The longer Mr. Daney considered this situation, the more convinced did he become that mischief was brewing. Did not periods of seraphic calm always precede a tornado? In the impending social explosion, a few hard missiles would most certainly come his way, and in a sudden agony of apprehension and shame because he had told The Laird a half-truth, he sprang to his feet, resolved to seek old Hector, inform him that Mrs. McKaye had compromised the family, and thus enable him to meet the issue like a gentleman. But this decision was succeeded by the reflection that perhaps this action would merely serve to precipitate a situation that might not be evolved in the ordinary course of affairs. Furthermore, he could not afford to betray Mrs. McKaye on the mere suspicion that, sooner or later, she would betray herself, for this would savor of too much anxiety to save his own skin at her expense. “I’m a singularly unhappy old duffer,” he groaned and kicked his inoffending waste-basket across the office. “The females! The mischief-making, bungling, thoughtless, crazy females! There are millions of wonderful, angelic women in this terrible world, but what I want to know is: Where the Sam Hill do they hide themselves?”
Nan did not remain at the hospital more than fifteen minutes. She was ill at ease there; it was no comfort to her to gaze upon the pallid, wasted face of the man she loved when she realized that, by her presence here, she was constituting herself a party to a heart-breaking swindle, and must deny herself the joy of gazing upon that same beloved countenance when, later, it should be glowing with health and youth and high hopes. He was too weak to speak more than a few words to her. The faintest imaginable pressure of his hand answered the pressure of hers. It appeared to be a tremendous effort for him to open his eyes and look up at her. When, however, he had satisfied his swimming senses that she was really there in the flesh, he murmured:
“You’ll not—run away—again? Promise?”
“I promise, dear. The next time I leave Port Agnew, I’ll say good-by.”
“You must not—leave—again. Promise?”
She knew his life might be the reward of a kindly lie; so she told it, bravely and without hesitation. Was she not there for that purpose?
“Good—news! If I get—well, will you—marry me, Nan?” She choked up then; nevertheless, she nodded.
“More good—news! Wait for me—Sawdust Pile—sweetheart.”
She interpreted this as a dismissal, and gratefully made her exit. From the hospital office she telephoned orders to the butcher, the baker, the grocer, and the milkman, forcibly separated little Don from the nurse, and walked down through Port Agnew to the Sawdust Pile.