If It Interferes With Business
IF IT INTERFERES WITH BUSINESS
BY HOLWORTHY HALL
ILLUSTRATED BY WALLACE MORGAN
IF MR. HORATIO BARING hadn't got out of the wrong side of bed that morning—subsequent to crawling into it on the same side the night before—the attitude of his first visitor and client would certainly have charmed him and renewed his confidence in the administration. The client was valiantly optimistic in a bear market. He said that the country was on the verge of prosperity which would set Henry Ford back to a rating of second credit and place the Bread Line on a level with the Draft Riots as an unpleasant fact in ancient history; and he declared further, as collateral evidence, that at the present state of affairs the bonds of Quito Copper at ll2 were even as money found on the sidewalk, shouting for help. Since Mr. Baring knew personally the members of the firm which was floating those highly speculative bonds, and knew that just at this moment ll0¼ and an oath of reciprocation were sufficient to bring them promptly across the counter to a friend like himself, there was apparently little reason for restraint. Nothing in the code of ethics of the Stock Exchange prevented him from smiling and bringing out the cigars and excusing himself to speak in a hushed voice over the wire.
But the smile of Mr. Baring had congealed since yesterday under the weathering of his frosty thought. This morning he regarded the world in his capacity of parent rather than that of banker; and as a parent he cherished a soul in revolt, and it hurt him.
For a synopsis: There was a certain young man who, in the early winter, had once taken the most accommodating of all trains from New York to call upon Miss Margaret Baring in the suburbs; and on that first occasion the parent had said: "Kenyon? Harry Kenyon? Why, we do a lot of business with his house, but he's a man I don't admire ... he doesn't seem to have any sense of responsibility. Plays golf on week days ... golf! Met him at a dance, I suppose?... Well, I should say a dancing broker is just about the sort of man I'd expect to play golf, come to think of it!"
The third time he had laughed shortly and said: "Kenyon again? What's he done—bought a commutation ticket? I tell you, a man who wastes the time he does couldn't get a job in my office! Crack amateur golfer!... A crack amateur golfer belongs in a golf club!... I want to do business with crack professional bankers!"
And the sixth time he had said : "What's he hanging around here for? Hasn't he any home?"
And last night he had stated flatly, and without the tact you might expect from one who lived on commissions: "Look here, Peggy, this thing has got to stop!" To which Miss Baring had rejoined gently: "I'm sorry if you don't like Harry, father ... it's too bad, because I think we're going to be married before so very long."
He had stared at her in a species of icy indignation which astonished them equally. His daughter! ... the daughter he had intended some time—oh, so very some time!—to marry a conservative, well-established, reputable member of the board, spoke mutinously and ever so ingenuously of allying herself with a wild Harvard graduate who still drew a salary and played good golf—tacit evidence of a misspent youth!
"Do you take me for an idiot!" he had gasped.
"Well," said Peggy, "I don't see what that has to do with it—"
So for two awful hours they had interrupted each other and dispatched hundreds of trains of thought which never reached their destination, and exchanged views on young men who slight commerce in favor of sport, and on middle-aged men who don't appreciate sport because they were grandfathers in temperament when they were born; and Mr. Baring had said that if Peggy truly loved him, she'd forget this cub who wasn't worthy of her; and Peggy had said in rebuttal that if Mr. Baring truly loved her, he wouldn't stand in the way of her happiness; and then they had kissed and inquired in the same breath if the other were convinced. It was about as conclusive as an argument between a suffragist and an anti—except that there was no tea.
Mr. Baring went to bed with a headache, indigestion, and the lassitude of anemia; and spent the major part of the night in wondering, in the manner of fathers taken by surprise in the presence of individuality, if Peggy would have been more docile if she had been spanked oftener when she was young.
So that even the potentiality of nearly two per cent for merely telephoning around the corner couldn't make Mr. Baring smile.
"If you can get 'em by eleven o'clock at ll2 or below," said the improvident client, lighting one of his own cigars, "I'll take twenty-five—and if you can shade three-quarters, I'll take twenty thousand more for my wife."
"Just a minute," said Mr. Baring, looking the wraith of a thousand dollars full in the face and never batting an eye.
HE WENT to a booth in the outer office and called a number, then a name.
"Hello!" he said. "This Henshaw? This is Baring ... How's Quito? ... Oh, of course, twelve asked and ten and a half bid, but that was my bid! ... how about forty-five to me direct? ... forty-five thousand; that's right ... well, you don't mean that Kenyon controls all the rest of the issue, do you? ... on his own account? ... Well, can I speak to him? ... Well, when do you expect him? ... I'll hold the wire." He leaned wearily against the frame of the booth and wondered what a heartsick man could do with a thousand dollars out of the sky. Something for Peggy, most likely—he might add a bit to the windfall and present her with a trip to San Francisco or Japan—
"Hello! Yes ... what? ... he won't be back to-day! He's out playing golf! .... Where?"
There was a pause. Mr. Baring drew a long breath, took the receiver carefully, hung it on the hook, and stepped out into the customer's room. A junior clerk glanced at him and hurried forward.
"Are you ill, sir? Can I do anything for you?"
"You call the Apawamis Golf Club and have 'em send Harry Kenyon in to talk to me—he's playing in some fool championship out there. Tell him it's real business—"
He drank a glass of water and dropped into a leather chair to await the answer. Suddenly he felt very old and lackadaisical; he told himself that there mustn't be any repetition of last night's performance; the loss of sleep told too heavily upon him. Besides, his nerves weren't what they once had been; his hands, he observed, were unsteady. Lately, too, he had known intervals of dizziness after breakfast. ... Perhaps he might do well to appropriate that thousand dollars for a little vacation for himself and Peggy—in the Adirondacks—anywhere but in the confusion of the city....
"I'm sorry, sir," deprecated the clerk; "they won't call him."
"They—won't call him?"
"No, sir. It's the qualifying round of the Metropolitan—he went out in 37—and he left word that he wouldn't take any messages at all during the day."
"I think," said Mr. Baring, turning that popular shade known as Russian green, "that you'd better—call somebody. ... I don't feel—quite well." He smiled limply; it was his valediction to a thousand-dollar profit.
"Golf," he added—"golf, Jimmy, is a—a damned—expensive—game—!"
Then darkness and the inevitable result of a moral shock after thirty years in Wall Street without a vacation.
At Rye, in the State of New York, young Mr. Kenyon sank a long putt for a par 4, and didn't remotely suspect how the course of true love was running.
THE Barings' touring car, Miss Baring at the wheel, turned from the Post Road and slipped quietly through the shaded avenue which led to the golf club. By her side Mr. Horatio Baring, frowning, peered at a solitary duffer practicing iron shots on the fairway. The duffer, hearing the purr of the motor, naturally began to exaggerate his swing so as to conform to the familiar bronze of Vardon, and naturally dubbed a few.
"There are times," said Mr. Baring gloomily, "when I believe what I've been told about graft in the medical profession. This is one of them." He inspected the façade of the clubhouse with the enthusiasm of one approaching Ossining for residence.
"Oh, the doctor was perfectly right," said Peggy cheerfully. "There isn't any other outdoor exercise you can take—now, is there?"
He disembarked in silence, and suffered himself to be led to the lobby and registered as a guest. Later, when he stood by the first tee behind a scratch foursome, he remarked loudly: "It's on the same principle as most medical advice—if I'd been a paying teller instead of a banker, he'd have told me to walk to work and buy a croquet set. Or eat some pills. Well—what do I do?"
"Sh-h-h!" said Miss Baring sharply.
One of the foursome hooked out of bounds, and looked first in sorrow at the face of his club and then in accusation at Mr. Baring.
"This is a fine game!" scorned the banker in a hoarse whisper. "I can imagine somebody saying Sh-h-h! at the Polo Grounds when Ty Cobb comes to the bat! Why don't you wear muzzles and put me on a leash? ... Well, they're off—what do I do?"
"I thought you'd just walk around with me this afternoon," said Peggy, "to get an idea of the game. There's no use beginning until you know the object of it. Then to-morrow you can take a lesson. Now be still a second—I'm going to drive."
She took several practice swings, after each of which her father made a false start, and was deterred by the caddie; then sliced badly, hopping a bunker.
"Over the fence—good shot!" appreciated Mr. Baring. "What does that count?"
She explained while they searched for the ball in high grass and coerced it from the rough.
"Is this all there is to it?" demanded Mr. Baring as Peggy holed in eight. "What's the sense of lugging around all those overgrown dentist's tools?"
"Every hole is different—"
"Well, show me another," he requested patiently.
She did nothing remarkable on the second, but on the third she ran down a twenty-foot putt for a four, and turned innocently for the applause. To her amazement, her father was yawning.
"Why, father!" she chided. "That was an awfully good shot!"
"Was it?" he asked indifferently.
"Well, if you think it's so easy, let's see you try it!"
To humor her, he grasped the club she gave him and approximated the distance.
"I don't see how you can miss it," said Mr. Baring. He rapped the ball smartly, allowing not an inch for the undulations, or for a worm cast or two, and watched it disappear, with a satisfying rattle, into the cup. "There!" he said. "What's simpler?"
On the next tee Miss Baring, mightily pleased and only normally wicked, handed him a driver.
"I see," he admitted. "You use a little bat for the short ones and a heavy bat for the long ones. All right. Watch her sail!" He set himself, gritting his teeth, raised his whole body with the club, and sent a screaming drive straight down the course for two hundred and twenty yards. "What an elementary game!" he commented. "And that fool doctor calls this exercise! Why, I can knock it a mile!"
His daughter, slashing vigorously, came to even terms with him after her third shot.
"Want to try a brassy?" she asked.
"I'll try anything once—" He topped.
"Oh, too bad!" she sympathized.
"Now, look here!" said Mr. Baring with some asperity. "I know a little more about sports than you think I do! It doesn't make any difference whether you put a line drive over second or a grounder between third and short—they both count for safe hits! That was a grounder—it's rolling yet! All I need is a couple more like that, and I'll be right in the can."
"Hole," she groaned.
"Whatever you call it," he conceded pleasantly, "I'll be in it." Nevertheless, for the following ten minutes he was plowing diligently through the rough, so that he came to the green in double figures. "Oh, not so bad for a beginner," was his alibi. "I've had four safe ones out of twelve. That's what they'd call batting for .300 in the leagues. Where's the light stick?"
They were overtaken at this point by a mutual friend, who expressed joy at the meeting and astonishment at the geography of it. He himself, he alleged, was off his game—even sevens for the first two hole, and then completely to pieces. Might he join them?
"Come on in," invited the banker. "If I had some sticks of my own instead of this child's-size outfit, and if my shoes weren't so slippery, and I hadn't been down in that gully back there, and—"
"You're learning," grinned the friend. "I had a chance for a five on the third, and I'd have made it if I'd had my regular niblick."
"You missed something, not seeing my drive," Mr. Baring told him. "On the Polo Grounds it would have been out in the center-field bleachers. And if they'd only get some laborers to clear the rocks out—"
"I always get a five," insisted the friend. "But to-day—"
"Where's the next link? Say, isn't this club solvent? There's a half-acre of sand back there that ought to be grassed over. Is it my turn? What does it count if I hit the flagpole?"
He didn't. He hit a tree.
AAT THE ninth hole Miss Baring professed weariness, and suggested a halt. Her father, however, was opposed.
"You'll blister your hands," she prophesied.
"That's all right! Wallace's got me only two to one, and two we tied—you let me take your sticks and I'll finish the game. If I only had a good, heavy Louisville slugger, I'd show you some hitting! You sit down and wait for us. Come on, Wallace!"
Accordingly, Miss Baring wandered into the club-house, where she encountered young Mr. Kenyon, and straightway wandered out again to a corner of the glassed-in veranda.
"Father's here," she said. "Isn't it funny?"
"Yes; it's his first day. The doctors made him."
"That's great!" said Kenyon. "He needs it."
"Well, his breakdown frightened him more than he says. They ordered him to play golf—but he's made a terrible fuss about it. It's taken me two solid weeks to get him out here."
"Has he—changed his mind at all?"
"About you? No-o-o, I'm afraid he hasn't. You see, he was prejudiced in the first place, and then when he lost that commission because you were at Apawamis, he was perfectly furious—it wasn't the money, but the principle, you know—and it happened to come just when he was most upset anyway—"
"Obviously," said Kenyon, "he doesn't see my side of it. I didn't lose anything—in fact, I made money by not being in town that day. Twenty-four hours afterward we were getting ll5—and I got up to the semifinals in the Metropolitan. I suppose that doesn't interest him."
"No, I don't think it does."
"But I wonder," said Kenyon thoughtfully, "if he'll change his point of view after he's played for a while—after he's caught the fever—"
"I'd thought of that—and I was tremendously pleased to see how excited he was to win a hole from Mr. Wallace. Of course I wouldn't dream of telling him that Mr. Wallace is ten strokes worse than the next worst player we have. You see, I don't remember that he's ever played any game before in his whole life. About once a month he goes to a baseball match, and that's as much of an athlete as he's been. He thinks games are childish. But if he once starts—if he gets the impulse of competition—"
"A hole in par," said Kenyon.
"Yes—it would be an awfully good thing for him and for us."
"If I could help him—"
"Don't! Please don't try! He wouldn't understand. And it might make him all the more furious to see you doing so well. There's nothing for us—except to wait—and plan."
WHILE waiting they planned with such absorption that it was heavy dusk before Miss Baring awoke to the consciousness of the hour.
"Perhaps," she said, a little anxiously, "I'd better go out after them."
"We'll go together," said Kenyon.
From the veranda of the club they could overlook the entire sweep of the eighteenth hole and party of the tricky seventeenth. Mr. Baring and his partner weren't in sight; so that the young people went over to the plateau of the sixteenth green and surveyed the landscape. A stone's throw to the south, in the almost impenetrable morass which penalizes a poor tee shot, they discerned two figures toiling in the gloom.
"This sort of job," came to them in Mr. Baring's voice, "is what made General Goethals famous!"
"Hush!" whispered Peggy. "Don't let them see us! Come back under the trees!"
"That's nine for you," boomed Wallace's voice, as his opponent dug viciously into the bed of the creek. "I'm over in twelve."
"That's eight for me—"
"It can't be. You were three getting off the tee; one back of the bushes; two in the mud; then a good out—"
"One in the mud," disputed Mr. Baring. "Only one, and the next was the good one—and I'll be hanged if I see how you're over in twelve! You said you were ten behind that rock—"
"Nine. And then I—"
"Please don't talk when I'm shooting!"
After a brief pause: "That's nine anyway," said Wallace complacently. "Ten ... Eleven ... Twelve ... Thir— Oh, good out!"
"A corker," granted Mr. Baring. "I'll tell you just how I did it—"
"Never mind! I'll get this hole yet!"
"You'll have to shoot your head off! And if I get it, I'll be one ahead."
"Well, if I had my regular midiron—"
"Midiron! How can I play with a girl's clubs! And I'd be ahead now if you counted straight—"
"Well, if I had a decent sheepskin grip on my midiron, I wouldn't have been in the swamp at all!"
"No, you wouldn't! That's a joke—that is! You never drove over that swamp in your life!"
"I'll carry it nine times out of ten, on a bet—with my regular midiron!"
"Are you going to shoot, or are you going to stay here all night?"
"I'll shoot soon enough. You've played two more—"
"Two more than what? You? I certainly have not! We're even!"
"I'm twelve to here, and you're—"
"I'm twelve myself! Go ahead and play!—that's thirteen for you by your own count!"
"How can I hit it when you yell at me just as I start to swing! ... There! Look at that! Now why don't you say something funny?"
"You're in the pit! Now I'll show you a good shot!"
Another pause, followed by one imprecation and one gurgle of delight.
"You're in the pit, too! If I had my old niblick—the one I was telling you about—I could lay it right up to the pin. I can't do anything with this one—"
"Oh, tommyrot! The only way you could get out of that trench in one shot is with a load of dynamite!"
"Is that so!"
From the pit twin puffs, as of rifle smoke, rose and drifted away.
"Fourteen!" said Mr. Baring exultantly.
"Thirteen!" said Mr. Wallace stubbornly.
"You're wrong!" they said in chorus; and during the ensuing lull two more puffs rose and dissipated.
Miss Baring and Kenyon, ambushed in the orchard by the green, turned to each other and smiled.
"I guess it's all right," murmured Peggy beatifically.
"He's inoculated," said Kenyon. His arm went around her, and in the twilight their lips met.
"Eighteen—and I'm in!" roared Mr. Baring. "Now I'm one ahead!—and it's the first day I ever had a club in my hands! Don't we call the game on account of darkness?"
"Two to play," said Mr. Wallace grimly. "Get out there, caddie, and mark the ball. The game's over when it's finished. There's a pond sixty yards ahead. Baring—take my advice and use a floater, and play short anyway. All right. One down and two to go. A dollar on the match?"
"Ten," said Mr. Baring rashly. "But if I only had the right kind of shoes—"