But here we were interrupted as an apparition stood in the door and regarded the sad and joyful tableau we made with its head on one side, right corner of the mouth up, and left eyelid drooped. It was Father, and I had never seen him look so grand or with such a noble expression on his face! And as he stood still and looked at us, I held my breath far longer than it is safe to do. And as Father looked, the Idol drew himself up and his head took on the pose of the feminine Byrd portrait, but he still held my hand in both of his as he looked Father steadily in the face. I was scared and so was Roxanne as we hugged each other as women always do from fright.
Then, without a word, Father walked right up under the portrait and took the Idol by both shoulders and gave him one good shake that tottered us all.
“You young idiot, you! You young idiot!” he said in a tone of such affection that it was unbelievable to my ears. And as I heard it, I knew that all my trials and disgraces and puzzlings were over, and I turned my head upon Roxanne’s back hair and wept tears, the first time in my life—and I hope not the last.
“Now, see here, Phil, don’t give out on the situation like that,” said Father, as he slapped me on the back to still the tears while Roxanne hugged me and the Idol still held my hand.
“Please go on and tell what you did or didn’t do to the ‘secret,’” I sobbed, but I stood on my own feet again and was using both my natural hands to wipe my eyes.
The Idol had been for minutes standing and looking at Father like a child that has just awakened and doesn’t know whether the awful thing that was pursuing him was a dream or a real bear. Roxanne was the first one to speak, and as usual she had seen the rosy side of something, even if it was not the real thing.
“You didn’t really steal the secret at all, did you, Mr. Forsythe?” she asked, with her lovely and engaging enthusiasm. “I just knew it, all the time.”
“Yes, I did ’steal the secret’—if that is the way you put it—pro tem, which means ‘for the time being.’ You are a nest of very young idiots, and I trusted to that; but you opened your puppy eyes at the time I hadn’t counted on, with the help of Luttrell’s scouting nose.” He paused, as if not right sure that he was going to tell about everything, and as he looked at us we did look like a basket of little silly puppies with mouths and eyes wide open—the Idol most of all.
“And now first, young man,” said Father, turning to Mr. Douglass, left eyelid drooping lower than usual, “I just want to say to you what I think of you for leaving not only all the traces of such a valuable discovery unprotected in a shed, but leaving your notebook and drawings, too. Any other man but a Byrd of Byrdsville, would not have trusted the book off his person a half minute, and would have destroyed the traces of each experiment the minute it was done. Those steel shavings were the most idiotic-looking things I ever saw, and when I emptied the box it was with a groan at your foolishness. Just the looks of ’em kept me from trusting you with my intentions. I couldn’t afford to run the risk of your carelessness, so I took the whole thing and decamped with it.”