THE NEW STENOGRAPHER
By HENRY P. HOLT
BILLY FARROL, who worked in a Philadelphia insurance broker's office for a living, and in his spare time wrote short stories because he was obsessed with the idea that he had within him the makings of a great author, fell between two stools and achieved nothing but mediocrity both as an insurance man and as a writer.
Had there been no world upheaval, he would have remained a not. too useful, but to some extent ornamental, figure in the broker’s office, and drifted quietly and contentedly into matrimony with some Philadelphian girl, into fatherhood, and into old age. When the war broke loase, however, his imagination flared. He slipped across the Atlantic, joined the British army, lived through it all, and was finally demobilized in London at the age of twentysix, sound in wind and limb, but wholly unsettled for the humdrum task of adding up figures in any insurance broker’s office.
The day he took off his uniform and put on civilian clothing, Farrol found his worldly wealth consisted of just over one hundred pounds, which was sufficient to provide him with the ordinary necessities of life in London for about two months, in addition to a steamer ticket back to the States. Two months of luxury and ease after four years in the army seems a very long time. And at twentysix a healthy-minded soul is not filled with cares on account of to-morrow.
“I should worry!” observed Farrol, lighting a cigarette and strolling out of his hotel, at peace with himself and the entire world.
Dick Ransom and his wife, friends from Philadelphia, who were staying at the Risdorf Hotel, had bidden him dine with them.
“There’ll just be the four of us,” Ransom had told him. “Camille Hulme, who came over with us, will be
p And Billy Farrol had not even enquired who Camille Hulme might be.
When he did meet the girl his first impression was that she had rather attractive eyes, and was unobtrusive.
Whether she was pretty or not he was unable to decide immediately; but within five minutes he found himself wondering why he had ever doubted it. There was something about her smile which he discovered to be infinitely alluring. Before the hors d’oeuvres were removed he was hoping Camille Hulme intended to remain in London at least two months.
With the advent of the soup his spirits fell to zero on learning that in three days she was going over to Paris for a while, after which she intended returning home to Buffalo.
“Buffalo!” remarked Farrol thoughtfully. “I thought, somehow, you didn’t live in Philadelphia.”
Miss Hulme put the question with her eyebrows.
“Well, I mean I should have been sure to notice you there,” Billy observed naively. “Buffalo’s a corking city, though. I’ve been thinking of settling there when I go back.” He caught a fleeting expression on Dick Ransom’s face which might have been amusement and might not.
Anyway, he remembered having told Ransom not six hours ago that he would probably make for California when stern necessity urged him into harness once more. But the odd part of i t was that Billy Farrol meant it when he spoke of trying his luck in Buffalo. Before he met Camille Hulme, Cali-
fornia had seemed vaguely attractive to him. Now the very idea was preposterous. And they had only reached the entree.
A FTER dinner a few of Ransom’s friends dropped in, and Farrol found himself in almost undisputed possession of Camille for a full, golden hour. And during those sixty minutes, for the first time in his life, he came to the conclusion that as far as he was concerned the whole universe contained only one girl. But for the fact that his action would have seemed a trifle precipitate, he might then and there have laid that dainty morsel of information at Camille’s feet. Instead, he wisely chose the more conservative course of planning to see a little of London with her on the morrow. Mrs. Ransom would necessarily be with them, but. that was the least of his troubles. He had played kiss-in-the-ring with Mabel Ransom a fifth of a century ago.
Dick looked preternaturally wise as he bade Billy Farrol good-night after their final whisky and soda.
“You’re a good old scout, Dicky,” said the ex-warrior, shaking hands, “but do cheer up.” “I’m cheerful enough,” Ransom announced with a slight touch of the fatherly air, “only— only —”
“Only what?” Billy Farrol’s eyes were shining. He was living on another plane for the moment.
“Good night,” replied Ransom, who would have done anything rather than hurt Billy’s feelings.
“Mab,” he observed to his wife, five minutes later’ “what about Billy? He hasn’t the least idea, of course.” “Let the boy alone,” said Mabel. "He seemed to be having a perfectly wonderful time.”
“M-yes,” replied Dick, regarding the end of his cigar pensively. “We ought to give him some kind of a hint, though. I’ve never known Billy Farrol be really enthusiastic about any girl before. I—I’d hate to feel that I had caused him to bark his shins.”
“Dicky, dear,” said his wife, smiling, “when they made you, they forgot to put the romance part into your composition. You wooed me with a sledge hammer instead of being a Romeo. You’re a little more human now, but— oh, can’t you let Billy have an overflowing soul for just three days? I never saw anybody attacked by the malady quite so suddenly. I don’t believe he’s ever been in love before in his life, but he’ll get over it, if necessary, and it’ll do him a world of
“Ah! Hum!’' Dick Ransom thus addressed the ceiling. It was one of his firmest principles never to place himself at a disadvantage by discussing things which he did not at all understand.
And Mrs. Ransom, who was a good Samaritan, contrived by the simplest of expedients to become separated from Billy and Camille next day. She spent a fascinating afternoon in the British Museum, while Billy made hay. He warmed and expanded in the sunshine of Camille’s presence. He was ingenuous to a degree the girl had hardly thought possible, and refreshingly boyish. Camille had, of course, heard something of Billy from the Ransoms, before he met her at that first dinner party, and it was no news to her when he explained that in the world of business he had fallen far short of ranking with the mighty.
THEY were having lunch, tete-a-tete, in a secluded nook at a Bond Street restaurant. Or, rather, Camille was having lunch. Billy was a little too exalted to care much for the fleshpots.
“Well, perhaps business is not your metier," thegirlsaid. “You made a good soldier. Perhaps you might make good at something else.”
“Do you know,’’saidBilly, impulsively, with a smile that was half serious, “I’ve been thinking ever since I left you last night that there is one thing I should like to do, if you wouldn’t mind.” “Me?” The girl crinkled her eyebrows infinitesimally.
“Yes,” Billy went on. “You know, or rather of course you don’t know, that I used to write stories, partly because I liked doing it, and partly because the little checks that magazines sent me were useful. I never did anything that made a big hit, and I suppose one never does, without some sort of positive inspiration. I think, though, that if you’d give me permission to put you into a
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Continued, from page 24
tale, just as you are, though of course I should give you some other name, I might write something that—something that would really be worth while. May I?” For the fraction of a second Camille met Billy’s eyes squarely. Her thought and his were very different atthe moment.
“You funny boy,” she said at length, easily. “Certainly, if it amuses you. But you promise to use some other name, don’t you?”
Billy nodded, beaming. He felt sure that this was inspiration.
“ A ND what,” Mabel Ransom demanded some hours afterward, “have you been doing with Billy Farrol all day?” Camille touched her hair by way of temporising.
“Nothing,” she said simply.
“And you took from eleven this morning till six this evening to do—nothing?” Again there was a perceptible pause. “You didn’t tell me, Mabel, that Mr. Farrol was such a—such an impetuous person.”
“Impetuous!” Mrs. Ransom raised her head and slowly developed a broad smile. “Billy Farrol impetuous! No, I certainly didn’t! Nobody could have warned you against that. You see Billy never knew what impetuosity—that kind of impetuosity—was until round about the time the third course was served at dinner last night. But—” Mrs. Ransom became, suddenly serious—“but, Camille, dear, don’t you let my young friend make himself unhappy, will you?”
“On the contrary, he seemed in excellent spirits. And he’s going to put me into a story. Do you ever see the things he writes when they are printed?”
“We used to when he was in Philadelphia,” replied Mrs. Ransom. “Poor Billy, he just missed it always, somehow. His tales were amusing enough in a way, but his women characters were dolls—sticks. He’d never been really in love himself, and, well, I suppose an author must have
loved to be able to write convincingly about love.”
Camille got up and kissed her friend.
“I’m going to bed,” she said. “By the way, perhaps some day Mr. Farrol may tell you which story he puts me into. When he does, I wish you’d send me a copy of the magazine, will you? Good night, dear. And. . . .if he doesn’t tell you voluntarily, you might ask him. Will you?”
Mrs. Ransom had profound respect for her husband’s judgment in all things. Also her friendship toward Billy Farrol was very real. As she sat there alone for a while she began to wonder whether Dick’s suggestion had not been an eminently practical one. / A touch of romance was all very well in its way, but she did not want Billy to come a cropper. And he appeared to have the bit securely between his teeth.
On the next day, while Dick was engrossed in business, Mrs. Ransom took Billy and Camille Hulme to a matinée, and her observant eyes told her that the very dull comedy on the stage was in no sense responsible for her companions’ joyousness. Mrs. Ransom grew more apprehensive than ever, and definitely made up her mind that in the course of the evening Dick should drop a broad hint to Billy, after which that amiable individual would be responsible only unto himself for what happened. But Dick Ransom had urgent business in Holland, and hurried his wife from the Risdorf to catch the boat train without ceremony.
“\/fUST you go to Paris to-morrow?” iVI Billy asked Camille afterward, with characteristic bluntness, wondering for the fiftieth time how he was going to endure the parting. They were in the foyer of the Risdorf Hotel. This was to be au revoir. Billy saw the barest tinge of color creep to her cheeks, and he leaned forward, exultant. Camille had the most captivating little dimples which, so far, as he knew, had not been kissed for tw
full days; and no dimples of that particular kind, he reflected, should ever go so neglected for more than an hour or two at most. But for the fact that at least twenty people would have been observers, he could have found intense delight in attending to the neglected dimples.
“Yes, for a few days,” Camille replied uardedly. She gave him her ungloved and and he thrilled at the contact. “You are remaining in London?”
“I’ll wait here until the crack of doom if you’ll say you’re coming back.”
Camille’s eyes twinkled.
“How is the story getting along?”
“I was working on it until two o’clock this morning,” Billy replied cheerfully. “It may not be one of the world’s literary masterpieces, but it’s a million miles ahead of anything I have done before.”
Suddenly a vague fear was born within Billy. It came like the point of a stiletto at his heart.
“Camille,” he said in a low voice, not letting her fingers go, “tell me honestly, do you really intend to come back?” For the first time in two years she lost half of her total self-possession.
“I—think so,” she said.
“Promise.” He was actually hurting her hand now, but did not know it.
“Why can’t you? It’s the only thing I ever asked you to do. Promise, Camille.” The girl was regaining her poise. There was something quizzical about her smile. She shot a lightning glance at him.
“You might be sorry, after all.”
“Sit down, Camille, please. Just two minutes! Those people over there are staring. That’s better! Now, listen. How long have I known you? Fifty hours. Good heavens, it doesn’t sound long but in a way it feels more like—oh, ages. On Tuesday I was a ship without a rudder.
I didn’t know what I wanted. Indeed,
I don’t think I did want anything specially. But now it’s different. I want something more than I ever wanted anything in my life. You know what I mean, Camille—”
“You mean—” the girl began, the tinge of color mounting her cheeks once more.
“/'YNE second, please,” he interrupted.
X/ “You may think it’s a bit old-fashioned, though I’m sure you’ll agree that I’m right. I have always felt that a man ' should not ask a girl. . . ask her that question. . . . until he had at least some kind of a position with which to back it up. It isn’t that I believe love in a cottage would necessarily be a failure, but I don’t regard it as fair to ask any girl to make a pledge of that kind until one at least begins to see daylight. And it so happens that I don’t even know for certain yet how I am going to make my living.” His joy at noticing that Camille did not attempt to cut the interview short was more than counterbalanced by the expression in her eyes. He tried to fathom it but failed. Billy felt vaguely uncomfortable. It was as though he had said too much and yet not enough. He was longing desperately to ask her to marry him, but principle checked him. Suddenly the girl’s sense of humor came to the rescue. There was laughter in her eyes—laughter mingled with that other thing which Billy had been unable to fathom.
“Personally,” Camille said, "I do not think love in a cottage would appeal to me awfully. But shall we be impersonal for a moment? You have not proposed to me, so I cannot answer you, either way. There is one thing, however, that you seem to have overlooked, and it may be useful for you to remember it in the future. Suppose a man made that pretty speech to a girl who happened really to love him, what, according to your standards, is there left for her to say or do? She can’t blush behind a fan, poor creature, because that sort of thing justisn’t done nowadays. There is a something underlying your point of view which is noble, spelt with a capital N, but it seems to me it would be dreadfully dull, for the girl.”
The last thing lacking in Billy was courage, and at that moment he was sorely tempted to waive the principle, even ¡though the conviction was growing within him that he had made a horrible mess of ■things.
; “I—somehow I hadn’t thought of that,” he blurted out. “One should finesse more,
I suppose. You see, thjs is my— my first offence. Won’t you promise definitely that you will come back here from Paris?” “You funny boy,” said Camille, rising
at last. “There are business people whom I ought to see here in London before I return to America, so I expect to come back.”
“Is it a promise?”
“Very well, then,” she replied laughingly. And Billy walked to his hotel by such a circuitous route that a clock chimed the hour of one as he reached his room. He was in quite a chastened mood. His eye alighted on a pile of foolscap and his fountain pen on the desk. He looked at the things apathetically for a moment. Then he braced his shoulders and picked up the pen.
He was still writing feverishly as the clock struck four, when his ink gave out.
XJO MAN may half propose to a girl
7 and then expect to drop back into his old, easy friendship with her. That is, if either of them has taken the incident seriously. And there was no doubt that they had both taken it somewhat seriously. That was apparent enough when Camille returned to London. Also, though she had booked her passage to New York, she postponed sailing. Her excuse was that she was waiting for the Ransoms to return from Holland. But the Ransoms were away two full weeks and Billy’s newborn impetuosity was such that in the meanwhile not a single blade of grass grew under his feet. Confidence in himself grew. He had written to a friend in Buffalo demanding a job, morally sure that he would get it. Anything to temporize— and keep him in Buffalo—until his revenue from story writing began. He knew the stories were all right now. In six months he would be on his feet. But the sands were running down for him in London. The ebb tide of his exchequer was proceeding apace. He could only afford a second class steamer ticket now. By the time he had peeled off the price of it, his finances were decidedly rocky. That didn’t matter, however. Everything was coming out right, and it was only fair that a prospective bridegroom should economize in buying a steamer ticket. There was no question in his mind but that Camille loved him. Without actually saying so, she had conveyed the impression clearly enough. Billy told her of all his plans, excepting as far as she entered into them. That he supposed Camille would understand. He was aching to tell her over and over again exactly where she came into his scheme— to impress upon her that she was his whole scheme.
But his birds were all in the bush and he had none in the hand. He calculated that when he reached Buffalo he would have about fifteen dollars and only the somewhat indefinite hope of a job. And so he did not tell Camille what she knew perfectly well.
Two days before Billy was due to sail, the Ransoms returned to London and Mrs. Ransom, making an exact mathematical calculation, found that two added to two came very close to four.
“Has she told Billy, do you think?” Mrs. Ransom asked her husband. “I don’t think so, somehow.”
“Probably not,” replied Dick. “I don’t think it amounts to much, anyway, as they’re both insane about one another.”
“It ought not to amount to anything,” replied Mrs. Ransom pensively. “But. . . I’m thinking about Billy. You know what he is.”
And, still thinking only of Billy, she tackled that elated youth at the first opportunity.
I WANT to congratulate you, Billy,” she began.
“You mean. . . .about Camille?”
“I do. You’re going to marry her, of course?”
“If she will have me.”
“You haven’t asked her yet, then?” “Well, not absolutely.”
“If I had enough to keep a roof over our heads for three months I’d go on my bended knees begging her to marry me immediately.”
Mrs. Ransom toyed with a tassel. “Billy, I think you two were made for one another. I do really. I’ve known Camille for years, and I’ve known you since you hadn’t grown out of knickerbockers. I want you to let that sink in. Has it sunk?”
“My dear Mabel, I’m delighted to hear you express the opinion but I’ve felt it all
“Fine. Now, you and I both know
Camillejloves you. That fact is accepted, j isn’t it?”
“I’ll die if she says she doesn’t.”
“Suppose Camille had a legacy left?” “Well, what of it? Good luck to her.” “I mean a large—a very large legacy.” “What—what are you driving at, Mabel?” Billy had become curiously intent, and Mrs. Ransom began to wish she hadn’t tackled the job without Dick there to give moral support.
“Do you mean that Camille has had a legacy, or that she’s going to have one?” “That’s just the point. It wouldn’t alter your position if she’d received it already, naturally.”
Billy put his cigar down, very slowly. “Let’s get this right, Mabel,” he said. “Are you trying to tell me that Camille has lots and lots of money?”
“Now don’t be a foolish boy. She did have a legacy—five years ago. I wish she’d told you herself. When her father died—he was John Hulme who made a million dollars out of copper in 1914— the money went to her. It is all invested in the Huron Copper Company. She owns nearly half the shares in that conj cern. But what does that matter to you? Don’t look like that. One would think you considered she’d committed a crime! Her money wouldn’t make her bite you.” There was poignant silence.
“Camille owns-—owns a million dollars!” Billy said presently, looking into space. “And I was calmly thinking of •—well, that’s that'.”
“Yes^ that’s that,” repeated Mrs. Ransom. “And it doesn’t amount to a row of beans so far as you and Camille are concerned.”
“So far as my loving Camille, no, certainly not. I’ll have to learn to un-love her, that’s all.”
“Billy Farrol, you’re a born idiot and an unspeakable egotist. Egoism! That’s what it is.”
He looked at her steadily, calmly. “Mabel,; you know it isn’t egoism. Listen. I’m going to make some money by writing. Enough to keep me decently the first year, perhaps, if I’m lucky. More, later, probably. But for quite a while I’ll be pulling in a shade less than she could afford to. pay her head motor mechanic, if she has one. I know what’s in your mind, quite well, and I know just how far you’re right, and how far you’re wrong. Suppose I did marry her—and if she would have had me I couldn’t have imagined anything equally wonderful— suppose I did marry her, what would she think of me after, say, eighteen months, when I was stumbling along in my own plodding way? I wouldn’t belong in her house. I’d be a barnacle. I wouldn’t have an ounce of manhood left if I tried to keep it up. The servants would snigger at me. They’d know, naturally. Everybody would know. And with the best intentions in the world, Camille would know. Lord, Mabel, you don’t think I’d be a sponge, do you? Can’t you seel"
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D Set face, “I always did think you were the cleanest, straightest kind that we breed in America, and the world wouldn’t be spoilt if there were a few more of your sort. I withdraw what I said about egoism. It isn’t true of you. But you’re an idealist, and not a bit practical. Camille would probably never speak to me again if she knew I had talked to you this way, but I thought all along that you’d be foolish about it. Suppose you had happened to be rich and she was poor. You wouldn’t hesitate then.”
“What’s the good of supposing?” “Oh dear! All right,” replied Mrs. Ransom, rêsignedly. “But tell me, what are you going to say to Camille?”
Billy got up. His face was ashen. “God knows!” he said. And he went back to his hotel. “That’s that'.” he observed spasmodically on occasions to nobody in particular. Finally, with a wry face, he counted every penny of his worldly possessions. “That’s that'.” he repeated; and then he laughed harshly.
His boat left for New York on the following afternoon. The Ransoms and Camille were to cross the Atlantic two weeks later. A few hours before going on board, Billy sought out Camille. His heart was like lead; but, superficially, he was gay. He was not going to squeal. It would have been easier than this, in a way, to walk to one’s own execution.
Camille, however, had a clearer idea of Billy’s thoughts than he suspected. For
Mrs. Ransom, fearing that she had done infinitely more harm than good, had wept on Camille’s neck and in a panicky way told how she had performed the operation known as spilling the beans. To which Camille had replied that it didn’t matter in the least. But after Billy had sung his swan-song and had started for the States, Camille was not so sure that she lived in the happiest of all possible worlds. It so happened that she loved Billy very dearly. Quite half a dozen men had at various times directly petitioned for the right to share life’s joys and sorrows with her, and at least three of them had no thought of her worldly possessions at the time. But Billy Farrol was the one she fell in love with; and her candid opinion was that Billy’s high-flown notions about her million dollars amounted to so much tommy-
Mrs. Ransom observed Camille closely after Billy had sailed. The girl was preternaturally cheerful. Nobody in all London conducted themselves less like one whose love affairs were not running smoothly. And Mrs. Ransom understood, said nothing, and was wholly sympathetic. For a man may fool a man, and a man may fool a woman, but a woman who tries to fool a woman on such matters is not engaged profitably.
BILLY’S world came tumbling about his ears when he landed in Buffalo and found that the friend to whom he had written now lived in China. By the skin of his teeth the ex-warr'iQr got as far as Philadelphia, and, his star being temporarily in the ascendant, he was installed once more at the very desk which he had walked away from to go and help make the world safe for democracy. And a day or two later he received a letter and a check from a magazine editor for the story which Camille had inspired. The letter told Billy exactly what he had suspected, namely, that the story was excellent and was quite worth the excellent figure named in the check.
“Yes,” Billy muttered to himself, “that’s all very fine, and I’m pretty sure now that I’ll make good as a writer. But, gee! A million dollars! I’ve got to go some to catch up with her!”
He met Camille twice within the next four months, when she came to stay with the Ransoms, being driven from Buffalo in one of those offensively high-priced cars, with a person who looked like an ambassador in livery at the steering wheel. And the funny part of it was that Billy didn’t even feel the faintest scrap of awe, nor did he strictly preserve an attitude of armed neutrality. He either had to keep right away from Camille, or the obvious truth had to be revealed that he adored the very ground she walked on. He never dreamed of putting the fact into words: he never dreamed, either, how obvious he was. Billy was not gifted with one of those subtle brains which enable some people to say ninety-nine things in order to conceal the hundredth. Besides, Camille had all the traditional ability of her sex to see through a brick wall in such circumstances.
On her first visit to Philadelphia he told her about the story, showed her a proof of it, told her the exact dimensions of the check. Next time he saw her he reported the sale of three more stories equally successful, and Camille urged him to hang on to his insurance office job till he was established a little more securely in the favor of the public. That was when Billy, for the very first time, became conscious of the purely selfish wish that Camille only had just enough money to live on decently. Up to then, in an odd way, he had been pleased, for her sake, to think of the fun she was able to get out of life with such a bank-roll. Even when Mrs. Ransom first broke the news of it to him, Billy had not gone so far as to wish that her finances might totter and fall.
And then, six months after his return to Philadelphia, just as though it were the evil result of his thoughts being projected into space, Billy heard of the Huron Copper crash. The mine had petered out and definitely become worthless, without the slightest respect for the opinion of experts who had declared positively that such a thing couldn’t happen.
BILLY read the news three times— be had thàt day received his ninth healthy check for literary work and brought his bank balance up to two thousand dollars—and then, rising from his swivel
chair, he propelled a half full waste paper basket to the other end of the office with his toe, and otherwise exhibited emotions entirely out of keeping with those one should display on hearing that any nice girl has lost her last cent. An hour later he was with Mrs. Ransom.
“It’s sheer providence,” he said excitedly. “She’s been deprived of her money just to—” He stopped, an unpleasant possibility entering into his calculations. “Do you think she will marry me, Mabel? I’m not fit for her to wipe her shoes on, but—will she, do you think?”
“I don’t know, Billy,” replied Mrs. Ransom. “After the idiotic way you’ve behaved I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if—”
“I’ll speak to her on long-distance.”
“No use. Camille is away from home. As soon as I get in touch with her, though, I’ll invite her here for a while. She’ll need something like that to help her to get over the shock.”
It was a hugely elated Billy who left the Ransoms’ house, but he would have been curiously upset had he known that, as the door closed behind him, Mrs. Ransom put in a long-distance call to Camille’s home in Buffalo, and soon afterwards was talking to Camille.
“And you can make this your home just as long as you like,” Mrs. Ransom said after speaking about a dollar’s worth.
There was ten cents’ worth of pause.
“Thanks, dear,” replied Camille. '.‘You’re awfully sweet. On Monday, then. Not before, because I have no end of things to do.”
And as Mabel hung up the receiver ábe hummed a popular air cheerily. Your born match-maker has various ways of gloating over her victims. Besides, Mabel Ransom had the satisfaction of knowing that she was counterbalancing the occasion on which she had spilled the beans.
Billy’s proposal, when Monday came, was a triumph of tact and devotion, and it deserved a better fate. That is to say, Camille did not droop over his waistcoat and acquiesce with a blush.
“No, Billy. You’re a dear old thing,” she said, “but if we’d been going to marry, the time for it was while we could afford it. Keep on just as you are, and you’ll make a big name eventually. Honestly there isn’t anything I want more than to see you succeed. I called on an old friend of my father’s to-day and I’m going to be a stenographer in his office. My shorthand isn’t any too good, but I’ve had a typewriter of my own for years. I start to-morrow.”
Billy used every kind of argument he could think of, but Camille remained firm. At length :
“Who is this man you’re going to work for?” he asked.
“Mr. George B. Brent.”
Billy’s expression became less miserable. “Of Brent and Underwood?” he asked, a smile hovering about his lips.
“Yes. Do you know them?”
“A little. You see, I joined Brent and Underwood a week ago as their chief correspondence man. I dictate most of the letters to the stenographers there.”
I’VE proposed to her once every day, and twice on Sundays,” Billy observed cheerfully to Mrs. Ransom a mpnth later. “And no girl can put up with that for ever, can she? Camille won’t say yes, but she laughs in a funny way sometimes as though she rather enjoyed the situation.” “I shouldn’t wonder if she did,” replied Mrs. Ransom. “You rather asked for trouble,_ you know, didn’t you, Billy?
I mean in London, when you were so particular about being king in your own matrimonial castle.”
“I suppose I did,” replied Billy soberly: and next day when the psychological moment came for his thirty-fifth proposal— it was after everybody else in the office had gone to lunch—he made a point of drawing Camille’s attention to the fact that he had been a silly ass, magnified unto the umptieth degree. Also—and this was a point on which he was particularly emphatic— he urged that financially he was getting on like a house a-fire.
“On the top of everything else, dear,” he said, “one of the things that will please me most-will be for you to stop this office work. You’ve been a marvel at it, but it wouldn’t'be necessary any more if we got married. Can’t you understand how I feel about that? Don’t you realize how proud I shall be to do that much for the girl I love?”
“You never allowed me to think that way about the boy I loved,” Camille
replied, nestling somewhere in the neighborhood of his left hand waistcoat pocket. Billy kissed her cheeks, her lips, her hair.
“But,” he said, “haven’t I told you that I was a silly ass?”
“T USED to think it would be so lovely -1 if you could write books and become famous by giving the world the best that was in you, instead of having to worry about—you know, rent and bills and things. And you could have, only you wouldn’t. It’s all very well for you to be noble with a capital N, but it isn’t easy for a girl—” “I didn’t know I—I was hurting you that way,” said Billy, holding her so tightly that he hurt her in still another way. “Dear, if that’s so, why have you gone on refusing to marry me all this month?”
“It was because—well, I expect any girl likes to have the man she loves make love to her, and you see, you hadn’t, really, up to a month ago.”
“Camille, let’s get married without waiting any longer, shall we? To-day? Will you?”
“No, not to-day. To-morrow. I want to be happy like this for one day. But, Billy, you’re sure you think you were— you know—a silly ass?”
“I don’t think. I know it!” he replied, apparently revelling in the knowledge. “You can have my sworn affidavit if you like. To people who love one another as you and I do, it oughtn’t to make any difference if either one of them happens to own a billion. It’s love that counts.” “Of course it is. I wish you’d say all that over again, Billy. It. . . it sort of thrills me.”
And Billy did.
“Because,” Camille went on, still making her home up against his left hand vest pocket, “you can’t ever go back on that, can you? And. . . Billy, I never said I lost any money in the Huron smash. My lawyer advised me to sell out a year ago and. . . and I did.”
Billy took her face in his hands and turned it up to his own. His expression was eloquent of wonderment.
“Then. . . then why. . .why have you been working in this office, Camille?” Camille twiddled the top button on his
“Well,” she said, “you see, I’m writing a book. It’s about a stenographer. I wanted to learn all about... Well, that was partly it. Also, I did want to see what you’d say when you thought our positions were reversed. Just to show that you had been
“ What? A silly ass?”
“Umps,” with a nod. “And you said it twice over just now, didn’t you? At least words to that effect. Of Coursé, if you don’t really think so—”
Camille was unable to complete the sentence because Billy had lowered his lips to hers once more.