“Bet you have to with him, sooner or later,” returned her friend.
This conversation took place at the Vanes’ al fresco tea, to which Hal came for a few minutes, late in the afternoon of his father’s visit with McQuiggan, mainly in the hope of seeing Esme Elliot. Within five minutes after his arrival, Worthington society was frowning, or smiling, according as it was masculine or feminine, at their backs, as they strolled away toward the garden. Miss Esme was feeling a bit petulant, perhaps because of Kathie Pierce’s final taunt.
“I think you aren’t living up to our partnership,” she accused.
“Is it a partnership, where one party is absolute slave to the other’s slightest wish?” he smiled.
“There! That is exactly it. You treat me like a child.”
“I don’t think of you as a child, I assure you.”
“You listen to all I say with pretended deference, and smile and—and go your own way with inevitable motion.”
“Wherein have I failed in my allegiance?” asked Hal, courteously concerned. “Haven’t we published everything about all the charities that you’re interested in?”
“Oh, yes. So far as that goes. But the paper itself doesn’t seem to change any. It’s got the same tone it always had.”
“What’s wrong with its tone?” The eyes were leveled at her now.
“Speaking frankly, it’s tawdry. It’s lurid. It’s—well, yellow.”
“A matter of method. You’re really more interested, then, in the way we present news than in the news we present.”
“I don’t know anything about news, itself. But I don’t see why a newspaper run by a gentleman shouldn’t be in good taste.”
“Nor do I. Except that those things take time. I suppose I’ve got to get in touch with my staff before I can reform their way of writing the paper.”
“Haven’t you done that yet?”
“I simply haven’t had time.”
“Then I’ll make you a nice present of a very valuable suggestion. Give a luncheon to your employees, and invite all the editors and reporters. Make a little speech to them and tell them what you intend to do, and get them to talk it over and express opinions. That’s the way to get things done. I do it with my mission class. And, by the way, don’t make it a grand banquet at one of the big hotels. Have it in some place where the men are used to eating. They’ll feel more at home and you’ll get more out of them.”
“Will you come?”
“No. But you shall come up to the house and report fully on it.”
Had Miss Esme Elliot, experimentalist in human motives, foreseen to what purpose her ingenious suggestion was to work out, she might well have retracted her complaint of lack of real influence; for this casual conversation was the genesis of the Talk-it-Over Breakfast, an institution which potently affected the future of the “Clarion” and its young owner.