West went to a filing cabinet in the corner of the room, pulled out a large folder marked, Reformatory, and, returning to his seat, ran hurriedly through the Post’s editorials on this subject during the past twelvemonth. Over some of the phrases he ground his teeth. They floated irritatingly in his head as he once more leaned back in his chair and frowned at the opposite wall.
Gradually there took form in his mind a line of reasoning which would appear to grow with some degree of naturalness out of what had gone before, harmonizing the basic continuity of the Post’s attitude, and minimizing the change in present angle or point of view. His fertile mind played about it, strengthening it, building it up, polishing and perfecting; and in time he began to write, at first slowly, but soon with fluent ease.
In which Queed forces the Old Professor’s Hand, and the Old Professor takes to his Bed.
Raincoat buttoned to his throat, Queed set his face against the steady downpour. It was a mild, windless night near the end of February, foreshadowing the early spring already nearly due. He had no umbrella, or wish for one: the cool rain in his face was a refreshment and a vivifier.
So the worst had come to the worst, and he had been living for nearly a year on Sharlee Weyland’s money, stolen from her by her father’s false friend. Wormwood and gall were the fruits that altruism had borne him. Two casual questions had brought out the shameful truth, and these questions could have been asked as easily a year ago as now.
Bitterly did the young man reproach himself now, for his criminal carelessness in regard to the sources of Surface’s luxurious income. For the better part of a year he had known the old man for an ex-convict whose embezzlings had run high into six figures. Yet he had gone on fatuously swallowing the story that the money of which the old rogue was so free represented nothing but the savings of a thrifty schoolteacher. A dozen things came back to him now to give the lie to that tale. He thought of the costly books that Surface was constantly buying; the expensive repairs he had made in his rented house; the wine that stood on the dinner-table every night; the casual statement from the old man that he meant to retire from the school at the end of the present session. Was there ever a teacher who could live like this after a dozen years’ roving work? And the probability was that Surface had never worked at all until, returning to his own city, he had needed a position as a cover and a blind.
Mathematical computations danced through the young man’s brain. He figured that their present scale of living must run anywhere from $3500 to $5000 a year. Surface’s income from the school was known to be $900 a year. His income from his lodger was $390 a year. This difference between, say $4000 and $1290, was $2710 a year, or 4 per cent on some $70,000. And this tidy sum was being filched from the purse of Charlotte Lee Weyland, who worked for her living at an honorarium of $75 a month.