“You saw quite a lot of young MacRae last spring, didn’t you?” he asked abruptly. “Do you like him?”
A faint touch of color leaped into her cheeks. She met her father’s glance with an inquiring one of her own.
“Well—yes. Rather,” she said at last. “He’s a nice boy.”
“Better not,” Gower rumbled. His frown grew deeper. His teeth clamped a cigar in one corner of his mouth at an aggressive angle. “Granted that he is what you call a nice boy. I’ll admit he’s good-looking and that he dances well. And he seems to pack a punch up his sleeve. I’d suggest that you don’t cultivate any romantic fancy for him. Because he’s making himself a nuisance in my business—and I’m going to smash him.”
Gower turned away. If he had lingered he might have observed unmistakable signs of temper. Betty flew storm signals from cheek and eye. She looked after her father with something akin to defiance, likewise with an air of astonishment.
“As if I—” she left the whispered sentence unfinished.
She perched herself on the mahogany-capped rail, and while she waited for Nelly Abbott she gave herself up to thinking of herself and her father and her father’s amazing warning which carried a veiled threat,—an open threat so far as Jack MacRae was concerned. Why should he cut loose like that on her?
She stared thoughtfully at the Blackbird, marked the trollers slipping in from the grounds and clustering around the chunky carrier.
It might have interested Mr. Horace Gower could he have received a verbatim report of his daughter’s reflections for the next five minutes. But whether it would have pleased him it is hard to say.
The Complexity of Simple Matters
The army, for a period extending over many months, had imposed a rigid discipline on Jack MacRae. The Air Service had bestowed upon him a less rigorous discipline, but a far more exacting self-control. He was not precisely aware of it, but those four years had saved him from being a firebrand of sorts in his present situation, because there resided in him a fiery temper and a capacity for passionate extremes, and those years in the King’s uniform, whatever else they may have done for him, had placed upon his headlong impulses manifold checks, taught him the vital necessity of restraint, the value of restraint.
If the war had made human life seem a cheap and perishable commodity, it had also worked to give men like MacRae a high sense of honor, to accentuate a natural distaste for lying and cheating, for anything that was mean, petty, ignoble. Perhaps the Air Service was unique in that it was at once the most dangerous and the most democratic and the most individual of all the organizations that fought the Germans. It had high standards. The airmen were all young, the pick of the nations, clean, eager, vigorous boys whose ideals were still undimmed. They lived and—as it happened—died in big moments. They trained with the gods in airy spaces and became men, those who survived.