“Three seventeen! Three seventeen! Mr. Ravenel! Three seventeen!” Dreaming over McDermott’s story, Frank realized that a call-boy was charging around the dining-room screaming his name and room number. “Mr. Philip de Peyster.”
“Hello, old man!” Frank cried, with genuine pleasure, as Mr. de Peyster came forward. “I found so many messages from you, I fear the worst. You’re wanting me to stand up with you, I take it.”
De Peyster shook his head. “Nothing so bad as that. I have rather overwhelmed you with messages and things, haven’t I? It’s only business, however, not matrimony. I’m sorry, Frank,” he added, laughing, “to let you in for a business talk this way. I know how you hate it. Therefore, I hurry. Ravenel Plantation lies between two large railroads. To get from one to another it is necessary to make triangles. There were a half-dozen of us here last spring who conceived the idea of building a direct road along the south bank of the Silver Fork, joining the two roads, like the middle line of the letter H. We believed that the growth in that region of cotton mills, tanneries, and wood manufacture warranted it. You know Dermott McDermott?” he asked, abruptly.
“Know him!” Frank answered. “The Almighty alone does that, I fancy. I am acquainted with him.”
“Whether he got word of the scheme, or whether by pure accident he went South about the time the plans were maturing, no one knows; but he bought a mica-mine, started a tannery, and secured, on the south side of the Silver Fork, a tract of land which lies almost in the centre of our proposed line. It’s but ten or fifteen acres, but it goes from the river’s edge to Owl Mountain, and we are forced to buy from him, at his own price, tunnel the mountain or go around it, a distance of twenty-two miles, with two streams to bridge. A cheerful prospect! He is holding the piece of land for which he paid ten or twelve hundred dollars, probably, at forty-five thousand! About a week ago I discovered, through O’Grady, that the title was in your name until quite recently.”
“It was,” Francis answered, with a queer smile, “it was; but, with unusual business foresight, I sold it to Mr. McDermott myself for eleven hundred dollars. He said he was going to raise eagles on it,” he explained, with a laugh.
The flowers, the lights, and the music of the night he had dined at the lodge came back to him. He recalled a touch on his arm, an upturned face with wistful gray eyes, and remembered Katrine’s warning. As he did so a great anger came to him at the way he had been used, and his newly awakened manhood called to him for action. There should be another side to the matter, he determined. McDermott’s overheard misprisement of the South! His statement of his intentions toward Katrine! The cut of the words, “She is but eighteen, and one protects that age,” came back to him. There had never come a time in his life before when he would have been in the mood to do the thing he now offered.