“I have to go through that, too, I suppose,” his son complained, and jerked his head toward the stairs, where, as a matter of fact, his sister Jane crouched at the time, striving to eavesdrop. “I had a notion, as I walked home, that I’d refuse to permit them to discuss my business with me.”
“This particular business of yours is, unfortunately, something which they believe to be their business, also. God help me, I agree with them!”
“Well, they had better be mighty careful how they speak of Nan Brent,” Donald returned darkly. “This is something I have to fight out alone. By the way, are you going to old Caleb’s funeral, dad?”
“Certainly. I have always attended the funerals of my neighbors, and I liked and respected Caleb Brent. Always reminded me of a lost dog. But he had a man’s pride. I’ll say that for him.”
“Thank you, father. Ten o’clock, the day after to-morrow, from the little chapel. There isn’t going to be a preacher present, so I’d be obliged if you’d offer a prayer and read the burial service. That old man and I were pals, and I want a real human being to preside at his obsequies.”
The Laird whistled softly. He was on the point of asking to be excused, but reflected that Donald was bound to attend the funeral and that his father’s presence would tend to detract from the personal side of the unprecedented spectacle and render it more of a matter of family condescension in so far as Port Agnew was concerned.
“Very well, lad,” he replied; “I’m forced to deny you so much ’twould be small of me not to grant you a wee favor now and then. I’ll do my best. And you might send a nurse from the company hospital to stay with Nan for a week or two.”
“Good old file!” his son murmured gratefully, and, bidding his father good-night, climbed the stairs to his room. Hearing his footsteps ascending, Jane emerged from the rear of the landing; simultaneously, his mother and Elizabeth appeared at the door of the latter’s room. He had the feeling of a captured missionary running the gantlet of a forest of spears en route to a grill over a bed of coals.
“Donald dear,” Elizabeth called throatily, “come here.”
“Donald dear is going to bed,” he retorted savagely. “’Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ Good-night!”
“But you must discuss this matter with us!” Jane clamored. “How can you expect us to rest until we have your word of honor that you—”
The Laird had appeared at the foot of the stairs, having followed his son in anticipation of an interview which he had forbidden.
“Six months, Janey,” he called up; “and there’ll be no appeal from that decision. Nellie! Elizabeth! Poor Jane will be lonesome in Port Agnew, and I’m not wishful to be too hard on her. You’ll keep her company.” There was a sound of closing doors, and silence settled over The Dreamerie, that little white home that The Laird of Tyee had built and dedicated to peace and love. For he was the master here.