In vain Hal strove to catch a clue from the confused voices. He had made a note of it for future inquiry, when some one called out: “Mac Ellis hasn’t said anything yet.” The others caught it up. “Speech from Mac!”—“Don’t let him out.”—“If you can’t speak, sing a song.”—“Play a tune on the bazoo.”—“Hike him up there, somebody.”—“Silence for the MacGuire!!”
“I’ve never made a speech in my life,” said Ellis, glowering about him, “and you fellows know it. But last night I read this in Plutarch: ’Themistocles said that he certainly could not make use of any stringed instrument; could only, were a small and obscure city put into his hands, make it great and glorious.’”
Ellis paused, lifting one hand. “Fellows,” he said, and he turned sharply to face Hal Surtaine, “I don’t know how the devil old Themistocles ever could do it—unless he owned a newspaper!”
Silence followed, and then a quick acclaiming shout, as they grasped the implicit challenge of the corollary. Then again silence, tense with curiosity. No doubt of what they awaited. Their expectancy drew Hal to his feet.
“I had intended to speak but once,” he said, in a constrained voice, “but I’ve learned more here this afternoon—more than—than I could have thought—” He broke off and threw up his hand. “I’m no newspaper man,” he cried. “I’m only an amateur, a freshman at this business. But one thing I believe; it’s the business of a newspaper to give the news without fear or favor, and that’s what the ‘Clarion’ is going to do from this day. On that platform I’ll stand by any man who’ll stand by me. Will you help?”
The answer rose and rang like a cheer. The gathering broke into little, excited, chattering groups, sure symptom of the success of a meeting. Much conjecture was expressed and not a little cynicism. “Compared to us Ishmael would be a society favorite if Surtaine carries this through,” said one. “It means suspension in six months,” prophesied Shearson. But most of the men were excitedly enthusiastic. Your newspaper man is by nature a romantic; otherwise he would not choose the most adventurous of callings. And the fighting tone of the new boss stimulated in them the spirit of chance and change.
Slowly and reluctantly they drifted away to the day’s task. At the close Hal sat, thoughtful and spent, in a far corner when Ellis walked heavily over to him. The associate editor gazed down at his bemused principal for a time. From his pocket he drew the thick blue pencil of his craft, and with it tapped Hal thrice on the shoulder.
“Rise up, Sir Newspaper Man,” he pronounced solemnly. “I hereby dub thee Knight-Editor.”
THE THIN EDGE