Ellis drew Wayne aside. “What does Dr. Merritt really think? Smallpox?”
“No. The place has been too well vaccinated. It might be scarlet fever, or diphtheria, or even meningitis. Merritt wants to go in there and open it up, but the Mayor won’t let him. He doesn’t dare take the responsibility without any newspaper backing. And none of the other papers dares tackle the ownership of the Rookeries.”
“Then we ought to. A good, rousing sensation of that sort is just what the paper needs.”
“We won’t get it. There’s too many ropes on the Boy Boss. First the girl and now the old man.”
“Wait and see. He’s got good stuff in him and he’s being educated every day. Give him time.”
“Mr. Wayne, I’d like to see the health office reports,” called Hal, and the two went out.
Selecting one of his pet cigars, Dr. Surtaine advanced upon McGuire Ellis, extending it. “Mac, you’re a good fellow at bottom,” he said persuasively.
“What’s the price,” asked Ellis, “of the cigar and the compliment together? In other words, what do you want of me?”
“Keep your hands off the boy.”
“Didn’t I offer fair and square to match you for his soul? You insisted on fight.”
“If you’d just let him alone,” pursued the quack, “he’d come around right side up with care. He’s sound and sensible at bottom. He’s got a lot of me in him. But you keep feeding him up on your yellow journal ideas. What’ll they ever get him? Trouble; nothing but trouble. Even if you should make a sort of success of the paper with your wild sensationalism it wouldn’t be any real good to Hal. It wouldn’t get him anywhere with the real people. It’d be a sheet he’d always have to be a little ashamed of. I tell you what, Mac, in order to respect himself a man has got to respect his business.”
“Just so,” said McGuire Ellis. “Do you respect your business, Doc?”
“Do I!! It makes half a million a year clear profit.”
The associate editor turned to his work whistling softly.
Two conspicuous ornaments of Worthington’s upper world visited Worthington’s underworld on a hot, misty morning of early June. Both were there on business, Dr. L. Andre Surtaine in the fulfillment of his agreement with his son—the exact purpose of the visit, by the way, would have inspired Harrington Surtaine with unpleasant surprise, could he have known it; and Miss Esme Elliot on a tour of inspection for the Visiting Nurses’ Association, of which she was an energetic official. Whatever faults or foibles might be ascribed to Miss Elliot, she was no faddist. That which she undertook to do, she did thoroughly and well; and for practical hygiene she possessed an inborn liking and aptitude, far more so than, for example, her fortuitous fellow slummer of the morning, Dr. Surtaine, whom she encountered at the corner where the Rookeries begin. The eminent savant removed his hat with a fine flourish, further reflected in his language as he said:—