“The boys have had it in for Burns, on the quiet, for months, and now I guess they’re even.”
“I—I don’t know how to thank you,” stammered Anderson.
“Don’t try. You’re a born reporter, and the other papers will give you a job even if the baby hippo in yonder fires you.”
A boy touched Paul on the arm with the announcement, “Mr. Burns wants to see you.”
“Oho!” cried Wells. “He’s got the bad news. Gee! I’d like to hear what he says. I’ll bet he’s biting splinters out of his desk. Let me know what comes off, will you?”
When Anderson entered the office of his editor he was met by a white-faced man whose rage had him so by the throat that speech for a moment was impossible. Beneath Mr. Burns’s feet, and strewn broadcast about the room, were the crumpled sheets of the afternoon papers. Burns glared at the newcomer for a moment, then he extended a shaking finger, crying, furiously:
“You did this!”
“You put up this job. You made a fool of me!”
“No, sir! I did not. Your parents saw to that.”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t, you—you damned ungrateful—” Burns seemed about to assault his reporter, but restrained himself. “You’re fired! Do you understand? Fired—discharged.”
“Not a word. I’m done with you. I—”
“Just a minute,” young Anderson cried, in a tone that stilled the other. “I’m fired, am I, for something I didn’t do? Very well! I’m glad of it, for now you can’t stand in my way. You tried to double-cross me and failed. You robbed me of what was mine and got caught at it. You’re a big man, in your way, Burns, but some day people will tell you that the biggest thing you ever did was to fire Paul Anderson. That’s how small you’ll be, and that’s how big I’m going to grow. You’ve ‘welched’ on your own word; but there’s one thing you gave me that you can’t take away, and that’s the knowledge that I’m a newspaper man and a good one. Now just one thing more: I’m broke today, but I’m going to lick you as soon as I save up enough for the fine.”
With studied insolence the speaker put on his hat, slammed the door behind him, and walked out of The Intelligencer office, leaving the apoplectic editor thereof secure in the breathless knowledge that for once in his life he had heard the truth spoken. Mr. Burns wondered how long it would take that young bully to save up ten dollars and costs.
“There is but one remedy for your complaint.” Doctor Suydam settled deeper into his chair. “Marry the girl.”
“That is the only piece of your professional advice I ever cared to follow. But how?”
“Any way you can—use force if necessary—only marry her. Otherwise I predict all sorts of complications for you—melancholia, brain-fag, bankruptcy—”