To avoid having this book hurled into corner of the room by the suspicious reader, I will
assert in time that this is not a newspaper story. You will encounter no shirt-sleeved,
omniscient city editor, no prodigy "cub" reporter just off the farm, no scoop, no story--no
But if you will concede me the setting of the first scene in the reporters' room of the
Morning Beacon, I will repay the favor by keeping strictly my promises set forth above.
I was doing space-work on the Beacon, hoping to be put on a salary. Some one had
cleared with a rake or a shovel a small space for me at the end of a long table piled high
with exchanges, Congressional Records, and old files. There I did my work. I wrote
whatever the city whispered or roared or chuckled to me on my diligent wanderings about
its streets. My income was not regular.
One day Tripp came in and leaned on my table. Tripp was something in the mechanical
department--I think he had something to do with the pictures, for he smelled of
photographers' supplies, and his hands were always stained and cut up with acids. He was
about twenty-five and looked forty. Half of his face was covered with short, curly red
whiskers that looked like a door-mat with the "welcome" left off. He was pale and
unhealthy and miserable and fawning, and an assiduous borrower of sums ranging from
twenty-five cents to a dollar. One dollar was his limit. He knew the extent of his credit as
well as the Chemical National Bank knows the amount of H20 that collateral will show
on analysis. When he sat on my table he held one hand with the other to keep both from
shaking. Whiskey. He had a spurious air of lightness and bravado about him that
deceived no one, but was useful in his borrowing because it was so pitifully and
This day I had coaxed from the cashier five shining silver dollars as a grumbling advance
on a story that the Sunday editor had reluctantly accepted. So if I was not feeling at peace
with the world, at least an armistice had been declared; and I was beginning with ardor to
write a description of the Brooklyn Bridge by moonlight.
"Well, Tripp," said I, looking up at him rather impatiently, "how goes it?" He was
looking to-day more miserable, more cringing and haggard and downtrodden than I had
ever seen him. He was at that stage of misery where he drew your pity so fully that you
longed to kick him.
"Have you got a dollar?" asked Tripp, with his most fawning look and his dog-like eyes
that blinked in the narrow space between his high- growing matted beard and his low-
growing matted hair.