“Supposing we leave it to Miss Farr herself,” he suggested smoothly. “Since you have personally no objection. If she is unwilling to oblige me, of course—”
“I will speak to her,” promised the doctor.
“What surprises me, doctor,” he went on, pushing a little further, “is how you have managed to keep so very intelligent a secretary in so restricted an environment. The stronger one’s wings, the stronger the temptation to use them.”
He had expected to strike fire with this, but the pale eyes looked placidly past him.
“Desire has left me, at times, but—she has always come back.” The old man’s voice was very gentle, almost caressing, and should certainly have provided no reason for the chill that crept up his hearer’s spine.
“She has never found work suited to her, perhaps,” suggested Spence. “If you will allow me,—”
“You are very kind,” the velvet was off the doctor’s voice now. He rose with a certain travesty of dignity. “But I may say that I desire—that I will tolerate—no interference. My daughter’s future shall be her father’s care.”
Spence laughed. It was an insulting laugh, and he knew it. But the contrast between the grandiloquent words and the ridiculous figure which uttered them was too much for him. Besides, though the most courteous of men, he deliberately wished to be insulting. He couldn’t help it. There rose up in him, suddenly, a wild and unreasoning anger that mere paternity could place anyone (and especially a young girl with cool, grey eyes) in the power of such a caricature of manhood.
“Really?” said Spence. There was everything in the word that tone could utter of challenge and derision. He raised himself upon his elbow. The doctor, who had been closely contemplating his umbrella, looked up slowly. The eyes of the two men met. . . . Spence had never seen eyes like that . . . they dazzled him like sudden sunlight on a blade of steel . . . they clung to his mind and bewildered it . . . he forgot the question at issue . . . he forgot--
Just then Li Ho opened the kitchen door.
“Get ’um lunch now,” said Li Ho, in his toneless drawl. “Like ’um egg flied? Like ’um boiled?”
Spence sank back upon his pillow.
“Like um any old way!” he said. His voice sounded a little breathless.
The doctor, once again absorbed in the contemplation of his umbrella, went out.
Luncheon, for which Li Ho had provided eggs both boiled and fried, was eaten alone. His hostess did not honor him with her company, nor did her father return. Li Ho was attentive but silent And outside the rain still rained.