THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT
JIMMY TORRANCE, JR.
The gymnasium was packed as Jimmy Torrance stepped into the ring for the final event of the evening that was to decide the boxing championship of the university. Drawing to a close were the nearly four years of his college career—profitable years, Jimmy considered them, and certainly successful up to this point. In the beginning of his senior year he had captained the varsity eleven, and in the coming spring he would again sally forth upon the diamond as the star initial sacker of collegedom.
His football triumphs were in the past, his continued baseball successes a foregone conclusion—if he won to-night his cup of happiness, and an unassailably dominant position among his fellows, would be assured, leaving nothing more, in so far as Jimmy reasoned, to be desired from four years attendance at one of America's oldest and most famous universities.
The youth who would dispute the right to championship honors with Jimmy was a dark horse to the extent that he was a freshman, and, therefore, practically unknown. He had worked hard, however, and given a good account of himself in his preparations for the battle, and there were rumors, as there always are about every campus, of marvelous exploits prior to his college days. It was even darkly hinted that he was a professional pugilist. As a matter of fact, he was the best exponent of the manly art of self-defense that Jimmy Torrance had ever faced, and in addition thereto he outweighed the senior and outreached him.
The boxing contest, as the faculty members of the athletic committee preferred to call it, was, from the tap of the gong, as pretty a two-fisted scrap as ever any aggregation of low-browed fight fans witnessed. The details of this gory contest, while interesting, have no particular bearing upon the development of this tale. What interests us is the outcome, which occurred in the middle of a very bloody fourth round, in which Jimmy Torrance scored a clean knock-out.
It was a battered but happy Jimmy who sat in his room the following Monday afternoon, striving to concentrate his mind upon a college text-book which should, by all the laws of fiction, have been 'well thumbed,' but in reality, possessed unruffled freshness which belied its real age.
"I wish," mused Jimmy, "that I could have got to the bird who invented mathematics before he inflicted all this unnecessary anguish upon an already unhappy world. In about three rounds I could have saved thousands from the sorrow which I feel every time I open this blooming book."
He was still deeply engrossed in the futile attempt of accomplishing in an hour that for which the college curriculum set aside several months when there came sounds of approaching footsteps rapidly ascending the stairway. His door was unceremoniously thrown open, and there appeared one of those strange apparitions which is the envy and despair of the small-town youth—a naturally good-looking young fellow, the sartorial arts of whose tailor had elevated his waist-line to his arm-pits, dragged down his shoulders, and caved in his front until he had the appearance of being badly dished from chin to knees. His trousers appeared to have been made for a man with legs six inches longer than his, while his hat was evidently several sizes too large, since it would have entirely extinguished his face had it not been supported by his ears.
"Hello, Kid!" cried Jimmy. "What's new?"
"Whiskers wants you," replied the other. "Faculty meeting. They just got through with me."
"Hell!" muttered Jimmy feelingly. "I don't know what Whiskers wants with me, but he never wants to see anybody about anything pleasant."
"I am here," agreed the other, "to announce to the universe that you are right, Jimmy. He didn't have anything pleasant to say to me. In fact, he insinuated that dear old alma mater might be able to wiggle along without me if I didn't abjure my criminal life. Made some nasty comparison between my academic achievements and foxtrotting. I wonder, Jimmy, how they get that way?"
"That's why they are profs," explained Jimmy. "There are two kinds of people in this world—human beings and profs. When does he want me?"
Jimmy arose and put on his hat and coat. "Good-by, Kid," he said. "Pray for me, and leave me one cigarette to smoke when I get back." and, grinning, he left the room.
James Torrance, Jr., was not greatly abashed as he faced the dour tribunal of the faculty. The younger members, among whom were several he knew to be mighty good fellows at heart, sat at the lower end of the long table, and with owlish gravity attempted to emulate the appearance and manners of their seniors. At the head of the table sat Whiskers, as the dignified and venerable president of the university was popularly named. It was generally believed and solemnly sworn to throughout the large corps of undergraduates that within the knowledge of any living man Whiskers had never been known to smile, and to-day he was running true to form.
"Mr. Torrance," he said, sighing, "it has been my painful duty on more than one occasion to call your attention to the uniformly low average of your academic standing. At the earnest solicitation of the faculty members of the athletic committee, I have been influenced, against my better judgment, to temporize with an utterly insufferable condition.
"You are rapidly approaching the close of your senior year, and in the light of the records which I have before me I am constrained to believe that it will be utterly impossible for you to graduate, unless from now to the end of the semester you devote yourself exclusively to your academic work. If you cannot assure me that you will do this, I believe it would be to the best interests of the university for you to resign now, rather than to fail of graduation. And in this decision I am fully seconded by the faculty members of the athletic committee, who realize the harmful effect upon university athletics in the future were so prominent an athlete as you to fail at graduation."
If they had sentenced Jimmy to be shot at sunrise the blow could scarcely have been more stunning than that which followed the realization that he was not to be permitted to round out his fourth successful season at first base. But if Jimmy was momentarily stunned he gave no outward indication of the fact, and in the brief interval of silence following the president's ultimatum his alert mind functioned with the rapidity which it had often shown upon the gridiron, the diamond, and the squared circle.
Just for a moment the thought of being deprived of the pleasure and excitement of the coming baseball season filled his mind to the exclusion of every other consideration, but presently a less selfish impulse projected upon the screen of recollection the figure of the father he idolized. The boy realized the disappointment that this man would feel should his four years of college end thus disastrously and without the coveted diploma.
And then it was that he raised his eyes to those of the president.
"I hope, sir," he said, "that you will give me one more chance—that you will let me go on as I have in the past as far as baseball is concerned, with the understanding that if at the end of each month between now and commencement I do not show satisfactory improvement I shall not be permitted to play on the team. But please don't make that restriction binding yet. If I lay off the track work I believe I can make up enough so that baseball will not interfere with my graduation."
And so Whiskers, who was much more human than the student body gave him credit for being, and was, in the bargain, a good judge of boys, gave Jimmy another chance on his own terms, and the university's heavyweight champion returned to his room filled with determination to make good at the eleventh hour.
Possibly one of the greatest obstacles which lay in Jimmy's path toward academic honors was the fact that he possessed those qualities of character which attracted others to him, with the result that there was seldom an hour during the day that he had his room to himself. On his return from the faculty meeting he found a half-dozen of his classmates there, awaiting his return.
"Well?" they inquired as he entered.
"It's worse than that," said Jimmy, as he unfolded the harrowing details of what had transpired at his meeting with the faculty. "And now," he said, "if you birds love me, keep out of here from now until commencement. There isn't a guy on earth can concentrate on anything with a roomful of you mental ciphers sitting around and yapping about girls and other non-essential creations."
"Non-essential!" gasped one of his visitors, letting his eyes wander over the walls of Jimmy's study, whereon were nailed, pinned or hung countless framed and unframed pictures of non-essential creations.
"All right, Jimmy," said another. "We are with you, horse, foot and artillery. When you want us, give us the high-sign and we will come. Otherwise we will leave you to your beloved books. It is too bad, though, as the bar-boy was just explaining how the great drought might be circumvented by means of carrots, potato peelings, dish-water, and a raisin."
"Go on," said Jimmy; "I am not interested," and the boys left him to his "beloved" books.
Jimmy Torrance worked hard, and by dint of long hours and hard-working tutors he finished his college course and won his diploma. Nor did he have to forego the crowning honors of his last baseball season, although, like Ulysses S. Grant, he would have graduated at the head of his class had the list been turned upside down.
JIMMY WILL ACCEPT A POSITION.
Following his graduation he went to New York to visit with one of his classmates for a short time before returning home. He was a very self-satisfied Jimmy, nor who can wonder, since almost from his matriculation there had been constantly dinned into his ears the plaudits of his fellow students. Jimmy Torrance had been the one big outstanding feature of each succeeding class from his freshman to his senior year, and as a junior and senior he had been the acknowledged leader of the student body and as popular a man as the university had ever known.
To his fellows, as well as to himself, he had been a great success—the success of the university—and he and they saw in the future only continued success in whatever vocation he decided to honor with his presence. It was in a mental attitude that had become almost habitual with him, and which was superinduced by these influences, that Jimmy approached the new life that was opening before him. For a while he would play, but in the fall it was his firm intention to settle down to some serious occupation, and it was in this attitude that he opened a letter from his father—the first that he had received since his graduation.
The letter was written on the letterhead of the Beatrice Corn Mills, Incorporated, Beatrice, Nebraska, and in the upper left-hand corner, in small type, appeared "James Torrance, Sr., President and General Manager," and this is what he read:
You have graduated—I didn't think you would—with honors in football, baseball, prize-fighting, and five thousand dollars in debt. How you got your diploma is beyond me—in my day you would have got the sack. Well, son, I am not surprised nor disappointed—it is what I expected. I know you are clean, though, and that some day you will awaken to the sterner side of life and an appreciation of your responsibilities.
To be an entirely orthodox father I should raise merry hell about your debts and utter inutility, at the same time disinheriting you, but instead I am going to urge you to come home and run in debt here where the cost of living is not so high as in the East—meanwhile praying that your awakening may come while I am on earth to rejoice.
Your affectionate FATHER,
Am enclosing check to cover your debts and present needs.
For a long time the boy sat looking at the letter before him. He reread it once, twice, three times, and with each reading the film of unconscious egotism that had blinded him to his own shortcomings gradually became less opaque, until finally he saw himself as his father must see him. He had come to college for the purpose of fitting himself to succeed in some particular way in the stern battle of life which must follow his graduation; for, though his father had ample means to support him in insolence, Jimmy had never even momentarily considered such an eventuality.
In weighing his assets now he discovered that he had probably as excellent a conception of gridiron strategy and tactics as any man in America; that as a boxer he occupied a position in the forefront of amateur ranks; and he was quite positive that out-side of the major leagues there was not a better first baseman.
But in the last few minutes there had dawned upon him the realization that none of these accomplishments was greatly in demand in the business world. Jimmy spent a very blue and unhappy hour, and then slowly his natural optimism reasserted itself, and with it came the realization of his youth and strength and inherent ability, which, without egotism, he might claim.
"And then, too," he mused, "I have my diploma. I am a college graduate, and that must mean something. If dad had only reproached me or threatened some condign punishment I don't believe I should feel half as badly as I do. But every line of that letter breathes disappointment in me; and yet, God bless him, he tells me to come home and spend his money there. Not on your life! If he won't disinherit me, I am going to disinherit myself. I am going to make him proud of me. He's the best dad a fellow ever had, and I am going to show him that I appreciate him."
And so he sat down and wrote his father this reply:
I have your letter and check. You may not believe it, but the former is worth more to me than the latter. Not, however, that I spurn the check, which it was just like you to send without a lot of grumbling and reproaches, even if I do deserve them.
Your letter shows me what a rotten mess I have made of myself. I'm not going to hand you a lot of mush, dad, but I want to try to do something that will give you reason to at least have hopes of rejoicing before I come home again. If I fail I'll come home anyway, and then neither one of us will have any doubt but what you will have to support me for the rest of my life. However, I don't intend to fail, and one of these days I will bob up all serene as president of a bank or a glue factory. In the mean time I'll keep you posted as to my whereabouts, but don't send me another cent until I ask for it; and when I do you will know that I have failed.
Tell mother that I will write her in a day or two, probably from Chicago, as I have always had an idea that that was one burg where I could make good.
With lots of love to you all,
Your affectionate SON.
It was a hot July day that James Torrance, Jr., alighted from the Twentieth Century Limited at the La Salle Street Station, and, entering a cab, directed that he be driven to a small hotel; "for," he soliloquized, "I might as well start economizing at once, as it might be several days before I land a job such as I want," in voicing which sentiments he spoke with the tongues of the prophets.
Jimmy had many friends in Chicago with whom, upon the occasion of numerous previous visits to the Western metropolis, he had spent many hilarious and expensive hours, but now he had come upon the serious business of life, and there moved within him a strong determination to win financial success without recourse to the influence of rich and powerful acquaintances.
Since the first crushing blow that his father's letter had dealt his egotism, Jimmy's self-esteem had been gradually returning, though along new and more practical lines. His self-assurance was formed in a similar mold to those of all his other salient characteristics, and these conformed to his physical proportions, for physically, mentally and morally Jimmy Torrance was big; not that he was noticeably taller than other men or his features more than ordinarily attractive, but there was something so well balanced and harmonious in all the proportions of his frame and features as to almost invariably compel a second glance from even a casual observer, especially if the casual observer happened to be in the nonessential creation class.
And so Jimmy, having had plenty of opportunity to commune with himself during the journey from New York, was confident that there were many opportunities awaiting him in Chicago. He remembered distinctly of having read somewhere that the growing need of big business concerns was competent executive material—that there were fewer big men than there were big jobs—and that if such was the case all that remained to be done was to connect himself with the particular big job that suited him.
In the lobby of the hotel he bought several of the daily papers, and after reaching his room he started perusing the "Help Wanted" columns. Immediately he was impressed and elated by the discovery that there were plenty of jobs, and that a satisfactory percentage of them appeared to be big jobs. There were so many, however, that appealed to him as excellent possibilities that he saw it would be impossible to apply for each and every one; and then it occurred to him that he might occupy a more strategic position in the negotiations preceding his acceptance of a position if his future employer came to him first, rather than should he be the one to apply for the position.
And so he decided the wisest plan would be to insert an ad in the "Situations Wanted" column, and then from the replies select those which most appealed to him; in other words, he would choose from the cream of those who desired the services of such a man as himself rather than risk the chance of obtaining a less profitable position through undue haste in seizing upon the first opening advertised.
Having reached this decision, and following his habitual custom, he permitted no grass to grow beneath his feet. Writing out an ad, he reviewed it carefully, compared it with others that he saw upon the printed page, made a few changes, rewrote it, and then descended to the lobby, where he called a cab and was driven to the office of one of the area's metropolitan morning newspapers.
Jimmy felt very important as he passed through the massive doorway into the great general offices of the newspaper. Of course, he didn't exactly expect that he would be ushered into the presence of the president or business manager, or that even the advertising manager would necessarily have to pass upon his copy, but there was within him a certain sensation that at that instant something was transpiring that in later years would be a matter of great moment, and he was really very sorry for the publishers of the newspaper that they did not know who it was who was inserting an ad in their Situations Wanted column.
He could not help but watch the face of the young man who received his ad and counted the words, as he was sure that the clerk's facial expression would betray his excitement. It was a great moment for Jimmy Torrance. He realized that it was probably the greatest moment of his life—that here Jimmy Torrance ceased to be, and James Torrance, Jr., Esq., began his career. But though he carefully watched the face of the clerk, he was finally forced to admit that the young man possessed wonderful control over his facial expression.
"That bird has a regular poker-face," mused Jimmy; "never batted an eye," and paying for his ad he pocketed the change and walked out.
"Let's see," he figured; "it will be in tomorrow morning's edition. The tired business man will read it either at breakfast or after he reaches his office. I understand that there are three million people here in Chicago. Out of that three million it is safe to assume that one million will read my advertisement, and of that one-million there must be at least one thousand who have responsible positions which are, at present, inadequately filled.
"Of course, the truth of the matter is that there are probably tens of thousands of such positions, but to be conservative I will assume that there are only one thousand, and reducing it still further to almost an absurdity, I will figure that only ten per cent of those reply to my advertisement. In other words, at the lowest possible estimate I should have one hundred replies on the first day. I knew it was foolish to run it for three days, but the fellow insisted that that was the proper way to do, as I got a lower rate.
"By taking it for three days, however, it doesn't seem right to make so many busy men waste their time answering the ad when I shall doubtless find a satisfactory position the first day."
That night Jimmy attended a show, and treated himself to a lonely dinner afterward. He should have liked very much to have looked up some of his friends. A telephone call would have brought invitations to dinner and a pleasant evening with convivial companions, but he had mapped his course and he was determined to stick to it to the end.
"There will be plenty of time," he thought, "for amusement after I have gotten a good grasp of my new duties." Jimmy elected to walk from the theater to his hotel, and as he was turning the corner from Randolph into La Salle a young man jostled him. An instant later the stranger was upon his knees, his wrist doubled suddenly backward and very close to the breaking-point.
"Wot t' hell yuh doin'?" he screamed.
"Pardon me," replied Jimmy: "you got your hand in the wrong pocket. I suppose you meant to put it in your own, but you didn't."
"Aw, g'wan; lemme go," pleaded the stranger. "I didn't get nuthin'— you ain't got the goods on me."
Now, such a tableau as Jimmy and his new acquaintance formed cannot be staged at the corner of Randolph and La Salle beneath an arc light, even at midnight, without attracting attention. And so it was that before Jimmy realized it a dozen curious pedestrians were approaching them from different directions, and a burly blue-coated figure was shouldering his way forward.
Jimmy had permitted his captive to rise, but he still held tightly to his wrist as the officer confronted them. He took one look at Jimmy's companion, and then grabbed him roughly by the arm. "So, it's you again, is it?" he growled.
"I ain't done nuthin'," muttered the man.
The officer looked inquiringly at Jimmy.
"What's all the excitement about?" asked the latter. "My friend and I have done nothing."
"Your fri'nd and you?" replied the policeman. "He ain't no fri'nd o' yours, or yez wouldn't be sayin' so."
"Well, I'll admit," replied Jimmy, "that possibly I haven't known him long enough to presume to claim any close friendship, but there's no telling what time may develop."
"You don't want him pinched?" asked the policeman.
"Of course not," replied Jimmy. "Why should he be pinched?"
The officer turned roughly upon the stranger, shook him viciously a few times, and then gave him a mighty shove which all but sent him sprawling into the gutter.
"G'wan wid yez," he yelled after him, "and if I see ye on this beat again I'll run yez in. An' you"—he turned upon Jimmy—"ye'd betther be on your way—and not be afther makin' up with ivery dip ye meet."
"Thanks," said Jimmy. "Have a cigar."
After the officer had helped himself and condescended to relax his stern features into the semblance of a smile the young man bid him good night and resumed his way toward the hotel.
"Pretty early to go to bed," he thought as he reached for his watch to note the time, running his fingers into an empty pocket. Gingerly he felt in another pocket, where he knew his watch couldn't possibly be, nor was. Carefully Jimmy examined each pocket of his coat and trousers, a slow and broad grin illumining his face.
"What do you know about that?" he mused. "And I thought I was a wise guy."
A few minutes after Jimmy reached his room the office called him on the telephone to tell him that a man had called to see him.
"Send him up," said Jimmy, wondering who it might be, since he was sure that no one knew of his presence in the city. He tried to connect the call in some way with his advertisement, but inasmuch as that had been inserted blind he felt that there could be no possible connection between that and his caller.
A few minutes later there was a knock on his door, and in response to his summons to enter the door opened, and there stood before him the young man of his recent encounter upon the street. The latter entered softly, closing the door behind him. His feet made no sound upon the carpet, and no sound came from the door as he closed it, nor any slightest click from the latch. His utter silence and the stealth of his movements were so pronounced as to attract immediate attention. He did not speak until he had reached the center of the room and halted on the opposite side of the table at which Jimmy was standing; and then a very slow smile moved his lips, though the expression of his eyes remained unchanged.
"Miss anything?" he asked.
"Yes," said Jimmy.
"Here it is," said the visitor, laying the other's watch upon the table.
"Why this spasm of virtue?" asked Jimmy.
"Oh, I don't know," replied the other. "I guess it's because you're a white guy. O'Donnell has been trying to get something on me for the last year. He's got it in for me—I wouldn't cough every time the big stiff seen me."
"Sit down," said Jimmy.
"Naw," said the other; "I gotta be goin'."
"Come," insisted the host; "sit down for a few minutes at least. I was just wishing that I had someone to talk to."
The other sank noiselessly into a chair. "All right, bo," he said.
Jimmy proffered him his cigar-case.
"No, thanks," declined the visitor. "I'd rather have a coffin-nail," which Jimmy forthwith furnished.
"I should think," said Jimmy, "that your particular line of endeavor would prove rather hazardous in a place where you are known by the police."
The other smiled and, as before, with his lips alone.
"Naw," he said; "this is the safest place to work. If ten per cent of the bulls know me I got that much on them, and then some, because any boob can spot any one o' de harness bunch, and I know nearly every fly on the department. They're the guys yuh gotta know, and usually I know something besides their names, too," and again his lips smiled.
"How much of your time do you have to put in at your occupation to make a living?" asked Jimmy.
"Sometimes I put in six or eight hours a day," replied the visitor. "De rush hours on de surface line are usually good for two or t'ree hours a day, but I been layin' off dat stuff lately and goin' in fer de t'ater crowd. Dere's more money and shorter hours."
"You confine yourself," asked Jimmy, "to—er—ah—pocket-picking solely?"
Again the lip smile. "I'll tell youse sumpin', bo, dat dey don't none o' dem big stiffs on de department know. De dip game is a stall. I learned it when I was a kid, an' dese yaps t'ink dat's all I know, and I keep dem t'inkin' it by pullin' stuff under der noses often enough to give 'em de hunch dat I'm still at de same ol' business." He leaned confidentially across the table. "If you ever want a box cracked, look up the Lizard."
"Meaning?" asked Jimmy.
"Me, bo, I'm the Lizard."
"Box cracked?" repeated Jimmy. "An ice-box or a hot box?"
His visitor grinned. "Safe," he explained.
"Oh," said Jimmy, "if I ever want any one to break into a safe, come to you, huh?"
"You get me," replied the other.
"All right," said Jimmy, laughing, "I'll call on you. That the only name you got, Mr. Lizard?"
"That's all—just the Lizard. Now I gotta be beatin' it."
"Goin' to crack a box?" asked Jimmy.
The other smiled his lip smile and turned toward the door.
"Wait a second," said Jimmy. "What would you have gotten on this watch of mine?"
"It would have stood me about twenty bucks."
Jimmy reached into his pocket and drew forth a roll of bills. "Here," he said, handing the other two tens.
"Naw," said the Lizard, shoving the proffered money away. "I'm no cheap skate."
"Come on—take it," said Jimmy. "I may want a box cracked some day."
"All right," said the Lizard, "if you put it that way, bo."
"I should think," said Jimmy, "that a man of your ability could earn a living by less precarious methods."
"You would think so," replied the Lizard. "I've tried two or three times to go straight. Wore out my shoes looking for a job. Never landed anything that paid me more than ten bucks per, and worked nine or ten hours a day, and half the time I couldn't get that."
"I suppose the police hounded you all the time, too," suggested Jimmy.
"Naw," said the Lizard; "dat's all bunk. De fellows that couldn't even float down a sewer straight pull dat. Once in a while dey get it in for some guy, but dey're glad enough to leave us alone if we leave dem alone. I worked four hours to-day, maybe six before I get through, and I'll stand a chance of makin' all the way from fifty dollars to five thousand. Suppose I was drivin' a milk-wagon, gettin' up at t'ree o'clock in the mornin' and workin' like hell—how much would I get out of dat? Expectin' every minute some one was goin' tuh fire me. Nuthin' doin'—dey can't nobody fire me now. I'm my own boss."
"Well," said Jimmy, "your logic sounds all right, but it all depends upon the viewpoint. But I'll tell you: you've offered me your services; I'll offer you mine. Whenever you want a job, look me up. I'm going to be general manager of a big concern here, and you'll find me in the next issue of the telephone directory." He handed the Lizard his card.
"Tanks," said the latter. "If you don't want a box cracked any sooner than I want a job, the chances are we will never meet again. So-long," and he was gone as noiselessly as he had come.
Jimmy breakfasted at nine the next morning, and as he waited for his bacon and eggs he searched the Situations Wanted columns of the morning paper until his eye finally alighted upon that for which he sought—the ad that was to infuse into the business life of the great city a new and potent force. Before his breakfast was served Jimmy had read the few lines over a dozen times, and with each succeeding reading he was more and more pleased with the result of his advertising ability as it appeared in print.
WANTED—By College Graduate—Position as General Manager of Large Business where ability, energy and experience will be appreciated. Address 263-S, Tribune Office.
He had decided to wait until after lunch before calling at the newspaper office for replies to his advertisement, but during breakfast it occurred to him there probably would be several alert prospective employers who would despatch their replies by special messengers, and realizing that promptness was one of the cardinal virtues in the business world, Jimmy reasoned that it would make a favorable impression were he to present himself as soon as possible after the receipt of replies.
By a simple system of reasoning he deduced that ten o'clock would be none too early to expect some returns from his ad, and therefore at ten promptly he presented himself at the Want Ad Department in the Tribune office.
Comparing the number of the receipt which Jimmy handed him with the numbers upon a file of little pigeonholes, the clerk presently turned back toward the counter with a handful of letters.
"Whew!" thought Jimmy. "I never would have guessed that I would receive a bunch like that so early in the morning." But then, as he saw the clerk running through them one by one, he realized that they were not all for him, and as the young man ran through them Jimmy's spirits dropped a notch with each letter that was passed over without being thrown out to him, until, when the last letter had passed beneath the scrutiny of the clerk, and the advertiser realized that he had received no replies, he was quite sure that there was some error.
"Nothing," said the clerk, shaking his head negatively.
"Are you sure you looked in the right compartment?" asked Jimmy.
"Sure," replied the clerk. "There is nothing for you."
Jimmy pocketed his slip and walked from the office. "This town is slower than I thought it was," he mused. "'I guess they do need some live wires here to manage their business."
At noon he returned, only to be again disappointed, and then at two o'clock, and when he came in at four the same clerk looked up wearily and shook his head.
"Nothing for you," he said. "I distributed all the stuff myself since you were in last."
As Jimmy stood there almost dazed by surprise that during an entire day his ad had appeared in Chicago's largest newspaper, and he had not received one reply, a man approached the counter, passed a slip similar to Jimmy's to the clerk, and received fully a hundred letters in return. Jimmy was positive now that something was wrong.
"Are you sure," he asked the clerk, "that my replies haven't been sidetracked somewhere? I have seen people taking letters away from here all day, and that bird there just walked off with a fistful."
The clerk grinned. "What you advertising for?" he asked.
"A position," replied Jimmy.
"That's the answer," explained the clerk. "That fellow there was advertising for help."
JIMMY HUNTS A JOB.
Once again Jimmy walked out onto Madison Street, and, turning to his right, dropped into a continuous vaudeville show in an attempt to coax his spirits back to somewhere near their normal high-water mark. Upon the next day he again haunted the newspaper office without reward, and again upon the third day with similar results. To say that Jimmy was dumfounded would be but a futile description of his mental state. It was simply beyond him to conceive that in one of the largest cities in the world, the center of a thriving district of fifty million souls, there was no business man with sufficient acumen to realize how badly he needed James Torrance, Jr., to conduct his business for him successfully.
With the close of the fourth day, and no reply, Jimmy was thoroughly exasperated. The kindly clerk, who by this time had taken a personal interest in this steadiest of customers, suggested that Jimmy try applying for positions advertised in the Help Wanted column, and this he decided to do.
There were only two concerns advertising for general managers in the issue which Jimmy scanned; one ad called for an experienced executive to assume the general management of an old established sash, door and blind factory; the other insisted upon a man with mail-order experience to take charge of the mail-order department of a large department store.
Neither of these were precisely what Jimmy had hoped for, his preference really being for the general management of an automobile manufactory or possibly something in the airplane line. Sash, door and blind sounded extremely prosaic and uninteresting to Mr. Torrance. The mail-order proposition, while possibly more interesting, struck him as being too trifling and unimportant.
"However," he thought, "it will do no harm to have a talk with these people, and possibly I might even consider giving one of them a trial."
And so, calling a taxi, he drove out onto the west side where, in a dingy and squalid neighborhood, the taxi stopped in front of a grimy unpainted three-story brick building, from which a great deal of noise and dust were issuing. Jimmy found the office on the second floor, after ascending a narrow, dark, and dirty stairway. Jimmy's experience of manufacturing plants was extremely limited, but he needed no experience as he entered the room to see that he was in a busy office of a busy plant. Everything about the office was plain and rather dingy, but there were a great many file clerks and typists and considerable bustling about.
After stating his business to a young lady who sat behind a switchboard, upon the front of which was the word "Information," and waiting while she communicated with an inner office over the telephone, he was directed in the direction of a glass partition at the opposite end of the room—a partition in which there were doors at intervals, and upon each door a name.
He had been told that Mr. Brown would see him, and rapping upon the door bearing that name he was bid to enter, and a moment later found himself in the presence of a middle-aged man whose every gesture and movement was charged with suppressed nerve energy.
As Jimmy entered the man was reading a letter. He finished it quickly, slapped it into a tray, and wheeled in his chair toward his caller.
"Well?" he snapped, as Jimmy approached him.
"I came in reply to your advertisement for a general manager," announced Jimmy confidently.
The man sized him up quickly from head to foot. His eyes narrowed and his brows contracted.
"What experience you had? Who you been with, and how many years?" He snapped the questions at Jimmy with the rapidity of machine-gun fire.
"I have the necessary ability," replied Jimmy, "to manage your business."
"How many years have you had in the sash, door and blind business?" snapped Mr. Brown.
"I have never had any experience in the sash, door and blind business," replied Jimmy. "I didn't come here to make sash, doors and blinds. I came here to manage your business."
Mr. Brown half rose from his chair. His eyes opened a little wider than normal. "What the—" he started; and then, "Well, of all the—" Once again he found it impossible to go on. "You came here to manage a sash, door and blind factory, and don't know anything about the business! Well, of all—"
"I assumed," said Jimmy, "that what you wanted in a general manager was executive ability, and that's what I have."
"What you have," replied Mr. Brown, "is a hell of a crust. Now, run along, young fellow. I am a very busy man—and don't forget to close the door after you as you go out."
Jimmy did not forget to close the door. As he walked the length of the interminable room between rows of desks, before which were seated young men and young women, all of whom Jimmy thought were staring at him, he could feel the deep crimson burning upward from his collar to the roots of his hair.
Never before in his life had Jimmy's self-esteem received such a tremendous jolt. He was still blushing when he reached his cab, and as he drove back toward the Loop he could feel successive hot waves suffuse his countenance at each recollection of the humiliating scene through which he had just passed.
It was not until the next day that Jimmy had sufficiently reestablished his self-confidence to permit him to seek out the party who wished a mail-order manager, and while in this instance he met with very pleasant and gentlemanly treatment, his application was no less definitely turned down.
For a month Jimmy trailed one job after another. At the end of the first week he decided that the street-cars and sole leather were less expensive than taxicabs, as his funds were running perilously low; and he also lowered his aspirations successively from general managerships through departmental heads, assistants thereto, office managers, assistant office managers, and various other vocations, all with the same result; discovering meanwhile that experience, while possibly not essential as some of the ads stated, was usually the rock upon which his hopes were dashed.
He also learned something else which surprised him greatly: that rather than being an aid to his securing employment, his college education was a drawback, several men telling him bluntly that they had no vacancies for rah-rah boys.
At the end of the second week Jimmy had moved from his hotel to a still less expensive one, and a week later to a cheap boarding-house on the north side. At first he had written his father and his mother regularly, but now he found it difficult to write them at all. Toward the middle of the fourth week Jimmy had reached a point where he applied for a position as office-boy.
"I'll be damned if I'm going to quit," he said to himself, "if I have to turn street-sweeper. There must be some job here in the city that I am capable of filling, and I'm pretty sure that I can at least get a job as office-boy."
And so he presented himself to the office manager of a life-insurance company that had advertised such a vacancy. A very kindly gentleman interviewed him.
"What experience have you had?" he asked.
Jimmy looked at him aghast.
"Do I have to have experience to be an office-boy?" he asked.
"Well, of course," replied the gentleman, "it is not essential, but it is preferable. I already have applications from a dozen or more fellows, half of whom have had experience, and one in particular, whom I have about decided to employ, held a similar position with another life-insurance company."
Jimmy rose. "Good day," he said, and walked out.
That day he ate no lunch, but he had discovered a place where an abundance might be had for twenty-five cents if one knew how to order and ordered judiciously. And so to this place he repaired for his dinner. Perched upon a high stool, he filled at least a corner of the aching void within.
Sitting in his room that night he took account of his assets and his liabilities. His room rent was paid until Saturday and this was Thursday, and in his pocket were one dollar and sixty cents. Opening his trunk, he drew forth a sheet of paper and an envelope, and, clearing the top of the rickety little table which stood at the head of his bed, he sat down on the soiled counterpane and wrote a letter.
I guess I'm through, I have tried and failed. It is hard to admit it, but I guess I'll have to. If you will send me the price I'll come home. With love, Jim
Slowly he folded the letter and inserted it in the envelope, his face mirroring an utter dejection such as Jimmy Torrance had never before experienced in his life.
"Failure," he muttered, "unutterable failure."
Taking his hat, he walked down the creaking stairway, with its threadbare carpet, and out onto the street to post his letter.
JIMMY LANDS ONE.
Miss Elizabeth Compton sat in the dimly lighted library upon a deep-cushioned, tapestried sofa. She was not alone, yet although there were many comfortable chairs in the large room, and the sofa was an exceptionally long one, she and her companion occupied but little more space than would have comfortably accommodated a single individual.
"Stop it, Harold," she admonished. "I utterly loathe being mauled."
"But I can't help it, dear. It seems so absolutely wonderful! I can't believe it—that you are really mine."
"But I'm not—yet!" exclaimed the girl.
"There are a lot of formalities and bridesmaids and ministers and things that have got to be taken into consideration before I am yours. And anyway there is no necessity for mussing me up so. You might as well know now as later that I utterly loathe this cave-man stuff. And really, Harold, there is nothing about your appearance that suggests a cave-man, which is probably one reason that I like you."
"Like me?" exclaimed the young man. "I thought you loved me."
"I have to like you in order to love you, don't I?" she parried. "And one certainly has to like the man she is going to marry."
"Well," grumbled Mr. Bince, "you might be more enthusiastic about it."
"I prefer," explained the girl, "to be loved decorously. I do not care to be pawed or clawed or crumpled. After we have been married for fifteen or twenty years and are really well acquainted—"
"Possibly you will permit me to kiss you," Bince finished for her.
"Don't be silly, Harold," she retorted. "You have kissed me so much now that my hair is all down, and my face must be a sight. Lips are what you are supposed to kiss with—you don't have to kiss with your hands."
"Possibly I was a little bit rough. I am sorry," apologized the young man. "But when a fellow has just been told by the sweetest girl in the world that she will marry him, it's enough to make him a little bit crazy."
"Not at all," rejoined Miss Compton. "We should never forget the stratum of society to which we belong, and what we owe to the maintenance of the position we hold. My father has always impressed upon me the fact that gentlemen or gentlewomen are always gentle-folk under any and all circumstances and conditions. I distinctly recall his remark about one of his friends, whom he greatly admired, to this effect: that he always got drunk like a gentleman. Therefore we should do everything as gentle-folk should do things, and when we make love we should make love like gentlefolk, and not like hod-carriers or cavemen."
"Yes," said the young man; "I'll try to remember."
It was a little after nine o'clock when Harold Bince arose to leave.
"I'll drive you home," volunteered the girl. "Just wait, and I'll have Barry bring the roadster around."
"I thought we should always do the things that gentle-folk should do," said Bince, grinning, after being seated safely in the car. They had turned out of the driveway into Lincoln Parkway.
"What do you mean?" asked Elizabeth.
"Is it perfectly proper for young ladies to drive around the streets of a big city alone after dark?"
"But I'm not alone," she said.
"You will be after you leave me at home."
"Oh, well, I'm different."
"And I'm glad that you are!" exclaimed Bince fervently. "I wouldn't love you if you were like the ordinary run."
Bince lived at one of the down-town clubs, and after depositing him there and parting with a decorous handclasp the girl turned her machine and headed north for home. At Erie Street came a sudden loud hissing of escaping air.
"Darn!" exclaimed Miss Elizabeth Compton as she drew in beside the curb and stopped. Although she knew perfectly well that one of the tires was punctured, she got out and walked around in front as though in search of the cause of the disturbance, and sure enough, there it was, flat as a pancake, the left front tire.
There was an extra wheel on the rear of the roadster, but it was heavy and cumbersome, and the girl knew from experience what a dirty job changing a wheel is. She had just about decided to drive home on the rim, when a young man crossed the walk from Erie Street and joined her in her doleful appraisement of the punctured casing.
"Can I help you any?" he asked.
She looked up at him. "Thank you," she replied, "but I think I'll drive home on it as it is. They can change it there."
"It looks like a new casing," he said. "It would be too bad to ruin it. If you have a spare I will be very glad to change it for you," and without waiting for her acquiescence he stripped off his coat, rolled up his shirt-sleeves, and dove under the seat for the jack.
Elizabeth Compton was about to protest, but there was something about the way in which the stranger went at the job that indicated that he would probably finish it if he wished to, in spite of any arguments she could advance to the contrary. As he worked she talked with him, discovering not only that he was a rather nice person to look at, but that he was equally nice to talk to.
She could not help but notice that his clothes were rather badly wrinkled and that his shoes were dusty and well worn; for when he kneeled in the street to operate the jack the sole of one shoe was revealed beneath the light of an adjacent arc, and she saw that it was badly worn. Evidently he was a poor young man.
She had observed these things almost unconsciously, and yet they made their impression upon her, so that when he had finished she recalled them, and was emboldened thereby to offer him a bill in payment for his services. He refused, as she had almost expected him to do, for while his clothes and his shoes suggested that he might accept a gratuity, his voice and his manner belied them.
During the operation of changing the wheel the young man had a good opportunity to appraise the face and figure of the girl, both of which he found entirely to his liking, and when finally she started off, after thanking him, he stood upon the curb watching the car until it disappeared from view.
Slowly he drew from his pocket an envelope which had been addressed and stamped for mailing, and very carefully tore it into small bits which he dropped into the gutter. He could not have told had any one asked him what prompted him to the act. A girl had come into his life for an instant, and had gone out again, doubtless forever, and yet in that instant Jimmy Torrance had taken a new grasp upon his self-esteem.
It might have been the girl, and again it might not have been. He could not tell. Possibly it was the simple little act of refusing the tip she had proffered him. It might have been any one of a dozen little different things, or an accumulation of them all, that had brought back a sudden flood of the old self-confidence and optimism.
"To-morrow," said Jimmy as he climbed into his bed, "I am going to land a job."
And he did. In the department store to the general managership of whose mail-order department he had aspired Jimmy secured a position in the hosiery department at ten dollars a week. The department buyer who had interviewed him asked him what experience he had had with ladies' hosiery.
"About four or five years," replied Jimmy.
"For whom did you work?"
"I was in business for myself," replied the applicant, "both in the West and in the East. I got my first experience in a small town in Nebraska, but I carried on a larger business in the East later."
So they gave Jimmy a trial in a new section of the hosiery department, wherein he was the only male clerk. The buyer had discovered that there was a sufficient proportion of male customers, many of whom displayed evident embarrassment in purchasing hosiery from young ladies, to warrant putting a man clerk in one of the sections for this class of trade.
The fact of the matter was, however, that the astute buyer was never able to determine the wisdom of his plan, since Jimmy's entire time was usually occupied in waiting upon impressionable young ladies. However, inasmuch as it redounded to the profit of the department, the buyer found no fault.
Possibly if Jimmy had been almost any other type of man from what he was, his presence would not have been so flamboyantly noticeable in a hosiery department. His stature, his features, and his bronzed skin, that had lost nothing of its bronze in his month's search for work through the hot summer streets of a big city, were as utterly out of place as would have been the salient characteristics of a chorus-girl in a blacksmith-shop.
For the first week Jimmy was frightfully embarrassed, and to his natural bronze was added an almost continuous flush of mortification from the moment that he entered the department in the morning until he left it at night.
"It is a job, however," he thought, "and ten dollars is better than nothing. I can hang onto it until something better turns up."
With his income now temporarily fixed at the amount of his wages, he was forced to find a less expensive boarding-place, although at the time he had rented his room he had been quite positive that there could not be a cheaper or more undesirable habitat for man. Transportation and other considerations took him to a place on Indiana Avenue near Eighteenth Street, from whence he found he could walk to and from work, thereby saving ten cents a day. "And believe me," he cogitated, "I need the ten."
Jimmy saw little of his fellow roomers. A strange, drab lot he thought them from the occasional glimpses he had had in passings upon the dark stairway and in the gloomy halls. They appeared to be quiet, inoffensive sort of folk, occupied entirely with their own affairs. He had made no friends in the place, not even an acquaintance, nor did he care to. What leisure time he had he devoted to what he now had come to consider as his life work—the answering of blind ads in the Help Wanted columns of one morning and one evening paper—the two mediums which seemed to carry the bulk of such advertising.
For a while he had sought a better position by applying during the noon hour to such places as gave an address close enough to the department store in which he worked to permit him to make the attempt during the forty-five-minute period he was allowed for his lunch.
But he soon discovered that nine-tenths of the positions were filled before he arrived, and that in the few cases where they were not he not only failed of employment, but was usually so delayed that he was late in returning to work after noon.
By replying to blind ads evenings he could take his replies to the two newspaper offices during his lunch hour, thereby losing no great amount of time. Although he never received a reply, he still persisted as he found the attempt held something of a fascination for him, similar probably to that which holds the lottery devotee or the searcher after buried treasure—there was always the chance that he would turn up something big.
And so another month dragged by slowly. His work in the department store disgusted him. It seemed such a silly, futile occupation for a full-grown man, and he was always fearful that the sister or sweetheart or mother of some of his Chicago friends would find him there behind the counter in the hosiery section.
The store was a large one, including many departments, and Jimmy tried to persuade the hosiery buyer to arrange for his transfer to another department where his work would be more in keeping with his sex and appearance.
He rather fancied the automobile accessories line, but the buyer was perfectly satisfied with Jimmy's sales record, and would do nothing to assist in the change. The university heavyweight champion had reached a point where he loathed but one thing more than he did silk hosiery, and that one thing was himself.
HAROLD PLAYS THE RAVEN.
Mason Compton, president and general manager, sat in his private office in the works of the International Machine Company, chewing upon an unlighted cigar and occasionally running his fingers through his iron-gray hair as he compared and recompared two statements which lay upon the desk before him.
"Damn strange," he muttered as he touched a button beneath the edge of his desk. A boy entered the room. "Ask Mr. Bince if he will be good enough to step in here a moment, please," said Compton; and a moment later, when Harold Bince entered, the older man leaned back in his chair and motioned the other to be seated.
"I can't understand these statements, Harold," said Compton. "Here is one for August of last year and this is this August's statement of costs. We never had a better month in the history of this organization than last month, and yet our profits are not commensurate with the volume of business that we did. That's the reason I sent for these cost statements and have compared them, and I find that our costs have increased out of all proportions to what is warranted. How do you account for it?"
"Principally the increased cost of labor," replied Bince. "The same holds true of everybody else. Every manufacturer in the country is in the same plight we are."
"I know," agreed Compton, "that that is true to some measure. Both labor and raw materials have advanced, but we have advanced our prices correspondingly. In some instances it seems to me that our advance in prices, particularly on our specialties, should have given us even a handsomer profit over the increased cost of production than we formerly received.
"In the last six months since I appointed you assistant manager I am afraid that I have sort of let things get out of my grasp. I have a lot of confidence in you, Harold, and now that you and Elizabeth are engaged I feel even more inclined to let you shoulder the responsibilities that I have carried alone from the inception of this organization. But I've got to be mighty sure that you are going to do at least as well as I did. You have shown a great deal of ability, but you are young and haven't had the advantage of the years of experience that made it possible for me to finally develop a business second to none in this line in the West.
"I never had a son, and after Elizabeth's mother died I have lived in the hope somehow that she would marry the sort of chap who would really take the place of such a son as every man dreams of—some one who will take his place and carry on his work when he is ready to lay aside his tools. I liked your father, Harold. He was one of the best friends that I ever had, and I can tell you now what I couldn't have you a month ago: that when I employed you and put you in this position it was with the hope that eventually you would fill the place in my business and in my home of the son I never had."
"Do you think Elizabeth guessed what was in your mind?" asked Bince.
"I don't know," replied the older man. "I have tried never to say anything to influence her. Years ago when she was younger we used to talk about it half jokingly and shortly after you told me of your engagement she remarked to me one day that she was happy, for she knew you were going to be the sort of son I had wanted.
"I haven't anybody on earth but her, Harold, and when I die she gets the business. I have arranged it in my will so you two will share and share alike in profits after I go, but that will be some time. I am far from being an old man, and I am a mighty healthy one. However, I should like to be relieved of the active management. There are a lot of things that I have always wanted to do that I couldn't do because I couldn't spare the time from my business.
"And so I want you to get thoroughly into the harness as soon as possible, that I may turn over the entire management you. But I can't do it, Harold, while the profits are diminishing."
As the older man's gaze fell again to statements before him the eyes of younger man narrowed just a trifle as they rested upon Mason Compton, and then as the older man looked up Bince's expression changed.
"I'll do my best, sir," he said, smiling. "Of course I realize, as you must, that I have tried to learn a great deal in a short time. I think I have reached a point now where I pretty thoroughly grasp the possibilities and requirements of my work, and I am sure that from now on you will note a decided change for the better on the right side of the ledger."
"I am sure of it, my boy," said Compton heartily. "Don't think that I have been finding fault with anything you have done. I just wanted to call your attention to these figures. They mean something, and it's up to you to find out just what they do mean."
And then there came a light tap on the door, which opened immediately before any summons to enter had been given, and Elizabeth Compton entered, followed by another young woman.
"Hello, there!" exclaimed Compton. "What gets us out so early? And Harriet too! There is only one thing that would bring you girls in here so early."
"And what's that?" asked Elizabeth.
"You are going shopping, and Elizabeth wants some money."
They all laughed. "You're a regular Sherlock Holmes!" exclaimed Harriet Holden.
"How much?" asked Compton of his daughter, still smiling.
"How much have you?" asked Elizabeth. "I am utterly broke."
Compton turned to Bince. "Get her what she needs, Harold," he said.
The young man started to the door.
"Come with me, Elizabeth," he said; "we will go out to the cashier's cage and get you fixed up."
They entered Bince's office, which adjoined Compton's.
"Wait here a minute, Elizabeth," said Bince. "How much do you want? I'll get it for you and bring it back. I want to see you a moment alone before you go."
She told him how much she wanted, and he was back shortly with the currency.
"Elizabeth," he said, "I don't know whether you have noticed it or not, because your father isn't a man to carry his troubles home, but I believe that he is failing rapidly, largely from overwork. He worries about conditions here which really do not exist. I have been trying to take the load off his shoulders so that he could ease up a bit, but he has got into a rut from which he cannot be guided.
"He will simply have to be lifted completely out of it, or he will stay here and die in the harness. Everything is running splendidly, and now that I have a good grasp of the business I can handle it. Don't you suppose you could persuade him to take a trip? I know that he wants to travel. He has told me so several times, and if he could get away from here this fall and stay away for a year, if possible, it would make a new man of him. I am really very much worried about him, and while I hate to worry you I feel that you are the only person who can influence him and that something ought to be done and done at once."
"Why, Harold," exclaimed the girl, "there is nothing the matter with father! He was never better in his life nor more cheerful."
"That's the side of him that he lets you see," replied the man. "His gaiety is all forced. If you could see him after you leave you would realize that he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Your father is not an old man in years, but he has placed a constant surtax on his nervous system for the last twenty-five years without a let-up, and it doesn't make any difference how good a machine may be it is going to wear out some day, and the better the machine the more complete will be the wreck when the final break occurs."
As he spoke he watched the girl's face, the changing expression of it, which marked her growing mental perturbation.
"You really believe it is as bad as that, Harold?" she asked.
"It may be worse than I think," he said. "It is surely fully as bad."
The girl rose slowly from the chair. "I will try and persuade him to see Dr. Earle."
The man took a step toward her. "I don't believe a doctor is what he needs," he said quickly. "His condition is one that even a nerve specialist might not diagnose correctly. It is only some one in a position like mine, who has an opportunity to observe him almost hourly, day by day, who would realize his condition. I doubt if he has any organic trouble whatever. What he needs is a long rest, entirely free from any thought whatever of business. At least, Elizabeth, it will do him no harm, and it may prolong his life for years. I wouldn't go messing around with any of these medical chaps."
"Well," she said at last, with a sigh, "I will talk to him and see if I can't persuade him to take a trip. He has always wanted to visit Japan and China."
"Just the thing!" exclaimed Bince; "just the thing for him. The long sea voyage will do him a world of good. And now," he said, stepping to her side and putting an arm around her.
She pushed him gently away.
"No," she said; "I do not feel like kissing now," and turning she entered her father's office, followed by Bince.
From her father's works Elizabeth and Harriet drove to the shopping district, where they strolled through a couple of shops and then stopped at one of the larger stores.
Jimmy Torrance was arranging his stock, fully nine-tenths of which he could have sworn he had just shown an elderly spinster who had taken at least half an hour of his time and then left without making a purchase. His back was toward his counter when his attention was attracted by a feminine voice asking if he was busy. As he turned about he recognized her instantly—the girl for whom he had changed a wheel a month before and who unconsciously had infused new ambition into his blood and saved him, temporarily at least, from becoming a quitter.
He noticed as he waited on her that she seemed to be appraising him very carefully, and at times there was a slightly puzzled expression on her face, but evidently she did not recognize him, and finally when she had concluded her purchases he was disappointed that she paid for them in cash. He had rather hoped that she would have them charged and sent, that he might learn her name and address. And then she left, with Jimmy none the wiser concerning her other than that her first name was Elizabeth and that she was even better-looking than he recalled her to have been.
"And the girl with her!" exclaimed Jimmy mentally. "She was no slouch either. They are the two best-looking girls I have seen in this town, notwithstanding the fact that whether one likes Chicago or not he's got to admit that there are more pretty girls here than in any other city in the country.
"I'm glad she didn't recognize me. Of course, I don't know her, and the chances are that I never shall, but I should hate to have any one recognize me here, or hereafter, as that young man at the stocking counter. Gad! but it's beastly that a regular life-sized man should be selling stockings to women for a living, or rather for a fraction of a living."
While Jimmy had always been hugely disgusted with his position, the sight of the girl seemed to have suddenly crystallized all those weeks of self-contempt into a sudden almost mad desire to escape what he considered his degrading and effeminating surroundings. One must bear with Jimmy and judge him leniently, for after all, notwithstanding his college diploma and physique, he was still but a boy and so while it is difficult for a mature and sober judgment to countenance his next step, if one can look back a few years to his own youth he can at least find extenuating circumstances surrounding Jimmy's seeming foolishness.
For with a bang that caused startled clerks in all directions to look up from their work he shattered the decorous monotone of the great store by slamming his sales book viciously upon the counter, and without a word of explanation to his fellow clerks marched out of the section toward the buyer's desk.
"Well, Mr. Torrance," asked that gentleman, "what can I do for you?"
"I am going to quit," announced Jimmy.
"Quit!"' exclaimed the buyer. "Why, what's wrong? Isn't everything perfectly satisfactory? You have never complained to me."
"I can't explain," replied Jimmy. "I am going to quit. I am not satisfied. I am going to er—ah—accept another position."
The buyer raised his eyebrows. "Ah!" he said. "With—" and he named their closest competitor.
"No," said Jimmy. "I am going to get a regular he-job."
The other smiled. "If an increase in salary," he suggested, "would influence you, I had intended to tell you that I would take care of you beginning next week. I thought of making it fifteen dollars," and with that unanswerable argument for Jimmy's continued service the buyer sat back and folded his hands.
"Nothing stirring," said Jimmy. "I wouldn't sell another sock if you paid me ten thousand dollars a year. I am through."
"Oh, very well," said the buyer aggrievedly, "but if you leave me this way you will be unable to refer to the house."
But nothing, not even a team of oxen, could have held Jimmy in that section another minute, and so he got his pay and left with nothing more in view than a slow death by starvation.
"There," exclaimed Elizabeth Compton, as she sank back on the cushions of her car.
"There what?" asked Harriet.
"I have placed him."
"That nice-looking young person who waited on us in the hosiery section."
"Oh!" said Harriet. "He was nice-looking, wasn't he? But he looked out of place there, and I think he felt out of place. Did you notice how he flushed when he asked you what size?" and the girls laughed heartily at the recollection. "But where have you ever met him before?" Harriet asked.
"I have never met him," corrected Elizabeth, accenting the "met." "He changed a wheel on the roadster several weeks ago one evening after I had taken Harold down to the club. And he was very nice about it. I should say that he is a gentleman, although his clothes were pretty badly worn."
"Yes," said Harriet, "his suit was shabby, but his linen was clean and his coat well brushed."
"My!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "He must have made an impression on some one."
"Well," said Harriet, "it isn't often you see such a nice-looking chap in the hosiery section."
"No," said Elizabeth, "and probably if he were as nice as he looks he wouldn't be there."
Whereupon the subject was changed, and she promptly forgot Mr. Jimmy Torrance. But Jimmy was not destined soon to forget her, for as the jobless days passed and he realized more and more what an ass he had made of himself, and why, he had occasion to think about her a great deal, although never in any sense reproaching her. He realized that the fault was his own and that he had done a foolish thing in giving up his position because of a girl he did not know and probably never would.
There came a Saturday when Jimmy, jobless and fundless, dreaded his return to the Indiana Avenue rooming-house, where he knew the landlady would be eagerly awaiting him, for he was a week in arrears in his room rent already, and had been warned he could expect no further credit.
"There is a nice young man wanting your room," the landlady had told him, "and I shall have to be having it Saturday night unless you can pay up."
Jimmy stood on the corner of Clark and Van Buren looking at his watch. "I hate to do it," he thought, "but the Lizard said he could get twenty for it, and twenty would give me another two weeks." And so his watch went, and two weeks later his cigarette-case and ring followed. Jimmy had never gone in much for jewelry—a fact which he now greatly lamented.
Some of the clothes he still had were good, though badly in want of pressing, and when, after still further days of fruitless searching for work the proceeds from the articles he had pawned were exhausted, it occurred to him he might raise something on all but what he actually needed to cover his nakedness.
In his search for work he was still wearing his best-looking suit; the others he would dispose of; and with this plan in his mind on his return to his room that night he went to the tiny closet to make a bundle of the things which he would dispose of on the morrow, only to discover that in his absence some one had been there before him, and that there was nothing left for him to sell.
It would be two days before his room rent was again due, but in the mean time Jimmy had no money wherewith to feed the inner man. It was an almost utterly discouraged Jimmy who crawled into his bed to spend a sleepless night of worry and vain regret, the principal object of his regret being that he was not the son of a blacksmith who had taught him how to shoe horses and who at the same time had been too poor to send him to college.
Long since there had been driven into his mind the conviction that for any practical purpose in life a higher education was as useless as the proverbial fifth wheel to the coach.
"And even," mused Jimmy, "if I had graduated at the head of my class, I would be no better off than I am now."
BREAD FROM THE WATERS.
The next day, worn out from loss of sleep, the young man started out upon a last frenzied search for employment. He had no money for breakfast, and so he went breakfastless, and as he had no carfare it was necessary for him to walk the seemingly interminable miles from one prospective job to another. By the middle of the afternoon Jimmy was hungrier than he had ever been before in his life. He was so hungry that it actually hurt, and he was weak from physical fatigue and from disappointment and worry.
"I've got to eat," he soliloquized fiercely, "if I have to go out to-night and pound somebody on the head to get the price, and I'm going to do it," he concluded as the odors of cooking food came to him from a cheap restaurant which he was passing. He stopped a moment and looked into the window at the catsup bottles and sad-looking pies which the proprietor apparently seemed to think formed an artistic and attractive window display.
"If I had a brick," thought Jimmy, "I would have one of those pies, even if I went to the jug for it," but his hunger had not made him as desperate as he thought he was, and so he passed slowly on, and, glancing into the windows of the store next door, saw a display of second-hand clothes and the sign "Clothes Bought and Sold."
Jimmy looked at those in the window and then down at his own, which, though wrinkled, were infinitely better than anything on display.
"I wonder," he mused, "if I couldn't put something over in the way of high finance here," and, acting upon the inspiration, he entered the dingy little shop. When he emerged twenty minutes later he wore a shabby and rather disreputable suit of hand-me-downs, but he had two silver dollars in his pocket.
When Jimmy returned to his room that night it was with a full stomach, but with the knowledge that he had practically reached the end of his rope. He had been unable to bring himself to the point of writing his father an admission of his failure, and in fact he had gone so far, and in his estimation had sunk so low, that he had definitely determined he would rather starve to death now than admit his utter inefficiency to those whose respect he most valued.
As he climbed the stairway to his room he heard some one descending from above, and as they passed beneath the dim light of a flickering gas-jet he realized that the other stopped suddenly and turned back to look after him as Jimmy continued his ascent of the stairs; and then a low voice inquired:
"Say, bo, what you doin' here?"
Jimmy turned toward the questioner.
"Oh!" he exclaimed as recognition of the other dawned slowly upon him. "It's you, is it? My old and esteemed friend, the Lizard."
"Sure, it's me," replied the Lizard. "But what you doin' here? Looking for an assistant general manager?"
"Don't rub it in," he said, still smiling.
The other ascended toward him, his keen eyes appraising him from head to foot.
"You live here?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Jimmy; "do you?"
"Sure, I been livin' here for the last six months."
"That's funny," said Jimmy; "I have been here about two months myself."
"What's the matter with you?" asked the Lizard. "Didn't you like the job as general manager?"
"Forget it," he admonished.
"Where's you room?" asked the Lizard.
"Up another flight," said Jimmy. "Won't you come up?"
"Sure," said the Lizard, and together the two ascended the stairs and entered Jimmy's room. Under the brighter light there the Lizard scrutinized his host.
"You been against it, bo, haven't you?" he asked.
"I sure have," said Jimmy.
"Gee," said the other, "what a difference clothes make! You look like a regular bum."
"Thanks," said Jimmy.
"What you doin'?" asked the Lizard.
"Lose your job?"
"I quit it," said Jimmy. "I've only worked a month since I've been here, and that for the munificent salary of ten dollars a week."
"Do you want to make some coin?" asked the Lizard.
"I sure do," said Jimmy. "I don't know of anything I would rather have."
"I'm pullin' off something to-morrow night. I can use you," and he eyed Jimmy shrewdly as he spoke.
"Cracking a box?" asked Jimmy, grinning.
"It might be something like that," replied the Lizard; "but you won't have nothin' to do but stand where I put you and make a noise like a cat if you see anybody coming. It ought to be something good. I been working on it for three months. We'll split something like fifty thousand thirty-seventy."
"Is that the usual percentage?" asked Jimmy.
"It's what I'm offerin' you," replied the lizard.
Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy jingled the few pieces of silver remaining in his pocket. Fifteen thousand dollars! And here he had been walking his legs off and starving in a vain attempt to earn a few paltry dollars honestly.
"There's something wrong somewhere," muttered Jimmy to himself.
"I'm taking it from an old crab who has more than he can use, and all of it he got by robbing people that didn't have any to spare. He's a big guy here. When anything big is doing the newspaper guys interview him and his name is in all the lists of subscriptions to charity—when they're going to be published in the papers. I'll bet he takes nine-tenths of his kale from women and children, and he's an honored citizen. I ain't no angel, but whatever I've taken didn't cause nobody any sufferin'—I'm a thief, bo, and I'm mighty proud of it when I think of what this other guy is."
Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy was sitting with his legs crossed. He looked down at his ill-fitting, shabby trousers, and then turned up the sole of one shoe which was worn through almost to his sock. The Lizard watched him as a cat watches a mouse. He knew that the other was thinking hard, and that presently he would reach a decision, and through Jimmy's mind marched a sordid and hateful procession of recent events—humiliation, rebuff, shame, poverty, hunger, and in the background the face of his father and the face of a girl whose name, even, he did not know.
Presently he looked up at the Lizard.
"Nothing doing, old top," he said. "But don't mistake the motives which prompt me to refuse your glittering offer. I am moved by no moral scruples, however humiliating such a confession should be. The way I feel now I would almost as lief go out and rob widows and orphans myself, but each of us, some time in our life, has to consider some one who would probably rather see us dead than disgraced. I don't know whether you get me or not."
"I get you," replied the Lizard, "and while you may never wear diamonds, you'll get more pleasure out of life than I ever will, provided you don't starve to death too soon. You know, I had a hunch you would turn me down, and I'm glad you did. If you were going crooked some time I thought I'd like to have you with me. When it comes to men, I'm a pretty good picker. That's the reason I have kept out of jail so long. I either pick a square one or I work alone."
"Thanks," said Jimmy, "but how do you know that after you pull this job I won't tip off the police and claim the reward."
The Lizard grinned his lip grin.
"There ain't one chance in a million," he said. "You'd starve to death before you'd do it. And now, what you want is a job. I can probably get you one if you ain't too particular."
"I'd do anything," said Jimmy, "that I could do and still look a policeman in the face."
"All right," said the Lizard. "When I come back I'll bring you a job of some sort. I may be back to-night, and I may not be back again for a month, and in the mean time you got to live."
He drew a roll of bills from his pocket and commenced to count out several.
"Hold on!" cried Jimmy. "Once again, nothing doing."
"Forget it," admonished the Lizard. "I'm just payin' back the twenty you loaned me."
"But I didn't loan it to you," said Jimmy; "I gave it to you as a reward for finding my watch."
The Lizard laughed and shoved the money across the table.
"Take it," he said; "don't be a damn fool. And now so-long! I may bring you home a job to-night, but if I don't you've got enough to live on for a couple of weeks."
After the Lizard had gone Jimmy sat looking at the twenty dollars for a long time.
"That fellow may be a thief," he soliloquized, "but whatever he is he's white. Just imagine, the only friend I've got in Chicago is a safe-blower."
HAROLD SITS IN A GAME.
When Elizabeth Compton broached to her father the subject of a much-needed rest and a trip to the Orient, he laughed at her. "Why, girl," he cried, "I was never better in my life! Where in the world did you get this silly idea?"
"Harold noticed it first," she replied, "and called my attention to it; and now I can see that you really have been failing."
"Failing!" ejaculated Compton, with a scoff. "Failing nothing! You're a pair of young idiots. I'm good for twenty years more of hard work, but, as I told Harold, I would like to quit and travel, and I shall do so just as soon as I am convinced that he can take my place."
"Couldn't he do it now?" asked the girl.
"No, I am afraid not," replied Compton. "It is too much to expect of him, but I believe that in another year he will be able to."
And so Compton put an end to the suggestion that he travel for his health, and that night when Bince called she told him that she had been unable to persuade her father that he needed a rest.
"I am afraid," he said "that you don't take it seriously enough yourself, and that you failed to impress upon him the real gravity of his condition. It is really necessary that he go—he must go."
The girl looked up quickly at the speaker, whose tones seemed unnecessarily vehement.
"I don't quite understand," she said, "why you should take the matter so to heart. Father is the best judge of his own condition, and, while he may need a rest, I cannot see that he is in any immediate danger."
"Oh, well," replied Bince irritably, "I just wanted him to get away for his own sake. Of course, it don't mean anything to me."
"What's the matter with you tonight, anyway, Harold?" she asked a half an hour later. "You're as cross and disagreeable as you can be."
"No, I'm not," he said. "There is nothing the matter with me at all."
But his denial failed to convince her, and as, unusually early, a few minutes later he left, she realized that she had spent a most unpleasant evening.
Bince went directly to his club, where he found four other men who were evidently awaiting him.
"Want to sit in a little game to-night, Harold?" asked one of them.
"Oh, hell," replied Bince, "you fellows have been sitting here all evening waiting for me. You know I want to. My luck's got to change some time."
"Sure thing it has," agreed another of the men. "You certainly have been playing in rotten luck, but when it does change—oh, baby!"
As the five men entered one of the cardrooms several of the inevitable spectators drew away from the other games and approached their table, for it was a matter of club gossip that these five played for the largest stakes of any coterie among the habitues of the card-room.
It was two o'clock in the morning before Bince disgustedly threw his cards upon the table and rose. There was a nasty expression on his face and in his mind a thing which he did not dare voice—the final crystallization of a suspicion that he had long harbored, that his companions had been for months deliberately fleecing him. Tonight he had lost five thousand dollars, nor was there a man at the table who did not hold his I. O. U's. for similar amounts.
"I'm through, absolutely through," he said. "I'll be damned if I ever touch another card."
His companions only smiled wearily, for they knew that to-morrow night he would be back at the table.
"How much of old man Compton's money did you get tonight?" asked one of the four after Bince had left the room.
"About two thousand dollars," was the reply, "which added to what I already hold, puts Mr. Compton in my debt some seven or eight thousand dollars."
Whereupon they all laughed.
"I suppose," remarked anther, "that it's a damn shame, but if we don't get it some one else will."
"Is he paying anything at all?" asked another.
"Oh, yes; he comes across with something now and then, but we'll probably have to carry the bulk of it until after the wedding."
"Well, I can't carry it forever," said the first speaker. "I'm not playing here for my health," and, rising, he too left the room. Going directly to the buffet, he found Bince, as he was quite sure that he would.
"Look here, old man," he said, "I hate to seem insistent, but, on the level, I've got to have some money."
"I've told you two or three times,"' replied Bince, "that I'd let you have it as soon as I could get it. I can't get you any now."
"If you haven't got it, Mason Compton has," retorted the creditor, "and if you don't come across I'll go to him and get it."
"You wouldn't do that, Harry?" he almost whimpered. "For God's sake, don't do that, and I'll try and see what I can do for you."
"Well," replied the other, "I don't want to be nasty, but I need some money badly."
"Give me a little longer," begged Bince, "and I'll see what I can do."
Jimmy Torrance sat a long time in thought after the Lizard left. "God!" he muttered. "I wonder what dad would say if he knew that I had come to a point where I had even momentarily considered going into partnership with a safe-blower, and that for the next two weeks I shall be compelled to subsist upon the charity of a criminal?
"I'm sure glad that I have a college education. It has helped me materially to win to my present exalted standing in society. Oh, well I might be worse off, I suppose. At least I don't have to worry about the income tax.
"It is now October, and since the first of the year I have earned forty dollars exactly. I have also received a bequest of twenty dollars, which of course is exempt. I venture to say that there is not another able-bodied adult male in the United States the making of whose income-tax schedule would be simpler than mine."
With which philosophic trend of thought, and the knowledge that he could eat for at least two weeks longer, the erstwhile star amateur first baseman sought the doubtful comfort of his narrow, lumpy bed.
It was in the neighborhood of two o'clock the next morning that he was awakened by a gentle tapping upon the panels of his door.
"Who is it?" he asked. "What do you want?"
"It's me bo," came the whispered reply in the unmistakable tones of the Lizard.
Jimmy arose, lighted the gas, and opened the door.
"What's the matter?" he whispered.
"Are the police on your trail?"
"No," replied the Lizard, grinning. "I just dropped in to tell you that I grabbed a job for you."
"Fine!" exclaimed Jimmy. "You're a regular fellow all right."
"But you might not like the job," suggested the Lizard.
"As long as I can earn an honest dollar," cried Jimmy, striking a dramatic pose, "I care not what it may be."
The Lizard's grin broadened.
"I ain't so sure about that," he said. "I know your kind. You're a regular gent. There is some honest jobs that you would just as soon have as the smallpox, and maybe this is one of them."
"What is it?" asked Jimmy. "Don't keep me guessing any longer."
"You know Feinheimer's Cabaret."
"The basement joint on Wells Street?" asked Jimmy. "Sure I know it."
"Well that's where I got you a job," said the Lizard.
"What doing?" asked Jimmy.
"Waiter," was the reply.
"It isn't any worse than standing behind a counter, selling stockings to women," said Jimmy.
"It ain't such a bad job," admitted the Lizard "if a guy ain't too swelled up. Some of 'em make a pretty good thing out of it, what with their tips and short changing—Oh, there are lots of little ways to get yours at Feinheimer's."
"I see," said Jimmy; "but don't he pay any wages?"
"Oh, sure," replied the Lizard; "you get the union scale."
"When do I go to work?"
"Go around and see him to-morrow morning. He will put you right to work."
And so the following evening the patrons of Feinheimer's Cabaret saw a new face among the untidy servitors of the establishment—a new face and a new figure, both of which looked out of place in the atmosphere of the basement resort.
Feinheimer's Cabaret held a unique place among the restaurants of the city. Its patrons were from all classes of society. At noon its many tables were largely filled by staid and respectable business men, but at night a certain element of the underworld claimed it as their own, and there was always a sprinkling of people of the stage, artists, literary men and politicians. It was, as a certain wit described it, a social goulash, for in addition to its regular habitues there were those few who came occasionally from the upper stratum of society in the belief that they were doing something devilish. As a matter of fact, slumming parties which began and ended at Feinheimer's were of no uncommon occurrence, and as the place was more than usually orderly it was with the greatest safety that society made excursions into the underworld of crime and vice through its medium.
Feinheimer liked Jimmy's appearance. He was big and strong, and the fact that Feinheimer always retained one or two powerful men upon his payroll accounted in a large measure for the orderliness of his place. Occasionally one might start something at Feinheimer's, but no one was ever known to finish what he started.
And so Jimmy found himself waiting upon table at a place that was both reputable and disreputable, serving business men at noon and criminals and the women of the underworld at night. In the weeks that he was there he came to know many of the local celebrities in various walks of life, to know them at least by name. There was Steve Murray, the labor leader, whom rumor said was one of Feinheimer's financial backers—a large man with a loud voice and the table manners of a Duroc-Jersey. Jimmy took an instinctive dislike to the man the first time that he saw him.
And then there was Little Eva, whose real name was Edith. She was a demure looking little girl, who came in every afternoon at four o'clock for her breakfast. She usually came to Jimmy's table when it was vacant, and at four o'clock she always ate alone. Later in the evening she would come in again with a male escort, who was never twice the same.
"I wonder what's the matter with me?" she said to Jimmy one day as he was serving her breakfast. "I'm getting awfully nervous."
"That's quite remarkable," said Jimmy. "I should think any one who smoked as many cigarettes and drank as much whisky as you would have perfect nerves."
The girl laughed, a rather soft and mellow laugh. "I suppose I do hit it up a little strong," she said.
"Strong?" exclaimed Jimmy. "Why, if I drank half what you do I'd be in the Washingtonian Home in a week."
She looked at him quizzically for a moment, as she had looked at him often since he had gone to work for Feinheimer.
"You're a funny guy," she said. "I can't quite figure you out. What are you doing here anyway?"
"I never claimed to be much of a waiter," said Jimmy, "but I didn't know I was so rotten that a regular customer of the place couldn't tell what I was trying to do."
"Oh, go on," she cried; "I don't mean that. These other hash-slingers around here look the part. Aside from that, about the only thing they know how to do is roll a souse; but you're different."
"Yes," said Jimmy, "I am different. My abilities are limited. All I can do is wait on table, while they have two accomplishments."
"Oh, you don't have to tell me," said the girl. "I wasn't rubbering. I was just sort of interested in you."
"Thanks," said Jimmy.
She went on with her breakfast while Jimmy set up an adjoining table. Presently when he came to fill her water-glass she looked up at him again.
"I like you, kid," she said. "You're not fresh. You know what I am as well as the rest of them, but you wait on me just the same as you would on"—she hesitated and there was a little catch in her voice as she finished her sentence—"just the same as you would on a decent girl."
Jimmy looked at her in surprise. It was the first indication that he had ever had from an habitue of Feinheimer's that there might lurk within their breasts any of the finer characteristics whose outward indices are pride and shame. He was momentarily at a loss as to what to say, and as he hesitated the girl's gaze went past him and she exclaimed:
"Look who's here!"
Jimmy turned to look at the newcomer, and saw the Lizard directly behind him.
"Howdy, bo," said his benefactor. "I thought I'd come in and give you the once-over. And here's Little Eva with a plate of ham and at four o'clock in the afternoon."
The Lizard dropped into a chair at the table with the girl, and after Jimmy had taken his order and departed for the kitchen Little Eva jerked her thumb toward his retreating figure.
"Friend of yours?" she asked.
"He might have a worse friend," replied the Lizard non-committally.
"What's his graft?" asked the girl.
"He ain't got none except being on the square. It's funny," the Lizard philosophized, "but here's me with a bank roll that would choke a horse, and you probably with a stocking full of dough, and I'll bet all the money I ever had or ever expect to have if one of us could change places with that poor simp we'd do it."
"He is a square guy, isn't he?" said the girl. "You can almost tell it by looking at him. How did you come to know him?"
"Oh, that's a long story," said the Lizard. "We room at the same place, but I knew him before that."
"On Indiana near Eighteenth?" asked the girl.
"How the hell did you know?" he queried.
"I know a lot of things I ain't supposed to know," replied she.
"You're a wise guy, all right, Eva, and one thing I like about you is that you don't let anything you know hurt you."
And then, after a pause: "I like him," she said. "What's his name?"
The Lizard eyed her for a moment.
"Don't you get to liking him too much," he said. "That bird's the class. He ain't for any little—"
"Cut it!" exclaimed the girl. "I'm as good as you are and a damn straighter. What I get I earn, and I don't steal it."
The Lizard grinned. "I guess you're right at that; but don't try to pull him down any lower than he is. He is coming up again some day to where he belongs."
"I ain't going to try to pull him down," said the girl. "And anyhow, when were you made his godfather?"
Jimmy saw Eva almost daily for many weeks. He saw her at her post-meridian breakfast—sober and subdued; he saw her later in the evening, in various stages of exhilaration, but at those times she did not come to his table and seldom if ever did he catch her eye.
They talked a great deal while she breakfasted, and he learned to like the girl and to realize that she possessed two personalities. The one which he liked dominated her at breakfast; the other which he loathed guided her actions later in the evening. Neither of them ever referred to those hours of her life, and as the days passed Jimmy found himself looking forward to the hour when Little Eva would come to Feinheimer's for her breakfast.
It was Christmas Eve. Elizabeth Compton and Harriet Holden were completing the rounds of their friends' homes with Christmas remembrances—a custom that they had continued since childhood. The last parcel had been delivered upon the South Side, and they were now being driven north on Michigan Boulevard toward home. Elizabeth directed the chauffeur to turn over Van Buren to State, which at this season of the year was almost alive with belated Christmas shoppers and those other thousands who always seize upon the slightest pretext for a celebration.
It was a noisy, joyous crowd whose spirit, harmonizing with the bright lights and the gay shop windows, infected all who came within its influence. As the car moved slowly northward along the world's greatest retail street the girls leaned forward to watch the passing throng through the windows.
"Isn't it wonderful," exclaimed Harriet, "what a transformation a few lights make? Who would ever think of State Street as a fairy-land? And yet, if you half close your eyes the hallucination is complete. Even the people who by daylight are shoddy and care-worn take on an appearance of romance and gaiety, and the tawdry colored lights are the scintillant gems of the garden of a fairy prince."
"Don't!" Elizabeth pleaded. "The city night always affects me. It makes me want to do something adventurous, and on Christmas Eve it is even worse. If you keep on like that I shall soon be telling David to drive us up and down State Street all night."