Then, perceiving Felix coming—’in a white topper, by Jove!’—he crossed the pavement to the door; and, tall, square, personable, rang the bell.
“Well, what’s the matter at Tod’s?”
And Felix moved a little forward in his chair, his eyes fixed with interest on Stanley, who was about to speak.
“It’s that wife of his, of course. It was all very well so long as she confined herself to writing, and talk, and that Land Society, or whatever it was she founded, the one that snuffed out the other day; but now she’s getting herself and those two youngsters mixed up in our local broils, and really I think Tod’s got to be spoken to.”
“It’s impossible for a husband to interfere with his wife’s principles.” So Felix.
“Principles!” The word came from John.
“Certainly! Kirsteen’s a woman of great character; revolutionary by temperament. Why should you expect her to act as you would act yourselves?”
When Felix had said that, there was a silence.
Then Stanley muttered: “Poor old Tod!”
Felix sighed, lost for a moment in his last vision of his youngest brother. It was four years ago now, a summer evening—Tod standing between his youngsters Derek and Sheila, in a doorway of his white, black-timbered, creepered cottage, his sunburnt face and blue eyes the serenest things one could see in a day’s march!
“Why ’poor’?” he said. “Tod’s much happier than we are. You’ve only to look at him.”
“Ah!” said Stanley suddenly. “D’you remember him at Father’s funeral?—without his hat, and his head in the clouds. Fine-lookin’ chap, old Tod—pity he’s such a child of Nature.”
Felix said quietly:
“If you’d offered him a partnership, Stanley—it would have been the making of him.”
“Tod in the plough works? My hat!”
Felix smiled. At sight of that smile, Stanley grew red, and John refilled his pipe. It is always the devil to have a brother more sarcastic than oneself!
“How old are those two?” John said abruptly.
“Sheila’s twenty, Derek nineteen.”
“I thought the boy was at an agricultural college?”
“What’s he like?”
“A black-haired, fiery fellow, not a bit like Tod.”
John muttered: “That’s her Celtic blood. Her father, old Colonel Moray, was just that sort; by George, he was a regular black Highlander. What’s the trouble exactly?”