“Cheerfully,” assented Banneker.
Bussey, lifting the typed sheets before him, began to read. Presently his face flushed.
“Why, if you print this sort of thing, you’d have my office mobbed,” he cried indignantly.
“It’s outrageous! And this—if this isn’t an incitement to lynching—You wouldn’t dare publish this!”
Major Bussey’s wizened and philanthropic face took on the cast of careful thought. At length he spoke with the manner of an elder bestowing wisdom upon youth.
“A controversy such as this would do nobody any good. I have always been opposed to journalistic backbitings. Therefore we will let this matter lie. I will kill the paragraph. Not that I’m afraid of your threats; nor of your pen, for that matter. But in the best interests of our common profession—”
“Good-day,” said Banneker, and walked out, leaving the Major stranded upon the ebb tide of his platitudes.
Banneker retailed the episode to Edmonds, for his opinion.
“He’s afraid of your gun, a little,” pronounced the expert; “and more of your pen. I think he’ll keep faith in this.”
“As long as I hold over him the threat of The Patriot.”
“And no longer?”
“No longer. It’s a vengeful kind of vermin, Ban.”
“Pop, am I a common, ordinary blackmailer? Or am I not?”
The other shook his head, grayed by a quarter-century of struggles and problems. “It’s a strange game, the newspaper game,” he opined.
All had worked out, in the matter of The Searchlight, quite as much to Mr. Ely Ives’s satisfaction as to that of Banneker. From his boasted and actual underground wire into that culture-bed of spiced sewage (at the farther end of which was the facile brunette whom the visiting editor had so harshly treated), he had learned the main details of the interview and reported them to Mr. Marrineal.
“Will Banneker now be good?” rhetorically queried Ives, pursing up his small face into an expression of judicious appreciation. “He will be good!”
Marrineal gave the subject his habitual calm and impersonal consideration. “He hasn’t been lately,” he observed. “Several of his editorials have had quite the air of challenge.”
“That was before he turned blackmailer. Blackmail,” philosophized the astute Ives, “is a gun that you’ve got to keep pointed all the time.”
“I see. So long as he has Bussey covered by the muzzle of The Patriot, The Searchlight behaves itself.”
“It does. But if ever he laid down his gun, Bussey would make hash of him and his lady-love.”
“What about her?” interrogated Marrineal. “Do you really think—” His uplifted brows, sparse on his broad and candid forehead, consummated the question.