“Indeed not! I wouldn’t discuss that particular editorial with any one but you.”
He moved uneasily. “Aren’t you attaching undue importance to a very trivial subject? You know that was half a joke, anyway.”
“Was it?” she murmured. “Probably I take it too seriously. But—but Harvey Wheelwright came into one of our early talks, almost our first about real things. When I began to discover you; when ‘The Voices’ first sang to us. And he wasn’t one of the Voices, exactly, was he?”
“He? He’s a bray! But neither was Sears-Roebuck one of the Voices. Yet you liked my editorial on that.”
“I adored it! You believed what you were writing. So you made it beautiful.”
“Nothing could make Harvey Wheelwright beautiful. But, at least, you’ll admit I made him—well, appetizing.” His face took on a shade. “Love’s labor lost, too,” he added. “We never did run the Wheelwright serial, you know.”
“Because the infernal idiot had to go and divorce a perfectly respectable, if plain and middle-aged wife, in order to marry a quite scandalous Chicago society flapper.”
“What connection has that with the serial?”
“Don’t you see? Wheelwright is the arch-deacon of the eternal proprieties and pieties. Purity of morals. Hearth and home. Faithful unto death, and so on. Under that sign he conquers—a million pious and snuffy readers, per book. Well, when he gets himself spread in the Amalgamated Wire dispatches, by a quick divorce and a hair-trigger marriage, puff goes his piety—and his hold on his readers. We just quietly dropped him.”
“But his serial was just as good or as bad as before, wasn’t it?”
“Certainly not! Not for our purposes. He was a dead wolf with his sheep’s wool all smeared and spotted. You’ll never quite understand the newspaper game, I’m afraid, lady of my heart.”
“How brown your eyes are, Ban!” said Io.
Politics began to bubble in The Patriot office with promise of hotter upheavals to come. The Laird administration had shown its intention of diverting city advertising, and Marrineal had countered in the news columns by several minor but not ineffective exposures of weak spots in the city government. Banneker, who had on the whole continued to support the administration in its reform plans, decided that a talk with Willis Enderby might clarify the position and accordingly made an evening appointment with him at his house. Judge Enderby opened proceedings with typical directness of attack.
“When are you going to turn on us, Banneker?”
“That’s a cheerful question,” retorted the young man good-humoredly, “considering that it is you people who have gone back on The Patriot.”
“Were any pledges made on our part?” queried Enderby.
Banneker replied with some spirit: “Am I talking with counsel under retainer or with a personal friend?”