“What day?” Socratic asked.
“Oh, Thursday or Friday,” a little impatiently.
“Thursday is all right. What hour? Ten o’clock do?”
“Yes, yes, that will do,” sighed the busy, busy business man, his nose deep in his work.
Socratic turned on his heel and walked out.
Thursday morning he was again beside Brainerd’s desk. It was easy to see that this little buzz-fly was a mile up in the air. Hi$ coat was off, his cuffs turned back, his collar unbuttoned, his hair mussed, and he had a streak of soot across his nose. He hardly looked up. Just kept chugging away like a motor-cycle going up-grade at fifty miles an hour.
Oh, but he was the busy man!
“Sorry to disappoint you again, Socratic,” he jerked out, “but I haven’t got time to breathe. You’ll have to come in again.”
“Making stacks of money with all this strenuous activity, I suppose?” asked Socratic.
“Oh, no! It keeps me on the jump like a toad under a harrow to pay expenses.”
“Call that a profitable way to spend time and nervous energy so prodigally?”
“It may not be—I suppose it isn’t, but I can’t help it.”
“Your head clerk draws pretty good pay, doesn’t he?” asked Socratic.
“Why, yes,” answered Brainerd, staring.
“Probably has a bigger income to handle, personally, than you have?”
“Oh, I guess so” You’ll have to excuse me, Socratic. I’m too busy to talk to-day.”
“Queer, but your head clerk and cashier seem to have plenty of time for conversation. They have been scrapping for fifteen minutes about chances of the Pirates and the Cubs. You feel happy to pay people big salaries for talking baseball?”
“No; of course not; but how can I help it? A man can’t hire reliable help for love or money in this town, and I haven’t got time to watch all of ’em.”
“How would it do to have the bookkeeper check up those sales-slips you are tearing your hair over, instead of manicuring her pretty paddies and tucking in her scolding locks?”
“Well, she was doing something else when I began. Excuse me a minute.”
And Brainerd dashed away to the front of the store to wait on a nicely dressed lady who had just come in. When he returned he said: “I’ll tell you, Mr. Socratic, I’ve been thinking over the matter of our contract, and I don’t believe I’m prepared to go into that thing at present. Times are so hard and I am so rushed for time, and you would probably recommend a lot of things I couldn’t afford, and likely couldn’t work in with my present system. I guess I’ll have to let it go for the present. It would be a good thing, no doubt, but I guess I’ll have to do the best I can without it. Some time later, perhaps, I’ll take it up with you. Why, I don’t even get time to read the papers, and I certainly wouldn’t have time to go into that examination with you.”