“Poor Nellie!” he murmured affectionately. “’Tis hard to stand between our love and duty, is it not, lass? By God, sweetheart, I had to do it. I couldn’t stand to see him wedded wie a lass that any man or woman could throw mud at.” His voice shook with the intensity of his emotion; his flashing glance swept the board in pitiful defiance. “I have a right to protect my honor and the honor of my house!” he cried sharply. “Is not Jesus Christ the embodiment of honor? How can He blame me if I trust in His power and discretion. I’ve prayed to Him—ach, man, how I’ve prayed to Him—to keep my son from makin’ a fule o’ himself—”
“Now, there you go again, Hector, dear,” his wife soothed. She rose from her place at the table, came round to him, put her arms around his great neck, and laid her cheek against his. “An open confession is good for the soul, they say, Hector. I’m glad you’ve taken us into your confidence, because it permits us to share with you an equal burden of this heart-breaking decision. But you mustn’t feel badly, father. Haven’t I told you our boy isn’t going to die?”
“Do you really think so, Nellie?” he pleaded childishly, and for the hundredth time.
“Silly old Hector! I know so.” And this time there was in her voice such a new note of confidence and in her eyes such a gleam of triumph that she actually did succeed in comforting him. “Ah, well, God’s will be done,” he said piously, and attacked his dinner again, while Mrs. McKaye slipped out of the room and up-stairs on some pretext. Once in her bedroom, she seized the extension telephone and called up Andrew Daney.
“Andrew,” she said softly but distinctly, “this is Nellie McKaye speaking. Hector and I have been discussing the advisability of sending for the Brent girl.”
“I—I was goin’ to take the matter up with you, Mrs. McKaye. I had a talk with your husband this afternoon, but he was a bit wild—”
“He isn’t so wild now, Andrew. He’s talked it over with the girls and me. It’s a terrible alternative, Andrew, but it simply means our boy’s life for the gratification of our own selfish family pride—”
“Exactly! Exactly! And though I understand just how you feel, Mrs. McKaye, after all, now, it’s only a nine days’ wonder, and you can’t keep people from talking anyhow, unless you gag the brutes. The boy has been raving, and some of the hospital attendants have talked, and the gossip is all over town again. So why not send for her? She doesn’t have to marry him just because her presence will revive his sinking morale—”
“Certainly not. My idea, exactly, Andrew. Well, Andrew, suppose you telegraph her—”
“No, no, no! I’ll telephone her. Remember, we have a transcontinental telephone service nowadays. She might not realize the vital necessity for speed; she might question her right to come if I tried to cover the situation in a telegram. But, catch her on the ’phone, Mrs. McKaye, and you can talk to her and convince her.”