FICTION

The Woman’s Place

Business rules govern the business woman but for the girl in love there's only one rule

ELMER DAVIS June 1 1939
FICTION

The Woman’s Place

Business rules govern the business woman but for the girl in love there's only one rule

ELMER DAVIS June 1 1939

The Woman’s Place

FICTION

Business rules govern the business woman but for the girl in love there's only one rule

ELMER DAVIS

THE CLUB dining room was emptying, the luncheon party at the president’s table was breaking up; one woman after another rising, with a nod to Marcia and her guest, to go back to work—brisk, competent, confident women, who were needed at their desks, and looked it. Doris Mastick’s eyes followed them out. enviously—women who were needed. Of course David needed her—and she needed him; but there wasn’t much they could do about that till some employer needed her too.

The woman beside her had left; the one beyond—older than the others, though she tried not to look it—moved over into the vacant chair.

“Your first time at the Minerva Club?” she asked. Doris nodded. “It wasn’t going so well,” said the other, “till we elected Marcia president. She’s put us on our feet. But she always does everything well, of course. You’re her cousin-or a niece, perhaps?” (She could be my aunt, Doris realized ; she’s thirty-four.)

“No relation,” Doris replied. “When I was at Varsity, I interviewed her for a series the college paper was running on successful women. She happened to like what I wrote— and me too, I guess; so now she’s trying to put me on my feet. I’m looking for a job, you see—my first. If you—” She flushed; it must be the tenth time she had said this today, the hundredth time this summer. “I don't know where you work, Mrs.—Mrs. Carhart, isn’t it?—but if you know of anything, no matter what it is— ”

“I work in an investment house,” said Mrs. Carhart, “and we’re just taking back the people we had to lay off last winter. We’ve got a long waiting list of people with experience . . . What can you do?”

“Well, I’ve studied shorthand—but I know that field is overcrowded. I worked on the college paper—not that that counts with city editors

“I suppose Marcia tried to get you a job on the Record, and couldn’t?”

“She’s tried to help me to a job on every newspaper in town, but they all have waiting lists too. I’ve sold two or three stories to her Sunday editor—but just little things, ten dollars or so apiece.”

“I see. And you can’t live very long on ten dollars, can you?”

"Oh, I live at home,” Doris began, “but—”

“Then what right have you to try for jobs that other girls really need?” Mrs. Carhart demanded. “We all have to learn new ethics, in hard times. There’s been an addition to the Ten Commandments—thou shalt not take a job that somebody else needs more than you do. I can understand that you want to be doing something, but so long as you don’t have to—”

"Oh, I don’t absolutely have to. But I’m twenty-two; my father’s supported me long enough. He makes just about enough to go around, and he could start saving for my younger sister’s education if he had me off his hands.” She paused: then, defiantly; “Besides, I want to get married.”

“I see. And your boy hasn't any job either?”

“He certainly has—at forty a week,” said Doris proudly. “But he has to send half of thatsometimes more—to his people. So unless I . . .

But perhaps this doesn’t seem important to anybody else.”

“I can remember,” said the other dryly. “I can even remember that people used to argue about what was a marriageable girl’s biggest asset— good looks, good nature, intelligence, what have you. No doubt about the answer now; it’s a job And where is that going to get us, I wonder?

Once let a man find out that you’re a good provider and he may let you provide; it’s the clinging vines that have successful husbands.” Doris was looking rather shocked. “This is observation, not confession,” said Mrs. Carhart. “I’m a widow. But some of these women you met today could tell you; they’re all married, even if they call themselves Miss. And of course if you’re a friend of Marcia's ..

Now Doris was really shocked. She knew Marcia’s husband. an engineer, and had got the impression that he was as successful in his line as Marcia in hers. But maybe that was only Marcia’s story.

“I’m talking too much,” said Mrs. Carhart, rising. “I'd better lx? getting back to my desk, before they give my job to somebody else at half my salary. I hope you find something but not anything that somebody else needs more than you do.”

AND NOW they were all gone but Marcia, who signed ■ the check and inspected herself in the mirror of her compact. Doris envied what she saw in Marcia a smooth dark smartness that made her. blond and young, feel even younger, even blonder. My type goes well at parties, she mused drearily, but people don’t want to hire us . . Marcia's compact snapped shut.

“Well?” she said, smiling. “Any luck?” Doris shook her head.

"None of them knew' of anything. But they’re a swell lot, Marcia; it was awfully decent of you to give me a chance to meet them. Who’s Mrs. Carhart, by the way?”

“Office manager for an investment trust. Why? Did she give you any hope?” Doris laughed cheerlessly.

“On the contrary. She seemed to think that just because I don’t have to sleep on a park bench, I’ve no right to want a job at all.”

"Oh. nonsense! She’s neurasthenic about her own job. She certainly needs it. with three boys to put through school, but it’s safe enough - not because she needs it but because she’s competent. I’ve heard her talk that way, and I’ve no patience with it. After all. nobody’s going to starve; if you can’t get work there’s always relief.

And above the starvation line, who’s to say whether one person's need is more than another's? Business isn’t charity; jobs ought to go to the people who can do the work. So you take whatever you can get, Doris, whenever you can get it.”

From anybody else that might have sounded callous, but not from Marcia. She had made her job, worked out the idea of that double-width column“Homes You Love to Live In,” by Marcia Tenney—that by now was such a feature of the Weekly Record. A column that described apartments and decorations and furniture, and the ways you could combine them, so alluringly that her salary of $90 a week was only a drop from the bucket of the advertising she attracted. Marcia made business; she hadn't taken anything away from anybody.

“Oh, I'll take anything I can get,” Doris promised, but she didn't seem very hopeful. (Poor thing, thought Marcia, I ought to cheer her up.)

“Well, don't go job-hunting this afternoon,” she said. “It’s too hot. I’ve got to see some decorators and realtors; w'hy not come along?”

“But wouldn't I be in your way?”

“Heavens, no. This gets to be routine with me; it would do me good to get a fresh point of view. If it would amuse you—”

"To see how a real reporter works? I’d love it.” Marcia shrugged.

“This isn’t real reporting; the people I meet want to tell me all they know. I wasn’t much good at digging up what people didn’t want me to know; I’d never have got anywhere if I hadn’t invented a specialty.”

That’s the trick, thought Doris; think up something that nobody can do but you. If only I could have one of those bright ideas . . .

So she went along with Marcia, but she didn’t love it. Looking at smart apartments, modern furnishings, wasn’t much fun for a girl whose family lived in five cramped rooms, amid worn and shabby furniture they would never be able to replace; still less for a girl who wanted to get married, and couldn’t. Perfect little apartments where a bridal couple would start housekeeping; splendid big apartments such as people needed w’ho could afford to have children. Not much fun . . . But she took care to keep her ears open, to remember the price of everything, in case Marcia asked her questions, tried to get her fresh point of view.

But Marcia didn’t. When they left the last decorator’s shop toward five o’clock and stepped out into the heat waves beating up from the pavements, Marcia’s smooth smartness looked rather wilted.

"This weather takes it out of me,” she confessed. "Thank heaven my vacation begins next week; Muskoka’s just what I need. I’m not going back to the office; I’m going home to bathe and get into something cool. Why don't you come along, Doris, and stay for dinner? Tony’s out of town seeing about a job; I’m all alone and I’d like company.”

‘Tve got a date. I’m to meet David when he gets out of the office.”

“Bring him along.” Doris hesitated. “No?” said Marcia, smiling. "Three’s a crowd? Well, stop in for a moment anyway, and stay for dinner if you want to. I like your David.”

“All right,” Doris promised. "We’ll drop in, even if we don’t stay.”

AS MARCIA’S key turned in the lock she was thinking only of how hot and tired she was; but she forgot that as the big handsome man in the living room rose with a glass in his hand, to greet her.

“Tony!” she gasped in delight. “You’re home early.” She kissed him; then, still clinging to him: "1 didn't expect you till Friday.”

He t(x)k her hands off his shoulders, went back to his drink, finished it in one long draught.

"I thought I’d better come back,” he said. “They were getting tex) near my price.” She looked at him blankly. “There’s politics in that job. Marcia. Studying the estimates, 1 could see that sonub xlv was getting ready to get away with quite a lot of gravy, and they wanted a respectable engineer in charge to make it >k right . . . That’s something, after all that my reputation is still good enough to kill off suspicion and cover up a mob of connivers . . . However, I said no.”

“But of course you said no! Why are you so apologetic about it?”

"You know why,” he said. “Because I haven’t worked for six months. Because this is the only job in sight at the moment—unless something comes of that B. C. prospect I mentioned.”

“But you couldn’t go to B. C.; you’d have to live there. It’s a pity this other thing turned oat so badly; you could have spent your week-ends at home. But if it's that sort of job, you couldn’t touch it.”

"Oh. certainly not.” Tony agreed, mixing himself another drink. “Ethics are a luxury these days but I can afford luxuries; my wife keeps me.”

“Tony, do we have to start that again?”

"No. We don’t have to start anything. We can take things in our stridebecause you make a living for both of

us. In the last nine years I’ve worked four years and two months. But that’s all I need to work,” he said cheerfully. "I’m kept.”

"Tony, please! When we were first married, and you were making big money, and I was just a thirty-dollar-aweek reporter, keeping my job for the fun of it till we were ready to have children—T spent all I made on clothes and so on, and you paid everything else. But I never thought of myself as being kept. I was living with—with the man I loved,” she said, flushing. “And I hope you’re still living with the woman you love, even if we have been married ten years.”

“Thank you,” he said dryly. “I’d hate to think I was living with—and on —a woman I didn’t love . . . But you wouldn’t let me keep you, now.

When I could have had a five-year job on that northern development, Marcia Tenney of the Weekly Record couldn’t stand the idea of being plain Mrs.

Anthony Pogue in the bush. One of us had to give in. You know which one did.”

“Well, good heavens!” she snapped.

“It wasn’t my fault that I kept on working; I had to, after ’29. And then when I’d built myself up, made a success, begun to be somebody, you wanted me to drop it all and go up there to be just an accessory to a successful man!”

“Instead of which, because I cared too much about you to get up and go anyway, I stayed here—an accessory to a successful woman. If I’d never met you I might have starved to death or I might have amounted to something. I don’t know which; but either way I’d be more respectable ... Is Tony working? No of course not; he can’t find a job w’here he could come home week-ends. Let some other poor devil sell his soul to a mob of thieves because his family has to eat, but Tony can afford to stay pure; he’s kept. By heaven. I’d feel cleaner if I were swinging a shovel on relief. But they wouldn’t let me swing a shovel ; my wife supports me.”

That wasn’t his first highball, Marcia realized, or his second. Just when I’m tired and frazzled out he has to start this again.

“Oh, all right,” she said bitterly“But if you’re going to put on an actyou can be your own audience. Stay here and drink yourself blind, if you think that helps you any; but I’m going down to the Minerva Club.”

She was still seething when she sat down in the club reading room and tried to interest herself in somethingand then, for the first time in the last half hour, she remembered her invitation to Doris. &

Y\T AITING at the foot of the elevators jn David’s office building,

Doris saw him before he saw her.

Caught off guard, he looked harassed— as who wouldn’t, with all he had on his mind?—but his face brightened as he met her eyes. Their hands touched briefly; then, as they went out:

"Well?” he said. “What sort of day did you have?”

“Not so good till now. I met a lot of women—just the sort of women I’d like to be; but none of them knew where I could find a job. And I saw a lot of apartments—just the sort of apartments we’d love, if ever we . . . ” They came out of the air-conditioned lobby, and the heat from the sidewalk blasted them. “Isn’t this awful?” she gasped. "I feel all wilted.”

“You don’t look it,” said David, smiling down at her. “I love the way your hair curls when it’s damp; I love—”

“Don’t look at me like that,” she begged shakily. “Not in a crowd.”

"When do I ever have a chance to look at you except in a crowd? Where would you like to eat? It’s pay day; we could afford something a little better than hamburgers and coffee.”

"We’re invited to dinner—with Marcia . . . What’s the matter, David?”

"I don’t like to let people entertain us all the time, when we can never do anything for them. Makes me feel inferior.”

“She bought us lunch once, if you call that entertaining us all the time. People in our position are inferior, and there’s no use in your being so touchy about it,” she finished irritably.

“I suppose I am too touchy,” he admitted. “The whole setup gripes me.”

“I know, my dear. Waiting, and never being sure of anything, gets on our nerves. But we shouldn’t take it out on people who try to help us.”

"Marcia does too much for you; I should think you’d feel dependent. I suppose she likes to feel like a Lady Bountiful, but I’d think you—”

“David !” But her blaze of anger flickered out as she realized that he was jealous of Marcia—Marcia, who was

successful when he wasn't, who could do things for her that he couldn’t. “You needn’t be nasty about her,” said Doris. “She never thinks of herself as Lady Bountiful. She's got everything—a swell job, lotsof nice friends, a husband she’s crazy about and who’s crazy about her; what she does for other people is just an overflow. And you’ve got to be decent to her. I told her we probably wouldn’t stay for dinner but that we’d just stop in for a moment. I thought it might make us feel more—regular. This queer life we lead—holding hands in street cars, making love on park benches when nobody’s passing—I feel as if we were under everybody’s feet, or everybody else under ours. And at home . . . The family tries to keep out of our way but 1 can feel them worrying about us in the next room; we’re a Problem. I thought in Marcia’s living room we might manage to feel for a little while like any other engaged couple, who really believe that some day they can get married.”

“We’re going to be married,” he promised; but they both knew that was the courage of desperation. “Anyway, I’ll be polite to Marcia.”

CO PRESENTLY they were ringing Marcia’s bell—and ^ Tony answered it. He had his hat on; beside him in the foyer was a suitcase.

“Hello,” said Doris. “I didn’t expect . . . Y'ou’ve just got back?”

“Just back and just going out again.” said Tony, a little thickly. “Off on a fishing trip with an old classmate.”

“Oh. This is David Bonner—Mr. Pogue. Marcia asked us to drop in—”

“Then drop in by all means,” said Tony. “My wife’s house is my house. It had better be; I’ve got no other. Unfortunately Marcia had to go down to the club. My wife,” he said apologetically to David, “is a woman of many

interests. Quite a big shot. She was just a kid reporter when we were married, and look at her now. Or for that matter, look at me now.” Doris looked at him; his face was flushed, his eyes were glassy. “Make yourselves at home,” he urged them. “Nice apartment Marcia hassmartly furnished and complete with husband—a streamlined modern husband, noiseless and inexpensive to operate. Here he goes— but you two make yourselves at home.” He went out and left them staring at each other.

“He’s goggle-eyed!” Doris gasped. “And Marcia went back to the club. Why, they must have had a fight ...”

She broke off ; all at once Marcia and Tony didn’t matter. For David was looking at her—not in a crowd. It was almost the first time they had ever been really alone together—except in an apartment-house vestibule, or for about a minute on a park bench; and now they had a whole apartment to themselves. Marcia’s apartment, but— Make yourselves at home . . . Her heart v\as pounding; with a choky little laugh she stumbled into his arms.

A key rattled in the lock; they heard Marcia’s cheery voice.

“So sorry I was called back to the club, but I suppose Tony’s taking care of you.” They managed to unwind themselves just in time as she came in, looked around. “Why, where is Tony?” she asked them.

“He—he went on a fishing trip,” Doris stammered, conscious of her flushed dishevelment.

“Oh, of course. He was expecting a telegram.” Not even Marcia could make that sound convincing. “But I ’m glad he was here long enough to let you in.” she said brightly.

They tried to make conversation; but it didn’t go . . . She knows we know what’s the matter with her, thought Doris, and she knows what’s the matter with us. Darn. Why did she have to come back? ... So when Marcia

repeated her dinner invitation, not very vigorously, they refused and the rest of the evening was like all their other evenings. They dined at a cheap chop house, where a booth gave them a little privacy; the coffee was good even if the steak was only jxissable. But when they finished—

“Well?’ he said. “Like to go to a movie?”

“No. We could go up to the apartmentbut the family’d be around.”

“I know. And I don’t think they like me much.”

“They do. David! Don’t be so touchy.”

“I’m sorry. But they look at me as if I—”

Doris reddened. “They look at us,” she corrected, "as if w'e were—dangerous combustibles. And you can’t blame them; they know how we feel and the spot we’re in . . . If you could afford an apartment, instead of a room in a boardinghouse-

“If I could afford an apartment, we could afford an apartment.”

“I know.” Doris got up jerkily. “Let’s walk.”

But walking was hot w’ork in the sticky night. They strolled to the park, but every bench was occupied. So at last he took her home; and in the shadowed vestibule of the apartment house she clung to him.

“My dear, my dear !” she whispered. “What are we going to do?” But he didn’t pretend he could think of an answer. “There’s only one thing I can do,” she said. “I’ll go jobhunting again tomorrow.”

She lay awake for hours that night, in the stuffy court bedroom she shared with her schoolgirl sister; and to soothe her quivering nerves she let her memory play with the apartments she had seen today, mentally furnishing every one of them for herself and David. Maybe such reveries were an unhealthy escape from reality, but when it was all you could do . . .

But she didn’t go job-hunting next morning; her mother felt the heat and Doris had to do the housework. And toward noon Marcia telephoned.

“Doris, would you mind lunching at the Minerva again today?”

“Why, no; but—you do too much for me.” (But if it meant a job . . . )

“This time,” said Marcia, “maybe you can do something for me.”

SHE HAD found Tony's note on her dressing table, but it didn’t tell much. Fishing trip with a classmate he didn’t say where; he might join her in Muskoka, depending on how the fish were biting. Well, she reminded herself, we’ve had rows before and made them up . . . But she didn’t sleep much that night; and when she woke, her nerves ragged, to another stifling day. she knew six* needed that holiday, even if she had to go alone. Somehow she managed to get to the office; and as she sat down at her desk, her boss—Slavin, the Sunday editorsent for her.

"Marcia, how about putting off your vacation till winter?”

All at once she felt that if she didn’t get out of town next week, she'd die. “Till winter?" she gasped. “But this is the dull season, and the column never runs when I’m on vacation.”

I íe grinned. "Don’t you read the jïapers? The last eight months have been the dull season. Why business started to pick up in midsummer, I don’t know; but it did. and we’ve got to encourage the advertisers. But you do look as if you need a rest.” (Good grief, she thought, if even he sees it . . .) “I guess Miss Slifer can pinch-hit for youwrite your column while you’re away.”

Marcia felt a chill in her spine. Miss Slifer was the ablest, the hardest-working, the most ambitious of the younger people on the Sunday staff. If the public got used to seeing her by-line instead of Marcia’s at the head of the column . . . She couldn’t do what I do, Marcia told herself. It’s only that row with Tony that’s shaken my nerves. Still . . .

“She couldn't do it. Joe. Her stuff is swell but it isn’t that kind of stuff; she’d never pull the advertising. If you’ve got to keep the column running, I might think of somebody outside the staff.”

“Then we’d have to pay an extra salary. The Old Man would never increase my budget now. But Slifer’s on the payroll already.”

“I know, but she couldn’t do this stuff; it’s a special trick. Let me think about it, Joe, and I'll talk to you again after lunch.”

She thought about it, and presently picked up the telephone.

“Doris,” said Marcia at the luncheon table, “I’m on a spot. Somewhere I lost the notes I took yesterday.” (Doris hadn’t even noticed her taking notes.) “I don’t suppose you could remember what we looked at, could you?”

“I’ll bet I can,” said Doris, thrilled at a chance to help her.

Over coffee they talked apartments and furnishings and decorations. Marcia taking notes ostentatiously; and when she went back to the office she went up to Slavin’s desk, serenely assured.

“Speaking of substitutes. Joe, why don’t you try Doris Mastiek?” He stared at her, incredulous. “You've given her some assignments already.”

Continued on page 37

Continued from page 9—Starts on page 7 —

“Yes, and I'd give her more if I didn’t have to keep my staff writers busy; she’s got a nice touch. But you aren’t seriously proposing her for your column? You said yourself it’s a special trick.”

“It is, but she can do it. She went around with me yesterday, and I put her through a quiz at lunch about what she’d seen, without telling her why. She’s got an eye for that sort of thing.”

“But she isn’t on the payroll,” he reminded her, “and Slifer is.”

“Slifer gets forty a week, doesn’t she?— and works hard for it. If you put her on my column—which she’d gum up—you’d have to buy more than forty dollars worth of stuff a week from somebody else. Space rates for the column would be twenty-five; pay Doris that and you’d save money. Take it out of my vacation allowance if you like—but don’t let her know.”

Gosh, he thought, she certainly wants to keep Slifer out of that job.

“Okay, I guess I can chisel another twenty-five a week out of my budget. If you want to give the Mastiek kid a break, I’ll try her.” (I can always put Slifer in, he reflected, if she falls down the first week.)

So the next evening, when David came out of the office, he found Doris waiting at the foot of the elevator, her eyes shining.

“Darling, I’ve got a job! Only for two weeks.” He looked deflated. “But Marcia thinks it may lead to something permanent,” she assured him.

“Marcia again, eh?”

“Marcia again; and even if you don’t like her, you ought to realize what this might mean for us.” She told him about it as they walked to the car stop. “And if I don’t fall down on it,” she finished, “Marcia thinks they might keep me on the staff. If I had a regular salary of twentyfive a week, we could—”

“We certainly could.” It hardly seemed possible, after all their waiting. “Well!” he said. “This calls for a celebration. Let’s—”

“I know your budget, my dear; if you spent money on me tonight you’d live on rolls and coffee the rest of the week. I’m going to take you to dinner when I get my first pay cheque—I’ll save the rest of it for pots and pans; but just now I’m broke too. So you’re invited to dinner with the family. You’re going to belong to it pretty soon, and they want to get better acquainted with you.”

He couldn’t quite share her high spirits; this seemed too good, there must be a catch in it somewhere. But he mustn’t let her see that.

“So they don’t regard me as a combustible now?” he asked, grinning.

“Not a dangerous one,” said Doris blithely. “They’ve got no objection to combustion, you know, if we can use it to keep the home fires burning.”

BUT BY the end of the first week her spirits drooped a little, too. She was working frantically, laboring hard over things that Marcia would have done automatically or simply ignored; and when she turned in her first column, Slavin seemed to like it. It was good to feel that she belonged to an organization, had a place in the world, even for two weeks; it was glorious to get twenty-five dollars on Friday and take David to dinner at Romano’s, a good but inexpensive restaurant, where she had been with Marcia and Tony. But when he ventured to ask her about her prospects of a permanent job—

“I don’t dare say anything to Mr. Slavin,” she said. “He’ll tell me if he wants me. But I’m afraid. They don’t buy much from outside; the staff writers have to work like horses—Miss Slifer, especially. I think she even wanted to fill in for Marcia while she was away.”

“And Marcia worked you in, instead. I wondered why,” he observed.

“Oh . . . You mean she thought I wouldn’t do it—dangerously well?”

“You probably wouldn’t do it so well as an experienced newspaperwoman,” he told her with reckless candor. “And if they’re so hot for saving money—”

“You don’t think I’m much good, do you?” she said bitterly. “You’re probably right about me. But if you're still down on Marcia, after this—”

“I’m not down on her; I only think her picture of the world is Marcia, surrounded by a swarm of admiring satellites. And at least one of them doesn’t like it much—her husband, as we’ve seen.” Then, belatedly realizing how angry she was, “I’m sorry, Doris,” he said contritely.

He had to do a good deal of apologizing before she forgave him; but eventually she didpartly because she loved him. partly because she knew his feeling about Marcia was mostly jealousy, and partly because she understood that disappointment had embittered him. For a few days they had believed she was going to get a regular job, that their way was clear to getting married; but now ... It was enough to embitter anybody.

“Anyway,” she said, “I get one more pay cheque—and we’ll dine here again next Friday night. After that, maybe I’ll have a job; and if not . . . But let’s not think about that now.”

But it was hard to think of anything else the next week; she was grateful for a job that didn’t leave her much time to think, but she could have wished it were some other job than looking at the sort of apartments, the sort of furnishings, that she and David would never be able to afford, even if . . . wearily she turned in her second column.

“Thanks,” said Slavin. “You don’t need to work tomorrow. Miss Mastiek; Marcia will be back in time to carry on for next week.”

“Oh, I’ll make the rounds as usual,” said Doris, trying to keep the bleak disappointment out of her voice. “I'll leave my notes for Marcia; I might save her a little work, even if—if I can’t do anything more.”

“I’ll have an assignment for you before long,” Slavin promised.

An assignment . . . But no job . . . No David.

ON FRIDAY morning Mr. Jonas Meldrum, owner of the Daily Record. sat at his desk reading galley proofs of stories for the weekly paper. He read one set a second time, polished his glasses, and told his secretary to send for Mr. Slavin. And when the Sunday editor stood before him:

“Mr. Slavin,” said Meldrum, “who is Doris Mastiek?”

“A girl who’s written one or two things for us.” By now Slavin had identified the proofs in the Old Man's hand, and wondered what was wrong. He had thought her stuff was pretty good. But it was a point of honor with Slavin to go to bat for his staff. “When Miss Tenney went off on vacation,” he said, “I decided to take a chance and let Miss Mastiek substitute for her. So it’s nobody’s fault but mine if her work isn’t satisfactory.”

“Satisfactory?” said Meldrum. “Every apartment she mentions, you’d think she personally was furnishing it for the man she loves. When she writes about a kitchen, you can hear a bride singing while she washes the breakfast dishes. The advertisers have noticed it, too; there’s been a very gratifying pickup, the business office tells me. Miss Tenney seems to have got into a rut ; but her stuff never had the jump this girl puts into it . . . How much are you paying her?”

“Miss Mastiek? Only space rates— twenty-five a week.”

“Give her fifty,” said Meldrum. “We'll probably have to give her a contract before long, with annual increases, or somebody will buy her column away from us. But you needn’t mention that just yet.”

“Her column? I see . . . But—Miss Tenney? She’s been with us ten years, sir; and most of the time she has to support her husband.”

“This is a newspaper, Mr. Slavin, not a philanthropic institution. However,” said Jonas Meldrum, “nobody is going to be able to say that I—what was Miss Tenney doing before she started this column?”

“She was a reporter. Not a star at all;

I think she was getting thirty a week. She’s a specialist—”

“She was a specialist,” the Old Man corrected. “Sefld her back to the city room and see if She makes good there. Till she does, it’s no more than fair to charge her salary of thirty a week to your budget. But even so, there’ll be a ten-dollar saving that you can apply to other things.” “Fine.” said Slavin. (“I can take that and buy a new press.” But he didn’t say that to Mr. Meldrum; he said it to himself halfway down the stairs, and even there he didn’t say it aloud.)

So when Doris came in that afternoon he sent for her; and two minutes later she was clinging to his desk to keep from dropping where she stood,

“ButI can’t do that !” she said. “I was hoping you might offer me a job, of course. But I can’t take Marcia’s job!”

The moment the words were out of her mouth she realized what she had said. She couldn’t take what he had to offer; she couldn’t take David . . .

“It’s your job now. I understand, of course; she’s your friend—”

“She’s done everything she could to help me, Mr. Slavin. I suspect she even persuaded you to let me substitute for her.” “She did. But don’t torment yourself about that; she may have felt that she was slipping and didn’t think you’d be dangerous competition.”

So ixMhaps David had been right. Yet she owed her chance to Marcia . . . Marcia who had said that business isn’t charity; take whatever you can get. Marcia who had asked, who’s to say whether one person's need is more than another's? But she hadn’t expected those principles ever to apply to her . . . But Marcia had her man, had had him for years; if this were Doris’only chanceand there was no other in sight—to get David . . .

"You mean if I refused this, somebody else would get the job?” she asked. “Marcia’s through, anyway?”

"I don’t know. That depends on Mr. Meldrum; who am I to read his mind? But 1 doubt if he'd offer you anything else, if you refused it.”

“Oh.” Her candid face betrayed her torment; Slavin was sorry for her. “I don’t see how I can.” she said slowly. “Yet if I don’t . . . Tell me honestly, Mr. Slavin if I were your daughter, what would you want me to do?”

“I'm nobody's spiritual adviser,” said Slavin, whose daughter did as she pleased no matter what he wanted. “Figure it out for yourself.”

‘T—I simply can't, now. Will you let me think it over till morning?”

“If you like.” (But I won't mention that to the Old Man, he decided.)

HER FIRST impulse was to take her problem to David; but a moment of reflection told her that she couldn’t do that. He was jealous of Marcia; and now she had to choose between Marcia and him. No, not that— between a chance to live, for him as well as for her. and mere decency. That was one decision she would have to make all by herself . . . She was to meet him at Romano’s--but not for another hour; that gave her time to think.

So she went to Romano’s; and there at a table near the door was Marcia. Of all the people Doris didn’t want to meet just now—but there was no escape.

“Hello!” she said. "1 thought you •weren’t coming back till Sunday.”

“I’m to meet Tony at the apartment; and when I meet him I’ve got to know whether I’ll . . . What will you have. Doris?”

“This is on me,” Doris insisted. “It’s the first chance I’ve had.” (And she owed it to Marcia.) “So Tony’s back from his fishing trip?”

“And he caught a big fish. The old classmate he spoke of got Tony a jobpermanent, apparently. He’s going to live out in B. C. for the rest of his life and he’s given me an ultimatum—drop everything and go with him, or else ... I suppose you wonder why I even think of it; but if you’d been married to David ten years, and were still crazy about him, you’d understand. I see Tony’s point, of course: he’s

given things up for me, for years. But to expect me to give up everything I have here—my friends, the club, my column . . Doris! W’hat’s the matter?” “Your column—they want to take it away from you.”

“And give it to Slifer? . . . What? To you? Why, you little chiseller! Sorry,” said Marcia savagely. “It isn’t your fault. I guess it’s mine; I must have been coasting on what I thought was my reputation. And now—pitched out on my ear . . . Wfiat’s that? Thirty a week in the city room? That helps a lot; I could keep alive, but I couldn’t pay club dues. No more Minerva; no more Marcia, in fact . . . Well, it’s a break for you, anyway.”

“But I haven’t said I’d take it. I’d feel like a d’rty dog—”

Continued on page 39

Continued from page 38

“What? Don’t be a fool! If you want your David . . . Apparently I’m through. If you don't take it, Slifer will . . . Who knows about this, Doris? Only you and me and Joe Slavin, and the Old Man? Then there’s an out for all of us,” said Marcia with bleak acceptance. “I'll resign by night letter—because I’m going with my husband to live in British Columbia. That saves my face around town, and you’re promoted to the vacancy. I wonder if I’d have gone with him anyway,” she speculated in detached curiosity. "Probably I would; I got darned lonesome up at the lake, wondering if he’d ever come back to me. But I’ll never be sure, now.”

Doris smiled wanly. “And I’ll never be sure I’d have had the decency to refuse your job—and David. I don’t know what he’ll think, when I tell him—”

“Tell him?” cried Marcia in horror. “Good heavens, you don't suppose I'm going to tell Tony I’ve been fired, do you? I might have gone with him anyway; and he’ll feel so good to think I gave up everything for him. But it won’t make David happy to know that you ever hesitated for

one instant between him and a fine point of ethics. All his life he’d remember that, whenever you had a quarrel; it would make every hard spot harder. No. my dear, you’ve got to use tact on your husband. I resigned to go with Tony, and left the job open for you. That’s our story; if we ever let our men suspect anything else, we’re crazy.”

But when Marcia had gone, Doris still wondered if she shouldn’t tell David; she hated the idea of using tact on her husband . . . Her husband. It was really going to come true. With her fifty a week, and what David could contribute—why, their household would be as lopsided, financially, as Marcia’s; she'd have Marcia’s problem. All of Marcia’s problems; she must be careful never to coast on her reputation, to get in a rut; never to think of her home as Doris’ home, complete with husband . . . No. she’d better not tell him. She'd need all her tact, even without that.

But she stopped worrying about Marcia’s mistakes when she saw him coming in to meet her. We, she thought proudly, are going to be different.