“All right,” he said shortly.
He left, and on the street-car immersed himself in some disillusioning calculations. Suppose he did sell the rejected story to The Bon Vivant. One hundred dollars, he had learned, was the standard price paid by that frugal magazine; that would not recompense him for the time bestowed upon it. He could have made more by writing “specials” for the Sunday paper. And on top of that to find that a really brilliant piece of interviewing had brought him in nothing more substantial than congratulations and the sense of a good turn done for a friend!
The magazine field, he began to suspect, might prove to be arid land.
What next? Banneker put the query to himself with more seriousness than he had hitherto given to estimating the future. Money, as he told Betty Raleigh, had never concerned him much. His start at fifteen dollars a week had been more than he expected; and though his one weekly evening of mild sybaritism ate up all his margin, and his successful sartorial experiments consumed his private surplus, he had no cause for worry, since his salary had been shortly increased to twenty, and even more shortly thereafter to twenty-five. Now it was a poor week in which he did not exceed the hundred. All of it went, rather more fluently than had the original fifteen. Frugal though he could be in normal expenditures, the rental of his little but fashionably situated apartment, his new club expenses, his polo outfit, and his occasional associations with the after-theater clique, which centered at The Avon, caused the debit column to mount with astonishing facility. Furthermore, through his Western associations he had an opportunity to pick up two half-broken polo ponies at bargain prices. He had practically decided to buy them. Their keep would be a serious item. He must have more money. How to get it? Harder work was the obvious answer. Labor had no terrors for Banneker. Mentally he was a hardened athlete, always in training. Being wise and self-protective, he did no writing on his day off. But except for this period of complete relaxation, he gave himself no respite. Any morning which did not find him writing in his den, after a light, working breakfast, he put in at the Library near by, insatiably reading economics, sociology, politics, science, the more serious magazines, and always the news and comments of the day. He was possessed of an assertive and sane curiosity to know what was going on in the world, an exigence which pressed upon him like a healthy appetite, the stimulus of his hard-trained mental condition. The satisfaction of this demand did not pay an immediate return; he obtained little or no actual material to be transmuted into the coin of so-much-per-column, except as he came upon suggestions for editorial use; and, since his earlier experience of The Ledger’s editorial method with contributions (which he considered light-fingered), he had forsworn this medium. Notwithstanding this, he wrote or sketched out many an editorial which would have astonished, and some which would have benefited, the Inside Room where the presiding genius, malicious and scholarly, dipped his pen alternately into luminous ether and undiluted venom. Some day, Banneker was sure, he himself was going to say things editorially.