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- Philistia - 50/74 -
his most legible and roundest hand, copperplate fashion, with as much care and precision as if it were his first copy for presentation to the stern writing-master of a Draconian board school. 'Editors are more likely to read your manuscript if it's legible, I should think, Edie,' he said, looking up at her with more of hope in his face than had often been seen in it of late. 'I wonder, now, whether they prefer it sent in a long envelope, folded in three; or in a square envelope, folded twice over; or in a paper cover, open like a pamphlet. There must be some recognised professional way of doing it, and I should think one's more likely to get it taken if one sends it in the regular professional fashion, than if one makes it look too amateurish. I shall go in for the long envelope; at any rate, if not journalistic, it's at least official.'
The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence' is an important personage in contemporary politics, and a man of more real weight in the world than half-a-dozen Members of Parliament for obscure country boroughs; but even that mighty man himself would probably have been a little surprised as well as amused (if he could have seen it) at the way in which Ernest and Edie Le Breton anxiously endeavoured to conciliate beforehand his merest possible personal fads and fancies. As a matter of fact, the question of the particular paper on which the article was written mattered to him absolutely less than nothing, inasmuch as he never looked at anything whatsoever until it had been set up in type for him to pass off-hand judgment upon its faults or its merits. His time was far too valuable to be lightly wasted on the task of deciphering crabbed manuscript.
In the afternoon, Berkeley called to see whether Ernest had followed his suggestion, and was agreeably surprised to find a whole article already finished. He glanced through the neatly written pages, and was still more pleased to discover that Ernest, with an unsuspected outburst of practicality and practicability, had really hit upon a possible subject. 'This may do, Ernest,' he said with a sigh of relief. 'I dare say it will. I know Lancaster wants leader writers, and I think this is quite good enough to serve his turn. I've spoken to him about you: come round with me now--he'll be at the office by four o'clock--and we'll see what we can do for you. It's absolutely useless sending anything to the editor of a daily paper without an introduction. You might write with the pen of the angel Gabriel, or turn out leaders which were a judicious mean between Gladstone, Burke, and Herbert Spencer, and it would profit you nothing, for the simple reason that he hasn't got the time to read them. He would toss Junius and Montesquieu into the waste paper basket, and accept copy on the shocking murder in the Borough Road from one of his regular contributors instead. He can't help himself: and what you must do, Ernest, is to become one of the regular ring, and combine to keep Junius and Montesquieu permanently outside.'
'The struggle for existence gives no quarter,' Ernest said sadly with half a sigh.
'And takes none,' Berkeley answered quickly. 'So for your wife's sake you must try your best to fight your way through it on your own account, for yourself and your family.'
The editor of the 'Morning Intelligence,' Mr. Hugh Lancaster, was a short, thick-set, hard-headed sort of man, with a kindly twinkle in his keen grey eyes, and a harassed smile playing continually around the corners of his firm and dose mouth. He looked as though he was naturally a good-humoured benevolent person, overdriven at the journalistic mill till half the life was worn out of him, leaving the benevolence as a wearied remnant, without energy enough to express itself in any other fashion than by the perpetual harassed smile. He saw Arthur Berkeley and Ernest Le Breton at once in his own sanctum, and took the manuscript from their hands with a languid air of perfect resignation. 'This is the friend you spoke of, is it, Berkeley?' he said in a wearied way. 'Well, well, we'll see what we can do for him.' At the same time he rang a tiny hand-bell. A boy, rather the worse for printer's ink, appeared at the summons. Mr. Lancaster handed him Ernest's careful manuscript unopened, with the laconic order, 'Press. Proof immediately.' The boy took it without a word. 'I'm very busy now,' Mr. Lancaster went on in the same wearied dispirited manner: 'come again in thirty-five minutes. Jones, show these gentlemen into a room somewhere.' And the editor fell back forthwith into his easy-chair and his original attitude of listless indifference. Berkeley and Ernest followed the boy into a bare back room, furnished only with a deal table and two chairs, and there anxiously awaited the result of the editor's critical examination.
'Don't be afraid of Lancaster, Ernest,' Arthur said kindly. 'His manner's awfully cold, I know, but he means well, and I really believe he'd go out of his way, rather than not, to do a kindness for anybody he thought actually in want of occupation. With most men, that's an excellent reason for not employing you: with Lancaster I do truly think it's a genuine recommendation.'
At the end of thirty-five minutes the grimy-faced office-boy returned with a friendly nod. 'Editor'll see you,' he said, with the Spartan brevity of the journalistic world--nobody connected with newspapers ever writes or speaks a single word unnecessarily, if he isn't going to be paid for it at so much per thousand--and Ernest followed him, trembling from head to foot, into Mr. Lancaster's private study.
The great editor took up the steaming hot proof that had just been brought him, and glanced down it carelessly with a rapid scrutiny. Then he turned to Ernest, and said in a dreamy fashion, 'This will do. We'll print this to-morrow. You may send us a middle very occasionally. Come here at four o'clock, when a subject suggests itself to you, and speak to me about it. My time's very fully occupied. Good morning, Mr. Le Breton. Berkeley, stop a minute, I want to talk with you.'
It was all done in a moment, and almost before Ernest knew what had happened he was out in the street again, with tears filling his eyes, and joy his heart, for here at last was bread, bread, bread, for Edie and the baby! He ran without stopping all the way back to Holloway, rushed headlong into the house and fell into Edie's arms, calling out wildly, 'He's taken it! He's taken it!' Edie kissed him half-a-dozen times over, and answered bravely, 'I knew he would, Ernest. It was such a splendid article.' And yet thousands of readers of the 'Morning Intelligence' next day skimmed lightly over the leader on organ-boys in their ordinary casual fashion, without even thinking what hopes and fears and doubts and terrors had gone to the making of that very commonplace bit of newspaper rhetoric. For if the truth must be told, Edie's first admiring criticism was perfectly correct, and Ernest Le Breton's leader was just for all the world exactly the same as anybody else's.
Meanwhile, Arthur Berkeley had stayed behind as requested in Mr. Lancaster's study, and waited to hear what Mr. Lancaster had to say to him. The editor looked up at him wearily from his chair, passed his bread hand slowly across his bewildered forehead, and then said the one word, 'Poor?'
'Nothing on earth to do,' Berkeley answered.
'He might make a journalist, perhaps,' the editor gaid, sleepily. 'This social's up to the average. At any rate, I'll do my very best for him. But he can't live upon socials. We have too many social men already. What can he do? That's the question. It won't do to say he can write pretty nearly as well about anything that turns up as any other man in England can do. I can get a hundred young fellows in the Temple to do that, any day. The real question's this: is there anything he can write about a great deal better than all the other men in all England put together?'
'Yes, there is,' Berkeley answered with commendable promptitude, undismayed by Mr. Lancaster's excessive requirements. 'He knows more about communists, socialists, and political exiles generally, than anybody else in the whole of London.'
'Good,' the editor answered, brightening up, and speaking for a moment a little less languidly. 'That's good. There's this man Schurz, now, the German agitator. He's going to be tried soon for a seditious libel it seems, and he'll be sent to prison, naturally. Now, does your friend know anything at all of this fellow?'
'He knows him personally and intimately,' Berkeley replied, delighted to find that the card which had proved so bad a one at Pilbury Regis was turning up trumps in the more Bohemian neighbourhood of the Temple and Fleet Street. 'He can give you any information you want about Schurz or any of the rest of those people. He has associated with them all familiarly for the last six or seven years.'
'Then he takes an interest in politics,' said Mr. Lancaster, almost waking up now. 'That's good again. It's so very difficult to find young men nowadays, able to write, who take a genuine interest in politics. They all go off after literature and science and aesthetics, and other dry uninteresting subjects. Now, what does your average intelligent daily paper reader care, I should like to know, about literature and science and aesthetics and so forth? Well, he'll do, I've very little doubt: at any rate, I'll give him a trial. Perhaps he might be able to undertake this Great Widgerly disenfranchising case. Stop! he's poor, isn't he? I daresay he'd just as soon not wait for his money for this social. In the ordinary course, he wouldn't get paid till the end of the quarter; but I'll give you a cheque to take back to him now; perhaps he wants it. Poor fellow, poor fellow! he really looks very delicate. Depend upon it, Berkeley, I'll do anything on earth for him, if only he'll write tolerably.'
'You're awfully good,' Arthur said, taking the proffered cheque gratefully. 'I'm sure the money will be of great use to him: and it's very kind indeed of you to have thought of it.'
'Not at all, not at all,'the editor answered, collapsing dreamily. 'Good morning, good morning.'
At Mrs. Halliss's lodgings in Holloway, Edie was just saying to Ernest over their simple tea, 'I wonder what they'll give you for it, Ernest.' And Ernest had just answered, big with hope, 'Well, I should think it would be quite ten shillings, but I shouldn't be surprised, Edie, if it was as much as a pound;' when the door opened, and in walked Arthur Berkeley, with a cheque in his hand, which he laid by Edie's teacup. Edie took it up and gave a little cry of delight and astonishment. Ernest caught it from her hand in his eagerness, and gazed upon it with dazed and swimming vision. Did he read the words aright, and could it be really, 'Pay E. Le Breton, Esq., or order, three guineas'? Three guineas! Three guineas! Three real actual positive gold and silver guineas! It was almost too much for either of them to believe, and all for a single morning's light labour! What a perfect Eldorado of wealth and happiness seemed now to be opening out unexpectedly before them!
So much Arthur Berkeley, his own eyes glistening too with a sympathetic moisture, saw and heard before he went away in a happier mood and
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