Queed, privately amused at the thought of Colonel Cowles’s revising his views on taxation, rose to go.
“By the bye,” said the Colonel, unluckily struck by a thought, “I myself wrote a preliminary article on tax reform a week or so ago, meaning to follow it up with others later on. Perhaps you had best read that before—”
“I have already read it.”
“Ah! How did it strike you?”
“You ask me that?”
“Certainly,” said Colonel Cowles, a little surprised.
“Well, since you ask me, I will say that I thought it rather amusing.”
The Colonel looked nettled. He was by nature a choleric man, but in his age he had learned the futility of disputation and affray, and nowadays kept a tight rein upon himself.
“You are frank sir—’tis a commendable quality. Doubtless your work will put my own poor efforts to the blush.”
“I shall leave you to judge of that, Colonel Cowles.”
The Colonel, abandoning his hospitable plan of inviting his new assistant to sup with him at the club, bowed with dignity, and Queed eagerly left him. Glancing at his watch in the elevator, the young man figured that the interview, including going and coming, would stand him in an hour’s time, which was ten minutes more than he had allowed for it.
Selections from Contemporary Opinions of Mr. Queed; also concerning Henry G. Surface, his Life and Deeds; of Fifi, the Landlady’s Daughter, and how she happened to look up Altruism in the Dictionary.
A month later, one icy afternoon, Charles Gardiner West ran into Colonel Cowles at the club, where the Colonel, a lone widower, repaired each day at six P.M., there to talk over the state of the Union till nine-thirty.
“Colonel,” said West, dropping into a chair, “man to man, what is your opinion of Doctor Queed’s editorials?”
“They are unanswerable,” said the Colonel, and consulted his favorite ante-prandial refreshment.
West laughed. “Yes, but from the standpoint of the general public, Constant Reader, Pro Bono Publico, and all that?”
“No subscriber will ever be angered by them.”
“Would you say that they helped the editorial page or not?”
“They lend to it an academic elegance, a scientific stateliness, a certain grand and austere majesty—”
“Colonel, I asked you for your opinion of those articles.”
“Damn it, sir,” roared the Colonel, “I’ve never read one.”
Later West repeated the gist of this conversation to Miss Weyland, who ornamented with him a tiny dinner given that evening at the home of their very good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Byrd.