“Not more than one other would touch it, in its present form,” said Banneker. “It’s too raw.”
“The more virtue to us. I r-regard that story as an inspiration. Nobody could have brought it off b-but me. ’A god, a god their Severance ruled,’” punned the owner of the name.
“Beelzebub, god of filth and maggots,” snarled Edmonds.
“Bacchus, god of all true inspiration!” cried Severance. “Waiter, slave of B-Bacchus, where is my Scotch?”
“Severance, you’re going too far along your chosen line,” declared Banneker bluntly.
“Yes; we must tone down a little,” agreed Marrineal.
The sensationalist lifted calmly luminous eyes to his chief. “Why?” he queried softly. “Are you meditating a change? Does the journalistic l-lady of easy virtue begin to yearn f-for the paths of respectability?”
“Steady, Severance,” warned Edmonds.
At the touch of the curb the other flamed into still, white wrath. “If you’re going to be a whore,” he said deliberately, “play the whore’s game. I’m one and I know it. Banneker’s one, but hasn’t the courage to face it. You’re one, Edmonds—no, you’re not; not even that. You’re the hallboy that f-fetches the drinks—”
Marrineal had risen. Severance turned upon him.
“I salute you, Madam of our high-class establishment. When you take your p-price, you at least look the business in the face. No illusions for M-Madam Marrineal.... By the w-way, I resign from the house.”
“Are you coming, Mr. Edmonds?” said Marrineal. “You’ll sign the check for me, will you, Mr. Banneker?”
Left alone with the disciple of Bacchus and Beelzebub, the editor said:
“Better get home, Severance. Come in to-morrow, will you?”
“No. I’m q-quite in earnest about resigning. No further use for the damned j-job now.”
“I never could see why you had any use for it in the first place. Was it money?”
“Oh, I see.”
“You d-don’t see at all. I wanted the m-money for a purpose. The purpose was a woman. I w-wanted to keep pace with her and her s-set. It was the set to which I rightly belonged, but I’d dropped out. I thought I p-preferred drink. I didn’t after she got hold of me. I d-don’t know why the d-devil I’m telling you all this.”
“I’m sorry, Severance,” said Banneker honestly.
The other raised his glass. “Here’s to her,” he said. He drank. “I wish her nothing w-worse than she’s got. Her name is—”
“Wait a moment, Severance,” cut in Banneker sharply. “Don’t say anything that you’ll regret. Naming of names—”
“Oh, there’s no harm in this, n-now,” said Severance wearily. “Hers is smeared in filth all over our third page. It is Maud Territon. What do you think of P-Patriotic journalism, anyway, Banneker?”