"I don't believe any Intelligence Office in creation could do anything for a man like that," sneered the Bibliomaniac. "What that young man needs is a good sound spanking, and I'd like to give it to him."
"All right," said the Doctor with a laugh. "I'll see that you have the chance. If you'll go out to my sister's with me some time next week I'll introduce you to Bill and you can begin."
"Why don't you do it yourself, Doctor?" asked the Idiot, noting the twinkle in the Doctor's eye.
"I'm too busy," laughed the Doctor. "Besides I only weigh one hundred and twenty pounds and Bill is six feet two inches high and weighs two hundred and ten pounds stripped. I think if I were armed with a telegraph pole and Bill with only a tooth-pick as a weapon of defense he could thrash me with ease. However, if Mr. Bib wants to try it—"
"Send Bill to us, Doctor," said the Idiot. "I sort of like Bill and I'll bet the University Intelligence Office will get him a job in forty-eight hours. A man who is willing to mote or Edit has an adaptability that ought to locate him permanently somewhere."
"I don't quite see," said Mr. Brief, "just how you are going to work your scheme, Mr. Idiot. I must confess I should regard Bill as a pretty tough proposition."
"Not at all," said the Idiot. "The only trouble with Bill is that he hasn't found himself yet. He's probably one of those easy-going, popular youngsters who've devoted their college days to growing. Just at present he's got more vitality than brains. I imagine from his answer to the Doctor that he is a good-natured hulks who could get anything he wanted in college except a scholarship. I haven't any doubt that he was beloved of all his classmates and was known to his fellows as Old Hoss, or[Pg 1730] Beefy Bill or Blue-eyed Billie and could play any game from Muggins to Pit like a hero of a Bret Harte romance."
"You've sized Bill up all right," said the Doctor. "He is just that, but he has brains. The only trouble is he's been saving them up for a rainy day and now when the showers are beginning he doesn't know how to use 'em. How would you go about getting him a job, Mr. Idiot?"
"Bill ought to go into the publishing business," said the Idiot. "He was cut out for a book-agent. He has a physique which, to begin with, would command respectful attention for anything he might have to say concerning the wares he had to sell. He seems to have, from your brief description of him, that suavity of manner which would surely secure his admittance into the houses of the elite, and his sense of humor I judge to be sufficiently highly developed to enable him to make a sale wherever he felt there was the remotest chance. Is he handsome?"
"I am told he looks like me," said the Doctor, pleasantly.
"Oh, well," rejoined the Idiot, "good looks aren't essential after all. It would be better though if he were a man of fine presence. If he's big and genial, as you suggest, he can carry off his deficiencies in personal pulchritude."
The Doctor flushed a trifle. "Oh, Bill isn't so plain," he observed airily. "There's none of your sissy beauty about Bill, I grant you, but—oh, well"—here the Doctor twirled his mustache complacently.
"I should think the place for Bill would be on the trolley," sneered the Bibliomaniac.
"No, sir," returned the Idiot. "Never. Geniality never goes on the trolley. In the first place it isn't appreciated by the Management and in the second place it is a dan[Pg 1731]gerous gift for a motor-man. I had a friend once—a college graduate of very much Bill's kind—who went on the trolley as a Conductor at seven dollars a week and, by Jingo, would you believe it, all his friends waited for his car and of course he never asked any of 'em for their fare. Gentlemen, he used to say, welcome to my car. This is on me."
"Swindled the Company by letting his friends ride free, eh?" said the Bibliomaniac.
"Never," said the Idiot. "Pete was honest and he rung 'em up same as anybody and of course had to settle with the Treasurer at the end of the trip. On his first month he was nine dollars out. Then he couldn't bring himself to ask a lady for money, and if a passenger looked like a sport Pete would offer to match him for his fare—double or quits. Consequence was he lost money steadily. All the hard luck people used to ride with him, too, and one night—it was a bitter night in December and everybody in the car was pretty near frozen—Pete stopped his car in front of the Fifth Avenue Hotel and invited everybody on board to come in and have a wee nippy. All except two old ladies and a Chinaman accepted and of course the reporters got hold of it, told the story in the papers and Pete was bounced. I don't think the average college graduate is quite suited by temperament for the trolley service."
"All of which is intensely interesting," observed the Bibliomaniac, "but I don't see how it helps to make your University Intelligence Office Company convincing."
"It helps in this way," explained the Idiot. "We shall have a Board of Inspectors made up of men with some knowledge of human nature who will put these thousands of young graduates through a cross-examination to find out just what they can do. Few of 'em have the slightest[Pg 1732] idea of that and they'll gladly pay for the assistance we propose to give them when they have discovered that they have taken the first real step toward securing a useful and profitable occupation. If a Valedictorian comes into the University Intelligence Office and applies for a job we'll put him through a third degree examination and if we discover in him those restful qualities which go to the making of a good plumber, we'll set about finding him a job in a plumbing establishment. If a Greek Salutatorian in search of a position has the sweep of arm and general uplift of manner that indicates a useful career as a window-washer, we will put him in communication with those who need just such a person."
"How about the coldly supercilious young man who knows it all and wishes to lead a life of elegant leisure, yet must have wages?" asked the Bibliomaniac. "Our Colleges are turning out many such."
"He's the easiest proposition in the bunch," replied the Idiot. "If they were all like that our fortunes would be established in a week."
"In what way?" persisted the Bibliomaniac.
"In two ways," replied the Idiot. "Such persons are constantly in demand as Janitors of cheap apartment houses which are going up with marvelous rapidity on all sides of us, and as Editors of ten-cent magazines, of which on the average there are, I believe, five new ones started every day of the year, including Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays."
"I say, Mr. Idiot," said the Doctor later. "That was a bully idea of yours about the University Intelligence Office. It would be a lot of help to the thousands of youngsters who are graduated every year—but I don't think it's practicable just yet. What I wanted to ask you is if you could help me with Bill?"
Certainly I can," said the Idiot.
"Really?" cried the Doctor.
"Yes, indeed," said the Idiot. "I can help you a lot."
"How? What shall I do?" asked the Doctor.
"Take my advice," whispered the Idiot. "Let Bill alone. He'll find himself. You can tell that by his answer."
"Oh!" said the Doctor, lapsing into solemnity. "I thought you could give me a material suggestion as to what to do with the boy."
"Ah! You want something specific, eh?" said the Idiot.
"Yes," said the Doctor.
"Well—get him a job as a Campaign Speaker. This is a great year for the stump," said the Idiot.
"That isn't bad," said the Doctor. "Which side?"
"Either," said the Idiot. "Or both. Bill has adaptability and, between you and me, from what I hear on the street both sides are going to win this year. If they do, Bill's fortune is made."