“What trade is that?”
“Didn’t you know I was a little sister of the poor? When you’ve lost all your money and are ill, I’ll come and lay my cooling hand on your fevered brow and bring wine jelly to your tenement.”
“Aren’t you afraid of contagious diseases?” he asked anxiously. “Such places are always full of them.”
“Oh, they placard for contagion. It’s safe enough. And I’m really interested. It’s my only excuse to myself for living.”
“If bringing happiness wherever you go isn’t enough—”
“No! No!” She smiled up into his eyes. “This is still a business visit. But you may take me to my car.”
On his way back Hal stopped to tell Wayne that perhaps the Pierce story wasn’t worth running, after all. Unease of conscience disturbed his work for a time thereafter. He appeased it by the excuse that it was no threat or pressure from without which had influenced his action. He had killed the item out of consideration for the friend of his friend. What did it matter, anyway, a bit of news like that? Who was harmed by leaving it out? As yet he was too little the journalist to comprehend that the influences which corrupt the news are likely to be dangerous in proportion as they are subtle.
Wayne understood better, and smiled with a cynical wryness of mouth upon McGuire Ellis, who, having passed Hal and Esme on the stairs, had lingered at the city desk and heard the editor-in-chief’s half-hearted order.
“Still worrying about Dr. Surtaine’s influence over the paper?” asked the city editor, after Hal’s departure.
“Yes,” said Ellis.
“Did you happen to notice about the prettiest thing that ever used eyes for weapons, in the hall?”
“Something of that description.”
“Let me present you, in advance, to Miss Esme Elliot, the new boss of our new boss,” said Wayne, with a flourish.
“God save the Irish!” said McGuire Ellis.
Echoes of the Talk-it-Over Breakfast rang briskly in the “Clarion” office. It was suggested to Hal that the success of the function warranted its being established as a regular feature of the shop. Later this was done. One of the participants, however, was very ill-pleased with the morning’s entertainment. Dr. Surtaine saw, in retrospect and in prospect, his son being led astray into various radical and harebrained vagaries of journalism. None of those at the breakfast had foreseen more clearly than the wise and sharpened quack what serious difficulties beset the course which Hal had laid out for himself.
Trouble was what Dr. Surtaine hated above all things. Whatever taste for the adventurous he may have possessed had been sated by his career as an itinerant. Now he asked only to be allowed to hatch his golden dollars peacefully, afar from all harsh winds of controversy. That his own son should feel a more stirring ambition left him clucking, a bewildered hen on the brink of perilous waters.