He swayed slightly where he stood, and Queed’s tenseness suddenly relaxed. Pity rose in his heart above furious resentment; he put out his hand and touched the old man’s arm.
“Control yourself,” he said in an iron voice. “Come—I will help you to bed before I go.”
Surface shook himself free, and laughed unpleasantly. “Go! Didn’t you hear me tell you that you were not going? Who do you think I am that you can flout and browbeat and threaten—”
“Come! Let us go up to bed—”
“Who do you think I am!” repeated Surface, bringing his twitching face nearer, his voice breaking to sudden shrillness. “Who do you think I am, I say?”
Queed thought the old man had gone off his head, and indeed he looked it. He began soothingly: “You are—”
“I’m your father! Your father, do you hear!” cried Surface. “You’re my son—Henry G. Surface, Jr.!”
This time, Queed, looking with a wild sudden terror into the flaming eyes, knew that he heard the truth from Surface at last. The revelation broke upon him in a stunning flash. He sprang away from the old man with a movement of loathing unspeakable.
“Father!” he said, in a dull curious whisper. “O God! Father!”
Surface gazed at him, his upper lip drawn up into his old purring sneer.
“So that is how you feel about it, my son?” he inquired suavely, and suddenly crumpled down upon the floor.
* * * * *
The young man shook him by the shoulder, but he did not stir. Henderson came running at the sound of the fall, and together they bore the old man, breathing, but inert as the dead, to his room. In an hour, the doctor had come and gone. In two hours, a trained nurse was sitting by the bed as though she had been there always. The doctor called it a “stroke,” superinduced by a “shock.” He said that Professor Nicolovius might live for a week, or a year, but was hardly likely to speak again on this side the dark river that runs round the world.
Sharlee Weyland reads the Morning Post; of Rev. Mr. Dayne’s Fight at Ephesus and the Telephone Message that never came; of the Editor’s Comment upon the Assistant Editor’s Resignation, which perhaps lacked Clarity; and of how Eight Men elect a Mayor.
Next morning, in the first moment she had, Sharlee Weyland read the Post’s editorial on the reformatory. And as she read she felt as though the skies had fallen, and the friendly earth suddenly risen up and smitten her.
It was a rainy morning, the steady downpour of the night before turned into a fine drizzle; and Sharlee, who nearly always walked, took the car downtown. She was late this morning; there had been but flying minutes she could give to breakfast; not a second to give to anything else; and therefore she took the Post with her to read on the ride to “the” office. And, seating herself, she turned immediately to the editorial page, in which the State Department of Charities felt an especial interest this morning.