While the physician was speaking, Andrew Daney’s face had gradually been taking on the general color-tones of a ripe old Edam cheese. His chin slowly sagged on his breast; his lips parted in horror and amazement until, finally, his mouth hung open slackly, foolishly; presently, two enormous tears gathered in the corners of his eyes and cascaded slowly across his cheeks into his whiskers. He gripped the arms of his chair.
“O God, forgive me!” he moaned. “The Laird doesn’t know where she is, and neither do I. I induced her to go away, and she’s lost somewhere in the world. To find her now would be like searching a haystack for a needle.”
“But you might telegraph a space-ad to every leading newspaper in the country. The Laird can afford to spend a million to find her—if she can be found in a hurry. Why, even a telegram from her would help to buck him up.”
But Andrew Daney could only sway in his chair and quiver with his profound distress.
“The scandal!” he kept murmuring, “the damned scandal! I’ll have to go to Seattle to send the telegrams. The local office would leak. And even if we found her and induced her to come back to save him, she’d—she’d have to go away again—and if she wouldn’t—if he wouldn’t permit her—why, don’t you see how impossible a situation has developed? Man, can Donald McKaye wed Nan Brent of the Sawdust Pile?”
“My interest in the case is neither sentimental nor ethical. It is entirely professional. It appears to me that in trying to save this young fellow from the girl, you’ve signed his death warrant; now it is up to you to save him from himself, and you’re worrying because it may be necessary later to save the girl from him or him from the girl. Well, I’ve stated the facts to you, and I tried to state them to The Laird. Do as you think best. If the boy dies, of course, I’ll swear that he was doomed, anyhow, due to perforation of the intestines.”
“Yes, yes!” Daney gasped. “Let The Laird off as lightly as you can.”
“Oh, I’ll lie cheerfully. By the way, who is this girl? I haven’t been in Port Agnew long enough to have acquired all the gossip. Is she impossible?”
“She’s had a child born out of wedlock.”
“Oh, then she’s not a wanton?”
“I’m quite sure she is not.”
“Well, I’ll be damned! So that’s all that’s wrong with her, eh?” Like the majority of his profession, this physician looked up such a contretemps with a kindly and indulgent eye. In all probability, most of us would if we but knew as many of the secrets of men as do our doctors and lawyers.
Long after the doctor had left him alone with his terrible problem, Mr. Daney continued to sit in his chair, legs and arms asprawl, chin on breast. From time to time, he cried audibly:
“O Lord! O my God! What have I done? What shall I do? How shall I do it? O Lord!”
He was quite too incoherent for organized prayer; nevertheless his agonized cry to Omnipotence was, indeed, a supplication to which the Lord must have inclined favorably, for, in the midst of his desolation and bewilderment, the door opened and Dirty Dan O’Leary presented himself.