INTOXICATING scents of Spring were in the air. Pristine coatings of green mantled the outdoor world. The urge of youth and high vitality were upon the man as he made his way with springy step down through the Park avenues on this May morning, and the inevitable happened.
He broke into song. Not enough to alarm the chance passer-by. Not enough even to draw' the glance of the casual loafer who drowsed through his own melody on a park bench as the stranger tripped along. But just enough to tell himself that the Heavens were high and blue and wide and that all was well with the world.
.With this fragment of song tingling within him, the merry-minded gentleman, who had been dignified by the world with the title of Archibald Burton Masters, continued to amble and swing his stick wdth unaffected ebullition of spirits long after he had passed through the fascinating greenery of the Park. As the blocks stretched out behind him, his exterior manner was subjected to the restricting conventions imposed by the presence of his fellows, so that by the time he reached Notre Dame street there was just the barest perceptible flourish to his cane, and there was not the faintest fragment of song to be caught from his lips. But the song was there just the same, still tingling way dowm in the soul of him.
The song was an old one, the Song of Ambition, which has sung its way into the hearts of all 'men. With some men the song is a broken one, with others it is rounded out with the fullness of years, but for Archibald B. Masters it still held all the coaxing strains of its earliest fascination.
For though A. B. Masters, in the flesh, was still upon Notre Dame street, he was, figuratively speaking, about to put his right foot upon the first rung of that ladder which starts somewhere dowm upon the level of mankind and which vanishes into the blue air of high Heaven above.
“A Junior Partner. . , . and I'm to be It,” Masters muttered to himself, though he wanted to shout it to the world, as he turned off Notre Dame into one of those narrow thoroughfares for which his native city is famed. “A Junior Partner. . . Me. . . It. . . Archibald Burton Masters. Boys, that’s chopping off the pace. . . .”
’ I 'HE last part of Masters’ observation was directed in a restrained manner at a lamp post as he passed, then he stopped abruptly and inspected the decoration of a doorway immediately before him. The door announced in its cold, impassive manner that "Fogle & Brett, Advertising Agents,” had found refuge somewhere behind it.
"Fogle & Brett,” Masters informed himself, with a slight curl about the lips, just as though the name had not been branded into his brain long ago. “Too stodgy,” he criticized sagely. “Shows lack of development. Always did need the name Masters to tail it off a bit. That would be more like.”
Masters continued to stare at the name-plate, and to criticize mentally. Fogle assuredly had shown some signs of a broadening mind when he planned to round out that name-plate into the euphonious phrase, “Fogle, Brett & Masters.”
Then Masters stepped back to the edge of the sidewalk
and paused to reflect.
Come to think of it, now that he was down in this smudgy part of the city where the clang of commerce flattened somewhat the high notes in the Song of Ambition,
there were certain conditions which had to be fulfilled before the name of Masters found itself added to the present stolid dignity of “Fogle & Brett.” There was that contract from the Smackard Motor Company’s head office which had to be placed calmly before Mr. Ambrose Fogle, adorned with the proper signature, and, in plain phraseology, committing into the hands of Fogle & Brett for the period of one year the advertising future of the Smackard concern in the whole of Canada.
“Big stuff,” Masters mumbled, to nothing in particular. “He’s a good old boy, even if he is a little stodgy.”
The vague compliment in Masters’ thoughts was intended for Ambrose Fogle, head of the firm, who had been big enough to trust this all-important contract to the handling of the young gentleman who had yet to become the junior partner of the agency whose business it was to live upon advertising contract commissions. But Fogle had been justified. For Masters had spent two months, more or less, dinning stock arguments into the brain of a Mr. Peter Flynn back in the Toledo office of the Smackard Motor Company. Mr. Flynn was a patient, slow-moving man, though his title was that of Advertising Manager, and he had such a love for argument long after he should have been convinced, that he had kept Mr. Archibald Masters in a tingle of suspense for the past two months. Upon Mr. Flynn’s shoulders rested the responsibility of selecting the advertising agency who were to handle the make-’embuy campaign of the Smackard concern in Canada for the next year, and it was only within the past few days that he had weakened and had consented to smile upon Masters.
'T'HAT smile meant more than a smile to Masters. It -*■ meant the junior partnership. It meant, if one could put confidence in the ponderous gravity of Peter Flynn, that this wonderful contract which was to open up for him some new and somewhat dazzling pages of the future, should be in this morning’s mail. In to-morrow morning’s at the latest.
Masters was sure of himself, just as certain as he was of that junior partnership. For he had not spent years in the canvass of all manner of difficult characters without having learned to read something of the nature of man. So when he left Toledo with Peter Flynn’s assurance that the contract would be forwarded by mail, he knew it would come by mail without the faintest tremor of doubt. Either that, or Peter Flynn would have lost the power to decide big features in the affairs of the Smackard people.
So Masters perked his head to one side, and he surveyed that name-plate more critically still.
“The whole thing’ll come down,” he decreed. “It’s got to go high up. . . higher up. . . ”
Then he picked his way through the doorway, along a passage, and in time he found that he was glancing over his shoulder rather archly at the blonde stenographer.
“Any mail this morning bearing the fatal crest of the Smackard firm?” Masters asked of the blonde one.
The blonde one’s reply was a combination nod and giggle, and Masters suddenly found himself hoping that the stenographer had not mistaken the quick glitter in his eye as any
personal message of admiration. Then he turned and hurried for Ambrose Fogle’s private office.
Should he, by any chance, say “Good-morning, Fogle?” or would it be etiquette to follow his usual custom of saying “Mr. Fogle?” Perhaps it would be better to adopt that frank, easy manner which exists among the partners of one concern; it would show that he was big enough to slip easily and gracefully from the position of a subordinate to
that of an equal; it would.....
Masters opened the door behind which he knew Ambrose Fogle would be screened in a cloud of smoke. As he did so, that sub-sensitive something in a man, which has sometimes been defined as perception, made him conscious of a shock.
FOGLE was there, just as he had expected. The atmosphere was pleasantly diluted with Havana fumes. Brett was seated at the non-business side of the desk, just as he had seen him a thousand times. There was not a single physical incongruity about the whole room, or about either partner, which told Masters that the harmony of business was not rippling along its ordinary course. Yet, there was something unusual.
Strange. But of course that would be their way of accepting a big success.
“So the Smackard’s have come across,” Masters broke his way into the oppressive silence.
“Come across?” Fogle laughed, with a high note in his voice which was alarming, “Come across? Masters, we’ve hit the bottom.”
Masters’ next word, being but an outburst of feeling, and being intended for the ears of no living person, may be pardoned. In a moment he rallied his forces.
“Don’t poke fun at me,” he pleaded. “It is too serious
“Serious?” Brett exclaimed. “And what do you think it means to us?”
Masters sat down, somewhat weakly, and his glance wandered rather uncertainly from Fogle to Brett. No, there was not the remotest sign of levity in the face of either man; there was but little expression at all, except those tightening lines about the eyes and the lips.
Masters repeated that unpleasing word, which has been so often condemned, but which has brought such infinite relief through the passing of time to the vast ranks of mankind. For a brief space after that he appeared to be struggling with unspoken words and with unbidden emotions. Then through the daze of it all he found his tongue.
“What’s wrong?” he demanded. “What’s happened? When I left Flynn. . . . and I’d trust the man to my last.” “Read that.” Fogle’s voice, though calm, was slightly husky. “Flynn’s out of it.”
He found a letter in his hand, and his eyes were following the lines mechanically. He read it to the end, but the meaning was not clear. He read it again, and again. . . . and the meaning was clear, too clear. . . Confound the Smackard people, anyway.
“Read it. . . the last sentences,” Brett’s voice broke in. “Let me hear those last words again.”
So Masters began to read aloud, but there was such a tightness in his throat that his words came with an unfamiliar sound. Still, he read them through, the one portion which Brett wanted to hear again.
“.....Mr. Flynn’s condition is uncertain, and he will
doubtless be away from the office for months. In the meantime I am giving my personal attention to the advertising contracts. I regret the Smackard Motor Co., will not be able to do business with Fogle & Brett. The reports which I have received indicate that your company is a small one, and for the sake of prestige we could not afford to place contracts through anything but a large and resourceful agency.
“If you will consider this decision as final, you will oblige, Anthony Peppier, General Manager.”
WHEN Masters looked up he tried to hold the old firmness to his lips, but he knew they were weakening. What made them weaker still was a sudden dash of sympathy which showed in the eyes of Ambrose Fogle.
“It is rather rough on the youngster,” Fogle pronounced, with a wavering thought for another. “Had you counted much upon being junior partner?”
Had he counted much? Masters found it quite impossible to answer the question in any rational way. Instead, he plunged in another direction.
“Means more to you than to me,” he commiserated. “Twenty thousand dollars a year in commissions for the firm and it’s gone. If only I had had sense enough to wait in Toledo. If only. . . ”
Brett rose impatiently.
“Post mortems. Always post mortems. They weary me. That’s it, why didn’t you wait? Why didn’t you?” Brett’s spleen grew more temperate through a period of silence, and Masters, looking carefully from the one man to the other, found himself wondering just how much the loss of that twenty thousand would mean toeach individual. Had they, like himself, been using it as one of the rungs of /that ladder of success which forever reached up and up into the realms above? Brett’s impatience seemed to indicate that he had not been without his dreams. Fogle’s calmness? That was but a part of the mask he always wore. Dreams? Of course they must have dreamed, as all other men dream, each in his own way.
“I’m sorry,” Masters began, then stopped abruptly as he appreciated the futility of words.
Brett tried to laugh.
“Still what we said about that partnership goes. You ' recognize that, Masters?”
The latter nodded, to prove that he accepted his fate with what philosophy he could muster. Brett left the room; Masters rose to follow. He reached the door, when something in Fogle’s silence caused him to turn again.
Fogle, the senior partner, had been studying him carefully. When Masters turned, he surprised an expression of pity in Fogle’s eyes, but that quickly vanished.
“Brett is quite right,” Fogle spoke as if he seemed to be measuring his words. “What we said about the partnership goes. You become Junior Partner if you land that
The sense of Fogle’s words barely reached his brain, for Masters merely nodded again and passed out to the main offices.
THERE, behind her desk, with an expectant glitter in her eyes, was the blonde stenographer. Quite plainly she had accepted Masters’ earlier attitude as an unspoken declaration of esteem, and now, with the inalienable rights of her sex to urge her on she was about to establish the fact that even in matters of unspoken affection woman can be as frank as man. For the space of a minute the blonde stenographer concentrated upon the soulfulness of her expression, and at the end of that time she realized, with a start, that Masters was not looking at her at all.
Instead, he was staring about the main office, and was working at his lower lip with a slow, gnawing effect. His eyes wandered about the room, they met hers with a wooden vacancy, then they passed on. A moment later, he nodded, at nothing in particular, and the blonde stenographer replied with a startled giggle.
“Three stenographers, two book-keepers,” Masters began to enumerate the summary of his observations, “two partners; one junior partner what
aint, two floating canvassers, one artist, one switch-board operator. . . .and a dreary waste of unused office. Anthony Peppier, you’re not even a mile out in the way you sized up Fogle & Brett. Small company. . . prestige. . . resourcefulness. . . Anthony Peppier, I could choke you.”
Masters turned away from his contemplation of that too-small business which had failed to impress Anthony Peppier at the distance of some hundreds of miles, and which likewise had not been big enough to win for him a junior partnership.
On the street, he admitted to himself that Fogle & Brett were not big, in the way which some men regard bigness, but. . . they had builded solidly and had left room for expansion. That much was evident in that dreary waste of office space at the back. . .
“Prestige, eh?” Resourcefulness? Masters’ thoughts abruptly digressed back to the cool taunt in Peppler’s letter. “Resourceful, eh? You want something resourceful. I wonder, Mr. Anthony Peppier, just what you would call resourceful?”
Then Masters resolutely brdshed from his brain as much as was possible of the past, and he went out to the routine of the day’s canvass, which could be nothing but dreary because of the darkness of the morning cloud.
'T'HE days dragged by, on leaden feet. Certain frag-*■ ments of words and ideas seemed to clutter up Masters’ brain. They were jumbled more or less, and they were a slumbering taunt. There was that one word “resourceful” which for some days had made him grit his teeth as often as it flashed to his brain. But he was much better now. At times, even, he could feel just the vaguest prompting from some submerged sense of humor whenever he associated that word “resourceful” with the absent Anthony Peppier whose path he had never crossed. Where at first the word had always ruffled, of late it had brought a certain soothing sensation, which seemed to tell Masters that doubtless he was upon the dawn of an idea.
“Resourceful! Anthony Peppier,” Masters rolled the old words about the tip of his tongue once more, as he left the office of Fogle & Brett. “Anthony Peppier, you have closed the page, no doubt of it, and sealed it tight. You are through with us. But are we through with you? Let me think. Fogle did use that word ‘if.’ He said I would still get that junior partnership if I landed that contract. From which it is reasonable to suppose that Fogle does not consider the incident closed, and that I. . . . ”
Masters paused uncertainly. It was strange, but several times of late, when he had passed down this long corridor, with this particular meditative mood upon him, there had flitted to him from somewhere unknown the wisp of an
For the moment, Masters felt inclined to laugh at such an absurdly psychological fancy as that the same suggestion of an idea should reach him at the same point each time he
passed down this corridor. But perhaps it was not so absurd after all.
Then he turned and walked slowly back along the hallway; but now that he was searching deliberately for the elusive idea, there was not even the remotest suggestion of it left. He paused in front of a branch hallway running off this main corridor, for somehow or other the impression lingered that it was just here that he had caught a mental glimpse of that idea. Then he shook his head restlessly.
From down that hallway there came the constant clickety-clack, clickety-clack of a battery of typewriters, but that was all.
“Busy spot down there. Nothing small about them,” Masters reflected, as he went slowly down towards that persistent tip-tapping noise.
A/TASTERS peered through wide, glass-fronted doors.
Beyond, there was row upon row of desks, with busy girls and busy men; and, even as he looked, that vagrant idea was tapping at his consciousness again, a little clearer, yet still vague, ethereal. . . That constant clickety-clack of typewriters was being dinned out with a precision almost military; yet what could there be in that sound which awakened in him a slumbering sense of humor and made him think of Anthony Peppier and Resourcefulness at the same time?
At his head was the sign “Brett Business College.”
John Brett, brother of Phillip Brett, of Fogle & Brett, owned a business college. And here was he, Masters, harboring the foolish idea that it had something to do with Anthony Peppier.
“Still, if we only had an office like that. ... If we only had an office like that. . . .”
Masters found himself repeating the phrase even through the hurly-burly of a quick noon-day lunch. He found the memory of that clickety-clack being droned out on the rattle of dishes behind the lunch-room counter.
“Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack,” the sound echoed through his brain until he could be quite sure that the unpolished counter-man was doing it through a conscious effort.
“Clickety-clack,” he found himself repeating. “If only we had an office like that. . . Gosh. . .”
The latter was a long-drawn, restless sound. At the same instant, Masters saved his cup of coffee only by a nimble effort.
The Idea! The Big Idea! He had it.
For the past half hour Masters had been pouring the details of the Big Idea into the mildly receptive brain of Ambrose Fogle. Through that half hour, Fogle’s countenance, inexpressive as it was by force of training, had nevertheless undergone a number of changes.
At first there had been the thin suggestion of a frown, which meant disapproval. After that, Masters talked with a vigor which betrayed the fact that he was fighting for the junior partnership. Then, gradually, as he played upon the taunt of the words “prestige” and “resourceful,” as it had been flung out by . Anthony Peppier, that frown smoothed away from Fogle’s brows, and in its place there came a slight, shifting glitter to Fogle’s eyes, which told the experienced Masters that even Fogle could be responsive to taunt. Now, the glitter was gone from Fogle’s gaze, and there showed instead the faintest, the very vaguest, suggestion of humor.
Through the silence which followed Masters’ outline of the Big Idea, that latest expression upon Fogle’s inexpressive countenance grew more marked.
“Do you appreciate what it will cost us, Masters, if the thing fails to go through?” he asked abruptly.
“Do you appreciate what it means, if it doesn’t fail?" Masters countered.
“I do,” Fogle replied soberly, almost reverently. "It means twenty thousand dollars a year to the firm, as long as we can hold it. And once gotten, it should be easy to hold. Also, it should lead to other big accounts and remunerative connections. But you have not answered my question. . . .”
"If the idea fails, it mean«
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that you lose my valuable services for a month, perhaps more,” Masters sized up the consequences slowly. “But, at a pinch, I could do without that month’s
“It’s the firm’s proposition, or we don’t touch it,” Fogle interrupted sharply. “No lone hands.”
“Then on top of my month’s service, you stand to lose anywhere from a thousand to two thousand dollars expenses. Let us call it two thousand dollars to lose. . twenty thousand a year to win. . . Is it worth the game, Mr. Fogle. . . ?”
AMBROSE FOGLE neglected to an■ swer directly. He shifted his eyes from Masters’ gaze, to hide, if possible, the old glitter which was creeping into their depths.
“It might show, too, whether or not Peppier is right,” Masters went on subtly, “whether this is a small, resourceless firm.” When Fogle glanced back, the glitter had once more turned to lines of humor.
“I think you’ll do,” he returned with a smile which told Masters that the depth of his subtlety had been penetrated. “When can you start?”
Masters sat up more briskly.
“At once,” he assured. “I haven’t been wasting time, Mr. Fogle. I have already found out that Mr. Peppier spends his summers in Canada—and where. I have secured an option on the rental'of the adjoining property. You could hardly call it a cottage, too pretentious for that. This is the middle of June. I have been informed, through safe sources, that Peppier will go to his summer home around the end of the month, to spend a few weeks.. He will also spend some time there in the Fall, but that would be too late for. . . ” “Precisely, Masters,” Fogle interrupted. “You have no time to lose. Suppose we consider that from this minute you are on a month’s leave of absence. I will arrange with the cashier to place certain credits at your disposal. And remember, when you
land that contract.....”
Once more the old, familiar strains of the Song of Ambition were lilting their way through the soul of Archibald Burton Masters as he made his way out into the brilliance of sunshine, and as he twirled his cane with the ease of confidence. For the sake of the association of ideas, Masters ambled sufficiently far from the natural course of his duty to pass by that corner where he could hear the constant clicketyclack which filtered out into the air from that den of activity in the adjacent corri-
Masters paused for a moment to listen. The echoes of the Brett Business College were music in his ears. Then he passed on. A moment later he stopped and spoke to himself.
“The boss sure is a game one,” he commented. “He used to say if you get that contract; now he says when. Well, Archie, boy, you’re off now to buy some summer-jay togs.”
IT WAS a much transformed Masters who sat on the end of a private dock, with his white-trousered legs dangling over a waste of waters, and with his ordinary air of business shrewdness totally supplanted by the atmosphere of summer langour. Masters had been patient now from the end of June until well into July, and though his external appearance did not indicate that there could possibly be a single thought in his mind other than that of continued listlessness, he was, nevertheless, passing through the vague pangs of doubt. As his legs continued to dangle over the edge of the dock, he enumerated, on the tips of his fingers, a number of things which were absolutely essential in the carrying out of the Big Idea.
Masters named the essentials carefully, and found the list complete. He also found them letter-perfect with fact.
Yet, the Big Idea was still unpicked fruit. Which all went to show how precisely the wheels of theory may rotate in unison without producing the predicted
“Now let me look them over again,” Masters admonished himself. “I’m here, on the sunny shores of a sunny island in :Stoney Lake, with a pretentious mansion -at my back which is setting back Fogle '& Brett a thousand dollars for the season,
counting maids and this dump of a gasoline launch, to say nothing of fishing poles which won’t fish. That’s item one. Now, item two. Straight ahead of me, just fifty yards away, there’s another island with another pretentious shack, and it’s got the name of Anthony Peppier on the doormat. Item three. Peppler’s shack, if he didn’t own it, would set him back about fifteen hundred for the season, which gives him a shade over me on class, but this thousand dollar boy was the best I could do. Item four. Peppier has his whole family with him, which amounts to a wife, rather pretty and young, and aunt with a cast in her eye, a mother who wears a lorgnette and so hasn’t been able to see me, a dog, .breed unknown, and a gasoline launch which makes mine look like a nineteen-othree lizzie. Item five. With me there’s a mother and sister. Item six. They have it over me on class, which wasn’t one of the essential points after all. Item seven. Anthony Peppier and his family don’t like society. They are clams. Been here ten days, and not so much as a nod has come from the direction of Peppler’s joint. . . Item. . . but that’s the bad hole in the theory. . . .”
MASTERS spent some time in reflecting upon the demerits of bad theory. Up to a certain stage, the wheels of the Big Idea had revolved in perfect harmony. Here he was, located on the next island to the great Anthony Peppier, with a summer home but little less pretentious than that of Peppier. Each island was a quarter mile from other neighbors, therefore the setting was ideal for Masters’ purpose. For what could have been more natural than that environment should have thrown him into daily contact with Anthony Peppier, and daily contact, he felt, would do the rest towards clinching that big contract.
Masters knew that all manner of men have successfully worked out the theory of the silent and subtle influence of daily contact, so why not he? Why not? No reason in the world, except that Peppier, being depressed by humanity for fortyodd weeks in the year, shunned the mere sight of man while hiding in this northern retreat.
“I don’t know that I’m to blame for not having found that out before I got here,” Masters worried himself with a review of the situation. “And yet, I’ve just got to meet him. I got to meet him in a perfectly natural way, and I can’t force myself on him. Anthony Peppier, you’ve got to come to me. . . but how’s it to be done? That’s the rub. How’s it to be done? Peppier, how would you like to come fo me. . . ?”
For the space of several cigarettes, Masters continued to kick his heels above the placid water. Peppier had to come to him. That was plain. He dare not go to Peppier. So he dangled his heels, but the placid water had no answer. It did not even gurgle as it threw back the contorted image of his features as he bent over the edge of the wharf.
“If the aunt only wasn’t so homely, somebody might take her to a dance somewhere, and then I’d meet her,” Masters reflected dejectedly. “But, I’m thinking I had better cross that chance off. There’s only about two weeks left. He doesn’t go anywhere, and he doesn’t meet anybody. They haven’t any youngsters I could throw into the water and rescue. They haven’t even a cat I could get down out of the tops of one of those Jack-pines. . . . No, it would never do to set fire to the cottage, for I bet Peppier wouldn’t even take us in for the night. . . How about you, old girl? You willing to be theTurnt offering. . . .?”
THE latter remark was addressed calmly j to the gasoline launch which bobbed listlessly up and down at the edge of the wharf. As Masters looked the boat over, he decided that the sacrifice of a fire would not entail any great financial strain upon Fogle & Brett. Still, where would it land him? If he set the thing afire near the wharf, Anthony Peppier might see it, and if he saw it, he might come over. But the chances were that he would sit calmly '
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on his own wharf and watch proceedings. No, that would never do.
But he might arrange the fire somewhere out upon the lake. Peppier, then, would have to come to the rescue, that is, if he timed it right, and had it directly in front of the Peppier cottage.
No, that would not do either. Peppier might be asleep, _ and this old tub of a launch might decide to send him to the bottom of the lake or to the top of the sky. Too risky. Besides, such an incident would rob him of all the garb of heroic dignity.
“Boy, you just got to think of something better than that,” Masters admonished himself, then glanced up to follow with his eyes the rapid trail of an approaching speedster launch.
From the rate it was traveling, he knew it was Peppier. Yes, Peppier went out once a day in that launch, and that seemed to be his whole activity. He left in the early morning, and returned shortly before noon. Perhaps, if he discovered where Peppier went, he might meet him at the other end, quite by accident, planned accident. Perhaps, if Peppier did not
take that morning trip, he might be more sociable for the balance of the day. Perhaps.....
Masters sprang quickly to his feet, and he began to laugh. The laugh was in a high key, which showed that it was relief from strain, rather than the outburst of merriment. If Peppier did not take that morning trip. . . . IT WAS dark here on the sheltered side of the islqnd, intensely dark. In the sky, far above, there was the faint pinpricking of the stars; over the unruffled water at his feet there was a placid shimmer, the wavering reflection of the stars which looked down but feebly. Over the rest of the world there was spread the black mantle of night. “Fine. Couldn’t be better,” Masters informed the world in a whisper, as he lowered himself cautiously into a canoe. “Mr. Anthony Peppier, nature fights with the resourceful.” After that, Masters was silent. He worked with a quiet and fixed purpose which only the resourceful would have shown. He avoided the obvious course of taking the most direct route to his objective. Instead, he paddle^ ‘’almost completely around the Peppier island, under the screen of darkness, so that in time his approach to the Peppier wharf was made from a direction entirely opposite to that of the Masters island. Then his caution grew intense. He placed foot for the first time upon the Peppier island. Then he left it directly to step into the speedster launch. For some time thereafter, Masters, working by the guiding of his fingers alone, performed certain serious operations upon his neighbor’s carburettor of which no conscientious mechanic would have approved. AS HIS feet dangled once more over the ■ edge of the wharf, Masters admitted that Anthony Peppier was right. This early-morning sensation was a glorious one, particularly when it was buoyed up by the lingering moistness of the night, and when the warmth of the sun brought again that pleasing desire for listlessness. There was nothing to ruffle the harmony of this morning. Not even the fact that his neighbor, Anthony Peppier, had been struggling for an hour with some unexplained defect in the speedster launch, appeared to have the slightest dampening effect upon Masters’ mood. Masters’ head was bent, in grave contemplation of the water beneath him, but that did not hide from him the fact that once or twice Anthony Peppier had peered uncertainly over the edge of his speedster at his silent neighbor. Peppler’s head was up again. Peppier was standing up. Peppler’s voice was raised in appeal. But Masters continued to stare at thé water at his feet. “Hi! You! Neighbor,” Peppler’s voice was raised again in undoubted volume. “Know anything about motor boats?” Masters raised his head, but he stared in several directions before he stared at Peppier.
“I say, do you know anything about engines?” Peppier called, more loudly still. “Might. A bit,” Masters called back, without any display of enthusiasm. “Then, for Heaven’s sake, come over here. I’ve been struggling. ...” Masters did not wait to learn the length or details of the struggle. Instead, he stepped into the canoe, and without haste of any form, he made his way to the Peppier wharf. The latter, he could see, was possessed of a begrimed face, a pair of filthy hands, and garments which doubtless would create friction with the laundry department. He also owned a weak smile. “Looks as though you been having trouble,” Masters commented, as he seated himself on the edge of the launch, to watch his neighbor’s efforts. “Trouble. I’m stumped,” Peppier confessed rather weakly. “This thing was running all right yesterday. They’re cantankerous creatures. You have a launch over there. Know anything about it?” “A bit,” Masters admitted. “Then, in the name of all that’s good, turn in and help me out. I’m stumped, I tell you. And there isn’t a mechanic within five miles. ...”
Masters turned in. His midnight experiences may have given Masters some idea as to the exact nature of the trouble.
Still, other experiences with mankind induced him to start anywhere but at the carburettor. At the end of a half hour, during which he succeeded in acquiring as much filth as that which decorated Anthony Peppler’s figure, he did reach the carburettor. A moment later he gave a little exclamation. Then he looked up, with an obvious attempt to conceal a smile. “Got the trouble?” Peppier demanded. “Screw droped off the bottom of the carburettor,” Masters announced. “Let the gas run out. Couldn’t feed that way Now. . . see if she’ll go.” SHE did go. Likewise a smile, a rather boyish and boisterous one, came to Anthony Peppler’s lips. “Your name, young man?” he demanded. Masters complied with the request. Then, at the end of a series of rapid and pointed questions, he found that he had agreed to accompany Peppier on his delayed morning ride. That was but the beginning of many rides. A week later, Masters knew that Peppier was not such a recluse as he had seemed. He was, on the contrary, fond of company, but he insisted upon picking it carefully. He had, as well, a vein prompted by curiosity. That curiosity induced him to ask a number of veiled questions concerning the affairs of Archibald Masters which Masters waved aside with an indifference which did not betray that it was assumed. For a full week, Masters evaded topics of business as carefully as he might have avoided death itself, but at length, when all other matters of light conversation had been probed to their uttermost depths, the curiosity which was a part of Anthony Peppler’s nature grew into something stronger. It crystallized into a demand tc know. “Business?” he asked one morning, as they drew near the end of a ride which had shown that conversation, divorced of “shop,” must eventually languish upon the lips of any man. “Yes, in business,” Masters conceded, then attempted to divert the other’s attention to more important things. But Peppier was not to be denied. “I was asking what business you are in,” he insisted. “Oh,” Masters replied, as though caught in some hopeless toil, “advertising agency. As I was saying, these lakes used to be stocked with the finest kind of fishing, but since you campers started to come North
“What agency?” Peppler’s curiosity, once it had gained the upper hand, was an insistent thing. “Fogle & Brett, Montreal. . . But since you campers started to come North, it has been extremely difficult to keep any fish stocked here. The Government puts in fresh supplies every little while, but you catch them off.....” “Small firm, aren’t you?” Peppier forced the issue. “Small?” Masters returned, with surprised dignity. “Small. Depends entirely upon how you look at it. We don’t think we are small. We may not be quite as big as some of the others. We may not have as big a staff, but the size of a firm does not always depend upon the noise it can make. ...” “Still, I have heard that you are fairly small. . . .But what are you laughing about, young man?” Masters’ eyes had wandered to the carburettor of the speedster. “I seem to recall the fact that there is a screw, an extremely small screw, which fits on the bottom of a certain portion of that machinery, and there is something in my memory which seems to remind me that when that screw dropped off a few days ago there was a certain gentleman. . . ” Peppier threw up one hand in protest. “Please don’t recall the painful past. I get your point.” Through a period of silence, Masters continued to smile gently. “Do you know who I am, young man?” Peppier demanded, at length. The younger man permitted his surprise to become still more marked. “Do I know who you are?” he repeated, with a faint laugh. “You are Mr. Peppier, aren’t you? I do hope you are not going to tell me that you are some queer kind of a person going about in disguise. “L mean, do you know what Peppier I am?” the other interrupted.
“What Peppier?” Masters reflected, as though the point had occurred to him for
the first time, “I suppose it does make some difference what Peppier you happen to be. Please don’t tell me that you are some kind of an official wearing one name and being somebody else. . . .”
“I am Anthony Peppier. . . of the Smackard Motor Company.” “Oh!” Masters exclaimed, with careful astonishment, and this time his inflection betrayed the fact that the information had conveyed to him a world of thought. He followed his ejaculation with a nod, but with nothing else. “And I suppose you know,” Peppier went on, “that we almost placed a contract through your firm. . . .” “Almost,” Masters laughed. “Can I forget it, after my work with Mr. Flynn ! And how is Mr. Flynn?” “Doing nicely, thank you. If you don’t mind, Masters, I will shortly drop around and have a look over Fogle & Brett. The word 'small,’ as you say, is a comparative one. It is open to unusual interpretations. If a Fogle & Brett canvasser can summer at a modest palace such as you are occupying, Masters^ it does seem to me that the word ‘small’ is doubtless a relative one, after all. Would you mind telling me what kind of a castle would satisfy Mr. Fogle to while away a few weeks in the summer?” “Mr. Fogle? Oh, Not a summer boy. Did hear him say something about going South for the winter. But we’ll be glad to see you any time at the head office, Mr. Peppier. When will it be? Must be going back soon myself. . . Peppier nodded in a satisfied way. “Modesty,” he reflected, as though to himself, “may sometimes be mistaken for that other word we were discussing. Suppose we say at the first of the week. I must be getting back to Toledo shortly.” With a calmness which Anthony Peppier classed at once as a rejection of the intrusion of business into pleasant days, Archibald Masters replied, “Anything you say, Mr. Peppier,” then promptly he turned the conversation into lines which must assuredly have been more in accord with the harmony of his nature.
WHEN Archibald Masters found himself once more in the midst of the city’s clamor, with Anthony Peppier at his side, it seemed that the listlessness and the indifference of the idle summer days had been sloughed as effectively as he had exchanged his white-trousered indolence for this business-garb correctness. He chatted pleasantly as he guided Anthony Peppier along Notre Dame street and into that narrow thoroughfare which holds the atmosphere of concentrated activity; and he was still chatting when he led that distinguished personage past the doorway labeled “Fogle & Brett” and brought him fact to face with what had once been an office populated with three stenographers, two book-keepers, an artist and a switchboard operator.
But now, where once there had been a barren waste of office, there was row upon row of desks, with eager-faced young men and girls, with office boys hurrying about, and with a number of dignified officials upon whom the weight of the world appeared to rest. Anthony Peppier paused abruptly, and his eyes roved about the scene of activity before him. “This way, Mr. Peppier,” Masters prompted at his elbow, “Mr. Fogle came down early this morning. He is waiting in his office.” As Peppier followed at his heels, Masters could be certain that he heard one short word pronounced in a tone of wonderment. That word was “Small!” But he did not grow inquisitive. Instead, he led Mr. Peppier gently to the door of Fogle’s den, and there he left the head of the Smackard concern. Masters turned back to survey the scene before him, and as he looked over the ranks of desks and of busy young people, a placid smile grew upon his lips and spread over his features. It was still there a quarter of an hour later when the blonde stenographer rose to answer the buzzer at her shoulder. Masters watched her as she vanished through Fogle’s doorway. He watched her closely a moment later as she backed out again. There was a curious fascination in wondering just what the blonde stenographer would do now. For the fate of that junior partnership was still wavering. Yes, the girl was doing the right thing.
She was reaching into the proper drawer for a contract blank. “Contract?” his impatience prompted him to ask. “A special,” she returned, just as though such a special as this were a part of her everyday life. Archibald Masters felt his body growing cooler, his brain becoming clearer. He sat down in the outer office, to wait for the testing moment which he knew must shortly follow. Through the minutes which passed, he steeled himself calmly for the future. For there was battle yet to come. It might be easy; it might be hard. . . The « buzzer again. . . the signal for which'he had waited. . . ' I '0 ALL outward appearances, Masters was perfectly cool when he walked into Fogle’s office, and stood looking carefu’ly about him. The scene was just what he had thought to find. There, by the window, staring into the street below, was Brett. Behind the massive desk was Ambrose Fogle. In the air was the heavy tint of Havana fumes. And here, within reach of his arm, with contract spread out before him, with goldtipped pen clasped in fingers which were held in the poise of writing, and with an expression of intense surprise upon his expansive features, was Anthony Peppier. That was just what Masters had expected to find. It was all perfect, even to the slight, astonished parting of Peppler’s lips. “Mr. Peppier was about to sign the special contract,” Fogle’s voice seemed to fit into the setting with a certain calm, reflective dignity, “and I have just been explaining to him, Mr. Masters, that we could not permit it, under the circumstances! That is right, is it not, Mr. Masters?” “Perfectly.” “And you don’t want my contract?” Peppier broke in, but his voice lacked all the suavity which distinguished that of Ambrose Fogle. “But we do want it, very much so,” Fogle’s calm inflection went on. “Mr. Masters will explain. . . ” Masters found that Peppler’s eyes were upon him. In the flash of a second he could read past their surface, and way down in their depths he fancied he could see the turmoil of growing anger. Not that he blamed Anthony Peppier. He believed that, under the same conditions, he too would have felt anger. . “It is simply that we wish to play absolutely fair and above-board with you, Mr. Peppier,” Masters spoke carefully. “I see you still have your pen ready to sign the contract. Would you mind telling me just why?” Peppler’s astonishment did not show signs of abating. “That’s a queer question to ask, young man, at a time like this. But before you get me mad, I’ll tell you I changed my mind because I now see Fogle & Brett are not such a small concern after all.” -“You mean. . . all those desks, those girls and men out there?” Masters questioned, as he jerked a hand in the direction of the outer office. “Exactly. I mean that big office staff.” Masters, it became evident, was now studying Anthony Peppier shrewdly. “You manufacture automobiles, Mr. Peppier,” Masters went on more slowly. “You put paint on the outside, and you put engines under the hood. Of the two, the paint and the engine, which do you consider the more useful to the operation of the car?” “Young man,” Peppier burst out. “If I didn’t think this was leading somewhere, you would make pie mad. So I will tell you what any idiot could tell you, that the engine is the more important.” “Then you try to sell your cars on the efficiency of the engines, and not on the brilliance of the paint on the hood?” DEPPLER nodded sharply, but in spite f of that Masters could see that a sense of humor was creeping through the earlier anger. “What are you driving at, young man?” Peppier demanded. “Why ask such an unnecessary question?” “Because the office staff which you have just seen in these outer rooms of Fogle & Brett are no more important to our efficiency than is the paint on the hood
essential to the efficiency of a Smackard engine.....” Peppler’s gold-tipped pen dropped from his fingers. “I don’t understand,” he admitted frankly. “The people you saw in the outer office are just the paint on our hood. The engine is right here, in this room. . . .” “What do you mean?” Peppier demanded. “I mean that the people out there do not belong to Fogle & Brett. It is in reality, the Brett Business College from just down the corridor. . . Peppler’s fingers jerked. The goldtipped pen bounded off the desk. The contract was snatched up, and for a moment it seemed that it must be torn into fragments. “. . . And it shows that Fogle & Brett are not entirely without resource, Mr. Peppier. Had we chosen, your contract could have been taken without you knowing that the Brett Business College was merely the paint on our hood. Now, if you don’t mind, will you look at our engine?” “Go on,” Peppier returned huskily. For a quarter of an hour Archibald Masters talked as he had never talked before. He talked as though the fate of the whole future, as well as that of the junior partnership were swaying in the balance, and it was not until many minutes had passed that any of the sternness left the expressive features of Anthony Peppier. When that grimness softened a little Masters began to feel more at his ease. But his voice still rushed on. . . .now that we have discovered that the term ‘smalT is purely a relative one, and that resourcefulness is not always what it seems, suppose we look at two or three of our past campaigns. You remember when the Jay-Rester Brake Lining people first put their advertising campaign on in Canada?”
'“illyfELL handled," Peppier conceded. VV “Well, we did that. We gave them the name Jay-Rester for their article ... You remember that big stock selling campaign put on in Montreal three years ago, which put the city on the map as a stock-buying center?” “Heard of it,” Peppier agreed. “That was our work. You remember the slogan which put the selling over? The slogan—‘Idle Dollars Are Lazy Servants.’ That was ours. You know that name ‘Morning Pep,’ a new breakfast food going on the market now. We gave them that name. . . I am telling you this, Mr. Peppier, to give you a peep at our engine. If you want to take it apart and get a real look at it, you had better arrange to stay over a week. ...” “Haven’t the time,” Peppier replied, as a grim smile came to his lips. “What have you done to my pen, Fogle? Been tramping it into the floor. . . No. . . Then Then give it to me. . . .” This time Fogle did not lift a restraining hand, so that for a moment the only sound to be heard throughout the office was the thin scratching of the pen. Peppier tossed the signed contract across the desk, in a half-shamed, half-arrogant manner. “There, Fogle, take it. You’ve earned it. . . .Rather, somebody else has earned it for you. . . ” Peppler’s eyes wandered over Archibald Masters in an approving manner. In their depths there was a mixture of humor and doubt. That trip up North. Could it be possible that Masters had planned? But no, he was not clever enough for that. . . . Peppier looked at Masters. Then he looked at Fogle and nodded.
“Just what I was thinking,” Fogle interpreted the other’s unspoken message. “Suppose you call up a sign-painter, Masters. The firm name has been changed.”