“What does this mean, young man?” I asked, when he got there. “Have you been fighting?”
“Yes, sir,” he answered, sort of brightening up.
“Michael and Patrick the first day, sir.”
“Did you lick ’em?”
“I had rather the better of it,” he answered, as precise as a slice of cold-boiled Boston.
“And the second?”
“Why, the rest of ’em, sir.”
“Including the Breakfast-Food—er, James?”
He nodded. “James is very strong, sir, but he lacks science. He drew back as if he had a year to hit me, and just as he got good and ready to strike, I pasted him one in the snoot, and followed that up with a left jab in the eye.”
I hadn’t counted on boxing lessons being on the bill of fare of the simple life, and it raised my hopes still further to see from that last sentence how we had grafted a little Union Stock Yards on his Back Bay Boston. In fact, my heart quite warmed to the lad; but I looked at him pretty severely, and only said:
“Mark you, young man, we don’t allow any fighting around here; and if you can’t get along without quarrelling with the boys in the shipping department, I’ll have to bring you into these offices, where I can have an eye on your conduct.”
There were two or three boys in the main office who were spoiling for a thrashing, and I reckoned that the Angel Child would attend to their cases; and he did. He was cock of the walk in a week, and at the same time one of the bulliest, daisiest, most efficient, most respectful boys that ever worked for me. He put a little polish on the other kids, and they took a little of the extra shine off him. He’s in Harvard now, but when he gets out there’s a job waiting for him, if he’ll take it.
That was a clear case of catching an angel on the fly, or of entertaining one unawares, as the boy would have put it, and it taught me not to consider my prejudices or his parents in hiring a boy, but to focus my attention on the boy himself, when he was the one who would have to run the errands. The simple life was a pose and pretense with the Angel Child’s parents, and so they were only a new brand of snob; but the kid had been caught young and had taken it all in earnest; and so he was a new breed of boy, and a better one than I’d ever hired before.
Your affectionate father,
From John Graham, at Mount Clematis, Michigan, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The young man has sent the old man a dose of his own medicine, advice, and he is proving himself a good doctor by taking it.
MOUNT CLEMATIS, January 25, 1900.