Owen had never quite understood what it was that these young men did want, and now his detached mind refused even more emphatically to grapple with the problem.
At the end of the second week the overwrought head appealed passionately for relief, and Owen was removed to the Postage Department, where, when he had leisure from answering Audrey's telephone calls, he entered the addresses of letters in a large book and took them to the post.
'Is that you, Owen? Owen, I went to White Roses last night.
Owen never enjoyed these little chats with Authority.
His resemblance to a stuffed trout, always striking, was subtly accentuated, and Owen, an expert in these matters, felt that his fears had been well founded--there was trouble in the air.
A large man, seated with his back to the door, turned as he entered, and Owen recognized the well-remembered features of Mr Prosser, the literary loaf-slinger.
"Well, but, Owen, what are you about?" asked his old school-fellow, still in such a hearty volume of tone that it made the artist shrink, especially as the question related to a subject so sacred as the absorbing dream of his imagination.
Nonsense!" replied Owen Warland, with a movement of disgust; for he was full of little petulances.
"That would be droll enough!" cried the blacksmith, breaking out into such an uproar of laughter that Owen himself and the bell glasses on his work-board quivered in unison.
"How strange it is," whispered Owen Warland to himself, leaning his head upon his hand, "that all my musings, my purposes, my passion for the beautiful, my consciousness of power to create it,--a finer, more ethereal power, of which this earthly giant can have no conception,--all, all, look so vain and idle whenever my path is crossed by Robert Danforth!
For a time Owen Warland succumbed to this severe but inevitable test.
"Well, Owen," said he, "I am glad to hear such good accounts of you from all quarters, and especially from the town clock yonder, which speaks in your commendation every hour of the twenty-four.