“And conscious of it in every issue. One long and pious scold, after a high-minded, bad-tempered formula of its own.”
“Then I’ll give you a motto for your Ledger.” Edmonds puffed it out enjoyably,—decorated with bluish and delicate whorls. “’Meliora video proboque, deleriora sequor.’”
“No; I won’t have that. The last part will do; we do follow the worser way; but if we see the better, we don’t approve it. We don’t even recognize it as the better. We’re honestly convinced in our advocacy of the devil.”
“I don’t know that we’re honestly convinced of anything on The Courier, except of the desirability of keeping friendly with everybody. But such as we are, we’d grab at you.”
“No; thanks, Pop. You yourself are enough in the troubled-water duckling line for one old hen like The Courier.”
“Then there remains only The Patriot, friend of the Pee-pul.”
“Skimmed scum,” was Banneker’s prompt definition. “And nothing in the soup underneath.”
Ernst, the waiter, scuttled across the floor below, and disappeared back of the L-angle a few feet away.
“Somebody’s dining there,” remarked Edmonds, “while we’ve been stripping the character off every paper in the field.”
“May it be all the editors and owners in a lump!” said Banneker. “I’m sorry I didn’t talk louder. I’m feeling reckless.”
“Bad frame of mind for a man seeking a job. By the way, what are you out after, exactly? Aiming at the editorial page, aren’t you?”
Banneker leaned over the table, his face earnest to the point of somberness. “Pop,” he said, “you know I can write.”
“You can write like the devil,” Edmonds offered up on twin supports of vapor.
“Yes, and I can do more than that. I can think.”
“For self, or others?” propounded the veteran.
“I take you. I can think for myself and make it profitable to others, if I can find the chance. Why, Pop, this editorial game is child’s play!”
“You’ve tried it?”
“Experimentally. The opportunities are limitless. I could make people read editorials as eagerly as they read scandal or baseball.”
“By making them as simple and interesting as scandal or baseball.”
“Oh! As easy as that,” observed Edmonds scornfully. “High art, son! Nobody’s found the way yet. Perhaps, if—”
He stopped, took his pipe from his lips and let his raised eyes level themselves toward the corner of the L where appeared a figure.
“Would you gentlemen mind if I took my coffee with you?” said the newcomer smoothly.
Banneker looked with questioning eyebrows toward Edmonds, who nodded. “Come up and sit down, Mr. Marrineal,” invited Banneker, moving his chair to leave a vacancy between himself and his companion.