His father smiled sadly. “Poor lad. God knows I’m sorry for you, but—well, go see her and let’s have the issue settled once for all. For God’s sake, lad, grant me peace of mind. End it to-day, one way or the other.”
“Ah, yes, you’re brave,” Elizabeth flung at her father. “You’re so certain that girl will keep her promise, aren’t you? Well, I happen to have been informed, on very good authority, that she intends to betray you. She had made the statement that she’ll marry Donald if he asks her—again.”
“The girl doesn’t impress me as one who would lie, Elizabeth. Who told you this?”
“Bear with me a moment, son, till I call Andrew on the telephone,” the Laird requested, and went into the telephone booth under the stairs in the reception hall. When he emerged a few minutes later his face was pale and haggard.
“Well? What did I tell you?” Elizabeth’s voice was triumphant.
Her father ignored her. Placing himself squarely before his son, he bent forward slightly and thrust his aggressive face close to Donald’s. “I command you to respect the honor of my house,” he cried furiously. “For the last time, Donald McKaye, ha’ done wie this woman, or—” and his great arm was outflung in a swooping gesture that denoted all too forcibly the terrible sentence he shrank from speaking.
“Are you offering me an alternative?” Donald’s voice was low and very calm, but his brown eyes were blazing with suppressed rage. “The Dreamerie or—” and he swung and pointed to the Brent cottage far below them on the Sawdust Pile.
“Aye,” his father cried in a hard cracked voice. “Aye!”
Donald looked over at his mother with the helplessness of a child who has fallen and hurt himself. “And you, mother? What do you say to this?”
She thought she would faint. “You—you must obey your father,” she quavered. Until her son should marry Nan Brent she could not force herself to the belief that he could possibly commit such an incredible offense.
“The opinions of you and Jane,” Donald continued, turning to each sister in turn, “do not interest me particularly, but while the polls are open you might as well vote. If I marry Nan Brent are you each prepared to forget that I am your brother?”
Elizabeth nodded calmly. She had gone too far now to develop weakness when an assumption of invincible strength might yet win the day.
“I couldn’t receive such a peculiar sister-in-law,” Jane murmured, evidently close to tears. “Surely, you would not expect us to take such a woman to our hearts, Donald dear?”
“I did not build The Dreamerie for yon lass,” The Laird burst forth passionately.
His son stood with bowed head. “Have you, mother, or you, my sisters, been down to the Sawdust Pile to thank Nan for inspiring me—no matter how—with a desire to live? I think you realize that until she came I was too unhappy—too disgusted with life—to care whether I got well or not? Have you absolved yourselves of an obligation which must be perfectly evident to perfect ladies?”