Of late he had observed that Nan no longer came to church, so he assumed she had found the task of facing her world bravely one somewhat beyond her strength. A few months before, this realization would have proved a source of savage satisfaction to him, but time and suffering were working queer changes in his point of view. Now, although he told himself it served her right, he was sensible of a small feeling of sympathy for her and a large feeling of resentment against the conditions that had brought her into conflict with the world.
“I daresay,” Andrew Daney remarked to him about Christmas time, “you haven’t forgotten your resolve to do something handsome for that raftsman of Darrow’s who saved your life last January. You told me to remind you of him at Christmas.”
“I have not forgotten the incident,” old Hector answered savagely.
“I think it might be a nice thing to do if you would send word to Nan, by me, that it will please you if she will consent to have your grandchild born in the company hospital. Otherwise, I imagine she will go to a Seattle hospital, and with doctors and nurses away to the war there’s a chance she may not get the best of care.”
“Do as you see fit,” The Laird answered. He longed to evade the issue—he realized that Daney was crowding him always, setting traps for him, driving him relentlessly toward a reconciliation that was abhorrent to him. “I have no objection. She cannot afford the expense of a Seattle hospital, I daresay, and I do not desire to oppress her.”
The following day Mr. Daney reported that Nan had declined with thanks his permission to enter the Tyee Lumber Company’s hospital. As a soldier’s wife she would be cared for without expense in the Base Hospital at Camp Lewis, less than a day’s journey distant.
The Laird actually quivered when Daney broke this news to him. He was hurt—terribly hurt—but he dared not admit it. In January he learned through Mr. Daney that he was a grandfather to a nine-pound boy and that Nan planned to call the baby Caleb, after her father. For the first time in his life then, The Laird felt a pang of jealousy. While the child could never, by any possibility, be aught to him, nevertheless he felt that in the case of a male child a certain polite deference toward the infant’s paternal ancestors was always commendable. At any rate, Caleb was Yankee and hateful.
“I am the twelfth of my line to be named Hector,” he said presently—and Andrew Daney with difficulty repressed a roar of maniac laughter. Instead he said soberly.
“The child’s playing in hard luck as matters stand; it would be adding insult to injury to call him Hector McKaye, Thirteenth. Isn’t that why you named your son Donald?”
The Laird pretended not to hear this. Having been fired on from ambush, as it were, he immediately started discussing an order for some ship timbers for the Emergency Fleet Corporation. When he retired to his own office, however, he locked the door and wept with sympathy for his son, so far away and in the shadow of death upon the occasion of the birth of his first son.