The Patent Insides
Concerning a poetess who cant poetize, a compositor who can’t compose, and an editor who can’t pay his bills
PHILIP WINTER LUCE
MARK NOON, editor and proprietor of the Rockland Bugle, sat at his littered desk correcting proofs. The long strip of paper before him already was decorated plentifully with hieroglyphics which indicated errors of omission and commission, and every few seconds Mark added one more to the list.
A good compositor can set up a galley of type with only four or five mistakes, but there was no such compositor in the office of the Bugle. Long experience with the work of Abraham Sorrell had taught Editor Noon patience and forbearance in the matter of proof reading. Indeed, he found some compensation in working on Sorrell's proofs, for these demanded such a degree of concentraron that all other troubles were forgotten for the time being, and Mark Noon was often in trouble.
Suddenly the editor stopped in his correcting, fascinated by a multiplication of errors that brought a thrill of amazement and admiration to a soul jaded by long years of proof reading.
“Ho, Bram! Here a minute!” he called out.
From the adjoining composing room there entered
a tubby little man with rosy cheeks, oddly smeared with ink. His pale blue eyes blinked steadily, while from his red lips there issued constantly a subdued moaning sound that Abraham Sorrell mistakenly supposed to be a gentle humming. A sparse growth of black bristles decorated his face, but he would have been a daring man indeed who would have stated positively whether the little printer was raising a beard or merely needed a shave. His manner was meek and mild, and his speech seldom rose above a hoarse whisper.
“Pretty bad, eh?” he admitted, as his eye fell on the proof.
“It certainly is,” agreed Mark Noon, “You’ve set a new target for bad i ompositors to shoot at, Bram. You’ve made four mistakes in the word ‘the!’ ”
Abraham Sorrell pondered over this for a moment as he rubbed his chin with his inky fingers.
“T-H-E, the. Three letters. I don’t think anybody
can beat that,” he confessed, slowly. “Where is it?’* “Right there,” growled the editor, jabbing at the offending word with his pencil. “You’ve got a capital ‘T’ instead of a lower case, you’ve put a wrong font ‘h’, you’ve got an ‘r’ instead of an ‘e’, and you've put a space between the last two letters!”
“I must have been careless!”
“I don’t know why I put up with you,” went on Mark Noon. “Some of these fine days I'll lose my temper and throw you out on your ear and then you can go and raise chickens. In this editorial asking fair play •for men who borrow money for small industries you make it read ‘our great bunking institutions.’ Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
“Of course I’m ashamed of myself,” confessed the
little printer. “But, speaking of banks--”
“Yes?” queried the editor, as the other hesitated. “There was a phone call when you were out. Fergus Nixon wants to see you. Important, he said. I—I forgot to tell you before.”
Then he hurried back to his work, moaning his wordless song.
Mark Noon’s face wrinkled with perplexity as his thoughts flew back to his most pressing problem. There was a mortgage of $5,000 on the plant of the Rockland Bugle due in a few days, and the editor had reason to believe that the banker was about to break sad news that it was not to be renewed.
Mark Noon looked hard at the door through which his little compositor had disappeared.
“Darn you, anyway!” he muttered with a frown.“Chickens! Chickens! Why can’t you be satisfied with things as they are?’
For Abraham Sorrell was the man to whom he owed the $5,000 he could not pay.
The matter was never mentoned between them, nor did it in any way affect their relations as employer and employee.
The world’s worst printer held on to his job for sentimental reasons; he was as much a fixture of the establishment as the wheezy old Hoe press on whch the Bugle „ was jerked to life every Thursday.
“DRAM and his sis-*-*ter Doris had inherited a modest fortune from their grandfather many years earlier, but this had
made no change in their mode of living. Miss Sorrell kept house for her bachelor brother and in her leisure moments she wrote poetry. Her standing among poets was about on a par with that of her brother in the ranks of compositors, but there was this difference: Bram Sorrell
recognized his limitations!
Once, long ago, in a fit of mental aberration, Mark Noon had praised one of her poems. He had never forgiven himself for this.
The literary standards of a country editor are based on the intellectual capacities of his readers, and on rare occasions Doris Sorrell produced poems which could be used on an inside page. For every one printed, scores were declined with thanks, but Doris never allowed herself to become discouraged.
Mark Noon looked up from his proof reading as he heard the street door open. Doris herself stood before him, short and sharp-featured, a slightly sour female replica of brother Bram, but with none of his selfeffacement. She fumbled in her handbag and brought out a roll of manuscript held together with a rubber band.
Fifteen minutes later the editor was still protesting that no paper of the size of the Rockville Bugle could posssibly print twenty-five verses on Sweet Potatoes, nor would he relent when the little spinster offered to reduce the poem to twenty-three verses on condition that it be set in larger type.
“There’s absolutely no space for it!” he repeated, with grim finality. Then he sat down once more at his littered desk and went on with his work.
As the outside door closed with a bang there came a feeble “Hooray!” over the low partition that divided the editorial office from the printing departments. It was Bram Sorrell’s shout of rejoicing.
Mark Noon, himself wasted no time in songs of triumph. He dashed through a pile of work that required his immediate attention and then set out to call on Fergus Nixon determined to know how matters stood.
rT"'HE banker, a dapper fashion-plate of a man, always made Mark Noon feel ill at ease, even though he towered a full head above Nixon. Noon had the frame of a stevedore and the face of a surgeon, but his deepset brown eyes and his rather broad mouth revealed such inherent good-nature that his bulk seldom overawed smaller men except, perhaps, on a first meeting.
Fergus Nixon received the editor with formal politeness, always an ominous sign from a banker in a small town. Quite politely, too, he explained that the mortgage could not be renewed.
“Why not?” asked Mark Noon, bluntly. “To what better use can Bram Sorrell put this five thousand?”
“It isn’t customary to reveal our clients’ reasons for readjusting their investments,” replied the banker, “but it won’t do any harm to repeat what you already know. Mr. Sorrell has long desired to retire from printing and go into the poultry business, and it so happens that the Parsons’ place can be secured at a bargain just now for cash. It is fortunate for Mr. Sorrell that this opportunity occurs soon after the mortgage is due, though maybe a little inconvenient for you.” “No ‘perhaps’ about it!” murmured Mark Noon. Then, to himself, “So that’s how it is, eh?”
A country editor knows everything that is worth knowing about the affairs of his district. The fact that the Parsons’ poultry ranch was heavily mortgaged to the bank was no secret, and it was also common belief that the debt would never be paid under the present inefficient management. Foreclosure had been threatened several times in the past, but extensions had always been granted because Fergus Nixon knew very well that a chicken ranch was a perilous asset under existing conditions. At last he had found a way out of his impasse by convincing Bram Sorrell that here was the golden opportunity he had been yearning for all his life: a fullyequipped chicken farm at a bargain!
He could well imagine the little printer thinking that the banker was doing him a signal favor. He could picture Nixon’s reassurance that his bank would take care of the mortgage Bram wanted to foreclose. And small wonder. He, Noon, had been far too vigorous in his criticism of Big Business to meet with the approval of the conservative banker, and though the security of the Bugle plant was hardly gilt-edged, the advantage of being able to exercise a measure of control over Rockland’s only newspaper was of considerable importance, even though the screws were turned but seldom.
Mark Noon realized this, but with the necessity of raising $5,000 in a few days before him he suggested diplomatically that the bank should take care of the mortgage and finance the Bugle until times improved.
“You know what I’ve pointed out before, whenever you’ve needed an overdraft,” countered Fergus Nixon. “Your expenses are altogether too heavy. You could make big cuts in your mechanical department without impairing your revenue.”
“You've been thinking it over, then?” This with disconcerting frankness.
“Casually, perhaps,” admitted Nixon. “If—and it’s
a great big ‘if’—the bank should come to your rescue we’d insist on the Bugle running readyprinted inside pages. I’m told this would cut your printing costs about ninety per cent.”
He had the true newspaperman’s antipathy to what is known in the business as “readyprints” or ‘patent insides’ prepared by firms that supply the smaller weeklies with newsprint. This paper comes with one side left blank for local news and advertisements, while the other is already printed with mediocre fiction, scientific miscellany, alleged jokes, insipid editorials, stale news of distant parts, and a number of ‘foreign’ advertisements which, years ago, dealt almost exclusively with pills and potions and plasters guaranteed to cure anything.
The printers used to dub this ‘patent medicine insides,’ but the name was later shortened to ‘patent insides.’ It is, also, sometimes loosely spoken of as ‘boilerplate,’ though this is really the metal from which the paper is printed, and which is itself sold in column strips to small dailies.
“What patent insides would do to my printing costs is noth-
ing to what they would do to my reputation and my self-respect,” went on the editor.
“Aren’t you confusing your self-respect with your pride?” asked the banker, coldly. “Hundreds of Canadian newspapers use these patent insides and still enjoy an excellent reputation. Still, if you can raise the money somewhere else in the meantime ...”
“I’ll make one darned good try, anyway,” promised Mark Noon, though without much hope.
A thorough canvass of all possible sources of assistance in the next few days contributed nothing towards the dissipation of his pessimism. Financiers were few in Rockland, and hard-boiled. Philanthropists were nonexistent, or had no money.
“They wish me luck,” said Mark Noon bitterly to himself, as he sat in his shabby office one evening when the last hope had vanished, “but it would take a smarter man than I am to convert good wishes into five thousand dollars ... I guess I’ll have to look into this damned patent insides business after all.”
In his Newspaper Annual Mark Noon studied the advertisements of the few firms selling ready-print. Some of the pages offered were obviously unsuitable prepared as they were for a special class of readers or a definite community, but in the end he found what seemed to satisfy him.
“Guess I’ll write to this Randolph Ready-Print Company, of Bombast, Illinois, for specimen pages and contract forms,” he murmured, “but I most sincerely hope I'll never have to use the darned stuff.”
In due course the samples arrived. Mark Noon set about the unpleasant task of glancing through fifty columns of material for which he had long entertained a violent dislike.
“ ‘King of Siam has a small head’ ”, he read. Well, what about it? ‘Why do earthworms turn?’ Who gives a hoot whether they turn at all? ‘Women of Turkey assert liberty.’ ‘Cooking Recipes.’ ‘How to teach a new dog old tricks.’ Fat lot of time my readers have for that sort of nonsense! ‘Sun spots cause of influenza.’ Rot! ‘Thirteen has always been thought unlucky.’ Rubbish! ‘What authors are writing this year.’ Tripe! ‘Selected humor from far and near.’ ”
Mark Noon skipped this column with a shudder. “Drivel and dross flattened out to the mental level of the hired man,” he muttered, as he skipped and skimmed from column to column, his practised eye taking in the substance of an article at a glance, “but I can’t say there’s anything objectionable in it.”
Three days later, with a sinking heart he signed the contract that carried with it his abdication from the editorial throne of the Rockland Bugle in so far as the inside pages were concerned. Henceforth some unknown scribbler in Bombast, Illinois, who had never heard of Rockland, would presume to supply that community with more than half of its weekly budget of news and general information, merely guaranteeing that it would be entertaining, interesting, and unobjectionable. Mark Noon detested this distant hack whose pen was a pair of shears and whose brain was a pot of paste, and writhed at the prospect of three years of bitter partnership in what had been his wrork, his hobby, and his pride.
“With these reduced costs you’ll^be able to pay off this $5,000 in three years, or even before, with an extra three months’ interest,” Fergus Nixon remarked soothingly, when at last Mark Noon capitulated to the inevitable.
Continued on page 40
Continued from page 9
“Chances are I’ll have died of a broken heart long before the three years are up,’’ said the editor gloomily.
“Nonsense!” retorted the banker. “By the way, we’ll have to be sure your insurance premiums are paid up, of course! We seem to be fully protected by this mortgage on the plant, the assignment of your accounts, and the lien on your personal property, but, in financial matters, one can’t be too careful!”
' I 'HE first lot of ready printed paper reached the Bugle office only a few hours before press time on Thursday. In the rush of the last minute proof readings, rearrangements of advertising copy, and masterly condensations which forced two columns of matter into one column of space, Mark Noon had given no more than a casual glance to the patent insides. They seemed satisfactory.
Only the editorial page remained to be locked up now. Bram Sorrell patted the type gently with his wooden planer and fiddled around for a few minutes waiting for the last galley slips..
“Those revised proofs ready yet?” he called out after a while.
“Here’s one. Come and get it,” responded the editor.
The little printer ambled through the door and lifted the proof from the spindle, then, noticing the next was almost ready he waited, leaning easily against the desk as he hummed his asthmatic song without words. u
Presently he said: “Doris has been at it again!”
“Has she?” Mark Noon understood what he meant. He frowned heavily at the information, but went on reading. Long practice bad made it easy for him to spot mistakes and carry on a conversation at the same time.
“She was up till two o’clockthis morning. I think it’s about Christmas in Greenland or something like that.”
“Seeing that this is spring, that’s just about what she’d bring in.”
“It’s awful to have a poet in the family,” sighed Bram Sorrrell. “You think it’s pretty rotten when you see the finished product, but I’ve got to watch it in the making. If you never saw a female poet in the throes of composition you don’t know what mental turmoil really is. There I am, all quiet and peaceful--”
“Oh, shut up, Bram. Run along with this last proof.”
“Yes, sure. But it won’t take a minute to tell you—”
“You’ve told me before.”
“Not about last night, though. It was Bram, do you know a rhyme for storm? A bright cheery word of one syllable . . . Well, you should . . . Do you think Edgar Allan Poe ever wrote a line like ‘The Silver Snowflakes Flit and Fall and Freeze upon the Pane?’ ...”
“That will do,” grinned Mark Noon. “I’ve got troubles of my own, Bram. Vamoose!”
“I hope you never agir r ept anything from Doris.” ‘c! e little printer, as he ma '.e his a; 1... .“Anything at all. / V. i
Ten minutes I liter ci'.'" 1 :,d ;ffing
f the old live , d ti ; t the
i'.rst "’ ' v b . ~ laborious!./ pu’ through. A..t;n o....ie a coughing and a sputtering, a rumble and a roar, then the broken drone of the flat bed shuttling back and forth, back and forth.
The Rockland Bugle was being jerked to life once more.
Mark Noon made his way between the close packed racks and tables of the printshop until he came to the old press where he deftly whisked a paper from the growing pile on the tailboard.
Back at his desk he ran a quick eye over the local pages to make sure that everything was as it should be. He detected a few overlooked mistakes, such
as slip through in every paper, but on the whole the editor was fairly -well satisfied. There were some interesting bits of news this week, and two of the editorials hit it off rather neatly, he fancied. 1
Mark Noon drew a sigh of satisfaction and then, from sheer force of habit, flipped the paper open at page two.
Instantly his mood changed. In the hurly burly of the last hour he had practically forgotten the patent insides, and the sudden sight of the bilious and ill-balanced columns made him wince.
There was nothing on page two to hold his attention. It was the kind of insipid tripe he had read in the sample sheets. He glanced at page three, skipped four and five, which were ‘outside’ pages and contained local matter, then made a hasty examination of page six.
A double-column headline fairly leaped at him: “English Policy Sure to Bring on New War.”
This was followed by the ‘deck’ which announced that:
“Downing Street Plans to Stir up Trouble in Far East for Benefit of Aristocracy and Profiteers—United States to be Made Scapegoat, as Usual.” It was the misuse of the word ‘English’ for ‘British’ that first aroused his indignation. There are times when the words ‘English’ and ‘British’ are interchangeable, but not when it is a question of policy that is ‘sure to bring on new war.’ “Who says that, anyway?” Noon asked himself, as he read the ‘deck.’
No authority was quoted. Nor did the body of the article give the support of substance to the bellicose claims of the headline. It was challenging, but vague; accusative, yet indirect. A rumor, a report, a hint, and that was about all.
“I don’t like it,” scowled the editor, with much more than this one article in mind.
His eye roamed down the page and came to rest on a one-column heading: “England Encourages France to Snub U.S.”
“ ‘England’ again instead of ‘Britain,’” he thought, as he took in the ‘deck:’ “War Debt to America will never be paid if Britain can Help It.”
There were other items, smaller, it is true, but none the less offensive to a loyal Canadian.
As Mark Noon read the articles, not word by word or sentence by sentence, but in an illuminating flash, the blood surged to his head then drained away almost as suddenly, leaving his face drawn and gray. His lips twitched and his fingernails bit deep into his clenched hands. He drew a long breath, half rose and kicked back his chair, then yelled: “Stop!”
The reading of the inside pages had taken only a few minutes, but during that time the old Hoe press carrier had been smacking down paper after paper on the tailboard until nearly a quarter of the run was piled there.
The roar of the press halted almost abruptly.
“What page?” Bram Sorrell’s voice floated over the partition a moment before his ink-smudged face appeared through the crack of the opening door.
“Here!” Mark Noon beckoned the little printer over to the desk on which the copy of the Bugle was now outspread, then tapped the offending articles with a spatulate finger.” “Look at that muck!” “I don’t see any typographical errors,” commented Bram Sorrell, studying the words one at a time without taking any cognizance of their sequence or significance. “Anyway, I can’t make any changes in ready-print stuff. She’ll have to ride as she lays.”
“No, she won’t!” spat out the editor. “It isn’t typographical errors that are worrying me; it’s this damned antiBritish propaganda. These patent insides are lousy with it, and I'm not going to run those sneering Yankee lies and half-truths in this Canadian paper! I don’t go arcUnd waving the Union Jack,
but when some scissors-and-paste moron who still thinks in terms of 1776 tried
to dictate to me---”
“Well, you bought the service, didn’t you?”
“Could I help it?” exploded the editor. “Here I am wearing myself out trying to give this community a darned sight better paper than it deserves or can support, and the moment I get in a bit of a hole financially the bank slaps this filth in my lap. If I could have raised—” He left the sentence unfinished.
Bram Sorrell rubbed his bristly cheek thoughtfully with his inky fingers. A black smudge spread from eyebrow to chin, straight and clearly defined.
“That’s the idea!” exclaimed Mark Noon, his gaze on the smudge. “We’ll make a double run as usual, and ink out all these objectionable articles in the patent insides. You can fix up the forms for that?”
“It can be done, but it will look as if the Bugle had broken out with the black pox,” complained Sorrell.
“Can’t help that. I’m going to read those inside pages for the next three weeks carefully, to see if there’s more of this kind of muck. If there is, I’ll wire those Randolph people that my contract is cancelled.”
Next morning Mark Noon went to the bank and spread out an assortment of patent insides before Fergus Nixon. Heavy blue pencil marks encircled a number of articles which the editor declared most emphatically would never appear in the Bugle as long as he had anything to say about it.
“You got me in this mess,” pointed out the editor, “and now you can have the pleasure of getting me out of it by loaning me enough money to buy some more paper, beautifully blank on both sides.” “The Bugle plant does not warrant any further investment on our part,” frowned the banker. “Why can’t you continue inking out the objectionable articles as you did yesterday? If you were as good a business man as you are an editor you would see--”
“If I were a good business man I wouldn’t be an editor at all. This isn’t a question of pride or prejudice, as you seem to think, and it isn’t merely patriotism, either. It’s downright common sense. How long would the Bugle exist if it looked like a misbegotten crossword puzzle?
“We can’t tolerate any lawsuit, even though you’d probably win because the reading matter is objectionable,” retorted Nixon. “Lawsuits cost money. The contract for the patent insides must be carried out!”
“That’s final, Fergus?”
Mark Noon’s broad shoulders sagged. Without another word he picked up his hat and walked out of the bank.
DACK in the Bugle office he reviewed the situation calmly and dispassionately. He had enough paper on hand for three issues, paper liberally spattered with anti-British propaganda, it is true, but this could be smudged out. Once this was used up the Bugle automatically stopped publication, for, having cancelled his contract and invited a lawsuit as a result, he could not accept delivery of further consignments. Nor could he buy blank paper except on a C.O.D. basis, and the bank would see to it that there was no cash available for this purpose in the circumstances. He was clearly up against it!
Bram Sorrell came in with a sheaf of proofs, spread these on the desk, then whispered:
“We’ll be needing ink pretty soon.” “How long will our supply last?” “Three weeks. Maybe a month.” “H’mm. Make it stretch as far as you can. The fact is—this is in strict confidence, mind you—there may not be any Bugle after three weeks.”
“Because of the patent insides?” “Yes. That should give you a chance
to get into the poultry business at last, Brain.”
‘‘Talking poultry again!” came in accusing tones from Doris Sorrell, who had entered as her brother started expanding his plans. No other person could have understood that hoarse whisper from that distance, but long experience had given her somewhat of the lip-reader's intuition. Moreover, when in doubt she always accused her brother of talking about poultry—and usually she was right.
‘‘Want me?” asked Bram, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Doris’ business was with the editor. He wilted out of the editorial room into his own quarters, but took care to find work at a case near the open door.
‘‘Look here, Mr. Noon,” began the spinster, “I have a grievance against
the Bugle. Speaking as a subscriber-”
‘‘As a reader, not as a subscriber,” came the smiling correction. “Bram swipes a copy of the paper for you every week.”
“As a reader, then,” agreed the lady. “This week’s number is full of black smudges. Didn’t you have anything else to put there?”
“What we had wasn’t exactly—er, suitable.”
“I suspected as much.” Miss Sorrell nodded her head sagely. “I could have helped you out. I have here a number of poems of assorted lengths which would have fitted into those gaps very nicely indeed. Here is a sonnet on Christmas—” “I’ll be glad to look at that, next December. We can hardly run Christmas poetry in spring, you know.”
“Why not? The Muse knows no seasons. However, since you insist, here’s a spring poem—”
Mark Noon groaned under his breath as his volunteer adviser fished a manuscript out of her handbag and prepared to read it aloud, as was her invariable custom.
On the other side of the partition Bram Sorrell’s eternal moaning had risen until it was almost a hissing.
“I’m really very sorry,” said the mendacious editor, “but I must go out right away to attend a meeting. You’ll excuse me, please.”
“There’s another matter,” glared the disappointed poet, planting herself firmly in the way. “I hear that you’ve been all over Rockland trying to borrow some money. Why didn’t you come to me!”
“I—I never thought of you!” confessed Mark Noon, his hands tightening suddenly.
“Why didn’t you? You knew I inherited half my grandfather’s fortune. It’s in Victory bonds now. Of course, you couldn’t pay me as much interest as the government but that doesn’t matter. There are other things more important than money in this life.”
She glanced meaningly at the poem in her hand.
Here was salvation from the plague of the patent insides and emancipation from the dictatorship of the bank to be had for the taking. And yet, after a momentary thrill, the man hesitated.
“Your banker might not be satisifed with the security,” he temporized.
“I’d like to see Fergus Nixon try to give me advice! Why, the man’s a Baptist!”
“Even though he turned Presbyterian over night, he’d still tell you to keep your money in Victory bonds. I wouldn’t feel justified in giving you any other advice myself.”
“You’re not refusing my offer, surely?” “I hate to do it, Miss Sorrell, but really I couldn’t borrow from one who doesn’t understand the risk. That’s the penalty I have to pay for being quixotic!” “ ‘Quixotic’ isn’t the word I’d use,” snapped the spinster. “There’s a shorter word that describes you much better.” “No doubt you’re right. All the same, I’m much obliged to you for your kind
offer. Meanwhile I really must hurry off to that meeting. In what direction are you going?”
“Towards the market.”
“Ah, that’s unfortunate. I’m going the other way.”
Bram Sorrell grinned on hearing this. He knew it for the editor’s little trick to get rid of Doris. There was no meeting to attend; Noon would merely walk round the block and return in a few minutes.
rT'HE little printer put down his com-*■ posing stick and sighed. He rubbed his fingers on his grimy apron, then scratched himself behind the ear to. stimulate his mental processes. His eyes roved around the dingy printshop and rested on the stack of ready-prints in the corner. He scowled, but the scowl did not last. A thin smile parted his lips as the whiteness of the paper turned his thoughts to the flock of White Leghorns on which he had set his heart. He had the ready cash in the bank now, and soon there would be no Bugle with a prior claim on his services.
No Bugle! No place where he could wander in for a smell of ink!
He sighed again as he reflected that Rockland would not be the same without the Bugle, and without Mark Noon, who was sacrificing himself for a principle. The anti-British propaganda of the patent insides was bad enough, but the poems of Doris would have been infinitely worse. It was too bad that he should have such tough luck. He didn’t deserve it. Darned if he did! Darn the Randolph Ready Print Company! Darn Fergus Nixon and his interference! Darn Doris and her poems!
Bram Sorrell moved slowly towards the empty editorial office. At the door he hesitated, his pale blue eyes focussed on the telephone, but his hesitation was only momentary. He sighed heavily, a long dolorous sigh of farewell to his prospective flock of White Leghorns at the Parsons’ ranch.
Mark Noon came back in time to hear the last of a conversation which had completely engrossed the attention of his printer.
“No matter about the security or the business prospects or anything else,” he was whispering, with his lips almost in the mouthpiece. “I want to loan that $5,000 to Mr. Noon again and let him run the Bugle the way it should be run ... I don’t care if it does mean a lawsuit; he’s bound to win anyway . . . Yes, I’m sorry to say I’ve changed my mind about that poultry ranch . . .All right, then; I’ll be in to sign the papers as soon as they’re ready. Goodbye.”
Then he straightened up and saw the editor.
“I was—I was—” he stammered, and stopped at that.
The financial obligations of employer to employee had never been mentioned in the past. Even in these unusual circumstances there seemed to be no necessity to break down a polite fiction that pleased them both equally well, and so Mark N oon merely said :
“Look here, Bram: How many times must I ask you to keep your dirty fingers off the telephone? Why can’t you handle the receiver with a piece of paper? Look at that ink there—and there—and there!”
“My mistake!” murmured Bram Sorrell, edging away. “When we’re short of ink, too!”
“Short of ink but long on luck!” thought Mark Noon. Aloud he added:
“I’ll order some right away. And I guess I might as well get some of the old stock of paper while I’m about it. Rush, and C.O.D.”
“What will you do with that stack of patent insides?” asked the little printer.
“Oh, that!” The answer came with a grin. “I guess I’ll make a present of it to Fergus Nixon. He’s welcome to it, and in a way it’s coming to him!”