When Jimmy arrived at the Compton home he was ushered into the library where Mr. Compton was sitting. In a corner of the room, with her back toward the door, Elizabeth Compton sat reading. She did not lay aside her book or look in his direction as Jimmy entered, for the man was in no sense a guest in the light of her understanding of the term. He was merely one of her father’s employees here on business to see him, doubtless a very ordinary sort of person whom she would, of course, have to meet when dinner was announced, but not one for whom it was necessary to put oneself out in any way.
Mr. Compton rose and greeted Jimmy cordially and then turned toward his daughter.
“Elizabeth,” he said, “this is Mr. Torrance, the efficiency expert at the plant.”
Leisurely Miss Compton laid aside her book. Rising, she faced the newcomer, and as their eyes met, Jimmy barely stifled a gasp of astonishment and dismay. Elizabeth Compton’s arched brows raised slightly and involuntarily she breathed a low ejaculation, “Efficiency expert!”
Simultaneously there flashed through the minds of both in rapid succession a series of recollections of their previous meetings. The girl saw the clerk at the stocking-counter, the waiter at Feinheimer’s, the prize-fighter at the training quarters and the milk-wagon driver. All these things passed through her mind in the brief instant of the introduction and her acknowledgment of it. She was too well-bred to permit any outward indication of her recognition of the man other than the first almost inaudible ejaculation that had been surprised from her.
The indifference she had felt prior to meeting the efficiency expert was altered now to a feeling of keen interest as she realized that she held the power to relieve Bince of the further embarrassment of the man’s activities in the plant, and also to save her father from the annoyance and losses that Bince had assured her would result from Torrance’s methods. And so she greeted Jimmy Torrance pleasantly, almost cordially.
“I am delighted,” she said, “but I am afraid that I am a little awed, too, as I was just saying to father before you came that I felt an efficiency expert must be a very superior sort of person.”
If she placed special emphasis on the word “superior” it was so cleverly done that it escaped the notice of her father.
“Oh, not at all,” replied Jimmy. “We efficiency experts are really quite ordinary people. One is apt to meet us in any place that nice people are supposed to go.”
Elizabeth felt the color rising slowly to her cheek. She realized then that if she had thrown down the gage of battle the young man had lost no time in taking it up.
“I am afraid,” she said, “that I do not understand very much about the nature or the purpose of your work, but I presume the idea is to make the concern with which you are connected more prosperous—more successful?”