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   Chapter 10 IN THE WAY OF TRADE

The Clarion By Samuel Hopkins Adams Characters: 23188

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Dr. Surtaine sat in Little George's best chair, beaming upon the world. By habit, the big man was out of his seat with his dime and nickel in the bootblack's ready hand, almost coincidently with the final clip-clap of the rhythmic process. But this morning he lingered, contemplating with an unobtrusive scrutiny the occupant of the adjoining chair, a small, angular, hard man, whose brick-red face was cut off in the segment of an abrupt circle, formed by a low-jammed green hat. This individual had just briskly bidden his bootblack "hurry it up" in a tone which meant precisely what it said. The youth was doing so.

"George," said Dr. Surtaine, to the proprietor of the stand.

"Yas, suh."

"Were you ever in St. Jo, Missouri?"

"Yas, suh, Doctah Suhtaine; oncet."

"For long?"

"No, suh."

"Didn't live there, did you?"

"No, suh."

"George," said his interlocutor impressively, "you're lucky."

"Yas, suh," agreed the negro with a noncommittal grin.

"While you can buy accommodations in a graveyard or break into a penitentiary, don't you ever live in St. Jo Missouri, George."

The man in the adjacent seat half turned toward Dr. Surtaine and looked him up and down, with a freezing regard.

"It's the sink-hole and sewer-pipe of creation, George. They once elected a chicken-thief mayor, and he resigned because the town was too mean to live in. Ever know any folks there, George?"

"Don't have no mem'ry for 'em, Doctah."

"You're lucky again. They're the orneriest, lowest-down, minchin', pinchin', pizen trash that ever tainted the sweet air of Heaven by breathing it, George."

"You don' sesso, Doctah Suhtaine, suh."

"I do sess precisely so, George. Does the name McQuiggan mean anything to you?"

"Don' mean nothin' at-tall to me, Doctah."

"You got away from St. Jo in time, then. Otherwise you might have met the McQuiggan family, and never been the same afterward."

"Ef you don' stop youah feet a-fidgittin', Boss," interpolated the neighboring bootblack, addressing the green-hatted man in aggrieved tones, "I cain't do no good wif this job."

"McQuiggan was the name," continued the volunteer biographer. "The best you could say of the McQuiggans, George, was that one wasn't much cusseder than the others, because he couldn't be. Human nature has its limitations, George."

"It suttinly have, suh."

"But if you had to allow a shade to any of 'em, it would probably have gone to the oldest brother, L.P. McQuiggan. Barring a scorpion I once sat down on while in swimming, he was the worst outrage upon the scheme of creation ever perpetrated by a short-sighted Providence."

"Get out of that chair!"

The little man had shot from his own and was dancing upon the pavement.

"What for?" Dr. Surtaine's tone was that of inquiring innocence.

"To have your fat head knocked off."

With impressive agility for one of his size and years, the challenged one descended. He advanced, "squared," and suddenly held out a muscular and plump hand.

"Hullo, Elpy."

"Huh?"

The other glared at him, baleful and baffled.

"Hullo, I said. Don't you know me?"

"No, I don't. Neither will your own family after I get through with you."

"Come off, Elpy; come off. I licked you once in the old days, and I guess I could do it now, but I don't want to. Come and have a drink with old Andy."

"Andy? Andy the Spieler? Andy Certain?"

"Dr. L. André Surtaine, at your service. Now, will you shake?"

Still surly, Mr. McQuiggan hung back. "What about that roast?" he demanded.

"Wasn't sure of you. Twenty years is a long time. But I knew if it was you you'd want to fight, and I knew if you didn't want to fight it wasn't you. I'll buy you one in honor of the best little city west of the Mississip, and the best bunch of sports that ever came out of it, the McQuiggans of St. Jo, Missouri. Does that go?"

"It goes," replied the representative of the family concisely.

Across the café table Dr. Surtaine contemplated his old acquaintance with friendly interest.

"The same old scrappy Elpy," he observed. "What's happened to you, since you used to itinerate with the Iroquois Extract of Life?"

"Plenty."

"You're looking pretty prosperous."

"Have to, in my line."

"What is it?"

Mr. McQuiggan produced a card, with the legend:-

McQuiggan & Straight

STREAKY MOUNTAIN COPPER COMPANY

Orsten, Palas County, Nev.

L.P. MCQUIGGAN ARTHUR STRAIGHT

President Vice-Pres. & Treas.

"Any good?" queried the Doctor.

"Best undeveloped property in the State."

"Why don't you develop it?"

"Capital."

"Get the capital."

"Will you help me?"

"Sure."

"How?"

"Advertise."

"Advertising costs money."

"And brings two dollars for every one you spend."

"Maybe," retorted the other, with a skeptical air. "But my game is still talk."

"Talk gets dimes; print gets dollars," said his friend sententiously.

"You have to show me."

"Show you!" cried the Doctor. "I'll write your copy myself."

"You will? What do you know about mining?"

"Not a thing. But there isn't much I don't know about advertising. I've built up a little twelve millions, plus, on it. And I can sell your stock like hot cakes through the 'Clarion.'"

"What's the 'Clarion'?"

"My son's newspaper."

"Thereby keeping the graft in the family, eh?"

"Don't be a fool, Elpy. I'm showing you profits. Besides doing you a good turn, I'd like to bring in some new business to the boy. Now you take half-pages every other day for a week and a full page Sunday-"

"Pages!" almost squalled the little man. "D'you think I'm made of money?"

"Elpy," said Dr. Surtaine, abruptly, "do you remember my platform patter?"

"Like the multiplication table."

"Was it good?"

"Best ever!"

"Well, I'm a slicker proposition with a pen than I ever was with a spiel. And you're securing my services for nothing. Come around to the office, man, and let me show you."

Still suspicious, Mr. McQuiggan permitted himself to be led away, expatiating as he went, upon the unrivaled location and glorious future of his mining property. From time to time, Dr. Surtaine jotted down an unostentatious note.

The first view of the Certina building dashed Mr. McQuiggan's suspicions; his inspection of his old friend's superb office slew them painlessly.

"Is this all yours, Andy? On the level? Did you do it all on your own?"

"Every bit of it! With my little pen-and-ink. Take a look around the walls and you'll see how."

He seated himself at his desk and proceeded to jot down, with apparent carelessness, but in broad, sweeping lines, a type lay-out, while his guest passed from advertisement to advertisement, in increasing admiration. Before Old Lame-Boy he paused, absolutely fascinated.

"I thought that'd get you," exulted the host, who, between strokes of the creative pen had been watching him.

"I've seen it in the newspaper, but never connected it with you. Being out of the medical line I lost interest. Say, it's a wonder! Did it fetch 'em?"

"Fetch 'em? It knocked 'em flat. That picture's the foundation of this business. Talk about suggestion in advertising! He's a regular hypnotist, Old Lame-Boy is. Plants the suggestion right in the small of your back, where we want it. Why, Elpy, I've seen a man walk up to that picture on a bill-board as straight as you or me, take one good, long look, and go away hanging onto his kidneys, and squirming like a lizard. Fact! What do you think of that? Genius, I call it: just flat genius, to produce an effect like that with a few lines and a daub or two of color."

"Some pull!" agreed Mr. McQuiggan, with professional approval. "And then-'Try Certina,' eh?"

"For a starter and, for a finisher 'Certina Cures.' Shoves the bottle right into their hands. The first bottle braces 'em. They take another. By the time they've had half a dozen, they love it."

"Booze?"

"Sure! Flavored and spiced up, nice and tasty. Great for the temperance trade. And the best little repeater on the market. Now take a look, Elpy."

He tapped the end of his pen upon the rough sketch of the mining advertisement, which he had drafted. Mr. McQuiggan bent over it in study, and fell a swift victim to the magic of the art.

"Why, that would make a wad of bills squirm out of the toe of a stockin'! It's new game to me. I've always worked the personal touch. But I'll sure give it a try-out, Andy."

"I guess it's bad!" exulted the other. "I guess I've lost the trick of tolling the good old dollars in! Take this home and try it on your cash register! Now, come around and meet the boy."

Thus it was that Editor-in-Chief Harrington Surtaine, in the third week of his incumbency received a professional call from his father, and a companion from whose pockets bulged several sheets of paper.

"Shake hands with Mr. McQuiggan, Hal," said the Doctor. "Make a bow when you meet him, too. He's your first new business for the reformed 'Clarion.'"

"In what way?" asked Hal, meeting a grip like iron from the stranger. "News?"

"News! I guess not. Business, I said. Real money. Advertising."

"It's like this, Mr. Surtaine," said L.P. McQuiggan, turning his spare, hard visage toward Hal. "I've got some copper stock to sell-an A1 under-developed proposition; and your father, who's an old pal, tells me the 'Clarion' can do the business for me. Now, if I can get a good rate from you, it's a go."

"Mr. Shearson, the advertising manager, is your man. I don't know anything about advertising rates."

"Then you'd best get busy and learn," cried Dr. Surtaine.

"I'm learning other things."

"For instance?"

"What news is and isn't."

"Look here, Boyee." Dr. Surtaine's voice was surcharged with a disappointed earnestness. "Put yourself right on this. News is news; any paper can get it. But advertising is Money. Let your editors run the news part, till you can work into it. You get next to the door where the cash comes in."

In the fervor of his advice he thumped Hal's desk. The thump woke McGuire Ellis, who had been devoting a spare five minutes to his favorite pastime. For his behoof, the exponent of policy repeated his peroration. "Isn't that right, Ellis?" he cried. "You're a practical newspaper man."

"It's true to type, anyway," grunted Ellis.

"Sure it is!" cried the other, too bent on his own notions to interpret this comment correctly. "And now, what about a little reading notice for McQuiggan's proposition?"

"Yes: an interview with me on the copper situation and prospects might help," put in McQuiggan.

Hal hesitated, looking to Ellis for counsel.

"You've got to do something for an advertiser on a big order like this, Boyee," urged his father.

"Let's see the copy," put in Ellis. The trained journalistic eye ran over the sheets. "Lot of gaudy slush about copper mines in general," he observed, "and not much information on Streaky Mountain."

"It's an undeveloped property," said McQuiggan.

"Strong on geography," continued Ellis. "'In the immediate vicinity,'" he read from one sheet, "'lie the Copper Monarch Mine paying 40 per cent dividends, the Deep Gulch Mine, paying 35 per cent, the Three Sisters, Last Chance, Alkali Spring Mines, all returning upwards of 25 per cent per annum: and immediately adjacent is the famous Strike-for-the-West property which enriches its fortunate stockholders to the tune of 75 per cent a year!' Are you on the same range as the Strike-for-the-West, Mr. McQuiggan?"

"It's an adjacent property," growled the mining man. "What

d'you know about copper?"

"Oh, I've seen a little mining, myself. And a bit of mining advertising. That's quite an ad. of yours, McQuiggan."

"I wrote that ad.," said Dr. Surtaine blandly: "and I challenge anybody to find a single misstatement in it."

"You're safe. There isn't any. And scarcely a single statement. But if you wrote it, I suppose it goes."

"And the interview, too," rasped McQuiggan.

"It's usual," said Ellis to Hal. "The tail with the hide: the soul with the body, when you're selling."

"But we're not selling interviews," said Hal uneasily.

"You're getting nearly a thousand dollars' worth of copy, and giving a bonus that don't cost you anything," said his father. "The papers have done it for me ever since I've been in business."

"I guess that's right, too," agreed Ellis.

"Why don't you take McQuiggan down to meet your Mr. Shearson, Hal?" suggested the Doctor. "I'll stay here and round out a couple of other ideas for his campaign."

Hal had risen from his desk when there was a light knock at the door and Milly Neal's bright head appeared.

"Hullo!" said Dr. Surtaine. "What's up? Anything wrong at the shop, Milly?"

The girl walked into the room and stood trimly at ease before the four men.

"No, Chief," said she. "I understood Mr. Surtaine wanted to see me."

"I?" said Hal blankly, pushing a chair toward her.

"Yes. Didn't you? They told me you left word for me in the city room, to see you when I came in again. Sometimes I send my copy, so I only just got the message."

"Miss Neal is 'Kitty the Cutie,'" explained McGuire Ellis.

"Looks it, too," observed L.P. McQuiggan jauntily, addressing the upper far corner of the room.

Miss Neal looked at him, met a knowing and conscious smile, looked right through the smile, and looked away again, all with the air of one who gazes out into nothingness.

"Guess I'll go look up this Shearson person," said Mr. McQuiggan, a trifle less jauntily. "See you all later."

"I'd no notion you were the writer of the Cutie paragraphs, Milly," said Dr. Surtaine. "They're lively stuff."

"Nobody has. I'm keeping it dark. It's only a try-out. You did send for me, didn't you?" she added, turning to Hal.

"Yes. What I had in mind to say to you-that is, to the author-the writer of the paragraphs," stumbled Hal, "is that they're a little too-too-"

"Too flip?" queried his father. "That's what makes 'em go."

"If they could be done in a manner not quite so undignified," suggested the editor-in-chief.

Color rose in the girl's smooth cheek. "You think they're vulgar," she charged.

"That's rather too harsh a word," he protested.

"You do! I can see it." She flushed an angry red. "I'd rather stop altogether than have you think that."

"Don't be young," put in McGuire Ellis, with vigor. "Kitty has caught on. It's a good feature. The paper can't afford to drop it."

"That's right," supplemented Dr. Surtaine. "People are beginning to talk about those items. They read 'em. I read 'em myself. They've got the go, the pep. They're different. But, Milly, I didn't even know you could write."

"Neither did I," said the girl staidly, "till I got to putting down some of the things I heard the girls say, and stringing them together with nonsense of my own. One evening I showed some of it to Mr. Veltman, and he took it here and had it printed."

"I was going to suggest, Mr. Surtaine," said McGuire Ellis formally, "that we put Miss Kitty on the five-dollar-a-column basis and make her an every-other-day editorial page feature. I think the stuff's worth it."

"We can give it a trial," said his principal, a little dubiously, "since you think so well of it."

"Then, Milly, I suppose you'll be quitting the shop to become a full-fledged writer," remarked Dr. Surtaine.

"No, indeed, Chief." The girl smiled at him with that frank friendliness which Hal had noted as informing every relationship between Dr. Surtaine and the employees of the Certina plant. "I'll stick. The regular pay envelope looks good to me. And I can do this work after hours."

"How would it be if I was to put you on half-time, Milly?" suggested her employer. "You can keep your department going by being there in the mornings and have your afternoons for the writing."

The girl thanked him demurely but with genuine gratitude.

"Then we'll look for your copy here on alternate days," said Hal. "And I think I'll give you a desk. As this develops into an editorial feature I shall want to keep an eye on it and to be in touch with you. Perhaps I could make suggestions sometimes."

She rose, thanking him, and Hal held open the door for her. Once again he felt, with a strange sensation, her eyes take hold on his as she passed him.

"Pretty kid," observed Ellis. "Veltman is crazy about her, they say."

"Good kid, too," added Dr. Surtaine, emphasizing the adjective. "You might tell Veltman that, whoever he is."

"Tell him, yourself," retorted Ellis with entire good nature. "He isn't the sort to offer gratuitous information to."

Upon this advice, L.P. McQuiggan re?ntered. "All fixed," said he, with evident satisfaction. "We went to the mat on rates, but Shearson agreed to give me some good reading notices. Now, I'll beat it. See you to-night, Andy?"

Dr. Surtaine nodded. "You owe me a commission, Boyee," said he, smiling at Hal as McQuiggan made his exit. "But I'll let you off this time. I guess it won't be the last business I bring in to you. Only, don't you and Ellis go looking every gift horse too hard in the teeth. You might get bit."

"Shut your eyes and swallow it and ask no questions, if it's good, eh, Doctor?" said McGuire Ellis. "That's the motto for your practice."

"Right you are, my boy. And it's the motto of sound business. What is business?" he continued, soaring aloft upon the wings of a P?an of Policy. "Why, business is a deal between you and me in which I give you my goods and a pleasant word, and you give me your dollar and a polite reply. Some folks always want to know where the dollar came from. Not me! I'm satisfied to know that its coming to me. Money has wings, and if you throw stones at it, it'll fly away fast. And you want to remember," he concluded with the fervor of honest conviction, "that a newspaper can't be quite right, any more than a man can, unless it makes its own living. Well. I'm not going to preach any more. So long, boys."

"What do you think of it, Mr. Surtaine?" inquired McGuire Ellis, after the lecturer had gone his way. "Pretty sound sense, eh?"

"I wonder just what you mean by that, Ellis. Not what you say, certainly."

But Ellis only laughed and turned to his "flimsy."

Meantime the editor of the "Clarion" was being quietly but persistently beset by another sermonizer, less cocksure of text than the Sweet Singer of Policy, but more subtle in influence. This was Miss Esmé Elliot. Already, the half-jocular partnership undertaken at the outset of their acquaintance had developed into a real, if somewhat indeterminate connection. Esmé found her new acquaintance interesting both for himself and for his career. Her set in general considered the ripening friendship merely "another of Esmé's flirtations," and variously prophesied the dénouement. To the girl's own mind it was not a flirtation at all. She was (she assured herself) genuinely absorbed in the development of a new mission in which she aspired to be influential. That she already exercised a strong sway of personality over Hal Surtaine, she realized. Indeed, in the superb confidence of her charm, she would have been astonished had it been otherwise. Just where her interest in the newly adventured professional field ended, and in Harrington Surtaine, the man, began, she would have been puzzled to say. Kathleen Pierce had bluntly questioned her on the subject.

"Yes, of course I like him," said Esmé frankly. "He's interesting and he's a gentleman, and he has a certain force about him, and he's"-she paused, groping for a characterization-"he's unexpected."

"What gets me," said Kathleen, in her easy slang, "is that he never pulls any knighthood-in-flower stuff, yet you somehow feel it's there. Know what I mean? There's a scrapper behind that nice-boy smile."

"He hasn't scrapped with me, yet, Kathie," smiled the beauty.

"Don't let him," advised the other. "It mightn't be safe. Still, I suppose you understand him by now, down to the ground."

"Indeed I do not. Didn't I tell you he was unexpected? He has an uncomfortable trick," complained Miss Elliot, "just when everything is smooth and lovely, of suddenly leveling those gray-blue eyes of his at you, like two pistols. 'Throw up your hands and tell me what you really mean!' One doesn't always want to tell what one really means."

"Bet you have to with him, sooner or later," returned her friend.

This conversation took place at the Vanes' al fresco tea, to which Hal came for a few minutes, late in the afternoon of his father's visit with McQuiggan, mainly in the hope of seeing Esmé Elliot. Within five minutes after his arrival, Worthington society was frowning, or smiling, according as it was masculine or feminine, at their backs, as they strolled away toward the garden. Miss Esmé was feeling a bit petulant, perhaps because of Kathie Pierce's final taunt.

"I think you aren't living up to our partnership," she accused.

"Is it a partnership, where one party is absolute slave to the other's slightest wish?" he smiled.

"There! That is exactly it. You treat me like a child."

"I don't think of you as a child, I assure you."

"You listen to all I say with pretended deference, and smile and-and go your own way with inevitable motion."

"Wherein have I failed in my allegiance?" asked Hal, courteously concerned. "Haven't we published everything about all the charities that you're interested in?"

"Oh, yes. So far as that goes. But the paper itself doesn't seem to change any. It's got the same tone it always had."

"What's wrong with its tone?" The eyes were leveled at her now.

"Speaking frankly, it's tawdry. It's lurid. It's-well, yellow."

"A matter of method. You're really more interested, then, in the way we present news than in the news we present."

"I don't know anything about news, itself. But I don't see why a newspaper run by a gentleman shouldn't be in good taste."

"Nor do I. Except that those things take time. I suppose I've got to get in touch with my staff before I can reform their way of writing the paper."

"Haven't you done that yet?"

"I simply haven't had time."

"Then I'll make you a nice present of a very valuable suggestion. Give a luncheon to your employees, and invite all the editors and reporters. Make a little speech to them and tell them what you intend to do, and get them to talk it over and express opinions. That's the way to get things done. I do it with my mission class. And, by the way, don't make it a grand banquet at one of the big hotels. Have it in some place where the men are used to eating. They'll feel more at home and you'll get more out of them."

"Will you come?"

"No. But you shall come up to the house and report fully on it."

Had Miss Esmé Elliot, experimentalist in human motives, foreseen to what purpose her ingenious suggestion was to work out, she might well have retracted her complaint of lack of real influence; for this casual conversation was the genesis of the Talk-it-Over Breakfast, an institution which potently affected the future of the "Clarion" and its young owner.

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