“The first part is that I’m sick of these dinners. I’ve told you so before, and yet you had the impertinence to-night to give another and not say a word to me about it.” The voice had a cold, incisive note in it—the touch of steel to warm flesh.
“Impertinence! Your ideas of hospitality, Sam, are peculiar.” Any topic was better than the one she feared.
“Hospitality!” he retorted hotly. “Do you call it hospitality to squander my money on the cheap spongers you are continually inviting here? Do you call it hospitable to force me to sit up and entertain this riff-raff night after night, and then be dragged off to the opera or theatre when I am played out after a hard day’s work down town for the money you spend? And just look at Margaret! Do you suppose that these people, this sort of life you daily surround her with, is a sane atmosphere in which to bring up our daughter? That’s the first thing I’ve got to say to you, and I want to tell you right here that it’s got to stop.”
She looked up at him in a half frightened way, wondering whether there was not something back of this sudden tirade, something she could not fathom—something she feared to fathom.
“The second thing that I have to tell you is this: I am at the end of my rope, or will be if I keep on. A man can’t keep up month in and month out, living my life, and not break down. I saw Leveridge yesterday and he wishes me to get some relief at once. Young Holcomb, who did me a service once at Long Lake, is here, and I am going back home with him. I intend to take a rest for a fortnight—possibly three weeks—in camp.”
For an instant she could not speak—so quick came the joyful rebound. Then there rushed over her what his absence might, or might not, mean to her.
“When do you start?” she asked with assumed condescension—her old way of concealing her thoughts.
“But Saturday night we are giving a dinner,” she rejoined in a positive tone. This was one at which she wanted him present.
“You can give it, but without me,” he replied doggedly.
“I tell you you’ll do nothing of the sort, Sam. I’m not going to abide by the advice of that quack, Leveridge, nor shall you!” The old dominating tone reasserted itself now that she had read his mind to the bottom.
“Quack or not, you would not be alive to-day but for him, and it is disgraceful for you to talk this way behind his back. And now I am going to bed.” With this he turned off the remaining light, leaving only the flicker of the firelight behind, shot back the bolt and strode from the room.
As he passed Margaret’s door there came softly:
“Is that you, daddy?”
“Come in, daddy, dear.” Her clear young voice was confident and tender.
He stopped, pushed back the door and entered her dainty room. She lay propped up among the snowy whiteness of the pillows, smiling at him.