The girl smiled at him, and suddenly, for the first time in all his humdrum existence, Romance gripped Mr. Daney. He was riotously happy—and courageous! He thrust a finger under the girl’s chin and tilted it in a most familiar manner, at the same time pinching it with his thumb.
“Young woman,” he cautioned her, “don’t you ever be prim and smug! And don’t you ever marry any man until you’re perfectly wild to do it; then, were he the devil himself, follow your own natural impulses.” He let go her chin and shook his forefinger between her eyes. “I’d rather be happy than virtuous,” the amazing man continued. “The calm placidity that comes of a love of virtue and the possession of it makes me sick! Such people are dull and stupid. They play hide-and-seek with themselves, I tell you. Suspicious little souls peering out of windows and shocked to death at everything they see or hear—condemn everything they do not understand. Damn it, girl, give me the virtue that’s had to fight like the devil to stay on its feet—the kind that’s been scratched and has had the corners knocked off in contact with the world and still believes that God made man to his own image and likeness. I tell you, the Lord knew what he was about when he invented the devil. If he hadn’t, we’d all be so nasty-nice nobody could trust the other fellow further’n you can throw a bear up-hill by the tail. I tell you, young woman, sin is a great institution. Why, just think of all the fun we have in life—we good people—forgiving our neighbor his trespasses as he does not forgive us for trespassing against him.”
And with this remarkable statement, Mr. Daney betook himself to his home. Mrs. Daney, a trifle red and watery about the eyes and nose, sat up in bed and demanded to be informed what had kept him down-town so late.
“Would you sleep any better if you knew?” he demanded.
She said she would not.
“Then, woman, resign yourself to the soft embrace of Bacchus, the god of sleep,” he replied, mixed metaphorically. “As for me, my dear, I’m all talked out!”
Donald, trembling on the brink of Beyond, not from his disease but from the exhaustion incident to it, was conscious when his father entered the room and sat down beside his bed.
“Well, lad,” he greeted the boy with an assumption of heartiness he was far from feeling, “and have you no good news for your old father this morning. Tell me you’re feeling better, lad.”
“Read the telegram,” Donald whispered, and old Hector, seeing a telegram lying on the bed, picked it up. It was dated from New York that morning, and the Laird read:
Due Port Agnew Friday
morning. Remember the last line in the
fairy-tale. Love and kisses from your
“God bless my soul!” The Laird almost shouted.
“Who the devil is ’Sweetheart’?”