To do West justice, it was not until his words had started caroming down the eternal halls of time, that their possible implication dawned upon him. His vague idea had been merely to give a non-committal summary of the situation to ease the present moment; this to be followed, at a more suitable time, by the calm and rational explanation he had always intended. But the magical effect of his chance words, entirely unexpected by him, was quite too delightful to be wiped out. To erase that look from the tired little lady’s face by labored exposition and tedious statistic would be the height of clumsy unkindness. She had been unhappy; he had made her happy; that was all that was vital just now. At a later time, when she had stopped brooding over the thing and could see and discuss it intelligently, he would take her quietly and straighten the whole matter out for her.
For this present, there was a look in her eyes which made a trip-hammer of his heart. Never had her face—less of the mere pretty young girl’s than he had ever seen it, somewhat worn beneath its color, a little wistful under her smile—seemed to him so immeasurably sweet. In his blood Straus and the famous Verzenay plied their dizzying vocations. Suddenly he leaned forward, seeing nothing but two wonderful blue eyes, and his hand fell upon hers, with a grip which claimed her out of all the world.
“Sharlee” he said hoarsely. “Don’t you know that—”
But he was, alas, summarily checked. At just that minute, outraged partners of Miss Weyland’s espied and descended upon them with loud reproachful cries, and Charles Gardiner West’s moment of superb impetuosity had flowered in nothing.
* * * * *
At a little earlier hour on the same evening, in a dining-room a mile away, eight men met “without political significance” to elect a new set of officers for the city. A bit of red-tape legislation permitted the people to ratify the choices at a “primary,” to be held some months later; but the election came now. Unanimously, and with little or no discussion, the eight men elected one of their own number, Mr. Meachy T. Bangor by name, to the office of Mayor of the City.
One of them then referred humorously to Mr. Bangor as just the sort of progressive young reformer that suited him. Another suggested, more seriously, that they might have to allow for the genuine article some day. Plonny Neal, who sat at the head of the table, as being the wisest of them, said that the organization certainly must expect to knuckle to reform some day; perhaps in eight years, perhaps in twelve years, perhaps in sixteen.
“Got your young feller all picked out, Plonny?” queried the Mayor elect, Mr. Bangor, with a wink around the room.
Plonny denied that he had any candidate. Under pressure, however, he admitted having his eye on a certain youth, a “dark horse” who was little known at present, but who, in his humble judgment, was a coming man. Plonny said that this man was very young just now, but would be plenty old enough before they would have need of him.