BABS—AND THE MANAGER
LESLIE GORDON BARNARD
BLAIR STEVENS felt that Henderson’s eyes were looking right through him—that, indeed, there might have been only space between the manager and the door by which the salesman had entered a few moments ago.
“I’ll send Parkins,” said Henderson, turning to the well-groomed, slightly corpulent figure of President Burley. “Parkins is good.”
Blair, conscious of intruding, but rooted to the spot by some fascination, partly due to the presence of the virtual owner of the Burley-Smith Corporation, Limited, and the obvious nature of his mission, almost permitted himself an audible sniff. Parkins!—that insufferable ass!
“Parkins,” repeated the manager, throwing back a shapely head and blowing a smoke ring, thoughtfully. “And Hendry and Pollard.”
Hendry and Pollard! Two salesmen junior to Blair. The president nodded, jotting a memorandum in his notebook.
“Send ’em over and let me size ’em up for myself, before I hear your end. Send a letter with each embodying your opinion, though. Monday—at ten o'clock. I’m anxious to get the matter settled. Terry leaves at once to ’go with the Johnston people, and we’re in the middle of this campaign to boost the Selco model. It’s my policy to try and give the chance to men who have been through the selling mill themselves. Any more names?”
“No, sir,” said Gilbert Henderson, accomplishing two more beautiful smoke rings. “That’s all the available material. Well, Stevens, was there something you wanted?”
So he had noticed Blair!
“I’ll come in again, sir. I just wanted a—word with you.” It hardly seemed like his own voice speaking. Parkins and Hendry and Pollard! Henderson nodded dismissal. Mr. Burley spoke again:
“About the Selco. How’s it going? We're risking a lot on the advertising. It’s up to you people to connect with the dealers.”
“Oh, Stevens!” The voice recalled him just in time. “Send Mr. Parkins in with the details on the Selco campaign.”
Few more ignominious retreats have ever been accomplished. “Send Parkins in!” The new Selco Motor had been Blair Stevens’ dynamic these two months past. He had lived with it by day, dreamt of it by night. “Willpower—the Secret of Sure Success,” had been read and interpreted largely in the light of Selco Sales. Terry—
the late sales manager, who made his headquarters in the office building had made Blair his right-hand man, to handle the Salesroom end of it. Gilbert Henderson knew that —must have known it. And now he had passed him up! Large chance indeed of getting that much-needed raise; the thing on which—with the slender household budget outspread before them revealing its alarming record of the past, and with the extra expenses soon to be—Bab’s thoughts and hopes and his own had focussed.
DOOR Babs! Back at home she would be watching the clock, remembering him at this time—the time they had set for him to “go over the top”—the financial zero hour. Afterwards she would watch the clock for his homecoming, listening for his step, preparing a favorite meal for this Saturday noontide repast that they were hoping might be a celebration.
In a book that Blair had, half-jokingly, allowed Barbara to order through the mail, he had read, in Chapter XVI, under the general caption: “INCREASED EARNING POWER FOR THE ASKING”:
“The student, having carefully observed the precepts and diligently followed the exercises of this book, will now see opening before him a new and golden age. And here again must be exercised that Will Power upon which so much stress has been laid. The principles of salesmanship that we have applied to ordinary commodities, must be equally applied to the selling of your own services.
1— Confidence in the goods is a first requisite. Be sure of yourself. With the backing of this course of study you need not lack this confidence.
2— Before you undertake the interview that will
usher you into this golden age, repeat to yourself this slogan: T realize my value to the firm. I have
made them realize it. They cannot afford not to recognize it.' ”
Blair remembered reading that again last night—reading it aloud to Barbara. She was sitting by the table, sewing. The picture of her, in the firelight glow, came to him now. Dear little Babs!—what confidence she had in his powers.
“If I only had you along,” he had laughed, “the
world ‘would in all truth be my oyster!” “I’ll be there,” she told him, “in spirit. Just hear me whispering in your ear: ‘You
realize your own value. You have made them realize your value, too. They simply can’t afford not to recognize it!’ ”
Babs had been quite serious about that book, and the whole affair. Blair had, too, when they read it together. But here it was different. With but little confidence he had approaçhed the interview. .. and now....
Blair had never “bucked” any command, any wish of the manager. There was something about Henderson that forbade mutinous thoughts, much less action—he might read those thoughts. The others did not seem to feel it that way—only Blair. Henderson had all the fascination for Blair of a serpent. Often he had threatened, within the privacy of self-communion, to leave; elsewhere his services would be welcomed. He was young, vigorous, ambitious. No need for fear. There were other jobs. But somehow he could not bring himself to it. Memory of the past stood out to challenge him. It came to him again now.
A schoolyard. The day’s duties over. The “authorities” safely away. The surreptitious gathering. And then a rough and tumble fight, with impartial cheers from small, excited spectators who cared not who won so long as the contest was brisk and gory. At last a dull, confused, heartthrottling, gasping weariness with blows on both sides feebly given, and then the interposition of a supreme authority. Someone had “peached!” Blair had been expelled. He refused to offer any explanations. Later he learned that his opponent had claimed he was attacked by Blair because the latter was jealous over his winning of the Burley Scholarship. The Burley Scholarship provided free higher education for the gold medallist of the lower grades, and later, if desired, a good opening in the BurleySmith Corporation. To two persons only did Blair register his protest.
TPO HIS opponent he said: “I’ll beat you out yet, -*■ even if. you did win the scholarship from me by— cheating.” Then turned on his heel and went.
To a little girl with marvellous blue eyes, and hair that would be reddish if it wasn’t gold, he simply said: “I’ve
alv ays wanted to get into the Burley works, Babs. I guess that’s all gone now.”
“Don’t be silly,” said Babs. “Why don’t you go at it and get in and beat him out in spite of the silly old scholar-ship."
To which the boy had made reply, eyes wide-opened at such wisdom from a mere girl with a pig-tail: “Gee, Babs,
I guess you’re dead near right. I guess it’d take an awful lot of money to start a rival business, eh?”
Ten years later one boy was manager and the other salesman in the Burley-Smith Corporation. Gilbert Henderson had been remarkably affable at the first. Between men—“bygones were bygones”.... “let’s be friends.’ After that a gulf had somehow opened. Blair never suspected that any subtle, malicious process was in course to break his spirit.
He had invited Gilbert up to the house. Babs had shone as a housekeeper that night. Blair had radiated friendliness. Henderson had seemed impressed. But he had never come again. When Blair spoke of it Babs was silent.
Babs! Babs would be waiting soon for the news. Just like she waited that time, tearfully, inside the schoolhouse while the noise of battle was without.
Suddenly, with a quick set of the jaw that might have reminded Babs herself of past days, Blair gathered together some papers from his desk. He shot a look at Parkins, at the next desk to his. Then he smiled.
“They cannot afford not to recognize it!”
He went on in—scarcely stopping to knock.
“I’ve brought the Selco papers, Mr. Henderson.”
“Is—is Parkins out?” It was like the crack of a whip, that question.
Blair did not flinch; he said, quietly:
“Parkins is out there—but I happen to have the / 4
data, not Parkins.”
Those steel-blue eyes were on him now, more darkly blue than usual.
“You will leave these papers for Mr. Burley,
Stevens, and ask Mr. Parkins—” The manager’s jaw dropped. Blair Stevens and the president had somehow gone into conference over the papers, regardless of him. He opened his mouth to speak, but the president’s eyes met „
his with a curious little twinkle. I’JL ,
“Mr. Stevens seems familiar with the details,
Mr. Henderson. You needn’t trouble Parkins ... You were speaking about the Gregory Company order, Mr. Stevens. I see your name is against that. Good business! When do you expect to close it?”
“Mr. Gregory is coming up to the house to dinner tonight, sir.”
“Ha!—a good dinner, then business. More business done over and after good dinners, Stevens—what!” Henderson, listening, chewed viciously at the stub of his cigar. By and by he went out, and chose another private office, temporarily devoid of occupant, for a telephone conversation. When he came back to join the conference on Selco Motors, a malicious little smile kept flickering about the comers of his mouth.
'T'HE Stevens’ home was one of those suburban places A that compensate in the garden and fresh air privileges they afford for the extra quarter hour of commuting. Blair was buying it on the instalment plan. It hadbeen something of a struggle, but the goal was nearly in sight now, and only the problem of additional expense that lay in the near future darkened the horizon. Babs’ mother had been sick a while back, too, and a trip home had eaten into the nest egg that was to have been hatched out into the next instalment money.
Babs was waiting for him this Saturday afternoon. Just as though the 1.50 from town could exceed its schedule in her interests, she kept pulling back the curtain and looking down the tree-lined avenue to where the red roof of the station made an indistinct background for the foliage already becoming many-hued under the earliest of frosts.
Blair knew just how she would feel; how, not content with a dozen premature glances through the window, she would run out to the bit of a front lawn to watch for him. For himself the train seemed to creep along; he immersed himself behind a newspaper anxious not to hold conversation with any garrulous neighbor, and came at last from his detachment with no more knowledge of the day’s news than when he had first opened its pages.
“Disdale next! Disdale!”
Blair reached for his coat, burdened himself with a halfdozen hastily inventoried parcels—material for to-night’s spread, commissions of Babs—and hurried out. He was off before the train stopped; was the very first up the street before even the owners of cars could pass him he was turning in at the familiar pathway.
Babs was in the doorway now. He could see her hiding behind the curtain on the glass panel, fearful lest her excitement should appear to the homecoming crowds. The door flew open to him.
"Blair! It’s good news! You’ve got a raise?”
“Not yet, dear. Something likely to be better than that,”—exultantly—“a chance at a position that will mean more permanent earning-power.” He couldn’t even take off his coat before the story was out, and if it was a slightly exaggerated story of his exploit—his defiance of Gilbert Henderson, his conference with old Burley himself, Burley’s delight over his handling of the Gre-
gory business, the final outcome of it —if he exaggerated these slightly, who shall cast the first stone of reproach?
“And Monday I’m to go and see him along with the other three about this new position. It’ll be a cinch. Gee, Babs, you should a’ seen that bird, Henderson, when Burley took to me so much. Quite affable to me after the old man had gone. ‘Come in at nine Monday, Stevens,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give you your letter to Mr. Burley like the others.’ I guess he knows which side his bread’s buttered on—I’ll bet it hurt him at that. La, te-um-tum.”
“Blair Stevens! Look what you’ve done to my hair, sir! Stop it, I shan’t dance. If I don’t waltz into the kitchen that beefsteak pie will be a total loss.”
“You brought those things for to-night?”
“Right here. Shall I take ’em round to the tradesman’s entrance? Oh, and I ’phoned Googhans and told ’em to send up a brick of ice cream. I’ll be right down, soon as I get the 1.50’s soot out of my ears.”
TT WAS a celebration. Over the pie Blair retold the story once again, just to be sure nothing was missed; over the custard fluffs he put in the highlights of detail. Babs listened happily.
“Didn’t I always say you could, honey?” she told him. “Goodness, look at the time, sir! I’ll have to race to get ready. What time’s Mr. Gregory coming?”
“About six-thirty. Awfully decent of him to take up my invitation. Of course he’s practically promised me the order. It’s just to arrange details of shipping and so forth. Here—you wash; I’ll dry.”
After a time Blair was honorably discharged from the kitchen, and went out to sweep up the fallen leaves on the front plot, and smoke his pipe. How brisk the air was; great air out here—made no mistake buying this little place. Worth every ounce of struggle it took. Well, the thing would be handled easily now for the rest of it. Good job, too, with an extra mouth to feed. Probably husky little beggar—eat a lot, boys do! Blair was sure it would be a boy.
Faintly from within the house the tinkle of the ’phone Babs’ voice sounded from the window.
“Bo-oy! For yoo-ou!”
Blair set down his broom and ran in.
Three minutes later, when he hung up, his hand was trembling. Downstairs he could hear Barbara bustling happily about her work. A little snatch of song floated up. He went slowly down. Babs looked out of the kitchen to ask:
“Who was it, boy? Why, Blair, what’s the matter?” He managed a brave smile.
“I’m just wondering, Babs, how you and I are going to manage all these eats.”
“Blair. He’s not—coming?”
“Can’t make it. His secretary ’phoned his apologies.” “Oh, Blair!” She looked so crestfallen that he went over and kissed the pout from her mouth. “Blair, I’ve gone to such pains to have it nice, too!”
“Don’t you fret, kiddie. We’ll just make it a bit of a— a celebration too, won’t we?”
“The—big stiff!” pouted Barbara, nearer laughter now than tears. “There—I’m glad he won’t get any of that chicken, or ice cream or nuts, or anything. So! Two’s company anyhow.”
"That’s the spirit, Babs. You betcha—we’ll have a real bang-up feed, and then we’ll go and join the proletariat at
a movie, and keep the ice cream till we come back. How’s that? Bully, eh?”
Barbara was pensive. “But, Blair, that—order.”
He said quickly: “Oh, I’m to see him Monday about
Babs went back to her work; Blair to his. Her quickly returning spirits expressed themselves again in song. Blair, listening, felt a contraction that gripped his throat. He brushed the leaves into a pile, listlessly; set a match to the pile and stood guard over it with a rake. By and by a little heap of ashes alone remained. Blair brushed them across the sidewalk fiercely, and a swirl of wind coming down the street carried them away.
“Just like my hopes,” he thought, “whoof, away they go!”
He picked up the tools as though they weighed each one a hundred pounds and carried them to the shed. But when he opened the kitchen door and went within to Barbara, his lips were pursed in a merry whistle.
SUNDAY evening. For more than twenty-four hours Blair had been grimly keeping a truce with worry. But an armed camp is a noticeable thing. Even after the evening service at the local church, when they went for a little gossip and a sing at a neighbor’s, it was a difficult fight.
Babs did not speak until home was reached, and they sat down for a few minutes before the fire, as they always liked to end the day. Her grip on his arm had been very comradely on the way home. “Boy—you must tell me now what’s worrying you?” He flushed like a schoolboy caught in an indiscretion. “It’s about that order, Blair?”
It was a relief after all to tell her; her bravery touched him again. Gregory’s secretary, he told her, had said there was some hitch about the order.
“Of course, Babs, it may turn out all right, but don’t you see what it means?”
“You mean, Mr. Burley—”
“It isn’t him so much,” said Blair puckering his brow thoughtfully. “If I could see him first. But Henderson— well, you know how he’s always had his knife in me, Babs —ever since school. I thought he’d got over it but somehow after I asked him up that time. .. .Well, anyway, Henderson is to send with each of us a letter covering his idea of our qualifications. You can see how he’s going to make capital out of this Gregory business. He’s so— so blanked clever, too. He’ll put it across like the serpent he is!”
“Well, that’s what he is, a snake in the grass!”
“Blair—do you—have to tell him about it—about the Gregory business, I mean. Of course you’ll have to tell Mr. Burley—that’s only fair—but why not tell him yourself?”
“Golly!” ejaculated Blair. “I believe you’ve hit it. Of course Henderson doesn’t know. He said he’d have the letter all ready. I’ll just slip in and get it before he has time to ask me. I can clear it right enough with old Burley. Babs, you’re a trump!”
“Blair—you’re sure I’m right about that? It’d be square to do it, wouldn’t it? I wouldn't want you to play any tricks like—he would play.” She was staring into the fire now, pensively. “And Gilbert doesn’t like you. I saw it again that night he came here.” A humorous twinkle came to her eyes. She added: “You mustn’t
be too hard on him, Blair. Supposing—supposing he’d— he’d married me instead of you, Blair—how would you feel to him?”
“Married you?” Blair laughed. “Good grief— I’d be ready to half murder—Why, Babs”—dawning comprehension came—“you don’t mean.. .you never told me. . you don’t mean to say that poor fish—’’
“He gave me,” said Babs, meekly, taking advantage of his wordless state—“just exactly five chances to refuse him.
I took them all, you see—aren’t you sorry, sir?”
“Good-night!” said Blair with emphasis, but with no thought of the phrase in its orthodox sense.
MONDAY morning. Blue Mondaywith a cold, wet drizzle to help matters along. Only the farewell of Barbara sustained Blair on his townward run. At the office, though, things seemed more cheerful.
He slipped into the Manager’s office promptly at nine. “Ah, Stevens. Your letter. Just present that to Mr. Burley. I have tried to do you justice. ïou have my—best wishes.” A boy appeared, in answer to an Continued on page 56
Baba and the Manager
Continued from page 23
parlier signal. “Good-morning, Stevens. Boy, show Mr. Gregory in.”
Blair halted in his tracks.
“Just hand that to Mr. Burley, Stevens,” repeated Henderson. That same little smile twisted the corners of his mouth. “Í should advise you to make haste. It will take nearly an hour to reach the office.”
Eyes met eyes. Blair knew in that moment it was useless to stop or question. But on the way out through the ante-room he intercepted Gregory himself.
Mr. Gregory seemed embarrassed. He waved an apologetic hand.
“Sorry to disappoint you Saturday, Mr. Stevens. Awfully good of you. Some other time, maybe. The—order! Oh, ah, I’m afraid I must take the matter up direct with Mr. Henderson. Mornin’.” The manager’s door opened and closed behind him.
Blair stared blankly at the door, then at the envelope in his hand. The name “Burley” recalled him. He hurried on his way. Some inward monitor warned him that the methods that wrested the scholarship from him were again being put in operation.
To an inevitable conclusion three things drove him.
One: Henderson had given him the
letter gladly. Two: Henderson had mix-
ed himself up in the Gregory affair in some way. Three: Henderson had always had
his knife in him, and does not history repeat itself? Conclusion: The letter he
carried would sound the death knell of his hopes with Burley. If he only knew what it contained! Forewarned is forearmed. He took the letter from his pocket. It seemed now a sinister thing. Then it was the chance came to him.
The letter was not sealed! The flap was stuck carelessly inside.
Nothing to stop him reading it. He could kill the suspense in a moment; know just how to approach Burley, just what to say, just how to spike the guns turned against him. Nothing to stop him—nothing but the fact the letter was Burley’s not his. On the corner it was marked: “Personal.”
Blair spoke aloud: “Henderson would not hesitate to use the chance!” That took his thoughts to Babs. “You’ll play square whatever comes!” That was Babs’ facing of the matter. Babs was right— it wasn’t in his nature to do a thing like that. Once he remembered a cousin who was staying at his home reading someone else’s letter. Blair’s father had spoken so that neither lad who heard could ever forget.
“No gentleman would stoop to such a thing. Only a cad!”
The words were with him now. He braced his shoulders, smiling a little. The smile was with him when he entered Mr. Burley’s office. In the lobby below he had passed Hendry and Pollard, outward bound. Just outside the office Parkins nodded to him. It was a superior nod—the nod of a man who feels he has attained. It did not kill Blair’s smile. There were other things in the world than positions. There was Babs, for instance! “Sit down, Mr. Stevens.”
Mr. Burley was brusque, but affable. He made a quick survey of the applicant over his pince-nez; then held out his hand for the letter. It was not a very long letter; but the president seemed to read it slowly. The ticking of the desk clock worried Blair’s nerves. He turned his gaze to the window, and the buildings rising beyond against the murky sky. When the President spoke, he almost jumped.
“How is it you came to make a mess of the Gregory affair?”
“I—I don’t understand it, sir.”
“Huh? I was hoping, Mr. Stevens, after our talk the other day.... hum.... hoping. You realize, I suppose, that one cannot very well overrule such a letter as this?” He tapped the offending epistle.
“I haven’t seen the letter, sir. Mr. Henderson wished me good luck when I left.”
“Oh,you didn’t know at all what was in it?”
“What’s the trouble between you and Mr. Henderson?”
SOMEHOW Blair found himself telling the whole story, partly under skilful cross-examination. Even Babs was included.
“It’s a poor thing, Mr. Stevens, to mix private affairs with business that way. I think both you and Henderson are to blame. Of course I shall take that into consideration in connection with this vacancy, but apart from all else there’s the Gregory affair. Henderson insists you’ve messed it up badly.” Mr. Burley strode to the window. He swung around suddenly. “Mr. Stevens, sometimes it is hard, but we must always remember first of all our loyalty to the firm. Leaving yourself out of the question, whom would you recommend, honestly, to the position?” “Pollard, sir.”
“Pollard? But Parkins has the rank.” “But Pollard, sir, has the right idea. I’ve been watching him. He—” Blair forgot himself in his enthusiasm; gave his opinion concisely.
“Very good, Mr. Stevens. Mr. Henderson will advise you of our decision. I hope you will feel that we have acted only in the best interests of the firm. Goodmorning.”
Blair found his way out. The cool air of the street was invigorating. He needed it just then.
Mr. Burley’s telephone was busy for a while after that.
“Get Gregory’s,” he snapped to the operator. “Mr. Gregory himself.”
Later he spoke to his manager.
“You, Henderson? You still stand by your letter about Stevens? Nice young fellow. Glád if he could have got it. Right—we must always remember the business first. Tell Pollard, will you, to report here for duty at once. No, no, not Parkins. Pollard! P-o-1-, oh, you’ve got it, have you? And, Mr. Henderson, when you send me a confidential report on a man, by a man, you might seal it. Good business to do so. Knew a man once lost a cool hundred thousand over thing like that. No—not all of ’em, just Stevens. What’s that?—lucky it was his? I see, he’s too much of a fool to think of reading it, eh?. .. And, oh yes, Mr. Henderson, about that Gregory contract—think you can land it? Coming in to sign to-morrow? You had to make that concession in freight, eh? Hum. Very well. That’s all. Tell Pollard to report at once. My regrets to the others. Fortune of war.”
BLAIR found his message awaiting him at the salesrooms. Mr. Henderson would like to see him.
“Ah, Stevens. About that—er—vacancy. Mr. Burley wished me to advise you he is sorry but the vacancy is being otherwise filled.”
The message affected Blair not at all. He was prepared for that. But the manner of it did. A suffusion of anger came, almost choking him. He managed to control his words.
“I’d give a lot, Gilbert,” he said, calmly enough, “for another session behind the schoolhouse. And for the same reason!” Henderson’s face purpled.
“You’re a—an incorrigible cad,” continued Blair. “A-a-” He threw back his head and laughed. Babs’ words came to his mind. “Well, I’ll make allowances, but—I wouldn’t be you for—for all the jobs in the kingdom!”
Henderson blazed out:
“You insolent puppy! I’ve a mind to
“Don’t trouble yourself, dear heart,” said Blair. “Consider my resignation as accepted. I’ll explain to Mr. Burley that it has nothing to do with his decision.
I wouldn’t quit for that. No, you needn’t look so yellow—I shan’t tell him about your dirty trick. He can find that out | for himself.”
Blair walked out and slammed the door, j He would return to-morrow and clean up the final details. To-day he must have air—space —exercise.
He took the first train out home. “Disdale”—ahd the ,familiar avenue; soul satisfaction sustained him until the house came in view. Good heavens, what had he done? Thrown up his job in hard times like these, with no thought— no thought for Babs!
HE COULD not face her then. He went I on past the house—no sign of Babs— and around the block once. When he I
came in sight of the house again she was
waiting on the steps.
Her greeting was a gay one.
“Hullo, Mr. Man! Don’t you know your own door?” He went on up the path, very gray and tired about the eyes. She linked an arm in his, leading him inside. “Poor boy!” she said, when the door shut off intruding eyes. “You’ve left them!”
“Babs—how did you know?” “Because I knew you’d play square— and you’d not stand to work under a trickster. I saw you coming up the avenue, too—and around the block. I’m glad!”
“You’ve never been happy there, with “But, Babs—”
“No buts about it. Out you go now, and clean up that garden. I’ll not have any out-of-works "banging around to be fed!” Her laughter was infectious. By and by, though, when he slipped inside the house to get the broom, he heard the sound of someone sobbing. His heart ached to go to her but love granted him insight—and courage. She wanted him, he knew, to see only how brave she was. It would not occur to her what confirmation those private tears lent.
By and by a window opened.
“Bo-oy—oh, yo-ou! Telephone!”
She was all sunshine again, unless one had insight to see the shadows.
“Mr. Stevens—will you introduce me to your wife please—by ’phone. Mr. Burley speaking. Oh, you recognized me?” “Babs—Mr. Burley wants to speak to you!” It was incredible!
They stared at each other.
Tremblingly she snatched up the receiver. A deep voice spoke: “Is this
Babs? Forgive an old man calling you that on a first introduction. Could you, do you think, give two old gentlemen a bit of lunch if they came up? Just Mr. Gregory and myself. Perhaps you would like to tell your husband that he’d better get on a clean collar and be ready to come back. I want him to take over Mr. Henderson’s duties as General Manager. Mr. Henderson is leaving us cn-ah-very short notice. And he might have his fountain pen ready! —-I understand Mr. Gregory hasn’t actually signed a contract for Selco Motor? yet and is anxious to do so!”
LUNCH was over at last. Sucn a gay, tremulous, serious meal, according to the viewpoint. The Selco Motor contract had been duly completed and signed. Mr. Gregory had left his spoken tribute to the cooking and Babs, and taken his departure.
Mr. Burley remained behind. He and Blair Stevens sat in the cosy upstairs living room, smoking.
“I suppose,” said Blair, “one should accept such tremendous good fortune without question. But I would like to
“Naturally,” agreed the President, eyes twinkling. “But first of all, please, we must have—Babs!”
Babs was summoned; Blair’s cheery call from the upper hallway brought her, feeling her back hair anxiously in the way her sex do even in the face of a crisis.
“Your husband has just asked me the why of this affair,” Mr. Burley explained. “I thought you might like to hear?”
Babs seated herself complacently on the arm of her husband’s chair.
“Four points I think,” the President went on, pulling reflectively at what seemed to be a very satisfactory cigar from Blair’s best stock. “One: When I
find a manager who puts private affairs before business and is willing to do up his firm to suit his private ends, he and I must part company—instantly! Perhaps you’ve guessed already what I half surmised, and later obtained confirmation of from Mr. Gregory. You see friend Henderson deliberately cut in on your order by offering Gregory a concession-— a needless concession, of course—in the way of laying the goods down, freight paid, at his branches—insinuating that you were not giving the best terms in the _ matter, but that the company was anxious to give the best possible treatment, and would Mr. Gregory simply say nothing to you except to put you off until he could see Henderson on Monday.
“Two: On the other hand, when I run across a young man right in line for promotion, who—when asked, apart from himself, and in the best interests of the firm, to name the man best fitted to fill
the vacancy—has a ready, logical ander—courageous answer, it makes me wonder whether those qualities wouldn’t be— er—valuable in, say, a General Manager, who must always have an eye to such things.
“Three: Well, I’m an old fool who likes young fools who are fools enough not to read other people’s letters when opportunity offers, on any occasion.
“Four?—hum—” the speaker’s eyes twinkled again merrily—“there was something else. It’s a bad thing, I know, to mix private affairs with business, but on The other hand I very much prefer a happily married man to look after my affairs to either a flighty or an embittered old bachelor! So the fourth point is— Babs!” Mr. Burley turned to meet Babs’ gaze. “I thought, Mrs. Stevens, you
might like to know why I have selected | your husband so promptly to fill this posij
Babs was in no wise at a loss. She said naïvély: “Oh, I could give you ever so
many better reasons than those, Mr. Burley!”
Blair’s face held all the embarrassment of a normal male who hears his praises thus sung. But presently a boyish grin struggled for expression.
“Gee, Babs!” he declared. “I guess it’s easier this way than to start up a rival concern, eh?”
And Babs, smiling back at him, looked very little older and even more kissable with her hair done up—hair that would have been reddish if it hadn’t been gold— than when it hung down her back in a pigtail.