It had occurred to her, in fact, that Mr. West was tired; and this was the solemn truth. He was a man of large responsibilities, with a day’s work behind him and a night’s work ahead of him. His personal conception of the way to occupy the precious interval did not include the conscientious talking of shop. Jaded and brain-fagged, what he desired was to be amused, beguiled, soothed, fascinated, even flattered a bit, mayhap. Sharlee’s theory of hospitality was that a guest was entitled to any type of conversation he had a mind to. Having dismissed her own troubles, she now proceeded to make herself as agreeable as she knew how; and he has read these pages to little purpose who does not know that that was very agreeable indeed.
West, at least, appeared to think so. He lingered, charmed, until quarter past eleven o’clock, at which hour Mrs. Weyland, in the room above, began to let the tongs and poker fall about with unmistakable significance; and went out into the starlit night radiant with the certainty that his heart, after long wandering, had found its true mate at last.
Sharlee’s Parlor on Another Evening; how One Caller outsat Two, and why; also, how Sharlee looked in her Mirror for a Long Time, and why.
On the very night after West made his happy discovery, namely on the evening of February 24, at about twenty minutes of nine, Sharlee Weyland’s door-bell rang, and Mr. Queed was shown into her parlor.
His advent was a complete surprise to Sharlee. For these nine months, her suggestion that he should call upon her had lain utterly neglected. Since the Reunion she had seen him but four times, twice on the street, and once at each of their offices, when the business of the reformatory had happened to draw them together. The last of these meetings, which had been the briefest, was already six weeks old. In all of her acquaintance with him, extending now over two years and a half, this was the first time that he had ever sought her out with intentions that were, presumably, deliberately social.
The event, Sharlee felt in greeting him, could not have happened, more unfortunately. Queed found the parlor occupied, and the lady’s attention engaged, by two young men before him. One of them was Beverley Byrd, who saluted him somewhat moodily. The other was a Mr. Miller—no relation to Miss Miller of Mrs. Paynter’s, though a faint something in his ensemble lent plausibility to that conjecture—a newcomer to the city who, having been introduced to Miss Weyland somewhere, had taken the liberty of calling without invitation or permission. It was impossible for Sharlee to be rude to anybody under her own roof, but it is equally impossible to describe her manner to Mr. Miller as exactly cordial. He himself was a cordial man, mustached and anecdotal, who assumed rather more confidence than he actually felt. Beverley Byrd, who did not always hunt in pairs, had taken an unwonted dislike to him at sight. He did not consider him a suitable person to be calling on Sharlee, and he had been doing his best, with considerable deftness and success, to deter him from feeling too much at home.