Upon a certain March morning, however, Mrs. Gower seemed to be a trifle shaken out of her usual complacency. She sat at a rather late breakfast, facing her husband, flanked on either hand by her son and daughter. There was an injured droop to Mrs. Gower’s mouth, a slightly indignant air about her. The conversation had reached a point where Mrs. Gower felt impelled to remove her pince-nez and polish them carefully with a bit of cloth. This was an infallible sign of distress.
“I cannot see the least necessity for it, Norman,” she resumed in a slightly agitated, not to say petulant tone. “It’s simply ridiculous for a young man of your position to be working at common labor with such terribly common people. It’s degrading.”
Norman was employing himself upon a strip of bacon.
“That’s a mere matter of opinion,” he replied at length. “Somebody has to work. I have to do something for myself sometime, and it suits me to begin now, in this particular manner which annoys you so much. I don’t mind work. And those copper claims are a rattling good prospect. Everybody says so. We’ll make a barrel of money out of them yet. Why shouldn’t I peel off my coat and go at it?”
“By the way,” Gower asked bluntly, “what occasioned this flying trip to England?”
Norman pushed back his chair a trifle, thrust his hands in his trousers pockets and looked straight at his father.
“My own private business,” he answered as bluntly.
“You people,” he continued after a brief interval, “seem to think I’m still in knee breeches.”
But this did not serve to turn his mother from her theme.
“It is quite unnecessary for you to attempt making money in such a primitive manner,” she observed. “We have plenty of money. There is plenty of opportunity for you in your father’s business, if you must be in business.”
“Huh!” Norman grunted. “I’m no good in my father’s business, nor anywhere else, in his private opinion. It’s no good, mamma. I’m on my own for keeps. I’m going through with it. I’ve been a jolly fizzle so far. I’m not even a blooming war hero. You just stop bothering about me.”
“I really can’t think what’s got into you,” Mrs. Gower complained in a tone which implied volumes of reproach. “It’s bad enough for your father and Betty to be running off and spending so much time at that miserable cottage when so much is going on here. I’m simply exhausted keeping things up without any help from them. But this vagary of yours—I really can’t consider it anything else—is most distressing. To live in a dirty little cabin and cook your own food, to associate with such men—it’s simply dreadful! Haven’t you any regard for our position?”