The old man touched a gilded chair tenderly, and Mart cried out: "Lay hold, man, 'twill not rub off! Sit down and look about ye! Out with your new pipe and smoke up!"
He took a seat with forced confidence, and looked about him. "I wish Donahue and Kate could see this."
Mart turned a quietly humorous eye on Bertha. "Not this trip. I couldn't manage Kate," he explained. "She looks like Fan—only more so; and she has a litter o' young Donahues would make ye wonder could the world have room for them all."
Haney the elder had something more than the bog-trotter in him, for as he grew towards a little more assurance that Mart would not be thrown out of his hotel for non-payment of bills, he settled down to enjoy his glass of rare whiskey and a costly cigar with an assumption of ease that almost deceived the maid, though Lucius, being in the secret, watched him anxiously for fear he might expectorate on the rug.
Mart had some " photographs" of his house in the Springs, and showed them to Patrick. "Do ye see yer-self smokin' a pipe on that porch?"
"I do not," the father energetically replied. "I see meself going the rounds of that garden with a waterin'-pot and a pair of shears."
"I thought ye was a bricklayer, or is it a billiard-marker?" asked Mart, with quizzical look.
"I can turn me hand to anny honest work," he replied, with dignity. "And can ye say as much?"
"I cannot," confessed Mart. "Had ye put a club to me back and forced me to a trade, sure I'd be layin' brick in Troy this day."
This retort fairly blinded the sturdy little father. The charge was false, and yet here sat Mart—a gentleman. While still he puzzled over the dangerous acknowledgment involved in his son's accusation, Mart turned to Bertha. " Do ye mind the old man's spendin' the rest of his days with us, darlin' ?"
"You're the doctor, Mart. It's your house, not mine."
He felt the change in her. "Oh no, it isn't; it's our house. I never would have had it only for you." He paused a moment. "The dad is a well-meaning old rascal, and I'll go bail he don't do mischief."
Patrick took this up. "He is so, and he means to kape to his own way of life. If I go West, me b'y, 'tis on wages as a gardener—and, bedad, I'll draw 'em reg'ler, too. I'd like well to go West ('twould rejice me to see Fan and McArdle), and I don't object to spending a year with you in Coloraydo, but don't think Patrick Haney is to be pinsioner on anny one, not even his son."
Bertha's heart vibrated in sympathy with this note of independence, and she heartily said: "I hope you will come, Mr. Haney. The Captain is alone a good deal, and you'd be a comfort to him."
"I'll consider," the old man said. "I must have time to rea-lize it," he quaintly added. " I must smoke me pipe in me own garret once more, and talk it all over with Kate and the Donahues." He refused to stay to dinner with them (which was a relief to Lucius), and went away jaunty as a bucko from County Clare.
He was no sooner gone from the room than Bertha turned to her husband, and said: "Mart, I want to talk things over with you."
Something in her voice, as well as in the words, made him turn quickly and regard her anxiously.
"What about? What is it, darlin'?"
"I have something on my mind, and I've got to spit it out before I can rest to-night. I've just about decided to leave you. I don't feel right livin' with you."
He looked at her steadily, but a gray pallor began to show on his face. He asked, quietly: "Do ye mean to gofer good?"
Her heart was beating fast, but she bravely faced him. "Yes, Mart, I don't feel right living with you, and spending your money the way I've been doing."
"Why not? It isn't mine—it's yours. Ye aim every cent ye spend."
"No, I don't!" she cried, passionately. "Now that you're getting better and Lucius has come, I'm not even a nurse."
"I'll send him away."
"No, no; he's worth more than I am."
"I'll not listen to such talk, Bertie. Ye well know you're the thing most precious to me. I can't live without ye." His voice thickened. "For God A'mighty's sake, don't say such things; they make me heart shake! Me teeth are chatterin' this minute I Ye're jokin'; say you don't mean it."
"But I do. Don't you see that I can't stay and let you do things for me like this"—she indicated their apartment—"when I do so little to earn it all? Mart, I've got to be honest about it. I can't let you spend any more money on me. Help your own people, and let me go. I do nothing to pay for what you do for me. It's better for me to go."
She could not bring herself to be as explicit as she should have been, but he was not far from understanding her real meaning, as he brokenly replied: "I've been afraid of this, my girl. I've thought of it all. The money I spend fer ye is but a small part of my debt. You say you do nothing for me. Why, darlin', every time you come into the room or smile at me you do much for me! I'm a selfish old wolf, but I'm not so bad as you think I am. If anny nice young felly comes along—a good square man—I'll get off the track; but I want you to let me stay near you as long as I live." His voice was hoarse with pleading. "Ye're all I have in the world; all I live for now is to make you happy. Don't pull away now, when me old heart has grown all round ye. I can't live and I daren't die without ye—now that's the eternal truth. Darlin', promise ye won't go—yet awhile."
Wordless, as full of pain as he, she sat silently weeping, unable to carry out her resolution—unable to express the change which had come into her life.
He went on. "I mark the difference between us. I see ye goin' up while I am goin' down. My heart is big with pride in ye. You belong with people like the Congdons and the Mosses—whilst I am only an old broken-down skate. I'm worse than you know. I went down to Sibley first with hell in me heart towards you, but that soon passed away—I loved ye as a man should love the girl he marries—and I love ye now as I love the saints. I wouldn't mar your young life fer annything in this world—'tis me wish to lave you as beautiful and fresh as I found you, and to give you all I have besides—so stay with me, if you can, till the other man comes." Here a new thought intruded-"Has he come now? Tell me if he has. Did ye find him in Chicago? Be honest, darlin'."
"No, no!" she answered. "It isn't that. It's just because—because it don't seem right."
"Then ye must stay with me," he said, "and don't worry about not doing things for me. You do things for me every minute—just by being in the world. If I can see ye or hear ye I'm satisfied. An' don't cut me off from spending money for ye, for that's half me fun. How else can I pay ye for your help to me ? I've been troubled by your face ever since we left home. You don't smile as ye used to do. Don't ye like it here ? If ye don't we'll go back. Shall we do that ?"
She, overwhelmed by his generosity, could only nod.
His face cleared. "Very well, the procession will head west whenever you say the word. I hope you don't object to the old father. If ye do—"
"Oh no; I like him."
"Then we'll take him; but, remember, I'll let no one come into our home that will trouble you. I'd as soon have a cinder in me eye as a man I don't like sitting beside me fire; and if the old man is a burden to ye, out he goes." He rose, and came painfully to where she sat, and in a voice of humble sorrow, slowly said: "I don't ask ye to love me—now—I'm not worth it; and once I thought I'd like a son to bear my name, but 'tis better not. I'll never lay that burden upon ye. All I ask is the touch of yer hand now and then, and your presence when I come to die—I'm scared to die alone. 'Twill be a dark, long journey for old Mart, and he wants your face to remember when he sets forth."