There came an interruption. One night when Deborah was out and Roger sat in his study alone, the maid came in highly flustered and said,
"Mr. Gale! It's Miss Laura to see you!"
He turned with a startled jerk of his head and his face slowly reddened. But when he saw the maid's eager expression and saw that she was expecting a scene, with a frown of displeasure he rose from his chair.
"Very well," he said, and he went to his daughter. He found her in the living room. No repentant Magdalene, but quite unabashed and at her ease, she came to her father quickly.
"Oh, dad, I'm so glad to see you, dear!" And she gave him a swift impetuous kiss, her rich lips for an instant pressing warmly to his cheek.
"Laura!" he said thickly. "Come into my study, will you? I'm alone this evening."
"I'm so glad you are!" she replied. She followed him in and he closed the door. He glanced at her confusedly. In her warmth, her elegance, an indefinable change in the tone and accent of her high magnetic voice, and in her ardent smiling eyes, she seemed to him more the foreigner now. And Roger's thoughts were in a whirl. What had happened? Had she married again?
"Is Edith here still?" she was asking.
"No, she's up in the mountains. She's living there," he answered.
"And Deborah married—married at last! How has it worked? Is she happy, dad?"
"Very," he said.
"And is she still keeping up her schools?"
"Yes, for the present. She'll have to stop soon." Laura leaned forward, curious:
"Tell me, dad—a baby?"
"Yes." She stared a moment.
"Deborah!" she softly exclaimed; and in a moment, "I wonder."
"What do you mean?" her father asked, but Laura evaded his question. She plied him with her inquiries for a few minutes longer, then turned to him with a challenging smile:
"Well, father, don't you think you had better ask me now about myself?" He looked away a moment, but turned resolutely back:
"I suppose so. When did you land?"
"This morning, dear, from Italy—with my husband," she replied. And Roger started slightly. "I want you to meet him soon," she said.
"Very well," he answered. At his disturbed, almost guilty expression Laura laughed a little and rose and came over and hugged him tight.
"Oh, but, father dearest—it's working out so splendidly! I want you to know him and see for yourself! We've come to live in New York for a while—he has more to do here about war supplies."
"More shrapnel, eh, machine guns. More wholesale death," her father growled. But Laura smiled good-naturedly.
"Yes, love, from America. Aren't you all ashamed of yourselves—scrambling so, to get rich quick—out of this war you disapprove of."
"Rather—for the moment," was her cheerful answer.
"And you still like living in Italy?"
"Tremendously! Rome is wonderful now!"
"Reborn, eh. Wings of the Eagles."
"Yes, and we're doing rather well."
"I haven't noticed it," Roger said. "Why don't you send a few of your troops to help those plucky Frenchmen?"
"Because," she replied, "we have a feeling that this is a war where we had much better help ourselves."
"High ideals," he snorted.
"Rome reborn," she remarked, unabashed. And her father scowled at her whimsically.
"You're a heathen. I give you up," he declared. Laura had risen, smiling.
"Oh, no, don't give me up," she said. "For you see," she added softly, "I'm a heathen with a great deal of love in her heart for thee, my dearest dad. May I bring him down, my husband?"
"I'll telephone to Deborah to-morrow and arrange it."
When she had gone he returned to his chair and sat for a long time in a daze. He was still disturbed and bewildered. What a daughter of his! And what did it mean? Could she really go on being happy like this? Sinning? Yes, she was sinning! Laura had broken her marriage vows, she had "run off with another fellah." Those were the plain ugly facts. And now, divorced and re-married, she was careering gayly on! And her views of the war were plain heathenish! And yet there was something about her—yes, he thought, he loved her still! What for? For being so happy! And yet she was wrong to be happy, all wrong! His thoughts went 'round in circles.
And his confusion and dismay grew even deeper the next night when Laura brought her new husband to dine. For in place of the dark polished scoundrel whom Roger had expected, here was a spruce and affable youth with thick light hair and ruddy cheeks, a brisk pleasant manner of talking and a decidedly forcible way of putting the case of his country at war. They kept the conversation to that. For despite Deborah's friendly air, she showed plainly that she wanted to keep the talk impersonal. And Laura, rather amused at this, replied by treating Deborah and Allan and her father, too, with a bantering forbearance for their old-fashioned, narrow views and Deborah's religion of brotherhood, democracy. All that to Laura was passé.
From time to time Roger glanced at her face, into her clear and luminous eyes so warm with the joy of living with this new man, her second. How his family had split apart. He wrote Edith the news of her sister, and he received but a brief reply. Nor did Deborah speak of it often. She seemed to want to forget Laura's life as the crisis in her own drew near.