( Originally Published 1917 )
ALAS for the inequalities of this world ! If for Ambrose Peale these last days had been blue, for Rodney and Mary they had been all the color of roses.
Much history had passed over their heads as well as the company's in the hours leading up to their visit to Mr. Martin's library, and their fore-gathering there with Ambrose and the Countess. The order from Marshall Field had begun it, and that was really the soap king's fault, since he had waved his monopolistic wand and caused the false order to spring up out of the ground: and Mary's five thousand dollar contribution to the soap company's capital had developed it, which may also be said to have been the fault of the old magnate. The Marshall Field order was especially to blame, however, because it had made the future look assured and rosy and encouraging, so that together they had taken the plunge. In the illuminated moments which followed the fifty-thousand flash Mary's reluctance had disappeared, Rodney's ardor had redoubled and in the reaction of a lovers' quarrel and a " grand make-up " as Mary said, they had gone off to the Little Church around the corner and been married. That was the whole story. Really and truly it was all old Mr. Martin's fault, and prearranged by him from the beginning, as Mary told herself again and again, defending herself against Rodney's father's possible wrath when the news of his son's marriage to a typewriter should be broken gently to him.
The quarrel came, as quarrels and April showers are apt to do, out of a clear and serene sky. In the general jubilation over Marshall Field Rodney had remarked, escorting Mary up town at night, that now, the first thing he was going to do with his share of the profits, was to pay her back that five thousand dollars.
" And then," he added sententiously, " there won't be anything between us any more."
Something in the tone of his voice, quite unintentional on the boy's part, no doubt, had piqued (Mary.
You've always fussed about that," she said. Something in the way she said the word fussed piqued Rodney.
" And don't you think it's been something to fuss about?" he demanded. " When a fellow's best girl, his fiancee, takes money from, a rich old man, and then the fellow 'lets her lose it all in his business — well, I don't see why you can't see that the situation's pretty raw."
" Why do you say lost? I hope you don't )think it's really lost," retorted Mary. " Don't be ' such a gloomy Gus."
Well, you know what I mean," persisted Rodney. " It was darned near lost. And that shows you do care about it any way."
" Why shouldn't I care about it? " said Mary. " Indeed I think five thousand dollars is a good deal of money."
" I think it's a whole lot of money," said Rodney, " and you must excuse me if I can't help wondering how a girl in your position was able to get hold of it."
" A girl in my position," echoed Mary scorn-fully. " That's right. Rub it in. I'm really ashamed of you, Rodney Martin. And you know perfectly well I wasn't born a typewriter."
She turned her head away and there was just a hint' of tears in her voice, but Rodney was not /ready to give in yet. He was bent, masculine fashion, on making her listen to reason, as if the matter were the most important in the world, and he thought he saw his chance at last to get the truth about it out of her.
" Mary," he said, trying to be perfectly calm and persuasive, " tell me now. You know we shall be happier."
" I don't know it at all," said Mary obstinately.
They had left the subway now, and were walking east in the long block toward Central Park. When they came to the stoop of Mary's house they both paused and Rodney began to plead again.
" Mary, please," he said, trying to take her hand.
" No," said Mary, " I don't believe you'd like me if you knew."
"Please," persisted Rodney.
The long, uniform rows of New York house fronts stretched away on either side of them in the obscurity. A red light twinkled in one bay window, and beneath the shade could be seen the rows of books in a library. Near the curb opposite an extraordinarily silent limousine had just drawn up, with a little swish of its rubber tires as it came to rest, and presently a man and a woman in joyous evening raiment came out of the house and got into it. The woman wore a perfectly gorgeous opera cloak and combs flashed in her beautifully arranged hair. The man's linen was very white and his silk hat very shiny. The chauffeur had switched on the light inside the car, and the occupants showed a moment brilliantly in the jewel box of its interior, before the light went out and the car moved off again, west and south, to the haunts of pleasure, as Ambrose Peale would have said. A throb and a sob came into Mary's voice as she saw it all, and she answered again :
" You might hate me. And I'm taking you away from all that, which was yours by right."
" Come in a moment," said Rodney, gently and kindly. " As if I cared. You know nothing can ever make any difference to me. I only want to know where I am, that's all."
They climbed the stairs together and a West Indian " butler " let them in. Rodney drew Mary into a hideous little reception-room on the ground floor, and they sat down together on a Turkish couch which bore a suspicious suggestion of being a disguised bed. He took both the girl's hands in his and looked earnestly into her lovely eyes.
" You're the finest girl in the world, Mary," he said, " and nothing could ever turn me against you.,,
In the ill-lighted, ill-ventilated little parlor, illuminated for them with love's thousand eyes, the truth came out. Mary told the whole story from the beginning, not without some humor, and not without some satisfaction at certain portions of it, it must be confessed; told of old Mr. Martin's fretting about Ellery Clark, of the bet with Ellery's father, of her share in the deception and of her reward in money.
" But you see I believed in you, Rodney," she concluded, " and so I reinvested in your business."
" What do I care, if you really love me," pro-tested Rodney. " And you must prove it too. Mary, now you must marry me."
Between the lines of her story Rodney had read real and growing love for him; she had really learned to love him, he told himself jubilantly, and he thrilled with the wonder of it. It had been worth working for. He was a man now, full grown, and he took her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers, and gathered her sweet, slim yield ing body to his in a long, passionate embrace --
That was a Thursday, and by Friday night they were married; so that they could have two days of honeymoon any way before Monday, Rodney said. It was all very quietly arranged in the little church. English sparrows chirped noisily in the bare branches of the churchyard, and the little fountain, its waters frozen till it took the shape of the cut on an old apollinaris bottle, trickled gently, as they, passed in. When they came out nothing was visible to Rodney except the lovelight in Mary's eyes. . . .
So much for those who talk about telepathy.
Late Saturday forenoon, when they sneaked down to the office, just to be sure that everything was all right, certainly no one guessed what momentous change had come into their two lives; no one divined the ecstasy that thrilled unseen beneath their every day demeanor. Miss Burke, watching Mary take off her hat and pat back her hair, and Rodney hanging up his coat, had not the slightest idea of anything so romantic.
Of course old Mr. Martin's obduracy had been a blow, but Rodney was game throughout, and gloriously happy. He felt every inch a man now, and dared to cope with every difficulty.
" Shall we tell the old gentleman? " he asked Mary, meaning of course the fact of their being married.
"No, indeed, not yet," said Mary, blushing ever so little. " Just let me wait for the psychological moment."
So they waited, and love was rewarded once more by nothing less ethereal than a second order for soap that very morning. It was from Gimbel's, and this time they simply must fill it. They both agreed; wherefore they had flown at once to Mr. Martin's house, in the midst of their honeymoon.
They arrived while Mr. Bronson of Chicago was putting in his half hour wait by feeding peanuts to the chipmunks in Central Park. They found only Ambrose there, though very much at home ; and Ambrose, of course, once the Countess was disposed of, wanted to know what the excitement was all about. Mary told him. It seemed that just after they got to the office that morning a letter from Gimbel's had come in.
" Ordering ten thousand cakes of 13 Soap," interrupted Rodney.
" Now what do you think of that? " said Mary.
Pinch me — I'm dreaming," Peale told her.
"They say our advertising's wonderful," went on Rodney, " and has created such a demand they want to handle the soap in town."
Peale did actually pinch himself in the flesh this time, convinced that he must wake up before he set his heart on finding things true. He pinched himself so hard he said " Ouch," and then he whistled, long and wonderingly.
" By Jimminy, then all the things we told your father the other day are really true," he said. Of course they are," declared Mary.
" Gosh," said Peale.
Rodney went on:
" You see when I show father this letter from Gimbel, he's got to admit we've won out — and supply us with soap."
" Isn't it a shame that you can't get soap from anybody but him? " pouted Mary.
" Father certainly has got the soap business tied up tight," said Rodney.
" Yes, if he busted the whole world would go dirty," laughed Peale.
" Suppose he's still stubborn and won't help us, what shall we do ? " asked Mary.
" Oh, we'll just have to plod along," said Rodney.
" Don't plod— gallop, son — gallop —gal-lop," amended Peale, full of his high spirits.
Rodney looked meaningly at Mary and then at Peale.
" You're a great pal, old man," he said, and 'Mary added:
Do you know, Mr. Peale, I like you awfully? "
Peale looked quickly at each to see if they were chaffing, and then winked broadly.
" Call me Ambrose," he said demurely, to Mary, trying to make Rodney jealous.
"Ambrose," said Mary coyly.
" If we ever do come out of this you're going to be my partner, fifty to fifty," declared Rodney, feeling not jealous, but kind to all the world. " Aw shut up," said Peale.
" Mr. Charles Bronson; shall I show him in? " said Johnson, in the doorway.
"You have my permission—this isn't my house," said Peale promptly.
"Oh, I beg pardon -- I expected to find Mr. Martin," said Mr. Bronson, stepping briskly into the room.
" I am Mr. Martin," spoke up Rodney.
"Mr. Rodney Martin?" pursued Bronson eagerly.
" Yes," said Rodney.
" Just the very man I wanted to see — on private business," said Bronson.
"Oh, these are my partners," said Rodney. " You can talk before them. This is Mr. Peale and Miss Grayson." There was just a shade of hesitation as he called Mary, Miss Grayson.
" May I present—Mr. —"
" Charles Bronson of Marshall Field."
" Marshall Field?" said. Rodney, amazed. " Marshall Field? " cried Mary.
" Marshall Field?" echoed Peale.
The man from Chicago went straight on with his errand.
" Now about your soap? "
"Now see here, old man," protested Rodney, disairning criticism.
" Oh Lord," thought Peale, then added aloud, politely, " We're very sorry—"
"Indeed we are," chimed in Mary, "but a bargain is a bargain."
Mr. Bronson looked at the three in a kind of busy wonder.
"Sorry?" he said. "Why, your 13 Soap the last few days has had a most remarkable sale at our store in Chicago."
Mary and Peale, speechless, looked at each other blankly. Rodney gasped:
"You mean it is realy selling?"
"Rather," said Bronson.
"It's really selling?" Mary echoed. "Why—you seem surprised," said Bronson, studying their faces.
Mary pulled herself together briskly, the first of them all.
"Oh, not—not a bit," she repudiated.
"Oh, not a bit," said Rodney.
But Peale still longed to know the whole truth at last.
"You mean people are actually coming into the store and buying it?" he went on.
"At a dollar a cake," said Bronson.
"It was those page advertisements in Chicago that did it," conceded Mary.
"Absolutely," said Peale.
Extraordinary advertisements they were too, in
314 IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE
Bronson's opinion, though nothing to what Rodney assured him they would do in the near future. Mr. Bronson nodded complacently, and wanted to know if they would keep up their campaign; that would have some bearing, of course, on the subject in hand.
" Double it," said Rodney.
" Triple it," said Peale from the bottom. of his heart.
"Good, good," said Mr. Bronson. " We fore-see a tremendous sale for your goods. It's an amazing soap. Do you control the company your-self?"
" Oh, entirely," said Rodney.
" Then I can deal with you," Bronson began again.
" With us - all of us," Rodney asserted, and Bronson went on :
" We should be glad to contract now for two hundred and fifty thousand cakes-"
Peale just flopped into a chair
" With deliveries to begin next week."
Mary, whose brain had been going like lightning, now took a hand. She went and stood near Rodney, as if to control the situation better.
" Our capacity just at present is limited," she said, cautiously.
" Yes, we have so many orders on hand," agreed Rodney.
" Naturally, but how much soap can you deliver now? " inquired Bronson.
" I don't quite know," said Rodney. " Do you? " he added, turning to Peale.
"Not quite," said Peale, turning to Mary, do you? "
" Not quite," said Mary, with regretful visions of her " factory."
" Well, under the circumstances, what can we do? " said Bronson.
" That's the question," Rodney agreed.
" What's the answer? " speculated Peale. Meanwhile Rodney's brain had been working too.
" Here's an idea," he said, " in view of our press of orders; would you entertain the idea of paying us merely for the use of our trademark, without any soap at all? "
" Yes, I think we would," Bronson said, considering a moment. " Your trademark is of course your biggest asset. You would naturally give us your formula?"
" Yes, if we still have that cook book," blurted Peale.
" I beg pardon," said Bronson.
Nothing, nothing. Have a cigar;" said Peale.
" I've got the cook book," said Mary.
" You can have the formula," Rodney agreed. Mr. Bronson cleared his throat and went on:
" With a license from you to use the title, I are say we could arrange to have the soap manufactured by Cyrus Martin of the Soap Trust."
" How much would you pay for the trademark? " put in Mary.
" I should have to call up our Chicago office," said Bronson; " but I think I can safely say we should be prepared to offer you at least two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
Peale gasped, but controlled himself in time to say " Indeed," in a very genteel tone of voice.
" Can I have an option at that figure ? " pursued Bronson.
" No! " said Mary.
" Yes! " said Peale.
" Yes! said Rodney.
" No," said Mary again, loudly and resolutely. " No," said Rodney, following her lead.
" No —but I hate to say it," wound up Peale. " And so do I," said Rodney.
" But if you control the company, why not settle matters now? " began Bronson.
" Why not, Mary? " asked Rodney.
" Yes, why not, Mary? " inquired Peale.
Mary threw Rodney a meaning look and Peale caught it on the fly.
Hadn't we better discuss the matter a little more fully first among ourselves? " she said sweetly.
" Yes," said Mr. Bronson tactfully; " perhaps I could wait somewhere for a few minutes while you talk things over."
" Yes, do please — in the next room," suggested Mary.
Mr. Bronson took up his hat and stepped to the door.
" I am very glad to have met you," he said. " Not half as glad," began Rodney.
" Not half as glad," began Peale. "— not half as glad as we are to have met you," finished Mary.
" No, not half as much," said Peale, and could hardly keep from cheering and capering behind Bronson's back.
Mary and Rodney looked at each other as if they thought life very well worth while.