After The Laird’s interview with Andrew Daney he came home that night to The Dreamerie, and, to please Nellie, he pretended to partake of some dinner. Also, during the course of the meal he suddenly decided to relate to his wife and daughters as much as he knew of the course of the affair between Donald and Nan Brent; he repeated his conversation with Nan on the two occasions he had spoken with her, and gave them to understand that his efforts to induce Donald to “be sensible” had not been successful. Finally, his distress making him more communicative, he related the cunning stratagem by which Daney had made it possible for Donald to be separated from the source of temptation.
Elizabeth was the first to comment on his extraordinary revelations when he appeared to have finished his recital.
“The girl has a great deal more character than I supposed,” she opined in her soft, throaty contralto.
“She played the game in an absolutely ripping manner!” Jane declared enthusiastically. “I had no idea she was possessed of so much force. Really, I should love to be kind to her, if that were at all possible now.”
The Laird smiled but without animus.
“You had ample opportunity once, Janey,” he reminded her. “But then, of course, unlike Donald and myself, you had no opportunity for realizing what a fine, wholesome lass she is.” He lowered his gaze and rolled a bread-crumb nervously between thumb and forefinger. “They tell me at the hospital, Nellie,” he began again presently, “that her absence is killing our boy—that he’ll die if she doesn’t come back. They’ve been whispering to Daney, and this afternoon he mentioned the matter to me.” Three pairs of eyes bent upon him; gazes of mingled curiosity and distress. “Have you heard aught of such talk from the doctors and nurses,” he continued, addressing them collectively.
“I have,” said Mrs. McKaye meekly, and the two girls nodded. “I think it’s all poppycock,” Jane added.
“It isn’t all poppycock, my dear,” old Hector rebuked her. He rolled another bread-crumb. “Andrew has her address,” he resumed after a long silence. “She’s in New York. He asked me to wire her to come immediately, or else permit him to wire her in my name. I refused. I told Daney that our boy’s case was in the hands of God Almighty.”
“Oh, Hector!” Mrs. McKaye had spoken. There was gentle reproach and protest in her voice, but she camouflaged it immediately by adding: “You poor dear, to be called upon to make such a decision.”
“His decision was absolutely right,” Elizabeth declared. “I’d almost prefer to see my brother decently dead than the laughing-stock of the town, married to a woman that no respectable person would dare receive in her home.”
Old Hector looked up in time to see Jane nod approval of her sister’s sentiments, and Mrs. McKaye, by her silence, appeared also to agree with them. The Laird reached forth and laid his great hand over hers.