THERE was no denying the fact that Mr. J. C. Boswell, salesmanager of the Hartwell Rubber Company, had the knack of getting all that was in them out of the men in his charge. He was a driver from the word go. When he said: “Smith, go get it,”
Smith went after, and usually annexed the order. It was said of Boswell that he never spoke harshly to his salesmen.
And yet they one and all feared him.
And the reason was this: The sales-
manager accepted no excuses for failure to secure a promising order. No, the man who had fallen short was never ■called "on the carpet,” never upbraided. He simply found a bouquet of beautiful roses on his desk with a card attached bearing these words written in Mr. Boswell’s fine hand: “I have only pity for a failure.”
“For,” reasoned Mr. Boswell, “failure in a man to achieve a desired object is, to me, a sad thing—a thing as sad as death itself. In a measure it is death— death to initiative, self-reliance and opportunity that will never come again.”
So Boswell sent the flowers as a condolence. Oh, the irony of it!
As a rule Mr. Boswell arrived punctually at the office every morning at nine.
He looked forward to those moments of arrival. They brought him, again, in touch with his pretty secretary; and it was his plan to lengthen this pleasure by early dictation It pleased him to think of himself as a human dynamo.
It pleased him still more that she should see him in that guise. It brought a pleasant start to the day.
There were, however, mornings on which Mr. Boswell arrived at the ■office at an earlier hour than nine.
On such occasions he invariably carried a cone-shaped package wrapped in brown paper. Also, on such occasions the office-boy, usually designated “the Cherub,” was wont to observe to the Irish janitor that somebody was due to receive a bunch of posies. Which was true enough. Somebody always did.
On this particular morning at precisely eight-thirty the Cherub was testing the brass polish on the buttons ■of his natty uniform before applying it to the railing which embraced the tenantless array of desks like a glittering arm, when the door opened to admit Mr. Boswell—and his inevitable “before nine” bouquet. The sales-manager’s usually beaming countenance was grave; in his eyes lurked a pain which only sorrow can bring a veritable beside-the-grave-of-my-most-beloved expression which the Cherub had seen before—and quite understood now.
“Boy,” spoke Mr. Boswell in sorrowing tones, “place these roses on Mr. Judson’s desk.”
’ I 'HE Cherub, with Mr. Boswell’s eyes on him, performed the task quickly, neatly, yet withal, reluctantly. He liked big Jimmy Judson; for that matter, everybody liked Jimmy. It was not until the door swung noiselessly to behind the sales-managet that the Cherub went hurriedly in search of the janitor.-
It s Jimmy Judson this time,” he informed hat gentleman.
The janitor glared out through the meshes of the huge waste-paper basket he carried in his arms like a startled ion might glare through the bars of its cage.
Phwat’s that?” he growled. “Jimmie, did ye say? And fer why Jimmy? Ain’t thot lad the bist alesman thot ould trouble-maker iver tried to kill? Fer why thin should he be throwin’ his bookeys at Jimmy?” The Cherub thrust his tongue in his cheek and solemnly winked one baby-blue eye.
He s jealous of Jimmy,” he asserted guardedly. “That’s what.”
“And fer why?” asked the startled janitor. “Afeered the lad will be offered his job, is ut?”
“Naw, he’s afraid Jimmy’ll—” Here the Cherub stood on tip-toe and whispered in the listener’s ear.
’Go on wid ye ” grunted the janitor, lowering his basket to the floor. “Shure it’s engaged that ould flowermonger is to that swate gurri , so I’m told. Fer why thin should he be jealous of the by, who has niver a worrid to say to her thot I’ve noticed?”
“Jimmy’s been sort of shy on words, but he sure looks
a lot,” declared the Cherub, confidently. “I’ve seen him,’ and oh, gosh, Pat, I ought to know when a feller’s in love, if anybody does!”
“Av course ye should,” agreed the janitor sarcastically, “seein’s ye’ve had such a vast experience wid love yerself. Now thin, away wid ye to your worrik. I’m tellin’ ye if it’s in love wid Nellie Strong Jimmy Judson is, it’s no great bet I’d be after placin’ on the sales-manager’s chances; and it’s spakin’ frum ripe experience I am, and not wid the wild garrulity av youth.”
Pat checked the spring of his indignation suddenly as he caught a signal from the Cherub’s blue orbs. He pivoted to see Miss Strong just at that moment entering Mr. Boswell’s office. That she had overhead his remark there was not the slightest doubt in the world, for her cheeks were flaming and the red lips were fighting with a smile.
“Now, ye branch av Satan,” groaned the Irishman, “it’s let me in fer it right, ye have. It’s every syllable av me utterance that swate gurril heard, so she did.” “Serves you right,” grinned the Cherub unfeelingly. “You talk too much any way.”
Skilfully he dodged the swing of a long arm and, turning, darted away.
JIMMY JUDSON, tall, boyish of face and immaculately groomed, swung from an Uptown car and approached the office in which he was employed with an air of assurance he was far from feeling. Jimmy was conceded to be a tip-top salesman, and he was—in so far as a fatalist can be a tip-top anything. But Jimmy believed that what was to be, must be. He invariably accepted the hunches which old Dame Destiny at times wafted the toilers of the sphere over which she despotically presided.
Jimmy had been with the Hartwell Company for nearly a year. He had yet to find the bouquet of condolence on his desk, although he had seen many a good man’s spirit wilt before the sales-manager’s flaming barb. And he had told himself that some day—sooner or later—he too must be the recipient of flowers. He could not expect to carry home the grapes every time the head gardener, Boswell, sent him into the vineyard.
And now that time had come. Last night Jimmy had been compelled to report the fact that he had failed to
secure the Barton Company’s order. And he had been as sure of that order as if it already reposed in his inside pocket. Statler, the Barton buyer, was a hard man to handle, of course; the hardest of the hard. But that fact hadn’t bothered him in the least. Jimmy knew he could handle Statler. Right up until within a block of the Barton Company’s factory he had been confident. And then, suddenly as an attack of acute indigestion hits a man where he lives, Jimmy had received a hunch that jolted him from chin to toes, and fairly made him gulp. As the car passed a florist’s shop he had glimpsed in the window a big bunch of magnificent roses. That settled it. Jimmy knew, right then, that Barton order was not for him.
Up until the very moment his eyes had glimpsed those roses, his mind had been on Barton as a hunter’s mind is on the quarry he pursues. But with the glorious flash of those flowers Barton’s face had dissolved, and there had come a “fade in” of Boswell’s beat fic countenance.
And Jimmy’s hunch had proven true. Although he put everything he possessed in that brief contest of wills with the astute Barton, the result was what he knew it must be. He came away without the order.
This morning, as Jimmy entered the imposing building belonging to the firm which paid him his salary, he felt like a man must feel who is about to face a firing squad. In that big room at the end of the brass-railed corridor were ten mahogany desks. At nine of them would be seated as many citysalesmen, for the hour was ninethirty. On the tenth desk would be reposing a bouquet of American Beauty roses.
Jimmy’s brow grew damp. His hands were moist and clammy. The poet who penned that immortal line: “And things are not what they seem,” had certainly struck the nail on the head. Jimmy believed he knew now why the most desperate criminals of history were said to be the most inoffensive-looking; the deadliest snakes the most harmless appearing, the most poisonous of flowers fairest to look upon. Boswell belonged to that category. Boswell was not what he seemed to be. Behind the man’s sunny geniality was the petty meanness of a bully.
JIMMY hated to go on to the room at the end of the corridor, but the music had to be faced some time. It might as well be now.
As he wiped his perspiring brow, he caught sight of the Cherub. The boy sat just inside the office-rail, a book on his knee. His blue eyes were on Jimmy, big with sympathy.
“Say, Jimmy,” he spoke from the corner of his dimpled mouth as he pushed open the rail-arm, “Miss Strong wants to see you, right away.”
Judson stared. “Are you sure, Cherub?” he asked incredulously.
“Absolutely. J. C.’s out. Better make it snappy. I guess it’s important.”
Judson went slowly down the hall, conscious that the eyes of clerks and accountants were on him. But his chin had assumed its old fighting tilt and his face was smiling.
Arriving at Mr. Boswell’s office, he tapped on the partly opened door and entered.
Mr. Boswell’s pretty secretary was alone. She glanced up as Jimmy closed the door, frank surprise in her grey eyes. Then slowly the red blood raced to her cheeks.
“That Cherub!” grated the perturbed Jimmy. “Wait till I get my hands on the young devil.”
Aloud he said: “I beg your pardon, Miss Strong. I was looking for Mr. Boswell.”
She had risen, and Jimmy’s heart raced madly as he gazed upon her. He had been in love with this girl for —it seemed ever since he could remember. But of course she had never guessed it, never would—if he could help it.
He heard Miss Strong saying, “Mr. Boswell was down this morning, quite early, but must have gone out again.
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Jimmy smiled grimly.
“I presume the usual floral tribute has been laid at the grave of the failure?” he enquired.
She nodded sympathetically.
“You mustn’t mind,” she told him softly.
“I don’t,” he returned. “You see, I’m quitting.”
“Quitting?” The narrow brows above her wide eyes arched in a frown.
He was quick to set her right.
“Oh, it’s not because I’m afraid to face the music,” he said. “It’s you.”
He nodded. “I’ve simply got to tell you, Miss Strong. I can’t continue to come here qvery day like I’m doing and see you—”
“Yes?” she prompted gently, as he paused.
“Well,” stammered Jimmy, “I love you, and I want you to marry me. But” —miserably—“of course that is impossible.”
“Why impossible?” she asked very gently.
“Hey?” Jimmy’s drooping head came up with a jerk. “You don’t—you can’t I—” He checked the words.
She was smiling and the grey eyes held a soft intense light in their depths.
“But isn’t it barely possible that I do?” she whispered.
T IKE a flash Jimmy was across the ' room. He caught her small hands and imprisoned them in his own.
“You do?” he cried unbelievingly. “Listen, girlie, you have made me the happiest man in the world!”
He drew her, unresisting, to him.
“Tell me,” he asked, after she had struggled free, “how about the great sympathiser, the sender of flowers, Mr. J. S. Boswell? Didn’t he ask you to marry him—Nellie?”
“Oh lord!” groaned Jimmy.
“You see,” she went on, “I haven’t exactly refused Mr. Boswell’s offer. He wouldn’t hear of me deciding such a momentous question too quickly. He says that all girls are happier when married, Jimmy, and that when I have considered the matter carefully I’m bound to think so too. I am to let him know what I think about it to-day.”
She laughed and reaching up drew his troubled face down to her own.
“I think you can guess what I shall tell him, Jimmy,” she murmured.
“You bet I can,” he answered in muffled but emphatic tones.
“Here,” he cried, releasing her reluctantly. “Time is short, Nellie dear. Sit right down and tell him now. Write your answer to Boswell while I get your coat and hat.”
“But where are we going, Jimmy?” “We’re going,” he said, as he placed
paper and pen before her, “out to get married. But first of all—I must go get my roses.”
Already her head was bent above the paper, her pen speeding over the white surface.
Jimmy lowered his face until his lips rested on the soft neck where the brown hair stirred into riotous ripples like tiny waves tumbling against a white cliff. Then he was gone.
TT WAS ten-thirty before Mr. Boswell 1 showed up at the office. The Cherub who sat just inside the brass rail, laid down his book and with a seraphic expression on his countenance handed the salesmanager a square envelope. After which he winked gravely at Pat, the janitor, who was craning his long neck about the basement door.
Mr. Boswell, emanating sunshine and good-cheer, smiled to right and left of him as he passed through the main office and on to his own sanctum. He was at peace with all things including himself—particularly himself. This was to be one of the most momentous days of his some fiftyodd years of life. Miss Strong was to give him his answer to-day. Mr. Boswell, being Mr. Boswell, was pretty sure what that answer would be. He hummed a tune softly as he opened his office door and tenderly his eyes sought the corner wherein his secretary’s desk reposed. The desk was there in its accustomed place, but Miss Strong was not.
Perhaps the note which the boy had handed him was from her. Why, of course. That was it. The dear girl, lacking the courage to say what she desired to say to him face to face, had written her answer.
Mr. Boswell smiled as he opened the square envelope, and read:
“Dear Mr. Boswell:
“I have thought it all over and believe you are right when you say a girl is happier when married—”
Mr. Boswell ceased reading and carried the note to his lips. “Of course,” he exulted, “how could she think otherwise?” Then he continued reading.
“so I have decided to marry—Jimmy Judson. Sincerely yours,
Mr. Boswell stood staring unbelievingly down on the letter. He looked liked a pricked balloon, and felt like one. For five long minutes he stood rooted there. Then slowly into the face where something stark and ugly had looked for a brief moment, returned the old mask of fatherly urbanity. His step was as jaunty as usual as he approached his desk. On its mahogany top rested a big bouquet of roses. There was a card attached. Mr. Boswell detached the card, and read:
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