Page images
PDF
EPUB

thought you had more courage, Alicia."

"I'm not afraid!" she exploded. "No? It takes some hardihood to be Bluebeard's fourth wife."

She reddened helplessly. "Matthew, if you knew how ashamed I am! Oh, no, it wasn't fair. It was rotten. You-you haven't the technique of Bluebeard, anyway. . . . But, you see, I can't help saying things like that. I couldn't stop even if I married you. Oh, I wouldn't say them about you, of course; but about other people. And that would ruin you." "Too bad," said Leashe. "For of course I'm the one person it couldn't ruin. Whenever you'd think up a good line I could use it in one of my plays. I need all I can get. Too bad."

"Well!" said Alicia. "You don't seem to think much of my reasons. Let's hear yours."

He shrugged. "I'd hardly be offering you a unique compliment, if I asked you to marry me. Almost everybody has married me, at one time or another. . . . But you're not like the others."

Damn

Alicia's heart fluttered. Damn the silly thing, she thought furiously, and tried to keep her hands from trembling as she asked him:

"Why not?"

"Well-it's a delicate thing to say, but perfectly true. They all-more They all-more or less went after me. Rather as a sport, you see. It's no news that they all found me rather disappointing; but that was a chance they deliberately chose to take. But you-"

"Well, if you found me equally disappointing it would hardly be fair. Because I did all of this myself.”

"You- Why, Matthew! Listen. I'm exactly like all the others. I went after you. It gave me a thrill of triumph to-to break through that shell and find you so perfectly sweet and delightful. I started this just—just to see if I were still young enough and attractive enough to start anything. It's all artificialsynthetic-cultivated. Any woman could have done it. And I won't be like the others. If you-if you purr like a cat when anybody strokes you, it isn't fair to take advantage of you."

"I see you've been talking to Aunt Regina," he informed her. "Though that was my line originally, about the cat. I invent so few that I insist on getting the credit, when I do think of something clever. Well, if you started this, Alicia, you're certainly a good starter."

"Oh, I know," she said miserably. "You thrill and tingle and see everything in bright colors—and so do I. But I made you feel that way, and I'm not going to be mean enough to marry you like those other women. You're too nice."

"I don't see that at all," he observed. (His composure was infuriating.) "No matter how it was started-there it is. Any woman might have done it, perhaps, last night. No other woman could do it now. Suppose it was artificial and synthetic. How many things ever happen of their own accord? Somebody has to start them; but if they

"Yes?" Alicia queried, in madden- work, who cares?" ing suspense.

"Who cares?" she repeated weakly,

wondering if she dared to believe would be nastier than all the rest

there was a way out.

because it's true. You're a sentimentalist-a shameless raw senti

"Why, that's utter nonsense, Alicia. That isn't the reason why it mentalist." won't do."

"Oh!" she said. "Well, why, then-for Heaven's sake?"

"Well-you say I purr whenever anybody pets me. If you married me, and some other woman tried to be nice to me—"

Alicia straightened up.

"Well! I'd like to see anybody I mean, if it came to a competition in encouraging purrs-Matthew, you certainly don't think I'd let That Dreadful Woman take you away from me."

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"So are you!"

"So am I," he agreed. "And we'd certainly be laughed out of town, both of us, if we didn't keep that secret-in the family. . . . Yet you were going to let me go because you wanted that final sentimental thrill of self-sacrifice. It won't do, my dear. Let me go by all means, if—"

"If?" (Her tortured couldn't stand much more.)

nerves

"If you can look me in the eye and say you want to."

"You know I'm crazy about you," said Alicia weakly.

"I do now," he admitted with visible relief. "But I could never have been sure if—"

She straightened up; now that the tension was over, her black eyes were snapping again, with amusement and a little anger, and a reluctant admiration.

"Matthew! I do believe you've been using a technique on me."

He grinned, like a cat-a cat that has just swallowed a particularly toothsome canary.

"I'm an experienced playwright," he told her. "It takes technique to bring out the-er-hidden merits of an unsympathetic character."

W

A REVIEW AND SOME REMARKS

With the United States Steel Corporation as a Background

ELBERT H. GARY

WITHIN the last twenty-five years there has been a noteworthy change in the standards and practices of American business. A new technique of morality has been evolved. Even to-day many well-intentioned and fairminded men and women are incredulous when they are told that business, large or small, involves delicate decisions as well as broad questions of ethics. Yet thousands upon thousands of business men all over this country, who as short a time ago as the beginning of this century were frankly skeptical whether ethics had any rightful place in business conduct, now assert that it is essential and controlling.

The managers of some large private corporations, a score or so of years ago, apparently believed that if their conduct was within the strict technical regulations of the law, it was immune from public or private criticism; that if no legal provision were actually violated, a corporation should be free to accumulate unlimited profits and might indeed treat with indifference its customers, its employees, its competitors, and the general public. In consonance with that unsound reasoning, not a few officials were inclined to take advantage of inside advance information to

promote their own pecuniary interests, to the prejudice of shareholders. In such cases moral principles were ignored. Competition was ruthless, tyrannical, and destructive. Weaker rivals were forced to the wall and destroyed, often by means not only unethical but brutal. The financially strong grew stronger and richer. Employees did not receive just consideration; wage rates were adjusted in strict accordance with supply and demand in the labor market, without regard to humane considerations; and employees themselves, as might have been expected, were governed by ideas which were entirely selfish, and in many cases arbitrary, unreasonable, and cruel.

Conditions such as these brought hardship to the general purchasing and consuming public. In the long run the costs of production and distribution were heightened, and they were then, as they must always be, passed on to those whose necessities compelled them to purchase and use commodities. The ultimate consumer paid the extra cost due to friction, misunderstanding, and ill-will in the industrial world.

Business throughout the United States is transacted to-day on a higher plane. Several forces have been in play to effect the change.

In some instances the motives were not so worthy as in others, yet they were practical and influential with many who would not have been converted otherwise to higher standards, for ethical management brings additional profits to business. Sooner or later it pays in dollars and cents.

Public opinion has aroused and probably always will arouse the consciences of men and women. Our sleep is broken, our digestion interrupted when we oppose the will of the majority; and we cannot long enjoy life in the face of public disfavor. We dread the condemnation of the general public, especially if there is reason for it. This is true of most persons. It must be admitted that in the past business men have not always been just in their treatment of others. Some have been selfish and arrogant, occasionally giving good ground for complaint. It is not certain that business men have always treated their employees exactly right, or that employees have always been paid adequate compensation for their services. If it be said that employers have paid as much as their business would afford, the answer is, the producer should have charged more for his commodities, and the general purchasing public should have shared the burden of increased wages.

Business affairs are conducted now in accordance with the avowed belief that right is superior to might, that morality looms as large as legality, and that a due observance of both is essential to worthy achievement; that the rights of the customer must always be respected; that employees are business associates, and should be treated accordingly; that the stock

holders in a corporation as well as all its officers are entitled to any information of value, immediately upon its receipt by any officer or partner; and that in no circumstances should there be preferential rights or opportunities, but, on the other hand, full and prompt publicity of all facts involving the public welfare or interest.

It is encouraging to note that the outlook, not only in the United States but throughout the world, is wholly changed. The present view is the antithesis of that which prevailed a quarter of a century ago. The seeming disposition of leaders in all nations is toward harmony of action. This augurs progress and prosperity. It means a higher world level of morals, a decrease of poverty, and an increase of the general comfort. The millennium has not arrived; we probably shall not see it in the near future; but conditions everywhere are improving. People on the average are growing better; in every department of human activity, in thought, in reading, in study, the world is made better and richer by a greater honesty of motive and intention. If one should ask whether there is a panacea for the ills that sometimes appear in the moral, social, political, and economic life of the nation, the answer would be:

"Yes, by the general adoption and practice of the golden rule."

It may be protested that this is impracticable. You may be sure that any one who makes such a protest has his neighbor in mind, not himself. There is no other rule of action that will insure perfection. Every one remembers when might was right, when jealousy, discord,

and brutal antagonism prevailed, to the loss and suffering of all those engaged in the strife, and to the distress and impoverishment of the innocent by-stander.

That time has passed. Our minds and hearts have awakened to a realization that others in business are possessed of the same sensibilities as ourselves, and we have tried with success the experiment of treating our competitors as friends and companions, rather than as enemies. We now understand that except for a spirit of coöperation, born of fair and honest methods, many of us would have impoverished the owners of the properties put into our hands for management.

23

On April 1, 1901, about twenty-six years ago, the United States Steel Corporation, as a completed organization, established offices and opened its books. The stockholders and the general public have been informed in great detail by its regular reports, published annually and quarterly from the beginning, of the growth and volume of its business, the extensions it has made and the physical condition of its properties, its financial resources and balances.

The iron and steel industry has long been known as the barometer of trade. That statement is probably justified. Occasionally the industry is the thermometer of conditions as well; it is like the mercury moving up and down in accordance with the weather; and that is the saddest and one of the most serious things about it. Why, we ask ourselves, are we not always successful in our business? I offer the suggestion that, to a greater or less extent, it is because of

lack of confidence in one another. Often we do not credit fully what our business neighbors say. We suspect they are moved solely by selfish considerations, and possibly this may be true; but do we not overlook the fact that it may be just as true of ourselves?

Possibly the worst disease that affects the business structure, at least in the United States, is the abnormal and unnecessary timidity, the ill poised mental attitude, of business men themselves. The substance and form of statements concerning present conditions and future business prospects often greatly affect progress and success. There is a right way and a wrong way of stating a fact for consideration. Those who are well advised ponder what they say. It is just as proper to say, "We consider that business is good; it is up to eighty per cent of producing capacity," as it is to say, "We consider that business is bad; it is down to eighty per cent of producing capacity."

The substance is the same, whichever form is used. No difference of net return is involved. Yet the psychological effect on those who hear the two statements may be quite different.

A robust faith in the good intention and integrity of one's fellows, and a tranquil confidence in the continued well-being of this richly endowed country, should be a part of every business leader's equipment. The lack of these qualities amounts, as I have said, to a disease, and must bear its share of blame for whatever failures American business has suffered. It should be remembered that business is not confined to cor

« PreviousContinue »