The Heroism of Mr. Peglow
E. J. Rath
in Everybody’s Magazine
EVEN though the door to the inner office was closed, the ears of Simeon Hobby could not escape from the maddening peckpeck-peck that came from beyond it. For at least the tenth time that afternoon he straightened up wearily from his desk, sighed, and shook his head slowly. Then he looked in the direction of Mr. Peglow, who was shifting restlessly on the top of his high stool. There was some satisfaction in knowing that Peglow shared the misery.
Mr. Hobby wondered if ever again the firm of Hobby & Hoople would know the joy of quiet, peaceful concentration, safe from the distracting peck-peck-peck that issued from behind the glass door. For three months now he had been unable to figure an estimate, write a letter, or even read a newspaper, except to the accompaniment of Miss Pickett’s typewriter.
For sixty years Hobby & Hoople had prospered, in spite of the fact that their correspondence was not typewritten. The original Hobby and the original Hoople were dead these many years, but the firm, which was now none other than Simeon Hobby, solely and exclusively, had never seen any reason to change its sign. It was not much given to change, in fact. It had the same office, the same furniture, the same habits. It was highly respectable, deservedly prosperous, and enjoyed such a fame for conservatism that some people said it was old-maidish.
The buying of a typewriter and the employment of a young person to manipulate it had been a matter of long and serious consideration by Mr. Hobby and Mr. Peglow. By birth, instinct, and long training, Mr. Peglow was even more conservative than his employer. To-
gether, he and Mr. Hobby had grown up in the business, one to become the firm, the other its chief clerk and book-keeper. Together they had pursued an even tenor of commercial placidity. Mr. Peglow was little and thin and bald. Mr. Hobby was comfortably fat. They shared a serenity that nothing had ever disturbed—until Miss Pickett came.
It was Mr. Hobby who was really responsible for her. In a deferentially shy manner Mr. Peglow had let it be known that he considered her advent a dangerous innovation. He might even have carried the day had he been firm, but Mr. Peglow was far too considerate of his employer’s desires to dream of anything like open opposition. So, in a moment of weakness, Mr. Hobby had yielded to the insidious advance of that thing called Progress. Henceforth, the letters of Hobby & Hoople would be typewritten.
Miss Pickett was young and brisk and smiling, in sharp relief to the dinginess of the office. Mr. Hobby and Mr. Peglow did not mind that so much—although when two men have passed the fifty-year mark together, without marriage, they are apt to be “set.” It was the noise that hurt. That was something to which they had given no consideration. But for three months now they had been able to give consideration to little else.
They had never spoken to each other about it. Secretly, Mr. Hobby pitied Mr. Peglow, whose annoyance he had furtively watched for some time. Secretly, also, Mr. Peglow had observed the misery of his employer, and his grief had an add ed poignancy because he realized that, at the crucial moment, he had failed to be sufficiently outspoken against the impending evil. Miss
Pickett, who observed nothing of their distress, conscientiously pecked away at the typewriter, with what seemed to be a daily increasing ardor.
On this particular afternoon Mr. Hobby watched the trim figure of Miss Pickett depart from the office with a feeling of relief. Then he was seized with sudden resolution.
“Mr. Peglow,” he said quietly.
Mr. Peglow slipped from his high stool and approached his employer’s desk.
The Original Hobby and the Original Hoople.
“Sit down, Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby.
Mr. Peglow sat down, with full understanding that something of importance had happened.
“Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby, folding his hands across his waistcoat, “Miss Pickett has now been with us for three months.”
“Yes, sir,” confirmed Mr. Peglow.
“And we are having our correspondence typewritten.”
“Yes, sir.” .
“Is our business increasing, Mr. Peglow?”
“It is normally good, sir,” said Mr. Peglow conservatively.
“What I am getting at,” explained Mr. Hobby, “is whether, as a result of having our correspondence typewritten, we are increasing the volume of our business.”
“Hum,” said Mr. Peglow reflectively. “I—I think it’s about the same, sir.”
The house of Hobby & Hoople remained silent for several moments, thinking deeply. At last he observed :
“I have been watching you at odd times, Mr. Peglow, ever since Miss Pickett came.”
“I think she annoys you.”
“Oh. indeed,” protested Mr. Peglow, “I am sure Miss Pickett is quite ladylike.”
“Certainly, certainly, Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby hastily. “I did not mean that. Miss Pickett is, indeed, a genteel person. What I mean is, I think the noise of the typewriter is distressing to you.”
Mr. Peglow shrugged his shoulders.
“I think it distracts your mind,” continued Mr. Hobby.
Mr. Peglow waved his hands in a deprecating way.
“In short, I think you no longer work in comfort, Mr. Peglow.”
mitted Mr. Peglow.
“And do you know that I have the same feeling myself?” said Mr. Hobby, eyeing his chief clerk.
“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Peglow promptly.
Mr. Hobby looked surorised. He did not know that Mr. Peglow had been observing him. After another pause he cleared his throat and said very firmly:
“We both owe a certain duty to the house of Hobby & Hoople, Mr. Peglow.”
“We do, sir; most assuredly.”
“The duty of always doing our best,” added Mr. Hobby.
Mr. Peglow confirmed it with a nod.
“On the other hand, Mr. Peglow, the firm”—Mr. Hobby always spoke impersonally of the firm— “owes to us an opportunity to do our best work. It owes us quiet and freedom from interruption, and a fair chance.”
“Yes, sir; I think so, sir.”
“But we are not getting that opportunity, Mr. Peglow,” said his employer, with sudden and significant emphasis.
Mr. Peglow nodded his head mournfully.
“We are being annoyed,” continued Mr. Hobby.
“Our nerves are being destroyed,” added Mr. Hobby, in further indictment of the firm.
Another shrug from Mr. Peglow.
“Very good, then,” said Mr. Hobby. “The duty of the firm is clear. We—I—shall dismiss Miss Pickett.”
Mr. Peglow gazed out of the window and felt uncomfortable. Never in his day had the firm of Hobby & Hoople discharged anybody. Lifetimes were spent in its service, rather. The very idea of a discharge was a shock to Mr. Peglew. To be sure, Mr. Hobby had softened the word, but he could not soften the fact.
“The firm owes it to us, Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby judicially. “I shall dismiss Miss Pickett to-morrow. Er—how long do you think it is customary to give notice?”
Mr. Peglow shook his head helplessly, for this was another innovation.
“A week?” asked Mr. Hobby doubtfully.
The chief clerk spread his hands in a gesture of doubt.
Mr. Peglow pursed his lips, but made no gesture.
“Very well; it shall be two weeks,” decided Mr. Hobby. ■'Thank you very much, Mr. Peglow.”"
It was quite nine o’clock the following morning when Miss Pickett arrived. Mr. Peglow had
been at his desk for an hour, and Mr, Hobby was already immersed in the morning’s mail. As Mr. Peglow nodded a good morning to Miss Pickett, he felt a vague sense of pity for his employer. Presently he saw the young woman come out of the inner office with her notebook and seat herself beside Mr. Hobby’s desk. Then he bent over his books and shut his ears against the world.
After a little while Miss Pickett went back to her office, and the peck-peck-peck of the typewriter again disturbed the serenity of the firm. Mr. Peglow wondered how
she had stood the blow. It seemed to have produced no discernible effect; rather, there appeared to be an added note of cheerfulness in the racking sound that came from behind the glass door. Nor was there any sign the next day, nor the next, in fact, all that week. Each morning Mr. Peglow would greet Miss Pickett gravely, almost sorrowfully, and each morning she would be smiling as gaily as the day before. It was inexplicable.
A second week began and Mr. Peglow found it necessary to consult his employer on a most unusual matter.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said hesitatingly, “but shall I remove Miss Pickett’s name from the payroll after this week?”
Mr. Hobby made no answer for a minute. Then he said :
“Sit down, Mr. Peglow.”
Mr. Peglow sat down and waited.
“I—er”—began Mr. Hobby, with averted eyes—“I—well, the fact is, Mr. Peglow, I have not yet discharged Miss Pickett.”
“Ah !” said Mr. Peglow, in mild astonishment.
“No,” continued his employer. “You see, Mr. Peglow, there was a difficulty. I could not discharge her without sufficient cause. That would be unjust, and the firm of Hobby & Hoople cannot afford to work injustice to any one.” “Certainly not, sir.”
“So I have been looking for a reason.”
“I understand,” said Mr. Peglow sympathetically.
“Can you think of a reason?” inquired Mr. Hobby.
Mr. Peglow thought for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders.
“We must have a reason, Mr. Peglow.”
“Yes, sir; of course. I was just thinking-”
“Yes?” said Mr. Hobby eagerly. “Well,” said Mr. Peglow uneasily and with a sense of guilt, “I was thinking that Miss Pickett is not always very punctual in the morning.”
“You have spoken a truth, Mr. Peglow,” declared his employer, nodding his head. “Miss Pickett is not punctual. Yet punctuality is one of the fundamental laws of business. I am glad you mentioned the matter. I shall dismiss Miss Pickett for not being punctual.” “Yes, sir,” said Mr. Peglow, returning to his books.
A moment later he heard Mr. Hobby’s bell tap gently. Miss Pickett came out of the inner office
with her notebook and slipped into her accustomed seat.
“I shall not dictate, thank you, Miss Pickett,” said Mr. Hobby.
Miss Pickett lowered her pencil from its poise.
“Miss Pickett,” began Mr. Hobby, with an effort.
“Yes, sir?” said Miss Pickett encouragingly.
“Hem,” coughed Mr. Hobby, gazing at his desk. “There is something I very much regret to mention, Miss Pickett. It is that—r how shall I put it?—that—er—that you are not what I should call quite punctual in the mornings.”
Miss Pickett nodded her head in confession.
Mr. Hobby coughed again. “Really, you know,” he added, “it is unpleasant to be compelled to speak of these things, but-”
“You are quite right to speak of it, Mr. Hobby,” said Miss Pickett.
“Thank you, Miss Pickett,” said her employer gratefully. “I felt sure you would agree with me. You see our hour for beginning business is eight o’clock. It is quite necessary that we should get things under way by that time. And it would not be right to make exceptions in favor of anybody.”
“Certainly not,” assented Miss Pickett, nodding vigorously.
“Even though you are a young lady,” added Mr. Hobby. “It would not be fair to others.”
“Of course it wouldn’t, Mr. Hobby.”
“I hate to say it, you know,” continued Mr. Hobby hesitatingly, “but-”
“You were perfectly right to say it, Mr. Hobby.” broke in Miss Pickett. “I am glad you did. I shall do better in the future, sir.”
“I shall be down promptly at eight hereafter,” said Miss Pickett resolutely.
“But I—that is, you see—” stammered Mr. Hobby.
“I can do it very easily, sir,” said
Miss Pickett, “and I am grateful to you for calling my attention to it.”
Mr. Hobby gazed vacantly at a pile of papers on his desk and seemed bereft of speech. He stirred uneasily in his chair.
“Is that all, sir?” asked Miss Pickett, gathering up her notebook.
“You are quite sure you can do it?” asked Mr. Hobby sadly.
“Oh, yes, indeed, sir. It will be no hardship at all.”
“Very well, Miss Pickett. That is all just now, thank you.
Miss Pickett retired to the inner office. For many minutes the head of the house of Hobby & Hoople sat immersed in thought. Then the peck-peck-peck of the typewriter aroused him and he sighed wearily.
Three days later Mr. Peglow approached his employer with the selfeffacing, deferential manner that always cloaked him.
“Shall I make the change in the pay-roll, sir?” he inquired.
“Not yet, Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby in a subdued tone.
The chief clerk did not permit himself to express astonishment.
“You see, Mr. Peglow,” explained the firm, “the circumstances are somewhat changed. Miss Pickett has promised to be punctual in the future.”
“I see,” said Mr. Peglow, with an understanding nod.
“Which removes the cause for dismissal,” added Mr. Hobby.
“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Peglow ruefully.
At that instant the typewriter in the inner office began a new staccato movement, and Mr. Peglow and Mr. Hobby looked at each other sympathetically.
“Can’t you think of another reason?” asked the head of the firm, squirming.
Mr. Peglow appeared to think deeply. The task was most unpleasant, but he realized that it was necessary.
“I might suggest, sir,” he said, at
length, “that Miss Pickett does not always spell accurately. That is, not habitually,” he added hastily.
“Thank you, Mr. Peglow,” said his employer. “Now that I come to think of it, I have noticed the same thing. Miss Pickett, indeed, spells quite badly. Our correspondence should never be misspelled.”
“No, sir; of course not.”
“Therefore, I shall dismiss Miss Pickett for faulty spelling.”
Mr. Peglow sighed and returned to his books, while Mr. Hobby, firm in his resolution, immediately sent for Miss Pickett.
“Sit down, if you please, Miss Pickett,” he said, waving her to a seat. He took a letter from his desk.
“This letter, Miss Pickett,” he began, “is addressed to one of our oldest customers, the firm of Gammidge & Tillson.”
Miss Pickett indicated her comprehension with a nod.
“Gammidge & Tillson,” icpeate l Mr. Hobby. “But I find that you have spelled Gammidge without a “d.”
“Did I?” asked Miss Pickett, in a tone of surprise. “Why, so I did. But now I think of it, sir, I have always been spelling it that way.”
“You have, indeed,” said Mr. Hobby, his task enlightened by the frank admission.
“I never knew there was a ‘d’ in it,” added Miss Pickett.
“You didn’t?” exclaimed Mr. Hobby in amazement.
“You never told me,” said Miss Pickett simply.
Mr. Hobby showed traces of embarrassment.
“I—I guess you are right, Miss Pickett,” he said, fumbling for another letter. “We will pass that over, if you please. It was quite my fault; I should have told you. But here is a letter where the case is quite diffirent. Here, where you make us say ‘we would beg to state that we are shipping to you,’ etc., you have spelled ‘beg’ with two
‘g’s’ and you have put only one ‘p* in ‘shipping.’ ”
Miss Pickett leaned over and examined the letter.
“So I did,” she said apologetically.
“And down here,” continued Mr. Hobby, “you have spelled the word ‘transmit’ with two ‘t’s,’ and ‘quote’ as if it were ‘quoit’ and you have put but one ‘1’ in ‘respectfully.’ ”
Miss Pickett again examined the letter with interest.
“I am a bad speller,” she admitted. “A dreadful one.”
“I fear so, Miss Pickett,” said Mr. Hobby in a regretful tone. “Yet
it is necessary that our correspondence should be correctly spelled.” “Of course it is,” declared Miss Pickett. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll write that letter all over again.” Mr. Hobby looked startled and began hastily:
“But, Miss Pickett, spelling-”
“I know: I know, sir,” interrupted Miss Pickett, nodding her head vigorously. “Spelling is very important. I always did have trouble
with it. But I’ve just thought of a scheme ”
“Yes?” said Mr. Hobby faintly.
“Couldn’t you buy me a dictionary?”
Miss Pickett’s eyes were sincere and appealing, and as Mr. Hobby met their friendly gaze he faltered.
“Even a small dictionary would do,” added Miss Pickett.
Mr. Hobby turned an uneasy glance in the direction of Mr. Peglow. That faithful little man bent low over his ledger. The head of the firm stirred nervously in his seat, and then said, in a low voice:
“Certainly, Miss Pickett. You shall have a dictionary to-morrow.”
“That will be lovely,” said Miss Pickett gratefully, rising and picking up the offending letter. “Did you say there ought to be two ‘l’s’ in ‘respectfully’?”
“Yes, two,” said Mr. Hobby, turning to his work with a sigh.
The following morning Mr. Peglow unwrapped a large package at the office. When his employer arrived he hastened to announce :
“A dictionary has been sent to us, sir. Doubtless there is some mistake.”
“No, there isn’t any mistake,” said Mr. Hobby humbly.
“Is it meant for us?” asked Mr. Peglow in surprise.
“It’s for Miss Pickett.”
Mr. Peglow, mouth open, gazed at his employer for several seconds. Then he shook his head slowly from side to side and went back to his stool.
The pecking noise from the inner office continued to destroy the peace of the firm of Hobby & Hoople. Mr. Hobby and Mr. Peglow endured in silence, as a sort of penance. For a fortnight they spoke no more of it. Each knew that the other’s heart was full, but each possessed such an acute sense of delicacy that he refrained from allusion to an unpleasant topic. Miss Pickett continued to be conscientiously punctual in the mornings, and thumbed the pages of her dictionary so per-
sistently that spelling became a dead issue. There was more typewriting than ever now, for Miss Pickett wrote each letter twice. From the original copy she would carefully compare doubtful words with the bulky volume at her elbow ; then she would rewrite each letter in accordance with the accepted standard of orthography. The educational value of the undertaking was great—for Miss Pickett—but it was wrecking the nervous systems of Mr. Hobby and Mr. Peglow.
“Cannot you think of any other reason, Mr. Peglow?” asked his employer one day, when his mood had become desperate.
“For what?” asked Mr. Peglow, temporizing weakly.
“For dismissing Miss Pickett.” Now, Mr. Peglow gladly would have been of assistance, but he could think of nothing, so he shook his head to signify that fact.
“But, don’t you see,” said Mr. Hobby, “that you and I cannot stand this much longer? You are
going to break down under it. So am I. We shall never become accustomed to it. We are too old to learn. We must think of some other way.”
“I wish I could,” said Mr. Peglow unhappily.
“But you must,” declared Mr. Hobby, with unwonted emphasi.-.
Mr. Peglow thought long and deeply, and then said :
“Couldn’t you just do it on account of the real reason?”
Mr. Hobby brightened.
“Yes, I could, I suppose—and, by Jove I will ! I will do it at once. Miss Pickett! No, no, Mr. Peglow; remain here, if you please.”
Mr. Peglow shifted uneasily from one foot to the other as Miss Pickett appeared with her notebook.
“Er—Miss Pickett,” said Mr. Hobby.
“ Yes, sir ? ”
“Mr. Peglow and I”—it was cowardly to bring Mr. Peglow into it, but his employer felt the need of moral support—“ Mr. Peglow and I
think—that is, we have come to the conclusion—that the typewriter is —er—why— By the way, what was it we were saying about the typewriter, Mr. Peglow ? ”
Mr. Peglow gave his employer a glance of bitter reproach. Then he looked at Miss Pickett.
“ I think we were saying, sir,” he said slowly, “ that the typewriter was in need of a new ribbon.”
Mr. Hobby gazed at his clerk in amazement. Mr. Peglow was slightly flushed. Had he been anybody other than himself, his expression might have been interpreted as one of defiance. The head of the firm ventured to look at Miss Pickett. Then he groveled.
“ Does it need a new ribbon ? ” he asked, swallowing hard.
“Why, I hardly think so,” said Miss Pickett, puzzled. “I put on a new one yesterday afternoon.”
Mr. Hobby bent his head over his desk and began to examine minutely a letter that he had just signed.
“So you did; so you did,” be murmured. “Where did you ever get the idea that the typewriter needed a new ribbon, Mr. Peglow?”
“—I don’t know, sir,” said Mr. Peglow awkwardly. “Perhaps I was mistaken.”
“Yes, you were mistaken,” said Mr. Hobby almost severely, still examining the letter. “The ribbon seems quite new. I guess that’s all, Miss Pickett, thank you.”
Miss Pickett went back to the inner office. Mr. Hobby and Mr. Peglow ventured to look at each other. Not a word was spoken. The chief clerk sighed eloquently and returned to his high stool. The firm shook his head slowly and bent over his desk.
They endured another week of it, during which Mr. Peglow made no further allusions to the payroll. What they suffered neither confided to the other, though each continued his surreptitious and sympathetic observations.
Then, late one day, Mr. Hobby summoned his chief clerk.
“Mr. Peglow,” he said, “I shall not be here to-morrow.”
Mr. Peglow looked incredulous, for this was another innovation.
“No,” continued Mr. Hobby. “And I shall not be here probably for several weeks.”
Mr. Peglow stood in mute amazement.
“I am going away, Mr. Peglow,” said the firm wearily. “Going away for a rest. My nerves demand it. I can endure it no longer. You will have to look after the business.” Mr. Peglow bowed his head submissively.
“There is one other thing,” added Mr. Hobby. “I have been thinking of it for a long time, Mr. Peglow. I am going to make you an offer of partnership.”
Mr. Peglow was too overcome for speech. There was an almost painful silence, broken only by the peckpeck-peck from the inner room.
“You have long been a faithful employe, Mr. Peglow,” his employer continued at last. “I have reached the point in life where I wish to share the burdens—and the profits —of the business. I can think of none so deserving as you.”
The chief clerk was still speechless.
“Therefore,” said Mr. Hobby, “I intend to make you my partner— on one condition.”
He looked up at Mr. Peglow very gravely, then over his shoulder to see whether the glass door was closed. After that he leaned forward and whispered hoarsely:
“On condition that you dispense with that—that noise.”
Mr. Peglow swallowed hard, his face showing an expression of mingled joy and anguish.
“Mr. Hobby,” he began, “I am so deeply grateful to you that I cannot find the right words to say. But-”
“Good-by, Mr. Peglow,” said Mr. Hobby abruptly, rising from his
chair, slamming down the lid of his desk, and reaching for his hat “Good-by, sir. I am going at once. 1 may be gone a couple of weeks —or a month ; I don’t know. I leave it all in your hands.”
He seized Mr. Peglow’s unresisting hand, wrung it warmly, and walked briskly out. Mr. Peglow gazed after him stupidly. A partnership ! The dream of his life was to become a reality. No longer would he be with Hobby & Hoople ; he would be of them. He drew a deep breath and straightened his little figure manfully. He glanced about the dusty office with the old feeling of tenderness, and an entirely new sensation of proud possession. Then his eye fell on the glass door and his ear caught the sound that came from within. The joy faded out of his countenance and he became a picture of dejection. For a full minute he stood thus, his hands twitching nervously. Then Mr. Peglow did something that no man had ever seen him do before. He doubled up his first, raised it over his head, and shook it in impotent rage.
The head of the firm of Hobby & Hoople was gone for a full three weeks, during which time he wrote not a single letter to Mr. Peglow, greatly to that gentleman’s alarm. Then he appeared one forenoon, as suddenly as he had departed. Mr. Peglow found himself whacked heartily on the shoulder, and whisked about to view a rejuvenated Mr. Hobby, ruddy and smiling and almost boyish.
“And how are you, Mr. Peglow?” said the firm heartily.
“I am well, Mr. Hobby, and I am indeed glad to see you, sir.”
“You are looking fine,” commented Mr. Hobby. “Has everything gone all right?”
“Oh, yes, sir; I think so.”
Mr. Hobby swept a glance around the office and nodded his head, as if in confirmation. The door to the inner office was closed. No sound came from beyond it, although he
listened almost fearfully. Then he tiptoed toward it softly, listened again, and finally opened it and entered.
There was nobody there. The typewriter stood pathetically on Miss Pickett’s desk. He ran his finger along the top of the frame and found it thick with dust. Another layer of dust coated the dictionary. Mr. Hobby contemplated the scene for a moment and then sighed deeply.
Peglow had done it, after all. Peglow was a braver man than he. There was something unpleasant in the thought. Peglow was his
partner now. Why shouldn’t Peglow have been brave? He had a motive, an ambition. For the sake of the ambition he had—Mr. Hobby tried not to think about it. Of course, he wanted Peglow for his partner, but he disliked to reflect that his desire had been won in such a way. At any rate, it was his own fault, and he reproached himself for it. He never should have made such a condition He had forced Peglow to do it. He had shirked his own duty, and had offered the performance of it as a sort of bribe to another. The old-time
silence of the office no longer seemed so joyful as it did in other days. Actually, he seemed to miss that maddening peck-peck-peck.
Mr. Hobby stepped into the outer office again and closed the door behind him softly. Mr. Peglow was laboring over his accounts, his conscience apparently easy. The head of the firm studied his back in silence for half a minute. Then he said almost sharply:
“Yes, sir?” said Mr. Peglow, slipping off his stool.
“I believe you are my partner now, Mr. Peglow.”
The little man dropped his eyes modestly.
“By that I mean,” said Mr. Hobby, “you have—er—dismissed Miss Pickett.”
Mr. Peglow did not lift his eyes, but made a slight inclination of the head.
“Would you mind telling me, Mr. Peglow, how you accomplished it?”
“Why,” said Mr. Peglow, in a low voice, “Miss Pickett left to be married.”
“Ah !” exclaimed Mr. Hobby* his face brightening. “So she went in happiness and not in sorrow. I am glad, very glad, sir,”
Mr. Peglow himself looked pleased.
“And whom did she marry?” inquired Mr. Hobby, with polite interest in the affairs of his late amanuensis.
“Me,” said Mr. Peglow, with a blush.
The head of the firm of Hobby & Hoople stared open-mouthed at the junior partner. Mr. Peglow’s eyes fell again and he shifted his weight to the other foot. There was a long, embarrassed silence. Then Mr. Hobby roused himself and stepped forward impulsively. He seized Mr. Peglow’s hand in a viselike grip, shook it violently, and turned to his desk without a word.
Five minutes later he paused midway in the task of opening a pile of letters, and muttered:
“I wonder why in the world I didn’t think of that myself.”