“I can’t exculpate him as readily as that. Such a story, considering its inevitable—I may say its intended—consequences, should never have been published without the fullest investigation.”
“Suppose”—she hesitated—“he had it on what he considered good authority?”
“He has never even cited his authority.”
“Couldn’t it have been confidential?” she pleaded.
“Io, do you know his authority? Has he told you?”
Enderby’s voice was very gentle as he put his next question. “Do you trust Banneker, my dear?”
She met his regard, unflinchingly, but there was a piteous quiver about the lips which formed the answer. “I have trusted him. Absolutely.”
“Ah; well! I’ve seen too much good and bad too inextricably mingled in human nature, to judge on part information.”
Election day came and passed. On the evening of it the streets were ribald with crowds gleefully shrieking! “Call me Dennis, wifie. I’m stung!” Laird had been badly beaten, running far behind Marrineal. Halloran, the ring candidate, was elected. Banneker did it.
As he looked back on the incidents of the campaign and its culminating event with a sense of self-doubt poisoning his triumph, that which most sickened him of his own course was not the overt insult from the financial emperor, but the soft-palmed gratulation of Horace Vanney.
Ambition is the most conservative of influences upon a radical mind. No sooner had Tertius Marrineal formulated his political hopes than there were manifested in the conduct of The Patriot strange symptoms of a hankering after respectability. Essentially Marrineal was not respectable, any more than he was radical. He was simply and singly selfish. But, having mapped out for himself a career which did not stop short of a stately and deep-porticoed edifice in Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue (for his conception of the potential leverage of a great newspaper increased with The Patriot’s circulation), he deemed it advisable to moderate some of the more blatant features, on the same principle which had induced him to reform the Veridian lumber mill abuses, lest they be brought up to his political detriment later. A long-distance thinker, Tertius Marrineal.
Operating through invisible channels and by a method which neither Banneker nor Edmonds ever succeeded in fathoming, his influence now began to be felt for the better tone of the news columns. They became less glaringly sensational. Yet the quality of the news upon which the paper specialized was the same; it was the handling which was insensibly altered. That this was achieved without adversely affecting circulation was another proof, added to those already accumulated, of Marrineal’s really eminent journalistic capacities. The change was the less obvious, because The Patriot’s competitors in the Great Three-Ringed Circus of Sensation had found themselves being conducted, under that leadership, farther along the primrose path of stimulation and salaciousness than they had realized, and had already modified their policies.