Presently, Mrs. McKaye and her daughters returned to Port Agnew. His wife’s letters to The Laird had failed to elicit any satisfactory reason for his continued stay at home, and inasmuch as all three ladies were deferring the trip to Honolulu on his account, they had come to a mutual agreement to get to close quarters and force a decision.
Mrs. McKaye had been inside The Dreamerie somewhat less than five minutes before her instinct as a woman, coupled with her knowledge as a wife, informed her that her spouse was troubled in his soul. Always tactless, she charged him with it, and when he denied it, she was certain of it. So she pressed him further, and was informed that he had a business deal on; when she interrogated him as to the nature of it (something she had not done in years), he looked at her and smoked contemplatively. Immediately she changed the subject of conversation, but made a mental resolve to keep her eyes and her ears open.
The Fates decreed that she should not have long to wait. Donald came home from the logging-camp the following Saturday night, and the family, having finished dinner, were seated in the living-room. The Laird was smoking and staring moodily out to sea, Donald was reading, Jane was at the piano softly playing ragtime, and Mrs. McKaye and Elizabeth were knitting socks for suffering Armenians when the telephone-bell rang. Jane immediately left the piano and went out into the entrance-hall to answer it, the servants having gone down to Port Agnew to a motion-picture show. A moment later, she returned to the living-room, leaving the door to the entrance-hall open.
“You’re wanted on the telephone, Don!” she cried gaily. “Such a sweet voice, too!”
Mrs. McKaye and Elizabeth looked up from their knitting. They were not accustomed to having Donald called to the telephone by young ladies. Donald laid his magazine aside and strode to the telephone; The Laird faced about in his chair, and a harried look crept into his eyes.
“Close the door to the entrance-hall, Jane,” he commanded.
“Oh, dear me, no!” his spoiled daughter protested. “It would be too great a strain on our feminine curiosity not to eavesdrop on Don’s little romance.”
“Close it!” The Laird repeated. He was too late. Through the open door, Donald’s voice reached them:
“Oh, you poor girl! I’m so sorry, Nan dear. I’ll be over immediately.” His voice dropped several octaves, but the words came to the listeners none the less distinctly. “Be brave, sweetheart.”
Mrs. McKaye glanced at her husband in time to see him avert his face; she noted how he clutched the arm of his chair.
To quote a homely phrase, the cat was out of the bag at last. Donald’s face wore a troubled expression as he reentered the living-room. His mother spoke first.
“Donald! My son!” she murmured tragically.
“Hum-m—!” The Laird grunted. The storm had broken at last, and, following the trend of human nature, he was conscious of sudden relief.