2018年08月30日

The law business of which I am the head


But he stopped short. If this girl were destined to the good fortune of becoming Mrs. Leitzel, she must have no idea of the size of his income. Nobody had, not even his sisters. He often smiled in secret at his mental picture of the astonishment and delight of Jennie and Sadie if suddenly told the exact figures; and certainly his wife was the last person in the world who must know. It might make her extravagant.

"The annual earnings of our law-firm," he changed the form of his sentence, "are sufficient to enable me to invest some money every year, after paying the twenty-five lawyers and clerks in my employ salaries ranging from twenty-five hundred dollars a year down to five dollars a week. So you see my 'goal' was not little."

"I suppose even your five-dollar-a-week clerks have to be especially equipped, don't they?" Margaret asked, with what seemed to him stupid irrelevance, since he was looking for an exclamation of wonder and admiration at the figures stated.

"Of course, we employ only experienced stenographers," he curtly replied.

"This specializing of our modern life, narrowing one's interests to just one point; one can't help wondering what effect it's going to have upon the race."

"Eugenics," Daniel nodded intelligently. "You are interested in eugenics?" he politely inquired. "It's quite a fad these days, isn't it, among the ladies, and even among some gentlemen, if one can believe the newspapers."

"It's not my fad," said Margaret.

"You like children, I hope?" he quickly asked.

"Do I look like a woman who doesn't?" she protested, not, of course, following his train of thought. She rose, as she spoke, and went across the room to turn down a hissing gas-jet. Daniel's eyes followed her graceful, leisurely walk down the length of the room, and as she raised her arm above her head, he took in the delicate curve of her bosom, her rather broad, boyish shoulders, the clear, rich olive hue of her skin. The specialist he had consulted years ago had said that a clear olive skin meant not only perfect health, but a warm temperament that loved children.



"Well, naturally," she said.

"Yes, I suppose so, with such a library as this in the house. It belongs to—to you?"

"What? The books?" she vaguely repeated. "They go, of course, with the house. Do you accomplish much reading outside of your profession, Mr. Leitzel?"

"No."

"Not even an occasional novel?"

"I never read novels. I did read 'Ivanhoe' at Harvard in the freshman English course. But that's the only one."

Margaret stared for an instant, then recovered herself. "I see now," she said, "why you have done what they call 'made good.' You have specialized, excluding from your life every other possible interest save that one little goal of your ambition."

"'Little goal?' Not very little, Miss Berkeley! earns a yearly income of——"


"Anyway," thought Daniel with a hot impulse the like of which his slow blood had never known, "she's the woman I want! I believe I'd want her if she didn't have a dollar!"

It was upon this reckless conclusion that, when she had returned to her seat, he suddenly decided to put a question to her that would better be settled before he allowed his feelings to carry him too far.

"But," thought he as he looked at her, "I've got to put it cautiously and—and delicately."

"Miss Berkeley?"

"Yes, Mr. Leitzel?"

"I've been thinking of buying myself an automobile."

"Have you?"

"A very handsome and expensive one, you know."

"Ah!"

"Yes. But now I'm hesitating after all."

"Are you?"

"Yes. Because there's another expense I may have to meet. I'm going to ask you a question. Which, in a general way, do you think would cost more to keep—an automobile or—or a—well, a wife?"

"Oh, an automobile!" laughed Margaret.

Daniel grinned broadly as he gazed at her; evidently she suspected the delicate drift of his idea and was advising him for her own advantage. Nothing slow about her!

"Wives are cheap compared to automobiles," she insisted.

"You really think so?" He couldn't manage to keep from his voice a slight note of anxiety. "Living here with your married sister, you are in a position to judge."



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