Under the tiny bed were three boxes of books, chief fruit of the savings of an inexpensive lifetime. But the books were now merely the occasional stimulus of a mind already well stored with their strength, well fortified against their weaknesses. Nowadays nearly all of Queed’s time, which he administered by an iron-clad Schedule of Hours, duly drawn up, went to the actual writing of his Magnum Opus. He had practically decided that it should be called “The Science of Sciences.” For his book was designed to cooerdinate and unify the theories of all science into the single theory which alone gave any of them a living value, namely, the progressive evolution of a higher organized society and a higher individual type. That this work would blaze a wholly new trail for a world of men, he rarely entertained a doubt. To its composition he gave fifteen actual hours a day on Post days, sixteen hours on non-Post days. Many men speak of working hours like these, or even longer ones, but investigation would generally show that all kinds of restful interludes are indiscriminately counted in. Queed’s hours, you understand, were not elapsed time—they were absolutely net. He was one of the few men in the world who literally “didn’t have time.”
He sat in Colonel Cowles’s office, scribbling rapidly, with his eye on his watch, writing one of those unanswerable articles which were so much dead space to a people’s newspaper. It was a late afternoon in early February, soon after the opening of the legislature; and he was alone in the office. A knock fell upon the door, and at his “Come,” a girl entered who looked as pretty as a dewy May morning. Queed looked up at her with no welcome in his eye, or greeting on his lip, or spring in the pregnant hinges of his knee. Yet if he had been a less self-absorbed young scientist, it must certainly have dawned on him that he had seen this lady before.
“Oh! How do you do!” said Sharlee, for it was indeed no other.
“Miss Leech tells me that Colonel Cowles has gone out. I particularly wished to see him. Perhaps you know when he will be back?”
“Perhaps in half an hour. Perhaps in an hour. I cannot say.”
She mused disappointedly. “I could hardly wait. Would you be good enough to give him a message for me?”
“Well—just tell him, please, that if he can make it convenient, we’d like the article about the reformatory to go in to-morrow, or the next day, anyway. He’ll understand perfectly; I have talked it all over with him. The only point was as to when the article would have the most effect, and we think the time has come now.”
“You would like an article written about a reformatory for to-morrow’s Post or next day’s. Very well.”
“Thank you so much for telling him. Good-afternoon.”
“You would like,” the young man repeated—“but one moment, if you please. You have omitted to inform me who you are.”