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The Story of a Young Man Who Couldn't Do
By HOWARD P. ROCKEY
ILLUSTRATED BY A. L. BAIRNSFATHER
“Just because you're a
hard-shelled old executive, HE big boss of the
you mustn't complain Burnham Manufac
about a younger assistant turing Company Jooked
because he has manicured out through the open
nails and a tendency to window of his mahogany
dress like a clothing adverfurnished office as he dis
tisement. The younger cussed matters with the
generation" third vice-president.
“Be hanged!" Burnham “I'm afraid,” Rufus
finished the sentence for Burnham said to his asso
“That boy ciate, “that we've secured
is always telling the staff what is commonly known
how clever he is. I admit as a lemon, in hiring
that shyness went out young Richard Dewent.
with our grandmothers, He seems to have un
and that a little blowing bounded confidence in his
of a man's own horn ability to make good, with
doesn't do any harm at little or no understanding
times. Self-salesmanship of his limitations, or the
isn't a foolish art, but a hard grind that is essen
much misunderstood one. tial to lifting a man from
It can be overdone, and, a mere clerkship to a position of leadership.” in time—unless accompanied by performance
“I don't agree with you,” answered Dickerson, it grows as wearisome to the ear as the raucous the vice-president. "Dewent seems to have the toot of a motor-vehicle. The roar of a lion right idea about things. I see him over there at means business.
The bark of a powderpuff his desk scanning his correspondence—his fore- dog is a bluff that invites ridicule.” head wrinkled in thought."
“Burnham, you're unfair,” Dickerson told his “But you never saw him there after five partner. “You're a bit behind the times.” o'clock, did you?” asked Old Burnham. “De- “I hope so!" Burnham announced with Hent is what might be called a 'snappy dresser.' seriousness. “I used to work with my hands, Clothes are a part of business. A pearl-gray with my head, and my common sense. I didn't derby is about as atrocious on the head of a man have time to dance all night, and I didn't dare to as powder on the nose of a stenographer. The get into the office at ten o'clock in the morning. trouble with Dewent-so far as I can see it—is I'd have been drawn and quartered if I had. At that he pays more attention to the way he looks Dewent's age, I didn't make half the money he's when he does a thing, than he gives to the way he earning now-and, by that, I don't discount the does that thing. He is a poser not a leader. He increase in the cost of living. But, I'll promise poses instead of producing. Posing may be all you, I struggled harder for what I did make and right in the movies, but it doesn't earn dividends I gave my employer more each hour for every in commercial fields."
dollar he paid me than Dewent is giving us.” "You're too hard on him,” Dickerson chuckled. Old Burnham brought his fist down upon the glass table-top and challenged his associate with way he brushed his hair, and the careless office fire in the depths of his steely eyes. “That boy hours he kept. She was also keenly appreciative isn't working. He's gambling. He is spending of his kindly half-hearted rebuffs, when she more than he can afford to cultivate people he made serious errors in the letters she wrote for can't afford to know. Instead of trying to make him. He invariably corrected them with a pen a record in this office, he is devoting his nights to rather than wait until they could be properly rum running about with men whose influence he off again on the girl's typewriter. imagines will help him to land orders. He's He noticed Dickerson step from the president's playing futures as surely as a broker plays office, and, a few moments later, put on his het futures, and he's playing a fool game!”
and coat and wander carelessly toward the front “I don't know that friendships, and an inti- door.” “I doubt if I'll be back to-day, Miss mate acquaintance with worth-while people, ever Brown," the vice-president said to the telephone hurt any one,” Dickerson protested.
operator. The next moment his car was taking "Friendships never hurt any one,” Burnham him to the railroad station where he was to pick dryly replied, “nor do more intimate acquain- up Jason, of the Continental Company, and tances, if a man can afford to make them and if motor him to the golf links. they are real. But the man who earns six thou- The stenographer smiled under her made-up sand dollars a year and spends seven thousand, eyelashes and half winked at Dewent. trying to move about in a crowd in whose midst "Pretty soft!” she murmured in none too low a he has no business, is not only kidding himself, tone, as she glanced at the clock. “Half past but hurting his firm."
ten, and he doesn't think he'll be back! I've got “You must have been asked to buy your to stay here till five!” daughter a new hat before breakfast!" Dickerson “Think I'll fritter along myself," chuckled laughed. “You're too old and sarcastic to be Dewent, in his best movie-hero manner. “Guess companionable. I'm going out to meet Jason of I'll wander in and strike the big chief for a the Continental Company. Think I'll take him raise.” over to the Country Club and land his order Dewent arose leisurely and sauntered into while we play nine holes of golf.”
Burnham's office-without the formality of “What's the matter--can't you sell him here knocking upon the portal of the open glass-door. in the plant?” Burnham demanded irritably. He paúsed on the threshold and lit a cigarette. “Do you have to take him to the Country Club Burnham hated a cigarette almost as much as he and make him feel that he's wasted a day and hated a business slacker. In this respect, Demust buy of you because of it?”
went entered the president's office with two “No, I don't!" snapped Dickerson, half scores against him, as a direct result of the recent amused, half angry. “I'm running my part of conversation between Burnham and Dickerson. the business, and I'll sell in my own way!”
Burnham looked up at his visitor with a steely “Go to it,” Burnham replied dryly. “You at- eye. Then his natural attitude of trying to find tend to the selling and I'll attend to the interior out what ailed his employees, overcame his management, and I'll tell you right off the reel anger. that you're all wrong about this boy, Dewent. Dewent seated himself and crossed his legs. He's a loafer and always will be. Just to prove “The crass idiot!" Burnham thought. my theory, I'm going to give him all the rope he “I've been looking over the plant, Mr. Burnwants, and all the advice he doesn't want, and ham,” Dewent began, as if thinking deeply. won't heed. And then, if I'm right, I'll fire him. “I've hesitated to come to you, but I've noticed If you're right and he makes good, I won't let that we have some old fogies here and I can't any one take him from us with any sort of a help calling your attention to them.” salary raise or with a team of horses."
"We can't all be geniuses!" Burnham snapped.
"Naturally," agreed Dewent, not noticing the
sarcasm of the boss. “There are but few gazing thoughtfully at his pretty sten- leaders. I appreciate the charitable spirit oi the ographer. He had selected the girl because her firm in keeping on the pay roll all the penappearance and her personality pleased him, and sioners” now, after two weeks' trial, he was forced to “Men who were in the business long before you admit secretly to himself that she was a very were born!" Burnham interrupted as he saw poor shorthand artist and a still poorer tran- the ash of Dewent's cigarette fall on the carpet. scriber of her carelessly made notes. In her eyes “But wouldn't it add to the success of the Richard Dewent was a hero--of the romantic business if they were dropped?” queried Dewent type. She admired the cut of his clothes, the eagerly.
"Yes," retorted Burnham, after a pause for “Certainly it's fair!" Burnham clicked at thought. "It might, if we could replace them him, with a snap of his determined jaws. “If with equal loyalty and industry—and with a you're making good here, I don't dare fire you. little less thought to the midnight dance and the If you're not, I don't dare keep you on the pay noonday luncheon."
roll. What's the answer? I don't know, but
I've a strong suspicion. You can confirm or EWENT stared at him, somewhat in a disprove it."
quandry. "All work and no play," he “I don't quite understand,” Dewent returned, began.
pretending an ignorance which it was obvious to "Is as silly as all play and no work!” Burnham Burnham was feigned and not very well simushot at the young man. "A man who does not lated at that. take a vacation is a fool. Every man needs one. “Don't you?" Burnham flashed at Dewent. No man and no machine can run,
“Then try to figure it out. If you've worked properly, all the while. Yet the man who plays yourself into a physical and mental wreck, you too hard is as silly as the man who works too are entitled to a vacation at the expense of the hard. There should be a happy medium.” firm, and it would be foolish business for me to
“I agree with you thoroughly,” Dewent said. keep you at your desk under such circumstances. “You've made me a department manager, and I But if you have played yourself into a state feel that I have been working rather too steadily; where
you need a rest, it's up to you to take it at yet I don't see how I can lay off.”
your own expense and not to cost the firm too "Don't you?" asked Burnham, with deep irony much by being absent when you ought to be in his tone. “I'll still be here, and I suppose I working." can take on your duties without encroaching too “Does that mean that you believe or imagine severely on my own. A man who is afraid to that I have been shirking my duties, Mr. Burntake a vacation is apparently afraid of his job- ham?” Dewent asked stiffly: whether he's the office boy, the shipping clerk, "It amounts to about that,” the boss anthe manager of a department, or the boss. If swered coldly. “I'm not ready to fire you yet. you count for anything in a business-by all I don't like to fire men. It's bad business. But means take a vacation. If they don't miss you, I do believe in being frank, and I'm not going to they don't need you. If they do miss you, mollycoddle a man or pat him on the back wben you're invaluable, and you'll not only profit by I'm not a hundred-per-cent sold on the fact that the rest you have taken, or by the next pay he is doing his best. envelope or salary check you get. ‘Absence "I've tried to do my best,” Dewent managed makes the heart grow fonder.' Absence makes to stammer, flushing and changing his blustering the boss grow more generous—if he really misses attitude to one of apology. the employee who is away!"
'Try, try again,' may be a good motto; but “But speaking of my own vacation,” Dewent ‘Do, do again' is a better one! I mean that a went on, somewhat embarrassed by his chief's man who is working with might and main remark, and looking through the open door to see doesn't have to say that he is trying. He proves whether or not his own stenographer overheard that he is doing—and that's just what you this conversation.
haven't proved to me, Dewent. It may be that “Well!” snapped Burnham. “Why speak you've grown stale—that you've gotten into a about it? As an under-executive, you're sup- rut—that I've let you have too easy a time of it. posed to make your own hours and regulate your If any of these things are the case, it's my fault own time. All I ask is that you make good. I and not yours. It's an executive's job to see don't care when or how you do it, just so long as that he puts the right man in the right place and you do it.”
that he doesn't put-or, at least, keep—the “But, Mr. Burnham," began Dewent. right man in the wrong place.”
“There are no 'buts' about it!" the big chief told him. “Are you afraid to take a vacation URNHAM paused and looked thoughtbecause you think things will go wrong—because fully out of the window. “I'm going to you have too much to do-or because you are take the blame in this instance. I'm going to afraid I will discover that you are a non-essential, admit that I shouldn't have made you a junior non-working cog in this big business machine?” executive without giving you an apprenticeship
His cold, appraising glances made Dewent selling on the road. And I'm going to correct squirm in his chair.
that mistake. You say you need a vacation. “Is that a fair question-an encouraging re- All right. I'll give you one for three months. mark to make?” Dewent managed to ask. During that time you'll travel the eastern terri
tory. It will give you a constant change of scene, keep you away from the confinement of the office, and give you a keener insight into the attitude and needs of the customers. I don't care how much you sell in dollars and cents. I don't care whether you send in a single order, although I won't fire you if you do. This trip of yours will be more in the nature of a tour of investigation than a selling tour. You'd better
arrange to start to-night or to-morrow at the latest. After luncheon, I'll dictate your itinerary and a memorandum of suggestions which I'll discuss with you personally at half-past four this afternoon. Tell the cashier to give you two hundred dollars' expense money and to reserve Pullman accommodations to Buffalo."
With that, and before Dewent could reply, the boss arose and, stalking from his private room, crossed the outer office and walked across the yard to Factory Number One.
"Well, I'll be hanged!” Dewent said to himself as he followed the passage of his chief. "I thought I was going to get the blue envelope this week. As it works out, I'll get a cute little three months' holiday at the expense of the firm, and I'll learn a lot of things I've always wanted to know -including the manner in which these salesmen around here make their individual trade follow them as the Constitution follows the Flag. From the way they loaf on the job, they must have some system.”
He smiled and sauntered
back to his own desk. His stenographer looked as he passed her desk on the way to the up at him curiously, and noting the expression factory. of triumph on his face, asked, “Been reading Dewent looked at his watch. “Come on out the riot act to the boss, Mr. Dewent?”
to luncheon with me,” he suggested, and the surDewent couldn't resist the opportunity to prised girl readily consented. She had long been pose. “You've guessed it,” he answered. “I hoping that Dewent would notice her favorably,
didn't think things were going for she had heard of his many 'phone calls from right in the sales end, and I've other girls, and had formed a mental picture of convinced him that I ought to Dewent's life as being one round of nightly take a little run around the gayety, with dances, theaters and late suppers. various territories to see what's She knew he made a good salary-and, like most wrong."
girls, Tessie Tilden wanted to marry. And, like "Hope you find it,” said the some unwise girls, it did not matter much to her girl with a twinkle in her eyes. who the man might be, so long as the man was She was not so sure that good-looking, fond of good times, and possessed Dewent wasn't trying to de- of sufficient money. ceive her, for she had noticed “I'd love to, Mr. Dewent,” she said, making the knotted brow of Burnham her prettiest little grimace at him.
“Then suppose you meet me over at the Claypool Hotel in half an hour,” suggested Dewent. "It mightn't look well if we went out together."
Tessie Tilden nodded her head and pretended to pound the keys of her typewriter as she watched the slowly moving hands of the clock. Dewent arose, closed down the top of his desk, and sauntered out to the cashier's department.
Once he was out
the office, Tessie proceeded to inspect her saucy little countenance in
handmirror concealed in her desk drawer. She also daubed her cheeks with powder and applied to her lips a rouge stick that she kept concealed in a compartment supposed to hold pencils, erasers, and other office necessities. Then, a full ten minutes before her hour of departure, she went to the cloakroom and further pro
ceeded to make "There are no 'buts' about it!" the big chief told him. “Are you afraid to take a
herself the picvacation because you think things will go wrong-because you have too much to ture she imagdoor because you are afraid I will discover that you are a non-essential, non- (Continued working cog in this big business machine?”