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Dawn O'Hara Edna Ferber

Blackie's Philosophy

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Then I tried to make Blackie more real to Norah who, in all her sheltered life, had never come in contact with a man like this.

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" . . . As for his morals--or what you would consider his morals, Sis--they probably are a deep crimson; but I'll swear there is no yellow streak. I never have heard anything more pathetic than his story. Blackie sold papers on a down-town corner when he was a baby six years old. Then he got a job as office boy here, and he used to sharpen pencils, and run errands, and carry copy. After office hours he took care of some horses in an alley barn near by, and after that work was done he was employed about the pressroom of one of the old German newspaper offices. Sometimes he would be too weary to crawl home after working half the night, and so he would fall asleep, a worn, tragic little figure, on a pile of old papers and sacks in a warm corner near the presses. He was the head of a household, and every penny counted. And all the time he was watching things, and learning. Nothing escaped those keen black eyes. He used to help the photographer when there was a pile of plates to develop, and presently he knew more about photography than the man himself. So they made him staff photographer. In some marvelous way he knew more ball players, and fighters and horsemen than the sporting editor. He had a nose for news that was nothing short of wonderful. He never went out of the office without coming back with a story. They used to use him in the sporting department when a rush was on. Then he became one of the sporting staff; then assistant sporting editor; then sporting editor. He knows this paper from the basement up. He could operate a linotype or act as managing editor with equal ease.

"No, I'm afraid that Blackie hasn't had much time for morals. But, Norah dear, I wish that you could hear him when he talks about his mother. He may follow doubtful paths, and associate with questionable people, and wear restless clothes, but I wouldn't exchange his friendship for that of a dozen of your ordinary so-called good men. All these years of work and suffering have made an old man of little Blackie, although he is young in years. But they haven't spoiled his heart any. He is able to distinguish between sham and truth because he has been obliged to do it ever since he was a child selling papers on the corner. But he still clings to the office that gave him his start, although he makes more money in a single week outside the office than his salary would amount to in half a year. He says that this is a job that does not interfere with his work."

Such is Blackie. Surely the oddest friend a woman ever had. He possesses a genius for friendship, and a wonderful understanding of suffering, born of those years of hardship and privation. Each learned the other's story, bit by bit, in a series of confidences exchanged during that peaceful, beatific period that follows just after the last edition has gone down. Blackie's little cubby-hole of an office is always blue with smoke, and cluttered with a thousand odds and ends--photographs, souvenirs, boxing-gloves, a litter of pipes and tobacco, a wardrobe of dust-covered discarded coats and hats, and Blackie in the midst of it all, sunk in the depths of his swivel chair, and looking like an amiable brown gnome, or a cheerful little joss-house god come to life. There is in him an uncanny wisdom which only the streets can teach. He is one of those born newspaper men who could not live out of sight of the ticker-tape, and the copy-hook and the proof-sheet.

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Dawn O'Hara
Edna Ferber

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