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How we started the "Unicorn."
THERE were three of us in Molyneux Brownjohn's office-that is to say, in that particular office of the Department for the Suppression of Inventions, which a paternal government devoted to Molyneux Brownjohn when he found it convenient to attend from eleven till three. It was a very pleasant apartment in the first floor, with a comfortable. easy-chair, a big writing-table, a convenient mahogany press for containing sherry and biscuits, a thick (if dusty) carpet, and a redbaize inner door, to keep out sound and baffle intrusive inventors. Not but what intrusive inventors were met, as it were, on the very threshold of their brutal attempts by three hall-porters, who occupied a sort of dim glass greenhouse in the lower lobby, where they were alternately engaged in eating something out of one half of a newspaper, while they read the other half, and in intercepting the misguided visitors who sought Molyneux Brownjohn and his colleagues without valid reason. The apartment in which we sat combined an air of business and pleasure, by means of a peerage, a post-office directory, a breech-loader, a saddle, a couple of riding-whips, a pair of rusty spurs, and the debris of refreshment, consisting of the bone of a mutton-chop, a tin canister of pic-nic biscuits, a remainder of dry sherry in a black bottle, and a box of "Veveys." He had a title in his family, had Brownjohn, and it was probably to this that he owed a talent for organisation," of which he was not a little proud. Perhaps it also had something to do with his previous career in an accredited governmental post at Batavia, and with his occupancy of the commodious office in which we were then seated. My companion was a common friend, known in some club circles, in his own set, as a wit-not yet fully developed, but of amazing promise. While Brownjohn was impressive from his firmness-twirled his tawny moustaches, looked at you unflinchingly with his large, wistful eyes; wore a curly-brimmed and obtrusive hat, on one side; and stood with his remarkably-fine legs rather wide apart, as he bit his "Vevey" into an angle of forty-five degrees of incidence; Harold Fortescue was remarkable chiefly for his indecision, a quality which he delighted to render abject, as a contrast to, and protest against, the assumption of his friends, few of whom refrained from inflicting their advice upon him because he was not only idle, but amiable, and therefore poor and young-so young that he could only stroke a smooth lip. Anything
more comically deprecating than the laugh with which he received Brownjohn's announcement of the reason for calling us to meet him, I never hope to hear again.
I've made up my mind to start an evening paper!"
"When you've started it, it will run away with you, and you'll get hurt," grinned Fortescue.
"Nonsense. You're always such a fool, Harold. I can tell you some men are going to put money in it, and it must pay. Look at the " Times;" look at the "Globe," and the "Observer," and "Bell's Life," and they, none of 'em, are founded on such a notion as mine; don't you see. The Race-course, and the Recreations of the people, and publish at a penny for a broad sheet. This is in confidence of course, don't you know. You'll help me, I'm certain, when you know the scheme. Harold, I've got you down for something, at a hundred a year-hundred and fifty nominal."
We both swore we'd help him. Fortescue smiled feebly, as though he'd like to see a quarter's salary in advance: in fact he hinted as much; but Brownjohn said this was very serious, and it was no good to spoil it with tomfoolery.
"Who's to edit it?" said I.
We both looked very grave. "Bracebridge has been spoken to, and he says it's a capital idea. If we can only, don't you see, get him, why, his name's worth something to us. Look at his farces and his extravaganzas; they're all of 'em the rage, and, begad, clever; don't you agree with me?"
Of course we agreed with him. We all believed in the ability as well as in the wit and industry of Bracebridge; but still, just as a gentle inquiry, was it to be a dramatic or a comic publication? Bracebridge was a household name for both these walks; but when you came, don't you see, to the matter of fact-the, the, what do you call it? mere padding of news and politics, and that sort of thing, to say nothing of the work of editing
"Well, there's Taversham; he's just brought out a second piece at the Osnaburg, a great success, and, don't you see, up to this sort of thing; wrote for the magazines, and, begad, clever. If he'll be a sort of sub-editor-not by the name of sub, of course, but to help Bracebridge-why, there you are."
At this point, and while Fortescue was elaborating a joke, which, as it were, died in silence, one of the hall-porters, who was dis tinguished by baldness and a stiff leg, came to announce a the name of Faust."
"That's the printer-a shrewd fellow that, I can tell you; show him up, Higgins-had to do with all these sort of things; Faust has published no end of papers: the Tickler,' and the 'Blue Lion,' and 'Jocular Jehosophat,' and, some people say, the Squinter;' but that he denies. At all events, he's had experience, and, would you believe it, he's been after an office already."
"He looks as though an officer had been after him," whispered Fortescue.
"Harold, if you can't be business-like, you shan't, begad, have anything to do with the concern. It isn't your money that's in it, I suppose ?"
"No, I suppose it's all yours," said I, coming to the rescue; "but I'm glad I haven't anything in a concern where there are so many defunct periodicals to haunt the printing office."
Faust appearing, in the shape of a stoutish shifty-eyed man, in a pale perspiration, Brownjohn put one of his feet upon a chair, gave the rim of his hat an extra angle, and began to examine him in a lofty, oratorical manner, suggestive of the way which he had found most efficient with the natives in Batavia. Faust was a little uneasy; looked, in fact, as though he, too, had his reminiscences-of an examination by a Commissioner. All that he had to say was that there was a house to let, close to all the principal theatres and places of amusement, where a shed at the back could be turned into a composing-room" (we didn't know what in the world he meant), and there was plenty of room for engines and machinery in the basement, when it was once dug out, paved, lighted, and fitted with a saddleback boiler, and an artesian well. All that was wanted was, of course, the money. As to this paper; what did they call it?-whatever it was, it was a pretty idea certainly; but what was one paper? why, he'd turned out six like that many a day; and as to printing it in prismatic colours, leave that to him. What he wanted was, a couple of daily papers, and then two or three in the evening, with, say, a weekly journal or two, and a monthly magazine, to keep the men employed; and, of course, Capital-nothing could be done without that; and there you were.
It was a great spectacle to see Brownjohn looking at this wonderful man, who spoke of such undertakings in an even, low tone of voice, as though he was full of a suppressed energy, like a steam-engine with the furnace damped down. If Brownjohn had been Robinson Crusoe, conscious of having become the proprietor of a highly-educated Friday,
and not quite knowing how to put his accomplishments to immediate personal account, he couldn't have improved on the expression.
An apple-faced man, in a white waistcoat, a big watch-guard, and tight fawn-coloured continuations, was standing in the doorway holding his hat in both hands, as Faust went out.
We all knew him, and though Bracebridge and Taversham were in the passage, they were not at all surprised to hear Brownjohn ask him for the odds on Walkingshaw, and tell him to "put" something on the favourite. If Tipster sent "tissue" for the new paper, we might depend on him, especially as the proprietors were Tipster's patrons, and were men who went in with their own races, and knew as many stable secrets as Tipster himself.
Bracebridge was a man of business—a character not inconsistent with being a very lively wit, and what criticisms in dramatic journals call “an established caterer to popular amusement and a true son of Momus." More than that, he had been educated at a university; so he turned up a pair of large wristbands, selected about half a gross of quill pens, estreated the blotting-pad, plunged a pen deep into the inkstand, and asked what was the first business.
Brownjohn, after directing the attention of the listless Fortescue to the example of energy and determination presented to him by the celebrated person of whose career he was suspected of a wish to would be
become a humble follower, announced that the title of the paper "What?" said Bracebridge, preparing with a severely practical air to write something in large capitals on a sheet of foolscap.
The strain of self-repression had been too great, and the smile which had already been rippling over the beaming countenance of the future editor, exploded into laughter.
Taversham stood with his hands in his pockets shaking like a jelly, and making no effort whatever to control his emotion. It was characteristic of this rather bitter humourist to laugh when he pleased without apologizing; but this habit was mitigated by the fact that he laughed at himself as often as at anybody else. Brownjohn was loftily deprecatory.
"You don't think the title a good one, eh? Now I think differently. What we want is something original; something that nobody has ever thought of before, and that will catch the eye; and what could be better than this ?"
As he said "this," he produced with dramatic effect a large broadsheet, with the word "Unicorn" printed at the top in crimson letters, a quarter of a yard long. We were all struck, especially Bracebridge, who had an eye for colour.
"It's to be a prismatic paper, isn't it ?" he murmured, "printed in all the colours of the playbill."
"Then why not call it "The Harlequin,' and introduce a neat border of spangles ?" said Taversham.
"It will be merged into a serious paper, that's why it's called the "Unicorn,' ,"muttered Fortescue.
"What do you mean?"
"Why, Uni-corn will very closely resemble One Bunyan."
"You ghastly idiot," said Brownjohn; "you ought, begad, to be locked up in an asylum. What I think about the title is, that it expresses that the paper is-don't you know, something uncommon and all that; and then the Unicorn, if you've ever read natural history, always comes out at night, and for an evening paper
This was too much, and the laughter became general, even Brownjohn joining in in a concessional way.
After extracting so much amusement from a friend's idea, we could do no less than regard the "Unicorn" as a success, and the title was adopted with acclamation..
"Now, perhaps you'd like to go and see Faust," said Brownjohn to Taversham.
"No, I can't, I've a rehearsal at three; besides, I've seen it."
"No, no, I mean the printer. He'll have to look to you, you know, about the articles and the type, and how the things are to be printed, and all that: that's how we managed in Batavia, when I was editor. The sub-editor settled all that, because I didn't understand it." "Oh, I'm quite willing to be sub-editor, but I don't understand it either."
"Then I'll tell you what you'd better do. There's Trimmer, writes for papers and magazines, and all sorts of things; and knows all the processes, at least I should think he did. My advice is, send for Trimmer, and ask him to be a sort of deputy sub-editor; but don't call it that, you know, or he mightn't do it. Ask him to assist-à sort of extra counsel, you understand."
Trimmer was written to by the editor, who thought it was time to claim some of his privileges.