“I think I’ve cleared up everything before I leave,” Wayne said, trying to be conscientious in return for their kindness, “except one thing. I’ve never corrected the proof of my report on the Southerland coal property.”
For a second there was something strange in the air. The partners exchanged the merest flicker of a look, which Wayne, as far as he thought of it at all, supposed to be a recognition on their part of his carefulness in thinking of such a detail.
“You need not give that another thought,” said Benson. “We are not thinking of publishing that report at present. And when we do, I have your manuscript. I’ll go over the proof myself.”
Relieved to be spared another task, Wayne shook hands with his employers and withdrew. Outside he met David.
“Say,” said David, “I am sorry you’re leaving us; but, gee!” he added, his face twisting with joy, “ain’t the firm glad to have you go!”
It had long been Wayne’s habit to pay strict attention to the impressions of David.
“Why do you think they are glad?” he asked.
“Oh, they’re glad all right,” said David. “I heard the old man say yesterday, ‘And by next Saturday he will be at sea.’ It was as if he was going to get a Christmas present.” And David went on about other business.
Once put on the right track, it was not difficult to get the idea. He went to the firm’s printer, but found they had had no orders for printing his report. The next morning, instead of spending his time with his own last arrangements, he began hunting up other printing offices, and finally found what he was looking for. His report was already in print, with one paragraph left out—that one which related to the shortage of cars. His name was signed to it, with a little preamble by the firm, urging the investment on the favorable notice of their customers, and spoke in high terms of the accuracy of his estimates.
To say that Pete did not once contemplate continuing his arrangements as if nothing had happened would not be true. All he had to do was to go. The thing was dishonest, clearly enough, but it was not his action. His original report would always be proof of his own integrity, and on his return he could sever his connection with the firm on some other pretext. On the other hand, to break his connection with Honaton & Benson, to force the suppression of the report unless given in full, to give up his trip, to confess that immediate marriage was impossible, that he himself was out of a job, that the whole basis of his good fortune was a fraud that he had been too stupid to discover—all this seemed to him more than man could be asked to do.
But that was what he decided must be done. From the printer’s he telephoned to the Farrons, but found that Miss Severance was out. He knew she must have already started for their appointment in the City Hall Park. He had made up his mind, and yet when he saw her, so confident of the next step, waiting for him, he very nearly yielded to a sudden temptation to make her his wife, to be sure of that, whatever else might have to be altered.