Indeed, in more than one humble home in Port Agnew, it had been said that the two McKaye girls were secretly ashamed of their father. This because frequently, in a light and debonair manner, Elizabeth and Jane apologized for their father and exhibited toward him an indulgent attitude, as is frequently the case with overeducated and supercultured young ladies who cannot recall a time when their slightest wish has not been gratified and cannot forget that the good fairy who gratified it once worked hard with his hands, spoke the language and acquired the habits of his comrades in the battle for existence.
Of course, Elizabeth and Jane would have resented this analysis of their mental attitude toward their father. Be that as it may, however, the fact remained that both girls were perfunctory in their expressions of affection for their father, but wildly extravagant in them where their mother was concerned. Hector McKaye liked it so. He was a man who never thought about himself, and he had discovered that if he gave his wife and daughters everything they desired, he was not apt to be nagged.
Only on one occasion had Hector McKaye declared himself master in his own house, and, at the risk of appearing paradoxical, this was before the house had been built. One day, while they still occupied their first home (in Port Agnew), a house with a mansard roof, two towers, jig-saw and scroll-work galore, and the usual cast-iron mastiffs and deer on the front lawn, The Laird had come gleefully home from a trip to Seattle and proudly exhibited the plans for a new house.
Ensued examination and discussion by his wife and the young ladies. Alas! The Laird’s dream of a home did not correspond with that of his wife, although, as a matter of fact, the lady had no ideas on the subject beyond an insistence that the house should be “worthy of their station,” and erected in a fashionable suburb of Seattle. Elizabeth and Jane aided and abetted her in clamoring for a Seattle home, although both were quick to note the advantages of a picturesque country home on the cliffs above the bight. They urged their father to build his house, but condemned his plans. They desired a house some three times larger than the blue-prints called for.
Hector McKaye said nothing. The women chattered and argued among themselves until, Elizabeth and Jane having vanquished their mother, all three moved briskly to the attack upon The Laird. When they had talked themselves out and awaited a reply, he gave it with the simple directness of his nature. It was evident that he had given his answer thought.