“And Mr. Queed?” said Sharlee. “Was he much disappointed?”
West was a little surprised at the question, but he gathered from her tone that she thought Mr. Queed had some right to be.
“Why, I think not,” he answered, decisively. “Why in the world should he be? Of course it means only a delay of a year or two for him, at the most. I betray no confidence when I tell you that I do not expect to remain editor of the Post forever.”
Sharlee appeared struck by this summary of the situation, which, to tell the truth, had never occurred to her. Therefore, West went on to sketch it more in detail to her.
“The last thing in the world that I would do,” said he, “is to stand in that boy’s light. My one wish is to push him to the front just as fast as he can stride. Why, I discovered Queed—you and I did, that is—and I think I may claim to have done something toward training him. To speak quite frankly, the situation was this: In spite of his great abilities, he is still very young and inexperienced. Give him a couple of years in which to grow and broaden and get his bearings more fully, and he will be the very best man in sight for the place. On the other hand, if he were thrust prematurely into great responsibility, he would be almost certain to make some serious error, some fatal break, which would impair his usefulness, and perhaps ruin it forever. Do you see my point? As his sponsor on the Post, it seemed to me unwise and unfair to expose him to the risks of forcing his pace. That’s the whole story. I’m not the king at all. I’m only the regent during the king’s minority.”
Sharlee now saw how unjust she had been, to listen to the small whisper of doubt of West’s entire magnanimity.
“You are much wiser and farther-sighted than I.”
“Perish the thought!”
“I’m glad my little Doctor—only he isn’t either little or very much of a doctor any more—has such a good friend at court.”
“Nonsense. It was only what anybody who stopped to think a moment would have done.”
“Not everybody who stops to think is so generous....”
This thought, too, Mr. West abolished by a word.
“But you will like the work, won’t you!” continued Sharlee, still self-reproachful. “I do hope you will.”
“I shall like it immensely,” said West, above pretending, as some regents would have done, that he was martyring himself for his friend, the king. “Where can you find any bigger or nobler work? At Blames College of blessed memory, the best I could hope for was to reach and influence a handful of lumpish boys. How tremendously broader is the opportunity on the Post! Think of having a following of a hundred thousand readers a day! (You allow three or four readers to a copy, you know.) Think of talking every morning to such an audience as that, preaching progress and high ideals, courage and honesty and kindness and faith—moulding their opinions and beliefs, their ambitions, their very habits of thought, as I think they ought to be moulded ...”