LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
This story is an intriguing mixture of love and business, and shows what a real go-getting young Canadian can achieve in both.
EVEN to those who have ever lived joyously, with no more thought of the morrow than the Gospels enjoin, there must come, one day, the feeling of age. The first gray hair or a tiny wrinkle may be responsible. Or it may be nothing more than an impending birthday, with its suggestion that another milestone is about to be passed, while the great things of life still elude one.
Anyway it comes, as it had come to Sally North who, this brilliant October morning, sat on the steps of the Country Club at Oakville and surrendered herself to a growing revolt against existence as it presented itself to her, and the relentless march of the unfruitful years.
“I’m not getting anywhere, doing anything,” she mused. “And to-morrow—to-morrow I’ll be twenty-two! Oh, gosh!”
In her pose as she sat there, one hand toying with a mid-iron, the other cupping a determined yet pretty chin, there was nothing to suggest affinity between her and the everlasting hills which, veiled in horizon blue, held her abstracted gaze.
Yet she felt as old as they this morning.
This, her mother would have maintained, was the result of dancing to all hours of the night. Or rather the morning, Sally having been so occupied until after two.
Nevertheless, Sally’s mood was not caused by physical weariness. So long as the music had lasted she had surrendered herself to it with inextinguishable gaiety and Inexhaustible vigor. She had had no lack of partners, and when the dance was over Johnny Somes had had to override three candidates for the privilege of accompanying her home.
On the way home he had attempted to kiss her.
“Darned pip-squeak!” smoldered Sally now, making a vicious jab with her mid-iron at a pebble in the graveled drive.
To her the pebble, otherwise inoffensive, represented both Johnny in particular and life in general. It was, therefore, a bad moment for Johnny to appear.
Now if Sally felt old, Johnny should have felt antediluvian, for he was all of twenty-five. But he wore his years lightly. He had but recently graduated from Varsity and in due time he would lend luster to the firm of bankers of which his father was senior member.
In the meantime, however, he was spending the summer at Oakville and at the moment he was attired in modish white linen plus fours and a violent slip-on sweater. “Hello, Sally,” said he blithely.
Sally, glancing up, gave him a glance that should have seared him. But Johnny must blunder oh where angels might have feared blistered feet.
“You aren’t still sore about last night?” he protested.
“You go ’way and leave me alone!” commanded Sally. And as he showed a disposition to argue rather than
obey, she added, “If you don’t--”
The mid-iron she held moved suggestively. Johnny doubted that she would actually attack him with it. Yet he wasn’t absolutely sure. And though it irked him to retreat, yet it occurred to him that discretion was the better part of valor. Accordingly he departed. But not without a parting shot.
“Oh, all right—be a crab!” he remarked. “But I’ll say this. I’m sorry for what happened last night—but you certainly looked as if you expected it!”
They who say that chivalry is dead speak sooth. Frankness is the order of the day. Yet Johnny was not without excuse. The truth was that Sally had looked as if she expected something—the same something Johnny had tried to bestow upon her.
And, indeed, so she had. But not from Johnny.
The October night had been soft and mysterious, the rhythmic purr of Johnny’s roadster like a beguiling drug; Sally, gazing up at the stars, had been subtly stirred.
“Oh, that we two might ride on and on!” she had murmured dreamily.
THIS had surprised Johnny. And pleased him. He could hardly be expected to guess that Sally at the advanced age of almost twenty-two was playing “pretend.” Or that, so far as she was concerned, he wasn’t himself at all, but somebody else.
But how could she tell him that? Then—or now.
“I could get him easily enough if I wanted him,” she told herself—truthfully. “And mother would purr and be pleased. But oh gosh! Think of Johnny the rest of my life. Or until divorce did us part. I’ll bet it would part us darn soon—”
Then Johnny faded from sight. And from mind.
“I wonder,” mused Sally, “if I just gave him a little sign if—if--”
Let those who deplore the modern girl and her almost indecent frankness take heart. For Sally, modern to her pretty finger-tips, stopped here and blushed, just as her great-grandmother might have.
The truth was that Sally, who drove a car and sailed a boat and otherwise demonstrated her emancipation from the ancient shackles of sex in ways that must have made her mid-Victorian ancestors shrink from ouija boards and all other contacts with a world gone mad, was yet as handicapped as her great grandmother would have been in her efforts to persuade a stupid, blind male that she was the fast fleeing—but not too fast fleeing—quarry that fate had destined he pursue.
In brief, in love the initiative is still masculine and only the referendum feminine. This Sally realized.
“You’re getting to be a nut,” she assured herself. Yet she added: “But there ought to be a law against a—a mere chauffeur being so darned attractive!”
The particular chauffeur she had in mind was all of that. Even her mother, who was neither young nor impressionable, so considered him. In fact, had she given her vocabulary free rein, she would have called him not too darned, but too something-much-stronger attractive.
Not to her personally, of course. She eyed him stonily and addressed him as Cabot, in a tone intended to keep him in his place, as he should be kept. And would have been, had it not been for Sally’s father.
Sally’s father was like that. Democratic beyond reason. Sally’s mother had tried to do for him socially all that the wife of a successful business man can do. The Norths’ winter home on the Hill was a beautifully appointed, flawlessly functioning affair. The summer home, overlooking the Lake at Oakville, was as meticulously correct. As stage manager, Sally’s mother had spared neither effort nor expense to secure an impeccable setting.
This she had achieved. And with it a smattering of smart friends. She felt sure that she might have shone as a social star, had her supporting company proved adequate—but it hadn’t.
Especially had her leading man failed her.
It wasn’t as if Sally’s father did not look the part she wished him to play. He wasn’t, like so many successful business men, insignificant in appearance. He had the head and the mien of a Roman emperor. He looked, in fact, as if he might have stroked a college crew somewhere in his youth.
No one would ever have suspected, had he not told them so—which he generally did—that he had started as an errand boy in a department store.
Even this might have been smoothed over but for his inextinguishable democracy. She did not want him to be a snob—or so she protested. But why should he persist in treating his employees not only as equals but as friends? They were, presumably, all right in their place. But why not keep them there?
“I guess I’m naturally friendly,” was his weak apology.
And he proved it yet again by calling his personal chauffeur Bill!
DILL had appeared on the scene back in July. When -D Sally had come home that day she had found her father’s car parked in the drive. Bill was busy under the hood. But even so, and despite his caste, something inextinguishably feminine had quickened in Sally.
“Gracious!” she had gasped—to herself, of course. “Where did dad get you!” _
This was precisely what her mother had demanded of her father.
“Too good-looking?” he had echoed bewilderedly. “What difference does it make what he looks like?”
Her efforts to enlighten him had found him obtuse, then and since.
To begin with, Sally’s father refused to put Bill in the livery it was only right and proper he should wear. Stacy, the family chauffeur, was ever so correct in gray whipcord and black riding boots, but Bill was permitted to wear what he chose. Which was, evidently, a golf suit.
One might, indeed, have been excused for failing to recognize him as what he was. In fact, a visitor had this same morning when the approach of age so depressed Sally.
The visitor was Mrs. Brekenridge—the Mrs. Brekenridge.
The Norths had been at Oakville for five summers. This was the first time Mrs. Brekenridge had called. She had not come at the formal hour, nor was it a social call. She had come to raise funds for a pet charity, and from her manner one might have believed she had hitherto not been conscious of the Norths’ existence.
But Sally’s mother was none the less uplifted, until: “And you have a son?” Mrs. Brekenridge remarked, with the cordial condescension of a lady of the manor visiting some humble tenant’s wife.
“A son? Oh no! Only a daughter--”
“But that nice looking young man waiting in the car outside? I’ve seen him driving with Mr. North and I
fancied a resemblance-”
“Oh, that’s Mr. North's chauffeur,” Sally’s mother confessed.
“Oh—I see!” said Mrs. Brekenridge.
No wonder that Sally’s father, preparing to make his departure just after Mrs. Brekenridge had taken hers, wondered what had struck his wife.
“I ought to be on my waynow,” he protested helplessly. “I’m late as it is. And I don’t see what difference it makes what Bill wears. He’s my chauffeur, not^ yours. Dress
yours up like a monkey if you want tc--”
“I sometimes wonder, Sam,” intervened his wife freezingly, “how you ever managed to achieve success
“Mostly by treating people like human beings--”
“With the result that they walk all over you—and then strike when they feel like it,” she thrust swiftly, lettingthe main issue slip momentarily for the chance to touch a tender spot.
“You know as well as I do,” he retorted, the edge of his customary geniality showing signs of fraying, that it s only a handful of garment workers making trouble. I’ve always kept an open shop and I intend to maintain my right to, even if I have to give up business.”
“I wish you would,” she commented.
He started to speak, then swallowed. He had no desire to open up that subject.
When he looked upon that which he had created, he considered the world and found it good. But his wife saw it differently. To her his chain of department stores, seven in all, situated in smaller near-by towns and catering to what she called “cheap trade” had served their end. If Sam would only sell out and retire, as he well might!
But on that point Sally’s father had remained adamant. The stores were his life. To start the first he had resigned as buyer in a Toronto store and a salary of $5600 a year. He had a vision. So guided, he had opened his first store with eight employees, one dollar in his pocket and not one cent in the bank. The most he had dared allow himself, as salary, had been fifteen dollars a week.
From that beginning he had prospered amazingly. Because, along with business foresight, he had the common touch.
One of his first customers had been a nursemaid. She had stood hesitant in front of the door, wondering whether she dared desert her baby carriage. He had stepped out and, holding open the door, had said:
“Wheel it right inside. Baby carriages are most welcome here.”
Other baby carriages had promptly appeared. And when there was no longer room for them in the store he had hired a trained nurse to guard them outside.
So that common touch had served him in countless ways.
The money he had made, opening up a vista of'social conquest to his wife, was the least of his achievements, so far as he was concerned. To eighteen hundred employees his attitude remained the same as it had to the original eight, to whom he had said:
“If you have troubles, bring them to me. I don’t care what they are—sickness or domestic squabbles or financial hardship. I’ll do for you all I can.”
To his wife this seemed foolish. To him it was—himself. He simply couldn’t be otherwise. Or even dream of giving up business.
'T'HIS his wife saw in his face now and she flared anew.
“I suppose,” she suggested sarcastically, “that even the strikers are to be praised. Even if they do parade up and down in front of your stores doing their best to frighten customers away and ruin your business.”
He frowned uneasily. The strike was a sore subject with him. Yet:
“They have to do what they’re told to,” he protested, feebly.
One might have thought that Bill, waiting outside, had been forgotten. But he had not. Sally’s mother returned to the point abruptly.
“Has it ever occurred to you that girls of Sally’s age are sometimes foolishly romantic?” she demanded.
“What?” he gasped. And then “Nonsense,” he added, “Bill has never looked twice at Sally. He’s all business---”
“Are you sure that Sally has never looked twice at him? Oh, don’t look so incredulous! I’m Sally’s mother
and I have eyes. She--”
“But they’ve hardly said a word to each other. I
“You don’t see anything,” she assured him bitterly. “I suppose that if Sally wanted to marry him you’d see no reason why she shouldn’t!”
This did give him pause. But chiefly because he could not vision Sally as married to anybody. Yet, that is. She was too young---
“She’ll be twenty-two to-morrow,” flashed his wife when he tried to put this into words. “Be as blind as you choose—but don’t expect me to be blind too. Where did you get him, anyway?”
“Tom was grafting on tires and repair bills. That’s one thing I won’t stand for. I fired him on the spot. Then Bill, who had been outside waiting to see me while I was telling Tom what I thought of him, came in and
said he was a chauffeur--”
“And his references?”
From his swift change of expression she knew she had him there.
“I didn’t bother with them,” he confessed—that was his great weakness.
“I thought as much! And you bring him here--”
“Oh, good Heavens!” he groaned. “What do you want me to do?”
“Discharge Bill? Why, Bill is the best chauffeur I ever had. He’s worth three times what I pay him. He doesn’t squat outside in the car smoking a cigaret or reading a newspaper while I’m in one of the stores. He walks in and takes a look around. He’s made suggestions
that have actually increased my profits-”
“And of course profits are more important than your daughter’s whole life!”
Now that was unfair. And she knew it. For to her father Sally had always been something akin to a miracle. Once he would have said that he would have preferred a son to carry on the business after he was gone. But that was before Sally’s little fingers had got their first grip on his heart-strings.
“You know,” he begrn indignantly, “that Sally--”
“Shhh!” intervened her mother, “here she comes.” Through the window they glimpsed her roadster as, with protesting brakes, it came to a stop less than a foot from the car in which Bill sat.
“Great Jehosophat!” gasped her father. “What’s she trying to do?”
Bill’s startled countenance revealed the same question. “Made him show some signs of life, anyway!” said Sally—to herself.
Nevertheless, one might have thought from the distant little nod she accorded Bill, that she was barely conscious of his existence. And no one—least of all Bill—would have dreamed that her heart was behaving in a fashion that would have aroused concern in any heart specialist save the eldest and most experienced of all: the one who instead of a stethoscope, carries a bow and arrow.
As she entered the house she saw her father.
“Hello!” she said. “Why aren’t you off earning my living?”
He glanced at his watch.
“Great Scott!” he exclaimed. “I must go!”
He paused, however, to kiss Sally and her mother. But with a subtle difference.
“To-morrow,” Sally reminded him, “is my birthday. Prepare to surprise me.”
He paused in his flight. “What do you want most?” he asked.
In spite of herself Sally’s eyes strayed toward Bill. And briefly an unregenerate and most unmaidenly
impulse possessed her. Supposing she should say--
But of course she couldn’t.
“I don’t know myself,” she replied, with more truth than she suspected.
HP HIS morning she had started off to play golf. Yet ^ here she was back again, so soon, driven by a restlessness that gave her no peace.
“It’s too hot for golf,” she replied, answering her mother’s question. “It’s hotter than it has any right to he this time of the year. I’m going for a sail instead.” And she ascended to her room, presumably to change for that.
Instead she paused by a window that overlooked the Lake. But her thoughts were turned inward. Languishing was not her line, and being modern, she proceeded to deal with her emotions in the modern manner.
Why—darn him!—did he interest her so?
They had not exchanged ten words. Yet from the moment she had first seen him she had sensed something in him. Something different. From the other men she knew. Men like Johnny Somes. She wrinkled her pretty nose—pip-squeaks, all of them.
But was Bill different? Really?
One simply had to be honest. There was no sense in being a ninny just because a man made one feel-—well, funny!
“He can’t really amount to much,” she told herself honestly. “Else he wouldn’t be satisfied with being just a chauffeur—even for dad.”
Which should have disposed of Bill.
Even though Sally, determined that it should, went off for her sail. As a matter of convenience she wore a boyish bathing suit. That this was wise, considered as a precaution, all who had ever seen Sally sail agreed. But at their prophecies Sally laughed. She had always managed to keep the Meow II within an inch of capsizing and never doubted but that she always would.
And so she might have had not other matters occupied her this morning.
“It’s no use mooning around like Ophelia,” ran her thoughts. “Mother will throw a fit, but I’m going to cultivate the man. Enough anyway to see what makes the wheels go around. If he’s beautiful, but dumb--”
At that point the waters of the Lake engulfed her. The Meow II had capsized.
Now this was where Bill should have shone. But Bill just then was seated in her father’s car, parked outside her father’s Brampton store. Bill had, in fact, the appearance of one who has fallen from grace, for though he was not reading a newspaper while he waited his employer’s return, he was smoking a cigaret.
Indeed, Sally’s mother would have been justified in demanding why he was not improving the opportunity to inspect the store and pick up some of those priceless tips that pleased Sally’s father so absurdly.
The latter, in turn, could have replied that Bill’s style this morning was cramped by the presence of strikers who were picketing the store.
These were late employees of Sally’s father. Their present business was, in all possible ways, to embarrass him, and they were succeeding admirably.
They were not, however, appeased by this. To the contrary.
“For two cents,” suggested glances cast at Bill, “we’d put both you and that car on the blink.”
Bill grinned amiably.
“Come on and try it,” invited his grin.
Bill, like Lochinvar, Crerar, and others bom to start trouble, had come out of the West. Time was hanging heavily on his hands and he would have welcomed an opportunity to use them pleasurably.
Indeed, it is to be feared that Bill, obeying natural instincts, would have elected to use force rather than diplomacy in dealing with these birds.
Which makes the inspiration that came to him all the more remarkable.
“Got a match, brother?” he demanded of the nearest striker.
Now if Firpo, just as Dempsey was about to floor him for the count, had made this same request it is not only possible but probable that Dempsey would have dropped his fists to fish for one in the pocketless trunks he wore.
The striker obeyed the automatic masculine reflex.
“Thanks,” acknowledged Bill. “Hot hitting the pavements, isn’t it?”
The striker eyed him suspiciously.
“Oh, you’ve got to do it, just as I’ve got to sit here stewing in my own juice,” added Bill. “But I wish I were elsewhere—and so do you, don’t you?”
“You said it!” replied the striker, with great sincerity.
WHEN Sally’s father emerged, Bill and the striker were talking like buddies. But at the sight of his former employer the striker promptly registered hate again and withdrew.
“Say, Chief,” he announced. “I’ve just had a hunch about this strike business. That bunch are human after all. Now listen—■—”
Which was the deplorable way Sally’s father permitted anybody in his employ to talk to him.
What is more, he listened.
No, Bill did not save Sally. Sally, resorting to a serviceable trudgeon, attended to that detail herself. Bill’s presence would, to her way of thinking, have been superfluous. She was glad he was not around. Because: “Gracious,” she gasped as she glimpsed herself in her mirror after reaching her room. “I—I look like a drowned rat.”
She didn’t really. And she looked still less so when, just after six, Bill and her father returned home. She wore then an evening frock that, like herself, seemed created of sheer impulse, color and audacity.
Thus attired—most suitably for her real purpose— she was ostensibly doing things to the engine of her car. From this task she raised a face whose preoccupation was spurious, but whose flushed loveliness was authentic.
“What are you up to now?” demanded her father.
“The carburetor won’t carbúrate—or whatever it’s supposed to do,” she replied.
“Perhaps Bill--” suggested her father.
Sally looked at Bill. Bill was at least a gentleman. He did not groan audibly. Sally would have excused him if he had. She knew just what Bill’s next move would naturally have been. The first thing he always did when he returned was to change swiftly to his bathing suit and then make tracks for the Lake.
Instead: “I’ll look at it gladly,” said Bill, almost as if he meant it.
As he reached out to touch the carburetor his fingers brushed hers. Sally wondered if he too got a little electric thrill. The corners of her eyes, reconnoitering, brought her no assurance. Nor Bill’s first comment.
“What on earth have you been trying to do to it, anyway?” he demanded.
This was no way for him to speak to his employer’s daughter and so Sally’s mother would have reminded him. Sally did not.
“I just sort of moved things around,” she said meekly.
“Did you take this out?” he asked, holding up the air plunger. And when she nodded assent, he added, “What’s become of the spring that was in it?”
“Is it gone?” countered Sally with wide-eyed surprise.
But the truth was not in her. She knew very well it was gone. And where. She had hoped he wouldn’t discover its absence so soon.
“There’s no use going on until we find it,” he said irritably. “It must be around somewhere on the ground!”
They bent, simultaneously, and straightened with a jerk.
“Oh!” gasped Sally, one hand to her head, which his had bumped. And it was rather a hard bv.mp, too.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, with an air of something suppressed.
“I—guess,” murmured Sally, striving to save herself from strangulation, “that you’d better let me hunt for it. I know you’re dying for a swim--”
Bill tried to look as if he weren’t.
“Please go,” sh; commanded.
“I’ll fix it for you right after dinner—it will only take a minute after we find the spring,” he promised—and departed.
“In high!” mused Sally. “But —I’ll bet even Cleopatra wouldn’t have been able to hold Antony when he was hot and wanted a swim. In fact I’ll bet she’d know better than to try to.”
The instant he was out of sight she found the spring. It was under the seat of her roadster just where she had hidden it.
“But it’s going to take him a darn sight longer to fix the car than he has any idea of, just the same,” Sally promised herself.
This she proceeded to make certain by returning the minute she was through her dinner.
Bill was yet to appear. He was in his own room over the garage very busy with his necktie.
When this had been satisfactorily knotted, it occurred to him that he needed a hair-cut.
He had had one, incidentally, five days before.
BILL was not seventeen. He was twenty-seven. But men are merely boys grown older. And Bill, though he had desired a swim more than anything else when Sally had checked him, had been conscious of other things than just her carburetor she wanted him to fix.
From the window of his room he glimpsed her as she returned to the car. She seemed to be doing something to the engine. He could not see what she was up to, but it occurred to him that the sooner he joined her, the better.
Only, however, because no one knew what else she would do to the carburetor if he didn’t.
As he opened the door of his room the breeze lifted a
sheet of note paper from the table and blew it toward him. He picked it up, recognizing it as a letter he had started the night before and had yet to finish. This read:
Dearest and best:
I’m still at it, going strong. Being a chauffeur has certain compensations as I suspected it would have. No, I don’t mean sleeping over the garage or eating with the help. I’m democratic enough, heaven knows, but the efforts of one of the housemaids, who is old enough to know better, to ensnare my young affections at meal-times, interferes even with my wellknown digestion.
By the way, you are way off on the subject of Sally. I sent you that picture of her simply because I happened to see it in the rotogravure section of the paper. Of course her charms are obvious. Ever so much so. No, I don’t approve of her bathing suit. What is more, I absolutely refuse to have you wear one like it. You won’t, will you? Or at least not pose in it for the benefit of all and sundry.
Actually, we hardly see each other. At least she doesn’t see me. She’s more like her mother than her father. Very upstage and all that. And I’m only the chauffeur and so much dirt under her feet. Not that it would make any difference anyway. She’s a typical modern girl, spoiled and holding a high but unwarranted opinion of herself and her charms I prefer my old-fashioned girl any day and every day.
Bill might have profited by pausing to read his estimate of Sally. But he did no such thing. He placed the letter back on the table and, picking up a shoe tree, impressed that into service as a paper-weight.
Then he went to join the typical modern girl.
“I found the spring!” she announced.
“Fine,” he said cordially. “I’ll have it fixed for you in no time.”
As he thrust the spring into place, in the air plunger,
she stood by. It did not occur to her that he needed a hair-cut. She would have maintained that his hair, if anything, was too short. If it were longer one could run one’s fingers through it.
“I suppose you’re awfully fond of machinery,” she ventured—perhaps that was why he was content to be a chauffeur.
“Damn!” he retorted violently. He added, however, “Sorry, but I skinned my knuckles--”
He relapsed into intent silence which neither broke until:
“Step on the starter, please,” he commanded.
Sally slipped into the driver’s seat. The starter whirred.
“But the engine doesn’t go!” she protested presently.
“What else did you do to the engine, anyway?” he asked.
But there was no irritation in his voice now. Only a masculine tolerance.
“I turned things here and there — would that make any difference?”
“It occasionally does,” he commented dryly. “Just what else did you turn?”
Once more she joined him at the hood, indicating things that she might have turned but ignoring the one thing she had. And so he remained baffled until suddenly his eye fell on the shut-off in the gasoline line.
“Did you touch that?” he demanded.
“Why—I may have,” she confessed and he straightway turned it on.
“Now your engine will start,” he prophesied triumphantly.
And the darn thing did! But Bill was apparently not content.
“Perhaps we’d better test it,” he suggested. “Just to make sure--”
“Let’s,” seconded Sally at once.
npHEY emerged from the drive just as Sally’s mother in the limousine that the decorously liveried Stacey drove, entered it.
Sally had but one glance at her mother’s face.
One was enough.
“I’m in for it now!” she thought. “And—I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.” Of this Bill was blissfully unconscious. “Running better?” he asked.
“Fine,” replied Sally, and stepped on the accelerator.
The roadster soared up a hill. At its crest Sally slackened its pace. Before them was spread a vistar of iridescent sea and sky.
“Ever been here?” sh'? asked. Bill shook his head and she brought the roadster to a standstill.
“It’s one of my favorite spots,” she said, ever so casually though her pulse was hammering. She glanced at her wrist watch and added, “The moon will be up in a minute—it’s full to-night and worth waiting to see.”
Bill offered no objection. From the beach beneath came the muffled roar of the surf pierced by the shrill whistling of wheeling sea-gulls. Off skore a lighthouse flashed its intermittent gleam. The sun had set, but the glory of its passing still filled the sky.
Bit of quicksilver though she was, sheer beauty such as this seemed to metamorphose Sally, stirring hidden depths in her.
‘Th is the night we have kept, you say’, ” she murmured,
presently. “ ‘This--”
She became conscious of his quickened gaze and blushed to her ears.
“I have a perfectly crazy habit of spouting poetry sometimes,” she explained.
Then, remembering the last time she had been guilty of poetry and the pretense that had moved her to it, she blushed rosier still.
“Spoiled and holding a high but unwarranted opinion of herself and her charms.” Bill had so described her, but he had forgotten that. Anyway, he was getting a new slant on her.
“What’s the rest of it?” he demanded, and though he was not usually interested in poetry, he really wanted to know.
“Shhh!” commanded Sally, swiftly.
Continued on page 58
Continued from page 17
The moon was coming up. A miracle of a full moon emerged from the lake in sheer beauty.
They neither spoke for a time. Then Sally stirred as one who breaks a spell.
“Doesn’t it make you feel little—and yet big,” she suggested dreamily. “That is, sort of as if you must stop being little and do something big!”
Bill, with his eyes on her instead of the moon, said that it did.
Abruptly Sally glanced at her wrist watch. Then as abruptly:
“How did you ever happen to become a chauffeur, anyway?” she demanded.
The directness of that surprised even her. And Bill was taken even more unawares because he had forgotten for the moment that he was a chauffeur.
“Oh—chance, I suppose,” he said, recovering himself.
Sally hesitated. Then determinedly, she plunged.
“Are you satisfied with—being just a chauffeur?” she demanded.
But this time Bill was ready for her.
“I find my present situation very pleasant, miss,” said he promptly.
“You mean—with father?” And then, realizing that this did not sound as she had intended it to, added quickly: “Aren’t you ambitious? Don’t you want--”
“I wouldn’t swap places with anybody at this moment,” he replied. And added, plainly as an afterthought, “Thanking you for your interest, miss.”
Sally bit her lip. There was a hint of double meaning to his replies that she did not relish. She suspected she deserved this but had no intention of submitting to it.
“Why do you suddenly address me as ‘miss’?” she demanded, coldly.
“Because, miss,” he replied, “you have •eminded me that I’m a chauffeur.”
“Well, you are, aren’t you?” he retorted
“It seems obvious,” he admitted. “And >mu were good enough to intimate you ;hought I might do something better. Were you going to suggest I take a correspondence course in something? ‘Jones dipped the coupon, now he’s getting five ihousand a year--’ ”
Sally said" nothing. She merely thrust ier toe toward the starter and, as the mgine whirred, thrust in her gears.
“Now,” he commented, “I am put in my place.”
This was the last word either spoke until Sally reached home. As she brought the roadster to a standstill, he alighted.
“I am very glad to have been of service, miss,” he remarked. “If there is anything else I can do for you any time, please call on me, miss.”
Sally merely clenched her pretty little teeth in silence.
“Good night, miss,” added Bill, unabashed, and retired to his room.
There he grinned widely, patently pleased with himself. But presently the grin contracted and then, abruptly, it vanished altogether.
“Idiot!” he groaned. “Here I was sitting pretty and I had to go and talk my fool head off, trying bo be funny. Live and learn—only I don’t. She’s as mad as a hatter and she’ll probably march into the house and tell her father that I insulted her. Why in the blazes can’t I learn to be sensible?”
NOW Sally certainly marched into the house. But she had no intention of telling her father—or anybody else—that Bill had insulted her. To the contrary.
“Where,” demanded her mother, “have you been?”
“Testing my carburetor,” replied Sally. “Until this hour of the night?”
“It is now nine-thirty,” replied Sally. “Did you think it was midnight?”
This was no tone for a daughter to use to her mother. But on the other hand Sally would have replied that her mother’s was no tone to be used to a daughter. There may be something in that.
“I saw you starting off with Cabot,”
began her mother. “Over an hour ago-”
“It was Cabot who was fixing my carburetor,” replied Sally frigidly. “Is this a third degree—or what?”
“As your mother I have a right to ask a
“As my mother, try to make me answer,” suggested Sally.
The honors, such as they were, remained with her as she withdrew._ All her mother could do was to turn her righteous wrath against Sally’s father.
“You see!” said she.
But he refused to.
“Good Heaven’s, Ellen. They were
simply fixing the carburetor--”
“That’s what she says!”
They argued that.
“Be reasonable,” pleaded he. “I simply couldn’t discharge Bill now. Why, he’s just had the best idea yet. About the strike. He’s written an advertisement that we’re going to run in the newspaper
to-morrow morning. Here’s a proof--”
He drew it from his pocket. She took it as if she suspected contamination and cast an unfriendly eye over it.
The proof, headed “Picket Newrs,” was set four columns wide and read:
You have heard that we have a strike on our hands. But have you been around to see the handsome pickets who are on duty outside our store? They are splendid chaps—nice looking and very well dressed. They wear, in fact, the same clothes that they made for us, they couldn’t find better anywhere. The next time you pass, look them over. And then look in our windows and see the same quality garments and mark the values.
Don’t be afraid of the pickets. They are fighting for what they think right— just as we are. An honest difference of opinion. Personally, they are the finest type of fellows, many of them war veterans. Women and children can feel safer in the neighborhood of our store than anywhere else in the city. We pledge you our word that this is so. The pickets all have mothers and sisters or children themselves and no man anywhere could be more solicitous of your welfare than they will prove.
The North Stores, Inc.
From this Sally’s mother glanced up.
“If this,” she announced, “is a fair sample of your Bill and his wonderful ideas I can’t say it has changed my opinion of either.”
It might have appeased her—but probably would not have—had she known that Bill just then was as critical of both, himself.
To divert a growing distaste for his own wit, as directed at Sally, he had picked up his half finished letter, intending to finish it. He read again what he had already written and then added:
“Since writing the foregoing twentyfour hours have elapsed.”
THERE, so soon, he paused. And presently he let his pen drop and coming to his feet crossed to his window and gazed out over the moonlit sea.
But what he saw was Sally—Sally with the moon shining on her face.
As Sally’s father had said, Bill was all business. Yet he had given Sally a second and several other glances, even before to-night.
But not for Bill were the ancient shackles of sex forged. Privileged above ordinary men, he had seen Sally as she was. So he believed, never dreaming that he had been instinctively insulating himself against Sally’s undeniable charms by creating a mental image of her that he could disapprove of.
This had served until to-night. But now he struggled desperately against a pulsequickening infection as old as man.
“It’s the darned old moon,” he diagnosed restlessly. “There ought to be a law against it.”
The moon shone on. It still rode supreme through the skies when Sally returned from the country club, where she had gone to dance and forget Bill. But she had not forgotten him.
“I’d like to wring his neck!” she assured herself with all sincerity as she lay awake.
The memory of him as he had outmanoeuvred her and—yes, deliberately mocked her—maddened her. Yet she could not so picture him without being conscious of the lean, clean-cut look of him, of his indescribable air of distinction and the swift, whimsical smile that lighted his eyes before his lips surrendered to it.
And so, not illogically, she added:
“It’s just my darn luck that he is a perfect peach, after all!”
In time she fell asleep. And in the morning, burdened, perhaps by the increased weight of her advanced age— her years now numbering twenty-two— she slept on while the Battle of Bill was renewed.
“Once and for all,” demanded her mother, “will you discharge Bill?”
“No!” replied Sally’s father, hero of a lost cause.
For he knew in his heart that Bill must go-
And when he returned that night Bill was not with him. A new chauffeur was at the wheel of his car. Sally gave the latter one startled glance.
“Where,” she demanded, even before I her father kissed her, “is—my present?” That she had had no thought of asking about her present when she had said the word “where” her father could not be expected to know.
“Your present?” he echoed.
“You’ve forgotten it,” wailed Sally.
And again her father never dreamed that it was not his forgetting her birthday that so moved her.
“It’s been a rushed day,” he apologized
abjectly. “Bill and I--”
“Where’s Bill?” demanded Sally, as if she had just noted his absence.
“Why, your mother took a dislike to him,” said her father, speaking as one conspirator to another. “And so, you see--”
But Sally saw nothing. Her eyes had I filled with sudden tears. To hide them she turned swiftly away.
Again he misunderstood.
“About your present—I’ll get you something extra nice to make up--”
“I don’t want anything,” she all but sobbed and then, eluding the arms he would have put around her, fled up to her room.
He stood where she had left him, utterly bewildered.
“Good Heavens!” he ejaculated. “What’s come over her? I never saw her act that way about anything before.”
Nor had she. Tears she despised as too darned feminine, yet now . . .
FROM below, presently, voices came up to her. Her eavesdropping at first was purely unconscious, then of a sudden it ! became shameless.
“That ad of Bill’s,” her father was sayi ing with a sort of strained geniality that made it clear to Sally he was speaking to her mother, “certainly turned the trick.
1 All the stores showed the biggest October
day’s volume on record--”
“Aren’t you going to change fordinner?” her mother broke in.
“In just a minute. But about the ad. The stores were crowded and we had all kinds of compliments. One woman who
came to the Brampton store said--”
“Can’t this wait until later—if you must bring your business home with you?” “No, it can’t,” replied her father, losing patience. “You belittled Bill’s idea and
I’m going to tell you what happened--”
“I suspect that next you’ll try to persuade me the strikers were pleased, too.” “I’m not so sure that they weren’t. Anyway, they saw how the wind was blowing and they held a special meeting. Afterwards a committee came to see me. They said that the store had been so friendly about our ‘little differences’ that they had decided to call the strike off!” “What?” gasped Sally’s mother. Then added, with a surge of bitterness; “I suppose now that you’ll be more unreasonable than ever--”
“No—I’ve got a new chauffeur--”
“What’s become of Cabot?” she demanded suspiciously.
“I’ve promoted him--”
“I might have known it! But so long as
he doesn’t come here again-----”
“But he is coming. I invited him to dinner to-night.”
The mirror that Sally within two j seconds was surveying herself in faithfully reproduced her round-eyed amazement. But even it would have failed to do justice to her mother’s.
“To dinner? To-night?” her mother was saying, as Sally began to powder her nose feverishly. “Have-you taken leave of your senses, Sam? What do you think the butler will think? And the rest of the servants--”
“I don’t give a hoot what they think—■ but I advise them to keep it to themselves. Their opinions carry no weight with me
“Or mine either—that is plain. But if he appears at dinner, I won't!”
Came the butler’s voice, intervening.
' “Begging pardon,” said he, “but Mrs.
Brekenridge is on the phone. She wishes ■ to know if you will permit her to keep Mr.
Cabot for dinner---”
“Mrs. Brekenridge? Keep Mr. Cabot for dinner?” gasped Sally’s mother.
“I dropped Bill at her house,” explained Sally’s father. “She went to Glen Mawr with his mother, and though they haven’t seen each other for years they have always i corresponded. Bill promised his mother
! he would call upon her and--”
The powder compact which Sally had been placing where it would do the most good dropped from her fingers.
“Gosh!” she said weakly.
From the phone her mother’s voice floated up to her. It had a new quality like incense being burned before a shrine. Sally held her breath—was Bill coming or not?
Not until her mother returned to her father could she tell.
“Mrs. Brekenridge was so sweet I couldn’t refuse,” announced her mother then. “But she has promised to let Mr. Cabot off early so that he can come over.” “Are you sure the butler will approve?” “I don’t think that’s fair. You let me
think that he was just a chauffeur--”
“1 thought so myself—though I should have known better. He was too good to be true---”
“But why should he try to deceive you?”
“Why 1 don’t know as he did. He heard me fire Tom and that suggested an opening and he jumped at it. He said himself to-day that he’s gotten to know more about me and my business as my chauffeur than he could have in any other way-----”
“What—what was he before that?”
“A buyer —out west. Just as I was before I started. In fact it was his intention to study my organization here and
go back and do likewise--”
“Oh,” said Sally’s mother, “I thought
“That he was a prince in disguise? Well, he’s a darn sight better—a regular gogetter. Oh, lie’s social register stuff, if that is all that interests you, and his folks have had a lot of money. When it went while he was serving with the R.A.F. in France, Bill, instead of twiddling his. thumbs, decided to make a lot more. And —I’ll say he will!”
“And,” remembered Sally, “I asked him why he didn’t try to make something of himself. Egypt’s Queen—how can I ever face him?”
NEVERTHELESS, she managed to. A
shade too casual but never so lovely as she said:
“Going back West? But I thought you were to be with father?”
They were on the east terrace, overlooking the Lake. It was almost ten. The moon was high in the heavens—not quite so full as last night, but on the whole presenting a spectacle to be commended.
“Just temporarily,” he explained. “I want to explain my change in plans to my mother. We’re great pals and she has been much interested in all my adventures here. I’ve been writing her—-—”
There he paused, remembering the yetto-be-finished letter. He had a sudden hunch that that particular letter would be destroyed.
Sally looked up at him—Sally with the moon shining on her face.
“I—I must have sounded awfully silly last night,” she said. “But it did seem funny to me that you could be just a chauffeur. You didn’t seem like one, somehow.”
“Thanks,” replied Bill. “But you
weren’t silly at all. You were--”
There he stopped short—as short as if somebody had clapped a hand over his mouth. Then: “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” he murmured and rose abruptly.
“Wait a minute,” he requested. “And please excuse my back.”
And the amazing man stood, back to her, for almost a minute. Then he turned.
“It’s no use,” he announced. And added impetuously: “I’d promised myself that
I’d count a hundred if I ever felt a girl putting the comether on me. But—but I
can’t even count, I--”
He paused and drew a prodigious breath. Then:
“You weren’t silly at all,” he announced. “You were sweet. And adorable. Oh, I know you think this is all very sudden! And inexcusable. But you might as well get used to me and my ways. You’re going to see a lot of me and them from now on. I’m goin’ to sell myself to
you. Just as I did to your father--”
“Oh!” gasped Sally, her eyes at their widest as they met his.
In them he glimpsed that which left him dazzled and momentarily checked.
But only momentarily.
“Why, I’ve made him assistant general manager,” Sally’s father was confessing to her mother, over on the west terrace. “I had to give him a considerable promotion, you see, to keep him from rushing back to the West and starting in for himself. In fact, I—I practically promised him a partnership, sooner or later—-—■”
“A partnership?” echoed Sally’s mother. Bill, she had learned, was to spend the week-end with Mrs. Brekenridge. So favored, he had become only less sacrosanct than Mrs. Brekenridge herself in her eyes. And yet—a partnership!
“I had to,” said Sally’s father. “But I don’t expect I’ll ever regret it. I never saw a young chap quicker to see an opportunity than Bill. And what’s more, he never loses a second in embracing it.”
And of that there could be no doubt. Over on the east terrace Bill had seen his opportunity. And he had embraced it.
“What was that poetry you quoted last night?” he asked suddenly.
“Oh!” said Sally. “You mean ‘This is
the night we have kept, you say--’ ”
“Comma,” said Bill, punctuating ever so properly.. “What’s the rest of it?”
“ ‘This is the moonlight night that will never die.’ ”
“Correct,” said Bill huskily. “And— and period.”