“Well, Nan’s mother was a gentlewoman; her grandfather was an admiral; her great-grandfather a commodore, her great-great-granduncle a Revolutionary colonel, and her grandmother an F.F.V. Old Caleb’s ancestors always followed the sea. His father and his grandfather were sturdy old Yankee shipmasters. He holds the Congressional medal of honor for conspicuous gallantry in action over and above the call of duty. The Brent blood may not be good enough for some, but it’s a kind that’s good enough for me!”
“All that is quite beside the question, Donald. The fact remains that Nan Brent loves you.”
“May I inquire on what grounds you base that statement, dad?”
“On Saturday night, when you held her in your arms at parting, she kissed you.” Donald was startled, and his features gave indubitable indication of the fact. His father’s cool gray eyes were bent upon him kindly but unflinchingly. “Of course,” he continued, in even tones, “you would not have accepted that caress were you not head over heels in love with the girl. You are not low enough to seek her favor for another reason.”
“Yes; I love her,” Donald maintained manfully. “I have loved her for years—since I was a boy of sixteen,—only, I didn’t realize it until my return to Port Agnew. I can’t very well help loving Nan, can I, dad?”
To his amazement, his father smiled at him sympathetically.
“No; I do not see how you could very well help yourself, son,” he replied. “She’s an extraordinary young woman. After my brief and accidental interview with her recently, I made up my mind that there would be something radically wrong with you if you didn’t fall in love with her.”
His son grinned back at him.
“Proceed, old lumberjack!” he begged. “Your candor is soothing to my bruised spirit.”
“No; you cannot help loving her, I suppose. Since you admit being in love with her, the fact admits of no argument. It has happened, and I do not condemn you for it. Both of you have merely demonstrated in the natural, human way that you are natural human beings. And I’m grateful to Nan for loving you. I think I should have resented her not doing so, for it would demonstrate her total lack of taste and appreciation of my son. She informed me, in so many words, that she wouldn’t marry you.”
“Nan has the capacity, somewhat rare in a woman, of keeping her own counsel. That is news to me, dad. However, if you had waited about two minutes, I would have informed you that I do not intend to marry Nan—” He paused for an infinitesimal space and added, “yet.”
The Laird elevated his eyebrows.
“‘Yet?’” he repeated.
Donald flushed a little as he reiterated his statement with an emphatic nod.
“Why that reservation, my son?”
“Because, some day, Nan may be in position to prove herself that which I know her to be—a virtuous woman—and when that time comes, I’ll marry her in spite of hell and high water.”