“I’ll be shot if I will! Ha! Ha! Ha!” And Mr. Daney threw back his head and laughed the most enjoyable laugh he had known since the night an itinerant hypnotist, entertaining the citizens of Port Agnew, had requested any adventurous gentleman in the audience who thought he couldn’t be hypnotized, to walk up and prove it. Dirty Dan O’Leary had volunteered, had been mesmerized after a struggle, and, upon being told that he was Dick Whittington’s cat, had proceeded to cut some feline capers that would have tickled the sensibilities of a totem-pole. Mr. Daney’s honest cachinnations now were so infectious that Nan commenced to laugh with him—heartily, but no longer with that strident little note of resentment, and cumulatively, as Mr. Daney’s mirth mounted until the honest fellow’s tears cascaded across his ruddy cheeks.
“Egad, Nan,” he declared presently, “but you have a rare sense of humor! Yes, do it. Do it! Make ’em all come down—right here to the Sawdust Pile! Make ’em remember you—all three of ’em—make ’em say please! Yes, sir! ’Please Nan, forgive me for forgetting. Please Nan, forgive me for smiling like the head of an old fiddle. Please, Nan, get out of Port Agnew, so we can sleep nights. Please, Nan, be careful not to say “Good-by.” Please, Nan, knock out a couple of your front teeth and wear a black wig and a sunbonnet, so nobody’ll recognize you when you leave, follow you, and learn your address.’” He paused to wipe his eyes. “Why, dog my cats, girl, you’ve got ’em where the hair is short; so make ’em toe the scratch!”
“Well, of course,” Nan reminded him, “they are not likely to toe the scratch unless they receive a hint that toeing scratches is going to be fashionable in our best Port Agnew circles this winter.”
Mr. Daney arched his wild eyebrows, pursed his lips, popped his eyes, and looked at Nan over the rims of his spectacles.
“Very well, my dear girl, I’ll be the goat. A lesson in humility will not be wasted on certain parties. But suppose they object? Suppose they buck and pitch and sidestep and bawl and carry on? What then?”
“Why,” Nan replied innocently, regarding him in friendly fashion with those wistful blue eyes, “you might hint that I’m liable to go to The Laird and tell him I regard him as a very poor sport, indeed, to expect me to give up his son, in view of the fact that his son’s mother sent for me to save that son’s life. Do you know, dear Mr. Daney, I suspect that if The Laird knew his wife had compromised him so, he would be a singularly wild Scot!”
“Onward, Christian soldier, marching as to war!” cried Mr. Daney, and, seizing his hat from the table, he fled into the night.
Upon reaching his home, Mr. Daney telephoned to Mrs. McKaye.
“It is important,” he informed her, “that you, Miss Jane and Miss Elizabeth come down to my office to-morrow for a conference. I would come up to The Dreamerie to see you, but Donald is home now, and his father will be with him; so I would prefer to see you down-town. I have some news of interest for you.”