Story type: Literature
The editorial sanctum of the “Calaveras Clarion” opened upon the “composing-room” of that paper on the one side, and gave apparently upon the rest of Calaveras County upon the other. For, situated on the very outskirts of the settlement and the summit of a very steep hill, the pines sloped away from the editorial windows to the long valley of the South Fork and–infinity. The little wooden building had invaded Nature without subduing it. It was filled night and day with the murmur of pines and their fragrance. Squirrels scampered over its roof when it was not preoccupied by woodpeckers, and a printer’s devil had once seen a nest-building blue jay enter the composing window, flutter before one of the slanting type-cases with an air of deliberate selection, and then fly off with a vowel in its bill.
Amidst these sylvan surroundings the temporary editor of the “Clarion” sat at his sanctum, reading the proofs of an editorial. As he was occupying that position during a six weeks’ absence of the bona fide editor and proprietor, he was consequently reading the proof with some anxiety and responsibility. It had been suggested to him by certain citizens that the “Clarion” needed a firmer and more aggressive policy towards the Bill before the Legislature for the wagon road to the South Fork. Several Assembly men had been “got at” by the rival settlement of Liberty Hill, and a scathing exposure and denunciation of such methods was necessary. The interests of their own township were also to be “whooped up.” All this had been vigorously explained to him, and he had grasped the spirit, if not always the facts, of his informants. It is to be feared, therefore, that he was perusing his article more with reference to its vigor than his own convictions. And yet he was not so greatly absorbed as to be unmindful of the murmur of the pines without, his half-savage environment, and the lazy talk of his sole companions,–the foreman and printer in the adjoining room.
“Bet your life! I’ve always said that a man INSIDE a newspaper office could hold his own agin any outsider that wanted to play rough or tried to raid the office! Thar’s the press, and thar’s the printin’ ink and roller! Folks talk a heap o’ the power o’ the Press!–I tell ye, ye don’t half know it. Why, when old Kernel Fish was editin’ the ‘Sierra Banner,’ one o’ them bullies that he’d lampooned in the ‘Banner’ fought his way past the Kernel in the office, into the composin’-room, to wreck everythin’ and ‘pye’ all the types. Spoffrel–ye don’t remember Spoffrel?–little red-haired man?–was foreman. Spoffrel fended him off with the roller and got one good dab inter his eyes that blinded him, and then Spoffrel sorter skirmished him over to the press,–a plain lever just like ours,–whar the locked-up form of the inside was still a-lyin’! Then, quick as lightnin’, Spoffrel tilts him over agin it, and HE throws out his hand and ketches hold o’ the form to steady himself, when Spoffrel just runs the form and the hand under the press and down with the lever! And that held the feller fast as grim death! And when at last he begs off, and Spoff lets him loose, the hull o’ that ‘ere lampooning article he objected to was printed right onto the skin o’ his hand! Fact, and it wouldn’t come off, either.”
“Gosh, but I’d like to hev seen it,” said the printer. “There ain’t any chance, I reckon, o’ such a sight here. The boss don’t take no risks lampoonin’, and he” (the editor knew he was being indicated by some unseen gesture of the unseen workman) “ain’t that style.”
“Ye never kin tell,” said the foreman didactically, “what might happen! I’ve known editors to get into a fight jest for a little innercent bedevilin’ o’ the opposite party. Sometimes for a misprint. Old man Pritchard of the ‘Argus’ oncet had a hole blown through his arm because his proofreader had called Colonel Starbottle’s speech an ‘ignominious’ defense, when the old man hed written ‘ingenuous’ defense.”
The editor paused in his proof-reading. He had just come upon the sentence: “We cannot congratulate Liberty Hill–in its superior elevation–upon the ignominious silence of the representative of all Calaveras when this infamous Bill was introduced.” He referred to his copy. Yes! He had certainly written “ignominious,”–that was what his informants had suggested. But was he sure they were right? He had a vague recollection, also, that the representative alluded to–Senator Bradley–had fought two duels, and was a “good” though somewhat impulsive shot! He might alter the word to “ingenuous” or “ingenious,” either would be finely sarcastic, but then–there was his foreman, who would detect it! He would wait until he had finished the entire article. In that occupation he became oblivious of the next room, of a silence, a whispered conversation, which ended with a rapping at the door and the appearance of the foreman in the doorway.
“There’s a man in the office who wants to see the editor,” he said.
“Show him in,” replied the editor briefly. He was, however, conscious that there was a singular significance in his foreman’s manner, and an eager apparition of the other printer over the foreman’s shoulder.
“He’s carryin’ a shot-gun, and is a man twice as big as you be,” said the foreman gravely.
The editor quickly recalled his own brief and as yet blameless record in the “Clarion.” “Perhaps,” he said tentatively, with a gentle smile, “he’s looking for Captain Brush” (the absent editor).
“I told him all that,” said the foreman grimly, “and he said he wanted to see the man in charge.”
In proportion as the editor’s heart sank his outward crest arose. “Show him in,” he said loftily.
“We KIN keep him out,” suggested the foreman, lingering a moment; “me and him,” indicating the expectant printer behind him, “is enough for that.”
“Show him up,” repeated the editor firmly.
The foreman withdrew; the editor seated himself and again took up his proof. The doubtful word “ignominious” seemed to stand out of the paragraph before him; it certainly WAS a strong expression! He was about to run his pencil through it when he heard the heavy step of his visitor approaching. A sudden instinct of belligerency took possession of him, and he wrathfully threw the pencil down.
The burly form of the stranger blocked the doorway. He was dressed like a miner, but his build and general physiognomy were quite distinct from the local variety. His upper lip and chin were clean-shaven, still showing the blue-black roots of the beard which covered the rest of his face and depended in a thick fleece under his throat. He carried a small bundle tied up in a silk handkerchief in one hand, and a “shot-gun” in the other, perilously at half-cock. Entering the sanctum, he put down his bundle and quietly closed the door behind him. He then drew an empty chair towards him and dropped heavily into it with his gun on his knees. The editor’s heart dropped almost as heavily, although he quite composedly held out his hand.
“Shall I relieve you of your gun?”
“Thank ye, lad–noa. It’s moor coomfortable wi’ me, and it’s main dangersome to handle on the half-cock. That’s why I didn’t leave ‘im on the horse outside!”
At the sound of his voice and occasional accent a flash of intelligence relieved the editor’s mind. He remembered that twenty miles away, in the illimitable vista from his windows, lay a settlement of English north-country miners, who, while faithfully adopting the methods, customs, and even slang of the Californians, retained many of their native peculiarities. The gun he carried on his knee, however, was evidently part of the Californian imitation.
“Can I do anything for you?” said the editor blandly.
“Ay! I’ve coom here to bill ma woife.”
“I–don’t think I understand,” hesitated the editor, with a smile.
“I’ve coom here to get ye to put into your paaper a warnin’, a notiss, that onless she returns to my house in four weeks, I’ll have nowt to do wi’ her again.”
“Oh!” said the editor, now perfectly reassured, “you want an advertisement? That’s the business of the foreman; I’ll call him.” He was rising from his seat when the stranger laid a heavy hand on his shoulder and gently forced him down again.
“Noa, lad! I don’t want noa foreman nor understrappers to take this job. I want to talk it over wi’ you. Sabe? My woife she bin up and awaa these six months. We had a bit of difference, that ain’t here nor there, but she skedaddled outer my house. I want to give her fair warning, and let her know I ain’t payin’ any debts o’ hers arter this notiss, and I ain’t takin’ her back arter four weeks from date.”
“I see,” said the editor glibly. “What’s your wife’s name?”
“Eliza Jane Dimmidge.”
“Good,” continued the editor, scribbling on the paper before him; “something like this will do: ‘Whereas my wife, Eliza Jane Dimmidge, having left my bed and board without just cause or provocation, this is to give notice that I shall not be responsible for any debts of her contracting on or after this date.’”
“Ye must be a lawyer,” said Mr. Dimmidge admiringly.
It was an old enough form of advertisement, and the remark showed incontestably that Mr. Dimmidge was not a native; but the editor smiled patronizingly and went on: “‘And I further give notice that if she does not return within the period of four weeks from this date, I shall take such proceedings for relief as the law affords.’”
“Coom, lad, I didn’t say THAT.”
“But you said you wouldn’t take her back.”
“And you can’t prevent her without legal proceedings. She’s your wife. But you needn’t take proceedings, you know. It’s only a warning.”
Mr. Dimmidge nodded approvingly. “That’s so.”
“You’ll want it published for four weeks, until date?” asked the editor.
“Mebbe longer, lad.”
The editor wrote “till forbid” in the margin of the paper and smiled.
“How big will it be?” said Mr. Dimmidge.
The editor took up a copy of the “Clarion” and indicated about an inch of space. Mr. Dimmidge’s face fell.
“I want it bigger,–in large letters, like a play-card,” he said. “That’s no good for a warning.”
“You can have half a column or a whole column if you like,” said the editor airily.
“I’ll take a whole one,” said Mr. Dimmidge simply.
The editor laughed. “Why! it would cost you a hundred dollars.”
“I’ll take it,” repeated Mr. Dimmidge.
“But,” said the editor gravely, “the same notice in a small space will serve your purpose and be quite legal.”
“Never you mind that, lad! It’s the looks of the thing I’m arter, and not the expense. I’ll take that column.”
The editor called in the foreman and showed him the copy. “Can you display that so as to fill a column?”
The foreman grasped the situation promptly. It would be big business for the paper. “Yes,” he said meditatively, “that bold-faced election type will do it.”
Mr. Dimmidge’s face brightened. The expression “bold-faced” pleased him. “That’s it! I told you. I want to bill her in a portion of the paper.”
“I might put in a cut,” said the foreman suggestively; “something like this.” He took a venerable woodcut from the case. I grieve to say it was one which, until the middle of the present century, was common enough in the newspaper offices in the Southwest. It showed the running figure of a negro woman carrying her personal property in a knotted handkerchief slung from a stick over her shoulder, and was supposed to represent “a fugitive slave.”
Mr. Dimmidge’s eyes brightened. “I’ll take that, too. It’s a little dark-complected for Mrs. P., but it will do. Now roon away, lad,” he said to the foreman, as he quietly pushed him into the outer office again and closed the door. Then, facing the surprised editor, he said, “Theer’s another notiss I want ye to put in your paper; but that’s atween US. Not a word to THEM,” he indicated the banished foreman with a jerk of his thumb. “Sabe? I want you to put this in another part o’ your paper, quite innocent-like, ye know.” He drew from his pocket a gray wallet, and taking out a slip of paper read from it gravely, “‘If this should meet the eye of R. B., look out for M. J. D. He is on your track. When this you see write a line to E. J. D., Elktown Post Office.’ I want this to go in as ‘Personal and Private’–sabe?–like them notisses in the big ‘Frisco papers.”
“I see,” said the editor, laying it aside. “It shall go in the same issue in another column.”
Apparently Mr. Dimmidge expected something more than this reply, for after a moment’s hesitation he said with an odd smile:
“Ye ain’t seein’ the meanin’ o’ that, lad?”
“No,” said the editor lightly; “but I suppose R. B. does, and it isn’t intended that any one else should.”
“Mebbe it is, and mebbe it isn’t,” said Mr. Dimmidge, with a self-satisfied air. “I don’t mind saying atween us that R. B. is the man as I’ve suspicioned as havin’ something to do with my wife goin’ away; and ye see, if he writes to E. J. D.–that’s my wife’s initials–at Elktown, I’LL get that letter and so make sure.”
“But suppose your wife goes there first, or sends?”
“Then I’ll ketch her or her messenger. Ye see?”
The editor did not see fit to oppose any argument to this phenomenal simplicity, and Mr. Dimmidge, after settling his bill with the foreman, and enjoining the editor to the strictest secrecy regarding the origin of the “personal notice,” took up his gun and departed, leaving the treasury of the “Clarion” unprecedentedly enriched, and the editor to his proofs.
The paper duly appeared the next morning with the column advertisement, the personal notice, and the weighty editorial on the wagon road. There was a singular demand for the paper, the edition was speedily exhausted, and the editor was proportionately flattered, although he was surprised to receive neither praise nor criticism from his subscribers. Before evening, however, he learned to his astonishment that the excitement was caused by the column advertisement. Nobody knew Mr. Dimmidge, nor his domestic infelicities, and the editor and foreman, being equally in the dark, took refuge in a mysterious and impressive evasion of all inquiry. Never since the last San Francisco Vigilance Committee had the office been so besieged. The editor, foreman, and even the apprentice, were buttonholed and “treated” at the bar, but to no effect. All that could be learned was that it was a bona fide advertisement, for which one hundred dollars had been received! There were great discussions and conflicting theories as to whether the value of the wife, or the husband’s anxiety to get rid of her, justified the enormous expense and ostentatious display. She was supposed to be an exceedingly beautiful woman by some, by others a perfect Sycorax; in one breath Mr. Dimmidge was a weak, uxorious spouse, wasting his substance on a creature who did not care for him, and in another a maddened, distracted, henpecked man, content to purchase peace and rest at any price. Certainly, never was advertisement more effective in its publicity, or cheaper in proportion to the circulation it commanded. It was copied throughout the whole Pacific slope; mighty San Francisco papers described its size and setting under the attractive headline, “How they Advertise a Wife in the Mountains!” It reappeared in the Eastern journals, under the title of “Whimsicalities of the Western Press.” It was believed to have crossed to England as a specimen of “Transatlantic Savagery.” The real editor of the “Clarion” awoke one morning, in San Francisco, to find his paper famous. Its advertising columns were eagerly sought for; he at once advanced the rates. People bought successive issues to gaze upon this monumental record of extravagance. A singular idea, which, however, brought further fortune to the paper, was advanced by an astute critic at the Eureka Saloon. “My opinion, gentlemen, is that the whole blamed thing is a bluff! There ain’t no Mr. Dimmidge; there ain’t no Mrs. Dimmidge; there ain’t no desertion! The whole rotten thing is an ADVERTISEMENT o’ suthin’! Ye’ll find afore ye get through with it that that there wife won’t come back until that blamed husband buys Somebody’s Soap, or treats her to Somebody’s particular Starch or Patent Medicine! Ye jest watch and see!” The idea was startling, and seized upon the mercantile mind. The principal merchant of the town, and purveyor to the mining settlements beyond, appeared the next morning at the office of the “Clarion.” “Ye wouldn’t mind puttin’ this ‘ad’ in a column alongside o’ the Dimmidge one, would ye?” The young editor glanced at it, and then, with a serpent-like sagacity, veiled, however, by the suavity of the dove, pointed out that the original advertiser might think it called his bona fides into question and withdraw his advertisement. “But if we secured you by an offer of double the amount per column?” urged the merchant. “That,” responded the locum tenens, “was for the actual editor and proprietor in San Francisco to determine. He would telegraph.” He did so. The response was, “Put it in.” Whereupon in the next issue, side by side with Mr. Dimmidge’s protracted warning, appeared a column with the announcement, in large letters, “WE HAVEN’T LOST ANY WIFE, but WE are prepared to furnish the following goods at a lower rate than any other advertiser in the county,” followed by the usual price list of the merchant’s wares. There was an unprecedented demand for that issue. The reputation of the “Clarion,” both as a shrewd advertising medium and a comic paper, was established at once. For a few days the editor waited with some apprehension for a remonstrance from the absent Dimmidge, but none came. Whether Mr. Dimmidge recognized that this new advertisement gave extra publicity to his own, or that he was already on the track of the fugitive, the editor did not know. The few curious citizens who had, early in the excitement, penetrated the settlement of the English miners twenty miles away in search of information, found that Mr. Dimmidge had gone away, and that Mrs. Dimmidge had NEVER resided there with him!
Six weeks passed. The limit of Mr. Dimmidge’s advertisement had been reached, and, as it was not renewed, it had passed out of the pages of the “Clarion,” and with it the merchant’s advertisement in the next column. The excitement had subsided, although its influence was still felt in the circulation of the paper and its advertising popularity. The temporary editor was also nearing the limit of his incumbency, but had so far participated in the good fortune of the “Clarion” as to receive an offer from one of the San Francisco dailies.
It was a warm night, and he was alone in his sanctum. The rest of the building was dark and deserted, and his solitary light, flashing out through the open window, fell upon the nearer pines and was lost in the dark, indefinable slope below. He had reached the sanctum by the rear, and a door which he also left open to enjoy the freshness of the aromatic air. Nor did it in the least mar his privacy. Rather the solitude of the great woods without seemed to enter through that door and encompassed him with its protecting loneliness. There was occasionally a faint “peep” in the scant eaves, or a “pat-pat,” ending in a frightened scurry across the roof, or the slow flap of a heavy wing in the darkness below. These gentle disturbances did not, however, interrupt his work on “The True Functions of the County Newspaper,” the editorial on which he was engaged.
Presently a more distinct rustling against the straggling blackberry bushes beside the door attracted his attention. It was followed by a light tapping against the side of the house. The editor started and turned quickly towards the open door. Two outside steps led to the ground. Standing upon the lower one was a woman. The upper part of her figure, illuminated by the light from the door, was thrown into greater relief by the dark background of the pines. Her face was unknown to him, but it was a pleasant one, marked by a certain good-humored determination.
“May I come in?” she said confidently.
“Certainly,” said the editor. “I am working here alone because it is so quiet.” He thought he would precipitate some explanation from her by excusing himself.
“That’s the reason why I came,” she said, with a quiet smile.
She came up the next step and entered the room. She was plainly but neatly dressed, and now that her figure was revealed he saw that she was wearing a linsey-woolsey riding-skirt, and carried a serviceable rawhide whip in her cotton-gauntleted hand. She took the chair he offered her and sat down sideways on it, her whip hand now also holding up her skirt, and permitting a hem of clean white petticoat and a smart, well-shaped boot to be seen.
“I don’t remember to have had the pleasure of seeing you in Calaveras before,” said the editor tentatively.
“No. I never was here before,” she said composedly, “but you’ve heard enough of me, I reckon. I’m Mrs. Dimmidge.” She threw one hand over the back of the chair, and with the other tapped her riding-whip on the floor.
The editor started. Mrs. Dimmidge! Then she was not a myth. An absurd similarity between her attitude with the whip and her husband’s entrance with his gun six weeks before forced itself upon him and made her an invincible presence.
“Then you have returned to your husband?” he said hesitatingly.
“Not much!” she returned, with a slight curl of her lip.
“But you read his advertisement?”
“I saw that column of fool nonsense he put in your paper–ef that’s what you mean,” she said with decision, “but I didn’t come here to see HIM–but YOU.”
The editor looked at her with a forced smile, but a vague misgiving. He was alone at night in a deserted part of the settlement, with a plump, self-possessed woman who had a contralto voice, a horsewhip, and–he could not help feeling–an evident grievance.
“To see me?” he repeated, with a faint attempt at gallantry. “You are paying me a great compliment, but really”–
“When I tell you I’ve come three thousand miles from Kansas straight here without stopping, ye kin reckon it’s so,” she replied firmly.
“Three thousand miles!” echoed the editor wonderingly.
“Yes. Three thousand miles from my own folks’ home in Kansas, where six years ago I married Mr. Dimmidge,–a British furriner as could scarcely make himself understood in any Christian language! Well, he got round me and dad, allowin’ he was a reg’lar out-and-out profeshnal miner,–had lived in mines ever since he was a boy; and so, not knowin’ what kind o’ mines, and dad just bilin’ over with the gold fever, we were married and kem across the plains to Californy. He was a good enough man to look at, but it warn’t three months before I discovered that he allowed a wife was no better nor a nigger slave, and he the master. That made me open my eyes; but then, as he didn’t drink, and didn’t gamble, and didn’t swear, and was a good provider and laid by money, why I shifted along with him as best I could. We drifted down the first year to Sonora, at Red Dog, where there wasn’t another woman. Well, I did the nigger slave business,–never stirring out o’ the settlement, never seein’ a town or a crowd o’ decent people,–and he did the lord and master! We played that game for two years, and I got tired. But when at last he allowed he’d go up to Elktown Hill, where there was a passel o’ his countrymen at work, with never a sign o’ any other folks, and leave me alone at Red Dog until he fixed up a place for me at Elktown Hill,–I kicked! I gave him fair warning! I did as other nigger slaves did,–I ran away!”
A recollection of the wretched woodcut which Mr. Dimmidge had selected to personify his wife flashed upon the editor with a new meaning. Yet perhaps she had not seen it, and had only read a copy of the advertisement. What could she want? The “Calaveras Clarion,” although a “Palladium” and a “Sentinel upon the Heights of Freedom” in reference to wagon roads, was not a redresser of domestic wrongs,–except through its advertising columns! Her next words intensified that suggestion.
“I’ve come here to put an advertisement in your paper.”
The editor heaved a sigh of relief, as once before. “Certainly,” he said briskly. “But that’s another department of the paper, and the printers have gone home. Come to-morrow morning early.”
“To-morrow morning I shall be miles away,” she said decisively, “and what I want done has got to be done NOW! I don’t want to see no printers; I don’t want ANYBODY to know I’ve been here but you. That’s why I kem here at night, and rode all the way from Sawyer’s Station, and wouldn’t take the stage-coach. And when we’ve settled about the advertisement, I’m going to mount my horse, out thar in the bushes, and scoot outer the settlement.”
“Very good,” said the editor resignedly. “Of course I can deliver your instructions to the foreman. And now–let me see–I suppose you wish to intimate in a personal notice to your husband that you’ve returned.”
“Nothin’ o’ the kind!” said Mrs. Dimmidge coolly. “I want to placard him as he did me. I’ve got it all written out here. Sabe?”
She took from her pocket a folded paper, and spreading it out on the editor’s desk, with a certain pride of authorship read as follows:–
“Whereas my husband, Micah J. Dimmidge, having given out that I have left his bed and board,–the same being a bunk in a log cabin and pork and molasses three times a day,–and having advertised that he’d pay no debts of MY contractin’,–which, as thar ain’t any, might be easier collected than debts of his own contractin’,–this is to certify that unless he returns from Elktown Hill to his only home in Sonora in one week from date, payin’ the cost of this advertisement, I’ll know the reason why.–Eliza Jane Dimmidge.”
“Thar,” she added, drawing a long breath, “put that in a column of the ‘Clarion,’ same size as the last, and let it work, and that’s all I want of you.”
“A column?” repeated the editor. “Do you know the cost is very expensive, and I COULD put it in a single paragraph?”
“I reckon I kin pay the same as Mr. Dimmidge did for HIS,” said the lady complacently. “I didn’t see your paper myself, but the paper as copied it–one of them big New York dailies–said that it took up a whole column.”
The editor breathed more freely; she had not seen the infamous woodcut which her husband had selected. At the same moment he was struck with a sense of retribution, justice, and compensation.
“Would you,” he asked hesitatingly,–“would you like it illustrated–by a cut?”
“Wait a moment; I’ll show you.”
He went into the dark composing-room, lit a candle, and rummaging in a drawer sacred to weather-beaten, old-fashioned electrotyped advertising symbols of various trades, finally selected one and brought it to Mrs. Dimmidge. It represented a bare and exceedingly stalwart arm wielding a large hammer.
“Your husband being a miner,–a quartz miner,–would that do?” he asked. (It had been previously used to advertise a blacksmith, a gold-beater, and a stone-mason.)
The lady examined it critically.
“It does look a little like Micah’s arm,” she said meditatively. “Well–you kin put it in.”
The editor was so well pleased with his success that he must needs make another suggestion. “I suppose,” he said ingenuously, “that you don’t want to answer the ‘Personal’?”
“‘Personal’?” she repeated quickly, “what’s that? I ain’t seen no ‘Personal.’” The editor saw his blunder. She, of course, had never seen Mr. Dimmidge’s artful “Personal;” THAT the big dailies naturally had not noticed nor copied. But it was too late to withdraw now. He brought out a file of the “Clarion,” and snipping out the paragraph with his scissors, laid it before the lady.
She stared at it with wrinkled brows and a darkening face.
“And THIS was in the same paper?–put in by Mr. Dimmidge?” she asked breathlessly.
The editor, somewhat alarmed, stammered “Yes.” But the next moment he was reassured. The wrinkles disappeared, a dozen dimples broke out where they had been, and the determined, matter-of-fact Mrs. Dimmidge burst into a fit of rosy merriment. Again and again she laughed, shaking the building, startling the sedate, melancholy woods beyond, until the editor himself laughed in sheer vacant sympathy.
“Lordy!” she said at last, gasping, and wiping the laughter from her wet eyes. “I never thought of THAT.”
“No,” explained the editor smilingly; “of course you didn’t. Don’t you see, the papers that copied the big advertisement never saw that little paragraph, or if they did, they never connected the two together.”
“Oh, it ain’t that,” said Mrs. Dimmidge, trying to regain her composure and holding her sides. “It’s that blessed DEAR old dunderhead of a Dimmidge I’m thinking of. That gets me. I see it all now. Only, sakes alive! I never thought THAT of him. Oh, it’s just too much!” and she again relapsed behind her handkerchief.
“Then I suppose you don’t want to reply to it,” said the editor.
Her laughter instantly ceased. “Don’t I?” she said, wiping her face into its previous complacent determination. “Well, young man, I reckon that’s just what I WANT to do! Now, wait a moment; let’s see what he said,” she went on, taking up and reperusing the “Personal” paragraph. “Well, then,” she went on, after a moment’s silent composition with moving lips, “you just put these lines in.”
The editor took up his pencil.
“To Mr. J. D. Dimmidge.–Hope you’re still on R. B.’s tracks. Keep there!–E. J. D.”
The editor wrote down the line, and then, remembering Mr. Dimmidge’s voluntary explanation of HIS “Personal,” waited with some confidence for a like frankness from Mrs. Dimmidge. But he was mistaken.
“You think that he–R. B.–or Mr. Dimmidge–will understand this?” he at last asked tentatively. “Is it enough?”
“Quite enough,” said Mrs. Dimmidge emphatically. She took a roll of greenbacks from her pocket, selected a hundred-dollar bill and then a five, and laid them before the editor. “Young man,” she said, with a certain demure gravity, “you’ve done me a heap o’ good. I never spent money with more satisfaction than this. I never thought much o’ the ‘power o’ the Press,’ as you call it, afore. But this has been a right comfortable visit, and I’m glad I ketched you alone. But you understand one thing: this yer visit, and WHO I am, is betwixt you and me only.”
“Of course I must say that the advertisement was AUTHORIZED,” returned the editor. “I’m only the temporary editor. The proprietor is away.”
“So much the better,” said the lady complacently. “You just say you found it on your desk with the money; but don’t you give me away.”
“I can promise you that the secret of your personal visit is safe with me,” said the young man, with a bow, as Mrs. Dimmidge rose. “Let me see you to your horse,” he added. “It’s quite dark in the woods.”
“I can see well enough alone, and it’s just as well you shouldn’t know HOW I kem or HOW I went away. Enough for you to know that I’ll be miles away before that paper comes out. So stay where you are.”
She pressed his hand frankly and firmly, gathered up her riding-skirt, slipped backwards to the door, and the next moment rustled away into the darkness.
Early the next morning the editor handed Mrs. Dimmidge’s advertisement, and the woodcut he had selected, to his foreman. He was purposely brief in his directions, so as to avoid inquiry, and retired to his sanctum. In the space of a few moments the foreman entered with a slight embarrassment of manner.
“You’ll excuse my speaking to you, sir,” he said, with a singular mixture of humility and cunning. “It’s no business of mine, I know; but I thought I ought to tell you that this yer kind o’ thing won’t pay any more,–it’s about played out!”
“I don’t think I understand you,” said the editor loftily, but with an inward misgiving. “You don’t mean to say that a regular, actual advertisement”–
“Of course, I know all that,” said the foreman, with a peculiar smile; “and I’m ready to back you up in it, and so’s the boy; but it won’t pay.”
“It HAS paid a hundred and five dollars,” said the editor, taking the notes from his pocket; “so I’d advise you to simply attend to your duty and set it up.”
A look of surprise, followed, however, by a kind of pitying smile, passed over the foreman’s face. “Of course, sir, THAT’S all right, and you know your own business; but if you think that the new advertisement will pay this time as the other one did, and whoop up another column from an advertiser, I’m afraid you’ll slip up. It’s a little ‘off color’ now,–not ‘up to date,’–if it ain’t a regular ‘back number,’ as you’ll see.”
“Meantime I’ll dispense with your advice,” said the editor curtly, “and I think you had better let our subscribers and advertisers do the same, or the ‘Clarion’ might also be obliged to dispense with your SERVICES.”
“I ain’t no blab,” said the foreman, in an aggrieved manner, “and I don’t intend to give the show away even if it don’t PAY. But I thought I’d tell you, because I know the folks round here better than you do.”
He was right. No sooner had the advertisement appeared than the editor found that everybody believed it to be a sheer invention of his own to “once more boom” the “Clarion.” If they had doubted MR. Dimmidge, they utterly rejected MRS. Dimmidge as an advertiser! It was a stale joke that nobody would follow up; and on the heels of this came a letter from the editor-in-chief.
MY DEAR BOY,–You meant well, I know, but the second Dimmidge “ad” was a mistake. Still, it was a big bluff of yours to show the money, and I send you back your hundred dollars, hoping you won’t “do it again.” Of course you’ll have to keep the advertisement in the paper for two issues, just as if it were a real thing, and it’s lucky that there’s just now no pressure in our columns. You might have told a better story than that hogwash about your finding the “ad” and a hundred dollars lying loose on your desk one morning. It was rather thin, and I don’t wonder the foreman kicked.
The young editor was in despair. At first he thought of writing to Mrs. Dimmidge at the Elktown Post-Office, asking her to relieve him of his vow of secrecy; but his pride forbade. There was a humorous concern, not without a touch of pity, in the faces of his contributors as he passed; a few affected to believe in the new advertisement, and asked him vague, perfunctory questions about it. His position was trying, and he was not sorry when the term of his engagement expired the next week, and he left Calaveras to take his new position on the San Francisco paper.
He was standing in the saloon of the Sacramento boat when he felt a sudden heavy pressure on his shoulder, and looking round sharply, beheld not only the black-bearded face of Mr. Dimmidge, lit up by a smile, but beside it the beaming, buxom face of Mrs. Dimmidge, overflowing with good-humor. Still a little sore from his past experience, he was about to address them abruptly, when he was utterly vanquished by the hearty pressure of their hands and the unmistakable look of gratitude in their eyes.
“I was just saying to ‘Lizy Jane,” began Mr. Dimmidge breathlessly, “if I could only meet that young man o’ the ‘Clarion’ what brought us together again”–
“You’d be willin’ to pay four times the amount we both paid him,” interpolated the laughing Mrs. Dimmidge.
“But I didn’t bring you together,” burst out the dazed young man, “and I’d like to know, in the name of Heaven, what brought you together now?”
“Don’t you see, lad,” said the imperturbable Mr. Dimmidge, “‘Lizy Jane and myself had qua’lled, and we just unpacked our fool nonsense in your paper and let the hull world know it! And we both felt kinder skeert and shamed like, and it looked such small hogwash, and of so little account, for all the talk it made, that we kinder felt lonely as two separated fools that really ought to share their foolishness together.”
“And that ain’t all,” said Mrs. Dimmidge, with a sly glance at her spouse, “for I found out from that ‘Personal’ you showed me that this particular old fool was actooally jealous!–JEALOUS!”
“And then?” said the editor impatiently.
“And then I KNEW he loved me all the time.”