The little Doctor was badly in need of a surgical operation. Somebody must perform it for him, or his whole life was a dusty waste. That he still had glimmerings, he had shown this very hour, in wanting to make a gift to his sick little fellow-lodger. His resentment over his dismissal from the Post, too, was an unexpectedly human touch in him. But in the same breath with these things the young man had showed himself at his worst: the glimmerings were so overlaid with an incredible snobbery of the mind, so encrusted with the rankest and grossest egotism, that soon they must flutter and die out, leaving him stone-blind against the sunshine and the morning. No scratch could penetrate that Achilles-armor of self-sufficiency. There must be a shock to break it apart, or a vicious stabbing to cut through it to such spark as was still alive.
Somebody must administer that shock or do that stabbing. Why not she? He would hate the sight of her forevermore, but ...
“Mr. Queed,” said Sharlee, turning toward him, “you let me see, from what you are doing this morning, that you think of Fifi as your friend. I’d like to ask if you think of me in that way, too.”
O Lord, Lord! Here was another one!
“No,” he said positively. “Think of you as I do of Fifi! No, no! No, I do not.”
“I don’t mean to ask if you think of me as you do of Fifi. Of course I am sure you don’t. I only mean—let me put it this way: Do you believe that I have your—interests at heart, and would like to do anything I could to help you?”
He thought this over warily. Doubtless doomed Smathers would have smiled to note the slowness with which his great rival’s mind threshed out such a question as this.
“If you state your proposition in that way, I reply, tentatively, yes.”
“Then can you spare me half an hour to-night after supper?”
“For what purpose?”
“For you and me,” she smiled. “I’d like you to come and see me, at my house, where we could really have a little talk. You see, I know Colonel Cowles very well indeed, and I have read the Post for oh, many, many years! In this way I know something about the kind of articles people here like to read, and about—what is needed to write such articles. I think I might make a suggestion or two that—would help. Will you come?”
After somewhat too obvious a consideration, Queed consented. Sharlee thanked him.
“I’ll put my address down on the back of that paper, shall I? And I think I’ll put my name, too, for I don’t believe you have the faintest idea what it is.”
“Oh, yes. The name is Miss Charlie Weyland. It appears that you were named after a boy?”
“Oh, it’s only a silly nickname. Here’s your little directory back. I’ll be very glad to see you—at half-past eight, shall we say? But, Mr. Queed—don’t come unless you feel sure that I really want to help. For I’m afraid I’ll have to say a good deal that will make you very mad.”