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Explanations were now due to two people, Io and Willis Enderby. As to Io, Banneker felt an inner conviction of strength. Hopeless though he was of making his course appear in any other light than that of surrender, nevertheless he could tell himself that it was really done for her, to protect her name. But he could not tell her this. He knew too well what the answer of that high and proud spirit of hers would be; that if their anomalous relationship was hampering his freedom, dividing his conscience, the only course of honor was for them to stop seeing each other at no matter what cost of suffering; let Banneker resign, if that were his rightful course, and tell The Searchlight to do its worst. Yes; such would be Io's idea of playing the game. He could not force it. He must argue with her, if at all, on the plea of expediency. And to her forthright and uncompromising fearlessness, expediency was in itself the poorest of expedients. At the last, there was her love for him to appeal to. But would Io love where she could not trust?... He turned from that thought.
As an alternative subject for consideration, Willis Enderby was hardly more assuring and even more perplexing. True, Banneker owed no explanation to him; but for his own satisfaction of mind he must have it out with the lawyer. He had a profound admiration for Enderby and knew that this was in a measure reciprocated by a patent and almost wistful liking, curious in a person as reserved as Enderby. He cherished a vague impression that somehow Enderby would understand. Or, at least, that he would want to understand. Consequently he was not surprised when the lawyer called him up and asked him to come that evening to the Enderby house. He went at once to the point.
"Banneker, do you know anything of an advertisement by the striking garment-workers, which The Patriot first accepted and afterward refused to print?"
"Are you at liberty to tell me why?"
"That is implied."
"Mr. Marrineal ordered it killed."
"Ah! It was Marrineal himself. The advocate of the Common People! The friend of Labor!"
"Admirable campaign material," observed Banneker composedly, "if it were possible to use it."
"Which, of course, it isn't; being confidential," Enderby capped the thought. "I hear that Russell Edmonds has resigned."
"That is true."
"In consequence of the rejected advertisement?"
Banneker sat silent so long that his host began: "Perhaps I shouldn't have asked that--"
"I'm going to tell you exactly what occurred," said Banneker quietly, and outlined the episode of the editorial, suppressing, however, Marrineal's covert threat as to Io and The Searchlight. "And I haven't resigned. So you see what manner of man I am," he concluded defiantly.
"You mean a coward? I don't think it."
"I wish I were sure!" burst out Banneker.
"Ah? That's hard, when the soul doesn't know itself. Is it money?" The crisp, clear voice had softened to a great kindliness. "Are you in debt, my boy?"
"No. Yes; I am. I'd forgotten. That doesn't matter."
"Apparently not." The lawyer's heavy brows went up, "More serious than money," he commented.
Banneker recognized the light of suspicion, comprehension, confirmation in the keen and fine visage turned upon him. Enderby continued:
"Well, there are matters that can be talked of and other matters that can't be talked of. But if you ever feel that you want the advice of a man who has seen human nature on a good many sides, and has learned not to judge too harshly of it, come to me. The only counsel I ever give gratis to those who can pay for it"--he smiled faintly--"is the kind that may be too valuable to sell."
"But I'd like to know," said Banneker slowly, "why you don't think me a yellow dog for not resigning."
"Because, in your heart you don't think yourself one. Speaking of that interesting species, I suppose you know that your principal is working for the governorship."
"Will he get the nomination?"
"Quite possibly. Unless I can beat him for it. I'll tell you privately I may be the opposing candidate. Not that the party loves me any too much; but I'm at least respectable, fairly strong up-State, and they'll take what they have to in order to beat Marrineal, who is forcing himself down their throats."
"A pleasant prospect for me," gloomed Banneker. "I'll have to fight you."
"Go ahead and fight," returned the other heartily. "It won't be the first time."
"At least, I want you to know that it'll be fair fight."
"No 'Junior-called-me-Bob' trick this time?" smiled Enderby.
Banneker flushed and winced. "No," he answered. "Next time I'll be sure of my facts. Good-night and good luck. I hope you beat us."
As he turned the corner into Fifth Avenue a thought struck him. He made the round of the block, came up the side of the street opposite, and met a stroller having all the ear-marks of the private detective. To think of a man of Judge Enderby's character being continuously "spotted" for the mean design of an Ely Ives filled Banneker with a sick fury. His first thought was to return and tell Enderby. But to what purpose? After all, what possible harm could Ives's plotting and sneaking do to a man of the lawyer's rectitude? Banneker returned to The House With Three Eyes and his unceasing work.
The interview with Enderby had lightened his spirit. The older man's candor, his tolerance, his clear charity of judgment, his sympathetic comprehension were soothing and reassuring. But there was another trouble yet to be faced. It was three days since the editorial appeared and he had heard no word from Io. Each noon when he called on the long-distance 'phone, she had been out, an unprecedented change from her eager waiting to hear the daily voice on the wire. Should he write? No; it was too difficult and dangerous for that. He must talk it out with her, face to face, when the time came.
Meantime there was Russell Edmonds. He found the veteran cleaning out his desk preparatory to departure.
"You can't know how it hurts to see you go, Pop," he said sadly. "What's your next step?"
"The Sphere. They want me to do a special series, out around the country."
"Aren't they pretty conservative for your ideas?"
Edmonds, ruminating over a pipe even smaller and more fragile than the one sacrificed to his rage and disgust, the day of his resignation, gave utterance to a profound truth:
"What's the difference whether a newspaper is radical or conservative, Ban, if it tells the truth? That's the whole test and touchstone; to give news honestly. The rest will take care of itself. Compared to us The Sphere crowd are conservative. But they're honest. And they're not afraid."
"Yes. They're honest, and not afraid--because they don't have to be," said Banneker, in a tone so somber that his friend said quickly:
"I didn't mean that for you, son."
"Well, if I've gone wrong, I've got my punishment before me," pursued the other with increased gloom. "Having to work for Marrineal and further his plans, after knowing him as I know him now--that's a refined species of retribution, Pop."
"I know; I know. You've got to stick and wait your chance, and hold your following until you can get your own newspaper. Then," said Russell Edmonds with the glory of an inspired vision shining in his weary eyes, "you can tell 'em all to go to hell. Oh, for a paper of our own kind that's really independent; that don't care a hoot for anything except to get the news and get it straight, and interpret it straight; that don't have to be afraid of anything but not being honest!"
"Pop," said Banneker, spiritlessly, "what's the use? How do we know we aren't chasing a rainbow? How do we know people want an honest paper or would know one if they saw it?"
"My God, son! Don't talk like that," implored the veteran. "That's the one heresy for which men in our game are eternally damned--and deserve it."
"All right. I know it. I don't mean it, Pop. I'm not adopting Marrineal's creed. Not just yet."
"By the way, Marrineal was asking for you this morning."
"Was he? I'll look him up. Perhaps he's going to fire me. I wish he would."
"Catch him!" grunted the other, reverting to his task. "More likely going to raise your salary."
As between the two surmises, Edmonds's was the nearer the truth. Urbane as always, the proprietor of The Patriot waved his editor to a seat, remarking, "I hope you'll sit down this time," the slightly ironical tinge to the final words being, in the course of the interview, his only reference to their previous encounter. Wondering dully whether Marrineal could have any idea of the murderous hatred which he inspired, Banneker took the nearest chair and waited. After some discussion as to the policy of the paper in respect to the strike, which was on the point of settlement by compromise, Marrineal set his delicate fingers point to point and said:
"I want to talk to you about the future."
"I'm listening," returned Banneker uncompromisingly.
"Your ultimate ambition is to own and control a newspaper of your own, isn't it?"
"Why do you think that?"
Marrineal's slow, sparse smile hardly moved his lips. "It's in character that you should. What else is there for you?"
"Have you ever thought of The Patriot?"
Involuntarily Banneker straightened in his chair. "Is The Patriot in the market?"
"Hardly. That isn't what I have in mind."
"Will you kindly be more explicit?"
"Mr. Banneker, I intend to be the next governor of this State."
"I might quote a proverb on that point," returned the editor unpleasantly.
"Yes; and I might cap your cup-and-lip proverb with another as to the effect of money as a stimulus in a horse-race."
"I have no doubts as to your financial capacity."
"My organization is building up through the State. I've got the country newspapers in a friendly, not to say expectant, mood. There's just one man I'm afraid of."
"I should think he would be an admirable nominee."
"As an individual you are at liberty to hold such opinions as you please. As editor of The Patriot--"
"I am to support The Patriot candidate and owner. Did you send for me to tell me that, Mr. Marrineal? I'm not altogether an idiot, please remember."
"You are a friend of Judge Enderby."
"If I am, that is a personal, not a political matter. No matter how much I might prefer to see him the candidate of the party"--Banneker spoke with cold deliberation--"I should not stultify myself or the paper by supporting him against the paper's owner."
"That is satisfactory." Marrineal swallowed the affront without a gulp. "To continue. If I am elected governor, nothing on earth can prevent my being the presidential nominee two years later."
Equally appalled and amused by the enormous egotism of the man thus suddenly revealed, Banneker studied him in silence.
"Nothing in the world," repeated the other. "I have the political game figured out to an exact science. I know how to shape my policies, how to get the money backing I need, how to handle the farmer and labor. It may be news to you to know that I now control eight of the leading farm journals of the country and half a dozen labor organs. However, this is beside the question. My point with you is this. With my election as governor, my chief interest in The Patriot ceases. The paper will have set me on the road; I'll do the rest. Reserving only the right to determine certain very broad policies, I purpose to turn over the control of The Patriot to you."
"To me!" said Banneker, thunderstruck.
"Provided I am elected governor," said Marrineal. "Which depends largely--yes, almost entirely--on the elimination of Judge Enderby."
"What are you asking me to do?" demanded Banneker, genuinely puzzled.
"Absolutely nothing. As my right-hand man on the paper, you are entitled to know my plans, particularly as they affect you. I can add that when I reach the White House"--this with sublime confidence--"the paper will be for sale and you may have the option on it."
Banneker's brain seemed filled with flashes of light, as he returned to his desk. He sat there, deep-slumped in his chair, thinking, planning, suspecting, plumbing for the depths of Marrineal's design, and above all filled with an elate ambition. Not that he believed for a moment in Marrineal's absurd and megalomaniacal visions of the presidency. But the governorship; that indeed was possible enough; and that would mean a free hand for Banneker for the term. What might he not do with The Patriot in that time!... An insistent and obtrusive disturbance to his profound cogitation troubled him. What was it that seemed to be setting forth a claim to divide his attention? Ah, the telephone. He thrust it aside, but it would not be silenced. Well ... what.... The discreet voice of his man said that a telegram had come for him. All right (with impatience); read it over the wire. The message, thus delivered in mechanical tones, struck from his mind the lesser considerations which a moment before had glowed with such shifting and troublous glory.
D. died this morning. Will write. I.
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