from Leslie's Monthly
by Ellis Parker Butler
The editor of the Hartsock News lay flat on his back in bed, as crazy as a loon, and jabbering like a perpetual motion phonograph. He was only temporarily crazy, the grippe having bowled him over. As a rule he was as sane as could be expected, considering that he had chosen Hartsock as a promising field for journalism. But today he was certainly flighty. No sane gentleman will look upon his mother as a spotted cow nor laugh joyously because she walks upright. Neither will he send his grandmother to get out the regular weekly edition of a newspaper. It is an evidence of temporary derangement.
When Granma Huff paused, panting, at the head of the stairs, and pushed open the door of the News office, Jimmie, the office boy. was sitting in the editorial chair studying his Sunday school lesson. The editor never spoke of Jimmie as the "devil." although that is the customary title. He called him the "angel," Jimmie was such a good boy. Goodness stood out on him like freckles. Every time he washed his hands and face he washed off enough goodness to supply a dozen boys, and he had signed so many temperance pledges that if he had started in to drink steadily for the balance of his life he would have wound up with some of the pledges still unbroken. Later in life he tried it. But he was a good boy.
Granma Huff looked over the rims of her two pair of spectacles and smiled.
"Jimmie." she said, "my gran'son's sick, so I've come down to git out the News this week, and I want you to hurry 'round and help me all you can."
"Yes'm," said Jimmie, meekly.
"Well, now," said Granma Huff, seating herself in the editorial chair and rubbing her knees with the palms of her hands. "I can't move 'round much, bein' as I've got the rheumatiz so bad, but I reckon you kin do most thet's to be did. Gran'son says you're a right good boy."
"Yes'm," said Jimmie, modestly.
"Kin you work the printin' machine?" enquired Granma, nodding toward the old Washington press.
"Yes'm, I allus does," said Jimmie.
"Well, then," said Granma, "I guess you'd better go right on an' print some papers. I reckon you know 'bout how many's needed, don't you?"
Jimmie explained that there were a few things to do first. There must be some news gathered, the forms made ready.
"Do tell!" exclaimed Granma, "I 'sposed gran'son 'ud hev all that ready. Ain't you got any at all?"
"No'm," said Jimmie.
"Well, I can't fix the types, but I guess you know how," she said, "an' I can't see to write, but you kin take down. First, say, granson's sick with the grippe, but doc says he'll git along all right soon's the fever goes down some. Then say Marthy Clemon's baby's sick with the measles. I knowed Marthy's ma before Marthy was born. Her an' me come from York county, Pennsylvania, together."
"How d'you spell Pennsylvany?"
"Pen-syl-va-ny," spelled Granma. "Her ma an' me was second cousins, she bein' a Bell, an' me a Murdock, an' old man Murdock bein' first cousin o' Randy Bell. We come down the Ohio on a flat an' up the Mississippi by steamer. But I told Marthy that child 'ud get the measles ef she took it out to Joe Nayadley's. Got that down?"
"Yes'm," said Jimmie.
"Well, I don't think o' any more news just now, do you?" she queried.
"No'm," said Jimmie.
"Will that be enough?" asked Granma.
"No'm, that ain't more'n two sticks," said Jimmie.
"Well, what does gran'son do when he hasn't enough news to fill up?"
"He uses patent insides. This what comes in chunks from Chicago," said Jimmie; "but we ain't got none but what we've used. He was goin' to order some when he was took sick."
"We've got to use some over again," said Granma. decidedly. "What is there?"
"Sermons," said Jimmie, grinning. "We ain't got nothin' but Talmage sermons, but we got lots o' them."
"Well, I don't know nothin' better for people than sermons." said Granma. "I guess we'll use them sermons. 'Twon't hurt nobody to read 'em over twice. Reckon you've got enough of 'em?"
"Yes'm." said Jimmie.
"All right then, you go ahead an' fix up the paper like you always do. Mebby you kin git some nice little boy to help. I'm goin' home, my rheumatiz hurts me so, an' I can't do nothin' more. Jist be sure to have the paper out on time."
Jimmie promised, and Granma went home. She had done her duty.
Jimmie did his.
There were forty-two local and patent medicine advertisements that were always scattered through the reading. He knew this, and as the sermons were long and solid, he cut each sermon into small pieces, laying the electrotypes across the chair and sawing them into chunks with the office saw. Then he made up his forms, sticking in a piece of sermon, then a local, then another bit of sermon, then a patent medicine; "ad.", then more sermon. He did not miss a department. He had "Local News," "Country Correspondence," "From Our Exchanges" and "A Little Nonsense," each in its appointed place, but each composed of short reading advertisements and small sections of sermon. The sermons were rather mixed. In sawing them up he had failed to preserve their consecutive form. There were fifteen columns of disjointed sermon, sandwiched with "Perkins Plasters" and "Get Your Canned Tomatoes at Wray's."
Jimmie persuaded Bob Hochstetler to help him run the press, and the paper came out on time. The editor was sleeping nicely when Jimmie delivered the News at the door. The editor was out of his fever. When he awoke Granma proudly handed him the News.
As a rule, I have said, the editor was as sane as could be expected. He looked through the paper, and gasped. It was two days later before the two strong men who were called in to hold him in bed were permitted to release him. Then he thanked Granma, put on his clothes and went down to his office and discharged Jimmie three times. The third time he raised his wages.
The next week the editorial page contained the following notice, double-leaded, at the head of the first column:--
"The News, always the foremost paper of the state, again outstripped its rivals last week by inaugurating a new and highly moral prize competition. As we never do things by half, we devoted our entire paper to this newest and most attractive feature. Scattered over pages one, four, five and eight were five complete sermons. To the party sending the first correct arrangement of all the sermons we will send the News free for five years; for any one sermon correctly arranged, the News for one year. Address Sermon Editor, this office. Thus once more the News distances those reeking sheets, the Jimtown Blade and the Richmond Gust!"