“I want to see the editor of The Joy-bell,” asked Jasmine, in as firm a tone as she could command.
The red-haired boy raised his eyes from a huge ledger which he was pretending to occupy himself over, and said, “Can’t see him,” in a laconic tone, and dropped his eyes again.
“But why?” asked Jasmine, somewhat indignantly. “I have particular business with him; it is most necessary that I should see him. Pray, let him know that I am here.”
“Very sorry,” replied the boy, “but can’t.”
“’Cause he ain’t in town.”
Poor Jasmine fell back a pace or two; then she resumed in a different tone—
“I am very much disappointed; there is a story of mine in The Joy-bell, and I wanted to speak to him about it. It was very important, indeed,” she added, in so sad a voice that the red-haired boy gazed at her in some astonishment.
“My word,” he said, “then you do not know?”
“Don’t know what?”
“Why, we has had a funeral here.”
“A funeral—oh, dear! oh, dear! is the editor of The Joy-bell dead?”
Here the red-haired boy burst into a peal of irrepressible laughter.
“Dead! he ain’t dead, but The Joy-bell is; we had her funeral last week.”
Poor Jasmine staggered against the wall, and her pretty face became ghastly white.
“Oh, boy,” she said, “do tell me about it; how can The Joy-bell be dead, and have a funeral? Oh, please, don’t jest with me, for it’s so important.”
The genuine distress in her tones touched at last some vulnerable point in the facetious office-boy’s breast.
“I’m real sorry for you, miss,” he said, “particular as you seems so cut up; but what I tell you is true, and you had better know it. That editor has gone, and The Joy-bell is decently interred. I was at her birth, and I was at her funeral. She had a short life, and was never up to much. I never guessed she’d hold out as long as she did; but the editor was a cute one, and for a time he bamboozled his authors, and managed to live on them. Yes, The Joy-bell is in her quiet grave at last, and can’t do no more harm to nobody. Lor’, miss, I wouldn’t take on if I was you, you’d soon get accustomed to it if you had a desk at an office like this. In at the births, and in at the deaths am I, and I don’t make no count of one or t’other. Why, now, there was The Stranger—which went in for pictorial get up, and was truly elegant—it only lasted six months; and there was The Ocean Wave, which did not even live as long. And there was Merrie Lassie—oh, their names is legion. We’ll have another started in no time. So you must be going, miss? Well, good morning. If I was you, miss, I wouldn’t send no more stories to this yere office.”