West had had everything in the beginning except money; and he had the faculty of making all of that he wanted. Queed—she found that name still clinging to him in her thoughts—had had nothing in the beginning except his fearless honesty. In everything else that a man should he, he had seemed to her painfully destitute. But because through everything he had held unflinchingly to his honesty, he had been steadily climbing the heights. He had passed West long ago, because their faces were set in opposite directions. West had had the finest distinctions of honor carefully instilled into him from his birth. Queed had deduced his, raw, from his own unswerving honesty. And the first acid test of a real situation showed that West’s honor was only burnished and decorated dross, while Queed’s, which he had made himself, was as fine gold. In that test, all superficial trappings were burned and shriveled away; men were made to show their men’s colors; and the “queer little man with the queer little name” had instantly cast off his resplendent superior because contact with his superior’s dishonesty was degrading to him. Yet in the same breath, he had allowed his former chief to foist off that dishonesty upon his own clean shoulders, and borne the detestable burden without demand for sympathy or claim for gratitude. And this was the measure of how, as Queed had climbed by his honesty, his whole nature had been strengthened and refined. For if he had begun as the most unconscious and merciless of egoists, who could sacrifice little Fifi to his comfort without a tremor, he had ended with the supreme act of purest altruism: the voluntary sacrifice of himself to save a man whom in his heart he must despise.
But was that the supreme altruism? What had it cost him, after all, but her friendship? Perhaps he did not regard that as so heavy a price to pay.
Sharlee turned her face to the wall. In the darkness, she felt the color rising at her throat and sweeping softly but resistlessly upward. And she found herself feverishly clinging to all that her little Doctor had said, and looked, in all their meetings which, remembered now, gave her the right to think that their parting had been hard for him, too.