Nils stood at the window overlooking the front yard, which afforded him a long view of Mount Curve.
He watched a convertible approach the house from blocks away, spotting it just as soon as the car began its ascent of the ridge.
This would be Johnny Holiday, he said to himself, the first and only appointment for Colonel Forrester today.
He watched as the young man came to a stop along the street in front of the house.
He is early, Nils remarked to himself.
The young man allowed the engine to idle as if he was not sure that he would stay.
Nils watched as he sat in the car, smoking a cigarette.
The Colonel told him that he was from the newspaper and had given Nils instructions to prepare a room for him, along with several other things. Nils took care of that business and gave instructions to the staff regarding him.
From the corner of his eye he observed the dogs watching the car as well. They were good boys, silent and steady as Nils had trained them to be.
He watched as the young man finished his cigarette and got out of his car, observing his manners as he straightened his belt and tie, smoothed the front of his shirt with his hands, while brushing the stray ash away. Then he adjusted the tilt of his hat.
His cloth was poor, but his manners told him that the boy cared about his appearance.
That speaks well of him, Nils thought.
He displayed a steady gait and sure footedness as he came to the door, moving beyond Nils’ line of sight.
Nils listened while he knocked, three short taps, forceful so as to be heard, but not demanding.
He was polite with the maid who came to the door. Nils listened while he waited in the hall.
He went to a vestibule where he could observe Johnny Holiday further.
Nils watched as he examined the furnishing, while giving none of his thoughts away.
He has a placid, observant disposition, Nils thought.
Just as he about to enter the hallway and greet the young man, Celene, the Colonels daughter, came into the hallway. Nils stopped to watch their encounter.
It was unexpected, Celene was not herself; she had not been of sound mind for some months, staying out late, dancing and drinking with irreputable people.
That fact disturbed Nils, but there was little he could do about it. The Colonel’s daughters were not his responsibility.
Once again, the young man was polite, while Celene was playful, intrusive and silly, in her spoiled-childish way.
He played along with her games, he seemed to be enjoying himself while at the same time attempting to keep his composure, and to control the situation.
This speaks well of him too, Nils thought.
Just as Celene was taking her games a little farther than Nils liked, pretending to faint and fall into the young man’s arms, Nils entered the room and broke up the play.