When he entered the anteroom, two women looked up at him. One was Miss Robertson, the governor's secretary; the other he did not recognize till she smiled and said his name in a gentle voice. She was Mrs. Freeman, the wife of the bishop; he saluted her and went to Miss Robertson.
'Will you tell them I'm here?' he said.
'I'm sorry, Mr. Haffner, they don't even want me to take minutes right now.'
'Well, just go tell them I'm out of the running.'
There was not so much as a flicker in her eyes. 'They locked the door,' she said, 'and besides, I don't think they'll accept your withdrawal.'
'Won't they though. Just give them my message, Miss Robertson. I'm leaving.'
'Oh, Mr. Haffner, I know they'll want to see you. It's very important.'
'They will, huh. I'll give them half an hour.'
He sat down beside her to talk. It was not that he liked Miss Robertson particularly. Her soul had been for a long time smoothed out and hobbled by girdles and high heels as her body; her personality was as blank and brown as her gabardine suit; her mind was exactly good enough to take down 140 any sort of words a minute without error, without boredom, without wincing. But she could talk idly in a bare room like this well enough; he remembered that she liked science-fiction; he drew her out. Besides, she was not Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Freeman was a good woman; that is, she did good, and did not resent those who did bad but pitied them. For example, now: she was knitting alone while the other two talked, neither trying to join them nor, as John actively knew, making them uncomfortable for not having included her; and she was waiting for the bishop, who for reasons no one understood, hated to drive at night without her. John liked good people—no, he respected them above everyone else, above the powerful or beautiful or rich, whom he knew well, the gifted or learned or even the wise; indeed, he was rather in awe of the good, but their actual sweet presence made him uncomfortable. Mrs. Freeman there: with her hair drawn back straight to a bun, she sat in a steel-tube, leatherette chair, against a beige, fire-resistant, sound-absorbent wall, knitting in that ambient, indirect light socks for the mad; he knew quite well that if he should go over beside her she would talk with him in her gentle voice about whatever he wished to talk about, that she would have firm views which, however, she would never declare harshly against his should they differ, that she would tell him, if he asked about her work with the insane, what she had accomplished and what failed to accomplish, that she would make him acutely uncomfortable. He felt himself deficient not to be living, as people like Mrs. Freeman seemed to live, in an altogether moral world, but more especially he was reluctant to come near such people because he did not want to know more than he could help knowing of their motives; he did not trust motives; he was a lawyer. Therefore, though it was all but rude of him, he sat with Miss Robertson till the door opened.
George P. Elliott (Hour of Last Things)