Second Meeting between a Citizen and the Great Pleasure-Dog Behemoth, involving Plans for Two New Homes.
And this time they did not have to go into the hall to talk.
No sooner had the opening door revealed the face of young Mr. Surface than Mr. Dayne, the kind-faced Secretary, reached hastily for his hat. In the same breath with his “Come in” and “Good-morning,” he was heard to mention to the Assistant Secretary something about a little urgent business downtown.
Mr. Dayne acted so promptly that he met the visitor on the very threshold of the office. The clergyman held out his hand with a light in his manly gray eye.
“I’m sincerely glad to see you, Mr. Queed, to have the chance—”
Mr. Dayne gave his hand an extra wring. “Mr. Surface, you did a splendid thing. I’m glad of this chance to tell you so, and to beg your forgiveness for having done you a grave injustice in my thoughts.”
The young man stared at him. “I have nothing to forgive you for, Mr. Dayne. In fact, I have no idea what you are talking about.”
But Mr. Dayne did not enlighten him; in fact he was already walking briskly down the hall. Clearly the man had business that would not brook an instant’s delay.
Hat in hand, the young man turned, plainly puzzled, and found himself looking at a white-faced little girl who gave back his look with brave steadiness.
“Do you think you can forgive me, too?” she asked in a very small voice.
He came three steps forward, into the middle of the room, and there halted dead, staring at her with a look of searching inquiry.
“I don’t understand this,” he said, in his controlled voice.
“What are you talking about?”
“Mr. West,” said Sharlee, “has told me all about it. About the reformatory. And I’m sorry.”
There she stuck. Of all the speeches of prostrate yet somehow noble self-flagellation which in the night seasons she had so beautifully polished, not one single word could she now recall. Yet she continued to meet his gaze, for so should apologies be given though the skies fall; and she watched as one fascinated the blood slowly ebb from his close-set face.
“Under the circumstances,” he said abruptly, “it was hardly a—a judicious thing to do. However, let us say no more about it.”
He turned away from her, obviously unsteadied for all his even voice. And as he turned, his gaze, which had shifted only to get away from hers, was suddenly arrested and became fixed.
In the corner of the room, beside the bookcase holding the works of Conant, Willoughby, and Smathers, lay the great pleasure-dog Behemoth, leonine head sunk upon two massive outstretched paws. But Behemoth was not asleep; on the contrary he was overlooking the proceedings in the office with an air of intelligent and paternal interest.