Maggie had begun by disliking him. She had thought him rather coarse and stupid; but she had changed her mind. He was not what may be called subtle; he had no patience at all with such things as scruples, nuances, and shades of tone and meaning; but if you put a plain question to him plainly, he gave you a plain answer, if he knew it; if not, he looked it up then and there; and that is always a relief in this intricate world. Maggie therefore did not bother him much; she went to him only on plain issues; and he respected and liked her accordingly.
“Good morning, my child,” he said in his loud, breezy voice, as he came in to find her in his hideous little sitting-room. “I hope you don’t mind the smell of tobacco-smoke.”
The room indeed reeked; he had started a cigar, according to rule, as the clock struck twelve, and had left it just now upon a stump outside when his housekeeper had come to announce a visitor.
“Not in the least, thanks, father.... May I sit down? It’s rather a long business, I’m afraid.”
The priest pulled out an arm-chair covered with horsehair and an antimacassar.
“Sit down, my child.”
Then he sat down himself, opposite her, in his trousers at once tight and baggy, with his rather large boots cocked one over the other, and his genial red face smiling at her.
“Now then,” he said.
“It’s not about myself, father,” she began rather hurriedly. “It’s about Laurie Baxter. May I begin at the beginning?”
He nodded. He was not sorry to hear something about this boy, whom he didn’t like at all, but for whom he knew himself at least partly responsible. The English were bad enough, but English converts were indescribably trying; and Laurie had been on his mind lately, he scarcely knew why.
Then Maggie began at the beginning, and told the whole thing, from Amy’s death down to Mr. Morton’s letter. He put a question or two to her during her story, looking at her with pressed lips, and finally put out his hand for the letter itself.
“Mrs. Baxter doesn’t know what I’ve come about,” said the girl. “You won’t give her a hint, will you, father?”
He nodded reassuringly to her, absorbed in the letter, and presently handed it back, with a large smile.