7. The Owner
Some degree of triumph would perhaps have been excusable in the new owner. Most
signally had he turned the tables on his enemies. Yet it was with no undue swagger that
he seated himself upon a chair of problematical stability, and began to study the pages of
the morning's issue. Sterne regarded him dubiously.
"This isn't a bluff, I suppose?" he asked.
"Ask your lawyers."
"Mac, get Rockwell's house on the 'phone, will you, and find out if we've been sold."
Presently the drawl of Mr. Ellis was heard, pleading with a fair and anonymous Central,
whom he addressed with that charming impersonality employed toward babies, pet dogs,
and telephone girls, as "Tootsie," to abjure juvenility, and give him 322 Vincent, in a
"You'll excuse me, Mr. Surtaine," said Sterne, in a new and ingratiating tone, for which
Hal liked him none the better, "but verifying news has come to be an instinct with me."
"It's straight," said Ellis, turning his heavy face to his principal, after a moment's talk over
the wire. "Bought and sold, lock, stock, and barrel."
"Have you had any newspaper experience, Mr. Surtaine?" inquired Sterne.
"Not on the practical side."
"As owner I suppose you'll want to make changes."
"They all do," sighed Sterne. "But my contract has several months—" "Yes: I've been
over the contracts with a lawyer. Yours and Mr. Ellis's. He says they won't hold."
"All newspaper contracts are on the cheese," observed McGuire Ellis philosophically.
"Swiss cheese, at that. Full of holes."
"I don't admit it," protested Sterne. "Even so, to turn a man out—"
A snort of disgust from Ellis interrupted the plea. The glare with which that employee
favored his boss fairly convicted the seamed and graying editor of willful and captious
"Contract or no contract, you'll both be fairly treated," said the new owner shortly.