His Stock In Trade

"The science of salesmanship is quite as exact as the science of

astronomy," said Mr. Gross, casting his eyes down the table to see

that he had the attention of the other boarders, "and much more

intricate. The successful salesman is as much an artist in his line as

the man who paints pictures or writes books."

"Oh, there's nothing so artistic as writing books," protested Miss

Harris, the manicurist. "Nothing except acting, perhaps. Actors are

artistic, too. But salesmen! I meet lots in my business, and I'm not

strong for them."

Mr. Gross smiled at her indulgently; it was an expression that became

him well, and he had rehearsed it often.

"The power to sell goods is a talent, my dear Miss Harris, just like

the power to invent machinery or to rule a city, or--or--to keep a set

of books. Don't you agree with me, Mrs. Green?"

Mrs. Green, the landlady, a brown, gray woman in black, smiled

frigidly. "You're so original, Mr. Gross," said she, "it's a

pleasure to hear you, I'm sure."

Gross was an impressive talker, due to the fact that he plagiarized

office platitudes; he ran on pompously, dropping trade mottoes and

shop-worn bits of philosophy until young Mitchell, unable longer to

endure the light of admiration he saw in Miss Harris's eyes, rolled

up his napkin to the size of a croquette and interrupted by noisily

shoving back his chair and muttering under his breath:

"That stuff comes on printed cards. They give it away."

Mrs. Green called to him, "It's bread pudding, Mr. Mitchell, and very


"Thanks! My gout is bad again," he said, at which some of the more

frivolous-minded boarders snickered.

"Mitchell is a bright boy--in many ways," Gross remarked, a moment

later, "but he's too fresh. I don't think he'll last long at the


Instead of climbing to his hall kennel on the fourth floor rear, Louis

Mitchell went out upon the rusty little porch of the boarding-house

and sat down on the topmost step, reflecting gloomily that a clerk has

small chance against a head bookkeeper.

Life at Mrs. Green's pension--she called it that, rates six dollars

up, terms six dollars down--had not been the same for the youthful

hermit of the hall bedroom since Gross had met him and Miss Harris in

the park a few Sundays before and, falling under the witchery of the

manicurist's violet eyes, had changed his residence to coincide with

theirs. Gross now occupied one of the front rooms, and a corresponding

place in the esteem of those less fortunate boarders to whom the mere

contemplation of ten dollars a week was an extravagance. Mitchell had

long adored the blonde manicurist, but once the same roof sheltered

her and the magnificent head bookkeeper, he saw his dream of love and

two furnished rooms with kitchenette go glimmering.

Time was when Miss Harris had been content with Sundays in the park,

vaudeville--first balcony--on Wednesdays, and a moving picture now and

then. These lavish attentions, coupled with an occasional assault upon

some delicatessen establishment, had satisfied her cravings for the

higher life. Now that Gross had appeared and sown discord with his

prodigality she no longer cared for animals and band concerts, she had

acquired the orchestra-seat habit, had learned to dance, and, above

all, she now possessed a subtle refinement in regard to victuals. She

criticized Marlowe's acting, and complained that cold food gave her

indigestion. No longer did she sit the summer evenings out with

Mitchell, holding his hand in her lap and absent-mindedly buffing his

nails, warning him in sweet familiarity that his cuticle was "growing

down." In consequence of her defection, fierce resentment smoldered in

the young man's breast. He was jealous; he longed to out-squander

the extravagant Mr. Gross; he lusted to spend money in unstinted

quantities, five dollars an evening if or when necessary.

But there seemed little hope of his ever attaining such a purse-proud

position, for while he loomed fairly large in the boarding-house

atmosphere of Ohio Street--or had so loomed until the advent of the

reckless bookkeeper--he was so small a part of the office force of

Comer & Mathison, jobbers of railway supplies, as to resemble nothing

multiplied by itself. He received twelve dollars a week, to be sure,

for making telephone quotations and extending invoices between times;

but when, as the evening shadows of pay-day descended and he drew his

envelope, the procedure reminded him vaguely of blackmail, for any

office-boy who did not stutter could have held his job.

When at seven forty-five Miss Harris appeared upon the porch with her

hat and gloves and two-dollar-ticket air, and tripped gaily away in

company with Mr. Gross, young Mitchell realized bitterly that the cost

of living had increased and that it was up to him to raise his salary

or lose his lady.

He recalled Gross's words at supper-time, and wondered if there really

could be a science to business; if there could be anything to success

except hard work. Mr. Comer, in his weekly talks to the office

force, had repeatedly said so--whence the origin of the bookkeeper's

warmed-over wisdom--but Mitchell's duties were so simple and so

constricted as to allow no opening for science, or so, at least, it

seemed to him. How could he be scientific, how could he find play for

genius when he sat at the end of a telephone wire and answered routine

questions from a card? Every day the General Railway Sales Manager

gave him a price-list of the commodities which C. & M. handled, and

when an inquiry came over the 'phone all he was required, all he

was permitted, to do was to read the figures and to quote time of

delivery. If this resulted in an order the Sales Manager took the

credit. An open quotation, on the other hand, made Mitchell the

subject of brusque criticism for offering a target to competitors, and

when he lost an order he was the goat, not the General Railway Sales


No one around the office was too lowly to exact homage from the

quotation clerk, and no one was tongue-tied in the matter of

criticism, hence his position was neither one of dignity nor one

that afforded scope for talent in the money-making line. And yet if

salesmanship really were a science, Mitchell reasoned, there must

be some way in which even a switchboard operator could profit by

acquiring it. What if he were buckled to the end of a wire? Human

nature is the same, face to face or voice to voice; surely then, if

he set his mind to the task, he could make himself more than a mere

string of words over a telephone. Heretofore he had been working

wholly with his fingers, his ear-drums, and his vocal cords; he

determined henceforth to exercise his intelligence, if he had any. It

was indeed high time, for Miss Harris was undoubtedly slipping away,

lured by luxuries no clerk could afford, and, moreover, he, Mitchell,

was growing old; in a scant two years he would be able to vote. He

began forthwith to analyze the situation.

There wasn't much to it. His telephone calls came almost wholly

from the purchasing departments of the various railroads. Daily

requisitions were filled by the stenographers in those railway

offices, young ladies who through their long experience were allowed

to attend to the more unimportant purchases. It was in quoting prices

on these "pick-ups" that Mitchell helloed for eight hours a day.

Of course no large orders ever came over his wire, but this small

business carried an unusual profit for supply houses like Comer &

Mathison, and in consequence it was highly prized.

After a period of intense and painful thought the young man realized,

for the first time, that it was not the telephone itself which asked

for price and time of delivery, but a weak, imaginative human being,

like himself, at the other end of the wire. He reasoned further that

if he could convince that person that the voice from Conner & Mathison

likewise issued from a human throat, then it might be possible to get

away, in a measure at least, from the mechanical part of the business

and establish altogether new relations. If there were really a

science to salesmanship, it would work at long distance as well as at

collar-and-elbow holds, and Mitchell's first task, therefore, should

be to project his own personality into the railroad offices. He went

to bed still trying to figure the matter out.

His opportunity to test his new-born theory came on the following

morning when an irritable female voice over at the Santa Fe asked the

price on twenty kegs of rivets.

"Good morning, Santa Fe-male," he answered, cheerily.

There was a moment of amazed silence, then the young lady snapped:

"'Good morning'? What is this, the Weather Bureau? I want Comer &


"Gee! Can't a fellow display a little courtesy in business?" Mitchell

inquired. "I'd rather be nice to you than not."

"All right, Mr. Comer," the voice replied, sarcastically. "Make a nice

price on those rivets--and cut out the kidding."

"Listen; my name's not Comer; it's Mitchell. I'm not kidding, either.

I want you to ask for me whenever you call up. Every little bit helps,

you know."

"Oh, I see. You want the carriage man to call your number. All right,

Mitch. If you're out at lunch with Mr. Carnegie the next time I want a

dozen number ten sheets I'll have you paged at the Union League Club."

If the speaker liked this kind of blank verse, she had called up the

right supply house, for Mitchell came back with:

"Say, if I ever get your number, I'll do the calling, Miss Santa


"W-what?" came the startled reply.

"I mean what I say. I'd love to call--"

"Is that so? Well, I do all the calling for our, family, and I'm going

to call you right now. What's the price of those rivets?"

"Two sixty-five."

"Too high! Good-by."

"Wait a minute." Mitchell checked the lady before she could "plug out"

on him. "Now that you've got those rivets out of your system, may I

get personal for an instant?"

"Just about an instant."

"I could listen to you all day."

"Oops, Horace; he loves me!" mocked the lady's voice.

"See here, I'm a regular person--with references. I've been talking to

you every day for six months, so I feel that we're acquainted. Some

pleasant evening, when your crew of hammock gladiators palls on you,

let me come around and show you the difference."

"What difference?"

"I'll show you what a real porch-climber is like."

"Indeed! I'll think it over."

Ten minutes later Miss Santa Fe called up again.

"Hello! I want Mitchell, the junior partner."

"This is Mitchell."

"Did you say those rivets were two-fifty?"

"Should they be?"

"They should."

"They are."

"Ship them to Trinidad."

"That's bully of you, Miss Santa Claus. I want to--" But the wire was


Mitchell grinned. Personality did count after all, and he had proved

that it could be projected over a copper wire.

An hour later when Miss Northwestern called him for a price on

stay-bolt iron she did not ring off for fifteen minutes, and at the

end of that time she promised to take the first opportunity of having

another chat. In a similar manner, once the ice had been broken at

the C. & E.I., Mitchell learned that the purchasing agent was at West

Baden on his vacation; that he had stomach trouble and was cranky;

that the speaker loved music, particularly Chaminade and George Cohan,

although Beethoven had written some good stuff; that she'd been to

Grand Haven on Sunday with her cousin, who sold hats out of Cleveland

and was a prince with his money, but drank; and that the price on

corrugated iron might be raised ten cents without doing any damage.

On the following afternoon Murphy, the Railroad Sales Manager, stopped

on his way past Mitchell's desk to inquire:

"Say, have you been sending orchids to Miss Dunlap over at the Santa

Fe? I was in there this morning, and she wanted to know all about


"Did you boost me?" Louis inquired. "It won't hurt your sales to plug

my game."

"She said you and she are 'buddies' over the wire. What did she mean?"

"Oh, wire pals, that's all. What kind of a looker is she, Mr. Murphy?"

The Sales Manager shrugged his shoulders. "She looks as if she was

good to her mother." Then he sauntered away.

Mitchell, in the days that followed, proceeded to become acquainted

with the Big Four, and in a short time was so close to the Lackawanna

that he called her Phoebe Snow. The St. Paul asked for him three times

in one afternoon, and the Rock Island, chancing to ring up while he

was busy, threatened to hang crepe on the round-house if he were not

summoned immediately to enter an order for a manhole crab.

Within a week he became the most thoroughly telephoned person in the

office, and had learned the tastes, the hopes, the aims, and the

ambitions of his respective customers. Miss C. & E.I., for instance,

whose real name was Gratz, was a bug on music; Miss Northwestern was

literary. She had read everything Marion Crawford ever wrote, and

considered her the greatest writer Indiana had produced, but was sorry

to learn from Mitchell that her marriage to Capt. Jack Crawford had

turned out so unhappily--some men were brutes, weren't they? There was

a hidden romance gnawing at the Big Four's heart, and Phoebe Snow

had a picture of James K. Hackett on her desk and wanted to start a

poultry farm. The Santa Fe had been married once, but had taken her

maiden name, it was so much pleasanter in business.

As Mitchell's telephone orders piled up, day after day, Murphy began

to treat him more like an employee than a "hand," and finally offered

him a moderate expense account if he cared to entertain his railroad

trade. When the young man's amazement at this offer had abated

sufficiently for him to accept he sent the office-boy around to the

Santa Fe on the run, instructing him to size up Miss Dunlap and

report. It was the first order he had ever issued in the office, and

the news spread quickly that he had been "raised."

Mr. Gross took occasion to congratulate the despised underling with

pompous insincerity, whereat Louis admonished him scowlingly to beat

it back to his trial balance or he'd bounce a letter-press on his


When the office-boy reappeared he turned in a laconic report, "She's a


Mitchell sweated the lad for further details, then nearly strained a

tendon in getting to the telephone booth.

"Hello, Miss Dunlap," he called. "Are you tied up for to-night?"

"I'm knot. The k is silent."

"Will you go to the theater with me?"


"No, Montgomery and Stone."

The lady muttered something unintelligible, then she tittered

nervously. "Those top balconies make me dizzy."

"How about the orchestra--sixth row? Could you keep your head there?"

"You must own a bill-board."

"No, it's a bank-book; same initials, you see. I'm an heiress."

"See here, Mitch"--Miss Dunlap became serious--"you're a good little

copper-wire comedian, but I don't know you nor your people."

"Well, I come from one of the oldest families in Atwood, Michigan, and

that town was settled over thirty years ago."

"But you don't know me," the lady demurred.

"I do, too. You're a tall blonde, gray eyes, blue dress; you have a


"Well, I declare! All right, then; seven-thirty to-night, six hundred

and twelve Filbert Street, fourth apartment, and many thanks."

Fifteen minutes before the appointed time Louis Mitchell was fidgeting

nervously outside the Filbert Street cold-water "walk-up" known as

Geraldine Manor, wondering if Miss Dunlap would notice his clothes.

Twelve dollars a week had starved his wardrobe until it resembled the

back-drop for a "Pity the Blind" card; but promptly on the minute

he punched the button at the fourth apartment. An instant later he

realized that no matter how he looked he had it on Miss Dunlap by

eighty per cent.

She was a blonde, to be sure, for the time being, and by the grace of

H{2}O{2}. One glance convinced her caller of two things--viz.,

that his office-boy did not care much for peaches, and that the Santa

Fe purchasing agent had a jealous wife. The most that possibly could

be said in praise of Miss Dunlap's appearance was that she was the

largest stenographer in Chicago. Then and there, however, her caller

qualified as a salesman; he smiled and he chatted in a free and easy

way that had the lady roped, thrown, and lashed to his chariot in

three minutes by her alarm-clock.

They went to the theater, and when Montgomery sprang a joke or Stone

did a fall Miss Dunlap showed her appreciation after the fashion of a

laughing hyena. Between times she barked enthusiastically, giving vent

to sounds like those caused when a boy runs past a picket fence with a

stick in his hand. She gushed, but so does Old Faithful. Anyhow, the

audience enjoyed her greatly.

At supper Mitchell secured parking space for his companion at the

Union Cafe, and there he learned how a welsh rabbit may be humiliated

by a woman. During the debacle he fingered the money in his pocket,

then shut his eyes and ordered a bottle of champagne, just to see if

it could be done. Contrary to his expectation, the waiter did not

swoon; nor was he arrested. Root-beer had been Mitchell's main

intoxicant heretofore, but as he and the noisy Miss Dunlap sipped the

effervescing wine over their ice-cream, they pledged themselves to

enjoy Monday evenings together, and she told him, frankly:

"Mitch, you're the nickel-plated entertainer, and I'll never miss

another Monday eve unless I'm in the shops or the round-house. You

certainly have got class."

At breakfast Miss Harris regarded Lotus darkly, for Mr. Gross had told

her just enough to excite her curiosity.

"Where were you last night?" she inquired.

"I went to a show."

"Were the pictures good?"

"They don't have pictures at the Grand."

"Oh--h!" The manicurist's violet eyes opened wide. "Louis--you drank

something. You're awful pale. What was it?"

"Clicquot! That's my favorite brand."

Miss Harris clutched the table-cloth and pulled a dish into her lap.

After a moment she said: "Maybe you'll take me somewhere to-night. We

haven't been out together for the longest time."

"Oh, I see! This is Gross's night at the Maccabbees', isn't it?" Louis

gloated brutally over her confusion. "Sorry, but I'll probably have to

entertain some more customers. The firm is keeping me busy."

At the office things went most pleasantly for the next few weeks;

sixty per cent. of the city's railroad business came to Comer &

Mathison; the clerks began to treat Mitchell as if he were an equal;

even Gross lost his patronizing air and became openly hateful, while

Murphy--Louis no longer called him Mister--increased his assistant's

expense account and confided some of his family affairs to the latter.

Mr. Comer, the senior partner, began to nod familiarly as he passed

the quotation clerk's desk.

Nor were Louis's customers all so eccentric as Miss Dunlap. Phoebe

Snow, for instance, was very easy to entertain, and the Northwestern

took to his custody like a hungry urchin to a barbecue. He gave them

each one night a week, and in a short time all his evenings were

taken, as a consequence of which he saw less and less of Miss Harris.

But, although he and his manicurist were becoming strangers, he soon

began to call the waiters at Rector's by their given names, and a

number of the more prominent cab-drivers waved at him.

One morning when, for the tenth successive time, he slid into his

desk-chair an hour late, Mr. Comer bowed to him, not only familiarly,

but sarcastically, then invited him to step into his private office

and see if he could locate the center of the carpet. It was a

geometrical task that Louis had been wishing to try for some time.

The senior partner began with elaborate sarcasm. "I notice you're

not getting down until nine o'clock lately, Mr. Mitchell. Is your

automobile out of order?"

"I have no automobile, Mr. Comer," the youth replied, respectfully.

"No? I'm surprised. Well, if eight sharp is too early, you may set

your time."

Mitchell tried his best to appear disconcerted. "You know I'm busy

every evening with my trade," said he.

"Nonsense. I've seen you out with a different dressmaker every night

that I've been down-town."

"Those are not dressmakers, they are stenographers from the railroad

offices. I'm sorry you're not satisfied with me, but I'm glad you

called me in, for I've been meaning to speak to you about this very

thing. You see, I have practically all the railroad business in the

city, and it takes too much of my time keeping it lined up. I have no

leisure of my own. I'll quit Saturday night, if convenient."

Mr. Comer grunted like a man who has stepped off a flight of stairs

one step too soon. "I didn't know it was really business. Of course,

if it is, why, you needn't quit--exactly--"

"I'm afraid I'll have to." Mitchell dropped his eyes demurely. "I've

had a number of offers, and in justice to myself--"

"Offers? You? How much?"

"One hundred a month and expenses."

Mr. Comer removed his glasses, he polished them carefully, then he

readjusted them and leaned forward, looking the young man over from

head to foot, as if he had never until this moment seen more than his

vague outlines.

"Um-m! You're nineteen years old, I believe!"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, then, an hour's delay won't be serious. Now you go back to

your desk and send Mr. Murphy here. I'll let you know shortly whether

Saturday night or this noon will be convenient."

It was perhaps a half-hour before lunch-time when Mr. Comer again

called for Mitchell, greeting him with the gruff inquiry:

"See here, do you think I'm going to advance you from twelve to

twenty-five a week at one clip?"

"No, sir."

"Humph! I'm not. I had a talk with Murphy. I think he's a liar, but

I'm going to make it fifteen hundred a year and expenses. Now get busy

and work your 'trade' for all it's worth."

Young Mitchell's knees wabbled, but, having learned the value of a

black mask and a gun, he went through his victim thoroughly while he

had him down.

"I'd like a traveling position the first of the year, sir, if you

don't mind."

"All right! If you hold your present gait I'll give you the Western

roads. Anything else you'd like? Well, then, git!"

That day Louis switched from the narrow-countered bakery-lunch route

to regular standard-gauge restaurants; he ordered clothes like a

bookmaker's bride and he sent a cubic foot of violets to Miss Harris.

At dinner-time he patronized Mr. Gross so tantalizingly that the

latter threatened to pull his nose out until it resembled a yard of

garden hose.

The whole boarding-house was agog at Mitchell's good fortune and

Miss Harris smiled on him in a manner reminiscent of the good old

ante-bookkeeper--one might say "ante-vellum"--days. She hinted that

Mr. Gross's company did not wholly satisfy her soul-hunger, and even

confessed that she was lonely; but this was Mitchell's Rock Island

evening, and although the frank surrender in Miss Harris's eyes caused

him to gasp as if he were slowly settling into a barrel of ice-water,

he tore himself from her side.

Louis's batting average would have reached one thousand had it not

been for the Monon. Miss Day, the young lady there, had a vocabulary

limited to "Hello," "Too high," and "Good-by," and it became

particularly galling to learn that the fellow at James & Naughten's

was pulling down the business, so Mitchell went to Murphy with a

proposition which showed that his mental growth had kept pace with his

financial advancement.

"You need a new stenographer," he declared.

"Oh, do I? Why do I need a new stenographer, Mr. Bones?"

"Well, it would be a good investment, and I know a corker."

"Who is she?"

"Miss Day, of the Monon."

"I didn't know you cared for Miss Day."

"I don't. That's the reason I want her to work for you."

Murphy coughed slightly, then he agreed. "You're learning the game.

We'll give her a three-dollar raise, and take her on."

Shortly thereafter Mitchell began to get acquainted with the new Miss

Monon along the right lines, and gave her Thursday nights. She was a

great improvement over Miss Day; she was, in fact, quite different

from any of the others. She was small and winsome, and she didn't care

to run around. She liked her home, and so did Mitchell after he had

called a few times. Before long he began to look forward eagerly

to Thursday nights and Miss Monon's cozy corner with its red-plush

cushions--reminiscent of chair-cars, to be sure--and its darkness

illumined dimly by red and green signal lamps. Many a pleasant evening

the two spent there, talking of locomotive planished iron, wire

nails, and turnbuckles, and the late lunch Miss Monon served beat the

system's regular buffet service a city block. Of course they lit the

red fire in front of James & Naughten's and turned the green light

Mitchell's way. He had the right of way on the Monon after that, and

other salesmen were side-tracked.

But this was too easy to last. Human affairs never run smoothly; it is

a man's ability to surmount the hummocks and the pressure ridges that

enables him to penetrate to the polar regions of success. The first

inkling of disaster came to Mitchell when Miss Dunlap began to tire

of the gay life and chose to spend her Monday evenings at home, where

they might be alone together. She spoke of the domestic habits she had

acquired during her brief matrimonial experience; she boldly declared

that marriage was the ideal state for any man, and that two could live

as cheaply as one, although personally she saw no reason why a girl

should quit work the instant she became a wife, did he? She confessed

that Monday evenings had become so pleasant that if Louis could

arrange to drop in on Fridays also, the week would be considerably

brightened thereby and her whole disposition improved. Now Fridays

were cinched tightly to the Big Four, but the young man dared not

acknowledge it, so he confessed that all his evenings except Monday

were taken up with night school, whereupon Miss Dunlap, in order

to keep abreast of his mental development, decided to take a

correspondence course in Esperanto.

It transpired also that his attentions toward the Lackawanna had

been misconstrued, for one night when Phoebe bade him adieu in the

vestibule she broke down and wept upon his shoulder, saying that his

coldness hurt her. She confessed that a rate clerk in the freight

department wanted to marry her, and she supposed she'd have to accept

his dastardly proposal because a girl couldn't go on working all

her life, could she? Then Miss Gratz, of the C. & E.I., following a

red-letter night at Grand Opera, succeeded by a German pancake and a

stein at the Edelweiss and a cab-ride home, took Louis gravely to task

for his extravagance and hinted that he ought to have a permanent

manager who took an interest in him, one who loved music as he did and

whose tastes were simple and Teutonic.

When the literary lady of the Northwestern declined a trip to the

White City and began to read Marion Crawford aloud to him Louis awoke

to the gravity of the situation.

But before he had worked the matter out in his own mind that rate

clerk of whom Miss Lackawanna had spoken dropped in at Comer &

Mathison's, introduced himself to Mitchell and told him, with a degree

of firmness which could not be ignored, that his attentions to Miss

Phoebe Snow were distasteful. He did not state to whom. Louis's caller

had the physical proportions of a "white hope," and he wasted few

words. He had come to nail up a vacate notice, and he announced simply

but firmly that Miss Snow's Wednesday evenings were to be considered

open time thereafter, and if Mitchell elected to horn his way in it

was a hundred-to-one shot that he'd have to give up solid foods for a

month or more and take his nourishment through a glass tube.

Nor were the young man's troubles confined to the office. Miss Harris,

it seemed, had seen him with a different lady each night she and Mr.

Gross had been out, and had drawn her own conclusions, so, therefore,

when he tried to talk to her she flared up and called him a dissipated

roue, and threatened to have the head bookkeeper give him a thrashing

if he dared to accost her again.

Now the various apartments where Mitchell had been calling, these past

months, were opulently furnished with gifts from the representatives

of the various railway supply houses of the city, each article being

cunningly designed to cement in the mind of the owner a source of

supply which, coupled with price and delivery, would make for good

sales service. He was greatly surprised one day to receive a brass

library lamp from the Santa Fe the initial destination of which had

evidently been changed. Then came a mission hall-clock in the original

package, redirected in the hand of Miss Gratz, of the C. & E.I., and

one day the office-boy from the Lackawanna brought him a smoking-set

for which Miss Phoebe Snow had no use. Gifts like these piled

up rapidly, many of them bearing witness to the fact that their

consignment originated from Mitchell's very rivals in the railroad

trade. Judging from the quantity of stuff that ricocheted from the

Santa Fe it was Miss Dunlap's evident desire to present him with a

whole housekeeping equipment as quickly as possible. Louis's desk

became loaded with ornaments, his room at Mrs. Green's became filled

with nearly Wedgwood vases, candlesticks, and other bric-a-brac. He

acquired six mission hall-clocks, a row of taborets stood outside of

his door like Turkish sentinels, and his collection of ash-receivers

was the best in Chicago.

Miss Harris continued to ignore him, however, and he learned with a

jealous pang that she was giving Mr. Gross a gratuitous course of

facial massage and scalp treatments. No longer did Mitchell entertain

his trade; they entertained him. They tried to help him save his

money, and every evening he was forced to battle for his freedom.

In desperation he finally went to Murphy begging quick promotion to a

traveling position, but the Sales Manager told him there was no chance

before the first of the year, then asked him why he had lost his grip

on the Lackawanna business.

As a matter of fact, since Miss Phoebe's rate clerk had declared

himself Mitchell had slipped a few Wednesday nights, trusting to

hold the Lackawanna trade by virtue of his past performances, but he

realized in the light of Murphy's catechism that eternal visiting is

the price of safety. He sighed, therefore, and called up the lady,

then apprehensively made a date.

That visit issued in disaster, as he had feared. The rate clerk,

gifted with some subtle second sight, had divined his treachery and

was waiting. He came to meet the caller gladly, like a paladin. Louis

strove to disarm the big brute by the power of the human eye, then

when that did not work he explained, politely, earnestly, that his

weekly calls were but part and parcel of his business, and that there

was nothing in his mind so remote as thoughts of matrimony. But the

rate clerk was a stolid, a suspicious person, and he was gnawed by

a low and common jealousy. Reason failing, they came together,

amalgamating like two drops of quicksilver.

On the following morning Mitchell explained to Mr. Comer that

in stepping out of the bathtub he had slipped and wrenched both

shoulders, then while passing through the dark hall had put his face

into mourning by colliding with an open door. His ankles he had

sprained on the way down-town.

About nine-thirty Miss Dunlap called up, but not to leave an order.

When she had finally rung off Louis looked dazedly at the wire to see

if the insulation had melted. It seemed impossible that rubber and

gutta-percha could withstand such heat as had come sizzling from the

Santa Fe. From what the lady had said it required no great inductive

powers to reason that the rate clerk had told all. Coming victorious

to Miss Lackawanna's door to have his knuckles collodionized he had

made known in coarse, triumphant language the base commercialism of

his rival.

The result had been that Phoebe arose in her wrath. Just to verify the

story she had called up the other railroad offices this morning,

and the hideous truth had come out. It had come out like a herd of

jack-rabbits ahead of a hound. Miss Dunlap was shouting mad, but

Phoebe herself, when she called up, was indignant in a mean, sarcastic

manner that hurt. The Northwestern rang Mitchell to say good-by

forever and to hope his nose was broken; the Big Four promised that

her brother, who was a puddler in the South Chicago steel mills, would

run in and finish the rate clerk's job; Miss Gratz, of the C.&E.I.,

was tearfully plaintive and, being German, spoke of suicide. Of course

all business relations with these offices were at an end.

During that whole day but one 'phone order came, and that was from

Miss Monon. Mitchell had been steeling himself to hear from her, but

it seemed that she took the whole thing as rather a good joke. She

told him she had known all the time why he came to see her, and when

he reminded her that it was Thursday she invited him to call if he

thought it worth while.

When he saw Miss Harris at supper-time and undertook to explain his

black eyes she assured him coldly that he and his ebony gig-lamps

mattered nothing in her young life, as evidence of which she flashed a

magnificent three-quarter carat diamond solitaire on her third finger.

She and Mr. Gross expected to be married inside of two or three years

if all went well, she told him.

At eight o'clock, disguised behind a pair of blue goggles, Louis

headed for Miss Monon's door, glad that the cozy corner was so dimly

lighted. When he arrived she bathed his battle-scarred features with

hamamelis, which is just the same as Pond's Extract, but doesn't cost

so much, and told him the other girls had acted foolishly. She was

very sweet and gentle with him and young Mitchell, imperfect as was

his vision, saw something in her he had never seen before.

A week went by, during which it seemed that all the railroads except

the Monon had suddenly gone out of business. It was as if a strike had

been declared. Another week passed and Mitchell's sales were scarcely

noticeable, so Mr. Comer called him in to ask:

"Is your 'phone disconnected?"

"No, sir."

"Do you know the price of our goods?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't you sleep well at home?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then what has become of those pick-ups?"

"I seem to have lost--my trade."

"Your 'trade'! Bah! Young man, you've been dissipating. That expense

account turned your head. You've been blowing in our money on your

friends and you've let your customers go. If you can't hold the

railroad business we'll get some fellow who can. Cut out your

sewing-circle wine suppers and your box parties to the North Shore

debutantes and get busy. You've got a week to make good. One week."

There wasn't the slightest chance, and Mitchell told Miss Monon

so when Thursday came around. He told her all about that promised

position on the road and what it meant to him, and then he told her

that beginning Monday he'd have to hunt a new berth at twelve dollars

per. She was very quiet, very sympathetic--so sympathetic, in fact,

that he told her some other things which no young man on a diminishing

salary should tell. She said little at the moment, but she did

considerable thinking, and she got busy on her 'phone early the next

morning. The first number she called was the Santa Fe's. When she had

finished talking with Miss Dunlap that hempen-haired sentimentalist

was dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief and blowing her nose,

assuring Miss Monon, at the same time, that she was a dear and that

it was all right now that she knew the truth. Miss Monon blushed

prettily, thanked her, and confessed that she had felt it coming on

for some time. Thereupon they took turns calling the others, from the

Big Four to the C.&E.I., with the result that Mitchell's wire began to

heat up.

Phoebe Snow called him to say that she hadn't meant what she said,

that he was a good old scout, and that the rate clerk was sorry also,

and wanted to stand treat for a Dutch lunch. Then she left an order

for a ton and a half of engine bolts.

Miss Gratz cried a little when she heard Mitchell's voice and told him

to make his own price on forty kegs of washers and suit himself about


Miss Dunlap confessed that it was her pride which had spoken, and,

anyhow, she knew altogether too much about marriage to take another

chance. She'd rather have one man friend than three husbands.

One by one the flock returned, and Saturday night Mitchell sent five

pounds of chocolates and a sheaf of red roses to the one who had made

it all come out right. He got his share of business after that, and

when the holidays came they brought him his promotion.

Murphy, who knew most of the facts, was the first to congratulate him.

"Jove!" he said, "that little Monon lady saved your bacon, didn't she?

By. the way, you never told me what her name was."

Young Mitchell's cheeks assumed a shell-pink shade as he replied: "It

doesn't matter what her name was, it's Mitchell now. We were married

yesterday and--all the roads were represented at the wedding."

His Shadow Before Holding The Claim facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail