“Do you? Then I’ll tell them beforehand.”
Mr. Vanney privately reflected that there was no need of this: he intended to call up the editor-in-chief and suggest the unsuitability of the candidate for a place, however humble, on the staff of a highly respectable and suitably respectful daily.
Which he did. The message was passed on to Mr. Gordon, and, in his large and tolerant soul, decently interred. One thing of which the managing editor of The Ledger was not tolerant was interference from without in his department.
Before allowing his man to leave, Mr. Vanney read him a long and well-meant homily, full of warning and wisdom, and was both annoyed and disheartened when, at the end of it, Banneker remarked:
“I’ll dare you to take a car and spend twenty-four hours going about Sippiac with me. If you stand for your system after that, I’ll pay for the car.”
To which the other replied sadly that Banneker had in some manner acquired a false and distorted view of industrial relations.
Therein, for once in an existence guided almost exclusively by prejudice, Horace Vanney was right. At the outset of a new career to which he was attuning his mind, Banneker had been injected into a situation typical of all that is worst in American industrial life, a local manufacturing enterprise grown rich upon the labor of underpaid foreigners, through the practice of all the vicious, lawless, and insidious methods of an ingrown autocracy, and had believed it to be fairly representative. Had not Horace Vanney, doubtless genuine in his belief, told him as much?
“We’re as fair and careful with our employees as any of our competitors.”
As a matter of fact there were, even then, scores of manufacturing plants within easy distance of New York, representing broad and generous policies and conducted on a progressive and humanistic labor system. Had Banneker had his first insight into local industrial conditions through one of these, he might readily have been prejudiced in favor of capital. As it was, swallowing Vanney’s statement as true, he mistook an evil example as a fair indication of the general status. Then and there he became a zealous protagonist of labor.
It had been Mr. Horace Vanney’s shrewd design to show a budding journalist of promise on which side his self-interest lay. The weak spot in the plan was that Banneker did not seem to care!
Banneker’s induction into journalism was unimpressive. They gave him a desk, an outfit of writing materials, a mail-box with his name on it, and eventually an assignment. Mr. Mallory presented him to several of the other “cubs” and two or three of the older and more important reporters. They were all quite amiable, obviously willing to be helpful, and they impressed the observant neophyte with that quiet and solid esprit de corps which is based upon respect for work well performed in a common cause. He apprehended that The Ledger office was in some sort an institution.