and quite to himself, he added: "I've got to!"