“And it’s for the work over there that you want an engineer?”
“Yes. I want him bad, too. Do you happen to know one?”
“I know one. I won’t say how much good he is, though. I’m an engineer myself.”
“You!” It was Argyl’s voice, surprised but eager.
“My father is a mining engineer. He always wanted me to do something for myself, you know.” Conniston laughed softly. “He sent me to college, and since I didn’t care a rap what sort of work I did, I took a course in civil engineering to please him. Civil, instead of mining,” he added, lightly, “because I thought it would be easier.”
“Had any practical experience?” demanded Mr. Crawford. Conniston shook his head. “It’s too bad. You might be of a lot of use to me over there—if you’d ever done anything.”
Conniston colored under the plain, blunt statement. There it was again—he had never done anything, he had never been anything. His teeth cut through his cigarette before he answered.
“I didn’t suppose that you could use me.” He still spoke lightly, hiding the things which he was feeling, his recurrent self-contempt. “I don’t suppose, that I know enough to run a ditch straight. I’ve been rather a rum loafer.”
Mr. Crawford smiled. “I suppose you have. But you are young yet, Conniston. A man can do anything when he is young.”
There was the grinding of wheels upon the gravel outside, a man’s voice, and then a man’s steps.
A moment later Roger Hapgood, immaculate in a smartly cut gray suit and gloves, came smiling into the library, his hand outstretched, his manner the manner of a man so thoroughly at home that he does not stop to ring. He did not at first see Conniston half hidden in his big chair. But Conniston saw him, was quick to notice the air of familiarity, the smile which rested affectionately upon Mr. Crawford and ran on, no doubt meant to be adoring and certainly was very soft, to Argyl—and Conniston was seized with a sudden desire to take the ingratiating Roger Hapgood by the back of the collar and kick him upon the seat of his beautifully fitting trousers.