Three Days More
A refreshing tale of an office worm, who found the fruits of rebellion exceeding sweet
THE street car was jammed, but Clarence Waterbury might have wedged his way inside had it not been for a pasty-faced little wren of a man who dug an elbow into his ribs, stepped on his toes and clambered on board.
Clarence was six feet tall and broad in proportion, but
he had the meek, innocent expression of one who is accustomed to being thrust aside, and who somehow expects to have elbows dug into his ribs. Instead of returning jab for jab and trampled toe for trampled toe he stepped back, murmured, “Excuse me,” and the doors slid shut in his face.
He shook his head solemnly and returned to the curb, there to await the next car.
Even at that he would not have been late for work, had not the next car been marked for misfortune. Clarence was still about twenty blocks from the office of the Blodgett Advertising Agency when a truck backed out of an alley and stalled on the tracks.
The street car came to a stop, bells clanged, horns honked, the truck-driver cursed, a traffic cop whistled, the motorman sighed, and passengers looked at their watches. Clarence, who had allowed a bored and bowlerhatted clerk to squeeze ahead of him into the only vacant seat, clung to a strap and shuffled from one foot to the other.
It was a big truck and they had a great deal of trouble with it.
By the time the street car roared on its way again, leaving the truckdriver and the traffic cop arguing certain ethical matters, it was
already nine o’clock. Then there was a parade on Queen Street and the car halted again. By this time, Clarence was rehearsing explanations for the benefit of Jardine, the copy chief.
When he finally entered the office he glanced up at the clock with the air of a man apprehensive of bad news. The uncompromising dial told him that it was twenty minutes past nine, whereat Clarence looked uncomfortably in the direction of Jardine’s desk.
“Well?” bellowed the ogre.
Miss Courtney, the stenographer, looked languidly around. Oscar, the office boy, smirked sympathetically. Pepperly, one of the copy-writers, peeped out of his cubicle.
“Street car,” muttered Clarence.
Clarence dropped his hat on the floor, bent to pick it up, dropped his overcoat, stepped on the hat and turned a deep crimson. “Street car,” he repeated.
“What about a street car? It’s twenty minutes past nine.”
“Street car was held up,” explained Clarence wretchedly. “I’m sorry I’m late. Won’t happen again.” Jardine regarded him pityingly.
“Street car held up!” he snorted. “Can’t you think of a better one than that, Waterbury?”
“Sorry,” stammered Clarence. “Didn’t mean to be late. It was an accident.”
“It was, eh?” said Jardine heavily. “Well, let me tell you, young man, there’ll be an accident around here the next time I catch you coming in at this hour. Snap into it, now. Get busy and make up for lost time.”
He turned, rumbling, to his desk.
/"''LARENCE WATERBURY knew very well the correct procedure at that moment. Had he been a youth of spirit he would have advanced on Jardine and said in a clear, ringing voice:
“You can take my resignation. I’m through. I quit. I’ve been intending to quit for a long time, ever since you pushed yourself into that job over my head, although I’ve been working here three years longer than you anyway. You have a nerve bawling me out just because I’m late. Why, you big fat walrus, you’re late four days out of five yourself!”
Whereupon he would have snapped his fingers beneath Jardine’s bulbous nose, bowed politely to Miss Courtney, and instructed Oscar to call a taxi.
“I’m going over to the Metropolis Agency, where I’ll get fair treatment and some appreciation.”
However, not being a youth of spirit, he did nothing
of the kind. Instead, he murmured, “Yes, sir. I’m very sorry,” hung up his hat and coat, then scuttled guiltily into his little office. From then on, a vast rustling of papers indicated that Clarence Waterbury was trying to make up for that lost twenty minutes.
Oscar, distributing the morning blotters, passed Miss
Courtney’s desk and whispered, “The poor boob. I’d like to see Jardine bawl me out like that!” Miss Courtney grimaced in the direction of Jardine’s fat neck, and murmured that a man as spineless as Clarence Waterbury didn’t deserve much sympathy.
Pepperly, trying to think up a new way of informing the public that the El Matador was a very good cigar, shook his head and bent over his copy again. Waterbury was a swell ad. writer, but that let him out. No more spunk than a jellyfish ! “Imagine Jardine trying that on me,” reflected Pepperly, with the airy confidence of a young man who had frequently observed that he wouldn’t think twice of handing Jardine a bust on the nose, the big ham !
As for Clarence Waterbury, he scribbled tentative thoughts concerning the virtues of Roscoe’s Sanitary Soap, and tried to muster up a firm resolve to tell Jardine “where he
got off at” . . . next time. He tried to convince himself that he would stand up for his rights as a free-born Canadian should, but the conviction was feeble. In his heart he knew that if he came in late next morning he would probably swallow the Jardine insults as meekly as ever.
“The trouble with me,” he considered dolefully, “is that I’m too much of a gentleman.”
Y~''LARENCE had been brought up in an old-fashioned ^ home where politeness was esteemed as one of the major virtues, and where it was taken for granted that the meek shall inherit the earth. Five years of city life had failed to make Clarence anything but a painfully polite, pathetically humble young man who looked for all the world like an overgrown cherub.
Even Pepperly admitted that Clarence should have been promoted to the copy chief’s desk after Bill Holabird left for pastures new. But Jardine the domineering, Jardine the assertive, had marched into old man Blodgett’s office, demanded the job and got it, while Clarence waited wistfully for the call. But, as Pepperly said, it was Clarence’s own fault. “Blodgett was just trying to make up his mind. If Clarence had gone after the job he could have had it.”
No one reflected that it was against Clarence’s gentlemanly nature to go after anything. He had an old-fashioned belief that merit will always be recognized in the fullness of time. Jardine’s promotion gave this belief a bad jolt. But Clarence went his plodding way, writing the best copy in the office, and always planning two bold moves which somehow never materialized.
One was to enter Blodgett’s office, point to his record of faithful, efficient service, and ask for a raise.
The other was to invite Miss Courtney, the office divinity, out to dinner and the theatre.
He never asked for the raise. His courage usually deserted him by the time he reached the Blodgett door and he invariably retired, comforting himself with the dubious assurance that Mr. Blodgett would award the raise without being asked.
He never asked Miss Courtney out to dinner and the theatre. It was not an impossible feat. Pepperly himself had shown that, by entertaining the goddess twice within his first three weeks on the staff. But Clarence had swallowed such copious doses of moral teaching concerning the reverence due the fair sex that he could scarcely pay fat Mrs. Riley, the landlady, his weekly rent without blushing and stammering and tripping over the rug on his way out.
Once he had pumped up sufficient courage to make an advance but it had resulted in miserable failure.
He had blundered up to Miss Courtney’s desk near closing time, looked around to see that no one else was within earshot, and muttered: “Er . . . uh . . . doing anything special this evening, Miss Courtney?”
She looked up at him, her violet eyes limpid.
“Why, I was planning to stay at home and listen to the radio tonight, Mr. Waterbury.”
The violet eyes sapped his courage completely. The news that she had already planned a quiet evening at home doomed his modest suggestion of orchestra seats for a musical comedy to certain failure. He blinked at her very solemnly, said: “There’s some mighty fine programmes coming through these nights,” and departed, almost stepping into a wastebasket.
Miss Courtney seemed to treat him with cool amusement after that, and he never dared risk the embarrassment again.
T-TE WORKED industriously through the morning, but his lunch hour was delayed because Jardine tossed some of Pepperly’s copy on his desk for editing. This was rightfully Jardine’s work, but Clarence accepted it meekly and without protest, dressed up the copy and left the office late. It meant, however, that he would have to forego his lunch. Clarence had little more
than half an hour in which to make an important call, and Jardine would expect him back at his desk by one o’clock.
The decision to make this call had been reached after several days of doubt and misgiving but, once reached, it could not be postponed. Clarence was going to see a doctor.
For more than a week he had been troubled by a pain. It was not a severe pain, just an ordinary, everyday pain that lingered in the region of his chest, and most men would have tried to ignore it. Not so, Clarence. He was meticulously careful about his health. A pain to him was not merely a pain; it was a symptom and must be attended to without delay.
When he left the office it was already twenty minutes past twelve and he hastened down the street toward the office of a physician recommended to him by his landlady. Ignorant of the formality of asking for an appointment, Clarence found the building, located the medical man’s office on the second floor, and entered a small waiting room. It was deserted at the time, so he sat down and stared with a sort of horrified fascination at a large chart exclusively concerned with the human stomach. This had the double effect of reminding him that he had missed his lunch and of destroying his appetite.
A door opened, and an elderly, grey-bearded man wearing formidable spectacles peeped out at him.
“Well,” said the old gentleman, “what’s the matter with you?”
Clarence looked apologetic for having a pain.
“Are you the doctor?” he enquired mildly.
“I am. What can I do for you?”
“Thought I’d drop in,’’ murmured Clarence. “Nothing very serious. I just haven’t been feeling well.”
Clarence sat down, and the doctor strode back and forth, stopping every little while to gaze at him as though he were a particularly interesting germ.
“Why haven’t you been feeling well?” he demanded, finally.
“I have a pain.”
“Here,” said Clarence, patting his chest.
The doctor came over, seized Clarence by the chin, yanked his mouth open and peered inside.
Clarence said ahh and looked unhappy about it.
The doctor then thumped Clarence’s chest quite vigorously and listened. Apparently he was not satisfied with what he heard, for he shook his head, then took his patient’s pulse.
“How long have you had this pain?”
“About four or five days.”
“Where does it start?”
“Here. And it goes to here.”
The doctor grunted. “Ever have pneumonia?”
“Typhoid? Smallpox? Appendicitis?”
The man of medicine seemed to think Clarence had been singularly careless.
“Living in a fool’s paradise,” he muttered. “Let me look at the whites of your eyes.”
Clarence let the doctor look at the whites of his eyes. He was becoming alarmed.
“Well, your case is clear enough.”
“What have I got, doctor?” quavered Clarence. “Married man?” snapped the doctor.
“My parents are living.”
“Have you made your will?”
“Better go and make it,” advised the doctor curtly. “My will?”
“That’s what I said.”
“Because you’re in bad shape. I’ll be quite frank with you. It’s your heart.”
“I’ve never had any trouble with it before.”
“You’ve had trouble but you didn’t know it.” The doctor snapped his fingers. “You’ll go out like that!” Clarence began to sweat. “You mean I’m going to die?”
“You may drop dead within the next half-hour. You will certainly pass out very soon. I give you about three days. No longer. The best advice I can give you is to put your affairs in order. I’m sorry, but I can do nothing for you.”
Real life is unlike good drama. There is seldom any gradual building-up to a grand climax. Our big moments are seldom realized when they occur. The great crisis lacks the proper background of thunder and lightning; too often it is flat.
Clarence Waterbury, on learning that he had but three days more on earth, struck no tragic attitudes, uttered no fiery apostrophes, philosophized not at all. He merely put on his hat wrong side foremost and walked from the office without a word, looking puzzled and bewildered.
He walked several blocks in a sort of daze before it occurred to him that he was hungry. Then he went into a restaurant, fully aware that it was already one o’clock and that he would be late for work. Somehow, the Blodgett Advertising Agency seemed very far away. The terrible Jardine was someone of another world. Nothing mattered any more, least of all his job. What is a job to a man with only three days left on earth?
Three days more! Just as pain gradually follows a numbing blow, he began to realize it. Today was the twelfth. On the fifteenth he would be dead. Perhaps sooner. Trucks would still be bowling along the streets, traffic lights would still be blinking, people would be scurrying along the pavements, diners would be eating in this very restaurant—and he, Clarence Waterbury, would be out of it all. Even yet he could scarcely believe that he had really heard the death sentence.
A waitress came to his table. Automatically, Clarence was about to order his usual frugal lunch when the thought struck him that precedent no longer held.
“Eat, drink and be merry; for tomorrow ye die !”
He ordered a lunch that cost him one dollar and eighty-five cents. He enjoyed it immensely. Under the warming influence of excellent food his spirits rose.
“What the devil!” said Clarence, and ordered a cigar with his coffee.
He was no longer Clarence Waterbury, meek and unassuming, but a man with three days in which to do a great deal of living.
From his waistcoat pocket he took a little red bank book. Clarence had always saved his money, partly because he was I frugal by nature and partly because it
seemed the thing to do. He had a little more than nine hundred dollars on deposit.
A good funeral would cost at least a hundred and fifty. He subtracted that amount from the total. Seven hundred and fifty dollars left. He had three thousand dollars life insurance and his parents were by no means in want.
Seven hundred and fifty dollars! And three days to live.
“I’ll spend it all,” said Clarence.
He drew a menu card toward him and scribbled reflectively on the back. After a while he surveyed the result:
1. Tell Jardine where he gets off at.
2. Play the stock market.
3. Live at a swell hotel.
4. Own a dress suit.
5. Drink champagne.
6. Stay in bed until 11 a.m.
7. Drive in a limousine with an heiress.
“On seven hundred and fifty dollars,” reflected Clarence, grimly, as he tucked the menu card into his pocket, “I ought to be able to do some of those things.”
Earnest, moral and right-thinking people would be shocked at Clarence’s list. The seven achievements represented the summit of ambition to this young man from whom higher things might well have been expected. But somehow, with three days more in which to live, Clarence had wearied of doing what was expected of him.
TN ACCORDANCE with the pro-
gramme, he left the restaurant and went back to the Blodgett office. He did not hurry. He sauntered. His casual gait was significant of the new Clarence.
Habit, however, is strong. The shackles of years cannot be lightly dropped. He was trembling a little as he stepped out of the elevator, crossed the corridor and went into the office.
The clock indicated ten minutes past two.
Jardine, at his desk, turned slowly. Miss Courtney looked up. Oscar stared. There was an expectant hush.
Jardine looked at Clarence. He looked
at the clock. He looked back at Clarence again and under his baleful glare Clarence felt the old spell creeping over him again. He felt guilty.
“This,” said Jardine, very slowly, “is the limit !” He wagged his head from side to side, then shouted: “Do you see that clock!”
The shout restored Clarence’s composure. He glanced at the clock, then at his watch.
“It’s slow,” he said clearly. “Five minutes slow.”
In Pepperly’s little office, a wastebasket upset. Miss Courtney clattered the typewriter keys wildly and at random. Oscar’s eyes almost popped out of his head. Jardine turned a faint purple.
“Slow!” roared Jardine, when he had recovered his breath. “You say it’s slow! And you have the gall ... the supreme gall . . . you come in here an hour
late . . .!”
“I wish,” said Clarence, “you wouldn’t shout. I don’t like it.”
Jardine looked dazed. Apoplexy seemed imminent.
“Have you gone off your nut?” he asked in a small voice.
“Not at all,” returned Clarence airily, gaining confidence. “I’m just getting some sense.” Then he achieved Ambition Number One. He snapped his fingers beneath Jardine’s bulbous nose. “I just came back here, Jardine, to tell you that I don’t care to work here any more. I don’t like you. I’m fed up with you. I think you are a big ham. I wish you would go and sit on a tack.”
IT WAS one of the high moments of Clarence’s life. The office and everyone in it reminded him of a motion-picture scene suddenly brought to a full stop, as he turned on his heel and sauntered out of the office again.
As the expression is, he was stepping on air. So oblivious was Clarence to his surroundings that as he closed the door behind him and turned away he blundered directly into two red-lipped, bright-eyed girls who had just emerged from the elevator.
Clarence came to earth with a thud. He blushed and stammered, snatched at his hat. One of the girls was Old Man Blodgett’s only daughter, a winsome
flapper whom Clarence had often admired from afar.
The girls giggled. Clarence stuttered apologies. Miss Blodgett’s companion flashed him a sympathetic glance. And with that glance from a pair of lustrous dark eyes, Clarence blinked and experienced a sensation somewhat similar to the effect of accidentally stepping off the edge of a verandah in the dark. This, although he did not then realize it, is known as love at first sight.
Miss Blodgett and the dark-eyed girl vanished into the office, where Miss Blodgett would presumably extract a quantity of cash from her parent. Clarence stared vacantly at the closed door and then the elevator man shouted an impatient:
He scrambled into the cage, and collided with an old gentleman who glared at him. Clarence muttered apologies. People who stepped on Henry Dolson’s toes usually apologized hastily.
He was a runty, pot-bellied old pirate with a jaw like the stern of a tug-boat, and he gripped a gold-headed cane with the air of a man who wouldn’t think twice of rapping it over the head of anyone who offended him. He was either a president or a director of more corporations than he could name offhand, and when his name was mentioned bankers bowed low and turned their faces toward the East.
Having glared Clarence out of existence, Henry Dolson turned to his companion, Colonel Fox, a tall and immaculate gentleman who seemed constantly bored by an existence of coupon-clipping, and resumed conversation.
“Get in on it,” Henry Dolson was saying. “I don’t usually give tips, but get in on this.”
“Thanks, Henry,” murmured the colonel. “It’s very good of you.”
“I gave an order to my broker this morning. You’ll clean up. It can’t go wrong.”
The elevator stopped at the ground floor. Henry Dolson and the colonel strode out. Clarence followed.
The Dolson limousine was waiting at the curb and in the few yards from the elevator to the sidewalk it must be confessed that Clarence became an eaves-
dropper. He almost trod on Henry Dolson’s heels in his anxiety to hear more. And he did hear more. He heard Henry Dolson say, quite distinctly:
“Don’t forget the name, colonel. Old Valley.”
The colonel laughed. “I’m not likely to forget, Henry. Much obliged to you, I’m sure.”
They clambered into the limousine, the door slammed behind them and the chauffeur got back behind the wheel. The car rolled smoothly away.
Clarence Waterbury scuttled back to the building, dived into a telephone booth and called up a friend, Tommy Meadows by name, who worked in a downtown brokerage office. He instructed Tommy to buy him five hundred dollars worth of Old Valley stock.
“On margin?” asked Tommy.
Clarence hesitated. A tip! A red-hot tip from Henry Dolson!
“On margin,” he said, firmly. “I’ll bring the cheque down right away.”
“You all get the fever sooner or later,” said Tommy.
When Clarence came out of the telephone booth he removed a menu card from his pocket and carefully crossed out two items, the first dealing with his ambition to tell Jardine where to get off at, the second with his cherished desire to play the stock market. Both had been achieved.
He looked at the other items on the list, took a deep breath and sallied forth.
ID Y FIVE o’clock that afternoon a number of things had happened. Clarence was installed in a small but luxurious suite in the city’s finest hotel. A new suit of tweeds and a dinner coat— which he had finally chosen instead of full dress—hung in the closet. There was a quantity of new haberdashery in the bureau. A bottle of champagne rested in a bucket of cracked ice. Clarence’s humble trunk was in the suite, but hidden from view.
He had called for the trunk, paid his landlady, and requested that mail be sent to him at the hotel. Since he evaded the good woman’s enquiries she was forced to arrive at her own conclusions, which were to the effect that somebody had died and left Clarence a fortune. She mentioned this circumstance to the lady across the way, who confided in her husband that one of Mrs. O’Brien’s lodgers had inherited a million dollars from an uncle in Australia. The husband passed the news on to the corner grocer, who told the policeman on the beat, who mentioned the matter to a newspaperman. By this time the sum had increased to two million dollars and the uncle had moved to Texas.
The newspaperman, scenting a story, interviewed the landlady. He sought out Clarence at the hotel, but was informed that Mr. Waterbury had engaged a limousine for the evening and departed in an exhilarated condition. He called up Mr. Blodgett, and learned that Mr. Waterbury, a valued employee, had suddenly resigned his position that afternoon. Mr. Blodgett had not heard of the inheritance but he was convinced that something very much out of the ordinary had occurred. When he learned that Clarence was living in hotels and riding around in a limousine he was disposed to believe that the young man had indeed come into a fortune. The subject was discussed with considerable interest by the Blodgett family that evening, and the decision that he be invited to dinner was unanimous.
The newspaperman located Clarence shortly after eleven o’clock that night, but Mr. Waterbury denied that he had inherited two million dollars from an uncle in Texas. He had only two uncles, he said, both of whom were in excellent health. One owned a butcher shop in a village near Hamilton, and the other ran a dry-goods store in Regina. Mr. Waterbury rather belligerently asserted that if he chose to quit his job and live in a hotel it was his own business, but he admitted to certain fortunate investments in the stock market. The reporter thereupon relinquished the story, but did not feel called upon to correct any false impressions he might have conveyed to Mr. Blodgett.
CO IT was that Clarence was honored ^ by a telephone call from Mr. Blodgett next day, requesting the favor of his presence at dinner that evening. His head was swimming with the shock of this unexpected call, so he scarcely realized the import of Mr. Blodgett’s occasional congratulations. He was, however, pleased to learn that the advertising agency felt his loss very keenly.
“Things don’t seem to be going so well, Clarence,” confessed Mr. Blodgett. “Jardine appears lost without you.”
The matter of the congratulations puzzled Clarence, and then it occurred to him that perhaps Mr. Blodgett had heard of his fortunate investment in Old Valley. He ordered up a noon edition and found that Old Valley, at $4 bid and $4.25 asked, had moved neither one way nor the other that morning.
In the full glory of the dinner coat, with black tie "and gleaming shirt bosom, he went to the Blodgett home that evening, having again engaged the limousine. There, to his unbounded delight, he found that his dinner partner was the dark-eyed girl whose piquant face had haunted him since the meeting outside the office door the previous afternoon.
Her name was Mildred Manning and she was every bit as adorable as she looked. No one else existed for Clarence. He scarcely tasted the excellent dinner. By eleven o’clock he was up to his ears in love and playing bridge that would have extracted low moans of anguish from Mr. Lenz. He glared truculently at a young gentleman by the name of Plummer, until he learned that Mr. Plummer was Virginia Blodgett’s fiancé; whereupon he became jovial and friendly.
Mr. Blodgett, anxious for a long conversation with' his erstwhile employee, had time for only a few words.
“After you’ve had your little holiday, Clarence, come in and have a talk with me,” he suggested. “I know you won’t feel very much like going back to your old
job now, but a young fellow should have some interest in life, you know. Can’t loaf all the time. Ha-ha ! Perhaps we can fix up some arrangement. You know the business. We need you.”
“I’m afraid ...”
“Come in and talk it over, anyway. I don’t know what’s got into Jardine since you left. I had to send half the copy back to him this afternoon. Terrible. Come in and see me, Clarence. I don’t mind saying I would consider a partnership arrangement.”
Miss Manning, ready to leave, came down the stairs just then, and Clarence was reduced to a state of idiotic bliss as he paid his respects to the Blodgetts and escorted the young lady out to the limousine, which had returned as per orders. “What a lovely car!”
Clarence shrugged. “Not a bad little boat. Perhaps you would let me take you for a drive tomorrow?”
She sank back into the upholstery as the “little boat” sped down the shadowy avenue. “Tomorrow?” She flashed him a quick, shy smile. “I’d love to. In the afternoon?”
“And we’ll go some place for tea.” “Tea? Why, thank you.”
“And then we could go for another drive, and then we could go to a show, and after that we could go somewhere and dance.”
Miss Manning’s lovely eyes widened. “Oh, but really ...”
She laughed nervously. “But so much ... all at once.”
“It would have to be . . . all at once. If you’ll let me. You see, I have never taken a girl out before. And I haven’t much time.”
“Oh. You talk as though you were going away.”
“I won’t be here after tomorrow,” said Clarence, heavily.
There was an unmistakable note of concern in her voice as she replied:
“Tomorrow? Oh, Mr. Waterbury . . . are you going away for good?”
“For good!” said Clarence.
She was very quiet after that. They were both very quiet. After a while Clarence ventured to reach out and grasp her hand. It lay warm and soft in his own. His fingers tightened.
“I’m sorry you’re going away,” she said at last, in a gentle voice. “I’ll be glad to go out with you tomorrow . . . for a drive . . . and for tea . . . and for another drive . . . and to a show . . . and to dance afterward.”
The limousine glided up a gravelled drive and slithered to a stop before a mansion. It was one of the most luxurious homes Clarence had ever seen. He helped Miss Manning from the car. Her hand rested in his for a moment.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll be expecting you tomorrow.”
She ran lightly up the steps into the shadows of the great verandah.
In the limousine, on the way back to the hotel, Clarence took out a certain menu card and crossed out the final item on his list—the item which had to do with driving in a limousine with an heiress.
THE item concerning his ambition of staying in bed until eleven o’clock in the morning had already been achieved, but he repeated it next day for good measure. His satisfaction, however, was somewhat alloyed. He had been trying to put out of his mind the dreadful fact that his hours on earth were numbered, trying to live wholly in the present, but now the irony of his fate forced itself upon him with every tick of the clock.
He had learned to enjoy life by tasting its good things . . . too late. He had met the most adorable girl in the world . . . too late. Clarence Waterbury lay in his bed in the luxurious suite and groaned. Why, this might be the very day! The doctor had said he might drop off any minute. Three days, at the most. And forty-eight hours had already passed since he left the doctor’s office with the death sentence ringing in his ears.
A gentle melancholy pervaded him as he called for Mildred in the limousine that afternoon. She was even prettier than he remembered her, and she had scarcely been out of his waking thoughts a moment.
“You seem very quiet,” she chided him, as the chauffeur guided the big car down shaded boulevards.
“I am quiet,” he said heavily, “because I am going away. I wish I had met you sooner.”
“I wish so, too,” she admitted, looking away. “But . . . but perhaps we’ll be seeing each other again. You might write to me?”
Clarence shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t.”
“You must be going very far away. Aren’t there any post-offices there?”
“No. No post-offices.”
Then he reflected that it was selfish of him to pull a long face over the inevitable and spoil Mildred’s pleasure. “Laugh, clown, laugh,” he said to himself, and suddenly became nervously cheerful and gay.
They drove out into the country. They had tea at a quaint little inn. They laughed and chatted and became acquainted. They drove back to the city, had dinner at the hotel, went to a theatre and enjoyed a show, although neither remembered very much of it. Then they went somewhere and danced. It was like a pleasant dream. They drove home, and in the limousine they suddenly leaned toward one another and Mildred was in his arms. They kissed, and after a while he discovered that she was crying. “Why?”
“Because . . . because you’re going away.” She dabbed at her eyes. “I’m a fool !” she declared.
Clarence said nothing. There was nothing he could say. Above all, he would not tell her of the shadow hanging over him.
They were silent as the car slid to a stop in front of the great house. The chauffeur, expressionless, opened the door. They went up on to the verandah.
“I’m sorry,” muttered Clarence. “I won’t be seeing you again.”
“You are going tomorrow?”
“I . . .1 think so.”
BY ARRANGEMENT with the Canadian Medical Association, MacLean's in an early issue will commence publication of a regular series of short articles designed to keep readers informed on matters of general health.
Many publications are publishing articles devoted to the subject of health. Some of these are practical in application and scientifically sound. Others are the product of faddists and fanatics. The service provided by the Canadian Medical Association will give, from an authoritative source, knowledge the public should possess by presenting not the views of this or that individual, but the accepted teaching of organized medicine.
The health service of the Canadian Medical Association will also answer questions submitted through this magazine.
“Don’t you know?”
“I’m not quite sure.”
Her face was upturned in the gloom and he could see her parted lips.
“It seems so mysterious,” she whispered. “You won’t tell me where you are going? It must be very far away.”
“Very far.” Then he caught her in his arms, kissed her again and again, released her and hastened down the steps. He sprang into the car. The door slammed. The limousine slipped discreetly away.
Better to end it like that. A dead man has no right to make love. And even if the Damoclean sword were not dangling overhead he had no right to make love to her. She was an heiress.
^'LARENCE did not sleep very well that night and although, on awakening next morning, he was more than a little surprised to find that he was still alive, it did not seem to matter greatly. Nothing mattered now that he had found the girl he loved, and lost her.
He had achieved all the ambitions of the menu card and they were ashes.
Toward noon he left his suite and went down into the rotunda. At the newsstand he bought a paper and idly turned the pages to the financial section. Not that Old Valley mattered either. Silly thing ... to plunge in the stock market when he would never live to spend the money. But it had been an ambition, and it is human nature to take advantage of a good tip.
Old Valley had been the feature of the morning market. The bottom had
dropped out of the stock. It had slipped to $1.25 and was still on the toboggan.
Wiped out! He had bought on margin. Clarence shrugged. Then, in a column of financial gossip he saw that it was rumored in the street that Henry Dolson had cleaned up a fortune by selling short. Clarence stared at the item, then laughed outright, flung aside the paper and walked out of the hotel.
So that was it! The tip was to sell, not to buy.
As he went down the streßt he did some mental arithmetic. If he did not hurry up and die he would be in a bad fix. He had already spent a great deal of money, and his hotel bill would be staggering. Perspiration broke out on his brow. What if he didn’t die after all?
Clarence turned his steps toward the doctor’s office, determined to get some sort of satisfaction. Surely the doctor could tell. If the man had underestimated, if Clarence should last out the week, he would run the risk of dying in jail instead of in the finest hotel in the city.
He reached the doctor’s office and found himself obliged to wait, for there were two patients ahead of him. A whitecapped nurse was in evidence this time, and Clarence confessed that he had no appointment. He was nervous and impatient. Eventually, however, the nurse beckoned him into the doctor’s office.
A neat, pink-cheeked little man with a close-clipped mustache was sitting at a desk.
“Well, sir?” he said, briskly. “What can I do for you?”
Clarence looked around the office. “I want to see the doctor.”
“You aren’t the man I saw the other day.”
The doctor stared at him a moment, then sprang to his feet in excitement.
“You aren’t the chap, are you? The man he gave only three days to live!” Clarence nodded, bewildered.
“I came in here and there was a doctor here ... a man with whiskers . . .” “And he examined you and told you that you’d be a dead one inside three days !”
“Yes. Now, it’s three days since I was in here, and what I want to know . . ” “My dear man! No wonder you want to know! Didn’t you suspect anything? Why, there’s nothing the matter with you. You’re as fit as a fiddle. I can tell that with half an eye. Oh, my goodness!” The doctor sat down heavily and waved Clarence to a chair. “You poor chap! You must have been worried sick. I’ve been wondering and wondering, ever since he told me ...”
“Do you mean I’m not sick?”
“Bah! You’re as right as rain. That fellow who examined you was crazy. Crazy as a coot.” The doctor tapped his forehead. “The poor , old chap is a friend of mine; quite harmless. I’ve been treating him. I was called out on an emergency case the other morning when he was here ... a little after twelve o’clock it was . . . and I told him to stay in my office until I came back. When I returned, he babbled a lot of nonsense about a patient who was going to die. I didn’t know whether he was raving or not. My nurse was out to lunch at the time, or it wouldn’t have happened.”
“And I’m not going to die after all?”
“No, no, no! He was crazy. Off his head, don’t you understand? It’s a wonder you didn’t notice it. And here you have been worrying for three days! My dear man, I can’t tell you how sorry ...”
“That’s all right,” muttered Clarence. He got up and headed for the door. He found himself out in the street dazed.
Broke! Out of work! A mammoth hotel bill staring him in the face! The whole world was upside down.
He wandered about for nearly an hour, trying to adjust himself to this new state of affairs. He was a fool, an utter, credulous fool. He scarcely thought of the good fortune that had dissipated his illusion of impending death. The reprieve brought no feeling of relief in its wake.
Finally, he could see but one course open to him. He went back to the Blodgett Advertising Agency.
"LJIS arrival created something of a sensation. Jardine sat up swiftly, stared, then turned back to his desk. Oscar, the office boy, rushed forward with outstretched hand. Miss Courtney smiled her most seductive smile and patted her hair. Pepperly emerged with warm words of welcome and clapped Clarence on the back.
Clarence nodded without enthusiasm.
“The boss in?”
“Yes, Mr. Waterbury. Walk right in,” chanted Oscar. “He’ll be glad to see you.” Then he raced back to his desk. “Jussa minute. Letter came for you this morning. I was gonna bring it over to the hotel for you.”
Clarence took the letter and Oscar pranced ahead, opening the door of the Blodgett sanctum.
“Mr. Waterbury,” he announced.
Mr. Blodgett’s pleasure was unrestrained. He advanced upon Clarence and pumped his hand.
“Well, well, my boy. Glad to see you. Take a chair. Have a cigar. Glad you decided to drop in.”
Clarence accepted the chair and the cigar. “I’d like my old job back,” he said abruptly.
Mr. Blodgett beamed.
“That’s the spirit. That’s the spirit. Doesn’t pay to loaf, does it? A little holiday is all right, but a man likes to get back into harness. Your old job back, eh? Ha-ha! Well, I’m afraid we can’t give you back the old job.”
“Got somebody else?”
“Oh, no. But I think you can be more useful to the firm in other capacities.” Mr. Blodgett lowered his voice. “Matter of fact, my lad, I don’t think your full worth was ever appreciated here. Since you left us, I’ve learned a few things. I’m afraid Jardine was depending rather heavily on you. That, of course, will have to be changed. Now, I mentioned the matter of a partnership the other evening. I’m not getting any younger . . .” Clarence held up a restraining hand. “I’d like to explain a few things, if you don’t mind. I think you have a wrong idea about me, Mr. Blodgett. In the first place, I haven’t any money. I want my job back because I’m broke.”
Mr. Blodgett gaped at him, incredulously.
“But I understood ...”
“It was all wrong,” said Clarence wearily. “I never said I had a fortune left to me. I’m sorry you got that impression. It was this way ...”
And forthwith he told Mr. Blodgett the entire story.
“So you see how it happened,” he concluded sadly. “I guess I made a fool of myself. If you’d like to take me back I’ll promise to work hard.”
Mr. Blodgett got up and went over to the window. Clarence felt the letter in his pocket and ripped it open. Mechanically he glanced at the sheet of paper it contained. Then he uttered a strangled sound. The document was a statement from the brokerage firm.
“Might . . . might I use your phone?” “Yes, yes, of course,” said Blodgett in an abstracted tone.
Clarence called up Tommy Meadows. “Tommy,” he said, excitedly. “I just received a statement from your firm. There must be a mistake. It’s a receipt in payment for some stock. Gold Valley Mines. I didn’t order any Gold Valley. It was Old Valley.”
“Old Valley!” said Tommy. “Why, that’s an oil stock. We specialize in mines. I thought you knew that. I bought Gold Valley for you. You haven’t any kick coming. The bottom dropped out of Old Valley oil today. Gold Valley
has been climbing ever since you bought it. Right now, I think it has reached the peak. If I were you, I’d get out.”
“Have I . . . have I made any money, Tommy?”
“I’ll say you have. Between three and four thousand berries. You got it cheap. Gold Valley hit three dollars this morning.”
“Sell it, Tommy! Sell it right away.” “At the market?”
“At the market. Anything. Sell it!” “Attaboy!”
Clarence replaced the receiver and mopped his brow with a pocket handkerchief. He was almost giddy with relief and astonishment.
Mr. Blodgett turned away from the window.
“This has been a most surprising affair, Clarence,” he said. “I certainly appreciate your honesty in telling me the truth of it. As you say, it wasn’t your fault that I got the impression you had fallen heir to some money. I jumped at conclusions rather hastily. But, no matter. I stand by my word. We need you here, Clarence . . . that chap Jardine is like a lost sheep when you’re not here. Of course ... a partnership ... I really don’t see how that could be arranged now ...”
“I have a little money. I’d be glad to invest it in the firm if you would let me?” “But I thought you said you were broke?”
“I’m not as broke as I thought I was. I have about three thousand dollars.”
Mr. Blodgett was silent for a long time. Then he walked over to Clarence and extended his hand.
“You’re in the firm, my boy.”
A little later, Mr. Blodgett made mention of a circumstance that sent Clarence’s heart skipping.
“A friend of yours was asking my daughter about you this morning. Seems she thought you were going away, and she was looking for information. Miss Manning, your dinner partner the other evening.”
Clarence shook his head slowly.
“I’m afraid Miss Manning believed in that story about the fortune, too. I guess I’d better let things stand.” Blodgett looked at him curiously. “Why so?”
“It wouldn’t be right ... a wealthy girl like her . .
“Wealthy girl! What are you talking about? Do you mean you think she’s above you? An heiress, or something. She’s been staying in town with her aunt, Mrs. Clayton, but that doesn’t mean anything, even if the Claytons are rolling in coin.” Mr. Blodgett leaned back and laughed. “I think both you young people have been under false impressions.”
“Do you mind if I use your phone again?” asked Clarence.