MISS MINNELY’S MANAGEMENT

George Renwick substituted “limb” for “leg,” “intoxicated” for “drunk,”
and “undergarment” for “shirt,” in “The Converted Ringmaster,” a
short-story-of-commerce, which he was editing for “The Family Blessing.”
When he should have eliminated all indecorum it would go to Miss
Minnely, who would “elevate the emotional interest.” She was sole owner
of “The Blessing,” active director of each of its multifarious
departments. Few starry names rivalled hers in the galaxy of American
character-builders.

Unaware of limitations to her versatility, Miss Minnely might have
dictated all the literary contents of the magazine, but for her acute
perception that other gifted pens should be enlisted. Hence many minor
celebrities worshipped her liberal cheques, whilst her more extravagant
ones induced British titled personages to assuage the yearning of the
American Plain People for some contact with rank.

Renwick wrought his changes sardonically, applying to each line a set of
touchstones—”Will it please Mothers?” “Lady school-teachers?”
“Ministers of the Gospel?” “Miss Minnely’s Taste?” He had not entirely
converted The Ringmaster when his door was gently opened by the Chief
Guide to the Family Blessing Building.

Mr. Durley had grown grey under solemn sense of responsibility for
impressions which visitors might receive. With him now appeared an
unusually numerous party of the usual mothers, spinsters, aged good men,
and anxious children who keep watch and ward over “The Blessing’s”
pages, in devotion to Miss Minnely’s standing editorial request that
“subscribers will faithfully assist the Editors with advice,
encouragement, or reproof.” The Mature, with true American gentleness,
let the Young assemble nearest the open door. All necks craned toward
Renwick. Because Mr. Durley’s discourse to so extensive a party was
unusually loud, Renwick heard, for the first time, what the Chief Guide
was accustomed to murmur at his threshold: “De-ar friends, the gentleman
we now have the satisfaction of beholding engaged in a sitting posture
at his editorial duties, is Mr. George Hamilton Renwick, an American in
every——.”

“He _looks_ like he might be English,” observed a matron.

Mr. Durley took a steady look at Renwick: “He _is_ some red complected,
Lady, but I guess it’s only he is used to out of doors.” He resumed his
customary drone:—”Mr. Renwick, besides he is American in every fibre of
his being, is a first rate general purpose editor, and also a noted
authority on yachting, boating, canoeing, rowing, swimming, and every
kind of water amusements of a kind calculated to build up character in
subscribers. Mr. George Hamilton Renwick’s engagement by ’The Family
Blessing’ exclusively is a recent instance of many evidences that Miss
Minnely, the Sole Proprietress, spares no expense in securing talented
men of genius who are likewise authorities on every kind of specialty
interesting, instructive, and improving to first-class respectable
American families. Ladies and gentlemen, and de-ar children, girls, and
youths, we will now pass on to Room Number Sixteen, and behold Mr.
Caliphas C. Cummins, the celebrated author and authority on Oriental and
Scriptural countries. Mr. Cummins is specially noted as the author of
’Bijah’s Bicycle in Babylonia,’ ’A Girl Genius at Galilee,’ and many
first-class serials published exclusively in ’The Family Blessing.’ He
may——”

Mr. Durley softly closed Renwick’s door.

The Improving Editor, now secluded, stared wrathfully for some moments.
Then he laughed, seized paper, and wrote in capitals:—

“When the editor in this compartment is to be exhibited, please notify
him by knocking on this door before opening it. He will then rise from
his sitting posture, come forward for inspection, and turn slowly round
three times, if a mother, a school teacher, or a minister of the Gospel
be among the visiting subscribers.”

Renwick strode to his door. While pinning the placard on its outside he
overheard the concluding remarks of Mr. Durley on Mr. Cummins, whose
room was next in the long corridor: “Likewise talented editor of the
Etiquette Department and the Puzzle Department. Mr. Cummins, Sir, seven
lady teachers from the State of Maine are now honouring us in this
party.”

Renwick stood charmed to listen. He heard the noted author clack
forward to shake hands all round meantime explaining in thin, high,
affable volubility: “My de-ar friends, you have the good fortune to
behold me in the very act of composing my new serial of ten Chapters,
for ’The Blessing’ exclusively, entitled ’Jehu and Jerusha in
Jerusalem,’ being the experiences of a strenuous New England brother and
sister in the Holy Land, where our Lord innogerated the Christian
religion, now, sad to say, under Mohammetan subjection. In this tale I
am incorporating largely truthful incidents of my own and blessed wife’s
last visit to the Holy Places where——”

Renwick slammed his door. He flung his pen in a transport of derision.
Rebounding from his desk, it flew through an open window, perhaps to
fall on some visitor to “The Blessing’s” lawn. He hastened to look
down. Nobody was on gravel path or bench within possible reach of the
missile. Renwick, relieved, mused anew on the singularities of the
scene.

The vast “Blessing” Building stands amid a city block devoted largely to
shaven turf, flower beds, grassed mounds, and gravel paths. It is
approached from the street by a broad walk which bifurcates at thirty
yards from the “Richardson” entrance, to surround a turfed truncated
cone, from which rises a gigantic, severely draped, female figure. It
is that bronze of Beneficence which, in the words of the famous New
England sculptress, Miss Angela C. Amory Pue, “closely features Miss
Martha Minnely in her grand early womanhood.” In the extensive arms of
the Beneficence a bronze volume so slants that spectators may read on
its back, in gilt letters, “THE FAMILY BLESSING.” Prettily pranked out
in dwarf marginal plants on the turfy cone these words are pyramided:
“LOVE. HEAVEN. BENEFICENCE. THE LATEST FASHIONS. MY COUNTRY, ’TIS OF
THEE.”

Not far from the statue slopes a great grassed mound which displays
still more conspicuously in “everlastings,” “THE FAMILY BLESSING.
CIRCULATION 1915, 1,976,709. MONTHLY. COME UNTO ME ALL YE WEARY AND
HEAVILY LADEN. TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.”

The scheme ever puzzled Renwick. Had some demure humour thus addressed
advertisements as if to the eternal stars? Or did they proceed from a
pure simplicity of commercial taste? From this perennial problem he was
diverted by sharp rapping at his door. Durley again? But the visitor
was Mr. Joram B. Buntstir, veteran among the numerous editors of “The
Blessing,” yet capable of jocularities. He appeared perturbed.

“Renwick, you are rather fresh here, and I feel so friendly to you that
I’d hate to see you get into trouble unwarned. Surely you can’t wish
Miss Minnely to see _that_.”

“What? Oh, the placard! That’s for Durley. He must stop exhibiting
me.”

“Mr. Durley won’t understand. Anyway, he couldn’t stop without
instructions from Miss Minnely. He will take the placard to her for
orders. You do not wish to hurt Miss Minnely’s feelings, I am sure.”
Mr. Buntstir closed the door behind him.

“Bah—Miss Minnely’s feelings can’t be so tender as all that!”

“No, eh? Do you know her so thoroughly?”

“I don’t know her at all. I’ve been here three months without once
seeing Miss Minnely. Is she real? Half the time I doubt her existence.”

“You get instructions from her regularly.”

“I get typewritten notes, usually voluminous, signed ’M. Minnely,’ twice
a week. But the Business Manager, or Miss Heartly, may dictate them,
for all I know.”

“Pshaw! Miss Minnely presides in seclusion. Her private office has a
street entrance. She seldom visits the Departments in office hours. Few
of her staff know her by sight. She saves time by avoiding personal
interviews. But she keeps posted on everybody’s work. I hope you may
not have to regret learning how very real Miss Minnely can be. She took
me in hand, once, eight years ago. I have been careful to incur no more
discipline since—kind as she was. If she sees your placard——”

“Well, what?”

“Well, she can be very impressive. I fear your offer to turn round
before visitors may bring you trouble.”

“I am looking for trouble. I’m sick and tired of this life of
intellectual shame.”

“Then quit!” snapped Buntstir, pierced. “Be consistent. Get out. Sell
your sneers at a great established publication to some pamphlet
periodical started by college boys for the regeneration of Literature.
Don’t jeer what you live by. That is where intellectual shame should
come in.”

“You are right. A man should not gibe his job. I must quit. The
’Blessing’ is all right for convinced devotees of the mawkish. But if a
man thinks sardonically of his daily work, that damns the soul.”

“It may be an effect of the soul trying to save itself,” said Buntstir,
mollified. “Anyway, Renwick, remember your trouble with ’The Reflex.’
Avoid the name of a confirmed quitter. Stay here till you can change to
your profit. Squealing won’t do us any good. A little grain of literary
conscience ought not to make you _talk_ sour. It’s cynical to satirize
our bread and butter—imprudent, too.”

“That’s right. I’ll swear off, or clear out. Lord, how I wish I could.
My brain must rot if I don’t. ’The Blessing’s’ ’emotional’! Oh,
Buntstir, the stream of drivel! And to live by concocting it for
trustful subscribers. Talk of the sin of paregoricking babies!”

“Babies take paregoric because they like it. Pshaw, Renwick, you’re
absurdly sensitive. Writing-men must live, somehow—usually by
wishy-washiness. Unpleasant work is the common lot of mankind. Where’s
_your_ title to exemption? Really, you’re lucky. Miss Minnely
perceives zest in your improvements of copy. She says you are naturally
gifted with ’The Blessing’s’ taste.”

“For Heaven’s sake, Buntstir!”

“She did—Miss Heartly told me so. And yet—if she sees that placard—no
one can ever guess what she may do in discipline. You can’t wish to be
bounced, dear boy, with your family to provide for. Come, you’ve blown
off steam. Take the placard off your door.”

“All right. I will. But Miss Minnely can’t bounce me without a year’s
notice. That’s how I engaged.”

“A year’s notice to quit a life of intellectual shame!”

“Well, it is one thing to jump out of the window, and another to be
bounced. I wouldn’t stand that.”

Buntstir laughed. “I fancy I see you, you sensitive Cuss, holding on,
or jumping off or doing anything contra to Miss Minnely’s intention.”
He went to the door. “Hello, where’s the placard?” he cried, opening
it.

“Gone!” Renwick sprang up.

“Gone, sure. No matter how. It is already in Miss Minnely’s hands.
Well, I told you to take it down twenty minutes ago.”

“Wait, Buntstir. What is best to be done?”

“Hang on for developments—and get to work.”

Buntstir vanished as one hastens to avoid infection.

*II*

Renwick resumed his editing of “The Converted Ringmaster” with resolve
to think on nothing else. But, between his eyes and the manuscript,
came the woeful aspect of two widows, his mother and his sister, as they
had looked six months earlier, when he threw up his political editorship
of “The Daily Reflex” in disgust at its General Manager’s sudden
reversal of policy. His sister’s baby toddled into the vision. He had
scarcely endured to watch the child’s uncertain steps during the weeks
while he wondered how to buy its next month’s modified milk. To “The
Reflex” he could not return, because he had publicly burned his boats,
with the desperate valour of virtue conscious that it may weaken if
strained by need for family food.

Out of that dangerous hole he had been lifted by the Sole Proprietress
of “The Family Blessing.” She praised his “public stand for principle”
in a note marked “strictly confidential,” which tendered him a
“position.” He had secretly laughed at the cautious, amiable offer,
even while her laudation gratified his self-importance. Could work on
“The Blessing” seem otherwise than ridiculous for one accustomed to
chide presidents, monarchs, bosses, bankers, railway magnates? But it
was well paid, and seemed only too easy. The young man did not foresee
for himself that benumbing of faculty which ever punishes the writer who
sells his facility to tasks below his ambition. At worst “The Blessing”
seemed harmless. Nor could his better nature deny a certain esteem to
that periodical which affectionate multitudes proclaimed to be justly
named.

Renwick, viewing himself once more as a recreant breadwinner, cursed his
impetuous humour. But again he took heart from remembrance of his
engagement by the year, little suspecting his impotency to hold on where
snubs must be the portion of the unwanted. Twelve months to turn round
in! But after? What if an editor, already reputed impractical by “The
Reflex” party, should be refused employment everywhere, after forsaking
“The Blessing” office, in which “positions” were notoriously sought or
coveted by hundreds of “literary” aspirants to “soft snaps”? So his
veering imagination whirled round that inferno into which wage earners
descend after hazarding their livelihood.

From this disquiet he sprang when his door was emphatically knocked. It
opened. Mr. Durley reappeared with a throng closely resembling the last,
except for one notable wide lady in street costume of Quakerish gray.
Her countenance seemed to Renwick vaguely familiar. The fabric and cut
of her plain garb betokened nothing of wealth to the masculine eye, but
were regarded with a degree of awe by the other ladies present. She
appeared utterly American, yet unworldly, in the sense of seeming
neither citified, suburbanish, nor rural. The experienced placidity of
her countenance reminded Renwick of a familiar composite photograph of
many matrons chosen from among “The Blessing’s” subscribers.

“Her peculiarity is that of the perfect type,” he pondered while
listening to Durley’s repetition of his previous remarks.

At their close, he briskly said: “Mr. Renwick, Sir, Miss Minnely wishes
you to know that your kind offer is approved. We are now favoured with
the presence of four mothers, six lady teachers, and a minister of the
Gospel.”

Renwick flushed. His placard approved! It promised that he would come
forward and turn round thrice for inspection. Durley had received
instructions to take him at his word! Suddenly the dilemma touched his
facile humour. Explanation before so many was impossible. Gravely he
approached the visitors, held out the skirts of his sack coat, turned
slowly thrice, and bowed low at the close.

The large lady nodded with some reserve. Other spectators clearly
regarded the solemnity as part of “The Blessing’s” routine. Mr. Durley
resumed his professional drone:—”We will now pass on to Room Number
Sixteen, and behold Mr. Caliphas C. Cummins in——” Renwick’s door
closed.

Then the large lady, ignoring the attractions of Mr. Cummins, went to
the waiting elevator, and said “down.”

Renwick, again at his desk, tried vainly to remember of what or whom the
placid lady had reminded him. A suspicion that she might be Miss
Minnely fled before recollection of her street costume. Still—she
_might_ be. If so—had his solemnly derisive posturing offended her?
She had given no sign. How could he explain his placard to her? Could
he not truly allege objections to delay of his work by Durley’s frequent
interruptions? He was whirling with conjecture and indecision when four
measured ticks from a lead pencil came on his outer door.

There stood Miss Heartly, Acting Manager of the Paper Patterns
Department. Her light blue eyes beamed the confidence of one born
trustful, and confirmed in the disposition by thirty-five years of
popularity at home, in church, in office. In stiff white collar, lilac
tie, trig grey gown, and faint, fading bloom of countenance, she well
represented a notable latter day American type, the Priestess of
Business, one born and bred as if to endow office existence with some
almost domestic touch of Puritan nicety. That no man might sanely hope
to disengage Miss Heartly from devotion to “The Family Blessing” was as
if revealed by her unswerving directness of gaze in speech.

“I have called, Mr. Renwick, by instruction of the Sole Proprietress.
Miss Minnely wishes me, first, to thank you for this.”

It was the placard!

Renwick stared, unable to credit the sincerity in her face and tone.
She must be making game of him while she spoke in measured links, as if
conscientiously repeating bits each separately memorized:

“Mr. Renwick—Miss Minnely desires you to know that she has been rarely
more gratified—than by this evidence—that your self-identification with
’The Blessing’—is cordial and complete. But—Miss Minnely is inclined to
hope—that your thoughtful and kind proposal—of turning round for
inspection—may be—modified—or improved. For instance—if you would
carefully prepare—of course for revision by her own taste—a short and
eloquent welcoming discourse—to visitors—that could be elevated to an
attraction—for subscribers—of that she is almost, though not yet quite,
fully assured. Miss Minnely presumes, Mr. Renwick, that you have had
the pleasure of—hearing Mr. Cummins welcome visitors. Of course, Mr.
Renwick, Miss Minnely would not have _asked_ you—but—as you have
volunteered—in your cordial willingness—_that_ affords her an
opportunity—for the suggestion. But, Mr. Renwick, if you do not _like_
the idea—then Miss Minnely would not wish—to pursue the suggestion
further.” A child glad to have repeated its lesson correctly could not
have looked more ingenuous.

In her fair countenance, open as a daybook, Renwick could detect no
guile. Her tone and figure suggested curiously some flatness, as of the
Paper Patterns of her Department. But through this mild deputy Miss
Minnely must, he conceived, be deriding him. With what subtlety the
messenger had been chosen! It seemed at once necessary and impossible
to explain his placard to one so guiltless of humour.

“I hoped it might be understood that I did not intend that placard to be
taken literally, Miss Heartly.”

“Not literally!” she seemed bewildered.

“To be pointed at as ’a first class general purpose editor’ is rather
too much, don’t you think?”

“I know, Mr. Renwick,” she spoke sympathetically. “It sort of got onto
your humility, I presume. But Miss Minnely thinks you _are_ first
class, or she would never have instructed Mr. Durley to _say_ first
class. That is cordial to you, and good business—to impress the
visitors, I mean.”

“Miss Minnely is very appreciative and kind. But the point is that I did
not engage to be exhibited to flocks of gobemouches.”

Miss Heartly pondered the term. “Please, Mr. Renwick, what are
gobemouches?”

“I should have said The Plain People.”

“Perhaps there have been rude ones—not subscribers,” she said anxiously.

“No, all have acted as if reared on ’The Blessing.’”

She sighed in relief—then exclaimed in consternation:—”Can Mr. Durley
have been—_rude_?” She hesitated to pronounce the dire word.

“Not at all, Miss Heartly. I do not blame Mr. Durley for exhibiting us
as gorillas.”

“But how _wrong_.” There was dismay in her tone. “Miss Minnely has
warned him against the least bit of deception.”

“Oh, please, Miss Heartly—I was speaking figuratively.”

Her fair brow slightly wrinkled, her fingers went nervously to her
anxious lips, she looked perplexed;—”Figuratively! If you would kindly
explain, Mr. Renwick. I am not very literary.”

“Do the ladies of the Paper Patterns Department _like_ to be exhibited?”
he ventured.

“Well, I could not exactly be warranted to say ’like’—Scripture has such
warnings against the sinfulness of vanity. But we are, of course,
cordially pleased to see visitors—it is so good for the Subscription
Department.”

“I see. And it is not hard on you individually. There you are, a great
roomful of beautiful, dutiful, cordial young ladies. You keep one
another in countenance. But what if you were shown each in a separate
cage?”

Her face brightened. “Oh, now I understand, Mr. Renwick! You mean it
would be nicer for the Editors, too, to be seen all together.”

Renwick sighed hopelessly. She spoke on decisively: “That may be a
valuable suggestion, Mr. Renwick.” On her pad she began pencilling
shorthand. “Of course I will credit you with it. Perhaps you do not
know that Miss Minnely always pays well for valuable suggestions.” She
wrote intently, murmuring: “But is it practicable? Let me think. Why,
surely practicable! But Miss Minnely will decide. All partitions on
the Editorial Flat could be removed! Make it cool as Prize Package or
Financial Department!” She looked up from her paper, glowing with
enterprise, and pointed her pencil straight at Renwick. “And so
impressive!” She swept the pencil in a broad half circle, seeing her
picture. “Thirty Editors visible at one comprehensive glance! All so
literary, and busy, and intelligent, and cordial! Fine! I take the
liberty, temporarily, of calling that a first-class suggestion, Mr.
Renwick. It may be worth hundreds to you, if Miss Minnely values it. It
may be forcibly felt in the Subscription List—if Miss Minnely approves.
It may help to hold many subscribers who try to get away after the first
year. I feel almost sure Miss Minnely will approve. I am so glad. I
thought something important was going to come when Miss Minnely
considered your placard so carefully.”

“But some of the other Editors may not wish to be exhibited with the
whole collection,” said Renwick gravely. “For instance, consider Mr.
Cummins’ literary rank. Would it gratify him to be shown as a mere unit
among Editors of lesser distinction?”

“You are most fore-thoughtful on every point, Mr. Renwick. That is so
_fine_. But Mr. Cummins is also most devoted. I feel sure he would
cordially yield, if Miss Minnely approved. I presume you will wish me
to tell her that you are grateful for her kind message?”

“Cordially grateful seems more fitting. Miss Heartly—and I
am—especially for her choice of a deputy.”

“Thank you, Mr. Renwick. I will tell her that, too. And may I say that
you will be pleased to adopt her suggestion that you discourse a little
to visitors, pending possible changes in this Flat, instead of just
coming forward and turning around. Literary men are so
clever—and—ready.” He fleetingly suspected her of derision.

“Please say that I will reflect on Miss Minnely’s suggestion with an
anxious wish to emulate, so far as my fallen nature will permit, Miss
Heartly’s beautiful devotion to ’The Blessing’s’ interests.”

“Oh, thank you again, so much, Mr. Renwick.” And the fair Priestess of
Business bowed graciously in good bye.

*III*

Renwick sat dazed. From his earliest acquaintance with “The Family
Blessing” he had thought of its famous Editress and Sole Proprietress as
one “working a graft” on the Plain People by consummate sense of the
commercial value of cordial cant. Now he had to conceive of her as
perfectly ingenuous. Had she really taken his placard as one written in
good faith? He remembered its sentences clearly:

“When the editor in this compartment is to be exhibited, please notify
him by knocking on this door before opening it. He will then rise from
his sitting posture, come forward for inspection, and turn slowly around
three times if a school teacher, a mother, or a minister of the Gospel
be among the visiting subscribers.”

Miss Minnely took that for sincere! Renwick began to regard “The
Blessing” as an emanation of a soul so simple as to be incapable of
recognizing the diabolic element, derision. He was conceiving a
tenderness for the honesty which could read his placard as one of
sincerity. How blessed must be hearts innocent of mockery! Why should
he not gratify them by discoursing to visiting subscribers? The idea
tickled his fancy. At least he might amuse himself by writing what
would edify Durley’s parties if delivered with gravity. He might make
material of some of Miss Minnely’s voluminous letters of instruction to
himself. From his pigeon-hole he drew that file, inspected it rapidly,
laughed, and culled as he wrote.

Twenty minutes later he was chuckling over the effusion, after having
once read its solemnities aloud to himself.

“Hang me if I don’t try it on Durley’s next party!” he was telling
himself, when pencil tickings, like small woodpecker tappings, came
again on his outer door. “Miss Heartly back! I will treat her to it!”
and he opened the door, discourse in hand.

There stood the wide, wise-eyed, placid, gray-clad lady!

“I am Miss Minnely, Mr. Renwick. Very pleased to introduce myself to a
gentleman whose suggestion has pleased me deeply.” Her wooly voice was
as if steeped in a syrup of cordial powers. Suddenly he knew she had
reminded him of Miss Pue’s gigantic bronze Beneficence.

“Thank you, Miss Minnely. I feel truly honoured.” Renwick, with some
concealed trepidation, bowed her to his revolving chair.

“Mr. Renwick.” She disposed her amplitude comfortably; then streamed on
genially and authoritatively, “You may be gratified to learn that I was
pleased—on the whole—by your cordial demeanour while—er—revolving—not
long ago—on the occasion of Mr. Durley’s last visiting party. Only—you
will permit me to say this in all kindness—I did not regard the—the
display of—er—form—as precisely _adapted_. Otherwise your appearance,
tone, and manner were eminently suitable—indeed such as mark you
strongly, Mr. Renwick, as conforming—almost—to my highest ideal for the
conduct of Editors of ’The Blessing.’ Consequently I deputed Miss
Heartly—with a suggestion. She has informed me of your cordial
willingness, Mr. Renwick—hence I am here to thank you again—and
instruct. Your short discourse to visitors will—let me explain—not only
edify, but have the effect of, as it were, obviating any necessity for
the—er—revolving—and the display of—er—form. Now, you are doubtless
aware that I invariably edit, so to speak, every single thing done on
behalf of our precious ’Family Blessing.’ For due performance of that
paramount duty I must give account hereafter. My peculiar gift is
Taste—you will understand that I mention this fact with no more personal
vanity that if I mentioned that I have a voice, hands, teeth, or any
other endowment from my Creator—_our_ Creator, in fact. Taste—true
sense of what our subscribers like on their _higher_ plane. My great
gift must be entitled to direct what we say to visitors, just as it
directs what ’The Blessing’ publishes on its story pages, its editorial
columns, its advertisements, letter heads, everything of every kind done
in ’The Blessing’s’ name. I am thorough. And so, Mr. Renwick, I desire
to hear your discourse beforehand. What? You have already prepared it?
Excellent! Promptitude—there are few greater business virtues! We will
immediately use your draft as a basis for further consultation.”

So imposing was her amiable demeanour that Renwick had no wish but to
comply. He glanced over what he had written, feeling now sure that its
mock gravity would seem nowise sardonic to Miss Minnely.

“In preparing these few words,” he remarked, “I have borrowed liberally
from your notes of instruction to me, Miss Minnely.”

“Very judicious. Pray give me the pleasure.”

He tendered the draft.

“But no, please _deliver_ it.” She put away the paper. “Suppose me to
be a party of our de-ar visiting subscribers. I will stand here, you
there. Now do not hesitate to be audible, Mr. Renwick.” She beamed as
a Brobdignagian child at a new game.

Renwick, quick to all humours, took position, and began with unction:
“Dear friends, dear visitors——”

She interrupted amiably:—”De-ar friends, de-ar visitors. Make two
syllables of the de-ar. The lingering is cordial in effect. I have
observed that carefully—de-ar softens hearts. Dwell on the
word—dee-ar—thus you will cause a sense of affectionate regard to cling
to visitors’ memories of ’The Blessing’s’ editorial staff. You
understand, Mr. Renwick?”

He began again: “De-ar friends, de-ar visitors, de-ar mothers, de-ar
teachers,” but again she gently expostulated, holding up a fat hand to
stop his voice.

“Please, Mr. Renwick—no, I think not—it might seem invidious to
discriminate by specifying some before others. All alike are our de-ar
friends and visitors.”

“De-ar friends, de-ar visitors,” Renwick corrected his paper, “I cannot
hope to express adequately to you my feelings of delight in being
introduced to your notice as a first class general purpose editor, and
eminent authority on——”

She graciously interposed:—”It might be well to pencil _this_ in, Mr.
Renwick, ’introduced to you by our de-ar colleague, Mr. Durley, the most
experienced of our guides to the “Family Blessing” Building, as general
purpose editor, etc.’ That would impress, as hinting at our corps of
guides, besides uplifting the rank of our valued colleague, Mr. Durley,
and by consequence ’The Blessing,’ through the respectful mention made
of one of our more humble employees. Elevate the lowly, and you elevate
all the superior classes—that is a sound American maxim. In business it
is by such fine attention to detail that hearts and therefore
subscribers are won. But, Mr. Renwick, _nothing_ could be better than
your ’I cannot hope to express adequately my feelings of delight,’
etc.—that signifies cordial emotion—it is very good business, indeed.”

Sincerity was unclouded in her gaze. He pencilled in her amendment, and
read on:—”and eminent authority on water amusements of a character to
build up character in first-class respectable American families.”

“Very good—I drilled Mr. Durley in that,” she put in complacently.

“Dear friends,” he resumed.

“De-ar,” she reminded him.

“De-ar friends, you may naturally desire to be informed of the nature of
the duties of a general purpose editor, therefore——”

“Let me suggest again, Mr. Renwick. Better say ’Dear friends, closely
associated with “The Family Blessing,” as all must feel who share the
privilege of maintaining it, you will naturally desire to be informed,’
etc. Don’t you agree, Mr. Renwick? It is well to neglect no
opportunity for deepening the sense of our de-ar subscribers that the
’Blessing’ is a privilege to their households. I do everything possible
to make our beloved ones feel that they own ’The Blessing,’ as in the
highest sense they do. They like that. It is remunerative, also.”

Renwick jotted in the improvement, and read on: “A general purpose
editor of ’The Blessing’ is simply one charged with promoting the
general purpose of ’The Blessing.’ To explain what that is I cannot do
better than employ the words of the Sole Proprietress, Miss Minnely
herself, and——.”

The lady suggested, “_I cannot do so well as to employ the words of_—it
is always effective to speak most respectfully of the absent
Proprietress—that touches their imagination favourably. It is good
business.”

“I appreciate it, Miss Minnely. And now I venture to adapt, _verbatim_,
parts of your notes to me.”

“It was forethoughtful to preserve them, Mr. Renwick. I am cordially
pleased.”

He read on more oratorically:—”De-ar friends, ’The Blessing’ has a
Mission, and to fulfil that Mission it must, first of all, entertain its
subscribers on their _higher plane_. This cannot be done by stimulating
in them any latent taste for coarse and inelegant laughter, but by
furnishing entertainingly the wholesome food from which mental pabulum
is absorbed and mental growth accomplished.”

“Excellent! My very own words.”

“The varieties of this entertaining pabulum must be _conscientiously_
prepared, and administered in small quantities so that each can be
assimilated unconsciously by Youth and Age without mental mastication.
Mind is not Character, and——”

“How true. Character-building publications must never be addressed to
mere _Mind_.”

“The uplifting of the Mind, or Intellect,” Renwick read on, “is not the
general purpose of ’The Family Blessing.’ It is by the Literature of
the Heart that Character is uplifted. Therefore a general purpose editor
of ’The Blessing’ must ever seek to maintain and to present the _truly
cordial_. That is what most widely attracts and pleases all these
sections of the great American people who are uncorrupted by worldly and
literary associations which tend to canker the Soul with cynicism.”

“I remember my glow of heart in writing those inspiring, blessed, and
inspired words!” she exclaimed. “Moreover, they are true. Now, I think
that is about enough, Mr. Renwick. Visitors should never be too long
detained by a single attraction. Let me advise you to memorize the
discourse carefully. It is cordial. It is impressive. It is
informative of ’The Blessing’s’ ideal. It utters my own thoughts in my
own language. It is admirably adapted to hold former subscribers, and
to confirm new. All is well.” She pondered silently a few moments.
“Now, Mr. Renwick, I would be strictly just. The fact that an editor,
and one of those not long gathered to our happy company, has suggested
and devoted himself to this novel attraction, will have noblest effect
in rousing our colleagues of every Department to emulative exertion.
Once more, I thank you cordially. But the Sole Proprietress of the
remunerative ’Blessing’ holds her place in trust for all colleagues, and
she is not disposed to retire with mere thanks to one who has identified
himself so effectually with her and its ideals. Mr. Renwick, your
honorarium—your weekly pay envelope,” again she paused reflectively, “it
will hereafter rank you with our very valued colleague, Mr. Caliphas C.
Cummins himself! No—no-no, Mr. Renwick—do not thank me—thank your happy
inspiration—thank your cordial devotion—thank your Taste—thank your
natural, innate identification, in high ideals, with me and ’The Family
Blessing.’ As for me—it is for me to thank you—and I do so, again,
cordially, cordially, cordially!” She beamed, the broad embodiment of
Beneficence, in going out of the room.

Renwick long stared, as one dazed, at the story of “The Converted
Ringmaster.” It related in minute detail the sudden reformation of that
sinful official. The account of his rapid change seemed no longer
improbable nor mawkish. Any revolution in any mind might occur, since
his own had been so swiftly hypnotized into sympathy with Miss Minnely
and her emanation “The Blessing.” How generous she was! Grateful mist
was in his eyes, emotion for the safety of the widows and the orphan
whose bread he must win.

Yet the derisive demon which sat always close to his too sophisticated
heart was already gibing him afresh:—”You stand engaged,” it sneered,
“as assistant ringmaster to Durley’s exhibition of yourself!”

New perception of Miss Minnely and Miss Heartly rose in his mind. Could
mortal women be really as simple as those two ladies had seemed? Might
it not be they had managed him with an irony as profound as the
ingenuousness they had appeared to evince?