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Another Of Those Cub Reporter Stories
by [?]

The first time I saw Major Putnam Stone I didn’t see him first. To be exact, I heard him first, and then I walked round the end of a seven-foot partition and saw him.

I had just gone to work for the Evening Press. As I recall now it was my second day, and I hadn’t begun to feel at home there yet, and probably was more sensitive to outside sights and noises than I would ever again be in that place. Generally speaking, when a reporter settles down to his knitting, which in his case is his writing, he becomes impervious to all disturbances excepting those that occur inside his own brainpan. If he couldn’t, he wouldn’t amount to shucks in his trade. Give him a good, live-action story to write for an edition going to press in about nine minutes, and the rattles and slams of half a dozen typewriting machines, and the blattings of a pestered city editor, and the gabble of a couple of copy boys at his elbow, and all the rest of it won’t worry him. He may not think he hears it, but he does, only instead of being distracting it is stimulating. It’s all a part of the mechanism of the shop, helping him along unconsciously to speed and efficiency. I’ve often thought that, when I was handling a good, bloody murder story, say, it would tone up my style to have a phonograph about ten feet away grinding out The Last Ravings of John McCullough. Anyway, I am sure it wouldn’t do any harm. A brass band playing a John Philip Sousa march makes fine accompaniment to write copy to. I’ve done it before now, covering parades and conventions, and I know.

But on this particular occasion I was, as I say, new to the job and maybe a little nervous to boot, and as I sat there, trying to frame a snappy opening paragraph for the interview I had just brought back with me from one of the hotels, I became aware of a voice somewhere in the immediate vicinity, a voice that didn’t jibe in with my thoughts. At the moment I stopped to listen it was saying: “As for me, sir, I have always contended that the ultimate fate of the cause was due in great measure to the death of Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh on the evening of the first day’s fight. Now then, what would have been the final result if Albert Sidney Johnston had lived? I ask you, gentlemen, what would have been the final result if Albert Sidney Johnston had lived?”

Across the room from me I heard Devore give a hollow groan. His desk was backed right up against the cross partition, and the partition was built of thin pine boards and was like a sounding board in his ear. Devore was city editor.

“Oh, thunder!” he said, half under his breath, “I’ll be the goat! What would have been the result if Albert Sidney Johnston had lived?” He looked at me and gave a wink of serio-comic despair, and then he ran his blue pencil up through his hair and left a blue streak like a scar on his scalp. Devore was one of the few city editors I have ever seen who used that tool which all of them are popularly supposed to handle so murderously–a blue pencil. And as he had a habit, when he was flustered or annoyed–and that was most of the time–of scratching his head with the point end of it, his forehead under the hair roots was usually streaked with purplish-blue tracings, like a fly-catcher’s egg.

The voice, which had a deep and space-filling quality to it, continued to come through and over the partition that divided off our cubby-hole of a workroom–called a city room by courtesy–from the space where certain other members of the staff had their desks. I got up from my place and stepped over to where the thin wall ended in a doorway, being minded to have a look at the speaker. The voice sounded as though it must belong to a big man with a barrel-organ chest. I was surprised to find that it didn’t.