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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter18,part5)

2006-08-28 23:39

    PART 5

    At Gillam's Point Jeff and his friends, with Dunn and Quillen, left the _Bellingham_ on the launch which brought the pilot. They caught the fast express a half hour later and reached Verden shortly after midnight. His hat drawn down over his eyes and muffied to the ears in an ulster so that he might not be recognized, Farnum took a cab with Captain Chunn, Dunn and Quillen for the office of the World. He slipped into the building and his private room unnoticed by any member of the staff.

    Dunn presently brought to him Jenkins, the make-up man.

    "Rip your front page to pieces. We've got the story of a life time," Captain Chunn exploded.

    Jenkins opened his eyes and grinned at Jeff. "That's what Jim tells me. Have you got the proof to hang the thing on Big Tim?"

    "I've got a letter he wrote to Captain Green of the_Nancy Hanks_ . It's on city hall stationery of the last administration."

    "Funny he used that paper."

    "Someone usually makes a slip in putting a deal of this kind through."

    "And the letter?"

    "Just a line, signed with O'Brien's initials. 'The terms agreed on are satisfactory.' I found the letter in Green's cabin. As I thought I might make use of it I helped myself."

    "Bully! We'll run a fac-simile of it on the front page."

    "Dunn's story covers the whole affair. I don't like some features of it, but our friends say it ought to be run as it stands. I've written three columns of editorial stuff dealing with the situation. And here's a story calling for a mass meeting in front of the State House to-morrow morning."

    "You'll speak to the people?"

    "I'll say a few words. Hardy and Rawson will be the speakers."

    "Pity we've lost your cousin. He'd stir them up."

    The muscles stood out on Jeff's lean jaw. James was a subject he could not yet discuss. "We're nailing the No Compromise flag to our masthead, Jenkins. We've got to prevent them from forcing through Garman's bill tomorrow. After that every day will be in our favor. Unless I'm mistaken the state will waken up as it never has before. The people will see how nearly they've been euchred out of what they want."

    Jenkins came bluntly to another point. "This story would carry a lot more weight if those charges made against your character by the other papers had been answered."

    "Then we'll answer them."

    The night editor looked at him dubiously. "They've got four affidavits to back their story."

    "Only four?" A gay smile was dancing in Jeff's eyes.

    "Both the _Herald_ and the _Advocate_ have been playing it strong. Every day they rehash the story and challenge a denial."

    "It will all be free advertising for us if we can make them eat crow."

    "If we can!" Jenkins did not see how any effective answer was possible and he knew that in the present state of public opinion an unsupported bluff would be fatal.

    "How would this do for a starter?"

    Jeff handed him two typewritten sheets. The night editor read them through. He looked straight at Jeff.

    "Can you back this up?"

    "I can."

    "But——what about those affidavits?"

    Farnum grinned. "We'll take care of them when we come to them."

    "It's your funeral," Jenkins admitted.

    The whole front page of the _World_ next morning was filled with the Farnum story. As part of it there were interviews with Alice Frome, with Captain Barclay, and with other passengers. The deadly note from O'Brien to Green of the _Nancy Hanks_ occupied the place usually held by the cartoon. Beneath it, exactly in the center of the page, was a leaded box with the caption "A Challenge." It ran as follows:

    The editor of the _World_ does not think his reputation important enough to protect it at the expense of a woman. Yet he denies absolutely the import of the charges made by the _Herald_ and the _Advocate._ That the matter may be forever set at rest the _World_ challenges the papers named to a searching investigation. It proposes:

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