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A short story by Robert Barr

Ringamy's Convert

Title:     Ringamy's Convert
Author: Robert Barr [More Titles by Barr]

Mr. Johnson Ringamy, the author, sat in his library gazing idly out of the window. The view was very pleasant, and the early morning sun brought out in strong relief the fresh greenness of the trees that now had on their early spring suits of foliage. Mr. Ringamy had been a busy man, but now, if he cared to take life easy, he might do so, for few books had had the tremendous success of his latest work. Mr. Ringamy was thinking about this, when the door opened, and a tall, intellectual-looking young man entered from the study that communicated with the library. He placed on the table the bunch of letters he had in his hand, and, drawing up a chair, opened a blank notebook that had, between the leaves, a lead pencil sharpened at both ends.

"Good morning, Mr. Scriver," said the author, also hitching up his chair towards the table. He sighed as he did so, for the fair spring prospect from the library window was much more attractive than the task of answering an extensive correspondence.

"Is there a large mail this morning, Scriver?"

"A good-sized one, sir. Many of them, however, are notes asking for your autograph."

"Enclose stamps, do they?"

"Most of them, sir; those that did not, I threw in the waste basket."

"Quite right. And as to the autographs you might write them this afternoon, if you have time."

"I have already done so, sir. I flatter myself that even your most intimate friend could not tell my version of your autograph from your own."

As he said this, the young man shoved towards the author a letter which he had written, and Mr. Ringamy looked at it critically.

"Very good, Scriver, very good indeed. In fact, if I were put in the witness-box I am not sure that I would be able to swear that this was not my signature. What's this you have said in the body of the letter about sentiment? Not making me write anything sentimental, I hope. Be careful, my boy, I don't want the newspapers to get hold of anything that they could turn into ridicule. They are too apt to do that sort of thing if they get half a chance."

"Oh, I think you will find that all right," said the young man; "still I thought it best to submit it to you before sending it off. You see the lady who writes has been getting up a 'Ringamy Club' in Kalamazoo, and she asks you to give her an autographic sentiment which they will cherish as the motto of the club. So I wrote the sentence, 'All classes of labor should have equal compensation.' If that won't do, I can easily change it.'

"Oh, that will do first rate--first rate."

"Of course it is awful rot, but I thought it would please the feminine mind."

"Awful what did you say, Mr. Scriver?"

"Well, slush--if that expresses it better. Of course, you don't believe any such nonsense."

Mr. Johnson Ringamy frowned as he looked at his secretary.

"I don't think I understand you," he said, at last.

"Well, look here, Mr. Ringamy, speaking now, not as a paid servant to his master, but----"

"Now, Scriver, I won't have any talk like that. There is no master or servant idea between us. There oughtn't to be between anybody. All men are free and equal."

"They are in theory, and in my eye, as I might say if I wanted to make it more expressive."

"Scriver, I cannot congratulate you on your expressive language, if I may call it so. But we are wandering from the argument. You were going to say that speaking as----Well, go on."

"I was going to say that, speaking as one reasonably sensible man to another, without any gammon about it; don't you think it is rank nonsense to hold that one class of labor should be as well compensated as another. Honestly now?"

The author sat back in his chair and gazed across the table at his secretary. Finally, he said:

"My dear Scriver, you can't really mean what you say. You know that I hold that all classes of labor should have exactly the same compensation. The miner, the blacksmith, the preacher, the postal clerk, the author, the publisher, the printer--yes, the man who sweeps out the office, or who polishes boots, should each share alike, if this world were what it should be--yes, and what it will be. Why, Scriver, you surely couldn't have read my book----"

"Read it? why, hang it, I wrote it."

"You wrote it? The deuce you did! I always thought I was the author of ----"

"So you are. But didn't I take it all down in shorthand, and didn't I whack it out on the type-writer, and didn't I go over the proof sheets with you. And yet you ask me if I have read it!"

"Oh, yes, quite right, I see what you mean. Well, if you paid as much attention to the arguments as you did to the mechanical production of the book, I should think you would not ask if I really meant what I said."

"Oh, I suppose you meant it all right enough--in a way--in theory, perhaps, but----"

"My dear sir, allow me to say that a theory which is not practical, is simply no theory at all. The great success of 'Gazing Upward,' has been due to the fact that it is an eminently practical work. The nationalization of everything is not a matter of theory. The ideas advocated in that book, can be seen at work at any time. Look at the Army, look at the Post Office."

"Oh, that's all right, looking at things in bulk. Let us come down to practical details. Detail is the real test of any scheme. Take this volume, 'Gazing Upward.' Now, may I ask how much this book has netted you up to date?"

"Oh, I don't know exactly. Somewhere in the neighborhood of L20,000."

"Very well then. Now let us look for a moment at the method by which that book was produced. You walked up and down this room with your hands behind your back, and dictated chapter after chapter, and I sat at this table taking it all down in shorthand. Then you went out and took the air while I industriously whacked it out on the type-writer."

"I wish you wouldn't say 'whacked,' Scriver. That's twice you've used it."

"All right:--typographical error--For 'whacked' read 'manipulated.' Then you looked over the type-written pages, and I erased and wrote in and finally got out a perfect copy. Now I worked as hard--probably harder--than you did, yet the success of that book was entirely due to you, and not to me. Therefore it is quite right that you should get L20,000 and that I should get two pounds a week. Come now, isn't it? Speaking as a man of common sense."

"Speaking exactly in that way I say no it is not right. If the world were properly ruled the compensation of author and secretary would have been exactly the same."

"Oh, well, if you go so far as that," replied the Secretary, "I have nothing more to say."

The author laughed, and the two men bent their energies to the correspondence. When the task was finished, Scriver said:

"I would like to get a couple of days off, Mr. Ringamy. I have some private business to attend to."

"When could you get back?"

"I'll report to you on Thursday morning."

"Very well, then. Not later than Thursday. I think I'll take a couple of days off myself."

* * * * *

On Thursday morning Mr. Johnson Ringamy sat in his library looking out of the window, but the day was not as pleasant as when he last gazed at the hills, and the woods, and green fields. A wild spring storm lashed the landscape, and rattled the raindrops against the pane. Mr. Ringamy waited for some time and then opened the study door and looked in. The little room was empty. He rang the bell, and the trim servant-girl appeared.

"Has Mr. Scriver come in yet?"

"No, sir, he haven't."

"Perhaps the rain has kept him."

"Mr. Scriver said that when you come back, sir, there was a letter on the table as was for you."

"Ah, so there is. Thank you, that will do."

The author opened the letter and read as follows:

"MY DEAR MR. RINGAMY,--Your arguments the other day fully convinced me that you were right, and I was wrong ("Ah! I thought they would," murmured the author). I have therefore taken a step toward putting your theories into practice. The scheme is an old one in commercial life, but new in its present application, so much so that I fear it will find no defenders except yourself, and I trust that now when I am far away ("Dear me, what does this mean!" cried the author) you will show any doubters that I acted on the principles which will govern the world when the theories of 'Gazing Upward' are put into practice. For fear that all might not agree with you at present, I have taken the precaution of going to that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no extradition treaty forces the traveler to return--sunny Spain. You said you could not tell my rendition of your signature from your own. Neither could the bank cashier. My exact mutation of your signature has enabled me to withdraw L10,000 from your bank account. Half the profits, you know. You can send future accumulations, for the book will continue to sell, to the address of

"Poste Restant, Madrid, Spain"

Mr. Ringamy at once put the case in the hands of the detectives, where it still remains.

[The end]
Robert Barr's short story: Ringamy's Convert