Duane laughed. He went on presently: “I wrote Naida the other day. She has given me power of attorney. What she has is there, any time you need it.”
His father hung his head in silence; only his colourless and shrunken hands worked on the arms of his chair.
“See here, father,” said the young fellow; “don’t let this thing bother you. Anything that could possibly happen is better than to have you look and feel as you do. Suppose the very worst happens—which it won’t—but suppose it did and we all went gaily to utter smash.
“That is a detail compared with your going to smash physically. Because Naida and I never did consider such things vital; and mother is a brick when it comes to a show-down. And as for me, why, if the very worst hits us, I can take care of our bunch. It’s in me to do it. I suppose you don’t think so. But I can make money enough to keep us together, and, after all, that’s the main thing.”
His father said nothing.
“Of course,” laughed Duane, “I don’t for a moment suppose that anything like that is on the cards. I don’t know what your fortune is, but judging from your generosity to Naida and me I fancy it’s too solid to worry over. The trouble with you gay old capitalists,” he added, “is that you think in such enormous sums! And you forget that little sums are required to make us all very happy; and if some of the millions which you cannot possibly ever use happen to escape you, the tragic aspect as it strikes you is out of all proportion to the real state of the case.”
His father felt the effort his son was making; looked up wearily, strove to smile, to relight his cigar; which Duane did for him, saying:
“As long as you are not mixed up in that Klawber, Skelton, Moebus crowd, I’m not inclined to worry. It seems, as of course you know, that Dysart’s brokers failed to-day.”
“So I heard,” said his father steadily. He straightened himself in his chair. “I am sorry. Mr. Greensleeve is a very old friend——”
The library telephone rang; the second man entered and asked if Colonel Mallett could speak to Mr. Dysart over the wire on a matter concerning the Yo Espero district.
Duane, astonished, sprang up asking if he might not take the message; then shrank aside as his father got to his feet. He saw the ghastly pallor on his face as his father passed him, moving toward the library; stood motionless in troubled amazement, then walked to the open window of the conservatory and, leaning there, waited.
His father did not return. Later a servant came:
“Colonel Mallett has retired, Mr. Duane, and begs that he be undisturbed, as he is very tired.”
The possibility that his father could be involved in any of the spectacular schemes which had evidently caught Dysart, seemed so remote that Duane’s incredulity permitted him to sleep that night, though the name Yo Espero haunted his dreams.