THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB.
BELIEVE me, gentle writer, it is far better for posterity that your manuscripts should be rejected than that they should be accepted. I make this remark not as one of the glittering generalities to which writer folk are prone. I draw it out of the deep well of my own experience. I was sitting the other morning, looking into the depths of this well and admiring some of the pretty things I saw there ; and I was just on the point of getting a hook and line to fish one of them up for purposes of literature, when the door-bell rang. The postman had brought me — not the usual returned manuscript— but a brief note of acceptance and a check. Could anything be more disconcerting ! Had it been a refusal my mind would not have been perturbed. It was used to refusals. But an acceptance ! The imagination took a wild leap and was off. “ Why ? ” it demanded, “ Wherefore ? ” I had not remembered that that particular article was worth being accepted. I had sent it off a month ago and more, for the fifth time — not because I had active hope, but from principle. And here was the check. I looked at it fondly, and turned it over. I read the name of the firm and the matter in small print—dates and dollar marks. Then I indorsed it and put it in the lefthand corner of my desk. I returned blinkingly to my morning’s work. What was it I was thinking of when the doorbell rang ? — Oh, the well! I looked once more into its depths. But the surface was troubled. Shining dollar marks danced above it. I tried to focus my gaze and wait till they should disappear, and the depths subside ; but little questions crept up behind and tugged at my medulla oblongata. How did the article begin? Was it really long enough to warrant the check ? I opened the drawer and looked at the check again. Then I hunted up the rough draft of the article and tried to estimate the number of words. — Six thousand ? — They must pay two cents a word. How very pleasant ! I read a page or two in the middle to see whether it was worth accepting and to discover what the editor liked in it. . . . It certainly was good ! My phrases rose up to greet me, and smiled complacently as I patted them on the back. ... I had no idea it was so good ! . . . I turned my back to the well and gloated over success. All the little shining truths that lay at the bottom of it seemed but idle bubbles hardly worth gathering by one who had articles accepted. ... I really must tell somebody. The family were away. No one in the house but Mary. I strolled out through the kitchen to the apple barrel. On my way back I made an offhand, casual remark about my good fortune. Mary smiled — her broad, patronizing, Irish smile — and said, “ That’s nice, now, ain’t it ? ” I returned to the study and ate the apple and re-read the editor’s note. “We take pleasure in accepting ” — When the apple was finished I hunted up pen and paper and sat down by the well again. But some one had been in in my absence, apparently, and put a cover over it and fastened it down. I tried to lift the cover off ; yet every time I raised it, so much as the width of a finger, little mockingphrases flew out and gibed at me, “ We take pleasure in accepting ”— “ Enclosed find check” — “ Yours very truly ” — I spare you, dear reader. I will not drag you through that miserable morning as I was dragged. I gave over, at last, trying to find out what lay at the bottom of the well — beautiful, shining things that I shall never see again, that you will never see again, gentle writer, and that the world will never see. As for the accepted article — it has not been printed yet, and the check was spent long since. Gladly would I give the article, gladly would I give the check — if I had it again — for one glimpse, just one glimpse, of those pretty shining things I saw that morning, lying deep on the bottom of a well.