The competitive nephew, p.1
The Competitive Nephew, p.1Montague Glass / Humor
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THE COMPETITIVE NEPHEW
Books by the Same Author
ABE AND MAWRUSS ABE AND MAWRUSS PHILOSOPHERS ELKAN LUBLINER: AMERICAN OBJECT: MATRIMONY POTASH AND PERLMUTTER
"He ain't been in the place a year, y'understand, andto-night he marries a relation of his boss and he gets three hundreddollars in the bargain"]
The Competitive Nephew
GARDEN CITY NEW YORKDOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY1915
_Copyright, 1915, by_DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
_All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreignlanguages, including the Scandinavian_
COPYRIGHT, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY THE FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY, N.Y.
I. THE COMPETITIVE NEPHEW 3 A Story of Business, Nepotism, Asthma, and Even Love
II. OPPORTUNITY 41 How It Knocked but Once on Mr. Zamp's Door, and Found Him on the Job
III. THE SORROWS OF SEIDEN 60 Why You Should Never Even Begin with Your Wife's Relations
IV. SERPENTS' TEETH 99 Showing That Sometimes They Bite Both Ways
V. MAKING OVER MILTON 147 The Regeneration of a Lowlife
VI. BIRSKY & ZAPP 186 They Do Good by Stealth and Blush to Find It Pays
VII. THE MOVING PICTURE WRITES 238 And the Bella Hirshkind Home Nearly Makes a Haul
VIII. COERCING MR. TRINKMANN 288 So That Louis Berkfield Gets His Job Back
IX. "RUDOLPH WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN" 304 The Viennese Knockout of Two Continents
X. CAVEAT EMPTOR 327 Meaning, the Buyer Would Better Look Out
"He ain't been in the place a year, y'understand, and to-night hemarries a relation of his boss and he gets three hundred dollarsin the bargain" _Frontispiece_
"You heard what Sam says, Aaron, and me, I stick to it also" 28
"Nu, Belz, ain't you going to congradulate me?" 274
She postured, leaped, and pranced by turns 308
Transcriber's Note: Words in italics are indicated by _italics_.
THE COMPETITIVE NEPHEW
"That's the way it goes," Sam Zaretsky cried bitterly. "You raise acouple of young fellers up in your business, Max, and so soon they knowall you could teach 'em they turn around and go to work and do youevery time."
Max Fatkin nodded.
"I told it you when we started in as new beginners, Sam, you should gota lady bookkeeper," he said. "The worst they could do is to get marriedon you, and all you are out is a couple dollars cut-glass for anengagement present and half a dozen dessert spoons for the wedding. Butso soon as you hire a man for a bookkeeper, Sam, he gets a line on yourcustomers, and the first thing you know he goes as partners togetherwith your designer, and what could you do? Ain't it?"
"Louis Sen was a good bookkeeper, Max," Sam rejoined.
"Sure, I know," Max agreed, "and Hillel Greenberg was a good designer.That sucker is such a good designer, Sam, he will take away all ourtrade."
"Not all our trade, Max," Sam declared. "_Gott sei dank_, we got a fewgood customers what them suckers couldn't steal off of us. We got,anyhow, Aaron Pinsky. I seen Aaron on the subway this morning, and hesays he would be in to see us this afternoon yet."
"That's nothing new, Sam. That feller comes in here whenever he'sdowntown. I guess some of our customers think he's a partner here."
"Let 'em think so, Max, it don't do us no harm that people should thinkwe got it a rich man like Pinsky for a partner."
"Sure, I know," Fatkin rejoined. "But the feller takes liberties aroundhere, Sam. He tells us what we should do and what we shouldn't do. Ifit wouldn't be that Pinsky was all the time cracking up Louis Sen Iwould of fired him _schon_ long since already. Louis was always tooindependent, anyhow, and if we would of got rid of him a year ago, Sam,he wouldn't have gone as partners together with Hillel Greenberg, andwe wouldn't now be bucking up against a couple of dangerouscompetitors."
"That's all right, Max. As I told you before, Aaron Pinsky is a goodcustomer of ours, and if a good customer butts into your business he isonly taking an interest in you; whereas, if a fellow which only buysfrom you goods occasionally, y'understand, butts in, then he's actingfresh and you could tell him so."
"But Pinsky butts into our business so much, Sam, that if he was thebest customer a concern ever had, Sam, he would be fresh anyhow. Thefeller actually tells me yesterday he is going to bring us a newbookkeeper."
"A new bookkeeper!" Zaretsky exclaimed. "Why, we already got it a newbookkeeper, Max. I thought we hired it Miss Meyerson what used to bewith Klinger & Klein. She's coming to work here Monday. Ain't it?"
"Sure, she is," Fatkin replied.
"Well, why didn't you tell him so?"
"You tell him," he said. "I didn't got the nerve, Sam, because you knowas well as I do, Sam, if I would turn him down and he gets mad, Sam,the first thing you know we are out a good customer and Greenberg & Senwould get him sure."
"Well, we got to go about this with a little diploomasher,y'understand."
"Diploomasher?" Max repeated. "What is that--diploomasher?"
"Diploomasher, that's French what you would say that a feller shouldwatch out when you are dealing with a grouchy proposition like AaronPinsky."
"French, hey?" Max commented. "Well, I ain't no Frencher, Sam, andneither is Aaron Pinsky. And, furthermore, Sam, you couldn't behigh-toned with an old-fashioned feller like Aaron Pinsky. Lately Idon't know what come over you at all. You use such big words, like alawyer or a doctor."
Sam was working his cigar around his mouth to assist the cerebration ofa particularly cutting rejoinder, when the elevator door opened, andPinsky himself alighted.
"Hallo, boys," he said, "ain't this rotten weather we are having?December is always either one thing or the other, but it is neverboth."
"You shouldn't ought to go out in weather like this," Max said. "To afeller which got it a cough like you, Aaron, it is positivelydangerous, such a damp mees-erable weather which we are having it."
Aaron nodded and smiled at this subtle form of flattery. He possessedthe worst asthmatic cough in the cloak and suit trade, and while hesuffered acutely at times, he could not conceal a sense of pride in itsownership. It sounded like a combination of a patent automobile alarmand the shaking of dried peas in an inflated bladder, and when itseized Aaron in public conveyances, old ladies nearly fainted, anddoctors, clergymen, and undertakers evinced a professional interest,for it seemed impossible that any human being could survive some ofAaron's paroxysms. Not only did he withstand them, however, but heappeared positively to thrive upon them, and albeit he was close on tofifty, he might well have passed for thirty-five.
"I stood a whole lot of Decembers already," he said, "and I guess Iwouldn't die just yet a while."
As if to demonstrate his endurance, he emitted a loud whoop, andstarted off on a fit of wheezing that bulged every vein in his foreheadand left him shaken and exhausted in the chair that Max had vacated.
"Yes, boys," he gasped, "the only thing which seems to ease it issmoking. Now, you wouldn't believe that, would you?"
Max evidenced his faith by producing a large black cigar and handing itto Pinsky.
"Why don't you try another doctor, Aaron?" Sam Zaretsky asked. Pinskyraised his right hand with the palm outward and flipped his fingers.
"I've went to every professor in this country and the old country," hedeclared, "and they couldn't do a thing for me, y'understand. They sayas I grow older, so I would get better, and certainly they are right.This is nothing what I got it now. You ought to of heard me when I wasa young feller. Positively, Max, I got kicked out of fourboarding-houses on account the people complained so. One feller wantedto make me arrested already, such hearts people got it."
Max Fatkin nodded sympathetically, and thus encouraged Aaron continuedhis reminiscences.
"Yes, boys," he said, "in them days I worked by old man Baum onCatherine Street. Six dollars a week and P.M.'s I made it, but evenback in 1880 P.M.'s was nix. The one-price system was coming in alongabout that time, and if oncet in a while you could soak an Italienersix twenty-five for a five dollar overcoat, you was lucky if you couldget fifty cents out of old man Baum. Nowadays is different already.Instead of young fellers learning business by business men like old manBaum, they go to business colleges yet, and certainly I don't say itain't just as good."
Sam Zaretsky exchanged significant glances with his partner, MaxFatkin, and they both puffed hard on their cigars.
"You take my nephew, Fillup, for instance," Aaron went on. "There's aboy of sixteen which just graduated from business college, and the boywrites such a hand which you wouldn't believe at all. He gets a silvermedal from the college for making a bird with a pen--somethingremarkable. The eyes is all little dollar marks. I took it down toShenkman's picture store, and seventy-five cents that sucker charges mefor framing it."
"That's nothing, Aaron," Sam Zaretsky broke in, with a diplomaticattempt at a conversational diversion. "That's nothing at all. I couldtell you myself an experience which I got with Shenkman. My wife'smother sends her a picture from the old country yet----"
"Not that I am kicking at all," Aaron interrupted, "because it wasworth it. I assure you, Sam, I don't begrudge seventy-five cents forthat boy, because the boy is a good boy, y'understand. The boy is anatural-born bookkeeper. Single entry and double entry, he could do itlike nothing, and neat--that boy is neat like a pin."
"Huh, huh!" Max grunted.
"Yes," Aaron added, "you didn't make no mistake when you got me tobring you Fillup for a bookkeeper."
It was at this point that Max threw diplomacy to the winds.
"Got you to bring us a bookkeeper!" he exclaimed. "Why, Aaron, I ain'tsaid a word about getting us this here--now--Fillup for a bookkeeper.We already hired it a bookkeeper."
"What?" Aaron cried. "Do you mean to say you got the nerve to sit thereand tell me you ain't asked me I should bring you a bookkeeper?"
"Why, Aaron," Sam interrupted with a withering glance at his partner."I ain't saying nothing one way or the other, y'understand, but I don'tthink Max could of asked you because, only this morning, Aaron, Max andme was talking about this here, now--what's-his-name--and we was sayingthat nowadays what future was there for a young feller as a bookkeeper?Ain't it? I says to Max distinctively: 'If Aaron would bring us hisnephew we would give him a job on stock. Then the first thing you knowthe boy gets to be a salesman and could make his five thousand dollarsa year.' But what could a bookkeeper expect to be? Ain't it? At themost he makes thirty dollars a week, and there he sticks."
"Is that so?" Aaron retorted ironically. "Well, look at Louis Sen. Isuppose Louis sticks at thirty a week, hey?"
"Louis Sen is something else again," Sam replied. "Louis Sen is acrook, Aaron, not a bookkeeper. That feller comes into our place twoyears ago, and he ain't got five cents in his clothes, and we thoughtwe was doing him a charity when we hired him. It reminds you of thefeller which picks up a frozen snake and puts it in his pants-pocket toget warm, and the first thing you know, Aaron, the snake wakes up, andbites the feller in the leg. Well, that's the way it was with LouisSen. Gratitude is something which the feller don't understand at all.But you take this here nephew of yours, and he comes from decent,respectable people, y'understand. There's a young feller, Aaron, whatwe could trust, Aaron, and so when he comes to work by us on stock,Aaron, we give him a show he should learn all about the business, andyou take it from me, Aaron, if the boy ain't going out on the road tosell goods for us in less than two years he ain't as smart as his uncleis, and that's all I can say."
Aaron smiled, and Sam looked triumphantly at his partner.
"All right, Sam," Aaron commented, "I see you got the boy's interest atheart. So I would bring the boy down here on Monday morning. And now,Max, let's get to work on them misses' Norfolk suits. I want eight ofthem blue serges."
* * * * *
There was something about Miss Miriam Meyerson that suggested manythings besides ledgers and trial balances, and she would have been more"in the picture" had she been standing in front of a kitchen table withher sleeves tucked up and a rolling-pin grasped firmly in her large,plump hands.
"I don't know, Sam," Max Fatkin remarked on Monday. "That girl don'tlook to me an awful lot like business. Mind you, I ain't kicking thatshe looks too fresh, y'understand, because she reminds me a good dealof my poor mother, _selig_."
"Ain't that the funniest thing?" Sam Zaretsky broke in. "I was justthinking to myself she is a dead ringer for my sister Fannie. You knowmy sister, Mrs. Brody?"
"I bet yer," Max Fatkin said fervently. "That's one fine lady, Mrs.Brody. Me and my Esther had dinner there last Sunday. And, while I gotto admit my Esther is a good _cook_, y'understand, Mrs. Brody--that'sa _good_ cook, Sam. We had some _fleisch kugel_ there, Sam, I couldassure you, better as Delmonico's--the Waldorf, too."
"If she is as good a bookkeeper as Fannie is a cook, Max," he replied,"I am satisfied. Sol Klinger says that she is A Number One. Alwaysprompt to the minute and a hard worker."
"Well, why did he fire her, Sam?" Max asked.
"He didn't fire her. She got a sister living in Bridgetown married toHarris Schevrien, and Miss Meyerson goes up there last spring right inthe busy time. Of course Klinger & Klein has got to let her go becauseunder the circumstances, Max, she is the only sister Mrs. Schevriengot, y'understand. Then when the baby is two weeks old it gets sick,y'understand, and Miss Meyerson writes 'em not to expect her backbefore August. Naturally they got to fill her place, but Sol Klingertells me she is a dandy, Max, and we should be lucky we got her."
"Well, certainly she don't seem to be loafing none," Max commented,with a glance toward the office where Miss Meyerson was making out themonthly statements. "So far what I could see she is working twicet asfast as Louis Sen, and we ain't paying her only fifteen dollars."
"Sure, I know," Sam said, "but you got to consider it we would also gotto pay Fillup Pinsky five dollars a week, so we ain't in much on that."
"Why ain't we, Sam? I bet yer we would get our money's worth out ofFillup. That boy ain't going to fool away his time here, Sam, and don'tyou forget it."
The corners of his mouth tightened in a manner that boded ill forPhilip, and his face had not resumed its normal amiability when AaronPinsky entered, with his nephew Philip in tow.
"Hallo, boys," he said. "This is the young man I was talking to youabout. Fillup, shake hands with Mr. Zaretsky and Mr. Fatkin."
After this operation was concluded, Mr. Pinsky indulged in a fit ofcoughing that almost broke the carbon filaments in the electric-lightbulbs.
"Fillup," he gasped, as he wiped his crimson face, "make for them acouple birds with a pen."
"That's all right," Max interrupted, "we take your word for it. Birdsis nix here, Aaron. We ain't in the millinery business, we are in thecloak and suit business, and instead Fillup should be making birds yet,he shouldn't lose no time, but Sam will show him our stock. Right awaywe will learn him the line."
"Business ahead of pleasure, Aaron," Sam broke in hurriedly, with asignificant frown at his partner. "The boy will got lots of time tomake birds in the dull season. Just now we are rushed to death, Aaron.Come, Fillup, I'll show you where you should put your hat and coat."
Max forced an amiable smile as he handed Aaron Pinsky a cigar.
"I congradulate you, Aaron," he said. "You got a smart boy for anephew, and I bet yer he would learn quick the business. For a start wewill pay him three dollars a week."
Aaron stared indignantly and almost snatched the proffered cigar fromMax's hand.
"Three dollars a week!" he exclaimed. "What do you take the boy for--agreenhorn? Positively you should pay the boy five dollars, otherwise hewould put on his clothes and go right straight home."
"But, Aaron," Max protested, "I _oser_ got three dollars a week when Istarted in as a new beginner. I was glad they should pay me two dollarsa week so long as I learned it the business."
"I suppose you went to business college, too, Max. What? I bet yer whenyou first went to work you got to think hard before you could sign yourname even."
Max shrugged his shoulders.
"Birds, I couldn't make it, Aaron," he admitted; "but the second week Iwas out of Castle Garden my mother, _selig_, sends me to night school,and they don't learn you birds in night school, Aaron. But, anyhow,Aaron, what's the use we should quarrel about it? If you want we shouldpay the boy five dollars a week--all right. I'm sure if he's worththree he's worth five. Ain't it? And what's more, Aaron, if the boyshows he takes an interest we would give him soon a raise of a coupleof dollars. We ain't small."
"I know you ain't, Max," said Aaron, "otherwise I wouldn't bring theboy here at all."
He looked proudly toward the rear of the showroom where Philip wasexamining the ticketed garments under the supervision of Sam Zaretsky.
"The boy already takes an interest, Max," he said; "I bet yer he wouldknow your style-numbers by to-night already."
For half an hour longer Sam Zaretsky explained the sample line toPhilip, and at length he handed the boy a feather duster, and returnedto the front of the showroom.
"The boy is all right, Aaron," he said. "A good, smart boy, Max, and heain't afraid to open his mouth, neither."
"I bet yer he ain't," Aaron replied, as Philip approached with a samplegarment in one hand and the feather duster in the other.
"Look, Mr. Zaretsky," he said, "here's one of your styletwenty-twenty-two with a thirty-twenty-two ticket on to it."
Sam examined the garment and stared at his partner.
"The boy is right, Max," he said. "We got the wrong ticket on thatgarment."
For one brief moment Aaron glanced affectionately at his nephew, andthen he voiced his pride and admiration in a paroxysm of coughing thatmade Miss Meyerson come running from the office.
"What's the matter?" she asked. "Couldn't I do something?"
For almost five minutes Aaron rocked and wheezed in his chair. Atlength, when he seemed to be at the point of suffocation, Miss Meyersonslapped him on the back, and with a final gasp he recovered his breath.
"Thanks, much obliged," he said, as he wiped his streaming eyes.
"You're sure you don't want a doctor?" Miss Meyerson said.
"Me? A doctor?" he replied. "What for?"
He picked up his cigar from the floor and struck a match. "This is allthe doctor I need," he said.
Miss Meyerson returned to the office.
"Who's that?" Aaron inquired, nodding his head in the direction of MissMeyerson.
"That's our new bookkeeper which we got it," Max replied.
"So you hired it a lady bookkeeper," Aaron commented. "What did youdone that for, Max?"
"Well, why not?" Max retorted. "We got with her first class, A NumberOne references, Aaron, and although she only come this morning, she isworking so smooth like she was with us six months already. For my partit is all the same to me if we would have a lady bookkeeper, or abookkeeper."
"I know," Aaron continued, "but ladies in business is like salt in thecawfee. Salt is all right and cawfee also, but you don't got to hatesalt exactly, y'understand, to kick when it gets in the cawfee. That'sthe way with me, Max; I ain't no lady-hater, y'understand, but I don'tlike 'em in business, except for saleswomen, models, and buyers,y'understand."
"But that Miss Meyerson," Sam broke in, "she attends strictly tobusiness, Aaron."
"Sure, I know, Sam," Aaron replied. "Slaps me on the back yet when I amcoughing."
"Well, she meant it good, Aaron," Sam said.
"Sure, that's all right," Aaron agreed. "Sure, she meant it good. Butit's the _idee_ of the thing, y'understand. Women in business alwaysmeans good, Max, but they butt in too much."
"Other people butts in, too," Max added.
"I don't say they don't, Max. But you take it me, for instance. Whensomething happens which it makes me feel bad, Max, I got to swear,y'understand. I couldn't help it. And, certainly, while I don't saythat swearing is something which a gentleman should do, especially whenthere's a lady, y'understand, still, swearing a little sometimes isgood for the _gesund_. Instead a feller should make another fellera couple blue eyes, Max, let him swear. It don't harm nobody, andcertainly nobody could sue you in the courts because you swear at himlike he could if you make for him a couple blue eyes. But you take itwhen there is ladies, Max, and then you couldn't swear."
"Sure, I know," Max rejoined; "and you couldn't make it a couple blueeyes on a feller when ladies would be present neither, Aaron. Itwouldn't be etty-kit."
"Me, I ain't so strong on the etty-kit," Sam broke in at this juncture;"but I do know, Max, that we are fooling away our whole morning here."
Aaron Pinsky rose.
"Well, boys," he said, "I got to be going. So I wish you luck with yournew boy."
Once more he looked affectionately toward the rear of the room wherePhilip industriously wielded the feather duster, and then made his waytoward the elevator. As he passed Miss Meyerson's desk she looked upand beamed a farewell at him. He caught it out of the corner of his eyeand frowned absently.
"I wish you better," Miss Meyerson called.
"Thanks very much," Aaron replied, as the floor of the descendingelevator made a dark line across the ground-glass door of the shaft. Hehalf paused for a moment, but his shyness overcame him.
"Going down!" he yelled, and thrusting his hat more firmly on his headhe disappeared into the elevator.
* * * * *
Three days afterward Aaron Pinsky again visited Zaretsky & Fatkin, andas he alighted from the elevator Miss Meyerson came out of her officewith a small package in her hand.
"Oh, Mr. Pinsky," she said, "I've got something for you."
"Me?" Aaron cried, stopping short in his progress toward the showroom."All right."
"You know I couldn't get to sleep the other night thinking of the wayyou were coughing," she continued. "Every time I closed my eyes I couldhear it."
Evidently this remark called for comment of some kind, and Aaronsearched his brain for a suitable rejoinder.
"That's nice," he murmured at last.
"So I spoke to my cousin, Mrs. Doctor Goldenreich, about it," she wenton, "and the doctor gave me this medicine for you. You should take atablespoonful every four hours, and when it's all gone I'll get yousome more."
She handed the bottle to Aaron, who thrust it into his overcoat-pocket.
"Thanks; much obliged," he said hoarsely.
"Don't mention it," she commented as she returned to the office.
Aaron looked after her in blank surprise. "Sure not," he muttered,starting off for the showroom in long, frightened strides.
"Say, Max," he said, "what's the matter with that girl? Is she_verrueckt_?"
"_Verrueckt!_" Max exclaimed. "What d'ye mean--_verrueckt_? Say, lookyhere,Aaron, you should be careful what you are saying about a lady like MissMeyerson. She already found where Louis Sen makes mistakes, which _Gottweiss wie vile_ it costed us yet. You shouldn't say nothing about thatgirl, Aaron, because she is a cracker-jack, A Number One bookkeeper."
"Did I say she wasn't?" Aaron replied. "I am only saying she acts to mevery funny, Max. She gives me this here bottle of medicine just now."
He poked the package at Max, who handled it gingerly, as though itmight explode at any minute.
"What d'ye give it to me for?" he cried. "I don't want it."
"Well, I don't want it, neither," Aaron replied. "She ain't got noright to act fresh like that and give me medicine which I ain't askedfor at all."
He looked exceedingly hurt and voiced his indignation with a tremendouswhoop, the forerunner of a dozen minor whoops which shaded off into asuccession of wheezes. It seemed to Max and Sam that Aaron would neversucceed in catching his breath, and just when he appeared to be at hisultimate gasp Miss Meyerson ran up with a tablespoon. She snatched thebottle from Max's grasp and, tearing off the wrapping paper, she drewthe cork and poured a generous dose.
"Take this right now," she commanded, pressing the spoon to Aaron'slips. With a despairing glance at Max he swallowed the medicine, andimmediately afterward made a horrible grimace.
"T'phooee!" he cried. "What the--what are you trying to do--poison me?"
"That won't poison you," Miss Meyerson declared. "It'll do you good.All he needs is about six more doses, Mr. Fatkin, and he'd be rid ofthat cough in no time."
"Miss Meyerson is right, Aaron," he said. "You ought to take care ofyourself."
Aaron wiped his eyes and his moustache with his handkerchief.
"You ain't got maybe a little _schnapps_ in your desk, Max?" he said.
"_Schnapps_ is the worst thing you could take, Mr. Pinsky," MissMeyerson cried. "Don't give him any, Mr. Fatkin; it'll only make himworse."
She shook her head warningly at Aaron as she and Sam walked back to theoffice.
"What d'ye think for a fresh woman like that?" he said to Max as MissMeyerson's head once more bent over her books.
"She ain't fresh, Aaron," Max replied. "She's just got a heart,y'understand."
"But----" Aaron began.
"But nothing, Aaron," Max broke in. "I will wrap up the medicine andyou will take it home with you. The girl knows what she is talkingabout, Aaron, and the best thing for you to do is to leave off_schnapps_ a little while and do what she says you should. I see on thebottle it's from Doctor Goldenreich. He's a speci_al_itist from thechest and lungs, and I bet yer if you would go to him he would soak youten dollars yet."
No argument could have appealed so strongly to Aaron as this did, andhe thrust the bottle into his breast-pocket without another word.
"And how is Fillup coming on?" he asked.
"We couldn't complain," Max replied. "The boy is a good boy, Aaron. Heis learning our line like he would be with us six months already."
"That's good," Aaron commented. "I bet yer before he would be here amonth yet he would know the line as good as Sam and you."
"I says the boy is a good boy, Aaron," he said, "but I never says hewas a miracle, y'understand."
"That ain't no miracle, Max," Aaron retorted. "That's a prophecy."
Max smiled again, but the prediction more than justified itself in lessthan a month, for at the end of that time Philip knew the style-numberand price of every garment in Zaretsky & Fatkin's line.
"I never see nothing like it, Sam," Max said. "The boy is a humancatalogue. You couldn't stump him on nothing."
"Sure, I know," Sam replied. "Sometimes I got to think we make amistake in letting that boy know all our business."
"A mistake!" Max repeated. "What d'ye mean a mistake?"
"I mean, Max, that the first thing you know Aaron goes around blowingto our competitors how well that boy is doing here, Max, and then aconcern like Sammet Brothers or Klinger & Klein would offer the boyseven dollars a week, and some fine day we'll come downtown and findthat Fillup's got another job. Also the feller what hires him wouldhave a human catalogue of our whole line, prices and style-numberscomplete."
"Always you are looking for trouble, Sam," Max cried.
"Looking for it I ain't, Max. I don't got to look for it, because whena feller got it a competitor like Greenberg & Sen, Max, he could findtrouble without looking for it. Them suckers was eating lunch inWasserbauer's on Monday when Aaron goes in there with Fillup.Elenbogen, of Plotkin & Elenbogen, seen the whole thing, Max, and hetold it me this morning in the subway to make me feel bad. Sometimeswithout meaning it at all a feller could do you a big favour when hetells you something for spite. Ain't it?"
"What did he tell you?" Max asked.
"He says that Greenberg & Sen goes over to Aaron's table and the firstthing you know a box of cigars is going around and Fillup is drinking abottle of celery tonic. Elenbogen says you would think Aaron wasnobody, because them two fellers ain't paid no attentions to him atall. Everything was Fillup. They made a big holler about the boy, Max,and they asks Elenbogen to lend 'em his fountain pen so the boy couldmake it birds on the back of the bill-off-fare. Elenbogen says hisfountain pen was put out of business ever since. Also, Sen insists ontaking the bill-off-fare away with him, and Elenbogen says Aaron feelsso set up about it he thought he would spit blood yet, the way hecoughs."
"That's a couple of foxy young fellers," Max said. "You could easy getaround a feller like Aaron Pinsky, Sam. He's a soft proposition."
Sam nodded and was about to voice another criticism of Aaron much lesscomplimentary in character, when the elevator door clanged and Aaronhimself entered the showroom.
"Well, boys," he said, "looks like we would get an early spring. Hereit is only February already and I feel it that the winter is prettynear over. I could always tell by my throat what the weather is goingto be. My cough lets up on me something wonderful, and with me that'salways what you would call a sign of spring."
"Might it's a sign that Miss Meyerson's medicine done you good, maybe,"Max commented.
"Well, certainly it ain't done me no harm," Aaron said. "I took sixbottles already, and though it ain't the tastiest thing in the world,y'understand, it loosens up the chest something wonderful."
He slapped himself in the region of the diaphragm and sat downdeliberately.
"However," he began, "I ain't come to talk to you about myself. I gotsomething else to say."
He paused impressively, while Max and Sam exchanged mournful glances.
"I come to talk to you about Fillup," he continued. "There's a boywhich he got it ability, y'understand. Five dollars a week is nothingfor a boy like that."
"Ain't it?" Max retorted. "Where could you find it a boy which is onlysix weeks in his first job and gets more, Aaron?"
Aaron waved his hand deprecatingly.
"I don't got to go very far away from here, Max," he said, "to find aconcern which would be willing to pay such a boy like Fillup tendollars a week, and that's twicet as much as five."
"But, Aaron----" Max began, when Sam Zaretsky rose to his feet andraised his hand in the solemn gesture of a traffic policeman at a busycrossing.
"Listen here to me, Aaron," Sam declared. "Always up to now you been agood friend to us. You bought from us goods which certainly we try ourbest to make up A Number One, and the prices also we made right. Inreturn you always paid us prompt to the day and you give us also awhole lot of advice, which we took it in the spirit in which it wasgiven us. That's all right, too."
He stopped for breath and wet his dry lips before he proceeded.
"Also," he continued, "when you come to us and wanted us we should takeon Fillup, Aaron, we didn't need him, y'understand, but all the same wetook him because always you was a good customer of ours, and certainly,Aaron, I got to say that the boy is a good boy and he is worth to us ifnot five dollars a week, anyhow four dollars a week."
There was an ominous silence in the showroom as Sam gave himselfanother rest before continuing his ultimatum.
"But," he went on, "when you come to us and tell us that Greenberg &Sen offers the boy ten dollars a week and that we should raise himalso, Aaron, all I got to say is--we wouldn't do it. Greenberg & Senwant your trade, Aaron; they don't want the boy. But if they got to paythe boy ten dollars a week, Aaron, then they would do so, and if it wasnecessary to pay him fifteen, they would do that, too. Then, Aaron,when you would buy goods off of them all they do is to add Fillup'swages to the price of the goods, y'understand, and practically he wouldwork for them for nothing, because the wages comes out of your pocket,Aaron, and not theirs."
"I never said nothing at all about Greenberg & Sen," Aaron blurted out.
"No one else would make such a proposition, Aaron," Sam said, "becauseno one else wants business so bad as that. Ourselves we could offer theboy ten dollars, too, and although we couldn't raise prices on you,Aaron, we could make it up by skimping on the garments; but we ain'tthat kind, Aaron. A business man is got to be on the level with hiscustomers, Aaron, otherwise he wouldn't be in business long; and youtake it from me, Aaron, these here two young fellers, Greenberg & Sen,would got to do business differencely or it would be quick good-byewith 'em, and don't you forget it."
Aaron Pinsky rose to his feet and gazed hard at Sam Zaretsky.
"Shall I tell you something, Sam?" he said. "You are sore at them twoboys because they quit you and goes into business by themselves. Ain'tit?"
"I ain't sore they goes into business, Aaron," Sam replied. "Everybodymust got to make a start, Aaron, and certainly it ain't easy for a newbeginner to get established, y'understand. Also competition iscompetition, Aaron, and we ourselves cop out a competitor's trade oncetin a while, too, Aaron, but Greenberg & Sen takes advantage, Aaron.They see that you are fond of that boy Fillup, and certainly it doesyou credit, because you ain't married and you ain't got no children ofyour own, Aaron. But it don't do them credit that they work you forbusiness by pretending that they want the boy because he is a smart boyand that they are going to pay him ten dollars a week because he'sworth it. No, Aaron; they don't want the boy in the first place, and inthe second place he ain't worth ten dollars a week, and in the thirdplace they ain't going to pay him ten dollars a week, because they willadd it to the cost of their garments; and, Aaron, if you want anyfourth, fifth, or sixth places I could stand here talking for an hour.But you got business to attend to, Aaron, and so you must excuse me."
He thrust his hands into his trousers-pockets and walked stolidlytoward the cutting room, while Aaron blinked in default of a suitablerejoinder.
"My partner is right, Aaron," Max said. "He is right, Aaron, even if heis the kind of feller that would throw me out of the window, supposingI says half the things to you as he did. But, anyhow, Aaron, that ain'tneither here nor there. You heard what Sam says, Aaron, and me, I stickto it also."
"You heard what Sam says, Aaron, and me, I stick to italso"]
Aaron blinked once or twice more and then he put on his hat.
"All right," he said. "All right."
He turned toward the front of the showroom where his nephew was sortingover a pile of garments.
"Fillup!" he bellowed. "You should put on your hat and coat and comewith me."
* * * * *
It was during the third month of Philip Pinsky's employment withGreenberg & Sen that Blaukopf, the druggist, insisted on a new coat ofwhite paint for the interior of his up-to-date store at the northwestcorner of Madison Avenue and One Hundred and Twenty-second Street. Hislandlord demurred at first, but finally, in the middle of June, apainter's wagon stopped in front of the store and Harris Shein, painterand decorator, alighted with two assistants. They conveyed into thestore pots of white lead and cans of turpentine, gasoline, and otherinflammable liquids used in the removal and mixing of paints. HarrisShein was smoking a paper cigarette, and one of the assistants,profiting by his employer's example, pulled a corncob pipe from hispocket. Then, after he had packed the tobacco down firmly with hisfinger, he drew a match across the seat of his trousers and forthwithhe began a three months' period of enforced abstinence fromhouse-painting and decorating. Simultaneously Blaukopf's plate-glassshow-window fell into the street, the horse ran away with the painter'swagon, a policeman turned in a fire alarm, three thousand children cameon the run from a radius of ten blocks, and Mr. Blaukopf's stock intrade punctuated the cremation of his fixtures with loud explosions atuncertain intervals. In less than half an hour the entire building wasgutted, and when the firemen withdrew their apparatus Mr. Blaukopfsearched in vain for his prescription books. They had resolvedthemselves into their original elements, and the number on the label ofthe bottle which Aaron carried around in his breast-pocket provided noclew to the ingredients of the medicine thus contained.
"That's a fine note," Aaron declared to Philip, as they surveyed theblack ruins the next morning. "Now what would I do? Without thatmedicine I will cough my face off already."
He examined the label of the bottle and sighed.
"I suppose I could go and see that Doctor Goldenreich," he said, "andright away I am out ten dollars."
"Why don't you ring up Miss Meyerson over at Zaretsky & Fatkin's?"Philip suggested.
Aaron sighed heavily. His business relations with Greenberg & Sen hadproved far from satisfactory, and it was only Philip's job and his ownsense of shame that prevented him from resuming his dealings withZaretsky & Fatkin.
As for Sam and Max, they missed their old customer both financially andsocially.
"Yes, Sam," Max said the day after Blaukopf's fire, "things ain't thesame around here like in former times already."
"If you mean in the office, Max," Sam said, "I'm glad they ain't.That's a fine bookkeeper we got it, Max, and a fine woman, too. Ain'tit a shame and a disgrace for young fellers nowadays, Max, that a finewoman like Miss Meyerson is already thirty-five and should be single?My Sarah is crazy about her. Her and Sarah goes to a matinee lastSaturday afternoon together and Sarah asks her to dinner to-morrow."
"With some bookkeepers, Sam," he said, "you couldn't do such things.Right away they would take advantage. Miss Meyerson, that's somethingelse again. She takes an interest in our business, Sam. Even a grouchlike Aaron Pinsky she treated good."
"I bet yer," Sam replied. "I seen Elenbogen in the subway this morningand he tells me Aaron goes around blowing about paying a thousanddollars to a professor uptown and he gives him a medicine which cureshis cough completely. I bet yer that's the same medicine which he gotit originally from Miss Meyerson."
"I bet yer," Max agreed as the telephone bell rang. Sam hastened toanswer it.
"Hallo!" he said. "Yes, this is Zaretsky & Fatkin. You want to speak toMiss Meyerson? All right. Miss Meyerson! Telephone!"
Miss Meyerson came from her office and took the receiver from Sam.
"Hello," she said. "Who is this, please?"
The answer made her clap her hand over the transmitter.
"It's Aaron Pinsky," she said to Max, and both partners sprang to theirfeet.
"What does he want?" Sam hissed.
Miss Meyerson waved them to silence and resumed her conversation overthe 'phone.
"Hello, Mr. Pinsky," she said. "What can I do for you?"
She listened patiently to Aaron's narrative of the fire in Blaukopf'sdrug store, and when he had concluded she winked furtively at heremployers.
"Mr. Pinsky," she said, "won't you repeat that over again? I didn'tunderstand it."
Once more Aaron explained the details of the prescription book'sincineration, and again Miss Meyerson winked.
"Mr. Pinsky," she said, "I can't make out what you say. Why don't youstop in here at twelve o'clock? Mr. Zaretsky is going to Newark and Mr.Fatkin will be out to lunch."
She listened carefully for a few minutes and then her face broke into abroad grin.
"All right, Mr. Pinsky," she concluded. "Good-bye."
She turned to her employers.
"He's coming here at twelve o'clock," she said. "He told me that thedrug store burnt down where he gets his cough medicine, and he wantsanother prescription. And I said I didn't understand him so as to gethim over here."
"Well, what good would that do?" Max asked.
"I don't know exactly," Miss Meyerson answered, "but I saw Mr. Pinskycoming out of Greenberg & Sen's last week and he looked positivelymiserable. I guess he's just as anxious to get back here as you are tohave him."
"Sure, I know," Max commented, "but we wouldn't pay that young feller,Fillup, ten dollars a week, and that's all there is to it."
"Perhaps you won't have to," said Miss Meyerson. "Perhaps if you leavethis thing to me I can get Pinsky to come back here and have Philipstay over to Greenberg & Sen's."
"Huh!" Max snorted. "A fine chance that boy got it to keep his job ifAaron Pinsky quits buying goods! They'll fire him on the spot."
"Then we'll take him in here again," Sam declared. "He'll be glad tocome back at the old figure, I bet yer."
"That's all right," Max grunted. "Never meld your cards till you seewhat's in the widder. First, Miss Meyerson will talk to him, and thenwe will consider taking back Fillup."
"Sure," Sam rejoined, "and you and me will go over to Wasserbauer's andwait there till Miss Meyerson telephones us."
It was precisely twelve when the elevator stopped at Zaretsky &Fatkin's floor. Aaron Pinsky alighted and walked on tiptoe to theoffice.
"Hallo, Miss Meyerson!" he said, extending his hand, "is any of theboys around?"
"They're both out," Miss Meyerson replied, shaking Aaron's profferedhand. "It looks like old times to see you back here."
"Don't it?" Pinsky said. "It feels like old times to me. Is the boysbusy?"
"Very," said Miss Meyerson. "We're doing twice the business that thebooks show we did a year ago."
"That's good," he said. "Them boys deserves it, Miss Meyerson. When youcome to consider it, Miss Meyerson, I got pretty good treatment here.The goods was always made up right and the prices also. I never had nocomplaint to make. But certainly a feller has got to look out for hisfamily, and so long as my nephew gets along good I couldn't kick ifoncet in a while Greenberg & Sen sticks me with a couple of garments.Last week they done me up good with eight skirts."
"And how is Philip?" Miss Meyerson asked.
"Miss Meyerson," Aaron began, "that boy is a good boy, y'understand,but somehow or another Greenberg & Sen don't take no interest in him atall. I don't think he learns much there, even though they did raise himtwo dollars last week."
"And how is your cough getting on, Mr. Pinsky?" Miss Meyersoncontinued.
"Since I ain't been taking the medicine it ain't been so good," Aaronannounced, and, as if in corroboration of his statement, he immediatelyentered upon a fit of coughing that well-nigh strangled him. After MissMeyerson had brought him a glass of water he repeated the narrative ofthe burned-out drug store and produced the bottle from hisbreast-pocket.
"That's too bad that the prescription was burned," Miss Meyerson said."I'll get another one from my cousin's husband to-night and bring itdown here to-morrow."
"Hold on there, Miss Meyerson," Aaron said. "To-morrow them boys mightbe in here, and I don't want to risk it."
"Why, they wouldn't bite you, Mr. Pinsky," she declared.
"Sure, I know. But the fact is I feel kind of funny about meeting 'emagain--just yet a while, anyhow."
"But, Mr. Pinsky," Miss Meyerson went on persuasively, "it's foolish ofyou to feel that way about it."
"Maybe it is," Aaron admitted, "but, just the same, Miss Meyerson, ifyou wouldn't think it fresh or anything, I'd like to come up and callon you to-night, if you don't mind, Miss Meyerson, and you could giveme the prescription then."
"Why, certainly," Miss Meyerson cried heartily. She turned to her deskand opened her handbag.
"Here's my card," she said. "I live with my cousin, Mrs. Goldenreich."
"Thanks; much obliged," Aaron murmured, pocketing the card. "I'll bethere at eight o'clock."
Once more he glanced furtively around him and then, with a finalhandshake, he started off on tiptoe for the stairs. As soon as hedisappeared Miss Meyerson took up the receiver.
"Ten-oh-four-oh, Harlem," she said.
"Hello," she continued, "is this you, Bertha? Well, this is Miriam.Will you send over to Reisbecker's and get a four-pound haddock? Nevermind what I want it for. I'm going to have company to-night. Yes,that's right, and I want to make some _gefuellte fische_. You say youhave plenty of onions? Well, then, I'll bring home ten cents' worth ofSpanish saffron and half a dozen fresh eggs. I'll make some _mohnkuchen_after I get home. Did my white silk waist come back from the cleaners?I don't care. You can't jolly me. Good-bye."
It was almost one o'clock before she remembered to telephone over toWasserbauer's, and when Sam and Max returned they dashed into theoffice and exclaimed: "Well?" with what the musical critics callsplendid attack.
"He's coming over to call on me to-night," Miss Meyerson replied with ablush, "and I'll see what I can do then."
"You see, Sam," Max commented, "I told you you shouldn't reckon up howmuch chickens you will got till the hen lays 'em."
Max Fatkin visited a buyer at an uptown hotel on his way to the officethe following morning, so that it was nearly nine before he entered hisshowroom. As he walked from the elevator he glanced toward MissMeyerson's desk. It was vacant.
"Sam," he cried, "where's Miss Meyerson?"
Sam Zaretsky emerged from behind a rack of skirts and shrugged hisshoulders.
"She's late the first time since she's been with us, Max," he replied.
"Might she is sick, maybe," Max suggested. "I'll ring up her cousin,the doctor, and find out."
"That's a good idee," Sam replied. Max was passing the elevator doorwhen it opened with a scrape and a clang.
"Hallo, Max!" a familiar voice cried.
Max turned toward the elevator and gasped, for it was Pinsky whostepped out. His wonder grew to astonishment, however, when he beheldAaron tenderly assisting Miss Meyerson to alight from the elevator.
"Good morning," she said. "I'm late."
"That's all right," Max cried. "Any one which is always so prompt likeyou has a right to be late oncet in a while."
He looked at Aaron shyly and wet his lips with his tongue.
"Well," he began, "how's the boy?"
"Fillup is feeling fine, _Gott sei dank_," Aaron replied. "But nevermind Fillup now. I come here because I got to tell you something, Max.Where's Sam?"
"Here I am, Aaron," Sam said, as he came fairly running from theshowroom. "And you don't got to tell us nothing, Aaron, because afeller could buy goods where he wants to. Always up to three months agoyou was a good friend to us, Aaron, and even if you wouldn't buynothing from us at all we are glad to see you around here oncet in awhile, anyhow."
"But, Sam," Aaron replied, "give me a chance to say something. Goods Iain't buying it to-day. I got other things to buy."
He turned to Miss Meyerson with a wide, affectionate grin on his kindlyface.
"Yes, Sam," he continued, "I got a two-and-a-half carat blue-whitesolitaire diamond ring to buy."
"What!" Sam cried, while Max gazed at Miss Meyerson with his eyesbulging.
"That's right," Aaron went on; "a feller ain't never too old to make ahome, and even if there would be ten years difference in our ages, tenyears ain't so much."
"Especially when it's nearer twenty," Sam added gallantly.
"Well, we won't quarrel about it," Aaron said. "The thing is, Max, thata woman ain't got no business in business unless she's got to, andMiriam ain't got to so long as I could help it. Yes, Sam, three monthsfrom to-day you and Max and Mrs. Fatkin and Mrs. Zaretsky would allcome to dinner at our house and Miriam would make the finest _gefuelltefische_ which it would fairly melt in your mouth."
"I congradulate you, Miss Meyerson," Sam said. "We are losing the bestbookkeeper which we ever got."
"Well, that's all right, Sam," Aaron cried. "You know where you couldalways get another. Fillup ain't going to hold that job with themsuckers any longer."
"And since we aren't going to be married for two months yet," MissMeyerson added, "I'll keep my position here and break Philip into hisnew job."
"That suits us fine," Sam declared. "And to show you we ain't small wewill start him at the same money what we pay Miss Meyerson--fifteendollars a week."
Aaron turned toward the two partners and extended both his hands.
"Boys," he said, "I don't know what I could say to you."
"Don't say nothing," Max interrupted. "The boy is worth it, otherwisewe wouldn't pay it. Business is business."
"I know it, boys," he said; "but a business man could have also aheart, ain't it?"
"And you boys," Aaron concluded, "you got a heart, too, believe me.What a heart you got it! Like a watermelon!"
He looked at Miss Meyerson for an approving smile and, having receivedit, he gave final expression to his emotions of friendship andgratitude in the worst coughing-spell of his asthmatic career.
The Competitive Nephew by Montague Glass / Humor have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on16 votes