According to Agreement
Archie P. McKishnie
MR. RICH dismissed the fluffy-haired stenographer with a curt, “That’s all.” and a wave of a pudgy hand. When the door of the inner office swung to behind her, Mr. Rich settled back in his chair with a deep chuckle of satisfaction, not a ripple of which showed on his stern, aristocratic face. Mr. Rich had mastered more than intrinsic money-problems in his sixty odd years of existence; he had mastered himself, his clerks, everybody he came in contact with, in fact. At least that is what Mr. Rich thought. Every morning at halfpast nine he donned a business mask and wore it until four in the afternoon. It consisted of shaggy, concentrated brows behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, a narrow line of a mouth that dropped slightly downward at the corners, and thoughtwrinkles, that formed a dollar sign in a high forehead. Once garbed in this armor of commerce, Mr. Rich was a foe, figuratively speaking, worthy of the steel of any tilter in the commercial lists.
This morning Mr. Rich was having difficulty with his accoutrements. He got as far äs the frown, but somehow that gurgle of enjoyment, deep within him, kept chasing the sarcastic curve away from his lips, as often as he would summon it. At last he sat erect with a jerk and muttered, “This Won’t do.” Thomas, the office boy, who was hanging some files on the wall jumped a couple of feet in the air.
“Beg pardon, sir?” he quavered.
“Come here,” commanded Mr. Rich, transfixing the boy with his cold grey eyes. “How long have you been there?”
The boy stood on one foot.
“Not long, sir.”
“You’ve been smoking,” said Mr. Rich. “After my warning to you, you have been smoking again.”
“O, no, sir, beggin’ your pardon, sir, I haven’t been smokin’, sir.”
“Turkish cigarettes,” persisted Mr. Rich, calmly. “You have some of them in your pockets now. Put them on the table.” “But, sir-”
“On the table right there, that is right. Now then—what is your name, please?”
“Thomas Bates, sir.”
“Well, Thomas Bates, you are discharged.”
“We don’t employ boys who smoke.”
“I’m willin’ to give up tobacco, sir.” There were tears in the boy’s eyes, and the greyness of apprehension had aged his face. Mr. Rich noted this with satisfaction.
“Humph ! well, I can’t reinstate you in your old position, but I might give you a chance in another line.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Mr. Rich arose and crossing softly over to the door of the inner office, he locked it noiselessly. Then he came back softly and drew the astonished Tommie into an inner sanctum. This door he too locked. Then he turned and looked the boy up and down speculatively.
“Boy,” said Mr. Rich, as he thoughtfully turned the big diamond about on his finger, “during the forty years I have been busy in making over a million of dollars, there has been at least one rule in business that I have strictly adhered to. That rule is never to re-engage a man I have once discharged. I am going to break that rule now. In return I ask you, will you play fair by me?”
The lad looked him straight in the eyes.
“Ain’t you doin’ it by me sir?” he asked.
“All right. No more lying, remember—• at least not to me. You’ve found it don’t pay. I always know.”
“All right, now I’ll tell you what you’re to do. I’ve got a hair-brained son in business here with me, perhaps you have seen him, name’s Jim.” “No?” “Well, it don’t matter. What I want you to do is keep your peepers on that youngster—all the time. You’re to watch him, like a cat, day and night. Don’t let him out of your sight, without ascertaining where he is going. He’s a golf-fiend as well as every other
kind of an enthusiast. I heard him say he wants a caddy. You might apply for that job. Don’t look anxious. I'm going to pay you, in addition to what he does, just double what I was paying you before. Now I’ll tell you what I want to find out. Jim is in love with some penniless girl, just as hair-brained, no doubt, as he is himself, but with acuteness enough to know what it means to marry money. I’ve been trying to find out who she is, and where she is to be found.”
Mr. Rich pursed out his lips—glared down at the boy—then nodded. ‘T suppose I’ll have to take you into my confidence and I want you to remember—that if you betray it—you’ve got to deal with James Rich. You know what that means, eh?”
The boy nodded.
“Well, then, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to get this girl, this fortune-hunter, to leave the city. I’m going to pay her to do so, understand? For various reasons Jim must not know of my plan. I’m not going to let him tell me anything about this girl—although he wants to mighty bad. I’m going to work this thing out by myself—with your help—and now a bit of advice to you. Young man, don’t you try any sharp games on Mr. James Rich, because he’s just a trifle sharper than you are. I know I’m taking chances on you—but I’ve got to risk it. I’ve got to have somebody to help me. Now do you think you can do what I want you to do ?”
The boy arose.
“I’ll find the woman,” he said, sidling toward the door.
“Understand you are to report to me as soon as possible, and you are not to forget that I must have a square deal.”
Mr. Rich, speaking from behind his armor, unlocked the door and the boy with an earnest “I’ll remember, sir,” passed out.
Mr. Rich, once more back in his chair by the table was muttering, “I’ll nip this fortune-hunter in the bud.”
The boy, passing down the stairs, lifted a partly demolished cigarette from the window-sill, and stepped out into the autumn morning. “Tommie Bates, de detective,” he chuckled. “Or de boy dat played de millionaire.”
Mr. Rich reached toward a pile of letters, picked one up, opened it and concentrated
his eyes upon it. He read it through twice turned it over and read it again. He picked up another and did the same thing with it. Somehow, he couldn't fasten his mind on business. For some reason he felt jubilant. That chuckle seemed awake within him still. There was nothing for him to feel particularly happy over, he knew ; on the other hand, he had a hard and distasteful task before him. He had to save that hairbrained son of his from disaster. Finally he settled back and the corners of his mouth turned up in a little satisfied smile. He knew now what was the matter with him. Funny he hadn’t guessed it before. Strange he hadn’t noticed what a charming girl Miss Waetz was, long ago. Mr. Rich sat erect with a frown, only to settle back again with a sigh. He told himself that a widower, even if he were an old widower, had a right to dwell on sentimental thoughts occasionally. Thinking wouldn’t do anybody any harm. It was necessary— quite necessary, that he should follow—well a certain line of thought on Jim’s account. He didn’t want to be too hard on the boy. It might just be that he was in love with this adventuress, and, love is a bad barrier to get over without getting scratched—he wanted to think it out fairly, he—
“Eyes, if they’re the right kind now,” he reasoned, “they simply play the devil with —a man.”
Mr. Rich jerked himself together. He was astonished, shocked at himself. He glanced about him nervously.
“I wonder what’s the matter with me/’ he asked himself.
Somehow, he couldn’t forget that pair of deep grey eyes that had laughed fairly and squarely into his own, that very morning. They had stirred a little chord in his long-locked soul, that was tinglingvstill— getting louder if anything. UU
“She was trying to make an impression on me,” scowled Mr. Rich. Then he turned the ring on his finger slowly a few times and whistled.
“Ecad, she has made an impression on me, too.”
Mr. Rich arose and strode across to the big mirror in his coat room.
A long time he surveyed himself in the glass. Then he shook his head.
“White hair,” he muttered, “nothing about that to charm a young lady, I guess.”
“Pompous looking, no, that’s not it. Can’t be my side whiskers, most girls detest side whiskers, must be my million dollars.”
This thought did not satisfy Mr. Rich. He felt it did Miss Waetz an injustice.
He went slowly back to his desk and sat thinking a considerable time, the curve in his mouth changing from the upper to the drop curve, according to the bent of his reflections. At last, he took off his glasses and laid them on the table. Then he called -very softly. “Miss Waetz.” The stenographer entered with her pad and pencil, and Mr. Rich motioned her to a chair, with a wave that was perhaps a little more deferential than usual.
At any rate, the sweet face of the girl flashed a smile that made the aeolian harp in the old man’s bosom tingle so that it was fully a minute before he could bring himself to dictate.
Mr. Rich cleared his throat. Then for the third time that morning he arose. He crossed over to the window and looked down on the street. He saw his son Jim walking leisurely along, and skulking at his heels,Tommie, the detective. It gave him strength to speak out.
Once he turned and saw two big grey eyes looking at him wistfully. If that glance didn’t bespeak heart-hunger, Mr. Rich— who had lived 60 years, had never seen heart-hunger in a look.
“Please take this letter—my dear.”
Miss Waetz almost leaped from her chair. When Mr. Rich glanced over his shoulder, her fluffy head was bowed above her pad, and shaking—well, just a trifle.
“Unnerved,” thought Mr. Rich. “A little sudden, I guess.” Aloud, he dictated :
“Dear Miss Waetz—
The girl glanced up with puckered brow '—then her pencil touched the line again. She was paid for taking dictation.
“If you would make a lone home supremely happy, consent to become Mrs. James Rich. Take a day or two to think it over.
Mr. Rich stood still, gazing down on the street. Miss Waetz waited a moment or so, then asked : “Is there anything more,
“That is all, this morning,” he answered, softly.
“Will you sign this letter or shall I use
He turned then and smiled across at the
“Take it with you, Anna”—he spoke the name very gently—“and believe, if you can, I mean every word of it.”
“You are kind,” she commenced, “very good and kind-”
Then Mr. Rich turned quickly, very quickly, considering his weight of years. But she was gone.
He went to the coat room and took down his hat and cane. Somehow he wanted room, lots of room. This offfce was too small to contain him and his feelings. At the door he met the detective.
“She’s tall an’ dark and she’s an actor,” hissed the lad gliding in.
Mr. Rich drew the boy into the inner sanctum.
“Who’s tall and dark and an actor?” he asked sternly.
“Th’ wu-man which would win your son, sir. Th’ she vu-mpire, sir, whose trail I have found.”
Mr. Rich placed the boy in a chair, with a shake that made his teeth chatter. “Talk sense, sir,” he stormed.
“Now tell me what you mean?”
“I’m Mr. Alex’s caddy, now sir,” spoke the boy, swallowing hard for his lost breath, “and I’ve been watchin’ him as you asked me to, sir. I’ve seen the wu-man.” “Well ?”
“They are deep in love, sir, very deep in it, I should say.”
“How do you know ?”
The detective lifted his brows.
“Jedgin’ from appearances, sir,” he said. “Humph, well did you get her address?” “Sir?”
“Do you know her street address?”
“No sir, not as yet, but I will sir.” “Did you learn the name of this—this penniless girl with an ambition?”
“Gusty,” hissed the boy. “It's that.”
Mr. Rich backed away from him. “Gusty,” he repeated, “Gusty?”
“That th’ fust end, sir. Last one is Knight.”
“Gusty Knight,” mused the old man— ahem, it promises to be wilder still before morning.”
“Shut up, can’t you? How am I going
to think with you leering up in my face. I wish I had never seen you.”
“I’m on the right scent, sir.”
“Very well, get out and when you come back have that woman’s street address, hear me.”
Tommie touched his forelock and slipped out.
“What were boys made for, I wonder?” mused Mr. Rich.
The outer door swung open and Jim, the son, tall, straight and debonair, entered.
“Are you in, sir?” he called softly.
“Come in if you wish to see me,” answered Mr. Rich, curtly bracing himself and squaring his heavy jaw.
The son entered, closed the door gently behind him, and sat down in a chair opposite his father.
“The Ladlaw Company took over that Frost mortgage on our terms, sir,” he said.
Mr. Rich, his pale eyes gleaming coldly through his glasses, vouchsafed no reply.
“I thought, perhaps, you might wish to consult with me about that parcel of Scudd gold shares ?”
The father’s mouth drooped to a sarcastic smile.
“Consult with you?” he asked, raising his brows.
The young man’s face reddened.
“I said consult, sir,” he said quickly, “I believe that is the term usually applied to business talks between partners.”
“Listen,” said Mr. Rich, leaning his elbows on his knees and twisting his ring about on his finger.
“Don’t you use that term again, when speaking of a conversation—whether business or otherwise—between us two. In the first place, you are no partner of mine, in the strict sense of the word, in the second place you lack sufficient business ability to talk business, even if I were disposed to take you into consultation. You are twenty-six years of age and you have not, as yet, shown one single trait, that according to my judgment, marks that shrewdness and ability to cope with sharpers, the acuteness that characterizes the successful business man.”
“The fact that I do not believe in resorting to sharp practices in business, does not
prove that I could not detect such practices in another, sir.”
“Nor does it prove that you can. I will admit, if you were to show me that you possessed one iota of sharpness, my opinion of you might change somewhat. As it is, I don’t think you capable of anything very extraordinary. You lack shrewdness, backbone, tenacity—oh, a lot of essentials to business success.”
The son smiled oddly. “I guess I’m in a pretty bad way, sir,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
“I realize that these little talks of mine don’t help you any,” said the father evenly, “at the same time I feel that I am doing my duty in telling you of your short comings. Naturally, I have always been anxious for you to display some of the few traits I would see you possess, but I have given up hoping that you ever will. I took you in as partner, hoping that you would one day show yourself responsible of the trust.”
“Perhaps, some day, I will show you.”
“No,” Mr. Rich shook his head sorrowfully, then finally, “I tell you, you never will, sir.”
“Well, I’ll take the first opportunity that presents itself, to try and prove to you that I am—well, pretty sharp, when I take the notion.”
“That’s it. Now you don’t let anybody beat you at billiards do you, and why? I’ll tell you. You take an interest in billiards. Same with that beastly game of golf, bah, I want to know how long do you think it would take a sharp company to run you into the ground—an opposition company, I mean.”
“Well, if I liked the business I was in it would take a devil of a long while.”
Mr. Rich gasped.
“Beg pardon, father, I didn’t mean to say that. I meant I wouldn’t let any competitors beat me in business or anything else. I’m not built that way.”
For the first time during the conversation, Mr. Rich’s mouth curved upward a trifle.
“It’s all right to talk,” he smiled.
“I’m pretty sure I mean what I say, sir.”
Mr. Rich got up and put his hands deep in his pockets. He took a turn or two up and down the room and stopped directly in front of his son.
“What I want to say—-and I’ll say it quickly, is this,” he said. “You’ve got to give this girl—this penniless fortune-hunter you have found, up—there you see I know all about it. I say you’ve got to give her up.” He waved his hand as the son attempted to speak. “I don’t want to know anything about her. I don’t blame her, but I’m going to save you and myself. You haven’t—proposed to-•”
“Yes, I have, and she’s going to marry me.”
If the father was surprised, he didn’t show it.
He went on calmly. “If you refuse to give her up, why, of course, I can’t help it. All I can do is withdraw my support and cut you off with a small allowance. That would pain me, as you well know, but you know equally well I would do it. I can’t allow a fortune-hunter to spend my hardearned money.”
“But let me tell you who-”
“There, there, I don’t want to know who she is. I don’t want to hear anything about this young woman, as I said before. Therefore, you will please keep her name to yourself.”
The son sat, his head bowed, his fingers beating a tattoo on the chair-arms. When he looked up, his father stood before a glass smiling at his reflection.
“Toothache?” asked the young man, sympathetically.
The father turned, a flush dyeing his skin. “Thought the filling of one of my teeth had broken away,” he explained lamely.
After a time the son spoke again. “Who is she ?” he asked quietly.
Mr. Rich turned quickly. Almost he could not believe his ears. If that question didn’t show keen perception in this hairbrained son of his—well nothing could, that’s all.
“I—I just don’t understand your question,” he said severely.
“I believe I understand some signs pretty well, sir, I asked you, who is she? I think I have a right to know, haven’t I?”
“You are an ass, sir.” Mr. Rich turned his back, and Jim arose and walked toward the door.
“Hold on there, I’m not—that is, I want to tell you something,” cried the father, turning quickly. Ah—how’d you like a— a new mother, my boy?”
“I think it would be real sweet,” returned the son, without a smile. “Somebody to tell me stories and rock me to sleep, eh?”
“I am not joking sir, I mean to marry.” “It’s a sort of nice life, I fancy, married life,” grinned Jim. “Everybody thinks of it, sooner or later, it seems.”
Mr. Rich stood the picture of speechless rage and wounded pride.
“I—I don’t think-” he commenced,
and Jim laughed.
“It’s all right, dad,” he said, lightly. “I hope you’ll be happy.”
“The devil you do,” gritted Mr. Rich, backing away. “How about the million I’m going to leave behind me? You don t
want any stepmother, and, perhaps-•”
“It depends upon whom she is. A nice sort of stepmother, and, perhaps, would just suit me. Going to tell me her name, father?”
“Well, if she’ll have me, and, of course she will, I’m going to marry Miss Waetz.” Jim gave a low whistle. “Indeed,” he exclaimed.
“I’ve proposed to her, sir,” said the father.
Jim sat down and gazed out of the window. “Of course—you are bound to have opposition,” he said, absently. “Miss Waetz, being beautiful and accomplished, is sure to have other suitors, you know.”
“I’ve thought of that, and I thought I would get you to help me win her, Jim.” Mr. Rich’s tone had softened to a coaxing note. “You’ll do that for me, won’t you, Jim?” he pleaded.
“Me?” the son’s brows were lifted in mock surprise. “Me help you win anything? Why, father, haven’t you often told me that I haven’t one ounce of executive ability. I don’t want to make a failure of a possibility. Why—with your knowledge of things generally, you surely don’t require any help?”
“But, you see, if you would try and make her sort of take to you Jim—the women do take to you somehow, I can’t understand that—naturally, she won’t mind becoming vour step-mother, providing she thinks you are nice—understand?”
lim smiled. “What do you wish me to do, sir.”
“Get Miss Waetz to agree to become Mrs. James Rich, that’s all.”
“You are sure that’s all?”
“And if I—do this?”
“Why—if you do—perhaps, I’ll look into your own case, and if I find the girl isn't too much of a fortune-hunter, I’ll agree to your marrying her.”
Jim pointed to an ink-well. “Put it down in writing,” he said, grimly.
"Now then. T, James Rich, agree to give my consent to the marriage of my son, Tames, provided he gains the consent of Miss Anna Waetz to change her name to Mrs. James Rich.’ Hold on,” as the father was about to sign the agreement, “I’m not through yet. ‘And as a further consideration, I agree to bequeath to my son and his wife, one hundred thousand dollars as a wedding gift.’ ”
With a smile that was hard to fathom, Mr. Rich put his flowing signature to the agreement.
Jim arose, folded the agreement, put it in his pocket and walked thoughtfully out.
“I believe,” ruminated Mr. Rich, sinking into his chair again, “I believe the young cub has got some executive ability after all. And,” he chuckled and rubbed his hands together, “that wasn’t a bad scheme of his either. Wonder if I have acted wisely-”
He ceased ruminating, and the corners of his mouth went up gradually. He was looking into a pair of grey, laughing eyes again. He was under the spell. After a time he stood up and squared his shoulders. “Mr. Rich,” he smiled, turning his ring about slowly, “Mr. Rich, as a schemer, you stand without a peer. While your innocent son is helping you gain the consent of the beautiful girl you would wed, you are going to cook his maose effectively— ahem—with this fair fortune-hunter; you are going to buy her off and send her out of the city. No wonder people respect your shrewdness, Mr. Rich. Well now what is it?” as Tommie, the detective, protruded his black, closely-cropped head in at the door.
“I have run th’ wu-man vampire to ’er lair, sir,” he whispered hoarsely.
Mr. Rich frowned. “ Talk English,” he commanded. “Have you got the young woman’s street address there?”
Tommie produced a slip of brown wrap54
ping paper and, screwing up his face, winked gravely.
“Miss Gusty Knight, 236 Church Place,” he read. “That’s it, sir.”
Mr. Rich took the slip of paper and sat down to his desk. Then with his brows puckered into the dollar sign, he seized a pen and dashed off a note.
“I want you to place this in the youngwoman’s hands at once,” he said ominously, handing it to the boy.
“It shall be did, sir.”
“You are to bring—this woman back here with you,” explained Mr. Rich. “In my letter Í have asked her to accompany you here.”
“Keep her down stairs until Jim goes out —then show her in here. After you have done this.” smiled Mr. Rich, “I am through with you forever—at least I hope so. I am going to give you a single ticket to Chicago and three hundred dollars. Are you willing to take it and promise me you will never speak of what you have been doing for me?”
The sleuth’s eyes danced.
“I’d ruther be astayin’ on, sir,” he réplíed thoughtfully, “but, 0’ course, if them’s your
wishes-” he shrugged his shoulders
submissively. “But I am thinkin’ as Master Jim ’ud like give me quite a bit more ’n you arc given me, if I went to him-”
Mr. Rich strode across to the boy" and gripped him by the shoulders.
“Are you trying to hold me, James Rich, up?” he gasped.
“I’m a business man, same’s yourself, sir,” asserted the lad, meeting the. dead grey eyes fearlessly. “I’ve been doin’— well it’s some sort of dirty work, I’ve been doin’ fer you, an’ T don’t like it. I want $500, and that ticket, else I’m goin’ down and tell Master Jim all about this little scheme, sir.”
Mr. Rich drew back slowly.
“I’m almost sorry I dismissed you the other morning, boy,” he said. “You> have the making of a shrewd business man in you. I’ll give you the $.300.”
“I’ll be takin’ it now then, sir.”
“1 say, if you don’t mind. I’ll take it now ( )h, you needn’t be scared of my hedgin’, I’ll get the wu-man here, all right. You kin just give me a cheque, if you like, sir.
You kin date it to-morrow, if you’re scared of me ; before that time I'll have fulfilled my little contract with you, I take it, sir. If I haven’t, why, you kin stop payment, see?”
Mr. Rich laughed then. Actually laughed until the tears came into his eyes and dimmed his glasses. He loved a keen play. He was getting it. Ten minutes later Tommie left the office with his cheque.
“Here’s where I get even with th’ millionaire,” he chuckled as he passed from the dim hall into the sunny street.
Mr. Rich swung about in his revolving chair, and tapped the letter he was perusing with a pencil.
Jim laughed oddly.
“I guess you’ll think I’m not so bad at putting through a deal after all, father,” he said.
“Then you saw her and she-” cried
Mr. Rich eagerly.
“Yes, she said she would do it, father.”
“Well, I was pretty sure she would, you know,” frowned the older man, pursing out hisHips. “I was pretty sure she woula. James Rich, sir, is a man who always wins —always wins, sir.”
“Then I don’t suppose I get any glory for myself?” said the son, in a quiet voice. “There’s no credit due me for engineering this tiling, I suppose?”
“Pooh, pooh, Jim. What have you done, I ask you, what have you done ? Why, the young lady was quite ready to give her consent to my—ahem—proposal, sir, long before you saw her at all. That’s the trouble with you. You always expect credit for doing things, when in reality you don’t do anything. I’m just about out of patience with you. Why don’t you do something?” Mr. Rich leaned across the table and fixed his cold eyes on his son’s. “Why don’t you do something?” he repeated, tauntingly, “do something yourself?”
“It will have to be something very big— very, very big, before you can see it, I guess,” replied the son, quietly. Then he passed out, leaving the elder man pondering over his strange words.
At last Mr. Rich settled back in his chair with a sigh of satisfaction. “Of course I knew she would accept my proposal,” he smirked. “Mr. Rich, you’re a great man.
You’re a conqueror, Mr, Rich; they can’t beat you, no sir.”
There was a low knock on the door, and Tommie, accompanied by a tall, slender girl, entered the room.
"This is Miss Knight, sir,” grinned the detective, bowing low.
"I hope you will reach Chicago safely,” said Mr. Rich, handing the boy a railway ticket. “You may as well start right now.”
When Tommie had gone, Mr..Rich turned to the girl.
“I want to tell you why I sent for you,” he said, sternly.
“I have learned of your ambition and I want to tell you that I will never consent to my son marrying you, never. He, of course, is his own master, but I am his banker. If you marry him you marry him only—not a fortune, as he has no doubt led you to believe you would.”
The girl moved uneasily. “But, sir-”
she commenced, and Mr. Rich held up one hand commandingly.
“I don’t want any explanations, I don’t want a word from you of any kind. My son thought he could fool me into believing that he loved an innocent girl, who scorned his money—or rather my money, but, madam, no man, woman, or child has ever fooled James Rich, Esq., and no man, woman, or child ever shall. I would not allow him to speak of you even, and if I have learned who you are, it but gives proof of my acuteness. However, it don’t matter. I want you, madam, to leave this city. I am willing to pay you—a consideration for so doing. I have an agreement drawn up here which I trust you are willing to sign. I will give you a cheque for one thousand dollars if you will sign it. Will you remove your veil and read the agreement yourself, or shall I read it for you, madam ?”
“You read it, please,” faltered the girl.
Mr. Rich adjusted his glasses and read.
“I, Gusty Knight, solemnly promise that in consideration of $1,000 now paid me to relinquish all claim upon one Jim Rich, to release him from any promise of marriage made me, and to leave the city at once. I agree also never to see Mr. Rich again, if it can be avoided.”
Mr. Rich laid the agreement down on the table and picked up a pen.
The girl came forward hesitatingly, and as she signed in scrawly letters her name at the bottom of the agreement Mr. Rich filled in a cheque for $1,000.
“If you break this agreement I will have you thrown in jail for obtaining money under false pretences,” he warned, as he placed the cheque in her hands.
He watched her, with bowed head, slowly pass from the room and the little soul of the man exulted.
“I knew she was after money,” he gritted. “Better a thousand dollars now than a hundred thousand later.”
He crossed the room and opened the inner office door. The fond smile died from his face when he noted that Miss Waetz’ desk was unoccupied.
“Where is Miss Waetz?” he asked a pale-faced clerk so fiercely that a great splash of ink fell upon the spotless ledger page.
“She went out about an hour ago with Mr. Jim, sir,” answered the young man, frantically searching for a blotter.
Mr. Rich glared in astonishment.
“With whom?” he gasped.
“With Mr. Jim, sir. She left no word as to how long she would be gone, sir.”
“When she returns, please ask her to step into my office, Jennings, and if Jim should turn up, tell him I wish to see him too.”
Very well, sir.”
Mr. Rich passed around among his clerks, as was his custom, his face set in its armor of icy disapproval. He had his own views of clerks and—well, men in general.
Finally he sought his comfortable chair in his own cozy office and gave himself up to reflection.
He had much to engage his mind. After a time he pulled the telephone over to him and called up Briggs & Briggs, architects. “Guess I’ll have that remodeling done as soon as you can get at it,” he told them. “I want that house to be not one of the best, but the best on Poplar Row—there’s a reason. All right, go down and get right at it.”
As he hung up the receiver, the corners of his mouth went up. “Eyes, if they’re the right kind now, do play the devil with a man,” he mused.
And so throughout the long afternoon Mr. Rich dreamed and planned and won-
dered where the girl with those “right kind of eyes” had gone and wondered still more why Jim had gone with her. It was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon before he learned why the girl with “the right kind of eyes” had gone—and why Jim had gone with her. They came into the office arm in arm, and they looked handsome and happy.
Mr. Rich arose with a smile. He must seem glad to think the girl and her stepson-to-be were agreeable companions. Somehow they seemed more than companions. Mr. Rich felt an indefinable, shrinking sort of feeling stirring in his breast and it made him hot and cold by turns. He laughed it away. “My dear,” he said, and held out his arms to the girl. She blushed and hung back, but Jim pinched her pink ear and pushed her playfully forward.
“Kiss him,” he grinned, and the girl threw her warm, soft arms about the old man’s neck and kissed him on the dollar sign between his brows.
Mr. Rich held her gently, smoothing her wavy hair back from her brow pettingly.
“My dear,” he said fervently. “This is the happiest moment I have had for many years.”
“I—I am glad,” faltered the girl.
Mr. Rich cleared his throat, glanced across at Jim’s smiling face, and frowned
“Why don’t you go,” said the frown.*'"
“I guess I’ll stay,” said the smile.
Mr. Rich bent and kissed the girl’s red cheek. “When you are Mrs. James Rich
-” he commenced, then stopped, for Jim
had turned his back and was shaking as with the palsy.
While the father stood angry and perplexed watching his son, the girl slipped away from him.
He saw Jim turn and gather her into his arms. Then the father sank into a chair.
“She is Mrs. James Rich, now,” said Jim, when he could speak. “We were married this afternoon.”
Mr. Rich’s face was a study. He attempted to speak, failed and he sat with his jaws working and the dollar sign betweefi his brows deepened into one twisted, baffled wrinkle.
After a time the old man took off his glasses and laid them on his desk. Then he turned the ring about upon his finger as
slowly the drop curve of his mouth changed to the upper, until a smile rested there.
“I guess you’ve succeeded in ‘doing something big,’ Jim, something very, very big,” he sighed. “I’m beginning to understand things a little.” Then he arose and went across to the young people.
“I hope you will both be happy,” he said, taking a hand of each. “I have ordered the old home renovated against this occasion, and, Jim, I will place $100,000 to your account to-morrow.” Then Mr. Rich went back to his seat by the table. When he glanced up again his new daughter-in-law had gone.
Somehow Mr. Rich felt happy, reasonably happy that is, considering everything. Of course it was foolish in Jim to marry a girl he had decided to marry himself, just to show his father that he could be sharp
on occasion, when he was in love with another girl. Mr. Rich brought himself up with a jerk. A horrible suspicion had flashed into his mind.
“Jim,” he said, “tell me, is Anna the girl you always wanted to marry?”
“Why to be sure she is, but you wouldn’t let me tell you her name.”
Mr. Rich was looking out of the window. “Come here, Jim,” he said. “Do you see that old offlce boy of ours and that tall girl with him down there?” he asked.
“What, you mean the girl with the suit case? Yes, that’s his sister. I just said good-bye to them. They’re going to Chicago. Bright lad that, father. Wish you hadn’t let him out.”
“He is bright,” agreed Mr. Rich, slowly. “Yes, I wish myself now I hadn’t let him out.”