Within a week of its arising "the Manderson story," to the trained sense of editors throughout the Union, was "cold. Like the poet who died in Rome, so young and poor, a hundred years ago, he was buried far away from his own land; but for all the men and women of Manderson's people who flock round the tomb of Keats in the cemetery under the Monte Testaccio, there is not one, nor ever will be, to stand in reverence by the rich man's grave beside the little church of Marlstone.
In the only comfortably furnished room in the offices of the Record , the telephone on Sir James Molloy's table buzzed. Sir James made a motion with his pen, and Mr. Silver, his secretary, left his work and came over to the instrument. I can't hear you Oh, it's Mr. Bunner, is it? Yes, but I know, but he's fearfully busy this afternoon.
Can't you Oh, really? Well, in that case—just hold on, will you? He placed the receiver before Sir James. Says it is the gravest piece of news. He is talking from the house down by Bishopsbridge, so it will be necessary to speak clearly. Sir James looked at the telephone, not affectionately, and took up the receiver. The next moment Mr. Silver, eagerly watching him, saw a look of amazement and horror.
Clutching the instrument, he slowly rose to his feet, still bending ear intently. At intervals he repeated, "Yes. Silver over the top of the transmitter. Silver darted from the room.
The great journalist was a tall, strong, clever Irishman of fifty, swart and black-mustached, a man of untiring business energy, well known in the world, which he understood very thoroughly, and played upon with the half-cynical competence of his race. Yet was he without a touch of the charlatan: he made no mysteries, and no pretenses of knowledge, and he saw instantly through these in others. In his handsome, well-bred, well-dressed appearance there was something a little sinister when anger or intense occupation put its imprint about his eyes and brow; but when his generous nature was under no restraint he was the most cordial of men.
He was managing director of the company which owned that most powerful morning paper, the Record , and also that most indispensable evening paper, the Sun , which had its offices on the other side of the street.
He was moreover editor-in-chief of the Record , to which he had in the course of years attached the most variously capable personnel in the country. It was a maxim of his that where you could not get gifts, you must do the best you could with solid merit; and he employed a great deal of both. He was respected by his staff as few are respected in a profession not favorable to the growth of the sentiment of reverence. Yes, of course, the police are; but the servants?
Surely it's all over the place down there by now Well, we'll have a try Look here, Bunner, I'm infinitely obliged to you about this. I owe you a good turn. You know I mean what I say. Come and see me the first day you get to town All right, that's understood. Now I must act on your news. Sir James hung up the receiver, and seized a railway time-table from the rack before him.
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After a rapid consultation of this oracle, he flung it down with a forcible word as Mr. Silver hurried into the room, followed by a hard-featured man with spectacles, and a youth with an alert eye. He is not to say why in the telegram.
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There must not be an unnecessary word about this news until the Sun is on the streets with it—you all understand. Williams, cut across the way and tell Mr. Anthony to hold himself ready for a two-column opening that will knock the town endways. Just tell him that he must take all measures and precautions for a scoop. Say that Figgis will be over in five minutes with the facts, and that he had better let him write up the story in his private room. As you go, ask Miss Morgan to see me here at once and tell the telephone people to see if they can get Mr.
Trent on the wire for me. After seeing Mr.
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Anthony, return here and stand by. Sir James turned instantly to Mr. Figgis, whose pencil was poised over the paper. Figgis scratched down a line of shorthand with as much emotion as if he had been told that the day was fine—the pose of his craft. He bought it four years ago. He and Mrs. Manderson have since spent a part of each summer there. Last night he went to bed about half-past eleven, just as usual. No one knows when he got up and left the house. He was not missed until this morning.
About ten o'clock his body was found by a gardener. It was lying by a shed in the grounds. He was shot in the head, through the left eye. Death must have been instantaneous. The body was not robbed, but there were marks on the wrists which pointed to a struggle having taken place. Stock, of Marlstone, was at once sent for, and will conduct the post-mortem examination. The police from Bishopsbridge, who were soon on the spot, are reticent, but it is believed that they are quite without a clue to the identity of the murderer.
There you are, Figgis.
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Anthony is expecting you. Now I must telephone him and arrange things. Figgis looked up. It's a safe statement. Figgis," said a quiet voice. It belonged to Miss Morgan, a pale, graceful woman, who had silently made her appearance while the dictation was going on. Manderson," she proceeded, turning to Sir James.
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Has her husband been murdered? I don't think the shock would prostrate her. She is more likely to be doing all she can to help the police. Her imperturbable efficiency was an office proverb.
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Off you go! Now, madam, I expect you know what I want. It is practically ready for to-morrow's paper. I should think the Sun had better use the sketch of his life they had about two years ago, when he went to Berlin and settled the potash difficulty. I remember it was a very good sketch, and they won't be able to carry much more than that. As for our paper, of course we have a great quantity of cuttings, mostly rubbish.
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The sub-editors shall have them as soon as they come in. Then we have two very good portraits that are our own property; the best is a drawing Mr.
Trent made when they were both on the same ship somewhere. It is better than any of the photographs; but you say the public prefers a bad photograph to a good drawing. I will send them down to you at once, and you can choose. As far as I can see, the Record is well ahead of the situation, except that you will not be able to get a special man down there in time to be of any use for to-morrow's paper.
Sir James sighed deeply.