“I will let you know,” I replied slowly, “one week from to-day.”
On that assurance they left; and when they had gone I crossed once more to the lower shelf that contained my letter-files. I turned up the file for 1900 once more. During their visit I had had an idea.
I ran through the letters, and then replaced them....
Yes, I ought to be able to let them know within the week.
Against the day when I myself shall come to die, there are in the pigeon-holes of the newspaper libraries certain biographical records that deal roughly with the outward facts of my life; and these, supplemented by documents I shall place in the hands of my executors, will tell the story of how I leaped at a bound into wealth and fame with the publication of The Cases of Martin Renard. I will set down as much of that story as has its bearing on my present tale.
Martin Renard was not immediately accepted by the first editor to whom it was offered. It does not suffice that in order to be popular a thing shall be merely good—or bad; it must be bad—or good—in a particular way. For taking the responsibility when they happen to miss that particular way editors are paid their salaries. When they happen to hit it they grow fat on circulation-money: Since it becomes me ill to quarrel with the way in which any man earns his money, I content myself with merely stating the fact.
By the time the fourth editor had refused my series I was about at my last gasp. To write the things at all I had had to sink four months in time; and debts, writs and pawnshops were my familiars. I was little better off than Andriaovsky at his very worst. I had read the first of the Martin Renards to him, by the way; the gigantic outburst of mirth with which he had received it had not encouraged me to read him a second. I wrote the others in secret.
I wrote the things in the spring and summer of 1900; and by the last day of September I was confident that I had at last sold them. Except by a flagrant breach of faith, the editor in whose desk they reposed could hardly decline them. As it subsequently happened, I have now nothing but gratitude for him that he did, after all, decline them; for I had a duplicate copy “on offer” in another quarter.
He declined them, I say; and I was free to possess my soul again among my writs, debts and pawnshops.
But four days later I received the alternative offer. It was from the Falchion. The Falchion, as you may remember, has since run no less than five complete series of Martin Renards. It bought “both sides,” that is to say, both British and American serial rights. Of the twelve Martin Renards I had written, my wise agent had offered the Falchion six only. On his advice I accepted the offer.
Instantaneously with the publication of those six stories came my success. In two continents I was “home”—home in the hearts of the public. I had my small cheque—it was not much more than a hundred pounds—but “Wait,” said my agent; “let’s see what we can do with the other six....”