( Originally Published 1917 )
WITH the dithyrambics of the rediscovered Ambrose Peale sounding in his ears the boy was thinking of Mary too all the time. She was the best girl in the world, Mary, his sweet-heart, his motive power, his guiding-force. Her name had been a long-held, dominant note, to use a musical simile, to which Peale's advertising talk had been the chromatic variations. The point came when Mary must be taken into the theme too. He was to see her again at his father's office, and the joyful hour was coming round. Rodney interrupted the irrepressible agent at last by explaining things to him, and inviting him to come along down town.
" We can talk in the subway," he apologized.
" Sure. I can talk anywhere," said Peale.
Surcharged with their new enthusiasm, they,, went out finally and over to the Grand Central subway station, Peale still talking. A drizzling rain had begun to fall, and gave promise of quite a downpour later, but nothing could put out the flying sparks of Peale's enthusiasm.
Rodney, when they had arrived safely at his father's office, first assuring himself of his father's being securely enclosed in his inner room — it had been a disappointment to find him down town at all today—was rewarded by a sight of Mary. He flew to her side and spoke to her, looking deep into her eyes to see if her love was still there. The examination made him oblivious of anything and everybody till finally he heard a loud and fairly well executed cough behind him from Ambrose.
He turned and introduced them.
" Pleased to meet you. Excuse my glove," said (Peale, shaking hands with her. Then in an aside to Rodney, he added: " By the way, is this the dame ? Ask her to go to the theater, just to prove what I say. See for yourself."
He turned his back ostentatiously.
" Oh, Mary, to celebrate, let's go to the theater to-morrow night," said Rodney. " Shall we? " " I'd love to," answered Mary.
" What do you want to see? " he asked.
" I hear ` The Belle of Broadway' is very good," she answered.
Peale yawned and stretched out his arms complacently, remarking to Rodney, " I guess I don't know about advertising, eh? My last official act is giving you a box for to-morrow night." And he wrote out a pass for them.
" Are you with that play? " asked Mary politely. " I am," said Pule, handing her the pass : " I Was.,,
" But isn't it an imposition? " asked Mary. " Not on us, it isn't," said Peale promptly. "Thank you," said Mary; then turning to Rodney she added:
" I didn't mean to bother you, but I'm so interested, I thought regarding Mr. Peale's business,—I'd like to hear —"
" It's all settled, Mary," Rodney began. " Mr. Peale, my general manager. Mr. Peale, my secretary. Mary, here it is. The 13 Soap, Unlucky for Dirt. The most expensive soap in the world."
"Why, that's perfectly wonderful," said Mary genuinely, looking at Peale. " Who thought of it?"
" I did," said Rodney proudly.
"You did really? Why, you're splendid," applauded Mary.
" Youth, brains, efficiency — that's our motto," chanted Peale.
"We'll make a hundred thousand dollars the first year — sure," put in Rodney.
" And ten per cent. of that is —" began Mary efiectively.
"What?" asked Rodney mystified..
" Oh, nothing—nothing; — I was just figuring," corrected Mary.
" We're going to make our soap famous by advertising and then force father to back us," continued Rodney, full of his subject.
" That sounds awfully nice," said Mary, " and at the start you won't need much capital."
" Capital? " repeated Rodney, as if the word were new to him.
" With fifty thousand dollars I can make the Great American people have hysterics over 13 Soap," said Peale.
" Fifty thousand dollars," repeated Rodney, sitting down fiat; " and I haven't got but one thousand to my name."
" But can't you raise it? " queried Peale anxiously.
But how, thought Rodney cudgelling his brains hard. Fifty thousand already looked very large to this rich man's son. He stared at Peale, who, however, returned him no encouragement.
" Don't ask me," he protested. " Raising money is the only thing I never got onto. The only way I know to make a lot of money quick is to teach tango dancing."
" Well, Peale, you're fired then," said Rodney; "you've lost your job. Give me. back that twenty-five dollars."
" Well, it was a nice job while it lasted," said Peale pathetically. " Good-by," he added, apostrophizing the greenbacks as he handed them to Rodney; " you're the only thing I've ever loved."
It was Mary who asked if they could not possibly do with less, and then they began to take account of possibilities. Of course they could, Rodney said, and appealed to Ambrose, the skeptical one, where money was concerned. Not and do it right, this gentleman averred. There was no use wasting money piking when you advertised: you must splurge, my lad, splurge. But Rodney, in his neophytic enthusiasm, persisted in thinking the thousand dollars he had in the bank could be put to some use anyway. And Mary was inclined to support him. Then the aeroplane was worth four thousand; it cost eight thousand and might bring two. The motors ought to bring another four with any kind of luck. That would make seven. Surely that was something. Peale allowed it was a sum not to be spoken of venomously, but in advertising it might just about last a week. To Rodney's surprise Mary spoke up presently and announced that she might be able to get hold of five thousand.
" I have —I know a man, that might put in that much," she said hestitatingly.
Rodney looked at her curiously.
" Why, Mary, you're fine," he said proudly. I" And that would make twelve."
Even Peale was encouraged by this total.
" Does your father advertise much? " he asked Rodney suddenly.
Rodney didn't think so, and turned to Mary, who described the elder Martin as very conservative, and not a great believer in advertising and publicity.
" Why, the poor old nut," said Peale; " he's licked now, and I'll tell you why. We can advertise just for your father's benefit alone."
" But I don't quite understand your plan," said Mary, turning to the press man curiously.
" Why, plaster the neighborhood of his house with advertisements on all the fences," said Peale, turning loose again on this pet topic; " do the same around his office, so that every time he goes out or comes in he'll see 13 Soap. We can advertise only in the newspapers he reads -- we'd send him circulars every day. I could make a splurge just for him that would look like we were giving up ten thousand dollars a day. Within a month he'd think that 13 Soap was the only soap in the wide, wide world."
" How much would it take? " asked Rodney.
" Five thousand a week," said Peale, figuring rapidly.
And you could land him in a month? " asked Rodney.
" My boy! Do you doubt me? "
" And we've got one thousand all cash and eleven thousand in prospects. Go ahead," said Rodney emphatically.
"You mean I'm hired again? "inquired Peale, delighted.
" Of course, you are."
" Gimme back that twenty-five dollars."
Rodney handed it back, and Peale pocketed it confidently, informing him that the best thing he, Rodney, had ever done had been to engage Ambrose Peale, and that with Rodney's money and his, Ambrose Peale's, ideas, they would all be millionaires. Rodney and Mary certainly hoped o, and Rodney at least looked meaningly at his lady love as the vision of his own riches floated round him.
They had been all this time in the outer office, which on account of the rain had been invaded by few callers that day, though Mary had been interrupted by the telephone too often to please her jealous lover. It was a more or less typical waiting-room.; The walls were done in a kind of mahogany paneling, with pictures hung above them representing the various " works in which the company had lived. There was also a very, stiff likeness of Rodney's uncle, who had been a partner in the business at the time of his death. The looks of this uncle had always affected Rodney very peculiarly until to-day, he disliked his whiskered physiognomy so intensely; but today even the avuncular whiskers seemed mellow and golden.
From time to time an under-secretary or sub-typewriter stuck her head through the door and announced some one. This young person opened the door now suddenly and announced with mingled glee and curiosity:
" The Countess de Bowreen ! "
Money, when you are chasing it up in the form of capital, is a real will o' the wisp. Now you see it within your grasp, and again your gaze is quite blank. None of the three conspirators in the room realized what was to come of the French and titled lady's interruption, and only looked upon her as an inconvenient bore, to be disposed of as best could be.
" Oh, that dreadful woman again," sighed Mary.
The Countess entered and came over to Rodney at once, speaking to him in French:
" Vousetes Monsieur Martin? " she cooed. Rodney nodded.
" Ah, cher Monsieur Martin— je suis enchantee de vous vain"
" The dame's looney," said Peale in an aside to; Mary.
No she's French," said Mary.
" Same thing," said Peale.
" What's all this anyhow? " Rodney inquired, half vexed.
" She wanted to see your father, and she doesn't speak English," said Mary. " I saw her up at the house."
" Well, let her talk to me," Rodney announced, remembering that he had taken a course in elementary French at Harvard.
" Say, can you speak French? " asked Peale, surprised and impressed by his new partner's accomplishments.
" Not very well, but I can understand it," said Rodney. Then going over to the Countess, he said blankly in English: " Fire ahead."
" Eh? " said the Countess.
"Let me see — oh, yes — Parlez," stuttered Rodney.
" Ah, mon Dieu — enfin — vous comprenez Francais? " began the Countess delightedly. " Oui," said Rodney.
You're immense, kid," put in Peale.
The one French word was enough to start up the Countess at her best gait.
" Je suis Madame la Comtesse de Beaurien
je desire parler a Monsieur Martin apropos des affaires du savon. Je voudrais obtenir l'agence du savon Martin pour la France," she rattled off in one breath.
" Wait a minute— wait a minute," said Rodney.
" What did she say? " asked Mary.
" She's a speedy spieler all right," said Peale.
" Would you mind saying that over, and say it slow?" asked Rodney of the Countess.
" Eh? " said that lady again.
. " Oh— Repetez ca s'il vous plait - lentement," stumbled Rodney.
" Je suis Madame la Comtesse de Beaurienje desire obtenir l'agence du savon Martin pour la France — Je peux donner cinquante mille francs pour cette agence."
" Oui," said Rodney, quite pleased with himself ; upon which the Countess was off again:
" Et enfin — voulez-vous arranger cette affaire pour moi? J'ai beaucoup de references. Je suis riche; je suis bien connue a Paris."
Wait a minute — wait a minute," protested Rodney. Then turning to Peale he interpreted plausibly :
" She wants the agency for father's soap for France, and is willing to pay fifty thousand francs for the concession."
" How much is that in real money? " asked Peale quickly.
Ten thousand dollars," said Rodney.
" Had I better tell your father? " asked Mary. But Rodney had an inspiration:
" No, no, why not keep father out of this. We'll sell her the agency for the 13 Soap; that'd be another ten thousand for us. Peale, she's a gift from the gods."
" Go to it," said Peale, elated.
" But how can you sell her your agency? " objected the prudent Mary.
" I don't know; how can I? " wondered Rodney. " A pipe — Ask her if she's superstitious? " put in Peale.
" Oh, if I only really knew how to talk French," said Rodney plaintively; then attempting bravely, he added:
" Madame — etes-vous superstitieuse ? " " Eh? " said the Countess.
" She don't get you? " inquired Peale anxiously. '' No."
But Ambrose Peale was a man of resource. He went over and took the Countess's parasol and started to raise it, whereupon with a cry of protest she stopped him, looking very ruffled and upset.
" She's superstitious all right," said Peale. " It ought to be a pipe to get her."
Then Rodney tried again.
" Listen," he said; " je suis le fils de Museer Martin — vous savez ? "
" Oui, oui —" said the Countess delightedly.
" Nous manufacturons un nouveau Savon,'' said Rodney. "Savon Treize," and he held up his fingers to indicate thirteen.
" Oui, oui," ejaculated the Countess.
Ambrose Peale was more and more impressed.
" Gee, a college education is certainly great; she understands every word you say," he exclaimed enthusiastically.
" Savon Treize — pas — bon pour — what the deuce is dirt — oh yes sat -- pas bon pour sal," continued Rodney.
" Savon Treize— pas bon pour sal. C'est bien — c'est bien,'' repeated the Countess eagerly.
" She likes it — she likes it," shouted Peale in great glee.
" Je start un nouveau compagnie — la tres grande compagnie de l'universe. Je suis le president."
" Je suis le advertising agent," chipped in Peale.
" I'm the whole thing, see? " Rodney went on; " and if we can do business with you for the French agency we should be glad to."
The Countess, upon this harangue, still shrugged her shoulders as if mystified, though there was a look in her eyes that made Mary, who had seen her before, think she was not completely without an idea of what Rodney was driving at.
If only Marie were here to interpret for us," sighed Mary.
The three partners looked at each other helplessly. They felt as if there were something hovering round that ought not to be allowed to get away, and yet it still eluded them.
" I suppose Marie's the French maid," said Peale. " Doesn't she ever come to the office? It might pay us to send up for her. Get a taxi. Buy one, to get ten thousand dollars back on it."
But as luck would have it Marie herself burst through the door at this moment, shrieking violently at the under-secretary in her native gibberish. She was another gift from heaven, said Rodney. It was the work of a few minutes to introduce the two compatriots and turn them loose on each other. They both talked at once, and as if they were having a race to see which could talk the louder and the faster, while Mary, Peale
and Rodney stood by impressed and bewildered. They had not an idea why Marie had appeared at the office, but just accepted her as part of their good luck. Rodney bundled the two of them into a side room, so the rest could hear themselves think, he said. Then e sent Mary and Peale after them, Mary, on second thoughts, to trans-late Peale's slang, and Marie to put it into French. Left alone in the waiting -room he looked toward the door through which they had disappeared and almost prayed.
Without Mary, and with the possibility of seeing his father again any moment he felt very uncomfortable. He should hate to be discovered there in his father's offices : it would be almost as bad as having stayed on at his father's house after being turned out for good. He had left that home precipitately, and certainly did not mean to return unless he could not help it. He still had too much pride for that.
Suddenly a door opened and he started guiltily, but his fears turned to hope when he saw Mr. William Smith coming in. Old Uncle William Smith, one of the oldest friends of the family, had been one of the capital possibilities he had had in mind.
Mr. Smith was not really an uncle, but only bore that title by way of courtesy. Rodney's mother and Mrs. Smith had been at school together, and their children, in the tender years when the real and the pretended are not clear to them in the matter of uncles, had always looked upon their elders as related. Uncle William Smith, when Rodney was a boy, used to make a great show of looking through all his pockets to see if he had a nickel in them for him. Would he find anything now?; He would tackle Uncle William for ten thousand dollars. Would he fall? Well, he could try.
Peale stuck his head through the door at this moment to catch Rodney's eye and execute a large and on the whole encouraging wink apropos of the French interview. Rodney gave another wink to Peale that said volumes about Mr. Smith, who indeed looked substantial and moneyfied enough to mean something to Peale without this commentary.
" That's all now, Mr. Peale," said Rodney, raising his voice.
" Yes, sir, I understand," said Peale, winking again. " He takes fifty thousand shares at par."
" Yes, quite right," said Rodney, as Peale's head disappeared.
" Who the deuce is that, Rod? " asked Mr. Smith briskly.
" Oh, one of my staff," said Rodney carelessly. An idea was rapidly taking shape in his head, and he felt that he was carrying through his scene quite cleverly.
" One of your what?" asked Mr. Smith amazed.
" My staff ; I've gone into business," said Rodney.
" You've done what? " asked Mr. Smith, laughing uproariously.
" Gone into business. I'm a business man," repeated Rodney.
" That's the funniest thing I've ever heard of," said Mr. Smith.
" What's funny about it? " asked Rodney, beginning to feel hurt.
" You— in business ! " Mr. Smith laughed again.
" It's true, though, and as a business man I'd like to talk to you," Rodney went on, "regarding a very interesting business proposition in which I am now interested."
" Nothing doing," said Mr. Smith, quite frigidly.
" I thought I'd like to borrow ten say a few thousand dollars," said Rodney gulping.
" No, sir; not a cent," said Mr. Smith.
" Perhaps five thousand," amended Rodney.
" If it was for a new club or some tomfoolery, in a minute; but to put into your business— it'd be just throwing it away. Why don't you get your father to back you?
" Father and I don't agree on the value of advertising."
" Oh, that's it, and you expect me to do what your father won't? "
" Well, I thought as a friend of the family," stuttered Rodney.
You were wrong. Where is your father?" asked the friend of the family.
" In there I guess," said Rodney.
I want to see him. I guess he'll think this is as funny as I do," Mr. Smith laughed, going out, leaving Rodney sunk dejectedly in a chair.
" Well? " asked Peale coming in again.
" He wouldn't give me a cent," said Rodney.
He wouldn't? Well, he sounds like your father's oldest friend."
" What about the Countess? " Rodney inquired. " Oh, I got her," said Peale proudly.
" You did? Ten thousand dollars? "
" Fifteen thousand."
" Holy jumping Jupiter."
" Pretty good, what? "
" Good? Why, why — I'll have to raise your salary," said Rodney.
" Thanks — I supposed you would," said Peale complacently.
" Where's the money? " asked Rodney.
" We don't get it till next week," explained Peale.
" Oh," said Rodney dejectedly. " But we must have some more cash to start with."
Peale meanwhile must have left the ladies in some suspense, or else they missed his cheery company, for presently Mary came back and said the Countess wanted to know how much longer she must wait.
" Coming now," said Peale. " Shall I sign for you?"
" Sure— sign anything — sign it twice," said Rodney.
" You know this has got the show business beat a mile," Peale chuckled, as he disappeared.
Money — what an awful thing it was, reflected Rodney. Why was it never there when you wanted it, but plenty of it in the bank for some old tight-wad who couldn't enjoy it? He turned to Mary fondly, wondering if there were not some way in which they could raise some immediate cash: but Mary failed him now for once. She hadn't an idea, she admitted sadly. But in the meanwhile Mr. Smith had emerged from the inner office, and something must have come over the spirit of his dreams of good investment, for he greeted Rodney very genially and encouragingly this time. Rodney introduced Mary to him with great pride, catching her back as she turned to go.
" That's all right : you needn't go, Mary. Mr. Smith, this is the future Mrs. Rodney Martin."
" You don't say so," cried Mr. Smith heartily. " Well, well, congratulations."
" I suppose you and father had your laugh at me," said Rodney.
" No, I didn't tell him anything," replied Mr. Smith.
" Thanks for that anyhow," said Rodney.
" Of course it sounded funny to me at first," pursued Uncle William, " but when I thought things over, after all, why shouldn't you be a success in business? "
" What? " said Rodney, hardly able to believe his ears.
" You've been successful in everything else you've tried," said Mr. Smith, without a hint of sarcasm.
" Yes, yes, certainly, sure," said Rodney.
"Of course you haven't tried much, but as you said, I am an old friend: and I figured if you gave me your word that you'd return the money within a year, perhaps after all it would only be the act of an old friend to take a chance. That's what friends are for," explained Mr. Smith.
" Why, that's simply great of you, by George," said Rodney.
How much was it you wanted? "
Behind his back the delighted Mary held up the fingers of both hands.
" Ten thousand dollars," said Rodney promptly. " But didn't you say --? " queried Mr. Smith. " Oh, I'm sure I said ten thousand dollars,"
Rodney declared. " That's the very least."
" Um — well, I'll mail you a check tonight," said Mr. Smith.
Mary could not repress a squeak of delight, which caused Mr. Smith to look sharply at her a moment. Rodney interrupted again with his thanks, speaking enthusiastically :
" I'll never forget it. I tell you, friends do count. Thanks, thanks."
Mr. Smith for some reason seemed quite embarrassed.
" That's all right," he said. " Don't thank me. Good night, Miss Grayson, and I hope you'll be very happy."
Good night. Good night," echoed Rodney as Mr. Smith went out. " Oh, Mr. Smith, have. you your car with you?" he added anxiously. " Tell the chauffeur to drive slowly and carefully."
Left alone Rodney grabbed Mary by her two hands and danced around excitedly.
" Ten thousand, and he lent it to me. Oh isn't it great? " he shouted. He kissed her on the strength of it.
" Wait till I tell Peale," he cried and slammed out.
In the meanwhile the Countess came back, her shrill French voice sounding through the door long before she appeared. " Oh, c'est une affaire magnifique. Je vous remercie. Oh, les Americains," et cetera, et cetera, she rattled on, as she was bowed out into the hall to the elevator.
What did she say? " asked Mary of the French maid.
" She said the American men are splendid, but the women are crazy and they can all go to the devil."
" Oh," said Mary, rather shocked. Who would ever have believed that chic and fascinating countess, so Frenchy and interesting, could be guilty of such vulgar sentiments? Mary wondered if Marie had not colored things a little in her translation. What was Marie doing down here in the office anyway? The French, at any rate when you employed them as servants, were always intriguing for some purpose or other. She couldn't have come to see Mr. Martin, for she had not gone near him, or asked to see him. Mary made up her mind that she had come down out of curiosity about Rodney, pure and simple.
She recalled at last that she was to report to Mr. Martin herself. She went up to the door of his private room and knocked discreetly three times. The old gentleman came in promptly in response to this concerted summons.
" Well, how goes it? " he asked.
" Oh, Mr. Martin, he's perfectly splendid," said Mary enthusiastically. " So full of energy, hustle and ideas. He's a different man already. You were right; he only needed development."
" Good. Good," said Mr. Martin. " You're not saying this to flatter an old man's vanity, are you? "
" Indeed I'm not," said Mary. " We don't have to blast."
" Would you rather take a guarantee of twenty-five hundred dollars additional and give up that ten per cent. of his profits?" he asked shrewdly.
" I should say not," said Mary.
" You know, Miss Grayson, you're making me believe we'll win that thirty thousand from old John Clark."
" Oh, indeed we shall. You should have just seen Rodney borrow ten thousand dollars from Mr. Smith, without the least trouble."
" Oh, that was my money," said Martin smiling. " When Smith told me Rodney tried to touch him -- well, I thought the least I could do was to back my own son, so I sent Smith out to make good with him."
That was nice of you," said Mary, outwardly polite, but inwardly disappointed at the deception.
Well— I owed the boy a chance anyhow," said Martin, softening a little, then suddenly talking very sternly again as he caught sight of Rodney through the open door.
" So you're still hanging round, are you? " he grumbled, facing his only son relentlessly.
" Yes, sir, but I came to see Miss Grayson," said Rodney, coming in to his father perkily. " Come, Mary," he added to the new secretary.
" Really going into business, eh? " scoffed his father. "Well, when you fail don't come sniveling back here. You can't count on a dollar from me. You're leaving my employ of course, Miss Grayson."
" I won't snivel — and I don't want your money," retorted Rodney. " I don't need it. Why, if I'd known how easy it is to raise ten thousand dollars I'd have gone to work long ago."
Mr. Martin, senior, grinned at Mary.
" You would, eh? Well, what soft easy going business have you picked out? " he inquired sarcastically.
" The soap business," said Rodney.
Mr. Martin, senior, was genuinely annoyed.
" What? Why, you can't make any money out of soap."
" Oh, yes, I can."
" I control all the important soap business in the country."
" I know you do but I am going to take it away from you."
" What? " roared Mr. Martin.
" Yes sir, I'm going to manufacture the 13 Soap," began Rodney spouting his piece, " unlucky, for dirt— the most expensive soap in the world. I'm going to break the trust — I'm going to attack monopoly. I'm going to appeal to the American people for fair play against the soap trust. You've always wanted me to go into business. Well, I'm in, and forgive me, father, but I'm going to put you out of business. I'm going to advertise all over the world."
" You can't fight the soap trust with advertising-- we're established," said his father coldly.
" Yes, yes, we can," said Rodney; " think what advertising means; the power of suggestion the psychology of print. Why, ninety-seven per cent. of the public believe what they're told, and what they're told is what the other chap's been told, and the fellow who told him read it somewhere. Advertising is responsible for everything."
Ambrose Peale came in during this tirade and stood listening, surprised and pleased with his pupil's aptitude.
" People are sheep and advertising is the way to make 'em follow your lead," went on Rodney, trying not to forget the speech. "Say, what makes you go to the theater? I'll tell you. It's what you've read of the play, or what some fellow's told you, and the fellow that told him read it in a newspaper. And, that, father, is the whole secret of it. You've got to be talked about. Get 'em praisin' or cussin', but don't let 'em be quiet. I want to tell you—Say, what kind of duck's eggs do you eat? "
" What ! " cried Mr. Martin, aghast.
" Do you know anything against the duck? " shouted Rodney. " No, you don't; but when a duck lays an egg it's a damn fool and keeps quiet, but when a hen lays an egg — Cluck, cluck, all over the place. Advertising ! "
Peale joined the chorus on the old gentleman's off side, and together they talked such a blue streak that Mary put her fingers in her ears. If she removed them she was assailed by old Mr. Martin's angry denunciations, for this rival corn-
pally was not at all, it seemed, what he had bar-gained for. She preferred to stop her ears, and with her eyes behold Rodney and Peale gleefully spouting their psalm of advertising, and shaking hands with each other like long lost friends.