But these things, he told himself, were for the moment beside the point. He felt his father’s life trembling in the balance. He wanted to see affectionate, prideful recognition light up those gray-blue eyes again, even if briefly. He had come six thousand miles to cheer the old man with a sight of his son, a son who had been a credit to him. And he was willing to pocket pride, to call for help from the last source he would have chosen, if that would avail.
He crossed the lawn, waited a few seconds till the piano ceased its syncopated frenzy and the dancers stopped.
Betty Gower herself opened at his knock.
“Is Mr. Gower here?” he asked.
“Yes. Won’t you come in?” she asked courteously.
The door opened direct into a great living room, from the oak floor of which the rugs had been rolled aside for dancing. As MacRae came in out of the murk along the cliffs, his one good eye was dazzled at first. Presently he made out a dozen or more persons in the room,—young people nearly all. They were standing and sitting about. One or two were in khaki—officers. There seemed to be an abrupt cessation of chatter and laughing at his entrance. It did not occur to him at once that these people might be avidly curious about a strange young man in the uniform of the Flying Corps. He apprehended that curiosity, though, politely veiled as it was. In the same glance he became aware of a middle-aged woman sitting on a couch by the fire. Her hair was pure white, elaborately arranged, her eyes were a pale blue, her skin very delicate and clear. Her face somehow reminded Jack MacRae of a faded rose leaf.
In a deep armchair near her sat Horace Gower. A young man, a very young man, in evening clothes, holding a long cigarette daintily in his fingers, stood by Gower.
MacRae followed Betty Gower across the room to her father. She turned. Her quick eyes had picked out the insignia of rank on MacRae’s uniform.
“Papa,” she said. “Captain—” she hesitated.
“MacRae,” he supplied.
“Captain MacRae wishes to see you.”
MacRae wished no conventionalities. He did not want to be introduced, to be shaken by the hand, to have Gower play host. He forestalled all this, if indeed it threatened.
“I have just arrived home on leave,” he said briefly. “I find my father desperately ill in our house at the Cove. You have a very fast and able cruiser. Would you care to put her at my disposal so that I may take my father to Vancouver? I think that is his only chance.”
Gower had risen. He was not an imposing man. At his first glimpse of MacRae’s face, the pink-patched eye, the uniform, he flushed slightly,—recalling that afternoon.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’d be welcome to the Arrow if she were here. But I sent her to Nanaimo an hour after she landed us. Are you Donald MacRae’s boy?”
“Yes,” MacRae said. “Thank you. That’s all.”