VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.fictionstories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


The Cub Reporter








From: Laughing Bill Hyde And Other Stories

Why he chose Buffalo Paul Anderson never knew, unless perhaps it
had more newspapers than Bay City, Michigan, and because his ticket
expired in the vicinity of Buffalo. For that matter, why he should
have given up an easy job as the mate of a tugboat to enter the
tortuous paths of journalism the young man did not know, and, lacking
the introspective faculty, he did not stop to analyze his motives. So
far as he could discover he had felt the call to higher endeavor, and
just naturally had heeded it. Such things as practical experience and
educational equipment were but empty words to him, for he was young
and hopeful, and the world is kind at twenty-one.

He had hoped to enter his chosen field with some financial backing,
and to that end, when the desire to try his hand at literature had
struck him, he had bought an interest in a smoke-consumer which a
fireman on another tugboat had patented. In partnership with the
inventor he had installed one of the devices beneath a sawmill boiler
as an experiment. Although the thing consumed smoke surprisingly well,
it likewise unharnessed such an amazing army of heat-units that it
melted the crown-sheet of the boiler; whereupon the sawmill men, being
singularly coarse and unimaginative fellows, set upon the patentee and
his partner with ash-rakes, draw-bars, and other ordinary, unpatented
implements; a lumberjack beat hollowly upon their ribs with a peavy,
and that night young Anderson sickened of smoke-consumers, harked anew
to the call of journalism, and hiked, arriving in Buffalo with seven
dollars and fifty cents to the good.

For seven dollars, counted out in advance, he chartered a furnished
room for a week, the same carrying with it a meal at each end of the
day, which left in Anderson's possession a superfluity of fifty cents
to be spent in any extravagance he might choose.

Next day he bought a copy of each newspaper and, carefully scanning
them, selected the one upon which to bestow his reportorial gifts.
This done, he weighed anchor and steamed through the town in search of
the office. Walking in upon the city editor of The Intelligencer, he
gazed with benevolent approval upon that busy gentleman's broad back.
He liked the place, the office suited him, and he decided to have his
desk placed over by the window.

After a time the editor wheeled, displaying a young, smooth, fat face,
out of which peered gray-blue eyes with pin-point pupils.

"Well?" he queried.

"Here I am," said Anderson.

"So it appears. What do you want?"

"Work."

"What kind?"

"Newspapering."

"What can you do?"

"Anything."

"Well, well!" cried the editor. "You don't look much like a newspaper
man."

"I'm not one--yet. But I'm going to be."

"Where have you worked?"

"Nowhere! You see, I'm really a playwright."

The editor's face showed a bit of interest. "Playwright, eh? Anderson!
Anderson!" he mused. "Don't recall the name."

"No," said Paul; "I've never written any plays yet, but I'm going
to. That's why I want to sort of begin here and get the hang of this
writing game."

A boy entered with some proofs at that moment and tossed them upon
the table, distracting the attention of the newspaper man. The latter
wheeled back to his work and spoke curtly over his shoulder.

"I'm not running a school of journalism. Good-by."

"Maybe you'd like me to do a little space work--?"

"I'd never like you. Get out. I'm busy."

Anderson retired gracefully, jingling his scanty handful of nickels
and dimes, and a half-hour later thrust himself boldly in upon another
editor, but with no better result. He made the rounds of all the
offices; although invariably rebuffed he became more firmly convinced
than ever that journalism was his designated sphere.

That night after dinner he retired to his room with the evening
papers, wedged a chair against his bed, and, hoisting his feet upon
the wash-stand, absorbed the news of the day. It was ineffably sweet
and satisfying to be thus identified with the profession of letters,
and it was immeasurably more dignified than "tugging" on the Saginaw
River. Once he had schooled himself in the tricks of writing, he
decided he would step to higher things than newspaper work, but for
the present it was well to ground himself firmly in the rudiments of
the craft.

In going through the papers he noted one topic which interested him, a
"similar mystery" story on the second page. From what he could gather,
he judged that much space had already been given to it; for now,
inasmuch as no solution offered, the item was dying slowly, the major
portion of each article being devoted to a rehash of similar unsolved
mysteries.

Anderson read that the body of the golden-haired girl still lay at the
Morgue, unidentified. Bit by bit he pieced together the lean story
that she was a suicide and that both the police and the press had
failed in their efforts to unearth the least particle of information
regarding her. In spite of her remarkable beauty and certain unusual
circumstances connected with her death investigation had led nowhere.

On the following day Anderson again walked into the editorial-rooms
of The Intelligencer and greeted the smooth, fat-faced occupant
thereof.

"Anything doing yet?" he inquired.

"Not yet," said the newspaper man, with a trace of annoyance in his
voice. As the applicant moved out he halted him at the door with the
words: "Oh! Wait!"

Anderson's heart leaped. After all, he thought, perseverance would--

"Not yet, nor soon." The editor smiled broadly, and Paul realized that
the humor in those pin-point eyes was rather cruel.

Five other calls he made that day, to be greeted gruffly in every
instance except one. One man encouraged him slightly by saying:

"Come back next week; I may have an opening then."

In view of the "pay-as-you-enter" policy in vogue at Anderson's
boarding-house he knew there could be no next week for him, therefore
he inquired:

"How about a little space work in the meantime? I'm pretty good at
that stuff."

"You are?"

"Surest thing you know."

"Did you ever do any?"

"No. But I'm good, just the same."

"Huh!" the editor grunted. "There's no room now, and, come to think of
it, you needn't bother to get around next week. I can't break in new
men."

That evening young Anderson again repaired to his room with his
harvest of daily papers, and again he read them thoroughly. He was by
no means discouraged as yet, for his week had just begun--there
were still five days of grace, and prime ministers have been made
overnight, nations have fallen in five days. Six calls a day for five
days, that meant thirty chances for a job. It was a cinch!

Hidden away among the back pages once more he encountered the
golden-haired-girl story, and although one paper featured it a bit
because of some imaginary clue, the others treated it casually, making
public the information that the body still lay at the Morgue, a
silent, irritating thing of mystery.

On the third day Paul made his usual round of calls. He made them more
quickly now because he was recognized, and was practically thrown out
of each editorial sanctum. His serenity remained unruffled, and
his confidence undisturbed. Of all the six editors, Burns, of The
Intelligencer, treated him worst, adding ridicule to his gruffness, a
refinement of cruelty which annoyed the young steamboat man. Anderson
clenched his hard-knuckled hand and estimated the distance from
editorial ear to point of literary chin, but realized in time that
steamboat methods were out of place here in the politer realms of
journalism.

Four times more he followed his daily routine, and on Monday morning
arose early to avoid his landlady. His week was up, his nickels and
dimes were gone, nevertheless he spent the day on his customary
rounds. He crept in late at night, blue with the cold and rather dazed
at his bad luck; he had eaten nothing since the morning before, and
he knew that he dared not show up at the breakfast-table the next
morning. For the time being discouragement settled upon him; it
settled suddenly like some heavy smothering thing; it robbed him of
hope and redoubled his hunger. He awoke at daylight, roused by the
sense of his defeat, then tiptoed out while yet the landlady was abed,
and spent the day looking for work along the water-front. But winter
had tied up the shipping, and he failed, as he likewise failed at
sundry employment agencies where he offered himself in any capacity.

At noon he wandered into the park, and, finding a sheltered spot,
sunned himself as best he could. He picked up the sheets of a
wind-scattered paper and read until the chill December afternoon
got into his bones and forced him to his feet. The tale of the
unidentified girl at the Morgue recurred to him when he read the
announcement that she would be buried two days later in the Potter's
Field. Perhaps the girl had starved for lack of work, he reflected.
Perhaps hunger and cold had driven her to her death. Certainly those
two were to blame for many a tragedy calculated to mystify warmly clad
policemen and well-fed reporters.

When he stole, shivering, into his bleak bedroom, late that night, he
found a note pinned upon his pillow. Of course the landlady needed her
rent--all landladies were in need of money--and of course he would get
out in the morning. He was glad she had not turned him out during the
day, for this afforded him sanctuary for another night at least. After
to-morrow it would be a park bench for his.

He left his valise behind in the morning, rather lamenting the fact
that the old lady could not wear the shirts it contained, and hoping
that she would realize a sufficient sum from their sale to pay his
bill.

It was late afternoon when he commenced his listless tramp toward the
newspaper offices. Since Burns had become his pet aversion, he saved
him for the last, framing a few farewell remarks befitting the death
of hopes like his, and rehearsing an exit speech suitable to mark his
departure from the field of letters.

When he finally reached The Intelligencer editorial-rooms, Burns
rounded on him angrily.

"For the love of Mike! Are you here again?" he demanded.

"I thought you might like to have some space work--"

"By heavens! You're persistent."

"Yes."

"We editors are an unfeeling lot, aren't we?" the fat young man
inquired. "No temperament, no appreciation." He laughed noiselessly.

"Give me a job," Anderson cried, his voice breaking huskily. "I'll
make good. I'll do anything."

"How long do you intend to keep bothering me?" questioned Burns.

Anderson's cheeks were blue and the backs of his legs were trembling
from weakness, but he repeated, stolidly: "Give me a job. I--I won't
bother you after that. I'll make good, see if I don't."

"You think well of yourself, don't you?"

"If you thought half as well of me as I do," Paul assured him, "I'd be
your star reporter."

"Star hell!" testily cried the editor. "We haven't got such a thing.
They don't know they're alive, except on pay-day. Look at this blond
girl at the Morgue--they've wasted two weeks on that case." He paused
suddenly, then his soft lips spread, showing his sharp, white teeth.
Modifying his tone, he continued: "Say, I rather like you, Anderson,
you're such a blamed nuisance. You've half convinced me that you're a
genius."

The younger man's hunger, which had given up in despair, raised its
head and bit into his vitals sharply.

"Maybe I--"

"I've a notion to give you a chance."

"That's all I want," the caller quavered, in a panic. "Just give me a
toe-hold, that's all," His voice broke in spite of his effort to
hold it steady. Burns wasn't a bad sort, after all; just grouchy and
irritable. Perhaps this was merely his way.

Burns continued: "Well, I will give you an assignment, a good
assignment, too, and if you cover it I'll put you on permanently. I'll
do more than that, I'll pay you what we pay our best man, if you make
good. That's fair, isn't it?"

He smiled benignly, and the soon-to-be reporter's wits went capering
off in a hysterical stampede. Anderson felt the desire to wring the
fellow's hand.

"All that counts in this office is efficiency," the latter went on.
"We play no favorites. When a man delivers the goods we boost him;
when he fails we fire him. There's no sentiment here, and I hold my
job merely because I'm the best man in the shop. Can you go to work
to-night?"

"Why--why--yes, sir!"

"Very well. That's the spirit I like. You can take your time on the
story, and you needn't come back till you bring it."

"Yes, sir."

"Now pay attention, here it is. About two weeks ago a blond girl
committed suicide in a Main Street boarding-house. The body's down at
the Morgue now. Find out who she is." He turned back to his desk and
began to work.

The hungry youth behind him experienced a sudden sinking at the
stomach. All at once he became hopelessly empty and friendless, and he
felt his knees urging him to sit down. He next became conscious
that the shoulders of Mr. Burns were shaking a bit, as if he had
encountered a piece of rare humor. After an instant, when Anderson
made no move to go, the man at the desk wheeled about, exposing a
bloated countenance purple with suppressed enjoyment.

"What's the matter?" he giggled. "Don't you want the job? I can't tell
you any more about the girl; that's all we know. The rest is up to
you. You'll find out everything, won't you? Please do, for your own
sake and the sake of The Intelligencer. Yes, yes, I'm sure you will,
because you're a good newspaper man--you told me so yourself." His
appreciation of the jest threatened to strangle him.

"Mr. Burns," began the other, "I--I'm up against it. I guess you don't
know it, but I'm hungry. I haven't eaten for three days."

At this the editor became positively apoplectic.

"Oh yes--yes, I do!" He nodded vigorously. "You show it in your face.
That's why I went out of my way to help you. He! He! He! Now you run
along and get me the girl's name and address while I finish this
proof. Then come back and have supper with me at the Press Club."
Again he chortled and snickered, whereupon something sullen and fierce
awoke in young Anderson. He knew of a way to get food and a bed and a
place to work even if it would only last thirty days, for he judged
Burns was the kind of man who would yell for the police in case of an
assault. Paul would have welcomed the prospect of prison fare, but he
reasoned that it would be an incomplete satisfaction merely to mash
the pudgy face of Mr. Burns and hear him clamor. What he wanted at
this moment was a job; Burns's beating could hold over. This suicide
case had baffled the pick of Buffalo's trained reporters; it had
foiled the best efforts of her police; nevertheless, this fat-paunched
fellow had baited a starving man by offering him the assignment. It
was impossible; it was a cruel joke, and yet--there might be a chance
of success. Even while he was debating the point he heard himself say:

"Very well, Mr. Burns. If you want her name I'll get it for you."

He crammed his hat down over his ears and walked out, leaving the
astonished editor gazing after him with open mouth.

Anderson's first impulse had been merely to get out of Burns's office,
out of sight of that grinning satyr, and never to come back, but
before he had reached the street he had decided that it was as well to
starve striving as with folded hands. After all, the dead girl had a
name.

Instead of leaving the building, he went to the files of the paper
and, turning back, uncovered the original story, which he cut out with
his pen-knife, folded up, and placed in his pocket. This done, he
sought the lobby of a near-by hotel, found a seat near a radiator, and
proceeded to read the clipping carefully.

It was a meager story, but it contained facts and was free from the
confusion and distortions of the later accounts, which was precisely
what he wished to guard against. Late one afternoon, so the story
went, the girl had rented a room in a Main Street boarding-house, had
eaten supper and retired. At eleven o'clock the next day, when she did
not respond to a knock on her door, the room had been broken into and
she had been found dead, with an empty morphine-bottle on the bureau.
That was all. There were absolutely no clues to the girl's identity,
for the closest scrutiny failed to discover a mark on her clothing
or any personal articles which could be traced. She had possessed no
luggage, save a little hand-satchel or shopping-bag containing a few
coins. One fact alone stood out in the whole affair. She had paid for
her room with a two-dollar Canadian bill, but this faint clue had been
followed with no result. No one knew the girl; she had walked out of
nowhere and had disappeared into impenetrable mystery. Those were the
facts in the case, and they were sufficiently limited to baffle the
best efforts of Buffalo's trained detective force.

It would seem that there can be no human creature so obscure as to
have neither relatives, friends, nor acquaintances, and yet this
appeared to be the case, for a full description of this girl had
been blazoned in the papers of every large city, had been exposed in
countless country post-offices, and conveyed to the police of every
city of the States and Canada. It was as if the mysterious occupant of
the Morgue had been born of the winter wind on that fateful evening
two weeks before. The country had been dragged by a net of publicity,
that marvelous, fine-meshed fabric from which no living man is small
or shrewd enough to escape, and still the sad, white face at the
Morgue continued to smile out from its halo of gold as if in gentle
mockery.

For a long time Paul Anderson sat staring into the realms of
speculation, his lips white with hunger, his cheeks hollow and
feverish from the battle he had waged. His power of exclusion was
strong, therefore he lost himself to his surroundings. Finally,
however, he roused himself from his abstraction and realized the irony
of this situation. He, the weakest, the most inexperienced of all the
men who had tried, had been set to solve this mystery, and starvation
was to be the fruit of his failure.

He saw that it had begun to snow outside. In the lobby it was warm and
bright and vivid with jostling life; the music of a stringed orchestra
somewhere back of him was calling well-dressed men and women in to
dinner. All of them seemed happy, hopeful, purposeful. He noted,
furthermore, that three days without food makes a man cold, even in
a warm place, and light-headed, too. The north wind had bitten him
cruelly as he crossed the street, and now as he peered out of the
plate-glass windows the night seemed to hold other lurking horrors
besides. His want was like a burden, and he shuddered weakly,
hesitating to venture out where the wind could harry him. It was a
great temptation to remain here where there was warmth and laughter
and life; nevertheless, he rose and slunk shivering out into the
darkness, then laid a course toward the Morgue.

While Anderson trod the snowy streets a slack-jowled editor sat at
supper with some friends at the Press Club, eating and drinking
heartily, as is the custom of newspaper men let down for a moment from
the strain of their work. He had told a story, and his caustic way
of telling it had amused his hearers, for each and every one of them
remembered the shabby applicant for work, and all of them had wasted
baffling hours on the mystery of this girl with the golden hair.

"I guess I put a crimp in him," giggled Mr. Burns. "I gave him a
chance to show those talents he recommends so highly."

"The Morgue, on a night like this, is a pretty dismal place for a
hungry man," said one of the others. "It's none too cheerful in the
daytime."

The others agreed, and Burns wabbled anew in his chair in appreciation
of his humor.

Young Anderson had never seen a morgue, and to-night, owing to his
condition, his dread of it was child-like. It seemed as if this
particular charnel-house harbored some grisly thing which stood
between him and food and warmth and hope; the nearer he drew to it the
greater grew his dread. A discourteous man, shrunken as if from the
chill of the place, was hunched up in front of a glowing stove. He
greeted Anderson sourly:

"Out into that courtyard; turn to the left--second door," he directed.
"She's in the third compartment."

Anderson lacked courage to ask the fellow to come along, but stumbled
out into a snow-filled areaway lighted by a swinging incandescent
which danced to the swirling eddies.

Compartment! He supposed bodies were kept upon slabs or tables, or
something like that. He had steeled himself to see rows of unspeakable
sights, played upon by dripping water, but he found nothing of the
sort.

The second door opened into a room which he discovered was colder than
the night outside, evidently the result of artificial refrigeration.
He was relieved to find the place utterly bare except for a sort of
car or truck which ran around the room on a track beneath a row of

square doors. These doors evidently opened into the compartments
alluded to by the keeper.

Which compartment had the fellow said? Paul abruptly discovered that
he was rattled, terribly rattled, and he turned back out of the place.
He paused shortly, however, and took hold of himself.

"Now, now!" he said, aloud. "You're a bum reporter, my boy." An
instant later he forced himself to jerk open the first door at his
hand.

For what seemed a full minute he stared into the cavern, as if
petrified, then he closed the door softly. Sweat had started from his
every pore. Alone once more in the great room, he stood shivering.
"God!" he muttered. This was newspaper training indeed.

He remembered now having read, several days before, about an Italian
laborer who had been crushed by a falling column. To one unaccustomed
to death in any form that object, head-on in the obscurity of the
compartment, had been a trying sight. He began to wonder if it were
really cold or stiflingly hot.

The boy ground his teeth and flung open the next door, slamming it
hurriedly again to blot out what it exposed. Why didn't they keep them
covered? Why didn't they show a card outside? Must he examine every
grisly corpse upon the premises?

He stepped to the third door and wrenched it open. He knew the girl at
once by her wealth of yellow hair and the beauty of her still, white
face. There was no horror here, no ghastly sight to weaken a man's
muscles and sicken his stomach; only a tired girl asleep. Anderson
felt a great pity as he wheeled the truck opposite the door and
reverently drew out the slab on which the body lay. He gazed upon her
intently for some time. She was not at all as he had pictured her, and
yet there could be no mistake. He took the printed description from
his pocket and reread it carefully, comparing it point by point. When
he had finished he found that it was a composite word photograph,
vaguely like and yet totally unlike the person it was intended to
portray, and so lacking in character that no one knowing the original
intimately would have been likely to recognize her from it.

So that was why no word had come in answer to all this newspaper
publicity. After all, this case might not be so difficult as it had
seemed; for the first time the dispirited youth felt a faint glow of
encouragement. He began to formulate a plan.

Hurriedly he fumbled for his note-book, and there, in that house
of death, with his paper propped against the wall, he wrote a
two-hundred-word description; a description so photographically exact
that to this day it is preserved in the Buffalo police archives as a
perfect model.

He replaced the body in its resting-place and went out. There was no
chill in him now, no stumbling nor weakness of any sort. He had found
a starting-point, had uncovered what all those trained newspaper men
had missed, and he felt that he had a chance to win.

Twenty minutes later Burns, who had just come in from supper, turned
back from his desk with annoyance and challenge in his little, narrow
eyes.

"Well?"

"I think I've got her, Mr. Burns."

"Nonsense!"

"Anyhow, I've got a description that her father or her mother or
her friends can recognize. The one you and the other papers printed
disguised her so that nobody could tell who she was--it might have
covered a hundred girls."

Rapidly, and without noting the editor's growing impatience, Paul read
the two descriptions, then ran on, breathlessly:

"All we have to do is print ten or twenty thousand of these and mail
them out with the morning edition--separate sheets, posters, you
understand?--so they can be nailed up in every post-office within two
hundred miles. Send some to the police of all the cities, and we'll
have a flash in twenty-four hours."

Burns made no comment for a moment. Instead, he looked the young man
over angrily from his eager face to his unblacked shoes. His silence,
his stare, were eloquent.

"Why? Why not?" Anderson demanded, querulously. "I tell you this
description isn't right. It--it's nothing like her, nothing at all."

"Say! I thought I'd seen the last of you," growled the corpulent man.
"Aren't you on to yourself yet?"

"Do you--mean that your talk this evening don't go?" Paul demanded,
quietly. "Do you mean to say you won't even give me the chance you
promised?"

"No! I don't mean that. What I said goes, all right, but I told you
to identify this girl. I didn't agree to do it. What d'you think this
paper is, anyhow? We want stories in this office. We don't care who or
what this girl is unless there's a story in her. We're not running a
job-print shop nor a mail-order business to identify strayed females.
Twenty thousand posters! Bah! And say--don't you know that no two men
can write similar descriptions of anybody or anything? What's the
difference whether her hair is burnished gold or 'raw gold' or her
eyes bluish gray instead of grayish blue? Rats! Beat it!"

"But I tell you--"

"What's her name? Where does she live? What killed her? That's what I
want to know. I'd look fine, wouldn't I, circularizing a dead story?
Wouldn't that be a laugh on me? No, Mr. Anderson, author, artist, and
playwright, I'm getting damned tired of being pestered by you, and you
needn't come back here until you bring the goods. Do I make myself
plain?"

It was anger which cut short the younger man's reply. On account of
petty economy, for fear of ridicule, this editor refused to relieve
some withered old woman, some bent and worried old man, who might be,
who probably were, waiting, waiting, waiting in some out-of-the-way
village. So Anderson reflected. Because there might not be a story in
it this girl would go to the Potter's Field and her people would never
know. And yet, by Heaven, they would know! Something told him there
was a story back of this girl's death, and he swore to get it. With
a mighty effort he swallowed his chagrin and, disregarding the insult
to himself, replied:

"Very well. I've got you this time."

"Humph!" Burns grunted, viciously.

"I don't know how I'll turn the trick, but I'll turn it." For the
second time that evening he left the office with his jaws set
stubbornly.

Paul Anderson walked straight to his boarding-house and bearded his
landlady. "I've got a job," said he.

"I'm very glad," the lady told him, honestly enough. "I feared you
were going to move out."

"Yes!" he repeated. "I've got a job that carries the highest salary
on the paper. You remember the yellow-haired girl who killed herself
awhile ago?" he asked.

"Indeed I do. Everybody knows about that case."

"Well, it got too tough for the police and the other reporters, so
they turned it over to me. It's a bully assignment, and my pay starts
when I solve the mystery. Now I'm starved; I wish you'd rustle me some
grub."

"But, Mr. Anderson, you're bill for this week? You know I get paid
in--"

"Tut, tut! You know how newspapers are. They don't pay in advance, and
I can't pay you until they pay me. You'll probably have to wait until
Saturday, for I'm a little out of practice on detective stuff. But
I'll have this thing cleared up by then. You don't appreciate--you
can't appreciate--what a corking assignment it is."

Anderson had a peculiarly engaging smile, and five minutes later he
was wrecking the pantry of all the edibles his fellow-boarders had
overlooked, the while his landlady told him her life's history, wept
over the memory of her departed husband, and confessed that she hoped
to get out of the boarding-house business some time.

A good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast put the young man in fine
fettle, and about ten o'clock he repaired to a certain rooming-house
on Main Street, the number of which he obtained from the clipping in
his pocket.

A girl answered his ring, but at sight of him she shut the door
hurriedly, explaining through the crack:

"Mrs. MacDougal is out and you can't come in."

"But I want to talk to you."

"I'm not allowed to talk to reporters," she declared. "Mrs. MacDougal
won't let me."

A slight Scotch accent gave Anderson his cue. "MacDougal is a good
Scotch name. I'm Scotch myself, and so are you." He smiled his
boarding-house smile, and the girl's eyes twinkled back at him.
"Didn't she tell you I was coming?"

"Why, no, sir. Aren't you a reporter?"

"I've been told that I'm not. I came to look at a room."

"What room?" the girl asked, quickly. "We haven't any vacant rooms."

"That's queer," Anderson frowned. "I can't be mistaken. I'm sure Mrs.
MacDougal said there was one."

The door opened slowly. "Maybe she meant the one on the second floor."

"Precisely." An instant later he was following his guide up-stairs.

Anderson recognized the room at a glance, from its description, but
the girl did not mention the tragedy which had occurred therein, so
he proceeded to talk terms with her, prolonging his stay as long as
possible, meanwhile using his eyes to the best advantage. He invented
an elaborate ancestry which he traced backward through the pages of
Scottish Chiefs, the only book of the sort he had ever read, and by
the time he was ready to leave the girl had thawed out considerably.

"I'll take the room," he told her, "and I'm well pleased to get it. I
don't see how such a good one stands vacant in this location."

There was an instant's pause, then his companion confessed: "There's a
reason. You'll find it out sooner or later, so I may as well tell you.
That's where the yellow-haired girl you hear so much about killed
herself. I hope it won't make any difference to you, Mr.--"

"Gregor. Certainly not. I read about the case. Canadian, wasn't she?"

"Oh yes! There's no doubt of it. She paid her rent with a Canadian
bill, and, besides, I noticed her accent. I didn't tell the reporters,
however, they're such a fresh lot."

Paul's visit, it appeared, had served to establish one thing, at
least, a thing which the trained investigators had not discovered.
Canadian money in Buffalo was too common to excite comment, therefore
none of them had seen fit to follow out that clue of the two-dollar
bill.

"The papers had it that she was some wealthy girl," the former speaker
ran on, "but I know better."

"Indeed? How do you know?"

"Her hands! They were good hands, and she used them as if she knew
what they were made for."

"Anything else?"

"No. She seemed very sad and didn't say much. Of course I only saw her
once."

Anderson questioned the girl at some further length, but discovered
nothing of moment, so he left, declaring that he would probably move
into the room on the following day.

Prom the rooming-house he went directly to the Morgue, and for a
second time examined the body, confining his attention particularly to
the hands. The right one showed nothing upon which to found a theory,
save that it was, indeed, a capable hand with smooth skin and
well-tended nails; but on examining the left Paul noted a marked
peculiarity. Near the ends of the thumb and the first finger the skin
was roughened, abrased; there were numerous tiny black spots
beneath the skin, which, upon careful scrutiny, he discovered to be
microscopic blood-blisters.

For a long time he puzzled over this phenomenon which had escaped all
previous observers, but to save him he could invent no explanation for
it. He repaired finally to the office of the attendant and asked for
the girl's clothes, receiving permission to examine a small bundle.

"Where's the rest?" he demanded.

"That's all she had," said the man.

"No baggage at all?"

"Not a thing but what she stood up in. The coroner has her jewelry and
things of that sort."

Anderson searched the contents of the bundle with the utmost care, but
found no mark of any sort. The garments, although inexpensive, were
beautifully neat and clean, and they displayed the most marvelous
examples of needlework he had ever seen. Among the effects was a plush
muff, out of which, as he picked it up, fell a pair of little knitted
mittens--or was there a pair? Finding but the one, he shook the muff
again, then looked through the other things.

"Where's the other mitten?" he inquired.

"There 'ain't been but the one," the attendant told him.

"Are you sure?"

"See here, do you think I'm trying to hold out a yarn mitten on you?
I say there 'ain't been but the one. I was here when she came, and I
know."

Discouraged by the paucity of clues which this place offered, Anderson
went next to the coroner's office.

The City Hall newspaper squad had desks in this place, but Paul paid
no attention to them or to their occupants. He went straight to the
wicket and asked for the effects of the dead girl.

It appeared that Burns had told his practical joke broadcast, for
the young man heard his name mentioned, and then some one behind him
snickered. He paid no attention, however, for the clerk had handed him
a small leather bag or purse, together with a morphine-bottle, about
the size and shape of an ordinary vaseline-bottle. The bag was cheap
and bore no maker's name or mark. Inside of it was a brooch, a ring, a
silver chain, and a slip of paper. Stuck to the bottom of the reticule
was a small key. Paul came near overlooking the last-named article,
for it was well hidden in a fold near the corner. Now a key to an
unknown lock is not much to go on at best, therefore he gave his
attention to the paper. It was evidently a scrap torn from a sheet of
wrapping-paper, and bore these figures in pencil:

9.25
6.25
----
3.00

While he was reading these figures Paul heard a reporter say, loudly,
"Now that I have written the paper, who will take it?"

Another answered, "I will."

"Who are you?" inquired the first voice.

"Hawkshaw, the detective."

Anderson's cheeks flushed, but he returned the bag and its contents
without comment and walked out, heedless of the laughter of the
six reporters. The injustice of their ridicule burnt him like a
branding-iron, for his only offense lay in trying the impossible.
These fellows had done their best and had failed, yet they jeered at
him because he had tackled a forlorn hope. They had taken the trail
when it was hot and had lost it; now they railed at him when he took
it cold.

All that afternoon he tramped the streets, thinking, thinking, until
his brain went stale. The only fresh clues he had discovered thus
far were the marks on finger and thumb, the fact that the girl was a
Canadian, and that she had possessed but one mitten instead of two.
This last, for obvious reasons, was too trivial to mean anything, and
yet in so obscure a case it could not be ignored. The fact that she
was a Canadian helped but little, therefore the best point upon which
to hang a line of reasoning seemed to be those black spots on the left
hand. But they stumped Anderson absolutely.

He altered his mental approach to the subject and reflected upon the
girl's belongings. Taken in their entirety they showed nothing save
that the girl was poor, therefore he began mentally to assort them,
one by one. First, clothes. They were ordinary clothes; they betrayed
nothing. Second, the purse. It was like a million other purses and
showed no distinguishing mark, no peculiarity. Third, the jewelry. It
was cheap and common, of a sort to be found in any store. Fourth, the
morphine-bottle. Paul was forced likewise to dismiss consideration of
that. There remained nothing but the scrap of paper, torn from the
corner of a large sheet and containing these penciled figures:

9.25
6.25
----
3.00

It was a simple sum in subtraction, a very simple sum indeed; too
simple, Anderson reflected, for any one to reduce to figures unless
those figures had been intended for a purpose. He recalled the face
at the morgue and vowed that such a girl could have done the sum
mentally. Then why the paper? Why had she taken pains to tear off a
piece of wrapping-paper, jot down figures so easy to remember,
and preserve them in her purse? Why, she did so because she was
methodical, something answered. But, his alter ego reasoned, if she
had been sufficiently methodical to note a trivial transaction so
carefully, she would have been sufficiently methodical to use some
better, some more methodical method. She would not have torn off a
corner of thick wrapping-paper upon which to keep her books. There was
but one answer, memorandum!

All right, memorandum it was, for the time being. Now then, in what
business could she have been engaged where she found it necessary to
keep memoranda of such inconsiderable sums? Oh, Lord! There were a
million! Paul had been walking on thin ice from the start; now it gave
way beneath him, so he abandoned this train of thought and went back
once more to the bundle of clothes. Surely there was a clue concealed
somewhere among them, if only he could find it. They were poor
clothes, and yet, judging by their cut, he fancied the girl had looked
exceedingly well in them--nay, even modish. She had evidently spent
much time on them, as the beautiful needlework attested. At this point
Anderson's mind ran out on to thin ice again, so he reverted to the
girl herself for the nth time. She was Canadian, her hands were
useful, there were tiny blood-blisters on the left thumb and index
finger, and the skin was roughened and torn minutely, evidently by
some sharp instrument. What instrument? He answered the question
almost before he had voiced it. A needle, of course!

Paul stopped in his walk so abruptly that a man poked him in the back
with a ladder; but he paid no heed, for his mind was leaping. That
thickening of the skin, those tiny scratches, those blood-blisters,
those garments without mark of maker, yet so stylish in cut and so
carefully made, and furthermore that memorandum:

9.25
6.25
----
3.00

"Why, she was a dressmaker!" said Anderson, out loud. He went back
over his reasoning, but it held good--so good that he would have
wagered his own clothes that he was right. Yes, and those figures
represented some trifling purchases or commission--for a customer, no
doubt.

It followed naturally that she was not a Buffalo dressmaker, else she
would have been identified long since; nor was it likely that she came
from any city, for her clothes had not given him the impression of
being city-made, and, moreover, the publicity given to the case
through the press, even allowing for the fact that the printed
description had been vague, would have been sure to uncover her
identity. No, she was a Canadian country seamstress.

The young man's mind went back a few years to his boyhood on a
Michigan farm, where visiting dressmakers used to come and stay by the
week to make his mother's clothes. They usually carried a little
flat trunk filled with patterns, yard sticks, forms, and other
paraphernalia of the trade. Paul remembered that the owners used to
buy the cloths and materials at the country stores, and render a
strict accounting thereof to his mother. Well, where was the trunk
that went with this country dressmaker?

The question of baggage had puzzled him from the start. Had the girl
been possessed of a grip or bundle of any kind at the time of her
death that question would have been answered. But there was absolutely
nothing of the sort in her room. Her complete lack of luggage had
made him doubt, at first, that she was an out-of-town visitor; but,
following his recent conclusions, he decided now that directly the
opposite was true. She had come to Buffalo with nothing but a trunk,
otherwise she would have taken her hand-luggage with her to the Main
Street rooming-house. It remained to find that trunk.

This problem threatened even greater difficulties than any hitherto,
and Paul shivered as the raw Lake wind searched through his clothes.
He wondered if it had been as cold as this when the girl arrived in
Buffalo. Yes, assuredly. Then why did she go out with only one mitten?
His reason told him that the other one had been lost by the police.
But the police are careful, as a rule. They had saved every other
article found in the girl's possession, even to a brooch and pin and
scrap of paper. Probably the girl herself had lost it. But country
dressmakers are careful, too; they are not given to losing mittens,
especially in cold weather. It was more reasonable to believe that she
had mislaid it among her belongings; inasmuch as those belongings,
according to Paul's logic, were doubtless contained in her trunk, that
was probably where the missing mitten would be found. But, after all,
had she really brought a trunk with her?

Like a flash came the recollection of that key stuck to the bottom of
the girl's leather purse at the coroner's office. Ten minutes later
Paul was back at the City Hall.

For a second time he was greeted with laughter by the reportorial
squad; again he paid no heed.

"Why, you saw those things not two hours ago," protested the coroner's
clerk, in answer to his inquiry.

"I want to see them again."

"Well, I'm busy. You've had them once, that's enough."

"Friend," said Anderson, quietly, "I want those things and I want them
quick. You give them to me or I'll go to the man higher up and get
them--and your job along with them."

The fellow obeyed reluctantly. Paul picked the key loose and examined
it closely. While he was thus engaged, one of the reporters behind him
said:

"Aha! At last he has the key to the mystery."

The general laughter ceased abruptly when the object of this banter
thrust the key into his pocket and advanced threateningly toward the
speaker, his face white with rage. The latter rose to his feet; he
undertook to execute a dignified retreat, but Anderson seized him
viciously, flung him back, and pinned him against the wall, crying,
furiously:

"You dirty rat! If you open your face to me again, I'll brain you, and
that goes for all of this death-watch." He took in the other five men
with his reddened eyes. "When you fellows see me coming, hole up.
Understand?"

His grip was so fierce, his mouth had such a wicked twist to it, that
his victim understood him perfectly and began to grin in a sickly,
apologetic fashion. Paul reseated the reporter at his desk with
such violence that a chair leg gave way; then he strode out of the
building.

For the next few hours Anderson tramped the streets in impotent anger,
striving to master himself, for that trifling episode had so upset him
that he could not concentrate his mind upon the subject in hand. When
he tried to do so his conclusions seemed grotesquely fanciful and
farfetched. This delay was all the more annoying because on the morrow
the girl was to be buried, and, therefore, the precious hours
were slipping away. He tried repeatedly to attain that abstract,
subconscious mood in which alone shines the pure light of inductive
reasoning.

"Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk?" he
repeated, tirelessly. Could it be in some other rooming-house? No. If
the girl had disappeared from such a place, leaving her trunk behind,
the publicity would have uncovered the fact. It might be lying in the
baggage-room of some hotel, to be sure; but Paul doubted that, for the
same reason. The girl had been poor, too; it was unlikely that she
would have gone to a high-priced hotel. Well, he couldn't examine all
the baggage in all the cheap hotels of the city--that was evident.
Somehow he could not picture that girl in a cheap hotel; she was too
fine, too patrician. No, it was more likely that she had left her
trunk in some railroad station. This was a long chance, but Paul took
it.

The girl had come from Canada, therefore Anderson went to the Grand
Trunk Railway depot and asked for the baggage-master. There were other
roads, but this seemed the most likely.

A raw-boned Irish baggage-man emerged from the confusion, and of a
sudden Paul realized the necessity of even greater tact here than he
had used with the Scotch girl, for he had no authority of any sort
behind him by virtue of which he could demand so much as a favor.

"Are you a married man?" he inquired, abruptly.

"G'wan! I thought ye wanted a baggage-man," the big fellow replied.

"Don't kid me; this is important."

"Shure, I am, but I don't want any accident insurance. I took a chance
and I'm game."

"Have you any daughters?"

"Two of them. But what's it to ye?"

"Suppose one of them disappeared?"

The baggage-man seized Anderson by the shoulder; his eyes dilated;
with a catch in his voice he cried:

"Love o' God, speak out! What are ye drivin' at?"

"Nothing has happened to your girls, but--"

"Then what in hell--?"

"Wait! I had to throw a little scare into you so you'd understand what
I'm getting at. Suppose one of your girls lay dead and unidentified
in the morgue of a strange city and was about to be buried in the
Potter's Field. You'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?"

"Are ye daft? Or has something really happened? If not, it's a damn
fool question. What d'ye want?"

"Listen! You'd want her to have a decent burial, and you'd want her
mother to know how she came to such a pass, wouldn't you?"

The Irishman mopped his brow uncertainly. "I would that."

"Then listen some more." Paul told the man his story, freely,
earnestly, but rapidly; he painted the picture of a shy, lonely girl,
homeless, hopeless and despondent in a great city, then the picture of
two old people waiting in some distant farmhouse, sick at heart and
uncertain, seeing their daughter's face in the firelight, hearing
her sigh in the night wind. He talked in homely words that left the
baggage-man's face grave, then he told how Burns, in a cruel jest, had
sent a starving boy out to solve the mystery that had baffled the best
detectives. When he had finished his listener cried:

"Shure it was a rotten trick, but why d'ye come here?"

"I want you to go through your baggage-room with me till we find a
trunk which this key will fit."

"Come on with ye. I'm blamed if I don't admire yer nerve. Of course
ye understand I've no right to let ye in--that's up to the
station-master, but he's a grouchy divil." The speaker led Paul into
a room piled high with trunks, then summoned two helpers. "We'll move
every dam' wan of them till we fit your little key," he declared; then
the four men fell to.

A blind search promised to be a job of hours, so Paul walked down the
runway between the piles of trunks, using his eyes as he went. At
least he could eliminate certain classes of baggage, and thus he might
shorten the search; but half-way down the row he called sharply to the
smashers:

"Come here, quick!" At his tone they came running. "Look! that one in
the bottom row!" he cried. "That's it. Something tells me it is."

On the floor underneath the pile was a little, flat, battered tin
trunk, pathetically old-fashioned and out of place among its more
stylish neighbors; it was the kind of trunk Paul had seen in his
mother's front room on the farm. It was bound about with a bit of
rope.

His excitement infected the others, and the three smashers went at the
pile, regardless of damage. Anderson's suspense bid fair to choke him;
what if this were not the one? he asked himself. But what if it were
the right one? What if this key he clutched in his cold palm should
fit the lock? Paul pictured what he would see when he lifted the lid:
a collection of forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, a tape measure,
and somewhere in it a little black yarn mitten. He prayed blindly for
courage to withstand disappointment.

"There she is," panted his Irish friend, dragging the object out into
the clear. The other men crowded closer. "Come on, lad. What are ye
waitin' for?"

Anderson knelt before the little battered trunk and inserted the key.
It was the keenest moment he had ever lived. He turned the key; then
he was on his feet, cold, calm, his blue eyes glittering.

"Cut those ropes. Quick!" he ordered. "We're right."

The man at his side whipped out a knife and slashed twice.

"Come close, all of you," Paul directed, "and remember everything we
find. You may have to testify."

He lifted the lid. On the top of the shallow tray lay a little black
yarn mitten, the mate to that one in the city Morgue.

Anderson smiled into the faces of the men at his side. "That's it," he
said, simply.

The tall Irishman laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "Yer all right,
boy. Don't get rattled,"

Paul opened the till and found precisely the paraphernalia he had
expected: there were forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, and a tape
measure. In the compartment beneath were some neatly folded clothes,
the needlework of which was fine, and in one corner a bundle of
letters which Anderson examined with trembling fingers. They were
addressed to "Miss Mabel Wilkes, Highland, Ontario, Canada, Care of
Captain Wilkes."

The amateur detective replaced the letters carefully; he closed and
locked the trunk; then he thanked his companions.

"If I had a dollar in the world," said he, "I'd ask you boys to have a
drink, but I'm broke." Then he began to laugh foolishly, hysterically,
until the raw-boned man clapped him on the back again.

"Straighten up, lad. Ye've been strained a bit too hard. I'll
telephone for the cops."

In an instant Paul was himself. "You'll do nothing of the sort," he
cried. "Why, man, you'll spoil the whole thing. I've worked this out
alone, and if the police hear of it they'll notify all the papers and
I'll have no story. Burns won't give me that job, and I'll be hungry
again."

"True! I forgot that fat-headed divil of an editor. Well, you say the
word and nobody won't know nothin' from us. Hey, boys?"

"Sure not," the other men agreed. This lad was one of their kind; he
was up against it and fighting for his own, therefore they knew how to
sympathize. But Paul had been seized with terror lest his story might
get away from him, therefore he bade them a hasty good-by and sped
up-town. His feet could not carry him swiftly enough.

Burns greeted him sourly when he burst into the editorial sanctum. It
was not yet twenty-four hours since he had sent this fellow away with
instructions not to return.

"Are you back again?" he snarled. "I heard about your assaulting Wells
down at the City Hall. Don't try it on me or I'll have you pinched."

Paul laughed lightly. "I don't have to fight for my rights any more."

"Indeed! What are you grinning about? Have you found who that girl
is?"

"I have."

"What?" Burns's jaw dropped limply; he leaned forward in his chair.

"Yes, sir! I've identified her."

The fat man was at first incredulous, then suspicious. "Don't try any
tricks on me," he cried, warningly. "Don't try to put anything over--"

"Her name is Mabel Wilkes. She is the daughter of Captain Wilkes, of
Highland, Ontario. She was a country dressmaker and lived with her
people at that place. Her trunk is down at the Grand Trunk depot with
the rest of her clothes in it, together with the mate to the mitten
she had when she killed herself. I went through the trunk with the
baggage-master, name Corrigan. Here's the key which I got from her
purse at the coroner's office."

Burns fixed his round eyes upon the key, then he shifted them slowly
to Anderson's face. "Why--why--this is amazing! I--I--" He cleared his
throat nervously. "How did you discover all this? Who told you?"

"Nobody told me. I reasoned it out."

"But how--Good Lord! Am I dreaming?"

"I'm a good newspaper man. I've been telling you that every day. Maybe
you'll believe me now."

Burns made no reply. Instead, he pushed a button and Wells, of the
City Hall squad, entered, pausing abruptly at sight of Anderson.
Giving the latter no time for words, Mr. Burns issued his
instructions. On the instant he was the trained newspaper man again,
cheating the clock dial and trimming minutes: his words were sharp and
decisive.

"That suicide story has broken big and we've got a scoop. Anderson has
identified her. Take the first G.T. train for Highland, Ontario, and
find her father, Captain Wilkes. Wire me a full story about the girl
Mabel, private life, history, everything. Take plenty of space. Have
it in by midnight."

Wells's eyes were round, too; they were glued upon Paul with a
hypnotic stare, but he managed to answer, "Yes, sir!" He was no longer
grinning.

"Now, Anderson," the editor snapped, "get down-stairs and see if you
can write the story. Pile it on thick--it's a corker."

"Very good, sir, but I'd like a little money," that elated youth
demanded, boldly. "Just advance me fifty, will you? Remember I'm on
top salary."

Burns made a wry face. "I'll send a check down to you," he promised,
"but get at that story and make it a good one or I'll fire you
tonight."

Anderson got. He found a desk and began to write feverishly. A
half-hour later he read what he had written and tore it up. Another
half-hour and he repeated the performance. Three times he wrote the
tale and destroyed it, then paused, realizing blankly that as a
newspaper story it was impossible. Every atom of interest surrounding
the suicide of the girl grew out of his own efforts to solve the
mystery. Nothing had happened, no new clues had been uncovered, no one
had been implicated in the girl's death, there was no crime. It was
a tale of Paul Anderson's deductions, nothing more, and it had no
newspaper value. He found he had written about himself instead of
about the girl.

He began again, this time laboriously eliminating himself, and when he
had finished his story it was perhaps the poorest journalistic effort
ever written.

Upon lagging feet he bore the copy to Burns's office. But the editor
gave him no time for explanation, demanding, fiercely:

"Where's that check I sent you?"

"Here it is." The youth handed it to him. "Make a mistake?"

"I certainly did." Burns tore up the check before saying, "Now you get
out, you bum, and stay out, or take the consequences."

"Get out? What for?"

"You know what for." Burns was quivering with rage. "You ran a good
bluff and you nearly put it over; but I don't want to advertise myself
as a jackass, so I shan't have you pinched unless you come back."

"Come back? I intend to stay. What's the matter?"

"I had an idea you were fourflushing," stormed the editor, "so I went
down to the G.T. depot myself. There's no trunk of the sort there;
Corrigan never saw you or anybody like you. Say, why didn't you walk
out when you got that check? What made you come back?"

Anderson began to laugh softly. "Good old Corrigan! He's all right,
isn't he? Well, he gets half of that check when you rewrite it, if I
don't laugh myself to death before I get to the bank."

"What d'you mean?" Burns was impressed by the other's confidence.

"Nothing, except that I've found one square man in this village. One
square guy is a pretty big percentage in a town the size of Buffalo.
Corrigan wouldn't let you see the depot if I wasn't along. Put on your
coat and come with me--yes, and bring a couple of hired men if it will
make you feel any better."

At the depot he called the baggage-master to him, and said:

"Mr. Corrigan, this is Mr. Burns, the city editor of The
Intelligencer."

"That's what he told me," grinned the Irishman, utterly ignoring the
young editor; "but you didn't give him no references, and I wouldn't
take a chance."

Burns maintained a dignified silence; he said little even when the
contents of the trunk were displayed to him. Nor did he open his mouth
on the way back to the office. But when he was seated at his desk and
had read Anderson's copy he spoke.

"This is the rottenest story ever turned in at this office," said he.

"I know it is," Paul agreed, frankly, then explained his difficulty in
writing it.

"I'll do it myself," Burns told him. "Now, you go home and report
to-morrow."

A very tired but a very happy young man routed out the landlady of a
cheap boarding-house that night and hugged her like a bear, explaining
joyously that he had done a great big thing. He waltzed her down the
hall and back, while she clutched wildly at her flapping flannel
wrapper and besought him to think of her other boarders. He waltzed
her out of her bedroom slippers, gave her a smacking big kiss on her
wrinkled cheek, then left her, breathless and scandalized, but all
aflutter.

The city had read the story when Anderson awoke the next morning, for
The Intelligencer had made a clean "beat," and Burns had played up
the story tremendously, hence it was with jumping pulses that Paul
scanned the front page of that journal. The further he read, however,
the greater grew his indignation.

The history of Mabel Wilkes, under the magic touch of Burns, had,
to be sure, become a wonderful, tragic story; but nowhere in it was
mention made of Paul Anderson. In the patient and ingenious solution
of the mystery of the girl's identity no credit was given to him. The
cleverness and the perseverance of The Buffalo Intelligencer was
exploited, its able reportorial staff was praised, its editorial
shrewdness extolled, but that was all. When he had concluded reading
the article Anderson realized that it was no more than a boost for the
city editor, who it was plain to be seen, had uncovered the story
bit by bit, greatly to the confusion of the police and the detective
bureau.

It astounded as well as angered Paul to realize how cleverly Burns had
covered him up, therefore the sense of injustice was strong in him
when he entered the office. His enemy recognized his mood, and seemed
to gloat over it.

"That was good work you did," he purred, "and I'll keep you on as long
as you show ability. Of course you can't write yet, so I'll let you
cover real-estate transactions and the market. I'll send for you when
you're needed."

Anderson went back to his desk in silent rage. Real estate! Burns
evidently intended to hold him down. His gloomy meditations were
somewhat lightened by the congratulations of his fellow-reporters, who
rather timidly ventured to introduce themselves. They understood the
facts and they voiced a similar indignation to his. Burns had played
him a rotten trick, they agreed. Not content with robbing his new
reporter of the recognition which was justly his, the fellow was
evidently determined to vent his spite in other ways. Well, that was
like Burns. They voiced the opinion that Anderson would have a tough
job getting through interference of the kind that their editor would
throw in his way.

Hour after hour Paul sat around the office nursing his disappointment,
waiting for Burns to send him out. About two o'clock Wells hurried
into the office, bringing with him the afternoon papers still wet from
the press. In his eyes was an unwonted sparkle. He crossed directly to
Anderson and thrust out his palm.

"Old man, I want to shake with you," said he. "And I want to apologize
for being a rotter."

Paul met him half-way, and the fellow went on:

"Burns gave us the wrong tip on you--said you were a joke--that's why
we joshed you. But you showed us up, and I'm glad you did."

"Why--thank you!" stammered the new reporter, upon whom this manly
apology had a strong effect. "It--it was more luck than anything."

"Luck nothing! You're a genius, and it's a dirty shame the way the
boss tried to steal your credit. However, it seems he overreached
himself." Wells began to laugh.

"Tried to steal it! Good Lord! he did steal it! How do you mean he
overreached himself?"

"Haven't you seen the afternoon papers?"

"No."

"Well! Read 'em!" Mr. Wells spread his papers out before Paul, whose
astonished eyes took in for a second time the story of the Wilkes
suicide. But what a story!

He read his own name in big, black type; he read head-lines that told
of a starving boy sent out on a hopeless assignment as a cruel joke;
he read the story as it had really occurred, only told in the third
person by an author who was neither ashamed nor afraid to give
credit where it was due. The egotistical pretense of The Buffalo
Intelligencer was torn to shreds, and ridicule was heaped upon its
editor. Paul read nervously, breathlessly, until Wells interrupted
him.

"I'm to blame for this," said he. "I couldn't stand for such a crooked
deal. When I got in this morning and saw what that fat imbecile had

done to you I tipped the true facts off to the others--all of the
facts I knew. They got the rest from Corrigan, down at the Grand Trunk
depot. Of course this means my job, if the old man finds it out; but I
don't give a damn."

As yet Anderson was too dazed to grasp what had happened to him, but
the other continued:

"The boys have had it in for Burns, on the quiet, for months, and now
I guess they're even."

"I--I don't know how to thank you," stammered Anderson.

"Don't try. You're a born reporter, and the other papers will give you
a job even if the baby hippo in yonder fires you."

A boy touched Paul on the arm with the announcement, "Mr. Burns wants
to see you."

"Oho!" cried Wells. "He's got the bad news. Gee! I'd like to hear what
he says. I'll bet he's biting splinters out of his desk. Let me know
what comes off, will you?"

When Anderson entered the office of his editor he was met by a
white-faced man whose rage had him so by the throat that speech for a
moment was impossible. Beneath Mr. Burns's feet, and strewn broadcast
about the room, were the crumpled sheets of the afternoon papers.
Burns glared at the newcomer for a moment, then he extended a shaking
finger, crying, furiously:

"You did this!"

"Did what?"

"You put up this job. You made a fool of me!"

"No, sir! I did not. Your parents saw to that."

"Don't tell me you didn't, you--you damned ungrateful--" Burns seemed
about to assault his reporter, but restrained himself. "You're fired!
Do you understand? Fired--discharged."

"Say, Burns--"

"Not a word. I'm done with you. I--"

"Just a minute," young Anderson cried, in a tone that stilled the
other. "I'm fired, am I, for something I didn't do? Very well!
I'm glad of it, for now you can't stand in my way. You tried to
double-cross me and failed. You robbed me of what was mine and got
caught at it. You're a big man, in your way, Burns, but some day
people will tell you that the biggest thing you ever did was to fire
Paul Anderson. That's how small you'll be, and that's how big I'm
going to grow. You've 'welched' on your own word; but there's one
thing you gave me that you can't take away, and that's the knowledge
that I'm a newspaper man and a good one. Now just one thing more: I'm
broke today, but I'm going to lick you as soon as I save up enough for
the fine."

With studied insolence the speaker put on his hat, slammed the door
behind him, and walked out of The Intelligencer office, leaving the
apoplectic editor thereof secure in the breathless knowledge that for
once in his life he had heard the truth spoken. Mr. Burns wondered how
long it would take that young bully to save up ten dollars and costs.





Next: Out Of The Night

Previous: With Interest To Date



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 425