“You brought me into the world,” she said passionately. “You have fed me and clothed me and educated me and humored all my whims ever since I can remember. But you can’t pick a husband for me. I shall do that for myself. It’s silly to tell me to put Jack MacRae out of my head. He isn’t in my head. He’s in my—my—heart. And I can keep him there, if I can’t have him in my arms. Put him out of my head! You talk as if loving and marrying were like dealing in fish.”
“I wish it were,” Gower rumbled. “I might have had some success at it myself.”
Betty did not even vouchsafe reply. Probably she did not even hear what he said. She turned and went to the window, stood looking out at the rising turmoil of the sea, at the lowering scud of the clouds, dabbing surreptitiously at her eyes with a handkerchief. After a little she walked out of the room. Her feet sounded lightly on the stairs.
Gower bent to the fire again. He resumed his aimless stirring of the coals. A grim, twisted smile played about his lips. But his eyes were as somber as the storm-blackened winter sky.
Horace Gower’s town house straddled the low crest of a narrow peninsula which juts westward into the Gulf from the heart of the business section of Vancouver. The tip of this peninsula ends in the green forest of Stanley Park, which is like no other park in all North America, either in its nature or its situation. It is a sizable stretch of ancient forest, standing within gunshot of skyscrapers, modern hotels, great docks where China freighters unload tea and silk. Hard on the flank of a modern seaport this area of primitive woodland broods in the summer sun and the winter rains not greatly different from what it must have been in those days when only the Siwash Indians penetrated its shadowy depths.
The rear of Gower’s house abutted against the park, neighbor to great tall firs and massive, branchy cedars and a jungle of fern and thicket bisected by a few paths and drives, with the sea lapping all about three sides of its seven-mile boundary. From Gower’s northward windows the Capilano canyon opened between two mountains across the Inlet. Southward other windows gave on English Bay and beach sands where one could count a thousand swimmers on a summer afternoon.
The place was only three blocks from Abbott’s. The house itself was not unlike Abbott’s, built substantially of gray stone and set in ample grounds. But it was a good deal larger, and both within and without it was much more elaborate, as befitted the dwelling of a successful man whose wife was socially a leader instead of a climber,—like so many of Vancouver’s newly rich. There was order and system and a smooth, unobtrusive service in that home. Mrs. Horace A. Gower rather prided herself on the noiseless, super-efficient operation of her domestic machinery. Any little affair was sure to go off without a hitch, to be quite charming, you know. Mrs. Gower had a firmly established prestige along certain lines. Her business in life was living up to that prestige, not only that it might be retained but judiciously expanded.