We left Lotus Stone and his friend dreaming sweet dreams on the bosom of the lake. In due time the next morning they reached Minton; Clement to look after his paper and Lotus to drift about for a few weeks in the further enjoyment of his vacation. Clement settled down to his work all the better for the few days' recreation he had taken. As we have said in a previous chapter, Clement entered the office of one of the great dailies in Minton soon after he had left school. He entered under the ban of a vigorous protest from men and boys, as poor and decidedly less prepared for the work in which they were engaged as he. For many months his life in that office was one continued day of martyrdom. No imposition was too groveling, no practical joke too severe to play upon this courageous boy. All that littleness of heart could contrive or meanness of soul could execute, was placed in the path of this honest lad, striving under difficult circumstances to win his daily bread. In the teeth of every discouragement, he succeeded in gaining the confidence of his employers, and, in time, the good will of those who at first so bitterly opposed him. Courage of the right kind seldom fails to win its way. There are some spirits that no disadvantage can daunt and to whom opposition is worse than useless. The errand boy who met the favor of his employer, gradually worked himself up to typesetter, despite protest after protest from the narrow and biased Union. The typesetter's wit and pleasant manners earned for him a position on the reportorial staff. Time and diligence finally associated his pungent paragraphs with the editorial page of the paper. For years he wrote the comments accredited to the editor. Being thoroughly acquainted with the newspaper business, he determined to set up for himself.
He did not leave the office in which he worked, however, but bought type, set up his paper at odd times, and had it printed on the Daily's press. His paper, "The Events," was from the beginning a free lance in the newspaper arena. He was slave to no party, and therefore did not spare the meanness and cupidity of either of them. In time his bristling fulminations attracted the attention and criticism of the great daily from whose press his paper was issued. The editor of the before-mentioned daily objected to the vigorous style of Clement's paper and advised him to be more conservative. But the little paper continued to attack the hateful attitude of the demagogues who ruled in both political parties, with the same trenchant force. A rupture between Clement and the proprietor of the daily necessarily followed. The paper dispensed with the services of Mr. St. John, and, of course, their press ceased to send forth his paper. For a few weeks, Mr. St. John could have been seen carrying his forms from one place to another, in constant danger of having an entire edition pied. But courage and perseverance won the day. Clement was at last successful in exciting the interest of a number of friends in his venture, and the result was an electric plant and press of sufficient capacity to answer all the ends of his paper, and also to attach a job office to his business. The demand for the paper grew; those of the race who had first discouraged the enterprise came to its support when their help was no longer absolutely necessary to its success.
It is indeed a lamentable fact that the best educated and most able Afro-Americans find themselves possessed with a rare conservatism when any race enterprise bids for their support. It may arise from the belief that anything founded upon a strictly race basis is unAmerican and therefore trends toward isolation. The Afro-American press has done, and is destined to continue to do, great good for the people whose cause it advocates. Any independent venture, however short of our ideals, is a manly demonstration of an instinctive wish to rise. Under the management of Clement St. John, "The Events," was newsy and ably edited. It did not bid for distinction by catering to the native jealousy of the race. It recognized the common needs of all and manfully fought for them. While it did not fondle upon the rich, haughty and powerful, it also refused to incite against them the distrust of the ignorant and less fortunate. While the paper sought to commend the good, it did not scruple to attack the evil. A friend and believer in Christianity, the editor despised the shams and ignorant practices which have been interpolated into the church by half-hearted ministers, more desirous of a name for themselves than zealous for the purity of the church of God. "The Events" castigated pagan marches and spectacular side shows as disastrous to the spiritual growth of Christianity. The outspoken opinions of the paper made its career for a time one of uncertainty. Its refusal to fill its columns with uninteresting personals curtailed its popular sales. The personal happenings of general interest "The Events" willingly chronicled, but printer's ink was not wasted in glorifying every "dude" who bought a street car ticket from one ward of the city to another. The opinions of the editor met a varied reception. Now an Afro-American convention is lauding the editor to a place among the benefactors of mankind; now some influential minister is damning every stream of the paper's circulation; now a Grand Lodge is making it the spokesman of the Order; now a coterie of wounded politicians are advocating its suppression. In the midst of all these eulogies and animadversions, Mr. St. John steadily pursued his course. Little he recked with what direction the cat of public opinion jumped, for he knew full well that through all the changes public sentiment might pass, the right in the end would prevail. His methods savored more of reformation than sensation. If he ridiculed some breach of common sense suicidal to party success, if he impaled with burning sarcasm some pagan practice in the Christian church, if he expressed his utter contempt for the course of some political shyster, if he disconcerted some social heresy, through it all the intelligent reader saw the interest of the reformer rather than the spleen of the egotist. The progress of such a paper would necessarily be slow. Mr. St. John was not unaware that every step upward must be a measure one. On the whole, he preferred the solid march of merit to the wind-blown inflation that burst after a six weeks' voyage. The bounds of "The Events" had been carefully set. The editor knew that if he lived his paper must live too, for worth alone can stand the test of time. As the paper broadened in usefulness and deepened in solidity, its sunshine friends, who bought a copy every fortnight and claimed for that support a half a column to spread airy nothings, as uninteresting as silly, noticeably fell away. The influence of the paper at last began to be felt and its admonitions heeded. Its editorials had united the race and brought a prejudiced candidate for Congress to his senses by first cutting him to death at the polls. Politicians learned to fear the "mad frothings" of "The Events," as they had formerly styled Clement's editorials. The paper was not only working out political reforms, but assisting the race in other ways. In time it added to its job office a book bindery; in its columns it welcomed meritorious poems from the rising literati of the race. The patent story now and then gave place to some tale written by an Afro-American. To do this the paper at first lost money, although the story writers and poets gained nothing but publicity by their efforts. Clement knew that the readers of stories and poems were numbered by the millions. These millions hungering for literary food or literary recreation must have their wants supplied. Could not this hoard of constant readers be at least partially supplied by the men and women of their own race? Is not a race literature just as necessary as a race church, club or school? He believed the probability worth acting upon and was therefore willing to give it a trial. All of this was within the bounds, Clement St. John had set for "The Events." At work, this man of unconquerable determination was thoroughly in earnest, but when he left the office and gave himself to his friends, he was amiable, jovial and companionable. He hardly knew Lucile Malone before the editor of "The Events" was the saucy little stenographer's slave. Nor did he waste time nor words in making her acquainted with the wishes of his heart. He saw in Lucile what he wanted in a wife—an actual helpmate. Lucile was taken aback at his proposal and could hardly believe that this acknowledged "prince of wits" was sincere in his attention to a penniless typewriter. Clement was unceasing in his suit. Her hesitancy only added fuel to the flame. His constancy finally won her consent.
The paper on a safe basis, Clement believed he could afford a wife. Lucile prevailed upon him, however, to make her one of the force in his office and thus she would still be able to earn her salary. He was in a mood to promise anything, if consenting would accelerate the desire of his heart.
So in the month of July, before the Conclave, they had decided to be quietly married when the leaves had fallen and the trees were cold and bare.
Chapter 11 -- Chapter 13