Read V. THE SELF-STARTER of Personality Plus Some Experiences of Emma McChesney and Her Son‚ Jock, free online book, by Edna Ferber, on

There is nothing in the sound of the shrill little bell to warn us of the import of its message.  More’s the pity.  It may be that bore whose telephone conversation begins:  “Well, what do you know to-day?” It may be your lawyer to say you’ve inherited a million.  Hence the arrogance of the instrument.  It knows its voice will never wilfully go unanswered so long as the element of chance lies concealed within it.

Mrs. Emma McChesney heard the call of her telephone across the hall.  Seated in the office of her business partner, T.A.  Buck, she was fathoms deep in discussion of the T.A.  Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company’s new spring line.  The buzzer’s insistent voice brought her to her feet, even while she frowned at the interruption.

“That’ll be Baumgartner ’phoning about those silk swatches.  Back in a minute,” said Emma McChesney and hurried across the hall just in time to break the second call.

The perfunctory “Hello!  Yes” was followed by a swift change of countenance, a surprised little cry, then, ­in quite another tone ­“Oh, it’s you, Jock!  I wasn’t expecting ...  No, not too busy to talk to you, you young chump!  Go on.”  A moment of silence, while Mrs. McChesney’s face smiled and glowed like a girl’s as she listened to the voice of her son.  Then suddenly glow and smile faded.  She grew tense.  Her head, that had been leaning so carelessly on the hand that held the receiver, came up with a jerk.  “Jock McChesney!” she gasped, “you ­why, you don’t mean! ­”

Now, Emma McChesney was not a woman given to jerky conversations, interspersed with exclamation points.  Her poise and balance had become a proverb in the business world.  Yet her lips were trembling now.  Her eyes were very round and bright.  Her face had flushed, then grown white.  Her voice shook a little.  “Yes, of course I am.  Only, I’m so surprised.  Yes, I’ll be home early.  Five-thirty at the latest.”

She hung up the receiver with a little fumbling gesture.  Her hand dropped to her lap, then came up to her throat a moment, dropped again.  She sat staring straight ahead with eyes that saw one thousand miles away.

From his office across the hall T.A.  Buck strolled in casually.

“Did Baumgartner say he’d ?” He stopped as Mrs. McChesney looked up at him.  A quick step forward ­“What’s the matter, Emma?”

“Jock ­Jock ­”

“Jock!  What’s happened to the boy?” Then, as she still stared at him, her face pitiful, his hand patted her shoulder.  “Dear girl, tell me.”  He bent over her, all solicitude.

“Don’t!” said Emma McChesney faintly, and shook off his hand.  “Your stenographer can see ­What will the office think?  Please ­”

“Oh, darn the stenographer!  What’s this bad news of Jock?”

Emma McChesney sat up.  She smiled a little nervously and passed her handkerchief across her lips.  “I didn’t say it was bad, did I?  That is, not exactly bad, I suppose.”

T.A.  Buck ran a frenzied hand over his head.  “My dear child,” with careful politeness, “will you please try to be sane?  I find you sitting at your desk, staring into space, your face white as a ghost’s, your whole appearance that of a person who has received a death-blow.  And then you say, ’Not exactly bad’!”

“It’s this,” explained Emma McChesney in a hollow tone:  “The Berg, Shriner Advertising Company has appointed Jock manager of their new Western branch.  They’re opening offices in Chicago in March.”  Her lower lip quivered.  She caught it sharply between her teeth.

For one surprised moment T.A.  Buck stared in silence.  Then a roar broke from him.  “Not exactly bad!” he boomed between laughs.  “Not exactly b ­Not ex_act_ly, eh?” Then he was off again.

Mrs. McChesney surveyed him in hurt and dignified silence.  Then ­“Well, really, T.A., don’t mind me.  What you find so exquisitely funny ­”

“That’s the funniest part of it!  That you, of all people, shouldn’t see the joke.  Not exactly bad!” He wiped his eyes.  “Why, do you mean to tell me that because your young cub of a son, by a heaven-sent stroke of good fortune, has landed a job that men twice his age would give their eyeteeth to get, I find you sitting at the telephone looking as if he had run off with Annie the cook, or had had a leg cut off!”

“I suppose it is funny.  Only, the joke’s on me.  That’s why I can’t see it.  It means that I’m losing him.”

“That’s the first selfish word I’ve ever heard you utter.”

“Oh, don’t think I’m not happy at his success.  Happy!  Haven’t I hoped for it, and worked for it, and prayed for it!  Haven’t I saved for it, and skimped for it!  How do you think I could have stood those years on the road if I hadn’t kept up courage with the thought that it was all for him?  Don’t I know how narrowly Jock escaped being the wrong kind!  I’m his mother, but I’m not quite blind.  I know he had the making of a first-class cad.  I’ve seen him start off in the wrong direction a hundred times.”

“If he has turned out a success, it’s because you’ve steered him right.  I’ve watched you make him over.  And now, when his big chance has come, you ­”

“I don’t expect you to understand,” interrupted Emma McChesney a little wearily.  “I know it sounds crazy and unreasonable.  There’s only one sort of human being who could understand what I mean.  That’s a woman with a son.”  She laughed a little shamefacedly.  “I’m talking like the chorus of a minor-wail sob song, but it’s the truth.”

“If you feel like that, Emma, tell him to stay.  The boy wouldn’t go if he thought it would make you unhappy.”

“Not go!” cried Emma McChesney sharply.  “I’d like to see him dare to refuse it!”

“Well then, what in ­” began Buck, bewildered.

“Don’t try to understand it, T.A.  It’s no use.  Don’t try to poke your finger into the whirligig they call ‘Woman’s Sphere.’  Its mechanism is too complicated.  It’s the same quirk that makes women pray for daughters and men for sons.  It’s the same kink that makes women read the marriage and death notices first in a newspaper.  It’s the same queer strain that causes a mother to lavish the most love on the weakest, wilfullest child.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have loved Jock so much if there hadn’t been that streak of yellow in him, and if I hadn’t had to work so hard to dilute it until now it’s only a faint cream color.  There ought to be a special prayer for women who are bringing up their sons alone.”

Buck stirred a little uneasily.  “I’ve never heard you talk like this before.”

“You probably never will again.”  She swung round to her desk.

T.A.  Buck, strolling toward the door, still wore the puzzled look.

“I don’t know what makes you take this so seriously.  Of course, the boy will be a long way off.  But then, you’ve been separated from him before.  What’s the difference now?”

“T.A.,” said Emma McChesney solemnly, “Jock will be drawing a man-size salary now.  Something tells me I’ll be a grandmother in another two years.  Girls aren’t letting men like Jock run around loose.  He’ll be gobbled up.  Just you wait.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” drawled Buck mischievously.  “You’ve just said he’s a headstrong young cub.  He strikes me as the kind who’d raise the dickens if his three-minute egg happened to be five seconds overtime.”

Emma McChesney swung around in her chair.  “Look here, T.A.  As business partners we’ve quarreled about everything from silk samples to traveling men, and as friends we’ve wrangled on every subject from weather to war.  I’ve allowed you to criticise my soul theories, and my new spring hat.  But understand that I’m the only living person who has the right to villify my son, Jock McChesney.”

The telephone buzzed a punctuation to this period.

“Baumgartner?” inquired Buck humbly.

She listened a moment, then, over her shoulder, “Baumgartner,” ­grimly, her hand covering the mouthpiece ­“and if he thinks that he can work off a lot of last year’s silk swatches on ­Hello!  Yes, Mrs. McChesney talking.  Look here, Mr. Baumgartner ­”

And for the time being Emma McChesney, mother, was relegated to the background, while Emma McChesney, secretary of the T.A.  Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company, held the stage.

Having said that she would be home at five-thirty.  Mrs. McChesney was home at five-thirty, being that kind of a person.  Jock came in at six, breathless, bright-eyed, eager, and late, being that kind of a person.

He found his mother on the floor before the chiffonier in his bedroom, surrounded by piles of pajamas, socks, shirts and collars.

He swooped down upon her from the doorway.  “What do you think of your blue-eyed boy!  Poor, eh?”

Emma McChesney looked up absently.  “Jock, these medium-weights of yours didn’t wear at all, and you paid five dollars for them.”

“Medium-weights!  What in ­”

“You’ve enough silk socks to last you the rest of your natural life.  Handkerchiefs, too.  But you’ll need pajamas.”

Jock stooped, gathered up an armful of miscellaneous undergarments and tossed them into an open drawer.  Then he shut the drawer with a bang, reached over, grasped his mother firmly under the arms and brought her to her feet with a swing.

“We will now consider the question of summer underwear ended.  Would it bore you too much to touch lightly on the subject of your son’s future?”

Emma McChesney, tall, straight, handsome, looked up at her son, taller, straighter, handsomer.  Then she took him by the coat lapels and hugged him.

“You were so bursting with your own glory that I couldn’t resist teasing you.  Besides, I had to do something to keep my mind off ­off ­”

“Why, Blonde dear, you’re not !”

“No, I’m not,” gulped Emma McChesney.  “Don’t flatter yourself, young ’un.  Tell me just how it happened.  From the beginning.”  She perched at the side of the bed.  Jock, hands in pockets, hair a little rumpled, paced excitedly up and down before her as he talked.

“There wasn’t any beginning.  That’s the stunning part of it.  I just landed right into the middle of it with both feet.  I knew they had been planning to start a big Western branch.  But we all thought they’d pick some big man for it.  There are plenty of medium-class dubs to be had.  The kind that answers the ad:  ’Manager wanted, young man, preferably married, able to furnish A-1 reference.’  They’re as thick as advertising men in Detroit on Monday morning.  But we knew that this Western branch was going to be given an equal chance with the New York office.  Those big Western advertisers like to give their money to Western firms if they can.  So we figured that they’d pick a real top-notcher ­even Hopper, or Hupp, maybe ­and start out with a bang.  So when the Old Man called me into his office this morning I was as unconscious as a babe.  Well, you know Berg.  He’s as unexpected as a summer shower and twice as full of electricity.

“‘Morning, McChesney!’ he said.  ’That a New York necktie you’re wearing?’

“‘Strictly,’ says I.

“‘Ever try any Chicago ties?’

“‘Not from choice.  That time my suit case went astray ­’

“‘M-m-m-m, yes.’  He drummed his fingers on the table top a couple of times.  Then ­McChesney, what have you learned about advertising in the last two and a half years?’

“I was wise enough as to Bartholomew Berg to know that he didn’t mean any cut-and-dried knowledge.  He didn’t mean rules of the game.  He meant tricks.

“‘Well,’ I said, ’I’ve learned to watch a man’s eyes when I’m talking business to him.  If the pupils of his eyes dilate he’s listening to you, and thinking about what you’re saying.  When they contract it means that he’s only faking interest, even though he’s looking straight at you and wearing a rapt expression.  His thoughts are miles away.’

“‘That so?’ said Berg, and sort of grinned.  ‘What else?’

“’I’ve learned that one negative argument is worth six positive ones; that it never pays to knock your competitor; that it’s wise to fight shy of that joker known as “editorial cooeperation."’

“‘That so?’ said Berg.  ‘Anything else?’

“I made up my mind I could play the game as long as he could.

“’I’ve learned not to lose my temper when I’m in the middle of a white-hot, impassioned business appeal and the office boy bounces in to say to the boss:  “Mrs. Jones is waiting.  She says you were going to help her pick out wall paper this morning;” and Jones says, “Tell her I’ll be there in five minutes."’

“‘Sure you’ve learned that?’ said Berg.

“‘Sure,’ says I.  ’And I’ve learned to let the other fellow think your argument’s his own.  He likes it.  I’ve learned that the surest kind of copy is the slow, insidious kind, like the Featherloom Petticoat Company’s campaign.  That was an ideal campaign because it didn’t urge and insist that the public buy Featherlooms.  It just eased the idea to them.  It started by sketching a history of the petticoat, beginning with Eve’s fig leaf and working up.  Before they knew it they were interested.’

“‘That so?  That campaign was your mother’s idea, McChesney.’  You know, Mother, he thinks you’re a wonder.”

“So I am,” agreed Emma McChesney calmly.  “Go on.”

“Well, I went on.  I told him that I’d learned to stand so that the light wouldn’t shine in my client’s eyes when I was talking to him.  I lost a big order once because the glare from the window irritated the man I was talking to.  I told Berg all the tricks I’d learned, and some I hadn’t thought of till that minute.  Berg put in a word now and then.  I thought he was sort of guying me, as he sometimes does ­not unkindly, you know, but in that quiet way he has.  Finally I stopped for breath, or something, and he said: 

“’Now let me talk a minute, McChesney.  Anybody can teach you the essentials of the advertising business, if you’ve any advertising instinct in you.  But it’s what you pick up on the side, by your own efforts and out of your own experience, that lifts you out of the scrub class.  Now I don’t think you’re an ideal advertising man by any means, McChesney.  You’re shy on training and experience, and you’ve just begun to acquire that golden quality known as balance.  I could name a hundred men that are better all-around advertising men than you will ever be.  Those men have advertising ability that glows steadily and evenly, like a well-banked fire.  But you’ve got the kind of ability that flares up, dies down, flares up.  But every flare is a real blaze that lights things red while it lasts, and sends a new glow through the veins of business.  You’ve got personality, and youth, and enthusiasm, and a precious spark of the real thing known as advertising genius.  There’s no describing it.  You know what I mean.  Also, you know enough about actual advertising not to run an ad for a five-thousand-dollar motor car in the “Police Gazette.”  All of which leads up to this question:  How would you like to buy your neckties in Chicago, McChesney?’

“‘Chicago!’ I blurted.

“’We’ve taken a suite of offices in the new Lakeview Building on Michigan Avenue.  Would you like your office done in mahogany or oak?’”

Jock came to a full stop before his mother.  His cheeks were scarlet.  Hers were pale.  He was breathing quickly.  She was very quiet.  His eyes glowed.  So did hers, but the glow was dimmed by a mist.

“Mahogany’s richer, but make it oak, son.  It doesn’t show finger-marks so.”  Then, quite suddenly, she stood up, shaking a little, and buried her face in the boy’s shoulder.

“Why ­why, Mother!  Don’t!  Don’t, Blonde.  We’ll see each other every few weeks.  I’ll be coming to New York to see the sights, like the rest of the rubes, and I suppose the noise and lights will confuse me so that I’ll be glad to get back to the sylvan quiet of Chicago.  And then you’ll run out there, eh?  We’ll have regular bats, Mrs. Mack.  Dinner and the theater and supper!  Yes?”

“Yes,” said Emma McChesney, in muffled tones that totally lacked enthusiasm.

“Chicago’s really only a suburb of New York, anyway, these days, and ­”

Emma McChesney’s head came up sharply.  “Look here, son.  If you’re going to live in Chicago I advise you to cut that suburb talk, and sort of forget New York.  Chicago’s quite a village, for an inland settlement, even if it has only two or three million people, and a lake as big as all outdoors.  That kind of talk won’t elect you to the University Club, son.”

So they talked, all through supper and during the evening.  Rather, Jock talked and his mother listened, interrupting with only an occasional remark when the bubble of the boy’s elation seemed to grow too great.

Quite suddenly Jock was silent.  After the almost incessant rush of conversation quiet settled down strangely on the two seated there in the living-room with its soft-shaded lamps.  Jock picked up a magazine, twirled its pages, put it down, strolled into his own room, and back again.

“Mother,” he said suddenly, standing before her, “there was a time when you were afraid I wasn’t going to pan out, wasn’t there?”

“Not exactly afraid, dear, just a little doubtful, perhaps.”

Jock smiled a tolerant, forgiving smile.  “You see, Mother, you didn’t understand, that’s all.  A woman doesn’t.  I was all right.  A man would have realized that.  I don’t mean, dear, that you haven’t always been wonderful, because you have.  But it takes a man to understand a man.  When you thought I was going bad on your hands I was just developing, that’s all.  Remember that time in Chicago, Mother?”

“Yes,” answered Emma McChesney, “I remember.”

“Now a man would have understood that that was only kid foolishness.  If a fellow’s got the stuff in him it’ll show up, sooner or later.  If I hadn’t had it in me I wouldn’t be going to Chicago as manager of the Berg, Shriner Western office, would I?”

“No, dear.”

Jock looked at her.  In an instant he was all contrition and tenderness.  “You’re tired.  I’ve talked you to death, haven’t I?  Lordy, it’s midnight!  And I want to get down early to-morrow.  Conference with Mr. Berg, and Hupp.”  He tried not to sound too important.

Emma McChesney took his head between her two hands and kissed him once on the lips, then, standing a-tiptoe, kissed his eyelids with infinite gentleness as you kiss a baby’s eyes.  Then she brought his cheek up against hers.  And so they stood for a moment, silently.

Ten minutes later there came the sound of blithe whistling from Jock’s room.  Jock always whistled when he went to bed and when he rose.  Even these years of living in a New York apartment had not broken him of the habit.  It was a cheerful, disconnected whistling, sometimes high and clear, sometimes under the breath, sometimes interspersed with song, and sometimes ceasing altogether at critical moments, say, during shaving, or while bringing the four-in-hand up tight and snug under the collar.  It was one of those comfortable little noises that indicate a masculine presence; one of those pleasant, reassuring, man-in-the-house noises that every woman loves.

Emma McChesney, putting herself to bed in her room across the hall, found herself listening, brush poised, lips parted, as though to the exquisite strains of celestial music.  There came the thump of a shoe on the floor.  An interval of quiet.  Then another thump.  Without having been conscious of it, Emma McChesney had grown to love the noises that accompanied Jock’s retiring and rising.  His dressing was always signalized by bangings and thumpings.  His splashings in the tub were tremendous.  His morning plunge could be heard all over the six-room apartment.  Mrs. McChesney used to call gayly through the door: 

“Mercy, Jock!  You sound like a school of whales coming up for air.”

“You’ll think I’m a school of sharks when it comes to breakfast,” Jock would call back.  “Tell Annie to make enough toast, Mum.  She’s the tightest thing with the toast I ever did ­”

The rest would be lost in a final surging splash.

The noises in the room across the hall had subsided now.  She listened more intently.  No, a drawer banged.  Another.  Then: 

“Hasn’t my gray suit come back from the tailor’s?”

“It was to be sponged, too, you know.  He said he’d bring it Wednesday.  This is Tuesday.”

“Oh!” Another bang.  Then:  ’"Night, Mother!”

“Good night, dear.”  Creaking sounds, then a long, comfortable sigh of complete relaxation.

Emma McChesney went on with her brushing.  She brushed her hair with the usual number of swift even strokes, from the top of the shining head to the waist.  She braided her hair into two plaits, Gretchen fashion.  Millions of scanty-locked women would have given all they possessed to look as Emma McChesney looked standing there in kimono and gown.  She nicked out the light.  Then she, too, relaxed upon her pillow with a little sigh.  Quiet fell on the little apartment.  The street noises came up to her, now roaring, now growing faint.  Emma McChesney lay there sleepless.  She lay flat, hands clasped across her breast, her braids spread out on the pillow.  In the darkness of the room the years rolled before her in panorama:  her girlhood, her marriage, her unhappiness, Jock, the divorce, the struggle for work, those ten years on the road.  Those ten years on the road!  How she had hated them ­and loved them.  The stuffy trains, the jarring sleepers, the bare little hotel bedrooms, the bad food, the irregular hours, the loneliness, the hard work, the disappointments, the temptations.  Yes but the fascination of it, the dear friends she had made, the great human lesson of it all!  And all for Jock.  That Jock might have good schools, good clothes, good books, good surroundings, happy times.  Why, Jock had been the reason for it all!  She had swallowed insult because of Jock.  She had borne the drudgery because of Jock.  She had resisted temptation, smiled under hardship, worked, fought, saved, succeeded, all because of Jock.  And now this pivot about which her whole life had revolved was to be pulled up, wrenched away.

Over Emma McChesney, lying there in the dark, there swept one of those unreasoning night-fears.  The fear of living.  The fear of life.  A straining of the eyeballs in the dark.  The pounding of heart-beats.

She sat up in bed.  Her hands went to her face.  Her cheeks were burning and her eyes smarted.  She felt that she must see Jock.  At once.  Just to be near him.  To touch him.  To take him in her arms, with his head in the hollow of her breast, as she used to when he was a baby.  Why, he had been a baby only yesterday.  And now he was a man.  Big enough to stand alone, to live alone, to do without her.

Emma McChesney flung aside the covers and sprang out of bed.  She thrust her feet in slippers, groped for the kimono at the foot of the bed and tiptoed to the door.  She listened.  No sound from the other room.  She stole across the hall, stopped, listened, gained the door.  It was open an inch or more.  Just to be near him, to know that he lay there, sleeping!  She pushed the door very, very gently.  Then she stood in the doorway a moment, scarcely breathing, her head thrust forward, her whole body tense with listening.  She could not hear him breathe!  She caught her breath again in that unreasoning fear and took a quick step forward.

“Stop or I’ll shoot!” said a voice.  Simultaneously the light flashed on.  Emma McChesney found herself blinking at a determined young man who was steadily pointing a short, chubby, businesslike looking steel affair in her direction.  Then the hand that held the steel dropped.

“What is this, anyway?” demanded Jock rather crossly.  “A George Cohan comedy?”

Emma McChesney leaned against the foot of the bed rather weakly.

“What did you think ­”

“What would you think if you heard some one come sneaking along the hall, stopping, listening, sneaking to your door, and then opening it, and listening again, and sneaking in?  What would you think it was?  How did I know you were going around making social calls at two o’clock in the morning!”

Suddenly Emma McChesney began to laugh.  She leaned over the footboard and laughed hysterically, her head in her arms.  Jock stared a moment in offended disapproval.  Then the humor of it caught him, and he buried his head in his pillow to stifle unseemly shrieks.  His legs kicked spasmodically beneath the bedclothes.

As suddenly as she had begun to laugh Mrs. McChesney became very sober.

“Stop it, Jock!  Tell me, why weren’t you sleeping?”

“I don’t know,” replied Jock, as suddenly solemn.  “I ­sort of ­began to think, and I couldn’t sleep.”

“What were you thinking of?”

Jock looked down at the bedclothes and traced a pattern with one forefinger on the sheet.  Then he looked up.

“Thinking of you.”

“Oh!” said Emma McChesney, like a bashful schoolgirl.  “Of ­me!”

Jock sat up very straight and clasped his hands about his knees.  “I got to thinking of what I had said about having made good all alone.  That’s rot.  It isn’t so.  I was striped with yellow like a stick of lemon candy.  If I’ve got this far, it’s all because of you.  I’ve been thinking all along that I was the original electric self-starter, when you’ve really had to get out and crank me every few miles.”

Into Emma McChesney’s face there came a wonderful look.  It was the sort of look with which a newly-made angel might receive her crown and harp.  It was the look with which a war-hero sees the medal pinned on his breast.  It was the look of one who has come into her Reward.  Therefore: 

“What nonsense!” said Emma McChesney.  “If you hadn’t had it in you, it wouldn’t have come out.”

“It wasn’t in me, in the first place,” contested Jock stubbornly.  “You planted it.”

From her stand at the foot of the bed she looked at him, her eyes glowing brighter and brighter with that wonderful look.

“Now see here,” ­severely ­“I want you to go to sleep.  I don’t intend to stand here and dispute about your ethical innards at this hour.  I’m going to kiss you again.”

“Oh, well, if you must,” grinned Jock resignedly, and folded her in a bear-hug.

To Emma McChesney it seemed that the next three weeks leaped by, not by days, but in one great bound.  And the day came when a little, chattering, animated group clustered about the slim young chap who was fumbling with his tickets, glancing at his watch, signaling a porter for his bags, talking, laughing, trying to hide the pangs of departure under a cloak of gayety and badinage that deceived no one.  Least of all did it deceive the two women who stood there.  The eyes of the older woman never left his face.  The eyes of the younger one seldom were raised to his, but she saw his every expression.  Once Emma McChesney’s eyes shifted a little so as to include both the girl and the boy in her gaze.  Grace Galt in her blue serge and smart blue hat was worth a separate glance.

Sam Hupp was there, T.A.  Buck, Hopper, who was to be with him in Chicago for the first few weeks, three or four of the younger men in the office, frankly envious and heartily congratulatory.

They followed him to his train, all laughter and animation.

“If this train doesn’t go in two minutes,” said Jock, “I’ll get scared and chuck the whole business.  Funny, but I’m not so keen on going as I was three weeks ago.”

His eyes rested on the girl in the blue serge and the smart hat.  Emma McChesney saw that.  She saw that his eyes still rested there as he stood on the observation platform when the train pulled out.  The sight did not pain her as she thought it would.  There was success in every line of him as he stood there, hat in hand.  There was assurance in every breath of him.  His clothes, his skin, his clear eyes, his slim body, all were as they should be.  He had made a place in the world.  He was to be a builder of ideas.  She thought of him, and of the girl in blue serge, and of their children-to-be.

Her breast swelled exultingly.  Her head came up.

This was her handiwork.  She looked at it, and found that it was good.

“Let’s strike for the afternoon and call it a holiday,” suggested Buck.

Emma McChesney turned.  The train was gone.  “T.A., you’ll never grow up.”

“Never want to.  Come on, let’s play hooky, Emma.”

“Can’t.  I’ve a dozen letters to get out, and Miss Loeb wants to show me that new knicker-bocker design of hers.”

They drove back to the office almost in silence.  Emma McChesney made straight for her desk and began dictating letters with an energy that bordered on fury.  At five o’clock she was still working.  At five-thirty T.A.  Buck came in to find her still surrounded by papers, samples, models.

“What is this?” he demanded wrathfully, “an all-night session?”

Emma McChesney looked up from her desk.  Her face was flushed, her eyes bright, but there was about her an indefinable air of weariness.

“T.A., I’m afraid to go home.  I’ll rattle around in that empty flat like a hickory nut in a barrel.”

“We’ll have dinner down-town and go to the theater.”

“No use.  I’ll have to go home sometime.”

“Now, Emma,” remonstrated Buck, “you’ll soon get used to it.  Think of all the years you got along without him.  You were happy, weren’t you?”

“Happy because I had somebody to work for, somebody to plan for, somebody to worry about.  When I think of what that flat will be without him ­Why, just to wake up and know that you can say good morning to some one who cares!  That’s worth living for, isn’t it?”

“Emma,” said T.A. evenly, “do you realize that you are virtually hounding me into asking you to marry me?”

“T.A.!” gasped Emma McChesney.

“Well, you said you wanted somebody to worry about, didn’t you?”

A little whimsical smile lay lightly on his lips.

“Timothy Buck, I’m over forty years old.”

“Emma, in another minute I’m going to grow sentimental, and nothing can stop me.”

She looked down at her hands.  There fell a little silence.  Buck stirred, leaned forward.  She looked up from the little watch that ticked away at her wrist.

“The minute’s up, T.A.,” said Emma McChesney.