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DESIGN-BV JP2.S HM^MAN.ROSSE
First Printing, December, 1922
Second Printing, February, 1923
|HE character portraits in
this book are composites. The
incidents are fictionized. It was
inevitable that much of the at-
mosphere should be borrowed
from that of a certain famous
and fascinating newsroom; but
the author believes that he will
be forgiven for purloining a bit
of atmosphere. It is his hope
that no one, a part of whose like-
ness may be visible in the mirror,
will imagine that he discovers a
full-length portrait of himself;
that not a line of the writing will
cav^e distress to a single one of
those to whom the book may
be considered dedicated — ''the
^ The Day . 1
In The Cave of Tongues 25
^ The Star 41
"^ The Drunkard 55
- YouAg-Man-Going-Somewhere 69
The Cub 85
The Old Man 97
The Poet 113
The Ghost 125
The Socialized Copy-Boy 143
The Triumphant Comma-Hound .... 161
Josslyn,— (Part One) , . 179
Josslyn,--(Part Two) , . 207
The Late Watch ......... 231
T is still dark in the streets, still
dark among the fiat roofs of our
block, when the day begins.
It is a winter morning before
seven o'clock. Night clings to the
city. Windows in some of the tall
with a radiance never extin-
guished; others spring into color ahead of the
belated sun. On street cars and elevated trains
that sail through the darkness like lighted ships
the seven o'clock workers are arriving "down-
town." They are shabbier, more morose, than
those who come later. It is hard to be buoyant
before seven o'clock in the morning.
In the newspaper office desks and long tables
stand in a twilight due to glimmerings that pene-
trate through the windows. Typewriters, gro-
tesquely hooded, lie in ranks. Waste-baskets yawn.
The wires, clinging to the desks, are asleep; tele-
phones have not yet found their tongues. The
electric contact with the waking world is in sus-
pension. What happened yesterday? What will
happen today? The wires do not care.
A sleepy boy, shivering, his shoes trickling
melted snow, enters the spectral room, carrying
a bundle of morning newspapers which he lets
fall upon a table. He sighs. He turns an electric
switch, and the desks and tables spring into
outline. The boy stares about him, stumbles over
a waste-basket, kicks it away, sits in a battered
chair in front of the mouth of a tarnished copper
tube that runs through the ceiling, and drowses.
He has barely settled down when he hears men
coming in, and starts up. The men are two ; young,
but with graying hair. They have not much to
say to each other. They do not even glance toward
the boy. With a manner somewhat repressed, but
alert enough, they go to desks, call out for the
morning papers, and start slicing them up with
scissors. Ten minutes go by, while the clock ticks
serenely and the windows become grey with creep-
ing daylight ; daylight that sifts down among the
roofs and through veils of smoke and fog, that
comes cold and ashamed and reluctant. It envel-
ops in new shadows the bowed shoulders of the
two young rnen, touching their cheeks with its
own pallor, casting pale reminders upon the papers
they are cutting. One man glances over his
shoulder at the clock. The clock presently strikes
a puny but peremptory "Ping!" It is seven o'clock.
The day has begun.
Now enter through the swinging door, which
flies back and forth impatiently, the staff. For
some time the tramping of their feet, the sound
of their breathing, their low laughter, the swish
and creak of the door, fills the room. There are
ruddy, careless fellows in this company, sanguine
youths to whom strain and difficulty are nothing.
They tramp, tramp, past the desks and tables, doff
overcoats, strip the typewriters of their hoods,
whistle, wink at each other, take final puffs of for-
bidden cigarettes, chuckle together over amusing
things in the morning papers, and meantime
remain secretly alert — for what? Not merely for
the calling of a name by the city editor (now
established at his desk and scowling at clippings).
Not merely for the chatter of a telephone bell,
which may mean a day's work for some or all.
The possibilities are vague. The tingling of blood
means only that this is a new day. Something is
bound to happen. They do not mention this to
each other. It is against the code for one man to
say to his mate : "John, this may be a momentous
day. It may bring fame to someone. This may be
our great opportunity." Instead, one reporter
stretches and yawns: "Well, here we are again,
boys; back in the old squirrel cage, to do a few
more turns for the antique Press. What of it?
Say, do you suppose such a thing could happen as
that rd get an interesting assignment? Where's
the bird who said newspaper work was excit-
ing? . . . ."
They are like hunting dogs, pretending to be
asleep, but with their ears cocked for the mys-
terious, the shapeless approaching event that is
in the spirit of the day.
'^ ^ [II]
THE room is now full. In this loft, some ninety
feet long by thirty wide, place is found for
nearly forty men. At one end, the end farthest
from the thunder of "L** trains, sits the city
editor, surrounded by assistants, tables, tele-
phones, filing cases, wire baskets, spindles, and
boys — in that order of usefulness. Within elbow
distance are the copy-readers, whom the city
editor both prizes and reviles. They bend over
their long, battered desk, some of them chewing
tobacco unobtrusively, and jab with their pencils
at piles of manuscript, giving it an earnest and
sardonic scrutiny. Just beyond them sit the
telegraph editors, older men and more solemn of
face, as befits those whose judgment grapples
with majestic cables and Washington dispatches.
The chief of these worthies presides at a roll-
top desk upon which boys periodically dump a
mess of Associated Press sheets, damp from their
passage through the tube. The desk has pigeon-
holes crammed with dusty reports, statistics,
speeches not yet delivered, and biographies of
men not yet dead. The telegraph editor is just
now arguing with the head proofreader over the
spelling of a Russian name. The argument waxes
hot. We pass on.
There is a group of desks pertaining to the
three men who attend to the "make-up"; two of
the arm-chairs vacant because their owners are
in the composing room. And there is a large and
excessively dusty desk before which, with his
back to its intricate recesses, sits the news editor,
from whom are supposed to issue ideas, solutions,
and enthusiasm. None of them have issued from
him thus far ; but the day is still young.
Behind all this is the ampler space occupied
by the staff. Three reporters, sprawled over
their typewriters and strings of clippings, are
doggedly pounding out "re-writes" of morning
paper articles. Two more are deciphering notes
of matters they have just heard over the tele-
phone. Four others stand by a window, engaged
in brisk discussion. Are they discussing politics,
prurient plays, or prohibition? None of these
things. One overhears: "I doubt if Wells is
such a scream in England as he is in America.
Now, when it comes to Compton Mackenzie "
A boy approaches one of these reporters and
"Wallace, Mr. Brown wants you."
The literary causerie continues during Wallace's
absence. He returns, pulling on his gloves. A stir
among the unassigned.
"IVe got to interview Sir Scammon Scammon-
ton. LaSalle station/*
"Sorry for you. Must be dull day."
"It is," grimaces Wallace, swaggering off.
A dark-haired reporter sits penciling lines upon
rough paper, and looking out dreamily into the
hurly-burly of traffic and over the chaos of cor-
nices and water tanks visible from the window.
He is far, far away from all this. The lines he
scrawls are mystical, tender. He is a poet. And
he is a very good reporter but his habits
A stout man in a corner is writing : "It is under-
stood that the non-partisan element in the county
board " but half his thoughts are upon Japan-
ese prints. He is an amateur of Japanese prints.
In another corner a tall and slightly grey-haired
reporter stabs with his cane at a vagrant cock-
roach, while shadows of reverie and discontent
flit across his face. He was lately in Europe,
whence he returned in disgust, shouting for the
"good old life." Now he is yearning for Europe
again. A novel that he began to write lies, yellow-
ing, in a corner of his desk. He would like to go
to Mexico, or to California. He applies every week
for some trip or other. Meantime he meticulously
does what he is told to do.
And then, there is a Cub, who sits bolt upright
before his idle typewriter, eagerly, lovingly watch-
ing the distant city editor from whom today — yes,
this very day — ^may come that "good assignment."
Something exciting. Good Lord, if they would
only let him
It is a dull day, yet there is a resistless move-
ment of the commonplace which at last pulls
nearly all these men from their trifling or their
brooding and sends them out into the city, out into
the slushy and gloom-fast streets, out into the
enormous glittering skyscrapers, to run down little
events. They scatter, with their various moods of
hope, disgust, scorn, or vivacity, to thread their
way through the city.
The oflfice, emptied of the staff, retains only the
"desk men." These are now a little relaxed. Not
only has the day's program been laid down, as far
as possible, but the first edition, which has fur-
nished a few minutes of tension, is on the presses.
From regions far below there comes a muffled
thunder, a jarring that faintly shakes the desks.
In the news-room silence, compared with the
recent pecking of typewriters and murmur of
voices, prevails. The desk men straighten up in
their chairs, sigh, and stretch. One of them pulls
from a drawer a thick novel and reads.
It is a pause. But during this pause life goes
on, climaxes prepare. Something draws nearer.
The managing editor, a heavily-built being with
harsh spectacles, prowls into the room, gazes about
and halts, watched apprehensively by a benchful
of small boys. He disregards the juvenile array
and swings heavily, thoughtfully, over toward
the desk of the news editor.
"What's doing?" he demands, in that voice
whose cadences can convey so much wrath, so
much bitterness — and so much sweetness.
"Humph !" exclaims the Old Man, and retires to
npHE Old Man has officially stigmatized the day
-^ as dull.
Boredom is the word.
Take a score of keenly sensitized men, confront
them with routine, and the result is boredom.
However, they can endure this, just as they are
able to stand severe and long-continued excite-
ment. To those who most tremble with suspense
or burn with pride there comes the profoundest
lethargy; but they have learned to swim in it
without impairment of the spirit. Here is a faculty
which they have in common with musicians,
actors, and other artists. These men in the news
room have traces of the creative temperament,
which hibernates, then springs up with new vigor.
In some of them it is faded, grown old, or hidden
behind stoicism. But in the oldest and most
morose of the "desk men" there lives a spark of
dramatic instinct, which lights the weariest face
at the coming of a "good story."
Nothing of the kind now animates them. They
labor on in an incessancy of tasks which must be
done at once, even though scarcely worth doing.
They must be rapid and skillful without being
driven by interest. Throughout the newspaper i
plant a finely-timed engine, deftly blended ofi
the human and mechanical, is turning, turning.'
Everything must move : The grotesque arms of the
linotypes, the lumpishly-moving tables of the
stereotypers, the gigantic, glistening coils of the
presses, the rolling sidewalks upon which the
finished papers slide toward the deli verjv wagons.
All must turn with the clock-tick. It makes no
difference whether the day be dull or thrilling.
The relentless machinery waits for its injections I
of human intelligence. The world waits for the
news. And always, among these men in the news-
room, there is a dim sense of the mechanisms
forever at work below them, a tinge of fear lest,
through some fault, there be a break in the
process, a dreadful pause in the endless tune. So,
driven by habit and by their sub-conscious percep-
tion of their membership in the whole activity of
the building, they contribute by pencil-strokes, by
orders, by corrections on proofs, to the flow of this
As the half -hours pass and the day mounts to
its meridian, there is a tensing of effort. Almost
casually, two editions have already been issued,
inspected and forgotten. But now one can feel
the climb toward a greater enterprise, the "home
edition," the daily bugbear whose tradition is that
it must be more comprehensive and correct than
either of its predecessors. There is no more lassi-
tude along the copy-desks; the piles of unread
manuscript mount too fast. The staff is back, for
the most part, and the spatter of typewriters
deluges the silence. Boys run by with clumsy
steps. Bells ring. The air hisses in the pneumatic
tubes. The long, low room echoes to a thousand
movements, a thousand utterances. Yet despite
the forte of the news-room, one is aware of the
fortissimo of the city itself. For outside of the
newspaper office, as well as within it, the day is
at its height. Skyscrapers now are belching out
lunch-hour crowds, and the shopping streets are
filled with joyous, vivid streams of people. Mes-
sages from this turbulence reach the newspaper
office; cries come across the roof tops; the
symphony of the city, with its roars, whistles,
bellowings, arrives modified but clear. And if one
puts his ear to the wires he can fancy that he
hears the shrill and terrible voices of a hundred
other cities where life seethes, even though
"nothing is happening." One has a vision of
potentialities of achievement or of disaster in
these agitated centers of life. Straight out of the
seeming commonplace of their movement in pur-
suit of tasks or fun will emerge the dramatic
shock that the news-room is waiting for. Some-
thing is bound to happen.
SOMETHING does happen.
First there is the sharp outcry of the Asso-
ciated Press telephone, distinct from all the other
bell-signals. The telegraph editor picks up the
receiver and listens. Without a quiver of lips or
eyebrows he reaches for paper, and scrawls. The
vigilant news editor sees the rigidity of his shoul-
ders, the slight gleam of his eye, and rises. The
copy-readers look up. An instinct awakened by
tiny signs, too tiny for the eye of laity, warns
"the desk" that this bulletin has a high voltage.
The news editor stands reading as the hand of
the telegraph editor traces :
"Washtn . . . bomb on steps . . . treasury
building ... 2 killed."
The telegraph editor hangs up the receiver. For
an instant he and his chief stare into each other's
eyes. But nothing is said. The implications of
this message are self-evident.
"Ask Mr. Barlow to come here," the news editor
murmurs to a boy.
While the boy skates nonchalantly off, the
editor, with a hand that cannot keep pace with
his brain, is writing notes that fly from his pad
to distant parts of the building. Simultaneously
he is calling earnestly on the house telephone for
the circulation department.
Barlow, the make-up editor, enters, heavy-set,
frowning at being called from his nearly-com-
plete pages of the home edition. At his heels
treads easily but ominously the Old Man, whose
presence pervades the room like fate.
The news editor flies at Barlow and mutters to
him a paraphrase of the bulletin, which by this
time is being masticated by a linotype machine.
Barlow's frown vanishes. He gives an eager nod,
seizes a just- written sheet of paper headed "eight-
column line, rush extra," and takes it with him as
he makes long, heavy strides toward the compos-
ing-room door. His mind's eye has mapped out a
new first page. At the door he stumbles against a
boy and leaves behind him an echo of brief pro-
The Old Man is told the news.
"I thought it would happen some day," he
remarks. He eyes calmly the "telegraph desk"
where now two men are working frantically, while
another takes more bulletins from the telephone.
Elsewhere in the room there is little commotion.
The usual group of reporters are arguing the
usual topics. "Peck-peck" goes the Cub's type-
writer, grinding out some trifle or other.
Suddenly the young city editor emerges from
his nest of telephones and comes down the room
at a half -trot.
"They've tried to blow up the federal building
here," he snaps, with a half-joyous, half-bitter
gleam in his eyes. He dashes back to his desk,
followed by the shadowy bulk of the Old Man.
The news editor begins to swear, and laughs
instead, having in mind Barlow and his forms.
"This will finish him," he thinks, as he speeds
toward the composing room. Out there he finds
Barlow and his assistant under full steam "break-
ing up the paper," ordering gleaming stacks of
type about, shouting at printers above the per-
petual clackety-swish of the linotypes, crossing
out and writing in words upon the "schedules"
that name the leading articles for various pages.
The coatless printers paw the type with their
blackened fingers, chew tobacco, and register
unconcern. Type lies strewn, in bundles of lines,
all over the "stone." Long galleys of brass are
piled up like cord-wood. Up to the high, glass-
roofed ceiling resounds the turmoil of the "stone."
The battered clock points imperturbably to 12 :05.
And at 12 :25 all this puzzle must be cleared.
Taking Barlow by the elbow, the news editor
speaks in his ear. The color surges into Barlow's
face. Still speechless, he darts to the half -com-
plete first-page "form," and roars at the printer
whose hands are flying over its columns. The
printer hears and nods. He must change every-
thing. What of it? All in the day's work. But the
composing-room foreman, sauntering up, tosses in
the remark, **Tearin' up again? You'll never make
it," and with a wave toward the clock, passes on.
"We've got to make it, Jim," the news editor
cries after him. Then, like a man watching two
boiling kettles at once, he hastens back to the
Within the last two minutes the news-room
has been transformed in spirit. Everybody has
straightened; everybody has caught the stroke.
Who said newspaper work was monotonous ? seems
to shine from the faces. It is gorgeous. The
telegraph editor and the city editor are in two
separate whirlpools of movement. Boys rush at
the telegraph editor and slam sheets of copy upon
his desk; the man at the telephone shoves scrib-
bled slips toward him. He rapidly assembles and
groups these, discarding some, piecing others
together, laboring with his whole mind to form a
story sequential and lucid. A series of flashes are
passing through his mind: "Doubt if they'll get
this bulletin in. . . . There'll be an awful mess for
the next edition." And farther back in his mind
occur thoughts more private, such as: "That
rumor the other day about the reds was right,"
and "I suppose the wrong man will be caught, as
usual." But his routine brain-cells, his hands, go
on shaping, shaping. And save for an out-thrust
lower lip he betrays no agitation.
The city editor is twice as busy as this. He has
had to scratch off a dozen lines of copy for the
[15 1 DEADLWES
home edition, to dispatch six men to the federal
building, answer (and get rid of) three persons
wanting to know if he was "posted," listen to
general orders from the Old Man, alter a headline
that did not "fit," and map out a sort of program
for the rest of the day. His mind is ablaze with
enterprise and pierced with apprehensions. Who
knows but a rival paper has already beaten him?
He will not be beaten. He sends out to every part
of himself a desperate signal to function, to be
alive. His tongue is dry; his voice threatens to
scream. He is at bay, fighting an invincible alli-
ance of enemies : The clock, his rivals, the tangle
of things to do, his own rebellious nerves, the
nerve reactions of everybody else. He calls upon
his uttermost reserve. He is four men in one. He
is enraged at life — but he is deliriously happy.
And there flits through him a wan joke : "I sup-
pose the police will call it a sewer-gas explosion."
The joke, which goes unspoken, is extinguished
by a wave of perception, vaguer than these words,
but suggesting to him that society is a brutal and
turbulent thing, and bringing to him like a passing
flash of the cinema, a picture of the federal build-
ing portico in ruins, and of bodies lying there.
Through all this pierces the realization that the
home edition has gone to press. The turmoil
around him is no less, but here is the face of his
friend, the news editor, emerging from the
"How's it going, George?"
"All right," he hears himself reply.
Wallace, the reporter, leans up against the desk.
"Well, boss," inquires Wallace with a subdued
twinkle, "how much on the great Sir Scammon
Scammonton? He says "
The city editor becomes aware of Wallace, and
halts him with:
"John, jump down to federal building . . . take
taxi . . . forget about that damned lord "
Wallace is off, murmuring quaintly: "I obey,
boss, I obey."
City editor to news editor: "They think there
are six dead down there. A delivery wagon was
blown up. There are pieces of horse all over the
street. The district attorney says — — "
"We'll have to make four separate stories of it
for the First Final. At least four "
"I know. It's a big plot, of course. Oh, is that
Billy on the wire? Give him here."
The news editor moves on, devoting a glance to
the bowed backs of the local copy-readers, to whom
the fury that began with the telegraph desk has
now been transmitted. Their eyes bulge with the
interest, the horror, of what they are reading.
One counts with his fingers the number of letters
required for a certain heading. A book that
another, a placid, grey-haired man, was reading,
has fallen to the floor, and lies open at the title
page, "Growth of the Soil."
Reporters who have come in already from the
explosion are mauling their typewriters, slamming
the cylinders back and forth with a rattle like
rifle fire. A constant yell of "Boy !" Dust, colored
by the pale noonday sunlight, swims, serene and
beautiful above their heads. Murmurs, chuck-
lings, imprecations mingle in a flow of sound ; the
expressions of the fever that has seized the staff.
They are painting, painting. The picture will be
hurled out into the streets, seen, and lost. All are
artists now, co-operating on the big canvas of the
First Final. They are instinctively making art of
it, discarding, heightening and coloring. Yes, they
color some things, so that the hasty reader can
tell them as more important than others. / Maybe
they do not distort facts; they do not so much
distort as rearrange. They suggest perspectives,
and introduce good lighting for this tale of tales.
All the while, into their hands is being poured
more material, and more. The wires say that the
nation is aroused. "The White House has let it be
known that . . ." The wires sing with theories,
conjectures, revelations. The tragedy here at the
federal building is in the foreground. A notebook
has been found among the rags of one of the
corpses, with code words in it. Wallace is reading
sentences from this book over the 'phone. The
district attorney is giving out a long statement.
Every minute a member of the staff enters with
details which he regards as "bigger stuff than
anything." Evidently the mystery of this story is
deeper than we thought. It will be unraveling
itself for days. We shall be pestered with it for
days. What a plague ! But what joy !
Meantime, behold it is two o'clock, and the First
Final stares us in the face. Ah, here comes the
Old Man. "The composing room is swamped."
We thought so. "Throw away everything except
explosion stuff." The market reports must go in
uncorrected. The speech of a distinguished guest
at a luncheon goes on the floor. The Cub has
written five hundred words about scenes at hos-
pitals and is told he is a fool.
The inexorable clock — the damnable, gliding
clock. The waiting machines. The waiting world.
We are desperate men.
We go to the "stone" to make up the First
Final. Once more, chaos ; bigger heaps of galleys,
greater muddles of type. Parts of stories are lost ;
parts of others are still lagging on the linotypes.
We lose our heads, and quarrel. We become chil-
dren, and say: "Who's blaming me for it?" "I
told him to do it." "Good God, this gang is going
The type pours to the "stone" from all sides.
The pages lie, broken, hopeless.
This time we shall never "get out."
And suddenly we find that it is all done. The
forms are full. The last one is being locked up,
and slid into the outstretched hands of the
We glance at each other, wipe off sweaty and
THIS is a splendid product of ours, after all.
The boys are bringing in papers, staggering
under the bundles. We spread them out on the
desks, admire and criticize. It is scarcely possible
we did this. Thirty minutes, twenty minutes, ago
we were writing the words that now peer at us
from the pages, faintly familiar creations that
have arrayed themselves in a manner distinctively
their own. It is all there as we planned it in our
frenzy. The house has risen from that chaos at
the "stone." The event that has shaken the
country's nerves lies there embodied in types of
varying blackness and size, making a structure
with girders and gables, with foundations and
flourishes. A structure nevertheless built to last
but a day, to outlast scarcely even our pride in it.
Our pride in it is momentary. We are conscious
that we have conquered. This feeling is confirmed
when our rivals are brought in, and their paltry
efforts to keep pace with us are seen. But we are
too wise, or too weary, to gloat more than for
that moment. Tomorrow may snatch this triumph
away from us. And besides
It is the Old Man's voice:
"Look here, we say in this head that three
wheels of the wagon were blown off; but in the
eye-witness account it says -"
And he lays a broad thumb upon the column.
Two or three men, among them the city editor,
respectfully examine the discrepancy.
"There^s always something to spoil it all,"
grumbles the Old Man, and bears his newspaper
away, grasped in both hands, while the staff
exchanges rueful winks. The city editor slips on
his coat and says savagely to the news editor: "If
I don't show up tomorrow you can guess why."
His eyes burn in his pale young face. He flings
himself out, biting off the end of a cigar. The eyes
of the grey-haired copy-reader follow him humor-
The news editor turns to the disposal of mat-
ters for the afternoon. The greater part of the
afternoon still remains. There are still "late
developments." There will be a "rush hour extra."
The news editor walks back through the room,
remarking to the "desk" as he goes : "Nobody off
early today. We'll need all hands."
They look up, unamazed. Were it to go on
forever, they would still be unamazed.
pjUT at last it is five o'clock, and the very last
^-^ extra of all has been patched up, and there is
nothing more to do.
Darkness has come again. It seems now to
have been scarcely ten minutes since the first of
those alert figures entered through the swinging
door; but the evidences of a complete day are all
about : Waste-paper ankle deep around the desks ;
waste-baskets crammed with torn newspaper
sheets; pencil-butts, proofs, crumpled notes.
The men, the last of them, are putting on hats
and coats and departing. They go wearily and
sulkily. The emotional storm in which they have
been tossed has left them chilled. The more thrill-
ing the day, the more leaden its close. This prod-
uct, conceived with such skill and speed and
evolved with such a fury of zeal, is already
scarcely more than waste-paper. The men tramp
gloomily into the hall, turning up the collars of
their overcoats and peering into the shadows of
the gloomy corridor. They go down the elevator,
grumbling, but still with a vestige of elation.
"Well, that was some day," they mutter.
**Some day," echo the dying voices of the lino-
''Some day," groan the presses from the base-
The men, slackened in spirit, cynical about it
all, exuding revolt, are happy in spite of every-
thing. ''Some day," to be sure. They will tell
their wives and children about it. They will meet
acquaintances who will respectfully ask their
opinions, because they are newspaper men.
There are new furrows in their faces ; but their
youth is inextinguishable.
The grey-haired copy-reader, who is last to
leave, watches them go, turns out a light or two,
and slowly prepares for the street. And he thinks
about these men, whom, in a way, he loves :
"I wonder what draws them into this game? I
wonder why they keep at it, the game being what
it is. I wonder what the fascination of news is.
I wonder what news really is. . . .
"The continuousness of it all; the knowledge
that no matter what we do today, we must do
better tomorrow. . . .
"The unendurable boredom; the unendurable
"Maybe we stay on because life is like that, and
we get more of life here than somewhere else."
THE only lights remaining are two that burn
dispiritedly at either end of the long room. The
wires sleep again, oblivious of the sparkling, but
dreadful world. The battlefield is deserted.
Now enter two sad-faced, elderly males in soiled
and shapeless clothing, carrying large sacks. Into
these they dump contents of waste-baskets, and
bundles of scraps. They seem very, very old and
depressed. In and out among the desks they go,
muttering to themselves, and clearing away the
dull traces of the splendid task. These specters
know nothing of the efforts or the victories just
recorded. The voices of the city, the cries of
newsboys, the tootings and tinklings of the
streets, are nothing at all to these aged scav-
engers. Outlived .... all outlived.
Having finished their funereal task, they go out
and the room is left to its memories, the wires to
So ends the day.
In the Cave of Tongues
j OUR stories removed from the
news-room, but connected with it
impalpably in a thousand ways, is
This haunt is a cigar store
^1 which faces the street from our
building, and is indeed often mistaken for our
front door. In winter storms we turn up our
collars and skate joyously the ten paces distance,
plunging into the warm fog of the store like sheep
in a blizzard. In summer we go hatless and stand
languidly in the door of tl>e place, or sit on the
benches within, sheltered from the sun. At all
times we talk. There is no place like this for talk-
ing with unbridled tongues.
The cigar store has no plate-glass cases, no
leather-covered chairs, no polished metal, no pretty
pictures. It is ancient, foul, dilapidated, frowsy.
Around its walls run the benches, which are cov-
ered with moth-eaten carpet. Benches and floor
are strewn with burnt matches, bits of paper, and
dried mud. In the misty windows hang limply on
wires a few story-magazines, while in other
conspicuous spots stand theater posters, signs
advertising many species of cigarettes, and piles
of "peppy" reading. In ridiculous contrast, the
ceiling is lofty and handsomely carved. Once, in a
prior incarnation, this was a bar-room. Now it is
a store, with the pressroom just beyond a par-
A single case contains the cigars. It is heaped
promiscuously with boxes of cheap smokes, chew-
ing-gum, and candy. In a clear space the vivacious
proprietor shakes endless dice with noisy patrons.
We sit on the benches in this cave, and are
utterly at home.
NOON of a winter day has passed. The home
edition has just been "sent away." The lunch
hour has released not only men from the news-
room, but an assorted lot from other departments.
Here are several printers, one in mammoth over-
alls, another in cheviot but without collar or tie,
still another properly clad, except his feet, upon
which he wears the shattered, comfortable shoes
that ease his work. Present also are two or three
wagon drivers, sharp-faced youths whose cheeks
bulge with tobacco, whose overcoats are drawn in
by belts, and whose legs are shapeless with pad-
ding. Elbow to elbow with these are several sleek
young advertising men, with their cigarettes.
We of the news-room sit a little apart, as befits
our caste. With unseeing eyes we gaze at the
group shaking dice. The spasmodic "click" regis-
ters nothing to us, accustomed as we are to the
whole bedlam of noises within and without the
store. For we are habituated to this haunt, and to
this street, just as the forester is habituated to
his forest and hears nothing, unless by an effort,
of the poem of sighing trees, crooning insects, and
twittering birds. There is nothing noticeable by
us in the street, where the elevated trains flee by
with insane clatter, where trucks and street cars
manage a slow progress under the spur of profane
warnings, and where the tread of people is heavy
and constant. Even a fire-engine can pass, with
its inspired shriek, and scarcely we lift an eyelid.
The city is our cradle, and its song is a soporific.
We sit pondering this thing or that, oblivious to
the chatter about us, lazily annoyed at the clamor
of the dice-shakers. There is really only one
important thing, besides keeping our cigars and
pipes aglow. It is that the badly-hung door of the
wretched cave persists in hanging ajar after each
person comes in, and the draft chills our ankles.
"Shut the door!" we yell.
Somebody goes out. Of course, he has left the
"There, that damn fool has left it open again."
It is our sole grievance. Someone must sulkily
rise and push the door to, and then upon the next
arrival the process must be repeated. It intensi-
fies our disbelief in the progress of the human
race. More and more sulkily we smoke, and
smoke, and smoke.
TpHERE are three of us sitting in a row —
•*• Brown, the city editor. Barlow, the make-up
editor, and myself. All three are still a trifle dazed,
a little breathless, from the effort of "sending
away the home edition." It was no worse than
usual, but it was worse than the devil. The mem-
ory of those exasperations is fading now, but
they have left us feeling battered and uneasy.
Barlow, his full body held erect and his cigar
sticking straight out, has shrouded himself in
reticence. The city editor crosses and uncrosses
his legs, and murmurs :
"I got a bit excited up there. It's the very hell
to get excited like that. Always say things I
This is an oblique apology to Barlow, who emits
a muffled sound, ambiguous but probably amiable.
We judge, rightly, that the incident beginning
at "the stone" is closed. There are twenty such
incidents a day.
"My wife says," goes on the city editor, "that
I'm too well-balanced. 'You're so well-balanced,'
she complains, as though it was a crime. She gets
mad because I don't fly out and break things at
home. Imagine that!"
"Shut the door!" someone bawls. There are
grins among the drivers, and a subdued voice:
"Them cold-blooded editors."
"It's indifference, plain indifference, that makes
me seem so well-balanced," further explains the
city editor. "I don't get worked up enough even
here, maybe. The Old Man says, 'You're so damn
calm.' Well, if I am, it's because I don't attach
much importance to little things. Big ones, either.
I don't care if the staff quits, I don't care if we
get scooped, I wouldn't mind if the paper went
bankrupt, or the whole population got smallpox,
or the human race went and got itself hung."
(A flicker of a smile on Barlow's face.)
The city editor, continuing: "When I say I
don't care, I mean that when I'm taking my rest,
between nightmares, I can let myself down into a
pile of soft cushions of absolute apathy about the
fate of anybody or anything. It's a great rest.
It bores one, but it's a relief. There's no such
vacation for the mind as being totally bored."
"The trouble with us," I suggest, "is too much
"Too much adrenal gland," corrects the city
Barlow takes his cigar from his mouth and is
"Too much of everything except income," says
he, and restores the cigar.
"That," says the city editor semi-officially, "is
a matter to be taken up with the Old Man." Clear-
ing his throat, he proceeds : "But the real question
is, how to face life; that's it, how to face life.
Whether to take it hard or easy. Whether to let
your imagination build up tremendous obstacles,
and then go around breathing like an exhaust pipe
fancying you're overcoming them, or just to take
things as they come and go smilin' through. I was
taught to do the latter, but" — he strikes another
match — "somehow it doesn't work."
"And no wonder," growls Barlow.
"No, it's no wonder," assents the news editor.
"Say, boys, when you figure what our life is like,
how we're forever straining ahead, looking out for
the least little atom of possibility of a blunder and
realizing that we've only one chance in a thousand
of getting through a day without a kick, why . ."
"Incidentally, are we all hooked up to cover that
hanging tomorrow?" I inquire.
"Absolutely. As I was saying, we being aware
that we are born to trouble, and our luck is usually
no good, what's the chance of our being optimists?
Poor. Now . . ."
"Here comes a chap who's a regular walking
Pollyanna," mutters Barlow.
"Oh, that's only an advertising solicitor. He's
got to look that way."
The newcomer enters, eyed by the participants
in an interrupted dice game, selects a cigar, lights
it, flips the skirts of his overcoat airily out into the
street and vanishes, pursued by shouts of "Shut
We have lost the thread of our conversation.
The crowd and the smoke seem thicker, as we
muse. An elderly printer is heard to say, "The
dentist claims I'll feel better when they're all out."
A GUST of wind, a momentary louder roar from
the street, and a long-legged youth, hatless,
bursts into the store, laughing.
It is the Cub. He seats himself circumspectly
at a little distance from us, cocks his cigarette at
the same angle as Barlow's cigar, and inspects
his finger-nails. We do not notice him; yet his
entrance has somehow affected the turn of our
thought. For the worse, too.
"Here we are, in this poisonous old cave, worn
out, tired of it all, glad to be let breathe," grum-
bles the city editor. "Another edition to think
about in half an hour. Why aren't we over at some
club, lolling over our coffee and cigars, and maybe
organizing a billiard game? Why aren't we streak-
ing for the 2:15 train with our golf clubs?"
"Why don't we go into advertising?" demands
"Or insurance "
"Or selling bonds."
"Anything — anything that would make a fellow
feel like a white man. This news game is like
being caught in a fly-wheel by the sleeve. It
whirls you around like a plaything, cracks you
bit by bit, and throws you aside, limp and shat-
tered. Why . . ."
I observe the bright, scandalized stare of the
Cub, and interpose : "A great game, all the same."
Barlow and the city editor simultaneously
remove cigars and expectorate.
"Where does it get you?" scoffs a listener.
"Yes, where?" from the city editor. His gloomy
gaze encompasses the Cub, and he impulsively
flings a question:
"You, kid, where do you expect the newspaper
business to land you?"
The Cub, startled at being addressed, gulps,
drops ashes, then replies, blushing.
"Why — I'd like to be London correspondent."
(Titters from the listening group of printers.)
"To London! Is that all? Think you can become
Young-Man-Going-Somewhere in three months?
Sinful Goode, eh?" But some memory of his own
lost ambitions, perhaps, brings a kindlier note
into the city editor's voice. "Kid," he says, "that's
where we all wanted to go — once. Certainly. We
would all be London correspondents, or something,
if . . . It's all right. Dream on."
The Cub says nothing.
"Did you ever ask for a foreign job?" I chal-
lenge the city editor.
He emits a cloud of smoke and makes indirect
"If they find you can do a desk job, then that's
what you do !"
"How about Josslyn?" I pursue.
"Ah, Josslyn !" murmurs Barlow.
" Josslyn V* echoes the city editor, as though the
name had a mysterious background. "That was
an exception. Yes, that was a rare case. And look
how it ended. You know the story, H. J. ?"
"Yes," I own.
"I'd like to hear it," ventures the Cub, edging
"No," says the city editor, emphatically. "Not
now ; not here." He glances at his watch, uncrosses
his legs, and brushes ashes from his knees. It is
apparent that not only the printers, but others,
are listening to our jawing. The dice-game has
languished. Shall the story of poor Josslyn be
thus published to the world. Our delicacy says
Thus we are about to lift our seance. But sud-
denly there is a commotion at the door, the usual
blast of cold air, a subtle animation in the air, and
there appears a gallant figure in a tan cameFs-
hair overcoat. He carries a heavy, crook-necked
cane, and his grey hat is tipped fetchingly over
one eye. On the way to us he delivers a separate
greeting to each of the elderly printers. He taps
Barlow on the knee with his cane, winks at the
Gub, and brings up before the city editor with:
It is the Star, come to cheer us.
It is our radiant Best Writer, who travels daz-
zlingly an orbit we cannot follow, who gives us
hope of what we may become or cheats us with
thoughts of what we might have been. Delightful
fellow. Exasperating fellow!
The cigar dealer hails him with: "Shake you
one flop, Larry ; two or nothing." The loungers at
the counter fall aside.
"Not now," replies the Star absently. We make
room for him on the bench.
WHATS new?" is asked.
Finished my play. Wrote the whole last
act last night." He taps his toes carelessly with
"Sent it away yet?"
"No. Got telegram from Barrymore, though.
Interested as hell. Wired him back: 'Send four
hundred expense to New York.* I think he'll come
through. If he doesn't, I — say, boss," at a sudden
thought, "Fm garnisheed again."
No agitation at this announcement. The Star
goes on, to a full audience of printers and wagon-
drivers: "He hasn't a chance to collect. Beastly
little tailor on Market street. It's that bill I
refused to pay a year ago. You remember the
suit ; blue thing a dead cat wouldn't wear. Gen-
tlemen, I could not wear the suit ! A church deacon
wouldn't go to his own funeral in it. A convict
wouldn't be turned loose in it ... . Well, boss,
"See the Old Man," says the city editor, lacon-
"Thought maybe you'd stand me a small loan."
"No?" The Star's smile is undiminished. "Very
well, gentlemen, let us talk of other matters. Of
love, say, or war, or literature. Or facing life.
Let us fling up our brows, and say with Kipling
(he beats time with his cane) :
**My head .... bloody, but unbowed ....
"Er — how does it go ?
*'I am the captain of my soul . . . ."
"Henley, not Kipling," comments Barlow.
"As you will," nods the Star. "Or Childe
"Roland, you mean."
"Roland, naturally. I quote:
" *The hills, like giants at a hunting lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the prey at bay ....
"Let's see, it goes on :
" *Now stab and end the fool . . . .'
"Anyway, it ends:
'I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the horn to my fair lips I set,
And blew: Childe Harold to the dark tower
"Roland, you idiot."
"Of course. NHmporte. The theory is the same."
A pause. The drivers and printers have listened
quizzically, yet with tolerance for any freakish
outbreak of the editors. The Star produces a pipe,
hangs it in his mouth upside down, and remarks:
"That was a swell suicide story today."
Another pause. The Cub, humbly:
"Have you written your story for tomorrow,
The Star turns his mocking gaze toward the
"Who spoke? It was my conscience, perhaps.
My conscience, speaking through this genteel soph-
omore .... Sir, I have not written my story for
tomorrow. I shall write it when I get good and
ready." He means this shot for the city editor,
who remains stolid. "I abhor writing. I can't
conceive why any two-legged being adopts writing
as an occupation. Putting words on paper. Ugh !"
The tirade continues uninterrupted.
"In the last four months I have written three
hundred thousand words for this blackguardly
sheet ; three complete novels, but witli nothing to
show for it. Nothing but a pile of letters, mostly
kicks. Women say to me: Tt must be so intur-
resting, writing for the papers.' God ! I made a
speech to a woman's club. I said: 'Literature is
all slop. Your favorite authors are a bunch of
fakers. I am an idiot. You are all idiots, or you
wouldn't listen to me.' There was no applause. I
said what I thought and there was no applause.
N'importe, I continue, nevertheless, to say what
I think "
"Don't talk nonsense," scoffs the city editor.
"You couldn't live without writing."
"Or applause," from Barlow.
The Star grins. His grin fades by degrees ; his
face becomes plaintive.
"I need money," he says. "Heaps of money. I
earn hundreds, but I must have thousands. I owe
.... really, I can't remember. Everybody is on
my notes; everybody. Garnisheed again! . . .
What will the Old Man say, do you think?"
"He'll say, 'This must be the last time.' "
The Star sits up straight.
"That reminds me. Murray's in town."
This is news of real importance. The city editor
"Are you sure? It couldn't have been."
"Think I could be wrong?" he scowls. "I saw
him over at Chillson's."
We glance at each other. There is an odd por-
tent in the name of Murray. Dropping my voice,
I ask: "Sober?"
The Star shrugs.
"He'll be back," Barlow chuckles. He mocks:
" I'm on the wagon now, Mr. Thain, for good.' "
The city editor makes to speak, but remains
silent. Everybody is silent. The rumble from the
press-room is like a surging of surf. The dice-game
has been resumed, "Click-click." A great truck
swaggers out from the alley, piled to the roof with
bundles of the home edition. We should return to
the office at once. But we linger on, with our
cigar-ends white with ash. Our thoughts busy
themselves, now with Murray, now with Josslyn,
now with ourselves.
It is a muddle, indeed, this life of ours. We are,
as we have said, disappointed with our lot. Those
of us who should have been writers are now "desk-
men," and those who write call writing bosh. Yet
is this true ! Perhaps, after all, we are in the right
berths; and somehow, certainly, we are all con-
tributing to the momentum of a vast institution,
faulty but tremendous. The mass-consciousness ;
that is what saves us. I do not dare use this word
in the Star's hearing.
TJARLOW, however, is saying:
-■-^ "Think how we crawl down here every day
before daylight. Think of the unspeakable alarm-
clock. Oh, Lord, the alarm clock."
"Think of the next edition," says the city editor.
"1*11 bet we're ten columns overset this minute."
"Think of my debts," sighs the Star.
"Think how we might be lunching at the club
and golfing all afternoon," says the city editor,
returning to his original grievance.
"And think how they leave my stuff out all the
time," comes from the Cub.
But no one hears him. Into this doleful reverie
of ours, into the chorus of our pessimism (which
is quite unreal) and our gossip of Josslyn and
Murray (our zest in which is very real) there
comes a message. We can almost hear it approach-
ing. Indeed, we prick up our ears somehow; we
hold ourselves rigid, ready to spring in response
to this unknown summons.
Sure enough, a boy with a huge head and a
freckled grin appears at the door. He is hatless.
In his hand he carelessly holds a piece of copy-
paper, with some words scrawled on it.
He peers in, then fumbles at the latch.
The city editor has already arisen. He receives
the note through the door; reads: "Four-eleven
fire rung in from Gloria theater. Extra?"
We read over his shoulder. A sort of wine pours
into our veins. Together, three abreast, we race
away, leaving behind the Star tapping his toes
with his cane. A cry of "Shut the door!" follows us
as we flee from the mournful voices of the Cave of
Tongues, flee from our doubts and our troubles,
and rush joyously toward the work we were meant
I j ji HIS way, if you please. Come right
^ W ^ through this aisle between the
I desks. Look out for that *phone
I cord. Rather dark here. Over in
B this corner is the place. Have a
==Jl seat. Well, now you are sitting in
the Star's own chair. You find the bottom pretty
hard? Well, the Star doesn't mind that. He
doesn't sit in his chair very much.
This is his desk. Perfectly plain, like all the
others ; battered old thing with a typewriter in it
that's always threatening to slip its fastenings.
Not a roll-top, of course ; no pigeonholes ; nothing
but those drawers, in which (unlocked) the Star
keeps his secrets. Observe this litter on top of
the desk. Faugh! These papers are dusty. He
never throws anything away; just shoves the
litter back and lets it lie. A lot of good ideas are
penciled on some of those papers, and a lot of
foolish ones mixed up with the good ones. Let
The old-fashioned desk-light hooded in a piece
of copy paper is one of his hobbies. Without that
paper it would blind his eyes. The paper is always
falling off. Nuisance. But when the Old Man
came by one day and growled, "Need a new desk-
light, don't you" he only got the reply: "What
for? What's use bothering?"
On the paper is scrawled a notice :
"Light-fingered fiend in human form who took
my 'Philosophy of Love,* by Reimy de Gourmont:
Return or take consequences."
Look at the wall alongside the desk. He writes
things on the wall; memoranda, scraps of verse,
ideas. And, you see, he's pasted up a few pictures.
These futurist things out of the Dial are probably
his favorites. As for this poster advertising a
Griffith movie, I suppose he put it up as a joke on
himself, a piece of irony. That newspaper half-
tone — fellow smoking a pipe — is a picture of his
Of course everything's covered with soot and
smeared up with pencil-marks and the light here
is vile. God knows why he likes this corner so
well, but it's certain that if we gave him a place
by a window, or a nice private room with a shiny
desk and a push-button, he'd get peevish and
wouldn't write. He likes it here in the alcove. He
likes this old, smeary news-room, with its cracked
plastering and its quaint shadows; and he likes
the noises from outdoors when the room is quiet.
the hoots and shrieks and crashes; and he likes
the city, so romantically woven of the crude and
the elegant, the horrible and the lovely ....
But I mustn't get into that vein .... Watch
out ! Oh, it's only the Star's pet mouse that lives
in his desk. , ^
PERHAPS it would be as well to stop calling
him the Star — a sobriquet which he loathes —
and introduce him, though absent, by his name,
which is Philo Austin Larrabee. He won't stand
for the Philo, and the office somehow balks at the
Larrabee, so the office generally calls him Larry.
He signs himself, on his stories, as Austin
Names seldom call up a true picture of a man.
I suspect that this one suggests a matinee-idol
sort of fellow, with spats and hair slicked down;
or a parlor poet with horn spectacles, clothed in
meekness. Larry's name is no more harmonious
with him than is his desk. The desk and its envi-
ronment make you imagine a seedy, alpaca-coat
type of genius, with pockets stuffed full of manu-
scripts, smoking a corn-cob, don't they ? But Larry
is so little like either the horn spectacles or the
alpaca coat that he would surprise you. I'll shut
my eyes and get him vividly in mind, and then
Let's see. It wouldn't tell you much to say that
his hair is brown, his height medium, and so on.
I believe his hair is brown; at least, I have an
impression of a dark overgrowth, sometimes
furiously tangled, sometimes neatly clipped and
brushed. He doesn't look the same way all the
time. It seems as though his personal appearance
is a matter of chance. There are days when his
oval face is a peaceful pink, as though from
massage, and then it may be sallow, haggard, and
savage. His eyes don't change, however. They
glint the same blue, and the brows over-arch them
with the same fine, half -oriental lines, on all days.
Intelligence, humor, disdain, are uttered by his
eyes ; and there comes into them, rarely, a furious
glow. It comes only when he works. He is most
natural when braced before that typewriter, with
one of his long legs drawn up under him, and the
other stretched straight out, with the Keel of his
brightly-polished shoe grinding into the floor. He
makes quick dabs, between sentences, at the hair
over his left ear. Actually I believe he has worn
a bare spot there with his slender fingers, upon
one of which he wears a worthless ring. Often he
looks up, with a curious, belligerent stare, at any-
one who may be passing.
Just as his face wears different aspects, his
costume undergoes the most freakish of changes.
He has days when he shambles in with shameful
trousers and a cap fit for a safe blower ; and there
are others when he arrays himself in fine linen
and rich blue, and flaunts his cameFs-hair over-
coat and twirls a cane. There is utterly no premed-
itation about his clothes. He would just as soon as
not wear a sweater and an old raincoat to a
luncheon at the Hotel Splendo-Majestic, or parade
Little Hell in afternoon dress. Clearly, he spends
much money on apparel, for he is constantly sur-
prising us with hitherto, unobserved suits and
overcoats and hats ; and indeed he naively tells us
whenever he thus invests, and adds that he has
done it on the principle of "part down." His
plumage is as varied as that of a prima donna.
It would be useless for me, in describing him to
you, to say "he wears this" or "he wears that."
Except in summer. Then he demurely wears
white, and his only gauds are his ties, which are
a fantasy in color and color combinations, reveal-
ing more than anything else the earnestness of
his search for something novel. Well, of course,
there are also his shirts. Very exotic, naturally.
In summer he often leaves his white linen coat
hanging over his chair and strolls about the office,
or even through the streets, displaying stripes
like unto an awning.
On the days when his face has that pink look
his walk is elastic, blithe, triumphant; on the
sallow and haggard days he slumps between the
door and his desk with never a wink of gayety.
There are also intermediate states, grave and
taciturn days, when he moves slowly at a com-
monplace stride, without interest. Perhaps those
days are the worst, when he is neither elated by
the discovery of a new costume-effect nor deli-
ciously sunken in gloom; those days when he is
apparently an ordinary being, with duties, body-
functions, and bills to pay, and perhaps not a Star
At all times, at his very worst, an incalculable,
fascinating, graceful being, a delicately-hung
organism, just a bit off balance; a boy with singu-
lar traces of age. Delacroix would have painted
him with a half-starved look and his deepest
frown, and his finely-modeled, half -sneering nose
sharp against a dark background. I paint him
for you, quivering and tousle-headed, against that
smudged window-pane there, pouring his genius
into a typewriter. One of us. A comrade ....
But I mustn't drop into that vein. What time is it ?
YOU ask: Who is he, after all? What does he
"do on the paper?"
Well, he is a reporter; nothing but a reporter.
He goes out and sees things happen and hears
people talk; then he comes in and writes about
them. We have twenty others who do that and
do it very well. So what is it that makes Larry
a star? Mark this, my friend: He is not a star
because he pursues desperate criminals in an
airplane, or because single-handed he extorts
confessions from political grafters, or on account
of this or that spectacular folly of reporting such
as the cinema clownishly flashes. If we have to
send somebody to ride in a locomotive cab, we send
one of the "ordinary" men ; one of the rough-and-
tumble sort whose skins aren*t worth much, and
who can't write a lick.
Larry is a star because .he emits rays of light.
I mean — I mean his nature is a lens from which
the drab colors of this earth are reflected in hues
that fascinate one, confound one, and are yet real.
He never sees things as anyone else sees them ; we
gave up long ago trying to make him do so. It
is simply impossible for him to interpret life from
the viewpoint of the trite and self-satisfied mul-
titude. He cannot, to save him, lead up to a
conclusion that "all's right with the world," that
"to the brave belong the fair," or "boost, and the
world boosts with you." As for actually uttering
such a sentiment, he would commit murder first.
He is death on pretenders, hypocrites, and opti-
mists. He punctures their toy balloons by mere
statements of fact, shorn of comment, but barbed
by the peculiar keenness of his words. His style
is very direct. Larry has discarded more cir-
cumlocutions, more "literary phrases," than the
average doctor of philosophy has learned. I sus-
pect that he has spent long, smoky hours inventing
escapes from the academic. I know that he has
prowled the streets day and night searching,
searching for the words that would express the
buildings, the people, the noises, the odors. Little
words ; little, torch-like words. Those are what he
wants, and what he uses. Therefore, what Larry
writes is very easy to read ; but not naive. Oh, no !
That complexity of his, that odd refracting quality
that I mentioned, makes a composition by Austin
Larrabee something peculiar in its effect, disturb-
The city editor. Brown, found it so disturbing
that after Larry had worked on the paper a year
he went to the Old Man about it. And the Old
Man said : "Either fire him, or stop sending him
out on routine assignments." So the city editor
told Larry to report what he liked, and write what
There have been precedents for that sort of
thing, even in our office; but it hasn't always
worked out as it did with Larry. A normal human
being, given complete freedom, is apt to waste it,
get lazy, frazzle out. Not so our friend who occu-
pies this corner.! The new order had an unforeseen
effect upon hitrT Brown says he started back as
though he had been struck, and then snapped out :
"Want to put it all onto me, eh? All right!"
This fit lasted an hour, and then he strolled back
to Brown's desk, and with one of his most fasci-
nating and affectionate smiles he said: "Say, I
believe I can write some good stories for you, old
boy." He was all flushed up, and he had dabbed
at his forelock until it hung in strings. Without
waiting for Brown's response, he dashed back to
his typewriter and in a few minutes it began to
clatter like a drill.
That was the beginning of an arrangement
whose fruits have astonished us all, have aston-
ished the city itself. The city never knew it was
like Larry's pictures of it. The city fancied itself
busy, or noisy, or prosperous, or admirable, or
monotonous ; it never knew it was complex, impul-
sive, romantic — gorgeously romantic. It thought
its buildings were handsome; it did not realize
they were beautiful, beautiful with a stunningly
futurist design. It thought its people were "inter-
esting," but it never delved into the million
variations of type brought here by the People of
Fifty Lands. The city laughed at hundreds of
"freaks," it vaguely pitied thousands of unfortu-
nates, it flung dimes to innumerable beggars, it
dreamed about scores of younger lovers, it revered
many a millionaire, it shrank from jails full of
criminals — but it never realized any of them. Not
until Larry was "turned loose."
Larry can interpret the city because he loves it.
He doesn't want to write about anything else.
Say Paris or New York to him, and get a sneer
for your pains. He has found the city big enough
for him, and feverish enough, and beautiful
enough; he has not nearly exhausted it; he has
only just started. And the more he plunges into
its jungle and fishes in its cesspools for the rare
deposits of human treasure that make up his
"stories," the more unending seems his search.
Let it go on. For God's sake, let it go on. I do
hope Larry won't get morose, and quit. But I
mustn't be led into that vein. Who's coming in?
T'M glad it's not Larry, for I wanted to tell you
* what kind of a fellow he is.
Well, he's the kind of fellow who appears to
have out-grown, or cast aside, practically all the
known precepts for normal living, and doesn't give
a copper for anybody or anything.
Larry declares that he doesn't believe in religion
or even in ethics. He takes pleasure in repudiating
most of the ten commandments, the Golden rule,
and a large part of the Sermon on the Mount. He
uses up the time of somebody nearly every day
rejecting honor in the abstract, loyalty in the
rough, and such things. Most heartily he scoffs at
success. ,He does not demean himself to ridicule
such things as riches or fashion, but he does talk
venomously about success, and not enviously,
either. It is an inflammatory subject for him that
some people attain what they want, or at least
think that they have attained it. Perhaps it only
maddens him because they think they are content,
whereas he insists that nobody is content. Him-
self least of all. If he were to come in here just
now, and you should say that he looks happy, you
fsi] ^ DEADLINES
would get a tongue-lashing in Larry's best style,
which would include some words you hadn't heard
This young man strolls through the world with
a queerly bitter greeting for it, yet with an engag-
ing smile. He asserts he hates the world, hates
the human race, spurns its .contrivances for being
peaceable and joyous, and has no hope of it.
He says he does not believe in marriage or in
honesty. But he is married and lives true to his
wife. And he never stole anything.
Honor? Why, he wouldn't go back on a friend
for— for all that he owes. Loyalty? Well, I can
only judge of that by the way he clings to us, and
the way he works. He adores Brown, who gave
him his big chance. He would drag himself out
of a hospital on one leg if he thought Brown
needed him. When he has his little illnesses he
scrawls notes to Brown, in a big school-boy hand,
saying, "Don't worry. I'm sending down a story
by messenger." He is loyal to us, and he is loyal
to Mrs. Larry. Of course you understand that he
is rather run after by foolish women, literature-
mad girls who want to learn his secret of writing,
and others who are plain crazy. But just let Mrs.
Larry come in sight, and he shakes off the insects
in petticoats and waves them good-bye. For their
pains they can see Larry escorting her down the
street, twirling his cane and plainly an affection-
It's bosh that he hates the human race. Or
perhaps he does hate the race as such. Lots of
brainy men have indulged in that large and harm-
less habit of hating the species, of denouncing its
general attributes, its frailties, its inconsistencies,
and so on. Lots of men who have a terrible vigor
and a divine irritability bottled up in them let
drive at people in general so as to avoid hurting
people in particular. For individuals, whether
encountered in small groups or large, these same
men have a half -pitying geniality that frequently
concentrates into acts of kindness. Look at Mark
Twain. Look at Bob Ingersoll. And now look at
Larry. He shouts that he despises mankind, but
in all his contacts with mankind he is gentle,
amiable, brotherly. Ah, he absolutely rejoices in
scraping elbows with people. See him in a crowd,
content with his absorption in the feeling of being
among people. See him enter a room; how his
face lights up; how everybody's face lights up!
Maybe he hates humanity, but he is himself
I OUGHTN'T to have got into that vein. It
would be certain death if Larry were to over-
hear me. . . .
Who's that mooning about by the front window,
watching the city put on its paste diamonds for
the evening? It's Larry, isn't it? No, it's
Murray. It's only our drunkard.
There is an affinity between the Star and the
drunkard. Larry pretends that he is interested
in poor Chick only as a pathological case : studies
his retrogression, and all that. Again his pose.
Once when they were police reporters together —
but Josslyn tells that story better than I do. I
was only going to cite it to. prove that Larry has
in him that deftly guarded quality of compassion
that is in all us newspaper people more or less,
and that either makes great men of us — or breaks
us. He does more for poor Chick than any of us
do, unless it is Josslyn. Still, there may be a
fascination for Larry in observing the tortuous
ways of our stumbling Murray. His own mind
is tortuous ; his processes, too, a trifle pathological.
So thin is the film that divides genius from its
most terrible caricature.
Where's Chick going? See him grope.
I don't suppose he's going anywhere, really.
Perhaps Larry isn't, either.
U R R A Y ' S case started before
prohibition, and continued after
prohibition. So far as Murray is
concerned, there is no prohibition.
It started years ago, and hasn't
stopped. There seems to be no
end to it. Every now and then the Old Man
explodes, rolls his eyes terribly, and says there
must be an end. Everybody responds, "Yes, that's
right ; it must be the last time." But, one by one,
everybody weakens, and here is Murray back on
We are ashamed of ourselves. We are stupen-
dously bored. The whole thing is an ungodly
nuisance. Worse than that, it is a blow to our
morale, it is a frightful example to the "younger
men," it has no excuse even in the name of
humanity. Its last shred of justification as a
humane thing vanished months ago. There is no
reason anywhere; nothing, not the least hypo-
DEADLINES ^ ^sej
critical, disingenuous atom of a reason, why we
should have Murray back on the staff. But here
Sometimes months pass without Murray. He
is somewhere else, doing heaven knows what. He
becomes a fiction, a legendary person who once
worked here, and about whom cluster amusing
reminiscences. Then one day we arrive at the
office, distributing ourselves to our various desks
and duties, and behold! there is a familiar sleek
black head half hidden behind a morning paper,
a well-known pair of pointed shoes cocked upon
a chair. And Murray's half -sheepish, half -defiant
grin greets us.
We shake our heads as we take up our work.
To think that Murray should have come back!
To think that he should have the nerve to come
back ! The fact is both entertaining and irksome ;
and it goes deeper. It is a symbol of the cycle
of vanishing and returning events to which our
lives are attached. The endless activity of machin-
ery, the recurrence of the same incidents both
within and without the office, the performance of
the same work in the same way — it is with things
like these that the resuscitation of Murray blends
vaguely but pertinently. This makes the fact of
his return not only entertaining, not only irksome,
but curiously comforting.
a' course there must be one bad boy in every
large family, one villain in every cast. And
in a modernized office, where personality is better
poised than it used to be, there has to be at least
For the most part we in the news-room are
regenerate. We are men of family, sober men.
Here and there is the face of a reformed drunkard
— a face sad and reminiscent. It would be unspeak-
ably shocking should one of these older men,
whose career in liquor lies so far behind as to
lose even the value of anecdote, come in some
morning and break the furniture. Why, he simply
could not do it! The completeness with which
regeneration has captured the majority of us
makes the utter unregenerateness of Murray, his
debonair and unashamed irresponsibility, a very
piquant thing in our lives. He is like a wine
goblet (time of Charles II) among a collection of
Mayflower crockery. He is a story of old times.
He reminds the older men of their youth.
Whenever Murray comes back, Josslyn, the
grey-haired copy-reader, tells once more about
the staff as it was when he was first city editor.
Even the Old Man is known to unbend, and to
relate how when he was a reporter. . . . Yes,
sir, newspaper men were devils in those days.
Why, when there was to be a hanging every man
Jack assigned to "cover" it used to get drunk, and
when it was over they used to come into the office
roaring "Danny Deever." And say! Do you
remember the First Ward Ball, that terrific annual
orgy when politicians, crooks, and libertines used
to keep it up until daylight, and reporters had
free tickets. The day after the First Ward Ball
hardly anybody could come to work. (Chuckles.)
Josslyn digs out of his archives some crude
verses, written on such a day:
The morning after the First Ward Ball
Nary a reporter reported at all.
And such as did wore a doleful smile,
Nor did Josslyn's glance his dander rile.
First Fox came in with half -shut eyes,
Vowing at six he began to rise.
He "just couldn't help the train blockade,"
And for the Desk's mercy he earnestly prayed.
Then came Jones a half hour later,
Resembling, we thought, a half -drowned satyr.
"I was out at the ball pretty late," he said,
Pressing his hands to the side of his head.
But poor old George never came at all —
They found him asleep when they cleaned the hall.
From under a table he crawled to the 'phone
And rei-jrted for work with a piteous moan.
The First Ward Ball is no more. That genera-
tion is no more. "Hinky Dink" Kenna's place is a
soft drink parlor. The stories of those days have
a flavor like the anecdotes of the California gold
stampede. There remains only Murray, who is
not at all a physical relic of our drunkard age, but
a sort of reincarnation, mysteriously alive among
us, of which we have lost the secret.
In our more solemn moments we realize that
he is a terrible figure. This reincarnation is some-
thing that should never have been. We ask each
other earnestly, "Where does he get it?" and
when we ask that we are asking a whole modern
society why, if it really was determined to turn
a new leaf, it did not turn it so effectively that
even Murray could be "readjusted." And some-
times — usually just after he has disappeared
again and "left us flat" — we bang our fists down
and exclaim: "What's the use of prohibition if
it doesn't prohibit?" But not often do we grow
so much impassioned about anything. We have
to accept Murray with all his implications; we
have to reconcile ourselves, day upon day, to the
fact that nothing grievous is ever cured, that
this plague or that is sure to return, that laws
are fifty per cent failures, and that we spend our
lives accommodating ourselves to matters that are
all wrong and won't grow better. So we balance
ourselves in a mood of half -humorous pessimism,
shrug our shoulders at irritations and grotes-
queries, make epigrams upon our woes — and
welcome Murray back.
"Hello. Chick. O. K. again, eh?"
"Hello, fellows. Yes, Fm on the wagon now, for
He is tapping out on his typewriter an article
for the next edition. There is an abnormally clean
and alert look about him. A subdued look, too.
He has had a hair-cut, a shave, and a massage.
The flesh of his face is fine-drawn, pale, refined
by the suffering that has attended his latest spree,
and especially by the awakening from it. His
trimly-built figure wears a new, dark-brown suit
that speaks of his latest Herculean effort to con-
vince the world that this is a new Murray. He
writes intensely, careful of the diction. Yes, it is
all past. Nothing has happened. His body and
soul went wandering in a strange spectral land
with purple trees and a red sky, from which
flashed eerie lightnings, and now they have come
back, the same body and soul, and dropped with-
out a jolt into the grey world of the normal,
and Murray has taken up silently the routine of
talking and writing. He even writes poetry. He
is a wonder!
THEY say that it is now seven times that he
has fallen, and has "reformed."
There is never any warning. He goes on looking
just like that, a compact, nicely-dressed fellow
writing clean English. He is sent out on an
errand of some importance, perhaps. Then —
silence. Blankness. No Murray. A typewriter
that remains hooded. Letters for Murray in the
mail box. "Where's Murray ?" "Damn it, where's
Murray today?" The city editor slams inoffensive
papers and spindles around his desk. Then he
smiles a smile that the men have seen before. Then
he gets up and goes into the Old Man's room.
The copy-readers begin to. whisper and shrug.
Same old scandal. They watch Brown curiously
when he comes out of the Old Man's room. Brown
squares his elbows to his work. The copy-readers
can reconstruct his conversation with the Old
Man, even without a clew to it.
"Murray's gone again, Mr. Thain."
"Well, I told you not to take him back. Good
God, how long am I going to . . ."
"But you remember I consulted you, and you
said we should give him one more chance."
"Don't remember such a conversation. I've
always said he was impossible. I've warned you
repeatedly not to give him any important assign-
ment. This is just plain stupidity of yours.
(A hard-breathing silence on Brown's part.)
"Where do you suppose he got it?" muses the
"Why, you know he can get it anywhere. He's
so popular they throw it at him."
(Silence on the Old Man's part.)
"Well . . ."
"Well . . ."
The days go by, and nothing is heard from
Murray. It seems impossible that anybody could
drop so completely from sight. Inquiry is made
at his home. His wife has gone back to her
parents for the third time. Nobody at the flat
except a hovering swarm of bill-collectors. Mrs.
Murray, when seen, says that this is the end.
Her mother reinforces the verdict.
Reporters who occasionally visit bootlegging
haunts tell us there is no sign of Murray. Actually
it seems as though something must have hap-
pened to him this time. We are a little disturbed
with each report of an unidentified body in the
lake. But this fear is laughed down, and pure
blankness again characterizes the case of Murray,
except for those piquant anecdotes of "the pre-
vious incident." The story he went out to get has
long since been obtained by some other reporter,
printed, and forgotten. The mystery lasts until
his reappearance, which is also a mystery.
Once or twice it has varied a little. On one
occasion Murray emerged unaccountably during
his headlong dive into liquor, called up the Old
Man at his house at eleven o'clock at night, and
asked for a loan of ten dollars. The Old Man
roared at him, "I'll loan you a tub of ice, you booze-
fighter!" and then started shouting "Where are
you? Where are you?" But in the meantime
Murray had hung up. He was gone for six weeks.
One other day of lapse he came into the office
late in the afternoon after all the editions had
gone and someone else had "done" his neglected
story, and insisted on writing the story himself.
Brown had gone home, and Josslyn had to deal
with the case. He refused to let Murray use a
typewriter, so Murray went to the office of a
rival paper, and asked to be permitted to write
a story for us ! They threw him out of that office.
He went to a second, where the man in charge
treated the matter humorously, led Murray to a
typewriter and even loaned him a messenger boy
to bring the story to our office two paragraphs
at a time. Josslyn has the pieces yet.
The morning after that exploit in came Chick
and upbraided Brown for not printing his article.
"You're fired, Chick," said Brown quietly.
"I — I most heartily regret to hear it," replied
Murray, balancing himself carefully. He then
took off his hat to the city editor's office boy, and
disappeared for a month.
During two of his disappearances, as we have
now learned, he went to distant cities and worked
there. First it was San Francisco, then it was
Philadelphia. Each time he was a faithful, reliable
employe — for a while. He wrote from San Fran-
cisco to Josslyn:
"They think a lot of me here. I've got a strong
tip that I'll be made city editor in a few months.
Like the town fine. I haven't had any trouble
about — you know. Would you mind paying a debt
or two with this money-order? Larrabee and
Barlow, $5 each. Keep out your own five, of
course. No, I'm never coming back."
Within two weeks he appeared, very downcast.
There was the usual secret session in the Old
Man's room, and the usual reinstatement.
While he was on the Philadelphia paper he was
sent out here to cover a railroad "strike crisis."
He was very, very sure of himself. That day he
came in, shook hands all around with much dig-
nity, and told us he was going to "sign his stuff."
To Josslyn he confided the fact that he and his
wife were reconciled, and that as soon as he could
find a flat in Philadelphia he was going to send
for her. He left breezily to attend the wage
In the afternoon he appeared in our office with
his hair somewhat ruffled, and the satyr-like smile
that often put us on our guard. He leaned against
a desk, and carefully explained that he had some-
how missed the conference; asked if he couldn't
use our proofs to send a story east. Also he
pleaded with Barlow in whispers for quite a
while, but to no avail. He left jauntily, colliding
with the Old Man in the hall, and saying, "Beg
pardon, old chap." We heard nothing more of him
for two months. Then came a telegram from the
Philadelphia paper; "Look out for one Chick Mur-
ray. He may try to get job with you. He drinks."
It was after this that we made our most Her-
culean eifort to save him. We collected a fund
and sent him to the "cure." He went most
humbly. He returned "cured." His wife herself
brought him in, showed him to the Old Man, and
tearfully thanked that august person for all he
had done. Chick cried, too, and I fancy it was a
near thing that the Old Man didn't cry. Murray
was given his most formal reinstatement of them
all, and the office advanced him two weeks* salary
to pay his debts. (I've heard that the Old Man
guaranteed the apartment rent for three months.)
All this was just before the Volstead act took
effect. Of course, everybody felt that if Chick
could last until that January first he would be
safe. And he did ! He worked quietly and effec-
tively far into that January, and the boys who
had bet that he wouldn't were forced to pay.
Then Brown had a brilliant idea. He would
send Murray out on an assignment to discover
whether prohibition was being enforced. He said
to him : "Look here, you know where all the joints
are. You know all the bartenders. I guess you
know better than to take a drink yourself. Here's
some expense money. That's all."
"Yes, sir," replied Murray.
Two days later, when he hadn't returned, some-
one mildly suggested to Brown that perhaps he
had dangled too great a temptation before the
reformed drunkard, even during a prohibition
regime. Brown angrily replied : "He'll come back,
and sober. He's cured, ain't he? Don't anybody
preach a sermon to me. That fellow knows he
can't afford to break faith with George Brown."
Three days more, and behold ! Murray did come
back. He sat down on Brown's desk, put his arm
around the city editor's neck, and made a speech,
substantially as follows :
"Brown, you've been — ^best friend I had. I
think you're greatest newspaper man in the world.
Brown. Thass what I think. When all else fails,
rely on good ol' Brown ; thass what I say. Brown
don't ever ask a feller, 'Where's that story, or
those money' ; does he. Brown ?"
"Where is that story?" demanded Brown,
throwing off Chick's arm.
Murray pulled out some silver, laid it before his
chief and said, "There." He added, "Ac-kick-
Just then the Old Man passed through the
local room without noticing his protege. Murray
craftily gained the door and vanished.
I TELL these things not with an eye to humorous
anecdote. I tell them only to illustrate the
plight we have been in. We have been kind to a
fellow worker, we have dared to take pity upon
one who is outcast by every standard of "honor-
able action," and we have been paying the penalty.
Why should we be cursed by Murray, the spector
Well, we should not be thus cursed did we not
yield to this passion for taking Murray back.
And so why have we yielded? It must be that
there lurks in us a reprehensible secret delight
in his abandonment to habits that we dare not
harbor. For we cannot claim so great a natural
benevolence as to endure these annoyances and
countenance these broken promises, just for love.
We love Murray ; yes, it is true. There is a warm,
glad feeling when we find him once more at his
typewriter, glancing up at us with that veiled
gratitude of his. But our affection will not brook
everything. It must be that our subconscious
passion for liberty, a passion now strangled in
the company of men steadied, reconciled, tamed,
takes form in the delight in Murray, who cannot
prevent himself from following his appetites. He
is only an intimate manifestation of a fallible
world which, perhaps, we understood better than
other people do. We pity it more ; we tolerate it
more. We know that this world has aspirations,
as we have, and fails, as we do. It has not been
in us to withhold forgiveness from its Chick
Nevertheless, this is now certain :
He cannot work here any more. The Old Man
has said so — despite appeals from Brown and
Josslyn — and if the Old Man is not consistent,
who is? And if the Old Man cannot throttle his
affection for this boy, and shut the door upon him.
who can ? It's all over with Murray, so far as the
news-room is concerned.
T ATER — he's back. He isn't going to drink any
^^ more. He has paid off his debts. He has
made peace with his wife. He has a new suit on,
and is writing a story, very carefully. This time
we think he is saved.
"Hello, Chick. Back again, eh?"
"Hello, fellows. Yes, Vm on the wagon for good.
OUNG - MAN - GOING - SOME-
WHERE is the comrade men-
tioned in the first of these
sketches who sat stabbing with
his cane at migratory cockroaches
and wishing he were — ^anywhere.
Most of us are reconciled to staying in or near
the news-room, doing our stuff, eating lunch in
the same place, going home to the same homes,
and expressing generally the humdrummery of
being efficient and reliable. Young-Man-Going-
Somewhere — his name is John Goode, but his
sobriquet is Sinful — is unreconciled. In his own
way he is both efficient and reliable, but he would
rather be them some other place than where he is.
He expresses for us the everlasting restlessness
of our tribe, just as the Drunkard expresses our
submerged liberties; and thus, requiring some-
body to travel for us, since we cannot travel
ourselves, we find Sinful Goode very essential.
Indeed, he and his type are useful to the pro-
fession and useful even, it might be said, to
civilization. For if there were not newspaper
men whose souls demanded movement and explo-
ration, and hardship and long, long trails, if there
were not men whose curiosity gives them no rest,
first pages would be a great deal duller than they
With this much superfluous reflection, let us
apply our microscope to Young-Man-Going-Some-
T CONFESS that I have not given you his real
•*• name. Were I to mention it you might recog-
nize it. At least it would be well known in a
certain small town where Sinful Goode was born,
and where he was once expelled from the Debating
Society. Between trips, I have heard, he makes
surreptitious visits to his aged parents, who still
live in the town ; but these do not count among his
globe-trottings, and he is said to come back rather
We don't really know anything about that. We
do know that Goode got on our staff somehow or
other about ten years ago, and that within six
months he was calling the chief of police, the
state's attorney, and most of the judges, by their
first names. Also he seemed to know about streets
that we had never heard of, and he kept making
allusions to saloonkeepers, yeggmen, and Chinese
tong leaders whose very existence was news to us.
He must have spent his evenings just ferreting
about. He was tortured by that terrible curi-
osity, and gifted with that faculty of making
intimates, that has taken him all over the world.
I suppose he calls various Japanese samurai and
Russian novelists and French deputies by their
first names, too.
It was after he had been here only a year that
he was given his first long trip. It was to cover
a revolution in Venezuela, or maybe Nicaragua.
Now don't imagine I'm going to spin a yarn that
Sinful Goode led the army and settled the revo-
lution. This is not a novel. Sinful didn't do
anything but send home some cables that were
printed on the fourth page, and then come home
himself and growl because they weren't printed
on the first. <But, having proved that he could
live on tortillas and tarantulas, he was the logical
man to go to Mexico when a revolution broke out
there. The revolution was opportune, for Goode
had by now developed his restlessness in full
degree, and had nearly worn the Old Man to death
suggesting that he sail around the world or
"Goode's going to Mexico," the Old Man told
the city editor.
"Glad of it. Hope he croaks," replied the c. e.,
whose nerves had also been worn a bit thin by
having Sinful Goode in barracks.
The rest of us were more benevolent. We gave
Goode a farewell dinner, at which and to which
our doggerel experts did great execution. Next
day we inspected his new riding breeches, his
camera, and his horrendous revolver. And then
we forgot him.
It must have been that the revolution was one
of those that prove more exciting in El Paso than
anywhere else, for I don't recall a single story
that Goode sent to the paper. The thing that does
reverberate in memory was the office gossip about
Sinfurs expense account, which was so remarkable
that not even the Old Man could keep still about
it. The chief item was one horse, which Goode
bought without thinking it worth while to ask
permission of the office. And under the general
heading of "horse" there were entries such as
"food," "stabling" and "equipment." Everything
at war prices, (Mex.) . Everything neatly arranged
in columns, and a balance at the bottom, decidedly
in Goode*s favor.
The Old Man, according to report, wired our
new-fledged war correspondent: "Sell horse at
once." The reply, which the city editor showed
to some of us in confidence, was in almost these
words : "Assure you no sense in selling horse at
this time. Advise wait for rising market. Mean-
time cannot traverse this God-forsaken country
on foot. If dissatisfied with my work say so and
I'll go back to police reporting."
Well, the painful episode dragged itself along,
to the great advantage of the telegraph company.
The Old Man really was at Goode's mercy, for if
a correspondent down there among the mesquite
chose to argue instead of obeying or resigning,
the only way the Old Man could end the argument
was by wiring Sinful a discharge ; and he thought
far too much of the brash youngster to do that.
How it all might have ended we know not ; for the
logical end was lost in the outbreak of the Great
war, which made Mexico, Goode, and his horse
seem like first-reader stuff.
Naturally, we were all frantic with work when
the calamity swept down on us; and yet, from
occasional bulletins that reached us from the Old
Man's room, or gossip told us in chuckles by the
telegraph operators, we knew that Sinful Goode
was not idle.
One little file of telegrams, shown us by Bungey,
the "chief operator," revealed the situation :
"Thain, the Press: Am leaving for Vera
Cruz Saturday ; arrive New York Thursday ;
can catch Baltic arrive France before German
invasion; wire three thousand dollars Vera
"Goode, care American consul Mexico City :
You have not been ordered Europe. Come
"Vera Cruz, Thain, The Press: No answer
received my message am sailing for New York
Monday. Need money. Can borrow but
request place three thousand my credit Guar-
anty Trust Company. Wire Washington issue
my passport for France ask war department
give me correspondent credentials.
"Goode,care Guaranty Trust Company ,New
York: You have exceeded all orders in going
to New York. Come home at once. Wiring
hundred dollars carefare. . THAIN."
"New York, Thain, The Press: Why quib-
ble about exceeding orders ? I am logical man
cover this scrap for you where can you get
better? Have already engaged passage Bal-
tic. Paid deposit my private funds. Does
the Press want to be in debt to me? Have
arranged with Washington my passport.
Rush three thousand. "GOODE."
"Goode, care Steamer Baltic, New York:
Can see advantages your going since already
gone part way. Did you get money? Take
care of yourself. "THAIN."
We all read these messages with eagerness and
with awe. Not one of us could have wrangled
thus with the Old Man and escaped alive. . Sinful
Goode, with his insubordination and his enterprise,
had made the terrible Thain surrender. How we
wished we had been born that way! How
we envied the correspondent, joyously afloat,
freighted with money and bound for the Supreme
And yet, would we stand in his place, destined
for hardship, peril and the chance of disgrace
instead of glory? Would we gamble with life as
Alas, we sighed, we were not born to do it.
THE war swamped us. The war sprung upon
us portentous surprises, incredible emergen-
cies. It blinded us with its horror and its
splendor ; and, meantime, it so involved us in new
meshes of routine that we could scarcely afford
time for pleasurable gossip. Thus Sinful Goode
and his Odyssey became remote interests, thrust
upon us only occasionally by the task of decipher-
ing his cables.
We gathered that he managed to get arrested
by the Germans in Belgium ; that he argued his
way to freedom and then argued himself into
favor with the advance French troops. One story
told us how he watched the first bombardment of
Rheims as he lay among the waving grain;
another how he observed an engagement from the
roof of a shell-torn house. Later — we scarcely
knew whether it was months or years — he was
fleeing from Antwerp among the refugees ; again,
he was at Dunkirk when the first big shells fell
in that quaint city. Somehow or other he got to
the eastern battle front and from there he sent
an interview with Von Hindenburg. Astonish-
ingly, he was in London when the Lusitania was
sunk; and yet he was one of the few correspon-
dents who saw the French advance near Arras.
During those early stages of the war he must
have performed prodigies of travel, of battle with
censors, of writing well under trying conditions,
and of risking his idiotic neck. We did not think
much about it at the time, but now when I run
through a scrap-book of Sinful Goode's cables I
The Old Man, meantime, made no secret of his
delight in the work of "our own correspondent."
He used to say: "Best inspiration I ever had,
sending that chap to the war. Of course, he'll get
killed, but — fortunes of the profession, you know."
Goode did not get killed. Instead, he got bored.
When the western front settled down to its dead-
lock in the trenches Goode became silent, and
probably sulky. There were long weeks when he
sent nothing. It was even rumored that he was
coming home. The Gallipoli campaign, however,
restored him. I don't recall how it was he got
there, if we ever knew; but suddenly he was heard
from in a dispatch that proved to be his first
blunder. He cabled us that the British landings
had succeeded, and that the capture of the penin-
sula was certain. I remember well the flurry in
the office that day; the telegraph editor rushing
in to the Old Man with Goode's cable, and rushing
out again red in the face ; also, later, how a dubious
conference developed the fact that the Associated
Press did not support Sinf ul's story, and how the
Old Man said: "I don't care. I stick by Goode.
What's the use of having a special correspondent
if you don't believe him ?" We kept up the eight-
column head, and kept up our spirits by talking
about the censor.
It all seemed so exciting then, and now seems
Well, we rushed a "query" by cable, and after
about a week we began to wonder if the Old Man
would recall our friend Sinful. Whether he con-
sidered this we never learned; but evidently he
could not have done it if he had tried. Young-
Man-Going-Somewhere had always just gone
somewhere else before messages of that kind
arrived. And by the time it had become fully
clear that Constantinople was not to be captured
Goode was up in the Balkans.
Does it seem incredible that a correspondent —
especially one working for the Old Man — should
dodge about so independent of office orders ? Well,
if it does, I can only say that Sinful Goode was
sui generis, that he followed no traditions, and
that he would not have obeyed orders if he had
had them. The Old Man was wise enough not to
send him any.
The Old Man would never, for example, have
ordered Sinful Goode to join the Serbian army on
its great retreat. Goode sent himself on that
assignment. Pursuing his faculty of getting "in"
with big people, he attached himself to the per-
sonal headquarters of Prince Alexander — called
the prince by his first name, probably — and went
clear through to the coast with that valiant group
leading a streaan of ragged, desperate men. Goode
slept on the frozen ground along with the prince
and his army; starved with them; fought their
battles against marauding bands, and helped save
the remnants. At the coast he separated from the
army, took a rowboat out into the Adriatic and
caught some kind of tramp steamer, whereon he
made a long and hideous journey to Athens.
Arriving there, a very skeleton of the ruddy and
cheerful Sinful Goode, he dictated ten thousand
words, and then collapsed.
When the Old Man received that cable, he sent
Goode the single word: "Congratulations."
This was the answer :
"Congratulations received. After a man
has had all the infernal starvation tours of
the war and has been the goat for the tough-
est assignments and got nothing out of it but
dysentery it feels great to get a boost like
yours, that cost such tolls — oh, yes, I assure
you it does! How about that salary raise?
How about that request for 5,000 French
francs I never got ? Does anybody ever think
about me? Does office know I'm alive? Just
received copies paper see my Balkan stuff
butchered and stuck on inside pages. Nice
work, thank you. Congratulations.
He was so angry, you see, that he put in a lot of
"thes" and "ands," at commercial rate.
The Old Man, looking grieved, brought in the
message to the city editor, and remarked: "I
don't know what to do with that fellow."
The city editor pondered, and together they
"Goode, Athens: Do you want to come
But Sinful never got this message, for he had
started for Paris, there to squander huge amounts
of the Press funds in peach Melbas at Ame-
nonville, and raspberry tarts at Paillard's and
"American cocktails" at the Chatham.
IT would hardly be worth while to describe in
so much detail the rest of SinfuFs war experi-
ence. He got into Russia right after the first
revolution, and got out again in time to see the
vanguard of the American troops land in France.
Later in the year he returned to Russia, where he
made friends with the bolsheviki and had three
meals a day quite regularly. He was here, there
and everywhere during the next year ; had typhus
in Warsaw, got part of an ear clipped off near
St. Mihiel, and fought a duel with a French editor.
He was growing restless and homesick, that was
evident. We began to get post-cards from him
begging for news of the staff. He sent Josslyn
the latest book by Barbusse, and wrote: "For
God's sake, try to smuggle some American cigars
to me." Then — ^the armistice. And a cable from
Goode : "Sailing Thursday Adriatic." I fancy the
Old Man breathed a luxurious sigh.
Among the staff there was both glee and incer-
titude over the approaching return of the Great
Correspondent. Would Goodey (as we had taken
to calling him) show signs of being "up-stage"?
Was it possible for this distinguished journalist,
who had been consorting with princes, generals,
premiers and proprietors of Parisian cafes to meet
us on our level? Would he overwhelm us with
French and Italian ? Would he be wearing spats
and a fur-collared overcoat?
These mild anxieties we kept mostly to our-
selves; only it was said more than once, with a
certain disgust, "He'll think he's too good for
ordinary news work."
After about a week the signs of his approach
began to accumulate. A letter or two with foreign
post-marks, addressed "John Temple Goode, Esq."
Telephone message from prominent citizens, ask-
ing when Mr. Goode might be expected. Then a
telegram from Sinful himself: "Arriving Satur-
day noon be ready to develop first photos armistice
About one o'clock Saturday a group of us
sitting in the cigar store saw passing a tallish,
square -shouldered figure surmounted by a
weather-stained fedora and slung about with a
camera. It was Goode, God bless him! The
same ruddy, challenging face ; the same old man-
gled cigar between his teeth. Even the same suit
of clothes he wore to Mexico, I shouldn't wonder.
Forgetting his greatness, we rushed out into
the street, shook him and slapped him; and we
said, "Sinful, you old eggV* and we cried, "You
big stiff, you're looking fine — but you're getting
And the friend of princes grinned and spat, and
then said: "Look here, fellows, I've got some
photos to get developed. Got a story to write, too.
Gosh, but the old loop looks great. How's the Old
Man ? How's Josslyn ? How's everybody ?"
In fifteen minutes he was in the Old Man's room
arguing about his expense account; and we knew
that Sinful Goode had returned unchanged.
TJE is unchanged still.
^ ^ It is now some years since the war. Every-
body, including Goode, has almost forgotten it.
He has been away twice, the first time in South
America, the second in Siberia. On both trips he
worked like fury, "kicked" continually by cable,
lived among outlandish folk and took insane risks ;
only to return unchanged.
He attends luncheons given by bankers, to
obtain his opinion of possibilities of foreign trade.
He receives mysterious letters from the State
Department, desiring information. He makes
addresses before chambers of commerce. Three
publishing houses have asked him for books, but
he has been too lazy to write them, and he has
never been able to finish his novel.
Sometimes when I see him pondering at his
desk I suspect he finds greater futility in life than
any of us. He has never had a home. During his
frantic dashes about the world he has accumulated
nothing but a crazy-quilt of baggage labels and a
collection of room keys. His wife — did I mention
that he has a wife? — has seen him only about
three weeks of each year; her life has been a
procession of pensions. Goode has saved nothing ;
he owns nothing, save a helter-skelter collection
of pipes, Prussian helmets, Japanese fans, auto-
graphs, and time tables.
Ah, but he has his friendships! Like the rest
of us, he has these, though all else may have
failed. Indeed, he has a home. This is it, this
news-room, with its battered desks and its cracked
plastering. Here, amid the happy family— the
Star, Josslyn, Brown, the city editor, amiable
Barlow and others — he sinks into a contented
comradeship that is faintly like drawing up to a
table full of brothers and sisters.
Then there is the cigar store. Sinful Goode sits
smoking a mangled cigar, and grinning at each of
us in turn.
"Say, Goodey, why don't you write those books
and get famous?"
"Yes, Goodey, why don't you capitalize your
"My name? It stands for fried fish, I guess.
Write books! I'm a newspaper guy, I am. So
long's I get my stuff in the paper . . . ."
"What are Russian hotels like? Do they heat
"Say, when did they start the new Madison
street bridge ?" he inquires with real interest.
There is nothing to be got out of him.
TT almost seems as though he might stay at
•*- home now.
But no. He confides that this very afternoon
he is going to "talk turkey to the old man," and
tell him he has a chance to go to the polar regions
in an aeroplane, and shall he try it on ?
Until he is silver-haired and palsied, and until
his fingers can no longer pound a portable type-
writer, he will always be the Young-Man-Going-
F wishes were horses, the Cub
would ride long, dusty trails with
Sinful Goode. As it is, he sits
much of the time with his feet
on his desk, and his hands in his
pockets, and his head sunken upon
his breast, and dreams.
He is not asleep; not quite. Therefore his
dreams are not of fantasy, but of probability.
They are ambitions. They are his present life a
thousand times glorified and decorated. But they
are as futile as any dreams; and when they are
over they are just as bitter.
The Cub half slumbers at his desk, while far
down the room a group of "executives," tran-
scendent beings to whom the Cub says "sir,"
discuss matters in general and occasionally, catch-
ing sight of the Cub, discuss him. These voices
are inaudible to the Cub. Could he hear them
they would make a strange accompaniment to his
dreams, much as the distant and irrelevant
remarks made by doctors and nurses sound to a
patient half-way under an anaesthetic.
This is an antiphony of the Cub's illusions and
the "executives' " voices.
IT should be noted that the Cub has been here
only a fortnight. ' He was recommended to the
city editor by the advertising manager, who
learned of him through a big advertiser who has
a great friend whose son the Cub is. ■
A voice: "Of course, I don't usually fall for
these fish that get in by way of business office.
But I'm the chief sufferer, after all."
Second voice : "No, you're wrong ; I am."
Third voice (to first) : "We know you, George.
You're as soft as the advertising manager, and
the two of you together, if it wasn't for the Old
Man, would soon have the shop full of Oxford-
men and lap-dogs."
First voice: "You chaps go to hell. As for this
Cub, I think he's got the makin's."
A new voice : "I think so, too."
Third voice: "Oh, as for you, Josslyn, if you
found a sow's ear on the sidewalk you'd advertise
it in the Lost and Found."
T TE dreams.
rX At last he is a journalist. Behold, he is
here, surrounded by great news-men and great
writers ; he is sitting, as by right, in this chamber
of fascinating shadows. Only a little while ago
he walked in for the first time, passing the door-
boy loftily because he had a right to come in. He
remembers other doors and other door-boys;
remembers them with pain and with disdain. He
recalls pacing various corridors, while his card,
inscribed "Frederick Reid Dunstane," went with
his soul into the invisible. Now all that is over.
He is "in."
In the dream he is a larger, more dignified, more
intellectual being than formerly. During those
waits in various corridors he was a puny and
forlorn soul, a lip-biter, a waif quite without
standing or importance. He forgot that he was
a member of select college organizations, a tea-
fighter of prowess, a superb figure on the dance-
floor, and a D. S. M. As he stood in those corri-
dors, leaning sullenly against the wall, he eyed
the light-hearted, fraternizing young men, plainly
members of the staff, who passed into the elevator
and who gave him glances he considered mocking ;
and no shivering Lazarus ever eyed banquet
guests more humbly or more enviously than he.
But now he is grown once more to fill out his
clothes, and he carries a cane at the same angle
as the Star's cane, and he has already lent five
dollars to the Drunkard, and he calls the city
editor half-familiarly "boss." Also he reads the
paper's editorials scornfully, as is the news-room
habit, and he has learned to speak of contemporary
publications as loutish and unenterprising.
In his dreams he is already quite the equal of
his mates in resource of undertaking and in
savoir-faire; and he feels more than competent
stylistically. He is, in fact, bursting with literary
impulse. Original phrases are spurting within
him. (He does not dream that they were sug-
gested to him by the Star's latest story.) In fancy
he opens his typewriter and writes. He writes
furiously, fluently, in an ecstasy. And boys in
relays stand at his elbow, seizing the sheets as
they pour from the machine. And the city editor
strolls up behind him and says, affectionately:
"Take it easy, old chap ; you've got fifteen minutes
yet." Then the presses thunder more loudly, and
behold, here is his story, long, black, and lovely,
on the first page. And there are groups of great
journalists about, devouring his story. All the
copy-readers are talking about it.
What figure is this, marching in through the
swinging door, and crying out, "Who wrote this
"Why, it is the Old Man, who somehow has over-
looked the Cub's presence hitherto, but who now
seeks him out with a warm grip of the hand, and
the tribute, **You are the sort of material we
T7IRST voice: "The reason is that if I gave him
•*• more than two sticks to write he'd murder it."
Second voice : "Yes, they're all alike, those cubs.
If old Rud Kipling himself were to tackle a good,
snappy fire his story would have to be rewritten."
Third voice : "I read his copy yesferday. Lord,
it was fierce !"
A new voice : "Oh, he'll catch on. I was talking
to him this morning . . . ."
All the previous voices: "Josslyn, when will
HE is dreaming about being called out of bed
at six a. m. and sent to take charge of a
special crew assigned to cover the city's greatest
The taxicab tears westward over the river,
toward the typhoon of smoke and flame. The Cub
is sternly calm. To one of his three companions
he says : "You, Billy, you'd better get the list of
firms and losses"; to another, "Murray, you are
assigned to dead and injured"; he directs the
third, "Wallace, do features. I'll go on ahead with
the chief, up into the building." He pulls up his
overcoat collar. "Report to me in half an hour.
I'll take your stuff into the office and write the
They arrive at the fire. The great reporter,
formerly the Cub, descries the fire chief, a mas-
sive figure in rubber coat, peering up at the tall
streams of water and piercing the steam-clouds
with his old eyes.
"Hello, chief ; Fm Dunstane, of the Press."
"Why, hello, Dunstane ; glad you're here."
The inside facts of the fire are immediately in
the Cub's possession. He rushes on, on, quite
to the foremost skirmish line of the battle. He
climbs with a group of pipemen to an upper floor,
swirling with smoke, and with its windows yawn-
ing empty to the sky. In this deserted loft he
discovers a telephone. Good ! The wire is working.
He connects the office — it is now seven o'clock —
and calls the city desk, calmly and sternly.
"Mr. Brown? I'm up in the burning building,
cut off from rescue, if anything should happen.
. . . No, I think there is no real danger. Those
crashes you hear are only falling bricks. . . .
Give you the complete story in half an hour.
He drops from the window in safety. He
brushes aside anxious firemen who would give
him first aid. Though bruised and half choked,
he rounds up his crew, receives their reports, and
taxis back to the office, where he curtly announces:
"Two million loss ; gimme some copy-paper quick."
The staff watch him with awe. From a far comer
a Cub — oh, a much more verdant and ineffective
Cub than Dunstane once was — projects himself
into the dream, steals up and eyes Dunstane's
flying fingers. And afterward Dunstane kindly
allows the Cub to speak to him, and he tells how
he did it. And the Cub accepts a cigar
A VOICE : "He was out with Wallace the other
day on that 4-11 alarm. Wallace says he
kicked the whole time because we weren't going to
let him write anything. Got several of his figures
wrong, too. I wonder if it's any use. . . ."
Second voice : "Oh, he must have got some good
experience out of it."
Third voice : "He ought to have plenty of nerve.
Fm told he brought down three German planes
in the Argonne.*'
First voice : "But look at him over there, half-
asleep. What do you suppose he's day-dreaming
THIS time it is about Europe. Europe, where
he once was. How he hated it! With what
zest he enjoyed everything which read, looked or
smelled like America. Ah, if he ever got back to
God's country, why, never again !
But now, if he could only get back to Europe !
He would make a distinguished Paris corre-
spondent, he would, what with his knowledge of
French. Would they let him try it? Why, the
cables he would send would place the Press on sC
new basis, internationally speaking. He could go
tomorrow — tomorrow, and start in at once inter-
viewing monarchs and presidents. In this vision
he has passed far beyond the level of that grimy
being of a moment ago, condescending to talk to
fire chiefs. He now has the entree to intellectual
salons and to grave council chambers. He has no
need to make appointments with premiers and
those fellows; but immediately he sends in his
card, "Frederick Reid Dunstane," obsequious sec-
retaries usher him into gilded bureaus of "the
most high, and he confers — he does not interview,
he confers — with the men who are making a hew
There is no present hope, perhaps. But wait-
wait! They will find him out. They are bound to
realize soon that he is the very man for the Paris
post. Preferably Paris, but as a second choice,
London. The dream sweeps on. A war breaks out.
He is the first correspondent to be informed of
the ultimatum. He rushes to the cable office, and
barriers of censorship are officially lifted, that the
great Frederick Dunstane may send the TRUTH.
The President of the United States cables to
Mr. Dunstane to learn further details. Mr. Dun-
stane advises intervention by the United States.
And all this is chronicled in the Press as the work
of "our correspondent."
In the evening Mr. Dunstane repairs to the
Cafe Napolitain, on the Boulevard des Capucines,
where all the great correspondents meet to sip
brandy, and where all the monde, together with
no small part of the demi-monde, sit at small
tables and gaze at celebrities. Mr. Dunstane
appears, great but modest. Groups of drinkers
spring up to offer him their chairs, or to grasp his
hand, or to demand the latest inside news. He is
unaffected by his distinction, speaks democratic-
ally to the correspondents of the Times and the
Morning >Telegraph, accepts one of the proffered
chairs, and sips brandy — ^very abstemiously. The
great city, the great world, in whose center he sits
and of which, in fact, he is the center, gyrates
around him. And he, breaker of nations, but still
a journalist, takes his ease.
VOICE : "You know the first day he came he
asked if there wasn't a job open in Paris."
THE news room seems to be emptying for the
day. The group of "executives" has scattered,
all save the city editor. He is folding up his
copies of the late editions, and pinning discarded
stuff on spindles, preparatory to closing his desk.
The mysterious shadows of the long, gloomy
room are deepening. And the Cub is rousing from
But not before he sees himself grey, portly
and whiskered, as it is possible some day he may
be. Yes, he can prefigure even that far-away time.
And what will he be then? Well, surely an owner,
nothing else. He will be a cultured, traveled,
urbane owner, sitting at a polished mahogany desk
entirely clear of papers, and conducting business
over a battery of telephones. He will wear a
frock coat with silk lapels, and be spoken of for
senator. He will be too busy, probably, to do any
actual editorial work, but he will have many, many
able men to do this for him ; and they will know
that although his writing days are over, he was
once the best of them all, and still possesses such
professional acuteness that "it's no use trying to
put anything over on the old man."
He will have a new building, instead of this
modest structure from which the Press is issued.
It will have a tower, and a huge clock with a
luminous face, and there will be letters in blazing
electricity all around the cornice: "The Press;
Frederick Reid Dunstane, Proprietor." On an
election night his portrait, as the man who chose
the new President of the United States, will be
displayed in red fire.
But he will remain democratic. He will invite
his editors to lunch, and know his printers by
their first names. Yes, even the newest and
homeliest of the copy-boys shall have access to
THERE is a shuffling of feet beside the Cub's
desk. A grimy paw musses the papers on the
desk. A voice of adolescence speaks in rather
execrable accents :
"Say, Mr. Brown says you should finish that
club notice for tomorrow's paper. He says you
The Cub slowly removes his feet from his desk,
takes his hands from his pockets, and blinks.
In the full light of reason he perceives the blunt
truth : He is but one rung higher than the copy-
The Old Man
^ '^ n^ these days it seems incredible
W that the Old Man was ever a Cub.
I Yet such he was. I have seen a
I photograph of him at the age of
I twenty. There looks out from the
* =J| frame a lean, eager face, with
wide eyes and sensitive lips. A startling brush of
hair, a la pompadour, crowns the forehead. The
personality that quivers there is vivid despite the
fading of the print. It looks wistfully and severely
down the years, and offers silent criticism of the
bulkier personality that it has become.
The Old Man now confesses "fifty odd." His hair
crosses his skull in sparse, grey-black strands.
His blue eyes smolder behind heavy spectacles.
His shoulders, his hands, his limbs, his walk,
have become ponderous. The floor creaks when
he traverses it. His chair groans at his touch.
The weight of his responsibility is upon him and
all that he does ; and the weight of his authority
is upon us. We are now the lean, eager creatures
straining at life. The Old Man has become a
figure of another generation and another signifi-
cance. He symbolizes government, importance
and permanence. Pie is our law-giver, our
repressor ; but he is also our security, our refuge.
Who shall chastise us? The Old Man. But who
shall restore and comfort us? None but the Old
Man. He sits there supporting "the office" upon
his broad shoulders, suggesting in his formidable
physique itself that the institution we belong to
is no fragile thing. To be able to do this has
cost him something; it has cost him the ardency
and sensitiveness of the photograph. All of that
is grown over by the protective layers, both
physical and mental, that he has had to build up.
It is grown over — but perhaps it still lives.
PROMPTLY on the stroke of eight in the morn-
ing the Old Man emerges from the elevator,
and a minute later one can hear the lid of his
private desk go up with a rush and crash. The
swivel chair gives its familiar groan. There is a
moment's silence, and then the Old Man's voice
is heard, calling for the morning papers.
His voice is a curious organ, musical with
chest tones, but sharpening easily to acrimony,
and sometimes, in extreme impatience, becoming
plaintive, despairing. At this hour of the day,
when the boy, as usual, has forgotten the morning
papers, the Old Man's voice is always at its highest
note of weary insolence. In the few words it
utters, it suggests the immense distance between
the Old Man and the boy, and the utter triviality
of the process of discharging the boy. But, some-
how, the Old Man never does discharge the boy.
The small, round face of this functionary reflects
surprise, fear and enormous stupidity as he peers
in at the Old Man's door. He sums up everything
with his "Yessir."
"Tell Brown to come here," commands the Old
Man, with an impatient jounce in his chair.
Brown arrives, in shirt-sleeves and eye-shade.
His lean face is apprehensive, but his chin is
determined, and there is a twist of something like
humor about his mouth. He stands silently in the
door, with his hands in his pockets.
The Old Man pretends to be busy reading a
letter. At length he slowly turns his fearsome
spectacles, through which his eyes appear magni-
fied and very bright, in Brown's direction, and
he emits a slight sound, unrecognizable either as
greeting or as warning. A pause, a»d he says :
"We muffed that jewel robbery story yesterday.
The Journal had it all over us."
"The Journal always beats us on a police story."
This rouses Brown, as is the intention.
"Not always," he says quietly.
The Old Man brings down his hand upon his
"Yes — always. When I say always, I mean —
always. Yesterday, today, and forever. Our police
staff is no good. It needs a shaking up — nothing's
ever done unless I start it myself." The chair
groans. "Here I am, twenty years older than any
of you, and I have to furnish the ginger. You
young fellows . . ." another untranslatable sound.
Brown is paler than before.
"Maybe you think," he counters in his thin,
steady voice, "maybe you thing the staff shake-up
should begin at the top."
"Maybe it should," retorts the Old Man
instantly. He always rises to a challenge of this
sort. The two men eye each other. Outside in
the hall the boy is telegraphing to other boys that
hell is popping.
"Well," says Brown, taking his hands out of his
pockets, "IVe done my best."
"All I can say to that," blurts the Old Man,
with his habitual answer to the plea he has heard
a thousand times, "is that your best isn't good
"Very well," says the city editor, taking off his
eye-shade, as though by the act he lays down
office ; "very well, then, I . . ."
At this moment the telephone on the Old Man's
desk rings. Compressing his lips, he takes up
the receiver and listens, his cold blue gaze resting
absently upon Brown. He speaks shortly once,
and hangs up.
"Look here," he remarks, quite in his ordinary
tone, "there's going to be a riot on the Board of
Trade this morning. Better start somebody down
early." He speaks now on terms of equality and
complete friendliness. "The situation has been
cooking up for some time. You'd better have
Manlius go down and help out Riggs. It'll be
"It may be the big line for the second mail,"
suggests Brown, brightening up. "I'll write that
head myself. I'll . . ."
"Go and start something. Get out pi here while
I read my mail. Scat !" „^^<" - '\
The incident is closed. The day has started
right. Both the Old Man and Brown, stimulated
by their tiff and reconciliation, plunge into work
with vim and zest. An hour later, the Old Man,
having run through his mail, clipped out three
suggestions for editorials, delivered various orders
to the composing room and elsewhere, telegraphed
instructions to New York and Washington corre-
spondents, and disposed of a politician concerned
about the "injudicious policy of our leading after-
noon paper," strolls into the news-room for a look
around. Brown's razor back is bent over a mass
"Don't strain your eyes, my boy," says the Old
Man, pausing beside him ; "you need a better light
DEADiJNBfS' •'"-"'••- 
He passes on, past the copy-readers, crabbedly
disposing of their work, past the bench-full of
small boys, who look demurely downcast as he
passes and scowl terribly behind his back, and on
among the desks of the reporters. He halts at
a desk in a corner. The occupant instantly stops
typewriting, and rises.
"How's Fosket?" asks the Old Man. "Were you
out at the hospital last night?"
There is reassurance about the appendix of
Fosket, and the reporter is left to his work. The
Old Man wanders on, arriving at the row of win-
dows that overlook the street. In the street is the
usual daily swarm of trucks, taxis, pedestrians,
thronging by under the jagged level of the ele-
vated railroad. It is a grim perspective. It is a
segment of the city ridden by mechanisms, ridden
by routine, by desperate errands. Here at its
vortex the city is harsh, dour, fearfully in a hurry.
It sends up a voice, an influence, into this news-
paper office! it sends up messages of the conflict,
the confusion, of its forty-eight nationalities and
its forty-eight thousand ambitions. Anything may
happen here. There may be at any moment an
outbreak of crime committed in a blunt, dauntless
manner rivaling the Mexican border. There may
be accident, swift and hideous. There may be
some less overt but quite as startling manifesta-
tion of the intricate, violent, dazzlingly vital city.
[ 103 ] DEADLINES
The Old Man sniffs the air, loving this city of
his. He is for the moment deaf to what is behind
his back ; he is in an interlude, forgetting his desk
and all that is upon it. He gazes down critically,
masterfully, with an appearance of premonition,
into the familiar street. And there is about him
almost a kind of majesty, because of his power
of impressing himself upon this multitude, and
because of the air of the patrician that hangs
always about him.
For the Old Man was not born of this swarm.
He was thrust into his present environment and
his present tasks, partly by destiny, partly by his
own complex nature.
His full name (only a few of us know this) is
Norbert William DeLancy Thain. He signs him-
self "N. W. Thain."
A FEW years ago a dispatch announced the
death of a wealthy maiden lady named
Thain. She was said to be "almost the last sur-
vivor of a distinguished eastern family." There
were hints about rich acres on Long Island, about
libraries full of old masters, and the like. Soon
after the dispatch was published the Old Man was
absent for a few days, and it was rumored that
he had gone east. The rumor subsided upon his
return, and the very, very faint conjecture that
he was a connection of the baronial Miss Thain
was speedily forgotten.
But the fact, which a few of us know, is that
the Old Man was her brother. It is not difficult to
fill in the outlines of the story. Indeed, the Old
Man, in his rare moments of reminiscence, has
supplied all that was needed.
Why, then, is he not at this moment living
as a country gentleman on Long Island, buying
and selling racing stables, and occasionally scaring
Wall street into fits, instead of inviting soul
devastation by managing a newspaper? The
answer revolves around a mystery not peculiar
to The Mysterious Profession, but common to all ;
the mystery of a young man's ambition, the
thing that "sends them into it." Norbert William
DeLancy Thain did not wish to be a country
gentleman. He did want to be a newspaper man.
Perhaps he wanted as well to be a writer — a
novelist or a poet. We do not know this. In these
days he speaks with profound disdain of novelists
and poets. But he himself has told us that he
was determined to be a newspaper man. He — yes,
I am sure he said this — he "gave up everything
for it." So we have a pretty reliable picture of
him engaging in a stormy argument with his
father, then declaring his independence and join-
ing the motley company, half genius and half
charlatan, then common along Park Row. He has
told us about Park Row, with the slight hyperbole
that tinges his reminiscences. Sometimes he has
declared that he belonged to a golden age of
journalism, when enterprise reached its zenith,
and the pursuit of a "beat" recked no cost, and
that of this golden age he himself was one of
the most luminous figures. At other times he has
satirized both Park Row and his younger self,
and assured us that we ourselves belonged to "the
greatest newspaper in history." But it remains
certain that he was a reporter in New York, and
eventually a writer much prized. Was it not he
who as a mere boy "covered" the rush to settle
Oklahoma, the great Chicago railway strike, and
the Santiago campaign? It was. He has told us
so, and has shown us the scar on his neck made
by a Spanish bullet. The Old Man has given us
details of these things during the long hours of
waiting for a court verdict or a strike settlement.
Expansive hours, these, when more than one
department chief ^reminisced," and we youngsters
hung about, fascinated.
But there is^ very little to show at what period
the Old Man gave up star reporting for desk work,
or to tell us why he did it. We can only surmise ;
we can only apply to his case the things that
govern most newspaper careers and assume that,
having committed himself to the hazards of the
profession, he was forced to accept his destiny.
This destiny usually assumes one of two forms:
either the acceptance of high responsibility,
together with crushing worry and deadening
routine, or a decadence from the position of Star
to one of shabby obscurity. It was impossible
for a man of the Old Man's temper to take the
slide to the level of "once a great reporter." One
day it became inevitable for him to be an execu-
tive and thus to exert the acuteness, the immense
energy, the professional wisdom, that had come
with his years.
But on that day, mind you, he laid aside forever
the delight of "seeing himself in print." He for-
feited his literary creative powers. He parted
with a section of his individuality. It is all very
well to say that his imaginative gifts now figure
on every page of the paper, that he "expresses
himself through others," and so on. All very well,
but every time such words are spoken of a man
bom a literary artist, they utter a requiem. The
funeral of the Old Man as a writer has now been
held so often that every one supposes him to be
used to it. But is he? Does not there persist in
him, will there not persist to his death day, the
strange, bitter-sweet egoism that vdll not be
satisfied without "seeing one's-self in print"?
Sometimes — rarely — ^the Old Man dictates an
editorial, or perhaps a few lines of flourish at the
beginning of an important news story. There is
in these fragments a deadly acid quality, or more
often a felicitous turn of phrase, that shows what
power still smolders in the Old Man's spirit. It
is revealed further by his treatment of us, by his
disdain for crude, hackneyed expression, by his
delight in a piece of writing that has original
color, by his tenderness toward the sensitive
gropers among us.
He comes out of his room sometimes, grasping
the latest issue in both hands, and with his eyes
"Who wrote this?" he demands. "By G ,
And he returns to his lair, satisfied with the
outburst, without waiting for an answer to his
Or it may be that he finds in a rival paper a
story that rises above mediocrity, that has a note
of "the real thing." He will rave for half an hour
about the ability of this anonymous literary rival.
And we hang our heads.
Meantime, although it is so plain that the Old
Man is at heart an artist, and that he loves
excellent writing with the consuming love others
have for music, we never think of him as a writer
at all; that is, we know what he could do, but
we never expect him to do it. There he is in his
niche, a huge and conspicuous niche, with a sign
over him "Executive." Oh, yes, he could and did
do things; he was an artist once; but not now.
Now he is the Boss — a being of whom to ask
questions or from whom to receive maledictions,
a being who controls pay-rolls. He is stage-
director and prompter. Someone else speaks the
parts and receives the curtain calls.
All of this constitutes a sort of tragedy.
THERE can be no doubt that the Old Man has
a plural nature. "Dual" seems scarcely to be
Two of his selves are the artist and the
executive. The executive, when that phase of
DeLancy Thain's life opened, rose into preponder-
ance over the artist very easily ; and as time went
on his increasing virility and love of conflict
demanded more and more a tempestuous field.
Perhaps from the first he instinctively sought
trouble, as the saying is. It is certain that in this
city which I have characterized as intricate and
violent he is at home. The fact, to some extent,
mitigates the tragedy of the suppressed artist.
A newspaper with the breath of life in it is
ever on the offensive. Its hates stream out to
"Little Hell," "The Valley," and the Gashouse
District," breathing challenge to bad men where-
ever they hide. Even if there be no battle for
the time being with crooks and gangsters there
is conflict with somebody. To be the leader in
this amiable business of making enemies requires
a big fist and a blunt answer. It involves the
Old Man from time to time in clashes — usually
verbal — with uncouth persons in whom somehow
or other there was born a devil both fierce and
canny. This is no place for a lily-fingered, lisping
individual. The Old Man has to be prepared, and
is, to oppose to brutal, foul speech a resistance
quite as brutal, though perhaps not as foul. He
casts off, almost daily, his hereditary cloak of the
patrician and "mixes it" with jail-bird sons of
jail-birds. He is a match — he who might have
spent his afternoons at tea dances at the Ritz-
Carleton — for any of the products of this city that
includes in its composite soul the low instincts
of a dozen races.
When his telephone bell rings there may come
to him the voice of a six-foot gangster announcing,
"You , I'm comin* around there today
to beat your block off."
And the Old Man must be prepared to answer
the gangster at once, and not in French, either.
There are conflicts of a more diplomatic sort;
political struggles, or controversies involving even
women and scholars. The Old Man has mastered
the weapons of these as well. The point with him
is, never to yield. On no account does the Old Man
give ground. There are times when it suits him
to revert to the patrician, and then it is a
delightful experience to hear him suavely, perhaps
ironically, dispose of the opposition. It is even
more delicious to see him plume himself after the
encounter; to observe how his whole personality
glistens with the consciousness that neither in
breeding nor in intellect does he concede an atom
to these persons who speak with the accents of
Harvard and of Vassar.
He is equipped, too, with every art needed to
cope with the disputes that come up in the office.
To us he is capable of being blunt or suave, per-
suasive or sarcastic, as the nature of the tangle
requires. He is death upon the frequent situation
in which two minor executives come to him with
"I can't go on working here if Wade does," and
vice versa. He merely says : "You may both quit,
then." Equally fatal is he to the youth who com-
plains that "credit" is being subtracted from him.
The Old Man sweetly and in the purest English
subtracts the rest of the credit.
It is we, of course, who see the Old Man in all
his moods, who have learned that his nature is
really plural. We see him morose, joyous, tender,
abusive, frivolous, weary. We see him uplifted in
one of those gorgeous moments of great news
which come so rarely; and we see him grimly
assailed by routine, bored to death, but hanging
on. Sometimes he suggests to us a hollow, hope-
less soul, sucked dry of enthusiasm or initiative.
An hour later, and he may be leading us with the
fury of a youth ; or, coatless at the "stone," sing-
ing over his proofs and slapping printers on the
There are days when he seems to hate us all.
There are days when his affection enfolds us like
He is brief with the Cub, sardonic with Sinful
Goode, amiable and savage by turns with the Star,
majestic with the Drunkard, and strictly on his
good behavior with Josslyn. There must be a
story about his relations with Josslyn, "the old-
timer." We shall have to look into it before we
IN this haphazard world of ours, so easily upset
by a word, by a false touch or an unprofessional
act, the Old Man is the symbol of permanence.
That powerful body seems never to weaken, that
mind returns every morning to the challenge, to
the battle, to the semi-paternal care of us all.
Ten years hence, how will it be? Surely by
that time he will have begun to weaken. And
with what memories can he mitigate the distress
of age. To what can he point with the words, "I
made this"? For the record of his days will be
the hundreds of trivial thoughts and motions
spent upon "getting out the paper" ; the lavishing
of immense zeal upon an evanescent product, for-
gotten as soon as made.
Perhaps, when the false fires are quenched,
there will be nothing for him to rejoice over —
nothing but us. There will remain among the
ashes of his public and his enterprises only us,
his children, his disciples. Perhaps we shall have
become, in our turn, weighty, authoritative per-
sons, who can "get out a paper." He will have
bequeathed his life to us, and we shall bequeath
it again to vivid youths like the one pictured in
the Old Man's photograph.
ENTLEMEN, should you meet a
stalwart person walking the
streets bareheaded and glowing
with mysterious ecstasy, will you
kindly bring him back to the
office? That is our Poet.
The Old Man would like to see him.
It is a whim of the Old Man's, and of nobody
else, that we shall employ a poet to write critical
articles. An incongruity, surely; what do you
think? Are not critics supposed to be bloodless,
blue-nosed persons, pedantic, prudent, prim, and
accurate on the typewriter? And do they not
punch clocks faithfully? Poets never punch clocks.
There is a disposition in our office, however, to
forgive the Old Man his eccentricity ; to love him
the more because he employs The Poet. Beyond
doubt, the presence of The Poet lends color to
this pasture wherein we dig post-holes and hunt
mares-nests. It is certain that our days would be
gloomier were it not for the leisurely, genial,
enigmatic being who moves about among the
shades. To find him at one's elbow, quite unex-
pectedly, furnishes a moment of novelty and of
warmth. To hear him boom: "Some first page
today — man, that's journalism!" is almost as
forceful praise as a note from the Owner. Besides
this, it does us good to gather around his desk and
hear him talk. There is nearly always — at least,
during The Poet's variable "office hours," there is
usually a knot of young reporters listening to his
wisdom. And it sometimes makes the Old Man
nervous when he comes in and finds work at a
standstill. But the Old Man knows he is chiefly
to blame, so he smiles secretly and goes away.
The Old Man is wont to boast: "Fve managed
to keep that man on my staff for five years without
A rightful boast. It is no joke to keep a poet
TLTE has been here five years. He has been
•*• ^ happy, we think. As for us, we have seen
poems born. We have watched The Poet at his
window, lounging deep in his chair, his powerful
hands knotted, his dark, rugged face locked in a
solemn dream. The poems themselves have been
on exhibition at various stages : as pencilled yellow
slips, as clean sheets re-typed for the printer, as
long rolls of galley-proofs. We have seen poems
fresh from the shell, shivering in a philistine
world; and we have seen them again, months
later, fricaseed in books, or set forth with pro-
fessorial comment, or translated into French and
Italian and Spanish. All this makes The Poet
more incongruous than ever. Who is he, after all?
A great man, or only one of us? One cannot
doubt that he travels in an orbit that often takes
him very far away, and that at his perihelion he
is quite beyond our vision. Yet he returns as
regularly as he goes, and when he is again within
our range, and when the flight of gaudy and
tawdry events does not engross us too much, he
is as actual as Barlow, and as vivid as The Star.
In these returns to earth he shares the office
dramas. He is one of the first to be told of a
big scoop, a grievous quarrel, or a new baby. He
is interested in the people of the news-room ; and
he has periods of absorption in news itself.
Sitting in his deep old chair he may preach to
us like this :
"You and I are artists ; you as much as I. They
call newspaper work a trade, or a profession.
More often it is an art. ... Besides writing,
there is staging the effect. Dramatists do that;
so do newspaper men. Dramatists set a stage;
newspaper men, dealing with a great event, give
a setting of type and a proper bally-hoo. . . . The
novelist has his 'control,' — character ; the painter
has his — beauty. The newspaperman has his
*contror — news. What is news? It is what inter-
ests everybody. How do we know it interests
everybody? Why, we simply know . . ." etc., etc.
OR IN the cigar store he may suddenly appear
among the clouds of smoke, with a long,
loose-rolled stogie in his lips, and argue about the
current murder trial. And then, quite as though
he were no more august than the Cub, he may
say: "Who's for a cup of Java?"
Or on an election night he may saunter in
between the littered desks and inquire: "How*s
Diamond Joe running?"
But for all this, we know that he is an extrane-
ous spirit, who dwells among us, yet apart. He
travels in mysterious spaces beyond our tired
vision. He is the office mystery, just as the
Drunkard is its bad boy, and Josslyn its Sir Philip
Sidney. He has another life somewhere; perhaps
in his country cottage, where through an attic
window he drinks star-light. We can't tell just
why the world makes so much of him. Some of
us shake our heads over his poetry, and say "I
can't make sense of it." Or we ask The Poet what
it means, and he replies, "God knows."
Can't we get at our mystery somehow, can't
we solve him?
Suppose that we step outside of the news-room,
just for once, and follow him to the antipodes;
to the other side of the orbit. Let's assemble
the crowd; make it a night off. Tomorrow the
news-room again, the detestable clock, the insane
telephones, the petty conflicts. Tonight, The Poet.
"Pl'GHT steps down from the level of the glossy
•*-' boulevard. Two steps to the right into the
restaurant with red chairs and green walls. This
is the place. The red chairs stand in semi-circles
before a fire-place, and on the mantel-shelf there
are plaster statuettes, and Quimper plates, and
this and that. All very chic. It is not a restaurant
this evening; it is a setting for The Poet. But
what a setting! Think of him among the statu-
ettes and the tall candles, the cages of imitation
parrots, the walls frescoed with pink flower-
baskets. Our poet! May he step softly amid
The red chairs gradually fill up. From the
boulevard swept by snow squalls and by streaks
of motor-lights people are blowing in. We, the
news-room "crowd," blow in and are dumfounded
to find there are no seats for us. The place is
packed. "Everybody" is here: The cognoscenti,
and the literati, and the younger intellectuals and
the neo-Bohemians and the academics, and the
iconoclasts and the abracadabrists. Everybody
who writes, or writes about writings or knows
people who talk about those who write about
writing. The serene small editress of a magazine
enters, and five young poets jump up to offer her
their places. A literary critic appears in the door-
way, leading an abashed-looking trio of suburban
friends. In a corner glowers a group of long-
haired youths with horn spectacles and scornful
conversation. An old man, white bearded, is
squeezed between two bobbed-haired screechers.
Sophomores and sub-debs arrive, clutching the
poet's poems conspicuously. Professors prowl the
aisles. We, the news-room crowd, flatten our-
selves against the wall. The hubble-bubble rises
"That's So-and-so. I met him at the Midland
Authors' last feed."
"Isn't he dear? I wonder who that ..."
"What do you s'pose he'll read tonight?"
"Did you see my villanelle in the Scat-book?"
"Isn't it fearfully hawt by this fire?"
"I wonder if it would be a scandal if I smoked
a teeny cigarette."
There is a hush near the door; a craning of
necks ; a flurry of snow as the door opens. There
is blown in — The Poet.
He is muffled to the eyes and he is wearing,
tonight, his black rain-proof cap, which is so ugly
that he idolizes it. He steps forward and beams.
A half dozen people rise from their seats and
stretch out hands in vain. The Poet is unbutton-
ing the tall collar of his ulster. He is as pleased
as Punch over the warmth of affection that sweeps
toward him ; but he does not act like a man receiv-
ing homage. He is just the same as when he
strolls into the cigar-store and says "Hello, fel-
lows." There is no bunk about The Poet. We see
now that he is the same old kid. This is whole-
some; we were beginning to be affected by the
mawkish worship of the neo-Bohemians and poet-
asters. He sees us now, and we call to him
carelessly, "Hello; how are yu?"
Now he picks his way to his table in front of
the fireplace, where priestesses have set up a sort
of altar for him, lit with candles, very pretty.
But it won't do. Put out the candles, please, and
will somebody open a window?
Well, now it seems everything is ready.
THE POET stands against a background of
ochre flames, statuettes, and bon-bon boxes,
before the dinky table upon which are piled his
books, with shreds of newspaper marking the
selected poems. He faces the semi-circle of list-
eners, swinging his head about so that his gaze
takes in everybody. He is in no hurry to begin.
Quizzical thoughts seem to stir his lips ; his ashen-
grey eyes, with their bold, black pupils, twinkle
a little with the recognition of people, or perhaps
with some inward whimsy. His cragged chin lifts
in a curious gesture that throws back his whole
head; that head, clothed in its cloak of shining
silvered hair, black at the roots, which is — well,
the word is "leonine/* But what an amiable lion
it is ! A lion well-fed and purring, it seems ; but
no moving-picture lion, this; no exhibition lion;
sodden with leisure. This is a capricious spirit,
capable of stern flashes from under his shaggy-
grey brows, and of great abstract rages. As the
eyelids droop over his deep eyes, and as his lips
work, it is anybody's guess what he will say, or
read. Will his words scorch the flower-baskets
off the green walls? Will they rock the statuettes
upon their pedestals?
There is silence now. The more distinguished
auditors sit with folded arms, breathless. We of
the news-room, nobodies — merely the poet's
friends — shuffle our feet where we stand.
The Poet reads.
It is a voice familiar enough, yet charged with
a new element. It is a deep voice, deliberate,
casual, rich with earth-tones. It comes as though
some organist were idly exploring the pedals.
What is the voice saying? Mysteries. And grad-
ually there grows upon us news-room visitors a
sense of a spell, of being quaintly lost. The figure
before us, with its luxurious bangs of grey hair,
with the military shoulders and the careless drab
clothes, is familiar. Yet it is now remote, inex-
plicable. Well, there is something we have
overlooked. We have seen him write, but we never
have heard him read. We have thumbed over his
poems, and asked him questions about them, and
he has shown them to us and we have given him
encouraging grins, but boys, we never
fathomed him at all. We are fascinated, every
one of us, by this public Poet whom we did not
know. Nobody in the room is staring at him
harder than we. He is changing before our eyes.
The companionable chuckle with which he greets
us is gone. He has a stern, white look that
abashes us. Concentration is cutting that familiar
face into hollows. The black pupils blot out the
grey of his eyes ; deep, deep thought and the mem-
ory of creative hours veil the black. And the
voice, striking chords that do not dwell in "Good
morning'' and "Good night," the voice is uttering
phrases that we once saw written, that we once
ticketed as "good stuff" — and let them go.
Comrades, we never fathomed him. There is
something else here, and we can't quite describe
it. Those phrases — whence did they come, and
whither bound? They are irradiated and clari-
fied by his voice. By his voice those queer masses
of printing are explained. The cubes of type melt
together, the eruptions of strange, "unpoetic"
words acquire a melody. And those maimed sen-
tences that he never chose to finish, those
implicatory phrases, like great thumb-marks-
complete, complete. His voice is trying to tell
us — us, his news-room comrades — what he felt
months ago, when all this was written. Up there
to his eyrie above the skyscrapers, and out into
his starlit nights in the corn-fields, and abroad
on his long treks across the deserts — ^that is
where he is trying to take us. But we can follow
only a little way ; we, whose desks are next to his.
He reads; pauses; reads again. He dips into
this book and that. Now we are in the city, tor-
tured and deafened by it. Now we are skimming
toward the "sun-burnt west," among purple
rocks and powdered trails and the bones of trav-
lers. Now we are on slopes of woodland ; and now
the baby moon sails and sails in the Indian west,
for us. And now we are once more in the city,
where broken, work-torn figures are brought to
our feet to speak in their horrible, hopeless jargon
that we may pity them. The voice of The Poet
searches, searches among the meshes of the
poems. It comes slow, deep and tender ; it comes
furious, menacing, sardonic. We are altogether
swept away from the city's rigmarole, from our
normal moods, from all consciousness of the chic
little restaurant. We are sharing The Poet's long-
seeing fearless vision; we are learning what his
Very distant at last, the news-room, its clamors
and clankings, the babel of nervous voices, the
[123 3 DEADLINES
flutter of printed sheets. But from this distance,
where The Poet dwells, we regard the news-room
in a new light. We share The Poet's grand disdain
for successes, and his pity for failures. We see
ourselves as part of an immense and tragic pro-
cession, in which, despite its shabby ranks and
its numerous stragglers, we are proud to march.
And when The Poet has finished, we walk home
in the peaceful night, convinced of the majesty of
npOMORROW morning, if you see us glumly
•*• clipping, writing and correcting, and if we
seem unchanged, you must still believe us to be
under The Poet's spell.
And if you meet The Poet himself on the street,
with his gaze fixed on the roof-tops and his very
footsteps proclaiming his indifference to time and
space, will you please bring him back to the office?
The Old Man wants him.
Besides, he belongs here.
» — n T is mid-summer, and the door of
■ the cigar store stands open, so
I that we on the benches have a
■ close view of passers-by. They
B cross the path of our vision, exist
==j| for a moment, and vanish. It is
the world ; it is humanity brought near to us and
seeming, when thus foreshortened, ill worth the
This time it is the news editor, the Star, Camp-
bell and I who muse, gossip, and smoke. Campbell
is a man whom I ought to have introduced before.
He is a person of some authority and of great lore
in recondite questions like the allotment of edi-
torial space and the timing of editions. Privately,
he is a philosopher; he goes home to live among
tall ghosts of thought, which solace him for the
brutal facts to which his working life is devoted.
The Star loves to awaken this private passion and
see it live, quaintly, amid the architecture of the
So the Star and Campbell, here in the cigar
store, are carrying on a metaphysical conversa-
tion, far over the heads of the new^s editor and
myself. I hear phrases like "Nietsche! An
inverted Baptist" ; "No doubt Kant was the under-
lying cause of the French revolution," and "The
theory that man is a time-binding animal . . . ."
Suddenly the news editor leans forward, watches
the passing swarm intently, and exclaims :
Campbell looks, and nods.
For my part, I have seen only a disappearing
bit of bent shoulder, and a wisp of grey hair.
They are gone.
T UCKY he didn't look in and see me," says the
'■^ news editor. "By golly, I dread the sight
of the man. Don't know exactly why, either, for
it's not a question of his asking me for a job. He's
long past that, and he knows it Maybe I
hate the thought of a 'touch,' though. Lord knows,
he's about past that, too. I fancy he'll never show
his poor old phiz in our office again. Instead of
that, — well, it's a curious thing, but he's present,
just the same. He haunts us."
"In what way?" I inquire with a yawn.
"Oh, it's no ghost story; not exactly. It isn't
that his shade inhabits dark corners on late
watches. This is a plain, businesslike Chamber
of Commerce sort of haunting, that consists of
recommendations. You don't think a fellow can
haunt an office by means of recommendations ; or,
rather, by requests for recommendations? Try
my job once. Notice the letters I get from snappy
employment managers of stores, packing houses,
railroads, and so on. Neat letters, with your
name sticking through those tissue-covered holes
in the envelopes, and a stamped return envelope.
All very businesslike. The form generally reads :
*You will oblige us by confidential information
about Blank Blank, who says he was employed
by you in the years so-and-so; please advise
promptly about his character, habits, application
to duty; are you relative of applicant, would you
re-employ,* and all that tosh. It's through these
that old Slater haunts us, fellows. And I always
write cheerfully in the forms that he was an A-1
newspaper-man, and is a guy perfectly sober and
industrious. I guess I do this so as to lay the
ghost ; the ghost of his long, sad, grey face."
Campbell takes out his cigar and says: "You
can truthfully say that he was a first-class news-
paper man. He was that, and more."
"Then how did he blow up ?" I inquire.
The news editor and Campbell start to reply
simultaneously, and beg pardon.
"You tell it, then."
"No; you know it better. You were here."
So the narrative falls to the metaphysician, who
exchanges for this occasion his delight in his
illusory world for a certain twinkling zest in the
drama of our groundling existence. Meanwhile
we gaze vacantly upon the passing figures: Old
men, young men, brisk persons, crippled persons,
bob-haired women, shawl-covered women, beggars,
toilers, blackguards. The personality and the story
of Old Slater blend well with this unlovely parade.
"T'M no great lover of yarns about old days,"
•*• says Campbell. "Telling them is a habit
among newspaper men when they get to a certain
age; and after a fellow has listened to all the
grey-backed memoirs I have, he may be pardoned
if he hesitates to add to them. This business of
old Slater has a special tang, though, for me.
Probably because I sort of respected the chap.
He was very well educated ; one might almost call
him cultured. We used to have some searching
talks when time hung heavy during late watches
and so on. He was a great talker, swaggered
when he walked, and his opinions were fearfully
positive. No doubt he had an inferiority com-
This exordium Campbell delivers in the medi-
tative way peculiar to him. With a bit more
spirit he continues:
"A great, big, broad-stomached, hearty and
sports-loving individual was Slater when I first
knew him. He could have encircled my neck with
one hand. When he sat at the copy desk he didn't
slouch, like so many of them, but sat almost bolt
upright, making marks on the copy with a flourish
almost of disdain. He was very fast, and tireless.
It seemed in those days as though we couldn't
give him enough to do. While other copy-readers
were sweating blood, and groaning between their
teeth. Slater would polish off twice as much copy
as they, and have plenty of time to sit with his
thumbs in his huge waistcoat, gazing around and
"Now, a man like that should have been an
executive, you may think. But I don't know . . .
The Old Man's intuition was very acute. Of
course, it may have been that all the responsible
jobs were filled. Anyhow, up to the time of the
turning point. Slater, with all his education, his
skill and his enormous professional blah, remained
just a drudge on the desk. He towered among
the youngsters, the derelicts, and the riff-raff
that we had at that time ; he saw a succession of
copy-readers tackle the desk, and flunk, either
because they were worthless or because they fell
foul of our wonderful system. They looked up to
Slater in a way. He was the expert; they the
bunglers and the never-do-rights. They respected
his opinion, too; his opinions so freely uttered
on all questions of the day. They fed his vanity.
They grumbled in his hearing that he was a
powerful sight more competent than the city
editor (Franklin, I think it was) and they said he
would be a four times better man at the stone than
I was. (I was doing make-up at the time.)
"All this naturally swelled old Slater to a pon-
derable figure in the office. He loomed there at
the desk, with his huge head and his balloon-like
shirt sleeves, like a relic of some age of mammoth
newspaper men. He lent the place dignity. There
were legends that he had held a big job under
Dana ; also that he had edited a paper in Nevada
in the mine-rush days. Well, I knew as much about
his history as anybody, and the truth was that he
had never done anything more sensational than
read copy. Just the same, it was impossible to
deprive him of his halo. Whenever visiting news-
paper men, or former comrades visiting *the old
shop,' came in, they always paused to chat with
Slater. And half the time outsiders who called
to make requests, or to register kicks with the
city editor, mistook the stately Slater for 'the
desk.' I remember his austere wave of the hand,
and his deep voice : Tardon me ; see Mr. Franklin.*
"But in spite of all this auto-suggestion that
Slater was a great personage, the Old Man never
fell for it. There was always a reserve in his
manner toward the supposed *right-hand man of
Dana.' He never discussed Slater, for or against;
even exempted him from the periodical razooing
that he gave the copy-readers. When he had to
call attention to some solecism in Slater's work
he would do it quietly, but, I thought, a bit sar-
donically. There was a curious gravity in his
manner toward the big fellow, too, as though he
felt he was more of an equal somehow — I don't
"Devilish cute person, the Old Man; devilish
cute," interposes the Star.
"Devilish devilish," puts in the news editor.
"A great judge of men," nods Campbell.
"And of women,"grins the Star.
We all grin.
" A S I have intimated," continues the narrator,
•^^ "the Old Man rejected all suggestions that
he give Slater a responsible job. If he treated
him as an equal it wasn't because he thought him
an equal. I suppose it was simply because, with
his peculiar sensitiveness to personality, he felt
that Slater was of sterner stuff than the majority,
and he wasn't quite sure of the result should they
— but no use speculating on that. The two swash-
bucklers continued in an attitude of business-like
politeness. The Old Man continued to think that
he, and no other, was the greatest newspaper man
in the world, and Slater went on feeding his own
inferiority complex and hinting that he was a vic-
tim of prejudice.
"So we trundled along for some years. And then
came the episode that furnishes the point of my
foolish old shop yarn.
"I don't suppose this gang recalls much about
the Russo-Japanese war, unless some of the
ungodly Oriental names we had to learn still stick.
We didn't mind the war — although it caused a
pernicious lot of late watches — except for the fact
that it caught us short-handed. We were more
short-handed than ever, — and that was being dev-
ilish short. Right on top of it all, and right in the
middle of the war, it came time for the telegraph
editor's vacation. The Old Man tried to devil him
out of it, but the telegraph editor — it was Al
Traubel, whom none of you remember — ^he was a
hard-headed son of a gun, and he said to the Old
Man: 'Postpone it? No. I've shipped my wife
and kids down to the Springs ; we've been looking
forward to this for a year. I'll pay a "sub" ; I'll
do anything else you say. But I won't give up
this vacation for anybody.'
"Now, the assistant telegraph editor was a
drunkard. Couldn't be depended on for an hour.
There was nobody handy to shift to the job which,
just then, meant a horrible mess of A. P., of
special cable, and of emergency problems. And
besides — mark this — the censorship in the Far
East was veiling and muddling dispatches in a
way that passed anything known before or since.
A Japanese censor can beat even the British.
ti33 3 DEADLINES
"There sat Slater, huge, hearty, competent,
voluble, surrounded by prepossessions that he was
a whiz of a newspaper man. 1 recall that the Old
Man came in, looked up and down the desk as
though searching for someone to wipe his feet on,
and then said casually, 'Slater, take the telegraph
for a few days, please/ Slater hove his ample
body out of one chair into another, seized a wad
of copy-paper, and fell to.
"All right. It worked very well. As make-up
editor I had a close-up of the fellows on the desk ;
and nothing could have come to me cleaner, faster,
and better-edited than the war stuff as it came
from Slater. There had been no decisive event for
a while. Matters were working up to the Russian
debacle. There were plenty of late watches, how-
ever, and these Slater took, working four days a
week until midnight, and showing up at seven
next morning, fresh as a flower.
"I remember saying to the Old Man : *We don't
seem to miss Al Traubel much, after all.'
"His reply was : *Never forget how God raised
up General Grant.' Which was sarcasm. But
when the Old Man is sarcastic, you know, it often
means he's pleased.
"The effect of responsibility upon different men
is worth watching. Some of them, such as
Josslyn, it depresses; others it makes chattery
and loose-elbowed. The effect upon Slater was
that of expansion. It seemed even to increase
his physical bulk. And he let drop more and more
remarks that showed how swollen he was getting.
He would prate to the youngsters, after the First
Final went in, about the pride of the profession ;
how the profession had its faults, but how we
ought to realize what a splendid public service
it really was. And mistakes ? It wasn't the bawl-
ing out, he said, that made bulls serious; it was
the departure from professional standards, which
was all we had, our whole stock in trade, etc., etc.
"He gave everybody to understand, did old
Slater, that if he made a shocking blunder he
would just quit; that's all. Not from fear, but
from self -disgust.
"And now Well, I'll spare you the
fiction flourishes, such as *a day came,' and all
that. What I recall about the episode is that we
were sending away the First Final in the usual
cyclone of bad temper and balled-up stories (most
of my memories are of making up the First Final) .
We were jamming the type together any old way,
and butchering local news until Franklin darned
near cried, and trying to watch our proofs during
"I remember the Russian story was made up
one column wide on the first page, with a head
over it something like 'Russians Threaten Revolt.'
And just as we were closing, the tail of my eye
caught a proof, under a small head follovdng the
big one, with the words in it: *The historic event
in the Sea of Japan.' That odd phrase struck me ;
it warned me, as it were ; it set alive a tiny little
prescience of trouble. But this warning died
under the avalanche of things I had to do. And we
went to press.
"Three other afternoon papers went to press at
the same hour. Copies of the three were brought
up from downstairs at the same time with our
paper. All four were laid on my desk together."
Campbell pauses, chuckles, and slaps his knee.
"Oh, those headlines ! Thundering Jabberwock !"
"Come now," scoffs the Star, "you're using a
story-teller's trick; suspensory pause, and so on.
Cut it out!"
"Those headlines said." continues Campbell,
"those rival headlines — not ours — said : ^Terrific
Naval Battle in Sea of Japan.' Togo Defeats
Russ in Great Sea Fight.' *Epoch-Making Naval
Engagement; Japanese Reported Victors.' Our
big head said; 'Russians Threaten Revolt.' A
thundering scoop on us. Every line of it A. P.
stuff, too. Stuff that had come to us as well as
to them. Professional pride, good-night. Great-
ness of old Slater, good-night. Oh, Lord !"
And Campbell rocks himself with the memory.
"Tho Old Man burst into the room with an
armful of papers. *Look at this, and this, and
this,' he said to Slater. *And look what we have
— a wretched follow head. You can hardly find
our story in the paper. My good Lord, what will
people say? How in the devil can I ever explain
"Slater sat upright and bland before the terrible
exhibits. He took out a pair of eye-glasses he
used on rare occasions, and amiably examined the
"*Isn*t that curious?' he said (and everybody
was listening, you bet.) 'Isn't that curious ? Now
I never interpreted the dispatch in that way.'
"The Old Man stood back of him, trembling.
" 'Today's historic event in the Sea of Japan'
could mean but one thing, Mr. Slater,' he said.
'Haven't we been expecting this battle for days?
And as the cable comes from the Japanese, would
they release it if it hadn't meant their victory?'
" 'Very good deduction,' smiled Slater. 'But the
first rule of the profession is, never make deduc-
"The Old Man's hair stood on end. He smoothed
it down carefully, glared at Slater's fat back, and
OAMPBELL takes off his spectacles and wipes
^^ them. We see his "philosophical look" com-
"About at that period," he says, "must have
been when the subconscious in Slater became the
conscious. He stepped over the subliminal thres-
hold, and . . . ."
"Come now," I object. "Did he quit, like the
good soldier he claimed to be?"
Campbell resumes his spectacles and rubs his
"No. I don't think he did. In fact. I know he
didn't. The Old Man was too short-handed to fire
him. No ; Slater continued on the desk. It would
have been hard for some men to come to work at
all after a boner like that. But Slater faced it
out. He became more expansive and resonant
than ever. The rest of us, out of decency, kept
quiet about that dispatch ; but Slater wouldn't let
it rest. He was still talking about it when Roose-
velt called the peace conference. He had half a
dozen ways of accounting for it, and tried them
all out on his silent desk-mates. *It's funny, you
know,' he would say, *I don't believe I saw that
sheet of copy at all ; it must have gone out uned-
ited.' Next day it would be: 'Nothing unusual
about that little oversight of mine; I remember
back on the old Sun . . . .'
"Of course, everybody got sick and tired of the
thing. As for the Old Man, I never heard him
refer to it after the first day. He kept Slater on
telegraph until Traubel got back; but he never
addressed him. Just sent in boys with notes,
when he had any instructions.
"Well, the incident and the war itself rolled
back into history, and Slater, settled down into
his old groove, hardly seemed to change at all.
But I can see now that, little by little, he was
decaying. His discourses upon topics of the day
became more and more vacuous. There came into
his eyes a spark of anxiety — not over the quality
of his work, but due to the fear, I guess, that peo-
ple would quit listening to him. He gradually gave
up trying to impress the older men and picked
out newcomers, cubs, anything, for his audience,
switching from foreign affairs to sports, in which
he was well versed. After a while he was taken
off the local desk, and set to reading sporting
copy. Slide number one. Then he moved to the
afternoon watch, where he had little to handle
except 'specials.' Slide number two. He took to
avoiding the staff, and he was found frequently
looking into space, with a kind of sadness. He
was growing grey-headed.
"The reporters who had played poker with him
many a night began to organize their games with-
out him. There were a few of the staff, of course,
who secretly rejoiced over his fall, owing to old
trifling arguments over their 'stuff.' But on the
whole nobody bore him malice. It was simply
that as his atmosphere of great man wore out,
and his essential puniness showed itself, he dwin-
dled, and dwindled, and shrank into himself.
People stopped speaking to him in the elevator;
he didn't appear to expect a salutation.
"Only Josslyn, who had become city editor;
Josslyn, who overlooks nobody and pities every-
body, treated him like an equal. I suspect Josslyn
made small loans to the fellow. Slater had come
"You see, his inferiority complex . . ."
LET me finish it," interrupts the news-editor.
"I found him on the desk when I took
charge. A hollow-eyed relic with shaky legs.
There seemed to be no way to get him off. By
that time he would let almost anything go by in
a piece of copy; and his heads were just blind
staggers. Fellows, I had to get rid of him. But
still he looked so like a copy-reader of the old
school, what with his eye-shade and his old black
sleeve-guards, that I couldn't treat him rough. So
I manoeuvered to have him offered a job on a trade
paper, paying better than we paid him, at that;
and when he told me about it I rapped out, 'You
quit Monday, then?' before he had actually
resigned. And he gulped, and replied, *Yes, sir.'
Er — I let him have a dollar.
"Within a month here comes one of those cursed
recommendation forms, a big gilt-edged one from
some bonding company. Slater was going to be
a high-class salesman of something or other. I
filled it in carefully, my pen scratching 'excellent,'
'excellent,' everywhere. (I couldn't get over the
remnant of dignity and breeding that he showed
to the last.) Not two weeks went by before I got
another blank. This time he had applied for a
clerkship in a department store. The qualifications
not so severe. I scrawled my dishonest opinion,
and sent it along. Next . . . ."
"You see, his complex had passed the sublim-
inal. He was finding his level," puts in Campbell.
"His complex had a few to go yet. I O. K.'d
him for a job as bill clerk, for a proof-reading
job in Omaha, for a place as timekeeper v^ith a
cloak and suit firm, and then for a night ticket
agent on the L. I could imagine all the time his
shoulders getting more stooped, his cheeks falling
in, and that queer look of anxiety Campbell men-
tioned growing sharper.
"Twice I passed him on the street. He didn't
see me. Evidently he was unemployed. Once he
came in late in the afternoon, touched Barlow for
a half-dollar, and avoided my desk. 1 saw him
leave the building, gazing around at the old bar-
racks with a wistful look.
"Some months went by. Then came a recom-
mendation blank in which it was stated that Fin-
lay Slater had applied for a position as a night
watchman ; and what about his honesty, sobriety,
and all that? . . . Quick curtain."
T\7^ smoke silently.
VV "Kotten story," remarks the Star. "No
"It may be inferior as fiction/' Campbell defends
himself. "But I assure you it's psychologically
"Clack-clack" go the feet of the dusty, wrinkled
pedestrians, past our door. The voice of the street
comes with a note of despair. We consult our
And now, to our confounding, a long, loose
phantom of a man, with grey hair crowned by an
absurd polo cap, halts at the threshold. He sur-
veys us with a nervous smirk, and enters, holding
out a mottled hand to the news editor.
"That little debt," he murmurs, and departs.
The news editor discovers in his hand a mouldy
OME fifty times a day— oh, nearer
a hundred times — the cry goes up
from us: "Boy," or "Hey, boy!"
Toward edition times that
shout, or bark, is heard all over
the news-room. It comes from us
automatically. "Boy!" What boy? Why, any boy.
What are you talking about? Any one of those
starvelings on the bench. They're all alike, aren't
they? Who knows their names? Who cares who
they are, or what they think, or what they wear,
so they have legs ?
It happens frequently that one of them is fired.
The head boy then identifies the departing
employe as "You know, the long-nosed boy," or
"the boy that wears the brown sweater." This is
enough. It is understood that the long-nosed boy
is no longer with us, and for that hour, as he
retires crestfallen, he is an actuality. But the
benchful that is left remains a mere blur of
heads and faces, half -visualized, nameless except
Qs a job-lot of consonants.
HOWEVER, there is Joe ; or rather, there was
Joe. For he is gone. We got so far as to
recognize him as Joe James, which, by the way,
was not the name used on the pay-roll. He was
on the pay-roll as Valdimir Sziewiscwicz.
He was the boy we hired after he had been
fattened at the North Shore camp. A charity lady
interceded for him with the city editor, and he
"went on" at six dollars a week, which was two
dollars less than the scale. We felt that we were
rather benevolent as it was. 'X^^
The charity lady gave iis Joe's history in a
manner that appealed even to the most "hard-
boiled" among us. She pictured Joe's home, which
she had seen : The second house west of the C. &
N. W. tracks on Iron street; the house with two
boards missing from the front steps, and a clothes
line in the rear always full of Lilliputian under-
wear. She pictured Joe's mother, a distracted
shrew with a moustache, always stumbling over
her own babies; and she described how Joe's
mother had thrust Joe down those dangerous
steps, yelling: "You got no job you don't come
The problem thus presented to Joe was quite
insoluble, not only because of his unlovely appear-
ance, but also because of a law; a law which
provided that no boy weighing less than eighty
pounds could obtain the necessary working certifi-
cate, the passport of boydom to the great world
of toil. The best Joe could muster was sixty-eight
The charity lady found him in the ante-room
of the school examiner's office, weeping over those
missing pounds. He was clearly a case for the
Camp, whither he was with some diffiiculty
removed. They put him to bed twice a day, and
made him lie still under the rough blankets ; they
fed him milk, gallons of milk ; and they taught
him how to play, really to play. Every evening
they marked on a chart the ascending curve of
The only time it deflected was the day his
mother appeared at the camp, with a kid on
each arm, and demanded him, and there was a
scene — but let us pass on. In about six weeks
Joe tipped the scale at eighty, and despite adenoids
and a few other things he passed the school
examination and was awarded his work certificate.
It was then that the charity lady called on us.
"And I thought," she said, "that you kind news-
paper men would like to help out by giving Joe a
position. I do so want him to become a member
of society." She beamed upon the city editor and
the desk men. "Besides, it would be so nice if you
could make a little story of it — what we did for
him and all. You could even print photos of him
before and — er — after. I could give you some
good photos . . . ."
We drew the line at the pictures; but we did
"write up" Joe for a merry little half column.
Thereupon, quite unmoved by his distinction,
Joe took his place upon the bench among the half-
visualized, and we forgot him for a while.
15 UT nof for long.
^^ Perhaps a month passed. The news-room
floundered on, with its usual dramas, controver-
sies, and excitements. The bench pursued its
quarrelsome way, with the average amount of
bickerings, of hirings and firings. We still yelled
"Hey, boy!" at the bench indiscriminately, nor
marked which urchin sprang to the call. Joe, with
his close-cropped head, large, stupid eyes and
skimpy body, had become absorbed in the melee.
Then the head boy came to the city editor.
"You know that, now, kid got his weight by that
camp. He says you should pay him off, as he got
"What! scowled the city editor. "What boy?"
"Oh, that one. Well, what's wrong with him?"
The head boy shifted from one foot to the other.
"Well, he says account he lives at home now
 : DEADLINES
he's lost two pounds, and so he can't work no
The city editor called his assistant.
"See about it, will you?" he begged; and
plunged his nose into a pile of copy.
The assistant investigated. He even consulted
authorities, learning thereby that to maintain Joe
at par would require some two pints of milk per
diem. It seemed unnecessary to tell the city
editor about this. The obvious thing was to sup-
ply the milk ; and, in order that the expense might
not fall upon the office treasury, thus upsetting
various sacred rules, the assistant city editor took
up a collection among the Star, the Drunkard,
Josslyn and a few others of "the crowd," and a
restaurant downstairs supplied Joe's milk at cost.
The school authorities, consulted by telephone,
grandly permitted the Great Example to continue
at work provided only that he be weighed each
week by them, and be maintained at normal.
Faithfully did the Joe's Milk Society hew to the
line. Once a week the head boy took up the
collection ; twice a day he escorted Joe to the res-
taurant and prevailed upon him to swallow the
milk. The matter fell into the routine ; it became
automatic, like keeping the assignment book or
sweeping out the office. Thus are the little varia-
tions of our news-room life drifted over by the
sands of the commonplace.
The next thing that came up was a question of
working-hours. In this we enjoyed the enthusi-
astic interference of our old friends the school
authorities. I don't know how many records they
had Joe card-indexed in ; but now they dug up one
that stumped us. Solemnly each week they had
weighed him and passed him; with suspicion, I
suppose, they had marked the fact that he con-
tinued to draw six dollars a week. And now, with
an efficiency suitable to the enforcement of a law
occupying several pages in the statute-book, they
brought forward the fact that Joe required more
"Form AAZ," the notice read. "You are hereby
informed that your employe Vladimir Sziewisc-
wicz must attend continuation school four (4)
hours a week ."
The city editor slammed the notice on the floor.
"What's all this about? Good Lord, the things
a fellow gets in the mail. I say, Frank, see about
it, will you?"
The suave assistant picked up the crumpled
notice, and by some inquiry discovered that Vladi-
mir S — etc., meant Joe. There was a session of
the milk guarantors, and the suggestion was put
forward that if Joe was to become a member of
society some way must be found of keeping him
at work and at the same time sending him to
school. The head boy brought up the point that
in this event he must add another member to the
bench. The addition was at once authorized by
the assistant city editor, and the following red-
tape started unwinding: (1) examination and
approval of the new boy's work certificate; (2)
order to cashier placing him on pay-roll ; (3) entry
of new name on pay-roll ; (4) issuance of identifi-
cation check, locker key, etc. ; (5) drawing up of
new pay-check; (6) checking against pay-roll to
make sure amount correct; (7) auditing of revised
aggregate pay-roll by auditor; (8) recording of
revised figures on three or four index cards; (9)
identification of new boy as the one entitled to
check; (10) cashing of check at pay-clerk's win-
dow. I mention these things only to suggest the
social forces put into play by establishing a mem-
ber of society.
Yes, the advent of Joe began to be felt in other
departmenxs than ours. It was presently felt in
the medical department, which consisted of two
doctors in an office around the corner. They had
not had a case from our shop for over a year, and
the placard on the wall saying "In case of accident,
notify Dr. B " had become illegible from dust.
But Joe became a case. He reported one morning
with an angry-looking patch of skin on his right
forearm, more or less covered by court-plaster.
It developed that he had scratched himself the
day before on the pneumatic tube leading to
the composing room. He exhibited the wound to
the head boy, who thought nothing of it. Nobody
thought anything of it. The bench was always
getting itself bruised, or black-eyed, or consump-
tive. But after a few days Josslyn, passing on
his way to lunch, noticed Joe's arm. It was
swollen to astounding dimensions and bound with
loathsome rags. The sight stopped the compas-
sionate Josslyn in his tracks.
"What on earth's happened to you?" he
Joe merely rolled his large, stupid eyes.
"Sore arm," he mumbled.
"But have you had a doctor?"
Joe looked blank.
Then Josslyn hailed the city editor. Had he
seen this kid's arm? Ought the kid be allowed
"Gad, I haven't time to inspect their arms,"
complained the C. E. Nevertheless, he took time
to inspect Joe's ; and a copy-reader or two strolled
over, and somebody remarked "blood poison."
Joe met the inspection and remarks dispassion-
ately. But once, when someone inquired, "Does
it hurt?" his eyes filled with tears, and for a
moment he seemed human.
The fact emerging that he had been scratched
upon our pneumatic tube, and not any pneumatic
tube belonging to the S , etc., family, it seemed
proper to invoke the privilege of calling up Dr.
B . The doctor entered into the matter with
alacrity. Not so Joe, however. He grumbled, he
protested, he showed every sign of fear, at last
he fought — like many other beings in process of
being made members of society. But, being prac-
tically one-armed, he could not prevail against the
head boy and the numerous volunteers from the
A small procession, consisting of Joe, the head
boy and Josslyn, followed the little-known path
to the doctor's office, pausing on the way for milk.
They returned with the arm in a beautiful bandage
and a wondering look in Joe's eyes.
I realize that these incidents do not carry an
ascending curve of interest. Joe did not die. His
arm "went down," both as a swelling and as an
event. But, to prove that establishing him in the
status in which we were establishing him carries
consequences of some sort, consider these results :
(1) Three signatures to be obtained to a document
resembling an income tax schedule, describing the
accident, the parentage of Joe, and so on; (2) a
physician's bill very simply conceived, but requir-
ing the signature of four department heads before
being valid ; (3) an order permitting Joe to remain
at home with full pay ; (4) a written explanation
to the ever-vigilant school people that he was
absent from school owing to circumstances beyond
our control ; (5) the sudden awareness of the Old
Man — through his having to sign two of the docu-
ments — that Joe existed as an office problem.
THE Old Man, however, did not yet know Joe
by sight. Perhaps, indeed, he never came to
do so. I don't know that even the catastrophe
next following shocked the Old Man as it did us.
For some weeks after the medical incident noth-
ing happened to our Great Example. Glancing
casually at him, we seemed to observe that he was
looking more prosperous, as well as rather more
than half-witted. The milk contributions had
stopped. Joe had safely and permanently passed
the eighty mark. The school people had stopped
weighing him. He came down every morning,
went blindly but faithfully about his tasks, and
had nothing to say.
But one afternoon, when there was hell of some
sort popping — ^I believe it was a Board of Trade
failure — the unlucky destiny of the Sziewiscwicz
line showed itself once more.
The Old Man, who was considerably excited by
the failure, had made several trips into the news-
room, asking questions and giving orders. Most
of us knew when he was coming — we knew his
step a mile away — and when he approached the
swing door from the news room into the hall, his
mere shadow was enough to make us stand aside.
About two o'clock he started to come through,
with his gaze, as usual, fixed some five feet above
the floor. Just then Joe started to gallop out the
other way, carrying a proof with a rush correction.
[153 3 ' DEADLINES
He hit the door like a small battering ram, flung
it smartly against the Old Man's knuckles and
knees ; and then he tried to squeeze past the man-
aging editor's large bulk and escape.
The boss, with half the breath knocked out of
him, snatched at Joe's shoulder, but missed. Joe
sprawled on all fours; but his instinct of escape
from authority gave him new strength, and he
made off down the hall, dropping the corrected
proof as he fled.
As soon as the Old Man could recover he stuck
his head in at the door, and yelled to all the
executives in sight : "Fire that boy ! Fire him at
Rueful glances went about the desk.
The Old Man (dusting his knees) — "What boy
City Editor — "I didn't notice. Did anybody see
which boy it was?"
Old Man (to head boy)— -"You know who it was.
Head Boy— "It's a lad we call Joe."
Old Man— "Well, bounce him." (To city editor) :
"Damn it. Brown, what do you have those calf-
headed Bohunks around here for? I'll make an
example of him."
City Editor (with a sly look at Josslyn)—
"We've been figuring he was an example already.
You see, sir, he's the kid we got from the camp
where he was fattened. He's an unusual case.
He . . . :'
Old Man — "Fat or lean, out he goes. Now see
here, I don't think these figures on the liabili-
ties . . . ."
And that was all of that. Reluctantly we gave
Joe his hat, and an order for his pay, and broke it
to him that he was severed from the pay roll. He
took the news easily, and clumped out of the office
without regrets or good-byes. Well, so long, Joe.
I was not present the next day when a Slavic
gentleman with a very radical moustache, bulging
eyes and dirty overalls, came up to see the city
editor, dragging a small urchin called Vladimir,
but I heard about it. It seems the low-browed
person offered to break every bone in the boy's
body if we so desired. The low-browed person
offered apologies to our honorable newspaper for
the conduct of his son ; he took off his cap to the
assistant city editor, who went out to see him;
and renewed the bone-breaking offer. The A. C. E.,
alarmed, advised against this solution. "You see,
Joe didn't do anything much," he told the elder
Bohunk. "It wasn't serious at all." Whereupon
the bone-breaker bade a polite adieu to the A. C. E.
and dragged Joe away with him.
So ended that lesson.
/"CHRISTMAS began to approach. I mention
^^ Christmas not in order to lend a new and
saccharine element to this tale, but because with
Christmas came always a new set of problems
surrounding the bench, a new spirit entirely
among the mob of boys. The office had a custom
of giving a turkey to each employe. It was
noticeable that discipline on the bench improved
as Christmas came near. Sometimes, too, there
seemed to be an unusually large membership.
The quota this December was considerable. The
city editor had called the head boy to him and had
declared: "Don't you hire any more of 'em now,
do you hear me?"
About December 20 a very familiar figure was
found one morning sitting on the bench. The only
unfamiliar thing about it was that it wore long
trousers. Barring this, it bore a striking resem-
blance to a member colloquially known as Joe, but
officially as Sziewiscwicz.
How did this materialization accord with the
orders given to the head boy? That was the
question asked in whispers on the copy desk. Had
Josslyn interceded for Joe? No, Josslyn had not.
The attention of the other members of the defunct
milk society was called to the apparition. "Oh, I
suppose Frank (the assistant city editor) got him
put back. It's nearly Christmas, you know.
But Frank denied having done this. In fact, he
looked alarmed and went over to the head boy, and
without meeting Joe's appealing eyes, inquired:
"What's this kid doing here?"
"He's just visiting," explained the head boy.
The copy desk suppressed smiles.
Here the city editor, annoyed by the voices,
looked up. He, too, became aware of the presence
of Joe. He got up and went over to the bench, and
spoke with undue gentleness.
"I don't think it looks very well for you to visit
here, Joe," he said. "You'd better go."
The head boy looked embarrassed.
"Can I speak to you at your desk a minute, Mr.
Brown?" he begged. Permission given, he fol-
lowed his chief to the desk, where he bent over
him and mumbled earnestly for quite a while.
As we learned later, the plea involved the fol-
lowing details : Joe had saved out of his earnings,
both what we paid him and what he had gained
by odd jobs later, enough to purchase on part pay-
ments the long-trousered suit he now wore. It
was the only suit he had, those of previous winters
having descended to his small brothers. "Well,
his father, now," the head boy may be imagined
saying, "his father says he won't let him go out
of the house Christmas; he'll take his clothes
away and make him stay in bed, account he's got
only one suit you see that's what he'll have to do.
unless . . . ." And the alternative made Brown
first swear and then laugh. The alternative was
that Joe must get back his job on the paper. Yes,
that was it, incredible as it sounds ; Joe must be
hired back or stay in bed all day Christmas.
I heard the city editor and his assistant dis-
"Of course, I can't let that bulldozing Bohunk
put it over," he said. "Fine chance."
"It ain't the kid's fault," mused the assistant.
The city editor tapped his desk with his pencil
for some minutes.
"He was a good kid, wasn't he?" he seemed to
remind himself. "But," he broke out, on a sudden
thought, "he's the one who crashed into the Old
Man at the door. Gee, I'd forgotten that."
"The Old Man would never remember him,"
murmured the assistant. "He's got long trousers
There was a pause, and the city editor's face
"Say, I'll put him on as an extra till after
Christmas," he announced. "Then we'll can him
again, see?" And he sent for the head boy.
I heard this conversation, and I record it because
it is typical of the things that make us fond of
Brown, and that make us fond of our crowd as a
whole, and of the news-room atmosphere gener-
ally. Oh, yes, we break all the rules of 100 per
cent efficiency and economy sometimes; and we
contradict ourselves; and we act like fools trying
to make people members of society; and alto-
gether we're a shiftless, a cynical and untruth-
ful crew. And we put Joe back on the pay-roll
under an entirely new name; and we taught him
to keep his head down when he passed the Old
Man (though the Old Man never looked at him
twice). And Joe walked home with the biggest
turkey of the lot that Christmas, besides getting
his share of the $5.75 the staff contributed as the
annual Yuletide donation to the bench. To cap the
climax. Brown forgot to take Joe off from the
pay-roll after Christmas was over, and he stayed
at work, drawing six dollars a week and picking
up a dime now and then for extra errands.
The years pass. Joe's limbs grow thick and
powerful. He begins to have a slight moustache.
He is reliable, and "runs" even the Old Man's
proofs with distinction. He is spoken of for head
boy. He is a success. The experiment
aTE day not long ago the city editor met the
charity lady at a committee meeting.
"Oh, Mr. Brown," she gushed. "Fd so like to
know what became of that boy — really, I don't
recall his name — ^the one you so kindly gave a
position to after his treatment at the camp. Is
he still in your office?"
"No," replied Brown. "He isn't."
"Dear, dear; I'm sorry. I thought it would be
such a nice position for him."
"It was," said Brown. "Yes, it was a good place
for Joe. We did everything for him we could ; and
I suppose that as a sociological experiment it was
A number 1. But . . . ."
"Do tell me about it."
"Well, you see, he was raised two dollars a week.
We thought that was pretty good — considering
everything. But about two months after he got
the raise, he — well, I remember that just as I was
cleaning up copy for the Home Edition one day the
shadow of a stocky form fell across my desk, and
although I was trying to talk to three other people
at once this person insisted on talking to me. It
was our friend Joe, now nearly full grown (for a
Bohunk), well fed, confident, sophisticated, argu-
mentative, and angry. He looked at me with
smoldering black eyes from under a safe-blower's
cap he was wearing. And he said, *Mr. Brown, I
got to have more money, see, or I quit, see?* I
was very busy, so I said — well, it was to the effect
that he should retire at once. He swaggered out
of the office, and that was the last we saw of
"I'm sorry," bewailed the charity lady. "I never
dreamed he would become that sort of person,
after so much kindness."
"Well," said Brown (and I don't suppose he
meant it cynically at all), "at least we admit that
Joe became quite a typical member of society."
OMETIMES, although rarely,
Josslyn tells us a story. He is
full of fables of the news room,
this "old inhabitant." We like to
sit about, with our feet cushioned
upon piles of early editions, and
isten to his narratives. And we like, too, to watch
the changes upon Josslyn's serene face, and the
growing warmth that brings back his youth. Yes,
and we laugh more heartily, perhaps, than his
This afternoon he told us the story of the
Triumphant Comma Hound. I give it, not quite
in his words, and excluding most of the techni-
calities. I forget what evoked the story ; perhaps
that egregious but no longer shocking typograph-
ical error of three editions since, when a bank was
referred to by the clearing house as "solvent," and
the paper declared it "insolvent."
But to the story ; or rather, the paraphrase.
IT was one soggy, dark, dreadful morning some
ten years ago. The "gang" had got in late
that morning. Everybody's brain was like mush.
It was the same in the composing room as in the
news-room; the disgusting soot blanket of the
city seemed to have closed down over one's head.
The printers worked droopily. Editors collided
with them. There were peevish exchanges. The
first edition was sent away ten minutes late.
During the lull before the next edition, Josslyn
says, the feeling got about the news-room that
something was sure to go wrong ; or already had.
Sometimes you aren't certain what may lurk for
you among the ample folds of the paper just
issued. "I remember," said our raconteur, "that
Frank Wade, the head copy-reader (this was just
before I quit the city desk) , called over to me that
morning : "I'm using all four eyes today. It seems
to drip errors."
Still, Josslyn shaped up his work for the next
edition, the "Market Special," without much
thought of trouble. He went to lunch, as usual,
just after his copy was all out; and returned in
his wonted twenty minutes in time to meet the
printed papers coming up the elevator under a
boy's arm. Josslyn stepped inside the door of the
news-room, letting the boy squeeze by him. Before
he had time to seize a paper the boy had dumped
the bundle on the copy desk, and the terrible
discovery was made by Wade.
"Great gosh, fellows, look at this!" was the
"head's" horrified yell. Josslyn gave one look, and
— well it was awful enough !
The copy-readers seized their papers with a
single motion, and spread them out. Murmurs of
"Holy sailors!" and "Well, of all the dymna-
They were looking, with varying attitudes of
awe, stupefaction or amusement, at the big two-
column head at the right hand of the page. This
headline (in at least 36-point) read:
"BLODGETT IS THIEF."
The subordinate line— "pyramid," Josslyn called
it — followed, with astounding inconsequence, or
subtle logic, as one chose to look at it :
"Well-Known Banker Elected President
of Chamber of Commerce."
The Drunkard (just then in favor) caught hold
of a chair in mock panic, and shouted: "Some
paper today, fellows ! Come and look at it."
Everybody was looking at it. Josslyn confesses
he was too stunned for a moment to act. Frank
Wade recovered himself first, rushed to the 'phone,
and started howling for the pressroom to stop the
run. There were explosions of laughter and pro-
fanity all through the room. A copy-boy seized
upon the occasion to fall over backward in his
chair with a devastating crash. Josslyn stood
fingering the paper, his paper of whose reputation
he thought so much, with that furious libel on
top of one of his stories — the story that was being
at that moment fed out to the financial district
with the motto in an "ear" on the corner of the
page : "Latest and Most Reliable Market Reports."
The Drunkard mounted a chair and read, as
though at a public meeting:
"BLODGETT IS THIEF.
"Weil-Known Banker Elected President of
Chamber of Commerce."
But just then there was a hush; a truce alike
upon hilarity and debate. The Old Man came in.
He grasped a copy of the paper in both hands.
The copy-readers dropped into their chairs as
though at drill. The Drunkard sprang to the floor,
and started to whistle. Josslyn advanced to meet
the Old Man.
TJE says the calm of the managing editor was
**• '*• admirable. But one can imagine the way
his eyes must have glittered through his well-
known spectacles, and how like marble his jaw
"Have you stopped the run?" were the Old
"IVe been 'phoning," cried Wade from the booth,
"but I can't get a connection."
"Don't waste your highly valuable energy
then," said the Old Man. "By this time the edition
has been printed — fortunately or unfortunately,
as may be."
He walked up to the copy-desk, and only then,
Josslyn says, could it be seen how his powerful
hands were trembling.
"If any gentleman who writes heads," he
remarked placidly, "if any journalist here present
sent out a head reading that way, I invite him
to take my place in the county jail after Mr.
Blodgett brings criminal libel proceedings. And I
invite him to draw the pay due him at once. In
fact . . . ."
A copy-reader whose name Josslyn recalls only
as "Ruddy" rose from his seat and spoke like a
child at school :
"I wrote that head, Mr. Thain. I — I swear I
wrote it 'chief.' "
" 'Chief,' not 'thief* ?" in the Old Man's most
"Sure, I wrote it 'Blodgett Is Chief/ just like
that. Believe me, Mr. Thain . . . ."
But the Old Man had already started for the
composing room. Josslyn flitted at his elbow;
Frank Wade and a couple of others followed the
Old Man's dark, brooding bulk. A "curious
throng," as the News Bureau says, trickled after
at a distance.
Somebody in the procession murmured a
"secret" known to all: "Why, Blodgett is one of
Mr. Jefferson's best friends! A swell thing to
hang on the composing room." And somebody-
else: "I wonder who the poor devil of a proof-
reader is, and what he'll get."
You see, everybody figured that, whoever he
was, the proofreader was bound to be a poor devil.
Proofreaders (commonly called "comma-hounds")
are that, anyway. Ask the copy-desk.
I WAS considerably dazed as we entered the
composing room," Josslyn Siaid. "I hardly
knew what was going on. But," giving us one of
those glimpses of his reflective nature, "I felt, as
I often do, the majesty of the place. Yes, majesty !
The composing room, for me, has twice the class
of the news-room. The beat of the linotypes alone,
the queer rushing sound, like showers of warm
rain, gives one a feeling of scope, of — er, I don't
know what. And everything, except maybe at the
stone, is so orderly, so heavy with tradition. You
feel the unity of that gang of workers, their craft-
pride; you get a sense of rules upon rules. And
you divine how men have become cogs in this mass
of machinery, how they turn, turn, until they
wear out. Especially the comma-hounds."
We politely endured this digression. Someone
remarked, "I don't suppose the Old Man was think-
ing about that as he bore down on Big Jim."
Josslyn was certain he was not. The Old Man
was out to demolish something. He tramped down
the aisle between the linotypes, uttering not a
word. The floor shook under him.
Arrived at the stone with his accusing copy of
the paper still clasped in both hands, he found
Big Jim in the center of a circle of printers, some
grinning, others scratching their heads with ink-
black fingers. An old fellow with a leather apron
and a stained beard was doing a lot of explaining
to the foreman. He was the man who set up the
"I just picked out o* the wrong box," he was
saying. "Might 'a* happened to anybody. I just
picked out 0* the wrong box . . . ."
The Old Man burst into this leisurely post-
mortem like Death itself visiting a coroner's
"Mr. Muldoon," he said, in the high, arrogant
way he kept for such encounters, "I suppose you
have seen this — this pleasing example of typog-
raphy. I only wonder your men did not set it in
ninety-six point, although ordered in thirty-six."
"IVe seen it; yes, Mr. Thain," replied Big Jim.
He was a head taller than the Old Man, and
a heap more combative.
"Well, what would you suggest doing about it?"
"I would suggest that you leave that to me,"
answered Jim, folding his great, muscle-ridged
The Old Man swung his gaze about, as though
to overawe the entire membership of the typo-
graphical union, if possible — also to see whether
the editors present were listening.
"The trouble with this place," he declaimed, "is
that there's no penalty — no penalty. Mistakes
like this will go on in this composing room indefi-
nitely. No one will be fired."
The printers, safe though they were under the
shadow of Big Jim, shrank before the Old Man's
spectacles. The foreman, however, only remarked :
"What you'd better be doin' is to see if your editor
wrote the head so my man could read it."
Approving murmurs from the printers; mur-
murs of, "You bet ! Plenty of blind handwriting
"Send for the copy," blurted the Old Man.
"Have you got the copy?"
Then he had another thought.
"Who read proof on this ? Must have been one
of that new crew you hired. They've been letting
things go by for weeks."
Big Jim grinned.
"One of the new crew, eh? Look here, Mr.
Thain, I'll let you have a look at the proofreader
who 0. K.'d this head. He's no chicken. It was
old Johnny Donahue, and no other. Old Johnny."
This name, which may have meant something
to Big Jim, carried no idea at all to the visiting
editors, Josslyn said. It was odd, too. They
thought they knew everybody in the composing
[ 169 ] DEADLINES
room. Yet Jim's words described someone who had
worked for years in the comma-hounds' kennel,
and never had shown his face to an editor ; never
had walked in at a busy time and argued about the
meaning of a word like "transpired" or "pene-
trated" ; never had come up to the stone and said,
"Look here, I suppose you'll say this is all right,
but I can't make sense of it" ; never — and this was
strangest of all — never had requested free tickets
to the poultry show or the six-day bicycle race.
Who was this man ? Why, Johnny Donahue !
"Send for Donahue," ordered Big Jim. A galley
boy went scurrying.
There was a pause in the interchange of cour-
tesies. The audience at the clinic hung about
talking in whispers. Our Old Man, upon whose
forehead gleamed drops of perspiration, stood and
scowled at the words, "Blodgett Is Thief." The
great swish of the machines went on in waves.
The tall clock grimaced down over the room.
And suddenly it was found, Josslyn dramatic-
ally declared, that Mr. Jefferson was among them.
How he had arrived so silently no one knew. He
had come without warning ; he had not been sent
for. In fact, this manifestation was without prec-
Josslyn remembers that the owner wore an
elegant black morning-coat, and carried eye-
glasses pinned to his silken lapel. His grey
moustache was neatly trimmed. He might have
been on his way to an audience at the White
THE news of the owner's arrival in person
traveled electrically up and down the ranks
of machines. Heads appeared here and there,
popping up in unexpected places. It was a lull
in the morning's work, anyhow; the lull became
a recess. By twos and threes printers stole up
to the edge of our group, until the assemblage
suggested a union chapel meeting. A knot of
galley boys jostled and winked at a distance.
Everything hung fire, awaiting Mr. Jefferson's
That he was very angry nobody needed to be
But though angry, and hurt, and perhaps a bit
rattled, the owner showed his employes the quality
of his self-control. He was more deliberate than
the Old Man ; he was calmer than Big Jim. Evi-
dently during the few minutes since he had seen
that appalling head he had felt, digested, and
lived down the emotions that still racked his
responsible editors. The only evidence of unusual
disturbance was the fact that he had invaded the
composing room, instead of sending for somebody.
He had to know at once, hear with his own ears,
the reason why his friend Blodgett had been set
down a 36-point thief.
"Now, just who did this?" he inquired in gen-
tlemanly tones. His level gaze was fixed at a
point midway between the Old Man and Jim.
As for those gentlemanly tones, not an editor
or printer doubted that they veiled the intention
of scalping somebody; or maybe everybody.
"After a bull like that, what would you expect?"
Josslyn asked us.
Well, just who did this? was what Mr. Jefferson
wanted to know. The elderly printer who set up
the head was seen to swallow hard. However,
while the owner's question still hung unanswered
there was a slight commotion at the edge of the
crowd, and up strolled the ancient comma-hound,
the mysterious Mr. Donahue, who had put a
damning "0. K." upon that "Blodgett Is Thief."
"We knew him at once," Josslyn said. *T*m
sure none of us had seen him before, but his type
was unmistakable. Sparse white hair, tired eyes,
narrow, stoop shoulders — all the rest of it. He
was a little fellow with a queer hobble, and yet a
remnant of dignity. As he came forward, he
didn't seem the least bit impressed, or alarmed,
or remorseful. He was in his shirt sleeves, and
kept his hands in his pockets; didn't even take
'em out when he faced the owner."
It must have been worth seeing, that encounter.
Josslyn had by this time almost forgotten the
nature of the "bull," he was so interested in the
contrast between erect, dapper, fully competent
Mr. Jefferson and the poor little spindleshanks
with his blinking eyes and his underfed look;
the contrast between authority and humility;
the eternal and dreadful contrast between
success and failure. If they had searched
all the business offices and second-hand stores
and old people's homes in town to find somebody
.to enact the part of Failure in this morality
play they couldn't have discovered a better
actor than old Johnny Donahue. The only
thing was, he wasn't at all aware of it. He seemed
only mildly interested in the show. Apparently
he wanted to get the interruption in his work
over with, and go back to his coop.
When Mr. Jefferson put up his eye-glass and
studied the human wisp that had been brought
before him, he appeared a little nonplussed. He
glanced around at Big Jim, who said; "This is
the man, sir, who read the proof of that head.
He let the blunder go by; he put his initials on
the proof, meaning *0. K.' Then, you see, in the
rush at the stone "
Mr. Jefferson waggled his head impatiently, and
"So you are the proofreader," said the owner.
Donahue looked at him stolidly, with his pink-
rimmed blue eyes.
"There's eight of us in there altogether," he
began. But Big Jim spoke up: "Mr. Jefferson
wants to know how you come to let that bull go
by. Wake up now, Johnny, and let's have the
Donahue stood there with his hands in his
pockets, apparently thinking hard. Evidently the
problem interested hitn. A nice professional prob-
"When I was editor of a paper," he at last
replied, in his thin quaver, "I used to ask the boys
that. I dunno's I ever got the right answer. I
dunno's that there is any answer."
"You were editor of a paper?" The owner's
tone was inscrutable.
"Yes, sir; the Cherryville Democrat. But o'
course that doesn't mean I would be competent
to edit — well, this paper, for instance. Mine was
only a little paper; and all that was thirty years
"Where have you worked since?"
"For thirty years ?" The owner put up his eye-
glass again. "As proofreader throughout?"
"Yes, sir. Right in that same coop there." Old
Johnny winked affectionately at Big Jim.
There was a pause. The spectators had begun
to lose their shocked appearance. The Old Man
seemed to be breathing more freely. And yet —
could Mr. Jefferson let this thing pass without at
least "docking" somebody?
He cleared his throat, took out a large mono-
grammed handkerchief and touched his mous-
tached lips with it.
"Thirty years ago," he said (and he seemed to
have quite forgotten the crowd about him), "my
father was publisher of this paper."
"I know it," grinned old Johnny. "He hired
The owner actually smiled.
"Yes, he used to hire and — er — fire the hands
himself. But — ^ahem — we are getting away from
the point of all this. ... Of course, you under-
stand, Mr. Donahue, that this is a very serious
thing to have happen to the Press. We shall be
a laughing-stock for days, if no worse. That is
aside from the fact that Mr. Blodgett will feel
very much injured; an estimable man, Mr. Blod-
gett. Now do you think, Mr. Donahue, that I can
let the matter pass ?"
"No, sir," was old Johnny's reply. "I suppose
"I was going to suggest . . . ." began Big Jim,
but Mr. Jefferson again held up his hand.
"I am not yet clear," he said to the proof-
reader, "how you could overlook the error; how
you could fail to see that large black T ; why you
didn't change it."
Donahue scratched his head.
"I been trying to remember ever since I saw
the Market Edition. Now, 0' course, I did see that
T ; it's no use sayin* I didn't see it. I ain't blind."
He glanced whimsically around the circle of listen-
ers. "I guess I must 'a' thought the editor meant
to write it that way. I guess I must *a' thought
*Maybe this Blodgett is a thief* and I must 'a'
thought 1 suppose they're willing to chance a
libel suit.' But, good Lord, man, what's the use
bothering about what I thought? It's all got
pretty dim to me, what editors do things for. I
used to go briskin' around asking editors why this
and why that, but . . . ."
He paused and eyed Mr. Jefferson, expecting a
verdict. Everybody expected it. But Mr. Jefferson
only leaned back against a truck, and pondered.
Presently Big Jim seemed to wake up. He glared
about at the crowd, and shouted : "Back to work,
you skulkers. Th' home edition '11 be on us first
thing you know."
The eager listeners faded. Linotype men,
"make-ups" and galley boys ambled off to their
tasks. There remained at length only the owner,
the Old Man, the foreman, Josslyn — and the cul-
prit. Amid this diminished assemblage Mr. Jeffer-
son still leaned against the truck, dangling his
eye-glasses. Finally he said :
"Donahue, I have a large private library in this
building, as you may have heard. It needs cata-
loguing. Would you like the job ?"
The old proofreader blinked, glanced at Big
Jim, sidled back and forth a moment on his heels,
and shook his head.
Upon this, according to Josslyn, Mr. Jefferson,
without uttering another word, strode down the
aisle between the machines and out of the com-
posing room, his head lowered in thought. The
Old Man, looking disappointed, followed.
And old Johnny hobbled back to his coop.
"npHATS all,'* said Josslyn, with a benign
A glance around.
"You don't mean to finish with such an anti-
climax as that," complained one of us. "Wasn't
the old bird fired?"
"Of course not. He kept at work until he died,
three years ago.
I thrust in a surmise of my own: "I suppose
the remorse over his blunder pursued him to the
"Remorse ! We all forgot the thing within two
days. Of course, we printed a first-page skin-
back : 'Regrettable typographical error' and so on.
But Donahue I'll tell you what happened to him:
He became locally famous. He was the man who
had stood up to the boss and had got away with it.
He became a hero. Everybody forgot what the
blunder was, but nobody forgot that something
or other had put old Johnny into the limelight.
No longer was he a wraith in a cave — a ghost
who didn't even haunt anybody — ^but he became
a personage to whom people said *Good morning,
Mr. Donahue, m the elevator He was pointed
out to visiting printers: That's Donahue. He
don't look much, but he's a friend of the owner's.'
The triumphant comma-hound gained flesh, stood
up straighter, wore better clothes. I've heard,
indeed, that his work became practically perfect."
Josslyn's listeners looked skeptical.
"Now tell us he got a raise on the strength of
his bull, and the yarn'll be complete," someone
"No, not that," smiled Josslyn. "Not quite like
that. But I'll tell you what did happen: About
two months after the famous post-mortem, old
Johnny wandered into the Old Man's office, tee-
tered on his heels a moment, then stuck out his
jaw, and says he: 'Mr. Thain, I've got a little
favor to ask; if you could spare 'em, would you
kindly let me have a couple of tickets to the
— '^^ '^ ^^^ come time to deal adequately
^ with this character, that has
I hovered on the margin of one
I portrait after another. It could
I not help coming in. For although
^ =!] Josslyn never obtrudes himself
upon the news-room, he is in fact the most
pervasive being whom we have — unless it be the
Old Man — the oftenest quoted, the oftenest con-
sulted. And yet there is no one about whom we
have known less. To deal adequately with him
I offer acknowledgments, first of all, to the
Star, who has sat in the cigar store with Josslyn
for many an hour, and has drawn from him, bit
by bit, the torn manuscript of his experience.
There is a sympathy between these two. The
aging, sweet-natured veteran looks tenderly upon
the boy with his outbursts and his foibles; and
the whirling brain of the Star seems to come to
rest, to rest gladly and admiringly, in the presence
of the man who has attempted so much, been
disappointed so often, and yet retained goodness.
An elderly printer is another of my authorities
for this sketch. He remembers when Josslyn
came to the news-room. That was a long time
back, alas ! The printer recalls a day when, stroll-
ing into the editors' zoo to beg some favor, he
noticed a "new guy" sitting at a desk; a youth
with more legs than body, and more eyes than
anything else. The printer, a sociable creature,
said to him : "Say hand me that paper over there,
will you?" and added, out of suddenly-born
instinct : "Thanks." The youth smiled wanly and
replied: You are quite welcome." The printer
went away mysteriously impressed.
And then, there is a man once a staff photog-
rapher, but now grown rich in the "movies," who
sometimes relates anecdotes of his leaner past,
and who recollects how he and Josslyn went on
assignments when both were young. He tells of a
fire which they "covered"; a small fire in a hos-
pital. It was out when they arrived, but there were
nurses to be photographed and interviewed. Joss-
lyn, says the photographer with a chuckle, was
too timid to cross the street and ply the nurses
with questions ; so the photographer did this for
him. And Josslyn wrote out the notes on the
train and brought into the office a fairly good
story. The photographer, never having met a
timid reporter, questioned Josslyn deftly, and
found out that he was a Phi Beta Kappa, and
had been intended for a professor of English, but
that he liked journalism much better— or at least
thought he would like it.
"It's a tough game," the photographer warned
him. "It eats chaps like you alive."
But Josslyn, he says, only shook his head smil-
ingly. As they all do.
T^HE STAR'S discoveries go farther back than
* this ; back to a village settlement which lay
near the city, but remained quite isolated from it.
Although the smoke clouds, growing bigger year
by year, were clearly visible on the horizon, and
at night the flares of furnaces furnished a sulky
Aurora, the storms and fevers of our turbulent
center never reached Happyville, as the village
was called. Josslyn's parents were quiet folk,
with a fondness for Browning and Wordsworth,
a dislike of Emerson, a positive horror of Robert
Ingersoll. Their favorite quotations were "God's
in His heaven," and "All things work together
for good." Their theory of bringing up children
was to shield them from all knowledge of evil;
even to deny them newspapers that featured
crime. Their idea was to create an atmosphere
of love that would shut out the world, to breathe
into their son and daughter their own pure and
gracious natures, and to shape these children into
fragile, trustful creatures like themselves. They
"But what becomes of children like that after
the parents are gone?" asks the Star with his
wry smile. Josslyn could answer the question;
so, perhaps, could the sister whom he has always
cherished. (For, it seems, he has never married.)
What happened to Josslyn was that, imme-
diately after he left college, with an excellent
degree and an ability to write masterful critiques
of the English poets, both the parents died, and
a different face was put upon everything. Good-
bye, haloed professorship of English! It was a
case of supplying immediate wants. Fanny, the
sister, went to work in a library. Arthur, the
brother, took his writing talent into the nearest
In his narrative to the Star he skipped over
most of the period during which he knocked at
doors. We find him suddenly entering a news-
paper office in search of a "staff position." Not
the Press, though, this first one; it was the old
Times, whose owner in those days was a very
religious man, and had known Professor Josslyn
in denominational affairs. Perhaps Mrs. Josslyn
suggested that Arthur consult this journalistic
friend; we do not know. But Arthur sat for an
hour in the luxurious ante-room of Ransom, editor
oi the Times, and then was received, only to be
handed a card on the back of which was written
the words: "Mr. Blather, I refer Mr. Josslyn to
"Give this to our managing editor," said the
kindly Ransom. "So sorry to hear of your emi-
nent father's death."
Blather was kind too. He gave Arthur a minute
and a half, asked him one question — "What news-
paper experience have you had?" — and regretted
that the staff was full.
Arthur went out into the street, both downcast
and exhilarated. A mere glance about the editorial
rooms, a mere hint of the subdued professional
bustle of the place, had cast over him the miser-
able shroud of his timidity. And yet at the same
time, it had given him a strange delight; it had
made him conscious of something; that he was
really meant for newspaper work, and it for him.
He had a dim feeling of being at home in that
office. He had intuitions of what the men were
doing; the bits of talk he had heard, obscured
though they were by newspaper dialect, sounded
almost intelligible, sounded like a language which
he must have spoken, centuries ago.
He walked along pondering this, and presently
found himself in front of the fabled building of
the Press. Some instinct guided him into the
door; a queer pressure upon his brain, a sudden
incomprehensible daring, made him go up the
elevator and ask for the managing editor.
He sat down in an ante-room and under the eyes
of an amused stenographer filled out a form:
"Name," "age," "married" and "position desired."
Under this last heading Josslyn wrote "editorial
writer"; which seemed to be the only position
suitable to a literary person.
After considerable delay a buzzer sounded at
the desk of the stenographer, who said to Arthur :
"Mr. Thain will see you now." Josslyn started.
At the same instant the door opened, and a keen-
faced youth, wearing an eye-shade and looking
very angry, burst out, ignoring Josslyn, who
slipped past him through the door.
At a large and badly scratched cherry-wood desk
sat a bulky person about thirty years old (but
looking older, Josslyn says), who wore spec-
tacles and had a ruddy complexion, and looked
quite as angry as the young man who had just
gone out. He bent upon Arthur Josslyn a piercing
and surprised stare. He looked at the filled-out
"What makes you think you could write edi-
torials ?" he demanded without preliminary.
"I don't know," Arthur replied.
The managing editor's mouth twitched. He
flipped the form between his thick fingers, whis-
tled gently and kept on staring at the limp but
attentive young man before him.
[185 1 DEADLINES
"Supposing William D. Frost should drop dead
on the street, what would you write about him?"
(Frost, Josslyn says, was then the most promi-
nent banker in the city.)
The applicant hesitated. Had he known it,
more than the mere question of writing editorials
hung upon his answer. The truth was that Thain,
a man of lightning impulses, had already made up
his mind to hire Josslyn, not as an expert, but as
a cub. He had seen in the youngster*s face a
sincerity, an alertness, even a power that he
wanted to harness. Josslyn did not guess this;
nor did he know that his answer to the question
just put would reveal whether he was genuine;
that if he tried a pretense of knowing about
William D. Frsot he was doomed.
Well, Josslyn blushed fiery red (as he admits)
"I'm sorry. I never even heard that name."
Thain threw himself back in his chair and
laughed, a bit triumphantly. Straightening up,
he turned his spectacles once more upon Josslyn
"Suppose you try reporting. Twelve a week to
The weird feeling that all this was familiar,
that he had heard it all before, seized Josslyn
again. Reporting! The word had dazzling sug-
gestions, it had terrors, but it was delicious. He
answered weakly :
"111 try it."
He heard Thain call out : "Miss T ^, take Mr.
Josslyn to Mr. Franklin."
And the stenographer, more amused-looking
than ever, conducted him to the youth with the
eye-shade, and so into journalism.
FROM Happyville to the city ; this was the leap
Josslyn had made.
Imagine it. He did not know that justice is
not only blind, but corrupt and often ghastly. He
had never been told that politics, as then prac-
ticed in the city (if not now) was mainly a bestial
struggle for salaried office, and that most politi-
cians were degraded wire pullers, liars and thieves,
who would stoop to anything, betray any kind of
trust, to gain an advantage. He had never heard
that criminals bought their freedom, that innocent
men were hanged in order to fatten the records
of prosecutors, that women were bought and sold
by the police, that landlords let tenants rot in
order to save a few dollars, that buildings were
falsely constructed and that when they collapsed
the victims were cheated out of damages. Those
were only a few of the things he did not know —
nor worry about. He liked the city. The moving
processions of people and vehicles in the streets
had an air of happiness. Rapidly he grew less
[187 3 DEADLINES
timid. He held his head up and smiled at people,
and they returned his smile.
Sometimes he was puzzled, sometimes shocked.
But faithfully he repeated the Happyville motto
"God's in His heaven," and at such times, high
in the blue above the gigantic smoking buildings,
up there beyond the tangles of wires and scaffold-
ing and water-tanks, he fancied he could actually
see God, serene in His heaven, disposing of mat-
ters to the ultimate advantage of everybody.
The Star mentioned this with a grimace.
IN those days the city was considerably smaller.
It had much the same landmarks; that is, the
stock yards smoked over here, and the steel mills
over there, and the tall buildings stood by the
lake, and the river wound itself three ways,
through extraordinary aisles of factories and
warehouses. But there were great areas of land,
now covered with apartment houses or flat roofs,
which at that time were merely expanses of clay
and chickweed, or bloomed with the black-eyed
Susan and wild geranium, or were tousled with
scrub oak trees. The city was a congeries of vil-
lages, swarming industrial villages, rather than a
metropolis. The immense strides toward metro-
politanism had not yet fairly begun. Nowhere
was to be found that glossy, opulent appearance
that so much of the city wears at present. The
downtown buildings, for the most part, were only
six or eight stories high, and fairly dingy.
Outlying districts gave birth mainly to wooden
residences, lining long, monotonous streets.
Everything seemed temporary, neglected — and
yet bursting with ambition.
Life was terrific. The great inrush of foreigners
had reached a peak. The jargon of speech, the
jostling of antagonistic races, the introduction
of weird ethnic blends from the utmost corners
of Europe, made the city continually more won-
derful, but more terrible. Strange crimes, strange
customs, made the daily page of the city's history
a bizarre placard shocking to the staid, half-
Puritan older residents, mainly of New England
stock. Big conflicts and contrasts were every-
where; life was fought out in the open. Openly,
aldermen stole streets and alleys, contractors
grafted, bankers embezzled, foreigners pursued
Old World feuds, railroads killed people at grade
crossings, and blackmailers stole children. But
the "decent element" was waging war on these
things; and there were men who exposed the
grafters and embezzlers, and hanged the mur-
derers, and began the education of the foreigners.
There, at the dawn of the new century, dwelt side
by side the extremes of coarseness and refinement,
ignorance and culture, generosity and greed.
Through the swarming streets, along the
wooden sidewalks bordering these still-blooming
prairies, down festering alleys, in and out of
hospitals and morgues, went Arthur Josslyn in
pursuit of news.
Sometimes another reporter would say to him :
"What a hell-hole the city is, ain't it?" But
Josslyn would reply, wondering, "I don't think
it's so bad."
Usually he thought it was glorious. At least,
it was thrillingly new. He began to recognize
here and there signs that humanity has faults;
but nothing, so far, destroyed his certainty that
the majority of men were well-meaning. Natur-
ally he discovered as much good as bad, and at
this stage of his growth the good things — oh,
such as a policeman saving a group of school-
children from a runaway — made the greater
impression upon him. Deep within him lay a love
of people that softened in his eyes the brutal
gestures of the city, and there burned steadily
in him a flame of poetry that lit his spirit on his
worst of days.
Lake ships, sullenly followed their tugs out
into the white-caps of the lake; the scarlet flare
of open furnaces at night; the wonderful rush of
a long train over a viaduct; the boulevards, with
their processions of vehicles under shade trees;
the West Side blocks swarming with children, and
a tall cathedral bell sending down its blessing;
religious processions in the foreign quarters; an
old, cupolaed mansion, brooding far back among
maples ; a glimpse of a tall spire, with the sunset
on it — such things as these Josslyn took home
with him from his daily rounds.
In the office he was a cub — a promising cub.
No one knew that he loved everybody; although
some did know that he scribbled verse. The Old
- Man heard about it, and remarked curtly to
Franklin, "Break him in." It was done. His
salary was advanced two dollars a week — and his
f leisure was reduced. He was hustled here; hus-
tled there. No more reverie for him. He was
sent out on impossible pursuits of impossible
mysteries ; compelled to ring hostile door-bells and
freeze on inhospitable front porches; ask crude
questions of scholarly spinsters; watch heart-
broken women identify relatives at the county
morgue ; demand of berserk city officials the truth
about their resignations; interview indignant
college presidents about "freak" questions of the
hour ; travel mile after mournful mile upon street
cars; freeze, starve, and keep hopeless vigils for
news that did not happen ; spend his own money
to the last cent on assignments and receive censure
tfor spending so much.
He was being "broken in." The appraisers had
determined that he was metal. Week by week he
was assaying higher value. But he remained
essentially the same Josslyn.
FROM this memoir and that, I can easily con-
struct the scene of Josslyn's early endeavors.
The news-room was in the same place, but it
housed several departments since banished, and
was crowded beyond belief. The Old Man spent his
mornings there, growling and creaking at a desk
by a window; his private office he used in the
afternoons only. A good many of the reporters
were denied desks, and did their typing on a low
shelf that ran around the walls. There was hardly
gangway. Toward press-time the noise must have
been awful. Add to the staff numerous callers,
who had no place to wait except among the desks ;
add especially the parasites of the sporting depart-
ment, which had a turbulent corner of its own,
and fancy it all ! Three chairs near the sporting
editor's desk were nearly always occupied by
rising prize fighters, who glared, shuffled their
feet, and spat. There was usually a group of press-
agents telling someone foul stories.
In this place the gentle Josslyn began his
career; writing his maiden stories upon a shelf,
amid all that din, and with volleys of strange talk
in his ears.
The staff was a rare mixture; it was "the pick
of the town." There was Billy Fleming, immoral,
witty, and pock-marked, a writer of ribald verse
and graceful obituaries ; Tom Griggs, the sad-eyed
"police man," connoisseur of corpses and motives ;
those two drunkards, Fox and Jones; "little Ed."
Moore, a tramp reporter said to have been part
Mexican ; the debonaire Ernest Tripe, whose pay
check was always drawn in advance ; and various
less memorable beings. A quaint, smeared, turbu-
lent company of reprobates, full of fight and
liquor, desperate in their pursuit of news, ignorant
of all the modern "ethics of the profession," and
clever as the devil himself. It must have taken
months for Josslyn even to arrive on passable
terms with them. I picture him laboring at his
typewriter, trying to shape his stories according
to the iron-bound model of the time, and conscious
of the grins and whispers of those devils behind
his back. I imagine him timorously submitting
his copy to the fiery-tempered Franklin. I see him
sitting silently in a comer, while the copy desk
slaughtered his phrases. But still more vividly
I vision him amid a group of those tobacco-spitting
pirates, listening after hours to their memoirs,
their theories, and their advice. For they did give
him advice, I am sure. No doubt they were even
kind to him. There is a sort of lofty and casual
concern for the neophyte in the most abandoned
and sophisticated of reporters. And besides,
Josslyn always had a vein of good nature dis-
arming to the cynic.
As for Franklin, he was gentle to his "cub."
They saw quite a bit of each other, for they two
were always the first to report in the morning;
and Franklin, groaning and cursing, would start
slashing the morning paper with his long scissors,
and would have Josslyn help him. One morning,
Josslyn recalls, the city editor delivered this lec-
ture from the corner of his mouth :
"Kid, I like your work, but you don't belong
here. You're too sensitive. You're too well edu-
cated. . . . Gimme that pile of clippings. .
. . Thanks. . . . Business'U kill you if you
keep on. Look at me, hauled out of bed at five
every morning; rush to my desk, stay there till
last dog's hung. Fight, fight, fight, all the time.
Fight with the staff, with the readers of the paper,
with the town itself. Damn the town ! It would
get on anybody's nerves. . . . Get a quieter
job, where you can write those poems of yours.
Nothing in this boiler-shop grind. . . ."
The Old Man opened his door just then. Per-
haps he had overheard some of the tirade, for
that afternoon Franklin approached Josslyn and
"Don't take too seriously what I said this morn-
ing, r was sore at the world, that's all. You've
got a nice style, and you'll get on in the business
"Yes, sir," replied Jpsslyn, as he had learned to
There could be no doubt that the Old Man prized
Josslyn, in a way. He never spoke a word directly
to him, and yet Josslyn had a singular feeling
that he was watched, and not unkindly. More
than once he suspected that the assignments
Franklin gave him were inspired by the managing
editor. On one occasion Josslyn was sent out of
town with a group of aldermen "junketing" to
New York. He muffed the assignment terribly,
and returned to the office in a tremor. But
nothing was said until the young reporter took
courage to ask Franklin, "Just how badly did I
fail on that trip?" The city editor pushed up his
eye-shade, looked at Josslyn in his melancholy
way, and said, gruffly, "It doesn't matter now.
But I'll tell you if it had been anybody else the
Old Man would have canned him without notice."
Whence arose this interest, this semi-benevolent
interest, which Thain, formidable and ruthless
being that he was, felt in the shrinking amateur?
It was more unusual in those days than now, for
it was said of the Old Man that when compara-
tively young he had "no favorites and no friends."
He was a battler, like his creation Franklin, with
his hand against the world. There is, though, no
accounting for affections ; and it was to be demon-
strated that the Old Man loved Josslyn like a son ;
loved him at first sight, as one might say, rejoiced
like any father at Josslyn's later success, and
grieved like one when at last
ri95] D EADLINES
AFTER he had been on the staff five years
Jossljm was made city editor. Franklin
in a burst of fury, had resigned. The Old Man
said to Josslyn, "Take the desk, and let's see how
long you can hold it." He did not reveal that he
had offered the post to several of the older men,
and that they had excused themselves. Josslyn,
elate, apprehensive, the most competent of them
all but the most humble, took the desk.
A good many of the piratical crew still remained.
After having been Josslyn's comrades and critics,
they now found themselves his subordinates.
There was no complaint. They regarded Josslyn
with that curious mixture of respect, pity, and
disdain which they would have shown toward any
other city editor. ("Little Ed" Moore said: "I
was offered the job, but my God! d'ye think I'd
take it? Under the Old Man?"). They liked
Josslyn. They rallied about him— good old pirate
crew. Perhaps the assignments he gave them
were not always to their taste; no matter, they
covered these assignments and stolidly wrote the
results. Perhaps Josslyn made mistakes in orders,
charted the wrong course. The old hands merely
left the office humming, and got the news after
their own fashion. There grew up a warm loyalty
to Josslyn. He had lost none of his gentility
during the years of reporting. He could always
see the other fellow's side of an argument. Often
he forgave a man when he got drunk. Often when
the Old Man told him to discharge such-and-such
a scapegrace, Josslyn forgot to discharge him.
In the meantime he found that, having served
one apprenticeship, he was now serving another.
He was being "broken in" again. Not so much
now by contact with the city and its people, but
by the mechanisms of the office, by the emergen-
cies of his work, by the thousands of shocks and
griefs that went with responsibility. The com-
parative ease of mind that is the underling's only
recompense for being an underling began to leave
him. The little flame of interest with which he
used to await his morning assignment was now
denied. He awoke each day quivering with pres-
science of what he must face. No day was ever the
same as its predecessor. No problem ever arose
in precisely the same guise. The incalculable
world prepared for Josslyn incalculable emergen-
cies and pitfalls. Glory and disgrace both lay in
wait for him at his desk. He was satisfied to
escape disgrace. He was satisfied to end the day
without a reprimand from the Old Man, or without
some failure too abject even for comment. He
was alternately elate with hope and smothered in
shame. He was a poet compelled to face a despot
— and to be one.
This growing torment received a new compli-
cation when he moved to a suburb. It was a
charming suburb, more beautiful than Happy ville ;
a forest spot, with great elms overshadowing the
streets, and with the children of the forest, ferns,
flowers and wild creatures, still occupying the
glades. Fanny, the sister, had insisted upon
moving thither from the city flat. The change
improved Josslyn's physical health, but the coun-
try drew away a lot of the affection and confidence
that he had bestowed upon the city. In its high
seasons, with its gorgeous flowerings, it made the
city hideous by contrast; and at its saddest of
times it had a repose, a sanity, that made Josslyn
more and more regretful to leave it, even for a
few hours. Sunday afternoons and holidays came
to be colored with regret and foreboding; regret
that so perfect tranquillity could not be kept just
a little longer; foreboding of the new plunge,
tomorrov/, into chaos.
He knew it to be chaos, even though he tasted
there a bitter intoxicant. Born newspaper man
though he was, carried beyond himself by news,
subject to all the ecstasies of that weird and
perishable form of experience, there was still his
temperament, one-half of which craved peace,
craved even more the expression of the wistful
poetry in him. He managed somehow to strangle
these more feminine impulses while he was busy
with the affairs of "the desk"; that is, for all
those years he managed to do so. But though
strangled, they were not dead, and they often con-
fused him, rising before his eyes at inopportune
times. The Old Man was keen to detect these
waverings in his young city editor. He seemed
to sense them out while sitting in his room.
Presently he would appear, perhaps clutching a
copy of an opposition paper.
"Scooped again I Really, Josslyn . . . Didn't
you have this affair down in the assignment book?
Well, how can you expect to cover advance dates
without putting them down? Depend on your
memory; is that it? . . . Well, for goodness' sake,
get a little of the thing written for the last
Exit, with his shoulders high.
"Josslyn, I must have a talk with you. I'm
doing my best to build you up into an efficient
newspaper man. Sometimes I think you'll never
make it. Sometimes I think you're writing those
— er — pesky poems, in your head. Come out of
it. Poetry'U get you nowhere."
"I'm not writing poetry, Mr. Thain."
"Well, if it isn't poetry, it's love. If you're in
love, for God's sake, get married. That's the only
cure. And get a blonde; they're safer."
He would follow this with things that would
make Josslyn blush. Josslyn believes the Old
Man liked to see him blush. Thain was, no doubt,
puzzled and plagued by this temperament, which
partly mocked him with what he himself had been,
and partly eluded his analysis. He always posed
before Josslyn as a bitter cynic, pagan, hater of
all religions, and defier of all conventions. He
usually held up to the youth a harsh, sordid con-
ception of life, and a stern view of journalism,
which he said was an exact science. This was his
way of ^'building up a spine in the fellow" ; and it
worked — for a good while. But we all think that,
while he was administering the bitter tonic, he
laughed strangely in private. He was cute. Once
when he and Josslyn had worked together prepar-
ing a tremendously hot story, and Josslyn was just
leaving the stone, collarless and with flying hair,
the Old Man spoke a loud aside to Big Jim, the
foreman: "There goes a great newspaper man."
Intend Josslyn to overhear it? Surely. And he
knew, of course, that the young man would carry
away that immense compliment with him, and
that the yeast would work and work ; and that, for
a week at least, it would fill him with a sense of
But it was the Old Man's weakness at that
period that he grimly refused to know anything
about the private lives of his staff. So he knew
nothing about Josslyn's house, or about his flowers.
And he did not know that, when walking home
in the evening along the elm-shaded streets of the
village, Josslyn looked back with vague disgust
upon what he had done.
He was conscious only of a grey retrospect, out
of which some incidents stood sharply; incidents
whose effect upon his inner structure he did not
fully understand. Such as — well, such as the
story of an old murder trial dug up twenty years
late to confront the innocent children of the for-
gotten murderer. Complaint from the widow.
Reference of complaint to the Old Man. Josslyn
exonerated. A feeling of regret, tempered by
elation over having scooped the Journal.
Or such as the publication of a wrong picture;
the picture of the twin brother of an accused
thief. Twin brother a grocer. Grocery ruined.
The wrong twin writes misspelled letter, hinting
at libel suit. Josslyn sends Griggs, the paper's
best "fixer,'' to settle the matter. Griggs settles
it for seventy-five dollars. Immense relief on the
part of Josslyn; coupled with scruples.
Moral complexities, these. They don't, after all,
get to the bottom of Josslyn. There at the bottom
was his instinct to bestow affection, to condone, to
work for the happiness of everybody. Now this
is impossible in an executive. He must decide
sharp issues, and always someone gets hurt. Let
there be a dispute between a reporter and a copy
reader. Josslyn must decide it somehow. Some-
one injured. Both men dear to him. Someone
must subside, with a flushed face and a biting
of lips, and, looking at him, Josslyn is wretched.
Perhaps he decided wrongfully. He takes the
doubt home with him.
Josslyn told the Star that of all things most
abhorrent to him were the quarrels. Next to
this, the eternal naggings about salaries. The
requests for increases had to go to the Old Man
for decision, but they always came to Josslyn
The symptoms? Josslyn tells them with a
A reporter or copy reader comes to "the desk"
after the First Final has gone. He hovers at the
desk. The appeal in his eye is unmistakable.
"Ahem I've been working here almost
two years now^ Mr. Josslyn. . . I . . ."
"It's about your salary, I suppose."
"Yes, sir; that's it." (At other times he may
call Josslyn "A. J.," but now it is "sir.") He goes
on : "I thought maybe you wouldn't mind speaking
to the Old Man about me."
A pause. Josslyn is fairly sick He looks down
at his desk, twiddles his pencil, and says: "I'll
do what I can, John."
The poor, hang-dog chap, the work-worn, bank-
rupt ne'er-do-well, brightens pitifully. Ah, but
Josslyn is sorry for him! A "raise"? Josslyn
would give him a doubled, a trebled salary. Josslyn
starts to speak, but gulps it back. He must not
"commit himself". John the reporter goes away,
That's all. Just things like that. Nothing at
all to an iron man, such as an executive ought to
be. Executives should sit at desks, full of blood
and confidence, and shoot back defiant things when
people make requests. And they ought to go home
with hearty step, certain they have done right,
and with some such thought as '^Greatest editor
of greatest paper on earth; 's what I am."
Lots of them do.
PICTURE Josslyn on a tranquil spring morning,
going to work with the sweetness of flowers in
his nostrils, with the budding trees whispering to
him a mood of peace. And then suppose him enter-
ing the office and being greeted by : "Boss, there's
a four-eleven fire in the Yards. Six bodies taken
out. It's been burning since six o'clock. What
shall we do?" Or, "The bureau has just 'phoned
Marshall Field is dying. Shall I get somebody
started with the obit? Who do you want to go up
to the house?" Or picture him with big news
"breaking" and three of his best men sick. Or
suppose him quietly opening his morning mail and
finding in it a notice of a $100,000 libel suit. Or
fancy him starting to close his desk at night, and
picking up a rival to discover a triumphant "beat."
Or consider him a moment when griefs are in a
lull, when he gazes about the office in reverie, and
then a voice at his desk, the voice of his best
[203 3 DEADLINES
reporter: "Boss, I'm sorry, but Fve got a better
offer from the Globe. I'm leaving Saturday."
Reader, not of the profession, these things mean
little to you. But to Josslyn every one of these
surprises, these threats or disappointments, con-
tains poison. And for our Jossljoi every one was
magnified by his imagination. Was he "scooped ?"
He saw the black type of his rival dancing jigs
upon the news-stands, he saw thousands grasping
for the story missing in so ghastly fashion from
the Press, he imagined a murmur of comment on
the streets, in the trains, and himself skulking in
by-ways. Was he sued? He previsioned a stem
jury handing down the verdict of thousands, the
Old Man frantic, the paper bankrupt, himself out-
cast, the city pointing a huge collective finger.
But correspondingly vivid his triumphs. Ah,
yes ! to conquer them all, to breathe deeply for a
moment over what he and his men had done —
even Josslyn's nature had rich delights over that.
Delights lasting sometimes an hour or two. Then
the dark cloud of premonition, the goad of new
emergencies. Into it again. "Josslyn, Moore on
the 'phone ; murder in Little Hell "
And the great clock upon the wall, never stop-
ping never relenting ; the clock that makes slaves
of us all. . . .
Despite everything, he grew. Certain motions
and mental processes became automatic. His
adjustment to the swift and deadly requirements
of his job became easier. The shrinking, appre-
hensive Josslyn still dwelt in him, but over this
seemed to grow another personality with an appar-
ent defiance of disaster. Long ago it had become
unnecessary for the older men to tell him what to
do; they now respectfully sought his judgment.
It began to be whispered about that he was "one
of the best city editors in town." The slim body
and the gentle, sensitive mind had seemingly with-
stood the efforts of fate, the Old Man and the devil
to crush them. And not only the office, but the
city itself and all it could send lay at Josslyn's
feet. The great city roared about him, challenging
him with its brutal voices, preparing for him
sudden horrors, ringing his telephone with the
message : "Ah, — ha, Josslyn ! See what's happened
now." But he seemed to be a match for the city.
Nothing it could do but would find him ready.
With a stroke he could turn its challenges and
fierce taunts, its outbursts, the jets from its cal-
drons, to serve the paper. And, daily, he seemed
to grow calmer. The boys said he was "hard-
boiled." Josslyn, the master! Well, well!
Then one day he went in to the Old Man and
said : "Mr. Thain, Til have to stop. I'll have to
give up the city desk. It's got the best of me.
I 1 just can't "
And Josslyn fainted away, right there on the
Old Man's Brussels rug.
The Old Man and the office boy raised him to
an old lounge in the "private room," and they inex-
pertly poured water on him, and the staff gathered
around. I was there myself. I shall never forget
the quaint surprised tenderness with which the
Old Man gazed, blinking, upon his downfallen
greyhound of a city editor, and how he said,
oratorically : "My Lord, I guess a six months'
vacation won't be too much for this boy ....
The best city editor I ever .... He's just
simply done himself."
But when Josslyn opened his eyes, this speech
changed to : "Billy, fetch a cab .... You, sir, go
home and take a hot drink. The rest of you, why
the devil aren't you working?"
JOSSLYN, grey man of the copy desk, do you
think of those days? Can you remember how
the telephone spoke to you, straight from the
fierce heart of the city, and how you used to say
to us, with a slap on the shoulder, and such a
light in your eyes, "Go after it, old chap ; go after
it and get it?" And do you remember days of
tension, of waiting and waiting ; and how as we
all sat there waiting, the Great Event would at
last "break?" Josslyn, those days of anxiety,
strain, effort, accomplishment, gladness, when you
were the leader of us all! And, Josslyn, those
afternoons when we would hang about your desk
when the paper was out, and bring smiles to your
face with our banter. And how sweet it was,
when the city could do no more to us for a few
hours, to put on our coats and go out — free! —
into the streets, lighting our pipes. Those tre-
mendous years, Josslyn, when you were the Boss,
and life was vivid. Remember, Josslyn, grey
creature writing head-lines?
== ilT WOULD have surprised anyone
■ unacquainted with newspaper
I offices to hear how little stir the
I break-down of the city editor of
I the great Press caused in our
^ z=: news-room. There is a special
optimism — or perhaps a special callousness — for
such cases. It is based upon the knowledge that,
no matter who falls, the army always advances,
the machine never stops. And then, we have seen
so many men "blow up," fall ill, or go crazy, that
when something happens we merely look sympa-
thetic and wait until the patient is cured.
Naturally it did seem a little strange, the next
morning after Josslyn's collapse, to hear George
Brown coolly say into Josslyn's telephone :
"He isn't here. He's sick. Anything I can do
And it did impress us queerly when we walked
up to take assignments from Brown and had to
say "yes, sir" to a comrade with whom we had
wrangled the day before on equal terms. But
this feeling wore off. Presently we were used to
Brown, with his cool, abrupt manner ; and barring
a vague sense of loss — ^the lack of some intangible,
supporting presence — we breasted our tasks the
same as ever.
There was plenty of talk, certainly. It fed upon
the fact that we were cautioned not to go to
Josslyn's home, nor even to call him on the tele-
phone. A rumor started that he was dying; but
this was exploded by someone who had seen him
walking with his sister. Then the melodramatic
stories gave way to an assurance that he was only
taking a "good long rest." And by and by the
word came officially from the Old Man's room that
Josslyn was going to Europe. Promptly after this
announcement, Josslyn reappeared in the office.
He was thin and somewhat silent; but he was
whole. I recall that we gave him a "banquet,"
which would have been desperately dull had not
/ the Drunkard (then on his first term of service)
•1 arrived intoxicated and made all the speeches.
Josslyn himself had little to say. He sat at the
head of the table fingering his fork, and with a
wistful look in his eyes. The affair broke up at
nine o'clock. We forgot to tip the waiters.
TLTE WENT to London to "investigate industrial
•*• •■• conditions." From there he crossed to Paris,
without having cabled a word.
I return now to what I have learned through my
proxy, the Star. Without him I never should have
got so close to Josslyn's memories of Paris, nor
should I be able to set down almost word for word
Josslyn's terse, but eloquent picture of the Beau-
Paris from the Butte of Montmartre: A laby-
rinth of slums, watched over by the Basilica, slums
in which foulness and poetry dwell side by side,
and beyond which rises Paris quivering in the
vapor from myriad chimneys. Brown masses of
buildings, blending into the lavender shadows of
the surrounding hills ; mysterious cloud-shapes of
roofs, from which loom the towers of Notre Dame
and St. Sulpice, the dome of the Invalides, the
peaks, tiny in perspective, of great houses once
Paris from the region of the Trocadero ; at one's
feet the river; then the armored limbs of the
Eiffel Tower, spanning a broad promenade; then
the dwindling harmony of buildings and the wist-
ful horizon. Belated sunbeams drift over the
Trocadero hill, tingeing the river with pink, touch-
ing with slow fire the windows of houses lining
the river in its curve toward the northeast. Far
away, a flash, perhaps from the golden lions of the
Pont Alexander III.
Paris of the Champs Elysees; Paris from the
Arc de Triomphe : That thrilling downward sweep
of pearly "hotels," veteran chestnut trees, and
avenue. The finger of the obelisk, poised against
the distant color-splashes of the Tuileries. Beauty
after the manner of the Bourbons and Bonapartes.
Sublimity created by a sweep of the scepter.
Paris of the Grand Boulevard: Buildings lacy
with gilt-lettered signs; windows flashing with
jewelry, perfumes, costumes, pictures; writhing
masses of people in gaudy uniforms or gaudier
gowns; arc-lights quivering red and yellow by
night and conveying their tints to the languid tree-
branches; tides of people chattering, murmuring,
shuffling; streams of motors, clashing, hooting;
cafes roaring, sparkling. A mild, indulgent moon
sailing over all.
Paris of the "left bank" : Crooked, tatterdema-
lion streets, concealed convent gardens, slim,
monocled studios, crack-brained huddles of roofs,
mansards, ruins; churches rotting behind hoard-
ings ; dim by-ways, green lanterns on the comers ;
gurgles of laughter and music.
Paris of the Seine : The essence of what is love-
liest and most mysterious in the Beautiful City.
Below there, below the parapet, "she" glides.
(The Seine is always "elle" to the Parisian.)
"She" glides by, rapid but solemn, infatuated with
herself. She wears satin, shading from blue to
black. "She" hurries under bridges, drifts rever-
ently past Notre Dame, boils proudly past the
Chambre des Deputes. And the grey houses seem
to bend over, Narcissus-like, to gaze into the pas-
No one can look back without emotion upon
these and manifold other things one has seen in
Paris. The Bautiful City lies there behind, a
receding spectacle, an interlude in the imperative
rhythm of life, to most people a memory like a
passing love affair.
Such a memory remains still in Josslyn's mind,
but blurred by his misery — ^for he was miserable.
He remembers journeys, conversations, meager
errands and half-hearted literary work of that
strange period. A few faces peer out spectrally
from the fog; a few glimpse of the beauty and
vivacity of the amazing capital remains with him,
strangely woven with black moods when he was
all but casting himself into the Seine. And there
was one day when he walked in the Luxembourg,
by accident, with France Herself; a girl of the
quarter who pitied him, spoke caressingly to him,
and nearly tempted him to fall in love with her,
and remain in Paris for life.
The Star smiled his wisest smile at this point in
"You should have seen," said he, "how the good
old fellow blinked when he let slip that glimpse of
his European experience. He shut himself up
quickly and switched to a description of Parisian
streets. And then he told me of a day he spent on
Montmartre hill, looking down over the magic
city, and imagining a leap into Hell. A different
sort of Hell from being city editor. This would
be a complete abandonment of duty, of effort, of
morals. It would be easy, he fancied, to walk
down into that valley of beckoning arms and
gaudy carnival and simply disappear. In a few
weeks or days, he would be buried under the tide
of pleasure. He would get drunk, and stay drunk.
He would cast anchor at Maxim's or the Hole in
the Wall, would hurl the last of his expense money
upon the table, and would swim in the prismatic
flood of booze until he sank. And at last,
exhausted, he would be cast upon some desolate
urban beach, finished, drowned."
Over and over, the Star tells me, this tempta-
tion came to Josslyn. It would have been a
cheerful ending, would it not, to the history of a
specially constructed optimist? Yet as one reviews
our friend's mental struggle, such a crisis as he
passed through seems inevitable. To be bred in
the belief that the world is altogether a safe and
beautiful place, to be shielded from the sorry
pageantry of cities, and then to have suddenly
spread before his eyes the real thing, is a shock
that would unsettle any intellect. There is nothing
new about it. It has happened to any number of
scholars, and to innumerable honest theological
students. It has even happened to newspaper
men. The majority of these last, however, are able
to shield their feelings in professional unconcern.
[213 3 DEADLINES
Their flashes of sympathy, though genuine, are
brief. They go home laughing, shutting off
instinctively the hideous kinetoscope of the day.
Now it may be guessed that on that day of his
fainting fit there had broken down in Josslyn — at
least for a while — the last supports of his faith
that "God's in His heaven." Physical depression
was piled upon mental. It had been a terrible day,
anyhow. I forgot to mention that it was "Black
Friday," when murderers are hanged. Always the
worst of all days for Josslyn; always days of
strain, of mental torment, of pity, and of anger.
Everything culminated in his collapse, which had
been preparing for weeks under his poise; the
collapse of his beliefs, his self-confidence, and his
sense of authority.
There would have been no use making sugges-
tions to the Old Man, but Europe was not the
place for Josslyn. Beside some peaceful lake, near
home, he might have recovered the illusions of
Happyville, at least in some degree. In Europe
he absorbed poisons from which he did not recover.
In that new and intoxicating atmosphere, alone
among thousands of fatalistic and indifferent peo-
ple, he listened to the messages that lead to
madness ; the messages : "Do what you like ; go to
Hell if you like; who cares?"
Imagine him lying awake in his hotel room in
the Latin Quarter, and thinking, thinking, think-
ing. Should he ever go back? If so, to what?
He is a failure. At home he has collapsed; col-
lapsed shamefully. Here he is supposed to write
things, and he cannot write them. He is adrift,
lost. He is quite as aimless as those drunkards,
or drug fiends, howling in the streets .... How
they howl! There is a woman who always comes
through Josslyn's street about midnight, shriek-
ing prayers, or curses .... One cannot under-
stand her. There is a sound of crashing boards
down at the wine-shop on the corner. There is a
scurrying of feet ; a flurry of insane laughter . . .
Paris is full of weird sounds. Its bells are
mournful. The clatter of its carts and tram-
wheels among the silent stone houses is strange.
Locomotive whistles have a piercing, puny, fading
note, terribly distressing. Eerie voices hover
among the mansards.
Josslyn is all alone, thinking, wondering.
Perhaps he goes upon the boulevards, there to
mingle with slow-moving promenaders, all — ^he
thinks — wearing a fatalistic grimace, an expres-
sion of "Do what you like ; who cares ?" In cafes
he sees throngs of people leaning over little tables,
people of all nationalities and types, mingled in
feverish carouse. And in the streets there is a
continuous, maddening tinkle, toot and swish,
which compared with the good-natured roar of
Josslyn's own city is like a crack-brained circus.
"Gay" Paris! Josslyn thought it sad. The
lavishness, the brilliant, the hoydenishness, the
"who cares?" of it all, smote him with a fancy
that he was sliding with it to a soft, sickening
And there was always the thought seeping into
his mind — maybe a transmission of thought from
the boulevardiers — "You have lived long enough ;
worked long enough. Rest and play here. Go on
to death with us. There's nothing in success.
There's no effort worth while. Work is a fetich,
and results — pooh, there are none !"
Sometimes he got out his portable typewriter
and wrote in his room ; wrote things that started
sanely enough, and trailed off always into mere
words. He threw away these writings. He never
sent a line from Europe. This is why the legend
of Josslyn's "trip abroad" has always been, in the
news-room, an illustration of failure. His adven-
ture has been unfavorably compared with the
odysseys of Sinful Goode, and the sage remark
always added : "It takes a certain type of man to
do foreign service." This was what was meant
in that cigar-store conversation, away back there.
I am glad to tell the truth as the Star learned
it from Josslyn.
IN the office, I recall, there had begun to be mur-
murs and rumors again. Murmurs because —
oh, we were merely human! — we didn't think "a
man should be kept on the pay roll indefinitely,
loafing in Europe." And there was considerable
wonder because Josslyn didn't write to us. Not
so much as a post-card. Campbell, who had the
Old Man's ear, carefully sounded him for news.
There was none. Josslyn hadn't written to the
Old Man himself. But Campbell obtained the mail
address of the absentee, and we all wrote to him.
We gave him the latest news of the news-room;
how Barlow had sprained his ankle, and Wade was
doing make-up; how Old Slater had finally quit;
how O'Toole, the photographer, had blown up the
chancel of a church with his flash-light. Then we
waited for a cheerful, brotherly answer from
Josslyn. None came.
One day, quite unexpectedly, we learned that he
was coming home. The rumor ran in no time from
news-room to composing room; from composing
room to cigar store. "Josslyn's coming back."
Brown added the detail: "And darn glad I'll be
to hand over his job." The office buzzed with
honest pleasure. We liked Brown — but we wanted
Now bulletins began coming in earnest. He had
sailed. He had reached New York. He was start-
ing wesward by twenty hour train. He was well.
We collaborated in a telegram : "Welcome home,
Boss. The city is pickling hell for you."
It was astonishing how much we talked about
this trifling matter, the return of Josslyn to the
news-room ; and also, how vividly we remembered
things about him. The figure that had for a while
[217 1 DEADLINES
been lost, that had become blurred by absence and
preoccupation, now lived again before us, quiet,
steady, and winsome. And we realized that we
had, inwardly, given up ever seeing him again.
We had accepted, in our fatalistic way, an
unspoken suspicion that he had left the paper
forever. Now there was no doubt of his return.
But no one should believe that we said things
such as I have written. No, the things said among
the desks were like this :
(From Brown) "I hope he's feeling strong and
ugly. I'm going to tell him what I think of this
(From Barlow) "111 take my vacation soon as
he gets here. Got it all fixed, boys."
(From Wade) "Fm going to put in my applica-
tion for a trip abroad. If he can go, I can."
(From the staff generally) "Soon as he gets
back, watch me strike for my raise. "They've
stalled me long enough."
It was not until much later that it was learned
that the Old Man had ordered Josslyn back;
ordered him back in three preemptory words.
It is only now that I am able to reveal — as those
pompous foreign correspondents say — that the Old
Man's cable reached Josslyn just as he was writing
a letter of resignation from the staff.
THE STAR has passed on to me Josslyn's
description of his homeward journey ; of how
he paced the deck, gazed out over limpid seas, and
flung away, bit by bit, the saffron fancies of his
sick time; how he wept when he entered New
York harbor; how he rushed home, with his face
glued to the car-window, gulping in every detail
of the American landscape. He could not sleep.
The night hours he spent in the smoking-compart-
ment, thinking, thinking, and adjusting himself
anew to the city, the office, the men; trying to
remember their faces; knowing that all that he
cared for was there, in the news-room.
The city drew near. The shoulders of sand-
dunes rose against the pale sky ; they gave way to
groups of wooden roofs, then to isolated, enormous
factory buildings, and to flocks of chimneys.
Silent, stolid, trains of freight-cars, oil-tanks, coal-
barges, slid past. Tall cranes appeared, gigantic,
foolish. Presently chimneys and roofs blended
into masses. A narrow river was crossed, reflect-
ing in its murky waters the masts of steamers.
A brief rush through a valley of narrow streets,
and there appeared the great, ghostly bodies of
the steel mills, wrapped in ruby clouds of smoke.
More streets ; long, straight streets, wheeling by ;
a tall spire, like a monument; glimpses of parks
and boulevards; then renewed chaos, upended
bridges, mournful limbs and shoulders of fac-
tories, and enormous, monotonous assemblages of
And at last he was among buildings fifteen
stories tall, and taller; buildings with dazzling
batteries of windows reflecting the morning sun.
From among them rose, to surprise him, the slim,
graceful body of a new hotel, with white stone
facings, and the peaks of many another new land-
mark. Above rose the old characteristic clouds of
smoke; and he could hear familiar voices, ear-
splitting sounds, mysterious mechanical wails and
groans. It was his own city again, his own bril-
liant, challenging, fascinating but fearsome city.
He looked upon its huge stone masses and its
radiance of a million windows with a height-
ened pulse, and yet with a sort of despair. He
had forgotten that it was all so gigantic. He had
forgotten its tremendous impact.
On the way to the office new fears shook him ;
new certainty that he was a failure. No question,
it was all gone, all that buoyancy with which he
had endured the city desk, and defied the city
When he reached the office, what should he do?
He did not know.
WE had wired : "The city's pickling hell for
you." And in fact, it had done just about
Events had started with a little strike of whole-
sale grocery clerks. Overnight, this petty griev-
ance had swollen into a walkout of truck
teamsters; and before anybody could catch his
breath all the "Jehus" had laid down the reins
and swarmed into the streets to make trouble.
The owners had sworn defiance, and had sent out
wagons, manned by gloomy-looking drivers and by
two policemen apiece, to "break the strike." The
usual result: chaos. On the day we telegraphed
Josslyn our welcome, wagons were being crippled
and burned in various places about town, and iso-
lated reports were coming in of strike-breakers
being stoned and chased down alleys. On the next
day the down-town district was just one solid riot.
Caravans of guarded wagons were being driven
through the main streets ; and the sidewalks were
pre-empted by mobs that followed these wagons
with imprecations, and worse. Right in front of
the city hall bricks flew like chaff ; a stray revolver
shot broke a window in the mayor's office ; a patrol
wagon was tipped over.
In front of our office, that day about ten o'clock,
the trouble came to a head. The mob concentrated
in the narrow street under our windows, and there
was a tempest of shooting, shouts, and unex-
plained crashes. Across the street we could see
the windows full of people, some merely gazing
curiously down, but others, I regret to say, throw-
ing ink-stands, chair-legs, and other missiles down
upon the police. One group of young devils on a
fire-escape poured boiling water on the back of a
team of horses, which proceeded to dash into the
crowd and mow down a few innocent by-standers.
Half of the staff was at the windows, enjoying the
spectacle, while the other half wrote descriptions
like mad, or scrawled head-lines for extras. Peo-
ple ran about yelling above the awful noise that
came in from the street. And at his big desk
Brown, with his collar off and his shirt open at the
neck, jumped up and down and side-wise, trying to
write "leads," answer telephones, and say "Yes,
sir; yes, sir" to the Old Man, all with the same
Into this bedlam suddenly came Josslyn.
We had almost forgotten him. Nobody had had
any time to gossip, to busy himself with absentees.
So Josslyn came in as though it were out of the
blue, instead of out of that murderous street. I
recall that he slipped in at the door of the news-
room, pretty quietly, set down his suit-case, and
drew his handkerchief across his forehead. A boy,
vaulting for the door with copy, nearly upset his
old Boss and never looked to see who it was. One
of the desk-men looked up and smiled. And
Josslyn just stood there, seeming a bit dazed and
out of place.
Pretty soon Brown had a breathing-space, bit
a piece from an unlit cigar and whirled around to
find the rightful owner of his desk standing there.
George jumped up with a "Well !" He held out his
hand, but just then his private telephone buzzed,
and he leaped to answer it. Josslyn, halted mid-
way of a greeting, looked more taken aback than
ever. He caught sight of me, and his eyes took
on that affectionate light that was so natural to
them; but he did not come forward. He hung
there by the door, with the strangest, timid,
baffled manner. I noticed now that he was more
carefully dressed than he used to be, and that
there was an odd deliberateness about his move-
The staff, by now, was beginning to wake up to
his presence. Two or three of the men started up
to shake hands, and a couple of new chaps stand-
ing near me whispered "That's Josslyn, used to
be city editor, you know." There might have been
quite a reception in a minute or two, had it not
been for the entrance of the Old Man. He came in
at long strides, and with a furious frown, and
with his hands full of proofs. Josslyn heard him
coming, and stepped to one side, and the Old Man
brushed by him heedlessly, his old specks flashing
"Look here. Brown, what do you mean by this
. . . . " was the beginning of the sentence he left
trailing in his path as he went by. There was a
buzz and clatter around the city desk for five min-
utes, during which we by-standers kept our noses
on our copy-reading or clattered our typewriters
dutifully. When I looked up from work Josslyn
That was all until afternoon, when I was told
there was something going on in the composing
room. I went out, and found a ring of printers
and editors gathered about the stone, from which
the last forms of the First Final had just been
slid to the stereotypers. The gang stood about
with grins and great brawny arms folded ; smeary
faced "galley boys" hung nearby, open-mouthed.
Big Jim, the foreman, was making a speech to
somebody. Through the ring I could just see the
slim form and quiet face of Josslyn. The face
was not only quiet; it was tired; and it was
dejected. He stood there with a sort of wistful
smile, a bashful shadow of a smile, his mouth
quivering with — well, I wouldn't swear that it was
a smile at all. And Big Jim was making a speech
of welcome, working in all the old bromides and
stale jokes appropriate to such an event. Josslyn
was always a tremendously popular man with the
Going back into the hall, I met Brown just com-
ing out of the Old Man's room. He seized me by
the shoulder, mysteriously.
"Look here," he said. "Don't tell anybody just
yet; but Josslyn isn't coming back to the desk."
He looked such a combination of ruefulness and
elation that I almost laughed.
"You're keeping the job, then?" I asked.
"Yes.'' We looked at each other, both thinking
of that figure, so like and yet so unlike our Josslyn
of old, who was being toasted at the stone.
"The Old Man says," Brown murmured confi-
dentially, "the Old Man says Josslyn is afraid to
take the desk again. Lost his nerve, he says. I
don't mean to tell anyone but you. Looks as
though I was knocking my predecessor, don't you
see? But, Harry, the gist of it is, Josslyn is
through .... Well, I must look after the late
WAS it fair to say he had "lost his nerve?"
You may judge from the interview as I
have it through the Star.
They were together in the Old Man's room, with
the door shut. The Old Man had done Josslyn the
honor to get out of his chair and shake hands
They looked into each other's faces, and they
concealed as best they could the affection born
years before, and always invulnerable to quarrels.
And the Old Man said :
"I've been thinking — you ought to have another
assistant. The paper's been growing. Job's too
much for one man and a greenhorn ... By the
way, I've been using your old desk sometimes.
You can have it back."
Josslyn made no reply. He sat staring at the
The Old Man wiped his glasses and went on,
with a change of mood :
"That crowd out there .... need somebody to
take hold of 'em. Brown's all right, but too calm ;
too calm. I can't shout at 'em all the time. Fm
getting old, Josslyn."
This could go no further. Josslyn said :
"Mr. Thain, please don't make plans — I can't go
back to the city desk."
The Old Man almost dropped his glasses. How-
ever, he managed to put them on, very cautiously,
and he favored Josslyn with one of his heavy
"I presume," he remarked at length, "that this
is one of your temperamental days. I remember
you used to have 'em. Poetry, poetry ! . . . Well,
that's all past and gone. You can't fool me, kid."
"No, Mr. Thain, I assure you that I "
"Assure me of nothing. You are city editor.
Tomorrow you take hold of the desk and the
assignment book. I we understand each other.
Been on the job too many years. I want you, first
of all, to give the pay-roll a good winnowing. It'll
Josslyn rose. (I am giving this exactly as he
told it to the Star.)
"Mr. Thain Fm sorry. You've always been
more than good to me."
His voice broke. He admits it.
"Don't be a baby !" The Old Man was furious.
He was beginning to believe Josslyn now, and he
was frightened — and grieved. "Don't blubber.
Just look the thing over. In the first place I
taught you the business. I built up a spine in
you, inch by inch. I — damn you — I half killed
you, but I made you. Now you come back here,
and you think you can slip out from under. No,
sir ! I say you can't. You can't treat me like that.
No human being would stand it/'
Josslyn was silent.
"There," went on the Old Man more mildly,
"you begin to see the point, don't you? Why, kid,
it wouldn't stand to reason that you would pass
me up, any more than I would pass you up. We've
been through too much together."
Josslyn said: "You don't suppose I want to
leave the paper? I wasn't thinking of that. I
don't want to quit ... I want a job writing, or
something ... I can't go back to the desk."
The Old Man thrust his hands in his pockets,
and leaned back in his chair. His face, Josslyn,
says, was a study in injured dignity, perplexity,
and wrath. But his eyes, when he turned them
Josslyn's way, had a softer glint, somehow. Was
it possible he was thinking of his own disappoint-
ments; of his own ambitions of years ago, when
very likely he had said the same thing to some-
body; that he wanted to be a writer, and not an
But his voice came cold.
"We don't need any writers. We need hard-
"Well, then, Mr. Thain, I resign/'
The Old Man glared, opened his mouth, but held
"How about the copy-desk?*' asked Josslyn,
after three minutes of ghastly silence.
"Talk to George Brown," snapped the Old Man.
"He's the city editor."
It was the beginning of his new relationship
with Josslyn, his relation of frigid business, shorn
of all personal touch.
It was the end of the great interview, of which
we knew so little at the time, and about which
Josslyn has never talked until the Star got it out
It was the beginning of Josslyn's final phase —
for he will never have another, in this news-room.
COMPREHENDING him now, I sometimes
watch this comrade at his work, and think:
"After all, is his fate so deplorable?" I think
also : "After all, perhaps the outcome was best for
George Brown is city editor. He is built for it.
Brown never falters, never doubts. He gives
orders and administers discipline with a fine air
He assails difficulties with quivering nostrils;
downs them, then laughs. There are few complex-
ities about Brown. It is ordained that he shall
have men under him like Josslyn ; that Josslyn, a
finer, keener spirit, shall take orders from a man
who never has wavered, as he himself wavered.
"Josslyn, read this quick, will you?*' "Hurry that
eight-column line, Josslyn." "I say, Josslyn, do
the make-up today, will you?" "Or, "Here's a
problem, Josslyn; what do you make of it?"
Josslyn? Why he can do anything; knows all
about the business. They say that he knows the
initials of every prominent citizen ; that his mind
is stored with useful details of past events; that
he can locate a classical quotation unerringly ; and
that he can tell you the capitals of even the French
colonies in Africa.
He isn't anybody; only Josslyn.
Well, then, shall we conclude that he is soured,
despondent, or bitter? Surely, we know him too
well to think that he is. The despair that seized
him ten years ago, the violent negation of his
youthful trust, the urge to taste death and Hell,
are gone. Ten years of quiet work at his profes-
sion have wrought a cure. He takes life now
without frenzies, without eagerness or illusions.
He is not to be fooled by ignes f atui ; nor is he to
be terrorized by scare-crows.
For him, it has settled down to this: He will
face what comes, and do what offers ; and always,
always, he will bear himself in this news-room so
as to encourage gladness and assuage unhappi-
ness. Titles, distinctions, jurisdiction — empty
He will be the best man he can in his little cir-
cle of the world ; the masters of larger circles are
welcome to them.
This, if you please, is his Career.
The Late Watch
IX O'CLOCK, and all's well. The
It has become dark by a slow
dropping of shade into the valley
where our building squats among
sky-scrapers. Lights burn in the
news-room; one illumines the city desk, others,
widely scattered among patches of darkness, beam
casually upon other desks. The day is really done.
But the day is stretching itself into a night.
Six o'clock. The Old Man, like a true sentinel,
thrusts his head in at the door, and perceives that
all is well. He wears a new and handsome derby
and is pink with barbering. He is going out, one
suspects. His glasses twinkle.
The Old Man takes a step into the room.
"You'd better go to dinner soon. Dunstane can
watch the 'phone while you're out .... A child
could let go the dummy anyhow ... I doubt if
he'll die before morning."
Josslyn appears to understand these cryptic
sentences. He stands by the city desk, newspaper
in hand, his shirt-sleeves gleaming snow-white in
the oblique radiance. His bearing is respectful,
but slightly indifferent.
"I'll see to everything," he says.
Barlow, passing through the room from his
locker, makes the floor creak with his heavy and
hurried stride. He looks strange with his coat on.
His hat clings to his large head in a sort of trepi-
dation. He is in great haste to catch his elevated
train, which passes the building at 6:03 exactly;
so that he flings to Josslyn a hurried farewell, and
he attacks the swinging-door impatiently, as
though it might frustrate him in getting away.
Following more tranquilly at his heels is a
reporter, Wallace, who fondles a cigarette and
pauses a few paces from Josslyn.
"Commiserations, old chap. Any news?"
"No, replies Josslyn. "He might live the night
out ; can't tell."
"How late you stuck?"
"Eleven o'clock — if nothing happens."
Wallace shrugs, lights his cigarette, departs.
Josslyn is left alone, except for Dunstane, the
Cub, who is sprawling at his desk, yawning, and
reading a moving picture magazine.
It is the Late Watch. Josslyn is in charge of
it, and the Cub is his staff. An august person, no
other than the governor of this, our state, lies
dying in the capital two hundred miles away.
Death, when it releases him, will release Josslyn
THE Late Watch. There hover about this insti-
tution suggestions of gloom, of boredom, of
mystery, of anticipation, of reflection. The Late
Watch is uncanny. It hints of the unusual, pos-
sibly the dreadful. One knows that there has been
a full day's work; a complete procession of the
ordinary episodes and crises of a day. There has
been a summing up and a final punctuation of all
that twelve hours could do. And yet there per-
sists an unfinished event, a shadow of probability,
so potent that here are Josslyn and his "staff,"
still on duty. The allegro of the day's action is to
have a coda — ^that is, if "he" dies. The city is now
hurrying home, weary, full-stuffed with impres-
sions and experiences. The street-cars and the
elevated trains are carrying home the crowds,
who throw off rapidly their interest in affairs.
The city is bound for sleep. But the city will
awaken again, will spring up alert, wondering,
regretful, voluble, if "he" dies. At least, this is
the theory of the Late Watch.
In the capital the august person lies on a carved
bedstead in the middle of a huge, high-ceilinged
chamber on the second floor of the "executive
mansion." He lies as though dead, barely breath-
ing. Each breath is an affair of state. It is noted
by physicians and secretaries. The words "he
still breathes" are passed out from the group of
physicians, narrow-eyed by the bed, to the secre-
taries who murmur and wait in the ante-chamber.
Reporters prowl around, murmuring with the
secretaries; and there are messengers who sit
against the wall, snoring into their caps; and in
a farther room, there are telegraph operators who
lounge in front of instruments, and listen to
strange, irrelevant messages as they pass. Thus
evening closes down over the capital, and over
the executive mansion, and in that domain also
there is a Late Watch.
The wires, hissing with divers things, and mak-
ing long, mysterious streaks over meadows and
along railroad tracks, connect the capital with
Josslyn's newspaper office, as with some hundreds
of others. Here in Josslyn's office there is a room
where a telegraph operator waits, half listening
to chatter from New York and Philadelphia, ready
to spring when there emerges the call that is for
his ear alone. From his chair the operator can
see through the open door Josslyn's gray head and
the contour of Josslyn's oval cheek, under the
desk-light. It will be ten strides only to Josslyn's
side. It will be a "quick flash."
Thus the two Late Watches are joined. There
is a chain of efficiency and professional pride all
the way from the sleepless physicians and the
nimble secretaries to our office and to Josslyn.
"Will *he' die? Will *he' live out the night?"
these questions are written huge both in the cap-
ital and here. But the answer is written else-
TN the face of this mystery, which is only
•■• artificially greater than the fate of some
dipsomaniac now dying in the county hospital, a
very notable calmness prevails in the news-room.
Josslyn sits reading. He has put on a pair of
horn-rimmed spectacles, which he wears for night
work only. He is held by his book; not a muscle
of his serious, youthfully-cast, but greying face
moves. Deliberately he turns pages ; thoughtfully
he absorbs the printed lines, missing none. After
all, it must be that what he is reading surpasses
in importance the question whether the governor
will die. A circle of electric light and a solemn
book form Josslyn's radius.
Dunstane, the Cub, is restless. He flicks the
pages of his magazine, and throws it away. He
discovers a deck of cards, and spreads them out
for solitaire. Abandoning this, he yawns twice,
with an impatient "yawp!" at the end, and
"Say Josslyn "
"How long do you think we'll be stuck?"
Before replying, Josslyn has to unfasten his
mind from the page.
"H — m? Oh, we're due to stay until eleven —
if nothing happens."
"Well, do you think the old beggar*ll last till
"How can I tell, kid?"
"Well, I thought there might be some late bul-
letin or something — my gosh, I didn't sign up for
this sort of stuff. If this is newspaper work,
gimme back my army job."
Josslyn is again deep in his book. The Cub
thrusts his hands into his poskets, and makes a
turn about the news-room, part of the way in
dance-step. Returning, apparently much bright-
ened, he says : "Say, Josslyn, did I tell you about
that girl that I — oh, you're reading."
Josslyn turns a page. The Cub walks away to
a window, over-looking the street. Down there
the stragglers in the army of home-going workers
are footing it to the street-cars, or waiting to
cross between the close procession of teams and
motor-cars. A cross-hatch of electric lights plays
among the crowds. The shadows are black and
eccentric. Above the roof-tops a huge sign flares
out: "The Wonder Theater."
It is all very gay, the Cub thinks. The burble of
the street comes to him softened, but winning.
[237 3 DEADLINES
He can hear the laughter of girls, the rough glad
warnings of teamsters from their howdahs, the
shriek of whistles at the crossing, the whole
entrancing, fluid voice of the city. It is going
somewhere. It is free.
But he, the Cub, is a prisoner.
He scowls at the clock on the wall ; the beastly,
crawling clock. He compares the clock fantas-
tically with "Old Josslyn," the stationary and
reconciled Josslyn, who can read, read, read while
a golden evening spreads its pageantry in the
streets. He is vexed with the idea that Josslyn
can so calmly await the Event, and the release.
Will he ever be like Josslyn? Good God, no!
There's got to be something happening when he's
around, you bet ! If it doesn't happen he'll make
it. This room, with its atmosphere of dead effort,
is intolerable .... Nothing to do ; nothing to do.
Supposing even that the "flash" comes, he will
accomplish nothing, unless to carry a message
somewhere. Josslyn will do it all . . . And what
if they wait until eleven o'clock, and no "flash"
comes? Worse and worse. Then they will have
waited for nothing at all ... .
During these reflections the Cub stretches his
powerful young arms, and rises on his toes, in
gymnastics. Suddenly he comes down on his
heels. The telegraph key is raining taps. The Cub
becomes rigid. He thrusts his head toward the
calm, moon-faced operator as the latter emerges
from his room. The Cub takes a step, and snatches
the message from the telegraph man, and reads :
"Bulletin : 6 :30 p. m.
Temperature, 101 ; pulse, 120 ; respiration, 32.
The Cub, scowling, conveys the yellow slip to
Josslyn's desk and lays it in front of him.
**There you are ; still alive."
Josslyn glances at the message ; nods.
"All right. Thanks."
The room is again silent, save for the clock-tick.
npHERE now sounds in the hall a clatter of
-*• clumsy feet, and a swashing sound. In a few
minutes a group of scrub- women, bearing pails,
push into the news-room, and go to work, quite
oblivious of Josslyn and the Cub. They are stout,
shapeless creatures, with lank hair piled on their
heads; and they murmur among themselves, in
some foreign tongue, gossip of their own world.
The Cub, with hands in his trousers pockets,
eyes the women with disgust. They slosh water
toward where Josslyn sits; they move furniture
about firmly and efficiently. At length they
advance upon Josslyn, and he is forced to get up,
with his finger in his book. Thus interrupted, he
percieves the Cub and his fevers. His eyes soften.
It's pretty hard to do nothing, isn't it?" says
he to his "staff." "Go out and smoke if you want
to. r can manage alone. Well, then," as the Cub
shakes his head, "stick around, and think of your
sins .... There's a lot of this sort of hum-drum
in the newspaper business." They perch side by
side upon an unmolested desk. "Wait until youVe
hung two days and nights for a verdict. Wait
till you've done a stunt at a national convention.
.... The Late Watch was invented to prove the
whimsicality of events; in other words, the fact
that no law, nor any human control, rules News.
You take it as it comes. You wait."
(The Cub will say tomorrow : "You ought to've
heard the string of philosophical bunk Josslyn
"I've been reading history," goes on the elder
man. "History tells you how there are long grey
days and nights while an event piles up, and then
comes the event, like a lightning stroke ; and there
is a roll of thunder ; then the monotonous rumble
of ordinary affairs goes on again. The big men of
history were always there to deal the lightning-
stroke — or to get struck. That's newspaper work ;
you're there, or else you aren't."
Josslyn smiles, and, folding his arms, gazes
about the news-room — scene of all his achieve-
"I suppose so," returns the Cub aimlessly.
There is a diversion. The Drunkard enters,
involving himself quaintly with the outgoing
D EADLINES ijmj
scrubwomen and their pails. Making a successful
detour, he approaches Josslyn and the Cub. His
expression is demure, but a satanic twinkle as of
triumph — or maybe of strategy — dwells in his
black eyes. He is not very drunk.
"Is th' — th' old beezer — dead yet?" he inquires,
clutching the edge of a desk.
"No," returns Josslyn shortly.
"Can I — can I — do anything for you?"
"No," Josslyn does not turn his head.
The Drunkard looks reproachfully at Josslyn,
perceives he is implacable, and sits down outside
the circle of electric light. And he grins weakly
at the Cub, as though he would address him. But
he recalls in time that he owes him money.
Another diversion. A printer, wearing a leather
apron and huge shoes slashed to ease his feet,
shambles in from the corridor. He is well on in
middle age, deliberate of movement, and wears
the aspect of a professional buffoon. He waves a
blackened hand at the Drunkard, glances about
the desks for newspapers which he may purloin,
and at last addresses Josslyn :
"So he ain't dead yet?"
"Not yet, Billy."
"Well .... I was wondering if I could go to
There is a brief dialogue about ways and means
which postpones the printer's design of going to
dinner. In the meantime another man has
entered the room. He is a deep-chested bullock
with a countenance both determined and good-
humored. He walks in with a solid tread very
much like the Old Man's ; and in fact he belongs
to the Old Man's generation of never-say-die.
"Well, ain't the governor goin' to kick in
tonight, after all?" is his paraphrase of the
Josslyn merely smiles.
The stout man seats himself as though it were
his first pause that day. And perhaps it is, for
he works in the depths of the building, watching
the streams of papers as they come from the
presses and directing the flow into wagons and
trucks. He is "the mailing-room boss," who, it
is said, never sits down.
"What say we start a little game?" he grins.
The Cub and the Drunkard look alive, but
Josslyn shakes his head, with, "You know the
Old Man barred it the last time."
The mailing-room boss shrugs his fleshy shoul-
ders, but drops the subject.
"Well, it's many a late watch you and Fve had
together," he remarks to Josslyn. "Do you
remember the time we hung out for the Pope's
death ten years ago? And things got balled up,
too. You flashed me over the 'phone Tope dead,*
sure as you're bom; and we started th' paper
out with a whoop. Two seconds, and there were
you on the 'phone again. 'Kill 'em,' says you. I
remember how your voice sounded."
"Ai^d I remember how you swore/' counters
"We got back all but about three hundred
papers, though," says the mailing-room man,
smacking his lips at the memory of that battle.
"The Old Man never heard about it till weeks
The Cub's eyes grow bright and wondering at
these memoirs. The Drunkard now snores.
"Speakin* of long chances and all that," pipes
up the printer, "I was a boy in the old Times
office when Grant died. I remember the night
darn well, bet you. We was on all night, an' the
gang played seven-up. Well, sir, I'll never forget
it. It got toward morning, and I remember old
Poison Green, foreman in them days, was a dol-
lar an' a quarter to the bad. Hadn't been for that
I reckon we'd 'a broke up the watch. But we had
a wire strung to — ^to— where was it Grant died ?"
"Mount McGregor," someone prompts.
"Yes, an' we had a full first page made up an'
stereotyped. Well, it got on toward mornin', and
there was Green an' Foxy Dunlap, the editor, and
a telegraph operator there. The wire was sput-
terin' away in the other room. Suddenly, just as
Green starts to rake in a pot that would 'a put
him even, the operator pricks up his head, like a
horse, and he jumps up and hollers: 'Grant's
dead!' 'n Poison Green gives a whoop and heads
for th' composin' room, and Dunlap goes an'
whistles down th* tube to th' mailin' room, and
only after they'd let the paper go did they think
to ask what the operator knew about it all, and
then they find he'd only heard a flash goin' over
the wire, an' it might be true, an' it mightn't.
But it turned out all right "
"Come, Billy," says Josslyn. "You don't mean
to say they let the extra go on a message for some
"It might 'a been for some other paperi It
might 'a been for th' governor o' Timbuctoo. Any-
ways, they let 'er go, and they scooped the town.
But old Poison Green never did collect all of that
There is mild laughter over this ; then yawns,
and a stretching of arms. Josslyn alone is
thoughtful, wide-awake. He says to the mailing-
room boss, "You got that dummy plate all safe
"Nobody can release it but me," returns the
boss, surveying his big fist. "If they did, they'd
get killed — or worse."
(Even the Cub understands that a dummy plate
is a prepared page, stereotyped, ready for the
"He'll hang on till morning," predicts the mail-
ing-room man, wagging his head. "Them politi-
cians are tough."
He and the printer stroll out of the room,
muttering. The Cub obtains permission to eat
dinner. The Drunkard follows him into the hall,
waveringly. Josslyn is left alone.
ALONE, he is suddenly the prey of nervous
forebodings. That was only his shell that
the Cub saw him in. Within the shell he is a
ganglion of emotions, foresights and fears.
Though he **hung out" for a thousand verdicts
and kept late watches on a thousand death-beds,
he would ever be the same. The mere presence of
the incalculable works upon his brain; the con-
sciousness of an approaching "flashV sets up a
painful tingle of dread.
He paces the room slowly, angry with himself.
Surely, he has faced this sort of responsibility
often enough. By now he should be able to apply
the fatalism of the profession ; he should be hard-
ened, and should say "I don't care a damn."
Indeed, he pretends that he doesn't care. He says
to himself: "What if something did go wrong?
Suppose I did let go the extra before the governor
died? I shouldn't die of it myself, should I?"
But this thought only makes him aware that he
would care, terribly. He would — ^he would resign
next morning, of course; he would leave town,
that he would. He would bury himself and his
humiliation in oblivion.
[2453 : DEADLINES
Well, what can go wrong? How can anything
possibly go wrong? "Let's see," he reasons, pacing
the floor: "The operator will get the flash; he'll
write it out, must have him write it out ; then a
telephone call to the mailing-room, and" — ^that
ends Josslyn's responsibility. Simple. Inevitable.
But — ^the correspondent at the capital might
blunder. Josslyn might get his tongue twisted at
the telephone. Something .... the queerest
things have been known to occur in these Late
Watches. Everybody keyed to a high pitch.
Everybody inclined to gamble ....
He pulls himself together. But he cannot
return to his book ; nor can he maintain any defi-
nite flow of thought. The mystery is greater than
that merely of "When will he die?" The sense of
helplessness before this or any other unfinished
event is overpowering. The whole thing is part of
the great veil which Life draws over profound
matters, and with which it mocks men and at the
same time perpetuates them. Josslyn is helpless
before it. His grasp on simple, ordinary ideas is
disorganized. As he stands at the window, spec-
tator of the night where dwell thousands of
creatures, as helpless as he, his fingers are a little
clenched, his face frowns, "When— when will it
But this is newspaper work. Would he exchange
it for the dull certainty of a book-keeper's desk?
No, though it may wreck him some day, though
it' almost certainly leads to failure and can
scarcely lead, even for a day, to glory, this is bet-
ter than the work which one can control by certain
processes, and fold away in a pigeon-hole. No!
Face out the eccentric future, breast the chances
of success or disgrace: This is worth many a
Thus in the complex soul of Josslyn there rises
the courage of a gamester with life, challenging
and making way against the weakness of sick
Suddenly he whirls. The operator has spoken.
Or did he speak? The long half -dark news-
room is full of phantoms, of eerie voices.
"It's all right," calls the operator from his
room. "I thought I got the flash. It was a
Josslyn turns again to the window. The sky,
sallow with electric flares, is ghostly. The roof-
tops, outlined against it, are broken into turmoil,
like waves. A turmoil of things guessed.
THERE is a step in the room and Josslyn, turn-
ing, beholds the Star, who walks rapidly to
the mail-box, finds a letter, and leaves the room
as quickly as he entered it. Josslyn would have
liked him to stay, for the Star is cheerful com-
pany, and he knows nothing of responsibility and
its tremors. But the Star is only passing through.
arjd the scent of his cigarette, smoked in despite
of rules, is all that remains of him.
Josslyn falls to thinking of his comrades; not
only of the Star, but of the incorrigible Drunkard,
and the comic Cub; of the globe-trotting Goode,
now somewhere on a rolling sea ; of Barlow, sweet-
tempered and gruff -spoken ; of Brown, the young
city editor, and Emmett, the pervasive news edi-
tor ; of Campbell, the philosopher, and of the grey
Poet; of the Old Man, who has never quite
forgiven Josslyn, yet cherishes him ; and of all the
others, notable or not, the quick-silver company of
the news-room, bound together in a great pride of
work, but expressing it in growls and barks of
Others besides the men of the news-room come
to Josslyn's mind. He thinks of the intent com-
positors at their linotypes, the grave, leisurely
printers in the "ad-room." He remembers with
sympathy and fondness certain stereotypers,
elderly men perhaps, clad in smeared overalls,
grey-faced with early rising. His fancy descends
to the depths, among the proud, vociferous
presses, and embraces the big-handed fellows who
jovially control the cylinders. And he thinks with
a blend of pity and humor of the aged "infor-
mation man" in the hall, snow-bearded, puncti-
lious, and humble. He remembers many a sharp-
eyed, swaggering driver of wagons or trucks, men
who drive in all weathers, and always arrive.
And he thinks even of spinsterly book-keepers in
the business office, doing a man's work. And he
regards with particular affection the taciturn old
fellow who runs the elevator, up and down, up and
down .... There is no end to their number,
bowed or bustling at the common task, all through
the rooms, corridors, basements of the Press
building; these people who move incessantly, like
Josslyn himself, slaves of the clock.
His regard for these people is very great. Yes,
he is among friends, day and night. "What more
can a man ask ? He thinks, "Perhaps there is some
of all these people in me. I must have absorbed a
bit from all, during these years."
And above this, there is the inexplicable bond
that holds him to the paper itself; there is his
curious affection for an inanimate mass of pulp —
the paper. He will fight for it, not for himself.
He will not let it stumble. It
Yes: "Governor dead!"
The operator bounds from his chair. He has
scrawled the two words. Josslyn, on a quick
stride, snatches the paper. He travels the room
in leaps, and deftly lifts the telephone receiver.
There is a tremendous second of waiting, then :
"George! Let 'er go! Governor dead!"
In the moments while he dashed down the room,
in that instant at the telephone, he has thought
[249 3 DEADLINES
of nothing, he has had not a single tremor ; action
has sublimated the doubting Josslyn.
He stands beside the desk, mentally numb. The
flash has come, the dreaded moment has passed,
as softly and nonchalantly as a drop of rain. The
silent room belies the fact that the clouds have
emitted a bolt. The clock-hands seem to stand
But presently there is a thunder from below, a
churning of mighty monsters. And there come up,
distantly, from the streets the wails of newsboys,
crying the tidings that the august person breathes
And the Cub, entering a moment later, finds
SO it goes, the dim procession of days and
nights, illumined by great flares from the
world beyond. The presses roar endlessly, in time
with the eternity of news.
Typography and Printing by Printing Sennce Company,
Electrotypes by Simpson-Bevans Company, Chicag
Binding by The Engdahl Bindery, Chicago
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY