HELEN OSGOOD could see from the glint in Miss Terry's eye that a new idea was brewing—or had already brewed and was about to spill over. She had learned to hate that glint, just as she hated the first far-off flash of lightning on a calm summer’s night. I he lightning flash, faint though it was, told her that in an hour or so she would 1» hiding her head under a pillow and praying for the storm to pass. The glint in Miss T erry’s eye told her that in a few minutes she would be wishing she could hide her head under a pillow and praying she had never met Miss Ferry—a rather futile supplication in view °¿ the fact that she had been working for six months now for the ’big idea woman” of Stacey’s, ‘The Palace of Stores.” * I he arcus is in town !” Miss Terry blew this remark out between her two rows of glistening white teeth, pasted in a ‘pep smile.”
Helen Osgood wasn’t sure she hadn’t caught the remark on the rebound from the wall behind her. Her answer indicated the shock she had undergone.
“Yes, it is,” she said.
The white teeth snajjjxxl together and Miss Terry frowned. Then her face suddenly relaxed and she mastered another smile, not intended to lx: condescending, just friendly.
"Now listen, Miss Osgood.”
Helen's knees grew numb and a little tingly. She looked down at (he floor to see if she hadn’t really fallen in a faint already, but she saw no one there.
‘T said, the circus is in town.”
Helen was ready for this one and caught it with her backhand before it got a chance to bounce off the wall and hit her in the back of the head when she wasn’t looking She parried neatly.
"And I said, yes it is.”
Miss Ierry’s teeth clicked audibly several times before she began again.
"But the circus, the circus! Doesn’t that give you any ideas. Don’t things just pop into your mind?”
Helen’s feet became as numb as her knees. Her hands got cold. Her ear itched and twitched. A beautiful, almost angelic smile crept over her face as she thought to herself, "I don’t care if 1 do get twenty-five dollars a week. I'm going to quit. I 'm going to quit. No human being could be expected to stand this.”
Miss Terry saw the smile and beamed. She encouraged her protégée to elucidation.
"I knew, my dear, that you would get it .”
Helen came back to earth with a shock. The smile died and its ghost appeared on her lips instead.
“Why, circuses meanwell, pink lemonade, calliopes midgets, and—”
"No, no, no,” Miss Terry sputtered. "Merchandising ideas. That’s what I mean. Something that will do Stacey’s some good.”
"Well, we might give away free circus tickets to everybody who started a new charge account.”
Miss Terry threw off all pretense and lapsed into a stolid frigidity. She looked pityingly at her assistant.
"Honestly, Miss Osgood,” she began, "it puzzles me why a woman of your intelligence never thinks of anything that matters; never gets any real ideas that amount to anything. Ideas just flow through my brain from morning to night,
and when I want one all I have to do is grab it. I'd sit here all morning and wait until you’d worked out a merchandising idea about the circus, but I just-haven’t time. And after all, I’m hired to have the ideas and you’re hired to carry them out.”
Miss Osgood nodded, relieved to learn that the conflict was over, and that now she was to discover what it was she had to carry out. From then on the decision would be simple.
It would merely be a matter of whether or not she could do it. If she thought she could, she would try. If she knew she couldn’t, she would just quit—and starve.
" I he idea that came to me the minute I heard the circus was in town,” Miss Terry was saying, “was just this: Well, Miss Osgtxxl, have
you ever seen a baby elephant in a department store?”
Typs OSGOOD pondered with knit brows. She reflected J-VA that she had seen snakes, hyenas, dogs, cats and rats in department stores, but never a baby elephant. Finally she chose the course of safety.
“No,” she answered, and her eyes brightened. "And,” she added with a sudden determination, “you’ve got a great idea there. Miss Ferry. I can see the implications already.”
"I know, I know !” Miss Terry waved a weary hand as if to fight off an invisible enemy. “You’d put it in the stylish stouts. ”
"No, seriously, Miss Terry, I think I’ve got it. I know
well, you know—I mean I think I get the tie-up. We’ll put the elephant in the trunk department The ads. will look—”
Miss Terry emitted a groan while rising in her rage.
"Well, then, the china department,” Miss Osgood suggested. We could have little Jumbo sit on some of that unbreakable china we are advertising. He is probably a bull elephant, and we could advertise a bull elephant in a china shop with a picture of—”
Miss Terry had swallowed the lump in her throat which had temporarily impeded articulation.
"I said,” she interrupted crisply, and Helen took an involuntary step backward to avoid the icicles that fell from her words, I said, or I think I said—my heavens, what am I saying! I think I said that I am very busy now and I can’t stay here to carry out this idea. I am going to the hospital to have my tonsils out because if I don’t I’ll get toxic something or other and all kinds of things will happen to me Well, in short, I have to go, and I’m going, and I should
have been there ten minutes ago. I’ll be back in four days, and when I get back if there isn’t a baby elephant in this store, you won’t be here either. If I had time I’d fire you right now, Miss Osgood, but before I go, get this: The baby elephant goes on the children’s floor, understand’ C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N-S—”
Apostrophe, put in Helen. Miss Terry glared but went on.
"Get the children down here to see the elephant and feed it peanuts, and when they’re here, sell them things. That’s the idea. Now you do it.”
Miss Terry picked up her purse and dropped her handkerchief, picked up her handkerchief and dropped her purse; finally got them all together and strode toward the door. There she turned.
I forgot to tell .you, she said, "that this idea has been submitted to Mr. Waterman, who, as you know, is the final authority on all advertising, and he has approved it.”
Really? ’ replied Helen, understanding immediately that she had allowed too much incredulity to creep into her voice.
es, really ! Two of your superiors think it is all right.” An almost malicious grin crept into Miss Terry’s voice. "All NOU have to do is to find some department manager who is dumb enough to agree to have the elephant in his department. That ought to be a pij» for you.”
The white teeth backed out. Helen managed to control her desire to scream as she slowly followed them out of the door.
She told the switchboard girl that she was going to the seventh floor to see Mr. McDougal: the office boy that she was going to the shipping department; and her friend in the
home-furnish'ng copy department that she was seeing Mr. Nogart on the first floor about the Market Street windows. Then she went to the lunch room on the ninth i.oor and had a cup of coffee—three cups. Then she made up her mind. “Twenty-five dollars a week,” she said, “is wenty-five dollars a week, and I can’t help it if I’m not bright.” Then she went to see Mrs. Flaherty in Infants’ Wear.
“But Mrs. Flaherty, it’s such a good tie-up; and anyway, you wouldn’t like to see me lose my job.”
The purple came and went in Mrs. Flaherty’s florid cheeks.
“Listen,” she said in a voice which made her adjuration entirely unnecessary, “elephants don’t wear pants, do they?” “No, but perhaps—”
And they don’t wear bonnets?”
Bah ! They wear gold knobs on the end of their tusks, and trappings—faded velvet trappings that say ‘Jumbo’ on them. I ve never sold gold knobs or faded velvet trappings in this department, and I never will.”
But think how darling a baby elephant would look—” But Mrs. Flaherty had gone.
Mr. Simms in the children’s shoe department was a cranky sort of fellow anyway, and Helen never expected to sell him on the idea of changing “Rawhide Pla-Shuz” to “Elefant Hide Pla-Shuz.” It was rather an interesting five-minute conversation though a little trying.
The game-and-favor department was equally unproductive, except in so far as entertaining conversation was concerned. But Mr. Withing of the toy department . . . Now, Mr. W ithing, you will not only scoop everybody
else on the children’s floor, but you’ll have the jump on everybody else in town.”
“But my dear young —a baby elephant! It ’s a little—oh, you know —flashy, showy.”
“Mr. Withing! You know the elephant is the King of Beasts. The elephant never forgets. He is man’s most faithful servant.”
“Well, what’s undignified about that?”
“Certain practical details—”
“My eye! Your eye! Mr. Stacey’s eye! Just give us the word and we’ll take care of all minor matters. Just say you want little Jumbo and you don’t have to worry any more. You will have scooped the town. You’ll be famous, Mr. Withing. Let us worry about minor details.”
“All right. But I accept no responsibility.” “You don’t have to Like any responsibility, Mr. Withing. We have a special department for just that purpose.”
“But really, Miss Osgood. I mean personal liability up to ten thousand in case of being crushed by crowds or charged by an elephant.” “I know what you mean, Mr. Withing, and you needn’t worry. Our blanket insurance takes care of all those things.”
“You’ll make it clear to everybody that I am merely sponsoring Little Jumbo?”
“You have my word for it.”
“I could ask for nothing better, Miss Osgood.” Mr V ¡thing’s wet lips quiv ered in appreciation of his gallantry.
Back in her office, Helen wrote herself little notes on the official inter-office memorandum pads.
“Miss Osgood. Your salary is hereby raised five dollars per week,” and: “Miss Osgood. In view of your excellent work, your salary is hereby doubled.”
She resolved to spend sixty-five cents for lunch.
The telephone rang.
“This is Mr. McMahon in Mr. McCann’s office. We understand that there is some project afoot to bring an elephant into the store. You will understand that this cannot be countenanced. Our regulations—”
“I think you have the wrong department, Mr. Me Mahon. This is the promotion department. I think you want corsets, extension 564, or possibly adjustments, 399. Good-by.” After lunch, Helen went to the circus lot.
“But, madam, this elephant cost us twenty-five hundred dollars.”
“Well, it’s a big responsibility.
We don’t want to take any possible chances—”
“Whoa ! If your publicity man came to you and told you he had a chance to get your baby elephant into Stacey’s store, with full page ads. in all papers,you’d jump at it, wouldn’t you? Just because we came first and asked for your brat of an elephant, you get nervous.”
“Will you take the responsibility?”
“I love it!”
AT FIVE MINUTES to five, Helen had her hat on and 4 V was concentrating on the hope that the anaesthetic had now worn off and Miss Terry’s tonsils, or the place where they had been, were or was hurting her. The telephone rang.
“This is Mr. Withing. Will you please see me before you go home? I think there’s going to be trouble about Little Jumbo. Mr. McMahon in Mr. McCann’s office just called me.”
“But, Mr. Withing! Who is this man? Aren’t you the head of the toy department?”
“But he says it won’t be allowed.”
“Mr. Withing. You go home and get a good night’s sleep. I’ll sec you tomorrow morning.”
Mr. McMahon —and, of course, he was real, because he had called her up—that night sat on the head of a baby elephant and hooked Helen’s cars with one of those mahout thingabobs. But in the morning she met him in the flesh. Her morale had skidded considerably during the night and she sat down at her desk with a sigh. The first thing which caught her eye’was a company envelope addressed to her. She tore it open and found an office memorandum:
“From Mr. McMahon to Miss Osgood. Subject: No
Her cheeks burned with fury and humiliation.
“It’s not worth fighting for,” she said to herself as she reached for the telephone.
“Is this room 303? May I speak to Miss Terry, please?” “This is Miss Terry’s nurse. I ’m sorry, she can’t speak to anyone.”
“But this is Miss Osgood. I must speak to her.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Osgood, but Miss Terry has had a hemorrhage and is physically unable to talk. Oh, wait a minute. She’s writing a note. Here, she has written this message which I am to read to you. It says ‘Am depending on you to put elephant across.’ ”
The world swam in front of Helen’s eyes.
“Thank you very much,” she intoned. “Give my regards to Miss Terry and tell her I hope she gets well soon.” She hung up the ’phone. “Or never,” she added to herself.
The telephone conversation settled it. One couldn’t let a person down who had just had a hemorrhage. It was obvious to Helen that she must fight on, and, judging from the remarks of the nurse, single-handed.
She turned to the telephone once more.
“I just called up to tell you again, Miller, that I think you are the greatest artist in the world.”
“All right, all right, Helen. What impossibility do you want from me this time?”
"You’re X)sitively clairvoyant, Miller. I want you to stop that drawing you're doing for the children’s page—"
"But I have it practically finished!”
“That’s all right. We can use it another time. I want you to draw me a nice baby elephant named Little Billy, doing whatever you think Little Billy would lx* doing when he heard he was going to meet the sons and daughters of our very best jxx>plc on the fifth floor of Stacey’s."
"Helen! I don’t believe you. You’ve gone mad. Does Miss Terry know about this?”
"Miller, if you say anything more like that I shall go mad. But you will lx: a dear, won’t you, and let me have the new drawing tonight?”
“It just can’1 be done. I —”
"You are really the greatest artist in the world, and —" “You'll get it at five o’clock, but don’t blame me if it l;x)ks like an ant-eater instead of a monkey—I mean elephant.”
HELEN looked up from the telephone to see, standing in the door of her little office, a very handsome young man. He was tall and slim and he had big brown eyes and almost black hair, and long eyelashes (although there was nothing “sissy” about him) and -oh, well, he was generally quite all right. Her eyes had not betrayed her thoughts, and she gazed at him with an impersonal and questioning glance.
“I couldn’t help hearing your conversation,” he began. “Didn’t you get that note I sent you this morning?”
Miss Osgood beamed
“Mr. McMayhem,” she gurgled, “I am delighted to meet you. You write such charming letters. I don’t know—there is such a flow to your language, such deft delineation of circumstance, such nuances of feeling. I have spent many happy moments re-reading your charming letter of this morning.”
The young man flushed an angry red. “You needn’t lay it on so thick,” he said. “I’m only doing my job.”
“Go ahead. Do your job. But I think you might be a little polite about it.”
“Well, I’m sorry if I was rude, but the whole thing is very simple. It just boils itself down to the basic idea which I have already tried in my lucid way to express— no elephants.”
“Is that a personal credo with you?
Continued on page 32
Continued from page 15
Starts on page 14
Have you a pachydermie neurosis, or has the store something to do with it, too?”
"The store has everything to do with it.
It’s my job to see that things like this don’t happen.”
“Just what phase of the manifold activities of Stacey’s do you represent?”
'Tm Mr. McCann’s assistant in the comptroller’s office. He controls expendituresfoolish ones.”
"Oh. So you’re just an assistant no-man, as it were. Well, do you know that Stacey’s pays my boss $8,(XX) a year to have ideas? Just for having ideas.”
“Well, do you know, young lady, that they pay my boss $10,(XX) a year to keep her from carrying out her ideas?”
“You mean to keep me from carrying them out. She just has them, and I have to carry them out. I’d like to carry this one dear out to the alley. ”
“Well,” he added, “you mean I have to keep you from carrying them out. I’m the assistant no-man and you’re the assistant yes-girl. I guess we’re scheduled to do all the individual fighting. They’re the general staff; we’re the army.”
“Yes, I guess I’m just one of the frontline wenches. But listen here, Mr. McCann—”
“Well, listen here, anyway. Please understand that despite the fact that I think this is all very funny—and I suppose if your boss gets two thousand dollars a year more than mine ‘no’ is a bigger word than ’yes’ in this store—despite all that, I’m going to fight this out, and not with exchanges of notes either.” Helen pouted her lips angrily and added: “Impolite notes.”
Y’oung McMahon smiled amiably.
“I shall be delighted. Choose your own weapons.”
“That’s the idea. I want to win.”
“Oh, Miss Osgood. Why don’t you drop this silly idea right here? It will just be messy all around.”
“My dear Mr. McGinnis-—”
“Well, anyway, I’m not dropping it, because I promised a woman who’s on her deathbed—I hopethat I would carry it out, and, too, I’ll get fired if I don’t get the elephant in here. So what would you do?” “But, Miss Osgood, surely you don’t mean that.”
"Surely I do, and now Mr. McCann—” “McMahon.”
“I was about to ask you if you would kindly go somewhere else and say no to somebody—to yourself if necessary. I am very busy and I have to call up the authorities at the natural history museum to find out what elephants keep in their trunks. No advertisement by Stacey’s for the kiddies can be without its intellectual aspect.”
“I wish you wouldn’t take this attitude, Miss Osgood.”
“I wish you would take a hint.”
“But if you’ll give me a little chance to explain, I think you’d understand.”
“I have no time.”
“What are you doing for lunch?”
“I’m not doing a thing for it. I think it will have to get along without me today.” “Meet me in the employees’ lunch room at twelve, and then I can discuss this thing with you in, I hope, a friendly manner, and I’ll not be wasting your time—I mean that part of your time which belongs to Stacey’s.” Helen abruptly wheeled away from him and began to rattle some papers in her hands. A shadow passed over his face and he took a step toward the door. Then the girl faced him.
“All right,” she said. “I’ll go, but not because I want to eat lunch with you. I just want to give you a chance to explain, so that my victory will be more complete.” “Fine, Miss Osgood. At twelve then.” “I’ll lie there, Mr. McGum.”
“Oh, let’s discuss that at lunch, too.”
AFTER the young man had left her office, Helen sat in dreamy contemplation before her desk. It had been rather fun, that encounter. He was so nice. Why did he have to be in the department which opposed her attempts to carry out the big ideas from above? But if he hadn't been she wouldn’t have met him. She allowed five minutes to pass in this pleasant reverie before going to see Mr. Withing in the toy department.
“I want you to wait until about ten minutes after twelve today,” she told him, “and then I want you to storm your way into Mr. McCann’s office—in the comptroller’s department, you know. Ask him if he is running the toy department, or if that young jackanapes of an assistant of his is running it, or if you’re running it. And if you’re running it, how about the elephant? The advertising manager lias okayed it, you want it—oh, you remember the arguments.” “But you know, Miss Osgood, I never did really want the elephant very much.”
“Pooh, Mr. Withing. That was yesterday before you’d had time to think of the advantages. Now you’re mad about it. I can see it.”
“Well, I do think it will attract a lot of attention.”
“Of course it will, and what’s more, if you have Little Billy your department will get the lion’s share of the page this week on the children’s floor. It will be practically all toys.”
“Yes. I can see the advantages.”
“Of course you can. And you can sell Mr. McCann, too. Only you have to do it personally—make a big howl about your toes having been stepped on. And you must do it when the young assistant isn’t around.
I know he won’t be there between twelve and twelve-thirty, and that’s when I want you to run in, tearing your hair.”
“I’ll try, Miss Osgood.”
“Thank you, Mr. Withing. I knew you would. Make it really hot. FYoth at the mouth, if necessary.”
“Oh, Miss Osgood, I couldn’t do that.” “Well, sputter a little bit, anyway. Make him see that you’re so excited you’ve almost lost control.”
"You must think I'm a good actor.”
“I think you’re an intelligent businessman, with a canny sense of advertising. And I think you know how to run your department better than anyone else does. I think you can tell Mr. McCann that you won’t stand for any ideas from outside—like his interfering with your having an elephant here to draw the kiddies.”
"I’ll certainly do my best.”
Fielen gave the little man’s hand an affectionate squeeze. She was actually, extraordinarily fond of him at the moment.
SHE ALMOST didn’t keep her luncheon engagement with Arthur McMahon, but then she began to feel a little ashamed of herself, and at the appointed time met him in the restaurant on the ninth floor. After they were seated at a table she began to feel even more ashamed. He was quite different, this young lad, from anyone else in the employ of Stacey’s that, she had met. Most of the young men were so vacuous and “show offish,” and most of the older ones were pompous and impressed with the honor of being allowed to work for the "Palace of Stores.” But this one, he was different—a little like Ronald Colman, maybe. She looked up into his brown eyes.
“I was saying, Miss Osgood, that you take this matter all too seriously. You have made an error in judgment and it has been called to your attention. That’s all there need be to it. Just drop it.”
"But I feel obligated.”
"Obligated? To an elephant?”
“No, silly. To Miss Terry.”
“She doesn’t matter.”
“She may not matter to you, but I work
for her and I'm supposed to do what she says. She’s had her tonsils out and feels terrible, and she is depending on me to put
this elephant thing across. And I’m going to.”
“But it’s all over already, Miss Osgood. Our department has said ‘no’ and I’m quite sure that will end it.”
“I happen to know that your department is not the final authority in this ‘no’ business.”
“We rarely have to call on any higher authority to back our judgments.”
“Well, I suppose you’re pretty wonderful in your department, all right. But I’ll be pretty wonderful too when I get that elephant in here.” Helen wondered how Mr. Withing was getting along with Mr. McCann. She suddenly felt ashamed again, and wondered if she would by any chance get this charming young man into trouble. She looked at him again.
“I’ll confess one thing,” she said, “in case I haven’t already convinced you of this: I do not like this elephant idea. Personally I am not fond of baby elephants. I don’t care whether I ever see one again or not, and I don’t yearn to meet one in Stacey’s.”
“But why in heaven’s name—?”
“Miss Terry—and the strange belief of progressive department stores that they must hire an idea specialist to help these old experienced department heads sell their stuff. Miss Terry hasn’t had an idea to date that hasn’t been opposed up and down the line, and yet somehow most of them go over.
I don’t know how much good they do.” “Well, at least if it weren’t for her you wouldn’t have a job.”
“Y'ou probably wouldn’t either, and neither would your equally horrible superior, Mr. McMahon, or whoever he is.”
“His name is McCann, but let that pass and let us cogitate on how wonderful a woman is Miss Terry to fill four pay envelopes merely by having ideas nobody wants.”
“It is sort of wonderful, isn’t it, when you look at it that way?”
“And I hope you’ll be wonderful, too, and call off the elephants, with no hard feelings.” “If it weren’t for your Scotch stubbornness, Mr. McGregor, you’d help me get the elephant in here.”
“ ’Twud be a hard tusk, ma wee lassie. The name is McMahon.”
“Puns, too? That makes it even worse.
I think I’ll bring in a blood-sweating behemoth and a preserved whale along with the elephant.”
“Seriously, now. You will drop it?”
“No. I’m sorry. I shan’t. But I enjoyed the luncheon.”
The young man extended his hand with an amiable grin.
“So did I,” he said. “Immensely.”
Back in her office, Helen telephoned to Mr. Withing.
“Did you put it over?” she enquired.
“Did I put it over?” Mr. Withing could hardly speak for laughter. “I got real temperamental, Miss Osgood. I was a real prima donna. Fie finally said ‘yes’ to get rid of me before I burst into tears and chewed up his furniture. He said he would call the young assistant off.”
“Thanks,” said Helen a little grimly. “I knew you’d do it, Mr. Withing.” She turned from the telephone to her typewriter and spent a quiet and concentrated afternoon waxing scientific about elephants for the benefit of the little children who would read the juvenile advertising in Friday’s papers.
THE NEXT MORNING was bright and clear—“an ideal day for the final battle,” Helen thought on her way to work. The “grief” began early. She found a husky individual in her office when she arrived. He was sitting beside her desk, but arose when she entered.
“Are you Miss Osgood?”
“Yes, indeed. What is it?”
“Mr. Brumstead, the delivery superintendent, sent me up here. He just got this elephant order and he wants to know what
about it—how much does the elephant weigh, how long is it, how wide is it and how high is it? The only open truck we’ve got is a half-ton, and if this baby weighs more than that it can’t ride with Stacey's trucks.”
“But the store surely has bigger trucks than half-ton trucks?”
“Sure. All the big delivery trucks—but they’re enclosed and the doors wasn't made for no elephants.”
“Well, I’ll find out the specifications of the elephant for you.”
“Call Mr. Brumstead as soon as you find out, and find out as soon as possible, he says.”
She called the circus.
“How much does the baby elephant weigh?” she asked imploringly.
“Eleven hundred and fifty pounds, lady.” “Oh, no, it doesn’t Please don’t let it weigh that much.”
“What’s the big idea, lady? That’s what the elephant weighs.”
“But can’t you do something—anything, to make it weigh less? Maybe if you didn’t feed it for three meals. I only want it to lose fifty pounds.”
“Lady, you don’t know Little Virginia. She likes her hay.”
Miss Osgood went white.
“Little who?” she gasped.
“Why, Little Virginia.”
“Oh, no, no, no, my good, nice man. Don’t say that elephant’s name is Little Virginia, because in all the newspapers it’s going to be Little Billy.”
“All I can say is, this one we got is called Little Virginia.”
“Oh, but please! Can’t you do something —anything about it?”
“Lady, I can do less about that than I can about the weight.”
“She hasn’t got a little brother, or anything?”
“No, this is the only one.”
“Oh dear, oh dear! Well,” Helen decided to make the best of it, “can you truck Little —I can hardly bear to say it—Virginia up here to the store at eight tomorrow morning if we pay the trucking charges?”
“Yeh. I guess we can do that, lady.” Helen hung up the telephone with a bitter sigh.
“I don’t know how long that elephant will remember me,” she mumbled, “but I know I’ll remember him—her—all my life.”
Then in a near frenzy she rang up Miller Winter, the artist.
“I haven't time to flatter you, Miller. I’m in a terrible predicament. Listen, jilease, please, jilease will you drop whatever you’re doing, take a jien and brush, some India ink and some Chinese white over to the Post engraving room—get that picture of Little Billy and paint some lace rufiles on the bottom of those pants, make that hat over into a big hair ribbon—oh, please—and make it Little Virginia in the caption line. Thanks, Miller.”
And then Mr. Pettinose, who made up the page in the Post engraving room.
“Please, Mr. Pettinose, listen carefully. In the lead article—in fact everywhere this is mentioned—wherever I have said he, him or Little Billy, you change it to she, her or Little Virginia. Have you got that, Mr. Pettinose? He, she, him, her, Little Billy, Little Virginia. Thanks, Mr. Pettinose, and call me when the proof is ready and I’ll come over.”
T-TOW HELEN remained as calm as she did the rest of the morning she did not know. She wondered if she were still alive all the time she was planning with Mr. Withing just how the platform should be arranged and where the floodlights should go. She ordered a dozen bales of hay and fifty jx>unds of peanuts, hardly knowing what she was doing. She felt that she could not eat any lunch at all—and she couldn’t, she discovered when she tried.
At one-thirty Mr. Pettinose called, and she hurried across town to the Post. There she labored for two hours with the jiatient man whose only unpleasant characteristic at the moment was that he seemed to think the Billy-Virginia episode a little amusing. Finally she saw the page completely altered by
deadline time, locked up again with a new zinc, which, she could see to her own satisfaction even though it was in the metal, was a picture of a little girl elephant dancing around.
At a quarter to five, weary beyond words, she got back to her office.
“Mr. Walker wants to see you right away,” the office boy told her.
“Who is Mr. Walker?”
The boy looked incredulous.
“He’s the executive vice-president, the big shot," he almost whispered.
Hot and cold by turns, Helen was ushered into the presence of a big pink man in a grey suit. The entire office breathed an air of a quarter-to-five p>ettishness and bile.
"Are you the person who is resjxmsible for this elephant nonsense?” Mr. Walker snapj^ed at her without even so much as a nod of greeting.
“Well, you see—” she began weakly.
“I don’t see anything but the utter stupidity of it. And when I think of that fine person, Miss Terry, suffering in the hospital, and while you are left here to hold the fort for her you get an absurd notion like this, and what’s more, actually try to carry it out!”
“I’m not exactly responsible—”
“What? Say, I just had Mr. Waterman in here and he says he never heard of the idea.
I told him to cancel all the advertising connected with the elejffiant. All I know is that a Miss Osgood has been running around making arrangements to get a baby elephant into the store. You must be responsible.” “I'm Miss Osgood, if that’s what you mean.”
“That’s what I mean. And furthermore, you’re working for Stacey’s, not for Blitz Brothers down the street, although apparently you would suit them fine. As for us, we won’t stand for any such poppycock and vulgarity in this store, and I should think a woman ought to know that. A lady would.” “But—” Helen’s cheeks were crimson. “Good day,” said the big pink man, turning on his heel and leaving the room by a side door.
TI>Y RACING down aisles and corridors I leien managed to get back to her office before the tears came. Inside her door, however, she could no longer keep back the torrent that welled up in her at the thought of the humiliation, the useless, futile work she had done, the nervous energy she had wasted. She cried as silently as she could, but sobs shook her frame. For a moment she decided that it would be nice to lie down on the floor and cry, but it really seemed a lot of trouble so she merely hung on to one of the hooks on the hat rack in the comer, and with that support jjroceeded to continue—wiping her eyes and blowing her nose now and then, hopefully awaiting the moment when the tears would stop flowing.
Suddenly she felt two strong hands on her shoulders. She knew immediately whose they were, and to her own intense astonishj ment she did not pull away, but whirled j around and thankfully bowed her head on a I tweed shoulder. Two arms went around her as more tears flowed. At last the tears j ceased. Only little sighs and sobs came at greater and greater intervals. She caught a tweed lajiel between her thumb and finger and insj^ected it through hazy eyes.
“This looks rather familiar,” she mumbled between two little sniffs.
“On whose shoulder have I the honor of crying, jilease?”
“The name is McMahon.”
Then she looked up at him. “I’m a sight.” “You’re beautiful.”
“I’m all salty.”
Then Helen found herself being kissed, or maybe she had merely died and gone to heaven. She thought of Miss Terry, and tonsils, and time clocks, and twenty-fivecent lunches. It was divine and they were all floating away into an infinity from which she was sure they would never come back. Finally she was able to look at him again and saw his eyes burning as hers must be also.
“Well, that wasn’t familiar,” she ventured, and then blushed a deep scarlet. “I mean—well, that was very familiar, I think,” and she blushed again.
The young man smiled at her, much as the great lovers of history must have smiled at their lady-loves.
“Helen,” he said, “will you marry me?”
For a moment she could not speak.
“1 think a little assistant yes-girl shouldn’t marry a little assistant no-man,” she whis-
pered. “I’d have to keep on working here, and I would want so much to be a good wife to you that it would take all my strength alone to do that. I don’t feel strong enough to carry two jobs.”
“But I’m not an assistant no-man any more. I’m the chief big bad no-man now. Walker just fired McCann over the elephant episode—for giving in to Mr. Withing, that is—and I’ve got his job. Of course I only get $7,500 a year to start, but we might struggle
along on that, at any rate for^a while.” “Oh, darling! But wait. How¡would our names go together? Let’s see—Helen McManus. No, I’m afraid I don’t like that.” “The name is McMahon.”
The telephone tinkled. Helen reached for it.
“The peanuts, Miss Osgood,” a voice whispered over the wire.
“Eat ’em, Mr. Withing. And, by the way, the name is McMahon.”