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- The Efficiency Expert - 31/31 -

"Yes," said Jimmy, "I think she was the best little girl I ever knew."

It was after nine o'clock when Jimmy, depressed and sorrowing, arrived at the Holden home. The houseman who admitted him told him that Mr. Holden had been called out, but that Miss Holden was expecting him, and he ushered Jimmy to the big living-room, and to his consternation he saw that Elizabeth Compton was there with Harriet. The latter came forward to greet him, and to his surprise the other girl followed her.

"I discovered to-day, Mr. Torrance," she said, "that I have wronged you. However unintentionally it was the fact remains that I might have done you a very great harm and injustice. I realize now how very different things might have been if I had listened to you and believed in you at first. Harriet told me that you were coming tonight and I asked to see you for just a moment to tell you this and also to ask you if you would continue with the International Machine Company.

"There is no one now whom I feel I would have so much confidence in as you. I wish you would come back and take charge for me. If you will tell me that you will consider it we will arrange the details later."

If an archangel had suddenly condescended to honor him with an invitation to assist in the management of Heaven Jimmy could not have been more surprised. He realized at what cost of pride and self-esteem the offer must have been made and acknowledgment of error. He told her that he would be very glad to assist her for the present, at least, and then she excused herself on the plea of nervous exhaustion and went to her room.

"Do you know," said Harriet, after Elizabeth had gone, "she really feels worse over her past attitude toward you than she does over Harold's death? I think she realizes now what I have told her from the first, that she never really loved him. Of course, her pride has suffered terribly, but she will get over that quickly enough.

"But do you know I have not had an opportunity before to congratulate you? I wish that I might have been there to have heard the verdict, but really you don't look half as happy as I should think you would feel."

"I am happy about that," said Jimmy, "but on top of my happiness came a sorrow. I just came from Edith's apartment. She died while I was there."

Harriet gave a little cry of shocked surprise. "Oh, Jimmy," she cried, laying her hand upon his arm. "Oh, Jimmy, I am so sorry!" It was the first time that she had ever addressed him by his given name, but there seemed nothing strange or unusual in the occurrence.

"She was such a good little girl," said Harriet.

It was strange that so many should use these same words in connection with Edith Hudson, and even this girl, so far removed from the sphere in which Little Eva had existed and who knew something of her past, could yet call her "good."

It gave Jimmy a new insight into the sweetness and charity of Harriet Holden's character. "Yes," he said, "her soul and her heart were good and pure."

"She believed so in you," said the girl. "She thought you were the best man who ever lived. She told me that you were the only really good man she bad ever known, and her confidence and belief in you were contagious. You will probably never know all that she did for you. It was really she that imbued my father and his attorney with a belief in your innocence, and it was she who influenced the Lizard to take the stand in your behalf. Yes, she was a very good friend."

"And you have been a good friend," said Jimmy. "In the face of the same circumstances that turned Miss Compton against me you believed in me. Your generosity made it possible for me to be defended by the best attorney in Chicago, but more than all that to me has been your friendship and the consciousness of your sympathy at a time when, above all things, I needed sympathy. And now, after all you have done for me I came to ask still more of you."

"What do you want?" she asked.

She was standing very close to him, looking up in his face.

"You, Harriet," he said.

She smiled tremulously. "I have been yours for a long time, Jimmy, but you didn't know it."

The Efficiency Expert - 31/31

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