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OUR SHORT STORY.I

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OUR SHORT STORY. I FOR A GREATER REWARD. I By MAY WYNNE I "Of course, I understand. Good-day, sir.' f Aline Helton looked up. A man, sun- tanned, and with that look of lean hardness which talked so plainly of hard overseas service, nad come limping out from the Chief's sanctum. The clerks at Messrs. Hudstall Bros, always called Mr. James Hudstall the Chief." ef. The lame man came down the outer office »lowly. He held himself very erect, but there was a look iii those very blue eyes of his which held suffering. He glanced once towards the .desk whore Aline eat. Thet Morice, one of the clej-ks who sat near the -tioor, got up and shook hands. After a while they went out together. Aline's lingers rested idly on her type- writer. She wondered what that nice-look- ing man had been raying to the Chief. He didn't, get what lie w wted, I'm sure," she thought. "I'm sorry, for ho Jooked nice." Then the Chief's bell rang, and she had to hurry off to take down some shorthand notes. It was not till the evening, when she and Ralph Morice chanced to be walking together to the Tube station, that she asked a question. "Who was the man who came to see Mr. Hudstall this morning? lIe looked so dis- appointed." Morice grimaced ruefully. "Oh, Robin nent Poor chap! He'd had hit of a knock-out. Came home with d permanently crooked knee to find his placet; tilled up." Aline looked a trifle anxious. "Was lie ever at the officer" "Yes." "He's sure to get another clerkship, isn't he0 A better "Not. by any means a dead cert. There are not many vacant stools in the City at present. ^.011 fee—or—lady clerks are a new innovation He couldn't help saying that. But Aline had already guessed it. She happened to have a cousin who for long had been "rubbing it in" about the womnn problem, and how, if the sex wanted to dc the thing gracefully, it woulJ. retire to its proper sphere. Aline's cheeks began to burn. A horrible suspicion crept over her. "You mean——" she .stammered. "Oh. you don't mean I have got his desk"" Morice looked uncomfortable. He wished he had gone on ahead this evening. But facts are facts, and he had not been feeling -very friendly towards Miss Helton to-day. "It was his desk-—before the war," he con fessod. "01 course, I don't mean it is your fault in tne least. You 're better at short- hand than Dent, and a quicker typist. Only it is a bit rOlloh on a fellow. And his mater is an invalid now. Health broken down. They are both tremendous patriots, and it look s now as though a grateful coun- try is going to give them the go-by." He merely blamed the country because he didn't quite like to rub it in too much about the women taking "the boys jobs from them. "I suppose I'd better hurry, "said Alin: "or I'll miss the connection. Good evening, Mr. Morice." He looked after her, feeling sore and angry. You bet, she means to hang on," he mut- tered; "they re all alike—selfish crow! 1 expect she only took up clerk's work because she was bored at home." But the next day he regretted rash judg- ment, for a rumour was going round the office. Aline Helton had been in to the Chief and resigned her post. She was leaving at the -end of the week. Morice was on thorns all day to ask Aline if it were true. He couldn't believe it. But it was true. She confessed at once, regarding the questioner with something like scorn in her brown eyes. You don't think I could have been &r' mean as to keep the berth which belonged to, one of our heroes? And disabled, too! I told Mr. Hudstall why I was going, and in the end I believe he thought I was right. He said he had been placed in rather a quandary, as he wished to be fair to me." Morice held out his hand. "You ripper;" he said. Please excuse the slang, "but thi-rc is no other word which quite describes you. -It's splendid! All I can say is if the women are coming out of it like this we shall take off our hats to them in a way we never thought of doing before. Talk of pkying the game He grew qui to excited over it; but Alino laughed—a queer little jerky laugh. I would have been a brute if I'd done. any- thing else," she replied. "And I suppose," hinted Morice, "you'll give up work now?" She was again in a hurry to catch her train. "Not exactly," she replied. It was not till after Aline Helton had left the office that her fellow-clerks began to discuss her action. They had the grace not to allow Robin Dent to hear them. Robin had come joyously back to his old desk, and had had a hearty welcome from the stall'—new and old. Even Mr. Hudstall declared hel was glad Dent was back again. But Morice was not quite at ease about Miss Helton. In a glow of admiratioi: Aline's girl chuin, Bessie Foyle. had con- fided in Morice. "I don't know why Miss Helton left," she "I don't. 1,.iiow why said; "but I think it must have been to make room for Mr. Dent. She's so awfully "c)or, you see, her people—or rather her lather is a curate in Yorkshire. My folk live near. We often say that the little Hel- tons take it in turn to have dinner once a week. I know Aline left home and came to digs in town so that there was one mouth less to feed at home. And now she's toe proud to go home—or too unselfish. The worst of .it is, she's left her lodging, and 1 can't trace her. There! I don't suppose I have any right to tell you this." Morice thought she had a perfect right, but he did not like the story about Miss Helton at all. He had pictured her home a snug little place in the suburbs, which she had loft. He and Dent went out to luncheon every day to th'e nearest A.B.C. shop. It was on his way back to the oliiee one afternoon that he met Aline. He stopped her at once and introduced Dent. "What's the present job?" he asked Aline. She looked thin and tired-; her painful -flush told its own tale. "Not got cnc yet," &he said lightly; "but I shall. I by-by next week." J shall. I hope to by—by next week." d She passed on, leaving Morice dismayed. "Pretty girl," commented Dent. "Pal of yours?" In the fullness of his heart Morice told the tale. Robert Dent was horrified. "Lock here," he stormed. "Something must be dene. She'll be starving Poor -el,ild-.sh(-, cnh- looks a kid—and I've taken the bread out of her mout II" Morice laughed ruefully. "It is aa frost." he replied, "but how can we find her?" When they get back to 'ev ap- pealed to Besmo Povle. Morice always went to Bessie in his troubles. She was one of the girl clerks whom he felt would never be out of place. But that may have been be- cause he was in love with her Bessie enthused at once. "You needn't look as if you'd committed murder," she told Robin. "Wero sure to find her, but what then? You can't find her an office stool "She will have her own," growled Dent. "What do you think?" Bessie smiled. "That you a.re rather a brick she confessed. But the finding of Alino took longer than Bessie bargained for, and when at latri't sho roponted success her pretty face was grave. "It was about time 1 did find her," she tiaid. "She's nearly starved herself to death. Poor old Allie! And I cxpoct h'¡¡ been writing home to say she feeds on the I' fat of the land." Robin Dent groaned. "What can he asked. It was Robin's mother who answered the I question. Robin's mother was one of those people who always seem to have sensible sugges- tions to meet a difficulty. "Miss Beadle was asking me if I knew of ,a really nice companion," she said. "It will be just the place for this brave little girl. I will go to Park House at once." And everything "arranged itself." Robin hoped she was happy. Ho hoped so to the extent of calling at Park House on every possible occasion tc put the question to Aline. They were friends at once, though Aline had been so terribly embarrassed when he tried to thank her for her sacrifice that he had desisted. "loii't it a pity." quoth Robin slyly, "that instead of 'downing tools' the busi- ness can't be settled after your example? If women only knew He paused. "Knew what?" asked Aline innocently. "The way to a man's heart," he concluded. Aline was smiling. How like a man'. "Perhaps they don't want to know, she hinted. Robin felt that he had blundered badly. Why on earth- dou't care if they do or don't." said he; "it's only you-IAJine. you're laugh- ing, dear! And if you only knew how I'd rehe-arsed it all—worked it oitt--to say- only I forot-one does forget when one's life's happiness is wrapped up in it. But "After all," whispered Aline, as he drew her close, "it is the best way of solving the problem, isn't it? Only, Robin, you haven't clearly explained He stooped to kiss her. "You won my homage," he said, "by what you did, you brave, true woman. But you won my love for what you are-the dearest—the ■" But the rest was only for the hearing of the one woman in the world.

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