“By your leave, Miss Drummond,” said I, “I must speak to your father by myself.”
She went into her own room and shut the door, without a word or a look.
“You must excuse her, Mr. Balfour,” says James More. “She has no delicacy.”
“I am not here to discuss that with you,” said I, “but to be quit of you. And to that end I must talk of your position. Now, Mr. Drummond, I have kept the run of your affairs more closely than you bargained for. I know you had money of your own when you were borrowing mine. I know you have had more since you were here in Leyden, though you concealed it even from your daughter.”
“I bid you beware. I will stand no more baiting,” he broke out. “I am sick of her and you. What kind of a damned trade is this to be a parent! I have had expressions used to me——” There he broke off. “Sir, this is the heart of a soldier and a parent,” he went on again, laying his hand on his bosom, “outraged in both characters—and I bid you beware.”
“If you would have let me finish,” says I, “you would have found I spoke for your advantage.”
“My dear friend,” he cried, “I know I might have relied upon the generosity of your character.”
“Man! will you let me speak?” said I. “The fact is that I cannot win to find out if you are rich or poor. But it is my idea that your means, as they are mysterious in their source, so they are something insufficient in amount; and I do not choose your daughter to be lacking. If I durst speak to herself, you may be certain I would never dream of trusting it to you; because I know you like the back of my hand, and all your blustering talk is that much wind to me. However, I believe in your way you do still care something for your daughter after all; and I must just be doing with that ground of confidence, such as it is.”
Whereupon, I arranged with him that he was to communicate with me, as to his whereabouts and Catriona’s welfare, in consideration of which I was to serve him a small stipend.
He heard the business out with a great deal of eagerness; and when it was done, “My dear fellow, my dear son,” he cried out, “this is more like yourself than any of it yet! I will serve you with a soldier’s faithfulness——”
“Let me hear no more of it!” says I. “You have got me to that pitch that the bare name of soldier rises on my stomach. Our traffic is settled; I am now going forth and will return in one half-hour, when I expect to find my chambers purged of you.”
I gave them good measure of time; it was my one fear that I might see Catriona again, because tears and weakness were ready in my heart, and I cherished my anger like a piece of dignity. Perhaps an hour went by; the sun had gone down, a little wisp of a new moon was following it across a scarlet sunset; already there were stars in the east, and in my chambers, when at last I entered them, the night lay blue. I lit a taper and reviewed the rooms; in the first there remained nothing so much as to awake a memory of those who were gone; but in the second, in a corner of the floor, I spied a little heap that brought my heart into my mouth. She had left behind at her departure all that ever she had of me. It was the blow that I felt sorest, perhaps because it was the last; and I fell upon that pile of clothing and behaved myself more foolish than I care to tell of.