“And the captain can’t very well quit in mid-race.” Hal took up the other’s metaphor, as the door closed behind him. “So you see, Dad, I’ve got to see it through, no matter what it costs me.”
The father’s rich voice dropped to a murmur. “Hasn’t it cost you something more than money, already, Boyee? I understand Miss Esme is a pretty warm friend of Pierce’s girl.”
“All right, Boyee. I don’t want to pry. But lots of things come quietly to the old man’s ear. You’ve got a right to your secrets.”
“It isn’t any secret, Dad. In fact, it isn’t anything any more,” said Hal, smiling wanly. “Yes, the price was pretty high. I don’t think any other will ever be so high.”
Dr. Surtaine heaved his bulk out of the chair and laid a heavy arm across his son’s shoulder.
“Boyee, you and I don’t agree on a lot of things. We’re going to keep on not agreeing about a lot of things. You think I’m an old fogy with low-brow standards. I think you’ve got a touch of that prevalent disease of youth, fool-in-the-head. But, I guess, as father and son, pal and pal, we’re pretty well suited,—eh?”
“Yes,” said Hal. There was that in the monosyllable which wholly contented the older man.
“Go ahead with your ‘Clarion,’ Boyee. Blow your fool head off. Deave us all deaf. Play any tune you want, and pay yourself for your piping. I won’t interfere—any more’n I can help, being an old meddler by taste. Blood’s thicker than water, they say. I guess it’s thicker than printer’s ink, too. Remember this, right or wrong, win or lose, Boyee, I’m with you.”
All Hal’s days now seemed filled with Pierce. Pierce’s friends, dependents, employees, associates wrote in, denouncing the “Clarion,” canceling subscriptions, withdrawing advertisements. Pierce’s club, the Huron, compelled the abandonment of Mr. Harrington Surtaine’s candidacy. Pierce’s clergyman bewailed the low and vindictive tone of modern journalism. The Pierce newspapers kept harassing the “Clarion”; the Pierce banks evinced their financial disapproval; the Pierce lawyers diligently sought new causes of offense against the foe; while Pierce’s mayor persecuted the newspaper office with further petty enforcements and exactions. Pierce’s daughter, however, fled the town. With her went Miss Esme Elliot. According to the society columns, including that of the “Clarion,” they were bound for a restful voyage on the Pierce yacht.
From time to time Editor Surtaine retaliated upon the foe, employing the news of the slow progress of Miss Cleary, the nurse, to maintain interest in the topic. Protests invariably followed, sometimes from sources which puzzled the “Clarion.” One of the protestants was Hugh Merritt, the young health officer of the city, who expressed his views to McGuire Ellis one day.