“The best man in Worthington!” said Hal passionately. “Oh!” He shook his clenched fists at the outer darkness. “I’ll make somebody pay for this.”
Esme’s hand fell upon his arm. “Do you want me to stay?” she asked.
“No. You must go home. It’s been a terrible thing for you.”
“I’ll go to the hospital,” she said, “and I’ll ’phone you as soon as there is any news.”
“Better come home with me, Hal,” said his father gently.
The younger man turned with an involuntary motion toward the desk, still wet with his friend’s blood.
“I’ll stay on the job,” he said.
Understanding, the father nodded his sympathy. “Yes; I guess that would have been Mac’s way,” said he.
Work pressing upon the editor from all sides came as a boon. The paper had to be made over for the catastrophe which, momentarily, overshadowed the typhus epidemic in importance. In hasty consultation, it was decided that the “special” on the ownership of the infected tenements should be set aside for a day, to make space. Hal had to make his own statement, not alone for the “Clarion,” but for the other newspapers, whose representatives came seeking news and also—what both surprised and touched him—bearing messages of sympathy and congratulation, and offers of any help which they could extend from men to pressroom accommodations. Not until nearly two o’clock in the morning did Hal find time to draw breath over an early proof, which stated the casualties as seven killed outright, including Veltman who was literally torn to pieces, and twenty-two seriously wounded.
From his reading Hal was called to the ’phone. Esme’s voice came to him with a note of hope and happiness.
“Oh, Hal, they say there’s a chance! Even a good chance! They’ve operated, and it isn’t as bad as it looked at first. I’m so glad for you.”
“Thank you,” said Hal huskily. “And—bless you! You’ve been an angel to-night.”
There was a pause: then, “You’ll come to see me—when you can?”
“To-morrow,” said he. “No—to-day. I forgot.”
They both laughed uncertainly, and bade each other good-night.
Hal stayed through until the last proof. In the hallway a heavy figure lifted itself from a chair in a corner as he came out.
“Dad!” exclaimed Hal.
“I thought I’d wait,” said the charlatan wistfully.
No other word was necessary. “I’ll be glad to be home again,” said Hal. “You can lend me some pajamas?”
“They’re laid out on your bed. Every night.”
The two men passed down the stairs, arm in arm. At the door they paused. Through the building ran a low tremor, waxing to a steady thrill. The presses were throwing out to the world once again their irrevocable message of fact and fate.