“Yes, but who is he? Where does he come from? Who are his people?”
“Oh, I see. That is what you mean. Well, he comes from New York, where he led the most interesting literary sort of life, studying all the time, except when he was doing articles for the great reviews, or helping a lady up there to write a thesaurus. You see, he was fitting himself to compose a great work—”
“Who are his people?”
“Oh, that!” said Sharlee. “Well, that question is not so easy to answer as you might think. It opens up a peculiar situation: to begin with, he is a sort of an orphan, and—”
“How do you mean, a sort of an orphan?”
“You see, that is just where the peculiar part comes in. There is the heart of the whole mystery, and yet right there is the place where I must be reticent with you, mother, for though I know all about it, it was told to me confidentially—professionally, as my aunt’s agent—and therefore—”
“Do you mean that you know nothing about his people?”
“I suppose it might be stated, crudely, in that way, but—”
“And knowing nothing about who or what he was, you simply picked him up at the boarding-house, and admitted him to your friendship?”
“Picking-up is not the word that the most careful mothers employ, in reference to their daughters’ attitude toward young men. Mother, don’t you understand? I’m a democrat.”
“It is not a thing,” said Mrs. Weyland, with some asperity, “for a lady to be.”
Sharlee, fixing her hair in the back before the mirror, laughed long and merrily. “Do you dare—do you dare look your own daughter in the eye and say she is no lady?”
“Do you like this young man?” Mrs. Weyland continued.
“He interests me, heaps and heaps.”
Mrs. Weyland sighed. “I can only say,” she observed, sinking into a chair and picking up her book, “that such goings on were never heard of in my day.”
In which Professor Nicolovius drops a Letter on the Floor, and Queed conjectures that Happiness sometimes comes to Men wearing a Strange Face.
Queed sat alone in the sitting-room of the Duke of Gloucester Street house. His afternoon’s experiences had interested him largely. By subtle and occult processes which defied his analysis, what he had seen and heard had proved mysteriously disturbing—all this outpouring of irrational sentiment in which he had no share. So had his conversation with the girl disturbed him. He was in a condition of mental unrest, undefined but acute; odds and ends of curious thought kicked about within him, challenging him to follow them down to unexplored depths. But he was paying no attention to them now.
He sat in the sitting-room, wondering how Nicolovius had ever happened to think of that story about the Fenian refugee.
For Queed had been gradually driven to that unpleasant point. While living in the old man’s house, he was, despite his conscientious efforts, virtually spying upon him.