The Romance of a Busy Broker – Intermediate Level
Pitcher, who worked in the office of Harvey Maxwell, stockbroker, looked up in surprise. His employer, Mr Maxwell, arrived at work at half past nine in company with his young secretary. “Good morning, Pitcher,” said Maxwell as he rushed over to his desk as though he were planning to jump over it. Then he quickly sat down and started to go through the large pile of letters and other papers waiting there for him.
The secretary had worked for Maxwell for a year. She was very beautiful, but always dressed plainly in a respectful, business-like way. She didn’t wear jewelry or fancy hair styles. Her dress was grey and plain, but it fitted her figure very well. The only unusual thing she wore was small, black hat in which there was the gold-green wing of a bird. On this morning she looked as if something was shining inside her. Her eyes were bright and dreamy. Her cheeks were pink, and she looked very happy.
As Pitcher watched her, he noticed a difference in her ways this morning. She did not go straight into the next room, where her desk was. She stood and waited, as if she was not sure what to do. Then she moved over closer to Maxwell’s desk, near enough for him to see that she was there. But the person sitting at that desk was no longer a man. He was a busy New York stockbroker, working like a machine.
“Well, what is it? Anything?” asked Maxwell sharply. Opened letters covered his desk like snow. He looked up, and she could see from his cold, grey eyes that he was in a hurry to get back to his work.
“Nothing,” answered the secretary, moving away with a little smile.
“Mr Pitcher,” she said, “did Mr Maxwell say anything yesterday about employing another secretary?”
“He did,” answered Pitcher. “He told me to get another one. I called the agency yesterday afternoon and asked them send some for us to look over this morning. It’s nearly ten o’clock, but none have showed up yet.”
“I will do the work as usual, then,” said the young woman, “until someone comes to fill the place.” She went to her desk at once and hung the black hat with the gold-green bird wing in its usual place.
Working as a New York stockbroker is one of the busiest jobs in the world. Every minute of every hour is crowded with things that must be done. And this day was an unusually busy day for Harvey Maxwell.
Next to Maxwell’s desk was a machine. From it came a long, endless stream of paper which brought him stock prices as they changed. The telephone seemed to ring every minute. Men came into the office with orders to buy and sell stock. Some spoke to him politely, others shouted with anger or excitement. Boys ran in and out with messages that had to be answered at once.
There were big things happening in the business world that day, and each of these was felt in the broker’s offices. The people working in the office were running around like sailors during a storm. Even Pitcher’s usually calm expression showed some of the pressure. Maxwell put his chair against the wall so that he could move about. He jumped from machine to phone, from desk to door like a highly trained dancer.
In the middle of all this action came a woman. Her golden hair was piled high on her head. On top of it sat a large hat covered in birds’ wings. She was wearing a fur jacket and long chain with a silver heart at the end that almost touched the floor.
“A woman from the secretary’s agency to see about the position,” said Pitcher.
Maxwell turned half around, with his hands full of papers.
“What position?” he asked, as if he did not understand.
“Position of secretary,” said Pitcher. “You told me yesterday to call them up and have one sent over this morning.”
“You are losing your mind, Pitcher,” said Maxwell. “Why should I have given you any such instructions? Miss Leslie has given perfect satisfaction during the year she has been here. The job is hers as long as she chooses to work here. There’s no place open here. Call the agency, Pitcher, and tell them not to send any more of them here.”
The silver heart angrily left the office, moving from side to side and making a noise as it hit against the office furniture. “Mr Maxwell seems to get more forgetful every day,” said Pitcher quietly to one of the other staff.
The day got busier and busier. A number of stocks in which Maxwell’s customers were heavy investors were in trouble. Orders to buy and sell were coming in every minute. Some of Maxwell’s own investments were in danger. The man was working like a powerful machine. He had to be fast, making instant decisions all day. This was the world of finance, and there was no room in it for the human world or the world of nature.
As the time for lunch drew near things began to get quieter.
Maxwell stood by his desk with his hands full of paper, with a pen over his right ear and his hair hanging over his forehead. His window was open. It was Spring and the weather was getting warmer. And through the window came a sweet smell of flowers. But it did not come from a garden below. This scent belonged to Miss Leslie; it was her own, and hers only.
The scent made him think of her. The world of finance seemed less and less important. Although she was in the next room, twenty steps away, it seemed as if she was standing right there in front of him.
“I’ll do it now,” said Maxwell to himself. “I’ll ask her now. I can’t understand why I didn’t do it long ago.”
He rushed into the inner office and stopped beside the desk of the secretary.
She looked up at him with a smile. Her round eyes were kind and honest. A soft pink color came over her cheeks.
Maxwell leaned one elbow on her desk. His hands were still full of paper, and the pen was above his ear.
“Miss Leslie,” he began hurriedly, “I have but a moment of free time. I want to say something in that moment. Will you be my wife? I haven’t had time to make love to you in the ordinary way, but I really do love you. Talk quickly, please – I must get back to work.”
“Oh, what are you talking about?” cried the young woman. She stood up and looked at him in surprise.
“Don’t you understand?” said Maxwell. “I want you to marry me. I love you, Miss Leslie. I wanted to tell you, and I took a minute out of my day when things were quieter. They’re calling me to the phone now. Tell them to wait a minute, Pitcher. Won’t you, Miss Leslie?”
The secretary acted very strangely. At first it seemed that she did not understand. Then she began to cry. Smiling through the tears, she put one of her arms lovingly about the broker’s neck and pulled him towards her.
“I know now,” she said, softly. “It’s this old business that has driven everything else out of your head for the time. I was frightened at first. Don’t you remember, Harvey? We were married at 8 o’clock last night in the little church around the corner.”