His son’s eyes opened with interest and astonishment.
“No; I did not, dad. And I was there until nearly ten o’clock.”
“Yes; I was aware of that, and of your visit there to-day and this evening. Thank God, you’re frank with me! That yellow scoundrel and two Greeks followed you there to do for you. After you roughed the Greek at the railroad station, it occurred to me that you had an enemy and might hold him cheaply; so, just before I boarded the train, I telephoned Daney to tell Dirty Dan to shadow you and guard you. So well did he follow orders that he lies in the company hospital now at the point of death. As near as I can make out the affair, Dirty Dan inculcated in those bushwhackers the idea that he was the man they were after; he went to meet them and took the fight off your hands.”
“Good old Dirty Dan! I’ll wager a stiff sum he did a thorough job.” The young laird of Tyee rose and ruffled his father’s gray head affectionately. “Thoughtful, canny old fox!” he continued. “I swear I’m all puffed up with conceit when I consider the kind of father I selected for myself.”
“Those scoundrels would have killed you,” old Hector reminded him, with just a trace of emotion in his voice. “And if they’d done that, sonny, your old father’d never held up his head again. There are two things I could not stand up under—your death and”—he sighed, as if what he was about to say hurt him cruelly—“the wrong kind of a daughter-in-law.”
“We will not fence with each other,” his son answered soberly. “There has never been a lack of confidence between us, and I shall not withhold anything from you. You are referring to Nan, are you not?’”
“I am, my son.”
“I am not a cat, and it hurts me to be an old dog, but—I saw Nan Brent recently, and we had a bit of talk together. She’s a bonny lass, Donald, and I’m thinking ’twould be better for your peace of mind—and the peace of mind of all of us—if you saw less of her.”
“You think, then, father, that I’m playing with fire.”
“You’re sitting on an open barrel of gunpowder with a lighted torch in your hand.”
Donald returned to his chair and faced his father.
“Let us suppose,” he suggested, “that the present unhappy situation in which Nan finds herself did not exist. Would you still prefer that I limit my visits to, say, Christmas and Easter?”
The Laird scratched the back of his head in perplexity.
“I’m inclined to think I wouldn’t,” he replied. “I’d consider your best interests always. If you married a fine girl from Chicago or New York, she might not be content to dwell with you in Port Agnew.”
“Then Nan’s poverty—the lowliness of her social position, even in Port Agnew, would not constitute a serious bar?”
“I was as poor as Job’s turkey once myself—and your mother’s people were poorer. But we came of good blood.”