“Couldn’t he come to see me? I am enormously busy.”
“So is he. I doubt if you could expect him to—”
“H’m. Very well. I am obliged to you for your suggestion. Of course I shall take no step in the matter until I hear from you.”
“Good-evening,” said the agent, icily.
He bowed slightly in answer to the salute, uttering no further word; for him the interview ended right there, cleanly and satisfactorily. From the door the girl glanced back. Mr. Queed had drawn his heavy book before him, pencil in hand, and was once more engrossed in the study and annotation of “Man’s Duty to His Neighbors.”
In the hail Sharlee met Fifi, who was tipping toward the dining-room to discover, by the frank method of ear and keyhole, how the grim and resolute collector was faring.
“You’re still alive, Sharlee! Any luck?”
“The finest in the world, darling! Twenty dollars in the hand and a remunerative job for him in the bush.”
Fifi did a few steps of a minuet. “Hooray!” said she in her weak little voice.
Sharlee put her arms around the child’s neck and said in her ear: “Fifi, be very gentle with that young man. He’s the most pitiful little creature I ever saw.”
“Why,” said Fifi, “I don’t think he feels that way at all—”
“Don’t you see that’s just what makes him so infinitely pathetic? He’s the saddest little man in the world, and it has never dawned on him.”
It was not till some hours later, when she was making ready for bed in her own room, that it occurred to Sharlee that there was something odd in this advice to her little cousin. For she had started out with the intention to tell Mr. Queed that he must be very gentle with Fifi.
Relating how Two Stars in their Courses fought for Mr. Queed; and how he accepted Remunerative Employment under Colonel Cowles, the Military Political Economist.
The stars in their courses fought for Mr. Queed in those days. Somebody had to fight for him, it seemed, since he was so little equipped to fight for himself, and the stars kindly undertook the assignment. Not merely had he attracted the militant services of the bright little celestial body whose earthly agent was Miss Charlotte Lee Weyland; but this little body chanced to be one of a system or galaxy, associated with and exercising a certain power, akin to gravitation, over that strong and steady planet known among men as Charles Gardiner West. And the very next day, the back of the morning’s mail being broken, the little star used some of its power to draw the great planet to the telephone, while feeling, in a most unstellar way, that it was a decidedly cheeky thing to do. However, nothing could have exceeded the charming radiance of Planet West, and it was he himself who introduced the topic of Mr. Queed, by inquiring, in mundane language, whether or not he had been fired.