“What’s the horrid alternative?”
“I’m going to fire him!”
West laughed merrily. His face always looked most charming when he smiled. “Upon my word I believe you can do it.”
“I have done it, lots of times.”
“Ah! And is the ceremony ever attended by scenes of storm and violence?”
“Never. They march like little lambs when
I say the word.
“But then your aunt loses their arrears of board, I suppose.”
“Yes, and for that reason I never fire except as a last desperate resort. Signs of penitence, earnest resolves to lead a better life, are always noted and carefully considered.”
“If you should need help with this customer to-night—not that I think you will, oh no!—telephone me. I’m amazingly good at handling bright young men. This is your aunt’s, isn’t it?”
“No, no—next to the corner over there. O heavens! Look—look!”
West looked. Up the front steps of Miss Weyland’s Aunt Jennie’s a man was going, a smallish man in a suit of dusty clothes, who limped as he walked. The electric light at the corner illumined him perfectly—glinted upon the spectacles, touched up the stout volume in the coat-pocket, beat full upon the swaybacked derby, whereon its owner had sat what time Charlotte Lee Weyland apologized for the gaucherie of Behemoth. And as they watched, this man pushed open Aunt Jennie’s front door, with never so much as a glance at the door-bell, and stepped as of right inside.
Involuntarily West and Miss Weyland had halted; and now they stared at each other with a kind of wild surmise which rapidly yielded to ludicrous certainty. West broke into a laugh.
“Well, do you think you’ll have the nerve to fire him?”
Mrs. Paynter’s Boarding-House: which was not founded as an Eleemosynary Institution.
There was something of a flutter among the gathered boarders when Miss Weyland was seen to be entering the house, and William Klinker, who announced the fact from his place by the window, added that that had ought to help some with the supper. He reminded the parlor that there had been Porterhouse the last time. Miss Miller, from the sofa, told Mr. Klinker archly that he was so material. She had only the other day mastered the word, but even that is more than could be said for Mr. Klinker. Major Brooke stood by the Latrobe heater, reading the evening paper under a flaring gas-light. He habitually came down early to get it before anybody else had a chance. By Miss Miller on the sofa sat Mr. Bylash, stroking the glossy moustache which other ladies before her time had admired intensely. Despite her archness Miss Miller had heard with a pang that Miss Weyland was coming to supper, and her reason was not unconnected with this same Mr. Bylash. In earlier meetings she had vaguely noted differences between Mrs. Paynter’s pretty niece and herself. True, she considered these differences all in her own favor, as, for example, her far larger back pompadour, with the puffs, but you never could tell about gentlemen.