Banneker had resigned.
Looking out of the front window, into the decorum of Grove Street, Mrs. Brashear could hardly credit the testimony of her glorified eyes. Could the occupant of the taxi indeed be Mr. Banneker whom, a few months before and most sorrowfully, she had sacrificed to the stern respectability of the house? And was it possible, as the very elegant trunk inscribed “E.B.—New York City” indicated, that he was coming back as a lodger? For the first time in her long and correct professional career, the landlady felt an unqualified bitterness in the fact that all her rooms were occupied.
The occupant of the taxi jumped out and ran lightly up the steps.
“How d’you do, Mrs. Brashear. Am I still excommunicated?”
“Oh, Mr. Banneker! I’m so glad to see you. If I could tell you how often I’ve blamed myself—”
“Let’s forget all that. The point is I’ve come back.”
“Oh, dear! I do hate not to take you in. But there isn’t a spot.”
“Who’s got my old room?”
“Hainer? Let’s turn him out.”
“I would in a minute,” declared the ungrateful landlady to whom Mr. Hainer had always been a model lodger. “But the law—”
“Oh, I’ll fix Hainer if you’ll fix the room.”
“How?” asked the bewildered Mrs. Brashear.
“The room? Just as it used to be. Bed, table, couple of chairs, bookshelf.”
“But Mr. Hainer’s things?”
“Store ’em. It’ll be for only a month.”
Leaving his trunk, Banneker sallied forth in smiling confidence to accost and transfer the unsuspecting occupant of his room. To achieve this, it was necessary only to convince the object of the scheme that the incredible offer was made in good faith; an apartment in the “swell” Regalton, luxuriously furnished, service and breakfast included, rent free for a whole month. A fairy-tale for the prosaic Hainer to be gloated over for the rest of his life! Very quietly, for this was part of the bargain, the middle-aged accountant moved to his new glories and Banneker took his old quarters. It was all accomplished that evening. The refurnishing was finished on the following day.
“But what are you doing it for, if I may be so bold, Mr. Banneker?” asked the landlady.
“Peace, quiet, and work,” he answered gayly. “Just to be where nobody can find me, while I do a job.”
Here, as in the old, jobless days, Banneker settled down to concentrated and happy toil. Always a creature of Spartan self-discipline in the matter of work, he took on, in this quiet and remote environment, new energies. Miss Westlake, recipient of the output as it came from the hard-driven pen, was secretly disquieted. Could any human being maintain such a pace without collapse? Day after day, the devotee of the third-floor-front rose at seven, breakfasted