‘Not below that drawing account figure. '
‘Even if the business loses money? '
‘Even if it loses money. Yes, that's part of the proposal. '
‘Briney, just what is it he is selling you? You are contracting - will be contracting if you accept - to support him indefinitely -‘
‘No, just twelve years. His life expectancy. '
‘If he dies, it ends? Hmm! Does he know about my great aunt Borgia? '
‘No, it doesn't end if he dies, so get that gleam out of your eye. If he dies, it goes to his estate. '
‘Ali right, twelve years. You support him for twelve years. What do you get out of it? '
‘Well. .. I receive a going business. Its files, its records, and, principally, its goodwill. I'll have the right to use the name "Fones and Smith, Mining Consultants". ' He stopped.
‘What else? ' I asked.
‘The office furniture and the lease. You've seen the office. '
Yes, I had. Down in the west bottoms, across from International Harvester. In the spring flood of 1903 when the Missouri River again failed to turn that comer and tried to run up the Kaw almost to Lawrence, Briney had to go to work in a row boat. I had wondered then why a mining company would be down there - no mining in the west bottoms, just black mud clear down to China. And the heavy stink of the stockyards.
‘Brian, why are the offices there? '
‘Cheap rent. It would cost us four times as much to get the same space on Walnut or Main, even clear out at 15 th. I take over the lease, of course. '
I thought about it hard for several minutes. ‘Sir, how much of the firm's travelling has Mr Fones been doing? '
‘Originally? Or recently? When I first went to work for him, both he and Mr Davis made field trips; I stayed in the office. Then he broke me in on what he expected from a survey - that was bafore Mr Davis retired. Then -‘
‘Excuse me, sir. I mean, how much travelling has Mr Fones done this past year? '
‘Eh? Mr Fones has not made a field survey for more than two years. He's made a couple of money trips. Two to St Louis, one to Chicago. '
‘While you made all the muddy-boots trips? '
‘You could call it that. '
‘That's what you call it, Briney. Dear, you do want to go into business for yourself, don't you? '
‘You know that I do. This is just sooner than I had thought I could manage it. '
‘Are you seriously asking me to say what I think you should do? Or are you just using me as a sounding board to get your thoughts straight? '
He gave me his endearing grin. ‘Maybe some of both. I'll make the decision. But I do want you to tell me what to do, just as if it were entirely up to you. '
‘Very well, sir. But I need more information. I have never known the amount of your salary - and I don't want to know now; it's not fitting for a wife to ask - but tell me this. Is that drawing account figure more or less than your salary? '
‘Eh? More. Quite a bit more. Even with the bonuses I have received on some deals. '
‘I see. All right, Briney; I'll express my advice in the imperative. Refuse his offer. Go down tomorrow morning and tell him so. At the same time hit him for a raise. Ask him - no, tell him - that you expect a salary equal to that drawing account he was proposing to siphon out of the business. '
Briney looked startled, then laughed. ‘He'll have a stroke. '
‘Perhaps, perhaps not. But he is certain to be angry. Count on that and be braced for it. Don't let him get you even the least bit angry. Just tell him calmly that fair is fair. For the last two years you have been doing all the hard and dirty work. If the business can afford to pay Mr Fones that big a drawing account for not working at all, it can certainly pay you the same amount for working very hard indeed. True? '
‘Well. .. yes. Mr Fones won't like it. '
‘I don't expect him to like it. He's trying to hornswoggle you; he's certain not to like it when the same swindle is offered to him. Briney, that's a touchstone for a fair deal that my father taught me: does it feel like a fair deal if it's turned the other way round, mirror image? Point this out to him. '
‘All right. When he comes down off the ceiling. Mo, he won't pay me that much. Wouldn't it be better for me to resign? '
‘Truly, Briney, I don't think so. If you simply quit, he will make loud squawks about your disloyalty - how he took you on as a youngster with no experience and taught you the trade -‘
‘There's some truth in that. Before he hired me, I had had practical experience underground in lead and zinc and in coal through working summers while I was going to school. But no experience with precious metals, just book learning. So I've learned quite a lot while working for him. '
‘Which is why you must not resign instead you are simply asking to be paid what you are worth. What the proposition he offered you shouts aloud that you are worth. Fair is fair. He can go ahead and retire, and pay you that amount to run the business, while he enjoys the net profit himself. '
‘He'll give birth to a porcupine. Breech presentation. '
‘No, he'll fire you. Oh, he may possibly offer you a counterproposal; it may take a while. But he will fire you. Briney, would it suit you to stop on your way home at Wyandotte Office Supply and buy a second-hand Oliver typewriter? Pretty please? No, best to rent one for a month with privilege of applying rent on purchase; I should try it out before we tie up so much money. In the meantime we'll design some stationery. "Brian Smith Associates", I think. Mining Consultants. No, Business Consultants. Mining Properties. Farms and Ranches. Mineral Rights. Petroleum Rights. Water Rights. '
‘Hey, I don't know all those things'
‘You will. ' I patted my tummy. ‘three months from now this little boiled pig will ring the cash register for us. ' I thought about the double eagle Father had slipped into my purse on our wedding day. I had never spent it; I was fairly sure Briney did not know that I had it. Father's formal wedding present to us had been a cheque that had gone into furniture for that little crackerbox we had first lived in. ‘Dear, I guarantee to keep us fed until you can report this baby to judge Sperling. Then the Foundation's payment for this baby ought to keep us going for a while. .. and you and I can try to ring the cash register a fifth time before the cash from number four runs out'
I went on, ‘If the business isn't making money by then, it might be time for you to look for a job. But I'm betting that from now on you will always be your own boss. .. and that we will wind up rich. I have confidence in you, sir. That's why I married you. '
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