The visitor's mouth quivered a little at this remarkable paraphrase of the Scripture passage; but he said gravely enough:
"Then we get back to the original charges, which the 'Clarion' quotes from the 'Church Standard.'"
"And there you are! Up to three years ago the 'Standard' took all the advertising we'd give them, and glad to get it. Then it went daffy over the muckraking magazine exposures, and threw out all the proprietary copy. Now nothing will do but it must roast its old patrons to show off its new virtue."
"Do you deny what the editor of the 'Standard' said about Certina?"
Dr. Surtaine employed the stock answer of medical quackery when challenged on incontrovertible facts. "Why, my friend," he said with elaborate carelessness, "if I tried to deny everything that irresponsible parties say about me, I wouldn't have any time left for business. Well, well; plenty of other people will be glad of that two thousand. Turn in the check at the cashier's window, please. Good-day to you."
The Reverend Norman Hale retired, leaving the "Clarion's" denunciation lying outspread on the table.
Meantime, wandering in the hallway, Hal had encountered Milly Neal.
"Are you very busy, Miss Neal?" he asked.
"Not more than usual," she answered, regarding him with bright and kindly eyes. "Did you want me?"
"Yes. I want to know some things about this business."
"Outside of my own department, I don't know much."
"Well; inside your own department, then. May I ask some questions?"
With a businesslike air she consulted a tiny watch, then glanced toward a settee at the end of the hall. "I'll give you ten minutes," she announced. "Suppose we sit down over there."
"Do the writers of those letters—symp-letters, I believe, you call them—" he began; "do they seem to get benefit out of the advice returned?"
"What advice? To take Certina? Why, yes. Most of 'em come back for more."
"You think it good medicine for all that long list of troubles?"
The girl's eyes opened wide. "Of course it's a good medicine!" she cried. "Do you think the Chief would make any other kind?"
"No; certainly not," he hastened to disclaim. "But it seems like a wide range of diseases to be cured by one and the same prescription."
"Oh, we've got other proprietaries, too," she assured him with her pretty air of partnership. "There's the Stomachine, and the headache powders and the Relief Pills and the liniment; Dr. Surtaine runs 'em all, and every one's a winner. Not that I keep much track of 'em. We only handle the Certina correspondence in our room. I know what that can do. Why, I take Certina myself when there's anything the matter with me."
"Do you?" said Hal, much interested. "Well, you're certainly a living testimonial to its efficacy."
"All the people in the shop take it. It's a good tonic, even when you're all right."
The listener felt his vague uneasiness soothed. If those who were actually in the business had faith in the patent medicine's worth, it must be all that was claimed for it.
"I firmly believe," continued the little loyalist, "that the Chief has done more good and saved more lives than all the doctors in the country. I'd trust him further than any regular doctor I know, even if he doesn't belong to their medical societies and all that. They're jealous of him; that's what's the matter with them."
"Good for you!" laughed Hal, feeling his doubts melt at the fire of her enthusiasm. "You're a good rooter for the business."
"So's the whole shop. I guess your father is the most popular employer in Worthington. Have you decided to come into the business, Mr. Surtaine?"
"Do you think I'd make a valuable employee, Miss Milly?" he bantered.
But to Milly Neal the subject of the Certina factory admitted of no jocularity. She took him under advisement with a grave and quaint dubiety.
"Have you ever worked?"
"Oh, yes; I'm not wholly a loafer."
"For a living, I mean."
"Unfortunately I've never had to."
"How old are you?"
"I don't believe I'd want you in my department, if it was up to me," she pronounced.
"Do you think I wouldn't be amenable to your stern discipline?"
Still she refused to meet him on his ground of badinage. "It isn't that. But I don't think you'd be interested enough to start in at the bottom and work up."
"Perhaps you're right, Miss Neal," said Hal, a little startled by the acuteness of her judgment, and a little piqued as well. "Though you condemn me to a life of uselessness on scant evidence."
She went scarlet. "Oh, please! You know I didn't mean that. But you seem too—too easy-going, too—"
"Too ornamental to be useful?"
Suddenly she stamped her foot at him, flaming into a swift exasperation. "You're laughing at me!" she accused. "I'm going back to my work. I won't stay and be made fun of." Then, in another and rather a dismayed tone, "Oh, I'm forgetting about your being the Chief's son."
Hal jumped to his feet. "Please promise to forget it when next we meet," he besought her with winning courtesy. "You've been a kind little friend and adviser. And I thank you for what you have said."
"Not at all," she returned lamely, and walked away, her face still crimson.
Returning to the executive suite, the young scion found his father immersed in technicalities of copy with the second advertising writer.
"Sit down, Boyee," said he. "I'll be through in a few minutes." And he resumed his discussion of "black-face," "36-point," "indents," "boxes," and so on.
Left to his own devices Hal turned idly to the long table. From the newspaper which the Reverend Norman Hale had left, there glared up at him in savage black type this heading:—
CERTINA A FAKE
Religious Editor Shows Up Business and Professional
Methods of Dr. L. Andre Surtaine
The article was made up of excerpts from a religious weekly's expose, interspersed with semi-editorial comment. As he skimmed it, Hal's wrath and loyalty waxed in direct ratio. Malice was obvious in every line, to the incensed reader. But the cause and purpose were not so clear. As he looked up, brooding upon it, he caught his father's eye.
"Been reading that slush, Hal?"
"Yes, sir. Of course it's all a pack of lies. But what's the reason for it?"
"Do they expect to get money out of you this way?"
"No. That isn't it. I've always refused to have any business dealings with 'em, and this is their way of revenge."
"But I didn't know you advertised Certina in the local papers."
"We don't. Proprietaries don't usually advertise in their own towns. We're so well known at home that we don't have to. But some of the side lines, like the Relief Pills, that go out under another trade name, use space in the Worthington papers. The 'Clarion' isn't getting that copy, so they're sore."
"Can't you sue them for libel, Dad?"
"Hardly worth while. Decent people don't read the 'Clarion' anyway, so it can't hurt much. It's best just to ignore such things."
"Something ought to be done about it," declared Hal angrily.
Stuffing the paper into his pocket he took his wrath out into the open air. Hard and fast he walked, but the farther he went the hotter burned his ire.
There was in Harrington Surtaine a streak of the romantic. His inner world was partly made up of such chimerical notions as are bred in a lively mind, not in very close touch with the world of actualities, by a long course of novel-reading and theater-going. Deep within him stirred a conviction that there was a proper and suitable, nay, an almost obligatory, method made and provided for just such crises as this: something that a keen-spirited and high-bred youth ought to do about it. Suddenly it came to him. Young Surtaine returned home with his resolve taken. In the morning he would fare forth, a modern knight redressing human wrongs, and lick the editor of the "Clarion."
Overnight young Mr. Surtaine revised his project. Horsewhipping would be no more than the offending editor deserved. However, he should have his chance. Let him repent and retract publicly, and the castigation should be remitted. Forthwith the avenger sat him down to a task of composition. The apology which, after sundry corrections and emendations, he finally produced in fair copy, was not alone complete and explicit: it was fairly abject. In such terms might a confessed and hopeless criminal cast himself desperately upon the mercy of the court. Previsioning this masterly apologium upon the first page of the morrow's "Clarion,"—or perhaps at the top of the editorial columns,—its artificer thrilled with the combined pride of authorship and poetic justice.
On the walls of the commodious room which had been set aside in the Surtaine mansion for the young master's study hung a plaited dog-whip. The agent of just reprisals curled this neatly inside his overcoat pocket and set forth upon his errand. It was then ten o'clock in the morning.
Now, in hunting the larger fauna of the North American continent with a dog-whip, it is advantageous to have some knowledge of the game's habits. Mr. Harrington Surtaine's first error lay in expecting to find the editorial staff of a morning newspaper on duty in the early forenoon. So much a sweeper, emerging from a pile of dust, communicated to him across a railing, further volunteering that three o'clock would be a well-chosen hour for return, as the boss would be less pressed upon by engagements then, perhaps, than at other hours.
In the nature of things, the long delay might well have cooled the knightliest ardor. But as he departed from the office, Mr. Surtaine took with him a copy of that day's "Clarion" for perusal, and in its pages discovered a "follow-up" of the previous day's outrage. Back home he went, and added to his literary effort a few more paragraphs wherein the editorial "we" more profoundly cringed, cowered, and crawled in penitential abasement. Despite the relish of the words, Hal rather hoped that the editor would refuse to publish his masterpiece. He itched to use that whip.
For purposes of vital statistics, the head office boy of the Worthington "Daily Clarion" was denominated Reginald Currier. As this chaste cognomen was artistically incompatible with his squint eye, his militant swagger, and a general bearing of unrepressed hostility toward all created beings, he was professionally known as "Bim." Journalism, for him, was comprised in a single tenet; that no visitor of whatsoever kind had or possibly could have any business of even remotely legitimate nature within the precincts of the "Clarion" office. Tradition of the place held that a dent in the wall back of his desk marked the termination of an argument in which Reginald, all unwitting, had essayed to maintain his thesis against the lightweight champion of the State who had come to call on the sporting editor.
There had been a lull in the activities of this minor Cerberus when the light and swinging footfall of one coming up the dim stairway several steps at a time aroused his ready suspicions. He bristled forth to the rail to meet a tall and rather elegant young man whom he greeted with a growl to this effect:
"Hoojer wanter see?"
"Is the editor in?"
"Whajjer want uvvum?"
The tall visitor stepped forward, holding out a card. "Take this to him, please, and say that I'd like to see him at once."
Unwisely, Reginald disregarded the card, which fluttered to the floor. More unwisely, he ignored a certain tensity of expression upon the face of his interlocutor. Most unwisely he repeated, in his very savagest growl:
"Whajjer want uvvum, I said. Didn' chu hear me?"
Graceful and effortless as the mounting lark, Reginald Currier rose and soared. When he again touched earth, it was only to go spinning into a far corner where he first embraced, then strove with and was finally tripped and thrown by a large and lurking waste-basket. Somewhat perturbed, he extricated himself in time to see the decisive visitor disappear through an inner door. Retrieving the crumpled and rejected card from its resting-place, he examined it with interest. The legend upon it was "Mr. Harrington Surtaine."
"Huh!" grunted Reginald Currier; "I never seen that in no sporting column."
Once within the sacred precincts, young Mr. Surtaine turned into an inner room, bumped against a man trailing a kite-tail of proof, who had issued from a door to the right, asked a question, got a response, and entered the editor's den. Two littered desks made up the principal furniture of the place. Impartially distributed between the further desk and a chair, the form of one lost in slumber sprawled. At the nearer one sat a dyspeptic man of middle age waving a heavy pencil above a galley proof.
"Are you the editor?" asked Hal.
"One editor. I'm Mr. Sterne. How the devil did you get in here?"
"Are you responsible for this?" Hal held up the morning's clipping, headed "Surtaine Fakeries Explained."
"Who are you?" asked Sterne, nervously hitching in his chair.
"I am Harrington Surtaine."
The journalist whistled, a soft, long-drawn note. "Dr. Surtaine's son?" he inquired.
"That's awkward." "Not half as awkward as it's going to be unless you apologize privately and publicly."
Mr. Sterne looked at him estimatingly, at the same time wadding up a newspaper clipping from the desk in front of him. This he cast at the slumberer with felicitous accuracy.
"Hoong!" observed that gentleman, starting up and caressing his cheek.
"Wake up, Mac. Here's a man from the Trouble Belt, with samples to show."
The individual thus addressed slowly rose out of his chair, exhibiting a squat, gnarly figure surmounted by a very large head.
Hal's hand came up out of his pocket, with the dog-whip writhing unpleasantly after it. Simultaneously, the ex-sleeper projected himself, without any particular violence but with astonishing quickness, between the caller and his prey. Without at all knowing whence it was derived, Hal became aware of a large, black, knobby stick, which it were inadequate to call a cane, in his new opponent's grasp.
Of physical courage there was no lack in the scion of the Surtaine line. Neither, however, was he wholly destitute of reasoning powers and caution. The figure before him was of an unquestionable athleticism; the weapon of obvious weight and fiber. The situation was embarrassing.
"Please don't lick the editor," said the interrupter of poetic justice good-humoredly. "Appropriately framed and hung upon the wall, fifteen cents apiece. Yah-ah-ah-oo!" he yawned prodigiously. "Calm down," he added.
Hal stared at the squat and agile figure. "You're the office bully and bouncer, I suppose," he said.
"McGuire Ellis, at your service. Bounce only when compelled. Otherwise peaceful. And sleepy."
"My business is with this man," said Hal, indicating Sterne. "Put up your toy, then, and state it in words of one syllable."
For a moment the visitor pondered, drawing the whip through his hands, uncertainly. "I'm not fool enough to go up against that war-club," he remarked.
Mr. McGuire Ellis nodded approval. "First sensible thing I've heard you say," he remarked.
"But neither"—here Hal's jaw projected a little—"am I going to let this thing drop."
"Law?" inquired Sterne. "If you think there's any libel in what the 'Clarion' has said, ask your lawyer. What do you want, anyway?"
Thus recalled to the more pacific phase of his errand, Hal produced his document. "If you've got an iota of decency or fairness about you, you'll print that," he said.
Sterne glanced through it swiftly. "Nothing doing," he stated succinctly. "Did Dr. Surtaine send you here with that thing?"
"My father doesn't know that I'm here."
"Oho! So that's it. Knight-errantry, eh? Now, let me put this thing to you straight, Mr. Harrington Surtaine. If your father wants to make a fair and decent statement, without abuse or calling names, over his own signature, the 'Clarion' will run it, at fifty cents a word."
"You dirty blackmailer!" said Hal slowly.
"Hard names go with this business, my young friend," said the other coolly.
"At present you've got me checked. But you don't always keep your paid bully with you, I suppose. One of these days you and I will meet—"
"And you'll land in jail."
"He talks awfully young, doesn't he?" said Mr. Ellis, shaking a solemn head.
"As for blackmail," continued Sterne, a bit eagerly, "there's nothing in that. We've never asked Dr. Surtaine for a dollar. He hasn't got a thing on us." "You never asked him for advertising either, I suppose," said Hal bitterly.
"Only in the way of business. Just as we go out after any other advertising."
"If he had given you his ads.—"
"Oh, I don't say that we'd have gone after him if he'd been one of our regular advertisers. Every other paper in town gets his copy; why shouldn't we? We have to look out for ourselves. We look out for our patrons, too. Naturally, we aren't going to knock one of our advertisers. Others have got to take their chances."
"And that's modern journalism!"
"It's the newspaper business," cried Sterne. "No different from any other business."
"No wonder decent people consider newspaper men the scum of the earth," said Hal, with rather ineffectual generalization.
"Don't be young!" besought McGuire Ellis wearily. "Pretend you're a grown-up man, anyway. You look as if you might have some sense about you somewhere, if you'd only give it a chance to filter through."
Some not unpleasant quirk of speech and manner in the man worked upon Hal's humor.
"Why, I believe you're right about the youngness," he admitted, with a smile. "Perhaps there are other ways of getting at this thing. Just for a test,—for the last time will you or will you not, Mr. Sterne, publish this apology?"
"We will not. There's just one person can give me orders."
"Who is that?"
"I think you'll be sorry."
McGuire Ellis turned upon him a look that was a silent reproach to immaturity.
"Anything more?" queried Sterne. "Nothing," said Hal, with an effort at courtesy. "Good-day to you both."
"Well, what about it?" asked McGuire Ellis of his chief, as the visitor's footsteps died away.
"Nothing about it. When'll the next Surtaine roast be ready?"
"Ought to be finished to-morrow."
"Schedule it for Thursday. We'll make the old boy squeal yet. Do you believe the boy when he says that his father didn't send him?"
"Sounded straight. Pretty straight boy he looked like to me, anyway."
"Pretty fresh kid, I think. And a good deal of a pin-head. Distributing agency for the old man's money, I guess. He won't get anywhere."
"Well, I'm not so sure," said Ellis contemplatively. "Of course he acts gosh-awful young. But did you notice him when he went?"
"He was smiling."
"Always look out for a guy that smiles when he's licked. He's got a come-back to him."
Eleven o'clock that night saw McGuire Ellis lift his head from the five-minute nap which he allowed himself on evenings of light pressure after the Washington copy was run off, and blink rapidly. At the same moment Mr. David Sterne gave utterance to an exclamation, partly of annoyance, partly of surprise. Mr. Harrington Surtaine, wearing an expression both businesslike and urbane stood in the doorway.
"Good-evening, gentlemen," he remarked.
Mr. Sterne snorted. Mr. Ellis's lips seemed about to form the reproachful monosyllable "young." Without further greeting the visitor took off his hat and overcoat and hung them on a peg. "You make yourself at home," growled Sterne.
"I do," agreed Hal, and, discarding his coat, hung that on another peg. "I've got a right to."
Tilting a slumber-burdened head, McGuire Ellis released his adjuration against youthfulness.
"What's the answer?" demanded Sterne.
"I've just bought out the 'Clarion,'" said Hal.
Some degree of triumph would perhaps have been excusable in the new owner. Most signally had he turned the tables on his enemies. Yet it was with no undue swagger that he seated himself upon a chair of problematical stability, and began to study the pages of the morning's issue. Sterne regarded him dubiously.
"This isn't a bluff, I suppose?" he asked.
"Ask your lawyers."
"Mac, get Rockwell's house on the 'phone, will you, and find out if we've been sold."
Presently the drawl of Mr. Ellis was heard, pleading with a fair and anonymous Central, whom he addressed with that charming impersonality employed toward babies, pet dogs, and telephone girls, as "Tootsie," to abjure juvenility, and give him 322 Vincent, in a hurry.
"You'll excuse me, Mr. Surtaine," said Sterne, in a new and ingratiating tone, for which Hal liked him none the better, "but verifying news has come to be an instinct with me."
"It's straight," said Ellis, turning his heavy face to his principal, after a moment's talk over the wire. "Bought and sold, lock, stock, and barrel."
"Have you had any newspaper experience, Mr. Surtaine?" inquired Sterne.
"Not on the practical side."
"As owner I suppose you'll want to make changes."
"They all do," sighed Sterne. "But my contract has several months—" "Yes: I've been over the contracts with a lawyer. Yours and Mr. Ellis's. He says they won't hold."
"All newspaper contracts are on the cheese," observed McGuire Ellis philosophically. "Swiss cheese, at that. Full of holes."
"I don't admit it," protested Sterne. "Even so, to turn a man out—"
A snort of disgust from Ellis interrupted the plea. The glare with which that employee favored his boss fairly convicted the seamed and graying editor of willful and captious immaturity.
"Contract or no contract, you'll both be fairly treated," said the new owner shortly.
"Who, me?" inquired Ellis. "You can go rapidly to hell and take my contract with you. I know when I'm fired."
"Who fired you?"
"I did. To save you the satisfaction."
"Very good of you, I'm sure," drawled Hal in a tone of lofty superiority, turning away. Out of the corner of his eye, however, he could see McGuire Ellis making pantomime as of one spanking a baby with fervor. Amusement helped him to the recovery of his temper.
"Working under an amateur journalist will just suit Sterne," observed Ellis, in a tone quite as offensive as Hal's.
"Cut it out, Mac," suggested his principal. "There's no occasion for hard words."
"Amateur isn't the hardest word in the dictionary," said Hal quietly. "Perhaps I'll become a professional in time."
"Buying a newspaper doesn't make a newspaper man."
"Well, I'm not too old to learn. But see here, Mr. Ellis, doesn't your contract hold you?"
"The contract that you said was no good? Do you expect it to work all one way?"
"Well, professional honor, then, I should suppose—"
"Professional honor!" cut in Ellis, with scathing contempt. "You step in here and buy a paper out of a freak of revenge—"
"Hold on, there! How can you know my motive?"
"What else could it be?"
Hal was silent, finding no answer.
"You see! To feed your mean little spite, you've taken over control of the biggest responsibility, for any one with any decent sense of responsibility, that a man could take on his shoulders. And what will you make of it? A toy! A rich kid's plaything."
"Well, what would you make of it, yourself?" asked Hal.
"A teacher and a preacher. A force to tear down and to build up. To rip this old town wide open, and remould it nearer to the heart's desire! That's what a newspaper might be, and ought to be, and could be, by God in Heaven, if the right man ever had a free hand at it."
"Don't get profane, my boy," tittered Sterne.
"You think that's swearing?" retorted Ellis. "Yes; you would. But I was nearer praying then than I've ever been since I came to this office. We'll never live to see that prayer answered, you and I."
"Perhaps," began Hal.
"Oh, perhaps!" Ellis snatched the word from his lips. "Perhaps you're the boy to do it, eh? Why, it's your kind that's made journalism the sewer of the professions, full of the scum and drainings of every other trade's failures. What chance have we got to develop ideals when you outsiders control the whole business?"
"Hullo!" observed Sterne with a grin. "Where do you come in on the idealist business, Mac? This is new talk from you."
"New? Why wouldn't it be new? Would I waste it on you, Dave Sterne?"
"You certainly never have since I've known you."
"Call it easing up my mind if you like. I can afford that luxury, now that you 're not my boss any longer. Not but what it's all Greek to you."
"Had a drink to-day, Mac?"
"No, damn you. But I'm going out of here and take a hundred. First, though, I'm going to tell young Bib-and-Tucker over there a thing or two about his new toy. Oh, yes: you can listen, too, Sterne, but it won't get to your shelled-in soul."
"You in'trust muh, strangely," said Sterne, and looked over to Hal for countenance of his uneasy amusement.
But the new owner did not appear amused. He had faced around in his chair and now sat regarding the glooming and exalted Ellis with an intent surprise.
"A plaything! That's what you think you've bought, young Mr. Harrington Surtaine. One of two things you'll do with it: either you'll try to run it yourself, and you'll dip deeper and deeper into Poppa's medicine-bag till he gets sick of it and closes you up; or you'll hire some practical man to manage it, and insist on dividends that'll keep it just where it is now. And that's pretty low, even for a Worthington paper."
"It won't live on blackmail, at any rate," said Hal, his mind reverting to its original grievance.
"Maybe it will. You won't know it if it does. Anyhow, it'll live on suppression and distortion and manipulation of news, because it'll have to, if it's going to live at all."
"You mean that is the basis of the newspaper business as it is to-day?"
"Generally speaking. It certainly is in Worthington."
"You're frank, at any rate. Where's all your glowing idealism now?"
"Vanished into mist. All idealism goes that way, doesn't it?"
"Not if you back it up with work. You see, Mr. Ellis, I'm something of an idealist myself."
"The Certina brand of idealism. Guaranteed under the Pure Thought and Deed Act."
"Our money may have been made a little—well, blatantly," said Hal, flushing. "But at least it's made honestly." He was too intent on his subject to note either Sterne's half-wink or Ellis's stare of blank amazement. "And I'm going to run this newspaper on the same high principles. I don't quite reconcile your standards with the practices of this paper, Mr. Ellis—"
"Mac has nothing to do with the policy of the paper, Mr. Surtaine," put in Sterne. "He's only an employee."
"Then why don't you get work on some paper that practices your principles?"
"Hard to find. Not having been born with a silver spoon, full of Certina, in my mouth, I have to earn my own living. It isn't profitable to make a religion of one's profession, Mr. Surtaine. Not that I think you need the warning. But I've tried it, and I know."
"Do you know, it's rather a pity you don't like me," said Hal, with ruminative frankness. "I think I could use some of that religion of yours."
"Not on the market," returned Ellis shortly.
"You see," pursued the other, "it's really my own money I've put into this paper: half of all I've got."
"How much did you pay for it?" inquired Ellis: "since we're telling each other our real names."
"Two hundred and thirty thousand dollars."
"Whee-ee-ee-ew!" Both his auditors joined in the whistle.
"They asked two-fifty."
"Half of that would have bought," said Sterne.
Hal digested that information in silence for a minute. "I suppose I was easy. Hurry never yet made a good bargain. But, now that I've got this paper I'm going to run it myself."
"On the rocks," prophesied McGuire Ellis. "Utter and complete shipwreck. I'm glad I'm off."
"Is it your habit, Mr. Ellis, to run at the first suggestion of disaster?"
Ellis looked his questioner up and down. "Say the rest of it," he barked.
"Why, it seems to me you're still an officer of this ship. Doesn't it enter into your ethics somewhere that you ought to stick by her until the new captain can fill your place, and not quit in the face of the shipwreck you foresee?"
"Humph," grunted McGuire Ellis, "I guess you're not quite as young as I thought you were. How long would you want me to stay?"
"About a year."
"On an unbreakable contract. To be editorial manager. You see, I'm prepared to buy ideals."
"What about my opinion of amateur journalism?"
"You'll just have to do the best you can about that."
"Give me till to-morrow to think it over."
Ellis put down the hat and cane which he had picked up preparatory to his departure.
"Not going out after those hundred drinks, eh, Mac?" laughed Sterne.
"Indefinitely postponed," replied the other.
"The first thing to do," said Hal decisively, "is to make amends. Mr. Sterne, the 'Clarion' is to print a full retraction of the attacks upon my father, at once."
"Yes, sir," assented Sterne, slavishly responsive to the new authority.
Not so McGuire Ellis. "If you do that you'll make a fool of your own paper," he said bluntly.
"Make a fool of the paper by righting a rank injustice?"
"Just the point. It isn't a rank injustice."
"See here, Mr. Sterne: isn't it a fact that this attack was made because my father doesn't advertise with you?"
The editor twisted uneasily in his chair. "A newspaper's got to look out for its own interests," he asserted defensively.
"Please answer my question."
"Well—yes; I suppose it is so."
"Then you're simply operating a blackmailing scheme to get the Certina advertising for the 'Clarion.'"
"The Certina advertising?" repeated Sterne in obvious surprise.
"Certina doesn't advertise locally. Most patent medicines don't. It's a sort of fashion of the trade not to," explained Ellis.
"What on earth is all this about, then?"
The two newspaper men exchanged a glance. Obviously the new boss understood little of his progenitor's extensive business interests. "Might as well know sooner as later," decided Ellis, aloud. "It's the Neverfail Company of Cincinnati that we got turned down on."
"What is the Neverfail Company?"
"One of Dr. Surtaine's alia—one of the names he does business under. Every other paper in town gets their copy. We don't. Hence the roast."
"What sort of business is it?"
"Relief Pills. Here's the ad. in this morning's 'Banner.'"
The name struck chill on Hal's memory. He stared at the sinister oblong of type, vaguely sensing in its covert promises the taint, yet failing to apprehend the full villainy of the lure.
"Whatever the advertising is," said he, "the principle is the same."
"Precisely," chirped Ellis.
"And you call that decent journalism?"
"No: my extremely youthful friend, I do not. What's more, I never did."
"If you want a retraction published," said Sterne, spreading wide his hands as one offering fealty, "wouldn't it be just as well to preface it with an announcement of the taking-over of the paper by yourself?"
"That itself would be tantamount to an announced reversal of policy," mused Hal.
Again Sterne and Ellis glanced at each other, but with a different expression this time. The look meant that they had recognized in the intruder a flash of that mysterious sense vaguely known as "the newspaper instinct," with which a few are born, but which most men acquire by giving mortgages on the blest illusions of youth.
"Cor-rect," said Ellis.
"Let the retraction rest for the present. I'll decide it later."
The door was pushed open, and a dark man of perhaps thirty, with a begrimed and handsome face, entered. In one hand he held a proof.
"About this paragraph," he said to Sterne in a slightly foreign accent. "Is it to run to-morrow?"
"What paragraph is that?"
"The one-stick editorial guying Dr. Surtaine."
"Kill it," said Sterne hastily. "This is Mr. Harrington Surtaine. Mr. Surtaine, this is Max Veltman, foreman of our composing-room."
Slowly the printer turned his fine, serious face from one to the other. "Ah," he said presently. "So it is arranged. We do not print this paragraph. Good!"
Impossible to take offense at the tone. Yet the smile which accompanied it was so plainly a sneer that Hal's color rose.
"Mr. Surtaine is the new owner of the 'Clarion,'" explained Ellis.
"In that case, of course," said Veltman quietly. "Good-night, gentlemen."
"Good-looking chap," remarked Hal. "But what a curious expression."
"Veltman's a thinker and a crank," said Ellis. "If he had a little more balance he'd make his mark. But he's a sort of melancholiac. Ill-health, nerves, and a fixed belief in the general wrongness of creation."
"Well. I'll get to know more about the shop to-morrow," said Hal. "I'm for home and sleep just now. See you at—what time, by the way?"
"Noon," said Sterne. "If that suits you."
Arrived at home, Hal went straight to the big ground-floor library where, as the light suggested, his father sat reading.
"Dad, do you want a retraction printed?"
"Of the 'Clarion' article?"
"From 'Want' to 'Get' the road runs rocky," said the senior Surtaine whimsically.
"I've just come from removing a few of the rocks at the 'Clarion' office."
"Go down to lick the editor?" Dr. Surtaine's eyes twinkled.
"There may have been some such notion in the back of my head."
"Expensive exercise. Did you do it?"
"No. He had a club."
"If I were running a slander-machine like the 'Clarion' I'd want six-inch armor-plate and a quick-fire battery. Well, what did you do?"
"Bought the paper."
"You needn't have gone down town to do that. It comes to the office."
"You don't understand. I've bought the 'Clarion,' presses, plant, circulation, franchise, good-will, ill-will, high, low, jack, and the game."
"You! What for?"
"Why," said Hal thoughtfully; "mainly because I lost my temper, I believe."
"Sounds like a pretty heavy loss, Boy-ee."
"Two hundred and thirty thousand dollars. Oh, the prodigal son hasn't got anything on me, Dad, when it comes to scattering patrimonies," he concluded a little ruefully.
"What are you going to do with it, now you've got it?"
"Run it. I've bought a career."
"Now you're talking." The big man jumped up and set both hands on Hal's shoulders. "That's the kind of thing I like to hear, and in the kind of way it ought to be said. You go to it, Hal. I'll back you, as far as you like."
"No, sir. I thank you just the same: this is my game."
"Want to play it alone, do you?"
"How else can I make a career of it?"
"Right you are, Boyee. But it takes something behind money to build up a newspaper. And the 'Clarion' 'll take some building up."
"Well, I've got aspiration enough, if it comes to that," smiled Hal.
"Aspiration's a good starter: but it's perspiration that makes a business go. Are you ready to take off your coat and work?"
"I certainly am. There's a lot for me to learn."
"There is. Everything. Want some advice from the Old Man?"
"I most surely do, Dad."
"Listen here, then. A newspaper is a business proposition. Never forget that. All these hifalutin' notions about its being a palladium and the voice of the people and the guardian of public interests are good enough to talk about on the editorial page. Gives a paper a following, that kind of guff does. But the duty of a newspaper is the duty of any other business, to make money. There's the principle, the policy, the politics, ethics, and religion of the newspaper in a nutshell. Now, how are you going to make money with the 'Clarion'?"
"By making it a better paper than the others."
"Hm! Better. Yes: that's all right, so long as you mean the right thing by 'better.' Better for the people that want to use it and can pay for using it."
"The readers, you mean?"
"The advertisers. It's the advertisers that pay for the paper, not the readers. You've got to have circulation, of course, to get the advertising. But remember this, always: circulation is only a means to an end. It never yet paid the cost of getting out a daily, and it never will."
"I know enough of the business to understand that."
"Good! Look at the 'Clarion,' as it is. It's got a good circulation. And that lets it out. It can't get the advertising. So it's losing money, hand over fist."
"Why can't it?"
"It's yellow. It doesn't treat the business interests right."
"Sterne says they always look after their own advertisers."
"Oh, that! Naturally they have to. Any newspaper will do that. But they print a lot of stuff about strikes and they're always playing up to the laboring man and running articles about abuses and pretending to be the friend of the poor and all that slush, and the better class of business won't stand for it. Once a paper gets yellow, it has to keep on. Otherwise it loses what circulation it's got. No advertiser wants to use it then. The department stores do go into the 'Clarion' because it gets to a public they can't reach any other way. But they give it just as little space as they can. It isn't popular."
"Well, I don't intend to make the paper yellow."
"Of course you don't. Keep your mind on it as a business proposition and you won't go wrong. Remember, it's the advertiser that pays. Think of that when you write an editorial. Frame it and hang it where every sub-editor and reporter can't help but see it. Ask of every bit of news, 'Is this going to get me an advertiser? Is that going to lose me an advertiser?' Be on the lookout to do your advertisers favors. They appreciate little things like special notices and seeing their names in print, in personals, and that kind of thing. And keep the paper optimistic. Don't knock. Boost. Business men warm up to that. Why, Boy-ee, if you'll just stick to the policy I've outlined, you'll not only make a big success, but you'll have a model paper that'll make a new era in local journalism; a paper that every business man in town will swear by and that'll be the pride of Worthington before you're through."
Fired by the enthusiasm of his fair vision of a higher journalism, Dr. Surtaine had been walking up and down, enlivening, with swinging arms, the chief points of his Paean of Policy. Now he dropped into his chair and with a change of voice said:
"Never mind about that retraction, Hal."
"No. Forget it. When do you start in work?"
"You must save to-morrow evening."
"You're invited to the Festus Willards'. Mrs. Willard was particularly anxious you should come."
"But I don't know them, Dad."
"Doesn't matter. It's about the most exclusive house in town. A cut above me, I can tell you. I've never so much as set foot in it."
"Then I won't go," declared his son, flushing.
"Yes: you must," insisted his father anxiously. "Don't mind about me. I'm not ambitious socially. I told you some folks don't like the business. It's too noisy. But you won't throw out any echoes. You'll go, Boyee?"
"Since you want me to, of course, sir. But I shan't find much time for play if I'm to learn my new trade."
"Oh, you can hire good teachers," laughed his father. "Well, I'm sleepy. Good-night, Mr. Editor."
"Good-night, Dad. I could use some sleep myself." But thought shared the pillow with Hal Surtaine's head. Try as he would to banish the contestants, Dr. Surtaine's Paean of Policy and McGuire Ellis's impassioned declaration of faith did battle for the upper hand in his formulating professional standards. The Doctor's theory was the clean-cut, comprehensible, and plausible one. But something within Hal responded to the hot idealism of the fighting journalist. He wanted Ellis for a fellow workman. And his last waking notion was that he wanted and needed Ellis mainly because Ellis had told him to go to hell.
All the adjectives in the social register were exhausted by the daily papers in describing Mrs. Festus Willard's dance. Without following them into that verbal borderland wherein "recherche" vies with "exclusive," and "chic" disputes precedence with "distingue," it is sufficient for the purposes of this narrative to chronicle the fact that the pick of Worthington society was there, and not much else. Also, if I may borrow from the Society Editor's convenient phrase-book, "Among those present" was Mr. Harrington Surtaine.
For reasons connected with his new venture, Hal had come late. He was standing near the doorway wondering by what path to attain to an unidentified hostess, when Miss Esme Elliot, at the moment engaged with that very hostess on some matter of feminine strategy with which we have no concern, spied him.
"Who is the young Greek godling, hopelessly lost in the impenetrable depths of your drawing-room?" she propounded suddenly.
"Who? What? Where?" queried Mrs. Willard, thus abruptly recalled to her duties.
"Yonder by the doorway, looking as if he didn't know a soul."
"It's some stranger," said the hostess, trying to peer around an intervening palm. "I must go and speak to him."
"Wait. Festus has got him."
For the host, a powerful, high-colored man in his early forties, with a slight limp, had noticed the newcomer and was now introducing himself. Miss Elliot watched the process with interest.
"Jinny," she announced presently, "I want that to play with."
The stranger turned a little, so that his full face was shown. "It's Hal Surtaine!" exclaimed Mrs. Willard.
"I don't care who it is. It looks nice. Please, mayn't I have it to play with?"
"Will you promise not to break it? It used to be a particular pet of mine."
"Oh, years ago. When you were in your cradle."
"On the St. Lawrence. Several summers. He was my boy-knight, and chaperon, and protector. Such a dear, chivalrous boy!"
"Was he in love with you?" demanded Miss Elliot with lively interest.
"Of course he wasn't. He was a boy of fifteen, and I a mature young woman of twenty-one."
"He was in love with you," accused the girl, noting a brightness in her friend's color.
"There was a sort of knightly devotion," admitted the other demurely. "There always is, isn't there, in a boy of that age, for a woman years older?"
"And you didn't know him at first?"
"It's ten years since I've set eyes on him. He doesn't even know that I am the Mrs. Festus Willard who is giving this party."
"Festus is looking around for you. They'll be over here in a minute. No! Don't get up yet. I want you to do something for me."
"What is it, Norrie?"
"I'm not going to feel well, about supper-time."
"Would you feel well if you'd been in to dinner three times in the last week with Will Douglas, and then had to go in to supper with him, too?"
"But I thought you and Will—"
"I'm tired of having people think," said Miss Elliot plaintively. "Too much Douglas! Yes; I shall be quite indisposed, about one dance before supper."
"I'll send you home."
"No, you won't, Jinny, dear. Because I shall suddenly recover, about two minutes before the oysters arrive."
"Truly I shall. Quite miraculously. And you're to see that the young Greek godling doesn't get any other partner for supper—"
"—because I'm sure he'd rather have me," she concluded superbly.
"Eleanor Stanley Maxwell Elliot!"
"Oh, you may call me all my names. I'm accustomed to abuse from you. But you'll arrange it, dear Jinny, won't you!"
"Did you ever fail of anything when you put on that wheedling face and tone?"
"Never," said Miss Elliot with composure, but giving her friend a little hug. "Here they come. I fly. Bring him to me later."
Piloted by Festus Willard, Hal crossed the floor, and beheld, moving to meet him with outstretched hands, a little woman with an elfin face and the smile of a happy child.
"Have you forgotten me, Hal?"
"Lady Jeannette!" he cried, the old boyhood name springing to his lips. "What are you doing here?"
"Didn't Festus tell you?" She looked fondly up at her big husband. "I didn't know that the surprise would last up to the final moment."
"It's the very best surprise that has happened to me in Worthington," declared Hal emphatically.
"We're quite prepared to adopt you, Surtaine," said Willard pleasantly. "Jinny has never ceased to wonder why she heard nothing from you in reply to her note telling of our engagement."
"Never got it," said Hal promptly. "And I've wondered why she dropped me so unaccountably. It's rather luck for me, you know," he added, smiling, "to find friends ready-made in a strange town."
"Oh, you'll make friends enough," declared Mrs. Willard. "The present matter is to make acquaintances. Come and dance this dance out with me and then I'll take you about and introduce you. Are you as good a dancer as you used to be?"
Hal was, and something more. And in his hostess he had one of the best partners in Worthington. Cleverly she had judged that the "Boston" with her, if he were proficient, would be the strongest recommendation to the buds of the place. And, indeed, before they had gone twice about the floor, many curious and interested eyes were turned upon them. Not the least interested were those of Miss Elliot, who privately decided, over a full and overflowing programme, that she would advance her recovery to one dance before the supper announcement.
"You're going to be a social success, Hal," whispered his partner. "I feel it. And where did you learn that delightful swing after the dip?"
"Picked it up on shipboard. But I shan't have much time for gayeties. You see, I've become a workingman."
"Tell me about it to-morrow. You're to dine with us; quite en famille. You must like Festus, Hal."
"I should think that would be easy."
"It is. He is just the finest, cleanest, straightest human being in the world," she said soberly. "Now, come away and meet a million people."
So late was it that most of the girls had no vacancies on their programmes. But Jeannette Willard was both a diplomat and a bit of a despot, socially, and several of the young eligibles relinquished, with surprisingly good grace, so Hal felt, their partners, in favor of the newcomer. He did not then know the tradition of Worthington's best set, that hospitality to a stranger well vouched for should be the common concern of all. Very pleasant and warming he found this atmosphere, after his years abroad, with its happy, well-bred frankness, its open comradeship, and obvious, "first-name" intimacies. But though every one he met seemed ready to extend to him, as a friend of the Willards, a ready welcome, he could not but feel himself an outsider, and at the conclusion of a dance he drew back into a side passage, to watch for a time.
Borne on a draught of air from some invisibly opening door behind him there came to his nostrils the fairy-spice of the arbutus-scent. He turned quickly, and saw her almost at his shoulder, the girl of the lustrous face. Behind her was Festus Willard.
"Ah, there you are, Surtaine," he said. "I've been looking for you to present you to Miss Elliot. Esme, this is Mr. Harrington Surtaine."
She neither bowed nor moved in acknowledgment of Hal's greeting, but looked at him with still, questioning eyes. The springtide hue of the wild flower at her breast was matched in her cheek. Her head was held high, bringing out the pure and lovely line of chin and throat. To Hal it seemed that he had never seen anything so beautiful and desirable.
"Is it a bet?" Festus Willard's quiet voice was full of amusement. "Have you laid a wager as to which will keep silent longest?"
At this, Hal recovered himself, though stumblingly.
"'Fain would I speak,'" he paraphrased, "'but that I fear to—to—to—'"
"Stutter," suggested Willard, with solicitous helpfulness. The girl broke into a little trill of mirth, too liquid for laughter; being rather the sound of a brooklet chuckling musically over its private delectations.
"If I could have a dance with you," suggested Hal, "I'm sure it would help my aphasia."
"I'm afraid," she began dubiously, "that—No; here's one just before supper. If you haven't that—"
"No: I haven't," said Hal hastily. "It's awfully good of you—and lucky for me."
"I'll be with Mrs. Willard," said the girl, nodding him a cheerful farewell.
Just what or who his partners for the next few dances were, Hal could not by any effort recall the next day. He was conscious, on the floor, only of an occasional glimpse of her, a fugitive savor of the wildwood fragrance, and then she had disappeared.
Later, as he returned from a talk with Festus Willard outside, he became aware of the challenge of deep-hued, velvety eyes, regarding him with a somewhat petulant expression, and recognized his acquaintance of the motor car and the railroad terminal.
"You'd forgotten me," accused Miss Kathleen Pierce, pouting, as he came to greet her.
Hal's disclaimer had sufficient diplomatic warmth to banish her displeasure. She introduced to him as Dr. Merritt a striking-looking, gray-haired young man, who had come up at the same time with an anticipatory expression. This promptly vanished when she said offhandedly to him:
"You've had three dances with me already, Hugh. I'm going to give this one to Mr. Surtaine if he wants it."
"Of course I want it," said Hal.
"Not that you deserve it," she went on. "You should have come around earlier. I'm not in the habit of giving dances this late in the evening."
"How could I break through the solid phalanx of supplicating admirers?"
"At least, you might have tried. I want to try that new step I saw you doing with Mrs. Willard. And I always get what I want."
"Unfortunate young lady!"
"To have nothing seem unattainable. Life must pall on you terribly."
"Indeed, it doesn't. I like being a spoiled child, don't you? Don't you think it's fun having everything you want to buy, and having a leading citizen for a father?"
"Is your father a leading citizen?" asked Hal, amused.
"Of course. So's yours. Neither of them quite knows which is the most leading. Dr. Surtaine is the most popular, but I suppose Pop is the most influential. Between the two of them they pretty much run this little old burg. Of course," she added with careless insolence, "Pop has got it all over Dr. Surtaine socially.
"I humbly feel that I am addressing local royalty," said Hal, smiling sardonically.
"Who? Me? Oh, I'm only the irresponsible child of wealth and power. Dr. Merritt called me that once—before I got him tamed." Turning to look at the gray young man who stood not far off, and noting the quiet force and competence of the face, Hal hazarded a guess to himself that the very frank young barbarian with whom he was talking was none too modest in her estimate of her own capacities. "Mrs. Willard is our local queen," she continued. "And Esme Elliot is the princess. Have you met Esme yet?"
"Then, of course, nobody else has a chance—so long as you're the newest toy. Still, you might find a spare hour between-times to come and call on us. Come on; let's dance."
"Pert" was the mildest term to which Hal reduced his characterization of Miss Pierce, by the time the one-step ended. Nevertheless, he admitted to himself that he had been amused. His one chief concern now, however, was the engagement with Miss Elliot.
When finally his number came around, he found her calmly explaining to a well-favored young fellow with a pained expression that he must have made a mistake about the number, while Mrs. Willard regarded her with mingled amusement and disfavor.
"Don't expect me to dance," she said as Hal approached. "I've twisted my foot."
"I'm sorry," said he blankly.
"Let's find a quiet place where we can sit. And then you may get me some supper."
His face lighted up. Esme Elliot remarked to herself that she had seldom seen a more pleasing specimen of the youth of the species.
"This is rather like a fairy-gift," he began eagerly, as they made their way to a nook under the stairway, specially adapted to two people of hermit tastes. "I shouldn't have dared to expect such good fortune."
"You'll find me quite a fairy-godmother if you're good. Besides," she added with calm audacity, "I wanted you to myself."
"Why?" he asked, amused and intrigued.
"Curiosity. My besetting sin. You're a phenomenon."
"An ambiguous term. It may mean merely a freak."
"A new young man in Worthington," she informed him, "is a phenomenon, a social phenomenon. Of course he may be a freak, also," she added judicially.
"Newness is a charm that soon wears off."
"Then you're going to settle down here?"
"Yes. I've joined the laboring classes."
"What kind of labor?"
"Journalism. I've just started in, to-day."
"Really! Which paper?"
Her expressive face changed. "Oh," she said, a little blankly.
"You don't like the 'Clarion'?"
"I almost never see it. So I don't know. And you're going to begin at the bottom? That's quite brave of you."
"No; I'm going to begin at the top. That's braver. Anyway, it's more reckless. I've bought the paper."
"Have you! I hadn't heard of it."
"Nobody's heard of it yet. No outsider. You're the first."
"How delightful!" She leaned closer and looked into his face with shining eyes. "Tell me more. What are you going to do with it?"
"Learn something about it, first."
"It's rather yellow, isn't it?"
"Putting it mildly, yes. That's one of the things I want to change."
"Oh, I wish I owned a newspaper!"
"Do you? Why?"
"For the power of it. To say what you please and make thousands listen." The pink in her cheeks deepened. "There's nothing in the world like the thrill of that sense of power. It's the one reason why I'd be almost willing to be a man."
"Perhaps you wouldn't need to be. Couldn't you exert the power without actually owning the newspaper?"
"By exercising your potent influence upon the obliging proprietor," he suggested smiling.
There came a dancing light in her eyes. "Do you think I'd make a good Goddess-Outside-the-Machine, to the 'Daily Clarion'?"
"Charming! For a two-cent stamp—no, for a spray of your arbutus, I'll sell you an editorial sphere of influence."
"Generous!" she cried. "What would my duties be?"
"To advise the editor and proprietor on all possible points," he laughed.
"And my privileges?"
"The right of a queen over a slave."
"We move fast," she said. Her fingers went to the cluster of delicate-hued bells in her bodice. But it was a false gesture. Esme Elliot was far too practiced in her chosen game to compromise herself to comment by allowing a man whom she had just met to display her favor in his coat.
"Am I to have my price?" His voice was eager now. She looked very lovely and childlike, with her head drooping, consideringly, above the flowers.
"Give me a little time," she said. "To undertake a partnership on five minutes' notice—that isn't business, is it?"
"Nor is this—wholly," he said, quite low.
Esme straightened up. "I'm starved," she said lightly. "Are you not going to get me any supper?"
After his return she held the talk to more impersonal topics, advising him, with an adorable assumption of protectiveness, whom he was to meet and dance with, and what men were best worth his while. At parting, she gave him her hand.
"I will let you know," she said, "about the—the sphere of influence."
Hal danced several more numbers, with more politeness than enjoyment, then sought out his hostess to say good-night.
"I'll see you to-morrow, then," she said: "and you shall tell me all your news."
"You're awfully good to me, Lady Jeannette," said he gratefully. "Without you I'd be a lost soul in this town."
"Most people are good to you, I fancy, Hal," said she, looking him over with approval. "As for being a lost soul, you don't look it. In fact you look like a very well-found soul, indeed."
"It is rather a cheerful world to live in," said Hal with apparent irrelevance.
"I hope they haven't spoiled you," she said anxiously. "Are you vain, Hal? No: you don't look it."
"What on earth should I be vain about? I've never done anything in the world."
"No? Yet you've improved. You've solidified. What have you been doing to yourself? Not falling in love?"
"Not that, certainly," he replied, smiling. "Nothing much but traveling."
"How did you like Esme Elliot?" she asked abruptly.
"Quite attractive," said Hal in a flat tone.
"Quite attractive, indeed!" repeated his friend indignantly. "In all your travelings, I don't believe you've ever seen any one else half as lovely and lovable."
"Local pride carries you far, Lady Jeannette," laughed Hal.
"And I had intended to have her here to dine to-morrow; but as you're so indifferent—"
"Oh, don't leave her out on my account," said Hal magnanimously.
"I believe you're more than half in love with her already."
"Well, you ought to be a good judge unless you've wholly forgotten the old days," retorted Hal audaciously.
Jeannette Willard laughed up at him. "Don't try to flirt with a middle-aged lady who is most old-fashionedly in love with her husband," she advised. "Keep your bravo speeches for Esme! She's used to them."
"Rather goes in for that sort of thing, doesn't she?"
"You mean flirtation? Someone's been talking to you about her," said Mrs. Willard quickly. "What did they say?"
"Nothing in particular. I just gathered the impression."
"Don't jump to any conclusions about Esme," advised his friend. "Most men think her a desperate flirt. She does like attention and admiration. What woman doesn't? And Esme is very much a woman."
"If she seems heartless, it's because she doesn't understand. She enjoys her own power without comprehending it. Esme has never been really interested in any man. If she had ever been hurt, herself, she would be more careful about hurting others. Yet the very men who have been hardest hit remain her loyal friends."
"A tribute to her strategy."
"A finer quality than that. It is her own loyalty, I think, that makes others loyal to her. But the men here aren't up to her standard. She is complex, and she is ambitious, without knowing it. Fine and clean as our Worthington boys are, there isn't one of them who could appeal to the imagination and idealism of a girl like Esme Elliot. For Esme, under all that lightness, is an idealist; the idealist who hasn't found her ideal."
"And therefore hasn't found herself."
She flashed a glance of inquiry and appraisal at him. "That's rather subtle of you," she said. "I hope you don't know too much about women, Hal."
"Not I! Just a shot in the dark."
"I said there wasn't a man here up to her standard. That isn't quite true. There is one,—you met him to-night,—but he has troubles of his own, elsewhere," she added, smiling. "I had hoped—but there has always been a friendship too strong for the other kind of sentiment between him and Esme."
"For a guess, that might be Dr. Merritt," said Hal.
"How did you know?" she cried.
"I didn't. Only, he seems, at a glance, different and of a broader gauge than the others."
"You're a judge of men, at least. As for Esme, I suppose she'll marry some man much older than herself. Heaven grant he's the right one! For when she gives, she will give royally, and if the man does not meet her on her own plane—well, there will be tragedy enough for two!"
"Deep waters," said Hal. The talk had changed to a graver tone.
"Deep and dangerous. Shipwreck for the wrong adventurer. But El Dorado for the right. Such a golden El Dorado, Hal! The man I want for Esme Elliot must have in him something of woman for understanding, and something of genius for guidance, and, I'm afraid, something of the angel for patience, and he must be, with all this, wholly a man."
"A pretty large order, Lady Jeannette. Well, I've had my warning. Good-night."
"Perhaps it wasn't so much warning as counsel," she returned, a little wistfully. "How poor Esme's ears must be burning. There she goes now. What a picture! Come early to-morrow."
Hal's last impression of the ballroom, as he turned away, was summed up in one glance from Esme Elliot's lustrous eyes, as they met his across her partner's shoulder, smiling him a farewell and a remembrance of their friendly pact.
"Honey-Jinny," said Mrs. Willard's husband, after the last guest had gone; "I don't understand about young Surtaine. Where did he get it?"
"Get what, dear? One might suppose he was a corrupt politician."
"One might suppose he might be anything crooked or wrong, knowing his old, black quack of a father. But he seems to be clean stuff all through. He looks it. He acts it. He carries himself like it. And he talks it. I had a little confab with him out in the smoking-room, and I tell you, Jinny-wife, I believe he's a real youngster."
"Well, he had a mother, you know."
"Did he? What about her?"
"She was an old friend of my mother's. Dr. Surtaine eloped with her out of her father's country place in Midvale. He was an itinerant peddler of some cure-all then. She was a gently born and bred girl, but a mere child, unworldly and very romantic, and she was carried away by the man's personal beauty and magnetism."
"I can't imagine it in a girl of any sort of family."
"Mother has told me that he had a personal force that was almost hypnotic. There must have been something else to him, too, for they say that Hal's mother died, as desperately in love as she had been when she ran away with him, and that he was almost crushed by her loss and never wholly got over it. He transferred his devotion to the child, who was only three years old when the mother died. When Hal was a mere child my mother saw him once taking in dollars at a country fair booth,—just think of it, dearest,—and she said he was the picture of his girl-mother then. Later, when Professor Certain, as he called himself then, got rich, he gave Hal the best of education. But he never let him have anything to do with the Ellersleys—that was Mrs. Surtaine's name. All the family are dead now."
"Well, there must be some good in the old boy," admitted Willard. "But I don't happen to like him. I do like the boy. Blood does tell, Jinny. But if he's really as much of an Ellersley as he looks, there's a bitter enlightenment before him when he comes to see Dr. Surtaine as he really is."
Meantime Hal, home at a reasonable hour, in the interest of his new profession, had taken with him the pleasantest impressions of the Willards' hospitality. He slept soundly and awoke in buoyant spirits for the dawning enterprise. On the breakfast table he found, in front of his plate, a bunchy envelope addressed in a small, strong, unfamiliar hand. Within was no written word; only a spray of the trailing arbutus, still unwithered of its fairy-pink, still eloquent, in its wayward, woodland fragrance, of her who had worn it the night before.
Ignorance within one's self is a mist which, upon closer approach, proves a mountain. To the new editor of the "Clarion" the things he did not know about this enterprise of which he had suddenly become the master loomed to the skies. Together with the rest of the outer world, he had comfortably and vaguely regarded a newspaper as a sort of automatic mill which, by virtue of having a certain amount of grain in the shape of information dumped into it, worked upon this with an esoteric type-mechanism, and, in due and exact time, delivered a definite grist of news. Of the refined and articulated processes of acquisition, selection, and elimination which went to the turning-out of the final product, he was wholly unwitting. He could as well have manipulated a linotype machine as have given out a quiet Sunday's assignment list: as readily have built a multiple press as made up an edition.
So much he admitted to McGuire Ellis late in the afternoon of the day after the Willard party. Fascinated, he had watched that expert journalist go through page after page of copy, with what seemed superhuman rapidity and address, distribute the finished product variously upon hooks, boxes, and copy-boys, and, the immediate task being finished, lapse upon his desk and fall asleep. Meantime, the owner himself faced the unpleasant prospect of being smothered under the downfall of proofs, queries, and scribbled sheets which descended upon his desk from all sides. For a time he struggled manfully: for a time thereafter he wallowed desperately. Then he sent out a far cry for help. The cry smote upon the ear of McGuire Ellis, "Hoong!" ejaculated that somnolent toiler, coming up out of deep waters. "Did you speak?"
"I want to know what I'm to do with all of these things," replied his boss, indicating the augmenting drifts.
"Throw 'em on the floor, is my advice," said the employee drowsily. "The more stuff you throw away, the better paper you get out. That's a proverb of the business."
"In other words, you think the paper would get along better without me than with me?"
"But you're enjoying yourself, aren't you?" queried his employee. Heaving himself out of his chair, he ambled over to Hal's desk and evolved out of the chaos some semblance of order. "Don't find it as easy as your enthusiasm painted it," he suggested.
"Oh, I've still got the enthusiasm. If only I knew where to begin."
Ellis rubbed his ear thoughtfully and remarked: "Once I knew a man from Phoenix, Arizona, who was so excited the first time he saw the ocean that he borrowed a uniform from an absent friend, shinned aboard a five-thousand-ton brigantine, and ordered all hands to put out to sea immediately in the teeth of a whooping gale. But he," added the narrator in the judicial tone of one who cites mitigating circumstances, "was drunk at the time."
"Thanks for the parallel. I don't like it. But never mind that. The question is, What am I going to do?"
"That's the question all right. Are you putting it to me?"
"Well, I was just going to put it to you."
"No use. I don't know."
The two men looked each other in the eye, long and steadily. Ellis's harsh face relaxed to a sort of grin.
"You want me to tell you?"
"What do you think you're hiring, a Professor of Journalism in the infant class?" The tone of the question offset any apparent ill-nature in the wording.
"It might be made worth your while."
"All right; I'm hired."
"That's good," said Hal heartily. "I think you'll find I'm not hard to get along with."
"I think you'll find I am," replied the other with some grimness. "But I know the game. Well, let's get down to cases. What do you want to do with the 'Clarion'?"
"Make it the cleanest, decentest newspaper in the city."
"Then you don't think it's that, now."
"No. I know it isn't."
"Did you get that from Dr. Surtaine?"
"What's the other part?"
"First-hand impressions. I've been going through the files."
"Since nine o'clock this morning."
"With what idea?"
"Why, having bought a piece of property, I naturally want to know about it."
"Been through the plant yet? That's your property, too."
"No. I thought I'd find out more from the files. I've bought a newspaper, not a building."
The characteristic grunt with which Ellis favored his employer in reply to this seemed to have a note of approval in it.
"Well; now that you own the 'Clarion,'" he said after a pause, "what do you think of it?"
"It's yellow, and it's sensational, and—it's vulgar."
There was nothing complimentary in the other's snort this time.
"Of course it's vulgar. You can't sell a sweet-scented, prim old-maidy newspaper to enough people to pay for the z's in one font of type. People are vulgar. Don't forget that. And you've got to make a newspaper to suit them. Lesson Number One."
"It needn't be a muckraking paper, need it, forever smelling out something rotten, and exploiting it in big headlines?"
"Oh, that's all bluff," replied the journalist easily. "We never turn loose on anything but the surface of things. Why, if any one started in really to muckrake this old respectable burg, the smell would drive most of our best citizens to the woods."
"Frankly, Mr. Ellis, I don't like cheap cynicism."
"Prefer to be fed up on pleasant lies?" queried his employee, unmoved.
"Not that either. I can take an unpleasant truth as well as the next man. But it's got to be the truth."
"Do you know the nickname of this paper?"
"Yes. My father told me of it."
"It was his set that pinned it on us. 'The Daily Carrion,' they call us, and they said that our triumphal roosters ought to be vultures. Do you know why?"
"In plain English because of the paper's lies and blackguardism."
"In plainer English, because of its truth. Wait a minute, now. I'm not saying that the 'Clarion' doesn't lie. All papers do, I guess. They have to. But it's when we've cut loose on straight facts that we've got in wrong."
"Give me an instance."
"Well, the sewing-girls' strike."
"Engineered by a crooked labor leader and a notoriety-seeking woman."
"I see the bunch have got to you already, and have filled you up with their dope. Never mind that, now. We're supposed to be a sort of tribune of the common people. Rights of the ordinary citizen, and that sort of thing. So we took up the strike and printed the news pretty straight. No other paper touched it."
"Didn't dare. We had to drop it, ourselves. Not until we'd lost ten thousand dollars in advertising, though, and gained an extra blot on our reputation as being socialistic and an enemy to capital and all that kind of rot."
"Wasn't it simply a case of currying favor with the working-classes?"
"According as you look at it." Apparently weary of looking at it at all, McGuire Ellis tipped back in his chair and contemplated the ceiling. When he spoke his voice floated up as softly as a ring of smoke. "How honest are you going to be, Mr. Surtaine?"
"I asked you how honest you are going to be."
"It's a question I don't think you need to ask me."
"I do. How else will I find out?"
"I intend the 'Clarion' to be strictly and absolutely honest. That's all there is to that."
"Don't be so young," said McGuire Ellis wearily. "'Strictly and absol'—see here, did you ever read 'The Wrecker'?"
"More than once."
"Remember the chap who says, 'You seem to think honesty as simple as blindman's-buff. I don't. It's some difference of definition, I suppose'? Now, there's meat in that."
"Difference of definition be hanged. Honesty is honesty."
"And policy is policy. And bankruptcy is bankruptcy."
"I don't see the connection."
"It's there. Honesty for a newspaper isn't just a matter of good intentions. It's a matter of eternal watchfulness and care and expert figuring-out of things."
"You mean that we're likely to make mistakes about facts—"
"We're certain to. But that isn't what I mean at all. I mean that it's harder for a newspaper to be honest than it is for the pastor of a rich church."
"You can't make me believe that."
"Facts can. But I'm not doing my job. You want to learn the details of the business, and I'm wasting time trying to throw light into the deep places where it keeps what it has of conscience. That'll come later. Now where shall I begin?"
"With the structure of the business."
"All right. A newspaper is divided into three parts. News is the merchandise which it has to sell. Advertising is the by-product that pays the bills. The editorial page is a survival. At its best it analyzes and points out the significance of important news. At its worst, it is a mouthpiece for the prejudices or the projects of whoever runs it. Few people are influenced by it. Many are amused by it. It isn't very important nowadays."
"I intend to make it so on the 'Clarion.'"
Ellis turned upon him a regard which carried with it a verdict of the most abandoned juvenility, but made no comment. "News sways people more than editorials," he continued. "That's why there's so much tinkering with it. I'd like to give you a definition of news, but there isn't any. News is conventional. It's anything that interests the community. It isn't the same in any two places. In Arizona a shower is news. In New Orleans the boll-weevil is news. In Worthington anything about your father is news: in Denver they don't care a hoot about your father; so, unless he elopes or dies, or buys a fake Titian, or breaks the flying-machine record, or lectures on medical quackery, he isn't news away from home. If Mrs. Festus Willard is bitten by a mad dog, every dog-chase for the week following is news. When a martyred suffragette chews a chunk out of the King of England, the local meetings of the Votes-for-Women Sorority become a live topic. If ever you get to the point where you can say with certainty, 'This is news; that isn't,' you'll have no further need for me. You'll be graduated."
"Where does a paper get its news?"
"Through mechanical channels, mostly. If you read all the papers in town,—and you'll have to do it,—you'll see that they've got just about the same stuff. Why shouldn't they have? The big, clumsy news-mill grinds pretty impartially for all of them. There's one news source at Police Headquarters, another at the City Hall, another in the financial department, another at the political headquarters, another in the railroad offices, another at the theaters, another in society, and so on. At each of these a reporter is stationed. He knows his own kind of news as it comes to him, ready-made, and, usually, not much else. Then there's the general, unclassified news of the city that drifts in partly by luck, partly by favor, partly through the personal connections of the staff. One paper is differentiated from another principally by getting or missing this sort of stuff. For instance, the 'Banner' yesterday had a 'beat' about you. It said that you had come back and were going to settle down and go into your father's business."
"That's not true."
"Glad to hear it. Your hands will be full with this job. But it was news. Everybody is interested in the son of our leading citizen. The 'Banner' is strong on that sort of local stuff. I think I'll jack up our boys in the city room by hinting that there may be a shake-up coming under the new owner. Knowing they're on probation will make 'em ambitious."
"And the news of the outside world?"
"Much the same principle as the local matter and just as machine-like. The 'Clarion' is a unit in a big system, the National News Exchange Bureau. Not only has the bureau its correspondents in every city and town of any size, but it covers the national sources of news with special reporters. Also the international. Theoretically it gives only the plainest facts, uncolored by any bias. As a matter of fact, it's pretty crooked. It suppresses news, and even distorts it. It's got a secret financial propaganda dictated by Wall Street, and its policies are always open to suspicion."
"Why doesn't it get honest reporters?"
"Oh, its reporters are honest enough. The funny business is done higher up, in the executive offices."
"Isn't there some other association we can get into?"
"Not very well, just now. The Exchange franchise is worth a lot of money. Besides," he concluded, yawning, "I don't know that they're any worse than we are."
Hal got to his feet and walked the length of the office and back, five times. At the end of this exercise he stood, looking down at his assistant.
"Ellis, are you trying to plant an impression in my mind?"
"You're doing it."
"Of what sort?"
"I hardly know. Something subtle, and lurking and underhanded in the business. I feel as if you had your hands on a curtain that you might pull aside if you would, but that you don't want to shock my—my youthfulness."
"Plain facts are what you want, aren't they?"
"Well, I'm giving them to you as plain as you can understand them. I don't want to tell you more than you're ready to believe."
"Try it, as an experiment."
"Who do you suppose runs the newspapers of this town?"
"Why, Mr. Vane runs the 'Banner.' Mr. Ford owns the 'Press.' The 'Telegram'—let me see—"
"No; no; no," cried Ellis, waving his hands in front of his face. "I don't mean the different papers. I mean all of 'em. The 'Clarion,' with the others."
"Nobody runs them all, surely."
"Three men run them all; Pierce, Gibbs, and Hollenbeck."
"Elias Middleton Pierce."
"I had luncheon with him yesterday, and with Mr. Gibbs—"
"Ah! That's where you got your notions about the strike."
"—and neither of them spoke of any newspaper interests."
"Catch them at it! They're the Publication Committee of the Retail Dry Goods Union."
"What is that?"
"The combination of local department stores. And, as such, they can dictate to every Worthington newspaper what it shall or shall not print."
"Including the 'Clarion.'"
"There you're wrong, anyway."
"The department stores are the biggest users of advertising space in the city. No paper in town could get along without them. If they want a piece of news kept out of print, they tell the editor so, and you bet it's kept out. Otherwise that paper loses the advertising."
"Has it ever been done here?"
"Has it? Get Veltman down to tell you about the Store Employees' Federation."
"Veltman? What does he know of it? He's in the printing-department, isn't he?"
"Composing-room; yes. Outside he's a labor agitator and organizer. A bit of a fanatic, too. But an A1 man all right. Get the composing-room," he directed through the telephone, "and ask Mr. Veltman to come to Mr. Surtaine's office."
As the printer entered, Hal was struck again with his physical beauty.
"Did you want to see me?" he asked, looking at the "new boss" with somber eyes.
"Tell Mr. Surtaine about the newspapers and the Store Federation, Max," said Ellis.
The German shook his head. "Nothing new in that," he said, with the very slightest of accents. "We can't organize them unless the newspapers give us a little publicity."
"Explain it to me, please. I know nothing about it," said Hal.
"For years we've been trying to organize a union of department store employees."
"Aren't they well treated?"
"Not quite as well as hogs," returned the other in an impassive voice. "The girls wanted shorter hours and extra pay for overtime at holiday time and Old Home Week. Every time we've tried it the stores fire the organizers among their employees."
"Hardly fair, that."
"This year we tried to get up a public meeting. Reverend Norman Hale helped us, and Dr. Merritt, the health officer, and a number of women. It was a good news feature, and that was what we wanted, to get the movement started. But do you think any paper in town touched it? Not one."
"E.M. Pierce's orders. He and his crowd."
"Even the 'Clarion,' which is supposed to have labor sympathies?"
"The 'Clarion'!" There was a profundity of contempt in Veltman's voice; and a deeper bitterness when he snapped his teeth upon a word which sounded to Hal suspiciously like the Biblical characterization of an undesirable citizeness of Babylon.
"In any case, they won't give the 'Clarion' any more orders."
"Oh, yes, they will," said Veltman stolidly.
"Then they'll learn something distinctly to their disadvantage."
The splendid, animal-like eyes of the compositor gleamed suddenly. "Do you mean you're going to run the paper honestly?"
Hal almost recoiled before the impassioned and incredulous surprise in the question.
"What is 'honestly'?"
"Give the people who buy your paper the straight news they pay for?"
"Certainly, the paper will be run that way."
"As easy as rolling off a log," put in McGuire Ellis, with suspicious smoothness.
Veltman looked from one to the other. "Yes," he said: and again "Yes-s-s." But the life had gone from his voice. "Anything more?"
"Nothing, thank you," answered Hal.
"Brains, fire, ambition, energy, skill, everything but balance," said Ellis, as the door closed. "He's the stuff that martyrs are made of—or lunatics. Same thing, I guess."
"Isn't he a trouble-maker among the men?"
"No. He's a good workman. Something more, too. Sometimes he writes paragraphs for the editorial page; and when they're not too radical, I use 'em. He's brought us in one good feature, that 'Kitty the Cutie' stuff."
"I'd thought of dropping that. It's so cheap and chewing-gummy."
"Catches on, though. We really ought to run it every day. But the girl hasn't got time to do it."
"Who is she?"
"Some kid in your father's factory, I understand. Protegee of Veltman's, He brought her stuff in and we took it right off the bat."
"Well, I'll tell you one thing that is going."
"The 'Clarion's' motto. 'We Lead: Let Those Who Can Follow.'" Hal pointed to the "black-face" legend at the top of the first editorial column.
"Got anything in its place?"
"I thought of 'With Malice Toward None: With Charity for All.'"
"Worked to death. But I've never seen it on a newspaper. Shall I tell Veltman to set it up in several styles so you may take your pick?"
"Yes. Let's start it in to-morrow."
That night Harrington Surtaine went to bed pondering on the strange attitude of the newspaper mind toward so matter-of-fact a quality as honesty; and he dreamed of a roomful of advertisers listening in sodden silence to his own grandiloquent announcement, "Gentlemen: honesty is the best policy," while, in a corner, McGuire Ellis and Max Veltman clasped each other in an apoplectic agony of laughter.
On the following day the blatant cocks of the shrill "Clarion" stood guard at either end of the paper's new golden text.
IN THE WAY OF TRADE
Dr. Surtaine sat in Little George's best chair, beaming upon the world. By habit, the big man was out of his seat with his dime and nickel in the bootblack's ready hand, almost coincidently with the final clip-clap of the rhythmic process. But this morning he lingered, contemplating with an unobtrusive scrutiny the occupant of the adjoining chair, a small, angular, hard man, whose brick-red face was cut off in the segment of an abrupt circle, formed by a low-jammed green hat. This individual had just briskly bidden his bootblack "hurry it up" in a tone which meant precisely what it said. The youth was doing so.
"George," said Dr. Surtaine, to the proprietor of the stand.
"Were you ever in St. Jo, Missouri?"
"Yas, suh, Doctah Suhtaine; oncet."
"Didn't live there, did you?"
"George," said his interlocutor impressively, "you're lucky."
"Yas, suh," agreed the negro with a noncommittal grin.
"While you can buy accommodations in a graveyard or break into a penitentiary, don't you ever live in St. Jo Missouri, George."
The man in the adjacent seat half turned toward Dr. Surtaine and looked him up and down, with a freezing regard.
"It's the sink-hole and sewer-pipe of creation, George. They once elected a chicken-thief mayor, and he resigned because the town was too mean to live in. Ever know any folks there, George?"
"Don't have no mem'ry for 'em, Doctah."
"You're lucky again. They're the orneriest, lowest-down, minchin', pinchin', pizen trash that ever tainted the sweet air of Heaven by breathing it, George."
"You don' sesso, Doctah Suhtaine, suh."
"I do sess precisely so, George. Does the name McQuiggan mean anything to you?"
"Don' mean nothin' at-tall to me, Doctah."
"You got away from St. Jo in time, then. Otherwise you might have met the McQuiggan family, and never been the same afterward."
"Ef you don' stop youah feet a-fidgittin', Boss," interpolated the neighboring bootblack, addressing the green-hatted man in aggrieved tones, "I cain't do no good wif this job."
"McQuiggan was the name," continued the volunteer biographer. "The best you could say of the McQuiggans, George, was that one wasn't much cusseder than the others, because he couldn't be. Human nature has its limitations, George."
"It suttinly have, suh."
"But if you had to allow a shade to any of 'em, it would probably have gone to the oldest brother, L.P. McQuiggan. Barring a scorpion I once sat down on while in swimming, he was the worst outrage upon the scheme of creation ever perpetrated by a short-sighted Providence."
"Get out of that chair!"
The little man had shot from his own and was dancing upon the pavement.
"What for?" Dr. Surtaine's tone was that of inquiring innocence.
"To have your fat head knocked off."
With impressive agility for one of his size and years, the challenged one descended. He advanced, "squared," and suddenly held out a muscular and plump hand.
The other glared at him, baleful and baffled.
"Hullo, I said. Don't you know me?"
"No, I don't. Neither will your own family after I get through with you."
"Come off, Elpy; come off. I licked you once in the old days, and I guess I could do it now, but I don't want to. Come and have a drink with old Andy."
"Andy? Andy the Spieler? Andy Certain?"
"Dr. L. Andre Surtaine, at your service. Now, will you shake?"
Still surly, Mr. McQuiggan hung back. "What about that roast?" he demanded.
"Wasn't sure of you. Twenty years is a long time. But I knew if it was you you'd want to fight, and I knew if you didn't want to fight it wasn't you. I'll buy you one in honor of the best little city west of the Mississip, and the best bunch of sports that ever came out of it, the McQuiggans of St. Jo, Missouri. Does that go?"
"It goes," replied the representative of the family concisely.
Across the cafe table Dr. Surtaine contemplated his old acquaintance with friendly interest.
"The same old scrappy Elpy," he observed. "What's happened to you, since you used to itinerate with the Iroquois Extract of Life?"
"You're looking pretty prosperous."
"Have to, in my line."
"What is it?"
Mr. McQuiggan produced a card, with the legend:—
- McQuiggan & Straight STREAKY MOUNTAIN COPPER COMPANY Orsten, Palas County, Nev. L.P. MCQUIGGAN ARTHUR STRAIGHT President Vice-Pres. & Treas. -
"Any good?" queried the Doctor.
"Best undeveloped property in the State."
"Why don't you develop it?"
"Get the capital."
"Will you help me?"
"Advertising costs money."
"And brings two dollars for every one you spend."
"Maybe," retorted the other, with a skeptical air. "But my game is still talk."
"Talk gets dimes; print gets dollars," said his friend sententiously.
"You have to show me."
"Show you!" cried the Doctor. "I'll write your copy myself."
"You will? What do you know about mining?"
"Not a thing. But there isn't much I don't know about advertising. I've built up a little twelve millions, plus, on it. And I can sell your stock like hot cakes through the 'Clarion.'"
"What's the 'Clarion'?"
"My son's newspaper."
"Thereby keeping the graft in the family, eh?"
"Don't be a fool, Elpy. I'm showing you profits. Besides doing you a good turn, I'd like to bring in some new business to the boy. Now you take half-pages every other day for a week and a full page Sunday—"
"Pages!" almost squalled the little man. "D'you think I'm made of money?"
"Elpy," said Dr. Surtaine, abruptly, "do you remember my platform patter?"
"Like the multiplication table."
"Was it good?"
"Well, I'm a slicker proposition with a pen than I ever was with a spiel. And you're securing my services for nothing. Come around to the office, man, and let me show you."
Still suspicious, Mr. McQuiggan permitted himself to be led away, expatiating as he went, upon the unrivaled location and glorious future of his mining property. From time to time, Dr. Surtaine jotted down an unostentatious note.
The first view of the Certina building dashed Mr. McQuiggan's suspicions; his inspection of his old friend's superb office slew them painlessly.
"Is this all yours, Andy? On the level? Did you do it all on your own?"
"Every bit of it! With my little pen-and-ink. Take a look around the walls and you'll see how."
He seated himself at his desk and proceeded to jot down, with apparent carelessness, but in broad, sweeping lines, a type lay-out, while his guest passed from advertisement to advertisement, in increasing admiration. Before Old Lame-Boy he paused, absolutely fascinated.
"I thought that'd get you," exulted the host, who, between strokes of the creative pen had been watching him.
"I've seen it in the newspaper, but never connected it with you. Being out of the medical line I lost interest. Say, it's a wonder! Did it fetch 'em?"
"Fetch 'em? It knocked 'em flat. That picture's the foundation of this business. Talk about suggestion in advertising! He's a regular hypnotist, Old Lame-Boy is. Plants the suggestion right in the small of your back, where we want it. Why, Elpy, I've seen a man walk up to that picture on a bill-board as straight as you or me, take one good, long look, and go away hanging onto his kidneys, and squirming like a lizard. Fact! What do you think of that? Genius, I call it: just flat genius, to produce an effect like that with a few lines and a daub or two of color."
"Some pull!" agreed Mr. McQuiggan, with professional approval. "And then—'Try Certina,' eh?"
"For a starter and, for a finisher 'Certina Cures.' Shoves the bottle right into their hands. The first bottle braces 'em. They take another. By the time they've had half a dozen, they love it."
"Sure! Flavored and spiced up, nice and tasty. Great for the temperance trade. And the best little repeater on the market. Now take a look, Elpy."
He tapped the end of his pen upon the rough sketch of the mining advertisement, which he had drafted. Mr. McQuiggan bent over it in study, and fell a swift victim to the magic of the art.
"Why, that would make a wad of bills squirm out of the toe of a stockin'! It's new game to me. I've always worked the personal touch. But I'll sure give it a try-out, Andy."
"I guess it's bad!" exulted the other. "I guess I've lost the trick of tolling the good old dollars in! Take this home and try it on your cash register! Now, come around and meet the boy."
Thus it was that Editor-in-Chief Harrington Surtaine, in the third week of his incumbency received a professional call from his father, and a companion from whose pockets bulged several sheets of paper.
"Shake hands with Mr. McQuiggan, Hal," said the Doctor. "Make a bow when you meet him, too. He's your first new business for the reformed 'Clarion.'"
"In what way?" asked Hal, meeting a grip like iron from the stranger. "News?"
"News! I guess not. Business, I said. Real money. Advertising."
"It's like this, Mr. Surtaine," said L.P. McQuiggan, turning his spare, hard visage toward Hal. "I've got some copper stock to sell—an A1 under-developed proposition; and your father, who's an old pal, tells me the 'Clarion' can do the business for me. Now, if I can get a good rate from you, it's a go."
"Mr. Shearson, the advertising manager, is your man. I don't know anything about advertising rates."
"Then you'd best get busy and learn," cried Dr. Surtaine.
"I'm learning other things."
"What news is and isn't."
"Look here, Boyee." Dr. Surtaine's voice was surcharged with a disappointed earnestness. "Put yourself right on this. News is news; any paper can get it. But advertising is Money. Let your editors run the news part, till you can work into it. You get next to the door where the cash comes in."
In the fervor of his advice he thumped Hal's desk. The thump woke McGuire Ellis, who had been devoting a spare five minutes to his favorite pastime. For his behoof, the exponent of policy repeated his peroration. "Isn't that right, Ellis?" he cried. "You're a practical newspaper man."
"It's true to type, anyway," grunted Ellis.
"Sure it is!" cried the other, too bent on his own notions to interpret this comment correctly. "And now, what about a little reading notice for McQuiggan's proposition?"
"Yes: an interview with me on the copper situation and prospects might help," put in McQuiggan.
Hal hesitated, looking to Ellis for counsel.
"You've got to do something for an advertiser on a big order like this, Boyee," urged his father.
"Let's see the copy," put in Ellis. The trained journalistic eye ran over the sheets. "Lot of gaudy slush about copper mines in general," he observed, "and not much information on Streaky Mountain."
"It's an undeveloped property," said McQuiggan.
"Strong on geography," continued Ellis. "'In the immediate vicinity,'" he read from one sheet, "'lie the Copper Monarch Mine paying 40 per cent dividends, the Deep Gulch Mine, paying 35 per cent, the Three Sisters, Last Chance, Alkali Spring Mines, all returning upwards of 25 per cent per annum: and immediately adjacent is the famous Strike-for-the-West property which enriches its fortunate stockholders to the tune of 75 per cent a year!' Are you on the same range as the Strike-for-the-West, Mr. McQuiggan?"
"It's an adjacent property," growled the mining man. "What d'you know about copper?"
"Oh, I've seen a little mining, myself. And a bit of mining advertising. That's quite an ad. of yours, McQuiggan."
"I wrote that ad.," said Dr. Surtaine blandly: "and I challenge anybody to find a single misstatement in it."
"You're safe. There isn't any. And scarcely a single statement. But if you wrote it, I suppose it goes."
"And the interview, too," rasped McQuiggan.
"It's usual," said Ellis to Hal. "The tail with the hide: the soul with the body, when you're selling."
"But we're not selling interviews," said Hal uneasily.
"You're getting nearly a thousand dollars' worth of copy, and giving a bonus that don't cost you anything," said his father. "The papers have done it for me ever since I've been in business."
"I guess that's right, too," agreed Ellis.
"Why don't you take McQuiggan down to meet your Mr. Shearson, Hal?" suggested the Doctor. "I'll stay here and round out a couple of other ideas for his campaign."
Hal had risen from his desk when there was a light knock at the door and Milly Neal's bright head appeared.
"Hullo!" said Dr. Surtaine. "What's up? Anything wrong at the shop, Milly?"
The girl walked into the room and stood trimly at ease before the four men.
"No, Chief," said she. "I understood Mr. Surtaine wanted to see me."
"I?" said Hal blankly, pushing a chair toward her.
"Yes. Didn't you? They told me you left word for me in the city room, to see you when I came in again. Sometimes I send my copy, so I only just got the message."
"Miss Neal is 'Kitty the Cutie,'" explained McGuire Ellis.
"Looks it, too," observed L.P. McQuiggan jauntily, addressing the upper far corner of the room.
Miss Neal looked at him, met a knowing and conscious smile, looked right through the smile, and looked away again, all with the air of one who gazes out into nothingness.