A Wedding Present
( Originally Published 1917 )
THE door had no sooner closed on Mr. Bronson than the board of directors of the 13 Soap Company went into immediate and special session. Rodney and Peale both pounced on Mary, Peale half-vexed, and Rodney very curious.
" Why not give him an option at a quarter of a million? "
" Yes, why not -- for the love of geewhiz tell us that?
But Mary stood her ground.
" Because maybe we can get more money than that out of your father," she said quietly.
Rodney kissed her right in the meeting and Peale coughed.
Mary, you are a wonder," he said.
" Gosh, I wish you were going to marry me," said Peale.
Mary said nothing, for at that moment she spied Johnson coming up, and the sight of him helped give her an idea.
" Johnson, oh, Johnson — you know I've always liked you," she began, attracting his attention vehemently.
" I beg pardon, Miss? "
" Will you do me a favor? " she went on. " .Why, yes, Miss —" -
" When Mr. Martin comes back don't tell him that Rodney and Mr. Peale are here, or Bronson either. Say I'm alone."
" Yes, Miss, but Mr. Martin has just driven up in his car; he'll be here directly
" Hurry up, then. Tell him I'm here, waiting for him," said Mary.
Johnson went out obediently.
" But I don't understand," Rodney expostulated.
" Neither do I," said Peale.
" I do," said Mary, who sounded as if she knew exactly what she was about. " I've got a great idea. You two boys go into that room and stay there. Now listen. Keep Bronson there. When I ring this buzzer twice, you call me on this phone — there's a switch in there -- and never mind what I' say., Now hurry up, both of you. I'm going to try to make a deal with your father."
Peale chirped up at once.
" Well," he said, patting his breast pocket, " I'll slip you something that may help you when you see father. You tell him that I've got that contract. He'll understand."
" But I don't know what any of this is about," protested Rodney, finding the situation more and more complex.
"Neither do I," said Peale. " Come on; she's got more brains than both of us."
They went out reluctantly and Mary settled herself comfortably in an armchair to wait for Mr. Martin.
As a matter of fact she was a little ashamed of what she proposed to do, but was arguing stubbornly with herself that it was all right, that Mr. Martin would agree with her, when he heard all and knew all that she did. In this predatory world of business you had to look out for yourself. It seemed a very predatory world indeed as she looked back over the recent episodes of her life;
everybody was trying to do everybody else Mr. Martin " doing." Mr. Clark, the Soap Company doing Mr. Martin, the Countess doing whom she could, and Peale doing the whole world with his advertising. Of course the Countess was a real crook; Mary only hoped Ambrose would re-form her, and she had an idea he would, that things were drifting that way. The rest was just business. Business was business. And Mr. Mar-tin's money was all in the family, so to speak.
Mr. Martin himself came in on her revery.
"Hello, Miss Grayson," he said, seeing her; " this is another pleasant surprise. Where is Rodney ?
He sounded as if he wanted to see the boy really.
" That doesn't matter. I'm here," said Mary demurely.
Mr. Martin looked round for Bronson and Peale.
" Where's that -- that Mr.—" he began.
" Mr. Peale? " said Mary. " Oh, Mr. Peale's gone back to the office; but he told me to tell you that he'd got that contract —"
" Oh, he did, did he? " said Martin. " Great, great; he's a smart boy."
" We are all smart," said Mary; "it's a smart firm. We've just got a letter from, Gimbels for ten thousand cakes of 13 Soap, and this time you didn't send the telegram --"
Mr. Martin took this news with complete good nature.
" Gimbels, eh? Well, well. Now I'll be frank," he said. " I want Rodney to come in with me — and you've got to help. You started this scheme. Now finish it up."
"What's changed you all of a sudden?" asked Mary.
" Well, Gimbels, for one thing, said the old gentleman. " That shows sensational advertising does pay. Those boys are right. I've been top conservative; but anyhow I've got the whip hand. Rodney can't get his soap for Gimbels except from me, and if I'm going to furnish three cent soap that he sells wholesale for sixty cents, I'm going to be in on the profits. Any young man who can do that is just bound to have me for a partner, whether he wants me or not. What do you say, Miss Grayson? "
" I'll do all I can for Rodney," said Mary, looking down.
" You have authority to close the deal? " asked Mr. Martin.
" Absolutely," said Mary.
" Good. Now what's your proposition? " he inquired, sitting down.
" Five hundred thousand dollars cash," said Mary quietly.
What! " yelled Mr. Martin, jumping out of his chair.
Mary went an calmly:
" Sit down. That isn't all. We are to get fifty-one per cent. of the stock, you put up a factory and give Rodney fifty thousand a year, Peale forty thousand, and me twenty thousand."
Mr. Martin took a good look at her and whistled.
" As my son once observed, what lovely weather we're having," he said. He leant back and lighted a cigar, and as he did so Mary pushed the buzzer twice. Almost instantly the telephone rang.
" Shall I answer it? " said Mary politely.
" Go ahead -- say I'm out," Martin grunted.
" Oh, hello," said Mary in the telephone, adding in an aside to Mr. Martin, " it's for me. Hello, Rodney -- you've seen Bronson? "
"Bronson? " repeated Mr. Martin, sitting up.
" He did? " said Mary in the telephone; " why, that's a splendid offer. I hardly dared think Mar-shall Field would be so generous."
" I'll accept your proposition, Miss Grayson," interrupted Mr. Martin hastily.
" Wait," said Mary. " Have you closed with Bronson yet? " she went on to the mouthpiece. Oh, you haven't?
"Good," grunted Mr. Martin, listening.
" No," Mary went on, " I think you'd better come right up from the office and see me before you sign anything."
Mr. Martin strode over to her quickly.
" Here, let me talk to him," he said, and reached for the phone.
" Oh, hello, hello," called Mary quickly and jiggled the bell. " Oh dear, we've been cut off. Still, it doesn't matter — it's all settled now.,,
" That's splendid, Miss Grayson. I'm grateful to you," said Mr. Martin.
"Shall we sign a memorandum now? " asked Mary a little nervously.
" Sure — sure — just the rough details," he agreed.
" Sure, never put off till to-morrow what you can sign to-day," said Mary, smiling reminiscently.
Mr. Martin sat down at his desk and began to write:
" Fifty-one per cent.— Rodney — fifty thou-sand — And what's that young man's name again—Spiel?"
" Peale," said Mary.
" That certainly is one hell of a name — thirty thousand-- Grayson twenty thousand— there." Then to Mary: " You sign here."
" No, you sign first," said Mary.
Mr. Martin grunted and signed.
" Now I'll sign for Rodney," said Mary, and did so gleefully.
" That's great," said Mr. Martin.
You don't know how great it is," assented Mary, and started for the door. " Now I've a big surprise for you. Rodney's not at the office he's in there."
" What do you mean? "
" Only that I thought I'd handle you less sentimentally than he would. You see once before I spoiled Rodney's plan. This time I thought I ought to fix it up for him. Rodney, Ambrose," she called, throwing the door open.
" Say, what is all this? " Martin exclaimed, as Rodney and Peale came in.
" Rodney, it's all settled," Mary began. " Your father has come in with us. I've the con-tract."
Then we can get some soap? " asked Rodney. " All you want," said Martin.
" Then I don't care what the arrangement is," cried Rodney; "now that we can make good. Twenty per cent. of the profits, and any, old salary.
" Twenty per cent., why, she buncoed me out of fifty-one per cent. and half a million down," growled his father.
"Half a million ! " gasped Peale.
" You did? " asked Rodney. " Mary, you are a wonder."
" Absolutely," said Peale.
But Mary was not quite through yet, She turned to Mr. Martin again and said:
" And by the terms of my contract with you, you now owe me ten per cent. of what Rodney has made — fifty thousand dollars."
" What contract? asked Rodney curiously. Mr. Martin growled and snorted.
" So that's why you held me up, eh? " he sputtered. " Just to get your ten per cent. Say, young lady, I've got a lot of other money that you are overlooking."
"Father, what do you mean?" Rodney persisted.
" I'll tell you what I mean," said his father. " She got engaged to you to make you go to work — She only left me to keep you on the job because I promised her ten per cent. of what you earned. All the time that she's been pretending she would marry you she's been making use of you."
" Mary, you did this to me? " Rodney asked. " I don't believe it," Peale declared.
" You owe me fifty thousand dollars can I have the check, please? " said Mary quietly to Mr. Martin.
" Yes," said the soap king, " if you'll quit now —get out of here for good. I'm disappointed to think you'd treat my boy like this."
"What's the difference?" asked Mary. " If I'd really loved him you'd have objected to his marrying only a typewriter."
" Objected! If you'd been on the level I'd have been proud to have you for my daughter," said the father, handing his check to Rodney.
" Hurrah, Mary, it's all right now."
I don't get you," said Peale.
" What is this — a joke? " said Martin.
" Certainly it is you put up a joke on Mary and me, and I thought we'd put up one for you. Mary has told me about that contract already."
" You mean you're going to marry her? " asked his father.
" Certainly not," said Rodney, trying not to smile.
" Why aren't you going to marry her?" demanded Martin.
" Because we are married already—married yesterday," said Rodney proudly.
Peale looked at his two partners, and actually blushed with surprise at this astounding news.
" And we thought before we told you of our !marriage," went on Rodney, " we'd get her percentage for a wedding present."
" And it's bigger than we ever hoped for," added Mary.
Mr. Martin opened his mouth and whistled.
" By George, you boys were right —I am an old fool. Anyhow, I'll win that bet from old John Clark."
" And now for Mr. Bronson," said Mary, still in quiet control of the situation, opening the door for Bronson to come in.
"You boys know Bronson?" asked Mr. Mar-tin.
Oh, yes," said Mary; " we had a long talk
with him, right in this room, about a proposition
from Marshall Field. You talk to him, father." " Yes, father, you talk to him," said Peale. Mr. Bronson turned to Rodney.
" But I thought I was dealing with you,—"
" No, sir, with me — now what's your proposition? " demanded the soap king.
"A quarter of a million cash just for the trade-mark," said Bronson.
" A quarter of a million? " said Martin scorn-fully to the quailing Bronson. " Why, you ought to be ashamed of yourself to try to trim these poor boys like that."
The events of his busy and momentous morning had been gradually mounting to old Mr. Mar-tin's head. The excitement of putting through an important deal, the winning of the bet from John Clark, the reclamation of his boy Rodney, and finally Rodney's marriage with Mary Gray-son, something he had always wanted, exhilarated him; and as wine boils up unaccustomed things in one's brain, so this last speech by Bronson caused the soap king to pour forth all the bits of advertising talk that had been flowing round him for the last six months. He squared away like Ambrose Peale, for all the world, and let Bronson have a full blast.
" You know that 13 Soap is worth half a million in Chicago alone," he shouted. " And you try to take advantage of these kids' ignorance. Why, it's outrageous; but you can't trim me.—No, sir — we wouldn't take a million. Do you know that the Uneeda trademark is valued at six million, the Gold Dust Twins at ten million and our trademark is better than theirs? We're going to advertise all over the world— That's what advertising means—the power of suggestion — the psychology of print. All you have to do is to say a thing often enough and hard enough and ninety-seven per cent. of the public'll fall. Get 'em talking about you -- don't let 'em be quiet—mention your name—argue about it — be a hero or a villain —but don't be a dub. Say, what kind of garters do you wear? Boston? Why? Because all your life every time you opened a magazine you saw a picture of a man's leg with a certain kind of garter on it — Boston —"
" Well, father, father," laughed Mary, hearing this torrent of advertising talk from these erstwhile " conservative " lips. " You've got religion."
And you need it, Missy," cried the delighted soap king, turning on her.
" Mrs., if you please," laughed Mary.
" Mrs. Rodney Martin, eh? " he chuckled. " Tell me all about it all over again. When were you married? Where did you go? Where do you live? I'll tell you one thing, anyway. You've got to come and live here now, both of you."
" It's a good thing I never took away my trunk after all," said Rodney, putting one arm around Mary's waist and shaking his father's hand with the other.
Mr. Martin took out a large silk handkerchief and blew his nose quite loudly.
" I'll settle a hundred thousand dollars on the first grandchild," he said, " just for luck."
" Well, well," said Ambrose Peale, with a suspicious twinkle in his eye. " Believe me, it pays to advertise."