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With the accession to political control of Halloran and the old ring, the influence of Horace Vanney and those whom he represented, became as potent as it was secret. "Salutary measures" had been adopted toward the garment-workers; a "firm hand" on the part of the police had succeeded in holding down the strike through the fall and winter; but in the early spring it was revived and spread throughout the city, even to the doors of the shopping district. In another sense than the geographical it was nearing the great department stores, for quiet efforts were being made by some of the strike leaders to organize and unionize the underpaid salesmen and saleswomen of the shops. Inevitably this drew into active hostility to the strikers the whole power of the stores with their immense advertising influence.
Very little news of the strike got into the papers except where some clash with the police was of too great magnitude to be ignored; then the trend of the articles was generally hostile to the strikers. The Sphere published the facts briefly, as a matter of journalistic principle; The Ledger published them with violent bias, as a matter of journalistic habit; the other papers, including The Patriot, suppressed or minimized to as great an extent as they deemed feasible.
That the troubles of some thousands of sweated wage-earners, employed upon classes of machine-made clothing which would never come within the ken of the delicately clad women of her world, could in any manner affect Io Eyre, was most improbable. But the minor fate who manipulates improbabilities elected that she should be in a downtown store at the moment when a squad of mounted police charged a crowd of girl-strikers. Hearing the scream of panic, she ran out, saw ignorant, wild-eyed girls, hardly more than children, beaten down, trampled, hurried hither and thither, seized upon and thrown into patrol wagons, and when she reached her car, sick and furious, found an eighteen-year-old Lithuanian blonde flopping against the rear fender in a dead faint. Strong as a young panther, Io picked up the derelict in her arms, hoisted her into the tonneau, and bade the disgusted chauffeur, "Home." What she heard from the revived girl, in the talk which followed, sent her, hot-hearted, to the police court where the arrests would be brought up for primary judgment.
The first person that she met there was Willis Enderby.
"If you're on this strike case, Cousin Billy," she said, "I'm against you, and I'm ashamed of you."
"You probably aren't the former, and you needn't be the latter," he replied.
"Aren't you Mr. Vanney's lawyer? And isn't he interested in the strike?"
"Not openly. It happens that I'm here for the strikers."
Io stared, incredulous. "For the strikers? You mean that they've retained you?"
"Oh, no. I'm really here in my capacity as President of the Law Enforcement Society; to see that these women get the full protection of the law, to which they are entitled. There is reason to believe that they haven't had it. And you?"
Io told him.
"Are you willing to go on the stand?"
"Certainly; if it will do any good."
"Not much, so far as the case goes. But it will force it into the newspapers. 'Society Leader Takes Part of Working-Girls,' and so-on. The publicity will be useful."
The magistrate on the bench was lenient; dismissed most of the prisoners with a warning against picketing; fined a few; sent two to jail. He seemed surprised and not a little impressed by the distinguished Mrs. Delavan Eyre's appearance in the proceedings, and sent word out to the reporters' room, thereby breaking up a game of pinochle at its point of highest interest. There was a man there from The Patriot.
With eager expectation Io, back in her Philadelphia apartment, sent out for a copy of the New York Patriot. Greatly to her disgust she found herself headlined, half-toned, described; but with very little about the occasion of her testimony, a mere mention of the strike and nothing whatsoever regarding the police brutalities which had so stirred her wrath. Io discovered that she had lost her taste for publicity, in a greater interest. Her first thought was to write Banneker indignantly; her second to ask explanations when he called her on the 'phone as he now did every noon; her third to let the matter stand until she went to New York and saw him. On her arrival, several days later, she went direct to his office. Banneker's chief interest, next to his ever-thrilling delight in seeing her, was in the part played by Willis Enderby.
"What is he doing in that galley?" he wondered.
To her explanation he shook his head. Something more than that, he was sure. Asking Io's permission he sent for Russell Edmonds.
"Isn't this a new role for Enderby?" he asked.
"Not at all. He's been doing this sort of thing always. Usually on the quiet."
"The fact that this is far from being on the quiet suggests politics, doesn't it? Making up to the labor vote?"
"What on earth should Cousin Billy care for the labor vote?" demanded Io. "Mr. Laird is dead politically, isn't he?"
"But Judge Enderby isn't. Mr. Edmonds will tell you that much."
"True enough. Enderby is a man to be reckoned with. Particularly if--" Edmonds paused, hesitant.
"If--" prompted Banneker. "Fire ahead, Pop."
"If Marrineal should declare in on the race for the governorship, next fall."
"Without any state organization? Is that probable?" asked Banneker.
"Only in case he should make a combination with the old ring crowd, who are, naturally, grateful for his aid in putting over Halloran for them. It's quite within the possibilities."
"After the way The Patriot and Mr. Marrineal himself have flayed the ring?" exclaimed Io. "It isn't possible. How could he so go back on himself?"
Edmonds turned his fine and serious smile upon her. "Mr. Marrineal's guiding principle of politics and journalism is that the public never remembers. If he persuades the ring to nominate him, Enderby is the logical candidate against him. In my belief he's the only man who could beat him."
"Do you really think, Mr. Edmonds, that Judge Enderby's help to the arrested women is a political move?"
"That's the way it would be interpreted by all the politicians. Personally, I don't believe it."
"His sympathies, professional and personal, are naturally on the other side," pointed out Banneker.
"But not yours, surely Ban!" cried Io. "Yours ought to be with them. If you could have seen them as I did, helpless and panic-stricken, with the horses pressing in on them--"
"Of course I'm with them," warmly retorted Banneker. "If I controlled the news columns of the paper, I'd make another Sippiac Mills story of this." No sooner had he said it than he foresaw to what reply he had inevitably laid himself open. It came from Io's lips.
"You control the editorial column, Ban."
"It's a subject to be handled in the news, not the editorials," he said hastily.
The silence that fell was presently relieved by Edmonds. "It's also being handled in the advertising columns. Have you seen the series of announcements by the Garment Manufacturers' Association? There are four of 'em now in proof."
"No. I haven't seen them," answered Banneker.
"They're able. But on the whole they aren't as able as the strikers' declaration in rebuttal, offered us to-day, one-third of a page at regular advertising rates, same as the manufacturers'."
"Enderby?" queried Banneker quickly.
"I seem to detect his fine legal hand in it."
Banneker's face became moody. "I suppose Haring refused to publish it."
"No. Haring's for taking it."
"How is that?" said the editor, astonished. "I thought Haring--"
"You think of Haring as if Haring thought as you and I think. That isn't fair," declared Edmonds. "Haring's got a business mind, straight within its limitations. He accepts this strike stuff just as he accepts blue-sky mine fakes and cancer cures in which he has no belief, because he considers that a newspaper is justified in taking any ad. that is offered--and let the reader beware. Besides, it goes against his grain to turn down real money."
"Will it appear in to-morrow's paper?" questioned Io.
"Probably, if it appears at all."
"Why the 'if'?" said Banneker. "Since Haring has passed it--"
"There is also Marrineal."
"Haring sent it to him?"
"Not at all. The useful and ubiquitous Ives, snooping as usual, came upon it. Hence it is now in Marrineal's hands. Likely to remain there, I should think."
"Mr. Marrineal won't let it be published?" asked Io.
"That's my guess," returned the veteran.
"And mine," added Banneker.
He felt her eyes of mute appeal fixed on him and read her meaning.
"All right, Io," he promised quietly. "If Mr. Marrineal won't print it in advertising, I'll print it as editorial."
"When?" Io and Edmonds spoke in one breath.
"Day after to-morrow."
"That's war," said Edmonds.
"In a good cause," declared Io proudly.
"The cause of the independence of Errol Banneker," said the veteran. "It was bound to come. Go in and win, son. I'll get you a proof of the ad."
"Ban!" said Io with brightened regard.
"Will you put something at the head of your column for me, if that editorial appears?"
"What? Wait! I know. The quotation from the Areopagitica. Is that it?"
"Fine! I'll do it."
On the following morning The Patriot appeared as usual. The first of the Manufacturers' Association arguments to the public was conspicuously displayed. Of the strikers' reply--not a syllable. Banneker went to Haring's office; found the business manager gloomy, but resigned.
"Mr. Marrineal turned it down. He's got the right. That's all there is to it," was his version.
"Not quite," remarked Banneker, and went home to prove it.
Into the editorial which was to constitute the declaration of Errol Banneker's independence went much thinking, and little writing. The pronunciamento of the strikers, prefaced by a few words of explanation, and followed by some ringing sentences as to the universal right to a fair field, was enough. At the top of the column the words of Milton, in small, bold print. Across the completed copy he wrote "Thursday. Must."
Never had Banneker felt in finer fettle for war than when he awoke that Thursday morning. Contrary to his usual custom, he did not even look at the copy of The Patriot brought to his breakfast table; he wanted to have that editorial fresh to eye and mind when Marrineal called him to account for it. For this was a challenge which Marrineal could not ignore. He breakfasted with a copy of "The Undying Voices" propped behind his coffee cup, refreshing himself before battle with the delights of allusive memory, bringing back the days when he and lo had read and discovered together. It was noon when he reached the office.
From the boy at the entrance he learned that Mr. Marrineal had come in. Doubtless he would find a summons on his desk. None was there. Perhaps Marrineal would come to him. He waited. Nothing. Taking up the routine of the day, he turned to his proofs, with a view to laying out his schedule.
The top one was his editorial on the strikers' cause.
Across it was blue-penciled the word "Killed."
Banneker snatched up the morning's issue. The editorial was not there. In its place he read, from the top of the column: "And though all the winds of doctrine blow"--and so on, to the close of Milton's proud challenge, followed by:
"Would You Let Your Baby Drink Carbolic?"
For the strike editorial had been substituted one of Banneker's typical "mother-fetchers," as he termed them, very useful in their way, and highly approved by the local health authorities. This one was on the subject of pure milk. Its association with the excerpt from the Areopagitica (which, having been set for a standing head, was not cut out by the "Killed") set the final touch of irony upon the matter. Even in his fury Banneker laughed.
He next considered the handwriting of the blue-penciled monosyllable. It was not Marrineal's blunt, backhand script. Whose was it? Haring's? Trailing the proof in his hand he went to the business manager's room.
"Did you kill this?"
"Yes." Haring got to his feet, white and shaking. "For God's sake, Mr. Banneker--"
"I'm not going to hurt you--yet. By what right did you do it?"
With no further word, Banneker strode to the owner's office, pushed open the door, and entered. Marrineal looked up, slightly frowning.
"Did you kill this editorial?"
Marrineal's frown changed to a smile. "Sit down, Mr. Banneker."
"Marrineal, did you kill my editorial?"
"Isn't your tone a trifle peremptory, for an employee?"
"It won't take more than five seconds for me to cease to be an employee," said Banneker grimly.
"Ah? I trust you're not thinking of resigning. By the way, some reporter called on me last week to confirm a rumor that you were about to resign. Let me see; what paper? Ah; yes; it wasn't a newspaper, at least, not exactly. The Searchlight. I told her--it happened to be a woman--that the story was quite absurd."
Something in the nature of a cold trickle seemed to be flowing between Banneker's brain and his tongue. He said with effort, "Will you be good enough to answer my question?"
"Certainly. Mr. Banneker, that was an ill-advised editorial. Or, rather, an ill-timed one. I didn't wish it published until we had time to talk it over."
"We could have talked it over yesterday."
"But I understood that you were busy with callers yesterday. That charming Mrs. Eyre, who, by the way, is interested in the strikers, isn't she? Or was it the day before yesterday that she was here?"
The Searchlight! And now Io Eyre! No doubt of what Marrineal meant. The cold trickle had passed down Banneker's spine, and settled at his knees making them quite unreliable. Inexplicably it still remained to paralyze his tongue.
"We're reasonable men, you and I, Mr. Banneker," pursued Marrineal in his quiet, detached tones. "This is the first time I have ever interfered. You must do me the justice to admit that. Probably it will be the last. But in this case it was really necessary. Shall we talk it over later?"
"Yes," said Banneker listlessly.
In the hallway he ran into somebody, who cursed him, and then said, oh, he hadn't noticed who it was; Pop Edmonds. Edmonds disappeared into Marrineal's office. Banneker regained his desk and sat staring at the killed proof. He thought vaguely that he could appreciate the sensation of a man caught by an octopus. Yet Marrineal didn't look like an octopus.... What did he look like? What was that subtle resemblance which had eluded him in the first days of their acquaintanceship? That emanation of chill quietude; those stagnant eyes?
He had it now! It dated back to his boyhood days. A crawling terror which, having escaped from a menagerie, had taken refuge in a pool, and there fixed its grip upon an unfortunate calf, and dragged--dragged--dragged the shrieking creature, until it went under. A crocodile.
His reverie was broken by the irruption of Russell Edmonds. An inch of the stem of the veteran's dainty little pipe was clenched firmly between his teeth; but there was no bowl.
"Where's the rest of your pipe?" asked Banneker, stupefied by this phenomenon.
"I've resigned," said Edmonds.
"God! I wish I could," muttered Banneker.
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