« PrejšnjaNaprej »
"Publishing the article will be as likely as anything to bring out the author," suggested James.
"That is so; and the sooner it is published the better," remarked one of the company approvingly.
Much more was said in praise of the article. The names of several prominent citizens of Boston were mentioned as the possible author. James himself named one or two, who were Boston's most intelligent and influential citizens, as the possible author.
All approved the insertion of the article in the next issue of the paper, much to the satisfaction of Benjamin, who was the most deeply interested party in the office. He scarcely knew how to act in regard to the article, whether to father it at once, or still conceal its parentage. On the whole, however, he decided to withhold its authorship for the present, and try his hand again in the same way.
The reader may judge of Benjamin's emotions when he came to put his own article in type for the paper. It was almost too good to be real. Fact was even stranger than fiction to him. In the outset he dreamed that somehow and sometime the columns of the Courant might contain a contribution of his own; and here he was setting up his first article with the approval of James and the whole "knot of liberals." This was more than he bargained for; and his heart never came so near beating through his jacket as then. Never was a printer-boy so happy before. He was happy all over and all through-a lump of happiness. Not one boy in a hundred could have managed to keep the secret as he did, in the circumstances. Their countenances would have exposed it on the spot. But Benjamin possessed his soul in patience, and carried out his ruse admirably.
The issue containing Benjamin's article appeared on time, and was greatly praised. "Who is 'Silence Dogood'?" was the most common inquiry. "I wonder who 'Silence Dogood' can be," was a frequent remark, showing that
the article attracted much attention. Benjamin wondered as much as any of them. "A queer signature to put to an article," he said. "What in the world could suggest such a nom de plume to a writer?" He enjoyed his ruse more and more; it became the choicest fun of his life. It was so crammed with felicity that he resolved to continue it by writing more articles as well-chosen and good.
He was able to prepare a better article for the second one, because he brought to its preparation the enthusiasm and encouragement awakened by the favourable reception. of the first. Besides, the many remarks he had heard about it gave him points for another communication, so as to make it sharper, better adapted to the times, and hence more. timely. Within a short time, the second article was slipped under the door at night for James to pick up in the morning.
"Another article from 'Silence Dogood,'" exclaimed James, as he opened it and read the signature.
"I thought we should hear from that writer again," was all the remark that Benjamin vouchsafed.
"A good subject!" added James, as he read the caption. I will read it," and he proceeded to read the article to Benjamin.
The latter listened with attention that was somewhat divided between the excellent reception the article was having and the grand success of his ruse.
"Better even than the first article," remarked James after having read it. "We must not rest until we find out who the author is. It is somebody of note."
The second article was submitted to the "knot of liberals" the same as the first one, and all approved it highly.
"It is sharper than the first one, and hits the nail on the head every time," said one of the number. "Dogood' is a good name for such a writer."
"And we shall have more of them, no doubt," suggested
James; "it is quite evident that the writer means to keep
"I hope he will; such articles will call attention to the paper, and that is what we want," added another.
"In the meantime, let us find out if possible who the writer is," suggested still another. "It will be a help to the paper to have it known who is the author if it is one of the scholars."
Charles Dickens was a poorer boy than Benjamin ever was, knowing what it was to go to bed hungry and cold; but his young heart aspired after a nobler life, and, while yet a boy, he wrote an article for the press, disclosing the fact not even to his mother, and then, on a dark night, he dropped it "into a dark letter-box, in a dark office, up a dark court in Fleet Street." His joy was too great for utterance when he saw it in print. It was the beginning of a career as a writer unparalleled in English or American history. And he told the secret of it when he wrote, "While other boys played, I read 'Roderick Random,' 'Tom Jones,' the Vicar of Wakefield,' ' Don Quixote,' ' Gil Blas,' and other books. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time."
Benjamin heard all that was said, and still kept his secret. It would not have been strange if his vanity had been inflated by these complimentary remarks. Ordinary humanity could scarcely be exposed to so high praise without taking on a new sense of its importance. But Benjamin kept down his pride, and his heart continued to abide under his jacket though it beat mightily. Was it any wonder?
Without stopping to narrate details, it is sufficient to say that Benjamin wrote several articles, and sent them forward to James under the door; and they were all pronounced good by James and his friends. He began to think that it was almost time to let out the secret. James was fairly committed to the excellence of all the articles, and so were the other critics. This was important to the success of
Benjamin's plan. He had feared, as he had continued industriously to set up type, that a disclosure would knock all his plans into " pie"; but he had no fears now. But how should he disclose? That was the question. It was not long, however, before the question was settled. His brother made some remark about the last article slipped under the door, and wondered that the author had not become known.
"I know who the author is," said Benjamin under such a degree of excitement as even an older person would experience on the eve of an important revelation.
"You know!" exclaimed James in great surprise.
you know, why have you not disclosed it before?"
Because I thought it was not wise. It is not best to tell all we know always."
66 But you have heard us discuss this matter over and over, and take measures to discover the author, and yet you have never intimated that you knew anything about it.”
"Well, the author did not wish to be known until the right time came, and that is a good reason for keeping the matter a secret, I think."
"Will you tell who the author is now?" asked James, impatient to obtain the long-sought information.
"Perhaps I will if you are very anxious to know."
"Of course I am, and everyone else who is interested in the paper."
That was the crisis to James. We can scarcely conceive of its interest to the boy-writer. His time of triumph had come. James had not treated him very well, and we think he enjoyed that moment of victory a little more for that reason. That would have been human, and Benjamin was human. His ruse had proved successful, and his talents, too. Now he could startle his brother as much as would a thunder-bolt out of a clear sky. So he answered his inquiry by saying,—
"Benjamin Franklin ;" and he said it with emphasis and an air of triumph.
If James' countenance could have been photographed at that moment, it would have shown a mixture of amazement, incredulity, and wonder. It was several moments before he so far recovered from the shock as to be able to speak.
"What! Do you mean to say that you wrote those articles?" Benjamin might have discovered some doubt in James' tone and appearance when he spoke.
"Certainly I do."
"But it is not your handwriting."
It is my handwriting disguised. I wasn't fool enough to let you have the articles in my own handwriting without disguise, when I wished to conceal the authorship."
"What could possibly be your object in doing so?" "That the articles might be fairly examined. If I had proposed to write an article for your paper, you would have said that I, a printer-boy, could write nothing worthy of print."
But if I had seen and read the articles, knowing them to be yours, I should have judged them fairly," James insisted, evidently feeling somewhat hurt by his brother's last remark. Nevertheless, Benjamin was right. It is probable that his articles would have been rejected, had he offered them in his own name to the critics.
"Well, that was my plan, and the articles have had a fair show, and I am satisfied, whether you are or not," was Benjamin's reply in an independent spirit.
Here the conversation dropped. James bestowed no words of commendation upon his brother's ability. Perhaps he thought that he had praised the articles enough when he did not know who the author was. But he appeared to be
abstracted in thought until some of
the "knot of liberals"
"I have discovered who 'Silence Dogood' is," he said. "You have? Who can it be?" and the speaker was very much surprised.
"No one that you have dreamed of."