“God,” McDermott cried, his face illumined, his eyes glowing, “I wish it had been Waterloo! I’ve always carried a bruised spirit that I didn’t fight at Waterloo.”
“Your loss is our gain, Mr. McDermott,” Francis answered, with a smile. “You’d scarce be here to tell it if you had.”
“And that’s maybe true,” Dermott said, pausing by the doorway to put on his gloves. “But I’d rather have fought at Waterloo, even if I were dead now, so that I could tell you exactly how it felt—There”—he broke his speech with a laugh—“I caught myself on the way to an Irish bull.
“Oh! Mr. Ravenel,” he called back suddenly, as though the thought had just come to him, “I’ve been waiting your coming to have a talk with you—a business talk—but not to-night.” He waved the matter aside with a gay, outward movement of the hands. “Sometime at your pleasure.” Again the eyes of the two met, and this time each measured the other more openly than before.
“I shall be glad to see you at any time, Mr. McDermott,” Frank answered, his words courteous enough, but his eyes lacking warmth; and the intuitive Celt realized that in Frank he had met one whom he had failed either to bewilder or to charm.
“Madam!” he cried, saluting. “Mr. Francis Ravenel, delightful son of a delightful mother! The top of the evening to both of ye.” And with a considered manner he made a stage exit, and Frank and Madam Ravenel heard the gay voice—
most excellent Turk,
For I’m fond of tobacco and ladies—”
coming back with the clatter of a horse’s hoofs through the fading sunlight over the dew of the daisies.
“Well,” said Mrs. Ravenel, her eyes dancing with merry light, “isn’t he delightful?”
“Delightful!” Frank repeated. “Is he? I wonder. Shrewd, cool-headed, cruel, I think—subtle as well.”
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Ravenel interrupted, with a smile which might not have been so mirthful had she seen at that moment the man of whom she spoke.
Near the north gate McDermott had brought his horse suddenly to a walk. There was no longer gayety in his manner or his face. The merry light had left his eyes, and in its place shone a gleam, steady and cold, as only the eye of the intellectual Irish can be.
“And so that is the son! An unco man for the lassies, like his father before him.” His eyelids drew together as he spoke. “Handsome, too—with a knowledge of life. It’s a pity!” he said. “It’s a pity! But he may not interfere. If he does, well—even if he does, the gods are with the Irish!”
THE MEETING IN THE WOODS
Instead of entering the drawing-room after Dermott’s departure, Frank turned with some abruptness toward Mrs. Ravenel.
“I am going for a walk, mother,” he said, with no suggestion that she accompany him; and her intimate acquaintance with Francis, sixth of the name, made her understand with some accuracy the moods of his son, Francis seventh.