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Chapter 15

XV.

It took Bartley two days to write out his account of the logging-camp. He worked it up to the best of his ability, giving all the facts that he had got out of Kinney, and relieving these with what he considered picturesque touches. He had the newspaper instinct, and he divined that his readers would not care for his picturesqueness without his facts. He therefore subordinated this, and he tried to give his description of the loggers a politico-economical interest, dwelling upon the variety of nationalities engaged in the industry, and the changes it had undergone in what he called its personnel; he enlarged upon its present character and its future development in relation to what he styled, in a line of small capitals, with an early use of the favorite newspaper possessive,

COLUMBIA'S MORIBUND SHIP-BUILDING.

And he interspersed his text plentifully with exclamatory headings intended to catch the eye with startling fragments of narration and statement, such as

THE PINE-TREE STATE'S STORIED STAPLE
MORE THAN A MILLION OF MONEY
UNBROKEN WILDERNESS
WILD-CATS, LYNXES, AND BEARS
BITTEN OFF
BOTH LEGS FROZEN TO THE KNEES
CANADIAN SONGS
JOY UNCONFINED
THE LAMPLIGHT ON THEIR SWARTHY FACES.

He spent a final forenoon in polishing his article up, and stuffing it full of telling points. But after dinner on this last day he took leave of Marcia with more trepidation than he was willing to show, or knew how to conceal. Her devout faith in his success seemed to unnerve him, and he begged her not to believe in it so much.

He seized what courage he had left in both hands, and found himself, after the usual reluctance of the people in the business office, face to face with Mr. Witherby in his private room. Mr. Witherby had lately dismissed his managing editor for his neglect of the true interests of the paper as represented by the counting-room; and was managing the Events himself. He sat before a table strewn with newspapers and manuscripts; and as he looked up, Bartley saw that he did not recognize him.

"How do you do, Mr. Witherby? I had the pleasure of meeting you the other day in Maine—at Mr. Willett's logging-camp. Hubbard is my name; remember me as editor of the Equity Free Press."

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Witherby, rising and standing at his desk, as a sort of compromise between asking his visitor to sit down and telling him to go away. He shook hands in a loose way, and added: "I presume you would like to exchange. But the fact is, our list is so large already, that we can't extend it, just now; we can't—"

Bartley smiled. "I don't want any exchange, Mr. Witherby. I'm out of the
Free Press."

"Ah!" said the city journalist, with relief. He added, in a leading tone:
"Then—"

"I've come to offer you an article,—an account of lumbering in our State. It's a little sketch that I've prepared from what I saw in Mr. Willett's camp, and some facts and statistics I've picked up. I thought it might make an attractive feature of your Sunday edition."

"The Events," said Mr. Witherby, solemnly, "does not publish a Sunday edition!"

"Of course not," answered Bartley, inwardly cursing his blunder,—"I mean your Saturday evening supplement." He handed him his manuscript.

Mr. Witherby looked at it, with the worry of a dull man who has assumed unintelligible duties. He had let the other papers "get ahead of him" on several important enterprises lately, and he would have been glad to retrieve himself; but he could not be sure that this was an enterprise. He began by saying that their last Saturday supplement was just out, and the next was full; and he ended by declaring, with stupid pomp, that the Events preferred to send its own reporters to write up those matters. Then he hemmed, and looked at Bartley, and he would really have been glad to have him argue him out of this position; but Bartley could not divine what was in his mind. The cold fit, which sooner or later comes to every form of authorship, seized him. He said awkwardly he was very sorry, and putting his manuscript back in his pocket he went out, feeling curiously light-headed, as if his rebuff had been a stunning blow. The affair was so quickly over, that he might well have believed it had not happened. But he was sickeningly disappointed; he had counted upon the sale of his article to the Events; his hope had been founded upon actual knowledge of the proprietor's intention; and although he had rebuked Marcia's overweening confidence, he had expected that Witherby would jump at it. But Witherby had not even looked at it.

Bartley walked a long time in the cold winter sunshine, fie would have liked to go back to his lodging, and hide his face in Marcia's hands, and let her pity him, but he could not bear the thought of her disappointment, and he kept walking. At last he regained courage enough to go to the editor of the paper for which he used to correspond in the summer, and which had always printed his letters. This editor was busy, too, but he apparently felt some obligations to civility with Bartley; and though he kept glancing over his exchanges as they talked, he now and then glanced at Bartley also. He said that he should be glad to print the sketch, but that they never paid for outside material, and he advised Bartley to go with it to the Events or to the Daily Chronicle-Abstract; the Abstract and the Brief Chronicle had lately consolidated, and they were showing a good deal of enterprise. Bartley said nothing to betray that he had already been at the Events office, and upon this friendly editor's invitation to drop in again some time he went away considerably re-inspirited.

"If you should happen to go to the Chronicle-Abstract folks," the editor called after him, "you can tell them I suggested your coming."

The managing editor of the Chronicle-Abstract was reading a manuscript, and he did not desist from his work on Bartley's appearance, which he gave no sign of welcoming. But he had a whimsical, shrewd, kind face, and Bartley felt that he should get on with him, though he did not rise, and though he let Bartley stand.

"Yes," he said. "Lumbering, hey? Well, there's some interest in that, just now, on account of this talk about the decay of our shipbuilding interests. Anything on that point?"

"That's the very point I touch on first," said Bartley.

The editor stopped turning over his manuscript. "Let's see," he said, holding out his hand for Bartley's article. He looked at the first head-line, "What I Know about Logging," and smiled. "Old, but good." Then he glanced at the other headings, and ran his eye down the long strips on which Bartley had written; nibbled at the text here and there a little; returned to the first paragraph, and read that through; looked back at something else, and then read the close.

"I guess you can leave it," he said, laying the manuscript on the table.

"No, I guess not," said Bartley, with equal coolness, gathering it up.

The editor looked fairly at him for the first time, and smiled. Evidently he liked this. "What's the reason? Any particular hurry?"

"I happen to know that the Events is going to send a man down East to write up this very subject. And I don't propose to leave this article here till they steal my thunder, and then have it thrown back on my hands not worth the paper it's written on."

The editor tilted himself back in his chair and braced his knees against his table. "Well, I guess you're right," he said. "What do you want for it?"

This was a terrible question. Bartley knew nothing about the prices that city papers paid; he feared to ask too much, but he also feared to cheapen his wares by asking too little. "Twenty-five dollars," he said, huskily.

"Let's look at it," said the editor, reaching out his hand for the manuscript again. "Sit down." He pushed a chair toward Bartley with his foot, having first swept a pile of newspapers from it to the floor. He now read the article more fully, and then looked up at Bartley, who sat still, trying to hide his anxiety. "You're not quite a new hand at the bellows, are you?"

"I've edited a country paper."

"Yes? Where?"

"Down in Maine."

The editor bent forward and took out a long, narrow blank-book. "I guess we shall want your article What name?"

"Bartley J. Hubbard." It sounded in his ears like some other name.

"Going to be in Boston some time?"

"All the time," said Bartley, struggling to appear nonchalant. The revulsion from the despair into which he had fallen after his interview with Witherby was still very great. The order on the counting-room which the editor had given him shook in his hand. He saw his way before him clearly now; he wished to propose some other things that he would like to write; but he was saved from this folly for the time by the editor's saying, in a tone of dismissal: "Better come in to-morrow and see a proof. We shall put you into the Wednesday supplement."

"Thanks," said Bartley. "Good day."

The editor did not hear him, or did not think it necessary to respond from behind the newspaper which he had lifted up between them, and Bartley went out. He did not stop to cash his order; he made boyish haste to show it to Marcia, as something more authentic than the money itself, and more sacred. As he hurried homeward he figured Marcia's ecstasy in his thought. He saw himself flying up the stairs to their attic three steps at a bound, and bursting into the room, where she sat eager and anxious, and flinging the order into her lap; and then, when she had read it with rapture at the sum, and pride in the smartness with which he had managed the whole affair, he saw himself catching her up and dancing about the floor with her. He thought how fond of her he was, and he wondered that he could ever have been cold or lukewarm.

She was standing at the window of Mrs. Nash's little reception-room when he reached the house. It was not to be as he had planned, but he threw her a kiss, glad of the impatience which would not let her wait till he could find her in their own room, and he had the precious order in his hand to dazzle her eyes as soon as he should enter. But, as he sprang into the hall, his foot struck against a trunk and some boxes.

"Hello!" he cried, "Your things have come!"

Marcia lingered within the door of the reception-room; she seemed afraid to come out. "Yes," she said, faintly; "father brought them. He has just been here."

He seemed there still, and the vision unnerved her as if Bartley and he had been confronted there in reality. Her husband had left her hardly a quarter of an hour, when a hack drove up to the door, and her father alighted. She let him in herself, before he could ring, and waited tremulously for what he should do or say. But he merely took her hand, and, stooping over, gave her the chary kiss with which he used to greet her at home when he returned from an absence.

She flung her arms around his neck. "Oh, father!"

"Well, well! There, there!" he said, and then he went into the reception-room with her; and there was nothing in his manner to betray that anything unusual had happened since they last met. He kept his hat on, as his fashion was, and he kept on his overcoat, below which the skirts of his dress-coat hung an inch or two; he looked old, and weary, and shabby.

"I can't leave Bartley, father," she began, hysterically.

"I haven't come to separate you from your husband, Marcia. What made you think so? It's your place to stay with him."

"He's out, now," she answered, in an incoherent hopefulness. "He's just gone. Will you wait and see him, father?"

"No, I guess I can't wait," said the old man. "It wouldn't do any good for us to meet now."

"Do you think he coaxed me away? He didn't. He took pity on me,—he forgave me. And I didn't mean to deceive you when I left home, father. But I couldn't help trying to see Bartley again."

"I believe you, Marcia. I understand. The thing had to be. Let me see your marriage certificate."

She ran up to her room and fetched it.

Her father read it carefully. "Yes, that is all right," he said, and returned it to her. He added, after an absent pause: "I have brought your things, Marcia. Your mother packed all she could think of."

"How is mother?" asked Marcia, as if this had first reminded her of her mother.

"She is usually well," replied her father.

"Won't you—won't you come up and see our room, father?" Marcia asked, after the interval following this feint of interest in her mother.

"No," said the old man, rising restlessly from his chair, and buttoning at his coat, which was already buttoned. "I guess I sha'n't have time. I guess I must be going."

Marcia put herself between him and the door. "Won't you let me tell you about it, father?"

"About what?"

"How—I came to go off with Bartley. I want you should know."

"I guess I know all I want to know about it, Marcia. I accept the facts.
I told you how I felt. What you've done hasn't changed me toward you. I
understand you better than you understand yourself; and I can't say that
I'm surprised. Now I want you should make the best of it."

"You don't forgive Bartley!" she cried, passionately. "Then I don't want you should forgive me!"

"Where did you pick up this nonsense about forgiving?" said her father, knitting his shaggy brows. "A man does this thing or that, and the consequence follows. I couldn't forgive Bartley so that he could escape any consequence of what he's done; and you're not afraid I shall hurt him?"

"Stay and see him!" she pleaded. "He is so kind to me! He works night and day, and he has just gone out to sell something he has written for the papers."

"I never said he was lazy," returned her father. "Do you want any money,
Marcia?"

"No, we have plenty. And Bartley is earning it all the time. I wish you would stay and see him!"

"No, I'm glad he didn't happen to be in," said the Squire. "I sha'n't wait for him to come back. It wouldn't do any good, just yet, Marcia; it would only do harm. Bartley and I haven't had time to change our minds about each other yet. But I'll say a good word for him to you. You're his wife, and it's your part to help him, not to hinder him. You can make him worse by being a fool; but you needn't be a fool. Don't worry him about other women; don't be jealous. He's your husband, now: and the worst thing you can do is to doubt him."

"I won't, father, I won't, indeed! I will be good, and I will try to be sensible. Oh, I wish Bartley could know how you feel!"

"Don't tell him from me," said her father. "And don't keep making promises and breaking them. I'll help the man in with your things."

He went out, and came in again with one end of a trunk, as if he had been giving the man a hand with it into the house at home, and she suffered him as passively as she had suffered him to do her such services all her life. Then he took her hand laxly in his, and stooped down for another chary kiss. "Good by, Marcia."

"Why, father! Are you going to leave me?" she faltered.

He smiled in melancholy irony at the bewilderment, the childish forgetfulness of all the circumstances, which her words expressed. "Oh, no! I'm going to take you with me."

His sarcasm restored her to a sense of what she had said, and she ruefully laughed at herself through her tears. "What am I talking about? Give my love to mother. When will you come again?" she asked, clinging about him almost in the old playful way.

"When you want me," said the Squire, freeing himself.

"I'll write!" she cried after him, as he went down the steps; and if there had been, at any moment, a consciousness of her cruelty to him in her heart, she lost it, when he drove away, in her anxious waiting for Bartley's return. It seemed to her that, though her father had refused to see him, his visit was of happy augury for future kindness between them, and she was proudly eager to tell Bartley what good advice her father had given her. But the sight of her husband suddenly turned these thoughts to fear. She trembled, and all that she could say was, "I know father will be all right, Bartley."

"How?" he retorted, savagely. "By the way he abused me to you? Where is he?"

"He's gone,—gone back."

"I don't care where he's gone, so he's gone. Did he come to take you home with him? Why didn't you go?—Oh, Marcia!" The brutal words had hardly escaped him when he ran to her as if he would arrest them before their sense should pierce her heart.

She thrust him back with a stiffly extended arm. "Keep away! Don't touch me!" She walked by him up the stairs without looking round at him, and he heard her close their door and lock it.

William Dean Howells