Chapter 19




"I MUST BE RICH."


"While I don't feel dependent upon the owners of the News-Record, still I am not exactly independent of them either. And if I left them it would only be to become dependent in the same way upon somebody else. A man who makes his living by the advocacy of principles should be wholly free. If he isn't, the principles are sure sooner or later to become incidental to the living, instead of the living being incidental to the principles."

"But you see--perhaps I ought to have told you before--that is, there may be"--Marian was stammering and blushing.

"What's the matter? Don't frighten me by looking so--so criminal," Howard laughed.

It was late in August. Marian was visiting Mrs. Brandon at Irvington-on-the-Hudson and she and Howard were driving.

"I never told you. But the fact is"--she hesitated again.

"Is it about your other engagement? You never told me about that--how you broke it off. I don't want you to tell me unless you wish to. You know I never meddle in past matters. I'm simply trying to help you out."

"Instead, you're making it worse. I'd rather not tell you that if----"

"We'll never speak of it again. And now, what is it that is troubling you?"

"I have been trying to tell you--I wish you wouldn't look at me--I've got a small income--it's really very small."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"I was afraid you wouldn't like it. It isn't very big--only about eight thousand a year--some years not so much. But then, if anything happened--we could be--we could live."

Howard smiled as he looked at her--but not with his eyes.

"I'm glad," he said. "It makes me feel safer in several ways. And I'm especially glad that it is not larger than mine. I know it's stupid, as so many of our instincts are; but I should not like to marry a woman who had a larger income than I could earn. I think it is the only remnant I have of the 'lord and master' idea that makes so many men ridiculous. But we need not let that bother us. Fate has made us about equal in this respect, so unimportant yet so important; and we are each independent of the other. Each will always know that love is the only bond that holds us together."

They decided that they would live at the rate of about fifteen thousand a year and would put by the rest of their income. She was to undertake the entire management of their home, he transferring his share by check each month.

"And so," she said, "we shall never have to discuss money matters."

"We couldn't," laughed Howard. "I don't know anything about them and could not take part in a discussion."

As they were to be married in November, they planned to take an apartment when Marian came back to town--in late September. She was to attend to the furnishing and all was to be in readiness by the time they were married. Howard was to get a six weeks' vacation and, as soon as they returned, they were to go to housekeeping.

Her visit to the News-Record office had made a change in her. Until she met Howard, she had known only the world-that-idles and the world-that-drudges. Howard brought her the first real news of the world-that-works. Of course she knew that there was such a world, but she had confused it with the world-that-drudges. She liked to hear Howard talk about his world, but she thought that his enthusiasm blinded him to the truth of its drudgery; and she often caught herself half regretting that he had to work.

But that vast machine for the swift collecting and distributing of the news of the world had opened her eyes, had made her see her lover and, through him, his life, in a different aspect. She had accepted the supercilious, thoughtless opinion of those about her that the newspaper is a mere purveyor of inaccurate gossip. And while Howard had tried to show her his profession as it was, he had only succeeded in convincing her that he himself had an exalted view of it; a view which she thought creditable to him but wide of the disagreeable truth.

On that trip down-town she had seen "the press" with the flaws reduced and the merits looming. She had looked into those all-seeing eyes that watch the councils of statesmen and the movements of nations and peoples, yet also note the swing of a murderous knife in an alley of the slums. She had heard that stentorian voice of Publicity, arousing the people of the earth to apprehend, to reflect, to progress.

She had been proud of Howard for his appearance, for what he said and the way he said it. Now she was proud of him for the part he was taking in this wonderful world-that-works. And she would not have confessed to him how insignificant she felt, how weak and worthless.

She thought she was impatient for the time to come when she could learn how to help him in his work, could begin to feel that she too had a real share in it. With what seemed to her most creditable energy and self-sacrifice she tried again to interest herself in newspapers. But the trivial parts bored her; the chronicles of crime repelled her; and the politics and most of the other serious articles were beyond the range of her knowledge or of her interest. "I shall wait until we are married," she said, "then he will teach me." And she did not suspect how significant, how ominous her postponement was.

She asked him if he would not teach her and he replied: "Why, certainly, if you are interested. But I don't intend to trouble you with the details of my profession. I want you to lead your own life--to do what interests you."

She did not stop to analyse her feeling of relief at this release, and went on to protest: "But I want your life to be my life. I want there to be only one life--our life."

"And there shall be--each contributing his share, at least I'll try to contribute mine. But you have your own individuality, dear; and a very strong one it is. And I don't want you to change."

At the time he was deep in his plans for illustrating the News-Record. Early in that fall's campaign they had secured the best cartoonist in America. Cartoons are rarely the work of one man but are got up by consultations. Howard spent never less than an hour each day with the cartoonist, Wickham, wrestling with the problem of the next day's picture. For he insisted upon having a striking cartoon each day, and gave it the most conspicuous place in the paper--the top-centre of the first page.

"If a cartoon is worth printing at all," he said, "it is worth printing large and conspicuous. And to be worth printing it must be like an ideal editorial--one point sharply and swiftly made and so clear that the most careless glance-of-the-eye is enough."

Wickham had made a series of cartoons on the campaign, humorous and satirical, which had the distinction of being reproduced on lantern slides for use in all parts of the town. It was an admirable beginning of the new policy of illustration. Howard had been making a careful study of all the illustrators in the country, not overlooking those toiling in obscurity on the big western dailies. He had selected a staff of twenty; as soon as Coulter and Stokely assented, he engaged them by telegraph. Five were developed artists, the rest beginners with talent. He gave all of his attention for two weeks to organising this staff. He infected it with his enthusiasm. He impressed upon it his ideas of newspaper illustration--the dash and energy of the French illustrators adapted to American public taste. He insisted upon the artists studying the French illustrated papers and applying what they learned. It was not until the first Sunday in December that he felt ready to submit the results of these labours to the public.

Again he scored over the "contemporaries" of the News-Record. They printed many more illustrations than it did. It had only one illustration on a page, but there was one on every page and a good one. All the subjects were well chosen--either action or character--and as many good looking women as possible.

"Never publish a commonplace face," he said. "There is no such thing in life as an uninteresting face. Always find the element of interest and bring it out."

The result of this policy, interpreted by a carefully trained and enthusiastic staff, was what the out-of-town press was soon praising as "a revelation in newspaper-illustration." Howard himself was surprised. He had mentally insured against a long period of disappointment.

"This shows," he remarked to King and Vroom, "how much more competent men are than we usually think--if they get a chance, if they are pointed in the right direction and are left free."

"He certainly knows his business." Vroom was looking after Howard admiringly. "I never saw anybody who so well understood when to lead and when to let alone. What results he does get!"

"A pity to waste such talents on this thankless business," said King. "If he'd gone into real business, he would have a salary of a hundred thousand a year, would be rich and secure for life. Why, a business man could and would make a whole career on the ideas he has in a single week. As it is----"

King shrugged his shoulders and Vroom finished the sentence for him: "Coulter and Stokely could kick him out to-morrow and the News-Record would go straight on living upon his ideas for ten years at least."

Howard needed no one to make this truth clear to him to the full. Often, as he thought of his expanding tastes, his expanding expenditures and his expanding plans both for his private life and for his career, he felt an awful sinking at the heart and a sense of fundamental weakness.

"I am building upon sand," he said to himself. "In business, in the law, in almost any other career to-day's work would be to-morrow's capital. As it is, I am ever more and more a slave. To be free I ought to be poor or rich. And I cannot endure the thought of poverty again. I must be rich."

The idea allured him to a degree that made him ashamed of himself. Sometimes, when he was talking to Marian or writing editorials, all in the strain of high principle and contempt for sordidness, he would flush at the thought that he was in reality a good deal of a hypocrite. "I'm expressing the ideals I ought to have, the ideals I used to have, not the ideals I have."

But the clearer this discrepancy became to him and the wider the gap between what he ought to think and what he really did think, the more strenuously he protested to himself against himself, and the more fiercely he denounced in public the very poison he was himself taking.

"I am living in a tainted atmosphere," he said to Marian. "We all are. I fight against the taint but how can I hope to avoid the consequences if I persist in breathing it, in absorbing it at every pore of my body?"

"I don't understand you." Marian was used to his moods of self-criticism and did not attach much importance to them.

He thought a moment. "Oh, nothing," he said. "What's the use of discussing what can't be helped?" How could he tell her that the greatest factor in his enervating environment was herself; that the strongest chains which held him in it were the chains which bound him to her? Indeed, was he not indulging in cowardly self-excuse in thinking that this was true? Had not his success, rather than his love, made ambition unfettered by principle the mainspring of his life?




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