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public sentiment that will make such reporting disreputable? All my life I have tried to do so, and, in spite of the evidence of yellow journalism to the contrary, I think we are coming nearer to that ideal; in other words, we are emerging from savagery. Striving madly for each other's scalps as we were, I do not think that we scalped any one else unjustly. I know I did not. They were not particularly scrupulous, I am bound to say. In their rage and mortification at having underestimated the enemy, they did things unworthy of men and of reporters. They stole my slips in the telegraph office and substituted others that sent me off on a wild-goose chase to the farthest river wards in the midnight hour, thinking so to tire But they did it once too often. I happened on a very important case on such a trip, and made the most of it, telegraphing down a column or more about it from the office, while the enemy watched me helplessly from the headquarters stoop across the way. When the report came in from the precinct at 2 A.M., it was too late for their papers, for there were no telephones in those days. I had the only telegraph wire. After that they gave up such tricks, and the "Tribune' saved
many cab fares at night; for there were no elevated railroads, either, in those days, or electric or cable cars.
On the other hand, this enterprise of ours was often of the highest service to the public. When, for instance, in following up a case of destitution and illness involving a whole family, I, tracing back the origin of it, came upon a party at which ham sandwiches had been the bill of fare, and upon looking up the guests found seventeen of the twenty-five sick with identical symptoms, it required no medical knowledge, but merely the ordinary information and training of the reporter, to diagnose trichinosis. The seventeen had half a dozen different doctors, who, knowing nothing of party or ham, were helpless and saw only cases of rheumatism or such like. I called as many of them as I could reach together that night, introduced them to one another and to my facts, and asked them what they thought then. What they thought made a sensation in my paper the next morning, and practically decided the fight, though the enemy was able to spoil my relish for the ham by reporting the poisoning of a whole family with a dish of depraved smelt while I was chasing up the trichinæ. However, I had
MY OFFICE AT THE "TRIBUNE" POLICE BUREAU IN MULBERRY STREET
my revenge. I walked in that afternoon upon Dr. Cyrus Edson at his microscope surrounded by my adversaries, who besought him to deny my story. The doctor looked quizzically at them and made reply:
"I would like to oblige you, boys, but how I can do it with those fellows squirming under the microscope I don't see. I took them from the flesh of one of the patients who was sent to Trinity Hospital to-day. Look at them yourself."
He winked at me, and, peering into his microscope, I saw my diagnosis more than confirmed. There were thousands of the little beasts curled up and burrowing in the speck of tissue. The unhappy patient died that week.
I might fill many pages with such stories, but I shall not attempt it. Do they seem mean and trifling in the retrospect? Not at all. They were my work, and I liked it. Besides, I got a good deal of fun out of it from time to time. I mind Dr. Bryant's parrot story. Dr. Joseph D. Bryant was Health Commissioner at the time, and though we rarely agreed about anything-there is something curious about that, that the men I have thought most of were quite often those with whom I disagreed ordinarily about everything-I can say truly that there have been few better Health Com
missioners, and none for whom I have had a more hearty respect and liking. Dr. Bryant especially hated reporters. He was built that way; he disliked notoriety for himself and his friends, and therefore, when one of these complained of a neighbor's parrot to the Health Department, he gave strict orders that the story was to be guarded from the reporters, and particularly from me, who had grieved him more than once by publishing things which, in his opinion, I ought to have said nothing about. I heard of it within the hour, and promptly set my wit against the Doctor's to unearth the parrot.
But it would not come out. Dig as I might, I could not get at it. I tried every way, while the Doctor laughed in his sleeve and beamed upon me. At last, in desperation, I hit upon a bold plan. I would get it out of the Doctor himself. I knew his hours for coming to Sanitary Headquarters from his clinics, I suppose.
He always came up the stairs absorbed in thought, noticing nothing that passed. I waylaid him in the turn of the dark hall, and before he had time to think plumped at him an
"Oh, Doctor! about that parrot of your friend-er-er, oh! what was his name?"
"Alley," said the Doctor, mechanically, and went in, only half hearing what I said. I made for the city directory.
The Doctor was very angry. He went to Headquarters and summoned me solemnly before the assembled Board. The time had come, he said, to have an explanation from me as to who it was that gave me information against orders and the public interest. Evidently there was traitor in camp, by whatever means I had procured his treachery.
In vain did I try to show the Doctor how unprofessional my conduct would be in betraying my informant, even how contemptible. He was inexorable. This time I should not escape, nor my accomplice either. Out with it, and at once. With a show of regretful resignation, I gave in. For once I would break my rule and “tell on" my informant. I thought I detected a slight sneer on the Doctor's lip as he said that was well; for he was a gentleman, every inch of him, and I know he hated me for telling. The other Commissioners looked grave.
"Well, then," I said, "the man who gave me the parrot story was-you, Dr. Bryant."
The Doctor sat bolt upright with a jerk. "No bad jokes, Mr. Riis," he said. "Who gave you the story?"
Why, you did. Don't you remember?" And I told how I waylaid him in the hall. His face, as the narrative ran on, was a study. Anger, mirth, offended pride, struggled there; but the humor of the thing got the upper hand in the end, and the one who laughed loudest in the Board room was Dr. Bryant himself. In my soul I believe that he was not a little relieved, for under a manner of much sternness he had the tenderest of hearts.
But it was not always I who came out ahead in the daily encounters which made up the routine of my day. It was an important part of my task to be on such terms with the heads of departments that they would talk freely to us so that we might know in any given case, or with reference to the policy of the department, "where we were at." I do not mean talk for publication. It is a common mistake of people who know nothing about the newspaper profession that reporters flit about public men like so many hawks, seizing upon what they can
find to publish as their lawful prey. No doubt there are such guerrillas, and they have occasionally more than justified their existence; but, as applied to the staff reporters of a great newspaper, nothing could be further from the truth. The department reporter has his field as carefully laid out for him every day as any physician who starts out on his route, and within that field, if he is the right sort of man, he is friend, companion, and often counselor to the officials with whom he comes in contact-always supposing that he is not fighting them in open war. He may serve a Republican paper and the President of the Police Board may be a Democrat of Democrats; yet in the privacy of his office he will talk as freely to the reporter as if he were his most intimate party friend, knowing that he will not publish what is said in confidence. This is the reporter's capital, without which he cannot in the long run do business.
I presume he is sometimes tempted to gamble with it for a stake. I remember well when the temptation came to me once after a quiet hour with Police Commissioner Matthews, who had been telling me the inside history of an affair which just then was setting the whole town by the ears. I told him that I thought I should have to print it; it was too good to keep. No, it wouldn't do, he said. I knew well enough he was right, but I insisted; the chance was too good a one to miss. Mr. Matthews shook his head. He was an invalid, and was taking his daily treatment with an electrical battery while we talked and smoked. He warned me laughingly against the consequences of what I proposed to do, and changed the subject.
"Ever try these?" he said, giving me the handles. I took them, unsuspecting, and felt the current tingle in my fingertips. The next instant it gripped me like a vise. I squirmed with pain.
"Stop!" I yelled, and tried to throw the things away; but my hands crooked themselves about them like a bird's claws and held them fast. They would not let go. I looked at the Commissioner. was studying the battery leisurely, and slowly pulling out the plug that increased the current.
"For mercy's sake, stop!" I called to him. He looked up inquiringly.
"About that interview, now," he
drawled. "Do you think you ought to stayed an hour in the detective office. print "
"Wow, wow! Let go, I tell you!" It hurt dreadfully. He pulled the thing out another peg.
"You know it wouldn't do, really. Now, if " He made as if to still further increase the current. I surrendered. "Let up," I begged, "and I will not say a word. Only let up."
He set me free. He never spoke of it once in all the years I knew him, but now and again he would offer me, with a dry smile, the use of his battery as "very good for the health." I always declined with thanks.
I got into Mulberry Street at what might well be called the heroic age of police reporting. It rang still with the echoes of the unfathomed Charley Ross mystery. That year occurred the Stewart grave robbery and the Manhattan Bank burglary-three epoch-making crimes that each in its way made a sensation such as New York has not known since. For though Charley Ross was stolen in Philadelphia, the search for him centered in the metropolis. The three-million-dollar burglary within the shadow of Police Headquarters gave us Inspector Byrnes, who broke up the old gangs of crooks and drove those whom he did not put in jail over the sea to ply their trade in Europe. The Stewart grave robbery ended the career of the ghouls, and the Charley Ross case put a stop to child-stealing for a generation, by making those crimes unprofitable. The public excitement was so great that it proved impossible for the thieves to deliver the goods and effect the exchange for ransom. intervals for years these cases kept turning up in one new phase or another. You could never tell where to look for them. Indeed, I have to thank the Stewart ghouls for the first public recognition that came to me in those early years of toil. Of all the mysteries that ever vexed a reporter's soul, that was the most agonizing. The police, most of the time, were as much in the dark as the rest of us, and nothing was to be got from that source. Heaven knows I tried. In our desperation we caught at every straw. One stormy night in the hottest of the excitement Judge Hilton, who had offered the $50,000 reward for the stolen body on behalf of Mrs. Stewart, went to Headquarters and
When he came out, he was attended by two of the ablest detectives. Clearly something big was on foot. They were just like so many sphinxes, and went straight to the carriage that waited at the Mulberry Street door. I do not know how it ever entered my head; perhaps it didn't at all, but was just done mechani cally. The wind had blown out the lamp on the steps, and the street was in pro found darkness. As they stepped int the carriage, I, with only the notion in my head that here was news which must b got somehow, went in last and sank dow in the vacant seat, pulling the door t after me. The carriage went on. T my intense relief, it rounded the corne I was undiscovered! But at that momer it came to a sudden stop. An invisib hand opened the door, and, grasping m collar, gently but firmly propelled me in the street and dropped me there. The the carriage went on. Not a word ha been spoken. They understood and did I. It was enough.
But, as I said, I had my revenge. came when the opposition reporters, b lieving the mystery to be near its solutio entered into a conspiracy to forestall and deliberately invented the lines of t coming dénouement. Day by day th published its progress "upon the auth ity of a high official" who never exist announcing that behind each one of t grave-robbers "stood a detective w uplifted hand" ready to arrest him wh the word was given. It was truly dawn of yellow journalism. With su extraordinary circumstantiality were accounts given that for once my of wavered in its faith in me. If I tur out to be wrong, I was given to und stand, my career on the "Tribune" wo be at an end. I slept little or none dur that month of intense work and exc ment, but spent my days as my nig sifting every scrap of evidence. was nothing to justify the stories, an maintained in my paper that they w lies. Mr. Shanks himself left the desk and came up to work with us. head, too, would fall, we heard, if his f in the police office had been mispla The bubble burst at last, and, as I expec there was nothing in it. The "Tribu was justified. The other reporters