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Chapter 3


CHAPTER III.

THERE had been a babe with no arms born in one of the
western counties of Massachusetts. In place of upper limbs the
child had growing from its chest a pair of fin-like hands, mere
bits of skin-covered bone. Furthermore, it had only one eye.
This phenomenon lived four days, but the news of the birth
had travelled up this country road and through that village until
it reached the ears of the editor of the Michaelstown Tribune.
He was also a correspondent of the New York Eclipse. On the
third day he appeared at the home of the parents accompanied
by a photographer. While the latter arranged his, instrument,
the correspondent talked to the father and mother, two
coweyed and yellow-faced people who seemed to suffer a
primitive fright of the strangers. Afterwards as the
correspondent and the photographer were climbing into their
buggy, the mother crept furtively down to the gate and asked,
in a foreigner's dialect, if they would send her a copy of the
photograph. The correspondent carelessly indulgent, promised
it. As the buggy swung away, the father came from behind an
apple tree, and the two semi-humans watched it with its burden
of glorious strangers until it rumbled across
the bridge and disappeared. The correspondent was elate; he
told the photographer that the Eclipse would probably pay fifty
dollars for the article and the photograph.

The office of the New York Eclipse was at the top of the immense
building on Broadway. It was a sheer mountain to the heights of
which the interminable thunder of the streets arose faintly. The
Hudson was a broad path of silver in the distance. Its edge was
marked by the tracery of sailing ships' rigging and by the huge
and many-coloured stacks of ocean liners. At the foot of the
cliff lay City Hall Park. It seemed no larger than a quilt. The
grey walks patterned the snow-covering into triangles and ovals
and upon them many tiny people scurried here and there, without
sound, like a fish at the bottom of a pool. It was only the
vehicles that sent high, unmistakable, the deep bass of their
movement. And yet after listening one seemed to hear a singular
murmurous note, a pulsation, as if the crowd made noise by its
mere living, a mellow hum of the eternal strife. Then suddenly
out of the deeps might ring a human voice, a newsboy shout
perhaps, the cry of a  faraway jackal at night.

From the level of the ordinary roofs, combined in many
plateaus, dotted with short iron chimneys from which curled
wisps of steam, arose other mountains like the Eclipse
Building. They were great peaks,  ornate, glittering with
paint or polish. Northward they subsided to sun-crowned ranges.

From some of the windows of the Eclipse office
dropped the walls of a terrible chasm in the darkness of which
could be seen vague struggling figures. Looking down into this
appalling crevice one discovered only the tops of hats and
knees which in spasmodic jerks seemed to touch the rims of the
hats. The scene represented some weird fight or dance or
carouse. It was not an exhibition of men hurrying along a
narrow street.

It was good to turn one's eyes from that place to the vista of
the city's splendid reaches, with spire and spar shining in the
clear atmosphere and the marvel of the Jersey shore, pearl-
misted or brilliant with detail. From this height the sweep of a
snow-storm was defined and majestic. Even a slight summer
shower, with swords of lurid yellow sunlight piercing its edges
as if warriors were contesting every foot of its advance, was
from the Eclipse office something so
inspiring that the chance pilgrim felt a sense of exultation as if
from this peak he was surveying the worldwide war of the
elements and life. The staff of the Eclipse usually worked
without coats and amid the smoke from pipes.

To one of the editorial chambers came a photograph and an
article from Michaelstown, Massachusetts. A boy placed the
packet and many others upon the desk of a young man who
was standing before a window and
thoughtfully drumming upon the pane. He turned at the
thudding of the packets upon his desk. " Blast you," he
remarked amiably. " Oh, I guess it won't hurt you to work,"
answered the boy, grinning with a comrade's Insolence. Baker,
an assistant editor for the Sunday paper, took scat at his desk
and began the task of examining the packets. His face could not
display any particular interest because he had been at the same
work for nearly a fortnight.

The first long envelope he opened was from a woman.
There was a neat little manuscript accompanied by a letter
which explained that the writer was a widow who was trying to
make her living by her pen and who, further, hoped that the
generosity of the editor of the Eclipse would lead him to give
her article the opportunity which she was sure it deserved. She
hoped that the editor would pay her as well as possible for it, as
she needed the money greatly. She added that her brother was
a reporter on the Little Rock Sentinel and he had declared that
her literary style was excellent.
Baker really did not read this note. His vast experience of a
fortnight had enabled him to detect its kind in two glances. He
unfolded the manuscript, looked at it woodenly and then tossed
it with the letter to the top of his desk, where it lay with the
other corpses. None could think of widows in Arkansas,
ambitious from the praise of the reporter on the Little Rock Sentinel,
waiting for a crown of literary glory and money. In the next
envelope a man using the note-paper of a Boston journal
begged to know if the accompanying article would be
acceptable; if not it was to be kindly returned in the enclosed
stamped envelope. It was a humourous essay on trolley cars.
Adventuring through the odd scraps that were come to the
great mill, Baker paused occasionally to relight his pipe.

As he went through envelope after envelope, the desks
about him gradually were occupied by young men who entered
from the hall with their faces still red from the cold of the
streets. For the most part they bore the unmistakable stamp of
the American college. They had that confident poise which is
easily brought from the athletic field. Moreover, their clothes
were quite in the way of being of the newest fashion. There was
an air of precision about their cravats and linen. But on the
other hand there might be with them some indifferent westerner
who was obliged to resort to irregular means and harangue
startled shop-keepers in order to provide himself with collars of
a strange kind. He was usually very quick and brave of eye and
noted for his inability to perceive a distinction between his own
habit and the habit of others, his western character preserving
itself inviolate amid a confusion of manners.

The men, coming one and one, or two and two, flung
badinage to all corners of the room. Afterward, as they wheeled
from time to time in their chairs, they bitterly insulted each other
with the utmost good-nature, taking unerring aim at faults and
riddling personalities with the quaint and cynical humour of a
newspaper office. Throughout this banter, it was strange to
note how infrequently the men smiled, particularly when
directly engaged in an encounter.

A wide door opened into another apartment where were
many little slanted tables, each under an electric globe with a
green shade. Here a curly-headed scoundrel with a corncob
pipe was hurling paper balls the size of apples at the head of an
industrious man who, under these difficulties, was trying to
draw a picture of an awful wreck with ghastly-faced sailors
frozen in the rigging. Near this pair a lady was challenging a
German artist who resembled Napoleon III. with having been
publicly drunk at a music hall on the previous night. Next to the
great gloomy corridor of this sixteenth floor was a little office
presided over by an austere boy, and here waited in enforced
patience a little dismal band of people who wanted to see the
Sunday editor.

Baker took a manuscript and after glancing about the room,
walked over to a man at another desk,
Here is something that. I think might do," he said.
The man at the desk read the first two pages. " But where is the
photogragh " " he asked then. "There should be a photograph
with this thing."

" Oh, I forgot," said Baker. He brought from his desk a
photograph of the babe that had been born lacking arms and
one eye. Baker's superior braced a knee against his desk and
settled back to a judicial attitude. He took the photograph and
looked at it impassively. " Yes," he said, after a time, " that's a
pretty good thing. You better show that to Coleman when he
comes in."

In the little office where the dismal band waited, there had
been a sharp hopeful stir when Rufus Coleman, the Sunday
editor, passed rapidly from door to door and vanished within
the holy precincts. It had evidently been in the minds of some
to accost him then, but his eyes did not turn once in their
direction. It was as if he had not seen them. Many experiences
had taught him that the proper manner of passing through this
office was at a blind gallop.

The dismal band turned then upon the austere office boy.
Some demanded with terrible dignity that he should take in
their cards at once. Others sought to ingratiate themselves by
smiles of tender friendliness. He for his part employed what we
would have called his knowledge of men and women upon the
group, and in consequence blundered and bungled vividly,
freezing with a glance an annoyed and importunate Arctic
explorer who was come to talk of illustrations
for an article that had been lavishly paid for in advance. The
hero might have thought he was again in the northern seas. At
the next moment the boy was treating almost courteously a
German from the cast side who wanted the Eclipse to print a grand full
page advertising description of his invention, a gun which was
supposed to have a range of forty miles and to be able to
penetrate anything with equanimity and joy. The gun, as a
matter of fact, had once been induced to go off when it had
hurled itself passionately upon its back, incidentally breaking
its inventor's leg. The projectile had wandered some four
hundred yards seaward, where it dug a hole in the water which
was really a menace to navigation. Since then there had been
nothing tangible save the inventor, in splints and out of splints,
as the fortunes of science decreed. In short, this office boy
mixed his business in the perfect manner of an underdone lad
dealing with matters too large for him, and throughout he
displayed the pride and assurance of a god.

As Coleman crossed the large office his face still wore the
stern expression which he invariably used to carry him
unmolested through the ranks of the dismal band. As he was
removing his London overcoat he addressed the imperturbable
back of one of his staff, who had a desk against the opposite
wall. " Has Hasskins sent in that drawing of the mine accident
yet? " The man did not lift his head from his work-, but he
answered at once: " No; not yet." Coleman was laying his hat
on a chair. " Well, why hasn't he ? " he demanded. He glanced
toward the door of the room in which the curly-headed
scoundrel with the corncob pipe was still hurling paper balls at
the man who was trying to invent the postures of dead
mariners frozen in the rigging. The office boy came timidly from
his post and informed Coleman of the waiting people. " All
right," said the editor. He dropped into his chair and began to
finger his letters, which had been neatly opened and placed in a
little stack by a boy. Baker came in with the photograph of the
miserable babe.

It was publicly believed that the Sunday staff of the Eclipse
must have a kind of aesthetic delight in pictures of this kind,
but Coleman's face betrayed no emotion as he looked at this
specimen. He lit a fresh cigar, tilted his chair and surveyed it
with a cold and stony stare. " Yes, that's all right," he said
slowly. There seemed to be no affectionate relation between
him and this picture. Evidently he was weighing its value as a
morsel to be flung to a ravenous public, whose wolf-like
appetite, could only satisfy itself upon mental entrails,
abominations. As for himself, he seemed to be remote, exterior.
It was a matter of the Eclipse business.

Suddenly Coleman became executive. " Better give
it to Schooner and tell him to make a half-page---or, no, send
him in here and I'll tell him my idea. How's the article? Any
good? Well, give it to Smith to rewrite."

An artist came from the other room and presented for
inspection his drawing of the seamen dead in the rigging of the
wreck, a company of grizzly and horrible figures, bony-fingered,
shrunken and with awful eyes. " Hum," said Coleman, after a
prolonged study, " that's all right. That's good, Jimmie. But
you'd better work 'em up around the eyes a little more." The
office boy was deploying in the distance, waiting for the
correct moment to present some cards and names.

The artist was cheerfully taking away his corpses when
Coleman hailed him. " Oh, Jim, let me see that thing again, will
you? Now, how about this spar? This don't look right to me."

" It looks right to me," replied the artist, sulkily.

" But, see. It's going to take up half a page. Can't you
change it somehow "

How am I going to change it?" said the other, glowering at
Coleman. " That's the way it ought to be. How am I going to
change it? That's the way it ought to be."

" No, it isn't at all," said Coleman. "You've got a spar
sticking out of the main body of the drawing in a way that will
spoil the look of the whole page."

The artist was a man of remarkable popular reputation and
he was very stubborn and conceited of it, constantly making
himself unbearable with covert, threats that if he was not
delicately placated at all points, he would freight his genius
over to the office of the great opposition journal.

" That's the way it ought to be," he repeated, in a tone at
once sullen and superior. "The spar is all right. I can't rig spars
on ships just to suit you."

" And I can't give up the whole paper to your accursed spars,
either," said Coleman, with animation. " Don't you see you use
about a third of a page with this spar sticking off into space?
Now, you were always so clever, Jimmie, in adapting yourself to
the page. Can't you shorten it, or cut it off, or something? Or,
break it-that's the thing. Make it a broken spar dangling down.
See? "

" Yes, I s'pose I could do that," said the artist, mollified by a
thought of the ease with which he could make the change, and
mollified, too, by the brazen tribute to a part of his cleverness.

" Well, do it, then," said the Sunday editor, turning abruptly
away. The artist, with head high, walked majestically back to
the other room. Whereat the curly-headed one immediately
resumed the rain of paper balls upon him. The office boy came
timidly to Coleman and suggested the presence of the people
in the outer office. " Let them wait until I read my
mail," said Coleman. He shuffled the pack of letters
indifferently through his hands. Suddenly he came upon a little
grey envelope. He opened it at once and scanned its contents
with the speed of his craft. Afterward he laid it down before him
on the desk and surveyed it with a cool and musing smile.
"So?" he remarked. " That's the case, is it?"

He presently swung around in his chair, and for a time held
the entire attention of the men at the various desks. He outlined
to them again their various parts in the composition of the next
great Sunday edition. In a few brisk sentences he set a complex
machine in proper motion. His men no longer thrilled with
admiration at the precision with which he grasped each obligation
of the campaign toward a successful edition. They had grown
to accept it as they accepted his hat or his London clothes. At
this time his face was lit with something of the self-contained
enthusiasm of a general. Immediately afterward he arose and
reached for his coat and hat.

The office boy, coming circuitously forward, presented him
with some cards and also with a scrap of paper upon which was
scrawled a long and semicoherent word. " What are these ? "
grumbled Coleman.

"They are waiting outside," answered the boy, with
trepidation. It was part of the law that the lion of the ante-room
should cringe like a cold monkey,
more or less, as soon as he was out of his private jungle. "Oh,
Tallerman," cried the Sunday editor, "here's this Arctic man
come to arrange about his illustration. I wish you'd go and talk
it over with him." By chance he picked up the scrap of paper
with its cryptic word. " Oh," he said, scowling at the office boy.
"Pity you can't remember that fellow. If you can't remember
faces any better than that you should be a detective. Get out
now and tell him to go to the devil." The wilted slave turned at
once, but Coleman hailed him. " Hold on. Come to think of it, I
will see this idiot. Send him in," he commanded, grimly.

Coleman lapsed into a dream over the sheet of grey note
paper. Presently, a middle-aged man, a palpable German, came
hesitatingly into the room and bunted among the desks as
unmanageably as a tempest-tossed scow. Finally he was
impatiently towed in the right direction. He came and stood at
Coleman's elbow and waited nervously for the engrossed man
to raise his eyes. It was plain that this interview meant
important things to him. Somehow on his commonplace
countenance was to be found the expression of a dreamer, a
fashioner of great and absurd projects, a fine, tender fool. He
cast hopeful and reverent glances at the man who was deeply
contemplative of the grey note. He evidently believed himself
on the threshold of a triumph of some kind, and he awaited
his fruition with a joy that was only made sharper by
the usual human suspicion of coming events.

Coleman glanced up at last and saw his visitor.

" Oh, it's you, is it ? " he remarked icily, bending upon the
German the stare of a tyrant. "So you've come again, have you? "
He wheeled in his chair until he could fully display a
contemptuous, merciless smile. "Now, Mr.
What's-your-name, you've called here to see me about twenty
times already and at last I am going to say something definite
about your invention." His listener's face, which had worn for a
moment a look of fright and bewilderment, gladdened swiftly to
a gratitude that seemed the edge of an outburst of tears. " Yes,"
continued Coleman, " I am going to say something definite. I am
going to say that it is the most imbecile bit of nonsense that has
come within the range of my large newspaper experience. It is
simply the aberration of a rather remarkable lunatic. It is no good;
it is not worth the price of a cheese sandwich. I understand
that its one feat has been to break your leg; if it ever goes off
again, persuade it to break your neck. And now I want you to
take this nursery rhyme of yours and get out. And don't ever
come here again. Do You understand ? You understand, do you ?"
He arose and bowed in courteous dismissal.

The German was regarding him  with the surprise
and horror of a youth shot mortally. He could not
find his tongue for a moment. Ultimately he gasped : "But,
Mister Editor "--Coleman interrupted him tigerishly. " You heard
what I said? Get out." The man bowed his head and went
slowly toward the door.

Coleman placed the little grey note in his breast pocket. He
took his hat and top coat, and evading the dismal band by a
shameless manoeuvre, passed through the halls to the entrance
to the elevator shaft. He heard a movement behind him and saw
that the German was also waiting for the elevator.
Standing in the gloom of the corridor, Coleman felt the
mournful owlish eyes of the German resting upon him. He took
a case from his pocket and elaborately lit a cigarette. Suddenly
there was a flash of light and a cage of bronze, gilt and steel
dropped, magically from above. Coleman yelled: " Down!" A
door flew open. Coleman, followed by the German, stepped
upon the elevator. " Well, Johnnie," he said cheerfully to the
lad who operated this machine, "is business good?" "Yes, sir,
pretty good," answered the boy, grinning. The little cage sank
swiftly; floor after floor seemed to be rising with marvellous
speed; the whole building was winging straight into the sky.
There were soaring lights, figures and the opalescent glow of
ground glass doors marked with black inscriptions. Other lifts
were springing heavenward. All the lofty corridors rang with
cries. " Up! " Down! " " Down! " " Up! " The boy's hand
grasped a lever and his machine obeyed his lightest movement
with sometimes an unbalancing swiftness.

Coleman discoursed briskly to the youthful attendant. Once
he turned and regarded with a quick stare of insolent
annoyance the despairing countenance of the German whose
eyes had never left him. When the elevator arrived at the
ground floor, Coleman departed with the outraged air of a man
who for a time had been compelled to occupy a cell in company
with a harmless spectre.

He walked quickly away. Opposite a corner of the City Hall
he was impelled to look behind him. Through the hordes of
people with cable cars marching like panoplied elephants, he
was able to distinguish the German, motionless and gazing after
him. Coleman laughed. " That's a comic old boy," he said, to
himself.

In the grill-room of a Broadway hotel he was obliged to wait
some minutes for the fulfillment of his orders and he spent the
time in reading and studying the little grey note. When his
luncheon was served he ate with an expression of morose
dignity.


Stephen Crane

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