Joe was exultant.
“Sixty profit! Well, I’m hanged.”
“Not so fast, Joe,” said Marty, drily. “They say no one ever started a magazine without getting stuck, and anyway, you just reckon there’ll be expenses that will run you into debt right along. But of course there’ll be the ads.”
“I don’t know about the ads,” said Joe. “But the figures please me just the same.”
Marty squirmed in his chair.
“Joe,” he burst out, “how the devil is the printery going to run without you?”
Their eyes met, and Joe laughed.
“Will it be worth twenty-five thousand dollars when it’s rebuilt and business booming again?” he asked, shrewdly.
“More than that!” said Marty Briggs.
“Then,” said Joe, “I want you to take it.”
“Me?” Marty was stunned.
“You can do it easily. I’ll take a mortgage and you pay it off two thousand a year and five per cent. interest. That will still leave you a tidy profit.”
“Me?” Then Marty laughed loud. “Listen, my ears! Did you hear that?”
“Think it over!” snapped Joe. “Now come along.”
LAST OF JOE BLAINE AND HIS MEN
So the printery was rehabilitated, and one gray morning Joe, with a queer tremor at his heart, went down the street and met many of his men in the doorway. They greeted him with strange, ashamed emotion.
“Morning, Mr. Joe.... It’s been a long spell.... Good to see the old place again.... Bad weather we’re having.... How’ve you been?”
The loft seemed strangely the same, strangely different—fresh painted, polished, smelling new and with changed details. For a few moments Joe felt the sharp shock of the fire again, especially when he heard the trembling of the hat factory overhead ... and that noon the bright faces and laughter in the hallway! It seemed unreal; like ghosts revisiting; and he learned later that the first morning the hat factory had set to work, some of the girls had become hysterical.
But as he stood in his private office, looking out into the gray loft, and feeling how weird and swift are life’s changes, the men turned on the electrics, and the floors and walls began their old trembling and the presses clanked and thundered. He could have wept. To Joe this moment of starting up had always been precious: it had seemed to bring him something he had missed; something that fitted like an old shoe and was friendly and familiar. All at once he felt as if he could not leave this business, could not leave these men.
And yet he had only three days with them to wind up the business and install Marty Briggs. And then there was a last supper of Joe Blaine and his men. Those days followed one another with ever-deepening gloom, in which the trembling printery and all the human beings that were part of it seemed steeped in a growing twilight. Do what Joe would and could in the matter of good-fellowship, loud laughter, and high jocularity, the darkness thickened staggeringly. Hardly had Joe settled the transfer of the printery to Marty, when the rumor of the transaction swept the business. At noon men gathered in groups and whispered together as if some one had died, and one after another approached Joe with a: