Ignorance within one’s self is a mist which, upon closer approach, proves a mountain. To the new editor of the “Clarion” the things he did not know about this enterprise of which he had suddenly become the master loomed to the skies. Together with the rest of the outer world, he had comfortably and vaguely regarded a newspaper as a sort of automatic mill which, by virtue of having a certain amount of grain in the shape of information dumped into it, worked upon this with an esoteric type-mechanism, and, in due and exact time, delivered a definite grist of news. Of the refined and articulated processes of acquisition, selection, and elimination which went to the turning-out of the final product, he was wholly unwitting. He could as well have manipulated a linotype machine as have given out a quiet Sunday’s assignment list: as readily have built a multiple press as made up an edition.
So much he admitted to McGuire Ellis late in the afternoon of the day after the Willard party. Fascinated, he had watched that expert journalist go through page after page of copy, with what seemed superhuman rapidity and address, distribute the finished product variously upon hooks, boxes, and copy-boys, and, the immediate task being finished, lapse upon his desk and fall asleep. Meantime, the owner himself faced the unpleasant prospect of being smothered under the downfall of proofs, queries, and scribbled sheets which descended upon his desk from all sides. For a time he struggled manfully: for a time thereafter he wallowed desperately. Then he sent out a far cry for help. The cry smote upon the ear of McGuire Ellis, “Hoong!” ejaculated that somnolent toiler, coming up out of deep waters. “Did you speak?”
“I want to know what I’m to do with all of these things,” replied his boss, indicating the augmenting drifts.
“Throw ’em on the floor, is my advice,” said the employee drowsily. “The more stuff you throw away, the better paper you get out. That’s a proverb of the business.”
“In other words, you think the paper would get along better without me than with me?”
“But you’re enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” queried his employee. Heaving himself out of his chair, he ambled over to Hal’s desk and evolved out of the chaos some semblance of order. “Don’t find it as easy as your enthusiasm painted it,” he suggested.
“Oh, I’ve still got the enthusiasm. If only I knew where to begin.”
Ellis rubbed his ear thoughtfully and remarked: “Once I knew a man from Phoenix, Arizona, who was so excited the first time he saw the ocean that he borrowed a uniform from an absent friend, shinned aboard a five-thousand-ton brigantine, and ordered all hands to put out to sea immediately in the teeth of a whooping gale. But he,” added the narrator in the judicial tone of one who cites mitigating circumstances, “was drunk at the time.”