“Very well, sir. I’ll think it over for a month—on one condition.”
“Thank you, my son,” said The Laird of Tyee. “And what is the condition?”
“Let mother and the girls go to Seattle or Honolulu or Shanghai or some other seaport—anywhere, provided they’re not at The Dreamerie when I return to Port Agnew. I’m going to spend that damnable month in the woods, week-ends and all, and wrestle with this problem.”
Old Hector smiled a small smile.
“I’m an old ass,” he declared. “Have it your own way, only—by the gods, I ought to teach them sense. I’ve spoiled them, and I ought to unspoil them. They drive me crazy, much as I love them.”
* * * * *
The Laird went home that afternoon lighter of heart than he had been for a month. He told himself that his firm stand with Donald had rather staggered that young man, and that a month of reflection, far from the disturbing influence of Nan Brent’s magnetic presence, would induce Donald to adopt a sensible course.
Since that night when Mr. Daney, standing aloof in the dark vacant lot close to the Sawdust Pile, had seen Donald McKaye, in the light cast through the open door of Caleb Brent’s cottage, take Nan Brent in his arms and kiss her, since he had heard Nan Brent’s voice apply to the young laird of Port Agnew a term so endearing as to constitute a verbal caress, his practical and unromantic soul had been in a turmoil of apprehension.
It seemed to him that in old Hector he noted signs of deep mental perturbation. Also, he told himself, he detected more shades than lights in Donald’s usually pleasant features; so, knowing full well that which he knew and which neither The Laird nor Donald suspected him of knowing, to wit: that a declaration of love had been made between Nan Brent and the heir to the Tyee millions, Mr. Daney came to the conclusion, one evening about a week after old Caleb’s funeral, that something had to be done—and done quickly—to avert the scandal which impended. To his way of reasoning, however, it appeared that nothing along this line was possible of accomplishment while Nan Brent remained in Port Agnew; so Mr. Daney brought to play all of his considerable intelligence upon the problem of inducing her to leave.
Now, to render Port Agnew untenable for Nan, thus forcing her to retreat, was a task which Mr. Daney dismissed not only as unworthy of him but also as impossible. As a director of the Bank of Port Agnew, he had little difficulty in ascertaining that Caleb Brent’s savings-account had been exhausted; also, he realized that the chartering of Caleb’s motor-boat, Brutus, to tow the municipal garbage-barge to sea and return, had merely been Donald’s excuse to be kind to the Brents without hurting their gentle pride. To cancel the charter of the Brutus now would force Nan to leave Port Agnew in order to support