TIMBERTON, junior member of the Timberton Scale Company, sniffed trouble as soon as he entered the office, a large redfaced man glanced up from his desk, transfixed Timberton with one quick, icy glance and went on with the perusual of his morning’s mail. Timberton shoved his suit-case under the table and glanced down at the pile of letters awaiting his attention. There was one lying open. It was brief and to the point. Timberton read it while he was drawing his chair out. Then he sat down and read it again.
“Well, don’t that just beat the devil,” he soliloquized half aloud.
“Yes, but unfortunately not our competitors, the Jepperman Scale Company,” snorted his father, wheeling about. “The Jepperman people seem to be getting the whiphand on us at every turn of late. How do you account for it, and how, I might ask, do you, sir, account for this, the cancelation of the biggest order of the season?” waving a pudgy hand toward the letter. Timberton, Jr., shrugged his shoulders and his black brows met in a straight line. He pushed his chair back and stood up. He was a tall, raw-boned man with a square chin like his father’s, probing eyes like his father’s, temper like his father’s. “How do I account for it?” he repeated, “why I think that may be done easily enough. I should have stayed in Wilbury until the test was completed and the papers signed. I knew it, but, as usual,” with a low bow, “you knew better. You said come in and make ready for Winnipeg. I came leaving that oily Dake,
Jepperman’s agent on the ground. That’s all.”
“No! it’s not all, sir. You might add that in spite of the fact that our springless, “Nonthermostat” is ac knowledged the best scale on the market, it’s the Jepperman Scale that is going to be placed in the Wilbury Departmental store. The manager just don’t say that in his letter. He don’t need to. He simply states that our scale, under test, has proven unsatisfactory, and this, after him telling you that he had decided to give ours the preference over the Jepperman, placed on approval in several departments of his store at the same time as our “Nonthermostat.” We lose this order, then who, I ask you, will get the Figuet, the Stanley and the big Martin orders now? Jepperman, of course.”
“Not by a-blamed sight.” The son brought a big fist down on his table with a crash that sent the open letter flying across the room. The senior partner’s cold eyes gleamed approval for a brief second’s time then they burrowed into his letters. “Dake seems to have the knack of plucking your “near orders,” he said with a dry smile. “The presenWCase is simply a repetition of what nappened in Quebec. Our scales came back yesterday, Jepperman’s scales stayed. I don’t want to think that little Dake a cleverer man then my son and partner. Have I made myself clear, sir?”
“Quite clear, thank you.” Timberton walked over to the speaking tube. “Send Dorrin down to the office,” he called. “How are you, Dorrin,” spoke Timberton, waving the shipping-clerk to a seat. “Look
a little tired. Not used to long railroad trips, eh? By the way, you found everything right in Quebec, I suppose. Brought the scales back with you, eh? Have you unpacked them yet?”
“Yes sir,” answered the clerk, “I unpacked them this morning.”
“Well, suppose we go and have a look at them?”
Dorrin hesitated and made as though to speak. Then he passed through the door held open by Timberton.
“Turn on all the lights,” spoke that gentleman, when they had reached the shipping room. “Now Dorrin, just point out the ones that have been away on vacation.”
Timberton passed along scanning and testing the mechanical parts of the scales. The shipping-clerk stood behind him, toying nervously with a marking brush he held in his hands. After what seemed to him a long time, Timberton stood up and stretched his long arms with a yawn.
He sat down on a packing-box and motioned the other over beside him.
“Dorrin,” he spoke, “You’ve been with us nearly four years. I’ve learned to depend on you in one way and another, maybe its because we used to swap grievances, before I was promoted.” He laughed and slapped the clerk’s shoulder. Dorrin’s responsive laugh was a failure. “I’m going to ask you something,” continued Timberton, “but before I do I’d like to know if there is anything you would like to tell me.”
Dorrin stood up. “I guess maybe there is something,” he said slowly, “I met Dake at the depot when I was leaving Quebec. We had words and I struck him.”
Dorrin winced. “Maybe I was wrong,” he said hesitatingly, “but the fact is I found every set of our scales out of balance. Somebody had loosened the adjusting device. I found out that Dake had bought
the night-watchman a new overcoat and I put two and two together.”
Timberton got up and walked up and down the room.
“Turn off the lights, Dorrin,” he said at length, “and Dorrin,” he laughed catchingly and gripped the clerk’s hand, “you’re all right, iboy, Keep on.”
Timberton strode back to the office, head up and eyes ominous.
“You will please raise Dorrin’s salary five dollars a week,” he addressed the accountant. He turned from the wicket to meet the astonished and angry gaze of his father and partner. For a long second their eyes clashed, then Timberton reached under the table for his grip.
“I’m going to Wilbury,” he announced shortly and passed out.
Through four golden hours o f the afternoon Timberton sat in a private compartment of the I nternational Limited smoking cigar after cigar and thinking, thinking.
He was still smoking and thinking when the train drew into Wilbury. Hoarse-throated hack-drivers bowed to him deferentially and waved him an invitation to ride up-town.
Timberton handed his grip to the driver of the Union Hotel, and swung down a by-street. It was evening and the cold electric lights
that kill the twilight beauty, jabbed spitefully through the semi-darkness. Timberton skirted the main thoroughfare and sought the Wilbury Departmental store by a roundabout course. As he expected, he found the store closed for the day ; but a glimmer of light dribbled through the chink between the blind and sash of the office window. Timberton knocked and waited. Then he knocked again. He heard a chair being pushed back and a step come down the hall. The door swung open and a short, heavy-set man in his shirt-sleeves, peered out.
Timberton stepped inside. “Mr. Fish,” he said, “I want three minutes of your time and I want it now.” The manager of the Wilbury store turned with a frown, then recognizing h i s visitor, laughed and held out his hand.
“Mr. Timberton,” he said, “you may have as much of my time as you wish, but before you speak allow me to express my regret at being compelled, after an honest test, to purchase a different make of scale than your own, for our various departments.”
“Tell me,” said Timberton, dropping into a seat, “I would like to know just what changed your mind regarding our scale. You remem-
ber, you were more than pleased with it, you told me so.”
"And, ecad, I meant it too. Every word of it. I thought it had the Jepperman spring scale beat to a standstill. But, do you know after you left here that scale of yours seemed to develop nervous trouble. Couldn’t seem to control itself at all ; indicator balked and wouldn’t stop anywhere, it seemed. Why man, it takes it a full half minute to come to balance. You know what that means in a place like this.”
Timberton nodded. He pulled a circular from his pocket and placed it on the table before the manager. "See that?” he asked indicating, with his pencil, a small thumb-screw in the scale’s beam. "That screw adjusts the balance. It has to be kept tight. It takes years to loosen it ever so slightly and it was tight on all the scales, when I left.”
Mr. Fish looked his surprise. "Then somebody?” he commenced and checked himself, nodding his head slowly up and down.
"Precisely,” answered, Timberton.
"And I could’nt find the book of directions you left me either,” said the manager, “do you suppose, Timberton, somebody got hold of that, too?”
Mr. Fish leaned back with a sigh.
Suddenly he rose and pressed an electric button. “John,” he spoke, to a man with a lantern, who responded to the summons, "light the way into the grocery department.”
In the grocery department the Timberton "Nonthermostat” and the Jepperman scales, reposed side by side on the various counters. Timberton picked up a three pound weight and placed it on his scale. The indicator swayed drunkenly to and fro, and in exactly half a minute came to a stand-still.
"You see,” spoke Mr. Fish, with a shrug, “it’s too much of a time-killer, my boy.”
“And you see,” said Timberton,
“this adjusting screw has been loosened as far as it will go. However, one twist of thumb and finger fixes that. Now then put on your weight.”
Mr. Fish placed the weight on the platform, and at once the indicator hashed about and stood still. “Than quick enough?” smiled Timberton.
“Well, now,” commenced Mr. Fish, then he swung about on the night-watchman. “You have never admitted any one here after hours, have you John?” he asked sternly
“No, sir,” answed John promptly, “At least no one except Mr. Dake, sir, who came to me with an order from you. He’d left some tools here as he needed, so he said.”
“So Dake had an order from me, did he ?” said the manager, quietly, “an order to be admitted after business hours, the liar.”
He turned to Timberton, “I gave Dake an order for thirty sets of his scales not two hours ago,” he said. “You’ve got to come over to the Union with me right now and help me get that order back.”
“With pleasure,” said Timberton.
Mr. Dake was smoking comfortably in his room, magazine on knees and feet on table, when he became aware that he had visitors.
Recognizing Mr. Fish, he smiled an oily smile, then, catching sight of Timberton, he brought his feet down off the table with a crash.
He sat, his small eyes shifting from one to the other of the men before him, the combination of triumph, insolence and conceit.
“Well?” he asked at length.
“I want that order back,” said Mr. Fish.
“That order has been mailed to the company,” smiled Dake,.
Timberton strode over and stood before him. “You had better give Mr. Fish that order,” he said, quietly, “and you had better be quick about it.”
“Ho, it’s a hold-up, eh?” snarled Dake. “Well, we’ll see about that,” and he reached for the bell.
Timberton’s strong hand gripped him by the collar, and he was swung forcibly back into his seat.
“I tell you I haven’t got the order,” protested Dake.
“Oh, yes you have,” said Timberton, “and because you got it by a trick, as you have got others, I’m going to take it from you by force if I have to break you all up to do it. You are going to learn your lesson right here. I’m speaking now under great restraint. If you don’t believe that,
you needn’t hurry about passing over the order.”
Dake glanced up fearfully. One look at Timberton’s face and he made haste to play safe. With shaking hand he drew the order from his pocket and threw it on the table.
Mr. Fish picked it up with a smile.
“All hunky,” he said, “this is it.”
That night Timberton took the midnight express back to the city. In his pocket reposed an order from the Wilbury departmental store.
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