“You’ll spend the night with me, Conniston,” Tommy Garton offered. “I’ve got plenty of bedding; a man doesn’t suffer for covers these nights. Drop in as soon as you and Billy get through supper. I think that I can beat you a game of crib.”
“Much obliged, Garton. But I may not run in for an hour or so. Miss Crawford has asked me to eat with them to-night.”
“Oh.” There was a great lack of expression in Garton’s monosyllable, but as he swung about upon his stool, bending over the box of cigarettes which he swept up, Conniston thought that he saw a little twitch as of pain about the sensitive lips. Not understanding, feeling at once that he would like to say something and not knowing what to say, he went slowly to the door. As he was going out Garton called to him, his voice and face alike as cheerful as they had been throughout the afternoon.
“I say, Conniston. Remember me to Miss Argyl, will you? She’s a glorious girl. I never saw her match. She’s got the same capability for doing big things that her father has. I said the other day that he was the whole brain and brawn of this war for reclamation. I ought to have been kicked. Do you know that the whole project, from its inception, has been as much hers as his? Why, that girl has ridden over every foot of this valley, knows it like a book. Dam Number Three, that auxiliary dam, is her idea. And a rattling good idea, too. The men call it ‘Miss Argyl’s Dam.’ Better brush up on your engineering before you talk reclamation with her, old man. She’s read all the books I’ve got. A glorious girl, Conniston.”
Conniston came back into the room.
“See here, Garton,” he said, gently. “Why don’t you come along. She told me that she wanted you, that she had asked you and—”
Garton waved an interrupting hand, smiling quickly. But Conniston saw that his face looked tired.
At Conniston’s knock Argyl’s voice from somewhere in the back of the cottage called “Come in!” He opened the door, went through the cozy sitting-room, which was scarcely larger than the fire-place at the range-house, and at a second invitation found his way into the rear room. There an oil-stove was shooting up its yellow flames about a couple of stew-pans, and there Argyl herself, in blue gingham apron, her sleeves rolled up on her plump, white arms, was completing preparations for the evening meal. She turned to nod to Conniston and then back to her cooking.
“You’ll find a chair in the corner,” she told him, as he stopped in the doorway, looking amusedly at her. “That is, of course, if you care to call on the cook? Otherwise you will find cigars and a last month’s paper in the sitting-room.”
“There isn’t any otherwise,” he laughed back at her. And after a moment, in which she was very busy over the stove and he very content to stand and watch her: “We’re even now. Last time we were here I was the hired man and tacked down carpets for you. Now I’m the guest of the family, if you please, and you’re the cook.”