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   Chapter 19 DONNYBROOK

The Clarion By Samuel Hopkins Adams Characters: 23872

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Worthington began to find the "Clarion" amusing. It blared a new note. Common matter of everyday acceptance which no other paper in town had ever considered as news, became, when trumpeted from between the rampant roosters, vital with interest. And whithersoever it directed the public attention, some highly respectable private privilege winced and snarled. Worthington did not particularly love the "Clarion" for the enemies it made. But it read it.

Now, a newspaper makes its enemies overnight. Friends take months or years in the making. Hence the "Clarion," whilst rapidly broadening its circle of readers, owed its success to the curiosity rather than to the confidence which it inspired. Meantime the effect upon its advertising income was disastrous. If credence could be placed in the lamenting Shearson, wherever it attacked an abuse, whether by denunciation or ridicule, it lost an advertiser. Moreover the public, not yet ready to credit any journal with honest intentions, was inclined to regard the "Clarion" as "a chronic kicker." The "Banner's" gibing suggestion of a reversal of the editorial motto between the triumphant birds to read "With malice toward all," stuck.

But there were compensations. The blatant cocks had occasional opportunity for crowing. With no small justification did they shrill their triumph over the Midland & Big Muddy Railroad. The "Mid and Mud" had declared war upon the "Clarion," following the paper's statement of the true cause of the Walkersville wreck, as suggested by Marchmont, the reporter, at the breakfast. Marchmont himself had been banished from the railroad offices. All sources of regular news were closed to him. Therefore, backed by the "Clarion," he proceeded to open up a line of irregular news which stirred the town. For years the "Mid and Mud" had given to Worthington a passenger service so bad that no community less enslaved to a laissez-faire policy would have endured it. Through trains drifted in anywhere from one to four hours late. Local trains, drawn by wheezy, tin-pot locomotives of outworn pattern, arrived and departed with such casualness as to render schedules a joke, and not infrequently "bogged down" between stations until some antediluvian engine could be resuscitated and sent out to the rescue. The day coaches were of the old, dangerous, wooden type. The Pullman service was utterly unreliable, and the station in which the traveling populace of Worthington spent much of its time, a draft-ridden barn. Yet Worthington suffered all this because it was accustomed to it and lacked any means of making protest vocal.

Then the "Clarion" started in publishing its "Yesterday's Time-Table of the Midland & Big Muddy R.R. Co." to this general effect:

Day Express

Due 10.00 A.M.

Arrived 11.43 A.M.

Late 1 hour 43 min.

Noon Local

Due 12.00 A.M.

Arrived 2.10 P.M.

Late 2 hrs. 10 min.

Sunrise Limited

Due 3.00 P.M.

Arrived 3.27 P.M.

Late 0 hrs. 27 min.

And so on. From time to time there would appear, underneath, a special item, of which the following is an example:

"The Eastern States Through Express of the Midland & Big Muddy Railroad arrived and departed on time yesterday. When asked for an explanation of this phenomenon, the officials declined to be interviewed."

Against this "persecution," the "Mid and Mud" authorities at first maintained a sullen silence. The "Clarion" then went into statistics. It gave the number of passengers arriving and departing on each delayed train, estimated the value of their time, and constructed tables of the money value of time lost in this way to the city of Worthington, per day, per month, and per year. The figures were not the less inspiring of thought, for being highly amusing.

People began to take an interest. They brought or sent in personal experiences. A commercial traveler, on the 7.50 train (arriving at 10.01, that day), having lost a big order through missing an appointment, told the "Clarion" about it. A contractor's agent, gazing from the windows of the stalled "Limited" out upon "fresh woods and pastures new" twenty miles short of Worthington, what time he should have been at a committee meeting of the Council, forfeited a $10,000 contract and rushed violently into "Clarion" print, breathing slaughter and law-suits. Judge Abner Halloway and family, arriving at the New York pier in a speeding taxi from the Eastern Express (five hours late out of Worthington), just in time to see the Lusitania take his forwarded baggage for a pleasant outing in Europe, hired a stenographer (male) to tell the "Clarion" what he thought of the matter, in words of seven syllables. Professor Beeton Trachs, the globe-trotting lecturer, who arrived via the "M. and M." for an eight o'clock appearance, at 9.54, gave the "Clarion" an interview proper to the occasion of having to abjure a $200 guaranty, wherein the mildest and most judicial opinion expressed by Professor Trachs was that crawling through a tropical jungle on all fours was speed, and being hurtled down a mountain on the bosom of a landslide, comfort, compared to travel on the "Mid and Mud."

All these and many similar experiences, the "Clarion" published in its "News of the M. and M." column. It headed them, "Stories of Survivors." For six weeks the railroad endured the proddings of ridicule. Then the Fourth Vice-President of the road appeared in Mr. Harrington Surtaine's sanctum. He was bland and hinted at advertising. Two weeks later the Third Vice-President arrived. He was vague and hinted at reprisals. The Second Vice-President presented himself within ten days thereafter, departed after five unsatisfactory minutes, and reported at headquarters, with every symptom of an elderly gentleman suffering from shock, that young Mr. Surtaine had seemed bored. The First Vice-President then arrived on a special train.

"What do you want, anyway?" he asked.

"Decent passenger service for Worthington," said the editor. "Just what I've told every other species and number of Vice-President on your list."

"You get it," said the First Vice-President.

Thus was afforded another example of that super-efficiency which, we are assured, marks the caste of the American railroad as superior to all others, and which consists in sending four men and spending several weeks to do what one could do better in a single day. In the course of a few weeks the Midland & Big Muddy did bring its service up to a reasonable standard, and the owner of the "Clarion" savored his first pleasant proof of the power of the press.

Vastly less important, but swifter and more definite in results and more popular in effect, was the "Clarion's" anti-hat-check campaign. The Stickler, Worthington's newest hotel, had established a coat-room with the usual corps of girl-bandits, waiting to strip every patron of his outer garments before admitting him to the restaurant, and returning them only upon the blackmail of a tip. All the other good restaurants had followed suit. Worthington resented it, as it resented most innovations; but endured the imposition, for lack of solidarity, until the "Clarion" took up the subject in a series of paragraphs.

"Do you think," blandly inquired the editorial roosters, "that when you tip the hat-check girl she gets the tip? She doesn't. It goes to a man who rents from the restaurant the privilege of bullying you out of a dime or a quarter. The girl holds you up, because if she doesn't extort fifteen dollars a week, she loses her job and her own munificent wages of seven dollars. The 'Clarion' takes pleasure in announcing a series of portraits of the high-minded pirates of finance whom you support in luxury, when you 'give up' to the check-girl. Our first portrait, ladies and gentlemen, is that of Mr. Abe Hotzenmuller, race-track bookmaker and whiskey agent, who, in the intervals of these more reputable occupations, extracts alms from the patrons of the Hotel Stickler."

Next in line was "Shirty" MacDonough, a minor politician, "appropriately framed in silver dimes," as the "Clarion" put it. He was followed by Eddie Perkins, proprietor of a dubious resort on Mail Street. By this time coat-room franchises had suffered a severe depreciation. They dropped almost to zero when the newspaper, having clinched the lesson home with its "Photo-graft Gallery of Leading Dime-Hunters," exhorted its readers: "If you think you need your change as much as these men do, watch for the coupon in to-morrow's 'Clarion,' and Stick it in Your Hat." The coupon was as follows:

I READ THE CLARION. I WILL NOT GIVE ONE CENT IN TIPS TO ANY COAT-ROOM GRAFTER. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

The enterprise hit upon the psychological moment. Every check-room bristled with hats proclaiming defiance, and, incidentally, advertising the "Clarion." The "cut-out coupon" ran for three weeks. In one month the Stickler check-room, last to surrender, gave up the ghost, and Mr. Hotzenmuller sued the proprietor for his money back!

Over the theatrical managers the paper's victory was decisive in this, that it established honest dramatic criticism in Worthington. But only at a high cost. Not a line of theater advertising appeared in the columns after the editorial announcement of independence. Press tickets were cut off. The "Clarion's" dramatic reporter was turned back from the gate of the various theaters, after paying for admittance. Nevertheless, the "Clarion" continued to publish frank criticism of current drama, through a carefully guarded secret arrangement with the critic of the "Evening News." About this time a famous star, opening a three days' engagement, got into difficulties with the scene-shifters' union over an unjust demand for extra payment, refused to be blackmailed, and canceled the second performance. One paper only gave the facts, and that was the "Clarion," generally regarded as the defender and mouthpiece of the laboring as against the capitalistic interests. Great was the wrath of the unions. Boycott was threatened; even a strike in the office. In response, the editorial page announced briefly that its policy of giving the news accurately and commenting upon it freely exempted no man or organization. The trouble soon died out, but, while making new enemies amongst the rabid organization men, strengthened the "Clarion's" growing repute for independence. One of the most violent objectors was Max Veltman, whose protest, delivered to Hal and McGuire Ellis, was so vehement that he was advised curtly and emphatically to confine his activities and opinions to his own department.

"Look out for that fellow," advised Ellis, as the foreman went away fuming. "He hates you."

"Only his fanaticism," said Hal.

"More than that. It's personal. I think," added the associate editor after some hesitancy, "it's 'Kitty the Cutie.' He's jealous, Hal. And I think he's right. That girl's getting too much interested in you."

Hal flushed sharply. "Nonsense!" he said, and the subject lapsed.

Meantime the manager of the Ralston Opera House, where the labor trouble had occurred, made tentative proffer of peace in the form of sending in the theater advertising again. Hal promptly refused to accept it, by way of an object-lesson, despite the almost tearful protest of his own business office. This blow almost killed Shearson.

In fact, the unfortunate advertising manager now lived in an atmosphere of Stygian gloom. Two of the most extensive purchasers of newspaper space, the Boston Store and the Triangle Store, had canceled their contracts immediately after the attack on the Pierces, through a "joker" clause inserted to afford such an opportunity. All the other department stores threatened to follow suit when the "Clarion" took up the cause of the Consumers' League.

Mrs. Festus Willard was president of the organization, which had been practically moribund since its i

nception, for the sufficient reason that no mention of its activities, designs, or purposed reforms could gain admission to any newspaper in Worthington. The Retail Union saw to that through its all-potent Publication Committee. Perceiving the crescent emancipation of the "Clarion," Mrs. Willard, after due consultation with her husband, appealed to Hal. Would he help the League to obtain certain reforms? Specifically, seats for shopgirls, and extra pay for extra work, as during Old Home Week, when the stores kept open until 10 P.M.? Hal agreed, and, in the face of the dismalest forecasts from Shearson, prepared several editorials. Moreover, "Kitty the Cutie" took up the campaign in her column, and her series of "Lunch-Time Chats," with their slangy, pungent, workaday flavor, presented the case of the overworked saleswomen in a way to stir the dullest sympathies. The event fully justified Shearson in his r?le of Cassandra. Half of the remaining stores represented in the Retail Union notified the "Clarion" of the withdrawal of their advertising. Thus some twelve hundred dollars a week of income vanished. Moreover, the Union, it was hinted, would probably blacklist the "Clarion" officially. And the shop-folk gained nothing by the campaign. The merchants were strong enough to defeat the League and its sole backer at every point. This was one of the "Clarion's" failures.

Coincident with the ebb of the store advertising occurred a lapse in circulation, inexplicable to the staff until an analysis indicated that the women readers were losing interest. It was young Mr. Surtaine who solved the mystery, by a flash of that newspaper instinct with which Ellis had early credited him.

"Department store advertising is news," he decided, in a talk with Ellis and Shearson.

"How can advertising be news?" objected the manager.

"Anything that interests the public is news, on the authority of no less an expert than Mr. McGuire Ellis. Shopping is the main interest in life of thousands of women. They read the papers to find out where the bargains are. Watch 'em on the cars any morning and you'll see them studying the ads. The information in those ads. is what they most want. Now that we don't give it to them, they are dropping the paper. So we've got to give it to them."

"Now you're talking," cried Shearson. "Cut out this Consumers' League slush and I'll get the stores back."

"We'll cut out nothing. But we'll put in something. We'll print news of the department stores as news, not as advertising."

"Well, if that ain't the limit!" lamented Shearson. "If you give 'em advertising matter free, how can you ever expect 'em to pay for it?"

"We're not giving it to the stores. We're giving it to our readers."

"In which case," remarked McGuire Ellis with a grin, "we can afford to furnish the real facts."

"Exactly," said Hal.

From this talk developed a unique department in the "Clarion." An expert woman shopper collected the facts and presented them daily under the caption, "Where to Find Real Bargains," and with the prefatory note, "No paid matter is accepted for this column." The expert had an allowance for purchasing, where necessary, and the utmost freedom of opinion was granted her. Thus, in the midst of a series of items, such as-"The Boston Store is offering a special sale of linens at advantageous prices"; "The necktie sale at the Emporium contains some good bargains"; and "Scheffler and Mintz's 'furniture week' is worth attention, particularly in the rocking-chair and dining-set lines"-might appear some such information as this: "In the special bargain sale of ribbons at the Emporium the prices are slightly higher than the same lines sold for last week, on the regular counter"; or, "The heavily advertised antique rug collection at the Triangle is mostly fraudulent. With a dozen exceptions the rugs are modern and of poor quality"; or, "The Boston Shop's special sale of rain coats are mostly damaged goods. Accept none without guarantee."

Never before had mercantile Worthington known anything like this. Something not unlike panic was created in commercial circles. Lawyers were hopefully consulted, but ascertained in the first stages of investigation, that wherever a charge of fraud was brought, the "Clarion" office actually had the goods, by purchase. All this was costly to the "Clarion." But it added nearly four thousand solid circulation, of the buying class, a class of the highest value to any advertiser. Only with difficulty and by exercise of pressure on the part of E.M. Pierce, were the weaker members among the withdrawing advertisers dissuaded from resuming their patronage of the "Clarion."

"I wouldn't have thought it possible," said the dictator, angrily, to his associates. "The thing is getting dangerous. The damned paper is out for the truth."

"And the public is finding it out," supplemented Gibbs, his brother-in-law.

"Wait till my libel suit comes on," said Pierce grimly. "I don't believe young Mr. Surtaine will have enough money left to indulge in the luxury of muckraking, after that."

"Won't the old man back him up?"

"Tells me that the boy is playing a lone hand," said Pierce with satisfaction.

Herein he spoke the fact. While the "Clarion's" various campaigns were still in mid-career, Dr. Surtaine had made his final appeal to his son in vain, ringing one last change upon his P?an of Policy.

"What good does it all do you or anybody else? You're stirring up muck, and you're getting the only thing you ever get by that kind of activity, a bad smell." He paused for his effect; then delivered himself of a characteristically vigorous and gross aphorism:

"Boyee, you can't sell a stink, in this town."

"Perhaps I can help to get rid of it," said Hal.

"Not you! Nobody thanks you for your pains. They take notice for a while, because their noses compel 'em to. Then they forget. What thanks does the public give a newspaper? But the man you've roasted-he's after you, all the time. A sore toe doesn't forget. Look at Pierce."

"Pierce has bothered me," confessed Hal. "He's shut me off from the banks. None of them will loan the 'Clarion' a cent. I have to go out of town for my money."

"Can you blame him? I'd have done the same if he'd roasted you as you roasted his girl."

"News, Dad," said Hal wearily. "It was news."

"Let's not go over that again. You'll stick to your policy, I suppose, till it ruins you. About finances, by the way, where do you stand?"

"Stand?" repeated Hal. "I wish we did. We slip. Downhill; and pretty fast."

"Why wouldn't you? Fighting your own advertisers."

"Some advertising has come in, though. Mostly from out of town."

"Foreign proprietary," said Dr. Surtaine, using the technical term for patent-medicine advertising from out of town, "isn't it? I've been doing a little missionary work among my friends in the trade, Hal; persuaded them to give the 'Clarion' a try-out. The best of it is, they're getting results."

"They ought to. Do you know we're putting on circulation at the rate of nearly a thousand a week?"

"Expensive, though, isn't it?"

"Pretty bad. The paper costs a lot more to get out. We've enlarged our staff. Now we need a new press. There's thirty-odd thousand dollars, in one lump."

"How long can you go on at this rate?"

"Without any more advertising?"

"You certainly aren't gaining, by your present policy."

"Well, I can stick it out through the year. By that time the advertising will be coming in. It's got to come to the paper that has the circulation, Dad."

"Hum!" droned the big doctor, dubiously. "Have you reckoned the Pierce libel suits in?"

"He can't win them."

"Can't he? I don't know. He intends to try. And he feels pretty cocky about it. E.M. Pierce has something up his sleeve, Boyee."

"That would be a body-blow. But he can't win," repeated Hal. "Why, I saw the whole thing myself."

"Just the same you ought to have the best libel lawyer you can get from New York. All the good local men are tied up with Pierce or afraid of him."

"Can't afford it."

To this point the big man had been leading up. "I've been thinking over this Pierce matter, Hal, and I've made up my mind. Pierce is getting to think he's the whole thing around here. He's bullied this town all his life, just as he's bullied his employees until they hate him like poison. But now he's gone up against the wrong game. Roast Certina, will he? The pup! Why, if he'd ever run his factories or his store or his Consolidated Employees' Organization one hundredth part as decently as I've run our business, he wouldn't have to stay in nights for fear some one might sneak a knife into him out of the dark."

This was something less than just to Elias M. Pierce, who, whatever his other faults, had never been a fearful man.

"Libel, eh?" continued the genius of Certina, quietly but formidably. "We'll teach him a few things about libel, before he's through. Here's my proposition, Boyee. You can fight Pierce, but you can't fight all Worthington. Every enemy you make for the 'Clarion' becomes an ally of Pierce. Quit all these other campaigns. Stop roasting the business men and advertisers. Drop your attack on the Mid and Mud: you've got 'em licked, anyway. Let up on the street railway: I notice you're taking a fall out of them on their overcrowding. Treat the theaters decently: they're entitled to a fair chance for their money. Cut out this Consumers' League foolishness (I'm surprised at Milly Neal-the way she's lost her head over that). Make friends instead of foes. And go after Elias M. Pierce, to the finish. Do this, and I'll back you with the whole Certina income. Come on, now, Boyee. Be sensible."

Hal's reply came without hesitation. "I'm sorry, Dad: but I can't do it. I've told you I'd stand or fall on what you've already given me. If I can't pull through on that, I can't pull through at all. Let's understand each other once and for all, Dad. I've got to try this thing out to the end. And I won't ask or take one cent from you or any one else, win or lose."

"All right, Boyee," returned his father sorrowfully. "You're wrong, dead wrong. But I like your nerve. Only, let me tell you this. You think you're going to keep on printing the news and the whole news and all that sort of thing. I tell you, it can't be done."

"Why can't it be done?"

"Because, sooner or later, you'll bump up against your own interests so hard that you'll have to quit."

"I don't see that at all, sir."

"No, you don't. But one of these days something in the news line will come up that'll hit you right between the eyes, if ever it gets into print. Then see what you'll do."

"I'll print it."

"No, you won't, Boyee. Human nature ain't built that way. You'll smother it, and be glad you've got the power to."

"Dad, you believe I'm honest, don't you?"

"Too blamed honest in some ways."

"But you'd take my word?"

"Oh, that! Yes. For anything."

"Then I put my honor on this. If ever the time comes that I have to suppress legitimate news to protect or aid my own interests, I'll own up I'm beaten: I'll quit fighting, and I'll make the 'Clarion' a very sucking dove of journalism. Is that plain?"

"Shake, Boyee. You've bought a horse. Just the same, I hate to let up on Pierce. Sure you won't let me hire a New York lawyer for the libel suit?"

"No. Thank you just as much, Dad. That's a 'Clarion' fight, and the 'Clarion's' money has got to back it."

It was the gist of this decision which, some days later, had reached E.M. Pierce, and caused him such satisfaction. With the "Clarion" depending upon its own resources, unbacked by the great reserve wealth of Certina's proprietor, he confidently expected to wreck it and force its suspension by an overwhelming verdict of damages. For, as Dr. Surtaine had surmised, he held a card up his sleeve.

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