The Clarion HTML version

17. Reprisals
Working on an empty heart is almost as severe a strain as the less poetic process of
working on an empty stomach. On the morning after the failure of Esmé's strategy and
the wrecking of Hal's hopes, the young editor went to his office with a languid but bitter
distaste for its demands. The first item in the late afternoon mail stung him to a fitter
spirit, as a sharp blow will spur to his best efforts a courageous boxer. This was a packet,
containing the crumbled fragments of a spray of arbutus, and a note in handwriting now
stirringly familiar.
I have read your editorial. From a man dishonest enough to print deliberate
lies and cowardly enough to attack a woman, it is just such an answer as I
might have expected.
At first the reference to the editorial bewildered Hal. Then he remembered. Esmé had
known nothing of the editorial until she read it in the paper. She had inferred that he
wrote it after leaving her, thus revenging himself upon her by further scarification of the
friend for whom she had pleaded. To the charge of deliberate mendacity he had no
specific clue, not knowing that Kathleen Pierce had denied the authenticity of the
interview. He mused somberly upon the venomed injustice of womankind. The note and
its symbol of withered sweetness he buried in his waste-basket. If he could but discard as
readily the vision of a face, strangely lovely in its anger and chagrin, and wearing that set
and desperate smile! Well, there was but one answer to her note. That was to make the
"Clarion" all that she would have it not be!
No phantoms of lost loveliness came between McGuire Ellis and his satisfaction over the
Pierce coup. Characteristically, however, he presented the disadvantageous as well as the
favorable aspects of the matter to his employer.
"Some paper this morning!" he began. "The town is humming like a hive."
"Over the Pierce story?" asked Hal.
"Nothing else talked of. We were sold out before nine this morning."
"Selling papers is our line of business," observed the owner-editor.
"You won't think so when you hear Shad Shearson. He's an avalanche of woe, waiting to
sweep down upon you."
"What's his trouble? The department store advertising?"