“Oh, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. Thad’s an incurable grouch,” at which Skeets laughed till she shook, and Mr. Hooper nodded his head.
“Lad,” he said, “you’re a wonder an’ I ain’t got no more to say ag’in’ your doin’ this work here. Go ahead with it your own way. But this I am abossin’: to-morrow’s half day, I reckon, so both o’ you come over to the house nigh ‘long about noon an’ set at dinner with us. You’re more’n welcome.”
Thereafter, having been fully convinced by the demonstration and fully assured of the precise accuracy in the work on the power plant, Mr. Hooper treated the boys with the utmost consideration and confidence. The owner of the great estate came down to see them every day and chatted as familiarly as though he had been a lifelong crony of their own age. From time to time the boys were taken to dinner at the big house; they were given access to the library, and they found some time for social and sportive pastimes with the young folks whom Grace invited to her home.
Throughout all this Bill shone as an entertainer, a mental uplift that was really welcome, so spontaneous and keen were his talks and comments on people and things. Gus, though having little practice, held his own at tennis and golf; in swimming races and other impromptu sports he greatly excelled; and when a young fellow who bore the reputation of an all-round athlete came for the week-end from the city, Gus put on the gloves with him and punched the newcomer all over an imaginary ring on the lawn to the delight of Mr. Hooper, Grace and Skeets, as well as the admiring Bill.
Throughout all this, also, there was an element of ill feeling, an often open expression of antagonism toward the boys, which probably the other guests all tensed unpleasantly, but which the contented, jovial host and his impetuous and volatile daughter hardly recognized or thought of. Thaddeus, the thin-faced, pale, stoop-shouldered, indolent, cigarette-smoking nephew, though often treated with slight courtesy, continually pushed himself to the front, compelling consideration apparently for the sole purpose of exerting a counter-influence upon the popularity of Bill and Gus, especially the latter. The youth even went so far at times as to attempt an interference in the power-plant work, declaring that it did not proceed rapidly enough and that certain methods were at fault, to all of which Mr. Hooper turned a deaf ear.
There was nothing else but open warfare between Grace and Thad, Skeets also echoing the daughter’s hostility, while the nephew easily pretended to ignore it, or to regard the sharp words aimed at him as jokes. He treated Skeets with as much contempt as her jovial manner permitted, but now and then it could be seen that his pale eyes glared at Grace’s back in a way that seemed almost murderous.