THE THINKING PART
Don’t let business interfere with your golf—particularly if you’re a “wizard” for ideas
JOSEPH LISTER RUTLEDGE
AT PRECISELY three o'clock, George Darling drove an Unerring shot from the first tee.
At about the same hour on, at least, four afternoons a week he did the same thing. On each of these four afternoons he lured from his desk some business friend, whose enthusiasm only served to cloak an uneasy feeling that he was neglecting necessary work. Because of this feeling, on each of the four afternoons, he teed off with a different companion and had to listen to their derisive comments anent his easy life.
He met their derision with unfailing good humor, defending himself with light retorts.
“I’m not a dab at system or management, like Bill Hardy, or at financing, like you,” he told -Jim Everett. "You can do best by keeping your hands on that work. I have to get someone to keep their hands on it for me. I'm only good at ideas. I feed ’em ideas and th'ey do the work. Fair enough, isn’t it?”
“I have to work as well as think,” snorted Everett. “No wonder you were two up on me at the fifth.” > George Darling measured the distance to a far-away flag with a speculative eye, set himself with care, and drove straight on the line. Then with a pleasurable sense of commiseration, he stood back and watched his companion slice his ball into the rough.
“Plays hob with your golf,” Darling commented, as though there had been no interruption. “Of course I work,” he continued. “I have to work to get the ideas across. Most people are pretty restive under suggestions. If it weren’t for that, I could spend all my time here. I can get as many ideas here as anywhere else.”
“So might I,” growled Everett, with a malevolent glance at his ball that lay pocketed under a little hummock of sand, “if this blamed pea would only do what it was expected to do.”
“Nobody and nothing does what you expect it to do,” Darling commented with a sententiousness that held a fine disrr gsrd for grammar. “That’s why I like to do the thinking. You limit the uncertainty a little that way.”
WHEN George Darling, president of the Empire Paint Company, proclaimed his preference for doing the thinking for his organization, he stated something more than a mere preference. He not only wished to do it, but he actually did it. Moreover he did it most effectively.
He was not entirely fair to himself, either, in putting thinking, as, perhaps, his only contribution to the business. He gave it thought, but he gave it enthusiasm also and, as one of his salesmen remarked, “they’re a neat pair.”
Darling was popular with his staff. From the apprentice in the works, to Logan, the manager, who was a kind of understudy to the position Darling nominally occupied, they liked and respected him. They were inclined to feel that they made life pretty easy for him, as is the way of most employees. But they were not bitter about it; they liked it. They took a modest pride in the way he sauntered out of the office, about the time most excutives were coming back from lunch.
Darling's method of work, it is true, might not have appeared as work to many of his business acquaintances. There was not the same poring over figures, or the same concentrated earnestness; nor was there a desk piled high
with an imposing array of documents. Darling had an office with the regular paraphernalia of an office, but as a matter of fact he cared little for desks, not for his own at any rate. He was inclined to roam around the office and the works. He had a half-formed theory that you got better results that way. That was George Darling.
AT NINE-THIRTY on this particular morning, on his -way to his office to hang up his hat and coat, Darling dropped in on Ben Moore, his advertising manager. Darling had a soft place in his heart for Ben, a feeling that was shared by his daughter Miriam. But neither factor had influenced his sound business judgment. He liked Ben, as he said himself, because Ben had brains.
Sitting on the corner of the desk, Darling grinned pleasantly at the younger man.
“Got a little idea, Ben. Should make good copy. What do you think?” And before the other could answer he launched into the subject, shooting out sharp staccato phrases. “See it?” he would demand, and be off again in a volley of terse, glowing words, vivid and picturesque, that made what he was saying tangible—something you could lay your hands on—an idea.
Snatching a pencil from Ben Moore’s pocket, he leaned over the desk and with a few nervous strokes made a rough lay-out on a scratch pad. “Get the idea?”
Ben leaned forward with eager interest, his fingers itching to be at it.
“What do you think of it?” Darling eased himself into a more seemly posture.
“Fine!” Ben waved an enthusiastic hand. “Fine! They’ll be wallowing in paint when they read that stuff,. You leave it to me.”
Darling nodded. “Go to it,” he said.
ON HIS way back to his office, he was thinking pleasantly of Ben Moore. •
“Most of those advertising beggars are so dashed temperamental,” he thought, “you can’t do anything . with them—want to do everything their own way. Ben’s ; not like that. He licks up an idea like a kitten licks cream.” He remembered when Ben had first come to the Empire Paint Company, years before. He had been ; bubbling with ideas; he was a findi' “Best man on the ¡ job I know of,” he had often boasted. It was pleasant j after this lapse of years that he could still think the same. [ Thera was something more than a mere business relationship between Darling and Ben Moore; but Darling was slow to see it. When Ben had first come, as a arranger, to the city, he had been invited to the Darling home out of kindness; from then on Ben came with an ever-growing frequency. To Darling, interested in the boy’s work, it seemed only an echoing enthusiasm that brought him there so often. Of course Ben took Miriam around a bit; what more natural than that? To Darling it seemed a matter of coincidence. It was only recently that it had occurred to him that there might be any hidden significance to his constant appearance. He put the idea aside. It was so much more comfortable to credit these appearances to a mutual interest in the business.
Certainly the growing intimacy of these two young people was gained to an obligate of business discussions. Ben and Darling usually worked things out together. At first it hardly dawned on Ben that the idea, as it stood completed, was a very distant cousin, indeed, from anything that he had suggested. ■ But he, like his employer, had his enthusiasms. He was for the completed idea every time and he did not worry as to how it had developed. When the thought came to him a little later, he met it without bitterness.
tTE WAS talking to Miriam as they sat out on the moonlit terrace. “I always thought,” he said, referring to the discussion of the evening,” that I was a real lad as far as ideas went; but I’m a mental zero beside your father.”
Miriam considered this for a moment. “Dad’s always got something buzzing in his head,” she admitted. “If I hadn’t seen him at it, I would have thought that he never slept.”
‘‘He’s rather wonderful,” she continued softly. “It’s nice to be able to think of him that way, isn’t it? But I don’t want to think him too wonderful.” She looked up at Ben with a shy smile. “I think you’re both rather wonderful,” she added.
Ben shook his head. There was something like a frown on his face. “Nothing wonderful about me,” he said, almost brusquely. “Your dad’s been feeding me with ideas that can’t be beaten, and I’m turning them into passable copy. People think I’m something of an advertising man. but I’m not. I’m a little, faraway echo of something.” He turned to her with a laugh. “You’d be surprised if you knew how few ideas I have had in the past few years. I cobble ’em up a bit, and stick a few trimmings on them, but even there the chief does most of the suggesting. Yes, I’m an echo.”
You’re rather a nice echo,” she^aid. Ben burst into a roar of laughter. “What does it matter?” he asked. “Let’s go for a run. It’s a wonderful night.”
But it does matter,” she said, when a few minutes later they were spinning down the moonlit road.
Of course it matters,” Ben turned a sober, troubled face toward her, “it matters very much, and we have to think of a way out, somehow.”
/^•EORGE DARLING sat in his office ^ sorting his mail with studied patience.
He was not one of those imaginative souls who see in each unopened letter a vista of Undiscovered possibilities. They were routine and routine was anathema to George ¡Darling.
Half through his task it flashed across his mind that he wanted to see Logan. Leaving his desk littered with unanswered mail, he sought him out, and for more than an hour was closeted with him in eager consultation— at least Darling was eager. Logan was characteristically sad. He was a man who loved system. That it be orderly was more vital to him than that it be effective. But he had come to respect Darling’s judgment even while the latter’s methods disturbed the orderly course of his work. Darling’s ideas, he had to admit, were not as hare-brained as they often appeared at first sight.
Logan was protesting mildly. “That idea looks all right,” he said “but it will mean a very considerable change in our methods.”
“Well,” said Darling, pleasantly, “have you any suggestion that will get the same result without changing our methods?”
Logan was silent for a moment, then he shook his head. “No,” he said, “I have no other plan.”
That was typical of Logan. He protested mildly and then acquiesced. The protest came as naturally as the j acquiescence, and'they were both second nature. If he J had stopped to think he would have been surprised at the number of ideas, outwardly emanating from his own department, that had their inception in the fertile brain of George Darling. He would have been still more surprised had he stopped to think how often he had championed accomplished facts, that a few brief months before he had protested as visionary innovations.
Once again comfortably seated behind his own desk, Darling remained for a moment in quiet reflection. Things were not going well. Business was dragging. “We’re putting lots of steam into it,” he thought, “but we don’t seem to be getting results. ” He came back to concrete things. “I’ll drop a line to some of the boys.”
His face brightened at the thought. He had been a salesman once, himself, and the life still had its suggestion of glamour for him. The night ride between towns, the cheerful, boisterous company in the smoker, the wayside station with its dishevelled bus-driver with his friendly personal greeting—the stuffy bedrooms in insignificant hotels—the smell of cooking—the frowsy help, the general air of untidiness and carelessness and friendliness, he remembered it all.
He came back to the present and to the patiently waiting stenographer. “I was back on the road for a moment,” he said, with that ready smile that had made him many friends. Then, almost without a pause, his voice changed to a business tone. “Dear Henry,” he dictated—and he was off on a strange mixture of banter and shrewd common-sense, suggesting selling ideas, outlining possible new avenues of business; all with a cheery comradeship, and an understanding of the problems of the man to whom he was writing. He enjoyed this work more than any of the other business of
the day. Through his companionship of letters, he could still achieve some of the old thrill. He prided himself, too, that in this way he was still on the road selling for the company, though his actual body was behind a well-kept desk in an airy office.
IM HENRY, upon whose shoulders Darling’s mantle as a salesman had fallen, sat with his feet propped comfortably on the window ledge of the Empire Hotel, and watched the passers-by with somnolent interest. It had not been as good a trip as he had expected. He had thought and worried about it a good deal in an aimless sort of way. It seemed to fit in somehow with something he had heard in the smoker the other night. It came back to him now. It was about Saleby—Saleby was about his own age—someone had said, “Old Saleby’s losing his grip.” The idea had startled him then. Even as he thought of it in the drowsy comfort of early afternoon, he did not like it.
“Pshaw!” he thought, “the old man’s satisfied. Why should I worry?” He put the unpleasant thought from him.
Looking slumberously out between well-polished boot toes, he watched Sol Edgett carry out a sack-of flour and dump it into a waiting waggon with a jesting word for the driver. /
“Edgett,” he thought, “didn’t do much with him. I’ve a mind to go and tackle him again.”
At that moment Allan, a rival salesman, came out of the door. Henry leaned back with a grunt of disgust.
“Pshaw!” he said, “haven’t anything else to say to him anyway.”
Allan entered and slumped down into an adjoining chair.
“How’s business?” Henry demanded somewhat ungraciously.
“Not too bad. How is it with you?”
“Rotten,” growled Henry and subsided into a morose silence, that lasted for some time.
“Damn!” said Henry, “I was ahead of you. Sol must have been holding out on me.”
Allan looked him over with a pleasant grin. “Jim,” he remarked, “you’re getting flabby—too much tallow, too little gristle. You’d make better candles than glue.”
Jim Henry looked up belligerently. “The hell you say!” he retorted.
“Flabby, physically and mentally,” Allan continued. “A year or so ago you could talk back, now you only blah. I’ve watched you Empire chaps, you’re all just the same. You sit around like hungry sparrows with your mouths open. Never try to think where to find worms for yourselves.”
Jim Henry lowered his feet carefully, while the stoutly reinforced chair groaned in protest.
“Son,” he said, “when the gods send manna, who are we that we should go hunting quail?”
That perhaps typified, as much as any single statement could, the attitude of the selling staff. They were nourished by Darling, housed, and fed and taught, and they waited for the feedings.
WHEN Darling came first to the realization that business was not going as well as he had expected, he put it down to a temporary depression. He had been through such times before on the road and in the office. They had no terrors for him. “There is always business,” he said. It was a maxim that he had developed and proved in his own experience. Hard times meant intensified effort, that was all, and the intensified effort meant business. It was a circle that he had never failed to complete.
Darling turned up figurative coat sleeves and went after things. He planned and perfected and co-ordinated his business, until he could not discover another creak in the machinery anywhere. But despite his efforts the quarter’s business still showed a disheartening, backward trend.
Darling was not dismayed. He had courage. He had confidence in his organization. He had belief in himself. “There’s always business,” he said doggedly, “and we’re going to get it.”
What troubled Darling most was not that the business was not prospering, but that he could see no reason why it should not. This familiar world of his was not behaving as it was accustomed to behave. The methods that had been successful in the past, were not a success now. He had a feeling that the organization had sensed the fact that there was something wrong and were waiting for him to suggest a remedy. It troubled him.
“Things are bad,” he admitted to a friend on the links that afternoon; “don’t tell anyone I said so, but it’s a solemn fact.”
“You need a rest,” his friend returned jocularly. “You should come out mornings as well as afternoons.”
“Might as well,” Darling assented gloomily.
“Look here,” his friend remarked when an hour or so later they were enjoying a quiet cigar on the club verandah, “are you serious?”
“It’s a serious game,” Darling responded.
"I’m not talking about golf.”
"Weil, perhaps you’re right,” Darling responded with commiseration
“I was talking about business,” his friend retorted with some asperity.
“I was about to mention it myself, but it’s not a particularly pleasant topic at the moment. I don’t mind things going wrong when I know why they’re wrong; at least I don’t mind so much. But this thing gets me because we ought, by all the signs, to be doing a bumper business, and we aren’t.”
“That reminds me,” his friend turned to him with a new interest, “what you’ve said reminds me—there’s a fellow in New York who makes a business of looking into concerns that are in a condition like you say, and sizing them up and saying what’s wrong.”
“He's not a business man,” Everett hurried on to forestall probable objections. “He calls himself a business psychologist or something like that. His idea is that businesses have nerves, and suffer from worries and hallucinations, just like people. You know the birds who call themselves psychiatrists have thought out the nifty idea of going back to search out an underlying cause that produces certain effects. You know the sort of stuff; your grand uncle once when you were a little kid jumped out from behind a door at you and said “boo!”— You always knew that he was very fond of fish. Therefore you have the'explanation of your aversion to anything that wears fins. When you discover the underlying cause, you shift your animosity to the grand uncle, where it belongs, and you’re entirely cured of your prejudice. See how simple it is?”
“Everett, my poor friend,” Darling retorted, “if there are such doctors, you ought to consult one. I’m afraid your brain is getting porous.”
“Not at all!” Everett retorted with some heat. “You say something’s wrong with your business; you know it’s wrong, but you don’t know what it is. If you were in that situation, if you had the pain instead of your business having it, you’d go to a doctor, wouldn’t you? That’s all I’m suggesting. My brain’s no more porous than yours. I’m not saying this chap is any good. I’m only saying that it’s worth looking into. I’ve forgotten his name, but he’s on Fifth Avenue, I think.”
“Better have him take a look at your golf,” Darling retorted with malice.
BUT business did not get better. It did not get worse.
There was nothing about it that gave ground for immediate alarm. It was like a stagnation: that was the impression Darling had of it.
It was some months later that he was in New York. He was walking in a leisurely fashion along Fifth Avenue when his eye lighted on a modest sign, Packenham, lin yinm Adeixer. The name caught his attention as a familiar face in a crowd. “Business Adviser,” he thought: "now when and where have I heard of anything like that?” Then of a sudden Everett’s words came back to him, and he smiled. “Poor old Everett, ready to fall for anything.”
He had gone perhaps a block or two when his footsteps began to slow up. He turned about with something of hesitation in his step. Arriving once more before that modest sign, he stopped, then with a deprecatory shake , of his head, turned and entered, and with slow steps climbed the stair to the small office on the first floor.
The place was as modest as the sign. Just an outer office with a typewriter desk and a bright-eyed young lady behind it, arid beyond that a glassed-off enclosure, with nothing to suggest a business occupation. Still less did the occupant of the office suggest the world of business. Packenham, a tall, shrivelled wisp of a man, with grey hair arid a grey face, that suggested the professor rather than the business man, greeted Darling, without evident enthusiasm, and waved him to a chair.
Darling had a guilty feeling that he was sitting in at a seance or something of the kind, that the sane business man in him strongly deprecated.
“I was advised to consult you about my business,” he said apologetically.
Packenham only nodded.
Now that he was definitely obligated to the discussion of his particular problem, Darling was at a loss how to begin.
“Is it a financial difficulty?” Packenham asked.
“No. That is, not primarily. I’m not in need of funds, if that’s what you mean. It’s just that conditions have got beyond my reach.”
“In what way, may I ask?”
“If I knew that,” snapped Darling, “I wouldn’t be here.”
“That makes it clearer.”
Darling looked up sharply but theret was no hint of sarcasm on the other’s face.
“My business,” Darling continued, with something of reluctance in his tone, “isn’t good. Paint you know, Empire Paint Company. Nothing wrong, nothing at least that I can see, and I’ve had thirty years of training to know where things were wrong. I can’t see anything. Good men, none better— energetic, eager, good spirit in the place. Tried ’em all out, they’re sound, but we’re not going ahead, we’re going behind. What’s the answer, Mr. Packenham? That’s what I want to know.”
PACKENHAM sat thinking for a while. “Will you give me a week to look around a bit? In a week’s time I shall run down and see you, as your guest, if you will be so good.”
“That’s all right. Glad to have you. But what will you * do when you get there?”
Packenham smiled. “I’ll do just as you do, if you have no objection.”
“I mostly play golf,” Darling admitted.
“I would be glad to join you, if I may.”
Darling had his hand on the door when Packenham spoke again. “I think perhaps I can help. But I’d like you to understand, that I don't pretend to do anything marvelous. I may be able to see the reason, where you have failed to see it. I may be able to suggest a remedy. I don’t say that I shall, I just say that I may be able. I don’t say, either, that you may not have a dozen friends who could tell you the thing as well as I could, but they evidently haven’t, or you haven’t believed them, or you wouldn’t be asking me; and just one more thing—don’t be surprised if all I have to tell you is obvious.”
Darling left the office with very mixed feelings. “Seems a sensible chap,” he ruminated, “but what does he know about my business?”
By the time he had reached home and had been met at the station by his daughter, he had reached the not very comforting conclusion that he had been a fool. As a corollary to that he had decided not to mention the fact to anyone. Packenham was coming to visit. That was awkward certainly, but Packenham had suggested being considered a visitor, a visitor interested in the paint industry. Y es, that might do—would have to do.
During the succeeding week Darling spent his time wishing that he had not let that dashed idiot of an Everett help him to make a fool of himself. “Any ass who plays golf like Everett,” he reflected bitterly, “oughtn’t to be expected to use judgment.”
The arrival of Packenham did not cause as much of a flutter as Darling had expected. He had a guilty feeling that everyone would see through the ruse, but though he assisted manfully toward that end by too effusive explanations, Packenham’s courteously disinterested air and professorial appearance offset his efforts.
DACKENHAM was a model guest, anxious to be in* terested in the interests of his host and his host’s friends. Ben Moore was a fairly constant visitor at the Darling home, and while his interests were directed in a different channel, Packenham saw enough of him to gain some understanding of his appreciation for his employer, and his whole-hearted admiration for his employer’s ability.
Packenham went out of his way to praise Ben’s work. It was discriminating praise that showed understanding. Ben flushed with pleasure. “As a matter of fact,” he admitted, “I think it is pretty good stuff, but I can’t take all the credit for it; most of it is due to G.D.”
“Darling you mean?”
Ben nodded, “Yes, he’s a wizard for ideas. He always passes on the copy, and as a matter of fact we pretty well work it out together. Of course, I put it in its final form. But I’d be a thief to take much credit for it,” he ended with a deprecatory laugh.
Just then he saw Miriam, and with a hurried word of apology, was off.
For a week Packenham followed Darling about like an uneasy shadow. Darling found his presence a little trying.
“Beggar’ll think I never do any work, and that’s what’s wrong with the business,” he reflected with mounting annoyance, and to offset this impression he put in a more than usually strenuous week. He called all the available salesmen off the road for a conference. Went more diligently than usual into the machinery of operations, until Logan sighed with weariness and the pain of sudden action, and wondered; “What’s got into the old man anyway?”
One thing Darling would not do, give up his golf.
“What’s it to me if he thinks I’m a loafer,” he reflected bitterly. “I know I’m not.”
In all these activities, Packenham kept an even step, always with the air of a man mildly interested, the interest of an intelligent outsider.
“He’ll probably play a rotten game,” Darling reflected, “I’ll pair him off with Everett. That bird will bore him tc death with his talking, but at least they won’t spoil anybody’s golf but their own.”
Packenham rather surprised him by beating Everett handily, and more than that, Seeming to be frankly interested in Everett’s conversation, even stimulating it at times with a well-directed question.
CTILL, it was a hard week and Darling was glad when ^ it was over and he and his self-appointed guest were sitting on the verandah smoking a good-night cigar. Darling had found him rather good company that evening and was inclined to remodel his preconceived opinions.
“Well,” he remarked pleasantly, “how about it? Have you had time to form an opinion about things here.” Packenham nodded.
“And you have a solution?”
, Packenham nodded again. “Yes,” he said, “I know what would help. Fire your whole staff.”
Darling sat up with a jerk, and a slow flush rose to his face. “Did I hear you right?” he asked, there was an edge on his words. “Did you say fire the whole staff?”
Packenham nodded again with a pleasant smile. “Yes,” he said, “that would meet the situation I think. That’s a solution, the easiest solution.”
“You can count that one out, Packenham,” Darling replied frigidly.
They smoked on for a while in silence, then Packenham spoke again as though there had been no break in the conversation. “I thought as much,” he said. “If I hadn’t, I might not have been so ready to suggest it.”
“Then you have another suggestion?” Darling unbent a trifle.
“Yes, but it’s not as simple—you go away for six months or a year.”
Darling grew purple in the face. “You think I don’t do a damn thing,” he said; “just because I don’t do it the way the others do, because I go out and play golf and get a little pleasure out of living. You think I don’t do anything, just as I knew you’d think.”
“Wrong, my friend,” Packenham retorted placidly. “It’s not what you don’t do that bothers me, but what you do. That’s why I suggest you go away. Now, wait a minute,” he interrupted as Darling was about to burst into choleric speech, “I want you to get this straight. I’m not reflecting on your ability or your staff, or your methods. I am just saying that these factors have got to a place where they do not work.”
Darling, tensed for action, let himself sink back in his chair. The conclusion was irrefutable. But there was still a smouldering fire in his voice. “I suppose you have a reason for that condition.”
“Yes, an obvious reason. I told you it would be. You’ve made your staff lean. They’re all leaners. My solution is simplicity itself—take away the prop.”
“It may be obvious,” Darling retorted acidly, “but not to me.”
“You’re too close. It’s this way: you’ve got a lot of good men, but they none of them think as fast as you do. That’s all right, too, only that you have thought so fast that you haven’t given them time to think at all. They have taken your ideas because they were there and because they were good. They’ve taken these ideas, day after day, till they have pretty well forgotten that they can think for themselves. You’ve got every man on your staff waiting for you to suggest things, waiting for you to work them out of their difficulties, waiting for your advice. There isn’t a sizeable bit of backbone left among the lot, they’re all leaners, and you’ve made them that way. Now, as I said, the simple way out is to fire the lot, and start afresh with men who have their initiative and imagination unimpaired.”
“Thii^k again,” snapped Darling.
ipACKENHAM leaned back in his chair, blowing 4 wreaths of smoke above his head. When he spoke again it was softly, almost with a tone of commiseration. “You’re not well,” he said.
“Never better in my life.” The retort came in a growl from the stormy-faced Darling.
Packenham held up a restraining hand.
“Ill,” he said, “fighting courageously against a hidden malady. Saying nothing to anyone, bearing suffering uncomplainingly—even your most intimate friends unaware—”
“Why are you so fussy about making me an invalid!” Darling demanded querulously, “I don’t know what you’re driving at, but I know I never felt better in my life.”
“Can you think of any better way?”
“Better way of what?”
“Of kicking out the prop. They can’t lean on a dangerously sick man.”
“I begin to see,” said Darling without enthusiasm, “I don’t like the idea much, and I’m not sure that you’re right. I doubt if I’ll go.” “Either you or your business will,”Packenham retorted dryly. “You can’t change in a day, neither can they; while you are here they’ll lean on you. They couldn’t help asking, and you couldn’t help suggesting.”
Continued on page 64
The Thinking Part
Continued, from page 22
“Something in that,” Darling admitted. “I’ll think it over and let you know in a few days.”
* * * * .
NO ONE knew just how the report of Darling’s illness got abroad. It was whispered around the office, in vague words. No one knew what was the matter. It was all rumor, rumor that built on rumor, that provided symptoms and found corroborative evidence. It was unbelievable. There had been no suggestion, of any such thing, no forewarning, and there was Darling moving among them, a living refutation. And yet everyone knew he must go away for months, for years perhaps, must cut himself off entirely from his business and friends, while he fought for his life as courageously as he had hidden the secret of his malady for so long.
“Poor old George,” said his friends. “Afraid his number’s up.” “You wouldn’t think it, though, to look at him.” “Wonder what the business will do without him?” The news was as much of a mystery to Miriam as it was to anyone. Sitting out on the verandah with Ben Moore, the hint of téars making her starry-eyed, she discussed the matter with him.
“I don’t understand it,” she said. “I’ve never known Dad to be sick an hour in his life, and now there’s this something, and I don’t know what it is and the doctors won’t tell me.”
“Have you spoken to your father about it?‘;
“Yes, I havé. JfVë géstefed him about it, till I have to stop. I’m so afraid of making him worse.. But he won’t tell me anything, either. He just says, it’s all right—that he’ll be all right—that there isn’t the slightest need for worry. He says that he’s just going to loaf around a bit, and that he will be back again in no time. Do you know, Ben, what surprises me most isthat he seems to be laughingto himself all the time, as though he had a joke on someone, though he is sober enough, too, under it all. But he does seem to be rather enjoying it.”
“Well, I wouldn’t worry,” Ben said, consolingly. “If he treats it that way there isn’t likely to be much wrong, and he doesn’t look it. Doctors don’t know everything, anyway. I wouldn't think anv moreabout it if I were you. He’s all right.” “Do you really think so?”
But Ben Moore’s heart was heavy within him. It was just like-good old G. D. to carry it off with a high heart. So like him to hide his suffering, to carry the whole load himself. Yes, it was all typical of Darling.
IT WAS a week later that George Darling pulled out on the evening train bound for a sanatorium in the South. _ A sister of Darling’s had come to stay with Miriam, for against her tearful protests, his decision had prevailed, that she should not come with him.
“Let me tell you something,” he said, in parting, “I’m no sicker than you are. I’m just going on'a holiday.”
But, womanlike, she had refused to believe. „ , .
Darling had talked things over with his employees in a friendly family conference before he left.
“I have to leave this businessto you,” he said. “I don’t think there is much _ wrong with me,” he continued with a whimsical smile that brought a lump to the throats of some of the men, “but the doctors tell me I must get away from it, that I mustn’t think of it for many months. _ They tell me that I can’t even discuss it with any of you. I would like to have at least sat by and watched, and to have helped where I could, but they won’t let me. You’ll have to look after it for me. I’m turning it over to you all to look after for me while I’m away. Mr. Packenham, an old friend of mine, will be here. Y ou can consult him, when necessary, but he doesn’t know much about the business, and he’s not here to manage it, only to look on and to let me know now and then how it is going. It’s your business for the time being and I am counting on you to give it back to me a better business than I gave to you.” -
There had been cheers then, and some short speeches voicing their good wishes. They were confident that they could go on, just as they had always done, a confidence that lasted after the train bearing George« Darling "had pulled away, and for some days and even weeks thereafter. But as time went on they grew less assured. Business was no better. It was worse.
BEN MOORE, with the memory of Darling’s worried face before him, was quick to see the change. He did not have to look fat, either. They had planned a campaign to sell women the idea of the myriad uses for paint in the home. The idea was Darling’s, one of the nest eggs he had left, but Ben had worked it out alone. He took the completed work to Packenham, pages of neatly prepared copy. “It’s going to cost a little pot of money to put this across,” he said. “What do you think of it?”
Packenham studied the copy carefully. “I don’t know much about it,” he said. “What do you think yourself?”
“I’m not sure. I wish Mr. Darling were here. He’d know right away.”
It was next day that he met Packenham again.” .
“I’ve been thinking about that copy,” he said. “I don’t have to ask anyone’s opinion; it’s rotten.”
" “Well, do it again if you think so.”
Ben Moore nodded and passed on.
It was a week or so later, he had come to take Miriam for a drive. She was waiting for him, a winsome figure in her long motor coat.
“I’ve something to tell you before we start,” he said. “I’m leaving the-firm.” Miriam turned on him swiftly.
“Why?” she demanded. “Has anything gone wrong? Have you talked it over with Mr. Packenham?—I don’t like that man,” she commented.
Ben laughed, but there was a sense of uneasiness in his laughter. -
“Let’s take them one at a time,” he said. “I don’t like Packenham much myself—don’t understand him or what he is doing. But I did take it up with him. Do you know what he said? I may be going daffy but I didn’t get it at all. He said: ‘Well,-it shows that you’re thinking anyway. It proves something,’ and then he added: ‘I’d think it over though.’ But I have thought it over. And that brings me to your second question. Nothing’sgone wrong except myself, and that’s the ‘why’ also. I’m going to leave because I’m no good where I am. The business is going bad, and I’m not helping it to do anything else.” A
“Well, to be frank with you, I’m no good as an advertising man. I haven’t an idea in my head.”
“But Dad always thought such a lot of your work.”
“My work! There’s hardly been a bit of copy go out of that office in six years that is my work. Your Dad supplied the ideas, and showed me how to work them out and—and—I’m tired and ashamed of being an echo.”
“But before you came to Dad, you were doing good work. That’s how he found you. He often said so.” *
“I suppose so, but if I ever had anything, I’ve lost it. So I’m going to leave and try my hand at something else.” • “Ben Moore, you’re not going to do anything of the kind.” Miriam’s eyes flashed. “If you desert Dad now, justwhen ‘ he is in trouble and needs everyone to help him.I’ll never forgive you, never."
“But it’s not deserting, it’s relieving him of an encumbrance.”
“I don’t believe you ara an encumbrance, and if you are you don’t have to be.”
“I Wouldn’t be if your Dad were here to help with the old suggestions. I’m afraid I’ve come rather to depend on him.”
“And you’ve got to get over depending,” she retorted sharply. And then in a softer voice, “I don’t want to marry Dad’s mind or anyone else’s mind. I want to marry you. You don’t need to have anybody think for you. If you had been that sort I would never have come to care for you.”
Ben was silent for a while. Then he turned to her with a laugh.
“That’s an ultimatum, is it?”
Miriam only nodded soberly.
“All right, you’re on, in less than a month’s time you’ll be clamoring for our paint yourself. Now come along.”
“I don’t understand this illness of Dad’s at all,” Miriam said as they left the lighted streets of the city and came out on the open road. “I’ve been down there several times, you know, and I never saw anyone looking better. He’s brown as though he were in the best of health, and he has to stay in those horrid rest chairs all day. He seems restless, too. He was awfully glad to see me, but he did not seem to want me to stay long. Said just sitting there talking to me all day tired him. -1 don’t understand it. He didn’t' look tired, he looked bored, but it must have been a lot better to have me to talk to than to have no one.”
“It’s a funny business altogether,” Ben agreed.
* * * *
THERE was the usual monthly gathering of salesmen. It lacked something. Perhaps it was the abounding enthusiasm that came with Darling’s presence. They were glum and undemonstrative. Packenham was there, listening without comment to the universal growl of complaint against business conditions.
After a while, he spoke, and they turned to listen to him with lazy interest. His words electrified them. “You know,” he said, “Mr. Darling gave me no control over this business; I was just to be here to look on. I have just one authority; I have a sort of ‘stop loss’ order, and I’m sorry to have to tell you that unless you boys can get this business back into its stride in the next three months or less, I’ll have no option but to close the plant.”
In the profound silence that followed, there was the hint of amazement. They all knew that conditions were bad, but such a possibility had never crossed their minds. There came a babel of words, and above it Henry’s voice, as he raised himself heavily to his feet.
“We didn’t know it was that bad, Mr. Packenham,” he said. “Never dreamed it.”
“Mind you, I’m not saying it is any fault of you chaps. Conditions are bad. It may not be possible to mend them, but if it isn’t, we’ve got to save something for Darling out of the wreck.”
Henry was still standing.
“You hit pretty hard, Mr. Packenham, without knowing it,” he said. “You remind me of what a chap said to me on the road almost a year ago. He said all we Empire chaps were like hungry sparrows waiting to be fed, never going out to hunt worms for ourselves. I’ve been thinking about that a little. Perhaps it’s right. I’m not saying it is, but perhaps it is.” Several of the older men nodded their heads gravely, and Henry continued:
‘ ‘We’ve got three months. I think we can prove to those chaps that we’re not sparrows.”
“Mind you,” Packenham urged, “I don’t know that the fault lies with you boys at all. I don’t know anything about it.”
But they drowned his words. “You leave it to us,” they shouted, and Packenham smiled inwardly.
FROM that day the trend of business began to change. Nothing spectacular, no miraculous increase of sales. It was evidenced at first rather in a feeling that someone was fighting back, and through it all there grew a feeling of confidence, that came from no one knew where, born of no one knew what influence, unless it was some intangible feeling of strength within the men themselves.
Packenham was in the business office one morning when Logan called him.
“I’ve an idea that we could cut down expenses all through this business by some changes I have in mind,” he said.
“There never was a better time,” Packenham agreed. Logan outlined his plan at some length.
“What do you think of it?” he asked. “I don’t know much about it. It looks all right, but I don’t know enough about the business to say. What do you think of it yourself?”
“I’m sure it’s all right; all the same I hate to try it without consulting Mr. Darling. He might think differently—I suppose I’m pretty conservative and cautious,” he admitted.
“I’m afraid you can’t consult Mr. Darling,” Packenham said, “so what are you going to do?”
Logan looked worried for a moment, then he stood up quickly.
“You have'nothing to say on the 'matter?” he asked.
. “Then I’m going to try it.”
BUSINESS was beginning to come.
Slowly but surely there was a steady upward creep of incoming business, and a steady downward creep of expense.
Ben Moore’s campaign had taken hold, and no one was as enthusiastic as Miriam.
“I told you so,” she chanted, “I told you you did not have to depend on Dad’s ideas.”
It was then that Packenham went to the telegraph office and sent a cryptic wire to George Darling. “You can get well in a month.”
Just a month after Packenham’s wire a bronzed and healthy Darling stepped off the northbound train to be greeted by a world of friendly faces.
“It’s worth being sick,” he said, with a little catch in his throat, “to get well again.”
A day or so later some of his old cronies called on him. “Do you feel in good enough trim to have a little go on the links?” they asked.
Darling met the suggestion with enthusiasm.
“Nothing would please me better,” he said.
“Poor old George will be pretty well off his game by now,” one of the group suggested in a muffled whisper; “better let him pair with Everett. Then he won’t look so bad.”
But “poor old George” made the round with the best of them, and ended with a stroke a hole better than the best.
“I’ve been puttering at it a little of late,” he admitted with a hidden smile.
“You’re as good a man as you ever were, or need ever hope to be, you old pirate,” they retorted affectionately.
BUT Darling’s staff knew differently.
He had lost something of his old time drive, his flair for ideas. There were times when his eyes brightened as they used to under the impulse of a compelling idea, but he had fallen silent as though the idea would not come. He waited for the others’ suggestions as though his long illness had tapped that full reservoir of nitiative that had once been his.
Yes, his staff knew better. He had lost something. He depended on them more. Perhaps they were a little proud. He had been a good friend to them. What he had lost they would make up, and no one else should see. They threw themselves into the business with enthusiasm.
And George Darling sat back in his office chair and smiled.
“If anyone is going to lean,” he said to himself, “it had better be me.”