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The Newspaper Proprietor
by [?]

The great Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires, paced the floor of his luxurious apartment with bowed head, his corrugated countenance furrowed with lines of anxiety. He had just returned from a lunch with all his favourite advertisers … but it was not this which troubled him. He was thinking out a new policy for The Daily Vane.

Suddenly he remembered something. Coming up to town in his third motor, he had glanced through the nineteen periodicals which his house had published that morning, and in one case had noted matter for serious criticism. This was obviously the first business he must deal with.

He seated himself at his desk and pushed the bell marked “38.” Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of sandwiches.

“What do you want?” said Strong coldly.

“You rang for me, sir,” replied the trembling menial.

“Go away,” said Strong. Recognizing magnanimously, however, that the mistake was his own, he pressed bell “28.” In another moment the editor of Sloppy Chunks was before him.

“In to-day’s number,” said Strong, as he toyed with a blue pencil, “you apologize for a mistake in last week’s number.” He waited sternly.

“It was a very bad mistake, sir, I’m afraid. We did a great injustice to—-“

“You know my rule,” said Strong. “The mistake of last week I could have overlooked. The apology of this week is a more serious matter. You will ask for a month’s salary on your way out.” He pressed a button and the editor disappeared through the trap-door.

Alone again, Hector Strong thought keenly for a moment. Then he pressed bell “38.” Instantly a footman presented himself with a tray of sandwiches.

“What do you mean by this?” roared Strong, his iron self-control for a moment giving way.

“I b-beg your pardon, sir,” stammered the man. “I th-thought—-“

“Get out!” As the footman retired, Strong passed his hand across his forehead. “My memory is bad to-day,” he murmured, and pushed bell “48.”

A tall thin man entered.

“Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Brownlow,” said the Proprietor. He toyed with his blue pencil. “Let me see, which of our papers are under your charge at the moment?”

Mr. Brownlow reflected.

“Just now,” he said, “I am editing Snippety Snips, The Whoop, The Girls’ Own Aunt, Parings, Slosh, The Sunday Sermon, and Back Chat.”

“Ah! Well, I want you to take on Sloppy Chunks too for a little while. Mr. Symes has had to leave us.”

“Yes, sir.” Mr. Brownlow bowed and moved to the door.

“By the way,” Strong said, “your last number of Slosh was very good. Very good indeed. I congratulate you. Good day.”

Left alone, Hector Strong, lord of journalism and swayer of empires, resumed his pacings. His two mistakes with the bell told him that he was distinctly not himself this afternoon. Was it only the need of a new policy for The Vane which troubled him? Or was it—-

Could it be Lady Dorothy?

Lady Dorothy Neal was something of an enigma to Hector Strong. He was making more than a million pounds a year, and yet she did not want to marry him. Sometimes he wondered if the woman were quite sane. Yet, mad or sane, he loved her.

A secretary knocked and entered. He waited submissively for half an hour until the Proprietor looked up.

“Well?”

“Lady Dorothy Neal would like to see you for a moment, sir.”

“Show her in.”

Lady Dorothy came in brightly.

“What nice-looking men you have here,” she said. “Who is the one in the blue waistcoat? He has curly hair.”

“You didn’t come to talk about him?” said Hector reproachfully.

“I didn’t come to talk to him really, but if you keep me waiting half an hour—- Why, what are you doing?”

Strong looked up from the note he was writing. The tender lines had gone from his face, and he had become the stern man of action again.

“I am giving instructions that the services of my commissionaire, hall-boy, and fifth secretary will no longer be required.”