which was or was not God, Who alone was great; yet there，
"Why don't you say 'a yard,' 'a can,' 'a pound'?" he demanded harshly. "What's the sense of that there 'the' stuff? Looks to me like just putting on a few airs. You keep to plain language and our patrons'll like it a lot better." Viciously Merton Gill rubbed out the modern "the" and substituted the desired "a."
"Very well," he assented, "if you'd rather stick to the old- fashioned way; but I can tell you that's the way city stores do it. I thought you might want to be up to date, but I see I made a great mistake."
"Humph!" said Gashwiler, unbitten by this irony. "I guess the old way's good enough, long's our prices are always right. Don't forget to put on that canned salmon. I had that in stock for nearly a year now--and say it's twenty cents 'a' can, not 'the' can. Also say it's a grand reduction from thirty-five cents."
That was always the way. You never could please the old grouch. And so began the labour that lasted until nine that night. Merton must count out eggs and weigh butter that was brought in. He must do up sugar and grind coffee and measure dress goods and match silks; he must with the suavest gentility ask if there would not be something else to-day; and he must see that babies hazardously left on counters did not roll off.
He lived in a vortex of mental confusion, performing his tasks mechanically. When drawing a gallon of kerosene or refolding the shown dress goods, or at any task not requiring him to be genially talkative, he would be saying to Miss Augusta Blivens in far-off Hollywood, "Yes, my wife is more than a wife. She is my best pal, and, I may also add, my severest critic."
There was but one break in the dreary monotony, and that was when Lowell Hardy, Simsbury's highly artistic photographer, came in to leave an order for groceries. Lowell wore a soft hat with rakish brim, and affected low collars and flowing cravats, the artistic effect of these being heightened in his studio work by a purple velvet jacket. Even in Gashwiler's he stood out as an artist. Merton received his order, and noting that Gashwiler was beyond earshot bespoke his services for the following afternoon.
"Say, Lowell, be on the lot at two sharp to-morrow, will you? I want to shoot some Western stuff--some stills."
Merton thrilled as he used these highly technical phrases. He had not read his magazines for nothing.
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