WeirdSpace Digital Library - Culture without borders
Arnold Bennett (1911) Country of origin: UK
Available texts by the same author here
Chapter 9: The Great Newspaper War
When Denry and his mother had been established a year and a month in the new house at Bleakridge, Denry received a visit one evening which perhaps flattered him more than anything had ever flattered him. The visitor was Mr Myson. Now Mr Myson was the founder, proprietor and editor of the Five Towns Weekly, a new organ of public opinion which had been in existence about a year; and Denry thought that Mr Myson had popped in to see him in pursuit of an advertisement of the Thrift Club, and at first he was not at all flattered.
But Mr Myson was not hunting for advertisements, and Denry soon saw him to be the kind of man who would be likely to depute that work to others. Of middle height, well and quietly dressed, with a sober, assured deportment, he spoke in a voice and accent that were not of the Five Towns; they were superior to the Five Towns. And in fact Mr Myson originated in Manchester and had seen London. He was not provincial, and he beheld the Five Towns as part of the provinces; which no native of the Five Towns ever succeeds in doing. Nevertheless, his manner to Denry was the summit of easy and yet deferential politeness.
He asked permission "to put something before" Denry. And when, rather taken aback by such smooth phrases, Denry had graciously accorded the permission, he gave a brief history of the Five Towns Weekly, showing how its circulation had grown, and definitely stating that at that moment it was yielding a profit. Then he said:
"Now my scheme is to turn it into a daily."
"Very good notion," said Denry, instinctively.
"I'm glad you think so," said Mr Myson. "Because I've come here in the hope of getting your assistance. I'm a stranger to the district, and I want the co-operation of some one who isn't. So I've come to you. I need money, of course, though I have myself what most people would consider sufficient capital. But what I need more than money is--well--moral support."
"And who put you on to me?" asked Denry.
Mr Myson smiled. "I put myself on to you," said he. "I think I may say I've got my bearings in the Five Towns, after over a year's journalism in it, and it appeared to me that you were the best man I could approach. I always believe in flying high."
Therein was Denry flattered. The visit seemed to him to seal his position in the district in a way in which his election to the Bursley Town Council had failed to do. He had been somehow disappointed with that election. He had desired to display his interest in the serious welfare of the town, and to answer his opponent's arguments with better ones. But the burgesses of his ward appeared to have no passionate love of logic. They just cried "Good old Denry!" and elected him--with a majority of only forty-one votes. He had expected to feel a different Denry when he could put "Councillor" before his name. It was not so. He had been solemnly in the mayoral procession to church, he had attended meetings of the council, he had been nominated to the Watch Committee. But he was still precisely the same Denry, though the youngest member of the council. But now he was being recognised from the outside. Mr Myson's keen Manchester eye, ranging over the quarter of a million inhabitants of the Five Towns in search of a representative individual force, had settled on Denry Machin. Yes, he was flattered. Mr Myson's choice threw a rose-light on all Denry's career: his wealth and its origin; his house and stable, which were the astonishment and the admiration of the town; his Universal Thrift Club; yea, and his councillorship! After all, these were marvels. (And possibly the greatest marvel was the resigned presence of his mother in that wondrous house, and the fact that she consented to employ Rose Chudd, the incomparable Sappho of charwomen, for three hours every day.)
In fine, he perceived from Mr Myson's eyes that his position was unique.
And after they had chatted a little, and the conversation had deviated momentarily from journalism to house property, he offered to display Machin House (as he had christened it) to Mr Myson, and Mr Myson was really impressed beyond the ordinary. Mr Myson's homage to Mrs Machin, whom they chanced on in the paradise of the bath-room, was the polished mirror of courtesy. How Denry wished that he could behave like that when he happened to meet countesses.
Then, once more in the drawing-room, they resumed the subject of newspapers.
"You know," said Mr Myson, "it's really a very bad thing indeed for a district to have only one daily newspaper. I've nothing myself to say against The Staffordshire Signal, but you'd perhaps be astonished"--this in a confidential tone--"at the feeling there is against the Signal in many quarters."
"Really!" said Denry.
"Of course its fault is that it isn't sufficiently interested in the great public questions of the district. And it can't be. Because it can't take a definite side. It must try to please all parties. At any rate it must offend none. That is the great evil of a journalistic monopoly.... Two hundred and fifty thousand people--why! there is an ample public for two first-class papers. Look at Nottingham! Look at Bristol! Look at Leeds! Look at Sheffield!...and their newspapers."
And Denry endeavoured to look at these great cities! Truly the Five Towns was just about as big.
The dizzy journalistic intoxication seized him. He did not give Mr Myson an answer at once, but he gave himself an answer at once. He would go into the immense adventure. He was very friendly with the Signal people--certainly; but business was business, and the highest welfare of the Five Towns was the highest welfare of the Five Towns.
Soon afterwards all the hoardings of the district spoke with one blue voice, and said that the Five Towns Weekly was to be transformed into the Five Towns Daily, with four editions, beginning each day at noon, and that the new organ would be conducted on the lines of a first-class evening paper.
The inner ring of knowing ones knew that a company entitled "The Five Towns Newspapers, Limited," had been formed, with a capital of ten thousand pounds, and that Mr Myson held three thousand pounds' worth of shares, and the great Denry Machin one thousand five hundred, and that the remainder were to be sold and allotted as occasion demanded. The inner ring said that nothing would ever be able to stand up against the Signal. On the other hand, it admitted that Denry, the most prodigious card ever born into the Five Towns, had never been floored by anything. The inner ring anticipated the future with glee. Denry and Mr Myson anticipated the future with righteous confidence. As for the Signal, it went on its august way, blind to sensational hoardings.
On the day of the appearance of the first issue of the Five Towns Daily, the offices of the new paper at Hanbridge gave proof of their excellent organisation, working in all details with an admirable smoothness. In the basement a Marinoni machine thundered like a sucking dove to produce fifteen thousand copies an hour. On the ground floor ingenious arrangements had been made for publishing the paper; in particular, the iron railings to keep the boys in order in front of the publishing counter had been imitated from the Signal. On the first floor was the editor and founder with his staff, and above that the composing department. The number of stairs that separated the composing department from the machine-room was not a positive advantage, but bricks and mortar are inelastic, and one does what one can. The offices looked very well from the outside, and they compared passably with the offices of the Signal close by. The posters were duly in the ground-floor windows, and gold signs, one above another to the roof, produced an air of lucrative success.
Denry happened to be in the Daily offices that afternoon. He had had nothing to do with the details of organisation, for details of organisation were not his speciality. His speciality was large, leading ideas. He knew almost nothing of the agreements with correspondents and Press Association and Central News, and the racing services and the fiction syndicates, nor of the difficulties with the Compositors' Union, nor of the struggle to lower the price of paper by the twentieth of a penny per pound, nor of the awful discounts allowed to certain advertisers, nor of the friction with the railway company, nor of the sickening adulation that had been lavished on quite unimportant newsagents, nor--worst of all--of the dearth of newsboys. These matters did not attract him. He could not stoop to them. But when Mr Myson, calm and proud, escorted him down to the machine-room, and the Marinoni threw a folded pink Daily almost into his hands, and it looked exactly like a real newspaper, and he saw one of his own descriptive articles in it, and he reflected that he was an owner of it--then Denry was attracted and delighted, and his heart beat. For this pink thing was the symbol and result of the whole affair, and had the effect of a miracle on him.
And he said to himself, never guessing how many thousands of men had said it before him, that a newspaper was the finest toy in the world.
About four o'clock the publisher, in shirt sleeves and an apron, came up to Mr Myson and respectfully asked him to step into the publishing office. Mr Myson stepped into the publishing office and Denry with him, and they there beheld a small ragged boy with a bleeding nose and a bundle of Dailys in his wounded hand.
"Yes," the boy sobbed; "and they said they'd cut my eyes out and plee [play] marbles wi' 'em, if they cotched me in Crown Square agen," And he threw down the papers with a final yell.
The two directors learnt that the delicate threat had been uttered by four Signal boys, who had objected to any fellow-boys offering any paper other than the Signal for sale in Crown Square or anywhere else.
Of course, it was absurd.
Still, absurd as it was, it continued. The central publishing offices of the Daily at Hanbridge, and its branch offices in the neighbouring towns, were like military hospitals, and the truth appeared to the directors that while the public was panting to buy copies of the Daily, the sale of the Daily was being prevented by means of a scandalous conspiracy on the part of Signal boys. For it must be understood that in the Five Towns people prefer to catch their newspaper in the street as it flies and cries. The Signal had a vast army of boys, to whom every year it gave a great fête. Indeed, the Signal possessed nearly all the available boys, and assuredly all the most pugilistic and strongest boys. Mr Myson had obtained boys only after persistent inquiry and demand, and such as he had found were not the fittest, and therefore were unlikely to survive. You would have supposed that in a district that never ceases to grumble about bad trade and unemployment, thousands of boys would have been delighted to buy the Daily at fourpence a dozen and sell it at sixpence. But it was not so.
On the second day the dearth of boys at the offices of the Daily was painful. There was that magnificent, enterprising newspaper waiting to be sold, and there was the great enlightened public waiting to buy; and scarcely any business could be done because the Signal boys had established a reign of terror over their puny and upstart rivals!
The situation was unthinkable.
Still, unthinkable as it was, it continued. Mr Myson had thought of everything except this. Naturally it had not occurred to him that an immense and serious effort for the general weal was going to be blocked by a gang of tatterdemalions.
He complained with dignity to the Signal, and was informed with dignity by the Signal that the Signal could not be responsible for the playful antics of its boys in the streets; that, in short, the Five Towns was a free country. In the latter proposition Mr Myson did not concur.
After trouble in the persuasion of parents--astonishing how indifferent the Five Towns' parent was to the loss of blood by his offspring!--a case reached the police-court. At the hearing the Signal gave a solicitor a watching brief, and that solicitor expressed the Signal's horror of carnage. The evidence was excessively contradictory, and the Stipendiary dismissed the summons with a good joke. The sole definite result was that the boy whose father had ostensibly brought the summons, got his ear torn within a quarter of an hour of leaving the court. Boys will be boys.
Still, the Daily had so little faith in human nature that it could not believe that the Signal was not secretly encouraging its boys to be boys. It could not believe that the Signal, out of a sincere desire for fair play and for the highest welfare of the district, would willingly sacrifice nearly half its circulation and a portion of its advertisement revenue. And the hurt tone of Mr Myson's leading articles seemed to indicate that in Mr Myson's opinion his older rival ought to do everything in its power to ruin itself. The Signal never spoke of the fight. The Daily gave shocking details of it every day.
The struggle trailed on through the weeks.
Then Denry had one of his ideas. An advertisement was printed in the Daily for two hundred able-bodied men to earn two shillings for working six hours a day. An address different from the address of the Daily was given. By a ruse Denry procured the insertion of the advertisement in the Signal also.
"We must expend our capital on getting the paper on to the streets," said Denry. "That's evident. We'll have it sold by men. We'll soon see if the Signal ragamuffins will attack them. And we won't pay 'em by results; we'll pay 'em a fixed wage; that'll fetch 'em. And a commission on sales into the bargain. Why! I wouldn't mind engaging five hundred men. Swamp the streets! That's it! Hang expense. And when we've done the trick, then we can go back to the boys; they'll have learnt their lesson."
And Mr Myson agreed and was pleased that Denry was living up to his reputation.
The state of the earthenware trade was supposed that summer to be worse than it had been since 1869, and the grumblings of the unemployed were prodigious, even seditious. Mr Myson therefore, as a measure of precaution, engaged a couple of policemen to ensure order at the address, and during the hours, named in the advertisement as a rendezvous for respectable men in search of a well-paid job. Having regard to the thousands of perishing families in the Five Towns, he foresaw a rush and a crush of eager breadwinners. Indeed, the arrangements were elaborate.
Forty minutes after the advertised time for the opening of the reception of respectable men in search of money, four men had arrived. Mr Myson, mystified, thought that there had been a mistake in the advertisement, but there was no mistake in the advertisement. A little later two more men came. Of the six, three were tipsy, and the other three absolutely declined to be seen selling papers in the streets. Two were abusive, one facetious. Mr Myson did not know his Five Towns; nor did Denry. A Five Towns' man, when he can get neither bread nor beer, will keep himself and his family on pride and water. The policemen went off to more serious duties.
Then came the announcement of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Signal, and of the processional fête by which the Signal was at once to give itself a splendid spectacular advertisement and to reward and enhearten its boys. The Signal meant to liven up the streets of the Five Towns on that great day by means of a display of all the gilt chariots of Snape's Circus in the main thoroughfare. Many of the boys would be in the gilt chariots. Copies of the anniversary number of the Signal would be sold from the gilt chariots. The idea was excellent, and it showed that after all the Signal was getting just a little more afraid of its young rival than it had pretended to be.
For, strange to say, after a trying period of hesitation, the Five Towns Daily was slightly on the upward curve--thanks to Denry. Denry did not mean to be beaten by the puzzle which the Daily offered to his intelligence. There the Daily was, full of news, and with quite an encouraging show of advertisements, printed on real paper with real ink--and yet it would not "go." Notoriously the Signal earned a net profit of at the very least five thousand a year, whereas the Daily earned a net loss of at the very least sixty pounds a week--and of that sixty quite a third was Denry's money. He could not explain it. Mr Myson tried to rouse the public by passionately stirring up extremely urgent matters--such as the smoke nuisance, the increase of the rates, the park question, German competition, technical education for apprentices; but the public obstinately would not be roused concerning its highest welfare to the point of insisting on a regular supply of the Daily. If a mere five thousand souls had positively demanded daily a copy of the Daily and not slept till boys or agents had responded to their wish, the troubles of the Daily would soon have vanished. But this ridiculous public did not seem to care which paper was put into its hand in exchange for its halfpenny, so long as the sporting news was put there. It simply was indifferent. It failed to see the importance to such an immense district of having two flourishing and mutually-opposing daily organs. The fundamental boy difficulty remained ever present.
And it was the boy difficulty that Denry perseveringly and ingeniously attacked, until at length the Daily did indeed possess some sort of a brigade of its own, and the bullying and slaughter in the streets (so amusing to the inhabitants) grew a little less one-sided.
A week or more before the Signal's anniversary day, Denry heard that the Signal was secretly afraid lest the Daily's brigade might accomplish the marring of its gorgeous procession, and that the Signal was ready to do anything to smash the Daily's brigade. He laughed; he said he did not mind. About that time hostilities were rather acute; blood was warming, and both papers, in the excitation of rivalry, had partially lost the sense of what was due to the dignity of great organs. By chance a tremendous local football match--Knype v: Bursley--fell on the very Saturday of the procession. The rival arrangements for the reporting of the match were as tremendous as the match itself, and somehow the match seemed to add keenness to the journalistic struggle, especially as the Daily favoured Bursley and the Signal was therefore forced to favour Knype.
By all the laws of hazard there ought to have been a hitch on that historic Saturday. Telephone or telegraph ought to have broken down, or rain ought to have made play impossible, but no hitch occurred. And at five-thirty o'clock of a glorious afternoon in earliest November the Daily went to press with a truly brilliant account of the manner in which Bursley (for the first and last time in its history) had defeated Knype by one goal to none. Mr Myson was proud. Mr Myson defied the Signal to beat his descriptive report. As for the Signal's procession--well, Mr Myson and the chief sub-editor of the Daily glanced at each other and smiled.
And a few minutes later the Daily boys were rushing out of the publishing room with bundles of papers--assuredly in advance of the Signal.
It was at this juncture that the unexpected began to occur to the Daily boys. The publishing door of the Daily opened into Stanway Rents, a narrow alley in a maze of mean streets behind Crown Square. In Stanway Rents was a small warehouse in which, according to rumours of the afternoon, a free soup kitchen was to be opened. And just before the football edition of the Daily came off the Marinoni, it emphatically was opened, and there issued from its inviting gate an odour--not, to be sure, of soup, but of toasted cheese and hot jam--such an odour as had never before tempted the nostrils of a Daily boy; a unique and omnipotent odour. Several boys (who, I may state frankly, were traitors to the Daily cause, spies and mischief-makers from elsewhere) raced unhesitatingly in, crying that toasted cheese sandwiches and jam tarts were to be distributed like lightning to all authentic newspaper lads.
The entire gang followed--scores, over a hundred--inwardly expecting to emerge instantly with teeth fully employed, followed like sheep into a fold.
And the gate was shut.
Toasted cheese and hot jammy pastry were faithfully served to the ragged host--but with no breathless haste. And when, loaded, the boys struggled to depart, they were instructed by the kind philanthropist who had fed them to depart by another exit, and they discovered themselves In an enclosed yard, of which the double doors were apparently unyielding. And the warehouse door was shut also. And as the cheese and jam disappeared, shouts of fury arose on the air. The yard was so close to the offices of the Daily that the chimneypots of those offices could actually be seen. And yet the shouting brought no answer from the lords of the Daily, congratulating themselves up there on their fine account of the football match, and on their celerity in going to press and on the loyalty of their brigade.
The Signal, it need not be said, disavowed complicity in this extraordinary entrapping of the Daily brigade by means of an odour. Could it be held responsible for the excesses of its disinterested sympathisers?... Still, the appalling trick showed the high temperature to which blood had risen in the genial battle between great rival organs. Persons in the inmost ring whispered that Denry Machin had at length been bested on this critically important day.
Snape's Circus used to be one of the great shining institutions of North Staffordshire, trailing its magnificence on sculptured wheels from town to town, and occupying the dreams of boys from one generation to another. Its headquarters were at Axe, in the Moorlands, ten miles away from Hanbridge, but the riches of old Snape had chiefly come from the Five Towns. At the time of the struggle between the Signal and the Daily its decline had already begun. The aged proprietor had recently died, and the name, and the horses, and the chariots, and the carefully-repaired tents had been sold to strangers. On the Saturday of the anniversary and the football match (which was also Martinmas Saturday) the circus was set up at Oldcastle, on the edge of the Five Towns, and was giving its final performances of the season. Even boys will not go to circuses in the middle of a Five Towns' winter. The Signal people had hired the processional portion of Snape's for the late afternoon and early evening. And the instructions were that the entire cortège should be round about the Signal offices, in marching order, not later than five o'clock.
But at four o'clock several gentlemen with rosettes in their button-holes and Signal posters in their hands arrived important and panting at the fair-ground at Oldcastle, and announced that the programme had been altered at the last moment, in order to defeat certain feared machinations of the unscrupulous Daily. The cavalcade was to be split into three groups, one of which, the chief, was to enter Hanbridge by a "back road," and the other two were to go to Bursley and Longshaw respectively. In this manner the forces of advertisement would be distributed, and the chief parts of the district equally honoured.
The special linen banners, pennons, and ribbons--bearing the words--
"SIGNAL: THIRTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY," &c.
had already been hung and planted and draped about the gilded summits of the chariots. And after some delay the processions were started, separating at the bottom of the Cattle Market. The head of the Hanbridge part of the procession consisted of an enormous car of Jupiter, with six wheels and thirty-six paregorical figures (as the clown used to say), and drawn by six piebald steeds guided by white reins. This coach had a windowed interior (at the greater fairs it sometimes served as a box-office) and in the interior one of the delegates of the Signal had fixed himself; from it he directed the paths of the procession.
It would be futile longer to conceal that the delegate of the Signal in the bowels of the car of Jupiter was not honestly a delegate of the Signal at all. He was, indeed, Denry Machin, and none other. From this single fact it will be seen to what extent the representatives of great organs had forgotten what was due to their dignity and to public decency. Ensconced in his lair Denry directed the main portion of the Signal's advertising procession by all manner of discreet lanes round the skirts of Hanbridge and so into the town from the hilly side. And ultimately the ten vehicles halted in Crapper Street, to the joy of the simple inhabitants.
Denry emerged and wandered innocently towards the offices of his paper, which were close by. It was getting late. The first yelling of the imprisoned Daily boys was just beginning to rise on the autumn air.
Suddenly Denry was accosted by a young man.
"Hello, Machin!" cried the young man. "What have you shaved your beard off, for? I scarcely knew you."
"I just thought I would, Swetnam," said Denry, who was obviously discomposed.
It was the youngest of the Swetnam boys; he and Denry had taken a sort of curt fancy to one another.
"I say," said Swetnam, confidentially, as if obeying a swift impulse, "I did hear that the Signal people meant to collar all your chaps this afternoon, and I believe they have done. Hear that now?" (Swetnam's father was intimate with the Signal people.)
"I know," Denry replied.
"But I mean--papers and all."
"I know," said Denry.
"Oh!" murmured Swetnam.
"But I'll tell you a secret," Denry added. "They aren't to-day's papers. They're yesterday's, and last week's and last month's. We've been collecting them specially and keeping them nice and new-looking."
"Well, you're a caution!" murmured Swetnam.
"I am," Denry agreed.
A number of men rushed at that instant with bundles of the genuine football edition from the offices of the Daily.
"Come on!" Denry cried to them. "Come on! This way! By-by, Swetnam."
And the whole file vanished round a corner. The yelling of imprisoned cheese-fed boys grew louder.
In the meantime at the Signal office (which was not three hundred yards away, but on the other side of Crown Square) apprehension had deepened into anxiety as the minutes passed and the Snape Circus procession persisted in not appearing on the horizon of the Oldcastle Road. The Signal would have telephoned to Snape's, but for the fact that a circus is never on the telephone. It then telephoned to its Oldcastle agent, who, after a long delay, was able to reply that the cavalcade had left Oldcastle at the appointed hour, with every sign of health and energy. Then the Signal sent forth scouts all down the Oldcastle Road to put spurs into the procession, and the scouts returned, having seen nothing. Pessimists glanced at the possibility of the whole procession having fallen into the canal at Cauldon Bridge. The paper was printed, the train-parcels for Knype, Longshaw, Bursley, and Turnhill were despatched; the boys were waiting; the fingers of the clock in the publishing department were simply flying. It had been arranged that the bulk of the Hanbridge edition, and in particular the first copies of it, should be sold by boys from the gilt chariots themselves. The publisher hesitated for an awful moment, and then decided that he could wait no more, and that the boys must sell the papers in the usual way from the pavements and gutters. There was no knowing what the Daily might not be doing.
And then Signal boys in dozens rushed forth paper-laden, but they were disappointed boys; they had thought to ride in gilt chariots, not to paddle in mud. And almost the first thing they saw in Crown Square was the car of Jupiter in its glory, flying all the Signal colours; and other cars behind. They did not rush now; they sprang, as from a catapult; and alighted like flies on the vehicles. Men insisted on taking their papers from them and paying for them on the spot. The boys were startled; they were entirely puzzled; but they had not the habit of refusing money. And off went the procession to the music of its own band down the road to Knype, and perhaps a hundred boys on board, cheering. The men in charge then performed a curious act: they tore down all the Signal flagging, and replaced it with the emblem of the Daily.
So that all the great and enlightened public wandering home in crowds from the football match at Knype, had the spectacle of a Daily procession instead of a Signal procession, and could scarce believe their eyes. And Dailys were sold in quantities from the cars. At Knype Station the procession curved and returned to Hanbridge, and finally, after a multitudinous triumph, came to a stand with all its Daily bunting in front of the Signal offices; and Denry appeared from his lair. Denry's men fled with bundles.
"They're an hour and a half late," said Denry calmly to one of the proprietors of the Signal, who was on the pavement. "But I've managed to get them here. I thought I'd just look in to thank you for giving such a good feed to our lads."
The telephones hummed with news of similar Daily processions in Longshaw and Bursley. And there was not a high-class private bar in the district that did not tinkle with delighted astonishment at the brazen, the inconceivable effrontery of that card, Denry Machin. Many people foresaw law-suits, but it was agreed that the Signal had begun the game of impudence in trapping the Daily lads so as to secure a holy calm for its much-trumpeted procession.
And Denry had not finished with the Signal.
In the special football edition of the Daily was an announcement, the first, of special Martinmas fêtes organised by the Five Towns Daily. And on the same morning every member of the Universal Thrift Club had received an invitation to the said fêtes. They were three--held on public ground at Hanbridge, Bursley, and Longshaw. They were in the style of the usual Five Towns "wakes"; that is to say, roundabouts, shows, gingerbread stalls, swings, cocoanut shies. But at each fête a new and very simple form of "shy" had been erected. It consisted of a row of small railway signals.
"March up! March up!" cried the shy-men. "Knock down the signal! Knock down the signal! And a packet of Turkish delight is yours. Knock down the signal!"
And when you had knocked down the signal the men cried:
"We wrap it up for you in the special Anniversary Number of the Signal."
And they disdainfully tore into suitable fragments copies of the Signal which had cost Denry & Co. a halfpenny each, and enfolded the Turkish delight therein, and handed it to you with a smack.
And all the fair-grounds were carpeted with draggled and muddy Signals. People were up to the ankles in Signals.
The affair was the talk of Sunday. Few matters in the Five Towns have raised more gossip than did that enormous escapade which Denry invented and conducted. The moral damage to the Signal was held to approach the disastrous. And now not the possibility but the probability of law-suits was incessantly discussed.
On the Monday both papers were bought with anxiety. Everybody was frothing to know what the respective editors would say.
But in neither sheet was there a single word as to the affair. Both had determined to be discreet; both were afraid. The Signal feared lest it might not, if the pinch came, be able to prove its innocence of the crime of luring boys into confinement by means of toasted cheese and hot jam. The Signal had also to consider its seriously damaged dignity; for such wounds silence is the best dressing. The Daily was comprehensively afraid. It had practically driven its gilded chariots through the entire Decalogue. Moreover, it had won easily in the grand altercation. It was exquisitely conscious of glory.
Denry went away to Blackpool, doubtless to grow his beard.
The proof of the Daily's moral and material victory was that soon afterwards there were four applicants, men of substance, for shares in the Daily company. And this, by the way, was the end of the tale. For these applicants, who secured options on a majority of the shares, were emissaries of the Signal. Armed with the options, the Signal made terms with its rival, and then by mutual agreement killed it. The price of its death was no trifle, but it was less than a year's profits of the Signal. Denry considered that he had been "done." But in the depths of his heart he was glad that he had been done. He had had too disconcerting a glimpse of the rigours and perils of journalism to wish to continue it. He had scored supremely and, for him, to score was life itself. His reputation as a card was far, far higher than ever. Had he so desired, he could have been elected to the House of Commons on the strength of his procession and fête.
Mr Myson, somewhat scandalised by the exuberance of his partner, returned to Manchester.
And the Signal, subsequently often referred to as "The Old Lady," resumed its monopolistic sway over the opinions of a quarter of a million of people, and has never since been attacked.