At about the same time a dapper stranger who had come up in the elevator with Mr. Wilbram held speech with Assistant City-Editor Sloan in the local room at the other end of the hall.
“Yonder’s your bird,” said Mr. Sloan, pointing to a poetic-looking young man at a desk in a corner.
Crossing to the poet, who was absorbed in his day’ poesy and talking to himself as he versified, the stranger smiled and spoke.
“Am I addressing the celebrated D.K.T.?”
“Am, cam, dam, damn, ham, jam, lamb——”
The far-away look of genius faded out of the poet’s eyes.
“Not buying,” said he. “My pay-envelope is mortgaged to you book-agents for ten years to come. Ma’am, ram, Sam, cram, clam, gram, slam——”
“Books are not my line,” said the dapper one briskly. “I represent the Jones-Nonpareil Newspaper Syndicate. In fact, I am Jones. I have a proposition to make to you, Mr. D.K.T., that may enable you to buy more books than you can ever read. You know, of course, what the Jones-Nonpareil service is. We reach the leading dailies of the United States and Canada——”
“Have a chair, Mr. Jones.”
“Thank you. We handle some very successful writers. Malcomb Hardy, you may have heard, takes his little five hundred a week out of us; and poor Larry Bonner pulled down eleven hundred as long as he had health. His Chinese-laundryman sketches might be selling yet.”
“Suspense is cruel,” spoke D.K.T. eagerly. “Let the glad news come.”
“Some time ago,” said the syndicate man, “you printed in your column an essay in imitation of a schoolboy’s. You called it ’Moral Principles’.”
D.K.T. sank back with a low moan.
“If you can write six of those a week for a year,” continued the visitor, “you won’t ever need to slave any more. You can burn your pen and devote the rest of your life to golf and good works.”
The poet closed his eyes. “Sham, swam, diagram,” he murmured.
“Does a minimum guarantee of fifteen thousand a year look like anything to you? There will, of course, be the book rights and the movie rights in addition.”
“Anagram, epigram, telegram, flimflam—aha!” cried D.K.T. “Siam!” He wrote it down.
“That little skit of yours,” pursued the caller, “has swept the country. You have created a nation-wide demand. My ringer is on the journalistic pulse, and I know. Can you repeat?”
He drew a paper from his pocketbook.
“Here is a list of subjects your imaginary Willie Downey might start with: The Monetary System; the Cost of Living; the League of Nations; Capital and Labour——”
Over the stranger’s head an office-boy whispered significantly: “Front office.”
“Excuse me,” said the poet, and hurried away.
With the publisher, in the front office, sat A. Lincoln Wilbram, quite purple in the cheeks. They had a file of the Bee before them.