“Enough for a whole platform of doctors,” said Sharlee, critically reviewing the spread. “Thank you, Emma.”
She took the tray in both hands and pushed open the swing-doors with her side, thus making her ingress to the dining-room in a sort of crab-fashion. Mrs. Paynter was gone. Mr. Queed sat alone in the dining-room. His book lay open on the table and he was humped over it, hand in his hair.
Having set her tray on the side-table, Sharlee came to his side with the plate of steak and potatoes. He did not stir, and presently she murmured, “I beg your pardon.”
He looked up half-startled, not seeming to take in for the first second who or what she was.
“Oh ... yes.”
He moved his book, keeping his finger in the place, and she set down the plate. Next she brought the appurtenances one by one, the butter, coffee, and so on. The old mahogany sideboard yielded knife, fork, and spoon; salt and pepper; from the right-hand drawer, a fresh napkin. These placed, she studied them, racked her brains a moment and, from across the table—
“Is there anything else?”
Mr. Queed’s eye swept over his equipment with intelligent quickness. “A glass of water, please.”
Sharlee poured a glass from the battered silver pitcher on the side-table—the one that the Yankees threw out of the window in May, 1862—and duly placed it. Mr. Queed was oblivious to the little courtesy. By this time he had propped his book open against the plate of rolls and was reading it between cuts on the steak. Beside the plate he had laid his watch, an open-faced nickel one about the size of a desk-clock.
“Do you think that is everything?”
“I believe that is all.”
“Do you remember me?” then asked Sharlee.
He glanced at her briefly through his spectacles, his eyes soon returning to his supper.
“I think not.”
The girl smiled suddenly, all by herself. “It was my dog that—upset you on Main Street this afternoon. You may remember ...? I thought you seemed to—to limp a little when you came in just now. I’m awfully sorry for the—mishap—”
“It is of no consequence,” he said, with some signs of unrest. “I walk seldom. Your—pleasure-dog was uninjured, I trust?”
“Thank you. He was never better.”
That the appearance of the pleasure-dog’s owner as a familiar of his boarding-house piqued his curiosity not the slightest was only too evident. He bowed, his eyes returning from steak to book.
“I am obliged to you for getting my supper.”