She looked up tearfully at The Laird. For thirty-odd years she had lived with this strange soul; yet she had not known until now how fierce was his desire for independence, how dear to him was his passion for self-respect. Even now, she found it difficult to understand why, even if he had been able to subdue his pride to the point of asking Nan Brent to preserve life in that which was dearer to him than his own life, his passion for always giving value received should preclude bargaining with the girl. It was plain to her, therefore, that her husband could never love their son as his mother loved him, else, in a matter of life or death, he would not have paused to consider the effect on himself of any action that might safeguard his son’s existence. She knew what he had thought when Daney first proposed the matter to him. That sort of thing wasn’t “playing the game.” Poor, troubled soul! She did not know that he was capable of playing any game to the finish, even though every point scored against him should burn like a branding-iron.
The Laird, noting her great distress, held her fondly in his arms and soothed her; manlike, he assumed that she wept because her heart was overflowing with joy. For half an hour he chatted with her; then, with a light step and a cheerful “Good-by, Nellie, wife,” he entered his automobile and drove back to town.
His departure was the signal for Jane and Elizabeth to rally to their mother’s side and inaugurate a plan of defense.
“Well, mother dear,” Elizabeth opined calmly, “it appears that you’ve spilled the beans.”
“What a funny old popsy-wops it is, to be sure!” Jane chirped. “It’s fine to be such a grand old sport, but so dreadfully inconvenient! Beth, can you imagine what father McKaye would say if he only knew?”
“I wouldn’t mind the things he’d say. The things he’d do would be apt to linger longest in our memories.”
“Oh, my dears, what shall I do?” poor Mrs. McKaye quavered.
“Stand pat, should necessity ever arise, and put the buck up to Mr. Daney,” the slangy Elizabeth suggested promptly. “He has warned you not to confess to father, hasn’t he? Now, why did he do this? Answer. Because he realized that if dad should learn that you telephoned this odious creature from the Sawdust Pile, the head of our clan would consider himself compromised—bound by the action of a member of his clan, as it were. Then we’ll have a wedding and after the wedding we’ll all be thrown out of The Dreamerie to make room for Master Don and his consort. So, it appears to me, since Mr. Daney has warned you not to tell, mother dear, that he cannot afford to tell on you himself—no, not even to save his own skin.”
“You do not understand, Elizabeth,” Mrs. McKaye sobbed. “It isn’t because that stupid Andrew cares a snap of his finger for us; it’s because he’s devoted to Hector and doesn’t want him worried or made unhappy.”