Pitcher, confidential clerk in the office of Harvey Maxwell, broker,
allowed a look of mild interest and surprise to visit his usually
expressionless countenance when his employer briskly entered at half
past nine in company with his young lady stenographer. With a snappy
"Good-morning, Pitcher," Maxwell dashed at his desk as though he
were intending to leap over it, and then plunged into the great heap
of letters and telegrams waiting there for him.
The young lady had been Maxwell's stenographer
for a year. She was beautiful in a way that was decidedly
unstenographic. She forewent the pomp of the alluring pompadour. She
wore no chains, bracelets or lockets. She had not the air of being
about to accept an invitation to luncheon. Her dress was grey and
plain, but it fitted her figure with fidelity and discretion. In her
neat black turban hat was the gold-green wing of a macaw. On this
morning she was softly and shyly radiant. Her eyes were dreamily
bright, her cheeks genuine peachblow, her expression a happy one,
tinged with reminiscence.
Pitcher, still mildly curious, noticed a
difference in her ways this morning. Instead of going straight into
the adjoining room, where her desk was, she lingered, slightly
irresolute, in the outer office. Once she moved over by Maxwell's
desk, near enough for him to be aware of her presence.
The machine sitting at that desk was no longer a
man; it was a busy New York broker, moved by buzzing wheels and
"Well—what is it? Anything?" asked Maxwell
sharply. His opened mail lay like a bank of stage snow on his
crowded desk. His keen grey eye, impersonal and brusque, flashed
upon her half impatiently.
"Nothing," answered the stenographer, moving
away with a little smile.
"Mr. Pitcher," she said to the confidential
clerk, did Mr. Maxwell say anything yesterday about engaging another
"He did," answered Pitcher. "He told me to get
another one. I notified the agency yesterday afternoon to send over
a few samples this morning. It's 9.45 o'clock, and not a single
picture hat or piece of pineapple chewing gum has showed up yet."
"I will do the work as usual, then," said the
young lady, "until some one comes to fill the place." And she went
to her desk at once and hung the black turban hat with the
gold-green macaw wing in its accustomed place.
He who has been denied the spectacle of a busy
Manhattan broker during a rush of business is handicapped for the
profession of anthropology. The poet sings of the "crowded hour of
glorious life." The broker's hour is not only crowded, but the
minutes and seconds are hanging to all the straps and packing both
front and rear platforms.
And this day was Harvey Maxwell's busy day. The
ticker began to reel out jerkily its fitful coils of tape, the desk
telephone had a chronic attack of buzzing. Men began to throng into
the office and call at him over the railing, jovially, sharply,
viciously, excitedly. Messenger boys ran in and out with messages
and telegrams. The clerks in the office jumped about like sailors
during a storm. Even Pitcher's face relaxed into something
On the Exchange there were hurricanes and
landslides and snowstorms and glaciers and volcanoes, and those
elemental disturbances were reproduced in miniature in the broker's
offices. Maxwell shoved his chair against the wall and transacted
business after the manner of a toe dancer. He jumped from ticker to
'phone, from desk to door with the trained agility of a harlequin.
In the midst of this growing and important
stress the broker became suddenly aware of a high-rolled fringe of
golden hair under a nodding canopy of velvet and ostrich tips, an
imitation sealskin sacque and a string of beads as large as hickory
nuts, ending near the floor with a silver heart. There was a
self-possessed young lady connected with these accessories; and
Pitcher was there to construe her.
"Lady from the Stenographer's Agency to see
about the position," said Pitcher.
Maxwell turned half around, with his hands full
of papers and ticker tape.
"What position?" he asked, with a frown.
"Position of stenographer," said Pitcher. "You
told me yesterday to call them up and have one sent over this
"You are losing your mind, Pitcher," said
Maxwell. "Why should I have given you any such instructions? Miss
Leslie has given perfect satisfaction during the year she has been
here. The place is hers as long as she chooses to retain it. There's
no place open here, madam. Countermand that order with the agency,
Pitcher, and don't bring any more of 'em in here."
The silver heart left the office, swinging and
banging itself independently against the office furniture as it
indignantly departed. Pitcher seized a moment to remark to the
bookkeeper that the "old man" seemed to get more absent-minded and
forgetful every day of the world.
The rush and pace of business grew fiercer and
faster. On the floor they were pounding half a dozen stocks in which
Maxwell's customers were heavy investors. Orders to buy and sell
were coming and going as swift as the flight of swallows. Some of
his own holdings were imperilled, and the man was working like some
high-geared, delicate, strong machine—strung to full tension, going
at full speed, accurate, never hesitating, with the proper word and
decision and act ready and prompt as clockwork. Stocks and bonds,
loans and mortgages, margins and securities—here was a world of
finance, and there was no room in it for the human world or the
world of nature.
When the luncheon hour drew near there came a
slight lull in the uproar.
Maxwell stood by his desk with his hands full of
telegrams and memoranda, with a fountain pen over his right ear and
his hair hanging in disorderly strings over his forehead. His window
was open, for the beloved janitress Spring had turned on a little
warmth through the waking registers of the earth.
And through the window came a wandering—perhaps
a lost—odour—a delicate, sweet odour of lilac that fixed the broker
for a moment immovable. For this odour belonged to Miss Leslie; it
was her own, and hers only.
The odour brought her vividly, almost tangibly
before him. The world of finance dwindled suddenly to a speck. And
she was in the next room—twenty steps away.
"By George, I'll do it now," said Maxwell, half
aloud. "I'll ask her now. I wonder I didn't do it long ago."
He dashed into the inner office with the haste
of a short trying to cover. He charged upon the desk of the
She looked up at him with a smile. A soft pink
crept over her cheek, and her eyes were kind and frank. Maxwell
leaned one elbow on her desk. He still clutched fluttering papers
with both hands and the pen was above his ear.
"Miss Leslie," he began hurriedly, "I have but a
moment to spare. I want to say something in that moment. Will you be
my wife? I haven't had time to make love to you in the ordinary way,
but I really do love you. Talk quick, please—those fellows are
clubbing the stuffing out of Union Pacific."
"Oh, what are you talking about?" exclaimed the
young lady. She rose to her feet and gazed upon him, round-eyed.
"Don't you understand?" said Maxwell, restively.
"I want you to marry me. I love you, Miss Leslie. I wanted to tell
you, and I snatched a minute when things had slackened up a bit.
They're calling me for the 'phone now. Tell 'em to wait a minute,
Pitcher. Won't you, Miss Leslie?"
The stenographer acted very queerly. At first
she seemed overcome with amazement; then tears flowed from her
wondering eyes; and then she smiled sunnily through them, and one of
her arms slid tenderly about the broker's neck.
"I know now," she said, softly. "It's this old
business that has driven everything else out of your head for the
time. I was frightened at first. Don't you remember, Harvey? We were
married last evening at 8 o'clock in the Little Church Around the