“You have heard, sir. Do you realize how you have insulted both of us? You shall apologize, Grandfather Thornton!”
For reply the old man walked up to him, snapped the fingers of both hands under his nose, and walked away. “Give me ten words more of that talk and I’ll take you across my knee,” he called over his shoulder. “There are some men that never grow old enough to get beyond the spanking age.”
Presson, interested spectator, looked for the natural outburst of youth at that point. But he stared at the young man, and decided that he truly had inherited the Thornton grit and self-restraint which the Duke seemed now to have lost all at once after all the years.
Harlan gazed after his grandfather, lips tightening. He was an embodiment of wholesome young manhood, as he stood there, struggling with the passion that prompted him to unfilial reproaches. Then he turned to the girl. He had a wistful smile for her.
“I’m sorry, little Clare,” he said, softly. She slipped her hands under the belt of his corduroy jacket and gazed up at him tearfully.
“He had no right to say that I—that I—oh, he doesn’t understand friendship!” she cried.
“No, and we’ll not try to explain—not now! But I have some serious matters to talk over with my grandfather. Ride home, dear; I’ll see you before I go back to the woods again.”
“And you are going back to the woods? You are not going to let them send you away where you’ll forget your best friends?”
“I never shall forget my friends. And I can’t believe that you heard right, little girl. My grandfather will not put me in politics. Don’t worry. I’ll straighten it all out before I leave.”
He lifted her to her horse and sent her away with a pat. She went unprotesting, with a trustful smile. The hounds raced wildly after her.
“Woof!” remarked the Hon. Luke Presson to himself, “there’s a kitten that’s been fed on plenty of raw meat!” And as he always compared all women with his daughter, reigning beauty of the State capital, he added: “I’d like to have Madeleine get a glimpse of that. She’d be glad that it’s the style to bring girls up on a cream diet.”
He hurried away behind Harlan, who had given him rather curt greeting, and had followed the Duke around to the front of the house. The old man was tramping the porch from end to end.
The boarding creaked under him as he strode, his gait a lurch that moved one side of his body at a time. The smoke from his cigar streamed past his ears.
It was silent at the front of the big house, and in that silence the three of them could hear the occasional shouts that greeted demagogic oratory down in the village. The comment of the lord of Canibas was the anathema that he growled to himself.
His grandson faced him twice on his turns along the porch, protest in his demeanor. But the old man brushed past.