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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 19
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    The next afternoon, about four o'clock, Herbert stood gloomily at the main entrance of Atwater & Rooter's Newspaper Building awaiting his partner. The other entrances were not only nailed fast but massively barricaded; and this one (consisting of the ancient carriage-house doors, opening upon a driveway through the yard) had recently been made effective for exclusion. A long and heavy plank leaned against the wall, near by, ready to be set in hook-shaped iron supports fastened to the inner sides of the doors; and when the doors were closed, with this great plank in place, a person inside the building might seem entitled to count upon the enjoyment of privacy, except in case of earthquake, tornado, or fire. In fact, the size of the plank and the substantial quality of the iron fastenings could be looked upon, from a certain viewpoint, as a real compliment to the energy and persistence of Florence Atwater.

    Herbert had been in no complimentary frame of mind, however, when he devised the obstructions, nor was he now in such a frame of mind. He was pessimistic in regard to his future, and also embarrassed in anticipation of some explanations it would be necessary to make to his partner. He strongly hoped that Henry's regular after-school appearance at the Newspaper Building would precede Florence's, because these explanations required both deliberation and tact, and he was convinced that it would be almost impossible to make them at all if Florence got there first.

    He understood that he was unfortunately within her power; and he saw that it would be dangerous to place in operation for her exclusion from the Building this new mechanism contrived with such hopeful care, and at a cost of two dollars and twenty-five cents taken from the Oriole's treasury. What he wished Henry to believe was that for some good reason, which Herbert had not yet been able to invent, it would be better to show Florence a little politeness. He had a desperate hope that he might find some diplomatic way to prevail on Henry to be as subservient to Florence as she had seemed to demand, and he was determined to touch any extremity of unveracity, rather than permit the details of his answer in "Truth" to come to his partner's knowledge. Henry Rooter was not Wallie Torbin; but in possession of material such as this he could easily make himself intolerable.

    Therefore, it was in a flurried state of mind that Herbert waited; and when his friend appeared, over the fence, his perturbation was not decreased. He even failed to notice the unusual gravity of Henry's manner.

    "Hello, Henry! I thought I wouldn't start in working till you got here. I didn't want to haf to come all the way downstairs again to open the door and hi'st our good ole plank up again."

    "I see," said Henry, glancing nervously at their good ole plank. "Well, I guess Florence'll never get in this good ole door--that is, she won't if we don't let her, or something."

    This final clause would have astonished Herbert if he had been less preoccupied with his troubles. "You bet she won't!" he said mechanically. "She couldn't ever get in here again--if the family didn't go intafering around and give me the dickens and everything, because they think--they say they do, anyhow--they say they think--they think----"

    He paused, disguising a little choke as a cough of scorn for the family's thinking.

    "What did you say your family think?" Henry asked absently.

    "Well, they say we ought to let her have a share in our newspaper." Again he paused, afraid to continue lest his hypocrisy appear so bare-faced as to invite suspicion. "Well, maybe we ought," he said finally, his eyes guiltily upon his toe, which slowly scuffed the ground. "I don't say we ought, and I don't say we oughtn't."

    He expected at the least a sharp protest from his partner, who, on the contrary, surprised him. "Well, that's the way I look at it," Henry said. "I don't say we ought and I don't say we oughtn't."

    And he, likewise, stared at the toe of a shoe that scuffed the ground. Herbert felt a little better; this particular subdivision of his difficulties seemed to be working out with unexpected ease.

    "I don't say we will and I don't say we won't," Henry added. "That's the way I look at it. My father and mother are always talkin' to me: how I got to be polite and everything, and I guess maybe it's time I began to pay some 'tention to what they say. You don't have your father and mother for always, you know, Herbert."

    Herbert's mood at once chimed with this unprecedented filial melancholy. "No, you don't, Henry. That's what I often think about, myself. No, sir, a fellow doesn't have his father and mother to advise him our whole life, and you ought to do a good deal what they say while they're still alive."

    "That's what I say," Henry agreed gloomily; and then, without any alteration of his tone, or of the dejected thoughtfulness of his attitude, he changed the subject in a way that painfully startled his companion. "Have you seen Wallie Torbin to-day, Herbert?"

    "What!"

    "Have you seen Wallie Torbin to-day?"

    Herbert swallowed. "Why, what makes--what makes you ask me that, Henry?" he said.

    "Oh, nothin'." Henry still kept his eyes upon his gloomily scuffing toe. "I just wondered, because I didn't happen to see him in school this afternoon when I happened to look in the door of the Eight-A when it was open. I didn't want to know on account of anything particular. I just happened to say that about him because I didn't have anything else to think about just then, so I just happened to think about him, the way you do when you haven't got anything much on your mind and might get to thinkin' about you can't tell what. That's all the way it was; I just happened to kind of wonder if he was around anywhere maybe."

    Henry's tone was obviously, even elaborately, sincere; and Herbert was reassured. "Well, I didn't see him," he responded. "Maybe he's sick."

    "No, he isn't," his friend said. "Florence said she saw him chasin' his dog down the street about noon."

    At this Herbert's uneasiness was uncomfortably renewed. "Florence did? Where'd you see Florence?"

    Mr. Rooter swallowed. "A little while ago," he said, and again swallowed. "On the way home from school."

    "Look--look here!" Herbert was flurried to the point of panic. "Henry--did Florence--did she go and tell you--did she tell you----?"

    "I didn't hardly notice what she was talkin' about," Henry said doggedly. "She didn't have anything to say that I'd ever care two cents about. She came up behind me and walked along with me a ways, but I got too many things on my mind to hardly pay the least attention to anything she ever talks about. She's a girl what I think about her the less people pay any 'tention to what she says the better off they are."

    "That's the way with me, Henry," his partner assured him earnestly. "I never pay any notice to what she says. The way I figure it out about her, Henry, everybody'd be a good deal better off if nobody ever paid the least notice to anything she says. I never even notice what she says, myself."

    "I don't either," said Henry. "All I think about is what my father and mother say, because I'm not goin' to have their advice all the rest o' my life, after they're dead. If they want me to be polite, why, I'll do it and that's all there is about it."

    "It's the same way with me, Henry. If she comes flappin' around here blattin' and blubbin' how she's goin' to have somep'n to do with our newspaper, why, the only reason I'd ever let her would be because my family say I ought to show more politeness to her than up to now. I wouldn't do it on any other account, Henry."

    "Neither would I. That's just the same way I look at it, Herbert. If I ever begin to treat her any better, she's got my father and mother to thank, not me. That's the only reason I'd be willing to say we better leave the plank down and let her in, if she comes around here like she's liable to."

    "Well," said Herbert. "I'm willing. I don't want to get in trouble with the family."

    And they mounted the stairs to their editorial, reportorial, and printing rooms; and began to work in a manner not only preoccupied but apprehensive. At intervals they would give each other a furtive glance, and then seem to reflect upon their fathers' and mothers' wishes and the troublous state of the times. Florence did not keep them waiting long, however.

    She might have been easier to bear had her manner of arrival been less assured. She romped up the stairs, came skipping across the old floor, swinging her hat by a ribbon, flung open the gate in the sacred railing, and, flouncing into the principal chair, immodestly placed her feet on the table in front of that chair. Additionally, such was her lively humour, she affected to light and smoke the stub of a lead pencil. "Well, men," she said heartily, "I don't want to see any loafin' around here, men. I expect I'll have a pretty good newspaper this week; yes, sir, a pretty good newspaper, and I guess you men got to jump around a good deal to do everything I think of, or else maybe I guess I'll have to turn you off. I don't want to haf to do that, men."

    The blackmailed partners made no reply, on account of an inability that was perfect for the moment. They stared at her helplessly, though not kindly; for in their expressions the conflict between desire and policy was almost staringly vivid. And such was their preoccupation, each with the bitterness of his own case, that neither wondered at the other's strange complaisance.

    Florence made it clear to them that henceforth she was the editor of The North End Daily Oriole. (She said she had decided not to change the name.) She informed them that they were to be her printers; she did not care to get all inky and nasty herself, she said. She would, however, do all the writing for her newspaper, and had with her a new poem. Also, she would furnish all the news and it would be printed just as she wrote it, and printed nicely, too, or else----She left the sentence unfinished.

    Thus did this cool hand take possession of an established industry, and in much the same fashion did she continue to manage it. There were unsuppressible protests; there was covert anguish; there was even a strike--but it was a short one. When the printers remained away from their late Newspaper Building, on Wednesday afternoon, Florence had an interview with Herbert after dinner at his own door. He explained coldly that Henry and he had grown tired of the printing-press and had decided to put in all their spare time building a theatre in Henry's attic; but Florence gave him to understand that the theatre could not be; she preferred the Oriole.

    Henry and Herbert had both stopped "speaking" to Patty Fairchild, for each believed her treacherous to himself; but Florence now informed Herbert that far from depending on mere hearsay, she had in her own possession the confession of his knowledge that he had ocular beauty; that she had discovered the paper where Patty had lost it; and that it was now in a secure place, and in an envelope, upon the outside of which was already written, "For Wallie Torbin. Kindness of Florence A."

    Herbert surrendered.

    So did Henry Rooter, a little later that evening, after a telephoned conversation with the slave-driver.

    Therefore, the two miserable printers were back in their places the next afternoon. They told each other that the theatre they had planned wasn't so much after all; and anyhow your father and mother didn't last all your life, and it was better to do what they wanted, and be polite while they were alive.

    And on Saturday the new Oriole, now in every jot and item the inspired organ of feminism, made its undeniably sensational appearance.

    A copy, neatly folded, was placed in the hand of Noble Dill, as he set forth for his place of business, after lunching at home with his mother. Florence was the person who placed it there; she came hurriedly from somewhere in the neighbourhood, out of what yard or alley he did not notice, and slipped the little oblong sheet into his lax fingers.

    "There!" she said breathlessly. "There's a good deal about you in it this week, Mr. Dill, and I guess--I guess----"

    "What, Florence?"

    "I guess maybe you'll----" She looked up at him shyly; then, with no more to say, turned and ran back in the direction whence she had come. Noble walked on, not at once examining her little gift, but carrying it absently in fingers still lax at the end of a dangling arm. There was no life in him for anything. Julia was away.

    Away! And yet the dazzling creature looked at him from sky, from earth, from air; looked at him with the most poignant kindness, yet always shook her head! She had answered his first letter by a kind little note, his second by a kinder and littler one, and his third, fourth, fifth, and sixth by no note at all; but by the kindest message (through one of her aunts) that she was thinking about him a great deal. And even this was three weeks ago. Since then from Julia--nothing at all!

    But yesterday something a little stimulating had happened. On the street, downtown, he had come face to face, momentarily, with Julia's father; and for the first time in Noble's life Mr. Atwater nodded to him pleasantly. Noble went on his way, elated. Was there not something almost fatherly in this strange greeting?

    An event so singular might be interpreted in the happiest way: What had Julia written her father, to change him so toward Noble? And Noble was still dreamily interpreting as he walked down the street with The North End Daily Oriole idle in an idle hand.

    He found a use for that hand presently, and, having sighed, lifted it to press it upon his brow, but did not complete the gesture. As his hand came within the scope of his gaze, levelled on the unfathomable distance, he observed that the fingers held a sheet of printed paper; and he remembered Florence. Instead of pressing his brow he unfolded the journal she had thrust upon him. As he began to read, his eye was lustreless, his gait slack and dreary; but soon his whole demeanour changed, it cannot be said for the better.

    THE NORTH END DAILY ORIOLE

    Atwater & Co., Owners & Propietors Subscribe NOW 25 cents Per. Year. Sub- scriptions should be brought to the East Main Entrance of Atwater & Co., News- paper Building every afternoon 430 to VI 25 Cents

    POEMS

    My Soul by Florence Atwater

    When my heart is dreary Then my soul is weary As a bird with a broken wing Who never again will sing Like the sound of a vast amen That comes from a church of men.

    When my soul is dreary It could never be cheery But I think of myideal And everything seems real Like the sound of the bright church bells peal.

    Poems by Florence Atwater will be in the paper each and every Sat.

    Advertisements 45c. each Up

    Joseph K. Atwater Co. 127 South Iowa St. Steam Pumps

    The News of the City

    Miss Florence Atwater of tHis City received a mark of 94 in History Examination at the concusion of the school Term last June.

    Blue hair ribbons are in style again.

    Miss Patty Fairchild of this City has not been doing as well in Declamation lately as formerly.

    MR. Noble Dill of this City is seldom seen on the streets of the City without smoking a cigarette.

    Miss Julia Atwater of this City is out of the City.

    The MR. Rayfort family of this City have been presentde with the present of a new Cat by Geo. the man employeD by Balf & CO. This cat is perfectly baeutiful and still quit young.

    Miss Julia Atwater of this City is visiting friends in the Soth. The family have had many letters from her that are read by each and all of the famild.

    Mr. Noble Dill of this City is in business with his Father.

    There was quite a wind storm Thursday doing damage to shade trees in many parts of our beautiful City.

    From Letters to the family Miss Julia Atwater of this City is enjoying her visit in the south a greadeal.

    Miss Patty Fairchild of the 7 A of this City, will probably not pass in ARithmetiC--unless great improvement takes place before Examination.

    Miss Julia Atwater of this City wrote a letter to the family stating while visiting in the SOuth she has made an engagement to be married to MR. Crum of that City. The family do not know who this MR. Crum is but It is said he is a widower though he has been diVorced with a great many children.

    The new ditch of the MR. Henry D. Vance, backyard of this City is about through now as little remain to be done and it is thought the beighborhood will son look better. Subscribe NOW 25c. Per Year Adv. 45c. up. Atwater & Co. Newspaper Building 25 Cents Per Years.

    It may be assumed that the last of the news items was wasted upon Noble Dill and that he never knew of the neighbourhood improvement believed to be imminent as a result of the final touches to the ditch of the Mr. Henry D. Vance backyard.
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