First Meeting between a citizen in Spectacles and the Great Pleasure-Dog Behemoth; also of Charles Gardiner West, a Personage at Thirty.
It was five of a November afternoon, crisp and sharp, and already running into dusk. Down the street came a girl and a dog, rather a small girl and quite a behemothian dog. If she had been a shade smaller, or he a shade more behemothian, the thing would have approached a parody on one’s settled idea of a girl and a dog. She had enough height to save that, but it was the narrowest sort of squeak.
The dog was of the breed which are said to come trotting into Alpine monasteries of a winter’s night with fat American travelers in their mouths, frozen stiff. He was extremely large for his age, whatever that was. On the other hand, the girl was small for her age, which was twenty-four next month; not so much short, you understand, for she was of a reasonable height, as of a dainty slimness, a certain exquisite reticence of the flesh. She had cares and duties and even sober-sided responsibilities in this world, beyond the usual run of girls. Yet her hat was decidedly of the mode that year; her suit was smartly and engagingly cut; her furs were glossy and black and big. Her face, it may be said here as well as later, had in its time given pleasure to the male sex, and some food for critical conversation to the female. A good many of the young men whom she met along the way this afternoon appeared distinctly pleased to speak to her.
The girl was Sharlee Weyland, and Sharlee was the short for Charlotte Lee, as invented by herself some score of years before. One baby-name in a hundred sticks through a lifetime, and hers was the one in that particular hundred. Of the young men along the way, one was so lucky as to catch her eye through a large plate-glass window. It was Semple and West’s window, the ground-floor one in the great new Commonwealth Building, of which the town is rightly so proud, and the young man was no other than West, Charles Gardiner himself. A smile warmed his good-looking face when he met the eye of the girl and the dog; he waved a hand at them. That done, he immediately vanished from the window and reached for his hat and coat; gave hurried directions to a clerk and a stenographer; and sallying forth, overtook the pair before they had reached the next corner.
“Everything’s topsy-turvy,” said he, coming alongside. “Here you are frivolously walking downtown with a dog. Usually at this time you are most earnestly walking uptown, and not a sign of a dog as far as the eye can see. What on earth’s happened?”
“Oh, how do you do?” said she, apparently not displeased to find herself thus surprised from the rear. “I too have a mad kind of feeling, as though the world had gone upside down. Don’t be amazed if I suddenly clutch out at you to keep from falling. But the name of it—of this feeling—is having a holiday. Mr. Dayne went to New York at 12.20.”