Everybody congratulated her. “Square beat,” one man said, at which her gray, cold face lightened up.
“Glad you liked it,” she answered with a nod of her head,—“I generally ‘get there.’”
When the night city editor arrived—the city editor was ill and he had taken his place for the day— he reached out and caught her hand. Then he drew her inside the office. When she passed Joe again on her way out, her smile had broadened.
“Got her pay shoved up,” one of the younger men whispered to another.
When Katie came in an hour later, no one in the room but Joe caught the dark lines under her eyes and the reddened lids,—as if she had passed a sleepless night,—one full of terror. She walked straight to where the boy stood at work.
“I’ve just seen that poor mother, Joe. I saw the paper and what Miss Parker had said and I went straight to her. I did not want her to think I had been so cruel. When I got to her house this morning there was a patrol wagon at the door and all the neighbors outside. A woman told me she was all right until somebody showed her the morning paper with the picture of her drowned daughter; then she began to scream and went stark mad, and they were getting ready to take her to Ward’s Island when I walked in. You’ve seen the picture, haven’t you?”
Joe nodded. He had seen the picture,—had it in his hand. He dare not trust himself to speak,— everybody was around and he didn’t want to appear green and countrified. Then again, he didn’t want to make it harder for Katie. She had had nothing to do with it, thank God!
The door of the office swung open. The editor this time caught sight of Katie, called her by name, and, with a “Like to see you about a little matter,” beckoned her inside and shut the door upon them both.
A moment later she was out again, a blue envelope in her hand.
“He’s got me discharged, Joe. Here’s a note from the city editor,” she said. Her voice quivered and the tears stood in her eyes.
“Yes,—he says I’m too thin-skinned.”
Joe stood for a moment with the front page of the paper still in his hand. Something of Jonathan came into his face,—the same firm lines about his mouth that his father had when he crawled under the floor timbers of the mill to save Baker’s girl, pinned down and drowning, the night of the freshet.
Crushing the sheet in his hand Joe walked straight into the city editor’s office, a swing in his movement and a look in his eye that roused everybody in the room.
“You’ve got Katie Murdock fired, she says,” he hissed between his teeth. “What fur?” He was standing over the night city editor now, his eyes blazing, his fists tightly closed.
“What business have you to ask?” growled the editor.
“Every business!” There was something in the boy’s face that made the man move his hand toward a paper weight.