The Man With One Pocket
By Margaret Cameron in Sunset
NED FARRELL was a gambler by instinct and a business man by conviction. Because his convictions tempered and guided the manifestations of his instinct, he was acting Pacific Coast manager for the old and conservative house of Kendrick & Company, Incorporated, instead of being a stock operator or a follower of the races. Moreover, his business methods had so favorably impressed the “Home Office” that there seemed a prospect that he would be permanently retained, in spite of his youth, in the managerial chair recently made vacant by the death of his former chief.
Therefore, because his conception of business integrity was definite and stern, Ned confined the indulgence of his taste for gambling to matching nickels for carfare, shaking dice or playing slot machines for cigars, buying Chinese lottery tickets from the “cousin” of his wife’s cook, and otherwise provoking, in trivial ventures, the caprice of the God of Chance. It was the seduction of a wager, however, that finally led him into trouble.
His wife had been shopping in town all day, and he met her at a restaurant for dinner, preliminary to going to the theater. While he glanced over the
menu she took off her veil, daintily shook it, folded it into a little square and thrust a pin through it.
“ Please put that somewhere, dear,” she said handing it across the table to him. The deftness with which he thrust the cobwebby fabric into his pocket without crumpling its folds bespoke his familiarity with the service.
“And here’s the opera glass,” she continued. “I forgot to give it to you this morning, and I’ve been carrying it around all the afternoon. Such a nuisance, when one is shopping!” Farrell’s overcoat hung near him and he dropped the case into a conveniently yawning pocket. “And—would you mind taking my purse, too? I might lose it.”
“What are those?” He indicated two or three small parcels which lay beside her plate. “The delivery system seems to be interrupted to-day,” he whimsically added, as he found pockets for each of them.
“Well, one hesitates to ask a tradesman to send a tiny purchase that’s only worth ten cents, the funny papers to the contrary notwithstanding,” she replied, “particularly when one lives in a suburb. And those things all came from different shops.”
A woman passed them, carrying a number of little parcels, several of which she dropped before she had them counted and arranged to her satisfaction upon a neighboring table, at which she seated herself.
“I’m sorry for a woman who has no husband.” Farrell’s tone was grave; as Millicent glanced at him, however, she noticed a slight but significent contraction of the muscles about his eyes.
“Don’t be insufferable,” she dryly responded. “A celibate condition probably has its compensations.”
“Possibly,” he admitted; “but nothing can alter the fact that the unmarried woman has no vicarious pockets to carry her belongings.”
“A statement which admirably illustrates one limitation of the masculine point of view.” There was challenge in her laugh, but Ned was not to be diverted from his purpose.
“Why does a woman hamper her comfort in that way?” he demanded. “Why has she not even one pocket, as a rule?”
“Why has a man several more than he needs?”
“To accommodate his wife’s overflow,” was the prompt reply.
“Small thanks to the man, however,” she retorted, still laughing. “We are all unreasoning puppets in the hands of the gods. They give you twenty-odd pockets, counting those in your overcoat ; they give us none at all. I suppose it’s another exemplification of the traditional disposition of privileges between the sexes.”
“It’s another exemplification of a woman’s lack of ingenuity! You always carry—this is quite impersonal, you know, dear—you women always carry such a lot of unnecessary things !”
“Y-yes?” drawled his wife, the mischievous gleam in her eyes disappearing under quickly lowered lashes. Her tone should have warned him, but he was fired by the incautious zeal of the reformer and swept rashly on.
“Women have no method,” he argued. “Now, of course, a man wouldn’t submit to the nonsense of no pockets; but if he had to—if, for
some reason, he had only one—he would so manage that he wouldn’t be seriously inconvenienced, and he wouldn’t always be going around with a handful of little things and dropping one or another of them every three minutes.”
“No-o?” queried Millicent, studying the menu.
“No,” he persisted, piqued by her apparent indifference. “A man would contrive some way to carry all the things he needed without doing that sort of thing.”
Millicent knew Ned and recognized her opportunity. Dropping the menu card, she flashed a tantalizing glance at him and laughed.
“I’ll wager you can’t get along for a week with one pocket,” she declared, “let alone none at all.”
“That would be easy money,” he retorted. “I could do it like a mice.” “The proof of the pudding—,” she suggested. “I’d like to see you try.” She well knew that her husband had not entirely outgrown the prankish spirit of his college days, although it was long since he had permitted it expression. But temptation in that guise he could have resisted, had she not laughed again, teasingly, repeating: “I’ll wager you couldn’t.”
“Done !” he cried, his eyes asparkle. “Just for a lark! What are your terms?”
“Well—there’s a ring at Shreve’s that I admire.” Her glance was questioning.
“Good ! And if you lose, you shall find some way to carry your small necessities without burdening every man you meet.”
“If I lose, I’ll never again ask you to carry a small parcel for me.”
“Oh, as to that,” with a deprecating gesture, “I don’t mind carrying your parcels. My objection is to the principle of the thing.”
“Which pocket will you keep?” The demons of mischief that lurked in Millicent’s dimples rioted about her mouth.
“Yes; I’m going to sew up all the others, you know.”
“Oh, you’re going to sew up all
the others.” Full comprehension of her purpose required a mental effort militating against originality of phrase.
“Because otherwise you would unconsciously make use of some of them. Habit is strong.”
“True,” he assented, reflectively thrusting his fingers into his waistcoat pocket, “habit is strong.”
“Oh, by the way,” continued his roguish wife, “by the terms of this wager, you are not permitted to tell your friends about it.”
“Oh, I say!” protested Ned.
“Oh, no! You are to accept the inconveniences and makeshifts as a matter of course, as a woman must, and make no explanations. Otherwise, you’d have an unfair advantage. ‘A little wager with my wife’ would account for any sort of apparent eccentricity. If you tell, I win.” And so it was agreed.
Several hours later, while his wife was engaged in sealing with her needle fifteen of the sixteen pockets in his business suit, Ned stood regarding with a whimsical face the articles which had been removed from those pockets, and which now lay in rows on the bed, in this order: his bill-book, a half dozen letters, cigar case, note book, commutation ticket, pencil, fountain pen, cardcase, toothpick holder, watch, gold pocketpiece containing his wife’s picture, matchbox, small change from his waistcoat pocket, cigar clip, keys, knife, a purse holding gold and large silver coins, and his handkerchief. He had begun to divide these things into, two very uneven piles, when of a sudden his puzzled smile gave place to an expression of blank dismay.
“By Jove!’ he slowly ejaculated.
“Say, look here, Millicent, this is awkward ! Mr. Kendrick and Scott Searles get back from Del Monte tomorrow.”
Allen Kendrick was the venerable head of the firm in whose employ Ned hoped to continue as manager of the Pacific Department ; Scott Searles was his son-in-law, and vice-president of the company, and it was supposed that
their visit to the coast at this time was for the purpose of definitely deciding upon a manager for the department.
“Well?” By this time the dimple demons were well under Millicent’s control, and her calm face betrayed only a cheerful interest.
“Well, don’t you see?” Ned’s voice held a suggestion of irritability. “I can’t make myself ridiculous—”
“Oh, if you’re willing to admit—” quickly began his wife.
“I admit nothing,” he as quickly rejoined. “It can be done, of course —any man could do it, but—”
“But any man would like to make his own conditions?” dryly suggested Millicent. “Well, that’s another masculine privilege.”
“Not at all,” he protested. “If it were anybody but the president of the company—”
“Oh, well, of course, dear, if you want to give it up—! It was only a joke anyway.” She broke off her thread with a good natured laugh, and took up her scissors to rip the stitches. The laugh turned the scale. To him it seemed laden with indulgency.
“Not a bit of it,” he stoutly declared, slipping the commutation ticket inside the lining of his hat, “I’ll do it anyway, just to show you how simple it is, if one has a little ingenuity.”
Before twelve o’clock the next day, when Mr. Kendrick and Scott Searles entered the office to go to luncheon with him, Farrell had had several slightly disconcerting adventures. On the car, he had been unable to reach any money until he had first removed his cigar case, and his handkerchief, and even then, his keys and his knife and the larger coins—loose in his pocket because he had found his purse too bulky to carry—prevented his quickly finding a dime. Meanwhile, the man who waited to match with him, to decide who should pay the fare for both, waxed facetious at his expense, and the terms of the wager prevented his making any explanation. And he had had a similar experience when he reached his private office, where the book-keeper was
waiting for a paper which was locked in the manager’s desk. Farrell took out his cigar case, and as he drew up the keys, they caught in his handkerchief, dragging it out, and in thrusting back the handkerchief, he dropped the keys.
When he had been trying to arrange comfortably in his pocket the articles he had finally decided to carry, Millicent had mentioned that she always tied her keys to her garter and tucked them into the top of her stocking, but he had not adopted the suggestion. It had not seemed consistent with managerial dignity.
As the book-keeper returned them to him, Ned thought he saw an amused twinkle in the man’s eyes, and he flushed, feeling like a schoolboy detected in a transgression. He resolved to find, before another day, a more convenient location for those keys, for no matter how much he may enjoy a prankish adventure, no young manager relishes the conviction of callow youth and awkwardness in the mind of a subordinate. However, as the morning wore on, he felt that he had not made a bad start, and he was still confident of his ability to win the wager.
As Ned pushed back his chair and arose to go to luncheon with the heads of the firm, Mr. Kendrick took out his watch, saying, “I think I’m a minute or two slow. What is the time, Mr. Farrell?”
Ned’s hand went instinctively to his left side, and was quickly withdrawn. “Perhaps Mr. Searles can tell us,” he replied, flushing. His color deepened as he looked up and met the calm, observant gaze of the vice-president.
“No,” said Searles, “I left my watch for repairs on the way down here. It was out of order.”
“Don’t you carry a watch, Mr. Farrell?” testily inquired the old man.
“Why, yes, ordinarily,” stammered Ned, “but—you see I’m not wearing it to-day.” He recovered his self possession and threw back his coat, speaking lightly.
“I hope you didn’t forget it,” pursued the president. “It’s not a good indication when a young man forgets.
He may be honest, but he’s not to be trusted. He lacks system, and system is the flywheel of business.” When he was dressing that morning, Ned had hinted that it would ruin the satin finish of his watchcase to put it in the pocket with his keys and his money. Millicent generously desiring to help, had suggested that he might slip the timepiece inside the belt of his trousers, or wear it pinned to his waistcoat, and had enthusiastically offered to lend him the jeweled hook that he had given her with the tiny watch which she sometimes wore. This, also, had seemed inconsistent with the dignity of his position, and he had compromised by hanging the watch on one of the hooks of his suspenders, where he could get at it fairly well if he were not too closely observed. And there it hung, vociferously ticking. He fancied that Searles must hear it, and as he glanced up and met the look in the vice-president’s eyes, he flushed again.
To hide his confusion, he turned toward the outer office, saying: “Shall we take a little stroll about town before luncheon?” and the older men followed him to the street.
As they passed a cigar stand where young men were shaking dice, Mr. Kendrick’s face hardened.
“There,” he said, pointing to them with his stick, “is the bane of modern business life—the game of chance. I meet it everywhere, but particularly here in the West. The desire to get something for nothing—the desire to gamble—is weakening the integrity of all our young men and making them unfit for steady, conservative, honest, business. I’m told that a man sometimes puts a nickel into one of those slot machines, and gets a dollar’s worth of cigars. Persisted in, that will ruin a man’s moral perception. It will give him a certain obliquity of moral vision that is deplorable and dangerous, and it’s wrong, all wrong!”
“Mr. Kendrick, isn’ it possible that you exaggerate the importance—” began Ned.
“Not a bit, sir! Not a bit!” cut in the old man, and Farrell bit his lip
and listened, while the president continued, with the slow prolixity of age.
“It’s just what I say it is, the curse of modern business life. Every other man you meet is a gambler. He plays these machines, or shakes dice, or matches coins for carfare—I know men, sir, who never ride on a street car without gambling for the miserable little fare ! It’s that sort of man who can’t even let a presidential election go by—the most serious and pregnant event of our national life— without making it the subject of idiotic and degrading wagers. Or they bet on horses, or play poker, or buy lottery tickets, or speculate in stocks—sometimes with another man’s money. It’s all the same thing at bottom, sir. It’s all gambling, and it’s all dishonest, because it’s all trying to get something for nothing, even if the something is no more than making another man ridiculous, as in the case of many silly election bets. If I find a young man addicted to that sort of thing, it’s all I want to know about him. There may be men who are willing to give him employment, but he won’t find it with Kendrick & Company. Every position with us is, in a sense, a position of trust, and every man in our employ must be a man who is trustworthy. And he can not be that if he’s a gambler!”
“But, Mr. Kendrick-—”
“Mr. Kendrick belongs to an old and very conservative school,” interrupted Searle’s pleasant voice, “a school which, as he himself says, is rapidly—”
“Now, Scott, I will not have you defending this wretched modern tendency,” querulously objected his father-in-law. “You know perfectly well that in your heart you have no more tolerance for it than I have!”
Ned shot a covert glance of interrogation at the vice-president, and met a gaze so quizzical, so shrewd, and withal, so kindly, that his uneasiness was dispelled for the moment, and with a clearing brow, he led the way into the restaurant.
As they were finishing their dessert, Mr. Kendrick, grown unwontedly ex-
pansive and genial under the influence of his wine, said:
“Perhaps this is as good a time as any to tell you, Mr. Farrell, that Mr. Searles and I have been very much pleased with what we have learned of your work out here, and we think we could not do better for the Pacific Department than to leave it permanently in your hands.” Ned flushed with pleasure, and would have stammered a response, but the old man continued, “It’s not the policy of the company to place so much responsibility in the hands of so young a man, as a rule, but you seem to be an exception. I shall write to the directors to-night, asking them to confirm your appointment at their next meeting.”
Ned made a modest little speech of acknowledgement, expressing his gratitude for the company’s appreciation of his labors in its behalf, and added something about the continuance of his earnest efforts in the future. Then the men shook hands over the table, and the little unofficial ceremony was at an end. Mr. Kendrick took one of Ned’s cigars and rolled it appreciatively in his fingers.
“It’s strange how a similarity of taste in tobacco will prejudice one man in another’s favor,” he said. Ned rejoiced inwardly that this very reflection had decided him in the morning to give the major portion of the room in his hip pocket to his cigar case, at the expense of his notebook and some papers. Mr. Kendrick had complimented his cigars before.
“Have you a match?” asked the president.
“Er—no—I—I haven’t my matchbox with me,” replied the new manager.
Mr. Searles proffered his and the three men were silent for a moment, while they leaned back in their chairs and enjoyed the aroma of their cigars.
“By the way,” said Mr. Kendrick, taking his notebook and pencil from his pocket, “I wish, while I think of it, you would give me the names and addresses of those Seattle men you mentioned the other day, with whom
you think we might make a deal. We’re going back that way and might look them up.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t them with me,” replied Ned. “I’ll give them to you when we get back to the office.”
Mr. Kendrick’s brow contracted a little. “You read them to me from your notebook,” he said. “Have you forgotten ?”
“No,” Ned moved uneasily, “but— I haven’t my notebook with me today. I have the addresses at the office, however.”
“H’m,” commented the president, as he replaced his notebook and pencil in his pocket.
“I remember one or two of them,” added Farrell, stung by Mr. Kendrick’s sharp glance and his own knowledge of the reason for the notebook’s absence. “One is George B. Giddings, whose office is in the—”
“Just write them down, will you?” curtly interrupted Mr. Kendrick. “We’ll verify them when we get to the office.”
Ned helplessly touched his closed pockets. “I—I haven’t a card,” he stammered.
“Take mine,” promptly suggested Mr. Searles, handing it across the table.
“Thanks. And may I—er—may I use your pencil, also?” Then, seeing the surprise in the faces of both his guests, Ned added, with a nervous laugh, “the truth is, “I left most of my pocket paraphernalia at home this morning.”
A sharp frown brought Mr. Kendrick’s brows together. “It is very important, Mr. Farrell,” he said, “that the manager of a large business should not only make a practice of having the ordinary requirements of business life about him, but that he should not forget to keep them about him. I don’t like young men who forget. They’re not to be trusted.” He pursed up his lips and irritably stared at his prospective manager.
Farrell wrote the addresses slowly, while his mind whirled from one alternative to another, in an endeavor to find a lubricant for a situation which was becoming dangerous.
His inclination was to make a clean breast of the whole affair, but that would be only to make matters worse. That his confession would yield the wager to his wife was of small consequence beside the fact that, in view of Mr. Kendrick’s radical opinions it would almost certainly lead to the recall of his as yet unofficial appointment as manager.
Then it occurred to him that he might take the vice-president into his confidence. It was current gossip among the older employes of the firm that Scott Searles was the only man who had ever been able to persuade the president to retreat from a position which he had once taken. Ned remembered the quizzical smile in Searle’s eyes when Mr. Kendrick had so unequivocally condemned all forms of small gambling, and decided that if worst came to worst, he would attack what seemed the line of least resistance, and tell the vice-president.
As he looked up and saw Mr. Kendrick’s still frowning visage,his fingers involuntarily contracted, and the pencil that he had been using slipped out of their control and rolled to the floor. He had almost to get under the table to recover it, and he was still pulling at his waistcoat and readjusting his cravat when the waiter brought him the check. He tried to fish out a coin without first removing the various impedimenta that filled his one pocket to overflowing, but the money, naturally, was all at the bottom and perversely, eluded his. grasp. Mr. Kendrick, with pursed lips and somber eyes, regarded his every motion, and Ned reflected that it would not improve the situation to fumble and empty his pocket in the president’s sight, in order to get at money enough to pay for a very simple luncheon. His glance fell on a telephone booth, and relief seemed to beckon from its curtained seclusion.
“If you’ll excuse me a moment,” he said, addressing Mr. Kendrick, “I’ll use the telephone before we go out, as we may not return at once to the office.”
He arose, and as he did so, his watch, which had been pushed off
the hook of his suspenders by the pressure of his clothing while he was recovering the pencil, fell at his feet, with a sharp rattle. Mr. Kendrick, sitting next the wall, could not see it, but Searles, at the end of the table opposite Ned, pulled the cloth aside just before Farrell’s napkin dropped over the watch, so that he saw, not only the watch, but the younger man’s evident attempt to conceal it.
The vice-president’s face took on an expression that Ned had never before seen in it; a sternness in comparison with which Mr. Kendrick’s aged petulance seemed childish. For a moment the two men gazed into each other’s eyes. Then Searles pushed back his chair and turned away his glance, but his face had not softened.
“Mr. Searles—,” said Ned, and stopped to clear his throat.
“Don’t mention it, Mr. Farrell,” interrupted his guest. “You were about to go to the telephone, I believe.”
Ned saw that his only salvation lay in a bold play. “I think you said that
you wished to telephone to Mrs. Farrell,” he suggested. “Will you do it now ?”
“I don’t remember expressing any such intention,” deliberately replied Searles.
“Pardon me,” persisted Ned. “I think you did.” He met unwaveringly the question of the stern gray eyes. “Will you come now?” he repeated. Bowing coldly, Searles arose and followed his host into the curtained telephone booth.
Ten minutes later, when they again emerged, a quizzical smile played over the vice-president’s lips and made pleasant little lines about his eyes. Ned’s hands were sunk deep in his trousers pockets, around the edges of which there were occasional loose threads, and his face wore an expression of profound satisfaction.
“Father,” said the vice-president, “we’ve just telephoned to Mrs. Farrell, and now we’re all going up town to help her select a ring.”