Read CHAPTER FIVE - MAKING OVER MILTON of The Competitive Nephew , free online book, by Montague Glass, on

“Take it from me, Mr. Zwiebel, that boy would never amount to nothing,” said Levy Rothman, as they sat in the rear room of Wasserbauer’s Cafe and restaurant.

“You are mistaken, Mr. Rothman,” Charles Zwiebel replied; “the boy is only a little wild, y’understand, and if I could get him to settle down and learn a business, Mr. Rothman, he would settle down. After all, Mr. Rothman, he is only a boy, y’understand.”

“At twenty-one,” Rothman replied, “a boy ain’t a boy no longer, Mr. Zwiebel. Either he is a man or he is a loafer, y’understand.”

“The boy ain’t no loafer, Mr. Rothman. He’s got a good heart, Mr. Rothman, and he is honest like the day. That boy wouldn’t dream of taking no money from the cash drawer, Mr. Rothman, without he would tell me all about it afterward. That’s the kind of boy he is, Mr. Rothman; and certainly Mrs. Zwiebel she thinks a whole lot of him, too. Not that he doesn’t think a whole lot of her, Mr. Rothman. Yes, Mr. Rothman, that boy thinks a whole lot of his mother. If he would stay out all night he always says to her the next morning, ’Mommer, you shouldn’t worry about me, because I could always take care of myself,’ and I bet yer that boy could take care of himself, too, Mr. Rothman. I seen that boy sit in a game with such sharks like Moe Rabiner and Marks Pasinsky, and them fellers couldn’t do nothing with him. Yes, Mr. Rothman, that boy is a natural-born pinochle player.”

“Might you think that a recommendation, maybe?” Rothman exclaimed.

“Well, Mr. Rothman, my brother Sol, selig, used to say, ’Show me a good pinochle player and I will show you a natural-born salesman.’”

“Yes, Mr. Zwiebel,” Rothman retorted, “and show me a salesman what is a good pinochle player, Mr. Zwiebel, and I will also show you a feller what fools away his time and sells the firm’s samples. No, Mr. Zwiebel, if I would take your boy in my place I certainly wouldn’t take him because he is a good pinochle player. Ain’t he got no other recommendation, Mr. Zwiebel?”

“Well, certainly, everybody what that boy worked for, Mr. Rothman, couldn’t say enough about him,” Mr. Zwiebel said enigmatically; “but, anyhow, what’s the use talking, Mr. Rothman? I got this proposition to make you: Take the boy into your place and learn him the business, and all you would got to pay him is five dollars a week. Myself I will put ten to it, and you could pay him fifteen, and the boy wouldn’t got to know nothing about it.”

“I wouldn’t give him five dollars a week or five cents, neither,” Mr. Rothman answered in tones of finality. “Because I don’t need nobody in my place at present, and if I would need somebody I would hire it a feller what knows the business. I got lots of experience with new beginners already, Mr. Zwiebel, and I always lost money by ’em.”

Mr. Zwiebel received this ultimatum in so crest-fallen a manner that Rothman’s flinty heart was touched.

“Lookyhere, Mr. Zwiebel,” he said, “I got a boy, too, only, Gott sei dank, the young feller ain’t a loafer, y’understand. He’s now in his third year in law school, and I never had a bit of trouble with that boy. Because I don’t want you to feel bad, Mr. Zwiebel, but if I do say it myself, that boy is a good boy, y’understand; none better, Mr. Zwiebel, I don’t care where you would go. That boy comes home, y’understand, every night, y’understand, except the night when he goes to lodge meeting, and he takes down his books and learns it till his mommer’s got to say to him: ’Ferdy, lieben, you would ruin your eyes.’ That boy is only twenty-three, Mr. Zwiebel, and already he is way up in the I.O.M.A. They give that young feller full charge for their annual ball two years already, and ”

“Excuse me, Mr. Rothman,” Zwiebel broke in. “I got to get back to my business, and so, therefore, I want to make you a final proposition. Take the boy into your place and I would give you each week fifteen dollars you should pay him for his wages.”

“I wouldn’t positively do nothing of the kind,” Rothman cried.

“And” Mr. Zwiebel said as though he were merely extending his remark instead of voicing an idea that had just occurred to him “and I will invest in your business two thousand dollars which you would only pay me savings-bank interest.”

Rothman’s eyes glittered, but he only laughed by way of reply.

“Ain’t that a fair proposition?”

“You must think I need money bad in my business,” Rothman commented.

“Every man in the cloak and suit business needs money this year, Rothman,” said Zwiebel, who was in the cigar business. His specialty was the manufacture of cigars for the entertainment of cloak and suit customers, and his own financial affairs accurately reflected conditions in the woman’s outer garment trade. For instance, when cloak buyers are anxious to buy goods the frugal manufacturer withholds his hospitality; but if the demand for cloaks is slack, then M to Z customers are occasionally regaled with cigars from the “gilt-edged” box. This season Zwiebel was selling more and better cigars than for many years past, and he made his deductions accordingly.

“Yes, Mr. Rothman,” Zwiebel concluded, “there’s plenty cloak and suit men would be glad to get a young feller like my Milton on such terms what I offer it.”

“Well, why don’t you talk to ’em about it?” Rothman replied. “I am satisfied.”

But there was something about Rothman’s face that to Zwiebel augured well for his son’s regeneration. Like the advertised loft buildings in the cloak and suit district, Mr. Rothman’s face was of steel construction throughout, and Zwiebel felt so sure of Rothman’s ability to cope with Milton’s shortcomings that he raised the bid to three thousand dollars. Firmness, however, is a quality that makes for success in every phase of business, particularly in bargaining; and when the deal was closed Rothman had hired Milton Zwiebel for nothing a week. Mr. Zwiebel, on his part, had agreed to invest five thousand dollars in Rothman’s business, the same to bear interest at 3 per cent. per annum. He had also bound himself to repay Rothman the weekly salary of fifteen dollars which Milton was to receive, and when they parted they shook hands warmly on the transaction.

“Well, Mr. Rothman,” Zwiebel concluded, “I hope you will see to it the boy behaves himself.”

Rothman’s mouth described a downward arc.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Zwiebel,” he said; “leave it to me.”

Milton Zwiebel had not found his metier. He had tried almost everything in the Business Directory from Architectural Iron Work to Yarns, Domestic and Imported, and had ascertained all of them to be lacking in the one quality he craved excitement.

“That boy is looking for trouble all the time, mommer,” Charles Zwiebel said to his wife on the night after his conversation with Rothman, “and I guess he will get so much as he wants by Rothman. Such a face I never seen it before, like Haman. If Milton should get fresh with him, mommer, he would get it a Schlag, I bet yer.”

“Ain’t you ashamed to talk that way?” Mrs. Zwiebel protested.

“It’ll do the boy good, mommer,” Mr. Zwiebel replied. “That boy is a regular loafer. It’s eleven o’clock already and he ain’t home yet. What that lowlife does when he stays out till all hours of the night I don’t know. One thing is sure, he ain’t doing no good. I hate to think where that boy will end up, mommer.”

He shook his head and heavily ascended the stairs to bed, while Mrs. Zwiebel settled herself down with the evening paper to await Milton’s return.

She had a weary vigil ahead of her, for Milton had at last found serious employment. Only that evening he had been engaged by Professor Felix Lusthaus as a double-bass player in Lusthaus’s grand orchestra of forty pieces. This organization had been hired to render the dance music for the fifteenth annual ball of Harmony Lodge, 142, I.O.M.A., and the chairman of the entertainment committee had been influenced in his selection by the preponderating number of the orchestra’s members over other competing bands.

Now, to the inexperienced ear twenty-five players will emit nearly as much noise as forty, and in view of this circumstance Professor Lusthaus was accustomed to hire twenty-five bona-fide members of the musical union, while the remaining fifteen pieces were what are technically known as sleepers. That is to say, Professor Lusthaus provided them with instruments and they were directed to go through the motions without making any sound.

Milton, for instance, was instructed how to manipulate the fingerboard of his ponderous instrument, but he was enjoined to draw his bow across the metal base of the music-stand and to avoid the strings upon peril of his job. During the opening two-step Milton’s behaviour was exemplary. He watched the antics of the other contra basso and duplicated them so faithfully as to call for a commendatory nod from the Professor at the conclusion of the number.

His undoing began with the second dance, which was a waltz. As contra basso performer he stood with his fellow-artist at the rear of the platform facing the dancing floor, and no sooner had Professor Lusthaus’s baton directed the first few measures than Milton’s imitation grew spiritless. He had espied a little girl in white with eyes that flashed her enjoyment of the dreamy rhythm. Her cheeks glowed and her lips were parted, while her tiny gloved hand rested like a flower on the shoulder of her partner. They waltzed half-time, as the vernacular has it, and to Milton it seemed like the apotheosis of the dance. He gazed wide-eyed at the fascinating scene and was only brought to himself when the drummer poked him in the ribs with the butt end of the drumstick. For the remainder of the waltz he performed discreetly on the music-stand and his fingers chased themselves up and down the strings with lifelike rapidity.

“Hey, youse,” Professor Lusthaus hissed after he had laid down his baton, “what yer trying to do? Queer the whole thing? Hey?”

“I thought I now seen a friend of mine,” Milton said lamely.

“Oh, yer did, did yer?” Professor Lusthaus retorted. “Well, when you play with this here orchestra you want to remember you ain’t got a friend in the world, see?”

Milton nodded.

“And, furthermore,” the Professor concluded, “make some more breaks like that and see what’ll happen you.”

Waltzes and two-steps succeeded each other with monotonous regularity until the grand march for supper was announced. For three years Ferdy Rothman had been chairman of the entertainment and floor committee of Harmony Lodge I.O.M.A.’s annual ball, and he was a virtuoso in the intricate art of arranging a grand march to supper. His aids were six in number, and as Ferdy marched up the ballroom floor they were standing with their backs to the music platform ten paces apart. When Ferdy arrived at the foot of the platform he faced about and split the line of marching couples. The ladies wheeled sharply to the right and the gentlemen to the left, and thereafter began a series of evolutions which, in the mere witnessing, would have given a blacksnake lumbago.

Again Milton became entranced and his fingers remained motionless on the strings, while, instead of sawing away on the music-stand, his right arm hung by his side. Once more the drummer missed a beat and struck him in the ribs, and Milton, looking up, caught sight of the glaring, demoniacal Lusthaus.

The composition was one of Professor Lusthaus’s own and had been especially devised for grand marches to supper. In rhythm and melody it was exceedingly conventional, not to say reminiscent, and when Milton seized his bow with the energy of despair and drew it sharply across the strings of the contra basso there was introduced a melodic and harmonic element so totally at variance with the character of the composition as to outrage the ears of even Ferdy Rothman. For one fatal moment he turned his head, as did his six aids, and at once the grand march to supper became a hopeless tangle. Simultaneously Milton saw that in five minutes he would be propelled violently to the street at the head of a flying wedge, and he sawed away with a grim smile on his face. Groans like the ultimate sighs of a dying elephant came from underneath his bow, while occasionally he surprised himself with a weird harmonic. At length Professor Lusthaus could stand it no longer. He threw his baton at Milton and followed it up with his violin case, at which Milton deemed it time to retreat. He grabbed his hat and overcoat and dashed wildly through the ranks of the thirty-nine performers toward the front of the platform. Thence he leaped to the ballroom floor, and two minutes later he was safely on the sidewalk with nothing to hinder his exit save a glancing kick from Ferdy Rothman.

It was precisely eleven o’clock, the very shank of the evening, and Milton fairly shuddered at the idea of going home, but what was he to do? His credit at all of the pool parlours had been strained to the utmost and he was absolutely penniless. For two minutes he surveyed the empty street and, with a stretch and a yawn, he started off home.

Ten minutes later Mrs. Zwiebel recognized with a leaping heart his footsteps on the areaway. She ran to the door and opened it.

“Loafer!” she cried. “Where was you?”

“Aw, what’s the matter now?” Milton asked as he kissed her perfunctorily. “It’s only just eleven o’clock.”

“Sure, I know,” Mrs. Zwiebel said. “What you come home so early for?”

Again Milton yawned and stretched.

“I was to a racket what the I.O.M.A.’s run off,” he said.

He rubbed the dust from his trouser leg where Ferdy Rothman’s kick had soiled it.

“Things was getting pretty slow,” he concluded, “so I put on my hat and come home.”

Breakfast at the Zwiebels’ was a solemn feast. Mr. Zwiebel usually drank his coffee in silence, or in as much silence as was compatible with an operation which, with Mr. Zwiebel, involved screening the coffee through his moustache. It emerged all dripping from the coffee, and Mr. Zwiebel was accustomed to cleansing it with his lower lip and polishing it off with his table napkin. Eggs and toast followed, and, unless Mrs. Zwiebel was especially vigilant, her husband went downtown with fragments of the yolks clinging to his eyebrows, for Mr. Zwiebel was a hearty eater and no great stickler for table manners.

To Milton, whose table manners were both easy and correct, the primitive methods of his father were irritating.

“Get a sponge!” he exclaimed on the morning after his orchestral experience, as Mr. Zwiebel absorbed his coffee in long, gurgling inhalations.

“Yes, Milton,” Mr. Zwiebel commented, replacing his cup in the saucer, “maybe I ain’t such a fine gentleman what you are, but I ain’t no loafer, neither, y’understand. When I was your age I didn’t sit down and eat my breakfast at nine o’clock. I didn’t have it so easy.”

“Aw, what yer kicking about?” Milton replied. “You don’t let me do nothing down at the store, anyway. All I got to do is sit around. Why don’t you send me out on the road and give me a show?”

“A show I would give you,” Zwiebel cried. “You mean a picnic, not a show. No, Milton, I got some pretty good customers already, but I wouldn’t take no such liberties with ’em as sending out a lowlife like you to sell ’em goods.”

“All right,” Milton said, and relapsed into a sulky silence.

“Lookyhere, Milton,” Zwiebel commenced. “If I thought you was really willing to work, y’understand, I would get you a good job. But with a feller what’s all the time fooling away his time, what’s the use?”

“Maybe the boy would behave himself this time, popper,” Mrs. Zwiebel interceded. “Maybe he would attend to business this time, popper. Ain’t it?”

“Business!” Mr. Zwiebel exclaimed. “Business is something what the boy ain’t got in him at all. Honest, mommer, I got to sit down sometimes and ask myself what did I done that I should have such a boy. He wouldn’t work; he wouldn’t do nothing. Just a common, low-life bum, what you see hanging around street corners. If I was a young feller like that, Milton, I would be ashamed to show myself.”

“Aw, cut it out!” Milton replied.

“Yes, mommer, if I would get that boy a good job, y’understand,” Mr. Zwiebel went on, “he would turn right around and do something, y’understand, what would make me like I could never show myself again in the place where he worked.”

“Aw, what are you beefing about now?” Milton broke in. “You never got me a decent job yet. All the places where I worked was piker concerns. Why don’t you get me a real job where I could sell some goods?”

“Talk is cheap, Milton,” said Mr. Zwiebel. “But if I thought you meant it what you said I would take up an offer what I got it yesterday from Levy Rothman, of Levy Rothman & Co. He wants a young feller what he could bring up in the business, mommer, and make it a salesman out of him. But what’s the use?”

“Maybe if you would take Milton down there and let Mr. Rothman see him,” Mrs. Zwiebel suggested, “maybe the boy would like the place.”

“No, sir,” Mr. Zwiebel declared, “I wouldn’t do it. I positively wouldn’t do nothing of the kind.”

He glanced anxiously at his son out of the corner of his eye, but Milton gave no sign.

“Why should I do it?” he went on. “Levy Rothman is a good customer of mine and he wants to pay a young feller fifteen dollars a week to start. Naturally, he expects he should get a hard-working feller for the money.”

He felt sure that the fifteen dollars a week would provoke some show of interest, and he was not mistaken.

“Well, I can work as hard as the next one,” Milton cried. “Why don’t you take me down there and give me a show to get the job?”

Mr. Zwiebel looked at his wife with an elaborate assumption of doubtfulness.

“What could I say to a young feller like that, mommer?” he said. “Mind you, I want to help him out. I want to make a man of him, mommer, but all the time I know how it would turn out.”

“How could you talk that way, popper?” Mrs. Zwiebel pleaded. “The boy says he would do his best. Let him have a chance, popper.”

“All right,” he said heartily; “for your sake, mommer, I will do it. Milton, lieben, put on your coat and hat and we will go right down to Rothman’s place.”

When Mr. Zwiebel and Milton entered the sample-room of Levy Rothman & Co., three quarters of an hour later, Mr. Rothman was scanning the Arrival of Buyers column in the morning paper.

“Ah, Mr. Rothman,” Zwiebel cried, “ain’t it a fine weather?”

“I bet yer it’s a fine weather,” Rothman agreed, “for cancellations. We ain’t never had such a warm November in years ago already.”

“This is my boy Milton, Mr. Rothman, what I was talking to you about,” Zwiebel continued.

“Yes?” Mr. Rothman said. “All right. Let him take down his coat and he’ll find a feather duster in the corner by them misses’ reefers. I never see nothing like the way the dust gets in here.”

Mr. Zwiebel fairly beamed. This was a splendid beginning.

“Go ahead, Milton,” he said; “take down your coat and get to work.”

But Milton showed no undue haste.

“Lookyhere, pop,” he said. “I thought I was coming down here to sell goods.”

“Sell goods!” Rothman exclaimed. “Why, you was never in the cloak and suit business before. Ain’t it?”

“Sure, I know,” Milton replied, “but I can sell goods all right.”

“Not here, you couldn’t,” Rothman said. “Here, before a feller sells goods, he’s got to learn the line, y’understand, and there ain’t no better way to learn the line, y’understand, than by dusting it off.”

Milton put his hat on and jammed it down with both hands.

“Then that settles it,” he declared.

“What settles it?” Rothman and Zwiebel asked with one voice; but before Milton could answer the sample-room door opened and a young woman entered. From out the coils of her blue-black hair an indelible lead pencil projected at a jaunty angle.

“Mr. Rothman,” she said, “Oppenheimer ain’t credited us with that piece of red velour we returned him on the twentieth, and he’s charged us up twice with the same item.”

“That’s a fine crook for you,” Rothman cried. “Write him he should positively rectify all mistakes before we would send him a check. That feller’s got a nerve like a horse, Mr. Zwiebel. He wants me I should pay him net thirty days, and he never sends us a single statement correct. Anything else, Miss Levy?”

“That’s all, Mr. Rothman,” she replied as she turned away.

Milton watched her as she closed the door behind her, and then he threw down his hat and peeled off his coat.

“Gimme the feather duster,” he said.

For two hours Milton wielded the feather broom, then Mr. Rothman went out to lunch, and as a reflex Milton sank down in the nearest chair. He opened the morning paper and buried himself in the past performances.

“Milton,” a voice cried sharply, “ain’t you got something to do?”

He looked up and descried Miss Levy herself standing over him.

“Naw,” he said, “I finished the dusting.”

Miss Levy took the paper gently but firmly from his hands.

“You come with me,” she said.

He followed her to the office, where the monthly statements were ready for mailing.

“Put the statements in those envelopes,” she said, “and seal them up.”

Milton sat down meekly on a high stool and piled up the envelopes in front of him.

“Ain’t you got any sponge for to wet these envelopes on?” he asked.

Miss Levy favoured him with a cutting glance.

“Ain’t you delicate!” she said. “Use your tongue.”

For five minutes Milton folded and licked and then he hazarded a conversational remark:

“You like to dance pretty well, don’t you?” he said.

“When I’ve got business to attend to,” Miss Levy replied frigidly, “I don’t like anything.”

“But I mean I seen you at the I.O.M.A.’s racket last night,” Milton continued, “and you seemed to be having a pretty good time.”

Miss Levy suppressed a yawn.

“Don’t mention it,” she said; “I feel like a rag to-day. I didn’t get home till four o’clock.”

This was something like friendly discourse, and Milton slackened up on his work.

“Who was that feller with the curly hair you was dancing with?” he began, when Miss Levy looked up and noted the cessation of his labour.

“Never you mind who he was, Milton,” she answered. “You finish licking those envelopes.”

At this juncture they heard the sample-room door open and a heavy footstep sound on its carpeted floor.

“Wait here,” she hissed. “It’s a customer, and everybody’s out to lunch. What’s your other name, Milton?”

“Milton Zwiebel,” he replied.

Hastily she adjusted her pompadour and tripped off to the sample-room.

“Ain’t none of them actors around here to-day, Miss Levy?” a bass voice asked.

“They’re all out to lunch,” Miss Levy explained.

“Where’s Pasinsky?” the visitor asked.

“Mr. Pasinsky’s in Boston this week, Mr. Feigenbaum,” she replied.

Pasinsky was Rothman’s senior drummer and was generally acknowledged a crackerjack.

“That’s too bad,” Feigenbaum replied. “Ain’t Rothman coming back soon?”

“Not for half an hour,” Miss Levy answered.

“Well, I ain’t got so long to wait,” Feigenbaum commented.

Suddenly Miss Levy brightened up.

“Mr. Zwiebel is in,” she announced. “Maybe he would do.”

“Mr. Zwiebel?” Feigenbaum repeated. “All right, Zwiebel oder Knoblauch, it don’t make no difference to me. I want to look at some of them misses’ reefers.”

“Mis-ter Zwiebel,” Miss Levy called, and in response Milton entered.

“This is one of our customers, Mr. Zwiebel,” she said, “by the name Mr. Henry Feigenbaum.”

“How are you, Mr. Feigenbaum?” Milton said with perfect self-possession. “What can I do for you to-day?”

He dug out one of Charles Zwiebel’s Havana seconds from his waistcoat-pocket and handed it to Feigenbaum.

“It looks pretty rough,” he said, “but you’ll find it all O.K., clear Havana, wrapper, binder, and filler.”

“Much obliged,” Feigenbaum said. “I want to look at some of them misses’ reefers.”

Miss Levy winked one eye with electrical rapidity and gracefully placed her hand on the proper rack, whereat Milton strode over and seized the garment.

“Try it on me,” Miss Levy said, extending her arm. “It’s just my size.”

“You couldn’t wear no misses’ reefer,” Feigenbaum said ungallantly. “You ain’t so young no longer.”

Milton scowled, but Miss Levy passed it off pleasantly.

“You wouldn’t want to pay for all the garments in misses’ sizes that fit me, Mr. Feigenbaum,” she retorted as she struggled into the coat. “My sister bought one just like this up on Thirty-fourth Street, and maybe they didn’t charge her anything, neither. Why, Mr. Feigenbaum, she had to pay twenty-two fifty for the precisely same garment, and I could have got her the same thing here for ten dollars, only Mr. Rothman wouldn’t positively sell any goods at retail even to his work-people.”

Mr. Feigenbaum examined the garment closely while Miss Levy postured in front of him.

“And maybe you think the design and workmanship was better?” she went on. “Why, Mr. Feigenbaum, my sister had to sew on every one of the buttons, and the side seams came unripped the first week she wore it. You could take this garment and stretch it as hard as you could with both hands, and nothing would tear.”

Milton nodded approvingly, and then Miss Levy peeled off the coat and handed it to Feigenbaum.

“Look at it yourself,” she said; “it’s a first-class garment.”

She nudged Milton.

“Dummy!” she hissed, “say something.”

“Sammet Brothers sell the same garment for twelve-fifty,” Milton hazarded. Sammet Brothers were customers of the elder Zwiebel, and Milton happened to remember the name.

Feigenbaum looked up and frowned.

“With me I ain’t stuck on a feller what knocks a competitor’s line,” he said. “Sell your goods on their merits, young feller, and your customers would never kick. This garment looks pretty good to me already, Mr. Zwiebel, so if you got an order blank I’ll give it you the particulars.”

Miss Levy hastened to the office and returned with some order blanks which she handed to Milton. Then she retreated behind a cloak-rack while Milton wielded a lead pencil in a businesslike fashion. There she listened to Feigenbaum’s dictation and unseen by him, she carefully wrote down his order.

At length Feigenbaum concluded and Miss Levy hastened from behind the rack.

“Oh, Mr. Feigenbaum,” she said in order to create a diversion, “wasn’t it you that wrote us about a tourist coat getting into your last shipment by mistake?”

“Me?” Feigenbaum cried. “Why, I ain’t said no such thing.”

“I thought you were the one,” she replied as she slipped her transcription of Mr. Feigenbaum’s order into Milton’s hand. “It must have been somebody else.”

“I guess it must,” Feigenbaum commented. “Let me see what you got there, young feller.”

Milton handed him Miss Levy’s copy of the order and Feigenbaum read it with knit brows.

“Everything’s all right,” he said as he returned the order to Milton.

He put on his hat preparatory to leaving.

“All I got to say is,” he went on, “that if you was as good a salesman like you was a writer, young feller, you’d be making more money for yourself and for Mr. Rothman.”

He closed the door behind him and Miss Levy turned to Milton.

“Well, if you ain’t the limit!” she said, and walked slowly into her office.

For a quarter of an hour Milton moped about with the feather duster in his hand until Rothman came back.

“What’s the matter, Milton?” he said, “Couldn’t you find nothing better to do as dust them garments all day? Why, if them garments would of been standing on the sidewalk already, they would be clean by now. Couldn’t you help Miss Levy a little?”

“He did help me,” Miss Levy cried from the doorway. “And, oh, Mr. Rothman, what do you think? Milton sold a big bill of goods to Henry Feigenbaum.”

Ferdinand Rothman divided his time between a downtown law school and the office of Henry D. Feldman, in which he was serving his clerkship preparatory to his admission to the bar. He was a close student not only of the law but of the manner and methods of his employer, and he reflected so successfully Mr. Feldman’s pompous address that casual acquaintances repressed with difficulty an impulse to kick him on the spot. His hair was curly and brushed back in the prevailing mode, and he wore eyeglasses mounted in tortoise-shell with a pendent black ribbon, albeit his eyesight was excellent.

“Good evening, Miss Levy,” he said patronizingly, when he entered her office late in the afternoon of Milton’s hiring. “How d’ye feel after the dance last night?”

“Pretty good,” Miss Levy replied through a pen which she held between her teeth. “Milton, tell Mr. Rothman not to go home till he talks to me about Mr. Pasinsky’s mail.”

Milton hurried out of the office, while Ferdy Rothman stared after him.

“Who’s he?” Ferdy asked.

“He come to work to-day,” Miss Levy replied, “and he’s going to be all right, too.”

Ferdy smiled contemptuously. He was accustomed, on his way uptown, to stopping in at his father’s place of business, ostensibly for the purpose of accompanying his father home. Other and more cogent reasons were the eyes, the blue-black hair, and the trim little figure of Miss Clara Levy.

“And what’s he supposed to be doing around here?” Ferdy continued.

“He’s supposed to be learning the business,” Miss Levy answered, “and he ain’t lost much time, either. He sold Henry Feigenbaum a bill of goods. You know Henry Feigenbaum. He’s only got one eye, and he thinks everybody is trying to do him.”

Here Milton Zwiebel returned.

“It’s all right,” he said; “Mr. Rothman will see you before he goes.”

Ferdy Rothman lolled back in a chair, with one arm thrown over the top rail after the fashion of Henry D. Feldman’s imitation of Judge Blatchford’s portrait in the United States District Courtroom.

“Well, young man,” he said in pompous accents, “how go the busy marts of trade these days?”

Milton surveyed him in scornful amazement.

“Hire a hall!” he said, and returned to the sample-room. It lacked half an hour of closing time, and during that period Milton avoided Miss Levy’s office.

At length Ferdinand Rothman and his father went home, and Milton once more approached Miss Levy.

“Say, Miss Levy,” he said, “who’s that curly-haired young feller? Ain’t he the one I seen you dancing with last night?”

“Sure he is,” Miss Levy replied.

“I thought he was,” Milton commented. “And wasn’t he one of them now floor managers?”

“Ain’t you nosy?” Miss Levy answered as she swept all the torn paper on her desk into her apron.

“Well, wasn’t he?” Milton insisted.

“Suppose he was?” she retorted. “All you’ve got to do is to mail these letters and be sure to get down at half-past seven sharp to-morrow morning.”

“Do you get here at half-past seven?” he asked.

“I certainly do,” Miss Levy replied.

“All right,” he said, as he gathered up the mail, “I’ll be here.”

Thus began the regeneration of Milton Zwiebel, for he soon perceived that to Miss Clara Levy a box of candy was not nearly so acceptable a token of his esteem as was a cheerful dusting of the sample stock. Moreover, he discovered that it pleased Miss Levy to hear him talk intelligently of the style-numbers and their prices, and it was not long before he became as familiar with his employer’s line as was Miss Levy herself. As for his punctuality, it soon became a habit, and every morning at half-past six he ate a hurried breakfast and left the house long before the elder Zwiebel had concluded his toilet.

“I couldn’t understand it, mommer,” said Mr. Zwiebel, after Milton had completed the sixth month of his employment with Levy Rothman. “That boy goes downtown every morning, mommer, before daylight practically, y’understand. He don’t get home till half-past seven, and he stays home pretty near every night, mommer, and that feller Rothman kicks yet. Always he tells me the boy ain’t worth a pinch of snuff and he wants I shouldn’t charge him no interest on that five thousand.”

“That’s something I couldn’t understand, neither,” Mrs. Zwiebel replied. “I ask Milton always how he gets along, and he tells me he is doing fine.”

“The boy tells me the same thing,” Zwiebel continued, “and yet that young feller, Ferdy Rothman, comes up to see me about getting a check for Milton’s wages, and he says to me the boy acts like a regular lowlife.”

“Why don’t you speak to Milton?” Mrs. Zwiebel broke in.

“I did speak to him, mommer,” Zwiebel declared, “and the boy looks at me so surprised that I couldn’t say nothing. Also, I speaks to this here Ferdy Rothman, mommer, and he says that the boy acts something terrible. He says that Rothman’s got a bookkeeper, y’understand, a decent, respectable young woman, and that Milton makes that girl’s life miserable the way he’s all the time talking to her and making jokes. Such a loafer what that boy is I couldn’t understand at all.”

He sighed heavily and went downtown to his place of business. On the subway he opened wide the Tobacco Trade Journal, thrust his legs forward into the aisle, and grew oblivious to his surroundings in perusing the latest quotations of leaf tobacco.

“Why don’t you hire it a special car?” a bass voice cried as its owner stumbled over Zwiebel’s feet.

“Excuse me,” Zwiebel exclaimed, looking up. “Excuse me, Mr. Feigenbaum. I didn’t see you coming.”

“Oh, hello there, Zwiebel!” Feigenbaum cried, extending two fingers and sinking into the adjacent seat. “How’s the rope business?”

“I ain’t in the rope business, Mr. Feigenbaum,” Zwiebel said coldly.

“Ain’t you?” Feigenbaum replied. “I thought you was. I see your boy every oncet in a while down at Rothman’s, and he hands me out a piece of rope which he gets from your place, Zwiebel. I take it from him to please him.”

“You shouldn’t do him no favours, Feigenbaum,” Zwiebel cried. “That rope, as you call it, stands me in seventy dollars a thousand, and the way that boy helps himself, y’understand, you might think it was waste paper.”

“Sure, I know,” Feigenbaum answered. “I thought so, too, when I smoked it. But, anyhow, Zwiebel, I must say that boy of yours is all right.”

“What!” Zwiebel cried.

“Yes, sir,” Feigenbaum went on, “that boy has improved something wonderful. And certainly they think a great deal of him down there. Rothman himself told me that boy will make his mark some day, and you know what I think, Zwiebel? I think the whole thing is due to that young lady they got down there, that Miss Levy. That girl has got a headpiece, y’understand, and certainly she took an interest in your boy. She taught him all he knows, Zwiebel, and while I don’t want to say nothing about it, y’understand, I must got to say that that young feller thinks a whole lot of Miss Levy, and certainly I think that Miss Levy somewhat reciprocates him.”

“Reciprocates him?” Zwiebel said. “That’s where you make a big mistake, Mr. Feigenbaum. They don’t reciprocate him; they reciprocate me, y’understand. Fifteen dollars every week they reciprocate me for that boy’s wages, and also a whole lot more, too.”

“You don’t understand me,” Feigenbaum declared. “I mean that Miss Levy seems to think a good deal of Milton, and maybe you don’t think Ferdy Rothman is jealous from them, too? That feller could kill your boy, Zwiebel, and he done his best to get Rothman to fire him. I know it for a fact, because I was in there as late as yesterday afternoon and I heard that young feller tell Rothman that Milton is too fresh and he should fire him.”

“And what did Rothman say?” Zwiebel asked.

“Rothman says that Ferdy should shut up his mouth, that Milton was a good boy and that Rothman knew what was the matter with Ferdy, and I knew it, too, Zwiebel. That boy is jealous. Also, Rothman says something else, what I couldn’t understand exactly.”

“What was it?”

“He asks Ferdy if he could pick up in the street five thousand dollars at savings-bank interest.”

“’S’enough!” Zwiebel cried. “I heard enough, Feigenbaum. Just wait till I see that feller Rothman, that’s all.”

When the train drew up at the Fourteenth Street station Zwiebel plunged through the crowd without waiting for Feigenbaum and stalked indignantly to his place of business. When he entered his private office he found a visitor waiting for him. It was Ferdy Rothman.

“Ah, good-morning, Mr. Zwiebel,” Ferdy cried, extending his hand in a patronizing imitation of Henry D. Feldman. “Glad to see you.”

Zwiebel evaded Ferdy’s proffered hand and sat down at his desk without removing his hat.

“Well,” he growled, “what d’ye want?”

“I wanted to see you about something personal,” Ferdy went on.

“Go ahead,” Zwiebel cried; “you tell me something personal first and I’ll tell you something personal afterward what you and your old man wouldn’t like at all.”

“Well,” Ferdy continued, “I came to see you about Milton. There’s a young man, Mr. Zwiebel, that is a credit to you in every way, and I can’t help thinking that he’s wasting his time and his talents in my father’s place of business.”

“He is, hey?” said Zwiebel. “Well, he ain’t wasting none of your old man’s time, Rothman, and he ain’t wasting none of his money, neither.”

“That’s just the point,” Ferdy went on. “I can’t stand by and see you wronged any longer. Not only is my father getting the service of a more than competent salesman for nothing, but he’s having the use of your five thousand dollars as well. Disgraceful, that’s what I call it.”

Zwiebel gazed at him earnestly for a minute.

“Say, lookyhere, Rothman,” he said at length, “what monkey business are you trying to do?”

“I’m not trying to do any monkey business at all,” Ferdy cried with a great show of righteous indignation. “I’m doing this because I feel that it’s the only proper thing. What you want to do now is to take Milton out of the old man’s place and find him a job with some other cloak and suit concern. That boy could command his twenty-five a week anywhere. Then, of course, the old man would have to cough up the five thousand.”

Zwiebel nodded his head slowly.

“You’re a pretty good son, Rothman,” he commented, “I must say. But, anyhow, you ain’t very previous with your advice, because I made up my mind this morning already that that’s what I would do, anyhow.”

He lit a cigar and puffed deliberately.

“And now, Rothman,” he said, “if you would excuse me, I got business to attend to.”

“Just one word more,” Ferdy cried. “My father has got a girl working for him by the name of Levy, and I think if you knew what kind of girl she is, you wouldn’t want Milton to go with her any more.”

Zwiebel rose from his chair and his eyes blazed.

“You dirty dawg!” he roared. “Out out from my place!”

He grabbed the collar of Ferdy’s coat together with a handful of his curly hair, and with a well-directed kick he propelled the budding advocate through the office doorway. After a minute Ferdy picked himself up and ran to the stairway. There he paused and shook his fist at Zwiebel.

“I’ll make you sweat for this!” he bellowed.

Zwiebel laughed raucously.

“Say something more about that young lady,” he cried, “and I’ll kick you to the subway yet.”

It was nearly half-past twelve when Charles Zwiebel entered the sample-room of Levy Rothman & Co., on Eighteenth Street. He descried Milton in his shirt sleeves extolling the merits of one of Rothman’s stickers to a doubtful customer from Bradford County, Pennsylvania.

“Hello, pop!” Milton cried. “Too busy to talk to you now. Take a seat.”

“Where’s Rothman?” Zwiebel asked.

“Out to lunch,” Milton replied. “I’ll be through in a minute.”

Zwiebel watched his son in silence until the sale was consummated, and after Milton had shaken the departing customer’s hand he turned to his father.

“Well, pop,” he said, “this is the first time you’ve been up here since I’ve been here, ain’t it?”

Zwiebel nodded.

“I wish I would of come up here before,” he said. “Say, Milton, who is this here Miss Levy what works here?”

Milton blushed.

“She’s in the office,” he murmured. “Why, what do you want to know for?”

“Well, I met Henry Feigenbaum in the car this morning,” Zwiebel went on, “and he was telling me about her. He says she comes from a family what him and me knows in the old country. The father drove a truck already.”

“That’s where you make a big mistake,” Milton cried indignantly. “Her father’s in the real-estate business and pretty well fixed at that.”

Mr. Zwiebel smiled.

“That must be Simon Levy, the feller what owns a couple houses with that shark Henochstein. Ain’t it?” he hazarded.

“Her father ain’t in partnership with nobody,” Milton rejoined. “His name is Maximilian Levy and he owns a whole lot of property.”

At this juncture Miss Levy herself poked her head through the doorway.

“Milton,” she cried sharply, “ain’t you got something to do? Because if you haven’t there are a lot of cutting slips to be made out.”

Charles Zwiebel’s face spread into a broad grin. “Go ahead, Milton,” he said, “and attend to business. I’ll wait here till Rothman comes in.”

Ten minutes later Levy Rothman entered. He greeted Zwiebel with a scowl and glared around the empty sample-room.

“Well, Zwiebel,” he growled, “what d’ye want now?”

“Oh, nothing,” Zwiebel replied blandly. “I thought I’d step in and see how my Milton was getting along.”

“You see how he is getting along,” Rothman said. “He ain’t here at all. That feller takes an hour for his lunch every day.”

Zwiebel drew a cigar out of his pocket and licked it reflectively.

“So,” he said, “you couldn’t do no better with him than that, hey? Well, Rothman, I guess it ain’t no use fooling away your time any more. Give me my five thousand dollars and I will take back the boy into my business again.”

Rothman turned pale.

“If you would let the boy stay here a while,” he suggested, “he would turn out all right, maybe.”

“What’s the matter?” Zwiebel asked. “Ain’t you got the five thousand handy?”

“The five thousand is nothing,” Rothman retorted. “You could get your five thousand whenever you want it. The fact is, Zwiebel, while the boy is a low-life, y’understand, I take an interest in that boy and I want to see if I couldn’t succeed in making a man of him.”

Mr. Zwiebel waved his hand with the palm outward.

“’S all right, Rothman,” he said. “You shouldn’t put yourself to all that trouble. You done enough for the boy, and I’m sure I’m thankful to you. Besides, I’m sick of fooling away fifteen dollars every week.”

Rothman shrugged his shoulders.

“Nah!” he said. “Keep the fifteen dollars, I will pay him the fifteen dollars out of my own pocket.”

“But the boy is all the time complaining, Rothman, he couldn’t live on fifteen dollars a week.”

“All right, I’ll give him twenty.”

Zwiebel rose to his feet.

“You will, hey?” he roared. “You couldn’t get that boy for fifty, Rothman, nor a hundred, neither, because I knew it all along, Rothman, and I always said it, that boy is a natural-born business man, y’understand, and next week I shall go to work and buy a cloak and suit business and put him into it. And that’s all I got to say to you.”

Maximilian Levy, real-estate operator, sat in his private office and added up figures on the back of an envelope. As he did so, Charles Zwiebel entered.

“Mr. Levy?” Zwiebel said.

“That’s my name,” Levy answered.

“My name is Mr. Zwiebel,” his visitor announced, “and I came to see you about a business matter.”

“Take a seat, Mr. Zwiebel,” Levy replied. “Seems to me I hear that name somewheres.”

“I guess you did hear it before,” Zwiebel said. “Your girl works by the same place what my boy used to work.”

“Oh, Milton Zwiebel,” Levy cried. “Sure I heard the name before. My Clara always talks about what a good boy he is.”

“I bet yer that’s a good boy,” Zwiebel declared proudly, “and a good business head, too, Mr. Levy. In fact, I am arranging about putting the boy into a cloak and suit business, and I understood you was a business broker as well as a real-estate operator.”

“Not no longer,” Levy answered. “I used to be a business broker years ago already, but I give it up since way before the Spanish War.”

“Never mind,” Zwiebel said; “maybe you could help me out, anyway. What I’m looking for is a partner for my boy, and the way I feel about it is like this: The boy used to be a little wild, y’understand, and so I am looking for a partner for him what would keep him straight; and no matter if the partner didn’t have no money, Mr. Levy, I wouldn’t take it so particular. That boy is the only boy what I got, and certainly I ain’t a begger, neither, y’understand. You should ask anybody in the cigar business, Mr. Levy, and they will tell you I am pretty well fixed already.”

“Sure, I know,” Mr. Levy replied. “You got a pretty good rating. I looked you up already. But, anyhow, Mr. Zwiebel, I ain’t in the business brokerage no more.”

“I know you ain’t,” Zwiebel said, “but you could find just the partner for my boy.”

“I don’t know of no partner for your boy, Mr. Zwiebel.”

“Yes, you do,” Zwiebel cried. “You know the very partner what I want for that boy. Her name is Clara Levy.”

“What!” Levy cried.

“Yes, sir,” Zwiebel went on breathlessly. “That’s the partner I mean. That boy loves that girl of yours, Mr. Levy, and certainly he ought to love her, because she done a whole lot for that boy, Mr. Levy, and I got to say that she thinks a whole lot of him, too.”

“But ” Mr. Levy commenced.

“But nothing, Mr. Levy,” Zwiebel interrupted. “If the girl is satisfied I wouldn’t ask you to do a thing for the boy. Everything I will do for him myself.”

Mr. Levy rose and extended his hand.

“Mr. Zwiebel,” he declared, “this is certainly very generous of you. I tell you from the bottom of my heart I got four girls at home and two of ’em ain’t so young no more, so I couldn’t say that I am all broke up exactly. At the same time, Mr. Zwiebel, my Clara is a good girl, and this much I got to say, I will give that girl a trousseau like a queen should wear it.”

Zwiebel shrugged.

“Well, sure,” he said, “it ain’t no harm that a girl should have a few diamonds what she could wear it occasionally. At the same time, don’t go to no expense.”

“And I will make for her a wedding, Mr. Zwiebel,” Levy cried enthusiastically, “which there never was before. A bottle of tchampanyer wine to every guest.”

“And now, Mr. Levy,” Zwiebel said, “let us go downstairs and have a bottle tchampanyer wine to ourselves.”

That evening Milton and Clara sat together in the front parlour of the Levy residence on One Hundred and Nineteenth Street. They had plighted their troth more than an hour before and ought to have been billing and cooing.

“No, Milton,” Clara said as she caressed her fiance’s hand, “credit information shouldn’t be entered on cards. It ought to be placed in an envelope and indexed on a card index after it’s been filed. Then you can put the mercantile agency’s report right in the envelope.”

“Do you think we should get some of them loose-leaf ledgers?” he asked her as he pressed a kiss on her left hand.

“I think they’re sloppy,” she replied. “Give me a bound ledger every time.”

“All right,” Milton murmured. “Now, let’s talk about something else.”

“Yes,” she cried enthusiastically, “let’s talk about the fixtures. What d’ye say to some of those low racks and ”

“Oh, cut it out!” Milton said as he took a snugger reef in his embrace. “How about the music at the wedding?”

“Popper will fix that,” she replied.

“No, he won’t,” Milton exclaimed. “I’m going to pay for it myself. In fact, I’ll hire ’em to-morrow morning.”

“Who’ll you get?” she asked.

“Professor Lusthaus’s grand orchestra,” Milton said with a grin.