This person was supposed to represent the unknown proprietor, about whom there had been the liveliest speculation. The “Courier’s” rivals gave much space to rumors, real and imaginary, as to the new ownership, attributing the purchase to a number of prominent politicians in rapid succession, and to syndicates that had never existed. It was an odd effect of the change in the “Courier’s” ownership that almost immediately mystery seemed to envelop the editorial rooms. The managing editor, whose humors and moods fixed the tone of the office, may have been responsible, but whatever the cause a stricter discipline was manifest, and editors, reporters and copy-readers moved and labored with a consciousness that an unknown being walked among the desks, and hung over the forms to the very last moment before they were hurled to the stereotypers. The editorial writers—those astute counselors of the public who are half-revered and half-despised by their associates on the news side of every American newspaper—wrote uneasily under a mysterious, hidden censorship. It was possible that even the young woman who gleaned society news might, by some unfortunate slip, offend the invisible proprietor. But as time passed nothing happened. The imaginable opaque pane that separated the owner from the desks of the “Courier’s” reporters and philosophers had disclosed no faintest shadow. Occasionally the managing editor was summoned below by the general manager, but the subordinates in the news department were unable, even by much careful study of their subsequent instructions, to grasp the slightest thread that might lead them to the concealed hand which swayed the “Courier’s” destiny. It must be confessed that under this ghostly administration the paper improved. Every man did his best, and the circulation statements as published monthly indicated a widening constituency. Even the Sunday edition, long a forbidding and depressing hodge-podge of ill-chosen and ill-digested rubbish, began to show order and intelligence.
In October following his visit to Professor Kelton, Harwood was sent to Fraserville, the seat of Fraser County, to write a sketch of the Honorable Morton Bassett, in a series then adorning the Sunday supplement under the title, “Home Life of Hoosier Statesmen.” The object of the series was frankly to aid the circulation manager’s efforts to build up subscription lists in the rural districts, and personal sketches of local celebrities had proved potent in this endeavor. Most of the subjects that had fallen to Harwood’s lot had been of a familiar type—country lawyers who sat in the legislature, or county chairmen, or judges of county courts. As the “Sunday Courier” eschewed politics, the series was not restricted to Democrats but included men of all faiths. It was Harwood’s habit to spend a day in the towns he visited, gathering local color and collecting anecdotal matter.
While this employment cut deeply into his hours at the law office, he reasoned that there was a compensating advantage in the knowledge he gained on these excursions of the men of both political faiths.