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HOME > Biographical > A Book About Myself > CHAPTER XXXIV
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 The Republic was in a tumbledown old building in a fairly neighborhood in that region near the waterfront from which the city proper had been growing away for years. This paper, if I am not mistaken, was founded in 1808.  
The office was so old and rattletrap that it was discouraging. The elevator was a slow and wheezy box, bumping and creaking and suggesting . The boards of the entrance-hall and the city editorial room under one’s feet. The city reportorial room, where I should work if I secured a place, was larger than that of the Globe and higher-ceiled, but beyond that it had no advantage. The windows were tall but cracked and patched with faded yellow copy-paper; the desks, some fifteen or twenty all told, were old, dusty, knife-marked, with endless ages of paste and ink. There was waste paper and rubbish on the floor. There was no sign of either paint or wallpaper. The windows facing east looked out upon a business court or where trucks and vans creaked all day but which at night was silent as the grave, as was this entire neighborhood. The buildings directly opposite were decayed wholesale houses of some unimportant kind where in slimsy rags of dresses or messy trousers and shirts girls and boys of from fourteen to twenty worked all day, the girls’ necks in summer time open to their breasts and their sleeves rolled to their shoulders, the boys in sleeveless undershirts and tight-belted trousers and with tousled hair. What their work was I forget, but with each other or with the reporters and printers of this paper occupied a great deal of their time.
The city editor, H. B. Wandell, was one of those odd, forceful characters who because of my youth and extreme impressionability perhaps and his own and point of view succeeded in making a deep impression on me at once. He was such a queer little man, so different from Mitchell and McCullagh, nervous, jumpy, restless, vigorous, with eyes so piercing that they reminded one of a hawk’s and a skin so swarthy that it was Italian in quality and made all the more by a large, humped, nose pierced by big . His hands were wrinkled and claw-like, and he had large yellowish teeth which showed rather when he laughed. And that laugh! I can hear it yet, a cross between a and a cackle. It always seemed to me to be a mirthless laugh, insincere, and yet also it had an element of in it. He could see a point at which others ought to laugh without enjoying it himself. He was at once a small and yet a large man mentally, wise and in many ways, petty and even venomous in others, a man to coddle and if you were beholden to him, one to avoid if you were not, but on the whole a man above the average in ability.
And he had the strangest, , bossiest love of great literature of any one I have ever known, especially in the realm of the newspapers. Zola at this time was apparently his ideal of what a writer should be, and after him Balzac and Loti. He seemed to know them well and to admire and even love them, after his fashion. He was always calling upon me to imitate Zola’s vivid description of the drab and the gross and the horrible if I could, assuming that I had read him, which I had not, but I did not say so. And Balzac’s and Loti’s sure handling of the sensual and the ! How often have I heard him refer to them with , giving me the line and phrase of certain pictures, and yet at the same time there was a bending of the knee to the middle West conventions of which he was a part, a kind of horror of having it known that he approved of these things. He was a Shriner and very proud of it, as he was of various other local organizations to which he belonged. He had the reputation of being one of the best city editors in the city, far superior to my late master. he had been city editor of the Globe itself for many years and was still favorably spoken of in that office. After I left St. Louis he returned to the Globe for a time and once more became its guide in local news.
But that is neither here nor there save as it what is a truth of the newspaper world: that the best of newspaper men are occasionally to be found on the poorest of papers, and versa. Just at this time, as I understood, he was here because the Republic was making a staggering effort to build itself up in popular , which it finally succeeded in doing after McCullagh’s death, becoming once more the leading morning paper as it had been before the Globe, under McCullagh, arose to power. Just now, however, in my mood, it seemed an exceedingly sad affair.
Mr. Wandell, as I now learned, had heard of me and my recent faux pas, as well as some of the other things I had been doing.
“Been working on the Globe, haven’t you?” he commented when I approached him. “What did they pay you?”
I told him.
“When did you leave there?”
“About a week ago.”
“Why did you leave?”
“Perhaps you saw those notices of three shows that didn’t come to town? I’m the man who wrote them up.”
“Oho! ho! ho!” and he began eyeing me drily and slapping his knee. “I saw those. Ha! ha! ha! Ha! ha! ha! Yes, that was very funny—very. We had an editorial on it. And so McCullagh fired you, did he?”
“No, sir,” I replied indignantly. “I quit. I thought he might want to, and I put a letter on his desk and left.”
“Ha! ha! ha! Quite right! That’s very funny! I know just how they do over there. I was city editor there myself once. They write them up in advance sometimes. We do here. Where do you come from?”
I told him. He awhile, as though he were uncertain whether he needed any one.
“You say you got thirty dollars there? I couldn’t pay anybody that much here—not to begin with. We never give more than eighteen to begin with. Besides, I have a full staff just now, and it’s summer. I might use another man if eighteen would be enough. You might think it over and come in and see me again some time.”
Although my spirits fell at so great a drop in salary I hastened to explain that I would be glad to accept eighteen. I needed to be at work again.
“Whatever you would consider fair would suit me,” I said.
He smiled. “The newspaper market is low just now. If your work proves satisfactory I may raise you a little later on.” He must have seen that he had a soft and more or less unsophisticated boy to deal with.
“Suppose you write me a little article about something, just to show me what you can do,” he added.
I went away insulted by this last request. In spite of all he said I could feel that he wanted me; but I had no skill in manipulating my own affairs. To drop from thirty dollars as dramatic editor to eighteen as a reporter was terrible. With a grain of I faced it, however, feeling that if I worked hard I might yet get a start in some way or other. I must work and save some money and if I did not better myself I would leave St. Louis. My ability must be worth something somewhere; it had been on the Globe.
I went home and wrote the article (a mere nothing about some street scene), went back to the office and left it. Next day I called again.
“All right,” he said. “You can go to work.”
I went back into that large shabby room and took a seat. In a few minutes the place filled up with the staff, most of whom I knew and all of whom eyed me curiously—reporters, special editors, the city editor and his assistant, Mr. Williams of blessed memory, one-eyed, sad, impressive, intelligent, who had nothing but kind things to say of what I wrote and who was friendly and helpful until the day I left.
In a little while the assignment book was put out, with the task I was to undertake. Before I left I was called in and advised concerning it. I went and looked into it (I have forgotten what it was) and reported later in the day. What I wrote I turned over to Mr. Williams, and later in the day when I asked him if it was all right he said: “Yes, quite all right. It reads all right to me,” and then gave me a , one-eyed smile. I liked him from the first day; he was a better editor than Wandell, with more taste and discrimination, and later rose to a higher position elsewhere.
Meanwhile I strolled about thinking of my great fall. It seemed as though I should never get over this. But in a few days I was back in my old reportorial routine, but secure, convinced that I could write as well as ever, and for any newspaper.
For the romance of my own youth was still upon me, my ambitions and my dreams coloring it all. Does the sense the terrors of the deep, or the butterfly the traps and of the woods and fields? Roaming this keen, new, ambitious mid-Western city, life-hungry and love-hungry and underpaid, eager and ambitious, I still found so much in the worst to , so much in the best to torture me. In every scene of ease or pleasure was both a and a reproach; in every aspect of tragedy or poverty was a threat or a warning. I was never tired of looking at the hot, hungry, weary slums, any more than I was of looking at the glories of the of the west end. Both had their lure, their charm; one because it was a state worse than my own, the other because it was a better—unfairly so, I thought. Amid it all I hurried, writing and dreaming, half-laughing and half-crying, with now a tale to move me to laughter and now another to send me to bottomless despairs. But always youth, youth, and the crash of the presses in the basement and a fresh damp paper laid on my desk of a morning with “the news” and my own petty achievements or failures to cheer or disappoint me; so it went, day in and day out.
The Republic, while not so successful as the Globe-Democrat, was a much better paper for me to work on. For one thing, it took me from under the domination of Mr. Mitchell (one can hate some people most persistently), and placed me under one who, whatever may have been his defects, provided me with far greater opportunities for my pen than ever the Globe had and supplied a better as to what constituted a story and a news feature. Now that I think of him, Wandell was far and away the best judge of news, from a dramatic or story point of view, of any for whom I ever worked.
“A good story, is it?” I can see him and rubbing his hands or fashion, as over a pot of gold or a fine dish. “She said that, did she? Ha! ha! That’s excellent, ex............
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