For purposes of vital statistics, the head office boy of the Worthington “Daily Clarion” was denominated Reginald Currier. As this chaste cognomen was artistically incompatible with his squint eye, his militant swagger, and a general bearing of unrepressed hostility toward all created beings, he was professionally known as “Bim.” Journalism, for him, was comprised in a single tenet; that no visitor of whatsoever kind had or possibly could have any business of even remotely legitimate nature within the precincts of the “Clarion” office. Tradition of the place held that a dent in the wall back of his desk marked the termination of an argument in which Reginald, all unwitting, had essayed to maintain his thesis against the lightweight champion of the State who had come to call on the sporting editor.
There had been a lull in the activities of this minor Cerberus when the light and swinging footfall of one coming up the dim stairway several steps at a time aroused his ready suspicions. He bristled forth to the rail to meet a tall and rather elegant young man whom he greeted with a growl to this effect:
“Hoojer wanter see?”
“Is the editor in?”
“Whajjer want uvvum?”
The tall visitor stepped forward, holding out a card. “Take this to him, please, and say that I’d like to see him at once.”
Unwisely, Reginald disregarded the card, which fluttered to the floor. More unwisely, he ignored a certain tensity of expression upon the face of his interlocutor. Most unwisely he repeated, in his very savagest growl:
“Whajjer want uvvum, I said. Didn’ chu hear me?”
Graceful and effortless as the mounting lark, Reginald Currier rose and soared. When he again touched earth, it was only to go spinning into a far corner where he first embraced, then strove with and was finally tripped and thrown by a large and lurking waste-basket. Somewhat perturbed, he extricated himself in time to see the decisive visitor disappear through an inner door. Retrieving the crumpled and rejected card from its resting-place, he examined it with interest. The legend upon it was “Mr. Harrington Surtaine.”
“Huh!” grunted Reginald Currier; “I never seen that in no sporting column.”
Once within the sacred precincts, young Mr. Surtaine turned into an inner room, bumped against a man trailing a kite-tail of proof, who had issued from a door to the right, asked a question, got a response, and entered the editor’s den. Two littered desks made up the principal furniture of the place. Impartially distributed between the further desk and a chair, the form of one lost in slumber sprawled. At the nearer one sat a dyspeptic man of middle age waving a heavy pencil above a galley proof.
“Are you the editor?” asked Hal.
“One editor. I’m Mr. Sterne. How the devil did you get in here?”