“Damn it, Nellie,” he roared, “what the devil do you mean by this?”
“I’m tired of being an old fool, Hector,” she replied meekly, and held the baby up for his inspection.
“It’s time you were,” he growled. “Come here, you young rascal till I heft you. By the gods of war, he’s a McKaye!” He hugged the squirming youngster to his heart and continued to glare at his wife as if she were a hardened criminal. “Why didn’t you tell me you felt yourself slipping?” he demanded. “Out with it, Nellie.”
“There will be no post-mortems,” Nan interdicted. “Mother McKaye and Elizabeth and Jane and I patched up our difficulties when Donald came home yesterday. How we did it or what transpired before we did it, doesn’t matter, you dear old snooper.”
“What? Elizabeth and Jane? Unconditional surrender?”
She nodded smilingly and The Laird admitted his entire willingness to be—jiggered. Finally, having inspected his grandson, he turned for an equally minute inspection of his soldier son under the lamplight.
“Three service stripes and one wound stripe,” he murmured. “And you’re not crippled, boy dear?”
“Do I fight like one? Hector, man, those punches of yours would have destroyed a battalion of cripples. Oh, you old false-alarm! Honestly, Dad, you’re the most awful dub imaginable. And trying to bribe me into permitting you to escape—what the deuce have you been monkeying with? You reek of ammonia—here, go away from my son. You’re poison.”
The Laird ignored him. “What’s that ribbon?” he demanded.
“Distinguished Service Cross.”
“You must have bought it in a pawnshop. And that thing?”
“Croix de Guerre.”
“And that red one?”
A pause. “What did Dirty Dan get, son?”
“The one thing in the world he thought he despised. The Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in saving the life of a British colonel, who, by the way, happens to be an Orangeman. When he discovered it he wanted to bayonet the colonel and I won the Croix de Guerre for stopping him.”
“Oh, cease your nonsense, Donald,” his wife urged, “and tell your father and mother something. I think they are entitled to the news now.”
“Yes, Nan, I think they are. Listen, folks. Now that you’ve all been nice enough to be human beings and accept my wife at her face value, I have a surprise for you. On the day when Nan married the father of my adopted son, he waited until the officiating minister had signed the marriage license and attested that he had performed the ceremony; then while the minister’s attention was on something else, he took possession of the license and put it in his overcoat pocket. Later he and Nan drove to a restaurant for luncheon and the overcoat with the license in the pocket was stolen, from the automobile. The thief pawned the coat later and the pawnbroker discovered the license in the pocket after the thief had departed. The following day the fellow was arrested in the act of stealing another overcoat; the pawnbroker read of the arrest and remembered he had loaned five dollars on an overcoat to a man who gave the same name this thief gave to the police. So the pawnbroker—”