“Good gracious, Andrew, you don’t mean it?”
“I am delivering a message, Mrs. McKaye.”
“She must be spoofing you,” Jane declared.
“Well, she laughed a good deal about it, Miss Jane, and confided to me that a bit of lurking devil in your sister’s eyes the day you both met her in the telegraph office gave her the inspiration for this joke. She believes that she who laughs last laughs best.”
Mrs. McKaye was consumed with virtuous indignation.
“The shameless hussy! Does she imagine for a moment that I will submit to blackmail, that my daughters or myself could afford to be seen calling upon her at the Sawdust Pile?”
“She wants to force us to recognize her, mother.” Jane, recalling that day in the telegraph-office, sat staring at Daney with flashing eyes. She was biting the finger of her glove.
“Nothing doing,” Elizabeth drawled smilingly.
Mr. Daney nodded his comprehension.
“In that event, ladies,” he countered, with malignant joy in his suppressed soul, “I am requested to remind you that The Laird will be informed by Miss Brent that she considers him a very short sport, indeed, if he insists upon regarding her as unworthy of his son, in view of the fact that his son’s mother considered her a person of such importance that she used the transcontinental telephone in order to induce—”
“Yes, yes; I know what you’re going to say. Do you really think she would go as far as that, Andrew?” Mrs. McKaye was very pale.
“Beware the anger of a woman scorned,” he quoted.
“In the event that she should, Mr. Daney, we should have no other alternative but to deny it.” Elizabeth was speaking. She still wore her impish glacial smile. “As a usual thing, we are opposed to fibbing on the high moral ground that it is not a lady’s pastime, but in view of the perfectly appalling results that would follow our failure to fib in this particular case, I’m afraid we’ll have to join hands, Mr. Daney, and prove Nan Brent a liar. Naturally, we count on your help. As a result of his conversation with you, father believes you did the telephoning.”
“I told him half the truth, but no lie. I have never lied to him, Miss Elizabeth, and I never shall. When Hector McKaye asks me for the truth, he’ll get it.” In Mr. Daney’s voice there was a growl that spoke of slow, quiet fury at the realization that this cool young woman should presume to dictate to him.
“I think you’ll change your mind, Mr. Daney. You’ll not refuse the hurdle when you come to it. As for this wanton Brent girl, tell her that we will think her proposition over and that she may look for a call from us. We do not care how long she looks, do we mother?” And she laughed her gay, impish laugh. “In the meantime, Mr. Daney, we will do our best to spare ourselves and you the ignominy of that fib. The doctors will order Donald away for a complete rest for six months, and dad will go with him. When they’re gone that Brent house on the Sawdust Pile is going to catch fire—accidently, mysteriously. The man who scuttled the Brent’s motor-boat surely will not scruple at such a simple matter as burning the Brent shanty. Come, mother. Jane, for goodness’ sake, do buck up! Good-by, dear Mr. Daney.”