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  • 1914
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“Careful there! You’ll trip. Never you mind what I mean I think it is when I say. Count ten, and then just tell me what you think you mean.”

Jock passed his hand over his head again with that nervous little gesture. Then he sat down, a little wearily. He stared moodily down at the pile of papers before him: His mother faced him quietly across the table.

“Grace Galt’s getting twice as much as I am,” Jock broke out, with savage suddenness. “The first year I didn’t mind. A fellow gets accustomed, these days, to see women breaking into all the professions and getting away with men-size salaries. But her pay check doubles mine–more than doubles it.”

“It’s been my experience,” observed Emma McChesney, “that when a firm condescends to pay a woman twice as much as a man, that means she’s worth six times as much.”

A painful red crept into Jock’s face. “Maybe. Two years ago that would have sounded reasonable to me. Two years ago, when I walked down Broadway at night, a fifty-foot electric sign at Forty-second was just an electric sign to me. Just part of the town’s decoration like the chorus girls, and the midnight theater crowds. Now–well, now every blink of every red and yellow globe is crammed full of meaning. I know the power that advertising has; how it influences our manners, and our morals, and our minds, and our health. It regulates the food we eat, and the clothes we wear, and the books we read, and the entertainment we seek. It’s colossal, that’s what it is! It’s–“

“Keep on like that for another two years, sonny, and no business banquet will be complete without you. The next thing you know you’ll be addressing the Y.M.C.A. advertising classes on The Young Man in Business.”

Jock laughed a rueful little laugh. “I didn’t mean to make a speech. I was just trying to say that I’ve served my apprenticeship. It hurts a fellow’s pride. You can’t hold your head up before a girl when you know her salary’s twice yours, and you know that she knows it. Why look at Mrs. Hoffman, who’s with the Dowd Agency. Of course she’s a wonder, even if her face does look like the fifty-eighth variety. She can write copy that lifts a campaign right out of the humdrum class, and makes it luminous. Her husband works in a bank somewhere. He earns about as much as Mrs. Hoffman pays the least of her department subordinates. And he’s so subdued that he side-steps when he walks, and they call him the human jelly-fish.”

Emma McChesney was regarding her son with a little puzzled frown. Suddenly she reached out and tapped the topmost of the scribbled sheets strewn the length of Jock’s side of the table.

“What’s all this?”

Jock tipped back his chair and surveyed the clutter before him.

“That,” said he, “is what is known on the stage as ‘the papers.’ And it’s the real plot of this piece.”

“M-m-m–I thought so. Just favor me with a scenario, will you?”

Half-grinning, half-serious, Jock stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, and began.

“Scene: Offices of the Berg, Shriner Advertising Company. Time, the present. Characters: Jock McChesney, handsome, daring, brilliant–“

“Suppose you–er–skip the characters, however fascinating, and get to the action.”

Jock McChesney brought the tipped chair down on all-fours with a thud, and stood up. The grin was gone. He was as serious as he had been in the midst of his tirade of five minutes before.

“All right. Here it is. And don’t blame me if it sounds like cheap melodrama. This stuff,” and he waved a hand toward the paper-laden table, “is an advertising campaign plan for the Griebler Gum Company, of St. Louis. Oh, don’t look impressed. The office hasn’t handed me any such commission. I just got the idea like a flash, and I’ve been working it out for the last two weeks. It worked itself out, almost–the way a really scorching idea does, sometimes. This Griebler has been advertising for years. You know the Griebler gum. But it hasn’t been the right sort of advertising. Old Griebler, the original gum man, had fogy notions about advertising, and as long as he lived they had to keep it down. He died a few months ago–you must have read of it. Left a regular mint. Ben Griebler, the oldest son, started right in to clean out the cobwebs. Of course the advertising end of it has come in for its share of the soap and water. He wants to make a clean sweep of it. Every advertising firm in the country has been angling for the contract. It’s going to be a real one. Two-thirds of the crowd have submitted plans. And that’s just where my kick comes in. The Berg, Shriner Company makes it a rule never to submit advance plans.”

“Excuse me if I seem a trifle rude,” interrupted Mrs. McChesney, “but I’d like to know where you think you’ve been wronged in this.”

“Right here!” replied Jock, and he slapped his pocket, “and here,” he pointed to his head. “Two spots so vital that they make old Achilles’s heel seem armor-plated. Ben Griebler is one of the show-me kind. He wants value received for money expended, and while everybody knows that he has a loving eye on the Berg, Shriner crowd, he won’t sign a thing until he knows what he’s getting. A firm’s record, standing, staff, equipment, mean nothing to him.”

“But, Jock, I still don’t see–“

Jock gathered up a sheaf of loose papers and brandished them in the air. “This is where I come in. I’ve got a plan here that will fetch this Griebler person. Oh, I’m not dreaming. I outlined it for Sam Hupp, and he was crazy about it. Sam Hupp had some sort of plan outlined himself. But he said this made his sound as dry as cigars in Denver. And you know yourself that Sam Hupp’s copy is so brilliant that he could sell brewery advertising to a temperance magazine.”

Emma McChesney stood up. She looked a little impatient, and a trifle puzzled. “But why all this talk! I don’t get you. Take your plan to Mr. Berg. If it’s what you think it is he’ll see it quicker than any other human being, and he’ll probably fall on your neck and invest you in royal robes and give you a mahogany desk all your own.”

“Oh, what’s the good!” retorted Jock disgustedly. “This Griebler has an appointment at the office to-morrow. He’ll be closeted with the Old Man. They’ll call in Hupp. But never a plan will they reveal. It’s against their code of ethics. Ethics! I’m sick of the word. I suppose you’d say I’m lucky to be associated with a firm like that, and I suppose I am. But I wish in the name of all the gods of Business that they weren’t so bloomin’ conservative. Ethics! They’re all balled up in ’em, like Henry James in his style.”

Emma McChesney came over from her side of the table and stood very close to her son. She laid one hand very lightly on his arm and looked up into the sullen, angry young face.

[Illustration: “She laid one hand very lightly on his arm and looked up into the sullen, angry young face”]

“I’ve seen older men than you are, Jock, and better men, and bigger men, wearing that same look, and for the same reason. Every ambitious man or woman in business wears it at one time or another. Sooner or later, Jock, you’ll have your chance at the money end of this game. If you don’t care about the thing you call ethics, it’ll be sooner. If you do care, it will be later. It rests with you, but it’s bound to come, because you’ve got the stuff in you.”

“Maybe,” replied Jock the cynical. But his face lost some of its sullenness as he looked down at that earnest, vivid countenance up-turned to his. “Maybe. It sounds all right, Mother–in the story books. But I’m not quite solid on it. These days it isn’t so much what you’ve got in you that counts as what you can bring out. I know the young man’s slogan used to be ‘Work and Wait,’ or something pretty like that. But these days they’ve boiled it down to one word–‘Produce’!”

“The marvel of it is that there aren’t more of ’em,” observed Emma McChesney sadly.

“More what?”

“More lines. Here,”–she touched his forehead,–“and here,”–she touched his eyes.

“Lines!” Jock swung to face a mirror. “Good! I’m so infernally young-looking that no one takes me seriously. It’s darned hard trying to convince people you’re a captain of finance when you look like an errand boy.”

From the center of the room Mrs. McChesney watched the boy as he surveyed himself in the glass. And as she gazed there came a frightened look into her eyes. It was gone in a minute, and in its place came a curious little gleam, half amused, half pugnacious.

“Jock McChesney, if I thought that you meant half of what you’ve said to-night about honor, and ethics, and all that, I’d–“

“Spank me, I suppose,” said the young six-footer.

“No,” and all the humor had fled, “I–Jock, I’ve never said much to you about your father. But I think you know that he was what he was to the day of his death. You were just about eight when I made up my mind that life with him was impossible. I said then–and you were all I had, son–that I’d rather see you dead than to have you turn out to be a son of your father. Don’t make me remember that wish, Jock.”

Two quick steps and his arms were about her. His face was all contrition. “Why–Mother! I didn’t mean–You see this is business, and I’m crazy to make good, and it’s such a fight–“

“Don’t I know it?” demanded Emma McChesney. “I guess your mother hasn’t been sitting home embroidering lunchcloths these last fifteen years.” She lifted her head from the boy’s shoulder. “And now, son, considering me, not as your doting mother, but in my business capacity as secretary of the T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, suppose you reveal to me the inner workings of this plan of yours. I’d like to know if you really are the advertising wizard that you think you are.”

So it was that long after Annie’s dinner dishes had ceased to clatter in the kitchen; long after she had put her head in at the door to ask, “Aigs ‘r cakes for breakfast?” long after those two busy brains should have rested in sleep, the two sat at either side of the light-flooded table, the face of one glowing as he talked, the face of the other sparkling as she listened. And at midnight:

“Why, you infant wonder!” exclaimed Emma McChesney.

At nine o’clock next morning when Jock McChesney entered the offices of the Berg, Shriner Advertising Company he carried a flat, compact bundle of papers under his arm encased in protecting covers of pasteboard, and further secured by bands of elastic. This he carried to his desk, deposited in a drawer, and locked the drawer.

By eleven o’clock the things which he had predicted the night before had come to pass. A plump little man, with a fussy manner and Western clothes had been ushered into Bartholomew Berg’s private office. Instinct told him that this was Griebler. Jock left his desk and strolled up to get the switchboard operator’s confirmation of his guess. Half an hour later Sam Hupp hustled by and disappeared into the Old Man’s sanctum.

Jock fingered the upper left-hand drawer of his desk. The maddening blankness of that closed door! If only he could find some excuse for walking into that room–any old excuse, no matter how wild!–just to get a chance at it–

His telephone rang. He picked up the receiver, his eye on the closed door, his thoughts inside that room.

“Mr. Berg wants to see you right away,” came the voice of the switchboard operator.

Something seemed to give way inside–something in the region of his brain–no, his heart–no, his lungs–

“Well, can you beat that!” said Jock McChesney aloud, in a kind of trance of joy. “Can–you–beat–that!”

Then he buttoned the lower button of his coat, shrugged his shoulders with an extra wriggle at the collar (the modern hero’s method of girding up his loins), and walked calmly into Bartholomew Berg’s very private office.

In the second that elapsed between the opening and the closing of the door Jock’s glance swept the three men–Bartholomew Berg, quiet, inscrutable, seated at his great table-desk; Griebler, lost in the depths of a great leather chair, smoking fussily and twitching with a hundred little restless, irritating gestures; Sam Hupp, standing at the opposite side of the room, hands in pockets, attitude argumentative.

“This is Mr. McChesney,” said Bartholomew Berg. “Mr. Griebler, McChesney.”

Jock came forward, smiling that charming smile of his. “Mr. Griebler,” he said, extending his hand, “this is a great pleasure.”

“Hm!” growled Ben Griebler, “I didn’t know they picked ’em so young.”

His voice was a piping falsetto that somehow seemed to match his restless little eyes.

Jock thrust his hands hurriedly into his pockets. He felt his face getting scarlet.

“They’re–ah–using ’em young this year,” said Bartholomew Berg. His voice sounded bigger, and smoother, and pleasanter than ever in contrast with that other’s shrill tone. “I prefer ’em young, myself. You’ll never catch McChesney using ‘in the last analysis’ to drive home an argument. He has a new idea about every nineteen minutes, and every other one’s a good one, and every nineteenth or so’s an inspiration.” The Old Man laughed one of his low, chuckling laughs.

“Hm–that so?” piped Ben Griebler. “Up in my neck of the woods we aren’t so long on inspiration. We’re just working men, and we wear working clothes–“

“Oh, now,” protested Berg, his eyes twinkling, “McChesney’s necktie and socks and handkerchief may form one lovely, blissful color scheme, but that doesn’t signify that his advertising schemes are not just as carefully and artistically blended.”

Ben Griebler looked shrewdly up at Jock through narrowed lids. “Maybe. I’ll talk to you in a minute, young man–that is–” he turned quickly upon Berg–“if that isn’t against your crazy principles, too?”

“Why, not at all,” Bartholomew Berg assured him. “Not at all. You do me an injustice.”

Griebler moved up closer to the broad table. The two fell into a low-voiced talk. Jock looked rather helplessly around at Sam Hupp. That alert gentleman was signaling him frantically with head and wagging finger. Jock crossed the big room to Hupp’s side. The two moved off to a window at the far end.

“Give heed to your Unkie,” said Sam Hupp, talking very rapidly, very softly, and out of one corner of his mouth. “This Griebler’s looking for an advertising manager. He’s as pig-headed as a–a–well, as a pig, I suppose. But it’s a corking chance, youngster, and the Old Man’s just recommended you–strong. Now–“

“Me–!” exploded Jock.

“Shut up!” hissed Hupp. “Two or three years with that firm would be the making of you–if you made good, of course. And you could. They want to move their factory here from St. Louis within the next few years. Now listen. When he talks to you, you play up the keen, alert stuff with a dash of sophistication, see? If you can keep your mouth shut and throw a kind of a canny, I-get-you, look into your eyes, all the better. He’s gabby enough for two. Try a line of talk that is filled with the fire and enthusiasm of youth, combined with the good judgment and experience of middle age, and you’ve–“

“Say, look here,” stammered Jock. “Even if I was Warfield enough to do all that, d’you honestly think–me an advertising manager!–with a salary that Griebler–“

“You nervy little shrimp, go in and win. He’ll pay five thousand if he pays a cent. But he wants value for money expended. Now I’ve tipped you off. You make your killing–“

“Oh, McChesney!” called Bartholomew Berg, glancing round.

“Yes, sir!” said Jock, and stood before him in the same moment.

“Mr. Griebler is looking for a competent, enthusiastic, hard-working man as advertising manager. I’ve spoken to him of you. I know what you can do. Mr. Griebler might trust my judgment in this, but–“

“I’ll trust my own judgment,” snapped Ben Griebler. “It’s good enough for me.”

“Very well,” returned Bartholomew Berg suavely. “And if you decide to place your advertising future in the hands of the Berg, Shriner Company–“

“Now look here,” interrupted Ben Griebler again. “I’ll tie up with you people when you’ve shaken something out of your cuffs. I’m not the kind that buys a pig in a poke. We’re going to spend money–real money–in this campaign of ours. But I’m not such a come-on as to hand you half a million or so and get a promise in return. I want your plans, and I want ’em in full.”

A little exclamation broke from Sam Hupp. He checked it, but not before Berg’s curiously penetrating pale blue eyes had glanced up at him, and away again.

“I’ve told you, Mr. Griebler,” went on Bartholomew Berg’s patient voice, “just why the thing you insist on is impossible. This firm does not submit advance copy. Every business commission that comes to us is given all the skill, and thought, and enthusiasm, and careful planning that this office is capable of. You know our record. This is a business of ideas. And ideas are too precious, too perishable, to spread in the market place for all to see.”

Ben Griebler stood up. His cigar waggled furiously between his lips as he talked.

“I know something else that don’t stand spreading in the market place, Berg. And that’s money. It’s too darned perishable, too.” He pointed a stubby finger at Jock. “Does this fool rule of yours apply to this young fellow, too?”

Bartholomew Berg seemed to grow more patient, more self-contained as the other man’s self-control slipped rapidly away.

“It goes for every man and woman in this office, Mr. Griebler. This young chap, McChesney here, might spend weeks and months building up a comprehensive advertising plan for you. He’d spend those weeks studying your business from every possible angle. Perhaps it would be a plan that would require a year of waiting before the actual advertising began to appear. And then you might lose faith in the plan. A waiting game is a hard game to play. Some other man’s idea, that promised quicker action, might appeal to you. And when it appeared we’d very likely find our own original idea incorporated in–“

“Say, look here!” squeaked Ben Griebler, his face dully red. “D’you mean to imply that I’d steal your plan! D’you mean to sit there and tell me to my face–“

“Mr. Griebler, I mean that that thing happens constantly in this business. We’re almost powerless to stop it. Nothing spreads quicker than a new idea. Compared to it a woman’s secret is a sealed book.”

Ben Griebler removed the cigar from his lips. He was stuttering with anger. With a mingling of despair and boldness Jock saw the advantage of that stuttering moment and seized on it. He stepped close to the broad table-desk, resting both hands on it and leaning forward slightly in his eagerness.

“Mr. Berg–I have a plan. Mr. Hupp can tell you. It came to me when I first heard that the Grieblers were going to broaden out. It’s a real idea. I’m sure of that. I’ve worked it out in detail. Mr. Hupp himself said it–Why, I’ve got the actual copy. And it’s new. Absolutely. It never–“

“Trot it out!” shouted Ben Griebler. “I’d like to see one idea anyway, around this shop.”

“McChesney,” said Bartholomew Berg, not raising his voice. His eyes rested on Jock with the steady, penetrating gaze that was peculiar to him. More foolhardy men than Jock McChesney had faltered and paused, abashed, under those eyes. “McChesney, your enthusiasm for your work is causing you to forget one thing that must never be forgotten in this office.”

Jock stepped back. His lower lip was caught between his teeth. At the same moment Ben Griebler snatched up his hat from the table, clapped it on his head at an absurd angle and, bristling like a fighting cock, confronted the three men.

“I’ve got a couple of rules myself,” he cried, “and don’t you forget it. When you get a little spare time, you look up St. Louis and find out what state it’s in. The slogan of that state is my slogan, you bet. If you think I’m going to make you a present of the money that it took my old man fifty years to pile up, then you don’t know that Griebler is a German name. Good day, gents.”

He stalked to the door. There he turned dramatically and leveled a forefinger at Jock. “They’ve got you roped and tied. But I think you’re a comer. If you change your mind, kid, come and see me.”

The door slammed behind him.

“Whew!” whistled Sam Hupp, passing a handkerchief over his bald spot.

Bartholomew Berg reached out with one great capable hand and swept toward him a pile of papers. “Oh, well, you can’t blame him. Advertising has been a scream for so long. Griebler doesn’t know the difference between advertising, publicity, and bunk. He’ll learn. But it’ll be an awfully expensive course. Now, Hupp, let’s go over this Kalamazoo account. That’ll be all, McChesney.”

Jock turned without a word. He walked quickly through the outer office, into the great main room. There he stopped at the switchboard.

“Er–Miss Grimes,” he said, smiling charmingly. “Where’s this Mr. Griebler, of St. Louis, stopping; do you know?”

“Say, where would he stop?” retorted the wise Miss Grimes. “Look at him! The Waldorf, of course.”

“Thanks,” said Jock, still smiling. And went back to his desk.

At five Jock left the office. Under his arm he carried the flat pasteboard package secured by elastic bands. At five-fifteen he walked swiftly down the famous corridor of the great red stone hotel. The colorful glittering crowd that surged all about him he seemed not to see. He made straight for the main desk with its battalion of clerks.

[Illustration: “He made straight for the main desk with its battalion of clerks”]

“Mr. Griebler in? Mr. Ben Griebler, St. Louis?”

The question set in motion the hotel’s elaborate system of investigation. At last: “Not in.”

“Do you know when he will be in?” That futile question.

“Can’t say. He left no word. Do you want to leave your name?”

“N-no. Would he–does he stop at this desk when he comes in?”

He was an unusually urbane hotel clerk. “Why, usually they leave their keys and get their mail from the floor clerk. But Mr. Griebler seems to prefer the main desk.”

“I’ll–wait,” said Jock. And seated in one of the great thronelike chairs, he waited. He sat there, slim and boyish, while the laughing, chattering crowd swept all about him. If you sit long enough in that foyer you will learn all there is to learn about life. An amazing sight it is–that crowd. Baraboo helps swell it, and Spokane, and Berlin, and Budapest, and Pekin, and Paris, and Waco, Texas. So varied it is, so cosmopolitan, that if you sit there patiently enough, and watch sharply enough you will even see a chance New Yorker.

From door to desk Jock’s eyes swept. The afternoon-tea crowd, in paradise feathers, and furs, and frock coats swam back and forth. He saw it give way to the dinner throng, satin-shod, bejeweled, hurrying through its oysters, swallowing unbelievable numbers of cloudy-amber drinks, and golden-brown drinks, and maroon drinks, then gathering up its furs and rushing theaterwards. He was still sitting there when that crowd, its eight o’clock freshness somewhat sullied, its sparkle a trifle dimmed, swept back for more oysters, more cloudy-amber and golden-brown drinks.

At half-hour intervals, then at hourly intervals, the figure in the great chair stirred, rose, and walked to the desk.

“Has Mr. Griebler come in?”

The supper throng, its laugh a little ribald, its talk a shade high-pitched, drifted towards the street, or was wafted up in elevators. The throng thinned to an occasional group. Then these became rarer and rarer. The revolving door admitted one man, or two, perhaps, who lingered not at all in the unaccustomed quiet of the great glittering lobby.

The figure of the watcher took on a pathetic droop. The eyelids grew leaden. To open them meant an almost superhuman effort. The stare of the new night clerks grew more and more hostile and suspicious. A grayish pallor had settled down on the boy’s face. And those lines of the night before stood out for all to see.

In the stillness of the place the big revolving door turned once more, complainingly. For the thousandth time Jock’s eyes lifted heavily. Then they flew wide open. The drooping figure straightened electrically. Half a dozen quick steps and Jock stood in the pathway of Ben Griebler who, rather ruffled and untidy, had blown in on the wings of the morning.

He stared a moment. “Well, what–“

“I’ve been waiting for you here since five o’clock last evening. It will soon be five o’clock again. Will you let me show you those plans now?”

Ben Griebler had surveyed Jock with the stony calm of the out-of-town visitor who is prepared to show surprise at nothing in New York.

“There’s nothing like getting an early start,” said Ben Griebler. “Come on up to my room.” Key in hand, he made for the elevator. For an almost imperceptible moment Jock paused. Then, with a little rush, he followed the short, thick-set figure. “I knew you had it in you, McChesney. I said you looked like a comer, didn’t I?”

Jock said nothing. He was silent while Griebler unlocked his door, turned on the light, fumbled at the windows and shades, picked up the telephone receiver. “What’ll you have?”

“Nothing.” Jock had cleared the center table and was opening his flat bundle of papers. He drew up two chairs. “Let’s not waste any time,” he said. “I’ve had a twelve-hour wait for this.” He seemed to control the situation. Obediently Ben Griebler hung up the receiver, came over, and took the chair very close to Jock.

[Illustration: “‘Let’s not waste any time,’ he said”]

“There’s nothing artistic about gum,” began Jock McChesney; and his manner was that of a man who is sure of himself. “It’s a shirt-sleeve product, and it ought to be handled from a shirt-sleeve standpoint. Every gum concern in the country has spent thousands on a ‘better-than-candy’ campaign before it realized that gum is a candy and drug store article, and that no man is going to push a five-cent package of gum at the sacrifice of the sale of an eighty-cent box of candy. But the health note is there, if only you strike it right. Now, here’s my idea–“

At six o’clock Ben Griebler, his little shrewd eyes sparkling, his voice more squeakily falsetto than ever, surveyed the youngster before him with a certain awe.

“This–this thing will actually sell our stuff in Europe! No gum concern has ever been able to make the stuff go outside of this country. Why, inside of three years every ‘Arry and ‘Arriet in England’ll be chewing it on bank holidays. I don’t know about Germany, but–” He pushed back his chair and got up. “Well, I’m solid on that. And what I say goes. Now I’ll tell you what I’ll do, kid. I’ll take you down to St. Louis with me, at a figure that’ll make your–“

Jock looked up.

“Or if you don’t want the Berg, Shriner crowd to get wise, I’ll fix it this way. I’ll go over there this morning and tell ’em I’ve changed my mind, see? The campaign’s theirs, see? Then I refuse to consider any of their suggestions until I see your plan. And when I see it I fall for it like a ton of bricks. Old Berg’ll never know. He’s so darned high-principled–“

Jock McChesney stood up. The little drawn pinched look which had made his face so queerly old was gone. His eyes were bright. His face was flushed.

“There! You’ve said it. I didn’t realize how raw this deal was until you put it into words for me. I want to thank you. You’re right. Bartholomew Berg is so darned high-principled that two muckers like you and me, groveling around in the dirt, can’t even see the tips of the heights to which his ideals have soared. Don’t stop me. I know I’m talking like a book. But I feel like something that has just been kicked out into the sunshine after having been in jail.”

“You’re tired,” said Ben Griebler. “It’s been a strain. Something always snaps after a long tension.”

Jock’s flat palm came down among the papers with a crack.

“You bet something snaps! It has just snapped inside me.” He began quietly to gather up the papers in an orderly little way.

“What’s that for?” inquired Griebler, coming forward. “You don’t mean–“

“I mean that I’m going to go home and square this thing with a lady you’ve never met. You and she wouldn’t get on if you did. You don’t talk the same language. Then I’m going to have a cold bath, and a hot breakfast. And then, Griebler, I’m going to take this stuff to Bartholomew Berg and tell him the whole nasty business. He’ll see the humor of it. But I don’t know whether he’ll fire me, or make me vice-president of the company. Now, if you want to come over and talk to him, fair and square, why come.”

“Ten to one he fires you,” remarked Griebler, as Jock reached the door.

“There’s only one person I know who’s game enough to take you up on that. And it’s going to take more nerve to face her at six-thirty than it will to tackle a whole battalion of Bartholomew Bergs at nine.”

“Well, I guess I can get in a three-hour sleep before–er–“

“Before what?” said Jock McChesney from the door.

Ben Griebler laughed a little shamefaced laugh. “Before I see you at ten, sonny.”

V

THE SELF-STARTER

There is nothing in the sound of the shrill little bell to warn us of the import of its message. More’s the pity. It may be that bore whose telephone conversation begins: “Well, what do you know to-day?” It may be your lawyer to say you’ve inherited a million. Hence the arrogance of the instrument. It knows its voice will never wilfully go unanswered so long as the element of chance lies concealed within it.

Mrs. Emma McChesney heard the call of her telephone across the hall. Seated in the office of her business partner, T.A. Buck, she was fathoms deep in discussion of the T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company’s new spring line. The buzzer’s insistent voice brought her to her feet, even while she frowned at the interruption.

“That’ll be Baumgartner ‘phoning about those silk swatches. Back in a minute,” said Emma McChesney and hurried across the hall just in time to break the second call.

The perfunctory “Hello! Yes” was followed by a swift change of countenance, a surprised little cry, then,–in quite another tone–“Oh, it’s you, Jock! I wasn’t expecting … No, not too busy to talk to you, you young chump! Go on.” A moment of silence, while Mrs. McChesney’s face smiled and glowed like a girl’s as she listened to the voice of her son. Then suddenly glow and smile faded. She grew tense. Her head, that had been leaning so carelessly on the hand that held the receiver, came up with a jerk. “Jock McChesney!” she gasped, “you–why, you don’t mean!–“

Now, Emma McChesney was not a woman given to jerky conversations, interspersed with exclamation points. Her poise and balance had become a proverb in the business world. Yet her lips were trembling now. Her eyes were very round and bright. Her face had flushed, then grown white. Her voice shook a little. “Yes, of course I am. Only, I’m so surprised. Yes, I’ll be home early. Five-thirty at the latest.”

She hung up the receiver with a little fumbling gesture. Her hand dropped to her lap, then came up to her throat a moment, dropped again. She sat staring straight ahead with eyes that saw one thousand miles away.

From his office across the hall T.A. Buck strolled in casually.

“Did Baumgartner say he’d–?” He stopped as Mrs. McChesney looked up at him. A quick step forward–“What’s the matter, Emma?”

“Jock–Jock–“

“Jock! What’s happened to the boy?” Then, as she still stared at him, her face pitiful, his hand patted her shoulder. “Dear girl, tell me.” He bent over her, all solicitude.

“Don’t!” said Emma McChesney faintly, and shook off his hand. “Your stenographer can see–What will the office think? Please–“

“Oh, darn the stenographer! What’s this bad news of Jock?”

Emma McChesney sat up. She smiled a little nervously and passed her handkerchief across her lips. “I didn’t say it was bad, did I? That is, not exactly bad, I suppose.”

T.A. Buck ran a frenzied hand over his head. “My dear child,” with careful politeness, “will you please try to be sane? I find you sitting at your desk, staring into space, your face white as a ghost’s, your whole appearance that of a person who has received a death-blow. And then you say, ‘Not exactly bad’!”

“It’s this,” explained Emma McChesney in a hollow tone: “The Berg, Shriner Advertising Company has appointed Jock manager of their new Western branch. They’re opening offices in Chicago in March.” Her lower lip quivered. She caught it sharply between her teeth.

For one surprised moment T.A. Buck stared in silence. Then a roar broke from him. “Not exactly bad!” he boomed between laughs. “Not exactly b–Not ex_act_ly, eh?” Then he was off again.

Mrs. McChesney surveyed him in hurt and dignified silence. Then–“Well, really, T.A., don’t mind me. What you find so exquisitely funny–“

“That’s the funniest part of it! That you, of all people, shouldn’t see the joke. Not exactly bad!” He wiped his eyes. “Why, do you mean to tell me that because your young cub of a son, by a heaven-sent stroke of good fortune, has landed a job that men twice his age would give their eyeteeth to get, I find you sitting at the telephone looking as if he had run off with Annie the cook, or had had a leg cut off!”

“I suppose it is funny. Only, the joke’s on me. That’s why I can’t see it. It means that I’m losing him.”

“That’s the first selfish word I’ve ever heard you utter.”

“Oh, don’t think I’m not happy at his success. Happy! Haven’t I hoped for it, and worked for it, and prayed for it! Haven’t I saved for it, and skimped for it! How do you think I could have stood those years on the road if I hadn’t kept up courage with the thought that it was all for him? Don’t I know how narrowly Jock escaped being the wrong kind! I’m his mother, but I’m not quite blind. I know he had the making of a first-class cad. I’ve seen him start off in the wrong direction a hundred times.”

“If he has turned out a success, it’s because you’ve steered him right. I’ve watched you make him over. And now, when his big chance has come, you–“

“I don’t expect you to understand,” interrupted Emma McChesney a little wearily. “I know it sounds crazy and unreasonable. There’s only one sort of human being who could understand what I mean. That’s a woman with a son.” She laughed a little shamefacedly. “I’m talking like the chorus of a minor-wail sob song, but it’s the truth.”

“If you feel like that, Emma, tell him to stay. The boy wouldn’t go if he thought it would make you unhappy.”

“Not go!” cried Emma McChesney sharply. “I’d like to see him dare to refuse it!”

“Well then, what in–” began Buck, bewildered.

“Don’t try to understand it, T.A. It’s no use. Don’t try to poke your finger into the whirligig they call ‘Woman’s Sphere.’ Its mechanism is too complicated. It’s the same quirk that makes women pray for daughters and men for sons. It’s the same kink that makes women read the marriage and death notices first in a newspaper. It’s the same queer strain that causes a mother to lavish the most love on the weakest, wilfullest child. Perhaps I wouldn’t have loved Jock so much if there hadn’t been that streak of yellow in him, and if I hadn’t had to work so hard to dilute it until now it’s only a faint cream color. There ought to be a special prayer for women who are bringing up their sons alone.”

Buck stirred a little uneasily. “I’ve never heard you talk like this before.”

“You probably never will again.” She swung round to her desk.

T.A. Buck, strolling toward the door, still wore the puzzled look.

“I don’t know what makes you take this so seriously. Of course, the boy will be a long way off. But then, you’ve been separated from him before. What’s the difference now?”

“T.A.,” said Emma McChesney solemnly, “Jock will be drawing a man-size salary now. Something tells me I’ll be a grandmother in another two years. Girls aren’t letting men like Jock run around loose. He’ll be gobbled up. Just you wait.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” drawled Buck mischievously. “You’ve just said he’s a headstrong young cub. He strikes me as the kind who’d raise the dickens if his three-minute egg happened to be five seconds overtime.”

Emma McChesney swung around in her chair. “Look here, T.A. As business partners we’ve quarreled about everything from silk samples to traveling men, and as friends we’ve wrangled on every subject from weather to war. I’ve allowed you to criticise my soul theories, and my new spring hat. But understand that I’m the only living person who has the right to villify my son, Jock McChesney.”

The telephone buzzed a punctuation to this period.

“Baumgartner?” inquired Buck humbly.

She listened a moment, then, over her shoulder, “Baumgartner,”–grimly, her hand covering the mouthpiece–“and if he thinks that he can work off a lot of last year’s silk swatches on–Hello! Yes, Mrs. McChesney talking. Look here, Mr. Baumgartner–“

And for the time being Emma McChesney, mother, was relegated to the background, while Emma McChesney, secretary of the T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, held the stage.

Having said that she would be home at five-thirty. Mrs. McChesney was home at five-thirty, being that kind of a person. Jock came in at six, breathless, bright-eyed, eager, and late, being that kind of a person.

He found his mother on the floor before the chiffonier in his bedroom, surrounded by piles of pajamas, socks, shirts and collars.

[Illustration: “He found his mother on the floor … surrounded by piles of pajamas, socks, shirts and collars”]

He swooped down upon her from the doorway. “What do you think of your blue-eyed boy! Poor, eh?”

Emma McChesney looked up absently. “Jock, these medium-weights of yours didn’t wear at all, and you paid five dollars for them.”

“Medium-weights! What in–“

“You’ve enough silk socks to last you the rest of your natural life. Handkerchiefs, too. But you’ll need pajamas.”

Jock stooped, gathered up an armful of miscellaneous undergarments and tossed them into an open drawer. Then he shut the drawer with a bang, reached over, grasped his mother firmly under the arms and brought her to her feet with a swing.

“We will now consider the question of summer underwear ended. Would it bore you too much to touch lightly on the subject of your son’s future?”

Emma McChesney, tall, straight, handsome, looked up at her son, taller, straighter, handsomer. Then she took him by the coat lapels and hugged him.

“You were so bursting with your own glory that I couldn’t resist teasing you. Besides, I had to do something to keep my mind off–off–“

“Why, Blonde dear, you’re not–!”

“No, I’m not,” gulped Emma McChesney. “Don’t flatter yourself, young ‘un. Tell me just how it happened. From the beginning.” She perched at the side of the bed. Jock, hands in pockets, hair a little rumpled, paced excitedly up and down before her as he talked.

“There wasn’t any beginning. That’s the stunning part of it. I just landed right into the middle of it with both feet. I knew they had been planning to start a big Western branch. But we all thought they’d pick some big man for it. There are plenty of medium-class dubs to be had. The kind that answers the ad: ‘Manager wanted, young man, preferably married, able to furnish A-1 reference.’ They’re as thick as advertising men in Detroit on Monday morning. But we knew that this Western branch was going to be given an equal chance with the New York office. Those big Western advertisers like to give their money to Western firms if they can. So we figured that they’d pick a real top-notcher–even Hopper, or Hupp, maybe–and start out with a bang. So when the Old Man called me into his office this morning I was as unconscious as a babe. Well, you know Berg. He’s as unexpected as a summer shower and twice as full of electricity.

“‘Morning, McChesney!’ he said. ‘That a New York necktie you’re wearing?’

“‘Strictly,’ says I.

“‘Ever try any Chicago ties?’

“‘Not from choice. That time my suit case went astray–‘

“‘M-m-m-m, yes.’ He drummed his fingers on the table top a couple of times. Then–McChesney, what have you learned about advertising in the last two and a half years?’

“I was wise enough as to Bartholomew Berg to know that he didn’t mean any cut-and-dried knowledge. He didn’t mean rules of the game. He meant tricks.

“‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’ve learned to watch a man’s eyes when I’m talking business to him. If the pupils of his eyes dilate he’s listening to you, and thinking about what you’re saying. When they contract it means that he’s only faking interest, even though he’s looking straight at you and wearing a rapt expression. His thoughts are miles away.’

“‘That so?’ said Berg, and sort of grinned. ‘What else?’

“‘I’ve learned that one negative argument is worth six positive ones; that it never pays to knock your competitor; that it’s wise to fight shy of that joker known as “editorial cooeperation.”‘

“‘That so?’ said Berg. ‘Anything else?’

“I made up my mind I could play the game as long as he could.

“‘I’ve learned not to lose my temper when I’m in the middle of a white-hot, impassioned business appeal and the office boy bounces in to say to the boss: “Mrs. Jones is waiting. She says you were going to help her pick out wall paper this morning;” and Jones says, “Tell her I’ll be there in five minutes.”‘

“‘Sure you’ve learned that?’ said Berg.

“‘Sure,’ says I. ‘And I’ve learned to let the other fellow think your argument’s his own. He likes it. I’ve learned that the surest kind of copy is the slow, insidious kind, like the Featherloom Petticoat Company’s campaign. That was an ideal campaign because it didn’t urge and insist that the public buy Featherlooms. It just eased the idea to them. It started by sketching a history of the petticoat, beginning with Eve’s fig leaf and working up. Before they knew it they were interested.’

“‘That so? That campaign was your mother’s idea, McChesney.’ You know, Mother, he thinks you’re a wonder.”

“So I am,” agreed Emma McChesney calmly. “Go on.”

“Well, I went on. I told him that I’d learned to stand so that the light wouldn’t shine in my client’s eyes when I was talking to him. I lost a big order once because the glare from the window irritated the man I was talking to. I told Berg all the tricks I’d learned, and some I hadn’t thought of till that minute. Berg put in a word now and then. I thought he was sort of guying me, as he sometimes does–not unkindly, you know, but in that quiet way he has. Finally I stopped for breath, or something, and he said:

“‘Now let me talk a minute, McChesney. Anybody can teach you the essentials of the advertising business, if you’ve any advertising instinct in you. But it’s what you pick up on the side, by your own efforts and out of your own experience, that lifts you out of the scrub class. Now I don’t think you’re an ideal advertising man by any means, McChesney. You’re shy on training and experience, and you’ve just begun to acquire that golden quality known as balance. I could name a hundred men that are better all-around advertising men than you will ever be. Those men have advertising ability that glows steadily and evenly, like a well-banked fire. But you’ve got the kind of ability that flares up, dies down, flares up. But every flare is a real blaze that lights things red while it lasts, and sends a new glow through the veins of business. You’ve got personality, and youth, and enthusiasm, and a precious spark of the real thing known as advertising genius. There’s no describing it. You know what I mean. Also, you know enough about actual advertising not to run an ad for a five-thousand-dollar motor car in the “Police Gazette.” All of which leads up to this question: How would you like to buy your neckties in Chicago, McChesney?’

“‘Chicago!’ I blurted.

“‘We’ve taken a suite of offices in the new Lakeview Building on Michigan Avenue. Would you like your office done in mahogany or oak?'”

Jock came to a full stop before his mother. His cheeks were scarlet. Hers were pale. He was breathing quickly. She was very quiet. His eyes glowed. So did hers, but the glow was dimmed by a mist.

“Mahogany’s richer, but make it oak, son. It doesn’t show finger-marks so.” Then, quite suddenly, she stood up, shaking a little, and buried her face in the boy’s shoulder.

“Why–why, Mother! Don’t! Don’t, Blonde. We’ll see each other every few weeks. I’ll be coming to New York to see the sights, like the rest of the rubes, and I suppose the noise and lights will confuse me so that I’ll be glad to get back to the sylvan quiet of Chicago. And then you’ll run out there, eh? We’ll have regular bats, Mrs. Mack. Dinner and the theater and supper! Yes?”

“Yes,” said Emma McChesney, in muffled tones that totally lacked enthusiasm.

“Chicago’s really only a suburb of New York, anyway, these days, and–“

Emma McChesney’s head came up sharply. “Look here, son. If you’re going to live in Chicago I advise you to cut that suburb talk, and sort of forget New York. Chicago’s quite a village, for an inland settlement, even if it has only two or three million people, and a lake as big as all outdoors. That kind of talk won’t elect you to the University Club, son.”

So they talked, all through supper and during the evening. Rather, Jock talked and his mother listened, interrupting with only an occasional remark when the bubble of the boy’s elation seemed to grow too great.

Quite suddenly Jock was silent. After the almost incessant rush of conversation quiet settled down strangely on the two seated there in the living-room with its soft-shaded lamps. Jock picked up a magazine, twirled its pages, put it down, strolled into his own room, and back again.

“Mother,” he said suddenly, standing before her, “there was a time when you were afraid I wasn’t going to pan out, wasn’t there?”

“Not exactly afraid, dear, just a little doubtful, perhaps.”

Jock smiled a tolerant, forgiving smile. “You see, Mother, you didn’t understand, that’s all. A woman doesn’t. I was all right. A man would have realized that. I don’t mean, dear, that you haven’t always been wonderful, because you have. But it takes a man to understand a man. When you thought I was going bad on your hands I was just developing, that’s all. Remember that time in Chicago, Mother?”

“Yes,” answered Emma McChesney, “I remember.”

“Now a man would have understood that that was only kid foolishness. If a fellow’s got the stuff in him it’ll show up, sooner or later. If I hadn’t had it in me I wouldn’t be going to Chicago as manager of the Berg, Shriner Western office, would I?”

“No, dear.”

Jock looked at her. In an instant he was all contrition and tenderness. “You’re tired. I’ve talked you to death, haven’t I? Lordy, it’s midnight! And I want to get down early to-morrow. Conference with Mr. Berg, and Hupp.” He tried not to sound too important.

Emma McChesney took his head between her two hands and kissed him once on the lips, then, standing a-tiptoe, kissed his eyelids with infinite gentleness as you kiss a baby’s eyes. Then she brought his cheek up against hers. And so they stood for a moment, silently.

Ten minutes later there came the sound of blithe whistling from Jock’s room. Jock always whistled when he went to bed and when he rose. Even these years of living in a New York apartment had not broken him of the habit. It was a cheerful, disconnected whistling, sometimes high and clear, sometimes under the breath, sometimes interspersed with song, and sometimes ceasing altogether at critical moments, say, during shaving, or while bringing the four-in-hand up tight and snug under the collar. It was one of those comfortable little noises that indicate a masculine presence; one of those pleasant, reassuring, man-in-the-house noises that every woman loves.

Emma McChesney, putting herself to bed in her room across the hall, found herself listening, brush poised, lips parted, as though to the exquisite strains of celestial music. There came the thump of a shoe on the floor. An interval of quiet. Then another thump. Without having been conscious of it, Emma McChesney had grown to love the noises that accompanied Jock’s retiring and rising. His dressing was always signalized by bangings and thumpings. His splashings in the tub were tremendous. His morning plunge could be heard all over the six-room apartment. Mrs. McChesney used to call gayly through the door:

“Mercy, Jock! You sound like a school of whales coming up for air.”

“You’ll think I’m a school of sharks when it comes to breakfast,” Jock would call back. “Tell Annie to make enough toast, Mum. She’s the tightest thing with the toast I ever did–“

The rest would be lost in a final surging splash.

The noises in the room across the hall had subsided now. She listened more intently. No, a drawer banged. Another. Then:

“Hasn’t my gray suit come back from the tailor’s?”

“It was to be sponged, too, you know. He said he’d bring it Wednesday. This is Tuesday.”

“Oh!” Another bang. Then: ‘”Night, Mother!”

“Good night, dear.” Creaking sounds, then a long, comfortable sigh of complete relaxation.

Emma McChesney went on with her brushing. She brushed her hair with the usual number of swift even strokes, from the top of the shining head to the waist. She braided her hair into two plaits, Gretchen fashion. Millions of scanty-locked women would have given all they possessed to look as Emma McChesney looked standing there in kimono and gown. She nicked out the light. Then she, too, relaxed upon her pillow with a little sigh. Quiet fell on the little apartment. The street noises came up to her, now roaring, now growing faint. Emma McChesney lay there sleepless. She lay flat, hands clasped across her breast, her braids spread out on the pillow. In the darkness of the room the years rolled before her in panorama: her girlhood, her marriage, her unhappiness, Jock, the divorce, the struggle for work, those ten years on the road. Those ten years on the road! How she had hated them–and loved them. The stuffy trains, the jarring sleepers, the bare little hotel bedrooms, the bad food, the irregular hours, the loneliness, the hard work, the disappointments, the temptations. Yes but the fascination of it, the dear friends she had made, the great human lesson of it all! And all for Jock. That Jock might have good schools, good clothes, good books, good surroundings, happy times. Why, Jock had been the reason for it all! She had swallowed insult because of Jock. She had borne the drudgery because of Jock. She had resisted temptation, smiled under hardship, worked, fought, saved, succeeded, all because of Jock. And now this pivot about which her whole life had revolved was to be pulled up, wrenched away.

Over Emma McChesney, lying there in the dark, there swept one of those unreasoning night-fears. The fear of living. The fear of life. A straining of the eyeballs in the dark. The pounding of heart-beats.

She sat up in bed. Her hands went to her face. Her cheeks were burning and her eyes smarted. She felt that she must see Jock. At once. Just to be near him. To touch him. To take him in her arms, with his head in the hollow of her breast, as she used to when he was a baby. Why, he had been a baby only yesterday. And now he was a man. Big enough to stand alone, to live alone, to do without her.

Emma McChesney flung aside the covers and sprang out of bed. She thrust her feet in slippers, groped for the kimono at the foot of the bed and tiptoed to the door. She listened. No sound from the other room. She stole across the hall, stopped, listened, gained the door. It was open an inch or more. Just to be near him, to know that he lay there, sleeping! She pushed the door very, very gently. Then she stood in the doorway a moment, scarcely breathing, her head thrust forward, her whole body tense with listening. She could not hear him breathe! She caught her breath again in that unreasoning fear and took a quick step forward.

“Stop or I’ll shoot!” said a voice. Simultaneously the light flashed on. Emma McChesney found herself blinking at a determined young man who was steadily pointing a short, chubby, businesslike looking steel affair in her direction. Then the hand that held the steel dropped.

“What is this, anyway?” demanded Jock rather crossly. “A George Cohan comedy?”

Emma McChesney leaned against the foot of the bed rather weakly.

“What did you think–“

“What would you think if you heard some one come sneaking along the hall, stopping, listening, sneaking to your door, and then opening it, and listening again, and sneaking in? What would you think it was? How did I know you were going around making social calls at two o’clock in the morning!”

Suddenly Emma McChesney began to laugh. She leaned over the footboard and laughed hysterically, her head in her arms. Jock stared a moment in offended disapproval. Then the humor of it caught him, and he buried his head in his pillow to stifle unseemly shrieks. His legs kicked spasmodically beneath the bedclothes.

As suddenly as she had begun to laugh Mrs. McChesney became very sober.

“Stop it, Jock! Tell me, why weren’t you sleeping?”

“I don’t know,” replied Jock, as suddenly solemn. “I–sort of–began to think, and I couldn’t sleep.”

“What were you thinking of?”

Jock looked down at the bedclothes and traced a pattern with one forefinger on the sheet. Then he looked up.

“Thinking of you.”

“Oh!” said Emma McChesney, like a bashful schoolgirl. “Of–me!”

Jock sat up very straight and clasped his hands about his knees. “I got to thinking of what I had said about having made good all alone. That’s rot. It isn’t so. I was striped with yellow like a stick of lemon candy. If I’ve got this far, it’s all because of you. I’ve been thinking all along that I was the original electric self-starter, when you’ve really had to get out and crank me every few miles.”

Into Emma McChesney’s face there came a wonderful look. It was the sort of look with which a newly-made angel might receive her crown and harp. It was the look with which a war-hero sees the medal pinned on his breast. It was the look of one who has come into her Reward. Therefore:

“What nonsense!” said Emma McChesney. “If you hadn’t had it in you, it wouldn’t have come out.”

“It wasn’t in me, in the first place,” contested Jock stubbornly. “You planted it.”

From her stand at the foot of the bed she looked at him, her eyes glowing brighter and brighter with that wonderful look.

“Now see here,”–severely–“I want you to go to sleep. I don’t intend to stand here and dispute about your ethical innards at this hour. I’m going to kiss you again.”

“Oh, well, if you must,” grinned Jock resignedly, and folded her in a bear-hug.

To Emma McChesney it seemed that the next three weeks leaped by, not by days, but in one great bound. And the day came when a little, chattering, animated group clustered about the slim young chap who was fumbling with his tickets, glancing at his watch, signaling a porter for his bags, talking, laughing, trying to hide the pangs of departure under a cloak of gayety and badinage that deceived no one. Least of all did it deceive the two women who stood there. The eyes of the older woman never left his face. The eyes of the younger one seldom were raised to his, but she saw his every expression. Once Emma McChesney’s eyes shifted a little so as to include both the girl and the boy in her gaze. Grace Galt in her blue serge and smart blue hat was worth a separate glance.

Sam Hupp was there, T.A. Buck, Hopper, who was to be with him in Chicago for the first few weeks, three or four of the younger men in the office, frankly envious and heartily congratulatory.

They followed him to his train, all laughter and animation.

“If this train doesn’t go in two minutes,” said Jock, “I’ll get scared and chuck the whole business. Funny, but I’m not so keen on going as I was three weeks ago.”

His eyes rested on the girl in the blue serge and the smart hat. Emma McChesney saw that. She saw that his eyes still rested there as he stood on the observation platform when the train pulled out. The sight did not pain her as she thought it would. There was success in every line of him as he stood there, hat in hand. There was assurance in every breath of him. His clothes, his skin, his clear eyes, his slim body, all were as they should be. He had made a place in the world. He was to be a builder of ideas. She thought of him, and of the girl in blue serge, and of their children-to-be.

Her breast swelled exultingly. Her head came up.

This was her handiwork. She looked at it, and found that it was good.

“Let’s strike for the afternoon and call it a holiday,” suggested Buck.

Emma McChesney turned. The train was gone. “T.A., you’ll never grow up.”

“Never want to. Come on, let’s play hooky, Emma.”

“Can’t. I’ve a dozen letters to get out, and Miss Loeb wants to show me that new knicker-bocker design of hers.”

They drove back to the office almost in silence. Emma McChesney made straight for her desk and began dictating letters with an energy that bordered on fury. At five o’clock she was still working. At five-thirty T.A. Buck came in to find her still surrounded by papers, samples, models.

“What is this?” he demanded wrathfully, “an all-night session?”

Emma McChesney looked up from her desk. Her face was flushed, her eyes bright, but there was about her an indefinable air of weariness.

“T.A., I’m afraid to go home. I’ll rattle around in that empty flat like a hickory nut in a barrel.”

“We’ll have dinner down-town and go to the theater.”

“No use. I’ll have to go home sometime.”

“Now, Emma,” remonstrated Buck, “you’ll soon get used to it. Think of all the years you got along without him. You were happy, weren’t you?”

“Happy because I had somebody to work for, somebody to plan for, somebody to worry about. When I think of what that flat will be without him–Why, just to wake up and know that you can say good morning to some one who cares! That’s worth living for, isn’t it?”

“Emma,” said T.A. evenly, “do you realize that you are virtually hounding me into asking you to marry me?”

“T.A.!” gasped Emma McChesney.

“Well, you said you wanted somebody to worry about, didn’t you?”

[Illustration: “‘Well, you said you wanted somebody to worry about, didn’t you?'”]

A little whimsical smile lay lightly on his lips.

“Timothy Buck, I’m over forty years old.”

“Emma, in another minute I’m going to grow sentimental, and nothing can stop me.”

She looked down at her hands. There fell a little silence. Buck stirred, leaned forward. She looked up from the little watch that ticked away at her wrist.

“The minute’s up, T.A.,” said Emma McChesney.

THE END