“Oh, that’s perfectly splendid! Place the call for me immediately, Andrew, please. And—Andrew, don’t mention to Hector what I’ve done. He wants to do it, poor man, but he simply cannot bring himself to the point of action.”
“Don’t I know it?” Daney’s voice rose triumphant. “The blessed old duffer!” he added. “I’ll put in a call for New York immediately. We ought to get it through in an hour or two.”
It was Mr. Daney’s task to place the call for Nan Brent in New York City and while he did not relish the assignment, nevertheless he was far from shrinking from it. While the citizens of Port Agnew had been aware for more than two years that transcontinental telephoning was possible, they knew also that three minutes of conversation for twenty-five dollars tended to render silence more or less golden. As yet, therefore, no one in Port Agnew had essayed the great adventure; wherefore, Mr. Daney knew that when he did his conversation would be listened to eagerly by every telephone operator in the local office and a more or less garbled report of same circulated through the town before morning unless he took pains to prevent it. This he resolved to do, for the Tyee Lumber Company owned the local telephone company and it was quite generally understood in Port Agnew that Mr. Daney was high, low, and jack and the game, to use a sporting expression.
He stood by the telephone a moment after hanging up the receiver, and tugged at his beard reflectively.
“No,” he murmured presently, “I haven’t time to motor up-country forty or fifty miles and place the call in some town where we are not known. It just isn’t going to be possible to smother this miserable affair; sooner or later the lid is going to fly off, so I might as well be game and let the tail go with the hide. Oh, damn it, damn it! If I didn’t feel fully responsible for this dreadful state of affairs, I would most certainly stand from under!”
He turned from the ’phone and beheld Mrs. Daney, alert of countenance and fairly pop-eyed with excitement. She grasped her husband by the arm.
“You have a private line from the mill office to The Dreamerie,” she reminded him. “Have the call run in on your office telephone, then call Mrs. McKaye, and switch her in. We can listen on the office extensions.”
Upon his spouse Mr. Daney bent a look of profound contempt.
“When I consider the loyalty, the love, the forebearance, and Christian charity that have been necessary to restrain me from tearing asunder that which God, in a careless moment, joined together, Mary, I’m inclined to regard myself as four-fifths superman and the other fifth pure angel,” he declared coldly. “This is something you’re not in on, woman, and I hope the strain of your curiosity will make you sick for a week.”