21. The Power Of Print
Hal paid thirty-two thousand dollars for the new press. It was a delicate giant of
mechanism, able not only to act, but also to think with stupendous accuracy and
swiftness; lacking only articulate speech to be wholly superhuman. But in signing the
check for it, Hal, for the first time in his luxurious life experienced a financial qualm.
Always before there had been an inexhaustible source wherefrom to draw. Now that he
had issued his declaration of pecuniary independence, he began to appreciate the
perishable nature of money. He came back from his week's journey to New York feeling
Moreover there was an uncomfortable paradox connected with his purchase. That he
should be put to so severe an expenditure merely for the purpose of incurring an
increased current expense, struck him as a rather sardonic joke. Yet so it was. Circulation
does not mean direct profit to a newspaper. On the contrary, it implies loss in many cases.
For some weeks it had been costing the "Clarion," to print the extra papers necessitated
by the increased demand, more than the money received from their sale. Until the status
of the journal should justify a higher advertising charge, every added paper sold would
involve a loss. True, an augmented circulation logically commands a higher advertising
rate; it is thus that a newspaper reaps its harvest; and soon Hal hoped to be able to raise
his advertising rate from fifteen to twenty-five cents a line. At that return his books would
show a profit on a normal volume of advertising. Meantime he performed an act of
involuntary philanthropy with every increase of issue, Nevertheless, Hal felt for his
mechanical giant something of the new-toy thrill. To him it was a symbol of productive
power. It made appeal to his imagination, typifying the reborn "Clarion." He saw it as a
master-loom weaving fresh patterns, day by day, into the fabric of the city's life and
thought. That all might view the process, he had it mounted high from the basement,
behind a broad plate-glass show window set in the front wall, a highly unstrategic
position, as McGuire Ellis pointed out.
"Suppose," said he, "a horse runs wild and makes a dive through that window? Or a
couple of bums get shooting at each other, and a stray bullet comes whiffling through the
glass and catches young Mr. Press in his delikit insides. We're out of business for a week,
maybe, mending him up."
Shearson, however, was in favor of it. It suggested prosperity and aroused public interest.
On Hal's return from New York, the fat and melancholious advertising manager had
exhibited a somewhat mollified pessimism.
"The Boston Store is coming back," he visited Hal's sanctum to announce.
"Why, that's John M. Gibbs's store, isn't it?"