A P I S T O L F O R A G E N T L E M A N
‘The whole idea is crazy!’
‘If you’d let me explain, sir’
‘In another minute, me boy, I’ll lose me temper!’
Mr O’Malley’s voice already shook with passion. Red side whiskers twitched against purpling cheeks. Young Mark Apperley’s own knees trembled a little.
The burly editor of the Morning Herald was an awesome figure as he stood at his his desk. He always stood to write. As he was fond of saying, he fought best on his feet. But I wish he weren’t fighting me, thought Mark, and I wish I hadn’t interrupted him in the middle of tomorrow’s leader. All the usual signs of composition were therethe glass of port, the half-empty decanter beside the ink-stand, the first scrawled sheets tossed to the floor for the office boy to gather.
Mark screwed up his courage. ‘I’m sorry, sir, but it’s so urgent. This telegrama revolution in Sicily’
‘D’ye suppose the editor doesn’t see the telegrams? These hot countries are always having revolutions!’
‘I think this one is different. The newspaper which looks ahead and sends out a correspondent now’
‘Once for all, Mr. Apperley, I will not gamble me proprietor’s money on a long chance like this. And if I did, I’d not send an inexperienced young fellow like’
‘It’s hardly my fault I’ve no experience, sir. I begged you to send me on the northern Italian campaign last summer. I speak Italian, I was there as a boy in 1849’
‘Ye’re not employed to speak Italian, but to write English. Stick to that!’ O’Malley scowled. ‘Ye’re a promising young journalistbut ye’re an obstinate donkey too.’
‘No, sir, only persevering.’
‘I’ll choose me own wordsdon’t presume to edit me!’ O’Malley refilled his glass. Beyond the dusty window murmured Fleet Street. Hansom cabs jingled. A girl cried fresh violets in a high-pitched Cockney whine. ‘Sicily!’ grumbled the editor. ‘Long journeyrailway-tickets, steamers, hotels, days of it! Shocking waste of time and money!’
‘I need only go as far as Turin to start with.’
‘Why Turin, in Heaven’s name?’
‘Because the key to this problem lies there in the North. If the wretched Sicilians have to fight alone, this revolution will fizzle out’
‘As before. Countless times.’
‘But suppose the new Kingdom of Italy takes a hand? Suppose the Turin government decides to help the rebelsas a move against Naples? If Garibaldi goes to Sicily, we may see a miracle.’
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