- chapter: IV THE MAN WITHIN HIM
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THE MAN WITHIN HIM
THEY used to do it much more picturesquely. They rode in coats of scarlet, in the crisp, clear morning, to the winding of horns and the baying of hounds, to the thud-thud of hoofs, and the crackle of underbrush. Across fresh-plowed fields they went, crashing through forest paths, leaping ditches, taking fences, scrambling up the inclines, pelting down the hillside, helter-skelter, until, panting, wide-eyed, eager, blood-hungry, the hunt closed in at the death.
The scarlet coat has sobered down to the somber gray and the snuffy brown of that unromantic garment known as the business suit. The winding horn is become a goblet, and its notes are the tinkle of ice against glass. The baying of hounds has harshened to the squawk of the motor siren. The fresh-plowed field is a blue print, the forest maze a roll of plans and | | 90 specifications. Each fence is a business barrier. Every ditch is of a competitor's making, dug craftily so that the clumsy-footed may come a cropper. All the romance is out of it, all the color, all the joy. But two things remain the same: The look in the face of the hunter as he closed in on the fox is the look in the face of him who sees the coveted contract lying ready for the finishing stroke of his pen. And his words are those of the hunter of long ago as, eyes a-gleam, teeth bared, muscles still taut with the tenseness of the chase, he waves the paper high in air and cries, "I've made a killing!"
For two years Jock McChesney had watched the field as it swept by in its patient, devious, cruel game of Hunt the Contract. But he had never been in at the death. Those two years had taught him how to ride; to take a fence; to leap a ditch. He had had his awkward bumps, and his clumsy falls. He had lost his way more than once. But he had always groped his way back again, stumblingly, through the dusk. Jock McChesney was the youngest man on the Berg, Shriner Advertising Company's big staff of surprisingly young men. So young that the casual glance did not reveal to | | 91 you the marks that the strain of those two years had left on his boyish face. But the marks were there.
Nature etches with the most delicate of points. She knows the cunning secret of light and shadow. You scarcely realize that she has been at work. A faint line about the mouth, a fairy tracing at the corners of the eyes, a mere vague touch just at the nostrils—and the thing is done.
Even Emma McChesney's eyes—those mother-eyes which make the lynx seem a mole—had failed to note the subtle change. Then, suddenly, one night, the lines leaped out at her.
They were seated at opposite sides of the book-littered library table in the living-room of the cheerful up-town apartment which was the realization of the nightly dream which Mrs. Emma McChesney had had in her ten years on the road for the T. A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company. Jock McChesney's side of the big table was completely covered with the mass of copy-paper, rough sketches, photographs and drawings which make up an advertising lay-out. He was bent over the work, absorbed, intent, | | 92 his forearms resting on the table. Emma McChesney glanced up from her magazine just as Jock bent forward to reach a scrap of paper that had fluttered away. The lamplight fell full on his face. And Emma McChesney saw. The hand that held the magazine fell to her lap. Her lips were parted slightly. She sat very quietly, her eyes never leaving the face that frowned so intently over the littered table. The room had been very quiet before—Jock busy with his work, his mother interested in her magazine. But this silence was different. There was something electric in it. It was a silence that beats on the brain like a noise. Jock McChesney, bent over his work, heard it, felt it, and, oppressed by it, looked up suddenly. He met those two eyes opposite.
"Spooks? Or is it my godlike beauty which holds you thus? Or is my face dirty?"
Emma McChesney did not smile. She laid her magazine on the table, face down, and leaned forward, her staring eyes still fixed on her son's face.
"Look here, young 'un. Are you working too hard?"
"Me? Now? This stuff you mean—?"| | 93
"No; I mean in the last year. Are they piling it up on you?"
Jock laughed a laugh that was nothing less than a failure, so little of real mirth did it contain.
"Piling it up! Lord, no! I wish they would. That's the trouble. They don't give me a chance."
"A chance! Why, that's not true, son. You've said yourself that there are men who have been in the office three times as long as you have, who never have had the opportunities that they've given you."
It was as though she had touched a current that thrilled him to action. He pushed back his chair and stood up, one hand thrust into his pocket, the other passing quickly over his head from brow to nape with a quick, nervous gesture that was new to him.
"And why!" he flung out. "Why! Not because they like the way I part my hair. They don't do business that way up there. It's because I've made good, and those other dubs haven't. That's why. They've let me sit in at the game. But they won't let me take any tricks. I've been an apprentice hand for two | | 94 years now. I'm tired of it. I want to be in on a killing. I want to taste blood. I want a chance at some of the money—real money."
Emma McChesney sat back in her chair and surveyed the angry figure before her with quiet, steady eyes.
"I might have known that only one thing could bring those lines into your face, son." She paused a moment. "So you want money as badly as all that, do you?"
Jock's hand came down with a thwack on the papers before him.
"Want it! You just bet I want it."
"Do I know her?" asked Emma McChesney quietly.
Jock stopped short in his excited pacing up and down the room.
"Do you know—Why, I didn't say there—What makes you think that—?"
"When a youngster like you, whose greatest worry has been whether Harvard'll hold 'em again this year, with Baxter out, begins to howl about not being appreciated in business, and to wear a late fall line of wrinkles where he has been smooth before, I feel justified in saying, 'Do I know her?'"| | 95
"Well, it isn't any one—at least, it isn't what you mean you think it is when you say you—"
"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, | | 96 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 | | 97 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 Ad- | | 98 vertising 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 | | 99 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."| | 100
"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. | | 101
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.
"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 | | 104 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 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—"| | 105
"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 | | 106 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 | | 107 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 | | 108 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 | | 109 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. | | 110 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 | | 111 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—"| | 112
"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 | | 113 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—"| | 114
"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 McChes- | | 115 ney 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.| | 116
"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 | | 116
"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 | | 120 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 | | 121 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 | | 122 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 corner, 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.
"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 | | 123
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 | | 126 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.| | 127
"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—"| | 128
"Before what?" said Jock McChesney from the door.
Ben Griebler laughed a little shamefaced laugh. "Before I see you at ten, sonny."
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