The Efficiency Expert
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Fred M. Adams
THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT
JIMMY TORRANCE, JR.
The gymnasium was packed as Jimmy Torrance stepped into the ring for the
final event of the evening that was to decide the boxing championship of
the university. Drawing to a close were the nearly four years of his
college career--profitable years, Jimmy considered them, and certainly
successful up to this point. In the beginning of his senior year he had
captained the varsity eleven, and in the coming spring he would again
sally forth upon the diamond as the star initial sacker of collegedom.
His football triumphs were in the past, his continued baseball successes
a foregone conclusion--if he won to-night his cup of happiness, and an
unassailably dominant position among his fellows, would be assured,
leaving nothing more, in so far as Jimmy reasoned, to be desired from
four years attendance at one of America's oldest and most famous
The youth who would dispute the right to championship honors with Jimmy
was a dark horse to the extent that he was a freshman, and, therefore,
practically unknown. He had worked hard, however, and given a good
account of himself in his preparations for the battle, and there were
rumors, as there always are about every campus, of marvelous exploits
prior to his college days. It was even darkly hinted that he was a
professional pugilist. As a matter of fact, he was the best exponent of
the manly art of self-defense that Jimmy Torrance had ever faced, and in
addition thereto he outweighed the senior and outreached him.
The boxing contest, as the faculty members of the athletic committee
preferred to call it, was, from the tap of the gong, as pretty a
two-fisted scrap as ever any aggregation of low-browed fight fans
witnessed. The details of this gory contest, while interesting, have no
particular bearing upon the development of this tale. What interests us
is the outcome, which occurred in the middle of a very bloody fourth
round, in which Jimmy Torrance scored a clean knock-out.
It was a battered but happy Jimmy who sat in his room the following
Monday afternoon, striving to concentrate his mind upon a college
text-book which should, by all the laws of fiction, have been 'well
thumbed,' but in reality, possessed unruffled freshness which belied its
"I wish," mused Jimmy, "that I could have got to the bird who invented
mathematics before he inflicted all this unnecessary anguish upon an
already unhappy world. In about three rounds I could have saved
thousands from the sorrow which I feel every time I open this blooming
He was still deeply engrossed in the futile attempt of accomplishing in
an hour that for which the college curriculum set aside several months
when there came sounds of approaching footsteps rapidly ascending the
stairway. His door was unceremoniously thrown open, and there appeared
one of those strange apparitions which is the envy and despair of the
small-town youth--a naturally good-looking young fellow, the sartorial
arts of whose tailor had elevated his waist-line to his arm-pits,
dragged down his shoulders, and caved in his front until he had the
appearance of being badly dished from chin to knees. His trousers
appeared to have been made for a man with legs six inches longer than
his, while his hat was evidently several sizes too large, since it would
have entirely extinguished his face had it not been supported by his
"Hello, Kid!" cried Jimmy. "What's new?"
"Whiskers wants you," replied the other. "Faculty meeting. They just
got through with me."
"Hell!" muttered Jimmy feelingly. "I don't know what Whiskers wants
with me, but he never wants to see anybody about anything pleasant."
"I am here," agreed the other, "to announce to the universe that you are
right, Jimmy. He didn't have anything pleasant to say to me. In fact, he
insinuated that dear old alma mater might be able to wiggle along
without me if I didn't abjure my criminal life. Made some nasty
comparison between my academic achievements and foxtrotting. I wonder,
Jimmy, how they get that way?"
"That's why they are profs." explained Jimmy. "There are two kinds of
people in this world--human beings and profs. When does he want me?"
Jimmy arose and put on his hat and coat. "Good-by, Kid," he said.
"Pray for me, and leave me one cigarette to smoke when I get back."
and, grinning, he left the room.
James Torrance, Jr., was not greatly abashed as he faced the dour
tribunal of the faculty. The younger members, among whom were several he
knew to be mighty good fellows at heart, sat at the lower end of the
long table, and with owlish gravity attempted to emulate the appearance
and manners of their seniors. At the head of the table sat Whiskers, as
the dignified and venerable president of the university was popularly
named. It was generally believed and solemnly sworn to throughout the
large corps of undergraduates that within the knowledge of any living
man Whiskers had never been known to smile, and to-day he was running
true to form.
"Mr. Torrance," he said, sighing, "it has been my painful duty on more
than one occasion to call your attention to the uniformly low average of
your academic standing. At the earnest solicitation of the faculty
members of the athletic committee, I have been influenced, against my
better judgment, to temporize with an utterly insufferable condition.
"You are rapidly approaching the close of your senior year, and in the
light of the records which I have before me I am constrained to believe
that it will he utterly impossible for you to graduate, unless from now
to the end of the semester you devote yourself exclusively to your
academic work. If you cannot assure me that you will do this, I believe
it would be to the best interests of the university for you to resign
now, rather than to fail of graduation. And in this decision I am fully
seconded by the faculty members of the athletic committee, who realize
the harmful effect upon university athletics in the future were so
prominent an athlete as you to fail at graduation."
If they had sentenced Jimmy to be shot at sunrise the blow could
scarcely have been more stunning than that which followed the
realization that he was not to be permitted to round out his fourth
successful season at first base. But if Jimmy was momentarily stunned he
gave no outward indication of the fact, and in the brief interval of
silence following the president's ultimatum his alert mind functioned
with the rapidity which it had often shown upon the gridiron, the
diamond, and the squared circle.
Just for a moment the thought of being deprived of the pleasure and
excitement of the coming baseball season filled his mind to the
exclusion of every other consideration, but presently a less selfish
impulse projected upon the screen of recollection the figure of the
father he idolized. The boy realized the disappointment that this man
would feel should his four years of college end thus disastrously and
without the coveted diploma.
And then it was that he raised his eyes to those of the president.
"I hope, sir," he said, "that you will give me one more chance--that you
will let me go on as I have in the past as far as baseball is concerned,
with the understanding that if at the end of each month between now and
commencement I do not show satisfactory improvement I shall not be
permitted to play on the team. But please don't make that restriction
binding yet. If I lay off the track work I believe I can make up enough
so that baseball will not interfere with my graduation."
And so Whiskers, who was much more human than the student body gave him
credit for being, and was, in the bargain, a good judge of boys, gave
Jimmy another chance on his own terms, and the university's heavyweight
champion returned to his room filled with determination to make good at
the eleventh hour.
Possibly one of the greatest obstacles which lay in Jimmy's path toward
academic honors was the fact that he possessed those qualities of
character which attracted others to him, with the result that there was
seldom an hour during the day that he had his room to himself. On his
return from the faculty meeting he found a half-dozen of his classmates
there, awaiting his return.
"Well?" they inquired as he entered.
"It's worse than that," said Jimmy, as he unfolded the harrowing details
of what had transpired at his meeting with the faculty. "And now," he
said, "if you birds love me, keep out of here from now until
commencement. There isn't a guy on earth can concentrate on anything
with a roomful of you mental ciphers sitting around and yapping about
girls and other non-essential creations."
"Non-essential!" gasped one of his visitors, letting his eyes wander
over the walls of Jimmy's study, whereon were nailed, pinned or hung
countless framed and unframed pictures of non-essential creations.
"All right, Jimmy," said another. "We are with you, horse, foot and
artillery. When you want us, give us the high-sign and we will come.
Otherwise we will leave you to your beloved books. It is too bad,
though, as the bar-boy was just explaining how the great drought might
be circumvented by means of carrots, potato peelings, dish-water, and a
"Go on," said Jimmy; "I am not interested," and the boys left him to his
Jimmy Torrance worked hard, and by dint of long hours and hard-working
tutors he finished his college course and won his diploma. Nor did he
have to forego the crowning honors of his last baseball season,
although, like Ulysses S. Grant, he would have graduated at the head of
his class had the list been turned upside down.
JIMMY WILL ACCEPT A POSITION.
Following his graduation he went to New York to visit with one of his
classmates for a short time before returning home. He was a very
self-satisfied Jimmy, nor who can wonder, since almost from his
matriculation there had been constantly dinned into his ears the
plaudits of his fellow students. Jimmy Torrance had been the one big
outstanding feature of each succeeding class from his freshman to his
senior year, and as a junior and senior he had been the acknowledged
leader of the student body and as popular a man as the university had
To his fellows, as well as to himself, he had been a great success--the
success of the university--and he and they saw in the future only
continued success in whatever vocation he decided to honor with his
presence. It was in a mental attitude that had become almost habitual
with him, and which was superinduced by these influences, that Jimmy
approached the new life that was opening before him. For a while he
would play, but in the fall it was his firm intention to settle down to
some serious occupation, and it was in this attitude that he opened a
letter from his father--the first that he had received since his
The letter was written on the letterhead of the Beatrice Corn Mills,
Incorporated, Beatrice, Nebraska, and in the upper left-hand corner, in
small type, appeared "James Torrance, Sr., President and General
Manager," and this is what he read:
You have graduated--I didn't think you would--with honors in
football, baseball, prize-fighting, and five thousand
dollars in debt. How you got your diploma is beyond me--in
my day you would have got the sack. Well, son, I am not
surprised nor disappointed--it is what I expected. I know
you are clean, though, and that some day you will awaken to
the sterner side of life and an appreciation of your
To be an entirely orthodox father I should raise merry hell
about your debts and utter inutility, at the same time
disinheriting you, but instead I am going to urge you to
come home and run in debt here where the cost of living is
not so high as in the East--meanwhile praying that your
awakening may come while I am on earth to rejoice.
Am enclosing check to cover your debts and present needs.
For a long time the boy sat looking at the letter before him. He reread
it once, twice, three times, and with each reading the film of
unconscious egotism that had blinded him to his own shortcomings
gradually became less opaque, until finally he saw himself as his father
must see him. He had come to college for the purpose of fitting himself
to succeed in some particular way in the stern battle of life which
must follow his graduation; for, though his father had ample means to
support him in insolence, Jimmy had never even momentarily considered
such an eventuality.
In weighing his assets now he discovered that he had probably as
excellent a conception of gridiron strategy and tactics as any man in
America; that as a boxer he occupied a position in the forefront of
amateur ranks; and he was quite positive that out-side of the major
leagues there was not a better first baseman.
But in the last few minutes there had dawned upon him the realization
that none of these accomplishments was greatly in demand in the business
world. Jimmy spent a very blue and unhappy hour, and then slowly his
natural optimism reasserted itself, and with it came the realization of
his youth and strength and inherent ability, which, without egotism, he
"And then, too," he mused, "I have my diploma. I am a college graduate,
and that must mean something. If dad had only reproached me or
threatened some condign punishment I don't believe I should feel half as
badly as I do. But every line of that letter breathes disappointment in
me; and yet, God bless him, he tells me to come home and spend his money
there. Not on your life! If he won't disinherit me, I am going to
disinherit myself. I am going to make him proud of me. He's the best dad
a fellow ever had, and I am going to show him that I appreciate him."
And so he sat down and wrote his father this reply:
I have your letter and check. You may not believe it, but
the former is worth more to me than the latter. Not,
however, that I spurn the check, which it was just like you
to send without a lot of grumbling and reproaches, even if I
do deserve them.
Your letter shows me what a rotten mess I have made of
myself. I'm not going to hand you a lot of mush, dad, but I
want to try to do something that will give you reason to at
least have hopes of rejoicing before I come home again. If I
fail I'll come home anyway, and then neither one of us will
have any doubt but what you will have to support me for the
rest of my life. However, I don't intend to fail, and one of
these days I will bob up all serene as president of a bank
or a glue factory. In the mean time I'll keep you posted as
to my whereabouts, but don't send me another cent until I
ask for it; and when I do you will know that I have failed.
Tell mother that I will write her in a day or two, probably
from Chicago, as I have always had an idea that that was one
burg where I could make good.
With lots of love to you all,
It was a hot July day that James Torrance, Jr., alighted from the
Twentieth Century Limited at the La Salle Street Station, and, entering
a cab, directed that he be driven to a small hotel; "for," he
soliloquized, "I might as well start economizing at once, as it might be
several days before I land a job such as I want," in voicing which
sentiments he spoke with the tongues of the prophets.
Jimmy had many friends in Chicago with whom, upon the occasion of
numerous previous visits to the Western metropolis, he had spent many
hilarious and expensive hours, but now he had come upon the serious
business of life, and there moved within him a strong determination to
win financial success without recourse to the influence of rich and
Since the first crushing blow that his father's letter had dealt his
egotism, Jimmy's self-esteem had been gradually returning, though along
new and more practical lines. His self-assurance was formed in a similar
mold to those of all his other salient characteristics, and these
conformed to his physical proportions, for physically, mentally and
morally Jimmy Torrance was big; not that he was noticeably taller than
other men or his features more than ordinarily attractive, but there was
something so well balanced and harmonious in all the proportions of his
frame and features as to almost invariably compel a second glance from
even a casual observer, especially if the casual observer happened to be
in the nonessential creation class.
And so Jimmy, having had plenty of opportunity to commune with himself
during the journey from New York, was confident that there were many
opportunities awaiting him in Chicago. He remembered distinctly of
having read somewhere that the growing need of big business concerns was
competent executive material--that there were fewer big men than there
were big jobs--and that if such was the case all that remained to be
done was to connect himself with the particular big job that suited him.
In the lobby of the hotel he bought several of the daily papers, and
after reaching his room he started perusing the "Help Wanted" columns.
Immediately he was impressed and elated by the discovery that there were
plenty of jobs, and that a satisfactory percentage of them appeared to
be big jobs. There were so many, however, that appealed to him as
excellent possibilities that he saw it would be impossible to apply for
each and every one; and then it occurred to him that he might occupy a
more strategic position in the negotiations preceding his acceptance of
a position if his future employer came to him first, rather than should
he be the one to apply for the position.
And so he decided the wisest plan would be to insert an ad in the
"Situations Wanted" column, and then from the replies select those
which most appealed to him; in other words, he would choose from the
cream of those who desired the services of such a man as himself rather
than risk the chance of obtaining a less profitable position through
undue haste in seizing upon the first opening advertised.
Having reached this decision, and following his habitual custom, he
permitted no grass to grow beneath his feet. Writing out an ad, he
reviewed it carefully, compared it with others that he saw upon the
printed page, made a few changes, rewrote it, and then descended to the
lobby, where he called a cab and was driven to the office of one of the
area's metropolitan morning newspapers.
Jimmy felt very important as he passed through the massive doorway into
the great general offices of the newspaper. Of course, he didn't exactly
expect that he would be ushered into the presence of the president or
business manager, or that even the advertising manager would necessarily
have to pass upon his copy, but there was within him a certain sensation
that at that instant something was transpiring that in later years would
be a matter of great moment, and he was really very sorry for the
publishers of the newspaper that they did not know who it was who was
inserting an ad in their Situations Wanted column.
He could not help but watch the face of the young man who received his
ad and counted the words, as he was sure that the clerk's facial
expression would betray his excitement. It was a great moment for Jimmy
Torrance. He realized that it was probably the greatest moment of his
life--that here Jimmy Torrance ceased to be, and James Torrance, Jr.,
Esq., began his career. But though he carefully watched the face of the
clerk, he was finally forced to admit that the young man possessed
wonderful control over his facial expression.
"That bird has a regular poker-face," mused Jimmy; "never batted an
eye," and paying for his ad he pocketed the change and walked out.
"Let's see," he figured; "it will he in tomorrow morning's edition. The
tired business man will read it either at breakfast or after he reaches
his office. I understand that there are three million people here in
Chicago. Out of that three million it is safe to assume that one million
will read my advertisement, and of that one-million there must be at
least one thousand who have responsible positions which are, at present,
"Of course, the truth of the matter is that there are probably tens of
thousands of such positions, but to be conservative I will assume that
there are only one thousand, and reducing it still further to almost an
absurdity, I will figure that only ten per cent of those reply to my
advertisement. In other words, at the lowest possible estimate I should
have one hundred replies on the first day. I knew it was foolish to run
it for three days, but the fellow insisted that that was the proper way
to do, as I got a lower rate.
"By taking it for three days, however, it doesn't seem right to make so
many busy men waste their time answering the ad when I shall doubtless
find a satisfactory position the first day."
That night Jimmy attended a show, and treated himself to a lonely dinner
afterward. He should have liked very much to have looked up some of his
friends. A telephone call would have brought invitations to dinner and a
pleasant evening with convivial companions, but he had mapped his course
and he was determined to stick to it to the end.
"There will be plenty of time," he thought, "for amusement after I have
gotten a good grasp of my new duties." Jimmy elected to walk from the
theater to his hotel, and as he was turning the corner from Randolph
into La Salle a young man jostled him. An instant later the stranger was
upon his knees, his wrist doubled suddenly backward and very close to
"Wot t' hell yuh doin'?" he screamed.
"Pardon me," replied Jimmy: "you got your hand in the wrong pocket. I
suppose you meant to put it in your own, but you didn't."
"Aw, g'wan; lemme go," pleaded the stranger. "I didn't get nuthin'--
you ain't got the goods on me."
Now, such a tableau as Jimmy and his new acquaintance formed cannot be
staged at the corner of Randolph and La Salle beneath an arc light, even
at midnight, without attracting attention. And so it was that before
Jimmy realized it a dozen curious pedestrians were approaching them from
different directions, and a burly blue-coated figure was shouldering his
Jimmy had permitted his captive to rise, but he still held tightly to
his wrist as the officer confronted them. He took one look at Jimmy's
companion, and then grabbed him roughly by the arm. "So, it's you again,
is it?" he growled.
"I ain't done nuthin'," muttered the man.
The officer looked inquiringly at Jimmy.
"What's all the excitement about?" asked the latter. "My friend and I
have done nothing."
"Your fri'nd and you?" replied the policeman. "He ain't no fri'nd o'
yours, or yez wouldn't be sayin' so."
"Well, I'll admit," replied Jimmy, "that possibly I haven't known him
long enough to presume to claim any close friendship, but there's no
telling what time may develop."
"You don't want him pinched?" asked the policeman.
"Of course not," replied Jimmy. "Why should he be pinched?"
The officer turned roughly upon the stranger, shook him viciously a few
times, and then gave him a mighty shove which all but sent him sprawling
into the gutter.
"G'wan wid yez," he yelled after him, "and if I see ye on this beat
again I'll run yez in. An' you"--he turned upon Jimmy--"ye'd
betther be on your way--and not be afther makin' up with ivery dip ye
"Thanks," said Jimmy. "Have a cigar."
After the officer had helped himself and condescended to relax his stern
features into the semblance of a smile the young man bid him good night
and resumed his way toward the hotel.
"Pretty early to go to bed," he thought as he reached for his watch to
note the time, running his fingers into an empty pocket. Gingerly he
felt in another pocket, where he knew his watch couldn't possibly be,
nor was. Carefully Jimmy examined each pocket of his coat and trousers,
a slow and broad grin illumining his face.
"What do you know about that?" he mused. "And I thought I was a wise
A few minutes after Jimmy reached his room the office called him on the
telephone to tell him that a man had called to see him.
"Send him up," said Jimmy, wondering who it might be, since he was sure
that no one knew of his presence in the city. He tried to connect the
call in some way with his advertisement, but inasmuch as that had been
inserted blind he felt that there could be no possible connection
between that and his caller.
A few minutes later there was a knock on his door, and in response to
his summons to enter the door opened, and there stood before him the
young man of his recent encounter upon the street. The latter entered
softly, closing the door behind him. His feet made no sound upon the
carpet, and no sound came from the door as he closed it, nor any
slightest click from the latch. His utter silence and the stealth of his
movements were so pronounced as to attract immediate attention. He did
not speak until he had reached the center of the room and halted on the
opposite side of the table at which Jimmy was standing; and then a very
slow smile moved his lips, though the expression of his eyes remained
"Miss anything?" he asked.
"Yes," said Jimmy.
"Here it is," said the visitor, laying the other's watch upon the table.
"Why this spasm of virtue?" asked Jimmy.
"Oh, I don't know," replied the other. "I guess it's because you're a
white guy. O'Donnell has been trying to get something on me for the last
year. He's got it in for me--I wouldn't cough every time the big stiff
"Sit down," said Jimmy.
"Naw," said the other; "I gotta be goin'."
"Come," insisted the host; "sit down for a few minutes at least. I was
just wishing that I had someone to talk to."
The other sank noiselessly into a chair. "All right, bo," he said.
Jimmy proffered him his cigar-case.
"No, thanks," declined the visitor. "I'd rather have a coffin-nail,"
which Jimmy forthwith furnished.
"I should think," said Jimmy, "that your particular line of endeavor
would prove rather hazardous in a place where you are known by the
The other smiled and, as before, with his lips alone.
"Naw," he said; "this is the safest place to work. If ten per cent of
the bulls know me I got that much on them, and then some, because any
boob can spot any one o' de harness bunch, and I know nearly every fly
on the department. They're the guys yuh gotta know, and usually I know
something besides their names, too," and again his lips smiled.
"How much of your time do you have to put in at your occupation to make
a living?" asked Jimmy.
"Sometimes I put in six or eight hours a day," replied the visitor. "De
rush hours on de surface line are usually good for two or t'ree hours a
day, but I been layin' off dat stuff lately and goin' in fer de t'ater
crowd. Dere's more money and shorter hours."
"You confine yourself," asked Jimmy, "to--er--ah--pocket-picking
Again the lip smile. "I'll tell youse sumpin', bo, dat dey don't none o'
dem big stiffs on de department know. De dip game is a stall. I learned
it when I was a kid, an' dese yaps t'ink dat's all I know, and I keep
dem t'inkin' it by pullin' stuff under der noses often enough to give
'em de hunch dat I'm still at de same ol' business." He leaned
confidentially across the table. "If you ever want a box cracked, look
up the Lizard."
"Meaning?" asked Jimmy.
"Me, bo, I'm the Lizard."
"Box cracked?" repeated Jimmy. "An ice-box or a hot box?"
His visitor grinned. "Safe," he explained.
"Oh," said Jimmy, "if I ever want any one to break into a safe, come to
"You get me," replied the other.
"All right," said Jimmy, laughing, "I'll call on you. That the only
name you got, Mr. Lizard?"
"That's all--just the Lizard. Now I gotta he beatin' it."
"Goin' to crack a box?" asked Jimmy.
The other smiled his lip smile and turned toward the door.
"Wait a second," said Jimmy. "What would you have gotten on this watch
"It would have stood me about twenty bucks."
Jimmy reached into his pocket and drew forth a roll of bills. "Here,"
he said, handing the other two tens.
"Naw," said the Lizard, shoving the proffered money away. "I'm no cheap
"Come on--take it," said Jimmy. "I may want a box cracked some day."
"All right," said the Lizard, "if you put it that way, bo."
"I should think," said Jimmy, "that a man of your ability could earn a
living by less precarious methods." "You would think so," replied the
Lizard. "I've tried two or three times to go straight. Wore out my shoes
looking for a job. Never landed anything that paid me more than ten
bucks per, and worked nine or ten hours a day, and half the time I
couldn't get that."
"I suppose the police hounded you all the time, too," suggested Jimmy.
"Naw," said the Lizard; "dat's all bunk. De fellows that couldn't even
float down a sewer straight pull dat. Once in a while dey get it in for
some guy, but dey're glad enough to leave us alone if we leave dem
alone. I worked four hours to-day, maybe six before I get through, and
I'll stand a chance of makin' all the way from fifty dollars to five
thousand. Suppose I was drivin' a milk-wagon, gettin' up at t'ree
o'clock in the mornin' and workin' like hell--how much would I get out
of dat? Expectin' every minute some one was goin' tuh fire me. Nuthin'
doin'--dey can't nobody fire me now. I'm my own boss."
"Well," said Jimmy, "your logic sounds all right, but it all depends
upon the viewpoint. But I'll tell you: you've offered me your services;
I'll offer you mine. Whenever you want a job, look me up. I'm going to
be general manager of a big concern here, and you'll find me in the next
issue of the telephone directory." He handed the Lizard his card.
"Tanks," said the latter. "If you don't want a box cracked any sooner
than I want a job, the chances are we will never meet again. So-long,"
and he was gone as noiselessly as he had come.
Jimmy breakfasted at nine the next morning, and as he waited for his
bacon and eggs he searched the Situations Wanted columns of the morning
paper until his eye finally alighted upon that for which he sought--the
ad that was to infuse into the business life of the great city a new and
potent force. Before his breakfast was served Jimmy had read the few
lines over a dozen times, and with each succeeding reading he was more
and more pleased with the result of his advertising ability as it
appeared in print.
WANTED--By College Graduate--Position as
General Manager of Large Business where ability,
energy and experience will be appreciated.
Address 263-S, Tribune Office.
He had decided to wait until after lunch before calling at the newspaper
office for replies to his advertisement, but during breakfast it
occurred to him there probably would be several alert prospective
employers who would despatch their replies by special messengers, and
realizing that promptness was one of the cardinal virtues in the
business world, Jimmy reasoned that it would make a favorable impression
were he to present himself as soon as possible after the receipt of
By a simple system of reasoning he deduced that ten o'clock would be
none too early to expect some returns from his ad, and therefore at ten
promptly he presented himself at the Want Ad Department in the Tribune
Comparing the number of the receipt which Jimmy handed him with the
numbers upon a file of little pigeonholes, the clerk presently turned
back toward the counter with a handful of letters.
"Whew!" thought Jimmy. "I never would have guessed that I would receive
a bunch like that so early in the morning." But then, as he saw the
clerk running through them one by one, he realized that they were not
all for him, and as the young man ran through them Jimmy's spirits
dropped a notch with each letter that was passed over without being
thrown out to him, until, when the last letter had passed beneath the
scrutiny of the clerk, and the advertiser realized that he had received
no replies, he was quite sure that there was some error.
"Nothing," said the clerk, shaking his head negatively.
"Are you sure you looked in the right compartment?" asked Jimmy.
"Sure," replied the clerk. "There is nothing for you."
Jimmy pocketed his slip and walked from the office. "This town is
slower than I thought it was," he mused. "'I guess they do need some
live wires here to manage their business."
At noon he returned, only to be again disappointed, and then at two
o'clock, and when he came in at four the same clerk looked up wearily
and shook his head.
"Nothing for you," he said. "I distributed all the stuff myself since
you were in last."
As Jimmy stood there almost dazed by surprise that during an entire day
his ad had appeared in Chicago's largest newspaper, and he had not
received one reply, a man approached the counter, passed a slip similar
to Jimmy's to the clerk, and received fully a hundred letters in return.
Jimmy was positive now that something was wrong.
"Are you sure," he asked the clerk, "that my replies haven't been
sidetracked somewhere? I have seen people taking letters away from here
all day, and that bird there just walked off with a fistful."
The clerk grinned. "What you advertising for?" he asked.
"A position," replied Jimmy.
"That's the answer," explained the clerk. "That fellow there was
advertising for help."
JIMMY HUNTS A JOB.
Once again Jimmy walked out onto Madison Street, and, turning to his
right, dropped into a continuous vaudeville show in an attempt to coax
his spirits back to somewhere near their normal high-water mark. Upon
the next day he again haunted the newspaper office without reward, and
again upon the third day with similar results. To say that Jimmy was
dumfounded would be but a futile description of his mental state. It was
simply beyond him to conceive that in one of the largest cities in the
world, the center of a thriving district of fifty million souls, there
was no business man with sufficient acumen to realize how badly he
needed James Torrance, Jr., to conduct his business for him
With the close of the fourth day, and no reply, Jimmy was thoroughly
exasperated. The kindly clerk, who by this time had taken a personal
interest in this steadiest of customers, suggested that Jimmy try
applying for positions advertised in the Help Wanted column, and this he
decided to do.
There were only two concerns advertising for general managers in the
issue which Jimmy scanned; one ad called for an experienced executive to
assume the general management of an old established sash, door and blind
factory; the other insisted upon a man with mail-order experience to
take charge of the mail-order department of a large department store.
Neither of these were precisely what Jimmy had hoped for, his preference
really being for the general management of an automobile manufactory or
possibly something in the airplane line. Sash, door and blind sounded
extremely prosaic and uninteresting to Mr. Torrance. The mail-order
proposition, while possibly more interesting, struck him as being too
trifling and unimportant.
"However," he thought, "it will do no harm to have a talk with these
people, and possibly I might even consider giving one of them a trial."
And so, calling a taxi, he drove out onto the west side where, in a
dingy and squalid neighborhood, the taxi stopped in front of a grimy
unpainted three-story brick building, from which a great deal of noise
and dust were issuing. Jimmy found the office on the second floor, after
ascending a narrow, dark, and dirty stairway. Jimmy's experience of
manufacturing plants was extremely limited, but he needed no experience
as he entered the room to see that he was in a busy office of a busy
plant. Everything about the office was plain and rather dingy, but there
were a great many file clerks and typists and considerable bustling
After stating his business to a young lady who sat behind a switchboard,
upon the front of which was the word "Information," and waiting while
she communicated with an inner office over the telephone, he was
directed in the direction of a glass partition at the opposite end of
the room--a partition in which there were doors at intervals, and upon
each door a name.
He had been told that Mr. Brown would see him, and rapping upon the door
bearing that name he was bid to enter, and a moment later found himself
in the presence of a middle-aged man whose every gesture and movement
was charged with suppressed nerve energy.
As Jimmy entered the man was reading a letter. He finished it quickly,
slapped it into a tray, and wheeled in his chair toward his caller.
"Well?" he snapped, as Jimmy approached him.
"I came in reply to your advertisement for a general manager," announced
The man sized him up quickly from head to foot. His eyes narrowed and
his brows contracted.
"What experience you had? Who you been with, and how many years?" He
snapped the questions at Jimmy with the rapidity of machine-gun fire.
"I have the necessary ability," replied Jimmy, "to manage your
"How many years have you had in the sash, door and blind business?"
snapped Mr. Brown.
"I have never had any experience in the sash, door and blind business,"
replied Jimmy. "I didn't come here to make sash, doors and blinds. I
came here to manage your business."
Mr. Brown half rose from his chair. His eyes opened a little wider than
normal. "What the--" he started; and then, "Well, of all the--" Once
again he found it impossible to go on. "You came here to manage a sash,
door and blind factory, and don't know anything about the business!
Well, of all--"
"I assumed," said Jimmy, "that what you wanted in a general manager was
executive ability, and that's what I have."
"What you have," replied Mr. Brown, "is a hell of a crust. Now, run
along, young fellow. I am a very busy man--and don't forget to close
the door after you as you go out."
Jimmy did not forget to close the door. As he walked the length of the
interminable room between rows of desks, before which were seated young
men and young women, all of whom Jimmy thought were staring at him, he
could feel the deep crimson burning upward from his collar to the roots
of his hair.
Never before in his life had Jimmy's self-esteem received such a
tremendous jolt. He was still blushing when he reached his cab, and as
he drove back toward the Loop he could feel successive hot waves suffuse
his countenance at each recollection of the humiliating scene through
which he had just passed.
It was not until the next day that Jimmy had sufficiently reestablished
his self-confidence to permit him to seek out the party who wished a
mail-order manager, and while in this instance he met with very pleasant
and gentlemanly treatment, his application was no less definitely turned
For a month Jimmy trailed one job after another. At the end of the
first week he decided that the street-cars and sole leather were less
expensive than taxicabs, as his funds were running perilously low; and
he also lowered his aspirations successively from general managerships
through departmental heads, assistants thereto, office managers,
assistant office managers, and various other vocations, all with the
same result; discovering meanwhile that experience, while possibly not
essential as some of the ads stated, was usually the rock upon which his
hopes were dashed.
He also learned something else which surprised him greatly: that rather
than being an aid to his securing employment, his college education was
a drawback, several men telling him bluntly that they had no vacancies
for rah-rah boys.
At the end of the second week Jimmy had moved from his hotel to a still
less expensive one, and a week later to a cheap boarding-house on the
north side. At first he had written his father and his mother regularly,
but now he found it difficult to write them at all. Toward the middle of
the fourth week Jimmy had reached a point where he applied for a
position as office-boy.
"I'll be damned if I'm going to quit," he said to himself, "if I have to
turn street-sweeper. There must be some job here in the city that I am
capable of filling, and I'm pretty sure that I can at least get a job as
And so he presented himself to the office manager of a life-insurance
company that had advertised such a vacancy. A very kindly gentleman
"What experience have you had?" he asked.
Jimmy looked at him aghast.
"Do I have to have experience to be an office-boy?" he asked.
"Well, of course," replied the gentleman, "it is not essential, but it
is preferable. I already have applications from a dozen or more fellows,
half of whom have had experience, and one in particular, whom I have
about decided to employ, held a similar position with another
Jimmy rose. "Good day," he said, and walked out.
That day he ate no lunch, but he had discovered a place where an
abundance might be had for twenty-five cents if one knew how to order
and ordered judiciously. And so to this place he repaired for his
dinner. Perched upon a high stool, he filled at least a corner of the
aching void within.
Sitting in his room that night he took account of his assets and his
liabilities. His room rent was paid until Saturday and this was
Thursday, and in his pocket were one dollar and sixty cents. Opening his
trunk, he drew forth a sheet of paper and an envelope, and, clearing the
top of the rickety little table which stood at the head of his bed, he
sat down on the soiled counterpane and wrote a letter.
I guess I'm through, I have tried and
failed. It is hard to admit it, but I guess I'll
have to. If you will send me the price I'll
Slowly he folded the letter and inserted it in the envelope, his face
mirroring an utter dejection such as Jimmy Torrance had never before
experienced in his life.
"Failure," he muttered, "unutterable failure."
Taking his hat, he walked down the creaking stairway, with its
threadbare carpet, and out onto the street to post his letter.
JIMMY LANDS ONE.
Miss Elizabeth Compton sat in the dimly lighted library upon a
deep-cushioned, tapestried sofa. She was not alone, yet although there
were many comfortable chairs in the large room, and the sofa was an
exceptionally long one, she and her companion occupied but little more
space than would have comfortably accommodated a single individual.
"Stop it, Harold," she admonished. "I utterly loathe being mauled."
"But I can't help it, dear. It seems so absolutely wonderful! I can't
believe it--that you are really mine."
"But I'm not--yet!" exclaimed the girl.
"There are a lot of formalities and bridesmaids and ministers and things
that have got to be taken into consideration before I am yours. And
anyway there is no necessity for mussing me up so. You might as well
know now as later that I utterly loathe this cave-man stuff. And really,
Harold, there is nothing about your appearance that suggests a cave-man,
which is probably one reason that I like you."
"Like me?" exclaimed the young man. "I thought you loved me."
"I have to like you in order to love you, don't I?" she parried. "And
one certainly has to like the man she is going to marry."
"Well, grumbled Mr. Bince, "you might be more enthusiastic about it."
"I prefer," explained the girl, "to be loved decorously. I do not care
to be pawed or clawed or crumpled. After we have been married for
fifteen or twenty years and are really well acquainted--"
"Possibly you will permit me to kiss you," Bince finished for her.
"Don't be silly, Harold," she retorted. "You have kissed me so much now
that my hair is all down, and my face must be a sight. Lips are what you
are supposed to kiss with--you don't have to kiss with your hands."
"Possibly I was a little bit rough. I am sorry," apologized the young
man. "But when a fellow has just been told by the sweetest girl in the
world that she will marry him, it's enough to make him a little bit
"Not at all," rejoined Miss Compton. "We should never forget the
stratum of society to which we belong, and what we owe to the
maintenance of the position we hold. My father has always impressed upon
me the fact that gentlemen or gentlewomen are always gentle-folk under
any and all circumstances and conditions. I distinctly recall his remark
about one of his friends, whom he greatly admired, to this effect: that
he always got drunk like a gentleman. Therefore we should do everything
as gentle-folk should do things, and when we make love we should make
love like gentlefolk, and not like hod-carriers or cavemen."
"Yes," said the young man; "I'll try to remember."
It was a little after nine o'clock when Harold Bince arose to leave.
"I'll drive you home," volunteered the girl. "Just wait, and I'll have
Barry bring the roadster around."
"I thought we should always do the things that gentle-folk should do,"
said Bince, grinning, after being seated safely in the car. They had
turned out of the driveway into Lincoln Parkway.
"What do you mean?" asked Elizabeth.
"Is it perfectly proper for young ladies to drive around the streets of
a big city alone after dark?"
"But I'm not alone," she said.
"You will be after you leave me at home."
"Oh, well, I'm different."
"And I'm glad that you are!" exclaimed Bince fervently. "I wouldn't
love you if you were like the ordinary run."
Bince lived at one of the down-town clubs, and after depositing him
there and parting with a decorous handclasp the girl turned her machine
and headed north for home. At Erie Street came a sudden loud hissing of
"Darn!" exclaimed Miss Elizabeth Compton as she drew in beside the curb
and stopped. Although she knew perfectly well that one of the tires was
punctured, she got out and walked around in front as though in search of
the cause of the disturbance, and sure enough, there it was, flat as a
pancake, the left front tire.
There was an extra wheel on the rear of the roadster, but it was heavy
and cumbersome, and the girl knew from experience what a dirty job
changing a wheel is. She had just about decided to drive home on the
rim, when a young man crossed the walk from Erie Street and joined her
in her doleful appraisement of the punctured casing.
"Can I help you any?" he asked.
She looked up at him. "Thank you," she replied, "but I think I'll drive
home on it as it is. They can change it there."
"It looks like a new casing," he said. "It would be too bad to ruin it.
If you have a spare I will be very glad to change it for you," and
without waiting for her acquiescence he stripped off his coat, rolled up
his shirt-sleeves, and dove under the seat for the jack.
Elizabeth Compton was about to protest, but there was something about
the way in which the stranger went at the job that indicated that he
would probably finish it if he wished to, in spite of any arguments she
could advance to the contrary. As he worked she talked with him,
discovering not only that he was a rather nice person to look at, but
that he was equally nice to talk to.
She could not help but notice that his clothes were rather badly
wrinkled and that his shoes were dusty and well worn; for when he
kneeled in the street to operate the jack the sole of one shoe was
revealed beneath the light of an adjacent arc, and she saw that it was
badly worn. Evidently he was a poor young man.
She had observed these things almost unconsciously, and yet they made
their impression upon her, so that when he had finished she recalled
them, and was emboldened thereby to offer him a bill in payment for his
services. He refused, as she had almost expected him to do, for while
his clothes and his shoes suggested that he might accept a gratuity, his
voice and his manner belied them.
During the operation of changing the wheel the young man had a good
opportunity to appraise the face and figure of the girl, both of which
he found entirely to his liking, and when finally she started off, after
thanking him, he stood upon the curb watching the car until it
disappeared from view.
Slowly he drew from his pocket an envelope which had been addressed and
stamped for mailing, and very carefully tore it into small bits which he
dropped into the gutter. He could not have told had any one asked him
what prompted him to the act. A girl had come into his life for an
instant, and had gone out again, doubtless forever, and yet in that
instant Jimmy Torrance had taken a new grasp upon his self-esteem.
It might have been the girl, and again it might not have been. He could
not tell. Possibly it was the simple little act of refusing the tip she
had proffered him. It might have been any one of a dozen little
different things, or an accumulation of them all, that had brought back
a sudden flood of the old self-confidence and optimism.
"To-morrow," said Jimmy as he climbed into his bed, "I am going to land
And he did. In the department store to the general managership of whose
mail-order department he had aspired Jimmy secured a position in the
hosiery department at ten dollars a week. The department buyer who had
interviewed him asked him what experience he had had with ladies'
"About four or five years," replied Jimmy.
"For whom did you work?"
"I was in business for myself," replied the applicant, "both in the West
and in the East. I got my first experience in a small town in Nebraska,
but I carried on a larger business in the East later."
So they gave Jimmy a trial in a new section of the hosiery department,
wherein he was the only male clerk. The buyer had discovered that there
was a sufficient proportion of male customers, many of whom displayed
evident embarrassment in purchasing hosiery from young ladies, to
warrant putting a man clerk in one of the sections for this class of
The fact of the matter was, however, that the astute buyer was never
able to determine the wisdom of his plan, since Jimmy's entire time was
usually occupied in waiting upon impressionable young ladies. However,
inasmuch as it redounded to the profit of the department, the buyer
found no fault.
Possibly if Jimmy had been almost any other type of man from what he
was, his presence would not have been so flamboyantly noticeable in a
hosiery department. His stature, his features, and his bronzed skin,
that had lost nothing of its bronze in his month's search for work
through the hot summer streets of a big city, were as utterly out of
place as would have been the salient characteristics of a chorus-girl in
For the first week Jimmy was frightfully embarrassed, and to his natural
bronze was added an almost continuous flush of mortification from the
moment that he entered the department in the morning until he left it at
"It is a job, however," he thought, "and ten dollars is better than
nothing. I can hang onto it until something better turns up."
With his income now temporarily fixed at the amount of his wages, he was
forced to find a less expensive boarding-place, although at the time he
had rented his room he had been quite positive that there could not be a
cheaper or more undesirable habitat for man. Transportation and other
considerations took him to a place on Indiana Avenue near Eighteenth
Street, from whence he found he could walk to and from work, thereby
saving ten cents a day. "And believe me," he cogitated, "I need the
Jimmy saw little of his fellow roomers. A strange, drab lot he thought
them from the occasional glimpses he had had in passings upon the dark
stairway and in the gloomy halls. They appeared to be quiet, inoffensive
sort of folk, occupied entirely with their own affairs. He had made no
friends in the place, not even an acquaintance, nor did he care to. What
leisure time he had he devoted to what he now had come to consider as
his life work--the answering of blind ads in the Help Wanted columns of
one morning and one evening paper--the two mediums which seemed to
carry the bulk of such advertising.
For a while he had sought a better position by applying during the noon
hour to such places as gave an address close enough to the department
store in which he worked to permit him to make the attempt during the
forty-five-minute period be was allowed for his lunch.
But he soon discovered that nine-tenths of the positions were filled
before he arrived, and that in the few cases where they were not he not
only failed of employment, but was usually so delayed that he was late
in returning to work after noon.
By replying to blind ads evenings he could take his replies to the two
newspaper offices during his lunch hour, thereby losing no great amount
of time. Although he never received a reply, he still persisted as be
found the attempt held something of a fascination for him, similar
probably to that which holds the lottery devotee or the searcher after
buried treasure--there was always the chance that he would turn up
And so another month dragged by slowly. His work in the department
store disgusted him. It seemed such a silly, futile occupation for a
full-grown man, and he was always fearful that the sister or sweetheart
or mother of some of his Chicago friends would find him there behind the
counter in the hosiery section.
The store was a large one, including many departments, and Jimmy tried
to persuade the hosiery buyer to arrange for his transfer to another
department where his work would be more in keeping with his sex and
He rather fancied the automobile accessories line, but the buyer was
perfectly satisfied with Jimmy's sales record, and would do nothing to
assist in the change. The university heavyweight champion had reached a
point where he loathed but one thing more than he did silk hosiery, and
that one thing was himself.
HAROLD PLAYS THE RAVEN.
Mason Compton, president and general manager, sat in his private office
in the works of the International Machine Company, chewing upon an
unlighted cigar and occasionally running his fingers through his
iron-gray hair as he compared and recompared two statements which lay
upon the desk before him.
"Damn strange," he muttered as he touched a button beneath the edge of
his desk. A boy entered the room. "Ask Mr. Bince if he will be good
enough to step in here a moment, please," said Compton; and a moment
later, when Harold Bince entered, the older man leaned back in his chair
and motioned the other to be seated.
"I can't understand these statements, Harold," said Compton. "Here is
one for August of last year and this is this August's statement of
costs. We never had a better month in the history of this organization
than last month, and yet our profits are not commensurate with the
volume of business that we did. That's the reason I sent for these cost
statements and have compared them, and I find that our costs have
increased out of all proportions to what is warranted. How do you
account for it?"
"Principally the increased cost of labor," replied Bince. "The same
holds true of everybody else. Every manufacturer in the country is in
the same plight we are."
"I know," agreed Compton, "that that is true to some measure. Both
labor and raw materials have advanced, but we have advanced our prices
correspondingly. In some instances it seems to me that our advance in
prices, particularly on our specialties, should have given us even a
handsomer profit over the increased cost of production than we formerly
"In the last six months since I appointed you assistant manager I am
afraid that I have sort of let things get out of my grasp. I have a lot
of confidence in you, Harold, and now that you and Elizabeth are engaged
I feel even more inclined to let you shoulder the responsibilities that
I have carried alone from the inception of this organization. But I've
got to be mighty sure that you are going to do at least as well as I
did. You have shown a great deal of ability, but you are young and
haven't had the advantage of the years of experience that made it
possible for me to finally develop a business second to none in this
line in the West.
"I never had a son, and after Elizabeth's mother died I have lived in
the hope somehow that she would marry the sort of chap who would really
take the place of such a son as every man dreams of--some one who will
take his place and carry on his work when he is ready to lay aside his
tools. I liked your father, Harold. He was one of the best friends that
I ever had, and I can tell you now what I couldn't have you a month ago:
that when I employed you and put you in this position it was with the
hope that eventually you would fill the place in my business and in my
home of the son I never had."
"Do you think Elizabeth guessed what was in your mind?" asked Bince.
"I don't know," replied the older man. "I have tried never to say
anything to influence her. Years ago when she was younger we used to
talk about it half jokingly and shortly after you told me of your
engagement she remarked to me one day that she was happy, for she knew
you were going to be the sort of son I had wanted.
"I haven't anybody on earth but her, Harold, and when I die she gets the
business. I have arranged it in my will so you two will share and share
alike in profits after I go, but that will be some time. I am far from
being an old man, and I am a mighty healthy one. However, I should like
to be relieved of the active management. There are lot of things that I
have always wanted to do that I couldn't do because I couldn't spare the
time from my business.
"And so I want you to get thoroughly into the harness as soon as
possible, that I may turn over the entire management you. But I can't do
it, Harold, while the profits are diminishing."
As the older man's gaze fell again to statements before him the eyes of
younger man narrowed just a trifle as they rested upon Mason Compton,
and then as the older man looked up Bince's expression changed.
"I'll do my best, sir," he said, smiling. "Of course I realize, as you
must, that I have tried to learn a great deal in a short time. I think I
have reached a point now where I pretty thoroughly grasp the
possibilities and requirements of my work, and I am sure that from now
on you will note a decided change for the better on the right side of
"I am sure of it, my boy," said Compton heartily. "Don't think that I
have been finding fault with anything you have done. I just wanted to
call your attention to these figures. They mean something, and it's up
to you to find out just what they do mean."
And then there came a light tap on the door, which opened immediately
before any summons to enter had been given, and Elizabeth Compton
entered, followed by another young woman.
"Hello, there!" exclaimed Compton. "What gets us out so early? And
Harriet too! There is only one thing that would bring you girls in here
"And what's that?" asked Elizabeth.
"You are going shopping, and Elizabeth wants some money."
They all laughed. "You're a regular Sherlock Holmes!" exclaimed Harriet
"How much?" asked Compton of his daughter, still smiling.
"How much have you?" asked Elizabeth. "I am utterly broke."
Compton turned to Bince. "Get her what she needs, Harold," he said.
The young man started to the door.
"Come with me, Elizabeth," he said; "we will go out to the cashier's
cage and get you fixed up."
They entered Bince's office, which adjoined Compton's.
"Wait here a minute, Elizabeth," said Bince. "How much do you want?
I'll get it for you and bring it back. I want to see you a moment alone
before you go."
She told him how much she wanted, and he was back shortly with the
"Elizabeth," he said, "I don't know whether you have noticed it or not,
because your father isn't a man to carry his troubles home, but I
believe that he is failing rapidly, largely from overwork. He worries
about conditions here which really do not exist. I have been trying to
take the load off his shoulders so that he could ease up a bit, but he
has got into a rut from which be cannot be guided.
"He will simply have to be lifted completely out of it, or be will stay
here and die in the harness. Everything is running splendidly, and now
that I have a good grasp of the business I can handle it. Don't you
suppose you could persuade him to take a trip? I know that he wants to
travel. He has told me so several times, and if he could get away from
here this fall and stay away for a year, if possible, it would make a
new man of him. I am really very much worried about him, and while I
hate to worry you I feel that you are the only person who can influence
him and that something ought to be done and done at once."
"Why, Harold," exclaimed the girl, "there is nothing the matter with
father! He was never better in his life nor more cheerful."
"That's the side of him that he lets you see," replied the man. "His
gaiety is all forced. If you could see him after you leave you would
realize that he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Your father is
not an old man in years, but he has placed a constant surtax on his
nervous system for the last twenty-five years without a let-up, and it
doesn't make any difference how good a machine may be it is going to
wear out some day, and the better the machine the more complete will be
the wreck when the final break occurs."
As he spoke he watched the girl's face, the changing expression of it,
which marked her growing mental perturbation.
"You really believe it is as bad as that, Harold?" she asked.
"It may be worse than I think," he said. "It is surely fully as bad."
The girl rose slowly from the chair. "I will try and persuade him to
see Dr. Earle."
The man took a step toward her. "I don't believe a doctor is what he
needs," he said quickly. "His condition is one that even a nerve
specialist might not diagnose correctly. It is only some one in a
position like mine, who has an opportunity to observe him almost hourly,
day by day, who would realize his condition. I doubt if he has any
organic trouble whatever. What he needs is a long rest, entirely free
from any thought whatever of business. At least, Elizabeth, it will do
him no harm, and it may prolong his life for years. I wouldn't go
messing around with any of these medical chaps."
"Well," she said at last, with a sigh, "I will talk to him and see if I
can't persuade him to take a trip. He has always wanted to visit Japan
"Just the thing!" exclaimed Bince; "just the thing for him. The long
sea voyage will do him a world of good. And now," he said, stepping to
her side and putting an arm around her.
She pushed him gently away.
"No," she said; "I do not feel like kissing now," and turning she
entered her father's office, followed by Bince.
From her father's works Elizabeth and Harriet drove to the shopping
district, where they strolled through a couple of shops and then stopped
at one of the larger stores.
Jimmy Torrance was arranging his stock, fully nine-tenths of which he
could have sworn he had just shown an elderly spinster who had taken at
least half an hour of his time and then left without making a purchase.
His back was toward his counter when his attention was attracted by a
feminine voice asking if he was busy. As he turned about he recognized
her instantly--the girl for whom he had changed a wheel a month before
and who unconsciously had infused new ambition into his blood and saved
him, temporarily at least, from becoming a quitter.
He noticed as he waited on her that she seemed to be appraising him very
carefully, and at times there was a slightly puzzled expression on her
face, but evidently she did not recognize him, and finally when she had
concluded her purchases he was disappointed that she paid for them in
cash. He had rather hoped that she would have them charged and sent,
that he might learn her name and address. And then she left, with Jimmy
none the wiser concerning her other than that her first name was
Elizabeth and that she was even better-looking than he recalled her to
"And the girl with her!" exclaimed Jimmy mentally. "She was no slouch
either. They are the two best-looking girls I have seen in this town,
notwithstanding the fact that whether one likes Chicago or not he's got
to admit that there are more pretty girls here than in any other city in
"I'm glad she didn't recognize me. Of course, I don't know her, and the
chances are that I never shall, but I should hate to have any one
recognize me here, or hereafter, as that young man at the stocking
counter. Gad! but it's beastly that a regular life-sized man should be
selling stockings to women for a living, or rather for a fraction of a
While Jimmy had always been hugely disgusted with his position, the
sight of the girl seemed to have suddenly crystallized all those weeks
of self-contempt into a sudden almost mad desire to escape what he
considered his degrading and effeminating surroundings. One must bear
with Jimmy and judge him leniently, for after all, notwithstanding his
college diploma and physique, he was still but a boy and so while it is
difficult for a mature and sober judgment to countenance his next step,
if one can look back a few years to his own youth he can at least find
extenuating circumstances surrounding Jimmy's seeming foolishness.
For with a bang that caused startled clerks in all directions to look up
from their work he shattered the decorous monotone of the great store by
slamming his sales book viciously upon the counter, and without a word
of explanation to his fellow clerks marched out of the section toward
the buyer's desk.
"Well, Mr. Torrance," asked that gentleman, "what can I do for you?"
"I am going to quit," announced Jimmy.
"Quit!"' exclaimed the buyer. "Why, what's wrong? Isn't everything
perfectly satisfactory? You have never complained to me."
"I can't explain," replied Jimmy. "I am going to quit. I am not
satisfied. I am going to er--ah--accept another position."
The buyer raised his eyebrows. "Ah! he said. "With--" and he named
their closest competitor.
"No," said Jimmy. "I am going to get a regular he-job."
The other smiled. "If an increase in salary," he suggested, "would
influence you, I had intended to tell you that I would take care of you
beginning next week. I thought of making it fifteen dollars," and with
that unanswerable argument for Jimmy's continued service the buyer sat
back and folded his bands.
"Nothing stirring," said Jimmy. "I wouldn't sell another sock if you
paid me ten thousand dollars a year. I am through."
"Oh, very well," said the buyer aggrievedly, "but if you leave me this
way you will be unable to refer to the house."
But nothing, not even a team of oxen, could have held Jimmy in that
section another minute, and so he got his pay and left with nothing more
in view than a slow death by starvation.
"There," exclaimed Elizabeth Compton, as she sank back on the cushions
of her car.
"There what?" asked Harriet.
"I have placed him."
"That nice-looking young person who waited on us in the hosiery
"Oh!" said Harriet. "He was nice-looking, wasn't he? But be looked out
of place there, and I think he felt out of place. Did you notice how he
flushed when he asked you what size?" and the girls laughed heartily at
the recollection. "But where have you ever met him before?" Harriet
"I have never met him," corrected Elizabeth, accenting the "met." "He
changed a wheel on the roadster several weeks ago one evening after I
had taken Harold down to the club. And he was very nice about it. I
should say that he is a gentleman, although his clothes were pretty
"Yes," said Harriet, "his suit was shabby, but his linen was clean and
his coat well brushed."
"My!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "He must have made an impression on some
"Well," said Harriet, "it isn't often you see such a nice-looking chap
in the hosiery section."
"No," said Elizabeth, "and probably if he were as nice as he looks he
wouldn't be there."
Whereupon the subject was changed, and she promptly forgot Mr. Jimmy
Torrance. But Jimmy was not destined soon to forget her, for as the
jobless days passed and he realized more and more what an ass he had
made of himself, and why, he had occasion to think about her a great
deal, although never in any sense reproaching her. He realized that the
fault was his own and that he had done a foolish thing in giving up his
position because of a girl he did not know and probably never would.
There came a Saturday when Jimmy, jobless and fundless, dreaded his
return to the Indiana Avenue rooming-house, where he knew the landlady
would be eagerly awaiting him, for he was a week in arrears in his room
rent already, and had been warned he could expect no further credit.
"There is a nice young man wanting your room," the landlady had told
him, "and I shall have to be having it Saturday night unless you can pay
Jimmy stood on the corner of Clark and Van Buren looking at his watch.
"I hate to do it," he thought, "but the Lizard said he could get twenty
for it, and twenty would give me another two weeks." And so his watch
went, and two weeks later his cigarette-case and ring followed. Jimmy
had never gone in much for jewelry--a fact which he now greatly
Some of the clothes he still had were good, though badly in want of
pressing, and when, after still further days of fruitless searching for
work the proceeds from the articles he had pawned were exhausted, it
occurred to him he might raise something on all but what he actually
needed to cover his nakedness.
In his search for work he was still wearing his best-looking suit; the
others he would dispose of; and with this plan in his mind on his return
to his room that night he went to the tiny closet to make a bundle of
the things which he would dispose of on the morrow, only to discover
that in his absence some one had been there before him, and that there
was nothing left for him to sell.
It would be two days before his room rent was again due, but in the mean
time Jimmy had no money wherewith to feed the inner man. It was an
almost utterly discouraged Jimmy who crawled into his bed to spend a
sleepless night of worry and vain regret, the principal object of his
regret being that he was not the son of a blacksmith who had taught him
how to shoe horses and who at the same time had been too poor to send
him to college.
Long since there had been driven into his mind the conviction that for
any practical purpose in life a higher education was as useless as the
proverbial fifth wheel to the coach.
"And even, "mused Jimmy, "if I had graduated at the head of my class, I
would be no better off than I am now."
BREAD FROM THE WATERS.
The next day, worn out from loss of sleep, the young man started out
upon a last frenzied search for employment. He had no money for
breakfast, and so he went breakfastless, and as he had no carfare it was
necessary for him to walk the seemingly interminable miles from one
prospective job to another. By the middle of the afternoon Jimmy was
hungrier than he had ever been before in his life. He was so hungry that
it actually hurt, and he was weak from physical fatigue and from
disappointment and worry.
"I've got to eat," he soliloquized fiercely, "if I have to go out
to-night and pound somebody on the head to get the price, and I'm going
to do it," he concluded as the odors of cooking food came to him from a
cheap restaurant which he was passing. He stopped a moment and looked
into the window at the catsup bottles and sad-looking pies which the
proprietor apparently seemed to think formed an artistic and attractive
"If I had a brick," thought Jimmy, "I would have one of those pies, even
if I went to the jug for it," but his hunger had not made him as
desperate as he thought he was, and so he passed slowly on, and,
glancing into the windows of the store next door, saw a display of
second-hand clothes and the sign "Clothes Bought and Sold."
Jimmy looked at those in the window and then down at his own, which,
though wrinkled, were infinitely better than anything on display.
"I wonder," he mused, "if I couldn't put something over in the way of
high finance here," and, acting upon the inspiration, he entered the
dingy little shop. When he emerged twenty minutes later he wore a shabby
and rather disreputable suit of hand-me-downs, but he had two silver
dollars in his pocket.
When Jimmy returned to his room that night it was with a full stomach,
but with the knowledge that he had practically reached the end of his
rope. He had been unable to bring himself to the point of writing his
father an admission of his failure, and in fact he had gone so far, and
in his estimation had sunk so low, that he had definitely determined he
would rather starve to death now than admit his utter inefficiency to
those whose respect he most valued.
As he climbed the stairway to his room he heard some one descending from
above, and as they passed beneath the dim light of a flickering gas-jet
he realized that the other stopped suddenly and turned back to look
after him as Jimmy continued his ascent of the stairs; and then a low
"Say, bo, what you doin' here?"
Jimmy turned toward the questioner.
"Oh!" he exclaimed as recognition of the other dawned slowly upon him.
"It's you, is it? My old and esteemed friend, the Lizard."
"Sure, it's me," replied the Lizard. "But what you doin' here? Looking
for an assistant general manager?"
"Don't rub it in," he said, still smiling.
The other ascended toward him, his keen eyes appraising him from head to
"You live here?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Jimmy; "do you?"
"Sure, I been livin' here for the last six months."
"That's funny," said Jimmy; "I have been here about two months myself."
"What's the matter with you?" asked the Lizard. "Didn't you like the
job as general manager?"
"Forget it," he admonished.
"Where's you room?" asked the Lizard.
"Up another flight," said Jimmy. "Won't you come up?"
"Sure," said the Lizard, and together the two ascended the stairs and
entered Jimmy's room. Under the brighter light there the Lizard
scrutinized his host.
"You been against it, bo, haven't you?" he asked.
"I sure have," said Jimmy.
"Gee," said the other, "what a difference clothes make! You look like a
"Thanks," said Jimmy.
"What you doin'?" asked the Lizard.
"Lose your job?"
"I quit it," said Jimmy. "I've only worked a month since I've been
here, and that for the munificent salary of ten dollars a week."
"Do you want to make some coin?" asked the Lizard.
"I sure do," said Jimmy. "I don't know of anything 1 would rather
"I'm pullin' off something to-morrow night. I can use you," and he eyed
Jimmy shrewdly as he spoke.
"Cracking a box?" asked Jimmy, grinning.
"It might be something like that," replied the Lizard; "but you won't
have nothin' to do but stand where I put you and make a noise like a cat
if you see anybody coming. It ought to be something good. I been working
on it for three months. We'll split something like fifty thousand
"Is that the usual percentage?" asked Jimmy.
"It's what I'm offerin' you," replied the lizard.
Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy jingled the few pieces
of silver remaining in his pocket. Fifteen thousand dollars! And here he
had been walking his legs off and starving in a vain attempt to earn a
few paltry dollars honestly.
"There's something wrong somewhere," muttered Jimmy to himself.
"I'm taking it from an old crab who has more than he can use, and all of
it he got by robbing people that didn't have any to spare. He's a big
guy here. When anything big is doing the newspaper guys interview him
and his name is in all the lists of subscriptions to charity--when
they're going to be published in the papers. I'll bet he takes
nine-tenths of his kale from women and children, and he's an honored
citizen. I ain't no angel, but whatever I've taken didn't cause nobody
any sufferin'--I'm a thief, bo, and I'm mighty proud of it when I think
of what this other guy is."
Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy was sitting with his
legs crossed. He looked down at his ill-fitting, shabby trousers, and
then turned up the sole of one shoe which was worn through almost to his
sock. The Lizard watched him as a cat watches a mouse. He knew that the
other was thinking hard, and that presently he would reach a decision,
and through Jimmy's mind marched a sordid and hateful procession of
recent events--humiliation, rebuff, shame, poverty, hunger, and in the
background the face of his father and the face of a girl whose name,
even, he did not know.
Presently he looked up at the Lizard.
"Nothing doing, old top," he said. "But don't mistake the motives which
prompt me to refuse your glittering offer. I am moved by no moral
scruples, however humiliating such a confession should be. The way I
feel now I would almost as lief go out and rob widows and orphans
myself, but each of us, some time in our life, has to consider some one
who would probably rather see us dead than disgraced. I don't know
whether you get me or not."
"I get you," replied the Lizard, "and while you may never wear diamonds,
you'll get more pleasure out of life than I ever will, provided you
don't starve to death too soon. You know, I had a hunch you would turn
me down, and I'm glad you did. If you were going crooked some time I
thought I'd like to have you with me. When it comes to men, I'm a pretty
good picker. That's the reason I have kept out of jail so long. I either
pick a square one or I work alone."
"Thanks," said Jimmy, "but how do you know that after you pull this job
I won't tip off the police and claim the reward."
The Lizard grinned his lip grin.
"There ain't one chance in a million," he said. "You'd starve to death
before you'd do it. And now, what you want is a job. I can probably get
you one if you ain't too particular." "I'd do anything," said Jimmy,
"that I could do and still look a policeman in the face."
"All right," said the Lizard. "When I come back I'll bring you a job of
some sort. I may be back to-night, and I may not be back again for a
month, and in the mean time you got to live."
He drew a roll of bills from his pocket and commenced to count out
"Hold on! "cried Jimmy. "Once again, nothing doing."
"Forget it," admonished the Lizard. "I'm just payin' back the twenty
you loaned me."
"But I didn't loan it to you," said Jimmy; "I gave it to you as a reward
for finding my watch."
The Lizard laughed and shoved the money across the table.
"Take it," he said; "don't be a damn fool. And now so-long! I may
bring you home a job to-night, but if I don't you've got enough to live
on for a couple of weeks."
After the Lizard had gone Jimmy sat looking at the twenty dollars for a
"That fellow may be a thief," he soliloquized, "but whatever he is he's
white. Just imagine, the only friend I've got in Chicago is a
HAROLD SITS IN A GAME.
When Elizabeth Compton broached to her father the subject of a
much-needed rest and a trip to the Orient, he laughed at her. Why,
girl," he cried, "I was never better in my life! Where in the world did
you get this silly idea?"
"Harold noticed it first," she replied, "and called my attention to it;
and now I can see that you really have been failing."
"Failing!" ejaculated Compton, with a scoff. "Failing nothing! You're
a pair of young idiots. I'm good for twenty years more of hard work,
but, as I told Harold, I would like to quit and travel, and I shall do
so just as soon as I am convinced that he can take my place."
"Couldn't he do it now?" asked the girl.
"No, I am afraid not," replied Compton. "It is too much to expect of
him, but I believe that in another year he will be able to."
And so Compton put an end to the suggestion that he travel for his
health, and that night when Bince called she told him that she had been
unable to persuade her father that he needed a rest.
"I am afraid," he said "that you don't take it seriously enough
yourself, and that you failed to impress upon him the real gravity of
his condition. It is really necessary that he go--he must go."
The girl looked up quickly at the speaker, whose tones seemed
"I don't quite understand," she said, "why you should take the matter so
to heart. Father is the best judge of his own condition, and, while he
may need a rest, I cannot see that he is in any immediate danger." "Oh,
well," replied Bince irritably, "I just wanted him to get away for his
own sake. Of course, it don't mean anything to me."
"What's the matter with you tonight, anyway, Harold?" she asked a half
an hour later. "You're as cross and disagreeable as you can be."
"No, I'm not," he said. "There is nothing the matter with me at all."
But his denial failed to convince her, and as, unusually early, a few
minutes later he left, she realized that she had spent a most unpleasant
Bince went directly to his club, where he found four other men who were
evidently awaiting him.
"Want to sit in a little game to-night, Harold?" asked one of them.
"Oh, hell," replied Bince, "you fellows have been sitting here all
evening waiting for me. You know I want to. My luck's got to change some
"Sure thing it has," agreed another of the men. "You certainly have
been playing in rotten luck, but when it does change--oh, baby!"
As the five men entered one of the cardrooms several of the inevitable
spectators drew away from the other games and approached their table,
for it was a matter of club gossip that these five played for the
largest stakes of any coterie among the habitues of the card-room.
It was two o'clock in the morning before Bince disgustedly threw his
cards upon the table and rose. There was a nasty expression on his face
and in his mind a thing which he did not dare voice--the final
crystallization of a suspicion that he had long harbored, that his
companions had been for months deliberately fleecing him. Tonight he had
lost five thousand dollars, nor was there a man at the table who did not
hold his I. 0. U's. for similar amounts.
"I'm through, absolutely through," he said. "I'll be damned if I ever
touch another card."
His companions only smiled wearily, for they knew that to-morrow night
he would be back at the table.
"How much of old man Compton's money did you get tonight?" asked one of
the four after Bince had left the room.
"About two thousand dollars," was the reply, "which added to what I
already hold, puts Mr. Compton in my debt some seven or eight thousand
Whereupon they all laughed.
"I suppose," remarked anther, "that it's a damn shame, but if we don't
get it some one else will."
"Is he paying anything at all?" asked another.
"Oh, yes; he comes across with something now and then, but we'll
probably have to carry the bulk of it until after the wedding."
"Well, I can't carry it forever," said the first speaker. "I'm not
playing here for my health," and, rising, he too left the room. Going
directly to the buffet, he found Bince, as he was quite sure that he
"Look here, old man," he said, "I hate to seem insistent, but, on the
level, I've got to have some money."
"I've told you two or three times,"' replied Bince, "that I'd let you
have it as soon as I could get it. I can't get you any now."
"If you haven't got it, Mason Compton has," retorted the creditor, "and
if you don't come across I'll go to him and get it."
"You wouldn't do that, Harry?" he almost whimpered. "For God's sake,
don't do that, and I'll try and see what I can do for you."
"Well," replied the other, "I don't want to be nasty, but I need some
"Give me a little longer," begged Bince, "and I'll see what I can do."
Jimmy Torrance sat a long time in thought after the Lizard left. "God!"
he muttered. "I wonder what dad would say if he knew that I had come to
a point where I had even momentarily considered going into partnership
with a safe-blower, and that for the next two weeks I shall be
compelled to subsist upon the charity of a criminal?
"I'm sure glad that I have a college education. It has helped me
materially to win to my present exalted standing in society. Oh, well I
might be worse off, I suppose. At least I don't have to worry about the
"It is now October, and since the first of the year I have earned forty
dollars exactly. I have also received a bequest of twenty dollars, which
of course is exempt. I venture to say that there is not another
able-bodied adult male in the United States the making of whose
income-tax schedule would be simpler than mine."
With which philosophic trend of thought, and the knowledge that he could
eat for at least two weeks longer, the erstwhile star amateur first
baseman sought the doubtful comfort of his narrow, lumpy bed.
It was in the neighborhood of two o'clock the next morning that he was
awakened by a gentle tapping upon the panels of his door.
"Who is it?" he asked. "What do you want?"
"It's me bo," came the whispered reply in the unmistakable tones of the
Jimmy arose, lighted the gas, and opened the door.
"What's the matter?" he whispered.
"Are the police on your trail?" "No," replied the Lizard, grinning. "I
just dropped in to tell you that I grabbed a job for you."
"Fine!" exclaimed Jimmy. "You're a regular fellow all right."
"But you might not like the job," suggested the Lizard.
"As long as I can earn an honest dollar," cried Jimmy, striking a
dramatic pose, "I care not what it may be."
The Lizard's grin broadened.
"I ain't so sure about that," he said. "I know your kind. You're a
regular gent. There is some honest jobs that you would just as soon have
as the smallpox, and maybe this is one of them."
"What is it?" asked Jimmy. "Don't keep me guessing any longer."
"You know Feinheimer's Cabaret."
"The basement joint on Wells Street?" asked Jimmy. "Sure I know it."
"Well that's where I got you a job," said the Lizard.
"What doing?" asked Jimmy.
"Waiter," was the reply.
"It isn't any worse than standing behind a counter, selling stockings to
women," said Jimmy.
"It ain't such a bad job," admitted the Lizard "if a guy ain't too
swelled up. Some of 'em make a pretty good thing out of it, what with
their tips and short changing--Oh, there are lots of little ways to
get yours at Feinheimer's."
"I see, "said Jimmy; "but don't he pay any wages?"
"Oh, sure," replied the Lizard; "you get the union scale."
"When do I go to work?"
"Go around and see him to-morrow morning. He will put you right to
And so the following evening the patrons of Feinheimer's Cabaret saw a
new face among the untidy servitors of the establishment--a new face
and a new figure, both of which looked out of place in the atmosphere of
the basement resort.
Feinheimer's Cabaret held a unique place among the restaurants of the
city. Its patrons were from all classes of society. At noon its many
tables were largely filled by staid and respectable business men, but at
night a certain element of the underworld claimed it as their own, and
there was always a sprinkling of people of the stage, artists, literary
men and politicians. It was, as a certain wit described it, a social
goulash, for in addition to its regular habitues there were those few
who came occasionally from the upper stratum of society in the belief
that they were doing something devilish. As a matter of fact, slumming
parties which began and ended at Feinheimer's were of no uncommon
occurrence, and as the place was more than usually orderly it was with
the greatest safety that society made excursions into the underworld of
crime and vice through its medium.
Feinheimer liked Jimmy's appearance. He was big and strong, and the
fact that Feinheimer always retained one or two powerful men upon his
payroll accounted in a large measure for the orderliness of his place.
Occasionally one might start something at Feinheimer's, but no one was
ever known to finish what he started.
And so Jimmy found himself waiting upon table at a place that was both
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