FICTION

It's In The Stars

In which the stars tell all, Madame Zoroaga assists, a nasty fellow gets his and a little man speaks up

GERTRUDE SCHWEITZER January 1 1945
FICTION

It's In The Stars

In which the stars tell all, Madame Zoroaga assists, a nasty fellow gets his and a little man speaks up

GERTRUDE SCHWEITZER January 1 1945

It's In The Stars

GERTRUDE SCHWEITZER

In which the stars tell all, Madame Zoroaga assists, a nasty fellow gets his and a little man speaks up

LAVINIA MOTT,” Luke’s mother boomed

firmly, “is the woman you’ve been waiting for.” Mrs. Stebbins said everything firmly, pressing her lips together a little after each sentence, putting so emphatic a period to her words that it would have taken a man of strong conviction to dispute her. Luke was not a man of strong conviction, but he had his thoughts. “The woman youi'e been waiting for, you mean,” went his thoughts.

“You can be glad you didn’t lose your head in your twenties, like so many men,” his mother went on, “and marry some giddy young thing who could never have made you happy. Lavinia is a good sensible woman.”

“I don’t want a good sensible woman,” said Luke’s thoughts. “I want Sylvia.”

But his tongue only said, “Yes, mother,” in the meek faint voice he had acquired from 39 years with the booming Mrs. Stebbins. “Yes, mother, she certainly is.”

He finished his breakfast coffee, despite its suddenly bitter taste. It would not have occurred to him to set the cup down half full. He finished it, and wiped his mouth very carefully, and then went around the table to kiss his mother’s large firm cheek.

“Well,” he said, “I’ll be off.” He said these words every morning, and although there was a certain dash to them there was no dash to the way he said them. He offered them tentatively, almost mumbling, as though a little ashamed of them, or not altogether sure they were true. But it was only his normal way of speaking, just as the lip-pressing firmness was his mother’s way.

He left the house with his hat set squarely on his head. It was early summer, and Luke had good, thick hair, but he would not have thought of going without a hat. He walked along in an unconscious rhythm, as though he were marching, taking 20 slow deep breaths. Every fair morning he walked the three quarters of a mile from his house to the store and took 20 slow deep breaths on the way.

Now as he went he thought about Lavinia Mott, and he knew that he could not much longer put off proposing to her. His mother was becoming impatient. Not a day passed without mention of Lavinia’s virtues and Luke’s good fortune in having ensnared her affections. Almost every evening he found himself on Lavinia’s porch, shooed there by his mother. Very soon now he would have to ask her to marry him.

Luke sighed a little. No doubt he would be quite happy with Lavinia. She was very like his mother, a good, firm, big woman, who would devote herself to him just as his mother had done. Besides Lavinia’s

first husband had left her what Mrs. Stebbins called “nicely fixed,” so that her addition to their household would decidedly augment Luke’s rather meagre salary.

Certainly he could not do any better. There was no use going on with his absurd hopes forever. He was almost 40 now and it was time he married. He had never really thought, even when he was 30, that he could attract a girl like Sylvia Fowler, so at nearly 40 the idea was preposterous.

Nevertheless now, as he approached Sylvia’s house, he slowed up a little. He did not yet see her coming down her path, and he wanted to pass just as she came out, tne way he did almost every morning. He wanted it to look like an accident that he always happened by at the time she left the house.

He slowed almost to a stop, but when she did not come out he had to go on. If he stayed and waited for her she might think he had the nerve to entertain ideas about her. He had, of course, entertained ideas for a good many years now, but as long as he kept them to himself there was no harm done. Even a cat can look at a queen. Even a thin, slow-moving, plain Luke Stebbins can think romantic thoughts about a sweet and lovely Sylvia Fowler.

He had gone only half a block when he heard hurrying footsteps behind him and her voice calling him. She had a wonderful voice, he thought. It was not the least bit firm, only warm and sort of melting.

“Hello!” She came up to him breathlessly, her soft, brown hair just slightly awry, her cheeks flushed, looking like a young girl, though he knew she was past 30. “I thought I was going to be late,” she said. “I overslept.”

Instantly he had the most disgraceful vision of her asleep, her hair loose about her flushed face and her shoulders showing round and bare above the bedclothes. It embarrassed him so that for several moments he could not speak.

“Well, my goodness,” she said, laughing up at him, “you are preoccupied this morning. What is it—big business?”

She was making fun of him. “What big business would I have?” he said, with unaccustomed bitterness. “A clerk in Harvey’s!”

She frowned and looked about to say something, but just then they crossed the road to the lots where stood a row of new little bungalows and several small, new store buildings, the earth still freshly turned around them. Her attention shifted.

“The town’s growing,” she said. “I guess we’re getting the overflow from the factory in Granthurst. Look—someone else has moved in since Friday.”

Three of the five stores were still unoccupied, but in

one a haberdashery had been open for business for several weeks. The other, a tiny place squeezed between two large ones, focused the eye like a red signal light. In the window stood a large chart, covered with moons and stars and figures of animals with Latin names. All around it were grouped large cardboard stars, their gilt a little tarnished, and directly in front, on a wrinkled purple velvet scarf, was a placard that read:

“COME IN!

KNOW YOUR FUTURE . . .

It’s in the Stars”

Over the entrance, which had a heavy flowered curtain for a door, another sign stated that this was the establishment of Madame Zoroaga, famous Egyptian astrologer.

Sylvia and Luke peered in the window. There was no one inside, and nothing except an old bridge chair, more charts covering the walls, and another curtain leading to the back of the store.

They walked on again. “Do you believe in anything like that?” Sylvia asked him. “Do you think anyone can read your future?”

“I don’t know as I’ve ever really thought about it. I don’t suppose I believe it.”

“You can’t be sure though,” she said eagerly. “After all, there’s so much we don’t know about life and the universe and everything. How can we be sure there aren’t people who can read the future?”

“No,” he said, in his soft, almost mumbling voice, “no, when you think of it like that, I guess you can’t be sure.”

But he was not really thinking of it at all. He was thinking how pretty she looked when she was earnest, her dark eyes big and serious.

“I don’t believe I’d want to know what was going to happen, though,” she was saying. “Most of the fun is in hoping for things, and if you knew they were never going to happen—” She broke off and gave him her swift, sweet smile. “Well, here’s where I leave you. Good-by, Luke.”

HE WOULD have liked to stand and watch her go up the hill to the school where she taught, but of course he couldn’t. She would think it was presumptuous. But as he went on he imagined how she looked, and the picture stayed with him all the way to the store, so that he did not have to think ol‘ Lavinia once.

He was always the first one at work. He liked to get his stock out and arrange everything before the others came, because it was always easier for him to work when he did not think people were watching him, ready to criticize. He liked to put the ties in a certain order, according to his own color scheme, and he was never satisfied with the way the cleaning woman dusted the showcases. He had everything ready, neat and sparkling, before anyone else arrived.

Luke took a personal pride in Harvey’s. It was the oldest store in town, a miniature department store, and Luke had worked there a good many years and seen it grow. He had seen younger and newer men go past him to better positions there too, but he expected that. He was used to watching people go past him everywhere—people who were full of confidence and aggressiveness, people who had ideas, and knew how to express them . . .

Luke sometimes had ideas too, but they never came to anything. Just a couple of weeks ago he had actually voiced an idea he’d had for some time, and afterward he had been sorry. He had thought that the men’s department, where he worked, would do better if it were partitioned off from the rest of the store and had its own entrance. One morning, when the manager of the department seemed unusually jovial, Luke had timidly suggested it to him.

“Maybe lots of men feel funny,” he said, “walking in through Ladies’ Lingerie and all. Maybe if they could come direct to their own store . . .”

Instantly the manager’s good humor had vanished.

“If you thought of that, don’t you think the boss and I did, long ago? We’d lose all the women’s trade that way—now they come in to shop for themselves and just naturally wander over here.”

“But we don’t get such a lot of trade from the women, and maybe the other way we’d get so much more from the men that—”

“Why don’t you stick to what you know about?” the manager said harshly. “You just sell your ties, Stebbins, and let us who have made a study of these things manage the store.” He paused a minute, looking Luke over with a cold, sarcastic eye. “Of course, any time you aren’t satisfied with the way we do things I’ll be glad to have you find more congenial surroundings.”

Since then Luke had made himself even more inconspicuous than before. It was like the early days, when he’d first had a job here and every time one of his superiors approached him he had been afraid he was about to be fired. He was going through the same terror now, and his principal object during his daily eight hours at the store was to keep himself out of the manager’s notice, so that eventually his presumptuousness would be forgotten.

At noon he went to lunch at the cafeteria on the corner. He had the same lunch every day—a bowl of soup, an egg salad sandwich, vanilla ice cream and coffee—and he always took his tray to the same table, over in a corner. He knew most of the people who ate here regularly—some of them were members of his lodge—but he never sat down with any of them. They had their own groups, men who always sat together, and they would have thought Luke was intruding.

“Hello, Stevens!” one of them said to him as he passed by with his tray. “Coming to the lodge meeting tonight?”

“Yes, I guess so,” Luke answered, then went on to his table in the corner. He heard the man who had spoken to him laugh, and he wondered whether it was at him. “Stevens,” the man had called him, although they had been fellow lodge members for 15 years.

1UKE left the house at eight o’clock to attend the j lodge meeting. He had hardly ever missed a meeting except when he was sick, and it was the one excuse his mother considered valid for not calling on Lavinia. “A man should join organizations,” Mrs. Stebbins always said. “That’s how you make connections.” After 15 years she still hoped that Luke would “make connections” through the lodge.

Luke enjoyed the meetings. He liked to be around people and watch them and listen to them talk. But tonight he did not want to go. Tonight they were going to elect new officers and committee chairmen for the following season, and all the old members had already held office. It was Luke’s turn now, but he knew they would not elect him—he never spoke up at meetings and he had no executive ability, and some of the members did not even know his name after all these years. No one would vote for him, even though it was really his turn to hold office.

Nevertheless he had every intention when he left the house of going straight to the lodge. He had told his mother he was going, and besides there was no place else to go except to Lavinia’s.

He walked along in the direction of the town, until he came again to the new houses and stores that he and Sylvia had passed this morning. The lights were on in the haberdashery and he went and looked in. Harvey’s had been closed since 5.30, but this place was still open now, after eight, and Luke counted seven customers inside. Two of them, at least, were men who had often shopped at Harvey’s. If the manager hadn’t been so emphatic about it Luke would have been sure they had come to this new store now because it was exclusively for men—because they didn’t have to walk through Ladies’ Lingerie to get what they wanted. But of course he was wrong. After all, the manager and the boss made a study of these things.

He walked past the next store, and then he went back again. There was the chart with the circle of stars and the pictures of animals with Latin names. “COME IN!” said the placard on the purple velvet scarf. “KNOW YOUR FUTURE . . . It’s in the Stars.”

It would be nice to know your future, Luke thought. It would make everything so much easier. If you knew, for instance, that you were going to marry Lavinia, then you might as well propose to her and get it over with. If you knew you were going to be fired, come what may, you wouldn’t have to worry about it any more, because there wouldn’t be anything you could do anyway . . .

He peered inside, the way he and Sylvia had this

morning, but now everything looked different. The bridge chair was still there, and the charts hanging on the walls, but it was all very dim, with just a faint, purplish, mysterious light over everything. As he watched, the curtain leading to the back moved and a woman appeared. She was a tall large woman with a pale expressionless face and large, dark, blank eyes. Her dress was black, unornamented, and trailing the floor. It was a completely shapeless dress and somewhat dusty, yet she wore it with a certain dignity. Covering her head and her ears was a big purple

velvet turban, and huge pearl earrings dangled almost to her shoulders.

She stood staring at Luke, and he moved away from the window in confusion. But then she came through the outer curtain, on to the sidewalk, and spoke to him. “Come in, gentleman,” she said, in a flat disinterested voice. “Don’t you want to know your future? To be forewarned is to be forearmed. It’s all in the stars.”

“Well, I really don’t think—” Luke mumbled.

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“Eh? Can’t hear you.” She pulled aside the curtain invitingly but with no invitation or interest in her face. “Know thyself,” she intoned. “Selfwisdom is the greatest knowledge. It’s in the stars.”

She went in, still holding the curtain for him, and more because she expected him to follow her than for any other reason, he went in after her. Once inside he found that his heart was knocking with excitement and fright. He had never been in such a place before. He did not know what it was going to be like, what to expect.

“How can we be sure there aren’t people who can read the future?” Sylvia had said. Well, how could you be sure? Maybe this woman had unusual powers that way, just as some people could add up a whole column of figures at a glance. Maybe in a little while she would tell him all about his job, and whether he was going to have to marry Lavinia.

SHE led him through the second curtain, into the back. It was just like the front of the shop, with charts on the walls, and the dim, purplish, mysterious light, only here there was a small table, covered with a black cloth, and two bridge chairs placed opposite each other beside it.

The woman sat down in one chair and beckoned Luke into the other. “You want a personal horoscope,” she asked him, “or general?”

“I don’t know,” he murmured. “What’s the difference?”

“Well, the personal’s much better. You don’t get just a regular printed horoscope. You get one I work out for you personally. Three dollars.”

She said the amount with a little drop to her voice which seemed to suggest that a man like Luke would certainly not hesitate over such a trifling amount. He nodded quickly. After all, he told himself, three dollars was not such a lot for something she was going to work out for him personally.

“Your name, please, gentleman.” “Luke Stebbins,” he murmured. “Eh? You’ll have to speak up.” “Luke Stebbins.” He spelled it for her.

“All right. Now that’s just so I can mark your horoscope. It doesn’t matter to me what your name is. What I work on is the stars you were born under. Date of birth?”

“Sept. 24, 1905.”

She nodded, writing slowly on a pad with a stub of pencil. “All right, gentleman,” she said. “You come back in two days, I’ll have it for you all complete—day by day advice for 12 months ahead, complete character analysis, predictions for love and business, international predictions.” She stopped and took a breath. “You pay half now and half when you get it.” “Oh,” he said. He looked down at his hands and then across the room at one of the charts. “Couldn’t you tell me anything now? I mean, I thought you were going to tell it to me now. Some of it anyhow.”

“Well, that’s hard,” Madame Zoroaga said. “That would be an extra dollar.”

Sometimes at the lodge they were asked to buy chances, or contribute to something. For all Luke knew he might have had to spend four dollars there tonight if he had gone.

“All right,” he said.

She took the money and stuffed it somewhere among the folds of her dusty black dress. Then she began writing again with the stubby pencil,

frowning slightly, holding her hand over her forehead as though in deep thought.

Luke fidgeted on the hard bridge chair. There was no sound in the stuffy, purplish little room except the scratching of the pencil and Madame Zoroaga’s heavy breathing. Luke was hardly breathing at all. He was too excited. “After all,” he thought, “we don’t know anything much about the universe. Maybe there are people who can read the future. Maybe in a few minutes I’ll know.”

It seemed an endless time before Madame Zoroaga finally lifted her head. “I worked it out for two days,” she said. “That’ll carry you up to when you get the rest of it.”

“Yes?” he whispered.

“Well, it’s very good. You were born under a lucky star, all right.” She looked into his face with her dark blank eyes. “You’re a kind of a timid man but you’ll get out of that, because you got a wonderful star. Anything you touch will be successful.” She looked down at her pad. “Saturn completes his stay in Gemini on the 20th of this month and enters Cancer, your opposite sign.”

“What does that mean?”

“That indicates a change in your affairs that will have a bearing on home and business.” She put her hand to her forehead again. “Yes, there’s going to be a lot of changes for you in the next three days. Don’t be afraid— speak up—and there will be an improvement in your success, popularity and romantic relations.”

Luke swallowed. “Can you—does it say anything about—marriage?”

“Venus will be in Cancer until the 26th,” she said. “If you speak between those days, the one you love will say yes. Jupiter ends his stay in Leo on the 25th, so if you act boldly in business before then you’ll be successful. High tide tonight, strongly favorable for good contacts and social growth. That’s all, gentleman.”

Luke stood outside on the pavement, blinking in the light from the street lamp. His heart was still thumping and the palms of his hands were wet. He did not remember or understand all those strange names Madame Zoroaga had said, and there was probably nothing in it anyway. Venus will be somewhere or other until the 26th. Well, Venus was the goddess of love— he knew that, all right—and the 26th was three days off. “If you speak between those days the one you love will say yes.” Of course there was probably nothing in it. But the one he loved wasn’t Lavinia, that was sure. He knew who it was, all right. He couldn’t believe in a million years that she’d ever say yes. Still, wasn’t it she herself who had thought that maybe there were people who really could read the future?

He took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his hands, and then he began walking slowly. As he passed the haberdashery, still open and doing business at nine o’clock, he frowned a little. A change in your affairs, he thought. Speak up. But of course you could not take a chance on a thing like that, just because a pale woman in a black dress said so. You might be fired and that would be a change in your affairs all right. Only she had said if he wasn’t afraid and spoke up there would be an improvement. Being fired certainly wasn’t any improvement. “Act boldly in business before the 25th,” she had said, “and you’ll be successful.” But of course you couldn’t take a chance.

He had to stand still then, because he found that he was trembling. He felt strange. It was something like the feeling he’d had at his initiation into

the lodge, when they’d kept on making him drink out of Jim Shower’s flask and he’d made a speech. He couldn’t remember what the speech was about, just that everybody had laughed and laughed and he’d felt so foolish when he thought about it afterward that it was a month before he had the nerve to show up at the lodge again. He had never made another speech, and he had promised his mother never to come home in such a condition again.

Well, he couldn’t go home now, the way he felt. He was trembling and his cheeks were hot and he was sort of dizzy, just the way he had been that time. If he went home his mother would certainly think he had been drinking again.

Anyway, Madame Zoroaga had said something about tonight. “High tide,” she had said. “Favorable for good contacts and social growth.” Good contacts. That meant the lodge, all right, and so did social growth. It had to mean the lodge, because what else was there tonight that could bring him good contacts and social growth? He looked at his watch. Nine o’clock wasn’t too late to go. They would just about be starting the nominations at nine o’clock.

YOUR lodge meeting was over later than usual last night,” Mrs. Stebbins said firmly. “I heard you come in.”

“That’s right,” Luke said. He smiled gently at his coffee. “We had elections.” He looked up, shifting the smile to his mother. “I was elected third vice-president.”

“You were? Isn’t that splendid!” Mrs. Stebbins beamed. “Won’t Lavinia be pleased when you tell her tonight.” Luke still smiled, but he did not answer. He drank his coffee and kissed his mother’s cheek and went out into the morning sunshine. His thoughts lingered pleasantly upon last night.

“Speak up,” Madame Zoroaga had said. Well, he had spoken up. They were just starting the nominations when he arrived at the lodge. He had gone in, still with that trembling, dizzy feeling, and Bill Hanson, one of the younger members, standing at the door, had said, “Good evening, Mr. Stebbins — glad you could come.” There's an up-and-coming young fellow, Luke had thought. He doesn't forget a man's name like some. And it had seemed a good sign—“favorable” was the way Madame Zoroaga put it—that this up-and-coming young fellow knew who Luke was and was glad to see him.

“I have a nomination to make,” he had heard himself saying. He must have said it good and loud too, because everybody kept quiet and looked around at him. He was standing right up in the middle of the hall, and his knees felt a little funny, but he just kept thinking about that strongly favorable high tide.

“I want to nominate Bill Hanson,” he said. “We need some new blood in this lodge—new young blood. We ought to be glad we can get it, the way things are. Here we’ve got a chance to get a fellow like Bill Hanson, who would be in the Army if his eyes were better, and I think we ought to take it. There’s no rule in this lodge that says it’s always got to be run by us old members and so I want to nominate Bill Hanson for president—a fellow who would be in there cleaning up the Axis if it wasn’t for his eyes.”

There was long, loud applause. Any mention of cleaning up the Axis, in whatever connection, was sure to get long, loud applause, but Luke did not think of that. He listened to the sound of it and his heart swelled. He was not even surprised when, a little later, Bill Hanson jumped up and nominated him for third vice-president, because it was

all working out just the way Madame Zoroaga had predicted.

“It’s the old members like Mr. Stebbins,” Bill Hanson said, “who have made this lodge what it is with their loyalty and everything ...” Afterward, when he was congratulating Luke, one of the men said, “That was a swell nominating speech you made for Bill Hanson. Never knew you had it in you, boy”—and the man grinned and clapped him on the back. It was the first time in more than 20 years that anyone had called Luke “boy.” It was the first time any of the lodge members had ever clapped him on the back. “You were born under a lucky star,” Madame Zoroaga had said. “Speak up, and there will be an improvement in your success, popularity and romantic relations . . .” It was a wonderful thing, Luke thought, to be born under a lucky star. He began to whistle as he walked along, and then he took off his hat, because there was something about whistling that went with being bareheaded in the warm summer sun. He did not see Sylvia as he approached her house but he stopped at her gate and waited. Then when the door of her house opened he almost ducked back out of sight again. For a moment he was panicky, and the thought was big in his mind that maybe the election last night had been only a coincidence— maybe it hadn’t been his lucky star at all. How can you bank on a thing like that? he thought. How can you be sure?

But before he could move Sylvia spied him, and she came down the path with a little run, smiling. “Oh, hello!” she said. “I’m awfully glad you waited for me.”

“Are you?” He looked down at the hat in his hand, and then up somewhere in the region of her soft, round chin. “Are you?”

“Well, of course I am.” She laughed a little and linked her árm through his as they walked off together. “I used to think sometimes you were trying to avoid me.”

“You didn’t!”

She nodded vigorously. “Yes, I did. After all, we’ve known each other such a long time and you’ve never—” She stopped so suddenly that he had to look at her, and his glance was in time to catch the slow spreading pink of her cheek. He looked away again and swallowed twice past a large, dry obstruction in his throat.

“Would you — do you think I might—” he stammered hoarsely. “I’d like to — maybe — call on you tonight—”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said quickly.

He might have known it. He might have known it was all nonsense. Of course she didn’t want him to call on her. Why should she—a sweet, attractive woman like Sylvia, and a dull, homely nobody like himself? Speak up, Madame Zoroaga had said, and the one you love—A lot she knew about it . . . she and her lucky stars and favorable tides!

But Sylvia was saying, “There’s a teachers’ meeting tonight and I can’t possibly get out of going. I’ll be home tomorrow night though, and I’d love to have you come.”

Luke was scarcely able, to tell her that he would be there the next night. His voice came out in a kind of trembling whisper, because he could hardly believe it. He could hardly believe it was really happening, just the way Madame Zoroaga had predicted.

Then Sylvia said, “My goodness, I didn’t think you were ever going to ask me for a date,” and she laughed and blushed again. And he said, “Neither did I. It’s taken me all this time to get up the nerve,” and he laughed too, and almost miraculously there was no more shyness between them, no

strangeness. “I guess I can call you Sylvia,” he said firmly.

“Well, I should think so,” she answered. “I should think so—Luke.” He said nothing to her as they passed Madame Zoroaga’s shop. He had a feeling it might have a bad effect on his lucky star to speak of it, just as wishes were not supposed to come true if you told them to anyone. But he did tell her all about his idea that the new haberdashery was getting a lot of Harvey’s business because men liked to shop in a place for men only.

“That sounds reasonable,” she said. “It certainly does.”

“Yes, well I’ve just been working it all out in my mind.” He looked up ahead of him and blinked, but it was not because of the sun. It was the enormity of what he was about to say that dazzled him. “I’m going in and tell the boss about it this morning, and if anybody doesn’t like it, well, they can just lump it. There are plenty of other jobs. Sure,” he said, glaring at nothing in particular, “there are plenty of other jobs.”

IT WAS different when you were actually standing outside the boss’s office, ready to knock on the door. Luke, walking home from the store in the evening, thought of tiie way his legs had felt, as though they weren’t there, and how heavy his arm had been, so that he could hardly raise it to knock. He wouldn’t have done it just then—he would have waited a while, until he didn’t feel so nervous—only that Madame Zoroaga had said that about acting boldly in business before the 25th, because of Leo or somebody. And since tomorrow was the 25th he didn’t have much time.

The boss was a large, dark, forbidding-looking man who had many other interests besides this store and was there for only a few hours each day. He looked Luke over with little sharp brown eyes.

“Well, Stebbins?”

“It’s—the men’s department, sir—” “Speak up, Stebbins. I can hardly hear you.”

Speak up, and there will be an improvement in your success . . .

Luke cleared his throat and talked rapidly. “The men’s department. I think it should be partitioned off, sir, with a separate entrance. Some men don’t like to go through Ladies’ Lingerie to get what they want. I’ve seen quite a few of our old customers at the new haberdashery. Their merchandise can’t compare with ours, but I think they like to go there because it’s just for men.”

Now, as he walked along whistling, the late afternoon sun still warm on his bare head, Luke renewed in his mind the pleasure of that next hour in the boss’s office . . . the way his sharp little eyes had brightened with interest . . . the way he had barked into the telephone . . . the manager’s face as he had stood beside Luke in front of the boss’s desk—and that feeling of being bigger than the manager, much bigger . . .

They were going to put in the partition and the separate entrance as soon as they could get carpenters. The boss had found' out that the reason the manager had squashed Luke’s idea was because his brother-in-law owned the new haberdashery. Now Luke was the manager instead. It had all happened just like that, in an hour. Luke had been a salesman in Harvey’s tor 18 years, and now, because his stars were properly situated, in one hour he had become the manager of the men’s department.

He was going to stop at Madame Zoroaga’s place to get the rest of his horoscope and to tell her how exactly

Maclean's Magazine, January I, 1945

all her predictions had turned out. He thought he would give her a little something extra, too, because if she hadn’t told him the way his stars were situated and that he had to speak up in a hurry he would have let everything go until it was too late. He would never have made that speech about Bill Hanson or spoken to the boss, and he would have proposed to Lavinia Mott without even knowing that Sylvia liked him. Actually, when you came to think about it, Madame Zoroaga had made him just about the happiest man in the world.

It was hard to tell, from her blank eyes, whether she recognized him when he walked in.

“Luke Stebbins,” he said. “I’ve come for my horoscope. You said—”

“Yes, Mr. Stebbins.” She rummaged around in a drawer and found a large, folded blue paper with his name typed on the front. “You’re the lucky one all right. I never see such a lucky star. That’s one-fifty, please, gentleman.” But Luke was staring at the typewritten words under his name. “This is a mistake,” he said. “This says Dec. 24.”

“Well, that’s what you told me, Dec. 24. You was sitting right there, and I remember thinking Dec. 24 was Christmas Eve, and so it ought to be lucky, and then when I worked it out for you for a couple days it was just like I thought . . .”

“But I couldn’t have told you Dec. 24, when I was born Sept. 24. I guess I ought to know . . He broke off and looked at her with his mouth open. After a minute he said slowly, “Do you mean to say that everything you predicted the other night was for somebody born Dec. 24?”

“Well, that’s what you told me,” she said irritably. “I can only go by what the customers tell me.”

1HOPE,” Mrs. Stebbins said firmly, “that you are going to call on Lavinia tonight. Lavinia Mott is a very fine woman.”

“That may be,” Luke replied. “However, I am not going to call on her tonight. I am not going to call on her any night. I have, mother dear, other plans altogether.”

His mother gaped at him. “What are you talking about? I never heard such nonsense. Why, you ought to thank your lucky stars that a good sensible woman like Lavinia Mott— “Lucky stars,” Luke broke in firmly, “have nothing at all to do with it. Even though I was not born on Dec. 24, I became third vice-president of the lodge, manager of the men’s department, and I got a date with Sylvia. The chances are that in time Sylvia and I—”

“Luke,” his mother gasped, “are you out of your mind?”

“Not at all.” He rose from the table and kissed her large firm cheek. “Well, I’ll be off,” he said, in a good clear voice, and there was a certain dash to the way he said it. “I’m a very busy man.”

Pass Along Your Maclean’s to the Boys in Uniform

Letters from troops, sailors and fliers tell how much they enjoy seeing Maclean’s. If when finished with your copy you take it to the Active Service Magazine Depot in your city or to a Navy League branch, it will be sent to the boys in uniform here and overseas and to the men on the merchant ships. If there are no depots near you write to Active Service Magazine Depot, 122 King Street West, Toronto, or to Navy League Magazine Depot, 1193 Bay St., Toronto. Or give your old copies to a salvage organization. Paper is needed in the war effort. Do not burn or destroy it.