In that moment Banneker felt a surge of the first real liking he had ever known for his employer. Marrineal had been purely human for a flash.
Nevertheless, in the first revulsion after the proprietor had left, Banneker’s unconquered independence rose within him, jealous and clamant. He felt repressions, claims, interferences potentially closing in upon his pen, also an undefined dread of the sharply revealed overseer. That a force other than his own mind and convictions should exert pressure, even if unsuccessful, upon his writings, was intolerable. Better anything than that. The Mid-West Syndicate, he knew, would leave him absolutely untrammeled. He would write the general director at once.
In the act of beginning the letter, the thought struck and stunned him that this would mean leaving New York. Going to live in a Middle-Western city, a thousand miles outside of the orbit in which moved Io Eyre!
He left the letter unfinished, and the issue to the fates.
Put to the direct question, as, for example, on the witness stand, Mr. Ely Ives would, before his connection with Tertius Marrineal, have probably identified himself as a press-agent. In that capacity he had acted, from time to time, for a railroad with many axes to grind, a widespread stock-gambling enterprise, a minor political ring, a liquor combination, and a millionaire widow from the West who innocently believed that publicity, as manipulated by Mr. Ives, could gain social prestige for her in the East.
In every phase of his employment, the ex-medical student had gathered curious and valuable lore. In fact he was one of those acquisitive persons who collect and hoard scandals, a miser of private and furtive information. His was the zeal of the born collector; something of the genius, too: he boasted a keen instinct. In his earlier and more precarious days he had formed the habit of watching for and collating all possible advices concerning those whom he worked for or worked against and branching from them to others along radiating lines of business, social, or family relationships. To him New York was a huge web, of sinister and promising design, dim, involved, too often impenetrable in the corners where the big spiders spin. He had two guiding maxims: “It may come in handy some day,” and “They’ll all bear watching.” Before the prosperous time, he had been, in his devotion to his guiding principles, a practitioner of the detective arts in some of their least savory phases; had haunted doorsteps, lurked upon corners, been rained upon, snowed upon, possibly spat upon, even arrested; all of which he accepted, mournful but uncomplaining. One cannot whole-heartedly serve an ideal and come off scatheless. He was adroit, well-spoken, smooth of surface, easy of purse, untiring, supple, and of an inexhaustible good-humor. It was from the ex-medical student that Marrineal had learned of Banneker’s offer from the Syndicate, also of his over-prodigal hand in money matters.