Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“
[blocks in formation]

Sir C. Not often, I think. I imagine from what the mater says that his practice must be growing pretty rapidly.

Francis. What's his wife like?

Sir C. Oh, very decent woman, I should imagine.

Francis. Your relations with the family appear to be chiefly a work of imagination, my boy.

Sir C. And what about yours? Seeing that not a single member of the family has set eyes on you for nineteen years

Francis. But I'm different. I'm a wanderer. I'm one of those people who seem to have no pressing need of a home, or a national anthem, or relatives, or things of that kind. Of course one likes to meet one's relatives sometimes.

Sir C. No home? But what on earth do you do with yourself?

Francis. I just go about and keep my eyes open-and try to understand what I see.

Sir C. Nothing else?

Francis. That takes me all my time.

It's you

Sir C. [staring at him]. that's the caution, not me! Francis. We're getting over it rather well, I think.

Sir C. Getting over what? What do you

Francis. Over the awkwardness of this first interview. I hope I'm not interfering with business.

Sir C. [heartily]. Not in the least. My theory is that if a really big concern is properly organized, the boss ought to be absolutely independent of all routine. He ought to be free for anything that turns up unexpectedly. Anyhow, I am.

Francis. Well, I candidly confess that this business of yours is just a size larger than I expected.

Sir C. Yes, it's big-big. We own about forty different publications; two London dailies, three provincial dailies, five popular penny weeklies, two sixpenny weeklies, three illustrated monthlies, four ladies' papers, six sporting and athletic, five religious papers, two Sunday papers

Francis. What's the subtle difference between a religious paper and a Sunday paper? Sir C. quite different!

Oh, they're-well, they're

Francis. Really!

· Sir C. Four halfpenny comic papers, four boys' papers, and I don't know what else.

Francis. I distinctly remember you saying once at school there wasn't a schoolboys' paper fit to wipe your feet on-you were always buying them to

see.

Sir C. And there wasn't! It was a boys' paper I began with-"The Lad's Own Budget." The schoolboy was the foundation of this business. And let me tell you our capital is now nearly two and a half millions. Francis. The deuce it is! Sir C. Yes, didn't you know?

Francis. No, and I suppose you're the principal proprietor?

Sir C. What do you think? Kendrick and I, we control a majority of the shares. Kendrick-that's the man who was here when you came in-gets a salary of five thousand a year.

Francis. Well, this is very interesting. I've had all sorts of disconcerting impressions since I reached Charing Cross twenty-four hours ago-when I saw that Exeter Hall was gone, reason tottered on her throne-but really Charlie! Really, Charlie! It sounds a strange thing to say of one's own brother-but you are the most startling phenomenon of the age.

Sir C. That's what I'm beginning to think myself.

Francis. Of course, you're a million

aire.

Sir C. Pooh! I was a millionaire six years ago. Surely you must have got a notion from the mater's letters? Francis. Very vague! She chiefly writes about Johnny's babies.

Sir C. [laughs shortly]. It's true I never give her any precise details, lest the old lady should think I was bragging. She hates that.

Francis. I'm just the least bit in the world staggered.

Sir C. Well, there it is! [leans back in his chair].

Francis. All this, I suppose, from Uncle Joe's ten thousand.

Sir C. Precisely. What have you done with your ten thousand?

Francis. Nothing. Just lived on it. Sir C. Do you mean to say you can live on the interest of ten thousand and travel?

Francis. Why, of course. All an Englishman has to do is to avoid his compatriots. What puzzles me is how you can get through even a decent fraction of your income.

Sir C. Oh! with one thing and another, I get through a goodish bit. You heard I bought Hindhead Hall?

Francis. Yes. What did you buy it

for?

Sir C. Well, I thought I ought to have a place in the country. Francis. To go with the knighthood? Sir C. If you like. You must come down and see Hindhead.

Francis. Great joke, that knighthood! What did they give it you for? Sir C. Well-I'm supposed to be somebody.

Francis. I always thought knighthoods were given to nobodies.

Sir C. [a little testily]. That depends! That depends! And let me tell you that the knighthood is only a beginning.

Francis [shortly]. Ah! Only a beginning! [smiling]. I say, what did Johnny say about the knighthood?

Sir C. Nothing.

Francis. What interests me is, how you managed to do it.

Sir C. Do what? Get the knighthood? That's

Francis [interrupting him brusquely]. No. The the success, the million, the splash.

Sir C. I can tell you this-I did it honestly. That's another thing about me-I'm probably the only millionaire in the world with a clear conscience. What d'ye think of that? People say that no one can make a million in ten years and not be a scoundrel. But I did. I've never tried to form a trust. I've never tried to ruin a competitor. I've never sweated my chaps. They have to work hard, and I give 'em pepper, and I'd sack one as soon as look at him, but they are well paidsome of 'em are handsomely paid. The price of labor in journalism has gone up, and it's thanks to me. Another thing I give the best value for money that ever was given.

Francis. Yes, but how did you do it? What's your principle?

Sir C. I've only got one principle. Give the public what it wants. Don't

[blocks in formation]

you went into a tobacconist's and asked for a packet of cigarettes, and the tobacconist told you that cigarettes were bad for you, and that he could only sell you a pipe and tobaccowhat should you say? [He rises excited].

Francis. Now what should I say? I don't think I should be able to think of anything clever enough until I got outside the shop.

Sir C. [not laughing, but insisting on his argument]. You see my point, eh? You see my point? I've got no moral axes to grind. I'm just a business man [more excitedly]..

Francis. My dear boy, I'm not contradicting you.

I'm a fellows

Sir C. I know. I know. But some people make me angry. There seems to be a sort of notion about that because it's newspapers I sell, and not soap or flannel, I ought to be a cross between General Booth, H. G. Wells, and the Hague Conference. manufacturer, just like the that sell soap and flannel: only a d-d sight more honest. There's no deception about my goods. You never know what there is in your soap or your flannel, but you know exactly what there is in my papers, and if you aren't pleased you don't buy. I make no pretence to be anything but a business man. And my specialty is, what the public wants-in printed matter.

Francis. But how did you find out what it wants? I suppose it wasn't vouchsafed to you in a dream.

Sir C. [hesitating]. I-I don't exactly know... I began by thinking about what I should want myself. "The Lad's Own Budget" was the first. I knew well enough what I wanted when I was a boy of twelve, for in

stance; and as most boys are alikeI put on the market

.

you see! a paper that I actually did want when I was twelve. . . And you may believe me when I tell you that hot cakes were simply not in it, not in it! And so I went on, always keep

ing in mind-[Enter Page-boy with newspaper and letters, etc., on a salver. Exit.1

Francis. So the red disk doesn't absolutely bar the door to everybody?

Sir C. What do you mean? Oh, the messenger! He always comes in at this time [looks at clock]. He's four minutes late, by the way [looks at his watch]. No, it's that clock [glancing at paper and letters, then resuming his discourse]. Always keeping in mind how I captured the boy of twelve. I've sometimes thought of having an inscription painted over the door there: "Don't forget the boy of twelve" -[hastily] just for a lark, you know. At last I got as far as the "Daily Mercury," and I don't fancy any newspaper proprietor in my time is likely to get much further. A twelve-page paper for a halfpenny and the most expensive news service on earth! What do you think? [glancing again at letters].

Francis. I must confess I've never read the "Mercury." Sir C. [astounded]. "Mercury"! "Mercury."

Never read the Everybody reads the

Francis. I don't.

Sir C. [solemnly]. Do you seriously mean to say you've never read the "Mercury"? Why, man, it's nine years old, and sells over nine hundred thousand copies a day!

Francis. I noticed it about everywhere in the streets this morning, and so I bought a copy, and put it in my pocket, intending to have a look at it, but I forgot. Yes, here it is [taking folded paper from his pocket].

Sir C. [still astounded]. Well, I

said it was you who were the caution,

and by Jove it is! What do you read? Francis. When I'm out of reach of a daily post I read the "Times" Weekly Edition. Of course, my first care this morning was to get the "Manchester Guardian." I always have that when I can.

Sir C. Surprising what a craze there is among you cultured people for the "Manchester Guardian"! I'm always having that thrown at my head. Here! [tossing over newspaper from salver]. Here's the fourth edition of the "Evening Courier" just off the machine. Never read that either, I suppose.

Francis. No.

Sir C. [nodding his head as one with no further capacity for surprise]. Well, well! It's a sort of evening "Mercury." Have a look at it! Just excuse me for two minutes, will you? I must dictate one or two things at once. [Sits down to dictaphone, and begins speaking into it.] Mr. Cookson. Write Medwaysyou know, the clock people

Francis [curious, examining]. Hello! What's that dodge?

Sir C. It's a dictaphone. Never seen one before? Shorthand clerks get on your nerves so. You blaze away into it and then it repeats what you've said to the clerk-elsewhere, thank heaven!

Francis. How amusing!

Sir C. [into dictaphone]-to cancel their contract for regulating clocks. They've been warned twice. Mine's four minutes fast. Write to Pneumatic Standard Time Company, or whatever its name is, and get an estimate for all the clocks in building. Typewriter. My dear Lady Calder, Many thanks for your most

Francis. [looking at "Courier"]. I say, who's Chate?

Sir C. Chate? Chate? He's a convict who got ten years for killing his mother or something. Let off lightly

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Kendrick. We found that the "Sentinel" people had been paying his wife a pound a week for years on the understanding that they had his stuff when he came out.

Sir C. What do I care for the "Sentinel" people? If they have been paying a pound a week that's their lookout. We have got to have the story. If it's worked properly it'll be

Kendrick. Afraid it's too late now.

Sir C. Too late! Not a bit! Look here. Send young Perkins with a shorthand clerk. He must take the Renault car, and be outside Holloway Prison at five-thirty to-morrow morning. Let him have £200 in gold-gold, mind! You've time before the bank closes. He must be ready for Chate. The wife is certain to be there. Let him make friends with her. Tell her

They're

He

the car is absolutely at their disposal.
He can suggest breakfast.
bound to accept. Anyhow, let him get
Chate into some private room some-
where, out of London if possible.
Then he can show the money.
must show the money. Roll it about
the table. Explain to Chate that the
money will be handed over to him af-
ter he has talked for a couple of hours
about his escape and so on, and signed
his name. The clerk can come back
here by train with the stuff; but Per-
kins must take Chate, and his wife
too if necessary, off to the seaside for
a jaunt. He must take 'em out and
It'll
lose 'em till Saturday morning.
be too late for the "Sentinel" people
to do anything then. And you must
begin to advertise as soon as the clerk
turns up with the stuff. Is it all clear?
Kendrick. Yes.

Sir C. Well, there's just time for the bank. Thanks very much.

Kendrick. By the way, I find there's a silly sort of mistake in the "Mercury" leader this morning.

Sir C. Oh! What?

Kendrick. Cettinje is mentioned as the capital of Bosnia.

Sir C. Well, isn't it?

Kendrick. Seems not. It ought to be Sarajevo. The worst of it is that it can't be explained as a slip of the pen, owing to unfortunate circumstantial details.

Sir C. Don't refer to it at all, then. Sit tight on it. I suppose that's Smythe's fault. [Kendrick nods.] Pity he's so careless-he's got more snap than all the rest of the crowd put together. I say, don't let them be too late for the bank.

Kendrick.

No. [In a lower voice.]

I hear a question is to be asked as to us in the House this afternoon.

Sir C. [after a little pause]. That's good! You might send that in to me as soon as it comes along.

Kendrick. Right oh!

[Exit r.]

Sir C. [after looking at Francis, who is absorbed in newspapers, turns to dictaphone]-kind invitation, which I am very sorry not to be able to accept, as I shall be out of town on Sunday. With kind regards, Believe me, Yours sincerely. Typewriter. Don't type this on "Mercury" paper. Mr. Cookson. Ask Mr. Smythe to come round and see me at my flat at nine to-morrow morning. Mark the appointment for me. [Enter Kendrick.]

Kendrick. Sorry to disturb you [shutting door between the two rooms carefully, and speaking low]. Here'sSir C. Have you given those instructions?

Kendrick. Yes, yes. Here's Macquoid. He insists on seeing you, and as I know you want to humor him a bit

Francis [looking up from papers sharply]. Is that Simon Macquoid the critic?

Sir C. Yes. I've just taken him on for "Men and Women"-our best sixpenny weekly. He's pretty good, isn't he?

Francis. Pretty good! He's the finest dramatic critic in Europe. I should like to meet him.

Sir C. Well, you shall. in, Kendrick, will you? drick.1

Bring him [Exit Ken

Francis. He knows what he's talking about, that chap does, and he can write. [Enter Kendrick and Macquoid.] Sir C. How do you do, Mr. Macquoid? Macquoid [very curtly]. How do you

do?

Sir C. May I introduce my brother, Francis Worgan, an admirer of yours. Francis [rising and showing his pleasure]. I'm delighted to

Macquoid [cutting him short]. How do you do? [Exit Kendrick.]

Sir C. Take this chair.

Macquoid. Sir Charles, I want to know what you mean by allowing ad

« AnkstesnisTęsti »