“This fellow Graff you got working for you, he leases me a house. I was in yesterday and signs the lease, all O.K., and he was to get the owner’s signature and mail me the lease last night. Well, and he did. This morning I comes down to breakfast and the girl says a fellow had come to the house right after the early delivery and told her he wanted an envelope that had been mailed by mistake, big long envelope with ‘Babbitt-Thompson’ in the corner of it. Sure enough, there it was, so she lets him have it. And she describes the fellow to me, and it was this Graff. So I ’phones to him and he, the poor fool, he admits it! He says after my lease was all signed he got a better offer from another fellow and he wanted my lease back. Now what you going to do about it?”
“Your name is—?”
“William Varney—W. K. Varney.”
“Oh, yes. That was the Garrison house.” Babbitt sounded the buzzer. When Miss McGoun came in, he demanded, “Graff gone out?”
“Will you look through his desk and see if there is a lease made out to Mr. Varney on the Garrison house?” To Varney: “Can’t tell you how sorry I am this happened. Needless to say, I’ll fire Graff the minute he comes in. And of course your lease stands. But there’s one other thing I’d like to do. I’ll tell the owner not to pay us the commission but apply it to your rent. No! Straight! I want to. To be frank, this thing shakes me up bad. I suppose I’ve always been a Practical Business Man. Probably I’ve told one or two fairy stories in my time, when the occasion called for it—you know: sometimes you have to lay things on thick, to impress boneheads. But this is the first time I’ve ever had to accuse one of my own employees of anything more dishonest than pinching a few stamps. Honest, it would hurt me if we profited by it. So you’ll let me hand you the commission? Good!”
He walked through the February city, where trucks flung up a spattering of slush and the sky was dark above dark brick cornices. He came back miserable. He, who respected the law, had broken it by concealing the Federal crime of interception of the mails. But he could not see Graff go to jail and his wife suffer. Worse, he had to discharge Graff and this was a part of office routine which he feared. He liked people so much, he so much wanted them to like him that he could not bear insulting them.
Miss McGoun dashed in to whisper, with the excitement of an approaching scene, “He’s here!”
“Mr. Graff? Ask him to come in.”
He tried to make himself heavy and calm in his chair, and to keep his eyes expressionless. Graff stalked in—a man of thirty-five, dapper, eye-glassed, with a foppish mustache.
“Want me?” said Graff.
“Yes. Sit down.”