“Certainly not, Mr. McKaye. I understand. Well then, on Saturday night he sent over a complete outfit of clothing for the child, with a note in the bundle—”
“And then somebody remembered that the child’s name is Donald.”
“How old is that child, Mrs. Daney?”
“As I recall it, he’ll be three years old in October.”
“Since, you’re a married woman, Mrs. Daney,” The Laird began, with old-fashioned deprecation for the blunt language he was about to employ, “you’ll admit that the child wasn’t found behind one of old Brent’s cabbages. This is the year 1916.”
But Mrs. Daney anticipated him.
“They’ve figured it out,” she interrupted, “and Donald was home from college for the holidays in 1912.”
“So he was,” The Laird replied complacently. “I’d forgotten. So that alibi goes by the board. What else now? Does the child resemble my son?”
“Nobody knows. Nan Brent doesn’t receive visitors, and she hasn’t been up-town since the child was born.”
“Is that all, Mary?”
“All I have heard so far.”
Old Hector was tempted to tell her that, in his opinion, she had heard altogether too much, but his regard for her husband caused him to refrain.
“It’s little enough, and yet it’s a great deal,” he answered. “You’ll be kind enough, Mary, not to carry word of this idle gossip to The Dreamerie, I should regret that very much.”
She flushed with the knowledge that, although he forgave her, still he distrusted her and considered a warning necessary. However, she nodded vigorous acceptance of his desire, and immediately he changed the topic. While, for him, the quiet pleasure he had anticipated in the visit had not materialized and he longed to leave at once, for Daney’s sake he remained for tea. When he departed, Mrs. Daney ran to her room and found surcease from her distress in tears, while her husband sat out on the veranda smoking one of The Laird’s fine cigars, his embarrassment considerably alleviated by the knowledge that his imprudent wife had received a lesson that should last for the remainder of her life.
About eight o’clock, his wife called him to the telephone. The Laird was on the wire.
“In the matter of the indiscreet young lady in the store, Andrew,” he ordered, “do not dismiss her or reprimand her. The least said in such cases is soonest mended.”
“Very well, sir.”
“Poor man!” Daney sighed, as he hung up. “He’s thought of nothing else since he heard about it; it’s a canker in his heart. I wish I dared indicate to Donald the fact that he’s being talked about—and watched—by the idle and curious, in order that he may bear himself accordingly. He’d probably misunderstand my motives however.”